Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Foxcroft, 4 February 1772

To John Foxcroft

ALS (letterbook draft) and autograph extract: American Philosophical Society

London, Feb. 4. 1772

Dear Friend,

I have written two or three small Letters to you since my Return from Ireland and Scotland. I now have before me your Favours of Oct. 1. Nov. 5. and Nov. 13.4

Mr. Todd has not yet shewn me that which you wrote to him about the New Colony, tho’ he mention’d it, and will let me see it, I suppose, when I call on him.5 I told you in one of mine, that he had advanced for your Share what has been paid by others, tho’ I was ready to do [it?] and shall in the whole Affair take the same Care of your Interest as of my own.6 You take Notice that “Mr. Wharton’s Friends will not allow me any Merit in this Transaction but insist the Whole is owing to his superior Abilities.” It is a common Error in Friends when they would extoll their Friend, to make Comparisons and depreciate the Merit of others. It was not necessary for his Friends to do so in this Case. Mr. Wharton will in Truth have a good deal of Merit in the Affair if it succeeds, he having been exceedingly active and industrious in soliciting it, and in drawing up Memorials and Papers to support the Application, remove objections, &c. But tho’ I have not been equally active (it not being thought proper that I should appear much in the Solicitation since I became a little obnoxious to the Ministry on Account of my Letters to America) yet I suppose my Advice may have been thought of some Use since it has been ask’d on every Step, and I believe that being longer and better known here than Mr. Wharton, I may have lent some Weight to his Negociations by joining in the Affair; from the greater Confidence Men are apt to place in one they know than in a Stranger.7 However, as I neither ask or expect any particular Consideration for any Service I may have done, and only think I ought to escape Censure, I shall not enlarge on this invidious Topic. Let us all do our Endeavours in our several Capacitys for the common Service, and if one has the Ability or Opportunity of doing more for his Friends than another, let him think that a Happiness and be satisfied. The Business is not yet quite compleated, as many Things happen between the Cup and the Lip, perhaps there may be nothing of this kind for Friends to dispute about. For if no body should receive any Benefit, there will be no Scrambling for the Honour.

Stavers is in the Wrong to talk of my promising him the Rider’s Place again. I only told him that I would, (as he requested it) recommend him to Mr. Hubbard, to be replac’d if it could be done without Impropriety or Inconveniency. This I did, and the rather as I had always understood him to have been a good honest punctual Rider.8 His Behaviour to you intitles him to no Favour, and I believe any Application he may make here, will be to little purpose.

In yours from N York, of July 3. You mention’d your Intention of purchasing a Bill to send hither, as soon as you return’d home from your Journey. I have not since receiv’d any from you, which I only take notice of to you, that if you have sent one you may not blame me for not acknowledging the Receipt of it.

In mine of April 20. I explain’d to you what I had before mentioned, that in settling our private Account I had paid you the Sum of £389 (or thereabouts) in my own Wrong, having before paid it for you to the General Post Office. I hope that since you have receiv’d your Books and look’d over the Accounts you are satisfy’d of this. I am anxious for your Answer upon it, the Sum being large, and what cannot prudently for you [or] me be left long without an Adjustment.9 My Love to my Daughter, and Compliments to your Brother.1 I am ever, my dear Friend Yours most affectionately

B Franklin

Mr Foxcroft

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Only the letter of Nov. 5 has survived: above, XVIII, 243–4.

5Galloway had written Richard Jackson in the same tenor as Foxcroft’s letter to Todd; see the annotation of WF to BF above, Jan. 6.

6BF is doubtless referring to his letter, now missing, of Dec. 3, 1771, which Foxcroft mentioned in his below of March 2.

7Samuel Wharton was busily dissociating himself from BF, Thomas Pownall, and other promoters whom he considered, as friends of America, to be liabilities; and reports circulating in Philadelphia that neither BF nor WF had any influence with the administration were doubtless of Wharton’s sowing. Peter Marshall, “Lord Hillsborough, Samuel Wharton and the Ohio Grant, 1769–1775,” English Hist. Rev., LXXX (1965), 726–7, 734. The reports, forwarded to BF, may have cooled but certainly did not destroy his admiration for Wharton, for which see above, XVIII, 75–6.

8Bartholomew Stavers, who drove a stagecoach between Boston and Portsmouth, N.H., carried letters as a side line. To eliminate this illicit competition Tuthill Hubbart, the Boston postmaster, put him on salary; the mails that Stavers then carried amply paid for it. Journal Kept by Hugh Finlay … (Brooklyn, N.Y., 1867), p. 18. Finlay, writing in 1773, made clear that Stavers was at that time in the postal employ and gave no indication that he had ever been dismissed—if, indeed, that is what BF’s wording implies. The postal rider had been in England in March, 1771, presumably sent by Foxcroft, to whom BF charged a payment of £600 to Stavers. Jour., p. 33; Ledger, p. 20; BF’s bill of exchange, March 4, 1771, APS. At that time Stavers must have had the conversation that was the basis for his taking BF’s name in vain.

9This financial imbroglio apparently went back six years. In 1766 BF paid out of his own pocket £389 10s.d. that Foxcroft owed the Post Office; the next month he entered a payment from Foxcroft in the same amount; when the two were together in England in 1770, BF paid him £389 0s. 10d.: Jour., pp. 9, 10, 24; Ledger, p. 20. The correspondence that followed these three transactions suggests that in 1770 BF forgot the first one and hence believed that the second, with which he had reimbursed himself, should instead have been credited to Foxcroft’s account with the Post Office; the third transaction, therefore, settled what he thought he owed his friend. He soon recognized his mistake, if our reconstruction is correct, and pointed it out in his missing letter of Nov. 7, 1770, to which Foxcroft replied that he had taken note and would credit the sum to him in their private account: above, XVIII, 7. BF’s letter of April 20, 1771, is also missing, but his reference to it here indicates that he had not understood Foxcroft’s acknowledgement. He returned to the matter in his letters to him below, Aug. 22, Oct. 7, and Dec. 2; and the two did not reach a meeting of minds until BF’s letter of March 3, 1773. Final settlement of their accounts was postponed until Oct., 1776: Ledger, p. 11.

1For BF’s “daughter” see Foxcroft to BF above, Feb. 2. Thomas Foxcroft, the Philadelphia postmaster, has frequently appeared before.

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