Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Peter Collinson, 24 September 1764

To Peter Collinson

ALS: Pierpont Morgan Library

Philada. Sept. 24. 1764

Dear Friend,

I received your kind Letter of June 29.9 We hear nothing here of the Proprietary”s relenting. If any have it in charge from him to offer Concessions for Peacesake (as we are told from your side the Water they have) they keep them back in hopes the next Election may put the Proprietaries in a Condition not to need the proposing them.1 A few Days will settle this Point.

I receiv’d the Medal, and have sent it forward to Mr. Elliot.2

I shall endeavour to procure you some more of the Natural Buttons as soon as possible.3 I am glad my Remarks that accompany’d them give you any Satisfaction.

Our Friend John Bartram has sent a very curious Collection of Specimens of all the uncommonly valuable Plants and Trees of North America, to the King. He was strongly persuaded by some to send them thro” the Hands of the Proprietary as the only proper Channel; but I advis’d him not to pass by his old Friend, to whom it must seem a Neglect. He readily concurr’d with my Opinion, and has sent the Box to you.4 I am assur’d you have Means enough of introducing his Present properly; but as John seem’d willing to have as many Strings as possible to his Bow, for fear of Accidents, I mention’d Dr. Pringle to him, as a good Friend of the Arts, and one who would lend any Assistance in the Matter if necessary. He is Physician to the Queen; and I have, in my Letter hinted the Matter to him;5 to prepare him if you should think fit to advise with him about it. I wish some Notice may be taken of John’s Merit. It seems odd that a German Lad of his Neighbourhood, who has only got some Smatterings of Botany from him, should be so distinguish’d on that Account, as to be sent for by the Queen, and our old Friend, who has done so much, quite forgotten.6 He might be made happy as well as more useful, by a moderate Pension that would enable him to travel thro’ all the New Acquisitions, with Orders to the Governors, and Commanding Officers at the several Outposts, to forward and protect him in his Journeys.7

Please to acquaint Mr. Canton that I acknowledge the Receipt of his Letter, and shall write to him shortly.8 I am, my dear Friend, Yours affectionately

B Franklin

Addressed: To / Peter Collinson Esqr / Gracious Street / London

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9Not found.

1For the secrecy with which Governor Penn and his associates treated the Proprietors” instructions to yield to the Assembly on the principal point of contention concerning the Supply Act, see above, pp. 213–14 n.

2The Society of Arts had awarded to Jared Eliot a gold medal for his method of extracting iron from black sea sand (above, VI, 176 n; X, 307 n); apparently it had been sent to BF for transmission and, because of Eliot’s death in April 1763, BF had sent it to his son Aaron.

3The pebbles from “Button-mold Bay,” of which BF had sent samples to Collinson with a description, April 30, 1764; above, p. 182.

4Bartram wrote Collinson, Sept. 23, 1764, explaining the shipment and expressing some jealousy of William Young’s “sudden preferment,” to which BF alludes later in this paragraph. William Darlington, ed., Memorials of John Bartram and Humphry Marshall (Phila., 1849), p. 266.

5BF’s letter to Pringle has not been found.

6William Young, Jr. (c.1742–1785), born at Kingsessing, Pa., the son of a German immigrant, had gone to So. Car. (possibly accompanying Bartram in 1760) and had been recommended by Dr. Alexander Garden as nurseryman and gardener willing to collect specimens for the London market. He took several trips to England and received an appointment as botanist to the King and Queen in 1765. Later he gained notice in France, and a Catalogue d’Arbes, Arbustes et Plantes Herbacées d’Amerique, Par M. Yong, Botaniste de Pensylvanie was published in Paris, 1783. It is reproduced in Samuel N. Rhoads, ed., Botanica Neglecta. William Young, Jr. (of Philadelphia) “Botaniste de Pensylvanie” and his Long-Forgotten Book (privately printed, Phila., 1916).

7Collinson set to work, and with the support of Lord Bute and the Earl (later Duke) of Northumberland, succeeded in April 1765 in having Bartram appointed King’s botanist with a salary of £50 per annum. Darlington, Memorials, pp. 268–71, 424; Norman G. Brett-James, The Life of Peter Collinson F.R.S., F.S.A. (London, [1926]), pp. 135–6.

8If BF wrote Canton again before his own departure for London in November, the letter has not been found.

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