Front Page Titles (by Subject) CLXXXIII: TO LORD KAMES - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. III Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763
Return to Title Page for The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. III Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CLXXXIII: TO LORD KAMES - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. III Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763 
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. III (Letters and Misc. Writings 1753-1763).
About Liberty Fund:
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
TO LORD KAMES
London, 3 May, 1760.
My Dear Lord:—
I have endeavoured to comply with your request in writing something on the present situation of our affairs in America, in order to give more correct notions of the British interest with regard to the colonies, than those I found many sensible men possessed of. Enclosed you have the production, such as it is. I wish it may, in any degree, be of service to the public. I shall at least hope this from it, for my own part, that you will consider it as a letter from me to you, and take its length as some excuse for being so long a coming.1
I am now reading with great pleasure and improvement your excellent work, The Principles of Equity. It will be of the greatest advantage to the judges in our colonies, not only in those which have courts of chancery, but also in those which, having no such courts, are obliged to mix equity with common law. It will be of more service to the colony judges, as few of them have been bred to the law. I have sent a book to a particular friend, one of the judges of the Supreme Court in Pennsylvania.
I will shortly send you a copy of the “Chapter” you are pleased to mention in so obliging a manner; and shall be extremely obliged in receiving a copy of the collection of Maxims for the Conduct of Life, which you are preparing for the use of your children. I purpose likewise a little work for the benefit of youth, to be called The Art of Virtue. From the title I think you will hardly conjecture what the nature of such a book may be. I must therefore explain it a little. Many people lead bad lives that would gladly lead good ones, but do not know how to make the change. They have frequently resolved and endeavoured it; but in vain, because their endeavours have not been properly conducted. To expect people to be good, to be just, to be temperate, &c., without showing them how they should become so, seems like the ineffectual charity mentioned by the Apostle, which consists in saying to the hungry, the cold, and the naked, “Be ye fed, be ye warmed, be ye clothed,” without showing them how they should get food, fire, or clothing.
Most people have naturally some virtues, but none have naturally all the virtues. To acquire those that are wanting, and secure what we acquire, as well as those we have naturally, is as properly an art as painting, navigation, or architecture. If a man would become a painter, navigator, or architect, it is not enough that he is advised to be one, that he is convinced by the arguments of his adviser that it would be for his advantage to be one, and that he resolves to be one, but he must also be taught the principles of the art, be shown all the methods of working, and how to acquire the habits of using properly all the instruments; and thus regularly and gradually he arrives, by practice, at some perfection in the art. If he does not proceed thus, he is apt to meet with difficulties that discourage him, and make him drop the pursuit.
My Art of Virtue has also its instruments, and teaches the manner of using them. Christians are directed to have faith in Christ, as the effectual means of obtaining the change they desire. It may, when sufficiently strong, be effectual with many; for a full opinion, that a teacher is infinitely wise, good, and powerful, and that he will certainly reward and punish the obedient and disobedient, must give great weight to his precepts, and make them much more attended to by his disciples. But many have this faith in so weak a degree, that it does not produce the effect. Our Art of Virtue may, therefore, be of great service to those whose faith is unhappily not so strong, and may come in aid of its weakness. Such as are naturally well disposed, and have been so carefully educated, as that good habits have been early established, and bad ones prevented, have less need of this art; but all may be more or less benefited by it. It is, in short, to be adapted for universal use. I imagine what I have now been writing will seem to savour of great presumption. I must therefore speedily finish my little piece, and communicate the manuscript to you, that you may judge whether it is possible to make good such pretensions. I shall at the same time hope for the benefit of your corrections. I am, &c.,
[1 ]This was probably the tract, entitled The Interest of Great Britain Considered, which was first published in 1760.