Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Franklin, 7 October 1772

To William Franklin

ALS (letterbook draft): Library of Congress

London, Oct. 7. 1772

Dear Son,

I received yours of Sept. 1. with one enclos’d for Mrs. Clarke, which I immediately forwarded to Bristol; but she call’d on me two Days after to enquire how you did. She returns into Oxfordshire for the present, and after some time to Bristol again.1

I am glad you have satisfied Hayne that he went on a Fools Errand. There is no convincing those People here. His Wife was mad in a manner, and whoever said a Word of doubt about the Circumstances of the Story, she immediately suspected them to be concerned in the Plot with the wicked Americans to cheat her of her Right. At the same time I saw she could lie abominably for her Story at different times was quite inconsistent and Contradictory.2 There are certainly some Villains who go about the Country imposing upon People with these Stories of great Estates left them in America; for I have had many Applications of the sort equally groundless. And I believe the same Game is plaid in America, for we have every now and then Fools that come from thence to look for Estates in the Clouds here. The Informer always gets some little Consideration for his Trouble in coming out of his way to give the Information.

The Affair of the Grant is in Train to be compleated as soon as the Boards meet, if no sinister Accident prevents. The Board of Trade is to draw the new Articles that are to be inserted by our Proposal; such as that of our maintaining the Government, &c. I hope to hear of no Land-Jobbing among our Partners in America till the Grant [is] pass’d.3 It may hurt us extreamly.

I am very well. But we are moving to another House in the same Street; and I go down tomorrow to Lord LeDespencer’s to [stay a] Week till things are settled.4 Love to Betsey. [I am] ever Your affectionate Father

B Franklin

[In the margin:] Mr. Small presents his best Respects5

Addition to W Franklin.

I am glad your Healths are restor’d, and think as you do that Amboy Air may possibly agree better with you both than that of Burlington. I would have no Consideration of my Coming home or staying, weigh with you against Considerations of Health, which are of all others the most important. If Franklin Park is as you say a fine healthy situation, and you are besides fond of Farming, I should think you would find most Happiness there, and have enough of Town Life and Company during your Sessions at Amboy and Burlington.

You ask me how we shall reconcile Lord H.’s Conduct at different times relating to the Ohio Affair. It is irreconcileable.6

1Mary Clarke often did errands in London for WF’s wife; what her connection was with Bristol and Oxfordshire we have no idea.

2Richard Hayne of Shoreditch and his wife, Mary, were searching for an inheritance that turned out to be a will-o’-the-wisp. The wife claimed to be the only daughter and heiress of Richard Saltar or Salter of Burlington Co., N.J. He was unquestionably Judge Saltar (c. 1699–1762), a member of the New Jersey Supreme Court and Council; three daughters survived him, but none was named Mary. Dartmouth MSS., II, 177–8, 249; 1 N.J. Arch., XXXIII, 370; John E. Stillwell, Historical and Genealogical Miscellany … (5 vols., New York, 1903–32), IV, 187–8, 194–5. Mary Hayne insisted, nevertheless, that the estate was rightfully hers. Her husband went to New Jersey to investigate and returned empty-handed; he later contended that the true will had been concealed from him. The pair continued for more than a year to pester BF and Lord Dartmouth. BF concluded that the man was a fool and the woman insane, but Dartmouth was sufficiently impressed with her claim to have it investigated in America. See BF to WF below, Feb. 14, April 6, and July 14, 1773.

3BF’s “sinister Accident” echoes his earlier fears after the Privy Council had approved the Walpole grant: to WF above, Aug. 17. The Board of Trade did not give serious consideration to the matter again until April, 1773: Board of Trade Jour., 1768–1775, pp. 351–4, 356. BF, despite his hope, may have heard of land-jobbing in America, which was certainly going on. In 1771 George Croghan, one of the most active American partners, had begun to advertise and sell land south of Fort Pitt and within the Company’s proposed grant: Charles H. Hart, ed., “Letters from William Franklin to William Strahan,” PMHB, XXXV (1911), 450–1.

4BF actually stayed more than a fortnight: below, Mary Hewson to BF, Oct. 22, and BF to WF, Nov. 3.

5Alexander Small had presumably seen the WFS during his recent visit to America.

6Hillsborough had suggested that the promoters ask for vastly more land than they had at first intended (above, XVII, 8) and, when they did so, had changed his stand and opposed them. His purpose was consistent, it has been argued, because he thought that enlarging the scheme would destroy it; see Peter Marshall, “Lord Hillsborough, Samuel Wharton and the Ohio Grant, 1769–1775,” English Hist. Rev., LXXX (1965), 721–2.

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