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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 Winthorp, 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 negociating 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 most faithful subjects; creating enmities between the different countries of which the empire consists; occasioning a great expence 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 mischief; 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 honour 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 honour 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 acknowledging the receipt of the papers, is dated Boston, March 24th, 1773, and begins thus, "I have just received your favour of the 2d December last, with the several papers enclosed, for which I am much obliged to, you. I have communicated them to some of the gentlemen you mentioned. They are of opinion, that though it might be inconvenient to publish them, yet it might be expedient to have copies taken and left on this side the water, as there may be a necessity to make some use of them hereafter: however, I read to them what you had wrote to me upon the occasion, and told them I could by no means consent copies of them or any part of them should be taken without your express leave, that I would write to you upon the subject, and should strictly conform to your directions."
The next letter, dated April 20th, 1773, begins thus, "I wrote you in my
last, that the gentlemen to whom I had communicated the papers you sent me under cover of yours of the 2d of December last, were of opinion that they ought to be retained on this side the water, to be hereafter employed as the exigency of our affairs may require, or at least that authenticated copies ought to be taken before they are returned : I shall have, I find, a very difficult task properly to conduct this matter, unless you obtain leave for their being retained or copied. I shall wait your directions on this head, and hope they will be such as will be agreeable to all the gentlemeri,■ who unanimously are of opinion, that it can by no means answer any valuable purpose to send th'em here for the inspection of a few persons, barely to satisfy their curiosity." • '*
On the 9th of March I wrote to the same person, not having then received the preceding letters, and mentioned my having written to him on the 2d of December and 5th of January; and knowing what use was made against the people there, of every trifling mob; and fearing lest if the letters should, contrary to my directions, be made public, something more serious of the kind might happen, I concluded that letter thus; "I must hope that great care will be taken to keep our people quiet, since nothing is more wished for by our enemies, than that by insurrections, we should give a good pretence for increasing the military among us, and putting us under more severe restraints. And it must be evident to all, that by our rapidly increasing strength, we shall soon become of so much' importance, that none of our just claims or privileges will■ be, as heretofore, unattended to, nor any security we can wish for our rights be denied us."' ji
Vol. I. 2 B
Mine of May 6th, begins thus; "I have received none of your favours since that of Nov. 28th. I have since written to you of the following dates, Dec. 2d, Jan. 5th, March 9th and April 3d, which I hope got safe to hand." Thus in two out of three letters subsequent to that of Dec. 2d, which enclosed the governor's letters; I mentioned my writing that letter, which shows I could have no intention of concealing my having written it; and that therefore the assertion of my sending it anonymously is without probability.
In mine of June 2d, 1773, I acknowledge the receipt of his letter of March 24th, and not being able to answer immediately his request of leave to copy the letters, Lsaid nothing of them then, postponing that subject to an opportunity which was expected two days after: viz. June 4th, when my letter of that date concludes thus, "As to the letters I communicated to you, though I have not been able to obtain leave to take copies or publish them, I have permission to let the originals remain with you, as long as you may think it of any use to have the originals in possession."
In mine of July 1773, I answer the above of April 20, as follows—" The
letters communicated to you were not merely to satisfy the curiosity of any, but it was thought there might be a use in showing them to some friends of the province, and even to some of the governor's party, for their more certain information concerning his conduct and politics, though the letters were not made quite public. I believe I have since written to you, that there was no occasion to return them speedily; and though I cannot obtain leave as yet to suffer copies to be taken of them, I am allowed to say, that they may be shewn and read to whom and as many as you think proper."
The same person wrote to me June 14th, 1773, in these terms: "I have endeavoured inviolably to keep to your injunctions with respect to the papers you sent me; I have shewn them only to such persons as you directed; no one person, except Dr. Cooper and one of the committee, knows from whom they came or to whom they were sent: I have constantly avoided mentioning your name upon the occasion, so that it never need be known (if you incline to keep it a secret) who they came from, and to whom they were sent; and I desire, so far as I am concerned, my name may not be mentioned; for it may be a damage to me. I thought it however my duty to communicate them as permitted, as they contained matters of importance that very nearly affected the government. And notwithstanding all my care and precaution, it is now publicly known that such letters are here. Considering the number of persons who were to see them, (not less than ten or fifteen) it is astonishiog they did not get air before."—Then he goes on to relate how the assembly having' heard of them, obliged him to produce them; but engaged not to print them: and that they afterwards did nevertheless print them, having got over that engagement by the appearance of copies in the house, produced by a member who it was reported had just received them from England. This letter concludes, "I have done all in my power strictly to conform to your restrictions, but from the circumstances above related, you must be sensible it was impossible to prevent the letters being made public, and therefore hope I shall be free from all blame respecting this matter."
This letter accounts for its being, unexpectedly to me, made a secret in Boston that I had sent the letters. The gentleman to whoni I sent them had his reasons for desiring not to be known as the person who received and communicated them; but as this would have been suspected, if it were known that I sent them, that circumstance was to be kept a secret. Accordingly they were given to another, to be by him produced by the committee.1
My answer to this was of July 25th, 1773, as follows: "lam favoured with" yours of June 14th. containing some copies of the resolves of the committee upon the letters. I see by your account of the transaction, that you could not well prevent what was done. As to the report of other copies being come from England, I think that could not be. It was an expedient to disengage the housed I hope the possession of the originals, and the proceedings upon them ,will be attended with
1 When Dr. Franklin put in his answer to the bill in Chancery, which had been filed against him in the name of Mr. Whately, he demurred to two of the interrogatories, which it contained, and by which he was required to name the person from whom he had here received the letters in question, and also the person in America to whom they had by him been transmitted; and declined making any disclosure of their names. This demurrer was however overruled; and he was ordered to answer these interrogatories: but feeling that his doing so, would be a violation of his engagement to the person from whom he had received the letters, and probably injurious to the person to whom they had been sent, he thought it incumbent on him, to return to America, and thereby avoid the breach of his engagement, and he appears to have done this conscientiously; and so completely, that the person from whom the letters were received, was never ascertained; nor were any of the conjectures respecting that person founded upon, or suggested by any infidelity or indiscretion on the part of Dr. Franklin. He was not however under an equal obligation to secrecy, in regard to the person to whom the letters were immediately transmitted; and he therefore confidentially informed a friend of his (Dr. Bancroft, to whom the Editor is indebted for this note,) that they had been sent to Mr. Cushing, then speaker of the house of representatives of the Massachusett's Bay; with whom, it was Dr. Franklin's duty, as agent for the assembly of that province, to correspond :—a fact now ascertained in his Private1 CorRespondence, Part II. and which there is no longer any motive for concealing:*
2 Men sometimes think it allowable to act improperly for what they consider as good purposes. *
salutary effects to the province, and then I shall be well pleased. I observe what
you mention, that no person besides Dr. Cooper and one of the committee knew they came from me. I did not accompany them with any request of being myself concealed, for believing what I did, to be in the way of my duty as agent, though I had no doubt of its giving offence not only to the parties exposed but to administration here, I was regardless of the consequences. However, since the letters themselves are now copied and printed, contrary to the promise I made, I am glad my name has not been heard on the occasion, and as I do not see it could be of any use to the public, I now wish it may continue unknown, though I hardly expect it. As to yours, you may rely on my never mentioning, it„ except that I may be obliged to shew your letter in my own vindication, to the person only who might otherwise think he had reason to blame Me for breach of engagement."
With the abovementioned letter of the 14th of June, I received one from another of the gentlemen to whom the papers had been communicated, which says, "By whom and to whom they were sent is still a secret, known only to three persons here, and may still remain so if you desire it." My answer to him of July 25th, was, "I accompanied them with no restriction relating to myself: my duty to the province as their agent I thought required the communication of them so far as I could. I was sensible I should make enemies there, and perhaps might offend government here; but these apprehensions I disregarded. I did not expect, and hardly still expect, that my sending them could be kept a secret. But since it is such hitherto, I now wish it may continue so, because the publication of the letters, contrary to my engagement, has changed the circumstances.—His reply to this of the I Oth of November, is, "After all the solicitous inquiries of the governor and his friends respecting his letters, it still remains a secret from and to whom they were sent here. This is known among us, to two only besides myself; and will remain undiscovered, unless further intelligence should come from your side the water, than I have reason to think has yet been obtained. I cannot, however, but admire your
This was done at Boston in regard to the letters under consideration:—a publication of these letters was deemed of the highest importance, by the leading members of the house of representatives; and copies of them were therefore made unwarrantably; and these, the late Mr. Hancock was induced to bring forward in that house, of which he was a member, and to declare that they had been sent to him from England; a declaration which could not have been true.;