Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to David Colden, 5 March 1773

To David Colden

ALS: New-York Historical Society; letterbook draft: Library of Congress2

London, March 5. 1773

Dear Sir,

I received your obliging Favour with the Account of your Drill Plough, which appears to me very ingeniously contriv’d the Construction simple and easily executed, and the Description perfectly clear and intelligible. I put it into the Hands of Mr. Arbuthnot, who is a great Connoisseur in such Matters, and seem’d to like it much.3 He will lay it before the Society of Arts.

Kalm’s Account of what he learnt in America is full of idle Stories, which he pick’d up among ignorant People, and either forgetting of whom he had them, or willing to give them some Authenticity, he has ascrib’d them to Persons of Reputation who never heard of them till they were found in his Book. And where he really had Accounts from such Persons, he has varied the Circumstances unaccountably, so that I have been asham’d to meet with some mention’d as from me. It is dangerous Conversing with these Strangers that keep Journals.4

With this I send you some Philosophical Papers, that will appear in the next Volume of the Transactions indeed; but as that is not to be publish’d till Midsummer, you will hereby see them so much sooner. Priestly’s Experiments on Fix’d Air is the Subject of much Conversation here at present.5

I send you also some Penshurst Peas, much valued here for their great Bearing and Hardiness. Also some Turnip-rooted-Cabbage Seed, famous for bearing Winter Frosts and so affording early Food for Cattle when Fodder is scant and Grass not grown. And some Seed of the Scotch Cabbage.6 My best Respects to your good Father, to whom I shall shortly write. With very great Esteem, I am, Dear Sir, Your most obedient Servant

B Franklin

D Colden Esqr

Addressed: To / David Colden, Esqr / New York / per Packet / with a Parcel / B Free Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2The draft, dated March 3, differs from the final letter in details too inconsequential to note.

3BF is replying to Colden’s letter above, XIX, 390–2. The drill plough or seed drill permitted sowing in even rows, as far apart as desired, and produced a greater yield than previous methods. John Arbuthnot of Mitcham, Surrey, a pioneer in agricultural methods and implements, was in Arthur Young’s opinion a “real genius in Husbandry,” “upon the whole the most agreeable, pleasant and interesting connection which I ever made in agricultural pursuits.” On the Husbandry of Three Celebrated British Farmers … (London, 1811), p. 27; M. Bentham-Edwards, ed., The Autobiography of Arthur Young … (London, 1898), pp. 66–7. Arbuthnot, an F.R.S. since 1770 (above, VIII, 359), had by this time invented a number of ploughs and drills, which Young described with illustrations in The Farmer’s Tour through the East of England … (4 vols., London, 1771), II, 510–20.

4BF had had a quite different opinion when parting with Kalm in 1751. “I love the Man,” he had written then, “and admire his indefatigable Industry.” above, IV, 113; for the information that Kalm derived from him see pp. 53–63. BF’s change of view must have resulted from his first exposure to Kalm’s writings, which were not accessible in England until Forster’s translation in 1770–71: above, XV, 147–8.

5The draft omits this sentence. One of the philosophical papers was undoubtedly Priestley’s Observations on Different Kinds of Air … (London, 1772), which BF had sent to Rush with his letter above, Feb. 14. The paper was also published in the Phil. Trans., LXII (1772), 147–264; but this volume, despite its date, did not actually appear until the latter part of 1773: Monthly Rev., L (1774), 28.

6Presumably some of the seeds from Anthony Todd that BF was distributing to American friends; see his letters above to WF, Feb. 3, and Bartram, Feb. 10.

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