Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Ross, 14 February 1765

To John Ross7

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

London, Feb. 14. 1765.

Dear Sir,

I received your obliging Favour of Dec. 20. and am glad to find, that tho’ so distant from them, I still live in the Remembrance of my Friends.

We have been of late so much engag’d in our general American Affairs, that it was necessary to let what related particularly to our Province sleep a little for the present; but it is nevertheless working gradually to its Point, and will, I believe, end as we wish it. For the Quakers, who, to show their Moderation with Regard to the Proprietors, have, (of themselves) undertaken to persuade them to reasonable Measures, will, on finding them obstinate, join their whole Force, and Weight to procure a happy Event to the Petition,8 especially as they dread nothing more than what they see otherwise inevitable, their Friends in Pensilvania falling under the Domination totally of Presbyterians.

The Changes you mention in the Magistracy indicate the Measures intended, and manifest the Means by which they are to be brought about. The hasty setting aside such able and unexceptionable Magistrates merely for their Political Opinions, was not, however, a Step the most prudent, for I think it will have different Effects from those proposed by it.9

The Stamp Act, notwithstanding all the Opposition we have been able to give it, will pass. Every Step in the Law, every Newspaper, Advertisement and Almanack is severely tax’d.1 If this should, as I imagine it will, occasion less Law, and less Printing, ’twill fall particularly hard on us Lawyers and Printers.

The Parliament will however ease us in some Particulars relating to our Commerce; and a Scheme is under Consideration to furnish us a Currency, without which we can neither pay Debts nor Duties.2

It is said here among the Merchants, that North America owes them no less than Four Millions Sterling. Think what a Sum the Interest of this Debt amounts to, and thence how necessary it is for us to practise every Point of Frugality and Industry, that we may be able to——pay them honestly.

Be pleased to present my hearty Respects to our Friends, Potts, Pawling, and Morton.3 They do not, I dare say, sleep a Jot the worse for their Dismission. There are Times in which

“The Post of Honour is a private Station.”

But those Times, I think, will not long continue: At least nothing in my Power shall be wanting, to change them.

My Respects to Mrs. Ross, and my young Friends of your Family; and believe me, with sincere Regard, Dear Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

P.S. I send you a Pamphlet, wrote, I have reason to believe, under Direction of the Ministry, with a View to make us Americans easy; which shows some Tenderness for us.4

John Ross Esqr

Addressed: To / John Ross, Esqr / Philadelphia

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7On Ross and the letter to which this is a reply, see above, XI, 531–2.

8There is virtually no direct information on what steps, if any, BF may have taken during the first months after his arrival in England to forward the project for a change in the government of the province. Certainly he devoted most of his energies in the winter of 1764–65 to working in concert with other colonial agents and friendly British merchants to oppose the impending Stamp Act. Similarly, little is known about the efforts of London Quakers to mediate the dispute with the Proprietors during the same period.

9In addition to Ross’s letter cited above, see letters from Joseph Galloway and Thomas Wharton, above, XI, 468, 484, for reports on Governor Penn’s omission of political opponents from the new commissions of the peace.

1See notes to the document immediately above.

2Possibly an overly optimistic reference to BF’s plan for a colonial legal-tender currency; see above, pp. 47–60.

3John Potts, Henry Pawling, and John Morton: three men not reappointed justices of the peace.

4Probably The Regulations Lately Made concerning the Colonies and the Taxes Imposed upon Them, announced in London Chron., Jan. 22–24, 1765, as “This Day” published. Sometimes ascribed to Grenville and certainly expressing his view, it was actually written by Thomas Whately, one of his secretaries. Most of the pamphlet concerns the Sugar Act of 1764, but the last pages deal with the fundamental issue of Parliament’s right to tax the colonies and contain a firm and explicit justification of the theory of virtual representation. For a discussion of this pamphlet and the colonial reaction to it, see Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, pp. 75–9.

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