To Cadwallader Colden
ALS: New-York Historical Society
Philada. Oct. 11. 1750
I have learnt by different hands, that Dr. Mitchel continues in a bad State of Health,3 which I suppose obliges him to drop his Correspondencies. ’Tis a Loss to us all.
Messrs. Bertram and Evans did not go their intended Journey to Lake Erie, but are both safe at home.4 Mr. Weiser is just return’d from Onondago, and gives a melancholly Account of the declining State of the English and Encrease of the French Interest among the Six Nations.5 I hope the Interview intended with them by your Government will be a Means of securing their Attachment to the British Nation. Methinks a great deal depends on you in this important Affair.6
I wish you all the Satisfaction that Ease and Retirement from Publick Business can possibly give you: But let not your Love of Philosophical Amusements have more than its due Weight with you. Had Newton been Pilot but of a single common Ship, the finest of his Discoveries would scarce have excus’d, or atton’d for his abandoning the Helm one Hour in Time of Danger; how much less if she had carried the Fate of the Commonwealth.7
Forgive this Freedom, and believe me to be, with the sincerest Esteem and Affection, Dear Sir, Your obliged humble Servant
P.S. All my Electrical Papers are transcribing for a Gentleman in Boston,8 to whom I shall send them per next Post thro’ your Hands. If you please you may keep them a Week or two to peruse; and if you find any thing in them worth Copying, ’tis at your Service. My last Paper, which you have not yet seen, is the largest, and the fullest on the Nature and Operations of the Electrical Matter.9
Addressed: To The honble Cadwalader Colden Esqr New York Free B Franklin
3. Dr. John Mitchell (see above, II, 415 n) explained to John Bartram that he suffered from “a vertiginous disorder” which made it painful “even to sit down to take a pen in my hand.” Darlington, Memorials, p. 366.
4. See above, p. 6 n.
5. Governor Hamilton reported to the Assembly, Oct. 16, 1750, Weiser’s “very disagreeable News, to wit, That … thro’ the indefatigable Industry of the French, not only the Six Nations at Onondago are much shaken in their Affections to Us, and inclining to go over to our Rivals, but the Indians at Ohio are in great Danger of being corrupted by their Presents or subdued by their Arms, unless some proper and speedy Measures are taken to prevent it.” Pa. Col. Recs., V, 485.
6. Governor Clinton of New York invited representatives of the neighboring colonies to an Indian conference at Albany in 1751. The Pennsylvania Assembly asked Governor Hamilton to send Weiser with a present for the Indians, but thought it unnecessary to make a treaty. Pa. Col. Recs., V, 524–5, 526, 541–3.
7. Colden was soon afterwards offered the post of Secretary for Indian Affairs, but declined it because the salary arrangements were uncertain. Colden Paps., IV, 253–4. For his long analysis of the state of Indian relations in North America, Aug. 8, 1751, see ibid., pp. 271–87. BF’s attitude and appeal were quite different from Thomas Jefferson’s in a similar case. In 1778 the latter urged the astronomer David Rittenhouse to resume the scientific studies he had deserted for revolutionary politics, firmly declaring, “No body can conceive that nature ever intended to throw away a Newton upon the occupations of a crown.” Julian P. Boyd and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, II, 203.
8. James Bowdoin. See the next document.
9. BF to Collinson, July 29, 1750, above, pp. 9–34.