Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Rudolph Erich Raspe, 25 July 1780

From Rudolph Erich Raspe

ALS: American Philosophical Society

London. July. 25. 1780.

Honoured Sir,

The kindness, wherewith Your Excellency was pleased last year to receive Baron Waiz2 and would have received me at Passy, engages me to the warmest acknowledgments and obliges me in consequence of my duty to Your Excellency and to the bearer of this to direct and to recommend to Your care Baron Podmanniczky, a Nobleman from Hungaria,3 whose learning, zeal, ingenuity and interest must operate a happy revolution in the learning and useful Arts of his country, as soon Protestants will be looked upon at Vienna with the same eye as they are in France under Mr. Neckers administration.

He has met here with great distinction amongst the Nobility as well as amongst the Learned. Being received a Member of several learned Societies and in particular of the Royal Society, it will be in his power to give Your Excellency some accounts of Your friends amongst them, and though he should not tell You, I must, that according to the new principle of taxing free People, which of late has crept even into the Royal Society,4 he has been taxed 30. Guineas for his admission.5

Dr. Graham, the Prince of Quacks, has set up in the Adelphi a Temple of Health and pretends to do and does wonders with his electrical, magnetical, aerial, aetherial and musical influences—in open defiance to the Faculty. His house is crowded, he gets money and the Faculty begin to follow his example in setting up electrical mills for the sake of health and money.6

Though there is a deal of madness in that, it will be productive however of some good experiments, and at the end turn out an improvement of Science; for good comes from evil, which I hope and wish may be the case of this and of Your Excellency’s country.

Mr. Williams’s Lectures on the principle of universal toleration and benevolence have not yet operated these desirable virtues in the minds of the Publick;7 nevertheless he continues warm in their interest and sympathizes with me in the warmth of that dutiful respect, wherewith I have the honour to be Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

R. E. Raspe.

Orders and commands to be directed to Mr. Digges.

Addressed: To His Excellency / Dr. Benjamin Francklin / Minister of the United States / of America / at / Paris.

Notation: Raspe July 25. 1780

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2The baron Waitz von Eschen (XXX, 150).

3Baron Joseph Podmaniczky (1756–1823) was a Protestant peer of Hungary who held various political appointments under Emperor Joseph II. He served as a counselor to the Fiume government, a member of a commission to study the Austrian customs system, and an Austrian representative to Paris in 1815. It was in his palace that the seven-year-old Franz Liszt first performed: Magyar Eletrajzi Lexicon (3 vols., Budapest, 1967–81), II, 423. See his letter below, after July 25.

4The baron, described in his certificate of membership as “a gentleman well versed in various branches of Litterature & especially Natural History,” was elected to the Royal Society on June 8, 1780. One of his sponsors was BF’s friend Jean-Hyacinthe de Magellan: Royal Society, Journal Books, XXX, 27; Royal Society, Certificate of Membership Book, IV, 44.

5By the original statutes of the Society fellows were required to pay an admission fee of 40 s. They were also expected to make weekly contributions of 1 s. toward its expenses. In lieu of these weekly charges, however, fellows could choose to pay a fixed sum at the time of admission. In 1776 this fee had been set at 26 guineas: The Record of the Royal Society of London for the Promotion of Natural Knowledge (4th ed., London, 1940), pp. 83, 94–5, 288.

6For Dr. James Graham (1745–1794) see the DNB. He describes his house (located at the Royal Terrace, Adelphi, overlooking the Thames River) and his “most powerful Medico-electrical Apparatus” in A Sketch: or, Short Description of Dr. Graham’s Medical Apparatus, &c. (London, 1780), pp. 3, 89.

7David Williams’ Lectures on the Universal Principles and Duties of Religion and Morality … (2 vols., London, 1779) was based upon a course of lectures on moral philosophy that he delivered at the Margaret Street Chapel. In the fall of 1778 he had sent BF proposals for their publication: XXVII, 354–5; XXXII, 378–9; J. Dybikowski, On Burning Ground: an Examination of the Ideas, Projects and Life of David Williams (Oxford, 1993), pp. 62–3, 306.

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