Front Page Titles (by Subject) CCCXXIII: WALPOLE'S GRANT - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. IV Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768
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CCCXXIII: WALPOLE’S GRANT - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. IV Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768 
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. IV (Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768).
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Some time after Dr. Franklin went to England on his second mission, as agent for Pennsylvania, a project was formed in America, originating with Sir William Johnson, Governor Franklin, and others, for settling a new colony in the Ohio country. They wrote to Dr. Franklin, requesting him to use his influence to procure a grant from the crown for this purpose. A company was formed, at the head of which was Mr. Thomas Walpole, a banker in London, from whom the tract of land took its name.
From letters written by Dr. Franklin to his son on this subject, the following extracts were found among Sir William Johnson’s papers. The grant was to be divided into seventy-two shares. The petitions were addressed to the Board of Trade, and to the King in Council, by Mr. Walpole and his associates. The project encountered much opposition, and met with delay; but was finally approved, and the grant ratified in 1772. The revolutionary troubles which followed, however, defeated the plan. Pending its consideration, Lord Hillsborough wrote for the Board of Trade a report against it. Franklin’s masterly answer to this report is entitled Settlement on the Ohio River, see infra.
May 10, 1766.—I like the project of a colony in the Illinois country, and will forward it to my utmost here.
Aug. 25, 1766.—I can now only add that I will endeavour to accomplish all that you and our friends desire relating to the settlement westward.
Sept. 12, 1766.—I have just received Sir William’s open letter to Secretary Conway, recommending your plan for a colony in the Illinois, which I am glad of. I have closed and sent it to him. He is not now in that department; but it will of course go to Lord Shelburne, whose good opinion of it I have reason to hope for; and I think Mr. Conway was rather against distant posts and settlements in America. We have, however, suffered a loss in Lord Dartmouth, who, I know, was inclined to a grant there in favor of the soldiery, and Lord Hillsborough is said to be terribly afraid of dispeopling Ireland. General Lyman has been long here soliciting such a grant, and will readily join the interest he has made with ours, and I should wish for a body of Connecticut settlers, rather than all from our frontiers. I purpose waiting on Lord Shelburne on Tuesday, and hope to be able to send you his sentiments by Falconer, who is to sail about the 20th.
A good deal, I imagine, will depend on the account, when it arrives, of Mr. Croghan’s negotiation in that country. This is an affair I shall seriously set about; but there are such continual changes here, that it is very discouraging to all applications to be made to the ministry. I thought the last set well established, but they are broken and gone. The present set are hardly thought to stand very firm, and God only knows whom we are to have next.
The plan is, I think, well drawn, and I imagine Sir William’s approbation will go a great way in recommending it, as he is much relied on in all affairs that may have any relation to the Indians. Lord Adam Gordon is not in town, but I shall take the first opportunity of conferring with him. I thank the Company for their willingness to take me in, and one or two others that I may nominate. I have not yet concluded whom to propose it to; but I suppose our friend Sargent should be one. I wish you had allowed me to name more, as there will be in the proposed country, by my reckoning, near sixty-three millions of acres, and therefore enough to content a great number of reasonable people, and by numbers we might increase the weight of interest here. But perhaps we shall do without.
Sept. 27, 1766.—I have mentioned the Illinois affair to Lord Shelburne. His Lordship had read your plan for establishing a colony there, recommended by Sir William Johnson, and said it appeared to him a reasonable scheme, but he found it did not quadrate with the sentiments of people here1 ; that their objections to it were, the distance, which would make it of little use to this country, as the expense on the carriage of goods would oblige the people to manufacture for themselves; that it would for the same reason be difficult both to defend it and to govern it; that it might lay the foundation of a power in the heart of America, which in time might be troublesome to the other colonies, and prejudicial to our government over them; and that people were wanted both here and in the already settled colonies, so that none could be spared for a new colony. These arguments, he said, did not appear of much weight, and I endeavoured by others to invalidate them entirely. But his Lordship did not declare whether he would or would not promote the undertaking; and we are to talk further upon it.
I communicated to him two letters of Mr. Croghan’s, with his journal, and one or two of yours on that subject, which he said he would read and consider; and I left with him one of Evans’s maps of the middle colonies, in the small-scale part of which I had marked with a wash of red ink the whole country included in your boundaries. His Lordship remarked that this would coincide with General Lyman’s project, and that they might be united.
Sept. 30, 1766.—I have just had a visit from General Lyman, and a good deal of conversation on the Illinois scheme. He tells me that Mr. Morgan, who is under-secretary of the Southern department, is much pleased with it; and we are to go together to talk to him concerning it.
Oct. 11, 1766.—I was again with Lord Shelburne a few days since, and said a good deal to him on the affair of the Illinois settlement. He was pleased to say he really approved of it; but intimated that every new proposed expense for America would meet with great difficulty here, the treasury being alarmed and astonished at the growing charges there, and the heavy accounts and drafts continually brought in from thence. That Major Farmer, for instance, had lately drawn for no less than thirty thousand pounds extraordinary charges, on his going to take possession of the Illinois; and that the superintendents, particularly the southern one, began also to draw very largely. He spoke, however, very handsomely of Sir William on many accounts.
Nov. 8, 1766.—Mr. Jackson is now come to town. The ministry have asked his opinion and advice on your plan of a colony in the Illinois, and he has just sent me to peruse his answer in writing, in which he warmly recommends it, and enforces it by strong reasons; which gives me great pleasure, as it corroborates what I have been saying on the same topic, and from him appears less to be suspected of some American bias.
Feb. 14, 1767.—Great changes being expected keeps men’s minds in suspense, and obstructs public affairs of every kind. It is therefore not to be wondered at that so little progress is made in our American schemes of the Illinois grant and retribution for Indian losses.
June 13, 1767.—The Illinois affair goes forward but slowly. Lord Shelburne told me again last week that he highly approved of it, but others were not of his sentiments, particularly the Board of Trade. Lyman is almost out of patience, and now talks of carrying out his settlers without leave.
Aug. 28, 1767.—Last week I dined at Lord Shelburne’s, and had a long conversation with him and Mr. Conway (there being no other company) on the subject of reducing the American expenses. They have it in contemplation to return the management of Indian affairs into the hands of the several provinces on which the nations border, that the colonies may bear the charge of treaties, and the like, which they think will then be managed more frugally, the treasury being tired with the immense drafts of the superintendents.
I took the opportunity of urging it as one mode of saving expense in supporting the out-posts, that a settlement should be made in the Illinois country, expatiated on the various advantages, namely, furnishing provisions cheaper to the garrisons, securing the country, retaining the trade, raising a strength there which, on occasions of a future war, might easily be poured down the Mississippi upon the lower country, and into the Bay of Mexico, to be used against Cuba, the French Islands, or Mexico itself. I mentioned your plan, its being approved by Sir William Johnson, and the readiness and ability of the gentlemen concerned to carry the settlement into execution, with very little expense to government. The secretaries appeared finally to be fully convinced, and there remained no obstacle but the Board of Trade, which was to be brought over privately before the matter should be referred to them officially. In case of laying aside the superintendents, a provision was thought of for Sir William Johnson. He will be made governor of the new colony.
Oct. 9, 1767.—I returned last night from Paris, and just now hear that the Illinois settlement is approved of in the Cabinet Council, so far as to be referred to the Board of Trade for their opinion, who are to consider it next week.
Nov. 13, 1767.—Since my return, the affair of the Illinois settlement has been renewed. The King in Council referred the proposal to the Board of Trade, who called for the opinion of the merchants on two points, namely: whether the settlement of colonies in the Illinois country and at Detroit might not contribute to promote and extend the commerce of Great Britain; and whether the regulation of Indian trade might not best be left to the several colonies that carry on such trade; both which questions they considered at a meeting where Mr. Jackson and I were present, and answered in the affirmative unanimously, delivering their report accordingly to the Board. We shall know in a few days what report the Board will make to the King in Council. Enclosed I send you the notice I received from the Board to attend the first call with the merchants. You must know, government here is quite tired of having the management of Indian affairs, the superintendents drawing for such immense sums to be given in presents to the Indians; who, nevertheless, they say, are not kept in so good temper as when every colony managed the neighbouring Indians, and put the crown to no expense. It seems, therefore, the present inclination to drop the superintendencies and provide for Sir William in some other way; but whether they will finally resolve on this is rather uncertain; for they seem afraid of changing any thing in settled measures, lest something should go wrong, and the opposition make an advantage of it against them. The merchants, to a man, disliked the plan of regulating the trade under the superintendents, and speak strongly against it. The plan I think I have seen in your hands, as proposed by the Board of Trade.
Nov. 25, 1767.—As soon as I received Mr. Galloway’s, Mr. Samuel Wharton’s, and Mr. Croghan’s letters on the subject of the boundary, I communicate them to Lord Shelburne. He invited me the next day to dine with him. Lord Clare was to have been there, but did not come. There was nobody but Mr. Maclean. My Lord knew nothing of the boundary’s having been agreed on by Sir William; had sent the letters to the Board of Trade, directing search to be made there for Sir William’s letters; and ordered Mr. Maclean to search the secretary’s office, who found nothing. We had much discourse about it, and I pressed the importance of despatching orders immediately to Sir William to complete the affair. His Lordship asked who was to make the purchase, that is, who should be at the expense. I said that if the line included any lands within the grants of the charter colonies, they should pay the purchase money of such proportion. If any within the proprietary grants, they should pay their proportion. But what was within royal governments, where the King granted the lands, the crown should pay for that proportion. His Lordship was pleased to say he thought this reasonable. He finally desired me to go to Lord Clare as from him, and urge the business there, which I undertook to do.
Among other things at this conversation, we talked of the new settlements. His Lordship told me he had himself drawn up a paper of reasons for those settlements which he laid before the King in Council; acquainting them that he did not offer them merely as his own sentiments; they were what he had collected from General Amherst, Dr. Franklin, and Mr. Jackson, three gentlemen that were allowed to be the best authorities for any thing that related to America. I think he added that the Council seemed to approve of the design; I know it was referred to the Board of Trade, who, I believe, have not yet reported on it, and I doubt will report against it.
I waited next morning on Lord Clare, and pressed the matter of the boundary closely upon him. He said they could not find that they had ever received any letters from Sir William concerning it, but were searching farther; agreed to the necessity of settling it, but thought there would be some difficulty about who should pay the purchase money; for that this country was already so loaded, it would bear no more. We then talked of the new colonies. I found he was inclined to think one near the mouth of the Ohio might be of use in securing the country, but did not much approve that at Detroit. And, as to the trade, he imagined it would be of little consequence if we had it all, but supposed our traders would sell the peltry chiefly to the French and Spaniards at New Orleans, as he heard they had hitherto done. Pray tell me, if you know, whether that has been the case with regard to the skins belonging to our friends B. W. & M.
March 13, 1768.—The purpose of settling the new colonies seems at present to be dropt, the change of American administration not appearing favorable to it. There seems rather an inclination to abandon the posts in the back country, as more expensive than useful. But counsels are so continually fluctuating here, that nothing can be depended on. The new secretary, Lord H., is, I find, of opinion that the troops should be placed, the chief part of them, in Canada and Florida, only three battalions to be quartered in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania; and that Forts Pitt, Niagara, Oswego, &c., should be left to the colonies to garrison and keep up, if they think it necessary for the protection of their trade. Probably his opinion may be followed, if new changes do not produce other ideas. The letters from Sir William Johnson, relating to the boundary, were at last found, and orders were sent over, about Christmas, for completing the purchase and settlement of the difference about it. My Lord H. has promised me to send duplicates by this packet, and urge the speedy execution, as I represented to him the danger that these dissatisfactions of the Indians might produce a war.
[1 ]I fancy, but am not certain, that his Lordship meant Lord Hillsborough, who, I am told, is not favorable to new settlements.