Benjamin Franklin Papers

Editorial Note on Franklin’s Purported Address to the Irish People, 4 October 1778

Editorial Note on Franklin’s Purported Address to the Irish People

The Hibernian Journal: or, Chronicle of Liberty published in its issue of November 2–4, 1778, an open letter “To the Good People of Ireland,” signed by Franklin and dated Versailles, October 4, 1778. It was a long and uninspired diatribe against British policy, and ended with a promise that all restraints on Irish trade and manufacture would be removed. Publication in Dublin disturbed the Lord Lieutenant, who immediately wrote Whitehall for instructions.1 The letter was reprinted the next year in Pennsylvania and elsewhere, and in the late nineteenth century appeared in pamphlet form as by Franklin.2 Franklin, however, said that he was not the author: Jonathan Williams, Jr., when he received the American reprint, asked him whether he was, and he said no.3

1Buckinghamshire to Weymouth, Nov. 4, 1778, Public Record Office.

2Pa. Packet, Aug. 14, 1779; Paul Leicester Ford, ed., An Address to the Good People of Ireland, on Behalf of America, October 4th, 1778. By Benjamin Franklin (Winnowings in American History: Revolutionary Broadsides, No. 2; Brooklyn, N.Y., 1891). The editor, without citing his authority, says that BF probably printed the letter on his Passy press; copies were sent to Ireland, but were intercepted and eventually found their way to the Public Record Office.

3JW to BF, Dec. 11, 1779, APS; BF to JW, Dec. 22, 1779, Library of Congress. The identity of the real author is still, to the best of our knowledge, a mystery; see Dixon Wecter, “Benjamin Franklin and an Irish ’Enthusiast,’“ Huntington Library Quarterly, IV (1940–41), 209 n. A guess–but no more than that–would be Count Patrice d’Arcy.

Index Entries