Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Smith, 3 May 1753

To William Smith

ALS: Historical Society of Pennsylvania

Philada. May 3. 1753


Mr. Peters has just now been with me, and we have compar’d Notes on your new Piece.6 We find nothing in the Scheme of Education, however excellent, but what is, in our Opinion, very practicable. The great Difficulty will be, to find the Aratus,7 and other suitable Persons, in New York, to carry it into Execution; but such may be had, if proper Encouragement be given. We have both receiv’d great Pleasure in the Perusal of it. For my Part, I know not when I have read a Piece that has more affected me, so noble and just are the Sentiments, so warm and animated the Language. Yet, as Censure from your Friends may be of more Use as well as more agreable to you than Praise, I ought to mention, that I wish you had omitted, not only the Quotation from the Review,8 which you are now justly dissatisfy’d with, but all those Expressions of Resentment against your Adversaries, in Pages 65 and 79.9 In such Cases, the noblest Victory is obtained, by Neglect, and by Shining on.1

Mr. Allen has been out of Town these 10 days; but, before he went, directed me to procure him 6 of your Pieces, tho’ he had not and has not yet seen it. Mr. Peters has taken 10: He purposed to have wrote to you; but omits it as he expects so soon to have the Pleasure of seeing you here. He desires me to present his affectionate Regards to you, and to assure you, that you will be very welcome to him. I shall only say, that you may depend on my doing all in my Power to make your Visit to Philadelphia agreable to you. Yet methinks I would not have you omit bringing a Line or two to Mr. Allen. If you are more notic’d here on Account of such Recommendation, yet as that Recommendation will be founded on your Merit, known best where you have so long resided, the Notice may be esteem’d to be as much “on the Score of something you can call your own,” as if it were merely on Account of the Pieces you have written.

I will take Care to forward your Letter to Mr. Millar,2 by a Vessel that sails next Week. I purposed to have sent one of the Books to Mr. Cave; but as it may possibly be a Disappointment to Mr. Millar if Cave should print it, I shall forbear; and only send two or three to some particular Friends.

I thank you for your Information concerning the Author of the Dialogues.3 I had been misinform’d: But saw with Concern in some of the publick Papers last Year, an Article of News, relating, That one Mr. Fordyce, the ingenious Author of the Dialogues on Education, perished by Shipwreck on the Coast of Holland, in returning home from his Tour to Italy. The Sermon on the Eloquence of the Pulpit is ascribed (in the Review for August 1752) to Mr. James Fordyce, Minister at Brechin.

I am, with great Esteem, Sir, Your humble Servant

B Franklin

Mr. Smith

Addressed: To  Mr Wm Smith  Long Island  Free  BF.

Endorsed: B. Franklin Esqr May 3d. 1753

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6A General Idea of the College of Mirania (N.Y., 1753).

7Aratus: principal of the College of Mirania; probably adapted from Aratus of Soli (fl. 315–245 B.C.), Greek poet of astronomy and weather. Samuel Johnson of Stratford, Conn. (see above, III, 477 n) was the Aratus intended for New York. Herbert W. and Carol Schneider, eds., Samuel Johnson: … His Career and Writings (N.Y., 1929), I, 168.

8Monthly Review, IV (1750–51), 37–8. This is a review of John Green, The Academic: or a Disputation on the State of the University of Cambridge (London, 1750). Smith had these remarks deleted from later printings.

9On p. 65 of Mirania Smith commented angrily on those who opposed the college (i.e., the college planned for New York), “either because they Themselves cou’d not model it to their own Minds, or that they might favor the Interests of those that were already model’d in other Places.” On p. 79 he retorted on those who impugned his motives in making the proposal for a college. On Smith’s abuse of English universities, see also Schneider, Johnson, II, 331–3; IV, 3–5.

1Cf. above, I, 134 n.

2Andrew Millar, London printer. The book was probably Johnson’s Elementa Philosophica, which Millar printed 1754. Smith prepared the edition, making numerous alterations in the text, which displeased Johnson. Schneider, Johnson, II, 333.

3David Fordyce (1711–1751), author of Dialogues on Education (London, 1745–48). See above, III, 398. His brother James (1720–1796), minister of Brechin, Scotland, was author of The Eloquence of the Pulpit (London, 1752), often reprinted with David’s posthumous Theodorus. DNB.

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