Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Wharton, 7 November 1765

From Thomas Wharton

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada. Novem. 7. 1765

My Dear friend

Thy Acceptable favour of the 19th of August1 I had the Pleasure of receiving, and am altogether of thy Mind that if this Meeting at New York shall be favourably look’d on by our Superiors at Home, Meetings of this kind may in future be of great service to America; And as I understand the Affairs thereat transacted, were laid before our House, at their last Meeting, and by the Committee of Correspondence transmitted to thee, I need not Point the Fact out.2

The mail by the September Pacquet Arrived this day, and by thy Letters We have the satisfaction of finding, that thou enjoy’d a good state of Health, and that the Petition was Lodged and on its way for determination.3

On the 5th. Ulto. I wrote thee a few Lines via Bristol,4 and therein gave thee a short Account of the Close of Our Election, which I hope thou has by this time receiv’d, being satisfied it will give thee Pleasure, and at the same time Convince [Our?] Proprietors that their new Allies, are not capable of Carrying every Point they may assure them, they can.

On the Meeting of the Assembly, they thought it More Prudent to order a new Election for the City, then determine by recounting the Votes, whither J Pemberton or G Bryan, was Elected; Accordingly One was held, and the same Persons sett up, when after a fair struggle, James Pemberton was Chosen by a Majority of 171 Votes.5 This great disproportion is attributed, Principally to the Dutch who before Voted for G B—declining to Appear, and there being a better opportunity of Scrutinizing into the Quality of those who offered to Vote; for the Presbeterians used every Step in their Power to secure this Election, but in Vain.

I cannot doubt but before this, thou art appriz’d of the Imprudent and Unwarrantable Steps, which the several Colonies have taken in Order to render the late Act of Parliment Void, which imposes the Stamp Duty upon Us, And which Steps I fear When fully known at Home, will rather tend to Injure then relieve Us; I cannot help Joining in Judgement with my Bretheren, that the Act is fundamentally Wrong both with respect to our rights as EnglishMen, [and with the] Interest of our Mother Country; In some of my former Letters I mentioned, that if they would not hear our Cries, I could not doubt, but the Parliament would pay a Regard to the Prayers of the Merchants and Manufacturers of Brittain;6 And in Order to obtain this desirable End, the repeal of the Stamp Act, An Association was formed this day, and Articles signd by a very great Number of the Merchants, and will be subscribed by All, enjoining, that They will not Import from Brittain any Goods or Merchandize, untill that Act be repealed, with express Orders to their several Correspondents not to Comply with the Orders heretofore sent them, of which Instruction I now enclose thee a Copy,7 by this Means We shall be able to plead thro’ themselves more effectual, then all We could Otherwise do: and I think this Method far more Eligible then the Conduct of all the Governments Around Us, except N Jersey.8

We have by this days Post receiv’d from N York most striking and disagreable Accounts which I shall only mention in the General, as I suppose thou’l have a Particular Account from thence;9 Its said that the Populace Assembled to the Amount of many thousands, And After having Obliged the Governor to declare He would not cause the Law to be put in Execution, they burnt his Coach and did Him other damage, and then Proceeded to one Major James’s House (who its said had been free in his Expressions respecting His being capable of Obliging the People to Obey this Act) And there destroy’d every Part of his Furniture1—but all this did not suffice, they have at last obliged the Governor to give the Stamp Papers up to them, and are determined to send them back to London; this delivery We are inform’d was Advised by G[eneral] Gage, He seeing the Multitude determined, come Life come Death to have them; and by what I can learn no Condition or Quality exempted themselves from Joining in this demand.

Our situation is different not but that I think, there are many among Us, who would go all these Lengths; but our being at this Juncture so Split in our Politicks, keeps the C—t P—ty and their Adherents from engaging; but how the Storm will pass over I will [not]2 Pretend to determine; Our Port being shut up, the Courts of Justice and every branch of the Executive part of Government at a Stand, must create most distressing Confusion.

I make no doubt but our friend J— H— will give thee a detail of their Conduct towards Him, and in every Step they take they plunge themselves still further into the Mire.3

We hourly expect some Person or other will call on B Chew, and then it will be known What Part H[e will] Act, as He is to be Consider’d, As Probate of Wills Kings Att[orney] and recorder of this City, Our Majistrates, have not held Court since and know not what to do.4

Please to excuse this Letter being wrote in a great Hurry. I remain with sincere Respect thy friend

Tho Wharton

Addressed: For / Benjamin Franklin / Esqr / Deputy Post Master General of North / America / In Craven street / London / per the Pacquet / Via New York

Endorsed: T Wharton

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1Not found; precisely what sentiments BF had expressed in answer to Wharton’s letter of June 24, it is therefore impossible to say.

2The Stamp Act Congress came to an end on October 25, but the Pa. Assembly had already adjourned for the fall on the 17th, and its minutes of this session do not mention consideration of any of the documents adopted at the Congress. Wharton’s statement here is certainly in error, though it is possible that some of the assemblymen had gathered informally to consider the results of the Congress and that the Committee of Correspondence had written Jackson and BF about them; if so, no such letter has been found. See Galloway’s letter of November 16–28, below, p. 378.

3On August 9 BF wrote John Hughes that Secretary Conway had appointed August 14 for presenting to him the petition for a change in the Pa. government, but no hearing before the Privy Council took place until the first week in November. See above, pp. 235–6 n.

4See above, pp. 290–2.

5See above, p. 292 n.

6This suggestion does not appear in any surviving letters from Wharton to BF.

7David Hall’s one-page newssheet of Nov. 7, 1765, headed only “No Stamped Paper to be had” prints under the New York date line of October 31 the text of the non-importation resolutions signed by “upwards of Two hundred principal Merchants” of that city, and reports under the Philadelphia date line of November 7 that a similar agreement “is now on Foot here.” Pa. Jour., Nov. 14, 1765, prints the text of the Philadelphia resolutions, with the preliminary statement that on “Thursday last [November 7], the Importers of European goods, in this city met at the Court-house, where they came to the following resolutions.” Hall’s substitute four-page sheet of Nov. 14, 1765, headed “Remarkable Occurrences” likewise prints the text of the Philadelphia resolutions but without the preliminary statement as to when the meeting took place. Under these resolutions the merchants agreed, in brief, that, with certain limited exceptions, they would countermand all orders for British goods and would sell none shipped on commission after Jan. 1, 1766, unless the Stamp Act were repealed. The merchants appointed a committee of eleven (one of whom was Samuel Wharton, brother of Thomas) to get additional signatures and to oversee the general observance of the agreement. Both papers reported some 400 signatures. Hall added the text of an agreement among the retailers of Philadelphia not to buy any goods shipped after the following January 1 except as approved by the merchants’ committee and except goods of Irish manufacture directly imported from Ireland. The retailers similarly appointed a committee of eleven to get additional signatures to their agreement. Pa. Jour. printed this agreement a week later. For a further account of this matter, see below, pp. 372–3.

8While there was strong opposition to the Stamp Act in New Jersey, there seems to have been no formal agreement for non-importation among the merchants and traders. Since the ports of New York and Philadelphia almost wholly dominated the colony’s overseas trade and the merchants of those cities adopted non-importation agreements, there was comparatively little need for similar action in New Jersey.

9On the riotous demonstration in New York City, November 1, see above, p. 352 n.

1Major Thomas James of the Royal Artillery had reenforced the fort in New York and led in its defense. He was later accused by some New Yorkers of having “threatened to cram the Stamps down their Throats with the End of my Sword.” On the night of November 1, after the demonstrations at the fort, part of the mob proceeded to James’s house, broke in, “and destroyed everything in it, without leaving him and his Lady more than the cloaths on their back.” Colden Letter Books, II (N.-Y. Hist. Soc. Coll., 1877), 34–5, 56, 64–5, 76, 80; Colden Paps., VII, 98–9; Remarkable Occurrences [Pa. Gaz.], Nov. 14, 1765.

2Wharton seems to have inadvertently omitted this word, required by the sense.

3No communication from Hughes to BF in the fall of 1765 later than September 17 has been found. In spite of his somewhat equivocal “resignation” of October 7, “great Numbers” of citizens brought pressure on him for a more positive statement, Pa. Gaz. and Pa. Jour. therefore received from him and published, Nov. 21, 1765, a paper dated November 13 in which he solemnly declared “that if the Stamp Act shall hereafter take Place in the neighbouring Provinces generally, that [sic] I will not take the Oath required by the said Act, nor attempt to carry it into Execution in this Province, until it shall appear to be the Desire of the People generally, by their and your calling upon me publickly to execute the said Act.”

4The position of Benjamin Chew, Chief Justice Allen, and Governor Penn with regard to the courts was difficult, to say the least. Members of their political party had taken leading parts in opposing the Stamp Act, but as high ranking officers of government they could hardly participate in, or openly abet the direct violation of the law by opening the courts and processing unstamped legal documents. Merchants and others complained loudly, though perhaps with exaggeration, of their suffering because no writs could be issued, no land could be conveyed, debtors were refusing to meet their obligations and could not be sued, and “thus we are in the utmost confusion.” If the officials should meet these complaints by opening the courts in violation of the law, they could subject themselves to severe penalties. Most Pa. courts remained closed until word came of the repeal of the Stamp Act. Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, pp. 171, 173–4.

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