Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Cadwallader Colden, 13 September 1744

To Cadwallader Colden

ALS: Yale University Library

Philada. Sept. 13. 1744


Dr. Mitchel,5 a Gentleman from Virginia, came to Town this Morning with Mr. Bertram, and we have been together all Day,6 which has hindred my Writing to you as I intended. We are to go to Mr. Logan’s tomorrow, when I shall have an Opportunity of knowing his Sentiments of your Piece on Fluxions.7 I am Sir Your most humble Servant

B Franklin

Addressed: To  The Honbl Cadwalr Colden Esqr  N York  Free  BF

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5John Mitchell (d. 1768), physician, naturalist, map maker; studied medicine at Edinburgh and settled in Urbanna, Virginia, in the 1720’s, where he became a justice of the peace of Middlesex County. He traveled much in North America; on his visit to Philadelphia, 1744, he allowed copies to be made of his treatises on yellow fever (see below, p. 418) and pines. Mitchell collected and described American plants, many of which he introduced into the British Isles; corresponded with European and American naturalists; and became a member of the APS, 1744. After contributing articles on such varied topics as the opossum, potash, electricity, and race and color to the Phil. Trans., he was elected Fellow of the Royal Society, 1748. On a voyage to England in 1746 he was captured by the French and lost all his papers. From the records of the Board of Trade he prepared an authoritative Map of the British and French Dominions in North America, 1755, that was frequently reproduced. It was used in the peace negotiations of 1782–83 and in many controversies regarding boundaries and grants, and was reckoned by Lawrence Martin to be “without serious doubt ... the most important map in American history.” BF’s last surviving letter (to Thomas Jefferson, April 8, 1790) concerns this map. DAB; DNB; Theodore Hornberger, “The Scientific Ideas of John Mitchell,” Huntington Lib. Quar., x (1946–47), 277–96; Raymond P. Stearns, “Colonial Fellows of the Royal Society, 1661–1788,”

3 Wm. and Mary Quar., III (1946), 239–40.

6In a letter to Colden, Nov. 2, 1744, Bartram gave a pleasant account of Mitchell’s visit to Philadelphia: “He did me the honour of Calling at my house and staid all night. And I next morning to demonstrate the kindness and esteem I had for his Company went with him to town and he being an intire stranger I introduced him into the company of our friend Benjamin to whose Care I left him for the present. He staid in town near thre weeks so that I had the favour of his Company many times at my house, in the fields and in the woods, which I was well pleased with. He is an excelent Phisition and Botanist and hath dipped in the Mathematicks which inclined A Gentleman in Town well known to us to say to me that our docters was but novices to him. But another person more volatil and more extravangantly expressed his value for him tould me thay had not the Milioneth part of his knowledge.” Colden Pap., III, 79.

7See below, p. 417.

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