Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

even of the preachers you dislike; for the discourse is often much better than the man, as sweet and clear waters come through very dirty earth. I am the more particular on this head, as you seemed to express, a little before I came away, some inclination to leave our church, which I would not have you do.”

After a tempestuous voyage of thirty days, he landed at Portsmouth, and proceeded immediately to London, where he again took lodgings at Mrs. Stevenson’s in Craven Street. When the news of his safe arrival came back to Philadelphia, his friends celebrated the event by the ringing of bells and other demonstrations of joy.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER IV.

Origin of the Stamp Act. — Franklin's Opposition to it. — His Remarks on the Passage of the Act, in a Letter to Charles Thomson. — False Charges against him in Relation to this Subject. — Dean Tucker.— Effects of the Stamp Act in America. — Franklin's Examination before Parliament. — Stamp Act repealed. — Mr. Pitt. — Declaratory Act. — American Paper Currency. — Franklin's Answer to Lord Hillsborough's Report against it. — New Scheme for taxing the Colonies by supplying them with Paper Money. — Franklin travels in Holland and Germany. — His Ideas of the Nature of the Union between the Colonies and Great Britain. — Plan of a Colonial Representation in Parliament. — Franklin visits Paris. – His “Account of the Causes of the American Discontents.”—Change of Ministry. —Lord Hillsborough at the Head of the American Department.— Rumor that Dr. Franklin was to have an Office under him.

HENCEFoRTH we are to pursue the career of Franklin on a broader theatre of action. Although he went to England as a special agent for Pennsylvania, yet circumstances soon led him to take an active and conspicuous part in the general affairs of the colonies. The policy avowed by the British government after the treaty of Paris, and the fruits of that policy in new restrictions on the colonial trade, had already spread discontent throughout the country. The threatened measure of the Stamp Act had contributed to increase this discontent, and fix it more deeply in the hearts of the people. The colonies were unanimous in remonstrating against this new mode of taxation, as hostile to the liberties of Englishmen, and an invasion of the charter rights, which had been granted to them, and which they had hitherto enjoyed.

The Assembly of Pennsylvania, entertaining this view of the subject, in common with all the other assemblies on the continent, instructed Dr. Franklin to use his efforts, in behalf of the province, to prevent the passage of the act. The first steps he took for this object, as well as the origin of the measure itself, are briefly explained by him in a letter written some years afterwards to Mr. William Alexander. It is dated at Passy, March 12th, 1778. “In the pamphlet you were so kind as to lend me, there is one important fact misstated, apparently from the writer's not having been furnished with good information; it is the transaction between Mr. Grenville and the colonies, wherein he understands, that Mr. Grenville demanded of them a specific sum, that they refused to grant any thing, and that it was on their refusal only, that he made the motion for the Stamp Act. No one of these particulars is true. The fact was this. “Some time in the winter of 1763–4, Mr. Grenville called together the agents of the several colonies, and told them, that he proposed to draw a revenue from America, and to that end his intention was to levy a stamp duty on the colonies by act of Parliament in the ensuing session, of which he thought it fit that they should be immediately acquainted, that they might have time to consider, and, if any other duty equally productive would be more agreeable to them, they might let him know it. The agents were therefore directed to write this to their respective Assemblies, and communicate to him the answers they should receive; the agents wrote accordingly. “I was a member in the Assembly of Pennsylvania when this notification came to hand. The observations there made upon it were, that the ancient, established, and regular method of drawing aids from the colonies was this. The occasion was always first considered by their sovereign in his privy council, by whose sage advice he directed his secretary of state to write circular letters to the several governors, who were directed to lay them before their Assemblies. In those letters the occasion was explained for their satisfaction, with gracious expressions of his Majesty's confidence in their known duty and affection, on which he relied, that they would grant such sums as should be suitable to their abilities, loyalty, and zeal for his service. That the colonies had always granted liberally on such requisitions, and so liberally during the late war, that the King, sensible they had granted much more than their proportion, had recommended it to Parliament, five years successively, to make them some compensation, and the Parliament accordingly returned them two hundred thousand pounds a year, to be divided among them. That the proposition of taxing them in Parliament was therefore both cruel and unjust. That, by the constitution of the colonies, their business was with the King, in matters of aid; they had nothing to do with any financier, nor he with them; nor were the agents the proper channels through which requisitions should be made; it was therefore improper for them to enter in any stipulation, or make any proposition, to Mr. Grenville about laying taxes on their constituents by Parliament, which had really no right at all to tax them, especially as the notice he had sent them did not appear to be by the King's order, and perhaps was without his knowledge; as the King, when he would obtain any thing from them, always accompanied his requisition with good words; but this gentleman, instead of a decent demand, sent them a menace, that they should certainly be taxed, and only left them the choice of the manner. But, all this notwithstanding, they were so far from refusing to grant money, that they resolved to the following purpose; ‘That, as they always had, so they always should think it their duty to grant aid to the crown, according to their abilities, whenever required of them in the usual constitutional manner.” “I went soon after to England, and took with me an authentic copy of this resolution, which I presented to Mr. Grenville before he brought in the Stamp Act. I asserted in the House of Commons (Mr. Grenville being present), that I had done so, and he did not deny it. Other colonies made similar resolutions. And, had Mr. Grenville, instead of that act, applied to the King in Council for such requisitional letters to be circulated by the secretary of state, I am sure he would have obtained more money from the colonies by their voluntary grants, than he himself expected from his stamps. But he chose compulsion rather than persuasion, and would not receive from their good will what he thought he could obtain without it. And thus the golden bridge, which the ingenious author thinks the Americans unwisely and unbecomingly refused to hold out to the minister and Parliament, was actually held out to them, but they refused to walk over it. This is the true history of that transaction; and, as it is probable there may be another edition of that excellent pamphlet, I wish this may be communicated to the candid author, who, I doubt not, will correct that error.” It is here to be observed, that the alternative allowed by the minister was, that the colonists might either submit to a stamp duty, or suggest some other tax, which should yield an equal amount to the revenue. At all events, the tax was to be levied by Parliament. The proposal in both forms was universally rejected by the colonists, who denied that Parliament had any right to tax them, since they were not represented in that body; it being a fundamental Y +

« ZurückWeiter »