Benjamin Franklin Papers

Pennsylvania Assembly: Message to the Governor, 19 December 1756

Pennsylvania Assembly: Message to the Governor

Printed in Votes and Proceedings of the House of Representatives, 1756–1757 (Philadelphia, 1757), pp. 50–3.

After Pennsylvania became a theater of war in 1755, it was apparent that the province would soon have to provide quarters for British troops. When the remnants of Braddock’s army passed through Philadelphia that summer, the Assembly hastily extended what it considered were the relevant portions of the British quartering act to Pennsylvania.1 Since the troops were not billeted on the city, the law had little effect, but its disallowance, July 7, 1756, foreshadowed difficulties to come. Attorney General William Murray (later Lord Mansfield) advised its rejection because the act wrongly assumed that “propositions true in the mother country and rightly asserted in the reigns of Charles the 1st and Charles the 2nd in times of peace and when soldiers were kept up without consent of Parliament” were applicable “to a colony in time of war in the case of troops raised for their protection.”2 That is, the Pennsylvanians were not to be granted the sweeping immunities from forced quartering of soldiers in private homes which had been part of English law since Stuart days. Moreover, the matter was confused by one law for England under which troops were to be quartered on the numerous, large public houses, and another law for Scotland permitting soldiers to be quartered on private houses. Further, it was uncertain how war and invasion altered these privileges and obligations. When Parliament failed to pass clarifying legislation, the Duke of Cumberland dumped the confusion into Lord Loudoun’s lap by ordering that “Quarters must be taken in the plantations as they are in Britain in time of war.”3 Obviously, Loudoun was expected to requisition such quarters as he needed, but he had nothing beyond general military authority upon which to base his actions. Thus, the scene was set for a contest which led eventually to a clause in the Declaration of Independence and to the third amendment to the Constitution: could soldiers be forced upon private homes, even to the expulsion of their inhabitants, without the sanction of law? In December 1756, the passage of another quartering law, several exchanges between Governor Denny and the Assembly, and the arrival of over 500 troops in Philadelphia, produced a crisis, and the Assembly summarized its case in the following message, reported by Franklin and others on the 18th and ordered to be sent to Denny on Sunday morning, the 19th.4

[December 19, 1756]

May it please your Honour,

To prevent, if possible, any Misunderstanding between your Honour and this House, we beg Leave to recapitulate what has passed on the Article of Quarters, during the present Session.

On the 19th of October last, your Honour was pleased to communicate to us a Letter from Lord Loudoun to yourself, dated September 22, 1756, in which Quarters, and the Necessaries allowed in Quarters by Act of Parliament, were demanded of this Province: The Building of Barracks came first under our Consideration, but if the House had been disposed to build them, the Season was too far advanced, and the Dimensions could not be judged of, as the Number of Forces to be quartered here was not expressed.5

The House then endeavoured to procure the last Act of Parliament that was made for the Quartering of Soldiers in England, to be their Guide in making the necessary Provision here; your Honour was applied to for a Sight of that Act, which you were so kind as to promise to procure for us, but some Time passed before we obtained it.6

On the 24th of November your Honour was pleased to lay before us another Letter from Lord Loudoun, dated October 28, 1756, in which the Demand for Quarters was repeated, and one Battalion of the Royal Americans was mentioned to be provided for in Philadelphia, but the Number of which that Battalion should consist was not mentioned. His Lordship is not particular as to Quartering, or the Necessaries to be furnished in Quarters, as he is pleased to say, “he is writing to one who is so thoroughly acquainted with the Quartering in England in Time of Peace, and what Things are furnished in Quarters for the Officers and Soldiers, and how much further Quartering extends in Time of War, and even must do so from the Nature of Things.”7

Your Honour has never been explicit on these Points with the Assembly. We know nothing of them but what is to be learnt from the Act of Parliament you were so good as to furnish us with. We presented to your Honour a Bill so exactly conformable to that Act, that it brings over the very Clauses, by which Troops are quartered in England.8 After this Bill had lain four Days in your Honour’s Hands, the House hearing the Soldiers were expected in Town the next Day, sent up to know your Result upon it. You were then pleased in a Message to object to the Preamble of one of those Clauses; we immediately agreed to strike it out, and had no Reason to expect any farther Objections.9

However, before the Bill passed, and after the Amendment was agreed to, your Honour did indeed send us down the following written Message, viz.

December 8. 1756.


“Since your Message of Yesterday Evening, I am well informed, from the strictest Enquiry, that the Quarters demanded by my Lord Loudoun for the Officers and Soldiers that are every Moment expected here, cannot be had in the Publick-houses of this City.1 The Bill now before me therefore being insufficient to answer the End proposed by it, and the great Inconveniences that may arise if proper Quarters are not provided for the Reception of His Majesty’s Troops being evident, I must, in the warmest Terms, recommend it to you, to make immediate Provision for that Service.

William Denny.”

With the above written Message your Honour was pleased farther to send us a verbal One in these Words, viz.


“The Governor commands me to acquaint the House, that if they do not think proper to make any further Provision than what is expressed in the Bill, the Governor agrees to the Alteration, and is ready to pass it as it now stands.”2

As the House had been informed that the Number for which Quarters were demanded, did not exceed 600 Men, Officers included, and were of Opinion that the Publick-houses of Philadelphia were sufficient to provide Quarters for that Number, they acquainted your Honour with their Sentiments in the following respectful Message.3

December 8. 1756.

“May it please your Honour,

“On examining the Lists of recommended and licenced Publick-houses, we find there are no less than One Hundred and Seventeen in this City only, exclusive of the Suburbs. We hope therefore your Honour will be of Opinion with us, that the Number of Soldiers for which Quarters are required may very well be disposed of among them in the Manner directed by the Act of Parliament now to be extended hither; especially as it is not necessary the Soldiers should all be lodged in the Publick-houses, but those who keep such Houses may provide lodging for the Men in other Houses, if they find it more convenient so to do.4 Signed, by Order of the House,

Isaac Norris, Speaker.”

Your Honour made no Reply to this Message, but passed the Bill the same Day; and therefore we had Reason to believe you were satisfied with it.

The Bill passed on the Eighth Instant: On the 13th, the Mayor and Aldermen of Philadelphia presented to the House the following Remonstrance, and withal laid before us the annexed Paper, expressing the Number for which Quarters were demanded.5

“City of Philadelphia, Dec. 11. 1756.

“To the Honourable the Representatives of the Freemen of the Province of Pennsylvania, now sitting in Assembly, The Remonstrance of the Mayor, Recorder, and Aldermen of the City of Philadelphia, sheweth,

“That your Remonstrants have prepared Billets on the Publick-houses of this City, according to the Directions of a late Act in such Case made and provided, for such of His Majesty’s Forces as Lord Loudoun hath been pleased to order into Winter Quarters here; but we find, on the strictest Enquiry into the Circumstances of the Keepers of such Publick-houses, that many of them are so poor and indigent, that they are neither of Ability to support the Burden of providing for so great a Number of Troops, or have proper Houses and Accommodations suitable for their comfortable Reception. We further beg Leave to remonstrate, that the Commanding-Officer hath demanded a Hospital, with Bedding, Fire, and other Necessaries, to be provided for a Number of Sick; but as no publick Building hath been erected in this City for that Purpose,6 your Remonstrants, though willing and desirous to do every Thing in their Power to demonstrate their Loyalty to His Majesty, and to promote the Good of his Service, are sorry to find themselves incapable of complying with this Demand, without the Aid and Assistance of the Legislature of this Province: We therefore thought it our Duty to lay the Premises before you our Representatives, that such Regulations and Provision may be made therein as you in your Wisdom shall judge most expedient.

Attwood Shute, Mayor,7 John Mifflin,
Benjamin Chew, Recorder, John Stamper,
William Plumsted, Thomas Lawrence,
Robert Strettell, Alexander Stedman.”
“Captain Tulleken’s8 Demand of Quarters, &c.

“December 13. 1756.

“In Obedience to Orders received from his Excellency the Earl of Loudoun, Colonel Stanwix9 has thought proper to send Captain Tulleken to Philadelphia to demand Quarters for the First Battalion of His Majesty’s Sixty-second, or Royal American, Regiment.

“Captain Tulleken demands Quarters as follows.

“Quarters for 500 Men; and Hospital for the Sick; a Storehouse; a Guard-room for an Officer, and Men.

“Billetts for the Officers.

“Colonel one; Lieutenant-Colonel one; Majors one; Captains eight; Subalterns thirty; Staff-Officers six. Total Forty-seven.

N. B. There must be Fire and Candles for the Guard-room, and for the Hospital.1

“Besides the above, Captain Gate’s Company of Independents, Forty-seven Men, four Officers.2

“The whole have Billets delivered them on the Publick-houses.

Attwood Shute, Mayor.”

The House, how desirous soever that the King’s Troops might have good and suitable Quarters, could not proceed to make further Provision by a Supplementary Act, without being well informed of the present State of the Quartering, that they might know what was deficient, and what was necessary to be supplied; they therefore immediately required the Mayor to lay before the House a List of the Names of the Publick House-keepers, with the Number of Officers and Soldiers billeted on each House (which he accordingly undertook to do by the next Morning) that we might be able to judge whether they could, or could not, be comfortably quartered by those Publick House-keepers.

This Order of the House, though of some Days standing, not being complied with,3 and the House being sincerely desirous that the King’s Troops should be well provided for, took Occasion, from the Report that your Honour had issued Orders for Quartering on private Houses, to send up their Message of Yesterday, in the following Words, viz.4

December 17. 1756.

“May it please your Honour,

“A Report having Yesterday prevailed in Town, that your Honour had given Orders to the Sheriff to quarter the Soldiers on private Houses, which greatly surprized the Inhabitants,5 the House (though they do not believe it possible your Honour could be prevailed with to issue Orders so diametrically opposite to an express Law passed by yourself but a few Days before) think it necessary on this Occasion humbly to request, that your Honour would be pleased to direct the Magistrates and Officers of the City and Liberties, who have billeted the Soldiers on Publick-houses, according to Law, to visit those Houses, inspect the Accommodations provided for the Men, see that they are good and sufficient, and oblige every publick House-keeper to receive and provide for the Officers and Soldiers that are or may be billeted on each House, in Proportion to the Number for which Quarters are required, either in the Publick-houses, or such others as the Keepers of them may procure; so that the Minds of the People may be quieted, and no just Cause of Complaint may arise, that Quarters, and the Necessaries in Quarters, are not duly provided, according to the Intention of the Legislature in passing that Act.

“The House have recommended it to the Provincial Commissioners to provide an Hospital for the Soldiers, which we make no Doubt will be done accordingly.* Signed, by Order of the House,

Isaac Norris, Speaker.”

To this your Honour is pleased to answer as follows, viz.

December 18. 1756.


“The King’s Troops must be quartered. With respect to the Insufficiency of the late Act, I refer you to my Message of the Eighth Instant, delivered immediately before the Passing of it; and I see no Reason, from any Thing that has occurred since, to alter my Opinion.

William Denny.”7

On the whole we beg Leave to remark, That if any Thing more than the Act of Parliament requires be expected of us, we have never been explicitly informed what it is: That though your Honour is referred to by Lord Loudoun, as well acquainted with those Matters, you have never explained them to us: That when the Bill for extending the Act of Parliament hither was presented for your Concurrence, you made no Objection as to its Insufficiency, but that the Publick-houses could not accommodate the whole; which Objection we had afterwards Reason to think we had obviated to your Satisfaction. And lastly, That in your Message of Yesterday, you are not pleased to say that you will or will not favour us in our Request, that the Magistrates may be directed to see the Act duly executed, and good Quarters effectually provided; nor to point out any other or further Deficiency in the Act; but only tell us, as we think, somewhat abrubtly, that the King’s Troops must be quartered.

May it please the Governor, we know that the King’s Troops must be quartered, and are desirous they should have good Quarters. The Assemblies of this Province have in very late Instances shewn their Regard for the Soldiery, by voluntarily presenting Conveniencies and Refreshments to the Officers,8 and furnishing Provisions and warm Cloathing for the Soldiers of the King’s Forces, to the Amount of many Thousand Pounds.9 We thought we had by the late Law provided well for their Quartering in this Province; especially as we had exactly followed the Act of Parliament made for the same Purpose. We cannot conceive it will, when well considered, be thought adviseable, to quarter the Soldiers by Force on private Houses rather than by Law on Publick-houses; and we apprehend, that if the bought Servants, which have been so lately taken from the King’s good Subjects here, and no Satisfaction made their Owners, notwithstanding the Act of Parliament so expresly requires it,1 are now to be thrust into their Houses, and made their Masters, some Commotions may arise, dangerous to the King’s Peace. On these Considerations, and being desirous to preserve a good Understanding with your Honour, we beg you would be pleased to favour us with a Conference, that this Matter may, as soon as possible, be fully understood, and finally settled.”2

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1Votes, 1754–55, p. 138.

2The Statutes at Large of Pennsylvania ([Harrisburg,] 1898), V, 194–5, 537. This opinion was incorporated into the Board of Trade recommendation of disallowance which was submitted to the Assembly on Oct. 19, 1756. Votes, 1756–57, p. 10.

3See Pargellis, Lord Loudoun, pp. 187–92, for these difficulties and pp. 187–210, for a full discussion of the quartering problem.

4Votes, 1756–57, pp. 49–50, 53.

5Loudoun had written, “I must expect, that in the Article of Lodging, and such other Necessaries as are furnished in Quarters in Great-Britain in Time of War, your Province will … chearfully make full and sufficient Provision.” BF and others were appointed, Oct. 22, 1756, to bring in a quartering bill. Votes, 1756–57, pp. 13, 16.

6On November 26, the Assembly clerk was ordered to secure from Secretary Peters a copy of the British Mutiny Act (which contained articles relating to quartering in England and Scotland), “which the Governor had been pleased to say he would send to the House,” to assist the committee preparing a quartering bill for Pennsylvania. Ibid., p. 34. Denny’s failure to forward a copy of the British act, however, was hardly responsible for the nearly six weeks’ delay between the appointment of a committee to draw a bill and its report to the Assembly on December 2. The Assembly was adjourned during most of November, and does not seem to have resumed work on the quartering bill until after receipt of Loudoun’s letter mentioned below made its enactment urgent.

7Ibid., p. 31. This was disingenuous on Loudoun’s part, to say the least. As already pointed out, the British Mutiny Act dealt with quartering only in time of peace, and there had been no clear precedents for quartering in the British Isles in time of invasion since the Mutiny Act was first framed, not even during the rebellions of 1715 and 1745. Loudoun had tried to get definite guidance on wartime quartering from the Duke of Cumberland before leaving England, but had failed. Pargellis, Lord Loudoun, pp. 192–3. He could hardly expect Denny to know, when neither he nor the home authorities did, “how much further Quartering extends in Time of War.”

8The Assembly had shrewdly taken advantage of the British statutes on quartering to make the troop burden in Pennsylvania as light as possible: it promulgated the cherished right that quartering must be under law, and then repeated the English legal provisions on quartering in public houses even though, in contrast to England, the public houses in Pennsylvania were ill-equipped to handle the soldiers. Thus, for the only time in “the whole history of the British army in America,” an extension of English practices was not what the King’s commanders sought. Ibid., p. 187.

9The bill providing for the quartering of troops in the public houses passed the House on Friday, December 3, and the next day Denny ordered an inspection to find out how many quarters the local public houses could provide. On Sunday the 5th he noted that the objectionable preamble to the bill of the previous year had been “artfully included” in the body of the new bill giving it “the very same” effect as the disallowed act. Denny therefore sent the bill back to the House on the 7th stating this objection. Votes, 1756–57, pp. 38, 40; Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 346–7. While quarreling with the Assembly, Denny also sought quarters for the expected soldiers at the new Pennsylvania Hospital which could accommodate 500 men, but “all of a sudden the Application miscarried.” Denny then tried to find “Gentlemen” in town willing to accommodate the officers, but this failed too, since there was “an ill-humour spreading itself everywhere.” Richard Peters to Thomas Penn, Dec. 11 and 26, 1756, Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa. The “sudden” action of the hospital managers and the “ill-humour” in town probably had the same underlying cause —arrival of news that smallpox raged among the soldiers. I Pa. Arch., III, 82.

1The constables’ returns, according to the governor, showed accommodations for 400 men, but “on examining the Constables [who had surveyed the public houses], it appeared that the publick Housekeepers had offered abundantly more quarters than their Houses wou’d allow of, from a mistaken notion that they were to be paid a Shilling a day for every head, in the same manner that they had been paid for the lodging and dieting Recruits, and that the returns cou’d not be depended upon.” Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 349. The Pennsylvania act provided a basic rate of 4d. per diem for quartering foot soldiers. Pa. Stat. at Large, V, 275.

2Denny agreed to the bill since it “was good as far as it would go, and besides established quartering of Troops by Law throughout the Province.” To the Proprietors, April 9, 1757, I Pa. Arch., III, 110. The Council agreed that, since the troops were near the city, it was best to accept this “immediate provision for the greatest part of them” and then seek a supplementary bill to make up the deficiency. Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 350.

3The reply which here follows is the first one cited above, p. 38.

4The discrepancy between Denny’s calculation and the Assembly’s, even after the inaccuracies of the constables’ returns were corrected, rested upon two assumptions by the Assembly: that public-house keepers could disperse troops assigned to them among neighboring dwellings, and (as came out in later discussions) that quartering in suburban public houses, as well as those in the city itself, would be satisfactory. Both proposals would have made more beds available but would also have weakened training and discipline.

5Between December 8 and 13, the troops arrived and brought matters to a crisis, but the Assembly’s whole concern now was the disputed Northampton Co. election (see above, pp. 34–5), and the Council did not meet. Denny later told the Proprietors that after he had been denied use of the Pennsylvania Hospital and the City Corporation had refused to rent vacant houses for quartering, “a very deep Snow fell, succeeded by a sharp Frost,” during which the troops arrived, and, crowded into public houses, they “suffered extreme Hardships,” and caught the smallpox in large numbers. I Pa. Arch., III, 111. At its meeting of December 9, the Philadelphia Common Council noted that the Quartering Act was insufficient since the officers especially would be dissatisfied with “Lodging and Entertainment” at the public houses, but, dominated by the proprietary party, it refused to do anything, resolving instead to refer all complaints to the Assembly. Minutes of the Common Council of the City of Philadelphia, 1704 to 1776 (Phila., 1847), pp. 601–2.

6See below, pp. 63–6, for hospital quartering.

7Attwood Shute (d.1759), an Association Company officer in 1748, organizer of St. Peter’s Church, and overseer of the poor in Philadelphia, had been elected mayor of that city in October 1756. Above, III, 309; Pa. Gaz., Oct. 7, 1756, March 29, 1759; PMHB, XLVII (1923), 349; XXXI (1907), 199. The only other signers of this remonstrance not yet identified in these volumes are John Stamper (d. 1782), merchant, and to be mayor of Philadelphia in 1759; ibid., I (1877), 419; XLVII (1923), 339; LXI (1937), 286–8; and Alexander Stedman (1703–1794), vestryman of St. Peter’s Church, and with his brother Charles a merchant and later part owner of an iron furnace in Lancaster Co.; he returned to Great Britain in 1776. DNB (under Charles Stedman, 1753–1812); PMHB, 1 (1877), 67, 69; XLVIII (1924), 41.

8John Tulliken, a capable officer of the Royal American Regiment, came to Philadelphia in early December to arrange for troop quarters. He also served in South Carolina, and Western Pennsylvania, and was wounded at the battle of Ticonderoga, July 9, 1758. Pargellis, Military Affairs, pp. 349, 421; PMHB, LXXI (1947), 347.

9John Stanwix (1690?–1766), at this time colonel-commandant of the first battalion of the Royal American Regiment; elected to the Pa. Assembly from Cumberland Co., 1757; later served at Pittsburgh and on the New York frontier before returning to England in 1760. DNB. Because of the death of his infant son, Stanwix did not come to Philadelphia at this time; a circumstance the more regretted by Richard Peters since, in his opinion, Stanwix was one officer who could have dealt harshly and summarily with BF and the other obstructing commissioners. Peters to Thomas Penn, Dec. 26, 1756, Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

1See the next document for these details of quartering.

2Capt. Horatio Gates (1728–1806), wounded in Braddock’s campaign and later major general in the American Revolutionary army. DAB. He and his company had arrived in Philadelphia for winter quarters on Dec. 5, 1756. Pa. Gaz., Dec. 9, 1756.

3Mayor Shute’s promise to deliver the list was severely qualified: “as several of the Tavern-keepers had already resigned, and he expected that many more would do the same before Night,” it was virtually impossible to determine the status of troop quarters. Votes, 1756–57, p. 47. Public-house keepers failing to provide a billet as required by law for any soldier quartered on them were subject to a fine of £5. Pa. Stat. at Large, V, 277. Thus, keepers who lost money if paid but 4d. per diem for quartering a soldier, and who could be fined £5 per soldier if they refused quarters, were in a difficult position, and obviously preferred not to be inn-keepers under such circumstances. Moreover, since the Assembly had long felt the Proprietors licensed too many bad taverns, it was not upset to see the keepers penalized in the settlement of the troublesome quartering business. William S. Hanna, “Benjamin Franklin and Pennsylvania Politics, 1750–1766,” unpublished Ph. D. dissertation, Univ. of California, 1958–59, pp. 62–3. See the Assembly’s message of Feb. 9, 1757, for further legislation on quartering in public houses.

4The message which here follows is the second one cited above, p. 38.

5The possibility of forcible quartering arose when Denny told his Council on December 15 that, in spite of repeated pleas for assistance from the Assembly, the commissioners, and the magistrates, made by himself and by Colonel Bouquet, commander of the troops, “the King’s Forces still remained in a most miserable Condition, … the Weather grew more pinching, and the small Pox was encreasing among the Soldiers to such a Degree that the whole Town would soon become a Hospital.” The next day, Denny gave Bouquet a blank warrant to the sheriff to find private quarters for the sick if necessary. All three officials, however, seemed to consider the warrant principally as a threat to force the Assembly to provide additional quarters under law. Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 358, 361–2.

6The guard house had been under construction on July 14, 1756, when Benjamin Loxley received £12 12s.d. for boards for it, and apparently was completed by December 14 when Philip Syng was reimbursed £95 11s. 3d. “for sundry Accounts exhibited for making a Guard-house for the King’s Troops.” Votes, 1755–56, pp. 170–1.

7This message reached the House on the same day it saw the odious quartering warrant: “Early the next day [December 18] the Sheriff waited on Col. Bouquet, and desired he might be trusted with the Writ for a short Time, in order to shew it to some of his Friends, who had great Influence on the Assembly, and might by their Petition prevent the Necessity of putting it into Execution, which wou’d have been very agreeable to all Parties. Instead of a Petition, the Writ itself was laid before the House in a clandestine manner, and very improperly by the Sheriff’s Consent, which threw the House into a Ferment, and for the first Time since the Charter they sat all Saturday Afternoon and Sunday Morning.” Denny to the Proprietors, April 9, 1757, I Pa. Arch., III, 111. The sheriff, James Coultas, had been an officer under the Militia Act and otherwise seems to have been allied with BF politically, and thus would have tried to let the Assembly know of Denny’s warrant before action was taken under it.

8See above, VI, 208 n.

9See above, VI, 391–2.

1See above, VI, 396–9.

2December 19 being a Sunday, this message was delivered to Denny “when the Streets were full of People going to their respective Places of Worship.” Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 364. Though Denny found the message “a long Narrative filled with Abuses,” he agreed to a conference with a committee of the Assembly the next morning. I Pa. Arch., III, 112. See below, pp. 53–8, for the conference.

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

º A Very convenient Guard-house was before provided at the Expence of the Province.6

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