Front Page Titles (by Subject) CCLXXIX: TO MRS. DEBORAH FRANKLIN - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. IV Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768
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CCLXXIX: TO MRS. DEBORAH FRANKLIN - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. IV Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768 
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. IV (Letters and Misc. Writings 1763-1768).
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TO MRS. DEBORAH FRANKLIN
London, 13 June, 1766.
My Dear Child:—
Mrs. Stevenson has made up a parcel of haberdashery for you, which will go by Captain Robinson. She will also send you another cloak, in the room of that we suppose is lost. I wrote to you that I had been very ill lately. I am now nearly well again, but feeble. To-morrow I set out with my friend Dr. Pringle (now Sir John), on a journey to Pyrmont, where he goes to drink the waters; but I hope more from the air and exercise, having been used, as you know, to have a journey once a year, the want of which last year has, I believe, hurt me, so that, though I was not quite to say sick, I was often ailing last winter and through the spring. We must be back at farthest in eight weeks, as my fellow traveller is the Queen’s physician, and has leave for no longer, as her Majesty will then be near her time. I purpose to leave him at Pyrmont, and visit some of the principal cities nearest to it, and call for him again when the time for our return draws nigh. I am, my dear Debby, your ever loving husband,
[It is much to be deplored that we have no journal or any satisfactory account of Dr. Franklin’s visit to the Continent this summer. He seems to have made no notes, and to have written no letters during his absence, which are calculated in the least to satisfy our curiosity. We have, however, a glimpse of him and of his companion while at Göttingen, which illustrates the very distinct and durable impression Franklin always made in whatever society he appeared. In the Biography of Joh. D. Michaelis, p. 102, occurs the following statement, which was translated from the fly-leaf of a volume in the Huntington Collection of Frankliniana in the Metropolitan Museum.
“In the summer of 1766 I had the opportunity of making two agreeable acquaintances. Pringle and Franklin came to Göttingen, and were presented to me by Student Münchausen, I once had a curious conversation with Franklin at the table. When he dined with me, we talked much about America, about the savages, the rapid growth of the English colonies, the growth of the population, its duplication in 25 years, etc., and I said: ‘that when I was in London in 1741 I might have learned more about the condition of the colonies by English books and pamphlets, had I then thought seriously of what I had even then expressed to others: that they would one day release themselves from England. People laughed at me; still I believed it.’ He answered me with his earnest, expressive, and intelligent face: ‘Then you were mistaken. The Americans have too much love for their mother country.’ I said: ‘I believe it; but almighty interest would soon outweigh that love or even extinguish it altogether.’ He could not deny that this was possible, but secession was impossible, for all the American towns of importance, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, were exposed to the English navy. Boston could be destroyed by bombardment. This was unanswerable; I did not then suspect that I was speaking to the man who, a few years later, outraged in England, would take such an active part in the accomplishment of my contradicted prophecy.
Meanwhile when the disturbances broke out, I always expected that the commencement would be the bombardment of Boston, but things took quite another turn.”
To this was appended the following note, presumedly by Student Münchausen.
“At that time I was studying in Göttingen and had the opportunity of knowing both men. I remember well that Franklin, and I know not wherefor, was much more interesting to me than Pringle. Just in that summer Lessing also came to Göttingen, and Student Diety presented him to me in the library. He our otherwise great countryman was far from pleasing me as well as both those Englishmen. These Britons, decried for their pride, were very sociable and well informed. The German on the contrary was very haughty and controversial in his conversation, which placed good-hearted Diety in constant embarrassment. Yet I may be mistaken. I never saw the man again, nor spoke to him, and in a single interview may have been deceived.”
Sir John Pringle, who accompanied Franklin on this trip, and who had been his companion the preceding year on a tour through France, was a man of considerable repute as a man of science in his day, and in 1772, was chosen President of the Royal Society, which he surrendered for an odd reason, which as it happens connects with Franklin, and is thus described by the Messrs Hale in their captivating monograph on Franklin in France.
“George III., in the heat of his animosity against the Americans, had determined that the lightning-conductors on Kew Palace should have blunt knobs instead of sharp points. Franklin, the inventor of conductors, had directed that the points should be sharp, so that an overcharge of electricity might be dispersed silently and without explosion. As we shall have occasion to see, the question of blunt and sharp conductors became a court question, the courtiers siding with the King, and their opponents with Franklin. The King asked Sir John Pringle to take his side, and give him an opinion in favor of the knobs. To which Pringle replied by hinting that the laws of nature were not changeable at royal pleasure. It was then intimated to him by the King’s authority that a President of the Royal Society entertaining such an opinion ought to resign, and he resigned accordingly.”
It was this controversy that gave rise to the following well-known epigram:
Pringle was not only the physician of the King, but of Lord Bute, and to this clinical influence it has been usual to attribute William Franklin’s appointment as Governor of New Jersey. Nothing is more likely than that Pringle recommended it; but the appointment was, no doubt, made on public, not on private, grounds, and to place the father under obligations, not to oblige the son or any subject or sovereign’s family physician.
Only three days before the above letter to his wife was written, Dr. Franklin wrote a letter, asking the leave of the House of Assembly of Pennsylvania to return. The only notice the Assembly appears to have taken of his application was on the first day of the succeeding session to renew his appointment.—Ed.]