Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Samuel Cooper, 24 February 1769

To Samuel Cooper3

ALS: British Museum

London, Feb. 24. 1769

Dear Sir,

I received your Favour by Mr. Jefferies.4 I should have been glad if in any thing I could have serv’d him here. The Part I took in the Application for your Degree,5 was merely doing Justice to Merit, which is the Duty of an honest Man whenever he has the Opportunity. I did that Duty indeed with Pleasure and Satisfaction to myself, which was sufficient: But I own the Pleasure is greatly increas’d by finding that you are so good as to accept my Endeavours kindly.

I was about to return home last Summer, and had some Thoughts of doing it by way of Boston; but the untoward Situation of American Affairs here, induc’d my Friends to advise my staying another Winter. I should have been happy in doing any Service to our Country. The Tide is yet strong against us; and our Endeavours to turn it have hitherto had but little Effect. But it must turn; if your frugal and industrious Resolutions continue. Your old Governor Mr. Pownall appears a warm and zealous Friend to the Colonies in Parliament, but unfortunately he is very ill-heard at present.6 I have been in constant pain since I heard of Troops assembling at Boston, lest the Madness of Mobs or the Insolence of Soldiers, or both, should, when too near each other, occasion some Mischief difficult to be prevented or repaired, and which might spread far and wide. I hope, however that Prudence will predominate and keep all quiet.

A great Cause between the City of London and the Dissenters was decided here the Year before last, in the House of Lords; no Account of it has been printed but one having been taken in Writing, I obtain’d a Copy of it, which I send you supposing it may afford you [and] your Friends some Pleasure.7

Please to present my respectful Compliments to Mrs. Cooper and to Mr. Bowdoin8 when you see him. With sincere and great Esteem, I am, Reverend and dear Sir, Your affectionate and most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

Revd Dr. Cooper

Endorsed: From D. Franklin By Capt Freeman.9

Receiv’d Apr. 19. –69.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3The Rev. Samuel Cooper, minister of the Brattle Square Church in Boston from 1743 till his death in 1783, took a keen interest in politics. See above, IV, 69 n.

4John Jeffries (1745–1819), the son of the town treasurer of Boston, had been practicing medicine there since 1766, and had come to England—apparently with a letter of introduction from Cooper to BF—to pursue his studies. He received his M.D. from Aberdeen in 1769, became a surgeon in the British navy and then army, and in later life was an ardent balloonist. After his Channel crossing by balloon in Jan., 1785, he dined with BF at Passy. Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, XV, 419–20; DAB.

5See above, XIV, 218–19.

6The resolutions were of course those for nonimportation; Thomas Pownall’s position had been expressed in a number of speeches in the House of Commons, most recently on Feb. 8.

7The case of Allan (or Allen) Evans was important in the history of dissent. The Corporation of London passed a bylaw whereby anyone nominated to a civic office who declined to run for election was subject to a heavy fine. The Lord Mayor then nominated dissenters, who paid the fine rather than plead nonconformity, which was still held to be a crime under the Test Act. Evans refused to pay. The case was carried on appeal to the House of Lords, which after an eloquent speech by Lord Mansfield pronounced nonconformity to be no crime. The legal position of a dissenter who accepted any one of a great variety of offices remained, nevertheless, highly unsatisfactory. See Anthony Lincoln, Some Political & Social Ideas of English Dissent, 1763–1800 (Cambridge, 1938), pp. 45–6, 240–1.

8For a brief biographical sketch of James Bowdoin see above, IV, 69 n.

9Presumably not Isaac Freeman, BF’s and Jane Mecom’s friend, whose death in the Grenadines was reported in the Boston Chron., March 6–9, 1769, but another Freeman, whose arrival from London was noted in ibid., April 23–24, 1769.

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