Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Samuel Danforth, 25 July 1773

To Samuel Danforth5

ALS (letterbook draft) and copy:6 Library of Congress

London, July 25. 1773.

Dear Sir,

It gave me great Pleasure to receive so chearful an Epistle from a Friend of half a Century’s Standing, and to see him commencing Life anew in so valuable a Son. I hope the young Gentleman’s Patent will be as [beneficial] to him as his Invention must be to the Publick.7

I see by the Papers that you continue to afford her your [services,] which makes me almost asham[ed of my resolutions for] Retirement. But this exile, tho[ugh an honourable one,] is become grievous to me, in so long [a separation from] my Family, Friends and Country; [all which you hap]pily enjoy, and long may you continue to enjoy them. I hope for the great Pleasure of once more seeing and conversing with you; and tho’ living-on in one’s Children, as we both may do, is a good thing, I cannot but fancy it might be better to continue living ourselves at the same time. I rejoice therefore in your kind Intentions of including me in the Benefits of that inestimable Stone, which curing all Diseases, even old Age itself, will enable us to see the future glorious State of our America, enjoying in full Security her own Liberties, and offering in her Bosom a Participation of them to all the Oppress’d of other Nations.8 I anticipate the jolly Conversation we and twenty more of our Friends may have 100 Years hence on this Subject, over that well-replenish’d Bowl at Cambridge Commencement. I am, dear Sir, for an Age to come and for ever, with sincere Esteem and Respect, Your most obedient humble servant

B F.

Saml Danforth Esqr

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5For the judge and long-time member of the Massachusetts Council see above, XI, 255. Although that is the only other time he has appeared in these volumes, the tone of the present letter indicates that BF considered him not only an old but also a close friend.

6The copy is in the same hand as the extract of BF to Mather above, July 7, and has enabled us to supply in the same way passages torn from the draft.

7Thomas Danforth (1744–1820) graduated from Harvard in 1762, assisted John Winthrop for a time, read law with Judge Trowbridge, and then opened his own practice in Charlestown. In the spring of 1773 legal business took him to England, where by his own account he was offered and declined the attorney generalship of Massachusetts, and was entrusted by Lord Dartmouth with his remarkable letter of June 19, written as a private person rather than a minister, to carry to Speaker Cushing. Danforth’s invention, patented a week before BF wrote, was for using cold water to condense steam generated by distillation. The young man subsequently became a Loyalist, and returned to England in 1776. Bernard Bailyn, The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson (Cambridge, 1974), p. 215; Bennet Woodcroft, Alphabetical Index of Patentees of Inventions … (London, [1969]); Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, XV, 217–20.

8Danforth was that great rarity in the period, an alchemist searching for the philosopher’s stone. Ibid., VI, 83.

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