Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Thomas McKean, 24 August 1776

To Thomas McKean6

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Philada. Augt. 24. 1776

Dear Sir,

I heard your Letter read in Congress relating to the Disposition of the German Troops; and understanding from Col. Ross, that they are canton’d on the Island opposite to the Jersey Shore, I send you herewith some of the Resolutions of the Congress translated into their Language, as possibly you may find some Opportunity of conveying them over the Water, to those People.7 Some of the Papers have Tobacco Marks on the Back, it being suppos’d by the Committee, that if a little Tobacco were put up in each as the Tobacconists use to do, and a Quantity made to fall into the Hands of that Soldiery, by being put into a Drift Canoe among some other little Things, it would be divided among them as Plunder before the Officers could know the Contents of the Paper and prevent it. With great Esteem, I am, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin8

Col. McKean

Addressed: Free / To / The honble. Colonel McKean / of the Pennsylvania Forces / East Jersey / B Free Franklin

Endorsed: Letter. August 24th: 1776 Doctor Benjamin Franklin Member of Congress.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6McKean (1734–1817) was a lawyer and politician prominent in the affairs of both Delaware and Pennsylvania. He was a Congressional delegate from the former, a leader of the movement in Philadelphia toward independence, and at the moment a col. of Pa. associators commanding a regiment at Perth Amboy. DAB.

7McKean’s letter to Congress is not mentioned in the JCC and seems to have vanished. At Perth Amboy he was well placed to gather intelligence about the newly arrived German mercenaries on Staten Island: a brigade of them had taken position on the shore, separated by only a narrow channel from the American post. Max von Eelking, The German Allied Troops in the North American War of Independence, 1776–1783 (trans. and abridged by J. S. Rosengarten; Albany, N.Y., 1893), p. 27. On Aug. 14 Congress had passed a resolution offering each German soldier who deserted a 50-acre bounty in land. JCC, V, 653–5. For a second offer along the same lines see BF to Gates below, Aug. 28, and for a discussion of the whole episode Lyman H. Butterfield, “Psychological Warfare in 1776: the Jefferson-Franklin Plan to Cause Hessian Desertions,” APS Proc., XCIV (1950), 234–41.

8“Inclos’d is the English Copy,” BF added in the margin, “which is requested to be return’d, it belonging to the Congress.” He then deleted this postscript and wrote under it “mislaid.”

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