Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Wharton, 7 February 1767

From Thomas Wharton

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada. Feb. 7th. 1767.

Dear Friend.

This opportunity presenting via Falmouth1—I embrace it to inform thee, that thy Family are well; and that, thy Friends have frequent Occasion to make mention of thee with great pleasure.

We now hourly look for the December-Packet, by which Vessel We do expect to hear something much to our Satisfaction; relative to the Affairs of this Province. The Court-Party now give out, that, the Consideration of the Change2 is renewed, and to use their former Expressions, ’tis probable it may succeed: But, They comfort themselves that the Prop—y Family are to have a Feather in their Caps; This concerns us not, so long as it does not Eclipse that Freedom, which is Inherent in every Englishman.

I have understood from my Brother S.W. that, Col. Croghan and himself wrote thee particularly relative to the Ill—s [Illinois]3 of coarse its not necessary for me to take up thy time.

The Inhabitants of this City (I mean, the Sober and Religious Part of them) have met and prepared a Memorial to the House, requesting them to offer to the Governor, A Bill for the putting a stop to the exhibition of Plays in this Province.4 I cannot doubt of their chearful Concurrence; and I think, it will much puzzle the G--r to know, how to conduct himself therein. ’Tis said that, he constantly attends them, and that, he has had the Players to dine, or sup with him. To such a State is Pennsylvania reduced, that when N York, and the other Colonies had refused those Wretches an Assylium; they found this their only Sanctuary! But, who can expect better Things?

The House sat since the 5th. Ult. and passed Nine Acts and prepared Eight more. Among the first is the Act for obliging the Judges to ride the Circuits &c.5 This the Governor has returnd to the House with some Amendments; so that We dont as yet know what may be the Fate of it: but, I am informed, the House are determined to stick close to it. W. A.6 proposed the enlargement of the Salaries; Or, the obliging each County to maintain their own Judges; This was not admitted. And, He was told, that, the sum was equal to the Service, unless the People had a greater certainty, by either having the Judges during good Behaviour, or, We under the Royal Authority. He made but little Objections in the House to the Bill; and hath not given them the trouble as on former Occasions.

Three days past—The House resolved themselves into a Committee of the whole House to consider of Ways and Means to pay off the Public-Debt of about £14,500—In which is included our Agents their Salaries &c. They propose stricking Notes on Interest and Sinking them by an extension of the Excise Law &c. It is presumed the G--r will not refuse it, as he has £3100 to receive out of it.7

William Goddard’s paper seems to Me, as if it will be Establish’d;8 I think He has already got above 700 subscribers; I wish this Vessell may stay ’till the 9th; if She does, intend to send that Number, as it will contain a Justification of my Esteemd Friend, against the Attacks of some Enemy, on Your or our side the Atlantic.9

Goddard sends by this Conveyance his two first Numbers. I am thy sincere and Affectionate Friend

Tho Wharton.

To Benjamin Franklin Esqr

Endorsed: Wharton

1Pa. Gaz., Feb. 12, 1767, reported the clearance of the brig Elizabeth, Capt. J. Erwin, for Falmouth.

2Of the government of Pennsylvania from proprietary to royal.

3George Croghan came from New York to Philadelphia during the first week of February, 1767; Pa. Chron., Feb. 2–9, 1767. Samuel Wharton may have accompanied him. Croghan wrote BF from New York on Jan. 16 (not found) and Jan. 27, 1767 (above, pp. 12–16). No letters written by Samuel Wharton to BF at that time have been found.

4A remonstrance from “a great Number of the Inhabitants of the City and County of Philadelphia, of several religious Denominations” was presented to the Assembly on Feb. 17, 1767, urging it to apply to the governor to suppress the “ensnaring” performances of stage plays, a request which was by no means new in the province; see above, IX, 158–60. On February 19 the House sent Governor Penn a memorial, requesting him to put a stop to plays, which threatened to “destroy those Principles of Frugality, Industry and Virtue, upon which the future Prosperity of the Province essentially depends,” but the Governor ignored the request. Pa. Arch., VII, 5991, 5996–7. For some weeks after the submission of the House’s memorial the lawfulness of plays was debated in the columns of the local newspapers, the Gazette and Chronicle taking the lead in the discussions.

5For the fate of this bill, see above, p. 8 n.

6Chief Justice William Allen.

7On Feb. 3, 1767, the House approved a resolution of its committee of the whole to discharge the public debts re-emitting an appropriate amount of money paid into the provincial Treasury to sink the £100,000 emitted in 1760 and then to sink the re-emitted money by extending the provincial excise on spirituous liquor. No bill was passed during the February session incorporating this resolve, apparently because of the opposition of William Allen and his supporters, who argued that, if the House pursued its committee’s scheme, it would be violating the Currency Act of 1764, which forbade the colonies south of New England to emit or re-emit any more legal tender paper currency. In May, however, the House passed a bill to pay the public debts; £20,000 in non-legal-tender paper money was emitted which was to be sunk by extending the excise for four years. Of this sum John Penn received £3,000 and BF £1725, his back salary as agent. See 8 Pa. Arch., VII, 5979–80, 6011, 6016, 6023, 6051–2; Statutes at Large, Pa., VII, 100–7; William Allen to Thomas Penn, March 8, 1767, Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

8Wharton was a silent partner in Goddard’s recently established Pa. Chronicle; see above, p. 9 n.

9The Feb. 2–9, 1767, issue of the Chronicle contained a long article, signed by “A Lover of Justice,” which defended BF from the aspersions of his political enemies and defended his actions in relation to the Stamp Act.

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