ONE SIDE OF THE Scottish-born Smith's attitude toward education can be seen in a 1753 letter regarding the education of the Germans in the province: Liberty is the most dangerous of all weapons, in the hands of those who know not the use & value of it. Those who are in most cases free to speak and act as they please, had need be well instructed how to speak and act.
Franklin and Penn were also fearful of the Germans in Pennsylvania, both for their unpredictable foreignness and for the possibility that they would ally themselves with the French. As a result, all three favored creating a series of schools to educate and Anglify the Germans. (Education for the Germans, wrote Smith, "must be calculated rather to make good subjects than what is called good scholars.") They also proposed a German-language newspaper, though as the following letter from Penn to Smith, dated 24 October 1755, indicates, Penn already had a deep distrust of Franklin:
I am very well pleased to hear the Dutch press is like to meet with Success. I wish it could have been under any direction but that of Mr. Franklin, however. I hope the Society and their Agents will be very watchfull that nothing is printed in it which may encourage the Licencious spirit that has been with so much application raised, to subvert all Government and dispose the unthinking multitude to throw off their Allegiances.
At the vortex of Pennsylvania politics then was the question of defending the province against increasingly severe Indian attacks -- and paying for it. The Quakers, who dominated the Assembly, did not believe in armed defense. Thomas Penn, who did believe in it, did not want his vast lands to be taxed to pay for it. Franklin, exasperated by both sides' conduct, had organized a delivery of wagons and horses to General Edward Braddock; he also led a hotly-worded attempt to tax all lands, including those owned by the proprietors. The Penn-appointed governor vetoed that bill, but as that same letter shows, Penn himself saw Franklin as a source of treacherous hostility:
I am astonished at Mr. Franklin's telling you he was my Friend; after the Report and the two last messages from the Assembly, can any man believe other than that he would destroy my family at once was it in his power; I say this supposing he was the drawer of those papers as I hear from all hands he was; a man might have made most of the Arguments, and have kept to truth, but he must be a weak and a wicked one, to show rancour, malice, draw false conclusions, and even related things that never were.... [H]e has the opposition to Government at heart and ... will be satisfied with nothing but a subversion of all Government....
Penn concludes by saying that he would be "much obliged" for "any early intelligence" -- in other words, for Smith to become his informer on Franklin and the Assembly. This, by all accounts, Smith was ready, able, and willing to do. Jennings, who acknowledges that the Smith papers helped him flesh out Smith as a "clandestine agent," says bluntly: "Penn had hired Smith to be his personal CIA -- and Smith performed that capacity very enthusiastically."
Smith would do more than just provide information. In May 1755, he wrote an incendiary anonymous tract titled A Brief State of the Province of Pennsylvania, which Middlekauff describes as a "full-throated attack on the Assembly and the Quakers." It proposed, among other things, that Parliament enact a law that would disenfranchise all the province's Germans ("ignorant, proud, stubborn Clowns" who voted "in Shoals" for Quaker Party candidates) and would require all members of the Assembly to swear an oath of allegiance to the Crown -- effectively disenfranchising the Quakers, whose beliefs forbade such oaths. In another tract, A Brief View of the Province of Pennsylvania for the Year 1755, Smith labeled the Quakers "Enemies to their Country."
Those tracts infuriated the Assembly, and undoubtedly contributed to Smith's prison stint two years later. But Penn was clearly pleased with Smith's work, and on 15 February 1756 wrote coyly to him:
There has lately appeared a pamphlet giving an account of the conduct of Pennsylvanians -- very judiciously wrote and published at a most proper time, the author I think we are all obliged to, and I have no objection but to one part of it which is a compliment to a Friend of yours.
Penn then asked Smith to inform him whether Franklin, then deputy postmaster general for the colonies, looks upon the post office as a valuable thing, and such as he would not willingly loose, if he does I throw it out to you whether there may not be a time when you can ask him how he can reconcile such a republican conduct, in one of the Kings Servants....
He concluded by praising Smith for his ability to silently do what good you can, that method may render you of great service, tho I see by newspapers, they suspect you, and call you names, according to this very decent method of proceeding.
In January 1755, Smith drafted a new charter that would transform the Academy into a degree-granting College, and was promptly named its provost. The charter stipulated that trustees, faculty, and officers all had to "swear in blood-curdling terms to uphold King George II against all rebels, and also to deny under oath the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation," according to Jennings. "If Franklin had qualms, they did not appear; he was elected to the showy and toothless post of president...."
But in the spring of 1756, while Franklin was away in Virginia, Smith "conspired with Peters to strip Franklin of the presidency of the College," in the words of Lloyd. In a letter to his friend and scientific collaborator Ebeneezer Kinnersley -- not part of the Smith papers -- Franklin wrote: "Before I left Philadelphia, everything to be done in the Academy was privately preconcerted in a Cabal without my Knowledge or Participation, and accordingly carried into Execution. The Schemes of Public Parties made it seem requisite to lessen my Influence wherever it could be lessened. The Trustees had reap'd the full Advantage of my Head, Hands, Heart and Purse, in getting through the first Difficulties of the Design, and when they thought they could do without me, they laid me aside." Continued...
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