Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Benjamin Vaughan, 8 August 1783

From Benjamin Vaughan

ALS: Library of Congress

London, Augt. 8th:, 1783.

My dearest sir,

I beg to introduce to your kind regards one of my best respected friends, Mr Dugald Stewart, who though as yet little known out of Scotland, is one of the best known men in it. He stands in the very first class of their mathematicians & literary men. He has twice at a day’s warning taken up Dr. Adam Ferguson’s lectures in Moral Philosophy, & twice completely excelled him in the opinion of every one, as was proved in particular by the attendance he had while he lectured.—5 Perhaps you may remember his father who lectured at Edinburgh in Mathematics, & wrote a treatise on the sun’s distance from us as deducible from the theory of gravity. It is very poor compliment to Mr Stewart, to say that in science it is the father who is really the child.6

My friend travels with Lord Ancram, the son of the Marquis of Lothian,7 whom he represents to me as a pretty & very amiable young man. I beg you would extend your notice to him also.

I have extreme confidence in begging your attention to Mr Stewart, because I am sure it is in his power to repay you by the information he can give you of the literary characters in his country, & the objects they are pursuing. He is however very diffident, & is very fearful of betraying himself upon subjects which he is not master of, in which list for the present he reckons mathematics, & is therefore averse to meeting M D’Alembert on the subject, though he wants to see him.— He is not strong in Natural Philosophy, but he understands every thing in it. He burns to see you as its present father; and as at least half the time I spent alone with him in Scotland was employed in conversing about you, I believe he would not think he had been out of his country unless he was allowed to see you at Paris.

I have no news which I have the courage to write you. The way things go on will have sufficiently explained some of the reasons of my past silence.— At present however there is no news which you are not at least as well acquainted with as myself, were I inclined to go into it.— I think the nation would in time opens its eyes about improvements in commerce & peace, if pains were taken with them, and the ministry as much in earnest as the last on this point.

Please to remember me very affecty. to Mr Franklin.8 And for yourself, believe me my dearest sir, your ever respectful, (devoted, grateful,) & affectionate humble sert

Benjn. Vaughan

Dr. Franklin.

Addressed: A Monsr / Monsr. Franklin. / &c &c &c / a Passy. / Par faveur de M. Stewart & le Comte Ancram.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Vaughan had already mentioned this eminent mathematician and philosopher: XXXV, 621. Stewart had lectured to Adam Ferguson’s classes at Edinburgh University during Ferguson’s mission to America in 1778–79, and he assumed his chair in moral philosophy when Ferguson resigned in 1785: ODNB, under Ferguson and Stewart.

6Matthew Stewart (1717–1785) had been professor of mathematics at Edinburgh University until 1772, when poor health forced him to stop teaching. His son took over his classes and in 1775 was appointed to the mathematics professorship. The miscalculations in Matthew Stewart’s treatise The Distance of the Sun from the Earth Determined, by the Theory of Gravity … (Edinburgh, 1763) were first exposed in 1769: ODNB.

7William Ker (1763–1824), Earl of Ancram, whose father was William John Ker (1737–1815), fifth Marquess of Lothian: Sir James Balfour Paul, ed., The Scots Peerage … (9 vols., Edinburgh, 1904–14), V, 481–3.

8Here Vaughan heavily crossed out a long sentence. On the same day, both he and his brother William wrote to WTF about various bills. Benjamin had received one from JW that “did not prove good” (University of Pa. Library). William was sending a bill to BF as part of their collaboration to finance the travels of Samuel Vaughan, Jr. He was sorry that he would not see BF in England but, possessing BF’s portrait, was often reminded of his advice “Seek & ye shall find.” APS.

Index Entries