Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to James Burrow, 10 May 1765

To James Burrow5

MS not found; reprinted from George Everett Hastings, The Life and Works of Francis Hopkinson (Chicago, [1926]), pp. 119–20.

Craven Street, May 10th 1765


In the papers you returned to me yesterday, I find a Memorandum that you had “told the Bishop of Worcester of his Relatives in the West Indies, of whom he seemed desirous to be further informed.”6

I therefore send you the following short Account of those who live in Philadelphia, which if you think proper may be communicated to his Lordship.

Mrs. Hopkinson, Daughter of Mr. Baldwin Johnson, is greatly esteemed by the People of this Place, as a prudent and good Woman. Her Husband, Mr. Hopkinson, was in Repute as a Lawyer, sometime Judge of the Admiralty Court and one of the Governor’s Council; Great Confidence was plac’d in him wherever he was employ’d, as he was not only an able Man, but of great Integrity. He left her a Widow about 12 years since, with 5 young Children, two sons and three Daughters to bring up.7 These she has carefully educated, genteelly, but frugally, out of the Income of a small Estate, and I believe without much diminishing their Portions. Her eldest Son, Francis, had a College Education at Philadelphia, where he took his Degree, has since read Law under the Attorney General, but still lives with his Mother, and has not entered into any material Business as yet. He is a very ingenious young Man, and is daily growing in Esteem for his good Morals and obliging Disposition. The oldest Daughter, an amiable Woman, is married to Mr. Duché, a young Clergyman of the Church of England, a Native of this Place and of a good Family. He study’d sometime at Cambridge in England, where I saw him in 1759, a gentleman Commoner.8 He was ordained here in 1762, and has a Church at Philadelphia, where he is much follow’d as a serious Preacher, and at the same time admir’d for his singular Eloquence in the Pulpit. Another of these valuable Daughters I have heard is shortly to be married to Dr. Morgan,9 a young Physician, who has distinguished himself by his great Application to his Studies here and at Edinborough, and by his extraordinary Improvement. It is the same that had the Honour of being chosen a Member of our Society1 a few Weeks since, and is just gone home to America. The other Children are still young, but promising.

Mrs. Hopkinson’s Motive to the enquiry we have made for her, I take to be chiefly that natural Curiosity which People have to know something of their Relations, there being a Satisfaction in learning their Circumstances and hearing of their Welfare, however remote in Degree or Situation. I have therefore been the more particular in this Account of her Family, supposing it will give the same kind of Satisfaction to her Relatives here.

With great Esteem and many Thanks for the Pains you have so obligingly taken in this Affair, I am, Sir Your most obedient humble Servant

B. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5James Burrow (1701–1782) was a lawyer, an antiquarian, and a serious student of natural philosophy. From 1733 until his death he was master of the Crown Office at the Court of King’s Bench and his voluminous reports of the causes argued there were highly esteemed, going through several editions. He was elected bencher of the Inner Temple in 1754, reader in 1764, and treasurer in 1765. He was elected F.R.S. in 1741, served as its vice president for 30 years, and twice as its temporary president. Burrow’s chief scientific interest was earthquakes, on which he published five papers in Phil. Trans. DNB.

6The Bishop of Worcester was James Johnson (1705–1774), B.A., Christ Church, Oxford, 1728; D.D., 1742. From 1733 to 1748 Johnson was master of Westminster School; in 1748 he was appointed King’s chaplain in ordinary through the influence of the Duke of Newcastle; in 1752 he was elevated to the see of Gloucester, and in 1759 he was translated to Worcester. The bishop’s uncle, Baldwin Johnson (b. c. 1672), emigrated as a young man to Antigua, where he acquired a considerable fortune. He migrated to Maryland in 1713 or 1714, married there a Mary Dyer, and moved on to Philadelphia. To Baldwin Johnson and his wife was born in 1718 a daughter, Mary, who in 1736 married BF’s friend and fellow Junto member, Thomas Hopkinson (above, I, 209 n; IV, 208 n). Mary Hopkinson was, then, the Bishop of Worcester’s first cousin. Before BF left Philadelphia in November 1764, she had asked him to inquire after her relatives in England (see below, p. 200) and must have mentioned her connection with the bishop. In addition to enlisting Burrow’s aid, BF had asked one Trevor Newland to make inquiries at Lacock, the ancestral Johnson home in Wiltshire; see above, p. 105. One result of the investigation undertaken for Mrs. Hopkinson was a trip to England in 1766–67 by her son Francis, who tried—fruitlessly as it turned out—to secure an official position through the influence of his cousin the bishop. George E. Hastings, The Life and Works of Francis Hopkinson (Chicago, [1926]), pp. 16–20, 119–56.

7Thomas Hopkinson died on Nov. 5, 1751, leaving his widow with six children to raise. Of these the most distinguished was the eldest son Francis (1737–1791), lawyer, judge, writer, musician, politician, and signer of the Declaration of Independence; see ibid. and DAB. The eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married the prominent Philadelphia Anglican clergyman, Jacob Duché, Jr. (above, VII, 170–1 n). Another daughter, Mary, married Dr. John Morgan (above, IX, 374 n). The three remaining children were Jane, who never married; Ann, who married a Samuel Coale; and Thomas, an Episcopal clergyman. For the Hopkinson children, see Charles P. Keith, The Provincial Councillors of Pennsylvania (Phila., 1883), pp. 266–78.

8BF visited Cambridge in July 1758, but there is no record of a visit the next year. See above, VIII, 133–4.

9Mary Hopkinson married Dr. John Morgan, Sept. 5, 1765; see below, p. 308. He was the founder of the first medical school in America and the physician-in-chief of the American Army during the Revolution.

1The Royal Society. For Morgan’s election, see Whitfield J. Bell, Jr., John Morgan Continental Doctor (Phila., [1965]), pp. 101–2.

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