Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Jonathan Williams, 24 February 1764

To Jonathan Williams

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada. Feb. 24. 1764

Loving Cousin

I have taken the Liberty to trouble you with a Box put this Day on board the Sloop William Capt. Ephraim Jones, directed for you.2 In it is a Portmantle and Mail Pillon belonging to Mr. Bernard, your Governor’s Son, which please to send to the Governor’s as soon as it gets to hand:3 Also a Parcel for Sister Mecom; and some Books on Inoculation,4 which I should be glad you could conveniently distribute in your Country gratis.

Just before I left London, a Gentleman requested I would sit for a Picture to be drawn of me for him by a Painter of his choosing. I did so, and the Pourtrait was reckon’d a very fine one.5 Since I came away, the Painter has had a Print done from it, of which he has sent a Parcel here for Sale.6 I have taken a Dozen of them to send to Boston and it being the only way in which I am now likely ever to visit my Friends there, I hope a long Visit in this Shape will not be disagreable to them. Be so good then, to take the Trouble of distributing them among such of my Friends as think them worth Accepting.7

The Box, with perhaps a little Alteration, may serve to send the 10 Folio Volumes of Bayle’s Dictionary in, of which I saw one or two at your House, the rest are at Cousin Hubbard’s I suppose. I should be glad to have them the first Opportunity.8

My Wife and Sally join in Love to you and yours and your Children, with Your affectionate Uncle

B Franklin

P.S. Perhaps the Prints might be acceptable to some of the following Persons—viz.

Revd. Dr. Mayhew9

Revd. Mr. Cooper1

Revd. Mr. Byles2

Mr. Bowdoin3

Mr. Winthrop of Cambridge4

Mr. B. Kent5

Miss Betsey Hubbard

Cousin Rogers6

Cousin Griffitts7

Cousin Williams8

And my Sister will possibly like to have one for herself, and one for her Doctor Perkins.9

Addressed: To / Mr Jonathan Williams / Mercht / Boston / per the William / Capt. E. Jones. / With a Box1

Endorsed: Feby 24 1764 F

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Pa. Gaz., March 1, 1764, reported the clearance of the William.

3For BF’s efforts to get Francis Bernard, Jr., from Alexandria, Va., to Boston, see above, p. 6, and the document immediately above. Portmantle: an archaic or dialect form of “portmanteau,” a traveling bag or case.

4Dr. William Heberden’s Some Account of the Success of Inoculation for the Small-Pox in England and America, for which BF had written an introduction; see above, VIII, 281–6.

5For the portrait by Mason Chamberlain, commissioned by Col. Philip Ludwell, and the mezzotint print by Edward Fisher, see above, X, frontispiece and illustration note.

6WF had agreed to take 100 of the prints, possibly hoping to sell them for a profit. Charles C. Sellers, Benjamin Franklin in Portraiture (New Haven, 1962), pp. 58, 221.

7Mather Byles (see below) received one of the prints on March 15, 1764, the earliest record of their arrival in Boston. Ibid., p. 221.

8BF must have been referring to the translation by John Peter Bernard, Thomas Birch, and John Lockman of Pierre Bayle’s A General Dictionary, historical, and critical … (10 vols., London, 1734–41). The set may have been owned by BF’s brother John (C.8) who died leaving an “unusually extensive library.” Soon after John Franklin’s death in 1756, his stepdaughter Elizabeth Hubbart sent BF a catalogue of his library and extended an offer from her mother to let him have whatever books he pleased before they were offered for sale. BF may have indicated a preference for Bayle’s Dictionary at the time, but may have been unable to make arrangements to have it sent to Philadelphia. See above, VI, 402–3. Williams and Tuthill Hubbart, John Franklin’s stepson, were executors of his estate.

9Jonathan Mayhew (1720–1766), A.B., Harvard, 1744, pastor of the West Church, Boston, from 1747 to his death, was one of the leading theological liberals of his day and has often been called the founder of American Unitarianism. He was a virulent opponent of the Church of England and his attacks on Anglican proselytizing in New England embroiled him in heated controversy. He was greatly admired by Whigs in Massachusetts and England, but he appears to have taken little part in politics until shortly before his death. DAB; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, XI, 440–72.

1Samuel Cooper; minister of Brattle Square Church, Boston. See above, IV, 69–70 n.

2Mather Byles (1701–1788), A.B., Harvard, 1725, grandson of Increase Mather and nephew of Cotton Mather, was minister of the Hollis Street Congregational Church for most of his life. In an undated letter of 1765 to BF, Byles spoke of being a “long Acquaintance” and thanked BF for helping him get the S.T.D. degree at the University of Aberdeen. Byles became a Tory during the Revolutionary War. A poet, humorist, and noted punster, he once called an American sentry, standing guard over him, his “Observe-a-Tory.” DAB; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, VII, 464–93.

3James Bowdoin; see above, IV, 69 n. He acknowledged the gift, July 2, 1764; see below, p. 247.

4John Winthrop, Hollis professor of Mathematics at Harvard. BF had known him personally since 1754; above, V, 267.

5Benjamin Kent, see above, p. 80 n.

6Presumably BF’s niece Mary Davenport Rogers (C.12.3).

7Presumably BF’s niece Abiah Davenport Griffith (C.12.5).

8Probably Jonathan Williams himself.

9John Perkins, the Boston physician and scientist; see above, IV, 267 n.

1In APS there is an undated sheet on which BF wrote a memorandum, probably at about the same time as this letter, of articles he wanted to send to Boston and to Ezra Stiles in Newport. The same list of names that appears in the postscript of this letter is set down, though not in precisely the same order, and with “Yrself” substituted for “Cousin Williams.” Above this list appear the following notes: “One [torn] Books for R Draper / Rec[eipt? torn] Sturgeon for Govr. Bernard / Send by next Post Narratives to / Dr. Mayhew Dr. Perkins / Mr. Cooper / Mr. Stiles / Mr. Bowdoin / And Prints to Sister Jane.” The illegible words between “One” and “Books” may have been “lot of Heberden’s,” referring to the account of inoculation mentioned in this letter. Draper was probably Richard Draper (1727–1774), printer and publisher of the Massachusetts Gazette and Boston News Letter. The “Narratives” must have been copies of BF’s pamphlet, A Narrative of the Late Massacres.

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