Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Jonathan Shipley, 28 September 1774

To Jonathan Shipley

ALS: Yale University Library

London, Sept. 28. 1774

I received my dear Friend’s Letter of the 8th8 past, and should have written sooner, but that I have been in continual Expectation of being able to visit you. A Succession of thwarting Businesses has prevented my giving my self that Pleasure hitherto. And writing by Post is now attended with such Inconvenience,9 that I am apt to postpone it.

I am glad the Conduct of my Countrymen meets your Approbation, who are so good a Judge of what is right and prudent. I think I can answer for them that whatever is agreed on at the Congress will be executed with universal Resolution, Firmness and Perseverance. There may be a few personal Exceptions, but of little moment. Your Information is true that great Orders for Goods have been sent over by some, in Expectation that a Non Importation Agreement would probably take place: but the Managers there, apprehending that the Merchants were not all to be rely’d on, have set on foot a Non Consumption Agreement, among the Country People, which since Gage’s absurd Proclamation against it, has made great Progress;1 and this has occasion’d already several Counter Orders, as the Importation can answer no End if the People will not buy.

I suppose you must have heard that some Steps are taken to form a Coalition if possible among those of our Great Folks who agree in disapproving the present Measures, tho’ they have not had a good Understanding on other Accounts.2 If they can unite, they will have greater Weight in endeavouring to unhorse the present wild Riders, and thereby prevent the Ruin that seems to threaten our great political Building by their mad Management.

I have had the great Pleasure of hearing in all Companies the Speech extoll’d as a Master-piece of Eloquence and Wisdom. Great Numbers of them have been printed and dispers’d over the Nation: And I think one may see already its beginning Effect. The Abuse of America in the Papers is of late much diminished, and new Advocates for her are arising daily. I send you inclos’d one of the smaller Edition. The Publishers, who have put their Names to it, have as yet only deliver’d Quantities to the Subscribers, (who distribute them gratis) being afraid of offending Cadell if they should advertise it and sell it at the price mention’d; tho’ they think they could sell great Numbers if they had the Author’s Leave.3

I had the honour of a long Conversation lately with Lord Chatham, whose Sentiments upon American Affairs, I found such as I could wish. I hear the same of Lord Camden’s.4 And I know the same of so many others; that I think if the Proposals of the Congress should appear tolerably reasonable, a strong Push may be made the ensuing Session, for the Repeal of all the mischievous Acts that have of late almost dissolv’d our Union. I hope nothing will prevent your being present. It was said the Parliament would meet in November. But I hear now that January is intended.

Please to present my best Respects to all the good Family, with whom I long to be. I am a Letter in debt to Georgiana; which I will pay when I can. With the sincerest Esteem and Respect, I am ever, My dear Lord, Your obliged and affectionate humble Servant

B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8BF wrote “28th”; the first digit was then deleted, apparently by him. No letter from Shipley survives between December, 1773, and January, 1775.

9Because he had lost his franking privilege?

1BF’s wording, and our ignorance of what information he had at this time, make his meaning difficult to unravel. The movements for nonimportation and nonconsumption were making progress, and in September the Congress adopted both; see the headnote on the letter from the Congress below, Oct. 26. But we are inclined to believe that BF is here referring to developments in Massachusetts. In that case “the Managers” are the Boston committee of correspondence, and the “Non Consumption Agreement” is the Solemn League and Covenant that the committee promulgated in June and that Gage condemned. This document pledged the signers to both nonintercourse and nonconsumption, and its terms were far more rigorous than earlier efforts at boycott. The Covenant did not make “great Progress”; although its principles were widely accepted, the agreement itself aroused much opposition both in Boston and in the countryside. Wroth, Province in Rebellion, I, 57–8; Richard D. Brown, Revolutionary Politics in Massachusetts … (Cambridge, Mass., 1970), pp. 191–200. The London Chron. of Aug. 4–6 published the Covenant, along with Gage’s proclamation of June 29 denouncing it as treasonable and threatening the publishers and signers with arrest.

2See the note on BF to Cushing above, Sept. 15.

3The speech, which was never delivered, was the pamphlet that BF had sent to Rhoads on June 30. Thomas Cadell, the famous London bookseller (see the DNB), printed four London editions during the year. “The smaller Edition,” in different type and hence less than half as long, was published by Goadby and Berry, stationers, who remarked on the title page that it could be had for 2d., or 2s. 6d. for twenty-five. For the various English and American editions see Thomas R. Adams, American Independence: the Growth of an Idea … (Providence, R.I., 1965), pp. 110–13.

4The long conversation with Chatham in late August was their first meeting. The Earl, after deploring the Coercive Acts, asked whether the colonies were intent on independence, as many in England believed, or at least on getting rid of the Navigation Acts, BF reassured him on the first point, and on the second except where the acts discriminated against American commerce. The two men parted in hopes of meeting again, and did so in December. Below, pp. 547–9. Charles Pratt, Baron Camden (1714–94), the former lord chancellor and a close political ally of Chatham, had been for years one of the most consistent champions of America. BF had known him for a long time and had recently described him as a good friend: Quincy, Memoir, pp. 269–70; BF to Rhoads above, June 30. The deepening crisis brought them, we believe, into closer contact before the year was out; see the headnote on BF’s questions below, Dec. 27.

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