Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Richard Price, 7 January 1782

From Richard Price

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Newington-Green Jany 7th: 1782

Dear Sir

The Bearer of this is the Son of a widow (Mrs Curtauld) who belongs to my congregation at Hackney. He is going over to Am—ca not intending to return; and any notice that you may be so good as to take of him will be well bestowed and gratefully received.2

I rejoyce heartily in the Security which an object which has been long a favourite one with me, Seems lately to have received; but wishing ardently for the liberty, happiness and independence of both countries, and indeed of every country under heaven, I lament that lust of power and tenaciousness of dominion which still influence the councils of this country, and Seem to threaten the continuance of a destructive and cruel war.

I heard with pleasure not long ago that you are well. May your usefulness be continued and as many year added to your life as are consistent with its happiness. Sir John Pringle is breaking fast, and not likely to live long—3 The Society of Whigs at the L——n Coff—— se4 continue the Same, and never meet without drinking your health— I can never forget the many happy hours wch: in better times we have Spent together. With all possible good wishes and the greatest regard and affection I am, my dear Friend, ever yours

R—— P.

If Dr B——— t5 is with you deliver my respects to him. I have heard with great concern of the death of Mr Turgott—6 Mr Lawrens7 was discharged last week, and yesterday went for Bath, his health having been much impaired by his confinemt and Sufferings.

In July last Hekingham Workhouse in Norfolk was fired and in danger of being destroy’d by lightening tho’ defended by eight pointed conductors each above half an inch in Diameter and continued without interruption to a drain— Mr Wilson triumphs in this fact and has carried it lately to his convert the King, and to the board of Ordnance; in consequence of which this board, apprehensive of danger to the magazine at Purfleet from the pointed conductors there, has again apply’d to the Royal Society for advice; and a Committee is just appointed by the Society to examine into the fact— The lightening did not appear to have enter’d at the points; but, avoiding them, struck into the building within a few yards of one of them.— A Similar event happen’d Some time ago at Purfleet.8

These events have a tendency to discredit conductors; but Mr Wilson’s triumph Seems improper, because there is no reason for believing the Same or worse would not have happened had the conductors been blunt.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2Samuel Courtauld II (1752–1821), a London-born descendant of Huguenots, also carried Benjamin Vaughan’s Jan. 9 letter, below; it provides additional information about the courier’s social connections. From 1777 to 1780 Courtauld and his mother Louisa Perina Ogier Courtauld (1729–1807) ran the smithing and jewelry concern founded by his father Samuel Courtauld I (1720–1765). D. C. Coleman, Courtaulds: an Economic and Social History (2 vols., Oxford, 1969), I, 3–5.

Courtauld stayed in Paris through at least mid-September; he then moved to Philadelphia. His brother George, the progenitor of a silk manufacturing dynasty who in 1785 would relate his own immigration plans to BF, later described Courtauld as “a kind of itinerant merchant” who was “low in pocket.” Samuel Courtauld to BF, Sept. 16 (Hist. Soc. of Pa.); PMHB, II (1878), 211; Coleman, Courtaulds, I, 5, 8.

3Pringle had been in failing health since 1778 and died on Jan. 18 following a “fit of apoplexy”: XXXV, 34n; DNB.

4The Club of Honest Whigs at the London Coffee House: XI, 98n.

5Edward Bancroft.

6Turgot died the preceding March: XXXIV, 501n.

7Henry Laurens.

8The poorhouse near Norwich caught fire on June 17, 1781. Six months later the Board of Ordnance wrote the Royal Society for information. On Feb. 7, 1782, the Society’s appointed committee (Edward Nairne and Charles Blagden) delivered a report detailing the physical evidence and suggesting that the conductors might have been set up improperly: “Proceedings relative to the Accident by Lightning at Heckingham,” Phil. Trans., LXXII (1782), 355–78.

Benjamin Wilson (IV, 391n) had long campaigned for blunt rather than pointed conductors, dissenting in 1772 from a Royal Society committee recommendation (written in part by BF) favoring tapered rods for the powder stores at Purfleet. In 1777 lightning struck the magazine despite its pointed conductors. This misfortune inspired another Royal Society committee report and a flurry of experiments by Wilson for the King, who subsequently replaced pointed royal conductors with blunt ones. For the details of the dispute see XIX, 153–4, 260–2, 424–5, 429–30; XXIV, 163n; XXV, 5n.

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