Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Cushing, 5 January 1774

To Thomas Cushing

Extract reprinted from William Temple Franklin, ed., Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin … (3 vols., 4to, London, 1817–18), II, 209–10.

London, Jan. 5, 1774.


I received the honour of yours dated October 28 with the Journals of the house and Mr. Turner’s Election Sermon.2

I waited on Lord Dartmouth on his return to town, and learnt that he had presented to his majesty our petition for the removal of the governors. No subsequent step had yet been taken upon it: but his lordship said, the king would probably refer the consideration of it to a committee of council, and that I should have notice to be heard in support of it.3 By the turn of his conversation, though he was not explicit, I apprehend the petition is not likely to be complied with: but we shall see. His lordship expressed as usual much concern at the differences subsisting, and wished they would be accommodated. Perhaps his good wishes are all that is in his power.

The famous letters having unfortunately engaged Mr. Temple and Mr. Wheatley in a duel, which being interrupted would probably be renewed, I thought it incumbent on me to prevent as far as I could any farther mischief, by declaring publicly the part I had in the affair of those letters, and thereby at the same time to rescue Mr. Temple’s character from an undeserved and groundless imputation, that bore hard upon his honour, viz. that of taking the letters from Mr. Wheatly, and in breach of confidence. I did this with the more pleasure as I believe him a sincere friend to our country. I am told by some that it was imprudent in me to avow the obtaining and sending those letters, for that administration will resent it. I have not much apprehension of this, but if it happens I must take the consequences. I only hope it will not affect any friend on your side the water, for I have never mentioned to whom they were transmitted.4

A letter of mine to you, printed in one of the Boston papers has lately been reprinted here, to show, as the publisher expresses it, that I am “one of the most determined enemies of the welfare and prosperity of Great Britain.” In the opinion of some, every one who wishes the good of the whole empire, may nevertheless be an enemy to the welfare of Great Britain, if he does not wish its good exclusively of every other part, and to see its welfare built on their servitude and wretchedness. Such an enemy I certainly am. But methinks ’tis wrong to print letters of mine at Boston which give occasion to these reflections.5

I shall continue to do all I possibly can this winter towards an accommodation of our differences; but my hopes are small. Divine Providence first infatuates the power it designs to ruin.6 With the great esteem and respect, I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient humble servant,

B. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Cushing’s letter has been lost. The Mass. House Jour. needs no introduction; the sermon was preached on the day the Council was elected, and printed as a pamphlet: A Sermon Preached before His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, Esq; Governor: the Honorable His Majesty’s Council, and the Honorable House of Representatives of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay in New-England, May 26th, 1773 … by Charles Turner, A.M. Pastor of the Church in Duxbury (Boston, 1773).

3For the petition and BF’s submission of it see above, XX, 243–4, 372, 374, 376. Steps had already been taken, although BF was apparently unaware of them: the petition and BF’s covering letter had been referred on the King’s instruction to the Privy Council on Dec. 3, and by it to its Committee for Plantation Affairs on the 10th. [Israel Mauduit,] The Letters of Governor Hutchinson, and Lieut. Governor Oliver … with the Assembly’s Address, and the Proceedings of the Lords Committee of Council … (London, 1774), p. 66; Acts Privy Coun., Col., V, 385. The upshot was the two hearings before the Committee on Jan. 11 and 29, for which see below.

4For the duel between John Temple and William Whately, and BF’s resultant avowal of his role in the affair of the Hutchinson letters, see above, XIX, 403–4; XX, 513–16. Here, as in his public statement, BF said only that Temple did not take the letters from Whately. The “friend on your side the water” who was most likely to be affected was the recipient of those letters, Cushing himself.

5BF’s quotation in the first sentence of the paragraph was from a letter in the Public Advertiser, Nov. 26, 1773. The letter also contained an extract of Samuel Adams’ communication to the Boston Gaz., which in turn quoted BF’s letter to Cushing in 1771; see below, pp. 61–2. The Speaker’s handling of letters in 1771 may have been open to reproach, but as the skies darkened he took great care to keep BF’s communications from the public: above, XX, 279.

6The ALS, which has since disappeared, was summarized in a Puttick and Simpson sale catalogue, Dec. 19, 1855, p. 13. The summary explained that the concluding paragraphs, which we conjecture appeared at this point before the final salutation, dealt with the ministry’s one-sided view of the controversy, and quoted one sentence or part of a sentence by BF: “in an age or two the seat of Government will be moved to our side the water.”

Index Entries