Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Alexander Gordon, 15 March 1758

From Alexander Gordon3

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Portsmouth 15 March 1758.


Leaving London the 5th. Instant I was taken ill of a Fever on the Road, which has gather’d strength and Confined me to my Bed ever since, so that I am Brought quite low and am at this time scarce able to sit up to write. How dismall Alass is my Situation; in a Strange place, without Money, without Freinds, and in a Sick and very Weak Condition. I know nobody here, the Captain and all the Officers of the Vulture4 (of which I was some time Clerk) being seperated, some gone one way and some another. But Good God, how bitter is the Reflection that if it should please him of his Mercy that I should recover, a Jail must be my hard Lott, for what less may I, can I expect. The Physician and Apothecary as well as the Landlord, calling on me Repeatedly for Money, and if I have not wherwith to satisfie their Clamours, that will certainly be my Portion.

Now Sir having no Acquaintance with any Gentlemen in London, and my Father having no Dealings there, I know not who to apply to, to Advance me such a Sum as will Enable me to pay off my Doctor, Apothecary and Landlord, (which I believe will Amount to about £7) except Sir unto you, who was once well Acquainted with my Father Mr. Thomas Gordon of Philadelphia. And now Sir I make it my Earnest Request that you would please to Advance me a small Sum and take my Bill upon my Father (upon whom I never before drew, tho’ not for want, of his Liberty) as I know the Circumstance’s of the Case Considered he will pay it with the greatest pleasure. Please Sir let me have an Answer by return of Post,5 and in the Interim, I am, with the greatest Respect Sir Your most Obedient humble Servant

Alexander Gordon

P.S. please direct for me at the Haunch and Vine on Portsmouth Common

I am now Entirely out of Business, had it not been for this Fever should have Sailed with Admiral Brodrick,6 but please God I recover shall I hope soon get a Birth.


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Son of Thomas Gordon (1712?–1772), a Scots merchant of Philadelphia, promoter of St. Peter’s Church, signer of the anti-Quaker petition of October 1755, and known to BF as an advertiser in Pa. Gaz. Of Alexander, little is known except that he died in Lisbon, probably before his father wrote BF, Feb. 5, 1769, recalling BF’s kindness to Alexander and seeking aid for his stepson, Henry Benbridge, the painter. PMHB, XL (1916), 191; XLVIII (1924), 54; Ledger “D”; DAB: Benbridge; MS copy of petition, N.Y. Pub. Lib.

4The sloop Vulture of the Royal Navy, Capt. Scrafe, had been in New York, April–June 1757, waiting to sail in Lord Loudoun’s Louisbourg expedition, and in February 1758 was at Portsmouth. Pa. Jour., April 21 and Aug. 11, 1757; London Chron., Feb. 28–March 1, 1758.

5BF sent Gordon £10 on March 22, 1758, for which the young man furnished drafts on his father. “Account of Expences,” p. 13; PMHB, LV (1931), 109,

6Gordon’s fever probably was a blessing in disguise; Rear Admiral Thomas Brodrick’s ship, the Prince George, burned off Ushant on April 13, 1758, with nearly 800 men on board. Only 250 were saved, including Brodrick, who was rescued “stark naked” after being in the water for an hour. DNB. London Chron., May 13, 16, 18, 1758, and Gent. Mag., XXVIII (April, 1758), 228–30, printed dramatic eye-witness accounts of the disaster.

Index Entries