Front Page Titles (by Subject) XLV: TO JARED ELIOT 2 - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. II Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753
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XLV: TO JARED ELIOT 2 - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. II Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. II (Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753).
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TO 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,
[2 ]The Reverend Jared Eliot was a graduate of Yale College, and for many years was settled as a clergyman at Killingworth in Connecticut. He had a taste for philosophical studies, and published essays on agriculture, some of which passed through several editions.