Benjamin Franklin Papers

Summons to Benjamin Franklin, with Memorandum by Him, 6–7 February 1772

Summons to Benjamin Franklin, with Memorandum by Him

ALS and ADS: American Philosophical Society

February 6–7, 1772

Benjamin Franklin Esqr. without Deduction being on Account of the purchase and Transportation of Forage for the Use of the forces Commanded by Genl. Braddock by Warrant dated 21st. June 17553——£1000

St. Mary Axe 6th February 1772.


The Sheriffs of London and Middlesex have process come into their hands against you for not passing your Accounts of the above Sum, to which they are to make return to the Barons of the Exchequer to morrow Morning at Westminster Hall 10. lock when you will please to Attend the Court to give a reason why the Accounts are not passed otherwise the Sheriffs will be obliged to return Issues against you. I am Sir Your most Humble Servant

Samuel Smith4 late Undersheriff

Addressed: Benjamin Franklin Esq / Craven Street / Strand

[In Franklin’s hand:] Memo. Feb. 7. 1772. This is the third Summons of this kind that I have received. After the first I went, (by Advice of my Friend Grey Cooper and using his Name) to Mr. Blyke, Deputy Auditor,5 and left my Accounts and Vouchers with him, he kindly undertaking to get the Business settled for me. There is a Ballance due to me on the Account of about £30. This Day I again waited upon him, finding by the Summons that the Business still remain’d undone. He took me with him to the Court of Exchequer, where I attended in Expectation of being call’d upon, but was not, and the Court adjourn’d.

B Franklin

Note, I never receiv’d any Commissions or Gratification for my Services, nor is my Balance paid, and yet I am every now and then vex’d with these Summonses.6

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Braddock, just before his death, had sent the warrant to BF; Autobiog., pp. 217–23. For the background and ramifications of BF’s involvement in transport for the General’s expedition see above, VI, 13–22 and passim; VII, 226; Whitfield J. Bell, Jr., and Leonard W. Labaree, “Franklin and the ‘Wagon Affair,’ 1755,” APS Proc., CI (1957), 551–8.

4The deputy usher of the Lower Exchequer and a deputy chamberlain of its Tally Court; he died in 1774. The Royal Kalendar … (London, [1772]), pp. 103, 110; Gent. Mag., XLIV (1774), 47. For these two offices see Francis S. Thomas, The Ancient Exchequer of England … (London, 1848), pp. 54, 118, 127–9; Hubert Hall, The Antiquities and Curiosities of the Exchequer (New York, [1891]), pp. 72, 81.

5Richard Blyke (d. 1775) was an F.R.S. and deputy auditor of the Imprest Office in Scotland Yard. See the Royal Kalendar just cited, p. 104; the DNB; and, for the office, John E. D. Binney, British Public Finance and Administration, 1774–92 (Oxford, 1958), pp. 195–9.

6BF was never reimbursed for his £30: Bell and Labaree, op. cit., p. 558. He was vexed with the summonses because he was caught in the slow, complex, and cumbersome machinery of governmental accounting. The normal procedure, presumably followed with the General’s accounts, was for the Treasury to authorize payment of the bills that Braddock drew on the Paymaster General, such as the warrant to BF for £1,000. But this was only the beginning. The Paymaster General’s accounts were passed by the Controller of Army Accounts and then scrutinized by the government’s auditors to make sure that all the persons concerned, in this case including BF, had presented the accounts and vouchers for their disbursements. Those who had not were subject to judicial action. They were assumed to reside in London or Middlesex, and therefore the agents for such action were the sheriffs, who were accountable to the Court of Exchequer. BF was first summoned to present his accounts and vouchers, whereupon he gave them to Blyke, who seems to have neglected to inform the sheriffs. Hence the threat in Smith’s letter of “issues” against BF, which could in theory have landed him in the Fleet Prison if his evidence had not turned up. For the details of this arcane procedure see Binney, op. cit., pp. 174–5, 189–216, 219.

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