Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Cushing, 15 September 1774

To Thomas Cushing

ALS: Public Record Office

London, Sept. 15. 1774


I received, last week only, your Favour of June 27.6 and I have received no other from you since that of April 30. You complain of hearing seldom from me, and yet I have written oftener this Year than ever before. I apprehend our Letters are intercepted. I hope you have received mine of June 1. for in that you will find the Dates of many of the Letters I had written before that time; and I wish that for the future you would be so good as to mention the Dates of those you receive, as I shall always do for your Satisfaction of those I receive from you.

I rejoice to find that the whole Continent have so justly, wisely, and unanimously taken up our Cause as their own. This is an unexpected Blow to the Ministry, who rely’d on our being neglected by every other Colony: this they depended on as another Circumstance that must force our immediate Submission, of which they were likewise perfectly sure. They are now a little disconcerted, but I hear yet from that Quarter no Talk of retreating or changing of Measures. The Language of those about the Court rather is, that the King must now go on, whatever may be the Consequence. On the other hand our Friends are increasing and endeavouring to unite. I have been taking pains among them, to show the Mischief that must arise to the Whole from a Dismembring of the Empire, which all the Measures of the present mad Administration have a Tendency to accomplish; and which can only be prevented by such an Union of the Friends of Liberty, in both Houses, as will compell a Change of that Administration and those Measures.7 I must not now relate to you with whom I have conferr’d, nor the Conversations I have had on this Subject, lest my Letter fall into wrong Hands; but I may say I have reason to think a strong Push will be made at the very Beginning of the Session to have all the late Acts revers’d, and a solemn Assurance given America that no future Attempts shall be made to tax us without our Consent. Much depends on the Proceedings of the Congress. All sides are enquiring when an Account of them may be expected: And I am advis’d by no means to leave England till they arrive. Their Unanimity and Firmness will have great Weight here, and probably unhorse the present wild Riders.

I inclose a Copy of mine mention’d above. Since the Date of that I have written several short Letters to you, inclosing the Bishop of St. Asaph’s Speech (which is admired here as a Masterpiece of Eloquence and Wisdom) An Address to Protestant Dissenters, and sundry other Pieces and Papers that I have been instrumental in Writing, Printing or Publishing here.8 It would encourage me, if you could find time to acknowledge the Receipt of such things, and let me know how they were approved. Nothing material has pass’d here in publick Affairs since the Rising of Parliament. Great Preparations are now making for the Election of a new One; and a War with Spain is apprehended, but will be avoided if possible.9 I am, Sir, with great Esteem and Respect, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

The Bishop’s Speech has had four Editions the last of 5000 Number.

Honble. Thos Cushing, Esqr

Endorsed: Benja Franklin Esqr  London Sept 15. 1774

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6As mentioned in our introduction, BF had very little news during the summer in letters that are extant. Cooper’s of Aug. 15 was the first that spoke definitely of the Continental Congress, and we do not know when it was received. Was mail service from Boston disrupted when the port was closed? The delay in Cushing’s letter of June 27, now lost, would suggest as much; London papers in August, on the other hand, were printing news from Massachusetts that was only five or six weeks old.

7BF repeatedly made this point about a possible coalition: below, to Cushing, Sept. 27, and to Shipley, Sept. 28. By 1771 the administration had absorbed the active followers of Bute, Bedford, and Grenville; thenceforth the supporters of Rockingham and Chatham constituted the chief opposition, and those two groups differed on a number of issues, including the American. The Rockinghamites held firmly to the Declaratory Act, which had been their handiwork, and their opposition to the Coercive Acts was halfhearted. The Chathamites opposed the one as applied to taxation and the other in toto. BF’s statements, although to the best of our knowledge they are uncorroborated, establish that a coalition was being seriously discussed as early as September. Was the prime mover perhaps Chatham? In May he had broken his long silence to attack the policy of coercion; see BF to Cushing above, June 1. In late August BF was summoned to Hayes for his first meeting with the man he had long admired from afar (below, pp. 547–9), and soon afterward—perhaps by more than coincidence—became involved with the opposition. Its members, for all their disagreements with each other, had a common fear of schism within the empire; and BF did what he could, in ways that he never explained, to bring them together in a common front: below, p. 545. The dissolution of Parliament at the end of September postponed the possibility of a coalition until after the elections, and in the early months of 1775, largely because of Chatham’s insistence on going his own way, the possibility evaporated. See the headnote below on BF’s notes for a conversation, Jan. 31; Archibald S. Foord, His Majesty’s Opposition, 1714–1830 (Oxford, 1964), pp. 306, 310, 347–8; Frank O’Gorman, The Rise of Party in England: The Rockingham Whigs … (London, [1975]), pp. 311–14.

8The copy was of his letter of June 1. For Shipley’s speech and Priestley’s address to dissenters see above, respectively, BF to Rhoads, June 30, and to Cushing, July 27.

9The preparations must have been for the election expected the following spring; the plan for advancing it to the autumn was still secret, and BF’s reference earlier in the letter to “the very Beginning of the Session” was undoubtedly to that of the existing Parliament. For the war scare see BF to WF above, Sept. 7.

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