Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Francis Maseres, 26 October 1773

From Francis Maseres3

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Inner temple, Oct. 26, 1773.

Dear Sir,

Having had occasion to mention the Abbé Reynal’s account of the European colonies, and to quote a passage from it in my French memoire written in defence of my draught of an Act of parliament for settling the laws of the province of Quebec,4 I thought it a proper compliment to him to send him a copy of that Memoire. In return for this civility he has sent me a letter in which he acquaints me that the edition that was published last year of his work above mentioned was a stolen one, and very imperfect; and that he is now writing an accurate edition of it:5 and he desires that I would assist him in that design by sending him accurate accounts of the population, the State of the trade, shipping, agriculture, produce, and other Material circumstances relating to the British colonies in North America. This I am utterly unable to do and therefore beg leave to refer him to you, who can do it better than any body I know, if your leisure and inclination permit you to take the necessary trouble to assist this writer in compleating his useful work.6 I remain your’s

F: Maseres.

Addressed: To / Dr: Benjamin Franklyn / at Mrs: Stevenson’s / in Craven Street / in the Strand. / London.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3The former Attorney General of Quebec, and an F.R.S. for the past two years, had been appointed the previous August a baron of the exchequer. See above, XIX, 179; DNB.

4Maseres’ Mémoire à la défense d’un plan d’acte de parlement … (London, 1773) quoted on pp. 52–3 a passage about the French West Indies in [Guillaume-Thomas-François Raynal], Histoire philosophique et politique des établissemens, et du commerce des Européens dans les deux Indes … (4 vols., Amsterdam, 1770). The abbé Raynal (1713–96), a lapsed Jesuit, was a prolific writer on historical and political subjects and a well known philosophe. Diderot and several others contributed to the Histoire, which in its early editions carried on the theory advanced by de Pauw of American degeneracy: above, XIX, 197. The work was an enormous success and went through many editions.

5Perhaps the new 7-vol. edition published in 1774, which is said to have been supervised by the author: Maurice Tourneux, ed., Correspondance littéraire, philosophique et critique par Grimm, Diderot, Raynal, Meister, etc. … (16 vols., Paris, 1877–82), X, 453. But Raynal was probably referring to the revision that occupied the next seven years and produced the 1780 edition, which was so outspoken in its criticism of the ancien regime that it drove the author into exile. Larousse, Dictionnaire universel.

6Maseres apparently enclosed with this letter a list of specific queries about America that Raynal had sent him. They may have been behind BF’s inquiry of Elliott, which elicited the latter’s circumstantial reply below, Nov. 8. BF had the queries translated and sent to the APS, which concluded more than a year later that they did not fall within its scope. Early Proc. … (Philadelphia, 1884), pp. 89, 93. Raynal’s list and the translation are in BF’s papers in the APS.

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