Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Franklin, 13 November 1765

From William Franklin

AL (incomplete):8 American Philosophical Society

Burin. Novr. 13, 1765
½ after 9—P.M.

Honoured Father

Mr. James Logan9 has just called upon me, to let me know that there is a Vessel sails Tomorrow for Liverpool,1 and that he returns to Philadelphia early in the Morning in hopes of being in Time to write by her. Had I known anything of this Vessel’s being to sail before, I should have wrote you a long Letter, as I have a great deal to communicate had I Time, but at present I am obliged to write to the Lords of Trade, and acquaint them with our Situation with regard to the Stamp Act.2 I have had a difficult Part to manage so as to steer clear of giving any Umbrage to the People here, and of embarrassing myself with the Ministry in England. They have not given any of the Governors (as I can learn) the least Directions with regard to their Conduct on this critical Occasion; nor can we guess their Sentiments on the Affair, tho’ we have Letters from the Secretary of State so late as the 14th. of September when they must probably have heard of the Commotions on Account of the Stamp Act. It was extremely lucky for me, that the Proprietary Party published those Lies against me in the Paper read at the Lodge,3 as it gave me an Opportunity by a seasonable Answer to remove the Prejudices imbibed against me by the Inhabitants of this Province, occasioned by the many gross Falsehoods which the Proprietarians had got circulated.4 If I had not published something to refute them, I have every Reason to think that I should have been burnt in Effigy in several of the Counties, and had my Effects destroyed. But I thank God I now stand extremely well with the People in all Parts of the Province. And their Resentment is turn’d against their Speaker, whom they have burnt in Effigy in most of the Towns in E. Jersey, for not signing the Addresses at the Congress.5 They talk of expelling him at the next Sessions 1st. For not transmitting the Assembly’s Answer to the Letter from the Speaker of Massachusetts. 2d. for calling the Members of Assembly together by his own Authority without having first apply’d to the Governor to call them. His having Recourse to this irregular Procedure, made the People believe he had faild in getting the House called in a regular Way, and consequently confirm’d the Reports of my being averse to their Meeting. 3d. for not signing the Addresses at New York.

Mr. D[avi]d Ogden6 at the last Meeting of the Council moved that I should call the Assembly immediately without any Application of the Members of Assembly but I chose to avoid it, as I must have then gone to Amboy, and must have made a Speech to them on the Subject, which I would willingly guard against, as I cannot suffer myself to call the Authority of Parliament to pass such an Act in Dispute, and as I see, by what Govr. Barnard has experienced, that it can answer no good End whatever to attempt to reason with the People in their present Temper. But as it would not have been prudent to refuse calling the Assembly altogether at this Conjuncture, I put it on this Footing, that If the Speaker and 9 Members would request it the House should be called; This I find quite satisfyes the People, and will, if gone into, be an Ease to myself. For now I have Nothing to do when they let me know they are met, but to tell them that I am ready to receive anything they may have to Communicate.7 Govr. Barnard and Govr. Colden by an unnecessary Officioussness have made Matters much worse in their Governments than they otherwise would have been. Indeed for any Man to set himself up as an Advocate for the S[tam]p Act in the Colonies is a meer Piece of Quixotism, and can answer no good Purpose whatever. And if he is an Officer of Government he not only becomes obnoxious, but is sure to lose all the Authority belonging to his Office. It seems to me that we might legally go on with Business in the usual Way, as much as if the Stamps had never been sent, or had been lost at Sea, seeing that no Commission or Instr[uction]s have been sent to any Body to execute the Act in this Province. But the Council were afraid to advise this Measure lest it should displease the Ministry, and they were afraid to advise the not going into it lest they should irritate the People of the Province, who seem inclined to compel the Officers of Government to go into it; and will I am of Opinion do it, if our Neighbours set the Example.8

Enclose [remainder missing.]

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Only the four pages of a single folio have been found. The initial word of a following paragraph appears as a catchword at the bottom of the fourth page.

9James Logan, the younger (1728–1803), one of the trustees, with BF, of the Loganian Library; above, X, 273.

1Probably the Tryphena, Capt. J. Smith, reported in Pa. Gaz., Oct. 31, 1765, as having cleared for Liverpool. In Philadelphia, apparently alone among colonial ports, many ships’ captains secured their clearance papers before November 1, even though they were still only partially loaded, so that when they finally sailed later in November they could persuade the commanders of naval vessels that they were operating perfectly legally. Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, p. 160.

2WF wrote the Board of Trade this same day, mentioning among other matters that William Coxe, the distributor, had never received any commission or instructions for the execution of his office and that WF himself had received no orders or instructions from the ministry about carrying the act into execution, although a packet that left England about the middle of September had arrived in New York. 1 N.J. Arch., IX, 505–6.

3For the broadside headed “To the Freeholders and Electors Of the Province of Pennsylvania,” attacking BF, Hughes, and WF for their actions, real or alleged, in connection with the Stamp Act, that was read at a meeting at the Lodge in late September, see above, p. 312 n.

4Pa. Gaz. and Pa. Jour., Oct. 3, 1765, printed an extended statement by WF positively denying that he had in any way kept the N.J. Assembly from having an opportunity to elect delegates to the Stamp Act Congress; on the contrary, he said, he was known to be ready to call the Assembly into session whenever “the Speaker and nine or ten Members” told him public business required it. He similarly denied trying to persuade Pa. assemblymen from voting to send delegates. As to the charges against his father in the broadside, WF was sure that no gentleman of the proprietary party would subscribe his name to them in print, and he confidently left the defense of his father’s reputation to his friends in that colony.

5Robert Ogden, the speaker of the Assembly, had written the Massachusetts speaker, June 20, 1764, on the last day of his session to say that the N.J. Assembly was unanimously against a general meeting, preferring that “some Time” should be allowed to elapse before appealing to the British government against recent legislation. He added as a further reason for this decision that “the Trade of this Province is insignificant in comparison of others.” 1 N.J. Arch., IX, 496. When later on, at an informal meeting of assemblymen, Ogden was one of those chosen as delegate to the Stamp Act Congress, he did attend, but he refused to sign the documents adopted by the Congress. Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, pp. 109–10.

6David Ogden (1707–1798), a second cousin of the speaker and a member of the N.J. Council since 1751. His request for a meeting of the Assembly and WF’s response, as described here, are recorded in the Council minutes of Nov. 7, 1765. 1 N.J. Arch., XVII, 446–7.

7The speaker and nine members did request a special session; WF called it, and it met on November 27. The next day Speaker Robert Ogden presented a paper explaining that he had declined to sign the addresses adopted at the Stamp Act Congress because he thought separate addresses from the several colonies would be more effective; but because his conduct had made him “the object of too general a resentment,” he presented his resignation from the Assembly. The House thereupon elected a new speaker. Pa. Gaz. and Pa. Jour., Dec. 19, 1765; 1 N.J. Arch., XXIV, 680–2.

8On November 6 WF asked his Council for advice on several problems relating to the Stamp Act, among them whether in the absence of any commission or instructions received by the stamp distributor it would be proper for officers of government to carry on public business as usual, and whether he, as governor, should put the seals to writs and papers as usual until a duly appointed stamp distributor should appear. The next day the Council replied giving its advice on other questions, but in answer to these two the six councilors present said only that they “esteemed it a Matter of so much Difficulty and Importance at this dangerous Conjunction, that they desire further Time, and a full Council, to consider the Answer thereto.” 1 N.J. Arch., XVII, 443, 445.

Index Entries