Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Richard Jackson, 18 November 1764

From Richard Jackson9

ALS: American Philosophical Society

18 Novr 1764

Dear Sir

Nothing has given me or can [give] me more concern than the Disturbances, and Disputes in your Province, the Mischiefs and Dangers to Pennsylvania in particular and to all America in general are inconceivable to one who has not been, in England a good part of the past year;1 the Effects that the foresight of their Mischief and Dangers had upon me and the firm Belief I entertained that Mr. Allen was affected by the Prospect as I was myself, made me open my Mind more fully to him than I should otherwise have done,2 and which I was the more readily induced to do from the Warmth with which he entred into some of my Notions and the Candour with which he admitted others, at the same time that I was thoroughly convinced that the Interest of both Partys were the same, and have an 100 times heard him confess that one of them could not gain a Victory over the other without a Loss of much more than it was worth to themselves. By this I meant that if Government could go on under the Proprietary it was much better for all Partys than a Change of Government could well be expected to be in the long run, at the same time that a Triumph on the side of the Proprietary could it be hoped for; would infallibly in the End strip him of the Powers of Government; for that a Man must know little of America to suppose such a Superiority would last long, and little of England, to hope that all the Proprietarys friends could preserve to him a Possession, which he held by a Tenure so unlike that of every other Subject except Lord Baltimore and the Defence of which was no mans common Cause; when attacked and clogged by the Efforts of a respectable Party in Pennsylvania.3

I confess I had formed a very advantageous opinion of Mr. Allen’s Honesty and good sense and therefore was disposed to talk with him frankly on a Subject, on which I thought all Honest Men of good Sense must think alike. I trusted him therefore with my Opinion on 2 or 3 Points which I was satisfied he could not use to the Mischief of any one without hurting himself and his friends, though he might make use of them for the Service of all Parties, to the good part of whom I sincerely wished Welfare and Happiness. But my Commission to him was to tell you my Apprehensions and not to make them publick, because I never thought that could do Service even to his own friends, in the End. I particularly gave him this Commission to you in order to open again that Corespondance which I was of opinion was of so much Consequence to the Province to bring about. I am sorry I was mistaken, but think that the Mischief will fall at last on those who have rejected Terms of Accomodation.

That I did not mean that Mr. Allen should make my Statement publick is evident that I did not even write them to any one else in the World but yourself, and that if I glanced at any such in my Letters to Mr. Galloway or the Committee it was at a distance; but I have to believe too that he has exaggerated my Expressions. I confess I have thought from the best Judgements I could form of the Opinions of People in Power, that it was probable they might be glad to take a favourable Opportunity of possessing the Crown of their Power of Government without giving the People of the Province any ground to triumph over those who have pretended that they have been fighting the battle of the Crown; I had reason for this Opinion, and therefore wished, to defend the Province from the Dangers it threatened. I thought it my Duty to do so; and therefore hinted to you in more Letters than one what I apprehended. My Apprehensions were chiefly on the head of Purchase Money to be paid to the Proprietary and some Privileges of the People of Pennsylvania, but my Apprehensions never extended on the former head to £100000, nor on the latter did I think that the Crown, would by Violence and unconstitutionally strip the Province of its Privileges.4

I do not write you this for Publick Use, perhaps it might serve some purpose to make it publick, but I know you will make no Use of it, that I do not consent to, and my design is only to open to [sic] heart to you on the Subject; and that it should go no further.

Since I wrote the above I received your favour acquainting me with the Event of the Election.5 I am heartily sorry for it, not for your sake, but for that of the Province. I now look on the hopes of Reconciliation as vanished for ever: and am Sure that the Event will be the vesting the Power of Government in the Crown. My Compliments to the Governor of New Jersey. I took all the Pains I could to get his Judge confirmed, but there was some want of form in his Appointment that rendered it impracticable.6 Besides I have really little Interest with Ministers of any kind though I keep a Post that gives me Access to them, perhaps it may be of Service and I may have more. Farewell Dear Friend and believe me to be with the greatest Sincerity your affectionate humble Servant

Rd Jackson

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9So far as is known, this is Jackson’s first letter to BF since the one of August 11 which discussed the petition for a change in government; above, pp. 311–14. Before he began to write, Jackson appears to have received BF’s letters of July 12, August 9, September 1, September 20, and (probably) September 25; above, pp. 255–7, 263–4, 326–31, 339–40, and 357–9. Much of the first part of this letter is in response to BF’s letter of September 1, in which he had reported on what William Allen had been saying publicly since reaching home on August 13.

1On Jan. 26, 1764, Jackson had indicated his distress at “the most dangerous Errors in American Politicks” he was finding “in 100 Places” and was combating as vigorously as possible. Above, p. 34.

2Jackson had written, Dec. 27, 1763, expressing his satisfaction with William Allen, “to whom I have opined my Sentiments fully on the General Interests of America, especially those that may be affected by expected Measures in Parliament.” Above, X, 414–15. During the next months Allen’s activity in opposing plans for colonial taxation were several times mentioned in colonial newspapers; e.g., Pa. Gaz., May 10, June 7, 1764.

3Jackson’s view of the matter was well balanced. There is, however, no evidence in Allen’s known writings or public statements that Jackson had convinced him that an ending of proprietary government could sooner or later become inevitable. From what follows in the next paragraphs it appears that Jackson’s approval of Allen’s position on the issues of general colonial policy had led him to underestimate Allen’s partisanship in local Pennsylvania politics; hence Jackson may have been less discreet than an agent of the Assembly should have been in talking about strictly Pennsylvania affairs with a leader of the proprietary faction.

4When, after Allen’s return in August, BF had visited him as an “Overture” towards re-establishing “a good Understanding,” Allen had stated “before all the Company” that Jackson had sent a message to BF to say that it would cost the colony £100,000 if the Crown were to take over the government from the Penns and had added that Lord Mansfield had threatened severity if the “refractory People” of Pa. should come under direct royal government. Above, pp. 327–8.

5Jackson apparently wrote this final paragraph after receiving BF’s letter of October 11; above, pp. 396–7.

6Following the death of Chief Justice Robert Hunter Morris and the disability, and later death, of Second Judge Samuel Nevill of N.J., Governor Franklin had appointed Charles Read and John Berrien to succeed them; above, pp. 96–7. Frederick Smyth (c.1732–1815), perhaps a recent arrival in the colony, had several friends high in British governmental circles, however, and in 1764 he received a royal appointment as chief justice, a position he held until 1776, when, as a Loyalist, he left the colony. N.J. Hist. Soc. Colls., X, 202–3; I N.J. Arch., IX, 475–6; X, 62–3, 145, 146–7, 220–1; XXIV, 426, 450–2.

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