Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Isaac Norris, 29 April 1758

From Isaac Norris

Letterbook copy: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

To B Franklin

Apl 29. 1758

My Dear friend,

The Assembly being fully Convinced by the Experence of the last year; that our forces, were, at a Great Expence Suffered to lye Ide [Idle] on the frontiers, and managed in such manner as to be of very little Service had Resolved5 to reduce Their Numbers to Seven Hundred Men; Till Lord Loudoun made his Requisition from This Province and the Lower Counties, of Eight Hundred Men to Join the Regulars intended for a Western Expedition, upon which the first Resolve was alterd, and we Granted Seven Hundred (leaving the other one Hundred to be raised by the lower Counties,) To Join Lord Loudoun, and 300 to Remain in Garrison. This was the State of our Publick Affairs when I wrote last6—but Soon after Upon the Secretary of State’s Letter to the Several Colony’s by which it Appeared That Vigorous Efforts were designed to be Carried on and made from all the Colonies to Strike an Effectual Blow at the Same Time both to the Northward and Westward, the Assembly once more Resumed the Consideration of the Numbers of Men to be raised and Supported by us, for the Ensuing Campagne, and Agree’d “To Raise and Support Two Thousand Seven hundred Men,” A great part of which Number are at this Time Ready, and in the Pay of the Province.7 Thus After a long Tedious Sessions, we have at length Passed the Bill for Granting £100,000 More, with an Exemption of the Proprietary Estates, the Governor (as he Says) with the Unanimous Advice of his Council, having Absolutly Rejected the Bill by which Their Estates were Included, as will appear by the Bill which the Committee will Transmit under the Great Seal, to try At Home whether they alone of all the king’s Subjects have a right to Such Exemptions for the Defence of their own Property, and the king’s Colony Committed to their Care, for which purpose the House have Resolved to Address the Crown and Come into Some measure’s, if Possible, to obtain the Decision, before we are Necessitated to Make other Grants to the Crown, on Such Unequal Terms, which in Time Must Leave our Estates at the Mercy of the Proprietors whenever the overburden of the Publick Debts and Taxes shall oblige the Poor or midling People to Sell their Lands.8 Besides the Above Grants to the Crown we have another Bill for laying a Duty of Tonnage and other Duties for fiting out the Province Ship, which has been already Rejected by the Governor on Account of the Persons Named in the Bills, but as the Merchants have Petitiond the House to lower the Tonnage, the bill has been again Taken up and alterd in Some Parts of it, and now again Lyes with the Governor for his Assent.9 These are large Sums, which the funds, I fear are Insufficient to Sink in the Time proposed, but the Acts provide for any Defects of those funds by Continuing the Acts till the whole is Compleated, as in the former Laws, but These Debts Entailed Upon the Province for Several years to Come will make it Difficult to raise future Supplies out of an almost drained Country, for the taking of our Servants, the Evacuating our back Counties and Their Continual emigrations into North Carolinna, with the Other Distresses imposed Upon us by the Executive Part of Goverment Continue’s to make Strange Changes in the Circumstances of the People from their late flourishing Situation, perhaps we may Obtain Some Assistance from the Parliament towards the Servants and Our last Supply, (which has Exceeded our Abilities) that we might fully Comply with our Part of the Intended Operations.1 This year, and this Critical Circumstance has induced us once more To Exempt the Proprietors who have by their Deputy obstinatly Refused our Bill in which their Estates were included as I have Already informed you, which I presume, all Circumstances Considered, will put it upon as fair an Issue To be Try’d at home, Where it Must At last be Determined, as we Can expect or hope for, seeing the Nation seem in Earnest to Prosecute the American War Effectualy This year. I have duly recieved your Several letters to the 14th of January,2 and whilst I am writing, a copy of the Last by General Abercrombie’s Secretary,3 who is, I presume arrived at N York with Some Men of war and Transports. These Early Supplies bid fair for a Successful Compaign if Properly Conducted, and May retrieve the Honour of the last Year, which has Justly alarmed the English Nation, at Such an Amazeing Expence for the Support of their American Colonies, to hear of Nothing but perpetual Loses. I hope the future Accounts from hence may be more Agreeable. I imagine it will be no Difficult Matter to find out that the Council are Joining their Utmost forces to Superceed our Governor. That Gentleman has the Misfortune to disoblige all Ranks and Parties Among us and Seems Not perfectly easy in his own family, So That in all Probability he has Occasion to Repent his hasty Acceptance of this Goverment under his load of Instructions to which he was probably Almost a Stranger till After his Arrival among us. I realy pitty him and am Sorry for his Unhappy Situation but I fear he has neither Sufficient Resolutions or Abilities for Goverment and I Apprehend the Most we can Say in his favour, is That we like him better Than his Predecessor.4 This letter will be a Convinceing proof That I write as I can get a little Time from Interruption. The Governor has enacted into a Law the Tonnage Bill, and the Act for Quartering the Soldiers, So That our Publick Bussiness of this session is Ended, and we only meet now, on Some reports and Messages we Think Necessary, before the House rises, and an Address to the Crown in hopes of Some releif against These Continual Proprietary Exemptions in our Mony Bills.5 Tho’ the Governor and Assembly are at Varience, He is not less So with his Council, by all Accounts but his Instructions bind him, or at least he apprehends himself So bound by Them, that it is apparent the Council, or Some of them oblige him To put his Hand To evry Thing they Dictate, and make him a meer Cypher in the Administration. I was in hopes To have Settled the Account of the Books before now,6 but my whole Time has been Taken up by The Publick, to the Detriment of my Private Affairs So Continualy, That I have not been Able To do it. We are entering Upon a Recess, and I will Transmit the Account as I have carefully Taken it in Several Lists, the last Parcel were worthless both from the Contents, and the Miserable Condition which they were Sent To me in. I realy Think they have emptied your house of all your Old Books, for many of them were Primers out of your Own Printing office, Whitefields Journals,7 old used Grammars Spelling Books &c. &c., and many of the others Perfectly Rotten of which I have a Number, which you may have the Pleasure of Seeing at your Return—but I hope without the bad Effect I realy believe They had Upon me, for being willing to Take all that Could be used. The Sharpness and Acrid Salts Contracted by Their laying in some damp Place got into my mouth and stomach To such a Degree, that At the beginning of this Session I could not Attend the House, and it was like to have had worse Effects.8 I now give my opinion of my Late severe attack, and mentiond it To my Friend James Wright9 Some Time ago, but have not Tho’t it Prudent to let any Body Else into the Secret—especially those of my own family who would be willing to persuade me to relinquish my Books, and use more Bodily Exercise, which I think would be no bad Advice, at my Time of life, but I may Take it and keep my own Council, as To the Injury recieved from an Inconsiderate poreing over Indifferent Books, in A very Indifferent, or rather bad, Condition to be handled, at all; I have done with this Subject, and shall only say, that I leave it intirely to your own Judgment to purchase the Couloured or other Copy of Those I have given you the Trouble to get for me, and thank you for the Pamphlets sent me, which I received a few days Since.1 Your Account of the Interveiw and Conversation with our Proprietarys Agrees well with the Effrontry of their Agents at the last Easton Treaty with the Indians, after Seeing the One and hearing the other, nothing from that Quarter can or ought to Surprise us.2 Tho’ our Releif must be attended with Expence to the Province and the People Must have a Good stock of Patience, That your Patience and Mony may hold out till we can obtain Redress is my hearty Desire, but I Entreat you would let us know the State of both in Due time, for I am of Opinion we Should not Precipitate our Affairs to our Disadvantage, but by evry method endeavour, as we have been necessitated to begin, finish the Work effectually if it is in our Power, especially as we have a Righteous Cause, and an Agent Throly Acquainted with it equal to it, and willing to defend it.3 I am your Assured friend

I Norris

If I should not have time to write to RC,4 by this Packet pray my Complements to him and his family, I have Just received a letter via Liverpool from RP5—no publick News in it—but an Account of II Pensylvania Acts laid before the Privy Council,6 and the Arrival of J. Hunt, and C. Wilson.7 J. Hunt was at the Easton Treaty, pray desire them to send their Account with the Province.

Endorsed: B F recd the 7br. 16th8

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Several times in his copy Norris wrote “Resloved”; it is silently corrected.

6Feb. 21, 1758; see above, VII, 385–9. For the Earl of Loudoun, see above, VI, 453–4 n.

7Gov. William Denny (above, VI, 489–90 n) had laid before the Assembly, March 8, 1758, William Pitt’s letter of Dec. 30, 1757, outlining the men and materials he expected Pennsylvania to furnish for Gen. John Forbes’s planned expedition against Fort Duquesne, and the House resolved to raise the additional troops on March 23. Votes, 1757–58, pp. 50–1, 56.

8The £100,000 supply bill taxing the proprietary estates passed the House on March 29, the resolves were approved on April 8, and the new supply bill exempting the proprietary estates became law on the 22d. Ibid., pp. 60, 76, 80. The resolves reaffirmed Assembly protests against what it regarded as the governor’s unconstitutional interference with money bills, and directed that “the said Bill, … together with the Governor’s proposed Amendments thereon, be transmitted, by the Committee of Correspondence, under the Great Seal, to Benjamin Franklin, Esq; and the other Agents for this Province, to be by them immediately laid before the King and Parliament now sitting, if they shall receive the same in Time.” Norris’ account of the dispute may not be quite fair. Officially, Denny and the Assembly quarreled over the mode of assessing property, though Thomas Penn’s latest instructions, which touched on this matter (see above, VII, 372–3 n), left Denny little choice beyond permission to reenact earlier tax measures which had exempted the proprietary estates.

9A bill, passed on March 11, laid a duty, according to the tonnage carrying capacity, on vessels sailing to or from Pa. ports and laid an import duty on liquor and sugar. On the 20th, Denny objected to the collector (Hugh Davy) and to the five Assemblymen named in the bill as commissioners to construct and direct the ship of war proposed to protect Pa. shipping. A revised tonnage law, enacted April 29, provided for lower rates, appointed Assemblyman Richard Pearne collector, and substituted five Philadelphia merchants, some of them notable for their hostility to the proprietary party, as commissioners. Votes, 1757–58, pp. 51, 83; Pa. Col. Recs., VIII, 41; Statutes at Large Pa., V, 352–61.

1BF had been seeking for over a year to obtain compensation to masters of indentured servants enlisted in the British army (see above, VII, 224–8, and this vol., p. 27), and Pitt’s letter of Dec. 30, 1757, had held out hope that Parliament would reimburse the colonies for their war expenditures. See below, p. 102, for the distress in Cumberland, one of the “back Counties.”

2See above, VII, 360–2, for the letter of Jan. 14, 1758; the “Several” earlier ones have not been found.

3Possibly Joshua Loring; see above, VII, 363 n.

4See below, pp. 89, 94–5, on proposals for a new governor. Richard Peters and other councilors had sought Denny’s removal almost from the day of his inauguration. His predecessor was Robert Hunter Morris.

5The Assembly approved a message and a report, both long, intemperate denunciations of Denny, before adjourning on May 3. Votes, 1757–58, pp. 84–94. There is no record of an address to the Crown at this session other than that implied in the resolves mentioned in note 8 above.

6This book transaction is somewhat obscure, but apparently Norris received various lots of old books cleared out of BF’s printing shop by William Dunlap. Some of the books came from Thomas Osborne, London bookseller, to whom BF paid £21 on Sept. 27, 1758 (see below, p. 169), and £40 on June 1, 1759, for remnants or parcels of old books consigned to Norris. “Account of Expences,” pp. 34–51; PMHB, LV (1931), 114, 120.

7See above, II, 269 n, for journals and other papers of George Whitefield printed by BF.

8See above, VII, 385–6, for other comments by Norris on his illness.

9See above, VI, 101 n.

1BF sent bundles of pamphlets to Norris frequently; see above, VII, 176, for the books Norris asked BF to purchase.

2See above, VII, 360–2, for BF’s conversation, and 264 n, for the Easton treaty.

3Two days after Norris wrote these words, another Philadelphian extolled BF’s virtues and talents even more glowingly. James Turner (above, III, 144–5 n), seeking DF’s permission to copy a portrait of her husband (the miniature sent to Jane Mecom; see above, VII, frontispiece and p. 365), remarked upon “my grateful sense of the many instances of Mr. Franklin’s goodness to myself, his benevolent endeavours in private life, to promote the interest of any person, though no way connected with his own, and to advance by his candid remarks and wise advice every useful art in America; the great obligations which the whole learned world confess themselves to be under to him for his important philosophical discoveries; his honest steady and undaunted zeal in the cause of Liberty; his knowledge of the true interests, and his wise counsels and unwearied labours for the real service of this province—of America in general—of his nation and his king—manifesting the invaluable friend, the eminent philosopher, the true patriot, the loyal subject, the honest, the truly great and good man—the boast of Boston, his native place—the blessing of Pennsylvania—the admiration of the world! … [his fame] is already sufficiently extended, and will never be forgotten so long as the lightning’s flash and thunder’s roar continue to remind mankind who it was that explained to them the nature, and taught them how to guard against the effects of that terrifying meteor.” Duane, Works, VI, 31–2.

4Robert Charles.

5Richard Partridge; letter carried by the ship Philadelphia, Capt. Charles Stewart, which arrived on April 29. Pa. Gaz., May 4, 1758.

6Presented on Jan. 20, 1758, referred by the Committee for Plantation Affairs to the Board of Trade, January 31, and by it to Sir Matthew Lamb on Feb. 10, 1758. Acts Privy Coun., Col., IV, 341, 808; Board of Trade Journal, 1754–1758, p. 374. See below, pp. 63–7, for BF’s attention to these acts.

7John Hunt and Christopher Wilson; see above, VII, 376 n. No record of payment to them has been found in either the Assembly’s or the commissioners’ accounts.

8In Norris’ hand; see below p. 157, for the letter of Sept. 16, 1758, from BF.

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