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To Benjamin Franklin from William Strahan, 7 June 1775: extract

From William Strahan

Extract:7 Papers of the Earl of Dartmouth deposited in the Staffordshire County Record Office

William Strahan was one of the few British political correspondents whom Franklin retained after leaving England. The Scot had bought himself a seat in Parliament in 1774, and consistently supported the government’s American policy. The outbreak of war, much as he regretted it, did not shake his faith in the British position; and in his letters he tried the impossible task of converting his old friend to his views.8 The effect was to strain the friendship, which Franklin was at one point ready, until he had second thoughts, to break off,9 but which in the end proved stronger than their political disagreement; for years to come they kept in touch by letter.

London, June 7. 1775.

We begin to expect to hear of the Proceedings of the Congress soon. I hope it is composed not of headstrong violent and unreasonable Men, but of plain, honest, cool, dispassionate, and impartial Representatives of the People; more ready to heal than to spread Misunderstandings, and perfectly disposed to promote a Reconciliation with the Mother Country by every Means in their Power, consistent with the Happiness and Liberty of their Constituents. If this should luckily happen to be the Case, I expect to see You quickly return to us with the Olive Branch in Your Hand, invested with full Powers to terminate all Differences upon reasonable and solid Terms.1 Believe me, I think so well of this Office that I hope it is actually reserved for You, and that the successful Conclusion of so important a Treaty will crown the Operations of a Life spent in the Investigation of every useful Branch of Knowledge, and in the Service of his Country in particular. This is truly worthy of your highest Ambition, and I still hope to see it gratified in this Respect, however Appearances seem at present to be against it.

Will. Strahan.

Extract. To Dr. Franklin.

Notation: London. June 7, 1775. Extract of a Letter from William Strahan Esqr. to Dr. Franklin.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Strahan had promised to write BF by every packet, and did write monthly from April until packets were discontinued in October. On Aug. 2 and Sept. 6 he speaks of his other letters from April through July, and that of October is below. Of these seven, five are extant in whole or in part: June 7, July 5, Aug. 2, Sept. 6, and Oct. 4. All were intercepted, copied or extracted for Lord Dartmouth, and then sent on. The ALS of Sept. 6 is among BF’s papers; the originals of the others have since been lost. Two letters, of April 8 and May 5, have vanished along with BF’s reply to them of July 7, which Strahan mentioned on Sept. 6. The only extant letter that BF wrote and sent is below, Oct. 3, where he speaks of receiving four from Strahan, the latest dated Aug. 2. That was in fact the fifth; so one, written between May and August, must have gone astray. BF also received the September letter; five, therefore, are known to have arrived, and most if not all went by way of Whitehall.

8See Namier and Brooke, House of Commons, III, 490–1; above, XIX, 91, 407; and the extant letters from Strahan just cited.

9See below, the note that BF did not send of July 5 and the letter that he did of Oct. 3, 1775.

1BF responded (ibid.) that he could not return to England without being imprisoned because of the Chancery suit.

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