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of to make us rescind them, our ends will finally be obtained; for even the odium accompanying such compulsory attempts, will contribute to unite and strengthen us; and, in the mean time, all the world will allow that our proceeding has been honorable.”
Such had been the advice of Dr. Franklin ; and, as he observes somewhere, “ a good motion never dies," so this was eventually acted upon in all its bearings, and was the first step to the union of the colonies, and their final emancipation from Great Britain.
The first congress assembled at Philadelphia, September 17, 1774. Their first public act was a declaratory resolution, espressive of their disposition with respect to the colony of Massachusetts Bay, and inmediately intended to confirm and encourage that people in their opposition to the oppressive acts of the British parliament. This, and other analogous resolutions relative to Massachusetts, being passed, the congress wrote a letter to general Gage, governor and commander of the king's troops in that province, in which, after repeating the complaints formerly made by the town of Boston, they declared the determined resolution of the colonies to unite for the preservation of their common rights, in opposition to the late acts of parliament, under the execution of which the unhappy people of Massachusetts were oppressed; that the colonies had appointed them the guardians of their rights and liberties, and that they felt the deepest concern that whilst they were pursuing every dutiful and peaceable measure to procure a cordial and effectual reconciliation between Great Britain and the colonies, his excellency should proceed in a manner that bore so hostile an appearance, and which even the oppressive acts complained of did not warrant. They represented the tendency this conduct must hare to irritate, and force a people, however well disposed to peaceable measures, into hostilities, which might prevent the endeavors of the congress to restore a good understanding with the parent state, and involve them in the horrors of a civil war.
The congress also published a DECLARATION OF RIGHTS, to which they asserted the English colonies of North America were entitled, by the immutable laws of nature, the principles of the English constitution, and their several charters or compacts.
They then proceeded to frame a petition to the king, a memorial to the people of Great Britain, an address to the colonies in general, and another to the inhabitants 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. The pro. ceedings thereon, as a document of great interest, will be inserted in another part of this edition, and will be circumstantially noticed in the progress of these memoirs.
Dr. Franklin, at this momentous period, was unceasing in bis 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 VOL. I
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, 1775. · During the passage, he committed to paper a memorable and lasting monument of his noble efforts to effect a reconeiliation, 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.
On board the Pennsylvania Packet, Capt. Osborne,
bound to Philadelphia, March 22, 1775. DEAR Son,
HAVING now a little leisure for writing, I will endeavor, as I promised you, to recollect what particulars I can of the negotiations I have lately been concerned in, with regard to the misunderstandings between Great Britain and America.
During the recess of the last parliament, which bad 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, a 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 conversation 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, 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 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 sailing of the success that had been confidently expected, and finding them. selves more and more embarrassed, they began (as it seeins)
See Examination, Vol. IV. p. 109 of this edition.
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 be gin 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-acknowleged 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.