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David Barclay and the grandson of Robert Barclay of Ury, the famous Quaker theologian and “ Apologist.”
He died in 1771 and the property then became the home of David Franks, the son of Jacob and Abigail Franks, and an eminent Jewish merchant. He was very prominent socially and a public-spirited man, the signer of the Non-Importation Resolutions in 1765, in which the signers agreed“ not to have any goods shipped from Great Britain until after the repeal of the Stamp Act,” a member of the Provincial Assembly in 1748, the register of wills, and a subscriber to the City Dancing Assembly. He married Margaret, daughter of Peter Evans, and has been thought to have deserted the faith of his fathers. This, however, is disproved by an affidavit he made before Judge Peters in 1792. The family was descended from Aaron Franks, the companion and friend of King George of Hanover, to whom he loaned the most valuable jewels in the crown at the coronation. The son Jacob came to New York about 1711, and his son David came to Philadelphia soon after 1738, a niece having married Haym Salomon, whose money joined with Robert Morris's in financing the Revolution.
David Franks was the agent of the Crown in Philadelphia during the troublous times and was made commissary of the British prisoners in the American lines until 1778, when he was detected in endeavouring to transmit a letter inimical to the American cause. His neighbour, General Benedict Arnold, in command of Philadelphia and living in the Macpherson mansion nearby, arrested him and threw him into gaol. He was deprived of his commission as commissary and compelled to re
move to New York in 1780. His sister, Fila Franks, married Captain Oliver De Lancey, of New York, who, with Major André, painted the decorations for the “Mischianza” and served with credit in the Provincial troops during the Revolution. He was made a brigadiergeneral, and died in England in 1785.
David Franks had four children-Abigail, who married Andrew Hamilton of the Woodlands, afterwards attorney-general of the State; Jacob, Mary or Polly, and Rebecca, who married Lieutenant-Colonel, afterward General, Sir Henry Johnson, defeated and captured by General Anthony Wayne at Stony Point. Rebecca Franks was the most striking figure in a notable galaxy of society lights. She was brilliant, witty and of a winsome presence, the most graceful among the graceful, the most beautiful among the beautiful. Born about 1760, well educated, at home in the classics, familiar with Milton, Goldsmith, Swift, and others, she was of that group of aristocrats, who having derived their wealth and prosperity from the favour of the Crown, sided with the Loyalists and favoured law, order, and property as opposed to mobs and violence. She was a gifted writer and has left in her letters interesting accounts of the society of the day as well as a poem of some fifteen hundred lines written in the summer of 1779, which is a political satire full of unmeasured abuse of the leaders of the Revolutionary War. General Howe was in the habit of tying his horse in front of the house in which the Franks lived and going in to have a chat with the wit of the day.
This sprightly person was naturally one of the belles of the celebrated “Mischianza ” given May 18, 1778, by
the British officers in honour of General Howe upon his departure. The word is an Italian one and signifies a medley. It was celebrated upon a scale of magnificence rarely equalled in those days and its description reads like a page from Ivanhoe, forcibly calling to mind the days of chivalry. The guests embarked from Green Street wharf and proceeded in a river pageant to what is now Washington Avenue, where they landed and advanced to Joseph Wharton's place, Walnut Grove, situated at about what is now Fifth Street and Washington Avenue. After this there was a tournament in which England's bravest soldiers appeared in honour of Philadelphia's fairest women, being divided into six Knights of the Blended Rose and six Knights of the Burning Mountain, each wearing the colours of his particular princess. Lord Cathcart led the former, appearing in honour of Miss Auchmuty, the only English maiden present and the betrothed of Captain Montresor, chief engineer. The Knights of the Burning Mountain were led by Captain Watson, who appeared for Miss Franks.
She was dressed in a white silk gown, trimmed with blue and white sash edged with black. It was a polonaise dress, which formed a flowing robe and was open in front to the waist. The sash, six inches wide, was filled with spangles, also the veil which was edged with silver lace. The headdress was towering, in the fashion of the time, and filled with a profusion of pearls. Major André planned most of the entertainment and has left a detailed account of it as well as drawings of the costumes. He painted many of the decorations and Captain Montresor of the engineers planned the fireworks. After
the tourney there was a supper with royalist toasts followed by dancing until four o'clock, and all in the midst of a bloody war and within a few miles of the enemy!
After the evacuation of the city by the British army, Lieutenant Jack Stewart of Maryland, calling upon Miss Franks in a scarlet coat, remarked, “I have adopted your colours, my princess, the better to secure a kind reception; deign to smile on a true knight.” The beauty did not reply, but addressing some friends in the room exclaimed, “How the ass glories in the lion's skin.” A commotion arising in the street at the time, they looked out and saw a figure in female attire with ragged skirts and bare feet, but with the exaggerated headdress of the Tory ladies. The unfortunate officer remarked that, “ the lady was equipped altogether in the English fashion.” “Not altogether, Colonel,” replied Miss Franks," for though the style of her head is British, her shoes and stockings are in the genuine Continental fashion.” When the French Alliance was announced, the patriots wore cockades in its honour. Miss Franks tied one of these to her dog and bribed a servant to turn it into the ballroom where Mrs. Washington was giving a reception to the French minister. It is to be hoped that having lost her manners she lost her dog as well.
In a letter to her sister, Mrs. Hamilton, she writes the most detailed and piquant account that we possess of New York social life during the Revolution.
She thinks that it is in the powers of entertaining that New Yorkers are most deficient:
Bye the bye, few ladies here know how to entertain company in their own houses, unless they introduce the card table.