Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Francis Eyre: Bill and Receipt, 16 February 1760

From Francis Eyre:7 Bill and Receipt

DS (two copies): Historical Society of Pennsylvania

On February 16 Franklin’s legal adviser Francis Eyre called upon him to receive “Instructions to sollicit the Confirmation of nineteen Pennsylvania Acts of Assembly” passed during 1758 and 1759. The Proprietors opposed eleven of the measures, including the two most important, the £100,000 Supply Act of 1759 and an act authorizing Franklin, as agent, to apply for and receive Pennsylvania’s share of the funds voted by Parliament to be distributed among the colonies in repayment of war expenses. Preparation of the Assembly’s case and attendance at hearings before the Board of Trade and the Privy Council Committee occupied most of the time and attention of Franklin and Eyre until the Privy Council order of September 2 brought the issues to a close.

Late in the autumn Eyre rendered his bill. In accordance with British practice it is a minutely detailed statement, showing by dates the solicitor’s expenditures on behalf of his client and his own charges for every document prepared, conference or hearing attended, or other service. The bill occupies four closely written pages and contains a total of 144 entries of services performed and expenses incurred. The total charge was £470 8s. 8d., of which Franklin had advanced at various times sums amounting to £152 10s.8 Eyre’s receipt for the final £317 18s., dated Dec. 2, 1760, concludes the document.9 It will not be reproduced here in full, but some of its contents may usefully be described. A summary of the expenditures under major heads will follow to show where the money went.

The two barristers retained to represent Franklin and Robert Charles, the Pennsylvania agents, at the hearings were William de Grey1 and Richard Jackson.2 They did not receive single fees covering their entire services, but instead specific fees for each separate participating action: 10 guineas to de Grey as a retainer, 5 guineas to Jackson; 15 guineas apiece for the initial briefing and instruction; 5 guineas each for every subsequent consultation; and 10 guineas for each day’s attendance at a hearing before the Board of Trade or the Privy Council Committee. In addition, de Grey’s “Clerk and Man” and Jackson’s “Man” received small gratuities on each occasion proportioned to their masters’ fees. Eyre himself charged from 6s. 8d.3 for a minor errand to the Board of Trade, to 2 guineas for his and his clerk’s attendance at a formal hearing, and £31 6s. 8d. for drawing the brief to be used by the barristers in support of the acts. Many documents, including some in the files of the Board of Trade, had to be copied, and these became a major item of expense. No branch of the British government conducted business without fees, which, in fact, were a principal source of income to the clerical staffs, and in a case such as this, supplemental gratuities were very much in order if the parties expected to receive considerate treatment in the future. In sum, the prosecution of business before governmental agencies, however legitimate, was an expensive business. The expenditures shown on Eyre’s detailed bill may be grouped and summarized as follows:

 £ s. d.
Francis Eyre (drafting legal papers, conferring formally or informally with the barristers, securing information at the Board of Trade, attending hearings, etc.) 87 11 2
Fair copies of documents required in the case 68 4 0
Fees to William de Grey 105 0 0
Gratuities to de Grey’s clerk and man 4 7 6
Fees to Richard Jackson 99 15 0
Gratuities to Jackson’s man 2 5 0
Doorkeeper’s fees, Plantation Office (Board of Trade) 4 4 0
Bill at the Plantation Office 13 19 0
“To the Clerks for their Extraordinary Trouble” 2 2 0
Doorkeeper’s fees, Cockpit (Privy Council Office) 3 3 0
Council Office bill 53 13 0
Privy Council clerks, extra 2 2 0
Mr. Cooke, the short-hand writer, for his attendance 10 10 0
Warrant and gratuity at the Treasury 13 13 0
Total due £470 8 8
Paid on account 152 10 0
Balance due £317 18 8

“Received the 2d Day of December 1760, of Benja. Franklyn Esqr. three hundred and seventeen Pounds eighteen Shillings, for which I have given another Receit on a Duplicate of this Bill, I say received in full of all Demands, by me

Fras Eyre

£317. 18. 0”

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Francis Eyre (1722–1797), of Colesborne, Gloucestershire, was articled to a Truro attorney in 1737 and qualified in 1744, later practicing in London. He specialized in colonial and mercantile business. Acquiring a considerable fortune through part ownership of privateering ships in the Seven Years’ War, he invested heavily in estates in Jamaica as well as in England. He was an M.P. 1774–75, 1780–84, supporting the North ministry. Namier and Brooke, House of Commons, 1754–1790, II, 409–10. Upon the death of Ferdinand John Paris (Dec. 16, 1759), Eyre, who had lived in his house, was retained by the executrix of his estate. This connection with his former agent caused Thomas Penn to suspect that BF had hired Eyre “to get some secrets,” presumably by consulting the proprietary papers in the possession of Paris’ estate. While granting that Eyre made “a deal of shew in business,” Penn thought him “of no great depth” and told Richard Peters that when he “made enquirys after an Agent” Eyre was “not foremost in the opinion of any of those I consulted.” Penn to James Hamilton, March 8, 1760, to Richard Peters, March 8, July 12, 1760, Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

8“Account of Expences,” pp. 52, 53. Eddy, in PMHB, LV (1931), 127, gives the total incorrectly.

9“Account of Expences,” p. 57; PMHB, LV (1931), 129. In the final payment the 8d. was ignored.

1William de Grey (1719–1781), Trinity Hall, Cambridge, 1737; Middle Temple, 1738; called to the bar, 1742; M.P., 1761–71; solicitor to the Queen, 1761–63; solicitor general, 1763–66; attorney general, 1766–71; lord chief justice of the Common Pleas, 1771–80; knighted, 1771; raised to the peerage as Baron Walsingham, 1780. DNB; Namier and Brooke, House of Commons, II, 308–9.

2See above, V, 148 n, and Namier and Brooke, House of Commons, II, 669–72.

3A traditional amount (one third of a pound), which represented the value of a noble or angel, a gold coin issued until 1634.

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