Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Strahan, 7 December 1762

To William Strahan

ALS: Pierpont Morgan Library

Philada. Dec. 7. 1762

Dear Friend,

I wrote you some time since8 to acquaint you with my Arrival, and the kind Reception I met with from my old and many new Friends, notwithstanding Dr. Smith’s false Reports in London of my Interest, as declining here. I could not wish for a more hearty Welcome, and I never experienc’d greater Cordiality.

We had a long Passage, near ten Weeks from Portsmouth to this Place, but it was a pleasant one;9 for we had ten Sail in Company and a Man of War to protect us.1 It was the Scarborough, Capt. Stott, who took the greatest Care of his little Convoy that can be imagined, and brought us all safely to our several Ports. I wish you would mention this to his Honour in your Paper. We had pleasant Weather and fair Winds, and frequently visited and dined from Ship to Ship; we call’d too at the delightful Island of Madeira, by way of half-way House, where we replenish’d our Stores, and took in many Refreshments. It was the time of their Vintage, and we hung the Cieling of the Cabin with Bunches of fine Grapes, which serv’d as a Disert at Dinner for some Weeks afterwards. The Reason of our being so long at Sea, was, that sailing with a Convoy, we could none of us go faster than the slowest, being oblig’d every day to shorten Sail or lay by till they came up; this was the only Inconvenience of our having Company, which was abundantly made up to us by the Sense of greater Safety, the mutual good Offices daily exchanged, and the other Pleasures of Society.

I have no Line from you yet, but I hope there is a Letter on its way to me.2

My Son is not arrived, and I begin to think he will spend the Winter with you.3 Mr. Hall I suppose writes by this Ship.4 I mention’d what you desir’d in your Letter to me at Portsmouth;5 he informs me he has made some Remittances since I left England, and shall as fast as possible clear the Account. He blames himself for ordering so large a Cargo at once, and will keep more within Bounds hereafter.

Mr. Hall sends you I believe, for Sale, some Poetic Pieces of our young Geniuses;6 it would encourage them greatly if their Performances could obtain any favourable Reception in England; I wish therefore you would take the proper Steps to get them recommended to the Notice of the Publick as far at least as you may find they deserve. I know that no one can do this better than your self.

You have doubtless long since done Rejoicing on the Conquest of the Havana.7 It is indeed a Conquest of great Importance; but it has cost us dear, extreamly dear, when we consider the Havock made in our little brave Army by Sickness. I hope it will, in the Making of Peace, procure us some Advantages in Commerce or Possession that may in time countervail the heavy Loss we have sustained in that Enterprize.8

I must joyn with David in petitioning that you would write us all the Politicks; you have an Opportunity of hearing them all, and no one that is not quite in the Secret of Affairs can judge better of them. I hope the crazy Heads that have been so long raving about Scotchmen and Scotland, are by this time either broke or mended.9

My Dear Love to Mrs. Strahan, and bid her be well for all our sakes. Remember me affectionately to Rachey and my little Wife, and to your promising Sons, my young Friends Billy, George and Andrew.1 God bless you and let me find you well and happy when I come again to England; happy England! My Respects to Mr. Johnson; I hope he has got the Armonica in order before this time, and that Rachey plays daily with more and more Boldness and Grace, to the absolute charming of all her Acquaintance.

In two Years at farthest I hope to settle all my Affairs in such a Manner, as that I may then conveniently remove to England, provided we can persuade the good Woman to cross the Seas.2 That will be the great Difficulty: but you can help me a little in removing it.

Present my Compliments to all enquiring Friends, and believe me ever, My Dear Friend, Yours most affectionately

B Franklin

Addressed: To / Mr Strahan / Printer / Newstreet, Shoe Lane / London / per Capt. Friend

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Probably a reference to his short letter of December 2 (above, pp. 161–2), though there may have been an earlier and longer one, not found.

9This paragraph, slightly modified and shortened, was printed in London Chron., March 19–22, 1763, with the caption: “Extract of a Letter from Philadelphia, Dec. 7.”

1The next two sentences are written in the margin with a symbol at “Man of War” to show that BF intended them to be inserted here.

2On March 28, 1763 (below, p. 235), BF acknowledged letters from Strahan dated October 20 and November 1, both brought by WF.

3WF arrived at Philadelphia with his bride on Feb. 19, 1763; see above, p. 152 n.

4On May 10, 1763, Strahan acknowledged receipt of a letter from Hall, Dec. 8, 1762, by the Carolina, Capt. Friend. APS.

5Strahan’s letter of Aug. 20, 1762, to BF has not been found, but its contents may be surmised from one to Hall of October 20. A bill of exchange for £500 Hall had sent Strahan had been temporarily refused by the payer, but had since been accepted for payment in November. Meanwhile, Strahan had found himself straitened “prodigiously” by heavy expenses including the marriage of a daughter. Nevertheless, he had procured and sent virtually everything Hall had ordered, the total charge amounting to over £1000. APS. Apparently Strahan had asked that BF tell Hall to go a little more lightly on his orders.

6Hall sent Strahan 100 copies of The Court of Fancy by Thomas Godfrey (1736–1763), a poem described in Pa. Gaz., Aug. 12, 1762 (the day of its publication) as written on “a Subject which none but an elevated and daring Genius durst Attempt, with any Degree of Success.” In considering the poem The Monthly Review, XXIX (1763), 226–7, agreed that Godfrey had genius but lamented that “he had not education to improve it.” At various times during 1762 Pa. Gaz. printed or announced the publication of poems by Nathaniel Evans (1742–1767) and Francis Hopkinson (1737–1791); e.g., Evans’ “Rural Ode,” “Ode to a Friend,” “Hymn to May,” and “An Ode on the Late Glorious Successes of His Majesty’s Arms,” published in Gent. Mag., XXXIII (1763), 251–2, and Hopkinson’s “Science,” and Hall may have sent a selection to Strahan as well. Pa. Gaz., Feb. 11, March 11, 18, 25, June 3, Oct. 28, Nov. 18, 1762. Some of these poems were probably among the “Blossoms of American Verse” which BF sent to Caleb Whitefoord on Dec. 9, 1762. See below, p. 173.

7A British expeditionary force, commanded by the Earl of Albemarle as lieutenant general, and with Rear Admiral Sir George Pocock in charge of the naval squadron, besieged Havana for about two months in the summer of 1762 and effected its surrender on August 13. Disease and hot weather, to which most of the British troops were not acclimated, caused far greater casualties than did enemy action. Gipson, British Empire, VIII, 262–8.

8At the end of the war the British exchanged Havana for Florida.

9James A. Cochrane remarks on Strahan’s “ability to be present at all major debates [in Parliament] long before he became King’s Printer with an ex officio right of attendance.” Dr. Johnson’s Printer The Life of William Strahan (Cambridge, Mass., 1964), p. 171. In this passage BF may have been referring to some particular individual, possibly John Wilkes, or to the hostility toward Scots prevalent at that time in all levels of English society. BF’s sympathy for the Scots, indicated here, contrasts markedly with the feelings about Scottish army officers expressed in his letter to London Chron., May 9, 1759; above VIII, 352–5. In recent years BF had found some of his warmest British friends among the Scots, including Sir Alexander Dick, Lord Kames, David Hume, Dr. John Pringle, and Strahan himself.

1Rachel Strahan (1742–1765) married Andrew Johnston, an apothecary in Bread Street, London, on March 9, 1761. My “little Wife” was Strahan’s younger daughter, Margaret Penelope; see above, p. 137 n. Strahan’s eldest son, William (1740–1781), entered the printing business with his father and was made a partner in 1767, but in 1771 he went into business for himself. George Strahan (1744–1824) was apprenticed to a bookseller but was averse to the business and matriculated at Oxford, Nov. 13, 1764, and graduated B.A., 1768; M.A., 1771; B.D. and D.D., 1807. In 1773 he was presented to the vicarage of Islington and later held other livings in Essex and Kent. George was befriended by Samuel Johnson, who wrote his will in Islington vicarage and also entrusted private papers to him. These were published in 1785 as Prayers and Meditations. Andrew Strahan (1750–1831) went into the family business and upon his father’s death inherited his “private printing business as well as the share of the King’s printer’s patent, and proved to be as active and successful as his father had been.” Between 1796 and 1820 he sat in Parliament for various constituencies. He was succeeded in the business in 1819 by his nephews, Robert and Andrew Spottiswoode, the sons of his sister Margaret Penelope and John Spottiswoode. For the Strahan family see DNB and James A. Cochrane, Dr. Johnson’s Printer.

2BF returned to England in 1764 to assist Richard Jackson in an effort to secure royal government for Pa. DF did not accompany him.

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