Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Franklin, 7 September 1774

To William Franklin

ALS: British Museum; letterbook draft: American Philosophical Society

London, Sept. 7. [1774]

Dear Son,

I received yours of July 3. from New York, with the Bill of Exchange for Forty Pounds, Cobham on Bond & Ryland, which is carried to the Credit of your Account.2

I have spoken in Mr. Antill’s Favour, but there seems to have been a previous Disposition of those Places.3

At the Time of making up the Mail for the August Packet, I was down at Lord Le Despencer’s, and wrote the above Letter to you from thence, frank’d by his Lordship. A Week after the Packet had sail’d, my Letter was return’d to me, having been by a Blunder at the Office sent to Burlington in Yorkshire. I have now open’d it to add this, and send it re-seal’d, to have the Benefit of the same Frank.4

I am glad you have met with my Friend Barrow. I wish you to cultivate his Acquaintance; and Mrs. Barrow’s who is a good and amiable Woman.5

I am much oblig’d to Mr. Panton for his Information relating to Mr. Parker’s Affairs. Cousin Jonath. Williams, an expert and accurate Accomptant, is now with me and engag’d in posting and settling my Accounts, which will be done before the next Packet, when I shall send what concern’d Parker’s. In the meantime I think it cannot be amiss for you or Mr. Bache to accept any Security Mrs. Parker is willing to give. (You mention some Lands.) I think I gave a Power to Mr. Bache.6

You say my Presence is wish’d for at the Congress; but no Person besides in America has given me the least Intimation of such a Desire; and it is thought by the great Friends of the Colonies here, that I ought to stay till the Result of the Congress arrives, when my Presence here may, they suppose, be of Use. In my Opinion all depends on the Americans themselves. If they make and keep firm Resolutions not to consume British Manufactures till their Grievances are redress’d and their Rights acknowledg’d, this Ministry must fall, and the aggrieving Laws be repeal’d. This is the Opinion of all wise Men here.7

I hear nothing of the Proposal you have made for a Congress of Governors, &c.8

I do not, so much as you do, wonder that the Massachusetts have not offered Payment for the Tea; 1. Because of the Uncertainty of the Act which gives them no Surety that the Port shall be opened on their making that Payment. 2. No specific Sum is demanded. 3. No one knows what will satisfy the Custom house Officers; nor who the “others” are that must be satisfied, nor what will satisfy them; and 4. after all, they are in the King’s Power how much of the Port shall be opened.9 As to “doing Justice before they ask it,” that should have been thought of by the Legislature here, before they demanded it of the Bostonians. They have extorted many Thousand Pounds from America unconstitutionally, under Colour of Acts of Parliament, and with an armed Force. Of this Money they ought to make Restitution. They might first have taken out Payment for the Tea, &c. and return’d the Rest. But you who are a thorough Courtier, see every thing with Government Eyes.1

I am sorry for the Loss of Sir W. Johnson, especially at this time of Danger from An Indian War. I see by the Papers you were with him at the time.2

Mr. Parker of Amboy has written to Mr. Wilmot that the King’s Approbation of the Boundary Act is not arriv’d. I sent Duplicates of it last Winter to Messrs. Kinsey and Hewlings: One by the Packet, the other by a Philadelphia Ship. As you know they have receiv’d them, pray request them to acquaint Mr. Parker.3

A fresh Memorial has lately been presented on the Ohio Affair. The Event still uncertain.4 But Mr. Walpole continues confident that sooner or later it must succeed.

A Spanish War is now seriously apprehended here;5 and the Stocks of course are falling.

The August Packet is hourly expected, when I hope to hear of your safe Return and Health. With Love to Betsey, I am, ever Your affectionate Father

B Franklin

Notation: Letter from Dr. Franklin to Govr. F—Augst. 1, 1774 and Septr. 7. Alluding to the Govrs. having different Sentiments on public Matters from his.6

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2The transaction must have been explained in the missing part of WF’s letter; Bond & Ryland was a mercantile firm in Crutched Friars: Kent’s Directory … (London, 1774). WF added to the ALS at this point a reminder that he sent his father a bill for £30 sterling in November, 1774, and before that lent DF £9 to be charged to BF.

3BF was powerless, he had written Antill on Feb. 18, to do anything; his speaking for him later indicates that he still had, or believed he had, some influence in the Post Office.

4The reopened letter was that of Aug. 1 above. Le Despencer, as a peer and as Postmaster General, had a double franking privilege.

5These were undoubtedly the pair with whom BF had been invited to dine in 1766, and with whom he renewed acquaintance in New York in 1776: above, XIII, 537 n.

6Jonathan Williams had recently returned from his northern tour: entry of Aug. 25 in his MS journal, Yale University Library. Francis Panton was a shopkeeper in New York, where Parker’s will was filed: N.-Y. Hist. Soc. Coll., XXXI (1898), 316–17; XXXIII (1900), 8; XXXIX (1906), 118–19. An undated latter from Panton to WF, now in the APS, must have been summarized in WF’s of July 3; it described Parker’s disposition of his estate and mentioned some pine lands and a sawmill that his widow proposed to set aside for BF. Settlement of the estate and of Parker’s debt to BF had been dragging on for years; see above, XX, 35–7, 153–5. The power of attorney, to DF and RB, is summarized above, XIX, 79.

7For the reasons why the wise were wrong see the note on BF to Cushing below, Sept. 15.

8In WF’s letter to Dartmouth, quoted in his to BF of July 3; his father is replying to the latter in much of what follows.

9For the provisions of the statute see the note on BF to Cushing above, March 22. Once the tea was paid for, the customs commissioners and others who had suffered property damage during the riots were compensated, and the Bostonians showed themselves obedient to law and authority, Dartmouth instructed Gage, the King was to be notified that he might reopen the port. Wroth, Province in Rebellion, II, 2–3. When merchants asked the Governor, just after his arrival, to set a value on the tea before they offered to pay for it, he refused on the ground that the offer must come from the town or the General Court. Stephen E. Patterson. Political Parties in Revolutionary Massachusetts ([Madison, Wis., 1973]), p. 82. Corporate responsibility had to be admitted, in other words, before the sums due were revealed.

1A considerable change in tone from BF’s letter of Feb. 2. WF answered below, Dec. 24, with moderation and obvious pain.

2WF had been with Sir William Johnson at an Indian conference at Johnson Hall, called to deal with trouble on the Ohio. When the Vandalia scheme appeared to be blocked in London, Gov. Dunmore and his agents around Fort Pitt asserted Virginia’s administrative control of the area, and settlers from that colony came into increasing conflict with the Indians, some of whom were murdered. The Shawnees renewed earlier efforts to form a defensive confederacy, and the Six Nations, alarmed by the outrages against their dependents, demanded a conference with Johnson. He persuaded them to dissociate themselves from the Shawnees and discourage a confederacy but, at the moment of his success on July 11, suddenly died; WF attended his funeral. The agreement with the Six Nations isolated the Shawnees and exposed them to further inroads, which took the name of Dunmore’s War. N.Y. Col. Docs., VIII, 479–80; Randolph C. Downes, “Dunmore’s War: an Interpretation,” Mississippi Valley Hist. Rev., XXI (1934), 311–30.

3See above, Parker to BF, July 5, and below, BF to Parker, Sept. 7.

4Thomas Walpole, To the King’s Most Excellent Majesty in Council. The Memorial of the Honourable Thomas Walpole, in Behalf of Himself and [Others] … (London, 1774). The petition begged for prompt action on the Privy Council’s order of the previous October to the law officers (above, XX, 328 n); the alternative was war: the settlers in the area of Vandalia, with no government to restrain them, were provoking the Indians to an attack that would bring vast loss of property and lives. Acts Privy Coun., Col., VI, 556–7. This was not mere alarmism; see the note on pp. 287–8. The Privy Council received the petition in August, and the following spring the law officers drew up the final draft of the grant. It satisfied representatives of the Company and, apparently, the government, but was suspended until the close of hostilities. [Samuel Wharton,] Plain Facts … (Philadelphia, 1781), p. 159.

5BF had equated an earlier Anglo-Spanish crisis with a disposition in Whitehall to conciliate the colonists: above, XVII, 243. The threat of war this time was a by-product of a long effort by the East India Company to facilitate trade with China. The Company had obtained an island off the coast of Borneo for the exchange of Chinese and British goods, and had occupied it in 1773; Spanish authorities at Manila made an unsuccessful attempt to expel the interlopers, and early in 1775 the native sultan ousted them on his own. Vincent T. Harlow, The Founding of the Second British Empire, 1763–1793 (2 vols., [London, 1952–64]), I, 70–97.

6On a separate sheet in an unidentifiable hand; the comment does not apply to the earlier letter.

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