Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Franklin, 9 January 1768

To William Franklin

Reprinted from William Temple Franklin, ed., Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, LL.D., F.R.S., &c. (quarto edition, 3 vols., London, 1817–18), II, 151.

London, Jan. 9, 1768.

Dear Son,

We have had so many alarms of changes which did not take place, that just when I wrote7 it was thought the ministry would stand their ground. However immediately after the talk was renewed, and it soon appeared the Sunday changes were actually settled.8 Mr. Conway resigns and Lord Weymouth takes his place. Lord Gower is made president of the council in the room of Lord Northington. Lord Shelburne is stript of the America business which is given to Lord Hillsborough as Secretary of State for America, a new distinct department. Lord Sandwich ’tis said comes into the Post Office in his place. Several of the Bedford party are now to come in. How these changes may affect us a little time will show.9 Little at present is thought of but elections1 which gives me hopes that nothing will be done against America this session, though the Boston gazette had occasioned some heats and the Boston resolutions a prodigious clamour.2 I have endeavoured to palliate matters for them as well as I can: I send you my manuscript of one paper, though I think you take the Chronicle. The editor of that paper one Jones seems a Grenvillian, or is very cautious as you will see, by his corrections and omissions. He has drawn the teeth and pared the nails of my paper, so that it can neither scratch nor bite. It seems only to paw and mumble.3 I send you also two other late pieces of mine.4 There is another which I cannot find.

I am told there has been a talk of getting me appointed under secretary to Lord Hillsborough; but with little likelihood as it is a settled point here that I am too much of an American.5

I am in very good health, thanks to God: your affectionate father,


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Presumably BF to WF, Dec. 19, 1767 (above, XIV, 341–2); the letter as printed does not mention governmental affairs, but may be incomplete. The reference can scarcely be to BF to WF, Dec. 29, 1767 (ibid., pp. 349–51), because changes in the ministry were announced on Dec. 22 in the London Chron.

8A puzzling phrase. The meaning may be that the changes were rumored on Sunday, Dec. 20, and subsequently confirmed.

9For identification of Henry Conway, see above, XII, 209 n; of Northington, XIV, 124 n; of Shelburne, X, 348 n; of Hillsborough, XIII, 414 n; of Sandwich, X, 412 n. Granville Leveson-Gower, second Earl Gower (1721–1803), was the Duke of Bedford’s brother-in-law; he had refused a cabinet post under Chatham, and was the first Bedfordite to take office, as lord president of the council, on Dec. 23, 1767. Thomas Thynne, third Viscount Weymouth (1734–96), had been a Bedfordite since the beginning of the reign; he was a gambler and drinker, an effective parliamentarian, and in great favor with the King. All the new ministers except Gower took office on Jan. 20, 1768.

The administration of Lord Chatham, because of his incapacitating illness, was actually headed by the Duke of Grafton. To strengthen his shaky position Grafton admitted the Bedfordites on their terms, which were cabinet posts for Gower and Weymouth; Sandwich, who had been connected with Bedford since the 1740’s, had to be satisfied with the Post Office. The effect of the changes was to harden the ministerial attitude toward the colonies. See John Brooke, The Chatham Administration, 1766–1768 (London, 1956), pp. 295–337.

The newly created office of Secretary of State for the American Colonies is discussed below in BF’s letter to the Gazetteer, Jan. 13, 1768. Colonial affairs had hitherto been in the hands of the Secretary of State for the Southern Department, Shelburne, whose jurisdiction was now curtailed. A contemporary skit, couched as ship news, remarked that in the recent storm the Shelburne, “being in danger of foundering, was obliged to heave overboard the greatest part of her cargo, in order to save the remainder.” London Chron., Feb. 18–20, 1768.

1Under the Septennial Act the life of the parliament elected in 1761 expired in the spring of 1768.

2For the Boston Gazette see above, XIV, 331; the resolutions were those passed by the Boston Town Meeting of October 28, 1767.

3For Griffith Jones, the editor of the London Chronicle, see above, X, 343 n. BF’s ground for complaining of Jones’s “corrections and omissions” are discussed in the headnote of the essay, “Causes of the American Discontents,” above, Jan. 5, 1768.

4These cannot be identified with confidence from WF’s reply below, May 10, 1768.

5BF was later given strong hints that he might be “well provided for” in England, and discussed the inconclusive negotiations at length in his letter to WF below, July 2, 1768. See also Van Doren, Franklin, pp. 378–80.

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