Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Cadwalader Evans, 11 June 1769

From Cadwalader Evans2

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philadelphia June 11th. 1769.

Dear Doctor

The late transit of Venus, has employ’d several of our Mathematicians, as well as others in several parts of the World. You will, probably, receive all the observations made by them, with full remarks; but in the mean time, I inclose those made by O: Biddle, and Joel Bayley, at Cape Henlopen. The former is a Son of John Biddle’s; and the latter a young man from the forks of Brandywine, in Chester County: who was a considerable time with Dixon & Mason, running the line between Pensylvania, and Maryland. This is a simple relation how it appeared to them, and I beleive faithfull to the best of their abilities.3 It was very hastily copied, which is some disadvantage.

I have not attended the meetings of the Philosophical Society, since the two were joined, and you elected. Mr. Wharton, knows why it has been so. It was my opinion then, that the eagerness, the Professors of the College shew’d for a Junction of the two Societies, was to avail themselves of the Labours of others, and filch reputation from their knowledge.4 Several instances have occur’d to confirm it, particularly, the order of publishing the names of the observators, in the News Papers. They agreed at the State House, that each shoud say contact, as soon as they observ’d it, and those who watch’d the time peice were immediately set down. Mr. Pryor called first, Mr. Shippen, next, in 2 seconds after. Mr. Ewing in 17 later. Dr. Williamson, without observing the agreement to call, set down for himself, and made it 2 seconds before Pryor—but as his veracity weighs little without vouchers, I am told no regard is paid to his observation. Nevertheless the Papers say, or insinuate that the observation was made by Mr. Ewing, Mr. Shippen, Dr. Williamson, Mr. Pryor &c. At Norriton, Mr. Ritt[enhouse] perceived the Transit first, Mr. Lucan, next, and Mr. Smith sometime after.5 Here they were at some distance fr[om one an]other, not a word spoken, but Mr. Rittenhouse, and Mr. Smith without any knowlege of each other, communicated [torn] contact, by a signal to them that watched the time peice [torn] Mr. Smith, set down for himself.

Mr. Rittenhouse’s, and Mr. Lucan’s observations very nearly coincided, and are supposed to be accurate. Yet in the News papers, the order of the Names are, The Reverend Dr. Smith Mr. Lucan, Mr. Rittenhouse, tho the latter was incompareably the best Mathematician, and used the instrument with the utmost dexterity. At Cape Henlopen, one person called out the minutes, and another the seconds and the observator set down the contact, each without the privity of the other—so much for the Transit.

Last Month was a year, I inclosed to you, at the request of Wm. Henry of Lancaster, the draft of a register he had invented to regulate the heat in fire works.6 I sent it by Capt. Faulkner, but have not heard whether you received it, or not.

By Capt. Sparks, I wrote to S: Wharton, that Mr. Galloway was gone to Trevose,7 for the recovery of his health——he returned last night, not much better——he was so imprudent, out of complaisance to his Father,8 to go out several hours in the heat of the day, which was very hot, to level grass for watering a Meadow. I am not apprehensive of danger but fear his recovery will be rather tedious.

Capt. Dowells Widdow, one of the Daughters of your old acquaintance Oswald Peel,9 goes in this Vessel, to see her late Husband’s Brother. It is probable she will go to London, and hopes to have the pleasure of seeing you.

I came from Burlington 2 days agoe, when your son and daughter were very well. Please to make my Compliments to Mr. Wharton, and Mr. Trent and pray read a lecture to the former on temperance as you know how small a quantity a man may live on, for I am affraid the Luxuries of London will make another Bright of him. I am told the Vessel is Just putting off. Adeiu. Your faithfull and Affectionate friend

C: Evans

Addressed: To / Benjamin Franklin Esqr / Deputy Post Master of North / America &c / Craven street / London / per the Chalkley / Via Bristol

Endorsed: Dr Evans June 11. and July 15 1769

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2For Dr. Evans, the Philadelphia physician, see above, VII, 287 n; BF had been in correspondence with him since 1765. BF replied to this letter on Sept. 7.

3For another report of these observations see the preceding document. For Owen Biddle see above, XV, 262 n. The only meager information we have found about Joel Bailey (1732–97), aside from what Evans furnished, is in J. Smith Futhey and Gilbert Cope, History of Chester County, Pennsylvania … (Philadelphia, 1881), p. 467. Mason and Dixon, and the famous line that Bailey had helped to run, had engaged BF’s attention in 1765: above, XII, 341–2.

4For the rebirth of the APS in 1768 see above, XV, 259–62. Evans is referring BF for further information to Samuel Wharton, who was then in England. Members of the faculty of the College of Philadelphia were particularly prominent in the APS, and Provost William Smith and others were elected to office year after year. Brooke Hindle, The Pursuit of Science in Revolutionary America, 1735–1789 (Chapel Hill, [1956]), p. 139. Whether the professors’ purpose was to “filch reputation” is another question.

5For the men mentioned who have already been identified see above, as follows: Joseph Shippen, XIII, 337 n; the Rev. John Ewing, XI, 526 n; Dr. Hugh Williamson, X, 266 n; David Rittenhouse and his Norriton farm, the preceding document; the Rev. William Smith, IV, 467 n. Thomas Pryor or Prior (d. 1801) was an instrument-maker and member of the APS: Hindle, op. cit., p. 153; Harrold E. Gillingham, “Some Early Philadelphia Instrument Makers, PMHB, LI (1927), 303. “Mr. Lucan” was John Lukens (d. 1789), the Surveyor General of Pennsylvania.

6William Henry (1729–86) was a wealthy gunsmith and inventor, and the first man in the country to experiment with a steamship. He became a member of the APS in 1768, and his “Description of a Self-Moving or Sentinel Register” was published in its Trans., I (1771), 286–9, and reprinted in Francis Jordan, Jr., The Life of William Henry … (Lancaster, Pa., 1910), pp. 43–7.

7Joseph Galloway’s country house in Bucks County; BF’s papers were subsequently stored there, and most of them lost when the British sacked the house during the War of Independence. See above, I, xxi.

8His father-in-law, Lawrence Growden or Growdon (1694–1770), a wealthy ironmaster and landowner.

9Grace, the daughter of Oswald and Lydia Robinson Peel, had married William Dowell in 1762. Geneal. Soc. of Pa. Publications, VIII (1933), 85. Dowell, the former captain of a privateer and “a Man of great Integrity and Benevolence,” had died in 1768. Pa. Gaz., June 16, 1768.

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