Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Williams, Sr., 19 June 1775

From Jonathan Williams, Sr.

ALS: Yale University Library

Worcester June 19the. 1775

Honoured sir

Hearing that you was arrv’d in America and I being much Concrned for our belov’d Son, this is to desire you to Give us Some account of his Situation and Curcomstances. Poor fellow I feare he is now undon as a Merchant. We relying on the faith of General Gage packed up all his Goods in Order to remove them out of Boston, but was forbid by him out of whose Mouth proceds blessing and cursing.1 They there remain with all my Estate Which was indeed Sofficient for me and all my famley though a few days before I left that once happy Town which is now become a den of theaves and robers, to Compleat ruin my Stores With all my papers and Some of my Books Were Consumed by fire. I was Oblig’d to Leave all except a few trunk of Clouths and house linnen my Sons Goods nine houses one of Which I valued at £15.000 Sterling and all its valueable furnurture, but blessed be God I have now Colected my Scater’d famley Who are all hear in this Town,2 in Comfortable Curcomstances at present, and rather then they Should want I will go to day Labour, though Old I have good helth (56 this day). My Greatest Concrn is to pay my debts though I have got my plate but that must if we tarrey Long in this State go to the Support of my famley. My debts that are due to me dose not follow me and was I to follow them I doobt whither I Should catch them, nor Could I as the Old Saying is make one hand Wash the other tho’ the former is five times more then the Latter. However I doobt not we Shall git through the Wilderness and on those Accounts prehaps Sooner Arive too the promis’d Land.

Our Aunt Meccom Accept’d an Invitation from Mr: Green and is well there a few days ago and happy for every one is so that thinks themselves so. My wife and Children Joines in dutyfull respects With Your Nephew and Humble Servant

J Williams

Please to direct to Worcester Which Lays in the post Rhode. Your being in the Congress will give you a better knoledge of our public State than I Can Write.

Addressed: To / The Honble. Benjamin Franklin Esqr / In / Philadelphia

1From the passage about good and evil in man’s tongue: James 3:10. After Lexington thousands of Bostonians left town. Gage was anxious to be rid of them, and negotiated with the selectmen and town meeting the terms of evacuation. The agreement was that those who wished might, upon depositing their firearms with the selectmen, receive passes to leave with their families and effects. The provincial congress arranged for their settlement, and for the passage of Loyalists into town. Difficulties arose at once, however, and the crux of them was the interpretation of “effects”. Gage feared that Boston, once all the rebels’ movable property was out of it, might be set afire. He interpreted effects to exclude first merchandise, then provisions and medical supplies, both of which were in short supply within his lines. The provincial congress thereupon limited what the Loyalists might carry in: clothing and household furniture. Resentment escalated, and Gage’s conduct became a grievance that Congress included in its declaration of reasons for taking up arms. Mass. Spy, or, American Oracle of Liberty, May 3, and Boston Gaz., June 5, 1775; Carter, Gage Correspondence, I, 397–8; Wroth, Province in Rebellion, I, 123; II, 1684, 2076; JCC, II, 151. See also Gerard B. Warden, Boston, 1689–1776 (Boston and Toronto, [1970]), p. 319; Richard Frothingham, History of the Siege of Boston . . . (4th ed., Boston, 1873), pp. 93–6; John R. Alden, General Gage in America . . . (Baton Rouge, 1948), pp. 255–6.

2They obviously included his wife, Grace Harris Williams, and no doubt some of their sons and daughters. The first eight in order of birth appear in Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston, XXIV (1894), pp. 265, 275, 280, 285, 290, 293, 298, 300, and the other two in The Manifesto Church: Records of the Church in Brattle Square Boston (Boston, 1902), pp. 181, 183.

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