Benjamin Franklin Papers

Action of the New Jersey House, Council, and Governor Appointing Benjamin Franklin as Agent, 11–20 December 1771

Action of the New Jersey House, Council, and Governor Appointing Benjamin Franklin as Agent

Copies: American Philosophical Society

Hillsborough, as mentioned before, was insisting that colonial agents be appointed by the governor and both houses of the legislature. On this basis he had denied Franklin’s credentials from Massachusetts in January, and in June had forbidden the Governor of New Jersey to assent to any support bill that asserted the Assembly’s sole right to appoint an agent.11 William Franklin privately deplored this challenge, which would jeopardize the salaries of all public officials by plunging him into a squabble with the Assembly.1 Publicly he promised to do his best, but pointed out that the lower house had long exercised the right of appointment in New Jersey and most of the other colonies.2 Assemblymen assured him that he had no chance of persuading them to delete the offending clause; yet somehow, by working behind the scenes, he managed to do it. In December he reported his success to Whitehall in a tone of some surprise: a support bill had been passed in acceptable form.3 All that remained was to appoint an agent in the same form, which was done in the resolutions below. In his agency for New Jersey, Benjamin Franklin’s position was now above reproach.

New Jersey. House of Representatives, Wednesday Dec. 11th. 1771.

Resolved That Doctor Benjamin Franklin be, and he is hereby appointed, Agent of this Colony.

A true Extract from the Votes,

Richd. Smith4 Clerk of Assembly.

New Jersey Council Chamber, Wednesday December 11th. 1771.

The House taking into Consideration the Necessity of having an Agent for this Colony in Great Britain,

Resolved That Doctor Benjamin Franklin be, and he is hereby appointed Agent for transacting the Affairs of this Colony in Great Britain.

A true Extract from the Votes.

Cha. Pettit, 5 D Clk of the Council

New Jersey At a Council held at Burlington on Friday December 20th. 1771.

His Excellency the Governor James Parker Esqr.
Charles Read Esqr. Stephen Skinner Esqr.
John Stevens Esqr. Daniel Coxe Esqr.
Samuel Smith Esqr. John Lawrence Esqr.

The Resolves of the Council, and House of Assembly of the 11th. Instant, appointing Doctr. Benjamin Franklin Agent for this Colony, being laid before the Board, His Excellency, with the Advice of the Council, was pleased to give his Concurrence to the said Resolves.

A true Copy from the Minutes of the Privy Council.

Cha. Pettit D Clk of the Council

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

11See the Hillsborough interview above, Jan. 16; 1 N.J. Arch., X, 301.

1WF to BF above, under Sept. 3.

21 N.J. Arch., X, 317.

3Ibid., pp. 320, 323.

4For Smith (1735–1803), the brother of Samuel Smith, the historian, and the uncle of Joseph Smith, see the DAB.

5Pettit (1736–1806), a merchant of Trenton and Philadelphia, had recently succeeded his brother-in-law, Joseph Reed, as deputy secretary of New Jersey and as clerk of the Council and of the Supreme Court; ibid.

6Three of the Council members in attendance have been identified above, as follows: Read, X, 313 n; Smith, IV, 209 n; Coxe, XIV, 300 n. John Stevens (c. 1715–92) was a prominent New York merchant and landowner in Hunterdon Co., N.J., and brother-in-law of William Alexander, who called himself Lord Stirling. James Parker (1725–97) was mayor of Perth Amboy, and Stephen Skinner was a former treasurer of the East Jersey Proprietors. John Lawrence, one of several of the name in the province, had been an assemblyman from Burlington. See 1 N.J. Arch., IX, 335 n, 446 n; X, 37 n, 302 n.

Index Entries