Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Sir John Pringle, [1767?]

To Sir John Pringle

Draft: American Philosophical Society


Dear Sir,

I have attentively perused the Remarks of Capt. Coats, relative to Voyages into Hudson’s Bay, the Geography of the Country,1 and his Reasons for believing a Western Sea to be not far distant, put into my Hands by Dr. Hamilton2 and I cannot but think the Work of too great Importance to be kept longer in Obscurity, as the Information it contains would be highly useful to any who should endeavour farther Discoveries in those Parts. I wish therefore, that it was either made publick for the Benefit of all who might be engag’d in future Attempts to discover a Northwest Passage, or that it was safely lodged in the Admiralty, for the Use of any Ships that might here after be order’d by Government farther to explore those Regions.3 I am, with great Respect Sir Your most obedient humble Servant


Sir John Pringle

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9The “Sir” prefaced to Pringle’s name establishes that BF wrote this letter after June 5, 1766, the date of Pringle’s baronetage, so it might belong in any year between 1766 and 1775. Because the piece is dated in the Hays Calendar, III, 468, as “Circa 1767,” the editors failed to examine it carefully in time for possible inclusion in Volume XIII. For this reason and on the admittedly slender hypothesis that mention of Coat’s “Remarks” had come up in conversation during the two friends’ visit to Paris in 1767, it is placed here at the end of that year.

1William Coats was a captain in the employ of the Hudson’s Bay Company and commanded vessels for it between 1727 and 1751. His account of the geography of the region remained in MS until 1852, when John Barrow edited it for the Hakluyt Society as vol. XI of Series I. Barrow reported his inability to find anything further about Coats. One island near the entrance to Hudson Bay is named for him.

2The words “put into my Hands by Dr. Hamilton” are in the margin, with a caret in the text to show where they should be inserted. Following “Hamilton” in the margin BF wrote “who brought me your [illegible] Note.” He later struck out all these latter words except “Note,” but the failure to cancel “Note” appears to have been inadvertent.

3Barrow stated in 1852 that the Coats MS was “the property of Sir Edward Parry, who has had it in his possession for many years.” John Barrow, ed., The Geography of Hudson’s Bay: Being the Remarks of Captain W. Coats (London, 1852), p. x. Obviously, therefore, BF’s suggestion of lodging the MS safely in the Admiralty had not been carried out.

Index Entries