Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Sim Lee, 4 January 1780

From Thomas Sim Lee2

LS: Harvard University Library

Maryland In Council Annapolis 4th. January 1780.


You will perceive by the enclosed Act3 that the General Assembly of this State have invested you with authority to appoint one of the five Gentlemen nominated therein Trustee for the purpose of carrying the same into execution in case the Trustees heretofore appointed by the province of Maryland should neglect or refuse to act.

We request your Excellency to transmit a Copy of the Act to Messrs. Russell Grove and Hanbury Trustees appointed by the old Government4 and desire their immediate Answer whether they will transact the Business, sell out the Stock, accept and pay the Bills drawn in pursuance of the Act; if they will execute the Trust We would have them directed to sell out the Stock immediately and place the Money in the Hands of some capital Banker in Amsterdam or Paris subject to their draughts in case Bills should be drawn on them. If the Trustees decline acting We desire you would send the Trustee appointed by your Excellency a Copy of the Act with similar Directions to those above.

As the Proceedings of the General Assembly of this State relative to British Property may reach your Excellency as soon as this Letter We think it necessary that you should be precisely informed on this Subject to prevent misrepresentation and to obviate any difficulties that may occur in the transaction of this Business.

The House of Delegates during their last Sessions proposed a Bill for the Seizure and Confiscation of all British Property to the Use of the State except Debts due from the Inhabitants of this State to the Subjects of the King of Great Britain, this Bill was rejected by the Senate not because they were against the Exception but because they deemed a seizure and Confiscation of british Property at this Time improper: so that british Property here continues in the state it ever was.5

We have only to solicit so much of your time and attention to this Matter as will be necessary to preserve the Property of this State.

We have the Honor to be with the most perfect Respect Your Excellency’s most obedient and most humble Servants

Tho. Sim Lee

His Excy. Benja Franklin Esqr.

Notation: Thos. T. Lee Jany 4 1780

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Lee (1745–1819), a distant relative of the Lee family of Virginia, was a Maryland planter who held a variety of State offices. He was chosen governor in November, 1779: DAB; Edward C. Papenfuse et al., eds., A Biographical Dictionary of the Maryland Legislature, 1635–1789 (2 vols., Baltimore and London, 1979–85) II, 529–30.

3The enclosure must have been a copy of “An act for calling out of Circulation certain Bills of Credit emitted by Act of Assembly.” A copy in L’Air de Lamotte’s hand, with WTF’s notation “An act of the Assembly of Maryland,” is at the University of Pa. Library. The act provided for the recall and destruction of $173,773 in bills of credit emitted by the state. Since these had been convertible to bills of exchange payable in London, however, Maryland had appointed trustees there to honor its engagements by selling stock it owned in the Bank of England. Fearing these trustees would be unwilling or unable to continue their service, the assembly empowered BF to choose a successor from among five candidates (William Carmichael, Edmund Jenings, Joshua Johnson, JW, and Richard Bennett Lloyd) and asked him to procure a passport for the appointed person to go to London to transact the business. The bills of credit had been issued in 1766 and were to circulate for twelve years: Jacob M. Price, “The Maryland Bank Stock Case: British-American Financial and Political Relations before and after the American Revolution” in Aubrey C. Land, Lois Green Carr, and Edward Papenfuse, eds., Law, Society, and Politics in Early Maryland (Baltimore and London, 1977), p. 8.

4In a Sept. 6, 1780, letter to BF (APS) the trustees signed themselves James Russell, Sil[vanus] Grove, and Osgood Hanbury. Russell (1708–88), who had lived in Maryland for two decades, was the biggest importer of tobacco in London: Price, “Maryland Bank Stock Case,” p. 7. Grove, a trustee of the Pennsylvania Land Company (XXVIII, 342–4), was a merchant in St. Martin’s Lane: Kent’s Directory for 1779, p. 76. Hanbury was the son of the great Quaker merchant John Hanbury (1700–58): R. Hingston Fox, Dr. John Fothergill and His Friends: Chapters in Eighteenth Century Life (London, 1919), p. 168n; Francis Jennings, Empire of Fortune: Crowns, Colonies, and Tribes in the Seven Years War in America (New York and London, 1988), p. 11n.

5Charles Carroll explained to BF the arguments against the bill: above, Dec. 5.

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