Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from Sir Edward Newenham, 9[–15] November 1783

From Sir Edward Newenham

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Sunday Novr: the 9th[–15]6 1783

Dear Sir

The Importance of Mr: Floods defence, & the Statement of his Conduct having been so plainly & truly Expressed, that I imagine the enclosed paper will prove agreable to you—it has entirely overthrown his Antagonist Mr Grattan in the public estimation—7

Tomorrow “is the Day, the Important Day”; the Grand National Convention meet at the Royal Exchange at 12 oClock; what the result of it may be, I cannot Say, but on thursday last, the State Trumpeter of Corruption (Mr John Forster) at a late hour, & a thin house, moved & Carried the Question of adjournment for to morrow, to avoid any Attempts that might be made to direct our Representatives to Limit the Bill of Supplies to 6 months; as was our Intention, in order to Obtain the Royal assent to a bill for a Parliamentary reform;8 No man can be excused attending the House of Commons on Monday without being put under arrest, agreable to act of Parliament, whenever a Contested Election is to be tried;9 we have Committees Sitting, how to parry off the deadly blow—my plan is to Keep as many Members off, so as to reduce the Number of Attendants below Sixty, if that should be Obtained the House cannot proceed upon any buisiness untill the Day following; before which time, we shall have resolved that no money bill should pass for a longer Term—

10th Novr: My plan for having a thin house did not take, for administration had 72 present, & the Supplies passed for 15 months,1 so that they have absolutely declared hostility against the County Freeholders & the whole Volunteer Army; This morning we mett, of which the papers will give you an Account of;2 I shall only add, that it was one of the most Solemn & Grand Processions I ever saw; 219 Volunteer Delegates with a General3 at their head, who wore the Ensignes he was lately honoured with by his Peers I mean the Starr & Ribband of St: Patrick;4 the Volunteers lined the streets; Such Crowds of People were never seen; Peals of Applause ecchoed from Every Quarter; After some Necessary Forms being Established, we adjourned untill to morrow, first having appointed a Committee of 45 to prepare a Plan of Reform, & who are to deliver it on Friday or saturday; all the Delegates are Obliged to Sign the roll before they can Speak or Vote; instead of fines, every Member absent at roll Call, is to [be] censurd from the Chair in the most pointed Manner—5 The Roman Catholics finding that 20 to one were against them have Dropt all Pretensions for the Present to obtaining Votes—6

I shall impatiently expect the honor of your Excellencys Answer in regard to this Island being enserted in the Treaty, as I wish to have my Country fixed upon the firmest foundation of mutual regard with America; you will considerably Add to the other obligations I owe you by your friendship to my Injured Country—

I like not the beginning of this administration;7 they are inimical to Every Extension of Liberty and they are prodigal of the public money; I cannot give them a Single Vote;—

When your Excellency has read the Enclosed papers, I request you will send them to the truly worthy & Patriotic Marquiss Le Fayette—

All my family join me in most respectfull wishes for your Excellencys health & happiness— Lady Newenham always remembers you with every warm sentiment of Sincere regard & respect—

I have the Honor to be with Every sentiment of Regard & respect Dear Sir your Excellencys Most Obl: & Most Obt: Hble Sert

Edwd Newenham

14 Novr 1783

There is a Committee now sitting upon the Portugal Trade—I wish to Lower the Duties on French wines & rize those of Portugal—of the two I would give France the Preference—8

Addressed: His Excellency Dr: Franklin / Passy / Paris / under Cover to Mr Dupont

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Newenham must have misdated his postscript, whose subject is the committee on the Portugal trade. Parliament appointed that committee on Nov. 15: The Parliamentary Register: or, History of the Proceedings and Debates of the House of Commons of Ireland … (17 vols., Dublin, 1784–1801), 11, 141; The Journals of the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland … (31 vols., Dublin, 1782–94), XXI, 272.

7On Nov. 1, against customary practice, Henry Flood was given the opportunity in the House of Commons to respond at length to Henry Grattan’s accusations of Oct. 28 (for which see the annotation to Newenham’s letter of that date). Grattan rose to reply, but Newenham declared the dispute resolved and successfully moved for the House to adjourn: Parliamentary Register, 11, 61–70; James Kelly, Henry Flood: Patriots and Politics in Eighteenth-Century England (Dublin, 1998), p. 354. The Nov. 1 proceedings of the House were published in the Dublin Evening Post on Nov. 4. The same issue also contained an open letter to Grattan severely criticizing his conduct, written by Newenham under the pseudonym Leonidas. On Nov. 8, the Dublin Evening Post printed a full transcript of Flood’s Nov. 1 speech.

8It was on Friday, Nov. 7, that Foster successfully moved to have the House consider the spending bill on the following Monday, the first day of the Grand National Convention. The convention responded by adjourning early that day to allow M.P.s to attend the debates in the House: Parliamentary Register, 11, 91; The History of the Proceedings and Debates of the Volunteer Delegates of Ireland, on the Subject of a Parliamentary Reform … (Dublin, 1784), pp. 27–9.

9On Monday, Nov. 10, the House appointed a committee for the trial of the disputed election in the borough of Baltinglass, County Wicklow, and noted the names of absent M.P.s, following the regulations in the Act to Regulate Trials of Controverted Elections or Returns of Members to Serve in Parliament: Parliamentary Register, 11, 91; Journals of the House of Commons of the Kingdom of Ireland, XXI, 238–9.

1The Bill of Supply was considered by the Committee of Supply on Nov. 10. Newenham’s attempt to limit the bill to six months was rejected 92 to 32, and the Supply Committee resolved to propose the bill for 15 months: Parliamentary Register, 11, 109–10, 126.

2The opening of the convention was reported in the Dublin Evening Post, Nov. 11, 1783.

3The commander-in-chief of the Irish Volunteers was James Caulfield, first Earl of Charlemont (1728–1799), who was elected as president of the convention at its opening session: ODNB; Patrick Rogers, The Irish Volunteers and Catholic Emancipation (1778–1793) … (London, 1934), p. 115.

4The British government had created the Most Illustrious Order of St. Patrick the previous February as an Irish equivalent to the English and Scottish orders of knighthood. The lord lieutenant of Ireland, Earl Temple, selected the 15 peers who were knighted either to reward their attachment to the crown or to secure their future loyalty. In the case of Charlemont, Temple hoped that the honor would make him suspect among reformers: Peter Galloway, The Most Illustrious Order: the Order of St Patrick and its Knights (London, 1999), pp. 11–25.

5The convention actually passed these measures on its second day, Tuesday, Nov. 11. It formed a committee to present a plan for parliamentary reform to the convention. The committee in turn appointed a subcommittee consisting of one delegate from each county (including Newenham) to examine existing reform proposals and to draft a plan. Earlier, the convention had passed a motion to censure absent delegates: History of the Proceedings and Debates of the Volunteer Delegates of Ireland, pp. 30–2, 40–2.

6On Nov. 11 and 14 the delegates debated at length whether to take up the issue of Catholic enfranchisement. However, when the subcommittee formed to devise a reform plan met on Nov. 13, only two of its 40 members favored voting rights for Catholics. The subcommittee’s plan, written largely by Henry Flood and submitted to the committee on Nov. 21, explicitly limited extensions of the franchise to Protestant freeholders and leaseholders. The committee passed these provisions on Nov. 24 and 25: History of the Proceedings and Debates of the Volunteer Delegates of Ireland, pp. 30, 33–7, 42–52, 77, 79–90; Rogers, Irish Volunteers and Catholic Emancipation, pp. 117–27.

7The first session of the Irish parliament under the new lord lieutenant, Robert Henley, second Earl of Northington (who had assumed the position on April 30), began on Oct. 14. Chief Secretary Thomas Pelham had been in office since August: ODNB.

8The long-standing trade dispute between Britain and Portugal was behind Newenham’s repeated requests to BF for information about the British-American commercial treaty and his suggestion that Ireland should appoint consuls in America (see his letter of Oct. 20 and the annotation there). Since 1780 Portugal had closed its ports first to some Irish textiles and later to all Irish commodities in order to force Britain to negotiate a new commercial treaty. The failure of successive British governments to resolve this dispute at a time of economic crisis reinforced resentments among Irish reformers against British control over their nation’s commerce. Their demands included trade sanctions against Portugal (like the one mentioned here) as well as greater autonomy for Ireland in conducting its commercial relations: James Kelly, “The Irish Trade Dispute with Portugal, 1780–87,” Studia Hibernica, XXV (1990), 7–48.

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