Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Peter Kalm, 6 August 1749

From Peter Kalm

MS not found; reprinted from extract in The Pennsylvania Gazette, October 12, 1749.5

[Quebec, August 6, 1749]

I have found more learned Men in Canada, than I imagined had been in all America. The Jesuits in general excel in several Parts of Learning; and the King’s Officers also are skilful in the Arts and Sciences. The new General Governor, Monsieur Jonquiere,6 who was taken Prisoner by the English in the last War, arrived here on Friday last from France. He was received with all imaginable Marks of Honour. All the Great Men met him at his Landing (when all the Cannon of the City were discharged) and attended him to the Cathedral Church, the Streets being lined on both Sides with Soldiers. When he came to the Door of the Church, he was met by the Bishop and all the Priests in their finest Habits. The Bishop made him a long congratulatory Oration; and after he had kissed a silver Crucifix, he went into the Church, the Bishop and Priests going and singing before him, carrying Candles and Crucifixes. There he assisted at the High Mass, which was perform’d by the Bishop himself. From the Church he went to the Castle, where all the Citizens and others came to pay their Reverence to him, with many Speeches and Orations. I had the honour to be invited to assist at all this Ceremony, and to dine in the Castle. In the Afternoon there was a great Procession through all the Streets, in honour of the Virgin Mary. Monsieur Gallissoniere,7 who was Vice Governor General, returns to France in about two Weeks. ’Tis said here that he will be made Secretaire d’Etat de France. He is the most learned Man in all Sciences, but especially in Natural History, that I have yet seen: It is hard to conceive where he could have acquir’d so much Knowledge. The new General Governor is a tall Man, between 60 and 70 Years of Age, of a benevolent Disposition, very agreeable in Conversation, &c.8

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5This letter was also printed in N.-Y. Gaz., Oct. 16, 1749, and in Md. Gaz., Nov. 29, 1749. Kalm wrote of it in New York: “From the gazettes which were printed here in town I discovered also that Mr. Franklin, the postmaster at Philadelphia, my very special friend, had had printed in the Philadelphia gazette an extract from the letter which I had written to him from Quebec, Canada. … All of the French were especially pleased at this, as they had [in this article] been given considerable honor for their learning.” Kalm, Travels, II, 625; Benson’s brackets. Kalm set out for Canada from New York with a pass from Gov. Clinton on May 30. Colden Paps., IX, 10. For a fuller account of the governor’s arrival, see Kalm, Travels, II, 464–5, under date of Aug. 15 (N.S.).

6Pierre-Jacques de Taffanel, Marquis de la Jonquière (1685–1752), was the French admiral defeated by Anson, Boscawen, and Warren off Cape Finisterre, May 3, 1747. See above, p. 253.

7Rolland Michel Barrin, Marquis de la Gallissonière (1693–1756), acting governor general, 1747–49, while La Jonquière was a prisoner of war. A man of scientific interests, he instructed soldiers, officers, and travelers in Canada to observe and collect minerals, plants, and animals. Kalm regarded him highly, imagining that in him “I saw our great Linné under a new form.” On his return to France La Gallissonière became director of the bureau of maps and plans of the French Navy, and in 1750–54 was one of the French commissioners to determine the New England-Canadian boundary.

In his English translation of Kalm’s Travels (Warrington, 1770–71), John R. Forster inserted a protest against Kalm’s prejudice in favor of the French scientists in Canada. Benson points out that BF and his friends were private persons, whereas the French and Swedish scientists had government support. Kalm might have altered his opinions had he met Logan or visited the philosophers and colleges in New England and the South. Kalm, Travels, I, 374–6; II, 504–6.

8La Gallissonière was short and hunchbacked; the Indians were impressed by the contrast between his great spirit and mean body. Ibid., II, 504; E.B. O’Callaghan, ed., Documents relative to the Colonial History of … New York, VI (Albany, 1855), 533 n.

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