From Henry Bouquet (II)
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Fort Loudoun 22d. August 1764
I return you my thanks for the continuation of your most friendly offices in the thorny affair you have so luckily carried for me. I flater myself you will not doubt that I shall chearfully embrace every opportunity to do you Justice, and convince you of my Sincere affection, having only to lament that it is not in my Power to do it effectualy. The Inclosed is far from expressing my Sentiments of the real obligations I lay under to you, but if I can add any thing to render it of any future use, I beg you will let me know it.3
I am Sorry that your Sentiments concerning this Government have raised you some Enemies, as I am Sure you can have no others. I do not pretend to medle with Politicks, having no business with it. But being averse to all misunderstandings and Differences between men I love and Esteem, as they are the Bane of Society, and destroy that Confidence so necessary to Support it; I have long wished that the unhappy Disputes Subsisting in the Province could be adjusted in an amicable manner, and Harmony Succeed to these jarring Times. I aprehend that things are now carried too far to admit of Palliatives, and that Superior Powers, or Time still more Powerful, must Interfere to operate the miracle of a Reconciliation.
The Principle upon which your Government is calculated appears to me Erroneous in Supposing necessarily a close union of the Two Branches of Legislature, a notion which does more honor to the Heart of the Legislator, than to his Head; Where Power and Interest are concerned, Encroachments will be attempted or supposed; opposition ensue, and in that Case you want as in the System of Great Britain, the weight of a third Power to contain the other Two within their proper Limits, and act as Mediator, But that will be impracticable in America till Time has produced nobility and Wealth, whose intrinsic Influence will be Effective and not nominal, as that of a Counsel composed of Plebeyans, without personal preeminence:4
I don’t expect to see any alteration in your present System, tho’ the ministry appear averse to Proprietary Government: and The Board of Trade have just now overset the fine Super Structure raised by Lord Egmont, upon the Expectation of a Grant for the Island of St. John;5 I send you his Plan, which I have not yet read: It is said to be much aproved in England: when you and I settle our Colony upon the Scioto, we may make use of His Lordships Pamphlet:6
I have perused with Pleasure the Papers you have sent me; They are chiefly founded upon Circumstances which exist no longer, but in Mr. Bligh’s Letter7 I find several Ideas very well adapted to the present Times, and I wish the Plan of a Military Frontier could be put in Execution. I have taken the Liberty to keep Copies of some of them, and return you the originals:
We are perfectly quiet here, and I expect no disturbances till we cross the Ohio: I propose to leave this Camp on Wednesday next with a Second Convoy for Pittsburgh.8 Be so good to present my Respects to the Ladies, and believe me with great truth Dear sir Your most obedient Humble Servant
Benjamin Franklin Esqr.
3. This sentence establishes that Bouquet had already written the more public letter printed immediately above before undertaking this one, in which he expresses his private views of the situation in Pa.
4. Bouquet seems to have felt that the colonies lacked what he regarded as the essential third element in a balanced society and government: a cultivated and financially independent aristocracy, intermediate between the mass of the people and the Crown or its representatives. In Philadelphia he had mingled pleasantly with many of the wealthier families—the Allens, Shippens, and Willings, for example—but they hardly qualified as an aristocracy in the European sense. In a long letter to Miss Anne Willing of Jan. 15, 1761, he had explained his unwillingness to leave the army and settle in the province. The “Gentlemen” in America, he wrote, “are so much taken up with the narrow sphere of their Politicks or their private affairs that a Loiterer has no chance with them.” Their wives “are commonly involved and buried in the details of their families” and can talk with a visitor over “a dish of tea” only of “anecdotes of their days work, and the pretty sayings of their children.” If, on the other hand, he were to move in lesser circles, how could he “brook the supercilious look and the surly pride of the Humble Quaker? or the insulting rudeness of an Assembly-man, who, picked up from a dunghill, thinks himself raised to a Being of a Superior nature?” PMHB, III (1879), 141–3. As he comments above, only time could produce a true class of “nobility and Wealth” to serve as a “third Power” in politics. Without it, there was no prospect of true stability in the government of the province.
5. John Perceval, 2d Earl of Egmont (above, X, 286 n), petitioned the King in December 1763 for a grant of the island of St. John (now Prince Edward Island), over which he and his heirs—he had nine children—would be established as lords paramount with powers of subinfeudation and the erection of baronies on the island for a group of fellow petitioners. On May 9, 1764, following recommendations of the Board of Trade, the Privy Council rejected the scheme as proposed by Egmont but allowed him and the other applicants to receive smaller individual grants of land on the island on terms “consistent with those Principles of Settlement, Cultivation and Government which have been adopted for many Years past.” Acts Privy Coun., Col., IV, 654–8; Board of Trade Journal, 1764–67, pp. 6, 7, 31, 32, 33, 34; Andrew H. Clark, Three Centuries and the Island. A Historical Geography of Settlement and Agriculture in Prince Edward Island, Canada (Toronto, 1959), pp. 42, 231. Maryland and Pennsylvania remained as relics of a bygone system of colonial settlement, but the age of new proprietary grants, with rights of government and land tenure based on feudal privileges, was clearly over by 1764.
6. BF’s “Plan for Settling Two Western Colonies” of 1754 (above, V, 456–63) called for one of the colonies to be planted on the Scioto River; he had written to George Whitefield in 1756, somewhat lightly perhaps, about their assuming the joint leadership of a colony on the Ohio (VI, 468–9); and his letters to Richard Jackson in 1763–64 show his real interest in various proposals for western settlement. Quite probably he had discussed some similar scheme with Bouquet while the colonel was in Philadelphia during the spring and early summer of 1764, but how serious such conversations may have been cannot now be determined. Lord Egmont had printed his plan for the settlement of St. John as To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty, the Memorial of John, Earl of Egmont (London, ).
7. Neither this document nor its author has been identified.
8. Bouquet did not leave Fort Loudoun until August 31; he arrived at Fort Pitt on September 18. The Papers of Col. Henry Bouquet, II, 314–15; XVI, 138, 139.