Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Martin Howard, 16 November 1764

From Martin Howard1

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Newport Rhode Island, 16 Nov: 1764


I learnt a few Days ago by the Pennsylvania Gazette that you was speedily to go for England,2 and being Uncertain Whether a Letter would reach you before you embarked I determined to embrace the Oppertunity to write you by a Vessel bound from hence to London, and hope it may meet you safely arrived there, and making an auspicious beginning in the Matter of Colony Charters.

I had not the Pleasure to receive any Answer to what I wrote you some time ago, concerning the Motions making here by a few, to mend our Government;3 I attribute this to the Attention you have been obliged to give, to the Affairs of your Province, which more nearly concerned you; I flatter myself however, that your Disposition to correct Abuses, is not confined to those of your own Province, And therefore I now trouble you, with this, to throw an Occasion in your Way, wherein, you may have an Oppertunity to extend your Benevolence further, and be instrumental in making this Colony too, something better, it is now Nothing but a Burlesque upon Order and Government, and will never get right without the Constitution is altered. I have not time to enlarge, and indeed your thorough Knowledge of the Subject would anticipate all and more than I could say. I would only mention to you, that a Petition to the King is now in the Hands of Joseph Harrison Esqr.4 who sailed in the Mast Ship from New London above three Weeks ago, his Prudence, And the Secrecy enjoin’d him, will direct him, to be very circumspect in the Management of it,5 is chiefly founded on an Act of our general Assembly, made directly in the face of an Act of Parliament; Nevertheless, if the Temper of the Ministry is not strong for resuming our Charter this Winter, Mr. Harrison will be entirely silent about it, because to make a Stir and miscarry, would bring a popular Odium on the few concerned in it here. If the times are favorable, it will be in your Power greatly to facilitate the wishd for Change, And I hope I am not mistaken, or too forward, in reckoning much upon your Intimacy with the Great, And the frequent Occasions you will have with them, of speaking upon American Affairs. But perhaps I have already wrote too much, and have presumed too far in addressing you on this Matter, if I am wrong, your Goodness will readily excuse it.

I have lost a Valuable and affectionate Wife,6 she is gone to “that undiscovered Country, from whose Bourn, No Traveller returns.” She died about seven Weeks ago, this is a very affecting Circumstance to me and therefore my mentioning of it, naturally enough accounted for. I have the Honour to be with the greatest Regard Sir your most faithful and obedient Servant

Mar Howard Jun.

Mr. Hall has not yet paid his Bond, but you may rely on my Care of it.7

Benja. Franklin Esqr.

Addressed: To / Benjamin Franklin, Esquire / at / London. / by the Pitt. / Capt Lyndsay

1Martin Howard, Jr. (d. 1781), was a lawyer, a delegate to the Albany Congress, and at this time a leading member of a small group of Rhode Island conservatives who were campaigning for a revocation of the charter of 1663 and the establishment of royal government in the colony. Either singly or with the assistance of Dr. Thomas Moffatt (above, p. 191 n), Howard had written extensively in the Rhode Island newspapers in 1764 in favor of his project, attracting a great deal of hostility and the epithet “Martinus Scriblerus.” After his house was sacked by a Stamp Act mob in August 1765, Howard went to England and was appointed chief justice of North Carolina in 1766. He returned to England as a refugee in 1778. For Howard and the Rhode Island conservatives, see Edmund S. and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis Prologue to Revolution (Chapel Hill, [1953]), pp. 47–52.

2Pa. Gaz., Nov. 8, 1764, reported BF’s embarkation for London.

3Howard’s letter to BF has not been found, but he may have written in April 1764, enclosing the April 23 issue of the Newport Mercury which contained a letter signed Z. Y. (supposed to be written by either Howard or Moffatt) advocating royal government. BF sent the Mercury to Richard Jackson on May 1, 1764. See Above, p. 186.

4Joseph Harrison (1709–1787) was a Rhode Island merchant and a brother of the architect Peter Harrison. Harrison sailed to England with Jared Ingersoll and remained there throughout 1765, being much consulted on American affairs and being on friendly terms with Richard Jackson and Thomas Whately. In 1766 he served as an assistant to Edmund Burke, who was then secretary to Lord Rockingham. In this same year Harrison was appointed collector of the customs at Boston. He relinquished his post in 1769 after being severely injured in attempting to seize John Hancock’s sloop Liberty, and he spent the rest of his life in England. See Carl Bridenbaugh, Peter Harrison First American Architect (Chapel Hill, 1949). 6 Mass. Hist. Soc. Colls., IX, prints several of his letters from England in 1765 and 1766.

5Word leaked out about the petition even before Harrison sailed. Governor Stephen Hopkins denounced it in a message to the Rhode Island Assembly on Nov. 4, 1764, and in his Rights of Colonies Examined, published shortly thereafter. In February 1765 Howard replied to Hopkins in A Letter from a Gentleman at Halifax to his Friend in Rhode Island. Both pamphlets are reprinted in Bernard Bailyn, ed., Pamphlets of the American Revolution 1750–1776, 1 (Cambridge, Mass., 1965), 499–544.

6The former Ann Brenton Conklin, whom Howard married in 1749. In 1766 or possibly 1767 he married Abigail Greenleaf of Boston. Colonial Society of Mass. Pubs., VI (1899–1900), 384–402.

7Samuel Hall, son-in-law and partner in the printing business of BF’s sister-in-law, Ann Franklin, after her husband James’s death. On his longstanding debt to BF, see above, X, 358 n.

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