Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Samuel Johnson, [November? 1764]

From Samuel Johnson8

Letterbook copy: Columbia University Library

[November? 1764]9

Most Worthy and Dear Sir

It was no small Mortification to me that you passed by last Fall without giving me the pleasure for a few moments of seeing you.1 However I doubt not but your reasons were such as I should have allowed sufficient had I known them. It was with great [word omitted] that I read the Resolves of your house,2 and Mr. Galloways Speech, with your excellent Preface,3 and lastly that you are appointed immediately to go home to plead so good a Cause. Your way seems plain before you, and I heartily wish you a good voyage and happy Success. Would to God you were charged with pleading the same Cause in behalf of all the Governments, that they might all alike be taken into the Kings more immediate Protection. It would certainly [be] best for us all to be under one form of Goverment and I beg that your best Influence may be so directed, that the Goverment, at home when they take yours in hand may make but one work of it. I wish to Heaven, particularly in behalf of this, that that might be the happy Event for we greatly suffer for want of such a Change, particularly by our whole Assembly’s being the Judges in all Cases of Equity, and our Constitutions being so monstrously popular, that all our Judges and other officers depend intirely on the people; so that they are under the strongest Temptation in many Cases to consider not so much what is Law or Equity, as what may please their Constituents.4 I was quite tired with my College which was too Great a burthen for my years, and now I thank God I enjoy great Health and tranquility in this sweet Retirement with my dear and only Son, and remain &c.

To Mr. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8For Johnson, Anglican clergyman, president of King’s (Columbia) College, 1754–63, see above, III, 477–8 n.

9So dated because of the reference to BF’s trip through New England “last Fall” (his postal inspection tour with John Foxcroft in the summer and fall of 1763, above, X, 276–9, is meant) and because of Johnson’s knowledge that BF had been “appointed immediately to go home” to England. BF’s appointment as agent, Oct. 26, 1764, had been announced in Pa. Gaz., Nov. 8, 1764, which Martin Howard had read in Newport, R.I., by November 16 (see above, p. 459), so that Johnson in Stratford, Conn., could have seen the news a day or two earlier. He probably wrote this letter soon thereafter.

1On his way home from Boston in the fall of 1763 BF and his party passed through Stratford, Conn., sometime between October 28 and 31; see above, X, 279. Johnson had resigned as president of King’s College in February 1763, after his wife had died in a smallpox epidemic in New York; he retired to Stratford to live with his son, William Samuel, and resumed the parish ministry. E. Edwards Beardsley, Life and Correspondence of Samuel Johnson D. D. (N.Y., 1874), pp. 286–92.

2See Above, pp. 126–33.

3See Above, pp. 267–311.

4Since as early as 1732 Johnson had advocated royal government for the charter colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island. In a piece sent to the Archbishop of Canterbury in 1760, “Questions Relating to the Union and Government of the Plantations,” which he never published, Johnson attacked “two monstrous absurdities” in these two colonies: “they have vastly too numerous and unequal a representation, and … they make their general assemblies, courts of equity.” Herbert W. and Carol Schneider, eds., Samuel Johnson, President of King’s College: His Career and Writings (N.Y., 1929), I, 149–50, 293–301.

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