Page images

Braddock unfortunately fell into an ambuscade, and perished, with a number of his men. Washington, who had accompanied him as an aid-de-camp, and had warned him, in vain, of his danger, now displayed great military talents in effecting a retreat of the remains of the army, and in forming a junc. tion with the rear, under colonel Dunbar, upon whom the chief command now devolved. With some difficulty they brought their little body to a place of safety'; but they found it necessary to destroy their waggons and baggage, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy. For the waggons which he had furnished, Franklin had givenbonds to a large amount. The owners declared their intentions of obliging him to make a restitution of their pro. perty. Had they put their threats in execution, ruin must inevitably have been the consequence. Gov. ernor Shirley, finding that he had incurred these debts for the service of government, made arrange. ments to have them discharged, and released Frank. lin from his disagreeable situation,

The alarm spread through the colonies, after the defeat of Braddock, was very great. Preparations to arm were every where made. In Pennsylvania, the prevalence of the quaker interest prevented the adoption of any system of defence, which would compel the citizens to bear arms. Franklin introduced into the assembly a bill for organizing a mi. litia, by which every man was allowed to take arms or not, as to him should appear fit. The quakers,, being thus left at liberty, suffered the bill to pass; for although their principles would not suffer them to fighi, they had no objection to their neighbors fighting for them. In consequence of this act a ve. r: respectable militia was formed. The sense of impending danger infused a military spirit in aile

whose religious tenets were not opposed to war.
Franklin was appointed colonel of a regiment in
Philadelphia, which consisted of 1200 men.
* The north-western frontier being invaded by the
enemy, it became necessary to adopt measures for
its defence. Franklin was directed by the gov.
ernor to take charge of ihis business.' A power of
raising men, and of appointing officers to command
them, was vested in him. He soon levied a body
of troops, with which he repaired to the place at
which their presence was necessary. Here he built
a fort, and placed the garrison in such a posture of
defence as would enable them to withstand the in:
roads to which the inhabitants had previously been
exposed. He remained here for some time, in or.
der the more completely' to discharge the trust
committed to him. Some business of importance
rendered his presence necessary in the assembly,
and he returned to Philadelphia.

The defence of her colonies was a great expence to Great Britain. The most effectual mode of les. sening this was, to put arms in the hands of the inhabitants, and to teach them their use. But Eng. land wished not that the Americans should become acquainted with their own strength. She was apprehensive, that, as soon as this period arrived, they would no longer submit to that monopoly of their trade, which to them was highly injurious, but ex. tremely advantageous to the mother country. In comparison with the profits of this, the expence of maintaining arinies and fleets to defend them was trifling. She fought to keep them dependent on her for protection, the best plan which could be devised for retaining them in peaceable subjection. The least appearance of a militars: spirit was therefore to be guarded against, and, although a war

[ocr errors]

then raged, the act organizing a mililia was disapproved of by the ministry. The regiments which had been formed under it were disbanded, and the defence of the province enirusied to regular troops.

The disputes between the proprietaries and the people continued in full force, although a war was raging on the frontiers. Not even the sense of danger was sufficient to reconcile, for ever so short a time, their jarring interests. The assembly still insisted upon the justice of taxing the proprietary estates, but the governors constantly refused to give their assent to this measure, without which no bill could pass into a law. Enraged at this obstinacy, and what they conceived to be unjust proceedings of their opponents, the assembly at length determined to apply to the mother country for relief. A petition was addressed to the king, in council, siating the inconveniences under which the inhabi. tants labored, from the attention of the proprietaries to their private interests, to the neglect of the general welfare of the community, and praying for redress. Franklin was appointed to present this ad. dress, as agent for the province of Pennsylvania, and departed from America in June, 1757. 10 conformity to the instructions which he had received from the legislature, he held a conference with the proprietaries, who then resided in Enge land, and endeavored to prevail upon them to give up the long contested point. Finding ihat they would hearken to no terms of accommodation, he laid his petition before the council. During this time governor Denny assented to the law imposing a tax, in which no discrimination was made in fra vor of the estates of the Penn family. They,'alarmed at this intelligence, and Franklin's exertions, used their utmost excrtions to prevent the royal sanction being given to this law, which they repre. sented as highly iniquitous, designed to throw the burden of supporting government on them, and calculated to produce the most ruinous consequen. ces to them and their posterity. The cause was amply discussed before the privy council. The Penns found here some strenuous advocates; nor were there wanting some who warmly espoused the side of the people. After some time spent in debate, a proposal was made, that Franklin should solemnly engage, that the assessment of the tax should be so made, as that the proprietary estates should pay no more than a due proportion. This he agreed to perform, the Penn family withdrew their opposition, and tranquility was thus once more restored to the province.

The mode in which this dispute was terminated is a striking proof of the high opinion entertained of Franklin's integrity and honor, even by those who considered -him as inimical to their views. Nor was their confidence ill-founded. The assesse ment was made upon the strictest principles of equity; and the proprietary estates bore only a proportionable share of the expences of supporting government.

Afier the completion of this important business, Franklin remained at the court of Great Britain, as agent for the province of Pennsylvania. The extensive knowledge which he possessed of the situa. tion of the colonies, and the regard which he al. ways manifested for their interests, occasioned his appointment to the same office by the colonies of Massachusetts, Maryland, and Georgia. His con. duct, in this situation, was such as rendered him still more dear to his countryinen.

lle had now an opportunity of indulging in the


society of those friends, whom his merits had pro-, cured him while at a distance. The regard which they had entertained for him was rather increased by a personal acquaintance. The opposition which had been made to his discoveries in philosophy gra. dually ceased, and the rewards of literary merit were abundantly conferred upon him. The royal society of London, which had at first refused his performances admission into its transactions, now thought it an honor to rank him among its fellows. Other societies in Europe were equally ambitious of calling him a member. The university of St. Andrew's, in Scotland, conferred upon him the de. gree of Doctor of Laws. Its example was follow ed by the universities of Edinburgh and of Oxford. His correspondence was sought for by the inost emi. nent philosophers of Europe. His letters to these abound with true science, delivered in the most simple unadorned manner. .: The province of Canada was at this time in the possession of the French, who had originally set. tled it. The trade with the Indians, for which its situation was very convenient, was exceedingly lucrative. The French traders here found a market i for their commodities, and received in return large quantities of rich furs, which they disposed of at a high price in F.urope. Whilst the possession of this country was highly, advantageous to France, it was a grievous inconvenience to the inhabitants of of the British colonies. The Indians were almost generally desirous to cultiviate the friendship of the French, by whom they were abundantly supplied with arms and ammunition. Whenever a war happened the Indians were ready to fall upon the fron. tiers; and this they frequently did, even when G, Britain and France were at peace . From these


« PreviousContinue »