Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from New Jersey Assembly Committee of Correspondence, 7 December 1769

From the New Jersey Assembly Committee of Correspondence

LS: American Philosophical Society

Burlington Decemr. 7th. 1769


The House of Representatives of this Colony on the 8th of last mo. unanimously chose you their Agent in London and appointed us to correspond with you on the affairs of the Colony.2 The Resolve of the House by which you are appointed Agent, his Excellency will transmit to you properly attested.

To a Gentleman whose inclination to serve these Colonies, we believe equal to his knowledge of their true Interests much need not be said to induce an attention to American concerns, in the ensuing Sessions of Parliament; and the confidence the House have in the assurances of his Majestys Ministers, that they will use their endeavours for the Repeal of the Revenue Acts,3 and that those endeavours will be successful, renders any particular direction to you on this head unnecessary, but we cou’d wish his Majesty’s faithful American Subjects to stand in their true point of light before him, that no doubt may remain of their Loyalty and firm attachment to his Royal Person and Government.

We are directed by the House to desire you will apply to the proper Offices, and sollicit his Majesty’s Assent to the Bill for Septennial Election of Representatives, and the Bill for giving the Counties of Morris, Cumberland and Sussex a right to choose Representatives in Assembly, transmitted in 1768, the Province is very sollicitous for a confirmation of these Laws,4 and we must desire you will use your influence to Obtain the Royal Assent to them as soon as possible, another Bill in 1765 was transmitted for amending of the practice of the Law, which the House woud rather choose shoud not have the Royal Assent, as a Bill they like better has been passed by the House this Session, which, altho’ the Governor coud not pass, yet he has, upon a message from the House, promised to ask his Majestys Permission to give his Assent at a future session.5

His Excellency our Governor will transmit for his Majestys Royal approbation, An Act of Assembly, passd this Session, for making current One hundred thousand pounds in Bills of Credit, to be let on Loan at five per Cent, the particular distress of this Province for want of a Currency, and the little prospect of being able to obtain a Bill very soon, to make the Bills a legal tender, was what induced the Assembly to comply with this method; and, as the funds for the redemption of the Bills are good beyond a doubt, we are under no apprehension of any difficulty, as to the Bills obtaining a Credit and passing in lieu of money. We refer to the preamble to the Bill, and to your own knowledge of the propriety of the measure and it gives us particular pleasure to entrust to your care a matter, so generally desird by the People of this Colony, because you so well understand the subject, and can so readily answer any objections that may be made against it.6

The House have orderd a sum of money to pay the expence that may attend the getting of the Royal Assent to these Bills, and we inclose a Bill of Exchange for two hundred pounds sterling for that purpose.

The House have also pass’d a Bill for lending a sum of money to the General Proprietary of the Eastern Division of this Province, and have by a Message to the Governor inform’d him, that they woud direct their Agent by a Memorial to support the claim of this Colony before his Majesty in Council.7 You will, from the Agents appointed by Law to manage the controversy between the Colonies, receive a state of the controversy, and every paper necessary for you to inspect before drawing your Memorial. The House have therefore directed us to inform you, that the principal motives of the House for your application to his Majesty are

1st. That Justice may be done to individuals, as well as the Colony in general, and altho’ the House does not pretend to direct where the said Line ought to be fixed, yet, as the settlement of said Line will in its consequences affect the Colony very sensibly, especially shoud any station be fixed Southward of the line solemnly settled in the Year 1719, in consequence of which great numbers of people settled up to said Line, and have ever since done Duty and paid their Taxes in this Government, should that Line be alterd and brought Southward, many honest and bona fide purchasers will be involvd in ruin, unless his Majesty shoud think proper to interpose.

2. The Injustice to this Colony will appear very great, when its consider’d that the line of 1719 has constantly been deem’d the Line of Division between the Governments, and the Settlers and lands up to that line have ever been estimated in the Taxes; hence, shoud the line be removd Southward this Colony that has incurrd a Debt of one hundred and ninety thousand pounds in the late war, yet undischargd will be deprivd of the aid of valuable Settlements in paying off this Debt, and the Burthen increasd on the remainder of the Colony. From this Sketch of the Sentiments of the House, and the papers that will be laid before you by the Agents appointed by Law to manage the Controversy between the Colonies, you will be able to frame a memorial to his Majesty, but as no appeal is yet made and only threatend, no application from you to his Majesty will be necessary untill such appeal is actually made by the Agents for New York. We are, Sir, with great Sincerity and respect Your humble servants8

Cortd. Skinner
Aaron Leaming
Abrm. Hewlings
Henry Paxson
Ebenez Miller
Joseph Smith.

P.S. When you write by way of New York please to direct to Cortland Skinner Esqr. Speaker of the Assembly of New Jersey and by way of Philada. to Abraham Hewlings or Jos: Smith Esqrs at Burlington.

Bill inclosd Garrat and Geo Meade on James Dormer Esq9

Endorsed: Committee of N Jersey Assembly Dec 7. 1769.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2BF was succeeding a London solicitor, Henry Wilmot, who was secretary to Lord Chancellor Camden, and agent for the Penn family and the East Jersey Proprietors, and had been agent for the New Jersey Assembly since 1766. The Assembly had been inveigled into appointing him, and soon afterward WF had asked BF if he knew of anyone better; in 1767 Wilmot had increased his unpopularity by doing nothing. See above, XIII, 498; XIV, 176; Votes, N.J. (Oct.–Dec., 1769), p. 47.

3For the New Jersey petition against the Townshend Acts see 1 N.J. Arch., X, 18–21.

4For the two acts mentioned see ibid., p. 142; XVII, 478, 497–8; Votes, N.J. (April–May, 1768), p. 13; Board of Trade Jour., 1768–1775, p. 203; Acts Privy Coun., Col. V, 283–4.

5The Assembly was attempting to reduce high fees and costs in debtors’ suits. The bill passed in 1765 was disallowed in 1770. That passed in 1769 had no clause for suspending its operation until royal assent was given; hence WF refused to approve it until the crown permitted him to do so. Early in 1770, however, riots by debtors and other violence forced his hand, and a similar bill was enacted. Votes, N.J. (May–June, 1765), p. 74; (Oct.–Dec., 1769), pp. 54, 76, 83, 87, 89; (March, 1770), pp. 5, 6, 23; 1 N.J. Arch., XVII, 430, 435; XVIII, 101–2, 170; Board of Trade Jour., 1768–75, p. 203; Acts Privy Coun., Col., V, 284; Edgar J. Fisher, New Jersey as a Royal Province, 1738 to 1776 (New York, 1911), pp. 256–62.

6This bill was one of many colonial expedients to provide a much-needed currency within the limits of the Currency Act. Despite BF’s efforts the Board of Trade, in the following spring, recommended disallowing the provincial bill: Board of Trade Jour., 1768–75, p. 184.

7For the complicated boundary dispute between New Jersey and New York see above, XIV, 196–201; Votes, N.J. (Oct.–Dec., 1769), pp. 49, 58–9, 88; 1 N.J. Arch., XVIII, 102–4; Fisher, op. cit., pp. 210–39.

8For Cortlandt Skinner, Speaker of the Assembly, see above, XIII, 335 n. The other representatives who signed the letter were Aaron Leaming, Jr. (Cape May County); Abraham Hewlings (town of Burlington), the president of the West Jersey Proprietors; Henry Paxson (Burlington County); Ebenezer Miller (1702–74; Salem County), a Quaker and surveyor; and Joseph Smith (town of Burlington), another Quaker. Smith (1742–1822) acted as secretary of the committee; see his letter to BF below, Dec. 19. He was the son of Samuel Smith, the historian of New Jersey, and had been a member of the Assembly for less than two months; he served until the end of 1771. He subsequently succeeded his father as treasurer of the West Jersey Proprietors. Two other committee members did not sign: Hendrick Fisher (1697–1779; Somerset County) and John Wetherill (Middlesex County). See I N.J. Arch., XVIII, 37, 519, 537; XIX, 390–4; Fisher, op. cit., pp. 84–100; and in addition, for Smith, Evan M. Woodward and John F. Hageman, History of Burlington and Mercer Counties, New Jersey … (Philadelphia, 1883); p. 171; William W. Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of American Quaker Genealogy (6 vols., Ann Arbor, Mich., 1936–50), II, 184, 203; N.J. Hist. Soc. Proc., V (1851), 23, 32.

9Garrat and George Meade were brothers and partners in a Philadelphia mercantile firm; see DAB under George Meade. James Dormer was a London merchant with offices in Throgmorton Street: Kent’s Directory … (London, 1770), p. 55.

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