ALS: American Philosophical Society
Vienna octob. 2. 1782.
I got at last an account of Pere Barletti’s pamphlet in an italian journal et will peruse it for the farther elucidation of the notes you was so good as to send me.9 Mr. le Begue acquaintd me that you begin to make experiments with air.1 I am glad of it. But have you laid aside the reflexions you were making two or 3 years ago on fire places principaly in relation to the new fire place which has the forme of a vase or urne?2 which contrivance has much affinity with the furnase of the chemists, which they called very properly furnus acapnus, which last word from the greek Xάπνοϛ smook, the α privatiuum3 makes it signifie a furnace which give no smoak. Let us not loose your doctrins. Every thing coming now from you gets an additional importance. The affaire of chimnies is but little understood, as philosophers have not much inquired on this, so useful, subject.
I have not yet recieved neither the Pensylvania almanack nor the American Newspapers. Doe not forget the admonitory note to mr. Wharton, which you forgot to put in you last, tho you mentioned I would find it inclosed: thus you will likely find it on your table— I have not recieved a single word of Dr. Bankroft, tho I begged him as well as mr. Coffyn to acquaint me with the Mercantil transactions Concerning me more than himself. Indeed such behaviour can not but give me some apprehension about his caracter. I have neither any farther intelligence from Mr. Coffyn since I wrote you about it. I trust your admonition will have effect on mr. Sam. wharton and his Son.4
This lettre will be delivred to you by mr. Brantzen new Duch Minister for making peace. This Gentleman will very willingly and expiditiously transmit to me any lettre, Amer. Newspaper or other parcels of papers, which you will put into his hand. He will transmit them to Count Wassenaer Duch envoye here at Vienna, whose friend I am. Thus we have twoo channels open for correspondence.5
A few days ago Sir Robert Murray Keith6 did send a message to Count Wassenaer with the most agreable (for Sir Rob.) and equaly important news that 7 of the 13 American Provinces submitted to the English Gouvernment, and that the rest would soon follow their exemple. This message was immediately dispersed thro all the town and is still kept up with the same confidence. But it does not goe down by every one, and for my part I can not believe a word of it; as it would be the most shamefull cowardly and unpararelleld treacherous behaviour of them towards themselfs and their alleys.7 Count Wassenaer however, how [who] is a warm defender of the American cause, was so much affected by the news, tho he could not quite believe it, that he beggs me very much to ask from you whether there was any foundation for such rapports. If you have no oportunity of seing Mr. Brantzen him self, you may only send your letters or parcels by the penny post to his hotel, and he will punctualy transmit him to count wassenaer for me.
I Continue to make new and important discoveries on vegetables. I now have discovered the organ it self of the leaves, by which the production of dephlogisticated air is transacted— I hope you have allready seen the burning of wires.8 I have burned wires even thicker than the sample you will find inclosed. The show of the burning of Such thick piece is wonderfully magnificent and would inspire a terror in those who are not convinced there is no danger at all in the experiment. I believe there is a possibility of burning the blade of a Sword, in one of the Greates Glas vessels filled with fine dephlogisticated air.
I was much pleased to be informed by mr. Tourton & Baur9 that you are quite recovred from an indisposition, of which our newspapers made mention. As there will be now a Congres for peace, I hope it will be at Vienna.
Doe not forget your old friend. Bestow now and than a moment of you leasure time on him, and believe him to be respectfully Your obedient obliging Serv. and affectionate friend
J. Ingen Housz
to his Exc. Benj. Franklin ministre Plenip. of the united states of America at Paris
Addressed: a Son Excellence / Mr. Benj. Franklin Ministre / Plenipotentiaire des Etats unies / de l’Amerique / a Passy
Endorsed: Oct. 2. 82
9. See Ingenhousz’ letter of Aug. 20, above, for this and subsequent allusions.
1. Our only evidence of these experiments is the August correspondence between WTF and Rouland, nephew and protégé of Joseph-Aignan Sigaud de La Fond, about purchasing a vat with which to produce “dephlogisticated air” or oxygen. Rouland was a demonstrator in experimental physics at the University of Paris and had for many years assisted his uncle in the courses offered at Sigaud de La Fond’s renowned cabinet de physique. Rouland inherited the cabinet when his uncle retired in 1782.
Rouland initially sent WTF prices for two kinds of vats that could be made according to his uncle’s descriptions (undated, APS). On Aug. 30 Rouland corrected the prices he had previously quoted, which were far too low. A vat of the size WTF ordered would cost 57 l.t.; varnished and decorated with gold fleurons (as was the one WTF had seen in the cabinet), it would cost an additional 24 l.t. APS. For Rouland see Jour. de Paris, Oct. 25, 1782; and Jean Torlais, “La Physique expérimentale,” in René Taton, ed., Enseignement et diffusion des sciences en France au XVIIIe siècle (Paris, 1964), pp. 630–1, 637, 640; Dictionary of Scientific Biography.
2. BF had actually planned to publish his scheme ten years earlier, but never got beyond having an engraving made of his design. He had copies of that engraving with him in Passy, and undoubtedly showed it to Ingenhousz during his most recent visit: XXXII, 342n; XXXV, 8–9.
3. Privantium, i.e., the initial “a” reverses the meaning of the word.
4. Ingenhousz had addressed his June 12 letter to Wharton or, in his absence, his son Samuel Lewis Wharton, merchant in Philadelphia. We summarize that letter in XXXVII, 468n; for the son (1759–1788), see Anne H. Wharton, “The Wharton Family,” PMHB, II (1878), 212.
5. Brantsen forwarded the present letter on Oct. 15; see his letter to BF of that date, below. Carel Georg van Wassenaer tot Wassenaer was minister to the imperial court from early 1782 until Nov.11, 1784: Repertorium der diplomatischen Vertreter, III, 261–2.
6. The British ambassador to Austria: XXIII, 324n.
7. The Gaz. de Leyde, Sept. 20, sup., likewise asserted that recent rumors concerning American disunity were “absurd.” Only the British, the article said, could be so gullible as to believe these stories, which originated with American Loyalists. The paper included a text that the editors believed had started the stories.
8. Described in Ingenhousz’ Dec. 8, 1781 letter: XXXVI, 221.
9. The Parisian banking firm who had agreed to serve as intermediaries in Ingenhousz’ correspondence with BF: XXXV, 98.