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Page 6

Benjamin Franklin

1706-1790

In 1753 he was raised to the important office of deputy post master general of America. Through ill management, this office had been unproductive: but soon after the appointment of Franklin, it became a source of revenue to the British crown. In this station, he rendered important services to General Braddock, in his wild and fatal expedition against fort Du Quesne. When, at length, Braddock was defeated, and the whole frontier was exposed to the incursions of the savages and the French, Franklin raised a company of volunteers, at the head of which he marched to the protection of the frontier.

At length, in 1757, the militia was disbanded by order of the British government, soon after which Franklin was appointed agent to settle the disputes which had arisen between the people of Pennsylvania, and the proprietary government. With this object in view, he left his native country once more for England. On his arrival, he laid the subject before tile privy council. The point in dispute was occasioned by an effort of the proprietors to exempt their private estates from taxation; and because this exemption was not admitted, they refused to make appropriations for the defense of the province, even in times of the greatest danger and necessity. Franklin managed the subject with great ability, and at length brought the proprietary faction to terms. It was agreed, that the proprietary lands should take their share in a tax for the public service, provided that Franklin would engage that the assessment should be fairly proportioned. The measure was accordingly carried into effect, and he remained at the British court as agent for his province. His reputation caused him also to be entrusted with the like commission from Massachusetts, Maryland, and Georgia. The molestation received by the British colonies, from the French in Canada, induced him to write a pamphlet, pointing out the advantages of a conquest of that province by the English; and the subsequent expedition against it, and its retention under the British government, at the peace, were, it is believed, much influenced by the force of his arguments on the subject. About this period, his talents as a philosopher were duly appreciated in various parts of Europe. He was admitted a fellow of the royal society of London, and the degree of doctor of laws was conferred upon him at St. Andrews, Edinburgh, and at Oxford.

In 1762 he returned to America. On his arrival the provincial assembly of Pennsylvania expressed their sense of his meritorious services by a vote of thanks; and as a remuneration for his successful labors in their behalf, they granted him the sum of five thousand dollars. During his absence, he had annually been elected a member of the assembly, in which body he now took his seat. The following year he made a journey of sixteen hundred miles, through the northern colonies, for the purpose of inspecting and regulating the post offices.

In 1764, he was again appointed the agent of Pennsylvania, to manage her concerns in England, in which country he arrived in the month of December. About this period the famous stamp act was exciting violent commotions in America. Against this measure, Dr. Franklin strongly enlisted himself, and on his arrival in England, he presented a petition against it, which, at his suggestion, had been drawn up by the Pennsylvania assembly. At length the tumults in America became so great, that the ministry found it necessary either to modify the act, or to repeal it entirely. Among others, Dr. Franklin was summoned before the house of commons, where he underwent a long examination. "No person was better acquainted with the circumstances and internal concerns of the colonies, the temper and disposition of the colonists towards the parent country, or their feelings in relation to the late measure of parliament, than this gentleman. His answers to the numerous questions put to him in the course of this inquiry, not only show his extensive acquaintance with the internal state of the colonies, but evince his sagacity as a statesmen. To the question, whether the Americans would submit to pay the stamp duty if the act were modified, and the duty reduced to a small amount? He answered, no, they never will submit to it. British statesmen were extremely desirous that the colonial assemblies should acknowledge the right of parliament to tax them, and rescind and erase from their journals their resolutions on this subject. To a question, whether the American assemblies would do this, Dr. Franklin answered, 'they never will do it, unless compelled by force of arms.'"

The whole of this examination on being published was read with deep interest, both in England and America. To the statements of Dr. Franklin, the repeal of the stamp act was, no doubt, in a great-measure, attributable.

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Last modified January 2, 2004