The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin By Benjamin Franklin Summary and Analysis Part 4: Section 18 - Assembly Agent in England

Summary

Franklin's first step as Assembly Agent was to visit Dr. Fothergill, who advised him to approach the Pennsylvania Proprietors before complaining about them to the government. A Virginia merchant introduced Franklin to Lord Granville, President of the King's Council, who informed him that the King's instructions to the governors became the colonists' laws. Alarmed at this line of thought, Franklin argued that the right to originate their own laws in their Assemblies was guaranteed to the colonists by the province charter; the King could veto proposed laws, but could neither repeal nor alter a law once his original approval had been given.

Fothergill arranged a meeting between Franklin and the Proprietors which began amiably, with everyone present declaring his desire to be reasonable. But after Franklin had presented the Assembly's complaints, and the Proprietors had answered such charges, Franklin felt there was no hope of agreement. He promised, however, to write down his complaints, so that they could be considered at length. The papers were then given to the firm's solicitor, Ferdinando John Paris, "a proud angry Man" who disliked Franklin personally because of Franklin's answers, written on behalf of the Assembly, to his official letters. Franklin therefore refused to discuss matters with Paris, or to talk with anyone but the Proprietors. Then the firm asked opinions on Franklin's paper from the Attorney General and the Solicitor General, who both delayed answering for a year.

A year later, the Proprietors sent word to the Assembly that they wanted to talk with "some Person of Candour" instead of Franklin, who had insulted them by the informal style in which he wrote down the complaints. But the Assembly ignored this request. It had persuaded Governor Denny to pass a law taxing the Proprietary estates along with others. The Proprietors tried to prevent the King from giving his assent to this tax law, alleging that their estates would be taxed unjustly. But at the hearing, Franklin officially promised that measures would be taken to prevent such injustice. Franklin also argued that paper money based on the assumed validity of this tax bill had already been distributed, and that revoking the tax would disrupt the provincial economy. So the law was allowed to pass, though the Proprietors turned Governor Denny, who had originally signed the law as their representative, out of office.

Analysis

Franklin ends his Autobiography with a description of his successful stand against the Proprietors.

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