Study Guide

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Part 4

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Part 4

  • July 1757, Franklin and his son get to their house in London and Franklin visits Dr. Fothergill to consult about the problem with the governor and the Assembly. Fothergill says Franklin should speak with the Proprietaries.
  • Franklin visits Collinson, who takes him to meet merchant John Hanbury, and they go together to meet Lord Granville, who is president of the King's privy council (the people who will decide about Franklin's case).
  • In this meeting, Lord Granville says that Americans don't understand their constitution and that they think the King's instructions aren't laws, but they are. He says "the king is the legislator of the colonies."
  • This is news to Franklin, who replies that he thinks the Americans make their own laws, which need to be approved by the King, but that he can't change his mind about them. Lord Granville says Franklin is wrong in this.
  • Franklin writes down their conversation for future reference and remembers that, twenty years earlier, a similar bill had tried to make the King's "instructions" colonial law, but the bill had been thrown out.
  • Fothergill talks to the Proprietors, or colony owners, and they meet with Franklin at Thomas Penn's, the proprietor of Pennsylvania's, home. (Franklin says it's John Penn's but he's wrong.)
  • At this meeting they start out as friendly, explaining their sides to one another, but can't agree. Franklin writes down the colonists' complaints for them, but they give what he writes to their lawyer Ferdinando John Paris, who's not nice, and definitely not a friend of Franklin.
  • The Proprietors try to make Franklin deal with Paris, but he refuses. Paris advises the Proprietors to give Franklin's complaint to the solicitor general, who sits on it for a year. They never get back to Franklin directly, but reply to the Assembly saying Franklin is rude and they won't deal with him.
  • Franklin wonders if they think he was too informal in his paper, since he didn't go through and list all their titles while writing what he thought was a simple complaint. During the waiting time, this all becomes moot, because the Assembly and the governor finally agree to tax both the Proprietary Estate and peoples' estates, which was the whole problem in the first place.
  • The Proprietors don't like this and petition the King to keep the act from receiving the Royal Assent. They go to court with two lawyers on their side and two on Franklin's/the Assembly's. The Proprietors argue that the act will ruin them in favor of the people, while Franklin's side points out that it's supposed to be an honest form of taxation and won't injure anyone. More importantly, Franklin asks that the money they've given for the King's use not be repealed, since it's been widely circulated and would bankrupt a lot of people.
  • At this point in the case, Franklin is taken aside by Lord Mansfield, who mediates with him and Paris and gets them to sign an agreement they create for the purpose. Franklin and Mr. Charles sign it, and the law passes.
  • Later, the assembly will find that everyone was taxed equally. They thank Franklin very much for working on it, but the proprietaries are unhappy with Governor Denny for passing the act and have him fired. They threaten to sue him, but he gets out of it because he has friends in high places.

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