Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Elizabeth Holland, 25 May 1783

From Elizabeth Holland2

ALS: American Philosophical Society

London 25th May 1783

Great and Worthy Sir

My Husband Thomas Holland Was an officer in the Congress Service and Was kild, he left me with three Children in the outmost Distress in boy [body] and mind your Well Knowing goodness will take my Cause into your Serious Consideration and Communicate it to the Congress that I might meet with Such Relief as they Shall think most proper my Husband and me was Nine years in New york and in that time he Contractd So great a friendship for the American Cause, he was an Officer in the King of great Brittain Servce maney years and Quited that to go to america not to incrase his Rank or pay but Puirly out of appoint of Concious Sake3 I hope your goodness will pardon this Freedom in take this Liberty in Writing to your Honour I Shall be happey to have answer From this Letter and you will much oblige your Humble Servant

Elizabeth Holland

I have inclosed my marriage Register4

Direct for Elizabeth Holland at Mr Beson oilman Smithfield London5

Addressed: A Monsr / monsr Le Doctr Franklin / P P a Passey / Proche De Paris

Notations in different hands: Elizabeth Holland 25 May 1783— / London May 25th. 1784 Mrs. Elizabeth Benson to The Hone: Doctor Franklin About the pay due her late Husband—

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2This is one of the many “little Affairs & Enquiries” concerning America with which BF was “pester’d continually” and which he forwarded to Charles Thomson for investigation: BF to Thomson, April 16, 1784 (Library of Congress). The only evidence we have of BF’s having sent along this particular query is Thomson’s reply a year later, summarized below.

3The only Thomas Holland known to have served in the British and American armies and who died while fighting for the United States was a captain in the Delaware regiment who was killed at Germantown in 1777. This Capt. Holland married a Joanna Ross in Delaware in 1775, shortly after his arrival. The story he told a comrade was that he was forced to resign from British service in 1775 under a threat from a superior officer. Being a widower and having no money, he left his two young sons in the care of a friend and sailed to Philadelphia: Christopher L. Ward, The Delaware Continentals, 1776–1783 (Wilmington, Del., 1941), pp. 6, 7, 231, 287, 517–20; Heitman, Register of Officers, p. 225; Joseph Jackson, “Notes and Queries,” PMHB, LVI (1932), 286.

The intelligence obtained by Charles Thomson corroborates the details of this Capt. Holland’s service, adding that his widow and children were receiving a pension from the state of Delaware: Thomson to BF, Aug. 13, 1784 (APS). The Del. Council Minutes record a payment to Joanna Holland in 1781: Ward, Delaware Continentals, p. 520.


5Possibly the oilman Richard Benson at No. 3 Pye Corner: Bailey’s British Directory … (London, 1784); John Rocque, The A to Z of Georgian London (London, 1982).

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