Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to Richard Price, 9 October 1780

To Richard Price

AL (draft) and two copies: Library of Congress

Passy, Oct. 9. 1780

Dear Sir,

Besides the Pleasure of their Company, I had the great Satisfaction of hearing by your two valuable Friends, & learning from your Letter, that you enjoy a good State of Health.3 May God continue it as well for the Good of Mankind as for your Comfort. I thank you much for the second Edition of your excellent Pamphlet.4 I forwarded that you sent to Mr. Dana, he being in Holland.—5 I wish also to see the Piece you have written as Mr Jones tells me, on Toleration.—6 I do not expect that your new Parliament will be either wiser or honester than the last. All Projects to procure an Honest one, by Place Bills, &c appear to me vain and Impracticable. The true Cure I imagine is to be found only in rendring all Places unprofitable, and the King too poor to give Bribes & Pensions. Till this is done, which can only be by a Revolution, and I think you have not Virtue enough left to procure one, your Nation will always be plundered; & obliged to pay by Taxes the Plunderers for Plundering & Ruining. Liberty & Virtue therefore join in the Call, Come out of her, my People!7 I am fully of your Opinion respecting Religious Tests; but tho’ the People of Massachusetts have not in their new Constitution kept quite clear of them; yet if we consider what that People were 100 Years ago, we must allow they have gone great Lengths in Liberality of Sentiment, on religious Subjects; and we may hope for greater Degrees of Perfection when their Constitution some years hence shall be revised.8 If Christian Preachers had continued to teach as Christ & his Apostles did, without Salaries, and as the Quakers now do, I imagine Tests would never have existed: For I think they were invented not so much to secure Religion itself, as the Emoluments of it.— When a Religion is good, I conceive that it will support itself; and when it cannot support itself, and God does not take care to support, so that its Professors are oblig’d to call for the help of the Civil Power, ’tis a Sign, I apprehend, of its being a bad one. But I shall be out of my Depth if I wade any deeper in Theology, & I will not trouble you with Politicks, nor with News which are almost as uncertain: But conclude with a heartfelt Wish, to embrace you once more, & enjoy your sweet Society in Peace, among our honest, worthy, ingenious Friends at the London.


Dr Price

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3The two friends were John Paradise and William Jones. Price’s most recent extant letter, which BF had already answered, was sent the previous October: XXX, 532–3; XXXI, 452–3.

4An Essay on the Population of England, from the Revolution to the Present Time (1st separate edition, London, 1780). Benjamin Vaughan had sent the pamphlet to BF in May: XXXII, 380.

5Price became acquainted with Francis Dana when he was in London in 1775: D.O. Thomas and W. Bernard Peach, eds., The Correspondence of Richard Price (3 vols., Durham, N.C., and Cardiff, Wales, 1983–94), I, 200–1. BF also passed on a copy of the pamphlet to Turgot: ibid., II, 68.

6Price replied on Dec. 22, 1780, that although he had written a great deal on toleration he had not published on the subject: Correspondence of Price, II, 91.

7“And I heard another voice from heaven, saying, Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” Revelation 18:4.

8The draft of the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 stipulated that no person be eligible for election to the House of Representatives “unless he be of the christian religion.” Although the provision was deleted, attempts were made in the convention to restore it and add “Protestant” to the requirement. The constitution did require the governor to be a Christian: Adams Papers, VIII, 248, 250, 267.

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