Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from [Samuel Wharton], 17 January 1777

From [Samuel Wharton3]

AL: American Philosophical Society

January 17th 1777

Dear Sir

My last was the 14th,4 since Which I have not been favored with a Line from your Side. Every Day more and more confirms your just Observation, That “implacable Malice and Hatred” would soon (in Case of Separation) take place of mutual affection, and Friendship. In the politest and best Families of this City, and among Even the most gentle, and humane of the fair Sex, So unhappily and effectuely have politicks reversed their Natures, You hear Them rejoice at the Butchery of Americans, and wish the most cruel Punishments exercised On Them, for Alass! They have been taught to consider Us, as a Race of ignorant, ungrateful, brutal Cowards. All Ranks of People joyfully anticipate the Operations of next Campaign. Howe and Carlton, They say, will separate the Colonies inclusive, and southwardly of New York, from those to the Northward of it. These are devoted to Destruction: The united Calamaties of Carnage, and Devastation are to be inflicted on Them; for They alledge, They excited Rebellion in all the Colonies, entertain and promote Anti-Kingly Notions of Government, are of very little Use to the Kingdom, Purchasing scarcely any of its Manufactures, and essentialy interfering with it’s Fisheries and Commerce; And with Respect to the Middle and southern Provinces, It is graciously intended, after a moderate Chastisement, To pardon their Revolt, In Consideration of their being profitable Planters, and large Consumers of British Manufactures. These are the flattering Wishes, and benevolent Intentions of these Islanders. Can Americans forget or forgive Them? No. They will, I trust, disapoint Them, and shew by their Unanimity, Perseverance and Fortitude, That They know the Value of, and will maintain, Their Freedom; and the Independence of their Country.

Yesterday a Committee of West India Merchants, consisting of twenty five, waited upon Lord Sandwich, and desired the Convoy for the West Indies might be postponed for a little While. It was agreed to. The Committee took Occasion to complain to his Lordship of the great Losses, The Merchants had suffered by American Captures, and delivered Him a List of West India Vessels (Only) taken, To the Value, of One Million and Eight hundred thousand pounds, and stated to his Lordship, How very much commercial Credit suffered in Consequence of it.

Do you not imagine, The Capture of Transports, and other Vessels, amount, at least, to half a Million More? People in Office say, That Colonel Faucit has engaged 5000 Wirtemburghers, In Part of the Quota of Troops, To go to America.5

A Ship yesterday arrived from Augustine, and brings the dismal News of the Cherokees, and Creeks, at the Instigation of the Governor of East Florida, and Mr. Stewart, The Superintendent of Indian Affairs, having in One Day taken Seven hundred Scalps from the inoffensive, frontier Families of the Carolina’s and Georgia. The inhuman Governor, it is said, was alarmed, and relented, at the Sight of these savage bleeding Trophys, and dispatched Expresses to stop the farther Massacre. But by his Bribes and wicked Misrepresentations, the prowling Murtherers had been stimulated into Action, and their brutal Career would not easily be arrested.6Can America Ever be reconciled to the Primary Author of this Tragedy? It is impossible. My Soul detests Him, as a most sanguinry, deceitful and obstinate T-a-t. I was desired by 81 to hint to you, That Government is furnished by the Jew, who lived, (When I was in America) in Peter Evans’s large House in Second Street, opposite to Holt’s the Sadler (DF.) with every Transaction at Philadelphia. He is Permitted to appear as a Friend to the Views of the Congress, in Order to acquire the best Intelligence.7If Dr. B. should not have left Paris, When this Letter gets to Hand, He should be very careful of his Papers. He had better return by the Way of Brighthelmstone. It is publickly talkd of, That He is with you. I enclose you an Extract, from Davilla’s History of the Civil Wars in France,8 to shew, that Ambassadors were Publickly received at the French Court, from the revolted States of the Low Country. My best Respects wait on 57.1 am dear Sir Your most Affectionate Friend.


Prices of Stocks this Day

Bank 130 to 137⅞

3 percents consol. at 12⅛
India 172¾
Navy  2¼ to ⅜ Discount

PS. The officer, 236, Whom Dr. B. and I recommended to you about twelve Months ago,9 is returned from Philadelphia, by the Way of Nants, and I am told, When in Paris, about ten Days ago, waited upon Lord Stormont, and gave a very sad account of the Situation of the People, as to their Union in Philadelphia and other Parts of America, as well as the American Army; In short, He represents, That He was courted by the Congress to accept of being Engineer General to their army and some other high Post. But He told me yesterday, He positively refused all their offers, as He was persuaded, They coud not long maintain their Independence, as their army was badly constituted, both as to officers and Soldiers &c. I perceive He is a disapointed Man, speaks from Resentment, and will endeavour to recommend Himself to administration. I wish Dr. B. may bring an account of his Propositions to the Congress and Conduct at Philadelphia, That so He may be confronted with Them. I send you by the Courier, the Daily papers, from Monday to this Day inclusive. I am dear Sir, yours sincerely


If Dr. B should have left Paris, before This Letter reaches you, be pleased to let the within Letter be sent to Him in London, by the Courier, and not by the Post.1


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Identified as usual by the handwriting and contents.

4Unless this letter was to BF and has since been lost, it was one of that date that is now among his papers in the APS, addressed to a Mon. Benson; in that case Wharton, to judge by his phrasing here, assumed that BF would read it. It was Benson who later revealed to Whitehall the existence of the Franco-American treaty, and his identity has caused confusion from that day to this. He is said to have been Silas Deane. A British agent leaped to that conclusion when he found a number of letters to Benson in Deane’s lodgings in May, 1777, and Julian Boyd accepted the conclusion: “Silas Deane: Death by a Kindly Teacher of Treason?,” 3 W&MQ, XVI (1959), 322–3. This identification, however, is unwarranted. In 1778 Wharton addressed five letters to Benson about their joint speculations in stocks; four are in the British Library (Feb. 24, March 13, April 21 and 28) and one in the APS (May 19), and some of these refer to Deane as a third party. We are confident that he was writing to Edward Bancroft as Benson. In early 1777 Bancroft was still living in England, and on his visits to Paris presumably lodged with Deane, as he had the previous summer: Deane Papers, I, 209–10.

5Col. William Fawcett, or Faucitt, had negotiated with German rulers the earliest treaties for mercenaries. DNB under Fawcett.

6For John Stuart and the beginning of these Indian incursions see above, XXII, 642–3.

7This warning had some color of justification. David Franks, who has appeared occasionally in earlier volumes, was Peter Evans’ son-in-law. He was supplying prisoners of war, as agent for a British contractor and with the authorization of Congress and of Gen. Howe, and had visited New York on this business. American authorities subsequently banished him for the duration of the war. Edwin Wolf, 2nd, and Maxwell Whiteman, The History of the Jews of Philadelphia from Colonial Times to the Age of Jackson (Philadelphia, 1956), pp. 33, 38, 47, 86–92, 181–2. We have no evidence that he was a spy, but his activities and British contacts made him suspect.

8Enrico Caterino Davila, Historia delle guerre civili . . ., first published in 1630, had numerous later editions and translations.

9Elias Wrixon; see above, XXII, 306n.

1We cannot identify the enclosure. It could scarcely have been the letter to Benson of Jan. 14, discussed above, because it remained among BF’s papers; it contained largely London news, furthermore, which Bancroft would not have needed on his return.

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