Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from [John] Blair, 8 December 1766

From [John] Blair1

AP: American Philosophical Society

Monday Decr 8th [1766]2

Dr. Blair presents his Compliments to Dr. Franklin and has used the freedom of sending his Servant for a small parcell of the Pine Tops3 which he was so obliging as to say he would give him.

1While the writer of this note might be Hugh Blair (1718–1800), a Scottish minister who was also Regius professor of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres at the University of Edinburgh and a friend of Hume, Robertson, and Adam Smith, the editors believe that the penman was more probably John Blair (d. 1782), a minister in the Church of England, who was elected to the Royal Society in 1755 on the strength of his Chronology and History of the World, from the Creation to the Year of Christ 1753 (London, 1754). DNB. The editors prefer John Blair because the nature of this note suggests its author was a resident of London, as this man was. Another note in the same handwriting by a “Dr. Blair” is addressed from Princes Street, Leicester Fields.

2December 8 fell on a Monday twice during BF’s years in England: in 1760 and 1766. This note is placed in the latter year because of its reference to “Pine Tops,” which were far more popular by 1766 than they had been six years earlier; see the next note.

3Pine buds from America, brewed into a tea, came into vogue during the 1760s in England. In 1764 William Allen sent a box of them to William Pitt, explaining that, while the concoction would not cure the gout, it would render that disease less frequent. Lewis B. Walker, ed., The Burd Papers. Extracts from Chief Justice William Allen’s Letter Book ([Pottsville, Pa.], 1897), pp. 58–61. By 1766 the use of pine buds had become popular in the British Isles. During that year an advertisement appeared often, though at irregular intervals, in London Chron., announcing pine buds for sale at several outlets in the city and elsewhere, and recommending them highly for the treatment of colds, coughs, rheums, asthmas, scurvy, gout, and rheumatism.

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