Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Sargent, 1 June 1783

From John Sargent

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Halsted Place 1 June 1783.

My Dear Friend

It must seem strange to You, that You should not have had an answer from me to a Letter that You favourd me with so long agoe as the 27th of Jany last—8 But it is owing to a strange Concurrence of unlucky Incidents— In the first place, the Post master of 7 Oaks,9 the most negligent in his Line of Christendom,—it coming in my Absence,—let it lay in his Office, & did not convey it to me in Town till near a Month after—from that Time to This, We have been daily thinking of You, and talking of You, & I proposing to reply, if I had not heard from an intimate Friend of Dr. Price’s, for Two Months, that You were expected here weekly, in a private, if not a Publick Character—the same Thing was for a long Time confirmed to me by that worthy Man Mr. West,1 The King’s Painter,— but; at last, I hear I have been misled, and for a fortnight past, I have been looking out for a safe private hand to convey these trifling Lines, which are no longer Penal here,2 & it would not matter if were published upon the Pont Neuf, and yet I do not know how, a certain delicacy,—not knowing what Effusions of Heart might take place in Them,—restrained me from addressing You, unless I could secure Them from the Curiosity, & Enquiry, that I thought Your Name on the Superscription of a Letter would for some time naturally excite—

If You have any Channel of Confidence, do me the Favour, in answer to This, to let me know how I shall use it, and how direct to You. Our Post Master is removed by Death, & a better succeeds3—a Letter to me may come hither, or be addressed to Great Ormond Street Queen’s Square, where having given my House in Downing Street to my Younger Son on Marriage,4 We have lived for these Three Years in a House built on the Site of Powis House, a very airey Situation looking out to Hampsted, & agreeing with my Wife better than the lower Situation of Westminster, altho’ We had the Opening to the Park.

It gives us the greatest Pleasure that You are so well at Your Age, & We most ardently hope that the same Providence & all ruling Power, which has made You the Instrument of effecting such great Things, will continue Your Life, Health & Vigour of Mind for some Years, to perfect Them, & crown them with Order, Counsel, & Stability—

My Wife & Mother are full of Esteem & affection for You— much concerned to be disappointed of the proposed pleasure of seeing You—and so is all my Family— My Sons desire me to convey every Mark of Respect from Them—

Poor Mrs. Deane dyed at this place Three Years agoe— Her Grief for the Loss of Her Husband The General soon caused Her to follow Him—5

Mr. Chambers and The Younger Ladies His Sisters6 are all well & happy—and often joyn Us in affectionate, & honourable Mention of You—

Your Reflections on Matrimony are true and just— You’ll be pleased to find We think as You do on the Subject, & that my Eldest Son has, within this Fortnight, enterd into the State in a manner quite to my Mind,—with a Young Lady whom He had known, & thought favorably of for some Years,7 a Match of Reason neither produced by Interest & the Love of Money nor by sudden Youthful Passion—so that nothing can bid fairer for a reasonable Share of the Comforts that Union affords—

I have the Comfort, in having finished this Business, to have wound up all the Great Concerns of my Family—

If America pays me any part of my Debt, as I think from the many good Characters I know among Them, She will, I will celebrate Their Justice & Fidelity—if not, I am too old, & far advanced on my Journey to let Those Concerns make me uneasy, I will forgive Them with all my Heart & content myself with what is left, which I hope is quite enough for the rest of my Road—

I shall never think of new Enterprizes, & compensating myself for the past, but by endeavouring to gain, in Æquanimity, what I have lost in Money, & calmly wynding up my Bottoms— Tho my Relations & Partners Mr. Chambers & Mr. Rolleston,8 from their difference of Age & Situation, may take a different Course & act another part— If You should see the Comte De la Touche9 please to make my Compliments to Him, & let Him know I remember Him with great Respect— I am as all my Circle is Dear Sir Your most affectionate & devoted

J Sargent

PS. You are remembred with great respect by My Neighbour Lord Stanhope—1

I hear from that Family, that Your Friend Ld. Chatham’s Son has just declared His Intention of what You would wish every hopeful Young Man of Good Family to do,—not to give into the Libertinism of the present Times, and as Solomon expresses it,—I think—give His Strength unto a Stranger,—but take unto Him a fair Possession— He has made known his Wish in favour of Miss Mary Townsend, (Lord Sidney, late Tommey Townsend’s Daughter)2 a Family much connected with His own, & made all Parties happy by it— There is a small Fortune, but correct Education, & good Example in her Family to recommend Her. which is every Thing— His Brother Mr. William3 is a Prodigy—! Calumny itself knows not how to fasten on Him—adieu Dear Sir—

Dr. Franklin

Addressed: A Monsieur / Monsr. Le Dr. Franklin / a / Paris

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8XXXIX, 68–70.

9Sevenoaks, Kent.

1Benjamin West.

2Sargent had earlier alluded to the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act; see XXXVIII, 547.

3Thomas Foley, second Baron Foley, succeeded Charles Bennett, fourth Earl of Tankerville, as joint postmaster general on May 1, 1783: C. F. Dendy Marshall, The British Post Office from Its Beginnings to the End of 1925 (London, 1926), pp. 155, 171.

4John Sargent was married in 1778. For him and the family members mentioned below see XXXVIII, 547–8.

5William and Elizabeth Deane died in 1775 and 1779, respectively: VII, 321n; XXXIX, 70n.

6Christopher Chambers’ sisters were Sophia and Frances: Thomas Belsham, Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey … (2nd ed., London, 1820), pp. 62n, 306–7; G. M. Ditchfield, “The Revd. William Chambers, D.D. (c. 1724–1777),” Enlightenment and Dissent, IV (1985), 6.

7George Arnold Sargent married Marianne Langston in May: Henry Wagner, “Pedigree of Sargent, Afterwards Arnold, and Sargent,” Genealogist, 2nd ser., XXXIII (1917), 189; David Hancock, Citizens of the World: London Merchants and the Integration of the British Atlantic Community, 1735–1785 (Cambridge, New York, and Melbourne, 1995), p. 403.

8Robert Rolleston (1747–1826): Hancock, Citizens of the World, pp. II, 74–5, 107–8, 218, 405.

9The comte had been released from an English prison around the time the preliminary peace was signed, and wrote BF from Paris on Jan. 24: XXXIX, 25–6.

1When BF stayed with Sargent in 1774, Stanhope introduced him to Chatham: XXI, 547.

2John Pitt, second Earl of Chatham (XXI, 518), married Mary Elizabeth Townshend on July 10: ODNB.

3William Pitt the Younger.

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