Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Alexander Spotswood, 12 October 1739

From Alexander Spotswood4

MS not found; printed in The Pennsylvania Gazette, December 11, 1740.

Germanna, Octob. 12. 1739


The Part which your Predecessor, Mr. Andrew Bradford, has acted with respect to the Post-Office Accompts, is no longer to be born with. The Deputy Post-Masters in Great-Britain account every two Months with the General Post-Office there; and I am obliged every half Year to have the Accounts of the General Post-Office in America made up: But I have not been able to obtain any Account from Mr. Bradford of the Philadelphia Office, from Mid-summer 1734, notwithstanding all the pressing Demands that the Comptroller has been continually making upon him for so many Years past. Wherefore I now peremptorily direct, that, upon receipt hereof, you commence Suit against him, without hearkning any more to his trifling Excuses and fallacious Promises.6 If he lays any Stress on the Reputation of a Man of Truth and Sincerity, he must blush upon a Trial, before his Towns-Men, to have his Letters produced, continually pleading Sickness, for his not sending his Accompts: Whereas, upon Enquiry, I am well assured, that, for these two Years past, he has appeared abroad in as good State of Health, as ever he used to be. Such an Imposition I think ought not to be passed over, without some Mark of my Resentment; and therefore I now direct, that you no longer suffer to be carried by the Post any of his News-Papers, or Letters directed to him, without his paying* the Postage thereof: Which you are to observe, until farther Orders in that Behalf, from, Sir, Your most humble Servant,

To Mr. Franklin

A. Spotswood

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Alexander Spotswood (1676–1740), lieutenant colonel in the War of the Spanish Succession, wounded at Blenheim and captured at Oudenarde; as lieutenant governor of Virginia, 1710–22, he was especially and energetically concerned with Indian policy, defense, and western settlement. Appointed deputy postmaster general for North America and the West Indies, 1730, he extended the regular postal service from the north to Williamsburg and increased its efficiency. Just before his death he was appointed major general and second-in-command of the expedition against Cartagena. DAB; Leonidas Dodson, Alexander Spotswood, Governor of Colonial Virginia, 1710–1722 (Phila., 1932); see below, p. 287.

5BF made this letter public in the course of a quarrel with Bradford and Webbe over their rival magazines. See below, p. 267. The emphasis of the printed version has been retained, though it was probably supplied by BF and was not in Spotswood’s MS.

6Spotswood had removed Bradford from the postmastership of Philadelphia in 1737 because of neglect. BF employed John Webbe to bring the suit that Spotswood ordered. For the operation of the Philadelphia post office, see above, pp. 178–83. Anna J. DeArmond, Andrew Bradford, Colonial Printer (Newark, Del., 1949), pp. 33, 105, 228–32, suggests what is probably all that can be said in Bradford’s defense.

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

º *The Privilege of Free-Postage was allow’d Mr. Bradford, on Condition of his acquitting himself fairly of the Office, and doing Justice to the Revenue. [Franklin’s footnote.]

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