From Martin Howard5
ALS: American Philosophical Society
Newbern 12th. Augst. 1775.
I recieved your favour by Mr. Caswel.6 When I wrote and informed you that I had recieved your Money of Mr. Cooke, I did not tell you the Truth. Mr. Cook was largely indebted to me, and gave me a Mortgage of a small House which I believe is his whole Property but not equal in Value to half the Sum he owes me, I included your Debt in this Mortgage, and when I wrote you, doubted not from his as well as from my then prosperous Situation of paying it with Ease as soon as I should recieve your Directions, but soon after our Courts became shut and the succeeding Distresses of this and the other Parts of America have not passed by without affecting me, and in my present situation I cannot pay it. It is proper to acquaint you that Mr. Cooke did not recieve your Money as my Clerk, he acted as an Attorney upon his own Bottom and in 1765 when I was precipitately hurried to England he took charge of all Papers in my Possession and unhappily for me and many others made a very unfaithful Use of them.
I mention these Circumstances to you that you may acquit me in foro Conscientiae,7 not with an Intention to evade paying you what I have incautiously made myself chargeable with, but merely to obtain your Indulgence till better Times. As soon as Order and Government is restored here I shall instantly pay you, in the mean Time the little I possess, if I am permitted to possess it, will but just keep myself and Family above Indigence. I am Sir Your most Obedient and humble Servant
Addressed: To / Benjamin Franklin Esqr. / in / Philadelphia. / favored by Colo. Caswel. / Free R Cogdell8
Notation: New Bern 23d. Novemr. 1775
5. The erstwhile attorney in Newport, R.I., who had been forced to flee the colony during the Stamp Act disturbances. For his and John Cooke’s debt to BF, which elicited this letter, see above,XI, 459 n; XVIII, 220–1 n. In 1766 Howard had been named chief justice of North Carolina, and served until the courts closed in the wake of the Coercive Acts. He then retired to his farm, whence he fled to New York in 1777 and eventually to England. Samuel A. Ashe, Biographical History of North Carolina . . . (8 vols., Greensboro, N.C., 1905–17), III, -15. The money at issue presumably went with him.
6. Richard Caswell (1729–89), a surveyor turned politician and soldier, had commanded under Tryon at the Battle of Alamance and was now a North Carolina delegate to the Congress: DAB.
7. I.e., morally rather than legally.
8. Richard Cogdell was a tavern-keeper in New Bern and chairman of its committee of safety. N.C. Hist. Rev., XX (1943), 306. He was apparently acting also as postmaster.