Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Richard Price, 30 September 1772

From Richard Price

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Newington-Green Sept 30th 1772

Dear Sir

I have Sent you enclosed Dr. Priestley’s letter to you, together with another which I received from him last night. Indeed I don’t know whether to be glad or Sorry on account of his rejection of Lord Shelburne’s proposal.1 I love him and am heartily concerned for him and wish he was better provided for.

I think myself extremely obliged to you for mentioning me to Sir John Pringle. I am afraid you will both of you be disappointed in me, Should you ever honour me in the manner you propose. My principal congregation is at Hackney. I preach there every Sunday morning at the meeting in the Gravel-Pit field near the Church, beginning at half an hour after ten. In the Afternoon I preach at Newington-Green and begin at three.2 Next Sunday at Hackney is Sacrament day. A member of the congregation also was buried this week. This will limit me to one Subject, and therefore you would probably hear me there to more disadvantage next Sunday than on any of the following Sundays. But I refer myself entirely to Sir John Pringle’s and your candour. Both places are so distant from your end of the town that I can hardly expect to see you. I sometimes exchange with some of my brethren in the city; but I have at present no prospect of doing this soon. Dr. Kippis you are acquainted with. He is a worthy and ingenious man of very liberal principles, and preaches pretty near you, or at Long Ditch near Crown-Street in Westminster. Dr. Amory in the afternoon, and Mr. White in the morning at the Old Jewry, Dr. Jefferies at Pinners-Hall Old Broad-Street in the afternoon and Dr. Flemming in the morning; Mr. Radcliffe in the morning and Dr. Calder in the afternoon at Poor-Jewry-Lane Aldgate; Dr. Prior in Goodman’s-Fields; Mr. Palmer both parts of the day at New-Broadstreet; Mr. Pickard at Carter-Lane near St. Pauls in the morning, and Dr. Furneaux at Clapham are all likewise preachers of Christianity on the rational plan.3 But the congregations of many of them are very thin, partly perhaps for this very reason.

I have not yet heard when our Club is to meet.4 Mrs. Price sends her best respects to you. I allways think with much pleasure and gratitude of your friendship, and am, Dear Sir, with great regard your obliged humble Servant

Richd: Price

P.S. I forgot to mention Mr. Farmer who preaches in the afternoon at Salters-Hall near the Post-office. He is one of the most admired preachers we have; but he is going to leave Salters-Hall at Christmas. He is the author of a Dissertation on miracles published two years ago; and also of an Enquiry into the account of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness; and I have just read an Essay of his in manuscript on the Demoniacs the design of which is to prove that they were only Epileptics and madmen. Dr. Foredice also is well-known.5

I have read the Scheme you gave me, and think it deficient; but I will consider it farther and send you a more particular account.6

Endorsed: Dr Price’s Directions about Prrs.

1Price was returning the Priestley letter, now lost, that BF had enclosed in his to Price above, Sept. 28, and was reciprocating with another letter that he himself had received, in which Priestley indicated that he was about to turn down the invitation to be Lord Shelburne’s librarian: Schofield, Scientific Autobiog., p. 108. The invitation was in fact accepted some months later. See the headnote on BF to Priestley above, Sept. 19.

2For BF’s inquiry in behalf of Pringle see his letter above, Sept. 28. Price had accepted a call to be the morning preacher at the Gravel-Pit Meeting House in Hackney, then a fashionable London suburb, but had retained his connection with his old church at Newington Green. See Roland Thomas, Richard Price, Philosopher and Apostle of Liberty (London, 1924), pp. 28, 40, 47.

3I.e., what came to be known as Unitarianism, of which Price discerned preachers in a variety of denominations. Dr. Kippis (above, XV, 85 n) was more eminent, according to one historian, as a writer and clerical politician than as a preacher: Herbert S. Skeats, History of the Free Churches of England (London, [1891]), p. 362. Thomas Amory (1701–74), a product of Taunton Academy, the dissenters’ chief cultural center in western England, was pastor of the Presbyterian church in Old Jewry; his sermons were reputedly dry in content and dull in delivery. DNB. Nathaniel White (1730–95) had studied with Dr. Doddridge at Northampton, and was associated both with Amory as morning preacher in Old Jewry and with Price as afternoon preacher at the Gravel-Pit; his sermons were serious, ingenious, and evangelical. Dr. Joseph Jeffries (d. 1784) and Dr. Caleb Fleming (1698–1779) were Baptist ministers of the Pinners’ Hall congregation; Fleming had few admirers, though warm ones. For Jeffries see Joseph Ivimey, A History of the English Baptists … (4 vols., London, 1811–30), III, 344–5, 408; Gent. Mag., LIV (1784), 73; for Fleming see the DNB. Ebenezer Radcliffe (above, XIV, 219 n) was pastor of the Presbyterian congregation in Aldgate until it dissolved in 1774, and John Calder, a Scot, was his assistant; after 1774 Calder devoted himself to writing. William Prior (d. 1774) had a congregation in Goodman’s Fields and also preached weekly at Salters’ Hall. John Palmer (1729–90), a Presbyterian, had the reputation of being a sensible and broad-minded preacher. Edward Pickard (1714–78), pastor of the Presbyterian congregation in Carter Lane, was a leader among the dissenters. So was Dr. Philip Furneaux (1726–83), pastor of the independent congregation at Clapham and, like Prior, a preacher at Salters’ Hall, who was famous for his weighty, well composed, and badly delivered sermons; he and Amory were chief movers in the effort to emancipate dissenters (for which see above, p. 163 n): DNB. Information about all these men is derived from the sources cited and, with the exception of Jeffries, from Walter Wilson, The History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches and Meeting Houses, in London, Westminster, and Southwark (4 vols., London, 1808–14), I, 125–7; II, 5, 154–9, 227–9, 283–90, 385–98; IV, 315.

4The Club of Honest Whigs, which included among its members not only BF and Price but also a number of the clergymen just mentioned: Amory, Calder, Jeffries, and Radcliffe. Verner W. Crane, “The Club of Honest Whigs: Friends of Science and Liberty,” 3 W& MQ, XXIII (1966), 218–19.

5Hugh Farmer (1714–87) was a theologian and pastor of a church at Walthamstow, Essex, where Radcliffe also preached weekly. Farmer, like other independents, delivered sermons to the Presbyterian congregation at Salters’ Hall; his pulpit style was marked by clear exposition and fresh delivery. The works of his to which Price referred were A Dissertation on Miracles … (London, 1771), An Inquiry into the Nature and Design of Christ’s Temptation … (London, 1761), and, not yet published, An Essay on the Demoniacs … (London, 1775). DNB. James Fordyce (1720–96), a Scot, was pastor of the Presbyterian church in Monkwell Street; his great popularity as a preacher declined some years before his retirement in 1782. For the two see Wilson, op. cit., II, 60–1; III, 209–14.

6The scheme was one that WF had sent from New Jersey. In all probability it was the proposal of local Presbyterians, which was eventually approved, to establish an incorporated fund for ministers’ widows and orphans (1 N.J. Arch., X, 339–51, 353–5); this is just the sort of plan on which BF would have consulted Price as an authority. The latter’s comments, now lost, were eventually sent to BF and forwarded to Burlington; see BF to WF below, Dec. 2.

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