Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Franklin, 14 February 1773

To William Franklin

ALS (letterbook draft): Library of Congress

London, Feb. 14. 1773

Dear Son,

Your late Letters of Oct. 13, 29, Nov. 3, Dec. 1. and 4. lying all before me, I shall answer the Particulars in order; such I mean as I have not answered by other Opportunities.

I have written to Mr. Bolton of Birmingham for a Plated Tea Urn, he being by far the best Maker, and his Work of the newest Fashion.8 If it does not come in time to go by this Ship, I shall send it per Sutton.

I see Mr. Wharton of late but seldom. When I receiv’d your Account of the Virginia Transactions, I mention’d it to Mr. Strahan, and told him I purpos’d to communicate it to Mr. Walpole. But being much taken up with some other Business I did not immediately do it, and in the mean time he spoke of it to Mr. Wharton. This brought him and Major Trent to me, with a Pocket full of Papers to satisfy me that there was nothing in it, all their Grants being either out of our Boundaries or Void.9 The first Paper he put into my hands was an Extract of a Letter from Col. Washington to the Govr. which I read aloud, and when I came to the Part where he says the propos’d New Colony will deprive Virginia of a great deal of Territory and take in such and such prior Grants, the Major said that was all nothing, the Letter being written before Col. Washington knew what our Boundaries were; but on reading a little farther it appeared that he knew our Boundaries, for he recited them verbatim to prove what he had advanc’d.1 I remark’d this to the Major and he said no more: But Mr. W. to show that he knew all the Virginia Proceedings before, (for he knows every thing before2) put another Paper into my hand that contain’d the Resolutions of Assembly, repeating what he had once told me before, and what I suppose he has told the other Partners, that the £2,500 paid by Virginia for the Purchase of the Cherokees, or for the Line, was not Money belonging to the Province but to the King, being out of the Quitrents, and therefore did not give that Province any equitable Claim against a Grant of the Crown to us. This Fact I knew your Paper contradicted, and therefore I ran over his Paper with my Eye to see if it was omitted, but unluckily for him I found the Resolve of the House there among the rest, and reading it to him, he blush’d! and was a little confus’d, saying only, that it was Money granted to the King, and so became the King’s Money the same as the Quitrents, and therefore if the King bought Land with it he might sell that Land to us.3 Then he show’d me the List of Grants, which he said were most of them void as being beyond the Limits prescrib’d by the Proclamation of 1763; and he had written in the Margin against almost every one of them Void, Void, or not in our Limits, or laps’d. On casting my Eye over them, I remark’d to him that most of them were prior to the Proclamation of 1763, and therefore it should seem could not be affected by that Proclamation. He then said, they were however contrary to prior Instructions, but those Instructions he had not with him to show me.4 It seems probable that what he said to me has been his Discourse to others, and thereby become so habitual to his Tongue, that he repeated it as of course, without adverting that he put into my Hands at the same time Papers that contradicted him. A Thought then struck me to give him your Paper to peruse, and leave it in his Hands a Week or two before I mention’d it to Mr. Walpole, that I might see whether he would be honest enough to communicate it. And that he might not have it to say I had discourag’d that important Friend. Accordingly he took it with him. They went away seemingly not very well satisfy’d with their Visit; but Mr. W. has told Mr. Strahan since that he had satisfy’d me. Mr. S. begins to entertain a very indifferent Opinion of him. And now to finish this Subject, I will just remark, that 7 Months are elaps’d since the Report in favour of the Grant, and we have not got one Step further, whence I begin to think that my Auguring (to use Botetourt’s Phrase) in a Letter of Aug 17. will be verified, and upon the very Principles there conjectur’d.5 If so you will see the Prudence of our never reckoning upon it as a done thing; and the Folly of others in claiming beforehand all the Merit of a fruitless and expensive Negociation.

The Pork is arrived safe and well from Bristol. I deliver’d the two Casks AH and IH to Mr. Sargent agreable to your Desire, who call’d to pay me for them, but I refus’d to take any thing, and he will write to thank you.6 I am much oblig’d by your ready Care in sending them, and thank you for the Cranberries, Meal, and dry’d Apples. The latter are the best I ever saw. I have given Mr. S. a Copy of your Directions for keeping the Pork, and retain’d the Original. Yesterday we had a Piece at Table, and it was much admired.

I send you in a Box to your Brother Bache, the Seeds I mention’d in my last. Mr. Small sends a large Parcel of Seeds in a great Tin Canister solder’d close. You must have a hot Poker to open it. I know not what the Sorts are that he sends; nor whether they are for you or Mr. Odell, or both.7 His Letter will explain that, as well as who the Books are for, which came to me without any Direction, and I have directed them to you. They are in the same Box, and also a Parcel of Magazines and Reviews; and a Parcel on Canada Government from Mr. Maseres,8 all directed for you.

The Opposition are now attacking the Ministry on the St. Vincent’s Affair, which is generally condemned here, and some think L. Hillsborough will be given up as the Adviser of that Expedition. But if it succeeds perhaps all will blow over.9 The Ministry are more embarrass’d with the India Affairs; the continu’d Refusal of North America to take Tea from hence has brought infinite Distress on the Company; they imported great Quantities in the Faith that that Agreement could not hold; and now they can neither pay their Debts nor Dividends, their Stock has sunk to the annihilating near three millions of their Property, and Government will lose its £400,000 a Year; while their Teas lie upon Hand. The Bankrupcies brought on partly by this means have given such a Shock to Credit as has not been experienc’d here since the South Sea Year. And this has affected the great Manufactures so much, as to oblige them to discharge their Hands, and 1000’s of Spital-field and Manchester Weavers, are now starving or subsisting on Charity.1 Blessed Effects of Pride, Pique and Passion in Government, which should have no Passions.

Hayne’s Wife came to me the Other Day, said her Husband was come home, had been very ill us’d, she had just been with Lord Dartmouth, to complain that the Officer in Jersey would not show her Husband the true Will; that there were two Salters, and one, her Father, dy’d worth £70,000 and that it was cruel to keep her out of it,2 &c. That Lord D. had directed her to come to me, and desire from him that I would write to you for a Copy of the Will. In Discourse she pretended to have particular Information of many Circumstances that I was sure must be false, and refusing to tell me her Informers, I let her know my Opinion that the whole was an Illusion. Why, Sir, says she, I hope you don’t think I be mad: do ye? That being the very thing I was then thinking, I e’en told her I was afraid she was so. She assur’d me she was perfectly in her Senses, and that I should soon know, threatning me and you and all the wicked People in New Jersey that keep her out of her Estate, with her Appearance against us before the Judgment Seat of God, where we should be made to suffer for our Wickedness, &c. I have not seen my Lord since, but shall next Wednesday. It is amazing how easily People delude themselves with these Fancies of Estates belonging to them in other Countries, without the least Foundation. My Love to Betsey. I am ever Your affectionate Father


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Only WF’s two October letters have survived. For the tea urn see above, XIX, 336 n, and BF to WF below, March 3 and 15, July 14.

9The conference BF is describing was held on Jan. 30, and left Samuel Wharton bitter against both BF and WF; see Wharton’s letter quoted in Gipson, British Empire, XI, 481–2. WF’s “Account of the Virginia Transactions” was the paper he enclosed in his second October letter: above, XIX, 350.

1Washington’s letter was to Gov. Botetourt of Oct. 5, 1770; it complained that the proposed Walpole grant would be a fatal blow to Virginian interests, and would deprive officers and soldiers of land guaranteed them in compensation for their past services, John C. Fitzpatrick, The Writings of George Washington … (39 vols., Washington, [1931–44]), III, 26–9. For this guarantee to veterans see above, XIX, 3–4 n.

2And BF had said this before: ibid., p. 349.

3For the Virginia proceedings and WF’s paper, which contradicted Wharton’s claim that the £2,500 came from quitrents, see above, XIX, 350 n. When the actual cost of the negotiations amounted to £2,900, the difference did come out of quitrents; but Gov. Botetourt, doubtful that this would be allowed, offered if need be to pay the extra £400 from his own pocket. John P. Kennedy, ed., Journals of the House of Burgesses …, 1770–72 (Richmond, 1906), p. XIV. Wharton was probably right that the payment to the Cherokees, whatever its source, gave Virginia no claim against a royal grant to the Walpole Company.

4The list containing Wharton’s marginal notes is discussed above, XIX, 335 n. The “prior Instructions” were, we assume, those issued to Gov. Dinwiddie in 1754, limiting future individual grants west of the Alleghenies to a maximum of 1,000 acres apiece. See Bailey, op. cit., pp. 247–8.

5The report favoring the grant was the order in council of Aug. 14, 1772, and BF’s pessimistic auguring had been in his letter three days later: above, XIX, 243–4. Pessimism was well founded. In May the Board of Trade reported favorably on the grant; the Privy Council referred the report to the law officers of the crown, and in July they raised objections. See below, BF to Foxcroft, July 14, and to WF, July 25.

6For the pork see BF to WF above, Feb. 3; John Sargent, the banker, was an old friend of both men.

7The donor was presumably Dr. Alexander Small, who had been in Philadelphia the previous summer (above, XIX, 230–1); this reference indicates that he had also visited Burlington and met the Rev. Jonathan Odell, WF’s friend and pastor.

8Undoubtedly copies of the two pamphlets that Maseres had sent BF: ibid., pp. 445–6.

9Trouble had been simmering in St. Vincent since 1769. After the cession of the island to Great Britain in the Peace of Paris, commissioners had been appointed to make uninhabited land available to settlement while protecting the rights of the native Caribs. The prerequisite was a survey, and the natives would have none of it. They refused to admit British sovereignty, and were supposedly encouraged by the French on nearby Martinique. The commissioners eventually called for troops to protect the surveyors, but the arrival of the military left the Caribs unimpressed. Hostilities lasted from September, 1772, until three days after the date of BF’s letter, when a treaty was signed by which the natives accepted allegiance to the crown and the commissioners’ right to oversee land transactions. Meanwhile the little war was aired in Parliament. The opposition tried to show that the government, at the behest of land-hungry settlers, was despoiling the natives. The ministry answered that the Caribs had been treated with all consideration but, in collusion with the French, had defied British authority and threatened the lives of British subjects. The debate concluded, on the day after BF wrote, with defeat of two resolutions of censure, and a third that demanded to know who had been responsible for sending the troops. Hillsborough had been American secretary at the time, and this resolution would have revealed whether he had been the prime ministerial mover in the affair. See [William Young,] An Account of the Black Charaibs in the Island of St. Vincent’s … (London, 1795; London reprint, 1971); Bryan Edwards, The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies (4th ed.; 3 vols., London, 1807), I, 421–5; Cobbett, Parliamentary History, XVII (1771–74), 568–639, 722–41.

1The bursting of the South Sea Bubble in 1720 was the worst British financial crisis of the century. The difficulties of the East India Company, which stemmed in part from the American nonimportation agreements, came to a head in 1772 and deprived the Treasury of £400,000 a year; see above, XIX, 420. Times were still bad, and weavers in particular were suffering; see below, p. 203 n.

2For Mary Hayne, her husband Richard and his trip to America, and their mythical New Jersey inheritance see above, XIX, 322 n. By “two Salters” we believe she meant two brothers. Judge Saltar, who she claimed was her father, left an estate valued at £1,268 1s. 10d.; his sons as executors sold part of the land in 1765 and another part in 1768. 1 N.J. Arch., XXIV, 518; XXXIII, 370.

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