Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Henry Bouquet, 30 September 1764

To Henry Bouquet

Copy:3 British Museum; draft: American Philosophical Society

Philada: Sept. 30. 1764

Dear Sir

I have been so totally ocupied with the Sitting of the Assembly and other urgent Affairs,4 that I could not till now do my self the pleasure of writing to you, since the Receipt of your obliging Favours of Aug. 10. and 22. and a subsequent one relating to Broadstreet’s Peace,5 of which I think as you do.

I thank you cordially for so readily complying with my Request.6 Your Letter was quite full and sufficient, and leaves me nothing to desire by way of Addition, except that if any Letter of yours relating to the present Expedition is like to be seen by the Secretary of State,7 you would take occasion just to mention me as one ready on that and every other Occasion to promote the Service of the Crown. The Malice and Industry of my Adversaries, have, I find, made these Precautions a little necessary.8

Your Sentiments of our Constitution are solid and just. I am not sure that the Change now attempted will immediately take place, nor am I very anxious about it. But sooner or later it will be effected. And till it is effected, we shall have little internal Quiet in the Administration of our Publick Affairs.

I have lately receiv’d a Number of new Pamphlets from England and France, among which is a Piece of Voltaire’s on the Subject of Relegious Toleration.9 I will give you a Passage of it, which being read here at a Time when we are torn to Pieces by Factions religious and civil, shows us that while we sit for our Picture to that able Painter, tis no small Advantage to us, that he views us at a favourable Distance.

“Mais que dirons-nous, dit il, de ces pacifiques Primitifs que l’on a nommés Quakres par dérision, et qui avec des usages peut-être ridicules, ont été si vertueux, et ont enseigné inutilement la paix aux reste des hommes? Ils sont en Pensilvanie au nombre de cent mille; la Discorde, la Controverse sont ignorees dans l’heureuse patrie qu’ils se sont faite: et le nom seul de leurville de Philadelphie, quileur rapelle a tout moment que les hommes sont freres, est l’exemple et la honte des peuples qui ne connaissent pas encor la tolérance.”1

The Occasion of his Writing this Traité sur la Tolérance, was what he calls “le Meurtre de Jean Calas, commis dans Toulouse avec le glaire[glaive] de la Justice, le 9me Mars 1762?” There is in it abundance of good Sense and sound Reasoning, mix’d with some of those Pleasantries that mark the Author as strongly as if he had affix’d his Name. Take one of them as a Sample.2 “J’ai aprens que le Parlement de Toulouse et quelques autres tribunaux, ont une jurisprudence singuliere; ils admettent des quarts, des tiers des sixiémes de preuve. Ainsi, avec six ouindire[sic] d’un côte, trois de l’autre, et quatre quarti de présomption, ils forment trois preuves complétes; et surcette belle demonstration ils vous rouent un homme sans misericorde. Une légère connoissance de l’art de raisonner sufirait pour leur faire prendre une autre méthode. Ce qu’on apelle une demipreuve ne peut être qu’un soupcon: Il n’y a point, à la rigueur, de demi preuve; ou une chose est prouvée, ou elle ne l’est pas; il n’y a point de milieu. Cent mille soupçons réunis ne peuvent pas plus etablir une preuve, que cent mille zéros ne peuvent composer un nombre. Il y a des quarts de ton dans la musique, encor ne les peut-on exécuter; mais, il n’y a ni quart de vérité, ni quart de raisonnement.”

I send you one of the Pamphlets, Jugement rendue dans l’affaire du Canady,3 supposing it may be the more agreable to you to see it, as during your War with that Colony you must have been made acquainted with some of the Character concern’d. With the truest Esteem and Affection, I am, Dear Sir, Your most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

Endorsed:4 Mr. Franklin 30th Septr. 1764 Received in Janry 1765
Answered 14th March

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3The entire copy, probably including the signature, appears to be in Sarah Franklin’s hand, but the endorsement and the fact that these sheets are among Bouquet’s papers, indicate that this is the document he actually received.

4For the activities of the Assembly during its short September session, see above, pp. 339–40, 347–51, 357–8.

5For all these letters, see above, pp. 266–7, 321–6.

6That “in some Letter to me” Bouquet would “express your Sentiments of my Conduct” in supporting the military service. Above, p. 319.

7George Montagu Dunk, 2d Earl of Halifax; see above, VIII, 67 n.

8Thomas Penn was trying to get BF removed as deputy postmaster general. He reported that the ministers were severely criticizing BF and that Lord Hyde would write a warning letter threatening loss of the office unless BF altered his conduct. T. Penn to Benjamin Chew, June 8, and to John Penn, June 8, 1764; J. Penn to T. Penn, Sept. 1, 1764; William Allen to T. Penn, Sept. 25, 1764; all in Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa. No such letter from Hyde to BF has been found.

9The bibliography of Voltaire’s Traité sur la Tolérance, which is thought to have been first published in Geneva in late 1763 or early 1764, is, to say the least, complex. Contemporary editions differ in pagination and content, a circumstance that led Bigelow (Works, X, 307 n) to assert that “he did not find” the first of the two passages BF quotes here “precisely in any of Voltaire’s writings.” Both quoted passages are, however, precisely contained in three early editions of the pamphlet which are located in Yale Univ. Lib. None of them indicates a place of publication and one carries no date. With places of publication as suggested on the library catalogue cards, dates of publication (in two instances), total number of pages, and the page locations of the two quoted passages, they are as follows: I. [Amsterdam or La Haye?], n.d., 138 pp., pp. 25, 136–7; II. [Geneva?], MDCCLXIII, 183 pp., pp. 34, 180–1; III. [Paris?], MDCCLXIV, 191 pp., pp. 37, 188.

1Commenting on this panegyric on the Quakers, a writer in the Critical Review, XVIII (Dec. 1764), 413, said: “This assertion is equally ridiculous and false. Pennsylvania is, perhaps, the country in the world that is, at this time, the most torn by civil dissentions, and the strongest instance that exists to prove the impracticability and vanity of the principles of French theorists in government.”

2BF condensed into a single paragraph the following quotations which occupy three paragraphs in the original versions of the pamphlet.

3This is probably Jugement rendu souverainement et de dernier ressort, dans l’Affaire du Canada … du 10 Décembre 1763 (Paris, 1763).

4In Bouquet’s hand. The answer, mentioned here, has not been found.

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