Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Isaac Norris, 30 September 1761

From Isaac Norris

Duplicate: American Philosophical Society; letterbook copy: Historical Society of Pennsylvania8


Fairhill, Septr. 30th 1761

Dear Friend B Franklin

A few Days before the last Assembly rose9 I received your Letter of the 10th of July by the Packet, It came to Hand very seasonably and was read in the House on the 23d of September.1 The Members were all well Satisfied with the Succinct Account therein given of the Situation of the Publick Mony under your Care,2 but the pressing Necessities of the Merchants and the strong Reports of a Peace, which gained Credit generally among the People3 induced the House to order the Trustees “forthwith” to draw Bills of Exchange upon you for the net Proceeds of the first Parliamentary Grant and Allotment to this Province,4 And I apprehend the Merchants will hurry the printing and drawing these Bills as soon as possible for which Reason I shall endeavour to get as speedy Conveyances as I can for this Intelligence and take due Care in transmitting Copies for fear of Miscarriage. The House at their last Sitting sent up to the Governor a Bill for receiving the remaining Proportions of the year 1759 and all Such future Parliamentary Grants as may be allotted to this Province5 which the Governor enacted into a Law without any Amendments. By this Law Jno Sergant and Geo Aufrere of your Recommendation and David Barclay junior and Jno Barclay formerly proposed by the Governor are empower’d to apply for and receive all such Monies as are or may be apportioned to this Province and when the Mony is received and Notified to the Trustees they, the Trustees, are to draw Bills of Exchange for the Amount in the Manner directed by the Act.6 But as it was foreseen that the Application for, and receipt of the Grant of the Year 1759 and such future Allotments as might be made with other Circumstances which must attend before the Act could be effectually complied with, your Friends in the House, first moved and procured the present Nomination, as they judged it would not be agreeable or sute your Circumstances to be detained from your Family merely to attend that particular Business. But as I had no Intelligence in this Affair I had no part in the Debates or the Resolutions of the House on this Clause of the Act.7

The Committee have Reported and the House agreed to a ballance of £152. 7s. 5d. due to the Estate of R. Patridge8 which I desire you would be pleased to pay to his Executors they giving an Acquittance on the payment thereof, and charge it to my Account. I have never heard from Sherwood but once and could never get any information of the other Executor nor have I received any answer from J. Sherwood as, in respect to time, I might have expected before now but as the Business can be effectually accomplished there pray be so kind, to take the trouble of finishing it with the Executors of Richard Partridge whoever they may be.9

I have already sent Three Bills of Exchange, that is to Say, the First Second and third Bills for £200. sterling drawn by Colonel Hunter on Messrs. Thomlinson &c.1 so that as I have only the Fourth Bill by me I do not think it necessary to transmit it till I hear of the Others which I hope will get safe to your Hand. But I now inclose a First Bill drawn by J. Logan and Jno. Smith on Giles Bailey and Archibald Drummond Physicians in Bristol which I purchased of my Daughter for £97. 10s. 8d. Sterling which please to receive for my Account.2

I shall have some Mony to receive for my Friend R. Charles in Bills when the Trustees shall draw in Virtue of our late Act but as that may not happen till 6 or 8 Months hence and I am willing and desirous he should have it sooner be pleased to pay him £200 Sterling and charge the said Sum to my Account.3 I would have sent the inclosed Bill to himself if it had been an even Sum but, ’bating Ceremony, I presume he will receive it more expeditiously in the present Mode.

I find One Thos. Burgh Esqr.4 presented to the Parliament a Method for determining the Area’s of all Right-lined Figures for which he received a Parliamentary Reward and on his Principles both Gibson and Wilson in their several Treatises of practical Surveying5 have essay’d Some Improvement on Burgh’s Invention and of late Our blundering John Gordon has upon the Same Foundation essayed a new Traverse Table6 which pleases me much better than either Gibsons or Wilsons. I have never seen Burgh’s Method, nor do I know when he presented it to Parliament but if it is published, I should be pleased to have it, and also Gibsons Treatise of practical Surveying which I have seen tho’ I am sensible there is a pretty deal of triffling Stuff in it, particularly his Proposals of first protracting and then weighing an Irregular Figure to find its Area by proportioning the Weight of it to an Irregular-Figure given. I am &c

I. N.

PS October 19. 1761

The above Letter having misst the Packet,7 I have since received Letters and am now so differently Situated that I do retract my Orders8 for payment of £152. 7s. 5d. to the Executors of R. Partridge and also for the payment of £200 Sterling to Robert Charles. And refer to My Letter of this Date.

I Norris

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Norris sent BF both an original (not found) and a duplicate, unsigned but in his own hand. In the duplicate he deleted two paragraphs and part of the postscript, but the missing passages have fortunately survived in his letterbook copy. At the appropriate places the deletions are noted and the omissions supplied from the letterbook copy.

9The Pa. Assembly adjourned on Sept. 26, 1761, having been in session since September 7. 8 Pa. Arch., VI, 5271.

1BF’s letter has not been found. According to Votes and Proceedings it was read before the House on Sept. 19, 1761, not the 23d as Norris says. If by the letter’s arrival “by the Packet” Norris meant the Pitt packet, which reached N.Y. on the evening of September 18 (N.-Y. Mercury, Sept. 21, 1761), his date for the reading is more probable since mail from N.Y. could not reach Philadelphia overnight. There is a possibility, however, that he meant the brig Yarmouth-Packet, which had arrived in Philadelphia from Yarmouth by the beginning of September (Pa. Gaz., Sept. 3, 1761). In that case the Assembly minutes were probably correct and would be consistent with the vote of the same day (mentioned below) to order bills of exchange drawn on BF as soon as possible.

2For BF’s investments for the province, see above, pp. 253, 313, 335.

3On July 9, 1761, Pa. Gaz. published the declaration of France, Austria, Russia, and their allies, delivered at London, March 31, 1761, proposing a peace conference at Augsburg and the counter-declaration of Britain and Prussia, April 3, 1761, accepting the proposal. For the next two months the paper teemed with the accounts of the preparations for the conference (which never met) and with reports of preliminary negotiations conducted simultaneously in Paris by the British plenipotentiary, Hans Stanley, and in London by the secretary of the French Foreign Office, M. de Bussy. A dispatch from London, printed in the Gazette, Sept. 24, 1761, giving assurances with the “utmost confidence, and from the best authority, that we are at the very eve of a peace” was typical of the optimism which colored the news during this period. Beginning in October, however, more sober assessments of the European situation began to reach Pa., although it was not until December that the Gazette carried news of the failure of the Anglo-French negotiations, of the fall of Pitt, and of the imminence of a Spanish war. For the abortive negotiations in 1761, see Gipson, British Empire, VIII, 204–22.

4The Assembly adopted this order to the Trustees of the provincial Loan Office on Sept. 19, 1761. 8 Pa. Arch., VI, 5262–3.

5For the parliamentary grant for 1759, see above, p. 223 n. Later grants will be discussed in succeeding volumes.

6For the “Act for appointing Certain Persons … to apply for and receive the Distributive Shares and Proportions … allotted to the Province out of the Sum or Sums of Money granted, or to be granted, by Parliament to his Majesty’s Colonies in America,” passed by the Assembly on Sept. 19, 1761, and signed by Governor Hamilton on September 26, see Statutes at Large, Pa., VI (1759–65), 114–18. John Sargent (above, VII, 322 n) and George Aufrere (1715–1801), a wealthy merchant of Huguenot descent, M. P. for Stamford, 1765–74, had been authorized—along with BF, Robert Charles, and two other men—by the Assembly order of Oct. 18, 1760 (above, p. 237 n), to receive Pa.’s share of the parliamentary grant for 1758. On Sept. 25, 1760, and April 22, 1761, Hamilton had unsuccessfully recommended that the Assembly join the Barclays (above, p. 190 n) to its own appointees to receive the parliamentary grants. Pa. Col. Recs., VIII, 501, 610.

7At this point Norris inserted the following bracketed sentence: “Here was a Clause to pay the Executors of R. Partridge which I omit.” The omitted clause, actually a paragraph, is preserved in Norris’ letterbook copy and is supplied at this point by the editors.

8For Richard Partridge, formerly the agent of Pa., see above, p. 312 n. The Assembly’s Committee on Incidental Charges brought in a report on his accounts on Sept. 19, 1761, which the House apparently adopted the same day. 8 Pa. Arch., VI, 5262.

9Partridge’s executors were Joseph Sherwood and Thomas Corbyn. In the margin Norris wrote, “I retract this Order,” the reason being, as he explained to BF on Oct. 19, 1761, that the executors had written him directing the “Settlement of their Accounts here.”

1For these bills, see above, pp. 332, 349.

2For James Logan, Jr., see above, III, 390 n, and for John Smith, above, III, 240 n; V, 423 n. Both Norris and Smith were married to sisters of James Logan, Jr. The daughter here mentioned was either Mary Norris (1740–1803), who married John Dickinson in 1770, or Sarah Norris (1744–1769). BF recorded the receipt of this bill on Dec. 28, 1761. “Account of Expences,” p. 62; PMHB, LV (1931), 131. At this point in the duplicate letter Norris inserted the following bracketed statement: “a Clause to pay R. Charles omitted here.” The omitted “clause” (actually a paragraph) is supplied from the letterbook copy.

3For Robert Charles’s resignation as Pa. agent, see above, p. 332 n. His accounts were to be paid from the province’s share of the parliamentary grant for 1759, but Norris believed that this money would not be available for many months, since the Pa. act of Sept. 26, 1761, appointing persons to receive it, could not be presented in England and confirmed in a shorter time. Hence the order to BF. Norris to Charles, Oct. 19, 1761, Hist. Soc. Pa. In the margin of the letterbook copy Norris wrote, “I contravene this Order,” the reason being, as he wrote BF, also on October 19, that he had in the meantime purchased bills for £200 and intended to send them directly to Charles.

4Thomas Burgh was the author of A Method to Determine the Areas of Right-Lined Figures Universally (London, 1724).

5Robert Gibson’s A Treatise on Practical Surveying and Henry Wilson’s Surveying Improved went through numerous editions in the eighteenth century.

6For BF’s non-committal endorsement of John Gordon’s Mathematical Traverse Table, &c., on March 11, 1757, see above, VII, 144–5. On April 4, 1761, Gordon presented a copy of his book to the Pa. Assembly, which judged that it contained “some Things which may be useful, and deserve Encouragement” and voted him £10 on April 10, 1761. 8 Pa. Arch., VI, 5232, 5235–6.

7The General Wall packet, Capt. Thomas Robinson, sailed from N.Y. for Falmouth on Oct. 7, 1761. Pa. Gaz., Oct. 15, 1761. In Norris’ letterbook this letter with its postscript is followed directly by that of October 19 (see below, pp. 370–1). In the margin at the beginning of the entry of the present letter Norris noted: “One of these Two Letters to BF sent by Brig Sally Capt. Hervey to Hollyhead and Duplicate I gave to Wm. Fisher via Bristol by each of them went Sept. 30 and October 19. B F. received this Letter Ackd. Janry 7, 1762.” Pa. Gaz., Sept. 10, 1761, had reported the clearance of the brig Sarah, Capt. W. Harvey, for Holyhead (Wales), but it must have been held up in the lower bay waiting for a convoy and so was able to receive additional mail. Pa. Gaz., October 22 reported the clearance for Bristol of the ship Sarah and Katherine, Capt. W. Condy. Apparently Fisher, a Philadelphia merchant, was a passenger on this ship.

8At this point Norris inserted in the duplicate the following bracketed statement which concluded the postscript: “to pay R. P. Executors and R C omitted.” The editors have supplied the remainder of the postscript from the letterbook copy.

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