Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Morgan, 16 August 1762

To John Morgan4

ALS: Yale University Library

Portsmouth, Augt. 16. 1762

Dear Sir

I ought before now to have acknowledg’d the Receipt of a Letter from you after your Arrival in Scotland.5 It gave me a good deal of Pleasure to hear you were well receiv’d there, and that you conceiv’d your being there would prove advantageous to you. I have not now your Letter before me, or should answer it more particularly. I am just departing for America, waiting here only for a Wind. I wish you a prosperous Completion of your Studies, and in due time a happy Return to your Native Country, where if I can be of the least Service to you, I shall be glad of the Occasion. Being, with much Esteem, Your affectionate Friend and humble Servant

B Franklin

Present my Respects and best wishes to Mr. Russel, and Mr. McGowan when you see them.6 My Son stays a little longer in England.7

Dr Morgan.

Addressed: To / Mr. John Morgan / Edinburgh

Endorsed: from B: Franklin Esqr Portsmouth Augst. 16. 1762.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4For John Morgan, then a medical student at the University of Edinburgh, see above, IX, 374 n. Though Morgan had been apprenticed to Dr. John Redman in Philadelphia and had served as surgeon with provincial troops, BF’s use of “Dr.” with his name at the bottom of the page anticipated his M.D. degree by about a year.

5Morgan’s letter has not been found.

6“Mr. Russel” was the surgeon apothecary James Russell, who was appointed professor of natural philosophy at the University of Edinburgh in 1764; see above, p. 22 n. Mr. McGowan has not been identified.

7WF was staying in England for two reasons: to get married and to receive his commission as governor of New Jersey. On Sept. 4, 1762, he married Elizabeth Downes (d. 1777), a lady originally from the West Indies. The circumstances of his appointment to the N.J. governorship are far from clear. The Earl of Egremont notified the Board of Trade of the King’s action on August 20, and a public announcement appeared in the Postscript of London Chron., Aug. 24–26, 1762. The Privy Council approved the commission and instructions on September 1, the commission received the Great Seal on the 9th, and WF took the oaths the same day. 1 N. J. Arch., IX, 368–72; Board of Trade Journal, 1759–63, pp. 287–8; Acts Privy Coun., Col., IV, 548. BF’s failure, in his last letters before sailing, even to hint that the appointment was under consideration suggests the secrecy surrounding the affair of which others complained: John Penn, for example, wrote William Alexander (Lord Stirling), Sept. 3, 1762, that “the whole of this business has been transacted in so private a manner, that not a tittle of it escaped until it was seen in the public papers; so that there was no opportunity of counteracting, or, indeed, doing one single thing that might put a stop to this shameful affair.” William A. Duer, The Life of William Alexander, Earl of Stirling, N.J. Hist. Soc. Colls., II (1847), 70. Thomas Penn’s account, though hardly impartial, is the fullest that survives: “I cannot tell you,” he wrote James Hamilton, March 11, 1763, “by whose Interest young Franklin was appointed, the Government was refused by Pownal, and less Interest was sufficient than to any place of two hundred Pounds a year here, it was done by the direction of Lord Bute and Dr. Pringle came from that Lord to the Secretary of State about it, whether he recommended him himself I cannot tell, he is Lord Butes Physician, and a Friend of Franklins—young Franklin sollicited less than a Month before to be Deputy Secretary of Carolina.” Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa. Some people in addition to the Penns were unhappy about the appointment, specifically because of the irregularity of WF’s birth. Thomas Bridges, Richard Jackson’s brother-in-law, wrote with some amusement to Jared Ingersoll, Sept. 30, 1762: “I hear there was some difficulty in his being Confirmed in his place, for in our Conscientious Age, many Scruples were raised on account of his being Illegitimate, which we were Strangers to till very lately.” New Haven Col. Hist. Soc. Papers, IX, 278. And some forty years later John Adams could write in his autobiography: “Without the Supposition of some kind of Backstairs Intrigues it is difficult to account for that mortification of the pride, affront to the dignity and Insult to the Morals of America, the Elevation to the Government of New Jersey of a base born Brat.” L. H. Butterfield et al., eds., Diary and Autobiography of John Adams (Cambridge, Mass., 1961), IV, 151.

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