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expediency of removing officers, whose conduct had made them so odious, that their usefulness was at an end; and not to touch upon the objectionable parts of the letters, these being of a political nature, the falsehood of which it would be difficult to prove. Nor, indeed, would any proof be satisfactory to judges, who deemed these very offences, so much detested by the people, as meritorious acts in support of the arbitrary designs of the government. If this was not manifest from what had already passed, it was made so by the manner in which the petition was treated, when it came again to be considered by the Council. This extraordinary scene was described by Dr. Franklin, a few days after its occurrence.
"Notwithstanding the intimations I had received, I could not believe that the solicitor-general would be permitted to wander from the question before their Lordships, into a new case, the accusation of another person for another matter, not cognizable before them, who could not expect to be there so accused, and therefore could not be prepared for his defence. And yet all this happened, and in all probability was preconcerted; for all the courtiers were invited, as to an entertainment, and there never was such an appearance of privy counsellors on any occasion, not less than thirty-five, besides an immense crowd of other auditors.
"The hearing began by reading my letter to Lord Dartmouth, enclosing the petition, then the petition itself, the resolves, and lastly the letters, the solicitorgeneral making no objections, nor asking any of the questions he had talked of at the preceding board. Our counsel then opened the matter, upon their general plan, and acquitted themselves very handsomely; only Mr. Dunning, having a disorder on his lungs, that weakened his voice exceedingly, was not so perfectly
heard as one could have wished. The solicitor-general then went into what he called a history of the province for the last ten years, and bestowed plenty of abuse upon it, mingled with encomium on the governors. But the favorite part of his discourse was levelled at your agent, who stood there the butt of his invective ribaldry for near an hour, not a single Lord adverting to the impropriety and indecency of treating a public messenger in so ignominious a manner, who was present only as the person delivering your petition, with the consideration of which no part of his conduct had any concern. If he had done a wrong, in obtaining and transmitting the letters, that was not the tribunal where he was to be accused and tried. The cause was already before the Chancellor. Not one of their Lordships checked and recalled the orator to the business before them, but, on the contrary, a very few excepted, they seemed to enjoy highly the entertainment, and frequently burst out in loud applauses. This part of his speech was thought so good, that they have since printed it, in order to defame me everywhere, and particularly to destroy my reputation on your side of the water; but the grosser parts of the abuse are omitted, appearing, I suppose, in their own eyes, too foul to be seen on paper; so that the speech, compared to what it was, is now perfectly decent. I send you one of the copies. My friends advise me to write an answer, which I purpose immediately.
"The reply of Mr. Dunning concluded. Being very ill, and much incommoded by standing so long, his voice was so feeble, as to be scarce audible. What little I heard was very well said, but appeared to have little effect.
"Their Lordships' Report, which I send you, is dated the same day. It contains a severe censure, as you
will see, on the petition and the petitioners, and, as I think, a very unfair conclusion from my silence, that the charge of surreptitiously obtaining the letters was a true one; though the solicitor, as appears in the printed speech, had acquainted them that that matter was before the Chancellor; and my counsel had stated the impropriety of my answering there to charges then trying in another court. In truth, I came by them honorably, and my intention in sending them was virtuous, if an endeavour to lessen the breach between two states of the same empire be such, by showing that the injuries complained of by one of them did not proceed from the other, but from traitors among themselves."
After this judicial farce, no one could be surprised at the result. Their Lordships reported, "that the petition was founded upon resolutions formed upon false and erroneous allegations, and that the same was groundless, vexatious, and scandalous, and calculated only for the seditious purpose of keeping up a spirit of clamor and discontent in the provinces." The King approved the Report, and the petition was dismissed. And such was the language, which the British rulers thought proper to use in replying to the respectful complaints of an ancient and populous province. If the people would bear this, they might well say, that their long cherished freedom had become an empty sound and a mockery. Let history tell how they bore it, and how long.
The next day Dr. Franklin was officially informed of his being dismissed from the place of deputy postmaster-general. For this manifestation of the royal displeasure he was prepared, as well by previous intimations as by the proceedings of the Council. It cannot be supposed, that he was callous to these in
dignities, especially as they were intended to overwhelm him with disgrace, and ruin his credit and influence. But he suppressed his resentment, and took no steps either to vindicate himself, or to counteract the malicious arts of his enemies, conscious of having done only what his duty required. When the facts came to be known and understood, his conduct was applauded by every friend of liberty and justice in both countries. He gained new credit, instead of losing what he possessed, thus baffling the iniquitous schemes of his adversaries, whom he lived to see entangled in their own toils, and whose disgraceful overthrow it was his fortune to be a principal instrument in effecting.
From this time he kept aloof from the ministers, going no more to their levees, nor seeking any further intercourse with them. He contemplated bringing his affairs to a close in England and returning home; and with this view he put the papers relating to the Massachusetts agency into the hands of Mr. Arthur Lee, who had been appointed to succeed him whenever he should retire. Mr. Lee went over to the continent, to be absent several months; and then Dr. Franklin took upon himself again the business of the agency, thinking it improper to leave the post vacant, till the Assembly should be apprized of the absence of Mr. Lee, and of his own wish to withdraw. *
* The following extract from a letter, written by Dr. Rush to Arthur Lee, will show the estimation in which Dr. Franklin was at this time held by his countrymen. "There is a general union among the colonies," says Dr. Rush, "which no artifices of a ministry will be able to break. Dr. Franklin is a very popular character in every part of America. He will be received, and carried in triumph to his house, when he arrives amongst us. It is to be hoped he will not consent to hold any more offices under government. No step but this can prevent his being handed down to posterity among the first and greatest characters in the world." Philadelphia, May 4th, 1774.
Franklin remains in England to await the Result of the Continental Congress.-Josiah Quincy, Junior.- Anecdotes.-Death of Dr. Franklin's Wife.— Family Incidents. He receives and presents the Petition of Congress.- Rejected by Parliament. - Galloway's Plan of Union. - Franklin's Attempts to promote a Reconciliation between the two Countries.- Visits Lord Chatham. - Remarks on Independence. Mrs. Howe. He draws up Articles as the Basis of a Negotiation, at the Request of Dr. Fothergill and Mr. Barclay. These Articles shown to the Ministers, and various Conferences concerning them. Interviews with Lord Howe respecting some Mode of Reconciliation. He drafts another Paper for that Purpose. Lord Chatham's Approval of the Proceedings of Congress. - Lord Camden. Lord Chatham's Motion in Parliament. - Franklin's Interviews with him in forming a Plan of Reconciliation. This Plan offered to Parliament, and rejected. Negotiation resumed and broken off. Franklin sails from England and arrives in Philadelphia.
In the mean time the news arrived, that a Continental Congress was about to convene, and, by the advice of his friends, Dr. Franklin concluded to wait the issue of that event. "My situation here," he observes, "is thought by many to be a little hazardous; for if, by some accident, the troops and people of New England should come to blows, I should probably be taken up; the ministerial people affecting every where to represent me as the cause of all the misunderstanding; and I have been frequently cautioned to secure my papers, and by some advised to withdraw. But I venture to stay, in compliance with the wish of others, till the result of the Congress arrives, since they suppose my being here might on that occasion be of use; and I confide in my innocence, that the worst which can happen to me will be an imprisonment upon suspicion, though that is a thing