Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Jackson, 21 March 1782

From William Jackson9

ALS: University of Pennsylvania Library

Calais 21st. March 82.


Although I cannot boast the happiness of being personally known to you, yet I flatter myself that my name as formerly conductor of the Public Ledger, and the literary efforts I made in favor of America, must be familiarized to your mind.1

I was at Paris in the month of May 1777, and, a fortunate concurrence of circumstances enabled me to communicate to Mr. Carmichael, some very important intelligence relative to the secret correspondonce carried on, between Maurepas and Lord Mansfield.2 I afterwards accompanied Mr. Carmichael to Dunkirk, where I dictated a series of such facts as he deemed worthy of record, and, for which, I recieved from him letters expressive of gratitude on my return to England.3

I am now, Sir, at Calais, on a visit to the Duchess of Kingston. It is possible I may accompany her to Petersburgh,4 and, if there be a service which could be rendered America at the Court of Russia, I should be singularly happy to be employed and empowered on the occasion. The Connection of the Duchess with the Empress, might surely be improved to advantage; and the sphere in which she moves, must afford opportunity for elevated observation.

To a Man of your experience and penetration it would be impertinent to say more. I will only beg leave to add, that I have suffered inconveniencies even to the being deprived of an income by my attachment to the cause of America; but, I think myself amply honoured by the privilege I now assume, of professing my sincere veneration for the character, conduct, and abilities, of Doctor Franklin.

I have the honor to be, Sir, Your Most Devoted, And obedient Hble Servt.

Wm. Jackson.

A Letter will come safe addressed to Me at The Duchesses House.
His Excellency Doctor Franklin.

Notation:5 Jackson 21. March 1782

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Born in Dublin, Jackson (1737?–1795) moved to London at an early age, took holy orders, served briefly as a cleric, and then became a journalist. He was known for his smooth demeanor and abusive pen. From 1766 to 1777, he edited the Public Ledger, an anti-ministerial daily newspaper that consistently opposed the war. Between 1778 and 1783, he lived under the protection of two wealthy patrons, Elizabeth Chudleigh, mentioned below, and Samuel Clay Harvey. He published the first British edition of The Constitutions of the Several Independent States of America … in 1783, and from 1784 to 1786 was the editor of The Morning Post. Convicted of high treason in 1795, he committed suicide just before he was to receive his sentence: DNB; Lucyle Werkmeister, “Notes for a Revised Life of William Jackson,” Notes and Queries, CCVI (1961), 43–7, 266–7; Lucyle Werkmeister, The London Daily Press, 1772–1792 (Lincoln, Nebr., 1963), pp. 80, 411; Solomon Lutnick, The American Revolution and the British Press, 1775–1783 (Columbia, Mo., 1967), pp. 77–8, 84, 135, [225].

1In 1774, the Public Ledger published BF’s anonymous essay, “The Question Discussed: or, Reasons Why America Should Suspend All Trade with Great Britain,” (XXI, 351–9). Jackson was the author of a series of letters signed “Curtius”, many of which were pro-American, and of an attack on Samuel Johnson’s “Taxation No Tyranny”: DNB; Fred Junkin Hinkhouse, The Preliminaries of the American Revolution as Seen in the English Press, 1763–1775 (New York, 1926), pp. 124–5.

2British intelligence in France reported Jackson’s arrival in early May and speculated on his communications with Deane: Stevens, Facsimiles, II, nos. 154, 168.

3Carmichael sent reports to the Commissioners on his mission to Dunkirk. Shortly after his arrival there at the end of June, he transmitted to them a copy of a letter said to have been written by Maurepas to Nathaniel Parker Forth, who, according to an anonymous note, was a conduit to Lord Mansfield: XXIII, 49; XXIV, 243–5, 294–6.

4Elizabeth Chudleigh (1720–1788), while maid of honor to Augusta, Princess of Wales, contracted a secret marriage, which was unhappy and was soon dissolved without benefit of a formal divorce. Her second marriage, to the Duke of Kingston (1711–1773), was challenged as bigamous by the duke’s heirs in 1776, and she fled to Calais before she could be restrained from leaving the country. The following year she made the first of four visits to Russia, where she acquired several properties including a townhouse and a country estate, and courted the favor of Catherine II. She resided in Calais between her second and third visits, from the summer of 1781 until the summer of 1782: DNB; Anthony Cross, “The Duchess of Kingston in Russia,” History Today, XXVII (1977), 390–5.

5On the same sheet as the notation is a pencil sketch of an object or apparatus we cannot identify.

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