Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from David Barclay, 27 December 1782

From David Barclay

ALS: University of Pennsylvania Library

Youngsbury3 27th: of 12th: mo: 1782.

Respected Friend.

Had it pleased the wise disposer of Events to have permited our inestimable Friend & Colleague, to have lived until this day; I should have been spared the melancholy, ’tho pleasing reflections of that good man’s multiplied great Actions— Doctor Lyttsom a physician of London, has undertaken, & I think has well executed, the Biography of our late dear Friend, in a manner, that, will transmit to Posterity—the Virtues—the Sentiments, & many of the Actions of that Friend to Mankind,4 nearer to the original than Stewart has his Person on Canvas, ‘tho, that, is not esteemed a bad Likeness:5

I have now the M:S: before me for Correction as one well acquainted with anecdotes of the deceased, & in some instances more intimately than any other person now living— I therefore wish for thy opinion how far it might be proper, at this juncture, to let the World see, how much two great Men had laboured to prevent what has happen’d (keeping their Colleague intirely out of view, the propriety of which must forceable strike Thee, on his own account) I allude to the propriety or impropriety of inserting in the Work, Hints for a Conversation, or the paper drawn therefrom, intituled the Basis of a plan of Reconciliation &c.6 The favour of thy Opinion speedily on the Subject will oblige me, as the press will [not], I fear stand still for a determination. As it is proposed to insert in the work a few of Doctor Fothergill’s Letters on great or peculiarly useful Subjects, I request to know whether Thou couldst furnish one or two suitable for publick view, if inclined so to do?

I have only to add on this Subject, that the pamphlet sent herewith, will be inserted at large, having been compiled by an intimate Friend of Dr. F.s from materials furnished by the Dr. but unfortunately so near his end, that, he could not correct the press, nevertheless the work is compiled so much in the very words of our deceased Friend, that, those who knew him must acknowledge it to have been his performance.7

Before I close, I cannot omit this opportunity of telling Thee, that, I trust, it will be unnecessary for me to advocate the cause of any of my Friends on this, or the otherside of the Atlantick who have Justice on their side— I have troubled Thee with a few lines in testimoney of my veneration of William Penn;8 & did I think it necessary, I should not say less on the subject of Friends in Pensylvania, but when I consider what our Society have done toward founding a mighty Empire, I have not a doubt but that the Body will be consider’d as desireable Subjects, however some among them may have intemperately acted to their own hurt— consequently our known Conscientious Scruples against Oaths, paying Tythes, serving in the Militia or finding substitutes will be made as easy to them, at least as in this Country.

I am respectfully Thy affectionate Friend

David Barclay.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Barclay’s estate in Hertfordshire: XXI, 364.

4John Fothergill died on Dec. 26, 1780: XXXIV, 260. John Coakley Lettsom’s biography was soon published as Some Account of the Late John Fothergill, M.D. (London, 1783). Lettsom, a long-time acquaintance of BF’s, had written in 1781 about his larger project, Fothergill’s collected works: XXXV, 478–9.

5Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Fothergill, painted from memory after the doctor’s death, is reproduced in XXI, facing p. 365.

6In 1774–75, BF, Fothergill, and Barclay engaged in secret negotiations with the British government to avoid war. To that end, BF drew up a list of “Hints” for a conversation about terms likely to produce a durable union: XXI, 360–8. Barclay’s revision of the “Hints” was ultimately included in Lettsom’s biography: Lettsom, Some Account of the Late John Fothergill, M.D., pp. clviii–clxi. We cannot identify the paper here called “Basis of a plan of Reconciliation,” but for the series of documents that grew out of the initial “Hints” see XXI, 378–86; Fox, Dr. John Fothergill and his Friends …, pp. 393–407.

7The pamphlet, An English Freeholder’s Address to his Countrymen (London, 1780), called for Britain to make peace with America. It does not appear in the biography of Fothergill but was included in Lettsom’s edition of The Works of John Fothergill, M.D. … (3 vols., London, 1783–84), III, 31–57, where it is introduced as “the substance of various letters” between Fothergill and Henry Zouch, the “intimate Friend” mentioned here. Zouch was a social reformer and the vicar of Sandal Magna: DNB.

8See Barclay’s letter of Dec. 28.

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