Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Philip Thicknesse, 16 December 1776

From Philip Thicknesse2

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Calais Rue de Capuchin Decr the 16: 1776


My Being one of the indirect sufferers in the Cause of American liberty, I hope will plead my excuse in takeing this; My private misfortunes Sir fell upon me, for speaking, and sometimes writing, my honest sentiments, relative to your public ones. But I will not trouble you with the sorrows of an Individual, who I hope has the charge, and will protect millions. I shall therefore only say, that a few Scotch Lords sent down from St. James’s, out voted that great, and good man, Lord Camden, and I was thereby defrauded of ten th[ousand]d pounds. The Enclosed printed papers will shew you how; and that I am now publishing by Subscription a Journey through France, and I entreat the honor of your name, and that of your Honorable Brothers, the Members of the Continental Congress of America as Subscribers to it!3 Nor do I ask it, from motives of parsimony, but to have it appear, to the present, and future generations; that I had the honor to mingle my afflictions along with brave men, who, like me, had seperated themselves from their mother Country rather than submit to the violation of their ancient Laws. I have the honor to be Sir your most Obedient and Devoted Humble Servant

Phil. Thicknesse

Addressed: To / The Honorable / Benjamin Franklin / President of the Continental / Congress of America / at Paris

Notations in different hands: Lett. from Phillip Thicknesse Calais Decr 16. 1776. / Thicknesse Papers to be answered

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2For this quarrelsome eccentric (1719–92), who for twenty years had been Gainsborough’s patron, see the DNB and Philip Gosse, Dr. Viper: the Querulous Life of Philip Thicknesse (London, 1952).

3He had hoped to acquire the money from his first wife’s family, but had lost his case in Chancery and then, despite Camden’s support, his appeal to the House of Lords. He considered himself a victim of the establishment, as the Americans were. The enclosures were doubtless three open letters, one signed by him and two pseudonymous, which an opposition newspaper, The Crisis, published on March 4, 25, and Aug. 12, 1775; they proclaimed that Chancery was lawless and the Lords corrupted by the King’s friends. Thicknesse then left the country for a tour of France and Spain, from which we assume he was returning home when he wrote this letter. With it he enclosed a printed prospectus, now in the APS, of the work that subsequently appeared as A Year’s Journey through France and Part of Spain (2 vols., Bath and London, 1777.)

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