Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to David Hartley, 15 December 1781

To David Hartley

Reprinted in William Temple Franklin, ed., Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin … (3 vols., 4to, London, 1817–18), II, 269.

Passy, Dec. 15, 1781

My Dear Friend,

I received your favour of September 26,3 containing your very judicious proposition of securing the spectators in the opera and play-houses from the danger of fire. I communicated it where it might be useful. You will see by the inclosed that the subject has been under consideration here.4 Your concern for the security of life, even the lives of your enemies, does honour to your heart and your humanity. But what are the lives of a few idle haunters of play-houses compared with the many thousands of worthy men and honest industrious families butchered and destroyed by this devilish war! O! that we could find some happy invention to stop the spreading of the flames, and put an end to so horrid a conflagration! Adieu, I am ever, yours most affecttionately,

B. Franklin.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3XXXV, 528–9.

4Fire prevention was a topic of great concern in Paris, especially after June, when the opera hall at the Palais Royal burned. (BF and WTF were in attendance: XXXV, 131.) Pumps had just been erected at the new opera house, porte St. Martin, and they were demonstrated to general satisfaction at noon on Monday, Dec. 17. The two machines could project water to four different heights on both sides of the theater, and in ten seconds any part of the building could be reached: Jour. de Paris, issues of Dec. 16 and 18. We have no record of the pamphlet BF sent Hartley; it may have been the fourteen-page Mémoire sur la maniere de rendre incombustible toute Salle de Spectacle discussed in the Jour. de Paris, Oct. 19 and 25.

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