Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Franklin, 6–9 April 1773

To William Franklin

ALS (letterbook draft): Library of Congress

London, April 6 [-9]. 1773

Dear Son,

I received yours of Feb. 2. with the Papers of Information that accompany it.

I know nothing of Col. Mercer’s being appointed Surveyor of the new Colony: Indeed the Proprietors, if they ever are to be such, are not yet in a Situation to appoint or promise any Places, the Grant not being compleated.

I never heard of Jones; or his Chief Justiceship in Eyre. Nor do I know any thing of General Lyman’s Project or Grants.6 No Proposal has been made to me of being their Agent, which indeed I should not undertake, being about to quit all Agencies, and return home to settle my own Affairs.

I have ordered a Jack for you, and will send it by the first Opportunity.7

I have sent to Mr. Galloway one of the Bishop of St. Asaph’s Sermons to your Society for propagating the Gospel. I would have sent you one, but you will receive it of course as a Member. It contains such liberal and generous Sentiments relating to the Conduct of Government here towards America, that Sir J. P. says it was written in compliment to me. But from the Intimacy of Friendship in which I live with the Author, I know he has express’d nothing but what he thinks and feels; and I honour him the more, that thro’ the mere Hope of doing Good; he has hazarded the Displeasure of the Court, and of course the Prospect of farther Preferment.8 Possibly indeed the Ideas of the Court may change; for I think I see some Alarm at the Discontents in New-England, and some Appearance of Softening in the Disposition of Government, on the Idea that Matters have been carry’d too far there. But all depends upon Circumstances and Events. We govern from Hand to Mouth. There seems to be no wise regular Plan.

I saw Lord Dartmouth about 2 Weeks since. He mention’d nothing to me of your Application for additional Salary, nor did I to him, for I do not like it. I fear it will embroil you with your People.1 I told him I look’d upon Mrs. Haine to be out of her Senses, and that there was no Foundation for her Pretensions; at which he seem’d to wonder, her Story, he said, was so circumstantial. He has given a Letter to the Chief Justice, which is gone by an Attorney sent by Hayne.2

While I am writing comes to hand yours of Mar. 2. My Letter by the October Packet must have been sent as usual, to the Office by the Bellman. That being, as you inform me, rubb’d open as some of yours to me have been, gives an additional Circumstance of Probability to the Conjecture made in mine of Dec. 2. For the future I shall send Letters of consequence to the Office when I use the Pacquet-Conveyance, by my Clerk.3

Your Accounts of the Numbers of People, Births Burials, &c. in your Province, will be very agreable to me and particularly so to Dr. Price. Compar’d with former Accounts, they will show the Increase of your People, but not perfectly, as I think a great many have gone from N Jersey to the more Southern Colonies.4

I have scarce seen Mr. Wharton twice in the last 12 mo. and know little of his Proceedings.5 Mr. Strahan and Mr. Todd and Mr. Walpole tell me our Business is going on, and they have good Hopes of seeing it soon compleated. But the two first know as little of Circumstances as I do; who have never ask’d a Question about it of any Minister for reasons formerly mention’d. I think however to speak of it to Lord Dartmouth next time I see him, and learn where it sticks.

The Parliament is like to sit till the End of June, as Mr. Cooper tells me. I had thoughts of returning home about that time. The Boston Assembly’s Answer to the Governor’s Speech, which I have just received,6 may possibly produce something here to occasion my longer Stay. I am, Your affectionate Father

B Franklin

PS. Apr. 9. Your Jack is shipt in Loxley.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6WF’s missing letter must have asked about a number of rumors that he had heard. George Mercer, responsible for merging the Ohio Co. of Virginia with the Walpole Co. in 1770 (above, XVII, 136), was mentioned before long not as the surveyor but as the governor of the new colony: BF to WF below, July 14. The colony had been in the planning stage since the previous summer (above, XIX, 244 n), and was now taking form on paper; it was to include the Walpole grant and also large tracts outside its borders. The Board of Trade discussed the matter frequently in April, called in Samuel Wharton on the 5th, and issued a favorable report on May 6. Board of Trade Jour., 1768–75, pp. 351–356; Kenneth P. Bailey, ed., The Ohio Company Papers … (Arcata, Cal., 1947), pp. 263–79; Clarence W. Alvord, The Mississippi Valley in British Politics … (2 vols., Cleveland, O., 1917), II, 150–2. The colony had already been named. “It was proposed at first to call the Province Pittsylvania,” Samuel Wharton wrote his brother Thomas and Joseph Galloway on April 9 (APS); “But in Compliment to the Queen, it will be called Vandalia; as her Majesty is descended from the Vandals.”

Nathaniel Jones had been appointed chief justice of New Jersey in 1759, only to find his office occupied by another claimant, and had been actively campaigning ever since for some kind of recompense. WF may have had an inquiry about him from Dartmouth, to whom Jones had addressed a memorial. Dartmouth MSS, II, 124; DAB under Robert Hunter Morris; 1 N.J. Arch., XX, 417–24 n; Jerome J. Nadelhaft, “Politics and the Judicial Tenure Fight in Colonial New Jersey,” 3 W&MQ, XXVIII (1971), 52, 54–5, 58. Gen. Phineas Lyman (above, XIII, 414 n) was still advancing claims for himself and his veterans. In 1768 he had petitioned unsuccessfully for land later included in the Walpole Co.’s application. Acts Privy Coun., Col., V, 139–40; Board of Trade Jour., 1768–75, pp. 77, 89–91. In the autumn of 1772 he was hoping for a grant on the east bank of the Mississippi from its mouth to the mouth of the Ohio; his hope was widely publicized as a fait accompli, and two expeditions were setting out to explore the grant he had “obtained.” The Conn. Jour., and the New-Haven Post-Boy, Dec. 4, 1772; see also Alvord, op. cit., II, 92–3, 173–6; Shaw Livermore, Early American Land Companies … (New York and London, 1939), pp. 99–100. WF may have elided Lyman’s two schemes, and in any case must have inquired about what he took to be still another threat, complete with explorers, to the Walpole grant.

7BF bought it for £9 (Jour., p. 47), but what it was we cannot say because the word was used for a variety of implements; our guess is a mechanical kitchen jack for turning a spit.

8For the Bishop’s sermon see BF to Cushing above, April 3. Sir John Pringle’s comment was indeed wide of the mark: Shipley had the courage of his convictions, and in consequence was never promoted from St. Asaph.

1See WF to BF above, Jan. 5. BF’s fear, based on developments in Massachusetts, was not borne out: the New Jersey Assembly was more interested in keeping down expenditures than in the issue of principle. It refused to raise WF’s salary on the ground that any increase should be paid out of the Townshend duties, in other words by the crown. 1 N.J. Arch., X, 389–93; XVIII, 299–300, 306–9.

2We have found no trace of Hayne’s emissary, but Dartmouth himself sent one: below, p. 313. For the Hayne affair see also above: XIX, 321–2; BF to WF, Feb. 14, 1773.

3For BF’s conjecture see above, XIX, 416–17, and for his French clerk ibid., p. 438 n.

4Each governor had standing instructions to report annually on the increase or decrease of population in his colony. Leonard W. Labaree, Royal Instructions to British Colonial Governors, 1670–1776 (2 vols., New York and London, [1935]), II, 746–7. Richard Price had earlier used New Jersey statistics of 1738 (above, XVI, 103–4), and was sure to be interested in the census that WF was trying to take. But the Governor ran into difficulties with the county assessors, who refused to do the work gratis; the returns, which WF eventually sent to Dartmouth in 1774, were therefore incomplete. In 1775 the Assembly authorized paying the assessors, but nothing seems to have been accomplished. See 1 N.J. Arch., X, 445, [452–3]; Samuel Allison, ed., Acts of the General Assembly of … New Jersey … (Burlington, N.J., 1776), p. 491; Evarts B. Green and Virginia D. Harrington, American Population before the Federal Census of 1790 (New York, 1932), pp. 8, 108.

5BF described to WF above, Feb. 14, his interview with Wharton on Jan. 30.

6Grey Cooper was secretary to the Treasury. “The Assembly’s Answer” was to the Governor’s speech of Jan. 6; see the note on Cooper to BF above, March 15. The replies of the House and Council were singularly slow in arriving; BF had been expecting them since his letter to Cushing of March 9.

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