Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Benjamin Vaughan, 12 May 1780

From Benjamin Vaughan

AL: Library of Congress

May 12, 1780.

My dearest sir,

Dr. Hamilton had a letter for you some weeks ago; but I find him still in Holland. The bearer of this is of his party, & as Dr. Crawford gives him a character, I inclose the Drs. letter in case you should meet with him.8

By the present opportunity you have two packets from Dr. Jebb.9 The MS. he had prepared for another conveyance which he missed; and as I thought you might wish for an opportunity of saying something of a political nature, I not only did not discourge but rather encouraged his sending it.

I send a pamphlet Dr. Price has just sent to us; If Dr. Crawford forwards another, you know you have a duplicate to send abroad.1

Dr. Priestley is very ill on the bed just now, with a violent pain in his stomach, which in one light is encouraging as it tends to make us think his disease is in the gall-bladder & its ducts, & not in the liver which is hardly capable of such serious pain.2 Dr. Fothergill & Dr. J. Jebb have prescribed to day: Dr. Heberden & Sr. J. Pringle some days ago prescribed medicines which nature did not allow a favorable opportunity for taking,3 & they will not it seems come into the city to our house where the Dr. now is, finding himself more at home than in Berkley Square now he is ill.4

As to politics, the Rockinghams & other aristocratic people hang off a great deal since the asociations have gone such lengths (owing much to Dr. J Jebb) but perhaps occasions may offer to work on the people without them. Much will depend on events. Ministry are very confident as to possession of their places, and not out of hopes as to the empire: So much do mens ruin depend on the opinion that they are ruined. Other people in their situation would have been ruined by fears; but providence has kindly given them insensible hearts & insensible heads to make them more fit for working its purpose. I am, my dearest sir, yours ever most devotedly,

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8See Vaughan’s April 23 letter, above.

9Dr. John Jebb (1736–1786) was an outspoken liberal in religion and radical in politics. At the February-March meetings of the county petitioning movement he represented Westminster. He was also a strong supporter of the American cause. DNB; Eugene C. Black, The Association: British Extra-parliamentary Political Organization 1769–93 (Cambridge, Mass., 1963), pp. 51n, 176–7. See also Caroline Robbins, The Eighteenth-Century Commonwealthman … (rev. ed., New York, 1968), pp. 370–3. The packets may have contained An Address to the Freeholders of Middlesex, Assembled at Free Mason’s Tavern …, which he had delivered on Dec. 20, 1779, and published almost immediately afterwards: John Jebb, The Works Theological, Medical, Political, and Miscellaneous …, ed. John Disney (3 vols., London, 1787), I, 144–5. The 4th edition, revised and expanded, is printed in Jebb, Works, II, 453–90. If BF did indeed receive the parcel we have found no record of it.

1Probably An Essay on the Population of England and Wales from the Revolution to the Present Time, which appeared in 1779 as the concluding essay to a volume by his nephew William Morgan and in 1780 was published as a separate work. It is advertised in the St. James’s Chronicle for May 18–20: D.O. Thomas and W. Bernard Peach, eds., The Correspondence of Richard Price (3 vols., Durham, N.C., and Cardiff, 1983–94), II, 55–6; D.O. Thomas, John Stephens, and P.A.L. Jones, A Bibliography of the Works of Richard Price, (Aldershot, England, and Brookfield, Vt., 1993), pp. 101–5.

2Priestley was recovering from a bilious disorder, and he had passed, with much pain, a gall stone: John T. Rutt, Life and Correspondence of Joseph Priestley … (2 vols., London, 1831–32), I, 334–5. See also Vaughan’s letter of June 26.

3An illustrious group of physicians attended him. For Fothergill see Vaughan’s April 23 letter. Jebb had taken up the practice of medicine after he was denied permission to continue lecturing at Cambridge because of his liberal religious beliefs; he opened his medical practice on Craven St. in 1778, but his radical politics prevented his appointment as a physician to a London hospital. DNB. The distinguished Dr. William Heberden had been an acquaintance since BF’s residence in London in the 1750’s: VIII, 281n. BF’s old friend Sir John Pringle had been the royal physician: X, 85n.

4Priestley apparently was staying with the Vaughan family at their home and place of business on Mincing Lane. Samuel Vaughan and Priestley were old friends, and Benjamin had been Priestley’s pupil at Warrington: XXI, 441; XXX, 379. The London residence of the Earl of Shelburne, for whom Priestley still served as secretary, was in Berkeley Square.

Index Entries