Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Hutchinson, 18 November 1765

From Thomas Hutchinson

Letterbook copy: Massachusetts Archives

Boston 18 Nov. 1765

Dear Sir

I am very much obliged to you for your letter [of] Aug. the 15t.9 I was disappointed in one of the commissioners from Repres[entative]s of this Pro[vince]. Mr. R1 only having firmness enough [shorthand or cipher2] all the rest of the commis[sioners] except Mr. Ogden3 of the Jersies [shorthand or cipher.] I have been in most parts of this Prov[ince], and in NH and RH. Isl. within two or three months past and almost every where I found a full depend[ance] upon the repeal of the stamp act assoon as the Parliament meets, and if you ask any person how it will be possible to subsist with all our ships in ports and all our courts of common and civil law shut up the answer is it will be but a short time and we had better submit to any difficulty and loss than suffer such an act to take place. In Boston it would be utterly unsafe to make the least doubt of a repeal. Indeed it is not safe there to advance any thing contrary to any popular opinions whatsoever. Every body who used to have virtue enough to oppose them is now afraid of my fate. That paragraph of your letter which expresses your doubts I have not dared to mention.4 What have we not to fear from the news which in a few weeks we may receive from England. An entertainment was made last week by the heads of the south and north Parties of the — and a great number of Persons of character had tickets sent them and most of them were Present and such a junction is thought to be the only way to preserve the town from further outrages.5 The riots at N York have given fresh spirits to the rioters here. An uniformity of measures it is said will be effectual and join or die is the motto.6 When you and I were at Albany ten years ago we did not Propose an union for such Purposes as these.7

I am sorry I cannot exculpate the Province from Mr. Luthers charge against it.8 I very well remember the correspondence with him most of his letters having been handled by me. Soon after the Peace of A la chapell9 the Proprietors of large tracts of unimproved lands endeavoured to prevail upon the general court to take measures to encourage the importation of foreign Protestants and I think it was at the desire of the two houses that Mr. Phips1 wrote to Mr. Luther upon the subject but the majority of the rep[resentative]s in favor of these measures was small. You know nothing is more fickle and uncertain than a house of rep[resentatives] and in a year or two the majority was against the measures and altho divers letters were received from Mr. Luther which Mr. Phips communicated and some of them complaining of his ill treatment yet no answer was returned. I then tho’t the government greatly dishonord itself and I wish this had been the only instance in which it has done so. Such a conduct seems natural from our peculiar constitution. A change of Perhaps one quarter part of the members every year carry new sentiments in the house and, absurd as it is they will not consider themselves bound in honor to support the acts of their predecessors equally as if they had been their own. Perhaps this would not be the case where any express Promise had been made by a Preceding house.

I do not remember that any account has been sent by Mr. Luther of his expences. There may have been and I may have forgot it. I think if such an account should be now sent and a reasonable charge made for his trouble and some person employed here as his attorney should sollicit the Payment it may be obtained. If I should be in the Province I have so perfect a remembrance of the whole affair that I should be able to do him service and I would chearfully do all in my power but it is uncertain whether I shall remain here. My loss is so heavy that I cannot well bear it. I should immediately or soon after I met with it have gone to England to sollicit a compens[ation] if I had not been in hopes of doing some service to my country here. I am now almost in despair and if I should receive advice that I may hope for a compens[ation] in England by making a voyage there and that I should not be like to obtain it without I think in justice to my family I must undertake it but I flatter my self that the application I have made will succeed and that in so hard a case I shall not be obliged to be at the trouble and risk of a voyage to England to obtain redress.2 I have heard many complaints of the late Mr. Waldo on account of his negotiations for peopling his land. Mr. Winslow and Mr. Flucker who married two of his daughters and who with his two sons administred upon the estate would not be willing any just debts should remain unpaid.3 A letter to the gov[ernor] accompanying Mr. Luthers accounts would be very proper. I am with very great regard your most humble and most obedient.

Doctor Franklin
[In the margin:] NYork Packet

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Not found. From the tenor of this reply it appears that BF had written primarily to pass along the complaints of Henrich Ehrenfried Luther of ill usage by Massachusetts and Samuel Waldo in the matter of sending German emigrants to settle in that colony; above, pp. 153–6. BF seems also to have expressed to Hutchinson some of his views on the problems created by the Stamp Act, although in the middle of August he knew little of the intensity of feeling that measure was creating in the colonies, and the riots in Massachusetts and elsewhere were only just beginning when he wrote.

1The initial in the MS is either “B” or “R,” presumably the latter, standing for Timothy Ruggles. He was one of the three Mass. delegates to the Stamp Act Congress, the other two being James Otis and Oliver Partridge. Governor Bernard had engineered the appointment of Ruggles and Partridge as reliable conservatives. Though elected chairman of the Congress, Ruggles refused to sign any of the documents it drew up. Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, pp. 104–5, 109.

2Here, and again later in this passage, the MS contains groups of characters, now indecipherable, some of which may represent arabic numerals. Hutchinson probably feared that hostile eyes might fall on this letterbook, and he was taking no chances on having his comments on the actions of the Stamp Act Congress or any of its members made public.

3On Robert Ogden, speaker of the N.J. Assembly, and the only delegate to join Ruggles in refusing to sign the documents drawn up by the Stamp Act Congress, see above, p. 368 n. DAB and other authorities have wrongly identified the delegate to the Congress as Robert Ogden’s cousin David.

4In his letter of August 15 BF had probably expressed some doubt of success in getting the Stamp Act repealed. He had written John Hughes to this effect on August 9; above, p. 234.

5Boston annually celebrated Guy Fawkes Day (November 5) with parades by the men and boys of the North End and those of the South End. When the two groups met their long and bitter rivalry almost always led to an open fight with stones or clubs or other makeshift weapons the marchers had thoughtfully brought along. In 1765, however, the leaders of the two groups, actively encouraged by more dignified “gentlemen,” entered into a compact that turned the occasion into a peaceful but impressive demonstration of unanimity in opposition to the Stamp Act witnessed by throngs of citizens. Laudatory accounts of the affair appeared in the Boston papers and were reprinted in other colonies, as for example in Pa. Gaz., Nov. 21, 1765.

6The motto used in BF’s “Snake Cartoon” of 1754 and reproduced in the Constitutional Courant of Sept. 21, 1765; above, V, 272, 274, and this volume, p. 287 n.

7This is the earliest mention by Hutchinson that the editors have found of his collaboration with BF in the Albany Plan of Union in 1754. It had not come to our attention when the authorship of the Albany Plan was under consideration some six or seven years ago. We regret that we did not then know of this sentence written in 1765 and therefore could not cite it in our extended discussion of the authorship and evolution of the Plan, above, V, 378–87. Careful reconsideration of that discussion in the light of this sentence, however, does not appear to require any significant modification of the views presented there, for it will be observed that Hutchinson makes no claim here to specific authorship of the Plan, nor even to priority in joint authorship, but simply to his and BF’s cooperative endeavor when they did “Propose” a union. Neither we nor any other students of the subject of whom we know have ever denied Hutchinson’s whole-hearted participation in working out the Plan approved by the Albany Congress in 1754.

8The remainder of this letter relates mostly to the efforts of Luther and Joseph Crell (or Crellius) to send German emigrants to Massachusetts and to Luther’s complaints to BF cited in the first note to this document. A brief account of the activities of these men and of the attitude of the House of Representatives is found in Thomas Hutchinson, The History of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts-Bay, Lawrence S. Mayo, ed. (Cambridge, Mass., 1936), III, 7–9. In the Journals of the House of Representatives covering the years 1749–55 ([Boston], 1951–56), are numerous scattered references to Crell’s project, the grant of four townships on which his Germans might settle, and the condition of those who came, and to later letters from Luther. After the initial favorable action on Crell’s application the House clearly lost interest, and on June 6, 1753, a committee reported that he had failed to fulfill the stipulated terms of his grant of townships. Although committees were usually appointed to consider Luther’s letters, very seldom is there record of a reply being actually approved. Two of the proposed townships were to be in the District of Maine, and at least a few of the actual emigrants did settle on land belonging to Samuel Waldo.

9The Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748, ending the War of the Austrian Succession.

1Spencer Phips, then lieutenant and acting governor.

2Hutchinson did not go to England at this time. On the indemnity finally paid, see above, p. 340 n.

3Samuel Waldo, a great land speculator in the District of Maine, died intestate in 1759. His estate was administered by his sons, Samuel (1723–1770) and Francis (1728–1784), and his sons-in-law, Isaac Winslow (1709–1777) and Thomas Flucker (1719–1783). Waldo Lincoln, Genealogy of the Waldo Family (Worcester, 1902), 1, 96, 104, 183–97.

Index Entries