Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Ross, 8 June 1765

To John Ross

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

London, June 8. 1765

Dear Sir,

If, according to the Custom here, I congratulate you on your having a severe Fit of the Gout,9 I cannot avoid mixing some Condolance with my Congratulations: For I too have lately had a Visit, or rather a Visitation, from the same Friend (or Enemy) that confin’d me near a Fortnight. And notwithstanding the salutary Effects People talk of, to comfort us under our Pain, I fancy we should both of us willingly hazard being without them, rather than have these Means of procuring them too frequently repeated. I may possibly be, as they tell me, greatly oblig’d to the Gout; but “The Condition of this Obligation, is such1 that I cannot heartily say, Thank-ye. I hope however that your slow Recovery prov’d at length a perfect one: And I pray that your establish’d Health may long continue.

The Outrages committed by the Frontier People are really amazing!2 But Impunity for former Riots has emboldened them. Rising in Arms to destroy Property publick and private, and insulting the King’s Troops and Forts, is going great Lengths indeed! If, in Mr. Chief’s Opinion, our Resolves might be call’d Rebellion3 What does the Gentleman call this? I can truly say it gives me great Concern. Such Practices throw a Disgrace over our whole Country, that can only be wip’d off by exemplary Punishment of the Actors, which our weak Government cannot or will not inflict. And the People I pity, for their want of Sense. Those who have inflam’d and misled them have a Deal to answer for.

Our Petition, which has been becalm’d for some time, is now getting under Way again, and all Appearances are for us.4 I hope before Capt. Friend sails, to be able to give you some Account of our Progress. My respectful Compliments to Mrs. Ross, and my Friends the young Ladies, to whom I wish every Felicity. I am, dear Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

John Ross, Esqr

Extract from Governor F. letter,5

June 8th. The Negotiation with the Proprietors is now att an End, and Mr. Jackson and I have set apart next Week to Wait on Lord Halifax. Mr. Greenville Lord Hillsborough &c.6 in order to forward the Petitions, in which as Yet, I Can Neither see nor hear of any reason to doubt Success.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9An earlier letter from Ross, not now found, apparently told of an attack of gout. For BF’s “Visitation,” mentioned here, see above, p. 127.

1In this quotation, “The,” which stands at the end of a line of MS, is in BF’s hand, but he left most of the next line blank, and someone else later supplied the rest of the quoted words. The handwriting does not seem to be that of Ross, though it may possibly be his. Ross was a lawyer and would have been familiar with the expression, which appears normally in bonds for the payment of debts and other performances. Perhaps BF and Ross had some private standing joke involving these words.

2“On these “Outrages,” of which BF could as yet have heard only in part, see above, pp. 92–4, 114–16, 138–9, 142–5.

3Probably a reference to Chief Justice William Allen. Thomas Penn had written Benjamin Chew, June 8, 1764, that Lord Halifax, secretary of state, had called BF’s leadership in promoting the Assembly’s resolves “a kind of Rebellion.” Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa. Allen, who had been in England at the time, probably gave these words circulation when he returned to Philadelphia, and BF could easily have attributed them to the provincial chief justice as an original remark.

4The preoccupation of the colonial agents with the impending Stamp Act and possible amendment of the Sugar Act, the King’s illness during the first months of 1765, the controversy over the Regency Act that followed, and a multiplicity of other business that confronted the ministry, had inevitably delayed any governmental discussion of the petition to end the proprietorship of Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, private negotiations had taken place between Dr. John Fothergill and Richard Jackson on one side and the Proprietors on the other for some sort of accommodation, but on the same day that BF wrote this letter Thomas Penn told Governor John Penn that he expected this “Treaty” would come to an unsuccessful end within the next week. Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

5These words and the quotation that follows, in Ross’s hand, appear on an otherwise blank page of BF’s letter. The original MS of BF’s letter to his son has not been found.

6These officials were respectively: secretary of state for the Southern Department (and hence in charge of colonial affairs), first lord of the Treasury and chancellor of the Exchequer, and president of the Board of Trade, the three ministers who would have most to say about any change to royal government in Pennsylvania.

Index Entries