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1745: XXXIII: TO CADWALLADER COLDEN - 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 CADWALLADER COLDEN
Philadelphia, 15 August, 1745.
I received your favor of the 20th past, which your medical piece enclosed, the reading of which gave me a great deal of pleasure. I showed it to our friend Mr. Bartram, who carried it home, and, as he since tells me, is taking a copy of it. His keeping of it for that end has prevented my showing it to any other gentleman as you desired, and hitherto prevented my writing to you upon it, as I intended. But, lest you should conclude me the very worst correspondent in the world, I shall delay no longer giving you some thoughts that occurred to me in reading of it, choosing rather to be blamed for not writing to the purpose than for not writing at all.
I am extremely pleased with your doctrine of the absorbent vessels intermixed with the perspiratory ducts, both on the external and internal superficies of the body. After I had read Sanctorius, I imagined a constant stream of the perspirable matter issuing at every pore in the skin. But then I was puzzled to account for the effects of mercurial unctions for the strangury, sometimes occasioned by an outward application of the flies, and the like; since whatever virtue or quality might be in a medicine laid upon the skin, if it would enter the body it must go against wind and tide, as one may say. Dr. Hales helped me a little when he informed me, in his Vegetable Statics, that the body is not always in a perspirable, but sometimes in an imbibing, state, as he expresses it, and will at times actually grow heavier by being exposed to moist air. But this did not quite remove my difficulty, since, as these fits of imbibing did not appear to be regular or frequent, a blistering plaster might lie on the body a week, or a mercurial unguent be used a month, to no purpose, if the body should so long continue in a perspirable state. Your doctrine, which was quite new to me, makes all easy, since the body may perspire and absorb at the same time, through the different ducts destined to those different ends.
I must own, however, that I have one objection to the explanation you give of the operation of these absorbents. That they should communicate with the veins, and the perspirants with the arteries only, seems natural enough; but as all fluids by the hydrostatical law pass equally in all directions, I question whether the mere direction of one of those minute vessels, where it joins with a vein or artery, with or against the stream of blood in the larger vessel, would be sufficient to produce such contrary effects as perspiring and absorbing. If it would, both perspirants and absorbents might proceed from the arteries only, or from the veins only, or from both indifferently; as, by the figure in the margin, whether the vessel a b is an artery or a vein, if the stream moves from a to b, the minute communicating vessel c shall be a perspirant, and d an absorbent; and the contrary, if it moves from b to a. Yet I cannot say I am certain the mere direction of the vessel will have no effect; I only suspect it, and am making a little machine to try an experiment with for satisfaction.
It is a siphon made of two large joints of Carolina cane united at e, into which two small glass tubes, f and g, are to be inserted, one on the descending and the other on the ascending side. I propose to fill the siphon and the two glass tubes with water, and, when it is playing, unstop at the same instant the tops of both glass tubes, observing in which the water sinks fastest. You shall know the success. I conceive the pressure of the atmosphere on the apertures of the two glass tubes to be no way different from the pressure of the same on the mouths of the perspirants and absorbents, and if the water sinks equally in the two tubes, notwithstanding the direction of one against and the other with the stream, I shall be ready to think we must look out for another solution. You will say, perhaps, that it will then be time enough when the experiment is tried, and succeeds as I suspect; yet I cannot forbear attempting at one beforehand while some thoughts are present in my mind. If a new solution should be found necessary, this may be ready for consideration.
I do not remember that any anatomist that has fallen in my way has assigned any other cause of the motion of the blood through its whole circle than the contractile force of the heart, by which that fluid is driven with violence into the arteries, and so continually propelled by repetitions of the same force till it arrives at the heart again. May we for our present purpose suppose another cause producing half the effect, and say that the ventricles of the heart, like syringes, draw when they dilate as well as force when they contract? That this is not unlikely may be judged from the valves nature has placed in the arteries to prevent the drawing back of the blood in those vessels when the heart dilates, while no such obstacles prevent its sucking (to use the vulgar expression) from the veins. If this be allowed, and the insertion of the absorbents into the veins and of the perspirants into the arteries be agreed to, it will be of no importance in what direction they are inserted. For, as the branches of the arteries are continually lessening in their diameters, and the motion of the blood decreasing by means of the increased resistance, there must, as more is constantly pressed on behind, arise a kind of crowding in the extremities of those vessels, which will naturally force out what is contained in the perspirants that communicate with them. This lessens the quantity of blood, so that the heart cannot receive again by the veins all it had discharged into the arteries, which occasions it to draw strongly upon the absorbents that communicate with them. And thus the body is continually perspiring and imbibing. Hence after long fasting the body is more liable to receive infection from bad air, and food, before it is sufficiently chylified, is drawn crude into the blood by the absorbents that open into the bowels.
To confirm this position, that the heart draws as well as drives the blood, let me add this particular. If you sit or lean long in such a manner as to compress the principal artery that supplies a limb with blood, so that it does not furnish a due quantity, you will be sensible of a pricking pain in the extremities like that of a thousand needles, and the veins, which used to raise your skin in ridges, will be (with the skin) sunk in channels, the blood being drawn out of them, and their sides pressed so closely together that it is with difficulty and slowly that the blood afterwards enters them when the compressed artery is relieved. If the blood was not drawn by the heart, the compression of an artery would not empty a vein, and I conjecture that the pricking pain is occasioned by the sides of the small vessels being pressed together.
I am not without apprehension that this hypothesis is either not new, or, if it is new, not good for any thing. It may, however, in this letter, with the enclosed paper on a kindred subject, serve to show the great confidence I place in your candor, since to you I so freely hazard myself (ultra crepidam) in meddling with matters directly pertaining to your profession, and entirely out of the way of my own. If you give yourself the trouble of reading them, it is all I can modestly expect. Your silence about them afterwards will be sufficient to convince me that I am in the wrong, and that I ought to study the sciences I dabble in before I presume to set pen to paper. I will endeavour, however, to make you some amends by procuring you from better judges some better remarks on the rest of your piece, and shall observe your caution not to let them know from whom I had it.
The piece on Fluxions I purpose shortly to read again, and that on the several species of matter, when you shall have what little I shall be able to say about them.
The members of our Society here are very idle gentlemen. They will take no pains. I must, I believe, alter the scheme and proceed with the papers I have, and may receive, in the manner you advise in one of your former letters. The mention of your former letter puts me in mind how much I am in arrear with you. Like some honest insolvent debtors, I must resolve to pay ready money for what I have hereafter, and discharge the old debt by little and little as I am able.
The impertinence of these mosquitos to me (now I am in the humor of writing) prevents a great deal of mine to you, so that, for once, they are of some use in the world. I am, Sir,
Your most humble servant,
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN
Philadelphia, 28 November, 1745.
I shall be very willing and ready, when you think proper to publish your piece on gravitation, to print it at my own expense and risk. If I can be the means of communicating any thing valuable to the world, I do not always think of gaining, nor even of saving, by my business; but a piece of that kind, as it must excite the curiosity of all the learned, can hardly fail of bearing its own expense.
I must not pretend to dispute with you on any part of the animal economy. You are quite too strong for me. I shall just mention two or three little things, that I am not quite clear in.
If there is no contrivance in the frame of the auricles or ventricles of the heart by which they dilate themselves, I cannot conceive how they are dilated. It is said, by the force of the venal blood rushing into them. But if that blood has no force which was not first given to it by the contraction of the heart, how can it (diminished as it must be by the resisting friction of the vessels it has passed through) be strong enough to overcome that contraction? Your doctrine of fermentation in the capillaries helps me a little; for if the returning blood be rarefied by the fermentation, its motion must be increased; but, as it seems to me that it must by its expansion resist the arterial blood behind it, as much as it accelerates the venal blood before it, I am still somewhat unsatisfied. I have heard or read somewhere, too, that the hearts of some animals continue to contract and dilate, or to beat, as it is commonly expressed, after they are separated from the other vessels and taken out of the body. If this be true, their dilation is not caused by the force of the returning blood.
I should be glad to satisfy myself, too, whether the blood is always quicker in motion when the pulse beats quicker. Perhaps more blood is driven forward by one strong, deep stroke than by two that are weak and light; as a man may breathe more air by one long, common respiration, when in health, than by two quick, short ones in a fever. I applied the siphon I mentioned to you in a former letter to the pipe of a water-engine. E is the engine; a, its pipe; b b b, the siphon; c and d, the two glass pipes communicating with the siphon. Upon working the engine, the water flowed through the siphon and the glass tube c; but none was discharged through d. When I stopped with my finger the end of the siphon, the water issued at both glass tubes with equal force, and on only half stopping the end of the siphon, it did the same. I imagine the sudden bending of the siphon gives such a resistance to the stream as to occasion its issuing out of the glass tube c. But I intend to try a farther experiment, of which I shall give you an account.
I am now determined to publish an American Philosophical Miscellany, monthly or quarterly. I shall begin with next January, and proceed as I find encouragement and assistance. As I purpose to take the compiling wholly upon myself, the reputation of no gentleman or society will be affected by what I insert of another’s; and that perhaps will make them more free to communicate. Their names shall be published or concealed, as they think proper, and care taken to do exact justice to matters of invention, &c. I shall be glad of your advice in any particulars that occurred to you in thinking of this scheme; for, as you first proposed it to me, I doubt not but you have well considered it.1
I have not the original of Dr. Mitchell’s tract on the Yellow Fever.2 Mine is a copy I had taken, with his leave, when here. Mr. Evans will make a copy of it for you.
I hope it will be confirmed by future experiment that the yaws are to be cured by tar-water. The case you relate to Dr. Mitchell gives great hopes of it, and should be published, to induce people to make trials. For, though it should not always succeed, I suppose there is no danger of its doing any harm.
As to your pieces on Fluxions and the different species of matter, it is not owing to reservedness that I have not yet sent you my thoughts; but because I cannot please myself with them, having had no leisure yet to digest them. If I was clear that you are anywhere mistaken, I would tell you so, and give my reasons with all freedom, as believing nothing I could do would be more obliging to you. I am persuaded you think, as I do, that he who removes a prejudice or an error from our minds contributes to their beauty, as he would do to that of our faces who should clear them of a wart or a wen.
I have a friend gone to New York with a view of settling there, if he can meet with encouragement. It is Dr. John Bard,1 whom I esteem an ingenious physician and surgeon and a discreet, worthy, and honest man. If, upon conversation with him, you find this character just, I doubt not but you will afford him your advice and countenance, which will be of great service to him in a place where he is entirely a stranger, and very much oblige, Sir,
Your most humble servant,
P. S.—I shall forward your letter to Dr. Mitchell. Thank you for leaving it open for my perusal.
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN
I received yours with others enclosed for Mr. Bartram and Mr. Armit, to which I suppose the enclosed are answers. The person who brought yours said he would call for answers, but did not; or if he did, I did not see him.
I understand Parker1 has begun upon your piece. A long sitting of our Assembly has hitherto hindered me from beginning the Miscellany. I shall write to Dr. Gronovius as you desire.
I wish I had mathematics enough to satisfy myself whether the much shorter voyages made by ships bound hence to England, than by those from England hither, are not in some degree owing to the diurnal motion of the earth, and if so, in what degree. It is a notion that has lately entered my mind; I know not if ever any other’s. Ships in a calm at the equator move with the sea fifteen miles per minute; at our Cape suppose twelve miles per minute; in the British Channel suppose ten miles per minute. Here is a difference of two miles’ velocity per minute between Cape Henlopen and the Lizard. No small matter in so weighty a body as a laden ship swimming in a fluid. How is this velocity lost in the voyage thither, if not by the resistance of the water? And if so, then the water, which resisted in part, must have given way in part to the ship, from time to time, as she proceeded continually out of parallels of latitude where the earth’s motion or rotation was quicker, into others where it was slower. And thus, as her velocity tends eastward with the earth’s motion, she perhaps makes her easting sooner. Suppose a vessel lying still in a calm at our Cape could be taken up, and the same instant set down in an equal calm in the English Channel, would not the difference of velocity between her and the sea she was placed in appear plainly by a violent motion of the ship through the water eastward?
I have not time to explain myself farther, the post waiting; but I believe I have said enough for you to comprehend my meaning. If the reasons hinted at should incline you to think there is any thing in this notion, I should be glad of an answer to this question, if it be capable of a precise answer, viz.
Suppose a ship sails in a northeast line from latitude 39 to latitude 52, in thirty days, how long will she be returning on the same line, winds, currents, etc., being equal? Just so much as the eastern motion of the earth helps her easting, I suppose it will hinder her westing. Perhaps the weight and dimensions or shape of the vessel should be taken into consideration, as the water resists bodies of different shapes differently.
I must beg you to excuse the incorrectness of this scrawl, as I have not time to transcribe. I am, Sir,
Your most humble servant,
TO JOHN FRANKLIN, AT BOSTON
— Our people are extremely impatient to hear of your success at Cape Breton.1 My shop is filled with inquirers at the coming in of every post. Some wonder the place is not yet taken. I tell them I shall be glad to hear that news three months hence. Fortified towns are hard nuts to crack; and your teeth have not been accustomed to it. Taking strong places is a particular trade, which you have taken up without serving an apprenticeship to it. Armies and veterans need skilful engineers to direct them in their attack. Have you any? But some seem to think forts are as easy taken as snuff. Father Moody’s prayers look tolerably modest. You have a fast and prayer day for that purpose; in which I compute five hundred thousand petitions were offered up to the same effect in New England, which, added to the petitions of every family morning and evening, multiplied by the number of days since January 25th, make forty-five millions of prayers; which, set against the prayers of a few priests in the garrison, to the Virgin Mary, give a vast balance in your favor.
If you do not succeed, I fear I shall have but an indifferent opinion of Presbyterian prayers in such cases, as long as I live. Indeed, in attacking strong towns I should have more dependence on works, than on faith; for, like the kingdom of heaven, they are to be taken by force and violence; and in a French garrison I suppose there are devils of that kind that they are not to be cast out by prayers and fasting, unless it be by their own fasting for want of provisions. I believe there is Scripture in what I have wrote, but I cannot adorn the margin with quotations, having a bad memory, and no Concordance at hand; besides no more time than to subscribe myself, &c.
TO JAMES READ
Saturday Morning, 17 August, 1745.
I have been reading your letter over again, and, since you desire an answer I sit down to write you one; yet, as I write in the market, it will, I believe, be but a short one, though I may be long about it. I approve of your method of writing one’s mind, when one is too warm to speak it with temper; but, being quite cool myself in this affair, I might as well speak as write, if I had an opportunity.
Are you an attorney by profession, and do you know no better how to choose a proper court in which to bring your action? Would you submit to the decision of a husband, a cause between you and his wife? Don’t you know that all wives are in the right? It may be you don’t, for you are yet but a young husband. But see, on this head, the learned Coke, that oracle of the law, in his chapter De Jur.Marit. Angl. I advise you not to bring it to trial; for, if you do, you will certainly be cast.
Frequent interruptions make it impossible for me to go through all your letter. I have only time to remind you of the saying of that excellent old philosopher, Socrates, that, in differences among friends, they that make the first concessions are the wisest; and to hint to you that you are in danger of losing that honor in the present case, if you are not very speedy in your acknowledgments, which I persuade myself you will be, when you consider the sex of your adversary.
Your visits never had but one thing disagreeable in them—that is, they were always too short. I shall exceedingly regret the loss of them, unless you continue, as you have begun, to make it up to me by long letters.
I am, dear Jemmy, with sincere love to our dearest Suky, your very affectionate friend and cousin,
THE SPEECH OF POLLY BAKER1
The Speech of Miss Polly Baker before a Court of Judicatory, in New England, where she was prosecuted for a fifth time, for having a Bastard Child; which influenced the Court to dispense with her punishment, and which induced one of her judges to marry her the next day—by whom she had fifteen children.
“May it please the honourable bench to indulge me in a few words: I am a poor, unhappy woman, who have no money to fee lawyers to plead for me, being hard put to it to get a living. I shall not trouble your honours with long speeches; for I have not the presumption to expect that you may, by any means, be prevailed on to deviate in your sentence from the law, in my favour. All I humbly hope is, that your honours would charitably move the governor’s goodness on my behalf, that my fine may be remitted. This is the fifth time, gentlemen, that I have been dragged before your court on the same account; twice I have paid heavy fines, and twice I have been brought to public punishment, for want of money to pay those fines. This may have been agreeable to the laws, and I don’t dispute it; but since the laws are sometimes unreasonable in themselves, and therefore repealed; and others bear too hard on the subject in particular instances, and therefore there is left a power somewhere to dispense with the execution of them, I take the liberty to say, that I think this law, by which I am punished, both unreasonable in itself, and particularly severe with regard to me, who have always lived an inoffensive life in the neighbourhood where I was born, and defy my enemies (if I have any) to say I have wronged any man, woman, or child. Abstracted from the law, I cannot conceive (may it please your honours) what the nature of my offence is. I have brought five children into the world, at the risque of my life; I have maintained them well by my own industry, without burthening the township, and would have done it better, if it had not been for the heavy charges and fines I have paid. Can it be a crime (in the nature of things, I mean) to add to the King’s subjects, in a new country that really wants people? I own it, I should think it rather a praiseworthy than a punishable action. I have debauched no other woman’s husband, nor enticed any youth; these things I never was charged with; nor has any one the least cause of complaint against me, unless, perhaps, the ministers of justice, because I have had children without being married, by which they have missed a wedding fee. But can this be a fault of mine? I appeal to your honours. You are pleased to allow I don’t want sense; but I must be stupefied to the last degree, not to prefer the honourable state of wedlock to the condition I have lived in. I always was, and still am willing to enter into it; and doubt not my behaving well in it, having all the industry, frugality, fertility, and skill in economy appertaining to a good wife’s character. I defy any one to say I ever refused an offer of that sort; on the contrary, I readily consented to the only proposal of marriage that ever was made me, which was when I was a virgin, but too easily confiding in the person’s sincerity that made it, I unhappily lost my honour by trusting to his; for he got me with child, and then forsook me.
That very person, you all know, he is now become a magistrate of this country; and I had hopes he would have appeared this day on the bench, and have endeavoured to moderate the Court in my favour; then I should have scorned to have mentioned it; but I must now complain of it, as unjust and unequal, that my betrayer, and undoer, the first cause of all my faults and miscarriages (if they must be deemed such), should be advanced to honor and power in the government that punishes my misfortunes with stripes and infamy. I should be told, ’t is like, that were there no act of Assembly in the case, the precepts of religion are violated by my transgressions. If mine is a religious transgression, leave it to religious punishment. You have already excluded me from the comforts of your church communion. Is not that sufficient? What need is there then of your additional fines and whipping? You believe I have offended heaven, and must suffer eternal fire; will not that be sufficient? I own I do not think as you do, for, if I thought what you call a sin was really such, I could not presumptuously commit it. But how can it be believed that Heaven is angry at my having children, when to the little done by me towards it, God has been pleased to add his divine skill and admirable workmanship in the formation of their bodies, and crowned the whole by furnishing them with rational and immortal souls? Forgive me, gentlemen, if I talk a little extravagantly on these matters: I am no divine, but if you, gentlemen, must be making laws, do not turn natural and useful actions into crimes by your prohibitions. But take into your wise consideration the great and growing number of bachelors in the country, many of whom, from the mean fear of the expense of a family, have never sincerely and honestly courted a woman in their lives; and by their manner of living leave unproduced (which is little better than murder) hundreds of their posterity to the thousandth generation. Is not this a greater offence against the public good than mine? Compel them, then, by law, either to marriage, or to pay double the fine of fornication every year. What must poor young women do, whom customs and nature forbid to solicit the men, and who cannot force themselves upon husbands, when the laws take no care to provide them any, and yet severely punish them if they do their duty without them; the duty of the first and great command of nature and nature’s God, increase and multiply; a duty, from the steady performance of which nothing has been able to deter me, but for its sake I have hazarded the loss of the public esteem, and have frequently endured public disgrace and punishment; and therefore ought, in my humble opinion, instead of a whipping, to have a statue erected to my memory.”
THE DRINKER’S DICTIONARY
He is addled.
He ’s casting up his accounts.
He ’s in his airs.
He ’s Biggy.
He ’s Block and Block.
Been at Barbadoes.
Drunk as a Wheelbarrow.
Has stole a Manchet out of the Brewer’s Basket.
His head is full of Bees.
Has been in the Bibbing Plot.
drank more than he has bled.
He ’s Bungey.
As drunk as a Beggar.
He sees the Bears.
He ’s kiss’d Black Betty.
had a thump over the head with Sampson’s Jawbone.
He ’s Cat.
He ’s Cramp’d.
Half way to Concord.
Has taken a Chirriping-Glass.
Got Corns in his head.
A Cup too much.
He ’s heat his Copper.
He cuts his Capers.
He ’s been in the Cellar.
in his Cups.
Loaded his Cart.
Been too free with the Creature.
Sir Richard has taken off his Considering Cap.
He ’s Chap-fallen.
He ’s Disguiz’d.
Got a Dish.
Killed his Dog.
Took his Drops.
It is a Dark Day with him.
He ’s a Dead Man.
Has Dipp’d his Bill.
He ’s Dagg’d.
seen the Devil.
He ’s Prince Eugene.
Wet both Eyes.
Got the Pole Evil.
Got a brass Eye.
Made an Example.
Eat a Load & a half for breakfast.
In his Element.
He ’s Fishey.
Well in for ’t.
He Owes no man a Farthing.
Fears no Man.
He ’s Crump Footed.
Been to France.
Froze his Mouth.
Been to a Funeral.
His Flag is out.
He ’s Fuzl’d.
Spoke with his Friend.
Been at an Indian Feast.
He ’s Glad.
Booz’d the Gage.
As Dizzy as a Gooze.
Been before George.
Got the Gout.
Had a Kick in the Guts.
Been with Sir John Goa.
Been at Geneva.
He ’s Globular.
Got the Glanders.
He ’s Half and Half.
Got by the Head.
Got on his little Hat.
Loose in the Hilts.
Knows not the way Home.
Got the Hornson.
Haunted with Evil Spirits.
Has taken Hippocrates’ Grand Elixir.
He ’s Intoxicated.
He ’s Jolly.
Going to Jerusalem.
He ’s Been to Jerico.
He ’s a King.
Clips the King’s English.
Seen the French King.
The King is his Cousin.
Got Kib’d Heels.
Het his Kettle.
He ’s in Liquor.
He makes Indentures with his Leggs.
Well to Live.
He sees two Moons.
He ’s Middling.
Seen a Flock of Moons.
Rais’d his Monuments.
He ’s Eat the Cocoa Nut.
Got the Night Mare.
He ’s Oiled.
Smelt of an Onion.
He drank till he gave up his Half Penny.
He ’s Pidgeon Ey’d.
He ’s Priddy.
As good conditioned as a Puppy.
Has Scalt his Head Pan.
Been among the Philistines.
In his Prosperity.
He ’s been among the Philippians.
contending with Pharaoh.
Wasted his Paunch.
Eats a Pudding Bag.
He ’s Quarrelsome.
He ’s Rocky.
Lost his Rudder.
Been too free with Sir Richard.
Like a Rat in Trouble.
He ’s Stitch’d.
In the Sudds.
Been in the Sun.
as Drunk as David’s Sow.
His Skin is full.
He ’s Steady.
burnt his Shoulder.
got his Top Gallant Sails out.
Seen the yellow Star.
As Stiff as a Ring-bolt.
Half Seas over.
His Shoe pinches him.
He ’s Staggerish.
It is Star - light with him.
He carries too much Sail.
He ’s Stew’d.
Been too free with Sir John Strawberry.
He ’s right before the wind with all his Studding Sails out.
Has sold his Senses.
He ’s Top’d.
swallowed a Tavern Token.
in a Trance.
He makes Virginia Fence.
Got the Indian Vapours.
The Malt is above the Water.
He ’s Wise.
He ’s Wet.
been to the Salt Water.
He ’s Water Soaken.
Out of the Way.
I was highly pleased with your last week’s paper upon Scandal, as the uncommon doctrine therein preached is agreeable both to my principles and practice, and as it was published very seasonably to reprove the impertinence of a writer in the foregoing Thursday’s Mercury, who, at the conclusion of one of his silly paragraphs, laments forsooth, that the fair sex are so peculiarly guilty of this enormous crime. Every blockhead, ancient and modern, that could handle a pen, has, I think, taken upon him to cant in the same senseless strain. If to scandalize be really a crime, what do these puppies mean? They describe it, they dress it up in the most odious, frightful, and detestable colors, they represent it as the worst of crimes, and then roundly and charitably charge the whole race of womankind with it. Are not they then guilty of what they condemn, at the same time that they condemn it? If they accuse us of any other crime, they must necessarily scandalize while they do it; but to scandalize us with being guilty of scandal, is in itself an egregious absurdity, and can proceed from nothing but the most consummate impudence in conjunction with the most profound stupidity.
This supposing, as they do, that to scandalize is a crime, you have convinced all reasonable people is an opinion absolutely erroneous. Let us leave, then, these select mock-moralists, while I entertain you with some account of my life and manners.
I am a young girl of about thirty-five, and live at present with my mother. I have no care upon my head of getting a living, and therefore find it my duty, as well as inclination, to exercise my talent at censure, for the good of my country-folks. There was, I am told, a certain generous emperor, who, if a day had passed over his head in which he had conferred no benefit on any man, used to say to his friends, in Latin, diem perdidi, that is, it seems, I have lost a day. I believe I should make use of the same expression, if it were possible for a day to pass in which I had not, or missed, an opportunity to scandalize somebody; but, thanks be praised, no such misfortune has befell me these dozen years.
Yet, whatever good I may do, I cannot pretend that I at first entered into the practice of this virtue from a principle of public spirit; for I remember that, when a child, I had a violent inclination to be ever talking in my own praise; and being continually told that it was ill manners, and once severely whipped for it, the confined stream formed for itself a new channel, and I began to speak for the future in the dispraise of others. This I found more agreeable to company, and almost as much so to myself; for what great difference can there be between putting yourself up, or putting your neighbour down? Scandal, like other virtues, is in part its own reward, as it gives us the satisfaction of making ourselves appear better than others, or others no better than ourselves.
My mother, good woman, and I, have heretofore differed upon this account. She argued, that scandal spoilt all good conversation; and I insisted that without it there would be no such thing. Our disputes once rose so high that we parted tea-tables, and I concluded to entertain my acquaintance in the kitchen. The first day of this separation we both drank tea at the same time, but she with her visitors in the parlour. She would not hear of the least objection to any one’s character, but began a new sort of discourse in some such queer philosophical manner as this: “I am mightily pleased sometimes,” says she, “when I observe and consider that the world is not so bad as people out of humor imagine it to be. There is something amiable, some good quality or other, in every body. If we were only to speak of people that are least respected, there is such a one is very dutiful to her father, and methinks has a fine set of teeth; such a one is very respectful to her husband; such a one is very kind to her poor neighbours, and, besides, has a very handsome shape; such a one is always ready to serve a friend, and, in my opinion, there is not a woman in town that has a more agreeable air or gait.” This fine kind of talk, which lasted near half an hour, she concluded by saying, “I do not doubt but every one of you has made the like observations, and I should be glad to have the conversation continued upon this subject.” Just at this juncture I peeped in at the door, and never in my life before saw such a set of simple, vacant countenances. They looked somehow neither glad nor sorry, nor angry nor pleased, nor indifferent nor attentive; but (excuse the simile) like so many images of rye-dough. I, in the kitchen, had already begun a ridiculous story of Mr. ——’s intrigue with his maid, and his wife’s behaviour on the discovery; at some of the passages we laughed heartily; and one of the gravest of mamma’s company, without making any answer to her discourse, got up to go and see what the girls were so merry about. She was followed by a second, and shortly by a third, till at last the old gentlewoman found herself quite alone, and being convinced that her project was impracticable, came herself and finished her tea with us; ever since which Saul also has been among the prophets, and our disputes lie dormant.
By industry and application I have made myself the centre of all the scandal in the province. There is little stirring, but I hear of it. I began the world with this maxim, that no trade can subsist without returns, and, accordingly, whenever I received a good story, I endeavoured to give two or a better in the room of it. My punctuality in this way of dealing gave such encouragement, that it has procured me an incredible deal of business, which, without diligence and good method, it would be impossible for me to go through. For, besides the stock of defamation thus naturally flowing in upon me, I practise an art by which I can pump scandal out of people that are the least inclined that way. Shall I discover my secret? Yes; to let it die with me would be inhuman. If I have never heard ill of some person, I always impute it to defective intelligence; for there are none without their faults; no, not one. If she be a woman, I take the first opportunity to let all her acquaintance know I have heard that one of the handsomest or best men in town has said something in praise either of her beauty, her wit, her virtue, or her good management. If you know any thing of human nature, you perceive that this naturally introduces a conversation turning upon all her failings, past, present, and to come. To the same purpose, and with the same success, I cause every man of reputation to be praised before his competitors in love, business, or esteem, on account of any particular qualification. Near the times of election, if I find it necessary, I commend every candidate before some of the opposite party, listening attentively to what is said of him in answer. But commendations in this latter case are not always necessary, and should be used judiciously. Of late years I needed only observe what they said of one another freely; and having, for the help of memory, taken account of all informations and accusations received, whoever peruses my writings after my death may happen to think that during a certain time the people of Pennsylvania chose into all their offices of honor and trust the veriest knaves, fools, and rascals in the whole province. The time of election used to be a busy time with me; but this year, with concern I speak it, people are grown so good-natured, so intent upon mutual feasting and friendly entertainment, that I see no prospect of much employment from that quarter.
I mentioned above, that without good method I could not go through my business. In my father’s lifetime I had some instruction in accounts, which I now apply with advantage to my own affairs. I keep a regular set of books, and can tell, at an hour’s warning, how it stands between me and the world. In my Daybook I enter every article of defamation as it is transacted; for scandals received in I give credit, and when I pay them out again I make the persons to whom they respectively relate debtor. In my Journal I add to each story, by way of improvement, such probable circumstances as I think it will bear; and in my Ledger the whole is regularly posted.
I suppose the reader already condemns me in his heart for this particular of adding circumstances; but I justify this part of my practice thus. It is a principle with me, that none ought to have a greater share of reputation than they really deserve; if they have, it is an imposition upon the public. I know it is every one’s interest, and therefore believe they endeavour to conceal all their vices and follies; and I hold that those people are extraordinary foolish or careless, who suffer one fourth of their failings to come to public knowledge. Taking then the common prudence and imprudence of mankind in a lump, I suppose none suffer above one fifth to be discovered; therefore, when I hear of any person’s misdoing, I think I keep within bounds if in relating it I only make it three times worse than it is; and I reserve to myself the privilege of charging them with one fault in four, which for aught I know they may be entirely innocent of. You see, there are but few so careful of doing justice as myself. What reason then have mankind to complain of scandal? In a general way the worst that is said of us is only half what might be said, if all our faults were seen.
But, alas! two great evils have lately befallen me at the same time: an extreme cold, that I can scarce speak; and a most terrible tooth-ache, that I dare hardly open my mouth. For some days past I have received ten stories for one I have paid; and I am not able to balance my accounts without your assistance. I have long thought that if you would make your paper a vehicle of scandal, you would double the number of your subscribers. I send you herewith accounts of four knavish tricks, two * * *, five * * * * *, three drubbed wives, and four henpecked husbands, all within this fortnight; which you may, as articles of news, deliver to the public, and, if my tooth-ache continues, I shall send you more, being in the mean time your constant reader,
I thank my correspondent, Mrs. Addertongue, for her good will, but desire to be excused inserting the articles of news she has sent me, such things being in reality no news at all.
A CASE OF CASUISTRY
to the printer of the “gazette”
According to the request of your correspondent, T. P., I send you my thoughts on the following case by him proposed, viz.:
A man bargains for the keeping of his horse six months, whilst he is making a voyage to Barbadoes. The horse strays or is stolen soon after the keeper has him in possession. When the owner demands the value of his horse in money, may not the other as justly demand so much deducted as the keeping of the horse six months amounts to?
It does not appear that they had any dispute about the value of the horse, whence we may conclude there was no reason for such dispute, but it was well known how much he cost, and that he could not honestly have been sold again for more. But the value of the horse is not expressed in the case, nor the sum agreed for keeping him six months; wherefore, in order to our more clear apprehension of the thing, let ten pounds represent the horse’s value, and three pounds the sum agreed upon for his keeping.
Now the sole foundation on which the keeper can found his demand of a deduction for keeping a horse he did not keep, is this: “Your horse,” he may say, “which I was to restore to you at the end of six months, was worth ten pounds; if I now give you ten pounds, it is an equivalent for your horse, and equal to returning the horse itself. Had I returned your horse (value ten pounds), you would have paid me three pounds for his keeping, and therefore would have received in fact, but seven pounds clear. You then suffer no injury, if I now pay you seven pounds, and consequently you ought in reason to allow me the remaining three pounds, according to our agreement.”
But the owner of the horse may possibly insist upon being paid the whole sum of ten pounds, without allowing any deduction for his keeping after he was lost, and that for these reasons:
1. It is always supposed, unless an express agreement be made to the contrary, when horses are put out to keep, that the keeper is at the risk of them, unavoidable accidents only excepted, wherein no care of the keeper can be supposed sufficient to preserve them, such as their being slain by lightning or the like. This you yourself tacitly allow when you offer to restore me the value of my horse. Were it otherwise, people, having no security against a keeper’s neglect or mismanagement, would never put horses out to keep.
2. Keepers, considering the risk they run, always demand such a price for keeping horses that, if they were to follow the business twenty years, they may have a living profit, though they now and then pay for a horse they have lost; and if they were to be at no risk they might afford to keep horses for less than they usually have. So that what a man pays for his horse’s keeping, more than the keeper could afford to take if he ran no risk, is in the nature of a premium for the insurance of his horse. If I then pay you for the few days you kept my horse, you should restore me his full value.
3. You acknowledge that my horse eat of your hay and oats but a few days. It is unjust, then, to charge me for all the hay and oats that he only might have eat in the remainder of the six months, and which you have now still good in your stable. If, as the proverb says, it is unreasonable to expect a horse should void oats, which never eat any, it is certainly as unreasonable to expect payment for those oats.
4. If men in such cases as this are to be paid for keeping horses when they were not kept, then they have a great opportunity of wronging the owners of horses. For by privately selling my horse for his value (ten pounds) soon after you had him in possession, and returning me, at the expiration of the time, only seven pounds, demanding three pounds as a deduction agreed for his keeping, you get that three pounds clear into your pocket, besides the use of my money six months for nothing.
5. But, you say, the value of my horse being ten pounds, if you deduct three for his keeping and return me seven, it is all I would in fact have received had you returned my horse; therefore, as I am no loser, I ought to be satisfied. This argument, were there any weight in it, might serve to justify a man in selling, as above, as many of the horses he takes to keep as he conveniently can, putting clear into his own pocket that charge their owners must have been at for their keeping; for, this being no loss to the owners, he may say: “Where no man is a loser, why should not I be a gainer?” I need only answer to this, that I allow the horse cost me but ten pounds, nor could I have sold him for more had I been disposed to part with him; but this can be no reason why you should buy him of me at that price, whether I will sell him or not. For it is plain I valued him at thirteen pounds, otherwise I should not have paid ten pounds for him, and agreed to give you three pounds more for his keeping till I had occasion to use him. Thus, though you pay me the whole ten pounds which he cost me (deducting only for his keeping those few days), I am still a loser: I lose the charge of those days’ keeping; I lose the three pounds at which I valued him above what he cost me; and I lose the advantage I might have made of my money in six months, either by the interest, or by joining it to my stock in trade in my voyage to Barbadoes.
6. Lastly, whenever a horse is put to keep, the agreement naturally runs thus: The keeper says: “I will feed your horse six months on good hay and oats, if, at the end of that time, you pay me three pounds.” The owner says: “If you will feed my horse six months on good hay and oats, I will pay you three pounds at the end of that time.” Now we may plainly see the keeper’s performance of his part of the agreement must be antecedent to that of the owner; and, the agreement being wholly conditional, the owner’s part is not in force till the keeper has performed his. You, then, not having fed my horse six months, as you agreed to do, there lies no obligation on me to pay for so much feeding.
Thus we have heard what can be said on both sides. Upon the whole, I am of opinion that no deduction should be allowed for the keeping of the horse after the time of his straying.
I am yours, &c.,
[1 ]It does not appear that this scheme was ever carried into execution.
[2 ]Dr. John Mitchell was a learned physician and botanist, and Fellow of the Royal Society. He was a native of England, but came over and established himself in Virginia. Dr. Miller says that “he wrote ably on the yellow fever, as it appeared in Virginia in 1742; and that his instructive manuscripts on this subject fell into the hands of Dr. Franklin, by whom they were communicated to Dr. Rush.”—Miller’s Retrospect, vol. i., p. 318.
[1 ]The father of Dr. Samuel Bard, of whom an interesting memoir has been published by Professor McVickar.
[1 ]A printer in New York.
[1 ]The expedition against Cape Breton proved successful, by the surrender of Louisburg, on the 17th of June. The news arrived in Boston on the 3d of July.
[1 ]Two of the more elaborate of Franklin’s jokes in the Pennsylvania Gazette says Mr. Parton in his charming biography of Franklin, have escaped the vigilance of editors hitherto. The speech of Polly Baker is one of these; which is not only humorous, but well rebukes the cruel immorality which sent a poor miserable drab to the whipping-post, and invited her seducer to dinner. This speech was a current joke in the colonial press for thirty years, and continued to be occasionally reprinted after the Revolution. It was inserted in the Gazette, Franklin tells us, to amuse the town at a time when there was little news stirring.