Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Francis Hopkinson, 13 December 1765

From Francis Hopkinson

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada. Decr. 13th. 1765

My dear Friend

By this Time I hope his Lordship has recieved our Letters,1 and as the Bishops always spend their Winter in London it is probable he may have desired a Conversation with you on the Discovery of his Family, and has made more particular Enquiries about his Relations in Philadelphia; And very happy do we esteem ourselves in having a Friend in England to answer such Enquiries, on whom we know we may depend, and who will give our Characters every favourable Representation consistent with Truth.

You advised me in your last2 to send Mr. Burrows a small present of Sturgeon or Apples with a Letter of Thanks for his Kindness. I did write such a Letter before I recieved your Advice; but was so stupid that I never thought of the other; I fear such a thing would be improper now as being so late, that it will appear to be done in Consequence of your Advice, and not our own free Act: But I will write the best Apology I can and ship some Sturgeon for him; the Letter shall be enclosed with this to you; and if you should think the present too insignificant or too late you can destroy the Letter and make what Use of the Sturgeon you please.

I wrote to you by a Vessel for Liverpool some Time ago which I hope you will recieve.3 I visited your Family the Day before Yesterday and put Miss Sallys Harpsichord4 in the best Order I could but the Instrument, as to the Touch and all Machinery, is entirely ruined and I think past Recovery. The Tone I shall always think good as long as it has any; but the Touch is indeed so uncomfortable that Sally has but little Inducement to practise; and the Machinery from the Beginning was so complex; that it was almost impossible for any one to keep it in Order but the Man who made it: And as Miss Sally really plays very well, I think it would be very proper to sell this and buy her a new Harpsichord of a more simple Construction. I have got one of Kirchman’s5 double Harpsichords with a Swell and piano Movement, which gives me the greatest Satisfaction—I wish Miss Sally had such another—But we will talk more about this next Spring.

I have finished the Translation of the Psalms of David, to the great Satisfaction of the Dutch Congregation at New York6 and they have paid me £145 their Currency which I intend to keep as a Body Reserve in Case I should go to England.7 I will now go out and look for some Sturgeon; and as I must say something more about it in the Bottom of this Page, I will take the opportunity, whilst I have Room, of assuring you that I am, with great Gratitude for all your Goodness, Your sincere and much obliged Friend

Fras. Hopkinson

P.S. I have put on Board the Ship which was Capt. Budden’s; (but one Powell goes Master of her this Voyage8) One Kegg of Sturgeon and One Barrel of Pippins marked Stores and branded on the Side RR this I did to avoid the Trouble of their being entered &c. in the Custom House.9

1For the genealogical inquiry BF had conducted in England that resulted in establishing that Hopkinson’s mother, the former Mary Johnson, was a first cousin of James Johnson, Bishop of Worcester, see above, pp. 124–6, 200, 222, 288–9. The Hopkinsons’ letters to the bishop have not been found, nor has the one from Francis Hopkinson to James Burrow mentioned in the next paragraph.

2Not found.

3Not found.

4BF had paid £42 in London for a harpsichord in 1759, but apparently did not send it until the fall of 1761; above, IX, 395 n. He was careful to have Sally keep up her practicing; above, X, 292, 295; and this volume, p. 64. She had written her mother April 26, 1765, while on a visit to Burlington, that she hoped her music master had finished repairing her harpsichord. APS.

5Jacob Kirkman, or Kirchman (1705–1792), a German-born instrument maker, had established himself in London during the 1730s. Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians (5th edit., London, 1954), IV, 762–6.

6In 1763 Hopkinson had prepared a collection of Psalm tunes for Christ Church and St. Peter’s in Philadelphia (Evans 9406). The next year the Dutch Reformed Church in New York asked him to prepare a version of the Psalms in English for it, since the Dutch language was going out of use. James Parker printed this work in 1767 under the title The Psalms of David, with the Ten Commandments, Creed, Lord’s Prayer, &c. in metre. … (Evans 10561). Evans states that this was the first book of music printed from type in America. Parker procured the type for the music notes from Amsterdam. George E. Hastings, The Life and Works of Francis Hopkinson (Chicago, [1926]), pp. 73–8.

7Hopkinson did go to England in 1766, spending about a year there and in Ireland. He hoped to secure a profitable post in America, probably through the influence of his relative, Bishop Johnson. The bishop was cordial and entertained him at Hartlebury Castle, but did not procure him the post he hoped for, membership in the American Board of Customs Commissioners, and he returned to Philadelphia empty handed but with pleasant memories of the scenes and people he had encountered. Ibid., pp. 122–56.

8Pa. Gaz., Dec. 12, 1765, reported that the Philadelphia Packet had received its clearance papers with Richard Budden as master. Possibly he was taken ill before sailing and Powell took his place. Pa. Gaz., May 1, 1766, reported the ship’s arrival in London with Powell in command, and Budden died, Aug. 9, 1766. E. L. Clark, A Record of the Inscriptions … in the Burial-Grounds of Christ Church, Philadelphia (Phila., 1864), p. 432.

9BF wrote Hopkinson, May 9, 1766, that he had delivered this present to Burrow, but the apples were rotten when they arrived. Hist. Soc. Pa. The meaning of “RR” as used in the customs service of the eighteenth century is unknown to the editors.

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