Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Cushing, [30 December 1774?]

From Thomas Cushing

AL (fragment): American Philosophical Society

[December 30, 1774?7]

[First page or pages missing] their Proceedings are Contained in the public Papers [?].8 I have lately been favoured with a Copy of Lord Dartmouth’s circular Letter to the Governors of the respective Colonies upon this Continent, wherein he Informs them, that His Majesty has thought fit, by his order in Council of the 19th October 1774, to prohibit the exportation from Great Britain of Gunpowder, or any sort of Arms or Ammunition and that it is his Majesty’s Command that they take the most Effectual Measures for Arresting, detaining and securing any Gunpowder or any sort of Arms or Ammunition, which may be attempted to be imported into the Province under their Government, unless the Master of the Ship, having such Military Stores on board, shall produce a licence from his Majesty or the Privy Council, for the exportation of the same from some of the Ports of Great Britain:9 The Colonies apprehend this Political Manoevre of the Ministry forebodes the most vigorous exertions of Martial Force. They are therefore adopting the most Effectual Methods to defend themselves against any Hostile Invasions of the Enemies to America. I am Informed that the People of Rhode Island having in consequence of this Intelligence been alarmed with the same Apprehensions, have removed the Powder Guns, Cannon and other Military Stores from the Fort at the Entrance of their Harbor into the Country where they are safely Lodged and that the People at Portsmouth in New hampshire have done the like by their Cannon and other Military Stores at the Fort at New castle at the entrance of their Harbour [remainder missing1].

Benjamin Franklin Esqr.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7The letter could have been written at any time after Dec. 19, when the Boston Gaz. reported the developments in Rhode Island and New Hampshire of which Cushing speaks. But his wording is similar to, and in places identical with, that which he used in writing to Quincy on the 30th: Quincy, Memoir, pp. 211–12. Our guess, therefore, is that the two letters were written on the same day.

8The proceedings were those of the provincial congress, which had adjourned on Dec. 10; see the letter just cited and, for a modern account of the proceedings, Wroth, Province in Rebellion, I, 79–90.

9For the order in council see idem, II, 1206. It was inspired by reports from the British Minister to the Hague that Americans were buying military supplies in Amsterdam. Dartmouth forwarded the order in a circular letter to colonial governors, Oct. 19, and in that to Gage he enclosed copies of the reports: one hundred and fifty tons of powder were en route to Nantucket, artillery was being sent by way of St. Eustatius, and a brig from Rhode Island was loading firearms, including forty small cannon. Gage Papers, Clements Library. The letters and enclosures reached Boston on Dec. 3, and the navy acted to intercept what supply ships it could: Carter, ed., Gage Correspondence, I, 385–6; II, 176–7.

1If the format was the same as Cushing’s letter to Quincy, only the closing salutation is missing. The Rhode Islanders had seized the armament of Fort George, on Goat Island off Newport, and taken it to Providence. The episode in New Hampshire on Dec. 14–15 had been more sensational: four hundred men had attacked Fort William and Mary at New Castle, wounded the commander and overwhelmed the small garrison, and carried off guns, muskets, and powder. Gipson, British Empire, XII, 170–2.

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