Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Joseph Galloway, 14 February 1773

To Joseph Galloway

ALS (letterbook draft): Library of Congress

London, Feb. 14. 1773

Dear Friend,

I wrote to you the 6th of last Month in answer to your Favours of Oct. 18 and 30. Since which I have no Line from you, the New York January Packet not being yet arrived.

The Bill on Col. Johnston, which I mentioned as likely to be protested, is since paid.3 The Gentleman trifled about it a good deal; first refus’d to accept it, then came to me and desired it might be sent to him again and he would accept it; then when it became due he wanted longer time. The Drawer I think should be inform’d of this, that he may be cautious. The Man seems honestly dispos’d, but appears embarras’d in his Money Affairs. This indeed is at present a more common Case than usual owing [to] the great Blow Paper Credit has received, which first fell upon the India Company, and by degrees became general.4 Hence a great Stop of Employment among the Manufacturers, added to the Mischiefs mentioned in mine of Dec. 2. of which retaining the Duty on Tea in America, and thereby the Loss of that Market are now acknowledg’d to be the Cause. The Ministry now would have the Company save its Honour by petitioning for the Repeal of that Duty; and the Company has it under Consideration. They see Government will be oblig’d for its own sake to support them, and therefore must repeal the Duty whether they petition for it or not, and tis said they are not willing to ask it as a Favour, lest that should be made a Foundation for some additional Demand upon them.5 A fine Hobble they are all got into by their unjust and blundering Politics, with regard to the Colonies.

I thank you for proposing the two Members I mention’d.6 I have now some others to propose viz. Dr. Barbeu Dubourg of Paris, a Man of very extensive Learning, and an excellent Philosopher, who is ambitious of the Honour, as is Lord Stanhope for himself and Son Lord Mahone who will be propos’d by Dr. Denormandie; there is also Mr. Samll. Dun, a very ingenious Mathematician, and universal Mechanic, very fond of America, and would be an Acquisition if we could get him there and employ him:7 He writes to the Society, and is also very desirous of the Honour. There is another Gentleman, who I believe would be pleas’d with it, tho’ he has not mention’d it; I mean the President of the Royal Society, Sir John Pringle, Bart. It is usual for the Academy of Sciences at Paris always to chuse the President of the English Royal Society one of their Foreign Members, and it is well taken here as a Mark of Respect; and I think it would also be well taken by the Society if you should chuse him. By the way, is the Ten Shillings a Year expected of Foreign Members? I have been ask’d that Question. Here no Contribution is taken of them.

I send the Society some printed Pieces that will be indeed in the next volume of the Philosophic Transactions here: But as that will not come out till Midsummer, it may be agreable to have them sooner.

Enclos’d I send an Account of the presenting two more of your Acts to the King in Council. As yet I hear of no Objection to any of the former thirty, of which I sent a List per January Packet as presented Dec. 22.8 With unalterable Attachment, I am ever, my dear Friend, Yours most affectionately

B Franklin

Joseph Galloway Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3See above, XIX, 418 n, and BF to Galloway, Jan. 6, 1773.

4See above, XIX, 315–16, 419–20.

5The Company, at a time when its affairs were under close scrutiny, was indeed reluctant to ask official favors. But it and not, as BF implies, the government was taking the initiative in attempting to change the duties on tea. These were of two kinds. One was the import duty in England, which for a time after 1767 had been in effect repealed, as it applied to sales in the colonies, by granting a total refund or drawback on exported tea; a statute of 1772, however, had reduced the drawback to 60%, and the Company wanted it raised again to 100%. The other was the Townshend duty, collected in America. In January and February, to judge by the minutes of the Court of Proprietors in the India Office Library, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Company was concerned with securing relief from the Townshend duty. The Directors sought Lord North’s assistance, but he refused it; the most he would consider, the London Chron. reported on Feb. 11–13, was a 40% reduction. On the 12th, nevertheless, the Court agreed on a request to Parliament “that teas may be exported free of duty to America.” Ibid., Feb. 13–16. This key phrase, which was at the center of negotiations for months to come, is ambiguous. The two scholars who have recently dealt with it are Bernhard Knollenberg, The Growth of the American Revolution … (New York and London, [1975]), pp. 90–1, and Labaree, Tea Party, pp. 68–70. Both conclude that the phrase meant only restoration of the full drawback, and hence that the Company had abandoned the issue of the Townshend duty. Perhaps, but another interpretation seems to us equally plausible. India House had as much reason as ever for wanting to be rid of that duty, and for not saying so openly. The ambiguity of the phrase used may well have been intentional, and have represented a change of tactics rather than of policy. In any case BF believed, at this time and later, that the American duty was very much at issue in the Company’s manoeuvering. For the next development see his letter to Cushing below, March 9.

6Jean-Baptiste LeRoy and Baron Klingstädt: above, XIX, 278, 393.

7Philip Stanhope, second Earl Stanhope (1714–86), F.R.S., was a distinguished mathematician, a lover of Greek, and a liberal in politics; his son Charles, at this time Lord Mahon (1753–1816), was a promising young scientist and inventor, who subsequently fulfilled the promise while leading an active political life. Burke’s Peerage, p. 2308; DNB under Charles Stanhope. The family was in Geneva at the time, which doubtless accounts for Mahon’s being sponsored by Dr. John Denormandie, for whom see above, XIX, 332 n. Stanhope and Mahon were elected in January, 1774, Dubourg a year later. APS, Early Proc. … (Philadelphia, 1884), pp. 86, 95. Samuel Dunn (d. 1794) was a schoolteacher, astronomer, and mathematician who, although not an F.R.S., contributed a number of papers to the Phil. Trans. DNB. These contributions may well have brought him into contact with BF, who subsequently sent the APS a copy of Dunn’s New Atlas of the Mundane System … (London, 1774): Early Proc., p. 88. We have found no record of Dunn’s election to the APS, but on the title page of the 1778 edition of his atlas he proclaimed himself a member.

8The list was enclosed in BF’s letter above to the Assembly’s committee of correspondence, Jan. 6. All but two of the acts were allowed, as mentioned there. For one of those disallowed see BF to Galloway below, March 15.

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