Benjamin Franklin Grows Increasingly Alienated from the British Empire
Digital History ID 116
As late as 1775, Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was convinced that the issues dividing Britain and the colonies were "a Matter of Punctilio, which Two or three reasonable People might settle in half an Hour." But years earlier, his enemies were already trying to use their influence within the British government to get him dismissed from his position as postmaster, an effort he describes in the following letter, which was written while Franklin was in London. In fact, he was not dismissed from the post until 1774.
As to the Rumor you mention (which was, as Josiah tells me, that I had been deprived of my Place in the Post Office on Account of a letter I wrote to Philadelphia) it might have this Foundation, that some of the Ministry had been displeas'd at my Writing such Letters, and there were really some Thoughts among them of shewing that Displeasure in that manner. But I had some Friends too, who unrequested by me advised the contrary. And my Enemies were forced to content themselves with abusing me plentifully in the Newspapers, and endeavoring to provoke me to resign. In this they are not likely to succeed, I being deficient in that Christian Virtue of Resignation. If they would have my Office, they must take it--I have heard of some great Man, whose Rule it was with regard to Offices, Never to ask for them, and never to refuse them: To which I have always added in my own Practice, Never to resign them. As I told my Friends, I rose to that office thro' a long Course of Service in the inferior Degrees of it: Before my time, thro' bad Management, it never produced the Salary annexed to it; and when I received it, no Salary was to be allow'd if the office did not produce it.... I had been chiefly instrumental in bringing it [the Post Office] to its present flourishing State, and therefore thought I had some kind of Right to it. I had hitherto executed the Duties of it faithfully, and to the perfect Satisfaction of my Superiors, which I thought was all that should be expected of me on that Account. As to the Letters complained of, it was true I did write them, and they were written in Compliance with another Duty, that to my Country. A Duty quite Distinct from that of Postmaster. My Conduct in this respect was exactly similar with that I held on a similar Occasion but a few Years ago, when the then Ministry were ready to hug me for the Assistance I afforded them in repealing a former Revenue Act. My Sentiments were still the same, that no such Acts should be made here for America; or, if made should as soon as possible be repealed; and I thought it should not be expected of me, to change my Public Opinions every time his Majesty thought fit to change his Ministers.... My rule in which I have always found Satisfaction, is, Never to turn aside in Public Affairs thro' Views of private Interest; but to go strait forward in doing what appears to me right at the time, leaving the Consequences with Providence. What in my younger Day enabled me to more easily walk upright, was, that I had a Trade; and that I could live upon a little; and thence (never having had views of making a Fortune) I was free from Avarice, and contented with the plentiful Supplies my business afforded me. And now it is still more easy for me to preserve my Freedom and Integrity, when I consider, that I am almost at the End of my Journey [Franklin would live nearly twenty more productive years].
Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute
Additional information: Benjamin Franklin to his sister Jane Mecom
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