Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Franklin, 2 December 1772

To William Franklin

ALS (letterbook draft): Library of Congress

London, Dec. 2, 1772

Dear Son,

I have received yours of Oct. 4. 8. and 13. I cannot imagine what became of my Letter of Augt. 3. from May Place.1 It was however of no great Importance. Mr. Denormandie is gone this Day to Geneva. I gave him a Letter of Recommendation to a Friend there.2

I am persuaded that your Packets were not open’d at the Office; for tho’ a Secretary of State has the Power of ordering Letters to be opened, I think it is seldom used but in times of War, Rebellion, or on some great publick Occasion; and I have heard they have Means of copying the Seal so exactly, as that it cannot be discovered that the Letters have been look’d into. It is plain therefore, that whoever rubb’d your Packets open, had not the Use of such Means. And yet as you are satisfy’d it was not done on your side the Water, I suspect the Letter Carrier might be corrupted and the Business done between the Office in Lombard Street and my House. When a Packet arrives, a special Messenger goes directly from the Office with the publick Letters, before the Sorting is finished. Mine have been sometimes sent by the same Messenger, who call’d on me in his Way to Lord H.’s and sometimes in his Return. And as he3 told Mr. Strahan that his Letters to you were often return’d to me from America, and yours to him sent thro’ my Hands, to be seen he suppos’d by me before Delivery; and since his Resignation your Packets do not appear to have suffered the least Violation, I fancy the Rubbing them open may possibly have been the Ingenuity of Mr. Secry. Knox.4 By the List you have sent me I find none of the Papers missing. Another Circumstance in favour of this Opinion is, that no Letters to me were thus abused but yours and those from the Assembly of Boston. This I think clears the Person you suspected,5 and rather fixes the above Conjecture.

I have not seen your Speech at the Opening of your last Session: but I hear it has been commended by the Ministry.6

I return Mr. Foxcroft’s Letters as you desire.7 I make no Remarks on the Reports he mentions. I know not who is meant by the Hero of your Speech. Nor will I say more at present of the Ohio Affair, than that it is not yet quite secure, and therefore I still advise Discretion in speaking of it.

Dr. Price has been so good as to give me his Opinion of your Scheme, which I send; hoping it may be of Use. I suppose you have his Book, referr’d to in the Paper.8 Some Acknowledgement or Thanks should be sent him for the Trouble he has taken.

I continue very well, Thanks to God. On Monday last, I was chosen into the Council of the Royal Society for the 4th time. Our Friend Sir John Pringle was elected President, which is very agreable to him.9

I shall send you a Tea Urn by the first Ship.1

Just now comes to hand yours of Nov. 3. whereby I find mine of Aug. 3. is received. I am glad to learn that you and your neighbouring Governors are so sociable. I shall communicate what you write about the Virginia Grants.2 At present I can only add that I am, with Love to Betsey, Your ever affectionate Father

B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1Of the letters he mentions, only WF’s of Oct. 13 is extant. For BF’s visit to May Place see Cavendish to BF above, Aug. 4.

2For Dr. John Denormandie see Galloway to BF above, Oct. 12. The friend in Geneva was, we conjecture, de Saussure, to whom BF had recently written; see his letter above, Oct. 8.

3Lord Hillsborough.

4WF frequently submitted his official letters to his father for approval and forwarding; see above, XVI, 36 n. We pointed out there that the arrangement was difficult to conceal, but this is the first evidence that Hillsborough knew of it. For William Knox, Undersecretary of the American Department, see above, XV, 94 n.

5WF had voiced suspicion of Samuel Wharton in his letter of Oct. 13 above.

6In his speech WF asked for appropriations for public works, and for bounties on flax, hemp, and silk. He also urged that officials’ stipends be raised to meet the increased cost of living, and suavely implied what would happen if they were not: poverty had forced the Chief Justice to apply to the crown, which had assumed his whole salary. 1 N.J. Arch., XVIII, 298–300.

7Enclosed in WF’s letter of Oct. 13 and now missing.

8See Price to BF above, Sept. 30. If the scheme is correctly identified there, the book referred to was unquestionably Price’s Observations on Reversionary Payments … (London, 1771).

9And to BF, who had canvassed for his friend among the membership; see his letter above, Nov. 26.

1WF had requested the urn in his letter of Oct. 13. BF added at this point: “I just now hear that the November Packet is arrived, so I stop here till I receive the Letters that come by her.” The sentence was deleted, probably by him because the next sentence replaced it.

2WF’s missing letter presumably amplified what he had said in those of Oct. 13 and 29.

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