Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Cushing, 22 March 1774

To Thomas Cushing

AL (copy):8 Public Record Office

London, March 22. 1774.


I received your Favour of Jan. 23.9 I suppose we never had since we were a People, so few Friends in Britain. The violent Destruction of the Tea seems to have united all Parties here against our Province, so that the Bill now brought into Parliament for shutting up Boston as a Port till Satisfaction is made, meets with no Opposition.1 An Alteration in our Charter relating to the Choice of the Council is also talked of, but it is not certain that it will be propos’d at present.2 I cannot but hope that the Affair of the Tea will have been considered in the Assembly before this time, and Satisfaction proposed if not made; for such a Step will remove much of the Prejudice now entertain’d against us, and put us again on a fair Footing in contending for our old Privileges as Occasion may require.3 I am not well enough to bustle or to write much:4 And can only add my best Wishes for the Prosperity of my Country. With great Respect and Esteem, I have the Honour to be, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

P.S. By the Enquiries that I hear are made, I suspect there may be a Design to seize some Persons who are supposed to be Ringleaders, and bring them here for Trial.5

It is talk’d here that authentic Advices are received assuring Government that Messrs. Hancock and Adams were seen at the Head of the Mob that destroy’d the Tea, openly encouraging them. I oppose this Report by alleging the Improbability, that when the lower Actors tho’t it prudent to disguise themselves, any of the principal Inhabitants should appear in the Affair.


Honble Thos Cushing Esqr


Endorsed: Dr Franklin March 22. April 2. and 16. 1774

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Enclosed in BF’s letter below, April 16.

9All Cushing’s letters in 1774 have disappeared except the fragment below at the end of December.

1The Cabinet had been discussing coercive measures since the end of January; see the note on BF to the Mass. House committee above, Feb. 2. On Feb. 19 the decision was made to bring in the Boston Port Bill and eventually a bill to alter the Massachusetts charter. On March 7 the King, in a message to Parliament, stressed the need to restore order and secure colonial dependence on the mother country. On the 18th the Port Bill was introduced into the Commons; it met little opposition, as BF says, and became law on the 31st. The statute authorized the removal of the customs and provided that the port be closed on June 1, except for fuel and victuals for the inhabitants (brought by ships under armed guard) and supplies for the King’s service; when the East India Company was reimbursed for the tea and the customs commissioners for damage to their property, and when law and order were restored, the crown was empowered to open the port. 14 Geo. III c. 19. See also Bernhard Knollenberg, Growth of the American Revolution, 1766–1775 (New York, [1975]), pp. 103–5; Sosin, “Mass. Acts,” pp. 241–6; Gipson, British Empire, XII, 112–16; Donoughue, British Politics, pp. 65–84.

2It was very soon proposed as part of the Mass. Government Act; see BF to Cushing below, April 2, 16.

3BF is echoing what he had already proposed in his letter to the House committee of correspondence above, Feb. 2.

4He had a cold; see the following document.

5Until the end of February the government had considered doing so; see the note on BF to Cushing above, Feb. 15. But when witnesses from Boston were interrogated—presumably the inquiries to which BF refers—the law officers decided that such testimony did not provide sufficient evidence for a charge of high treason. Donoughue, British Politics, pp. 56–63.

Index Entries