Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

With these sentiments I could not but see with concern the sending of troops to Boston; and their behavior to the people there, gave me infinite uneasiness, as I apprehended from that measure the worst of consequences;-a breach between the two countries. And I was the more concerned when I found, that it was considered there as a national measure, (since none here opposed it,) and as a proof that Britain had no longer a parental regard for them. I myself in conversation sometimes spoke of it in this light, and I own with some resentment, (being myself a native of that country) till I was, to my great surprise, assured by a gentleman of character and distinction, (whom I am not at present permitted to name) that not only the measure I particularly censured so warmly, but all the other grievances we complained of, took their rise, not from the government here, but were projected, proposed to administration, solicited, and obtained, by some of the most respectable among the Americans themselves; as necessary measures for the welfare of that country. As I could not readily assent to the probability of this, he undertook to convince me, and he hoped through me (as their agent here)my countrymen. Accordingly, he called on me some days after, and produced to me these very letters from lieutenant-governor Hutchinson, secretary Oliver, and others, which bave since been the subject of so much discussion.

Though astonished, I could not but confess myself convinced, and I was ready, as be desired, to convince my countrymen ; for I saw, I felt indeed by its effect upon myself, the tendency it must have towards a reconciliation; which for the common good I earnestly wished; it appeared, moreover, my duty to give my constituents intelligence of such importance to their affairs ;—but there was some difficulty, as this gentleman would not permit copies to be taken of the letters; and if that could have been done, the authenticity of those copies might have been doubted and disputed. My simple account of them, as papers I had seen, would have been still less certain; I therefore wished to have the use of the originals for that purpose, which I at length obtained, on

these express conditions: that they should not be printed, that no copies should be taken of them, that they should be shown only to a few of the leading people of the government, and that they should be carefully returned.

I accepted those conditions, and under the same transmitted the original letters to the committee of correspondence at Boston, without taking or reserving any copy of them for myself. I agreed the more willingly to the restraint, from an apprehension that a publication might, considering the state of irritation in which the minds of the people there had long been kept, occasion some riot of mischievous consequence. I had no other scruple in sending them, for as they had been handed about here to injure that people, why not use them for their advantage? The writers, too, had taken the same liberty with the letters of others, transmitting hither those of Rosne and Auchmuty, in confirmation of their own calumnies against the Americans; copies of some of mine too, had been returned here by officers of government; why then should theirs be exempt from the same treatment? To whom they had been directed here I could only conjecture; for I was not informed, and there was no address upon them when I received them. My letter, in which I inclosed them, expressed more fully the motives abovementioned for sending them, and I shall presently give an extract of so much as related to them.

But as it has, on the contrary, been roundly asserted, that I did not, as agent, transmit those letters to the assembly's committee of correspondence; that I sent them to a junto, my peculiar correspondents; that fearing to be known as the person who sent them, I had insisted on the keeping that circumstance a secret; that I had « shown the utmost solicitude to have that secret kept;" and as this has been urged as a demonstrative proof, that I was conscious of guilt in the manner of obtaining them, and therefore feared a discovery so much as to have been afraid of putting my name to the letter in which I inclosed them, and which only appeared to be mine by my well-known hand writing; I would here, previ.

ous to that extract, observe, that on the same paper was first written the copy of a preceding letter, which had been first signed by me as usual; and, accordingly, the letter now in question began with these words, “ The above is a copy of my last;" and all the first part of it was on business transacted by me relating to the affairs of the province, and particularly to two petitions sent to me as agent by the assembly, to be presented to the king. These circumstances must to every person there have as clearly shown me to be the writer of that letter, as my well-known hand must have done to those peculiar correspondents of my own, to whom it is said I sent it. If then I hoped to be concealed by not signing my name to such a letter, I must have been as silly as that bird, which is supposed to think itself unseen when it has hid only its head. And if I could depend on my correspondents kecping secret, a letter and a transaction which they must needs know were mine, I might as well have trusted them with my name, and could have had no motive for omitting it. In truth, all I insisted on was, (in pursuance of my engagement) that the letters should not be printed or copied; but I had not at the time the least thought or desire of kecping my part in that transaction a secret; and, therefore, so far from requesting it, I did not so much as give the smallest intimation, even that it would be agreeable to me not to be mentioned on the occasion. And if I had had that inclination, I must have been very weak indeed to fancy, that the person I wrote to, all the rest of the committee of correspondence, five other persons named, and “such others as the committee might think fit to show them to," with three gentlemen here to whom I had communicated the matter, should all keep as a secret on my account what I did not state as a secret, or request should be concealed.

So much of the letter as relates to the governor's letter, is as follows:

6 On this occasion I think it fit to acquaint you, that there has lately fallen into my hands part of a correspondence that I have reason to believe laid the foundation of most, if not

all our present grievances. I am not at Jiberty to tell through what channel I received it; and I have engaged that it shall not be printed, nor any copies taken of the whole, or any part of it; but I am allowed to let it be seen by some men of worth in the province, for their satisfaction only. In confidence of your preserving inviolably my engagement, I send you inclosed the original letters, to obviate every pretence of unfairness in copying, interpolation, or omission. The hands of the gentlemen will be well known. Possibly they may not like such an exposal of their conduct, however tenderly and privately it may be managed. But if they are good men, or pretend to be such, and agree that all good men wish a good understanding and harmony to subsist between the colonies and their mother country, they ought the less to regret, that at the small expense of their reputation for sincerity and public spirit among their compatriots, so desirable an event may in some degree be forwarded. For my own part, I cannot but acknowlege, that my resentment against this country, for its arbitrary measures in governing us, conducted by the late minister, bas, since my conviction by these papers, that those measures were projected, advised, and called for, by men of character among ourselves, and whose advice must therefore be attended with all the weight that was proper to mislead, and which could therefore scarce fail of misleading; my own resentment, I say, has by this means been exceedingly abated. I think they must have the same effect with you; but I am not, as I have said, at liberty to make the letters public. I can only allow them to be seen by yourself, by the other gentlemen of the committee of correspondence, by Messrs. Bowdoin and Pitts of the council, and doctors Chauncey, Cooper, and Winthrop, with a few such other gentlemen as you may think fit to show them to. After being some months in your possession, you are requested to return them to me.

“As to the writers, I can easily as well as charitably conceive it possible, that a man educated in prepossessions of the unbounded authority of parliament, &c. may think unjustifiable every opposition even to its unconstitutional exactions, and imagine it their duty to suppress, as much as in them lies, such opposition. But when I find them bartering away the liberties of their native country for posts, and negotiating for salaries and pensions extorted from the people; and conscious of the odium these might be attended with, calling for troops to protect and secure the enjoyment of them; when I see them exciting jealousies in the crown, and provoking it to work against so great a part of its faithful subjects; creating enmities between the different countries of which the empire consists; occasioning a great expense to the old country for suppressing or preventing imaginary rebellions in the new, and to the new country for the payment of needless gratifications to useless officers and enemies; I cannot but doubt their sincerity even in the political principles they profess, and deem them mere time-servers, seeking their own private emolument, through any quantity of public mischicf; betrayers of the interest, not of their native country only, but of the government they pretend to serve, and of the whole English empire.

“With the greatest esteem and respect, I have the honor to be, sir, your and the committee's most obedient humble servant,

B. FRANKLIN.”

My next letter is of Jan. 5th, 1773, to the same gentleman, beginning with these words.—I did myself the honor of writing to you on the 2d of December past, inclosing some original letters from persons at Boston, which I hope got safe to hand.”—And then goes on with other business transacted by me as agent, and is signed with my name as usual. In truth I never sent an anonymous letter to any person in America, since my residence in London, unless where two or more letters happened to be on the same paper, the first a copy of a preceding letter, and the subsequent referring to the preceding; in that case, I may possibly have omitted signing more than one of them as unnecessary.

The first letter, acknowleging the receipt of the papers, is dated Boston, March 24th, 1773, and begins thus: “ I have

« AnteriorContinuar »