Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Cadwallader Colden, 29 September 1748

To Cadwallader Colden

ALS: New-York Historical Society

Philada. Sept. 29. 1748


I received your Favour of the 12th Inst.8 which gave me the greater Pleasure, as ’twas so long since I had heard from you. I congratulate you on your Return to your beloved Retirement: I too am taking the proper Measures for obtaining Leisure to enjoy Life and my Friends more than heretofore, having put my Printing house under the Care of my Partner David Hall, absolutely left off Bookselling, and remov’d to a more quiet Part of the Town,9 where I am settling my old Accounts and hope soon to be quite a Master of my own Time, and no longer (as the Song has it) at every one’s Call but my own. If Health continues, I hope to be able in another Year to visit the most distant Friend I have, without Inconvenience. With the same Views I have refus’d engaging further in publick Affairs; The Share I had in the late Association, &c. having given me a little present Run of Popularity, there was a pretty general Intention of chusing me a Representative for the City at the next Election of Assemblymen; but I have desired all my Friends who spoke to me about it, to discourage it, declaring that I should not serve if chosen. Thus you see I am in a fair Way of having no other Tasks than such as I shall like to give my self, and of enjoying what I look upon as a great Happiness, Leisure to read, study, make Experiments, and converse at large with such ingenious and worthy Men as are pleas’d to honour me with their Friendship or Acquaintance, on such Points as may produce something for the common Benefit of Mankind, uninterrupted by the little Cares and Fatigues of Business. Among other Pleasures I promise my self, that of Corresponding more frequently and fully with Dr. Colden is none of the least; I shall only wish that what must be so agreable to me, may not prove troublesome to you.

I thank you for your kind recommending of me to Mr. Osborne.1 Mr. Read would readily have put the Books into my Hands, but it being now out of my Way to dispose of them, I propos’d to Mr. Hall the Taking them into his Shop; but he having look’d over the Invoice, says they are charg’d so extravagantly high, that he cannot sell them for any Profit to himself, without hurting the Character of his Shop: He will however, at my Request, take the Indian Histories and put them on Sale; but the rest of the Cargo must lie I believe for Mr. Osborne’s further Orders: I shall write to him by our next Vessels.

I am glad you have had an Opportunity of gaining the Friendship of Govr. Shirley, with whom tho’ I have not the honour of being particularly acquainted, I take him to be a wise, good and worthy Man.2 He is now a Fellow-Sufferer with you, in being made the Subject of some public virulent and senseless Libels: I hope they give him as little Pain.3

Mr. Bartram continues well. Here is a Swedish Gentleman, a Professor of Botany, lately arriv’d,4 and I suppose will soon be your Way, as he intends for Canada. Mr. Collinson and Dr. Mitchel recommend him to me as a very ingenious Man: Perhaps the enclos’d (left at the Post Office for you)5 may be from him. I have not seen him since the first Day he came. I deliver’d yours to Mr. Evans;6 and when I next see Mr. Bartram, shall acquaint him with what you say. I am, with great Esteem and Respect, Dear Sir Your most obliged humble Servant

B Franklin

Addressed: To  The honble Cadwalader Colden Esqr  Coldengham  Free B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Not found.

9At the northwest corner of Second and Sassafras (or Race) Streets. Pa. Gaz., May 31, 1750.

1Thomas Osborne of London printed Colden’s History of the Five Indian Nations and sent 50 copies to Deborah Franklin’s relative James Read to sell in Philadelphia. See above, p. 170 n. The books that Hall would not sell are not identified. See also above, p. 175, and below, p. 322.

2William Shirley (1694–1771), London barrister, emigrated to Boston in 1731. After holding various public offices in New England, he was governor of Massachusetts, 1741–57. Appointed major general in 1755, he acted as commander in chief of the British forces in North America from Braddock’s death that summer until the arrival of James Abercromby the following June. He was governor of the Bahamas, 1759–67. Charles H. Lincoln, ed., Correspondence of William Shirley (N.Y., 1912), I, xxi–xxxi; DAB; Amer. Hist. Assoc. Report for 1911 (Washington, 1913), I, 404, 469.

3Colden had accompanied Governor Clinton of New York and Governor Shirley of Massachusetts to an Indian conference at Albany in July. Mutual liking and respect had developed between Colden and Shirley, and the latter urged Clinton to call Colden back into public life: he had withdrawn under the bitter attacks of Chief Justice DeLancey’s party. For his defense of his conduct, see Colden Paps., III, 433, and Alice M. Keys, Cadwallader Colden (N.Y., 1906), pp. 199–215. Some of the “senseless Libels” against Shirley were that he had profited personally in handling public funds and disposing of commissions in the army. A refutation of the charges is in Lincoln, ed., Shirley Correspondence, I, 457–60.

4Peter Kalm (see above, p. 300 n.) landed at Philadelphia Sept. 4, but went immediately into the country to botanize. In the next few weeks he visited John Bartram frequently, at least once with the painter Gustavus Hesselius; was a guest of Peter Cock (or Kock) at the latter’s country place near Germantown; and traveled among the Swedish settlements in New Jersey. Kalm Travels, I, 17, 114–24.

5Probably Kalm’s letter to Colden, dated Philadelphia, Sept. 29, enclosing a letter from Linnaeus and some pamphlets. It is printed in Colden Paps., IV, 77–8.

6Colden may have been providing information to Lewis Evans for his map of 1749. Evans to Colden, March 13, 1749, Colden Paps., IV, 107–8.

Index Entries