Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from [Samuel] Wharton, [16 November? 1769]

From [Samuel] Wharton

AL: American Philosophical Society

Thursday Morning. [November 16?,1 1769]

Mr. Wharton presents his Compliments to Dr. Franklin and will be much obliged to Him, If He will be so good as to take an early Opportunity of explaining to Governor Pownall, Abraham Mitchel’s2 base Conduct; As Mr. Wharton finds the Governor and his Brother3 have read the Affidavit in the Gazeeteer4 and He is afraid, it may make an injurious Impression on Them, Unless They are soon acquainted by the Doctor, with the Falsity of it.

Mr. Wharton hopes the Doctor may yet find Mitchel’s Letters; As They are of so much Consequence to Mr. W.’s Reputation.5

[In the margin:] I send the three last Boston News Papers for your Amusement.

Addressed: To / Doctor Franklin / Craven Street.

1The affidavit mentioned below was published on Friday, Nov. 10; we are assigning this note to the first Thursday thereafter.

2Abraham Mitchel or Mitchell (1710–88) was a Quaker, apparently the son of Thomas and Sarah Densey Mitchell: William W. Hinshaw, Encyclopedia of Amer. Quaker Genealogy (6 vols., Ann Arbor, Mich., 1936–50), II, 599. He is described both as a hatter and as an eastern capitalist in Nicholas B. Wainwright, George Croghan, Wilderness Diplomat (Chapel Hill, [1929]), pp. 12, 176. He was one of those included in the land grant that the Six Nations made at Fort Stanwix in November, 1768: Kenneth B. Bailey, ed., The Ohio Company Papers, 1753–1817 (Arcata, Cal., 1947), pp. 190–5; his name appears frequently but incidentally in much of the literature on the Grand Ohio Company.

3Former Governor Thomas Pownall and his brother John, secretary of the Board of Trade. Thomas was a signer of the petition to the King from the Grand Ohio Company printed above, end of June.

4The published affidavit, taken by a Philadelphia justice of the peace on Feb. 27, 1769, dealt with the alleged skulduggery of Samuel Wharton and William Trent. Late in 1763, Mitchell deposed, a group of “suffering traders” —those who had sustained heavy losses from Indian depredations in that year and earlier—met at Philadelphia at the instance of Wharton and others, to lay plans for obtaining compensation. They decided to apply to the crown, and appointed Wharton to correspond with a London agent. Some time later Mitchell was approached by Trent, who asked him to make over his claims for 1763; his earlier losses, Trent told him, could never be recouped. The value of the assigned claims might readily be inflated, Trent suggested, and Mitchell would be paid thirty percent of whatever was received. Wharton urged him to accept Trent’s proposal, pointed out that he and others had already done so, and assured him that the traders in their desperate position had no other hope of recovering a penny. Mitchell reluctantly agreed, although he refused to inflate his losses. Only later did he learn that Wharton had known that prospects of compensation were improving, and had been hand in glove with Trent in purchasing the traders’ claims. The Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser, Nov. 10, 1769. For further information about Trent’s activities in buying up the claims see 4 Mass. Hist. Soc. Collections, X (1871), 605–6; Sewell E. Slick, William Trent and the West (Harrisburg, Pa., 1947), pp. 128, 130–1.

5The Doctor either did not find the letters or, if he did, turned them over to Wharton; they are not among BF’s papers, which contain no other mention of Mitchell in this period. Wharton was presumably worried about the affair because it touched a more immediate concern than his reputation: the petition from the Grand Ohio Company (above, end of June) came before the Privy Council Committee for Plantation Affairs on Nov. 20, and was referred to the Board of Trade. Acts Privy Coun., Col., V, 202.

Index Entries