Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from Richard Bache, 8 September 1783

From Richard Bache

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philadelphia Septr. 8. 1783.

Dear & Hond. Sir

The inclosed Packet directed for yourself I received a few days ago, from Cape Francois; the other Packet for the Compte de Barbençon, Mr. Bartram requested me to forward to your care—9 We have had several Arrivals lately from France, without the pleasure of a Line from you, Mr. Williams writes me however that you are well; we would rather have this information under your own hand & Seal, but we content ourselves with supposing that it is business that deprives us the pleasure of hearing from you, as often as we could wish—

Sally and the Children are in perfect good health. The Season has been rather sickly, more frequent & sudden changes from hot to Cold were never known in America, these have produced fevers of various sorts, which have carried off a great number of People—1

Mr. Jos: Turner & Mr. Hamilton2 have slipped off, but they had been invalids for some time preceding their death— Notwithstanding the mortality of the Season, our numbers have increased in a most astonishing degree; such an influx of Foreigners from every Country in Europe, exceeds every expectation;—in short our City is as full as it can hold.

I herewith send you the News papers, and remain Dear sir Your affectionate Son

Rich Bache

Dr. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9With BF, WTF, and RB serving as intermediaries, the comte de Barbançon had received boxes of seeds of North American plants and trees from Bartram in 1782: XXXVII, 11–12n, 168n, 230. This packet from Bartram probably contained his printed broadside “Catalogue of American Trees, Shrubs and Herbacious Plants, most of which are now growing, and produce ripe Seed in John Bartram’s Garden, near Philadelphia.” BF had that broadside reprinted in Paris, with the title line translated into French, the common English names eliminated, and the date “1783” added. One example of the French reprint survives (APS); see Gilbert Chinard, “Recently Acquired Botanical Documents,” APS Proc., CI (1957), 520–22. For Bartram’s original see Joel T. Fry, “Bartram’s Garden Catalogue of North American Plants, 1783,” Jour. of Garden History, XVI (1996), 1–66.

1On Sept. 16 Benjamin Rush attributed what he called an epidemic of scarlet fever to the “crowds of strangers which our commerce has invited to our city,” as well as other unnamed “circumstances.” The Baron de Beelen-Bertholff, writing the following summer about how unhealthy Philadelphia was, reported that illnesses in August, 1783 (just before he arrived), claimed the lives of up to 30 people a day: L. H. Butterfield, ed., Letters of Benjamin Rush (2 vols., Princeton, 1951), I, 311; Hanns Schlitter, ed., Die Berichte des ersten Agenten Österreichs in den Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika Baron de Beelen-Bertholff … (Vienna, 1891), p. 330. See also Elaine F. Crane et al., eds., The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker (3 vols., Boston, 1991), I, 413–15, where Drinker notes the symptoms of many members of her household who fell ill during September with what doctors were calling “the fall Fever.” None of these cases was fatal.

2Joseph Turner (II, 154n; XVIII, 217n) and James Hamilton (III, 327–8n). Hamilton died on Aug. 14, after battling cancer (DAB).

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