Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Richard Bache, 30 September 1774

To Richard Bache

Reprinted from Jared Sparks, ed., The Works of Benjamin Franklin … (10 vols., Boston, 1836–40), VIII, 137–8.

This brief note throws no light on its background. Franklin was introducing a “young man” (he was thirty-seven), recommended to him as ingenious and worthy, who at the time was completely unknown and a year and a half later was famous throughout the colonies. Thomas Paine explained later that he had been recommended by his patron, George Lewis Scott, F.R.S., a famous mathematician and a commissioner of the excise, who had been acquainted with Franklin for many years. It is not clear when Scott brought the two together or how well they came to know each other in England,9 but Franklin’s sponsorship was of great help to Paine when he reached Philadelphia; see his letter of acknowledgment below, March 4. Subsequent volumes will trace the growth of their acquaintance.

London, 30 September, 1774

Dear Son,

The bearer, Mr. Thomas Paine, is very well recommended to me, as an ingenious, worthy young man. He goes to Pennsylvania with a view of settling there. I request you to give him your best advice and countenance, as he is quite a stranger there. If you can put him in a way of obtaining employment as a clerk, or assistant tutor in a school,1 or assistant surveyor, (of all which I think him very capable,) so that he may procure a subsistence at least, till he can make acquaintance and obtain a knowledge of the country, you will do well, and much oblige your affectionate father. My love to Sally and the boys.

B. Franklin.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

9For Scott see above, XIV, 6 n, and for Paine’s statement Philip S. Foner, ed., The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine (2 vols. in one, New York, [1945]), p. 1162. Paine had been living in Lewes until a series of personal disasters decided him to emigrate, and he came to London to make arrangements. David F. Hawke, Paine (New York, etc., [1974]), chap. 1. He presumably met BF at that time; his remark in 1797 that the American had been “my intimate friend for thirty years past” (Foner, p. 1384) cannot have been meant literally.

1Paine’s ambition, he said years later, had been to establish in Philadelphia an academy like those around London. Foner, p. 1161.

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