Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to John Ellis, 12 January 1774

To John Ellis1

AL: Linnean Society, London

Cravenstreet Jan. 12. 1774

In this same Year (1652) one Mr. Edwards, a Turky Merchant, brought home with him a Greek Servant, who understood the roasting and making of Coffee, till then unknown in England. This Servant was the first who sold Coffee, and kept a House for that purpose in London.

The first Mention of Coffee in our Statute Books is Anno 1660 (12 mo Regni Car. II Cap. 24).2

In 1675 K. Charles issued a Proclamation to shut up the Coffeehouses, but in a few Days suspended that Proclamation by a second. They were charg’d with being Seminaries of Sedition.3

In 1718 the Dutch Colony at Surinam began first to plant Coffee.

In 1732 it was cultivated in Jamaica, and an Act passed to encourage its Growth there.4 It had been cultivated before by the French at Martinica, Hispaniola and Ile Bourbon.

Dr. Franklin presents his Compliments to Mr. Ellis, and sends him all the Information he has concerning Coffee. It is collected from Anderson’s History of Commerce.5 And he knows of no other Book that gives any Account of it.

Addressed: To / John Ellis Esqr / Gray’s Inn / Pryer6

Endorsed: Jany 12th 1774 Dr. Benjn. Franklin

1This note is a postscript to BF’s correspondence with Ellis the month before: above, XX, 492–3, 516–17.

2A note on the letter, in neither BF’s hand nor Ellis’, points out that 12 Chas. II c. 24 provided a tax of 4d. on every gallon of coffee sold, and that 15 Chas. II c. 11 required coffee houses to be licensed by quarter sessions.

3See F. H. Blackburne Daniell, ed., Calendar of State Papers, Domestic Series … 1675–76 (London, 1907), pp. 465, 503.

45 Geo. II, c. 24.

5[Adam Anderson,] An Historical and Chronological Deduction of the Origin of Commerce … (2 vols., London, 1764), II, 88, 111, 157, 278, 339, where the information about Jamaica is slightly different from BF’s. The author drew the material sketched in BF’s first paragraph from John Houghton, “A Discourse of Coffee, read at a Meeting of the Royal Society,” Phil. Trans., XXI (1699), 312–13, later incorporated in A Collection for the Improvement of Husbandry … (3 vols., London, 1727), III, 125–6.

6Apparently a messenger whom BF had been using for years: above, XIV, 214; BF to Williams below, May 9.

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