Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, 26 April 1775

From the Massachusetts Provincial Congress

LS: Massachusetts Historical Society; draft: Massachusetts Archives; copies: National Archives and Connecticut State Library4

The second Massachusetts provincial congress, elected by the towns as the first had been, held two sessions between February 1 and April 15, 1775. It then recessed until May 10, but as a result of Lexington and Concord reconvened on April 22. By that time John Hancock had left for the second Continental Congress, and Joseph Warren succeeded him as president pro tempore. One of the first acts of the new session was to prepare an account of the events of April 19 and hurry it across the Atlantic for presentation to the British public.5 A narrative printed in a local paper, accompanied by supporting depositions and an address to the people of Great Britain, was sent on April 28 to Franklin as the provincial agent; the covering letter below was drafted by a committee of which Warren was a member, and was signed by him for the congress. This material arrived in London in late May, almost two weeks before Gage’s account, and Arthur Lee saw to it that the American side of the story received maximum publicity.6

In Provincial Congress. Watertown April 26th. 1775


From the entire confidence we repose in your faithfulness and abilities, we consider it the happiness of this Colony that the important trust of Agency for it, in this day of unequalled distress, is devolved on your hands: We doubt not your attachment to the cause of the Liberties of Mankind will make every possible exertion in our behalf a pleasure to you; although our circumstances will compell us often to interrupt your repose by matters that will surely give you pain. A singular Instance hereof is the occasion of the present Letter. The contents of this packet will be our apology for troubling you with it: from these you will see how and by whom we are at last plunged into the horrors of a most unnatural War: Our Enemies, we are told, have dispatch’d to Great Britain a fallacious Account of the Tragedy they have begun: to prevent the operation of which, to the public Injury, we have engaged the Vessel that conveys this to you, as a Packet in the Service of this Colony. And we request your assistance in supplying Capt. Derby, who commands her, with such necessaries as he shall want, on the credit of your Constituents in Massachusetts Bay. But we most ardently wish that the several Papers herewith inclosed may be immediately printed and dispersed thro’ every Town in England, and especially communicated to the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Common Council of the City of London, that they may take such order thereon as they may think proper; and we are confident your fidelity will make such improvement of them as shall convince all who are not determin’d to be in everlasting blindness, that it is the united efforts of both Englands that must save either. But that whatever price our brethren in the one may be pleas’d to put on their constitutional Liberties we are authorized to assure you that the Inhabitants of the other, with the greatest unanimity, are inflexibly resolved to sell theirs only at the price of their Lives. Signed by order of Congress

Jos Warren Presdt pro tem

To Benjamin Franklin Esqr Agent for the Colony of the Massachusetts-Bay now in London

Notation: Genl. Warren to Dr Franklin Watertown Congress

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4The draft, in Warren’s hand, has no significant differences from the LS that we print. Three other versions, the present whereabouts of which we do not know, have come to light in the past. They were advertised as follows: an LS, with interlineations by Elbridge Gerry, in Libbie’s sale catalogue, March 17–21, 1891, p. 224; an ALS (in fact a copy) in the same firm’s catalogue, May 8–10, 1894, p. 164; and an LS in Parke Bernet’s catalogue, April 10, 1962, pp. 81–2.

5See Wroth, Province in Rebellion, I, 109–10, 117.

6The narrative was that in the Essex Gaz., April 18–25, 1775. To carry the dispatches the congress employed Richard Derby’s small, fast schooner, the Quero, commanded by the owner’s son John. She left Salem on the night of April 28–29, and Derby reached London on May 28. William Lincoln, ed., The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts . . . (Boston, 1838), pp. 153–4, 159; Hutchinson, Diary, I, 455; James D. Phillips, The Life and Times of Richard Derby . . . (Cambridge, Mass., 1929), pp. 41–4; John H. Cary, Joseph Warren . . . (Urbana, Ill., 1961), p. 191; Robert S. Rantoul, “The Cruise of the ‘Quero,’” Essex Institute Hist. Coll., XXXVI (1900), 1–30. The account in the Essex Gaz. was published in London as an extra: London Evening-Post Extraordinary, May 29, 1775, reprinted in the issue of May 29–30. On the 30th it appeared in the Public Advertiser along with the address to the British people, and the next day the same paper carried a number of the supporting depositions, and Arthur Lee’s invitation to the public to examine the originals deposited with the Lord Mayor. The British side of the story was not known until more than a week later. Gage’s report, accompanied by letters from two officers on the expedition, went by the brigantine Sukey from Marblehead, and did not reach Lord Dartmouth until June 10; the government immediately published an account based on this material. Anne R. Cunningham, ed., Letters and Diary of John Rowe . . . (Boston, 1903), p. 294; Carter, Gage Correspondence, I, 396–7; London Gaz., June 10, 1775.

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