Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Wharton, 27 April 1765

From Thomas Wharton

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada. April 27th. 1765.

My Dear Friend, Benja: Franklin

My last to thee, was on the 13th. Inst. via Dublin; containing Robert Callender Esqr his Letter, and some depositions relative to the destroying those Goods:9 the Account of which I hope, by this time, has reach’d thee.1

Thy very kind and welcome Letter of the 13th. of Febry. I received a few days past; with thy Present of the Pamphlet, wrote in vindication of the measures pursued by P——t.2 I confess it’s wrote with a great deal of Art, But, We who are like to feel the Effects of such Measures, cannot help thinking that, the Cord is stretched a little too tight, and in the end, will oblige us, to think for ourselves, and become frugal &c. For as the Resolves of the House direct; that, the Monies arrising therefrom, shall be sent home;3 I cannot see, which Way the Inhabitants of the Colonies, can possible raise Spaecie sufficient to answer It; And at the same time, to struggle under the vast Load of Debt, they owe to England: And altho’ We may be obliged to answer those Duties, I am convinced, they will not suffer us to have their Goods, longer than they find, We can remit therefor: which will oblige Us, at last to manufacture among ourselves.

As Time brings most things to light; so a few days past I had the opportunity of knowing, what scheme the Party had formed, for the clearing of those Men who destroyed the King’s Goods, going to Pittsburgh; and their appearing under Arms before one of his Majesty’s Fort’s, threatning to Level it with the ground.

For the destroying of the goods, they are in the Indictment, to be charged with a Riot.

For appearing before the Fort arm’d, and threatning to Level it with the Ground, &c; They are to be indicted for an unlawfull Assembly.

Thus two of the most atrocious Acts are, to be wiped away by two of the Lowest Charges, which a Subject can be indicted for. And even this is done, only to save Appearances; for it cannot be supposed that, a grand Jury will find either of the Bills.4 I shall forbear making any Remarks hereon, as this Conduct will appear to thee, in its proper Colours.

I am just now told, that, Joseph Jacobs, (Sadler) return’d yesterday, from Fort Loudon, where He had Business of his own; and says, that as He pass’d thro’ Conoygocheig Settlement, He was stopp’d several times by the Inhabitants and searched, to know if, He had any orders relative to the Goods or the Treaty at Pittsbourgh; declaring if He had, He should not go on. For my part, I dread the consequences, which seem ready to flow from the licentious disposition that, these People are got into; and I am clear if, We have not a change of Government, there will be but little Peace, for Us.

WA—5 has lately rec’d a Letter from the Pr——r, which his Creatures say, mentions that the Prop—r assures him, He will not part with the govern—t, as long as he lives; and that it cannot be taken from him. That, he had heared of thy being arrived in London, But had not seen thee; nor could he learn, what thou art about. That through my Lord Pompfrett, He had obtained of the King, an Assurance, that he will not take the government; But will strengthen his Hands, to oblige his Tennants to behave, more circumspectly for the future. I do not beleive these declarations; but they certainly have added new Spirits, to their Party: However a little time more will ascertain the Fact.6

As to the Affair of spiking the Gunns; It rests thus, the Person who was prosecuting the Manufactury of Pottash, with Doctor Evans,7 was apprehended, on a Smith (in the Northern Liberties) swearing, He made 8 Pluggs for him; And taken before the Cheif Justice who on Examination declared, He had those Pluggs made to answer somepart of a Loom, He was erecting; and that if they would send to the Pottash house, in a certain place, they would find the 8 Pluggs—where, on search there were 6 Pluggs found. The Man protested his Innocency, but still remains in Goal; nor can I learn that any further Steps, have been taken to discover the Authors.8

The Party immediately gave out, that it was done by those Persons who were for a King’s Government; in order to give thee another Plea, for changing the Constitution. Others alledged that, it was done by some of the Paxton-People, or their Friends: But it is true, that the Person apprehended is a Pr——n; And whether the Public will have any further satisfaction in this matter, Time must discover.

The Mode thou mentions, with respect to a Legislative-Council will be very agreeable; and I cannot doubt but, will answer the good Intention of such an Institution.9

Most People here are averse to having Representatives, in Parliament;1 in that their Number will be so small, as to be of little use, in the division of the House. The difficulty of getting Men, independant in Fortune, and whose Interest, as well as Inclination, would Lead them, to Reside in England; would be very great: And whether, the having a few Members to represent America, in Parliament, might not give the M—ry, a better pretence of Laying heavier Burthens upon Us, without so much as letting the Colonies know, the Measure proposed; or offering a method which would be less injurious to them?

We were yesterday informed by some Persons, who came from the Westward, that some of the Inhabitants of Cumberland-County, joined with some Virginians, have formed a settlement 30 or 40 Miles on this side of Pittsbourgh; which they have laid out, on the Principel of the new England settlements; Living in a compact Body, and are determined to defend themselves. This is made on Lands not yet purchased of the Indians, and will if not timely prevented by their being removed, cause another Indian War.

May 1st.—I am told that the Cumberland-County Court is over, and that every one of those Persons charged on Oath with destroying the Goods at Sidelong Hill, were acquitted by the grand Jury of that County. This was brought us by a Person, who came last evening from thence; so that now they have settled this Affair unless the Crown interfeers. And a little while hence, It will be difficult to find a Man, Who was concerned therein, as they are now selling off their Places, and removing, (its supposed) for Carolina.

My Father2 desires his sincere Respects may be paid thee; And please to accept the same From, Thy Assured Friend

Tho Wharton

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9The letters from Wharton and Callender have not been found; the depositions may have been some of those listed above, p. 93 n.

1For the destruction of a pack train of Indian trade goods owned by Baynton, Wharton & Morgan, Robert Callender, Robert Field, and George Croghan by a band of frontiersmen, called the “Black Boys,” led by James Smith, see above, p. 92–3 n.

2BF’s letter of Feb. 13, 1765, has not been found. The pamphlet which he sent Wharton may have been the important essay by George Grenville’s secretary, Thomas Whately, The Regulations Lately Made concerning the Colonies and the Taxes Imposed upon Them, Considered, advertised as “This Day … published” in London Chron., Jan. 19–22, 1765.

3Pa. Gaz., April 18, 1765, published under the heading “Extract from the Votes of the House of Commons of Great-Britain,” Feb. 7, 1765, a series of resolves of a committee of the whole house, which were incorporated into the Stamp Act without much change. The resolve to which Wharton is referring, the last in the series published by Pa. Gaz., stated that “the produce of all the said duties [shall] be paid into the receipt of his Majesty’s exchequer; and there reserved, to be, from time to time, disposed of by parliament, towards further defraying the necessary expences of defending, protecting, and securing, the said colonies and plantations.” The Stamp Act as passed (5 Geo. III, c. 12, sec. 57) directed that the duties should be paid in sterling values at 5s. 6d. per ounce of silver, but it did not specifically require, as the earlier resolve had seemed to do, the uneconomic and disrupting procedure of shipping the money physically to the Exchequer in England and later transferring an equivalent amount back to America to be spent in maintenance of the British troops there. After long delays the Treasury Board ordered in July that the customs collectors and stamp distributors in the colonies were to turn over their receipts to the deputy paymaster of the Army in America, receiving in return his bills of exchange drawn on the paymaster general; a series of credit transactions in England would then clear the accounts of all offices concerned. [Charles Lloyd], The Conduct of the Late Administration Examined (London, 1767), pp. 37–8; Jack M. Sosin, “A Postscript to the Stamp Act,” Amer. Hist. Rev., LXIII (July 1958), 918–23.

4Just as Wharton supposed, a grand jury convened at Carlisle in April refused to return any indictments against the “Black Boys”; see above, p. 94 n.

5William Allen.

6George Fermor, second earl of Pomfret, 1722–1785, lord of the Bedchamber, 1763–81, was Thomas Penn’s brother-in-law. Only a month earlier rumors had been circulating in Philadelphia that the Pomfrets were trying to persuade Penn to relinquish the government of Pa. to the King. See above, p. 84.

7Dr. Cadwalader Evans; see above, p. 82 n.

8Pa. Gaz., April 18, 1765, reported that on Sunday, April 14, the guns at the fort at Wicacoa and at the barracks in the Northern Liberties were discovered “to be all spiked up,” which occasioned “great Surprise and Uneasiness among the Inhabitants.” On the testimony of a smith who had made the spikes, one Benjamin Baker was taken into custody, examined by Chief Justice William Allen, and put in jail. At a trial on April 11, 1766, Baker was found guilty of spiking the guns, imprisoned for a year, fined £200, and compelled to find security for himself of £1,000 for his good behavior for the next two years. Pa. Gaz., April 17, 1766.

9Wharton had earlier praised a legislative council as a possible bulwark for the Quakers against Presbyterian domination of the government of Pa. See above, XI, 484–5.

1The possibility of colonial representation in Parliament was a live topic throughout the colonies at this time. Pa. Gaz., Feb. 28, 1765, carried an item from London Chron., Nov. 22–24, 1764, that “it is certainly on the carpet, for the British plantations to have the privelege of representation in the House of Commons in England; but we are told that they are not to be chose by the whole body of the people in our colonies, but by and from amongst the members of the assemblies of the several provinces.”

2Joseph Wharton; see above, XI, 451 n.

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