Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Cadwallader Colden, 1 October 1765

From Cadwallader Colden2

Letterbook copy: New-York Historical Society

New York Octr 1st. 1765


My regard to you makes me give you the trouble of the inclosd Printed Paper,* one or more bundles of which, I am well informd, were deliver’d to the Post Rider at Woodbridge by James Parker, were distributed by the Post Riders in several parts of this Colony, and I beleive likewise in the Neighbouring Colonies: the doing of which was kept Secret from the Post Master in this Place. It is beleived that this Paper was Printed by Parker after the Printers in this Place had refused to do it, perhaps you may be able to Judge from the Types.4 As he is Secrettary to the General Post Office in America, I am under a necessity of takeing notice of it to the Secrettary of State by the return of the Packet which is daily expected, and I am unwilling to do this without giving you previous notice by a Merchant Ship which Sails Tomorow.5

It will give me great pleasure to hear of your health and of your success in everything that tends to your benefit. I am with great Esteem and Affection Sir

To Dr: Benjm: Franklin, Craven Street London

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Cadwallader Colden (above, II, 386 n) was at this time acting governor of New York.

3This was a half sheet, printed on both sides, in the form of a newspaper. The heading was divided in the center by a device nearly identical with BF’s “Snake Cartoon” of 1754 (above, V, 272, 275), but with the motto “Join, or Die” above rather than below the snake and lacking the ruled lines that framed the original. Below the title were the words “Containing Matters interesting to Liberty,” at the left, and “and no wise repugnant to Loyalty.” at the right. Following an address “To the Public,” signed “Andrew Marvel”, were two articles vigorously attacking the Stamp Act and laying the primary blame for the “tumults” in the eastern colonies at the door of the authors and abettors of the act. The articles were signed respectively “Philoleutherus” and “Philo Patriae.” The paper’s imprint was “Printed by Andrew Marvel, at the Sign of the Bribe refused, on Constitution Hill, North-America.” The heading is reproduced in facsimile and the entire text reprinted with comment in Albert Matthews, “The Snake Devices, 1754–1776, and the Constitutional Courant, 1765,” Col. Soc. Mass. Publs., XI (1908), 421–46. For further discussion, with some corrections of Matthews, see Ward L. Miner, William Goddard, Newspaperman (Durham, No. Car., 1962), pp. 50–2.

4The printer was not James Parker, but William Goddard (1740–1817). A former apprentice of Parker’s and later the proprietor, with his mother Sarah, of a printing office in Providence, R.I., where he had issued the Providence Gazette, October 1762-May 1765, Goddard was now associated with John Holt’s printing office in New York. Like Holt, Goddard was a vigorous opponent of the Stamp Act, and when the New York printers cautiously declined to print some of the strongest attacks on that measure, he went to Woodbridge, N.J. and there printed the Constitutional Courant on Parker’s press. Parker was at Burlington and Philadelphia at the time (above, pp. 274–7) and how well he was aware of what was going on at his Woodbridge shop does not appear in any of his correspondence. “I sent [the papers] by a confidential agent to New York,” Goddard reported later. “Thousands were rapidly sold.” Miner, William Goddard, pp. 50–1. At least two pirated reprintings followed in other towns, one of them apparently in Boston.

5Lieutenant Governor Colden and his Council looked into the matter without satisfactory results. He explained to Secretary of State Henry Seymour Conway, Oct. 12, 1765, that “The Gentlemen of the Council think it prudent at this time to delay the makeing more particular Enquiry least it should be the occasion of raising the Mob, which it is thought proper by all means to avoid.” Colden Letter Books, II (N.-Y. Hist. Soc. Coll., 1877), 45. Colden was placed in an embarrassing position, since his son Alexander was postmaster in New York City and some of the copies were distributed by the postriders. There is no evidence that BF took up the matter with either Colden or Parker.

Authorial notes

[The following note(s) appeared in the margins or otherwise outside the text flow in the original source, and have been moved here for purposes of the digital edition.]

º No. 1 of the Constitutional Courant Date Sepr 21st. 17653

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