The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 2 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 336

its only apparent, and probably its true and real motive and
encouragement. Justice is as strictly due between neighbour nations,
as between neighbour citizens. A highwayman is as much a robber when
he plunders in a gang, as when single; and a nation, that makes
an unjust war, is only a great gang. After employing your people
in robbing the Dutch, strange is it, that, being put out of that
employ by peace, they still continue robbing, and rob one another?
_Piraterie_, as the French call it, or privateering, is the universal
bent of the English nation, at home and abroad, wherever settled. No
less than seven hundred privateers were, it is said, commissioned in
the last war! These were fitted out by merchants, to prey upon other
merchants, who had never done them any injury. Is there probably any
one of those privateering merchants of London, who were so ready to
rob the merchants of Amsterdam, that would not as readily plunder
another London merchant of the next street, if he could do it with
the same impunity! The avidity, the _alieni appetens_, is the same;
it is the fear alone of the gallows that makes the difference. How
then can a nation, which, among the honestest of its people, has so
many thieves by inclination, and whose government encouraged and
commissioned no less than seven hundred gangs of robbers; how can
such a nation have the face to condemn the crime in individuals, and
hang up twenty of them in a morning! It naturally puts one in mind
of a Newgate anecdote. One of the prisoners complained, that in the
night somebody had taken his buckles out of his shoes. "What, the
devil!" says another, "have we then _thieves_ amongst us? It must not
be suffered. Let us search out the rogue, and pump him to death."

There is, however, one late instance of an English merchant, who will
not profit by such ill-gotten gain. He was, it seems, part-owner of
a ship, which the other owners thought fit to employ as a letter of
marque, and which took a number of French prizes. The booty being
shared, he has now an agent here enquiring, by an advertisement in
the Gazette, for those who suffered the loss, in order to make them,
as far as in him lies, restitution. This conscientious man is a
Quaker. The Scotch presbyterians were formerly as tender; for there
is still extant an ordinance of the town-council of Edinburgh, made
soon after the reformation, "forbidding the purchase of prize goods,
under pain of losing the freedom of the burgh

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