TO JAMES LOGAN
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 Castle 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.,
James Logan, descended from an ancient family of Restalrig in Scotland, was born at Lurgan, in Ireland, 1674. His father was a man of great learning, and educated for the Scottish church; but, having been converted to the principles of the Quakers, he was, at the time of his son’s birth, a teacher in a public school in that Society. At an early age James Logan became imbued with a love of letters and science. Before he was thirteen years old, he had made uncommon proficiency in the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages. He soon afterwards acquired a taste for the mathematics, in which he became profoundly skilled, and which science seems to have been his favorite study through life. For a few years he had charge of a large Grammar School at Bristol, in England; but he afterwards engaged in commerce. Becoming acquainted with William Penn, he was induced by him to give up his plans of life, and accompany him as secretary on his second visit to Pennsylvania, in 1699.
Having acquired the entire confidence of the Proprietor, he was left by him in charge of his private estate, and in the important offices of Provincial Secretary, Commissioner of Property, and Receiver-General. In the course of his life he filled the places of Recorder of the City of Philadelphia, Presiding Judge of Common Pleas, Chief Justice of the Province, and President of the Council, in which last office he governed the Province for two years, from 1736 to 1738. He also had the entire management of the intercourse with the Indians. When William Penn left the Province, in 1701, he presented Mr. Logan to the assembled Chiefs as his representative; and this choice of an agent was justified by his conduct. During the whole of his public life the affectionate intercourse commenced by William Penn, and the confidential reliance inspired by his justice and benevolence, were preserved by James Logan. It is perhaps worthy of being mentioned that the celebrated Mingo Chief, whose eloquent speech is contained in Mr. Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia, was named Logan by his father Shickellemy, as a mark of respect and gratitude for the friend and protector of himself and his race.
A history of James Logan’s public life would be that of Pennsylvania during the first forty years of the last century. Venerating William Penn, with whose noble and generous nature he was well acquainted, he stood up at all times in his defence against the encroachments of the Assembly; and if he forfeited his popularity, and endured calumny and persecution, he preserved his fidelity, the confidence of his employers, and the respect of all good men. Weary of the burden of public office he retired in 1738 from all his salaried employments, remaining only a short time longer a member of the Provincial Council. At his estate, called Stenton, near Germantown, he passed in retirement the remainder of his days devoted to agriculture and his favorite studies. A large collection of mathematical papers in manuscript, exhibiting extensive and varied researches in that science, are marked on the envelope, Horœ ante Nonam, and are doubtless the results of his morning recreations before office hours. His correspondence with the literary men of America and Europe, from the year 1713, proves that there was scarcely a department of learning in which he was not interested. History, archæology, criticism, theology, ethics, natural philosophy, anatomy, and law, are treated of. Sometimes Hebrew or Arabic characters and algebraic formulas roughen the pages of his letter books. Sometimes his letters convey a lively Greek ode to a learned friend, and often they are written in the Latin language. Among his correspondents in this country were Cadwallader Colden, Governor Burnet, and Colonel Hunter, the accomplished friend of Swift; and in Europe, Collinson, Fothergill, Mead, Sir Hans Sloane, Flamsteed, Jones the mathematician, father of the celebrated Sir William Jones, Fabricius, Gronovius, and Linnæus; the last of whom gave the name of Logan to a Class in botany.
Of his printed writings perhaps the best known is his translation of Cicero’s Cato Major, or a Discourse on Old Age, with explanatory notes, which was printed by Franklin in 1744, and several times reprinted in England. He also wrote Experimenta et Meletemata de Plantarum Generatione, printed at Leyden in 1739, and afterwards translated by Dr. Fothergill and printed in London; Demonstrationes de Radiorum in Superficies sphericas ab Axe incidentium a primario Foco Aberrationibus, printed at Leyden, 1741; Epistola ad Virum ClarissimumJoannem Albertum Fabricium, printed at Amsterdam, 1740; A Translation of Cato’s Distichs into English Verse, printed at Philadelphia. He furnished contributions to the Philosophical Transactions, and wrote other pieces on various subjects in Latin and English, some of which were published. He also left some curious papers in manuscript, particularly part of an ethical treatise, entitled The Duties of Man, as they may be deduced from Nature. This was prepared with great care. Parts of it were sent to his friends in England and received their high commendation; but it seems never to have been completed. Also fragments of a Dissertation on the Writings of Moses; A Defence of Aristotle and the Ancient Philosophers; Essays on Languages and on the Antiquities of the British Isles; a Translation of Maurocordatus περὶ ϰαθηϰόντων, and of Philo Judæus’ Allegory of the Essæans.
His acquaintance with Franklin began at an early date, and he had the highest opinion of him from the first, as an industrious, useful, and ingenious man; giving him every encouragement as a printer, and much assistance in his scientific pursuits and public enterprises. In the military defence of the city he was prominently active, notwithstanding his connection with the Friends’ Meeting. Indeed he at all times vindicated the principle of self-defence, as not only consistent with the Christian doctrines, but absolutely essential to the existence of society. In every other respect, though neither austere nor bigoted, he was a strict Friend. His virtues, his benevolence, his public integrity and services, his intimate connection with William Penn, and the honor which his talents and learning conferred on the Society of Friends, perhaps saved him from the censure which a less eminent man might have incurred.
In addition to his services as a public man, and his high reputation among his contemporaries, the valuable library left by him to the City of Philadelphia should preserve his name in grateful and honorable remembrance. . . .
James Logan died on the 31st of October, 1751, aged seventy-seven years, and was buried in the Friends’ graveyard at the corner of Arch Street and Fourth Street in Philadelphia.—J. Francis Fisher.
This letter to Logan is in reply to one received from him, dated Dec. 3d, in which he had said:
“Our friends spared no pains to get and accumulate estates, and are yet against defending them, though these very estates are in a great measure the sole cause of their being invaded, as I showed to our Yearly Meeting, last September was six years, in a paper thou then printed. But I request to be informed, as soon as thou hast any leisure, what measures are proposed to furnish small arms, powder, and ball to those in the country; and particularly what measures are taken to defend our river, especially at the Red Bank, on the Jersey side, and on our own, where there ought not to be less than 40 guns, from six- to twelve-pounders. What gunners are to be depended on?
The project of a lottery to clear £3,000 is excellent, and I hope it will be speedily filled, nor shall I be wanting. But thou wilt answer all these questions and much more, if thou wilt visit me here, as on First day to dine with me, and thou wilt exceedingly oblige thy very loving friend.”—Editor.
Castle William in Boston Harbor.