Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Rhode Island Assembly Committee, [8 October 1764]

From Rhode Island Assembly Committee8

MS not found; printed in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives of Pennsylvania, Met at Philadelphia [October 15, 1764] (Philadelphia, 1764), pp. 6–7.

[October 8, 1764]9


We being appointed a Committee by the General Assembly of the Colony of Rhode-Island, to correspond, confer and consult with any Committee or Committees that are or shall be appointed by any of the British Colonies on the Continent, and in Concert with them, to prepare and form such Representations of the Condition of the Colonies, the Rights of the Inhabitants, and the Interests of Great-Britain, as connected with them, as may be most likely to be effectual to remove or alleviate the Burthens which the Colonists at present labour under, and to prevent new Ones being added.1

The Impositions already laid on the Trade of these Colonies, must have very fatal Consequences. The Act in Embryo, for establishing Stamp Duties, if effected, will further drain the People, and strongly point out their Servitude: And the Resolution of the House of Commons (that they have a Right to tax the Colonies)2 if carried into Execution, will leave us nothing to call our own. How far the united Endeavours of all the Colonies might tend to prevent those Evils, cannot be determined; but certain it is worth their While to try every Means in their Power, to preserve every Thing they have worth preserving.

Zealous to do all we can, in a Business of so much Importance, more especially as the Colony that employs us seems heartily disposed to exert its utmost Efforts to preserve its Privileges inviolate, looking on this as the critical Conjuncture when they must be effectually defended, or finally lost; we have given you the Trouble of this Address, desiring to be informed whether your Colony hath taken these Matters under Consideration; and if it hath, what Methods have been thought of, as most conducive to bring them to a happy Issue.

If all the Colonies were disposed to enter with Spirit into the Defence of their Liberties; if some Method could be hit upon for collecting the Sentiments of each Colony, and for uniting and forming the Substance of them all into one common Defence of the whole; and this sent to England, and the several Agents directed to join together in pushing and pursuing it there, in the properest and most effectual Manner, it might be the most probable Method to produce the End aimed at.3

However, as we do not pretend to prescribe Rules, but to receive Information, we hope to be excused for this Freedom, and that the Cause we are concerned in, and your Candour, will procure us your Pardon for this Trouble, given by, Sir, Your most obedient, and most humble Servants,

Stephen Hopkins,
Daniel Jenikes,
Nicholas Brown.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8The Rhode Island Committee addressed this letter to BF in his capacity as speaker of the Pa. Assembly. They could not have known that he had lost his seat in the House in the election of October 1–2. When the new Assembly met on Oct. 15, 1764, Isaac Norris was unanimously chosen speaker. BF apparently gave this letter to Norris, who laid it before the House on Oct. 18, 1764. Votes, 1764, pp. 3, 6–7.

9The letter is described as of this date in ibid., p. 6.

1The Rhode Island Assembly appointed this committee on July 30, 1764, and continued it in its fall session. J. R. Bartlett, Records of the Colony of Rhode Island, VI (Providence, 1861), 403, 406.

2The fifteenth resolution introduced into the House of Commons by George Grenville on March 9, 1764, which threatened a stamp act at some future date, was frequently spoken of in America “as an assertion of Parliament’s right to tax the colonies.” Edmund S. and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis Prologue to Revolution (Chapel Hill, [1953]), pp. 55, 59–60, 62 n.

3After considering this letter, as well as the instructions to Richard Jackson of Sept. 22, 1764 (above, pp. 347–51), the Assembly on Oct. 18, 1764, appointed a committee to draw up additional instructions to Jackson respecting “the present State of the Trade of this Province, the pernicious Effects of the Restrictions already imposed thereon by our Mother Country, and the Dangers apprehended to our Rights as Englishmen, from the internal Taxations proposed to be laid on the Colonies by future Acts of Parliament.” Such instructions were brought in on October 19, debated by paragraphs, and agreed to on the 20th, and the same day the Committee of Correspondence was ordered to transmit a copy of them, together with the proceedings of the Assembly during its September session, “to the Committees of the Representatives for the colonies of Massachusetts-Bay, and Rhode-Island.” These instructions expressed the House’s continued willingness to contribute its full share to mutual defense when called upon, but insisted that the several assemblies “can alone know the state of their respective Provinces,” and that any other method of taxation, “where the People are not represented, … would be unequal, oppressive and unjust.” Jackson was further told of some of the economic burdens created by the Sugar Act and urged to procure legislation that would benefit the trade of the colonies. Votes, 1764, pp. 7–10, 12.

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