Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Isaac Norris, 24 November 1757

From Isaac Norris

Letterbook copy: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Novr 24th 1757

Benja Franklin

The above is a Copy of my last.4 I have Since received two letters of the 23d (a Copy, the Original not Come To Hand) and 30th August.5 We are all extreamly well pleas’d With your Safe arrival there and the Continuence of your Health. Your Conduct I never doubted, but if it is necessary To Say any thing upon it I think you have acted With great Judgment in the Interviews with the Proprietors and the Exclusion of JFP6 from your Consultations and pray remember me To Billy. I have his manly performance in the Citizen.7 The Manner of appearing is extreamly well Judged. I have returned him my Thanks, for his Books in a letter to RP,8 and would write To him, if that becomes necessary, He knows I have a great regard for him: and I know he will be acquainted With all I have To Say on account of the Province under your Address.

But the little Time I have, ought To make me very laconick. J. Hughs is at Wyoming, Endeavouring to Effect the Engagements of the Government to the Indians, Tho Cloggd in his Commission with Two Companions not very agreeable; but the third of his own chusing; we hear very little from him as he is out of the Post road; but he went with So hearty an Inclination that we are well Assured, He will do every thing in his power. I hope J Galloway, or Some body Else may have wrote of the Difficulties he met with in his Commission for I dare not begin upon them.9 The N Castle Assembly, have met, made a Speech—continued their Militia law—Struck 20,000 Out of the Interest—of which I am informed they gave £4,000—and adjourned: I am told by the Author, there is an answer to that Speech To appear in This days paper, but I have not Seen it.1 The Same Gentleman informs me, That he has it from Good hands, That the Governor is inclined to Agree with the Assembly, if they Shew the least inclination, which no doubt they will Chearfully Comply with, in every thing Consistant With their Trust; I Should not be Surprisd at this Conduct, for he is not well used (To Say the least) by those he has Confided in, but what he may think he has in his power I Cannot tell.2 The Instructions are very particular we have Too much occasion To know, and if besides what we do know, there Should be the Same Instruction (as To Sir W. Keith)3 That where they had not particularly provided, He Should be guided by the Opinion of the Council, or prehaps by particular members of it; in what Can he do: I Pitty his Situation, on many accounts, which you will hear from others, but for what relates To the Publick; I will assist him in every Honourable Inclination To render himself and the People under his Government Easy and Safe. Our Hundred Thousand Pound is Expended; about £8000 of which is laid out in Barracks, near finished, at the Upper End of the Town;4 After being driven off, the lot you once tho’t of for the Hospital; where they had dug the Cellers, and begun to lay the foundation, at the Expence of about £150, what will become of this poor lot at last?5 Our Indian Trade Bill has been repeatedly refused, tho’ we had made Concessions, which we aprehended would have Secured its passage. However the Governor has agreed To take a £1000 Stock Out of the £100,000, and with that Sum the Commissioners have Sent up Goods To Shamokin, under the Care of John Carson, Towards Supplying the imediate necessities of our Indian Allies;6 you will find very few Incursions of the Indians for Some time past; if we would by any means Consolidate the Easton Peace; the Indians at Wyoming; would be a very natural Barrier, and all who were at that Treaty were Witnesses, that never any people, did or Could Come with more hearty dispositions to Confirm a lasting Peace, Than Those Savages, as they are calld: but from the different Conduct of the Managers of that Conferance, in behalf of this Government and of the Indians, I fear, the Name is, as the lawyers Call it: Ambu[s]catory; I am writing very late, and must Send in the Morning, So that I will only desire you, to Take the trouble of getting me a Telescopial Telescope; of 24 feet, my Friend R. Charles will pay;7 and I will be obliged if W F would Collate a list of the Names, of the City lots, with Names, in the letter from W Penn to the Society, in the American library given by W. Kennet p: 140, which may be of use here, and not much Trouble.8 He may remember, I mentiond it to him at fair hill, but I give him this further memorandum. I am Dear Friend Your Affectionate friend


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4See above, pp. 264–70.

5Neither letter has been found. Many of the letters BF wrote describing his work as Assembly agent in England, 1757–62 and 1764–75, have been lost. Soon after he reached London in 1757 he apparently began the practice of composing rough drafts in a series of letterbooks and by 1775 he had filled “eight or ten” of these, but only one survived the sacking of the country house near Philadelphia where he stored them on his departure for France in October 1776 (see above, I, xxi). Some of his correspondents, of course, carefully preserved the letters he sent them and many have been located, but other individuals did not. The papers of Isaac Norris, for example, contain surprisingly few letters from BF. While forty-one letters have been located from Norris to BF written during the first English mission, mostly Norris’ own letterbook copies, only eight of the many BF wrote him in the same period seem to have survived in any form. Since Norris, as speaker of the Assembly, was the one to whom BF would naturally have written most fully about his activities as agent, the loss is a particular handicap to an understanding of his work.

6Ferdinand John Paris, the Proprietors’ agent.

7See above, pp. 255–63.

8Norris wrote Richard Partridge November 24 praising WF for signing the letter to the Citizen in order to “drag … the Annonimous Scriblers … out, if possible, from their lurking Insidious manner of venting their Amazing Absurdities” against the Pa. Assembly and the Quakers. The publications WF sent to Norris were William Smith, The History of the Province of New York (London, 1757); John Mitchell, The Contest in America between Great Britain and France (London, 1757); and an August magazine, perhaps Gentleman’s. Norris to Partridge, Nov. 24, 1757, Hist. Soc. Pa.

9In response to a request made by Teedyuscung at the Easton Treaty (see above, p. 264 n), Pennsylvania agreed to assist settlement of the Delawares in the Wyoming Valley near present-day Wilkes-Barre. Upon Conrad Weiser’s refusal of the task, Denny reluctantly commissioned John Hughes to go to Wyoming to build houses for the Indians, but at the same time made Edward Shippen and James Galbreath, friends of the proprietary interest, joint commissioners. Hughes was refused sole command, but was allowed to have Rev. Charles Beatty (above, VI, 358 n) also commissioned, and the work party left for the valley. By mid-November eight houses were building but Teedyuscung decided to winter in Bethlehem and the work was suspended until spring. Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 727–30, 734–6, 754–6, 770; I Pa. Arch., III, 288–9, 297–8, 316–19. No letter about the expedition from Joseph Galloway has been found, though BF later acknowledged one of December 5 which may have reported on the affair.

1The Delaware Assembly address, which included a spirited denial of Pa. Assembly aspersions on it, appeared in Pa. Gaz., Nov. 10, 1757, and was reprinted in London Chron., Jan. 21–24, 1758. A response by “Philo Patriae” (probably Joseph Galloway, BF’s successor as Assembly spokesman) appeared in Pa. Gaz., Nov. 24, 1757.

2Norris seems to hint here that Denny has agreed to violate his instructions and approve an Assembly measure (probably to tax the proprietary estates) out of disgust with his advisers (principally Richard Peters) and in response to Assembly offers to favor him (with his salary?). The Pa. Assembly was in adjournment and did not meet again until Jan. 2, 1758.

3Sir William Keith (1680–1749), Governor of Pennsylvania, 1717–26, but dismissed by the Proprietors for taking the Assembly side in a dispute. DAB. See also above, I, 53 n, 126 n.

4On the south side of Mulberry (Arch) St. between Ninth and Tenth Sts., a lot which the Proprietors had refused to give to the Pa. Hospital; see above, V, 294, 301–2.

5Barracks for 5000 of the King’s troops expected to quarter in Philadelphia for the winter were finally built in the Northern Liberties on Third Street under the supervision of Joseph Fox and Benjamin Loxley. Denny was as puzzled as Norris at the change in plans, apparently caused when Richard Hockley threatened suit unless the lot first proposed was properly purchased from the Proprietors. Lord Loudoun also suggested a new site for the barracks. Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 737, 756; Votes, 1757–58, pp. 120–1; I Pa. Arch., III, 278; Watson, Annals, I, 415–16; [Thomas Balch], Letters and Papers Relating Chiefly to the Provincial History of Pennsylvania (Phila., 1855), p. 98.

6John Carson’s store, opened on December 8, seems to have been a success; so he reported to Denny, and its operation pleased Capt. Joseph Shippen. Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 773; PMHB, XXXVI (1912), 448–9, 455.

7Norris wanted a telescope “for the night” to replace a 14 ft. one he had purchased in 1735; Norris to Robert Charles, Dec. 4, 1757, Hist. Soc. Pa. Norris’ account with BF and Charles, shows that on Sept. 15, 1758 BF bought from John Cuff of London for Norris a 24 ft. refracting telescope, which, with its packing case, cost £17 7s. 6d. Lib. Co. Phila.

8Apparently Norris wanted WF to compare a list of the (supposed) present owners of lots in Philadelphia with the list of purchasers in A Letter from William Penn … To The Committee of the Free Society of Traders … To which is added an Account of the City of Philadelphia … with a Portraiture or Plat-form thereof, Wherein the Purchasers Lots are distinguished … (London, 1683). PMHB, LXIII (1939), 148–50; LXVIII (1944), 406. Norris referred WF to White Kennett, Bibliothecae Americanae Primordia. An Attempt Towards laying the Foundation of an American Library (London, 1713), which, on p. 140, recorded the full title of Penn’s letter. Norris may have sought to question proprietary ownership of the Mulberry St. lot mentioned above; if so, the 1683 list did not help since no purchaser is listed for it there.

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