Benjamin Franklin collection (1766-1788)

Collection processed and finding aid created by Cheney J. Schopieray, November 2011, and Patrick Galligan, February 2012
Manuscripts Division, William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

Summary Information

Title: Benjamin Franklin collection
Creator: William L. Clements Library
Inclusive dates: 1766-1788
Extent: 22 items
The Benjamin Franklin collection is made up primarily of letters that Franklin wrote to Joseph Galloway, when Franklin was an agent for the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly in Great Britain from 1764 to 1775.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use

Acquisition Information

1923-1970. M-209, M-1028, M-1525, M-4799.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information

Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.

Alternate Format

The bulk of the letters are published in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin , ed. Leonard Larrabee, et al. [New Haven : Yale University Press, 1959-]).

Preferred Citation

Benjamin Franklin Collection, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


The collection is arranged chronologically.


Benjamin Franklin was born on January 6, 1706, in Boston, Massachusetts, the youngest of fifteen children of soap maker and tallow chandler, Josiah Franklin, and his second wife, Abiah Folger. A self-educated man, Franklin signed a nine-year indenture to work in his brother James’s printing shop in 1718. Franklin was a prolific writer, and he published his first series of essays in 1721. He started his first publishing house in Philadelphia in 1728. Franklin married Deborah Read in 1730, and they raised his illegitimate son William, as well as their two children: Francis, who died of smallpox at four, and Sarah.

In 1732, Franklin began printing his Poor Richard almanacs, which became the backbone of his publication business until 1757. His extensive political writings led him to civil service, and he began working as a clerk for the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly in 1736. He retired from publishing in 1748, and became an assembly member in 1751.

The Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly first sent Franklin to England in 1757 to lobby against proprietary government in Pennsylvania; in his absence, Joseph Galloway became the leader of the anti-proprietary party. The anti-proprietary party was opposed to the hereditary rule of the Penn family and their power to appoint members to the local government. This system allowed proprietors in England to control facets of American government and profit off their lands in America without paying taxes equal to other Pennsylvania property. After successfully arguing for the taxation of proprietary land, Franklin returned to America, at which time the Assembly elected him Speaker in 1764. However, some Pennsylvanians continued to feel restless about proprietary power in their province, and Franklin returned to England (1764-1775) to petition for a royal government, oppose the Stamp Act, and report on British policies of interest to Pennsylvania. Royal government in Pennsylvania would turn the land into a royal province, and undercut the proprietors’ economic and political power, as the crown would have control of lands and political appointments.

Benjamin Franklin’s letters to Galloway constitute a running commentary on the events and political climate leading up to the Revolution. On this second visit to England, Franklin vocally opposed the Stamp Act, the Salt Duty, and argued for the adoption of paper currency in America. He met with the most influential statesmen in England, and even his staunch opponent Lord Grenville was willing to hear his ideas. During Franklin’s absence, the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly elected Galloway as Speaker (1766-1775).

Throughout his tenure as Speaker, Galloway argued that the colonies and Britain could arrive at an amicable agreement that would provide America the representation it wanted under British rule. His friendship with Franklin ended in 1775 when Galloway resigned his post as Speaker because of his Loyalist sympathies. In 1776, he joined the British Army and worked as superintendent general in William Howe’s occupied Philadelphia (1777-1778), before moving to England permanently and becoming a spokesman for Loyalists in Britain. After relocating to Britain, Galloway published multiple accounts of the Revolution and its origins before his death in 1803.

Benjamin Franklin attended the Second Continental Congress, drafted articles of confederation, and served on the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. From 1776 to 1785, Franklin served as envoy and later minister plenipotentiary to France. He drafted preliminary terms of peace between Britain and America, which both sides revised and signed in 1782. On his return to America, he was elected the president of the supreme executive council of Pennsylvania (1785-1788). He argued for extending the right to vote regardless of land ownership status, and was an early supporter of the antislavery movement. He died in 1790 at his house in Philadelphia.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Benjamin Franklin collection is made up of 21 letters, 17 of which Franklin, as agent for the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly in Great Britain, wrote to Joseph Galloway from 1764 to 1775. Franklin addressed numerous political issues, including the Stamp Act, Galloway’s appointment to the Pennsylvania Provincial Assembly, the Currency Act, and other Parliamentary discussions. The letters contain evidence of Franklin’s frustration with British taxation leading up to the Revolution. Four additional letters by Franklin and one document signed by him comprise the remainder of the collection.

The box and folder listing below contains notes respecting contents of each item in the collection.

Subject Terms

  • Credit.
  • Customs administration.
  • Debt.
  • Downshire, Wills Hill, Marquis of, 1718-1793.
  • Great Britain. Parliament.
  • Great Britain. Stamp Act (1765)
  • Great Britain--Commerce.
  • Grenville, George, 1712-1770.
  • International trade.
  • Lansdowne, William Petty, Marquis of, 1737-1805.
  • Libel and slander.
  • Merchants--Great Britain--History--18th century.
  • Paper money.
  • Petitions.
  • Political parties--Great Britain.
  • Repeal of legislation.
  • Requisitions, Military.
  • Tariffs.
  • Taxation--Law and legislation.
  • Tea trade--Law and legislation.
  • Telescopes--Purchasing.
  • Franklin, Benjamin, 1706-1790.
Genre Terms:
  • Legal documents.
  • Letters (correspondence)

Contents List (Request Materials)

Request materials for use in the Clements Library
Container / Location Title
Box   1  
Benjamin Franklin collection,  1766-1788 [series]
  1766 October 11 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (4 pages)
Recent conferences with Secretary of State, Lord Shelburne: "He was pleas'd to assure me that he was of Opinion Mr Penn ought to part with the Government voluntarily, and said he had often told him so." Remarks on a plan for a general currency in America. Reflection on a proposal Franklin suggested to [George] Grenville as an alternative to the Stamp Act: a General Loan Office in America, the interest of which would provide the government with revenue. Franklin did not promote the Loan Office plan after the repeal of the Stamp Act. "With this Bill among my Papers I find the inclos'd Draft of a Petition I gave Mr Jackson to present against the Bill for extending to Scotland the Act for transporting Felons to America" ... "he show'd it among the Members, and it occasion'd some Laughing; but it was said, the way to get the Transportation of Felons abolish'd, would be for all the Colonies to remonstrate against it."
  1766 November 8 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (1 page)
Received a copy of a pamphlet in which Franklin and Galloway are represented as authors of the Stamp Act. "Your consolation, my Friend, and mine, under these Abuses, must be, that we do not deserve them. But what can console the Writers and Promoters of such infamously false Accusations, if they should ever come themselves to a Sense of that Malice of their Hearts, and that Stupidity of their Heads, which by these Papers they have manifested and expressed to all the World. Dunces often write Satyrs on themselves, when they think all the while that they are mocking their Neighbours. Let us, as we ever have done, uniformly endeavour the Service of our Country, recording to the best of our Judgment and Abilities, and Time will do us Justice. Dirt thrown on a Mud-Wall May stick & incorporate; but it will not long adhere to polish'd Marble."
  1766 December 13 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (2 pages)
Congratulations on Galloway's appointment as Speaker of the [Pennsylvania Provincial] Assembly. Little has happened in the Court, excepting resignations and changes in positions, "the Corn Affair," and the "Act of Indemnity for those that advised the Embargo on Provisions, and acted under it." Amendments to an act regarding trade to Ireland have gone through. Lord Hillsborough is gone from the Board of Trade to the Post Office. "I know not how he will prove, whether a Friend or otherwise to America."
  1767 April 14 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (3 pages)
Pleased to hear that the House has introduced a bill that will require Judges to regularly travel a circuit, in order to provide their services to areas outside of Philadelphia. Judges' wages. Straightening of the road to Lancaster. Payment of public debt, paper money, depreciation, and bills redeemable over time. "The Clamour has been, by Grenville's Party, with much Art and Industry, rais'd so high against America in general, that our Friends thought it not prudent to push the Matter earlier than should be necessary to have a Chance of getting it through in this Session." Political climate. "They have pledg'd themselves to Parliament for some Revenue to be rais'd from America. I have not yet learnt on what Articles, except that one is to be a Duty of 6 pence pr Bushel on all Salt imported, allowing a proportionable Drawback on Fish, Pork, and other Salt Provisions exported. We shall oppose this, as it will be a Tax on one of the Necessaries of Life, and tho' not at first very heavy May hereafter be made much moreso."
  1767 May 20 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (1 page)
Paper money and depreciation. The Board of Trade is averse to the repeal of the Currency Act. "The general Rage against America, artfully work'd up by the Grenville Faction, has been another Obstacle. I hope we shall get over all, the Ministry being at length prevail'd on to espouse the Measure, that the Colonies May have something to give on a Requisition from the Crown, and that the Duties May increase by the Increase of Commerce." "It is resolved to bring in a Bill to suspend all Legislation in New York, till the Act of Parlt for quartering Soldiers is complied with."
  1767 June 13 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (4 pages)
Hopes for the repeal of the Currency Act are diminished. Summary of arguments for the repeal. Proposals of Grenville and Townshend. Alternate proposal, for selective repeal of the act. Meeting with merchants to discuss the matter. Overheard English merchants discussing colonial responses to their efforts to repeal the Stamp Act. Chancellor has dropped the Salt Duty; effort to permit direct shipping of wine, fruit, and oil to the colonies from Portugal and Spain has not been successful.
  1767 August 8 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (4 pages)
"The Confusion among our Great Men still continues as great as ever…" Party politics (power and profit) waste Court time that could be used to extend commerce, reduce debt, secure allies, and increase the strength and ability of the Nation "to support a future War." Party views on the American colonies. New York is providing quarters for British troops without acknowledging obedience to the Quartering Act. "Every Step is taking to render the Taxing of America a popular Measure, by continually insisting on the Topics of our Wealth and flourishing Circumstances, while this Country is loaded with Debt…" Must garner support for the American Cause in order to weaken the potential measure. Will probably not return to America until spring. Pleased that Galloway has "made a Trial of Paper Money without a legal Tender." Suggests method of supporting credit. Doesn’t believe that British merchants understand the issue of legal tender -- that the scarcity of money in the colonies will be a detriment to their business.
  1768 February 17 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (3 pages)
From letter of January 9: Boston proceedings had increased "the Clamor" against America. Change in administration. Conversation with Lord Hillsborough regarding paper currency. Hillsborough is pleased with the current disposition of the colonies toward England. Unfavorable time to press the issue of direct trade between America and foreign markets.
  1768 August 20 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (2 pages)
Meeting with Lord Hillsborough, "but the Conclusion was, that we parted without agreeing on any thing." With the help of a growing party sympathetic to the American colonies, "the Repeal of the late offensive Duties" May possibly be obtained. "Military People" in London are offended by the removal of Jeffery Amherst from his offices.
  1769 January 9 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (7 pages)
Please extend his appreciation to the Assembly for his new appointment. Hopes that his telescope order will be finished "in time." Regarding Boston: "Some Indiscretion on the part of their warmer People, or of the Soldiery, I am extreamly apprehensive May occasion a Tumult; and if Blood is once drawn, there is no forseeing how far the Mischief May spread." The ministers are uncertain of how to act with America. Discussion of the Duty Acts and the sentiments of the British government. Hillsborough's speech and position on the Duty Acts. Pennsylvania's petition to the King and parliamentary responses. Distribution of a pamphlet that he believes was produced by a member of the Rockingham Party. Regarding conciliation: "Tis easy to propose a Plan; mine May be express'd in a few Words; Repeal the Laws, Renounce the Right, Recall the Troops, Refund the Money, and Return to the old Method of Requisition."
  1769 January 29 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (3 pages)
Parliamentary resolutions passed. Report and approval delayed. American supporters appear to be increasing. Merchants May attempt to bring in petitions from manufacturing towns to support the repeal. Lord Temple left the House of Lords discussions prematurely, believing that no effectual plan had been proposed to bring America to obedience. "Frugality & Industry is not, like War, a waste of Treasure, but the Means of increasing it."
  1769 March 9 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (3 pages)
Agents agreed to join a petition to repeal the Duty Act. Franklin drafted a petition. The petition was not based on a denial of Parliament's rights and so, Franklin believed that they would receive it. Agents feared that not addressing Parliament's rights would show implicit acceptance. The petition was dropped. Gov. Pownall is a "warm Friend for the Colonies in Parliament." He has privately published his speech against the resolutions. Believes that the only way to repeal the Duty Acts is a unanimous non-importation agreement.
  1769 March 21 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (3 pages)
Encloses bill of lading for the telescope [bill not present]. Lord Barrington attempted to add discreetly a clause to the American Mutiny Bill to quarter troops in private houses. The measure was disclaimed. Franklin was unable to examine the telescope, but as the best workman made it he believes that it is fine and well-packed for shipping.
  1770 January 11 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (3 pages)
Harmony will not be restored to the two countries until a constitution is agreed upon. Received a visit from a "Member of Parliament in high Station," who believes that a plan May be formed agreeable to both sides. A repeal of duties on glass, paper, and colours -- and tea -- supposed to be repealed early this session. Suspects that the repeal will be accompanied by a "severe Law" for importation of non-British goods. Supporters of America in the House of Commons. Has encouraged London merchants to present an account to Parliament, to dispel the opinion that trade continues covertly. Divisions within England May be advantageous.
  1770 June 11 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (3 pages)
The session is over and Parliament did not repeal the duty on tea. Its repeal is expected to pass in the winter session. Hears talk of a general act, which will revise trade regulations pertaining to America (including the tea duty, "with its odious Preamble") without "hurting the Honour of Parliament." Reasons for Parliament not passing the act to punish noncompliant merchants. Pownall made a speech and motion respecting the quartering of troops and standing armies during peacetime. "On the whole, there seems a general Disposition in the Nation (a particular Faction excepted) to be upon good Terms with the Colonies, and to leave us in the Enjoyment of all our Rights… There is a Malice against us in some powerful People, that discovers itself in all their Expressions when they speak of us; And Incidents May yet arise on either Side of the Water that May give them Advantage, and prevent those healing Measures that all good Men wish to take place." Mention of a failed paper money bill. R[obert] Charles' attempts to create an act for New York to make bills of credit legal tender (exempting New York from the Paper Money Act) -- and his suicide. Mr. Jackson has been appointed counsel to the Board of Trade.
  1774 February 18 . Benjamin Franklin LS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (2 pages)
Acts of the February session are now before the Board of Trade. Paper money bill. Reaction to "The Treatment of the Tea in America." Explanation of his conduct related to the acquisition and publication of the Hutchinson letters. Wedderburn's speech. "I shall soon answer it, and give this Court my Farewell." "I wish most sincerely with you that a Constitution was formed and settled for America, that we might know what we are and what we have, what our Rights and what our Duties in the Judgment of this Country as well as in our own. Till such a Constitution is settled, different Sentiments, will ever occasion Misunderstandings."
  1775 February 5 . Benjamin Franklin LS to Joseph Galloway; London, [England]. (2 pages)
Laments the "impending Calamities" which Britain and her colonies are about to suffer-resulting from "great Imprudencies on both Sides." "I have however generally strong Hopes amounting almost to an Assurance, that tho' we May suffer much for a while, America will finaly be greatly benefited by her present Difficulties, and rise superior to them all." House of Commons rejects a plan of union, refuses to hear the merchants support their petition, American agents' support of the Congressional petition, Lord Chatham's Plan. Postscript dated February 7: troops have orders to act on the defensive-to avoid bloodshed. Their purpose is only to intimidate. Believes that the ministry will be forced to "retire" next session and points respecting America will be gained.
  1782 April 2 . Benjamin Franklin LS to Marquis [Charles-Eugène-Gabriel] de Castries; Passy, [France]. (1 page)
Franklin knows nothing of three men taken prisoner in America and now held in France. He is not aware of any circumstances "that might induce the Delegates of Virginia to desire their Detention" and has not received any related orders from Congress. Cannot oppose their parole and residence at Caen or their exchange "in pursuance of the Cartel." Also printed in John Graves Simcoe. A Journal of the Operations of the Queen's Rangers, From the End of the Year 1777 to the Conclusion of the Late American War (Exeter, 1787), Unnumbered Appendix, notes for page 183, line 20.
  1783 January 19 . Benjamin Franklin ALS to B[enjamin] Vaughan; Passy, [France]. (1 page)
He planned to be at Versailles, but he received a note from M. de V. postponing the interview until tomorrow. Would be glad to dine with Vaughan this evening.
Folder   : Oversize Manuscripts  
  1787 May 11 . Benjamin Franklin partially printed DS to Low Curtz; [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania]. (1 page)
Grant for land in Westmoreland County, for Curtz' service in the "army of the State of Pennsylvania." Signed by Franklin, with seal of the state of Pennsylvania.
Box   1  
  1788 October 26 . Benjamin Franklin manuscript copy of a letter to Don Diego de Gardoqui; Philad[elphi]a, [Pennsylvania]. (1 page)
Written in the hand of Greenberry Dawson. Respecting the sale of produce from Ohio settlements in New Orleans. If such commerce is allowable, Franklin requests that his Excellency provide the sellers, [Henry] Pawling and [Greenberry] Dawson with his "counsels" and a "line of Protection." Introduces them as honest men who will not engage in the illegal sale of goods. Printed in John Bigelow, ed. The Complete Works of Benjamin Franklin , vol. 10 (1887), p. 18.
  1788 December 29 . Benjamin Franklin ADfS to Charles Thomson; Philad[elphi]a, [Pennsylvania]. (5 pages)
Would like Thomson to review his letter to the President of Congress. Regarding Franklin's services to the country and his accounts with Congress. Remarks on the employment of William Temple Franklin. Includes a crossed-out passage respecting the recovery of various items loaned to Congress. Printed in A.H. Smyth, ed. The Writings of Benjamin Franklin , vol. 9 (1905), pp. 691-695.

Additional Descriptive Data

Related Materials

Other Benjamin Franklin letters and documents (including contemporary manuscript copies) may be found in the following collections at the William L. Clements Library:

Earlier letters between Benjamin Franklin and Joseph Galloway are located at the Yale University Library.

The bulk of the letters are published in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard Larrabee, et al. [New Haven : Yale University Press, 1959-].).


Baker, Frank. "Galloway, Joseph." American National Biography Online.

Lemay, J. A. Leo. "Franklin, Benjamin." American National Biography Online.

Warden, G. B. "The Proprietary Group in 1754-1764." The William and Mary Quarterly, Third Series, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Jul., 1964), pp. 367-389.