Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Pownall, [August? 1756]

To Thomas Pownall

Extract: Huntington Library

[August? 1756]5

I have some Suspicions that one OFarrel, an Irish Roman Catholick, may possibly be the Writer of those Letters, by the account I remember to have heard of him.6 I think his Name is O Farrel, but may be mistaken; however he may be known by this Description; He is a tall lusty Man, kept a Tavern at Frederic Town in Maryland, where he ingratiated himself with General Braddock, attended him to Mohungahela as a Kind of Waggon Master; was afterwards employ’d by Gen. Shirley to raise Recruits in this Province and Maryland, where he pretended to have Interest, and, as I heard, was promised an Insignry for his son, in Case he procured a certain Number of Men, which he effected, the greatest Part being Roman Catholick Servants. He was imprison’d here some Days for a Fray he was concern’d in, and abusing a civil Officer at Germantown, employ’d to apprehend one of the Servants. The Papists in Town flock’d to him when in Goal, and one of the Principal requested the Gaoler to use him kindly, for that he was of a good Family, &c. I hear he is still in some Employ relating to the Waggons, with the Forces between Albany and Oswego. It may be well to find him out and watch him, or seize his Papers.7

Endorsed in Lord Loudoun’s hand: Extract of Mr Franklands [?] letter to Mr Pownal about Ferrel

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5This extract, among Lord Loudoun’s papers and endorsed by him as indicated below, is undated; BF probably sent the original to Pownall, Loudoun’s secretary, some time after his return to Philadelphia near the end of July. The rendering of BF’s name in the endorsement, while somewhat uncertain, is the same as elsewhere in Loudoun’s erratic hand among his papers.

6The letters in question were four written from Pennsylvania, January–March 1756, and signed “Filius Gallicae,” to the Duke de Mirepoix, former French ambassador to Great Britain, containing treasonable plans to lead Roman Catholics and Indians in the British colonies into the French service. When authorities in London intercepted the letters, they discerned a dangerous, diabolical plot, and ordered Loudoun to hunt the traitor down. Amer. Hist. Assn. Annual Report, 1896 (Washington, 1897), I, 660–703. He presumably sought BF’s aid, and through Pownall received this letter in response. BF’s suspect was Kennedy Ferrell (Ferrol), tavern keeper and registrar of horse races, Frederick, Md., who apparently left that province to escape warrants issued for his arrest by Gov. Horatio Sharpe. J. Thomas Scharf, History of Western Maryland (Phila., 1882), I, 419, 490; Correspondence of Governor Horatio Sharpe, Maryland Archives, VI (Baltimore, 1888), I, 220.

7There is no record of Ferrell’s activity in Pennsylvania or New York as described by BF. After investigating suspicions directed against, among others, George Washington and George Croghan, Loudoun seems to have dropped the search for “Filius Gallicae” in the spring of 1757. The letters may have been a hoax concocted to incriminate Croghan or to arouse feelings against Catholics in Pennsylvania. Douglas S. Freeman, George Washington, II (N.Y., 1948), 238–40; Nicholas B. Wainwright, George Croghan, Wilderness Diplomat (Chapel Hill, 1959), pp. 106–9; Pargellis, Lord Loudoun, 76–8.

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