Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Joseph Galloway, 11 June 1770

To Joseph Galloway

ALS: Clements Library

London, June 11. 1770

Dear Sir,

I wrote to you per Capt. Falconer, and since by the April Packet.2 None went from hence in May, there being no Boat on this side. It is now long since I have received any of your Favours. I think the last was dated Nov. 8. 1769. I suppose your Indisposition, with too much Business, has prevented your Writing. I am glad to hear from our Friend Dr. Evans, that you think of affording your self more Leisure.3

The Parliament is up without repealing the Tea Duty: but it is generally given out and understood that it will be done next Winter. Lord North, I have reason to believe, was for doing it now; but was over-rul’d.4 A general Act is talk’d of, revising all the Acts for regulating Trade in America, wherein every thing that gives just Cause of Offence to the Colonists may be omitted, and the Tea with its odious Preamble may be dropt, without hurting the Honour of Parliament, which it seems was apprehended if it had been repeal’d this Year. But it is by no means certain yet that such an Act will take place. The Act intended at the Beginning of the Session, and alluded to in the King’s Speech, for punishing the Combinations of Merchants not to import, &c. was never brought forward. I flatter myself I may have had some Share in discouraging it, by representing the Difficulties and even Impracticabilities of carrying such an Act into Execution in the Colonies, showing that Government here would by such a Measure only expose its own Weakness and Imprudence in a fresh Instance, and produce an Effect contrary to that intended, rendering the Agreements more general and more firmly adhered to, by souring still farther the Minds of the People.5 Towards the Conclusion of the Session Govr. Pownal made another Speech and Motion relating to the military Power kept up in America, a Copy of which I send you inclos’d. It is a curious Question, how far it is agreable to the British Constitution, for the King who is Sovereign over different States, to march the Troops he has rais’d by Authority of Parliament in one of the States, into another State, and quarter them there in time of Peace, without the Consent of the Parliament of that other State. Should it be concluded that he may do this, what Security has Great Britain, that a future King, when the Colonies shall become more powerful, may not raise Armies there, transport them hither, and quarter them here without Consent of Parliament, perhaps to the Prejudice of their Liberties, and even with a View of subverting them? 6 The House got over Mr. Pownal’s Motion, by a Declaration of the Ministry that the several Matters contain’d in it were already under Consideration of his Majesty’s Law Servants, and that every thing would be done conformable to the Law and the Constitution; that the Troops would not be return’d to Boston, unless call’d for by the Civil Power, &c. I inclose also a Paper he gave me sometime before, proposing a Case to be tried in America; but perhaps that will become unnecessary.7 On the whole, there seems a general Disposition in the Nation (a particular Faction excepted) to be upon good Terms with the Colonies, and to leave us in the Enjoyment of all our Rights. It is universally thought that no future Impositions on America will ever be attempted here; only it is not to be expected that Parliament should formally renounce its Claim; that, they say, would be inconsistent with its Dignity, &c. And yet I think all this is not quite to be relied on. There is a Malice against us in some powerful People, that discovers itself in all their Expressions when they speak of us; And Incidents may yet arise on either Side of the Water that may give them Advantage, and prevent those healing Measures that all good Men wish to take place.

I hear that a Paper-money Bill was in hand during your last Session, but fail’d. Had it pass’d, it would have been repeal’d here, if the Bills were made a Tender even to the Loan-Office in Discharge of the Mortgages. Poor R. Charles, our former Agent, was put upon an Application to Parliament for an Act permitting the Assembly of New York to make their Bills such a Tender. In the Progress of his Bill it was so alter’d, as to make him apprehend it would be of no Use to the Province, at the same time it was to be consider’d as a kind of private Bill, of which he was to pay the Expence and Fees, amounting (as he told me) to near £200, and he fear’d that would not be approv’d of: In a word he was so bewilder’d and distress’d with the Affair, that he finally put an End to his Perplexities—by a Razor!8 The Objection to such a Tender was frivolous; for it was certainly never the Intention of the Act of Parliament to forbid the Government’s being oblig’d to take its own Notes. If the Words were so ambiguous or so general as to create a Doubt, such Doubt should have been remov’d by an Explanatory Clause in a Publick Act. But this, tho’ urged by me and others to several Members, could not be attended to; it must be a particular Favour to each Province that should apply for it, acknowledging by such Application the Authority of Parliament over our Legislatures: But perhaps a principal Motive was (at least with some) to make more special Acts for the sake of more Fees.

Mr. Jackson being now appointed Council to the Board of Trade,* thinks his continuing in the Agency of any Province will be judg’d incompatible with that Office, and therefore declines serving us any longer in that Station, but professes a Continuance of his Good-Will to us, and Readiness to assist your Agent with his best Advice on all Occasions. He presses me very much to continue here another Winter, alledging that it may be of great Use, and giving Reasons, that I cannot repeat.

I send you herewith the Remainder of the Votes; and am, with best Wishes for your Health and Prosperity, my dear Friend, Yours most affectionately

B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Probably the letters printed above, Jan. 11 and March 21.

3Galloway’s illness was presumably that mentioned by Cadwalader Evans a year before: above, XVI, 157.

4See BF to Cooper above, June 8.

5For BF’s hope, earlier in the year, that colonial trade regulation would be sweepingly reformed, and his balancing fear of an act to curb nonimportation in America, see his letter to Galloway above, Jan. 11. Neither the hope nor the fear was realized. Whatever impetus the reform movement may have had was apparently spent during the spring in the partial repeal of the Townshend Acts. The act against nonimportation also died aborning. The House of Commons requested and received documents on the subject, and a bill was drafted but not brought before the House. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Fourteenth Report, Appendix, Part X … (Dartmouth MSS., Vol. II, American Papers; London, 1895), pp. 50, 75–6; Journals of the House of Commons, XXXII, 717, 745. What influence BF had in quashing the bill is impossible to say, or even whether his lobbying was directed toward merchants, private M.P.s, or ministers. But other factors were probably the decisive ones. First, the merchants were more interested in repealing the duties than in attacking directly the American boycott on their goods (see BF to Thomson above, March 18), and their pressure tended to focus Parliament’s attention on repeal rather than on nonimportation. Second, a ban on associations of American merchants was of doubtful legality. Third, rumors were rife in Britain that those associations were breaking up, in which case no ban was needed. These factors in conjunction suggest that BF was exaggerating the danger as well as his own role in obviating it.

6BF is here conjuring up precisely the future peril that he himself had ridiculed two and a half years before; see above, XV, 19. He did substantially the same conjuring in his letter to Cooper above, June 8, but his argument to Galloway is fragmentary by comparison. Except for this one aside about the prerogative and the military, he did not raise with him any of the large issues that he raised with Cooper. The difference between the two letters is striking, even if it does not warrant any conclusions. It may be accidental, and again it may not be.

7For Pownall’s speech and motion on the military see BF to Jones above, June 7. An incomplete copy of the motion, in Pownall’s hand and dated March 8, 1770, is in the Franklin Papers in the APS; this is presumably part of what BF copied for Galloway. The other enclosure, Pownall’s paper, was doubtless a by-product of his earlier consultation with BF, for which see above, XVI, 298. After the House of Commons voted down Pownall’s motion on May 8, Edmund Burke introduced resolutions censuring the administration’s entire recent policy. These too were voted down, and the Lords rejected identical resolutions on May 18, ending for that session any possibility of reform. Cobbett, Parliamentary History, XVI, 1002–28.

8For the progress of Robert Charles’ bill see Journals of the House of Commons, XXXII, 895–6, 899, 908, 919, 962, 982; Journals of the House of Lords, XXXII, 585–6. One historian has questioned BF’s statement that Charles committed suicide: what ground had the agent to “fear the bill would not be approved when it had passed the House of Commons—the decisive chamber—the week before?” Jack M. Sosin, Agents and Merchants … (Lincoln, Neb., 1965), p. 137 n. 45. The question is groundless if BF meant what we believe he did, that Charles feared disapproval in New York, not Westminster.

9The previous counsel, Sir Matthew Lamb, had died on Nov. 5, 1768 (DNB); Jackson’s appointment was not formally announced to the Board until April 30, 1770. Board of Trade Jour., 1768–75, p. 185.

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 *This Office having been vacant near two Years, is the Reason that many Colony Acts have lain so long here, not pass’d upon; it being that Officer’s Business to peruse them all and Report his Opinion of them in Law Points.9 Be pleased to communicate this Letter, with my sincere Respects, to the Committee. Your Votes and Laws are rarely sent me.

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