Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Thomas Clap, 28 November 1751

To Thomas Clap5

ALS: Universitätsbibliothek, Sammlung Kestner, Karl Marx Universität, Leipzig

Philada. Nov. 28. 1751


I am heartily sorry for your Disappointment in Letort;6 I could not have imagin’d he would have behav’d so imprudently, and let so very profitable a Jobb slip thro’ his Fingers. I have done with him.

I hope you will be able to procure a Subscription to furnish your College with a compleat Apparatus for Natural Philosophy. If you are like to succeed I will contribute the Electrical Part.7

Bower8 has lain ever since in Mr. Parker’s Hands at New York. He desires you would order one of your Boatmen to call for it.

We had the Pleasure of a little of Mr. Whittelsey’s Company a few Days since.9 I hope he will get well home.

My Respects to all Friends. Please to accept the enclos’d from, Dear Sir, Your obliged humble Servant

B Franklin

Endorsed: B Franklins to President Clap. Novr. 28. 1751.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Thomas Clap (1703–1767), A.B., Harvard, 1722; minister at Windham, Conn., 1726–39; president of Yale College, 1740–66. Especially interested in science, he wrote several papers on astronomy, added to the scientific apparatus in the college, and sometimes assigned the students astronomical calculations for public examinations. The crude orrery or planetarium he made for the college, for less than “20s. lawful Money,” was described by Chauncey Whittelsey, a tutor, in Amer. Mag. and Hist. Chron., I (1743–44), 202–3. Ezra Stiles (Literary Diary, N.Y., 1901, II, 336) judged that though Clap was “no classical Scholar,” he had a stronger mind than his predecessor, Elisha Williams, “and surpassed him (as well as all the Presidents in Harv. Coll. & in all American Colleges) in Mathematics, Philosophy, and Astronomy.” DAB; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, VII, 27–50; Louis W. McKeehan, Yale Science: The First Hundred Years, 1701–1801 (N.Y., 1947), pp. 17–41; Clap, The Annals or History of Yale-College (New Haven, 1766), pp. 57–8.

6Not identified.

7Clap seems not to have opened a subscription at this time, and BF never had to make good his offer. But in 1756 £18 were “Given by sundry Gentlemen, towards purchasing an Air-Pump,” and Christopher Kilby, merchant and Massachusetts’ agent in London, gave an astronomical quadrant. Clap, Annals, p. 98. BF gave the college an electrical machine, assertedly in 1749 (Henry M. Fuller, “The Philosophical Apparatus of Yale College,” Papers in Honor of Andrew Keogh, New Haven, 1938, p. 171), for which Ezra Stiles expressed the thanks of the college in his oration, Feb. 5, 1755.

8Archibald Bower, The History of the Popes (2d edit., London, 1749), was a gift to Yale College from BF. The second volume (3d edit., London, 1750), inscribed by BF, was presented in 1754. Both are in Yale Univ. Lib.

9Chauncey Whittelsey (1717–1787), A.B., Yale, 1738; tutor in the college, 1739–45; importer in New Haven; member of the Assembly, 1751–56; ordained, 1758, and served first as assistant, then as minister of First Church, New Haven, 1758–87. Dexter, Biog. Sketches, I, 613–16.

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