Benjamin Franklin, the First Civilized American

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXV The Attack in the Cockpit

I

MEANTIME ugly incidents have been occurring in America, particularly in Massachusetts, greatly to the annoyance of Governor Hutchinson. The seizure of John Hancock's sloop, the "Liberty," for a violation of the revenue laws, has caused a riot in Boston. British troops have occupied Faneuil Hall and the State House. A collision in King Street has caused three deaths and the trial of the officer commanding the British detachment, Captain Preston. At Providence the British revenue schooner, the "Gaspee," has been boarded and burned.

Franklin regards as particularly offensive the quartering of troops in Boston. He tells a Whig member of Parliament so. The member informs Franklin that all these forcible measures are due to the suggestions -- the actual request, indeed -- of prominent Americans themselves. He offers to back up his assertions with indisputable documents. He brings Franklin a packet of letters written by respectable New Englanders to William Whately, a former member of Parliament and a confidential agent for the Grenville ministry. The contents of these letters amaze Franklin. They call for a strong hand in dealing with the American populace. Six of them are by Thomas Hutchinson, written when he was chief justice and lieutenant-governor of Massachusetts. Hutchinson is not an Englishman but a native, a graduate of Harvard, and one of the earliest advocates of narrow and rigid Sabbath laws. In one letter

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