Request for a Printing
Printed in The Public Advertiser, February 19, 1774.
In November, 1769, when total repeal of the Townshend Acts seemed possible, William Strahan addressed a series of questions to Franklin to elicit his views on repeal and related issues. The American replied at length, concluding with a pessimistic prophecy of how the Anglo-American quarrel would develop. The questions and answers were intended for private circulation among politicians of importance, and were therefore not published.9 By February, 1774, Franklin’s prophecy was coming true; Massachusetts was in open defiance, and the government was pondering ways and means of coercion. Some one, in all likelihood he himself,1 decided to publicize the interchange as a last-minute warning. It was sent to the Public Advertiser with this covering note, and printed there on February 19; on the 26th it was reprinted, with a similar note, in the Gazetteer.
A Copy of the following Letter to Dr. Franklin, with his Answer to it, having accidentally fallen into my Hands, I request you to give them a Place in your Paper. The Writers of them, I flatter myself, can have no Objection to their being laid before the Public; and tho’ they are now of an old Date, your intelligent Readers will easily see the Propriety of their appearing at this Juncture. I am your constant Reader,
9. Above, XVI, 233–5, 243–9.
1. BF used elsewhere, as Crane points out, the initials on this note and the different ones on that in the Gazetteer. The fact that the printed text of the questions and answers contains a few revisions of the 1769 MSS is further evidence to Crane that BF sent the material to the newspapers. Letters to the Press, pp. 247–8. We disagree. The MSS are copies with small insertions and corrections in BF’s hand; these changes, which we incorporated in the texts we printed, may well have been made in 1769 and in any case tell nothing, as far as we can see, about who was responsible for publication.
The appearance of the questions and answers scarcely galvanized the public. The only reaction we have found is an attack on BF in an open letter noted by Crane, signed “I.M.D.” and dated Feb. 26, which appeared in the Public Advertiser on March 2. We should normally publish it because it is addressed to BF, but out of consideration for our readers we refrain. It is long, pompously affected, and almost unintelligible.