Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Ezra Stiles, 30 December 1761

From Ezra Stiles

Draft: Yale University Library

Newport, Decr. 30. 1761


I once more attempt to reach you with a Letter, which the Fate of war has I suppose hitherto intirely prevented. We are extremly sorry to know that Mr. Pitt has resigned the Seals: and have scarcely yet learned enough about the Earl of Bute (except from Scotsmen) to form an Idea of him.6 The only obnoxious Thing in Mr. Pitts Character that any in this Country (except the Jacobites) are toutched with, is his being an Advocate for Exercising the Militia on Sunday7—for the Sanctity of the Day apart: this washing up and resting once in a while is healthy—but Training days in New England are the hardest Days work in the year. That Men and Cattle lie by one day in a week or thereabouts I believe beneficial: in a well constituted community for Industry and social Life, I believe 100,000 industrious Farmers or other Laborers would accomplish more work in a year, desisting and resting every seventh day than by incessant and unremitted Labor. And the same holds good of Oxen, Horses. Whether we consider Health, or fruits of Labor, these weekly recruits are necessary for Man and beast—so wise was the mosaic Institution! To me who am a Believer of Revelation, there is another Argument for desisting from Secular Labors on the Lords Day, which doubtless has no Weight with Mr. Pitt.

But excepting this and some few Reflexions on the dissenters which I hope they do not disserve, Mr. Pitt is deservedly in the highest Reputation among us8—I believe never was a Minister of State tread [treated?] with so much honor and Affection by us in New England—we almost idolize him: his being in the privy Council and in the House of Commons, has given us the greatest Confidence as well as Spirit and Alacrity. In short (I hope without Reason, but so it is) we know not how to confide in any one personge below the Crown. We have such an Idea of the universal Corruption, and of the national Jockying, that we fail of feeling assured, with respect to any of the illustrious Personages in public Administration, that they will subordinate their own to the Interest of the public, that they will not sacrifice the great public Interest when it interferes with their own Interest or that of their Friends and Connexions or prospect of Honor Preferment whether at his own high price most may not be bo’t to abandon the National Interest &c. But we believe in Mr. Pitt we have a Confidence in him, in his Integrity and patriot faithfulness to the national Interest, more than his Capacities tho’ extraordinary—I say we have a Confidence in Mr. Pitt, which I do think that I may do him the Honor to resemble to that Confidence which with infinitely greater Justice ought to be and is exercised by the Body of the intelletual World in him who consults for all, with whom is the Guidance and Administration and Guardianship of the universe. I have the honour to be Dear Sir Your most obedient servant

Ezra Stiles

Dr Franklin London

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6John Stuart, 3d Earl of Bute (1713–1792), succeeded to his father’s title in 1723. An accidental meeting in 1747 with Frederick, Prince of Wales, led to his becoming a favorite in the household of the prince and princess, a relationship which continued and even grew stronger with the princess and her young son Prince George after the death of Frederick, 1751. Though holding no political office, Bute was the new heir’s constant companion and confidant and Princess Augusta’s political adviser. Upon the accession of George III, Oct. 25, 1760, Bute began at once to exercise great influence in the government as the King’s spokesman and virtual prime minister. He became secretary of state for the Northern Department in March 1761 and two months later was elected one of the Scottish representative peers in the House of Lords. A political opponent of William Pitt and an advocate of immediate peace with France instead of extension of the war to Spain as the other wanted, he engineered Pitt’s resignation, Oct. 5, 1761, and took over complete control of the administration. Although events forced him to declare war on Spain, Jan. 4, 1762, his earlier unpopularity with the English public, as a favorite and a Scotsman, continued unabated. He took office as first lord of the Treasury in May 1762, put through the preliminary treaty of peace, Nov. 3, 1762, and the definitive treaty, Feb. 10, 1763, and with the aid of Henry Fox drove Newcastle, Grafton, Rockingham, and their Whig followers from public posts. Partly because he had now obtained the peace he had long sought, but also because of the public dislike of his person and policies, he resigned in April 1763 and was succeeded by George Grenville. His close personal relationship with George III had come virtually to an end by 1765. DNB.

7After one failure in 1756, Pitt proposed and drove through Parliament in 1757 An Act for the better ordering of the Militia in the several Counties of that Part of Great Britain called England, 30 Geo. II, c. 25. As originally presented, the bill provided that the smallest local units of the militia were to assemble and drill three Sundays out of every month in the year, immediately after divine service, and the next larger units on the fourth Sunday of every month. A Bill For the better ordering of the Militia Forces In the Several Counties … (London, [1757]), pp. 16–17 (Yale Univ. Lib.). Apparently because of public criticism (e.g., Gent. Mag., XXVII, Jan., Feb. 1757, 29–30, 58), the bill was amended before passage to substitute Monday drills for these units and to exclude Sunday exercises entirely.

8Stiles also expressed his enthusiasm for Pitt’s character and leadership elsewhere in his writings and sermons, though never more forcefully than in this letter. Edmund S. Morgan, The Gentle Puritan A Life of Ezra Stiles, 1727–1795 (New Haven and London, 1962), pp. 212–15, 228.

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