Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to William Strahan, 24 September 1764

To William Strahan

ALS: Princeton University Library

Philada. Sept. 24. 1764

Dear Mr. Strahan,

I wrote to you of the first Instant, and sent you a Bill for £13 and a little List of Books to be bought with it.9 But as Mr. Becket has since sent them to me, I hope this will come time enough to countermand that Order. The Money, if you have receiv’d it, may be paid to Mrs. Stevenson, to whom we have wrote for sundry Things.

I thank you for inserting the Messages and Resolutions intire.1 I believe it has had a good Effect; for a Friend writes me, that “it is astonishing with what Success it was propagated in London by the Proprietaries, that the Resolutions were the most indecent and undutiful to the Crown, &c. so that when he saw them, having before heard those Reports, he could not believe they were the same.”2

I was always unwilling to give a Copy of the Chapter,3 for fear it should be printed, and by that means I should be depriv’d of the Pleasure I often had in amusing People with it. I could not however refuse it to two of the best Men in the World, Lord Kaims and Mr. Small,4 and should not to the third, if he had not been a Printer. But you have overpaid me for the Loss of that Pleasure, by the kind things you have so handsomely said of your Friend in the Introduction.

You tell me, that the Value I set on your political Letters, is a strong Proof that my Judgment is on the Decline.5 People seldom have Friends kind enough to tell them that disagreable Truth, however useful it might be to know it. And indeed I learn more from what you say than you intended I should; for it convinces me that you have observ’d that Decline for some time past in other Instances, as ”tis very unlikely you should see it first in my good Opinion of your Writings—but you have kept the Observation to yourself—till you had an Opportunity of hinting it to me kindly under the Guise of Modesty in regard to your own Performances. I will confess to you another Circumstance that must confirm your Judgment of me, which is, that I have of late fancy’d myself to write better than ever I did; and farther, that when any thing of mine is abridg’d in the Papers or Magazines, I conceit that the Abridger has left out the very best and brightest Parts. These, my Friend, are much stronger Proofs; and put me in Mind of Gil Blas’s Patron, the Homily-maker.6

I rejoice to hear that Mrs. Strahan is recovering, that your Family in general is well, and that my little Woman in particular is so, and has not forgot our tender Connection.7 The Enlarging of your House, and the Coach House and Stables you mention, make me think of living with you when I come; for I love Ease more than ever; and, by daily using your Horses, I can be of Service to you and them, by preventing their growing too fat, and becoming restif.

Mrs. Franklin, and Sally, join in best Wishes for you and all yours, with Your affectionate

B Franklin

Dear Sir,8

I wrote a few Lines to you by this Opportunity,9 but omitted desiring you to call on Mr. Jackson of the Temple, and pay him for the Copying a Manuscript he sent me, which he paid the Stationer for doing on my Account.1 Yours affectionately

Wm: Franklin

Addressed: To / Mr William Strahan / Printer / Newstreet, Shoe Lane / London.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9For BF’s letter, see above, pp. 331–4. Notations on a page at the end of Memorandum Book, 1757–1776 record a draft for Strahan for £13 sterling, Sept. 1, 1764, and an undated debit charged to Mrs. Stevenson for this draft, turned over to her as BF suggested later in this paragraph.

1As BF had asked, March 30, 1764 (above, p. 149), Strahan printed in London Chron., June 12–14 and 14–16, 1764, the messages exchanged between Governor Penn and the Assembly, March 14–24, and the Assembly Resolves of March 24.

2For “he” in this quotation one should probably read “I,” referring to the writer BF is quoting. No letter containing this passage has been found; it may have been part of Peter Collinson’s letter of June 29, now lost (see the document immediately above).

3BF’s “Parable against Persecution.” For the history of one of BF’s most successful hoaxes and its text, see above, VI, 114–24. Strahan had printed it in London Chron., April 14–17, 1764, introducing it as by an (unnamed) friend from North America, who was “as well known throughout Europe for his ingenious discoveries in natural philosophy, as to his countrymen for his sagacity, his usefulness, and activity, in every public-spirited measure, and to his acquaintance for all the social virtues.”

4Henry Home, Lord Kames (above, IX, 5 n), and Alexander Small (above, IX, 110 n).

5In his letters of May 1 and June 25, 1764, BF had commented enthusiastically on Strahan’s “political Letters”; above, pp. 188–9, 242. The opening “You tell me” in this paragraph and the comments in the next suggest a letter from Strahan to BF not now to be found. The Scottish printer had written David Hall, June 30, 1764, “I think you and your Friends greatly overvalue” the political information in his letters. APS.

6BF could have read Lesage s Les Aventures de Gil Blas de Santillane in the original or in Tobias Smollett’s translation, The Adventures of Gil Blas (London, 1749). The English edition, III, 30–3, narrates the episode in which the Archbishop of Granada asked Gil Blas to warn him of any signs of failing power. After a stroke of apoplexy the archbishop preached such a homily and Gil Blas dutifully told him it was an inferior discourse. The prelate replied that he had never composed a better, for his genius was as strong as ever. He thereupon dismissed his critic, wishing him prosperity and better taste.

7Strahan had told Hall, June 30, of his wife’s improvement in health at Bath. “My little Woman” was the Strahans’ younger daughter Peggy, whom BF sometimes referred to affectionately as “my little Wife” (e.g., above, X, 162).

8This addendum was written sideways in the margin in WF’s hand.

9WF had written the day before with a paragraph which he asked Strahan to print in the Chronicle as “An extract of a letter from an officer at Philadelphia.” The paragraph compared the “peace and tranquility” of the neighboring royal provinces with “the utmost anarchy and confusion” prevailing in proprietary Pennsylvania. Harmony would not be restored “unless a change of government should ensue.” The “Officer” continued by reviewing the “iniquitous terms” upon which Governor Penn had insisted as the price for approving a bill granting “an Aid to his Magesty.” The present was the ideal time for the Crown to take over the province. PMHB, XXXV (1911), 439–40. Strahan printed the paragraph, with the proposed caption, in London Chron., Nov. 8–10, 1764.

1The manuscript is unidentified, but WF wrote Strahan later that the charge had been about £27. PMHB, XXXV (1911), 444.

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