Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Anthony Todd, 31 January 1774

From Anthony Todd

Letterbook copy: General Post Office, London

Two days after the scene at the Cockpit the blow fell: Franklin was curtly dismissed from the Post Office. His acquaintance of many years, Anthony Todd, was not responsible for the curtness. The ministry was; Franklin believed that it had forced the Postmasters General into a step they were reluctant to take.3 His dismissal “could but incense him and drive him (a man of vast abilities) on farther hostilities,” Horace Walpole commented, “and recommend him as a martyr to the Bostonians.”4 But that was only part of the point. He considered himself the creator of an efficient and profitable American postal service, and he resented the injustice of being dismissed.5 He may even have aired his resentment in public. An open letter to Lord North, which appeared in the press in early February, has some signs, though not conclusive ones, of being his handiwork; it argued that his fall from office was the best thing that could have happened to the colonies, because it would lead them to create a postal system of their own.6 Whether or not he was the author, the idea of such a system was one that was attributed to him, and that soon was taking tangible form.7

January 31st: 1774.


I have received the Commands of His Majesty’s Post Master General to signify to you that They find it necessary to dismiss You from being any longer Their Deputy for America. You will therefore cause your accounts to be made up as soon as you can conveniently.8 I am, Sir, Your most humble Servant

Anth. Todd Secy.

Doctr. Franklin.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3BF to Cushing below, Feb. 15, 1774.

4Archibald Francis Steuart, ed., The Last Journals of Horace Walpole … (2 vols., London and New York, 1910), I, 285.

5See the letter to Cushing just cited.

6Public Advertiser, Feb. 5. The letter was signed “A Pennsylvanian,” and regardless of who he was is interesting enough to cite in full:

My Lord,

As an American, give me Leave to assure your Lordship that I think the dismissing Doctor Franklyn from the Office of Post-Master-General in North America (at this particular Crisis) one of the most fortunate Events that could have happened for that Country! It was that Gentleman that brought the Post-Office in America to be of some Consequence, and to yield something of a Revenue to the Mother Country. The People there never liked the Institution, and only acquiesced in it out of their unbounded Affection for the Person that held the Office, who had taken infinite Pains to render it convenient to the several Colonies. But what will follow now, my Lord? I’ll tell you: The Post from Philadelphia to Boston is that alone which produces any Profit worth mentioning; the others, taken together, do not more than maintain themselves; and between Philadelphia and Boston, you may depend on it, the Americans will immediately set up a Carrier of their own (which you, with all your Brethren in Power, together with Lord Hillsborough’s Abilities! cannot prevent) and thereby they will entirely starve your Post between those capital Cities; and thus will happily end your boasted Post Office so often given as a President for taxing the Americans.

7For the attribution see Temple to Bowdoin below, Feb. 20, 1774, and for the inauguration of an independent system Hubbart to BF, March 31.

8BF made many efforts to do so during the rest of his stay in England, but the accounts were still unsettled when he sailed for home. See Todd’s note to him and his reply below, March 17, 18, 1775.

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