Interrogation of Franklin in Parliament
The House of Commons, behind closed doors, opened debate on the “American Problem” in January 1766. In February, Franklin was called to testify. During his three-hour interrogation a number of questions, posed by members of Parliament who desired repeal of the Stamp Act, were friendly. Grenville, however, directed hostile questions to Franklin. A few days after Franklin testified, Parliament repealed the Stamp Act by a vote of 275 to 167. Franklin had his testimony recorded and published in Pennsylvania as a means of reestablishing his reputation tarnished by his early acceptance of the Stamp Act. The following is a sampling of the 174 questions directed to Franklin and his responses.
Do you think it right that America should be protected by this country and pay no part of the expense?
That is not the case. The colonies raised, clothed, and paid during the last war [Seven Years’ War] near twenty-five thousand men and spent many millions.
Were you not reimbursed by Parliament?
We were only reimbursed what, in your opinion, we had advanced
. . . and it was a very small
part of what we spent. Pennsylvania, in particular, disbursed about £500,000, and the reimbursements, in the whole, did not exceed £60,000.
What was the temper of America towards Great Britain before the year 1763?
The best in the world. They submitted willingly to the government of the crown and paid, in all their courts, obedience to acts of parliament. Numerous as the people are in the several old provinces, they cost you nothing in forts, citadels, garrisons, or armies to keep them in subjection. They were governed by this country at the expense only of a little pen, ink, and paper. They were led by a thread. They had not only a respect but an affection for Great Britain, for its laws, its customs and manners, and even a fondness for its fashions, that greatly increased the commerce. Natives of Britain were always treated with particular regard; to be an Old-England-man was, of itself, a character of some respect and gave a kind of rank among us.
And what is their temper now?
O, very much altered.
Did you ever hear the authority of Parliament to made laws for America questioned till lately?
The authority of Parliament was allowed to be valid in all laws, except such as should lay internal
taxes. It was never disputed in laying duties to regulate commerce.