Life Of Benjamin Franklin: Footnote 51

It has generally been said, that Dr. Franklin was the first to suggest a Continental Congress. In a private letter to Mr. Cushing, dated July 7th, 1773, after mentioning the proposal of the Virginia House of Burgesses to establish committees of correspondence, be says; "It is natural to suppose, as you do, that, if the oppressions continue, a congress may grow out of that correspondence. Nothing could more alarm our ministers; but, if the colonies agree to hold a congress, I do not see how it can be prevented."

In an official letter, of the same date as the above, which was to be read to the Assembly, he dwells more at large upon the subject, and advances such solid reasons for a congress, as to amount to a recommendation. "As the strength of an empire," he says, "depends not only on the union of its parts, but on their readiness for united exertion of their common force, and as the discussion of rights may seem unseasonable in the commencement of actual war, and the delay it might occasion be prejudicial to the common welfare; as likewise the refusal of one or a few colonies would not be so much regarded, if the others granted liberally, which perhaps by various artifices and motives they might be prevailed on to do; and as this want of concert would defeat the expectation of general redress, that otherwise might be justly formed; perhaps it would be best and fairest for the colonies, in a general congress now in peace to be assembled, or by means of the correspondence lately proposed, after a full and solemn assertion and declaration of their rights, to engage firmly with each other, that they will never grant aids to the crown in any general war, till those rights are recognised by the King and both Houses of Parliament; communicating at the same time to the crown this their resolution. Such a stop I imagine will bring the dispute to a crisis."

From these extracts it appears, that there had been a hint about a congress in one of Mr. Cushing's previous letters but it is believed, that no other direct recommendation of the measure can be found at so early a date as the above.

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