Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Cushing, 13 April 1772

To Thomas Cushing

Reprinted from Jared Sparks, ed., The Works of Benjamin Franklin … (10 vols., Boston, 1836–40), VIII, 7–8.

London, 13 April, 1772.


I wrote to you in January last a long letter, by Meyrick, and at the same time wrote to the Committee, since which I have received no line from any one in Boston, nor has Mr. Bollan yet received the answer we wait for, respecting the eastern settlements on the crown land.9

The Parliament has been employed in the royal marriage bill, and other business; nothing of importance relating to America has been mentioned hitherto during the session, and it is thought that India affairs will fill up the remainder of the time, to the prorogation.1 I have not met with Lord Hillsborough since my return from Ireland, seeing no use at present in attending his levees.2 The papers mentioned his intention of moving something in the House of Lords relating to America, but I cannot learn there was any truth in it.3

It is my present purpose to return home this summer, in which case, I suppose I am to leave your business and papers in the hands of Mr. Lee, which I shall do, if I do not receive other directions.

Upon the present plan here of admitting no agent, but such as governors shall approve of, from year to year, and of course none but such as the ministry approves of, I do not conceive that agents can be of much use to you; and, therefore, I suppose you would rather decline appointing any. In my opinion, they have at all times been of full as much service to government here, as to the colonies from whence they come, and might still be so, if properly attended to, in preventing, by their better information, those disgraceful blunders of government, that arise from its ignorance of our situation, circumstances, abilities, temper, &c., such as the Stamp Act, which too would have been prevented, if the agents had been regarded. Therefore I should think, that, if agents can be allowed here on no other footing than is now proposed, we should omit sending any, and leave the crown, when it wants our aids, or would transact business with us, to send its minister to the colonies. Be pleased to present my respects to the Committee, and duty to the Assembly, and believe me, with sincere esteem, &c.

B. Franklin.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Both BF’s letters are printed above, Jan. 13, where the answer that he and Bollan were awaiting is explained; the letters went by the Neptune, Capt. Meyrick (Myrick, Mirick), whose arrival in Boston was announced in the Mass. Gaz. and Boston Weekly News-Letter, April 3, 1772.

1The Royal Marriage Bill, provoked by the clandestine alliances of the Dukes of Gloucester and Cumberland, narrowly restricted the freedom of all descendants of George II, with a few exceptions, to marry as they chose; North pushed the bill through the House of Commons at the King’s behest and in the face of strong opposition. “India affairs” came to the fore in March, when friends of the East India Company introduced legislation to reorganize the administration of Bengal; on the day that BF was writing, a select committee was appointed to look into the whole situation. See Alan Valentine, Lord North (2 vols., Norman, Okla., [1967]), I, 246–7, 276–7; Sutherland, East India Co., pp. 230–2; Cobbett, Parliamentary History, XVII (1771–74), 383–6, 391–423, 454–63. BF was quite right: East India Company affairs absorbed the attention of Parliament until it was prorogued on June 10.

2But BF had made five attempts to call on him; see his memorandum above under the end of January.

3Neither can we. Hillsborough gave notice in March that he would soon introduce an important motion (London Chron., March 28–31), but we can find no record of his doing so. On both sides of the Atlantic, however, rumors were rife that Parliament would deal with American affairs before the year was out; see Mass. Arch., XXV, 525, 535; XXVII, 283. Our guess is that Hillsborough attempted to precipitate a full-scale Parliamentary review of the colonial situation, aimed at far-reaching reforms. He had made a similar attempt in 1768–69, for which see Gipson, British Empire, XI, 234–5, 239–41. If we are right, he probably failed in 1772 for two reasons, lack of support in the Cabinet and the distraction of East India Co. affairs. Parliament contented itself at this time with two measures that specifically affected the colonies: in April the Felony and Dockyard Bills (12 Geo. III, c. 20, 24) received the royal assent.

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