Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Francis Bernard, 13 December 1763

From Francis Bernard1

Letterbook copy: Harvard College Library

Boston Decr. 13. 1763


The Surveyor General2 having this day acquainted me that he shall to morrow send an express to Philadelphia, I take this oppurtunity to add to the trouble I have before given you on Account of my Son. By the last Post I received a letter dated Alexandria Novr. 16; by which I find he had not then been made acquainted with any orders of yours in his favor, which is well accounted for by his adding that there were then two mails due from Philadelphia.

As the Bearer of this (Mr. Wyer3) is well known to me, and will go to Philadelphia to return hither immediately if my Son shall not be forwarded to me, when this Messenger arrives, I should like to have him return with him, as Wyer is quite a Master of the road, and can, I suppose, furnish him with a horse from Stage to Stage, and will take due care of him. If He should not be arrived at Philadelphia when Wyer comes, I would have Wyer (with your Approbation, as the expediency will depend upon Circumstances) go on to Alexandria, for which Journey I must be alone answerable to him: but this will depend upon the Necessity of his returning from Philadelphia immediately; of which I am not now a Judge. So that upon the whole I must beg the favour of you to order evry thing as you shall think for the best. As I think it greatly against probability that my Son will return with Wyer, as I suppose the Much greater chance will be that he is set out before, I shall not provide Wyer with Money, relying upon your goodness, if there should be occasion to furnish him with what shall be Necessary, which will be thankfully repaid whenever you shall order it.

Least my Son should suffer in your opinion by his extravagation, which you may Perceive has not been agreable to me, I will give you my real thoughts of him. He is an uncommon schollar being master of the Latin Greek and Hebrew Languages to a greater perfection than I believe allmost any of his age is of all the three. His present Misfortune is that having been worked too much (by Himself) in litteral learning, he now runs riot at the entrance of Science, altho’ abundant curiosity is among his chief faults. He is therefore impelled by a precipitate desire of hurrying into the Study of Life and manners, altho’ in my Opinion by no means qualifyed for it as yet: whereas I think it necessary that he should pass thro’ the medium of Science, before he begins to read men. This is at present or rather is to be an interesting dispute between us, which must be soon determined by his returning or not to Christ Church at Oxford of which he is a Student, an appointment equivalent to that of a fellow of another Colledge.4

I informed you, when at Boston of my thoughts of Sending a Son of mine to the Colledge at Philadelphia;5 and desired that you would furnish me with advice concerning lodging of him and other management. He is a very good Classick Scholar for his age, which is under 14, and will be above the common pitch by next Summer, as he now remains at School beyond the usuall time of the class he is in, all of which, besides himself, according to usage, went to College last Summer. I should not choose to Spend more of his time than 3 years in Academical Exercises, which I think you told me was all that was required at Pensylvania. I should be glad to have your thought upon this Subject at your own time. I am &c.

Benjm. Franklin Esqr.

1On the subject matter of most of this letter, see above, pp. 353–4.

2John Temple (1732–1798), was born in Boston in a family related to the Grenvilles and Pitts in England. He married a daughter of James Bowdoin (above, IV, 69 n). He was surveyor general of the customs for the Northern District, 1761–67; one of the commissioners of the customs, 1767–74; lieutenant governor of New Hampshire, 1761–74; and the first British consul general in the U.S., 1785–98. He succeeded to the Temple baronetcy in 1786. His involvement with BF in the affair of the Hutchinson letters in 1772 and the somewhat equivocal part he played during the American Revolution will bring him more extended notice in later volumes.

3Probably an employee of the customs service.

4In a letter of March 31, 1764, to his patron and relative by marriage, Lord Barrington, Governor Bernard gave a somewhat longer and more candid appraisal of his son, stressing the youth’s instability and “boundless Curiosity.” Illustrating the latter characteristic, the father commented: “I dare say He had rather be appointed Secretary to an Embassy to China, than have a place of five times the Value at home.” Edward Channing and Archibald C. Coolidge, eds., The Barrington-Bernard Correspondence and Illustrative Matter 1760–1770 (Cambridge, Mass., 1912), pp. 73–5.

5This was Thomas Bernard (1750–1818), the governor’s third son. Instead of attending the College of Philadelphia, he went to Harvard, receiving his A.B. in 1767. He was called to the bar from the Middle Temple in 1780, specialized for some years in conveyancing, and then retired to devote himself to philanthropic enterprises. He was treasurer of the Foundling Hospital, 1795–1806; a founder of the Royal Institution, Piccadilly, 1800; chancellor of the diocese of Durham, 1801; and helped to establish, among other institutions, a school for training teachers at Bishop Aukland in 1808. Two years later he inherited from his next older brother the baronetcy which had been conferred on their father in 1769. DNB.

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