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first consult my constituents, who might possibly, on reconsideration, think fit to order its being deferred. I answered, that the great majority, with which the petition and the resolves on which it was founded were carried through the House, made it scarce expectable, that their order would be countermanded; that the slighting, evading, or refusing to receive petitions from the colonies, on some late occasions by the Parliament, had occasioned a total loss of the respect for and confidence in that body, formerly subsisting so strongly in America, and brought on a questioning of their authority; that his Lordship might observe that petitions came no more from thence to Parliament, but to the King only; that the King appeared now to be the only connexion between the two countries; and that, as a continued union was essentially necessary to the wellbeing of the whole empire, I should be sorry to see that link weakened, as the other had been; that I thought it a dangerous thing for any government to refuse receiving petitions, and thereby prevent the subjects from giving vent to their griefs. His Lordship interrupted me by replying, that he did not refuse to deliver the petition; that it should never justly be said of him, that he interrupted the complaints of his Majesty's subjects; and that he must and would present it, as he had said before, whenever I should absolutely require it; but, for motives of pure good will to the province, he wished me not to insist on it, till I should receive fresh orders. Finally, considering that, since the petition was ordered, there had been a change in the American administration; that the present minister was our friend in the repeal of the Stamp Act, and seems still to have good dispositions towards us; that you had mentioned to me the probability, that the House would have remonstrated on all their other grievances, had not their time been taken up with the difficult business of a general valuation; and, since the complaint of this petition was likely alone to give offence, it might perhaps be judged advisable to give the substance of all our complaints at once, rather than in parts and after a reprimand received; I say, upon the whole, I thought it best not to disoblige him in the beginning of his administration, by refusing him what he seemed so desirous of, a delay at least in presenting the petition, till farther directions should be received from my constituents. If, after deliberation, they should send me fresh orders, I shall immediately obey them, and the application to the crown itself may possibly derive greater weight from the reconsideration given it, while the temper of the House may be somewhat calmed by the removal of a minister, who had rendered himself so obnoxious to them. Accordingly, I consented to the delay desired, wherein I hope my conduct will not be disapproved.”
With the greatest esteem and respect, I have the honor to be, Sir, your and the committee's most obedient and most humble servant,
* With this letter were communicated Hutchinson's Letters, which produced so much excitement at the time in Massachusetts. For an extract relating to that subject, which is here omitted, see Vol. IV. p. 414.
TO THOMAS CUSHING,
Conversation with Lord Dartmouth on JAmerican Afjairs. — Condition of the India Company. — Security of the Colonies lies in their growing Strength. London, 5 January, 1773. SIR, I did myself the honor of writing to you on the 2d of December past, enclosing some original letters from persons in Boston, which I hope got safe to hand. I have since received your favor of October 27th, which containing in a small compass so full an enumeration of our grievances, the steps necessary to remove them, and the happy effects that must follow, I thought that though marked private, it might be of use to communicate it to Lord Dartmouth; the rather too, as he would there find himself occasionally mentioned with proper respect, and learn that his character was esteemed in the colonies. Accordingly I wrote him a few lines, and enclosed it a day or two before I was to wait on his Lordship, that he might have a little time to consider the contents.”
* The following note accompanied the letter, when it was communicated to Lord Dartmouth.
“Craven Street, 8 December, 1772. — Dr. Franklin presents his best respects to Lord Dartmouth, and, believing it may be agreeable as well as useful to him to receive other information of the sentiments and dispositions of the leading people in America, besides what ministers are usually furnished with from the officers of the crown residing there, takes the liberty of communicating to his Lordship a letter just received from the Speaker of the Assembly of the Massachusetts Bay, written not as Speaker but in his private capacity.
“Dr. Franklin purposes to wait on Lord Dartmouth at his levee tomorrow, and shall be happy if he may bring from thence any thing proper to write in answer, that should tend to compose the minds of people in that province, at present greatly disquieted and alarmed by some late measures of government.”
When I next attended him, he returned me the letter with great complaisance in his countenance; said he was glad to find that people in America were disposed to think so favorably of him; that they did him but justice in believing he had the best disposition towards them, for he wished sincerely their welfare, though possibly he might not always think with them, as to the means of obtaining that end; that the heads of complaint in your letter were many, some of them requiring much consideration, and therefore it could scarce be expected that a sudden change should be made in so many measures, supposing them all improper to be continued, which perhaps might not be the case. It was however his opinion, that, if the Americans continued quiet, and gave no fresh offence to government, those measures would be reconsidered, and such relief given as upon consideration should be thought reasonable.
I need not remark, that there is not much in such general discourse; but I could then obtain nothing more particular, except that his Lordship expressed in direct terms his disapprobation of the instruction for exempting the colonies from taxation; which, however, was, as he said, in confidence to me, relying that no public mention should be made of his opinion on that head.
In the mean time, some circumstances are working in our favor with regard to the duties. It is found by the last year's accounts transmitted by the commissioners, that the balance in favor of Britain is but about eighty-five pounds, after payment of salaries, &c., exclusive of the charge of a fleet to enforce the collection. Then it is observed, that the India Company is so out of cash, that it cannot pay the bills drawn upon it, and its other debts; and at the same time so out of credit, that the Bank does not care to assist them, whence they find themselves obliged to lower their dividend; the apprehension of which has sunk their stock from two hundred and eighty to one hundred and sixty, whereby several millions of property are annihilated, occasioning private bankruptcies and other distress, besides a loss to the public treasury of four hundred thousand pounds per annum, which the Company are not to pay into it as heretofore, if they are not able to keep up their dividend at twelve and a half. And, as they have at the same time tea and other India goods in their warehouses, to the amount of four millions, as some say, for which they want a market, and which, if it had been sold, would have kept up their credit, I take the opportunity of remarking in all companies the great imprudence of losing the American market, by keeping up the duty on tea, which has thrown that trade into the hands of the Dutch, Danes, Swedes, and French, who, according to the reports and letters of some custom-house officers in America, now supply by smuggling the whole continent, not with tea only, but accompany that article with other India goods, amounting, as supposed, in the whole to five hundred thousand pounds sterling per annum. This gives some alarm, and begins to convince people more and more of the impropriety of quarrelling with America, who at that rate might have taken of two millions and a half of those goods within these five years that the combination has subsisted, if the duty had not been laid, or had been speedily repealed. But our great security lies, I think, in our growing strength, both in numbers and wealth; that creates an increasing ability of assisting this nation in its wars, which will make us more respectable, our friendship more valued, and our enmity feared; thence it will