Front Page Titles (by Subject) DLVIII: TO JOSIAH TUCKER - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. VI Letters and Misc. Writings 1772-1775
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DLVIII: TO JOSIAH TUCKER - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. VI Letters and Misc. Writings 1772-1775 
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. VI (Letters and Misc. Writings 1772-1775).
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TO JOSIAH TUCKER
London, 12 February, 1774.
Being informed by a friend that some severe strictures on my conduct and character had appeared in a new book published under your respectable name, I purchased and read it. After thanking you for those parts of it that are so instructive on points of great importance to the common interests of mankind, permit me to complain that, if by the description you give in pages 180, 181, of a certain American patriot, whom you say you need not name, you do, as is supposed, mean myself, nothing can be further from the truth than your assertion that I applied or used any interest, directly or indirectly, to be appointed one of the stamp officers for America. I certainly never expressed a wish of the kind to any person whatever; much less was I, as you say, “more than ordinary assiduous on this head.” I have heretofore seen in the newspapers insinuations of the same import, naming me expressly; but being without the name of the writer, I took no notice of them. I know not whether they were yours, or were only your authority for your present charge; but now that they have the weight of your name and dignified character, I am more sensible of the injury; and I beg leave to request that you will reconsider the grounds on which you have ventured to publish an accusation that, if believed, must prejudice me extremely in the opinion of good men, especially in my own country, whence I was sent expressly to oppose the imposition of that tax. If on such reconsideration and inquiry you find, as I am persuaded you will, that you have been imposed upon by false reports, or have too lightly given credit to hearsays in a matter that concerns another’s reputation, I flatter myself that your equity will induce you to do me justice by retracting that accusation. In confidence of this, I am, with great esteem, reverend sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
FROM JOSIAH TUCKER1
Monday, 21 February, 1774.
The letter which you did me the honor to send to Gloucester, I have just received in London, where I have resided many weeks, and am now returning to Gloucester. On inquiry I find that I was mistaken in some circumstances relating to your conduct about the Stamp Act, though right as to the substance. These errors shall be rectified the first opportunity. After having assured you that I am no dealer in anonymous newspaper paragraphs, nor have a connection with any who are, I have the honor to be, sir, your humble servant,
TO JOSIAH TUCKER
London, 22 February, 1774.
I received your favor of yesterday. If the substance of what you have charged me with is right, I can have but little concern about any mistakes in the circumstances; whether they are rectified or not will be immaterial. But, knowing the substance to be wrong, and believing that you can have no desire of continuing in an error prejudicial to any man’s reputation, I am persuaded you will not take it amiss, if I request you to communicate to me the particulars of the information you have received, that I may have an opportunity of examining them; and I flatter myself I shall be able to satisfy you that they are groundless. I propose this method as more decent than a public altercation, and suiting better the respect due to your character. With great regard, I have the honor to be, reverend sir, your most obedient humble servant,
FROM J. TUCKER
Gloucester, 24 February, 1774.
The request made in your last letter is so very just and reasonable, that I shall comply with it very readily. It has long appeared to me, that you much exceeded the bounds of morality in the methods you pursued for the advancement of the supposed interest of America. If it can be proved that I have unjustly suspected you, I shall acknowledge my error with as much satisfaction as you can have in reading my recantation of it. As to the case more immediately referred to in your letters, I was repeatedly informed that you had solicited the late Mr. George Grenville for a place or agency in the distribution of stamps in America. From which circumstance I myself concluded that you had made interest for it on your own account; whereas I am now informed there are no positive proofs of your having solicited to obtain such a place for yourself, but that there is sufficient evidence still existing of your having applied for it in favor of another person. If this latter should prove to be the fact, as I am assured it will, I am willing to suppose, from several expressions in both your letters, that you will readily acknowledge that the difference in this case between yourself and your friend is very immaterial to the general merits of the question. But if you should have distinctions in this case which are above my comprehension, I shall content myself with observing that your great abilities and happy discoveries deserve universal regard; and that, as on these accounts I respect and esteem you, so I have the honor to be, sir, your very humble servant,
TO JOSIAH TUCKER
London, 26 February, 1774.
I thank you for the frankness with which you have communicated to me the particulars of the information you had received, relating to my supposed application to Mr. Grenville for a place in the American stamp office. As I deny that either your former or later informations are true, it seems incumbent on me, for your satisfaction, to relate all the circumstances fairly to you, that could possibly give rise to such mistakes.
Some days after the Stamp Act was passed, to which I had given all the opposition I could with Mr. Grenville, I received a note from Mr. Whately, his secretary, desiring to see me the next morning. I waited upon him accordingly, and found with him several other colony agents. He acquainted us that Mr. Grenville was desirous to make the execution of the act as little inconvenient and disagreeable to the Americans as possible; and therefore did not think of sending stamp officers from hence, but wished to have discreet and reputable persons appointed in each province from among the inhabitants, such as would be acceptable to them; for, as they were to pay the tax, he thought strangers should not have the emoluments. Mr. Whately therefore wished us to name for our respective colonies, informing us that Mr. Grenville would be obliged to us for pointing out to him honest and responsible men, and would pay great regard to our nominations. By this plausible and apparently candid declaration we were drawn in to nominate; and I named for our province Mr. Hughes, saying, at the same time, that I knew not whether he would accept of it, but, if he did, I was sure he would execute the office faithfully. I soon after had notice of his appointment. We none of us, I believe, foresaw or imagined that this compliance with the request of the minister would or could have been called an application of ours, and adduced as a proof of our approbation of the act we had been opposing, otherwise I think few of us would have named at all; I am sure I should not. This, I assure you, and can prove to you by living evidence, is a true account of the transaction in question, which, if you compare with that you have been induced to give of it in your book, I am persuaded you will see a difference that is far from being “a distinction above your comprehension.”
Permit me further to remark that your expression of there being “no positive proofs of my having solicited to obtain such a place for myself,” implies that there are nevertheless some circumstantial proofs sufficient at least to support a suspicion. The latter part, however, of the same sentence, which says, “there is sufficient evidence still existing of my having applied for it in favor of another person,” must, I apprehend, if credited, destroy that suspicion, and be considered as positive proof of the contrary; for, if I had interest enough with Mr. Grenville to obtain that place for another, is it likely that it would have been refused me, had I asked it for myself?
There is another circumstance, which I would offer to your candid consideration. You describe me as “changing sides, and appearing at the bar of the House of Commons to cry down the very measure I had espoused, and direct the storm that was falling upon that minister.” As this must have been after my supposed solicitation of the favor for myself or my friend, and as Mr. Grenville and Mr. Whately were both in the House at the time, and both asked me questions, can it be conceived that, offended as they must have been with such a conduct in me, neither of them should put me in mind of this my sudden changing of sides, or remark it to the House, or reproach me with it, or require my reasons for it? And yet all the members then present know that not a syllable of the kind fell from either of them, or from any of their party.
I persuade myself by this time you begin to suspect you may have been misled by your informers. I do not ask who they are, because I do not wish to have particular motives for disliking people who in general may deserve my respect. They too may have drawn consequences beyond the information they received from others, and, hearing the office had been given to a person of my nomination, might as naturally suppose I had solicited it, as Dr. Tucker, hearing that I had solicited it, might “conclude” it was for myself.
I desire you to believe that I take kindly, as I ought, your freely mentioning to me “that it has long appeared to you that I much exceeded the bounds of morality in the methods I pursued for the advancement of the supposed interests of America.” I am sensible there is a good deal of truth in the adage that our sins and our debts are always more than we take them to be; and though I cannot at present, on examination of my conscience, charge myself with any immorality of that kind, it becomes me to suspect that what has long appeared to you may have some foundation. You are so good as to add that, “if it can be proved you have unjustly suspected me, you shall have a satisfaction in acknowledging the error.” It is often a hard thing to prove that suspicions are unjust, even when we know what they are; and harder, when we are unacquainted with them. I must presume, therefore, that, in mentioning them, you had an intention of communicating the grounds of them to me, if I should request it, which I now do, and, I assure you, with a sincere desire and design of amending what you may show me to have been wrong in my conduct, and to thank you for the admonition. In your writings I appear a bad man; but, if I am such, and you can thus help me to become in reality a good one, I shall esteem it more than a sufficient reparation to, reverend sir, your most obedient humble servant,
Feb. 7, 1775, no answer has yet been received to the above letter.
[1 ]The writer of this letter was Dean of Gloucester and a man of learning and talents, though somewhat freaky. He was prone to occupy his thoughts and pen with political and commercial questions, which furnished Warburton, who was his Bishop, with a pretext for saying that his Dean’s trade was religion and religion his trade. He published an humble address and earnest appeal, in which he advised the government to “let the wayward sisters—the colonies—go,” thinking that, like the sheep in charge of little Bo-peep, they would soon come back with their tails behind them.
[1 ]In a future edition of his work, Dean Tucker omitted the offensive passages, but with so ill a grace as to still further impair his character for fairness and magnanimity.