Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Samuel Johnson, [10 May 1750]

From Samuel Johnson9

Letterbook copy (fragment): Columbia University Library

[May 10, 1750]1

[First part missing] Seat of London. I drew it2 up at first only for the use of my Son, and had no further tho’ts, but when I tho’t it necessary to take the pains to transcribe it in order for your perusal, I could not forbear having the vanity to wish it might be useful to others, for I was always very desirous if I could, to contribute something towards promoting the Interest of Learning in the Country, and could therefore wish, (tho’ I dare not expect,) that it might possibly obtain so favourable an Opinion with Gentlemen as to be thot not altogether undeserving the Press, but as to this I am intirely resigned to the Judgment of my Friends, and particularly do submit it to your Candid Judgment and that of any Friend to whom you may think it worth the while to give the perusal of it. Only if it were to be printed I should be glad you would suggest any defects you observe in it or any thing that might make it more intelligible and useful. I will only add that if it were tho’t in some measure fit to be printed, and practicable to get it done, I had some thots of printing with it a new Edition of my Ethics with some Enlargements and Emendations, and that I beleive I could dispose of over 100 Copies of it here, and perhaps another 100 might be disposed of at Boston and some at N.Y. and the Jersies. However I intirely submit what I have thus had the assurance to write, to your free and candid animadversion, and remain Sir your most humble &c.


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Samuel Johnson (1696–1772), B.A., Yale, 1714; tutor in the college, 1716–19; minister at West Haven, 1720–22; one of those in and around Yale College, including its rector Timothy Cutler, who came to doubt or oppose the validity of presbyterian ordination, 1722 (see above, I, 43); was ordained in England in the Anglican communion, 1723. He settled at Stratford, Conn., 1723, as a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, the first clergyman of his faith settled in the colony. He became a warm friend of Dean (later Bishop) George Berkeley during the latter’s residence at Newport, R.I., 1729–31, and enlisted his benefactions for Yale. He wrote several pieces defending and explaining Berkeleyan idealism. He often engaged in controversy over the rights of the Anglican church in New England’s hostile climate. Oxford conferred on him the degree of doctor of divinity, 1743. BF and others urged him to head the new Academy of Philadelphia, 1750–51; he declined on the grounds of age and ill health (see his letter to BF, Jan. 1752, below), but accepted the presidency of King’s (Columbia) College, 1754. On his retirement in 1763 he returned to Stratford as rector. DAB; E. Edwards Beardsley, Life and Correspondence of Samuel Johnson, D.D. (N.Y., 1874); Herbert W. and Carol Schneider, eds., Samuel Johnson, President of King’s College: His Career and Writings (4 vols., N.Y., 1929).

1The date is fixed by BF’s letter to Johnson, April 15, 1754.

2Johnson’s Noetica which, with the second edition of his Ethica and An Introduction to the Study of Philosophy, Franklin and Hall published, 1752, under the title Elementa Philosophica.

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