Benjamin Franklin Papers

From Benjamin Franklin to David Hartley, 16 October 1783

To David Hartley

Copy:6 William L. Clements Library

Passy Oct 16 1783

My Dear friend

I have nothing material to write to you respecting public affairs, but I cannot let Mr Adams who will see you7 go without a line, to enquire after your welfare, to inform you of mine, & to assure you of my constant respect and attachment.

I think with you that our quaker article is a good one & that men will in time have sense enough to adopt it, but I fear that time is not yet come.8

What wd you think of a proposition, if I shd make it of a family compact between England France & America? America wd be as happy as the Sabine Girls, if she cd be the means of uniting in perpetual peace her father & her husband.9 (What repeated follies are these repeated Wars! You do not want to conquer & govern one another, why then shd you continually be employed in injuring & destroying one another)? How many excellent things might have been done to promote the internal welfare of each Country; What Bridges roads canals & other usefull public works, & institutions tending to the common felicity might have been made and established with the Money & Men foolishly spent during the last seven centuries by our mad wars in doing one another mischief. You are near Neighbours & each have very respectable qualities. Learn to be quiet & to respect each others rights. You are all Christians. One is the most Christian King, and the other defender of the faith. Manifest the propriety of these titles by your future conduct. By this says Christ shall all men know that ye are my Disciples if ye Love one another.1 Seek peace and ensue it.2

Adieu yours most affectely

B Franklin

To D Hartley Esqr.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6In Hartley’s hand and retained among his papers.

7JA left Auteuil on Oct. 20 for what proved to be a two-month visit to England. He arrived in London on Oct. 26, was introduced by Hartley to the Duke of Portland, Edmund Burke, and Charles James Fox, and then proceeded to Bath in hopes of recovering his health: Butterfield, John Adams Diary, III, 146–52.

8BF is referring to the article that he wished to see incorporated into the Law of Nations, guaranteeing protection during wartime for unarmed civilians “who labour for the common Subsistence and Benefit of Mankind”; see XXXVII, 610; XXXVIII, 444–5. He sent it to Hartley as soon as the latter arrived in Paris for the final round of peace negotiations the previous spring, and the American commissioners included it among the new articles they proposed, unsuccessfully, for the definitive treaty with Great Britain: XXXIX, 569–70; XL, 257–8, 438. In 1786, when writing to TJ, Hartley quoted from this article (which by that time had been codified in the 1785 Prussian-American treaty of commerce), using it to invoke a fundamental American principle of benevolence. He called it “our Quaker article, yours as first proposing; mine as first adopting”: Jefferson Papers, IX, 316. His “adopting” of the article was not entirely apparent when he sent it to Fox in July, 1783; see XL, 257n.

9In the myth as told in Plutarch’s Romulus, 14–19, Hersilia and the other Sabine women who had been carried off to Rome interposed themselves between the Roman and Sabine armies and brought about a reconciliation between their Sabine fathers and Roman husbands.

1John 13:35.

21 Peter 3:11.

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