Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Crowley, 8 February 1766

From Thomas Crowley3

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Grace Church Street 8 feb 1766

Worthy Friend

Subsequent to our Conversation at or near the House of Commons, I was informd by one of the Committee4 that he had been informd that I was the author of the Paragraph inserted in the Gazetteer 1 feb:5 alledging that “by a Calculation of an Eminent American Merchant it appears that the whole Taxes in all the American Provinces, do not amount, upon an Average to more than eight pence per head on every individual person including, men, Women and Children whereas the Taxes to pay the Interest only of Money spent in great Brittain to defend America, amounts to twelve shillings per Annum on every individual in great Brittain.” However the two annual sums may possibly have been somehow pickd, up in Conversation I cannot say; but I had no hand at all in such advertisement,6 nor dont know, nor can guess, who put it in or Caused it to be so advertised, nor did I ever think or breach such insidious, unjustifiable Doctrine and I may add was never capable of such absurd Conduct. So much I have thought but necessary to prevent any unjust imputation, so far as it may happen to reach Your notice and while I have my pen in hand suffer me to say or Repeat That I think it highly behoves every Agent and Every particular of the Committee of Merchants to very Maturely Consider the Danger of Miscarrying in the Grand Point, if what the Ministry may deem unbecoming objections should be raised against Conciliating Measures, which do avowedly tend to answer both purposes of Saving the Honour of the Supreme Legislative power, and also of Saving the Right Claimd by the Colonies of not being Taxed without their Consent. I am ever for Moderation as being far the most likely means to produce Reconciliation, than allegations tenacious of Rigid Right does ever produce especially in Cases in their nature of a disputable kind—and not Capable of being in its utmost extent exercised fully in favour of either side, without prejudice to the other.

May therefore Every one whose Station and Abilities has in some degree made Arbiter of the Measures necessary to bring about the desireable end of Reconciliation, lend forth a hand of Aid, in that Great, Good, and salutary Work. I am very respectfully Your assurd ready Friend and Servant

Tho Crowley

Addressed: To / Benja. Franklin Esqr / Prest

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Thomas Crowley (d. 1787?) was a scion of an English Quaker family long important in the iron trade. Crowley himself was apparently involved in exporting bar iron to America, although he quit the business by 1775. His relations with his co-religionists were most unsatisfactory; he was described as a “vexer of the brethen,” his writings were “disapproved and testified against,” and he was finally disowned by the meeting. Crowley deeply interested himself in the dispute between America and the mother country and in numerous letters to the newspapers tirelessly promoted the idea of a union between the two parts of the empire, based on equitable American representation in Parliament. The idea of a British-American union apparently became an obsession with him and in 1773 BF pronounced him “a little cracked upon the subject,” a diagnosis which WF had made four years earlier. A selection of his letters on America and a variety of other subjects were collected and published (apparently by himself) in London in 1776 under the title of Letters and Dissertations on Various Subjects. On Crowley, see Norman Penney, ed., Pen Pictures of London Yearly Meeting 1789–1833 (London, 1930), p. 111; Joseph Smith, A Descriptive Catalogue of Friends Books (2 Vols., London, 1867), i, 496–500; M. W. Flinn, Men of Iron The Crowleys in the Early Iron Industry (Edinburgh, 1962), pp. 74, 114–16; WF to BF, Jan. 31, 1769, APS; BF to WF, Sept. 1, 1773, Lib. Cong.

4A committee of London merchants interested in the North American trade which was working for the repeal of the Stamp Act. Crowley was apparently a member.

5The following paragraph also appeared in London Chron., Jan. 30–Feb. 1, 1766.

6In London Chron., Feb. 20–22, 1766, Crowley, writing over his customary nomme de plume, “Amor Patriae,” formally denied that he had inserted the foregoing paragraph in the Gazetteer and requested the reader not to confuse it with a “scheme on the same subject inserted in the Gazetteer on the 3d of Feb. signed Amor Patriae.” Crowley’s scheme of February 3 is published in his Letters and Dissertations on Various Subjects, pp. 18–20. It suggested that the Stamp Act be repealed in any colony which voluntarily taxed itself to raise the same sum it would have paid under the act. Having calculated each colony’s share according to a table of population, Crowley concluded that all the American colonies would pay £63,000 which worked out to 8d. per capita. For purposes of comparison, Crowley estimated that the annual interest charges on the British national debt amounted to 12s. per capita. In his letter to the London Chron., Feb. 20–22, 1766, Crowley suggested that his figures appeared in the paragraph of February 1 because the author of that paragraph had overheard them, misunderstood them, and misused them.

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