Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to George Whitefield, [before 2 September 1769]

To George Whitefield

Reprinted from Joseph Belcher, George Whitefield: a Biography, with Special Reference to His Labors in America (New York, [1857]), pp. 414–15.

[Before Sept. 2, 17697]

I am under continued apprehensions that we may have bad news from America. The sending soldiers to Boston always appeared to me a dangerous step; they could do no good, they might occasion mischief. When I consider the warm resentment of a people who think themselves injured and oppressed, and the common insolence of the soldiery, who are taught to consider that people as in rebellion, I cannot but fear the consequences of bringing them together. It seems like setting up a smith’s forge in a magazine of gunpowder. I see with you that our affairs are not well managed by our rulers here below; I wish I could believe with you, that they are well attended to by those above; I rather suspect, from certain circumstances, that though the general government of the universe is well administered, our particular little affairs are perhaps below notice, and left to take the chance of human prudence or imprudence, as either may happen to be uppermost. It is, however, an uncomfortable thought, and I leave it.8

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7On that date Whitefield left London on his way to Charleston; London Chron., Sept. 2–5, 1769. His final trip to America ended with his death in Massachusetts a year later. The wording of the letter strongly suggests that it was written while BF and Whitefield were both in England, and some time after news had reached London of the arrival of troops in Boston on October 1, 1768. If so, what was presumably BF’s last communication with his old friend can be dated between January and August, 1769.

8Whether or not BF intended to tease his friend into annoyance by these reflections, he certainly did so. “Uncomfortable indeed! and, blessed be God, unscriptural,” Whitefield wrote at the foot of the letter; “for we are fully assured that ‘the Lord reigneth,’ and are directed to cast all our own care on him, because he careth for us.” Belcher, op. cit., p. 415.

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