Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Mary Stevenson, 25 November 1763

From Mary Stevenson

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Kensington Novr. 25th. 1763

Dear Sir

I take the opportunity of writing by a Gentleman whom I wish to recommend to your Notice. His Name is Lyth,9 he is a Clergyman going to settle in Virginia, where he has the promise of a Living, and I hope he will meet with the Success I believe he deserves. The little I have seen of him has prejudic’d me in his favour, but I do not recommend him upon so slight authority, his being the intimate Friend of a truly worthy Man of his own profession encourages me to think he will be an equal Ornament to it.

I wrote to you a few days ago at my Mother’s request,1 who was made very uneasy by your supposing it possible for her to become indifferent; but she tells me there was no opportunity of sending my Letter, therefore I [will] give you the substance of it in this. You have [an] apparent tho’ not a real Cause to be offended with her, for you had great reason to expect to hear from her by Capt. Friend,2 and she desires me to tell you she went to his House and prevail’d with him to take the Goods on board you commission’d her to buy,3 and the day before he was to sail she sent a large packet of Letters to him for you by the Waterman you used to employ. In that packet was a Letter of mine, to which was added a postscript by Dr. Hawkesworth, at whose House I then was; a long Letter from my Mother, which she wrote sometime before, and, because she had not leisure to write at that time, she sent you a Letter of mine to her to let you see the reason she did not accept your Invitation; there was likewise a Letter from Mr. Small, and I believe some others.4 I hope you will receive the packet, but, if not, you will now retract the Charge you have laid against those who never can forget you. My Mother presents her Thanks for the Candles you were so kind to send her. They could not be legally imported, but Mr. Small gives her hopes that she shall get them smuggled. What will you say to that?5

I hope you are recover’d from the bad Effects of the Accident you met with.6 Many must suffer when you feel pain.

My poor Aunt Rooke continues lame; she has lately been very ill, but is, thank God! recover’d.7 My Mother’s Health is but indifferent, and she won’t take as much care of herself as she ought to do: I wish you were in England, for you have an influence over her. I have heard of my Friend Pitt’s safe arrival in her Native Country.8

My best Respects attend Mrs. and Miss Franklin. I am with the truest Esteem and Gratitude Dear Sir Your faithful and affectionate Servant

M Stevenson

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9John Lyth of Newton Pickering, Yorkshire, B.A., Cambridge, 1756, was paid the King’s bounty of £20 on Dec. 8, 1763, to defray the expenses of his voyage to America. He received a license from the Bishop of London, Oct. 10, 1765, to preach in Va., and went to So. Car. in 1767. He apparently served as a chaplain of the Va. militia in 1777. Gerald Fothergill, A List of Emigrant Ministers to America 1690–1811 (London, 1904), p. 41; Frederick L. Weis, The Colonial Clergy of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina (Boston, 1955), p. 32; Va. Mag. of Hist. and Biog., X (1903), 297.

1Probably a reference to her letter of Nov. 16, 1763, not found but acknowledged in BF’s letter of March 14, 1764, APS.

2Capt. James Friend’s ship, the Carolina, left Deal, outward bound, on July 5 and arrived in Philadelphia on Sept. 20, 1763. London Chron., July 5–7, 1763; Pa. Gaz., Sept. 22, 1763.

3In his Memorandum Book, 1757–1776 (see above, VII, 167–8), BF made a notation on April 11, 1763, of sending Mrs. Stevenson two orders, totaling £50 sterling, on his London bankers, Henton Brown & Son. It is not known what he instructed her to buy with this money, but on Dec. 8, 1763, he noted sending her an order for £60 sterling “to pay for Candlesticks” and “a Suit of Clothes and 6 pair of Shoes.”

4No letters have been found from Polly and her mother which can be certainly identified as among those in the packet described here as carried by Captain Friend; but see below, pp. 427–9. Alexander Small’s letter of July 5, 1763 (above, pp. 306–9), might have just reached this ship in time.

5Acts of 1709 and 1710 had laid substantial duties on the importation of candles into Great Britain. Charges of frauds and abuses led Parliament in 1750 to forbid their importation except in containers holding at least 224 lbs. of candles, the containers to be stowed openly in the ship’s hold. 23 Geo. III, c. 21, sect. 27. Apparently BF had sent a small package of candles—perhaps made from spermaceti—as a gift to Mrs. Stevenson. No letter of his has been found commenting on this proposal, but writing to Polly, Sept. 2, 1769 (APS), he explained her mother’s tolerance of smuggling as based on an honest resentment of “the Waste of those Taxes in Pensions, Salaries, Perquisites, Contracts and other Emoluments for the Benefit of People she does not love, and who do not deserve such Advantages, because—I suppose because they are not of her Party.”

6For BF’s two falls and injuries to his shoulder during his trip to New England, see above, pp. 276, 278, 338.

7Mrs. Rooke had been suffering from “Gout in her stomach”; see above, p. 334.

8Polly’s friend, Miss Pitt, had sailed for Jamaica early in 1763.

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