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fondness for the old home no doubt helped to form that very conservative position which he took in the beginning of the Revolution, and which was so displeasing to some people in Massachusetts. His reason, though not his inclination, was, as he says, for America, but the ignorant and brutal course of the British ministry finally made reason and inclination one.
DIFFICULTIES AND FAILURE IN ENGLAND
FRANKLIN's diplomatic career was now to begin in earnest. Although the petition to change Pennsylvania into a royal province under the direct rule of the crown was, fortunately, not acted upon and not very seriously pressed, he, nevertheless, continued to believe that such a change would be beneficial and might some day be accomplished.
He looked upon the king as supreme ruler of the colonies, and retained this opinion until he heard of actual bloodshed in the battle of Lexington. The king and not Parliament had in the beginning given the colonies their charters; the king and not Parliament had always been the power that ruled them; wherefore the passage by Parliament of stamp acts and tea acts was a usurpation. This was one of the arguments in which many of the colonists had sought refuge, but few of them clung to it so long as Franklin.
Almost immediately after his arrival in London in December, 1764, the agitations about the proposed Stamp Act began, and within a few weeks he was deep in them. His previous residence of five years in London when he was trying to have the proprietary estates taxed had given him some knowledge of men and affairs in the great capital ; had given him,
indeed, his first lessons in the diplomat's art; but he was now powerless against the Stamp Act. The ministry had determined on its passage, and they considered the protests of Franklin and the other colonial agents of little consequence.
The act passed, and Franklin wrote home on the subject one of his prettiest letters to Charles Thomson :
Depend upon it, my good neighbor, I took every step in my power to prevent the passing of the Stamp Act. But the tide was too strong against us. ... The nation was provoked by American claims of independence, and all parties joined in resolving by this act to settle the point. We might as well have hindered the sun's setting. That we could not do. But since it is down, my friend, and it may be long before it rises again, let us make as good a night of it as we can. We may still light candles. Frugality and industry will go a great way towards indemnifying us. Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand than kings and parliaments. If we can get rid of the former we may easily bear the latter.”
Grenville, in conformity with his assurance that the act would work satisfactorily even to the Americans, announced that stamp officers would not be sent from England, but that the kind mother would appoint colonists, and he asked the colonial agents to name to him honest and responsible men in their several colonies. Franklin recommended his old friend John Hughes, a respectable merchant of Philadelphia, never dreaming that by so doing he was getting the good man into trouble. soon as Hughes's commission arrived his house was threatened by the mob and he was forced to resign.
Franklin had no idea that the colonies would be so indignant and offer so much resistance.
posed that they would quietly submit, buy the stamps, and paste them on all their documents. He bought a quantity of stamped paper and sent it over to his partner, David Hall, to sell in the little stationery shop which was still attached to their printing-office. When he heard of the mob violence and the positive determination not to pay the tax, he was surprised and disgusted. He wrote to John Hughes, expressing surprise at the indiscretion of the people and the rashness of the Virginia Assembly. “A firm loyalty to the crown,” he said, “and a faithful adherence to the government of this nation, which it is the safety as well as honour of the colonies to be connected with, will always be the wisest course for you and I to take." *
His old opponents, the proprietary party, were not slow to take this opportunity to abuse him as faithless to his province and the American cause. A certain Samuel Smith went about telling the people that Franklin had planned the Stamp Act and intended to have the Test Act put in force in America. A caricature of the time represents the devil whispering in his ear, “Thee shall be agent, , Ben, for all my dominions," and underneath was printed
“ All his designs concentre in himself
The mob even threatened his house, much to the alarm of his wife, who, however, sturdily remained
* Pennsylvania : Colony and Commonwealth, p. 314.
and refused to seek safety in flight. This and other events, together with the information that he received from America during the next few months, compelled him to change his ground. He saw that there was to be substantial resistance to the act, and he joined earnestly in the agitation for its repeal. This agitation was carried on during the autumn of 1765 and a very strong case made for the colonies, the most telling part of which was the refusal of the colonists to buy English manufactured goods, which had already lost the British merchants millions of pounds sterling
In December Parliament met and the whole question was gone into with thoroughness. For six weeks testimony was taken before the House sitting as committee of the whole, and merchants, manufacturers, colonial agents, and every one who was supposed to be able to throw light on the subject were examined. It was during the course of this investigation that Franklin was called and gave those famous answers which enhanced his reputation more than any other one act of his life, except, perhaps, his experiment with the kite.
For a long time before the examination he had been very busy interviewing all sorts of persons, going over the whole ground of the controversy and trying to impress members of Parliament with the information and arguments that had come to him from the colonies. His answers in the examination were not given so entirely on the spur of the moment as has sometimes been supposed, for he had gone over the subject again and again in