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"Some take this edict to be merely one of the king's jeux d'esprit; others suppose it serious, and that he means a quarrel with England; but all here think the
assertion it concludes with, that these regulations are copied from acts of the English parliament respecting their colonies,' a very injurious one, it being impossible to believe that a people distinguished for their love of liberty, a nation so wise, so liberal in its sentiments, so just and equitable towards its neighbours, should, from mean and injudicious views of petty immediate profit, treat its own children in a manner 80 arbitrary and tyrannical."
In the midst of this confusion, he also sketched a little emblematical design of the approaching ruinous struggle, representing the general prospects of Great Britain and America, after the manner of the hieroglyphics which frequently appear in the title-pages of our almanacks, containing a silent prediction of the chief events of the year. This was afterwards engraved on a copper-plate, struck off upon cards, and printed on half a sheet of paper, accompanied by the following
EXPLANATION OF THE PLATE.
“Great Britain is supposed to have been placed upon the globe ; but the colonies (that is, her limbs) being severed from her, she is seen lifting up her
eyes and mangled stumps to heaven. Her shield, which she is unable to wield, lies useless by her side; her lance has pierced New England; the laurel branch has fallen from the hand of Pennsylvania : the English oak has lost its head, and stands a bare trunk with a few withered branches ; briars and thorns are on the ground beneath it; the British ships have brooms on their top-mast heads, denoting their being on sale ; and Britannia herself is seen sliding off the world (no longer able to hold its balance) her fragments overspread with the label, DATE OBOLUM BELISARIO.
4 The Moral. * History affords us many instances of the ruin of states by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favour of one part of the people, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy. An equal dispensation of rights, protection, privileges and advantages, is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy ; it being a matter of no moment to the state, whether a subject grow rich and flourishing on the Thames, or the Ohio, in Edinburgh, or Dublin. These measures never fail to create great and violent jealousies and animosities between the people favoured and the people oppressed; whence a total separation of affection, interests, political obligations, and all manner of connexions, necessarily ensues, by which the whole state is weakened, and perhaps ruined for ever."
Lord Mansfield called this production "very able and very artful indeed,” and predicted the twofold mischief it would accomplish; by encouraging the Americans in what he called their “ contumacy,” and giving at home a bad impression of the measures of government. But Franklin must have been tickled uncommonly with the political acumen of the poet laureate of that day, Paul Whitehead. They happened to be together at lord Despencer's the day on which this article appeared, and Whitehead scanned all the papers to inform the company of whatever news there might be. At last he ran forward out of breath with the paper in his hand, exclaiming, “Here! here's news for you; here's the king of Prussia claiming right to this kingdom.” All appeared astonished, and Franklin of course as much as anybody. The poet laureate went on. After two or three paragraphs, one gentleman present exclaimed, “ Pretty impudence! I dare say we shall hear by the next post, that he is on his way with a hundred thousand men to back this.” The joke however was soon discovered, and all present acknowledged it a fair hit.
Dr Franklin left England in March 1775. Before his arrival, hostilities had commenced in Ame
rica: Congress had for some time been regularly sitting at Cambridge in Massachusetts. . Arms were provided against the British troops, and the government stores were seized, lest they should be taken by the British soldiers. The militias were trained, and it now became obvious that there was no hope of accommodation. When the speech delivered from the throne at the opening of the preceding session, and the'addresses returned by both houses of parliament reached America, the indignation and fury of the colonies burst forth, and they resolved one and all to make an appeal to the sword. Congress exhorted the people to lose no time in training their militia preparatory to the approaching crisis; and accordingly on the 19th of April the standard of revolt was publicly erected in the country. The immediate occasion was as follows:--general Gage ordered an expedition to Salem, to take possession of the military stores, but the Americans having anticipated him, he detached nine hundred men to Concord for the same purpose. They marched all night undiscovered, and at five o'clock the next morning, arriving at Lexington, they perceived a company of militia drawn up in the act of exercise. On major Pitcairn ordering them to lay down their arms, they refused, and were immediately fired upon by the troops. The people flew to arms in all directions, and wasted their fury on the British.
Another engagement took place near Concord, between a corps of the provincials, and a detachment of our light infantry, to the evident advantage of the former, two hundred and seventy-three being killed of the British, and about sixty Americans : and had not lord Percy joined them at Lexington with a considerable detachment, they must have been all cut off, or have surrendered themselves prisoners of war. They retreated at the rate of twenty miles in six hours.
The provincial assembly addressed the king, to shew that hostilities originated with the British troops,
and passed a resolution that general Gage had, by his recent conduct, disqualified himself for the office of governor, and that the people had no right to obey him. Lord North's conciliatory plan, which had just arrived, was treated with the utmost contempt. The magazines were seized, an army was raised, preparation for war was the general cry; and a body of militia, containing upwards of twenty thousand men, invested the king's troops in Boston.
In May Franklin had arrived, and the general congress assembling at Philadelphia, resolved to present one more petition to the king, and thus give Britain a last opportunity of reconciliation*, although the minds of the Assembly were so inflamed by their repeated wrongs, that it was with difficulty it was carried through the house.
A letter which Dr Franklin wrote to London soon after his arrival in America, throws a light upon the state in which he found the colonies.
" Philadelphia, May 16, 1775. “ DEAR FRIEND,—You will have heard before this reaches you, of a march stolen by the regulars into the country by night, and of their expedition back again. They retreated twenty miles in six hours.
“The governor had called the Assembly to propose lord North's pacific plan, but, before the time of their meeting, began cutting of throats.—You know it was said he carried the sword in one hand, and the olivebranch in the other; and it seems he chose to give them a taste of the sword first.
“He is doubling his fortifications at Boston, and hopes to secure his troops till succour arrives. The place indeed is naturally so defensible, that I think them in no danger.
“All America is exasperated by his conduct, and more firmly united than ever. The breach between the two countries is grown wider, and in danger of becoming irreparable.
* See Appendix, No. 8.
“I had a passage of six weeks, the weather con. stantly 80 moderate, that a London wherry might have accompanied us all the way. I got home in the evening, and the next morning was unanimously chosen by the Assembly a delegate to the Congress now sitting
" In coming over, I made a valuable philosophical discovery, which I shall communicate to you when I can get a little time. At present I am extremely hurried. " Your's most affectionately,
“B. FRANKLIN.” The following letter to Mr Strahan was written about this time, and breathes the same spirit as the memorial which he wrote just before he left England. It was very soon inserted in all the public papers of both countries :
Philadelphia, July 5, 1775. “ MR STRAHAN,—You are a member of that parliament, and have formed part of that majority, which has condemned my native country to destruction.
“ You have begun to burn our towns, and to destroy their inhabitants.
“ Look at your hands —they are stained with the blood of your relations and your acquaintances.
“ You and I were long friends; you are at present my enemy, and I am yours,
" B. FRANKLIN.” The state of the public mind, and the early features of the war, receive additional illustration from the following communication of Dr Franklin to Dr Priestley :
“ DEAR FRIEND,—The Congress met at a time when all minds were so exasperated by the perfidy of general Gage, and his attack on the country people, that propositions of attempting an accommodation,