Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from James Pemberton, 1 May 1766

From James Pemberton8

Draft:9 Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Philad. 1. 5 mo. may 1766

My Worthy Friend

It is not with a view to add to the number of thy Correspondents, and thereby encrease thy trouble of writing; but from a motive of regard that I Send this. Conscious of thy integrity abilities and firmness to Serve thy Country I rest fully Satisfied in respect to myself but Observing with Concern every occasion however frivolous is taken to keep alive the flame of prejudice which Envy has raised against thee I take the liberty to give thee a hint that the Committee of Correspondence not having for some time received particular information from thee of the State of public Affairs [struck out: of the province under thy Care] is made use of in aggravated terms of [objection?] by some without doors, and a blunderer within up[b]raiding thy Friends with it as a neglect of design. I therefore wish that altho nothing material may occurr in respect to our Provincial affairs thou wouldst satisfy the discontented by writing to that Committee as frequently as the packet or a direct Conveyance offer;1

I am well pleased to find the Speaker has a letter from thee per the packet, with the minutes of Parliament,2 as thou knows he is not a Scribe pray to Excuse his neglect of acknowledging the receipt of the several he has heretofore received from thee.

The Intelligence brought per this packet gives universal Joy, as there is a danger of it’s being carried by many imprudent people to an immoderate degree.3 On receiving account of the final determination of the very important affair, I hope no pains will be spared to press the necessity and good policy of keeping within due bounds; I have a very judicious Letter from our truly valuable Friend Dr. Fothergill on this subject worthy the strictest attention which I hope may be of great Service as far as I can give it an [illegible]. I am likewise much pleased that he has furnished me with such authentic intelligence, as must tend to confute the charge industriously propagated of thy being a promoter of the Stamp Act or Convince the unprejudiced it is base and groundless, and that thy Endeavors in obta[in]ing a repeal of it have been indefaticable and upright.4

The Assembly meets the 5. Inst. when I hope the most Cool, and deliberate Consideration will take place of the part. It will be the duty of this Province to act in decent and thankfull acknowledgement to the Parliament &ca. for their Lenity in favour of the Colonies.5

Thou has doubtless received Information of the proceedings of the last Sitting that I need not now repeat it. A comendable harmony prevailed except now and then some [illegible] I shoud like to have [illegible] exceptions and the business transacted with good dispatch. Pray do not omit every favorable opportunity of warmly soliciting our Address in favour of paper Currency,6 the province is so much involved in debt the pub[lic] Credit must suffer unless we are releeved in this respect, and I hope Every Endeavor will be used to obtain a Confirmation of the Laws passed last Sitting particularly that for the better Employment of the poor &ca.7

Please to Excuse this freedom, and believe me to be very Sincerely thy respectfull Friend


If thou hast opportunity please to present my kind respects to D. Fothergil. I cannot answer his very acceptable letter per this packet. Shall write him in a few days &c.

Endorsed: 5 mo. 1. 1766 Letter to Benj Franklin Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8James Pemberton (1723–1809), brother of Israel; merchant of Philadelphia, philanthropist, and politician. He was one of the Quaker members of the Assembly who withdrew in 1756 on the issue of military support; above, VI, 456–7 n. For his readmission as a member from the city in a runoff election in 1765, see above, XII, 292 n. He was a close friend of Dr. John Fothergill, mentioned in this letter. DAB.

9The draft contains many interlineations and crossed out words; some passages are indecipherable.

1BF’s tendency to write on public affairs to Joseph Galloway, rather than to the speaker and the Committee of Correspondence (of which Galloway was merely one member), caused much criticism within the Assembly and led to the repetition of standing instructions to the agents a week after Pemberton wrote this letter; see below, pp. 267–8.

2BF’s letter to Fox of March 1, 1766; above, pp. 186–7. His earlier letter of February 27 had gone by the hand of a private individual and did not arrive until later.

3Pa. Gaz., May 1, 1766, carried reports brought to New York by the packet that the betting in London was 275 to 167 in favor of the repeal of the Stamp Act and that the odds would soon increase. The same issue printed the resolves of the House of Commons, Feb. 24, 1766. Extracts from private letters urged restraint in the colonists’ response.

4A copy of a letter from Fothergill to Pemberton, Feb. 27, 1766, in Hist. Soc. Pa., declares categorically that BF had “uniformly opposed” the Stamp Act “to the utmost of his Abilities; that in a long Examination before the house of Commons within these few Weeks, he asserted the Rights and Privileges of America, with the utmost Firmness, Resolution and Capacity.” Another passage from this letter is printed above, p. 254 n. Both appeared in Pa. Gaz., May 8, 1766.

5Although the Assembly met for a few days in early May, it took no action concerning the Stamp Act, but waited until its June sitting, after the governor had transmitted a letter from Secretary of State Conway of March 31 reporting officially the passage of the Declaratory Act and the repeal of the Stamp Act. On June 6 the Assembly approved, and the speaker signed, a grateful and thoroughly dutiful address to the King. 8 Pa. Arch., vii, 5859–76, 5877–79, 5881, 5884–85.

6See above, pp. 51–2, 236, 238.

7This act, approved by the governor on Feb. 8, 1766, was pushed through the Assembly largely by the efforts of Quakers and other compassionate citizens of Philadelphia. Pemberton was a member of the committee that drafted the bill. It substituted for the old and inadequate Alms House a new building called the Bettering House, partly supported by charitable donations, in which the indigent residents able to work were employed in light labor. The Privy Council considered the measure and allowed it to stand. In an account of the Bettering House Carl and Jessica Bridenbaugh have commented that “Nowhere in the then world, perhaps, did the indigent receive more efficient and generous treatment.” Rebels and Gentlemen Philadelphia in the Age of Franklin (N.Y., [1942]), pp. 232–5. The text of the act is in Statutes at Large, Pa., vii, 9–17.

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