From William Franklin
LS: American Philosophical Society
Perth-Amboy, Augst. 14, 1775
I wrote to you by the Stage on Thursday last since which I have not heard from you.
As you were so kind as to say that you had no objection to doing any thing for me that might be in your Power respecting the Lands in the Traders Grant from the Indians, I send you enclosed a Copy of a Letter on that Subject from Mr. George Morgan, together with my Answer open, which after Perusal, please to Seal and Deliver.3 I should be glad of your Sentiments respecting the Contents as soon as your Leisure will permit.
I have read Messrs. Walpole and Sargent’s Letter to you, and observe that since you left England they have received the strongest Assurances that as soon as the present Great Dispute is settled our Grant shall be perfected; and that they request that their Plan of Possessing and Leasing the Lands contracted for with Government may be “kept as private as possible, for should it be known on their side of the Water it might rather prejudice us than do us any service.” I think it proper therefore to suggest to you that, in my Opinion, it is hardly possible that such a Transaction will be kept so secret as they think necessary, and consequently that you and Major Trent ought to weigh well the Consequences before you adopt the Measure.4 I wonder Trent should make as an Excuse for not clearing the Judgement to Tilghman, or paying the Jersey Debt for Croghan, that he has nothing of Croghan in his Hands, when by Croghan’s Letter to me the Judgement to Tilghman was principally, if not solely for a Debt of Trent’s own, and, by his Acct. against Trent, there is a Ballance due to him of about £17 or 1800. Mr. Bernard Gratz (your Neighbour) has the Acct. and a Power to receive the Ball. and to pay it to me. Do send for him and he will shew it to you and make you acquainted with the Affair of the Judgement. He lately promised to write to me as soon as he could get Trent’s Answer. Do let him know that I have not yet had a Line from him.5
We are all well and join in affectionate Duty to you and Love to the Family. I am, Honoured Sir, Your ever dutiful Son
Addressed: To / Dr. Franklin / Philadelphia
Burlington 16th. August 1775 reced and forwarded the 17th By Mr. Wright By Sir your obedt. Nephew
J. F. Davenport8
Endorsed: W F. Aug. 14 75.
3. WF’s earlier letter to BF has been lost. The copy of Morgan’s letter that he enclosed, dated Aug. 8 and now in the APS, concerned selling the land given the “suffering traders” at Fort Stanwix in 1768 (see the headnotes above, April 11 and July 12): the sale, it was hoped, would occur the following spring under the aegis of the government of Virginia; a land office would be opened, and trustees appointed to collect the receipts and divide them among those proprietors who did not wish to take their shares in land. WF’s position, although his response to Morgan has been lost, is clear from what follows.
4. In the absence of Walpole’s and Sargent’s letter the question at issue must remain conjectural, but we believe that WF is still referring to the cession made to the traders. Selling this tract without royal authorization, he seems to be saying, would imperil the Company’s last chance of securing the twenty million acres for which the promoters still hoped. For subsequent developments see below, the editorial note, Jan. 19, 1776, and the headnote on BF to Walpole, Jan. 12, 1777.
5. The jungle of WF’s land speculations is fortunately beyond our purview. He and others had made a loan to George Croghan, secured in part by a mortgage on the latter’s Philadelphia property, only to discover that the property was subject to a prior judgment obtained by Samuel Tilghman. Croghan professed to know nothing of the judgment, and promised that the money due would be paid by his financial agent, Barnard Gratz (for whom see the DAB), out of Trent’s debt to him. Both the speculators, Croghan and Trent, had perfected the art of evading creditors, and WF collected nothing. William H. Mariboe, “The Life of William Franklin . . .” (doctoral dissertation, University of Pa., 1962), pp. 324–7, 343–4.
6. BF did visit his son in Perth Amboy at the end of the month, and returned with WTF to Philadelphia: WF to WTF, Sept. 14, 1775, APS; see also below, p. 186n.
7. The closing salutation and postscript are in WF’s hand, the rest in WTF’s.
8. For Davenport, WF’s secretary, see above, XX, 56–7.