Temple's Diary Temple's Diary
Episode 1. Who Am I?

The Electric Franklin

April 26, 1775

If you read it a couple of times, the problem created by one of those "Intolerable Acts," the Navigation Act, is not too hard to figure out. The colonists, believe it or not, are happy with a part of it, the part that forbids the transportation of any goods on foreign ships. They want goods to be carried only on ships belonging to British subjects and manned by three quarters British or colony seamen. Since, despite their complaints, Americans are considered "British," the colonists like that part.

What they don't like is that they are not allowed to trade with foreign countries without passing through England and paying duties. The wine and fruit they buy in Spain and Portugal cannot come directly to the colonies, but have to go to England first where the duty must be paid. This makes foreign trade so expensive for American ships that they cannot compete with English ships. So far the colonists have accepted the situation as the price to pay for British protection in case of war, but now they would prefer to have the duties collected by their own officers, appointed and paid by their own governments.

My grandfather's Quaker friends thought this sounded reasonable enough, but they were alarmed by his next proposal: that the colonies be allowed to manufacture goods from what he called their "natural advantages," meaning, I suppose, their local resources. I did not know that they were forbidden to do that, and it does not seem very fair to prohibit them some industry of their own, but the advisers felt that this was a very touchy subject and that there should be no talk of repeal but only of reconsidering the situation.