Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from William Lee Perkins, 24 December 1783

From William Lee Perkins3

Two ALS: American Philosophical Society; University of Pennsylvania Library4

Kingston upon Thames Decr. 24th. 1783.


I have lately received from America a Diploma, constituting my late honoured and dear Father Dr. John Perkins a corresponding member of the Royal Society of Medicine at Paris, which arrived there after his decease and which was transmitted to me.5

Recalling to mind the favors and civilities You was pleased formerly to honour me with, resting on the friendship formerly subsisting between You and my Father, and above all relying on that benevolence, which makes so essential a part of Your distinguished Character, I have presumed to commit to Your Patronage the inclosed account of the Influenza as I observed it here in England, and to request the favour of your aid of my wishes to lay it before the Royal Society of Medicine at Paris. I have left it unseal’d that it might be subject to Your inspection, previous to its being offered to the Society, in case of Your Approbation.

In this essay to comply with the intentions of the Society, I feel the highest satisfaction in having performed the part of filial duty, by endeavouring to discharge for a parent a part of those obligations, which had he lived to receive the honor done him by the Society, he would most certainly have held himself bound to fulfill.

If the Society should so far approve it as to honor it with a place amongst its publications, and think fit to transfer to me the honor intended for my father, I should receive it as an obligation urging me to activity and zeal in future, in my endeavours to contribute to their salutary and benevolent intentions.

I have only, Sir, to add my most ardent wishes, that to the honors attendant on Your Name throughout the World, there may be continually added all that personal comfort and happiness, which can render life a real blessing.

I have the Honour to be Sir, with the most respectful Esteem, Your Excellency’s most obedient & most devoted humble Servant

Wm. Lee Perkins

His Excellency B. Franklin Esqr.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3Son of Boston physician John Perkins (IV, 267n), William Lee Perkins (1737–1797) was himself a physician in Boston until the war broke out. He fled to Nova Scotia in 1776, was proscribed in 1778, and moved to England, where he continued to practice medicine: Sabine, Loyalists; Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Medicine in Colonial Massachusetts, 1620–1820 (Charlottesville, 1980), pp. 70n, 72, 83, 97; Peter J. Wallis and R. V. Wallis, Eighteenth-Century Medics: Subscriptions, Licences, Apprenticeships (Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1988), p. 465.

4The second ALS, marked “Copy,” is a duplicate that Perkins sent to BF on Nov. 17, 1784. A notation on the duplicate misdated it Dec. 7, 1783.

5John Perkins had been recommended to the Société royale de médecine by BF, who gave them a copy of Perkins’ “A few thoughts on epidemic colds or catarrhal fevers.” The paper, written in 1768, was dedicated to BF, who had urged Perkins to study the topic. The medical society published a condensed version (in translation) in 1779, under the title “Extrait d’un Mémoire rédigé par M. Perkins, Médecin de Boston, sur la nature & l’origine des fièvres catharrales épidémiques, & remis à la Société par M. Franklin”; see IV, 267n; XXX, 251. When the next volume of mémoires was published, Perkins was listed as one of the society’s corresponding members: Histoire de la Société royale de médecine for 1777–78 (Paris, 1780), p. 15.

Index Entries