Description

    William Pitt, the corn embargo ("forty days of tyranny"), and Benjamin Franklin's activities in London ("He never can be idle, even for a Day")

    William Strahan Autograph Letter Signed "Will: Strahan," three pages, 7.25" x 9", front and verso. Watermarked, laid paper. London, December 13, 1766. Separate leaf, 8.75" x 8", addressed by Strahan "To/Mr David Hall/Merchant/in/Philadelphia," signed "Strahan/Decr./ 13, 1766" above addressee's name. Postal markings and red wax seal, with seal tear at upper edge. Both sheets and the address leaf have been strengthened at the folds. The left vertical fold on the third page slightly separated before repair. Overall, in fine condition.

    William Strahan is regarded as, perhaps, the most influential printer in England during the second half of the 18th century. He became the King's Printer and was a Member of Parliament. In 1743, he had recommended fellow Scotsman David Hall to Benjamin Franklin as a printer. Hall eventually became Franklin's partner. In 1759, Strahan became Franklin's primary publisher in Britain. Franklin advised Strahan on American trade; Strahan was Franklin's London purchasing agent. By 1766, Hall had completely switched his allegiance from Britain, arguing the American cause in his letters to Strahan who kept him informed on the state of politics in Britain. In part, "The Debates about the Indemnity Bill have now into great Length, through the Obstinacy of Lords Chatham, Northington, and Camden. The whole matter might easily have been discussed in a few hours; for tho' it was confessed on all Hands, that the Proclamation to prevent the Exportation of Corn was highly expedient and necessary, yet the issuing it, however urgent, was plainly contrary to Law;, and therefore it was undoubtedly right to pass an Act of Indemnity for all Persons concerned or affected by it...That it would be only a Tyranny of Forty Days at the utmost will not be soon forgot or easily forgiven... " On July 30, 1766, William Pitt became British Prime Minister and Lord Camden succeeded Lord Northington as Lord Chancellor. In August, Pitt became Lord Chatham. Chatham, supported by Camden, had called the Privy Council to issue a Proclamation on September 26th to prohibit corn exports until Parliament met; the corn harvest of 1766 was one of the worst in memory. Lord Chatham delivered his first speech in the House of Lords in support of the embargo. It was contrary to the 1689 Bill of Rights and both houses of Parliament ultimately accused Pitt and Camden of tyranny. Camden called it "forty days tyranny."

    The entire letter is clearly penned in small script, all with important political content. Strahan concludes, in part, "My best and kindest Respects to Mrs Hall...Remember me also to Mrs. and Miss Franklin, and to the Governor when you next write to him. Don't forget to send me a few Copies of the Examiners...Dr Franklin is in good Health; and is, I hear, very busy just now in endeavouring to get the Restraints taken off your Paper Currency. He never can be idle, even for a Day." Franklin had testified before Parliament earlier in the year against the Stamp Act of 1765; it was repealed. The Currency Act of 1764 prohibited the American Colonies from issuing paper currency, requiring that all American money had to be based on gold and silver to protect British creditors from being repaid in inflated colonial currency.


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    June, 2008
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