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returning to Gloucester. On enquiry I find that I was mistaken in some circum~ stances relating to your conduct about the stamp act, though right as to the suhstance. These errors shall be rectified the first opportunity. After having assured you, that I am no dealer in anonymous newspaper paragraphs, nor have a connection with any who are, I have the honour to be, Sir, your humble servant,
To Dean Tucker.
I received your favour of yesterday. If the substance of what you have charged me with is right, I can have but little concern about any mistakes in the circumstances: whether they are rectified or not, will be immaterial. But knowing the substance to be wrong, and believing that you can have no desire of continuing in an error, prejudicial to any man's reputation, I am persuaded you will not take it amiss, if I request you to communicate to me the particulars of the information you have received, that I may have an opportunity of examining them; and I flatter myself I shall be able to satisfy you that they are groundless. I propose this method as more decent than a public altercation, and suiting better the respect due to your character. With great regard, I have the honour to be, Reverend Sir, your most obedient humble servant, B. Franklin.
To Dr. Franklin.
Sir, Gloucester, Feb. 24, 1774.
The request made in your last letter is so very just and reasonable, that I shall comply with it very readily. It has long appeared to me, that you much exceeded the bounds of morality in the methods you pursued for the advancement of the supposed interests of America. If it can be proved that I have unjustly suspected you, I shall acknowledge my error with as much satisfaction as you can have in reading my recantation of it. As to the case more immediately referred to in your letters, I was repeatedly informed that you had solicited the late Mr. George Grenville for a place or agency in the distribution of stamps in America. From which circumstance I myself concluded, that you had made interest for it on your own account: whereas I am now informed, there are no positive proofs of your having solicited to obtain such a place for yourself, but that there is sufficient evidence still existing of your having applied for it in favour of another person. If this latter should prove to be the fact, as I am assured it will, I am willing to suppose from several expressions in both your letters, that you will readily acknowledge that the difference in this case between yourself and your friend, is very immaterial to the general merits of the question. But if you should have distinctions in this case, which are above my comprehension, I shall content myself with observing, that your great abilities and happy discoveries deserve universal regard; and that as on these accounts I esteem and respect you, so I have the honour to be, Sir, your very humble servant, J.tucker.
To Dean Tucker.
Reverend Sir, London, Feb. 26, 1774.
I thank you for the frankness with which you have communicated to me the particulars of the information you had received relating to my supposed application to Mr. Grenville for a place in the American stamp office. As I deny that either your former or latter informations are true, it seems incumbent on me, for your satisfaction, to relate all the circumstances fairly to you that could possibly give rise to such mistakes.
Some days after the stamp act was passed, to which I had given all the opposition I could, with Mr. Grenville, I received a note from Mr. Whately, his secretary, desiring to see me the next morning. I waited upon him accordingly, and found with him several other colony agents. He acquainted us that Mr. Grenville was desirous to make the execution of the act as little inconvenient and disagreeable to America as possible; and therefore did not think of sending stamp officers from this country, but wished to have discreet and reputable persons appointed in each province from among the inhabitants, such as would be acceptable to them; for as they were to pay the tax, he thought strangers should not have the emolument. Mr. Whately therefore wished us to name for our respective colonies, informing us that Mr. Grenville would be obliged to us for pointing out to him honest and responsible men, and would pay great regard to our nominations. By this plausible and apparently candid declaration, we were drawn in to nominate ; and I named for our province Mr. Hughes, saying at the same time, that I knew not whether he would accept of it, but if he did, I was sure he would execute the office faithfully. I soon after had notice of his appointment. We none of us, I believe, foresaw or imagined that this compliance with the request of the minister, would or could have been called an application of ours, and adduced as a proof of our approbation of the act we had been opposing; otherwise I think few of us would have named at all —I am sure I should not. This I assure you, and can prove to you by living evidence, is a true account of the transaction in question, which if you compare with that you have been induced to give of it in your book, I am persuaded you will see a difference that is far from being " a distinction above your comprehension."
Permit me further to remark, that your expression of there being " no positive proofs of my having solicited to obtain such a place for myself," implies that there are nevertheless some circumstantial proofs sufficient at least to support a suspicion; the latter part however of the same sentence, which says, "there are sufficient evidence still existing of my having applied for it in favour of another person, must, I apprehend, if credited, destroy that suspicion, and be considered as positive pro of of the contrary; for, if I had interest enough with Mr. Grenville to obtain that place for another, is it likely that it would have been refused me, had I asked it for myself?
There is another circumstance which I would offer to your candid consideration. You describe me as "changing sides, and appearing at the bar of the House of Commons to cry down the very measure I had espoused, and direct the storm that was falling upon that minister." As this must have been after my supposed solicitation of the favour for myself or my friend; and Mr. Grenville and Mr. Whately were both in the house at the time, and both asked me questions, can it be conceived that offended as they must have been with such a conduct in me, neither of them should put me in mind of this my sudden changing of sides, or remark it to the house, or reproach me with it, or require my reasons for it? and yet all the members then present know that not a syllable of the kind fell from either of them, or from any of their party.
I persuade myself that by this time you begin to suspect you may have been misled by your informers. I do not ask who they are, because I do not wish to have particular motives for disliking people, who in general may deserve my respect. They too may have drawn consequences beyond the information they received from others, and hearing the office had been given to a person of my nomination, might as naturally suppose I had solicited it; as Dr. Tucker, hearing that I had solicited it, might " conclude" it was for myself.
I desire you to believe that I take kindly, as I ought, your freely mentioning to me " that it has long appeared to you, that I much exceeded the bounds of morality in the methods I pursued for the advancement of the supposed interests of America." I am sensible there is a good deal of truth in the adage that our sins and our debts are always more than we take them to be; and though I cannot at present, on examination of my conscience, charge myself with any immorality of that kind, it becomes me to suspect that what has long appeared to you may have some foundation. You are so good as to add that " if it can be proved you have unjustly suspected me, you shall have a satisfaction in acknowledging the error." It is often a thing hard to prove that suspicions are unjust, even when we know what they are; and harder when we are unacquainted with them. I must presume therefore, that in mentioning them you had an intention of communicating the grounds of them to me, if I should request it, which I now do, and, I assure you, with a sincere desire and design of amending what you may show me to have been wrong in my conduct, and to thank you for the admonition. In your writings I appear a bad man; but if I am such, and you can thus help me to become in reality a good one, I shall esteem it more than a sufficient reparation to, Reverend Sir, your most obedient humble servant,
[Note by Dr. Franklin on the rough draught of the foregoing letter.] Feb. 7, 1775. No answer has yet been received to the above letter. B. F.
From the preceding correspondence, it is fully evident that this Reverend Divine was not willing to acknowledge, or even find, that he had substantially erred in regard to Dr. Franklin. His prejudices indeed appear to have been so deeply rooted, and his desire to do justice to one whom he had wronged, appears to have been so dormant, that he betrays an evident disinclination to ascertain the truth, or allow it to approach him, in opposition to these prejudices. With other more equitable dispositions, it would have been impossible for the Dean to abstain so pertinaciously from giving any answer to Dr. Franklin's last letter. The facts and explanations which it contained were so important, and they were stated with so much candour and civility, that the Dean must have felt it to be highly incumbent on him either to meet those facts by others equally conclusive, or to acknowledge that he had wrongfully accused Dr. Franklin. The former he could not do, the latter he would not. The only expedient then remaining, was the unworthy and evasive one of giving no answer!
But to return to objects of more public interest. All the expectations that Dr. Franklin had entertained from the good character and disposition of the present minister, Lord Dartmouth, in favor of America, began to wither: none of the measures of his predecessor had even been attempted to be changed, but on the contrary new ones had been continually added further to exasperate the colonies, render them desperate, and drive them into open rebellion.
In a paper written by Dr. Franklin, "On the rise and progress of the differences between Great Britain and her American colonies," and supposed to have been published about this time (1774), he states, that soon after the late war, it became an object with the British ministers to draw a revenue from America: the first attempt was by a stamp act. It soon appeared, that this step had not been well considered; and that the rights, the ability, the opinions and temper of that great and growing people, had not been sufficiently attended to. They complained, that the tax was unnecessary, because their assemblies had ever been ready to make voluntary grants to the crown in proportion to their abilities, when duly required so to do; and unjust, because they had no representative in the British parliament; but had parliaments of their own, wherein their consent was given, as it ought to be, in grants of their own money.1
1 The following arguments on this point were published at the time by an English friend of Dr. Franklin.
1st The insufficiency of the argument asserting their being virtually represented as compared with the unincorporate towns in England, has been already exploded in the letter signed Amor Patriæ, inserted in the Gazetteer, 1st of January last; viz. "The inhabitants of such towns being many of them doubtless legal electors of county members; and otherwise the rest have, by their neighbourhood to, and connection with, legal voters of the vicinage, opportunity of acquiring the means of giving instruction to, and influencing the conduct of, not only their proper county members, but those who repre" sent neighbouring boroughs also; and the future elections of such members will always in some . measure depend on the influence of even many of those who have no legal votes themselves; so have they a strong check on their conduct, which is not the case with the Americans, in respect of any one member in the whole house, not a man of them depending on the colonists for his seat in parliament, or for their instructions."
2dly. Another evident reason why the colonies cannot be justly deemed virtually represented, and in consequence thereof subjected to internal taxation imposed by parliament, and why they, the colonies, cannot be justly compared with such towns in Great Britain, is because the parliament of Great Britain cannot impose any internal tax on the inhabitants of such towns, but that in so doing they and every member thereof would by the same act tax themselves also in the same proportion, which is a very good security in favour of such towns and other non-electors in Great Britain; but which very good security the colonies in their present state are entirely destitute of, insomuch that if they were now to acknowledge a right in the parliament so to tax them (although in the present case a very small sum) without their previous or concurrent consent, in the present mode of things there is no line drawn