Benjamin Franklin Papers
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To Benjamin Franklin from James Bowdoin, 11 January 1781

From James Bowdoin

ALS: American Philosophical Society; copy: Massachusetts Historical Society

Boston Janry. 11. 1781

My dear Friend

I had the honour of writing to you by Mr. Guild some months ago.7 He probably acquainted you, there was a Bill then depending in our Assembly for incorporating a philosophical Society. It has been compleated, and the Society formed, under the name of The American Academy of Arts & Sciences.8 They have had several Meetings: and at the last, Several Gentlemen of distinguished characters were put in nomination. Among them is my much esteemed Friend, the Ambassador of the American United States to the Court of France: on whose election, I hope to have the pleasure, at that time of felicitating the Academy. In the mean time, give me leave to present to you a specimen of its first fruit:9 which, though it be unripe & imperfect, and shews but an inferior power of vegetation in the particular Stock, from whence it fell, it is hoped, will be the harbinger of maturer and better flavoured fruits from other Stocks in the same plantation. I am with real affection and regard, in which Mrs. Bowdoin & Mrs. Temple most cordially join, my dear Friend, Yr most obt. hble servt

James Bowdoin

The honble Benjn. Franklin Esqr.

Addressed: The honourable Benjamin Franklin Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7May 1, 1780: XXXII, 334. Benjamin Guild, a Harvard tutor, was instrumental in the formation of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; see below.

8This Boston-based institution had been the idea of JA, who returned from France in 1779 convinced that Philadelphia should not be the only American city to host a learned society. The plan won favor with Samuel Cooper who, with the help of Guild, convinced the Massachusetts legislature to pass an act on May 4, 1780, to incorporate The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Bowdoin was elected its first president. See Brooke Hindle, The Pursuit of Science in Revolutionary America, 1735–1789 (Chapel Hill, 1956), pp. 263–5; Adams Correspondence, III, 225–6, 324–5. See also Joseph Willard’s letter of Feb. 9, below.

9Probably his presidential address, delivered on Nov. 8 when he was inducted and published shortly thereafter: James Bowdoin, A Philosophical Discourse, Addressed to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (Boston, 1780). The address was reprinted in the first volume of the Academy’s Memoirs.

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