Sept. 26th Question: Benjamin Franklin Testifies before Parliament

Just a reminder: we don’t have class on Wednesday, so we will be having the weekly quiz on Monday (this will be the only Monday quiz of the semester). The quiz is on Chapter 4, and you can find the review sheet for it here.

Now for the web comment: Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790) had many dramatic moments in his lengthy and esteemed career, but one that must have been particularly memorable was when he gave testimony to Parliament against the Stamp Act in 1766.

Franklin traveled back and forth to London several times throughout his life: as a young man in 1725-1726, as an as an agent representing the political interests of the Pennsylvania Assembly from 1757-1762, and returning again in the same position from 1764-1775. During his 1757-1762 trip, Franklin was awarded honorary doctorates for his scientific work from the University of St. Andrews (1759) and Oxford University (1762), and thereafter referred to himself as “Doctor Franklin” (there were no doctoral-granting institutions in the colonies).

During his second stint as a Pennsylvania agent, he argued against Pennsylvania continuing to be a proprietary colony owned by the Penn family, demanding that it come under direct royal control. Despite William Penn granting significant freedoms under the Charter of Liberties in 1701, many Pennsylvanians resented the Penn family’s control, especially under the rule of William’s son, Thomas, who some viewed as arbitrary and corrupt. Franklin made a persuasive case, but his petition was rejected by King George III in 1765. In 1766, Franklin was called before Parliament to testify about the crisis triggered by the Stamp Act. You can access the text of Franklin’s testimony before Parliament here.

In your comment, describe the kinds of arguments that Franklin is making against the Stamp Act. Do you think Franklin may have contributed to Parliament’s decision to repeal the Stamp Act? What does Franklin say about the possibility of military force being used to enforce the Stamp Act? What possible strategies of resistance does he mention?

If you’d like, you might also want to say something about the above portrait of Franklin painted in London in 1767 by the British painter David Martin. How does this portrait differ from the traditional way we see Franklin depicted?

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Published in: on September 27, 2011 at 1:58 pm  Comments (19)  

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  1. Benjamin Franklin argues Americans pay heavy taxes on all estates such as poll tax, tax on trades, wine, negroes and the like. He states due to the seven years war it left much of the frontier colonies in poverty, leaving them not able to pay taxes induced by the Stamp Act. “Many colonies would just not pay the taxes unless compelled by armed forces” says Franklin but then goes on to say if military forces were sent to America they would find no one to fight against. There would be no rebellion but the british empire would certainly create one. If the Americans decide to do without british goods such as clothes and others which they can provide for themselves, they can not force them to oblige. I believe Fanklin’s arguments planted a seed in the mind of parliament which later swayed their decision into the repeal of the Stamp Act.

    • As for the painting of Ben Franklin to me he looks more like a british nobleman whereas usual pics potray him in regular clothes, not so fancy dressed

  2. Benjamin Franklin argues that there are already many taxes in Pennsylvania that the frontier colonies can barely pay for. He states that in his opinion, there is not enough gold and silver in the colonies to pay the stamp duty for one year. Franklin feels as though the colonies that pay the taxes are not the ones benefiting from them, but the conqured colonies are instead. Franklin also argues that Pennsylvania was not properly reimbursed. Pennsylvania disbursed about 500,000 pounds, and their reimbursements did not exceed 60,000 pounds. I do believe Benjamin Franklin may have contributed to Parliament’s decision to re peal the Stamp Act. He made a lot of strong points that can be proven. Franklin thinks that using military force is pointless. He states, “They cannot force a man to take stamps who chooses to do without them. They will not find a rebellion; they may indeed make one”.

  3. In this testimony Franklin argues that because of the taxation, the colonists will begin losing faith in the crown. They already feel controlled by Britain (though do not oppose it) and he mentions that they will resist the new taxes. He also argues that the colonies were not appropriately reimbursed for the goods which were distributed during the war causing them to sink deeper into poverty. Franklin says that because of a loss of respect the Americans will face for Britain, the trade and commerce between the two will suffer. The colonists will learn to make do without luxuries because they have no means of paying the British government.

    I believe he played a big role in the repeal of the Stamp Act because he was very well respected and also a well known publisher. He may have had an even heavier personal vendetta against the stamp act as well, because of a rise in the cost to work his newspaper.

  4. Benjamin Franklin argues that the colonists does not have enough money to pay taxes,on stamps in particular. There are heavy taxes on many other common uses such as taxes on estates,poll taxes,taxes on offices,professions, trades and businesses according to their profits. As well as wine,rum and slaves. He argues that the taxes are only spent in the colonies in which the soldiers are. Therefore, it doesn’t benefit all of the colonies and it is used to support military and civil establishment when this is what caused the heavy debt in the first place because of the Seven Years War. I think that his argument had an impact on the Parliament decision because he acted basically as the voice for the colonists. He let it be known that they would boycott against British goods such as cloths. The colonist would wear the old ones until they were able to make new ones because they no longer have respect for Britain. He also argues that they would not pay the tax unless by armed forces which shows that chaos would erupt frequently. Therefore, I think his opinion was looked into.

  5. I found it interesting that the one thing Franklin kept repeating is “No, never, unless compelled by force of arms….” I felt that the only thing he was really trying to drive into to Parliament is the complete outrage of the colonies. To make the above quote meant that these people would sooner go to war, then to allow Britain to impose unfair taxes for services they are not receiving directly or even indirectly. Franklin’s argument was prepared for any opposition of parliament. He said that there was never a problem with the tax taken before 1763. This meant that if we (the people of the colonies) never had an issue paying, that current hostility was not without merit. Enforcing the people to pay would not have worked in Franklin’s opinion either. He felt that it would have started a rebellion especially in commerce. People already no longer cared about having the latest fashion. They would rather learn to sew then make England richer. Even when Parliament ask about the funds appropriated for there lost. He remarked that the money given back was only a small percentage, almost as if saying how dare you short change us then have the nerve to bring upon us another tax.
    I looked images of Benjamin Franklin. In the photo on wordpress.com site he seems intellectual and in deep thought. In just about the images I saw he a bit dopey and aloof.

  6. Ultimately, all of Benjamin Franklin’s responses to parliament branches back to the Colonies and Great Britain’s relationship and its possible effect on commerce. The point Benjamin Franklin argues for is that any imposition, on the half of Great Britain, will cause an altercation between the two parties. If such event occurs, Franklin states, “…they [Colonist] will take very little of your manufactures in a short time.”

    Though, i don’t believe Benjamin Franklin was the sole person responsible for the Stamp Act of 1765 annulment, i do believe his testimonial helped on the final decision.

  7. Benjamin Franklin’s testmony indeed had greatly contributed to the repealing of Stamp Act of 1765. he mentions before the Stamp Act being imposed in 1763, the colonies view england as their role model and best friend in the world and the colonies would eager to willingly to summit themselves under british control and paid all required taxes. however, english had gone too far by collecting taxes on every printed documents and that’s too unjust and unconstitutional. it was really not the right and bad decison for england to impose taxes on internal goods. benjamin franklin also warns that if the parliment insisted, then most likely it would push all the colonies together to stop all trades with england. that would 100% hurts the both economy badly.

  8. I think because of the hardships that America endured under the British Colonial system,america finally became Independent,if it wasn’t for this they would have never became independent………..

  9. The key of the US independence was the loss of attention by the British and also the US colonies took advantage that the British Army was weak after a war with the French. Something that help the US colonies think about independence was the anger by all the taxation applied by the British after the war and the non representation of the US in parliament.

  10. Franklin argued that the Americans paid heavy taxes on all estates such as poll tax, trades, wine, slaves and much more. He stated that due to the seven years war, it left a bunch of the frontier colonies in poverty, leaving them not able to pay taxes induced by the Stamp Act, and that there are already many taxes in Pennsylvania that the frontier colonies could barely pay for. He felt as though the colonies that pay the taxes weren’t the ones benefiting from them, but the conquered colonies instead. Franklin also says that because of a loss of respect the Americans will face for Britain, the trade and commerce between the two will suffer.

    I think that Franklin played a significant role during the repeal of the Stamp Act because he was very well respected along with being a very well known publisher to make matters better for him. He might have even had a personal premeditated grudge towards the stamp act in terms of the increase in cost to run his newspaper.

  11. The dialogue provided is very interesting. Franklin answers are the rude truth. Whether Parliament wants to hear it or not, Franklin answers were bold and straight to the point. For example, the question Parliament asked was “Do not you think the people of America would submit to pay the stamp duty, if it was moderated?”, Franklin answered “No, never, unless compelled by force of arms….”. Then Franklin proceeds to argue that it will be the Bristish imposing and bringing arms. The people of America will not pay the Stamp Act and even if Parliament lowers the rate, the people meaning the citizens of America would still not pay. Thus showing, that the argument is a one man stand, Franklin poses that American will do nothing, and the British would more than likely impose and cause an unnecessary event, massacre, or even war.
    In simply, Franklin states that there is no money in America. There is not enough money to go around for each family to live as well as pay taxes. He questions the authority of Parliament to serve internal taxes throughout the states. Once Parliament wuestion moderation, Franklin poses military force. Parliament then questions military force, “Can anything less than a military force carry the Stamp Act into execution?” Franklin completely poses about military force but comes back with saying, “Suppose a military force sent into America; they will find nobody in arms; what are they then to do? They cannot force a man to take stamps who chooses to do without them. They will not find a rebellion; they may indeed make one.” Franklin is clever to point out these facts making Franklin inferior over Parliament.
    Franklin closes concluding that American does not need Britain for goods for for army. If it can not be in reach to Americans they will simply do without until they can manufacture it themselves.

  12. Franklin holds strongly and firmly to his argument in front of the parliament. He says that Americans were being taxed on everything which included trade, business, wine, rum ect. When asked whether or not the people are able to pay the taxes Franklin stands up strongly for the Americans who are paying tax by saying that the taxation is leaving the people to become poor. He also says that there isn’t enough gold or silver in the colonies to help pay the taxes placed on the people. He believed that the colonists were paying to much tax and not enough was being done for them.
    Yes I do believe that Benjamin Franklin contributed to the parliaments decision to repeal the Stamp Act because he was a very educated and known person of his time which would encourage the Parliament to take his views and ideas/ thoughts into consideration when making such a big decision.

  13. Benjamin Franklin’s argues that the purpose of the taxes were because
    of the Seven Years War. They were not fully reimbursed for the goods
    which caused them to be deeper in poverty. Franklin says,” A total loss of the respect and affection the people of America bear to this
    country, and of all the commerce that depends on that respect and affection” meaning that America will longer have respect for them, making the problem even worse. And yes, I believe he played a big role in the repeal of the Stamp Act because he seemed to be opposing in the dialogue. It also showed in his newspaper because of the cost being raised.

  14. Franklin’s arguments against the Stamp Act range not only from loss of respect of the colonies of Britain, but a whole economic disruption for Britain if they were to move forward in enforcing the Stamp Act. Franklin explains how the people of the colonies will not only resist paying the “enforced” charges but not even military power would make them give in. He says that if military force were to be used “they will find nobody in arms; what are they then to do? They cannot force a man to take stamps who chooses to do without them. They will not find a rebellion; they may indeed make one.” Aside from the threat of military enforcement not being bothersome to the colonists, Franklin explains how they will not have a problem rejecting imported goods from Britain, because they are prepared to suffice whatever necessities they need until they create their own means of producing everything themselves. Franklin simply, but blatantly states to Parliament that in the long run the Stamp Act will greatly hurt Parliament and not affect the colonists. I think Franklin’s testament did have an impact on the repeal of the Stamp Act for that reason.

  15. Benjamin Franklin comes into this interview saying that the American’s can not afford to pay these taxes. Which in fact was true. People of those times had a tough enough time without the wallet lightening stamp act. He also goes on to explain that America dosen’t really need them as much as England thinks they does. I imagine that Benjamin Franklin imagined that there should be no taxes on account of how self America was.

  16. The type of arguement that Benjamin Franklin is making against Parliament is that he believes the taxes that the colonist is being charged is way to high for the average person to pay. In addition he believes that the Stamp Act was brought up only to reimburse Britian, not to help the colonies at all. Benjamin Franklin contribution that helped repeal the Stamp Act was when he told Parliament that the colonist refuse to pay the taxes and that the only way this could be resolved is by force.

  17. Benjamin Franklin opposed the Stamp Act because he thought that people could barely pay for it. They were many people in the colonies that work to survive and therefore the Stamp Act would strike them. I don’t think that Franklin contributed to Parliament’s decision to repeal the Stamp Act because he was very direct and clear on his point of view that people would not contribute to this Act. He stated that the only possible way Parliament can success on the Stamp Act is by using the military force.


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