Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Pownall, 19 August 1756

To Thomas Pownall

Draft: American Philosophical Society

Philada. Aug. 19. 1756


I have done my self the Honour to write to you twice since my Return, relating to the propos’d Road;6 but have as yet had no Line from you.

Inclos’d I send you a Copy of the late Treaty or Conference at Easton, with a Letter from Bishop Spangenberg to Mr. Norris,7 by which you will see nothing is like to come of that Treaty; that the Indians are preparing to continue the War, and of how little Consequence Sir Wm. Johnson’s Treaty has been on our Behalf. For my own part, I make no doubt but that the Six Nations have privily encourag’d these Indians to fall upon us; they have taken no Step to defend us, as their Allies, nor to prevent the Mischief done us. I look upon it as the most unfortunate Step we ever took, the Application made thro’ Sir William Johnson, to these Nations to procure us Peace. For we tied up the Hands of our People till we heard the Result of that Application; the Affair was drawn out to great Length of Time; and in the mean while our Frontier People were continually butcher’d and at last either dispers’d or dispirited. In short I do not believe we shall ever have a firm Peace with the Indians till we have well drubb’d them. Our Frontiers are greatly distress’d as you will see by the enclosed Letters.8 The People are also distress’d by the Enlisting of their Servants; but if my Lord would order the Recruits, now near 500 to march up and take Post on the Frontiers, in the Forts there, where they would find good Barracks; and might be of great Use in defending the Inhabitants, it would be a most acceptable thing to the whole Province:9 in this Mr. Norris joins with me, as well as in respectful Compliments to his Lordship and your self. The Assembly are met, and in a very good Disposition towards the Service; but the old Governor being on tiptoe and a new one hourly expected, nothing can be done till his Arrival. He is we hear on the Road from York.1 I am, Sir Your most obedient Servant


Honourable T. Pownal Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6The two earlier letters to Pownall since BF’s return from New York have not been found. The “propos’d Road” may have been one to the forks of the Ohio proposed by Loudoun to facilitate eventual military operations against Fort Duquesne. The intimacy between Pownall and BF alarmed the proprietary leaders, who thought Pownall a vain, hot-tempered, unscrupulous office-seeker. Peters was doubly suspicious because, though BF had previously expressed his dislike of Pownall, ever since his “declaration of War against the Proprietors I believe that Aversion ceased and they became intimate.” Morris later declared his belief in a plot to convert Pennsylvania into a “King’s Government,” Pownall supplying the ministerial influence and BF publicizing the charges against the Proprietors. Peters to Thomas Penn, June 3 and 26, 1756; William Allen to Penn, June 15, 1756; Morris to ——, Oct. 8, 1756; Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.; PMHB, XIII (1889), 441–6.

7The minutes for the July 28–31 conference at Easton were not printed until after another conference there in November 1756; BF probably enclosed a MS copy of the July minutes. See Carl Van Doren and Julian P. Boyd, eds., Indian Treaties Printed by Benjamin Franklin, 1736–1762 (Phila., 1938), pp. 141–9. The enclosed letter from Spangenberg to Norris (not found), doubtless told of Teedyuscung’s drunken stay at Fort Allen, and carelessness over supplies there, though no account has been located confirming BF’s report in the letter next below that Teedyuscung had burned the gifts presented to him at Easton. See also Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 222; I Pa. Arch., II, 722–6.

8Not found, but probably copies of letters telling of new skirmishes and murders near Fort Manada, ten miles northeast of Harris’s Ferry. I Pa. Arch., II, 738–41, 743. BF’s summary of Indian affairs refers to the Pennsylvania suspension of war on the Susquehanna Indians, June 3 (see above, p. 450). In Indian conferences of June 14–July 11, Sir William Johnson had declared the Delaware Indians absolved of their subservient status and they and the Six Nations had agreed to cease their attacks on the frontier. Morris’ conference at Easton, July 28–31, purported to confirm these agreements, but in reality demonstrated the continuing jealousy between the Delaware and the Six Nations, and the failure of the Indians to be impressed with any English authorities, least of all the vacillating, quarrelsome Pennsylvanians. Paul A. W. Wallace, Conrad Weiser (Phila., 1945), pp. 439–53; The Papers of Sir William Johnson, II (Albany, 1922), 494, 496, 499–501; I Pa. Arch., II, 722–30.

9See above, pp. 396, 474, for the dispute over enlisting indentured servants, and p. 485, for the Royal American Regiment recruits gathering in Philadelphia, whom Lord Loudoun soon ordered to Albany for the intended campaign up Lake George. Pargellis, Military Affairs, p. 227; Pa. Gaz., Sept. 2, 1756.

1See below, pp. 489–90, for William Denny’s arrival to replace Robert Hunter Morris as governor of Pennsylvania.

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