Benjamin Franklin Papers
Note: this document has content that may require expanded/print view for best results (icons above right)

To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Williams: Account, October 1763

From Jonathan Williams: Account

AD: American Philosophical Society

For several years Jonathan Williams, Senior, husband of Franklin’s niece, the former Grace Harris (C.5.3), had represented Franklin in business matters at Boston and had acted for him in looking after their less fortunate relatives in that area. Franklin in turn seems to have performed various financial services for Williams in Philadelphia or during his travels. Before Franklin left Boston in October 1763 the two men settled their accounts and found that there was a balance in favor of Franklin amounting to a little over £12 Massachusetts “lawful money.” Williams did not try to pay this debt at the time but, as was customary, he opened a new record of their running account showing this balance as a credit to Franklin.

On Dec. 24, 1774, Williams transcribed his account onto a single sheet, which he then sent to Franklin in England. Williams’ son, Jonathan Junior (C.5.3.2), who was in England with Franklin, took his father’s account, compared it with the entries in Franklin’s books, and prepared a revised balance sheet. Besides making additional entries in both parts of the record, he consolidated into a single entry about 45 separate items in his father’s statement, mostly for small sums, which related to expenditures during the last eleven years for maintenance and repairs of the house formerly belonging to Franklin’s eldest sister Elizabeth Douse. This property in Unity Street, Boston, had passed to Franklin after her death,9 and on Nov. 28, 1763 (below, p. 384), he instructed Williams to have it put in repair, rent it out, and pay the rents received to Jane Mecom to help her in providing care for her insane son, Peter Franklin Mecom (C.17.6).

On Feb. 29, 1776, Jonathan Williams, Senior, prepared a new account at Franklin’s request covering essentially the same period as the two earlier versions. In a letter of transmission, March 1, 1776, he told Franklin that his son’s version, of which he had received a copy, contained “some omissions,” but the two items he cited specifically as having been overlooked do in fact appear in Jonathan Junior’s account. The father admitted that he was handicapped in preparing his new account because “Some of my Old books and papers were Consumed Last may in my warehouses.”

All three of these versions survive in the American Philosophical Society Library, but the account prepared by Jonathan Williams, Junior, is chosen for printing here because it appears to be the most reliable and systematic and in general the most fully intelligible. By using both red and black ink and a special symbol of his own devising, the young man showed which entries appeared only on his father’s first account (reproduced here in roman type), which appeared in both his father’s account and Franklin’s books (reproduced in italics), and which only in Franklin’s books (in italics and with asterisks after the figures1). As Jonathan Junior explained in his memorandum at the end, he had detected “some little Difference in sums which are here put right,” so that the records do not agree in all particulars; but with two exceptions mentioned in notes below, a careful comparison of the documents shows that other differences are indeed trivial and do not merit detailed notice here.

This account is given in full since it illustrates, as no summarized description could, some of the ways in which members of this closely knit, though physically scattered, family worked together for the welfare of the others.

[October 1763]

No. 1

State of the Accot: between Doctor B Franklin and Jona: Williams Senr:
as it should properly stand

Dr. Sterling Lawfull Mony
To Sundry Expences in repairing and keeping in repair a House at the North End of Boston, the Rent of which was appropriated to the Use of Mrs. Jane Mecom from Novr: 15th: 1763 to the last charge Augt: 10th: 1774 Particulars as per Acct: }
110. 8. 6 £147. 4. 8
1764 Mar: 9
To Cash paid your Order to Mrs. Mecom2 }
3. 15. 5.
1766 Feby 1
To Ditto paid Mrs. Mecom by the desire of Mrs. Franklin3 }
1. 16. 2. 8.
1768 Sept 10
To a Box of Crown Soap
bot: of Mrs. Eliza:
3. 1. 4. 1. 4.
To Cash paid for 2 Gowns of New Engd Manufacture for Mrs.Franklin }
2. 1. 9 2. 15. 8
To Ballance of Rent due from James Reilly who proved unable to Pay it and at last was Oblig’d to quit the House by a Writ of Ejectment.5 This Rent was regularly paid to Mrs. Mecom }
13. 16. 4 18. 8. 5
1769 Mar 12 To a Prise Ticket in State Lottery6 20. 26. 13. 4
1771 July To a Ditto 20. 26. 13. 4
1772 June To a Bill of Exchange Drawn by Symmes on Gardoque7 100. 133. 6. 8
two Dutch Bills neated 162. 11. 6 216. 15. 4
One Ditto   Ditto 92. 4. 122. 18. 8
One Ditto  Wheatly 100. 133. 6. 8
Decr To 1 Ditto Sheppard on King8 27. 36.
1773 Apr
To 1 Ditto drawn by T Russell
Note this Bill was for £50. but bought under Par and being remitted on Acco. of Mrs. Mecom is charg’d only as it cost, the Profit belonging to her. It is Part of the m[one]y recd of Hall and was sent home to purchase Millinary Goods for Mrs. M.9
48. 15. 65.
May 3
To Cash paid Neice on
her Marriage1
Paid Mrs. Mecom 68. 6. 8
Ditto paid Ditto 47. 8. 8
1774 July
Ditto paid Ditto 16. 19. 6
 L M[one]y 182. 14. 10
137. 1. 182. 14. 2
These Sums and Russells Bill were on Acco: of what was recd: and to be recd: of Hall
Aug 10
To Cash paid John Adams Charges for a suit against Hall }
3. 15. 5. 6
£864.2 5. 7 1128. 7. 5
Ballce: due Dr. F 15. 4. 1 20. 5.
carried to Aud[it] No 23 £861. 9. 8 1148. 12. 10¾
Cr. Sterling Lawfull Mony
Octr. By Ballance of Old Accot. £9. 2. 11½  12. 3. 11½
June 12 By Cash of John Head 3. 12. –  4. 16.
Feby. 27 By an Order in favr. Robbins 28. 19. 2¼  38. 4. 3
“ 28 By Cash Recd. of Govr. Bernard4 24. 1. 1½  32. 1. 6
Aprl 10 By Ditto of Ditto 7. 11. 2¼  10. 1.
Augt. 1 By John Gooches Order 3. 12. –  4. 16.
By Over Charge in Braizers Bill in Sum for Repairs &c. }
4. 1½  5. 6
1769 July By 2 Lottery Ticketts 29. 5. –  39.
1770 July By 2 Ditto 28. 13. –  38. 4.
1771 July By Cash advanced J Williams Junr5 308. 16. 10½  411. 15. 10½
1772 Jany By Ditto Paid to James Warren 83. 3. 9½  110. 18. 4
By Ditto advanced to Josiah Williams 118 Guineas 123. 18. –  165. 4.
Jany 1
By Cash Recd. of Hall 133. 6. 8
By Ditto of do. 47. 8. 8
By Ditto of do. 11.
By Ditto of do. 7.
By Ditto of do. 4.
L M[one]y 202. 15. 4
152. 1. 6  202. 15. 4
Mrs. M. is paid £65.
182. 14. 10
£247. 14. 10
On Acct. of Halls Bond but the above is all Yet received
The following Sums are Omitted in J Williams Accot:
1772 May
Paid Mr. Stanly teaching Josiah Williams Music £31. 10. –*
Paid Ditto’s Taylor 19. 16. 11*
6 Bottles of Elastic Gum 1. 16. –*
1773 March
Paid for Behmens Works6 5. 12. –*
58. 14. 11  78. 6. 7
 The Articles in red Ink are in JW’s Accot: and not in D F. Books.
 Those in black Ink, are in Doctr. Fs Books and JW’s Accot: too, except some little Difference in sums which are here put right.7
 Those in Black Ink with this mark*8 are in D. Fs Books and not in JW’s Acct. £861. 9. 8  1148. 12. 10¾

Endorsed: Dr Franklins Aud[it] with Jona Williams Senr No 1 [and in pencil:] 1763 74 Drew up for F by Jno Wms Jr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9See above, V, 66–7.

1In Jonathan Junior’s MS account the debit and credit entries are in parallel columns on a wide sheet of paper. Because of typographical limitations, the account is printed here with the credit entries following the debits.

2BF’s “order” not found.

3Jane Mecom’s daughter Sarah Flagg died June 12, 1764, followed within a few months by two of Sarah’s daughters and on Sept. 11, 1765, by Jane’s husband Edward Mecom. As she wrote her sister-in-law DF, Sept. 28, 1765, “Nothing but troble can you hear from me.” On Feb. 27, 1766, she wrote DF again acknowledging a letter (not found) in which DF had compassionately suggested that Jonathan Williams be asked to give Jane some money, charging it to BF’s account. Jane sent the letter to Williams; “he came Emediatly Himself and ofered me Eaght Dolars,” which she accepted in order to buy some needed clothing. Van Doren, Franklin-Mecom, pp. 83–5, 88–9.

4On the Franklin family’s specialty, the manufacture of crown soap, see above, I, 348 n. Elizabeth Franklin was the widow of BF’s brother John (C.8).

5Jonathan Junior overlooked an entry in his father’s account dated June 8, 1765: “To Benj. Kent for Removing a Tenent 15s.” The lawyer was Benjamin Kent (1708–1788), distinguished Boston attorney, an acquaintance and later correspondent of BF.

6As the credit side of this account shows and as the correspondence between the two men explains, BF bought two state lottery tickets in England for Williams in 1769 and again in 1770. In each instance one of the tickets won a £20 prize and the other was blank. BF to Williams, Oct. 4, 1769; June 6, 1770; March 5, 1771; Williams to BF, Nov. 16, 1770; Jan. 19, 1771; Oct. 17, 1773 (all APS); BF to Williams, July 7, 1773 (Pierpont Morgan Lib.). Because of a mix-up in reporting the results, Jonathan Senior’s account gives himself credit for only one of the prizes. His son’s account shows both transactions, but he failed to use his special symbol after one of these entries of a prize to indicate that it does not appear in his father’s account. Jonathan Senior’s statement of Feb. 29, 1776, shows the matter correctly.

7This and the next three entries are dated June 1772 in all three versions of the account, but correspondence between Williams and BF shows that Williams sent the bills at various times between July 8 and Sept. 18, 1771, not 1772.

8The December 1772 date for this bill is correct, as shown in correspondence between the two men.

9Williams sent this bill of exchange to BF with his letter of Feb. 15, 1773 (APS), and BF reported its receipt and his purchases for Jane Mecom, June 4, 1773 (Lib. Cong.). She wanted to sell the goods to eke out her income. Hall was Samuel Hall, printer, who had married Sarah(?) (C.11.3), daughter of BF’s brother James. He had gone into partnership with his mother-in-law in Newport about 1762, and transferred the printing business to Salem in 1768. He had owed BF a considerable sum of money for at least seven years without paying anything on principal or interest when in 1772 BF lost patience and asked Williams to prosecute Hall on his bond. Williams engaged John Adams to bring the action (see the last debit entry in this account) and, under pressure, Hall, or some of his friends, paid at least part of what was due. Franklin directed Williams to turn the money over to Jane Mecom for her own use. Several later entries in this account refer to Hall’s payments. Van Doren, Franklin-Mecom, pp. 16, 133, 138; Williams to BF, Sept. 19, 1771 (APS); BF to Williams, Jan. 13, 1772 (APS); March 9, 1773 (Lib. Cong.).

1When BF learned that Jane Mecom’s daughter Jane (C.17.9) was planning to marry Peter Collas, he wrote Williams, Nov. 3, 1772 (Lib. Cong.), that he wanted £50 laid out “in Bedding or such other Furniture as my Sister shall think proper, to be given the new-married Couple towards Housekeeping, with my best Wishes.” The wedding took place March 23, 1773.

2Jonathan Junior transposed two digits in this sum; it should read £846, not £864.

3No such account has been found.

4This and the next entry represent Gov. Francis Bernard’s repayments of expenditures BF made in returning the governor’s son to Boston from Va. See above, pp. 353–4, below, pp. 373, 390, and several letters to appear in the next volume.

5In the latter part of 1770 Williams’ sons Josiah (C.5.3.1) and Jonathan Junior (C.5.3.2) went to England. Josiah was determined to study music, and BF arranged for him to work under his friend, the blind John Stanley (above, IX, 320 n). Jonathan was inclined toward business; BF gave him the task of putting his financial records in order and later wrote highly approving of the results and of the youth’s assiduity. This contact was the beginning of a long personal relationship between BF and the younger Jonathan.

6Jakob Boehme (1575–1624), a German mystic, whose name was often spelled Boehmen in English, believed that material powers are substantially one with moral forces. Jonathan Senior became a devotee and in his later years his preoccupation with Boehme’s theories and with experiments using poisonous drugs injured his business and his health to the dismay of his relatives.

7In the MS the heading, the memorandum, and the totals at the bottoms of the columns are in black ink, as are the entries taken from BF’s books, but only the entries are printed above in italics.

8In the MS the symbol is an X or plus sign imposed on a circle. For typographical convenience an asterisk has been substituted above wherever this symbol appears.

Index Entries