Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to David Hartley, 3 October 1775: extract

To David Hartley

Extract printed in Benjamin Vaughan, ed., Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces . . . Written by Benj. Franklin . . . (London, 1779), pp. 555–6; copy: D. A. F. H. H. Hartley Russell, on deposit in the Berkshire Record Office (1955); copy: Library of Congress8

Philadelphia, Oct. 3, 1775.

I wish as ardently as you can do for peace, and should rejoice exceedingly in co-operating with you to that end. But every ship from Britain brings some intelligence of new measures that tend more and more to exasperate; and it seems to me that until you have found by dear experience the reducing us by force impracticable, you will think of nothing fair and reasonable. We have as yet resolved only on defensive measures. If you would recall your forces and stay at home, we should meditate nothing to injure you. A little time so given for cooling on both sides would have excellent effects. But you will goad and provoke us. You despise us too much; and you are insensible of the Italian adage, that there is no little enemy.9 I am persuaded the body of the British people are our friends; but they are changeable, and by your lying Gazettes1 may soon be made our enemies. Our respect for them will proportionally diminish; and I see clearly we are on the high road to mutual enmity, hatred, and detestation. A separation will of course be inevitable. ’Tis a million of pities so fair a plan as we have hitherto been engaged in for increasing strength and empire with public felicity, should be destroyed by the mangling hands of a few blundering ministers. It will not be destroyed: God will protect and prosper it: You will only exclude yourselves from any share in it. We hear that more ships and troops are coming out. We know you may do us a great deal of mischief, but we are determined to bear it patiently as long as we can; but if you flatter yourselves with beating us into submission, you know neither the people nor the country.

The congress is still sitting, and will wait the result of their last petition.2

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8We normally print the earliest version of a document, but this is an exception. In a speech in the House of Commons on Dec. 5, 1777, Hartley mentioned that he had read BF’s letter to the House a few days after receiving it, presumably late in 1775, and that it had been ignored; he then quoted this extract. Cobbett, Parliamentary History, XIX (1777–78), 553. His copy of it, incorporated in the draft of his speech (Berkshire Record Office), is the earliest surviving version. The other copy, in the hand of C.-G.-F. Dumas, is headed by a note that it was derived from the speech as printed in The London Evening-Post of Jan. 20–22, 1778. Our text differs slightly and inconsequentially from these versions, and is likely to be more authentic because BF was in touch with Vaughan while the edition was taking form.

9The adage, which was French rather than Italian, appeared in Poor Richard in 1733: above, I, 316.

1Perhaps a reference to “Gazettes of blood” in Hartley’s letter above, July 31.

2The petition discussed above, July 8. Dumas’ copy has a note here that must be his own; it is not in the text in the Evening-Post or in Vaughan: “This result has been, That no answer should be given.” The result was not known in Philadelphia until November: Pa. Gaz., Nov. 1, 1775. Dumas may have learned it from a newspaper enclosed in BF’s letter below, Dec. 9, 1775, or may have seen the announcement in the London papers that an answer to a legally nonexistent body was “thought beneath the dignity of government.” London Chron., Aug. 22–24; Public Advertiser, Aug. 25, 1775.

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