Benjamin Franklin Papers
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From Benjamin Franklin to Richard Price, 1 February 1785

To Richard Price

ALS: Yale University Library

Passy, Feb. 1. 1785.

My dear Friend

I received duly your kind Letter of Oct. 21. and another before with some of your excellent Pamphlets of Advice to the United States.9 My last Letters from America inform me that every thing goes on well there; that the new elected Congress is met, and consists of very respectable Characters with excellent Dispositions; and the People in general very happy under their new Governments. The last Year has been a prosperous one for the Country; the Crops plentiful and sold at high Prices for Exportation, while all imported Goods, from the great Plenty, sold low. This is the happy Consequence of our Commerce being open to all the World, and no longer a Monopoly to Britain. Your Papers are full of our Divisions and Distresses, which have no Existence but in the Imaginations and Wishes of English Newswriters and their Employers.

I sent you sometime since a little Piece intitled, Testament de M. Fortuné Ricard,1 which exemplifies strongly and pleasantly your Doctrine of the immense Powers of compound Interest.2 I hope you receiv’d it. If not I will send you another. I send herewith a new Work of Mr Necker’s on the Finances of France.3 You will find good Things in it, particularly his Chapter on War. I imagine Abbé Morellet may have sent a Copy to Lord Lansdowne. If not, please to communicate it. I think I sent you formerly his Conte rendu.4 This Work makes more Talk here than that, tho’ that made abundance. I will not say that the Writer thinks higher of himself and his Abilities than they deserve, but I wish for his own sake that he had kept such Sentiments more out of sight.

With unalterable Esteem & Respect, I am ever, my dear Friend, Yours most affectionately.

B Franklin

Addressed: To / The Reverend Dr Price / Newington Green / near / London / per favour of / Dr Bancroft. / with a Pacquet of Books

Endorsed: Letter from Dr Franklin dated Feb 1st. .85 with another inclosed from Mr Jefferson5

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9For the pamphlets see the annotation of Price’s Oct. 21 letter. The letter that accompanied them has not been found.

1Testament de M. Fortune Ricard (the title an obvious play on BF’s La Science du Bonhomme Richard: VII, 337–8) was published anonymously in mid-October, but its author, Charles-Joseph Mathon de la Cour (1738–93), had read it before l’Académie de Lyon on Aug. 31, 1784: Jour. de Lyon, (1784), 299–300, 337–8. Mathon de la Cour was a Lyon philanthropist who wrote on a wide range of subjects and, beginning in 1784, edited the Jour, de Lyon: Biographie Universelle; Jean Sgard, ed., Dictionnaire des journalistes, 1600–1789 (2 vols., Oxford, 1999), II, 693–5. BF received four copies anonymously, one of which he sent to Price by Jonathan Jackson, who left Paris for London in December: Jackson et al. to BF, Dec. 17, 1784, above; BF to Benjamin Vaughan, March 5, below; Price to BF, March 21, 1785, in Peach and Thomas, Price Correspondence, II, 267.

Testament de M. Fortuné Ricard is the fictitious will of an elderly arithmetic teacher who makes a bequest of 500 l.t. and, based on the assumption that the sum will accrue interest at the rate of 5 percent annually, designates the civic uses that the money should be put to in 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 years. As the fund grows exponentially larger over the centuries, the plans become ever more ambitious and utopian. Testament de M. Fortuné Ricard provided the inspiration for BF’s decision to include in the 1789 codicil to his will grants of £1,000 in trust to both Boston and Philadelphia: BF to Mathon de la Cour, Nov. 18, 1785 [i.e., 1788], in WTF, Memoirs, II, 86; Smyth, Writings, X, 501–10.

2Price had discussed the efficacy of compound interest and sinking funds in his letter of Oct. 21.

3In this wide-ranging work, De l’administration des finances de la France (3 vols., n.p., 1784), Necker, the former director general of finances, described the workings of the French fiscal apparatus but also articulated his vision for economic and political reform. He advocated greater morality in public service, an overhaul of the tax system, and a leaner government less prone to entering into expensive wars and taking on burdensome debt: Robert D. Harris, Necker and the Revolution of 1789 (Lanham, Md., New York, and London, 1986), pp. 5–25.

4Compte rendu au roi (XXXVI, 339) was published in 1781, when Necker was still in office. It reported on the measures Necker had undertaken as finance minister and detailed the accounts of the Royal Treasury. Compte rendu was embraced by reformers and even became a best seller: Robert D. Harris, Necker: Reform Statesman of the Ancien Régime (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London, 1979), pp. 217–20.

5Also dated Feb. 1: Jefferson Papers, VII, 630–1.

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