Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Hutchinson, 27 October 1765

From Thomas Hutchinson

Letterbook copy (mutilated):9 Massachusetts Archives, Office of the Secretary of State

Boston 27 Octr 1765

Dear Sir

The grievous loss I have sustained in consequence of the resentment of the people against the stamp duty and the refusal of the assembly to make any compensation has obliged me to lay my case before his Majesty and to pray for relief.1 Indeed the loss is heavier than I am well able to bear.2 I hope you will think my Prayer reasonable and if you should I ask your friendship in Promoting a compensation. I cannot think I shall fail of success. No servant of the crown will have firmness enough to do his duty in the colonies if they are liable to be thus Punished for it and can have no redress. Indeed the general voice, here, has been that my [loss?] ought to be made good. Every body at first was struck with horror but my case is now stale and looked upon with more indifference. Perhaps I shall have the same fate in England if there should be any delay there or if nothing more [can be] obtained than a requisition to the government [torn] I shall always be a sufferer.3

It is not safe to give you a partic[ular account] of the deplorable condition we are in [torn] that such of us as hold commissions [torn] so much need of for[titude? torn] present I am with very great [torn.]

Docto. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9The lower right-hand corner of the page has been torn off, resulting in the loss of some words in the final lines. In a few instances it has seemed possible to supply these conjecturally within brackets.

1At this time Hutchinson was lieutenant governor and chief justice of Massachusetts. Though disapproving of the Stamp Act on grounds of policy, he supported its enforcement as a matter of law, and he had previously incurred disfavor by upholding the granting of writs of assistance in customs cases and by trying to stop the first Stamp Act disturbances. On the night of Aug. 26–27 mobs assembled again in Boston and attacked houses of officials of the Court of Vice Admiralty and the Customs. Well fortified with liquor, the rioters then converged on the Hutchinson mansion. He escaped from the house but the mob broke in, scattered and destroyed his accumulation of papers (many of them irreplaceable documents he had assembled for his history of the colony), completely wrecked the interior of the building and its contents, and had made a start towards tearing down the structure itself when daylight intervened. Hutchinson’s own accounts of the affair may be found in Peter O. Hutchinson, ed., The Diary and Letters of His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, Esq. (London, 1883), I, 67–70, and Thomas Hutchinson, The History of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts-Bay, Lawrence S. Mayo, ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1936), III, 89–90. More recent accounts include Gipson, British Empire, X, 295–7, and Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, pp. 126–7.

2Hutchinson estimated his loss at about £2500.

3On Feb. 24, 1766, the House of Commons resolved that losses such as Hutchinson’s ought to be compensated by the colonies in which they had been incurred. After long discussion and political maneuvering, the Mass. General Court passed and Governor Bernard signed, Dec. 9, 1766, an act compensating the victims of the Boston riots but at the same time granting general pardon, indemnity, and oblivion to the rioters. The Privy Council subsequently disallowed the act as a usurpation of the King’s sole power of pardon, but in the meantime the compensation had been paid. Gipson, British Empire, XI, 16–26. There is no evidence that BF participated directly in Hutchinson’s efforts to get compensation from the Crown.

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