Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Isaac Norris, 15 January 1759

From Isaac Norris

Letterbook Copy: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Janry 15. 1759

Dear Friend BF

I refer to the above Copies and enclose Duplicates of the Bill and Order for £500 0s. that is to say An Order on Giles Bailey and Archibald Drummond for £200 and a Bill as above No. 732 for £3008 and having dispatched these Mony Matters I am to acknowledge the receipt of yours of the 16th of 7ber last9 by Captain Duncan a few Days ago, for tho’ Captain Bolitho got in very fortunatly before our Weather set in very cold (by whom I received the Telescope) yet Duncan and the others were kept out long by a Succession of clear frosty Weather and N West Winds.1

The Telescope came in damp so that it swelled and I could not open it when I was in Town, where I have left it and therefore have not yet examined it.2 I may possibly give you some Account hereafter of the Optician for I do not expect to make any new Discoveries. But as Telescopes of this Length are not common in America we shall not be so ready at making or contriving Machines to hang it upon.

When I wrote for the State of our Mony in your Hands I had no thoughts of a minute Account of particulars, but a general Estimate when a further Supply would be necessary3—however—I have, above taken care against any Defect of that kind, and if you have any Occasion of it pray use it freely ’till the Assembly can make a further Provision.

I mentioned in my last (of which a Copy goes herewith) that I had no sanguine Expectations of our Army’s march against Fort du Quesne and I had good Reason, but Accidents have favoured us and the Dispositions of the Indians so that the French have been necessitated to evacuate the Fort after demolishing it in the Manner the Public Papers set forth.4

This Acquisition will be acceptable in England as tis said here General Forbes had Orders to march and fortify as he advanced and that the Ministry did not expect to be in Possession of that Fort this Year and had accordingly given Directions not to attack it without a Moral certainty of Success. But the Disposition of the Indians especially since the last Treaty at Easton and the destroying the Fort and Magazine the French had collected at Cadraqui have very fortunatly made Du Quesne an easy Conquest.5

It is now a considerable Time since we have had any Accounts from the K of Prussia or the Hannoverian Army6 but should they prove successful the English Nation may have it in their Power to procure good Terms in America and an Opportunity of showing their political Abilities in giving us an honourable Peace or the prospect of a successful as well as a just War as in my Opinion the present War really is. I have given Orders to the Clerk to get ready all necessary Papers to be transmitted by this Vessel which I hope he will be able to do in time, and among the Rest, the best List of the Servants with their Vouchers, for this is a heavy Burthen upon many Masters—who have suffered much by the Losses of their Servants and some Compensation ought to be made them somewhere.7

R Patridge some time since wrote to me that he knew General Shirley would accept of this Government if offered to him—it goes a begging at a strange Rate, but who would accept it with the Conditions,8 as for the present Gentleman he appears among us as A Cypher of no Importance but in respect of the Side of the Figure upon which it is placed—he does not seem inclined to quarrel with the House unless he is bid to do it. The Petition to the Crown was actually wrote and I yet have it but being at the latter End of the Year it dropped by a kind of tacet Consent.9 I own the Thought in your Paper was in my Mind that an Application of that kind from the House would give the Ministry a handle against the Proprietors but might likewise operate against the People or at least that it would be better to let it lye for Consideration especially as Maryland had given a Handle of the same kind against Proprietary Government by refusing their Supplies unless their Proprietor would suffer his Estate to be taxed in common with their own for the Defence of that Colony and I cannot learn that the Assembly of that Province receed from their former Resolutions.1 And when they begin with Proprietary Governments ours will probably come likewise under Consideration for we now begin to make too great a Figure to be totally neglected. I am your Affect Friend

I N2

January 17. 1759. I was going to close my Letter when One of the Passengers called at my House and informed me he thot the Vessel was not quite ready and I might depend upon 2 or 3 Days. I have therefore deferrd till this date and now propose to add what I had intended as a P.S. of two or three Words—That I have not yet been able to settle the Account of Osborns Books by the frequent Interruptions I have met with—but that want of Leisure on my Side ought not to keep him out of his Mony therefore I desire you would pay him Forty Pounds Sterling on my Account which as well as I can estimate will about close with him. But will endeavour as soon as I can to settle that Account with Care.3

I would also request the troublesome Task of getting me the value of half a Guinea or a Guinea in a few black and Red Pencils sorted of the best Sort they make some flat for protracting and drawing, which I have not been able to purchase in Town, and I would have them all Small or the smaller Sort. My Friend R Charles sent me, some time since, of the larger Sort but the Lead is coarse and they do not answer my Purpose—likewise a small Quantity of Camels Hair Pencils4 and an Assortment of Water Colours made up in Pastels or Crayons [I think these are the Technical Terms] for mine and my Daughters Use and a pound of best Sealing Wax.5

These important Affairs being adjusted I would add American News, if I knew any worth communicating, but as the Military Gentlemen are got into Winter Quarters, and General Forbes to Philadelphia, tho’ in a very bad State of Health,6 I know nothing beyond the publick Intelligence which from the peaceable and Friendly Dispositions of the Indians seems to contain little more than the Captures of our Own and the Enemys Privateers. The rest of the Campagne last Year we are now expecting from Europe where the Miserable Devastations of War in Germany and the Constant Danger that Hero and Friend of Liberty must necessarily be exposed to, give evry well wisher to Humanity and the British Interest, at times an anxious Concern for the King of Prussia and the Settlement of an honourable and durable Peace between the contending Powers. I am &c.


I am obliged to you in joining me in the Subscription to Baskervilles Milton—please to pay him.7 The Subscription to the Report of Council which I have seen subscribes Lynford Lardner &c.—I am told they were ashamed of it when twas known a Copy had got abroad here.8 Post’s Journal is very long but I have it, and would send it if I thought some other of your Correspondants from hence had not already transmitted it.9 ’Tis important and the Message was well timed. The Indians complain there was no more than One sent—but that was the Governors (I should say Councels) Fault in refusing Charles Thompson who offered to go on that fatiguing and hazardous Embassy which was the kinder in him as he had at that Time the great Affair of Matrimony in his Head which he has since reduced to practice and permanency.1

[In margin:] BF recd this ackd Mar. 19th

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8See above, pp. 176, 177.

9See above, pp. 157–9.

1Capt. John Bolitho had brought the Myrtilla into Philadelphia by December 14, but by January 4 the river was so full of ice that no vessel could stir. Some passengers from the Carolina, Capt. Robert Duncan, managed to reach the city before the 11th, but the ship itself did not come up until the following week. Pa. Gaz., Dec. 14, 1758; Jan. 4, 11, 18, 1759.

2On the telescope, see above, VII, 284, and this volume, p. 158. In 1769 it was used to observe the transit of Venus. APS Trans., I (1771), 44, 48.

3See above, p. 176.

4The French evacuated and destroyed Fort Duquesne November 24 and the British occupied the ruins the next day. Governor Denny had expressed misgivings about the expedition similar to those of Norris. Pa. Col. Recs., VIII, 227.

5On the Easton Treaty of October 1758, at which many Indian grievances were adjusted, see above, pp. 176 n, 200–11. Lieut. Col. John Bradstreet captured Fort Frontenac at Cadaraqui, the outlet of the St. Lawrence from Lake Ontario (now Kingston, Ontario), on Aug. 27, 1758. This achievement effectively cut off Fort Duquesne from much-needed supplies. Gipson, British Empire, VII, 236–46.

6A few days after Norris wrote this, news reached Philadelphia of the defeat of Hanoverian and allied forces at the hands of the French, October 10, and of the Prussians by the Austrians, October 14. Pa. Gaz., Jan. 18, 1759.

7On the efforts of Pa. to get compensation for masters of indentured servants enlisted in the British Army, see above, VII, 141, 214–15, 224–8.

8Rumors about a successor to Denny had been circulating for months. On one early candidate, see above, pp. 89, 94–5.

9Probably a petition for royal assumption of the government of Pa., but no draft of such a document has been found.

1For BF’s paper in London Chron. supporting the Maryland House of Delegates’ position, see above, pp. 162–8. See also his comments to Norris, above, pp. 157–8.

2In Norris’ letterbook this letter ends here but with a note to see a postscript on an earlier page “entered out of place.” At the point indicated, which follows immediately the entries of his letters to BF of Nov. 21 and 23, 1758, appears a notation “Sent a Copy of the above to BF and Duplicates of Bills and added viz.” Then are entered the two postscripts printed here, the second undated.

3On Thomas Osborne’s books that Norris had bought and BF’s settlement of this account, see above, p. 169 n.

4Small artist’s brushes.

5Brackets in this sentence are in the MS. These purchases are duly recorded in BF’s account with Norris described above, pp. 147–8, and in “Account of Expences,” pp. 38, 42, but are omitted from PMHB, LV, (1931), 97–133. BF paid 12s. for 2 doz. “Lead Pensils,” £17s. 9d. for “Hair Pensils and Crayons” (quantity not specified), and 7s. for 1 lb. “finest Wax.”

6Forbes had been ill almost continuously throughout his campaign against Fort Duquesne; he died in Philadelphia, March 11, 1759, and was buried in Christ Church.

7See above, p. 157. On March 10, 1759, BF paid 16s. for Norris’ copy of this work and charged him accordingly in his running account. “Account of Expences,” p. 38.

8See above, p. 158 n, for BF’s query about Lardner’s name alone appearing on a copy of the Pa. Council’s report on the “Walking Purchase.”

9BF had indeed received a copy of Christian Frederick Post’s journal of his journey to the Ohio Indians in the summer of 1758 and, long before this letter from Norris reached him, had sent the journal to the printer to be added to Thomson’s Enquiry as part of the appendix. See above, p. 199, and below, pp. 297–8. Just possibly, however, Norris may have been referring here to the journal of Post’s second journey to the Ohio Indians (Oct. 25–Jan. 10), a copy of which BF had received by March 19, 1759. See below, p. 298.

1The date of Thomson’s marriage to Ruth Mather of Chester, Pa., has not been found.

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