Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Nathaniel Seidel, May 1775

From Nathaniel Seidel6

Two copies:7 Moravian Archives, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

May 1775.

Dear and honourd Sir

Your safe return from England into this Province, at so very critical a Time, has given me and my Brethren much Joy, we viewd and honor’d the Hand of God in it, hoping that your deep Knowledge and long Experience in the House of Assembly will once more be well apply’d for the good of this Country. I can therefore assure you that we thankd God for your safe Arrival and I most heartily wellcome you with this in Pensilvania.

Yet Dear Sir I have still another Reason to trouble you with these Lines and I hope you’ll excuse my Freedom. Time and Circumstances have with a deep Regard for your Person implanted into us also a particular Confidence, which makes me address you in our present Situation.

I need not inform you of the present Ferment thru’ the whole Province, which has brought us into a perplexed and distressed State here in this County and other Places. Our good Neighbours with whom we lived in the most cordial neighbourly Union and Love, seem to be quite out of Humour with the Br[ethre]n and others who can not join them in taking up Arms and do as they do.

Some good inoffensive Persons have been already ill treated on account of their religious Principles and some others are treadned with taring and feathering, ruining their Farms and burning their Houses and Barns. We know to excuse this vehement Heat, but are sore afraid of the bad consequences and the evil Effect such Excesses may have upon the Country in general.

I would therefore in the Name of the Brethren and others who conscientiously scruple to bear Arms in this and the other Provinces beg the Favour of you to be their Advocat in the present Congress and to use your undoubted influence with the Honorable Members: to give no occasion in their Resolves to the several Committees or others to attack their Neighbours and Fellow Subjects in the most tender and dearest Parts, their religious Liberties and Conscience, but that they rather recomend it to the good People of these Provinces, to keep the Peace and to let ev’ry religious Society enjoy their Priviledges fully and undisturbed, as long as they do not act against this Country.

I think none can or will withdraw themselves from the common Burden and Expence of the Province wherein they live.8

We know to value the good old English Liberty, which we have enjoyd thro’ Gods Mercy so many years in this Country, we should think ourselves extream unhappy if the Strugle for Liberty should cost us our Liberty of Conscience for which we are come into America and which our Br[ethre]n now enjoy under Russia, Prussia and other Governments.

That the God of Peace may direct the Councils of the Americans and the Councils in England so, that both may meet one another in the Way of Peace is surely the Prayer of thousands. It is the constant Prayer of Honorable Sir your Humble Servant


To Benj. Franklin Esqr.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Seidel (1718–82), born in Silesia of a Bohemian Protestant family, emigrated to America as a young man to work as a Moravian missionary. He was consecrated bishop in 1758, and four years later succeeded Bishop Spangenberg as head of the provincial board of the church in America. Edmund De Schweinitz, “Some of the Fathers of the American Moravian Church,” Moravian Hist. Soc. Trans., II (1877–86), 219–27.

7By the same copyist, and of two distinct drafts. One, undated and with interlineations and a clause in the margin, was published with occasional small misreadings in PMHB, XXIX (1905), 245–6. The other, which we print, is a cleaner text and is dated and signed after a fashion. It contains a passage of some interest that Seidel deleted, and in places, as may be seen by comparing it with the PMHB version, differs substantially in wording.

8Here follows the deleted passage: “but it would be Tyrany in extream to attempt to force from us a high valued Priviledge: the Exemption from bearing of Arms, which has been granted unto the Br[ethre]n even in Russian Prussia Danemark and where ever they settled and which has brought the Brethren at first into Pensilvania.

“We seek nothing but the Good of the Country where we live and that we ourselves may be able to lead a quiet and peaceable Life in all Godliness and Honesty.”

On May 6, when companies of troops were being raised in every township, a Moravian conference urged the brethren to share in the expense as far as their means permitted, but to do nothing that might jeopardize the exemption from bearing arms that had been given them by statute (22 Geo. II, c. 30). See Kenneth G. Hamilton, “John Ettwein and the Moravian Church during the Revolutionary Period,” Moravian Hist. Soc. Trans., XII (1940), 234–6.

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