November 24, 1789

To the Representatives of the Freemen of the Common-Wealth of Pennsylvania in general Assembly met.

The Petition of the Pennsylvania Society for promoting the abolition of Slavery and the Relief of free Negroes unlawfully held in Bondage. Respectfully sheweth—

That deeply impressed with a Truth similar to the Declaration set forth in the Act for the gradual Abolition of Slavery that “it is not for us to enquire why in the Creation of Mankind the Inhabitants of the several Parts of the Earth were distinguished by a difference in Feature or Complexion it is sufficient to know that all are the Work of the Almighty Hand.” And sincerely animated by a Desire “of removing as much as possible the Sorrows of those who have lived in underscribed Bondage” a Number of Citizens associated together and with persevering Diligence have afforded in many Instances the Means of obtaining that Relief which the Legislature humanely intended to dispense.

That your Petitioners in the Course of their Pursuits, have long since discovered the Necessity of a continued Attention to the Situation of those who have been emancipated, in Order to form their Minds to Habits of Virtue and Industry, and to fit them and their Offspring for becoming useful Members of Society. The more effectually to prosecute so necessary and desirable a Work, the Society have united this Branch of civil Duty, with the original Designs of the Institution and have formed a System for improving the Condition of the free Blacks; but a Design so extensive can-not be conducted with success without considerable Funds. These your Petitioners concieve readily may be obtained from the benevolent and the humane, if a permanency and Security Could be given to their donations, and that the Society would then in many instances meet with Requests and Assistance even unsought for.

Your Petitioners therefore request that they may be incorporated, and that you will be pleased to grant them leave to bring in a bill for that purpose.

By order of the Society

B. Franklin Prest.


Lynhaven Bay, November 21, 1789

Dear Sir,

—Tho’ a committee of American captains at Cowes had [de]termined we must expect a nine weeks passage, the winds [and] weather have so befriended us that we are come to an anch[orage] here 29. days after weighing anchor at Yarmouth, having bee[n] only 26. days from land to land. After getting clear of the etern[al] fogs of Europe, which required 5. or 6. days sailing, the sun broke out upon us, & gave us fine autumn weather almost cons[tant]ly thro the rest of the voyage, & so warm that we had no occas[ion] for fire. In the gulph stream only we had to pass thro’ the squalls of wind & rain which hover generally over that tepid cur[r]ent: & thro the whole we had had nothing stronger tha[n] what seamen call a stiff breeze: so that I have now passed the Atlantic twice without knowing what a storm is. When we had passed the meridian of the Western islands, our weather w[as] so fine that it would have been madness to go 1000. miles out of our way to seek what would not have been better. So we determin[ed] to push on the direct course. We left the banks of Newf[oundland] about as far on our right as the Western islands on our left notwithstanding the evidence of their quadrants to the contrary some of the sailors insisted we were in the trade winds. Our sickness in the beginning was of 3. 4. or 5 days, severe enough. Since that we have been perfectly well. We separated from Mr. Trumbull’s ship the evening on which I wrote you from the needles, & I never saw her more. Our ship is two years old only, excellently accommodated, in ballast, and among the swiftest sailors on the ocean. Her captain a bold & judicious seaman, a native of Norfolk, whose intimate knowledge of our coast has been of both confidence & security to us. So that as we had in prospect every motive of satisfaction, we have found it still greater in event. We came to anchor here because no pilot has yet offered. Being within 15. miles of Norfolk by land, I have some thought of going ashore here in the morning, & going by land to that city. I wrote this from hence in hopes some outward bound vessel may be met to which it may be consigned. My plants & shepherd dogs are well. Remember me to enquiring friends, and accept assurances of sincere esteem & attachment with which I am Dear Sir.


Orange, November 20, 1789

Dear Sir,—

It was my purpose to have dropped you a few lines from Philada, but I was too much indisposed during my detention there to avail myself of that pleasure. Since my arrival here I have till now been without a fit conveyance to the post office.

You will recollect the contents of a letter shewn you from Mr. Innes to Mr. Brown. Whilst I was in Philada. I was informed by the latter, who was detained there, as well as myself by indisposition that he had recd later accounts though not from the same correspondent, that the Spaniards have finally put an entire stop to the trade of our Citizens down the river. The encouragements to such as settle under their own Government are continued.

A day or two after I got to Philada I fell in with Mr. Morris. He broke the subject of the residence of Congs, and made observations which betrayed his dislike of the upshot of the business at N. York, and his desire to keep alive the Southern project of an arrangement with Pennsylvania. I reminded him of the conduct of his State, and intimated that the question would probably sleep for some time in consequence of it. His answer implied that Congress must not continue at New York, and that if he should be freed from his Engagements with the E. States by their refusal to take up the bill and pass it as it went to the Senate, he should renounce all confidence in that quarter, and speak seriously to the S. States. I told him they must be spoken to very seriously, after what had passed, if Penna expected them to listen to her, that indeed there was probably an end to further intercourse on the subject. He signified that if he should speak it would be in earnest, and he believed that no one would pretend that his conduct would justify the least distrust of his going through with his undertakings; adding however that he was determined & accordingly gave me as he had given others notice that he should call up the postponed bill as soon as Congs should be reassembled. I observed to him that if it were desirable to have the matter revived we could not wish to have in it a form more likely to defeat itself. It was unparliamentary and highly inconvenient; and would therefore be opposed by all candid friends to his object as an improper precedent, as well as by those who were opposed to the object itself. And if he should succeed in the Senate, the irregularity of the proceeding would justify the other House in withholding the signature of its Speaker, so that the bill could never go up to the President. He acknowledged that the bill could not be got thro’ unless it had a majority of both Houses on its merits. Why then, I asked, not take it up anew? He said he meant to bring the gentlemen who had postponed the bill to the point, acknowledged that he distrusted them, but held his engagements binding on him, until this final experiment should be made on the respect they meant to pay to theirs. I do not think it difficult to augur from this conversation the views which will govern Penna at the next Session. Conversations held by Grayson both with Morris & others, in Philada, and left by him in a letter to me, coincide with what I have stated. An attempt will first be made to alarm N. York and the Eastern States into the plan postponed, by holding out the Potowmac & Philada as the alternative, and if the attempt should not succeed, the alternative will then be held out to the Southern members. On the other hand N. Y. & the E. States will enforce the policy of delay, by threatening the S. States as heretofore, with German Town or Trenton or at least Susquehannah, and will no doubt carry the threat into execution if they can, rather yn suffer an arrangement to take place between Pena. & the S. States.

I hear nothing certain from the Assembly. It is said that an attempt of Mr. H. to revive the project of commutables has been defeated, that the amendments have been taken up, and are likely to be put off to the next Session, the present house having been elected prior to the promulgation of them. This reason would have more force, if the amendments did not so much correspond as far as they go with the propositions of the State Convention, which were before the public long before the last Election. At any rate, the Assembly might pass a vote of approbation, along with the postponement, and assign the reason for referring the ratification to their successors. It is probable that the scruple has arisen with the disaffected party. If it be construed by the public into a latent hope of some contingent opportunity for promoting the war agst the Genl Government, I am of opinion the experiment will recoil on the authors of it. As far as I can gather, the great bulk of the late opponents are entirely at rest, and more likely to censure a further opposition to the Govt, as now administered than the Government itself. One of the principal leaders of the Baptists lately sent me word that the amendments had entirely satisfied the disaffected of his Sect, and that it would appear in their subsequent conduct.

I ought not to conclude without some apology for so slovenly a letter. I put off writing it till an opportunity should present itself not knowing but something from time to time might turn up that would make it less unworthy of your perusal. And it has so happened that the oppy barely gives me time for this hasty scrawl.

With the most perfect esteem & Affect attachment I remain Dear Sir Yr. Mos Obedt. Servt

Philadelphia, November 4, 1789

Dear Friend,

I received your kind letter of July the 31st which gave me great pleasure, as it inform’d me of the welfare both of yourself and your good lady, to whom please to present my respects. I thank you for the epistle of your yearly meeting and for the card, a specimen of printing which were enclosed.

We have now had one session of congress, and with as much general satisfaction as could reasonably be expected. I wish the struggle in France may end as happily for that nation. We are now in the full enjoyment of our new government for eleven of the states, and it is generally thought that North Carolina is about to join us; Rhode Island will probably take longer time for consideration. We have had a most plentiful year for the fruits of the earth, and our people seem to be recovering fast from the extravagant and idle habits which the war had introduced, and to engage seriously in the contrary habits of temperance, frugality, and industry, which give the most pleasing prospects of future national felicity. Your merchants, however, are I think imprudent in crowding in upon us such quantities of goods for sale here, which are not wrote for by ours, and are beyond the faculties of the country to consume in any reasonable time. This surplus of goods is therefore, to raise present money, sent to the vendues or auction houses, of which we have six or seven in or near this city, where they are sold frequently for less than prime cost, to the great loss of the indiscreet adventurers. Our newspapers are doubtless to be seen at your coffee houses near the Exchange; in their advertisements you may observe the constancy and quantity of these kind of sales, as well as the quantity of goods imported by our regular traders. I see in your English newspapers frequent mention made of our being out of credit with you; to us it appears that we have abundantly too much, and that your exporting merchants are rather out of their senses.

I wish success to your endeavours for obtaining an abolition of the Slave Trade. The epistle from your yearly meeting for the year 1758 was not the first sowing of the good seed you mention; for I find by an old pamphlet in my possession that George Keith near 100 years since wrote a paper against the practice, said to be “given forth by the appointment of the meeting held by him at Phillip James’s house in the city of Philadelphia, about the year 1693,” wherein a strict charge was given to Friends that they should set their negroes at liberty after some reasonable time of service, &c. &c. And about the year 1728 or 29 I myself printed a book for Ralph Sandyford, another of your friends of this city, against keeping negroes in slavery, two editions of which he distributed gratis. And about the year 1736 I printed another book on the same subject for Benjamin Lay, who also professed being one of your Friends, and he distributed the books chiefly among them. By these instances it appears that the seed was indeed sown in the good ground of your profession, though much earlier than the time you mention; and its springing up to effect at last, though so late, is some confirmation of Lord Bacon’s observation that a good motion never dies, and may encourage us in making such, though hopeless of their taking an immediate effect. I doubt whether I shall be able to finish my memoirs, and if I finish them whether they will be proper for publication: you seem to have too high an opinion of them, and to expect too much from them.

I think you are right in preferring a mixed form of government for your country under its present circumstances, and if it were possible for you to reduce the enormous salaries and emoluments of great offices, which are at bottom the source of all your violent factions, that form might be conducted more quietly and happily; but I am afraid that none of your factions when they get uppermost will ever have virtue enough to reduce those salaries and emoluments, but will choose rathr to enjoy them.

I inclose a bill for £25 for which, when received, please to credit my account, and out of it pay Mr. Benjamin Vaughan of Jefferies square, and Mr. Wm. Vaughan his brother of Mincing Lane, such accounts against me as they shall present to you for that purpose.

I am, my dear friend, yours very affectionately,

B. Franklin.
To: Mr. John Wright, Banker, Lombard-street, London


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