Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Cushing, 6 May 1773

From Thomas Cushing

ALS: Library of Congress

Boston May. 6. 1773


I transmit you by this Conveyance the Votes of the House for the last Year as far as they are printed. I also send you this days paper in which you will find the Town of Boston’s Instructions to their Representatives.3 How the dispute between the Governor and the two Houses is relished on your side the Water we have not yet heard. In justice to the Americans, I would observe, that the Colonies from the first of this dispute Acquiesced in the distinction between Taxation and Legislation and were disposed to Confine the dispute to that of Taxation only and entirely to wave the other as a subject of too delicate a Nature but the advocates for the Supream authority of Parliament drove us into it. They Strenuously asserted that the right of Parliament to Legislate for the Colonies (which they said we did not dispute) necessarily Involved in it the right of Taxation, that if they had a right to Legislate in one case they had in all. The Colonists were sinsible if this doctrine was true, they were nothing but abject Slaves at the Absolute will and disposal of Parliament, that it never could be the Intention of our Ancestors, when they first settled this Country, to put themselves in such a Condition and that it was directly inconsistent with their Charter which Entituled them to all the rights and priviledges of British Subjects, in short they Could find no Line between the Supream Authority of Parliament in all Cases whatsoever and a state of absolute Slavery, that therefore the Doctrine must be false and Unsupportable.4 I have just received your Favor of the 9 March togather with Votes and Proceedings of this Town reprinted with a very judicious preface5 much approved on here, for which I am Oblidged to you and am glad to hear of your determination to stay in England till the sessions is over as your Tarry there may be of service to this Country. With great Respect I subscribe myself Sir Your most humble Servant

Thomas Cushing

Benjamin Franklin Esqr.

Addressed: To / Benjamin Franklin Esqr LLD / In / London

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3The General Court had been prorogued in March and dissolved in April; the new Court was to meet as usual at the end of May. On May 5 the Boston town meeting re-elected Cushing, Hancock, Phillips, and Samuel Adams as its representatives, and appointed a committee chaired by Dr. Joseph Warren to instruct them. The instructions breathed defiance. The secret and capricious mode of governing by royal instructions, they declared, had undermined the representative system, and reduced all assemblies in America to such constitutional ciphers that the Bostonians had hesitated even to elect members to the House. They did so because their privileges under the charter must be defended at all costs. Those privileges included taxing themselves and legislating for themselves; here the instructions were almost a Declaratory Act in reverse. Massachusetts had outstanding grievances, which were listed, and other colonies were equally abused-notably Rhode Island by the Gaspee inquiry. In conclusion Boston’s delegates were told to work toward implementing Virginia’s proposal to obtain a “Union of Councils and Conduct” through intercolonial correspondence. W. H. Whittemore et al., eds., Reports of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston (30 vols., Boston, 1881–1909), XVIII, 132–4. For the Virginia resolves see the note on Cushing to BF above, April 20.

4Cushing’s instructions as a Boston representative, outlined in n. 3, were a shade more overt in their defiance of Parliament than the position taken earlier by the House of Representatives in answering the governor, for which see above, pp. 113–14 ns. The Speaker is here summarizing, it seems, the House’s phrasing.

5The preface is printed above under the end of February.

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