Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Joseph Galloway, 8 May 1775

To Joseph Galloway

ALS: Mrs. Arthur Loeb, Philadelphia (1955)

This short letter is tantalizingly uninformative. It touches on the two personal relationships that were in crisis when Franklin returned to America, with his son and with his oldest political ally; but it throws little light on either. Its contents make clear that it was in answer to a letter now missing, in which Galloway congratulated Franklin on his election to the Congress, announced his own intention of retiring from politics, and offered to send his carriage from his country estate, Trevose, to bring his friend to their first meeting in more than a decade. In this reply Franklin neither accepts nor declines, partly because he is unsure when and where he will see his son, whom in fact he was unable to meet until some weeks later.3

He apparently did go to Trevose and spend the night. In their conversation, as Galloway remembered it years afterward, the host was forthright in urging reconciliation with Britain; but the guest was guarded, and after the visit kept so much to himself that Samuel Adams suspected him of sinister designs. At a second meeting with Galloway, Franklin tried to demonstrate how stiffnecked the ministry was by reading him the journal of his peace negotiations in London; but the reading was interrupted.4 Some time in late May or early June William Franklin came to Philadelphia, met his father and the son whom he had not seen since babyhood, and took the boy back with him to New Jersey.5 The Governor, presumably during that visit and again according to Galloway’s recollection, spent a bibulous evening with the other two men; at the end of it the elder Franklin inveighed against British corruption and dissipation, assured them that the colonies would prevail, “and declared in favour of measures for attaining to Independence.”6 This seems to have been the moment of his open break with his friend, but precisely how and when that moment was reached remains unclear.

Monday May 8. 75

My dear Friend

I am much oblig’d by your kind Congratulations. I am concern’d at your Resolution of quitting public Life at a time when your Abilities are so much wanted. I hope you will change that Resolution.7 I hear my Son is to be at Burlington this day Week to meet his Assembly. I had purposed (if he could not conveniently come hither) to meet him there, and in my Return to visit you at Trevose. I shall know in a Day or two, how that will be. But being impatient to see you, I believe I shall accept the kind Offer of your Carriage, and come to you directly. If I conclude upon that, I shall let you know. At present I am so taken up with People coming in contineually, that I cannot stir, and can scarce think what is proper or practicable. I am ever, with unalterable Esteem and Affection, my Dear Friend, Yours most affectionately

B Franklin

Addressed: To / Joseph Galloway Esq / Trevose / Bucks.

Endorsed: May 8. 1775 Dr. Franklin on his Arrival in Philadelphia

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3On May 7 WF heard to his surprise of his father’s arrival: to Strahan, May 7, 1775, Pierpont Morgan Library. Partly because of that development, WF wrote Cadwallader Colden the next day, he could not come to New York, and would expect to hear from Colden at Perth Amboy: The Letters and Papers of Cadwallader Colden (N.-Y. Hist. Soc. Coll. for 1917–23, 1934–35), LVI (1923), 294. He could not in any case have hurried to Philadelphia, for he had called the Assembly to meet on the 15th and was preparing a lengthy address. He delivered it on the 16th, and met daily with the Council until the short session ended on the 20th: 1 N.J. Arch., XVIII, 534–64. He therefore did not visit Philadelphia until after that date.

4These were Galloway’s recollections as imparted to Hutchinson in January, 1779. BF also told him, he added, that he left England a fortnight earlier than he had given out he would, in order not to be stopped. Hutchinson, Diary, II, 237–8. In fact BF broadcast to friends and acquaintances when he was sailing; see for example XXI, 523, 525–6. This discrepancy may call into question how accurately Galloway remembered, but the comment about BF’s being distrusted has corroboration. During his early weeks in Congress he kept so silent that Richard Henry Lee, and apparently others, suspected he was a British spy; not until mid-July was the suspicion dissipated. William T. Hutchinson et al., eds., The Papers of James Madison (12 vols., to date; [Chicago,] 1962 —), I, 149, 158. By that time a rumor was abroad in London that BF, disgusted by the delegates’ refusal to consider any plan of reconciliation, was on his way back to England. London Packet or, New Lloyd’s Evening Post, July 19, 1775.

5See BF to Jane Mecom below, June 17, 1775. WF and WTF returned to New Jersey well before June 13, when BF acknowledged WTF’s letter from Perth Amboy.

6Hutchinson, Diary, loc.cit.

7For Galloway’s growing disillusionment, culminating in his resignation from the Congress on May 12, see Benjamin H. Newcomb, Franklin and Galloway: a Political Partnership (New Haven and London, 1972), pp. 271–8.

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