Guide to the William Franklin, Royal Governor of New Jersey, Papers 1756-1813 MG 37


Descriptive Summary
Biographical Note
Scope and Content Note
Access Points Related Material
Administrative Information

Container List

Correspondence and Other Documents

Guide to the William Franklin, Royal Governor of New Jersey, Papers
MG 37
The New Jersey Historical Society
52 Park Place
Newark, New Jersey 07102
Contact: NJHS Library
(973) 596-8500 x249
© 2005 All rights reserved.
The New Jersey Historical Society, Publisher
Inventory prepared by Kim Charlton as part of the “Farm to City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.

Finding aid encoded by Julia Telonidis. July 2005. Production of the EAD 2002 version of this finding aid was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Finding aid written in English.

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Franklin, William, 1731-1813.
Title: William Franklin, Royal Governor of New Jersey, Papers
Dates: 1756-1813
Abstract: Contains the papers of William Franklin, spanning the years 1756 to 1813. Included in the papers are letters, poetry, and other documents.
Quantity: 0.5 linear feet (26 folders in 1 box)
Collection Number: MG 37

Biographical Note

William Franklin was born in 1731, the illegitimate son of Benjamin Franklin; his mother’s identity is unknown. Franklin benefited greatly from his upbringing by his father, in that he was able to read many books from his father’s bookstore in Philadelphia. After receiving some education by a private tutor, he attended Alexander Annand’s classical academy.

Upon finishing his early education, his father, Benjamin, put William to work as an apprentice in his print shop. As a young adult, Franklin was recruited into the American Regiment, rising to the rank of captain. Upon his return from military service, Franklin assisted his father in his famous electrical “kite and key” experiment in 1752; it was William who designed the kite.

Dissatisfied with following his father’s footsteps into business, he read law with Joseph Galloway. Franklin was later enrolled in the Middle Temple in London to continue his study of law. While in London, Franklin became popular in London’s social circles. The Prime Minister, Lord Bute, named William Franklin to the position of Royal Governor of New Jersey when the office became available in 1762.

At first, Franklin was greeted in New Jersey with trepidation, as it was assumed that his famous father had obtained the office for him. In contrast to the low expectations of him, William Franklin became one of the most effective royal governors New Jersey had. Unlike his predecessors, he managed to avoid quarreling with the assembly. Franklin engaged in reforms, such as improved roads and bridges throughout the colony. In 1766, he managed to persuade the assembly to grant a charter to Queen’s College, which later came to be known as Rutgers University.

Franklin’s popularity as governor diminished, however, after the Stamp Act crisis in 1764. He continually supported the Crown’s policies, which also created a rift with his more rebellious father, Benjamin. Consequently, the two men cut ties with each other in 1775. In Perth Amboy, Franklin was arrested by William Alexander (Lord Stirling) and his troops shortly after the outbreak of war; he remained under house arrest in Connecticut until he was released in a prisoner exchange in 1778. He then went to New York City, a British stronghold during the American Revolution, where he founded the Refugees Club, an organization that supported the Loyalists. Franklin also was apparently involved in gathering intelligence for the Crown, as well as providing support for guerilla warfare tactics against the Patriots. After the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781, Franklin left for England, where he lived for the remainder of his life. An attempt was made to reconcile with his father in 1785, which was successful only for a very short time; they remained estranged until Benjamin Franklin’s death in 1790.

Franklin married Elizabeth Downes in 1762. After Elizabeth’s death, Franklin married Mary D’Evelyn, a wealthy Irish widow. William Franklin had one son, William Temple Franklin, whose mother is unknown. “Temple,” as he was commonly called, was raised by his grandfather, Benjamin Franklin and his wife, Deborah. William Franklin died in London on November 16, 1813.

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Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the papers are the incoming and outgoing letters belonging to William Franklin, dating from 1765 to 1813. Correspondents include the Board of Trade and Plantations, Abraham Clark, John Hampton, William Strahan, Philip Kearny, the New Jersey General Assembly, the Proprietors of the Western Division of New Jersey, and Jonathan Trumbull. Also among the letters are copies of three of Franklin’s letters.

Additionally, the papers contain other documents, which include a partial copy of Franklin’s Commission as Royal Governor of New Jersey, dated September 3, 1762. Petitions from William Bayard, the residents of Elizabethtown, the residents of Essex County, and the residents of Hunterdon County are included in the papers, covering the years 1765 to 1774. The papers also contain the text of a speech by Franklin, as well as New Jersey Council minutes and pieces of legislation; these items date from 1766 to 1771. Franklin’s will dated June 6, 1770, an undated dinner invitation, and an undated poem written by Franklin complete the collection.

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Access Restrictions


Photocopying of materials is limited and no materials may be photocopied without permission from library staff.

Use Restrictions

Researchers wishing to publish, reproduce, or reprint materials from this collection must obtain permission.

The New Jersey Historical Society complies with the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code), which governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials.

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Access Points

The entries below represent persons, organizations, topics, forms, and occupations documented in this collection.
Subject Names:
Bayard, William, 1729-1804.
Clark, Abraham, 1726-1794.
Franklin, William, 1731-1813.
Hampton, John, fl. 1756-1813.
Kearny, Philip, 1733-1798.
Strahan, William, 1715-1785.
Trumbull, Jonathan, 1710-1785.
Subject Organizations:
Council of Proprietors of the Western Division of New Jersey.
New Jersey. Board of Trade and Plantations.
New Jersey. Council.
New Jersey. Legislature. General Assembly.
Subject Topics:
Conspiracies–United States.
Duels–New Jersey–Weehawken.
Lawyers–New Jersey.
Vice-presidents–United States.
Subject Places:
Elizabeth (N.J.)
Essex County (N.J.)
Hunterdon County (N.J.)
New Jersey–History–Colonial period, ca. 1600-1775.
New Jersey–History–Revolution, 1775-1783.
Perth Amboy (N.J.)
Princeton (N.J.)
Weehawken (N.J.)
Document Types:
Letters (Correspondence).

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Related Material

For related collections at other institutions, see:

APS 1743, Benjamin Franklin Papers, The American Philosophical Society.

Papers of Benjamin Franklin, The Franklin Collection, Yale University Library.

For related collections at the New Jersey Historical Society, see:

Manuscript Group 2, East Jersey Manuscript Collection

Manuscript Group 3, West Jersey Manuscript Collection

Manuscript Group 4, Revolutionary Era Manuscript Collection.

Manuscript Group 6, New Jersey Provincial Congress Manuscript Collection.

Manuscript Group 17, Robert Hunter Morris Papers.

Manuscript Group 41, Samuel Smith Papers.

Manuscript Group 46, New Jersey Legislature Minutes.

Manuscript Group 59, Jacob Spicer Papers.

Manuscript Group 70, James and William Alexander Papers.

Manuscript Group 239, Colony of New Jersey Records.

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Administrative Information

This collection is available on microfilm; please consult the microfilm first before requesting to view the originals.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: Manuscript Group 37, William Franklin Papers, The New Jersey Historical Society.

Acquisition Information

The source of the bulk of this collection is unknown; three copies of Franklin’s letters are the gift of William Duane, July 8, 1845.

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Container List

Correspondence and Other Documents

Box Folder Title Date
1 1 Commission as Governor (partial typescript copy) 1762 Sept. 3
1 2 Act to naturalize Jacob Hertel and John Jacob Faish (original) 1766
1 3 Act for support of his majesty’s colony 1767-1768 May 1
1 4 William Bayard’s petition to William Franklin (original) 1769 Oct. 2
1 5 Governor Franklin’s speech (photo stat) 1775 May 15
1 6 Correspondence: William Franklin to Jonathan Trumbull (original) 1777 Sept. 15
1 7 Essex County residents’ petition to the Governor Council and General Assembly
1768 Apr. 12
1 8 Elizabeth residents’ petition to William Franklin (photostat) 1765 May 22
1 9 Dinner invitation from Gov. & Mrs.William Franklin to Mrs. & Miss Campbell n.d.
1 10 Correspondence: William Duane to NJHS, with enclosed copies of letters to Benjamin Frankin from his son, William Frankin 1745 July 8
1 11 Abraham Clark and John Hampton
to William Franklin (copy)
1769 Mar 29
1 12 Marriage license for Richard Blue and Martha McNeil, signed by William Franklin 1765 Oct. 14
1 13 Correspondence: William Franklin to William Strahan 1783 July 26
1 14 William Franklin to the assembly (photostat) 1771 Nov. 29
1 15 Amendment to the bill entitled “An Act for Supplying the Western and Northern Indians, Friends and Allies of Great Britain with Goods at More Easy Rates, Supporting an Agent or Agents Among Them, and Preventing Abuses in the Indian Trade” signed by William Franklin 1756 Mar 10
1 16 Certificate of military appointment for an unnamed person, signed by William Franklin 1763 Oct. 4
1 17 Correspondence: Philip Kearny and others to William Franklin (photostat) 1765 May 30
1 18 Petition: Proprietors of the Western Division of New Jersey to William Franklin (photostat) 1775 Jan. 24
1 19 Petition: Sundry Inhabitants of the County of Middlesex to William Frankin (photostat) 1775 Jan. 10
1 20 William Franklin, poem titled “Lines Written in Philadelphia Assembly Room” (includes typed transcipt) n. d.
1 21 William Franklin, to the Gentlemen of the Council ad Gentlemen of the Assembly 1775 Nov. 16
1 22 Governor Council and Assembly of His Majesty’s Province of New Jersey to the Governor of New Jersey 1770 Dec. 9
1 23 Governor Council and Assembly of His Majesty’s Province of New Jersey to the Governor of New Jersey 1770 June 6
1 24 Typescipt copy of William Frankin’s Will and biographical sketches 1770 June 6
1 25 Council minutes: Governor Franklin & the Delaware
1771 May 30
1 26 Petition: Hunterdon County residents to Governor William Franklin (photostat) 1774
Feb. 15

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