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Assembly had chosen him to be their agent, when his Lordship hastily interrupted him by saying, “I must set you right there, Mr. Franklin; you are not agent.” To which the latter replied, “I do not understand your Lordship. I have the appointment in my pocket.” The minister still insisted, that it was a mistake; he had later advices, and Governor Hutchinson would not give his assent to the bill. “There was no bill, my Lord,” said Franklin, “it was by a vote of the House.” Whereupon his Lordship called his secretary, and asked for Governor Hutchinson's letter; but it turned out that the letter related wholly to another matter, and there was not a word in it about 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?” But this his Lordship was not pleased to do. He took the paper with apparent unwillingness, and, without opening or paying the least regard to it, he declaimed in an angry tone against the practice of appointing agents by a vote of the Assemblies, and declared, that no agent should for the future be attended to, except such as had been appointed by a regular act of the Assembly, approved by the Governor. Franklin expostulated with his Lordship on this head ; he could not conceive that the consent of the Governor was necessary; the agent was to transact the business of the people, and not that of the Governor; the people had a right, by their representatives, to appoint and instruct such agents as they thought proper to manage their own affairs; they had always WOL. I. 42 B B “
done so, and the thing was as reasonable in itself as it had been common in practice. The minister was not in a humor to be reasoned with. He would not even read the certificate of Dr. Franklin's appointment, nor any of the papers, but handed them back unopened. Franklin had kept himself cool during the altercation, yet he could not brook this effrontery, especially as it was not more a breach of good manners, than an insult to the Assembly of Massachusetts; and he bluntly told his Lordship, that he believed it was of 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. The doctrine, here broached by Lord Hillsborough, was both novel and dangerous. If carried out, it would deprive the people of the only method, by which they could hold communication with the King, or any other branch of the government, except through the intervention of governors, who were often unfriendly to their interests, indeed, generally opposed to them, and might, by their negative, defeat any choice the Assemblies should make. It would, moreover, place them, in this respect, at the mercy of a minister, since he might easily instruct the governors not to approve the appointment of particular men, or men whose opinions were suspected of being too much tinctured with ideas favorable to the popular claims. And thus, in reality, the minister would nominate the agents, and such of them as were not subservient to his wishes would be sure to lose their places at the next election. Dr. Franklin declared, that he would not accept an agency under such an appointment, nor countenance in any way so arbitrary and mischievous a doctrine. Lord Hillsborough succeeded in procuring a resolution of the Board of Trade not to allow an agent to appear before them, who had not been appointed according to his plan. It was never followed, however, by the Assemblies, and never could have been, without sacrificing one of their most valuable privileges. In the mean time, the business was prosecuted before the Board, whilst Lord Hillsborough continued at the head of it, though to a great disadvantage, by written applications and indirect influence with the members. Having now in his charge the concerns of four colonies, Dr. Franklin's time was necessarily much occupied with them. Little being done by Parliament, however, relating to American affairs, in the year 1771, he had leisure for his annual excursions, which, from his confinement and close attention to business while in London, he found essential to his health. He made short journeys through different parts of England, stopping and passing some time at gentlemen's countryseats, to which he had been invited. He visited Dr. Priestley at Leeds, Dr. Percival at Manchester, and Dr. Darwin at Litchfield, and assisted them in performing some new philosophical experiments. With each of these gentlemen he corresponded for many years, chiefly on scientific subjects. Priestley's celebrated experiments on air, and discoveries in the economy of vegetation, were regularly communicated to him during their progress. When Dr. Priestley was in London, their intercourse was constant and intimate. They belonged to a club of “honest Whigs,” as it was designated by Dr. Franklin, which held stated meetings, and of which Dr. Price and Dr. Kippis were also members. After these little excursions, he made a tour through Wales, Ireland, and Scotland. He had never been in Ireland before. He was entertained, as he says, “by both parties, the courtiers and the patriots; the latter treating him with particular respect.” But the most remarkable occurrence, that happened to him there, was his meeting with Lord Hillsborough, who had retreated from the fatigues of public business for a few weeks to seek relaxation on his estates. The story is best told in his own words, as contained in a letter to Mr. Cushing. “Being in Dublin at the same time with his Lordship, I met with him accidentally at the Lord Lieutenant's, who had happened to invite us to dine with a large company on the same day. As there was something curious in our interview, I must give you an account of it. He was surprisingly civil, and urged my fellow travellers and me to call at his house in our intended journey northward, where we might be sure of better accommodations than the inns would afford us. He pressed us so politely, that it was not easy to refuse without apparent rudeness, as we must pass through his town, Hillsborough, and by his door; and therefore, as it might afford an opportunity of saying something on American affairs, I concluded to comply with his invitation. “His Lordship went home some time before we left Dublin. We called upon him, and were detained at his house four days, during which time he entertained us with great civility, and a particular attention to me, that appeared the more extraordinary, as I knew that just before we left London he had expressed himself concerning me in very angry terms, calling me a republican, a factious, mischievous fellow, and the like.” “He seemed attentive to every thing, that might make my stay in his house agreeable to me, and put his eldest son, Lord Killwarling, into his phaeton with me, to drive me a round of forty miles, that I might see the country, the seats, and manufactures, covering me with his own greatcoat, lest I should take cold. In short, he seemed extremely solicitous to impress me, and the colonies through me, with a good opinion of him. All which I could not but wonder at, knowing that he likes neither them nor me; and I thought it inexplicable but on the supposition, that he apprehended an approaching storm, and was desirous of lessening beforehand the number of enemies he had so imprudently created. But, if he takes no steps towards withdrawing the troops, repealing the duties, restoring the Castle,” or recalling the offensive instructions, I shall think all the plausible behaviour I have described is meant only, by patting and stroking the horse, to make him more patient, while the reins are drawn tighter, and the spurs set deeper into his sides.”
He stayed in Dublin till the opening of the Irish Parliament, for the purpose of seeing the principal patriots in that Assembly. “I found them,” he says, “disposed to be friends of America, in which I endeavoured to confirm them, with the expectation that our growing weight might in time be thrown into their scale, and, by joining our interests with theirs, a more equitable treatment from this nation might be obtained for them as well as for us. There are many brave spirits among them. The gentry are a very sensible, polite, and friendly people. Their Parliament makes a most respectable figure, with a number of very good speakers in both parties, and able men of business. And I must not omit acquainting you, that, it being a standing rule to admit members of the English Parliament to sit (though they do not vote) in the House
* Castle William, a fortification in Boston Harbour, which belonged to Massachusetts, but which was at this time occupied by British troops.