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Lesson One

Reading 3

Benjamin Franklin on the Stamp Act

Franklin wrote a letter to a friend, Charles Thomson, in November 1765 stating his opposition to the Stamp Act while recognizing that nothing could be done to stop its passage.

Charles Thomson Dictionary of American Portraits, Dover Publications, Inc., 1967

Depend upon it my good neighbour, I took every step in my power to prevent the passing of the stamp act no body could be more concerned in interest than myself to oppose it sincerely & heartily. But the Tide was too strong against us. The nation was provoked by American Claims of Independence & all Parties joined in resolving by this act to settle the point. We might as well have hindered the sun’s setting. That we could not do. But since ‘tis down my Friend and it may be long before it rises again, let us make as good a night of it as we can. We may still light candles. Frugality and Industry will go a great way toward indemnifying us. Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand than Kings and Parliament. If we can get rid of the former we may easily bear the latter. My best respects to Mrs. Thomson. Adieu, my Dear Friend, & believe me ever, yours affectionately,

B. Franklin. Source: TheThomson Papers (New-York Historical Society, Collections, 1878), p. 5.

Franklin’s Reaction to Colonial Protests

When Franklin heard of Virginia’s resolutions against the Stamp Act, he expressed the view that Pennsylvania should not follow Virginia’s lead. Franklin wrote home:

[Pennsylvania should] keep within the bounds of prudence and moderation; for that is the only way to lighten or get clear of our burthens [burdens]. . . . In the meantime a firm loyalty to the crown and faithful adherence to the government of the nation, which it is the safety as well as honor of the colonies to be connected with, will always be the wisest course for you and I to take, whatever may be the madness of the populace or their blind leaders, who can only bring themselves and country into trouble, and draw on great burthens by acts of rebellious tendency.

Source: Hawke, Franklin, p. 232.


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