Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Richard Partridge, 25 October 1755

To Richard Partridge

Draft and extract: American Philosophical Society5

Philada. Oct. 25. 1755


The above is a Copy of mine per Capt. Joy.6 Since which the new Assembly met, and chose you and Mr. Charles7 their Agents for the ensuing Year. The Governor offer’d nothing to the House: but they hearing occasionally that he had received some Letters of Importance relating to Indian Affairs, sent a particular Message to enquire if he had any thing of Consequence, particularly of that kind, to lay before them; and he answered that he had not.8 Nor did he communicate the Letters receiv’d during the preceding Session from Boston, requesting more Provisions.9 The House adjourned to the first of December.

In pursuance of the Vote in the September Session, a considerable Sum is subscribed here for the Supply of the Troops who are to be during the Winter on the Frontiers of N York &c. with warm Wastecoats, Stockings and Mittens as well as with Provisions; which will be speedily forwarded.1

We have this Day the bad News that the Enemy have last Week surpriz’d and cut off eight Families in this Province: 13 grown Persons were killed and scalped, and 12 Children carried away. They were new Settlers at a Place called Penn’s Creek near Shamokin. This is a natural Consequence of the loose manner of Settling in these Colonies, picking here and there a good Piece of Land, and sitting down at such a distance from each other, as that a few Indians may destroy a Number of Familys one after the other, without their being even alarm’d or able to afford one another any Assistance.

The People on the Frontiers having petitioned for Arms and Ammunition for their Defence, 600 good Arms have been purchased and sent up by the Committee of Assembly with suitable Ammunition; to supply such as are without and unable to buy for themselves.2 And could our Bill for giving[?] £50,000 have been obtained, a great deal more might have been done for the Security of the Country in the military way, as the Disposition of the Money was by the Bill put into such Hands as have no Scruples on that head.

I hear that a Party Petition to the King against the Assembly is privately handed about to get Hands, and is to be sent over in this Ship; but I have not had a Sight of it, and can say nothing certain of the Contents.3 I hope the ensuing Parliament will establish an Union of the Colonies for their common Defence, which will extinguish all these uncomfortable Disputes. I am Sir, Your humble Servant

B F.

Mr. Patridge
Per Budden

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5The extract consists of the second and third paragraphs and the first sentence of the fourth.

6See above, p. 217.

7Robert Charles (d. 1770) lived in Philadelphia, 1726–39, holding a variety of clerical offices under the Proprietors. After returning to London, he was soon involved in colonial affairs there and served as agent for New York and Pennsylvania for over twenty years before his death by suicide. M. P. Wolff, The Colonial Agency of Pennsylvania, 1712–1757 (Phila., 1933), pp. 120–7; Nicholas Varga, “Robert Charles: New York Agent, 1748–1770,” 3 Wm. and Mary Quar., XVII (1961), 211–35. The Assembly re-appointed Partridge and Charles agents on October 16, the same day on which BF, William Callender, and Isaac Norris were named “a Committee of Correspondence.” A letter from one of the agents to this committee (not found) also was read that day. Votes, 1755–56, p. 5. BF’s correspondence with Partridge was probably a partial fulfillment of the duties of this committee assignment.

8On October 16 Governor Morris read in Council letters from Shippensburg telling of Indian massacres on the Potomac near Fort Cumberland. Pa. Col. Recs., VI, 641–4. Perhaps to lay the groundwork for further charges of Assembly negligence, Morris did not inform it of the alarming news. This was too much for Richard Peters, who, objecting to the risk of lives on the frontier because of a dispute between the branches of government, “determined not to be an accessory to such a step,” and showed the letters to Speaker Isaac Norris, who relayed the intelligence to the Assembly. When the House asked Morris specifically about the news, he again refused to communicate anything officially. Theodore G. Thayer, Pennsylvania Politics and the Growth of Democracy, 1740–1776 (Harrisburg, 1953), p. 43. Votes, 1755–56, pp. 6–7.

9On September 18 Morris had read in Council letters from Lieut. Gov. Spencer Phips of Massachusetts asking for provisions for the large numbers of New England troops marching against Crown Point. Pa. Col. Recs., VI, 605–7. In response to an Assembly request Morris divulged the substance of the letters, but refused to let the Assembly see them. Votes, 1754–55, pp. 160–2.

1Possessing information beyond what Morris had given, the Assembly resolved on Sept. 29 to seek a voluntary subscription of £10,000 to supply the provisions, blankets, and clothing requested by Governor Phips. Ibid., p. 177. See below, pp. 390–2, for the result of this resolution.

2See above, p. 229 n.

3A petition, signed by anti-Quaker leaders William Allen, William Plumsted, and 104 other Pennsylvanians, recounted the failure of the Assembly to act for defense of the province and asked the King to “interpose Your Royal Authority, that this important Province, scituated in the Centre of Your Majestys American Dominions, may be put into a Posture of Defence.” This petition was presented along with six others of similar tone to the secretary of state on Jan. 14, 1756, all of which were debated before the Board of Trade on Feb 26. See Charles J. Stillé, “The Attitude of the Quakers in the Provincial Wars,” PMHB, X (1886), 294–315, for the petition and a résumé of the anti-Assembly argument before the Board. William Smith claimed authorship of the petition. Horace W. Smith, Life and Correspondence of the Rev. William Smith, D.D. (Phila., 1880), I, 118–20. In crossed-out lines earlier in this draft BF stated that Morris was circulating it, but William Allen was chiefly responsible; he sent proprietary agent Ferdinand J. Paris instructions regarding it on October 25, and explained his leadership to Thomas Penn the next day. Lewis B. Walker, ed., The Burd Papers. Extracts from Chief Justice William Allen’s Letter Book (n.p., 1897), pp. 24–8; Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

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