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LESSON ONE PENNSYLVANIAS ROAD TO REVOLUTION

A. OBJECTIVES

  • Explain colonial resentment over the passage of the Stamp Act.

  • Evaluate Franklin’s effectiveness as Pennsylvania’s agent in London and how his policy regarding the Stamp Act affected his reputation.

  • Evaluate the strategies of Philadelphia’s radicals in moving Pennsylvania’s delegates to the Continental Congress to a pro-independence stance.

  • Engage primary documents from multiple perspectives in order to understand the complexity of historical events.

B. HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

enjamin Franklin was in Scotland when General Wolfe defeated the French at Quebec during the Seven Years War. On hearing of the fall of Quebec, Franklin remarked to Lord Henry Kames, one of Scotland’s most eminent jurists, of the need for Britain to secure a peace that would prevent the French from regaining control of Canada or the Ohio Valley.

Franklin, in an essay The Interest of Great Britain Considered, wrote that the return of Canada to the French after the war would be both foolish and imprudent. Understanding that some in Britain feared that without the presence of the French the colonists might unite and ultimately threaten British sovereignty, Franklin assured his readers that the petty jealousy among the colonies was so great that “they have never been able to effect such an union among themselves, nor even to agree in requesting the mother country to establish it for them.” However, he qualified the statement writing, “When I say such an union is impossible, I mean without the most grievous tyranny and oppression. . . . While the government is mild and just, while important civil and religious rights are secure, such subjects will be dutiful and obedient. The waves do not rise but when the winds blow.”1

Franklin returned to Philadelphia in 1762 and two years later stood for election to the Pennsylvania Assembly. His opponent, John Dickinson, outpolled Franklin by 130 votes. Although Franklin lost the election his party maintained control of the Assembly. His friends in the Assembly appointed him as agent for the colony and Franklin returned to London. Dickinson protested the appointment arguing that Franklin had proved himself in the election “to be extremely disagreeable to a very great number of the most serious and reputable inhabitants” of Pennsylvania. Franklin responded to his critics publicly stating, “And what comfort can it be to you when the Assembly’s choice of an agent . . . to you [an] obnoxious man . . . still retains so great a share of the public confidence?”

Shortly after being appointed to his new post in England, Franklin set sail after a serenade from his supporters of a new anthem composed on his behalf to the tune of “God Save the King.”

1

David Freeman Hawke, Franklin (New York: Harper & Row, 1976), p. 180.

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