Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Peter Timothy, 3 September 1768

From Peter Timothy2

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Chas. Town, So. Carolina, Sept. 3d. 1768.

Dear Sir,

The Bearer is the young Man you desired me to enquire about, and from [by] whom I have sent two Letters (under your Cover) for Mr. Traill.3 I shall just repeat what I wrote you before, concerning him “That I knew his Father perfectly well; that his Mother lived almost opposite to me, when the present James Stewart was born; that she had not the Means to do great Matters, yet was very attentive to his Education; that I knew who taught him, Mr. Wm. Henderson4 (now in London) of whom he learnt some Latin. That his Mother dying in indigent Circumstances, he fell under the Care of Mr. Francis Stuart, of Beaufort, Port-Royal, 5 with whom he has been some Years: And that I have enquired into his Disposition and Conduct, and have favourable Accounts of both.”

It was lucky for Mr. Spencer that you recommended him to me.6 He is happily settled. And in May last I was reimbursed the Money I paid Maitland on your Bill, with what he owed you.

I should have done myself the Pleasure to write you frequently, but that I was constantly told you would be on your Return home before my Letters could reach England. And Mr. Foxcroft has assured me that you would be in Philadelphia in June last. Otherwise I could have given you from Time to Time a great deal of Intelligence—in such a confused Manner as my perplexed Head would have admitted, who find myself from the most popular reduced to the most unpopular Man in the Province; by taking upon me a Place in the Post-Office at the Time of the Stamp-Act; discontinuing Printing, while its Operation was in Suspence;7 and declining to direct, support and engage in the most violent Opposition—which so exasperated every Body that they have taken every Step to injure, and set up Crouch8 (a worthless Fellow) against me, whom they support with their utmost Zeal and Interest. Ruduced to this Situation I have not been myself since Nov. 1765. Nor shall I recover, unless I quit the Post-Office when some other Occasion offers to distinguish myself in the Cause of America.

I do not suppose there is a Colony on this Continent in so flourishing and promising a Situation as So. Carolina at present. Private and public Works are every where carrying on with Spirit.9 A Beacon and Light-House for this Harbour are near finished on Middle-Bay Island. The Fortifications on White Point1 (which were made only of Fascines before), are walling in with great Expedition, and faced with Palmeta-Logs. The new Watch-House is covered in and will make no despicable Appearance; it is raised a Story beyond the first Design, to contain the Treasurer’s, Country Controller’s, and Powder-Receiver’s Offices. A Stone Bridge at the North End of the Town is completed. The Exchange is begun, and will be an elegant Structure. A new Hospital is in some Forwardness, and the old is to be converted into a proper Work-House. The Survey of the Province is pursued with Diligence, by Tacitus Gaillard2 on the Land, and James Cook by Water. A Canal is to be made at the Head of our principal Street, the End opposite to the Exchange, 3 and a large Body of Marsh to be bank’d in for a Common. At the same Time very elegant Buildings are raising in almost every Street by private Gentlemen. The Lawyers, Doctors; and Planters get rich apace; the Merchants do not in general so well. Our Staple Rice is in a fine Way. The enormous Crop made last Year will be exceeded this.4 Yet after all, the Country is in great Confusion. The Jurisdiction of the Courts in Charles-Town is loudly complained of, and is in Fact, a great Grievance. The People in the Back Settlements have solicited Redress, and their Solicitations too much disregarded. They are at last in Arms, and refuse Submission to every Law or Act of Government that to them is oppressive; and seem resolute to stand out, till the Nature of the Disease suggests the Remedy.5 They call themselves Regulators, and intend to regulate our ensuing Election by marching down 100 or 150 Men to every Parish where they have a Right (which they never before exercised) to vote. And these People extend from the Sea on one Side, to Savannah River on the other; 45 Miles deep. They consist of two Parties. Both owe to their Origin to Grenville’s hellish Idea of the Stamp-Act, when some from Chas. Town persuaded those ignorant Back Settlers, that if the Duty was suffered to take Place, they would even pay it for their Produce, Cattle, Horses, &c. and every other Article. This brought them together, and put into their Heads to expell all the Virginia Horse Thieves, &c. Justice not being obtainable on them, without immense Expence, they punished them themselves—and at last they looked into other Matters. [I have sent Miles Brewton, 6 Esq. of this Place, now in London, a Copy of some extraordinary Resolutions.] But the Bearer waits and this Ship is under Sail—I must break off short, and am ever, with the greatest Regard, Your most obedient and most humble Servant

Petr. Timothy

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Peter Timothy (c. 1720–81), the son of Lewis Timothée, was the printer of the South Carolina Gazette; see above, V, 341 n. This letter has been published: Hennig Cohen, ed., “Four Letters from Peter Timothy, 1755, 1768, 1771,” South Carolina Historical Magazine, LV (1954), 161–4; the editor’s annotations are frequently cited below.

3The bearer was the James Stuart mentioned later in the paragraph; he was probably a nephew of Francis and John Stuart, identified below. The young man was en route to Tunis, carrying letters to the British consul there, James Traill, for whom see above, XIII, 163 n; see also Amelia Evans to BF below, May 23, 1769.

4A master of the Charleston Free School, who in 1755–56 had also been librarian of the city’s Library Society. South Carolina Gazette, Oct. 22, 1750; Catalogue of the Books Belonging to the Charleston Library Society (Charleston, 1826), p. XI.

5Stuart, who was a merchant born in Scotland and the brother of John Stuart, superintendent of Indian affairs in the southern colonies, died in 1766. S.C. Hist. Mag., LV, 162 n.

6The Rev. George Spencer, who has appeared before in these volumes but deserves fuller consideration because of BF’s peculiar loyalty to him. In 1762 Spencer, once “a Merchant of Figure and Credit in North America,” was bankrupt in London, and BF referred him to the charity of William Strahan. Above, X, 105. In 1766 Spencer was back in England to seek ordination, and BF recommended him both to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and to the Bishop of London. Above, XIII, 385–6, 483; William S. Perry, ed., Papers Relating to the History of the Church in Pennsylvania, A.D. 1680–1778 (n.p., 1871), p. 421. The Society appointed him a missionary to Spotswood and Freehold, N.J.; the Bishop found him “grave” and “well disposed,” and ordained and licensed him in Jan., 1767. But he never went to New Jersey, despite statements above (X, 105 n; XIII, 386); the first missionary to Spotswood and Freehold was another acquaintance of BF, William Ayres (above, p. 47 n). When the news of Spencer’s appointment reached America, a storm broke out. In April a clerical convention in New York protested hotly to the Society, branded the man as “odious and detestable,” a reputed papist and informer, and served notice through the public press that the clergy would have nothing to do with him. In June the Society retracted: the secretary sent word that the appointment had been canceled and Spencer would not be given another, and mentioned that he had supposedly left for South Carolina. Walter H. Stowe, “The Seabury Minutes of the New York Clergy Conventions of 1766 and 1777,” Historical Magazine of the Protestant Episcopal Church, X (1941), 150–1 and n. 36. In fact Spencer did not leave until autumn; an entry of Oct. 30, 1767, in BF’s accounts (Journal) indicates that Timothy and BF combined to put up the passage money, and it is to Spencer’s settlement of this debt that Timothy refers.

The puzzling question is why BF took on such a ne’er-do-well as his protégé. That he did is clear, and that his sponsorship roused antagonism in America is equally clear. Provost William Smith, his old enemy, berated him to the Society for recommending Spencer and others whom he knew to be unqualified; his only possible motive, a second irate clergyman protested, must be to render the church despicable. Perry, op. cit., pp. 421–3. This may have been an instance, of course, of BF’s practicing his belief that “I can judge better of a Man by what his Enemies say against him than by what his Friends say for him.” Above, p. 63 n. But why recommend for holy orders a man who seems to have had no friends except BF himself?

7Morgan, Stamp Act Crisis, p. 188.

8Charles Crouch, Timothy’s former apprentice, started the South Carolina Gazette and Country Journal in 1765. S.C. Hist. Mag., LV, 162 n. Timothy redeemed himself in the following February by urging the public to adopt nonimportation: Gipson, British Empire, XI, 185.

9For Charleston’s progress and the works referred to see S.C. Hist. Mag., LV, 162–3 ns.; Carl Bridenbaugh, Myths and Realities: Societies of the Colonial South (Baton Rouge, [1952]), pp. 54–118; A. R. and D. E. Huger Smith, The Dwelling Houses of Charleston, South Carolina (Philadelphia, 1917), pp. 173–8, 262.

1The southernmost point of the city, at the end of the peninsula between the Ashley and Cooper Rivers.

2Gaillard, the son of Bartholomew Gaillard of St. James Santee and St. Mathews, was a member of the Assembly and a delegate to the provincial congress in 1775; he later became a loyalist. M. L. Webber, “Gaillard Notes,” South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, XXXIX (1938), 77–80.

3The canal ran across the peninsula north of the city, and was a key point of the defenses during the siege of 1780.

4The Lond. Chron., Sept. 13–15, 1768, reported that rice was selling in Charleston at £3 10s. the hundredweight, and that 111, 203 barrels had been exported between November, 1767, and August, 1768.

5See Richard M. Brown, The South Carolina Regulators (Cambridge, Mass., 1965).

6For Miles Brewton (1731–75), one of the most prominent merchants of the city, see A. S. Salley, Jr., “Colonel Miles Brewton and Some of His Descendants,” S.C. Hist. & Gen. Mag., II (1901), 142–3. The brackets around this sentence are in the original.

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