Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Edmund Quincy, 10 December 1761

To Edmund Quincy6

LS: Massachusetts Historical Society

London Decr. 10, 1761


I should sooner have answer’d your obliging Letter of Jany. 9.7 but that I hoped from time to time I might be able to obtain some satisfactory Answers to your Queries. As yet I have done little, that kind of Information being look’d upon as a Part of the Mysteries of Trade, which the Possessors are very shy of communicating. But I think I am now in a Train of obtaining more, of which I hope soon to give you a good Account. In the mean time I may inform you that great Quantities of Wine are made both here and at Bristol from Raisins, not by private Families only for their particular Use, but in the great Way by large Dealers, for the Country Consumption. As New England trades to Spain with their Fish, it would I imagine, be easy for you to furnish yourself at the best hand with Plenty of Raisins, and from them produce a genuine Wine of real Worth, that might be sold with you for good Profit. Being lately at a Friend’s House where I drank some old Raisin Wine that I found to be very good, I requested the [torn8] sound and good.9 It is thought here, that by far the greatest Part of the Wine drank in England is made in England. Fine Cyder or Perry is said to be the Basis, Sloes afford Roughness. Elder Berries Colour. And Brandy a little more Strength. But of this I have no certain Account. The Porter now so universally drank here, is, I am assured, fined down with Isinglass or Fish Glue, for which £60,000 per Annum is paid to Russia. Of late it has been discovered, that this Fish glue is nothing more than the Souns1 of Cod or other Fish extended and dry’d in the Sun, without any other Preparation: So you may make what Quantity you please of it, and cheap, Fish being with you so plenty. I heartily wish you Success in your Attempts to make Wine from American Grapes.2 None has yet been imported here for the Premium.3 With great Esteem, I am, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

P.S. The Negotiations for a Peace, in which Canada was to be forever ceded to England, are at present broken off.4 But whenever they are resum’d, I am persuaded that will be [torn].

N.B.5 One Ezl. [Ezekiel] hatch, near Greenwoods Mastyard, tells me that, the Cod Souns or other may be Sav’d by stringing up and drying, that under this Circumstance they will not dissolve in any liquor hot or Cold; but that taken and wrapp’d up in Clean linnen Cloath or other Cloath, and covered up in embers so as to wast them, they will then dissolve—and that they will answer the End of Glue; but not so well of Cod as the Souns of hake, which is catch’d in or near the fall; those many Joyners at distant places use as Glew for their Cabinet work: roasted first in order to dissolve as Glew.

Addressed: To / Mr Edmund Quincy / at Braintree or / Boston / [Fr]ee / [B Fr]anklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Edmund Quincy (1703–1788), A.B., Harvard, 1722; brother of Colonel Josiah (above, VI, 3 n) and uncle of the Edmund Quincy who had visited BF the previous winter and spring (above, p. 298 n). A business partnership in Boston with his brother Josiah continued until 1750 when it was dissolved and Edmund’s sons then joined him in a new firm. He removed to the ancestral home in Braintree in 1753, leaving the business for the most part to the somewhat incapable younger men, and went bankrupt four years later. Although he tried farming, merchandizing, and the retail liquor business, he gained most of his income during the rest of his life from fees earned as justice of the peace and of the quorum. Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, VII, 106–16.

7Not found.

8Enough of the bottom of the sheet has been torn off to account for the loss of one or possibly two lines of text here and at the end of the postscript. Part of the frank on the address page is lost for the same reason.

9The friend has not been certainly identified. In the Franklin Papers, XLIX, 72c, APS, is an undated recipe for making raisin wine, endorsed in BF’s hand “From Mr. Viney whose Wine was remarkably good.” This was Thomas Viny, a London coachmaker, whose friendship with BF seems to date only from about 1770. For this reason the editors have tentatively dated the recipe as of that year, but it is remotely possible that BF and Viny had known each other much longer and that BF was here referring to Viny’s product. In that case the missing part of the sentence may have said that BF had asked for the recipe and was sending a copy to Quincy with his commendation.

1Sounds: the organs of fish, primarily air bladders.

2Some years earlier BF had met Quincy during a trip to Boston, and learning of his interest in growing wine grapes, had gone to great pains to send him parcels of slips from Rhenish grape vines grown in Pa. L.H. Butterfield et al., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (Cambridge, Mass., 1961), I, 125–6.

3Beginning in 1758 the Society of Arts had been offering premiums for wines produced in the colonies. Robert Dossie, Memoirs of Agriculture, and other Œconomical Arts, I (London, 1768), 239–41.

4See above, p. 358 n.

5This note, written lengthwise in the margin, is in an unknown hand. It probably represents a memorandum added by Quincy or by some friend to whom he had shown BF’s letter. Ezekiel Hatch has not been identified; a Nathaniel Greenwood had started a shipyard in Boston about 1665 near the foot of Salutation Alley where the Union Wharf later stood. The shipyard was carried on by Greenwood’s descendants until 1741, when it was sold. Another Nathaniel Greenwood, “Mast Maker,” is listed in Boston in 1774. New-Eng. Hist. and Gen. Reg., XXVII (1873), 30; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, V, 483; VI, 471; I Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., XI (1869–70), 393.

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