Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Richard Bache, 7 October 1772

To Richard Bache

ALS (letterbook draft): Library of Congress

London, Oct. 7. 1772

Loving Son,

I receiv’d yours of Sept. 1. and am rejoic’d to hear you are all well. Your good Mother and Sisters were so about a Fortnight ago, when I heard from them. The Bill you sent me for £60 Whinney on Smith, Wright & Grey, being good, I return your Note enclos’d and correct’d.1 There remains Five Guineas unpaid, which you had of me just on your going away, so I suppose you forgot it. Send it in a Venture for Ben to Jamaica. By the way, it has been reported here that some Years since a very long Building in that Island, which had a Rod or Conductor at each End was nevertheless struck by Lightning in the Middle and much damaged.2 Did you hear of such a Thing while you was there? If so, pray enquire and learn the Particulars from thence, what kind of Rods, how plac’d, how high above the Roof, how deep in the Ground, and other material Circumstances with regard to the Building and the Damage. If you heard of no such Event while you was there, I suppose the Story is not true. But a Mr. Smith, who was there in some Business, and now here a Merchant, I think, relates it, as what he heard spoken of when there.

I am surpriz’d to hear that the Dutchman I assisted with 25 Guineas turn’d out a Rogue, and that Sheets has paid nothing of what I furnish’d him when here.3 I am afraid I do not grow wiser as I grow older. Pray let me know whether the Dutch Printer Armbrüstor has paid any thing, or is solvable or not.4 And also how the Affair stands of the Mortgage I had on my Friend Maugridge’s Plantation:5 No intelligible Information has yet [been] given me of it.

We are moving to another House in the same [Street] leaving this to Mr. Hewson.6 As soon as I am settled in my new Apartments I shall examine Parker’s Accounts and write to you on them.

You hope I was not a Sufferer in the late general Wreck of Credit here.7 My two Banking Houses, Browns & Collinson, and Smith, Wright & Grey, stood firm, and they were the only People here in Debt to me, so I lost nothing by the Failure of others; and being out of Debt my self my Credit could not be shaken by any Run upon me: Out of Debt, as the Proverb says, was being out of Danger. But I have since hazarded a little in using my Credit with the Bank to support that of a Friend as far as £5000, for which I am secur’d by Bills of the Bank of Douglas, Heron & Company accepted by a good House here; and therefore I call it only hazarding a little, tho’ the Sum is large enough to ruin me if I were to lose it.8 Our Friends the Alexanders went on again immediately, being supported by great Houses here and thro’ them by the Bank, their Bottom being manifestly very great and good, tho’ they had embarrass’d themselves by assisting the Adams’s and others.9

The Affair of the Grant1 is in good Train, and we expect it to be compleated soon after the Boards meet; if no new Difficulties start up unexpected. My Love to Sally and the Boy. I am Your affectionate Father

B Franklin

Mr Bache

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1See Bache to BF above, May 16.

2In Bache’s reply below, Jan. 4, 1773, he acknowledged the gift to his son. The report about the house turned out to be erroneous: BF to Bache below, March 3, 1773.

3For the elusive “Dutchman,” Jacob Schaub, and the loan to John Shütz see Bache to BF above, May 16.

4For Anthony Armbruster and his debt see above, V, 421 n; X, 289 n; XII, 342 n.

5See above, XIV, 135 n; XV, 227–8.

6See Mary Hewson to BF above, July 7.

7The banking crisis began when Alexander Fordyce (d. 1789), a principal partner in Neale, James, Fordyce & Downes, absconded in June with large sums belonging to the bank. It closed. Others were forced to follow suit, and the panic spread to Scotland and eventually to the Continent. London Chron., June 9–11, 20–23, 1772; Scots Mag., XXXIV (1772), 304–18, 547–52; W. Marson Acres, The Bank of England from Within … (2 vols., London, 1931), I, 200–3; Sir William Forbes, Memoirs of a Banking-House (London and Edinburgh, 1860), pp. 39–44; Andrew W. Kerr, History of Banking in Scotland (4th ed., London, 1926), pp. 83–94.

8This sentence was lightly deleted, either by BF or one of his editors.

9The friend whose credit BF shored up was William Alexander. He and his brother Robert (for whom see above, VIII, 444 n) were deeply involved in the affairs of Douglas, Heron & Co., known as the Ayr Bank. One of its investments was in the Adelphi, the building speculation of the famous architect Robert Adam and his brothers, which the panic in June brought to a halt. London Chron., June 20–23, 1772. The bank closed its doors at the same time, but reopened in September. It was unlikely to fail, BF originally wrote in the draft, “though at present a little embarrass’d.” He was wrong on the first point: the bank survived only until August, 1773. The Alexanders were also near the end of their tether. Robert died in 1774 and William, after taking care of his debt to BF, was forced into bankruptcy in October, 1775. Kerr, op. cit., pp. 89, 91–3; Henry Hamilton, “Failure of the Ayr Bank,” 2 Economic History Rev., VIII (1956), 405–17; Jacob M. Price, France and the Chesapeake: a History of the French Tobacco Monopoly, 1674–1791 … (2 vols., Ann Arbor, Mich., [1973]), II, 697–8.

1To the Walpole Co.

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