Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Franklin, 30 April 1773

From William Franklin

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philadelphia April 30th. 1773

Honoured Father,

I wrote to you by Capt. All who left Town the day before Yesterday, and this morning I received a few Lines from you dated Mar. 15. by a Passenger in Sutton.6 I was surprized to find that it contained nothing about the Ohio Grant, as the Whartons are quite elated with the glad Tidings they have received by that Opportunity from Mr. S. Wharton. The Old Man (who has become excessively absurd) sent one of his Sons to me Yesterday to demand of me whether I would Sell my Share of the Lands on the Ohio, and to make me an offer for the Purchase of it. I did not know the young man, but told him at once upon his asking the Question that I would not. So you won’t part with it then? No, I have not any Thoughts of it at present; but pray Sir, what may be your name? He said it was Wharton, and instantly turn’d about making me a Sort of a half Bow and went away. Had I known him at first; I fancy I should have given him a somewhat different Treatment, for I could not look upon his coming in that Manner, and on that Business, as any other than an intended Insult. As I had never given out that I had any Inclination to dispose of it, he might with as much Propriety have demanded whether I would Sell my Watch or my Coach and Horses. His Brother Joe has since told Mr. Bache that he was sorry his Father had acted such a Part, but that neither he, nor his Brother Tom, had any hand in it. It was intirely owing to the Old Man’s humour who would not be persuaded to the Contrary.7

Mr. Clement Biddle8 (I am told by Doctr. Evans) is just returned from Virginia, and he says he saw a Patent which Lord Dunmore had lately given a Man for 3,000 Acres on the Great Kanawa. He thinks it was dated in Decemr. last. Mr. Foxcroft is of Opinion that Col. Washington and the Provincials are getting the Lands they Claim under Governor Dinwiddie’s Proclamation (Viz the 200,000 Acres) all patented as fast as they can, which I think is very probable; but is it not extraordinary that Lord Dunmore should Venture to grant Patents in that Country after what he told Lord Stirling, Unless he has since received a particular Power for that Purpose; and, if he has, is not that as extraordinary?9

Our good Friends Dr. Evans and Mr. Baynton are Still in a very declining State; I have but little hopes of the Doctor’s Recovery, tho’ perhaps he may be able to linger out a few Months longer.1

I am glad the Pork proved good, and was so acceptable to you and our worthy Friend Mr. Sargent. I have a Letter of Thanks from him which I shall answer by Osborne.2

I thought I had fully satisfied Haynes of there being no such Estate as he came in quest of. I am sure he appeared to be so, and very thankful for the Pains I took to procure him all the information that was necessary. Nor can I help thinking that he is himself quite convinced it was all a Illusion tho’ perhaps he don’t like to have it thought that he went so far on such an idle Errand.3

There is a Letter from you (per Capt. All) directed to one James Johnson at Philada. for which no owner can be found. There is a man of that name (who was formerly Clerk to Mr. Norris) but on opening it he said it was not for him.4 Betsy joins in Duty with, Honoured Sir, Your ever dutiful Son

Wm: Franklin

Addressed: To / Dr: Franklin / Craven Street / London

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6On April 28 the Pa. Gaz. announced Isaac All’s departure in the Richard Penn, and on May 5 James Sutton’s arrival in the Catherine.

7Samuel Wharton’s “glad Tidings,” we assume, were that his plan for the new colony of Vandalia was winning acceptance. He had explained it to Lord Dartmouth in December and was presumably discussing it with the Board of Trade, which adopted it in substance on May 6. The Whartons, elated by his news, were buying as many shares as possible in the Walpole Co.; by the time of the Revolution they held thirteen of the seventy-two. Peter Marshall, “Lord Hillsborough, Samuel Wharton and the Ohio Grant, 1769–1775,” English Hist. Rev., LXXX (1965), 733–5; see also Falconer to BF below, May 13. This was the second Wharton offer that WF turned down; the first, in 1772, was for his share in the claim of the “suffering traders”: WF to Thomas Wharton, April 27, 1772, Hist. Soc. of Pa. The present offer from the “Old Man” (Joseph, Sr., alias the Duke) came through an unidentifiable son; there were ten living at the time, of whom Thomas was the eldest, then Samuel and Joseph, Jr.: Anne H. Wharton, “The Wharton Family,” PMHB, I (1877), 326–7. For a year and more the family had been on bad terms with WF, partly because Samuel was claiming sole credit for success and denigrating BF’s role. Above, XIX, 59.

8Clement Biddle (1740–1818), the son of John and brother of Owen, was engaged with them in the shipping and importing business. DAB; PMHB, XLII (1918), 310.

9Washington was indeed busy establishing claims for his veterans under the Dinwiddie proclamation of 1754, and Dunmore was patenting them. See above, XIX, 3 n, 335 n; BF to WF, Feb. 14, 1773; Douglas S. Freeman, George Washington: a Biography (7 vols., New York [1948–57]), III, 297–304. The reference to Lord Stirling is to his trip to Virginia mentioned in WF to BF above, Jan. 5. Stirling’s letter, cited there, brought assurances from prominent men in the province that the Walpole grant would not be contested because the grantees had agreed to honor legitimate Virginia claims within their tract. Dunmore’s patenting such claims on his own authority made WF doubt Stirling’s information, it seems, and wonder whether Whitehall countenanced the Governor’s policy. Whitehall did not. Dunmore was acting counter to repeated instructions, and the government had just issued an order in council forbidding all colonial governors to make land grants until further notice, except to veterans who qualified under the provisions of the proclamation of 1763. Acts Privy Coun., Col., V, 360–1; John R. Alden, John Stuart and the Southern Colonial Frontier … (Ann Arbor and London, 1944), pp. 286–9.

1John Baynton died in the following May and Dr. Evans in June; see George Morgan to BF below, May 4, and the note on BF to Evans above, Feb. 10.

2For the pork see BF to WF above, Feb. 3; Peter Osborne was master of the Pa. Packet.

3For Richard Hayne’s labors to obtain an inheritance for his wife see above, XIX, 321–2.

4We have had no more success than the postal authorities in identifying the man; see BF to Johnston above, Feb. 10. Mr. Norris may have been either Charles (above, II, 376 n) or his older brother Isaac, both Philadelphia merchants who died in 1766.

Index Entries