Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Cushing, 18 September 1773

From Thomas Cushing

ALS and LS (copy): Library of Congress

Boston Sept. 18 1773


The foregoing is Copy of my last8 since which I have not received any of your Favors; I have lately received a Letter from the Speaker of the House of Deputies of the Colony of Rhode Island desiring I would favor him with G Rome’s original Letter. I have wrote him that it is returned to England. Inclosed you have a Copy of the Speaker’s Letter and should be glad if you could furnish me, Mr. Bowler or Mr. Henry Merchant of Newport with the original Letter before mentioned, or if you cannot obtain leave to Send the original Letter Again, perhaps you may furnish us with an attested Copy of it, which may in some measure answer the purpose tho not so well as the original.9 I should be glad [if] you would Inform me how far the administration have proceeded with regard to the Judges saleries, we have been Informed that the King in Council has ordered that they shall be allowed Salleries from home, but whether Warrants have as yet been even Issued for their payment is uncertain. I should be glad to know in what situation this matter is in at present.10 I conclude with great respect Your most humble Servant

Thomas Cushing

[In the margin:] Inclosed you have a Newspaper in which you have Inserted a Letter to the Cheif Justice and a paper laid before the Superior Court.1

Endorsed: Augst. 22. 732 Thos Cushing Esqr with Metcalf Bowler’s Letter, Speaker of the Rh Island Assembly.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8His letter of Aug. 26 above.

9For Metcalf Bowler see the DAB, and for Henry Marchant above, XVIII, 145; XIX, 212–13. George Rome was an English merchant, who had come to Newport in 1761 to collect debts for a London firm; he and Thomas Moffatt were members of a group that made itself intensely unpopular, just before the Stamp Act crisis, by seeking revocation of the Rhode Island charter. Edmund S. and Helen M. Morgan, The Stamp Act Crisis … (Chapel Hill, N.C., [1953]), pp. 47–8. Cushing’s inquiry about the letter in 1767 from Rome to Moffatt, part of the Hutchinson correspondence and printed below at the end of the appendix, is the first evidence that the Speaker had returned the original MSS to BF; they have vanished, along with whatever note accompanied them. Bowler’s letter, dated Aug. 20, 1773, and now in the Library of Congress, explained that Rome should be prosecuted, in the opinion of the Rhode Island House of Deputies, for having tried to promote measures that would subvert the rights of all the colonies and reduce them to slavery. A second inquiry from Bowler elicited a second request from Cushing below, Dec. 11. Whether or not BF produced the original, Rome was later haled before the House and imprisoned: Sabine, Loyalists, II, 237–8.

10For the issues at stake in this controversy see above, pp. 111 n, 125 n. Royal warrants issued in August, 1772, for paying the judges’ salaries had not arrived by January, 1773, when the House voted the stipends for the previous year; Hutchinson delayed his assent until he had made sure that payments by the province and the crown would not overlap. In February the House voted the judicial salaries in advance for 1773; the Governor refused assent on the ground that paying for future services was unprecedented and would defeat the King’s intent. In March the House resolved that any judge who accepted a royal salary was promoting arbitrary government, and in June it declared that the judges must, on pain of impeachment, say whether they would accept. Bradford, ed., Mass. State Papers, pp. 365–7, 397–8; Mass. Arch., XXVII, 444–5, 452; Mass. House Jour., 1st session, May–June, 1773, pp. 87–8, 94. The warrants, to judge by Cushing’s inquiry, had still not arrived in September, more than a year after they had been issued.

1The Mass. Spy of Sept. 16, which contained a letter attacking Chief Justice Peter Oliver for refusing to say whether he would take a royal salary, and a demand from the grand jury of the Superior Court, echoing the June resolution of the House mentioned above, that he and the other judges explain where they stood on the question.

2Cushing misdated the copy of his letter of the 26th, mentioned in the first sentence.

Index Entries