Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Pringle, [May? 1763]

From John Pringle

AL (incomplete and mutilated): 3American Philosophical Society

[May? 1763]4

[Torn] would take the liberty of recommending [torn], who had been put in by Lord Bute, and [torn: we]ll qualified for his office.5 His Lordship then [torn] heard the young gentleman had ene[torn]ying that, I took an opportunity of telling [torn: ima]gined it came about. Lord Shelburne made no promises, but [torn] hear me with some indulgence.

This being the state of that affair, I am perswaded that if you were determined before to return to England, you will now see a good reason for hastening your departure; because your being present yourself, may be a considerable weight in the scale, in case matters should come near to a ballance.

I have forgot whether I wrote to you in answer to the last letter I received from you before you sailed.6 If I did not, I acknowledge the favour now. Into Lord Bute’s hands I put your proposal about the preservation of gun-powder, and also mentioned your thoughts about securing the health of our garrison at Senegal:7 for both which communications he desires me to return you thanks. Neither did I omit letting Lady Bute know both yours and your son’s intentions to search the coast for shells;8 but that Lady, deeper in that study than either you or I, told me, that your seas afforded none of any value, but was obliged to you for the trouble you undertook. She then said that people in her way were fond of those shells only in which the fish were found alive; for that if they were dead shells found upon the beach, they lost a certain glow of colour on the inside, for which they were as much estimable as for the colours without. Her Ladyship said further, that if you favoured her with any shells, she wished to have none larger than her two fists, so as that she could put [torn] otherwise, by being exposed to the air [torn] colours.

I have never heard more of your pa[per? torn] told me to whom I was to apply for it.9 I ha[ve? torn] name: so I beg of you to put me again upon [torn] that sketch of yours. I shall grudge losing the sligh[torn]

Our friends continue to meet at my house on the Sunday evenings.1 I suspect they would not be so punctual, if they did not hope for your return; for having that in their view they could not with any face leave me now, and come back with you. Be that as it will, you are always mentioned by them with the greatest affection and esteem. I read to them your letter, and they begged me to remember to you in the warmest manner. (I believe I have said this before.) We are all agog about this new property of fluids.2

You remember our conditions of correspondence, and therefore My dear Doctor and good friend, sans ceremonie, adieu

[Here the author skipped the equivalent of three lines]

P.S. I mentioned your account of the paper currency to Lord Shelburne, and as he seemed desirous to see it, I am to send it to him.3

Dr. Watson has lately published an account of a cure he performed on a girl in the orphan hospital by means of electricity after the common remedies had failed.4 The distemper was a tetanas viz. an obstinate cramp of the muscles of the neck attended with several bad symptoms.

[Torn] you give of Lord Bacon’s writings [torn] read him with attention, which gave me [torn]

Addressed: To / Doctor Benjamin Franklin / Conjunct Postmaster of North America / at / Philadelphia

[In another hand:] New York the 28 July 1763 Received under Cover and forwarded by Sir Your most Obedient Servant

Lawr: Reade5

Endorsed: Dr. Pringle

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3An entire four-page folio is missing, with the resulting loss of approximately the first two-thirds of the text of the letter. The surviving second folio has a large piece torn from the upper inside corner.

4So dated in I. Minis Hays, Calendar of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin (Phila., 1908), I, 25. Internal evidence and the note by Lawrence Reade on the address page support this approximate dating, although Pringle might have written the letter early in June.

5Pringle appears to be describing an interview with the 2d Earl of Shelburne (1737–1805), who had been appointed president of the Board of Trade, April 23, 1763. What remains of the paragraph suggests that Pringle had asked Shelburne’s support for continuing WF in the N.J. governorship. Lord Bute, who was probably responsible for WF’s appointment, had resigned from office on April 8.

6The last surviving letter to Pringle before BF sailed was that of May 27, 1762, about the purported De Fonte search for the Northwest Passage; above, pp. 85–100. It would seem from the sentences that follow here that BF wrote another letter before sailing, now lost, concerned with the preservation of gunpowder, the health of the garrison at Senegal, and shells for Lady Bute. It is possible, however, that in this first sentence of the paragraph Pringle was referring to the De Fonte letter and that what follows relates to a lost letter written after BF reached Philadelphia.

7In the spring of 1758 the British had captured the French posts at Senegal, Goree, and the Gambia, and had established a garrison at the former French Fort Louis at Senegal. Gipson, British Empire, VIII, 174–7.

8Mary, Countess of Bute (1718–1794), was the daughter of the famous Lady Mary Wortley Montagu. She married the third Earl of Bute in 1736, and in 1761 was created in her own right Baroness Mountstuart of Wortley. She was evidently a discriminating conchologist.

9It is impossible to determine what Pringle was referring to here.

1What group of mutual friends met regularly at Pringle’s house on Sunday evenings is not known.

2The effect of oil on water, as described in BF’s letter to Pringle of Dec. 1, 1762, above, pp. 158–60.

3Before leaving England BF may have given Pringle a copy of his 1729 pamphlet, A Modest Enquiry into the Nature and Necessity of a Paper-Currency (above, I, 139–57), but the reference could also be to some “account of the paper currency” by BF of which no copy, or even draft, is known to survive. It is perhaps worth noting that in writing his Modest Enquiry BF had relied extensively on a treatise by Sir William Petty, Lord Shelburne’s great-grandfather.

4William Watson’s account of this case, dated Feb. 9, 1763, and read at the Royal Society the next day, is printed, with a postscript of March 27, in Phil. Trans., LIII (1763), 10–26.

5A N.Y. merchant, who died in 1773 while on a visit to England. N.-Y. Hist. Soc. Coll., 1899, pp. 243–5.

Index Entries