Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to [Lebègue de Presle], 4 October 1777

To [Lebègue de Presle4]

Facsimile: Yale University Library; 5 copy: Library of Congress

Passy, Oct. 4 1777


I am much oblig’d by your Communication of the Letter from England.6 I am of your Opinion that a Translation of it will not be proper for Publication here. Our Friend’s Expressions concerning Mr. Wilson will be thought too angry to be made use of by one Philosopher when speaking of another; and on a philosophical Question. He seems as much heated about this one Point, as the Jansenists and Molinists were about the Five.7 As to my writing any thing on the Subject, which you seem to desire, I think it not necessary; especially as I have nothing to add to what I have already said upon it in a Paper read to the Committee who ordered the Conductors at Purfleet, which Paper is printed in the last French Edition of my Writings.8 I have never entered into any Controversy in defence of my philosophical Opinions; I leave them to take their Chance in the World. If they are right, Truth and Experience will support them. If wrong, they ought to be refuted and rejected. Disputes are apt to sour ones Temper and disturb one’s Quiet. I have no private Interest in the Reception of my Inventions by the World, having never made nor proposed to make the least Profit by any of them. The King’s changing his pointed Conductors for blunt ones is therefore a Matter of small Importance to me. If I had a Wish about it, it would be that he had rejected them altogether as ineffectual, For it is only since he thought himself and Family safe from the Thunder of Heaven, that he dared to use his own Thunder in destroying his innocent Subjects.

Be pleased when you write to present my respectful Compliments and Thanks [to] Mr. Magellans. I have forwarded your Letter to your Brother, and am with great Esteem, Sir Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4WTF was confident that the letter was to Ingenhousz: WTF, Memoirs, (3rd ed.; 6 vols., London, 1818–19), II, 79–80; later editors have merely said that it was to a friend. It is clearly in answer to Lebègue’s above of Oct. 1.

5Although the Mason Collection, which includes all the Franklin MSS at Yale, has in general excellent acquisition records, we can find no trace of where this facsimile came from. It appears to be of a draft; if so the original has been lost, to the best of our knowledge, along with the ALS if there was one. WTF probably had the MS draft; he certainly had the copy made, for a note on it in his hand quotes the epigram, with slight variations, that we include in our note on Lebègue’s letter above, Oct. 1.

6Magellan’s letter of Sept. 15, enclosed in the one just cited.

7A 17th-century quarrel. The Jesuits were teaching the doctrines of one of their theologians, Luis Molina, who attempted to reconcile free will and predestination, and were attacked by Bishop Jansen or Jansenius in his Augustinus (1640); the Sorbonne condemned five main propositions of that work, and the Pope eventually concurred.

8See above, XIX, 244, 246–55.

Index Entries