George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Aulay Macaulay, 6 September 1791

From Aulay Macaulay

Claybrook near Lutterworth, Leicestershire
6th Septr 1791


I beg leave to appeal to your humanity on behalf of a poor old man in this neighbourhood whose name is Thomas Franklin—and who stands in the relation of first cousin to the late Dr Benjamin Franklin—His Father and Dr F.’s Father were Brothers—He is now in indigent circumstances—and sinking under the pressure of age and infirmities—Dr Franklin once took some notice of him tho’ he made no mention of him in his will—At the time that the Doctor first heard of his having so near a relation in Leicestershire—the poor man happened to be imprisoned for debt—but Dr F. released him1—and besides other marks of kindness and generosity he took his kinsman’s daughter under his protection—and gave her a good education—This young Lady was married by Dr Franklin’s consent to a Mr Pearce, who went to America in 1783 (his wife having died a year before) and left his Son—who was then about four years old under the care of his Grandfather Thomas Franklin—He has never heard from the Boy’s Father, but once since he left England—The letter was dated Annapolis in Maryland—July 1784—The Boy is still with his Grandfather—He has no other relation or protector in this part of the world—and when the old man dies—he will be in a very pitiable situation.2

Be assured Sir such is my veneration for the memory of Benjamin Franklin—that were I in circumstances to afford effectual relief to the Old man—and to provide for the Boy—I Should not have troubled you with a representation of their case—but I have nothing more than the very limited income of a country curacy and therefore I can contribute little besides my sympathy and good wishes—I flatter myself that the American Congress would not be averse to take under their protection those poor distressed relations of their great Benefactor—and I am persuaded that an appeal to their generosity through you Sir—cannot fail of success.3

I am happy Sir to embrace this opportunity of expressing my veneration for your character—and the high sense which I entertain of your distinguished services to mankind—and with best wishes for your happiness—private & public—temporal & eternal I remain Sir your most humble Servt

A. Macaulay


Aulay Macaulay (1758–1819), eldest child of minister John Macaulay of Lismore, Scotland, and uncle of historian Thomas Babington Macaulay, received the M.A. from Glasgow University in 1778. He took holy orders in 1781, became curate at Claybrook the following year, and was rector at nearby Frolesworth from about 1792 to 1796, when he obtained the more lucrative living of Rothley, Leicestershire, which he held until his death. Macaulay made two tours of the Continent and published several volumes, including a history of Claybrook, as well as travel accounts in the Gentleman’s Magazine.

1Thomas Franklin, Sr. (1683–c.1752), was actually the only son of John Franklin, brother of Benjamin Franklin’s father Josiah. Benjamin Franklin wrote from London to his sister Jane Franklin Mecom on 17 July 1771 that “our Father’s Brother John . . . was a Dyer at Banbury in Oxfordshire, where our Father learnt that Trade of him, and where our Grandfather Thomas lies buried” and referred to Thomas Franklin, Jr. (born c.1715), who was “now living at Lutterworth in Leicestershire, where he follows the same Business, his Father too being bred a Dyer, as was our Uncle Benjamin. He is a Widower, and Sally his only Child. These two are the only Descendants of our Grandfather Thomas now remaining in England that retain that Name of Franklin” (Franklin Papers, 18:184–87; see also 1:li, lxviii-lxix).

2Thomas Franklin brought his daughter Sarah (Sally; c.1756–1781) to London in 1766, probably after the death of his wife, and left her with Benjamin Franklin, later hoping she would be taken to America (Benjamin Franklin to Deborah Read Franklin, 11 Oct. 1766, 22 June, 5 Aug. 1767, ibid., 13:444–66, 14:192–95, 224–26). Instead, after gaining Franklin’s trust and affection by her loyal and effective service in his household, she married in April 1773 James Pearce, “a substantial young Farmer at Ewell, about 13 Miles from London; a very sober industrious Man” (Benjamin Franklin to Samuel Franklin, 7 July 1773, ibid., 20:276–77; see also Benjamin Franklin to Deborah Read Franklin, 1 Dec. 1772, 6 April 1773, ibid., 19:395–96, 20:144–45). According to Benjamin Franklin Sally Pearce apparently was pregnant with her first child by September 1773, and the family included three daughters and a son at the time of her death (Mary Hewson to Benjamin Franklin, 30 May 1779, ibid., 29:579; see also i:lii). Dorothy Blunt in 1776 loaned Pearce £50, with which he was able to furnish a house and lease it out for lodgings, and three years later Elizabeth Wilkes offered him free of charge “a detached apartment sufficient for Pearce’s family & business” (Hewson to Benjamin Franklin, 8 Sept. 1776, 30 May 1779, ibid, 22:594–96, 29:579).

3Tobias Lear replied to this letter on 14 Nov.: “In obedience to the President’s commands, I have the honor to inform you that the President brings no business before Congress but what is of a public nature, and such as his official character renders it necessary for him to communicate to that Body. His departure therefore in this case from his uniform practice could not be warranted. The President moreover directs me to inform you that Dr Franklin has left several near relations with handsome property in this city, to whom, or through whom it seems most proper that application should be made, and that there is most probably a Grandson of Dr Franklin’s in London at this time (he having gone over there last Fall). The President has a proper sense of your good wishes, which you so warmly express for his happiness” (DLC:GW). For the trip to London of William Temple Franklin, see GW to William T Franklin, 25 Oct. 1790.

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