Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Kent, 22 February 1775

From John Kent6

ALS: American Philosophical Society

from Mr. Cadells,7 Strand, February 22d. 1775.


When compliments on your superior merit, as a Philosopher, are so strictly just as not to exceed the limits of honest praise, I am confident that my friend the Chevalier de Chatellux, who has joined the multitude in applauding you, would be pleased that you should read his sentiments of you, in their English dress.8 There is a glorious feeling of the mind which surpasses all the science of which it can be possessed, and which makes even your literary abilities but secondary qualifications. Whilst, in the character of an Englishman, and a Friend to America, I sincerely congratulate you, on this feeling, I do not perceive that any apology can be necessary for presenting you with a work, the foundations of which are a detestation of tyranny, a love of liberty, and a desire to promote the happiness of all mankind. I dare affirm that the work, “De la felicitè publique,” (a translation of which accompanies this letter,) contains some passages glowing with sentiments similar to your own; and, therefore, to insinuate that it is not without merit, is far from being meerly vain; neither can it be impertinent to desire that you will do the Chevalier, and me, the honor to recommend it. I am, Sir, Your most obedient, and most humble servant

John Kent

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Almost nothing seems to be known about this minor literary figure. In 1769 he was writing pseudonymous letters against the ministry in the Public Advertiser; Junius, the unknown with the famous pseudonym, identified him to H. S. Woodfall as “Mr. Kent, a young man of good parts.” John Wade, Junius: Including Letters by the Same Writer under Other Signatures … (2 vols., London, 1884), II, 7. Kent apparently concentrated on translating and revising; soon after the translation that he enclosed with this letter a man of the same name, presumably the same person, reworked John Campbell’s Lives of the Admirals and published it as Biographia Nautica … (4 vols., London, 1776–77).

7For the bookseller and publisher and friend of Strahan see above, XII, 122 n.

8The Chevalier Francois-Jean de Chastellux (1734–88), soldier and author and disciple of the encyclopédistes, had published his first major work in 1772, De la Félicité publique, which Kent translated and Cadell published as An Essay on Public Happiness … (2 vols., London, 1774); a reference to BF in the English version is II, 161. When Chastellux went to America in 1780, BF gave him a letter of introduction in which he recommended the work: to Joseph Reed, March 19, 1780, N.-Y. Hist. Soc.

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