Benjamin Franklin Papers

[John Temple] to James Bowdoin, 20 February 1774

[John Temple2] to James Bowdoin

AL: Massachusetts Historical Society

London Febry. the 20th. 1774

My Dear Sir

I had pleasure in receiving your favor of the 13th. December (with the inclosure) which has had a good effect on the minds of Considerable people here.3 You will by this opportunity hear that Dr. Franklin is dismissed from his office of Post-Master in America; but it is impossible the Province will let him be a loser by it, they must fall upon some Means of raising Money for paying their Agent &c. immediately which they must do amply for their own Interest and Credit here; I should think that in their several Town taxes over the Mode of which the Governor hath no Controul, a sum might be raised for this purpose. You have Nothing to hope or expect from the Justice of Ministry, who after all will be afraid to come to extremities with you. You must be firm Resolute and Cautious; but discover no Marks of temidity, for they will take advantage of [them] to teize [tease] you in mean pitifull ways. The next thing hoped for, and expected by the friends of America, and in perticular the Dr. himself is that Boston, New York, and Philadelphia will immediately fall upon a Method to Starve the Post Office which hath always been given as a president for taxing the Colonies.4 This may be done the Dr. says in the easiest Manner, by a private Carriers being set up by one person, and the Merchants of York Boston and Philadelphia subscribing each such a sum as they suppose their postage now Costs them, which will be much more than Sufficient to Maintain such a Carrier and all poor peoples letters go Gratis. This being done in the three Middle Capital provinces the other parts of America may be left as they now are, to the Brittish Post Office. Dr. F. thinks Mr. Tuttle H— will give information as to the mode of conducting this business5 which however inconsiderable it may appear at first is a great point to Carry, as it removes the only president and may be effected if properly managed without breaking the letter of the Act of Parliament,6 and will greatly mortify here, as it is expected by many. I hope a small Committe from Boston will immediately treat with the two other Colonies to whom letters are written on the subject. You cannot expect any very explicit letters on this subject from the Dr. or any other of the friends to America; hints must be sufficient. You may rely on it, that prudent, yet manly and resolute Conduct on your parts is what will Carry you through. The Eyes of all Europe are watchfully on you, and will not suffer Tyranny to prevail against you, but their must be firm spirit on your parts. The world have never yet known who stop’d Portius in his Carier. Your Town born Enemies are more indefatigable than ever, in their Endeavours to bring distruction on you but I think you can [have] no doubt about them at this time of day, any more than you can have of those who have acquitted them of the Charge the Assembly exhibited against them.7 In writing this, you will consider what I have said as being the sentiments of your Best friends to be Communicated for the Public good of America. It is also thought by Dr. Lee, Dr. F. and other friends to America that it would be proper for the Assembly of Massachusetts Bay to pass some spirited resolves in Contempt of Mr. Wedderburn the Soliciter General for his Scurilous treatment of the Assembly and province, when pleading in defence of Hutchinson and Oliver before the privy Council. I am desired to mention this to you, least it might escape the thought of those who lead in the Assembly.

Addressed: The Honble James Bowdoin Esqr / Boston / New England

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Temple’s handwriting was too inconsistent to be readily identifiable, but the letter was beyond question in reply to Bowdoin’s of Dec. 13, 1773, printed in 6 Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., IX (1897), 327–30. Bowdoin’s MS indicates that his notation, “not sent,” applied only to the postscript.

3Bowdoin, a member of the Council, had sent Temple a copy of that body’s report of Nov. 29, which denied a plea for protection from the consignees of the tea. The Governor refused to have the report published in Boston, and Bowdoin gave his son-in-law carte blanche to use it in England as he pleased. Ibid., p. 330; for the report see Labaree, Tea Party, pp. 121–2.

4British writers had raised this “president” at the time of the Stamp Act, and American writers had denied its validity. See for example [Thomas Whately,] The Regulations Lately Made Concerning the Colonies, and the Taxes Imposed upon Them, Considered (London, 1765), pp. 105–7, and Daniel Dulany’s counterargument reprinted in Bernard Bailyn, ed., Pamphlets of the American Revolution … (Cambridge, Mass., 1965), 1, 643. BF, when questioned on the point before the House of Commons, had argued that postage was not a tax but a voluntary payment for service: above, XIII, 144. We are inclined to think that the “Method to Starve the Post Office” imputed to BF was in fact his, because it seems to be consonant with his comments in the penultimate paragraph of his letter to Cushing above, Feb. 15. See also the headnote on Todd to BF above, Jan. 31.

5Tuthill Hubbart, the Boston postmaster, may or may not have involved himself in the scheme; but his letter to BF below, March 31, made clear the extent of opposition to the regular postal service.

6Evading the letter of the Postal Act of 1711 (8 Anne, c. 10) would have required a great deal of management: sections 3 and 17 prohibited any one except the postal authorities from carrying letters or contributing to their carriage, whether or not a fee was charged.

7The man stopped in his “Carier,” or career, we assume was John Porteous, the captain of the Edinburgh city guard who was lynched in 1736 for having fired on a mob; his murderers were never apprehended. The “Town born Enemies” were of course Hutchinson and Oliver, and those who acquitted them the Privy Councilors.

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