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In mine of January 9, I wrote to you that I believed, notwithstanding the clamour against America had been greatly increased by the Boston proceedings, we should attempt this session to obtain the repeal of the restraining act relating to paper money. The change of the administration with regard to American affairs, which was agreed on some time before the new secretary kissed hands and entered upon business, made it impossible to go forward with that affair, as the minister quitting that department would not, and his successor could not engage in it ; but now our friends the merchants have been moving in it, and some of them have conceived hopes, from the manner in which Lord Hillsborough attended to their representations. It had been previously concluded among us, that if the repeal was to be obtained at all, it must be proposed in the light of a favour to the merchants of this country, and asked for by them, not by the agents as a favour to America. But as my Lord had, at sundry times before he came into his present station, discoursed with me on the subject, and got from me a copy of my answer to his report, when at the head of the Board of Trade, which some time since he thanked me for, and said he would read again and consider carefully, I waited upon him this morning, partly with intent to learn if he had changed his sentiments.
We entered into the subject, and had a long conversation upon it, in which all the arguments he used, against the legal tender of paper money, were intended to demonstrate, that it was for the benefit of the people themselves to have no such money current among them ; and it was strongly his opinion, that after the experience of being without it a few years we should all be convinced of this truth, as he said, the New England colonies now were ; they having lately, on the rumor of an intended application for taking off the restraint, petitioned here that it might be continued as to them. However, his Lordship was pleased to say, that if such application was made for the three colonies of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York, as I proposed, it should have fair play, he would himself give it no sort of opposition, but he was sure it would meet with a great deal, and he thought it could not succeed. He was pleased to make me compliments upon my paper, assuring me he had read it with a great deal of attention, that I had said much more in favour of such a currency than he thought could be said, and all he believed that the subject would admit of ; but that it had not on the whole changed his opinion, any further than to induce him to leave the matter now to the judgment of others, and let it take its course, without opposing it as last year he had determined to have done.
I go into the city to-morrow, to confer with the merchants again upon it; that if they see any hopes, we may at least try the event : but I own my expectations are now very slender, knowing as I do, that nothing is to be done in Parliament that is not a measure adopted by ministry and supported by their strength, much less any thing they are averse to or indifferent about.
I took the opportunity of discoursing with his Lordship concerning our particular affair of the change of government, gave him a detail of all proceedings hitherto, the delays it had met with, and its present situation. He was pleased to say he would inquire into the matter, and would talk with me farther upon it. He expressed great satisfaction in the good disposition that he said appeared now to be general in America, with regard to government here, according to the latest advices : and informed me that he had by his Majesty's order wrote the most healing letters to the several governors, which if shown to the Assemblies, as he supposed they would be, could not but confirm that good disposition. As to the permission we want to bring wine, fruit, and oil directly from Spain and Portugal, and to carry iron direct to foreign markets, 'tis agreed on all hands that this is an unfavourable time to move in those matters ; G[eorge] Grenville and those in the opposition, on every hint of the kind, making a great noise about the Act of Navigation, that palladium of England as they call it, to be given up to rebellious America, &c. &c., so that the ministry would not venture to propose it, if they approved. I am to wait on the secretary again next Wednesday, and shall write you farther what passes, that is material.
The Parliament have of late been acting an egregious farce r calling before them the mayor and aldermen of Oxford, for proposing a sum to be paid by their old members on being rechosen at the next election; and sundry printers and brokers, for advertising and dealing in boroughs, &c. The Oxford people were sent to Newgate, and discharged, after some days, on humble petition, and receiving the Speaker's reprimand upon their knees. The House could scarcely keep countenances, knowing as they all do, that the practice is general. People say, they mean nothing more than to beat down the price by a little discouragement of borough jobbing, now that their own elections are all coming on. The price indeed is grown exorbitant, no less than jour thousand pounds for a member.
Mr. Beckford has brought in a bill for preventing bribery and corruption in elections, wherein was a clause to oblige every member to swear, on their admission into the House, that he had not directly or indirectly given any bribe to any elector, &c. ; but this was so universally exclaimed against, as answering no end but perjuring the members, that he has been obliged to withdraw that clause. It was indeed a cruel contrivance of his, worse than the gunpowder plot ; for that was only to blow the Parliament up to heaven, this to sink them all down to . Mr. Thurlow opposed his bill by a long speech. Beckford, in reply, gave a dry hit to the House, that is repeated everywhere. "The honourable gentleman," says he, "in his learned discourse, gave us first one definition of corruption, then he gave us another definition of corruption, and I think he was about to give us a third. Pray does that gentleman imagine there is any member of this House that does not KNOW what corruption is?" which occasioned only a roar of laughter, for they are so hardened in the practice, that they are very little ashamed of it. This between ourselves. I am with sincerest esteem, dear Sir, your most obedient humble servant, B. FRANKLIN.
- Benjamin Franklin
- The Writings of Benjamin Franklin Volume V, Albert Henry Smyth, 1906