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John Dickinson and Others: Protest against the Appointment of Benjamin Franklin as Agent, 26 October 1764

John Dickinson and Others: Protest against the Appointment of Benjamin Franklin as Agent

Printed in The Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser, November 1, 1764.

After the minority members of the Assembly had failed to get their reasons for opposing Franklin’s appointment as agent entered on the minutes, October 26 (see above, p. 407), they sent their statement to William Bradford for publication in the Pennsylvania Journal with the following introductory note: “Mr. Bradford, The Subscribers, at the Close of the late Debate in Assembly, concerning the sending Mr. Franklin to England as an Assistant to our Agent there, having offered a Protest against that Measure; which was refused to be entered on the Minutes, it is now thought proper to take this Method, of laying before the Publick the Reasons on which their Dissent was founded.” It is generally agreed that the author of this paper was John Dickinson.

The Protest as printed is signed by ten of the eleven assemblymen who voted against the appointment. Although Joseph Richardson of Philadelphia County had voted in the negative on both questions directly relating to Franklin’s appointment, he did not sign this Protest. He had been nominated on both tickets in the election campaign, and during the October session he had sided with the majority on four of the seven critical votes; as a moderate he appears to have been unwilling to associate himself with this public attack on Franklin.1

For Franklin’s reply to the Protest, written before he embarked for England, see below, pp. 429–41.

October 26, 1764.

We whose Names are hereunto subscribed, do object and protest against the Appointment of the Person proposed as an Agent of this Province, for the following Reasons.

First. Because we believe him to be the Chief Author of the Measures pursued by the late Assembly, which have occasioned such Uneasiness and Distraction among the good People of this Province.

Secondly. Because we believe his fixed enmity to the Proprietors will preclude all Accommodation of our Disputes with them, even on just and reasonable Terms; So that for these two Reasons, we are filled with the most affecting Apprehensions, that the Petitions lately transmitted to England, will be made use of to produce a Change of our Government, contrary to the Intention of the Petitioners; the greatest part of whom, we are persuaded, only designed thereby to obtain a Compliance with some equitable Demands—And thus, by such an Appointment, we, and a vast Number of our most worthy Constituents, are deprived of all hopes of ever seeing an End put to the fatal Dissentions of our Country; it being our firm Opinion, that any further Prosecution of the Measures for a Change of our Government at this Time, will lay the Foundations of unceasing Feuds, and all the Miseries of Confusion, among the People we represent, and their Posterity. This step gives us the more lively Affliction, as it is taken at the very Moment, when we are informed by a Member of this House, that the Governor has assured him of his having received Instructions from the Proprietors, on their hearing of our late Dispute, to give his Assent to the Taxation of their Estates in the same manner that the Estates of other Persons are to be taxed, and also to confirm, for the Publick use, the several Squares, formerly claimed by the City;2 On which Subjects, we make no doubt, the Governor would have sent a Message to the House, if this had been the usual Time of doing Business, and he had not been necessarily absent to meet the Assembly of the Lower Counties.3 And therefore we cannot but anxiously regret that, at a Time when the Proprietors have shewn such a Disposition, this House should not endeavour to cultivate the same, and obtain from them every reasonable Demand that can be made on the part of the People; in vigorously insisting on which, we would most earnestly unite with the rest of this House.

Thirdly. Because the Gentleman proposed, as we are informed, is very unfavorably thought of by several of his Majesty’s Ministers; and we are humbly of Opinion, that it will be disrespectful to our most Gracious Sovereign, and disadvantageous to ourselves and our constituents, to employ such a person as our Agent.

Fourthly. Because the Proposal of the Person mentioned, is so extremely disagreeable to a very great Number of the most serious and reputable Inhabitants of this Province of all Denominations and Societies (one Proof of which is, his having been rejected, both by this City and County at the last Election, though he had represented the former in Assembly for 14 Years) that we are convinced no Measure this House can adopt, will tend so much to inflame the Resentments and imbitter the Divisions of the good People of this province, as his Appointment to be our Agent—And we cannot but sincerely lament, that the Peace and Happiness of Pennsylvania should be sacrificed for the Promotion of a Man, who cannot be advanced but by the Convulsions of his Country.

Fifthly. Because the unnecessary haste with which this House has acted in proceeding to this Appointment (without making a small Adjournment, tho’ requested by many Members, to consult our Constituents on the Matters to be decided, and) even before their Speaker has been presented to the King’s Representative, tho’ we are informed that the Governor will be in Town the Beginning of next Week;4 may subject us to the Censures and very heavy Displeasure of our most gracious Sovereign and his Ministers.

Sixthly. Because the Gentleman propos’d, has heretofore ventured, contrary to an Act of Assembly, to place the public Money* in the Stocks, whereby this Province suffered a loss of £6000; and that sum added to £5000 granted for his Expences,6 makes the whole Cost of his former voyage to England, amount to Eleven Thousand Pounds; which expensive kind of Agency we do not chuse to imitate, and burden the Public with unnecessary loads of Debt. For these and other Reasons we should think ourselves guilty of betraying the Rights of Pennsylvania, if we should presumptuously commit them to the Discretion of a Man, against whom so many and just Objections present themselves.

Lastly. We being extremely desirous to avert the Mischiefs apprehended from the intended Appointment, and as much as in us lies to promote Peace and Unanimity among us and our Constituents, do humbly propose to the House, that if they will agree regularly to appoint any Gentleman* of Integrity, Abilities, and Knowledge in England, to assist Mr. Jackson as our Agent, under a Restriction not to present the Petitions for a Change of our Government, or any of them, to the King or his Ministers, unless an express Order for that Purpose be hereafter given by the Assembly of this Province; we will not give it any Opposition: But if such an Appointment should be made, we must insist (as we cannot think it a necessary one) that our Constituents, already labouring under heavy Debts, be not burthened with fresh Impositions on that Account; and therefore, in Condescension to the Members, who think another Agent necessary, we will concur with them if they approve of this Proposal, in paying such Agent at our own Expence.

John Dickinson, William Allen,
David Mccanaughy, Thomas Willing,
John Montgomery, George Bryan,
Isaac Sanders, Amos Strettell,
George Taylor, Henry Keppele.

1There is no certainty that the Protest as printed is in precisely the same language as the document the minority wished to have entered on the minutes, but the introductory note in Pa. Jour. and some of the phraseology in the body of the Protest as printed convey the impression that it was the same paper. If the printed text is sharper than what was offered in the Assembly, however, that would be a possible reason for Richardson’s failure to sign it.

2It appears from this statement that during the course of the October debates in the Assembly William Allen had definitely revealed for the first time that the Proprietors had directed Governor Penn, more than four months before, to yield to the Assembly’s interpretation of the 1760 stipulation on the taxation of located but unimproved proprietary lands; above, pp. 213–14 n. The Proprietors seem also to have conceded the claims of the city of Philadelphia to four public squares laid out as such on William Penn’s original plan but eliminated from Scull and Heap’s 1753 semiofficial map of the city; above, VIII, 369.

3Governor Penn’s failure to inform the previous Assembly officially of these concessions at its September session was clearly based on political considerations relating to the forthcoming election. John Penn to Thomas Penn, Sept. 1, 1764, Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa. When the new Assembly met in October, however, still dominated by Penn’s opponents, he knew of their intentions regarding the petition to the King and the prompt appointment of BF; he foretold the outcome on both matters in a letter to his uncle on October 20, written after the debates had begun and before he went to Newcastle; Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa. His failure to inform the new House at once of the Proprietors’ concessions, as a method of disarming the majority, or at least of neutralizing the moderates among the anti-proprietary assemblymen, must be regarded as a tactical blunder. Word-of-mouth information from William Allen, who had kept discreetly silent during the two months since his return to Philadelphia from England, was no substitute for an official message from the governor. The excuse offered here reflects little credit on the political astuteness of John Penn and his advisers.

4See above, pp. 403–4.

5The Agency Act of 1759; above, VIII, 442; IX, 164–7, 186 n.

6It is not certain how this figure of £5000 Pa. currency was determined, and it seems too low if it includes all the costs to the province of BF’s mission except the loss from the sale of stocks. BF’s accounts, as rendered and approved after his return, show that these costs amounted to £3714 10s. 7d. sterling; above, X, 194–7, 206–8. Purchase of the necessary bills of exchange required the actual expenditure, first and last, of £6182 11s. 2d. Pa. currency; 8 Pa. Arch., VI, 5154; VII, 5911. The £5000 figure, however, may relate only to the salary of £3000 sterling (£500 per year for six years) voted on Feb. 19, 1763; above, X, 197. At the rate of exchange in effect on that date, the cost of the salary in Pa. currency would have been £5175. In his Remarks (below, p. 438) BF naturally did not question this £5000 figure, though he did challenge the £6000 said here to have been lost on the sale of stocks.

7As a leading London Quaker, Dr. John Fothergill (above, IV, 126 n) was on good terms with both the Pa. Friends and Thomas Penn; during BF’s first mission Fothergill had tried to smooth the relations between BF and the Proprietor; see, for example, VIII, 312–13.

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

º *The Money here meant was a Sum granted by Parliament as an Indemnification for part of our Expences in the late War, which by Act of Assembly was ordered for its better Security to be placed in the Bank.5

º *Dr. Fothergill was mentioned by the Subscribers as a proper Person.7

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