Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Richard and Sarah Bache, 27 July 1783

To Richard and Sarah Bache

ALS: Yale University Library; press copy of ALS:3 American Philosophical Society

Passy, July 27, 1783

Dear Son and Daughter,

I have received lately several Letters from you, which gave me a great deal of Pleasure, as they inform’d me of your Welfare and that of the Children.

Being inform’d that Benny had been ill of a Fever, and that he was dejected & pin’d at being so long absent from his Relations, I sent for him to come to me during the Vacation of the Schools.4 He is accordingly now here, and I have great Satisfaction in finding him so well grown, and so much improv’d in his Learning and Behaviour.5 I am not determin’d at present whether to send him back, or procure him Masters under whose Direction he may continue his Studies here.

If the Congress do not dismiss me as I have desired,6 I wish you would send me in the Fall by any Vessel coming to Havre de grace, some Newtown Pippins, some more Grafts of that Fruit: the former enclos’d in the Tin Case were too dry; they should have had a little moist Earth with them. I have not yet heard how those in Wax succeeded, as they went far into the Country.7 I wish too for some of our Chestnuts & Hickery Nuts. I also desire another Box of Mr Bartram’s Seeds; and let me know the Price.8

Mr Restife left your Letters yesterday when I happen’d to be out.— Col. Cambray has been here a long time.9

I am frequently solicited for Letters of Recommendation by Friends whom I cannot refuse, tho’ I believe they do not always well know the Persons they solicit for;1 and I trouble you with those Letters. I would have you observe, that when I recommend a Person simply to your Civilities & Counsels, I mean no more than that you should give him a Dinner or two, & your best Advice if he asks it; but by no means that you should lend him Money: For many I believe go to America with very little; and with such Romantic Schemes and Expectations as must end in Disappointment and Poverty. I dissuade all I can, those who have not some useful Trade or Art by which they may get a living; but there are many who hope for Offices & Public Employments, who value themselves and expect to be valued by us for their Birth or Quality, tho’ I tell them those Things bear no Price in our Markets.— But Fools will ruin themselves their own way.— There is one there at present, whose Father obtain’d of me by means of Friends a Letter recommending him to your Notice, and the Son upon the Strength of it now writes me a long Epistle pressing me to prevail with his Father to send him what he is much in want of, 10,000 Livres. I know nothing of either Son or Father.

I am glad Miss Beckwith is likely to succeed with you. I take her to be a Person of real Merit, and am glad you have been able to render her any Service.2

I received duly the Bills you sent me.3 Let me know whether you have got home my Library: and also whether you have been paid for the Printing Letters sold to Lancaster and Virginia.4

I enjoy at present as good a State of Health as I have had for many Years; and I still continue to be esteem’d and belov’d by this amiable Nation, and have probably much more Respect shown me than I should have at home; yet I long to be there before I die, and I wish to set out while I have Strength to bear the Voyage; but I have not as yet receiv’d the Permission of Congress; and the Settlement of my Accts. will I apprehend necessarily detain me another Winter.

Ben writes.5 I am ever, my dear Children, Your affectionate Father

B Franklin

[Note by William Temple Franklin:] I am afraid I shall hardly have time to write I therefore here send my most affece. Respects

W. T. F.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Made before WTF added his note below BF’s signature.

4BFB’s May 30 letter to BF mentioned his fever, but it was certainly Matthew Ridley’s personal account that convinced BF that the situation required intervention; see BF to BFB, June 23, and the annotation there. Pigott also urged BF to remove BFB from Geneva, giving an alarming account of the child’s poor health and appalling living conditions: above, June 27.

5BFB arrived at Passy c. July 19; see the annotation of BFB to BF, July 2. On July 26 Dorcas Montgomery wrote SB a reassuring account of her “Charming Son,” whom Montgomery had not seen for 13 months. He was in good health and had grown much taller but was otherwise “very little chang’d,” retaining “the same likeness, to the little Ben Bache when in Philada. when his dear Grand-mama used to call him her little King-Bird.” When Montgomery gave him news of the family dogs, which she learned from hearing BF read aloud William Bache’s letter (XXXIX, 345), BFB “much lamented” Pompy’s death. When she asked BFB about his grandfather and cousin, “his answer was that he found his G- Papa the same & Cousin likewise, who had made him his Secretary and he had wrote that morning three pages.— He found his G- Papa very different from other Old Persons, for they were fretful and complaining, and disatisfy’d. And my G- Papa is laughing, & chearful, like a young person.” Dorcas Montgomery to SB, July 26, 1783 (APS).

6After the preliminary articles were signed at the end of November, BF reminded Livingston of Congress’ promise to allow him to retire: XXXVIII, 416–17. That section of his letter was ignored.

7SB had sent grafts in a tin case and a wooden box sealed with wax the previous December: XXXVIII, 404.

8For the last shipment see XXXVI, 186; XXXVII, 11–12, 168. More than six months earlier (around the beginning of January), BF had received a request that was unrelated to this order. Malesherbes had asked whether BF could procure seeds of the bald cypress tree, which his nephew in Philadelphia (La Luzerne) had been unable to obtain but which Malesherbes had seen on a list of seeds BF had procured for another “amateur.” (This was probably the comte de Barbançon, who received his box of Bartram’s seeds in April, 1782: XXXVII, 230.) Not wanting to disturb BF, who undoubtedly had more important affairs on his mind, Malesherbes addressed this request to Le Veillard, who answered on Jan. 4 that BF had promised to forward the request to Bartram: Chrétien-Guillaume de Lamoignon de Malesherbes to Louis-Guillaume Le Veillard, undated; Le Veillard to Malesherbes, Jan. 4, 1783 (both at the Archives Nationales). If BF ever did forward the request, no trace of that correspondence survives.

9SB and RB had entrusted letters to Restif de La Serve dated nearly four months apart (Jan. 2 and April 30), as his departure was delayed: XXXVIII, 535; XXXIX, 537. SB’s letter also mentioned the chevalier de Cambray-Digny, by whom she hoped to send another letter; she did so on Jan. 24: XXXIX, 23.

1Among BF’s papers at the APS is an undated, unsigned letter in English, in a hand we do not recognize, that may be an example of such a solicitation. The writer, who is “not personally acquainted with Mess Perrin,” has been “assured by good Friends that they are very worthy Men.” Sons of a prominent Lyon manufacturer, they intend to go to America to form commercial connections and “wish to be distinguished from the Lump of Emigrants who will resort thither.” A notation in French at the bottom of the page indicates that the recommendation should be sent to RB in Philadelphia.

2BF had recommended her; see XXXIX, 23–4.

3See XXXIX, 24, 325.

4The Baches had packed BF’s library and shipped it to Bethlehem before the British occupied Philadelphia in 1777: XXIII, 279–80, 361. For the current status of the library and printing type see RB’s reply of Sept. 9.

5BFB wrote a brief and dutiful letter to his father that same day. (“Excuse the schortness of my letter,” he wrote in a postscript, “the time don’t permit me to write a Long one.”) He had received RB’s letter of May 31, had seen the Morris boys often, had been sick but was now “quitte well,” had left Geneva on July 9, and “saw my Dear Grandpapa the 19 of the same mounth.” BFB to RB, July 27, 1783, APS. BFB added more notes to his family before the present letter was posted, though none has been found; see RB to BF, Sept. 9.

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