Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Anthony Benezet, 10 February 1773

To Anthony Benezet3

ALS (letterbook draft): Library of Congress

London, Feb. 10. 1773

Dear Friend,

I received with Pleasure yours of Sept. 13. as it informed me of your Welfare. With this I send you one of Young’s Night Thoughts, the largest Print I could find.4 I thank you for the 4 Copies you sent me of your Translation of the French Book:5 I have given two of them to Friends here, whom I thought the Subject might suit. I have commenc’d an Acquaintance with Mr. Granville Sharpe, and we shall act in Concert in the Affair of Slavery.6 The Accounts you send me relating to Surinam are indeed terrible.7 Go on and prosper in your laudable [Endea]vours, and believe me ever, my dear Friend, Yours most affectionately

B Franklin

I send you a few of a Pamphlet written at Paris by a Wellwisher to our Country. It is a little System of Morals, that may give distinct Ideas on that Subject to Youth and perhaps on that Account not unfit for a School Book. I will send you more if you desire it.8

Mr Antho Benezet / per Capt. All.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3For the Quaker philanthropist see above, XIX, 112–13.

4Either Benezet’s eyesight was failing, of which we have no other indication, or he wanted the book for some one else; his September letter is missing. BF may have sent him one of the nine parts of Edward Young’s The Complaint: or Night-Thoughts on Life, Death, & Immortality, which were published serially in 1742 and thereafter; more probably he sent one of the many collected editions listed in Henry Pettit, A Bibliography of Young’s Night Thoughts … (Boulder, Colo., 1954), pp. 7–8.

5The second edition of Benezet’s translation of [Johannes Tauler,] The Plain Path to Christian Perfection … (Philadelphia, 1772).

6BF had been familiar with Sharp’s work for at least the past three years; see above, XVII, 38–40. Benezet and Sharp, common crusaders against the slave trade, had begun a correspondence the previous spring that lasted during the Quaker’s lifetime: George S. Brookes, Friend Anthony Benezet (Philadelphia, 1937), pp. 86–9. Benezet was helping to change BF’s attitude on slavery, and may have been instrumental in bringing him and Sharp together.

7The disappearance of Benezet’s letter leaves us uncertain what accounts he had sent of the slave revolt. BF scarcely needed them, for news of the rising and of Dutch repressive measures had appeared frequently in the London Chron.: Oct. 20–22, Nov. 12–14, Dec. 24–26, 29–31, 1772.

8The pamphlet was unquestionably Dubourg’s Petit code de la raison humaine. BF may have sent copies of Polly Hewson’s translation, which he had had privately printed in 1770 (above, XVII, 185–6); but the interval of time makes this unlikely. Benezet was a Frenchman by birth and a schoolmaster by profession, and had at one time taught French. Brookes, op. cit., p. 30. The likelihood, therefore, is that the Quaker received the new French edition, dedicated to BF and printed for him in London; see above, XIX, 442 n. The bill from William Strahan, cited there and discussed below, Sept. 13, 1774, shows that the printing was done in December, 1772, and that errata followed in June and September, 1773. The absence of errata in copies we have located means that the original edition was published without them, presumably in December or January. BF, we believe, sent the pamphlet to Benezet and to the author at about the same time. Dubourg, when he acknowledged BF’s assistance in his letter below of April 11, apologized for his delay in responding.

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