Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Jonathan Williams, Jr., 20 May 1775

From Jonathan Williams, Jr.

ALS: American Philosophical Society

London May 20. 1775

Dear and honoured Sir

Since my last I have recvd from La Duchesse de Villroy the Plan of your Armonica improved, which you will receive by this Ship.2 The Newspapers will give you all in the political Way. I have been several Days shut up in your Room, so have not been able to gather any thing more than the Public Prints contain. You will see by the Fate of the N York and Quebec Petitions, that it is not because what came from the Congress was illegal, that their Applications did not succeed, since both have been treated alike: I think this must cure the N York Dissention if there remains any.3

I have been down to Virginia Street and am in a good Way to get good Information relative to Mrs. Davys Affair.4 I will write again when I have obtained it.

I recvd for you a large Packet from Carolina it was so Bulky that I thot best to examine it before I sent it, and as I find nothing but Newspapers in it shall keep it here.5

The Queen of Denmark is Dead ‘tis whispered that she was poisoned but without much appearance of Truth.6

The inclosed is written by the Gentlemen and Ladies that did us the honor of their Company to day at Dinner.7 I have stolen a few minutes from them to write the above, so hope you will excuse the hurry with which it is written. I am with unfeigned affection Your dutifull Kinsman

J Williams Junr

Addressed: Doctor Franklin / Philadelphia

Endorsed: Jona Williams 75

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2In April, during his visit to Paris, JW had met the duchesse de Villeroi and learned of her improvement on BF’s armonica. “Instead of playing with the Fingers on the Glass she had contrived to fix Keys so that one Plays the same as with the Harpsichord. Her Grace has engaged to give me a Plan and Description of it.” JW’s MS journal, Yale University Library, entry of April 4, 1775. The plan that he forwarded has since disappeared; but it could not have turned the armonica into an effective keyboard instrument because all attempts to do so failed: above, X, 124. For the Duchess (1731–1816) see Larousse, Dictionnaire universel, under Villeroi, Gabriel-Louis de Neufville, duc de.

3The N.Y. Assembly, after the actions to which Cooper referred in his letter above of April 1, had sent petitions to the King, Lords, and Commons, denouncing British actions and requesting that Parliament restore to the colony the rights it had enjoyed before the end of the previous war. An unofficial body of British Protestants in Canada had petitioned for the recovery of their rights as British subjects through repeal or amendment of the Quebec Act. The Commons refused to receive either petition. Force, 4 Amer. Arch., I, 1318–22, 1834–8; Commons Jours., XXXV (1774–76), 376, 384–5; Gipson, British Empire, XII, 307–10. The petition to the King from the first Continental Congress had been received and buried: above, XXI, 476 n. JW is saying that of these three petitions the only legal one, that from New York, suffered the same fate as the others, which were from extralegal bodies; hence the colony must learn that it cannot secure redress by itself.

4The affair, which BF presumably mentioned in a missing letter, remains in mystery. It may have had to do with the sea, for Virginia Street was near the docks; and it may have concerned the widow of BF’s and Galloway’s old friend Hugh Davy (above, IX, 17). She died in Philadelphia in 1782: Edward L. Clark, A Record of the Inscriptions . . . in the Burial-Grounds of Christ Church . . . (Philadelphia, 1864), p. 452.

5Doubtless the consignment that BF had requested from Peter Timothy the previous September: above, XXI, 292.

6The Queen, King George’s youngest sister, had been imprisoned after the overthrow of Struensee: above, XIX, 73. She was then exiled to Celle in Hanover, where a group of Danes plotted to restore her to power. Before the plot matured she died of a disease, perhaps typhus, that was epidemic in Celle at the time; and in the circumstances poisoning was naturally suspected. Hester W. Chapman, Caroline Matilda, Queen of Denmark, 1751–75 (London, [1971]), part iii.

7The enclosure, now missing, was no doubt the product of the parlor game of bouts-rimés, which had long been popular in Craven Street: above, XVIII, 272.

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