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1761: CXCVI: TO HUGH ROBERTS - 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).
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TO HUGH ROBERTS
London, 26 February, 1761.
I think I have before acknowledged the receipt of your favor of the 15th of the 5th month, 1760. (I use your own notation, because I cannot tell what month it was, without reckoning.) I thank you for it, however, once more. I received it by the hand of your son, and had the pleasure withal of seeing him grown up a solid, sensible young man. You will have, I see, a great deal of satisfaction in him, and I congratulate you cordially on that head.
I was glad to hear that the Hospital is still supported. I write to the managers by this ship. In my journeys through England and Scotland I have visited several of the same kind, which I think were all in a good way. I send you by this ship sundry of their accounts and rules, which were given me. Possibly you may find a useful hint or two in some of them. I believe we shall be able to make a small collection here; but I cannot promise it will be very considerable.
You tell me you sometimes visit the ancient Junto. I wish you would do it oftener. I know they all love and respect you, and regret your absenting yourself so much. People are apt to grow strange, and not understand one another so well, when they meet but seldom. Since we have held that Club till we are grown gray together, let us hold it out to the end. For my own part, I find I love company, chat, a laugh, a glass, and even a song, as well as ever, and at the same time relish better than I used to do the grave observations and wise sentences of old men’s conversation; so that I am sure the Junto will be still as agreeable to me as it ever has been. I therefore hope it will not be discontinued as long as we are able to crawl together.1
I thank you for the frequent kind visits you are so good as to make to my little family. I now hope in a little time to have the pleasure of seeing them, and thanking my friends in person. With the sincerest esteem and regard, I am, dear friend, yours affectionately,
TO MISS MARY STEVENSON
Monday, 30 March, 1761.
My Dear Friend:—
Supposing the fact that the water of the well at Bristol is warmer after some time pumping, I think your manner of accounting for that increased warmth very ingenious and probable. It did not occur to me, and therefore I doubted of the fact.
You are, I think, quite right in your opinion, that the rising of the tides in rivers is not owing to the immediate influence of the moon on the rivers. It is rather a subsequent effect of the influence of the moon on the sea, and does not make its appearance in some rivers till the moon has long passed by. I have not expressed myself clearly, if you have understood me to mean otherwise. You know I have mentioned it as a fact, that there are in some rivers several tides all existing at the same time; that is, two, three, or more high-waters, and as many low-waters, in different parts of the same river, which cannot possibly be all effects of the moon’s immediate action on that river, but they may be subsequent effects of her action on the sea.
In the enclosed paper you will find my sentiments on several points relating to the air and the evaporation of water. It is Mr. Collinson’s copy, who took it from one I sent through his hands to a correspondent in France some years since; I have, as he desired me, corrected the mistakes he made in transcribing, and must return it to him; but if you think it worth while you may take a copy of it. I would have saved you any trouble of that kind, but had not time.
Some day in the next or the following week I purpose to have the pleasure of seeing you at Wanstead. I shall accompany your good mamma thither, and stay till the next morning, if it may be done without incommoding your family too much. We may then discourse any points in that paper that do not seem clear to you, and, taking a walk to Lord Tilney’s ponds, make a few experiments there to explain the nature of the tides more fully. In the mean time, believe me to be, with the highest esteem and regard,
Your sincerely affectionate friend,
TO JOSIAH QUINCY
London, 8 April, 1761.
I received your very obliging letter of December 25th, by the hand of your valuable son, who had before favored me now and then with a kind visit. I congratulate you on his account, as I am sure you must have a great deal of satisfaction in him. His ingenuous, manly, and generous behaviour, in a transaction here with the Society of Arts, gave me great pleasure, as it was much to his reputation.1
I am glad my weak endeavours for our common interest were acceptable to you and my American friends. I shall be very happy indeed if any good arises from them. The people in power here do now seem convinced of the truth of the principles I have inculcated, and incline to act upon them; but how far they will be able to do so at a peace, is still uncertain, especially as the war in Germany grows daily less favorable to us. My kinsman, Williams, was but ill informed in the account he gave you of my situation here. The Assembly voted me fifteen hundred pounds sterling when I left Philadelphia, to defray the expense of my voyage and negotiations in England, since which they have given nothing more, though I have been here near four years. They will, I make no doubt, on winding up the affair, do what is just; but they cannot afford to be extravagant, as that report would make them.
Pray make my best respects acceptable to your amiable family, and do me the justice to believe that no one more sincerely wishes a continuance of your happiness than, dear friend, yours most affectionately,
TO HENRY POTTS, ESQ.
23d April, 1761.
In obedience to the commands of His Majesty’s Postmaster General, signified to me by you, I have considered Governor Boone’s letter to My Lord Bessborough, and the extract of his letter to John Pownall, Esq., Secretary to the Board of Trade, containing a complaint of some inconveniency to him, arising from “the posts not passing through Perth Amboy and Burlington (the route established by Act of Parliament) in their way between Philadelphia and New York”; and alledging, that “thro’ this omission it has happened and may happen again that dispatches received by him from the plantation office could not be answered by the first pacquet, whence he may sometimes appear tardy to their lordships with all the inclination to be otherwise, etc.”
It is true that the post route was thro’ the towns of Burlington and Amboy in New Jersey, before and at the time of making the Act of Queen Anne for establishing the post office, and therefore those towns were mentioned in the Act, so far as to settle the rates of postage between them and the cities of New York and Philadelphia; but it has never been understood that the route was established by such mention of those places, or that the Act bound the post-office to continue the posts in any route then used, if one better and more convenient could be found. Nor, indeed, would such restraints in an Act of Parliament relating to America be of utility, but the contrary. For our first settlements there being near the sea, the first roads are of course along the coast where interrupting waters from bays and inlets are more frequent, and rivers wider and more difficult of passage; but in process of time, as the people settle farther back and clear the upland country, more convenient roads are found, the bays and inlets avoided, and the interruption of ferries less frequent, as many rivers are fordable up the country that cannot be cross’d near their mouths but in boats.
Something like this has been the case with regard to the old and new roads thro’ the province of New Jersey. As soon as the new road in the upper parts of that province was open’d travellers between Philadelphia and New York began gradually to abandon the old road, which was not so convenient; and after some time, on an application made to Col. Spotswood, then deputy postmaster-general, the post route was also chang’d from the old road to the new.
This change was made about thirty years ago and some years before I had any concern in the office; but as it was a matter much talk’d of at the time, I remember well the reasons that were given for the change which were these, viz.:
That the ferry over the River Delaware from Bristol to Burlington, to be pass’d in travelling the old road, was a mile and half wide, and in winter often incumbered with ice, so as greatly to delay the post: that the old road, from Burlington to Amboy, was for 50 miles chiefly a heavy loose sand, very fatiguing to the horses; that being thro’ a barren country, it was not well-inhabited, nor the inns well supply’d with provisions; that being less travelled than formerly, there was not the same care taken to provide suitable accommodations for travellers, so that no gentlemen passing between New York and Philadelphia, tho’ desirous of riding post, could well travel with him: that this gradual disuse of the road occasioned less care to be taken of the bridges, which were often out of repair, so that in rainy seasons, crossing the brooks and branches of rivers became dangerous and sometimes impracticable, to the great delay and injury of travellers: that the ferry over to Amboy, necessary to be pass’d on this road, was near two miles wide, being at the mouth of the Raritan River, and often so rough from high winds, or so incumbered with ice as to be impassable for many hours, to the great delay of the post as well as other travellers: and after the post was got to Amboy, he had still three large ferries to cross between that place and New York, viz.: the ferry over to Staten Island, the ferry from Staten Island to Long Island, 3 miles wide, and the ferry from Long Island to New York; in all which places the ferrymen were generally very dilatory, and backward to carry the post in bad weather, availing themselves of every excuse, as they were by law to receive no ferriage of him. On the other hand the new road was over better ground and kept in better repair; there were everywhere good accommodations at the inns; Delaware River was to be cross’d at Trenton and Raritan River at Brunswick, where they were both narrow, and the latter fordable at low water; and the people at Elizabeth Town Point undertook voluntarily to have a stout boat always ready to carry the post and his company directly to New York, by which the three last mentioned ferries were avoided.
The change being accordingly made, the post went no more thro’ Burlington and Amboy; but those places on that account suffered very little inconveniency, for an office was still continu’d at each of them, and their letters sent over to proper places on the new post road, to be carried forward by the post; and this was easy to do, it being only cross the ferry from Burlington to Bristol, thro’ which the post goes, and but 4 miles from Amboy to Woodbridge thro’ which he also goes. And the letters for Burlington were in like manner sent over to that office from Bristol, and those for Amboy sent to that office from Woodbridge. Tho’ the letters to and from each place by post were always extremely few, as they are towns of little or no foreign trade, the chief dealing with Amboy being with New York, and that of Burlington with Philadelphia, to and from which places boats are going almost every day, by which they always chose to send their letters, even when the post pass’d thro’ them. On the other hand, two other large and thriving towns, who make much more use of the post, are accommodated by it on the New York road, viz., Trenton and Brunswick; not to mention Prince Town, where a college is lately erected, Woodbridge and Elizabeth Town, thro’ all of which places the new road passes, and where offices have been long established.
It is now near 24 years that I have been concern’d in the management of the offices between Philadelphia and New York, and in all that time have had no complaint made to me of inconvenience from the posts continuing the route I found them in. And I must own myself at a loss to conceive the difficulty Governor Boone mentions of his corresponding regularly with the Board of Trade, and that “dispatches receiv’d from their Lordships could not be answered by the first pacquet, thro’ the posts’ omission of Burlington and Amboy in their route.” His Excellency resides at Amboy, and the letters for him which arrive at New York in the pacquet, must be forwarded to him at farthest within three days, as the post goes from New York twice a week and passes within four miles of Amboy at Woodbridge, where the Governor’s letters are left, and sent to him immediately by a special messenger from the office there; the post returns twice a week from Philadelphia to New York, and passing thro’ Woodbridge, takes up and carries forward any letters left there. The pacquet stays at New York at least 20 days, and during that time the post passes 6 times thro’ Woodbridge to New York, and would carry forward any letters the Governor should lodge at Woodbridge for that purpose. And if he happens to be at Burlington with his Assembly the post passes equally often thro’ Bristol (within a mile and a half of him, only just cross a ferry), where it cannot be much trouble to send his letters. So that on the whole I am persuaded it must appear, when duly considered, that his Excellency’s want of punctuality in his correspondence with their Lordships cannot justly be charged to the account of the post-office. Mr. Barnard, immediate predecessor of Governor Boone, tho’ he also lived at Amboy, made no complaint of this kind that I ever heard of. Nor did the next preceding Governor Belcher, tho’ he lived great part of his time at Burlington. The governors of New Jersey have sometimes liv’d on the new road, at Trenton and at Elizabeth Town; and as there is no fixed place of residence for governors in that province, future governors may happen to chuse some of the towns on the new road; so that if the post route were chang’d to gratify Governor Boone, the next governor might desire to have it back again. And I apprehend that the delays formerly experienced so frequently in the detention of the post by the wide ferries in the winter, would, if the old route was resumed, occasion great dissatisfaction to the governors of Pennsylvania, New York and New England, who, as well as the merchants of their great trading towns would probably remonstrate warmly against it.
Nevertheless, if His Majesty’s Postmaster General should upon the whole think fit to order the old route to be resumed, and the new one with all the offices so long established upon it to be drop’t, it is my duty to carry their orders into execution, which I shall do with great readiness and fidelity. I am, Sir, your most Obedient humble servant.
TO EDWARD PENNINGTON2
London, 9 May, 1761.
I enclose you a letter from your kinsman, Mr. Springet Penn, with whom I had no acquaintance until lately, but have the pleasure to find him a very sensible, discreet young man, with excellent dispositions, which makes me the more regret that the government as well as property of our province should pass out of that line. There has, by his account, been something very mysterious in the conduct of his uncle, Mr. Thomas Penn, towards him. He was his guardian; but instead of endeavouring to educate him at home under his eye in a manner becoming the elder branch of their house, has from his infancy been endeavouring to get rid of him.
He first proposed sending him to the East Indies. When that was declined, he had a scheme of sending him to Russia; but the young gentleman’s mother absolutely refusing to let him go out of the kingdom, unless to Pennsylvania to be educated in the college there, he would by no means hear of his going thither, but bound him an apprentice to a county attorney in an obscure part of Sussex, which, after two years’ stay, finding that he was taught nothing valuable, nor could see any company that might improve him, he left, and returned to his mother, with whom he has been ever since, much neglected by his uncle, except lately that he has been a little civil, to get him to join in a power of attorney to W. Peters and R. Hockley for the sale of some Philadelphia lots, of which he is told three undivided fourth parts belong to him. But he is not shown the right he has to them; nor has he any plan of their situation, by which he may be advised of their value; nor was he told, till lately, that he had any such right, which makes him suspect that he may have other rights that are concealed from him.
In some letters to his father’s eldest brother, Springet Penn, whose heir he is, he finds that Sir William Keith surveyed for him, the said Springet, a manor of seventy-five thousand acres on the Susquehanna, which he called Springetsbury, and would be glad to know what became of that survey, and whether it was ever conveyed away. By searching the records, you may possibly obtain some light in this and other land affairs, that may be for his interest. The good inclinations you have shown towards that interest, in a letter that has been shown to me, encourage me to recommend this matter earnestly to your care and prudence; and the more privately you carry on your inquiries, for the present, the better it will be.
His uncle has lately proposed to him to buy of him Pennsbury manor house, with one thousand acres of the land near the house, pretending that his principal reason for doing it was not the value of the land, but an inclination he had to possess the ancient home of the head of the family, and a little land round it just to support it. You know the situation of that manor, and can judge whether it would be prudent to sell the part proposed from the rest, and will advise him concerning it. He has refused to treat about it at present, as well as to sign the power of attorney for the sale of the city lots; upon which his late guardian has brought in an account against him, and demands a debt of four hundred pounds, which he urges him to pay, for that, as he says, he very much wants the money, which does not seem to look well.
Not only the Land Office may be searched for warrants and surveys to the young gentleman’s ancestors, but also the Record Office for deeds of gift from the first proprietor, and other subsequent grants or conveyances. I may tell you in confidence that some lawyers are of opinion that the government was not legally conveyed from the eldest branch to others of the family; but this is to be farther inquired into, and at present it is not to be talked of. I am, with much esteem, Sir, &c.,
TO MRS. DEBORAH FRANKLIN
Holland, 14 September, 1761.
My Dear Child:—
I wrote to you just before we left London, that we were about to make a short tour to Holland. I wrote to you since from Antwerp, in Flanders, and am now to acquaint you, that, having seen almost all the principal places, and the things worthy of notice, in those two countries, we are on our return to London, where we hope to be next Saturday or Sunday, that we may not miss the Coronation. At Amsterdam I met with Mr. Crellius and his daughter, that was formerly Mrs. Neigh. Her husband, Dr. Neigh, died in Carolina, and she is married again and lives very well in that city. They treated us with great civility and kindness, and will be so obliging as to forward this letter to you, a ship being bound to New York from Amsterdam. We are in good health, and have had a great deal of pleasure and received a good deal of information in this tour, that may be useful when we return to America. My love to my dear Sally, and affectionate regards to all. Billy presents his duty. I am, my dear Debby, your ever loving husband,
TO MISS MARY STEVENSON
29 October, 1761.
My dear Polly’s good mamma bids me write two or three lines, by way of apology for her so long omitting to write. She acknowledges the receiving of two agreeable letters from her beloved daughter, enclosing one for Sally Franklin, which was much approved (excepting one word only) and sent as directed.
The reasons of her not writing are, that her time all day is fully taken up, during the daylight, with the care of her family, and—lying abed in the morning. And her eyes are so bad that she cannot see to write in the evening—for playing at cards. So she hopes that one, who is all goodness, will certainly forgive her, when her excuses are so substantial. As for the secretary, he has not a word to say in his own behalf, though full as great an offender, but throws himself upon mercy; pleading only that he is, with the greatest esteem and sincerest regard, his dear Polly’s ever affectionate friend,
TO LORD KAMES
London, November, 1761.
My Dear Lord:—
It is long since I have afforded myself the pleasure of writing to you. As I grow in years, I find I grow more indolent, and more apt to procrastinate. I am indeed a bad correspondent; but what avails confession without amendment?
When I come so late with my thanks for your truly valuable Introduction to the Art of Thinking, can I have any right to inquire after your Elementsof Criticism? I promise myself no small satisfaction in perusing that work also, when it shall appear. By the first, you sow thick in the young mind the seeds of good sense concerning moral conduct, which, as they grow and are transplanted into life, must greatly adorn the character and promote the happiness of the person. Permit me to say that I think I never saw more solid, useful matter contained in so small a compass, and yet the method and expression so clear that the brevity occasions no obscurity. In the other you will, by alluring youth to the practice of learning, strengthen their judgment, improve and enlarge their understanding, and increase their abilities of being useful.
To produce the number of valuable men necessary in a nation for its prosperity, there is much more hope from schemes of early institution than from reformation. And as the power of a single man to do national service, in particular situations of influence, is often immensely great, a writer can hardly conceive the good he may be doing when engaged in works of this kind. I cannot, therefore, but wish you would publish it as soon as your other important employments will permit you to give it the finishing hand.
With these sentiments you will not doubt my being serious in the intention of finishing my Art of Virtue. It is not a mere ideal work. I planned it first in 1732. I have from time to time made, and caused to be made, experiments of the method with success. The materials have been growing ever since. The form only is now to be given; in which I purpose employing my first leisure, after my return to my other country.
Your invitation to make another jaunt to Scotland, and offer to meet us half way en famille, was extremely obliging. Certainly I never spent my time anywhere more agreeably, nor have I been in any place where the inhabitants and their conversation left such lastingly pleasing impressions on my mind, accompanied with the strongest inclination once more to visit that hospitable, friendly, and sensible people. The friendship your Lordship in particular honors me with would not, you may be assured, be among the least of my inducements. My son is in the same sentiments with me. But we doubt we cannot have that happiness, as we are to return to America early in the next spring.
I am ashamed that I have been so useless a member to your Philosophical Society, since they did me the honor of admitting me. But I think it will not be long before they hear from me. I should be very glad to see Dr. Cullen’s paper on Fire. When may we expect the publication? I have, as you have heard, been dealing in Smoke, and I think it not difficult to manage, when one is once acquainted thoroughly with the principles. But as the causes are various, so must the remedies be; and one cannot prescribe to a patient at such a distance, without first having a clear state of its case. If you should ever take the trouble of sending me a description of the circumstances of your smoky chimneys, perhaps I might offer something useful towards their cure. But doubtless you have doctors equally skilful nearer home.
I sent one of your Principles of Equity as a present to a particular friend of mine, one of the judges of the Supreme Court in Pennsylvania, where, as there is no court of chancery, equity is often mixed with the common law in their judgments. I since received two letters from him. In the first, when he had read but part of the work, he seemed to think something wanting in it. In the next, he calls his first sentiments in question. I think I will send you the letters, though of no great importance, lest, since I have mentioned them, you should think his remarks might be of more consequence. You can return them when any friend is coming this way.
May I take the freedom of recommending the bearer, Mr. Morgan, to your Lordship’s protection. He purposes residing some time in Edinburgh, to improve himself in the study of physic, and I think will one day make a good figure in the profession, and be of some credit to the school he studies in, if great industry and application, joined with natural genius and sagacity, afford any foundation for the presage. He is the son of a friend and near neighbour of mine in Philadelphia, so that I have known him from a child, and am confident the same excellent dispositions, good morals, and prudent behaviour, that have procured him the esteem and affection of all that knew him in his own country, will render him not unworthy the regard, advice, and countenance your Lordship may be so good as to afford him.
My son (with whom I have lately made the tour of Holland and Flanders) joins with me in best wishes for you and Lady Kames, and your amiable children. We hope, however far we may be removed from you, to hear frequently of your welfare, and of the fortunes of your family; being with the sincerest esteem and regard, my dear friend, yours most affectionately,
[1 ]One of Franklin’s songs for the Junto, of a political complexion, has been found among his manuscripts, which was probably written about the time of the Stamp Act, or a little later. The allusion to France, in the last stanza but one, would seem to refer to that period. The author was then in England, and it is not known for what occasion the song was composed.
[1 ]The gentleman here mentioned was Edmund Quincy, a merchant of Boston and the eldest son of Josiah Quincy. He had been in trade several years, and went to London to arrange a mercantile correspondence there. He died at sea, March 31, 1768, on his homeward voyage from the West Indies, at the age of thirty-five.
[1 ]Josiah Quincy, to whom the above letter was written, resided in Braintree, Mass., and was the father of the distinguished patriot. Josiah Quincy, Jr., who will be mentioned hereafter. An early acquaintance and attachment had been formed between Mr. Quincy, the father, and Dr. Franklin, the particulars of which are described by the latter in his autobiography.
[1 ]From Documents Relating to the Colonial History of New Jersey, vol. ix (first series), p. 265.
[2 ]Mr. Pennington was an eminent merchant of Philadelphia. There was a family connection between his ancestors and William Penn’s first wife, whose name before her marriage was Springet.