Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Henry Harford, [before 7 June 1783]

From Henry Harford3

ALS: American Philosophical Society

[before June 7, 1783]4


Being as your Excellency must know, very deeply interested in the welfare of America, permit me to congratulace the Congress in General and the state of Maryland in particular, thro your Excellency on the approaching acknowledgement of that independance that has been so Gloriously Struggled for, which cannot fail giving to the United States the wished for prosperity, that their commerce, Consequence, Situation, and indeed every thing entitle them to, and will I most cordially hope eventually when past hostilities shall be forgotten closely ally them in the strongest bonds of union with this Kingdom, an union that nature dictates and must in the end give laws to the whole world—

Your Excellencys known Candour will do justice on the other side the Atlantic to my past situation and present sentiments— My intention is to Embark for America as soon as the weather will permit. I wish to become a Citizen (if I may be allowed the expression) of that country which was not in my power till lately or I undoubtedly shoud have sought the honor sooner—5

I beg your Excellency to accept my most gratefull acknowledgements for your polite attention to Doctr Shuttleworth and for the letter and pasport you were so obliging to furnish him with6 and I request you to believe me to be with the highest respect for your Carecter Sr Your Excellencys most obedient and obliged humble Sert

Henry Harford

Endorsed: Mr Smith7 who brought this Letter informs me that Mr Harford is Proprietary of Maryland

Notation: Henry Hartford

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3This is the only extant letter from the last proprietor of Maryland, the illegitimate son of Frederick Calvert, sixth Lord Baltimore. Upon Lord Baltimore’s death in 1771, when Harford was only 12 years old, the latter inherited a large portion of his father’s estate, including the proprietorship. Challenges to the will kept this inheritance in litigation until Parliament confirmed it in the Estate Act of 1781: ANB. The last of the lawsuits was finally resolved in July, 1782, according to Harford’s later testimony: Vera Foster Rollo, The Proprietorship of Maryland: a Documented Account (Lanham, Md., 1989), p. 254. In August, 1782, John Shuttleworth evidently discussed Harford’s Md. land claims with BF: XXXVII, 745n.

4The day Harford sailed for America aboard the ship Harford, accompanied by former Md. governor Sir Robert Eden. They arrived on Aug. 11: Rollo, Proprietorship of Maryland, pp. 248, 270n. This letter may have been written as early as December, however. The allusion to poor sailing conditions suggests the winter, and his mention of the “approaching acknowledgement” of independence may signal a date soon after news arrived in London of the Nov. 30, 1782, preliminary articles.

5There is no indication that Harford ever intended to pursue American citizenship. Carrying deeds and other documents that attested to his land claims, he seemed chiefly concerned with seeking compensation from the Md. General Assembly. That body did not take up his case until November, 1785, and in January, 1786, rejected it. Harford returned to England shortly thereafter and pursued his compensation claim with the British government, where he was relatively successful: Rollo, Proprietorship of Maryland, pp. 245–74.

6See XXXVII, 745–6; XXXVIII, 15.

7Presumably Harford’s agent Robert Smith, former secretary to Robert Eden, who accompanied the two men to Maryland: Mass. Spy: or, Worcester Gaz., Sept. 4, 1783; London Chron., Oct. 30, 1783; Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, July 8, 1786.

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