Benjamin Franklin Papers

Bill to the Proprietors, 30 March 1757

Bill to the Proprietors

ADS: Friends Library of the Society of Friends, London; also copy: Historical Society of Pennsylvania9

March 30, 1757

An example of the extent to which Franklin had conducted his printing, stationery, and bookselling business on credit is the bill he rendered to the Proprietors, March 30, 1757, before leaving for England. It includes 97 items running from 1734 to 1745; except for three undated items at the end, none of these charges had been paid when the bill was presented.1 Twenty-eight of the entries were for advertisements in the Gazette; 26 were for printed forms of various sorts or for advertisements in quantities of several hundreds, apparently intended for distribution by hand;2 17 were for paper, blank books, and other stationery supplies; 14 for books and pamphlets; 5 for binding or gilding of books; the rest were miscellaneous. Franklin subtracted from the total charge the three undated items for which Richard Hockley, the Penns’ receiver general, had paid, and indicated the amount due as £57 1s. 6d. He then wrote: “March 30, 1757. Errors excepted per B Franklin.”3 Below this is Thomas Penn’s direction: “I desire you will examine this account and if it does not appear by this Books that any of it has been paid that you will pay it as demanded and place to the account of charge. London December 4. 1758. Tho penn To Richard Hockley and Edmd Physick4 or to the Receiver General for the time being.”5 Hockley’s “Examin’d R H” is opposite Franklin’s total and Deborah Franklin’s receipt is at the bottom of the page: “Receivd July 30th. 1759 Fifty seven Pounds one Shilling and Six Pence in full Ballance of the above Account £57 1. 6. D Franklin.” Thus two years and four months after Franklin submitted this bill and twenty-five years after the first charges were incurred, Thomas Penn’s agent finally paid what was due.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9The copy, among the Penn Papers in Hist. Soc. Pa., carried none of the notations and endorsements mentioned in the headnote except BF’s. It also indicates that the three undated items at the end were paid for by Lynford Lardner, not by Richard Hockley as in BF’s original. It is endorsed: “Copy of B. Franklin’s Bill £57:1:6.”

1All but nine of the items are recorded in Ledger A and B or in Ledger D. Most of the earlier entries also appear on the bill of 1734 printed in full above, I, 371.

2Some of the advertisements in the Gazette or in handbill form, especially those relating to the payments of quitrents, were printed in both English and “Dutch” versions.

3Hockley wrote to the Proprietors, June 25, 1757: “The day before Franklyn left this Town Mr. Peters sent for me and exhibited an account he had received from him against You amounting to £571s. 6d. commencing in the year 1734 and ending Feby. 1744/5 for sundries, stationery and printing which astonished me greatly.” He proposed to withhold payment until he heard from Penn about the matter. Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

4Edmund Physick (1727–1804), agent of Thomas Penn in the colony and later surveyor general. PMHB, V (1881), 359–60.

5Thomas Penn had written Hockley, Aug. 13, 1757: “As to Mr. Franklin’s account, you must examine it if it has been paid, if not, and his Servants will attest it is due, it must be paid.” On Feb. 10, 1758, he commented to Hockley: “Mr. Franklin has not said anything to me about his account, when he does I shall pay him if he desires it.” Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

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