Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to [John Chalmers?], 6 July 1765

To [John Chalmers?9]

Copy: Massachusetts Historical Society1

Londn. Craven Street July 6th. 1765


I have been many Years Acquainted with the Revd. Mr. Mather Byles,2 of Whom you tell me some Acct. is desired, He is a Native of New England, Descended of the Ancient Mather family of which there have been two Doctor’s in Divinity both Famous in that Country for their Learning and Piety, Viz Dr. Increase Mather and Dr. Cotton Mather;3 the former President of Harvard Colledge at Cambidge; there Mr. Byles was Educated at that College where he Distinguishd himself by a close application of his studies, took the Usual Degrees, and is now one of Its Visitors, or Superintendants, he is a Pastor of a Congregational Church in Boston the Capital of New-England the principals or Doctrines of those Churches are the same with those of the Church of Scotland, except what relates to Church Govermt. He is a Gentleman of Superior Parts and Learning an Eloquent preacher, and on many accounts an Honour to his Country. I am Sir Your most Humble Servant

Benjamin Franklin


[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9So identified because this letter is a testimonial for Mather Byles (above, XI, 90), who was being considered for an honorary S.T.D. at King’s College, Aberdeen, and because the Rev. Dr. John Chalmers, the principal and professor of Sacred Theology at the college, was identified in the diploma awarded to Byles, Sept. 13, 1765, as the promoter of his degree. Hence, Chalmers would have been the logical person for BF to have written to in his friend’s behalf, especially since he knew none of the other seven signatories of the diploma. An entry in the records of King’s College, Sept. 17, 1765, suggests that the recommendation of “the learned and ingenious Dr. Benjamin Franklin” was decisive in Byles’s favor. The diploma is printed in Col. Soc. Mass. Pubs., XV (1925), 321. See also Peter J. Anderson, ed., Officers and Graduates of University and King’s College, Aberdeen MVD-MDCCCLX (Aberdeen, 1893), p. 102.

1In the Belknap Papers.

2BF perhaps formed an acquaintance with Byles while he was still living in Boston, for Byles had contributed to James Franklin’s New England Courant, while BF was helping run the paper. In his General Magazine in January and March 1741 BF printed an extract of one of Byles’s sermons and two of his poems.

3Increase Mather was Byles’s grandfather, Cotton his uncle.

Index Entries