Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Alexander, 30 June 1772

From William Alexander1

ALS: American Philosophical Society

New York June 30: 1772.

Dear Sir

It is not perhaps unknown to you that soon after my Arrival in this Country from England2 I was induced to make several large purchases of Lands with a Veiw of soon disposeing of some of them again to Advantage; you well know the Sudden Change that took place in the Sale of Lands, Vast Quantitys of new Lands Comeing into the Market and a great Scarceity of Cash after the last War render’d lands almost unsaleable; by this means I not only got rid of my ready Money but was left Considerably in debt; I have made many Efforts to extricate my self from so disagreable a Scituation but hitherto in Vain; I am now attempting to do it, by the Sale of a Suffecient quantity of my Lands in this Country by Way of a Lottery, some of the printed Schemes of which are now transmitted to you;3 the Lottery has already met with very Considerable Success in most of the Colonies in America, I am in hopes it will have some encouragement in G Brittain; I do not a Moment doubt of its haveing your good Wishes; your knowledge of this Country and of the Gentlemen who are Managers of the Lottery enable you to Judge of the honestty of the Scheme; your recommendation of it will be of very Considerable use; I must therefore beg it may have your Countenance among your Acquaintance; such of them as incline to become adventurers in it may be supplied with Tickets by applying to Messrs. Drummond Charing Cross or to Mr. John Blackburn Merchant in London.4 The Sale of Tickets is so forward on this side the Water, that if I hear it meets with encouragment in England the Lottery will be drawn by September or October Next. I am Dear Sir Your Most Obedient Humble Servant


Doctor Franklin

1Better known as Lord Stirling, because of his unsuccessful claim to a Scottish earldom. He was born and brought up in America, acquired large landholdings there, and subsequently became a prominent if not distinguished American general in the War of Independence. BF had known him for many years, but their contact seems to have been of the most casual; see above, VI, 244–5; X, 151 n; XIII, 481 n.

2He had gone to England in 1756 to defend Gen. William Shirley, whose aide-de-camp and secretary he had been; during that visit he had had his title confirmed by a Scottish jury and denied by the House of Lords, but he used it thereafter.

3Stirling was trying to sell tickets for his lottery not only in England but up and down the American seaboard. The British response was meager to a degree, as BF indicated in his reply below, Nov. 3; and the American response was almost as poor. The whole affair dragged on for another two years and ended in a fiasco. See Alan Valentine, Lord Stirling (New York, 1969), pp. 129–36.

4For Drummond and Blackburn see above, respectively, XVI, 269 n; XVIII, 8.

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