Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Benjamin Rush, 7 January 1775

To Benjamin Rush

ALS: Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia

This letter of introduction is the initial appearance in Franklin’s correspondence of a young man who later became important to him, first as his editor and then as Shelburne’s emissary during the peace negotiations of 1782. Benjamin Vaughan (1751–1835) was the eldest son of Samuel Vaughan, a wealthy English merchant with interests in Jamaica. The father was a close friend of Joseph Priestley, had known Franklin for some years, and was a member of the Club of Honest Whigs; he had a penchant for science, the arts, and other worthy causes.7 Benjamin was born in Jamaica and educated in England. He was at school under Priestley at Warrington and stayed in his house; from there he went to Lincoln’s Inn in 1765, even though he was only fourteen, and three years later to Cambridge, where as a Unitarian he could not formally matriculate. He subsequently studied medicine at Edinburgh, but became neither a lawyer nor a physician; at this time he seems to have been in business with his father.8 The two had projected a tour of North America. But Samuel abandoned the idea when hostilities broke out,9 and we have no evidence that the son went by himself.

London, Jany. 7. 1775.

Dear Sir,

This will be delivered to you by Mr. Benja. Vaughan, a young Gentleman of most amiable Character, and my particular Friend. His thorough Acquaintance with philosophic Subjects, will make his Conversation agreable to you, as I know yours will be to him; and I expect to have Thanks from both of you, for introducing you to each other’s Acquaintance. My best Wishes attend you, being ever, dear Sir, Your affectionate Friend and most obedient Servant

B Franklin

Dr Rush

Addressed: To / Dr Benja Rush / Professor of Chemistry / in the College of / Philadelphia

Notation: B: Franklin  Jany. 7. 1775

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

7John T. Rutt, The Life and Correspondence of Joseph Priestley … (2 vols., London, 1831–32), I, 59; Verner W. Crane, “The Club of Honest Whigs,” 3 W&MQ, XXIII (1966), 220–1; Frank Brady and Frederick A. Pottle, eds., Boswell in Search of a Wife … (New York, [1956]), pp. 289–90.

8William P. Baildon, ed., The Records of the Honorable Society of Lincoln’s Inn (2 vols., [London,] 1896), I, 457; John and John A. Venn, Alumni cantabrigienses … (10 vols., Cambridge, 1922–54), part 2, VI, 278; Kent’s Directory … (London, 1775). The biographies in the DAB and DNB have little to say, and some of it erroneous, about his early career.

9In early December, 1774, BF and Josiah Quincy visited Samuel Vaughan at Wanstead, and late in the month Quincy wrote twenty-one letters of recommendation to his friends in America for young Vaughan: Quincy, Memoir, p. 253; Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc., L (1916–17), 451. Soon afterward the father left for Jamaica, where he had property; from there he wrote BF the letter below, June 24, 1775, in which he explained why he had abandoned the American tour with his son. Although he did not say which one, the notes of introduction strongly indicate Benjamin. He may have gone to Jamaica with his father, who implied in his letter that the two had been together there.

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