Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Lawrence and William Smith, 19 July 1776

From John Lawrence and William Smith3

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Burlington July 19th. 1776


At the Request of Mrs. Mecum (who has been an Inhabitant of this City for some time past and behav’d with Prudence and Industry) We take the Liberty to Inform you that her husband’s Conduct is such, as to render her Scituation Disagreeable, and at times very Dangerous he being often Depriv’d of his Reason, and likely to become very Troublesome to the Inhabitants.4 If a place in the Hospital of Philada. can be Procur’d or any other way of Confineing which may be thought more Eligeable she begs your Assistance And that you wo’d be pleas’d to favor us with an Answer on the Subject of this Letter. From Sir Your most Obedient Humble Servants (in haste)

Jno. Lawrence
William Smith

Addressed: To / The Honble / Benjamin Franklin Esqr. / At / Philada5

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3We have failed to identify Smith, who may have been a Burlington official. John Brown Lawrence (1729–96) was the mayor and a prominent local lawyer and member of the N.J. Council. He was suspected of being a Loyalist, and is said to have been imprisoned. He remained in Burlington until 1795 and died in Canada in 1796. Larry L. Gerlach, Prologue to Independence: New Jersey in the Coming of the American Revolution (New Brunswick, N.J., [1976]), pp. [361], 366; Sabine, Loyalists, II, 3; George M. Hills, History of the Church in Burlington . . . (Trenton, N. J., 1876), passim.

4The request came from Elizabeth Ross Mecom, Benjamin’s wife (above, I, lxi). Her husband apparently stayed in Burlington until the British invaded New Jersey at the end of the year. “He never could be keept in the place you Expected,” Jane wrote her brother in 1779, “but was wandering about till the Hessians took possession of Burlington, when he disappeared and has never been heard of since.” Van Doren, Franklin-Mecom, p. 188; see also pp. 182–3. Elizabeth Mecom paid £17 5s. 0d. for his support from July until the end of 1776; in 1791 she made a sworn statement that BF had engaged to reimburse her but that no one had: Jan. 7, 1791, Hist. Soc. of Pa.

5The address sheet has an irrelevant notation in BF’s hand: “Officers of the British Army / Soldiers.”

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