Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from [William Franklin], [December 1766]

From [William Franklin3]

AL (fragments):4 American Philosophical Society

[December 1766]5

[Top part of first surviving sheet is missing.] Side the Water. But, if we [torn] late Publications in Virginia [torn] still remains a considerable Spirit [torn] and Opposition.6 They have been told, and [torn] must know, that tho’ the Parliament have solemnly [dec]lar’d their Right to tax America,7 they do not mean to exercise it in future: Our pretended Patriots however are not satisfied that the Claim should lie dormant, but seem determin’d to oblige the Parliament to renounce it, or else to occasion fresh Disturbances. For this purpose, they are taking Pains to get the Assemblies to remonstrate against it, and to pass a Bill of Rights in Opposition to that of Parliament. Some are led to this Conduct in hopes of distinguishing themselves as the Friends of their Country, others with a View of promoting their Popularity and thereby securing their Elections, others out of a mere Propensity to Mischief, and others again in [top part of verso page missing] for a Dispute with [torn] among them, who have any [torn] fail to push him on Points [torn] cannot well avoid disputing, if [torn] with his Duty. I was therefore very sorry [torn] Letter from Mr. Deberdt to the Assembly of Massachusetts Bay [torn] in the Papers,8 in which he mentions a Conversation with Lord S. nearly similar to that you had with him.

Many of our Friends were under a good deal of Apprehensions lest Lord S. should have a Partiality for the Proprietor on Account of the Family Connection. But I have made them very happy by acquainting them with the Sentiments his Lordship express’d to you on the Occasion.9 Most certainly Mr. Penn had better part with his Government if he inclines that either himself or his Posterity should be able to avoid having troublesome Contentions with the Inhabitants. Matters are now carried too far, and the [end of first surviving sheet.]

[Top part of second surviving sheet is missing.]1 Lordship’s Dislike to you [torn] to the latter) has lately said that [torn] how it happens, but so it is, that [torn] the Ear of Lord S. and that you are full as [torn] respected2 by him as ever you were by any of his [pr]edecessors in Office: For his Part, he don’t know but a Change of Government may take place some Time or other, but that the Proprietor had lately assur’d him that if he did dispose of it to the Crown, he would take Care of all his Friends there, and make it a Condition that his Nephew John Penn should have the Government during his Life, so that none of those who push’d for the Change would probably be the better for it, if it should happen.” This Alteration in Mr. Allen’s Tone, added to what Lord S. said to you, makes our Friends incline to think that the Proprietor has serious Thoughts of parting with his Government and that it may be owing in some Measure to his Lordship’s Advice [top part of verso page missing]3 be one there let who [torn] as Numbers of People un [torn] have an Idea of the Value of [torn] [con]tinually resorting there from all [torn] The Question therefore is, Whether it would [torn] eligible on all Accounts to have a well regu[lated?] Government established there at once, than to [wait?] till it is become the Residence of a numerous and lawless Banditti? Besides the Garrison which is now at Fort Chartres to keep Possession of that Country are oblig’d to depend on the French Inhabitants for their Provisions, who (as appears by a Journal which I have seen of an Officer just return’d from thence4) only supply them from Hand to Mouth, that they may have it in their Power when they see convenient to starve them. This has occasion’d the General to send them a Quantity, last Summer, all the Way from Fort Pitt. But [end of second surviving sheet.]

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Identified by handwriting comparison.

4The lower parts of two half-sheets survive, each written on both sides. Almost half the lines at the top of each of the four pages are gone and, because the tears extend diagonally downward, parts of the first five or six surviving lines of each page are also lost. The remaining parts of these pages are printed here in what appears from the context to be the correct order, with the breaks and tears indicated within brackets.

5Many of the matters mentioned in this letter show that it was written toward the end of December 1766, as the footnotes will demonstrate.

6Evidently a reference to an address of the Virginia House of Burgesses, Nov. 12, 1766, and a resolution of the House, Nov. 20, 1766, in both of which the King was thanked for repealing the Stamp Act, but in a manner that struck some as being not a little insolent. Gipson, British Empire, xi, 7–9.

7In the Declaratory Act, March 18, 1766 (6 Geo. III, c. 12), Parliament affirmed its right “to make laws and statutes of sufficient force and validity to bind the colonies and people of America, subjects of the Crown of Great Britain, in all cases whatsoever.”

8Pa. Gaz., Nov. 20, 1766, published a letter of Sept. 19, 1766, from Dennys De Berdt, the Massachusetts agent, to Thomas Cushing, speaker of the Mass. House, in which he described an interview with Shelburne on the preceding day. His Lordship was conciliatory toward the colonies, De Berdt wrote, but insisted that “the Dignity of Government must be maintained as well as a due Regard to the Administration here.”

9In an interview with Lord Shelburne in the fall of 1766, reported to Joseph Galloway in a letter of Oct. 11, 1766, BF said that Shelburne told him “that he was of the opinion Mr. Penn ought to part with the Government voluntarily, and said he had often told him so.” Shelburne also assured BF that his marriage to Thomas Penn’s wife’s niece would not prejudice him against the Assembly. Above, p. 448.

1What follows here is obviously part of an alleged quotation from Chief Justice William Allen. The renewed references to Lord Shelburne and to the possibility of Penn’s surrendering his government suggest strongly that this passage is a continuation (with an unfortunate gap) of the discussion printed immediately above.

2The last two tears are just about long enough to permit a guess that the missing words would make this passage read: “. . . that you have won the Ear of Lord S. and that you are full as much respected.. . .”

3In the missing part of this page WF’s topic has obviously changed to the prospective colony in the west.

4This journal is almost certainly that of Capt. Harry Gordon, Gen. Thomas Gage’s chief engineer, who accompanied George Croghan on his mission to Fort Chartres in the summer of 1766. Charged with charting the courses of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, Gordon sailed down to New Orleans with Croghan at the conclusion of his negotiations and from there to New York, preceding Croghan (who arrived in New York harbor, Jan. 10, 1767) by a few weeks. Gordon’s journal is printed in Alvord and Carter, eds., The New Régime 1765–1767, pp. 290–311. See also Nicholas B. Wainwright, George Croghan Wilderness Diplomat (Chapel Hill, [1959]), pp. 233–8.

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