Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Cadwallader Colden, 27 January 1748

To Cadwallader Colden

AL: New-York Historical Society

Philada. Jany. 27. 1747[/48]

Dear Sir

I received your Favour relating to the Cannon.7 We have petitioned our Proprietors for some, and have besides wrote absolutely to London for a Quantity, in case the Application to the Proprietors should not succeed; so that, Accidents excepted, we are sure of being supply’d some time next Summer.8 But as we are extreamly desirous of having some mounted early in the Spring, and perhaps [if]9 your Engineer should propose to use all you have, the Works [he] may intend will not very soon be ready to receive them, we should think ourselves exceedingly oblig’d to your Government, if you could lend us a few for one Year only:1 When you return to New York, I hope a great Deal from your Interest and Influence.

Mr. Read, to whom Osborne consign’d your Books, did not open or offer them to Sale till within these two Weeks, being about to remove when he receiv’d them, and having till now no Conveniency of Shelves, &c.2 In our two last Papers he has advertis’d generally that he has a parcel of Books to sell, Greek, Latin, French and English, but makes no particular Mention of the Indian History; it is therefore no Wonder that he has sold none of them, as he told me [a] few days since. I had but one of them from London, which [I] sent you before any of my Friends saw it: So, as no one here has read it but myself, I can only tell you my own Opinion that ’tis a well wrote, entertaining and instructive Piece, and [must] be exceedingly useful to all those Colonies who have anything to [do] with Indian Affairs.

You have reason to be pleas’d with the Mathematicians [envious] Expression about your Tract on Gravitation.3 I long to see from Europe [some] of the deliberate and mature Thoughts of their Philosophers upon it.

To obtain some Leisure, I have taken a Partner into the Printing House, but tho’ I am thereby a good deal disengag’d from private Business, I [find] myself still fully occupy’d. The Association, Lottery, Batteries, [&c. take] up at present great Part of my Time. I thank you for com[municating the] Sheet on the first Principles of Morality, the Continuation [of which I shall be] glad to [see].4 If this reaches you at Coldengham, pray [send me the paper on Vis Inert]iae, which I much want.

[I since]rely wish, for the sake of all these [several words missing] the Governor in better Temper5 [remainder missing].

Addressed: To  The honble. Cadwalader Colden Esqr  Coldengham  Free  B Franklin

Endorsed: Benj. Frankelin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7Letter not found.

8Twelve cannon, costing £1316 2s., arrived from England in midsummer. Pa Gaz., Sept. 1, 1748. The Proprietors sent nothing, ostensibly because the Association was extra-legal. Pa. Col. Recs., V, 240–1.

9Except in the last two insertions, the textual matter in brackets in this letter has been supplied by the editors from Sparks, Works, VII, 29–30.

1See above, p. 221.

2Thomas Osborne printed Colden’s History of the Five Indian Nations in London, and sent copies for sale in America to Deborah Franklin’s relative James Read in Philadelphia. See above, p. 170 n.

3Presumably Colden had forwarded to BF Peter Collinson’s report on “a Certain great Mathamatician” in England, who, on reading Colden’s tract on gravitation, wondered how it had reached America, for he believed it must have been written in Europe. “This poor Man is a Little touched in his pericranium,” Collinson observed, “So That, I hope will Excuse him.” Colden Paps., III, 411.

4Colden also sent a copy of this essay to Rev. Samuel Johnson of Stratford, Conn., who “read it with attention three times” and pronounced it a “beautiful little Draught.” Colden undertook to show the inter-relations of physics, metaphysics, and morality. For the Colden-Johnson correspondence on the subject of the treatise, see Colden Paps., III, 372–5, 398–400, and E. Edwards Beardsley, Life and Correspondence of Samuel Johnson, D.D. (N.Y., 1874), pp. 140–3. The essay was not separately printed.

5BF commented on the bad temper of the New York Assembly in letters to Colden, Nov. 27, 1747 (above, p. 212), and Logan, Jan. 30, 1748 (below, p. 275).

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