From Thomas Cushing
ALS: Library of Congress
Boston, March: 24th: 1773
I have just received your Favor of the 2d. December last with the several papers Inclosed for which I am much oblidged to you. I have communicated them to some of the Gentlemen you mentioned.8 They are of opinion, that though it might be inconvenient to publish them, yet it might be expedient to have Copys taken and left on this side the water as there may be a necessity to make some use of them hereafter, however I read to them what you had wrote me upon the occasion, and told them I could by no means Consent Copys of them or any part of them should be taken without your express Leave, that I would write you upon the subject and should strictly Conform to your directions.9 I have also been favoured with yours of the 5th Jany. Am glad to find that Lord Dartmouth is so well disposed towards America. I think you have done me great Honor in thinking my Letter1 of Consequence enough to lay before his Lordship. I am perswaded what I then wrote you were the Sentiments of nine Tenths of the People, I thought it might not be amiss to let you know it for your own Government. I apprehended it was high Time the Controversy was Settled and thought that was as good a Time as any, and that any further delay would render it more difficult: I found the People were greatly disturbed at the Independency of the Governor and the Judges and at the late Act passed for securing his Majesty Dock Yards &c.2 I foresaw a Storm arising and the breach awidening. It is in Vain for administration to flatter themselves that the People here will rest quiet, when they find the Ministry are depriving them of their charter by peace meal and there is not a year passes without one Essential Clause or another’s being rendered null and Void. The People think they have a right upon such occasions to represent their Grievances and to Petition to his Majesty for releif and cannot conceive how their Petitions and representations can be considered by the Administration as a measure that will give fresh offence to Goverment. Neither can they possibly imagine that a Kind Parent would ever be offended with his Children for making known to him their Grievances; if the Colonists are reduced to this deplorable Situation, that every new Petition they prefer is to be Considered as a fresh offence to his Majesty, what have they left to do? to whom are they to apply for releif? will it not throw them in to State of Despair?3 And what the Consequence of such a state must be I leave to a Gentleman of your Good Sense to Determine. I observe you had consented that Lord Dartmouth should delay Delivering the House’s petition till you should receive fresh Orders. As by this Conveyance you will receive another Petition from the House to be laid before his Majesty, and also a Letter to Lord Dartmouth containing a full representation of our Greivances You will be able to form some judgement of the temper of the House since the change made in the American Administration and consider it as Equall to receiving fresh directions with respect to the former Petition and consequently prevail with Lrd. Dartmouth to lay all our Complaints before his Majesty at once.4 The House is not now Sitting so I cannot consult them upon this Matter, what directions they would give you I cannot say, but, as a private Individual I think, from their Proceedings the last sessions you may easily judge what their resolutions and directions would be in the next. I have no Authority to give any orders relative to this Matter and as there will not be another sessions till the latter End of May next, it must be left with you therefore to form a judgement what Course to take from the proceedings of the last sessions. I write in Confidence and pritty freely and therefore should not chuse to have my name mentioned upon this occasion. I conclude with great Respect Your most humble Servant
Benjamin Franklin Esqr
Addressed: To / Benjamin Franklin Esqr L L D / London
8. Also to John Adams, who had not been mentioned but who saw the letters on March 22, and to others as well. See Butterfield, ed., Adams Diary, II, 79–81, and our next note.
9. On April 20 Cushing repeated his request to take copies, but it was much ado about nothing. The original letters and copies in John Hancock’s possession, he reported to BF on June 14, had been laid before the House; secrecy was gone.
1. The missing letter of Oct. 27, 1772, referred to in the opening of BF’s letter above of Jan. 5, about the grievances of Massachusetts.
2. The governor’s and judges’ “Independency” was of the legislature; see n. 4 below on the petitions from the House. The Dockyards Act (12 Geo. III, c. 24) made the burning of a naval vessel in a dockyard a felony punishable by death and, if the crime was committed in the colonies, gave the king the option of bringing the accused to England for trial. Gipson, British Empire, XII, 28–9. This statute, like the earlier move to revive the Treason Act (above, XVI, 248), was disturbing because it was Parliamentary interference with the subject’s right to be tried in a local court.
3. Cushing is answering Dartmouth’s argument, as reported in BF’s letter of Dec. 2, against forwarding the Massachusetts petition of the previous July, and is using much the same terms as BF’s to the Minister; see above, XIX, 409–10.
4. For BF’s handling of the July petition see ibid., pp. 410–11. The second petition, dated March 6, 1773, applied to the judges the same argument that the earlier one had applied to the governor: the charter authorized the legislature to support government by levying taxes, and the judiciary was part of government; royal salaries would make the judges completely dependent on the crown, especially while they held office only during the king’s pleasure, and would thereby endanger the impartial administration of justice on which the community’s well-being depended. The accompanying letter to Dartmouth was, as Cushing says, a full enumeration of grievances; see Gipson, op. cit., XII, 56–7. The texts of the two documents are in the Lee Papers, roll 2, frames 141–6. For Whitehall’s reaction see Dartmouth to BF below, June 2.