Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Shirley, 23 October 1755

To William Shirley

Draft: American Philosophical Society

Philada. Oct. 23. 1755.


I beg Leave to return your Excellency my sincerest and most hearty Thanks for your Letter of the 17th of September,9 with the Orders for Payment of the Waggon-Owners, and an Extract of your Orders to Col. Dunbar; forbidding the Enlistment of Servants and Apprentices.1 Acts of Justice so readily done, become great Favours,2 which I hope will be ever gratefully acknowledg’d by this People, in Actions as well as Words.

I have also your Favour of the 5th Instant.3 Govr. Morris is gone to Newcastle to meet the Assembly of the Lower Counties, so that I cannot at present see the Papers you refer me to.4 But I shall wait upon him in my Journey to Virginia; and if on perusing those Papers any thing seeming worth your Notice should occur to me, I shall communicate my Sentiments to you with that honest Freedom which you always approve.

This Journey, which I cannot now avoid,5 will deprive me of the Pleasure of Waiting on your Excellency at New-York at the Time you mention. I hear, too, that the Governor does not purpose to send any Commissioners thither but to go himself.6 I know not what is to be the particular Subject of your Consultations; but as I belive all your Schemes have the King’s Service (which is the Publick Good) in View, I cannot but wish them Success. Our Assembly meets the Beginning of December, when I hope to be at home again: And if any Assistance is to be required of them or of the People here, you may depend on my faithful Services, so far as my little Sphere of Influence shall extend.7 With the highest Esteem and Respect I have the Honour to be, Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble Servant


Please to accept my hearty Thanks for the Discharges of Ewins and Rieger, which I have received from Capt. Shirley.8

Genll Shirley

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9See above, p. 190.

1Shirley advised Dunbar, Sept. 19, 1755, “in the Strongest Manner to avoid” enlisting apprentices and indentured servants, not only in Massachusetts but in all the colonies. I Pa. Arch., II, 417–18.

2An interesting example of how BF could improve his expression appears in this sentence. Following the word “Favours” he had originally written: “and will secure a greatful Return in the Services of this People on any Occasion.” He then struck out these words and substituted what appears here.

3Not found.

4“The Papers” were probably letters from General Shirley or his son John to Morris of September 9, 22, and 25; copies of the minutes of councils of war held at Oswego on September 18 and 27; and a copy of Shirley’s letter to Governor Hardy of New York, Oct. 4, 1755. Ibid., pp. 405–7, 413–17, 423–31, 435–7. These documents revealed the suspension of the expedition against Fort Niagara until the spring, and made plans for conferences and disposition of forces during the season of military inactivity.

5BF did “avoid” the journey, however, since news of Indian attacks on the frontier reached him two days later and absorbed all his attention. His illness, October 25–November 2, would also have prevented traveling at this time.

6Shirley had proposed a meeting of commissioners from all the colonies “as far Westward as Virginia, inclusive” in New York on Nov. 15, 1755, to plan campaigns for the coming year. Ibid., p. 406. See also below, p. 289.

7Doubtless BF here sought to counteract attacks on the Assembly such as Morris had made in a letter to Shirley of August 27: “I am unfortunately linked with a set of men that seem lost to all sence of duty to their Country, or decency to their Superiors …” I Pa. Arch., II, 395.

8See to John Shirley, immediately above.

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