The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

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The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin Part 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
After arriving in Fallmouth, Franklin set out with William for London, stopping to see Stonehenge and Lord Pembroke’s house and gardens. They arrived in London on July 27th, 1757. Franklin went to visit Dr. Fothergill, who thought that the proprietary governors could be persuaded before a suit was made to the crown.
Part Four begins with a cursory description of a journey alluded to in the early passages of Part One (when Franklin mentions learning of his family origins in England). Franklin reconnects with and receives advice from his old friend.
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Next Franklin met with his friend in the Society, Collinson. They went together with a Virginian merchant named Mr. Hanbury to see Lord Granville, President of the Council. Granville reprimanded Franklin as a representative of the American idea that the king’s laws were not the laws of the colonies. Franklin expressed his surprise, saying he had always understood from their charters that the Assemblies were to make the colonies’ laws. The two men debated the issue awhile.
From the tone of the passage, it’s clear that Lord Granville’s position, that the king makes the colonies’ laws, is as absurd to Franklin as if Granville were arguing that blue were red and fish were birds, yet Franklin seems to have forced himself to have remained deferential to the vain British noblemen. As we’ll see, his deference seems not to have done his cause much good.
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Dr. Fothergill arranged a meeting between Franklin and the proprietary governors. Franklin presented the Assembly’s position and found that their opinions were so different as to discourage all hope of agreement. They asked him, however, to put the Assembly’s complaints in writing so that they could better address them. They gave the draft to their solicitor, Ferdinand John Paris, who had made himself an enemy of Franklin’s because of Franklin’s written responses to some of Paris’s previous arguments read to the Assembly.
For the first time as a diplomat, Franklin found himself in a position where he found the two side’s positions to be irreconcilable. Franklin, knowing how written arguments are more subject to scrutiny from his experience with Presbyters and preachers, probably hesitated to give over the Assembly’s position in writing. Besides, the governors had practically already resolved to settle the dispute in court.
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Neither Paris nor the proprietary governors ever responded to Franklin directly, but drafted a long letter to the Assembly criticizing the lack of formality in Franklin’s paper. But, in the meantime, the Assembly had prevailed upon Governor Denny to pass an act taxing the proprietary estate in common with the estates of the people, so they, in turn, never responded.
Finally, after Franklin’s months-long delays and journeying, the Assembly put an end to the deadlock over the proprietary estates, which made Franklin’s diplomatic mission far less pressing. Once there, however, his desire for an accord between the two groups led him to try and resolve the issue.
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The proprietary governors petitioned the king to oppose the resolution passed in Philadelphia. Paris and Franklin each hired lawyers to argue their case, and at last the Assembly’s proposal was allowed to pass. A full report was issued that the tax had been passed in perfect equity.
Of course the proprietaries had been motivated by greed, not equity, all along, and the judges sided with the practically minded Franklin and the Assembly he represented.
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The Assembly saw Franklin’s service as essential to the province and thanked him when he returned, but the proprietaries were enraged at Governor Denny and threatened to turn him out of office. The threats were never executed. The Autobiography concludes, though it is unfinished.
The Autobiography ends not with a bang but a whimper. The events of the of the Revolutionary War and a description of presiding over the foundational debates establishing the United States of America are left out of Franklin’s account. Perhaps, however, the description of this moment of petty politics sheds a telling light on the events to come, and Franklin's role in them.
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