Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Thomas Moffatt, 24 September 1764

From Thomas Moffatt2

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Newport Rhode Island Sept 24th 1764.


I return you thanks for sending me Dr. Heberdens method of inoculating the small pox of which perhaps to you it may not be necessary to say that it bears every mark of Jud[g]ment candour and benevolence.3 The attention and regard shewn to this treatise in New England by the Authority and these in practise especially at Boston lately4 will to some very well account for the use of mercury not being yet known or introducd into Britain in inoculation of the small pox.5 At the Anniversary meeting of the university here Our Governor was chosen Chancellor several other Great or Senatorial officers were also elected so that learning makes a great progress and figure here.6 If I can serve or oblige you here it will be a great pleasure to Sir Your most Obedient Servant

Thomas Moffatt

To / Benjamin Franklin Esqr / Philadelphia

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2On Moffatt, see above, p. 191 n.

3No letter from BF to Moffatt accompanying the Heberden pamphlet has been found. For BF’s preface to William Heberden, Some Account of the Success of Inoculation for the Small-Pox in England and America (London, 1759), see above, VIII, 281–6.

4BF had sent copies of the Heberden pamphlet to Jonathan Williams in February 1764 for distribution in the Boston area during a smallpox epidemic there; above, p. 88.

5Dr. George Muirson of Long Island had developed in 1731 a method of inoculation for smallpox through the use of mercury. This had gained acceptance in N.Y. and N.J. Dr. Benjamin Gale of Killingworth, Conn., son-in-law of Jared Eliot, introduced it into his colony in 1761. He considered going to Boston during the epidemic of 1764 to introduce this method there but met with no encouragement to do so. Franklin B. Dexter, ed., The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles, D.D., LL.D., President of Yale College (N.Y., 1901), III, 177–80; Dexter, ed., Extracts from the Itineraries and Other Miscellanies of Ezra Stiles, D.D., LL.D., 1755–1794, with a Selection from His Correspondence (New Haven, 1916), p. 488. Mercuric inoculation seems not to have been practiced in Great Britain at this time.

6The meeting to organize the College of Rhode Island (now Brown University) took place on Sept. 5, 1764. Governor Stephen Hopkins was elected chancellor. Hopkins (1707–1785), whom BF had first met as a fellow delegate to the Albany Congress in 1754 (above, V, 346), held many public offices in R.I. and was elected governor in most of the years between 1755 and 1768. He was a member of the First and Second Continental Congresses and, with BF, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence. His tastes were literary and scientific and he was active in several projects for the advancement of the cultural life of his community. DAB.

Index Entries