Benjamin Franklin Representative selections, with introduction, bibliograpy, and notes

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 65

on the Present Situation of Our Public Affairs_ (1764) he set up a
sturdy antagonism between "Proprietary Interest and Power, and Popular
Liberty." Unlike the "lunatic fringe" of liberals who see "Popular
Liberty compatible only with a tendency toward anarchy" Franklin urged
that the Pennsylvania government lacked "Authority enough to keep the
common Peace."[i-298] The constitutional nature of proprietary
government had lost dignity and hence "suffers in the Opinion of the
People, and with it the Respect necessary to keep up the Authority of
Government." Almost Burkean in his apology for change, he suggested that
the popular party demand "rather and only a Change of Governor, that is,
instead of self-interested Proprietaries, a gracious King!" His
_Narrative of the Late Massacres in Lancaster County_[i-299] is a bloody
tribute to the lack of authority and police power of the current regime.
The _Petition to the King_ for a royal governor maintained that, torn by
"armed Mobs," the government was "weak, unable to support its own
Authority, and maintain the common internal Peace of the

While petitioning for a crown colony, he found himself in 1765 faced
with a larger than provincial interest--Lord Grenville's Stamp Act
forced him into the role of one seeking definition of colonial status.
Such was his position in his examination (1766) before the House of
Commons relative to the repeal of the Stamp Act. Almost brusquely he
told his catechizers that even a moderated stamp act could not be
enforced "unless compelled by force of arms."[i-301] With a preface
asserting that colonials before 1763 were proud to be called Old-England
men, he summarized: "The authority of parliament was allowed to be valid
in all laws, except such as should lay internal taxes. It was never
disputed in laying duties to regulate commerce."[i-302] Parliament, in
the colonial view, had no right to lay internal taxes because "we are
not represented there." Mr. Merriam observes that in advancing this
legal and constitutional issue, the colonists "had in short an
antiquated theory as to the position and power of Parliament, and a
premature theory of Parliamentary representation."[i-303]

Franklin referred to the Pennsylvania colonial charter to prove that all
that was asked for was the "privileges and liberties of Englishmen."
When the examiners asked whether the colonists appealing to the Magna
Charta and constitutional rights of Englishmen could not with equal
force "object to the parliament's right of external taxation," Franklin
with cautious ambiguity declared: "They never have hitherto."[i-304]
Franklin's skill in upholding tenuous, almost "metaphysical,"
constitutional grievances (grievances, however, which were not upheld by
constitutional legalists in England) captivated Edmund Burke's
imagination: Franklin appeared to him like a schoolmaster catechizing a

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Text Comparison with The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Page 0
In 1732 he began to issue his famous "Poor Richard's Almanac" for the enrichment of which he borrowed or composed those pithy utterances of worldly wisdom which are the basis of a large part of his popular reputation.
Page 1
His most notable service in home politics was his reform of the postal system; but his fame as a statesman rests chiefly on his services in connection with the relations of the Colonies with Great Britain, and later with France.
Page 8
He had a mechanical genius too, and, on occasion, was very handy in the use of other tradesmen's tools; but his great excellence lay in a sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and publick affairs.
Page 10
But one does not dress.
Page 12
This flattered my vanity; but my father discouraged me by ridiculing my performances, and telling me verse-makers were generally beggars.
Page 14
I had never before seen any of them.
Page 20
" Philadelphia was a hundred miles further; I set out, however, in a boat for Amboy, leaving my chest and things to follow me round by sea.
Page 26
I had a brother-in-law, Robert Holmes, master of a sloop that traded between Boston and Delaware.
Page 28
I went to see him at his printing-house.
Page 47
They were not yet come to town, and my stay was uncertain, so I could not undertake it; but, from this incident, I thought it likely that, if I were to remain in England and open a swimming-school, I might get a good deal of money; and it struck me so strongly, that, had the overture been sooner made me, probably I should not so soon have returned to America.
Page 58
Meredith was no compositor, a poor pressman, and seldom sober.
Page 64
I piti'd poor Miss Read's unfortunate situation, who was generally dejected, seldom cheerful, and avoided company.
Page 65
None of the inconveniences happened that we had apprehended, she proved a good and faithful helpmate, assisted me much by attending the shop; we throve together, and have ever mutually endeavored to make each other happy.
Page 67
It will moreover present a table of the internal circumstances of your country, which will very much tend to invite to it settlers of virtuous and manly minds.
Page 73
In this way my affair went on more smoothly, and I ever after practis'd it on such occasions; and, from my frequent successes, can heartily recommend it.
Page 95
Our club, the Junto, was found so useful, and afforded such satisfaction to the members, that several were desirous of introducing their friends, which could not well be done without exceeding what we had settled as a convenient number, viz.
Page 99
Both house and ground were vested in trustees, expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say something to the people at Philadelphia; the design in building not being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in general; so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.
Page 121
having lived many years in it very happily, and perhaps to some of our towns in America.
Page 144
Fothergill, he thought them of too much value to be stifled, and advis'd the printing of them.
Page 161
from Yale and Harvard.