Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Jane Mecom, 17 June 1775

To Jane Mecom

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Philada. June 17. 1775.

My dear Sister,

I wrote to you some time since, having heard from one of the Delegates that you were at Warwick, and I supposed it must be with that good Family, so I directed my Letter to you there; I hope you receiv’d it.4 I have since received your kind Letter of May 14. with one from dear Mrs. Green. I sympathise most sincerely with you and the People of my native Town and Country. Your Account of the Distresses attending their Removal affects me greatly. I desired you to let me know if you wanted any thing, but have not since heard from you. I think so many People must be a great Burthen to that hospitable House; and I wish you to be other wise provided for as soon as possible, and I wish for the Pleasure of your Company, but I know not how long we may be allowed to continue in Quiet here if I stay here, nor how soon I may be ordered from hence; nor how convenient or inconvenient it may be for you to come hither, leaving your Goods as I suppose you have in Boston. My Son tells me he has invited you to Amboy.5 Perhaps that may be a Retreat less liable to Disturbance than this: God only knows, but you must judge. Let me know however if I can render you any Service; and in what way. You know it will give me Pleasure. I hear the Cousin Williams is at last got out with his Family: I shall be glad to hear from them, and would write if I knew where they were. I receiv’d the other Day here, a Letter I wrote to you from London the 20th of February.6 It has been to New England, and I suppose your being not found there, occasion’d its being forwarded to me. I am, Thanks to God, very hearty and well, as is this whole Family. The youngest Boy is the strongest and stoutest Child of his Age that I have seen: He seems an Infant Hercules.7 I brought over a Grandson with me, a fine Lad of about 15.8 His Father has taken him to Amboy. You will be pleas’d with him when you see him. Jonathan Williams was in France when I left London. Since I have been here I receiv’d a Letter he sent me there: I enclose it for your Amusement; and to show to his Father and Mother, as it may be some Satisfaction to them, if they have not lately heard from him.9 I am ever, my dear Sister Your affectionate Brother

B Franklin

Addressed: To / Mrs Jane Mecom / at / Mr Green’s / Warwick / Rhodeisland

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4The letter above, May 26.

5WF had been in Philadelphia in late May or early June; see the headnote on BF to Galloway above, May 8. The Governor may have learned of Jane’s straits through her letter to BF of May 14, and sent his invitation to her in consequence.

6Probably the brief note of Feb. 17 above, XXI, 103.

7William Bache, marching and whistling at the age of two; see BF to WTF above, June 13.

8The date of WTF’s birth has never been established. It was Feb. 22, 1762, according to his tombstone in Paris; and we know that his birthday was celebrated on Feb. 22: Beatrix C. Davenport, ed., Diary of the French Revolution by Gouverneur Morris (2 vols., Boston, 1939), II, 370. Our predecessors concluded that the year was probably erroneous, and among other evidence they cited this remark by BF and an earlier one to WF above, XXI, 266, both of which point to 1760: XIII, 443 n. We have since come on three other statements of the same purport, one by BF in March, 1777, that his grandson was “about 17” and another in 1781 that he was “now of age,” and WTF’s remark in 1790 that he had “arrived to the senatorial age,” in other words thirty. BF to Ingenhousz below, Feb. 12–March 6, 1777, and to Samuel Huntington, March 12, 1781, National Archives; WTF to George Washington, Jan. 9, 1790, Washington Papers, Library of Congress. The only conflicting evidence that has come to light, aside from the tombstone, is WTF’s application for a French residence permit in 1822, the year before his death; he is there described as the son of WF and Elizabeth Franklin, born in 1762. (Minutier des notaires, Paris, Dec., 11, 1822, Notaire Philippe Fouché, XIII, 608, no. 20, 717.) Because part of this statement is false, the rest is suspect. WTF’s remark on Jan. 9, 1790, that he was then thirty raises a slight question about the day and month of his birth, but it was probably on Feb. 22 and almost certainly in 1760.

Before the young man’s return to America only a few of those close to him, whether by blood or propinquity, seem to have been aware who he was. At Craven St. Mrs. Stevenson and her daughter guessed, but kept the guess to themselves; they saw a strong resemblance between grandfather and grandson, Polly Hewson wrote BF years later, “when we did not think ourselves at liberty to say we did, as we pretended to be as ignorant as you supposed we were, or chose we should be.” Oct. 25, 1784, APS; see also her letter below, Sept. 5, 1776. JW seems to have been in the same position of knowing but not saying. A letter from WTF after returning to America made JW “happy in the Appelation of Kinsman which he gives me,” apparently for the first time. To BF below, Nov. 23. What WF confided to his wife is their secret; all we know is that she adapted quickly to her “son” after his return. As for the others, the evidence suggests that DF lived and died in ignorance, and that Jane Mecom learned the truth for the first time from this letter. The only previous discussion of WTF as a scion of the family had been in correspondence between BF and WF.

9Probably a letter now lost; JW’s above of May 20 could scarcely have arrived by this time.

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