Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Sir William Johnson, 12 September 1766

To Sir William Johnson

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

London, Sept. 12. 1766


I am honoured with yours of the 10th. of July, just come to hand, with that for Mr. Secretary Conway under a flying Seal, which I have clos’d and forwarded.4 He is now in another Department, but it will go of course to Lord Shelbourne, who I think is rather more favourably dispos’d towards such Undertakings.

I have long been of Opinion that a well-conducted western Colony, if it could be settled with the Approbation of the Indians would be of great National Advantage with respect to the Trade, and particularly useful to the old Colonies as a Security to their Frontiers.5 I am glad to find that you, whose Knowledge of Indian Affairs and the Temper of those People far exceeds mine, entertain the same Sentiments, and think such an Establishment in the Ilinoias Country practicable. I shall not fail to use my best Endeavours here in promoting it, and obtaining for that purpose the necessary Grants; and I am happy that this Occasion introduces me to the Correspondence of a Gentleman whose Character I have long esteemed, and to whom America is so much obliged.6

It grieves me to hear that our Frontier People are yet greater Barbarians than the Indians, and continue to murder them in time of Peace.7 I hope your Negociations will prevent a new War, which those Murders give great Reason to apprehend; and that the several Governments will find some Method of preventing such horrid Outrages for the future. With sincere and great Regard, I have the Honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient, and most humble Servant

B Franklin

Sir William Johnson

Endorsed: London Septbr. 12th. 1766 Benjmn. Franklin Esqrs. Letter

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4For Johnson’s letter of July 10 and mention of its accompanying letter to Secretary Conway, see above, pp. 330–1.

5BF had written in 1754 in favor of the establishment of two western colonies (above, V, 456–63) and in a letter to George Whitefield in 1756 had mentioned his daydream of a colony on the Ohio which they might jointly found (vi, 468–9).

6BF and Johnson had first met each other, as far as is known, at the Albany Congress of 1754. Though both were now interested in the proposed western colony, they never became regular correspondents.

7In his letter Johnson had mentioned the “licentious conduct” of the frontier inhabitants towards the Indians.

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