Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Winthrop, 23 December 1762

To John Winthrop

MS not found; reprinted from American Autograph Shop, American Clipper (Merion Station, Pa.), December 1935, p. 171.8

Philad. Dec. 23, 1762.


Mr. Short’s Remarks were only in a Letter of his to me. I now send you the Original.9 You will observe that the Perallax [Parallax] mentioned in this, differs from that I sent you; But this was in the Beginning of February, the other he gave me in August; and I suppose had been corrected by Accounts received in the mean time from more Observers.1 I believe the Astronomers are still desirous that Provision should be made to observe the next Transit.

I thank you for your kind Congratulations; and for the College Poems which I hope my Son will have received before his Leaving of London. I send you in return some Poetical Blossoms of our young Seminary.2

Inclos’d is another Letter I receiv’d from a Friend while at Portsmouth, containing an Account of what was transacted at a late Board of Longitude.3 When you have read it, please to return it.

With great Esteem, I am, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant,

B. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8The description of this letter in American Clipper indicates that Winthrop used the blank pages of the ALS for the drafts of his reply to BF and a letter to James Short. Neither of those letters has been found in any form.

9On James Short, F.R.S., instrument maker, see DNB and above, p. 137 n. His letter has not been found.

1A brief report by Short on his observation of the transit of Venus, June 6, 1761, at Savile House, London, was read before the Royal Society, June 11, 1761. His longer paper, comparing observations made at many different points in Europe and at the Cape of Good Hope and determining the parallax of the sun from them, was read to the Society, Dec. 9, 1762. Phil. Trans., LII (1761–62), 178–81, 611–28. The information he had given BF in August 1762, before BF’s sailing, probably summarized the findings presented in the second of these papers.

2On the Harvard “College Poems” and the Philadelphia “Poetical Blossoms,” see above, pp. 176 n, and 167–8 n, respectively.

3BF had been a member of the Council of the Royal Society which had advised the Board of Longitude, July 3, 1761, on the equipment to be taken on the voyage to Jamaica to test John Harrison’s chronometer; see above, VII, 208–10. At a session on Aug. 17, 1762, the Board of Longitude voted Harrison and his son £1500 for the successful test (Gent. Mag., XXXII, 333); the first half of the grand prize offered by Parliament was not voted until 1764, and Harrison received the second half only in 1774. The friend from whom BF received news of the August 17 meeting might have been James Ferguson (above, VIII, 216 n), or one of BF’s Royal Society friends such as John Ellicott (1706?—1772), clockmaker and general scientist.

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