Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Clarke, 18 March 1754

From William Clarke7

ALS: Massachusetts Historical Society

Boston March 18th. 1754


The enclosed Account I had some time ago from a Gentleman in this Town as the substance of what he had collected from conversing with Mr. Pattin,8 when he was last here, but as it was only from recollecting what had passed between them Months before, some Articles may be wrong; and as I should be glad of a particular information of several other things not contained in it; I shall esteem it a particular favour, if it will not break in too much upon your time, which I know is always usefully employed, to have from you a particular Account of the following Articles vizt.

How far the inclosed account is true, how low down the River Ohio he has been, where he was taken, what Forts the French had that he knew of before the late War upon the Lakes, upon the Rivers issuing out of or running into the Lakes, or those that empty themselves into the River Missisippi, with their Scituation distances from each other, and their Strength both as to men and Guns; what Tribes of Indians trade with the English, and the number of them, tho I beleive you know the state of most of these Facts better your self, than he can. The following I am sure you must be much better Acquainted with. What Tribes of Indians are in Alliance with the Six Nations, what Number they are computed at, the Number of the Six nations themselves, whether all the Tribes of Indians in alliance with the Six Nations are likewise in Alliance with the English, Whether the Six Nations and their Allies trade wholly or cheifly with the English. Whether any of the French Indians as we vulgarly call them ever trade with us. It would be very agreeable to know the Rout by which Mr. Pattin was carried to Quebec and where he afterwards lived among the Indians, as also the Rout of your Traders into the Indian Country.

I understand that Mr. Pattin has lately been sent by Govr. Hamilton to gain as thorough a knowledge as may be of the late and present transactions of the French upon the back of the English Settlements Southward and Westward. I am extremely desirous to see a particular Account of his report.9

In the Treaty between the Indians of the Six nations and the Commissioners of Pensylvania the last Year, of which number I have the Satisfaction to see that you were one, I observe that the French Commander acquainted the Indians that he had orders to build four Forts vizt at Weningo Mohongialo Forks Logs Town and Beaver Creek.1 I have not in any Maps I have been able to procure found any such names. I should be obliged to you to let me know by what names these places are called in Bellin’s or D’Anville’s Maps2 or if they are not particularly pointed out what distance they respectively are from Lake Erie and how they bear from it.

The Govr.3 at whose desire, as well as for my own Satisfaction I write this, bids me make his compliments very particularly to you, I have often heard him speak with great satisfaction of the Character you had acquired in France. He designs very soon to begin a correspondence with you, and would have done it sooner were he not so fully employed.

I am with the greatest esteem Your most obedient humble Servant

Wm: Clarke

Benja: Franklin Esqr.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7William Clarke (or Clark) (1709–1760), Boston physician and political writer; A.B., Harvard, 1726; studied medicine in London, c. 1731–33; practised in Boston and also engaged in the iron business with his brother Richard. “His practise, throughout his life, included the cream of New England society.” In addition he became surgeon to the troops at Castle William, 1744, and accompanied the Louisbourg expedition, 1745. He served on various town committees in Boston and became a warm friend and supporter of Governor Shirley. His Observations On the late and present Conduct of the French, with Regard to their Encroachments upon the British Colonies in North America (Boston, 1755) contained as an appendix BF’s Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind (see above, IV, 225). There were two other William Clarks who practised medicine in Boston; the author of this letter signed his communications to BF as “Clarke,” though the name is sometimes given without the “e.” Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, VIII (1951), 12–19.

8On John Patten, Indian trader on the Ohio, see above, p. 227 n. A transcript of Patten’s “Information,” received from Governor Shirley, is in APS; a slightly different version is printed in 1 Pa. Arch., II, 240. The account Clarke enclosed to BF is not with the letter. Howard N. Eavenson believes it was the report on the Ohio which (in Clarke’s hand) is in Mass. Hist. Soc., and he has printed it as such in Map Maker & Indian Traders (Pittsburgh, 1949), pp. 150–3, but this cannot be correct since the document he prints mentions the French capture of the Virginia fort at the junction of the Allegheny and Monongahela, which did not take place until nearly a month after Clarke wrote to BF.

9Between voyages in the Argo Patten made another trip to the Ohio country at Hamilton’s request. His instructions, Dec. 5, 1753, are in Pa. Col. Recs., V, 707–8. The journal Patten was told to keep has not been found, nor have any maps he may have made of the road west from Carlisle, but a modern reconstruction of the latter, based on the information he supplied to the Pennsylvania authorities on his return, is in Eavenson, Map Maker & Indian Traders, bound at the end.

1See above, p. 87.

2Probably “Carte de La Louisiane, Cours du Mississipi et pais Voisin. Par N. Bellin Ingénieur de la Marine. 1744,” bound in Pierre F.-X. de Charlevoix, Histoire et Description Générate de la Nouvelle France (4to edit., Paris, 1744), II, facing p. I; and Jean Baptiste Bourguignon d’Anville, Amérique Septentrionale (Paris, 1746), printed in his Atlas général.

3Governor William Shirley of Massachusetts. On March 4, 1754, he wrote a long letter to Governor Hamilton of Pennsylvania discussing French claims in North America, the need for a colonial union, and the desirability of establishing it at the forthcoming Albany Congress, asking for information about Patten’s recent trip to the Ohio, and enclosing a copy of Patten’s “Declaration.” Pa. Col. Recs., VI, 16–20.

Index Entries