The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin HTML version

Part IV
AS SOON as I was settled in a lodging Mr. Charles had provided for me, I went to visit
Dr. Fothergill, to whom I was strongly recommended, and whose counsel respecting my
proceedings I was advis'd to obtain. He was against an immediate complaint to
government, and thought the proprietaries should first be personally appli'd to, who might
possibly be induc'd by the interposition and persuasion of some private friends, to
accommodate matters amicably. I then waited on my old friend and correspondent, Mr.
Peter Collinson, who told me that John Hanbury, the great Virginia merchant, had
requested to be informed when I should arrive, that he might carry me to Lord
Granville's, who was then President of the Council and wished to see me as soon as
possible. I agreed to go with him the next morning. Accordingly Mr. Hanbury called for
me and took me in his carriage to that nobleman's, who receiv'd me with great civility;
and after some questions respecting the present state of affairs in America and discourse
thereupon, he said to me: "You Americans have wrong ideas of the nature of your
constitution; you contend that the king's instructions to his governors are not laws, and
think yourselves at liberty to regard or disregard them at your own discretion. But those
instructions are not like the pocket instructions given to a minister going abroad, for
regulating his conduct in some trifling point of ceremony. They are first drawn up by
judges learned in the laws; they are then considered, debated, and perhaps amended in
Council, after which they are signed by the king. They are then, so far as they relate to
you, the law of the land, for the king is the LEGISLATOR OF THE COLONIES." I told
his lordship this was new doctrine to me. I had always understood from our charters that
our laws were to be made by our Assemblies, to be presented indeed to the king for his
royal assent, but that being once given the king could not repeal or alter them. And as the
Assemblies could not make permanent laws without his assent, so neither could he make
a law for them without theirs. He assur'd me I was totally mistaken. I did not think so,
however, and his lordship's conversation having a little alarm'd me as to what might be
the sentiments of the court concerning us, I wrote it down as soon as I return'd to my
lodgings. I recollected that about 20 years before, a clause in a bill brought into
Parliament by the ministry had propos'd to make the king's instructions laws in the
colonies, but the clause was thrown out by the Commons, for which we adored them as
our friends and friends of liberty, till by their conduct towards us in 1765 it seem'd that
they had refus'd that point of sovereignty to the king only that they might reserve it for
After some days, Dr. Fothergill having spoken to the proprietaries, they agreed to a
meeting with me at Mr. T. Penn's house in Spring Garden. The conversation at first
consisted of mutual declarations of disposition to reasonable accommodations, but I
suppose each party had its own ideas of what should be meant by reasonable. We then
went into consideration of our several points of complaint, which I enumerated. The
proprietaries justify'd their conduct as well as they could, and I the Assembly's. We now
appeared very wide, and so far from each other in our opinions as to discourage all hope
of agreement. However, it was concluded that I should give them the heads of our
complaints in writing, and they promis'd then to consider them. I did so soon after, but