Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to James Johnston, 10 February 1773

To James Johnston2

ALS (letterbook draft): Library of Congress

London, Feb. 10. 1773


I received your Letter, with the Sample of N. American Senna, which I put into the Hands of a Friend who is a great Botanist as well as a Physician,3 and has made some Trial of it. He tells me that to render it merchantable here, the Stalks should be pick’d out, and the Leaves pack’d up neatly, as that is which comes from the Levant. Perhaps among your Druggists you might see some of those Packages, and so inform yourself of the manner. He has not yet had sufficient Experience of it to be decisive in his Opinion of its Qualities in Comparison with other Senna, but thinks it likely that it may answer the same purposes. Of the Quantity that may be in demand here, I have yet been able to obtain no Intelligence. I am, Sir, Your humble Servant

B Franklin

Mr James Johnston

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2We have not the remotest idea who he was. The letter to which BF is replying has been lost, and the reply when sent was never delivered. BF addressed it to James Johnston (WF spelled it Johnson) at Philadelphia, and it turned up in the equivalent of the dead letter office because no one could identify the man. WF to BF below, April 30. The lists of unclaimed letters published that year in the Pa. Gaz. contain none to a Philadelphian of the name, however spelled. BF seems to have known little more about the man than we do.

3Undoubtedly Dr. John Fothergill. Senna, as a purgative, was part of a doctor’s pharmacopoeia.

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