Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Johnson, 11 August 1755

To William Johnson4

ALS: American Antiquarian Society

Philada. Augt. 11. 1755


I received your Favour of the 1st Instant, and have forwarded the Letter to Capt. Orme. Mr. Pownall is gone to New York, and I return his Letter per this Day’s Post.5 I shall acquaint the Governor, as you desire, that the Records of your Proceedings are with Mr. Banyar.6

Our Assembly have sent up a Bill to give £50,000 to the King’s Use, of which part might be apply’d to reinforce you, if the Bill could pass. But as it is proposed to tax the Proprietary Estate in common with the other Estates of the Province, ’tis said the Governor will refuse his Assent:7 Thus, from petty private Considerations in particular Colonies, general publick Good is obstructed and prevented; which shows more and more the Necessity of our proposed Union.

Every body here prays for your Success, but none more sincerely, than Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

Genl. Johnson

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4William Johnson (1715–1774), nephew of Admiral Sir Peter Warren, came from Ireland about 1738 and settled in the Mohawk Valley, where he soon became prominent in trade, land speculation, and Indian affairs. He was a member of the Council of New York, 1750–74, in which capacity he attended the Albany Congress. Here his personal acquaintance with BF probably began. In April 1755 a commission signed by General Braddock gave him “sole Management and direction of the Affairs of the Six Nations and their Allies,” and designated him commander of the forthcoming expedition against Crown Point. Lieutenant Governor DeLancey of New York and other governors commissioned him major general in command of their provincial troops engaged on that expedition. Johnson and his forces defeated the French and their Indian allies September 8 at Lake St. Sacrament, which a few days before he had renamed Lake George. See below, p. 218 n. King George II later rewarded the victor with a baronetcy. Johnson’s great influence with the Six Nations was invaluable in maintaining Iroquois attachment to the British cause during the French and Indian War, and made him a leading figure in colonial affairs. At his death he owned one of the largest landed estates in the British colonies. DAB; James T. Flexner, Mohawk Baronet, Sir William Johnson of New York (N.Y., 1959).

5For Johnson’s letters of July 31 to Thomas Pownall, then on a mission to coordinate colonial resistance to France, and of August 1 to Capt. Robert Orme, aide-de-camp to Braddock, see The Papers of Sir William Johnson, I (Albany, 1921), 803–6, 813–16. His letter to BF has not been found, but if it was similar to those written to Orme and Pownall, it contained bitter complaints about Gen. William Shirley’s handling of the Indians as he prepared for his expedition against Fort Niagara.

6Johnson sent the record of his “Proceedings” (conferences with over 1000 chiefs and braves of the Iroquois and other Indian nations held at Fort Johnson, June 21–July 4, which resulted in testimonials of friendship and alliance) to Goldsbrow Banyar, deputy secretary of the Province of New York, so that they would be readily available to colonial officials and thus exonerate Johnson from blame for the Indian uprisings which he feared would result from Shirley’s ill-advised activities. Ibid., I, 625–42, 706–7, 797; N.Y. Col. Docs., VI, 964–89. If BF “acquainted” Governor Morris as Johnson requested, the communication was probably an oral one.

7See above, p. 129. Banyar informed Johnson in a letter of August 6 that BF had written Cadwallader Colden (not found) expressing doubt that Governor Morris would accept the money bill. Johnson Papers, I, 833.

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