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CCX: TO DAVID HUME 1 - 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 DAVID HUME1
London, 10 May, 1762.
It is no small pleasure to me to hear from you that my paper on the means of preserving buildings from damage by lightning was acceptable to the Philosophical Society. Mr. Russel’s proposals of improvement are very sensible and just. A leaden spout or pipe is undoubtedly a good conductor, so far as it goes. If the conductor enters the ground just at the foundation, and from thence is carried horizontally to some well, or to a distant rod driven downright into the earth, I would then propose that the part under the ground should be lead, as less liable to consume with rust than iron. Because, if the conductor near the foot of the wall should be wasted, the lightning might act on the moisture of the earth, and by suddenly rarefying it occasion an explosion that may damage the foundation. In the experiment of discharging my large case of electrical bottles through a piece of small glass tube filled with water, the suddenly rarefied water has exploded with a force equal, I think, to that of so much gunpowder; bursting the tube into many pieces, and driving them with violence in all directions and to all parts of the room. The shivering of trees into small splinters, like a broom, is probably owing to this rarefaction of the sap in the longitudinal pores, or capillary pipes, in the substance of the wood. And the blowing up of bricks or stones in a hearth, rending stones out of a foundation, and splitting of walls, are also probably effects sometimes of rarefied moisture in the earth, under the hearth, or in the walls. We should therefore have a durable conductor under ground, or convey the lightning to the earth at some distance.
It must afford Lord Marischal a good deal of diversion to preside in a dispute so ridiculous as that you mention. Judges in their decisions often use precedents. I have somewhere met with one that is what the lawyers call a case in point. The Church people and the Puritans in a country town had once a bitter contention concerning the erecting of a Maypole, which the former desired and the latter opposed. Each party endeavoured to strengthen itself by obtaining the authority of the mayor, directing or forbidding a Maypole. He heard their altercation with great patience, and then gravely determined thus: “You, that are for having no Maypole, shall have no Maypole; and you, that are for having a Maypole, shall have a Maypole. Get about your business, and let me hear no more of this quarrel.”1
Your compliment of gold and wisdom is very obliging to me, but a little injurious to your country. The various value of every thing in every part of this world arises, you know, from the various proportions of the quantity to the demand. We are told that gold and silver in Solomon’s time were so plenty, as to be of no more value in his country than the stones in the street. You have here at present just such a plenty of wisdom. Your people are, therefore, not to be censured for desiring no more among them than they have; and if I have any, I should certainly carry it where, from its scarcity, it may probably come to a better market.
I nevertheless regret extremely the leaving a country in which I have received so much friendship, and friends whose conversation has been so agreeable and so improving to me; and that I am henceforth to reside at so great a distance from them is no small mortification to, my dear friend, yours most affectionately,
P. S.—My respectful compliments, if you please, to Sir Alexander Dick, Lord Kames, Mr. Alexander, Mr. Russel, and any other inquiring friends. I shall write to them before I leave the Island.
[1 ]The letter from Mr. Hume, to which this is a reply, may be seen supra, under date of May 10, 1762.
[1 ]Lord Marischal was a person of consideration in Neufchâtel, to whom Dr. Franklin had communicated, through Mr. Hume, a paper containing directions for putting up lightning rods.