Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Franklin, 6 January 1772

From William Franklin

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Burlington Janry 6, 1772

Honoured Father,

The Session of the Assembly which ended the 21st. Ulto. and the Xmas Holidays since, have so engrossed my Time, that I have not been able to write you fully as I intended. At present I have taken up the Pen principally to acquaint you that I have had a very amicable Session, contrary to the Expectation of every Body, and indeed contrary to the Intention of most of the Members of the Assembly. I have carried two Points of great Difficulty, with which I suppose the M[inistr]y will not be a little p[leased.] One is the Supply for the Troops, and the other is, leaving out those Words in the Support Bill, which the Board of T. look’d upon as meant to establish the Assembly’s Claim of the sole Right of appointing an Agent. This last, however, I suppose you [will] not be altogether pleas’d with. However, it really (inter nos) makes no kind of Difference, and yet will satisfy the M[inistr]y as it will appear to be a Point gained.1 I will explain this in a future Letter.

I send you by this Opp[ortunit]y your Appointment duely certified, and the rough Draft of some Mes[sages] which I sent the Assembly, and Copies of their Answers. Further Particulars of the Session I must refer to my [next,] which shall be soon.

Messrs. Galloway and Foxcroft have informed me that they have wrote to you, Mr. Jackson, [and] Mr. Todd, fully with respect to the Grants said [to] have been made by the Government of Virginia, of Lands which will fall in the proposed New Colony. If the Accounts which those Gentlemen have received are just, we shall have very little worth our Attention unless the Bounds are considerably enlarged. But I can hardly believe that Lord Botetourt had any Authority to grant Land on the other side of the Allegany Mountains. The King’s Proclamation of the 7th. of Octr. 1763 prohibited all such Grants.2 It also seems improbable to me, that the Crown should, thro’ Lord Botetourt, give the Virginians Leave to purchase of the southern Indians the very Land which the Crown had before purchased of the Six Nations, and vest them with a Right to the Lands so purchased, at the very Time there was a Negotiation on Foot for the Disposal of them to a Company in England.3 I have several more Things to mention to you on this Head, but my Time will not permit.

Betsy joins me in wishing you many happy new Years. I am, Honoured Sir, Your ever dutiful Son

Wm: Franklin

Our Love to Mr. Bache, to whom I intend writing in a few Days. His dear Boy I have just heard is well, and quite free from all Apprehensions of the Small Pox. Please to forward the enclosed to the C. Justice with my Comp[liment]s and let him know that I receiv’d his Letter and shall write to him by the next Packet.4

1For WF’s long squabble with the Assembly, and the delicate issue of the agency, see above, XVIII, respectively 270 n and 218, 260–1. BF was displeased, as his son predicted, with the requirement that both houses and the governor should appoint the agent: to WF below, Jan. 30.

2Galloway had written Richard Jackson, counsel to the Board of Trade; Foxcroft had written Anthony Todd, secretary of the Post Office. See below, Jackson to BF, Jan. 16; BF to Foxcroft, Feb. 4, and to Galloway, Feb. 6. The grants about which Galloway and Foxcroft were exercised were, we assume, those that Botetourt and his Council had authorized in principle in 1769; they were to the veterans of the French and Indian War whom Washington represented, and were based upon Gov. Dinwiddie’s promise of 200,000 acres in his proclamation in 1754. Individual claims were submitted to and approved by Botetourt’s successor, Lord Dunmore, and his Council in the fall of 1771. See Douglas S. Freeman, George Washington: a Biography (7 vols., New York, [1948–57]), III, 215–16, 239, 282–3. WF was mistaken in thinking that the Proclamation of 1763 permanently prohibited settlement west of the Alleghenies: the prohibition was intended to be temporary. Robin A. Humphreys, “Lord Shelburne and the Proclamation of 1763,” English Hist. Rev., XLIX (1934), 246–7, 249–50, 254; for the background and provisions of the Proclamation see also Gipson, British Empire, IX, chap. 3. In March, 1768, the Board of Trade had urged the prompt establishment of an Indian boundary by negotiation. N.Y. Col. Docs., VIII, 19–31. The resultant treaties and revision of treaties, for which see the following note, were the background of Botetourt’s and Dunmore’s actions.

3BF’s correspondence in 1772–73 refers so often to Virginia’s claims that the stages by which they evolved should be explained at this point. In 1768, at the treaty of Fort Stanwix, the Six Nations ceded to the crown “their” lands south of the Ohio and as far west as the mouth of the Tennessee. But not all of it was theirs to cede: from the mouth of the Great Kanawha the land belonged to the Cherokees, “the southern Indians,” who almost simultaneously agreed, at the treaty of Hard Labor, to part with their hunting grounds east of a line running from the Great Kanawha southeastward. The Virginians were not satisfied. For a time the House of Burgesses dreamed of obtaining from the Cherokees everything north of the southern boundary of Virginia extended westward to meet the Ohio (it would actually have met the Mississippi); when the dream faded, in 1770, the House accepted a lesser cession. It was negotiated in a treaty at Lochaber the following October. The line, which was to run north from the confluence of the Holston and North Holston to the mouth of the Great Kanawha, parallel to the western border of the proposed Walpole grant and well inside that vast tract, was never surveyed. It was almost immediately renegotiated, in 1771, to run northwest from the Holston to the Kentucky and along the latter to the Ohio; this revised line took the name of its surveyor, Col. John Donelson. Whitehall had been amenable to the Lochaber settlement, but refused until 1773 to extend it to the Kentucky. See John R. Alden, John Stuart and the Southern Colonial Frontier … (University of Michigan Pub., History and Political Science, XV; Ann Arbor, 1944), pp. 276–80, 286–8, and the map on p. 102. There were thus, between 1768 and 1771, four successive proposals for demarcating Virginia’s claims: the Hard Labor line, the line of the colonial border projected westward, the Lochaber line, and the Donelson line.

4Richard Bache was about to sail for home and left in mid-February; his son had just been inoculated a second time for smallpox. Frederick Smyth, Chief Justice of New Jersey, visited England until late summer: 1 N.J. Arch., X, 379.

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