Benjamin Franklin Papers

Robert Charles to Pennsylvania Assembly Committee of Correspondence, 16 February 1756

Robert Charles to Pennsylvania Assembly Committee of Correspondence

Extract printed in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1755–1756 (Philadelphia, 1756), p. 172.

Each October from 1751 through 1756 Franklin was appointed to the committee to correspond with the Assembly agents in England.2 In addition to representing the Assembly in the continuing dispute with the Proprietors, the agents often responded to inquiries from British officials seeking information about the province. Thus, the King’s ministers turned to them in considering ways of drawing non-British settlers in the colonies into the war plans for 1756.3 Alarmed at the protest he knew would arise to measures tending to perpetuate rather than dissolve the “foreignness” of the Germans in Pennsylvania,4 agent Robert Charles informed the Committee of Correspondence of the proposals. The letter from which the following is an extract, together with its enclosures, may have been among those read in the Assembly on May 25, 1756.5

[Golden Square, February 16, 1756]

The Earl of Loudon,6 a Nobleman of amiable Qualifications, and of great Character as an Officer, is appointed to command in Chief in America: I hope, under his Lordship’s Direction, Matters will be put on a proper Footing for the Security of the Colonies; and your Province cannot do any thing more acceptable here, or pursue a wiser Measure for its own Interest, than by strengthening his Lordship’s Hands in carrying on the Service of the Crown.

The Parliament have likewise voted a Sum for raising an American Regiment of 4000 Men; and as it is proposed to get foreign Protestants from the great Numbers of Germans who are amongst you, to enlist and mix in this Corps, a Proposal has been made for the Employment of some foreign Officers; two Schemes on this Subject have been communicated to the Agents for North-America, whereof, and of my Observations thereon, I herewith send Copies.7 The Ministry are determined to carry this Measure into Execution, and for this End a Bill is now before Parliament, to enable His Majesty to grant Commissions to the foreign Officers who shall be employed in this Regiment; to which, considering the present Situation of Affairs in America, and the exposed State of your Colony, and some of the Southern Ones, I did not think it prudent to give any farther Opposition.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2See above, p. 230, for a letter from BF to one of the agents.

3Pargellis, Lord Loudoun, pp. 61–6, recounts the difficulties attending these efforts which finally led to the founding of the Royal American Regiment, agreed to by the cabinet on Jan. 20, 1756, voted by the House of Commons on February 27, and approved by the King on March 9.

4See above, V, 158–60, 203–18, 237–40, 333, for BF’s interest in measures to assimilate or “Anglicize” the Germans.

5Votes, 1755–56, p. 96.

6See below, pp. 453 n, 472, for Lord Loudoun, and BF’s trip to New York in June 1756 to wait upon him, a journey perhaps prompted in part by this letter from Charles.

7Secretary at War Lord Barrington’s first scheme proposed a separate corps for German colonists led by Swiss and German officers commissioned especially for that purpose. Charles responded, Jan. 1, 1756, protesting that such a plan would frustrate efforts to make the German settlers “truly British subjects,” and be resented by “the King’s natural born Subjects.” Barrington’s second scheme recognized the force of these objections, and proposed instead that the regiment “be raised out of His Majesty’s foreign and other Protestant Subjects residing in North-America,” and that no more than half of the officers might be foreigners especially qualified in engineering and military science. Charles again protested, Jan. 17, 1756, the use of any foreign officers, contending that the numerous enlistments sought could only be obtained under British officers and “naturalized foreign Protestants, who have acquired Property in the British Colonies.” These enclosures are printed in Votes, 1755–56, pp. 173–4.. A copy of a letter from Barrington to Richard Partridge, Jan. 18, 1756, making further commitment not to transgress colonial wishes in orders to British commanders in North America, is in the Franklin Papers, APS, and may also have been enclosed in Charles’ letter. The Royal American Regiment, under British and German officers, failed to entice German settlers into the King’s service except briefly in the summer of 1756. Its perpetually unfilled ranks never contained more than one-fourth colonials, most of its men being “refuse of the army in Ireland.” Pargellis, Lord Loudoun, pp. 111–12.

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