Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to the Earl of Bessborough, [October 1761]

To the Earl of Bessborough

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Craven Street
Friday Evening. [October 1761]5

My Lord,

Calling at the Board this Morning, I was informed that Application had been made by Governour Fauquier6 for a Commission to his Secretary as my Colleague in the American Office.7 It is my Duty to acquiesce in your Lordship’s Pleasure if after reading this you should think proper to gratify the Governor by such an Appointment. But I conceive that the Application to your Lordship was founded on a Supposition of a Vacancy to be supply’d, which I apprehend not to be really the Case. The Commission I have had the Honour so recently to receive from the Goodness of your Lordship and Mr. Hampden,8 grants the whole Office, Powers and Salary, to the Survivor of the two Persons therein appointed; and therefore, notwithstanding the Decease of Mr. Hunter, there is properly no Vacancy; unless you should think fit to make one by revoking that Commission; which, when my long and faithful Service of 24 Years in the Post Office,9 is considered, I hope will not be done. During the greatest Part of that time, I had the Burthen of conducting the whole American Office under others, with a very slender Salary; and it has been allow’d, that the bringing the Office to what it is, from its former low insignificant State, was greatly owing to my Care and Management. And now that in the Course of Things some additional Advantage seems to be thrown in my Way, I cannot but hope it will not be taken from me in favour of a Stranger to the Office; especially as Governor Fauquier has in his Disposition many Places of Profit in his Government as they fall, and therefore cannot long want an Opportunity of gratifying the Services of his Secretary.1

I beg your Lordship to excuse the Freedom I have taken in this Representation; and believe me to be, with the most perfect Respect and Attachment, My Lord, Your Lordship’s most obedient and most humble Servant

B Franklin

I was at your Lordship’s Door to day, but did not find you at home.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5William Hunter, joint deputy postmaster general of North America, died Aug. 12, 1761, and BF had learned of his death by early October; see above, p. 363. If Governor Fauquier of Va. had recommended a successor promptly, as he probably did, his letter would also have reached London in October, thereby occasioning BF’s letter.

6Francis Fauquier (1704?–1768), lieutenant governor of Va., 1758–68, and acting governor during the entire period.

7John Foxcroft (d. 1790), Fauquier’s secretary, served as joint deputy postmaster general of North America until the disruption of the British postal service in the colonies following the outbreak of the Revolution. A Loyalist, he was vigorously abused as formerly a “needy Domestic” and now a “Mushroom Gentleman” in 1775 by William Goddard, then a Baltimore printer. PMHB, XXVII (1903), 501–2. After the Revolution Foxcroft was appointed British agent for the packet service in New York City.

8Bessborough and Robert Hampden (formerly Trevor) were joint postmasters general of Great Britain and so had the right to name their American deputies. On Aug. 12, 1761—the very day Hunter died—they reappointed BF and Hunter to the American office following the accession of George III, an event requiring new commissions for all public officials. Ruth L. Butler, Doctor Franklin Postmaster General (N.Y., 1928), p. 71.

9BF had been postmaster of Philadelphia, 1737–53, and deputy postmaster general since 1753.

1Despite BF’s request, announcement was made in November of Foxcroft’s appointment to succeed Hunter as deputy postmaster general for America with BF. Gent. Mag., XXXI (1761), 539.

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