Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Mrs. [James?] Alcock, [24 September? 1773]

To Mrs. [James?] Alcock9

ALS (letterbook draft): American Philosophical Society

[C. Sept. 24, 17731]


At the Request of Dr. Hawkesworth I am to mention to you what occurr’d to me on reading the Copy of Mr. Alcock’s Letter, and in Conversation with the Dr. on your Affairs.

There is no Grant of Land as yet to be obtained from those concern’d in the new Colony, their Grant from the Crown not having yet pass’d the Seals.2

With so many Children I think your Situation will be better in Pensilvania than in London. Here you cannot get them put Apprentices to learn any Business by which they may afterwards get a reputable Living, without a considerable Premium, and maintaining them in Clothes during their Apprenticeship. In Pensilvania it is otherwise, and they may be got into sober industrious Families and taught Trades on much easier Terms: And I should think it adviseable to get them all so fix’d as soon as possible, at least the Boys; for then it will be more easy for you and Mr. A. to subsist comfortably upon his Industry and yours.

I suppose that his Acquaintance with and Dexterity in Business, may induce his being engag’d in some Store as a Storekeeper, or Clerk, and in time perhaps a Partner. And as Mrs. Hawkesworth, who I take to be one of the best Judges in such Matters, has assur’d me, that no one is better qualify’d than yourself to keep a Boarding School [for] young Ladies, I should hope, that if there [is any?] Opening for such a School in America, y[ou would?] get into that Business, as soon as you can p[rovide?] and furnish a proper House. My Son and [Daugh]ter Bache, if you apply to them in my Na[me to] consult with them, will, I am sure, give you [all the?] Advice in their Power. Wishing you a good Voyage, and a happy Sight of your Husband, I am, Madam, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Not much is known about her, but hints appear in this letter and elsewhere. Her friendship with the Hawkesworths and her teaching experience suggest that she had been on the staff of Mrs. Hawkesworth’s school for young ladies at Bromley. Her husband had preceded her to Pennsylvania and was settled on a farm west of the Schuylkill; she joined him there the following December, and en route delivered a letter to Richard Bache from BF: Bache to BF below, Jan. 1, 1774. A James “Alcocks,” who we presume was the husband, was a resident of Blockley Township, immediately west of Philadelphia, in 1774; he was on the tax list but not assessed, which implies that he was a new resident. 3 Pa. Arch., XIV, 313. Other Alcocks, who may well have been some of the boys to whom BF refers in this letter, subsequently appeared in York and Chester Counties: ibid., XII, 455; XXI, 87, 410, 518, 780; 5 Pa. Arch., V, 573.

1The date of BF’s missing letter to Bache, just cited.

2The Walpole grant. A document among BF’s papers in the APS may well contain the “Copy of Mr. Alcock’s Letter” that he is here discussing. The document is addressed to Mrs. Hawkesworth. The bulk of it is an extract, with no indication of the date or author but apparently written from Philadelphia; the recipient is urged to obtain from Mr. Wharton a grant of land on the Ohio “in the Names of the Children and my self their Guardian.”

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