Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Franklin, 30 April 1766

From William Franklin

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Burlin. 30th April, 1766

Honoured Father

Your Favour of the 25th. of Febry. is just come to hand. The one you mention to have sent me on the 16th. I have not receiv’d.6 Perhaps it was on Board that unfortunate Vessel from Bristol which was lost on our Coast.7 If so, and you have kept any Copy do favour me with it for I should be very loath to lose any of your Letters.

You cannot conceive the Satisfaction which the Accounts of your Examination at the Bar of the H. of Commons have afforded your Friends. Dr. Fothergill and Mr. Whitefield have mentioned your Behaviour on the Occasion in high Terms.8 I am told that the latter says America owes the Repeal of the Stamp Act to the assiduous Endeavours of Alderman Trecothick, Capel Hanbury and Dr. Franklin. I can’t learn however that any of the Merchants have mentioned your Services at all. It would appear by their Letters that each of them would willingly have his Correspondents think that he alone by his Interest and Management had done every Thing that was done in favour of the Colonies. If you obtain a Copy of your Examination, pray send it me.9 The N.Y. Mercury of Monday, contains a very sensible judicious Letter from the Committee of Merchants in London but you will see notwithstanding our Advertisement directly counter to their Advice, and I really fear our People’s Indiscretion will be such as to [frustrate?] all endeavours to serve them.1 However, I shall strive to get our Assembly to address the Parliament in the manner you [mention?].2

I don’t wonder at your disapproving my mentioning in my Speech the villainous Reports of the Proprietary Officers.3 It is impossible for you at so great a Distance to be acquainted with every Circumstance necessary to form a right Judgment of the Expediency or Inexpediency of particular Transactions. I have all the Evidence the Nature of the Case will admit, that They had taken their Measures so effectually with the Presby[terians] and the Sons of Liberty in this Province, that had it not been for the Paper I publish’d in Answer to the Lodge-Paper, I should have had my House pull’d down about my Ears and all my Effects destroy’d. I did not think the Notice I took of this in my Speech to be concerning myself with the Affairs of Pensylvania, all I intended by it was to fix a Brand of Infamy on the Transactions of the Officers of that Government within this Province, and I should have done the same had the Officers of New York, or any other Colony, given the like Occasion. All my Friends in every Part of the Province have approv’d my Conduct, and I have ever since experienc’d the good Effects of it; having, by thus removing the Prejudices of the People, render’d abortive every successive Attempt of my Adversaries to hurt me. For my Part I always think it best to nip in the Bud every Report which may tend to hurt a Man’s Character or Interest; and that no Man should deem such Reports below his Notice. Governor Hutcheson, for Instance, knew very well that his Enemies had by their Intrigues spirited up the Populace against him, and made them believe, among other Things, that he was a Promoter of the Stamp Act. But he thought it beneath him to take any Pains to undeceive the People, in Consequence of which the Reports gain’d Credit, his House and Effects were destroy’d, and his Life endangered. It is possible that the Province will be obliged to make him some Reparation but great Part of his Loss is irreparable. On the whole, I am of Opinion, that it is best at all Times, but more especially in Times of Ferment and Confusion, for a Man to lower himself a little, rather than let others lower him.4

Enclosed are two Applications for Favours from the Ministry, One from Col. Croghan, and the other from Mr. Geo. Reed of New Castle.5 They are both our Friends, and, I doubt not, but if you can that you will serve them. Croghan is highly incens’d at the Treatment he has received from the Proprietary Officers in Pensylvania and has been a means of bringing Sir Wm. Johnson and Genl. Gage to think favourable of the Assembly Party, and to wish them Success. A few of us, from his Encouragement, have form’d a Company to purchase of the French settled at the Illinois, such Lands as they have a good Title to, and are inclined to dispose of.6 But as I thought it would be of little Avail to buy Lands in that Country unless a Colony was established there, I have drawn up some Proposals for that Purpose, which are much approved of by Col. Croghan and the other Gentlemen concerned in Philadelphia and are sent by them to Sir Wm. for his Sentiments; which when we receive, the whole will be forwarded to you. It is proposed that the Company shall consist of 12 now in America, and if you like the Proposals, you will be at Liberty to add yourself, and such Gentlemen of Character and Fortune in England, as you may think will be most likely to promote the Undertaking. Mr. Galloway has met with a Pamphlet at Mr. Hall’s, on the Subject, which I wish I had seen before I had drawn up the Proposals, as it might have afforded some Hints.7 However, as I believe you have not seen it, it being printed, and I believe wrote, in Scotland, I send it enclosed. You will find your Name mentioned in it, page 52.8 Pray did you receive the Carolina Pamphlet I sent you.9

I would not have you stop the Chronicles coming from the G.P.O. unless you can contrive some other cheaper Way for me to get them.1 But the Gazette and Magazines I would have stopp’d immediately. In the last Pacquet they missd sending me No. 1429, of the Chronicle. I wish I had it, as the Want of it spoils my Set. Betsy desires me to return her most cordial Thanks for the Notice you have taken of her Nephew.2 Enclosed is a Letter for him, which please to send, and let that for Miss Clarke be put in the Penny Post Office.3 Upon an Invitation from my Mother we have been at Philadelphia and spent a Fortnight very agreeably. I intended to have copy’d this, but some Gentlemen from Philadelphia are just come in which prevents, and indeed hinders me, from adding several other Matters. Betsy joins in Duty with your dutiful Son

Wm: Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Neither BF’s letter of February 25 nor that of the 16th has been found.

7On Sunday, April 6, 1766, the snow Nancy, bound from Bristol to Philadelphia, was wrecked in a northeast storm on Hereford Bar, about twelve miles north of Cape May. Twenty-five persons lost their lives, including Richard Smith, brother of the Reverend William Smith of Philadelphia. Pa. Gaz., April 10, 17, 1766.

8Pa. Gaz., May 1 and 8, 1766, printed extracts from several letters from England relating to the favorable prospects for repeal of the Stamp Act. Six of these praised BF’s services particularly. One, dated February 27, from John Fothergill, identified as “a Gentleman, who, though never in America, has for many Years, proved himself a disinterested firm Friend to her true Interest,” after extolling BF at some length and citing his examination, added: “He has been an able, useful Advocate for America in general, and the Province of Pennsylvania in particular, during his Stay here, of which you will have received from many Persons undoubted Information, as well as this.” A copy of the entire letter is in Hist. Soc. Pa. Another letter of the same date “from an eminent Clergyman in London” (probably George Whitefield) said: “Doctor Franklin spoke very heartily and judiciously, in his Country’s Behalf, when at the Bar of the House of Commons.” Another of the same date, addressed to a person in New York, singled out for praise Pitt and Camden among the politicians, and Trecothick and Hanbury among the merchants, then added: “Our worthy Friend, Mr. Franklin, has gained immortal Honour by his Behaviour at the Bar of the House; the Answerer was always found Equal, if not Superior, to the Questioner. He stood unappalled, gave Pleasure to his Friends, and did Honour to his Country.” Galloway and other Philadelphia supporters were undoubtedly responsible for printing some of these extracts.

9Strahan sent a copy of the Examination to Hall in May; after reading it aloud to friends during the summer, Hall printed it as a pamphlet on Sept. 18, 1766; above, pp. 125–6.

1The merchants’ letter was probably one reprinted in Pa. Gaz. and Pa. Jour., May 1, 1766, dated London, Feb. 28, 1766. What the “Advertisement” to which WF referred may have been is not clear; but he may possibly have known of a long letter by “A Son of Liberty” that appeared in the Supplement to Pa. Jour., April 10, rehearsing in strong terms the history of the Stamp Act and the colonial opposition it produced. The writer called the present ministry “wise and prudent,” but warned that “if an ill-chosen determination of forcing an observance of a parliamentary taxation should be the result of their deliberations, we shall then have to consider what will be a suitable conduct on our part.”

2WF was successful in this effort. Pa. Gaz., June 19, 26; i N.J. Arch., ix, 555–63.

3On this affair and WF’s published defense, see above, XII, 367–8 and accompanying notes.

4This passage suggests a considerable temperamental difference between father and son and may help to explain why, when the Revolutionary crisis came, the son followed such a different course from that of the father. On BF’s attitude when under attack, see for example his letters to Jane Mecom, March 1, 1766 (above, p. 188), and March 2, 1767, Univ. of Va. Lib.

5To just what Croghan’s application related is unknown; it may have concerned the proposed western land company, though it sounds more like some personal matter. For Read’s desire to be appointed customs collector at Newcastle, see above, pp. 246–7.

6On March 29, 1766, ten partners—WF, Sir William Johnson, George Croghan, John Baynton, three Whartons, George Morgan, John Hughes, and Joseph Galloway—entered into an agreement to form what was at first called the Illinois Company, to acquire 1,200,000 acres or more from the Crown in the Illinois country for the settlement of an English colony. The text of the agreement is printed in Alvord and Carter, eds., The New Régime, pp. 203–4. This event marks the formal beginning of the speculative venture in western lands, later developed into the Vandalia Company. Correspondence relating to these projects will occupy considerable space in later volumes of this edition.

7This pamphlet must have been The Expediency of securing our American Colonies by settling The Country adjoining the River Mississippi, and the Country upon the Ohio, Considered (Edinburgh, 1763). It is reprinted, with the titlepage reproduced in facsimile, in Alvord and Carter, eds., The Critical Period, 1763–1765, pp. 134–61.

8The pamphlet cites “the ingenious Dr. Franklyn” among others who were familiar with the western regions and who gave assurance that goods could be conveyed to and from inland America in boats and canoes “by great navigable rivers and fresh-water lakes communicating with one another,” requiring only small portages here and there. The reference is to the Canada Pamphlet, above, IX, 81.

9Apparently mentioned in some previous letter now lost, this pamphlet has not been identified.

1Under dates of Feb. 12 and July 12, 1766, and from time to time thereafter BF’s Journal, 1764–1776, pp. 7, 8, etc., and Ledger, 1764–1776, pp. 7, 9, record payments to Samuel Potts for “Chronicles” or “newspapers” charged to WF’s account.

2So little is known of the family of Elizabeth Downes Franklin that this nephew has not been identified, and he is not mentioned by name in any located correspondence.

3Miss Mary Clarke appears to have been a London woman who bought shoes and other articles for WF’s wife. She is mentioned in several letters from WF to William Strahan, 1763–65, PMHB, xxxv (1911), 430, 437, 438; BF recorded in his Journal, 1764–1776, p. 13, a payment of £20 to Mary Clarke that he charged to his son’s account.

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