To [William Strahan9]
ALS: Pierpont Morgan Library
May 16. 67
I send you the Notes you desired of me. When you have dress’d them they’ll be fit to appear in Company. I send also a little Article of News for your Paper, which I wish may be inserted this Evening if you see no Objection.1 I mean to set the Dispute in a ridiculous Light if I could. The Act of Parliament requires the Colony to find for the Troops, Barracks, Firing, Candles, Bedding, Utensils to dress their Victuals, Small Beer or Cyder, or Half a Pint of Rum with Salt Vinegar and Pepper. All the material Articles they have granted, and refuse only the Rum, Salt, Vinegar and Pepper.2 The Reasons they give are that those articles are not usually allow’d in other Places, and that they cannot afford them; but the true Reason is suppos’d to be, that by acting differently from the Act, it may appear that what they do is voluntary, and that they keep up their Claim of Right, to Freedom from Taxes by Act of Parliament. The End is an Allusion to one of the Tales in the Arabian Nights, wherein a Person is in great Distress, finding him self condemn’d to be hang’d, and could not conceive for what Offence, being charg’d only with having made his Cream Tarts without Pepper.3 Adieu. yours, affectionately
Pray lend me, and send by the Bearer, Ruffhead’s Statutes.4
9. Strahan was the only man in London closely identified with a newspaper (London Chronicle) with whom BF was on such familiar and personal terms as the salutation and close of this letter indicate.
1. No “little Article of News” or letter such as BF discusses here appeared in London Chron., May 14–16, 1767, or in a following issue, and neither the present editors nor Verner W. Crane, Letters to the Press, have identified such a piece in any other London paper.
2. For the New York Assembly’s resolution of June 23, 1766, indicating which items it was willing to provide, see Gipson, British Empire, XI, 49, and for the act that followed and the general controversy, up to the time of BF’s letter to Strahan, see ibid., pp. 47–61.
3. The Story of Noor-ed-Deen and His Son and of Shems-ed-Deen and His Daughter (nights 20–24), in which, as part of a test of identity, one character is threatened with execution on the trumped-up charge of preparing a “confection of pomegranate seeds” with too little pepper.
4. Owen Ruffhead (1723–1769) was the editor of The Statutes at Large, of which at the time BF wrote nine volumes had been published, 1762–65, covering the period from Magna Carta through 4 George III. After Ruffhead’s death the series was continued by other hands with nine more volumes to the Union of Great Britain and Ireland.