Benjamin Franklin
by John Torrey Morse, Jr.
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There was much uneasiness, much planning, theorizing, and discussing going on at this time about the relationship between Great Britain and her American provinces; earlier stages of that talk which kept on growing louder, more eager, and more disputatious, until it was swallowed up in the roar of the revolutionary cannon. Among others, Shirley, governor of Massachusetts, concocted a scheme and showed it to Franklin. By this an assembly of the governors of all the colonies, attended by one or two members of their respective councils, was to have authority to take such measures as should seem needful for defense, with power to draw upon the English treasury to meet expenses, the amount of such drafts to be "re-imbursed by a tax laid on the colonies by act of Parliament." This alarming proposition at once drew forth three letters from Franklin, written in December, 1754, and afterward published in the "London Chronicle" in December, 1766. His position amounted to this: that the business of self-defense and the expense thereof were matters neither beyond the abilities of the colonies, nor outside their willingness, and should therefore be managed by them. Their loyalty could be trusted; their knowledge must be the best; on the other hand, governors were apt to be untrustworthy, self-seeking, and ignorant of provincial affairs. But the chief emphasis of his protest falls against taxation without representation. He says:—

"That it is supposed an undoubted right of Englishmen not to be taxed but by their own consent, given through their representatives.

"That the colonists have no representative in Parliament.

"That compelling the colonists to pay money without their consent would be rather like raising contributions in an enemy's country, than taxing of Englishmen for their own public benefit.

"That it would be treating them as a conquered people, and not as true British subjects."

And so on; traversing beforehand the same ground soon to be so thoroughly beaten over by the patriot writers and speakers of the colonies. In a very few years the line of argument became familiar, but for the present Franklin and a very few more were doing the work of suggestion and instruction for the people at large, teaching them by what logic their instinctive convictions could be maintained.

He further ingeniously showed that the colonists were already heavily taxed in ways from which they could not escape. Taxes paid by British artificers came out of the colonial consumers, and the colonists were compelled to buy only from Britain those articles which they would otherwise be able to buy at much lower prices from other countries. Moreover, they were obliged to sell only in Great Britain, where heavy imposts served to curtail the net profits of the producer. Even such manufactures as could be carried on in the colonies were forbidden to them. He concluded:—

"These kinds of secondary taxes, however, we do not complain of, though we have no share in the laying or disposing of them; but to pay immediate, heavy taxes, in the laying, appropriation, and disposition of which we have no part, and which perhaps we may know to be as unnecessary as grievous, must seem hard measures to Englishmen, who cannot conceive that by hazarding their lives and fortunes in subduing and settling new countries, extending the dominion and increasing the commerce of the mother nation, they have forfeited the native rights of Britons, which they think ought rather to be given to them, as due to such merit, if they had been before in a state of slavery."

A third letter discussed a proposition advanced by Shirley for giving the colonies representation in Parliament. Franklin was a little skeptical, and had no notion of being betrayed by a kiss. A real unification of the two communities lying upon either side of the Atlantic, and even a close approximation to proportionate representation, would constitute an excellent way out of the present difficulties. But he saw no encouragement to hope for this.

In fact, the project of laying direct internal taxes upon the colonies by act of Parliament was taking firm root in the English mind, and colonial protests could not long stay the execution of the scheme. Even such grants of money as were made by some of the colonial legislatures were vetoed, on the ground that they were connected with encroachments, schemes for independence, and an assumption of the right to exercise control in the matter of the public finances.[5] The Penns rejoiced. Thomas Penn wrote, doubtless with a malicious chuckle: "If the several assemblies will not make provision for the general service, an act of Parliament may oblige them here." He evidently thought that it would be very wholesome if government should become incensed and severe with the recalcitrants.

[Note 5: Bancroft, Hist. U. S. iv. 176.]

During his discussion with Shirley, Franklin had been upon a visit to Boston. He "left New England," he says, "slowly, and with great reluctance;" for he loved the country and the people. He returned home to be swept into the hurly-burly of military affairs. War appropriations came hard from the legislature of the Quaker province; but the occasion was now at hand when come they must. In the autumn of 1755 L60,000 were voted, chiefly for defense, and Franklin was one of the committee in charge of the expenditure. The border was already unsafe, and formal hostilities on a large scale were close at hand. France and England must fight it out for the possession of the new continent, which, boundless as it then seemed, was yet not big enough to admit of their both dwelling in it. France had been steadily pressing upon the northern and western frontiers of the British colonies, and she now held Crown Point, Niagara, the fort on the present site of Pittsburg, and the whole valley of the Ohio River. It seemed that she would confine the English to the strip along the coast which they already occupied. It is true that she offered to relinquish the Ohio valley to the savages, to be a neutral belt between the European nations on either side of it. But the proposal could not be accepted; the French were much too clever in managing the Indians. Moreover, it was felt that they would never permanently desist from advancing. Then, too, the gallant Braddock was on his way across seas, with a little army of English regulars. Finally, the disproportion between the English and French in the New World was too great for the former to rest satisfied with a compromise. There were about 1,165,000 whites in the British provinces, and only about 80,000 French in Canada. The resources, also, of the former were in every respect vastly greater. These iron facts must tell; were already telling. Throughout this last deadly grapple, now at hand, the French were in desperate earnest. History records few struggles wherein the strength of a combatant was more utterly spent, with more entire devotion, than was the case with these Canadian-French provinces. Every man gave himself to the fight, so literally that no one was left to till the fields, and erelong famine began its hideous work among the scanty forces. The English and Americans, on the other hand, were far from conducting the struggle with the like temper as the French; yet with such enormous advantages as they possessed, if they could not conquer a satisfactory peace in course of time, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. So no composition could be arranged; the Seven Years' War began, and to open it with becoming eclat Braddock debarked, a gorgeous spectacle in red and gold. Yet still there had as yet been in Europe no declaration of hostilities between England and France; on the contrary, the government of the former country was giving very fair words to that of the latter; and in America the British professed only to intend "to repel encroachments."[6]

[Note 6: Bancroft, Hist. U. S. iv. 182.]

Franklin had to take his share of the disasters attendant upon the fatal campaign of Braddock. According to his notion that foolish officer and his two ill-behaved regiments should never, by good rights, have been sent to the provinces at all; for the colonists, being able and willing to do their own fighting, should have been allowed to undertake it. But eleven years before this time the Duke of Bedford had declared it a dangerous policy to enroll an army of 20,000 provincials to serve against Canada, "on account of the independence it might create in those provinces, when they should see within themselves so great an army, possessed of so great a country by right of conquest." This anxiety had been steadily gaining ground. The home government did not choose "to permit the union of the colonies, as proposed at Albany, and to trust that union with their defense, lest they should thereby grow too military and feel their own strength, suspicions and jealousies being at this time entertained of them." So it was because the shadow of the Revolutionary War already darkened the visions of English statesmen that the gallant array of soldiery, with the long train of American attendants, had to make that terrible march to failure and death.

The Assembly of the Quaker province was sadly perturbed lest this arbitrary warrior, encamped hard by in Virginia, should "conceive violent prejudices against them, as averse to the service." In their alarm they had recourse to Franklin's shrewd wit and ready tongue. Accordingly, he visited Braddock under pretense of arranging for the transmission of mails during the campaign, stayed with him several days, and dined with him daily. There were some kinds of men, perhaps, whom Braddock appreciated better than he did Indians; nor is it a slight proof of Franklin's extraordinary capacity for getting on well with every variety of human being that he could make himself so welcome to this testy, opinionated military martinet, who in every particular of nature and of training was the precise contrary of the provincial civilian.

Franklin's own good will to the cause, or his ill luck, led him into an engagement, made just before his departure, whereby he undertook to procure horses and wagons enough for the transportation of the ordnance and all the appurtenances of the camp. It was not a personal contract upon his part to furnish these; he was neither to make any money, nor to risk any; he was simply to render the gratuitous service of inducing the Pennsylvania farmers to let out their horses, wagons, and drivers to the general. It was a difficult task, in which the emissaries of Braddock had utterly failed in Virginia. But Franklin conceived the opportunities to be better in his own province, and entered on the business with vigor and skill. Throughout the farming region he sent advertisements and circulars, cleverly devised to elicit what he wanted, and so phrased as to save him harmless from personal responsibility for any payment. Seven days' pay was to be "advanced and paid in hand" by him, the remainder to be paid by General Braddock, or by the paymaster of the army. He said, in closing his appeal: "I have no particular interest in this affair, as, except the satisfaction of endeavoring to do good, I shall have only my labor for my pains."

But he was not to get off so easily; for, he says, "the owners, ... alleging that they did not know General Braddock, or what dependence might be had on his promise, insisted on my bond for the performance, which I accordingly gave them." This was the more patriotic because Franklin was by no means dazzled by the pomp and parade of the doughty warrior, but on the contrary, reflecting on the probable character of the campaign, he had "conceived some doubts and some fears for the event." What happened every one knows. The losses of wagons and horses in the slaughter amounted to the doleful sum of L20,000; "which to pay would have ruined me," wrote Franklin. Nevertheless the demands began at once to pour in upon him, and suits were instituted. It was a grievous affair, and the end was by no means clear. It was easily possible that in place of his fortune, sacrificed in the public service, he might have only the sorry substitute of a claim against the government. But after many troubled weeks he was at length relieved of the heaviest portion of his burden, through General Shirley's appointment of a commission to audit and pay the claims for actual losses. Other sums due him, representing considerable advances which he had made at the outset in the business, and later for provisions, remained unpaid to the end of his days. The British government in time probably thought the Revolution as efficient as a statute of limitations for barring that account. At the moment, however, Franklin not only lost his money, but had to suffer the affront of being supposed even to be a gainer, and to have filled his own pockets. He indignantly denied that he had "pocketed a farthing;" but of course he was not believed. He adds, with delicious humor: "and, indeed, I have since learnt that immense fortunes are often made in such employments." Those, however, were simple, provincial days. In place of the money which he did not get, also of the further sum which he actually lost, he had to satisfy himself with the consolation derived from the approbation of the Pennsylvania Assembly, while also Braddock's dispatches gave him a good name with the officials in England, which was of some little service to him.

A more comical result of the Braddock affair was that it made Franklin for a time a military man and a colonel. He had escaped being a clergyman and a poet, but he could not escape that common fate of Americans, the military title, the prevalence of which, it has been said, makes "the whole country seem a retreat of heroes." It befell Franklin in this wise: immediately after Braddock's defeat, in the panic which possessed the people and amid the reaction against professional soldiers, recourse was had to plain good sense, though unaccompanied by technical knowledge. No one, as all the province knew, had such sound sense as Franklin, who was accordingly deputed to go to the western frontier with a small volunteer force, there to build three forts for the protection of the outlying settlements. "I undertook," he says, "this military business, though I did not conceive myself well qualified for it." It was a service involving much difficulty and hardship, with some danger; General Braddock would have made a ridiculous failure of it; Franklin acquitted himself well. What he afterward wrote of General Shirley was true of himself: "For, tho' Shirley was not bred a soldier, he was sensible and sagacious in himself, and attentive to good advice from others, capable of forming judicious plans, and quick and active in carrying them into execution." In a word, Franklin's military career was as creditable as it was brief. He was called forward at the crisis of universal dismay; he gave his popular influence and cool head to a peculiar kind of service, of which he knew much by hearsay, if nothing by personal experience; he did his work well; and, much stranger to relate, he escaped the delusion that he was a soldier. So soon as he could do so, that is to say after a few weeks, he returned to his civil duties. But he had shown courage, intelligence, and patriotism in a high degree, and he had greatly increased the confidence reposed in him by his fellow citizens.

Beyond those active military measures which the exigencies of the time made necessary, Franklin fell in with, if he did not originate, a plan designed to afford permanent protection in the future. This was to extend the colonies inland. His notions were broad, embracing much both in space and time. He thought "what a glorious thing it would be to settle in that fine country a large, strong body of religious, industrious people. What a security to the other colonies and advantage to Britain by increasing her people, territory, strength, and commerce." He foretold that "perhaps in less than another century" the Ohio valley might "become a populous and powerful dominion, and a great accession of power either to England or France." Having this scheme much at heart, he drew up a sort of prospectus "for settling two western colonies in North America;" "barrier colonies" they were called by Governor Pownall, who was warm in the same idea, and sent a plan of his own, together with Franklin's, to the home government.

It is true that these new settlements, regarded strictly as bulwarks, would have been only a change of "barrier," an advancement of frontier; they themselves would become frontier instead of the present line, and would be equally subject to Indian and French assaults. Still the step was in the direction of growth and expansion; it was advancing and aggressive, and indicated an appreciation of the enormous motive power which lay in English colonization. Franklin pushed it earnestly, interested others in it, and seemed at one time on the point of securing the charters. But the conquest of Canada within a very short time rendered defensive colonization almost needless, and soon afterward the premonitions and actual outbreak of the Revolution put an end to all schemes in this shape.



It was not possible to make a world-wide reputation in the public affairs of the province of Pennsylvania; but so much fame as opportunity would admit of had by this time been won by Franklin. In respect of influence and prestige among his fellow colonists none other came near to him. Meanwhile among all his crowding occupations he had found time for those scientific researches towards which his heart always yearned. He had flown his famous kite; had entrapped the lightning of the clouds; had written treatises, which, having been collected into a volume, "were much taken notice of in England," made no small stir in France, and were "translated into the Italian, German, and Latin languages." A learned French abbe, "preceptor in natural philosophy to the royal family, and an able experimenter," at first controverted his discoveries and even questioned his existence. But after a little time this worthy scientist became "assur'd that there really existed such a person as Franklin at Philadelphia," while other distinguished scientific men of Europe united in the adoption of his theories. Kant called him the 'Prometheus of modern times.' Thus, in one way and another, his name had probably already come to be more widely known than that of any other living man who had been born on this side of the Atlantic. It might have been even much more famous, had he been more free to follow his own bent, a pleasure which he could only enjoy in a very limited degree. In 1753 he wrote: "I am so engaged in business, public and private, that those more pleasing pursuits [philosophical inquiries] are frequently interrupted, and the chain of thought necessary to be closely continued in such disquisitions is so broken and disjointed that it is with difficulty I satisfy myself in any of them." Similar complaints occur frequently, and it is certain that his extensive philosophical labors were all conducted in those mere cracks and crannies of leisure scantily interspersed amid the hours of a man apparently overwhelmed with the functions of active life.

He was now selected by the Assembly to encounter the perils of crossing the Atlantic upon an important mission in behalf of his province. For a long while past the relationship between the Penns, unworthy sons of the great William, and now the proprietaries, on the one side, and their quasi subjects, the people of the province, upon the other, had been steadily becoming more and more strained, until something very like a crisis had been reached. As usual in English and Anglo-American communities, it was a quarrel over dollars, or rather over pounds sterling, a question of taxation, which was producing the alienation. At bottom, there was the trouble which always pertains to absenteeism; the proprietaries lived in England, and regarded their vast American estate, with about 200,000 white inhabitants, only as a source of revenue. That mercantile community, however, with the thrift of Quakers and the independent temper of Englishmen, had a shrewd appreciation of, and an obstinate respect for, its own interests. Hence the discussions, already of threatening proportions.

The chief point in dispute was, whether or not the waste lands, still directly owned by the proprietaries, and other lands let by them at quit-rents, should be taxed in the same manner as like property of other owners. They refused to submit to such taxation; the Assembly of Burgesses insisted. In ordinary times the proprietaries prevailed; for the governor was their nominee and removable at their pleasure; they gave him general instructions to assent to no law taxing their holdings, and he naturally obeyed his masters. But since governors got their salaries only by virtue of a vote of the Assembly, it seems that they sometimes disregarded instructions, in the sacred cause of their own interests. After a while, therefore, the proprietaries, made shrewd by experience, devised the scheme of placing their unfortunate sub-rulers under bonds. This went far towards settling the matter. Yet in such a crisis and stress as were now present in the colony, when exceptionally large sums had to be raised, and great sacrifices and sufferings endured, and when little less than the actual existence of the province might be thought to be at stake, it certainly seemed that the rich and idle proprietaries might stand on the same footing with their poor and laboring subjects. They lived comfortably in England upon revenues estimated to amount to the then enormous sum of L20,000 sterling; while the colonists were struggling under unusual losses, as well as enormous expenses, growing out of the war and Indian ravages. At such a time their parsimony, their "incredible meanness," as Franklin called it, was cruel as well as stupid. At last the Assembly flatly refused to raise any money unless the proprietaries should be burdened like the rest. All should pay together, or all should go to destruction together. The Penns too stood obstinate, facing the not less resolute Assembly. It was indeed a deadlock! Yet the times were such that neither party could afford to maintain its ground indefinitely. So a temporary arrangement was made, whereby of L60,000 sterling to be raised the proprietaries agreed to contribute L5000, and the Assembly agreed to accept the same in lieu or commutation for their tax. But neither side abandoned its principle. Before long more money was needed, and the dispute was as fierce as ever.

The burgesses now thought that it would be well to carry a statement of their case before the king in council and the lords of trade. In February, 1757, they named their speaker, Isaac Norris, and Franklin to be their emissaries "to represent in England the unhappy situation of the province," and to seek redress by an act of Parliament. Norris, an aged man, begged to be excused; Franklin accepted. His son was given leave of absence, in order to attend him as his secretary. During the prolonged and bitter controversies Franklin had been the most prominent member of the Assembly on the popular side. He had drawn many of the addresses, arguments, and other papers; and his familiarity with the business, therefore, no less than his good judgment, shrewdness, and tact united to point him out as the man for the very unpleasant and difficult errand.

A portion of his business also was to endeavor to induce the king to resume the province of Pennsylvania as his own. A clause in the charter had reserved this right, which could be exercised on payment of a certain sum of money. The colonists now preferred to be an appanage of the crown rather than a fief of the Penns. Oddly enough, some of the provincial governors were suggesting the like measure concerning other provinces; but from widely different motives. The colonists thought a monarch better than private individuals, as a master; while the governors thought that only the royal authority could enforce their theory of colonial government. They angrily complained that the colonies would do nothing voluntarily; a most unjust charge, as was soon to be seen; for in the Seven Years' War the colonists did three quarters of all that was done. What the governors really meant was that the colonies would not raise money and turn it over to other persons to spend for them.

It must be acknowledged that the prospects for the success of this mission were not good. Almost simultaneously with Franklin's appointment, the House of Commons resolved that "the claim of right in a colonial Assembly to raise and apply public money, by its own act alone, is derogatory to the crown, and to the rights of the people of Great Britain." This made Thomas Penn jubilant. "The people of Pennsylvania," he said, "will soon be convinced ... that they have not a right to the powers of government they claim."[7]

[Note 7: Bancroft, Hist. U. S. iv. 255.]

Franklin took his passage in a packet-ship, which was to sail from New York forthwith. But the vessel was subject to the orders of Lord Loudoun, newly appointed governor of the province of New York, and a sort of military over-lord over all the governors, assemblies, and people of the American provinces. His mission was to organize, to introduce system and submission, and above all else to overawe. But he was no man for the task; not because his lordship was not a dominant character, but because he was wholly unfit to transact business. Franklin tried some negotiations with him, and got no satisfaction or conclusion.

The ship which waited upon the will of this noble procrastinator had a very doubtful future. Every day at nine o'clock his lordship seated himself at his desk, and stayed there writing industriously, hour after hour, upon his dispatches; every day he foretold with much accuracy and positiveness of manner that these would surely be ready, and the ship would inevitably sail, on the next day. Thus week after week glided by, and still he uttered the same prediction, "to-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow." Yet in spite of this wonderful industry of the great man his letters never got written, so that, says Franklin, "it was about the beginning of April that I came to New York, and I think it was the end of June before we sail'd." Even then the letters were not ready, and for two days the vessel had to accompany his lordship's fleet on the way towards Louisburg, before she got leave to go upon her own proper voyage. It is entertaining to hear that this same lord, during his stay in America, detained other packets for other letters, until their bottoms got so foul and worm-eaten that they were unseaworthy. He was irreverently likened by those who waited on his pleasure to "St. George on the signs, always on horseback, and never rides on." He was at last removed by Mr. Pitt, because that energetic minister said "that he never heard from him, and could not know what was doing."

Escaping at last from a detention more tedious, if less romantic, than any which ever befell Ulysses, Franklin steered for England. The vessel was "several times chas'd" by French cruisers, and later was actually within a few lengths of being wrecked on the Scilly rocks. Franklin wrote to his wife that if he were a Roman Catholic he should probably vow a chapel to some saint; but, as he was not, he should much like to vow a lighthouse. At length, however, he came safely into Falmouth, and on July 27, 1757, arrived in London.

Immediately he was taken to see Lord Granville, president of the council; and his account of the interview is too striking not to be given entire. His lordship, he says,

"received me with great civility; and after some questions respecting the present state of affairs in America and discourse thereupon, he said to me: 'You Americans have wrong ideas of the nature of your constitution; you contend that the king's instructions to his governors are not laws, and think yourselves at liberty to regard or disregard them at your own discretion. But these instructions are not like the pocket instructions given to a minister going abroad, for regulating his conduct on some trifling point of ceremony. They are first drawn up by judges learned in the laws; they are then considered, debated, and perhaps amended, in council, after which they are signed by the king. They are then, so far as they relate to you, the law of the land, for the king is the legislator of the colonies.' I told his lordship this was new doctrine to me. I had always understood from our charters that our laws were to be made by our assemblies, to be presented indeed to the king for his royal assent; but that being once given, the king could not repeal or alter them. And as the assemblies could not make permanent laws without his assent, so neither could he make a law for them without theirs. He assured me I was totally mistaken. I did not think so, however; and his lordship's conversation having somewhat alarmed me as to what might be the sentiments of the court concerning us, I wrote it down as soon as I returned to my lodgings."[8]

[Note 8: Works, i. 295, 296; see also an account, substantially the same, in letter to Bowdoin, January 13, 1772.]

Granville also defended the recent act of Parliament laying "grievous restrictions on the export of provisions from the British colonies," the intent being to distress the American possessions of France by famine. His lordship said: "America must not do anything to interfere with Great Britain in the European markets." Franklin replied: "If we plant and reap, and must not ship, your lordship should apply to Parliament for transports to bring us all back again."

Next came an interview with the proprietaries. Each side declared itself disposed towards "reasonable accommodations;" but Franklin supposed that "each party had its own ideas of what should be meant by reasonable." Nothing came of all this palaver; which only meant that time was being wasted to no better purpose than to show that the two parties were "very wide, and so far from each other in [their] opinions as to discourage all hope of agreement." But this had long been evident. The lawyer of the proprietaries was then put forward. He was a "proud, angry man," with a "mortal enmity" toward Franklin; for the two had exchanged buffets more than once already, and the "proud angry man" had been hit hard. It had been his professional duty, as counsel for the Penns, to prepare many papers to be used by their governor in the course of their quarrels with the Assembly. It had usually fallen to Franklin's lot to draft the replies of the Assembly, and by Franklin's own admission these documents of his, like those which they answered, were "often tart and sometimes indecently abusive." Franklin now found his old antagonist so excited that it seemed best to refuse to have any direct dealings with him.

The proprietaries then put their interests in charge of Attorney-General Pratt, afterwards Lord Camden, and the Solicitor-General Charles Yorke, afterward lord chancellor. These legal luminaries consumed "a year, wanting eight days" before they were in a condition to impart light; and during that period Franklin could of course achieve nothing with the proprietaries. After all, the proprietaries ignored and insulted him, and made further delay by sending a message to the Assembly of Pennsylvania, wherein they complained of Franklin's "rudeness," and professed themselves "willing to accommodate matters," if a "person of candour" should be sent to treat with them. The only reply to their message came in the pointed and intelligible shape of an act "taxing the proprietary estate in common with the estates of the people." Much disturbed, the proprietaries now obtained a hearing before the king in council. They requested his majesty to set aside this tax act, and several other acts which had been passed within two years by the Assembly. Of these other acts some were repealed, according to the prayer of the proprietaries; but more were allowed to stand. These were, however, of comparatively little consequence; the overshadowing grievance for the Penns lay in this taxation of their property. Concerning this it was urged by their counsel that the proprietaries were held in such odium by the people that, if left to the popular "mercy in apportioning the taxes, they would be ruined." The other side, of course, vehemently denied that there was the slightest ground for such a suspicion.

In June, 1760, the board of trade rendered a report very unfavorable to the Assembly. Their language showed that they had been much affected by the appearance of popular encroachments, and by the allegations of an intention on the part of the colonists "to establish a democracy in place of his majesty's government." Their advice was to bring "the constitution back to its proper principles; to restore to the crown, in the person of the proprietaries, its just prerogative; to check the growing influence of assemblies, by distinguishing, what they are perpetually confounding, the executive from the legislative power." News of this alarming document reached Franklin just as he was about to start upon a trip through Ireland. It put an end to that pleasure; he had to set to work on the moment, with all the zeal and by all the means he could compass, to counteract this fulmination. Just how he achieved so difficult an end is not recorded; but it appears that he succeeded in securing a further hearing, in the progress of which Lord Mansfield "rose, and beckoning me, took me into the clerk's chambers, ... and asked me, if I was really of opinion that no injury would be done to the proprietary estate in the execution of the act. I said: Certainly. 'Then,' says he, 'you can have little objection to enter into an engagement to assure that point.' I answered: None at all." Thereupon a paper of this purport, binding personally upon Franklin and upon Mr. Charles, the resident agent of the province, was drawn up, and was duly executed by them both; and on August 28 the lords filed an amended report, in which they said that the act taxing the proprietary estates upon a common basis with those of other owners was "fundamentally wrong and unjust and ought to be repealed, unless six certain amendments were made therein." These amendments were, in substance, the undertakings entered into in the bond of the colonial agents. Franklin soon afterward had occasion to review this whole business. He showed that of the six amendments, five were immaterial, since they only expressed with greater clearness the intent of the Assembly. He admitted that the sixth was of more consequence. It seems that L100,000 had been voted, appropriated, raised, and expended, chiefly for the defense of the colony. The manner of doing this was to issue paper money to this amount, to make it legal tender, and then to retire it by the proceeds of the tax levy. The proprietaries insisted that they could not be compelled to receive their rents in this money, and the lords now found for them. Franklin acknowledged that herein perhaps the lords were right and the Assembly wrong; but he added this scathing paragraph:—

"But if he cannot on these considerations quite excuse the Assembly, what will he think of those honourable proprietaries, who, when paper money was issued in their colony for the common defense of their vast estates with those of the people, could nevertheless wish to be exempted from their share of the unavoidable disadvantages. Is there upon earth a man besides, with any conception of what is honest, with any notion of honor, with the least tincture in his veins of the gentleman, but would have blushed at the thought, but would have rejected with disdain such undue preference, if it had been offered him? Much less would he have struggled for it, moved heaven and earth to obtain it, resolved to ruin thousands of his tenants by a repeal of the act, rather than miss of it, and enforce it afterwards by an audaciously wicked instruction, forbidding aids to his king, and exposing the province to destruction, unless it was complied with. And yet, these are honourable men!"

This was, however, altogether a subordinate issue. The struggle had really been conducted to determine whether the proprietary estate should be taxed like other estates, and the decision upheld such taxation. This was a complete triumph for the Assembly and their representative. "But let the proprietaries and their discreet deputies hereafter recollect and remember," said Franklin, "that the same august tribunal, which censured some of the modes and circumstances of that act, did at the same time establish and confirm the grand principle of the act, namely: 'That the proprietary estate ought, with other estates, to be taxed;' and thereby did, in effect, determine and pronounce that the opposition so long made in various shapes to that just principle, by the proprietaries, was 'fundamentally wrong and unjust!'"

It was a long while before the Assembly found leisure to attend to that engagement of their agents which stipulated for an investigation to see whether the proprietaries had not been unduly and excessively assessed. But at length, after having had the spur of reminder constantly applied to their laggard memories, they appointed a committee to inquire and report concerning the valuations made by the tax-gatherers.

This committee reported that—

"there has not been any injustice done to the proprietaries, or attempts made to rate or assess any part of their estates higher than the estates of the like kind belonging to the inhabitants are rated and assessed; but, on the contrary, ... their estates are rated, in many instances, below others."

So the matter ended.

Franklin had been detained a little more than three years about this business. At its conclusion he anticipated a speedy return home; but he had to stay yet two years more to attend to sundry matters smaller in importance, but which were advanced almost as slowly. Partly such delay was because the aristocrats of the board of trade and the privy council had not the habits of business men, but consulted their own noble convenience in the transaction of affairs; and partly it was because procrastination was purposely employed by his opponents, who harassed him and blocked his path by every obstacle, direct and indirect, which they could put in his way. For they seemed to hope for some turn in affairs, some event, or some too rapid advance of the popular party in America, which should arouse the royal resentment against the colonists and so militate on their side. Delay was easily brought about by them. They had money, connections, influence, and that familiarity with men and ways which came from their residence in England; while Franklin, a stranger on an unpopular errand, representing before an aristocratic government a parcel of tradespeople and farmers who lived in a distant land and were charged with being both niggardly and disaffected, found that he could make only difficult and uncertain progress. He was like one who sails a race not only against hostile winds and tides, but also in strange waters where the shoals and rocks are unknown, and where invisible currents ceaselessly baffle his course. His lack of personal importance hampered him exasperatingly. Thus during his prolonged stay he repeatedly made every effort in his power to obtain an audience of William Pitt. But not even for once could he succeed. A provincial agent, engaged in a squabble about taxing proprietary lands, was too small a man upon too small a business to consume the precious time of the great prime minister, who was endeavoring to dominate the embroilments and intrigues of all Europe, to say nothing of the machinations of his opponents at home. So the subalterns of Mr. Pitt met Franklin, heard what he had to say, sifted it through the sieve of their own discretion, and bore to the ears of their principal only such compends as they thought worthy of attention.

But the vexation of almost endless delay had its alleviations, apparently much more than enough to offset it. Early in September, 1757, that is to say some five or six weeks after his landing, Franklin was taken very ill of an intermittent fever, which lasted for eight weeks. During his convalescence he wrote to his wife that the agreeable conversation of men of learning, and the notice taken of him by persons of distinction, soothed him under this painful absence from family and friends; yet these solaces would not hold him there another week, were it not for duty to his country and the hope of being able to do it service. But after the early homesickness wore off, a great attachment for England took its place. He found himself a man of note among scientists there, who gave him a ready welcome and showed a courteous and flattering recognition of his high distinction in their pursuits. Thence it was easy to penetrate into the neighboring circle of literature, wherein he made warm personal friends, such as Lord Kames, David Hume, Dr. Robertson, and others. From time to time he was a guest at many a pleasant country seat, and at the universities. He found plenty of leisure, too, for travel, and explored the United Kingdom very thoroughly. When he went to Edinburgh he was presented with the freedom of the city; and the University of St. Andrews conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Laws; later, Oxford did the same. He even had time for a trip into the Low Countries. As months and finally years slipped away, with just enough of occupation of a dignified character to save him from an annoying sense of idleness, with abundant opportunities for social pleasure, and with a very gratifying deference shown towards himself, Franklin, who liked society and did not dislike flattery, began to think the mother country no such bad place. For an intellectual and social career London certainly had advantages over Philadelphia. Mr. Strahan, the well-known publisher of those days, whom Franklin used affectionately to call Straney, became his close friend, and was very insistent with him that he should leave the provinces and take up a permanent residence in England. He baited his hook with an offer of his son in marriage with Franklin's daughter Sarah. He had never seen Sarah, but he seems to have taken it for granted that any child of her father must be matrimonially satisfactory. Franklin wrote home to his wife that the young man was eligible, and that there were abundant funds in the Strahan treasury, but that he did not suppose that she would be able to overcome her terror of the ocean voyage. Indeed, this timidity on the part of his wife was more than once put forward by him as if it were really the feather which turned the scale in the choice of his future residence.

Franklin himself also was trying his hand at match-making. He had taken a great fancy to a young lady by the name of Mary Stevenson, with whom, when distance prevented their meeting, he kept up a constant correspondence concerning points of physical science. He now became very pressing with his son William to wed this learned maiden; but the young man possibly did not hold a taste for science to be the most winning trait in woman; at any rate, having bestowed his affections elsewhere, he refused to transfer them. So Franklin was compelled to give up his scheme, though with an extreme reluctance, which he expressed to the rejected damsel with amusing openness. Had either of these matrimonial bonds been made fast, it is not improbable that Franklin would have lived out the rest of his life as a friend of the colonies in England. But his lot was otherwise cast; a second time he escaped, though narrowly, the prospect of dying an Englishman and the subject of a king. At the moment he was not altogether glad that matters worked thus. On August 17, 1762, he wrote from Portsmouth to Lord Kames:—

"I am now waiting here only for a wind to waft me to America; but cannot leave this happy island and my friends in it without extreme regret, though I am going to a country and a people that I love. I am going from the old world to the new; and I fancy I feel like those who are leaving this world for the next: grief at the parting; fear of the passage; hope of the future. These different passions all affect their minds at once; and these have tendered me down exceedingly."

And six days later, from the same place, he wrote to Strahan: "I cannot, I assure you, quit even this disagreeable place, without regret, as it carries me still farther from those I love, and from the opportunities of hearing of their welfare. The attraction of reason is at present for the other side of the water, but that of inclination will be for this side. You know which usually prevails. I shall probably make but this one vibration and settle here forever. Nothing will prevent it, if I can, as I hope I can, prevail with Mrs. F. to accompany me, especially if we have a peace." Apparently the Americans owe a great debt of gratitude to Mrs. Franklin's fearfulness of the untrustworthy Atlantic.

Before dismissing this stay of Franklin in England a word should be said concerning his efforts for the retention of Canada by the British, as spoils of war. The fall of Quebec, in the autumn of 1759, practically concluded the struggle in America. The French were utterly spent; they had no food, no money; they had fought with desperate courage and heroic self-devotion; they could honestly say that they had stood grimly in the last trench, and had been slaughtered there until the starved and shattered remnant could not find it in their exhausted human nature longer to conduct a contest so thoroughly finished. In Europe, France was hardly less completely beaten. At the same time the singular position of affairs existed that the triumphant conqueror was even more resolutely bent upon immediate peace than were the conquered. George III., newly come to the throne, set himself towards this end with all the obstinacy of his resolute nature. It became a question of terms, and eager was the discussion thereof. The colonies were profoundly interested, for a question sharply argued was: whether England should retain Guadaloupe or Canada. She had conquered both, but it seemed to be admitted that she must restore one. It was even then a comical bit of political mathematics to establish anything like an equation between the two, nor could it possibly have been done with reference to intrinsic values. It was all very well to dilate upon the sugar crop of the island, its trade, its fertility, its harborage. Every one knew that Canada could outweigh all these things fifty times over. But into the Guadaloupe scale was dropped a weighty consideration, which was clearly stated in an anonymous pamphlet attributed to William Burke. This writer said:—

"If the people of our colonies find no check from Canada, they will extend themselves almost without bound into the inland parts. They will increase infinitely from all causes. What the consequence will be, to have a numerous, hardy, independent people, possessed of a strong country, communicating little or not at all with England, I leave to your own reflections. By eagerly grasping at extensive territory we may run the risk, and in no very distant period, of losing what we now possess. A neighbor that keeps us in some awe is not always the worst of neighbors. So that, far from sacrificing Guadaloupe to Canada, perhaps, if we might have Canada without any sacrifice at all, we ought not to desire it. There should be a balance of power in America.... The islands, from their weakness, can never revolt; but, if we acquire all Canada, we shall soon find North America itself too powerful and too populous to be governed by us at a distance."

From many other quarters came the same warning predictions.[9]

[Note 9: Bancroft, Hist. U. S. iv. 363-365.]

Franklin watched the controversy with deep interest and no small anxiety. As the argument grew heated he could no longer hold his hand; he cast into the Canadian scale an able pamphlet, ingenuous in the main if not in all the details. It is not worth while to rehearse what he had to say upon mercantile points, or even concerning the future growth of a great American empire. What he had really to encounter was the argument that it was sound policy to leave Canada in possession of the French. Those who pretended to want Guadaloupe did not so much really want it as they did wish to have Canada remain French. To make good this latter point they had to show, first, that French ownership involved no serious danger to the English possessions; second, that it brought positive advantages. To the first proposition they said that the French had fully learned their lesson of inferiority, and that a few forts on the frontier would easily overawe the hostile Indians. To the second proposition, they elaborated the arguments of William Burke. Franklin replied that the war-parties of braves would easily pass by the forts in the forests, and after burning, pillaging, murdering, and scalping, would equally easily and safely return. Nothing save a Chinese wall the whole length of the western frontier would suffice for protection against savages. Then, with one of those happy illustrations of which he was a master, he said: "In short, long experience has taught our planters that they cannot rely upon forts as a security against Indians; the inhabitants of Hackney might as well rely upon the Tower of London, to secure them against highwaymen and house-breakers." The admirable simile could neither be answered nor forgotten.

Concerning the positive desirability of leaving the French as masters of Canada to "check" the growth of the colonies, Franklin indignantly exclaimed: "It is a modest word, this 'check' for massacring men, women, and children!" If Canada is to be "restored on this principle, ... will not this be telling the French in plain terms, that the horrid barbarisms they perpetrate with Indians on our colonists are agreeable to us; and that they need not apprehend the resentment of a government with whose views they so happily concur." But he had the audacity to say that he was abundantly certain that the mother country could never have any occasion to dread the power of the colonies. He said:—

"I shall next consider the other supposition, that their growth may render them dangerous. Of this, I own, I have not the least conception, when I consider that we have already fourteen separate governments on the maritime coast of the continent; and, if we extend our settlements, shall probably have as many more behind them on the inland side." By reason of the different governors, laws, interests, religions, and manners of these, "their jealousy of each other is so great, that, however necessary a union of the colonies has long been, for their common defence and security against their enemies, and how sensible soever each colony has been of that necessity, yet they have never been able to effect such a union among themselves, nor even to agree in requesting the mother country to establish it for them." If they could not unite for self-defence against the French and the murderous savages, "can it reasonably be supposed there is any danger of their uniting against their own nation, which protects and encourages them, with which they have so many connexions and ties of blood, interest, and affection, and which, it is well known, they all love much more than they love one another?

"In short there are so many causes that must operate to prevent it, that I will venture to say a union amongst them for such a purpose is not merely improbable, it is impossible. And if the union of the whole is impossible, the attempt of a part must be madness.... When I say such a union is impossible, I mean without the most grievous tyranny and oppression.... The waves do not rise but when the winds blow.... What such an administration as the Duke of Alva's in the Netherlands might produce, I know not; but this, I think, I have a right to deem impossible."

We read these words, even subject to the mild saving of the final sentences, with some bewilderment. Did their shrewd and well-informed writer believe what he said? Was he casting this political horoscope in good faith? Or was he only uttering a prophecy which he desired, if possible, and for his own purposes to induce others to believe? If he was in earnest, Attorney-General Pratt was a better astrologer. "For all what you Americans say of your loyalty," he said to Franklin, "and notwithstanding your boasted affection, you will one day set up for independence." "No such idea," said Franklin, "is entertained by the Americans, or ever will be, unless you grossly abuse them." "Very true," said Pratt; "that I see will happen, and will produce the event."[10] Choiseul, the able French minister, expressed his wonder that the "great Pitt should be so attached to the acquisition of Canada," which, being in the hands of France, would keep the "colonies in that dependence which they will not fail to shake off the moment Canada shall be ceded."[11] Vergennes saw the same thing not less clearly; and so did many another.

[Note 10: Bancroft, Hist. U. S. iv. 380.]

[Note 11: Ibid. iv. 399.]

If Franklin was really unable to foresee in this business those occurrences which others predicted with such confidence, at least he showed a grand conception of the future, and his vision took in more distant and greater facts and larger truths of statesmanship than were compassed by the British ministers. Witness what he wrote to Lord Kames:—

"I have long been of opinion that the foundations of the future grandeur and stability of the British empire lie in America.... I am therefore by no means for restoring Canada. If we keep it, all the country from the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi will in another century be filled with British people. Britain itself will become vastly more populous by the immense increase to its commerce; the Atlantic sea will be covered with your trading ships; and your naval power, thence continually increasing, will extend your influence round the whole globe, and awe the world."

Whatever regret Franklin may have felt at not being able to remain in England was probably greatly mitigated if not entirely dissipated by the cordial reception which he met with at home. On December 2, 1762, he wrote to Strahan that the reports of the diminution of his friends were all false; that ever since his arrival his house had been full of a succession of them from morning till night, congratulating him on his return. The Assembly honored him with a vote of thanks, and also voted him L3000 towards defraying his expenses. It was, of course, much less than he had expended during an absence of nearly six years; but it seems that he considered that, since much of his time had been passed in the enjoyment of an agreeable leisure, he should bear a corresponding part of the expense. While on the sea he had been chosen unanimously, as indeed had been done in each year of his absence, a member of that body; and he was told that, if he had not got so privately into town, he should have been met by an escort of 500 horsemen. All this must have been very gratifying.

A different kind of tribute, somewhat indirect, but none the less intelligible, was at the same time paid to him by the British government. In the autumn of 1762 his illegitimate son, William Franklin, was appointed governor of New Jersey. This act created a great storm of wrath from some of the provincial aristocratic party, and was vehemently railed at as an "indignity," a "dishonor and disgrace," an "insult." After all, it failed of its obvious purpose. The government shot brought down the wrong bird, common carrion, while the one aimed at never swerved in the slightest from his course. William, whom no one cared for in the least, became a confirmed royalist, and ultimately, as a Tory refugee, for years continued to absorb a pension for which he could return no adequate consideration. So far as Benjamin Franklin was concerned, he was at first much pleased; but his political views and course were not in the slightest degree affected. On the contrary, as the scheme developed, and the influence on the younger man became apparent, the final result was an alienation between father and son, which was only partially healed so late as 1784, just before the former returned from Europe for the last time.



When Franklin came home he was fifty-six years old. By nature he was physically indolent, and fifteen years ago he had given proof of his desire for the command of his own time by retiring from a lucrative business. But his forecasting of a tranquil, social career in Philadelphia, with science as his chief and agreeable occupation, was still to continue a day-dream, interrupted only by some thoughts of an English home. "Business, public and private, consumes all my time; I must return to England for repose. With such thoughts I flatter myself, and need some kind friend to put me often in mind that old trees cannot safely be transplanted." Thus he wrote to Mary Stevenson, the young lady whom he had hoped to have as a daughter-in-law.

His first labor in the provinces came in the shape of a journey about the country to supervise and regulate the postal business. Upon this errand he went 1600 miles, which was no slight matter as travel was conducted in those days. He started in the spring of 1763, and did not get back until November. Upon his return he found himself at once immersed in public affairs. In October, 1763, Governor Hamilton was superseded by John Penn, nephew of the proprietary Thomas Penn.

"Never," said Franklin, "did any administration open with a more promising prospect than this of Governor Penn. He assured the people in his first speeches of the proprietaries' paternal regard for them, and their sincere dispositions to do everything that might promote their happiness. As the proprietaries had been pleased to promote a son of the family to the government, it was thought not unlikely that there might be something in these professions; for that they would probably choose to have his administration made easy and agreeable, and to that end might think it prudent to withdraw those harsh, disagreeable, and unjust instructions, with which most of his predecessors had been hampered. The Assembly therefore believed fully and rejoiced sincerely. They showed the new governor every mark of respect and regard that was in their power. They readily and cheerfully went into everything he recommended to them."

Moreover, the first event of public importance after Governor Penn's advent had, in its early stage, the effect of drawing him very closely to Franklin. Some of the settlers on the frontier, infuriated beyond the control of reason by the Indian marauding parties, gathered together for the purpose of slaughter. If they had directed their vengeance against the braves, and even all the occupants of the villages of the wilderness, they might have been excused though their vindictive rage led them to retaliate by the same barbarities which the red men had practiced towards the whites. Unfortunately, instead of courageously turning their faces towards the forests, they turned their backs in that direction, where only there was any enemy to be feared, and in a safe expedition they wreaked a deadly, senseless, cowardly, and brutal vengeance on an unoffending group of twenty old men, women, and children, living peacefully and harmlessly near Lancaster. The infamous story is familiar in the annals of Pennsylvania as the "Paxton massacre," because the "Paxton boys," the perpetrators, came from the Scotch-Irish settlement bearing that name.

Franklin's indignation was great, and he expressed it forcibly in a pamphlet. But many, even of the class which should have felt with him, were in such a temper that they would condemn no act done against an Indian. Encouraged by the prevalence of this feeling, this same band, swelled to a numerous and really formidable force, had the audacity to start for Philadelphia itself, with the avowed purpose of massacring there a small body of civilized Christian Indians, who had fled thither for safety under the charge of their Moravian missionary, and against whom not a complaint could be made. Panic reigned in the City of Brotherly Love, little competent to cope with imminent violence. In the crisis citizens and governor could conceive no more hopeful scheme than an appeal to Franklin, which was made at once and urgently. The governor himself actually took up his residence in Franklin's house, and stayed there till the threat of trouble passed over, speaking, writing, and ordering only at Franklin's dictation,—a course which had in it more of sense than of dignity. The appeal was made in the right quarter. Already profoundly moved in this matter, Franklin was prompt and zealous to save his city from a shameful act, and the Indians from barbarous murder. His efforts soon gathered, and after a fashion organized, a body of defenders probably somewhat more numerous than the approaching mob. Yet a collision would have been most unfortunate, whatever the result; and to avert it Franklin took it upon him to go in person to meet the assailants. His courage, coolness, and address prevailed; he succeeded in satisfying the "Paxton boys" that they were so greatly outnumbered that, far from attacking others, they could only secure their own safety by instant dispersion. Thus by the resources and presence of mind of one man Philadelphia was saved from a day of which the bloody stain could never have been effaced from her good fame.

But Franklin seemed for a while to reap more of hostility than of gratitude for his gallant and honorable conduct in this emergency. Governor Penn was an ignoble man, and after the danger was over he left the house, in which he had certainly played a rather ignominious part, with those feelings toward his host which a small soul inevitably cherishes toward a greater under such circumstances. Moreover, there were very many among the people who had more of sympathy with the "Paxton boys" than with the wise and humane man who had thwarted them. "For about forty-eight hours," Franklin wrote to one of his friends, "I was a very great man;" but after "the fighting face we put on" caused the insurgents to turn back, "I became a less man than ever; for I had, by this transaction, made myself many enemies among the populace," a fact of which the governor speedily took advantage. But without this episode enmity between Penn and Franklin was inevitable. They served masters whose ends were wide apart; upon the one side avaricious proprietaries of little foresight and judgment, upon the other side a people jealous of their rights and unwilling to leave to any one else the definition and interpretation of them.

Soon it became known that the instructions of the new governor differed in no substantial particular from those of his predecessors. The procession of vetoes upon the acts of the Assembly resumed its familiar and hateful march. A militia bill was thus cut off, because, instead of leaving with the governor the nomination of regimental officers, it stipulated that the rank and file should name three persons for each position, and that the governor should choose one of these,—an arrangement bad in itself, but perhaps well suited to the habits and even the needs of the province at that time. A tax bill met the like fate, because it did not discriminate in favor of the located lands of the proprietaries by rating their best lands at no higher valuation than the worst lands of other persons. Soon it was generally felt that matters were as bad as ever, and with scantier chances of improvement. Then "all the old wounds broke out and bled afresh; all the old grievances, still unredressed, were recollected; despair succeeded of seeing any peace with a family that could make such returns to all overtures of kindness." The aggrieved party revived its scheme for a transfer of the government from the proprietaries to the crown, and Franklin threw himself into the discussion with more of zeal and ardor than he had often shown.

While the debates upon this subject waxed hot in the Assembly, it was moved and carried that that body should adjourn for a few weeks, in order that members might consult their constituents and sound the public feeling. During this recess it may be conceived that neither side was slack in its efforts. Franklin for his share contributed a pamphlet, entitled "Cool Thoughts on the Present Situation of our Public Affairs." "Mischievous and distressing," he said, as the frequent disputes "have been found to both proprietaries and people, it does not appear that there is any prospect of their being extinguished, till either the proprietary purse is unable to support them, or the spirit of the people so broken that they shall be willing to submit to anything rather than continue them." With a happy combination of shrewdness and moderation he laid the blame upon the intrinsic nature of a proprietary government. "For though it is not unlikely that in these as well as in other disputes there are faults on both sides, every glowing coal being apt to inflame its opposite; yet I see no reason to suppose that all proprietary rulers are worse men than other rulers, nor that all people in proprietary governments are worse people than those in other governments. I suspect, therefore, that the cause is radical, interwoven in the constitution, and so become the very nature, of proprietary governments; and will therefore produce its effects as long as such governments continue." It indicated a broad and able mind, and one well under control, to assume as a basis this dispassionate assertion of a general principle, amid such personal heats as were then inflaming the passions of the whole community. His conclusion held one of his admirable similes which had the force of argument: "There seems to remain then but one remedy for our evils, a remedy approved by experience, and which has been tried with success by other provinces; I mean that of an immediate Royal Government, without the intervention of proprietary powers, which, like unnecessary springs and movements in a machine, are so apt to produce disorder."

Further, he held out a bait to the crown:—

"The expression, change of government, seems indeed to be too extensive, and is apt to give the idea of a general and total change of our laws and constitution. It is rather and only a change of governor—that is, instead of self-interested proprietaries, a gracious king. His majesty, who has no views but for the good of the people, will thenceforth appoint the governor, who, unshackled by proprietary instructions, will be at liberty to join with the Assembly in enacting wholesome laws. At present, when the king desires supplies of his faithful subjects, and they are willing and desirous to grant them, the proprietaries intervene and say: 'Unless our private interests in certain particulars are served, nothing shall be done.' This insolent tribunal VETO has long encumbered our public affairs and been productive of many mischiefs."

He then drew a petition "to the king's most excellent majesty in council," which humbly showed "That the government of this province by proprietaries has, by long experience, been found inconvenient, attended by many difficulties and obstructions to your majesty's service, arising from the intervention of proprietary private interests in public affairs, and disputes concerning those interests. That the said proprietary government is weak, unable to support its own authority, and maintain the common internal peace of the province; great riots have lately arisen therein.... And these evils are not likely to receive any remedy here, the continual disputes between the proprietaries and people, and their mutual jealousies and dislikes, preventing." Wherefore his majesty was asked to be "graciously pleased to resume the government of this province, ... permitting your dutiful subjects therein to enjoy, under your majesty's more immediate care and protection, the privileges that have been granted to them by and under your royal predecessors."

The result of feeling the public pulse showed that it beat very high and strong for the proposed change. Accordingly the resolution to present the petition was now easily carried. But again the aged speaker, Norris, found himself called upon to do that for which he had not the nerve. He resigned the speakership; Franklin was chosen in his place and set the official signature to the document.

Another paper by Franklin upon the same subject, and of considerable length, appeared in the shape of a preface to a speech delivered in the Assembly by Joseph Galloway in answer to a speech on the proprietary side by John Dickinson, which speech, also with a long preface, had been printed. In this pamphlet he reviewed all the recent history of the province. He devoted several pages to a startling exposition of the almost incredible usage which had long prevailed, whereby bills were left to accumulate on the governor's table, and then were finally signed by him in a batch, only upon condition that he should receive, or even sometimes upon his simultaneously receiving, a considerable douceur. Not only had this been connived at by the proprietaries, but sometimes these payments had been shared between the proprietaries and the governors. This topic Franklin finally dismissed with a few lines of admirable sarcasm: "Do not, my courteous reader, take pet at our proprietary constitution for these our bargain and sale proceedings in legislation. It is a happy country where justice, and what was your own before, can be had for ready money. It is another addition to the value of money, and, of course, another spur to industry. Every land is not so blessed." Many quotations from this able state paper have already been made in the preceding pages, though it is so brilliant a piece of work that to quote is only to mutilate. Its argument, denunciation, humor, and satire are interwoven in a masterly combination. The renowned "sketch in the lapidary style," prepared for the gravestone of Thomas and Richard Penn, with the introductory paragraphs, constitutes one of the finest assaults in political literature.[12] It is unfortunately impossible to give any adequate idea or even abstract of a document which covers so much ground and with such variety of treatment. It had of course a powerful effect in stimulating the public sentiment, and it was especially useful in supplying formidable arguments to those of the popular way of thinking; drawing their weapons from this armory, they felt themselves invincible.

[Note 12: Franklin's animosity against the Penns was mitigated in later years. See Franklin's Works, viii. 273.]

But it must not be supposed that all this while Franklin was treading the velvet path of universal popularity, amid the unanimous encouragement of his fellow citizens, and with only the frowns of the proprietary officials to disturb his serenity. By one means and another the proprietaries mustered a considerable party in the province, and the hatred of all these men was concentrated upon Franklin with extreme bitterness. He said that he was "as much the butt of party rage and malice," and was as much pelted with hostile prints and pamphlets, as if he were prime minister. Neither was the notion of a royal government looked upon with liking even by all those who were indignant against the present system. Moreover many persons still remained ill disposed towards him by reason of his opinions and behavior during the Paxton outbreak. The combination against him, made up of all these various elements, felt itself powerful enough for mischief, and found its opportunity in the election to the Assembly occurring in the autumn of 1764. The polls were opened on October 1, at nine o'clock in the morning. The throng was dense, and the column of voters could move but slowly. At three o'clock of the following morning, the voting having continued during the night, the friends of the "new ticket," that is to say of the new candidate, moved to close the polls. The friends of the "old ticket" opposed this motion and unfortunately prevailed. They had a "reserve of the aged and lame," who had shunned the crowd and were now brought in chairs and litters. Thus in three hours they increased their score by some two hundred votes. But the other side was not less enterprising, and devoting the same extension of time to scouring Germantown and other neighborhoods, they brought in near five hundred additional votes upon their side. It was apparently this strange blunder of the political managers for the "old ticket" party that was fatal to Franklin, for when the votes were all counted he was found to be beaten by a balance against him of twenty-five. He had therefore evidently had a majority at the hour when his friends prevented the closing of the polls. He "died like a philosopher. But Mr. Galloway agonized in death like a Mortal Deist, who has no Hopes of a Future Existence."[13]

[Note 13: Parton's Life of Franklin, i. 451, quoting Life of Joseph Reed, i. 37.]

But the jubilation of the proprietary party over this signal victory was soon changed into mourning. For within a few days the new Assembly was in session, and at once took into consideration the appointment of Dr. Franklin as its agent to present to the king in council another petition for a royal government. The wrath of the other side blazed forth savagely. "No measure," their leader, Dickinson, said, was "so likely to inflame the resentments and embitter the discontents of the people." He "appealed to the heart of every member for the truth of the assertion that no man in Pennsylvania is at this time so much the object of public dislike as he that has been mentioned. To what a surprising height this dislike is carried among vast numbers" he did "not choose to repeat." He said that within a few hours of the nomination hundreds of the most reputable citizens had protested, and if time were given thousands "would crowd to present the like testimony against [him]. Why then should a majority of this House single out from the whole world the man most obnoxious to his country to represent his country, though he was at the last election turned out of the Assembly, where he had sat for fourteen years? Why should they exert their power in the most disgusting manner, and throw pain, terror, and displeasure into the breasts of their fellow citizens?" The excited orator then threw out a suggestion to which this vituperation had hardly paved a way of roses; he actually appealed to Franklin to emulate Aristides, and not be worse than "the dissolute Otho," and to this end urged that he should distinguish himself in the eyes of all good men by "voluntarily declining an office which he could not accept without alarming, offending, and disturbing his country." "Let him, from a private station, from a smaller sphere, diffuse, as I think he may, a beneficial light; but let him not be made to move and blaze like a comet, to terrify and to distress."[14] The popular majority in the Assembly withstood Mr. Dickinson's rhetoric, and, to quote the forcible language of Bancroft, "proceeded to an act which in its consequences was to influence the world." That is to say, they carried the appointment. Franklin likewise set aside Dickinson's seductive counsels, and accepted the position.

[Note 14: Parton's Life of Franklin, i, 451, 452.]

It is not in human nature to be so extravagantly abused in times of intense excitement, and wholly to hold one's peace. Even the cool temper of Dr. Franklin was incited to a retort; his defense was brief and dignified, in a very different tone from that of the aspersions to which it replied; and it carries that influence which always belongs to him who preserves moderation amid the passions of a fierce controversy.[15]

[Note 15: See, for example, Franklin's Works, iii. 361, 362.]



Franklin so hastened his preparations that he was ready to depart again for England in twelve days after his election. There was no money in the provincial treasury; but some of the well-to-do citizens, in expectation of reimbursement, raised by subscription L1100. He took only L500. A troop of three hundred mounted citizens escorted him from the city sixteen miles down the river to the ship, and "filled the sails with their good wishes." This parade, designed only as a friendly demonstration, was afterward made a charge against him, as an assumption of pomp and a display of popularity. If it had been deliberately planned, it would have been ill advised; but it took him by surprise, and he could not prevent it. The ship cast anchor in St. Helen's Road, Isle of Wight, on December 9, 1764. He forthwith hastened to London, and installed himself in the familiar rooms at No. 7 Craven Street, Strand. In Philadelphia, when the news came of the safe arrival of this "man the most obnoxious to his country," the citizens kept the bells ringing until midnight.

So altogether the prospect now seemed agreeable in whatever direction Dr. Franklin chose to look. He was in quarters in which he was at least as much at home as he could feel in his house at Philadelphia; Mrs. Stevenson, his landlady, and her daughter Mary, whom he had sought to persuade his son to marry, upon the excellent ground of his own great affection for her, not only made him comfortable but saved him from homesickness; old and warm friends welcomed him; the pleasures of London society again spread their charms before him. Without the regrets and doubts which must have attended the real emigration which he had been half inclined to make, he seemed to be reaping all the gratification which that could have brought him. At the same time he had also the pride of receiving from the other side of the Atlantic glowing accounts of the esteem in which he was held by a controlling body of those who were still his fellow citizens there. But already there had shown itself above the horizon a cloud which rapidly rose, expanded, and obscured all this fair sky.

Franklin came to England in the anticipation of a short stay, and with no purpose beyond the presentation and urging of the petition for the change of government. Somewhat less than ten months, he thought, would suffice to finish this business. In fact, he did not get home for ten years, and this especial errand, which had seemed all that he had to do, soon sank into such comparative insignificance that, though not actually forgotten, it could not secure attention. He conscientiously made repeated efforts to keep the petition in the memory of the English ministry, and to obtain action upon it; but his efforts were vain; that body was absorbed by other affairs in connection with the troublesome American colonies,—affairs which gave vastly more perplexity and called for much more attention than were becoming in the case of provinces that should have been submissive as well-behaved children. Franklin himself found his own functions correspondingly enlarged. Instead of remaining simply an agent charged with urging a petition which brought him in conflict only with private persons, like himself subjects of the king, he found his position rapidly change and develop until he became really the representative of a disaffected people maintaining a cause against the monarch and the government of the great British Empire. It was the "Stamp Act" which effected this transformation.

Scarcely had the great war with France been brought to a close by the treaty of 1763, bringing such enormous advantages to the old British possessions in America, before it became apparent that among the fruits some were mingled that were neither sweet nor nourishing. The war had moved the colonies into a perilous foreground. Their interests had cost much in men and money, and had been worth all that they had cost, and more; the benefits conferred upon them had been immense, yet were recognized as not being in excess of their real importance, present and future. Worst of all, the magnitude of their financial resources had been made apparent; without a murmur, without visible injury to their prosperity, they had voluntarily raised large sums by taxation. Meanwhile the English treasury had been put to enormous charges, and the English people groaned beneath the unwonted tax burdens which they had to bear. The attention of British financiers, even before the war was over, was turned toward the colonies, as a field of which the productive capacity had never been developed.

So soon as peace brought to the government leisure to adjust domestic matters in a thorough manner, the scheme for colonial taxation came to the front. "America ... became the great subject of consideration; ... and the minister who was charged with its government took the lead in public business."[16] This minister was at first Charles Townshend, than whom no man in England, it was supposed, knew more of the transatlantic possessions. His scheme involved a standing army of 25,000 men in the provinces, to be supported by taxes to be raised there. In order to obtain this revenue he first gave his care to the revision of the navigation act. Duties which had been so high that they had never been collected he now proposed to reduce and to enforce. This was designed to be only the first link in the chain, but before he could forge others he had to go out of office with the Bute ministry. The change in the cabinet, however, made no change in the colonial policy; that was not "the wish of this man or that man," but apparently of nearly all English statesmen.

[Note 16: Bancroft, Hist. U. S. iv. 28.]

So in March, 1763, George Grenville, in the treasury department, took up the plan which Townshend had laid down. Grenville was commercially minded, and his first efforts were in the direction of regulating the trade of the colonies so as to carry out with much more stringency and thoroughness than heretofore three principles: first, that England should be the only shop in which a colonist could purchase; second, that colonists should not make for themselves those articles which England had to sell to them; third, that the people of different colonies should not trade with each other even to the indirect or possible detriment of the trade of either with England. Severely as these restrictions bore upon the colonists, they were of that character, as relating to external trade, which no colonist denied to lie within the jurisdiction of Parliament. But they were not enough; they must be supplemented; and a stamp act was designed as the supplement. On March 9, 1764, Grenville stated his intention to introduce such a bill at the next session; he needed the interval for inquiries and preparation. It was no very novel idea. It "had been proposed to Sir Robert Walpole; it had been thought of by Pelham; it had been almost resolved upon in 1755; it had been pressed upon Pitt; it seems, beyond a doubt, to have been a part of the system adopted in the ministry of Bute, and it was sure of the support of Charles Townshend. Knox, the agent of Georgia, stood ready to defend it.... The agent of Massachusetts favored raising the wanted money in that way." Little opposition was anticipated in Parliament, and none from the king. In short, "everybody, who reasoned on the subject, decided for a stamp tax."[17] Never did any bill of any legislature seem to come into being with better auspices. Some among the colonial agents certainly expressed ill feeling towards it; but Grenville silenced them, telling them that he was acting "from a real regard and tenderness" towards the Americans. He said this in perfect good faith. His views both of the law and of the reasons for the law were intelligent and honest; he had carefully gathered information and sought advice; and he had a profound belief alike in the righteousness and the wisdom of the measure.

[Note 17: Bancroft, Hist. U. S. iv. 155.]

News of what was in preparation in England reached Pennsylvania in the summer of 1764, shortly before Franklin sailed. The Assembly debated concerning it; Franklin was prominent in condemning the scheme; and a resolution protesting against it was passed. It was made part of Franklin's duty in London to urge upon Grenville these views of Pennsylvania. But when he arrived he found that the grinding at the mills of government was going on much too evenly to be disturbed by the introduction of any such insignificant foreign substance as a colonial protest. Nevertheless he endeavored to do what he could. In company with three other colonial agents he had an interview with Grenville, February 2, 1765, in which he urged that taxation by act of Parliament was needless, inasmuch as any requisition for the service of the king always had found, and always would find, a prompt and liberal response on the part of the Assembly. Arguments, however, and protests struck ineffectually against the solid wall of Grenville's established purpose. He listened with a civil appearance of interest and dismissed his visitors and all memory of their arguments together. On the 13th of the same month he read the bill in Parliament; on the 27th it passed the Commons; on March 8, the Lords; and on March 22 it was signed by a royal commission; the insanity of the king saved him from placing his own signature to the ill-starred law. In July Franklin wrote to Charles Thomson:—

"Depend upon it, my good neighbor, I took every step in my power to prevent the passing of the Stamp Act. Nobody could be more concerned and interested than myself to oppose it sincerely and heartily. But the tide was too strong against us. The nation was provoked by American claims of independence, and all parties joined in resolving by this act to settle the point. We might as well have hindered the sun's setting. That we could not do. But since it is down, my friend, and it may be long before it rises again, let us make as good a night of it as we can. We can still light candles. Frugality and industry will go a great way towards indemnifying us. Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand than kings and parliaments. If we can get rid of the former, we may easily bear the latter."

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