Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Winthrop, 11 March 1769

To John Winthrop

ALS: American Philosophical Society

London, March 11. 1769

Dear Sir,

At length after much Delay and Difficulty I have been able to obtain your Telescope that was made by Mr. Short before his Death. His Brother, who succeeds in the Business, has fitted it up and compleated it. He has followed the Business many Years at Edinburgh, is reckon’d very able, and therefore I hope every thing will be found right; but as it is only just finish’d, I have no time left to get any philosophical or astronomical Friends to examine it as I intended, the Ship being on the Point of sailing, and a future Opportunity uncertain. Enclos’d is his Direction Paper for opening and fixing it. I have not yet got the Bill of the Price: it is to be made from the deceased Mr. Short’s Book of Memorandums of Orders, in which he enter’d this Order of ours and as it is suppos’d the Price: I do not remember, it is so long since, whether it was £100 or 100 Guineas; and the Book is in the Hands of the Executors, as I understand; When I have the Account, I shall pay it as I did Bird’s for the Transit Instrument, which is 40 Guineas, and then shall apply for the whole to Mr. Mauduit.7 By the way, I wonder that I have not heard from you of the Receipt of that Instrument, which went from hence in September per Capt. Watt. I hope it got safe to hand, and gave Satisfaction: The Ship was the same that Mr. Rogers went in, who I hear is arriv’d, and by him too I sent the Philosophic Transactions, with a Number of Copies of your Paper as printed separately.8 But I have no Letter from you since that by the young Gentleman you recommended to me, Grandson to Sir Wm. Pepperell,9 which I think was dated about the Beginning of October, when you could not have receiv’d them.

By a late Ship, I sent your College a Copy of the new Edition of my Philosophical Papers; and others I think for yourself and for Mr. Bowdoin.1 I should apologize to you for inserting therein some part of our Correspondence with out first obtaining your Permission: But as Mr. Bowdoin had favour’d me with his Consent, for what related to him; I ventur’d to rely on your Good Nature as to what related to you, and I hope you will forgive me.

I have got from Mr. Ellicot the Glasses, &c. of the long Galilean Telescope which he presents to your College. I put them into the Hands of Mr. Nairne, the Optician, to examine and put them in Order.2 I thought to have sent them by this Ship, but am disappointed; they shall go by the next if possible.

There is nothing new here in the philosophical Way at present. With great and sincere Esteem, I am, Dear Sir, Your most obedient and most humble Servant

B Franklin

P.S. There is no Prospect of getting the Duty Acts repeal’d this Session if ever. Your steady Resolutions to consume no more British Goods may possibly if persisted in have a good Effect another Year. I apprehend the Parliamentary Resolves and Address will tend to widen the Breach. Inclos’d I send you Governor Pownall’s Speech against these Resolves; his Name is not to be mention’d. He appears to me a hearty Friend to America; tho’ I find he is suspected by some on Account of his Connections.3

John Winthrop Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7For James Short, John Bird, and the telescope see above, XV, 166–7. For Jasper Mauduit, the former Massachusetts agent who was now acting for Harvard, see above, XII, 13 n. On May 29 he paid BF £147, and on June 14 BF paid £100 for the telescope to a man named Atkinson; see BF’s Journal under those dates. Atkinson was clearly Short’s successor, and may have been his half-brother or brother-in-law.

8For Winthrop’s Cogitata de Cometis see above, XV, 168 n. Nathaniel Rogers, the bearer of the book and offprints, was a Boston merchant (c. 1736–70) who had spent a year in England. A few months after his return, when he hoped to become secretary of Massachusetts, he cited the Pownall brothers, Hillsborough, and BF as men who would vouch for him in England; he was known in Boston as a government man, he added, and had suffered accordingly. Copy of Letters Sent to Great-Britain, by His Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, the Hon. Andrew Oliver, and Several Other Persons, Born and Educated among Us (Boston, 1773), pp. 38–40. Rogers’ sufferings were soon exacerbated: in May, 1769, he was cited as a violator of the nonimportation agreement; in January, 1770, the Committee of Inspection visited his store; in the following May he went to New York, where the Sons of Liberty hanged him in effigy. The next day he left town, and died in Boston in August. New England Hist. and Geneal. Register, XII (1858), 340; Oliver M. Dickerson, ed., Boston under Military Rule … (Boston, [1936]), p. 100; Charles M. Andrews, “The Boston Merchants and the Non-Importation Agreement,” Col. Soc. of Mass. Publications, XIX (1918), 232, 233 n.

9William Pepperell Sparhawk (1746–1816), who inherited the estate and took the name of his grandfather after the latter’s death in 1759, was himself made a baronet in 1774. After graduating from Harvard in 1766 he visited England, and returned there as a loyalist refugee in 1775. See Cecil H. C. Howard, The Pepperells in America (Salem, Mass., 1906), pp. 36–7; Sabine, Loyalists, II, 168–76.

1See the postscript of BF to Jane Mecom above, Feb. 23.

2For John Ellicott, the London clockmaker and scientist, and Edward Nairne, the electrician and instrument-maker, see above, X, 171 n, 248 n. A Galilean telescope is refracting, with a concave eyeglass.

3For Pownall’s speech see the preceding document. The Governor may have been suspect because he was corresponding with Lieut. Gov. Hutchinson, but more probably because of his older brother John, who had been for more than a decade the secretary of the Board of Trade and hence was associated with Hillsborough.

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