Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Johann Reinhold Forster, 30 July 1778

From Johann Reinhold Forster4

ALS: Franklin Library, Franklin, Massachusetts

London July the 30th 1778.

Dear Sir

Give me leave to present You with a Copy of the Observations made during my late Voyage round the World,5 and I hope You will favour me with the acceptance of them. These Observations contain a variety of Philosophical Subjects, and the last Chapter contains useful Directions for preserving the lives of mariners on long Voyages. Humanity prompted me to publish them, and as I consider mankind everywhere as my Brethren, I hope they may by Your means, become useful to my Brethren in America, who are obliged to go on long Voyages. I envy the good luck of my Son,6 who so often enjoyed the pleasure of being in Your company during his Stay at Paris. My Daughter at Vienna7 has likewise the pleasure of being often in company with Mr. Lee;8 and I wish ardently Providence may bless You with health Contentment of mind and long life and that You may be long useful to Mankind and be an honour to Your Age and Country. I am with the duest regard Dear Sir Your most obedient humble Servant

John Reinold Forster

Dr Franklin

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

4For the famous naturalist (1729–98) see above, XV, 147–8.

5Observations Made during a Voyage Round the World, on Physical Geography, Natural History and Ethnic Philosophy … (London, 1778). For an account of this work see Michael E. Hoare, The Tactless Philosopher, Johann Reinhold Forster (Melbourne, [1976]), pp. 183–6. The Jour. de Paris announced on July 9 that Forster’s book was available at Pissot’s bookshop.

6Johann Georg Adam Forster (1754–94) was the writer’s oldest son, who had accompanied his father on Cook’s second voyage. The father had expected to write the account of this voyage but since Cook was determined to do it himself, Forster was forbidden from doing so by the Admiralty. He complied with the letter of the order but encouraged his son to write it instead. A short time before Cook’s narrative appeared, Georg Forster’s account was published under the title A Voyage Round the World, in His Britannic Majesty’s Sloop, Resolution … (London, 1777). The resulting furor led to Johann Reinhold’s imprisonment for debt and his son’s departure from England. DNB.

7Forster had four daughters. This one was most likely the second, Antonia Elisabeth Susanna (1758–1823). We are told that she left home at the beginning of September, 1776, having inherited her father’s roving spirit. She worked as a governess, first in Vienna, later in Copenhagen, Hanover, Courland, and Berlin. According to Hoare (op. cit., 8th prelim. leaf and p. 164), “she was respected as a highly intelligent, informed companion and educator, although few failed to notice her fiery pride, and refusal to bow to the social conventions of the times.”

8William Lee, who was in Vienna from the end of May until July: Karl A. Roider, Jr., “William Lee, Our First Envoy in Vienna,” Virginia Mag. of History and Biography LXXXVI (1978), 163–8.

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