Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Isaac Norris: “Separate Notes,” 16 September 1758

To Isaac Norris: “Separate Notes”4

AD: Library of Congress

Separate Notes

London, Sept. 16. 1758

Baskerville is printing Newton’s Milton in two Volumes, 8vo. I have inserted your Name in his List of Subscribers, as you mention your Inclination to encourage so deserving an Artist.5

It is certain that the Government here are inclin’d to resume all the Proprietary Powers, and I make no doubt but upon the first Handle they will do so. I only think they wish for some Advantage against the People’s Privileges as well as the Proprietary Powers. I believe a Petition from either of the Assemblies,6 expressing their Dislike to the Proprietary Government, and praying the Crown to take the Province under its immediate Government and Protection, would be even now very favourably heard. Tumults and Insurrections, that might prove the Proprietary Government insufficient to preserve Order, or show the People to be ungovernable, would do the Business immediately; but such I hope will never happen. I know not but a Refusal of the Assembly to lay Taxes, or of the People to pay them, unless the Proprietary Estate be taxed, would be sufficient: But this would be extreamly improper before it is known whether Redress may not be obtained on Application here. I should be glad to know your Sentiments on the Point of getting rid of the Proprietary Government, and whether you think it would be generally agreable to the People.7

I was much concern’d to hear of your Indisposition, and for the Occasion of it. They have certainly made some Mistake about the Books, and sent you a Box or two that were not of the Parcel and not intended to be sent you. Osborne teazes one to have the Account closed, but let not that induce you to run the like Hazard, or fatigue yourself to the Prejudice of your Health, which I hope you have long before this time perfectly recovered.8

Your Telescope is at length finished, and I shall have it in a few Days, tho’ I doubt too late to be sent per this Ship. I would willingly have it examin’d too per Mr. Short, a Friend of mine, and the great Optician here,9 before I ship it. I shall send it with your Brother’s Books and yours, on Gardening &c. per next Ship, perhaps per Bolitho.1

The Defence made by the Council of the Indian Walk Purchase, seems to me a miserable one. I observe the Secretary’s Prevarication about his Discourse at Easton, &c. How comes the Report to be sign’d only by L. Lardner?2

Endorsed: London Septr. 16. 1758 Benja Franklin Seperate Notes recd Janry. 1759 The Ministry would chearfully join in Resuming the Governmt on an Applicatn from the Assembly or &c3

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Though clearly part of a letter to Isaac Norris, this document, headed “Separate Notes” by BF and bearing a long endorsement in Norris’ hand, has no salutation, complimentary close, or signature. The endorsement by Norris shows it is not an extract of a letter BF made and kept for himself; instead it is probably the private, confidential accompaniment of a longer letter the rest of which (not found) was a report from BF as agent to the Pa. Assembly.

5See above, pp. 53, 80, for earlier praise of John Baskerville. Thomas Newton (1704–1782), rector of St. Mary-Le-Bow and later bishop of Bristol, had published Milton’s Paradise Lost in 1749 with a life and elaborate notes, and the rest of Milton’s poetry in 1752. DNB. Baskerville’s reprinting of the work (1758) lists “Isaac Norris Esq. Speaker of the Assembly of Pennsylvania” and “Benj. Franklin Esq. Philadelphia” among the subscribers.

6Pennsylvania and probably Maryland, not Delaware. There seems to be no evidence that the “Newcastle Assembly” was interested in attacking proprietary government, but in Maryland there was agitation for the taxation of Lord Baltimore’s estates. See above, p. 101.

7Norris had hinted about this project on June 15 (see above, p. 102), and speculated further in replying to this letter, Jan. 15, 1759 (below, p. 228). The decision to seek royal government in Pa., taking shape during 1758 as negotiations with Penn proved futile, was a major factor in BF’s loss of his Assembly seat in 1764, and became the main reason for his second agency to Great Britain until 1770, when the dispute between all the colonies and the mother country submerged other issues.

8See above, p. 58, for Norris’ illness, and below, pp. 169–70, for his book account with Thomas Osborne.

9See above, V, 233 n, for James Short, and VII, 284 n, for the telescope.

1See the preceding document.

2At the Easton conference of November 1756 the Indians asserted that they had been cheated by proprietary land agents in the Walking Purchase of 1737 and other treaties; see above, VII, 15–23, 111–14. On Dec. 14, 1756, Governor Denny directed the Council to look into the whole matter, naming three members to whose care the inquiry was “more immediately committed.” The investigation dragged on for more than a year and then, at a meeting on Jan. 6, 1758, at which none of the three specially named councilors was present, other members submitted a report which Denny and the Council unanimously approved. It exonerated the proprietary agents, blamed the Indian defection directly on the Assembly for refusing to grant funds to arm the Delaware against the French, and by innuendo accused the Quakers of instigating the complaints at Easton. Apparently the three specially named councilors had been critical of one or another part of this report as drafted by their colleagues and it was entered on the Council minutes only on Jan. 20, 1759, signed by Lynford Lardner and four other councilors not including any of the three. Pa. Col. Recs., VII, 354, 776; VIII, 244–59; I Pa. Arch., III, 299–300. Why the copy BF received bore only Lardner’s signature is not clear. For Secretary Richard Peters’ “prevarication” about what had been said at Easton and discussed in the report, see above, VII, 112 n.

3In Norris’ hand.

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