Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Joseph Galloway, 9 March 1769

To Joseph Galloway

LS: Clements Library

London March 9. 1769

Dear Sir

I wrote a few Lines to you per Packet, in which I mention’d that at a late Meeting of the Agents they had agreed to join in a Petition for the Repeal of the Duty Act. I was desir’d to make a Draft, which I did. The Proposition came from Mr. Garth, who is a Member of Parliament and Agent for S. Carolina.9 The Opinion was that the Ministry might probably wish to get rid of that Act if they had a fair Opportunity given them; that they could not do it on any of the Petitions that had been offer’d, because those Petitions denied the Right of Parliament and therefore could not be receiv’d: And if we were to petition, giving other Reasons, our Petition must be receiv’d, and would give Government an Opening to relieve itself and America if so disposed. I accordingly drew a Petition of which I send you the Copy, wherein, tho’ we did not mention the Right, we avoided saying anything that might be construed as a Relinquishing of it; and I used some Words that should imply what they would not allow us to mention.1 The Draft was approv’d at our next Meeting by all present; but two being absent it was agreed to shew it to them before we proceeded farther, and to meet again as last Tuesday.2 At this Meeting their Minds began to change, from an Apprehension that their Constituents might think the not mentioning the Right was a tacit relinquishing of it, and be offended with them for taking such a Step;3 and that even Government here might pretend so to construe it. After debating it some time, and one declaring that his Instructions were express not to ask for a Repeal on any other Foundation than the Incompetency of the Right, it was found that no one car’d to sign it unless it was to be sign’d by all; and being besides assur’d that the Ministry were absolutely determin’d to do nothing farther in the Affairs of America this Session, we broke up, concluding to drop the Petition. Mr. Jackson however privately told me, he intended to move for the Repeal in the House on the Grounds of the Petition, tho he had no Prospect of Success; but it would give an Opportunity for some Debates which might be of Use.4

Gov. Pownall has taken the Part of being a warm Friend for the Colonies in Parliament. I sent you with the Votes his Speech against the Resolutions: He had it printed to communicate privately to his Friends among the Members, that they might see what they could not hear; for the Court Party kept a continual Talk during the whole time of his Speaking, to prevent his being heard. He has given me some Copies, and I send you herewith another. If it should be publish’d with you, his Name must not be mention’d.5

On the whole it is my clear Opinion that nothing will bring on a Change of Measures here but our unanimous Resolution to consume no more of their Goods, while these Acts are continued: We mention’d but one in the Petition, leaving the other for a future Attempt, as apprehending we might by asking too much at once fail of getting anything. If our People enter into such Engagements, I could wish it were not among the Members only, but all the Inhabitants. The Clamours of the Manufacturers here are the most likely thing to bring the American Minister to his Senses.6 But whether the Acts are ever repeal’d or not, the Frugality and Industry will work greatly to our Advantage, and make Money plenty among us, tho we should never be allow’d to issue Paper. I am Dear Sir Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

In Franklin’s hand: I have been oblig’d by Hurry to make use of Help in Copying. But it is a faithful trusty Hand, tho’ not a neat one.

B F.

Jos. Galloway, Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9For Charles Garth, the agent for the Maryland assembly as well as for South Carolina, see above, XII, 30 n; Kammen, Rope of Sand, passim. The idea of petitioning for repeal of the Townshend Acts was first considered at a meeting of the agents on Feb. 24; see BF’s draft of the petition above under that date.

1The implication was, to put it mildly, well veiled: ibid.

2I.e., March 7, the third meeting; the second we have been unable to date.

3The agents’ fears were amply borne out in the case of Charles Garth, who had suggested the move. When the Commons House of South Carolina heard what he had proposed, it voted unanimously to disapprove it and to express its shock that he had considered consenting to a proposal that did not expressly assert the colony’s right to be taxed only by its own representatives. Joseph W. Barnwell, ed., “Garth Correspondence,” South Carolina Hist. and Geneal. Mag., XXXI (1930), 59–60.

4Richard Jackson, M.P. for New Romney and BF’s co-agent for Pennsylvania, apparently decided against raising the issue himself. When Gov. Pownall tried unsuccessfully in April to secure a debate on repeal, Jackson supported him in a brief speech that is the last he is known to have made on the American question. Namier and Brooke, House of Commons, II, 671.

5The speech of Jan. 26 in which Pownall attacked the resolutions, introduced by Hillsborough in the House of Lords the month before, that were under debate in the House of Commons. No copy of this printing seems to have survived. Pownall made a second speech, on Feb. 8, on a somewhat different aspect of the American question. The two speeches were subsequently run together and printed in London as a single pamphlet, without place, date, or sign of authorship to avoid the Parliamentary ban on the publication of debates; there is considerable evidence that BF had William Strahan print this pamphlet for him. Crane, Letters to the Press, xlix–l; Thomas R. Adams, American Independence, the Growth of an Idea (Providence, R.I., 1965), pp. 54–5. The combined speeches, by then identified as a single one, were reprinted in America in April and May in the Boston Chron. and the Pa. Chron., and as a separate pamphlet in Boston.

6Complaints about the decline in American trade and the consequent threat of unemployment at home had recently come from London, Southwark, Birmingham, Sheffield, and Manchester. Lond. Chron., Feb. 9–11, Feb. 28–March 2, 1769.

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