George Washington Papers
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To George Washington from Benjamin Franklin, 16 September 1789

From Benjamin Franklin

Philada Sept. 16. 1789

Dear Sir,

My Malady renders my Sitting up to write rather painful to me, but I cannot let my Son-in-law Mr Bache part for New York, without congratulating you by him on the Recovery of your Health, so precious to us all, and on the growing Strength of our New Government under your Administration.1 For my own personal Ease, I should have died two Years ago; but tho’ those Years have been spent in excruciating Pain, I am pleas’d that I have liv’d them, since they have brought me to see our present Situation. I am now finishing my 84th and probably with it my Career in this Life; but in whatever State of Existence I am plac’d hereafter, if I retain any Memory of what has pass’d here, I shall with it retain the Esteem, Respect, and Affection with which I have long been, my dear Friend, Yours most sincerely

B. Franklin

ALS, DLC:GW. This letter has been widely reproduced in facsimile. GW replied to it on 23 September.

1Franklin was suffering from a number of ailments, among them gout and “the stone,” probably bladder or kidney stones. He died in April 1790. James Madison left a description of a meeting with him “in his extreme age when he had been much exh[a]usted by pain and was particularly sensible of his weakness, Mr M. said he, these machines of ours however admirably formed will not last always. Mine I find is just worn out. It must have been an uncommonly good one I observed to last so long especially under the painful malady which had co-operated with age in preying on it; adding that I could not but hope that he was yet to remain some time with us, and that the cause of his suffering might wear out faster than his Constitution. The only alleviation he said to his pain was opium, and that he found it as yet to be a pretty sure one. I told him I took for granted he used it as sparingly as possible as frequent doses must otherwise impair his constitutional strength. He was well aware he said that every Dose he took had that effect; but he had no other remedy; and thought the best terms he cd make with his complaint was to give up a part of his remaining life, for the greater ease of the rest” (Madison’s “Detached Memoranda,” n.d., DLC: Rives Papers). For Franklin’s son-in-law Richard Bache, see Bache to GW, 21 April 1789.

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