Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1743: XXV: TO MRS. JANE MECOM - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. II Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753
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1743: XXV: TO MRS. JANE MECOM - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. II Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. II (Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753).
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TO MRS. JANE MECOM
Philadelphia, 28 July, 1743.
Dearest Sister Jenny:
I took your admonition very kindly, and was far from being offended at you for it. If I say any thing about it to you, it is only to rectify some wrong opinions you seem to have entertained of me; and this I do only because they give you some uneasiness, which I am unwilling to be the occasion of. You express yourself as if you thought I was against the worshipping of God, and doubt that good works would merit heaven; which are both fancies of your own, I think, without foundation. I am so far from thinking that God is not to be worshipped, that I have composed and wrote a whole book of devotions for my own use; and I imagine there are few if any in the world so weak as to imagine that the little good we can do here can merit so vast a reward hereafter.
There are some things in your New England doctrine and worship, which I do not agree with; but I do not therefore condemn them, or desire to shake your belief or practice of them. We may dislike things that are nevertheless right in themselves. I would only have you make me the same allowance, and have a better opinion both of morality and your brother. Read the pages of Mr. Edwards’s late book, entitled Some Thoughts concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England, from 367 to 375, and when you judge of others, if you can perceive the fruit to be good, don’t terrify yourself that the tree may be evil; but be assured it is not so, for you know who has said, “Men do not gather grapes of thorns and figs of thistles.”
I have no time to add but that I shall always be your affectionate brother,
P. S.—It was not kind in you, when your sister commended your good works, to suppose she intended it a reproach to you. It was very far from her thoughts.
for promoting useful knowledge among the british plantations in america1
Philadelphia, 14 May, 1743.
The English are possessed of a long tract of continent, from Nova Scotia to Georgia, extending north and south through different climates, having different soils, producing different plants, mines, and minerals, and capable of different improvements, manufactures, &c.
The first drudgery of settling new colonies, which confines the attention of people to mere necessaries, is now pretty well over; and there are many in every province in circumstances that set them at ease, and afford leisure to cultivate the finer arts and improve the common stock of knowledge. To such of these who are men of speculation many hints must from time to time arise, many observations occur, which, if well examined, pursued, and improved, might produce discoveries to the advantage of some or all of the British plantations or to the benefit of mankind in general.
But as from the extent of the country such persons are widely separated, and seldom can see and converse or be acquainted with each other, so that many useful particulars remain uncommunicated, die with the discoverers, and are lost to mankind; it is, to remedy this inconvenience for the future, proposed:
That one society be formed of virtuosi or ingenious men residing in the several colonies, to be called The American Philosophical Society, who are to maintain a constant correspondence.
That Philadelphia, being the city nearest the centre of the continent colonies, communicating with all of them northward and southward by post, and with all the islands by sea, and having the advantage of a good growing library, be the centre of the Society.
That at Philadelphia there be always at least seven members, viz., a physician, a botanist, a mathematician, a chemist, a mechanician, a geographer, and a general natural philosopher, besides a president, treasurer, and secretary.
That these members meet once a month or oftener, at their own expense, to communicate to each other their observations and experiments; to receive, read, and consider such letters, communications, or queries as shall be sent from distant members; to direct the dispersing of copies of such communications as are valuable, to other distant members, in order to procure their sentiments thereupon.
That the subjects of the correspondence be: all new-discovered plants, herbs, trees, roots, their virtues, uses, &c.; methods of propagating them, and making such as are useful, but particular to some plantations, more general; improvements of vegetable juices, as ciders, wines, &c.; new methods of curing or preventing diseases; all new-discovered fossils in different countries, as mines, minerals, and quarries; new and useful improvements in any branch of mathematics; new discoveries in chemistry, such as improvements in distillation, brewing, and assaying of ores; new mechanical inventions for saving labor, as mills and carriages, and for raising and conveying of water, draining of meadows, &c.; all new arts, trades, and manufactures that may be proposed or thought of; surveys, maps, and charts of particular parts of the sea-coasts or inland countries; course and junction of rivers and great roads, situation of lakes and mountains, nature of the soil and productions; new methods of improving the breed of useful animals; introducing other sorts from foreign countries; new improvements in planting, gardening, and clearing land; and all philosophical experiments that let light into the nature of things, tend to increase the power of man over matter and multiply the conveniences or pleasures of life.
That a correspondence already begun by some intended members shall be kept up by this Society with the Royal Society of London and with the Dublin Society.
That every member shall have abstracts sent him quarterly of every thing valuable communicated to the Society’s Secretary at Philadelphia, free of all charge, except the yearly payment hereafter mentioned.
That, by permission of the postmaster-general, such communications pass between the Secretary of the Society and the members, postage-free.
That, for defraying the expense of such experiments as the Society shall judge proper to cause to be made, and other contingent charges for the common good, every member send a piece of eight per annum to the treasurer, at Philadelphia, to form a common stock, to be disbursed by order of the President, with the consent of the majority of the members that can conveniently be consulted thereupon, to such persons and places where and by whom the experiments are to be made, and otherwise as there shall be occasion; of which disbursements an exact account shall be kept, and communicated yearly to every member.
That, at the first meetings of the members at Philadelphia, such rules be formed for regulating their meetings and transactions for the general benefit as shall be convenient and necessary; to be afterwards changed and improved as there shall be occasion, wherein due regard is to be had to the advice of distant members.
That, at the end of every year, collections be made and printed of such experiments, discoveries, and improvements as may be thought of public advantage; and that every member have a copy sent him.
That the business and duty of the Secretary be to receive all letters intended for the Society, and lay them before the President and members at their meetings; to abstract, correct, and methodize such papers as require it, and as he shall be directed to do by the President, after they have been considered, debated, and digested in the Society; to enter copies thereof in the Society’s books, and make out copies for distant members; to answer their letters by direction of the President; and keep records of all material transactions of the Society.
Benjamin Franklin, the writer of this Proposal, offers himself to serve the Society as their secretary, till they shall be provided with one more capable.
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN1
Philadelphia, 4 November, 1743.
I received the favor of yours with the proposal for a new method of printing, which I am much pleased with; and since you express some confidence in my opinion, I shall consider it very attentively and particularly, and in a post or two send you some observations on every article.
My long absence from home in the summer put my business so much behindhand that I have been in a continual hurry ever since my return, and had no leisure to forward the scheme of the Society. But that hurry being now near over, I purpose to proceed in the affair very soon, your approbation being no small encouragement to me.
I cannot but be fond of engaging in a correspondence so advantageous to me as yours must be. I shall always receive your favors as such, and with great pleasure.
I wish I could by any means have made your son’s longer stay here as agreeable to him as it would have been to those who began to be acquainted with him. I am, Sir, with much respect,
Your most humble servant,
TO EDWARD AND JANE MECOM
Philadelphia [date uncertain].
Dear Brother and Sister:
If you still continue your inclination to send Benny,1 you may do it by the first vessel to New York. Write a line by him, directed to Mr. James Parker, Printer, on Hunter’s Key, New York. I am confident he will be kindly used there, and I shall hear from him every week. You will advise him to be very cheerful, and ready to do every thing he is bid, and endeavour to oblige everybody, for that is the true way to get friends.
Dear Sister, I love you tenderly for your care of our father in his sickness. I am, in great haste, your loving brother,
TO MRS. JANE MECOM
Philadelphia [date uncertain].
I received your letter, with one for Benny, and one for Mr. Parker, and also two of Benny’s letters of complaint, which, as you observe, do not amount to much. I should have had a very bad opinion of him if he had written to you those accusations of his master which you mention, because, from long acquaintance with his master, who lived some years in my house, I know him to be a sober, pious, and conscientious man, so that Newport, to whom you seem to have given too much credit, must have wronged Mr. Parker very much in his accounts, and have wronged Benny too, if he says Benny told him such things, for I am confident he never did.
As to the bad attendance afforded him in the smallpox, I believe, if the negro woman did not do her duty, her master or mistress would, if they had known it, have had that matter mended. But Mrs. Parker was herself, if I am not mistaken, sick at that time, and her child also. And though he gives the woman a bad character in general, all he charges her with in particular is, that she never brought him what he called for directly, and sometimes not at all. He had the distemper favorably, and yet I suppose was bad enough to be, like other sick people, a little impatient, and perhaps might think a short time long, and sometimes call for things not proper for one in his condition.
As to clothes, I am frequently at New York, and I never saw him unprovided with what was good, decent, and sufficient. I was there no longer ago than March last, and he was then well clothed and made no complaint to me of any kind. I heard both his master and mistress call upon him on Sunday morning to get ready to go to meeting, and tell him of his frequently delaying and shuffling till it was too late, and he made not the least objection about clothes. I did not think it any thing extraordinary that he should be sometimes willing to evade going to meeting, for I believe it is the case with all boys, or almost all. I have brought up four or five myself, and have frequently observed that if their shoes were bad they would say nothing of a new pair till Sunday morning, just as the bell rung, when, if you asked them why they did not get ready, the answer was prepared, “I have no shoes,” and so of other things, hats and the like; or, if they knew of any thing that wanted mending, it was a secret till Sunday morning, and sometimes I believe they would rather tear a little than be without the excuse.
As to going on petty errands, no boys love it, but all must do it. As soon as they become fit for better business they naturally get rid of that, for the master’s interest comes in to their relief. I make no doubt but Mr. Parker will take another apprentice as soon as he can meet with a likely one. In the mean time I should be glad if Benny would exercise a little patience. There is a negro woman that does a great many of those errands.
I do not think his going on board the privateer arose from any difference between him and his master, or any ill usage he had received. When boys see prizes brought in and quantities of money shared among the men, and their gay living, it fills their heads with notions that half distract them and put them quite out of conceit with trades and the dull ways of getting money by working. This I suppose was Ben’s case, the Catherine being just before arrived with three rich prizes, and that the glory of having taken a privateer of the enemy, for which both officers and men were highly extolled, treated, presented, &c., worked strongly upon his imagination, you will see, by his answer to my letter, is not unlikely. I send it to you enclosed. I wrote him largely on the occasion; and, though he might possibly, to excuse that slip to others, complain of his place, you may see he says not a syllable of any such thing to me. My only son, before I permitted him to go to Albany, left my house unknown to us all and got on board a privateer, from whence I fetched him. No one imagined it was hard usage at home that made him do this. Every one that knows me thinks I am too indulgent a parent as well as master.
I shall tire you, perhaps, with the length of this letter; but I am the more particular, in order, if possible, to satisfy your mind about your son’s situation. His master has, by a letter this post, desired me to write to him about his staying out of nights, sometimes all night, and refusing to give an account where he spends his time, or in what company. This I had not heard of before, though I perceive you have. I do not wonder at his correcting him for that. If he was my own son I should think his master did not do his duty by him if he omitted it, for to be sure it is the high road to destruction. And I think the correction very light, and not likely to be very effectual, if the strokes left no marks.
His master says farther, as follows: “I think I cannot charge my conscience with being much short of my duty to him. I shall now desire you, if you have not done it already, to invite him to lay his complaints before you, that I may know how to remedy them.” Thus far the words of his letter, which giving me a fair opening to inquire into the affair, I shall accordingly do it, and I hope settle every thing to all your satisfactions. In the mean time I have laid by your letters both to Mr. Parker and Benny, and shall not send them till I hear again from you; because I think your appearing to give ear to such groundless stories may give offence and create a greater misunderstanding, and because I think what you write to Benny about getting him discharged may tend to unsettle his mind, and therefore improper at this time.
I have a very good opinion of Benny in the main, and have great hopes of his becoming a worthy man, his faults being only such as are commonly incident to boys of his years, and he has many good qualities, for which I love him. I never knew an apprentice contented with the clothes allowed him by his master, let them be what they would. Jemmy Franklin, when with me, was always dissatisfied and grumbling. When I was last in Boston, his aunt bid him go to a shop and please himself, which the gentleman did, and bought a suit of clothes on my account dearer by one half than any I ever afforded myself, one suit excepted; which I don’t mention by way of complaint of Jemmy, for he and I are good friends, but only to show you the nature of boys.
The letters to Mr. Vanhorne were sent by Mr. Whitefield, under my cover.
I am, with love to brother and all yours, and duty to mother, to whom I have not time now to write, your affectionate brother,
[1 ]This paper appears to contain the first suggestion, in any public form, for an American Philosophical Society.
[1 ]This was in reply to an ingenious suggestion which partially anticipated the more modern systems of stereotyping. The author of it, Mr. Colden, was born in Scotland on the 17th of February, 1688, was educated at the University of Edinburgh, came to Philadelphia in 1708, where he practised medicine until 1715, then travelled in Europe, returned in 1718, and settled in New York. He died at his country home on Long Island on the 27th of September, 1776, in the eighty-ninth year of his age. Soon after taking up his residence in New York he abandoned his profession and entered public life, maintaining, however, meanwhile, an extensive correspondence, especially with the eminent men of science both at home and abroad. He held the offices of surveyor-general of the province, master in chancery, member of the council, and lieutenant-governor, which latter dignity he filled for some fifteen years. He wrote several treatises on medical, mathematical, and philosophical subjects, and a history of the Five Indian Nations, which is still read.
[1 ]Benjamin Mecom, a nephew of Dr. Franklin, whom he seems to have taken particularly under his charge.