Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Rudolph Erich Raspe, 9 September 1766

To Rudolph Erich Raspe

ALS: Landesbibliothek, Kassel

London, Sept. 9. 1766

Dear Sir,

I received your obliging Favour of Augt. 28.4 with the Paper enclos’d for the Monthly Review, which I shall communicate to the Managers of that Work, and imagine I shall prevail with them to do you better Justice.5

I am oblig’d to you for the Trouble you took in the Affair of my little Bill.6 As the other Bankers beside the Jew, have satisfy’d you that it was fully paid, I am sure I ought to be satisfy’d, tho’ I do not understand it.

I thank you for reminding me of the Promises I made in your Country, some of them might otherwise have escap’d my Memory, as it must be a considerable time before I can possibly perform them, the Seeds, Mohawk Grammar, and Pensilvania Laws being all to come from America, at least 3000 Miles from hence.7 I deliver’d your Letter to Dr. Knight, who will write to you when he has receiv’d the Box of Fossils you sent him,8 which is not yet come; being put in the Package we made up at Frankfurt, of Books bought there and those brought from Göttingen, which we left in the Hands of a Merchant, to be sent to us by way of Holland, and it is not yet arrived. Mr. Canton also will write to you as soon as he can. His House is just now repairing, and full of Confusion with Workmen, which he desired me to mention as his Excuse at present. Mr. Michell lives in the Country,9 and I shall hardly see him till Winter, when he commonly spends some time in Town. I will then communicate to him your Book, and make him acquainted with you.

The Map of the British Northern Colonies I send you herewith,1 as also Dr. Knight’s Book, which he desires you to accept from him. My own is yet in the Press; as soon as it is finished, I shall do myself the Honour of presenting you with a Copy.2

It would be a great Pleasure to me to see you here or in America, or in any Place where I could see you happy; but I would not have you hasty in Resolutions of Removing. Merit like yours continually increasing by fresh Acquisitions of useful Knowledge, cannot much longer remain unnotic’d and without due Encouragement where you are. Here Strangers labour long under Obscurity and Difficulties before they can establish themselves; and, except in one way, I see no Opening for you in America: For you would hardly chuse to turn Planter, and plough for a Living. The Way I mean is the Practice of the Law in our Courts; and that too, if I mistake not, would hardly be agreable to your Inclination; tho’ I think the Foundation you have laid in the Civil Law would greatly facilitate your Study of our English Law and the particular Laws of our Province. If you think you could seriously apply yourself to this Profession, I believe America would do well for you, especially as your Knowledge of the German Language would qualify you particularly to do the Business of those People. But in any other way, I do not see how I can encourage you to go thither.

When the Books from Frankfurt arrive, I shall see what I have, and what I still want, of the Lists given me at Göttingen.3 I shall then take the Liberty of troubling you with my Commissions.

Be so kind as to present my respectful Compliments to the good Baron Munichausen,4 and assure him that I have the most grateful Remembrance of the Civilities I receiv’d from his Excellency at Hanover, and thro’ his Recommendation at Göttingen. Remember me also respectfully to Mr. Munichausen his Nephew, to the Veldt Marshal, to Mr. Brander, to Doctor Wichtman, and to Mr. Young, when you occasionally see them.5 I never think of the Time I spent so agreably at Hanover, without wishing it could have been longer. Remember me also affectionately to the Professors at Göttingen, whose Learning and Politeness impress’d me with the highest Esteem for them: I wish every kind of Prosperity to them and their University. With sincerest Regard, I am, Dear Sir, Your affectionate Friend and most obedient humble Servant

B Franklin

M. Raspe

Endorsed (following the date line at the top): resp.d. 10. Febr. 1767.6

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Not found.

5The appendix to The Monthly Review, xxxiii (probably published in January 1766), contained a review article, pp. 497–505, on Raspe’s Latin and French edition of Leibnitz’s posthumous philosophical papers. The review was for the most part a discussion of the differences between the metaphysics of Locke and Leibnitz. Some phraseology apparently gave Raspe reason to think that he was being criticized for “disrespectful treatment of Mr. Lock’s memory,” and he wrote the letter to the “Managers” that BF here acknowledged. In the appendix to the Monthly Review, xxxv (published in January 1767), appeared a short statement,p. 569, acknowledging Raspe’s communication, expressing regret at his displeasure, and stating that the passages that had displeased him had not referred to his publication “but to another work, the natural produce of our own country.” Later correspondence suggests that Raspe was not wholly mollified.

6See above, p. 345.

7Nothing is known of any attempt by BF to send American seeds to Germany. At this time there was no grammar of the Mohawk language in print, though John Christopher Pyrlaeus (1713–1785), a Moravian preacher, had begun the study of that language in 1744, became a teacher of it, and may by 1766 have compiled one of the ms grammars later deposited in Hist. Soc. Pa.; Amer. Antiq. Soc. Proc., new series, lxvi (1956), 294. The volume of Pennsylvania laws BF was to send was probably his own edition of 1742; above, II, 391.

8Gowin Knight (1713–1772), whose book on magnetism BF had sent to Ezra Stiles in 1755; above, VI, 103, 178. Raspe’s first published work, Specimen Historiae Naturalis Globi Terraquei (Amsterdam and Leipzig, 1763), had dealt with fossils.

9John Michell (1724–1793), the English astronomer and geologist; above, VII, 357 n; xi, 480–1.

1This map may have been either the one by John Mitchell (d. 1768) entitled Map of the British and French Dominions in North America (London, 1755), or Lewis Evans’ General Map of the Middle Colonies in America (Phila., 1755); above, II, 415 n; v, 448; vi, 173 n.

2The fourth edition of Exper. and Obser. was not completed and published until the winter of 1768–69.

3BF had visited both Frankfort and Göttingen during his recent journey.

4Probably Baron Gerlach Adolph von Münchausen (1688–1770), privy councilor, first minister of the Electorate, and promoter and curator of Göttingen University; not Baron Hieronymus Karl Friedrich von Münchausen (1720–1797), of Bodenwerder in Hanover, a member of a junior branch of the same family. The younger man is generally the better known; diverting stories of his exploits as a cavalry officer fighting with the Russians against the Turks probably served his friend Raspe as inspiration for a small book, Baron Munchausen’s Narrative of his Marvelous Travels and Campaigns in Russia (London, 1785). Later editions, “enlarged” by other writers, converted the former soldier into the legendary European counterpart of the American teller of “tall tales” of the frontier. BF’s use of “his Excellency” certainly suggests the high ranking officer of state, not the retired soldier.

5This untitled younger Münchausen cannot be positively identified. The “Veldt Marshal” (field marshal) may have been Johann Ludwig, Count von Wallmoden-Gimborn (1736–1811), an illegitimate son of George II residing in Hanover. “Mr. Brander” was Georg Friedrich Brandes (1729–1812), owner of a large library and later secretary of the University of Göttingen. Johann Ernst Wichmann (1740–1802) was a distinguished physician in Hanover, a widely traveled translator of English medical works into German. “Mr. Young” may have been Johann Heinrich Jung (1715–1799), chief librarian of the Hanover Royal Library. The editors are indebted for most of these identifications to Robert L. Kahn, who has edited and published this and other letters in “Three Franklin-Raspe Letters,” Proc., APS, xcix (1955), 397–400.

6Raspe’s reply of Feb. 10, 1767, has not been found.

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