Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to [Peter Collinson?], 12 April 1764

To [Peter Collinson?]8

ALS: Charles E. Feinberg, Detroit, Michigan (1960)

Philada. April 12. 1764

Dear Sir

We have just now receiv’d the following Advice from Northampton County, viz.

One David Owens, a Soldier belonging to the Regulars, but deserted sometime since to the Indians, came in last Week to Capt. Carns’s Post and deliver’d himself up.9 He brought with him a white Boy that had been taken Prisoner by the Indians last Fall, when they kill’d the People in the Flat upon Delaware; and also five fresh Indian Scalps. The Account given by him and the Boy is, that they were with a Party of nine Indians to wit, 5 Men, 2 Women, and 2 Children, coming down Sasquehanah to fetch Corn from their last Year’s Planting Place; that they went ashore and encamp’d at Night, and made a Fire by which they slept; that in the Night Owens made the white Boy get up from among the Indians, and go to the other side of the Fire; and then taking up the Indians Guns, he shot two of the Men immediately, and with his Hatchet dispatch’d another Man together with the Women and Children. Two Men only made their Escape. Owens scalp’d the 5 grown Persons, and bid the white Boy scalp the Children; but he declin’d it; so they were left. He reports that the Indians were assembling in great Numbers when he left them. I am, Sir, Your most obedient Servant

B Franklin

A Pedagoge

22d: Sent Henton Brown the Gazett June 2: 17641

The Above Bloody Scheme of D: Owen to Atone for His Desertion is very Shocking. What must the Five Indian Nations Think of the White Men Who Vie with them in Cruelties.2

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8The recipient is so identified because the notes following BF’s signature are certainly in Collinson’s handwriting. The “A Pedagoge,” which appears in the lower left-hand corner of the first page, where the name of the person addressed was often placed in eighteenth-century letters, including BF’s, is highly puzzling. It is not in BF’s hand, and only possibly in Collinson’s; no person of that or a similar name is known among BF’s correspondents, nor can any schoolmaster be suggested to whom this letter might have been sent. Against the identification of Collinson as the intended recipient of this letter are its formality of address, close, and general tone, as compared, for example, with BF’s letter of April 30, 1764 (below, pp. 180–3), and the fact that the later communication makes no reference to the earlier one or its subject matter. Perhaps someone else in England received this letter and passed it along to Collinson, who then added the notes at the end. Alternatively, the final sentence of this letter suggests the possibility that BF, writing as one of the provincial commissioners, was addressing one of the governmental officials in Pa., but this suggestion leaves unanswered the question of how the letter got to Collinson.

9Owens’ story, confirmed by Sir William Johnson, was that he had been a corporal in Capt. McClean’s independent company in N.Y., had deserted and been captured, and lived among the Indians on the Susquehanna for four years. Governor Penn sent him to Col. Henry Bouquet on April 26, 1764. Bouquet and Sir William Johnson later used him as an interpreter. Sylvester K. Stevens and Donald H. Kent, eds., The Papers of Col. Henry Bouquet, XV (Harrisburg, 1942), 114, 116; Johnson Papers, IV, 586, 620; XI, 224–5, 241, 439, 451, 460; Pa. Col. Recs., IX, 188–92, 215–22, 228.

1The “22d” at the beginning of this line may mean that Collinson sent one or more issues of Pa. Gaz. to Brown on the 22d of some unspecified month. Henton Brown and his son James were BF’s London bankers; see above, IX, 218 n. Since there was no issue of Pa. Gaz. on June 2, 1764, this date probably indicates when Collinson wrote his notes.

2While the Iroquois may have been displeased at Owens’ behavior, the Delaware and Shawnee Indians concerned were not their responsibility, and they would hardly have been shocked by his actions. For a report of a later murder of an Indian attributed to Owens, see below, p. 528.

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