Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Sir Alexander Dick, 2 June 1765

To Sir Alexander Dick

ALS: New York Public Library

Cravenstreet, London, June 2. 1765

Dear Sir,

I received your kind Congratulations on my Return to Britain, by Mr. Alexander, which were very obliging.4 The Slip to Dr. Morgan I sent after him to America, where I hope he is safely arrived before this time.5 He always express’d himself greatly oblig’d to you for the Notice you took of him and the Countenance you afforded him; and I shall always thank you cordially for the Regard you were so good as to pay my Recommendation.6 I think he will prove of great Use to his Country, as well as an Honour to the Medical School of Edinburgh.

I have perused the Memorandum you sent me from your Friend Mr. Swinton,7 and wish I was able to give him the Information he desires. I should have wrote to you sooner on this Head, but that I hoped to obtain some Lights from a Person daily expected in Town, but who came not till lately, and I now find is as unacquainted as myself. I can only say, that I remember Peter Sonmans, who sold considerable Tracts of Land in the Jerseys; and that since his Death, one Nevil, whose Sister Sonmans married, has continued to sell Lands of the same Propriety in her Right. But what remains, or in what Situation, I am ignorant; nor can I answer the other Questions with any degree of Precision. But I will send the Memorandum, with your Letter to my Son, if you think proper.8 He continues Governor of that Province, and I am sure will take pains to be satisfy’d in every Particular, and send you a full Answer. I can however inform you that there is a Right to 5000 Acres in Pensilvania, belonging to the Representatives of that same Arent Sonmans as I believe, he being describ’d in a Memorandum I have of old Rights, Arent Sonmans of Wallyford, Mid Lothian, in the Kingdom of Scotland. Those Representatives, may, if they think fit to dispose of that Right, hear of a Purchaser by applying to me.

There is now at Edinburgh a young Gentleman of America, Mr. Samuel Bard, Son of a Friend of mine.9 He is studying Physic there. I have known him from a Child, and always had an Affection for him, as he appear’d to have the most amiable Dispositions. I beg your Countenance towards him, and that you would occasionally favour him with your Advice in his Studies.

Be pleased to present my best Respects to Lady Dick and your Children, and allow me to assure you that no one rejoices more in your and their Felicity than, Dear Sir, Your affectionate and most obedient Humble Servant

B Franklin

My Son, who is very happy in his Government hitherto, desired to be very respectfully remembred to you.

Sir Alexander Dick

Endorsed: Dr Franklin to me 1765

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4See above, p. 70.

5What the slip which Dick sent Morgan was is not known. Morgan had studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh from 1761 until 1763, graduating on July 18 of the latter year. While at Edinburgh he had been entertained by Dick at his estate at Prestonfield. Whitfield J. Bell, Jr., John Morgan Continental Doctor (Phila., 1965), pp. 54–75.

6In October 1761 BF wrote letters recommending Morgan to two of his Scottish friends, Lord Kames and William Cullen, and he evidently wrote Dick on Morgan’s behalf, too. For the letters to Kames and Cullen, see above, IX, 374, 377. The letter to Dick has not been found.

7John Swinton (d. 1799) was a Scottish lawyer and legal writer. He was made a judge on Dec. 21, 1782, with the title of Lord Swinton. DNB. The memorandum which Dick sent BF is, most regrettably, missing, for it might have clarified the basis on which Swinton was evidently claiming lands in N.J. and Pa. His claim was apparently derived in some way from Arent Sonmans (d. 1683), who emigrated from Rotterdam to Scotland in the latter half of the seventeenth century and there by the purchase of shares became one of the proprietors of East New Jersey. While in Scotland, Sonmans married Frances Hancock Swinton, the widow and second wife of Lord Swinton’s great-grandfather, John Swinton, but not related by blood to Lord Swinton, who was descended from his great-grandfather’s first wife. Sonmans’ son and heir, Peter (d. 1734), was educated at the University of Leyden and emigrated to New Jersey about 1705, where he had a stormy career as a land holder and proprietary agent, as a politician and judge, doubt being frequently expressed about his integrity. Sonmans’ brother-in-law, whom BF mentions as selling land to which Swinton apparently believed he had some right, was Samuel Nevill, judge of the N.J. Supreme Court from 1749 to 1764 (see above, XI, 96 n). For Lord Swinton’s ancestry, see Burke’s Landed Gentry and Sir Robert Douglas, The Baronage of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1798), pp. 131–2. For the Sonmans family, see 1 N.J. Arch., I, 527; II, 467–8; William A. Whitehead, Contributions to the Early History of Perth Amboy (N.Y., 1856), pp. 75–80; Donald L. Kemmerer, Path to Freedom The Struggle for Self-Government in Colonial New Jersey 1703–1776 (Princeton, 1940), pp. 62–8, passim.

8At Swinton’s desire, expressed through Dick in a letter of July 5, 1765, BF sent the memorandum to WF, who obtained opinions on Swinton’s pretensions from two prominent legal authorities in New Jersey. See below, p. 197, and WF to BF, June 27, 1766.

9Samuel Bard (1742–1821) was the son of Dr. John Bard (above, II, 352; III, 48–9), physician of Philadelphia and New York and perhaps the person whose comment at some gathering led BF into writing “I Sing My Plain Country Joan.” Young Bard graduated from King’s College (Columbia) in 1760 and studied medicine in London and Edinburgh from 1761 to 1766, receiving his M.D. in the latter place in 1765. Bard returned to New York in 1766 and practiced there very successfully for the remainder of his life. He was one of the founders of New York Hospital. DAB; John M’Vickar, A Domestic Narrative of the Life of Samuel Bard, M.D., LL.D. (New York, 1822).

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