Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1747: XLII: PLAIN TRUTH OR SERIOUS CONSIDERATIONS ON THE PRESENT STATE OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA AND PROVINCE OF PENNSYLVANIA - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. II Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753
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1747: XLII: PLAIN TRUTH OR SERIOUS CONSIDERATIONS ON THE PRESENT STATE OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA AND PROVINCE OF PENNSYLVANIA - 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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PLAIN TRUTH OR SERIOUS CONSIDERATIONS ON THE PRESENT STATE OF THE CITY OF PHILADELPHIA AND PROVINCE OF PENNSYLVANIA
Captâ urbe, nihil fit reliqui victis. Sed, per deos immortales, vos ego appello, qui semper domos, villas, signa, tabulas vestras, [tantæ æstimationis] fecistis; si ista, cujuscumque modi sint, quæ amplexamini, retinere, si voluptatibus vestris otium præbere vultis; expergiscimini aliquando, et capessite rempublicam. Non agitur [nunc] . . . . de sociorum injuriis; libertas et anima nostra in dubio est. . . . . . Duc hostium cum exercitu supra caput est. Vos cunctamini etiam nunc, et dubitatis quid . . . . . faciatis? . . . . . Scilicet res ipsa aspera est, sed vos non timetis eam. Imo vero maxime; sed inertiâ et mollitiâ animi, alius alium exspectantes, cunctamini; videlicet diis immortalibus confisi, qui hanc rempublicam in maximis sæpe periculis servavere. Non votis neque suppliciis muliebribus, auxilia deorum parantur; vigilando, agendo, bene consulendo, prospere omnia cedunt. Ubi socordiæ te atque ignaviæ tradideris, nequicquam deos implores; irati infestique sunt.—M. por. Cato, in Sallust.
Should the city be taken, all will be lost to the conquered. Therefore, if you desire to preserve your buildings, houses, and country-seats, your statues, paintings, and all your other possessions, which you so highly esteem; if you wish to continue in the enjoyment of them, or to have leisure for any future pleasures, I beseech you by the immortal Gods, rouse at last, awake from your lethargy, and save the commonwealth. It is not the trifling concern of injuries from your allies that demands your attention; your liberties, lives, and fortunes, with every thing that is interesting and dear to you, are in the most imminent danger. Can you doubt of or delay what you ought to do, now, when the enemy’s swords are unsheathed, and descending on your heads? The affair is shocking and horrid! Yet, perhaps, you are not afraid. Yes, you are terrified to the highest degree. But through indolence and supineness of soul, gazing at each other, to see who shall first rise to your succor; and a presumptuous dependence on the immortal Gods, who indeed have preserved this republic in many dangerous seasons; you delay and neglect every thing necessary for your preservation. Be not deceived; Divine assistance and protection are not to be obtained by timorous prayers and womanish supplications. To succeed, you must join salutary counsels, vigilance, and courageous actions. If you sink into effeminacy and cowardice; if you desert the tender and helpless, by Providence committed to your charge, never presume to implore the Gods; it will provoke them, and raise their indignation against you.1
It is said the wise Italians make this proverbial remark on our nation, viz.: “The English feel but they do not see.” That is, they are sensible of inconveniences when they are present, but do not take sufficient care to prevent them; their natural courage makes them too little apprehensive of danger, so that they are often surprised by it, unprovided of the proper means of security. When it is too late they are sensible of their imprudence; after great fires they provide buckets and engines; after a pestilence they think of keeping clean their streets and common sewers; and when a town has been sacked by their enemies, they provide for its defence, &c. This kind of after-wisdom is indeed so common with us as to occasion the vulgar though very significant saying, When the steed is stolen you shut the stable door.
But the more insensible we generally are of public danger and indifferent when warned of it, so much the more freely, openly, and earnestly ought such as apprehend it, to speak their sentiments, that, if possible, those who seem to sleep, may be awakened to think of some means of avoiding or preventing the mischief before it be too late.
Believing, therefore, that it is my duty, I shall honestly speak my mind in the following paper.
War at this time rages over a great part of the known world; our newspapers are weekly filled with fresh accounts of the destruction it everywhere occasions. Pennsylvania, indeed, situate in the centre of the colonies, has hitherto enjoyed profound repose; and though our nation is engaged in a bloody war with two great and powerful kingdoms, yet, defended in a great degree from the French on the one hand, by the northern provinces, and from the Spaniards on the other, by the southern, at no small expense to each, our people have till lately slept securely in their habitations.
There is no British colony, excepting this, but has made some kind of provision for its defence; many of them have therefore never been attempted by an enemy; and others that were attacked have generally defended themselves with success. The length and difficulty of our bay and river have been thought so effectual a security to us, that hitherto no means have been entered into that might discourage an attempt upon us or prevent its succeeding.
But whatever security this might have been while both country and city were poor, and the advantage to be expected scarce worth the hazard of an attempt, it is now doubted whether we can any longer safely depend upon it. Our wealth, of late years much increased, is one strong temptation, our defenceless state another, to induce an enemy to attack us; while the acquaintance they have lately gained with our bay and river, by means of the prisoners and flags of truce they have had among us, by spies which they almost everywhere maintain, and perhaps from traitors among ourselves; with the facility of getting pilots to conduct them; and the known absence of ships of war during the greatest part of the year from both Virginia and New York ever since the war began, render the appearance of success to the enemy far more promising, and therefore highly increase our danger.
That our enemies may have spies abroad, and some even in these colonies, will not be made much doubt of, when it is considered that such has been the practice of all nations in all ages, whenever they were engaged, or intended to engage, in war. Of this we have an early example in the Book of Judges (too pertinent to our case, and therefore I must beg leave a little to enlarge upon it), where we are told (Chap. xviii. v. 2,) that the children of Dan sent of their family five men from their coasts to spy out the land, and search it, saying, Go, search the land. These Danites, it seems, were at this time not very orthodox in their religion, and their spies met with a certain idolatrous priest of their own persuasion (v. 3), and they said to him, Who brought thee hither? What makest thou in this place? And what hast thou here? [Would to God no such priests were to be found among us.] And they said unto him (v. 5), Ask counsel of God, that we may know whether our way which we go shall be prosperous; and the priest said unto them, Go in peace; before the Lord is your way wherein you go. [Are there no priests among us, think you, that might, in the like case, give an enemy as good encouragement? It is well known that we have numbers of the same religion with those who of late encouraged the French to invade our mother country.] And they came (v. 7), to Laish, and saw the people that were therein, how they dweltcareless,after the manner of the Zidonians,quiet,andsecure. They thought themselves secure, no doubt; and as they never had been disturbed, vainly imagined they never should be. It is not unlikely that some might see the danger they were exposed to by living in that careless manner; but that, if these publicly expressed their apprehensions, the rest reproached them as timorous persons, wanting courage or confidence in their gods, who (they might say) had hitherto protected them. But the spies (v. 8) returned, and said to their countrymen (v. 9): Arise, that we may go up against them; for we have seen the land, and behold it is very good. And are ye still? Be not slothful to go. (Verse 10): When ye go, ye shall come to a peoplesecure [that is, a people that apprehend no danger, and therefore have made no provision against it; great encouragement this!], and to a large land, and a place where there is no want of any thing. What could they desire more? Accordingly, we find in the following verses that six hundred men only, appointed with weapons of war, undertook the conquest of this large land; knowing that six hundred men, armed and disciplined, would be an overmatch perhaps for sixty thousand unarmed, undisciplined, and off their guard. And when they went against it, the idolatrous priest (v. 17), with his graven image, and his ephod, and his teraphim, and his molten image (plenty of superstitious trinkets), joined with them, and, no doubt, gave them all the intelligence and assistance in his power; his heart, as the text assures us, being glad, perhaps for reasons more than one. And, now, what was the fate of poor Laish? The six hundred men being arrived, found, as the spies had reported, a people quiet and secure (vv. 27, 28). And they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city withfire;and there was nodeliverer,because it was far from Zidon.—Not so far from Zidon, however, as Pennsylvania is from Britain; and yet we are, if possible, more careless than the people of Laish! As the Scriptures are given for our reproof, instruction, and warning, may we make a due use of this example before it be too late!
And is our country, any more than our city, altogether free from danger? Perhaps not. We have, it is true, had a long peace with the Indians; but it is a long peace indeed, as well as a long lane, that has no ending. The French know the power and importance of the Six Nations, and spare no artifice, pains, or expense to gain them to their interest. By their priests they have converted many to their religion, and these1 have openly espoused their cause. The rest appear irresolute what part to take; no persuasions, though enforced with costly presents, having yet been able to engage them generally on our side, though we had numerous forces on their borders ready to second and support them. What then may be expected, now those forces are, by orders from the crown, to be disbanded; when our boasted expedition is laid aside through want (as it may appear to them) either of strength or courage; when they see that the French and their Indians boldly and with impunity ravage the frontiers of New York, and scalp the inhabitants; when those few Indians that engaged with us against the French are left exposed to their resentment? When they consider these things, is there no danger, through disgust at our usage, joined with fear of the French power, and greater confidence in their promises and protection than in ours, they may be wholly gained over by our enemies, and join in the war against us? If such should be the case, which God forbid, how soon may the mischief spread to our frontier counties? And what may we expect to be the consequence, but desertion of plantations, ruin, bloodshed, and confusion?
Perhaps some in the city, towns, and plantations near the river may say to themselves: “An Indian war on the frontiers will not affect us; the enemy will never come near our habitations; let those concerned take care of themselves.” And others who live in the country, when they are told of the danger the city is in from attempts by sea, may say: “What is that to us? The enemy will be satisfied with the plunder of the town, and never think it worth his while to visit our plantations; let the town take care of itself.” These are not mere suppositions, for I have heard some talk in this strange manner. But are these the sentiments of true Pennsylvanians, of fellow-countrymen, or even of men that have common-sense or goodness? Is not the whole province one body, united by living under the same laws and enjoying the same privileges? Are not the people of city and country connected as relations, both by blood and marriage, and in friendships equally dear? Are they not likewise united in interest, and mutually useful and necessary to each other? When the feet are wounded, shall the head say: “It is not I; I will not trouble myself to contrive relief!” Or if the head is in danger, shall the hands say: “We are not affected, and therefore will lend no assistance!” No. For so would the body be easily destroyed; but when all parts join their endeavours for its security, it is often preserved. And such should be the union between the country and the town; and such their mutual endeavours for the safety of the whole. When New England, a distant colony, involved itself in a grievous debt to reduce Cape Breton, we freely gave four thousand pounds for her relief. And at another time, remembering that Great Britain, still more distant, groaned under heavy taxes in supporting the war, we threw in our mite to her assistance, by a free gift of three thousand pounds; and shall country and town join in helping strangers (as those comparatively are), and yet refuse to assist each other?
But whatever different opinions we have of our security in other respects, our trade, all seem to agree, is in danger of being ruined in another year. The great success of our enemies, in two different cruises this last summer in our bay, must give them the greatest encouragement to repeat more frequently their visits, the profit being almost certain, and the risk next to nothing. Will not the first effect of this be an enhancing of the price of all foreign goods to the tradesman and farmer who use or consume them? For the rate of insurance will increase in proportion to the hazard of importing them; and in the same proportion will the price of those goods increase. If the price of the tradesman’s work and the farmer’s produce would increase equally with the price of foreign commodities, the damage would not be so great; but the direct contrary must happen. For the same hazard or rate of insurance that raises the price of what is imported, must be deducted out of and lower the price of what is exported. Without this addition and deduction, as long as the enemy cruise at our capes, and take those vessels that attempt to go out, as well as those that endeavour to come in, none can afford to trade, and business must be soon at a stand. And will not the consequences be a discouragement of many of the vessels that used to come from other places to purchase our produce, and thereby a turning of the trade to ports that can be entered with less danger, and capable of furnishing them with the same commodities as New York, &c.; a lessening of business to every shopkeeper, together with multitudes of bad debts, the high rate of goods discouraging the buyers, and the low rates of their labor and produce rendering them unable to pay for what they had bought; loss of employment to the tradesman, and bad pay for what little he does; and, lastly, loss of many inhabitants, who will retire to other provinces not subject to the like inconveniences; whence a lowering of the value of lands, lots, and houses?
The enemy, no doubt, have been told that the people of Pennsylvania are Quakers, and against all defence, from a principle of conscience. This, though true of a part, and that a small part only, of the inhabitants, is commonly said of the whole; and what may make it look probable to strangers is that, in fact, nothing is done by any part of the people towards their defence. But to refuse defending one’s self, or one’s country, is so unusual a thing among mankind, that possibly they may not believe it till, by experience, they find they can come higher and higher up our river, seize our vessels, land and plunder our plantations and villages, and retire with their booty unmolested. Will not this confirm the report, and give them the greatest encouragement to strike one bold stroke for the city and for the whole plunder of the river?
It is said by some that the expense of a vessel to guard our trade would be very heavy, greater than perhaps all the enemy can be supposed to take from us at sea would amount to, and that it would be cheaper for the government to open an insurance office and pay all losses. But is this right reasoning? I think not; for what the enemy takes is clear loss to us and gain to him, increasing his riches and strength as much as it diminishes ours, so making the difference double; whereas the money paid our own tradesmen for building and fitting out a vessel of defence remains in the country and circulates among us; what is paid to the officers and seamen that navigate her is also spent ashore, and soon gets into other hands; the farmer receives the money for her provisions, and, on the whole, nothing is clearly lost to the country but her wear and tear, or so much as she sells for at the end of the war less than her first cost. This loss, and a trifling one it is, is all the inconvenience; but how many and how great are the conveniences and advantages! And should the enemy, through our supineness and neglect to provide for the defence both of our trade and country, be encouraged to attempt this city, and, after plundering us of our goods, either burn it or put it to ransom, how great would that loss be, besides the confusion, terror, and distress so many hundreds of families would be involved in!
The thought of this latter circumstance so much affects me that I cannot forbear expatiating somewhat more upon it. You have, my dear countrymen and fellow-citizens, riches to tempt a considerable force to unite and attack you, but are under no ties or engagements to unite for your defence. Hence, on the first alarm, terror will spread over all; and as no man can with certainty depend that another will stand by him, beyond doubt very many will seek safety by a speedy flight. Those that are reputed rich will flee through fear of torture to make them produce more than they are able. The man that has a wife and children will find them hanging on his neck, beseeching him with tears to quit the city and save his life, to guide and protect them in that time of general desolation and ruin. All will run into confusion, amidst cries and lamentations, and the hurry and disorder of departers carrying away their effects. The few that remain will be unable to resist. Sacking the city will be the first, and burning it, in all probability, the last act of the enemy. This, I believe, will be the case if you have timely notice. But what must be your condition, if suddenly surprised, without previous alarm, perhaps in the night! Confined to your houses, you will have nothing to trust to but the enemy’s mercy. Your best fortune will be to fall under the power of commanders of king’s ships able to control the mariners, and not into the hands of licentious privateers. Who can, without the utmost horror, conceive the miseries from the latter, when your persons, fortunes, wives, and daughters shall be subject to the wanton and unbridled rage, rapine, and lust of negroes, mulattoes, and others, the vilest and most abandoned of mankind.1 A dreadful scene! which some may represent as exaggerated. I think it my duty to warn you; judge for yourselves.
It is true, with very little notice the rich may shift for themselves. The means of speedy flight are ready in their hands; and with some previous care to lodge money and effects in distant and secure places, though they should lose much, yet enough may be left them, and to spare. But most unhappily circumstanced indeed are we, the middling people, the tradesmen, shopkeepers, and farmers of the province and city! We cannot all fly with our families; and if we could, how shall we subsist? No; we and they, and what little we have gained by hard labor and industry, must bear the brunt; the weight of contributions extorted by the enemy (as it is of taxes among ourselves) must be surely borne by us. Nor can it be avoided, as we stand at present; for though we are numerous we are quite defenceless, having neither forts, arms, union, nor discipline. And though it were true that our trade might be protected at no great expense, and our country and our city easily defended, if proper measures were but taken, yet who shall take these measures? Who shall pay that expense? On whom may we fix our eyes with the least expectation that they will do any thing for our security? Should we address that wealthy and powerful body of people who have ever since the war governed our elections and filled almost every seat in our Assembly;—should we entreat them to consider, if not as friends, at least as legislators, that protection is as truly due from the government to the people, as obedience from the people to the government; and that if, on account of their religious scruples, they themselves could do no act for our defence, yet they might retire, relinquish their power for a season, quit the helm to freer hands during the present tempest—to hands, chosen by their own interest too, whose prudence and moderation, with regard to them, they might safely confide in, secure, from their own native strength, of resuming again their present station whenever it shall please them;—should we remind them, that the public money, raised from all, belongs to all; that since they have, for their own ease, and to secure themselves in the quiet enjoyment of their religious principles (and may they long enjoy them), expended such large sums to oppose petitions, and engage favorable representations of their conduct, if they themselves could by no means be free to appropriate any part of the public money for our defence, yet it would be no more than justice to spare us a reasonable sum for that purpose, which they might easily give to the King’s use as heretofore, leaving all the appropriation to others, who would faithfully apply it as we desired;—should we tell them, that, though the treasury be at present empty, it may soon be filled by the outstanding public debts collected, or at least credit might be had for such a sum, on a single vote of the Assembly; that though they themselves may be resigned and easy under this naked, defenceless state of the country, it is far otherwise with a very great part of the people,—with us, who can have no confidence that God will protect those that neglect the use of rational means for their security, nor have any reason to hope that our losses, if we should suffer any, may be made up by collections in our favor at home;—should we conjure them by all the ties of neighbourhood, friendship, justice, and humanity to consider these things; and what distraction, misery, and confusion, what desolation and distress, may possibly be the effect of their unseasonable predominancy and perseverance:—yet all would be in vain; for they have already been, by great numbers of the people, petitioned in vain. Our late Governor did for years solicit, request, and even threaten them in vain. The Council have since twice remonstrated to them in vain. Their religious prepossessions are unchangeable, their obstinacy invincible. Is there, then, the least hope remaining, that from that quarter any thing should arise for our security?
And is our prospect better, if we turn our eyes to the strength of the opposite party, those great and rich men, merchants and others, who are ever railing at Quakers for doing what their principles seem to require, and what in charity we ought to believe they think their duty, but take no one step themselves for the public safety? They have so much wealth and influence, if they would use it, that they might easily, by their endeavours and example, raise a military spirit among us, make us fond, studious of, and expert in, martial discipline, and effect every thing that is necessary, under God, for our protection. But envy seems to have taken possession of their hearts, and to have eaten out and destroyed every generous, noble, public-spirited sentiment. Rage, at the disappointment of their little schemes for power, gnaws their souls, and fills them with such cordial hatred to their opponents, that every proposal, by the execution of which those may receive benefit as well as themselves, is rejected with indignation. “What,” they say, “shall we lay out our money to protect the trade of Quakers? Shall we fight to defend Quakers? No; let the trade perish, and the city burn; let what will happen, we shall never lift a finger to prevent it.” Yet the Quakers have conscience to plead for their resolution not to fight, which these gentlemen have not. Conscience with you, gentlemen, is on the other side of the question; conscience enjoins it as a duty on you (and, indeed, I think it such on every man) to defend your country, your friends, your aged parents, your wives, and helpless children; and yet you resolve not to perform this duty, but act contrary to your own consciences, because the Quakers act according to theirs. Till of late, I could scarce believe the story of him who refused to pump in a sinking ship, because one on board, whom he hated, would be saved by it as well as himself. But such, it seems, is the unhappiness of human nature, that our passions, when violent, often are too hard for the united force of reason, duty, and religion.
Thus unfortunately are we circumstanced at this time, my dear countrymen and fellow-citizens; we, I mean, the middling people, the farmers, shopkeepers, and tradesmen of this city and country. Through the dissensions of our leaders, through mistaken principles of religion, joined with a love of worldly power, on the one hand; through pride, envy, and implacable resentment on the other; our lives, our families, and little fortunes, dear to us as any great man’s can be to him, are to remain continually exposed to destruction from an enterprising, cruel, now well-informed, and by success, encouraged enemy. It seems as if Heaven, justly displeased at our growing wickedness, and determined to punish1 this once-favored land, had suffered our chiefs to engage in these foolish and mischievous contentions for little posts and paltry distinctions, that our hands might be bound up, our understandings darkened and misled, and every means of our security neglected. It seems as if our greatest men, our cives nobilissimi2 of both parties, had sworn the ruin of the country, and invited the French, our most inveterate enemy, to destroy it. Where then shall we seek for succour and protection? The government we are immediately under denies it to us; and if the enemy comes, we are far from Zidon, and there is no deliverer near. Our case is dangerously bad; but perhaps there is yet a remedy, if we have but the prudence and the spirit to apply it.
If this new, flourishing city and greatly improving colony is destroyed and ruined, it will not be for want of numbers of inhabitants able to bear arms in its defence. It is computed that we have at least (exclusive of the Quakers) sixty thousand fighting men, acquainted with firearms, many of them hunters and marksmen, hardy and bold. All we want is order, discipline, and a few cannon. At present we are like the separate filaments of flax before the thread is formed, without strength, because without connexion; but union would make us strong and even formidable, though the great should neither help nor join us; though they should even oppose our uniting, from some mean views of their own, yet, if we resolve upon it, and it pleases God to inspire us with the necessary prudence and vigor, it may be effected. Great numbers of our people are of British race; and, though the fierce fighting animals of those happy Islands are said to abate their native fire and intrepidity when removed to a foreign clime, yet with the people it is not so; our neighbours of New England afford the world a convincing proof that Britons, though a hundred years transplanted, and to the remotest part of the earth, may yet retain, even to the third and fourth descent, that zeal for the public good, that military prowess, and that undaunted spirit which has in every age distinguished their nation. What numbers have we likewise of thosebrave people, whose fathers in the last age made so glorious a stand for our religion and liberties, when invaded by a powerful French army, joined by Irish Catholics, under a bigoted Popish king! Let the memorable siege of Londonderry, and the signal actions of the Iniskillingers, by which the heart of that Prince’s schemes were broken, be perpetual testimonies of the courage and conduct of those noble warriors! Nor are there wanting amongst us thousands of that warlike nation, whose sons have ever since the time of Cæsar maintained the character he gave their fathers, of joining the most obstinate courage to all the other military virtues,—I mean the brave and steady Germans, numbers of whom have actually borne arms in the service of their respective Princes; and if they fought well for their tyrants and oppressors, would they refuse to unite with us in defence of their newly acquired and most precious liberty and property? Were this union formed, were we once united, thoroughly armed and disciplined, was every thing in our power done for our security, as far as human means and foresight could provide, we might then, with more propriety, humbly ask the assistance of Heaven, and a blessing on our lawful endeavours. The very fame of our strength and readiness would be a means of discouraging our enemies; for it is a wise and true saying, that one sword often keeps another in the scabbard. The way to secure peace is to be prepared for war. They that are on their guard, and appear ready to receive their adversaries, are in much less danger of being attacked than the supine, secure, and negligent. We have yet a winter before us which may afford a good and almost sufficient opportunity for this, if we seize and improve it with a becoming vigor. And if the hints contained in this paper are so happy as to meet with a suitable disposition of mind in his countrymen and fellow-citizens, the writer of it will, in a few days, lay before them a form of association for the purposes herein mentioned, together with a practicable scheme for raising the money necessary for the defence of our trade, city, and country, without laying a burthen on any man.
May the God of wisdom, strength, and power, the Lord of the armies of Israel, inspire us with prudence in this time of danger, take away from us all the seeds of contention and division, and unite the hearts and counsels of all of us, of whatever sect or nation, in one bond of peace, brotherly love, and generous public spirit; may he give us strength and resolution to amend our lives and remove from among us every thing that is displeasing to him, afford us his most gracious protection, confound the designs of our enemies, and give peace in all our borders, is the sincere prayer of
A Tradesman of Philadelphia.
TO PETER COLLINSON
Philadelphia, 28 March, 1747.
Your kind present of an electric tube, with directions for using it, has put several of us on making electrical experiments, in which we have observed some particular phenomena that we look upon to be new. I shall therefore communicate them to you, in my next, though possibly they may not be new to you, as among the numbers daily employed in those experiments on your side of the water, it is probable some one or other has hit upon the same observations. For my own part, I never was before engaged in any study that so totally engrossed my attention and my time, as this has lately done; for what with making experiments when I can be alone, and repeating them to my friends and acquaintance, who, from the novelty of the thing, come continually in crowds to see them, I have, during some months past, had little leisure for any thing else.
I am, &c.,
While on a visit to Boston, in 1746, Franklin witnessed some electrical experiments performed by a Mr. Spence, recently arrived from Scotland. Shortly after his return to Philadelphia the Library Company received from Mr. Collinson, of London, and a member of the Royal Society, a glass tube, with instructions for making experiments with it. With this tube Franklin began a course of experiments which resulted in discoveries which, humanly speaking, seem to be exerting a larger material influence upon the industries of the world than any other discovery of the human intellect. Dr. Stuber, then a resident of Philadelphia, and author of the first continuation of Franklin’s life, who seems to have enjoyed peculiar opportunities of obtaining full and authentic information upon the subject, gives us the following account of the observations which this letter brought for the first time to the notice of the world through Mr. Collinson.
“His observations,” says Dr. Stuber, “he communicated, in a series of letters, to his friend Collinson, the first of which is dated March 28th, 1747. In these he shows the power of points in drawing and throwing off the electrical matter, which had hitherto escaped the notice of electricians. He also made the grand discovery of a plus and minus, or of a positive and negative state of electricity. We give him the honor of this without hesitation; although the English have claimed it for their countryman, Dr. Watson. Watson’s paper is dated January 21st, 1748; Franklin’s, July 11th, 1747, several months prior. Shortly after, Franklin, from his principles of the plus and minus state, explained in a satisfactory manner the phenomena of the Leyden phial, first observed by Mr. Cuneus, or by Professor Muschenbroeck, of Leyden, which had much perplexed philosophers. He showed clearly that when charged the bottle contained no more electricity than before, but that as much was taken from one side as was thrown on the other; and that to discharge it nothing was necessary but to produce a communication between the two sides, by which the equilibrium might be restored, and that then no signs of electricity would remain. He afterwards demonstrated by experiments that the electricity did not reside in the coating, as had been supposed, but in the pores of the glass itself. After a phial was charged he removed the coating, and found that upon applying a new coating the shock might still be received. In the year 1749, he first suggested his idea of explaining the phenomena of thunder-gusts and of the aurora borealis upon electrical principles. He points out many particulars in which lightning and electricity agree; and he adduces many facts, and reasonings from facts, in support of his positions.
“In the same year he conceived the astonishingly bold and grand idea of ascertaining the truth of his doctrine by actually drawing down the lightning, by means of sharp-pointed iron rods raised into the region of the clouds. Even in this uncertain state, his passion to be useful to mankind displayed itself in a powerful manner. Admitting the identity of electricity and lightning, and knowing the power of points in repelling bodies charged with electricity, and in conducting their fires silently and imperceptibly, he suggested the idea of securing houses, ships, etc., from being damaged by lightning, by erecting pointed rods that should rise some feet above the most elevated part, and descend some feet into the ground or the water. The effect of these he concluded would be either to prevent a stroke by repelling the cloud beyond the striking distance, or by drawing off the electrical fire which it contained; or, if they could not effect this, they would at least conduct the electric matter to the earth, without any injury to the building.
It was not until the summer of 1752 that he was enabled to complete his grand and unparalleled discovery by experiment. The plan which he had originally proposed was, to erect, on some high tower or other elevated place, a sentry-box, from which should rise a pointed iron rod, insulated by being fixed in a cake of resin. Electrified clouds passing over this would, he conceived, impart to it a portion of their electricity, which would be rendered evident to the senses by sparks being emitted when a key, the knuckle, or other conductor, was presented to it. Philadelphia at this time afforded no opportunity of trying an experiment of this kind. While Franklin was waiting for the erection of a spire, it occurred to him that he might have more ready access to the region of clouds by means of a common kite. He prepared one by fastening two cross sticks to a silk handkerchief, which would not suffer so much from the rain as paper. To the upright stick was affixed an iron point. The string was, as usual, of hemp, except the lower end, which was silk. Where the hempen string terminated, a key was fastened. With this apparatus, on the appearance of a thunder-gust approaching, he went out into the commons, accompanied by his son, to whom alone he communicated his intentions, well knowing the ridicule which, too generally for the interest of science, awaits unsuccessful experiments in philosophy. He placed himself under a shed, to avoid the rain; his kite was raised, a thunder-cloud passed over it, no sign of electricity appeared. He almost despaired of success, when suddenly he observed the loose fibres of his string to move towards an erect position. He now presented his knuckle to the key, and received a strong spark. How exquisite must his sensations have been at this moment! On this experiment depended the fate of his theory. If he succeeded, his name would rank high among those who had improved science; if he failed, he must inevitably be subjected to the derision of mankind, or, what is worse, their pity, as a well-meaning man, but a weak, silly projector. The anxiety with which he looked for the result of his experiment may be easily conceived. Doubts and despair had begun to prevail, when the fact was ascertained, in so clear a manner, that even the most incredulous could no longer withhold their assent. Repeated sparks were drawn from the key, a phial was charged, a shock given, and all the experiments made which are usually performed with electricity.
About a month before this period, some ingenious Frenchman had completed the discovery in the manner originally proposed by Dr. Franklin. The letters which he sent to Mr. Collinson, it is said, were refused a place in the Transactions of the Royal Society of London. However this may be, Collinson published them in a separate volume, under the title of New Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia, in America. They were read with avidity, and soon translated into different languages. A very incorrect French translation fell into the hands of the celebrated Buffon, who, notwithstanding the disadvantages under which the work labored, was much pleased with it, and repeated the experiments with success. He prevailed on his friend, M. Dalibard, to give his countrymen a more correct translation of the works of the American electrician. This contributed much towards spreading a knowledge of Franklin’s principles in France. The King, Louis the Fifteenth, hearing of these experiments, expressed a wish to be a spectator of them. A course of experiments was given at the seat of the Duc D’Ayen, at St. Germain, by M. de Lor. The applauses which the King bestowed upon Franklin excited in Buffon, Dalibard, and De Lor an earnest desire of ascertaining the truth of his theory of thunder-gusts. Buffon erected his apparatus on the tower of Montbar, M. Dalibard at Marly-la-ville, and De Lor at his house in the Estrapade at Paris, some of the highest ground in that capital. Dalibard’s machine first showed signs of electricity. On the 10th of May, 1752, a thunder-cloud passed over it, in the absence of M. Dalibard, and a number of sparks were drawn from it by Coiffier, joiner, with whom Dalibard had left directions how to proceed, and by M. Raulet, the prior of Marly-la-ville.
An account of this experiment was given to the Royal Academy of Sciences, by M. Dalibard, in a Memoir dated May 13th, 1752. On the 18th of May, M. de Lor proved equally successful with the apparatus erected at his own house. These philosophers soon excited those of other parts of Europe to repeat the experiment; amongst whom none signalized themselves more than Father Beccaria, of Turin, to whose observations science is much indebted. Even the cold regions of Russia were penetrated by the ardor for discovery. Professor Richmann bade fair to add much to the stock of knowledge on this subject, when an unfortunate flash from his conductor put a period to his existence.
By these experiments Franklin’s theory was established in the most convincing manner.
Besides these great principles, Franklin’s letters on electricity contain a number of facts and hints which have contributed greatly towards reducing this branch of knowledge to a science. His friend, Mr. Kinnersley, communicated to him a discovery of the different kinds of electricity excited by rubbing glass and sulphur. This, we have said, was first observed by M. Du Faye, but it was for many years neglected. The philosophers were disposed to account for the phenomena rather from a difference in the quantity of electricity collected, and even Du Faye himself seems at last to have adopted this doctrine. Franklin at first entertained the same idea, but upon repeating the experiments he perceived that Mr. Kinnersley was right, and that the vitreous and resinous electricity of Du Faye were nothing more than the positive and negative states, which he had before observed, and that the glass globe charged positively, or increased, the quantity of electricity on the prime conductor, while the globe of sulphur diminished its natural quantity, or charged negatively. These experiments and observations opened a new field for investigation, upon which electricians entered with avidity; and their labors have added much to the stock of our knowledge.
Franklin’s letters have been translated into most of the European languages, and into Latin. In proportion as they have become known his principles have been adopted.”
In speaking of the first publication of his papers on electricity, Franklin himself says: “Obliged as we were to Mr. Collinson for the present of the tube, &c., I thought it right he should be informed of our success in using it, and wrote him several letters containing accounts of our experiments. He got them read in the Royal Society, where they were not at first thought worth so much notice as to be printed in their Transactions. One paper, which I wrote to Mr. Kinnersley, on the sameness of lightning with electricity, I sent to Mr. Mitchel, an acquaintance of mine, and one of the members also of that Society, who wrote me word that it had been read but was laughed at by the connoisseurs. The papers, however, being shown to Dr. Fothergill, he thought them of too much value to be stifled, and advised the printing of them. Mr. Collinson then gave them to Cave for publication in his Gentleman’s Magazine, but he chose to print them separately in a pamphlet, and Dr. Fothergill wrote the preface. Cave, it seems, judged rightly for his profession, for by the additions that arrived afterwards they swelled to a quarto volume, which has had five editions, and cost him nothing for copy-money.”
The following is an extract from the Preface to the first edition of the pamphlet published by Cave, as above mentioned.
“It may be necessary to acquaint the reader that the following observations and experiments were not drawn up with a view to their being made public, but were communicated at different times, and most of them in letters, written on various topics, as matter only of private amusement.
But some persons to whom they were read, and who had themselves been conversant in electrical disquisitions, were of opinion they contained so many curious and interesting particulars relative to this affair, that it would be doing a kind of injustice to the public to confine them solely to the limits of a private acquaintance.
The editor was therefore prevailed upon to commit such extracts of letters and other detached pieces as were in his hands to the press, without waiting for the ingenious author’s permission so to do; and this was done with the less hesitation, as it was apprehended the author’s engagements in other affairs would scarce afford him leisure to give the public his reflections and experiments on the subject, finished with that care and precision of which the treatise before us shows he is alike studious and capable.”
Dr. Priestley, in his History of Electricity, published in the year 1767, gives a full account of Franklin’s experiments and discoveries.
“Nothing was ever written upon the subject of electricity,” he says, “which was more generally read and admired in all parts of Europe, than these letters. There is hardly any European language into which they have not been translated; and, as if this were not sufficient to make them properly known, a translation of them has lately been made into Latin. It is not easy to say, whether we are most pleased with the simplicity and perspicuity with which these letters are written, the modesty with which the author proposes every hypothesis of his own, or the noble frankness with which he relates his mistakes, when they were corrected by subsequent experiments.
Though the English have not been backward in acknowledging the great merit of this philosopher, he has had the singular good fortune to be, perhaps, even more celebrated abroad than at home; so that, to form a just idea of the great and deserved reputation of Dr. Franklin, we must read the foreign publications on the subject of electricity; in many of which the terms Franklinism, Franklinist, and the Franklinian system, occur in almost every page. In consequence of this, Dr. Franklin’s principles bid fair to be handed down to posterity as equally expressive of the true principles of electricity, as the Newtonian philosophy is of the system of nature in general.”
The observations and theories of Franklin met with high favor in France, where his experiments were repeated and the results verified to the admiration of the scientific world. In the year 1753, his friend, Peter Collinson, wrote to him from London: “The King of France strictly commands the Abbé Mazéas to write a letter in the politest terms to the Royal Society, to return the King’s thanks and compliments, in an express manner, to Mr. Franklin of Pennsylvania, for his useful discoveries in electricity, and the application of pointed rods to prevent the terrible effect of thunder-storms.” And the same Mr. Collinson wrote as follows to the Reverend Jared Eliot, of Connecticut, in a letter dated London, November 22d, 1753: “Our friend Franklin will be honored on St. Andrew’s day, the 30th instant, the anniversary of the Royal Soicety, when the Right Honorable the Earl of Macclesfield will make an oration on Mr. Franklin’s new discoveries in electricity, and, as a reward and encouragement, will bestow on him a gold medal.” This ceremony accordingly took place, and the medal was conferred.
TO PETER COLLINSON
Philadelphia, 11 July, 1747.
In my last I informed you that in pursuing our electrical inquiries we had observed some particular phenomena which we looked upon to be new, and of which I promised to give you some account, though I apprehended they might not possibly be new to you, as so many hands are daily employed in electrical experiments on your side the water, some or other of which would probably hit on the same observations.
The first is the wonderful effect of pointed bodies, both in drawing off and throwing off the electrical fire. For example:
Place an iron shot of three or four inches diameter on the mouth of a clean, dry glass bottle. By a fine silken thread from the ceiling, right over the mouth of the bottle, suspend a small cork ball about the bigness of a marble, the thread of such a length as that the cork ball may rest against the side of the shot. Electrify the shot, and the ball will be repelled to the distance of four or five inches, more or less, according to the quantity of electricity. When in this state, if you present to the shot the point of a long, slender, sharp bodkin, at six or eight inches’ distance, the repellency is instantly destroyed, and the cork flies to the shot. A blunt body must be brought within an inch and draw a spark to produce the same effect. To prove that the electrical fire is drawn off by the point, if you take the blade of the bodkin out of the wooden handle and fix it in a stick of sealing-wax, and then present it at the distance aforesaid, or if you bring it very near, no such effect follows; but sliding one finger along the wax till you touch the blade, and the ball flies to the shot immediately. If you present the point in the dark you will see, sometimes at a foot distance and more, a light gather upon it, like that of a fire-fly or glow-worm; the less sharp the point the nearer you must bring it to observe the light, and at whatever distance you see the light you may draw off the electrical fire and destroy the repellency. If a cork ball so suspended be repelled by the tube, and a point be presented quick to it, though at a considerable distance, it is surprising to see how suddenly it flies back to the tube. Points of wood will do near as well as those of iron, provided the wood is not dry, for perfectly dry wood will no more conduct electricity than sealing-wax.
To show that points will throw off1 as well as draw off the electrical fire; lay a long sharp needle upon the shot, and you cannot electrize the shot so as to make it repel the cork ball. Or fix a needle to the end of a suspended gun-barrel, or iron rod, so as to point beyond it like a little bayonet,2 and while it remains there, the gun-barrel or rod cannot, by applying the tube to the other end, be electrized so as to give a spark, the fire continually running out silently at the point. In the dark you may see it make the same appearance as it does in the case before mentioned.
The repellency between the cork ball and the shot is likewise destroyed: 1st, by sifting fine sand on it,—this does it gradually; 2dly, by breathing on it; 3dly, by making a smoke about it from burning wood1 ; 4thly, by candle-light, even though the candle is at a foot distance,—these do it suddenly. The light of a bright coal from a wood fire, and the light of a red-hot iron do it likewise, but not at so great a distance. Smoke from dry rosin dropped on hot iron does not destroy the repellency, but is attracted by both shot and cork ball, forming proportionable atmospheres round them, making them look beautifully, somewhat like some of the figures in Burnet’s or Whiston’s Theory of the Earth.
N. B.—This experiment should be made in a closet where the air is very still, or it will be apt to fail.
The light of the sun thrown strongly on both cork and shot by a looking-glass, for a long time together, does not impair the repellency in the least. This difference between fire-light and sun-light is another thing that seems new and extraordinary to us.1
We had for some time been of opinion that the electrical fire was not created by friction, but collected, being really an element diffused among, and attracted by other matter, particularly by water and metals. We had even discovered and demonstrated its afflux to the electrical sphere, as well as its efflux, by means of little, light windmill-wheels made of stiff paper vanes fixed obliquely, and turning freely on fine wire axes; also by little wheels of the same matter, but formed like water-wheels. Of the disposition and application of which wheels, and the various phenomena resulting, I could, if I had time, fill you a sheet.2 The impossibility of electrizing one’s self (though standing on wax) by rubbing the tube, and drawing the fire from it; and the manner of doing it by passing the tube near a person or thing standing on the floor, &c., had also occurred to us some months before Mr. Watson’s ingenious Sequel came to hand; and these were some of the new things I intended to have communicated to you. But now I need only mention some particulars not hinted in that piece, with our reasonings thereupon; though perhaps the latter might well enough be spared.
1. A person standing on wax and rubbing the tube, and another person on wax drawing the fire, they will both of them (provided they do not stand so as to touch one another) appear to be electrized to a person standing on the floor; that is, he will perceive a spark on approaching each of them with his knuckle.
2. But if the persons on wax touch one another during the exciting of the tube, neither of them will appear to be electrized.
3. If they touch one another after exciting the tube, and drawing the fire as aforesaid, there will be a stronger spark between them than was between either of them and the person on the floor.
4. After such strong spark neither of them discover any electricity.
These appearances we attempt to account for thus: We suppose, as aforesaid, that electrical fire is a common element, of which every one of the three persons above mentioned has his equal share, before any operation is begun with the tube. A, who stands on wax and rubs the tube, collects the electrical fire from himself into the glass; and, his communication with the common stock being cut off by the wax, his body is not again immediately supplied. B (who stands on wax likewise), passing his knuckle along near the tube, receives the fire which was collected by the glass from A; and his communication with the common stock being likewise cut off, he retains the additional quantity received. To C, standing on the floor, both appear to be electrized; for he, having only the middle quantity of electrical fire, receives a spark upon approaching B, who has an over quantity; but gives one to A, who has an under quantity. If A and B approach to touch each other, the spark is stronger, because the difference between them is greater. After such touch there is no spark between either of them and C, because the electrical fire in all is reduced to the original equality. If they touch while electrizing, the equality is never destroyed, the fire only circulating. Hence have arisen some new terms among us: we say B (and bodies like circumstanced) is electrized positively; A, negatively. Or rather, B is electrized plus; A, minus. And we daily in our experiments electrize bodies plus or minus, as we think proper. To electrize plus or minus, no more needs to be known than this, that the parts of the tube or sphere that are rubbed, do, in the instant of the friction, attract the electrical fire, and therefore take it from the thing rubbing; the same parts immediately, as the friction upon them ceases, are disposed to give the fire they have received to any body that has less. Thus you may circulate it as Mr. Watson has shown; you may also accumulate or subtract it, upon or from any body, as you connect that body with the rubber, or with the receiver, the communication with the common stock being cut off. We think that ingenious gentleman was deceived when he imagined (in his Sequel) that the electrical fire came down the wire from the ceiling to the gun-barrel, thence to the sphere, and so electrized the machine and the man turning the wheel, &c. We suppose it was driven off, and not brought on through that wire; and that the machine and man, &c., were electrized minus—that is, had less electrical fire in them than things in common.
As the vessel is just upon sailing, I cannot give you so large an account of American electricity as I intended; I shall only mention a few particulars more. We find granulated lead better to fill the phial with than water, being easily warmed, and keeping warm and dry in damp air. We fire spirits with the wire of the phial. We light candles, just blown out, by drawing a spark among the smoke between the wire and snuffers. We represent lightning by passing the wire in the dark over a China plate that has gilt flowers, or applying it to gilt frames of looking glasses, &c. We electrize a person twenty or more times running, with a touch of the finger on the wire, thus: He stands on wax. Give him the electrized bottle in his hand. Touch the wire with your finger and then touch his hand or face; there are sparks every time.1 We increase the force of the electrical kiss vastly, thus: Let A and B stand on wax, or A on wax and B on the floor; give one of them the electrized phial in hand; let the other take hold of the wire; there will be a small spark; but when their lips approach they will be struck and shocked. The same if another gentleman and lady, C and D, standing also on wax, and joining hands with A and B, salute or shake hands. We suspend by fine silk thread a counterfeit spider made of a small piece of burnt cork, with legs of linen thread, and a grain or two of lead stuck in him to give him more weight. Upon the table, over which he hangs, we stick a wire upright, as high as the phial and wire, four or five inches from the spider; then we animate him by setting the electrified phial at the same distance on the other side of him; he will immediately fly to the wire of the phial, bend his legs in touching it, then spring off and fly to the wire in the table, thence again to the wire of the phial, playing with his legs against both, in a very entertaining manner, appearing perfectly alive to persons unacquainted. He will continue this motion an hour or more in dry weather. We electrify, upon wax in the dark, a book that has a double line of gold round upon the covers, and then apply a knuckle to the gilding; the fire appears everywhere upon the gold like a flash of lightning; not upon the leather, nor if you touch the leather instead of the gold. We rub our tubes with buckskin and observe always to keep the same side to the tube and never to sully the tube by handling; thus they work readily and easily without the least fatigue, especially if kept in tight pasteboard cases lined with flannel, and sitting close to the tube.1 This I mention because the European papers on electricity frequently speak of rubbing the tubes as a fatiguing exercise. Our spheres are fixed on iron axes which pass through them. At one end of the axis there is a small handle with which you turn the sphere like a common grindstone. This we find very commodious, as the machine takes up but little room, is portable, and may be enclosed in a tight box when not in use. It is true the sphere does not turn so swift as when the great wheel is used; but swiftness we think of little importance, since a few turns will charge the phial, &c., sufficiently.1
I am, &c.,
TO JARED ELIOT2
Philadelphia, July 16, 1747.
I received your favor of the 4th instant. I ought before this time to have acknowledged the receipt of the book, which came very safe, and in good order, to hand. We have many oil-mills in this province, it being a great country for flax. Linseed oil may now be bought for three shillings per gallon; sometimes for two shillings and six pence; but at New York, I have been told, it generally holds up at about eight shillings. Of this you can easily be satisfied, it being your neighbor government.
In your last, you inquired about the kind of land from which our hemp is raised. I am told it must be very rich land. Sometimes they use drained swamps and banked meadows; but the greater part of our hemp is brought from Conestago, which is a large and very rich tract of land on the banks of the Susquehanna, a large fresh-water river. It is brought down in wagons.
If you should send any of your steel saws here for sale, I should not be wanting where my recommendation might be of service.
We have had as wet a summer as has been known here these thirty years, so that it was with difficulty our people got in their harvest. In some parts of the country a great deal of hay has been lost, and some corn mildewed; but in general the harvest has been very great. The two preceding summers (particularly the last) were excessively dry. I think with you, it might be of advantage to know what the seasons are in the several parts of the country. One’s curiosity in some philosophical points might also be gratified by it.
We have frequently, along this North American coast, storms from the northeast, which blow violently sometimes three or four days. Of these I have had a very singular opinion some years, viz., that, though the course of the wind is from northeast to southwest, yet the course of the storm is from southwest to northeast; that is, the air is in violent motion in Virginia before it moves in Connecticut, and in Connecticut before it moves at Cape Sable, &c. My reasons for this opinion (if the like have not occurred to you) I will give in my next.
I thank you for the curious facts you have communicated to me relating to springs. I think with you, that most springs arise from rains, dews, or ponds, on higher ground; yet possibly some, that break out near the tops of high hollow mountains, may proceed from the abyss, or from water in the caverns of the earth, rarefied by its internal heat, and raised in vapor, till the cold region near the tops of such mountains condenses the vapor into water again, which comes forth in springs, and runs down on the outside of the mountains, as it ascended on the inside. There is said to be a large spring near the top of Teneriffe; and that mountain was formerly a volcano, consequently hollow within. Such springs, if such there be, may properly be called springs of distilled water.
Now I mention mountains, it occurs to tell you that the great Appalachian Mountains, which run from York River, back of these colonies, to the Bay of Mexico, show in many places, near the highest parts of them, strata of sea shells; in some places the marks of them are in the solid rocks. It is certainly the wreck of a world we live on! We have specimens of these sea-shell rocks, broken off near the tops of these mountains, brought and deposited in our library as curiosities. If you have not seen the like, I will send you a piece. Farther, about mountains (for ideas will string themselves like ropes of onions); when I was once riding in your country, Mr. Walker showed me at a distance the bluff side or end of a mountain, which appeared striped from top to bottom, and told me the stone or rock of that mountain was divided by nature into pillars; of this I should be glad to have a particular account from you. I think I was somewhere near New Haven when I saw it.
You made some mistake when you intended to favor me with some of the new valuable grass seed (I think you called it herd-seed), for what you gave me is grown up and proves mere timothy; so I suppose you took it out of a wrong paper or parcel.
I wish your new law may have the good effect expected from it, in extricating your government from the heavy debt this war has obliged them to contract. I am too little acquainted with your particular circumstances to judge of the prudence of such a law for your colony with any degree of exactness. But to a friend one may hazard one’s notions, right or wrong; and as you are pleased to desire my thoughts, you shall have them and welcome. I wish they were better.
First, I imagine that the five per cent. duty on goods imported from your neighboring governments, though paid at first hand by the importer, will not upon the whole come out of his pocket, but be paid in fact by the consumer; for the importer will be sure to sell his goods as much dearer to reimburse himself; so that it is only another mode of taxing your own people, though perhaps meant to raise money on your neighbours. Yet, if you can make some of the goods, heretofore imported, among yourselves, the advanced price of five per cent. may encourage your own manufacture, and in time make the importation of such articles unnecessary, which will be an advantage.
Secondly, I imagine the law will be difficult to execute, and require many officers to prevent smuggling in so extended a coast as yours; and the charge considerable; and, if smuggling is not prevented, the fair trader will be undersold and ruined. If the officers are many and busy, there will arise numbers of vexatious lawsuits and dissensions among your people. Quære, whether the advantages will overbalance.
Thirdly, if there is any part of your produce that you can well spare, and would desire to have taken off by your neighbours in exchange for something you more want, perhaps they, taking offence at your selfish law, may in return lay such heavy duties or discouragements on that article, as to leave it a drug on your hands. As to the duty on transporting lumber (unless in Connecticut bottoms to the West Indies), I suppose the design is to raise the price of such lumber on your neighbours, and throw that advanced price into your treasury. But may not your neighbours supply themselves elsewhere? Or, if numbers of your people have lumber to dispose of, and want goods from, or have debts to pay to, your neighbours, will they not (unless you employ numbers of officers to watch all your creeks and landings) run their lumber, and so defeat the law? Or, if the law is strictly executed, and the duty discourage the transportation to your neighbours, will not all your people that want to dispose of lumber be laid at the mercy of those few merchants that send it to the West Indies, who will buy it at their own price, and make such pay for it as they think proper?
If I had seen the law and heard the reasons that are given for making it, I might have judged and talked of it more to the purpose. At present I shoot my bolt pretty much in the dark; but you can excuse and make proper allowance.
My best respects to good Mrs. Eliot and your sons; and, if it falls in your way, my service to the kind, hospitable people near the river, whose name I am sorry I have forgot.
I am, dear Sir, with the utmost regard,
Your obliged and humble servant,
TO JARED ELIOT
I have perused your two Essays on Field Husbandry, and think the public may be much benefited by them; but, if the farmers in your neighborhood are as unwilling to leave the beaten road of their ancestors as they are near me, it will be difficult to persuade them to attempt any improvement. Where the cash is to be laid out on a probability of a return, they are very averse to the running any risk at all, or even expending freely, where a gentleman of a more public spirit has given them ocular demonstration of the success.
About eighteen months ago, I made a purchase of about three hundred acres of land near Burlington, and resolved to improve it in the best and speediest manner, that I might be enabled to indulge myself in that kind of life which was most agreeable. My fortune, thank God, is such that I can enjoy all the necessaries and many of the indulgences of life; but I think that in duty to my children I ought so to manage, that the profits of my farm may balance the loss my income will suffer by my retreat to it. In order to this, I began with the meadow on which there had never been much timber, but it was always overflowed. The soil is very fine, and black about three feet; then it comes to a bluish clay. Of this deep meadow I have about eighty acres, forty of which had been ditched and mowed. The grass which comes in first after ditching is spear-grass and white clover; but the weeds are to be mowed four or five years before they will be subdued, as the vegetation is very luxuriant.
This meadow had been ditched and planted with Indian corn, of which it produced above sixty bushels per acre. I first scoured up my ditches and drains, and took off all the weeds; then I ploughed it, and sowed it with oats in the last of May. In July I mowed them down together with the weeds, which grew plentifully among them, and they made good fodder. I immediately ploughed it again, and kept harrowing till there was an appearance of rain; and, on the 23d of August, I sowed near thirty acres with red clover and herd-grass, allowing six quarts of herd-grass and four pounds of red clover to an acre in most parts of it; in other parts, four quarts of herd-grass and three pounds of red clover. The red clover came up in four days and the herd-grass in six days; and I now find that, where I allowed the most seed, it protects itself the best against the frost. I also sowed an acre with twelve pounds of red clover, and it does well. I sowed an acre more with two bushels of rye-grass seed and five pounds of red clover; the rye-grass seed failed, and the red clover heaves out much for want of being thicker. However, in March next I intend to throw in six pounds more of red clover, as the ground is open and loose. As these grasses are represented not durable, I have sown two bushels of the sweeping of hay-lofts (where the best hay was used), well riddled, per acre, supposing that the spear-grass and white clover seed would be more equally scattered when the other shall fail.
What surprised me was to find that the herd-grass, whose roots are small and spread near the surface, should be less affected by the frost than the red clover, whose roots I measured in the last of October, and found that many of their tap roots penetrated five inches, and from its sides threw out near thirty horizontal roots, some of which were six inches long, and branched. From the figure of this root, I flattered myself that it would endure the heaving of the frost; but I now see that wherever it is thin sown it is generally hove so far out that but a few of the horizontal and a small part of the tap roots remain covered, and I fear will not recover. Take the whole together, it is well matted, and looks like a green corn-field.
I have about ten acres more of this ground ready for seed in the spring, but expect to combat with the weeds a year or two. That sown in August I believe will rise so soon in the spring as to suppress them in a great measure.
My next undertaking was a round pond of twelve acres. Ditching round it, with a large drain through the middle, and other smaller drains, laid it perfectly dry. This, having first taken up all the rubbish, I ploughed up and harrowed it many times over, till it was smooth. Its soil is blackish; but, in about a foot or ten inches, you come to a sand of the same color with the upland. From the birch that grew upon it, I took it to be of a cold nature, and therefore I procured a grass which would best suit that kind of ground, intermixed with many others, that I might thereby see which suited it best. On the 8th of September, I laid it down with rye, which being harrowed in, I threw in the following grass seed: a bushel of Salem grass or feather-grass, half a bushel of timothy or herd-grass, half a bushel of rye-grass, a peck of burden-grass or blue bent, and two pints of red clover per acre (all the seed in the chaff except the clover), and bushed them in. I could wish they had been clean, as they would have come up sooner, and been better grown before the frost; and I have found by experiment, that a bushel of clean chaff of timothy or Salem grass will yield five quarts of seed. The rye looks well, and there is abundance of timothy or Salem grass come up amongst it; but it is yet small, and in that state there is scarce any knowing those grasses apart. I expect from the sand lying so near the surface, that it will suffer much in dry weather.
TO PETER COLLINSON
Philadelphia, 1 September, 1747.
The necessary trouble of copying long letters, which perhaps, when they come to your hands, may contain nothing new, or worth your reading (so quick is the progress made with you in electricity), half discourages me of writing any more on that subject. Yet I cannot forbear adding a few observations on M. Muschenbroek’s wonderful bottle.
1. The non-electric contained in the bottle differs, when electrized, from a non-electric electrized out of the bottle, in this: that the electrical fire of the latter is accumulated on its surface, and forms an electrical atmosphere round it of considerable extent; but the electrical fire is crowded into the substance of the former, the glass confining it.1
2. At the same time that the wire and the top of the bottle, &c., is electrized positively or plus, the bottom of the bottle is electrized negatively or minus, in exact proportion; that is, whatever quantity of electrical fire is thrown in at the top, an equal quantity goes out of the bottom.2 To understand this, suppose the common quantity of electricity in each part of the bottle, before the operation begins, is equal to twenty; and at every stroke of the tube, suppose a quantity equal to one is thrown in; then, after the first stroke, the quantity contained in the wire and upper part of the bottle will be twenty-one, in the bottom nineteen; after the second, the upper part will have twenty-two, the lower eighteen; and so on, till after twenty strokes, the upper part will have a quantity of electrical fire equal to forty, the lower part none; and then the operation ends, for no more can be thrown into the upper part when no more can be driven out of the lower part. If you attempt to throw more in, it is spewed back through the wire, or flies out in loud cracks through the sides of the bottle.
3. The equilibrium cannot be restored in the bottle by inward communication or contact of the parts; but it must be done by a communication formed without the bottle, between the top and bottom, by some non-electric, touching or approaching both at the same time; in which case it is restored with a violence and quickness inexpressible; or touching each alternately, in which case the equilibrium is restored by degrees.
4. As no more electrical fire can be thrown into the top of the bottle, when all is driven out of the bottom, so, in a bottle not yet electrized, none can be thrown into the top when none can get out at the bottom; which happens either when the bottom is too thick, or when the bottle is placed on an electric per se. Again, when the bottle is electrized, but little of the electrical fire can be drawn out from the top, by touching the wire, unless an equal quantity can at the same time get in at the bottom.1 Thus, place an electrized bottle on clean glass or dry wax, and you will not, by touching the wire, get out the fire from the top. Place it on a non-electric, and touch the wire, you will get it out in a short time,—but soonest when you form a direct communication as above.
So wonderfully are these two states of electricity, the plus and minus, combined and balanced in this miraculous bottle! situated and related to each other in a manner that I can by no means comprehend! If it were possible that a bottle should in one part contain a quantity of air strongly compressed, and in another part a perfect vacuum, we know the equilibrium would be instantly restored within. But here we have a bottle containing at the same time a plenum of electrical fire and a vacuum of the same fire, and yet the equilibrium cannot be restored between them but by a communication without, though the plenum presses violently to expand, and the hungry vacuum seems to attract as violently in order to be filled.
5. The shock to the nerves (or convulsion rather) is occasioned by the sudden passing of the fire through the body in its way from the top to the bottom of the bottle. The fire takes the shortest2 course, as Mr. Watson justly observes. But it does not appear from experiment that, in order for a person to be shocked, a communication with the floor is necessary; for he that holds the bottle with one hand and touches the wire with the other, will be shocked as much, though his shoes be dry, or even standing on wax, as otherwise. And on the touch of the wire (or of the gun-barrel, which is the same thing), the fire does not proceed from the touching finger to the wire, as is supposed, but from the wire to the finger, and passes through the body to the other hand, and so into the bottom of the bottle.
Experiments confirming the above
Place an electrized phial on wax; a small cork ball, suspended by a dry silk thread, held in your hand and brought near to the wire, will first be attracted and then repelled; when in this state of repellency, sink your hand that the ball may be brought towards the bottom of the bottle. It will be there instantly and strongly attracted till it has parted with its fire.
If the bottle had a positive electrical atmosphere, as well as the wire, an electrified cork would be repelled from one as well as from the other.
Plate III., Fig. 1.—From a bent wire (a) sticking in the table, let a small linen thread (b) hang down within half an inch of the electrized phial (c). Touch the wire or the phial repeatedly with your finger, and at every touch you will see the thread instantly attracted by the bottle. (This is best done by a vinegar-cruet, or some such bellied bottle.) As soon as you draw any fire out from the upper part by touching the wire, the lower part of the bottle draws an equal quantity in by the thread.
Fig. 2.—Fix a wire in the lead, with which the bottom of the bottle is armed (d), so as that, bending upwards, its ring-end may be level with the top or ring-end of the wire in the cork (e), and at three or four inches distance. Then electrize the bottle and place it on wax. If a cork, suspended by a silk thread (f), hang between these two wires, it will play incessantly from one to the other till the bottle is no longer electrized; that is, it fetches and carries fire from the top to the bottom1 of the bottle till the equilibrium is restored.
Fig. 3.—Place an electrized phial on wax; take a wire (g) in form of a C, the ends at such a distance, when bent, as that the upper may touch the wire of the bottle when the lower touches the bottom; stick the outer part on a stick of sealing-wax (h), which will serve as a handle; then apply the lower end to the bottom of the bottle, and gradually bring the upper end near the wire in the cork. The consequence is, spark follows spark till the equilibrium is restored. Touch the top first, and on approaching the bottom with the other end, you have a constant stream of fire from the wire entering the bottle. Touch the top and bottom together, and the equilibrium will instantly be restored, the crooked wire forming the communication.
Fig. 4.—Let a ring of thin lead or paper surround a bottle (i), even at some distance from or above the bottom. From that ring let a wire proceed up till it touch the wire of the cork (k). A bottle so fixed cannot by any means be electrized; the equilibrium is never destroyed; for while the communication between the upper and lower parts of the bottle is continued by the outside wire, the fire only circulates; what is driven out at bottom is constantly supplied from the top.1 Hence a bottle cannot be electrized that is foul or moist on the outside, if such moisture continue up to the cork or wire.
Place a man on a cake of wax, and present him the wire of the electrified phial to touch, you standing on the floor and holding it in your hand. As often as he touches it he will be electrified plus; and any one standing on the floor may draw a spark from him. The fire in this experiment passes out of the wire into him; and at the same time out of your hand into the bottom of the bottle.
Give him the electrical phial to hold, and do you touch the wire; as often as you touch it he will be electrified minus, and may draw a spark from any one standing on the floor. The fire now passes from the wire to you, and from him into the bottom of the bottle.
Lay two books on two glasses, back towards back, two or three inches distant. Set the electrified phial on one, and then touch the wire; that book will be electrified minus, the electrical fire being drawn out of it by the bottom of the bottle. Take off the bottle, and, holding it in your hand, touch the other with the wire; that book will be electrified plus; the fire passing into it from the wire, and the bottle at the same time supplied from your hand. A suspended small cork ball will play between these books till the equilibrium is restored.
When a body is electrized plus, it will repel a positively electrified feather or small cork ball. When minus (or when in the common state), it will attract them, but stronger when minus than when in the common state, the difference being greater.
Though, as in Experiment VI, a man standing on wax may be electrized a number of times by repeatedly touching the wire of an electrized bottle (held in the hand of one standing on the floor), he receiving the fire from the wire each time; yet holding it in his own hand and touching the wire, though he draws a strong spark, and is violently shocked, no electricity remains in him, the fire only passing through him from the upper to the lower part of the bottle. Observe, before the shock, to let some one on the floor touch him to restore the equilibrium of his body; for in taking hold of the bottom of the bottle he sometimes becomes a little electrized minus, which will continue after the shock, as would also any plus electricity which he might have given him before the shock. For restoring the equilibrium in the bottle does not at all affect the electricity in the man through whom the fire passes; that electricity is neither increased nor diminished.
The passing of the electrical fire from the upper to the lower part1 of the bottle, to restore the equilibrium, is rendered strongly visible by the following pretty experiment. Take a book whose covering is filleted with gold; bend a wire of eight or ten inches long in the form of (m), Fig. 5, slip it on the end of the cover of the book, over the gold line, so as that the shoulder of it may press upon one end of the gold line, the ring up, but leaning towards the other end of the book. Lay the book on a glass or wax,2 and on the other end of the gold line set the bottle electrized; then bend the springing wire by pressing it with a stick of wax till its ring approaches the ring of the bottle wire; instantly there is a strong spark and stroke, and the whole line of gold, which completes the communication between the top and bottom of the bottle, will appear a vivid flame, like the sharpest lightning. The closer the contact between the shoulder of the wire and the gold at one end of the line, and between the bottom of the bottle and the gold at the other end, the better the experiment succeeds. The room should be darkened. If you would have the whole filleting round the cover appear in fire at once, let the bottle and wire touch the gold in the diagonally opposite corners.
I am, &c.,
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN
Philadelphia, 1 October, 1747.
I send you herewith the History of the Five Nations. You will perceive that Osborne, to puff up the book, has inserted the charters, &c., of his Province, all under the title of History of the Five Nations, which I think was not fair, but it is a common trick of booksellers.
Mr. James Read, to whom Mr. Osborne has sent a parcel of books by recommendation of Mr. Collinson, being engaged in business of another kind, talks of declining to act in disposing of them, and perhaps may put them into my hands. If he should, I will endeavour to do Mr. Osborne justice in disposing of them to the best advantage, as also of any other parcel he may send me from your recommendation.
Mr. Armit is returned well from New England. As he has your power of attorney, and somewhat more leisure at present than I have, I think to put your letter to Mr. Hughes into his hands, and desire him to manage the affair of your servant. I shall write a line besides to Hughes, that he would assist in obliging the servant to do you justice, which may be of some service, as he owns himself obliged to me, for recovering a servant for him that had been gone above a twelvemonth. I am, Sir, &c.,
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN
Philadelphia, 27 November, 1747.
The violent party spirit that appears in all the votes, &c., of your Assembly seems to me extremely unseasonable as well as unjust, and to threaten mischief not only to yourselves but to your neighbours. It begins to be plain that the French may reap great advantages from your divisions. God grant they may be as blind to their own interest, and as negligent of it as the English are of theirs. It must be inconvenient to you to remove your family, but more so to you and them to live under continual apprehensions and alarms. I shall be glad to hear you are all in a place of safety.
Though Plain Truth1 bore somewhat hard on both parties here, it has had the happiness not to give much offence to either. It has wonderfully spirited us up to defend ourselves and country, to which end great numbers are entering into an association, of which I send you a copy enclosed. We are likewise setting on foot a lottery to raise three thousand pounds for erecting a battery of cannon below the city. We have petitioned the Proprietor to send us some from England, and have ordered our correspondents to send us over a parcel, if the application to the Proprietor fails. But, lest by any accident they should miscarry, I am desired to write to you and ask your opinion whether, if our government should apply to Governor Clinton to borrow a few of your spare cannon till we could be supplied, such application might probably meet with success. Pray excuse the effects of haste on this letter.
I am, Sir, with the greatest respect, your most obliged humble servant,
TO JAMES LOGAN1
Monday Noon [4 December, 1747].
I am heartily glad you approve of our proceedings. We shall have arms for the poor in the spring, and a number of battering cannon. The place for the batteries is not yet fixed; but it is generally thought that near Red Bank will be most suitable, as the enemy must there have natural difficulties to struggle with, besides the channel being narrow. The Dutch are as hearty as the English. Plain Truth and the Association are in their language, and their parsons encouraged them. It is proposed to breed gunners by forming an artillery club, to go down weekly to the battery and exercise the great guns. The best engineers against Cape Breton were of such a club, tradesmen and shopkeepers of Boston. I was with them at the Castle1 at their exercise in 1743.
I have not time to write longer, nor to wait on you till next week. In general all goes well, and there is a surprising unanimity in all ranks. Near eight hundred have signed the Association, and more are signing hourly. One company of Dutch is complete. I am with great respect, Sir, &c.,
TO THOMAS HOPKINSON2
According to my promise, I send you in writing my observations on your book1 ; you will be the better able to consider them, which I desire you to do at your leisure, and to set me right where I am wrong.
I stumble at the threshold of the building, and therefore have not read further. The author’s vis inertiæ essential to matter, upon which the whole work is founded, I have not been able to comprehend. And I do not think he demonstrates at all clearly (at least to me he does not), that there is really such a property in matter.
He says in No. 2: “Let a given body or mass of matter be called a, and let any given celerity be called c. That celerity doubled, tripled, &c., or halved, thirded, &c., will be 2c, 3c, &c., or ½c, ⅓c, &c., respectively. Also the body doubled, tripled, or halved, thirded, will be 2a, 3a, or ½a, ⅓a, respectively.” Thus far is clear. But he adds: “Now to move the body a, with the celerity c, requires a certain force to be impressed upon it; and to move it with a celerity as 2c, requires twice that force to be impressed upon it, &c.” Here I suspect some mistake creeps in, by the author’s not distinguishing between a great force applied at once, and a small one continually applied, to a mass of matter, in order to move it. I think it is generally allowed by the philosophers, and, for aught we know, is certainly true, that there is no mass of matter, how great soever, but may be moved by any force how small soever (taking friction out of the question), and this small force, continued, will in time bring the mass to move with any velocity whatsoever. Our author himself seems to allow this towards the end of the same No. 2, when he is subdividing his celerities and forces; for as in continuing the division to eternity by his method of ½c, ⅓c, ¼c, ⅕c, &c., you can never come to a fraction of velocity that is equal to 0c, or no celerity at all; so, dividing the force in the same manner, you can never come to a fraction of force that will not produce an equal fraction of celerity.
Where, then, is the mighty vis inertiæ, and what is its strength, when the greatest assignable mass of matter will give way to, or be moved by, the least assignable force? Suppose two globes equal to the sun and to one another, exactly equipoised in Jove’s balance; suppose no friction in the centre of motion, in the beam, or elsewhere; if a musqueto then were to light on one of them, would he not give motion to them both, causing one to descend and the other to rise? If it is objected, that the force of gravity helps one globe to descend, I answer, the same force opposes the other’s rising. Here is an equality that leaves the whole motion to be produced by the musqueto, without whom those globes would not be moved at all. What, then, does vis inertiæ do in this case? and what other effect could we expect if there were no such thing? Surely, if it were any thing more than a phantom, there might be enough of it in such vast bodies to annihilate, by its opposition to motion, so trifling a force!
Our author would have reasoned more clearly, I think, if, as he has used the letter a for a certain quantity of matter, and c for a certain quantity of celerity, he had employed one letter more, and put f, perhaps, for a certain quantity of force. This let us suppose to be done; and then, as it is a maxim that the force of bodies in motion is equal to the quantity of matter multiplied by the celerity (or f = c × a); and as the force received by and subsisting in matter, when it is put in motion, can never exceed the force given; so, if f moves a with c, there must needs be required 2f to move a with 2c; for a moving with 2c would have a force equal to 2f, which it could not receive from 1f; and this, not because there is such a thing as vis inertiæ, for the case would be the same if that had no existence; but because nothing can give more than it has. And now again, if a thing can give what it has, if 1f can to 1a give 1c, which is the same thing as giving it 1f (that is, if force applied to matter at rest can put it in motion and give it equal force), where, then, is vis inertiæ? If it existed at all in matter, should we not find the quantity of its resistance subtracted from the force given?
In No. 4, our author goes on and says: “The body a requires a certain force to be impressed on it to be moved with a celerity as c, or such a force is necessary; and therefore it makes a certain resistance, &c.; a body as 2a requires twice that force to be moved with the same celerity, or it makes twice that resistance; and so on.” This I think is not true; but that the body 2a, moved by the force 1f (though the eye may judge otherwise of it), does really move with the same celerity as it did when impelled by the same force; for 2a is compounded of 1a + 1a; and if each of the 1a’s, or each part of the compound, were made to move with 1c (as they might be by 2f), then the whole would move with 2c, and not with 1c, as our author supposes. But 1f applied to 2a makes each a move with ½c; and so the whole moves with 1c; exactly the same as 1a was made to do by 1f before. What is equal celerity but a measuring the same space by moving bodies in the same time? Now if 1a, impelled by 1f, measures one hundred yards in a minute; and in 2a, impelled by 1f, each a measures fifty yards in a minute, which added make one hundred; are not the celerities, as the forces, equal? And since force and celerity in the same quantity of matter are always in proportion to each other, why should we, when the quantity of matter is doubled, allow the force to continue unimpaired, and yet suppose one half of the celerity to be lost?1 I wonder the more at our author’s mistake in this point, since in the same number I find him observing: “We may easily conceive that a body, as 3a, 4a, &c., would make three or four bodies equal to once a, each of which would require once the first force to be moved with the celerity c.” If, then, in 3a, each a requires once the first force f to be moved with the celerity c, would not each move with the force f and celerity c? and consequently the whole be 3a moving with 3f and 3c? After so distinct an observation, how could he miss of the consequence, and imagine that 1c and 3c were the same? Thus, as our author’s abatement of celerity in the case of 2a moved by 1f is imaginary, so must be his additional resistance. And here again I am at a loss to discover any effect of the vis inertiæ.
In No. 6 he tells us “that all this is likewise certain when taken the contrary way, viz., from motion to rest; for the body a moving with a certain velocity, as c, requires a certain degree of force or resistance to stop that motion,” &c., &c.; that is, in other words, equal force is necessary to destroy force. It may be so. But how does that discover a vis inertiæ? Would not the effect be the same if there were no such thing? A force 1f strikes a body 1a, and moves it with the celerity 1c—that is, with the force 1f; it requires, even according to our author, only an opposing 1f to stop it. But ought it not (if there were a vis inertiæ) to have not only the force 1f, but an additional force equal to the force of vis inertiæ, that obstinate power by which a body endeavours with all its might to continue in its present state, whether of motion or rest? I say, ought there not to be an opposing force equal to the sum of these? The truth, however, is, that there is no body, how large soever, moving with any velocity, how great soever, but may be stopped by any opposing force, how small soever, continually applied. At least all our modern philosophers agree to tell us so.
Let me turn the thing in what light I please, I cannot discover the vis inertiæ, nor any effect of it. It is allowed by all that a body 1a, moving with a velocity 1c and a force 1f, striking another body 1a at rest, they will afterwards move on together, each with ½c and ½f; which, as I said before, is equal in the whole to 1c and 1f. If vis inertiæ, as in this case, neither abates the force nor the velocity of bodies, what does it, or how does it discover itself?
I imagine I may venture to conclude my observations on this piece, almost in the words of the author: that, if the doctrines of the immateriality of the soul and the existence of God and of divine providence are demonstrable from no plainer principles, the deist (that is, theist) has a desperate cause in hand. I oppose my theist to his atheist, because I think they are diametrically opposite, and not near of kin, as Mr. Whitefield seems to suppose, where (in his Journal) he tells us: “M. B. was a deist; I had almost said an atheist”—that is, chalk; I had almost said charcoal.
The din of the Market1 increases upon me; and that, with frequent interruptions, has, I find, made me say some things twice over; and, I suppose, forget some others I intended to say. It has, however, one good effect, as it obliges me to come to the relief of your patience with
Your humble servant,
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN
Philadelphia, 6 August, 1747.
The observations I sent you on Baxter’s book were wrote on a sheet or two of paper in folio. He builds his whole argument on the vis inertiæ of matter. I boldly denied the being of such a property, and endeavoured to demonstrate the contrary. If I succeeded, all his edifice falls of course, unless some other way supported. I desired your sentiments of my argument. You left the book for me at New York, with a few lines containing a short censure upon the author, and that your time had been much taken up in town with business, but you were now about to retire into the country, where you should have leisure to peruse my papers; since which I have heard nothing from you relating to them. I hope you will easily find them, because I have lost my rough draft; but do not give yourself much trouble about them; for if they are lost it is really no great matter.
I am glad to hear that some gentlemen with you are inclined to go on with electrical experiments. I am satisfied we have workmen here who can make the apparatus as well to the full as that from London; and they will do it reasonably. By the next post I will send you their computation of the expense. If you shall conclude to have it done here I will oversee the work, and take care that every part be done to perfection as far as the nature of the thing admits.
Instead of the remainder of my rough minutes on electricity (which are indeed too rough for your view), I send you enclosed copies of two letters I lately wrote to Mr. Collinson on that subject. When you have perused them, please to leave them with Mr. Nichols, whom I shall desire to forward them per next post to a friend in Connecticut.
I am glad your Philosophical Treatise meets with so good reception in England. Mr. Collinson writes the same things to Mr. Logan; and Mr. Rose, of Virginia, writes me that he had received accounts from his correspondents to the same purpose. I perceive by the papers that they have also lately reprinted in London, your History of the Five Nations in octavo. If it come to your hands I should be glad to have a sight of it.
Mr. Logan, on a second reading of your piece on Fluxions lately, is satisfied that some of the faults he formerly objected to it were his own, and owing to his too little attention at that time. He desires me to tell you so, and that he asks your pardon. Upon what Mr. Collinson wrote, he again undertook to read and consider your Philosophical Treatise.1 I have not seen him since, but shall soon, and will send you his sentiments.
I am, Sir,