Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Strahan, 7 August 1752

To William Strahan

ALS: Boston Public Library

Philada. Augt. 7. 1752

Dear Sir

I wrote to you lately per Mesnard, and sent a Bill for £50 Sterling,3 with a List of Books to be purchased for our Library; a Copy of which I shall send per another Ship that sails in a few Days.

This is chiefly to recommend to you Mr. Matthias Harris, a Gentleman of Maryland, and a Friend of mine.4 As he will be entirely a Stranger in London, your Acquaintance and Advice on any Occasion may be of use to him, and any Civilities you show him shall be esteemed and acknowledged as Favours to Dear Sir, Your obliged humble Servant

B Franklin

Addressed: To  Mr Wm Strahan  Printer  London  per Mr M. Harris.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3See above, p. 323.

4Matthias Harris (d. 1773), colorful son and heir of a wealthy landowner of Kent Co., Md., was a member of the Maryland Assembly, 1745–49, where, ironically in view of his later conduct, he sponsored a bill “to restrain the Ill Behaviour of Clergymen.” Arch. of Md., XLVI, 72. He was ordained in England March 26, 1753, and made chaplain to Lord Baltimore; but a charge of unfitness (because of a forgery in London) prevented his getting a living in Worcester Co. Ibid., VI, 3, 6, 30; Md. Hist. Mag., III (1908), 271–2. He is said to have had a church on the Eastern Shore of Virginia; in 1757 he styled himself “officiating Minister to the several Congregations of the Church of England, in Sussex County on Delaware,” when preaching a fast-day sermon at Lewes, where another complaint was made, 1760, that he had intruded into the work of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. He was rector of Chester parish, Kent Co., 1766, Kent Island parish, 1769, and Chester again, 1773. William S. Perry, ed., Papers relating to the History of the Church in Pennsylvania (privately printed, 1871), pp. 311–12; Frederic Emory, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland (Baltimore, 1950), p. 142; Frederick L. Weis, The Colonial Clergy of Maryland, Delaware and Georgia (Lancaster, Mass., 1950), p. 46. Harris’ account in Ledger D indicates that BF was his agent for small purchases and the discharge of debts. BF’s friendship did not prevent his cautioning Strahan the next day about Harris’ financial unreliability; and he expressed amused surprise at Harris’ returning to America a parson. See BF to Strahan, Oct. 27, 1753.

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