Page images
PDF
EPUB

342

LIFE OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.

That answer was, a dove above a snake coiled and darting forth its tongue, with a motto in French, signifying that — Innocence surmounts everything.

In the autumn of this year, (1760,) Franklin received a letter from Isaac Norris, Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, accompanied by an act authorizing and directing him, as provincial agent, to receive and invest, on behalf of the province, its share of the moneys recently granted by parliament as some indemnity to the American colonies for the charges they had incurred in 1758, beyond what that body admitted to be their fair proportion, in support of the war. In the act making this grant, the Lower Counties (as they were then usually called, now the state of Delaware) were joined with Pennsylvania, though they were under separate governments. The number of men kept in the field by the two governments was 2,727, the quota of Pennsylvania being 2,446, and that of Delaware 281. The whole sum apportioned to the two colonies, was twenty-nine thousand nine hundred and ninety-three pounds sterling, of which Pennsylvania's share was nearly twenty-seven thousand pounds, and that of Delaware a little over three thousand.

On receiving this money, Franklin placed it in the bank of England, till he could invest it in stocks, as he soon did, pursuant to the law under which he acted. The investment was well made ; but the Assembly, moved by some premature rumors of peace, indiscreetly ordered the stocks to be sold when so low as to occasion considerable loss; and yet the Penn party, in their rancor toward Franklin, charged the loss to his misconduct, and claimed that he should make it up.

[blocks in formation]

BEFORE the close of 1759, the conquest of Canada had been achieved, and the island of Guadaloupe been taken, by the British. These events in America, with the success of the British arms in East India, and the overwhelming superiority of the British navy, were followed by indications of approaching peace; and the terms on which that peace should be concluded began to occupy the thoughts of leading men both in and out of the British cabinet.

In this condition of public affairs, a pamphlet appeared, addressed in fact to the duke of Newcastle, then premier, and Mr. Pitt, one of the secretaries of state, but published under the title of a Letter to Two Great Men, and written by the earl of Bath, better known as Mr. Pultney, in which he urged that, whatever concessions might be made in other quarters, on the conclusion of peace, Canada should be retained by Great Britain. A reply to this letter soon after came out, anonymously, entitled Remarks on the Letter to Two Great Men, in which the writer maintained that Guadaloupe would be the more valuable acquisition, and should be retained, while Canada should be restored to France.

344

LIFE OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.

The Remarker was supposed by many to be the celebrated Edmund Burke ; and whether the supposition was correct or not, it was good evidence that his performance was deemed an able one. Having, from a desire not to seem obtrusive, waited a suitable time for a reply from the author of the Letter, Franklin took

up

the subject. In one respect, if no more, he was better qualified to discuss it than either of the other writers, or, indeed, any man in England; and that was, his more precise and thorough knowledge of all the material facts pertaining to the state of things in America; of the resources, wants, progress, and prospects of the colonies ; their relations to Canada and to the Indian tribes; the features of the country already occupied by the colonial settlements, as well as the regions which would invite occupancy as soon as new settlements could be made with a reasonable expectation of security; the extent of the Indian trade, and its value, together with that of the colonies, to the mother-country; and, in short, all the peculiarly American topics bearing on the question. In reference, also, to the more general topics, whether drawn from history or from the relations of Great Britain to the other countries of Europe, or to the Indies East and West, wherever the commercial interests of the British empire were involved, he showed himself to be at least as well informed as any man, whether in or out of the public councils, who undertook to discuss the question, in either its commercial or its diplomatic bearings; and he handled it with an ability and pungency, and at the same time with a courtesy and fairness, which drew from an opponent, in another anonymous pamphlet, written doubtless, though not avowedly, by the remarker, a declaration that he considered the author of the Canada Pamphlet, as being of all the advocates of the retention of Canada,"clearly the ablest, the most ingenious, the

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]

most dexterous, and the most perfectly acquainted with the strong and weak points of the argument,” and as having "said everything, and everything in the best manner, that the cause could bear."

A brief sketch of the general scope and tenor of this performance, is all that can be here given ; but this, at least, is demanded by justice to its author, not only to illustrate the attitude he then presented, and the estimation in which he was then held, as a public man, but also in connection with other evidence subsequently furnished from time to time, as the interests and rights of the American colonies grew in importance, and became more and more deeply affected by the policy of the mother-country, to aid in showing something of the extent to which those principles, whereon the colonies at last took their stand in opposition to that policy, and the arguments by which those principles were unfolded and enforced, are traceable to Franklin, and to the influence he exerted on opinion both in England and in America.

The question discussed in the pamphlet before us, let it be remembered, was, which of her two conquests, the island of Guadaloupe, or the province of Canada and its dependencies, Great Britain should retain. Franklin commences with a compliment to the ability and courtesy of the two preceding writers, and an apology for his taking up the discussion, drawn from “the long silence” of the author of the Letter, followed by some well-placed observations on the importance of the question at issue, and the wisdom of thoroughly canvassing it, without delay, in order that the government might be prepared, with clear and well-settled views in regard to it, to enter on the negotiations by which it would be decided at the close of the war.

The first point relates to the right of a nation, on the

successful termination of a just war, to demand cessions from its enemy, by way of indemnity for the expenses forced upon the former, and for the future security of any exposed part of her dominions. This right is illustrated by various examples from history and modern treaties between the European states; and the wisdom of insisting upon it in the case under consideration, is enforced by a striking statement of the nature and extent of the colonial frontiers and the Canadian territory, the relations between them, the position and character of the Indian tribes, the influence exercised

among them by French missionaries and traders, and the whole French policy in Canada and Louisiana ; all which considerations demonstrated the necessity of retaining Canada, in order to avoid future wars with their heavy expenditures, from causes arising in that quarter, and to insure the safety and prosperity of the colonies and their value to the mother-country.

The second point relates to the insufficiency of the method insisted on by his opponent and usually pursued, of block-houses and forts, however strongly garrisoned, or however judiciously placed, to defend a frontier nearly two thousand miles in length, covered with vast primeval forests, swarming with savage tribes familiar with every part of them, and threading them in every direction, in small bands, moving with a celerity that baffled any possible effort of regular troops to pursue them, or even to discover their trail, unless by accident, and spreading desolation and terror through the new settlements. Such military posts would, indeed, be of some service for guarding particular passes, and covering a few places here and there threatened by the regular troops of the enemy, and were of still greater use as dépôts of provisions and warlike stores, but were utterly ineffectual to protect the general frontier, or prevent those border en

« PreviousContinue »