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The mission of Josiah Quincy-Love of England by the Ameri
cans-Petition to the king-Sickness and death of Mrs. Franklin-Lord Chatham-His speech in favor of the colonists—Lord Howe-His interview with Franklin Firmness of Franklin His indignation–His mirth-Franklin's fable-He embarks for Philadelphia-Feeble condition of the colonies—England's expressions of contempt-Franklin's reception at PhiladelphiaHis letter to Edmund Burke-Post office arrangements-Defection and conduct of William Franklin-His arrest.
YOUNG Josiah Quincy, of Boston, one of the noblest of patriots, who was dying of consumption, visited London, with instructions to confer with Franklin upon the posture of affairs. He wrote home, in the most commendatory terms, of the zeal and sagacity with which Franklin was devoting himself to the interests of his country. Tory spies were watching his every movement, and listening to catch every word which fell from his lips. Lord Hillsborough, in a debate in the House of Lords, said,
“ There are two men, walking in the streets of London, who ought to be in Newgate or at Tyburn."
The duke of Richmond, demanded their names, saying that if such were the fact the ministry were severely to be blamed. Hillsborough declined to give their names; but it was generally known that he ieferred to Dr. Franklin and Josiah Quincy.
The policy of Franklin was clearly defined, and unchanging. He said virtually, to his countrymen, “ Perform no political act against the government, utter no menace, and do no act of violence whatever. But firmly and perseveringly unite in consuming no English goods. There is nothing in this which any one will pronounce to be, in the slightest degree, illegal. The sudden and total loss of the trade with America, will, in one year, create such a clamor, from the capitalists and industrial classes of England, Ireland and Scotland, that the despotic government will be compelled to retrace its steps.
Even at this time the Americans had no desire to break loose from the government of Great Britain. England was emphatically their home. Englishmen were their brothers. In England their fathers were gathered to the grave. The Americans did not assume a new name. They still called themselves Englishmen. They were proud to be members of the majestic kingdom, which then stood at the head of the world.
Congress met. Its members, perhaps without
exception, were yearning for reconciliation with the mother-country, and for sincere and cordial friendship. It was resolved to make another solemn appeal to the king, whom they had ever been accustomed to revere, and, in a fraternal spirit, to address their brethren, the people of England, whom they wished to regard with all the respect due to elder brothers.
The intelligence of Christendom has applauded the dignity and the pathos of these documents. The appeal fell upon the profane, gambling, winebloated aristocrats of the court, as if it had been addressed to the marble statuary in the British Museum. Nay worse. Those statues would have listened in respectful silence. No contemptuous laughter, and no oaths of menace, would have burst from their marble lips. The following brief extract will show the spirit which pervaded these noble documents. It is one of the closing sentences of the address to the king:
“ Permit us then, most gracious sovereign, in the name of all your faithful people in America, with the utmost humility to implore you, for the honor of Almighty God, whose pure religion our enemies are undermining; for the glory which can be advanced only by rendering your subjects happy and keeping them united; for the interests of your family, depending on an adherence to the principle that enthroned it; for the safety and welfare of your kingdom and dominions, threatened with unavoidable dangers, and distresses; that your majesty, as the loving father of your whole people, connected by the same bands of law, loyalty, faith and blood, though dwelling in various countries, will not suffer the transcendent relation, formed by these ties, to be further violated, in uncertain expectation of effects which, if attained, never can compensate for the calamities through which they must be gained.”
This petition was sent to Franklin, and the other colony agents, to be presented by them to the king. They were instructed also to publish both the Petition and the Address, in the newspapers, and to give them as wide a circulation as possible.
Dr. Franklin, with two other agents, Arthur Lee and Mr. Bollan, presented to Lord Dartmouth the petition to be handed by him to the king. They were soon informed that the king received it graciously, and would submit the consideration of it to Parliament. It was thought not respectful to the king to publish it before he had presented it to that body. But as usual, the infatuation of both king and court was such, that everything that came from the Americans was treated with neglect, if not with contempt. The all-important petition was buried in a pile of documents upon all conceivable subjects, and not one word was said to commend it to the consideration of either house. For three days it remained unnoticed. Dr. Franklin, then, with his two companions, solicited permission to be heard at the bar of the house. Their request was refused. This brought the question into debate.
The House of Commons was at that time but a reflected image of the House of Lords. It was composed almost exclusively, of the younger sons of the nobles, and such other obsequious servants of the aristocracy, as they, with their vast wealth and patronage, saw fit to have elected. There was an immense tory majority in the House. They assailed the petition with vulgarity of abuse, which could scarcely be exceeded; and then dismissed it from further consideration. Noble lords made themselves merry in depicting the alacrity with which a whole army of Americans would disperse at the very sound of a British cannon.
While these disastrous events were taking place in England-events, sure to usher in a cruel and bloody war, bearing on its wings terror and conflagration, tears and blood, a domestic tragedy was taking place in the far distant home of Franklin on the banks of the Delaware. Mrs. Franklin had been separated from her husband for nearly ten years.