« AnteriorContinuar »
have been adopted in so many places, than that it has not universally prevailed. It is only by degrees that the great body of mankind can be led into new practices, however salutary their tendency. It is now nearly eighty years since innoculation was introduced into Europe and America; and it is so far from being general at present, that it will, perhaps, require one or two centuries to render it so."
To revert to Dr. Franklin's political transactions. His excrtions and examination before the house of commons, having greatly contributed to the repeal of the Stamp Act; be now turned his attention towards obtaining the repeal of the Act restraining the legal tender of paper money in the colonies; another grievance they complained of. The ministry had at one time agreed to the repeal; not so much to serve the colonies, as from the impression that they might raise a revenue from paper money lent on mortgage, by the parliament appropriating the interest arising therefrom. This notion was however removed, by Dr. Franklin's assuring them, that no colony would issue money on those terms, and that the advantage arising to the commerce of Great Britain in America, from a plentiful currency, would thereby be lost, and the repeal answer no end, if the assemblies were not allowed to appropriate the interest themselves. The measure was after, wards dropt, and the restraint unwisely continued.
As early as the period of these discussions between Great Britain and her colonies, the French government appear to have begun to take an interest in their affairs. The circumstance is thus alluded to in a letter of Dr. Franklin to lis son, dated London, Aug. 28, 1767.
“De Guerchy, the French ambassador, is gone home, and Mons. Durand is left minister plenipotentiary. He is extremely curious to inform himself in the affairs of America; pretends to have a great esteem for me, on account of the
• The same probably will also be the case with respect to the Vaccine Innoculation : though undoubtedly its progress has hitherto been more rapid.
abilities shown in my examination: has desired to have all my political writings; invited me to dine with him, was very inquisitive, treated me with great civility, makes me visits, &c. I fancy that intriguing nation would like very well to meddle on this occasion, and blow up the coals between Great Britain and her colonies; but I hope we shall give them no opportunity."
Dr. Franklin was right in his conjectures, but his hopes were not realized; the opportunity was given, and they availed themselves of it,- eminently contributing to the separation of the two countries.
Certain resolutions of the town of Boston, respecting trade and manufactures, arrived in London about the commencement of the year 1768, and occasioned a considerable clamor; they gave Dr. Franklin and the friends of America great concern: he endeavored by every means to palliate the affair by various writings in the newspapers; and the discontents of the British colonies being much the subject of general discussion at the time, and greatly misunderstood, he, with a view to elucidate the same, and soften the prevalent animosity against America, wrote and published in the Chronicle of January 7th,) a piece signed F-S. intitled “ Causes of the American discontents before 1768," with this inscription: • The waves never rise but when the winds blow.” Prov.
This short tract, together with his “ Answer (in Nov. 1769,) to the queries of Mr. Strahan,” (which were probably made under the dictation of administration,) give the best account of the then existing complaints of the colonies, and (from their not being attended to,) of the primitive cause of the disputes, that produced civil war, and terminated in their separation from Great Britain. These papers, interesting for the historian, form in some degree, a complement to these
+ See also a letter of Dr. Franklin's, On the rise and progress of the differences between Great Britain and her American colonies : signed " A wellwisher to the king and all his dominions,” and addressed to the printer of the Public Advertiser. Private Correspondence, Vol. VI. page 349.
memoirs; and constitute sufficient proofs of Dr. Franklin's candor and foresight.
At this time a change of ministry took place, in which the American business was taken from lord Shelburne, and given to lord Hillsborough, as secretary of state for America, a new distinct apartment. There was a talk at the time of getting Dr. Franklin appointed under secretary of state for that department; but it fell through, he being considered too much of an American.
Lord Hillsborough had formerly, at sundry times, discoursed with Dr. Franklin on the subject of the restraining act, relative to paper-money: the latter now waited on the new minister, in order again to press the repeal of the same; but he found he had not altered in the sentiments concerning it, which he entertained when at the head of the board of trade, and which still continued adverse to it.
Dr. Franklin took this opportunity of conversing with his lordship concerning the particular affair with which he was charged, by his Pennsylvania constituents, relative to the change of government in that province; giving him a detail of all the proceedings hitherto, the delays it bad experienced, and its present situation. He promised him he would inquire into the matter, and would talk with him further upon it: his lordship expressed great satisfaction at the good disposition that he said appeared now to be general in America, with regard to the British government, according to his last advices, and added, that he had by his majesty's order, written the most healing letters to the several governors, which if shown to the assemblies, as he supposed they would be, could not but confirm that good disposition.
These expectations were not however realized: the Americans began to be sensible of their own consequence, and the inhabitants of Boston, at a public meeting on the 27th October, 1767, entered into a variety of resolutions for encouraging manufactures, promoting economy, and restraining the use of foreign superfluities. These resolutions, all of which were highly prejudicial to the trade of Great Britain, con
tained a long list of articles which it was either determined not to use at all, or at least in the smallest possible quantities. A subscription was opened at the same time, and a committee appointed, for the increase of their old manufactures, and the establishment of new ones. Among other things it was determined to give particular encouragement to the making of paper, glass, and other commodities that were liable to the payment of the new duties upon importation. It was also resolved to restrain the expense of funerals, to reduce dress to a degree of primitive simplicity and plainness, and in general not to purchase any commodities from the mother country that could be procured in any of the colonies.
All these resolutions were either adopted, or similar ones entered into, by most if not all the other colonies on the continent.
Though the colonies never pretended an exemption from contributing to the common expenses necessary to the prosperity of the empire, they continued to assert that having parliaments of their own, and not having representatives in that of Great Britain, their own parliaments were the only proper judges of what they could and ought to contribute in this case; and that the English parliament had no right to take their money without their consent. They considered the British empire not as a single state, but as comprehending 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: both countries had the same king, but not the same legislatures. The Americans conceiving their rights thus established, were determined to maintain them; and they accordingly opposed to the acts of a venal court, resolved to subjugate them to its authority, that calm, steady perseverance, worthy of men who were determined to be free.
In 1772, lord Hillsborough gave in his resignation, occasioned, as was supposed, from some mortification be had experienced, or the evident dislike of the king to his administration, which he conceived had tended to weaken the affec
tion and respect of the colonies for a royal government-a sentiment wbich Dr. Franklin had taken every proper means to encourage, by the coinmunication of suitable information and convincing proofs derived from America. But the doctor was not only instrumental in the dismissal of this minister, but perhaps in the appointment of his successor: for complaining of lord Hillsborough one day at court, to a person of considerable influence, that person told him, that the Americans were represented by his lordship as an unquiet people, not easily satisfied with any ministry; that however it was thought too much occasion had been given them to dislike the present; and he asked him, whether, in case he should be removed, he could name another likely to be more acceptable to the colonies? Dr. Franklin instantly 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.” This was probably reported: what influence it may have had is uncertain; but shortly after lord Dartmouth was actually appointed to succeed lord Hillsborough, to the great satisfaction of all the friends of America.
Dr. Franklin, it appears, had about this time a strong inclination to return to America, though well pleased with his residence in England, where, as he writes to his son, « Nothing can be more agreeable than my situation, more especially as I hope for less embarrassment from the new administration. A general respect paid me by the learned, a number of friends and acquaintance among them, with whom I have a pleasing intercourse; a character of so much weight, that it has protected me when some in power would have done me injury, and continued me in an office they would have deprived me of; my company so much desired, that I seldom dine at home in winter, and could spend the whole summer in the country-houses of inviting friends if I chose it. Learned and ingenious foreigners that come to England, almost all make a point of visiting me (for my reputation is still higher
" Deputy postmaster-general of America.