To William Temple Franklin
Philadelphia Nov. 27. 1790.
I am favoured with yours of Oct. 13. The President is not yet arrived. Your general desire being known, I will take care that your special preferences shall also be known should circumstances give place to it. Your grandfather sent me only one sheet of Mitchell’s map, and it makes part of the testimony he was desired to give on the subject of the disputed river of St. Croix, being referred to in his letter accompanying it. I therefore take the liberty of proposing to you to give you a complete copy of the same map, or the price of it, in exchange for the remaining sheets to which the one in our possession belonged.
I am in hopes you will continue in the mind of publishing Dr. Franklin’s works in 8vo. otherwise I think you will find fewer purchasers, till the Irish printers by a cheaper edition intercept the wishes of those who like books of a handy size. I am sure your delicacy needs no hint from me against the publication of such letters or papers from Dr. Franklin as Minister Plenipotiary of the U.S. as might not yet be proper to put into the possession of every body. Wishing you the best success in your pursuits I am with great esteem Dr. Sir your most obedt. and most humble servt.,
P.S. I inclose herewith and deliver to Mr. Bache the M.S. of negotiations put into my hands by Dr. Franklin.
PrC (DLC). Enclosure: One of the manuscript texts of a document written by Benjamin Franklin “On board the Pennsylvania Packet, Captain Osborne, bound to Philadelphia, March 22, 1775” describing the informal discussions in 1774–1775 among Franklin, some intermediaries of the British cabinet, and members of the opposition (printed in Franklin, Writings, ed. Smyth, vi, 318–99, under the caption “An Account of Negotiations in London for Effecting a Reconciliation between Great Britain and the American Colonies”). This narrative was intended by Franklin as an integral part of his Autobiography and is so treated, along with other pieces, in William Temple Franklin’s Memoirs of the life and writings of Benjamin Franklin (London, 1818), its first appearance in print. It is also included in Carl Van Doren’s Benjamin Franklin’s autobiographical writings (New York, 1945), p. 347–99. Van Doren makes the following comment on this narrative and two others, these last relating to the affair of Hutchinson’s letters and the peace negotiations of 1782: “All three of them were written after the first section of the Autobiography, and no doubt would have been incorporated in the narrative, in whole or in part, if it had ever reached the years in which these events took place. The three should be regarded as further fragments of a work which is itself a fragment” (same, p. v). Benjamin Franklin’s Memoirs Parallel text edition, ed. Farrand (Berkeley, 1949) does not include any of these chronologically subsequent fragments. Neither does Farrand’s The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, which attempts to solve by restoration an unusually complex textual problem. The most succinct and authoritative discussion of the textual problem is that of Leonard Labaree and others, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (New Haven, 1964), which presents a faithful rendering of the original manuscript written by Franklin at various times between 1771 and 1790 that carried the narrative of his life down to 1757. It of course excludes the text of the informal negotiations of 1774–1775 which TJ here refers to as M.S. of negotiations.
Temple Franklin’s general desire for diplomatic office had long been known to TJ, as it was to many others (TJ to Monroe, 5 July 1785; W. T. Franklin to TJ, 18 Jan. 1786 and 17 Dec. 1789; William Smith, Diary, ed. Upton, i, 142). His first ambition was to be minister to France and one of the latest efforts in this direction may have been inspired by his mistress, Mme. Caillot (“Blancette” to W. T. Franklin, 20 Nov. 1787, PPAP; Le Veillard to TJ, 25 July 1790). In announcing his plans to the President, Franklin denied the rumor that he was leaving in disgust and would not return. But his failure to mention this in his letter to TJ or to declare his diplomatic ambition in that to Washington of the same date allows the unpleasant inference that he may have supposed the President and the Secretary of State would exchange such information and might be influenced in their decision by his projected plan to publish his grandfather’s papers—an object he took care to mention to both and about which TJ was clearly concerned (Franklin to TJ, 13 Oct. 1790; Franklin to Washington, 13 Oct. 1790, DNA: RG 59, MLR; Washington to Franklin, 25 Oct. 1790, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, xxxi, 134–5). Even if unintended, this indelicacy in intermingling public and private motives so as to permit such an interpretation must have combined with other factors to create an insuperable obstacle to his ambition.
One of Temple Franklin’s private objects in going to England was to dispose of lands in the Phelps and Gorham purchase owned by Robert Morris. In this he was successful (TJ to Washington, 27 Mch. 1791; Editorial Note, commercial and diplomatic relations with Great Britain, under 15 Dec. 1790). But it was not until 1817–1818 that he finally published Franklin’s papers. The fascinating story of that portion that Temple Franklin took to England—“some 3,000 items of political and philosophical interest” out of a total of about 15,000 documents—is set forth in Whitfield J. Bell, Jr., “Henry Stevens, his Uncle Samuel, and the Franklin Papers,” Mass. Hist. Soc., Procs., lxxii, 143–211 (see also Smyth’s excellent summary, Franklin, Writings, i, 4–8). These papers, which Temple Franklin regarded as the most important of those bequeathed to him by his grandfather, were ultimately purchased by the United States and placed in the custody of the Department of State but later transferred to the Library of Congress, where they were calendared by Worthington C. Ford (List of Benjamin Franklin Papers in the Library of Congress [Washington, 1905]). The available evidence sustains Henry Stevens’ explanation for the long delay in publication: “William Temple Franklin was … an unmethodical muddler, an incompetent editor, and uncommonly dilatory in his habits” (Bell, “Henry Stevens,” Mass. Hist. Soc., Procs., lxxii, 157; see also, Henry Stevens, A bibliographical essay … [London, 1881], p. 5–11.) It is important to note that, in addition to making a specific request of TJ (see Franklin to TJ, 13 Oct. 1790), Temple Franklin announced his purpose to the public and requested all to assist him in the publication of his grandfather’s papers. In an advertisement he described the chest of papers that had been left with Joseph Galloway while Benjamin Franklin was abroad. Some of these, after being pillaged, had been recovered. But Franklin’s letterbooks and a manuscript in four or five volumes on finance, commerce, and manufactures were missing. Temple Franklin therefore requested any who had any letters or writings of Franklin to make them available as early as possible so that they might be included in the edition. He urged those who had books or maps belonging to Benjamin Franklin to return them without delay, since he was about to embark for Europe (Bache’s General Advertiser, 6 Oct. 1790).
But the long delay in publishing bred suspicions that the British government had bribed Temple Franklin to suppress publication of the whole, particularly the remarkable M.S. of negotiations here enclosed. These suspicions flourished on both sides of the Atlantic and came into the open with the Marshall-Vaughan edition of The complete works … of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin (London, Johnson and Longman, 1806). The editors’ preface charged that some emissary of the British government had approached Temple Franklin with the object of withholding “the manuscripts from the world” and that, in consequence, the papers “either passed into other hands, or the person to whom they were bequeathed received a remuneration for suppressing them.” This, the editors declared, had been asserted by a number of persons, both in England and America, “of whom some were at the time intimate with the grandson, and not wholly unacquainted with the machinations of the ministry” (quoted in Stevens, Franklin A bibliographical essay, p. 5–6; Franklin, Writings, ed. Smyth, i, 27). This charge was soon reprinted in New York by James Cheetham in The American Citizen and accepted by him as a proven fact. “William Temple Franklin,” Cheetham asserted, “without shame, without remorse, mean and mercenary, sold the sacred deposit committed to his care by Dr. Franklin to the British government!—Franklin’s works are therefore lost; lost to America, lost to the world!” (The American Citizen, 8 Sep. 1806). Franklin branded the charge as false and the Edinburgh Review for July 1806 cast serious doubt upon its validity. But the suspicions continued.
As the above letter shows, TJ feared that Franklin’s papers as an American minister contained matter improper to be revealed to other governments. His delicate hint—the first intimation by a Secretary of State of what would finally become fixed policy governing the publication of diplomatic records—reveals the depth of his concern. In 1790 he feared premature publication, but this fear was transformed over the years into another kind of anxiety. In 1806 he was a subscriber to both The American Citizen and the Edinburgh Review, being an admirer of the former for its Republican politics and of the latter for the quality of its criticism (TJ to Cheetham, 17 Jan., 23 Apr. 1802, 17 June 1803; Cheetham to TJ, 29 Dec. 1801, 25 July 1804, and invoices of 1 July 1806 and 1 July 1807; for his opinion of the Edinburgh Review, see Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends Nos. 2811, 3501, 4733). It can scarcely be doubted that he read in these publications the quoted preface of Franklin’s Works, the skeptical comment by Francis Jeffrey in the Edinburgh Review, and the unquestioning belief of James Cheetham. Whether he did or not, he unequivocally shared Cheetham’s conviction that Franklin’s papers had indeed been lost to America and to the world through the venality of Temple Franklin. He could the more readily accept the charge as valid, even as published in its extreme form by Cheetham, because it confirmed an opinion he himself had long since formed.
In 1810 in seeking to correct obvious encrustations of error in an anecdote reported to him by William Duane about the manner in which he had received M.S. of negotiations from Benjamin Franklin, TJ perpetuated others. He then recalled that in passing through Philadelphia in 1790 on his way to New York, he had called on Franklin, had expressed pleasure in hearing he was at work on his memoirs, and had received from him as a specimen of it “about a quire of paper, in which he had given, with great minuteness, all the details of his negotiations (informal) in England to prevent their pushing us to Extremities.” He also recalled that soon after, on learning Franklin had bequeathed his papers to Temple Franklin, he notified the latter of his possession of a manuscript regarded as “fairly his property,” which he would deliver at his order; that Franklin soon called on him at New York and TJ handed the document to him; that Franklin, “while putting it in his pocket, observed that his grandfather had retained another copy which he had found among his papers”; that this remark made no impression “till suspicions were circulated that W. T. F. had sold these writings to the British minister”; that he had then “formed the belief that Dr. Franklin had meant to deposit this spare copy with me in confidence that it would be properly taken care of”; and that he “sincerely repented having given it up.” TJ then added: “I have little doubt that this identical paper was the principal object of the purchase by the British government, and the unfortunate cause of the suppression of all the rest” (TJ to Duane, 16 Sep. 1810).
In the concluding passages of his Autobiography ten years later TJ repeated and elaborated upon the version given Duane. He then declared that, on learning of the bequest of the papers, he “immediately wrote to Mr. Franklin”; that Franklin “immediately came on to New York, called on me for it, and I delivered it to him”; and that, as he pocketed the document, Franklin “carelessly” remarked that he had “either the original, or another copy of it.” This remark, he added, “struck my attention forcibly, and for the first time suggested to me the thought that Dr. Franklin had meant it as a confidential deposit in my hands, and that I had done wrong in parting from it.” He believed that this document “established views so atrocious in the British government that it’s suppression would to them be worth a great price” (TJ, Autobiography; Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Letterpress Edition, N.Y., 1892–1899, 10 vols. description ends i, 151–3). To the end of his life TJ held to the conviction that Temple Franklin had been bribed to suppress publication of this manuscript. He continued to buy works of American history and to assist Girardin, Wirt, Sanderson, and others in their writings. But he never acquired Temple Franklin’s publication either in an English or an American edition, although William Duane himself brought out one in six volumes of which TJ, as a subscriber to the Aurora, could not have been unaware. In his Autobiography, TJ said that he had “not yet seen the collection” Temple Franklin had published three years earlier and therefore did not know whether this document was included in Franklin’s Works. He added: “I have been told that it is not” (TJ, Autobiography; Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Letterpress Edition, N.Y., 1892–1899, 10 vols. description ends i, 152). But Temple Franklin had printed it and Franklin’s other papers as “a solemn trust … [and] a positive injunction” upwards of a decade before TJ died (Franklin, Memoirs, ed. W. T. Franklin, i, iii [3rd edn., London, 1818]).
The obvious errors and inconsistencies in TJ’s two accounts—including in the Autobiography what purports to be a direct quotation from the manuscript that is discussed below—are all the more puzzling because this document and its fate made such a deep impression upon him. In matters of far less importance TJ often checked his memory against his full and systematic files. Had he done so in this instance, the above letter and that to Duane in 1810 would have revealed to him some of his more egregious errors. Also, had he been as careful to retain a copy of this manuscript as he was with respect to the outline of Franklin’s Autobiography, wherein it was given the rubric “Negociation to prevent the War,” he might have spared himself much pain and others much confusion (see TJ to Le Veillard, 9 May 1786, notes and enclosures). Considering TJ’s profound concern from early youth in the preservation of historical records, his special interest in Franklin’s autobiographical writings, the circumstances under which this manuscript was received, and its obvious public importance, his failure to retain a copy is difficult to understand. Indeed, his first account of its return to Temple Franklin was in response to Duane’s inquiry as to whether, as had been reported, he had preserved “a copy of it … for posterity” (Duane to TJ, 17 Aug. 1810). Because of these puzzling and uncharacteristic omissions, TJ left two accounts that collide with the facts and, in some respects, with each other.
The known facts may be briefly stated. TJ received the manuscript from Benjamin Franklin on the 17th or 18th of March 1790. Franklin died a month later. Temple Franklin came to New York in late spring or early summer; see TJ to William Temple Franklin, 6 July 1790. TJ saw him then and also later in Philadelphia after Congress adjourned. On one of these occasions he informed Franklin of the manuscript. We may be certain that this was not by letter, as TJ later recalled, for in the first known reference to its existence, Franklin requested the return of “the Manuscript you mentioned to have of my Grandfathers” (Franklin to TJ, 13 Oct. 1790). TJ received this request on the 3rd of November. He returned to Philadelphia on the 20th where the manuscript probably had been left among his papers. Two days later he delivered to Benjamin Franklin Bache the above letter and its bulky enclosure. By this time Temple Franklin was on the high seas and of course TJ could not have delivered the manuscript to him. Indeed the two men never saw each other again.
It is clear, therefore, that the letter and the manuscript were handed to Bache in person by TJ. Young Bache was just establishing his General Advertiser and had applied to TJ for patronage that would soon be forthcoming (Bache to TJ, 20 Aug. 1790; TJ to Randolph, 15 May 1791). He alone could have told TJ that “the original, or another copy of it” was in Temple Franklin’s possession. Bache thus inadvertently planted the seed of the legend that Benjamin Franklin had given the manuscript to TJ to be held in trust. Amid the bitterly divisive contests of the next few years the seed germinated and flourished in a climate of suspicion warmed by partisan animosities and by Franklin’s delay in publishing Franklin’s papers. The conviction was strengthened also by an anguished if mistaken sense of complicity. For if what TJ believed to be true were actually true, it not only meant that he had violated Franklin’s confidence: it also meant that the world had lost a manuscript of great historical importance—“a masterpiece in the literature of diplomacy” which, it has been said, inaugurated that genre in the United States (Carl Van Doren, Franklin’s autobiographical writings, p. 347). But the trust, in the sense that TJ came to view it, had not been bestowed. Benjamin Franklin may have urged TJ to keep the manuscript, but he certainly did not do so from any lack of confidence in Temple Franklin, whose talents and virtues he rather tended to exaggerate. Also, Franklin was as scrupulous as TJ himself in preserving his papers, if less systematic, and the extraordinarily detailed and documented narrative presented in this manuscript shows that he was fully cognizant of its value. He could safely entrust it to TJ because he knew that the original manuscript was among his own papers. These constituted the far greater trust which he confidently bestowed upon his grandson.
Indeed, the great concern Franklin had for his papers—and for the Autobiography in particular—may explain why TJ failed to take a copy of the manuscript after he knew that Temple Franklin had requested its return. On a former occasion when he feared that the letterbooks of Silas Deane might come into possession of the British government, TJ himself had made extended extracts under urgent pressures (TJ to Jay, 3 Aug. 1788; TJ to Bancroft, 2 Mch. 1789). Why, then, did he return this manuscript without comment and without retaining a copy when he had both time and clerical assistance at his disposal? Since this was a part of Franklin’s memoirs, it seems plausible to assume that Franklin laid TJ under the same injunction that he imposed on others respecting its text. Only a few months earlier, when Franklin had sent copies of the unfinished narrative of his life to Vaughan and Le Veillard, he did so “under this express Condition … that you do not suffer any Copy to be taken of them, or of any Part of them, on any Account whatever” (Franklin to Le Veillard, 13 Nov. 1789; Franklin to Vaughan, 2 Nov. 1789; Writings, ed. Smyth, x, 49–53, 69–70; emphasis added; Benjamin Franklin’s memoirs Parallel text edition, ed. Farrand, p. xxiv–xxvi). The injunction could not be stated in plainer or more emphatic words. It permitted no exception whatsoever, for any reason. If Franklin felt so about every part of his memoirs, it seems improbable that he would have failed to place the same restriction on the very significant part that he placed in TJ’s hands.
But did TJ in fact make a copy of “any Part” of the text? The question needs to be raised because, in his reply to Duane’s specific question in 1810, he gave no categorical answer either to affirm or to deny. Further, in the account given in TJ’s Autobiography the allusion to “views so atrocious in the British government” contains the only part of his recollection of the contents of the document that is presented as if in direct quotation. It appears in the following passage: “I remember that Ld. North’s answers were dry, unyielding, in the spirit of unconditional submission, and betrayed an absolute indifference to the occurrence of a rupture; and he said to the mediators distinctly at last that ‘a rebellion was not to be deprecated on the part of Great Britain; that the confiscations it would produce would provide for many of their friends’” (quoted from MS; emphasis added. See Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Letterpress Edition, N.Y., 1892–1899, 10 vols. description ends i, 152). In a review of Randolph’s edition of TJ’s papers, the Edinburgh Review pointed out that the manuscript had in fact been printed by Temple Franklin and that the reader might “look in vain for the declaration stated to have been made by Lord North.” The reviewer expressed the “firm opinion that Jefferson’s passions have in this instance confused his recollection, and that no such declaration was ever made or stated. Any such sentiment is utterly inconsistent with Lord North’s disposition; it is contradicated by the general character of the messages as reported; and, had any such wicked feeling escaped the minister, we cannot believe that Lord Howe and his sister, while acting the part of generous mediators, would have been guilty of the gratuitous mischief of repeating it” (Edinburgh Review, li [July, 1830], 503– 4). John Bigelow in 1875, on the other hand, regarded the whole of TJ’s recollection about the manuscript as authoritative and did not challenge the statement attributed to Lord North (Bigelow, Life of Benjamin Franklin, ii, 253n.). But in 1881, Henry Stevens, aligning himself with the Edinburgh Review but being far more volatile, declared flatly that TJ’s treacherous memory had led him into a “contradictory and transparent misconception” and that these “wild statements of the quondam friend of Franklin” had finally been repudiated by Temple Franklin’s fair editing and printing of the narrative (Stevens, Franklin A bibliographical essay, p. 7–9). A few years later Paul Leicester Ford simply dismissed the “atrocious … views” attributed to North with this comment: “Neither this expression, nor any of Lord North’s, were given in Franklin’s narrative” (Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Letterpress Edition, N.Y., 1892–1899, 10 vols. description ends I, 152n.). In this century Philip Marsh, declining to take the easy path of so summary a rejection, offered a hypothetical defense of TJ’s attribution based upon a characteristic of one of the manuscripts of the narrative (Marsh, “The Manuscript Franklin Gave to Jefferson,” Am. Phil. Soc., Library Bulletin 1946, p. 45–8). Such differences of opinion among serious investigators over the past century and a half concerning TJ’s autobiographical comment on a highly important segment of Franklin’s memoirs can best be appraised in light of the two manuscripts of the narrative that are known to exist. Both are in the Stevens Collection in the Library of Congress and neither is in its original state. For convenience they will be referred to here as MS 1 and MS 2.
MS 1: This is the original manuscript in the hand of Benjamin Franklin, written by him on board the Pennsylvania packet between 22 Mch. 1775—the date given in its caption on page 1—and 5 May 1775 when he landed in Philadelphia. It measures approximately 8 x 7 inches and consists of 96 pages as numbered by Franklin without the supporting letters, memoranda, and propositions. As to these documents, Henry Stevens asserted that “the Narrative was drawn up at sea, without the many original notes, letters and memoranda” and that in 1790 Temple Franklin, having these documents in hand, was anxious to recover Franklin’s original manuscript from TJ in order that it might be completed” (Stevens, Franklin A bibliographical essay, p. 9).
This conjectural explanation cannot be supported for two reasons. First, it is virtually certain that MS 1 was not the text that TJ received from Franklin. That manuscript, TJ recalled, was about a quire and in folio sheets, a description quite incompatible with MS 1. TJ also remembered that the manuscript he received was not in Franklin’s hand but “in a large and running hand very like his own.” There is little reason to doubt his recollection on this score. He was very familiar with Franklin’s flowing script and his memory for handwriting was so acute that, on one occasion, he identified the anonymous author of a very brief inscription some years after he had received a letter from him (TJ to Duane, 31 May 1824). Further, in 1790 MS 1 lacked the original documents that were essential to a proper understanding of the negotiations. TJ’s account makes it quite clear that the manuscript in his possession did contain the “several propositions and answers” that were passed back and forth by the negotiators (TJ, Autobiography; Ford, description begins Paul Leicester Ford, ed., The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Letterpress Edition, N.Y., 1892–1899, 10 vols. description ends i, 152). Second, it is certain that, with two exceptions, Franklin did have with him at sea all of the supporting documents. He could not have composed MS 1, at least in the form he gave it, if these documents had been lacking. The negotiations in London had ended only six days before he boarded the packet at Portsmouth. Franklin began the narrative on the very first day of the voyage, a clear indication that he had planned from the outset to devote the time at sea to its composition. His purpose perhaps was to publish it on landing or at least to make it available to key leaders in order to foster American unity—an object achieved far more efficaciously by the events at Lexington and Concord which occurred two weeks before he landed. In the course of composition Franklin gave a number to each of the original letters, memoranda, and propositions—there were 24 in all—and keyed them to the text of MS 1 by such notes as those on page 11 (“Here Insert the Letters of Dec. 3 No. 1. 2.”) and page 14 (“Here Insert the Hints &c.”). Franklin omitted the texts of these documents from MS 1 simply to spare himself the chore of transcription which any clerk could perform—a sensible expedient that he would have followed whether on land or sea.
Subsequently, after the manuscripts Temple Franklin carried to London had come into Henry Stevens’ possession, these original documents were inserted in their appropriate places in MS 1 as called for by Franklin’s notations. A new pagination was then given to the whole, resulting in a total of 129 numbered pages, and the manuscript was bound, being now composed of Franklin’s original narrative and these inserted originals in a single sequence. The first of the two documents Franklin did not have with him at sea was the petition to the King drawn by him (Writings, ed. Smyth, vi, p. 379–80). The second was Lord North’s conciliatory motion of 20 Feb. 1775, lacking perhaps because he had already sent it to America (Franklin to Galloway, 25 Feb. 1775; same, vi, 313). At some time after he arrived in America and before MS 2 was prepared, Franklin transcribed North’s motion himself, executed a press copy from it, inserted his transcript in MS 1, and placed the press copy in the following manuscript.
MS 2: This is a clerk’s copy of MS 1, including the texts of the documentary insertions. It is in the hand of Benjamin Franklin Bache except for corrections and additions in the hand of Benjamin Franklin. The transcript was made by Bache sometime after 1785, probably about 1788–1789. It measures approximately 9x8 inches and contains 196 pages numbered in red ink by Benjamin Franklin, plus a leaf at the end containing a single note each on recto and verso by the editor who assisted Temple Franklin in 1817. The note on the verso of this leaf reads: “Sent Augt. 1817.” This notation, together with other editorial notes, directives to the printer, and various cancelled pagination sequences, proves beyond question that this is the text used by Temple Franklin as printer’s copy for the first publication of the narrative.
Benjamin Franklin Bache, as this document demonstrates beyond all question, was a very careless copyist. As he transcribed MS 2 from Franklin’s clear and flowing hand, he committed almost all of the errors of omission, repetition, and misconstruction of which an incompetent copyist is capable—including such nonsense readings as tine pish for time past. Benjamin Franklin gave the result a very meticulous reading, patiently correcting in red ink Bache’s stubborn insistence upon writing would for could, have for hence, nearly for merely, and so on. The young scribe, his errant thoughts elsewhere, garbled one page in such a way as to call for the insertion of another sheet. Franklin made the necessary alterations, wrote out the continuation, and inserted the new sheet after page 58. He also put in its proper location the press copy of Lord North’s motion. At various places throughout the manuscript Franklin inserted single brackets in the text and opposite each wrote in red ink “New Paragr”—at times doing so both in the text and in the margin so as to make certain that Bache would not miss the signal. He also occasionally inserted an additional comment such as that in the margin of page 22 concerning Lord Howe’s sister, which reads: “This Lady, (which is a little unusual in Ladies,) has a good deal of Mathematical Knowledge.” MS 2 is incomplete, lacking pages 73–102. Page 72 ends: “… after I receiv’d the Petition, before” (the last being the catch-word). Page 103 begins: “high Esteem I had imbib’d‥‥” The missing thirty pages of the text may be identified in Franklin, Writings, ed. Smyth, vi, 349–62.
It was this missing section of MS 2 that led Marsh to advance his conjectural explanation of the controverted passage. He thought it plausible to assume that Temple Franklin, having in his possession the original manuscript (MS 1), which Marsh described as “legible and whole,” might have considered it sufficient for his purposes, in which case he could have treated the copy returned by TJ “carelessly and … as of little importance.” Hence the “separated gift paper” may possibly have been lost about the time Temple Franklin departed for England and, Marsh found it reasonable to conclude, the thirty missing pages of MS 2 could have been the manuscript of about a quire that Franklin gave to TJ. If this were so, he argued, the fact impelled consideration of “the possibility that, among the insertions made by Franklin in the lost portion, there may have been a statement” approximating the expression TJ attributed to Lord North (Am. Phil. Soc., Library Bulletin 1946, p. 47–8). The premise on which this argument rested was the exact reverse of that of Henry Stevens and, not surprisingly, Marsh arrived at a conclusion more sympathetic to TJ.
But the hypothesis, like that of Stevens, is neither supported by the probabilities nor by the known facts. The original manuscript (MS 1) was undeniably legible but in 1790, lacking the documentary insertions, it was certainly not whole. Temple Franklin, having a choice, would scarcely have taken this as sufficient for his purposes in preference to a text that was both complete and corrected. Later, when faced with a similar problem, he gave to Le Veillard the original manuscript of Franklin’s Autobiography in exchange for Le Veillard’s fair copy for use with the printer. This is precisely what he did in 1817 in the case of MS 1 and MS 2 when, having both with him in London, he chose the latter to put through the press. Marsh conceded that TJ’s controverted expression would have been more appropriate at the close than in that part of the negotiations covered by the missing pages of MS 2. This indeed is where TJ himself places it, for he states clearly that North’s statement came “at last”—i. e., at the end of the negotiations. Even so, it seems highly improbable that Benjamin Franklin would have given to TJ a fragment of the narrative torn from its context, stripped of beginning and end, and containing only about one-sixth of the whole narrative. Such a fragment would have provided a far less coherent account of the negotiations than even the original manuscript in its undocumented state. And it is scarcely conceivable that Franklin would have surrendered to TJ the whole or any part of MS 2 that he had so laboriously corrected, amended, and authenticated as the definitive text. To have done so would have exposed him to the risk of having to cope once again with young Bache’s vagaries as a clerk. It is impossible to believe that, in the last few weeks of his life, Franklin would have surrendered this authoritative text—unless another copy equally complete and correct was also in existence.
It is plausible to suppose that such a second copy had been made. With respect to the first part of his Autobiography, Franklin had in fact caused two copies to be executed from his original manuscript—the copies that he gave to Vaughan and Le Veillard in 1789. It seems unlikely that he would have failed to take the same precaution in the case of this very important and integral part of his memoirs. The making of such another copy, we may reasonably conclude, was the first object Franklin had in view in making his corrections, additions, and repeated calls for new paragraphs in MS 2. If such a copy had been needed for no other purpose, it could have served as salutary discipline for a youth who sorely needed it in the art of accurate transcription. It should also be noted that, when he returned the manuscript, TJ recalled having been told that Temple Franklin had “the original or another copy of it”—a remark that could easily have been a misconstruction of “the original and another copy of it.” No such copy is known to exist. But this is true also of the two copies that Franklin caused to be made of the first part of his Autobiography. If, as seems plausible, MS 2 did serve as the prototype for such an additional copy, this second copy may have been the one that Franklin gave to TJ. But all that can be said with reasonable certainty is that TJ did not have MS 1 in his possession, that he may have been given the whole of MS 2, but that he did not receive a meaningless fragment torn from it. A hypothetical second copy derived from MS 2, if transcribed by Bache on both sides of folio sheets, could have comported better with TJ’s explicit and repeated description of the physical characteristics of the paper given him than does either MS 1 or MS 2 in their original states.
But to account for the views that TJ attributed to Lord North one does not need to rely upon a conjectured insertion by Franklin either in the missing middle gap of MS 2 or at the close of a probable second copy. One need only look at the concluding paragraph of all versions of this full and explicit narrative, whether in manuscript or in print. There, for all to read, is the essence of TJ’s remembered attribution, superficially at variance but substantively in accord with it. This is the pertinent part of Franklin’s final paragraph: “The Evening before I left London, I received a Note from Dr. Fothergill, with some Letters to his Friends in Philadelphia. In that Note he desires me to get those Friends ‘and two or three more together, and inform them, that, whatever specious Pretences are offered, they are all hollow; and that to get a larger field on which to fatten a Herd of worthless Parasites, is all that is regarded. Perhaps it may be proper to acquaint them with D.B.’s and our united Endeavours, and the Effects. They will stun at least, if not convince, the most worthy, that nothing very favourable is intended, if more unfavourable Articles cannot be obtained’ “ (MS 1; emphasis added; Franklin, Writings, ed. Smyth, vi, 399). Fothergill’s note, written at “½ past 10” and enjoining Franklin to support “this infant, growing empire with the utmost exertion of thy abilitys, and no less philanthropy,” was quoted exactly by Franklin except for punctuation, capitalization, and one error in transcription—a misreading of “the most worthy” for “the most courtly” (Fothergill to Franklin,  Mch. 1775, DLC: Franklin Papers; all editions of the narrative have naturally copied Franklin’s error; for the texts of Fothergill’s note to Franklin and his letters to friends in America [James Pemberton and William Logan], see Betsy C. Corner and Christopher C. Booth, eds., Selected letters of Dr. John Fothergill [Harvard, 1971]. For the suggestion that it was Dr. Fothergill who prompted the negotiations, see Betsy Copping Corner and Dorothea Waley Singer, “Dr. John Fothergill, Peace-maker,” Am. Phil. Soc., Procs., 98 [Feb. 1954], 11–22). The ominous thrust of the passage is unmistakable. TJ erred in attributing the views to Lord North himself rather than to the ministry. But in recalling that the negotiations at the close revealed an official attitude of absolute indifference to rebellion because “the confiscations it would produce would provide for many of their friends,” he was only paraphrasing the substance of the opinion that Fothergill had expressed and that Franklin had accurately reported.
What is surprising is that the superficial differences of the two versions should have obscured their substantive agreement or that this should have aroused in the Edinburgh Review such stately indignation. Fothergill in making the charge and Franklin and TJ in repeating it may indeed have been unjust to the character of Lord North and the British ministry. But Franklin, who had reportedly been moved to tears of anger, frustration, and sorrow at the final collapse of the negotiations, certainly did not disbelieve it. “The Doctor, in the Course of his daily Visits among the Great,” he wrote in commenting upon the charge, “… had full Opportunity of being acquainted with their Sentiments, the Conversation everywhere at this time turning upon the Subject of America” (MS 1; Writings, ed. Smyth, vi, 399; see Van Doren, Franklin, p. 519–22). A month before the negotiations ended Franklin had written a frank letter to Charles Thomson, advising that further petitioning was useless, that the ministry believed the majority of the people disapproved of the proceedings of Congress, that they thought “an Army sufficient to support these Friends … of Government” would cause an overthrow of the leaders, and that Lord Chatham’s plan of conciliation—which in substance was suggested by Franklin himself—was treated in the House of Lords “with as much contempt as they could have shown to a Ballad offered by a drunken Porter” (Franklin to Thomson, 5 Feb. 1775, cautioning him “to let no part of this Letter be copied or printed”; same, vi, p. 307). Three weeks later, he had contrasted the corruption prevalent in England with the “glorious publick Virtue so predominant in our rising Country” and had pointed to the “Numberless and needless Places, enormous Salaries, Pensions, Perquisites, Bribes, groundless Quarrels, foolish Expeditions, false Accounts or no Accounts, Contracts and Jobbs” which devoured all revenue and produced continual necessity in the midst of plenty (Franklin to Galloway, 25 Feb. 1775; same, vi, 312).
Franklin in 1775 no less than TJ in 1821 was prepared to believe that an intransigent ministry wanted a larger field on which to fatten a herd of worthless parasites—indeed that it needed one in order to sustain itself. Such a belief was natural. After all, confiscations of rebels’ estates for bestowal upon loyal friends of the crown had been a normal concomitant of rebellion for centuries, as the long history of Britain, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales amply testified. This time-honored treatment for those who dared to challenge royal authority—if no worse fate befell—was one no American leader of the day could have failed to consider as a very probable outcome of unsuccessful rebellion. Even in the narrative of the peace negotiations Franklin expressed the belief that the ministry would rather give him “a Place in a Cart to Tyburn, than any other Place whatever” (Writings, ed. Smyth, vi, 372). At three different points in the document he was at pains to show that ministerial hints or outright promises of office, reward, or honors had been made to him, a reiteration indicating his view of ministerial use of corrupt and manipulative methods (same, vi, 353, 372, 386). Both Franklin and TJ, at the opening of the Revolution and during its course, had reason to grasp with their compatriots the full implications of their mutual pledge of lives, fortunes, and honor should the challenge to royal authority fail. On the much controverted point of TJ’s attribution of sentiments to Lord North, therefore, his remembered account seems more remarkable for its substantive fidelity to the plain meaning of Fothergill’s words as accurately reported by Franklin than for its superficial variance in phraseology.
But one is forced to a very different conclusion with respect to his belief that he had violated a trust committed to him by Franklin and that he thereby became an accessory to Temple Franklin’s presumed venality. TJ erred in both respects and these errors in turn proceeded from other culpabilities concerning the origin of the legend that Franklin had given him the manuscript as a confidential deposit. In 1810 when William Duane asked TJ whether he had retained a copy of it, he introduced his question with this statement: “It was mentioned to me, that on your passage thro’ this city several years ago, Dr. Franklin put into your hands a manuscript, entreating you to keep it, and as the fittest person to trust it to; that you returned it, and it was put into your hands again; but that on the death of that great man, you conceived yourself bound to put the Manuscript in the hands of Mr. Temple Franklin; and thus it is lost to the world‥‥” (Duane to TJ, 17 Aug. 1810). It is not surprising that this should have fixed forever in TJ’s mind the conviction that he had been given a trust. For the account as stated by Duane, despite its minor inaccuracies, was one that only TJ himself could have originated. Only he could have revealed what had transpired in 1790 during that last memorable exchange between him and the dying patriarch. Suspicions about the behavior of Temple Franklin developed independently and for different reasons on both sides of the Atlantic, but there can be little doubt as to when and why TJ initiated the version that came back to him through Duane after almost two decades of growth from the seeds that he alone could have planted.
Temple Franklin himself was an unwitting accomplice in this planting of the seeds of suspicion. In acknowledging receipt of the manuscript that TJ had forwarded through Bache, Franklin mentioned a highly secret and extremely important report of the Lords of Trade to the Privy Council concerning British commercial policy toward the United States (Franklin to TJ, 6 Apr. 1791; see Editorial Note, commercial and diplomatic relations with Great Britain, under 15 Dec. 1790). When he received this news, TJ had already gained some inkling of the contents of the report and he instantly grasped its significance. He was so anxious to procure it that he told the American consul he would “not think 50. or 100 guineas mispent in getting the whole original,” though he feared it could not be obtained (TJ to Johnson, 29 Aug. 1791). This implicit authorization of bribery in an official instruction revealed the great value TJ placed upon the document, but even so the consul—who was not without resourcefulness and who did occasionally acquire important official documents of a secret nature (see Editorial Note, report on fisheries, 1 Feb. 1791)—did not succeed in getting it. But less than a month after TJ had expressed this urgent desire, Temple Franklin sent him a comprehensive and exact transcript of all of its salient features. TJ did not repeat his desire to have the full text, perhaps because Franklin’s abstract was so full as to make this no longer a desideratum.
But the significant fact is that TJ did not even acknowledge this notable service that Temple Franklin had performed at a crucial moment for the United States—an accomplishment that the Secretary of State should have welcomed all the more because of its effect on domestic politics and on foreign policy. For the revelation not only threw the Secretary of the Treasury and his supporters momentarily on the defensive: it also gave TJ the advantage of knowing precisely the ground on which the newly arrived British minister to the United States stood. Furthermore, if TJ received the complete set of MITCHELL’S MAP that Franklin had sent to him through William Stephens Smith, he did not acknowledge the gift (Franklin to TJ, 6 Apr. 1791; see also, TJ to Benjamin Franklin, 31 Mch. 1790; Benjamin Franklin to TJ, 8 Apr. 1790; Vol. 16: xxiv–xxv). Indeed, from that time forward he held no further correspondence with the man from whom he had so recently solicited and received both public and private favors (see TJ to Franklin, 20 Apr., 16 and 25 July 1790; Franklin to TJ, 27 Apr., 20 July and 1 Aug. 1790). Such an abrupt termination of a once friendly relationship inevitably brings to mind the chilling manner in which TJ parted from Charles Williamos, who was also suspected of being in the pay of the British government (TJ to Williamos, 7 July 1785). Temple Franklin undoubtedly was still hoping for the appointment as minister to France when he sent the abstract (Franklin to TJ, 6 Apr. 1791). He could justifiably have felt that his accomplishment in gaining access to so important a state paper established a claim in addition to others he and his grandfather thought he possessed (TJ to Monroe, 5 July 1785).
But TJ’s abrupt termination of his correspondence and his failure to express appreciation for this achievement suggest that he placed a very different construction upon it. Added to the remark made by Bache when TJ delivered the manuscript to him, this must have meant to him that Temple Franklin, only a few months after arriving in London, was in such intimate touch with the leaders of the British government as to be able to gain access to documents of the highest secrecy and thus perhaps, in the immemorial custom of double-dealers, was giving secrets in return. Within a short time TJ dared to express his fears to one who might be in a position to reveal the truth. “When are we to see the new edition of Dr. Franklin’s works?” he asked Bache. “The delay gives me apprehensions” (TJ to Bache, 26 Dec. 1795; this question also may have been put in TJ’s [missing] letter of 2 June 1795 to Bache). The apprehensions expressed in retirement had almost certainly arisen as early as 1791.
It is therefore difficult to avoid the conclusion that the most useful diplomatic service Temple Franklin ever rendered his country was the ironic cause of extinguishing the hope of preferment in diplomacy that had prompted him to perform it—a hope that had been nurtured in the ten years since Benjamin Franklin first made a direct appeal to the President of Congress in his behalf (Franklin to Huntington, 12 Mch. 1781, Writings, ed. Smyth, viii, 220–2). Such a deeply disappointing silence after so useful a service may well have created in Temple Franklin the disgust that he had professed not to feel at the time he left the United States. If so, the responsibility lay with the Secretary of State who was the principal beneficiary of the revealed secret of state. In any event his initial suspicion, nourished by Franklin’s continued absence abroad and the delay in publishing his grandfather’s papers, became over the years a fixed and unshakeable conviction.