Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Whitehurst, 27 June 1763

To John Whitehurst

LS:5 Yale University Library

New York, June 27. 1763

Dear Sir

Being here on a Journey to New-England, I received your Favour of March 18 with great Pleasure as it inform’d me of your and Mrs. Whitehurst’s Welfare.6

As I was not at home to receive Mr. Tunnicliff and afford him personnally my Advice and Assistance, all I could do was to recommend him to some able and intelligent Friends there, who I am sure will be glad to serve him;7 and when I return, which I hope will be in about two Months I shall chearfully render him every Service in my Power.

I thank you for your kind Congratulations on my Son’s Marriage and Promotion. He and his Wife are safely arrived and settled. He is here at present with me, and desires his Respects to you.

My Compliments to Mr. Tissington and tell him a Silver Mine is discover’d here which they say is as rich as Potosi.8 Gen. Monckton9 carries over Specimens of the Ore.

Unluckily it lies under Water in the River. How it is to be work’d I know not, But as it is near the Shore perhaps it extends under the Bank into the Land and may there be wrought to Advantage. I have lately sent him, Mr. Tissington, a Catalogue of Ores, and Minerals found in these Parts.1 Remember me respectfully to Dr. Darwin. I shall be glad to see his Thoughts on Cold when he thinks fit to favour me with them.2 I am sure they will be ingenious and instructive.

Your new Theory of the Earth is very Sensible, and in most particulars quite Satisfactory.3 I cannot now give you my Sentiments fully upon it, this Ship just Sailing; but shall write you at large from Boston, where I expect to be some time.

I am glad to hear Mr. Harrison is like to obtain some handsome Encouragement.4 I have heard that Mr. Graham, (the famous Graham of your Trade)5 should say, Harrison deserv’d the Reward if it were only for his Improvements in Clockmaking: The Error of his Watch in the Voyage between Portsmouth and Portroyal in Jamaica, was it seems but 23 seconds of Time! A surprizing Exactness, if it holds. I never kept a Journal of the Weather but one Year. But have a Friend at Philadelphia who has kept it several Years, and I will get him to send you a Copy of it when I return.6

I am ashamed to read here the Clamour of your political Scriblers against the Peace.7 Never did England make a Peace more truly and substantially advantageous to herself, as a few Years will evince to everybody; for here in America she has laid a broad and strong Foundation on which to erect the most beneficial and certain Commerce, with the Greatness and Stability of her Empire. The Glory of Britain was never higher than at present, and I think you never had a better Prince: Why then is he not universally rever’d and belov’d? I can give but one Answer. The King of the Universe, good as he is, is not cordially belov’d and faithfully serv’d by all his Subjects. I wish I could say that half Mankind, as much as they are oblig’d to him for his continual Favours, were among the truly loyal. Tis a shame that the very Goodness of a Prince, should be an Encouragement to Affronts. An Answer now occurs to me, for that Question of Robinson Crusoe’s Man Friday, which I once thought unanswerable, Why God no kill the Devil?8 It is to be found in the Scottish Proverb; Ye’d do little for God an the Deel were Dead.

I believe I desired you in a former Letter9 to deliver the Thermometer you was to make for me, well pack’d, to Mrs. Stevenson, who will pay you for it. The Derby China was so well pack’d that not even the thinnest part of the Foliage was Damag’d, It is much admired here.1 I am, with Sincerest Esteem, Dear Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

Mr. Whitehurst.

Endorsed:Dr Franklin 27 June 1763 to Mr Whitehurst [Note following endorsement:] (Indorsement by Dr. Hutton, whose daughter gave me the letter.2)

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5The body of the letter is in an unidentified hand; “Mr. Whitehurst” and the signature are in BF’s.

6For Whitehurst’s letter and some of the matters to which BF replies and people he mentions here, see above, pp. 226–30.

7John Tunnicliff, the bearer of Whitehurst’s letter, wanted to buy land and settle in America. BF put him in touch with William Alexander, Lord Stirling, in N.J., and with John Hughes in Pa. See above, pp. 296–7.

8On Philipse Manor, Westchester Co., N.Y. “Royal mines,” as those of the precious metals were called, were vested in the Crown but were usually leased to the landowners or other interested parties on condition of paying a “royalty” of one-twentieth of all gold and silver produced. In 1761 five men formed a partnership to prospect for such ores in N.Y., Conn., and N.J. and applied the next year for a 99-year grant of any mines they might discover. The Privy Council referred the application to the Board of Trade and that body asked the governor of N.Y. for an opinion. In 1764 Frederick Philipse, last lord of the manor, who had heard of this application, petitioned the King that any mines on his land be excepted from the grant to this partnership and be leased to him instead, and that, “if the mine already discovered there” should prove to extend under the Hudson River, as he thought it did, he be allowed to exercise all rights to it “as if the mine were wholly within the manor.” The Board of Trade decided to take no action until the parties concerned should apply again. Philipse’s petition came up again in 1771 and on the Board of Trade’s advice the Privy Council instructed the governor to grant him a lease of his mine. In 1774, however, Gov. William Tryon reported that the Philipse mine yielded only a small quantity of silver and should more properly be considered a richer sort of lead mine. Thus faded the dream of a new Potosi in Westchester Co. I N.J. Arch., IX, 318–21; Acts Privy Coun., Col., IV, 549–50; V, 298–9; Board of Trade Journal, 1759–63, pp. 302–3; 1764–67, p. 92; 1768–75, pp. 231, 233, 246, 249; N.Y. Col. Docs., VII, 449.

9Robert Monckton, governor of N.Y., sailed for England the day after BF wrote this letter. Cadwallader Colden to the Board of Trade, July 8, 1763, N.-Y. Hist. Soc. Coll., 1876, p. 217.

1See above, p. 273.

2Whitehurst had told BF that he hoped Darwin would “be able to entertain you with some discoverys on Cold next winter,” but no publications on this subject by Darwin have been located.

3See above, pp. 229–30. The letter BF promised to write from Boston has not been found.

4On John Harrison’s invention of the chronometer and the voyage to Jamaica to test it, see above, VII, 208–10, and esp. p. 209 n.

5George Graham (1673–1751), clockmaker and “mechanician.” Among other important inventions, he created the mercurial pendulum which compensated for the expansion of a steel pendulum by the differing expansion of mercury in a jar connected with it, and the “dead-beat escapement,” an important improvement of its predecessors. He also made several major scientific instruments and pieces of apparatus. DNB.

6Which “Friend at Philadelphia” BF had in mind is not certain; it may have been John Bartram, Ebenezer Kinnersley, or Isaac Norris.

7The most prominent of the “political Scriblers” at this time was, of course, John Wilkes. They attacked the Treaty of Paris not so much, perhaps, because they sincerely objected to its terms, but because its champion was the personally unpopular Earl of Bute, who had little political experience and less skill in the art of politics. News of his resignation as first lord of the Treasury, April 8, had reached N.Y. and Philadelphia by the middle of June.

8But, says he again, if God much strong, much might as the Devil, why God no kill the Devil, so make him no more do wicked?” Daniel Defoe, The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe of York. Mariner. (London, 1719), p. 259.

9Not found.

1When BF had ordered a set of Derby china sent to America is uncertain. The “English China” he sent to DF in February 1758 (above, VII, 381) had gone before he had done any traveling from London and presumably before he had met Whitehurst. Perhaps he ordered it when he was in Derbyshire in August 1759 (above, VII, 431).

2Charles Hutton (1737–1823), mathematician, F.R.S., 1774; LL.D., Edinburgh, 1779. DNB. He edited Whitehurst’s works (1792) with a memoir and so probably had his surviving papers. The writer of this note has not been identified.

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