Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Catharine Ray, 4 March 1755

To Catharine Ray4

ALS: New York Public Library

Philada. March 4. 1755

Dear Katy,

Your kind Letter of January 20.5 is but just come to hand, and I take this first Opportunity of acknowledging the Favour.

It gives me great Pleasure to hear that you got home safe and well that Day. I thought too much was hazarded, when I saw you put off to Sea in that very little Skiff, toss’d by every Wave. But the Call was strong and just, a sick Parent.6 I stood on the Shore, and look’d after you, till I could no longer distinguish you, even with my Glass; then returned to your Sister’s, praying for your safe Passage. Towards Evening all agreed that you must certainly be arriv’d before that time, the Weather having been so favourable; which made me more easy and chearful, for I had been truly concern’d for you.

I left New England slowly, and with great Reluctance: Short Days Journeys, and loitering Visits on the Road, for three or four Weeks, manifested my Unwillingness to quit a Country in which I drew my first Breath, spent my earliest and most pleasant Days, and had now received so many fresh Marks of the People’s Goodness and Benevolence, in the kind and affectionate Treatment I had every where met with. I almost forgot I had a Home; till I was more than half-way towards it; till I had, one by one, parted with all my New England Friends, and was got into the western Borders of Connecticut, among meer Strangers: then, like an old Man, who, having buried all he lov’d in this World, begins to think of Heaven, I begun to think of and wish for Home; and as I drew nearer, I found the Attraction stronger and stronger, my Diligence and Speed increas’d with my Impatience, I drove on violently, and made such long Stretches that a very few Days brought me to my own House, and to the Arms of my good old Wife and Children, where I remain, Thanks to God, at present well and happy.

Persons subject to the Hyp,7 complain of the North East Wind as increasing their Malady. But since you promis’d to send me Kisses in that Wind, and I find you as good as your Word, ’tis to me the gayest Wind that blows, and gives me the best Spirits. I write this during a N. East Storm of Snow, the greatest we have had this Winter: Your Favours come mixd with the Snowy Fleeces which are pure as your Virgin Innocence, white as your lovely Bosom, — and as cold: — But let it warm towards some worthy young Man, and may Heaven bless you both with every kind of Happiness.

I desired Miss Anna Ward,8 to send you over a little Book I left with her; for your Amusement in that lonely Island. My Respects to your good Father and Mother, and Sister unknown.9 Let me often hear of your Welfare, since it is not likely I shall ever again have the Pleasure of seeing you. Accept mine, and my Wife’s sincere Thanks for the many Civilities I receiv’d from you and your Relations; and do me the Justice to believe me, Dear Girl, Your affectionate faithful Friend and humble Servant

B Franklin

My respectful Compliments to your good Brother Ward, and Sister;1 and to the agreable Family of the Wards at Newport when you see them. Adieu.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Catharine Ray (1731–1794) and BF met in Boston in the late fall of 1754, when he was there on post-office business and she was visiting her sister Judith, who was the wife of Thomas Hubbart (C. 8), stepson of BF’s brother John. Their friendship lasted until his death and, encompassing on her part BF’s sister Jane, his wife and daughter, and on his the Greenes and Wards, produced one of the most attractive parts of BF’s rich correspondence. Born on Block Island, R.I., the daughter of Simon and Deborah Greene Ray, Catharine had the usual limited education of girls of her time, but her charm, intelligence, and youth captured and held BF’s interest. They set out from Boston, Dec. 30, 1754, visited Catharine’s sister Anna, wife of Samuel Ward, at Westerly, R.I., whence Catharine returned to Block Island and BF to Philadelphia. They met four times more, the last in 1776 when Catharine and her husband William Greene (whom she married in 1758) came to Philadelphia on political business. A farmer and surveyor at Warwick, R.I., Greene (1731–1809) was an associate justice of the Rhode Island Supreme Court, chief justice in 1777, and governor, 1778–86. He and Catharine had six children, of whom Ray (1765–1849) was sent to the Academy of Philadelphia before going to Yale, where he graduated in 1784. William G. Roelker, ed., Benjamin Franklin and Catharine Ray Greene: Their Correspondence, 1755–1790 (Phila., 1949). Her husband was a Quaker, but she had lived among Baptists enough to have accepted their doctrine on immersion. In 1774, after a session of argument and persuasion that lasted throughout a night and day, Ezra Stiles (see above, p. 492 n), who judged her “a very amiable and pious Lady,” overcame her scruples and baptized her by affusion, this is, by “sprinkling” rather than “plunging.” She died at Warwick. Franklin B. Dexter, ed., The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles (N.Y., 1901), 1, 451–2.

5Not found.

6Her father, Simon, died March 19, 1755. Roelker, Franklin-Greene Corres., p. 23.

7Hyp: hypochondria.

8Probably Hannah Ward (1721–1783), daughter of Gov. Richard Ward and sister of Samuel Ward. The book has not been identified.

9Phebe Ray Littlefield, who lived on Block Island. Her daughter Kitty married General Nathanael Greene in 1774. Roelker, Franklin-Greene Corres., p. 2.

1Samuel and Anna Ward. Samuel (1725–1776), merchant and farmer, member of the Rhode Island Assembly, 1756–58; as chief justice, 1762, he held an act of Parliament void in the colony; he was elected governor, 1762, 1765–67; and was a member of the First and Second Continental Congresses, 1774–76. His wife Anna was Catharine Ray’s sister. Bernhard Knollenberg, Correspondence of Governor Samuel Ward, May 1775–March 1776 … and Genealogy of the Ward Family (Providence, R.I., 1954).

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