Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Cadwalader Evans, 20 November 1767

From Cadwalader Evans

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philadia Novr. 20th. 1767

Dear Doctor

I received your very acceptable letter of Augst 5th.5, and also Doctor Baker’s ingenuous investigation of the cause of the Devonshire colic;6 for which he deserves the thanks of that County in particular, and of all the world, where Wine, and Cyder, are drank. Gentlemen of the faculty, too often begin where they shou’d end; and instead of writing from experience, they write in order to have opportunities of gaining it; and when that is acquired, rest satisfied with the profits, without making a compensation to the World, for the price of their knowlege, I was going to say, the blood and treasure it had cost. I am affraid this will turn out a satyr, in some degree, on myself; tho I intended a panagyric on Gentlemen, at the head of their Profession, who employ in the service of future generations, the few hours, which a hurry of bussiness, leaves to relaxation, and social enjoyments.

The Symptoms in the dry bellyach of the West Indians, and North Americans, are nearly the same with those in the colic of Poictou and Devonshire; wherefore it may be worth enquiery, whether a similar cause has not some share in producing like effects.

The climate and general way of living, in the English and French Iselands, are nearly the same, except that the latter use wine, or wine and water for common drink, and the former Rum punch. Among the French, I am informed, the Belly ach, is scarcely known; with us it is almost endemic—Now whether this difference, is caused by any admixture of lead, in the composition of Still Worms or to the well known propertys of inflameable spirits, to relax the tone of the alimentary canal, and subject it to spasms may be easily determined by Dr. Bakers experiment.

With this you will receive a catologue of the Medical Books in our Library, which are most of them Donations; and altho we have a considerable sum in the hands of the Managers of the Hospital, their Treasury is so poor, we are obliged to wait for better times.7 Your being pleased with our scheme is consistent with your publick spirited charector and I thank you for myself, and the other Gentlemen concerned, for the Pamphlet you sent, and the intimation you gave of seconding our design in some Degree.

You have heard that our annual Election passed without opposition, and that there is such a majority of your friends in the House, you were nominated Agent, even without any dirt being thrown at you.8 Indeed it is so notorious, that you exerted all your abilities in favour of the Colonies, that none now, are so hardy, as to insinuate the contrary. Even the great Giant9 acknowleged in the House, you had been of service.

The endeavours of many among you, to subject the Colonies, to the Government of unconstitutional Laws, we are sorely, affraid will alienate their [conn]ections from the parent Country—and on the other hand, our own imprudence by puffing in News[pap]ers about our manufactures, &c. will give a handle to our enemies, and lessen the number of our friends.1

The disproportion between the price of raw or crude materials, and the manufactures made of them, is so great, as a late writer Judiciously observes, that no country more especially a Winter Country, can subsist without some manufactures.2 I am very confident [we] cannot in Pensylvania, and till we manufacture [much] more than we do, we shall never be able to pay [our] debts, which the English Merchants complain so much [about.]

We are indeed very blameable that we have not more earnestly endeavoured, to cooperate with the Society for the propogation of Arts &c.3 and rival the produce and manufactures of other Nations, rather than Great Brittain; more especially as we have climates suitable for almost all the productions of the Globe. I have often talked to my acquaintance on a scheme of this kind; all agree about its utility; and if it was generally prosecuted, by establishing societies in several parts of the Continent, it would be the most conciliating steps we could take, and by means of mutual interrests cement and bind differrent parts of the Brittish Empire, to a more distant period, than either Synods or Fleets, and Armies can do. It often gives us great pleasure, that you enjoy so good a state of Health, amidst the hurry and embarrassments you are often in. God grant it may last, to a great and happy old age, which I am sure is the prayer of great numbers on this side the water; but of none with more fervour than Your Affectionate friend

C: Evans

Endorsed: Dr Evans. Nov. 18. 1767

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5Above, pp. 222–4.

6On Dr. George Baker and his study of the Devonshire colic and other forms of lead poisoning, see above, p. 214 n. Cadwalader Evans may have been a relative of Dr. Thomas Cadwalader, whose Essay on the West-India Dry Gripes BF had published in 1745. Whether related or not, Evans, who had lived in Haiti and Jamaica (VII, 287 n), was quick to see the possible connection, as this letter shows, between the “dry bellyach” among the British colonists and the Devonshire colic.

7In his August letter BF had expressed his approval of the plan to develop a medical library in Philadelphia, and his presentation of the Baker pamphlet was a contribution to the project.

8Galloway had reported on October 9 on the success of their party in the recent election. For the agents’ new instructions, see above, pp. 285–8.

9Chief Justice William Allen.

1In response to British legislation, particularly the Townshend duties, newspapers and individuals in America were beginning vigorously to assert their ability to supply their own needs without resort to importation from Great Britain.

2This is probably The Present State of Great Britain and North America, with Regard to Agriculture, Population, Trade, and Manufactures (London, 1767). It is generally attributed to Dr. John Mitchell of Virginia, physician, naturalist, and mapmaker; above, II, 415 n. Scattered comments on the matters cited here are on pp. 163, 217, 234, 238, 263, 265, 270, 275, and 359, and “the winter country” is vividly pictured on pp. 166–72.

3A major function of the Society of Arts (of which BF had been a member since 1755; above, VI, 186–9, 275–7) was to encourage the production of desirable commodities not previously found in the agriculture or industry of Great Britain or her colonies.

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