Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Joseph Galloway, 2 December 1772

To Joseph Galloway

ALS (letterbook draft): Library of Congress

London, Dec. 2. 1772

Dear Friend,

I am favoured by your kind Letter of October 12.3 inclosing three Bills of Exchange, viz.

Wilcocks on Baillie for £142 9s. d.
Do. on Col. Johnstone4 for 166 15s. d.
Roberdeau on Trevanion for 190 15s. 2d.
In all £500 0s. 0d.

being the Amount of my last Year’s Salary. I am much obliged to the House for their Punctuality, and to you for your friendly Care in the speedy Remittance.

I am glad you are returned again to a Seat in the Assembly, where your Abilities are so useful and necessary in the Service of your Country. We must not in the Course of Publick Life expect immediate Approbation, and immediate grateful Acknowledgement of our Services. But let us persevere, thro’ Abuse and even Injury. The internal Satisfaction of a good Conscience is always present, and Time will do us Justice in the Minds of the People, even of those at present the most prejudic’d against us.

I have given Dr. Denormandie a Recommendation to a Friend in Geneva, for which Place he set out this Morning; and I shall be glad of any Opportunity of serving him when he returns to London.

I see by the Pensylvania Gazette of Oct. 21. that you are continued Speaker, and myself Agent, but I have no Line from you or the Committee relative to Instructions.5 Perhaps I shall hear from you by Falconer. I find myself upon very good Terms with our new Minister Lord Dartmouth, who we have every reason to think means well to the Colonies. I believe all are now sensible that nothing is to be got by contesting with or oppressing us. Two Circumstances have diverted me lately. One was, that being at the Court of Exchequer on some Business of my own, I met there with one of the Commissioners of the Stamp Office, who told me he attended with a Memorial from that Board, to be allowed in their Accounts the Difference between their Expence in endeavouring to establish those Offices in America, and the Amount of what they received, which from Canada and the W India Islands was but about £1500, while the Expence, if I remember right was above £12,000 being for Stamps and Stamping, with Paper and Parchment return’d upon their Hands, Freight, &c.6 The other is the present Difficulties of the India Company and of Government on their Account. The Company have accepted Bills which they find themselves unable to pay, tho’ they have the Value of Two Millions in Tea and other India Goods in their Stores, perishing under a Want of Demand. Their Credit thus suffering, and their Stock falling 120 per Ct. the Bank will not advance for them; and no Remedy is thought of but lowering their Dividend from 12½ to 6¼ per Cent. whereby Government will lose the £400,000 per annum it having been stipulated that it should no longer be paid if the Dividend fell to that Mark.7 And altho’ it is known that the American Market is lost by continuing the Duty on Tea, and that we are supply’d by the Dutch,8 who doubtless take the Opportunity of Smuggling other India Goods among us with the Tea, so that for the 5 Years past we might probably have otherwise taken off the greatest Part of what the Company have on hand, and so have prevented their present Embarrasment, yet the Honour of Government is suppos’d to forbid the Repeal of the American Tea Duty; while the Amount of all the Duties goes on decreasing, so that the Ballance of this Year does not (as I have it from good Authority) exceed £80 after paying the Collection; not reckoning the immense Expence of Guarda Costa’s,9 &c. Can an American forbear smiling at these Blunders? tho’ in a national Light they are truly deplorable. With the sincerest Esteem, and inviolable Attachment I am, my dear Friend, ever Most affectionately yours

B Franklin

Mr Galloway

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Q.v. for the matters that BF raises in the first three paragraphs.

4BF first indicated, as Galloway had, that the bill was on Baillie, and then amended this to Johnstone. Alexander Johnstone (1727–83) was lieutenant colonel of a regiment stationed in the West Indies but, like many officers of the day, was an absentee living in London. See Burke’s Peerage, p. 1409; Richard Cannon, Historical Record of the Seventieth, or Surrey Regiment of Foot … (London, 1849), pp. 2–3; BF to Galloway below, Feb. 14, 1773.

5The Pa. Gaz. must have crossed the Atlantic faster than the committee’s instructions; for the latter see above, Oct. 16.

6The Commissioners were responsible for collecting the stamp duties that had been imposed, primarily upon legal documents, since 1694. By this time the annual yield was approaching £400,000; the total receipts from America were slightly more than £3,000. Stephen Dowell, A History of Taxation and Taxes in England … (2nd ed., 4 vols., London, 1888), III, 287–91; Dora Mae Clark, The Rise of the British Treasury: Colonial Administration in the Eighteenth Century (New Haven, 1960), pp. 160–1.

7For the financial crisis of 1772 see BF to Bache above, Oct. 7. Because of it the East India Company was slow in realizing cash from its sale of imports; it also grossly underestimated the financial demands upon it. Cutting its dividend rate would have saved the annual payment of £400,000 due the government by statute (9 Geo. III, c. 24), but at the price of a catastrophic fall in the Company’s stock. The Directors temporized until autumn, when they confessed themselves unable to repay their customary loan from the Bank of England and the Bank refused to extend it. See Sutherland, East India Co., pp. 223–8; Benjamin W. Labaree, The Boston Tea Party (New York, 1964), pp. 58–62. Lord North intervened early in 1773, and pushed through Parliament three remedial measures: a loan, a regulating act, and the Tea Act that led directly to the Tea Party.

8The smuggling of tea into America, from the Netherlands and elsewhere, had been thriving for some years; and by 1772 the legal importation of tea was only thirty percent of what it had been in 1768. Ibid., pp. 52–7, 331; see also Gipson, British Empire, XII, 17–18.

9Revenue from the duties as a whole, with tea a notable exception, was not declining but increasing; so was the cost of collection. See Clark, op. cit., pp. 186–8. The war against smuggling, part of the new era inaugurated by the Townshend Acts, involved turning the crews of private ships into customs officers, paid from whatever they seized. Oliver M. Dickerson, The Navigation Acts and the American Revolution (Philadelphia, 1951), pp. 216–17. The name of guarda costas derived from the notorious Spanish patrols in the Caribbean that had helped to precipitate the War of Jenkins’ Ear in 1739.

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