Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Griffith Jones, 6 October 1763

From Griffith Jones2

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Bolt Court Fleet Street
London, October 6, 1763


Though I presume Mr. Cumming’s Letter,3 which you receive at the same time with this, informs you of the Motive which induced the Friends of the Bearer to send him to Philadelphia; yet as being the Father of the Boy,4 I thought it necessary for your Satisfaction, briefly to relate to you my Reasons for taking this Step; and likewise to give you some Account of the Abilities of the Lad. He has from his Infancy been brought up in the Principles and Practice of Religion; but having had from the very Beginning of his Apprenticeship too much Liberty to go out after the Business of the Day was over (an Indulgence of a very pernicious Nature for Youth in this vice-abounding Metropolis) he began to contract an Acquaintance with Boys of the like Age and Situation with himself, and to go with them to Places of Entertainment; which I luckily heard of, just at the Commencement of their Connexion; and fearing that he might run into Irregularities and Extravagancies not suitable to his Age and Station, I consulted Mr. Cumming, with whose Friendship I am honoured, who advised the sending him abroad, and pointed out the Method I have been so free as to take of assigning him over to you for the Remainder of his Time. To this his Master, who is my particular Friend, at my Request, consented: And I should think myself extremely happy, if you, Sir, a Gentleman, of whom Mr. Cumming has given the most amiable Character, and which is confirmed by the universal Voice, will be so good as to accept him; and I hope he will prove an useful, diligent, and faithful Servant to you. As to his Abilities; he is now capable of earning his Bread, having serving two Years of his Time, and can work well. He has learnt Latin and a little Greek; can speak French fluently, and translate it as well as most of his Years. His Behaviour so far as I have ever seen or heard is orderly and obliging. But as Boys of his Age have seldom Resolution to withstand Temptation, I should esteem it as a great Favour, if you would give Instructions to the Person whom you shall think proper to place him under, that he may [be] kept closely to work, and not suffer’d to ramble out after the Hours of Business; but employ himself at Leisure Times in improving himself in French, Latin, &c. The Assignment is made according to the Custom of London, but if you think it not obligatory in Philadelphia, you are at Liberty to bind him in what Manner you think proper.5 Not to trespass longer on your Time or Patience; permit me to conclude with assuring you, that if I can transact any Kind of Business for you here, I shall think myself highly honoured by receiving your Commands, and am with the most profound Respect, Sir Your most Obedient Humble Servant

G. Jones

Addressed: To / Dr Benjam Franklin, / Philadelphia

Endorsed: Mr Cumming and Griffith Jones

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Griffith Jones (1722–1786), printer, journalist, and writer, trained as a printer under William Bowyer and then set up in business in Bolt Court, off Fleet Street. He was associated with Samuel Johnson in the Literary Magazine and with Tobias Smollett and Oliver Goldsmith in the British Magazine. During his career he was also editor of the London Chronicle, Daily Advertiser, and Public Ledger. In addition to writing various translations from the French and original pieces in English, he collaborated with his brother Giles in a series of popular books for children known as “Lilliputian Histories.” DNB.

3See the document immediately below, which should be read in conjunction with this letter.

4Lewis (later spelled Louis) Jones (b. 1748) was the eldest son in a family of three boys and one girl. He was educated at St. Paul’s School. DNB (under “Griffith Jones”).

5The subsequent career of Lewis Jones shows a regrettable failure to avoid those “Irregularities and Extravagancies” his father wanted him to escape by going to America. BF assigned the balance of the boy’s apprenticeship to his friend and fellow printer James Parker in Woodbridge, N.J. After Jones had completed his time he went to work for a N.Y. printer, Hugh Gaine. A year later, Jan. 11, 1769, he married Mary Bennett (Gideon J. Tucker, Names of Persons for whom Marriage Licenses were issued by the Secretary of the Province of New York, previous to 1784, Albany, 1860, p. 208), a girl Parker described as “among the poorer sort.” Soon Jones was caught using a counterfeit theater ticket to attend a play in N.Y. He accused Parker’s son of giving him the ticket, but Parker easily proved that it had been printed in Gaine’s shop. A little later Jones was arrested and indicted on three counts of uttering counterfeit N.J. bills of credit—a hanging offense. Parker generously came to his aid as a character witness, apparently using the BF connection in his testimony, and Jones was acquitted. With Parker’s financial help he went off to Charleston, So. Car., but later returned to N.Y., where he continued to scrape out an existence for his wife, six children, and himself as a journeyman printer. In 1786 he wrote BF that he then had “the conducting and management” of The New-York Morning Post while its owner, William Morton, languished in jail for publishing “an obscene pamphlet called The Philosophical Theresa.” Jones asked BF to help him find “a more eligible situation,” but there is no evidence that BF did anything more for him. Parker to BF, April 23, 24, 25, May 10, 1770, 2 Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., XVI (1902), 225–7; Jones to BF, Feb. 12, 1786, APS.

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