Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Franklin, [13 November 1767]

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. 281–2.6

[November 13, 1767]

Since my return, the affair of the Ilinois settlement has been renewed.7 The King in Council referred the proposal to the Board of Trade, who called for the opinion of the merchants on two points, namely, whether the settlement of colonies in the Ilinois country and at Detroit might not contribute to promote and extend the commerce of Great Britain; and whether the regulation of Indian trade might not best8 be left to the several colonies that carry on such trade; both which questions they considered at a meeting where Mr. Jackson and I were present, and answered in the affirmative unanimously, delivering their report accordingly to the Board. We shall know in a few days what report the Board will make to the King in Council.9 Enclosed I send you the notice I received from the Board to attend the first call with the1 merchants. You must know, government here is quite tired of having the management of Indian affairs, the superintendents drawing for such immense sums to be given in presents to the Indians; who, nevertheless, they say, are not kept in so good temper as when every colony managed the neighbouring Indians, and put the Crown to no expense. It seems therefore the present inclination to drop the superintendencies, and provide for Sir William in some other way;2 but whether they will finally resolve on this, is rather uncertain; for they seem afraid of changing any thing in settled measures, lest something should go wrong, and the opposition make an advantage of it against them. The merchants, to a man, disliked the plan of regulating the trade under the superintendents, and speak strongly against it. The plan I think I have seen in your hands, as proposed by the Board of Trade.3

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6A shorter extract, containing part of the text printed here, occupies one side of a torn sheet of paper that appears to be the bottom section of one page of a collection of extracts from BF’s letters to WF of this period. The extract consists of eight lines of writing in what appears to be WF’s hand plus the catchword for the first line of the following page. On the verso are similarly eight lines and a catchword in the same hand constituting an extract from BF’s letter to WF of Nov. 25, 1767. This paper is in the Ticknor Collection, Dartmouth College Library.

7On Oct. 5, 1767, Lord Shelburne asked the Board of Trade to report on proposals to return to the several colonies control of Indian affairs on their own frontiers and on proposals for the establishment of new governments on the Mississippi and the Ohio, and at Detroit. The Board considered these matters and called in merchants trading to the colonies and other interested persons, who met at the Board on October 27. Three days later, after meeting separately, the merchant group sent a report to the Board, signed by Barlow Trecothick, endorsing both sets of proposals. Board of Trade Journal, 1764–1767, pp. 421, 423, 427, 429–30; Alvord and Carter eds., Trade and Politics, pp. 77–81, 82, 87, 91, 101, 102, 107–8; Jack M. Sosin, Whitehall and the Wilderness (Lincoln, Neb., 1961), pp. 158–61.

8The MS extract described in the first note to this document begins here.

9The Board of Trade did not submit its report on Shelburne’s letter until March 7, 1768. The very long report is printed in Alvord and Carter, eds., Trade and Politics, pp. 183–204.

1The MS extract ends here.

2If the superintendencies of Indian Affairs were to be abolished but new colonies were to be established in the interior, a logical solution to the problem of Sir William Johnson’s position would be for the King to appoint him governor of one of the new colonies, appropriately perhaps, of the one in which he, Croghan, the Whartons, the Franklins, and other friends were interested.

3This may have been the “Plan for the Future Management of Indian Affairs” that the Board of Trade prepared in the spring of 1764 and of which copies were sent to the superintendents of Indian Affairs and royal governors on the continent with covering letters dated July 10, 1764. For BF’s comments on this plan made in the autumn of 1766, see above, XIII, 433–41. The text of the plan is printed in Alvord and Carter, eds., The Critical Period, pp. 273–80. Sir William Johnson replied to the Board of Trade with his comments on Oct. 8, 1764; ibid., pp. 321–42. Presumably, therefore, WF would have received his copy in ample time for BF to have seen it in his son’s hands before leaving for England in November 1764.

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