Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to [Edward Bancroft], 31 May 1779

To [Edward Bancroft]5

AL (draft): American Philosophical Society

May 31. 79.

When at Bt.—6 acquaint the People that have a mind to remove to America, that they may do it with great Safety to themselves & Effects.—7 It is said there are great Numbers in those Parts. Represent the happy Living of Thousands of Families that have already passed from thence. On Occasion, State the Advantages to those that remain, of a free Trade with A. so large & growing a Country. Vent for their Manufrs. &c.

Learn what are the 10,000 in Arms, spoken of lately in Parliamt.—8 Of what People compos’d?—Where? and with what Views?—

It may not be amiss to write some little Things now and then for the Newspapers, in which Matters may be discreetly hinted, & Ideas suggested that may have good Effects. The shorter the more likely to be copied in all the Papers.—Some in form of Letters, Some in Articles of News. &c.

Notation in Franklin’s hand: Instructions to Dr B

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5These instructions to Bancroft are connected with the French foreign ministry’s project to evaluate the possibility of raising a rebellion among Irish Presbyterians as a diversion for the planned Franco-Spanish invasion of England. Lafayette had suggested Bancroft for the mission. (BF’s involvement was minimal, although he did propose, unsuccessfully, that Bancroft stop at Ostend en route to meet with a “vehement member of the opposition party in the Irish parliament,” undoubtedly Sir Edward Newenham.) Unknown to Lafayette, Vergennes, or BF, Bancroft was a British secret agent. His eventual report to Vergennes discouraged any hope of an Irish rebellion; no one had yet thought of independence and the Irish were too afraid of England and too divided by religion: Idzerda, Lafayette Papers, II, 268–9, 287n; Patterson, The Other Armada, pp. 72–6.

6Belfast (?).

7BF had recently granted a passport to some prospective Irish emigrants; see our annotation of Jesse Taylor’s April 10 letter.

8Probably the Marquis of Rockingham’s comment in the House of Lords on May 11 about 10,000 supposed troops in independent corps and companies there: The Parliamentary Register …, XIV (1779), 335. See also our annotation of “Philantropos” to BF, April 5.

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