Front Page Titles (by Subject) CCIII: 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:
CCIII: 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:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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,
TO DAVID HUME
London, 24 January, 1762.
In compliance with my Lord Marischal’s request, communicated to me by you, when I last had the pleasure of seeing you, I now send you what at present appears to me to be the shortest and simplest method of securing buildings, &c., from the mischiefs of lightning. Prepare a steel rod five or six feet long, half an inch thick at its biggest end, and tapering to a sharp point; which point should be gilt to prevent its rusting. Let the big end of the rod have a strong eye or ring of half an inch diameter: Fix this rod upright to the chimney or highest part of the house, by means of staples, so as it may be kept steady. Let the pointed end be upwards, and rise three or four feet above the chimney or building that the rod is fixed to. Drive into the ground an iron rod of about an inch diameter, and ten or twelve feet long, that has also an eye or ring in its upper end. It is best that the rod should be at some distance from the foundation of the building, not nearer than ten feet, if your ground will allow so much. Then take as much length of iron rod of about half an inch diameter, as will reach from the eye in the rod above, to that in the rod below; and fasten it securely to those rods, by passing its ends through the rings, and bending those ends till they likewise form rings.
This length of rod may either be in one or several pieces. If in several, let the ends of the pieces be also well hooked to each other. Then close and cover every joint with lead, which is easily done, by making a small bag of strong paper round the joint, tying it close below, and then pouring in the melted lead; it being of use in these junctures, that there should be considerable quantity of metalline contact between piece and piece. For, if they were only hooked together and so touched each other but in points, the lightning, in passing through them, might melt and break them where they join. The lead will also prevent the weakening of the joints by rust. To prevent the shaking of this rod by the wind, you may secure it by a few staples to the building, till it comes down within ten feet of the ground, and thence carry it off to your ground rod; near to which should be planted a post, to support the iron conductor above the heads of people walking under it.
If the building be large and long, as an hundred feet or upwards, it may not be amiss to erect a pointed rod at each end, and form a communication by an iron rod between them. If there be a well near the house, so that you can by such a rod form a communication from your top rod to the water, it is rather better to do so than to use the ground rod above mentioned. It may also be proper to paint the iron, to render it more durable by preserving it from rust.
A building thus guarded will not be damaged by lightning, nor any person or thing therein killed, hurt, or set on fire. For either the explosion will be prevented by the operation of the point, or, if not prevented, then the whole quantity of lightning exploded near the house, whether passing from the cloud to the earth, or from the earth to the cloud, will be conveyed in the rods. And though the iron be crooked round the corner of the building, or make ever so many turns between the upper and lower rod, the lightning will follow it, and be guided by it, without affecting the building. I omit the philosophical reasons and experiments on which this practice is founded, for they are many, and would make a book. Besides they are already known to most of the learned throughout Europe. In the American British colonies many houses have been, since the year 1752, guarded by these principles. Three facts have only come to my knowledge of the effects of lightning on such houses.
If I have not been explicit enough in my directions, I shall, on the least intimation, endeavour to supply the defect.
I am, &c.