Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Isaac Norris, 20 September 1760

From Isaac Norris1

Letterbook copy: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Fairhill Septr. 20 1760

Dear Friend BF

Since my Last 24 and 27 August which acknowledged your Several Letters to the 14 of June last I have received the 27th and PS. 29 June and Copy with addition of the 12th July.2 These acknowledgments of Dates may be satisfactory to know what Letters have fal’n [fallen] into right Hands for it is certain some of those wrote by Captain House got to Philadelphia3 and there sent open to the Persons to whom they were directed, at least I know it to be so in my own Case for a few Days ago I received Robt. Charles’ Letter directed to me dated the 1st of November 1759 with the Report of the Lords of Trade and Order to Sir Wm. Johnson upon Our Indian Affairs4 under Cover and a few Lines from N. Scull5 and it is as certain that to this Day I have not received your Original Letter by Captain House.6 It is said that Mr. Chatelleau neglected the Letters after tiring or diverting himself with some of them and that a Son of Ralph Asheton7 took the Opportunity of securing the rest to divert the People here, but I do not warrant the Story nor do I so much as know the young man.

It is difficult to assign any Reasons the Chief Justice could have to enquire of my Brother in the Street “whether the Letters which were in Mr. Scull’s Hands belonging to me were ever sent and whether he [my Brother]8 had seen or heard of any such being sent.” They were not at that Time but came about, a Week after opened as I have said above without any Account or Apology for that Letter’s comming to me in that Manner nor any Information how he came by it, Only barely telling me these Papers had been some Time with him and he was prevented by Sickness from sending them sooner. I have not seen Nicholas Scull since to make further Enquiry, but how he came by those Papers may very easily be guest at, as the Gentlemen could not keep their own Secrets.9

I received besides the Letters I have mentioned above a long encouraging Letter by your Son dated the 15th of July.1 I have it not by me as I thought it necessary to forward it to Town to stop the Uneasinesses which began to appear in the People under the Fears of having £200,000 of Blank Paper scattered among them instead of Mony.2 I hope it will have a good Effect, tho’ I had tollerably digested in my own Mind a pretty good Security for sinking most or all those Bills out of the Mony allowed by Parliament with what we have Reason [to] expect the next Year3 and had drawn a Bill at the Desire of the Committee for that Purpose which is now in the Hands of the Committee and the Mode assented to unanimously by the House by which you will, if they approve of the Bill, have Power to purchase Stocks bearing an Interest till drawn out for the Use of the Publick by Bills of Exchange free from the Objections made by the Bank, who no Doubt are best acquainted with their own Modes, and thought they had sufficient for refusing to take our Mony on the terms of the last Law.4

I am now fully engaged on the short Adjournment the House have made now near the Expiration of the Assembly Year5 and shall close this Letter, to go by a Vessel via Bristol,6 especially as the Business of the Assembly is not finished.

Pray make my Complements to your Son for the seasonable Care he has taken to forward Intelligence of so much importance to us.

I send inclosed a third Bill of Exchange J. Hunter on Thomlinson &c. No. 1876 for £100. Sterling.7 I have forborn the purchase of another in Hopes the Exchange might lower a little but I see no signs of it tho’ I think they will not rise. I am &c.

NB8 did not send the above but instead thereof wrote the following Letter by a Snow of John Taylors to Bristol vizt.

NB I sent this Letter to Town hearing the Vessel would sail—but going to Town to the Assembly on the 22d I found it was not [delivered] by CN.9 so that I took the Letter back and opend it—but did not send it. Instead of which I wrote the Letter that follows this. Via Bristol dated 26. September.

did not send this Letter

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1Not sent; see Norris’ memoranda at the end of the letter.

2For Norris’ letters of August 24 and 27, see above, pp. 184–6, 193–4. None of BF’s letters mentioned here have been found.

3For Captain House, whose ship, the Juliana, was taken early in 1760 by a French privateer commanded by Capt. Sebière du Chateleau, see above, p. 15 n.

4For the Board of Trade report and the order in council on the petition concerning Teedyuscung, see above, VIII, 379–89, 432–3. Writing to Charles, Oct. 22, 1760, Norris said that these documents and Charles’s covering letter of Nov. 1, 1759, had apparently been among those captured by Chateleau but sent on to Philadelphia. They reached Norris with the following note: “Sir. The inclosed Papers came to my Hands about a Month ago, my severe Illness has been the Reason you have not had them sooner, however as I think they were intended for you I have now sent them. I am your sincere and obliged friend Nicho Scull.” Norris Letterbook, Hist. Soc. Pa.

5Nicholas Scull (1687–1761), surveyor, cartographer, and early member of the Junto, has been mentioned several times in earlier volumes of this edition; see indexes. He was a partisan of the Penns, to whom he was indebted for his position as provincial surveyor general, 1748–61.

6Probably BF’s letter of Jan. 9, 1760 (not found.)

7This son of Ralph Assheton (1695–1746), lawyer and provincial councilor, was probably Ralph Assheton, Jr. (1736–1773), who received a medical degree at St. Andrews, Aug. 1, 1759, and was in London in the fall of that year. He could therefore have sailed with Captain House, who apparently cleared for Philadelphia early in January 1760. Charles P. Keith, Provincial Councillors of Pennsylvania (Phila., 1883), pp. 281–307; Betsy C. Corner, William Shippen, Jr., (Phila., 1951), pp. 22–4, 42.

8Brackets in the original.

9The chief justice was William Allen, one of the principal leaders of the proprietary party; “my Brother” was Charles Norris. The editors can offer no explanation as to how these papers came into Scull’s hands. It may be pointed out, however, that they would have interested him since they dealt with the inquiry into the Walking Purchase of 1737, and Scull, who had been present at that affair, testified at the Provincial Council twenty years later that no charges of fraud had been made at the time. See above, VII, III.

1Not found, but probably the one in which WF informed Norris of the Privy Council Committee’s query about the power of the Crown to disallow parts of an act passed by a colonial legislature; see above, p. 189. Apparently WF had expressed hope that the Privy Council would allow the Supply Act of 1759 to stand, in spite of the Board of Trade’s adverse recommendation.

2This would have been the consequence of the disallowance of the Supply Acts of April 17, 1759, and April 12, 1760.

3Pa.’s share of the £200,000 voted by Parliament to reimburse the colonies for their war expenditures in 1758 was £26,902 8s. (see below, p. 241). On March 31, 1760, the House of Commons resolved to grant another £200,000 to reimburse the colonies for their expenditures in the campaign of 1759 and of this sum Pa. eventually received £26,611 1s. 9d. See Votes of the House of Commons in the Seventh Session of the Eleventh Parliament (1759–1760), p. 379; Sargent, Aufrere & Co. to Charles Norris, July 8, 1762, Hist. Soc. Pa.

4For the conflict between the terms of the Agency Act of 1759 regarding the handling of the parliamentary grant and the Bank of England’s policy on deposits, see above, p. 186 n; and for Norris’ draft bill to remedy the situation, see the document immediately below.

5On Sept. 13, 1760, the Pa. Assembly adjourned until September 22. 8 Pa. Arch., VI, 5138.

6Probably the snow Gordon, Capt. Ferdinando Bowd, which cleared for Bristol about the beginning of October. Pa. Gaz., Oct. 2, 1760.

7See above, p. 182.

8The first of these memoranda is written at the end of the text in Norris’ letterbook, the second in the margin at the beginning of the text and the third in the margin at the top of its second page. The substitute letter mentioned in the second memorandum is the one printed immediately following.

9Norris’ brother Charles.

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