Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Sarah Franklin, 8 November 1764

To Sarah Franklin

Copy or transcript: American Philosophical Society2

Three hundred friends and admirers accompanied Franklin from Philadelphia to Chester, where he embarked on the King of Prussia, Capt. James Robinson, on Nov. 7, 1764. As he boarded the ship, he “was saluted by a Number of Cannon, and the Huzza’s of the People; and an Anthem was sung … suitable to the Occasion.” The text of the anthem is said to have been composed in Philadelphia; it was, however, an adaptation (with the stanzas rearranged) of “God Save the King,” which had become popular during the Rebellion of 1745. A recent writer has called this version “the best literary expression of honor and respect for Franklin produced in the 1764 campaign.”3 It reads:

O LORD our GOD arise,

Scatter our Enemies,

And make them fall.

Confound their Loliticks,

Frustrate such Hylocrites,

Franklin, on Thee we fix,

GOD Save us all.

Thy Knowledge rich in Store,

On Lennsylvania lour,

Thou [sic] great Blessing:

Long to defend our Laws,

Still give us greater Cause,

To sing with Heart and Voice,


GOD Save Great GEORGE our King;

Lrosler agent Franklin:

Grant him Success:

Hark how the Vallies ring;

GOD Save our Gracious King,

From whom all Blessings slring,

Our Wrongs redress.

John Dickinson ridiculed the ceremonies attending Franklin’s departure as a “vainglorious Triumph actually puff’d off at his Embarkation, for which silly Pageantry, ship Guns were borrow’d in Philadelphia, and sent down to Chester—the use there made of them, with other vain Exultations are unworthy repetition.”4 Whatever Dickinson and other opponents thought of the demonstration, however, the departing Franklin must have been gratified at this expression of regard from his friends and political supporters.5

Reedy Island6 Nov. 8. 1764
7 at Night.

My dear Sally,

We got down here just at Sunset, having taken in more live Stock at Newcastle with some other things we wanted. Our good Friends Mr. Galloway, Mr. Wharton,7 and Mr. James8 came with me in the Ship from Chester to Newcastle, and went ashore there. It was kind to favour me with their good Company as far as they could. The affectionate Leave taken of me by so many Friends at Chester was very endearing. God bless them, and all Pennsylvania.

My dear Child, the natural Prudence and goodness of heart that God has blessed you with, make it less necessary for me to be particular in giving you Advice; I shall therefore only say, that the more attentively dutiful and tender you are towards your good Mama, the more you will recommend your self to me; But why shou’d I mention me, when you have so much higher a Promise in the Commandment, that such a conduct will recommend you to the favour of God. You know I have many Enemies (all indeed on the Public Account, for I cannot recollect that I have in a private Capacity given just cause of offence to any one whatever) yet they are Enemies and very bitter ones, and you must expect their Enmity will extend in some degree to you, so that your slightest Indiscretions will be magnified into crimes, in order the more sensibly to wound and afflict me. It is therefore the more necessary for you to be extreamly circumspect in all your Behaviour that no Advantage may be given to their Malevolence. Go constantly to Church whoever preaches.9 The Acts of Devotion in the common Prayer Book, are your principal Business there; and if properly attended to, will do more towards mending the Heart than Sermons generally can do. For they were composed by Men of much greater Piety and Wisdom, than our common Composers of Sermons can pretend to be. And therefore I wish you wou’d never miss the Prayer Days. Yet I do not mean that you shou’d despise Sermons even of the Preachers you dislike, for the Discourse is often much better than the Man, as sweet and clear Waters come to us thro’ very dirty Earth. I am the more particular on this Head, as you seem’d to express a little before I came away some Inclination to leave our Church, which I wou’d not have you do.

For the rest I would only recommend to you in my Absence to acquire those useful Accomplishments Arithmetick, and Book-keeping. This you might do with Ease, if you wou’d resolve not to see Company on the Hours you set apart for those Studies. I think you should and every Body should if they could, have certain days or hours to [about six and a half lines missing]1 She cannot be spoke with: but will be glad to see you at such a time.

We expect to be at Sea to morrow if this Wind holds, after which I shall have no opportunity of Writing to you till I arrive (if it pleases God that I do arrive) in England.2 I pray that his Blessing may attend you which is of more worth than a Thousand of mine, though they are never wanting. Give my Love to your Brother and Sister,3 as I cannot now write to them; and remember me affectionately to the young Ladies your Friends, and to our good Neighbours. I am, my dear Sally, Your ever Affectionate Father

B. Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2While the ALS is lost, this MS remained in the possession of descendants until it passed to the APS with other family papers during the present century. Soon after 1900 its then owner, Miss Margaret H. Bache, gave it to her nephew Franklin Bache, who had it framed between sheets of glass and later sent a typed copy to George Simpson Eddy with the suggestion that Sarah Franklin Bache may have made this copy for one of her daughters. Franklin Bache to George Simpson Eddy, Jan. 3, 1933, Eddy Papers, Princeton Univ. Lib. The handwriting, however, does not appear to be that of BF’s daughter.

3J. Philip Gleason, “A Scurrilous Colonial Election and Franklin’s Reputation,” 3 William and Mary Quar., XVIII (1961), 83–4. The anthem and the quoted description of BF’s send-off are reprinted here from Gleason’s article, which reproduces them from an anonymous letter from Philadelphia, Nov. 23, 1764, printed in North Carolina Magazine … for 1764, pp. 226–7. For the 1745 English version of these three stanzas of “God Save the King,” see Gent. Mag., XV (1745), 552, where some of the rhymes are little better than those in the Philadelphia adaptation.

4“Observations on Mr. Franklin’s Remarks,” not published until 131 years after Dickinson wrote these words, in Paul L. Ford, ed., The Writings of John Dickinson (Phila., 1895), 1, 163.

5This was not the first time BF had been given a demonstrative send-off from Philadelphia which annoyed his opponents. See above, VII, 13–14.

6A small island in the Delaware River, about ten miles below New Castle, Del.

7Thomas Wharton (1731–1782), always called Senior to distinguish him from his cousin Thomas Wharton, Jr. (1735–1778), was a brother of Samuel Wharton (above, p. 187 n) and like his brother was a merchant and land speculator, although he was apparently not a partner in the firm of Baynton, Wharton & Morgan. In 1764 he was one of BF’s most active political partisans, his services including carrying the petition for royal government from house to house in Philadelphia to collect signatures. Though a leader in the early resistance to British taxation of the colonies, he opposed taking up arms and in 1777–78 was banished to Va. and his property confiscated. John Penn to Thomas Penn, May 5, 1764, Penn Papers, Hist. Soc. Pa.

8For Abel James, a prominent Philadelphia Quaker merchant, see above, p. 436 n, and Autobiog. (APS-Yale edit.), p. 287. On Nov. 3, 1764, a Philadelphian writing on local politics commented that the “most active or rather at the head of the active on the old side, appeared A. James and T. Wharton.” William B. Reed, Life and Correspondence of Joseph Reed (Phila., 1847), 1, 36.

9In Elizabeth Montgomery’s Reminiscences of Wilmington (Phila., 1851), pp. 288–9, it is said that the passage beginning with this sentence and ending with “very dirty Earth,” further down in the paragraph, was presented by BF along with “his own prayer book” to James Parker’s daughter Jenny. The editors have found no evidence to support this contention.

1The missing portion is the second quarter (from the top) of the second leaf of the folio MS. The last five words before the break are only just decipherable. When Sparks printed the letter in 1838 (Works, VII, 267–71) the loss had apparently already taken place. He omitted, without indication, not only the missing lines, but the surviving parts of the sentences before and after the break which are printed here; after printing “for those studies” he began a new paragraph with “We expect to be at sea tomorrow.” Bigelow (Works, III, 256–9) and Smyth (Writings, IV, 286–7) followed Sparks, but when BF’s great-granddaughter, Mrs. E. D. Gillespie, printed the letter in A Book of Remembrance (Phila. and London, 1901), pp. 18–19, she included the sentence before the break, reading it as” I think you should, and everybody should, have certain days or hours so set apart.”

2The King of Prussia arrived off the Isle of Wight on Dec. 9, 1764; see below, p. 516.

3William Franklin and his wife, Elizabeth.

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