Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Franklin, [3 July 1774]

From William Franklin

ALS (incomplete): American Philosophical Society

[New York, July 3, 17747]

[First part missing8] there is no foreseeing the Consequences which may result from such a Congress as is now intended in America, chosen by the Assemblies, or by Committees from all the several Counties in each of the Provinces.”

I cannot but think it very extraordinary that neither the Assembly of Massachusetts Bay nor the Town of Boston have so much as intimated any Intention or Desire of making Satisfaction to the E. India Company and the Officers of the Customs when by doing those two Things, which are consistent with strict Justice, and by declaring that they will not hereafter attempt to hinder the Landing at Boston any Goods legally imported they might get their Port opened in a few Months. But if they are to wait for this until the Congress meets, and until the grand Question is settled between the two Countries, they may as well never have their Port opened, for by that Time their Trade will have got into another Channel, and most of their Merchants and Artificers be either ruined or removed. Besides they ought first to do Justice before they ask it of others, and the Business of the Congress may be carried on as well after the Port is opened as it can be when it is shut. Their making Reparation to those whom they have injured would besides give greater Weight to their Representations and do Credit to their Cause.9

The May Packet is not yet arrived, but I hear that Mrs. Gage arrived last Night.1 I am under a Necessity of setting out early in the Morning on my Journey. I am to dine to Day with General Haldimand,2 and have just Time to add that the Family were all well when I left Burlington, where Mrs. Bache [and] her Children were, and that I am ever Your dutiful Son

Wm. Franklin

I have not Time to copy this.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7BF supplied the place and date when answering his son’s letter below, Sept. 7.

8For once we know what was missing, though not how much of it WF supplied here. He was quoting his recent letter to Dartmouth printed in 1 N.J. Arch., X, 464–5. In it he mentioned the local movement for nonimportation, although he doubted that it would prevail, and the stronger movement for a general congress, which he expected would ask for repeal of the Boston Port Act and search for means of resolving the crisis. Those loyal to Britain, he continued, believed that if the King authorized the congress, if it comprised the governors and some members of the colonial legislatures, and particularly if the crown commissioned British representatives “of Abilities, Moderation and Candour” to attend, it might work wonders. The government had sent commissioners before to settle issues far less important than the present ones, “which are perhaps, worthy of more Attention and Consideration than any Thing that has ever before concerned Great Britain. At present there is no foreseeing,” etc.

The hope was fading that an economic boycott could be effectively imposed by separate, voluntary actions in the various colonies. A body that could speak for them all, it was becoming apparent, was the sine qua non for consensus. Hence the two movements, for a boycott and a congress, were beginning to fuse. For varying interpretations of the factors at work see Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Colonial Merchants and the American Revolution, 1763–1776 (New York, 1918), chaps. viii–ix; Burnett, Continental Congress, chaps. i–iii; Labaree, Tea Party, chaps. xi–xii; Gipson, British Empire, XII, chaps, v–ix; Jensen, Founding of a Nation, chaps. xviii–xix; Ammerman, Common Cause, chaps. ii–vii; H. James Henderson, Party Politics in the Continental Congress ([New York, etc., 1974]), pp. 7–45; Bernhard Knollenberg, Growth of the American Revolution, 1766–1775 (New York and London, [1975]), chaps. xx–xxvi and appendices.

9Many Boston merchants in fact advocated payment for the tea, and strongly opposed the nonconsumption proposals emanating from the committee of correspondence. After a town meeting endorsed those proposals the merchants attempted and failed, at another meeting on June 27, to have the committee abolished; and this defeat virtually ended their movement to compensate the East India Company. See Stephen E. Patterson, Political Parties in Revolutionary Massachusetts ([Madison, Wis., 1973]), pp. 81–4.

1Mrs. Gage, come to join her husband, arrived in New York on the 2nd in the Lady Gage, four days before the packet. N.-Y. Gaz., and Weekly Mercury, July 4, 11, 1774.

2Frederick Haldimand (1718–91), a Swiss soldier of fortune, had been commander in chief during Gage’s absence and subsequently commanded in Canada. DNB. WF’s journey was to an Indian conference at Johnson Hall, for which see the note on BF’s reply below, Sept. 7.

Index Entries