Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Deborah Franklin, 6 September 1758

To Deborah Franklin

MS not found; reprinted in part from Duane, Works, VI, 36–9; in part from The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, VIII (1884), 403–6; remainder missing.1

London, September 6, 1758.

My Dear Child,

In mine of June 10th, by the Mercury, captain Robinson,2 I mentioned our having been at Cambridge. We staid there a week, being entertained with great kindness by the principal people, and shown all the curiosities of the place; and, returning by another road to see more of the country, we came again to London.3 I found the journey advantageous to my health, increasing both my health and spirits, and therefore, as all the great folks were out of town, and public business at a stand, I the more easily prevailed with myself to take another journey and accept of the invitation. We had to be again at Cambridge at the commencement, the beginning of July. We went accordingly, were present at all the ceremonies, dined every day in their halls, and my vanity was not a little gratified by the particular regard shown me by the chancellor and vice chancellor of the university, and the heads of colleges.4 After the commencement, we went from Cambridge, through Huntingdonshire into Northamptonshire,5 and at Wellingborough; on inquiry we found still living Mary Fisher, whose maiden name was Franklin, daughter and only child of Thomas Franklin, my father’s eldest brother: she is five years older than sister Douse, and remembers her going away with my father and his then wife, and two other children to New England, about the year, 1685.6 We have had no correspondence with her since my uncle Benjamin’s death,7 now near 30 years. I knew she had lived at Wellingborough, and had married there to one Mr. Richard Fisher, a grazier and tanner, about fifty years ago, but did not expect to see either of them alive, so inquired for their posterity; I was directed to their house and we found them both alive, but weak with age, very glad however to see us; she seems to have been a very smart, sensible woman. They are wealthy, have left off business, and live comfortably. They have had only one child, a daughter, who died, when about thirty years of age, unmarried; she gave me several of my uncle Benjamin’s letters to her, and acquainted me where the other remains of the family lived, of which I have, since my return to London, found out a daughter of my father’s only sister, very old, and was never married. She is a good clever woman, but poor, though vastly contented with her situation and very cheerful.8 The others are in different parts of the country: I intend to visit them, but they were too much out of our tour in that journey. From Wellingborough we went to Ecton,9 about three or four miles, being the village where my father was born, and where his father, grand-father, and great-grandfather had lived, and how many of the family before them we know not.1 We went first to see the old house and grounds; they came to Mr. Fisher with his wife, and after letting them for some years finding his rent something ill paid, he sold them.2 The land is now added to another farm, and a school kept in the house: it is a decayed old stone building, but still known by the name of Franklin House. Thence we went to visit the rector of the parish,3 who lives close by the church, a very antient building. He entertained us very kindly, and showed us the old church register, in which were the births, marriages, and burials of our ancestors for 200 years, as early as his book began. His wife a goodnatured chatty old lady, (grandaughter of the famous archdeacon Palmer,4 who formerly had that parish, and lived there,) remembered a great deal about the family; carried us out into the church-yard, and showed us several of their grave stones, which were so covered with moss that we could not read the letters till she ordered a hard brush and basin of water, with which Peter scoured them clean, and then Billy copied them.5 She entertained and diverted us highly with stories of Thomas Franklin, Mrs. Fisher’s father, who was a conveyancer, something of a lawyer, clerk of the county courts, and clerk to the archdeacon, in his visitations; a very leading man in all county affairs, and much employed in public business.6 He set on foot a subscription for erecting chimes in their steeple, and completed it, and we heard them play.7 He found out an easy method of saving their village meadows from being drowned, as they used to be sometimes by the river, which method is still in being; but when first proposed, nobody could conceive how it could be; but however they said if Franklin says he knows how to do it, it will be done. His advice and opinion was sought for on all occasions, by all sorts of people, and he was looked upon, she said, by some, as something of a conjurer. He died just four years before I was born, on the same day of the same month.8

Since our return to London I have had a kind letter from cousin Fisher, and another from the rector, which I send you.9

From Ecton we went to Northampton, where we staid part of the day; then went to Coventry, and from thence to Birmingham—here, upon inquiry, we soon found out yours, and cousin Wilkinson’s, and cousin Cash’s relations:1 first we found one of the Cash’s, and he went with us to Rebecca Flint’s,2 where we saw her and her husband: she is a turner and he a buttonmaker; they have no children; were very glad to see any person that knew their sister Wilkinson;3 told us what letters they had received, and showed us some of them; and even showed us that they had, out of respect, preserved a keg, in which they had received a present of some sturgeon. They sent for their brother Joshua North, who came with his wife immediately to see us, he is a turner also, and has six children, a lively active man. Mrs. Flint desired me to tell her sister that they live still in the old house she left them in, which I think she says was their father’s.4 From thence Mr. North went with us to your cousin Benjamin5 Fillers [Tiler]6 where we suppd that night, he is a button maker, employs a great number of hands and lives very genteely, his wife is a very sensible, polite, agreeable woman, but they have no children, he told us Oliver7 had lived at Canterbury, married a second wife and was in good business, getting money apace, but died eight years since, his eldest brother John8 was living and had one son, his brother Joseph9 also living, had three children and his sister Sarah1 married to Mr. Salt, had one child, Samuel,2 was in the Army and had no child, I think they said he was among the forces taken at Oswego and had not since heard of him.3 They invited us to dine with them another day, which we did, when all the brothers and sisters were met together with one Mrs. Guest, 4a another own cousin of Mother Read’s her maiden name was Mary Taylor, she had a sister whose name was Sarah and a brother Abraham, she is a grand daughter to Abraham Cash,5a a widow about 68 years of age and has only one son, she remembers father Read and mother; mother and she are sister’s children. She is a very sensible, smart, old lady, reads a great deal and is well acquainted with books, and her conversation very agreeable, she seems to be the scholar of the family, she made me a present of a pencil case and a Clezzel (?)6 for Sally. Mrs. Salt is a jolly, lively dame, both Billy and myself agree that she was extremely like you, her whole face has the same turn, and exactly the same little blue Birmingham eyes. I think her name is Sarah, and she has one daughter named Deborah, about 12 years old. We had a very genteel dinner, and were very cherry, drinking mother’s health, yours, Sally’s and all our relations in Pennsylvania, they talk of the presents they had received from mother, of buckskins and the like and one had still preserved, a pair of gloves, sent them thirty years ago. I breakfasted twice at Mrs. Salt’s and was to have dined there but had not a spare day, being engaged at different houses, we spent a week in and about Birmingham, continually on the foot, from one manufactory to another and were highly entertained in seeing all the curious machines and expeditious ways of working. Every morning we were visited at our Inn by some or other of the relations, whose names I entered in my book. There were two own cousins of Caleb Cash7 being the sons of Isaac Cash,8 the eldest Thomas has had twelve children, seven of whom are alive, the other named Caleb Cash has four children, the eldest remembers our kinsman John North9 before he went to Pennsylvania, they are button makers and sent a present of their work, there was also Mrs. Mary Edes,1 Cousin Wilkinson’s eldest sister. She is a widow, has but one child who lives in London. There was also Mary Emery,2 eldest daughter of Isaac Cash who was brother to old Mr. Cash that went to Philadelphia, with her came Caleb Cash her brother, who had been with us before,3 they and their brother Thomas are all in the button business, four of the brothers of this family are dead. There was also Sarah Jones the daughter of Sarah Wheat, who was the daughter of John Wheat, who was brother to Caleb Cash’s wife, that went into Pennsylvania with her daughters Mary and Betty.4 Also there came a daughter of Sarah Jones, she has five children living, has had fourteen and seems very poor. At Cousin Tilers we heard of Rachel Sotty,5 but did not see her, she is the daughter of Ann Cash, who was the daughter of Benjamin Cash, who was the son of Abraham Cash, her husband is a merchant at Rotterdam, in good circumstances—when we were coming away they brought us their letters, and little presents of their workmanship for their relations, all the letters and presents are in a little box and two parcels which I send under the care of Mr. John Schutz, Conrad’s brother.6 There are some for Sally, so if mother is well enough to get all the relations together some day to dinner, let Sally read part of this letter to them, and drink the health of your Birmingham friends, for we often drank at Birmingham our friends in Philadelphia. From Birmingham we went into Worcestershire to see Hagly Park, Lord Lyttleton’s7 and some other fine streets [seats?] and gardens and returned through Birmingham we went to Warwick to see old Guy’s Castle8 &c.—and while we were here John North9 came from Birmingham, twenty miles on foot to see us, a little angry with his Uncle Joshua1 for not informing him of us when we were in town, he is the son of Thomas North who is a brother to John North2 of Pennsylvania, he has two sons William and John and a daughter Mary and is a button maker, he seems an honest hearty fellow, did not hear of us till we were gone and then followed us, being resolved, he said, to have his name put down in my book among the rest of the family, they are industrious, ingenious, working people and think themselves vastly happy that they live in dear old England. [Remainder missing.]

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

1No contemporary manuscript of any part of this long letter about BF’s visit to his and DF’s ancestral homes survives; perhaps its parts were separated and finally lost as they were passed around and copied by members of both families (see, for example, below, p. 152 n). The first part of its text, dealing chiefly with the homes and relatives of the Franklins, was printed in 1817 by William Duane (allied by marriage to the family; see Genealogy D.3.1 and D.3.6) with a notation at the end: “The leaf of the manuscript book containing the remainder of this letter torn out.” The second part, concerned with DF’s English relatives, was contributed to PMHB in 1884 by John M. Cowell, a Pennsylvania descendant of her great-grandfather Abraham Cash, who explained that he had found the extract among his father’s papers. Another text of this part, differing only in minor details, is in a typescript among the George Simpson Eddy Papers in Princeton Univ. Lib., sent to him in 1933 by Franklin Bache, great-grandson of BF’s grandson Benjamin Franklin (“Benny”) Bache (D.3.1). Mr. Bache called his transcript “my copy of a copy probably of the copy in the ‘Cash family.’ It is almost certainly authentic.” The text as printed in PMHB is used here as it seems a little more directly descended from the original and conforms somewhat more closely to BF’s normal usage. In both parts a few obvious errors in transcription have been in minor cases silently corrected. How extensive the missing final part of BF’s letter may have been cannot now be determined.

2See above, p. 90 n.

3See above, pp. 108–9.

4Degrees were conferred at Cambridge July 6, 1758. The Duke of Newcastle (1693–1768) was chancellor; the vice chancellor was Dr. John Green (1703–1779), Regius professor of divinity, 1748–56, master of Corpus Christi College, 1750–64, and bishop of Lincoln, 1761–79. DNB.

5Duane incorrectly printed “Northumberlandshire.”

6See above, I, xlix–lxxvii, for genealogical tables and charts of the Franklin family. BF’s father Josiah moved to Boston in 1683 with his first wife, the former Ann(e) Child, their daughter Elizabeth (C.1; BF’s “sister Douse”), then aged five, and two younger children, Samuel (C.2) and Hannah (C.3). Writing to BF in 1739, Josiah had mentioned his niece Mary Fisher (A. and her husband Richard but said he did not know if they were still living; see above, II, 231. For BF’s visit with them see above, p. 117.

7For the uncle (A.5.2.7) for whom BF was named, and some of his verses, see above, I, 3–6. The elder Benjamin Franklin died in 1727.

8Eleanor Morris (A., daughter of Hannah Franklin and her husband John Morris. The elder Benjamin Franklin wrote in 1717 that his sister Hannah “had several good offers” of marriage, but being somehow “a hinderance in brother Johns closing with several good offers, soe she her selfe refused severall and took up with what proved the worst.” Her husband, a rag dyer, went into housebuilding, overreached himself, and died leaving his wife and daughters £600 in debt. The daughter Eleanor, wrote Uncle Benjamin, “Has a charming tongue, is of a very obliging cariage free in her promises but far from endeavours to perform them.” “A short account of the Family of Thomas Franklin of Ecton in Northampton shire. 21 June 1717,” Yale Univ. Lib. In the letter of 1739 mentioned in the second note above, Josiah Franklin told BF that he had also lost touch with the children of his brother John and sister Hannah. For BF’s considerate treatment of Eleanor Morris and John’s daughter Anne Farrow in connection with Mary Fisher’s estate, see below, pp. 224–5, 288, 302, 414.

9Here and later Duane misprinted “Ecton” as “Eaton.”

1Benjamin Franklin the Elder composed these nostalgic verses about his birthplace while living in London:

On Ecton 1702

This is the Church Whose preacher I did fear

These are the Bells I did Delight to Hear

This is the Yard Where I did often play

And this the Ile I katechize did say

Here Lyes the Dust I did so often Dread

There live’d the Baker that did make the bread

But Where’s the Boyes that Higher did me Lead

Here stands the stones that did my Haste Retard

There Lyes the Mother I did Disregard

That is the street Which I could nere Abide

And These the Grounds I play’d at seek and Hide

This is the pond Whereon I caught a fall

And that the Barn Wherein I play’d at ball

There Runs the River Where I oft did Fish

And Either had good sport or did it Wish

And these the Long broad pleasant Medows Where

Noe bouling-Green more Even can Appear

On these fair Leyes Ectons fair Daughters Dance’t

When Charming Martyn his high straines Advanc’t

Here Nappy Ale was sould brew’d by a Friend

Here in Excess I first of all offend

And He that Wrote this, here does make an End.

Benjamin Franklin (the Elder) MS Commonplace Book, Amer. Antiq. Soc.

2At an uncertain date the property was acquired either by Thomas Isted (1677–1731), who had bought the manor of Ecton in 1712, or by his son and successor Ambrose Isted (1718–1781). Autobiog. (APS-Yale edit.), p. 46.

3Eyre Whalley; see above, p. 114 n.

4John Palmer (1612–1679), rector of Ecton, 1641–79, and archdeacon of Northampton, 1665–79. A succession of Palmers and Whalleys were rectors of Ecton from 1641 until into the nineteenth century. John Cole, The History and Antiquities of Ecton (London, 1825), pp. 15–17; John Bridges, The History and Antiquities of Northamptonshire (Oxford, 1791), II, 144.

5Peter was BF’s Negro servant. For WF’s copies of the inscriptions see above, p. 119.

6The elder Benjamin Franklin had written that this Thomas (his brother and BF’s uncle, A.5.2.1) “was a black thin man of very mean appearance, but of great understanding and quick apprehension, very passionate, soon reconciled, and just in his dealings, Highly for the church of Eng. yet wanted a cordial love for its Ministers and toward his end had almost turn’d dissenter.” As a youth he had left farming and for a time “kept a school and sold tobacco,” but as his work of preparing legal documents increased he sold his school and “at length became a Noted scrivener.” “A short Account,” Yale Univ. Lib.

7The bells, put up in 1690, played “the 4th Psalm on Sunday, and Britons strike home on the other days, at the hours of four, six, eight, and twelve.” Cole, History of Ecton, p. 9.

8This coincidence apparently impressed BF greatly; he mentioned it again thirteen years later in the opening pages of his autobiography (ostensibly addressed to WF), and added: “The Account we receiv’d of his Life and Character from some old People at Ecton, I remember struck you, as something extraordinary from its Similarity to what you knew of mine. Had he died on the same Day, you said one might have suppos’d a Transmigration.” Autobiog. (APS-Yale edit.), pp. 47–8.

9The letter from Mary Fisher was probably the lost one of July 1758; see above, p. 117. For the letter from Whalley see above, pp. 114–17.

1The identity of the various members of DF’s large and ramified family mentioned in the rest of this letter can best be shown by the accompanying genealogical charts. The White Family chart (designated “E” in sequence after the charts in the Introduction to Volume I of this series) shows persons related to DF through her mother’s paternal grandfather; the Cash Family chart (designated “F”) shows persons related through her mother’s maternal grandfather. Individuals are assigned letter and numeral symbols according to the same system as in the earlier genealogical lists and charts (for explanation, see above, I, xlix–lx). Many persons in both family groups who are not mentioned in this letter or in later Franklin correspondence are omitted from the charts as printed here. For the “cousin Wilkinson” and “cousin Cash” mentioned here, see E.2.3 and F.2.3.

2E.2.4, a first cousin of DF’s mother.

3Elizabeth North Wilkinson (E.2.3), was living in Philadelphia with her husband Anthony as early as 1721. PMHB, XVII (1893), 365.

4John North (E.2).

5Duane’s text ends here; the rest of the letter that survives is from the Cowell transcript.

6“Filler” in both the Cowell and the Bache-Eddy versions is certainly an earlier transcriber’s error for “Tiler” or “Tyler.” Benjamin Tiler (E.1.1.5) was DF’s first cousin, and the brothers and sisters of whom he gave news to BF could only be members of this family group.


8E.1.1.2. The eldest child in this family, Mary (E.1.1.1), had apparently died earlier.



2Samuel Tiler (E.1.1.6), Benjamin’s younger brother. The punctuation here leaves something to be desired; the Bache-Eddy version substitutes a semicolon. Sarah Salt’s one child was Deborah, a girl of twelve, as becomes clear a few lines below.

3The French captured Oswego, Aug. 14, 1756; see above, VI, 493 n.

4a F.4.3.

5a F; the common ancestor of most of those mentioned in this part of BF’s letter.

6Thus in both transcripts; probably a misreading of “chizzel” (chisel) and to be used for sharpening pencils.

7Caleb Cash, Jr. (F.2.3), DF’s mother’s first cousin, a Philadelphia merchant and a founding member (1732) of the fishing club, The Colony (State) in Schuylkill, famous, among other reasons, for its Fish House Punch.


9E.2.6, DF’s mother’s first cousin, who had moved to Philadelphia at least as early as 1725; PMHB, XVII (1893), 110.

1E.2.1, DF’s mother’s first cousin.

2F.6.3, DF’s mother’s first cousin.

3Isaac Cash (F.6) and Caleb Cash, Sr. (F.2), DF’s great uncles; and Caleb Cash (F.6.2), DF’s first cousin once removed, the man of that name mentioned most closely above. The profusion of Calebs in the Cash family is somewhat confusing; at least seven are found in Birmingham and Philadelphia church records by 1758.

4The first wife of Caleb Cash, Sr. (F.2), was Elizabeth Weet or Wheat. Her brother John “Wheat,” merely mentioned on the accompanying chart, was the father of Sarah Wheat and grandfather of Sarah Jones. None of these three were blood relatives of DF. Caleb and Elizabeth Cash’s two eldest children were Elizabeth (“Betty”) Beere (F.2.1) and Mary Leacock (F.2.2), DF’s mother’s first cousins.

5F.5.1.1. Her maiden name is not known.

6Between July 28 and Sept. 11, 1758, BF advanced a total of 33 guineas to John Shütz at the request of his brother Conrad (a Philadelphia papermaker; see above, II, 363 n), and on September 12 took Shütz’s note for this amount, “which Note is to be sent over for Payment in Pensilva.” Three days later he loaned Shütz 2 guineas more. “Account of Expences,” pp. 19, 22, 34; PMHB, LV (1931), 112–13.

7George Lyttelton (1709–1773), first Baron Lyttelton, author and politician, whose ancestral home Hagley, was admired by Horace Walpole and the poet James Thomson. DNB. In both versions of this part of the letter “Lord” is given as “long.”

8Guy of Warwick, a legendary hero of the Anglo-Saxon battles against the Danish invasion, left his wife, who was heir to the Warwick title and occupant of the famous Warwick Castle, out of remorse for his violent life. He later lived as a hermit near the castle, revealing himself again to his wife only on his deathbed.



2E.2.6. The Johns in the North family are somewhat less numerous than the Calebs among the Cashes; only five have been identified.

Genealogical Charts of the White and Cash Families

On the following pages are two charts showing Deborah Franklin’s family connections through her mother’s parents. They supplement the lists and charts of Benjamin Franklin’s relatives included in the first volume of this series (pp. xlix–lxxxvi), are arranged in the same manner, and like the earlier charts, omit the names of numerous persons who do not appear in the Franklin correspondence. To aid in identification each individual has been assigned a letter and numeral symbol according to the same system as used before, explained in detail above, I, xlix–l, with the letters “E” and “F” indicating the White and Cash charts respectively.

For much of the data the present editors are heavily indebted to Francis James Dallett, director of the Newport Historical Society, Newport, Rhode Island. His article “Doctor Franklin’s In-Laws,” Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, XXI (1960), 297–302, and its accompanying chart, must be taken as a starting point for any investigation of this subject. In the course of his researches he accumulated a large number of miscellaneous notes on the Cash, Leacock, and related families, including material from Birmingham parish registers and other English sources. These notes are now in the possession of Mrs. Elizabeth Parker Fitler of Gladwyne, Pa., who has graciously made them available to the editors. In addition, extensive use has been made of records of burials and baptisms at Christ Church, Philadelphia, published in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, I–VII, XII–XVII, and of marriages there, published in 2 Pennsylvania Archives, VIII, 11–296.

Open a typeset version of the chart:
Medium resolution (2106 x 1491 pixels)
High resolution (3144 x 2226 pixels)

Index Entries