Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Richard Price, 11 February 1772

To Richard Price

ALS and draft: American Philosophical Society

Cravenstreet, Feb. 11. 1772

Dear Sir,

Permit me to thank you, not only on my own Account for the Book itself you have so kindly sent me, but in Behalf of the Publick for Writing it. It being in my Opinion, (considering the profound Study, and steady Application of Mind that the Work required, the sound Judgment with which it is executed, and its great and important Utility to the Nation) the foremost Production of Human Understanding that this Century has afforded us.4 With great and sincere Esteem, I am, Dear Sir, Your obliged and most obedient humble Servant5

B Franklin

Revd Dr Price

Addressed: To / The Revd. Dr Price / at / Newington Green

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4Such hyperbole from BF was unusual. Any book of Price’s that he had not already seen might have aroused it, but his wording seems to imply enthusiasm for something recently published. In that case there are two possibilities. One is a brief pamphlet, An Appeal to the Public, on the Subject of the National Debt (London, 1772), which was noticed at length in the London Chron., Feb. 11–13; but why this highly technical defense of the sinking fund, couched in the author’s usual heavy style, should have elicited such praise we cannot guess. A second and more likely possibility is Observations on Reversionary Payments …, of which two editions appeared in London within a few months of each other. Both contained Price’s long letter to BF printed above, XVI, 81–107, which might explain the author’s sending him a complimentary copy. The first edition appeared in the autumn of 1771 and created a sensation; reviewers emphasized, as BF does, the work’s unique importance and utility to the nation. Monthly Rev., XLV (1771), 303–17, 344–56; Scots Mag., XXXIII (1771), 542. A second edition followed in January: London Chron., Jan. 9–11, 1772. Price might have sent BF a copy of either edition, but the second would seem more likely.

5The draft has a much less formal conclusion: “I am, my dear Friend, Yours most affectionately.”

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