Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Belcher, 7 October 1751

From Jonathan Belcher

Letterbook copy: Massachusetts Historical Society

Burlington (NJ) Octr. 7: 1751

Mr. Franklin

Mr. Warrell3 on his return from Philadelphia about 3 months ago acquainted me that in Answer to my request He had had a full talk with you on the matter of Electrification and that you are clear in it I may make the Experiment in moderation without any fear of Injury and that you was so kind as to offer to come hither and make the Operation on me your self which I very gratefully acknowledge.4

The inclosed is my second Letter to Dr. Cadwalader5 on this head which he will read to you and you will discourse [with] him fully about it and upon your and his answer I will write you when it will be most Convenient to me for you to come and make the Tryal. I am Sir Your ready Friend and Servant.

By Cha: Gandowen [?]

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Either Joseph Warrell (d. 1758), of Bellville, near Trenton; lawyer; attorney general of New Jersey, 1733–54; justice of the peace of Middlesex County; or his son Joseph (1719–1775), lawyer; clerk of circuits, 1765–68, in New Jersey. I N.J. Arch., XX, 248 n.

4Jonathan Belcher (1682–1757), governor of New Jersey since 1747 (above, I, 176 n), was stricken with palsy—“the Common Paralytick disorder,” he called it—while attending the commencement of the College of New Jersey, 1750. BF was unable to give him electric shock in person, but sent equipment for Rev. Aaron Burr of Princeton to use (see below, pp. 216, 255). The treatment was not successful, but Belcher continued it. His condition worsened, however, and in 1755 he gave “the low State of my Health” as the reason he could not travel from Elizabeth to Amboy. I N.J. Arch., XVI, 506; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, IV, 434–49.

5Thomas Cadwalader (c. 1707–1779), physician of Philadelphia (see above, I, 209 n). Belcher wrote him, Sept. 30, 1751, asking his advice on taking electric shock for his palsy. In the enclosed letter referred to here, Oct. 7, 1751 (in Belcher’s Letterbook, Mass. Hist. Soc.), Belcher thanked Cadwalader for his and Dr. Thomas Graeme’s advice and asked the former to get the opinion of “the very Ingenious and Eminent” Dr. James McGraw (d. 1774), of New York, who was then in Philadelphia (PMHB, XX, 1896, 425). As all the physicians, including Dr. Brattle, “a noted Physician in N. England” (probably William Brattle, 1706–1776, a graduate of Harvard, 1722, and a distant relation of Belcher), agreed he should try electricity for his palsy, Belcher continued, “If my Country man Franklin will be so good and obliging as to come and make the Operation himself I think to venture upon it in Moderation.” Belcher went on to say he was 70, commonly drank about half a bottle of old Madeira daily, in addition to water and small beer, and except for the palsy was “as free from pain and sickness as almost any man of my advanced years.” N.J. Hist. Soc. Colls., V (1858), 274, 279, 285, 294.

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