Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from [Samuel Wharton], 27 May 1765

From [Samuel Wharton]

AL (incomplete): American Philosophical Society

Philada. May 27 1765.

Dear Sir

Yesterday I had the Pleasure of receiving your kind Favor of the 13th April,3 which I just sit down, to acknowledge, As the Packet sails sooner than I expected.

I have been much absent from Home, for two Months past,4 otherwise I should have regularly wrote you and Owned the Receipt of your several Favors of the 12th January and 15th February5 and at present, you will be pleased to excuse me, for not answering them particularly; As I am much engaged in Business.

It was with inexpressible Pleasure, your Friends heard of your safe Arrival and Especialy, As They were longer deprived of that Satisfaction, Then They expected; occasioned, by the long Passages of the inward bound Vessels.

I carefully advert to all you are pleased to say, respecting a Restitution for our Indian Losses and am convinced, That you will chearfully do every[thing] in your Power to serve us, In such Manner, As will be most to Our Inter[est.] I am greatly Obliged by the kind Manner, In which, you promise to keep an attentive Eye to Our Interest and That you will with pleasure serve my Partners and self, in the Way, I mentioned in mine of Novr. 23d.6 And I cannot help flattering myself, If you should fail in obtaining a pecuniary or Land Compensation, You will succeed in the Manner, I presumed to hint to you, in the last mentioned Letter.7 I am sorry to find, That There are as many Persons, as you mention endeavouring to purchase Old Rights;8 Some of Them however, are come Away and most of the Others, will follow Them, soon; When I apprehend, it will be the best Time, to apply; But this, you will be the best Judge of.

Your Friends are greatly rewarded, By the particular Notice, you are pleased to take, of the small Indications, of their sincere Friendship and They have the agreable Satisfaction, of hearing, from all the Neighbouring Provinces, That your Enemys are as much despised, for their ungenerous Treatment towards you, As you are revered for your Steady and disinterested Attachment to your Country. Indeed! I must do Our propritary Leaders the Justice, to say, That They are either convinced of the Falsity of their base and repeated Charges against you, or That, They have been so fully exposed, They are afraid of publishing any More; For Now (and Even before, the Packet arrived) We do not hear a sentence, transpire against you.9

Those of Us, who have exerted Ourselves, in the Cause of a change from a pro--y to a Royal Goverment, are highly exhilirated, by your last Letters, As They give Us Reason to hope, That, That happy Period is not far distant;1 For be assured, Until it arrives, Neither Our persons, Rights or properties will be safe, A Spirit of Riot and Licentiousness prevailing, thro’ Our province and particularly in Our Frontier Countys. Insomuch, That I am clearly of Opinion, That if, The regular and well executed Powers of a Kingly Goverment, are not soon exercised, In this distracted province, We shall ’Ere long be involved, in all the Calamitys of Another Indian War; For I am satisfied, The lawless Inhabitants of Cumberland County will massacre all Indians, who enter the interior parts of it, However They may cover Themselves, under the Faith of a feeble Goverment.

Our Friends wrote you fully, respecting the Insurrection in Cumberland County, When a part of the Goods, Our House was sending Out, (As I formerly informed you) To be subservient to the King’s Use, were attacked and destroyed, by a Number of Irish Presbyterians.2 They have also doubtless, advised you, of the strange Conduct of Our Governor and Attorney Genl. Who just went to Carlisle, saw Col. Armstrong and a few Others of the prop--y Minions—sent three presbyterian Parsons and the Sheriff to Conogocheague, with a Design, as They say, To apprehend the Robbers (who returned, as Every impartial Person would previously determine, without doing any Thing) and Then, without so much, as issuing a Proclamation, or offering a Reward, for the taking Them, They returned to Philadelphia. The Consequence of all Which was, That when the Cumberland County grand Jury met, They dared to violate the Oaths, They had taken and did not find a Bill of Indictment, against any One of Them, notwithstanding the most plain and positive Proofs was adduced.3 In short, When We consider That almost every Man in the County, has presumed to express Himself most disrespectfully of a Kingly Govement, It is not to be wondered at, If They should unite to save their Relations, from the Halter. I call Them Relations, because you may be convinced, That most of the Grand Jurors, were Relatives to some of the Robbers.

As soon as the Court broke up, all was Jollity and Uproar and They returned huzzaing to the upper parts of the County, rejoicing at their Victory Over Conscience and the Laws of their Country—When a fresh Occasion presented for Them to exercise their regulating Powers.

The Case is briefly as follows.

Mr. Joseph Spear4 (a Gentleman of fair Character) Obtained a Permission last Winter, from the Commanding Officer at Fort Pitt, To supply that Garrison with What Necessarys, They wanted; Accordingly sometime last Month, He was proceeding with 60 Horse Loads of Goods and got as far with Them, as Fort Loudon. The Evening of their Arrival, there, The Horses were sent to Pasture and the next Morning, the Drivers were stop’d by a party of Fellows all armed and black’d, in their Faces, Who demanded of Them, To Whom the Horses belonged and w[h]ere They were destined to &c. They were answered, That They were Mr. Spear’s and That They were going with Necessarys, to Fort Pitt, in Virtue of the Officer, of that Post’s, Permission. But all this was to no Avail, As Our Law Givers have determined, That No One shall go to Fort Pitt, But such as They admit; Wherefore a Party consisting of a Sarjent and Twelve Soldiers, were ordered to the Grass Ground, To escort the Horses in; But before They got there; The Rioters had cruely whipt the Drivers and burnt all their Pack Saddles and Blankets.

As soon as the Soldiers reached the Grass Ground, They collected the Horses and were driving Them, to Fort Loudon, But the Black Boys told Them, They should not; Wherefore Words ensued between Them and the Soldiers and Then the former, fired upon and killed four, of the Horses, After Which, an Engagement ensued between Them and the Soldiers; In which little Damage was done, save That the Latter wounded One of Them, in the Knee; When the Whole of Them dispersed—But They have collected, in great Numbers, So that Mr. Spear has not been Able to Move any of his Goods.

By some Gentlemen, Who arrived yesterday in Town from Shippensburgh I learn, That They are 700 strong and That They undertake to grant Permissions &c. In short, Every One, But the most prejudiced proprietary Creature, Whose Conscience and Understanding, are not implicitly directed to their Service, Must acknowledge, That We have scarcely, the Appearance of Goverment amongst Us; For could You beleive, That notwithstanding, this additional Instance of the rebellious and tumultuous Behaviour, of that County, Yet Even, not so much, as a Proclamation appears.

I expect Captain Callendar5 in Town to Day, When I hope to be furnished with the Particulars of their present Behaviour; Which as soon as I am possess’d of, I will carefully transmit to you.

My Partners and Self wrote to you On the 23d January6 and among other Matters mentioned to you That Mr. Croghan had given Them, the Preference of supplying Him, with What Goods, He wanted for the Kings Use &c. And Therefore We took the Liberty of begging the Favor of you, If not inconvenient to you, To wait for the Payment of the One thousand Pounds Sterling, We had of you and the Interest thereon, Until the Fall. But at the same Time, We requested, you would plainly tell Them, Whether you wanted the Whole, or a Part of it, before that Time and That if you did, They would immediately reamit it.7

We are greatly surprised, We have not a Line from you upon the Subject and are therefore, apprehensive, Our Letters must have miscarried; Wherefore I earnestly, in their Behalf, confirm the Above, and request you will be pleased to favor Us, with your Answer, as soon as possible; For it would give us much real Concern, If We could imagine, We had subjected you, to the least Disapointment.

Our City is now agreably divided between Two partys. The One rejoicing, at the Appointment of their valuable and firm Representative, To the Office of Stamp Commissioner8—Whilst the Other, speak their Chagrin and Distress, in their very Looks.

It is diverting enough, To hear them, in broken Sentences, hint, [remainder missing.]

Benjamin Franklin Esqr.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Not found.

4Wharton had gone to see Sir William Johnson and then Gen. Thomas Gage with regard to the goods lost in the attack at Sideling Hill; above, p. 94, and Johnson Papers, IV, 711, 717, 729; XI, 664, 666, 680.

5Neither letter found.

6Above, XI, 476–7.

7Wharton had asked that, in case it proved impossible to procure compensation in cash or lands for him and his partners for their earlier losses caused by the Indians, BF would get them “Recompense in another Way; That is, by having each of us appointed to some office of Profit,” if the Crown should take over the government of the province.

8That is, the Indian traders’ claims to compensation for losses of 1754. George Croghan and his associates became active in buying up such claims. Nicholas B. Wainwright, George Croghan Wilderness Diplomat (Chapel Hill, [1959]), pp. 207, 224, 253–4.

9There appears to have been a temporary lull in the publication of attacks on BF and his friends during the spring and early summer of 1765.

1Writing to political associates in letters now missing, BF had apparently shown optimism about the success of the Assembly’s petition, once matters of more immediate concern, such as the Stamp Act, were settled. For one mildly hopeful letter, see above, p. 67.

2See above, p. 92 n, and Eleanor M. Webster, “Insurrection at Fort Loudon in 1765,” Western Pa. Hist. Mag., XLVII (1947), 129–41.

3For Governor Penn’s accounts of his expedition to Carlisle and his unsuccessful efforts to bring the guilty persons to justice, see his letters to Sir William Johnson, May 23, and General Gage, June 28, 1765, Johnson Papers, XI, 746; Pa. Col. Recs., IX, 275–7. Writing to John Penn, June 8, 1765, in answer to a letter of March 16, Thomas Penn said he thought the traders deserved their loss for so directly violating the royal proclamation and the provincial laws, but he directed the governor to do what he could to bring the rioters to justice and to proceed against the sheriff if he did not “execute the legal warrants.” On being told of the affair Lord Hillsborough had said that John Penn should write him directly “on any extraordinary occasion, but,” the Proprietor cautioned, “whenever you do don’t say a word of the weakness of Government, but that you have taken every Legal method to do the Business whatever it is without Success.” Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

4An Indian trader. For letters and depositions on the incident described here, the kidnapping of Lieut. Charles Grant, commander at Fort Loudoun, and other acts of lawlessness in Cumberland Co. directed against British troops and pack trains going to Fort Pitt during the spring and summer of 1765, see Pa. Col. Recs., IX, 269–71; I Pa. Arch., IV, 220–41.

5Robert Callender, one of Wharton’s mercantile associates.

6Not found.

7The first entries in BF’s accounts after reaching London show that he had lent Baynton, Wharton & Morgan bills of exchange valued at £1004 14s. 6d. sterling. Journal, 1764–1776, p. 1; Ledger, 1764–1776, pp. 1, 2. Wharton’s present paragraph and the next indicate that the firm had asked BF to agree to postponing the repayment of the debt, presumably because of financial embarrassment following the loss of goods at Sideling Hill. Two days after Wharton had written these paragraphs, he and his partners learned that BF wanted the money and they promptly sent bills of exchange for £1000, which BF recorded as received on July 13 and 19, 1765. Below, pp. 150–1; Journal, 1764–1776, p. 4; Ledger, 1764–1766, pp. 1, 2.

8BF’s friend and political associate John Hughes. Warrants for the appointment of a first group of stamp distributors—including Hughes for Pennsylvania —were issued on April 3, 1765. Gipson, British Empire, X, 277. This appointment and that of William Coxe for New Jersey were reported in the May 30 issue of Pa. Gaz., so the news must have reached Philadelphia only a very few days before Wharton wrote this letter. None of BF’s letters to Philadelphia friends in which he may have discussed his part in the appointment of Hughes has survived. He had certainly opposed the passage of the Stamp Act, but it is clear that considerable time passed before he realized how violent the colonial opposition to the measure would be. Thomas Penn had also opposed the bill, and when Grenville asked BF, instead of Penn, to nominate a candidate for the distributorship in Pennsylvania, both the Assembly agent and the Proprietor appear to have believed that BF had gained a distinct political advantage. Understandably, the agent recommended one of his most stalwart supporters, little knowing what a disservice he was doing to a good friend, to himself, and to the party to which both men belonged. Penn, however, seems to have had a more realistic grasp of the situation than Franklin did, for he told William Allen, July 13, 1765, that, although he “had a very good right to interfere,” he was “determined not to name any one much connected with us there, least the People might suppose we were consenting to the laying this Load upon them.” Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa. For a discussion of the appointment, see Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, p. 246.

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