Item of the Day: Franklin on the Interest of Great Britain (1760)

Full Title:

The Interest of Great Britain Considered with Regard to Her Colonies and the Acquisitions of Canada and Guadaloupe.  To which are added, Observations concerning the increase of Mankind, peopling of Countries, &c.  As the very ingenious, useful, and worthy Author of this Pamphlet [B——n F——n, LL. D.] is well-known and much esteemed in England and America; and seeing that his other Works have been received with universal Applause; the present Production needs no further Recommendation to a generous, free, an intelligent, and publick-spirited People.  The Second Boston-Edition.  London, Printed MDCCLX.  Boston, N. E. Reprinted and Sold by B. Mecom, at the New Printing-Office, near the Town-House.  1760.

I have perused with no small Pleasure the Letter addressed to Two Great Men, and the Remarks on that Letter.  It is not merely from the Beauty, the Force and Perspicuity of Expression, or the general Elegance of Manner conspicuous in both Pamphlets, that my Pleasure chiefly arises; it is rather from this, that I have lived to see Subjects of the greatest Importance to this Nation publickly discussed without Party-Views, or Party-Heat, with Decency and Politeness, and with no other Warmth than what a Zeal for the Honour and Happiness of our King and Country may inspire;–and this by Writers whose Understanding (however they may differ from each other) appears not unequal to their Candour and Uprightness of their Intention.

But, as great Abilities have not always the best Information, there are, I apprehend, in the Remarks some Opinions not well founded, and some Mistakes of so important a Nature, as to render a few Observations on them necessary for the better information of the Publick.   

The Author of the Letter, who must be every Way best able to support his own Sentiments, will, I hope, excuse me, if I seem officiously to interfere; when he considers, that the Spirit of Patriotism, like other Qualities good and bad, is catching; and that this long Silence since the Remarks appeared has made us despair of seeing the Subject further discussed by masterly Hand.  The ingenious and candid Remarker, too, who must have been misled himself before he employed his Skill and Address to mislead others, will certainly, since he declares he aims at no Seduction, be disposed to excuse even the weakest effort to prevent it. 

And surely if the general Opinions that possess the Minds of the People may possibly be of Consequence in publick Affairs, it must be fit to set those Opinions right.  If there is Danger, as the Remarker supposes that “extravagant Expectations” may embarrass “a virtuous and able Ministry,” and “render the Negotiation for Peace a Work of infinite Difficulty;” there is no less Danger that Expectations too low, through Want of proper Information, may have a contrary Effect, may make even a virtuous and able Ministry less anxious, and less attentive to the obtaining Points, in which the Honour and Interest of the Nation are essentially concerned; and the People less hearty in supporting such a Ministry and its Measures. 

The People of this Nation are indeed respectable, not for their Numbers only, but for their Understanding and their publick Spirit: They manifest the first, by their universal Approbation of the late prudent and vigorous Measures, and the Confidence they justly repose in a wise and good Prince, and an honest and able Administration; the latter they have demonstrated by the immense Supplies granted in Parliament unanimously, and paid through the whole Kingdom with Chearfulness.  And since to this Spirit and these Supplies our “Victories and Successes” have in great Measure been owing, is it quite right, is it generous to say, with the Remarker, that the People “had no Share in acquiring them?”  The mere Mob he cannot mean, even when he speaks of the Madness of the People; for the Madness of the Mob must bee too feeble and impotent, arm’d as the Government of this Country at present is, to “over-rule,” even in the slightest Instances, the “Virtue and Moderation” of a firm and steady Ministry.

While the War continues, its final event is quite uncertain.  The Victorious of this Year may be  the Vanquished of the next.  It may therefore be too early to say, what Advantages we ought absolutely to insist on, and make the sine quibus non of a Peace, If the Necessity of our Affairs should oblige us to accept of Terms less advantageous than our present Successes seem to promise us, an intelligent People, as ours is, must see that Nesessity, and will acquiesce.  But as a Peace, when it is made, may be made hastily; and as the unhappy Continuance of the War affords us Time to consider, among several Advantages gain’d or to be gain’d, which of them may be most for our interest to retain, if some and not all may possibly be retained; I do not blame the public Disquisition of these Points, as premature or useless.  Light often arises from a Collision of Opinions, as Fire from Flint and Steel; and if we can obtain the Benefit of the Light, without Danger from the Heat sometimes produc’d by Controversy, why should we discourage it.   

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Filed under 1760's, American Revolution, Colonial America, Eighteenth century, Franklin, Great Britain, New England, Political Pamphlets, Posted by Matthew Williams

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