Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Edward Newenham, 27 May 1779

To Edward Newenham

Reprinted from William Temple Franklin, ed., The Private Correspondence of Benjamin Franklin, LL.D, F.R.S., &c … (2nd ed., 2 vols., London, 1817), I, 37–8.

Passy, May 27, 1779.


I should sooner have sent this Passport, but that I hoped to have had the other from this Court in time to send with it.6 If you should stay a few days in England, and will let me know how it may be directed to you, I can send it to you per post.

I received some time since a letter from a person at Belfast, informing me that a great number of people in those parts were desirous of going to settle in America, if passports could be obtained for them and their effects, and referring me to you for future information.7 I shall always be ready to afford every assistance and security in my power to such undertakings, when they are really meant, and are not merely schemes of trade with views of introducing English manufactures into America, under pretence of their being the substance of persons going there to settle.

I admire the spirit with which I see the Irish are at length determined to claim some share of that freedom of commerce, which is the right of all mankind, but which they have been so long deprived of by the abominable selfishness of their fellow subjects. To enjoy all the advantages of the climate, soil and situation in which God and nature have placed us, is as clear a right as that of breathing; and can never be justly taken from men but as a punishment for some atrocious crime.

The English have long seemed to think it a right which none could have but themselves. Their injustice has already cost them dear, and if persisted in, will be their ruin. I have the honour to be, with great esteem, Sir,

Your most obedient and most humble servant,

B. Franklin.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6BF’s draft of a passport, dated May 26, 1779, attested that Newenham “hath on various Occasions manifested himself a firm Friend of Liberty and of America, where he purposes as soon as may be to settle himself, Family and Fortune:—” He requested that Newenham and his family be treated as friends if captured on any part of their journey from Ostend to England, from there to Ireland, and on to America. APS.

On the verso of the passport is an unrelated social note in BF’s hand: “J’irai volontiers avec la bonne Famille. Avez vous une Place vacante dans votre Carosse—Non.— Il faut que je viens dans le mien. Je le ferai & je me rendrai chez vous à 5 heures precises.”

7See Jesse Taylor’s letter of Nov. 21, 1778: XXVIII, 147–8.

Index Entries