Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Digges, 12 May 1779

From Thomas Digges

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

London 12. May 1779

Dr. Sir

My journey hither was a favourable one & I am in hopes will turn out to good account; I have not yet however been able to deliver all Your letters—those for the environs of London are yet in my possession, as I preferred keeping them a day or two to make a personal delivery of them, to the risqueing them by penny post. I this day deliverd Miss Shipleys— His Lordship was not at home to join in the general satisfaction & joy expressd by the whole Female part of the Family on hearing from Yourself that you were well & happy— I got a share of consequence by being Your messenger, and was rogue enough to wish (when I saw a hasty kiss given to B F at the foot of Your Letter) to have the beatitude transferrd to me— It is a shame for You to be so great a monopoliser of Hearts.

I understood from the Family that a french Gentn. (I beleive the Ecuyer to the Count D Artois) sets out in the morning for Paris, & I am to send this to the Bishops for forwardance by Him.2

Our matter goes on seemingly very well; in a meeting between Mr. H and a certain great man, the later seemd to catch with avidity at Mr Hs. application for an audience, & this night at nine oClock is the hour appointed for a parley:3 I fear it will not be in my power to forward you the result of that parley by this conveyance; as I am under injunctions from Your Ruby-lipd Correspondant to send my letter this evening; I will however keep it to the last, and at any rate risque sending another letter to the Bishops in the morning. I write You from our friend Mr Hs where I am waiting his return from Westminster Hall & for his Roast beef.

Every thing seems working well for our Country & its cause; I hope no civil discord or nasty cabals will cast a cloud over the promisd fair & serene Western Sky. Arbuthnots Squadron is not yet saild from Torbay but will go with the first fair wind;4 If a few Ships of War and nearly four thousand Recruits (wch. is the force going with him) can do America any further injury, I am confidant She has my friend Govr Johnstone solely to thank for it; for He stands alone as to opinion that every exertion against America is now necessary for the Safety of this Country.5

Ministry seem to speak out dispondingly of their affairs in Ama & particularly for the Southern army. The exposition of the correspondence between them & their Commanders in America has servd to open the Eyes of the people a little, and the Examination into the affairs of the Howes by the evidence wch. have already been given at the bar of the House of Commons, is likely to damn them compleatly;6 It now appears that instead of vagabonds & poltroons the Americans are a vigilent, well disciplind, and a respectable Enemy. In the House of Lords yesterday, Ld Rockingham gave a very melancholly picture of the state of things in Ireland.7 It would seem to me that the period is not very distant when that oppressd people will seek relief to their distress from Congress’s & assosiations of their own. In the debate on this matter the disunion among both parties, Whigs, & Tories, was a good picture of the distraction of the times. Lord Rockingham makes a motion for the state of Ireland to be laid before the House— Lord Weymouth opposes it with the previous question— The Duke of Chandos & Lord Townsend support Lord Rockingham— The Duke of Grafton & Lord Shelburne oppose Him; & it all ends with giving the Marquis his Motion He cutting off part of His preamble.8

The leaders of the Bedford party have veerd about very much of late, & are from all appearances going over to opposition.9 The quarrels among the Ministry has been the probable cause of this. Lord N and Lord G. G are at cat & dog if not at open rupture.1 Lord N——’s language is, that Lord G G is such a blundering ass & so great a fool, that it is impossible to act with Him; The other says that North is so treacherous as never to support his friends when in need and always leaves them in the Dark.— When rogues quarrel, it is to be hoped honest men will get at their right.—

There has been some accots from N York to Ministry by way of Corke that have not been good enough to give to the publick in a Gazette, consequently they were bad. The talk is that the accots from Byron in the West Indies are but indifferent,—2 These, together with the reports wch reignd very currently about ten days ago that overtures for Peace were negotiating, having ceasd, has causd the Stocks to fall two & a half per. Ct. lately & the City gentry are rather in the dumps. Hopeing to have an oppertunity given me to write in the morning by the same conveyance with this I shall not add further at present than that I am with very great esteem Dr. Sir Your very obligd and Obedient Servant

Tho Digges

Notation: May 12. 79

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Labussiere. See his letter of May 11.

3See our annotation of Hartley’s letter of April 10 for his discussions with Lord North. His letter of May 25, below, reports the results of a private conference with the British minister.

4Adm. Marriot Arbuthnot (1711?–1794: DNB) commanded a convoy destined for New York carrying reinforcements for Clinton. Contrary winds had detained the convoy in Portsmouth; on May 11, the Cabinet created a further delay by ordering Arbuthnot to remain at Torbay until ten of the Channel fleet could escort him. Mackesy, War for America, pp. 260–1.

5See, for example, the speech of Gov. George Johnstone, formerly of the Carlisle Commission, in the House of Commons on April 19: France was now allied with British subjects to bring about the destruction of Britain, and decisive action was needed to compel American submission. Cobbett, Parliamentary History, XX (1778–80), 390.

6For the exchanges of letters between the ministry and British commanders in America see The Parliamentary Register …, XI (1778–79), 253–483. The hearings in the House of Commons on the conduct of Sir William Howe and his brother Adm. Richard Howe took place on May 6, 11, 13, and 18. Sir William sought to refute the accusations against them by calling five officers to testify that the colonists were overwhelmingly hostile to Britain and the loyalists uncooperative militarily. For an account of the hearings see ibid., XIII, 1–73, 91–120, and Gruber, Howe Brothers, pp. 342–50.

7The former minister’s speech was reported in The Public Advertiser, May 12, 1779. He warned of “Ten Thousand People in Arms. … Manufacturers and Workmen Starving in the Streets, subsisting on Charity. … well-grounded Apprehensions that France, if not America, may offer the distressed inhabitants that Relief which they have implored in vain from England.”

8For Thomas Thynne, third Viscount Weymouth, Thomas Townshend, third Viscount Sydney, and Augustus Henry Fitzroy, third Duke of Grafton, see the DNB. For James Brydges, third Duke of Chandos, see Namier and Brooke, House of Commons, II, 127. The debates on Ireland are reported in Cobbett, Parliamentary History, XX (1778–80), 635–57.

9The faction formerly led by John Russell, fourth duke of Bedford (d. 1771), had been taken over by his brother-in-law, Granville Leveson-Gower, second Earl Gower (DNB). Gower and Weymouth would, in fact, resign in the autumn in an effort to bring down North and take over the government: Frank O’Gorman, The Rise of Party in England: the Rockingham Whigs 1760–82 (London, 1975), p. 395.

1Lord George Germain, secretary of state for the American colonies. DNB.

2The admiral had taken up a position in the Leeward Islands to keep an eye on the French in Martinique. Mackesy, War for America, p. 272.

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