Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Peter Timothy, 20 October 1771

From Peter Timothy6

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Charles Town October 20th, 1771.

Dear Sir,

I wrote you on the 28th past, but the Pilot having neglected to put my Letter on board the last Packet-Boat, it accompanies this.

The Assembly have continued sitting longer than I thought they would have done. Last Week all the Patriots and principal Speakers, made themselves sure of carrying the £1500 into the Estimate, under the Expedient of including the same in the Treasurer’s Accounts: But were surprized, in putting the Question, to see all the young Members rise against it, and vote for the other, “that it should be inserted in the Schedule in the very Words it had formerly stood.” It was then generally apprehended an immediate Dissolution would take Place; but that not happening, this Week the Members for the Expedient have (after a good deal of private Conference with the Members in Opposition) proved that the Vote was irregular, and carried the Question their own Way. Now the Bill is to go before the Council. If they scrutinize too narrowly, they must reject it: if they do not, the Governor will not (I believe) withhold his Assent—and thus public Credit may be restored, and universal Harmony revive.7

I am very sorry to tell you, that I believe you will not hear from your Friend Mr. Hughes by this Packet. I assure you, my good Friend, I begin to be under very serious Apprehensions about his doing well. Within this Fortnight his Cough has encreased, his Strength and Spirits failed, and he is scarce at any Time now without a Fever. He is sensible of his dangerous Situation, yet flatters himself that the Winter will restore him but he appears to me to be too far gone. I should not be among those who would regret him the least, for I should lose a most agreeable, sensible and engaging Companion, I think I may add Friend. If he holds out till the beginning of December, I shall then have Hopes that changing his Climate in the Spring may prolong his Days—but really he appears far gone.8

We have had Abundance of Rain for this Week past, which I believe has done some Damage to late Crops, yet we may calculate the Rice made this Season at 100 Thousand Tierces, and Indigo at about 400 Thousand Weight.9

I hope you enjoy perfect Health, wish you its Continuance, and every Thing desirable, and am, with the greatest Regard Dear Sir Your most affectionate obliged and obedient humble Servant

Pet. Timothy.

P.S. Doct. Haly having surrendered him self his Trial will come on Tuesday or Wednesday. I never knew a Man have so many potent Friends start up to him as he has; and I suppose he will be found guilty of Manslaughter. If ever a Man was compelled to fight contrary to his Inclination he was;1 if I had Time to relate Particulars, you would be of that Opinion.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6See above, XV, 199.

7In this paragraph Timothy is describing one small battle in the political war that raged in South Carolina for six years before the Revolution. In December, 1769, the Commons House of Assembly ordered the provincial treasurer to pay £1500 to the Society of the Gentlemen Supporters of the Bill of Rights in London, an organization formed to defend John Wilkes and pay his sizable debts; and the treasurer did so. For many years the House had been in the habit of ordering such grants for routine domestic purposes in the colony, and then reimbursing the treasury in the next tax bill; but the purpose this time was neither routine nor domestic. The Privy Council ruled that the House alone could not legally order any expenditure, even for local services, without the consent of the Governor and Council; and Lieut. Gov. Bull was instructed to assent to no money bill that did not specify how the funds were to be used within the colony. The House defied the ruling, asserted its right to vote money for whatever purpose it saw fit, and included in its tax bill for 1770 a repayment to the treasury for the £1500. Bull and his Council turned down the bill, and the Assembly was prorogued. When it met again in September, 1771, it faced the Governor, Lord Charles Greville Montagu (1741–84), back from a two-year leave in England. The House tried to get around him by the expedient to which Timothy refers: a provision in the tax bill to repay the estate of the late treasurer the money he had advanced for enumerated and “other” services, the latter being the gift to Wilkes. The “young Members” scorned this subterfuge, but failed to have the gift named in the bill (“the schedule”) as it had been the year before. Timothy, who had consistently supported the House in his S.-C. Gaz., hoped that the Governor and Council would ignore the obvious, that the evasive clause in the measure flouted the government’s intention. But the bill was rejected, and the war went on. See Jack P. Greene, “Bridge to Revolution: the Wilkes Fund Controversy in South Carolina, 1769–1775,” The Jour. of Southern History, XXIX (1963), 19–34.

8For BF’s successful effort to get John Hughes, his old friend, transferred from the customs post in Portsmouth, N.H., to that in Charleston see above, XVII, 157 n. Hughes did hold out through December, but died the following month. S.-C. and Amer. General Gaz., Jan. 29–Feb. 6, 1772.

9A tierce is larger than a barrel and smaller than a hogshead. Another contemporary estimate was that Charleston exported 130,601 barrels of rice between Nov. 1, 1770, and Oct. 10, 1771, and in the year 1771 produced 655,133 pounds of indigo. Leila Sellers, Charleston Business on the Eve of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1934), pp. 157, 166.

1In the previous August Peter De Lancey, a relative of the New York De Lanceys and an ardent Anglophile, got into a bitter argument with John Haley, a Charleston physician, who challenged him and killed him. Haley’s prosecution for murder had political overtones because of the victim’s British sympathies; the Doctor was defended by the best young talent of the Charleston bar and convicted, as Timothy prophesied, only of manslaughter. See S.-C. Gaz., Aug. 22, 1771; Maurice A. Crouse, ed., “The Letterbook of Peter Manigault, 1763–1773,” S.C. Hist. Mag., LXX (1969), 189–90; Joseph Johnson, Traditions and Reminiscences, Chiefly of the American Revolution in the South... (Charleston, S.C., 1851), pp. 45–7. Timothy, as a champion of colonial rights, was naturally on the side of the defense.

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