Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Franklin, [12 September 1766]

To William Franklin

MS not found; extract reprinted from [Jared Sparks, ed.] A Collection of the Familiar Letters and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Franklin; Now for the First Time Published (Boston, 1833), pp. 275–7.

[September 12th, 1766]

I have just received Sir William’s open letter to Secretary Conway,4 recommending your plan for a colony in the Ilinois, which I am glad of. I have closed and sent it to him. He is not now in that department; but it will of course go to Lord Shelburne, whose good opinion of it I have reason to hope for;5 and I think Mr. Conway was rather against distant posts and settlements in America. We have, however, suffered a loss in Lord Dartmouth, who I know was inclined to a grant there in favor of the soldiery, and Lord Hillsborough is said to be terribly afraid of dispeopling Ireland.6 General Lyman7 has been long here soliciting such a grant, and will readily join the interest he has made with ours, and I should wish for a body of Connecticut settlers, rather than all from our frontiers. I purpose waiting on Lord Shelburne on Tuesday, and hope to be able to send you his sentiments by Falconer, who is to sail about the twentieth.8

A good deal, I imagine, will depend on the account, when it arrives, of Mr. Croghan’s negotiation in that country.9 This is an affair I shall seriously set about, but there are such continual changes here, that it is very discouraging to all applications to be made to the ministry. I thought the last set well established, but they are broken and gone. The present set are hardly thought to stand very firm, and God only knows whom we are to have next.

The plan is I think well drawn, and I imagine Sir William’s approbation will go a great way in recommending it, as he is much relied on in all affairs, that may have any relation to the Indians. Lord Adam Gordon is not in town, but I shall take the first opportunity of conferring with him.1 I thank the Company for their willingness to take me in, and one or two others that I may nominate.2 I have not yet concluded whom to propose it to; but I suppose our friend Sargent3 should be one. I wish you had allowed me to name more, as there will be in the proposed country, by my reckoning, near sixty-three millions of acres, and therefore enough to content a great number of reasonable people, and by numbers we might increase the weight of interest here. But perhaps we shall do without.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4See above, pp. 330–1.

5Conway had shifted from secretary of state for the Southern Department, the ministry in charge of American affairs, to secretary of state for the Northern Department on May 24, 1766. When the Chatham administration took office in July 1766 he retained this position, the Earl of Shelburne becoming the new secretary for the Southern Department. For ministerial changes in the summer of 1766, see above, p. 384 n.

6William Legge, 2d Earl of Dartmouth (above, XII, 362 n), was replaced as president of the Board of Trade in the new Chatham administration by Wills Hill (1718–1793), holder at this time of the Irish title, the Earl of Hillsborough, which he also received in the British peerage in 1772. Hillsborough had been president of the Board of Trade from 1763 to 1765. From 1766 to 1768 he was one of the joint postmasters general and in the latter year was appointed the first secretary of state for the American Department, in which capacity he served until 1772. Hillsborough was one of the largest landholders in Ireland and was keenly interested in developing the linen industry in that country. DNB. Namier and Brooke, House of Commons, ii, 626–7.

7Phineas Lyman (1715–1774) was a Connecticut officer who served with distinction in the French and Indian War. In 1763 at Hartford he and some fellow officers and soldiers formed the Company of Military Adventurers and joined with the subscribers to Samuel Hazard’s project of 1755 (above, VI, 87 n) to seek a land grant in the Mississippi Valley. After years of lobbying in London he succeeded in 1770 in obtaining a grant of 20,000 acres for himself near Natchez in West Florida, where he died in 1774. Delphina L.H. Clark, Phineas Lyman Connecticut’s General (Springfield, Mass., 1964).

8For an account of BF’s interview with Shelburne, see below, pp. 424–5.

9George Croghan arrived in New York, Jan. 10, 1767, by ship from New Orleans, having sailed down the Mississippi to that port at the end of his negotiations in the Illinois country. He gave General Gage a full report of his talks on Jan. 16, 1767, and about the same time sent BF a copy of it. See Croghan to BF, Jan. 27, 1767, William L. Clements Lib.

1In a letter to WF, May 3, 1766, Sir William Johnson had suggested that Lord Adam Gordon be included among the promoters of an Illinois colony. Gordon (1726?–1801) was a military officer and M.P. for Aberdeenshire, 1754–68, and for Kincardineshire, 1774–88. In 1764–65 he had traveled from Jamaica, where his regiment was stationed, and toured extensively on the North American continent, visiting Johnson at Johnson Hall and becoming interested in speculation in American lands. DNB. Namier and Brooke, House of Commons, ii, 510–12.

2See above, p. 257.

3John Sargent, the London banker (above, VII, 322 n), who had been interested with BF in earlier schemes of land speculation; see above, X, 209, 214, 366, 369.

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