Front Page Titles (by Subject) CCCXLVIII: TO MICHAEL COLLINSON, ESQ. - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. V Letters and Misc. Writings 1768-1772
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CCCXLVIII: TO MICHAEL COLLINSON, ESQ. - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. V Letters and Misc. Writings 1768-1772 
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. V (Letters and Misc. Writings 1768-1772).
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TO MICHAEL COLLINSON, ESQ.
Understanding that on account of our dear departed friend, Mr. Peter Collinson,1 is intended to be given to the public, I cannot omit expressing my approbation of the design. The characters of good men are exemplary, and often stimulate the well-disposed to an imitation, beneficial to mankind and honorable to themselves. And as you may be unacquainted with the following instance of his zeal and usefulness in promoting knowledge, which fell within my observation, I take the liberty of informing you that in 1730, a subscription library being set on foot at Philadelphia, he encouraged the design by making several very valuable presents to it, and procuring others from his friends; and as the library company had a considerable sum arising annually to be laid out in books, and needed a judicious friend in London to transact the business for them, he voluntarily and cheerfully undertook that service, and executed it for more than thirty years successively, assisting in the choice of books, and taking the whole care of collecting and shipping them, without ever charging or accepting any consideration for his trouble. The success of this library (greatly owing to his kind countenance and good advice) encouraged the erecting others in different places on the same plan; and it is supposed there are now upwards of thirty subsisting in the several colonies, which have contributed greatly to the spreading of useful knowledge in that part of the world; the books he recommended being all of that kind, and the catalogue of the first library being much respected and followed by those libraries that succeeded.
During the same time he transmitted to the directors of the library the earliest account of every new European improvement in agriculture and the arts, and every philosophical discovery; among which, in 1745, he sent over an account of the new German experiments in electricity, together with a glass tube, and some directions for using it, so as to repeat those experiments. This was the first notice I had of that curious subject, which I afterwards prosecuted with some diligence, being encouraged by the friendly reception he gave to the letters I wrote to him upon it. Please to accept this small testimony of mine to his memory, for which I shall ever have the utmost respect; and believe me, with sincere esteem, dear Sir, your most humble servant,
TO LORD KAMES
London, 1 January, 1769.
My Dear Friend:—
It is always a great pleasure to me to hear from you, and would be a much greater to be with you, to converse with you on the subjects you mention, or any other. Possibly I may one day enjoy that pleasure. In the meantime we may use the privilege that the knowledge of letters affords us, of conversing at a distance by the pen.
I am glad to find you are turning your thoughts to political subjects, and particularly to those of money, taxes, manufactures, and commerce. The world is yet much in the dark on these important points; and many mischievous mistakes are continually made in the management of them. Most of our acts of Parliament for regulating them are, in my opinion, little better than political blunders, owing to the ignorance of science or to the designs of crafty men, who mislead the legislature, proposing something under the specious appearance of public good, while the real aim is to sacrifice that to their private interest. I hope a good deal of light may be thrown on these subjects by your sagacity and acuteness. I only wish I could first have engaged you in discussing the weighty points in dispute between Britain and the colonies. But the long letter I wrote you for that purpose, in February or March, 1767, perhaps never reached your hand, for I have not yet had a word from you in answer to it.1
The act you inquire about had its rise thus: During the war Virginia issued great sums of paper money for the payment of their troops to be sunk in a number of years by taxes. The British merchants trading thither received these bills in payment for their goods, purchasing tobacco with them to send home. The crop of tobacco one or two years falling short, the factors, who were desirous of making a speedy remittance, sought to pay, with the paper money, bills of exchange. The number of bidders for these bills raised the price of them thirty per cent. above par. This was deemed so much loss to the purchasers, and supposed to arise from a depreciation of the paper money. The merchants, on this supposition, founded a complaint against that currency to the Board of Trade. Lord Hillsborough, then at the head of that Board, took up the matter strongly, and drew a report, which was presented to the King in Council, against all paper currency in the colonies. And, though there was no complaint against it from any merchants but those trading to Virginia, all those trading to the other colonies being satisfied with its operation, yet the ministry proposed and the Parliament came into the making a general act, forbidding all future emissions of paper money, that should be a legal tender in any colony whatever.
The Virginia merchants have since had the mortification to find that, if they had kept the paper money a year or two, the above-mentioned loss would have been avoided; for as soon as tobacco became more plenty, and of course bills of exchange also, the exchange fell as much as it before had risen. I was in America when the act passed. On my return to England I got the merchants trading to New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, &c., to meet, to consider, and join in an application to have the restraining act repealed. To prevent this application, a copy was put into the merchants’ hands of Lord Hillsborough’s report, by which it was supposed they might be convinced that such an application would be wrong. They desired my sentiments on it, which I gave in the paper I send you enclosed. I have no copy by me of the report itself; but in my answer you will see a faithful abridgment of all the arguments or reasons it contained. Lord Hillsborough has read my answer, but says he is not convinced by it, and adheres to his former opinion. We know nothing can be done in Parliament; that the minister is absolutely against, and therefore we let that point rest for the present. And as I think a scarcity of money will work with our other present motives for lessening our fond extravagance in the use of the superfluous manufactures of this country, which unkindly grudges us the enjoyment of common rights, and will tend to lead us naturally into industry and frugality, I am grown more indifferent about the repeal of the act, and if my countrymen will be advised by me, we shall never ask it again.1
There is not, as I conceive, any new principle wanting to account for the operations of air, and all the affections of smoke in rooms and chimneys; but it is difficult to advise in particular cases at a distance, where one cannot have all the circumstances under view. If two rooms and chimneys are “perfectly similar” in situation, dimension, and all other circumstances, it seems not possible that, “in summer, when no fire had been in either of them for some months, and in a calm day, a current of air should at the same time go up the chimney of the one, and down the chimney of the other.” But such difference may and often does take place, from circumstances in which they are dissimilar, and which dissimilarity is not very obvious to those who have little studied the subject. As to your particular case, which you describe to be that, “after a whole day’s fire, which must greatly heat the vent, yet when the fire becomes low, so as not to emit any smoke, neighbour smoke immediately begins to descend and fill the room”; this, if not owing to particular winds, may be occasioned by a stronger fire in another room, communicating with yours by a door, the outer air being excluded by the outward door’s being shut, whereby the stronger fire finds it easier to be supplied with air down through the vent in which the weak fire is, and thence through the communicating door, than through the crevices. If this is the circumstance, you will find that a supply of air is only wanting, that may be sufficient for both vents. If this is not the circumstance, send me, if you please, a complete description of your room, its situation and connexion, and possibly I may form a better judgment; though I imagine your Professor of Natural Philosophy, Mr. Russel, or Mr. George Clark, may give you as good advice on the subject as I can. But I shall take the liberty of sending you, by the first convenient opportunity, a collection of my philosophical papers lately published, in which you will find something more relating to the motions of air in chimneys.1
To commence a conversation with you on your new project, I have thrown some of my present sentiments into the concise form of aphorisms, to be examined between us, if you please, and rejected or corrected and confirmed, as we shall find most proper. I send them enclosed.1
With thanks for your good wishes, and with unalterable esteem, I remain, my dear friend, affectionately yours,
[1 ]Peter Collinson, F. R. S., a very celebrated botanist, was descended from a family of ancient standing in the county of Westmoreland, but born himself in 1693, in Clement’s Lane, Lombard Street. His parents realized a handsome fortune by trade in Gracechurch Street, the bulk of which coming to Peter, who was the eldest son, he was enabled to follow his favorite pursuit of natural history. He had one of the finest gardens in England, at Peckham, in Surrey, whence he removed in 1749 to Mill Hill, in the parish of Hendon in Middlesex, where he died, in August, 1768. Mr. Collinson kept up a correspondence with men of science in all parts of the world, and he sent the first electrical machine that was ever seen in America, as a present to the Philosophical Society at Philadelphia. He was also a liberal contributor to the public library of that city; and an intimate friend of Dr. Franklin, who received from him many hints and papers on the subject of electricity.
[1 ]See supra the letter of April 11, 1767.
[1 ]See Vindication of the Provincial Paper Money System, vol. iv., p. 358.
[1 ]Experiments and Observations on Electricity made at Philadelphia, in America, by B. Franklin, LL.D. and F.R.S., to which are added Letters and Papers on Philosophical Subjects, &c. London: David Henry, 1769, 4°.
[1 ]These were probably Positions to be Examined concerning National Wealth. See infra, April 4, 1769.