Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Josiah Tucker, 12 February 1774

To Josiah Tucker8

Copy and transcript: Library of Congress9

London, Feb. 12, 1774.

Reverend Sir,

Being informed by a Friend that some severe Strictures on my Conduct and Character had appeared in a new Book published under your respectable Name, I purchased and read it.10 After thanking you sincerely for those Parts of it that [are so] instructive on Points of great Importance to the common Interests of mankind, permit [me to] complain, that if by the [descrip]tion you give in Page 1[80,] 181, of a ce[rtain American] Patriot, whom you say you need [not name, you do, as is sup]posed, mean myself, [nothing can be farther from the truth than your assertion, that I applied or used any interest directly or indirectly to be appointed one of the Stamp] Officers for America; I cert[ainly never] expressed a Wish of the kind to any [person] whatever, much less was I, as you say, “more than ordinary assiduous on this Head.” I have heretofore seen in the Newspapers, Insinuations of the same Import, naming me expressly; but being without the name of the Writer, I took no Notice of them. I know not whether they were yours, or were [only] your Authority for your present charge. But now that they have the Weight of your Name and dignified Character, I am more sensible of the [inj]ury. And I beg leave to request that you would reconsider the Grounds on which you have ventured to publish an A[ccusation] that, if believed, must prej[udice me extremely in the opinion of] good M[en, especially in my own country, whence I was sent expressly to oppose the imposition of that Tax.1 If on such reconsidera]tion and Enquiry [you find as I] am per[suaded] you will, that you have [been impos]ed upon by false Reports, or have too lightly given credit to Hearsays in a matter that concerns another’s Reputation, I flatter myself that your Equity will induce you to do me Justice, by retracting that Accusation. In Confidence of this, I am with great Esteem, Reverend Sir, Your most obedient and most humble Servant,


Revd. Dean Tucker.

Notation in BF’s hand: Copies of Letters between Dr Franklin and Dean Tucker

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8The well known controversialist and Dean of Gloucester, whose ideas had infuriated BF a few years before: above, XVII, 348–80. The present letter touched off a brief, stately, and unproductive correspondence between the two (below, Feb. 21, 22, 24, 26); in his replies Tucker admitted only a slight change of position, and then lapsed into a silence from which BF tried, apparently without success, to rouse him a year later: Feb. 10, 1775. The reader may judge whether in this episode the Dean lived up to a modern historian’s characterization of him as an “admirable eighteenth-century curmudgeon.” John G. A. Pocock, Politics, Language and Time: Essays on Political Thought and History (New York, 1971), p. 268.

9All the letters between BF and Tucker during the month exist in these two versions. The copies are in the hand of Lewis Fevre, BF’s clerk; the transcripts were made for WTF, who printed the letters in Memoirs, I, 211–15. This copy is now mutilated, and words in brackets are supplied from the transcript.

10Four Tracts, Together with Two Sermons, on Political and Commercial Subjects (Gloucester, 1774). The pamphlet must have appeared soon after New Year’s, for the Gent. Mag. first noticed it in January: XLIV (1774), 29–30. Garbled news of it reached Philadelphia and set tongues wagging: Tucker had charged BF, rumor had it, with originally proposing the Stamp Act. “Should he prove that,” Thomas Wharton wrote his brother on May 17, “it will be a cutting stroke to the Doctor’s popularity.” PMHB, XXXIII (1909), 335.

1When BF was named co-agent with Richard Jackson in 1764, explaining Pennsylvania’s objections to a possible stamp duty was one among their many assignments: above, XI, 422–3. The accusation that BF had tried to make personal profit from the Stamp Act Tucker grudgingly withdrew in his letter below of Feb. 24, 1774.

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