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of Great Britain, an address to the colonies in general, and another to the intiabitants of the province of Quebec.
These several acts were drawn up with uncommon energy, address, and ability: they well deserve the attention of statesmen, and are to be found in the annals of American history.
The petition to his majesty contained an enumeration of the grievances of the colonies, humbly praying redress. It was forwarded to England by the secretary of congress (Charles Thomson), under cover to Dr. Franklin; and as a document of considerable interest, will be inserted at length, and the proceedings thereon circumstantially noticed, in the progress of these memoirs.
Dr. Franklin, at this momentous period, was unceasing in his endeavors to induce the British government to change its measures with respect to the colonies. In private conversations, in letters to persons connected with government, and in writings in the public prints, he continually expatiated upon the impolicy and injustice of its conduct towards America; and stated in the most energetic manner, that notwithstanding the sincere attachment of the colonists to the mother-country, a continuance of ill-treatment must ultimately alienate their affections. The ministers listened not to his advice, and solemn warnings; they blindly persevered in their own schemes, and left to the Americans no alternative but opposition, or unconditional submission. The latter accorded not with the principles of freedom which they had been taught to revere; to the former they were compelled, though reluctantly, to have recourse.
Dr. Franklin, thus finding all his efforts to restore harmony between Great Britain and her colonies ineffectual; and being looked upon by government with a jealous eye, who, it was said, entertained some thoughts of arresting him, under the pretence of his having fomented a rebellion in the colonies, (of which he received private intimation,) determined on immediately returning to America, and to this effect embarked from England in March, 177.5.
During the passage, he committed to paper a memorable and lasting monument of his noble efforts to effect a reconciliation, and prevent a breach between Great Britain and her colonies, (contrary to the insidious accusations of his enemies.) This was a relation of the negotiations he had latterly been concerned in, to bring about so desirable an object, and one he had so much at heart. This, like the first part of these memoirs, was addressed to his son, Governor Franklin; and intended no doubt to be incorporated in them, had he lived to proceed so far in his history. It forms a complement to his political transactions while in England, fully justifies and exalts his character, and is a document of no mean interest in the annals of the American revolution. From these considerations, the editor conceives he should be inexcusable in suppressing, new modelling, or curtailing so valuable a tract; but on the contrary, has great satisfaction, as will no doubt the reader, that Dr. Franklin again resumes the pen in a further continuation of these memoirs.
Dear Son; On board the Pennsylvania Packet, Capt. Osborm,
bound to Philadelphia, March 22, 177.5.
Having now a little leisure for writing, I will endeavor, as I promised you, to recollect what particulars I can of the negociations I have lately been concerned in, with regard to the misunderstandings between Great Britain and America.
During the recess of the last parliament, which had passed the severe acts against the province of the Massachusetts Bay, the minority having been sensible of their weakness as an effect of their want of union among themselves, began to think seriously of a coalition. For they saw in the violence of these American measures, if persisted in, if hazard of dismembering, weakening, and perhaps ruining the British empire. This inclined some of them to propose such an union with each other, as might be more respectable in the ensuing session, have more weight in opposition, and be a body out of which a new ministry might easily be formed, should the ill success of the late measures, and the firmness of the colonies in resisting them, make a change appear necessary to the king.
I took some pains to promote this disposition, in conversations with several of the principal among the minority of both houses, whom I besought and conjured most earnestly, not to suffer, by their little misunderstandings, so glorious a fabric as the present British empire to be demolished by these blunderers; and for their encouragement assured them, as far as my opinions could give any assurance, of the firmness and unanimity of America, the continuance of which was what they had frequent doubts of, and appeared extremely apprehensive and anxious concerning it.
From the time of the affront given me at the council board in January, 1774,1 I had never attended the levee of any minister. I made no justification of myself from the charges brought against me: I made no return of the injury by abusing my adversaries; but held a cool sullen silence, reserving myself to some future
* Appendix, No.j\
opportunity; for which conduct I had several reasons not necessary here to specify. Now and then I heard it said, that the reasonable part of the administration was ashamed of the treatment they had given me. I suspected that some who told me this, did it to draw from me my sentiments concerning it, and perhaps my purposes; but I said little or nothing upon the subject. In the mean time, their measures with regard to New England failing of the success that had been confidently expected, and finding themselves more and more embarrassed, they began (as it seems) to think of making use of me, if they could, to assist in disengaging them. But it was too humiliating to think of applying to me openly and directly, and therefore it was contrived to obtain what they could of my sentiments through others.
The accounts from America during the recess, all manifested that the measures of administration had neither divided nor intimidated the people there; that on the contrary they were more and more united and determined; and that a non-importation agreement was likely to take place. The ministry thence apprehending that this, by distressing the trading and manufacturing towns, might influence votes against the court in the elections for a new parliament, (which were in course to come on the succeeding year,) suddenly and unexpectedly dissolved the old one, and ordered the choice of a new one within the shortest time admitted by law, before the inconveniencies of that agreement could begin to be felt, or produce any such effect.
When I came to England in 1757, you may remember I made several attempts to be introduced to Lord Chatham, (at that time first minister) on account of my Pennsylvania business, but without success. He was then too great a man, or too much occupied in affairs of greater moment. I was therefore obliged to content myself with a kind of non-apparent and un-acknowledged communication through Mr. Potter and Mr. Wood his secretaries, who seemed to cultivate an acquaintance with me by their civilities, and drew from me what information I could give relative to the American war, with my sentiments occasionally on measures that were proposed or advised by others, which gave me the opportunity of recommending and enforcing the utility of conquering Canada. I afterwards considered Mr. Pitt as an inaccessible; I admired him at a distance, and made no more attempts for a nearer acquaintance. I had only once or twice the satisfaction of hearing through Lord Shelburne, and I think Lord Stanhope, that he did me the honor of mentioning me sometimes as a person of respectable character.
But towards the end of August last, returning from Brighthelmstone, I called to visit my friend Mr. Sargent, at his seat, Halsted, in Kent, agreeably to a former engagement. He let me know, that he had promised to conduct me to Lord Stanhope's at Chevening, who expected I would call on him when I came into that neighborhood. We accordingly waited on Lord Stanhope that evening, who told me Lord Chatham desired to Bee me, and that Mr. Sargent's house, where I was to lodge, being in the way, he would call for me there the next morning, and carry me to Hayes. This was done accordingly. That truly great man received me with abundance of civility, enquired particularly into the situation of affairs in America, spoke feelingly of the severity of the late laws against the Massachusetts, gave me some account of his speech in opposing them, and expressed great regard and esteem for the people of that country, who he hoped would continue firm and united in defending by all peaceable and legal means their constitutional rights. I assured him, that I made no doubt they would do so; which he said he was pleased to hear from me, as he was sensible I must be well acquainted with them. I then took occasion to remark to him, that in former cases great empires had crumbled first at their extremities, from this cause; that countries remote from the seat and eye of government, which therefore could not well understand their affairs for want of full and true information, had never been well governed, but had been oppressed by bad governors, on presumption that complaint was difficult to be made and supported against them at such a distance. Hence, such governors had been en couraged to go on, till their oppressions became intolerable. But that this empire had happily found and long been in the practice of a method, whereby every province was well governed, being trusted in a great measure with the government of itself, and that hence had arisen such satisfaction in the subjects, and such encouragement to new settlements, that had it not been for the late wrong politics, (which would have parliament to be omnipotent, though it ought not to be so unless it could at the same time be omniscient,) we might have gone on extending our western empire, adding province to province as far as the South Sea. That I lamented the ruin which seemed impending over so fine a plan, so well adapted to make all the subjects of the greatest empire happy; and I hoped that if his lordship, with the other great and wise men of the British nation, would unite and exert themselves, it might yet be rescued out of the mangling hands of the present set of blundering ministers; and that the union and harmony between Britain and her colonies, so necessary to the welfare of both, might be restored.—He replied with great politeness, that my idea of extending our empire in that manner was a sound one, worthy of a great, benevolent, and comprehensive mind. He wished with me for a good understandVol. I. ". .' fit iF
ing among the different parts of the opposition here, as a means of restoring the ancient harmony of the two countries, which he most earnestly desired; but he spoke of the coalition of our domestic parties as attended with difficulty, and rather to be desired than expected. He mentioned an opinion prevailing here, that America aimed at setting up for itself as an independent state; or, at least, to get rid of the navigation acts. I assured him, that having more than once travelled almost from one end of the continent to the other, and kept a great variety of company, eating, drinking, and conversing with them freely, I never had heard in any conversation from any person, drunk or sober, the least expression of a wish, for a separation, or hint that such a thing would be advantageous to America. And as to the navigation act, the main material part of it, that of carrying on trade in British or plantation bottoms, excluding foreign ships from our ports, and navigating with three quarters British seamen, was as acceptable to us as it could be to Britain. That we were even not against regulations of the general commerce by parliament, provided such regulations were bona fide for the benefit of the whole empire, not for the small advantage of one part to the great injury of another, such as the obliging our ships to call in England with our wine and fruit, from Portugal or Spain; the restraints on our manufactures, in the woollen and hat-making branches, the prohibiting of slitting-mills, steel-works, &c. He allowed that some amendment might be made in those acts; but said those relating to the slittingmills, trip-hammers, and steel-works, were agreed to by our agents in a compromise on the opposition made here to abating the duty.
In fine, he expressed much satisfaction in my having called upon him, and particularly in the assurances I had given him, that America did not aim at independence; adding, that he should be glad to see me again as often as might be. I said, I should not fail to avail myself of the permission he was pleased to give me of waiting upon his lordship occasionally, being very sensible of the honor, and of the great advantages and improvement I should reap from his instructive conversation; which indeed was not a mere compliment.
The new parliament was to meet the 29th of November, (1774). About the beginning of that month, being at the Royal Society, Mr. Raper, one of our members, told me there was a certain lady who had R desire of playing with me at chess, fancying she could beat me, and had requested him to bring me to her: it was, he said, a lady with whose acquaintance he was sure I should be pleased, a sister of Lord Howe's, and he hoped I would not refuse the challenge. I said, I had been long out of practice, but would wait upon the lady when he and she should think fit.