Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Ellicott, 13 April 1763

To John Ellicott2

ALS: The London Hospital

Philada. April 13. 1763

Dear Sir

I yesterday receiv’d your Favour of Jany. 8.3 and as it would be a particular Pleasure to me to be any way serviceable to your Hospital,4 I shall cause the Enquiry you desire to be carefully made at New York; and to that end I write to a Friend there by this Post:5 But as the Father of Capt. Holland is said in the Will to have been of James River, which is in Virginia, and there is likewise a York Town upon York River which is not far from James River in Virginia, I apprehend that may be the York intended, and not New York properly so named, and that at York in Virginia one may possibly hear something of Eliz. Holland if she is still in being or ever lived there. I am just about to take a Journey into Virginia on the Business of my Office, and shall go thro’ York town, where I shall make strict Enquiry, and as soon as possible let you know the Result.

The Mention of the London Hospital puts me in mind of a Favour I once ask’d of you, which was, to procure me a Copy of the Song that was sung by Mr. Beard6 on the Subject of Charity when I had the Pleasure of Dining with the Governors and other Contributors at your Invitation. I am concern’d in the Management of the Pennsylvania Hospital erected in this City, and think that Song on proper Occasions might be useful to us here. I would not suffer it to be printed, nor give any Copy of it. But perhaps you cannot easily procure it, and I should be sorry to give you much Trouble about it.7

I am sorry I cannot give you an agreable Account of the Performance of the Watch. The new Spring unfortunately broke soon after I left England. Since my coming here, the old one is put in again; but I have not yet accurately adjusted the Watch so as to bring it to keep time as well as it us’d to do in London.

My Compliments to Mr. Hazard,8 and the rest of the Gentlemen at the George and Vulture.9 I shall always remember with Pleasure the agreable Hours I pass’d in that chearful, sensible and intelligent Society. The Monday scarce comes round but I think of you and am present with you in Spirit; and shall take it kindly, if, when you are not crouded, you would order a Chair for me, and only caution one another not to tread upon my Toes.

My best Respects to Mrs. Ellicot and to your Son, and Daughters.1 With sincere Esteem and Regard, I am, Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

Addressed: To / Mr Ellicot / Watchmaker / Royal Exchange / London / Per the Pitt / Packet

Endorsed: Dr Franklin Philadelphia Apr 13 1763

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2John Ellicott (1706?–1772) F.R.S., 1738, succeeded his father in the clockmaking business and became clockmaker to George III. He contributed several papers to Phil. Trans. on his specialty and on other subjects, including electricity (above, III, 472 n, 473 n; IV, 10). He was one of several scientists in the London area who made observations of the transit of Venus in 1761. DNB.

3Not found.

4The London Hospital was founded in 1740 as the London Infirmary in Prescot Street, Goodman’s Fields, but moved in 1752 to its present location in Whitechapel Road, where it has continued to serve the teeming population of the East End. Major additions during later years had made it by early in the twentieth century the largest hospital in Great Britain. Ellicott was apparently a contributor and possibly a member of its Board of Governors.

5It would appear from what is said here and what BF wrote Ellicott, June 23, 1764, that the will of a Capt. William Holland (in some way connected with the London Hospital) had made a bequest to his sister Elizabeth, thought to have been living in New York. Their father appears to have been described as “of James River.” BF’s inquiries for these people, actively pursued for more than a year, produced no certain results. He was still interested in the search as late as 1772.

6Probably John Beard (1716?–1791), actor and singer. He first appeared as an actor in 1737 at Drury Lane, in Charles Coffey’s ballad opera “The Devil to Pay,” but perhaps his most popular performances in later years were in the part of Macheath in Gay’s “Beggars’ Opera” at Covent Garden. Handel composed major tenor parts expressly for Beard in “The Messiah” and other oratorios. DNB.

7No copy of this song has been identified among BF’s papers.

8Possibly the Richard Hazard (d. 1784), who was elected F.R.S. in 1752. Gent. Mag., LIV (1784), 719.

9An inn and tavern just off George Yard, between Cornhill and Lombard Streets, familiar to readers of Pickwick Papers as the place where Mr. Pickwick “suspended” himself during the period of Bardell v. Pickwick. B.W. Matz, The Inns and Taverns of “Pickwick” (London, 1921), pp. 139–53. The Monday Club, which met weekly at the George and Vulture, consisted chiefly of “affluent merchants and tradesmen who cultivated scientific and charitable interests.” Several were members of the Royal Society or the Society of Arts, or both. For a brief description and partial list of members, see Verner W. Crane, “The Club of Honest Whigs: Friends of Science and Liberty,” 3 William and Mary Quart., XXIII (1966), 213–15.

1At his death Ellicott left two sons, Edward and John, and three unmarried daughters, Deborah, Mary, and Elizabeth. The son here mentioned was probably Edward (d. 1791), who became his father’s partner in 1769, succeeded to the business, and was similarly appointed clockmaker to George III.

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