Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Richard Jackson, 1 June 1764

To Richard Jackson

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada. June 1. 1764

Dear Sir

My last to you was of the 1st. of May,1 since which I am favour’d with yours of the 13th. of February and 10th. March.2

We are oblig’d to you for deferring the propos’d Stamp Act.3 I hope, for Reasons heretofore mention’d, it will never take Place. We see in the Papers that an Act is pass’d for granting certain Duties on Goods in the British Colonies, &c. but are not yet acquainted with its Contents.4 The Men of War station’d in our several Ports are very active in their new Employment of Custom house Officers;5 a Portmanteau cannot go between here and New York without being search’d: Every Boat stopt and examin’d, and much Incumbrance by that means brought upon all Business. Undoubtedly the illicit Trade ought to be stopt; and if all this Strictness is necessary to that end, I have the less Objection to it. But they tell me a Ship from Lisbon is seizable for a Chest of Lemons. Methinks such Trifles are not proper Objects of Laws. Lemons are no Produce of Britain: In our hot Summers they are necessary to our Health: Why may we not be indulg’d with them? To carry them first to England and then bring them here is the Way to have them spoilt.6 Thus People reason here; perhaps too partially to themselves.

This Use of Lemons brings to my Mind a Passage I once read in an old Journal of an East India Voyage, I think it was in Purchas’s Pilgrim.7 Three Ships sail’d from England in Company, and being long delay’d by Calms in the hot Latitudes, two of them grew very sickly, so that when they came to Saldanha, there were not well Men enow on board to bring them properly to anchor; but the other which had been very healthy, spar’d them Hands for that purpose. The Health of the other Ship is ascrib’d to the Captain’s obliging each Man of his Crew to drink a Glass of Lemon Juice fasting every Morning during the Voyage, having brought with him a Quantity for that purpose.8 This was printed 150 Years ago, and yet it is not become a Practice.

I saw in the Chronicle a Line of Notice, that after the Christmas Hollidays would be published The Administration of the Colonies. I imagin’d it might be the Title of your intended Work, and hop’d to have had it here by this time.9

Our Assembly met on the 4th. ulto. and rose the 30th. From the Time of their preceding Adjournment was about Six Weeks, during which the Bill lay ready for Passing, if the Governor had thought fit to call the House for that purpose according to their Offer when they adjourn’d.1 But he did not call them; whereby so much time for the western Expedition was lost. When the House met, he insisted still on using the very Words of the Stipulation relating to the Lots and located uncultivated Lands;2 and the House did at length comply, as you will see by the Messages.3 So this Money Bill, contrary to Rules, has been amended 4 or 5 times, the House resolving to stick at nothing, so the Service might go forward. Col. Boquet4 will now be furnish’d with 1000 Men by this Province, and thereby enabled to proceed down the Ohio, chastise the Shawanese, and take Possession of the Ilinois Country and the French Posts there; the Regiment sent up the Missisipi being return’d, as finding the Passage up against the Stream impracticable.5 By the Diversion he will make, he tells me, the more northern Operations on the Lakes will be greatly favour’d.6 The Proprietaries are angry with me, you know, and always speak ill of me; which will not abate now that I am concern’d in promoting the Application for a Royal Government here. When you hear of any thing from them to our Prejudice, I think your Friendship will remark in our Favour, that the two Colonies where I and my Son have Influence, have on this Occasion granted greater Aid to his Majesty’s Service than all the other Colonies put together.7

By the next Ships which sail in about ten Days, you will receive the Petition from the Assembly to the Crown,8 accompanying a Number of Petitions from the People, to take this Province into its immediate Government. It pass’d thro” the House with great Unanimity, only 3 Negatives, and those arguing not against the Expediency of the Change, but the propriety of the Time for making the Application. One Petition only was obtain’d and presented to the House against applying for a Change; and that, tho” sign’d with 30 or 40 Names, was apparently the Act of three only, as the Names were all wrote by only three different Hands. This Petition was from a remote Part of the Country, and the Persons unknown. The others for a Change, are signed by some Thousands of the most substantial and reputable Inhabitants.

Our old Speaker, Mr. Norris, has been long declining in his Health. During the Winter Session he was unable to come to the Statehouse, and the House met at his Lodging. At this Sitting we got him to come again to the Statehouse, but he was weak, and unable to keep the Chair the usual Hours; and after some Days he wrote to the House that he could no longer meet them, and requested they would choose another Speaker, upon which they were pleas’d unanimously to chuse your Humble Servant.9

They would fain have sent me home with this Petition, to assist you in the Application, supposing that Obstacles might possibly be raised by the Proprietaries, which, for want of so thorough an Acquaintance with Facts, you might find difficult to remove; and saying, that the Generality of the People not being well acquainted with your Character, were apprehensive that the securing our Privileges in the Change, might not be so carefully and fully attended to by a Stranger as by one of ourselves. I have assur’d them, that you are thoroughly acquainted with our Affairs, and will be as tender and careful of our Privileges as any one can be, so that no Assistance of mine is necessary. But to make them easy, have left the Matter on this Issue, that as the Petitions would probably not be consider’d till the Town fills towards Winter, there is time, before the next Meeting of the House (which will be the 10th. of September) to hear fully your Sentiments on the Application, the Seasonableness or Unseasonableness of it at this Juncture, and the Risques and Dangers, if any, likely to be incurred thereby; and that if it should appear to you, and to them on Perusal of your Letters, that my going over would be any way useful and necessary, I would not then refuse, but go and spend the next Winter in London in their Service; otherwise I expected to be excus’d. This being the Case, I beg you would give us your Sentiments fully on these Heads:1 For tho” my Love to England, and the Pleasure I should have in once more seeing you and my other Friends there, may make weak Reasons for going over, seem strong to me, I am very unwilling the Publick should by that means be put to any unnecessary Expence.

The Committee of Correspondence will write to you more particularly, when they send the Petitions, and the Bills for the Sum the House have ordered into your Hands.2 A Copy of the Petition you have herewith, together with the late Act, and some Messages relating to it.3 You will perceive that our Messages are very plain and blunt. The Governor intimates that we are deficient in Good Breeding.4 I suppose he is in the right, and that Gentlemen on your side the Water will be of the same Opinion; but I hope they will make some Allowance for Assemblymen bred in the Woods of America, and not expect the same Politeness in them as in a Governor fresh from Court. The Truth is, we have no Respect for our Governor, and we cannot counterfeit it, tho” perhaps we ought.

You will observe in these and our preceding Messages, much Contention about using the very Words of one of the Stipulations, or using Words with them, that might explain them in an equitable Sense.5 You, whose Memory is much better than mine, may possibly remember what was originally intended by those Words. I think it could never be, that the best of the Proprietaries located uncultivated Lands should be taxed no higher than the worst of those of the People; that being so manifestly unjust. Nor that a Medium Rate should be fix’d on for all that kind of Lands, as this would be too high for some, and too low for others. Nor that the common Rate should be taken from the worst kind; for this would lay the Burthen chiefly on that kind, which is unjust and oppressive to the poorer People. To make this clear, Let us take the extream and middle Values mentioned in our Laws, viz. Lands rated at £5 at £10 and at £15 per hundred Acres; and suppose A possesses 100 Acres of the first Sort; B 100 Acres of the second Sort, and C 100 Acres of the third Sort. Now, according to our present Laws, to raise from these Lands a Tax of Thirty Pounds in five Years, at 4s. (suppose) in the Pound:

A’s Land, worth and rated at £5 would pay 20s., which for 5 Years is £5: 0. 0
B’s Land, worth and rated at £10 would pay 40s., which for 5 Years is £10: 0. 0
C’s Land, worth and rated at £15 would pay 60s., which for 5 Years is £15: 0. 0
Total of the Tax in 5 Years is £30: 0. 0

But suppose all reduc’d to £5 Value in the Rating, and the Tax to be continu’d till the £30 is rais’d, then there will be only 20s. a Year paid by each, which producing only £3 per Annum, the Tax must continue Ten Years to compleat the Sum, in which time each Man will pay £10 towards it; and tho” thereby the middling kind, B’s Tract, pay neither more nor less than before, yet £5 is taken from C’s Tax, and added to A’s, by which the Tax of A is doubled, and the Burthen taken off the best Lands to be laid on the worst. The Proprietaries Lands we say are generally good, as he has the best Opportunities of choosing them; but not desiring to do them any Injustice, we us’d Words to this purpose, “that their Lands should not be tax’d higher than the lowest of the People’s under the same Circumstances of Situation, Kind and Quality:” and this we thought fully answer’d the Intention of preventing any unjust Burthens being laid on the Proprietaries. So much by way of Justification of our Conduct, which others must judge of.

I am, Dear Sir, with sincerest Esteem and Respect, Your most obedient and most humble Servant

B Franklin

Richard Jackson Esqr.

Endorsed: 1 June 1764 Benjn. Franklin Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1See above, pp. 185–8.

2Neither of these letters has been found.

3For the fullest treatment of this complicated affair, see Edmund S. Morgan, “The Postponement of the Stamp Act,” 3 William and Mary Quar., VII (July 1950), 353–92. But for a substantial disagreement with part, at least, of Morgan’s interpretation, see Jack M. Sosin, Agents and Merchants British Colonial Policy and the Origins of the American Revolution, 1763–1775 (Lincoln, Neb., 1965), pp. 50–3. On hearing that the Americans credited him with securing the postponement of the act, Jackson denied it, saying that he had “very little Weight or Influence” in Great Britain. See below, pp. 313–14.

4Pa. Gaz., May 31, 1764, printed the news (under a Boston, May 17, date line) of the passage by the House of Commons on March 22 of the “Bill for laying a Duty of Three Pence Sterling per Gallon on foreign Molasses,” a prolix description of the Sugar Act (which was actually passed on April 5, 1764). The May 24 issue of Pa. Gaz. had carried a list of some of the duties which were supposed to be laid under this act.

5“In April, 1763, Parliament passed an act laying the basis for the use of the British Navy in time of peace as an arm of the British customs service to enforce the British acts of trade and customs throughout the empire. Eight warships and twelve armed sloops were assigned to service in North American waters, whose commanders were deputed by the Commissioners of Customs … ‘to seize and proceed to condemnation of all such Ships and Vessels as you shall find offending against the said Laws [of trade].’” Bernhard Knollenberg, Origin of the American Revolution: 1759–1766 (New York, 1960), p. 142. For complaints about the Navy’s overzealous enforcement of the laws of trade, see E. S. and H. M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis (Chapel Hill, 1953), pp. 29–30.

6The Navigation Act of 1663, the so-called Staple Act, stipulated that all European goods imported into the colonies, with the exception of salt, horses, servants, and provisions from Scotland and Ireland, and wines from Madeira and the Azores, had to be first brought to England, unloaded, and taxed, on pain of forfeiture of the ship.

7Samuel Purchas, Hakluytus Posthumus, or Purchas his Pilgrimes, contayning a History of the World in Sea Voyages and Land-Trauells by Englishmen and others (4 vols., London, 1625). This work is listed in the Lib. Co. Phila. Catalogue for 1764, p. 26. The most convenient edition is the Hakluyt Soc. reprint, Extra Series, 20 vols., in which the passage here referred to appears in II (Glasgow, 1905), 395–6.

8This voyage was taken in 1600–1 by Capt. James Lancaster in command of the first East India Company fleet of four vessels, not three. For Lancaster, see DNB.

9London Chron. March 1–3, 1764, advertised that The Administration of the Colonies (by BF’s old friend Thomas Pownall, above, V, 339–40 n) would be “Speedily” published, and the March 29–31 issue of the paper printed an extract from the work; BF’s mention of “Christmas Hollidays” was apparently a slip of the pen for Easter. Jackson had written BF, April 4, 1763 (see above, X, 242), that he had completed “the Skeleton of my work,” and by Dec. 27, 1763 (see above, X, 413), he wrote that he had “begun to print” it, but whatever the piece was, it was apparently never published.

1The Pa. Assembly met on May 14, 1764, having adjourned on March 24. In a message to the governor of that date the House stated that the £55,000 supply bill which Penn had refused to pass “continues to lie ready for your Assent, and that we shall chearfully return on your Summons, whenever, upon more mature Consideration, you shall find yourself willing to enact it into a Law.” See above, p. 121.

2See above, pp. 111–20, for the dispute between Penn and the House about the taxation of the Proprietors” located, unimproved lands.

3See above, pp. 112, 204–6.

4For Col. Henry Bouquet, commandant at Fort Pitt and victor over the Indians at Bushy Run, Aug. 4–5, 1763, see above, VII, 63 n. Bouquet was in Philadelphia during the latter part of May and throughout most of June 1764 to confer with the governor and the provincial commissioners, of whom BF was one, about supplying his projected expedition against the Indian towns in the lower Ohio Valley. Sylvester K. Stevens, Donald H. Kent, and Leo J. Roland, eds., The Papers of Col. Henry Bouquet, II (Harrisburg, 1940), pp. 292–306.

5The 22d Regiment, under Major Arthur Loftus, arrived in New Orleans on Feb. 12, 1764, having come from Pensacola to ascend the Mississippi and to take possession of the Illinois country. The Indians opposed Loftus” passage, attacked him at a point on the river called by the French Roche d’Avoin, and forced him to turn back and return to Pensacola. Clarence E. Carter, ed., The Correspondence of General Thomas Gage with the Secretaries of State 1763–1775, I (New Haven, 1931), 25, 29.

6According to plans for the 1764 campaign drawn by Amherst and followed by his successor, Gage, Col. John Bradstreet (above, VI, 473–4 n), with a regiment of regulars and 2000 men from N.Y. and N.J., was to march west from Fort Niagara and chastise the Indians in arms against the King. Neither N.Y. nor N.J. supplied the full number of men demanded of them, nor did Conn. on whom a call was then made, so that Bradstreet was able to collect only about 1400 men, including regulars. With this force he left Niagara in August, proceeded to Presqu’Isle where he negotiated an unauthorized peace treaty with a small band of Indians, and then went on to Detroit where he held another Indian conference. On the whole, his expedition accomplished very little. See Gipson, British Empire, IX, 113–23.

7N.J. had granted 240 men for Bradstreet’s expedition, compared with 300 from N.Y. and 250 from Conn. Ibid., p. 117. Pa. had voted to raise 1000.

8See above, pp. 199–200.

9See above, pp. 195–6. Though Norris” health was unquestionably bad, there appear also to have been political reasons for his resignation. According to William Peters, Norris opposed petitioning the Crown for royal government and before resigning “enter’d his Protest” against this move. Franklin confirmed Peters” contention in his Preface to the Speech of Joseph Galloway, Esq. by stating that Norris had shown “some Unwillingness to engage in this present Application to the Crown.” William Peters to Thomas Penn, June 4, 1764, Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.; below, p. 295.

1Jackson in a rather ambiguous letter to BF on Aug. 11, 1764, advised the House “to delay presenting the Petitions.” See below, p. 313.

2The committee’s letter has not been found, but on May 28 the House ordered it to write “particularly” to Jackson, urging him to proceed “with the utmost Caution for securing to the Inhabitants, under a Royal Government, all those Priveleges, Civil and Religious, which, by their Charters and Laws, they have a Right to enjoy under the present Constitution” and informing him that if he should “see Cause to apprehend that, in the Change proposed, there is danger of our losing those inestimable Priveleges, he is … to suspend the presenting the said Petitions, till he has acquainted the Assembly with the Reasons, and received their further Direction.” Votes, 1763–64, p. 87.

3The “late Act” was the £55,000 Supply Act; the messages probably those of the House to Penn, May 26, 30, 1764; see above, pp. 203–13.

4In his message to the Assembly of May 17, 1764, Penn asserted that he would pass over with “silent Disregard” the “Abuse and Obloquy” which the House had recently lavished upon the Proprietaries. “The Rules of Good Breeding,” he claimed, “will always restrain me from retorting on you in the same Way.” Votes, 1763–64, p. 79.

5For the dispute between the Assembly and the governor about the meaning of the stipulation to which BF, Robert Charles, and the Penns agreed and which was incorporated into the order in council of Sept. 2, 1760, see above, pp. 111–20.

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