Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Peter Timothy, 24 August 1772

From Peter Timothy

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Charles-Town, Aug. 24. 1772.

My dear Sir,

It is almost sufficient to discourage any Man from continuing to write, who has sent so many Letters as I have to you since the 16th of August last Year, without receiving an Answer to any one besides the first, and that after Six Months had elapsed.4 But I will suppose they have miscarried: I can not believe that Doct. Franklin will withdraw his Friendship from any Man, while it may be in his Power to serve him, merely because he has been unfortunate. I have been so, but never willfully wrong’d any Man. I have suffered, by never being lukewarm in any Cause.5 I must be active, and I never did set that Value upon Money, which the prudent Part of the Mankind generally does: In that Respect I have been imprudent; and if I have been unjust, the World says, it is to myself and Family. You have already been made acquainted with many Particulars of my Situation, tho’ in a very confused Manner.

My natural Eyes being almost worn out, I have declined the Printing Business, and am now employed in putting my Affairs in order for a Settlement.6 In the mean Time I am ready for any Employment in His Majesty’s Service, that will not degrade me, which any Friend may think me fit for or can procure by his Interest. The Naval Officer’s Place here is not of any considerable Value, the Duty is easy; it is held by one Stephenson, and executed by Mr. Raper his Deputy:7 I could be satisfied with a Reversion of that Office. I know your Disposition from Mr. Hughes, whose Loss I shall ever lament; if you say you will serve me if you can, I am sure you will do it.8 The Manner must be left to you.

My Son Benjamin Franklin has just happily got thro’ the Measles, and a fine promising Boy; but as I have lost eight Sons in Teething, my Apprehension for him will not be over till he has all his Teeth.9

When I began this Letter it was with an Intent to say nothing of myself—but Self, somehow or other, even in unmercenary Minds will always prevail; and I find myself as apt to wander as other Men. I took up my Pen, only to recommend to your Notice and Friendship, a very worthy and intimate Friend of mine, Capt. Elias Vanderhorst, by whom this will be handed to you—a Gentleman, who can perhaps give you as good an Account of this and the Southern Colonies as any you ever yet have met with. He is modest and sensible, of unquestionable Honour and Veracity; has enjoyed a good Fortune, but sunk it in Trade, by Ill-Usage, not Misconduct.1 In short, he is such a Man, that I am persuaded, when you know him, you will not regret his having been recommended by Your most affectionate oblig’d and very obedient humble Servant.

Petr. Timothy.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4No letter from BF in 1771 has survived, and only one from Timothy: above, XVIII, 233–5.

5But he had suffered from not being warm enough against the Stamp Act to satisfy the radicals: above, XV, 200–1.

6The settlement was short-lived: Timothy left the business in the hands of partners from March, 1772, to November, 1773; he then resumed control and maintained it until his death in 1782. Hennig Cohen, The South Carolina Gazette, 1732–1775 (Columbia, S.C., 1953), pp. 4–5, 248–9; above, I, 342 n.

7The position of the naval officer was an old one. He was responsible jointly to the governor and the British Board of Customs, and by this time was appointed by the crown; among his various duties were those of enforcing the navigation acts and overseeing the clearance of ships from Charleston. South Carolina was one of the few colonies in which the office was commonly discharged by a deputy. Charles M. Andrews, The Colonial Period of American History … (4 vols., New Haven, 1934–38), IV, 187–9, 420; Leonard W. Labaree, ed., Royal Instructions to British Colonial Governors, 1660–1776 (2 vols., New York and London, 1935), II, 657, 664, 760–2, 773–4; Thomas C. Barrow, Trade and Empire: the British Customs Service in Colonial America, 1660–1775 (Cambridge, Mass., 1967), pp. 118–19. The naval officer at the time was one Benjamin Stevenson: The Royal Kalendar … (London, 1772), p. 280. His deputy, we are convinced, was Robert Raper (1709–79), a Charleston lawyer who was clearly connected with the customs service and must have been the naval officer of that name who turned up in Newport in 1769. See Philip M. Hamer and George C. Rogers, Jr., eds., The Papers of Henry Laurens (3 vols. to date; Columbia, S.C., 1968– ), I, 38 n; Carl Bridenbaugh, “Charlestonians at Newport, 1767–1775,” S.C. Hist. and Geneal. Mag., XLI (1940), 45.

8For BF’s services to his old friend John Hughes, and the latter’s death in Charleston the previous January, see above, XVII, 157 n; XVIII, 235 n.

9The baby was nine months old at the time; he managed to survive, and eventually went into his father’s printing business. Douglas C. McMurtrie, A History of Printing in the United States … (2 vols., New York, 1936), II, 327.

1Elias Vanderhorst (1735–1816), the son of John and Mary Elizabeth Vander Horst, was a Charleston merchant who had commanded a company during the Cherokee war of 1760–61. He remained in England for the rest of his life. By 1775 he was established as a merchant in Bristol, where after the Revolution he served as the American consul for many years. See Alexander S. Salley, Marriage Notices in the South-Carolina Gazette … (Albany, 1902), pp. 24–5; S.C. Hist. and Geneal. Mag., III (1902), 204; Mabel L. Webber, ed., “Josiah Smith’s Diary …,” ibid., XXXIII (1932), 103; Sketchley’s Bristol Directory … (Bristol, 1775), p. 99; Gent. Mag., LXXXVI, pt. 1 (1816), 567.

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