Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Samuel Cooper, 15 August 1774

From Samuel Cooper

AL (draft): British Museum

This letter brought Franklin his earliest first-hand news, as far as we know, that the crown was losing control of Massachusetts. The arrival on May 13 of the commander in chief and new governor, Thomas Gage, did not slow the process. The General Court that had just been elected clashed with him immediately on the choice of Council members, and on the transfer of the seat of government to Salem as provided in the Massachusetts Government Act. On June 17 he dissolved the Court, after the House had called for a ban on British goods and elected delegates to the forthcoming Continental Congress. Those responsible for the Tea Party could not be brought to justice in the colony, as the Governor reported to Dartmouth in late June; angry citizens were forcing courts to close, harassing the newly appointed Councilors, holding meetings to protest the Coercive Acts, and arming and drilling as militia. The whole system of justice and administration was in disarray.8

Boston N.E. Aug: 15. 1774

Dear Sir,

My Retirement into the Country a great part of the Spring and Summer must be my Apology for not transmitting sooner to you the inclosed Vote of Thanks for your valuable Present to the Library of H[arvard]: College. The great Age of the venerable Gentleman who transcrib’d and attests it, will excuse any Deficiency in point of Form.9 Your literary Works, and your public as well as private Character, must for ever be superior to the unprovok’d Malice of your Enemies; and endear your name not only to the present but future Generations.

The Act for blockading the Town has been executed with the utmost Rigor and even beyond the Rigor of this cruel Act. Our Coasters with Wood have been oblig’d to unload at Salem in their way hither; and 240 Quintals of Fish kindly sent our poor by our Brethren at Marblehead were not permitted to come to us by Water, but transported by Land Carriage round the Country thro Roxbury. Tho Fuel and Victuals are expressly excepted in the Act.10 We have now besides the Fleet in our Harbor, 4. Regiments encamp’d on the Common: one on Forthill; another at the Castle; that from N. Scotia is station’d at Salem.11 The People endure all with an astonishing Calmness and Resolution; supported and encourag’d with the Sympathy and good Wishes of our Brethren in the Country and thro out the Colonies. They have made our Cause a common one. They appear ardent in it. Large and generous Presents to the indigent and distress’d Inhabitants flow in from all Quarters.12 Our Delegates with those of N. Hampshire set out a few days ago for the congress which meets at Philadelphia 1. Sept.13 All Eyes are turn’d towards that important Assembly: It’s Decisions will come with great Weight; and should it recommend either a Non Importation, or a Non consumption of British goods the Recommendation would be almost universally adopted.1 We have received the Act for vacating the Charter, and for encouraging the Soldiery to murder us.2 The Impression they make upon the other Colonies as well as this is deep. Genl. Gage has a difficult Task. He gives himself wholly up to the high Party among us, and acts in the Spirit of them that sent him. He finds the People less dismayed and submissive and the Colonies more united than he expected. Tho he has employ’d ev’ry argument to perswade those commission’d as Councellors to qualify, some have refus’d, and others desir’d Time to consider: Only eleven have as yet been sworn; but more it is expected will accept.3

Col. Hancock is dismiss’d from his Command of the Company of Cadets, and they have resign’d their Colors to the Governor and dissolv’d.4 It is impossible to look into Futurity; and to write Conjectures may not at present be wise. Boston is not yet deserted, nor the American Cause desperate. We are indeed in a most critical Situation; and what the grand Event may be Heavn only knows. All Arts have been employ’d to terrify, cajol, divide, and mislead us; they have had some Effect, I wonder they have had no greater. Our Rights may perhaps yet be redeem’d, and prove a Means of saving the Liberties of Britain. I am, my dear Sir with increased Affection

To Dr Franklin.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8See Gipson, British Empire, XII, 145–60; Jensen, Founding of a Nation, pp. 464–70; Wroth, Province in Rebellion, I, 1–78.

9See above, May 31, Nathaniel Appleton’s thanks for the present of the Œuvres. Cooper forgot the enclosure and sent it with his letter below of Sept. 9.

10The Port Act provided that fuel and victuals for the inhabitants, if carried in vessels that had been searched and cleared by the customs at Salem, might be brought into Boston. But “the executors of the Act seem to strain points beyond what was ever intended,” a Bostonian complained, “for they make all the vessels, both with grain and wood, entirely unload at Marblehead before they’ll permit ’em to come in here. … We are oblig’d to pay for 28 miles land carriage to get our goods from Marblehead or Salem.” 1 Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., VIII (1864–65), 330. When protest was made to the customs officers about the fate of the donated fish, the answer reported in the press was that the act was so designed, “and that it is not their intent to lessen these difficulties.” Boston Gaz., Aug. 1, 1774. Gage took much the same position: Carter, ed., Gage Correspondence, I, 357–8, 361.

11In July Vice Adm. Samuel Graves had arrived to take command of the augmented squadron that was patrolling the harbor. The troops by this time were disposed as follows: at Castle William the 64th Regiment; encamped on Boston Common the 4th and 43rd from England, the 5th and 38th from Ireland, and two detachments of artillery; at Fort Hill the 23rd, which had arrived from New York in early August; and at Salem the 59th, which had arrived at the same time from Nova Scotia. Donoughue, British Politics, pp. 64–5, 85 n; Wroth, I, 35, 43–4, 48.

12Grain, flour, sheep, fish, rice (from South Carolina), and money. The most distant contributors were Montreal, Quebec, and Savannah. Labaree, Tea Party, p. 238; Wroth, I, 56.

13The date set in the Massachusetts resolutions appointing delegates; the Congress did not in fact convene until Sept. 5. Cont. Cong. Jours., I, 13, 15–16. The Massachusetts representatives were John and Samuel Adams, Thomas Cushing, and Robert Treat Paine; James Bowdoin was also chosen, but declined because of his wife’s health. The four men left on Aug. 10 and on the 29th, on the outskirts of Philadelphia, met the New Hampshire delegates, John Sullivan and Nathaniel Folsom. Butterfield, ed., John Adams Diary, II, 96–8 ns, 114.

1So it was. When the Congress adopted the Suffolk resolves (outlined in Williams to BF below, Oct. 28) it endorsed the principle of nonintercourse, and proceeded to define it as nonimportation, nonconsumption, and nonexportation, the first two to take effect on Dec. 1, 1774, and the third (with the exception of rice) on Sept. 10, 1775. To implement these policies the Congress formed the Continental Association, with local committees to expose all violators. Burnett, Continental Congress, pp. 46–7, 54–7.

2The Mass. Government and Administration of Justice Acts; see BF to Cushing above, April 16. They had come on the Scarborough, which arrived on Aug. 6 and also carried Dartmouth’s letter (discussed above, XX, 278–9) instructing Gage to obtain BF’s supposed treasonable communication to the House the previous July. Wroth, I, 46–7.

3The Scarborough brought the list of the thirty-six Councilors appointed under the Government Act, and on the 8th Gage swore in the new Lieutenant Governor, Thomas Oliver, and ten others on the list. Three more accepted but were not sworn, four needed time to consider, and two refused outright. 1 Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., VIII (1865), 338. Fourteen took the oath on the 16th: Wroth, I, 47.

4On Aug. 1 the Governor dismissed Hancock, and on the 15th the cadets resigned. They had always had the choice of their officers, they protested to Gage, and by his action he had disbanded the corps. Ibid., I, 48; II, 599–602.

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