Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Jonathan Shipley, 10 March 1774

To Jonathan Shipley

ALS: Yale University Library

Cravenstreet March 10——74.

My good Lord,

In Page 26 and seq. of the oldest of these Pamphlets, and Page 64 and seq. of the newest, your Lordship will find the Subject of Communication with Settlements on the Ohio pretty fully handled.4

The Rarity of Goods brought from distant Countries makes People willing to give such an additional Price for them as more than compensates the Charge of Carriage. A Gentleman assur’d me that not long since being at a Fair in Transylvania, he saw there a Shop full of English Queen’s Ware,5 which had been carry’d up the Rhine and down the Danube. This Ware is bulky, of low Value proportion’d to its Bulk, and hazardous to carry, and yet the Price defray’d the Expence and Risque.

I send also another Pamphlet, at the End of which, Page 143. is reprinted a little Piece of mine on the Differences then arising between the two Countries.6

I apprehend that one View of the intended Bill may be, the Discouraging of Emigrations.7 The Projectors may suppose, that if Titles to new Land cannot be obtained in America, People will not go thither to obtain Lands. They will however find themselves mistaken. The Natives of America are those that settle new Lands, removing from those they have begun to cultivate as fast as they have an Opportunity of selling them to New Comers, who are not so fit for the Woods as themselves. And this will go on, for People will confide that Government can never be so unjust as to turn them off, and indeed it will never be done.

But suppose such an Act could be executed, what would be the Consequence? The American Gentlemen, (not at present in favour here) who are Possessors of large Tracts of Land, fit for Settlement, would then have the whole Market in their own Hands, and their Estates would thereby be increas’d in Value beyond Imagination. Sir Francis Bernard and his Associates (of whom I have the honour to be one) have 120,000 Acres in Nova Scotia which we wish to have Settled. The Settlement on the Ohio is against us, as it draws the People another Way. Perhaps he may move the Measure for his own Sake, and that of his English Friends.8 I ought not to object to it if I thought only of my own Interest; for I have declin’d my Share in the Ohio Purchase.9 But I think People should be left at Liberty to go where they can be happiest. I and my Son have also some other considerable Tracts, so that if such an Act should pass, Government will do me more Favour than they have done me Injury by taking away my Place. With the greatest Esteem and Respect, I am, My Lord, Your Lordship’s most obedient and most humble Servant

B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4BF had apparently sent the Bishop a collection of pamphlets and singled out two. The first was The Interest of Great Britain Considered …, printed above, IX, 47–100; the passage to which he referred is on pp. 79–86 of our edition. The second was Samuel Wharton’s pamphlet discussed above, XIX, 123–5: Report of the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations … with Observations and Remarks (London, 1772); see especially pp. 67–8 of the pamphlet.

5Wedgwood earthenware: above, XX, 453 n.

6[Thomas Hollis,] The True Sentiments of America: Contained in a Collection of Letters Sent from the House of Representatives of … Massachusetts Bay to Several Persons of High Rank in This Kingdom … (London, 1768), which contains on pp. 143–58 BF’s “Causes of the American Discontents before 1768,” printed above, XV, 3–13.

7We presume that the bill was what became the Quebec Act, for which see the note on BF to Cushing below, June 1. The terms had been under discussion in Whitehall for many months, and the second draft of the legislation was ready in early March; it repealed the Proclamation of 1763, applied French law to property-holding in the province, and extended its boundaries. Adam Shortt and Arthur G. Doughty, eds., Documents Relating to the Constitutional History of Canada, 1759–1791 (2 vols., Ottawa, 1918), I, 536–43. BF might well have construed these provisions as discouraging British immigration; members of the government later declared, as did the Continental Congress, that this was a purpose of the act. Jack M. Sosin, Whitehall and the Wilderness … (Lincoln, Neb., 1961), pp. 245, 247; Cont. Cong. Jours., I, 76. Shipley, perhaps influenced by BF, was the one bishop who eventually voted against the bill: A. Francis Steuart, ed., The Last Journals of Horace Walpole … (2 vols., London and New York, 1910), I, 355. In this paragraph BF also had in mind, we assume, the government’s restrictions on land grants by colonial governors; these grants had been virtually prohibited in the spring of 1773, and the prohibition was reiterated the following February. Above, XX, 186 n; Acts Privy Coun., Col., V, 360–1.

8BF’s land speculations in Nova Scotia are a subject on which we have been able to throw no more light than our predecessors; see above, XI, 186–7 n; XIII, 123; XIV, 202–4. This is our only evidence that Bernard was associated with him, and we have no evidence at all that Sir Francis was involved in the Quebec Act.

9Only in a manner of speaking; see the headnote on the letters between Walpole and BF above, Jan. 24. BF’s phrasing indicates, if he had in mind the Quebec bill, that he expected it to incorporate into that province lands south of the Ohio and within the projected Walpole grant; in fact the river was the southern frontier in the draft of the bill in March, cited above, and in the final act.

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