Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Israel Pemberton, 10 June 1758

To Israel Pemberton

ALS: Princeton University Library

London, June 10. 1758


I receiv’d your Favour of the 16th. of March9 but a few days since, which is the first I have had, except a Copy of the Enquiry that came to hand some time ago, but without a Letter, so that I did not know who sent it. I think it well drawn up; and since there seems to be no farther Hopes of accommodating Matters with the Proprietaries, I see no reason to favour them longer by secreting it, and think to put it to Press to morrow.1

The obtaining Justice for the Indians is, to be sure, a Matter of the utmost Importance, and I make no doubt we shall be able to effect it; tho’ the Proprietaries are at present on the high Ropes, make loud Declarations of their Innocence, all the Indian Complaints are father’d on the Malice of the Quakers, and they are determin’d to have Justice done to their Characters, &c.2

I was afraid before I left Pensilvania that your Friends plac’d too much Confidence in Croghan. He is now known better. The Account you give me of our People’s Management at the Treaties with the Indians is shocking! What a Mixture of Madness, Folly and Knavery!3

I shall write you more fully soon, and request a Continuance of your Correspondence. My Respects to the Gentlemen of your Friendly Association,4 and believe that I am, with great Esteem, Sir Your most obedient Servant

B Franklin

Mr. Pemberton

Addressed: To / Mr Israel Pemberton / Mercht / Philadelphia

Endorsed: London June 10. 1758 From Benja. Franklin.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Not found.

1Charles Thomson’s An Enquiry into the Causes of the Alienation of the Delaware and Shawanese Indians … was not published until March 1759, with documents dated as late as Dec. 11, 1758, appended. See above, VII, 376 n, on Quaker unwillingness for BF to see the MS Enquiry. Pemberton wrote John Hunt, May 31, 1758, that he feared “your not communicating the Enquiry to Franklin before you did to Granville is not well received [?] by the former nor by his friends here.” Hunt replied, July 8, that “B.F. has not discovered any dislike or distance” on that account. Both letters in Pemberton Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

2Indian policy in Pa. and in London was in a confused state; see above, pp. 69–80, for events and quarrels in Pa. Following the long series of conferences in January–February 1758 among Quakers, the Penns, and the King’s ministers, from which BF had been excluded, the Quakers went ahead with their plans to reform Indian policy. Wealthy Quakers subscribed £800 to underwrite an Indian trade to be conducted, according to a plan approved by Lord Granville, by the “fittest” persons (Quakers) under a special “charter.” They also urged their transatlantic brethren to restrain their dispute with the proprietary and royal officials. Though the Pa. Trade Act (see below, p. 399 n) fell “vastly short” of their hopes, London Quakers, urged on by Pemberton, pressed their views. They were so careful to avoid the appearance of working in concert with BF that their leaders, including Dr. Fothergill, apparently did not even see him from May through August 1758. Hunt, Fothergill, and others to the Trustees of the Friendly Association, May 26, 1758; Pemberton to Hunt, May 31, 1758; Hunt to Pemberton, July 8 and Aug. 3, 1758; all in Pemberton Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

Other strains were apparent, too. Isaac Norris and many other Pennsylvania Quakers were as much concerned with Assembly rights as BF, and thus shared his differences with Pemberton and the Friendly Association. A dispute among proprietary officials over a report by the governor’s Council on Indian grievances held up its entry into the Council minutes for a year, and probably caused Thomas Penn to wonder what information he could depend on. With divided counsels within nearly all parties on both sides of the Atlantic, it is little wonder that Penn told Peters “we should not be too forward to settle” Indian grievances, and that at the same time he badgered the Pa. agents to act on the claims. To Peters, July 5, 1758 (Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.), and to Richard Partridge, July 6, 1758 (APS). BF delayed a formal petition to the Privy Council on behalf of the Indians until Feb. 2, 1759. With these difficulties in mind, and remembering that prejudices persisted in England against Quaker government in Pa., Fothergill told his American friends: “B. Franklin has not yet been able to make much progress in his affairs. Reason is heard with fear: the fairest representations, are considered as the effects of superior art; and his reputation as a man, a philosopher and a statesman, only seem to render his station more difficult and perplexing. … You must allow him time, and without repining. He is equally able and sollicitous to serve the province, but his obstructions are next to insurmountable: Great pains had been taken, and very successfully to render him odious and his integrity suspected, to those very persons to whom he must first apply. These suspicions can only be worn off by time, and prudence.” Fothergill to Pemberton, June 12, 1758, Etting-Pemberton Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

3See above, VII, 265–6 n, for Quaker disappointment in George Croghan.

4See above, VII, 18 n.

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