Page images

laim.' As Americans glory in being Englishmen on the western side of the Atlantic, they very naturally claim the common right of Englishmen, not to be taxed without their own consent, by their representatives in parliament. But the British ministry, though they obstinately refuse to the Americans the sacred rights of representation, yet as wickedly insist on the right of taxation. And accordingly have brought into parliament the famous stamp act bill, whereby no business that requires a record on paper, as deeds, bonds, wills, marriages, &c. can be legally done but on paper that has received the royal stamp. Now, sir, you well know that the same minister who proposes this most iniquitous and unconstitutional act, would not dare propose to any

the most drunken tavern keeper in England, a farthing tax on a pot of his ale without the consent of his representative in parliament; and yet, without being allowed a hearing in parliament, three inillions of freeborn Americans, sons of Englishmen are to be taxed at the pleasure of a distant minister! Not, honoured sir, that the Americans care a fig for the pence imposed on this bit of stamp paper, but for the principle. For they well know that if parliament claim a right to take from us a penny in the pound, there is no line drawn to bound that right; and what shall hinder their calling *whenever they please for the other nineteen shillings and eleven pence? And besides, sir, where is the necessity for this inost degrading measure? Have not the Americans ever shewn themselves the warmest friends of their king and country? Have they not, in all cases of danger, most readily voted both their men and money to the full extent of their means, and sometimes far be

"And in addition to all this, are they not daily paying large monies in secret taxes to great Britain?

"1. We are not permitted to trade with foreign nations! All the difference in the price of what we could buy cheaper from them, but must buy dearer from Britaill, is a clear tax to Britain.

"II. We are obliged to carry our produce to Britain! All that it sells for less there than it would in


other market, is a clear tax to Britain.

"IIl. All the manufactures that we could make, but


are forbidden and must buy of British merchants, is a clear tax to Britain.

“And what freeborn Englishman can, without indig. nation, think of being so daringly defrauded of his birthright, that if he wants a pipe of good wine, he cannot go to the island of Madeira and get it on easy exchange for his bread stuff, and return at once to his hoine and business; but must go a thousand miles farther from his family, even to Great Britain, and there run the gauntlet, through so many ruinous charges, as to bring his wine up to almost double what it ought to have cost? And all this most flagrant injustice done to the whole people of the colonies, just to enrich half a dozen British merchants engaged in the Portugal wine trade!

"A similar outrage on another of the dearest rights of Englishmen, i. e. 'to make the most that they honestly can of his property,' is committed on the British subjects in America, for the sake of favouring a few batters and nail makers in England. Nó country on the globe, furnishes better iron or better beaver than does North America. But the Americans must not make a hob-nail or a felt hat for themselves. No; they must send all their iron and fur to England for the hatters and nailmakers there; who may give them their own price for the raw materials, and ask their own price for the manufactures.

"All that a wise government wishes, is, that the people should be numerous and wealthy enough to fight the battles of their country, and to pay the taxes. But they care not so much whether the fighting be done by John or Thomas, or the tax paid by William or Charles.

“What imports it to the government, whether a merchant, a smith, or a hatter, grows rich in old England or New-England? And if, through increase of the people, two smiths are wanted for one employed before, why. may not the new smith be allowed to live and thrive in the new country, as well as the old in the old? In short, why should the countenance of a state be partially afforded to its people, unless it be most in favor of those who have most merit?"

The whig papers in London soon got this letter, and laid it before the public.

Among a high minded people like the British, who

pride themselves in their love of liberty and their perfect scorn of foul play, such sentiments could not be read without the liveliest emotions. And though some, the ministerial junto for example, with the merchants and manufacturers, did not like such plain truths, yet the nation in general gave him great credit both for his singular honesty and abilities; and the name of doctor Franklin became very dear to thousands of the most enlightened and virtuous patriots of Britain.

But the pleasure of admiration was dashed with fear, that the minister would suffer no good to be done to the nation by all this divine counsel, merely because the giver was not an Englishman.

The lights, however, which doctor Franklin had thrown on this great subject, were pressed upon the minister with such courage by numbers of honest English writers, that he prudently delayed ordering the collection of the tax until he could get farther information. It was not long before an opportunity was offered him to obtain this inforınation in a way highly complimentary to doctor Franklin, i. e. by summoning him, then in London as colony agent from Pennsylvania, February 2, 1766, to appear before the Bar of the British House of Commons, to answer certain questions, &c.

The next day, accompanied by Mr. Strahan, afterwards member of parliament, with several illustrious Englishmen, his warm friends, he went to the house. The concourse was immense. To see doctor Franklin-the American, whose philosophical discoveries and political writings had filled the world with his name excited universal curiosity. The galleries were filled with ladies of the first distinction, and erery seat below was occupied by the members from the house of lords. At ten o'clock he appeared at the bar before the eager waiting crowd The profoundest silence ensued. All eyes were fixed on him; and, from their deep regard, it appeared, that though they beheld no stars nor garters glittering on his breast, no burning velvets nor flaming diamonds adorning his person, yet they were not disappointed. They belield a spectacle still more interesting and novel. The spectacle of a man whose simple dress evinced that he asked no aid of the tailor and silk worm to recommend him, but stood solely on the majesty of his mind. The hour for examination being come and the attendant oflicer beckoning him thereto, he arose

"And in his rising seemed a pillar of state-deep on his brow engraven deliberation sat and public care. His looks drew audience and attention still as night, or sum. mer's noontide air:”

Who can paint the looks of the minister, as with darkly scowling eye-balls, he beheld this terror of aristòcracy! or who can paint the NOBLE LORDLINGS, as lost in equal stare, they gazed and gazed at the wondrous American, forgetting the while, "to quiz," as they were wont, "his homespun coat and simple shoestrings.**

But never did the mind illumined looks of man shine more divinely bright than did those, that day, of the generous Barry, the godlike Chatham, and the bigh minded Dunning, when they beheld the noble form of Franklin. Though born in North America, he shines before their eyes as a true born son of Britain-the luminous and brave interpreter of her SACRED CON$TITUTION, and the wise politician who seeks to exalt her glory, lasting as the skies, on the broad base of impartial justice to all her children. With eyes sparkling with esteem unutterable, they hail him as a brother; and breathe the ardent wish that in the impeuding ex. amination he may succeed in diverting the minister from that unconstitutional course which may involve the ruin both of England and America.

The moment for the trial being come, and the minister giving the signal to begin, the speaker thus commenced:

Q. What is your name and place of aboder
Å. Franklin, of Philadelphia.

Here followed nearly three hundred questions and answers, which were once read with exceeding interest by inen, women, and children in America. But as they turn altogether on that great quarrel which the British ministry formerly excited in this country; and which God, to his endless glory, was pleased to put asleep in our favour near hialf a century ago, then let all these questions and answers lie asleep with it. However, it is but justice to doctor Franklin to observe, that when we consider these questions, what a wide range they take both of the British and American relations and intereststogether with the luminous, prompt and decisive manner in which they were solved, we are lost in astonishment at the extent of his information and the powers of his mind, and are almost tempted to believe that the answers, and not the ques. tions must have been studied with the nicest discrimi. nation of circumstances.

Charles Fox, an honest Englishman, and an excellent judge in these matters, being asked his opinion of doctor Franklin and the ministers in the late examination; replied, in his strong way, "Dwarfs, sir, mere dwarfs in the hand of a giant!".

Edmund Burke used to say, that this examination of 1 doctor Franklin, before the ministers, always put bim

in mind of a "Master examined before a parcel of school boys.".

But though his abilities on this occasion excited the admiration of generous enemies, while his more partial friends set no bounds to their praise, yet it would appear from the following that all afforded him but little pleasure. In a letter to a friend in Philadelphia, he has these remarkable words, “You have, no doubt, heard that I have been examined before the HOUSE OF comMons in this country. And it is probable you have also been told that I did not entirely disappoint the expectations of any friends, nor betray the cause of truth. This, to be sure, gives me some pleasure; and, indeed it is the only thing that does; for, as to any good being done by my honest statement to ministers, of what I firmly believe to be the best interests of the two countries, 'tis all, I fear, a lost hope. The people of this country are too proud, and too much despise the poor Americans, to allow them the common rights of Englishmen, that is, a representation in parliament, And until this be done, I apprehend that no taxes laid by parliament, will ever be collected, but such as must be stained with blood. How lamentable it is that two people, sprung from the same origin, speaking the same language, governed by the same laws, and worshiping at the same altar of God, and capable, by a wise use of the extraordinary means he has now put

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »