Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Turner, 7 September 1754

From Thomas Turner9

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

River Virga.1 Septr. 7th. 1754.


At the Request of Col. Charles Carter2 I send you our Governors proroguing Speech.3 He and I came home last night late from the Assembly and having this Opportunity he was unwilling to lose it.

By the Speech it must appear to those who are unacquainted with our unhappy Difference, that We have refused to do any Thing for our Country in this Time of Danger. That is so far from being the case, that tho the Forces are now provided with three Months Wages and Provisions We chearfully voted Twenty Thousand Pounds. And to settle amicably our old affair of the Pistole Fee on all Patents issuing from the Secretaries office we proposed to fall into any Measure he would point out to Us, but without the least Hopes of Success. He lays heavy Charges against Us in his Speech, such as We think we do not deserve. When the Truth comes to be known We hope the World will much more blame him than Us who rather than give up a private Pike [pique] and Resentment refused to have so large a Sum. I am so hurried by this Bearer that I am obliged to conclude and am Sir your unknown humble Servant,

Thos. Turner

To Benjamin Franklin Esquire.

Endorsed: Thomas Turner to Ben Franklyn with the Govr of Virginias Proroguing Speech 8ber 17544

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Thomas Turner (d. 1758) of Walsingham, member of the Virginia House of Burgesses; clerk of King George Co., 1723–42; justice of the peace, 1742; vestryman of Hanover parish, King George Co., 1723. Va. Mag. Hist. Biog., XX (1912), 439–40.

1The Rappahannock.

2Charles Carter of Cleve in King George Co., member of the House of Burgesses, 1736–64. See above, III, 285 n.

3Governor Dinwiddie’s speech (Turner’s copy of which is still attached to his letter in Hist. Soc. Pa.) rebuked the Burgesses for making “only an unavailing Flourish of Words” while leaving the French and Indians “at full Liberty to perpetrate their destructive and unjust designs,” and charged that the House “absolutely” denied subsistence to the independent companies raised by the King’s authority and now employed in defense of the colony—“a Thing unprecedented in any of his Majesties Dominions, where they have been employed in their Defence from Incursions or threatned Invasions.”

The explanation of the Assembly’s conduct goes back to 1753, when Governor Dinwiddie levied a fee of one pistole on every land patent—about a thousand were lying uncompleted in the Land Office. The Assembly denounced this “Unusual Demand” as “illegal and arbitrary, contrary to the Charters of this Colony,” drafted a memorial to the King, and sent Attorney General Peyton Randolph (DAB) to England to secure a reversal of the governor’s action; whereupon Dinwiddie prorogued the Assembly and suspended Randolph from his post. When the House reconvened, Aug. 22, 1754, they had to deal with problems of frontier defense, made more urgent by the defeat and surrender of Washington’s force at Fort Necessity the month before. A bill for £20,000 was prepared, to which a clause was attached to pay Randolph £2500 for his services (which had been successful) as the Assembly’s agent in the pistole fee affair. This provision, which the Assembly refused to eliminate, made the bill unacceptable to the Council as well as to Dinwiddie, with the result that on September 4 he prorogued the Assembly until October 17. Glenn C. Smith, “The Affair of the Pistole Fee, Virginia, 1752–55,” Va. Mag. Hist. and Biog., XLVIII (1940), 209–21; Louis K. Koontz, Robert Dinwiddie (Glendale, Calif., 1941), pp. 201–25; Robert A. Brock, ed., The Official Records of Robert Dinwiddie (Richmond, Va., 1883–84), I, 291–6, 302–3. For Dinwiddie’s reports and expressions of apprehension to his fellow governors, see ibid., pp. 303–13.

4The endorsement is not in BF’s hand; it looks like Richard Peters’.

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