Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Peter Collinson, 7 March 1754

From Peter Collinson

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Lond March 7: 1754

My Dear Friend

Your favours of the 16 and 7th and 298 came not to My Hands untill the First of March and the Philosophical pacquet you Mention intended for my Winters amusement is not yett Come to hand.9 But indeed a Large pacquet came by Capn. Mitchell1 and that unworthy Man (tho in particular Directed to the Contrary) putt it into the Post Office and I was Charged Thirty Three Shillings, for which He ougt to be severely reprimanded at his return for so Large a percell, so plainly Directed could not be accidentally, or Carelessly, but Willfully putt into the Bagg and sent to the office. For the future there is no trusting Pacquetts by Caps. but they must lay untill some private passenger comes. Indeed I gott a Large Abatement but that is no Thanks to the Capt. It was my Interest with Mr. Shelvock2 and all this Mountain which I Delighted myself with the Variety it would afford Mee Dwindled into a Mole Hill. All the pacquet was for Docr. Blair3 and only the Almanack for Mee, which I was well pleased with for the Sake of the Account of the Jerseys.4

I am very much Engaged so shall say Nothing Relateing to the Proprietor but that He is Extreamly Well Disposed towards the Accademy and the Erecting English Schools. Our Valuable Friend Mr. Smith will Tell you Every Thing. By Him I send you the Gold Medal from the Royal Society and with It the President (Lord Macklesfield) Speech on the Occation.5 I need not Dictate to you what to Saye, Butt a Short Letter of Thanks, will be Well taken as you are the First person out of the Nation that has had that Honour confer’d.6

I am concern’d to hear of the Comotion in the House of Burgesses in Virginia and New York. They forebode no Future Good neither are they Conducive to the present. It is Difficult to Determine unless one could hear both Sides. It is not good Policy in our Legislature to Iritate neither is it Prudence nor their Interest to cavil unreasonably. How Happy would it be for all parties if Passion could be govern’d by Reason. Butt private Interest and pique is to much the Source of publick Opposition. But a Majority of your Temper would soone alay the Storme.7

Wee are extreamly obliged to you for the Wax Candles and the Treaties, they are very Elegant as they came to Late for the Weding they will not to the Lying Inn, and that you know is a Time when the Good Women show away.8

Your pacquet for Proffessor Kalm will go by first Ships. He is now publishing his american Travels in Sweedish, but Wee hope to see It translated in some more Intelligible Language.9 Mr. Penn was sensibly alarm’d when he read your Paragraphs of your Youth leaveing the Academy to go to a Neighbouring province for the finishing [touch?].1 He now thinks in Earnest a Proffessor very requisite. So far in answer to yours Novemr[?] 14:16.2 In yours of December 4: 1753 came Bartrams Bill for £15 which is carried to your Account and the 14 yds. Silk Damask was sent by Cap. Budens Ship which I hope is come safe to hand and pleases. [I] advised of it per Letter Jany. 26 per the same Vessell.3

Your oblegeing Letter of October4 will require More Notice than I can give at present and my first Leisure will send your Account.

The Answer you return’d to my Queries was very acceptable to the German Society5 of which Mr. Smith will give you an account and by Him being so fine an Oppertunity I send you 3 Thermometers, hopeing for better Luck than before.

I am my Dear friend Truly in Hast Your

P Collinson

2 Thermometers 31:6 3: 3:–
1 Large Ditto 1:15:–

By Them I send 3 Vol Popes

Knight Philosophy6

Maganes for Feby.

Your piece on the Improvements of Stoves and Fire Hearths is reprinting Here with some Scheme to remedy its defects which is said to be when the flews &c. are stop’d with Soot, there is no provission yett Made to Clean them; it is under the Direction of Mr. Short—a very Ingenuous Man and the Celebrated maker of Reflecting Telescomes. When it comes out will send you a Coppy.7

In yours of Aug: 288 you give Mee a Hint, that you had Discover’d some New Phenomena in Clouds being for the most part Electrified Negatively and therefore the Strokes are generally from the Earth to the Clouds. This strange Doctrine I have kept a profound Secret in hopes of your Confirmation of It by repeated Experiments.

But as I hear not the least Mention of It in all your Letters Since, except it might be in the packett that you so often give Mee expectations off, which is not yett come Makes Mee Doubtfull if you can verifie It to your Satisfaction. This youl oblige Mee with in your Next.

The progress of the Spining Schooles in New England and the Increase of the Linnen Manufacture, I find gives great umbrage to the Irish who wish Sir Richard’s Pamphlet had been lost by the Way.9

No Doubt but you’l Hear of our Great National Loss the Death of Mr. Pelham.1 Our Good King is greatly affected with It because he hoped to have slide away Gently to his period, on a setled aministration—but hapening at the End of a Session, and on the Choice of a New Parliament approaching and no one to be found Equall to the Worthy Good Man thats gone greatly perplexes the King and his best Friends. A few Days will Determine the Choice, I trust good providence will Direct Him for the best.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8These letters have not been found.

9See above, p. 115.

1Capt. James Mitchell in the Sarah cleared Philadelphia before Nov. 29, 1753.

2George Shelvocke (1702–1760), secretary to the General Post Office, 1742–60. Kenneth Ellis, The Post Office in the Eighteenth Century (London, 1958), pp. 24–5, 82–3.

3Possibly Dr. John Blair (d. 1782), author of The Chronology and History of the World (London, 1754).

4See above, pp. 182–3.

5See above, pp. 126, 191–2.

6For BF’s letter, May 29, 1754, see frontispiece and below, p. 333.

7On Virginia, see below, p. 430 n. The New York Assembly in November 1753 insisted on passing an annual supply bill instead of the permanent supply the governors were instructed to get, and they drew up a representation defending this course and charging all the recent disputes in the province on the late governor, George Clinton. J. F. Burns, Controversies between Royal Governors and their Assemblies in the Northern American Colonies (Villanova, Pa., 1923), pp. 345–8.

8See above, p. 19 n.5. BF sent more candles and, taking the hint, added a few cakes of soap made of American myrtle wax, “to wash your Grandson’s finest Things with.” The treaties were copies of the report on the conference with the Indians at Carlisle, published by Franklin and Hall in November and printed above, pp. 84–107.

9Peter Kalm’s account of his travels in America was published in three volumes in Stockholm, 1753–61, translated at once into German, 1754–64, and translated from the German into English, 1770–71. Adolph B. Benson, ed., Peter Kalm’s Travels in North America (2 vols., N.Y., 1937), II, 770–1. His friends were irritated by his apparent neglect in not sending them copies of the book and by his failure properly to recognize John Bartram’s contributions to it. Colden Paps., IV, 33, 92, 115; Darlington, Memorials, pp. 377, 378.

1A reference to the College of New Jersey which, with the approval of the New York Synod, sent two agents to England in the late fall of 1753 to raise funds. These were Gilbert Tennent and Samuel Davies. The latter’s journal of the trip is printed in William H. Foote, Sketches of Virginia, Historical and Biographical (Phila., 1850), pp. 228–81. See also Pa. Gaz., Oct. 24, 1754.

2Not found.

3See above, p. 191.

4Not found. Possibly BF’s long letter of September 1753, printed above, pp. 68–79.

5See above, pp. 158–60.

6The third volume of Archibald Bower’s History of the Popes (7 vols., London, 1748–66) appeared in 1754; “Knight’s Philosophy” may have been Gowin Knight, An Attempt to demonstrate … Attraction and Repulsion (London, 1748).

7J. Durno, A Description of a New-Invented Stove-Grate (London, 1753) described and commended BF’s fireplace, but criticized it as being intended only for wood and not well adapted to sea-coal, and therefore difficult to clean. No connection has been found between Durno and James Short, London mathematician and instrument maker, from whom BF purchased a telescope, 1762. DNB.

8Not found.

9Collinson had sent BF a copy of A Letter from Sir Richard Cox, Bart. to Thomas Prior, Esq; Shewing, from Experience, A sure Method to establish the Linen-Manufacture (Dublin, 1749; reprinted, London, 1749). A committee had been formed in Boston in 1748 to raise subscriptions for a linen factory (BF’s brother John contributed £50); soon thereafter a Society for Encouraging Industry and the Employment of the Poor was formed, patterned on Cox’s suggestions. The Society obtained a grant from the General Court, 1753, for a building and to give instruction in weaving and spinning; their appeal was supported by a pamphlet Industry & Frugality Proposed as the surest Means to make us a Rich and Flourishing People; and the Linen Manufacture Recommended As tending to promote These among us (Boston, 1753). Edward Winslow, “The Early Charitable Organizations of Boston,” N.-E. Hist. and Gen. Reg., XLIV (1890), 101–3; Jour. Mass. House of Reps., XXX, 38, 39, 44. BF sent Collinson a copy of this pamphlet (now in John Carter Brown Lib.). Collinson wrote on the back of the title page the following account of the episode:

“On my sending Sir Rd: Cox’s Book which Treated of the Methode of Introduceing the Spining and Weaveing of Linnen in Ireland

“Mr. Franklin at Philadelphia to whome I sent It, consider’d It, and proposed the same Plan to some Ingenious publick spirited Friends. They again [proposed?] to the Legislature to Encourage it, the Ensueing pamphlet was publish’d at Boston to that End.

“Great Success has attended It at Boston. It was began anno 1759 [sic, for 1749].

Peter Collinson  1757

“I am thankfull Providence Putt It into my Mind, to send Cox’s Scheme over, whose Benevolent publick Spirit, can’t be enough commended for It was the Means of stimulateing the New England people, to sett up the Linnen Manufacture.” See also Amer. Antiq. Soc. Proc., LX (1950), 98–9.

BF may also have sent Collinson the account of the annual meeting of the Boston society which appeared in Pa. Gaz., Aug. 23, 1753, and was reprinted in Gent. Mag., XXIII (1753), 539.

1Henry Pelham, nominally prime minister in the government of his brother, the Duke of Newcastle, had been lord president of the Council since 1751; he died March 6, 1754, a few days after eating a hearty dinner of oysters and beefsteak. DNB; Colden Paps., IV, 434. Under date of March 19 Samuel Davies (above, p. 209, n.) recorded that “the court is all in confusion about choosing one to fill up Mr. Pelham’s place; and the king is much perplexed. He says he hoped to spend his old days in peace, but all his peace is buried in Mr. Pelham’s grave.” Foote, Sketches of Virginia, p. 257.

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