Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Strahan, 27 November 1755

To William Strahan

ALS: New York Public Library

Philada. Nov. 27. 1755

Dear Sir,

I have yours of Oct. 3.4 Bolitho being just arriv’d, the Things not yet come on shore.

By the Account sent, I find I was then £59 4s. ½d. in your Debt. I hope you have since received the Bills I sent you per Joy and Budden for £109 8s. 4d. Sterling which will leave a Ballance in my Favour.5

I do not at all approve of B. Mecom’s being so much in your Debt, and shall write to him about it.6 The People of those Islands expect a great deal of Credit, and when the Books are out of his hands, if he should die, half would not be collected; This I have learnt by Experience in the Case of poor Smith, whom I first settled there. I am glad therefore that you declin’d sending him the other Things he wrote for. Pray write to him for the Pay and make him keep Touch; that will oblige him to dun quick and get in his Debts; otherwise he may hurt himself, and you in the End. Remember I give you this Caution, and that you venture on your own Risque.

I shall be glad to be of any Service to you in the Affair you mention relating to the Gent. Magazines;7 and our Daughter,8 (who already trades a little to London) is willing to undertake the Distributing them per Post from this Place, hoping it may produce some Profit to herself. I will immediately cause Advertisements to be printed in the Papers here, at New York, Newhaven and Boston, recommending that Magazine,9 and proposing to supply all who will subscribe for them at 13s. this Currency a Year; the Subscribers paying down the Money for one Year beforehand; for otherwise there will be a considerable Loss by Bad Debts. As soon as I find what this Subscription will produce, I shall know what Number to send for. Most of those for New England must be sent to Boston. Those for New York, Connecticut, Pensilvania and Maryland, must be sent in to New York or Philadelphia, as Opportunities offer to one Place or the other. As to Virginia, I believe it will scarce be worth while to propose it there, the Gentlemen being generally furnisht with them by their Correspondents in London. Those who incline to continue, must pay for the second Year three Months before the first expires, and so on from time to time. The Postmasters in those Places to take in the Subscription Money, and distribute the Magazines, &c. These are my first Thoughts. I shall write farther. That Magazine has always been in my Opinion by far the best. I think [it] never wants Matter both entertaining and instructive, or I might now and then furnish you with some little Pieces from this Part of the World.1

My Wife and Daughter join in sincerest good Wishes of Prosperity to you and all yours, with Dear Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

My Respects to Mr. Newberry,2 of whom you give so amiable a Character.

Mr. Strahan

Addressed: To / Mr. William Strahan / Printer / London

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Not found.

5See above, p. 220.

6On Benjamin Mecom’s venture in Antigua, see Wilberforce Eames, “The Antigua Press and Benjamin Mecom,” Amer. Antiq. Soc. Proc., n.s., XXXVIII (1929), 303–48, and above, IV, 355, and below, pp. 463–5.

7The Gentleman’s Magazine was carried on after Edward Cave’s death in 1754 by his nephew Richard Cave and his printer D. Harry. This reference, Strahan’s letters to David Hall, Oct. 1, 25, 1755 (MSS, APS), and BF’s letter of July 2, 1756 (see below, pp. 467–8), suggest that Strahan was interested as a bookseller in increasing his sales of the magazine in America. The scheme may be connected with the establishment of packet service by the Post Office, 1755–56: on Feb. 12, 1756, William Franklin advertised that the first of the packets had arrived at New York on February 3; and on March 12 Pa. Gaz. carried an advertisement of the comptroller general for the carriage of newspapers and magazines, including the Gentleman’s.

8Sarah Franklin was then twelve.

9No advertisement has been found. See BF to Strahan, July 2, 1756 (below, p. 468).

1Such modesty is hardly supported by the prominence given to Pennsylvania affairs generally and to productions of BF’s pen in particular in Gent. Mag. at this time. Extracts from “Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind” appeared in November 1755, the Militia Act and the X.Y.Z. Dialogue defending it (both written by BF) were printed in February and March 1756 respectively, and two other lengthy accounts of Pennsylvania affairs, probably not written by BF, appeared in November 1755 and January 1756. Strahan’s interest in the magazine would have provided an intimate link between it and the political disputes in Pennsylvania to which BF was a party.

2John Newberry (1713–1767), publisher of Johnson, Goldsmith, Christopher Smart, and others, and one of the earliest publishers of books for children. Goldsmith described him in The Vicar of Wakefield as “the philanthropic bookseller in St. Paul’s church-yard … the friend of all mankind,” who “was no sooner alighted than he was in haste to be gone,” a good-natured man, with a “red pimply face.” When Newberry was involved in a controversy between Smart and Sir John Hill, Strahan was one of the three members of the Stationers Company who publicly testified to his good character and honesty in paying debts in full. Gent. Mag., XXII (1752), 601.

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