Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Vernon, Sr., 7 December 1778

From William Vernon, Sr.7

Two copies:8 American Philosophical Society

Boston 7th. Decr 1778


My son Mr William Vernon Junr.9 (a Pupil of your Friend the good Doctr. Witherspoons1) took passage for France, in the Boston Frigate, with the Honble John Adams Esqr. under who’s immediate care & notice I place’d him; with a veiw to accomplish him for business, either as a Merchant, or in any other way, that he might be most useful, in future, to his Country and our riseing Independant States. As he was young, just out of the University, his genius & talents not form’d, or scarsely known, I left it with Mr. Adams, and other Friends to fix him, for Three or four Years, in a situation, most agreeable, & best adapted, to his disposition & abilities.

I flatter myself sir, I may exult, at least, in Idea, that I may number Doctr. Franklin, as one of his Friends, to whom he had the happiness of an address from the Honable John Hancock Esqr.2 If upon recollection it should occur to your mind, that this Youth is a Grand-Son of your old acquaintance, Saml. Vernon Esqr. of Newport3 (altho’ dead Forty Years) it will inhance the Friendship & your notice of this young Gentleman. I may presume this without arrogance, from your universal beneficence, therefore must hope, wish and pray, that he hath, and will, from Time to Time, receive such advice and instructions from his Friends in France, as will stimulate to Virtue, honor, knowledge, and all the useful graces & accomplishments, necessary to form a Mind & fix such principles for social Life & Public usefulness, as will be permanent.

Under cover you have a Letter from our mutual Friend his Excellency Wm. Greene Esqr. wch came to my care to forward;4 I wish it safe to hand. I have the honor to be with the greatest sincerity. Your Excellencys Most Obedt. Humble Servt.

Wm Vernon

His Excellency Benja. Franklin Esqr.

Endorsed: William Vernon about his Son,

Notations in different hands: Vernon / Various to be answered

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Vernon in his capacity as member of the Eastern Navy Board had written BF a number of times, but as far as we know this is his first private letter to BF. For a capsule biography of him see the DAB.

8In his own hand. The second copy was enclosed with his letter of April 3, 1779 (APS).

9William Vernon, Jr., is identified in XXV, 641–2n. On May 12, 1779, he wrote from Bordeaux to obtain BF’s help in entering a counting house. APS. Thereafter he surfaced only occasionally until years later when his financial embarrassments led him to seek BF’s assistance once again (Vernon to WTF, Feb. 28, 1785, APS).

1John Witherspoon, the president of the College of New Jersey (from which the younger Vernon had graduated), was also a delegate to Congress and had served with BF on the committee of secret correspondence.

2XXV, 641.

3See V, 451n.

4Perhaps Greene’s letter of Dec. 1 (now missing), which he mentions in his letter of Dec. 10.

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