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Court. Dr. Franklin may have the assistance of counsel, or go on without it, as he shall choose. Dr. Franklin. I desire to have counsel.
Court. What time do you want?
Dr. Franklin. Three weeks.
Ordered that the further proceedings be on Saturday 29th instant.
*The privy council accordingly met on the 29th of January, 1774, when Mr. Dunning and Mr. John Lee appeared as counsel for the assembly, and Mr. Wedderburn as counsel for the governor and lieutenant goMr. Wedderburn was very long in his answer, which chiefly related to the mode of obtaining and sending away Mr. Whately's letters; and spoke of Dr. Franklin in terms of abuse, which never escape from one gentleman towards another. In the event, the committee of the privy council made a report, in which was expressed the following opinion: "The lords of the committee do agree humbly to report, as their opinion to your majesty, that the petition is founded upon resolutions formed on false and erroneous allegations; and is groundless, vexatious, and scandalous, and calculated only for the seditious purposes of keeping up a spirit of clamour and discontent in the said province. And the lords of the committee do further humbly report to your majesty, that nothing has been laid before them which does or can, in their opinion, in any manner, or in any degree, impeach the honour, integrity, or conduct of the said gover nor or lieutenant-governor; and their lordships are humbly of opinion, that the said petition ought to be dismissed."
Feb. 7th, 1774. "His majesty, taking the said report into consideration, was pleased, with the advice of his privy-council, to approve thereof; and to order, that the said petition of the house of representatives of the province of Massachusett's Bay be dismissed the board-as groundless vexatious, and scandalous; and calculated only for the seditious purpose of keeping up a spirit of clamour and discontent in the said province.”—A former petition against governor Bernard met with a dismission couched in similar terms. B. V.
To the Printer of the Public Advertiser.
FINDING that two gentlemen have been unfortunately engaged in a duel about a transaction and its circumstances, of which both of them are totally ignorant and innocent, I think it incumbent upon me to declare (for the prevention of farther mischief, as far as such a declaration may contribute to prevent it) that I v alone am the person, who obtained and transmitted to Boston the letters in question. Mr. W. could not communicate them, because they were never in his possession; and for the same reason they could not be taken from him by Mr. T. They were not of the nature of private letters between friends. They were written by public officers to persons in public stations, on public affairs, and intended to procure public measures; they were therefore handed to other public persons, who might be influenced by them to produce those measures. Their tendency was to incense the mother-country against her colonies, and, by the steps
* Some letters had passed in the public prints between Mr. Thomas Whately's brother and Mr. John Temple, concerning the manner in which the letters of Governor Hutchinson &c. had escaped from among the papers of Mr. Thomas Whately, at this time deceased.
The one gentleman wished to avoid the charge of having given them, the other of having taken them. At length the dispute became so personal and pointed, that Mr. Temple thought it necessary to call the brother into the field. The letter of provocation appeared in the morning, and the parties met in the afternoon. Dr. Franklin was not then in town; it was after some interval that he received the intelligence. What had passed he could not foresee; he endeavoured to prevent what still might follow. B. V.
recommended, to widen the breach, which they effected. The chief caution expressed with regard to privacy was, to keep their contents from the colony agents, who, the writers apprehended, might return them, or copies of them, to America. That apprehension was, it seems, well founded, for the first agent who laid his hands on them thought it his duty to transmit them to his constituents*.
Craven Street, Dec. 25, 1773.
Agent for the House of Representatives of the Massachusett's Bay.
It was in consequence of this letter that Mr. Wedderburne ventured to make the most odious personal applications. Mr. Mauduit has pruBently omitted part of them in bis account of the proceedings before the privy council. They are given here altogether however (as well as they could be collected) to mark the polities of the times, and the nature of the censures passed in England upon Dr. Franklin's character.
The letters could not have come to Dr. Franklin," said Mr. Wedderbarn, "by fair means. The writers did not give them to him, nor yet did the deceased correspondent, who, from our intimacy, would otherwise have told me of it; nothing then will acquit Dr Franklin of the charge of ob taining them by fraudulent of corrupt means, for the most malignant of purposes; unless he stole there, from the person who stole them. This argnment is irrefragable."
"I hope, my lords, you will mark [and brand] the man, for the honour of this country, of Europe, and of mankind. Private correspondence has hitherto been held sacred in times of the greatest party rage, not only in politics bat religion."" He has forfeited all the respect of societies and of men. Into what companies will he hereafter go with an unembarassed face, or the honest intrepidity of virtue. Men will watch him with a jealous eye, they will hide their papers from him, and lock up their escru toires. He will henceforth esteem it a libel to be called a man of letters, home trium literarum!
* i. e. Fur (or thief).
"But he not only took away the letters from one brother, but kept himself concealed till he nearly occasioned the murder of the other. It is impossible to read his account, expressive of the coolest and most deliberate malice, without horror." [Here he read the letter above, Dr. Franklin being all the time present.]—Amidst these tragical events, of one person nearly murdered, of another answerable for the issue, of a worthy governor burt in his dearest inferests, the fate of America in suspense; here is a man, who, with the utmost insensibility of remorse, stands up and avows himself the author of all. I can compare it only to Zanga in Dr. Young's Revenge.
"Know then 'twas-1;
I forged the letter, I disposed the picture ;
I ask, my lords, whether the revengeful temper, attributed by poetie fiction only to the bloody African, is not surpassed by the coolness and apathy of the wily American?"
These pleadings for a time worked grent effect: the lords assented, the town was convinced, Dr. Franklin was disgraced‡, and Mr. Wedderburn ssemed in the road for every kind of advancement.—Unfortunately for Mr. Wedderburn, the events of the war did not correspond with his systems. Unfortunately too for his "irrefragable argument," Dr. Franklin afterwards took an oath in chancery‡, that at the time that he traust mitted the letters he was ignorant of the party to whom they had been addressed, having himself received them from a third person, and for the express purpose of their being conveyed to America. Unfortunately also for Mr. Wedderburn's " worthy governor," that governor himself, before the arrival of Dr. Franklin's packet in Boston, sent over one of Dr. Franklin's own " private" letters to England, expressing some little coyness indeed upon the occasion, but desiring secrecy, lest he should he prevented procuring more useful intelligence from the same source §. Whether Mr. Wedderburn in his speech intended to draw a particular case and portraiture, for the purpose only of injuring Dr. Franklin, or meant that his language and epithets should apply generally to all, whe
+ He was dismissed from his place in the post-office,
A copy of the proceedings in chancery has been in my possessio but being at present mislaid I speak only from memory here.
See the Remembrancer for the year 1778, part 2d. p. 61, col. 1st
Rules for reducing a Great Empire to a small one, presented to a late Minister, when he entered upon his Administration.*
AN ancient sage valued himself upon this, that though he could not fiddle, he knew how to make a great city of a little one. The science, that I, a modern simpleton, am about to communicate, is the very re
I address myself to all ministers, who have the ma nagement of extensive dominions, which, from their very greatness, are become troublesome to govern-because the multiplicity of their affairs leaves no time for fiddling.
1. In the first place, gentlemen, you are to consider, that a great empire, like a great cake, is most easily diminished at the edges. Turn your attention therefore
ther friends or foes, whose practice should be found similar to it, is a matter that must be left to be adjusted between governor Hutchinson and Mr. Wedderburn.
But to return to Dr. Franklin. It was not singular perhaps, that, as s man of honour, he should surrender his name to public scrutiny in order to prevent mischief to others, and yet not betray his coadjutor (even to the present moment) to relieve his own fame from the severest obloquy; but perhaps it belonged to few besides Dr. Franklin, to possess mildness and magnanimity enough to refrain from intemperate expressions and measures against Mr. Wedderburn and his supporters, after all that had passed B.V.
*These rules first appeared in a London newspaper about the beginning of the year 1774, and have several times since been introduced into our public prints.-The minister alluded to is supposed to be the Earl of Hillsborough.
"The causes and motions of seditions (says Lord Bacon) are, innovation in religion, taxes, alteration of laws and customs, breaking of privileges, general oppression, advancement of unworthy persons, strangers, dearths, disbanded soldiers, factions grown desperate, and whatsoever in feuding people joineth and knitteth them in a common cause." B. V.