Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Noble Wimberly Jones, 2 April 1772

To Noble Wimberly Jones

AL (letterbook draft; incomplete): American Philosophical Society

London, April 2. 1772

Dear Sir,

I was in Ireland when your respected Favour of July 8. arrived at my House here. On my Return, which was just before the Meeting of Parliament I by a Line or two, acknowledg’d the Receipt of it,6 intending to write more largely as soon as any Business should occur. I hoped the Petition relating to the controverted Lands7 would have been brought forward long before this time, having been assured when it was presented that it should in its Turn come under Consideration; but such has been the Croud of more important Affairs, that the Council have as yet found no time to do any thing in it: Tho’ I flatter my self, as no Solicitation is omitted, that it may be brought to a favourable Conclusion before the Season of Business is over.8 [Page or pages missing.]

Your Account of the Governor’s Trea[tment of] the Assembly and your self, determined me [not to?] wait upon him on his Arrival here, as [I could?] not but greatly disapprove his Conduct.9 [And, as?] your Mode of appointing an Agent is by [an] Ordinance to which he must give his Assent, I think it not likely that I shall be continued in that Service for your Province. I shall nevertheless continue to render it every Good Office in my Power while I remain in England, which I think will not now be much longer.

The presenting of a Speaker to the King I suppose was originnally intended that the King might know the Person from whom he was to receive the Sense of Parliament on every proper Occasion. To facilitate the Intercourse, it is probable, the Parliament might think it adviseable rather to chuse (other Qualifications being equal) a Person not justly obnoxious to the King; and then it was natural for him to compliment them by saying he approv’d their Choice. But from this it by no means follows, that without such Approbation the Speaker could not continue in his Office, as that if the House refus’d to chuse another, it would be a justifiable Use of the Prerogative therefore to dissolve them. I believe a King of England at this Day would hardly venture on such a Step; but Governors take greater Liberties, having naturally no Respect for the People, but abundance for Ministers. It is by the Arbitrary Proceedings of Governors and other Crown Officers countenanc’d by their Protectors here, that the Affections of the Americans to this Country are daily diminishing, and their Attachment to its Government in danger of being lost in the Course of a few succeeding Years.1 As a Disunion [would?] be as Weakening to the Empire, and of course prejudicial to [remainder missing]

Noble Wimberley Jones, Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6For Jones’s letter see above, XVIII, 167–70; it explains the second and third paragraphs of this letter. BF’s first acknowledgment has not survived.

7Claimed by Sir William Baker’s estate; see Jones to BF above, Feb. 2.

8His optimism was misplaced; see BF to Jones below, Aug. 3.

9Sir James Wright, the governor, had sailed for England in July and had reached London by the end of August, 1771. See The Letters of the Hon. James Habersham, 1756–1775, Ga. Hist. Soc. Coll., VI (Savannah, 1904), 155. An earlier editor has silently supplied missing words in this paragraph that differ from ours in brackets (Smyth, Writings, V, 390); the latter, we believe, are more probable.

1In the letter to which BF is replying Jones had described the conflict between the Governor and Assembly over its choice of speaker: above, XVIII, 168–9. BF’s analogy between the relationship of the King to Parliament and of a governor to a colonial legislature, however sound it may have been politically, was unsound in law, where the governor had the powers given him in his instructions. Wright and his predecessors had been instructed that the governor must approve a speaker; from the viewpoint of Whitehall, therefore, the Assembly’s freedom of choice was circumscribed by a right of veto that derived from the king’s prerogative. See George Chalmers, ed., Opinions of Eminent Lawyers … (2 vols., London, 1814), I, 222, 263–4, 296; II, 31–2; Leonard W. Labaree, Royal Government in America: a Study of the British Colonial System before 1783 (New Haven, 1930), pp. 31–2, and Royal Instructions to British Colonial Governors, 1670–1776 (2 vols., New York and London, 1935), I, 114. When the Assembly branded the exercise of the veto as a breach of privilege, the Governor met the challenge head on: before leaving for home he instructed James Habersham, the acting governor, to refuse whomever the Assembly first chose as speaker. Jones was chosen three times. The first two elections were vetoed, and after the third he withdrew; but the Assembly refused to rescind its action, and Habersham dissolved it. See William W. Abbot, The Royal Govenors of Georgia, 1754–1775 (Chapel Hill, [1959]), pp. 155–9.

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