Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Richard Partridge, 27 November 1755

To Richard Partridge

ALS: Boston Public Library

Philada. Nov. 27. 1755


By the Votes and Copies of Papers herewith sent to you and Mr. Charles,1 you will see the Difficulties this Province has been under by Proprietary Restraints, so that we could not obtain a Bill for raising Money for the King’s Use, till it had been sent home to England, and the Proprietary’s Leave obtain’d for Passing it; and in the meantime the King’s Service was obstructed, our Publick Affairs went into the utmost Confusion, Hundreds of Families were driven from their Habitations, and the People ripe for an Insurrection. If we cannot have a Governor of some Discretion (for this Gentleman is half a Madman) fully impower’d to do what may be necessary for the Good of the Province and the King’s Service, as Emergencies may arise, this Government will be the worst on the Continent.

The Bill for granting £60,000, pass’d yesterday, with a Clause expressing, That the Proprietaries Estate is exempted from the Tax, in Consideration of their Gift of Five Thousand Pounds to the Publick.2 Thus by their senseless Refusal of the first Bill granting Fifty Thousand Pounds, and mean selfish Claim of a Right to Exemption from Taxes, they have brought on themselves infinite Disgrace and the Curses of all the Continent; and after all have been terrify’d, by the apprehended Consequences of such a Dispute, to give more than their Tax would have amounted to, and acknowledge by a Law the Right of Taxing them for the future.

I hope this Conduct will be considered by your judicious Ministry, and some Measures taken to prevent such Mischievous Restraints hereafter.3 I am, Sir, Your most obedient Servant

B Franklin

R. Partridge Esqr.

Addressed: To / Richard Partridge Esqr / Agent for the Province of Pensilvania / Mark Lane / London

Endorsed [in Partridge’s hand in various places on the cover page]: 27: Novr: 1755 from B: Franklin Novr. 27 £60,000 passd from B Franklin R 1st mo: 12 per Capt: Josiah4

1The Votes sent to Partridge and his co-agent Robert Charles were probably those for the 1754–55 Assembly which were ordered printed at its last meeting, Sept. 30, 1755. The “Copies of Papers” have not been found or identified.

2See above, p. 257 n, for the passage of the £60,000 bill. BF’s uncharacteristic anger and bitterness here, of course, reflect the heat which had been generated by the acrimonious struggle between the governor and the Assembly. On this same day, November 27, however, the Pa. Gaz. printed the following plea for harmony and good will, possibly written by BF, and thus indicative of the sentiments he hoped would move the public at this critical juncture: “It is said that a Bill for giving Sixty Thousand Pounds to the King’s Use, sent up Yesterday by the Assembly, will this Day be passed by the Governor, to the great Joy of all that wish well to this of late unhappy Province. The honourable Proprietaries have, on their Part, made a free Gift of Five Thousand Pounds for the Defence of the Country. By the Militia Law, passed on Tuesday, those who bear Arms, may be formed into regular Bodies, with due Order and Discipline, and thereby become better able to serve their Country, more secure in themselves, and more terrible to their Enemies. And by the Act for giving Sixty Thousand Pounds (which Sum is immediately to be struck in Paper Bills) Money will be furnished to buy Arms, and Ammunition, and pay such as shall bravely go forth in Defence of their Country. It is hoped that the cruel Spirit of Party, which has for some time past raged so violently among us, will now subside; and that we shall no longer, by our Dissensions, continue Enemies to our Friends, or Friends to our Country’s Enemies.”

3See above, p. 231, for mention of a petition in which the proprietary party in Pennsylvania appealed its case against the Assembly to the King. Thus each side hoped the King and his ministers would settle the disputes over taxation, instructions to the governor, and defense of the province, in its favor. BF knew Partridge would play a leading role in presenting the Assembly’s case, a task for which BF here and elsewhere took pains to see that the agent was well prepared. See Mabel P. Wolff, The Colonial Agency of Pennsylvania 1712–1757 (Phila., 1933), pp. 177–87, for an account of the struggle in England which followed the appeal of the disputes to authorities there.

4The Pa. Gaz., Nov. 27, 1755, announced the clearance of the ship Nancy, Capt. Emanuel Josiah, bound for London. Although BF’s letter to William Shipley of this date, doubtless also sent by Captain Josiah, never reached its destination, this one to Partridge apparently had better luck.

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