Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Samuel Cooper, 14 April 1770

To Samuel Cooper4

ALS: British Museum

London, April 14. 1770

Dear Sir,

I suppose Govr. Pownall acquaints you with what has pass’d this Session relating to our American Affairs:5 All Europe is attentive to the Dispute between Britain and the Colonies; and I own I have a Satisfaction in seeing that our Part is taken every where; because I am persuaded that that Circumstance will not be without its Effect here in our Favour. At the same time the malignant Pleasure other Powers take in British Divisions, may convince us on both sides of the Necessity of our Uniting. In France they have translated and printed the principal Pieces that have been written on the American Side of the Question; and as French is the political Language of Europe, it has communicated an Acquaintance with our Affairs very extensively.6 Mr. Beaumont, a famous Advocate of Paris, the Defender of the Family of Calas, wrote the Reflexions d’un Etranger desinteressé, which I send you.7 The Manuscript is an original Letter from a Gentleman (of Note I am told) as far off as the Austrian Silesia, who, being concern’d for us, wrote it to the Parliament, directing it to the late Speaker. The Speaker read only the first Side, was offended at the Freedom and Impertinence (as he call’d it) and return’d the Letter to the Office refusing to pay the Postage.8 Accept it as a Curiosity. I send you also a late Edition of Molineux’s Case of Ireland, with a new Preface shrewdly written.9 Our Part is warmly taken by the Irish in general, there being in many Points a Similarity in our Cases. My Respects to Mr. Bowdoin, and believe me ever, Dear Sir, Yours affectionately

B Franklin

Revd. Dr. Cooper

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4The minister of Brattle Street Church, Boston. See above, IV, 69 n, and his correspondence with BF in 1769.

5Pownall’s extant letters to Cooper are printed in Frederick Griffin, Junius Discovered … (Boston and London, 1854). These letters, like many of BF’s to Cooper and other Boston correspondents, fell into British hands in 1775 and are now in the British Museum.

6John Dickinson’s Farmer’s Letters and BF’s Examination and “Positions to be Examined” were published in France; see Alfred O. Aldridge, “Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg, a French Disciple of Franklin,” APS Proc., XCV (1951), 362–3.

7For Beaumont see above, XVI, 205. His Reflexions were printed for BF by William Strahan, and extracts in English were published in the Pa. Gaz., May 31, 1770, and the London Public Advertizer, July 23, 1770; they appear to have been, according to Verner Crane, “publicity hand-outs from Craven street.” Letters to the Press, p. xlix. Crane conjectures that the two extracts may have been translated by BF (ibid., p. 294), and we have examined them with care. They are similar but far from identical. Each shows some touches that are reminiscent of BF and some that are not, and it is impossible to say that one extract is closer to his style than the other. He could have translated either or both, but we have no evidence whatever that he did.

8Sir John Cust, the irate Speaker, had died the previous January, presumably soon after returning the letter unpaid for. Hence, instead of going to Parliament, as the writer intended, it went via the Post Office and BF to Cooper. It was in French, dated Nov. 22, 1769, at Orlau in Austrian Silesia (now Orlova, Czechoslovakia), and signed de Bludowski. We are unable to identify the author, or explain why he felt moved to address Parliament on the colonial question. The Stamp Act, he argued, had destroyed the old bond between Britain and her colonies, and the only long-term hope of keeping them in the empire was to give them greater autonomy and representation in the Westminster Parliament. BF must have forwarded the letter less for its argument, which though cogent was scarcely original, than as an example of concern in a distant corner of Europe.

9William Molyneux, The Case of Ireland’s Being Bound by Acts of Parliament in England Stated … (London, 1770). This work, first published in 1698, was one which BF had been reading earlier in 1770; see above, p. 14 n. Molyneux’s purpose had been to demonstrate Ireland’s legislative independence of England, but his argument when he published it had been rejected by the House of Commons. DNB. It had been specifically denied in the Declaratory Act of 1719 (6 Geo. I, c. 5), and had gained no acceptance in the intervening years; BF must have known that, whatever its usefulness in America, it was an old and broken reed in Britain.

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