Archive for the ‘Stamp Act’ Category

“a mere chit chat letter”

The engraving of Benjamin Franklin is by Edward Fisher after Mason Chamberlin’s 1762 portrait; it was created while Franklin was living in London. (National Portrait Gallery NPG.70.66.) In November 1762 Benjamin Franklin left England for America. Scientist that he was, pondering why the journey east across the Atlantic was shorter than the journey west, he charted the Gulf Stream on the voyage.

MARY “POLLY” STEVENSON (HEWSON to be) wrote to Franklin in March of 1763:

It was with great pleasure I h[eard of] your safe and happy arrival at Philadelphia; and [hearti]ly congratulate you and the dear Partakers of y[our Socie]ty, but you must all forgive me if I repine [that] you are oblig’d to enjoy it at so great a d[istance] from me.

Franklin replied:

Your pleasing Favour of Nov. 11 [missing] is now before me. It found me as you suppos’d it would, happy with my American Friends and Family about me; and it made me more happy in showing me that I am not yet forgotten by the dear Friends I left in England….

Benjamin Franklin returned to England in 1764 as an agent to Parliament and again took up residence at Craven Street. Still loyal to Britain, he proposed an alternate way of raising money when Britain found itself in great debt after the Seven Years War but Parliament decided on the Stamp Act (1765) which was mightily resisted by the American Colonies. Franklin testified before Parliament the following year urging its repeal.* He became a staunch supporter of the rebel cause and relocated to Paris where he helped negotiate a treaty (1778) with the French whose support enabled the United States to successfully prosecute the war.
* See Franklin’s testimony before Parliament here.

Meanwhile Polly Stevenson and Benjamin Franklin kept up their relationship. Polly wrote him in July of 1765:

I stole away from company, for I have a pleasure in holding an imaginary conversation with you tho I have nothing in my head worth imparting. Perhaps were I to set about it I could ask you some questions, for that is easily done, but I know you have not leisure to answer them, therefore a mere chit chat letter will suit you best at present.

Benjamin Franklin sent Polly a verse he had composed for her 28th birthday. More on their relationship in the next post.

“To Benjamin Franklin from Mary Stevenson, 11 March 1763,” Founders Online, National Archives, version of January 18, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-10-02-0116. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 10, January 1, 1762, through December 31, 1763, ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1959, pp. 216–217.]“From Benjamin Franklin to Mary Stevenson, 25 March 1763,” Founders Online, National Archives, version of January 18, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-10-02-0123. [Original source: The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, vol. 10, January 1, 1762, through December 31, 1763, ed. Leonard W. Labaree. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1959, pp. 231–235.]

posted March 2nd, 2019 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Franklin, Benjamin,Friendship,Hewson, Mary "Polly" Stevenson,London,Stamp Act

“disorder in this part of the world”

This year marks the 250th anniversary of the Stamp Act, the British Parliament’s attempt to impose on its American colonies a tax on such items as newsprint, bills of lading, legal documents, playing cards, indeed on every piece of printed paper. Britain was in need of money to defray the costs of the French and Indian War which it incurred in defending its possessions in America and fighting the French abroad in what is known as the Seven Years War. Americans resented this tax: it was not a duty on imported goods but a direct tax on items used internally in the various colonies and imposed without their consent. There were many protests which often turned violent. On September 22, 1765, Deborah Read Rogers Franklin, Benjamin Franklin’s wife, wrote from Philadelphia to him in London where he was representing the interests of several colonies.

I am so very poor a writer that I dont undertake to say anything about the disorder in this part of the world. But to me it seems we are very wicked and so is the people in London and other places on your side the water. I pray god mend us all.
You will see by the papers what work has happened in other places and something has been said relating to raising a mob in this place.

In October Deborah again wrote to her husband, addressing him as “My Dear Child.”

I have been to see Mr. Hughes [the designated stamp distributor] who I found a little better and able to stir himself which I know will give you pleasure and the more so as you will hear no doubt how he has been used and by men that better things might be expected from. First to have the bells muffled and send two Drums about the town to raise the mob, and send them under Mr. Hughes’ window; then send messengers to tell him that they was a Coming and would be there in a minute and almost terrify his wife and Children to death; and after this, the man who was at the head of their affair to Complement himself with the merit of preventing the mob from falling on and destroying Mr. Hughes and his whole family. . . . O how I despise such men. . . .
As ever yours till Death
D Franklin

The fact of the matter is that Franklin, out of touch with sentiment in the colonies, had at first been accepting of the Stamp Act, and had in fact sought to have some of his friends named as stamp distributors. But when he realized the anger the Act had provoked in America he changed his mind, indeed testified against the Stamp Act before Parliament in 1766, helping to secure its repeal.

The above passages can be found on page 5 of In the Words of Women. Portrait by Matthew Pratt, circa 1759.

posted November 12th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Franklin, Benjamin,Franklin, Deborah Read Rogers,London,Philadelphia,Stamp Act

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