Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Charles Thomson, 11 July 1765

To Charles Thomson

LS:1 Library of Congress; extract: printed in The London Chronicle, November 14–16, 1765.2

London July 11th: 1765

Dear Friend

I am extreemly obliged by your kind Letters of Aprill 12th. and 14th.3 and thank you for the Intelligence they Contain.

The Outrages continueally commited by those misguided people,4 will doubtless tend to Convince all the Considerate on your side of the Water of the Weakness of our present Government and the Necessity of a Change. I am sure it will contribute towards hastening that Change here so that upon the whole, Good will be brought out of Evil: but yet I Greive to hear of such horrid Disorders.

The Letters and Accounts boasted of from the Proprietor of his being Sure of retaining the Government, as well as those of the Sums offered for it which the People will be obliged to pay, &c. are all idle Tales, fit only for Knaves to propagate and Fools to believe.

A Little Time will dissipate all the smoke they can raise to conceal the real State of Things. The unsettled State of the Ministry ever since the Parliament rose, has stop’d all Proceeding in Publick Affairs and ours amongst the Rest; but Change being now made5 we shall immidiately proceed, and with the Greater Chearfulness as some we had reason to Doubt of are removed, and some perticular Friends are put in Place.

What you mention of the Lower Counties is undoubtedly right.6 Had they ever sent their Laws home as they ought to have done, that iniquitous one of priority of Payment to Reseidents would undoubtedly have been Repeald. But the End of all these things is neigh, at Least it seems to be so.

The spicking of the Guns7 was an audacious Peice of Villainy, by whomsoever done, it Shows the Necessity of a regular enclos’d Place of Defence, with a Constant Guard to take Care of what belongs to it, which, when the Country can afford it, will I hope be provided.

Depend upon it my good Neighbour, I took every Step in my Power, to prevent the Passing of the Stamp Act; no body could be more concern’d in Interest than my self to oppose it, sincerely and Heartily.8 But the Tide was, too strong against us. The Nation was provok’d by American Claims of Independance, and all Parties join’d in resolveing by this Act to Settle the Point.

We might as well have hinder’d the Suns setting. That we could not do.9 But since ’tis1 down, my Friend, and it may be long before it rises again, Let us make as good a Night of it as we can. We may still Light Candles. Frugallity and Industry will go a great way towards indemnifying us. Idleness and Pride Tax with a heavier Hand then Kings and Parliaments; If we can get rid of the former we may easily bear the Latter.2

My best Respects to Mrs. Thompson. Adieu my Dear Friend and beleive me ever Yours affectionately

B Franklin

Excuse my Man John’s miserable Clerkship.

Mr. Thomson

Addressed: To / Mr Charles Thomson / Mercht / Philadelphia / via New York / per Packet / Free  B Franklin

Endorsed: Letter from B. Franklin 11 July 1765
Benj Franklin 11 July 1765

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1The body of the letter is in the hand of BF’s servant John; the postscript, “Mr. Thomson,” the signature, and the address page are in BF’s hand.

2The extract in London Chron. consists of the contents (with some verbal changes noted below) of the two paragraphs beginning “Depend upon it …” and ending “… easily bear the Latter.” The printed extract continues with two further sentences not found in the MS; they are reproduced in a note at the appropriate point. Following these passages appears a long extract from Thomson’s reply of Sept. 24, 1765 (below, pp. 278–80), the only version of his letter that survives. These extracts are prefaced by a note to the printer of the Chronicle, signed “W.S.” (William Strahan): “I make no apology for presenting to the Public, thro’ the channel of your useful Paper, the following letters, as they contain the sentiments of two Gentlemen of acknowledged abilities and integrity upon a subject which is of the last consequence to the peace, safety, union, dignity, and stability of the British Empire.” The Chronicle does not give the names of the two writers. New-York Gazette, Feb. 3, 1766, and Pa. Gaz., March 6, 1766, reprinted this material from the Chronicle including the added sentences.

3Neither letter has been found.

4For the attacks on the Indian traders’ goods in western Pa., see above, pp. 92–4, 114–16, 138–9, 142–5.

5The Rockingham ministry had succeeded that of Grenville on July 10.

6On the failure of the Proprietors or their governors to submit to the Privy Council the acts passed in the Three Lower Counties, see above, XI, 465–6, 474–5, and William R. Shepherd, History of Proprietary Government in Pennsylvania (N.Y., 1896), p. 345 and n.

7Above, pp. 115–16.

8In London Chron. this sentence reads: “Depend upon it, my good Friend, every possible step was taken to prevent the passing of the Stamp Act.” The second half of the sentence is entirely omitted. BF probably thought it wise to underplay for British readers his own opposition to the passage of the Stamp Act, and so made these changes before giving the extract to Strahan for publication as part of his campaign for repeal. Reprinted in American newspapers in this modified form, however, the passage seemed to uphold the charge made by his colonial enemies that he had personally done little or nothing to prevent the enactment of the hated measure.

9London Chron. omits: “That we could not do.”

1London Chron.: “it is.”

2London Chron. adds here: “Our country produces, or is capable of producing, all the necessaries of life, the wasting superfluities come from hence. Let us have but the wisdom to be content awhile with our own, and this country will soon feel, that its loss in point of commerce, is infinitely more than its gain in taxes.” BF expressed sentiments such as these at various times and to several correspondents, though never, so far as the editors have discovered, in precisely the words used here. It seems probable that, before giving Strahan a copy of the two preceding paragraphs for publication in the Chronicle, he added these sentences for the benefit of British readers in order to reinforce his warning of a possible reduction in British exports to the colonies if the government continued to impose taxes on the Americans.

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