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much mischief and bloodshed. - I am fully persua. ded with you, that a consolidating union, by a fair and equal representation of all the parts of this empire in Parliament, is the only firm basis on which its political grandeur and prosperity can be founded. Ireland once wished it, but now rejects it. The time has been when the colonies might have been pleased with it; they are now indifferent about it, and if it is much longer delayed, they too will refuse it. , But the pride of this people cannot bear the thought of it, and therefore it will be delayed. Every man in England seems to consider himself as a piece of a sovereign over America ; seems to jostle himself into the throne with the king, and talks of our subjects in the colonies. The Parliament . cannot well and wisely make laws suited to the colonies, without being properly and truly informed of their circumstances, abilities, temper, &c. This it cannot be without representatives from thence ; and yet it is fond of this power, and averse to the only means of acquiring the necessary knowledge for exercising it, which is desiring to be omnipotent without being omniscient.
“I have mentioned that the contest is likely to be revived. It is on this occasion: in the same session with the stamp-act, an act was passed to regulate the quartering of soldiers in America : when the bill was first brought in, it contained a clause empowering the officers to quarter their soilders in private houses ; this we warmly opposed, and got it omitted. The bill passed, however, with a clause that empty houses, barns, &c., should be hired for them; and that the respective provinces where they were should pay the expense, and furnish firing, bedding, drink, and some other articles to the soldiers, gratis. There is no way for any province to do this but by the Assembly's making a law to raise the money. Pennsylvania Assembly has made such a law; New-York Assembly has re
fused to do it; and now all the talk here is, of sending a force to compel them.
The reasons given by the Assembly to the governor for the refusal are, that they understand the act to mean the furnishing such things to soldiers only while on their march through the country, and not to great bodies of soldiers, to be fixed, as at present, in the province; the burden in the latter case being greater than the inhabitants can bear; that it would put it in the power of the captain-general to oppress the province at pleasure, &c. But there is supposed to be another reason at bottom, which they intimate, though they do not plainly express it, to wit, that it is of the nature of an internal tax laid on them by Parliament, which has no right so to do. Their refusal is here called rebellion, and punishment is thought of.
“Now, waving that point of right, and supposing the legislatures in America subordinate to the legislatures of Great Britain, one might conceive, I think, a power in the superior legislature to forbid the inferior legislatures making particular laws; but to enjoin it to make a particular law, contrary to its own judgment, seems improper; an assembly or parliament not being an executive officer of government, whose duty it is, in law-making, to obey orders, but a deliberative body, who are to consider what comes before them, its propriety, practicability, or possibility, and to determine accordingly; the very nature of a parliament seems to be destroyed by supposing it may be bound and compelled by a law of a superior parliament to make a law contrary to its own judgment.
“ Indeed, the act of Parliament in question has not, as in other acts, when a duty is enjoined, directed a penalty on neglect or refusal, and a mode of recovering that penalty. It seems, therefore, to the people in America as a requisition, which they are at liberty to comply with or not, as it may suit or not suit the different circumstances of the different provinces. Pennsylvania has, therefore, voluntarily complied. New-York, as I said before, has refused. The ministry that made the act, and all their adherents, call for vengeance. The present ministry are perplexed, and the measures they will finally take on the occasion are yet unknown. But sure I am that if force is used great mischief will ensue, the affections of the people of America to this country will be alienated, your commerce will be diminished, and a total separation of interests be the final consequence.
“It is a common but mistaken notion here, that the colonies were planted at the expense of Parliament, and that, therefore, the Parliament has a right to tax. them, &c. The truth is, they were planted at the expense of private adventurers, who went over there to settle, with leave of the king, given by charter. On receiving this leave and those charters, the adventurers voluntarily engaged to remain the king's subjects, though in a foreign country; a country which had not been conquered by either king or parliament, but was possessed by a free people.
“When our planters arrived, they purchased the lands of the natives, without putting king or parliament to any expense. Parliament had no hand in their settlement, was never so much as consulted about their constitution, and took no kind of notice of them till many years after they were established. I except only the two modern colonies, or, rather, attempts to make colonies (for they succeed but poorly, and, as yet, hardly deserve the name of colonies), I mean Georgia and Nova Scotia, which have hitherto been little better than parliamentary jobs. Thus all the colonies acknowledge the king as their sovereign; his governors there represent his person : laws are made by their assemblies or little parliaments, with the governor's assent, subject still to the king's pleasure to affirm or annul them. Suits arising in the colonies, and between colony and colony, are determined by the king in council. In this view they seem so many separate little states, subject to the same prince. The sovereignty of the king is therefore easily understood. But nothing is more common here than to talk of the sovereignty of PARLIAMENT, and the sovereignty of this nation over the colonies; a kind of sovereignty, the idea of which is not so clear, nor does it clearly appear on what foundation it is established. On the other hand, it seems necessary, for the common good of the empire, that a power be lodged somewhere to regulate its general commerce; this can be placed nowhere so properly as in the Parliament of Great Britain; and, therefore, though that power has in some instances been executed with great partiality to Britain and prejudice to the colonies, they have nevertheless always submitted to it. Custom-houses are established in all of them, by virtue of laws made here, and the duties instantly paid, except by a few smugglers, such as are here and in all countries; but internal taxes laid on them by Parliament are still, and ever will be, objected to, for the reason that you will see in the mentioned examination.
"Upon the whole, I have lived so great a part of my life in Britain, and have formed so many friendships in it, that I love it, and sincerely wish it prosperity; and, therefore, wish to see that union on which alone I think it can be secured and established. As to America, the advantages of such a union to her are not so apparent. She may suffer at present under the arbitrary power of this country; she may suffer for a while in a separation from it; but these are temporary evils which she will outgrow. Scotland and Ireland are differently circum- , stanced. Confined by the sea, they can scarcely increase in numbers, wealth, and strength, so as to overbalance England. But America, an immense
territory, favoured by nature with all advantages of climate, soils, great navigable rivers, lakes, &c., must become a great country, populous and mighty; and will, in a less time than is generally conceived, be able to shake off any shackles that may be imposed upon her, and, perhaps, place them on the imposers. In the mean time, every act of oppression will sour their tempers, lessen greatly, if not annihilate, the profits of your commerce with them, and hasten their final revolt; for the seeds of liberty are universally found there, and nothing can eradicate them. And yet there remains among that people so much respect, veneration, and affection for Britain, that, if cultivated prudently, with a kind usage and tenderness for their privileges, they might be easily governed still for ages, without force or any considerable expense. But I do not see here a sufficient quantity of the wisdom that is necessary to produce such a conduct, and I lament the want of it.
" I borrowed at Millar's the new edition of your Principles of Equity, and have read with great pleasure the preliminary discourse on the principles of morality. I have never before met with anything *so satisfactory on the subject. While reading it, I made a few remarks as I went along. They are not of much importance, but I send you the paper.
I know the lady you mention (Mrs. Montague), having, when in England before, met her once or twice at Lord Bath's. I remember I then entertained the same opinion of her that you express. On the strength of your recommendation, I purpose soon to wait on her.
“This is unexpectedly grown a long letter. The visit to Scotland and the Art of Virtue we will talk of hereafter. It is now time to say that I am, with increasing esteem and affection,
“B. FRANKLIN."* * This letter was intercepted by the British ministry; Dr. F.