Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from George Wythe, 23 June 1766

From George Wythe4

ALS (mutilated):5 American Philosophical Society

[June 23, 1766]


If our attorney gen[eral shall become speake]r of the house of burgesses, and thereby h[is post is vacant, as in] all probability will be the case, the govern[or will propose me] to succeed him; and that recommendation, I [am very sure] will be more effectual, were some of those great per[sons] to whom it must be addressed, to know that such a promotion would be in any degree pleasing to doctor Franklin.6 If you incline to honour me with your patronage in this competition, you will perhaps be partly instrumental in producing that rare phaenomenon a contented mind, at least in the article of fortune; and you shall find an exception to that observation of Tacitus: “Beneficia eo usque laeta sunt, dum videntur exsolvi posse: uti multum antevenere, pro gratia odium redditur.” 7 I am Sir, Your most obedient servant.

G. Wythe.

Doctor Franklin.

Endorsed: Mr Wyth June 23. 1766

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4George Wythe (1726–1806) was an eminent Virginia lawyer, statesman, and patriot. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and held the first professorship of law in an American college, being appointed to that position at William and Mary in 1779 through Jefferson’s influence. DAB. He and BF had almost certainly met each other in Williamsburg in 1756 and again in 1763.

5A large tear at the top of the sheet has caused the loss of the date line and some words in each of the first five lines of the text. The date is supplied from the endorsement and the missing words supplied conjecturally from a consideration of the context.

6Attorney General Peyton Randolph (c.1721–1775) became speaker of the House of Burgesses in November 1766. As Wythe anticipated, Gov. Francis Fauquier recommended him to the Board of Trade and to Lord Shelburne, secretary of state for the Southern Department, as Randolph’s successor, but Randolph’s younger brother, John, received the position in 1767. What part, if any, BF played in these negotiations is not known. See Board of Trade Journal, 1764–67, pp. 369–70, 418, and DAB (under both John and Peyton Randolph).

7“Obligations are pleasant to one, as long as it seems possible to repay them; where they much exceed [that point], hatred is the return instead of gratitude.” Tacitus, Annales, Book iv, c. 18.

Index Entries