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Lesson One

  • O

    Lord our God arise,

Scatter our enemies, And made them fall. Confound their politics Frustrate such hypocrites, Franklin on thee we fix, God save us all. Franklin’s associates looked upon the appointment as a reward for the elder statesman and sincerely believed that he was the ideal choice to block passage of a proposed stamp duty under consideration by Parliament. Despite the opposition of British merchants, Parliament passed the Stamp Act. Franklin failed to recognize the growing hostility towards the tax in the colonies and, trying to make the best of the situation, ordered stamps for his printing house in Philadelphia. On request of British minister George Grenville, Franklin nominated several colonists to act as stamp agents including his friend John Hughes. Opponents in Philadelphia charged that Franklin’s actions were proof of his support of the measure and encouraged public condemnation of the elder statesman. Bitter, a crowd of Philadelphians threatened to burn both the Hughes and Franklin homes.

Suffering the lost of prestige at home, Franklin worked with members of the parliament who had initially opposed passage of the Stamp Act to have the tax repealed. In 1766, Franklin was called before Parliament to testify on American opposition to the Stamp Act and took the opportunity to have the interrogation and his reply published in Philadelphia as a means of rebuilding his image. Shortly thereafter, Parliament repealed the hated tax replacing it with the Declaratory Act, stating that Parliament held the right to tax the colonies. Franklin remained in Britain, buoyed by repeal of the Stamp Act, and was employed by Georgia, New Jersey, and Massachusetts to act as their agents in Britain. He remained in Britain serving the four colonies during the turbulence in Boston and the meeting of the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1774. Blocked by enemies in Britain and unable to win support for the colonies, Franklin sailed for home in March 1775.

Franklin’s rival, John Dickinson, had written pamphlets critical of the Stamp Act and was appointed by the Pennsylvania Legislature as a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress. In 1767–68 Dickinson won popularity in Pennsylvania and throughout the colonies for his series of articles entitled Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania on the non-importation and non-exportation agreements.

While Franklin was in England, the First Continental Congress retaliated against the repressive Coercive Acts and authorized colonies to establish committees to enforce boycotts of British goods. The committee formed in Philadelphia grew in both size and power and by 1776 and was closing shops of merchants who failed to adhere to the boycott, checking ship cargoes for contraband, and attempting to regulate prices of scarce goods.

With the calling of the Second Continental Congress, the Philadelphia Committee petitioned the Pennsylvania Assembly to direct its delegates to vote for independence; however, the Assembly refused. The Committee began to maneuver to seek greater representation in the Assembly for Philadelphia and the backcountry counties that had traditionally been under-represented. A compromise was agreed upon to elect 17 new delegates, four from the city of Philadelphia and the remainder from the backcountry. Once elections were held and new members added to the Assembly, the Committee was certain that Pennsylvania’s representatives at the Continental Congress would be instructed to vote for independence.

The election was called for May 1, 1776. Two competing parties, the Moderates, who sought conciliation with Britain, and the Independents, began to select slates of candidates. John Dickinson,


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