Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Deborah Franklin, 13 June 1766

To Deborah Franklin

ALS: American Philosophical Society2

This letter is of interest because it contains the first specific information about Franklin’s trip to Germany.3 During his first mission to England he had made a habit of traveling to various parts of the British Isles in the summer for health and pleasure, and now he was renewing the practice, accompanied by his friend, John Pringle, to the spa of Bad Pyrmont in the principality of Waldeck-Pyrmont in the north central part of present-day West Germany. Information about this trip is sparse, so that the gaps in the chronology presented here are unavoidable:

June 15:4 Franklin and Pringle leave London.

June 22–July 5?:5 The two men take the waters at Bad Pyrmont.

July 9: Franklin and Pringle visit the Royal Library at Hanover. While at Hanover they visit the scientist Johann Friedrich Hartman and observe him performing electrical experiments.6

July 19–21: Franklin and Pringle at Göttingen; both are formally admitted as members of the Royal Academy there, Pringle having been elected in the spring.7

July 22?–August 16: The two men travel through Cassel to Frankfort and to Mainz, then down the Rhine to Holland and on home to London.8

London, June 13. 1766

My dear Child,

Mrs. Stevenson has made up a Parcel of Haberdashery for you, which will go in Capt. Robinson.9 She will also send you another Cloak in the room of that we suppose lost in Capt. Kerr.1

I wrote to you in Capt. Sparks,2 that I had been very ill lately. I am now nearly well again, but feeble. To-morrow I set out with my Friend Dr. Pringle (now Sir John)3 on a Journey to Pyrmont, where he goes to drink the Waters; but I hope more from the Air and Exercise, having been us’d, as you know, to make a Journey once a Year, the Want of which last Year has, I believe, hurt me, so that tho’ I was not quite to say sick, I was often ailing last Winter and thro’ this Spring. We must be back at farthest in Eight Weeks, as my Fellow Traveller is the Queen’s Physician, and has Leave for no longer as she will then be near her Time.4 I purpose to leave him at Pyrmont, and visit some of the principal Cities nearest to it, and call for him again when the Time of our Return draws nigh. My Love to Sally, &c. I am, my dear Debby, Your affectionate Husband

B Franklin

Addressed: To / Mrs Franklin / Philadelphia / via New York / per Packet / B Free Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Also in APS is another almost identical ALS marked at the top by BF “Copy. Origl per Packet.” It lacks the address page and has a few unimportant differences in phraseology.

3A short but useful discussion of this journey is in Hans Walz, “Benjamin Franklin in Hannover 1766,” Hannoverische Geschichtsblatter, Neue Folge Band 21, Heft ½, pp. 61–5.

4In the present letter BF speaks of his date of departure as “To-morrow,” i.e., June 14. In a note in APS, however, in which he listed the dates of his trip to Germany and his French trips of 1767 and 1769 he gave his departure as June 15, a dating supported by a letter from William Strahan to David Hall, June 14, 1766, PMHB, x (1886), 228.

5These dates are conjectural, since there is no information about how long BF and Pringle stayed at the spa.

6Visitors’ Book, Hannover Landesbibliothek, entry of July 9, 1766. Göttingische Anzeigen von Gelehrten Sachen (Göttingen, 1766), part ii, 921; Hartman to BF, Oct. 1, 1767, APS.

7Beatrice M. Victory, Benjamin Franklin and Germany (in Americana Germanica, No. 21, Univ. of Pa., 1915), pp. 48, 53; below, p. 345.

8Though the travelers certainly visited Trier and Cologne, their itinerary during this part of their journey is not wholly clear; see below, p. 384 n.

9Pa. Gaz., Oct. 2, 1766, reported the arrival at Philadelphia of the Prince George, Capt. James Robinson.

1Pa. Gaz., April 10, 17, 1766, reported the loss of the snow Nancy, Captain Kerr, from Bristol, on April 6 on Hereford Bar, “about four leagues to the Northward of Cape-May.”

2London shipping seems to have been very slow at this time; Pa. Gaz. did not report the arrival of the brig Mary and Elizabeth, Capt. J. Sparks, until the issue of Aug. 21, 1766. The letter from BF to DF that it carried has not been found.

3Pringle was made a baronet on June 3, 1766. London Chron., June 3–5, 1766.

4The Queen gave birth to a daughter, Charlotte Augusta Matilda (1766–1828), on September 29. In 1794 the princess married Prince Friedrich Wilhelm Karl of Würtemberg, who succeeded his father the same year and was made King of Würtemberg by Napoleon in 1806. DNB.

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