Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Jonathan Williams, Sr., 7 July 1773

To Jonathan Williams, Sr.

LS: Pierpont Morgan Library; ALS (letterbook draft): Library of Congress

London, July 7, 1773.

Dear Cousin,

In looking over your Letters I find in that of Nov. 12, mention of a Prize of £20 which you have drawn.9 It never came into my Hands, and I cannot find that Smith, Wright and Gray know any thing of it. If I knew the No. of the Ticket, I could enquire farther.

I am much obliged by your Care in Hall’s Affair and glad you have recovered so much of that Debt, and are likely to get the rest. I hope it will be of Service to my dear Sister. The Goods for her were sent per Capt. Hatch, in a Trunk consign’d to you.1

I wish you Success in your new Plan of Business, and shall certainly embrace every Opportunity I may have of promoting it.2

Upon your Recommendation I went to see the black Poetess and offer’d her any Services I could do her. Before I left the House, I understood her Master was there and had sent her to me but did not come into the Room himself, and I thought was not pleased with the Visit. I should perhaps have enquired first for him; but I had heard nothing of him.3 And I have heard nothing since of her. My Love to Cousin Grace and your Children; I am Your affectionate Uncle,

B Franklin

Jonathan Williams, Esq.

Addressed: To / Jonathan Williams, Esqr / Mercht / Boston

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9What we can now identify as Williams’ letter of Nov. 12, dated mistakenly August because it mentions Josiah’s death, is above, XIX, 290–1. It went by Folger in the Argo, which cleared Boston in mid-November: Mass. Gaz.; and the Boston Weekly News-Letter, Nov. 19, 1772.

1Samuel Hall’s debt had been a theme of their correspondence earlier in the year. In his letter of Feb. 15 Williams had asked BF to use part of the sum recovered to buy goods for Jane Mecom’s haberdashery shop. BF had done so in May, to the tune of £55 4s. 5d.: Jour., p. 48.

2See Jonathan, Jr., to BF above, April 20.

3Phillis Wheatley (c. 1753–84) was a talented young slave of Mr. and Mrs. John Wheatley of Boston. Her earliest published poem, on the death of George Whitefield, was addressed to the Countess of Huntingdon and opened communication between the two. In the spring of 1773 Phillis accompanied the Wheatley’s son Nathaniel to England, in the hope that the sea voyage would improve her failing health. In London the Countess introduced her to high circles, and she was cordially received both as a poet and as a gifted conversationalist. Her stay was brief, however, for by October she was back in Boston. A volume of her poems, which came out in London before the end of the year, was the first significant publication by a black American. DAB; Julian D. Mason, Jr., ed., The Poems of Phillis Wheatley (Chapel Hill, 1966), pp. xiv–xv, xviii. We can account for Nathaniel Wheatley’s aloofness only on the supposition that he was nervous about Phillis’ status. She was still a slave (ibid., p. xxxvii), yet the famous judicial decision in 1772 in the Sommersett case was being widely interpreted to mean that slaves gained their freedom on touching English soil. See above, XIX, 187–8.

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