Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from James Bowdoin, 12 November 1764

From James Bowdoin

Letterbook copy: Massachusetts Historical Society; ALS (fragment): American Philosophical Society7

Boston Novr. 12. 1764


I observe by the last Papers that your Assembly have again appointed you one of their Agents in Great Britain:8 which without doubt, is much to the mortification of the party, whose spleen has been lately gratified by your not being returned a member of the present assembly. I am very glad the Colonies are likely to have a Gentleman on t’other Side the water So well qualified to represent their Circumstances and State of Trade: a proper representation of which must make the ministry see (unless they dont choose to see) that they can expect nothing from the colonies by way of duties or tax whether internal or external; and that the duties already laid and those talked of, can have no other effect than to distress them, and injure Great Britain.

Whatever is forced from the Colonies in this way will at least so far disable them from paying their balances to Britain: it being demonstrably evident that all the remittances they can make, Gold and Silver included (the whole of which is gone and going) are not sufficient to pay those balances, and command the usual Supply of British manufactures. Much less will they be able to do either when their other trade (the Source of their ability to carry on the British) is so greatly embarrassed.

Our two houses have petitioned the house of Commons on this head.9 Besides separate Petitions from the Colonies a joint Petition to Parliament from all the Colony-Agents on the Subject of their rights and Trade, and being heard by counsel thereon before the Lords as well as Commons Seem the most likely means to procure a redress of Grievances.

I wish you Success in this matter. I have not yet heard from Mr. Canton in relation to the telescope I sent him some time ago. I shall be much obliged if you’ll speak to him about it, and desire the favor he would get it alter’d and sent as soon as his convenience will permit.1 I have desired Messrs. Lane & Booth to pay the cost. You said when here you thought Dolland’s Micrometer might be fixed to the telescope: if it can be conveniently done, I should be glad it might: in which case, if it would be in the way when not wanted, it may be best to have it fitted in such manner as to be put on and taken off at pleasure. Your Asistance in the contrivance of the Telescope, if your leisure will permit, I shall esteem a great favor. I heartily wish you a good voyage, success in your Embassy, and in due time a safe return, which I hope will be by the way of Boston. My best regards wait on you and your good Family. [?] yours2

Benjn. Franklin Esqr. at Phila.3

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Only the last few lines of the ALS survive.

8Pa. Gaz., Nov. 1, 1764, carried an account of BF’s appointment, Oct. 26, 1764, “to embark immediately for Great Britain, to join with, and assist the present Agent in transacting the Affairs of this Province, for the ensuing Year.”

9At a special session of the Massachusetts legislature in October 1764 the House of Representatives approved a petition to the King vigorously denying the right of Parliament to lay a tax, in which category the Sugar Act was specifically put, on the colonies without their consent. The Council, with Bowdoin and Thomas Hutchinson taking the lead, persuaded the House to tone the petition down considerably—the privilege of taxing itself was requested by the Legislature, not the right—and to address it to both the King and House of Commons. The House rather reluctantly consented to the changes suggested by the Council, and the petition, dated Nov. 3, 1764, was sent to the province’s agent in Britain for presentation. See Edmund S. and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis Prologue to Revolution (Chapel Hill, [1953]), pp. 34–6. The petition, as sent to England, is printed in 6 Mass. Hist. Soc. Colls., IX, 32–6.

1For over a year BF had been attempting to assist Bowdoin in having a telescope fitted out in England with a micrometer and a “Pedistal of a new Construction”; BF was chiefly relying on the efforts of his friend and fellow electrician John Canton to see that the work was done properly. See above, X, 351 n, and this volume, pp. 21–2, 99, 244–5.

2The ALS fragment gives the full complimentary close: “I am with great respect Dear Sir Your most obedient humble Servant James Bowdoin.” It adds a postscript: “I thank you for your last Pamphlet.” There might have been just time for Bowdoin to have received a copy of BF’s Remarks on a Late Protest.

3The ALS fragment includes the address page: “Benjamin Franklin Esqr. / at / Philadelphia / per Post.”

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