From James Parker
ALS: American Philosophical Society
New York, Decem. 22. 1766
Yours of the 11th of October is now before me:2 In Answering of which some various Passions intermix alternately in my Mind: In the first Place your kind Wishes for the Return of my Health, demands my grateful Acknowledgements—and, thank God, considering what Sicknesses have surrounded me, I have escaped wonderfully. The next Thing, you tell me Col. Hunter had given his half of the Printing-Materials to Holt, yet as he was bound for the Performance of the Agreement for the first two Years, and Nothing of it performed, I think he ought to see me have Justice done so far, because as Holt is not bound, nor is my Agreement with Holt, so I can not sue him upon that Account: Indeed I don’t find I can upon any other: for he keeps close. In the third Place, you say my voluminous Complaints hurt you, which you suppose I designed they should do: This I think is a little unkind: for I never had any Design to give you any Pain about it: God knows my Heart, the utmost of my Intentions were, if there was Room for any Alteration or Amendment, I might be the Object: I never in my Life, acted any Thing with Design to pain you, but am fully convinced I have often done what has pained me to try if I could give you any Satisfaction: tho’ my Endeavours perhaps have often been wrong, as they have failed of the Effect: I believe many Times, my Actions have been construed hard by you in these Cases when I did not design it: I have seen it, and been grieved; and I think from an Affection our long Friendship3 had implanted, I continued my Endeavours to serve you, more in Reality, than from any Fear of Poverty; for to me Distress has long been familiar, and one of the greatest Inducements for me to endeavour to be well in the World, was more from a Desire of not reflecting Dishonour to you, than for my own Sake, whilst you were pleased to favour me with your Friendship: knowing that an Old Friend was better than a new One whether you may think so or not: However the next part of your Letter of your Willingness to suffer me to return from this City,4 would have given me great Pleasure if I had not began a News-paper again, which tho’ I have not a good Prospect of Success in, yet I can’t bear the Thoughts of being a Coward, after I have put my Hand to the Plough, to turn back in the Day of Battle. I had rather dye than fly; without the Retreat was laudable, which in the present Case I can’t see: The Hand of God has been upon me now almost two Years: and tho’ I will humble myself before him, yet will I not forego nor forsake my Integrity: If he slays me, yet will I trust in him: Perhaps the Tide may turn: and I can but fall at last: To come here and begin and make a Splutter, and then yield before I am beat out of the Field, is such a Mark of Cowerdice that I can not bear: However, if after a Year or two’s Trial, when I have convinced my Antagonists, that I am not to be scared out of my Senses, if there be Room for a Retreat, I shall gladly embrace it: tho’ had it not been for the Stamp-Act I believe I should last Year have fixed my Residence in Burlington; many Things seeming to invite me thither, but God in his Providence saw fit to order it otherwise: If any Thing I can say, can give You or that Gentleman5 any Pleasure about the Office in the Customs I would do it; for altho’ there is actually the Labour I have asserted in it, yet inasmuch as both yours and his Intentions sprang from a Desire of befriending me, even tho’ it were ten Times worse than it is, I should be an ungrateful Wretch not to return the most sincere Thanks to you both: Were there any Thing else in my Power that could shew my Gratitude I would do it; For tho’ I cannot say in my Heart, it was the most acceptable Thing in the World in me, to come to this City; yet inasmuch as I would not pay that Disregard to your Kindness which a Refusal would do, I came the more Readier. And tho’ I have the Misfortune not to meet with the Success I might flatter myself with, I know Diligence and Perseverance, will do much: Its true, I grow old, I cannot stand to my Work as formerly, my Legs and my Strength failing me, yet I will not despair. My Letters have been much abused in the latter End of Holt’s Time; but perhaps I may get new soon; I will wait. And tho’ this City is grown a very dear Place, yet inasmuch as you have been pleased to consent with Mr. Foxcroft to the advancing the Allowance in the Post-Office £20, more, I flatter myself I [shall] rub through, and if I can, will make you Amends for all your past Kindness: And if hereafter it shall please Heaven to smile on me any more, I will endeavour with a thankful Heart to behave as patiently as I can: I have met with a great many Crosses, and have deserved many more: I have met with many Favours and Blessings, and all these I have been undeserving of. I pray for Wisdom, Resignation and a thankful Heart, and whether I ever take your Advice or not, hope you will not refrain giving it, whenever it shall suit you so to do.
A few Days ago I wrote you per the Snow Amelia, Capt. St. Clair from this City;6 and sent for some new Types: If I have a Prospect of Success I may try for some more: with that I sent some News Papers, and beg you would please to speak to somebody to send me some, when Opportunities offer: which I must satisfy according to a reasonable Custom: I send the One printed since.
My Son I told you was just come home, pretty much recovered of [his] Sickness, but it had been a costly Voyage to me: Whether he will do better or not Time only will shew: The Appearance of Health begins to shew itself a little in my Family more than has been these two Years. I hope in God we shall once more have it: tho’ my Gout often threatens me, yet have I had less of it this Fall, than I have these several Years.
Dec. 23. Nothing extraordinary this Day, but closing this Letter: And as I expect you will be preparing to return soon, I wish you a pleasant Voyage home. We all send our respectful Complements, whilst I remain Your most obliged Servant
Addressed: For / Dr Benjamin Franklin / London
2. Not found. It would appear from what follows here that in that letter BF had rebuked Parker more sharply than before for the “voluminous Complaints” with which his letters had been filled.
3. Parker had first begun to work for BF in or about 1733, and they had entered into a six-year partnership in 1742; above, II, 341–5.
4. This sounds as if BF had persuaded the postmasters general in England to relax their requirement that the American comptroller reside in New York, or at least that BF had said he would try to get such a relaxation. In neither case have the editors found any documentary evidence to support the supposition.
5. Presumably the unidentified individual in England through whose good offices BF had procured the post in the New York Customs House for Parker.
6. Above, pp. 525–8.