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CLX: TO ISAAC NORRIS 1 - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. III Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. III (Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763).
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TO ISAAC NORRIS1
New York, 30 May, 1757.
After waiting here about seven weeks for the sailing of the packet, the time of her sailing is no more certain now than it was on the day of our arrival. The packets, as it is now said, are all three to sail with the fleet; the two first to be dismissed soon after the fleet is at sea; the third to go with the fleet to the place of rendezvous, and not to be discharged till the arrival and junction of the fleet from England. But this is not certain; resolutions change as advices are received, or occurrences arise, and it is doubtful whether the fleet will sail from hence till there is certain news of the arrival of that from England, since there is intelligence that Beaufremont’s squadron is gone from the West Indies to the northward.
I have had the honor of several conferences with my Lord Loudoun on the subject of the servants.2 His Lordship objects, first, that it appears by the list which I laid before him, that many of the servants were enlisted in General Braddock’s and General Shirley’s time. With those he has nothing to do. Secondly, that many were enlisted before the act of Parliament appointed satisfaction to be made to the masters; and as the lawyers all agree that the right to take them without pay was clearly in the King before the act, no satisfaction should be made or expected for these. Thirdly, that the particular proofs of the loss of each servant, and of his being enlisted in the King’s service, do not appear. Fourthly, that the affair is now so intricate and perplexed, that it would take more time to examine and settle it than he can possibly spare. Fifthly, that if his officers had done wrong in not paying for the servants, as they took them, the fault was our own; it was owing to some principal people among ourselves, whom he could name, who had always assured the officers that the Assembly intended to pay for the servants, and by that means led them into the error.
His Lordship made several other observations and objections, all which I answered and endeavoured to remove as well as I could; but there is, I believe, one at bottom, which it is not in my power to remove, and that is the want of money. The expenses of an American war necessarily run very high, and are complained of by some in England; and his Lordship is unwilling to discourage the ministry at home by large charges. He will therefore mix none of those of his predecessors with his own. He makes the most frugal agreements, and avoids all payments that he can avoid with honor. For instance, there is a balance not very large due to me, on my account of wagons and forage supplies to General Braddock. I presented the account to his Lordship, who had it examined and compared with the vouchers; and on report made to him that it was right, ordered a warrant to be drawn for the payment; but before he signed it he sent for me, told me that as the money became due before his time, he had rather not mix it in his accounts, if it would be the same thing to me to receive it in England. He believed it a fair and just account, and as such would represent it at home, so that I should meet with no difficulty in getting it paid there. I agreed to his Lordship’s proposal, and the warrant was laid aside.
I once proposed to his Lordship that if he would appoint, or advise Governor Denny to appoint, some persons of credit in Pennsylvania to examine the claims of the masters, and report to his Lordship at the end of the campaign, it would, for the present, make the minds of the sufferers more easy; and he could then order payment for such part as he should find right for him to pay, and we might endeavour to procure satisfaction elsewhere for the rest. His Lordship declined this, saying, that he knew not whom to appoint, being unacquainted with the people; that he did not care to trouble Governor Denny with it, of whom he must ask it as a favor; and besides, auditors, in the plantations, of accounts against the crown had in many instances been so partial and corrupt that they had lost all credit. If he appointed auditors, they must be some of the officers of the army who understood the affair; and at present they were engaged in other duties.
I will not trouble you with a detail of all I said to his Lordship on this affair, though I omitted nothing material that occurred to me; but I find he is for keeping the matter in suspense, without either promising payment or refusing to pay; perhaps till he receives directions about it from home. He does not seem willing, however, that I should make any application there relating to it, and chooses to keep the list in his hands till his return from the campaign.
The list is, indeed, so very imperfect, that I could not promise myself much in laying it before him. Of many servants it is not noted by what officers, or in what company, or even in what regiment they were enlisted; of others, the time they were bound for, or had served, or had still to serve, is omitted. Of others, no notice is taken of the price they cost; nor is there any distinction of apprentices, though, perhaps, the account is the best that could be obtained, the time and other circumstances considered. Upon the whole, as the inquiry, if it is ever made by my Lord’s order, will be by officers of the army, they being, in his Lordship’s opinion, the fittest persons and most impartial; as all enlistments before the commencement of his command will be rejected, and also all before the act of Parliament; as very clear proofs of every circumstance—when the servant was enlisted, by what officer, of what regiment, and the like—will be insisted on, and the recruiting officers at the time took such effectual care to prevent the master’s knowing any thing of these circumstances, I am inclined to think very little benefit will be produced by such inquiry; and that our application at home for some allowance on that account will be better founded on what the Assembly, after their own inquiry, have thought themselves obliged to pay, than on such an imperfect list as has been sent to me. This, however, I submit; and if it should still be thought proper to apply in England on the footing of the list, another copy must be forwarded by some future opportunity.
His Lordship has on all occasions treated me with the greatest goodness, but I find frequently that wrong prejudices are infused into his mind against our province. We have too many enemies among ourselves, but I hope in time things will wear a better face. Please to present my humble respects to the House, and believe me, with great esteem, &c.,
[1 ]For many years Speaker of the Assembly of Pennsylvania.
[2 ]It was common for emigrants, of the poorer class, to pay for their passage by selling their time for a certain number of years to the captain in whose ship they came over. The time, or term of service, thus pledged, was sold by the captain, after his arrival in port, to farmers in the country. During the war it had been a practice of the recruiting officers to enlist these servants into the army, thus depriving the farmers of their services, and of the value that had been paid for them. Redress was sought from the government, and Franklin was instructed to lay the subject before Lord Loudoun, the commander-in-chief of the army. Other particulars respecting emigrant servants, and the enlistment of them, may be seen in Sparks’ edition of Washington’s Writings vol. ii., pp. 168, 189, 199.