Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Franklin, 25 November 1767

To William Franklin

MS not found; reprinted from William Temple Franklin, ed., Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. F.R.S. &c., Quarto Edition, II, printed with separate title as The Private Correspondence of Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. F.R.S. &c. (London, 1817), pp. 144–6; also [William Duane, ed.,] The Works of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, VI (Philadelphia, 1817), 255–7; MS extracts: Dartmouth College Library; Yale University Library.3

London, Nov. 25, 1767.

Dear Son,

I think the New Yorkers have been very discreet in forbearing to write and publish against the late Act of Parliament.4 I wish the Boston people had been as quiet, since Governor Bernard has sent over all their violent papers to the ministry, and wrote them word that he daily expected a rebellion. He did indeed afterwards correct this extravagance by writing again that he now understood those papers were approved but by few, and disliked by all the sober sensible people of the province. A certain noble Lord expressed himself to me with some disgust and contempt of B. on this occasion; saying he ought to have known his people better, than to impute to the whole country sentiments that perhaps are only scribbled by some madman in a garret; that he appeared to be too fond of contention and mistook the matter greatly in supposing such letters as he wrote were acceptable to the ministry. I have heard nothing of the appointment of General Clark5 to New York: but I know he is a friend of Lord Shelburne’s, and the same that recommended Mr. Mc. Lean to be his secretary. Perhaps it might be talked of in my absence.

The Commissioners for the American Board went hence while I was in France; you know before this time who they are and how they are received, which I want to hear.6 Mr. Williams, who is gone in some office with them, is brother to our cousin Williams of Boston;7 but I assure you I had not the least share in his appointment; having, as I told you before, carefully kept out of the way of that whole affair.

As soon as I received Mr. Galloway’s, Mr. T. Wharton’s,8 and Mr. Croghan’s letters on the subject of the Boundary, I communicated them immediately to Lord Shelburne. He invited me the next day to dine with him. Lord Clare was to have been there but did not come.9 There was nobody but Mr. Mc. Lean. My Lord knew nothing of the Boundary’s having ever been agreed on by Sir William, had sent the letters to the Board of Trade, desiring search to be made there for Sir William’s letters, and ordered Mr. Mc. Lean to search the Secretary’s office, who found nothing.1 We had much discourse about it and I pressed the importance of dispatching orders immediately to Sir2 William to complete the affair. His Lordship asked who was to make the purchase, i.e. be at the expence? I said that if the line included any lands within the grants of the Charter Colonies, they should pay the purchase money of such proportion. If any within the proprietary grants they should pay their proportion, but that what was within Royal Governments where the King granted the Lands, the Crown should pay for that proportion. His Lordship was pleased to say, he thought this reasonable. He finally desired me to go to Lord Clare as from him, and urge the business there, which I undertook to do. Among other things at this conversation, we talked of the new settlement; his Lordship told me he had himself drawn up a paper of reasons for those settlements which he laid before the King in Council, acquainting them that he did not offer them merely as his own sentiments, they were what he had collected from General Amherst, Dr. Franklin, and Mr. Jackson, three gentlemen that were allowed to be the best authorities for any thing that related to America.3 I think he added that the council seemed to approve of the design: I know it was referred to the Board of Trade, who I believe have not yet reported on it, and I doubt will report against it.4 My Lord told me one pleasant circumstance, viz. that he had shewn his paper to the Dean of Gloucester (Tucker5), to hear his opinion of the matter; who very sagaciously remarked, that he was sure that paper was drawn up by Dr. Franklin, he saw him in every paragraph; adding that Dr. Franklin wanted to remove the seat of government to America; that, says he, is his constant plan.

I waited next morning upon Lord Clare, and pressed the matter of the Boundary closely upon him.6 He said they could not find they had ever received any letters from Sir William concerning this Boundary, but were searching farther: agreed to the necessity of settling it; but thought there would be some difficulty about who should pay the purchase money; for that this country was already so loaded it could bear no more. We then talked of the new colonies. I found he was inclined to think one near the mouth of the Ohio might7 be of use, in securing the country, but did not much approve that at Detroit. And as to the trade he imagined it would be of little consequence8 if we had all the peltry to be purchased there, but supposed our traders would sell it chiefly to the French and Spaniards, at New Orleans, as he heard they had hitherto done.

At the same time that we Americans wish not to be judged of, in the gross by particular papers written by anonymous scribblers and published in the colonies, it would be well if we could avoid falling into the same mistake in America in judging of ministers here by the libels printed against them. The inclosed is a very abusive one,9 in which if there is any foundation of truth, it can only be in the insinuation contained in the words “after eleven adjournments” that they are too apt to postpone business: but if they have given any occasion for this reflection there are reasons and circumstances that may be urged in their excuse.

It gives me pleasure to hear that the people of the other colonies are not insensible of the zeal with which I occasionally espouse their respective interests as well as the interests of the whole. I shall continue to do so as long as I reside here and am able.

The present ministry seem now likely to continue through this session of parliament; and perhaps if the new parliament should not differ greatly in complexion from this, they may be fixed for a number of years which I earnestly wish as we have no chance for a better.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Both the Temple Franklin and the Duane printings (essentially identical) omit the usual closing words at the end of the letter as well as the signature; it is impossible to be certain, therefore, that the entire original text appears in their version. The MS extract in the Ticknor Papers, Dartmouth College Library, is on the back of the part of a sheet on the front of which appears an extract from BF’s letter to WF of Nov. 13, 1767; above, p. 302 n. The extract in the Franklin Collection, Yale University Library, comes a little later in the letter; like the other extract, it consists of eight lines of handwriting at the bottom of a page plus the catchword for the first line of the following page. Both MS extracts appear to be in the hand of WF, and both may have been parts of the same series of extracts. Another extract, containing about half of the text printed here, appears in Jared Sparks’s A Collection of the Familiar Letters and Miscellaneous Papers of Benjamin Franklin (Boston, 1833), pp. 283–4. Some differences exist between his version and the one printed by both Temple Franklin and Duane. These differences are indicated in notes below.

4Presumably the Townshend Duty Act, 7 Geo. III, c. 46, enacted June 29, 1767.

5No general officer by the name of Clark, Clarke, or Clerk, is recorded in the authorized List of the General and Field-Officers, As they Rank in the Army for the year 1767 or for the year 1768. The officer may have been the Lieut. Col. Thomas Clark of the Coldstream Guards, who once boasted in BF’s hearing at Sir John Pringle’s that with 1000 grenadiers he could go from one end of America to the other, geld all the males “partly by force and partly by a little Coaxing,” and thus end all rebellion. BF to Strahan, Aug. 19, 1784, Lib. Cong. This Clark became a major general in 1777, and WTF, knowing his identity, may have substituted the higher rank when printing the letter in 1817.

6The appointees to the American Board of Customs Commissioners, created by 7 Geo. III, c. 41, were experienced but undistinguished men. First commissioner was Henry Hulton, former plantation clerk under the London Board. The others were: John Temple of Boston, former surveyor general; John Robinson, collector in Rhode Island; Charles Paxton, surveyor in Boston; and William Burch, probably a former officer in the British system. Dora Mae Clark, The Rise of the British Treasury (New Haven, 1960), pp. 174, 181–3; Gipson, British Empire, XI, 119–20.

7John Williams, brother of BF’s nephew by marriage, Jonathan Williams (1719–1796), was appointed inspector general; above, XII, 193 n.

8The initial is in error, the Wharton letters concerned being those of Samuel Wharton (not Thomas) of September 30 and October 4; above, pp. 257–60, 272. Sparks’s extract begins with this sentence and he printed “Mr. Samuel Wharton’s,” not “Mr. T. Wharton’s.” It is impossible to say now whether the confusion between the brothers was BF’s or Temple Franklin’s.

9Robert Nugent, Viscount Clare, was president of the Board of Trade. The extract in Dartmouth Coll. Lib. begins with the next sentence.

1That is, Shelburne had sent the Galloway, Wharton, and Croghan letters to the Board of Trade and had instigated searches there and in the office of the secretary of state for letters from Johnson on the subject of an agreed boundary between the whites and the Indians.

2The extract in Dartmouth Coll. Lib. ends here.

3Shelburne’s paper is probably the one dated Sept. 11, 1767, and printed in Alvord and Carter, eds., Trade and Politics, pp. 12–21. While it cites letters from Amherst, Johnson, and Gage in favor of establishing new governments in the west, the names of BF and Jackson are not mentioned.

4The Sparks extract omits the rest of this paragraph.

5Josiah Tucker (1712–1799), dean of Gloucester from 1758 to his death, was a prolific writer on religious, political, and economic topics. His esteem for the American colonies was minimal; he vigorously criticized their rebellious actions, but contended that they should be allowed to separate since they were of little or no real value to the mother country. DNB. He and BF became strong literary opponents.

6The extract in Yale Univ. Lib. starts at the beginning of this paragraph.

7The extract in Yale Univ. Lib. ends here.

8From here to the end of the paragraph the Sparks extract reads quite differently: “if we had it all, but supposed our traders would sell the peltry chiefly to the French and Spaniards at New Orleans, as he heard they had hitherto done. Pray tell me, if you know whether that has been the case, with regard to the skins belonging to our friends B. W. and M.” The Sparks extract ends here. General Gage and other officials were fearful lest the peltry from the Mississippi Valley be diverted to an outlet at New Orleans.

9Not identified.

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