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: Lord Sandwich rose, and decidedly opposed its being received at all. He thought it ought to be immediately rejected with the contempt it deserved.
That instead of being the plan of a British peer, it appeared to him the production of an American; and turning towards Franklin, said, he thought he saw the person in question, the bitterest and most dangerous foe this country had ever known. A remark which, -' drew the eyes of the house on Dr Franklin, but he kept his countenance " as if his features had been made of wood.” At length lord Chatham' rose to reply; he took notice of the illiberal insinuation of lord Sandwich, and affirmed that the plan was his own ; after which he added, that “ were he the first minister of this country, and had the care of settling this momentous business, he should not be ashamed of publicly calling to his assistance a person so perfectly acquainted with the whole of American affairs as the gentlemen alluded to, and so injuriously reflected on; one whom all Europe had held in high estimation for his knowledge and wisdom, and ranked with our Boyles and Newtons ; who was an honour, not to the English nation only, but to human nature.”
The hasty and ignorant rejection of this bill confirmed Dr Franklin's opinion of what might be expected from hereditary legislators. To observe, he says, their total want of information upon the very nature of the bill, and of American politics generally; the prejudice, passion, and indecency with which they treated so important a measure, and the personal virulence with which they attacked himself, although he attended in the capacity of a private gentleman, professing to have no part in the discussions ; but above all to hear them so violently oppose even the consideration of such a proposal, at such a crisis, offered by the first statesman of the age, who had already raised his country from the verge of ruin, and conducted it to victory and glory, through a destructive war with two of the mightiest powers of Europe ; to lear them censuring his plan, not only from their mis
understanding of what it was, but their imagination of what it was not-convinced him, he adds, that so far from being fit to govern three millions of sensible people in America, they were scarcely fit to direct a herd of swine ; and reminded him of a university in Germany, where there are hereditary professors of mathematics; which he thinks of the two preferable to hereditary legislators!
Contrary to all Franklin's expectations after this, Mr Barclay requested a meeting at Dr Fothergill's, when he told him that the hints had been considered, and that a good disposition appeared in the ministry; renewed his representations of the miseries of war, and the honour there would be in effecting an accommodation: he added, that if Dr Franklin could accomplish it, he might expect not only the restoration of his old place, but almost any other that he could desire. The Doctor immediately replied, that the Americans did not wish for war, but for peace; and for his own part, he was quite sure the minister would rather give him a place in a cart to Tyburn, than any other.
These gentlemen then informed Franklin that his proposals had been taken into consideration, and produced a paper containing observations on them : on examining which, the latter found many of them had been agreed to, but observed, that so long as the parliament claimed a right of altering, ad libitum, the political constitution of the colonial governments, there could be no security for America, and a reconciliation would be impossible."
They afterwards mentioned the overwhelming force of Great Britain, and how easy it would be for her to equip a fleet which should command the shores of the American continent, and burn down all the principal towns. But Franklin was inflexible; he told them his property consisted in buildings in those towns, and they might burn them if they pleased : he should resist to the utmost that claim of parliament, and it behoved Great Britain to be careful what she did to
America, who would oblige her to make good all damages with interest. Dr Fothergill engaged to report this discourse to lord Dartmouth the next day.
It was in contemplation at this time to send over a commissioner to America, and these gentlemen asked Dr Franklin's opinion as to the proper person for such a trust. He suggested the names of lord Hyde and lord Howe, as men both of prudence and dignity, and these hints, it will be seen, were not overlooked. • At his own house the week following, Mr Barclay exhibited another plan for the inspection of the American delegate, in which he professed to have embodied what had been proposed and conceded on both sides, and which was entitled, “ A Plan' which it is believed would produce a permanent Union between Great Britain and her Colonies.” When the parties afterwards met (February 16th) for the discussion of this plan, the principal discussion turned upon the first article, which was as follows .-" The tea destroyed to be paid for; and in order that no time be lost, to begin the desirable work of conciliation, it is proposed that the agent or agents, in a petition to the king, should engage that the tea destroyed shall be paid for ; and in consequence of this engagement, a commissioner to have authority, by a clause in an act of parliament, to open the port, (by a suspension of the Boston Port act) when that engagement shall be complied with.” • It was urged that ministers were friendly to the object of these meetings, and wanted only an opening to be given them,' that they might proceed in a train of conciliatory measures. That a petition to suspend the Boston Port act, and open the harbour, on condition of payment for the tea, would answer that important end : that on the other hand preparations for sending over some troops and ships were in train, &c.
Franklin being urged to prepare a petition of this kind in conjunction with the other colony agents, observed, that he thought his colleagues would hardly be brought to take such a step, without instructions
from home; but that if good were likely to be done, he should make no scruple in coming forward in it; but that he must stipulate for all the acts relating to Massackusetts Bay being immediately repealed. He thought, tha: sending a commissioner over to suspend the Boston Port act, was a tardy method of proceed. ing, but that both topics should have his considera. tion in the course of a few days.
During this interval, he sketched a joint petition to the purport requested, praying in addition to the sending out a commissioner, that his majesty would also permit and authorize a meeting of delegates from the several provinces, to confer with him a recommendation which he proposed to strengthen, by address of his own to lord Dartmouth, and by undertaking, as the Massachusetts Bay agent, to pay for the tea.
But he still insisted that the old constitution of that province should be restored at once ; and observed that it was impossible to act upon a plan of reconciliation, mingling it with “ tricks;" that to call upon the Assembly to act under the new constitution, or meet the new council appointed by parliament, would be to accede one of the most important points in dispute ; namely, the power of parliament to annul their charter; and that to ask them to do so, was like saying, “ Try on your fetters, and then if you don't like them, petition, and we will consider.”
On the whole, when the friends finally met, Messrs Barclay and Fothergill being of opinion that ministers would not repeal all the Massachusetts acts, Franklin withdrew his papers, and declined making further offers ; saying at the same time, that he saw no occasion for thus dealing through second hands if ministers were sincere, and that he was still ready to : meet them, and discuss the points at issue.
Lord Howe, it is rather singular, had through his sister engaged Dr Franklin to meet him the following day. His lordship told him that he had been thought of as the commissioner for settling differences with America, and wished to press upon Dr Franklin the
eligibility of his accompanying him. He was very sensible, he said, that if he should be so happy as to effect any thing valuable, it would be owing wholly to the advice and assistance that Franklin should render: that he had assured ministers from his own personal knowledge of the good disposition of the latter towards peace, and that what he now wished was to be authorized by him, to say that he would accompany him, and co-operate in the great work of reconciliation. Dr Franklin wished first to know what propositions were to be the basis of their missions "If reasonable in themselves," said he, “ I may be able to make them appear such to my countrymen;" but if otherwise, he doubted if any man could accomplish this, and he should certainly not undertake it. As to the “ generous and ample" rewards, buth present and future, of which lord Howe spoke, Franklin says, it was, according to a French phrase, spitting in the soup, and he assured his lordship, that if he were to act in this business, the acceptance of any thing of this kind would destroy all his influence. The noble peer finally asked Dr Franklin if he should object to conversing with lord Hyde on this business, to which he added, not in the least, that he had great respect for his lordship, and would wait upon him whenever he pleased.
After some days' delay, it appeared that this minis ter in fact declined seeing Dr Franklin. On the 20th of February lord North made what was called a specific motion in the House of Commons, which was carried by a large majority. Some of Franklin's ideas are to be found in it, but he thought, from its imperfeet composition and general inadequateness to the ends proposed, that it had been suddenly curtailed before it was brought down to the house. The motion was as follows: • “That itis the opinion of this committee, that when the governor, council, and assembly, or general court of his majesty's provinces or colonies, shall propose to make provision according to their respective con