Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from George Mercer, 4 April 1765

From George Mercer4

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Poland Street No. 9
April 4th. 1765. Thursday


I took the Liberty to wait on you to consult you upon some Quaeries which were sent me from the Stamp Office, which I confess myself incapable to answer.5 As I would wish to have the Matter properly represented, and am convinced Sir there is no one so capable to instruct me as yourself, I must beg you’ll give me Leave to wait on you to morrow Morning at any Hour that will be most convenient to you with the Quaeries: or if it should interfere with any Appointment if you would be so obliging to allow me a Perusal of your Answer to those sent you, I shall be extreamly thankful for the Favour.

I beg your Pardon for taking this Freedom with you, but really Sir I know no Body else, who can instruct me; I profess myself ignorant, and have been sent to already for my Answer. I am with Respect Sir Your most obedient Humble Servant

Geo: Mercer

Addressed: To / Benja. Franklyn Esqr. / Craven Street

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4George Mercer (1733–1784) of Virginia, son of John Mercer, secretary of the Ohio Co. of Virginia, had served in the armed forces during the last war and was a member of the House of Burgesses, 1761–62. The Ohio Co. sent him to England in July 1763 as agent to forward its plans for western development and to procure additional grants of land. Circumstances, mostly beyond his control, deprived his efforts of success. Except for one short and unhappy return to Virginia as stamp distributor in 1765, he spent the rest of his life in England and France, becoming heavily involved in debt and, at last, losing his mind as well. Alfred P. James, George Mercer of the Ohio Company A Study in Frustration (Pittsburgh, [1963]).

5Section 11 of the Stamp Act assigned the management of the American duties to the commissioners of the already existing British stamp duties and empowered them to appoint subordinate officers and “to do all other Acts, Matters, and Things” necessary to put the act in force. Since the details of actual operation had not been fully worked out in advance of the passage of the act (March 22), the commissioners would naturally apply to persons then in London familiar with the colonies for information on various local conditions and practices that would have a bearing on the arrangements to be made. Just what “Quaeries” the commissioners had addressed to Mercer and BF, among others, is not known.

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