A STATED MEETING of the Society was held, at the invitation of the President, at No. 44 Brimmer Street, Boston, on Thursday, February 15, 1934, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Samuel Eliot Morison, in the chair.
The minutes of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary announced the death of Hosea Ballou Morse, a Corresponding Member, on February 13, 1934.
The Corresponding Secretary reported that letters had been received from Mr. Chandler Bullock and the Hon. Fred Tarbell Field accepting Resident Membership; from Mr. Milton Ellis and Mr. John Farquhar Fulton accepting Corresponding Membership; and from the Hon. Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Mr. Charles Franklin Thwing accepting Honorary Membership in the Society.
The Society elected to Resident Membership Mr. Hermann Frederick Clarke, of Boston, Mr. Albert Harrison Hall, of Watertown, and Mr. Clarence Eldon Walton, of Cambridge.
The Council recommended for adoption by the Society the following amendments to the By-laws:
Chap. II, Art. I. In the second paragraph, first line, after the word “Resident” omit the words “Corresponding or Honorary,” so that this paragraph will read:
“No person shall be eligible to Resident Membership who cannot prove, by documentary evidence satisfactory to the Council, his lineal descent from an ancestor who was a resident of the Colony of Plymouth or of the Massachusetts Bay.”
Chap. XI. Omit: “Art. 5. After the death of a Resident Member it [the Council] shall appoint a member of the Society to prepare a Memoir of the deceased.”
These amendments were unanimously adopted by the Society.
The Editor presented, on behalf of Mr. Verner W. Crane, a paper entitled:
THE rôle of Benjamin Franklin in the Stamp Act crisis and its influence upon the development of his political ideas have not yet been fully explored. The ambiguity which surrounds this chapter in his life was created partly by his own equivocal conduct; partly by the secrecy in which he concealed some of his ideas and employments. To the attacks of political enemies who charged in America that he was himself the plotter with Grenville of the hated measure, he made no direct reply; but he permitted his friends to draw back the curtain a little way upon a scene of activity in which he was engaged in London in the winter of 1765–66. For the most part, however, he seems to have relied upon his brilliant examination before the House of Commons, followed so soon by repeal, to confute his critics.
As a result, historians and biographers have presented only a series of episodes to link Franklin with the Stamp Act. We glimpse him in the early months of 1765 laboring with his fellow-agents, not too strenuously it would seem, to turn Grenville’s mind from his favorite scheme back to the old device of requisitions. We see him, a little later, accepting perhaps too philosophically the fait accompli: confused between the claims of patriotism and patronage, nominating John Hughes for stamp distributor in Pennsylvania, advising Jared Ingersoll to accept the Connecticut post. And then, after many months of apparently complaisant silence, we discover him, tardily aroused by news of his own unpopularity and the plight of the antiproprietary party in Pennsylvania, writing a few essays for the newspapers, lobbying in Parliament, and finally rising to the height of an adroit and persuasive argument on the great occasion of his hearing before the House of Commons.
Not all the gaps in this inadequate narrative can be filled, for in the mass of Franklin papers there are also gaps. It is possible, however, to disclose the secret of Franklin’s counter-proposals to Grenville prior to the enactment of the stamp tax measure. It is possible also to reveal Franklin as a principal agent in the agitation for reopening the whole American question under the Rockingham ministry. It can be demonstrated, moreover, that the Stamp Act controversy had a decisive influence upon his formulation of theories of the empire and of American rights which, until he espoused independence, he had occasion to modify only in detail.
WHEN Franklin returned to England as agent for Pennsylvania at the end of 1764, Grenville’s revenue policy had long since been notified to the Americans, the new trade restrictions were in force, and the year of grace for the enactment of the stamp tax would expire the following March. Ten years earlier, in correspondence with William Shirley,129 Franklin had placed himself strongly on record against taxation of the colonists by parliament, in terms which anticipated certain of the arguments shortly to be heard against the Stamp Act. The colonists, he had predicted, would assert: “That it is suppos’d an undoubted Right of Englishmen not to be taxed but by their own Consent given thro’ their Representatives.” “Secondary taxes,” incidental to the regulation of trade, they did not complain of, but direct taxes laid by parliament
must seem hard Measure to Englishmen, who cannot conceive, that by hazarding their Lives and Fortunes in subduing and settling new Countries, extending the Dominion and encreasing the Commerce of their Mother Nation, they have forfeited the native Rights of Britons, which they think ought rather to have been given them, as due to such Merit, if they had been before in a State of Slavery.
These were views to which Franklin would shortly recur; at the beginning of 1765 they were perhaps somewhat obscured by other considerations. There is no evidence, however, apart from the innuendoes of his enemies, to support the view of his latest biographer that among the agents Franklin did less to oppose the law than any other. From such records of their conferences with Grenville as have come down it is apparent that the agents pressed upon the minister arguments which can be definitely attributed to Franklin; and that it was Franklin who contended for a return to the method of requisitions.
To be sure, it is said that it was this unhappy suggestion which enabled Grenville in his replies to reduce the agents to silence. But Franklin was not entirely silenced. There is definite evidence to show that he met Grenville’s challenge that the Americans produce a feasible substitute for the stamp tax. The evidence comes from Franklin himself, it is true, and from a letter written some twenty months later; but it fits neatly into what is known of his ideas at the time, and is consistent with his course on another significant American issue, the currency question. Had the facts been widely known in America, his enemies would not have been appeased, but they would have shifted the ground of their attack. Franklin did not propose the Stamp Act to Grenville, as some malicious men chose to believe; but he did bring forward a scheme for an equivalent American revenue.
The abortive interviews with Grenville occurred in February, 1765. By February 14, Franklin knew that the Stamp Act must pass, but he held out hope to an American correspondent that parliament would ease the colonies “in some particulars relating to our commerce, and a scheme is under consideration,” he added, “to furnish us with a currency, without which we can neither pay debts nor duties.”130 Here Franklin was sketching the outlines of that coördinated programme of economic and financial reform which throughout 1765 and 1766 was the objective of the “friends of America” in England. In the broader view of the American question of those years the movement for the repeal of the Stamp Act becomes an episode, though a major one, in this inclusive reform programme. Trade reform, with repeal, was the common ground upon which the agents and the merchants trading to North America could take their stand. But currency reform was Franklin’s own peculiar interest. Long after the repeal of the Stamp Act, and after the partial victories of the trade reformers in the spring of 1766, he continued to press it in one form or another upon successive ministers through the channel of the London merchants committee. In a letter to Joseph Galloway of October 11, 1766, he described the status of the scheme at the time, and in one noteworthy passage revealed in confidence the origin, in 1765, of his currency proposals:
You take notice, that in the London Merchants Letter there is mention made of a Plan for a general Currency in America, being under Consideration of the Ministry;—And you wish it may suit the Temper of the Americans. I will let you into the History of that Plan. When we were opposing the Stamp Act, before it pass’d, Mr. Grenville often threw out to us, that the Colonies had had Notice of it, and knew it would be necessary for Government here to draw some Revenue from them, and they had propos’d nothing that might answer the End and be more agreable to themselves: And then he would say, Can you Gentlemen that are Agents name any Mode of Raising Money for Public Service that the People would have less Objection to, if we should agree to drop this Bill?—This encourag’d me, to present him with a Plan for a General Loan Office in America, nearly like ours, but with some Improvements effectually to prevent Depreciation; to be established by Act of Parliament, appropriating the Interest to the American Service, &c. This I then thought would be a lighter and more bearable Tax than the Stamps, because those that pay it have an Equivalent in the Use of the Money; and that it would at the same time furnish us with a Currency which we much wanted, and could not obtain under the Restrictions lately laid on us. Mr. Grenville paid little Attention to it, being besotted with his Starap-Scheme, which he rather chose to carry through.131
It thus appears that early in 1765 Franklin was willing to concede an American revenue under an act of parliament, in a form which he described as a tax, so long as it might be expected to release those springs of abundant currency which, he believed, would revive the flagging prosperity of the colonies. Save for this disclosure, he seems to have kept his proposal a deep secret. Galloway probably counselled him to suppress the story. Indeed, on receiving this communication, Galloway wrote to Franklin’s son:
This part of his Letter I shall keep private, as I have heard from many very warm objections against such a Plan, and in the present Temper of Americans, I think it wd occasion great Clamours. I have been full in my Sentiments to him on the Subject by the Packet.132
In one branch of their duties the agents, including Franklin, may perhaps be charged with neglecting their opportunities in the months before the passage of the Stamp Act. There was singularly little effort made through newspaper or pamphlet to state the American case to the British public. Agents had before this played some part as propagandists, but the great epoch of American propaganda in England was yet to come, ushered in by the Stamp Act itself, and to no small degree directed by Franklin. The Stamp Act was foreordained; something, however, might be done to oppose other features of the new American policy. Two newspaper essays which appeared soon after his return to England, attacking the new trade regulations, bear evidences of his authorship.133 Franklin also claimed credit for securing the deletion from the Mutiny Act of a provision impowering officers to quarter troops in private houses in America. It is certain that he was working hand in glove with Alderman Trecothick and the committee of North American merchants against this clause; and it is probable that he was the author of the published card of protest of the North American agents, and of two letters of expostulation, signed “An American,” which appeared in St. James’s Chronicle in April.134 The second of these letters covered a wider range:
For my Part, Sir, I am not surprised at any Law that may be made at present with regard to our Colonies: A groundless Jealousy prevails towards them, and new Systems and Opinions have of late been adopted, of which the Americans have hitherto had no Conception.
“Partial laws of trade” were denounced; and Englishmen were reminded that since the Americans “have by their Charters a complete Legislature within themselves, they should … be allowed the Privilege of taxing themselves.” As for the Quartering Act, it “is in fact making slaves of them.”
There is a point to which a People may be imposed on, and to that Point they will submit without much Murmur; and that Point once passed, dreadful will be the Consequences: The History of all Countries, and particularly our own, furnishes many Examples of this.
But Franklin did not yet realize that with the Stamp Act the point at which submission ends was actually passed for many of his fellow-countrymen. In July, he was to write his famous apologia to Charles Thomson:
Depend upon it, my good neighbour, I took every step in my power to prevent the passing of the Stamp Act . . . We might as well have hindered the sun’s setting. That we could not do. But since ’tis 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.135
EVERYONE quotes this letter and draws the deduction that Franklin saw but dimly into the future. He saw no further into the American response to the Stamp Act, certainly, than all men in England, and, until Virginia spoke, most men in America. But there is an interesting sequel which has been overlooked. In September, Charles Thomson wrote a reply to Franklin to set him right upon the sentiments of the Americans; and in November Franklin procured the publication in the London Chronicle, through the agency of his friend William Strahan, of excerpts from this correspondence,136 with the signatures suppressed, as part of an active campaign to reopen that issue which, in July, he had thought was pretty definitely closed.
Early in August Franklin was writing to John Hughes: “As to the Stamp Act, tho’ we purpose doing our Endeavour to get it repeal’d, … yet the Success is uncertain.”137 The incentive to renew the battle was furnished partly by the more favorable complexion of the Rockingham ministry, chiefly by news from America. Long before Franklin had received his answer from Thomson, and apparently before he had been fully informed of his ominous unpopularity in Pennsylvania—this was the news from America which, it has sometimes been alleged, stirred him to new activity—other sensational dispatches from the colonies had at first disturbed him, and then plunged him into a vigorous campaign of publicity which was the prologue to the great battle for repeal. To John Hughes he had written calmly enough of the first political repercussions of the Stamp Act in Pennsylvania, but in evident alarm at the radical resolves of the Virginia burgesses, which were provoking dangerous resentment at home. The “madness of the populace” in America and their “blind leaders” must be curbed; but equally the rising storm of disapproval in England must be stayed by a skilful pleading of America’s case, lest worse befall. During the fall British public opinion grew steadily more hostile with the news of the American riots. For the next six months Franklin devoted himself with amazing industry and skill to propaganda.
The discovery of Franklin’s specific contributions to the debate which began in August and September is a task of no little difficulty, and the conclusions here stated must at many points be regarded as tentative. As to his activity, especially in the later months of the controversy, there is plenty of testimony. Strahan was partly in the secret; in January he wrote to David Hall that “all this while too, he [Franklin] hath been throwing out Hints in the Public Papers, and giving Answers to such letters as have appeared in them, that required or deserved an Answer.—In this Manner is he now employed, with very little Interruption, Night & Day.”138 To Lord Kames, Franklin himself wrote: “You guessed aright in supposing that I would not be a mute in that play.”139 Dr. John Fothergill and other friends of the Pennsylvania agent rallied to his defence;140 and in 1767 the new Pennsylvania Chronicle devoted much space in several of the early numbers to his rehabilitation. A long essay by “A Lover of Justice” was inserted to prove that Franklin’s activities in aid of repeal, as a lobbyist and writer, had been persistent and effective.141 In succeeding numbers William Goddard reprinted nine essays contributed by Franklin to London newspapers in 1765 and 1766. For lack of space Goddard omitted other pieces, but in his explanation supplied a clue to identify two or three of the earliest and most significant of these. For the rest it is possible to reach certain conclusions by a critical use of internal evidence. With regard to some items it can only be said that they reflect his ideas or bear traces of having been revised by his hand. Even so, the conclusion is well justified that Franklin became thus early the engineer of the American propaganda machine in London. In this capacity he reprinted the more notable pamphlets from America; encouraged much writing in England; and himself wrote some of the most persuasive essays. These activities, begun in 1765, he continued throughout his residence as agent in England, especially in the years through 1770; the greater part of this writing has not hitherto been recognized as Franklin’s. The widespread reprinting of his pieces in the American papers raises the further interesting question, as yet largely ignored, of his direct influence upon the ideas as well as upon the polemic of the American Revolution.
One significant fact that emerges from a close inspection of his propagandist writings between September, 1765, and the repeal of the Stamp Act, and even more decisively from his unprinted private musings on the controversy, is that as he elaborated the American case he rapidly advanced in his own thinking to more radical views of the character of American rights. When Bradford later published a deadly parallel between Galloway’s “Americanus” essay and Franklin’s Examination,142 he revealed only a part of the distance in ideas which had come to separate those two allies in Pennsylvania politics. Yet Franklin in one respect kept closer touch with Galloway than with any other American: in his hope of perfecting, on a liberal model, what he called a “consolidating union” with Great Britain.
The Virginia Resolves, in the colonies an “alarm bell to the disaffected,” raised other echoes in England. Among the Franklin essays for which Goddard could find no room in his Chronicle, some, he said, “are sign’d A Virginian, being in answer to some Reflections cast on that Colony and Maryland.”143 An examination of the London newspapers of this period has brought to light three pieces, printed in September, 1765, which answer this description.144 Two were actually signed “A Virginian,” and besides this significant signature reveal such other internal evidences of Franklin’s authorship that it is reasonable to assign them definitely to him. With the third essay, signed “Equity,” they fall into a familiar Franklin category of propitiatory argument. They contain a partial concession to the views of the opposition; they develop an adroit parallel between English and American motives and actions, and English and American rights; and they finally advance, by a Socratic route, to higher ground of principle. In a “P.S. Quaere” appended to his second letter, “A Virginian” touched, however tentatively, upon those difficult questions of compact and of natural right on which singularly little is to be found, save by implication, in Franklin’s acknowledged publications:
Are the children of English parents that are born in foreign parts of course subjects to our King? I ask only for information, though I am inclined to think that they are not. And if they are not so naturally, what is it can make them so but their own consent? and if the first settlers then, that went over to America, had charters from the King, by which they and their posterity were to form assemblies, make laws, &c. is it not a kind of compact by which their posterity agree to become his subjects upon those conditions? Now if these charters can be made void by an Act of Parliament, will that very Act destroy the Compact by which they became subjects? I may be wrong in this particular, and, if I am, shall be glad to be set right in it.
Here is radical doctrine, surely, for 1765; especially radical for the cautious and pragmatic Franklin. Cautious and pragmatic he usually was in his admitted utterances, and even in his anonymous publications. But it is of great importance in the exploration of his mind to recognize that thus early he had traversed in speculation, however imperfectly and apologetically, pretty much the whole ground that would be covered in the next decade by the theoretical expounders of American rights.
Theory, however, was subordinated in most of Franklin’s writing against the Stamp Act to arguments from expediency and material interest. Over the signatures “F. B.,” “N.N.,” “Homespun,” “Pacificus Secundus,” and probably also “Americus,” “Justice,” and “O,”145 he resented the calumnies on the Americans circulated by “Tom Hint,” “Vindex Patriae,” and other “writers against the colonies.” “Pacificus” drew his fire, not only as an advocate of the doctrine of virtual representation, which Franklin turned neatly into a paradox, but even more as an advocate of enforcement of the tax by military power—a threat which Franklin regarded as a very serious practical danger. He devoted much of his polemic in December and January to thwart it. To the charges of American ingratitude he repeatedly advanced the sacrifices of blood and treasure which the colonists had made in the last war—a war which he described as primarily in the interest of British trade—and reminded Englishmen that the riches of the colonies centered finally, through trade, in Britain. With characteristic frugality as a writer he got out and refurbished the arguments on taxation embodied in his letters of 1754 to Shirley; these indeed were printed, in February, 1766, in the London Chronicle and in several periodicals, no doubt at his instance. Another useful arsenal he found in his own Canada pamphlet of 1760, The Interest of Great Britain Considered; from it especially he drew his arguments from commercial expediency, based upon his former observations of the rapid increase of colonial population and trade. Indeed the recurrence, not merely of ideas and of arguments, but also of phraseology drawn from the Shirley letters and the Canada pamphlet furnishes one of the best clues to Franklin’s authorship of certain of the pamphlets as well as numerous newspaper essays in the Stamp Act debate.
The motives which impelled Franklin to draw the veil of anonymity over much of his writing in this period are not far to seek, though his enemies gave them the worst construction. His possession of a crown appointment in the Post Office did not make him anti-American, as was insinuated; but it certainly confirmed him in his instinctive prudence. It is also true that he was shrewdly aware that his arguments for American rights would gain in effect in England if they seemed to come from a less interested source than a colonial agent. On occasion he posed in his essays as an Englishman, with neither kinsfolk nor property overseas. It was an age of anonymity in controversy, and such devices were neither uncommon nor, by contemporary standards, especially dishonest. But Franklin had to pay for his prudence in vituperation from the friends of the Penns and, probably, from the friends of the Massachusetts agent, De Berdt. One notable libeller of the Doctor—also an anonymous writer—in a letter from London, printed in the Pennsylvania Journal, charged that Franklin had basely kept silence in face of the threat to American liberties:
Several pens were employed to plead the cause of America, by every argument that might affect our sense of humanity, justice, or interest. But why does not the Pennsylvania agent write? He has leisure and a masterly pen; The question was never answered.146
The question can now be answered, however, in a sense more favorable to Franklin’s zeal and industry. His masterly pen was not idle. Besides numerous newspaper essays, it is probable that he wrote also certain pamphlets. That he set out to write one Stamp Act pamphlet early in 1766 can be shown beyond question. Among the Franklin manuscripts are eight folios, in his hand, of an intended tract, including two folios of a first draft and six folios of a revised version. That these were originally designed for pamphlet publication, rather than as newspaper essays, can be easily demonstrated. The draft is incomplete; so far as it goes it covers, with certain gaps, the history of the causes and development of the American disputes from the time of the failure of the Albany Plan of Union, so largely the work of Franklin, through the enactment of the new trade regulations, the Currency Act, and the Stamp Act; there are also reflections upon the misrepresentation of American conditions by British colonial officials. Even in the form in which it has survived it has distinctive quality. It promised to be an argument at least on the level of Franklin’s well-known “Causes of the American Discontents” (1768). It has not been found possible to identify it with any of the numerous anonymous pamphlets of the time. Rather it seems probable that it was undertaken shortly before repeal, and then laid aside, unfinished, as a superfluous exercise. One passage Franklin salvaged in 1767 when he printed it in a letter to the London Chronicle as a quotation from an unnamed author: “one who had lived long in America, knew the people and their affairs extremely well—and was equally well acquainted with the temper and practises of government officers.”147
The existence of this fragment of a pamphlet increases the probability that elsewhere among the unsigned political tracts which issued numerously from the English as from the American presses in that year may be discovered some one or more to which his name may reasonably be attached. Actually the present writer has found two such pamphlets, printed in London in December, 1765, and January, 1766, which are closely integrated in argument, and each of them is so intricately interwoven in materials and expression with Franklin’s known writings over a long period—indeed from 1754 to 1775—that they seem clearly to belong to the Franklin canon. While the proof of these suspicions would strongly reinforce the case for Franklin’s important rôle in the propaganda, and would help to define somewhat more clearly his ideas of the empire and of American rights, since one of the pamphlets asserts a claim to colonial home rule, it is here omitted because of the necessity of an elaborate textual analysis.
BEHIND the propaganda barrage the active political movement for the repeal of the Stamp Act and for the reform of the trade regulations got under way. Early in November, 1765, Franklin had a long audience with the young Lord Dartmouth, with whom he was greatly pleased; he was also invited to dine with Rockingham. He urged upon Dartmouth—probably also upon Rockingham—that “the general Execution of the Stamp Act would be impracticable without occasioning more Mischief than it was worth, by totally alienating the Affections of the Americans from this Country, & thereby lessening its Commerce.” At the time he apparently thought that it was useless to press for immediate repeal; instead, he argued that Britain should suspend the act
for a Term of Years, till the Colonies should be more clear of Debt, & better able to bear it, & then drop it on some other decent Pretence, without ever bringing the Question of Right to a Decision. And I strongly recommended either a thorough Union with America, or that Government here would proceed in the old Method of Requisition, by which I was confident more would be obtained in the Way of voluntary Grant, than could probably be got by compulsory Taxes laid by Parliament…. That to send Armies & Fleets to enforce the Act, would not, in my Opinion, answer any good End.148
Finally he proposed to Dartmouth that upon the suspension of the act a royal commission of “three or four wise & good Men, Personages of some Rank & Dignity,” be sent over to America to hear the complaints of the colonists, promise them redress, and endeavor “to convince & reclaim them by Reason, where they found them in the Wrong.” The whole conversation with Dartmouth, as reported by Franklin, was a characteristic exhibition of his firm but cautious strategy of reconciliation, designed to avert that danger which he was already predicting from harsher measures—“of a future total Separation.”
Suspension of the Stamp Act was the objective in early November; but a month later the agents were ready to press for immediate repeal. They had won powerful reinforcements from the mercantile group. On December 4, 1765, there assembled at the King’s Arms Tavern a great meeting of the merchants trading to North America. From this meeting came the formation of that enterprising committee, headed by Barlow Trecothick, which more than any other agency was responsible for the repeal. The story of its activities has recently been told:149 the drumming up of petitions for repeal from the trading and manufacturing towns and the arrangement of hearings, such as Franklin’s, before the Commons. A temporary alliance of the North American and West Indian committees paved the way for an unprecedented mercantile domination of that session of parliament: before the coalition of these naturally discordant interests was dissolved, it resulted, not merely in repeal of the Stamp Act, but also in a partial reform of the American trade regulations.
Franklin’s connections with the committee of London merchants trading to North America are, however, a matter of dispute. He was charged with standing outside the movement and only raising his voice, in his examination, after the success of the repeal agitation had already been determined by a private poll of the Commons; but this testimony comes from a discredited source.150 To be sure, Franklin’s relations with the Massachusetts agent, De Berdt, a member of the committee, were very cool, and this may have limited his coöperation. There is evidence, however, that he was twice present at meetings of the committee. His association with Trecothick and an earlier merchants’ committee in the previous spring will be recalled.
The climax of Franklin’s propaganda against the Stamp Act, if not of the development of his privately held political views, was reached on the occasion of his famous examination before the House of Commons in February, 1766. The affair was elaborately stage-managed. The groundwork had been well laid by the committee of North American merchants; and it is known that Franklin himself concerted with friendly members of the Commons those leading questions which gave him his opportunity to score heavily against the feasibility of the measure. His answers were quite as ready to the hostile questions of Grenville and other opponents of repeal, which suggests that he had carefully prepared the whole case. He drew largely for his arguments from his own previously printed essays. Moreover, he probably came into the House well armed with notes. Indeed there exist among his manuscripts two sets of memoranda which bear strong indications that they were prepared for this occasion. Certainly they were drawn up during the height of the agitation for repeal; and several striking parallels between them and the printed Examination point to a closer connection.151
The notes in question also include a number of ideas and arguments which Franklin did not develop in his examination, if the printed text can be supposed to be reasonably complete. The most interesting of these additions are the suggestions of “Three Ways of avoiding these Inconveniences”152— the inconveniences, that is, of parliamentary taxation. This passage brings into interesting conjunction the three expedients which, since 1754, Franklin had formulated to solve the imperial problem in America. The synthesis is far from complete—indeed the suggestions were offered as alternative ideas. The first alternative, discussed at some length, was his current proposal, concurred in by Otis but repugnant to most Americans, of colonial representation at Westminster. The arguments that were stressed for this solution seem to have been contrived rather for British than for American ears. The second suggestion was the plan of the Albany Congress, drafted by Franklin, for a common council to represent the colonial assemblies. The third, barely listed here, was the proposal which Franklin had made to Grenville early in 1765 as a substitute for the Stamp Act, “the Paper Money Scheme.” Of these three choices only the first was actually developed by Franklin in his examination, and then only in a negative sense, to deny the right of parliament to tax the colonies until properly qualified by the admission of colonial members.
In the examination, as is well known, Franklin in general skilfully avoided the knotty questions of the basis of the colonial claims; and he asserted the claim for exemption from taxation within the narrow limits of internal taxation. On this head one passage has often been cited as an example of his suppleness in argument. He had admitted that the distinction between external and internal taxation did not exist in the language of the charter; might not the colonists, he was asked, “by the same interpretation, object to the Parliament’s right of external taxation?”
A[nswer]. They never have hitherto. Many arguments have been lately used here to shew them, that there is no difference, and that, if you have no right to tax them internally, you have none to tax them externally, or make any other law to bind them. At present they do not reason so; but in time they may possibly be convinced by these arguments.153
Commentators have emphasized in this passage the prophecy—or threat—implied in the phrases “at present” and “in time.” Is it not quite as significant that Franklin was speaking here in the third person, not in the first? Again he declared, in the same tone of reporting the sentiments of the Americans rather than arguing his own views:
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.154
Here, too, one detects, as so often in Franklin’s writings, the suggestion of an arrière pensée. The influence of the organized merchants, who had prepared the scene for the examination, was continuously exerted in 1766 to suppress the discussion of large constitutional issues. Franklin, with his usual caution, was not unsympathetic with these tactics, and in his examination brought them to brilliant perfection. Indeed, throughout the whole of his newspaper and pamphlet polemic, in the years after the repeal of the Stamp Act as well as at this time, when he advanced the more limited claims of the Americans, he generally wrote in the character of a reporter of the principles held overseas. His own views he kept prudently in reserve, even in his correspondence, until, around 1768, he began to communicate them, in strict confidence, to a few of his American friends. In consequence, those students who have read only his published political essays, and have then encountered these later revealing letters, have concluded that it was not until some years after the Stamp Act excitement, when new measures had raised new issues, that Franklin began to revise his views of parliamentary authority and of American rights in the direction of home rule.
LUCKILY there exist certain clues to the well-kept secret of his private opinions in the winter of 1765–66. It was Franklin’s habit to enter comments in the margins of his copies of the controversial tracts. Many such revealing marginalia are to be found in the pamphlets still preserved from Franklin’s library. Some of these were reproduced, not too completely or accurately, by Jared Sparks and John Bigelow; but the latest Franklin editor, Smyth, regarded them as too “crude and fragmentary” to deserve much attention. Actually they are of first-rate importance, and it is curious that they have not been carefully studied to trace the workings of Franklin’s mind on imperial problems before the Revolution. There are difficulties, to be sure, in determining in certain instances just when the notes were set down. Several of the pamphlets in question were printed in 1769 and 1770, and were apparently annotated by Franklin in those years, when he had already given the clue to his ideas of colonial autonomy in letters to his son and to Samuel Cooper. There are, however, three annotated tracts of 1765 and 1766 in which the marginalia bear indications of strict contemporaneity; in the case of the more important of these the evidence is especially strong. The three are: a collection of colonial charters; William Knox, The Claim of the Colonies to an Exemption from Internal Taxes imposed by Authority of Parliament, Examined (1765); and Protest against the Bill to Repeal the American Stamp Act, of Last Session (1766).155
When the Americans, in 1765, began to question the validity of parliamentary taxation, their first appeal, generally, was to their charters. The charters therefore acquired a new interest for the English public. Their texts were now published in the periodicals, and separately as pamphlets.156 Franklin possessed himself of one such collection which he indexed in the margins for ready reference; at numerous points he underscored the text and entered brief notes. Naturally he did not overlook those charter clauses which defined a power of taxation in the colonial governments.157 Several times, too, he emphasized the grant to the colonies of legislative powers. One may perhaps infer that thus early he was gathering ammunition upon the larger issue, as yet remote from most men’s minds, of colonial legislative autonomy. Elsewhere in his marginalia the evidence passes from inference to certainty.
The proofs appear in his comments, probably contemporaneous with the Stamp Act controversy, in the Knox pamphlet; and rather more decisively in the marginalia of the first Lords’ Protest (1766), which were quite certainly written down close to the time of its surreptitious publication. Here the notes have the unmistakable character of memoranda for a contemplated reply—such a reply as might have been made with effect in the spring of 1766, but which Franklin would hardly have planned to write at a later time.158 No such reply to the protesting peers was printed, probably because public interest in the American question evaporated so quickly after repeal. But the ideas discoverable in these marginalia were clearly those which Franklin held in the spring of 1766.
These ideas, it soon becomes apparent, struck at the roots of the doctrine of parliamentary sovereignty in the colonies. “The Sovereignty of the Crown I understand,” Franklin wrote in the margin of the first Protest. “The Sovy of the British Legislature out of Britain, I do not understand.”159 In January, 1766, in a newspaper letter signed “N.N.,” he had already argued that the extent of parliamentary power in the dominions was a moot point, yet to be settled authoritatively. But meanwhile parliament had adopted the resolutions of right which were incorporated in the Declaratory Act. In his examination Franklin roundly asserted that the Americans would think these resolutions “unconstitutional and unjust.”160 “It is to be wish’d it had not asserted it,” he wrote of the Declaratory Act in his copy of the first Protest, “or asserted it with some Limitation as when qualified etc”; and in his copy of the second Protest he entered an emphatic counter-protest against the Declaratory Act.161
Usually Franklin preferred an indirect to a frontal attack upon parliamentary sovereignty. “Anxious about preserving the Sovereignty of this Country?” he wrote on the first Protest. “Rather be so about preserving the Liberty. We shall be so about the Liberty of America, that your Posterity may have a free Country to come to, where you will be recd with open Arms.” In this passage Franklin set down, more succinctly than elsewhere, a train of argument, based upon the rights of the subject rather than upon an analysis of parliamentary powers, which was a favorite theme in his political writing. The note might, indeed, be taken as a summary of one of the suspected Franklin pamphlets published late in January, 1766.
In 1766 as clearly as in 1770, Franklin drew a sharp distinction between realm and dominions. “The Colonies,” he remarked in his Examination, “are not supposed to be within the realm; they have assemblies of their own, which are their parliaments, and they are, in that respect, in the same situation with Ireland.”162 In the marginalia he repeated the distinction again and again. When the protesting peers denounced as “a most dangerous doctrine” the asserted colonial opinion “that the obedience of the subject is not due to the Laws and Legislature of the Realm, farther than he in his private judgment shall think it conformable to the ideas he has formed of a free constitution,”163 Franklin commented:
The Danger easily removed. The Subject in America only. America not in the Realm of England or G.B. No man in America thinks himself exempt from the Jurisdiction of the Crown & and their own Assemblies—or has any such private Judgmt.
The power of taxation, the Lords declared, “cannot be properly, equitably or impartially exercised, if it does not extend itself to all the members of the state….”164 Franklin agreed, but now unmistakably defined the empire as a loose personal union in the Crown: “right; but we are different States. Subject to the King.” When Knox, in his attack on the charter exemptions, contended that the constitution of Great Britain “acknowledges no authority superior to the legislature, consisting of king, lords, and commons,”165 Franklin queried: “Does this Writer imagine that wherever an Englishman settles, he is Subject to the Power of Parliamt?” Knox’s description of the colonists as subjects of Great Britain166 he rejected in a note which goes all the way in its denial of parliamentary sovereignty over the colonies: “The People of G. Britain are Subjects of the King. G.B. is not a Sovereign. The Parliament has Power only within the Realm.” Again, when the Lords in the first Protest referred to the dependency of the colonies “on the imperial Crown and Parliament of Great Britain,”167 Franklin underlined “Parliament” and supplied this note: “Thrust yourselves in with the Crown in the Government of the Colonies. Do your Lordships mean to call the Parliament imperial [?]”
Franklin, it is clear, had come by 1766 to reject in principle the idea of the imperial character of parliament as then constituted, and was certainly aware that the implication of this denial extended far beyond the immediate debate over taxation. To be sure, he recognized that in these private views he was ahead of his time, ahead, indeed, of most American sentiment.168 When the Lords charged that the case which the Americans were making against taxation without representation actually “extends to all other laws,”169 he entered no denial on his own behalf, but remarked, in language strikingly similar to that which he had used in his examination upon the more restricted topic of internal and external taxation: “It is so reason’d here, not there, but in time they may be convinc’d.”
Now any such theory of colonial legislative autonomy within the empire was vulnerable at two points, as the later debates were to demonstrate: in point of law, and in the light of practice and precedent. To the latter difficulty Franklin gave rather more attention than to the former. His own arguments were often drawn from history; but as a reasonable man he had to recognize that, since the Restoration at all events, parliament had often legislated for America. This difficulty he confronted in his own thinking during the Stamp Act discussions, and thus early formulated his reply—not, on the whole, a very convincing one. At the head of his notes for a reply to the first Lords’ Protest he wrote:
We have submitted to your Laws, no Proof of our acknowledging your Power to make them. Rather an Acknowledgment of their Reasonableness or of our own Weakness.
Knox, in his pamphlet, asserted:
I find almost as many instances of the parliament’s exercising supreme legislative jurisdiction over the colonies, as there have been sessions of parliament since the first settlement of America by British subjects.170
Franklin’s reply was categorical: “All Usurpations of Power not belonging to them; many unjust.”
Franklin’s theory of usurpation was modified by a parallel doctrine of consent. This was most clearly stated, perhaps, in a letter to Thomas Cushing written in 1771:
My opinion has long been that Parliament had originally no Right to bind us by any kind of Law whatever without our Consent. We have indeed in a manner consented to some of them, at least tacitly. But for the future methinks we should be cautious how we add to those Instances, and never adopt or acknowledge an Act of Parliament but by a formal Law of our own.…171
When English writers brought forward the precedents of the Post Office, the Hat Act, or the Navigation Acts, Franklin was ready to acknowledge a tacit consent which gave those statutes separately a validity in America, but which manifested no general consent and hence conferred no general legislative powers. In some fashion or other laws binding upon the Americans must receive their assent: in their own assemblies, in a common council representing the assemblies, in a properly representative parliament, or, as in the past, in the crude fashion of colonial submission to reasonable legislation. With respect to taxation, at least, Franklin made this very clear. “The Trust of Taxing America,” he wrote in 1766, “was never reposed by the People of America in the Legislature of Gr. Britain.”172
The logical corollary of such a denial of parliamentary sovereignty as Franklin was shadowing forth as early as these Stamp Act days was a claim to the complete legislative independence of the colonial assemblies. But Franklin, a pragmatist, for some time refused to be entirely logical. In 1766 and 1767, he was content to formulate the lesser claim to internal legislative autonomy. To Lord Kames, in April, 1767, he communicated his doubts of the sovereignty of parliament, but added, sensibly:
On the other hand, it seems necessary for the common good of the empire, that a power be lodged somewhere, to regulate its general commerce: this can be placed nowhere so properly as in the Parliament of Great Britain.173
Here was a practical concession such as John Adams, among others, was willing to make as late as 1774. Franklin at first rationalized it, not too ingenuously, in the distinction between internal and external taxes. By 1768, he was ready to throw this distinction overboard; to his son he wrote: “I shall not give myself the trouble to defend it.” The real grievance, he had come to think, was not that Britain taxed her exports to the colonies—all countries had a power to tax their exports to foreign countries—but that she
forbids us to buy the like manufactures from any other country. This she does, however, in virtue of her allowed right to regulate the commerce of the whole empire, allowed I mean by the Farmer, though I think whoever would dispute that right might stand upon firmer ground, and make more of the argument….174
Not the logic of his constitutional theory, but his economic liberalism and his strong sense that America was a rapidly expanding and maturing community, urged him forward to a radical view of the empire as a commonwealth of free peoples joined in allegiance to the king.
Franklin, however, was not always content to define and justify this conception of the true colonial constitution as a loose personal union. He was, after all, very much an imperialist himself, often stirred to eloquence by dreams of the future power and grandeur of a Greater Britain. In certain moods he could counsel a return to the good old way as it had been happily practised before the late innovations in the government of colonies. At other times he advanced beyond home rule to advocate the creation of a more perfect union of realm and dominions. He was in such a mood when, in 1766, he wrote in his copy of the first Protest: “The Agitation of the Question of Right makes it now necessary to settle a Constitution for the Colonies.”175
Unfortunately only the vague outlines of Franklin’s “constitution” are discernible. It is well known that more than once he proposed the admission of colonial representatives to the parliament at Westminster, but it has not been so clearly understood that this was a detail in his scheme for a “consolidating union.” He seems to have been influenced in this direction during the Stamp Act crisis by his correspondence with the Scottish jurist and philosophe, Henry Home, Lord Kames, and no doubt by Galloway. In a belated reply to a letter from Kames of December, 1765, now lost, he wrote in 1767:
I am fully persuaded with you, that a Consolidating Union, by a fair and equal representation of all parts of this empire in Parliament, is the only firm basis on which its political grandeur and prosperity can be founded.176
By such means a “supreme legislature” would for the first time be created. “There is yet no such Thing,” Franklin wrote in his copy of the first Protest. “It is indeed wanted and to be wish’d for.”177 In a letter of May 9, 1766, to Cadwallader Evans, he was somewhat more explicit:
It would certainly contribute to the strength of the whole, if Ireland and all the dominions were united and consolidated under one common council for general purposes, each retaining its particular council or parliament for its domestic concerns.178
The creation of such a “consolidating union” must be the result of some such formal act of union as had earlier united England and Scotland: an act which by “ascertaining the relative Rights and Duties of each” would put an end to disruptive disputes.179
These liberal imperial ideas of 1766 Franklin continued to propound, at least in his more hopeful and idealistic moods, till almost the eve of his departure from England. Yet even in 1766, in more realistic moments, he had begun to despair of a solution upon any such broad basis of imperial federation. To Evans he had recalled the tale of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay, with its fatalistic theme: time is, time was, time is past. “The time has been, when the colonies might have been pleased with it,” he wrote to Karnes in 1767: “they are now indifferent about it; and if it is much longer delayed, they too will refuse it.”180 To Galloway, whose faith was more persistent in those schemes of federation which each had developed, not without mutual counsel and encouragement, since Stamp Act days, Franklin wrote early in 1774:
I wish most sincerely with you that a Constitution was formed and settled for America, that we might know what we are and what we have, what our Rights and what our Duties, in the Judgment of this Country as well as in our own. Till such a Constitution is settled, different Sentiments will ever occasion Misunderstandings. But if ‘tis to be settled, it must settle itself, nobody here caring for the Trouble of thinking on’t.181
Thus Franklin was thrown back upon his other position, also well outlined in his thinking as early as 1766, of colonial autonomy. His classic statement of this contention occurs in a letter to his son, written in 1768, in which he rejected alike the “half-way house” of the Pennsylvania Farmer and also what he described as the Boston doctrine of the “subordination” of the assemblies to a Parliament whose power to make laws for them they at the same time denied:
Something might be made of either of the extremes; that Parliament has a power to make all laws for us, or that it has a power to make no laws for us; and I think the arguments for the latter more numerous and weighty, than those for the former. Supposing that doctrine established, the colonies would then be so many separate states, only subject to the same king, as England and Scotland were before the union.182
This utterance has been thought to mark Franklin’s conversion to the radical doctrine of colonial autonomy, and to place him, even in 1768, well in advance of most of the theorists of the American Revolution. In almost every point it had been anticipated by Franklin himself during the Stamp Act crisis. His advanced ideas, to be sure, he only partially revealed at the time, and in later propaganda he often prudently withdrew to a more moderate debating position. But it would seem that he revealed the true history of his political ideas when, shortly before he left England, he wrote: “from a thorough Enquiry (on Occasion of the Stamp Act) into the Nature of the Connection between Britain and the Colonies, I became convinced, that the Bond of their Union is not the Parliament, but the King.”183
Advertising Eleuthera and the Bahama Islands
THE Bahamas appear but seldom in English geographical literature of the middle seventeenth century. In 1644, William Castell, in his A Short Discoverie of the Coasts and Continent of America, From the Equinoctiall Northward, and of the adjacent Isles, devoted a short section to the islands. He knew nothing of them at first hand, however, deriving all his information from the Dutch geographer, De Laet. “To the North of Hispaniola and Cuba,” he writes (p. 39), “between them and the Continent of Florida, lye the many small Lucaick Ilands, so neer one another, as they make those Seas very rough, heady and dangerous: besides this, there is nothing worth noting in them….” Thus does he dispose of the islands, recommending those who would learn more to consult the pages of the Dutch writer. He excuses himself for the brevity of his account on the ground that the islands “are so many, and of so little worth.”
About the time that Castell was publishing these lines in England, a certain George Gardyner, Esq., of Peckham in Surrey, was inspecting the islands with a view to applying for a grant of them. Nothing certain is known of this ambitious expectant capitalist, but there is a possibility that he was the son and heir of that Sir Thomas Gardyner of Camberwell (or Camberwell-Peckham) in Surrey who in 1631 was possessed of the manor of Basings.184 George Gardyner, whoever he may have been, had a keen eye for business possibilities. He had also a graceful, lucid manner of describing what he saw in the American plantations, as is evidenced by his A Description of the New World (London, 1651). Castell’s slighting judgment of the Bahamas did not meet with his approval; for himself, he felt interested enough to take steps to procure a patent investing him with powers over them.
The considerations that in part moved him to make this application can be gathered from reading a portion of the descriptive section of his book:
On these Islands are no Inhabitants, those that did live there were a harmless simple people, and therefore the easier taken and carried away by the Spaniards that have made them so desolate, many of them seem of a good mould, and the Latitude promiseth much fertility. The arie [sic] is certainly good and wholsome, and not so extream hot, as other parts of that height.
There is the Gumme Benjamin of the best and worst sort, Guacom, and Sasaprila, and Sasafras, and on some of them red wood and Amber-greece. The English Sea-men are little acquainted with these Islands although they saile round them yearely.185
Natural resources of this sort, besides the hope of discovering wrecked Spanish vessels well freighted with pieces-of-eight, were the lures that attracted Gardyner, while still in America, to apply for a patent. This he appears to have done in the year 1644. The sequel to his application he may be permitted to relate in his own words:
And since I petitioned for them, which was six years ago, and my absence hindred my prosecution: Captain Sail and others have obtained a Patent, making thither on the coast of an Island, which he called Illutheria, his ship was wrackt, but the people of the ship all saved, but recovered the shoare with few necessaries, I saw him after his escape from thence in a small boat of 3 Tuns recovering Virginia, where he procured a Pinnace of near 25 Tuns, with which he carried relief to those he left in the Island. But I understand by a Master of a Bark, that went from New England, that on a division was among them, they were leaving the Island. In my discourse with the said Sail, I understood that none of his company knew the place they intended, or were ever there, when they undertook the voyage. The coasts of most of them are dangerous, and bad to make, and that ship that shall be neer, or amongst them must keep the lead always going, but with a wary Pilot, and care in giving the Islands a fair birth, they are easily recovered.
The Spaniards know this place well, and have a yearly trade thither for the aforesaid Commodities, and amongst the Islands are wracks of divers of their ships.186
This episode seems to have been Gardyner’s only experience with the Bahamas. He himself thereafter drops out of history, except for the publishing of his treatise on American geography at London early in 1651. It may be noted, however, that some years afterward there was residing on the island of Nevis one George Gardyner, who may perhaps be the disappointed Bahamian adventurer. Gardyner the author, it is certain, had visited that island before bringing out his book, and has a good report to make of it: “Here is the best Sugar of the Caribey Islands, some Indico, but little Cotton or Tobacco. It is an aguish Country and unwholsome, but by the good Government that hath been amongst them, the people live the happiest of all the Caribey Islands.”187
The successful applicant for the Bahamas, as Gardyner tells us, was a “Captain Sail.” This person was the William Sayle who had already been governor of the Bermudas and was afterward to serve as an early governor over the infant settlement of Carolina. Sayle first filled the office in Bermuda in 1641; and a second term ran approximately from September, 1643, to February, 1645.188 When church quarrels vexed the peace of the islands, Sayle and another betook themselves to London to consult with the Somers Island Company and with parliament. Sayle, an Independent, remained there many months. In October, 1645, parliament voted, on a petition handed in by Bermudians headed by Sayle:
that the inhabitants of the Summer-Islands … shall, without any molestation or trouble, have and enjoy the liberty of their consciences, in matters of God’s worship, as well in those parts of Amiraca where they now are planted as in all others, parts of Amiraca, where hereafter they may be planted; until this House shall otherwise order.189
While looking after the interests of the Bermuda Independents, Sayle also busied himself with pushing his plan for a settlement on the most favored island in the Bahama group. With Gardyner thousands of miles away, and in view of the importance and prestige of the Bermudian, it is little cause for surprise that the latter should have been successful in his suit. The matter did not go forward speedily, however. Sayle was still in London in the summer of 1647, by which time his prospects for securing a grant were very bright. Early in July, 1647, Sayle was in a position to approach parliament with a clear statement of the nature of the intended corporation which it was to be asked to create. From this broadside, Articles and Orders, made and agreed upon the 9th Day of July, 1647, printed in full below, one obtains a clear notion of what the Bermudian and the other adventurers proposed to do on the island of “Eleutheria,” their chosen site in the Bahamas. Just a week later, on July 16, it was ordered by the House of Commons, “that the humble petition of Wm. Sayle and Wm. Golding, concerning the business of the Summer-Islands, be referred to the committee to whom the consideration of the business concerning the Earl of Carlisle, in reference to the Barbado-Islands, was referred.”190
Commenting on this entry in the Commons Journal, Stock observes: “The nature of this petition is not disclosed.”191 But inasmuch as the first object of Sayle’s mission to England had already been accomplished, there can be no doubt that the petition here referred to must have been concerned with the affair of the Bahama Islands. It may be pointed out that Stock did not know of the existence of the Articles and Orders when he made the statement just excepted to. The lost petition was probably identical in content with the Articles and Orders.
Nothing further is disclosed in the Commons Journal concerning the fate of the petition at the committee’s hands, but there is no reason to suppose that it met with an unfavorable response. A recent historian of the Bermudas is satisfied that Sayle received his coveted charter. In any event, the former governor returned to Bermuda in October, 1647, and, with another, purchased a ship to take seventy Independents to Eleuthera, the new home of soul liberty and toleration amid the coral banks and sand dunes of the southern seas.192 The tragic sequel of the enterprise may be followed in the pages of Lefroy and Wilkinson.
The text of the Articles and Orders that is printed here is taken from a photostatic copy of the original in the British Museum.193 The original is in the form of a large broadside, printed on one side only. The paper has been creased in a few places so that it is not in every case easy to see the lettering, but there are no fundamental uncertainties about the text. The primary function of this broadside was to advertise Eleuthera in London circles, where it was doubtless hoped that legislative backing, financial support, and enlistment of personnel could be procured. It is an unusual feature of this piece of promotion literature that its unknown author so stringently confined himself to outlining the proposed institutions and social attitudes with which the plantation was to identify itself. He refrained from emitting the conventional lush and lyrical descriptions of the islands to be settled, thus exhibiting a self-denial as rare among advertising agents of the seventeenth century as it is among their spiritual descendants in the twentieth.
ARTICLES and Orders, made and agreed upon the 9th Day of July, 1647./ and in the three and twentieth Year of the Raign of our Soveraign Lord Charles, / by the Grace of God, King of England, Scotland, France, and Ireland; Defender of the Faith, &c. / By the Company of Adventurers for the Plantation of the Islands of Eleutheria, formerly called Buhama in / America, and the adjacent Islands to be observed and performed by all and singular Adventurers, to / Planters and dwellers upon, and all Resiants at the same Islands. /
WHEREAS experience hath shewed us the great inconveniencies that have happened, both in this Kingdom of England, and other places, by a rigid imposing upon all an uniformity and conformity in matters of judgement and practice in the things of Religion, whereby divisions have been made, factions fomented, persecutions induced, and the publick peace endangered. And for that we well know, that in this state of darkness and imperfection, we know but in part, That there are both babes and strongmen in Christ: And that every Member who holds the head, and is of the body of Jesus Christ, hath not the same place and office, nor the same measure of light, who yet desire and endeavour daily to increase in knowledge. And in the mean time walk according to what they have received, in all godliness, justice & sobriety. And whereas experience hath also shewed us, That the peace and happy progress of all Plantations, doth much depend upon the good government thereof, the equal distribution of justice, and respect to all persons, without faction or distinction, the certain knowledg and manifestation of every ones right and proprieties, and carefull provisions for common defence and safety.
It is therefore ordered, That all such person and persons, who are so as aforesaid qualified, shall be received and accepted as Members of the said Company of Adventurers, and into the said Plantation, notwithstanding any other difference of judgement, under whatsoever other names conveyed, walking with justice and sobriety, in their particular conversations, and living peaceably and quietly as Members of the Re-publick.
That there shall be no names of distinction or reproach, as Independent, Antinomian, Anabaptist, or any other cast upon any such for their difference in judgement, neither yet shall any person or persons, assume or acknowledge any such distinguishing names, under the penalty of being accompted (in both cases, either of imposing or accepting or assuming any such name or names) as enemies of the publick peace: nor shall any man speak reproachfully of any person for his opinion, or of the opinion it self, otherwise then in the Scripture Language.
That no Magistracie or Officers of the Republike, nor any power derived from them, shall take notice of any man for his difference in judgement in matter of Religion, or have cognizance of any cause whatsoever of that nature: But that their jurisdiction shall reach onely to men as men, and shall take care that justice, peace, and sobriety, may be maintained among them. And that the flourishing state of the re-publick may be by all just meanes promoted.
That the present Adventurers, and all other persons, who within the space of one year now next ensuing, shall bring into the publick stock, the sum of 100l shall be admitted and reckoned into the number of the first Adventurers, their number not exceeding one hundred persons.
That every one of the number of the first Adventurers, shall have three hundred Acres of Land, laid out for him and his Heires for ever, in the first convenient place which shall be chosen, by those persons of the number of first Adventurers, who go to the said Plantation, in the present expedition and shipping. And that the said quantity of three hundred Acres for each first Adventurer; shall at the end of the first three yeares, or sooner, if the major part of the said number or Company of first Adventurers shall require the same, shall be divided and set out by lot, unto every particular person. And that in the mean time, all the same Land shall be imployed and improved for the joynt advantage of the said Company. And that for the further and better encouragement of the said first Adventurers, every one of the said Company of first Adventurers shall have two thousand Acres more of Land, to be laid out for him and his Heires for ever, in such place or places as shall be most convenient and satisfactory unto him, and least prejudicial or disadvantagious to the publick. And that this shall be effected with as much convenient speed, as the occasions of the Plantation will permit. And that all the adjacent Islands shall be reserved to, and laid out and had for the use of the said Company of first Adventurers.
That as well every one of the Adventurers aforesaid, as also every other person, who shall at any time or times, within three yeares transport, at his own charge, unto the said Plantation, any person or persons, shall have and enjoy to him the said Transporter and his Heires for ever, the quantity of thirty five Acres of Land per person, for every person which he shall so transport; the same Land to be set out and appointed for him, by such as shall be hereafter authorized for that purpose by the first Adventurers upon the place. And that if any Servants or Children, or other persons who shall be shipped to be transported to the said Plantation, shall after their shipping miscarry, or die by the way: yet nevertheless, the person at whose charge any such miscarrying or dying person, Child or Servant, was shipped shall have and enjoy to him and his Heires for ever in the said Plantation, and to be set out and appointed as aforesaid, the quantity of thirty five Acres for or in respect of each one person so dying or miscarrying, in as ample manner, as if he had been safely transported, and come into the said Plantation. And that every other person and persons, that shall adventure, after three yeares shall have five and twenty Acres.
That every Servant being a Christian, which shall be transported to the said Plantation, and shall serve out his time agreed upon, to the use of him who transported him, or of his Assignes, shall at the end of his said time of service, have and injoy to him the said Servant and his Heires for ever, the quantity of twenty and five Acres of Land, to be allowed and set out for him by such as shall be authorized by the Governour and Councel. And for the better fortifying of the said Plantations, and for the encouragement of the first Adventurers in a work of that hazard; and also for the exciting and awakeing the industry of all: It is further ordered and agreed;
That whatsoever Ordinance can be recovered of any wraks, shall be wholly imployed for the use of the publick, and serve for the fortification of the Plantation.
That all other wraks which shall be recovered upon, or near the Islands, or upon or near any the adjacent Islands: And also all Mynes of Gold, Silver, Copper, Brasse or Lead, Ambergreise, salt; and all rich woods, either for tincture or medicament, which shal be had or found upon or neer the Islands or territories aforesaid, in any Land not divided, or set over to any particular proprietor, shall be delivered into the Custody of two such persons, Merchants or Agents for the said Company, as shall be yearly chosen by the said Company for that purpose, and the same Mines, Wracks, Ambergreise, Metalles, Salts, and Woods, shall be by the said two Agents, made fit for sale, and be by them with all convenient speed, sold for the best price and advantage, and the whole price and value thereof (the Charges and wages for the procuring and fitting of them for sale, being first deducted and discharged) shall be divided into three equal parts and shares; and the first of the same three parts, shall be unto him or them, who shall be the undertaker or finder thereof: the second part shall be paid and distributed unto, and among the first Adventurers, their Heires, Executors and assignes, equally: and the other third part shall be paid and delivered into the publick Treasury of the said Plantation, to be imployed and laid out for the use of the publick, by order and warrant from the Governor and Councel there, for the time being. But if the same shall be found in any of the Lands appropriated, the first third part shall be to the owner or proprietor of the same Lands, and the other two thirds as aforesaid: That when the Plantation shall sufficiently be fortifyed, and all necessary publick works finished, and the generall Magazines sufficiently stored, then what shall be spared of the publick third in the wracks and Commodities aforesaid, shall be imployed in works of mercy and charity, and for the transporting from England and other places such godly people as shall be willing to go unto the said Plan[tatio]ns, and are not able to beare the charge of their transportation and setling there.
That no person shall pretend unto, or claim any Wracks, Mynes, Ambergreise, Salt, or rich woods, as aforesaid; for, or by reason of their growing, or being in or upon his lot or share of ground, which shall be appointed to him as above said; but all the said particulars shall be disposed and imployed, as before is expressed. That none of the said rich Woods growing upon Lands not appropriated, shall be cut down by any person, but by warrant first had and obtained from the Governor and Councel for that purpose; and if any shall do otherwise, then he that shall cut, or cause to be cut, any of the said Woods without such warrant, shall loose and forfeit all that share which he might under any qualification whatsoever, pretend unto in the said Woods; and the same forfeiture shall be to the use of the said Colonie. That if any places shall appear fit for making salt, which yet makes it not naturally, then the salt-works shall be perfected at the publick charge, and the provenue thereof to come into the publick Treasury, and be imployed for ever for the publick service, as aforesaid. That no Inhabitant of these Plantations, shall in their converse with any of the Natives of any of those parts, offer them any wrong, violence, or incivility whatsoever; but shall deal with them with all justice and sweetness, so far as may stand with their own safety, thereby to work in them a good opinion of love, unto the wayes and knowledge of God, which every one shall endeavour to hold forth, and communicate unto them in the best manner that they can. And whereas the Company is informed, that there are some Indians have been taken and sold at some of the Caribe Islands: It is therefore agreed and ordered, that the Indians shall be sought out and redeemed: And after they have some time continued in those Plantations, for their instructions, and make them sensible of the benefit. They shall be then returned to the places from which they were taken, that every Planter shall himself provide Arms and Ammunition sufficient, for his own persons (going to the said Plantations) and for every Male that he shall transport thither, who is or shall be from time to time able to bear Arms, and that such adventurer shall not have his share of Land set out unto him for any Male person, unless he be as aforesaid, provided of sufficient Arms and Ammunition for them. That all in the said Plantations from the age of sixteen to sixty years, shall be ready to come to the several Randevous appointed them, upon any Alarm, ready and armed for the defence of the Plantations; That none shall be compelled to take Arms, or go to war out of the Countrey unless it be for the necessary defence thereof, and to expel or divert an eminent invasion, neither shall any be suffered to take any depredations or invasions upon any, either by Sea or Land, unless upon a War first begun by them and open War by the said Plantations, first denounced against them. That the Government of the said Islands and Plantations, shall be continued in a Senate of the number of one hundred persons; and that the Company of the first Adventurers aforesaid, shall at present be the same Senate. And whensoever any of them shall die or sell away his Interest in the said Plantations: then there shall be another elected in his roome from time to time, by the Major part of the said Senate, out of the other Adventurers and Planters Resiant in the said Islands. And the same election shall be made in this manner, (viz.) First, 20 fit persons shall be nominated. Then those 20 reduced to the number of 4, by scrutiny, and out of those 4 one to be chosen by Ballotines. And so from time to time, as often as any Member of the said Senate, shall decease or shall allien or discontinue his interest in the said Plantations, or shall be amoved by the said Senate, upon just cause or complaint. And that the same Senate shall from time to time make election o[f] all Officers, for doing of justice, and distribution and setting out of Lands, and for the care and over-sight of all publick works, and shall have the ordering and disposing of all publick monies. That after the first three yeares expired, there shall be yearely a Governor and 12 Councellers chosen out of the said number, of 100 Senators, who shall take the daily care of all things necessary for the prosperity of the Plantation; and that it in nothing suffer detriment or decay. And that the publick peace be maintained between man and man, and speedy justice done unto every man that shall seek it at their hands. And that the said Governor and Councel, shall have power to call together upon any emergency, to the said Senate or so many of them, as shall then be upon the said Islands, and to act and execute what shall be by the said convention of Senators, ordered and referred, or committed unto them. That the first Governor and Councel shall be elected by the first Adventurers in England, when the number of Adventurers who will transport themselves is once known. And that the same first Governor and Councel shall continue in their Office three whole yeares from the first day of their arrival at the said Islands or Plantation. That all succeeding Governors and Councel shall after the aforementioned term expired, be yearly chosen on the first Tuesday in December, for one whole year to come, beginning the first day of January following, by all the free-men of the said Plantations, by way of scrutiny and Ballotines, in such manner as is before expressed. That every person that shall transport himself to the said Plantations, or desire to become a Member of the same Plantation, shall before his admittance thereunto, acknowledge his allowance, and consent unto all and every one of these Articles; and by subscribing the same, bind himself to conformity thereunto for the future. And this to be done before he be admitted into the said Company, and before he hath any share or proportion of Land set out and assigned to him according to these Articles.
One does not have to read far in this text to learn that the man who supplied the ideas composing it was a fresh and powerfully original thinker, not only abreast of the highest aspirations of his age, but, indeed, well to the fore of them. There is in this broadside a manifesto and a programme looking to the establishment of a model state. Rightfully did the man behind this project select for his proposed settlement the name Eleuthera, which is nothing but an English adaptation of ἐλευθερία, the Greek for “liberty.” This latest creation among English plantations was to be a haven and refuge of liberty in America—liberty in worship, liberty in government, and, though the document itself discreetly makes no mention of this radical position, liberty in trade. Accepting it as an axiom that Old England cherished and conserved too many stand-pat interests to permit the construction of a society such as he would at home gladly have shaped closer to his heart’s desire, the thinker behind this programme turned his gaze westward and pitched upon a vacant area on the American frontier of the day where, he hoped, he could plan and construct a social order considerably in advance of what then obtained at home. The mid-seventeenth century is rich in documents voicing sentiments favoring liberty and progressive ideals.194 Brief though this piece is, it yet manages to pack into small compass such a wealth of high-minded aspiration and purpose that one may not readily dismiss it as negligible. The editor intends at an early opportunity to treat it in fuller fashion against its historical background.
Mr. Harold R. Shurtleff spoke on “The Restoration of Colonial Williamsburg.”