From Benjamin Vaughan
AL: Library of Congress
London, April 23, 1780.
My dearest sir,
I write this simply to inform you that I sent you no less than three pacquets and a letter by Mr. Austin, to forward from Amsterdam. I hope they will safely arrive.— Your book is translating in two places in Germany; & Dr. Forster’s son would have translated it himself, had not the advertisements from other quarters prevented him.2
This letter may perhaps be delivered to you by a Dr: Hamilton, a strict acquaintance and friend of Dr. Crawford and of whom Dr. Crawford speaks very honorably. He is an Irish gentleman, & having some little independency is upon a scheme of travelling for two years. I do not know that he will present this in person, but if he holds his intention of keeping company with another Irish physician to Paris (who is related to an American major,)3 you will probably hear of or see him; and it is well you should know that he is trust-worthy: Besides that being on his travels, it can do no disservice to your country’s cause that he should have seen you. When I first heard of the opportunity, I did not know he was the party,— He goes so quick upon my last, that I can only inform you in addition to what I say there, that the Speaker is really knocked up by his chair, and leaves the decision of his resignation entirly to Dr. Fothergill & Mr Pott:4 The former thinks him gouty, the latter nervous; but he is always well, while following his hounds. Wedderburne will be Chief Justice of the C: Pleas, and as he cannot be in the Commons, if ministry choose not to lose his services in parliament, they must have him in the Lords.5 If Sr. Fletcher Norton goes then, we shall have six lords made by the law. The County of Lancaster I believe will have a meeting; The dissolution of the Chester committee is a juggle & surreptitious, but the county will probably replace them with some warmth in June at the next County meeting:6 York is very warm, but there are varieties of opinion from the remains of the old Rockingham system, and the scruples of Sr. G. Savile.7
I am, as ever, my dearest sir, yours most devotedly
You know that the Rockingham’s accede with very little exception to Lord S——’s letter.8
2. The advertisements were probably for G.T. Wenzel’s three-volume Des Herrn D. Benjamin Franklin’s … sämtliche Werke … (Dresden, 1780), a work based on Vaughan’s recently-published edition and Jacques Barbeu-Dubourg’s translation of BF’s Exper. and Obser.: Robert L. Kahn, “George Forster and Benjamin Franklin,” APS Proc., CII (1958), 3. Johann Georg Adam Forster was the son of Johann Reinhold Forster, a German naturalist: XV, 147–8; XXVII, 181n.
3. Hamilton may be William Hamilton (who held an M.A., but was not a doctor), whom Priestley had introduced the preceding spring: XXIX, 99. Adair Crawford is the scientist whose work Vaughan had previously sent BF: XXX, 381–2; XXXI, 60. The “other” Irish physician is probably Dr. Plunkett.
4. Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Fletcher Norton had reported his illness, real or feigned, to the House on April 14: Digges to BF of that date, above. Fothergill had been in poor health himself since late 1778 and died later in the year: Betsy C. Corner and Christopher Booth, eds., Chain of Friendship: Selected Letters of Dr. John Fothergill of London, 1735–1780 (Cambridge, Mass., 1971), pp. 32–3. Percivall Pott (1714–1788) was a senior surgeon at St. Bartholomew’s Hospital: DNB.
5. Lord North had promised Alexander Wedderburn the chief justiceship of the common pleas and a peerage, which he had long desired, to retain his support for the ministry. He became chief justice in June and was created 1st Lord Loughborough: Frank O’Gorman, The Rise of Party in England, The Rockingham Whigs, 1760–82 (London, 1975), pp. 371, 616; Namier and Brooke, House of Commons, III, 620.
6. The Duke of Portland, a close political ally of the Marquis of Rockingham, had doubts that the reform movement would succeed in Cheshire, and indeed that county’s representative attended only one of the joint association meetings in London: Eugene Charlton Black, The Association: British Extraparliamentary Political Organization 1769–1793 (Cambridge, Mass., 1963), pp. 47, 51. George III personally supervised measures against a proposed meeting in the county of Lancashire: ibid, p. 48.
7. Sir George Savile (XI, 480n) was a political ally of Wyvill and a close friend of David Hartley.
8. Possibly Lord Shelburne’s March 26 letter to the chairman of the Wiltshire Committee: The Remembrancer; or, Impartial Repository of Public Events for 1780 (17 vols., London, 1775–84) IX, (1780) 270–2. In late March Shelburne and Rockingham achieved a tenuous unity in support of reform. Rockingham, however, disagreed with the demands of Shelburne and the county associations for shorter parliaments and more equal representation; by April the rift between the two men was open: Thomas W. Copeland et al., eds., The Correspondence of Edmund Burke (10 vols., Cambridge, Eng., and Chicago, 1958–78), IV, 217–18; O’Gorman, The Rise of Party in England, pp. 414–15, 421.