Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Ezra Stiles, 26 February 1766

From Ezra Stiles

Draft: Yale University Library

Newport Febry 26 1766

Dear Sir

Permit me to request that you would perfect the inclosed List.4 It is some Satisfaction to know the company into which one is associated. It would oblige me if Mr. Strahan would furnish a List of the Divines in Scotland now living and dignified with a Doctorate, I am told they are not numerous.5 Among the Ten Thousand Clergy of the Church of England are there 2 or 300 Doctors? Pray oblige me with a List of those most eminent for Literature. The Dutch are said to have a Degree beyond the Superlative—these seem to be eruditissimi eruditissimorum such were Bacon, Selden, Newton Locke &c. In your last you mentioned a Correspondence with which I should esteem myself much honoud, if Dr. Watson should consent, which I shall know by receiving his Letter.6

I have seen lately seen an excellent and amiable Character of the Marquis of Rockingham as a Patron of Literature and real Merit, and a Judge of both.7 I should share the pleasure with the rest of your New England Friends if this Nobleman, or some other of your Acquaintance would recommend you, my dear Sir, to his Majesty for the Honor of Knighthood: I wish you an heriditary Dignity and such I think is that of a Baronet:

I have somtimes wished, after you had digested such of your Letters and other Writings as you would desire to accompany your Name through all american Ages, that I might be charged with the publication of them, prefixing them with the history of your Life.8 But this is an honor, to which among your numerous friends I can have no pretension. Confucius and his Posterity have been honored in China for Twenty Ages—the Electrical Philosopher, the American Inventor of the pointed Rods will live for Ages to come to live with him would please no one more than, my Dear Maecenas Your affectionate Friend and obedient Servant

Ezra Stiles

Dr. Franklin London

Sent by Mr. Robt. Stevens Junior who saild March 9. 1766. on Board the ship America Capt. Osborn from Newport Rh. Isl. for Bristol in England, and Arrived at Bristol Apr. 17.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Possibly a list of Americans who had been awarded doctorates by British universities, as Stiles himself had been by the University of Edinburgh the preceding year. See above, XII, 194–6, 384–5. On Aug. 28, 1767, BF wrote Stiles, inclosing “your List of Doctors, compleated as far as I can do it without the Help of my Friends.” Filed with this letter in Dr. Williams’ Library, London, is a list in Stiles’s hand of “Episcopalians in America” who had received British doctorates. It is most unlikely that this list was copied from the one BF sent him on Aug. 28, 1767, because it contains the names of many New England divines who Stiles certainly knew held doctorates and whose names he would certainly have included on the list sent in the present letter. The list of “Episcopalians in America,” which includes BF, must have been prepared by Stiles himself for reasons that are not now apparent. The list which BF sent him on Aug. 28, 1767, has not been found.

5There is no evidence to indicate that Stiles ever received such a list from Strahan; its compilation would have required an enormous amount of labor.

6In his letter of July 5, 1765 (above, XII, 195) BF stated that he would attempt to persuade Dr. William Watson (above, III, 457 n), the eminent physician, naturalist, and electrician, to correspond with Stiles. The two men do not seem to have corresponded, however.

7Charles Watson-Wentworth, 2d Marquis of Rockingham (1730–1782), was, of course, prime minister at this time. In England he was considered a patron of horse racing and of little else.

8In July 1763 while visiting with BF in Newport, R.I., Stiles had collected facts about the honors which his friend had received, material which he could have used in preparing a biography. See above, X, 309–11.

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