Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to James Bowdoin, 13 July 1769

To James Bowdoin

ALS: Massachusetts Historical Society

London, July 13. 1769

Dear Sir

I am honoured with yours of May 10. and agree with you perfectly in your Sentiments of publick Affairs. Government here seems now to be growing more moderate with regard to America,7 and I am persuaded that by a steady prudent Conduct, we shall finally obtain all our important Points, and establish American Liberty on a clearer and firmer Foundation. The Folly of the late Measures begins to be seen and understood at Court, their Promoters grow out of Credit, and the Trading Part of the Nation with the Manufacturers are become sensible how necessary it is for their Welfare to be on good Terms with us. The Petitioners of Middlesex and of London have numbered among their Grievances the unconstitutional Taxes on America,8 and similar Petitions are expected from all Quarters: So that I think we need only be quiet and persevere in our Schemes of Frugality and Industry, and the rest will do itself. Your Governor is recall’d, and ’tis said the Commissioners will follow soon, or be new-modell’d with some more Men of Discretion among them.9 I am just setting out on a Journey of 5 or 6 Weeks, and have now only time to add, that I am, with the greatest Esteem and Regard, Dear Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

My Respects and best Wishes attend Mrs. Bowdoin, Mr. Temple and your amiable Daughter.1

Honle James Bowdoin Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7The government had no intention of laying further taxes on America for revenue purposes, Hillsborough had assured the colonial governors in his circular letter of May 13, 1769, and intended to remove some duties at the next session of Parliament. I Pa. Arch. IV, 341.

8The petition of the freeholders of Middlesex was presented to the King on May 24, and that of the livery of London on July 5. Both excoriated the ministry for unfair and illegal practices, largely connected with the Wilkes affair. The Middlesex petition accused the King’s “evil counsellors” of creating the same grievances in America as at home, and the London petition spoke particularly of unconstitutional taxation of the colonies. Annual Register, XII (1769), 199, 202.

9Francis Bernard had been called home, and left on Aug. 1; but BF’s rumor about the Board of Customs Commissioners at Boston proved to be only wishful thinking. The one man of “discretion” then on the Board was John Temple, Bowdoin’s son-in-law, for whom see above, X, 389 n. Temple’s fellow commissioners were charging him with laxity, especially in regard to smuggling, and the next year he returned to England to defend himself. What BF is saying between the lines is that all the commissioners should be like him.

1Bowdoin’s wife was the former Elizabeth Erving, the daughter of a Boston merchant; and their only daughter, also Elizabeth, was John Temple’s wife.

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