Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Isaac Hunt, 21 May 1766

From Isaac Hunt8

ALS (mutilated):9 American Philosophical Society

Philada. [May 21, 1766]

Worthy Sir

It is with great Reluctance that I trouble you with [torn] at a time when you must be busily engaged in Affairs of the [torn] to Great Britain and her Colonies. I hope however you will pardon [torn] indulge me in a Freedom which I do and ever shall esteem a great [Favour?].

One of the Medals which Mr. Sargent sent to the College1 [was awarded at] the last anniversary Commencement to Dr. Morgan for the best [essay on?] the reciprocal Advantages of a perpetual Union between Great [Britain and] her American Colonies. There was but Eight that enterd the [torn] among whom I was one, and although I fell, yet I hope to rise [again.]2 Some who heard Doctor Morgan read his Performance at the Commencement are of Opinion that he has not done the Subject Justice. Be that as it may I cannot but think that a Peice wrote by a Gentleman of Doctor Morgan’s Sense, Age, Advantages and Connections, and approved by Men of such eminent Abilities as our Trustees and Professors are must be vastly superior to any Thing of the like Nature that a Person of my Years and slender Abilities should attempt. The Determination of this matter I must leave, and would be glad to be honored with your Sentiments when you have read both Performances, which I propose sending you by the Packet. This much I would beg Leave to observe that I could not expect to receive Honors from Men to whom I am so obnoxious. This is evident from the ill Usage I have very lately received. According to custom I made Application for my Master’s Degree, an Honor which I had not forfeited and was therefore entitled to. The Trustees after sending for my Printer and strictly examining the poor, ignorant Man with respect to the Political Pamphlets I had wrote, without hearing what I had to say, rejected my Application and refused to give me my Master’s Degree.3 There are no Honors for me, this Side the Water unless your patriotic Endeavors for a Change are crowned with Success. Had I not so great and sincere a Friend as you are, good Sir, I candidly confess that my Ambition would have been greatly checked by this cruel Behaviour, cruel because it flows from the poisoning Fountain of Faction and Revenge.

I beleive by Advice of my Friends I shall publish the Essay I wrote for the Medal. Gratitude great Affection and perhaps a little Selfishness will induce me to dedicate it to the justly respected Patriot and Agent of Pennsylvania.4 I hope I shall not give offence by taking so great a Freedom without first obtaining Permission. Excuse me when I say that your Name will be [illegible] [torn] Travellers, and tempt them to taste of my coars fare [torn]

[Torn] to write fuller by the Packet. I had very little Time [torn] [opport]unity, and therefore should make an Appology for my rude [torn] of your great Candor and Goodness.

[Ameri]cans are all rejoicing at the agreeable News of the Stamp [Act being repeal]ed. Due Honors are paid our honored Agent for his great Activity in [behalf of the?] Colonies by all in Pennsylvania who have Honor, Honesty and [torn] those whose bad Hearts will not permit to give Merit its Due [torn] put to Confusion when we had the glorious Account in sundry [torn] of your so honorably nobly and satisfactorily acquitting yourself in our Be[half before?] the House of Commons.

God give you all true Blessings and preserve you long for the Sake of dear Pennsylvania. I am, Worthy Sir, With great Faithfulness, Your Affectionate and oblig’d Humble Servant.

Isaac Hunt.

Endorsed: Mr Isaac Hunt May 21: 1766 concerning his Competition for the Medal

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8Isaac Hunt (c.1742–1809), author, lawyer, and clergyman, graduated from the College of Philadelphia in 1763 and briefly held a tutorship there. During and after the election campaign of 1764 he published a series of satirical attacks on proprietary supporters, aiming his Exercises in Scurrility-Hall and other pieces especially at William Smith, Francis Alison, and others closely associated with the College; above, XII, 83 n. These writings served as the basis for the denial of his M.A. degree, about which he complains to BF in this letter. Five years later, however, he was allowed to receive the degree. He studied law and became a successful member of the Philadelphia bar. Attacked as a Tory during the Revolution, he made his escape to England, where he took Holy Orders. He was the father of Leigh Hunt, the essayist, critic, and poet. DAB.

9The upper right corner of the leaf has been torn off, causing the loss of the date (supplied from BF’s endorsement) and several words in the top lines of both pages.

1On John Sargent’s gift of these medals through BF, see above, X, 143–4. One of the medals was to be for a discourse or essay “on the reciprocal Advantages arising from a perpetual Union between Great Britain and her American Colonies,” open to all graduates.

2The winner was Dr. John Morgan, above, IX, 374 n. The names of the writers were under sealed covers when the Trustees of the College read the essays. Two essays in addition to Morgan’s were deemed worthy of publication and a fourth was added later. They were published together under the title Four Dissertations on the Reciprocal Advantages of a Perpetual Union between Great-Britain and her American Colonies. Written For Mr. Sargent’s Prize-Medal . . . (Phila., 1766) (Evans, 10400; Hildeburn, 2213). The medal was presented to Morgan at the commencement exercises, May 20, with a laudatory address by Provost Smith that was included in the publication of the essays. Hunt’s piece was not included among those honored by publication, but he brought it out himself in 1775 with the title The Political Family: Or a Discourse pointing out the Reciprocal Advantages, Which flow from an uninterrupted Union between Great-Britain and her American Colonies (Philada., 1775) (Evans, 14123; Hildeburn, 3223). An account of this essay competition is in Montgomery, Hist. Univ. Pa., pp. 367–71.

3See the first note to this document. In accordance with the English practice, graduates of at least three years standing who had paid their fees and were in good repute could apply for the M.A. degree and it was usually voted with a minimum of formality.

4When Hunt finally printed his essay (somewhat revised) in 1775 he did not dedicate it to BF, but “To the Worthy Merchants, Farmers, and Mechanics of the Province of Pennsylvania, in Testimony of Esteem and Friendship,” a much safer and less controversial form of dedication for an incipient Loyalist.

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