Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Isaac Norris, 1 May 1761

From Isaac Norris

Letterbook copy: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Fairhill May 1st 1761

Dear Friend B Franklin,

I have been so very Unwell all this last Winter, and the Early part of this Spring that my Attendance on the Assembly has been Very Inconvenient and Troublesome to me, and if my ill state of Health Continues and I have no Reason to Expect much Alteration I must be oblig’d to quit all close Attention or attendance on publick Affairs. This I concieved I had a Right to some Time ago but Necessity will now Oblige me to Insist upon it,6 and I could wish to see them in Abler hands, whose Strength might be Equal to the Burthen. I have received yours of November 19. 22d and the 16th of December last7 and approve of your conduct in the purchase of stocks till the Province may have Ocaision to Draw for the sums lodg’d there, tho’ we had high Flights in our last Session of Assembly, upon the uncertainty and Jeopardy that Mony was in under its present situation.8 I cannot presume there will be any necessity of being more particular as you will see from the Governor Message9 and the minutes which the Commitee will Transmit1 how very Anxious a few among us are to have that Mony out of your possesion however disadvantageous it might be to the Publick to draw it out at this Time. I own it is my Private Opinion that if the second Allotment and the 3d too2 were in the same place and under the same Direction it would not give me one Moments uneasiness so different are Mens Thots and fears on the same subject.

As there seems no probability of a Peace this Winter3 I could wish our Governor had passed our Bill for Granting five hund[red] men in Adition to the Three we had Granted out of the Residue of the Hundred Thousand pound Act passed in 1760 for the service of the current Year4 but that it seems could not be obtain’d tho the fund for sinking the Bills of Credit to be struck for that purpose was as near as the Circumstance would admit the same with the Act allowed by his Majesty for Receiving the first allotment5 and to which the Lords of his Majestys privy Council had Reported “The Board of Trade had made no Objections” Tho’ in that particular if I Remember Right They had not strictly considred the Report of the Lords for Trade and Plantations in the conclusion of their observations and Report upon that Act,6 As the Clerk has notice of this Conveyance I presume the Commitee will send you a copy of that Bill and the Governors proposed Amendments to which the House would not agree.7 I have now wrote to Joseph Sherwood one of the Executors of Richard Partridge from whom I received a letter some time ago inclosing Richard Partridges Account current with the Province upon which there will be a Ballance due to the Estate,8 but as by J Sherwoods letter it does not appear who was the other Executor or Executors for I could never learn their Names, nor what Power they have to recieve Mony due to the Estate and as the Account is not Signed by any Body, I have wrote to him and must Request you will be so good to advise them in the proper Vouchers and orders proper to be Transmitted and I will take care to see them paid what Ballance the House may Allow due and Payable to the Estate and I should be pleased that this was done as soon as conveniently may be.

We had strange Accounts of Governor Dennys Reception on his Arrival or Rather his Non Reception, for it was Reported that as soon as he landed he Received such Un Welcome Advices that he imediatly disguised Himself and Run off to Spain or Portugal.9 As I find you had frequently seen him I should be pleased if you would take the Trouble to bestow a word or two on the little Gentleman, whose Venality when he found he was to be superceded, did him no credit here Even Amongst his friends if he had any Real Friends at the Time of his Taking shipping with his Wifeand family. I am your Assured Friend

Isaac Norris

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6In September 1759 Norris had appealed, publicly though unsuccessfully, to the voters of Philadelphia Co. to elect someone to replace him in the Assembly. In Pa. Gaz., Sept. 24, Oct. 1, 1761, he again requested to be relieved, citing his “advanced Years,” his health, and “other Reasons of Importance,” but as before his constituents re-elected him. See above, VIII, 441 n.

7For these letters, in which BF reported receiving Pa.’s share of the parliamentary grant for 1758 and investing part of it, see above, pp. 244–5, 245–6, 253–4.

8No information has survived from the records of the Assembly sessions of Jan. 5–March 14 and April 2–23, 1761, about the “high Flights” Norris says took place over BF’s disposition of the parliamentary grant. The matter became a critical issue in the election campaign of 1764.

9In a message of April 22, 1761, Governor Hamilton urged the Assembly to use the province’s share of the parliamentary grant in BF’s hands to support a body of troops General Amherst had asked for. 8 Pa. Arch., VI, 5246–51.

1No minutes sent to BF by the Assembly’s Committee of Correspondence have been found.

2The House of Commons voted £200,000 on March 30, 1760, and the same amount on Jan. 20, 1761, to reimburse colonial military expenses of 1759 and 1760 respectively. Votes of the House of Commons, 1759–60, p. 379; 1760–61, p. 154.

3Abortive peace negotiations began at the end of March 1761 (Gipson, British Empire, VIII, 208–25), but nothing was known of them in Philadelphia at the time Norris was writing. Preliminary articles between Great Britain and France were not signed until Nov. 3, 1762.

4Under considerable pressure from Governor Hamilton and General Amherst, the Pa. Assembly reluctantly voted, March 13, 1761, to raise and support 300 men to garrison the posts between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to replace British troops transferred to other service. Hamilton approved the act the next day. On April 7, following the reading of a letter from William Pitt asking that Pa. raise two-thirds the number of men provided the year before, the House voted, 15 to 12, against increasing the number of men already authorized. But again pressed by Hamilton and Amherst, the Assembly reversed itself and presented a bill, April 17, for 500 additional men and the issue of £30,000 in bills of credit to pay for them. As had happened so often before, Hamilton strongly objected to the terms of the measure, the members refused to accept his amendments, the bill failed of passage, and the House adjourned, April 23, without complying with Pitt’s directive. 8 Pa. Arch., VI, 5209–11, 5217–20, 5222–53 passim; Pa. Col. Recs., VIII, 577–8, 581, 583–4, 588–94, 596–8, 602–12; Statutes at Large, Pa., VI, 91–3.

5The Agency Act, passed Sept. 29, 1759; see above, VIII, 333, 442 n; this volume, p. 186 n.

6For the Board of Trade Report, June 24, 1760, and the Order in Council, Sept. 2, 1760, on the Agency Act and 18 other acts passed by the Pa. Assembly in 1758–59, see above, pp. 164–7, 209.

7For these amendments, submitted to the House on April 21, 1761, see 8 Pa. Arch., VI, 5245–6, Pa. Col. Recs., VIII, 610–11.

8Richard Partridge (above, V, 11–12 n), for many years agent for Pa., died on March 6, 1759. Norris laid his accounts, showing a balance due of £184 17s. 5d., before the Assembly in September 1761. They were referred to the Committee for Incidental Charges, which reported, Sept. 19, that the province owed Partridge £152 7s. 5d., which sum Norris eventually paid to his executors, Sherwood and Thomas Corbyn. 8 Pa. Arch., VI, 5262; Norris to Joseph Sherwood and Thomas Corbyn, Oct. 19, 1761, Hist. Soc. Pa.

9Far from fleeing England upon his arrival, Denny settled in or near London, playing the man about town, until his death in 1765. His lucrative sale of flags of truce while in Pa. almost caused the British ministry to prosecute him. Nicholas B. Wainwright, “Governor William Denny in Pennsylvania,” PMHB, LXXXI (1957), 194–5.

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