Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Cushing, 25 June 1773

From Thomas Cushing

Reprinted from Jared Sparks, ed., The Works of Benjamin Franklin … (10 vols., Boston, 1836–40), VIII, 52–3.

Province of Massachusetts Bay, 25 June, 1773


The House of Representatives have lately had divers letters, signed Thomas Hutchinson, Andrew Oliver, &c., laid before them, attested copies of which, you have enclosed;3 and, after maturely considering their contents, they have voted as their sense, that the tendency and design of said letters appear to have been to overthrow the constitution of this government, and to introduce arbitrary power into this province; and have passed sundry resolves respecting these letters, which accompany this letter.4 They have also agreed upon and passed a petition to his Majesty, which you will receive with this enclosure, praying that his Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, governor, and Andrew Oliver, lieutenant-governor, of this province, be removed from the posts they hold within this government;5 which petition you are desired, as soon as possible, to present to his Majesty; and, as the persons aforenamed have by this their conduct rendered themselves very obnoxious, and have entirely lost the confidence of this people, you are desired to use your interest and influence to support said petition, that it may have its desired effect; and you are further directed to employ Arthur Lee as counsel upon this occasion, and any other counsel you may think proper.6

You are desired also to take effectual care, that the several petitions, relative to the governor and judges of the Superior Court receiving their support from the crown, independent of the grants of the people, may be (if they have not already been) immediately laid before his Majesty, and strenuously supported; as they are matters that very nearly and essentially affect our happy constitution, the preservation of which in a great measure depends upon their meeting with a favorable reception and answer.7 I have the honor to be, &c.

Thomas Cushing, Speaker.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Because Cushing wrote in his official capacity, he maintained the fiction that the attested copies were BF’s first contact with the Hutchinson letters.

4Cushing had already enclosed, in his letter of June 16, the committee report accepted on that day; he now enclosed the resolutions of the House.

5After the failure of delaying tactics the petition for removal was adopted on June 23. More than half of those who had opposed the resolutions on the 16th (see the note on Cushing’s letter of that date) now apparently abstained, for the vote was eighty to eleven. Mass. House Jour., first session, May-June, 1773, p. 75. The petitioners did not mince words. The quarrel between the colonies and the mother country, which they feared might prove fatal to both, had been abetted by evil men in the province, who would destroy its rights to advance their own fortunes. Hutchinson and Oliver were responsible for alienating the King and his ministers from his loyal subjects in Massachusetts, for preventing their situation from being recognized and their grievances from reaching the throne, and for introducing armed force into the colony. They had forfeited the confidence of the people and rendered themselves obnoxious to them. The petitioners therefore begged for their removal. Smyth, Writings, VI, 279–80.

6On the 16th the House, on Samuel Adams’s motion, named Lee as sole counsel. The next day a question was raised whether he was yet qualified to practice (it turned out that he was not), and BF was authorized to use other counsel if need be. Cushing, ed., Writings of Samuel Adams, III, 48–9; Richard Henry Lee, Life of Arthur Lee … (2 vols., Boston, 1829), 1, 267. BF forwarded the petition with his letter to Dartmouth below, Aug. 21. The result was the hearing before the Privy Council on Jan. 29, 1774; on the day of the hearing Lee, as his contribution to the cause, published in the Public Advertiser a pseudonymous open letter to Dartmouth defending the position of Massachusetts.

7The petitions against royal salaries had already been presented and rejected; see Dartmouth to BF above, June 2.

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