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Benjamin Franklins Learning Experience

 

The battle over vital resources became the backbone of nation building strategic necessity in importance establishing dominance in world affairs of civilizations which worked for a sense of nationality.  About two-hundred years after the discovery of America the first world war was waged in this manner. Spain had control of shipping routs to the west in middle and south America, yet it would be the competition of between Great Britain and France in the beginning of the Seventhteenth Century that these two empires were embroiled in a series of wars we call generally Colonial wars that spilled over dominating Europe eventually throwing most of the world into the first world war.

 

King William’s war ( 1689-1697), Queen Anne’s War (1702-1713), and King George’s War (1743-1748) were essentially a European conflict that spilled over into North America. Although North American concerns were of little importance at first, these wars played an ever more prominent role in the hardships and suffering from many colonists. As the wars widen the question was now, who was going to dominate N. American politically?  “It would be the final war which began in 1754 that grew out of the struggle to control the resources and trading opportunities in the region between Appalachian Mountains and Mississippi River that eventually spread to Europe over parts of the globe” (Thackery).

 

This final turning point in history was the last colonial war that is known by different names.  In Europe it was called the seven year war, although it actually lasted nine-years. In America it was called the French Indian war, but this is misnomer as the Indians fought on both sides of the battle lines. The war turned out to be a stalemate, although France signed a treaty that “caused French leaders to realized that their power in North America was on the wane,” (Thackery).  France had a better army and had many troops in America, but Britain had a superior navy winning a war of attrition - not letting the supplies ships in to American ports. This point in history is regarded as turning point for the world because France would eventually accept their lose and join America colonist slowly to battle the British for an American Revolution and America would reply with  their part helping France wage a revolution on their own soil. England traders backed by British Manufactures who goods were superior to the French at the time gained more and more trading rout control leading to possible British ideas on how to finance their escalating war debt. British would set up political strategies to offset their country national debt by trickery at first of masking taxes then outright overt methods. The war caused bitterness between the colonists who saw the wicked ways the war had been fought to control them – all they wanted was to live in piece.  Now that was gone. The new tax acts enforces upon the colonist leads the way to shifting of the tectonic plates of the world. The war was a unifying force for the colonies. This war’s conduct, however at the moment, caused great tension and resentment which developments help to spark the American Revolution.

 

”Two of the major events commonly regarded as preludes to the American Revolution were the enactment of the Sugar Act (1764) and the Stamp Act (1765), designed to increase British tax revenues. In the American colonies these Acts were not only dealt with in terms of economic disadvantage but increasingly in terms of right, the focal point being the question whether Parliament had the right to tax the colonies” (Zaagsma). Other precursors inserted into the steps of freedom came before in various taxations on the people of America. Benjamin Franklin, the American diplomat, in England during these crucial episodes played an enormous hand in shaping the direction of the cause of freedom from the hands of the Empire. His brilliance and tact saved him from London assassination while firing the coals of resistance back home.   It was a time of d'opération incroyable before major shifts rocked the western hemisphere forcing political change that saw France and America rising up destroying the outworn system of monarchy rule. Franklin remained in Great Britain for 15 years as a sort of an unofficial ambassador and spokesman for the American point of view battling the tax acts enforced on American colonist that had not a representative vote in the British Parliament. The history of taxation goes away back to the how a government pays for its armies.  The army is the backbone of a civilization survival.

 

The beginning of the tax acts was the first employed in 1733. It was called the “Molasses act of 1733” (Hart; George II chap.xiii p.8 ). Molasses Act went into effect ( George II chap.xiii.). “It aimed at stopping the thriving colonial trade with the Dutch, French, and Spanish West Indies, but was intended to aid English planters in the British West Indies by laying a prohibitive duty on imported foreign sugar and molasses. It was not enforced, however, for custom officials, by giving fraudulent clearances, acted in collusion with the colonial importers in evading the law; but in 1761, during the war with France, the thrifty colonists carried on an illegal (In England’s eyes) trade with the enemy, and Pitt demanded that the restrictive laws be enforced. The difficulty in enforcing was great, for it was hard to seize the smuggled goods and harder still to convict the smuggler in the colonial courts” ( Foner & Garraty p.8).

 

“The only way to put down this unpatriotic trade with the enemy was to resort to “writs of assistance,” which would give the customs officers a right to search for smuggled goods in any house they pleased” (MacDonald Select Charters page. 259).

 

 “In 1757, the Pennsylvania legislator sent Franklin to London to speak for the colony in a tax dispute with the proprietors (descendants of William Penn living in Great Britain). The proprietors controlled the governor of the colony, and would not allow it to pass and tax bill for defense unless their own estates were left tax-free. In 1760 Franklin finally successful getting the British Parliament to adopt a measure that permitted the taxation of both colonies and proprietors” (Wright ). Two years after the end of the war saw the beginning of ‘the aggressive’ tax acts that would be vital for our unofficial ambassador. Also, before this, a serious debate developed in Great Britain that France agreed to give the British either the French province of Canada or the French Island of Guadeloupe in the West Indies. At the height of the argument Franklin published a pamphlet that shrewdly compared the boundless future of Canada with the relative unimportance of Guadeloupe. Europeans and Americans both read it carefully. Some historians believe that it influenced the British to Choose Canada. The Proprietors used their power as a secret feudal control over their part in paying taxes equally. Also, Franklin had no idea that they could represent themselves and make laws while the king should be the backroom-overseer.

 

““On the course of this struggle, Franklin began to raise his sights and to campaign overtly for the removal of the proprietary power altogether: for bringing Pennsylvania and its twin, Maryland, directly under the crown. It can be argued that it was imaginative on his part to envision a colonial assembly enjoying a degree of freedom directly under the king, with intermediate and arrogant authorities removed, and that this was a form of Whiggism- or Tory democracy. It can also be argued that he thought it possible to be king’s man and a assembly man. He does not seem, in the Albany discussions in 1754 or again in 1760, to have recognized the potential dangers of royal authority when it had become that of a king-in-parliament. When soon arriving in London, he met Lord Granville, then presiding over the Privy Council, he was surprised to discover the gap between imperial and colonial standpoints. “ The Council,” Granville said, and Franklin reported to Isaac Norris in March 1759, “is over all the colonies; your last resort is to the Council to decide your differences, and you must be sensible it is for your good,  for otherwise you often would not obtain justice. The King in council is legislator of the colonies; and when His Majesty’s instructions come there, they are the law of the land…and as such ought to be obeyed.” Franklin’s letter to Norris continued: I told his lordship this was new doctrine to me. I had always understood from out charters that out laws were to be made by our assemblies, to be presented indeed to the king for his royal assent, but that being once given the king could not repeal or alter them. And as the assemblies could not make permanent laws without his assent, as neither could he make a law for them without theirs. He assured me I was totally mistaken”” (Wright  p. 119 - 120).

 

Franklin’s wakeup call to the realities of the crown’s hardheadedness about relieving the restrictions on the colonies becomes apparent to the ambassador in that Parliament want total control without representation. Franklin found out quickly that “”Pitt, Charles Pratt ( later Lord Camden), and Speaker Onslow “friends of Liberty,” thought about control. “ One may easily conjecture what Reception a Petition  concerning Privileges from the Colonies may meet with from those who are known to think that even the People of England have too many.” In his letter to Norris of March 1759 he was quite explicit”” (Wright  p. 121).

 

“”The transition of England turning into an Empire occurred in the middle of the Eighteenth Century. Assiduous Grenvill (Administrations) the king’s new minister, in March, 1764, who knew law better than the maximums of statesmanship, introduced Parliament to resolve upon a “certain stamp duties,” for the colonists”” (Foner & Garraty p.10).  Franklin took part in this fight over this stamp act. At first he seems to have been rather slow to recognize that the proposed measure threatens the American colonies.  He was undoubtedly reading up on taxation at the time, when finally understanding the implications he joined in the opposition movement of the colonists knowing the danger. This untimely would get him in danger.

 

“The Stamp Act, passed by Parliament at Britain in March 1765, was designed to help defray costs of maintaining British troops in America colonies by requiring tax stamps for an extensive range of public documents, including newspapers, customs documents, legal papers, and licenses. The Seven Years’ War had left Britain with a large national debt, and the government felt that since the colonies had benefited from the war – most notably from expulsion of France from Canada – they should contribute to imperial expenses. The colonies, however, responded with outrage. They pointed to the expenses they had already incurred in the war and predicted that the new tax would exhaust their meager supply of hard money” (Foner & Garraty p.10).

 

 “While demonstrators throughout the colonies were asserting their determination that the Stamp Act (First direct internal tax levied on the colonies) should not be enforced, a plan went forward to call a meeting at Congress of the colonies to take a common action in regard to the odious statute. The Great and General Court or Massachusetts was the instigator, sending a circular letter in June, 1765, to its counterparts in the other colonies, inviting them to dispatch representatives to New York in October “to consider of general and united, dutiful, loyal and humble representation of their Condition to his Majesty and the Parliament; and to implore relief” (Smith Vol. 1). “The term Stamp Act congress was invented by historians of a later era, not by those who attended what might be termed as the ‘ad hoc’ meeting, but the Congress must bee seen in its proper perspective. It was an outgrowth of the grievances, principally, but not exclusively, resulting from the passage of the Stamp Act, and none of the participants expected that it would be necessary for them to meet together again in nine years later in what is known as the First Continental Congress” (Weslanger, preface.).

 

”When the delegates from nine of the thirteen colonies assembled at New York’s City Hall in October 1765 to protest the mother country’s imposition of a stamp tax, the Currency Act, and the loss of right to trial by jury in Vice-Admiralty Courts, the idea of a break with England was far from their thoughts” (Weslanger preface.).Most at the time the colonists still wanted the privilege of continuing to enjoy their legal rights as Englishman, yet it was here that the crystallization of intellectual opposition stirred on by the heavy debates that fused the bomb that would go off in ten years. Back in England Franklins personal position at this time was still open.

 

“There were many reasons why the Public Franklin of many private letters- was ultra cautious.  Indeed in these years before (1768) western lands, the affairs of the new (his) house being built for him in Philadelphia, his scientific interests, and his own travels dominated his attention far more than the American issues. He did not protest strongly when the troops were sent to Boston in the summer of 1768. The elections of 1768 went unmentioned in his correspondence. He was still an Englishman - even if he felt not a deep unease on the basic question: What was the authority of Parliament over the American colonies” (Wright p. 205).  His chief concern was still Pennsylvania, for which he was carrying on the old struggle to have propriety replaced by royal government. He was also acting ostensibly for Pennsylvania, though in fact for the other colonies as well, in attempting to have restrictive legislation – not only the Townshend Acts but the Sugar Act, the Quartering Act – replaced or at least substantially modified. In this many sided effort he was completely unsuccessful” (Wright p. 204-5).

 

The conveying of the Stamp Act Congress has certainly one of the most significant episodes in history of the colonial resistance to the authority of Parliament and the Crown.  Not let alone that it was a staging ground for the great debates of civility that would form modern American system of government. ”That fact, in turn, makes the Congress one of the most important bodies in the development of modern political institutions. Earlier efforts at collective colonial action in America, starting with the Albany Congress, had not been notably successful” (Smith Vol. 1).

 

Meanwhile Benjamin Franklin continued to fight the lost cause of conciliation although he was forced to by the captivity that the Continental Congress just called an emergency meeting and Britain was shaking in its boots. After the Stamp Act enforcement, Americans Colonials called for a total boycott of all British goods crippling them further into financial ruin. Franklin had hoped to go home for good by spring. He must stay in England to deal with the repercussions, which were sure to follow this defiant move in the colonies.  Now Franklin and some others knew that in order to fight off the English the thirteen major colonel leaders must be united as one.  Each must mutually pledge to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honors and give up their legal privileges as Englishman.  Franklin had to work covertly sometimes writing with fictitious names.  He had to give a face of sympathy to the Crown all the while staying loyal to his home land.

“In March 1772 the British armed schooner Gaspee arrived in Narragansett Bay, charged with the task of enforcing revenue laws that had long been flouted by the merchants and shippers of Rhode Island. William Dudingston, the Gaspee's commander, set about his task in earnest, and he quickly gained the enmity of those involved in the colony's thriving maritime trade.

That June, while pursuing a colonial sloop sailing up the bay, the Gaspee was led into shallow water off Warwick, and there it ran aground. When news of the Gaspee's plight reached Providence, many of the town's leading citizens, seeing their opportunity, came together to plot vengeance against the hated vessel. That night a party of armed men rowed out to the Gaspee, and after wounding Dudingston and taking off the British crew, they burned the ship to the water” (Staples,  Forward).

 

““To counter it, the culprits if they had been found – would have been taken to England for trial. Also to counter it, Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts announced that henceforward he and the judges of the Superior Court would receive their salary directly from the crown. It was to meet this threat that Sam Adams put out a call at a Boston town meeting for the creation of a standing committee of correspondence. For it he prepared a list of infringements and violations of rights, an impressive summery of the colonial viewpoint. Other committees were promptly organized, ready to concert action if there should be need.” It is natural to suppose,” wrote Franklin to Thomas Cushing, “that if the oppressions continue, a congress may grow out of that correspondence” (Dull p. 345-350). The situation was tense now and Franklin made four great hoax contributions that helped the colonists cause. Also, it is here that he would forge ardent enemies now breaking ranks with the Parliament while Massachusetts Assembly declared its legislative independence of Parliament. Things were on the move for a ripening of independence. Things get complicated because Franklin was writing messages of compliance to British authority all the while he is attacking them with these hoaxes.

 

In the hoaxes Franklin played off fabricating history of the colonies who really founded them. This was done in effort to persuade other nations with the right to ownership of the new world. One could see them as harmless in, yet on the more serious side back in the colonies they could take further root firing the coals of independence against British domination all the while confusing the British for a moment while things were hot and heavy.  ““ He drove the harsh lesson home with his second hoax, “ An Edict by the King of Prussia,” which proclaimed that Britain had settled by colonists from Germany, had never been emancipated, and had hitherto yielded little revenue to “ our august house.” “ And whereas it is just and expedient that a Revenue should be raided from the said Colonies in Britain, towards our Indemnification; and that those who are Descendants of our Subjects, and thence still owe us Obedience, should contribute to the replenishing of our Royal Coffers as they must have done had their Ancestors remained in the Territories now to us appertaining. We do hereby ordain and command” – that duties be laid on all goods exported from Britain or imported into it, and that all ships to and from Britain touch at our port of Koningsburg, there to be unladen, searched, and charged with said duties…”” (Wright,p. 223). The hoax goes on further proclaiming Prussia’s right to go to war with England immediately if they do not turn over total control of the colonies to them. “Franklin and other guests derided great amusement from it when it was read during his visit to Lord Despencer’s. The Hoax brought no amusement, however, in Whitehall” (Wright,p. 223- 4).

 

After the excitement of the Gaspee affair had died down, there was a period of calm in the colonies.  For more than a year, the British passed no new edicts relating to America. “As a result no mobs roamed Boston’s streets, no effigies were burned in New York, and no inflammatory pamphlets came off Philadelphia’s presses. But it was an eerie, unnerving calm” (Smith Vol. 1).

 

“As a result of the “Seven Years’ War” she (Britain)  had suddenly found herself an empire, saddled with a debt of 140,000,000 pounds sterling and the heavy expenses of administering her new domain” (Augur, page 219). Britain became dispirit to get the prospering colonists who were doing better-off then their homeland to comply with taxations. Britain increased this danger by coercive Acts, which followed the Boston tea Party. She virtually dissolved the Massachusetts government, (Our pre-congress), and replaced it with a military under one General Thomas Gage; she closed the port of Boston and almost froze the colony’s trade’ she filled the province with troops who looked for trouble and found it, to the generals consternation, the next April.

 

“The Solicitor General , Alexander Wedderburn of England. – “The king’s highest Law officer,” ( George III) he was an “ambitious lawyer, came from a distinguished Scottish legal family; educated at Edinburgh, he practiced law there until he entered Parliament in 1761, sitting for Ayr Burghs” (Alexander p. 1). The inveterate hostility to Franklin and overwhelming bitterness of his language before the Privy Council in 1774” may have changed Franklin’s heart about his feelings of trying to work things out between the proprietors and colonists (Scots p.1).  “He avoided arguments wherever possible; when important public issues hinged on others' being convinced of their errors, he often argued anonymously, adopting assumed names, or Socratically, employing the gentle questioning of the Greek master” ( Brands. Prologue.). Wedderburn was known as tolerable politician, yet this point in his history is his dark spot. The feelings and repercussions of careers may have thought rested in the success of the tax acts – Franklin stood between that successes.

 

“” The Tory press echoed Wedderburn’s fantasy about the plot to establish a great American state with Boston in capital and Franklins its dictator. So far the colonies had not alienated themselves from the kingdom. He claimed that Franklin had fathered a gigantic plot to destroy England’s rule in America and to create “a great American Republic.” Franklin, he said, “was already speaking like a minister of a foreign independent state.”” (Augur, p. 6-7).

 

Franklin covert writings, passing on secret letters and hoaxes about the evil English empire plans for the colonists now came to light. It was a dangerous affair for him. “Franklin was known to be an author of a bitter satires recently published, the “Rules which a Great Empire may be reduced to a small one,” and the bogus “Edict by the king of Prussia.”  As part of the policy of coercion Dr. Franklin was ordered before the Privacy Council early in January. By now the ministry realized that he was a very dangerous man. By January when the case came to trial in the Cockpit, the news of the Boston Tea Party had reached London, and the atmosphere was ugly””(Augur, page 6-7).

 

Alexander Wedderburn and his collection of English political whores ( all the Parliament were known to demand bribes from everyone who wanted influence in the world) , had a “wide command of the vocabulary of vituperation, then at its peak,” (Augur, page 219) and he and the whores raked Franklin without mercy. It was about this time that Franklin said to himself “I think I will Change my mind” Franklin grew and changed. At first he was fighting for England resolve and a fair adjustment to how much rule and laws they could oversee in the colonies. Franklin really hope the outcome would be different, yet the more and more obvious hatred coming from the rulers of the British Parliament at the feelings and human rights of the individuals they sent to the new land change this man. His hometown people were struggling just to make it and deep down felt they were on the right side of things. He could have opted for money as a sell out, but he stood strong in his duty as unofficial ambassador. The colonist were still at a puritan stage and his recognizing of the British still stuck in the old system of old Fuddy-duddy control and would not bend and continue to a fighting stage made him sad. Fearing this outcome of submission to old stogies, his eyes closed to their world and his eyes opened to a new reality. The colonist wanted representation in Parliament and the Parliament wanted submissive colonists. He left England sad and dishearten still knowing he was a citizen, yet realizing things would soon change as he felt waves of rebellious sentiment toward the Crown and two would not settle their differences.

 

 

No one could say when the American Revolution actually began. But for Benjamin Franklin and “useful gift” of hiding his “brilliance,” the war had just begun ( Augur, page 8). Not everybody believed that the British should give up their control of the colonies while still fighting against the stamp act.

 

“Thomas Crowley, a British Quaker living in London, whose difficult personality overshadowed the efforts he made to 
achieve imperial reform between 1765 and 1775. Crowley's participation in Quaker meetings was revoked in 1774 when he 
refused to relent on his belief that Quakers should pay taxes to the British government. Thereafter, Crowley became active in the 
debates about the Stamp Act, arguing that it overly restricted the American colonies. Crowley's plan, revealed in 1770, would 
have allowed the colonies representation in Parliament, a right he felt would justify taxation and promote a better union with 
Britain. Although Crowley keenly understood the geopolitical context of the colonial crisis, his ideas received little attention from 
members of Parliament or from Americans. Benjamin Franklin, in particular, resisted Crowley's assumptions that the colonies 
needed Britain for protection and that they were indebted to the British Empire. Although fighting between Britain and America 
began in 1775, Crowley continued to advocate his ideas until his death in 1787” (Quaker History 2002 91(1): 1-19).
 
In conclusion, Franklin changed. He sure could have stayed in England, a place in which he loved and lived in opulent 
lifestyle, acceptance of the learned men of England and their subsequent travelers that came there. But Franklin was a special 
man. He can to learn that tyranny could ruin the earth and that a Bastian of sanity needed to exist at least on one corner of the 
globe. After his England experience he would go on to many splendid things. He went to France to help out the French who 
were now helping out the American in the war of independence. Most notably now this changed man was not a citizen of 
England anymore, at least in his mind. He was now one of the first American citizens.

 

“As soon as the revolution was ended, Franklin in France, during the war foretold the migration to America. “”Tyranny

is so generally established in the rest of the world, that the prospects of an asylum in America for those who love liberty gives

general joy… We are fighting for the dignity and happiness of human nature. Glorious it is for the Americans to be called by

Providence to this post of honor”” (Foner &.Garraty p.333).

 

 

Works Cited:

Augur , Helen,  Secret War of Independence 1955, page 219. Duell, Slaon and Pearce, New York; Little, Brown and Company, Boston, Toronto. {LBC}

 

Brands , H.W. The First American 2000.  The life and times of Benjamin Franklin; Prologue: http://www.hwbrands.com/books/firstamerican.shtml#flap

 

Dull, Jonathan R., The French Nay and American Independence (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1975

Electric Scotland Ltd,  Significant Scots Alexander Wedderburn ; 141 Bo'ness Road, Grangemouth,  Stirlingshire FK3 9BS Scotland U.K. http://www.electricscotland.com/history/men/wedderburn_alexander.htm

Findling, John E & Thackery, Frank W, Editors,  Events that Change America in the Eighteenth Century ; The Greenwood Press 1998; ISBN 0-313-29082-2; Interpretive Essay by Thomas Clarkin p. 45

Foner, Eric & Garraty, John A. The readers companion to American History, 1991 Houghton Mifflin Company ISBN 0-395-51372-3

 

Hart, Albert Bushnell, “The American Nation a History,” From original sources by associated scholars. Edited by Albert Bushnell Hart, LLD professor of History in Harvard University 1905,by Harper & Brothers , George II chap.xiii, MacDonald Select Charters page. 259.

Morgan, Edmund S & Morgan , Helen M The Stamp Act Crisis - Prologue too Revolution; The University of North Carolina Press 1953, 1995 ISBN 0-8078-4513-2

Smith, Page, A New Age now Beginning; A people History of the American revolution Vol. 1; McGraw – Hill Book Company 1976 ISBN 0-07-059097-4 {McG}

Staples , William R.The  Documentary History  of the  Destruction of the Gaspee(HTML Version) http://www.gaspee.org/StaplesForwardIntro.htm#Top Forward

Weslanger, C.A. The Stamp Act Congress, with an exact copy of the complete journal   1976 Associated University Presses, Inc. Cranbury, New Jersey 08512. ISBN 0-87413-111-1

Wedderburn, Alexander, 1733-1805 1st Earl of Rosslyn Papers, 1676-1800: http://www.clements.umich.edu/Webguides/Arlenes/UZ/Weddrbrn.html William L. Clements Library , The University of Michigan

Wright, Esmond  Franklin of Philadelphia; 1986 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College; ISBN 0-674-31809-9

Quaker History 2002 91(1): 1-19.  Based on Crowley's letters and essays, notes from the London Quarterly Meeting Book, 
The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, and other primary and   secondary sources; 2 fig., 43 notes.

Zaagsma, Gerben, The Stamp Act and the Sugar Act, from Revolution to Reconstruction: Text prepared by Gerben Zaagsma for From Revolution to Reconstruction - an .HTML project

References:

Colonial Williamsburg ( Young Americans) Nancy’s Story by John Lowery Nixon; 2000; ISBN0-385-32679-3

World Book Encyclopedia; World Book Inc. 2003. ISBN 0-7166-0103-6

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