« AnteriorContinuar »
issue of paper money as a legal tender. Finding that the time for urging the repeal was unpropitious, and fearing lest the agitation of the question might lead to the adoption on the part of the ministry of a scheme, entertained by Mr. Townshend, for the manufacture by the British government of paper money for the Colonies, he recommended to the Assembly that some means should be resorted to by which the credit of issues of paper money could be supported without making it a legal tender. The principal object of his mission was not meanwhile forgotten. The question of purchasing from the Proprietaries of Pennsylvania their right of jurisdiction, leaving to them their lands, was discussed in the British cabinet, but the continued warlike tone of the colonists interrupted and soon rendered nugatory the consideration of the subject. There began to be a prospect that the difficulties with the Proprietaries would be settled simultaneously with those with the “mother country," and in a like summary manner.
By correspondence with friends in both countries, Franklin did much to enlighten public opinion in regard to the claims and rights of the Colonies, and the injustice of the ministerial policy. “The British empire,” he contended,
was not a single state; it comprehended many; and, though the Parliament of Great Britain had arrogated to itself the power of taxing the Colonies, it had no more right to do so than it had to tax Hanover. The Colonies had the same king, but not the same legislatures.” To Lord Kames he wrote in 1767: “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 America.” "America, an immense territory, favored 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."
The act of Parliament for quartering troops in the Colonies had caused great dissatisfaction. The chancellor of the Exchequer, Charles Townshend, in January, 1767, brought forward a new scheme for raising a revenue in America, including not only the maintenance of a standing army, but the provision of permanent salaries for the governors and judges, rendering them independent of the Colonial Assemblies. This scheme was adopted by Parliament with little opposition. A Board of Revenue Commis-sioners for America, to have its seat at Boston, was established; and not only tea, but several articles of British produce, were made objects of custom-house taxation in the Colonies. These measures were there regarded as quite as odious as the Stamp Act; for it was contended by the leading colonists that "taxes on trade, if designed to raise a revenue, were just as much a violation of their rights as any other tax."
This position was advocated by Franklin's old political opponent, John Dickinson, in bis celebrated “ Farmer's Letters,” a work which Franklin, forgetting all former differences, caused to be reprinted and circulated in London, prefacing the edition with commendatory remarks of his own. Although he had at first made a distinction between taxes on imported commodities and internal taxes, and was of opinion that the American grievance was not that Britain put duties upon her own manufactures exported to the Colonies, but that she forbade the latter to buy the like manufactures from any other country, he finally adopted the views advanced by Dickinson in Pennsylvania, and which were eloquently maintained by James Otis in Massachusetts.
The ministerial measures were met with a determined opposition in the Colonies, especially in Boston, where the newly-appointed revenue commissioners had to fly for their lives. New supplies of British troops were now poured into that refractory town to quell the spirit of resistance. " The Boston Gazette has occasioned some heats, and the Boston resolutions a prodigious clatter," writes Franklin to his son, under date of London, January 9th, 1768 ; “I
have endeavored to palliate matters for them as well as I can. I send you my manuscript of one paper, though I think you take the Chronicle. "The editor of that paper, one Jones, seems a Grenvillian, or is very cautious, as you will see by his corrections and omissions. He has drawn the teeth and pared the nails of my paper, so that it can neither scratch nor bite. It seems only to paw and mumble.” The piece in the Chronicle, to which Franklin here alludes, was entitled Causes of the American Discontents. Two other pieces, one on Smuggling, and the other on the Laboring Poor, were published about this time; the former in the Chronicle, and the latter in the Gentleman's Magazine.
On the change of ministry in 1768, the office of Secretary for the Colonies was created, and given to Lord Hillsborough, “a little alert man of business, but passionate and headstrong," as Franklin describes him. I am told there has been a talk of getting me appointed under-secretary to Lord Hillsborough, he writes to his son ; " but with little likelihood, as it is a settled point here that I am too much of an American.” Indeed, according to his own expression, he had rendered himself suspected, by his impartiality, “in England of being too much of an American, and in America of being too much of an Englishman.” Instead of being appointed to a new office, there was now a motion to deprive him of his deputy-postmastership for the Colonies. "If Mr. Grenville,” he writes to his son, comes into power again in any department respecting America, I must refuse to accept of anything that may seem to put me in his power, because I apprehend a breach between the two countries; and that refusal might give offence. So that you see a turn of a die may make a great difference in our affairs. We may be either promoted or discarded."
A report that Franklin was intriguing for office under the ministry reached Pennsylvania, and was readily entertained by his political adversaries. Did not the whole tenor of his life and correspondence contradict it? A moment's consideration will show that he was in such a position that he had only to give in his adhesion to the ministry to obtain any office that he might in reason covet.
He made two visits to the continent, while affairs were
ripening between Great Britain and her Colonies. One of these visits was in the summer of 1766, and the other in September, 1767. In both he was accompanied by his
steady, good friend, Sir Jolin Pringle.” He was gone eight weeks on his first excursion, and visited Gottingen, Hanover, and some of the principal cities of Germany. In the second visit, he went to Paris, and was received with marked attention. At Versailles he was presented to the king and his sisters, and in Paris he formed the acquaintance of many distinguished men of science. He subsequently told John Adams that, during this visit, Sir John Pringle “ did all his conversation for him, as interpreter, and that he understood and spoke French with great difficulty" until his official visit in 1776. If this were so, Franklin must have acquired his proficiency in French after his sixty-first year. He again visited Paris in the summer of 1769, passing several weeks there.
In 1768 he was appointed agent for Georgia; and, two years later, for Massachusetts. He has given an amusing account of his interview with Lord Hillsborough, on going to present his credentials as agent for the last-named province. Franklin had checkmated his lordship in several political movements, and had been in the habit of writing very freely to his correspondents in both countries in relation to ministerial measures. An indiscreet or treacherous use was undoubtedly made of some of his letters, by publishing them, or forwarding them to the ministers. The threat was thrown out that he would lose his appointment in the American post-office. He repudiated the idea that every man who holds an office should act with the ministry, and he continued to be independent in this regard. "Possibly, " he said, "they may remove me; but no apprehension of that sort will, I trust, make the least alteration in my political conduct. My rule, in which I have always found satisfaction, is, never to turn aside in public affairs through views of private interest; but to go straight forward in doing what appears to me right at the time, leaving the consequences with Providence.'
On Franklin's introducing himself to Lord Hillsborough as the authorized agent of Massachusetts, his lordship interrupted him with, “I must set you right there, Mr. Frank
lin; you are not agent." "I do not understand your lordship. I have the appointment in my pocket.” His lordship remarked that the bill had not received the assent of Governor Hutchinson. “There was no bill, my lord. It was by a vote of the House." His lordship summoned his secretary, and asked for the Governor's letter ; but, on examination, found that it contained nothing in relation to the agent. "I thought it could not well be," said Franklin, as my letters are by the last ships, and they mention no such thing. Here is the authentic copy of the vote of the House appointing me, in which there is no mention of any act intended. Will your lordship please to look at it?” His lordship took the paper reluctantly, and, without condescending to read it, launched into a rebuke of the practice of appointing agents by vote of the Assembly, without the Governor's assent. Franklin suggested that, inasmuch as the agent was employed to transact the business of the people and not of the Governor, the people had a right to appoint their agents, independently of him, through their representatives." His lordship would not be convinced against his will. He handed back to Franklin his credertials unread; and Franklin, whose demeanor thus far had been marked with the most imperturbable good-humor, not. withstanding his provocations, took his leave, sarcastically remarking to his lordship that it was plainly" of very little consequence whether the appointment was acknowledged or not, for it was clear to his mind that, as affairs were now administered, an agent could be of no use to any of the Colonies.”
In 1772, Lord Hillsborough gave in his resignation, a step which Franklin had done much to accelerate, by overruling his Report on a proposed grant of land in Ohio, and thus exhibiting to the king and ministers his lordship's incompetency to manage colonial affairs. To a question put by a person high at court to Franklin, whether he could name another person likely to be more acceptable to the Colonies, he replied: "Yes, there is Lord Dartmouth; we liked him very well when he was at the head of the board formerly, and in all probability should again.” Lord Dartmouth was appointed to succeed Lord Hillsborough. Prior to Lord Hillsborough's resignation, Franklin was