Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Samuel Cooper, 14[–15] June 1773

From Samuel Cooper

AL (incomplete): American Philosophical Society; ALS (draft): British Museum5

Boston 14th[-15]. June. 1773.

Dear Sir,

I wrote you on the 15th. March and 23d of April last, and mention’d in these Letters, which I hope you have receiv’d, the most important Political Occurrences among us, particularly the grand Discussion, in the last Session of Assembly between the Governor and both Houses, and the great Effect it had upon the Minds of the People. I have seen6 high Eulogiums upon the Replies of our Council and Commons from Gentlemen of the most respectable Characters in the other Colonies, where there evidently appears an increasing Regard for this Province, and an Inclination to unite for the common Safety.

Virginia has led the Way, by proposing a Communication and Correspondence between all the Commons Houses thro the Continent. The Letter from their Committee for this Purpose was receiv’d here with no little Joy, and the Proposal agreed to in the most ready and respectful Manner. Rhode-Island, Connecticut, and N. Hampshire have already chosen Committees, so that all N. England is now united with Virginia in this salutary Plan, and the Accession of most if not all the other Colonies is not doubted.7 This opens a most agreable Prospect to the Friends of our common Rights.

In my last I mention’d to you my having had a Sight of some Letters that had been sent to the Speaker, with Leave to communicate them to me and some others in Confidence. I soon apprehended from the Nature of the Contents, and the Number of Persons to whom they were directed to be shewn, that they could not long remain secret. However, I have preserv’d inviolate the Trust reposed in me. Some, not named by you as Confidents, had Hints from London that such Letters were come, or on their Way to us, and began to suspect they were concealed in Favor of the Writers.8 The Secret was kept till the Meeting of the General Court, when so many Members had obtain’d such general Intimations of it as to render them extremely inquisitive and sollicitous. At last it was thought best to communicate them, to the House with the Restrictions that accompanied them here. The House could not act upon them with these Restrictions; but the Substance of them was now known ev’ry where, and the Alarm given. Soon after Copies of them were brought into the House, said to have come from England by the last Ships. Many Members scrupled to act upon these Copies while they were under such public Engagements to the unknown Proprietor of the Originals. As the Matter was now so publick, and the Restrictions could answer no good End, no View of the Sender, but on the contrary might prevent in a great Measure a proper Improvement of the Letters for the public Benefit, and for weakning the Influence and Power of the Writers and their Friends9 it was judg’d most expedient by the Gentlemen to whom they were first shewn to allow the House such an Use of the Originals, as they might think necessary to found their Proceedings for the common Safety. By whom, and to whom they were sent is still a Secret, known only to three Persons here, and may still remain so, if you desire it.1 I forgot to mention that upon the first Appearance of the Letters in the House they voted by a Majority of 101 to 5, that the Design and Tendency of them was to subvert the Constitution and introduce arbitrary Powr.2 Nothing could have been more seasonable than the Arrival of these Letters. They have had great Effect: they make deep Impressions wherever they are known. They strip the Mask from the Authors who under the Profession of Friendship to their Country3 have been endeavoring to build up themselves and their Families upon it’s Ruins. They and their Adherents are shock’d and dismay’d. The Confidence reposed in them by many is annihilated; and Administration must soon see the Necessity of putting the Provincial Pow’r of the Crown into other Hands.4 This is at present almost the Universal Sentiment. The House have this Day sent up the Letters to the Board which I believe will concur with them in the Substance and Spirit of their Proceedings.5

We are highly indebted to our Friends in London, and to you Sir in particular, for so important a Communication, and hope while it supports the Cause of Truth and Justice, and promotes the Deliverance of this abused and oppressed Country, it will be attended with no Disadvantage to them. The Inconveniences that may arise accidentally from such generous Interpositions, are abundantly compensated by the Reflection that they tend to the Security and Happiness of Millions. I trust, however, that Nothing of this Kind will occur to disturb the agreable Feelings of those, who in this Instance, have done such extensive Good. I write in great Hast not having had early Notice of this Opportunity and am with great Esteem and Affection &c. Your &c

S. Cooper

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5The letter that was sent, which we print according to our usage, is torn as well as incomplete; we have silently supplied missing portions from the draft and have noted where the two MSS differ in wording.

6The draft reads “We have receiv’d.” Cooper’s letter of March 15 is above; that of April 23 is missing.

7See Cushing to BF above, April 20. By February, 1774, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, and Georgia had joined the New England colonies and Virginia in forming committees of correspondence. Gipson, British Empire, XII, 34–7.

8By late April a number of Bostonians other than those pledged to secrecy knew of the letters’ existence; see the note on Cushing to BF above, March 24, and the document following this one. We have annotated the latter, when it deals with the same events that Cooper discusses, because Cushing’s account was somewhat more circumstantial.

9The draft added “and disarming their Revenge.”

1BF’s response to Cooper’s implied question was in his letter of July 25 below.

2The vote was on June 2; see the following document. The draft here added, “Their Committee upon this Matter, reported this Day a Number of Resolutions, which are to be printed by to Morrow Morning, and ev’ry Member furnish’d with a Copy, that they may compare them with the Letters, and to Morrow 3 o Clock p. m. is the Time appointed to decide upon the Report; The Acceptance of it by a great Majority is not doubted. Should the Vessel that is to carry this Letter, tarry long eno’ I will send you a Copy of the Resolutions.” Cooper’s use of “this Day” proves that he was writing on June 15, when the committee of the House reported on the Hutchinson letters; see Cushing to BF below, June 16.

3The draft added, “now plainly appear to.” For the authors of the letters see above, XIX, 401–2, 403 n.

4The draft added, “if they mean it should operate to any good Effect.”

5On the 15th the House sent the Council copies of the letters, and soon afterward the originals to be compared and returned. Mass. House Jour., first session, May-June, 1773, pp. 55–6. The Council did not act until the 25th, when it passed concurrent resolutions; see the note on Williams to BF below, June 28. The Council and House then appointed a joint committee to write to Lord Dartmouth; see Cushing to BF below, June 30.

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