Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Richard Price, 21 October 1784

From Richard Price

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Newington-Green Oct 2[1] 178[4]5

My Dear Friend

I received a few days ago your letter by Mr Hartley,6 and think myself much obliged to you for it, and for conveying to me the King of France’s Edict for establishing a new Sinking Fund. I received soon afterwards another Copy of the Same Edict from Ld Shelburne. My curiosity has been much gratify’d by it; but at the Same time I have been mortify’d to find that our rivals are getting So much the Start of us. I admire the language and Spirit and wisdom of this Edict. Nothing but a faithful execution of the plan establish’d by it can be necessary to extricate France from the embarrassmts: of its debts. This plan is the Same with that which I have been long writing about and recommending in this country to no purpose. It is Strange that nations Should hitherto have thought So little (particularly Since funding has been practised) of employing the powers of compound interest to liquidate debts and to make themselves rich and powerful. But we See continually that the same want of foresight, extravagance and infatuation prevail in governmts: wch: prevail among individuals.

I am not Sufficiently acquainted with the nature of the public debts of France to understand properly the particulars in the Second Table annex’d to this Edict, but the general purport of it is obvious.

I See that by the arrangemts: proposed and the operations of the Sinking Fund if not interrupted a revenue of Six millions Sterling per Ann will be liberated in 2 [5] years, above two millions and a half of wch. will be liberated in 13 years. This kingdom would be in less danger were any thing like this practicable here; but the nature of our debts (consisting almost entirely of perpetual annuities) does not admit of it.

I have promised to draw-up a table, during the next Session of Parliamt:, Similar to the first in the French Edict, and marking as that does, distinctly for every year the progress of a Sinking fund in order to Shew its powers;7 and I have Some reason to expect that there will be a Struggle in our Parliamt: to get Such a fund establish’d, and consigned to the care of Commissioners in order to render diversions of it less practicable.

I have inclosed a little pamphlet publish’d in April last8 because I am doubtful whether it has been Sent you before.

We have at last begun to fly here. Such an ardor prevails that probably we Shall soon in this instance leave France behind us. Dr Priestley, in a letter wch: I have just received from him, tells me that he is eager in pursuing his Experimts, and that he has discover’d a method of filling the largest Balloons with the lightest inflammable air in a very Short time and at a very Small expence.9

I Sent you a pretty long letter with a parcel of my pamphlets on the Amerin Revolution about a fortnight ago.1 This letter will be convey’d by a countryman of yours, Mr Jonathan Jackson who has been in London Some time, and in whose acquaintance I have been happy.2 I have Sent a considerable number of these pamphlets to America where I hope they will be favourably received as a well-meant tho’ weak attempt to Serve the best interests of civil Society.3

Mrs Price, I thank God, continues better. She desires to be respectfully remember’d to you. With the highest regard I am ever yours

Richd: Price

I have not Seen Mr Franklin lately, but I have the prospect of dining in his company in a few days. He was so good as to take the care of the parcel I Sent you.

Addressed: To / Dr Franklin / Passy / Near Paris

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

5A tear in the MS has removed two digits; we supply them from BF’s acknowledgment of Feb. 1, 1785, below.

6BF to Price, Sept. 13, above.

7It was in William Pitt’s hands before the end of April, 1785: Peach and Thomas, Price Correspondence, II, 275.

8Postscript to a Pamphlet by Dr. Price on the State of the Public Debts and Finances was published on March 22: Peach and Thomas, Price Correspondence, II, 206n.

9Priestley’s method, a variation on recent experiments of Lavoisier, involved sending steam through a heated copper cylinder containing iron filings. He acknowledged his debt to Lavoisier in the paper he read before the Royal Society on Feb. 24, 1785: “Experiments and Observations relating to Air and Water,” Phil. Trans., LXXV (1785), 279–309.

1Price had sent them to WTF on Oct. 11, for forwarding to BF; see WTF to BF, Oct. 13. Price’s letter has not been located; the pamphlets were copies of Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution.

2Massachusetts merchant Jonathan Jackson, a former delegate to Congress, was a confidant of JA’s, and had received at least one letter from JA that was highly critical of BF: XXXIX, 562n. He had sailed to Ireland in early 1784 and was in London by April: Adams Papers, XVI, 177–8; Sibley’s Harvard Graduates, XV, 56–67.

3When sending copies of the pamphlet to Benjamin Rush on Oct. 14, Price explained that he had printed only a small number, intending it for his friends in the United States. If they thought it of sufficient merit, they might have it reprinted there. He had asked friends in Boston to forward copies to Congress: Peach and Thomas, Price Correspondence, II, 234.

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