Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Bartram, [7?] October 1772

To John Bartram

ALS: Haverford College Library; letterbook draft: American Philosophical Society

London Oct. 17. [i.e. 7?2] 1772

My dear old Friend,

I received sometime since the enclosed Letter from Dr. Hope, and lately the Gold Medal it mentions was delivered to me for you. By the first Ship directly to Philadelphia I shall send it in the Care of some safe Hand, thinking it not so well to hazard it with this Letter round through New York. Mr. Hope’s Letter to you is not yet come to my hands.3

I hope the Rhubarb you have sown and distributed will be taken care of.4 There seems to me no doubt of its doing as well with us as in Scotland. Remember that for Use the Root does not come to its Perfection of Power and Virtue in less than Seven Years. The Physicians here who have try’d the Scotch, approve it much, and say it is fully equal to the best imported.

I send you enclos’d a small Box of Upland Rice, brought from Cochin China. It grows there on dry Grounds, and not in Water like the common Sort. Also a few Seeds of the Chinese Tallow Tree. They have been carefully preserv’d in bringing hither, by Mr. Ellis’s Method. I had them from him, and he tells me they are in good Condition fit to vegetate.5 I hope they may grow under your skilful Care. My Love to Mrs. Bartram and all yours from Your affectionate Friend

B Franklin

Mr Bartram

Addressed: To / Mr John Bartram / near Philadelphia. / via New York / per Packet / B Free Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2BF certainly wrote “17”. But in the draft in his letterbook (Library of Congress) he seems to have written “17” and then clearly overwrote “7”; the draft appears, furthermore, between that to Priestley above, Sept. 29, and that to Colden below, Oct. 7. From the 8th to the 24th BF was visiting in the country (to WF below, Oct. 7, Nov. 3–4). He may have taken his letterbook with him to copy out and dispatch his correspondence, in which case all his letters dated the 7th from the drafts were actually sent later; but a simpler hypothesis is that in this one case his pen slipped.

3See Hope to BF above, Jan. 23.

4BF had said much the same thing in his previous letter to Bartram above, Aug. 22.

5BF was adhering, as so often before, to the long-standing tradition of sending plant seeds to America for experimentation, naturalization and selection. Vietnamese or upland rice, because it did not need flooding, was easier to grow and healthier for the cultivators than common rice; the Chinese tallow tree, which grew in many warm countries, yielded a vegetable tallow used in making candles and soap. John Ellis (c. 1710–76), the well known naturalist and F.R.S., had been importing the rice into England for many years; he had received a shipment in 1772, of which this gift was doubtless a part. See BF to Jones below, Oct. 7, and the Bell pamphlet cited there; for Ellis see also the DNB. His “Method” he had explained in Directions for Bringing over Seeds and Plants from the East-Indies and Other Distant Countries, in a State of Vegetation … (London, 1770).

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