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Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. II Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753 
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. II (Letters and Misc. Writings 1735-1753).
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From the Bust by Giuseppe Ceracchi
The Works of Benjamin Franklin in Twelve Volumes
The Knickerbocker Press, New York[Back to Table of Contents]
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Volume II
CORRESPONDENCE AND MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS[Back to Table of Contents]
ON THE USEFULNESS OF THE MATHEMATICS1
MATHEMATICS originally signified any kind of discipline or learning, but now it is taken for that science which teaches or contemplates whatever is capable of being numbered or measured. That part of the mathematics which relates to numbers only is called arithmetic; and that which is concerned about measure in general, whether length, breadth, motion, force, &c., is called geometry.
As to the usefulness of arithmetic, it is well known that no business, commerce, trade, or employment whatsoever, even from the merchant to the shopkeeper, &c., can be managed and carried on without the assistance of numbers; for by these the trader computes the value of all sorts of goods that he dealeth in, does his business with ease and certainty, and informs himself how matters stand at any time with respect to men, money, or merchandise, to profit and loss, whether he goes forward or backward, grows richer or poorer. Neither is this science only useful to the merchant, but is reckoned the primum mobile (or first mover) of all mundane affairs in general, and is useful for all sorts and degrees of men, from the highest to the lowest.
As to the usefulness of geometry, it is as certain that no curious art or mechanic work can either be invented, improved, or performed without its assisting principles.
It is owing to this that astronomers are put into a way of making their observations, coming at the knowledge of the extent of the heavens, the duration of time, the motions, magnitudes, and distances of the heavenly bodies, their situations, positions, risings, settings, aspects, and eclipses; also the measure of seasons, of years, and of ages.
It is by the assistance of this science that geographers present to our view at once the magnitude and form of the whole earth, the vast extent of the seas, the divisions of empires, kingdoms, and provinces.
It is by the help of geometry the ingenious mariner is instructed how to guide a ship through the vast ocean, from one part of the earth to another, the nearest and safest way and in the shortest time.
By help of this science the architects take their just measures for the structure of buildings, as private houses, churches, palaces, ships, fortifications, &c.
By its help engineers conduct all their works, take the situation and plan of towns, forts, and castles, measure their distances from one another, and carry their measures into places that are only accessible of the eye.
From hence also is deduced that admirable art of drawing sun-dials on any plane howsoever situate, and for any part of the world, to point out the exact time of the day, sun’s declination, altitude, amplitude, azimuth, and other astronomical matters.
By geometry the surveyor is directed how to draw a map of any country, to divide his lands, and to lay down and plot any piece of ground, and thereby discover the area in acres, rods, and perches; the gauger is instructed how to find the capacities or solid contents of all kinds of vessels, in barrels, gallons, bushels &c.; and the measurer is furnished with rules for finding the areas and contents of superficies and solids, and casting up all manner of workmanship. All these and many more useful arts too many to be enumerated here, wholly depend upon the aforesaid sciences—viz., arithmetic and geometry.
This science is descended from the infancy of the world, the inventors of which were the first propagators of human kind, as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and divers others.
There has not been any science so much esteemed and honored as this of the mathematics, nor with so much industry and vigilance become the care of great men, and labored in by the potentates of the world,—viz., emperors, kings, princes, &c.
Mathematical demonstrations are a logic of as much or more use than that commonly learned at schools, serving to a just formation of the mind, enlarging its capacity, and strengthening it so as to render the same capable of exact reasoning, and discerning truth from falsehood in all occurrences, even subjects not mathematical. For which reason, it is said, the Egyptians, Persians, and Lacedæmonians seldom elected any new kings but such as had some knowledge in the mathematics, imagining those who had not, men of imperfect judgments and unfit to rule and govern.
Though Plato’s censure, that those who did not understand the 117th proposition of the 13th book of Euclid’s Elements ought not to be ranked amongst rational creatures, was unreasonable and unjust; yet to give a man the character of universal learning, who is destitute of a competent knowledge in the mathematics, is no less so.
The usefulness of some particular parts of the mathematics in the common affairs of human life has rendered some knowledge of them very necessary to a great part of mankind, and very convenient to all the rest that are any way conversant beyond the limits of their own particular callings.
Those whom necessity has obliged to get their bread by manual industry, where some degree of art is required to go along with it, and who have had some insight into these studies, have very often found advantages from them sufficient to reward the pains they were at in acquiring them. And whatever may have been imputed to some other studies, under the notion of insignificancy and loss of time, yet these, I believe, never caused repentance in any, except it was for their remissness in the prosecution of them.
Philosophers do generally affirm that human knowledge to be most excellent which is conversant amongst the most excellent things. What science then can there be more noble, more excellent, more useful for men, more admirably high and demonstrative, than this of the mathematics?
I shall conclude with what Plato says in the seventh book of his Republic with regard to the excellence and usefulness of geometry, being to this purpose;
“Dear friend; you see then that mathematics are necessary, because by the exactness of the method we get a habit of using our minds to the best advantage. And it is remarkable that all men being capable by nature to reason and understand the sciences, the less acute, by studying this, though useless to them in every other respect, will gain this advantage—that their minds will be improved in reasoning aright; for no study employs it more, nor makes it susceptible of attention so much; and those who we find have a mind worth cultivating ought to apply themselves to this study.”[Back to Table of Contents]
ON TRUE HAPPINESS1
The desire of happiness in general is so natural to us that all the world are in pursuit of it; all have this one end in view, though they take such different methods to attain it, and are so much divided in their notions of it.
Evil, as evil, can never be chosen; and though evil is often the effect of our own choice, yet we never desire it but under the appearance of an imaginary good.
Many things we indulge ourselves in may be considered by us as evils, and yet be desirable; but then they are only considered as evils in their effects and consequences, not as evils at present and attended with immediate misery.
Reason represents things to us not only as they are at present, but as they are in their whole nature and tendency; passion only regards them in their former light. When this governs us we are regardless of the future, and are only affected with the present. It is impossible ever to enjoy ourselves rightly if our conduct be not such as to preserve the harmony and order of our faculties and the original frame and constitution of our minds; all true happiness, as all that is truly beautiful, can only result from order.
Whilst there is a conflict betwixt the two principles of passion and reason, we must be miserable in proportion to the struggle, and when the victory is gained and reason so far subdued as seldom to trouble us with its remonstrances, the happiness we have then is not the happiness of our rational nature, but the happiness only of the inferior and sensual part of us, and consequently a very low and imperfect happiness to what the other would have afforded us.
If we reflect upon any one passion and disposition of mind abstract from virtue, we shall soon see the disconnexion between that and true, solid happiness. It is of the very essence, for instance, of envy to be uneasy and disquieted. Pride meets with provocations and disturbances upon almost every occasion. Covetousness is ever attended with solicitude and anxiety. Ambition has its disappointments to sour us, but never the good fortune to satisfy us; its appetite grows the keener by indulgence, and all we can gratify it with at present serves but the more to inflame its insatiable desires.
The passions, by being too much conversant with earthly objects, can never fix in us a proper composure and acquiescence of mind. Nothing but an indifference to the things of this world, an entire submission to the will of Providence here, and a well-grounded expectation of happiness hereafter, can give us a true satisfactory enjoyment of ourselves. Virtue is the best guard against the many unavoidable evils incident to us; nothing better alleviates the weight of the afflictions or gives a truer relish of the blessings of human life.
What is without us has not the least connexion with happiness only so far as the preservation of our lives and health depends upon it. Health of body, though so far necessary that we cannot be perfectly happy without it, is not sufficient to make us happy of itself. Happiness springs immediately from the mind; health is but to be considered as a condition or circumstance, without which this happiness cannot be tasted pure and unabated.
Virtue is the best preservative of health, as it prescribes temperance and such a regulation of our passions as is most conducive to the well-being of the animal economy, so that it is at the same time the only true happiness of the mind and the best means of preserving the health of the body.
If our desires are to the things of this world, they are never to be satisfied. If our great view is upon those of the next, the expectation of them is an infinitely higher satisfaction than the enjoyment of those of the present.
There is no happiness then but in a virtuous and self-approving conduct. Unless our actions will bear the test of our sober judgments and reflections upon them, they are not the actions and consequently not the happiness of a rational being.[Back to Table of Contents]
ON GOVERNMENT.—NO. I1
Government is aptly compared to architecture; if the superstructure is too heavy for the foundation the building totters, though assisted by outward props of art. But leaving it to everybody to mould the similitude according to his particular fancy, I shall only observe that the people have made the most considerable part of the legislature in every free state; which has been more or less so in proportion to the share they have had in the administration of affairs. The English constitution is fixed on the strongest basis; we choose whomsoever we please for our representatives, and thus we have all the advantages of a democracy without any of its inconveniences.
Popular governments have not been framed without the wisest reasons. It seemed highly fitting that the conduct of magistrates, created by and for the good of the whole, should be made liable to the inspection and animadversion of the whole. Besides, there could not be a more potent counterpoise to the designs of ambitious men than a multitude that hated and feared ambition. Moreover, the power they possessed, though great collectively, yet, being distributed among a vast number, the share of each individual was too inconsiderable to lay him under any temptations of turning it to a wrong use. Again, a body of people thus circumstanced cannot be supposed to judge amiss on any essential points; for if they decide in favor of themselves, which is extremely natural, their decision is just, inasmuch as whatever contributes to their benefit is a general benefit and advances the real public good. Hence we have an easy solution of the sophism, so often proposed by the abettors of tyranny, who tell us that when differences arise between a prince and his subjects the latter are incapable of being judges of the controversy, for that would be setting up judge and party in the same person.
Some foreigners have had a truer idea of our constitution. We read in the Memoirs of the late Archbishop of Cambray, Fenelon, the celebrated author of Telemachus, a conversation which he had with the Pretender (son of James the Second, of England): “If ever you come to the crown of England,” says the bishop, “you will be a happy prince; with an unlimited power to do good and only restrained from doing evil.” A blunt Briton, perhaps, would have said in plain English: “You ’ll be at liberty to do as much good as you please, but, by G—, you shall do us no hurt.” The bishop sweetened the pill; for such it would appear in its simple form to a mind fraught with notions of arbitrary power and educated among a people who, with the utmost simplicity, boast of their slavery.
What can be more ridiculous than to hear them frequently object to the English gentlemen that travel in their country, “What is your king? Commend me to our grand monarch, who can do whatever he pleases.”1 But begging pardon of these facetious gentlemen, whom it is not my intention to disturb in their many notions of government, I shall go on to examine what were the sentiments of the ancient Romans on this head.
We find that their dictator, a magistrate never created but in cases of great extremity, vested with power as absolute during his office (which never exceeded six months) as the greatest kings were never possessed of,—this great ruler was liable to be called to an account by any of the tribunes of the people,2 whose persons were at the same time rendered sacred by the most solemn laws.
This is evident proof that the Romans were of opinion that the people could not in any sense divest themselves of the supreme authority by conferring the most extensive power they possibly could imagine, on one or more persons acting as magistrates.
This appears still more evident in remarking that the people sat as umpire of the differences which had arisen between the dictator and senate in the case of young Fabius.1
The great deference which Cicero paid to the judgment of the Roman people appears by those inimitable orations of which they were the sole judges and auditors. That great orator had a just opinion of their understanding. Nothing gave him a more sensible pleasure than their approbation. But the Roman populace were more learned than ours, more virtuous perhaps, but their sense of discernment was not better than ours. However, the judgment of a whole people, especially of a free people, is looked upon to be infallible, so that it has become a common proverb that the voice of God is the voice of the people, Vox Dei est populi vox. And this is universally true while they remain in their proper sphere, unbiased by faction, undeluded by the tricks of designing men.
Thank God! we are in the full enjoyment of all these privileges. But can we be taught to prize them too much? or how can we prize them equal to their value if we do not know their intrinsic worth, and that they are not a gift bestowed upon us by other men, but a right that belongs to us by the laws of God and nature?
Since they are our right, let us be vigilant to preserve them uninfringed and free from encroachments. If animosities arise and we should be obliged to resort to party, let each of us range himself on the side which unfurls the ensigns of public good. Faction will then vanish, which, if not timely suppressed, may overturn the balance, the palladium of liberty, and crush us under its ruins.
The design of this paper is to assert the common rights of mankind by endeavouring to illustrate eternal truths that cannot be shaken even with the foundations of the world.
I may take another opportunity to show how a government founded on these principles rises into the most beautiful structure, with all the graces of symmetry and proportion, as much different from that raised on arbitrary power as Roman architecture from a Gothic building.
ON GOVERNMENT.—NO. II1
An ancient sage of the law2 says: “The King can do no wrong, for, if he doeth wrong, he is not the King.”3 And in another place: “When the King doth justice, he is God’s vicar; but when he doth unjustly, he is the agent of the Devil.”1 The politeness of the later times has given a softer turn to the expression. It is now said: The King can do no wrong, but his ministers may. In allusion to this the Parliament of 1641 declared they made war against the King for the King’s service. But his Majesty affirmed that such a distinction was absurd; though, by the way, his own creed contained a greater absurdity, for he believed he had an authority from God to oppress the subjects whom by the same authority he was obliged to cherish and defend. Aristotle calls all princes tyrants, from the moment they set up an interest different from that of their subjects; and this is the only definition he gives us of tyranny. Our own countryman before cited and the sagacious Greek both agree on this point, that a governor who acts contrary to the ends of government loses the title bestowed on him at his institution. It would be highly improper to give the same name to things of different qualities or that produce different effects. Matter, while it communicates heat, is generally called fire, but when the flames are extinguished the appellation is changed. Sometimes indeed the same sound serves to express things of a contrary nature, but that only denotes a defect or poverty in the language.
A wicked prince imagines that the crown receives a new lustre from absolute power, whereas every step he takes to obtain it is a forfeiture of the crown.
His conduct is as foolish as it is detestable; he aims at glory and power, and treads the path that leads to dishonor and contempt; he is a plague to his country, and deceives himself.
During the inglorious reigns of the Stuarts (except a part of Queen Anne’s), it was a perpetual struggle between them and the people: those endeavouring to subvert, and these bravely opposing the subverters of liberty. What were the consequences? One lost his life on the scaffold, another was banished. The memory of all of them stinks in the nostrils of every true lover of his country; and their history stains with indelible blots the English annals.
The reign of Queen Elizabeth furnishes a beautiful contrast. All her views centred in one object, which was the public good. She made it her study to gain the love of her subjects, not by flattery or little soothing arts, but by rendering them substantial favors. It was far from her policy to encroach on their privileges; she augmented and secured them.
And it is remarked to her eternal honor, that the acts presented to her for her royal approbation (forty or fifty of a session of Parliament) were signed without examining any farther than the titles. This wise and good Queen only reigned for her people, and knew that it was absurd to imagine they would promote any thing contrary to their own interests, which she so studiously endeavoured to advance. On the other hand, when this Queen asked money of the Parliament they frequently gave her more than she demanded, and never inquired how it was disposed of, except for form’s sake, being fully convinced she would not employ it but for the general welfare. Happy princes, happy people! What harmony, what mutual confidence! Seconded by the hearts and purses of her subjects, she crushed the exorbitant power of Spain, which threatened destruction to England and chains to all Europe. That monarchy has ever since pined under the stroke, so that now, when we send a man-of-war or two to the West Indies, it puts her into such a panic fright that if the galleons can steal home she sings Te Deum as for a victory.
This is a true picture of government; its reverse is tyranny.[Back to Table of Contents]
The world but a few ages since was in a very poor condition as to trade and navigation; nor indeed were they much better in other matters of useful knowledge. It was a green-headed time; every useful improvement was hid from them; they had neither looked into heaven nor earth, into the sea nor land, as has been done since. They had philosophy without experiments, mathematics without instruments, geometry without scale, astronomy without demonstration.
They made war without powder, shot, cannon, or mortars; nay, the mob made their bonfires without squibs or crackers. They went to sea without compass, and sailed without the needle. They viewed the stars without telescopes, and measured latitudes without observation. Learning had no printing-press, writing no paper, and paper no ink. The lover was forced to send his mistress a deal board for a love-letter, and a billet-doux might be about the size of an ordinary trencher. They were clothed without manufacture, and their richest robes were the skins of the most formidable monsters. They carried on trade without books, and correspondence without posts; their merchants kept no accounts, their shopkeepers no cash-books; they had surgery without anatomy, and physicians without the materia medica; they gave emetics without ipecacuanha, drew blisters without cantharides, and cured agues without the bark.
As for geographical discoveries, they had neither seen the North Cape, nor the Cape of Good Hope south. All the discovered inhabited world which they knew and conversed with was circumscribed within very narrow limits, viz., France, Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Greece; the lesser Asia, the west part of Persia, Arabia, the north parts of Africa, and the islands of the Mediterranean sea, and this was the whole world to them; not that even these countries were fully known either, and several parts of them not inquired into at all. Germany was known little further than the banks of the Elbe; Poland as little beyond the Vistula, or Hungary as little beyond the Danube; Muscovy or Russia perfectly unknown, as much as China beyond it; and India only by a little commerce upon the coast about Surat and Malabar. Africa had been more unknown, but by the ruin of the Carthaginians; all the western coast of it was sunk out of knowledge again and forgotten; the northern coast of Africa, in the Mediterranean, remained known, and that was all; for the Saracens overrunning the nations which were planted there ruined commerce as well as religion. The Baltic sea was not discovered, nor even the navigation of it known; for the Teutonic knights came not thither till the thirteenth century.
America was not heard of, nor so much as a suggestion in the minds of men that any part of the world lay that way. The coasts of Greenland, or Spitsbergen, and the whale-fishing not known; the best navigators in the world, at that time, would have fled from a whale with much more fright and horror than from the Devil in the most terrible shapes they had been told he appeared in.
The coasts of Angola, Congo, the Gold and the Grain coasts, on the west side of Africa, whence, since that time, such immense wealth has been drawn, not discovered, nor the least inquiry made after them. All the East India and China trade, not only undiscovered, but out of the reach of expectation! Coffee and tea (those modern blessings of mankind) had never been heard of. All the unbounded ocean we now call the South Sea was hid and unknown. All the Atlantic ocean beyond the mouth of the Straits was frightful and terrible in the distant prospect, nor durst any one peep into it, otherwise than as they might creep along the coast of Africa, towards Sallee or Santa Cruz. The North Sea was hid in a veil of impenetrable darkness. The White Sea, or Archangel, was a very modern discovery; not found out till Sir Hugh Willoughby doubled the North Cape, and paid dear for the adventure, being frozen to death with all his crew, on the coast of Lapland; while his companions’ ship, with the famous Mr. Chancellor, went on to the gulf of Russia, called the White Sea, where no Christian strangers had ever been before him.
In these narrow circumstances stood the world’s knowledge at the beginning of the fifteenth century, when men of genius began to look abroad and about them. Now, as it was wonderful to see a world so full of people, and people so capable of improving, yet so stupid and so blind, so ignorant and so perfectly unimproved; it was wonderful to see with what a general alacrity they took the alarm, almost all together, preparing themselves as it were on a sudden, by a general inspiration, to spread knowledge through the earth and to search into every thing that it was possible to uncover.
How surprising is it to look back so little a way behind us and see that even in less than two hundred years all this (now so self-wise) part of the world did not so much as know whether there was any such place as a Russia, a China, a Guinea, a Greenland, or a North Cape! That as to America, it was never supposed there was any such place; neither had the world, though they stood upon the shoulders of four thousand years’ experience, the least thought so much as that there was any land that way!1
As they were ignorant of places, so of things also; so vast are the improvements of science that all our knowledge of mathematics, of nature, of the brightest part of human wisdom, had their admission among us within these two last centuries.
What was the world, then, before? And to what were the heads and hands of mankind applied? The rich had no commerce, the poor no employment; war and the sword was the great field of honor, the stage of preferment; and you have scarce a man eminent in the world for any thing before that time but for a furious, outrageous falling upon his fellow-creatures, like Nimrod and his successors of modern memory.
The world is now daily increasing in experimental knowledge; and let no man flatter the age with pretending we have arrived at a perfection of discoveries.
THE WASTE OF LIFE1
Anergus was a gentleman of a good estate; he was bred to no business and could not contrive how to waste his hours agreeably; he had no relish for any of the proper works of life, nor any taste at all for the improvements of the mind; he spent generally ten hours of the four-and-twenty in his bed; he dozed away two or three more on his couch, and as many were dissolved in good liquor every evening if he met with company of his own humor. Five or six of the rest he sauntered away with much indolence; the chief business of them was to contrive his meals, and to feed his fancy beforehand with the promise of a dinner and supper; not that he was so absolute a glutton, or so entirely devoted to appetite, but chiefly because he knew not how to employ his thoughts better he let them rove about the sustenance of his body. Thus he had made a shift to wear off ten years since the paternal estate fell into his hands; and yet, according to the abuse of words in our day, he was called a man of virtue, because he was scarce ever known to be quite drunk, nor was his nature much inclined to lewdness.
One evening as he was musing alone, his thoughts happened to take a most unusual turn, for they cast a glance backward and began to reflect on his manner of life. He bethought himself what a number of living beings had been made a sacrifice to support his carcass, and how much corn and wine had been mingled with those offerings. He had not quite lost all the arithmetic that he had learned when he was a boy, and he set himself to compute what he had devoured since he came to the age of man.
“About a dozen of feathered creatures, small and great, have, one week with another,” said he, “given up their lives to prolong mine, which in ten years amounts to at least six thousand.
Fifty sheep have been sacrificed in a year, with half a hecatomb of black cattle, that I might have the choicest part offered weekly upon my table. Thus a thousand beasts out of the flock and the herd have been slain in ten years’ time to feed me, besides what the forest has supplied me with. Many hundreds of fishes have, in all their varieties, been robbed of life for my repast, and of the smaller fry as many thousands.
A measure of corn would hardly afford me fine flour enough for a month’s provision, and this arises to above six score bushels; and many hogsheads of ale and wine and other liquors have passed through this body of mine, this wretched strainer of meat and drink.
And what have I done all this time for God or man? What a vast profusion of good things upon a useless life and a worthless liver! There is not the meanest creature among all these which I have devoured but hath answered the end of its creation better than I. It was made to support human nature, and it hath done so. Every crab and oyster I have eat, and every grain of corn I have devoured, hath filled up its place in the rank of beings with more propriety and honor than I have done. O shameful waste of life and time!”
In short, he carried on his moral reflections with so just and severe a force of reason as constrained him to change his whole course of life, to break off his follies at once and to apply himself to gain some useful knowledge when he was more than thirty years of age. He lived many following years with the character of a worthy man and an excellent Christian; he performed the kind offices of a good neighbour at home, and made a shining figure as a patriot in the senate-house; he died with a peaceful conscience, and the tears of his country were dropped upon his tomb.
The world that knew the whole series of his life stood amazed at the mighty change. They beheld him as a wonder of reformation, while he himself confessed and adored the Divine power and mercy which had transformed him from a brute to a man.
But this was a single instance; and we may almost venture to write miracle upon it. Are there not numbers of both sexes among our young gentry in this degenerate age, whose lives thus run to utter waste, without the least tendency to usefulness?
When I meet with persons of such a worthless character as this it brings to my mind some scraps of Horace:
There are other fragments of that heathen poet which occur on such occasions; one in the first of his Satires, the other in the last of his Epistles, which seem to represent life only as a season of luxury:
Which may be thus put into English:
NECESSARY HINTS TO THOSE THAT WOULD BE RICH
The use of money is all the advantage there is in having money.
For six pounds a year you may have the use of one hundred pounds, provided you are a man of known prudence and honesty.
He that spends a groat a day idly spends idly above six pounds a year, which is the price for the use of one hundred pounds.
He that wastes idly a groat’s worth of his time per day, one day with another, wastes the privilege of using one hundred pounds each day.
He that idly loses five shillings’ worth of time loses five shillings, and might as prudently throw five shillings into the sea.
He that loses five shillings, not only loses that sum, but all the advantage that might be made by turning it in dealing, which, by the time that a young man becomes old, will amount to a considerable sum of money.
Again, he that sells upon credit asks a price for what he sells equivalent to the principal and interest of his money for the time he is to be kept out of it; therefore he that buys upon credit pays interest for what he buys, and he that pays ready money might let that money out to use; so that he that possesses any thing he has bought, pays interest for the use of it.
Yet, in buying goods, it is best to pay ready money, because he that sells upon credit expects to lose five per cent by bad debts; therefore he charges, on all he sells upon credit, an advance that shall make up that deficiency.
Those who pay for what they buy upon credit pay their share of this advance.
He that pays ready money escapes, or may escape, that charge.
THE WAY TO WEALTH
as clearly shown in the preface of an old almanac entitled “poor richard improved”1
I have heard that nothing gives an author so great pleasure as to find his works respectfully quoted by others. Judge, then, how much I must have been gratified by an incident I am going to relate to you. I stopped my horse lately where a great number of people were collected at an auction of merchants’ goods. The hour of the sale not being come, they were conversing on the badness of the times; and one of the company called to a plain, clean, old man, with white locks: “Pray, Father Abraham, what think you of the times? Will not these heavy taxes quite ruin the country? How shall we ever be able to pay them? What would you advise us to do?” Father Abraham stood up and replied: “If you would have my advice, I will give it you in short; for A word to the wise is enough, as Poor Richard says.” They joined in desiring him to speak his mind, and gathering round him he proceeded as follows:
“Friends,” said he, “the taxes are indeed very heavy, and if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them, but we have many others and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly, and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing an abatement. However, let us hearken to good advice and something may be done for us; God helps them that help themselves, as Poor Richard says.
I. It would be thought a hard government that should tax its people one-tenth part of their time, to be employed in its service, but idleness taxes many of us much more; sloth by bringing on diseases, absolutely shortens life. Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears, while the used key is always bright, as Poor Richard says. But dost thou love life,then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of, as Poor Richard says. How much more than is necessary do we spend in sleep, forgetting that The sleeping fox catches no poultry, and that There will be sleeping enough in the grave, as Poor Richard says.
“If time be of all things the most precious, wasting time must be, as Poor Richard says, the greatest prodigality, since, as he elsewhere tells us, Lost time is never found again, and what we call time enough always proves little enough. Let us then up and be doing, and doing to the purpose; so by diligence shall we do more with less perplexity. Sloth makes all things difficult, but industry all things easy; and He that riseth late must trot all day, and shall scarce overtake his business at night; while Laziness travels so slowly that Poverty soon overtakes him. Drive thy business, let not that drive thee; and Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise, as Poor Richard says.
“So what signifies wishing and hoping for better times? We may make these times better if we bestir ourselves. Industry need not wish, and he that lives upon hopes will die fasting. There are no gains without pains; then help, hands, for I have no lands; or if I have they are smartly taxed. He that hath a trade hath an estate, and he that hath a calling hath an office of profit and honor, as Poor Richard says; but then the trade must be worked at and the calling followed, or neither the estate nor the office will enable us to pay our taxes. If we are industrious we shall never starve, for At the working man’s househunger looks in but dares not enter. Nor will the bailiff nor the constable enter, for Industry pays debts, while despair increaseth them. What though you have found no treasure, nor has any rich relation left you a legacy, Diligence is the mother of good luck, and God gives all things to industry. Then plough deep while sluggards sleep, and you shall have corn to sell and to keep. Work while it is called to-day, for you know not how much you may be hindered to-morrow. One to-day is worth two to-morrows, as Poor Richard says; and further, Never leave that till to-morrow which you can do to-day. If you were a servant would not you be ashamed that a good master should catch you idle? Are you then your own master? Be ashamed to catch yourself idle when there is so much to be done for yourself, your family, your country, and your king. Handle your tools without mittens; remember that The cat in gloves catches no mice, as Poor Richard says. It is true there is much to be done, and perhaps you are weak-handed, but stick to it steadily and you will see great effects; for Constant dropping wears away stones; and By diligence and patience the mouse ate in two the cable; and Little strokes fell great oaks.
“Methinks I hear some of you say, ‘Must a man afford himself no leisure?’ I will tell thee, my friend, what Poor Richard says: Employ thy time well, if thou meanest to gain leisure; and, since thou art not sure of a minute, throw not away an hour. Leisure is time for doing something useful; this leisure the diligent man will obtain, but the lazy man never; for A life of leisure and a life of lazinessare two things. Many, without labor, would live by their wits only, but they break for want of stock; whereas industry gives comfort and plenty and respect. Fly pleasures, and they will follow you. The diligent spinner has a large shift; and now I have a sheep and a cow, everybody bids me good morrow.
“II. But with our industry we must likewise be steady, settled, and careful, and oversee our own affairs with our own eyes, and not trust too much to others; for, as Poor Richard says:
And again, Three removes are as bad as a fire; and again, Keep thy shop, and thy shop will keep thee; and again: If you would have your business done, go; if not, send. And again:
And again, The eye of a master will do more work than both his hands; and again, Want of care does us more damage than want of knowledge; and again, Not to oversee workmen is to leave them your purse open. Trusting too much to others’ care is the ruin of many; for, In the affairs of this world men are saved, not by faith, but by the want of it; but a man’s own care is profitable; for, If you would have a faithful servant, and one that you like, serve yourself. A little neglect may breed great mischief; for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost;and for want of a horse the rider was lost, being overtaken and slain by the enemy; all for want of a little care about a horse-shoe nail.
“III. So much for industry, my friends, and attention to one’s own business; but to these we must add frugality, if we would make our industry more certainly successful. A man may, if he knows not how to save as he gets, keep his nose all his life to the grindstone and die not worth a groat at last. A fat kitchen makes a lean will; and
If you would be wealthy, think of saving as well as of getting. The Indies have not made Spain rich, because her outgoes are greater than her incomes.
“Away then with your expensive follies, and you will not then have so much cause to complain of hard times, heavy taxes, and chargeable families; for
And further, What maintains one vice would bring up two children. You may think, perhaps, that a little tea, or a little punch now and then, diet a little more costly, clothes a little finer, and a little entertainment now and then, can be no great matter; but remember, Many a little makes a mickle. Beware of little expenses: A small leak will sink a great ship, as Poor Richard says; and again, Who dainties love,shall beggars prove; and moreover, Fools make feasts, and wise men eat them.
“Here you are all got together at this sale of fineries and knick-knacks. You call them goods; but if you do not take care they will prove evils to some of you. You expect they will be sold cheap, and perhaps they may for less than they cost; but if you have no occasion for them they must be dear to you. Remember what Poor Richard says: Buy what thou hast no need of, and ere long thou shalt sell thy necessaries. And again, At a great pennyworth pause a while. He means, that perhaps the cheapness is apparent only, and not real; or the bargain, by straitening thee in thy business, may do thee more harm than good. For in another place he says, Many have been ruined by buying good pennyworths. Again, It is foolish to lay out money in a purchase of repentance; and yet this folly is practised every day at auctions for want of minding the Almanac. Many a one, for the sake of finery on the back, have gone with a hungry belly and half-starved their families. Silks and satins, scarlet and velvets, put out the kitchen fire, as Poor Richard says.
“These are not the necessaries of life; they can scarcely be called the conveniences; and yet, only because they look pretty, how many want to have them! By these and other extravagances the genteel are reduced to poverty and forced to borrow of those whom they formerly despised, but who, through industry and frugality, have maintained their standing; in which case it appears plainly that A ploughman on his legs is higher than a gentleman onhis knees, as Poor Richard says. Perhaps they have had a small estate left them, which they knew not the getting of: they think, It is day, and will never be night; that a little to be spent out of so much is not worth minding; but Always taking out of the meal-tub, and never putting in, soon comes to the bottom, as Poor Richard says; and then, When the well is dry, they know the worth of water. But this they might have known before, if they had taken his advice. If you would know the value of money, go and try to borrow some; for he that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing, as Poor Richard says; and indeed so does he that lends to such people, when he goes to get it again. Poor Dick further advises and says,
And again, Pride is as loud a beggar as Want, and a great deal more saucy. When you have bought one fine thing you must buy ten more, that your appearance may be all of a piece; but Poor Dick says, It is easier to suppress the first desire than to satisfy all that follow it. And it is as truly folly for the poor to ape the rich, as for the frog to swell in order to equal the ox.
It is, however, a folly soon punished; for, as Poor Richard says, Pride that dines on vanity sups on contempt. Pride breakfasted with Plenty, dined with Poverty, and supped with Infamy. And after all, of what use is this pride of appearance, for which so much is risked, so much is suffered? It cannot promote health, nor ease pain; it makes no increase of merit in the person; it creates envy; it hastens misfortune.
“But what madness must it be to run in debt for these superfluities! We are offered by the terms of this sale six months’ credit; and that, perhaps, has induced some of us to attend it, because we cannot spare the ready money, and hope now to be fine without it. But ah! think what you do when you run in debt; you give to another power over your liberty. If you cannot pay at the time, you will be ashamed to see your creditor; you will be in fear when you speak to him; you will make poor, pitiful, sneaking excuses, and by degrees come to lose your veracity, and sink into base, downright lying; for, The second vice is lying, the first is running in debt, as Poor Richard says; and again, to the same purpose, Lying rides upon Debt’s back; whereas a free-born Englishman ought not to be ashamed nor afraid to see or speak to any man living. But poverty often deprives a man of all spirit and virtue. It is hard for an empty bag to stand upright.
“What would you think of that prince or of that government who should issue an edict forbidding you to dress like a gentleman or gentlewoman, on pain of imprisonment or servitude? Would you not say that you were free, have a right to dress as you please, and that such an edict would be a breach of your privileges, and such a government tyrannical? And yet you are about to put yourself under such tyranny when you run in debt for such dress! Your creditor has authority, at his pleasure, to deprive you of your liberty by confining you in gaol till you shall be able to pay him. When you have got your bargain you may perhaps think little of payment, but, as Poor Richard says, Creditors have better memories than debtors; creditors are a superstitious sect, great observers of set days and times. The day comes round before you are aware, and the demand is made before you are prepared to satisfy it; or, if you bear your debt in mind, the term, which at first seemed so long, will, as it lessens, appear extremely short. Time will seem to have added wings to his heels as well as his shoulders. Those have a short Lent who owe money to be paid at Easter. At present, perhaps, you may think yourselves in thriving circumstances, and that you can bear a little extravagance without injury, but—
Gain may be temporary and uncertain, but ever, while you live, expense is constant and certain; and It is easier to build two chimneys than to keep one in fuel, as Poor Richard says; so, Rather go to bed supperless than rise in debt.
And, when you have got the Philosopher’s stone, sure you will no longer complain of bad times or the difficulty of paying taxes.
“IV. This doctrine, my friends, is reason and wisdom; but, after all, do not depend too much upon your own industry and frugality and prudence, though excellent things, for they may all be blasted, without the blessing of Heaven; and therefore ask that blessing humbly, and be not uncharitable to those that at present seem to want it, but comfort and help them. Remember Job suffered and was afterwards prosperous.
“And now, to conclude, Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other, as Poor Richard says, and scarce in that, for it is true We may give advice, but we cannot give conduct. However, remember this, They that will not be counselled cannot be helped; and further, that If you will not hear Reason, she will surely rap your knuckles, as Poor Richard says.”
Thus the old gentleman ended his harangue. The people heard it and approved the doctrine, and immediately practised the contrary, just as if it had been a common sermon; for the auction opened, and they began to buy extravagantly. I found the good man had thoroughly studied my Almanacs, and digested all I had dropped on these topics during the course of twenty-five years. The frequent mention he made of me must have tired any one else, but my vanity was wonderfully delighted with it, though I was conscious that not a tenth part of the wisdom was my own which he ascribed to me, but rather the gleanings that I had made of the sense of all ages and nations. However, I resolved to be the better for the echo of it, and though I had at first determined to buy stuff for a new coat, I went away resolved to wear my old one a little longer. Reader, if thou wilt do the same thy profit will be as great as mine. I am, as ever, thine to serve thee,
Speaking of the prefaces to Poor Richard’s Almanacs Mr. Parton says1 :
“Year after year they play upon Titan Leeds, in whose name a rival almanac, once published by Keimer, annually appeared. Mr. Richard Saunders (Poor Richard) begins his first preface by avowing that his motive in publishing an almanac is not at all a disinterested one. ‘The plain truth of the matter is,’ said Richard, ‘I am excessive poor, and my wife, good woman, is, I tell her, excessive proud; she cannot bear, she says, to sit spinning in her shift of tow, while I do nothing but gaze at the stars; and has threatened more than once to burn all my books and rattling-traps (as she calls my instruments) if I do not make some profitable use of them for the good of my family. The printer has offer’d me some considerable share of the profits, and I have thus began to comply with my dame’s desire.’ Long ago, he continues, he would have given the world an almanac, but for the fear of injuring his friend and fellow-student, Titan Leeds. ‘But this obstacle (I am far from speaking it with pleasure) is soon to be removed, since inexorable death, who was never known to respect merit, has already prepared the mortal dart, the fatal sister has already extended her destroying shears, and that ingenious man must soon be taken from us. He dies, by my calculation, made at his request, on October 17, 1733, 3 ho., 29 m., P.M., at the very instant of the ♂ of ☉ and ☿. By his own calculation he will survive till the 26th of the same month. This small difference between us we have disputed whenever we have met these nine years past; but at length he is inclined to agree with my judgment. Which of us is most exact a little time will now determine. As, therefore, these Provinces may not longer expect to see any of his performances after this year, I think myself free to take up the task.’
The next year he joyfully acknowledged the success of his almanac, through which his wife had been able to buy a pot of her own instead of being obliged to borrow one; and they had got something to put into it. ‘She has also got a pair of shoes, two new shifts, and a new warm petticoat; and for my part I have bought a second-hand coat, so good that I am not now ashamed to go to town or be seen there. These things have render’d her temper so much more pacifick than it us’d to be, that I may say I have slept more, and more quietly, within this last year than in the three foregoing years put together.’ Returning to Titan Leeds, he says he cannot positively say whether he is dead or alive, since he was unable to be present at the closing scene. ‘The stars,’ he observes, ‘only show to the skilful what will happen in the natural and universal chain of causes and effects; but ’t is well known that the events which would otherwise certainly happen at certain times in the course of nature, are sometimes set aside or postpon’d, for wise and good reasons, by the immediate particular dispositions of Providence; which particular dispositions the stars can by no means discover or foreshow. There is, however (and I cannot speak it without sorrow), there is the strongest probability that my dear friend is no more; for there appears in his name, as I am assured, an Almanack for the year 1734, in which I am treated in a very gross and unhandsome manner; in which I am called a false predicter, an ignorant, a conceited scribbler, a fool, and a lyar. Mr. Leeds was too well bred to use any man so indecently and so scurrilously, and, moreover, his esteem and affection for me was extraordinary; so that it is to be feared that pamphlet may be only a contrivance of somebody or other who hopes, perhaps, to sell two or three years’ Almanacks still by the sole force and virtue of Mr. Leeds’s name.’
In next year’s preface the fooling is still more exquisite: ‘Having received much abuse from Titan Leeds deceased (Titan Leeds, when living, would not have used me so); I say, having received much abuse from the ghost of Titan Leeds, who pretends to be still living, and to write almanacks in spight of me and my predictions, I cannot help saying that tho’ I take it patiently, I take it very unkindly. And whatever he may pretend, ’t is undoubtedly true that he is really defunct and dead. First, because the stars are seldom disappointed; never but in the case of wise men, sapiens dominabitur astris, and they foreshowed his death at the time I predicted it. Secondly, ’t was requisite and necessary he should die punctually at that time for the honor of astrology, the art professed both by him and his father before him. Thirdly, ’t is plain to every one that reads his two last almanacks (for 1734 and ’35) that they are not written with that life his performances used to be written with: the wit is low and flat; the little hints dull and spiritless; nothing smart in them but Hudibras’s verses against astrology at the heads of the months in the last, which no astrologer but a dead one would have inserted, and no man living would or could write such stuff as the rest.’
Titan Leeds retorted by saying that there was not and never had been such a person as Richard Saunders; to which, next year, Franklin humourously replied. One preface purported to be written by Bridget Saunders, the wife of Poor Richard, and another contained a long letter from the departed spirit of Titan Leeds, assuring his old friend that he did die at the time predicted by him.
From the numbers of Poor Richard that are accessible, I select, as specimens of its proverbial philosophy, the following:
‘Love well, whip well.’
‘The proof of gold is fire; the proof of a woman, gold; the proof of a man, a woman.’
‘There is no little enemy.’
‘A new truth is a truth; an old error is an error.’
‘Drink water; put the money in your pocket, and leave the dry belly-ache in the punch-bowl.’
‘Necessity never made a good bargain.’
‘Three may keep a secret, if two of them are dead.’
‘Deny self for self’s sake.’
‘Keep thy shop and thy shop will keep thee.’
‘Opportunity is the great bawd.’
‘Here comes the orator with his flood of words and his drop of reason.’
‘Sal laughs at every thing you say; why? because she has fine teeth.’
‘An old young man will be a young old man.’
‘He is no clown that drives the plough, but he that does clownish things.’
‘Fish and visitors smell in three days.’
‘Diligence is the mother of good luck.’
‘Wealth is not his that has it, but his that enjoys it.’
‘Let thy maid-servant be faithful, strong, and homely.’
‘He that can have patience can have what he will.’
‘Don’t throw stones at your neighbors, if your own windows are glass.’
‘Good wives and good plantations are made by good husbands.’
‘God heals, the doctor takes the fee.’
‘The noblest question in the world is, what good may I do in it?’
‘There are three faithful friends, an old wife, an old dog, and ready money.’
‘Who has deceived thee so oft as thyself?’
‘Fly pleasures, and they ’ll follow you.’
‘Hast thou virtue? acquire also the graces and beauties of virtue.’
‘He that would have a short Lent, let him borrow money to be repaid at Easter.’
‘Keep your eyes wide open before marriage; half shut afterwards.’
‘As we must account for every idle word, so we must for every idle silence.’
‘Search others for their virtues, thyself for thy vices.’
‘Grace thou thy house, and let not that grace thee.’
‘Let thy child’s first lesson be obedience, and the second will be what thou wilt.’
‘Let thy discontents be thy secrets.’
‘Industry need not wish.’
‘Happy that nation, fortunate that age whose history is not diverting.’
‘To bear other people’s afflictions, every one has courage enough and to spare.’
‘There are lazy minds as well as lazy bodies.’
‘Tricks and treachery are the practice of fools that have not wit enough to be honest.’
‘Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no ambition corrupt thee, no example sway thee, no persuasion move thee to do any thing which thou knowest to be evil; so shalt thou always live jollily, for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.’
A large part of the contents of Poor Richard is rhyme, and rhyme too generally of an indifferent quality. The following specimens are much above the average:
POETRY FOR DECEMBER, 1733
POETRY FOR DECEMBER, 1734
The astronomical notices of Poor Richard have in them a strong spice of the comic, and he has many paragraphs in ridicule of the predictions which the almanac-makers of that day were accustomed to insert.
‘During the first visible eclipse Saturn is retrograde: For which reason the crabs will go sidelong, and the ropemakers backward. Mercury will have his share in these affairs, and so confound the speech of the people, that when a Pennsylvanian would say panther he shall say painter. When a New Yorker thinks to say this he shall say diss, and the people of New England and Cape May will not be able to say cow for their lives, but will be forced to say keow by a certain involuntary twist in the root of their tongues. No Connecticut man nor Marylander will be able to open his mouth this year but sir shall be the first or last syllable he pronounces, and sometimes both.—Brutes shall speak in many places, and there will be about seven and twenty irregular verbs made this year, if Grammar don’t interpose.—Who can help these misfortunes? This year the stone-blind shall see but very little; the deaf shall hear but poorly; and the dumb sha’n’t speak very plain. And it ’s much, if my Dame Bridget talks at all this year. Whole flocks, herds, and droves of sheep, swine and oxen, cocks and hens, ducks and drakes, geese and ganders shall go to pot; but the mortality will not be altogether so great among cats, dogs, and horses. As to old age, ’t will be incurable this year, because of the years past. And towards the fall some people will be seized with an unaccountable inclination to roast and eat their own ears: Should this be called madness, Doctors? I think not. But the worst disease of all will be a certain most horrid, dreadful, malignant, catching, perverse, and odious malady, almost epidemical, insomuch that many shall run mad upon it; I quake for very fear when I think on ’t: for I assure you very few will escape this disease, which is called by the learned Albromazar Lacko’mony.’ ”
RIVALSHIP IN ALMANAC-MAKING
This is the ninth year of my endeavours to serve thee in the capacity of a calendar-writer. The encouragement I have met with must be ascribed, in a great measure, to your charity, excited by the open, honest declaration I made of my poverty at my first appearance. This my brother Philomaths could, without being conjurers, discover; and Poor Richard’s success has produced ye a Poor Will, and a Poor Robin; and no doubt Poor John, &c., will follow, and we shall all be, in name, what some folks say we are already in fact, a parcel of poor almanac-makers. During the course of these nine years, what buffetings have I not sustained! The fraternity have been all in arms. Honest Titan, deceased, was raised and made to abuse his old friend. Both authors and printers were angry. Hard names, and many, were bestowed on me. They denied me to be the author of my own works; declared there never was any such person; asserted that I was dead sixty years ago; prognosticated my death to happen within a twelvemonth; with many other malicious inconsistencies, the effects of blind passion, envy at my success, and a vain hope of depriving me, dear reader, of thy wonted countenance and favor. Who knows him? they cry; where does he live? But what is that to them? If I delight in a private life, have they any right to drag me out of my retirement? I have good reasons for concealing the place of my abode. It is time for an old man, as I am, to think of preparing for his great remove. The perpetual teasing of both neighbours and strangers to calculate nativities, give judgments on schemes, and erect figures, discover thieves, detect horse-stealers, describe the route of runaways and strayed cattle; the crowd of visitors with a thousand trifling questions, Will my ship return safe? Will my mare win the race? Will her next colt be a pacer? When will my wife die? Who shall be my husband? and how long first? When is the best time to cut hair, trim cocks, or sow sallad? these and the like impertinences I have now neither taste nor leisure for. I have had enough of them. All that these angry folks can say will never provoke me to tell them where I live; I would eat my nails first.
My last adversary is J. J——n, Philomat., who declares and protests (in his preface, 1741), that the false prophecy put in my Almanac, concerning him, the year before, is altogether false and untrue, and that I am one of Baal’s false prophets. This false, false prophecy he speaks of, related to his reconciliation with the church of Rome; which, notwithstanding his declaring and protesting, is, I fear, too true. Two things in his elegiac verses confirm me in this suspicion. He calls the first of November All-Hallows Day. Reader, does not this smell of Popery? Does it in the least savour of the pure language of Friends? But the plainest thing is his adoration of saints, which he confesses to be his practice, in these words, page 4,
Did he think the whole world were so stupid as not to take notice of this? So ignorant as not to know that all Catholics pay the highest regard to the Virgin Mary? Ah, friend John, we must allow you to be a poet, but you are certainly no Protestant. I could heartily wish your religion were as good as your verses.
Richard Saunders.1[Back to Table of Contents]
CAUSES OF EARTHQUAKES1
The late earthquake felt here, and probably in all the neighbouring provinces, having made many people desirous to know what may be the natural cause of such violent concussions, we shall endeavour to gratify their curiosity by giving them the various opinions of the learned on that head.
Here naturalists are divided. Some ascribe them to water, others to fire, and others to air; and all of them with some appearance of reason. To conceive which, it is to be observed that the earth everywhere abounds in huge subterraneous caverns, veins, and canals, particularly about the roots of mountains; that of these cavities, veins, &c., some are full of water, whence are composed gulfs, abysses, springs, rivulets; and others full of exhalations; and that some parts of the earth are replete with nitre, sulphur, bitumen, vitriol, &c. This premised:
1. The earth itself may sometimes be the cause of its own shaking; when the roots, or basis of some large mass being dissolved or worn away by a fluid underneath, it sinks into the same and with its weight occasions a tremor of the adjacent parts, produces a noise, and frequently an inundation of water.
2. The subterraneous waters may occasion earthquakes by their overflowing, cutting out new courses, &c. Add that the water, being heated and rarefied by the subterraneous fires, may emit fumes, blasts, &c., which, by their action either on the water or immediately on the earth itself, may occasion great succussions.
3. The air may be the cause of earthquakes; for, the air being a collection of fumes and vapors raised from the earth and water, if it be pent up in too narrow viscera of the earth, the subterraneous or its own native heat rarefying and expanding it, the force wherewith it endeavours to escape may shake the earth; hence there arise divers species of earthquakes, according to the different position, quantity, &c., of the imprisoned aura.
Lastly, fire is a principal cause of earthquakes: both as it produces the aforesaid subterraneous aura or vapors; and as this aura or spirit, from the different matter and composition whereof arise sulphur, bitumen, and other inflammable matters, takes fire either from other fire it meets withal, or from its collision against hard bodies, or its intermixture with other fluids; by which means bursting out into a greater compass the place becomes too narrow for it, so that pressing against it on all sides the adjoining parts are shaken, till, having made itself a passage, it spends itself in a volcano or burning mountain.
But to come nearer to the point. Dr. Lister is of opinion that the material cause of thunder, lightning, and earthquakes is one and the same—viz., the inflammable breath of the pyrites, which is a substantial sulphur and takes fire of itself.
The difference between these three terrible phenomena he takes only to consist in this: that this sulphur, in the former, is fired in the air, and in the latter under ground. Which is a notion that Pliny had long before him; “Quid enim,” says he, “aliud est in terrâ tremor, quam in nube tonitru?”
This he thinks abundantly indicated by the same sulphurous smell being found in any thing burnt with lightning, and in the waters, &c., cast up in earthquakes, and even in the air before and after them.
Add that they agree in the manner of the noise, which is carried on as in a train fired; the one, rolling and rattling through the air, takes fire as the vapors chance to drive; as the other fired under ground, in like manner, moves with a desultory noise.
Thunder, which is the effect of the trembling of the air, caused by the same vapors dispersed through it, has force enough to shake our houses; and why there may not be thunder and lightning under ground, in some vast repositories there, I see no reason; especially if we reflect that the matter which composes the noisy vapor above us is in much larger quantities under ground.
That the earth abounds in cavities, everybody allows; and that these subterraneous cavities are, at certain times and in certain seasons, full of inflammable vapors, the damps in mines sufficiently witness, which fired do every thing as in an earthquake, save in a lesser degree.
Add that the pyrites alone, of all the known minerals, yields this inflammable vapor, is highly probable; for that no mineral or ore whatsoever is sulphurous, but as it is wholly, or in part, a pyrites; and that there is but one species of brimstone which the pyrites naturally and only yields. The sulphur vive, or natural brimstone, which is found in and about the burning mountains, is certainly the effects of sublimation; and those great quantities of it, said to be found about the skirts of volcanoes, is only an argument of the long duration and vehemence of those fires. Possibly the pyrites of the volcanoes or burning mountains may be more sulphurous than ours; and indeed it is plain that some of ours in England are very lean and hold but little sulphur; others again very much; which may be one reason why England is so little troubled with earthquakes, and Italy, and almost all round the Mediterranean Sea, so very much; though another reason is the paucity of pyrites in England.
Comparing our earthquakes, thunder, and lightning with theirs, it is observed that there it lightens almost daily, especially in summer-time; here seldom: there thunder and lightning is of long duration, here it is soon over: there the earthquakes are frequent, long, and terrible, with many paroxysms in a day, and that for many days; here very short, a few minutes, and scarce perceptible. To this purpose the subterraneous caverns in England are small and few compared to the vast vaults in those parts of the world; which is evident from the sudden disappearance of whole mountains and islands.
Dr. Woodward gives us another theory of earthquakes. He endeavours to show that the subterraneous heat or fire (which is continually elevating water out of the abyss to furnish the earth with rain, dew, springs, and rivers), being stopped in any part of the earth, and so diverted from its ordinary course by some accidental glut or obstruction in the pores or passages through which it used to ascend to the surface, becomes, by such means, preternaturally assembled in a greater quantity than usual into one place, and therefore causeth a great rarefaction and intumescence of the water of the abyss, putting it into great commotions and disorders, and at the same time making the like effort on the earth, which, being expanded upon the face of the abyss, occasions that agitation and concussion we call an earthquake.
This effort in some earthquakes, he observes, is so vehement that it splits and tears the earth, making cracks and chasms in it some miles in length, which open at the instant of the shock, and close again in the intervals betwixt them; nay, it is sometimes so violent that it forces the superincumbent strata, breaks them all throughout, and thereby perfectly undermines and ruins the foundation of them; so that, these falling, the whole tract, as soon as the shock is over, sinks down into the abyss and is swallowed up by it; the water thereof immediately rising up and forming a lake in the place where the said tract before was. That this effort being made in all directions indifferently, the fire, dilating and expanding on all hands, and endeavouring to get room and make its way through all obstacles, falls as foul on the waters of the abyss beneath as on the earth above, forcing it forth which way soever it can find vent or passage, as well through its ordinary exits, wells, springs, and the outlets of rivers, as through the chasms then newly opened, through the camini or spiracles of Ætna or other neighbouring volcanoes, and those hiatuses at the bottom of the sea, whereby the abyss below opens into it and communicates with it. That, as the water resident in the abyss is, in all parts of it, stored with a considerable quantity of heat, and more especially in those where those extraordinary aggregations of this fire happen, so likewise is the water which is thus forced out of it; insomuch that when thrown forth and mixed with the waters of wells or springs of rivers and the sea, it renders them very sensibly hot.
He adds that though the abyss be liable to those commotions, in all parts, yet the effects are nowhere very remarkable except in those countries which are mountainous, and consequently stony or cavernous underneath, and especially where the disposition of the strata is such that those caverns open into the abyss, and so freely admit and entertain the fire, which, assembling therein, is the cause of the shock; it naturally steering its course that way where it finds the readiest reception, which is towards those caverns. Besides, that those parts of the earth which abound with strata of stone or marble, making the strongest opposition to this effort, are the most furiously shattered and suffer much more by it than those which consist of gravel, sand, and the like laxer matter, which more easily give way and make not so great resistance. But, above all, those countries which yield great store of sulphur and nitre are by far the most injured by earthquakes; those minerals constituting in the earth a kind of natural gun-powder, which, taking fire upon this assemblage and approach of it, occasions that murmuring noise, that subterraneous thunder, which is heard rumbling in the bowels of the earth during earthquakes, and by the assistance of its explosive power renders the shock much greater, so as sometimes to make miserable havoc and destruction.
And it is for this reason that Italy, Sicily, Anatolia, and some parts of Greece have been so long and often alarmed and harassed by earthquakes; these countries being all mountainous and cavernous, abounding with stone and marble and affording sulphur and nitre in great plenty.
Further, that Ætna, Vesuvius, Hecla, and the other volcanoes are only so many spiracles, serving for the discharge of this subterraneous fire when it is thus preternaturally assembled. That where there happens to be such a structure and conformation of the interior parts of the earth, as that the fire may pass freely and without impediment from the caverns wherein it assembles unto those spiracles, it then readily gets out from time to time without shaking or disturbing the earth; but where such communication is wanting, or passage not sufficiently large and open, so that it cannot come at the spiracles, it heaves up and shocks the earth with greater or lesser impetuosity according to the quantity of fire thus assembled, till it has made its way to the mouth of the volcano. That therefore there are scarce any countries much annoyed by earthquakes but have one of these fiery vents, which are constantly in flames when any earthquake happens, as disgorging that fire which, whilst underneath, was the cause of the disaster. Lastly, that were it not for these diverticula, it would rage in the bowels of the earth much more furiously and make greater havoc than it doth.
We have seen what fire and water may do; and that either of them are sufficient for all the phenomena of earthquakes; if they should both fail, we have a third agent, scarce inferior to either of them; the reader must not be surprised when we tell him it is air.
Monsieur Amontons, in his Mémoires de l’Académie des Sciences, An 1703, has an express discourse to prove that on the foot of the new experiments of the weight and spring of the air, a moderate degree of heat may bring the air into a condition capable of causing earthquakes. It is shown that at the depth of 43,528 fathoms below the surface of the earth, air is only one fourth less heavy than mercury. Now this depth of 43,528 fathoms is only a seventy-fourth part of the semidiameter of the earth. And the vast sphere beyond this depth, in diameter 6,451,538 fathoms, may probably be only filled with air; which will be here greatly condensed and much heavier than the heaviest bodies we know in nature. But it is found by experiment that the more air is compressed, the more does the same degree of heat increase its spring, and the more capable does it render it of a violent effect; and that, for instance, the degree of heat of boiling water increases the spring of the air above what it has in its natural state, in our climate, by a quantity equal to a third of the weight wherewith it is pressed. Whence we may conclude that a degree of heat, which on the surface of the earth will only have a moderate effect, may be capable of a very violent one below. And, as we are assured, that there are in nature degrees of heat much more considerable than that of boiling water, it is very possible there may be some whose violence, further assisted by the exceeding weight of the air, may be more than sufficient to break and overturn this solid orb of 43,528 fathoms; whose weight, compared to that of the included air, would be but a trifle.
Chemistry furnishes us a method of making artificial earthquakes, which shall have all the great effects of natural ones; which, as it may illustrate the process of nature in the production of these terrible phenomena under ground, we shall here add.
To twenty pounds of iron filings, add as many of sulphur; mix, work, and temper the whole together with a little water, so as to form a mass half moist and half dry. This being buried three or four feet under ground, in six or seven hours time will have a prodigious effect; the earth will begin to tremble, crack, and smoke, and fire and flame burst through.
Such is the effect even of the two cold bodies, in cold ground; there only wants a sufficient quantity of this mixture to produce a true Ætna. If it were supposed to burst out under the sea, it would produce a spout; and if it were in the clouds, the effect would be thunder and lightning.
An earthquake is defined to be a vehement shake or agitation of some considerable place or part of the earth from natural causes, attended with a huge noise like thunder, and frequently with an eruption of water, or fire, or smoke, or winds, &c.
They are the greatest and most formidable phenomena of nature. Aristotle and Pliny distinguish two kinds, with respect to the manner of the shake—viz., a tremor and a pulsation: the first being horizontal, in alternate vibrations, compared to the shaking of a person in ague; the second, perpendicular, up and down, their motion resembling that of boiling.
Agricola increases the number, and makes four kinds; which Albertus Magnus again reduces to three—viz., inclination, when the earth vibrates alternately from right to left, by which mountains have been sometimes brought to meet and clash against each other; pulsation, when it beats up and down like an artery; and trembling, when it shakes and totters every way like a flame.
The Philosophical Transactions furnish us with abundance of histories of earthquakes; particularly one at Oxford, in 1665, by Dr. Wallis and Mr. Boyle. Another at the same place in 1683, by Mr. Pigot. Another in Sicily, in 1692-3, by Mr. Hartop, Father Alessandro Burgos, and Vin. Bonajutus, which last is one of the most terrible ones in all history.
It shook the whole island; and not only that, but Naples and Malta shared in the shock. It was of the second kind mentioned by Aristotle and Pliny—viz., a perpendicular pulsation or succussion. It was impossible, says the noble Bonajutus, for anybody in this country to keep on their legs on the dancing earth; nay, those that lay on the ground were tossed from side to side as on a rolling billow; high walls leaped from their foundations several paces.
The mischief it did is amazing; almost all the buildings in the countries were thrown down. Fifty-four cities and towns, besides an incredible number of villages, were either destroyed or greatly damaged. We shall only instance the fate of Catania, one of the most famous, ancient, and flourishing cities in the kingdom, the residence of several monarchs and a university. “This once famous, now unhappy Catania,” to use words of Father Burgos, “had the greatest share in the tragedy. Father Antonio Serovita, being on his way thither, and at the distance of a few miles, observed a black cloud like night hovering over the city; and there arose from the mouth of Mongibello great spires of flame, which spread all round. The sea all of a sudden began to roar and rise in billows; and there was a blow as if all the artillery in the world had been at once discharged. The birds flew about astonished, the cattle in the fields ran crying, &c. His and his companion’s horse stopped short, trembling; so that they were forced to alight. They were no sooner off, but they were lifted from the ground above two palms. When casting his eyes towards Catania, he with amazement saw nothing but a thick cloud of dust in the air. This was the scene of their calamity; for of the magnificent Catania there is not the least footstep to be seen.” Bonajutus assures us that of 18,914 inhabitants 18,000 perished therein. The same author, from a computation of the inhabitants before and after the earthquake, in the several cities and towns, finds that near 60,000 perished out of 254,900.
Jamaica is remarkable for earthquakes. The inhabitants, Dr. Sloane informs us, expect one every year. That author gives us the history of one in 1687; another horrible one, in 1692, is described by several anonymous authors. In two minutes time it shook down and drowned nine tenths of the town of Port Royal. The houses sunk outright thirty or forty fathoms deep. The earth opening swallowed up people, and they rose in other streets; some in the middle of the harbour, and yet were saved; though there were two thousand people lost and one thousand acres of land sunk. All the houses were thrown down throughout the island. One Hopkins had his plantation removed half a mile from its place. Of all wells, from one fathom to six or seven, the water flew out at the top with a vehement motion. While the houses on the one side of the street were swallowed up, on the other they were thrown on heaps; and the sand in the street rose like waves in the sea, lifting up everybody that stood on it, and immediately dropping down into pits; and at the same instant a flood of waters breaking in rolled them over and over; some catching hold of beams and rafters, &c. Ships and sloops in the harbour were overset and lost; the Swan frigate particularly, by the motion of the sea, and sinking of the wharf, was driven over the tops of many houses.
It was attended with a hollow rumbling noise like that of thunder. In less than a minute three quarters of the houses, and the ground they stood on, with the inhabitants, were all sunk quite under water; and the little pile left behind was no better than a heap of rubbish. The shake was so violent that it threw people down on their knees or their faces, as they were running about for shelter. The ground heaved and swelled like a rolling sea, and several houses still standing were shuffled and moved some yards out of their places. A whole street is said to be twice as broad now as before; and in many places the earth would crack, and open, and shut, quick and fast. Of which openings, two or three hundred might be seen at a time; in some whereof the people were swallowed up; others the closing earth caught by the middle and pressed to death; in others the heads only appeared. The larger openings swallowed up houses; and out of some would issue whole rivers of water spouted up a great height into the air, and threatening a deluge to that part the earthquake spared. The whole was attended with stenches and offensive smells, the noise of falling mountains at a distance, &c., and the sky in a minute’s time was turned dull and reddish, like a glowing oven. Yet as great a sufferer as Port Royal was, more houses were left standing therein than on the whole island beside. Scarce a planting-house or sugar-work was left standing in all Jamaica. A great part of them were swallowed up, houses, people, trees, and all at one gape; in lieu of which afterwards appeared great pools of water, which when dried up left nothing but sand, without any mark that ever tree or plant had been thereon.
About twelve miles from the sea, the earth gaped and spouted out with a prodigious force vast quantities of water into the air; yet the greatest violences were among the mountains and rocks; and it is a general opinion that the nearer the mountains the greater the shake; and that the cause thereof lay there. Most of the rivers were stopped up for twenty-four hours by the falling of the mountains, till, swelling up, they found themselves new tracts and channels, tearing up in their passage trees, &c. After the great shake, those people who escaped got on board ships in the harbour, where many continued above two months; the shakes all that time being so violent, and coming so thick, sometimes two or three in an hour, accompanied with frightful noises, like a ruffling wind, or a hollow, rumbling thunder, with brimstone blasts, that they durst not come ashore. The consequence of the earthquake was a general sickness, from the noisome vapors belched forth, which swept away above three thousand persons.
After the detail of these horrible convulsions, the reader will have but little curiosity left for the less considerable phenomena of the earthquake at Lima, in 1687, described by Father Alvarez de Toledo, wherein above five thousand persons were destroyed; this being of the vibratory kind, so that the bells in the church rung of themselves; or that at Batavia in 1699, by Witsen; that in the north of England in 1703, by Mr. Thoresby; or, lastly, those in New England in 1663 and 1670, by Dr. Mather.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO JOSIAH FRANKLIN
Philadelphia, 13 April, 1738.
I have your favors of the 21st of March, in which you both seem concerned lest I have imbibed some erroneous opinions. Doubtless I have my share; and when the natural weakness and imperfection of human understanding is considered, the unavoidable influence of education, custom, books, and company upon our ways of thinking, I imagine a man must have a good deal of vanity who believes, and a good deal of boldness who affirms, that all the doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false. And perhaps the same may be justly said of every sect, church, and society of men, when they assume to themselves that infallibility which they deny to the Pope and councils.
I think opinions should be judged of by their influences and effects; and if a man holds none that tend to make him less virtuous or more vicious, it may be concluded he holds none that are dangerous; which I hope is the case with me.
I am sorry you should have any uneasiness on my account; and if it were a thing possible for one to alter his opinions in order to please another, I know none whom I ought more willingly to oblige in that respect than yourselves. But since it is no more in a man’s power to think than to look like another, methinks all that should be expected from me is to keep my mind open to conviction, to hear patiently and examine attentively whatever is offered me for that end; and if after all I continue in the same errors, I believe your usual charity will induce you to rather pity and excuse, than blame me. In the mean time your care and concern for me is what I am very thankful for.
My mother grieves that one of her sons is an Arian, another an Arminian. What an Arminian or an Arian is, I cannot say that I very well know. The truth is I make such distinctions very little my study. I think vital religion has always suffered when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue; and the Scriptures assure me that at the last day we shall not be examined what we thought, but what we did; and our recommendation will not be that we said, Lord! Lord! but that we did good to our fellow-creatures. See Matt. xxv.
As to the freemasons, I know no way of giving my mother a better account of them than she seems to have at present, since it is not allowed that women should be admitted into that secret society. She has, I must confess, on that account some reason to be displeased with it; but for any thing else I must entreat her to suspend her judgment till she is better informed, unless she will believe me when I assure her that they are in general a very harmless sort of people, and have no principles or practices that are inconsistent with religion and good manners.
We have had great rains here lately, which, with the thawing of snow on the mountains back of our country, have made vast floods in our rivers, and, by carrying away bridges, boats, &c., made travelling almost impracticable for a week past; so that our post has entirely missed making one trip.
I hear nothing of Dr. Crook, nor can I learn any such person has ever been here.
I hope my sister Jenny’s child is by this time recovered, I am your dutiful son.
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO MRS. JANE MECOM
Philadelphia, 28 July, 1743.
Dearest Sister Jenny:
I took your admonition very kindly, and was far from being offended at you for it. If I say any thing about it to you, it is only to rectify some wrong opinions you seem to have entertained of me; and this I do only because they give you some uneasiness, which I am unwilling to be the occasion of. You express yourself as if you thought I was against the worshipping of God, and doubt that good works would merit heaven; which are both fancies of your own, I think, without foundation. I am so far from thinking that God is not to be worshipped, that I have composed and wrote a whole book of devotions for my own use; and I imagine there are few if any in the world so weak as to imagine that the little good we can do here can merit so vast a reward hereafter.
There are some things in your New England doctrine and worship, which I do not agree with; but I do not therefore condemn them, or desire to shake your belief or practice of them. We may dislike things that are nevertheless right in themselves. I would only have you make me the same allowance, and have a better opinion both of morality and your brother. Read the pages of Mr. Edwards’s late book, entitled Some Thoughts concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England, from 367 to 375, and when you judge of others, if you can perceive the fruit to be good, don’t terrify yourself that the tree may be evil; but be assured it is not so, for you know who has said, “Men do not gather grapes of thorns and figs of thistles.”
I have no time to add but that I shall always be your affectionate brother,
P. S.—It was not kind in you, when your sister commended your good works, to suppose she intended it a reproach to you. It was very far from her thoughts.[Back to Table of Contents]
for promoting useful knowledge among the british plantations in america1
Philadelphia, 14 May, 1743.
The English are possessed of a long tract of continent, from Nova Scotia to Georgia, extending north and south through different climates, having different soils, producing different plants, mines, and minerals, and capable of different improvements, manufactures, &c.
The first drudgery of settling new colonies, which confines the attention of people to mere necessaries, is now pretty well over; and there are many in every province in circumstances that set them at ease, and afford leisure to cultivate the finer arts and improve the common stock of knowledge. To such of these who are men of speculation many hints must from time to time arise, many observations occur, which, if well examined, pursued, and improved, might produce discoveries to the advantage of some or all of the British plantations or to the benefit of mankind in general.
But as from the extent of the country such persons are widely separated, and seldom can see and converse or be acquainted with each other, so that many useful particulars remain uncommunicated, die with the discoverers, and are lost to mankind; it is, to remedy this inconvenience for the future, proposed:
That one society be formed of virtuosi or ingenious men residing in the several colonies, to be called The American Philosophical Society, who are to maintain a constant correspondence.
That Philadelphia, being the city nearest the centre of the continent colonies, communicating with all of them northward and southward by post, and with all the islands by sea, and having the advantage of a good growing library, be the centre of the Society.
That at Philadelphia there be always at least seven members, viz., a physician, a botanist, a mathematician, a chemist, a mechanician, a geographer, and a general natural philosopher, besides a president, treasurer, and secretary.
That these members meet once a month or oftener, at their own expense, to communicate to each other their observations and experiments; to receive, read, and consider such letters, communications, or queries as shall be sent from distant members; to direct the dispersing of copies of such communications as are valuable, to other distant members, in order to procure their sentiments thereupon.
That the subjects of the correspondence be: all new-discovered plants, herbs, trees, roots, their virtues, uses, &c.; methods of propagating them, and making such as are useful, but particular to some plantations, more general; improvements of vegetable juices, as ciders, wines, &c.; new methods of curing or preventing diseases; all new-discovered fossils in different countries, as mines, minerals, and quarries; new and useful improvements in any branch of mathematics; new discoveries in chemistry, such as improvements in distillation, brewing, and assaying of ores; new mechanical inventions for saving labor, as mills and carriages, and for raising and conveying of water, draining of meadows, &c.; all new arts, trades, and manufactures that may be proposed or thought of; surveys, maps, and charts of particular parts of the sea-coasts or inland countries; course and junction of rivers and great roads, situation of lakes and mountains, nature of the soil and productions; new methods of improving the breed of useful animals; introducing other sorts from foreign countries; new improvements in planting, gardening, and clearing land; and all philosophical experiments that let light into the nature of things, tend to increase the power of man over matter and multiply the conveniences or pleasures of life.
That a correspondence already begun by some intended members shall be kept up by this Society with the Royal Society of London and with the Dublin Society.
That every member shall have abstracts sent him quarterly of every thing valuable communicated to the Society’s Secretary at Philadelphia, free of all charge, except the yearly payment hereafter mentioned.
That, by permission of the postmaster-general, such communications pass between the Secretary of the Society and the members, postage-free.
That, for defraying the expense of such experiments as the Society shall judge proper to cause to be made, and other contingent charges for the common good, every member send a piece of eight per annum to the treasurer, at Philadelphia, to form a common stock, to be disbursed by order of the President, with the consent of the majority of the members that can conveniently be consulted thereupon, to such persons and places where and by whom the experiments are to be made, and otherwise as there shall be occasion; of which disbursements an exact account shall be kept, and communicated yearly to every member.
That, at the first meetings of the members at Philadelphia, such rules be formed for regulating their meetings and transactions for the general benefit as shall be convenient and necessary; to be afterwards changed and improved as there shall be occasion, wherein due regard is to be had to the advice of distant members.
That, at the end of every year, collections be made and printed of such experiments, discoveries, and improvements as may be thought of public advantage; and that every member have a copy sent him.
That the business and duty of the Secretary be to receive all letters intended for the Society, and lay them before the President and members at their meetings; to abstract, correct, and methodize such papers as require it, and as he shall be directed to do by the President, after they have been considered, debated, and digested in the Society; to enter copies thereof in the Society’s books, and make out copies for distant members; to answer their letters by direction of the President; and keep records of all material transactions of the Society.
Benjamin Franklin, the writer of this Proposal, offers himself to serve the Society as their secretary, till they shall be provided with one more capable.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN1
Philadelphia, 4 November, 1743.
I received the favor of yours with the proposal for a new method of printing, which I am much pleased with; and since you express some confidence in my opinion, I shall consider it very attentively and particularly, and in a post or two send you some observations on every article.
My long absence from home in the summer put my business so much behindhand that I have been in a continual hurry ever since my return, and had no leisure to forward the scheme of the Society. But that hurry being now near over, I purpose to proceed in the affair very soon, your approbation being no small encouragement to me.
I cannot but be fond of engaging in a correspondence so advantageous to me as yours must be. I shall always receive your favors as such, and with great pleasure.
I wish I could by any means have made your son’s longer stay here as agreeable to him as it would have been to those who began to be acquainted with him. I am, Sir, with much respect,
Your most humble servant,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO EDWARD AND JANE MECOM
Philadelphia [date uncertain].
Dear Brother and Sister:
If you still continue your inclination to send Benny,1 you may do it by the first vessel to New York. Write a line by him, directed to Mr. James Parker, Printer, on Hunter’s Key, New York. I am confident he will be kindly used there, and I shall hear from him every week. You will advise him to be very cheerful, and ready to do every thing he is bid, and endeavour to oblige everybody, for that is the true way to get friends.
Dear Sister, I love you tenderly for your care of our father in his sickness. I am, in great haste, your loving brother,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO MRS. JANE MECOM
Philadelphia [date uncertain].
I received your letter, with one for Benny, and one for Mr. Parker, and also two of Benny’s letters of complaint, which, as you observe, do not amount to much. I should have had a very bad opinion of him if he had written to you those accusations of his master which you mention, because, from long acquaintance with his master, who lived some years in my house, I know him to be a sober, pious, and conscientious man, so that Newport, to whom you seem to have given too much credit, must have wronged Mr. Parker very much in his accounts, and have wronged Benny too, if he says Benny told him such things, for I am confident he never did.
As to the bad attendance afforded him in the smallpox, I believe, if the negro woman did not do her duty, her master or mistress would, if they had known it, have had that matter mended. But Mrs. Parker was herself, if I am not mistaken, sick at that time, and her child also. And though he gives the woman a bad character in general, all he charges her with in particular is, that she never brought him what he called for directly, and sometimes not at all. He had the distemper favorably, and yet I suppose was bad enough to be, like other sick people, a little impatient, and perhaps might think a short time long, and sometimes call for things not proper for one in his condition.
As to clothes, I am frequently at New York, and I never saw him unprovided with what was good, decent, and sufficient. I was there no longer ago than March last, and he was then well clothed and made no complaint to me of any kind. I heard both his master and mistress call upon him on Sunday morning to get ready to go to meeting, and tell him of his frequently delaying and shuffling till it was too late, and he made not the least objection about clothes. I did not think it any thing extraordinary that he should be sometimes willing to evade going to meeting, for I believe it is the case with all boys, or almost all. I have brought up four or five myself, and have frequently observed that if their shoes were bad they would say nothing of a new pair till Sunday morning, just as the bell rung, when, if you asked them why they did not get ready, the answer was prepared, “I have no shoes,” and so of other things, hats and the like; or, if they knew of any thing that wanted mending, it was a secret till Sunday morning, and sometimes I believe they would rather tear a little than be without the excuse.
As to going on petty errands, no boys love it, but all must do it. As soon as they become fit for better business they naturally get rid of that, for the master’s interest comes in to their relief. I make no doubt but Mr. Parker will take another apprentice as soon as he can meet with a likely one. In the mean time I should be glad if Benny would exercise a little patience. There is a negro woman that does a great many of those errands.
I do not think his going on board the privateer arose from any difference between him and his master, or any ill usage he had received. When boys see prizes brought in and quantities of money shared among the men, and their gay living, it fills their heads with notions that half distract them and put them quite out of conceit with trades and the dull ways of getting money by working. This I suppose was Ben’s case, the Catherine being just before arrived with three rich prizes, and that the glory of having taken a privateer of the enemy, for which both officers and men were highly extolled, treated, presented, &c., worked strongly upon his imagination, you will see, by his answer to my letter, is not unlikely. I send it to you enclosed. I wrote him largely on the occasion; and, though he might possibly, to excuse that slip to others, complain of his place, you may see he says not a syllable of any such thing to me. My only son, before I permitted him to go to Albany, left my house unknown to us all and got on board a privateer, from whence I fetched him. No one imagined it was hard usage at home that made him do this. Every one that knows me thinks I am too indulgent a parent as well as master.
I shall tire you, perhaps, with the length of this letter; but I am the more particular, in order, if possible, to satisfy your mind about your son’s situation. His master has, by a letter this post, desired me to write to him about his staying out of nights, sometimes all night, and refusing to give an account where he spends his time, or in what company. This I had not heard of before, though I perceive you have. I do not wonder at his correcting him for that. If he was my own son I should think his master did not do his duty by him if he omitted it, for to be sure it is the high road to destruction. And I think the correction very light, and not likely to be very effectual, if the strokes left no marks.
His master says farther, as follows: “I think I cannot charge my conscience with being much short of my duty to him. I shall now desire you, if you have not done it already, to invite him to lay his complaints before you, that I may know how to remedy them.” Thus far the words of his letter, which giving me a fair opening to inquire into the affair, I shall accordingly do it, and I hope settle every thing to all your satisfactions. In the mean time I have laid by your letters both to Mr. Parker and Benny, and shall not send them till I hear again from you; because I think your appearing to give ear to such groundless stories may give offence and create a greater misunderstanding, and because I think what you write to Benny about getting him discharged may tend to unsettle his mind, and therefore improper at this time.
I have a very good opinion of Benny in the main, and have great hopes of his becoming a worthy man, his faults being only such as are commonly incident to boys of his years, and he has many good qualities, for which I love him. I never knew an apprentice contented with the clothes allowed him by his master, let them be what they would. Jemmy Franklin, when with me, was always dissatisfied and grumbling. When I was last in Boston, his aunt bid him go to a shop and please himself, which the gentleman did, and bought a suit of clothes on my account dearer by one half than any I ever afforded myself, one suit excepted; which I don’t mention by way of complaint of Jemmy, for he and I are good friends, but only to show you the nature of boys.
The letters to Mr. Vanhorne were sent by Mr. Whitefield, under my cover.
I am, with love to brother and all yours, and duty to mother, to whom I have not time now to write, your affectionate brother,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
AN ACCOUNT OF THE NEW-INVENTED PENNSYLVANIAN FIRE-PLACES1 ;
their construction and manner of operation is particularly explained; their advantages above every other method of warming rooms demonstrated; and all objections that have been raised against the use of them answered and obviated. with directions for putting them up, and for using them to the best advantage. and a copper-plate in which the several parts of the machine are exactly laid down, from a scale of equal parts.
printed and sold by b. franklin, 1744.
In these northern colonies the inhabitants keep fires to sit by generally seven months in the year; that is, from the beginning of October to the end of April, and, in some winters, near eight months, by taking in part of September and May.
Wood, our common fuel, which within these hundred years might be had at any man’s door, must now be fetched near one hundred miles to some towns, and makes a very considerable article in the expense of families.
As therefore so much of the comfort and conveniency of our lives, for so great a part of the year, depends on the article of fire; since fuel is become so expensive, and, as the country is more cleared and settled, will of course grow scarcer and dearer, any new proposal for saving the wood, and for lessening the charge and augmenting the benefit of fire, by some particular method of making and managing it, may at least be thought worth consideration.
The new fire-places are a late invention to that purpose, of which this paper is intended to give a particular account.
That the reader may the better judge, whether this method of managing fire has any advantage over those heretofore in use, it may be proper to consider both the old and new methods, separately and particularly, and afterwards make the comparison.
In order to do this it is necessary to understand well some few of the properties of air and fire, viz.:
1. Air is rarefied by heat, and condensed by cold; that is, the same quantity of air takes up more space when warm than when cold. This may be shown by several very easy experiments. Take any clear glass bottle (a Florence flask stript of the straw is best), place it before the fire, and, as the air within is warmed and rarefied, part of it will be driven out of the bottle; turn it up, place its mouth in a vessel of water, and remove it from the fire; then, as the air within cools and contracts, you will see the water rise in the neck of the bottle, supplying the place of just so much air as was driven out. Hold a large hot coal near the side of the bottle, and, as the air within feels the heat, it will again distend and force out the water. Or, fill a bladder not quite full of air, tie the neck tight, and lay it before a fire as near as may be without scorching the bladder; as the air within heats, you will perceive it to swell and fill the bladder, till it becomes tight, as if full blown; remove it to a cool place, and you will see it fall gradually, till it becomes as lank as at first.
2. Air rarefied and distended by heat is specifically1 lighter than it was before, and will rise in other air of greater density. As wood, oil, or any other matter specifically lighter than water, if placed at the bottom of a vessel of water, will rise till it comes to the top, so rarefied air will rise in common air, till it either comes to air of equal weight or is by cold reduced to its former density.
A fire, then, being made in any chimney, the air over the fire is rarefied by the heat, becomes lighter, and therefore immediately rises in the funnel, and goes out; the other air in the room (flowing towards the chimney) supplies its place, is rarefied in its turn, and rises likewise; the place of the air thus carried out of the room is supplied by fresh air coming in through doors and windows, or, if they be shut, through every crevice with violence, as may be seen by holding a candle to a key-hole. If the room be so tight as that all the crevices together will not supply so much air as is continually carried off, then, in a little time, the current up the funnel must flag, and the smoke, being no longer driven up, must come into the room.
1. Fire (that is, common fire) throws out light, heat, and smoke (or fume). The two first move in right lines, and with great swiftness; the latter is but just separated from the fuel, and then moves only as it is carried by the stream of rarefied air, and without a continual accession and recession of air to carry off the smoky fumes, they would remain crowded about the fire and stifle it.
2. Heat may be separated from the smoke, as well as from the light, by means of a plate of iron, which will suffer heat to pass through it without the others.
3. Fire sends out its rays of heat, as well as rays of light, equally every way; but the greatest sensible heat is over the fire, where there is, besides the rays of heat shot upwards, a continual rising stream of hot air, heated by the rays shot round on every side.
These things being understood, we proceed to consider the fire-places heretofore in use, viz.:
1. The large open fire-places used in the days of our fathers, and still generally in the country, and in kitchens.
2. The newer-fashioned fire-places, with low breasts and narrow hearths.
3. Fire-places with hollow backs, hearths and jambs of iron (described by M. Gauger in his tract entitled La Méchanique de Feu), for warming the air as it comes into the room.
4. The Holland stoves, with iron doors opening into the room.
5. The German stoves, which have no opening in the room where they are used, but the fire is put in from some other room, or from without.
6. Iron pots, with open charcoal fires, placed in the middle of a room.
1. The first of these methods has generally the conveniency of two warm seats, one in each corner; but they are sometimes too hot to abide in, and, at other times, incommoded with the smoke; there is likewise good room for the cook to move, to hang on pots, &c. Their inconveniences are that they almost always smoke, if the door be not left open; that they require a large funnel, and a large funnel carries off a great quantity of air, which occasions what is called a strong draft to the chimney, without which strong draft the smoke would come out of some part or other of so large an opening, so that the door can seldom be shut; and the cold air so nips the backs and heels of those that sit before the fire, that they have no comfort till either screens or settles are provided (at a considerable expense) to keep it off, which both cumber the room and darken the fireside. A moderate quantity of wood on the fire in so large a hearth seems but little, and in so strong and cold a draft warms but little; so that people are continually laying on more. In short, it is next to impossible to warm a room with such a fire-place; and I suppose our ancestors never thought of warming rooms to sit in; all they purposed was to have a place to make a fire in, by which they might warm themselves when cold.
2. Most of these old-fashioned chimneys in towns and cities have been, of late years, reduced to the second sort mentioned, by building jambs within them, narrowing the hearth, and making a low arch or breast. It is strange, methinks, that though chimneys have been so long in use, their construction should be so little understood till lately, that no workman pretended to make one which should always carry off all smoke, but a chimney-cloth was looked upon as essential to a chimney. This improvement, however, by small openings and low breasts, has been made in our days; and success in the first experiments has brought it into general use in cities, so that almost all new chimneys are now made of that sort, and much fewer bricks will make a stack of chimneys now than formerly. An improvement so lately made may give us room to believe that still farther improvements may be found to remedy the inconveniences yet remaining. For these new chimneys, though they keep rooms generally free from smoke, and, the opening being contracted, will allow the door to be shut, yet, the funnel still requiring a considerable quantity of air, it rushes in at every crevice so strongly as to make a continual whistling or howling; and it is very uncomfortable, as well as dangerous, to sit against any such crevice. Many colds are caught from this cause only, it being safer to sit in the open street; for then the pores do all close together, and the air does not strike so sharply against any particular part of the body.
The Spaniards have a proverbial saying:
Women particularly, from this cause, as they sit much in the house, get colds in the head, rheums, and defluctions, which fall into their jaws and gums and have destroyed early many a fine set of teeth in these northern colonies. Great and bright fires do also very much contribute to damage the eyes, dry and shrivel the skin, and bring on early the appearances of old age. In short, many of the diseases proceeding from colds, as fevers, pleurisies, &c., fatal to very great numbers of people, may be ascribed to strong-drawing chimneys, whereby, in severe weather, a man is scorched before, while he is froze behind.1 In the mean time very little is done by these chimneys towards warming the room; for the air round the fire-place, which is warmed by the direct rays from the fire, does not continue in the room, but is continually crowded and gathered into the chimney by the current of cold air coming behind it, and so is presently carried off.
In both these sorts of fire-places, the greatest part of the heat from the fire is lost; for, as fire naturally darts heat every way, the back, the two jambs, and the hearth drink up almost all that is given them, very little being reflected from bodies so dark, porous, and unpolished; and the upright heat, which is by far the greatest, flies directly up the chimney. Thus five sixths at least of the heat (and consequently of the fuel) is wasted, and contributes nothing towards warming the room.
3. To remedy this the Sieur Gauger gives, in his book entitled La Méchanique de Feu, published in 1709, seven different constructions of the third sort of chimneys mentioned above, in which there are hollow cavities, made by iron plates in the back, jambs, and hearths, through which plates the heat passing warms the air in those cavities, which is continually coming into the room fresh and warm. The invention was very ingenious, and had many conveniences; the room was warmed in all parts, by the air flowing through the heated cavities; cold air was prevented rushing through the crevices, the funnel being sufficiently supplied by those cavities; much less fuel would serve, &c. But the first expense, which was very great, the intricacy of the design, and the difficulty of execution, especially in old chimneys, discouraged the propagation of the invention; so that there are, I suppose, very few such chimneys now in use. The upright heat, too, was almost all lost in these, as in the common chimneys.
4. The Holland iron stove, which has a flue proceeding from the top, and a small iron door opening into the room, comes next to be considered. Its conveniences are, that it makes a room all over warm; for, the chimney being wholly closed except the flue of the stove, very little air is required to supply that, and therefore not much rushes in at crevices, or at the door when it is opened. Little fuel serves, the heat being almost all saved; for it rays out almost equally from the four sides, the bottom, and the top, into the room, and presently warms the air around it, which, being rarefied, rises to the ceiling, and its place is supplied by the lower air of the room, which flows gradually towards the stove, and is there warmed, and rises in its turn, so that there is a continual circulation till all the air in the room is warmed. The air, too, is gradually changed by the stove-door’s being in the room, through which part of it is continually passing, and that makes these stoves wholesomer or at least pleasanter than the German stoves, next to be spoken of. But they have these inconveniences. There is no sight of the fire, which is in itself a pleasant thing. One cannot conveniently make any other use of the fire but that of warming the room. When the room is warm, people, not seeing the fire, are apt to forget supplying it with fuel till it is almost out, then, growing cold, a great deal of wood is put in, which soon makes it too hot. The change of air is not carried on quite quick enough; so that, if any smoke or ill smell happens in the room, it is a long time before it is discharged. For these reasons the Holland stove has not obtained much among the English (who love the sight of the fire) unless in some workshops, where people are obliged to sit near windows for the light, and in such places they have been found of good use.
5. The German stove is like a box, one side wanting. It is composed of five iron plates, screwed together, and fixed so as that you may put the fuel into it from another room, or from the outside of the house. It is a kind of oven reversed, its mouth being without, and body within, the room that is to be warmed by it. This invention certainly warms a room very speedily and thoroughly with little fuel; no quantity of cold air comes in at any crevice, because there is no discharge of air which it might supply, there being no passage into the stove from the room. These are its conveniences. Its inconveniences are, that people have not even so much sight or use of the fire as in the Holland stoves, and are, moreover, obliged to breathe the same unchanged air continually, mixed with the breath and perspiration from one another’s bodies, which is very disagreeable to those who have not been accustomed to it.
6. Charcoal fires in pots are used chiefly in the shops of handicraftsmen. They warm a room (that is kept close, and has no chimney to carry off the warmed air) very speedily and uniformly; but, there being no draft to change the air, the sulphurous fumes from the coals (be they ever so well kindled before they are brought in, there will be some) mix with it, render it disagreeable, hurtful to some constitutions, and sometimes, when the door is long kept shut, produce fatal consequences.
To avoid the several inconveniences, and at the same time retain all the advantages of other fire-places, was contrived the Pennsylvanian Fire-place, now to be described.
This machine consists of:
A bottom plate (i.). (See Plate I.)
A back plate (ii.).
Two side plates (iii., iii.).
Two middle plates (iv., iv.), which, joined together, form a tight box with winding passages in it for warming the air.
A front plate (v.).
A top plate (vi.).
These are all cast of iron, with mouldings or ledges where the plates come together, to hold them fast and retain the mortar used for pointing to make tight joints. When the plates are all in their places a pair of slender rods, with screws, are sufficient to bind the whole very firmly together, as it appears in Figure 2.
There are, moreover, two thin plates of wrought iron, viz., the shutter (vii.), and the register (viii.), besides the screw-rods, O, P, all which we shall explain in their order.
(i.) The bottom plate or hearth-piece is round before, with a rising moulding that serves as a fender to keep coals and ashes from coming to the floor, &c. It has two ears F, G, perforated to receive the screw-rods O, P; a long air-hole a a, through which the fresh outward air passes up into the air-box; and three smoke-holes B, C, through which the smoke descends and passes away, all represented by dark squares. It has also double ledges to receive between them the bottom edges of the back plate, the two side plates, and the two middle plates. These ledges are about an inch asunder and about half an inch high; a profile of two of them, joined to a fragment of plate, appears in Figure 3.
(ii.) The back plate is without holes, having only a pair of ledges on each side to receive the back edges of the two
(iii., iii.) Side plates; these have each a pair of ledges to receive the side edges of the front plate, and a little shoulder for it to rest on; also two pair of ledges to receive the side edges of the two middle plates, which form the air-box; and an oblong air-hole near the top through which is discharged into the room the air warmed in the air-box. Each has also a wing or bracket, H and I, to keep in falling brands, coals, &c., and a small hole, Q and R, for the axis of the register to turn in.
(iv., iv.) The air-box is composed of the two middle plates D, E and F, G. The first have five thin ledges or partitions cast on it two inches deep, the edges of which are received in so many pair of ledges cast in the other. The tops of all the cavities formed by these thin, deep ledges are also covered by a ledge of the same form and depth cast with them, so that when the plates are put together and the joints luted there is no communication between the air-box and the smoke. In the winding passages of this box fresh air is warmed as it passes into the room.
(v.) The front plate is arched on the under side, and ornamented with foliages, &c.; it has no ledges.
(vi.) The top plate has a pair of ears, M, N, answerable to those in the bottom plate, and perforated for the same purpose; it has also a pair of ledges running round the under side to receive the top edges of the front, back, and side plates. The air-box does not reach up to the top plate by two inches and a half.
(vii.) The shutter is of thin wrought iron and light, of such a length and breadth as to close well the opening of the fire-place. It is used to blow up the fire, and to shut up and secure it at nights. It has two brass knobs for handles, d, d, and commonly slides up and down in a groove left, in putting up the fire-place, between the foremost ledge of the side plates and the face of the front plate; but some choose to set it aside when it is not in use, and apply it on occasion.
(viii.) The register is also of thin wrought iron. It is placed between the back plate and air-box, and can, by means of the key S, be turned on its axis so as to lie in any position between level and upright.
The screw-rods, O, P, are of wrought iron, about a third of an inch thick, with a button at bottom, and a screw and nut at top, and may be ornamented with two small brasses screwed on above the nuts.
To put this machine to work:
1. A false back of four-inch (or, in shallow small chimneys two-inch) brick work is to be made in the chimney, four inches or more from the true back; from the top of this false back a closing is to be made over to the breast of the chimney, that no air may pass into the chimney but what goes under the false back and up behind it.
2. Some bricks of the hearth are to be taken up, to form a hollow under the bottom plate; across which hollow runs a thin, tight partition, to keep apart the air entering the hollow and the smoke; and is therefore placed between the air-hole and smoke-holes.
3. A passage is made, communicating with the outward air, to introduce that air into the fore part of the hollow under the bottom plate, whence it may rise through the air-hole into the air-box.
4. A passage is made from the back part of the hollow, communicating with the flue behind the false back; through this passage the smoke is to pass.
The fire-place is to be erected upon these hollows, by putting all the plates in their places, and screwing them together.
Its operation may be conceived by observing the plate entitled, Profile of the Chimney and Fire-place. (See Plate II.)
M The mantel-piece, or breast of the chimney.
C The funnel.
B The false back and closing.
E True back of the chimney.
T Top of the fire-place.
F The front of it.
A The place where the fire is made.
D The air-box.
K The hole in the side plate, through which the warmed air is discharged out of the air-box into the room.
H The hollow filled with fresh air, entering at the passage I, and ascending into the air-box through the air-hole in the bottom-plate, near
G The partition in the hollow to keep the air and smoke apart.
P The passage under the false back and part of the hearth for the smoke.
The arrows show the course of the smoke.
The fire being made at A, the flame and smoke will ascend and strike the top T, which will thereby receive a considerable heat. The smoke, finding no passage upwards, turns over the top of the air-box, and descends between it and the back plate to the holes in the bottom plate, heating, as it passes, both plates of the air-box, and the said back plate; the front, bottom, and side plates are also all heated at the same time. The smoke proceeds in the passage that leads it under and behind the false back, and so rises into the chimney. The air of the room, warmed behind the back plate, and by the sides, front, and top plates, becoming specifically lighter than the other air in the room, is obliged to rise; but the closure over the fire-place hindering it from going up the chimney, it is forced out into the room, rises by the mantel-piece to the ceiling, and spreads all over the top of the room, whence being crowded down gradually by the stream of newly-warmed air that follows and rises above it, the whole room becomes in a short time equally warmed.
At the same time the air, warmed under the bottom plate and in the air-box, rises and comes out of the holes in the side plates very swiftly if the door of the room be shut, and joins its current with the stream before mentioned, rising from the side, back, and top plates.
The air that enters the room through the air-box is fresh, though warm; and, computing the swiftness of its motion with the areas of the holes, it is found that near ten barrels of fresh air are hourly introduced by the air-box; and by this means the air in the room is continually changed, and kept at the same time sweet and warm.
It is to be observed that the entering air will not be warm at first lighting the fire, but heats gradually as the fire increases.
A square opening for a trap-door should be left in the closing of the chimney, for the sweeper to go up; the door may be made of slate or tin, and commonly kept close shut, but so placed as that, turning up against the back of the chimney when open, it closes the vacancy behind the false back, and shoots the soot that falls in sweeping, out upon the hearth. This trap-door is a very convenient thing.
In rooms where much smoking of tobacco is used, it is also convenient to have a small hole about five or six inches square, cut near the ceiling through into the funnel; this hole must have a shutter, by which it may be closed or operated at pleasure. When open there will be a strong draft of air through it into the chimney, which will presently carry off a cloud of smoke and keep the room clear; if the room be too hot likewise, it will carry off as much of the warm air as you please, and then you may stop it entirely or in part as you think fit. By this means it is that the tobacco smoke does not descend among the heads of the company near the fire, as it must do before it can get into common chimneys.
The Manner of Using this Fire-place
Your cord-wood must be cut into three lengths; or else a short piece fit for the fire-place, cut off, and the longer left for the kitchen or other fires. Dry hickory or ash, or any woods that burn with a clear flame, are rather to be chosen, because such are less apt to foul the smoke passages with soot; and flame communicates with its light, as well as by contact, greater heat to the plates and room. But, where more ordinary wood is used, half a dry fagot of brushwood, burnt at the first making the fire in the morning, is very advantageous, as it immediately, by its sudden blaze, heats the plates and warms the room (which with bad wood slowly kindling would not be done so soon), and at the same time by the length of its flame, turning in the passages, consumes and cleanses away the soot that such bad, smoky wood had produced therein the preceding day, and so keeps them always free and clean. When you have laid a little back log, and placed your billets on small dogs, as in common chimneys, and put some fire to them, then slide down your shutter as low as the dogs, and the opening being by that means contracted, the air rushes in briskly and presently blows up the flames. When the fire is sufficiently kindled, slide it up again.1 In some of these fire-places there is a little six inch square trap-door of thin wrought iron or brass, covering a hole of like dimensions near the fore part of the bottom plate, which being by a ring lifted up towards the fire, about an inch, where it will be retained by two springing sides fixed to it perpendicularly (see Plate I., Fig. 4), the air rushes in from the hollow under the bottom plate, and blows the fire. Where this is used, the shutter serves only to close the fire at nights. The more forward you can make your fire on the hearth-plate, not to be incommoded by the smoke, the sooner and more will the room be warmed. At night, when you go to bed, cover the coals or brands with ashes as usual; then take away the dogs, and slide down the shutter close to the bottom plate, sweeping a little ashes against it that no air may pass under it; then turn the register so as very near to stop the flue behind. If no smoke then comes out at crevices into the room, it is right; if any smoke is perceived to come out, move the register, so as to give a little draft, and it will go the right way. Thus the room will be kept warm all night; for, the chimney being almost entirely stopt, very little cold air, if any, will enter the room at any crevice. When you come to rekindle the fire in the morning, turn open the register before you lift up the slider, otherwise, if there be any smoke in the fire-place, it will come out into the room. By the same use of the shutter and register, a blazing fire may be presently stifled, as well as secured, when you have occasion to leave it for any time; and at your return you will find the brands warm, and ready for a speedy rekindling. The shutter alone will not stifle a fire, for it cannot well be made to fit so exactly but that air will enter, and that in a violent stream, so as to blow up and keep alive the flames and consume the wood, if the draft be not checked by turning the register to shut the flue behind. The register has also two other uses. If you observe the draft of air into your fire-place to be stronger than is necessary (as in extreme cold weather it often is), so that the wood is consumed faster than usual; in that case, a quarter, half, or two-thirds turn of the register will check the violence of the draft and let your fire burn with the moderation you desire; and at the same time both the fire-place and the room will be the warmer, because less cold air will enter and pass through them. And, if the chimney should happen to take fire (which indeed there is very little danger of, if the preceding direction be observed in making fires, and it be well swept once a year; for, much less wood being burnt, less soot is proportionably made; and, the fuel being soon blown into flame by the shutter, or the trap-door bellows, there is consequently less smoke from the fuel to make soot; then, though the funnel should be foul, yet the sparks have such a crooked, up and down, roundabout way to go, that they are out before they get at it); I say, if ever it should be on fire, a turn of the register shuts all close and prevents any air going into the chimney, and so the fire may be easily stifled and mastered.
The Advantages of this Fire-place
Its advantages above the common fire-places are:
1. That your whole room is equally warmed, so that people need not crowd so close round the fire, but may sit near the window, and have the benefit of the light for reading, writing, needlework, &c. They may sit with comfort in any part of the room, which is a very considerable advantage in a large family, where there must often be two fires kept, because all cannot conveniently come at one.
2. If you sit near the fire you have not that cold draft of uncomfortable air nipping your back and heels as when before common fires, by which many catch cold, being scorched before and, as it were, froze behind.
3. If you sit against a crevice there is not that sharp draft of cold air playing on you as in rooms where there are fires in the common way, by which many catch cold, whence proceed coughs,1 catarrhs, toothaches, fevers, pleurisies, and many other diseases.
4. In case of sickness they make most excellent nursing-rooms, as they constantly supply a sufficiency of fresh air, so warmed at the same time as to be no way inconvenient or dangerous. A small one does well in a chamber, and, the chimneys being fitted for it, it may be removed from one room to another, as occasion requires, and fixed in half an hour. The equal temper, too, and warmth of the air of the room, is thought to be particularly advantageous in some distempers; for it was observed in the winters of 1730 and 1736, when the small-pox spread in Pennsylvania, that very few children of the Germans died of that distemper in proportion to those of the English, which was ascribed by some to the warmth and equal temper of air in their stove-rooms, which made the disease as favorable as it commonly is in the West Indies. But this conjecture we submit to the judgment of physicians.
5. In common chimneys the strongest heat from the fire, which is upwards, goes directly up the chimney and is lost, and there is such a strong draft into the chimney that not only the upright heat but also the back, sides, and downward heats are carried up the chimney by that draft of air, and the warmth given before the fire by the rays that strike out towards the room is continually driven back, crowded into the chimney, and carried up by the same draft of air. But here the upright heat strikes and heats the top plate, which warms the air above it, and that comes into the room. The heat likewise which the fire communicates to the sides, back, bottom, and air-box, is all brought into the room; for you will find a constant current of warm air coming out of the chimney corner into the room. Hold a candle just under the mantel-piece or breast of your chimney, and you will see the flame bent outwards; by laying a piece of smoking paper on the hearth, on either side, you may see how the current of air moves and where it tends, for it will turn and carry the smoke with it.
6. Thus, as very little of the heat is lost when this fire-place is used, much less wood1 will serve you, which is a considerable advantage where wood is dear.
7. When you burn candles near this fire-place, you will find that the flame burns quite upright, and does not blare and run the tallow down by drawing towards the chimney, as against common fires.
8. This fire-place cures most smoky chimneys, and thereby preserves both the eyes and furniture.
9. It prevents the fouling of chimneys; much of the lint and dust that contributes to foul a chimney being, by the low arch, obliged to pass through the flame, where it is consumed. Then, less wood being burnt, there is less smoke made. Again, the shutter, or trap-bellows, soon blowing the wood into a flame, the same wood does not yield so much smoke as if burnt in a common chimney; for, as soon as flame begins, smoke in proportion ceases.
10. And if a chimney should be foul, it is much less likely to take fire. If it should take fire, it is easily stifled and extinguished.
11. A fire may be very speedily made in this fire-place by the help of the shutter or trap-bellows, as aforesaid.
12. A fire may be soon extinguished by closing it with the shutter before, and turning the register behind, which will stifle it, and the brands will remain ready to rekindle.
13. The room being once warm, the warmth may be retained in it all night.
14. And, lastly, the fire is so secured at night that not one spark can fly out into the room to do damage.
With all these conveniences, you do not lose the pleasing sight nor use of the fire, as in the Dutch stoves, but may boil the tea-kettle, warm the flat-irons, heat heaters, keep warm a dish of victuals by setting it on the top, &c.
There are some objections commonly made by people that are unacquainted with these fire-places which it may not be amiss to endeavour to remove, as they arise from prejudices which might otherwise obstruct, in some degree, the general use of this beneficial machine. We frequently hear it said, They are of the nature of Dutch stoves; stoves have an unpleasant smell; stoves are unwholesome; and warm rooms make people tender and apt to catch cold. As to the first, that they are of the nature of Dutch stoves, the description of those stoves, in the beginning of this paper, compared with that of these machines, shows that there is a most material difference, and that these have vastly the advantage, if it were only in the single article of the admission and circulation of the fresh air. But it must be allowed there may have been some cause to complain of the offensive smell of iron stoves. This smell, however, never proceeded from the iron itself, which, in its nature, whether hot or cold, is one of the sweetest of metals, but from the general uncleanly manner of using those stoves. If they are kept clean they are as sweet as an ironing-box, which, though ever so hot, never offends the smell of the nicest lady; but it is common to let them be greased, by setting candlesticks on them or otherwise; to rub greasy hands on them; and, above all, to spit upon them, to try how hot they are, which is an inconsiderate, filthy, unmannerly custom; for the slimy matter of spittle, drying on, burns and fumes when the stove is hot, as well as the grease, and smells most nauseously, which makes such close stove-rooms, where there is no draft to carry off those filthy vapors, almost intolerable to those that are not from their infancy accustomed to them. At the same time nothing is more easy than to keep them clean; for, when by any accident they happen to be fouled, a lie made of ashes and water, with a brush, will scour them perfectly, as will also a little strong soft soap and water.
That hot iron of itself gives no offensive smell, those know very well who have (as the writer of this had) been present at a furnace when the workmen were pouring out the flowing metal to cast large plates, and not the least smell of it to be perceived. That hot iron does not, like lead, brass, and some other metals, give out unwholesome vapors, is plain from the general health and strength of those who constantly work in iron, as furnace-men, forge-men, and smiths; that it is in its nature a metal perfectly wholesome to the body of man, is known from the beneficial use of chalybeate or iron-mine waters, from the good done by taking steel filings in several disorders, and that even the smithy water in which hot irons are quenched is found advantageous to the human constitution. The ingenious and learned Dr. Desaguliers, to whose instructive writings the contriver of this machine acknowledges himself much indebted, relates an experiment he made to try whether heated iron would yield unwholesome vapors. He took a cube of iron, and, having given it a very great heat, he fixed it so to a receiver, exhausted by the air-pump, that all the air rushing in to fill the receiver should first pass through a hole in the hot iron. He then put a small bird into the receiver, who breathed that air without any inconvenience or suffering the least disorder. But the same experiment being made with a cube of hot brass, a bird put into that air died in a few minutes. Brass, indeed, stinks even when cold, and much more when hot; lead, too, when hot, yields a very unwholesome steam; but iron is always sweet, and every way taken is wholesome and friendly to the human body, except in weapons.
That warmed rooms make people tender and apt to catch cold, is a mistake as great as it is (among the English) general. We have seen in the preceding pages how the common rooms are apt to give colds; but the writer of this paper may affirm from his own experience and that of his family and friends, who have used warm rooms for these four winters past, that by the use of such rooms people are rendered less liable to take cold, and, indeed, actually hardened. If sitting warm in a room made one subject to take cold on going out, lying warm in bed should, by a parity of reason, produce the same effect when we rise. Yet we find we can leap out of the warmest bed naked in the coldest morning without any such danger; and in the same manner out of warm clothes into a cold bed. The reason is that in these cases the pores all close at once, the cold is shut out, and the heat within augmented, as we soon after feel by the glowing of the flesh and skin. Thus no one was ever known to catch cold by the use of the cold bath; and are not cold baths allowed to harden the bodies of those that use them? Are they not therefore frequently prescribed to the tenderest constitutions? Now every time you go out of a warm room into the cold, freezing air, you do, as it were, plunge into a cold bath, and the effect is in proportion the same; for (though perhaps you may feel somewhat chilly at first) you find in a little time your bodies hardened and strengthened, your blood is driven round with a brisker circulation, and a comfortable, steady, uniform, inward warmth succeeds that equal outward warmth you first received in the room. Farther to confirm this assertion, we instance the Swedes, the Danes, and the Russians. These nations are said to live in rooms, compared to ours, as hot as ovens1 ; yet where are the hardy soldiers, though bred in their boasted cool houses, that can, like these people, bear the fatigues of a winter campaign in so severe a climate, march whole days to the neck in snow, and at night intrench in ice as they do?
The mentioning of those northern nations puts me in mind of a considerable public advantage that may arise from the general use of these fire-places. It is observable that, though those countries have been well inhabited for many ages, wood is still their fuel, and yet at no very great price; which could not have been, if they had not universally used stoves, but consumed it as we do in great quantities, by open fires. By the help of this saving invention our wood may grow as fast as we consume it, and our posterity may warm themselves at a moderate rate, without being obliged to fetch their fuel over the Atlantic; as, if pit-coal should not be here discovered (which is an uncertainty) they must necessarily do.
We leave it to the political arithmetician to compute how much money will be saved to a country, by its spending two thirds less of fuel; how much labor saved in cutting and carriage of it; how much more land may be cleared by cultivation; how great the profit by the additional quantity of work done, in those trades particularly that do not exercise the body so much, but that the workfolks are obliged to run frequently to the fire to warm themselves; and to physicians to say how much healthier thick-built towns and cities will be, now half suffocated with sulphury smoke, when so much less of that smoke shall be made, and the air breathed by the inhabitants be consequently so much purer. These things it will suffice just to have mentioned; let us proceed to give some necessary directions to the workman who is to fix or set up these fire-places.
Directions to the Bricklayer
The chimney being first well swept and cleansed from soot, &c., lay the bottom plate down on the hearth, in the place where the fire-place is to stand, which may be as forward as the hearth will allow. Chalk a line from one of its back corners round the plate to the other corner, that you may afterwards know its place when you come to fix it; and from those corners, two parallel lines to the back of the chimney; make marks also on each side, that you may know where the partition is to stand, which is to prevent any communication between the air and smoke. Then, removing the plate, make a hollow under it and beyond it, by taking up as many of the bricks or tiles as you can, within your chalked lines, quite to the chimney-back. Dig out six or eight inches deep of the earth or rubbish, all the breadth and length of your hollow; then make a passage of four inches square (if the place will allow so much) leading from the hollow to some place communicating with the outer air; by outer air we mean air without the room you intend to warm. This passage may be made to enter your hollow on either side, or in the fore part, just as you find most convenient, the circumstances of your chimney considered. If the fire-place is to be put up in a chamber, you may have this communication of outer air from the staircase; or sometimes more easily from between the chamber floor and the ceiling of the lower room, making only a small hole in the wall of the house entering the space betwixt those two joists with which your air-passage in the hearth communicates. If this air-passage be so situated as that mice may enter it, and nestle in the hollow, a little grate of wire will keep them out. This passage being made, and, if it runs under any part of the hearth, tiled over securely, you may proceed to raise your false back. This may be of four inches or two inches thickness, as you have room; but let it stand at least four inches from the true chimney back. In narrow chimneys this false back runs from jamb to jamb; but in large, old-fashioned chimneys, you need not make it wider than the back of the fire-place. To begin it, you may form an arch nearly flat, of three bricks end to end, over the hollow, to leave a passage the breadth of the iron fire-place and five or six inches deep, rounding at bottom, for the smoke to turn and pass under the false back, and so behind it up the chimney. The false back is to rise till it is as high as the breast of the chimney, and then to close over to the breast1 ; always observing, if there is a wooden mantel-tree, to close above it. If there is no wood in the breast, you may arch over and close even with the lower part of the breast. By this closing the chimney is made tight, that no air or smoke may pass up it, without going under the false back. Then from side to side of your hollow, against the marks you made with chalk, raise a tight partition, brick-on-edge, to separate the air from the smoke, bevelling away to half an inch the brick that comes just under the air-hole, that the air may have a free passage up into the air-box. Lastly, close the hearth over that part of the hollow that is between the false back and the place of the bottom plate, coming about half an inch under the plate, which piece of hollow hearth may be supported by a bit or two of old iron hoop; then is your chimney fitted to receive the fire-place.
To set it, lay first a little bed of mortar all round the edges of the hollow, and over the top of the partition; then lay down your bottom plate in its place (with the rods in it) and tread it till it lies firm. Then put a little fine mortar (made of loam and lime, with a little hair) into its joints, and set in your back plate, leaning it for the present against the false back; then set in your air-box, with a little mortar in its joints; then put in the two sides, closing them up against the air-box, with mortar in their grooves, and fixing at the same time your register; then bring up your back to its place, with mortar in its grooves, and that will bind the sides together. Then put in your front plate, placing it as far back in the groove as you can, to leave room for the sliding plate; then lay on your top plate, with mortar in its grooves also, screwing the whole firmly together by means of the rods. The capital letters, A, B, D, E, &c. in the cut [Plate II.], show the corresponding parts of the several plates. Lastly, the joints being pointed all round on the outside, the fire-place is fit for use.
When you make your first fire in it, perhaps, if the chimney be thoroughly cold, it may not draw, the work too being all cold and damp. In such case, put first a few shovels of hot coals in the fire-place, then lift up the chimney sweeper’s trap-door, and putting in a sheet or two of flaming paper, shut it again, which will set the chimney a drawing immediately, and when once it is filled with a column of warm air it will draw strongly and continually.
The drying of the mortar and work by the first fire may smell unpleasantly, but that will soon be over.
In some shallow chimneys, to make more room for the false back and its flue, four inches or more of the chimney-back may be picked away.
Let the room be made as tight as conveniently it may be; so will the outer air that must come in to supply the room and draft of the fire be all obliged to enter through the passage under the bottom plate, and up through the air-box, by which means it will not come cold to your backs, but be warmed as it comes in, and mixed with the warm air round the fire-place before it spreads into the room.
But as a great quantity of cold air, in extreme cold weather especially, will presently enter a room if the door be carelessly left open, it is good to have some contrivance to shut it, either by means of screw hinges, a spring, or a pulley.
When the pointing in the joints is all dry and hard, get some powder of black lead (broken bits of black lead crucibles from the silversmiths, pounded fine, will do), and mixing it with a little rum and water, lay it on, when the plates are warm, with a hard brush, over the top and front plates, part of the side and bottom plates, and over all the pointing; and as it dries, rub it to a gloss with the same brush, so the joints will not be discerned, but it will look all of a piece, and shine like new iron. And, the false back being plastered and whitewashed, and the hearth reddened, the whole will make a pretty appearance. Before the black lead is laid on, it would not be amiss to wash the plates with strong lie and a brush, or soap and water, to cleanse them from any spots of grease or filth that may be on them. If any grease should afterwards come on them, a little wet ashes will get it out.
If it be well set up, and in a tolerably good chimney, smoke will draw in from as far as the fore part of the bottom plate, as you may try by a bit of burning paper.
People are at first apt to make their rooms too warm, not imagining how little a fire will be sufficient. When the plates are no hotter than that one may just bear the hand on them, the room will generally be as warm as you desire it.1[Back to Table of Contents]
TO THE HON. CADWALLADER COLDEN
New York, 5 April, 1744.
Happening to be in this city about some particular affairs, I have the pleasure of receiving yours of the 28th past, here; and can now acquaint you that the Society,1 as far as it relates to Philadelphia, is actually formed, and has had several meetings to mutual satisfaction. As soon as I get home I shall send you a short account of what has been done and proposed at these meetings. The members are:
To whom the following members have since been added, viz.: Mr. Alexander, of New York; Mr. Morris, Chief Justice of the Jerseys; Mr. Home, Secretary of do.; Mr. John Coxe, of Trenton; and Mr. Martyn, of the same place. Mr. Nicholls tells me of several other gentlemen of this city that incline to encourage the thing; and there are a number of others, in Virginia, Maryland, and the New England colonies, we expect to join us as soon as they are acquainted that the Society has begun to form itself.
I am, Sir, with much respect,
|Rector, who teaches Latin and Greek, per annum||£200|
|The English master||£150|
|The Mathematical professor||£125|
|Three assistant tutors, each £60 =||£180|
|Total per annum||£655|
Our currency is something better than that of New York. The scholars pay each £4 per annum.
The changes of the barometer are most sensible in high latitudes. In the West India Islands the mercury continues at the same height with very little variation the year round. In these latitudes, the alterations are not frequently so great as in England. Thermometers are often badly made. I had three that differed widely from each other, though hung in the same place. As to hygrometers, there is no good one yet invented. The cord is as good as any; but, like the rest, it grows continually less sensible by time, so that the observations of one year cannot be compared with those of another by the same instrument. I will think of what you hint concerning the hydrostatic balance.
What you mention concerning the love of praise is indeed very true; it reigns more or less in every heart; though we are generally hypocrites in that respect, and pretend to disregard praise, and our nice, modest ears are offended, forsooth, with what one of the ancients calls the sweetest kind of music. This hypocrisy is only a sacrifice to the pride of others, or to their envy; both which, I think, ought rather to be mortified. The same sacrifice we make when we forbear to praise ourselves, which naturally we are all inclined to; and I suppose it was formerly the fashion, or Virgil, that courtly writer, would not have put a speech into the mouth of his hero, which now-a-days we should esteem so great an indecency:
- “Sum pius Æneas, . . . . . . . .
- . . . . . . . famâ super æthera notus.”
One of the Romans, I forget who, justified speaking in his own praise by saying: Every freeman had a right to speak what he thought of himself, as well as of others. That this is a natural inclination appears in that all children show it, and say freely: I am a good boy; Am I not a good girl? and the like, till they have been frequently chid, and told their trumpeter is dead, and that it is unbecoming to sound their own praise, &c. But naturam expellas furcâ, tamen usque recurret. Being forbid to praise themselves, they learn instead of it to censure others, which is only a roundabout way of praising themselves; for condemning the conduct of another, in any particular, amounts to as much as saying: I am so honest, or wise, or good, or prudent, that I could not do or approve of such an action. This fondness for ourselves, rather than malevolence to others, I take to be the general source of censure and backbiting; and I wish men had not been taught to dam up natural currents, to the overflowing and damage of their neighbours’ grounds.
Another advantage, methinks, would arise from freely speaking our good thoughts of ourselves, viz.: if we were wrong in them, somebody or other would readily set us right; but now, while we conceal so carefully our vain, erroneous self-opinions, we may carry them to our grave, for who would offer physic to a man that seems to be in health? And the privilege of recounting freely our own good actions might be an inducement to the doing of them, that we might be enabled to speak of them without being subject to be justly contradicted or charged with falsehood; whereas now, as we are not allowed to mention them, and it is an uncertainty whether others will take due notice of them or not, we are perhaps the more indifferent about them; so that, upon the whole, I wish the out-of-fashion practice of praising ourselves would, like other old fashions, come round into fashion again. But this I fear will not be in our time, so we must even be contented with what little praise we can get from one another. And I will endeavour to make you some amends for the trouble of reading this long scrawl, by telling you that I have the sincerest esteem for you, as an ingenious man and a good one, which together make the valuable member of society. As such, I am with great respect and affection, dear Sir, your obliged humble servant,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO MRS. JANE MECOM
Philadelphia, 24 October, 1751.
My son waits upon you with this, whom I heartily recommend to your motherly care and advice. He is indeed a sober and discreet lad of his years, but he is young and unacquainted with the ways of your place. My compliments to my new niece, Miss Abiah, and pray her to accept the enclosed piece of gold, to cut her teeth; it may afterwards buy nuts for them to crack.
Some time since I sent a letter to your care for our cousin at Casco Bay. Have you had an opportunity to forward it? My love to brother Mecom and your children; and to brother and sister Davenport and children; and respects to Mrs. Billings and her daughter, and all other friends, from, dear sister, your affectionate brother,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO JARED ELIOT
Philadelphia, 10 December, 1751.
The rector of our Academy, Mr. Martin, came over to this country on a scheme for making potash, in the Russian method. He promised me some written directions for you, which expecting daily I delayed writing, and now he lies dangerously ill of a kind of quinsy. The surgeons have been obliged to open his windpipe, and introduce a leaden pipe for him to breathe through. I fear he will not recover.
I thank you for the merino wool. It is a curiosity. Mr. Roberts promises me some observations on husbandry for you. It is one Mr. Masters that makes manure of leaves, and not Mr. Roberts. I hope to get the particulars from him soon.
I have a letter from Mr. Collinson, of July 19th, in which he says: “Pray, has Mr. Eliot published any addition to his work? I have Nos. 1 and 2. If I can get ready, I will send some improvements made in the sandy parts of the county of Norfolk. By the way, it is a great secret, but it is Mr. Jackson’s own drawing up, being experiments made on some of his father’s estates in that county; but his name must not be mentioned. I thank you for the foul meadow grass. I sowed it June 7th, as soon as I received it, but none is yet come up. I don’t know how it is, but I never could raise any of your native grasses; and I have had a variety from J. Bartram of curious species.”
In another, of September 26th, he says: “I am much obliged to thee for Mr. Eliot’s Third Essay. I have sent Maxwell’s Select Transactions in Husbandry. If Mr. Eliot has not seen them, they may be very useful to him. I have prevailed on our worthy, learned, and ingenious friend Mr. Jackson to give some dissertations on the husbandry of Norfolk, believing it may be very serviceable to the colonies. He has great opportunities of doing this, being a gentleman of leisure and fortune, being the only son, whose father has great riches and possessions, and resides every year, all the long vacation, at his father’s seat in Norfolk. After J. Bartram has perused it, I shall submit how it may be further disposed of, only our friend Eliot should see it soon; for Jackson admires his little Tracts of Husbandry, as well as myself, and it may be of greater service to him and his colony, than to yours. The foul meadow grass has at last made its appearance. Another year we shall judge better of it.” Thus far friend Collinson. You may expect the papers in a post or two.
If you make any use of them, you will take care not to mention any thing of the author.
The bearer is my son, who desired an opportunity of paying his respects to you in his return from Boston. He went by sea.
They have printed all my electrical papers in England, and sent me a few copies, of which I design to send you one per next post, after having corrected a few errata. I am, dear Sir,
Your most humble servant,
P. S.—Mr. Martin is dead.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO JARED ELIOT
Philadelphia, 24 December, 1751.
I wrote you at large by my son, in answer to your former favors, and sent you an extract from Mr. Collinson’s letter, who much admires your Tracts on Husbandry. Herewith you will receive a manuscript of a friend of Mr. Collinson’s, and a printed book; which you may keep till spring, and then return it to me. I believe they will afford you pleasure.
I send you also enclosed a letter from my friend John Bartram, whose Journal you have read. He corresponds with several of the greatest naturalists in Europe, and will be proud of an acquaintance with you. I make no apologies for introducing him to you; for, though a plain and illiterate man, you will find he has merit. And since for want of skill in agriculture I cannot converse with you pertinently on that valuable subject, I am pleased that I have procured you two correspondents who can.
I am glad you have introduced English declamation into your college. It will be of great service to the youth, especially if care is taken to form their pronounciation on the best models. Mr. Whittlesey, who was lately here, will tell you that we have little boys under seven, who can deliver an oration with more propriety than most preachers. It is a matter that has been too much neglected.
I am, dear Sir, yours affectionately,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO JAMES BOWDOIN
read at the royal society, may 27, 1756
Philadelphia, 24 January, 1752.
I am glad to learn by your favor of the 21st past, that Mr. Kinnersley’s lectures have been acceptable to the gentlemen of Boston, and are like to prove serviceable to himself.
I thank you for the countenance and encouragement you have so kindly afforded my fellow-citizen.
I send you enclosed an extract of a letter containing the substance of what I observed concerning the communication of magnetism to needles by electricity. The minutes I took at the time of the experiments are mislaid. I am very little acquainted with the nature of magnetism. Dr. Gawin Knight, inventor of the steel magnets, has wrote largely on that subject; but I have not yet had leisure to peruse his writings with the attention necessary to become master of his doctrine.
Your explication of the crooked direction of lightning1 appears to me both ingenious and solid. When we can account as satisfactorily for the electrification of clouds, I think that branch of natural philosophy will be nearly complete.
The air undoubtedly obstructs the motion of the electric fluid. Dry air prevents the dissipation of an electric atmosphere, the denser the more, as in cold weather. I question whether such an atmosphere can be retained by a body in vacuo. A common electrical phial requires a non-electric communication from the wire to every part of the charged glass; otherwise, being dry and clean, and filled with air only, it charges slowly and discharges gradually by sparks, without a shock; but, exhausted of air, the communication is so open and free between the inserted wire and surface of the glass, that it charges as readily, and shocks as smartly, as if filled with water; and I doubt not but that in the experiment you propose the sparks would not only be near straight in vacuo, but strike at a greater distance than in the open air, though perhaps there would not be a loud explosion. As soon as I have a little leisure, I will make the experiment and send you the result.
My supposition, that the sea might possibly be the grand source of lightning, arose from the common observation of its luminous appearance in the night, on the least motion; an appearance never observed in fresh water. Then I knew that the electric fluid may be pumped up out of the earth by the friction of a glass globe on a non-electric cushion; and that notwithstanding the surprising activity and swiftness of that fluid and the non-electric communication between all parts of the cushion and the earth, yet quantities would be snatched up by the revolving surface of the globe, thrown on the prime conductor, and dissipated in air. How this was done, and why that subtile, active spirit did not immediately return again from the globe into some part or other of the cushion, and so into the earth was difficult to conceive; but whether from its being opposed by a current setting upwards to the cushion, or from whatever other cause, that it did not so return was an evident fact. Then I considered the separate particles of water as so many hard spherules, capable of touching the salt only in points, and imagined a particle of salt could therefore no more be wet by a particle of water, than a globe by a cushion; that there might therefore be such a friction between these originally constituent particles of salt and water, as in a sea of globes and cushions; that each particle of water on the surface might obtain, from the common mass, some particles of the universally diffused, much finer, and more subtile electric fluid, and, forming to itself an atmosphere of those particles, be repelled from the then generally electrified surface of the sea, and fly away with them into the air. I thought, too, that possibly the great mixture of particles electric per se in the ocean water might, in some degree, impede the swift motion and dissipation of the electric fluid through it to the shores, &c. But having since found, that salt in the water of an electric phial does not lessen the shock; and having endeavoured in vain to produce that luminous appearance from a mixture of salt and water agitated; and observed, that even the sea-water will not produce it after some hours’ standing in a bottle; I suspect it to proceed from some principle yet unknown to us (which I would gladly make some experiments to discover, if I lived near the sea), and I grow more doubtful of my former supposition, and more ready to allow weight to that objection (drawn from the activity of the electric fluid, and the readiness of water to conduct), which you have indeed stated with great strength and clearness.
In the mean time, before we part with this hypothesis, let us think what to substitute in its place. I have sometimes queried, whether the friction of the air, an electric per se, in violent winds, among trees, and against the surface of the earth, might not pump up, as so many glass globes, quantities of the electric fluid, which the rising vapors might receive from the air, and retain in the clouds they form; on which I should be glad to have your sentiments. An ingenious friend of mine supposes the land clouds more likely to be electrified than the sea clouds. I send his letter for your perusal, which please to return to me.
I have wrote nothing lately on electricity, nor observed any thing new that is material, my time being much taken up with other affairs. Yesterday I discharged four jars through a fine wire, tied up between two strips of glass; the wire was in part melted, and the rest broke into small pieces, from half an inch long to half a quarter of an inch. My globe raises the electric fire with greater ease, in much greater quantities, by the means of a wire extended from the cushion to the iron pin of a pump-handle behind my house, which communicates by the pump-spear with the water in the well.
By this post I send to Dr. Perkins, who is curious in that way, some meteorological observations and conjectures, and desire him to communicate them to you, as they may afford you some amusement, and I know you will look over them with a candid eye. By throwing our occasional thoughts on paper, we more readily discover the defects of our opinions, or we digest them better, and find new arguments to support them. This I sometimes practise; but such pieces are fit only to be seen by friends.
I am, with great respect, &c.,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO E. KINNERSLEY, AT BOSTON1
Philadelphia, 2 March, 1752.
I thank you for the experiments communicated.2 I sent immediately for your brimstone globe, in order to make the trials you desired, but found it wanted centres, which I have not time now to supply; but, the first leisure, I will get it fitted for use, try the experiments, and acquaint you with the result.
In the mean time I suspect that the different attractions and repulsions you observed, proceeded rather from the greater or smaller quantities of the fire you obtained from different bodies, than from its being of a different kind, or having a different direction. In haste, I am, &c.,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO E. KINNERSLEY, AT BOSTON
Philadelphia, 16 March, 1752.
Having brought your brimstone globe to work, I tried one of the experiments you proposed, and was agreeably surprised to find that the glass globe being at one end of the conductor, and the sulphur globe at the other end, both globes in motion, no spark could be obtained from the conductor, unless when one globe turned slower, or was not in so good order as the other; and then the spark was only in proportion to the difference, so that turning equally, or turning that slowest which worked best, would again bring the conductor to afford no spark.
I found also that the wire of a phial charged by the glass globe, attracted a cork ball that had touched the wire of a phial charged by the brimstone globe, and vice versâ, so that the cork continued to play between the two phials, just as when one phial was charged through the wire, the other through the coating, by the glass globe alone. And two phials charged, the one by the brimstone globe, the other by the glass globe, would be both discharged by bringing their wires together, and shock the person holding the phials.
From these experiments one may be certain that your second, third, and fourth proposed experiments would succeed exactly as you suppose, though I have not tried them, wanting time. I imagine it is the glass globe that charges positively, and the sulphur negatively, for these reasons. 1. Though the sulphur globe seems to work equally well with the glass one, yet it can never occasion so large and distant a spark between my knuckle and the conductor, when the sulphur one is working, as when the glass one is used; which, I suppose, is occasioned by this, that bodies of a certain bigness cannot so easily part with a quantity of electrical fluid they have and hold attracted within their substance, as they can receive an additional quantity upon their surface by way of atmosphere. Therefore so much cannot be drawn out of the conductor, as can be thrown on it. 2. I observe that the stream or brush of fire appearing at the end of a wire connected with the conductor, is long, large, and much diverging, when the glass globe is used, and makes a snapping (or rattling) noise; but when the sulphur one is used, it is short, small, and makes a hissing noise; and just the reverse of both happens, when you hold the same wire in your hand, and the globes are worked alternately: the brush is large, long, diverging, and snapping (or rattling), when the sulphur globe is turned; short, small, and hissing, when the glass globe is turned. When the brush is long, large, and much diverging, the body to which it joins seems to me to be throwing the fire out; and when the contrary appears, it seems to be drinking in. 3. I observe that when I hold my knuckle before the sulphur globe, while turning, the stream of fire between my knuckle and the globe seems to spread on its surface, as if it flowed from the finger; on the glass globe it is otherwise. The cool wind (or what was called so), that we used to feel as coming from an electrified point, is, I think, more sensible when the glass globe is used, than when the sulphur one. But these are hasty thoughts. As to your fifth paradox, it must likewise be true, if the globes are alternately worked; but, if worked together, the fire will neither come up nor go down by the chain, because one globe will drink it as fast as the other produces it.
I should be glad to know whether the effects would be contrary, if the glass globe is solid, and the sulphur globe is hollow; but I have no means at present of trying.
In your journeys, your glass globes meet with accidents, and sulphur ones are heavy and inconvenient. Query. Would not a thin plane of brimstone, cast on a board, serve on occasion as a cushion, while a globe of leather stuffed (properly mounted) might receive the fire from the sulphur, and charge the conductor positively? Such a globe would be in no danger of breaking.1 I think I can conceive how it may be done; but have not time to add more than that I am,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN
read at the royal society, november 11, 1756
Philadelphia, 23 April, 1752.
In considering your favor of the 16th past, I recollected my having wrote you answers to some queries concerning the difference between electrics per se and non-electrics, and the effects of air in electrical experiments, which, I apprehend, you may not have received. The date I have forgotten.
We have been used to call those bodies electrics per se, which would not conduct the electric fluid. We once imagined that only such bodies contained that fluid; afterwards that they had none of it, and only educed it from other bodies; but further experiments showed our mistake. It is to be found in all matter we know of; and the distinction of electrics per se and non-electrics should now be dropped as improper, and that of conductors and non-conductors assumed in its place, as I mentioned in those answers.
I do not remember any experiment by which it appeared that high-rectified spirit will not conduct; perhaps you have made such. This I know, that wax, rosin, brimstone, and even glass, commonly reputed electrics per se, will, when in a fluid state, conduct pretty well. Glass will do it when only red-hot. So that my former position, that only metals and water were conductors, and other bodies more or less such as they partook of metal or moisture, was too general.
Your conception of the electric fluid, that it is incomparably more subtile than air, is undoubtedly just. It pervades dense matter with the greatest ease; but it does not seem to mix or incorporate willingly with mere air, as it does with other matter. It will not quit common matter to join with air. Air obstructs, in some degree, its motion. An electric atmosphere cannot be communicated at so great a distance, by far, through intervening air as through a vacuum. Who knows, then, but there may be, as the ancients thought, a region of this fire above our atmosphere, prevented by our air and its own too great distance for attraction, from joining our earth? Perhaps where the atmosphere is rarest this fluid may be densest, and nearer the earth, where the atmosphere grows denser, this fluid may be rarer, yet some of it be low enough to attach itself to our highest clouds, and thence they, becoming electrified may be attracted by and descend towards the earth and discharge their watery contents, together with that ethereal fire. Perhaps the auroræ boreales are currents of this fluid in its own region, above our atmosphere, becoming from their motion, visible. There is no end to conjectures. As yet we are but novices in this branch of natural knowledge.
You mention several differences of salts in electrical experiments. Were they all equally dry? Salt is apt to acquire moisture from a moist air, and some sorts more than others. When perfectly dried by lying before a fire, or on a stove, none that I have tried will conduct any better than so much glass.
New flannel, if dry and warm, will draw the electric fluid from non-electrics, as well as that which has been worn.
I wish you had the convenience of trying the experiments you seem to have such expectations from, upon various kinds of spirits, salts, earth, &c. Frequently, in a variety of experiments, though we miss what we expected to find, yet something valuable turns out, something surprising and instructing, though unthought of.
I thank you for communicating the illustration of the theorem concerning light. It is very curious. But I must own I am much in the dark about light. I am not satisfied with the doctrine that supposes particles of matter, called light, continually driven off from the sun’s surface, with a swiftness so prodigious! Must not the smallest particle conceivable have, with such a motion, a force exceeding that of a twenty-four pounder discharged from a cannon? Must not the sun diminish exceedingly by such a waste of matter; and the planets, instead of drawing nearer to him, as some have feared, recede to greater distances through the lessened attraction? Yet these particles, with this amazing motion, will not drive before them, or remove the least and lightest dust they meet with. And the sun, for aught we know, continues of his ancient dimensions, and his attendants move in their ancient orbits.
May not all the phenomena of light be more conveniently solved, by supposing universal space filled with a subtile elastic fluid, which, when at rest, is not visible, but whose vibrations affect that fine sense in the eye, as those of air do the grosser organs of the ear? We do not, in the case of sound, imagine that any sonorous particles are thrown off from a bell, for instance, and fly in straight lines to the ear; why must we believe that luminous particles leave the sun and proceed to the eye? Some diamonds, if rubbed, shine in the dark, without losing any part of their matter. I can make an electrical spark as big as the flame of a candle, much brighter, and therefore, visible farther; yet this is without fuel; and I am persuaded no part of the electric fluid flies off in such case to distant places, but all goes directly, and is to be found in the place to which I destine it. May not different degrees of the vibration of the above-mentioned universal medium occasion the appearances of different colors? I think the electric fluid is always the same; yet I find that weaker and stronger sparks differ in apparent color; some white, blue, purple, red; the strongest, white; weak ones, red. Thus different degrees of vibration given to the air produce the seven different sounds in music, analogous to the seven colors, yet the medium, air, is the same.
If the sun is not wasted by expense of light, I can easily conceive that he shall otherwise always retain the same quantity of matter; though we should suppose him made of sulphur constantly flaming. The action of fire only separates the particles of matter; it does not annihilate them. Water, by heat raised in vapor, returns to the earth in rain; and if we could collect all the particles of burning matter that go off in smoke, perhaps they might, with the ashes, weigh as much as the body before it was fired; and if we could put them into the same position with regard to each other, the mass would be the same as before, and might be burnt over again. The chemists have analyzed sulphur, and find it composed, in certain proportions, of oil, salt, and earth; and having by the analysis discovered those proportions, they can, of those ingredients, make sulphur. So we have only to suppose, that the parts of the sun’s sulphur, separated by fire, rise into his atmosphere, and there, being freed from the immediate action of the fire, they collect into cloudy masses, and growing by degrees too heavy to be longer supported, they descend to the sun and are burnt over again. Hence the spots appearing on his face, which are observed to diminish daily in size, their consuming edges being of particular brightness.
It is well we are not, as poor Galileo was, subject to the Inquisition for philosophical heresy. My whispers against the orthodox doctrine, in private letters, would be dangerous; but your writing and printing would be highly criminal. As it is, you must expect some censure; but one heretic will surely excuse another.
I am heartily glad to hear more instances of the success of the poke-weed in the cure of that horrible evil to the human body, a cancer. You will deserve highly of mankind for the communication. But I find in Boston they are at a loss to know the right plant, some asserting it is what they call mechoachan, others other things. In one of their late papers it is publicly requested that a perfect description may be given of the plant, its places of growth, &c. I have mislaid the paper, or would send it to you. I thought you had described it pretty fully. I am, Sir, &c.,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN
Philadelphia, 14 May, 1752.
I find P—— has been indiscreet enough to print a piece in his paper which has brought him into a great deal of trouble. I cannot conceive how he was prevailed on to do it, as I know him to be a thorough believer himself, and averse to every thing that is commonly called freethinking. He is now much in his penitentials, and requests me to intercede with you, to procure from the governor a Nol. Pros. in his favor, promising to be very circumspect and careful for the future, not to give offence either in religion or politics, to you or any of your friends, in which, I believe, he is very sincere.
I have let him know that I pretend to no interest with you, and I fear he has behaved to the governor and to you in such a manner as not to deserve your favor. Therefore I only beg leave to recommend the poor man’s case to your consideration; and if you could, without inconvenience to your own character, interest yourself a little in his behalf, I shall, as I am much concerned for him, esteem it a very great obligation.
As to the cause of religion, I really think it will be best served by stopping the prosecution; for, if there be any evil tendency apprehended from the publication of that piece, the trial and punishment of the printer will certainly make it a thousand times more public,—such is the curiosity of mankind in these cases. It is, besides, an old thing, has been printed before both in England and by Andrew Bradford here; but, no public notice being taken of it, it died and was forgotten, as I believe it would now be, if treated with the same indifference. I am with great respect, &c.,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO EDWARD AND JANE MECOM
Philadelphia, 21 May, 1752.
Dear Brother and Sister:
I received yours with the affecting news of our dear good mother’s death. I thank you for your long continued care of her in her old age and sickness. Our distance made it impracticable for us to attend her, but you have supplied all. She has lived a good life, as well as a long one, and is happy.
Since I sent you the order on Mr. Huske, I have received his account, and find he thinks he has money to receive, and though I endeavour by this post to convince him he is mistaken, yet possibly he may not be immediately satisfied, so as to pay that order; therefore, lest the delay should be inconvenient to you, I send the six pistoles enclosed. But if the order is paid, give those to brother John, and desire him to credit my account with them. Your affectionate brother,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO JOHN PERKINS1
Philadelphia, 13 August, 1752.
I received your favor of the 3d instant. Some time last winter I procured from one of our physicians an account of the number of persons inoculated during the five visitations of the small-pox we have had in twenty-two years; which account I sent to Mr. W. V., of your town, and have no copy. If I remember rightly, the number exceeded eight hundred, and the deaths were but four. I suppose Mr. V. will show you the account, if he ever received it. These four were all that our doctors allow to have died of the small-pox by inoculation, though I think there were two more of the inoculated who died of the distemper; but the eruptions appearing soon after the operation, it is supposed they had taken the infection before in the common way.
I shall be glad to see what Dr. Douglass may write on the subject. I have a French piece printed at Paris, 1724, entitled Observations sur la Saignée duPied, et sur la Purgation, au Commencement de la Petite Vérole, et Raisons de doubte contre l’Inoculation. A letter of the Doctor’s is mentioned in it. If he or you have it not, and desire to see it, I will send it. Please to favor me with the particulars of your purging method, to prevent the secondary fever.
I am indebted for your preceding letter, but business sometimes obliges one to postpone philosophical amusements. Whatever I have wrote of that kind are really, as they are entitled, but Conjectures and Suppositions; which ought always to give place, when careful observation militates against them. I own I have too strong a penchant to the building of hypotheses; they indulge my natural indolence. I wish I had more of your patience and accuracy in making observations, on which alone true philosophy can be founded. And, I assure you, nothing can be more obliging to me than your kind communication of those you make, however they may disagree with my preconceived notions.
I am sorry to hear, that the number of your inhabitants decreases. I some time since wrote a small paper of Thoughts on the Peopling of Countries,1 which, if I can find, I will send you, to obtain your sentiments. The favorable opinion you express of my writings may, you see, occasion you more trouble than you expected from,
Sir, yours, &c.,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN
Philadelphia, 14 September, 1752.
When I had read your favor of May the 20th, I resolved to read and consider more carefully Sir Isaac Newton’s Optics, which I have not looked at these many years. I delayed answering till I should have an opportunity of doing this, but one thing or other has hitherto hindered. In the winter I may possibly have more leisure.
In the mean time I would just mention that the interposition of a hill between a bell and the ear does interrupt a great part of the sound, though not all; and we cannot be certain that an opaque body placed between the eye and a luminous object intercepts all the light, since, as you observe, it does not follow that where we see no light there is therefore none existing. What you say of the separation of the distinct parts of light, which, once separated, remain always the same, has more weight with me, and indeed seems conclusive; at least, I see at present nothing to object.
I congratulate you on the prospect you have, of passing the remainder of life in philosophical retirement. I wish for the same, but it seems too distant. I might then more punctually perform my part in the correspondence you honor me with; than which I have none more instructive or agreeable.
Send me, if you please, the translation of your piece into High Dutch. I understand a little of the German language, and will peruse and return it. At present I cannot guess the meaning of the passage you mention. Unless perhaps, as your twentieth section speaks of “a power that neither resists nor moves, and exerts no kind of action of itself, without the concurrence of some other power; so that in the absence of other powers it must be in a perfect inaction,” &c., it may be some kind of Dutch wit, and intended to joke that quietism which in Germany is supposed to be very prevalent in Pennsylvania, many of their Quietists1 having removed hither.
I see by Cave’s Magazine for May that they have translated my electrical papers into French, and printed them in Paris. I hope our friend Collinson will procure and send me a copy of the translation. Such things should be done by men skilled in the subject as well as in the language, otherwise great mistakes are easily made, and the clearest matters rendered obscure and unintelligible.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO PETER COLLINSON
read at the royal society, december 21, 1752
Philadelphia, 19 October, 1752.
As frequent mention is made in publick papers from Europe of the success of the Philadelphia experiment for drawing the electric fire from clouds by means of pointed rods of iron erected on high buildings, &c., it may be agreeable to the curious to be informed that the same experiment has succeeded in Philadelphia, though made in a different and more easy manner, which is as follows.
Make a small cross of two light strips of cedar, the arms so long as to reach to the four corners of a large thin silk handkerchief when extended; tie the corners of the handkerchief to the extremities of the cross, so you have the body of a kite; which, being properly accommodated with a tail, loop, and string, will rise in the air, like those made of paper; but this being of silk is fitter to bear the wet and wind of a thunder-gust without tearing. To the top of the upright stick of the cross is to be fixed a very sharp-pointed wire, rising a foot or more above the wood. To the end of the twine, next the hand, is to be tied a silk ribbon, and where the silk and twine join, a key may be fastened. This kite is to be raised when a thunder-gust appears to be coming on, and the person who holds the string most stand within a door or window, or under some cover, so that the silk ribbon may not be wet; and care must be taken that the twine does not touch the frame of the door or window. As soon as any of the thunderclouds come over the kite, the pointed wire will draw the electric fire from them, and the kite, with all the twine, will be electrified, and the loose filaments of the twine will stand out every way, and be attracted by an approaching finger. And when the rain has wetted the kite and twine, so that it can conduct the electric fire freely, you will find it stream out plentifully from the key on the approach of your knuckle. At this key the phial may be charged; and from electric fire thus obtained spirits may be kindled, and all the other electric experiments be performed which are usually done by the help of a rubbed glass globe or tube, and thereby the sameness of the electric matter with that of lightning completely demonstrated.
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO EDWARD AND JANE MECOM
Philadelphia, 14 November, 1752.
Dear Brother and Sister:
Benny sailed from hence this day two weeks, and left our Capes the Sunday following. They are seldom above three weeks on the voyage to Antigua.
That island is reckoned one of the healthiest in the West Indies. My late partner there enjoyed perfect health for four years, till he grew careless, and got to sitting up late in taverns, which I have cautioned Benny to avoid, and have given him all other necessary advice I could think of, relating both to his health and conduct, and I hope for the best.
He will find the business settled to his hand: a newspaper established, no other printing-house to interfere with him, or beat down his prices, which are much higher than we get on the continent. He has the place on the same terms with his predecessor, who, I understand, cleared from five to six hundred pistoles during the four years he lived there. I have recommended him to some gentlemen of note for their patronage and advice.
Mr. Parker, though he looked on Benny as one of his best hands, readily consented to his going, on the first mention of it. I told him Benny must make him satisfaction for his time. He would leave that to be settled by me, and Benny as readily agreed with me to pay Mr. Parker as much as would hire a good journeyman in his room. He came handsomely provided with apparel, and I believe Mr. Parker has, in every respect, done his duty by him, and in this affair has really acted a generous part; therefore I hope, if Benny succeeds in the world, he will make Mr. Parker a return beyond what he has promised. I suppose you will not think it amiss to write Mr. and Mrs. Parker a line or two of thanks; for, notwithstanding some little differences, they have on the whole been very kind to Benny.
We have vessels going very frequently from this port to Antigua. You have some too from your port. What letters you send this way I will take care to forward. Antigua is the seat of government for all the Leeward Islands, to wit, St. Christopher’s, Nevis, and Montserrat. Benny will have the business of all those islands, there being no other printer.
After all, having taken care to do what appears to be for the best, we must submit to God’s providence, which orders all things really for the best.
While Benny was here, and since, our Assembly was sitting, which took up my time, and I could not before write you so fully.
With love to your children, I am, dear brother and sister, your affectionate brother,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN
Philadelphia, 1 January, 1753.
I have your favor of the third past, with your son’s remarks on the Abbé Nollet’s Letters. I think the experiments and observations are judiciously made and so well expressed that, with your and his leave, I would transmit them to Mr. Collinson for publication. I have repeated all the Abbé’s experiments in vacuo, and find them answer exactly as they should do on my principles, and in the material part quite contrary to what he has related of them; so that he has laid himself extremely open by attempting to impose false accounts of experiments on the world to support his doctrine.
M. Dalibard wrote to me that he was preparing an answer that would be published the beginning of this winter; but as he seems to have been imposed on by the Abbé’s confident assertion, that a charged bottle set down on an electric per se is deprived of its electricity, and in his letter to me attempts to account for it, I doubt he is not yet quite master of the subject to do the business effectually. So I conclude to write a civil letter to the Abbé myself, in which, without resenting any thing in his letters, I shall endeavour to set the disputed matters in so clear a light as to satisfy every one who will take the trouble of reading it. Before I send it home, I shall communicate it to you, and take your friendly advice on it. I set out to-morrow on a journey to Maryland, where I expect to be some weeks, but shall have some leisure when I return. At present I can only add my thanks to your ingenious son, and my hearty wishes of a happy new year to you and him, and all yours. I am, Sir, &c.,
P. S.—I wrote to you last post, and sent my paper on the Increase of Mankind. I send the Supplemental Electrical Experiments in several fragments of letters, of which Cave1 has made the most, by printing some of them twice over.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO JOHN PERKINS
read at the royal society, june 24, 1756
Philadelphia, 4 February, 1753.
I ought to have written to you long since, in answer to yours of October 16th concerning the water-spout; but business partly, and partly a desire of procuring further information by inquiry among my sea-faring acquaintance, induced me to postpone writing from time to time, till I am now almost ashamed to resume the subject, not knowing but you may have forgot what has been said upon it.
Nothing certainly can be more improving to a searcher into nature than objections judiciously made to his opinion, taken up, perhaps, too hastily; for such objections oblige him to re-study the point, consider every circumstance carefully, compare facts, make experiments, weigh arguments, and be slow in drawing conclusions. And hence a sure advantage results; for he either confirms a truth, before too slightly supported, or discovers an error, and receives instruction from the objector.
In this view I consider the objections and remarks you sent me, and thank you for them sincerely; but how much soever my inclinations lead me to philosophical inquiries, I am so engaged in business, public and private, that those more pleasing pursuits are frequently interrupted, and the chain of thought, necessary to be closely continued in such disquisitions, is so broken and disjointed that it is with difficulty I satisfy myself in any of them; and I am now not much nearer a conclusion in this matter of the spout than when I first read your letter.
Yet, hoping we may in time sift out the truth between us, I will send you my present thoughts, with some observations on your reasons on the accounts in the Transactions, and on other relations I have met with. Perhaps while I am writing some new light may strike me, for I shall now be obliged to consider the subject with a little more attention.
I agree with you that, by means of a vacuum in a whirlwind, water cannot be supposed to rise in large masses to the region of the clouds; for the pressure of the surrounding atmosphere could not force it up in a continued body or column to a much greater height than thirty feet. But if there really is a vacuum in the centre, or near the axis of whirlwinds, then, I think, water may rise in such vacuum to that height, or to a less height, as the vacuum may be less perfect.
I had not read Stuart’s account in the Transactions for many years before the receipt of your letter, and had quite forgot it; but now, on viewing his drafts and considering his descriptions, I think they seem to favor my hypothesis; for he describes and draws columns of water, of various heights, terminating abruptly at the top, exactly as water would do when forced up by the pressure of the atmosphere into an exhausted tube.
I must, however, no longer call it my hypothesis, since I find Stuart had the same thought, though some what obscurely expressed, where he says, “he imagines this phenomenon may be solved by suction (improperly so called), or rather pulsion, as in the application of a cupping-glass to the flesh, the air being first voided by the kindled flax.”
In my paper, I supposed a whirlwind and a spout to be the same thing, and to proceed from the same cause; the only difference between them being that the one passes over land, the other over water. I find also in the Transactions that M. de la Pryme was of the same opinion; for he there describes two spouts, as he calls them, which were seen at different times, at Hatfield, in Yorkshire, whose appearances in the air were the same with those of the spouts at sea, and effects the same with those of real whirlwinds.
Whirlwinds have generally a progressive as well as a circular motion; so had what is called the spout, at Topsham (see the account of it in the Transactions), which also appears, by its effects described, to have been a real whirlwind. Water-spouts have, also, a progressive motion; this is sometimes greater and sometimes less; in some violent, in others barely perceivable. The whirlwind at Warrington continued long in Acrement Close.
Whirlwinds generally arise after calms and great heats; the same is observed of water-spouts, which are therefore most frequent in the warm latitudes. The spout that happened in cold weather, in the Downs, described by Mr. Gordon in the Transactions, was, for that reason, thought extraordinary; but he remarks withal, that the weather, though cold when the spout appeared, was soon after much colder; as we find it, commonly, less warm after a whirlwind.
You agree, that the wind blows every way towards a whirlwind, from a large space round. An intelligent whaleman, of Nantucket, informed me, that three of their vessels, which were out in search of whales, happening to be becalmed, lay in sight of each other, at about a league distance, if I remember right, nearly forming a triangle; after some time a water-spout appeared near the middle of the triangle, when a brisk breeze of wind sprung up, and every vessel made sail; and then it appeared to them all, by the setting of the sails, and the course each vessel stood, that the spout was to the leeward of every one of them; and they all declared it to have been so, when they happened afterwards in company, and came to confer about it. So that in this particular likewise, whirlwinds and water-spouts agree.
But if that which appears a water-spout at sea does sometimes, in its progressive motion, meet with and pass over land, and there produce all the phenomena and effects of a whirlwind, it should thence seem still more evident, that a whirlwind and a spout are the same. I send you herewith a letter from an ingenious physician of my acquaintance, which gives one instance of this, that fell within his observation.
A fluid, moving from all points horizontally toward a centre, must at that centre either ascend or descend. Water being in a tub, if a hole be opened in the middle of the bottom, will flow from all sides to the centre, and there descend in a whirl. But air, flowing on and near the surface of land or water, from all sides towards the centre, must at the centre ascend, the land or water hindering its descent.
If these concentring currents of air be in the upper region, they may indeed descend in the spout or whirlwind; but then, when the united current reached the earth or water, it would spread, and probably blow every way from the centre. There may be whirlwinds of both kinds, but from the commonly observed effects I suspect the rising one to be the most common; when the upper air descends, it is perhaps in a greater body extended wider, as in our thunder-gusts, and without much whirling; and when air descends in a spout or whirlwind, I should rather expect it would press the roof of a house inwards, or force in the tiles, shingles, or thatch, force a boat down into the water, or a piece of timber into the earth, than that it would lift them up and carry them away.
It has so happened that I have not met with any accounts of spouts that certainly descended; I suspect they are not frequent. Please to communicate those you mention. The apparent dropping of a pipe from the clouds towards the earth or sea, I will endeavour to explain hereafter.
The augmentation of the cloud, which, as I am informed, is generally if not always the case during a spout, seems to show an ascent, rather than a descent, of the matter of which such cloud is composed; for a descending spout, one would expect, should diminish a cloud. I own, however, that cold air descending may, by condensing the vapors in a lower region, form and increase clouds; which, I think, is generally the case in our common thunder-gusts, and therefore do not lay great stress on this argument.
Whirlwinds and spouts are not always, though most commonly, in the day time. The terrible whirlwind which damaged a great part of Rome, June 11, 1749, happened in the night of that day. The same was supposed to have been first a spout, for it is said to be beyond doubt, that it gathered in the neighbouring sea, as it could be tracked from Ostia to Rome. I find this in Père Boscovich’s account of it, as abridged in the Monthly Review for December, 1750.
In that account, the whirlwind is said to have appeared as a very black, long, and lofty cloud, discoverable, notwithstanding the darkness of the night, by its continually lightning or emitting flashes on all sides, pushing along with a surprising swiftness, and within three or four feet of the ground. Its general effects on houses were, stripping off the roofs, blowing away chimneys, breaking doors and windows, forcing up the floors, and unpaving the rooms, (some of these effects seem to agree well with a supposed vacuum in the centre of the whirlwind,) and the very rafters of the houses were broken and dispersed, and even hurled against houses at a considerable distance, &c.
It seems, by an expression of Père Boscovich’s, as if the wind blew from all sides towards the whirlwind; for, having carefully observed its effects, he concludes of all whirlwinds, “that their motion is circular, and their action attractive.”
He observes, on a number of histories of whirlwinds, &c., “that a common effect of them is to carry up into the air tiles, stones, and animals themselves, which happened to be in their course, and all kinds of bodies unexceptionably, throwing them to a considerable distance, with great impetuosity.”
Such effects seem to show a rising current of air.
I will endeavour to explain my conceptions of this matter by figures, representing a plan, and an elevation of a spout or whirlwind.
I would only first beg to be allowed two or three positions, mentioned in my former paper.
1. That the lower region of air is often more heated, and so more rarefied, than the upper; consequently, specifically lighter. The coldness of the upper region is manifested by the hail, which sometimes falls from it in a hot day.
2. That heated air may be very moist and yet the moisture so equally diffused and rarefied as not to be visible till colder air mixes with it when it condenses and becomes visible. Thus our breath, invisible in summer, becomes visible in winter.
Now let us suppose a tract of land, or sea, of perhaps sixty miles square, unscreened by clouds, and unfanned by winds, during great part of a summer’s day, or, it may be, for several days successively, till it is violently heated, together with the lower region of air in contact with it, so that the said lower air becomes specifically lighter than the superincumbent higher region of the atmosphere, in which the clouds commonly float; let us suppose, also, that the air surrounding this tract has not been so much heated during those days, and therefore remains heavier. The consequence of this should be, as I conceive, that the heated, lighter air, being pressed on all sides, must ascend, and the heavier descend; and as this rising cannot be in all parts, or the whole area, of the tract at once, for that would leave too extensive a vacuum, the rising will begin precisely in that column that happens to be the lightest or most rarefied; and the warm air will flow horizontally from all points to this column, where the several currents meeting, and joining to rise, a whirl is naturally formed, in the same manner as a whirl is formed in the tub of water, by the descending fluid flowing from all sides of the tub to the hole in the centre.
And as the several currents arrive at this central rising column with a considerable degree of horizontal motion, they cannot suddenly change it to a vertical motion; therefore as they gradually, in approaching the whirl, decline from right to curve or circular lines, so, having joined the whirl, they ascend by a spiral motion, in the same manner as the water descends spirally through the hole in the tub before-mentioned.
Lastly, as the lower air, and nearest the surface, is most rarefied by the heat of the sun, that air is most acted on by the pressure of the surrounding cold and heavy air, which is to take its place; consequently its motion towards the whirl is swiftest, and so the force of the lower part of the whirl, or trump, strongest, and the centrifugal force of its particles greatest; and hence the vacuum round the axis of the whirl should be greatest near the earth or sea, and be gradually diminished as it approaches the region of the clouds, till it ends in a point, as at P, in Figure 2, Plate VI., forming a long and sharp cone.
In Figure 1, which is a plan or ground-plat of a whirlwind, the circle V represents the central vacuum.
Between a a a a and b b b b, I suppose a body of air, condensed strongly by the pressure of the currents moving towards it from all sides without, and by its centrifugal force from within, moving round with prodigious swiftness (having, as it were, the momenta of all the currents, ——> ——> ——> ——>, united in itself), and with a power equal to its swiftness and density.
It is this whirling body of air between a a a a and b b b b that rises spirally; by its force it tears buildings to pieces, twists up great trees by the roots, &c., and by its spiral motion raises the fragments so high, till the pressure of the surrounding and approaching currents, diminishing, can no longer confine them to the circle, or their own centrifugal force, increasing, grows too strong for such pressure, when they fly off in tangent lines, as stones out of a sling, and fall on all sides and at great distances.
If it happens at sea, the water under and between a a a a and b b b b will be violently agitated and driven about, and parts of it raised with the spiral current, and thrown about so as to form a bush-like appearance.
This circle is of various diameters, sometimes very large.
If the vacuum passes over water, the water may rise in it, in a body or column, to near the height of thirty-two feet.
If it passes over houses, it may burst their windows or walls outwards, pluck off the roofs, and pluck up the floors, by the sudden rarefaction of the air contained within such buildings; the outward pressure of the atmosphere being suddenly taken off. So the stopped bottle of air bursts under the exhausted receiver of the air-pump.
Figure 2 is to represent the elevation of a water-spout, wherein I suppose P P P to be the cone, at first a vacuum, till W W, the rising column of water, has filled so much of it; S S S S, the spiral whirl of air, surrounding the vacuum, and continued higher in a close column after the vacuum ends in the point P, till it reaches the cool region of the air. B B, the bush, described by Stuart, surrounding the foot of the column of water.
Now, I suppose, this whirl of air will, at first, be as invisible as the air itself, though reaching in reality from the water to the region of cool air, in which our low summer thunder-clouds commonly float; but presently it will become visible at its extremities. At its lower end, by the agitation of the water under the whirling part of the circle, between P and S, forming Stuart’s bush, and by the welling and rising of the water in the beginning vacuum, which is at first a small, low, broad cone, whose top gradually rises and sharpens as the force of the whirl increases. At its upper end it becomes visible, by the warm air brought up to the cooler region, where its moisture begins to be condensed into thick vapor by the cold, and is seen first at A, the highest part, which, being now cooled, condenses what rises next at B, which condenses that at C, and that condenses what is rising at D, the cold operating by the contact of the vapors faster in a right line downwards than the vapors themselves can climb in a spiral line upwards; they climb, however, and, as by continual addition they grow denser, and consequently their centrifugal force greater, and being risen above the concentrating currents that compose the whirl, fly off, spread, and form a cloud.
It seems easy to conceive how, by this successive condensation from above, the spout appears to drop or descend from the cloud, though the materials of which it is composed are all the while ascending.
The condensation of the moisture contained in so great a quantity of warm air as may be supposed to rise in a short time in this prodigiously rapid whirl, is, perhaps, sufficient to form a great extent of cloud, though the spout should be over land, as those at Hatfield; and if the land appears not to be very dusty, perhaps the lower part of the spout will scarce become visible at all, though the upper, or what is commonly called the descending, part be very distinctly seen.
The same may happen at sea, in case the whirl is not violent enough to make a high vacuum, and raise the column, &c. In such case, the upper part A B C D only will be visible, and the bush perhaps below.
But if the whirl be strong, and there be much dust on the land, and the column W W be raised from the water, then the lower part becomes visible, and sometimes even united to the upper part. For the dust may be carried up in the spiral whirl, till it reach the region where the vapor is condensed, and rise with that even to the clouds; and the friction of the whirling air, on the sides of the column W W, may detach great quantities of its water, break it into drops, and carry them up in the spiral whirl, mixed with the air; the heavier drops may indeed fly off, and fall in a shower, round the spout; but much of it will be broken into vapor, yet visible; and thus, in both cases, by dust at land, and by water at sea, the whole tube may be darkened and rendered visible.
As the whirl weakens, the tube may (in appearance) separate in the middle, the column of water subsiding, and the superior condensed part drawing up to the cloud. Yet still the tube or whirl of air may remain entire, the middle only becoming invisible, as not containing visible matter.
Dr. Stuart says: “It was observable of all the spouts he saw, but more perceptible of the great one, that towards the end it began to appear like a hollow canal, only black in the borders but white in the middle; and though at first it was altogether black and opake, yet now one could very distinctly perceive the sea water to fly up along the middle of this canal, as smoke up a chimney.”
And Dr. Mather, describing a whirlwind, says: “A thick, dark, small cloud arose, with a pillar of light in it, of about eight or ten feet diameter, and passed along the ground in a tract not wider than a street, horribly tearing up trees by the roots, blowing them up in the air like feathers, and throwing up stones of great weight to a considerable height in the air,” &c.
These accounts, the one of water-spouts, the other of a whirlwind, seem in this particular to agree; what one gentleman describes as a tube, black in the borders and white in the middle, the other calls a black cloud with a pillar of light in it; the latter expression has only a little more of the marvellous, but the thing is the same; and it seems not very difficult to understand. When Dr. Stuart’s spouts were full charged—that is, when the whirling pipe of air was filled between a a a a and b b b b, Figure 1, with quantities of drops, and vapor torn off from the column W W, Figure 2, the whole was rendered so dark as that it could not be seen through, nor the spiral ascending motion discovered; but when the quantity ascending lessened, the pipe became more transparent, and the ascending motion visible. For, by inspection of the figure (Fig. 3) representing a section of our spout, with the vacuum in the middle, it is plain that if we look at such a hollow pipe in the direction of the arrows, and suppose opake particles to be equally mixed in the space between the two circular lines, both the part between the arrows a and b and that between the arrows c and d will appear much darker than that between b and c, as there must be many more of those opake particles in the line of vision across the sides than across the middle. It is thus, that a hair in a microscope evidently appears to be a pipe, the sides showing darker than the middle. Dr. Mather’s whirl was probably filled with dust, the sides were very dark, but the vacuum within rendering the middle more transparent, he calls it a pillar of light.
It was in this more transparent part between b and c that Stuart could see the spiral motion of the vapors, whose lines on the nearest and farthest side of the transparent part crossing each other, represented smoke ascending in a chimney; for, the quantity being still too great in the line of sight through the sides of the tube, the motion could not be discovered there, and so they represented the solid sides of the chimney.
When the vapors reach in the pipe from the clouds near to the earth, it is no wonder now to those who understand electricity, that flashes of lightning should descend by the spout, as in that of Rome.
But you object: If water may be thus carried into the clouds, why have we not salt rains? The objection is strong and reasonable, and I know not whether I can answer it to your satisfaction. I never heard but of one salt rain, and that was where a spout passed pretty near a ship; so I suppose it to be only the drops thrown off from the spout by the centrifugal force (as the birds were at Hatfield), when they had been carried so high as to be above, or to be too strongly centrifugal for the pressure of the concurring winds surrounding it. And indeed I believe there can be no other kind of salt rain; for it has pleased the goodness of God so to order it, that the particles of air will not attract the particles of salt, though they strongly attract water.
Hence, though all metals, even gold, may be united with air, and rendered volatile, salt remains fixed in the fire, and no heat can force it up to any considerable height, or oblige the air to hold it. Hence, when salt rises, as it will a little way, into air with water, there is instantly a separation made; the particles of water adhere to the air, and the particles of salt fall down again, as if repelled and forced off from the water by some power in the air; or as some metals, dissolved in a proper menstruum, will quit the solvent when other matter approaches, and adhere to that, so the water quits the salt and embraces the air, but air will not embrace the salt and quit the water, otherwise our rains would indeed be salt, and every tree and plant on the face of the earth be destroyed, with all the animals that depend on them for subsistence. He who hath proportioned and given proper qualities to all things, was not unmindful of this. Let us adore Him with praise and thanksgiving!
By some accounts of seamen, it seems the column of water, W W, sometimes falls suddenly; and if it be, as some say, fifteen or twenty yards diameter, it must fall with great force, and they may well fear for their ships. By one account, in the Transactions, of a spout that fell at Colne, in Lancashire, one would think the column is sometimes lifted off from the water and carried over land, and there let fall in a body; but this, I suppose, happens rarely.
Stuart describes his spouts as appearing no bigger than a mast, and sometimes less; but they were seen at a league and a half distance.
I think I formerly read in Dampier, or some other voyager, that a spout, in its progressive motion, went over a ship becalmed on the coast of Guinea, and first threw her down on one side, carrying away her foremast, then suddenly whipped her up and threw her down on the other side, carrying away her mizenmast, and the whole was over in an instant. I suppose the first mischief was done by the fore side of the whirl, the latter by the hinder side, their motion being contrary.
I suppose a whirlwind, or spout, may be stationary, when the concurring winds are equal; but if unequal, the whirl acquires a progressive motion, in the direction of the strongest pressure.
When the wind that gives the progressive motion becomes stronger below than above, or above than below, the spout will be bent, and, the cause ceasing, straighten again.
Your queries, towards the end of your paper, appear judicious and worth considering. At present I am not furnished with facts sufficient to make any pertinent answer to them; and this paper has already a sufficient quantity of conjecture.
Your manner of accommodating the accounts to your hypothesis of descending spouts is, I own, ingenious, and perhaps that hypothesis may be true. I will consider it farther; but as yet I am not satisfied with it, though hereafter I may be.
Here you have my method of accounting for the principal phenomena, which I submit to your candid examination.
And as I now seem to have almost written a book instead of a letter, you will think it high time I should conclude, which I beg leave to do, with assuring you that I am, Sir, &c.,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO JAMES BOWDOIN
Philadelphia, 28 February, 1753.
The enclosed is a copy of a letter and some papers I received lately from a friend, of which I have struck off fifty copies by the press to distribute among my ingenious acquaintance in North America, hoping some of them will make the observations proposed. The improvement of geography and astronomy is the common concern of all polite nations, and I trust our country will not miss the opportunity of sharing in the honor to be got on this occasion. The French originals are despatched by express overland to Quebec. I doubt not but you will do what may lie in your power to promote the making these observations in New England, and that we may not be excelled by the American French either in diligence or accuracy. We have here a three-foot reflecting telescope and other proper instruments, and intend to observe at our Academy, if the weather permit. You will see by our Almanac that we have had this transit under consideration before the arrival of these French letters.1
Dr. Colden’s book was printed in England last summer, but not to be published till the meeting of Parliament. I have one copy, however, which I purpose shortly to send you.
With great esteem and respect, I am, Sir,
Your most humble servant,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO JARED ELIOT
Philadelphia, 12 April, 1753.
I received your favor of March 26th, and thank you for communicating to me the very ingenious letter from your friend, Mr. Todd, with whom, if it may be agreeable to him, I would gladly entertain a correspondence. I shall consider his objections till next post.
I thank you for your hint concerning the word adhesion, which should be defined. When I speak of particles of water adhering to particles of air, I mean not a firm adhesion, but a loose one, like that of a drop of water to the end of an icicle before freezing. The firm adhesion is after it is frozen.
I conceive that the original constituent particles of water are perfectly hard, round, and smooth. If so, there must be interstices, and yet the mass incompressible. A box filled with small shot has many interstices, and the shot may be compressed, because they are not perfectly hard. If they were, the interstices would remain the same, notwithstanding the greatest pressure, and would admit sand, as water admits salt.
Our vessel, named the Argo, is gone for the northwest passage; and the captain has borrowed my Journals of the last voyage, except one volume of a broken set, which I send you. I enclose a letter from our friend, Mr. Collinson, and am promised some speltz, which I shall send per next post.
The Tatler tells us of a girl who was observed to grow suddenly proud, and none could guess the reason, till it came to be known that she had got on a pair of new silk garters. Lest you should be puzzled to guess the cause, when you observe any thing of the kind in me, I think I will not hide my new garters under my petticoats, but take the freedom to show them to you, in a paragraph of our friend Collinson’s last letter, viz.—But I ought to mortify, and not indulge, this vanity; I will not transcribe the paragraph, yet I cannot forbear.
“If any of thy friends,” says Peter, “should take notice that thy head is held a little higher up than formerly, let them know: when the grand monarch of France strictly commands the Abbé Mazéas to write a letter in the politest terms to the Royal Society, to return the King’s thanks and compliments in an express manner to Mr. Franklin of Pennsylvania, for his useful discoveries in electricity, and application of the pointed rods to prevent the terrible effects of thunder-storms, I say, after all this, is not some allowance to be made, if thy crest is a little elevated? There are four letters containing very curious experiments on thy doctrine of points and its verification, which will be printed in the new Transactions. I think, now I have stuck a feather in thy cap, I may be allowed to conclude in wishing thee long to wear it. Thine, P. Collinson.”
On reconsidering this paragraph, I fear I have not so much reason to be proud as the girl had; for a feather in the cap is not so useful a thing, or so serviceable to the wearer, as a pair of good silk garters. The pride of man is very differently gratified; and had his Majesty sent me a marshal’s staff, I think I could scarce have been so proud of it as I am of your esteem, and of subscribing myself, with sincerity, dear Sir,
Your affectionate friend and humble servant,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO JAMES BOWDOIN
Philadelphia, 12 April, 1753.
I have shipped eighteen glass jars in casks well packed, on board Captain Branscombe for Boston; six of them are for you, the rest I understand are for the College. Leaf tin, such as they use in silvering looking-glasses, is best to coat them with; they should be coated to within about four or five inches of the brim. Cut the tin into pieces of the form here represented, and they will comply better with the bellying of the glass; one piece only should be round to cover the bottom; the same shapes will serve the inside. I had not conveniency to coat them for you, and feared to trust anybody else, Mr. Kinnersley being abroad in the West Indies. To make the pieces comply the better, they may be cut in two where the cross lines are. They reach from the top to the edge of the round piece which covers the bottom. I place them in loose rims of scabboard, something like a small sieve, in which they stand very well. If you charge more than one or two together, pray take care how you expose your head to an accidental stroke; for, I can assure you from experience, one is sufficient to knock a stout man down; and I believe a stroke from two or three, in the head, would kill him.
Has Dr. Colden’s new book reached you in Boston? If not, I will send it to you.
With great respect, I am, Sir,
Your most humble servant,
P. S.—The glass-maker being from home, I cannot now get the account. The tin is laid on with common paste, made of flour and water boiled together, and the pieces may lap over each other a little.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO WILLIAM SMITH1
Philadelphia, 19 April, 1753.
I received your favor of the 11th instant, with your new piece on Education,2 which I shall carefully peruse, and give you my sentiments of it, as you desire, by next post.
I believe the young gentlemen, your pupils, may be entertained and instructed here in mathematics and philosophy to satisfaction. Mr. Alison,1 who was educated at Glasgow, has been long accustomed to teach the latter, and Mr. Grew2 the former, and I think their pupils make great progress. Mr. Alison has the care of the Latin and Greek school; but as he has now three good assistants,3 he can very well afford some hours every day for the instruction of those who are engaged in higher studies. The mathematical school is pretty well furnished with instruments. The English Library is a good one, and we have, belonging to it, a middling apparatus for experimental philosophy, and purpose speedily to complete it. The Loganian Library, one of the best collections in America, will shortly be opened; so that neither books nor instruments will be wanting; and as we are determined always to give good salaries, we have reason to believe we may have always an opportunity of choosing good masters; upon which, indeed, the success of the whole depends. We are obliged to you for your kind offers in this respect, and when you are settled in England we may occasionally make use of your friendship and judgment.
If it suits your convenience to visit Philadelphia before your return to Europe, I shall be extremely glad to see and converse with you here, as well as to correspond with you after your settlement in England. For an acquaintance and communication with men of learning, virtue, and public spirit is one of my greatest enjoyments.
I do not know whether you ever happened to see the first proposals I made for erecting this Academy. I send them enclosed. They had, however imperfect, the desired success, being followed by a subscription of four thousand pounds towards carrying them into execution. And as we are fond of receiving advice, and are daily improving by experience, I am in hopes we shall, in a few years, see a perfect institution. I am, very respectfully, &c.,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO WILLIAM SMITH
Philadelphia, 3 May, 1753.
Mr. Peters has just now been with me, and we have compared notes on your new piece. We find nothing in the scheme of education, however excellent, but what is, in our opinion, very practicable. The great difficulty will be to find the Aratus1 and other suitable persons to carry it into execution; but such may be had if proper encouragement be given. We have both received great pleasure in the perusal of it. For my part, I know not when I have read a piece that has more affected me; so noble and just are the sentiments, so warm and animated the language, yet, as censure from your friends may be of more use, as well as more agreeable, to you than praise, I ought to mention that I wish you had omitted, not only the quotation from the Review,1 which you are now justly dissatisfied with, but those expressions of resentment against your adversaries, in pages 65 and 79. In such cases, the noblest victory is obtained by neglect and by shining on.
Mr. Allen has been out of town these ten days, but before he went he directed me to procure him six copies of your piece. Mr. Peters has taken ten. He purposed to have written to you, but omits it, as he expects so soon to have the pleasure of seeing you here. He desires me to present his affectionate compliments to you, and to assure you that you will be very welcome to him. I shall only say that you may depend on my doing all in my power to make your visit to Philadelphia agreeable to you. I am, &c.,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO PETER COLLINSON
Philadelphia, 9 May, 1753.
I thank you for the kind and judicious remarks you have made on my little piece. I have often observed with wonder that temper of the poorer English laborers which you mention, and acknowledge it to be pretty general. When any of them happen to come here, where labor is much better paid than in England, their industry seems to diminish in equal proportion. But it is not so with the German laborers; they retain the habitual industry and frugality they bring with them, and receiving higher wages, an accumulation arises that makes them all rich. When I consider that the English are the offspring of Germans; that the climate they live in is much of the same temperature, and when I see nothing in nature that should create this difference, I am tempted to suspect it must arise from the constitution; and I have sometimes doubted whether the laws peculiar to England, which compel the rich to maintain the poor, have not given the latter a dependence that very much lessens the care of providing against the wants of old age.
I have heard it remarked that the poor in Protestant countries, on the continent of Europe, are generally more industrious than those of Popish countries. May not the more numerous foundations in the latter for relief of the poor have some effect towards rendering them less provident? To relieve the misfortunes of our fellow creatures is concurring with the Deity; it is godlike; but if we provide encouragement for laziness, and support for folly, may we not be found fighting against the order of God and nature, which perhaps has appointed want and misery as the proper punishments for, and cautions against, as well as necessary consequences of, idleness and extravagance? Whenever we attempt to amend the scheme of Providence, and to interfere with the government of the world, we had need be very circumspect, lest we do more harm than good. In New England they once thought blackbirds useless, and mischievous to the corn. They made efforts to destroy them. The consequence was, the blackbirds were diminished; but a kind of worm, which devoured their grass, and which the blackbirds used to feed on, increased prodigiously; then, finding their loss in grass much greater than their saving in corn, they wished again for their blackbirds.
We had here some years since a Transylvanian Tartar, who had travelled much in the East, and came hither merely to see the West, intending to go home through the Spanish West Indies, China, &c. He asked me one day, what I thought might be the reason that so many and such numerous nations, as the Tartars in Europe and Asia, the Indians in America, and the Negroes in Africa, continued a wandering, careless life, and refused to live in cities, and cultivate the arts they saw practised by the civilized parts of mankind? While I was considering what answer to make him he said, in his broken English: “God make man for Paradise. He make him for live lazy. Man make God angry. God turn him out of Paradise, and bid workee. Man no love workee; he want to go to Paradise again; he want to live lazy. So all mankind love lazy.” However this may be, it seems certain that the hope of becoming at some time of life free from the necessity of care and labor, together with fear of penury, are the main springs of most people’s industry. To those, indeed, who have been educated in elegant plenty, even the provision made for the poor may appear misery; but to those who have scarce ever been better provided for, such provision may seem quite good and sufficient. These latter, then, have nothing to fear worse than their present condition, and scarce hope for any thing better than a parish maintenance. So that there is only the difficulty of getting that maintenance allowed while they are able to work, or a little shame they suppose attending it, that can induce them to work at all; and what they do will only be from hand to mouth.
The proneness of human nature to a life of ease, of freedom from care and labor, appears strongly in the little success that has hitherto attended every attempt to civilize our American Indians. In their present way of living, almost all their wants are supplied by the spontaneous productions of nature, with the addition of very little labor, if hunting and fishing may indeed be called labor, where game is so plenty. They visit us frequently, and see the advantages that arts, sciences, and compact societies procure us. They are not deficient in natural understanding; and yet they have never shown any inclination to change their manner of life for ours, or to learn any of our arts. When an Indian child has been brought up among us, taught our language, and habituated to our customs, yet if he goes to see his relatives, and makes one Indian ramble with them, there is no persuading him ever to return. And that this is not natural to them merely as Indians, but as men, is plain from this, that when white persons, of either sex, have been taken prisoners by the Indians, and lived awhile with them, though ransomed by their friends, and treated with all imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay among the English, yet in a short time they become disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and pains that are necessary to support it, and take the first opportunity of escaping again into the woods, from whence there is no redeeming them. One instance I remember to have heard, where the person was brought home to possess a good estate; but, finding some care necessary to keep it together, he relinquished it to a younger brother, reserving to himself nothing but a gun and a match-coat, with which he took his way again into the wilderness.
So that I am apt to imagine that close societies, subsisting by labor and art, arose first not from choice but from necessity, when numbers being driven by war from their hunting grounds, and prevented by seas, or by other nations, from obtaining other hunting grounds, were crowded together into some narrow territories, which without labor could not afford them food. However, as matters now stand with us, care and industry seem absolutely necessary to our well-being. They should therefore have every encouragement we can invent, and not one motive to diligence be subtracted; and the support of the poor should not be by maintaining them in idleness, but by employing them in some kind of labor suited to their abilities of body, as I am informed begins to be of late the practice in many parts of England, where workhouses are erected for that purpose. If these were general, I should think the poor would be more careful, and work voluntarily to lay up something for themselves against a rainy day, rather than run the risk of being obliged to work at the pleasure of others for a bare subsistence, and that too under confinement.
The little value Indians set on what we prize so highly, under the name of learning, appears from a pleasant passage that happened some years since, at a treaty between some colonies and the Six Nations. When every thing had been settled to the satisfaction of both sides, and nothing remained but a mutual exchange of civilities, the English Commissioners told the Indians that they had in their country a college for the instruction of youth, who were there taught various languages, arts, and sciences; that there was a particular foundation in favor of the Indians to defray the expense of the education of any of their sons who should desire to take the benefit of it; and said, if the Indians would accept the offer, the English would take half a dozen of their brightest lads, and bring them up in the best manner. The Indians, after consulting on the proposals, replied, that it was remembered that some of their youths had formerly been educated at that college, but that it had been observed that for a long time after they returned to their friends they were absolutely good for nothing; being neither acquainted with the true method of killing deer, catching beavers, or surprising an enemy. The proposition they looked on, however, as a mark of kindness and good will of the English to the Indian nations, which merited a grateful return; and therefore, if the English gentlemen would send a dozen or two of their children to Onondaga, the Great Council would take care of their education, bring them up in what was really the best manner, and make men of them.
I am perfectly of your mind, that measures of great temper are necessary with the Germans; and am not without apprehensions, that, through their indiscretion, or ours, or both, great disorders may one day arise among us. Those who come hither are generally the most stupid of their own nation, and, as ignorance is often attended with credulity when knavery would mislead it, and with suspicion when honesty would set it right; and as few of the English understand the German language, and so cannot address them either from the press or the pulpit, it is almost impossible to remove any prejudices they may entertain. Their clergy have very little influence on the people, who seem to take a pleasure in abusing and discharging the minister on every trivial occasion. Not being used to liberty, they know not how to make a modest use of it. And as Kolben says of the young Hottentots, that they are not esteemed men until they have shown their manhood by beating their mothers, so these seem not to think themselves free, till they can feel their liberty in abusing and insulting their teachers. Thus they are under no restraint from ecclesiastical government; they behave, however, submissively enough at present to the civil government, which I wish they may continue to do, for I remember when they modestly declined intermeddling in our elections, but now they come in droves and carry all before them, except in one or two counties.
Few of their children in the country know English. They import many books from Germany; and of the six printing-houses in the province, two are entirely German, two half German half English, and but two entirely English. They have one German newspaper, and one half-German. Advertisements, intended to be general, are now printed in Dutch and English. The signs in our streets have inscriptions in both languages, and in some places only German. They begin of late to make all their bonds and other legal instruments in their own language, which (though I think it ought not to be) are allowed good in our courts, where the German business so increases that there is continued need of interpreters; and I suppose in a few years they will also be necessary in the Assembly, to tell one half of our legislators what the other half say.
In short, unless the stream of their importation could be turned from this to other colonies, as you very judiciously propose, they will soon so outnumber us that all the advantages we have will, in my opinion, be not able to preserve our language, and even our government will become precarious. The French, who watch all advantages, are now themselves making a German settlement, back of us, in the Illinois country, and by means of these Germans they may in time come to an understanding with ours; and, indeed, in the last war, our Germans showed a general disposition, that seemed to bode us no good. For, when the English, who were not Quakers, alarmed by the danger arising from the defenceless state of our country, entered unanimously into an association, and within this government and the Lower Counties raised, armed, and disciplined near ten thousand men, the Germans, except a very few in proportion to their number, refused to engage in it, giving out, one amongst another, and even in print, that, if they were quiet, the French, should they take the country, would not molest them; at the same time abusing the Philadelphians for fitting out privateers against the enemy, and representing the trouble, hazard, and expense of defending the province, as a greater inconvenience than any that might be expected from a change of government. Yet I am not for refusing to admit them entirely into our colonies. All that seems to me necessary is, to distribute them more equally, mix them with the English, establish English schools where they are now too thick settled, and take some care to prevent the practice, lately fallen into by some of the ship-owners, of sweeping the German gaols to make up the number of their passengers. I say I am not against the admission of Germans in general, for they have their virtues. Their industry and frugality are exemplary. They are excellent husbandmen, and contribute greatly to the improvement of a country.
I pray God to preserve long to Great Britain the English laws, manners, liberties, and religion. Notwithstanding the complaints so frequent in your public papers, of the prevailing corruption and degeneracy of the people, I know you have a great deal of virtue still subsisting among you; and I hope the constitution is not so near a dissolution as some seem to apprehend. I do not think you are generally become such slaves to your vices, as to draw down the justice Milton speaks of, when he says, that——1[Back to Table of Contents]
TO PETER COLLINSON
the sea and lightning
Philadelphia, — September, 1753.
In my former paper on this subject, written first in 1747, enlarged and sent to England in 1749, I considered the sea as the grand source of lightning, imagining its luminous appearance to be owing to electric fire, produced by friction between the particles of water and those of salt.
Living far from the sea, I had then no opportunity of making experiments on the sea water, and so embraced this opinion too hastily. For, in 1750 and 1751, being occasionally on the seacoast, I found, by experiments, that sea water in a bottle, though at first it would by agitation appear luminous, yet in a few hours it lost that virtue; hence and from this, that I could not by agitating a solution of sea salt in water produce any light, I first began to doubt of my former hypothesis, and to suspect that the luminous appearance in sea water must be owing to some other principles.
I then considered whether it were not possible that the particles of air, being electrics per se, might, in hard gales of wind, by their friction against trees, hills, buildings, &c., as so many minute electric globes, rubbing against non-electric cushions, draw the electric fire from the earth, and that the rising vapors might receive that power from the air, and by such means the clouds become electrified.
If this were so, I imagined that by forcing a constant violent stream of air against my prime conductor, by bellows, I should electrify it negatively; the rubbing particles of air drawing from it part of its natural quantity of the electric fluid. I accordingly made the experiment, but it did not succeed.
In September, 1752, I erected an iron rod to draw the lightning down into my house, in order to make some experiments on it, with two bells to give notice when the rod should be electrified; a contrivance obvious to every electrician.
I found the bells rang sometimes when there was no lightning or thunder, but only a dark cloud over the rod; that sometimes, after a flash of lightning they would suddenly stop; and, at other times, when they had not rung before, they would, after a flash, suddenly begin to ring; that the electricity was sometimes very faint, so that, when a small spark was obtained, another could not be got for some time after; at other times the sparks would follow extremely quick, and once I had a continual stream from bell to bell, the size of a crow-quill; even during the same gust there were considerable variations.
In the winter following I conceived an experiment, to try whether the clouds were electrified positively or negatively; but my pointed rod, with its apparatus, becoming out of order, I did not refit it till towards the spring, when I expected the warm weather would bring on more frequent thunder-clouds.
The experiment was this; to take two phials; charge one of them with lightning from the iron rod, and give the other an equal charge by the electric glass globe, through the prime conductor; when charged, to place them on a table within three or four inches of each other, a small cork ball being suspended by a fine silk thread from the ceiling so as it might play between the wires. If both bottles then were electrified positively, the ball, being attracted and repelled by one, must be also repelled by the other. If the one positively, and the other negatively, then the ball would be attracted and repelled alternately by each, and continue to play between them as long as any considerable charge remained.
Being very intent on making this experiment, it was no small mortification to me that I happened to be abroad during two of the greatest thunder-storms we had early in the spring; and though I had given orders in the family that if the bells rang when I was from home they should catch some of the lightning for me in electrical phials, and they did so, yet it was mostly dissipated before my return; and in some of the other gusts, the quantity of lightning I was able to obtain was so small, and the charge so weak, that I could not satisfy myself; yet I sometimes saw what heightened my suspicions and inflamed my curiosity.
At last, on the 12th of April, 1753, there being a smart gust of some continuance, I charged one phial pretty well with lightning, and the other equally, as near as I could judge, with electricity from my glass globe; and, having placed them properly, I beheld, with great surprise and pleasure, the cork ball play briskly between them, and was convinced that one bottle was electrized negatively.
I repeated this experiment several times during the gust, and in eight succeeding gusts, always with the same success; and being of opinion (for reasons I formerly gave in my letter to Mr. Kinnersley, since printed in London), that the glass globe electrizes positively, I concluded that the clouds are always electrized negatively, or have always in them less than their natural quantity of the electric fluid.
Yet, notwithstanding so many experiments, it seems I concluded too soon; for at last, June the 6th, in a gust which continued from five o’clock P.M., to seven, I met with one cloud that was electrized positively, though several that passed over my rod before, during the same gust, were in the negative state. This was thus discovered.
I had another concurring experiment, which I often repeated, to prove the negative state of the clouds, viz., while the bells were ringing, I took the phial, charged from the glass globe, and applied its wire to the erected rod, considering that if the clouds were electrized positively, the rod, which received its electricity from them, must be so too; and then the additional positive electricity of the phial would make the bells ring faster; but if the clouds were in a negative state, they must exhaust the electric fluid from my rod, and bring that into the same negative state with themselves, and then the wire of a positively charged phial, supplying the rod with what is wanted (which it was obliged otherwise to draw from the earth by means of the pendulous brass ball playing between the two bells), the ringing would cease till the bottle was discharged.
In this manner I quite discharged into the rod several phials, that were charged from the glass globe, the electric fluid streaming from the wire to the rod, till the wire would receive no spark from the finger; and during this supply to the rod from the phial, the bells stopped ringing; but by continuing the application of the phial wire to the rod, I exhausted the natural quantity from the inside surface of the same phials, or, as I call it, charged them negatively.
At length, while I was charging a phial by my glass globe, to repeat the experiment, my bells of themselves stopped ringing, and, after some pause, began to ring again. But now, when I approached the wire of the charged phial to the rod, instead of the usual stream that I expected from the wire to the rod, there was no spark—not even when I brought the wire and the rod to touch; yet the bells continued ringing vigorously, which proved to me that the rod was then positively electrified, as well as the wire of the phial, and equally so; and, consequently, that the particular cloud then over the rod was in the same positive state. This was near the end of the gust.
But this was a single experiment, which, however, destroys my first too general conclusion, and reduces me to this: That the clouds of a thunder-gust are most commonly in a negative state of electricity, but sometimes in a positive state.
The latter I believe is rare; for, though I, soon after the last experiment, set out on a journey to Boston, and was from home most part of the summer, which prevented my making further trials and observations, yet Mr. Kinnersley, returning from the Islands just as I left home, pursued the experiments during my absence, and informs me that he always found the clouds in the negative state.
So that, for the most part, in thunder-strokes, it is the earth that strikes into the clouds, and not the clouds that strike into the earth.
Those who are versed in electric experiments will easily conceive that the effects and appearances must be nearly the same in either case: the same explosion and the same flash between one cloud and another, and between the clouds and mountains, &c.; the same rending of trees, walls, &c., which the electric fluid meets with in its passage; and the same fatal shock to animal bodies; and that pointed rods fixed on buildings or masts of ships, and communicating with the earth or sea, must be of the same service in restoring the equilibrium silently between the earth and clouds, or in conducting a flash or stroke, if one should be, so as to save harmless the house or vessel; for points have equal power to throw off, as to draw on, the electric fire, and rods will conduct up as well as down.
But though the light gained from these experiments makes no alteration in the practice, it makes a considerable one in the theory. And now we as much need an hypothesis to explain by what means the clouds become negatively, as before to show how they become positively, electrified.
I cannot forbear venturing some few conjectures on this occasion; they are what occur to me at present, and though future discoveries should prove them not wholly right, yet they may in the meantime be of some use, by stirring up the curious to make more experiments, and occasion more exact disquisitions.
I conceive, then, that this globe of earth and water, with its plants, animals, and buildings, have, diffused throughout their substance, a quantity of the electric fluid, just as much as they can contain, which I call the natural quantity.
That this natural quantity is not the same in all kinds of common matter under the same dimensions, nor in the same kind of common matter in all circumstances; but a solid foot, for instance, of one kind of common matter may contain more of the electric fluid than a solid foot of some other kind of common matter; and a pound weight of the same kind of common matter may, when in a rarer state, contain more of the electric fluid than when in a denser state.
For the electric fluid being attracted by any portion of common matter, the parts of that fluid (which have among themselves a mutual repulsion) are brought so near to each other, by the attraction of the common matter that absorbs them, as that their repulsion is equal to the condensing power of attraction in common matter; and then such portion of common matter will absorb no more.
Bodies of different kinds, having thus attracted and absorbed what I call their natural quantity, that is, just as much of the electric fluid as is suited to their circumstances of density, rarity, and power of attracting, do not then show any signs of electricity among each other.
And if more electric fluid be added to one of these bodies, it does not enter, but spreads on the surface, forming an atmosphere; and then such body shows signs of electricity.
I have, in a former paper, compared common matter to a sponge, and the electric fluid to water; I beg leave once more to make use of the same comparison, to illustrate farther my meaning in this particular.
When a sponge is somewhat condensed by being squeezed between the fingers, it will not receive and retain so much water as when in its more loose and open state.
If more squeezed and condensed, some of the water will come out of its inner parts, and flow on the surface.
If the pressure of the fingers be entirely removed, the sponge will not only resume what was lately forced out, but attract an additional quantity.
As the sponge in its rarer state will naturally attract and absorb more water, and in its denser state will naturally attract and absorb less water, we may call the quantity it attracts and absorbs in either state its natural quantity, the state being considered.
Now what the sponge is to water, the same is water to the electric fluid.
When a portion of water is in its common dense state, it can hold no more electric fluid than it has; if any be added, it spreads on the surface.
When the same portion of water is rarefied into vapor, and forms a cloud, it is then capable of receiving and absorbing a much greater quantity; there is room for each particle to have an electric atmosphere.
Thus water, in its rarefied state, or in the form of a cloud, will be in a negative state of electricity; it will have less than its natural quantity—that is, less than it is naturally capable of attracting and absorbing in that state.
Such a cloud, then, coming so near the earth as to be within the striking distance, will receive from the earth a flash of the electric fluid, which flash, to supply a great extent of cloud, must sometimes contain a very great quantity of that fluid.
Or such a cloud, passing over woods of tall trees, may, from the points and sharp edges of their moist top leaves, receive silently some supply.
A cloud, being by any means supplied from the earth, may strike into other clouds that have not been supplied, or not so much supplied; and those to others, till an equilibrium is produced among all the clouds that are within striking distance of each other.
The cloud thus supplied, having parted with much of what it first received, may require and receive a fresh supply from the earth, or from some other cloud which by the wind is brought into such a situation as to receive it more readily from the earth.
Hence repeated and continual strokes and flashes, till the clouds have all got nearly their natural quantity as clouds, or till they have descended in showers, and are united again with this terraqueous globe, their original.
Thus thunder-clouds are generally in a negative state of electricity compared with the earth, agreeable to most of our experiments; yet, as by one experiment we found a cloud electrized positively, I conjecture that in that case such cloud, after having received what was, in its rare state, only its natural quantity, became compressed by the driving winds, or some other means, so that part of what it had absorbed was forced out, and formed an electric atmosphere around it in its denser state. Hence it was capable of communicating positive electricity to my rod.
To show that a body in different circumstances of dilatation and contraction is capable of receiving and retaining more or less of the electric fluid on its surface, I would relate the following experiment: I placed a clean wine-glass on the floor, and on it a small silver can. In the can I put about three yards of brass chain; to one end of which I fastened a silk thread, which went right up to the ceiling, where it passed over a pulley, and came down again to my hand, that I might at pleasure draw the chain up out of the can, extending it till within a foot of the ceiling, and let it gradually sink into the can again. From the ceiling, by another thread of fine raw silk, I suspended a small light lock of cotton, so as that when it hung perpendicularly it came in contact with the side of the can. Then, approaching the wire of a charged phial to the can, I gave it a spark which flowed round in an electric atmosphere; and the lock of cotton was repelled from the side of the can to the distance of about nine or ten inches. The can would not then receive another spark from the wire of the phial; but as I gradually drew up the chain, the atmosphere of the can diminished by flowing over the rising chain, and the lock of cotton accordingly drew nearer and nearer to the can; and then, if I again brought the phial wire near the can, it would receive another spark, and the cotton fly off again to its first distance; and thus, as the chain was drawn higher, the can would receive more sparks; because the can and extended chain were capable of supporting a greater atmosphere than the can with the chain gathered up into its belly. And that the atmosphere round the can was diminished by raising the chain, and increased again by lowering, is not only agreeable to reason, since the atmosphere of the chain must be drawn from that of the can, when it rose, and returned to it again when it fell; but was also evident to the eye, the lock of cotton always approaching the can when the chain was drawn up, and receding when it was let down again.
Thus we see that increase of surface makes a body capable of receiving a greater electric atmosphere; but this experiment does not, I own, fully demonstrate my new hypothesis; for the brass and silver still continue in their solid state, and are not rarefied into vapor, as the water is in clouds. Perhaps some future experiments on vaporized water may set this matter in a clearer light.
One seemingly material objection arises to the new hypothesis, and it is this: if water in its rarefied state, as a cloud, requires and will absorb more of the electric fluid than when in its dense state as water, why does it not require from the earth all its wants at the instant of its leaving the surface, while it is yet near, and but just rising in vapor? To this difficulty I own I cannot at present give a solution satisfactory to myself. I thought, however, that I ought to state it in its full force, as I have done, and submit the whole to examination.
And I would beg leave to recommend it to the curious in this branch of natural philosophy, to repeat with care and accurate observation, the experiments I have reported in this and former papers relating to positive and negative electricity, with such other relative ones as shall occur to them, that it may be certainly known whether the electricity communicated by a glass globe be really positive. And also I would request all who may have the opportunity of observing the recent effects of lightning on buildings, trees, &c., that they would consider them particularly with a view to discover the direction. But in these examinations this one thing is always to be understood, viz., that a stream of the electric fluid passing through wood, brick, metal, &c., while such fluid passes in small quantity, the mutually repulsive power of its parts is confined and overcome by the cohesion of the parts of the body it passes through, so as to prevent an explosion; but when the fluid comes in a quantity too great to be confined by such cohesion, it explodes, and rends or fuses the body that endeavoured to confine it. If it be wood, brick, stone, or the like, the splinters will fly off on that side where there is least resistance. And thus, when a hole is struck through pasteboard by the electrified jar, if the surfaces of the pasteboard are not confined or compressed, there will be a bur raised all round the hole on both sides the pasteboard; but if one side be confined, so that the bur cannot be raised on that side, it will be all raised on the other, which way soever the fluid was directed. For the bur round the outside of the hole is the effect of the explosion every way from the centre of the stream, and not an effect of the direction.
In every stroke of lightning, I am of opinion that the stream of the electric fluid, moving to restore the equilibrium between the cloud and the earth, does always previously find its passage, and mark out, as I may say, its own course, taking in its way all the conductors it can find, such as metals, damp walls, moist wood, &c., and will go considerably out of a direct course for the sake of the assistance of good conductors; and that, in this course, it is actually moving, though silently and imperceptibly, before the explosion, in and among the conductors; which explosion happens only when the conductors cannot discharge it as fast as they receive it, by reason of their being incomplete, disunited, too small, or not of the best materials for conducting. Metalline rods, therefore, of sufficient thickness, and extending from the highest part of an edifice to the ground, being of the best materials and complete conductors, will, I think, secure the building from damage, either by restoring the equilibrium so fast as to prevent a stroke, or by conducting it in the substance of the rod as far as the rod goes, so that there shall be no explosion but what is above its point, between that and the clouds.
If it be asked, What thickness of a metalline rod may be supposed sufficient? in answer, I would remark, that five large glass jars, such as I have described in my former papers, discharge a very great quantity of electricity, which, nevertheless, will be all conducted round the corner of a book, by the fine filleting of gold on the cover, it following the gold the farthest way about rather than take the shorter course through the cover, that not being so good a conductor. Now, in this line of gold, the metal is so extremely thin as to be little more than the color of gold, and on an octavo book is not in the whole an inch square, and, therefore, not the thirty-sixth part of a grain, according to M. Réaumur; yet it is sufficient to conduct the charge of five large jars, and how many more I know not. Now, I suppose a wire of a quarter of an inch diameter, to contain about five thousand times as much metal as there is in that gold line; and, if so, it will conduct the charge of twenty-five thousand such glass jars, which is a quantity, I imagine, far beyond what was ever contained in any one stroke of natural lightning. But a rod of half an inch diameter would conduct four times as much as one of a quarter.
And with regard to conducting, though a certain thickness of metal be required to conduct a great quantity of electricity, and at the same time keep its own substance firm and unseparated, and a less quantity, as a very small wire, for instance, will be destroyed by the explosion; yet such small wire will have answered the end of conducting that stroke, though it become incapable of conducting another. And, considering the extreme rapidity with which the electric fluid moves without exploding, when it has a free passage, or complete metal communication, I should think a vast quantity would be conducted in a short time, either to or from a cloud, to restore its equilibrium with the earth, by means of a very small wire, and, therefore, thick rods should seem not so necessary. However, as the quantity of lightning discharged in one stroke cannot well be measured, and in different strokes is certainly very various, in some much greater than in others; and as iron (the best metal for the purpose, being least apt to fuse) is cheap, it may be well enough to provide a larger canal to guide that impetuous blast than we imagine necessary; for, though one middling wire may be sufficient, two or three can do no harm. And time, with careful observations well compared, will at length point out the proper size to greater certainty.
Pointed rods erected on edifices may likewise often prevent a stroke in the following manner: An eye so situated as to view horizontally the under side of a thunder-cloud, will see it very ragged, with a number of separate fragments, or petty clouds, one under another, the lowest sometimes not far from the earth. These, as so many stepping-stones, assist in conducting a stroke between the cloud and a building. To represent these by an experiment, take two or three locks of fine, loose cotton; connect one of them with the prime conductor by a fine thread of two inches (which may be spun out of the same lock by the fingers), another to that, and the third to the second, by like threads. Turn the globe, and you will see these locks extend themselves towards the table (as the lower small clouds do towards the earth), being attracted by it; but on presenting a sharp point erect under the lowest, it will shrink up to the second, the second to the first, and all together to the prime conductor, where they will continue as long as the point continues under them. May not, in like manner, the small electrized clouds, whose equilibrium with the earth is soon restored by the point, rise up to the main body, and by that means occasion so large a vacancy as that the grand cloud cannot strike in that place?
These thoughts, my dear friend, are many of them crude and hasty; and if I were merely ambitious of acquiring some reputation in philosophy, I ought to keep them by me till corrected and improved by time and farther experience. But since even short hints and imperfect experiments in any new branch of science, being communicated, have oftentimes a good effect in exciting the attention of the ingenious to the subject, and so become the occasion of more exact disquisition and more complete discoveries, you are at liberty to communicate this paper to whom you please; it being of more importance that knowledge should increase than that your friend should be thought an accurate philosopher.
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO JAMES BOWDOIN
Philadelphia, 18 October, 1753.
I recollect that I promised to send you Dr. Brownrigg’s Treatise on Common Salt. You will receive it herewith. I hope it may be of use in the affair of your fishery. Please to communicate it to Captain Erwin, Mr. Pitts, Mr. Boutineau, or any other of your friends who may be desirous of seeing it.
Since my return from Boston, I have been to our western frontiers on a treaty with the Ohio Indians. They complained much of the abuses they suffer from our traders, and earnestly requested us to put the trade under some regulation. If you can procure and send me your truckhouse law, and a particular account of the manner of executing it, with its consequences, &c., so that we may have the benefit of your experience, you will much oblige me; and if you have found it a useful law, I am in hopes we shall be induced to follow your good example.1
My compliments to Mrs. Bowdoin and all inquiring friends. With much respect and esteem, I am, dear Sir, &c.,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO CADWALLADER COLDEN
Philadelphia, 25 October, 1753.
This last summer I have enjoyed very little of the pleasure of reading or writing. I made a long journey to the eastward, which consumed ten weeks, and two journeys to our western frontier; one of them, to meet and hold a treaty with the Ohio Indians, in company with Mr. Peters and Mr. Norris.1 I shall send you a copy of that treaty as soon as it is published. I should be glad to know whether the Act, mentioned in your History of the Five Nations, to prevent the people of New York from supplying the French with Indian goods, still subsists, and is duly executed.2
I left your book with Mr. Bowdoin, in Boston. I hope you will hear from him this winter. I observed extracts from it in all the Magazines, and in the Monthly Review, but I see no observations on it. I send you herewith Nollet’s book. M. Dalibard writes me that he is just about to publish an answer to it, which, perhaps, may save me the trouble.
I hope soon to find time to finish my new Hypothesis of Thunder and Lightning, which I shall immediately communicate to you. I sent you, by our friend Bartram, some meteorological conjectures for your amusement. When perused, please to return them, as I have no copy. With sincere esteem and respect, I am, dear Sir, &c.,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO THOMAS CLAP1
Philadelphia, 8 November, 1753.
The first intimation I find of the new air-pump is in a piece of Mr. Watson’s read to the Royal Society, February 20th, 1752, where, describing some experiments he made in vacuo, he says: ‘The more complete the vacuum, cæteris paribus, the more considerable were the effects; and here I should not do justice to real merit were I silent in regard to Mr. Smeaton. This gentleman, with a genius truly mechanical, which enables him to give to such philosophical instruments as he executes a degree of perfection scarce to be found elsewhere; this gentleman, I say, has constructed an air-pump by which we are empowered to make Boyle’s vacuum much more perfect than heretofore. By a well conducted experiment, which admits of no doubt as to its truth, I have seen by this pump the air rarefied to one thousand times its natural state; whereas, commonly, we seldom arrive at above one hundred and fifty. As the promotion of the mechanic arts is a considerable object of our excellent institution, if this gentleman could be prevailed upon to communicate to the Royal Society that particular construction of his air-pump which enables it to execute so much more than those commonly in use, it would not fail to be an acceptable present.”
So far Mr. Watson. In April following, was read a letter from Mr. Smeaton, in which he describes his improvement, and gives a draft of his pump; the whole too long to transcribe; but it appears to me that the machine, being rather simplified than made more complex, can scarce cost more than one of the old sort, though the price is not mentioned. By only turning a cock it is at pleasure made a condensing engine; an advantage the others have not.
I have seen nothing of your searchers. Mr. Parker has received Bower, but writes me that he is at a loss how to send it, and desires you would order somebody to call for it.
I shall send the dollars for Mr. Mix per next post; for I fancy you will not now buy this apparatus here, but choose the new air-pump from England.
With my respects to all friends, I am, &c.,
B. Franklin.[Back to Table of Contents]
TO PETER COLLINSON
Philadelphia, 23 November, 1753.
In my last, via Virginia, I promised to send you per next ship, a small philosophical packet; but now, having got the materials (old letters and rough drafts) before me, I fear you will find it a great one. Nevertheless, as I am like to have a few days leisure before this ship sails, which I may not have again in a long time, I shall transcribe the whole and send it; for you will be under no necessity of reading it all at once, but may take it a little at a time, now and then of a winter evening. When you happen to have nothing else to do (if that ever happens), it may afford you some amusement.
Proposal of an Experiment to measure the Time taken up by an Electric Spark in moving through any given Space. By James Alexander, of New York.
read at the royal society, december 26, 1756.
If I remember right, the Royal Society made one experiment to discover the velocity of the electric fire, by a wire of about four miles in length, supported by silk, and by turning it forwards and backwards in a field, so that the beginning and end of the wire were at only the distance of two people, the one holding the Leyden bottle and the beginning of the wire, and the other holding the end of the wire and touching the ring of the bottle; but by this experiment no discovery was made, except that the velocity was extremely quick.
As water is a conductor as well as metals, it is to be considered, whether the velocity of the electric fire might not be discovered by means of water; whether a river, or lake, or sea, may not be made part of the circuit through which the electric fire passes, instead of the circuit all of wire, as in the above experiment.
Whether in a river, lake, or sea, the electric fire will not dissipate, and not return to the bottle? or will it proceed in straight lines through the water the shortest course possible back to the bottle?
If the last, then suppose one brook that falls into Delaware doth head very near to a brook that falls into Schuylkill; and let a wire be stretched and supported as before, from the head of one brook to the head of the other; and let the one end communicate with the water; and let one person stand in the other brook, holding the Leyden bottle; and let another person hold that end of the wire not in the water, and touch the ring of the bottle. If the electric fire will go as in the last question, then will it go down the one brook to Delaware or Schuylkill, and down one of them to their meeting, and up the other and the other brook; the time of its doing this may possibly be observable, and the farther upwards the brooks are chosen the more observable it would be.
Should this be not observable, then suppose the two brooks falling into Susquehanna and Delaware, and proceeding as before, the electric fire may, by that means, make a circuit round the North Cape of Virginia, and go many hundreds of miles, and in doing that, it would seem it must take some observable time.
If still no observable time is found in that experiment, then suppose the brooks falling the one into the Ohio and the other into Susquehanna or Potomac; in that the electric fire would have a circuit of some thousands of miles to go down Ohio to Mississippi, to the Bay of Mexico, round Florida, and round the South Cape of Virginia; which, I think, would give some observable time, and discover exactly the velocity.
But if the electric fire dissipates or weakens in the water, as I fear it does, these experiments will not answer.
Answer to the Foregoing
read at the royal society, december 26, 1756
Suppose a tube of any length, open at both ends, and containing a movable wire of just the same length that fills its bore. If I attempt to introduce the end of another wire into the same tube it must be done by pushing forward the wire it already contains, and the instant I press and move one end of that wire, the other end is also moved; and in introducing one inch of the same wire, I extrude, at the same time, an inch of the first from the other end of the tube.
If the tube be filled with water, and I inject an additional inch of water at one end, I force out an equal quantity at the other in the very same instant.
And the water forced out at one end of the tube is not the very same water that was forced in at the other end at the same time; it was only in motion at the same time.
The long wire, made use of in the experiment to discover the velocity of the electric fluid, is itself filled with what we call its natural quantity of that fluid, before the hook of the Leyden bottle is applied to one end of it.
The outside of the bottle being, at the time of such application, in contact with the other end of the wire, the whole quantity of electric fluid contained in the wire is, probably, put in motion at once.
For at the instant the hook connected with the inside of the bottle gives out, the coating, or outside of the bottle, draws in a portion of that fluid.
If such long wire contains precisely the quantity that the outside of the bottle demands, the whole will move out of the wire to the outside of the bottle, and the over quantity which the inside of the bottle contained, being exactly equal, will flow into the wire and remain there in the place of the quantity the wire had just parted with to the outside of the bottle.
But if the wire be so long as that one tenth (suppose) of its natural quantity is sufficient to supply what the outside of the bottle demands, in such case the outside will only receive what is contained in one tenth of the wire’s length, from the end next to it; though the whole will move so as to make room at the other end for an equal quantity issuing, at the same time, from the inside of the bottle.
So that this experiment only shows the extreme facility with which the electric fluid moves in metal; it can never determine the velocity.
And, therefore, the proposed experiment (though well imagined and very ingenious) of sending the spark round through a vast length of space, by the waters of Susquehanna, or Potomac, and Ohio, would not afford the satisfaction desired, though we could be sure that the motion of the electric fluid would be in that tract, and not under ground in the wet earth by the shortest way.
Physical and Meteorological Observations, Conjectures, and Suppositions
read at the royal society, june 3, 1756
The particles of air are kept at a distance from each other by their mutual repulsion.
Every three particles, mutually and equally repelling each other, must form an equilateral triangle.
All the particles of air gravitate towards the earth, which gravitation compresses them, and shortens the sides of the triangles; otherwise their mutual repellency would force them to greater distances from each other.
Whatever particles of other matter (not endued with that repellency) are supported in air must adhere to the particles of air, and be supported by them; for in the vacancies there is nothing they can rest on.
Air and water mutually attract each other. Hence water will dissolve in air, as salt in water.
The specific gravity of matter is not altered by dividing the matter, though the superficies be increased. Sixteen leaden bullets, of an ounce each, weigh as much in water as one of a pound, whose superficies is less.
Therefore the supporting of salt in water is not owing to its superficies being increased.
A lump of salt, though laid at rest at the bottom of a vessel of water, will dissolve therein, and its parts move every way, till equally diffused in the water; therefore there is a mutual attraction between water and salt. Every particle of water assumes as many of salt as can adhere to it; when more is added, it precipitates, and will not remain suspended.
Water, in the same manner, will dissolve in air, every particle of air assuming one or more particles of water. When too much is added, it precipitates in rain.
But there not being the same contiguity between the particles of air as of water, the solution of water in air is not carried on without a motion of the air, so as to cause a fresh accession of dry particles.
Part of a fluid, having more of what it dissolves, will communicate to other parts that have less. Thus, very salt water, coming in contact with fresh, communicates its saltness till all is equal, and the sooner, if there is a little motion of the water.
Even earth will dissolve or mix with air. A stroke of a horse’s hoof on the ground in a hot, dusty road will raise a cloud of dust that shall, if there be a light breeze, expand every way, till, perhaps, near as big as a common house. It is not by mechanical motion communicated to the particles of dust by the hoof that they fly so far, nor by the wind that they spread so wide; but the air near the ground, more heated by the hot dust struck into it, is rarefied and rises, and in rising mixes with the cooler air, and communicates of its dust to it, and it is at length so diffused as to become invisible. Quantities of dust are thus carried up in dry seasons; showers wash it from the air, and bring it down again. For, water attracting it stronger, it quits the air and adheres to the water.
Air, suffering continual changes in the degrees of its heat from various causes and circumstances, and, consequently, changes in its specific gravity, must therefore be in continual motion.
A small quantity of fire mixed with water (or degree of heat therein) so weakens the cohesion of its particles that those on the surface easily quit it, and adhere to the particles of air.
A greater degree of heat is required to break the cohesion between water and air.
Air moderately heated will support a greater quantity of water invisibly than cold air; for its particles being by heat repelled to a greater distance from each other, thereby more easily keep the particles of water that are annexed to them from running into cohesions that would obstruct, refract, or reflect the light.
Hence, when we breathe in warm air, though the same quantity of moisture may be taken up from the lungs, as when we breathe in cold air, yet that moisture is not so visible.
Water being extremely heated, that is, to the degree of boiling, its particles in quitting it so repel each other, as to take up vastly more space than before, and by that repellency support themselves, expelling the air from the space they occupy. That degree of heat being lessened, they again mutually attract; and having no air particles mixed to adhere to, by which they might be supported and kept at a distance, they instantly fall, coalesce, and become water again.
The water commonly diffused in our atmosphere never receives such a degree of heat from the sun, or other cause, as water has when boiling; it is not therefore supported by such heat, but by adhering to air.
Water being dissolved in and adhering to air, that air will not readily take up oil, because of the mutual repellency between water and oil.
Hence cold oils evaporate but slowly, the air having generally a quantity of dissolved water.
Oil being heated extremely, the air that approaches its surface will be also heated extremely; the water then quitting it, it will attract and carry off oil, which can now adhere to it. Hence the quick evaporation of oil heated to a great degree.
Oil being dissolved in air, the particles to which it adheres will not take up water.
Hence the suffocating nature of air impregnated with burnt grease, as from snuffs of candles and the like. A certain quantity of moisture should be every moment discharged and taken away from the lungs; air that has been frequently breathed is already overloaded, and for that reason can take no more, so will not answer the end. Greasy air refuses to touch it. In both cases suffocation for want of the discharge.
Air will attract and support many other substances.
A particle of air loaded with adhering water, or any other matter is heavier than before, and would descend.
The atmosphere supposed at rest, a loaded descending particle must act with a force on the particles it passes between, or meets with, sufficient to overcome, in some degree, their mutual repellency, and push them nearer to each other.
Thus, supposing the particles A, B, C, D, and the other near them, to be at the distance caused by their mutual repellency (confined by their common gravity), if A would descend to E, it must pass between B and C; when it comes between B and C, it will be nearer to them than before, and must either have pushed them nearer to F and G, contrary to their mutual repellency, or pass through by a force exceeding its repellency with them. It then approaches D, and, to move it out of the way, must act on it with a force sufficient to overcome its repellency with the two next lower particles, by which it is kept in its present situation.
Every particle of air, therefore, will bear any load inferior to the force of these repulsions.
Hence the support of fogs, mists, clouds.
Very warm air, clear, though supporting a very great quantity of moisture, will grow turbid and cloudy on the mixture of a colder air, as foggy, turbid air will grow clear by warming.
Thus the sun, shining on a morning fog, dissipates it; clouds are seen to waste in a sunshiny day.
But cold condenses and renders visible the vapor; a tankard or decanter filled with cold water will condense the moisture of warm, clear air on its outside, where it becomes visible as dew, coalesces into drops, descends in little streams.
The sun heats the air of our atmosphere most near the surface of the earth; for there, besides the direct rays, there are many reflections. Moreover the earth, itself being heated, communicates of its heat to the neighbouring air.
The higher regions, having only the direct rays of the sun passing through them, are comparatively very cold. Hence the cold air on the tops of mountains, and snow on some of them all the year, even in the torrid zone. Hence hail in summer.
If the atmosphere were all of it (both above and below) always of the same temper as to cold or heat, then the upper air would always be rarer than the lower, because the pressure on it is less; consequently lighter, and therefore would keep its place.
But the upper air may be more condensed by cold than the lower air by pressure; the lower more expanded by heat than the upper, for want of pressure. In such case the upper air will become the heavier, the lower the lighter.
The lower region of air being heated and expanded heaves up and supports for some time the colder, heavier air above, and will continue to support it while the equilibrium is kept. Thus water is supported in an inverted open glass, while the equilibrium is maintained by the equal pressure upwards of the air below; but the equilibrium by any means breaking, the water descends on the heavier side and the air rises into its place.
The lifted heavy, cold air over a heated country, becoming by any means unequally supported, or unequal in its weight, the heaviest part descends first, and the rest follows impetuously. Hence gusts after heats, and hurricanes in hot climates. Hence the air of gusts and hurricanes cold, though in hot climates and seasons; it coming from above.
The cold air descending from above, as it penetrates our warm region full of watery particles, condenses them, renders them visible, forms a cloud thick and dark, overcasting sometimes, at once large and extensive; sometimes, when seen at a distance, small at first, gradually increasing; the cold edge or surface of the cloud condensing the vapors next it, which form smaller clouds that join it, increase its bulk, it descends with the wind and its acquired weight, draws nearer the earth, grows denser with continual additions of water, and discharges heavy showers.
Small black clouds thus appearing in a clear sky, in hot climates, portend storms, and warn seamen to hand their sails.
The earth turning on its axis in about twenty-four hours, the equatorial parts must move about fifteen miles in each minute; in northern and southern latitudes this motion is gradually less to the poles, and there nothing.
If there was a general calm over the face of the globe, it must be by the air’s moving in every part as fast as the earth or sea it covers.
He that sails or rides has insensibly the same degree of motion as the ship or coach with which he is connected. If the ship strikes the shore, or the coach stops suddenly, the motion continuing in the man, he is thrown forward. If a man were to jump from the land into a swift-sailing ship, he would be thrown backward (or towards the stern), not having at first the motion of the ship.
He that travels by sea or land towards the equinoctial, gradually acquires motion; from it, loses.
But if a man were taken up from latitude 40 (where suppose the earth’s surface to move twelve miles per minute) and immediately set down at the equinoctial, without changing the motion he had, his heels would be struck up, he would fall westward. If taken up from the equinoctial and set down in latitude 40, he would fall eastward.
The air under the equator, and between the tropics, being constantly heated and rarefied by the sun, rises. Its place is supplied by air from northern and southern latitudes, which, coming from parts where the earth and air had less motion, and not suddenly acquiring the quicker motion of the equatorial earth,1 appears an east wind blowing westward, the earth moving from west to east, and slipping under the air.
Thus when we ride in a calm it seems a wind against us; if we ride with the wind, and faster, even that will seem a small wind against us.
The air rarefied between the tropics, and rising, must flow in the higher region north and south. Before it rose, it had acquired the greatest motion the earth’s rotation could give it. It retains some degree of this motion, and descending in higher latitudes, where the earth’s motion is less, will appear a westerly wind, yet tending towards the equatorial parts, to supply the vacancy occasioned by the air of the lower regions flowing thitherwards.
Hence our general cold winds are about northwest; our summer cold gusts the same.
The air in sultry weather, though not cloudy, has a kind of haziness in it, which makes objects at a distance appear dull and indistinct. This haziness is occasioned by the great quantity of moisture equally diffused in that air. When, by the cold wind blowing down among it, it is condensed into clouds, and falls in rain, the air becomes purer and clearer. Hence, after gusts, distant objects appear distinct, their figures sharply terminated.
Extreme cold winds congeal the surface of the earth, by carrying off its fire. Warm winds, afterwards blowing over that frozen surface, will be chilled by it. Could that frozen surface be turned under, and a warmer turned up from beneath it, those warm winds would not be chilled so much.
The surface of the earth is also sometimes much heated by the sun; and such heated surface, not being changed, heats the air that moves over it.
Seas, lakes, and great bodies of water, agitated by the winds, continually change surfaces; the cold surface in winter is turned under by the rolling of the waves, and a warmer turned up; in summer, the warm is turned under, and colder turned up. Hence the more equal temper of sea water, and the air over it. Hence, in winter, winds from the sea seem warm, winds from the land cold. In summer, the contrary.
Therefore the lakes northwest of us,1 as they are not so much frozen nor so apt to freeze as the earth, rather moderate than increase the coldness of our winter winds.
The air over the sea being warmer, and therefore lighter in winter than the air over the frozen land, may be another cause of our general northwest winds, which blow off to sea at right angles from our North American coast; the warm, light sea air rising, the heavy, cold land air pressing into its place.
Heavy fluids descending frequently form eddies or whirlpools, as is seen in a funnel where the water acquires a circular motion, receding every way from a centre, and leaving a vacancy in the middle, greatest above, and lessening downwards, like a speaking-trumpet, its big end upwards.
Air descending or ascending may form the same kind of eddies or whirlings, the parts of air acquiring a circular motion, and receding from the middle of the circle by a centrifugal force, and leaving there a vacancy, if descending, greatest above, and lessening downwards; if ascending, greatest below, and lessening upwards, like a speaking-trumpet, standing its big end on the ground.
When the air descends with violence in some places, it may rise with equal violence in others, and form both kinds of whirlwinds.
The air, in its whirling motion receding every way from the centre or axis of the trumpet, leaves there a vacuum, which cannot be filled through the sides, the whirling air, as an arch, preventing; it must then press in at the open ends.
The greatest pressure inwards must be at the lower end, the greatest weight of the surrounding atmosphere being there. The air entering rises within, and carries up dust, leaves, and even heavier bodies that happen in its way as the eddy or whirl passes over land.
If it passes over water, the weight of the surrounding atmosphere forces up the water into the vacuity, part of which, by degrees, joins with the whirling air, and adding weight, and receiving accelerated motion, recedes still farther from the centre or axis of the trump as the pressure lessens, and at last, as the trump widens, is broken into small particles, and so united with air as to be supported by it, and become black clouds at the top of the trump.
Thus these eddies may be whirlwinds at land, water-spouts at sea. A body of water so raised may be suddenly let fall when the motion, &c., has not strength to support it, or the whirling arch is broken so as to admit the air; falling in the sea it is harmless, unless ships happen under it; but if in the progressive motion of the whirl it has moved from the sea over the land, and then breaks, sudden, violent, and mischievous torrents are the consequences.
end of vol. ii
[1 ]From the Pennsylvania Gazette, October 30, 1735.
[1 ]From the Pennsylvania Gazette, November 20, 1735.
[1 ]From the Pennsylvania Gazette, April 1, 1736.
[1 ]Qu’est ce que votre roi? Parlez-moi de notre grand monarque, morbleu! qui peut faire tout ce qu’il veut.
[2 ]Si antiquus animus plebi Romanæ esset (says one of the tribunes), audaciter se laturum fuisse de abrogando Q Fabii [dictatoris] imperio.—T. Liv., lib. xxii. cap. 25.
[1 ]Tribunos plebis appello (says an illustrious senator to the dictator), et provoco ad populum, eumque tibi, fugienti senatûs judicium, judicem fero.—T. Liv., lib. viii. cap. 33.
[1 ]From the Pennsylvania Gazette, April 8, 1736.
[2 ]Bracton: De Legibus et Consuetudinibus Angliæ; an author of great weight, contemporary with Henry the Third.
[3 ]Rex non facit injuriam, quia, si facit injuriam, non est rex.
[1 ]Dum facit justitiam, vicarius est Regis æterni, minister autem Diaboli, dum declinet ad injuriam.
[1 ]From the Pennsylvania Gazette, October 14, 1736.
[1 ]Scandinavian literature was less known when this was written than at present. The learned suppose that the Icelandic Sagas have thrown new light upon the history of early discoveries, and that there is good evidence for believing that the American continent was known to the Norwegians more than four hundred years before the birth of Columbus.—See Wheaton’s History of the Northmen, chap. ii. The best opportunity was afforded to Mr. Wheaton, during his residence in a public capacity at Copenhagen, of ascertaining the genuineness and authenticity of these ancient records, and he appears to place full confidence in them. His opinion is, however, that “the illustrious Genoese” could not have had the slightest knowledge of the discoveries of those Northern adventurers, and that the colony begun by them was probably cut off at an early period in the same manner as the first establishments in Greenland.—Ed.
[1 ]From the Pennsylvania Gazette, November 18, 1736.
[1 ]In December of the year 1732 Franklin commenced the publication of what he styled Poor Richard’s Almanac, price 5 pence. It attained an astonishing popularity at once. Three editions were sold within the month of its appearance. The average sale for twenty-five years was ten thousand a year. He was sometimes obliged to put it to press in October to get a supply of copies to the remote colonies by the beginning of the year. It has been translated into nearly if not quite every written language, and several different translations of it have been made into the French and German. It contains some of the best fun as well as the wisest counsel that ever emanated from his pen.
[1 ]Parton’s Life of Franklin, vol. i., 228.
[1 ]Some parts of this humorous Piece will be explained by the following address, contained in Poor Richard’s Almanac for the year 1736 “Loving Readers:
“Your kind acceptance of my former labors has encouraged me to continue writing, though the general approbation you have been so good as to favor me with has excited the envy of some, and drawn upon me the malice of others. These ill-willers of mine, despited at the great reputation I gained by exactly predicting another man’s death, have endeavoured to deprive me of it all at once in the most effectual manner, by reporting that I myself was never alive. They say in short, That there is no such man as I am; and have spread this notion so thoroughly in the country that I have been frequently told it to my face by those that don’t know me. This is not civil treatment, to endeavour to deprive me of my very being, and reduce me to a nonentity in the opinion of the public. But so long as I know myself to walk about, eat, drink, and sleep, I am satisfied that there is really such a man as I am, whatever they may say to the contrary. And the world may be satisfied likewise; for if there were no such man as I am, how is it possible I should appear publicly to hundreds of people, as I have done for several years past, in print? I need not, indeed, have taken any notice of so idle a report, if it had not been for the sake of my printer, to whom my enemies are pleased to ascribe my productions; and who, it seems, is as unwilling to father my offspring as I am to lose the credit of it. Therefore to clear him entirely, as well as to vindicate my own honor, I make this public and serious declaration, which I desire may be believed, to wit, that what I have written heretofore, and do now write, neither was nor is written by any other man or men, person or persons, whatsoever. Those who are not satisfied with this, must needs be very unreasonable.
My performance for this year follows. It submits itself, kind reader, to thy censure, but hopes for thy candor to forgive its faults. It devotes itself entirely to thy service, and will serve thee faithfully. And if it has the good fortune to please its master, ’t is gratification enough for the labor of Poor.
[1 ]This paper is contained in Duane’s edition of the author’s writings, but in no previous collection. It is taken from the newspaper published by Franklin (Pennsylvania Gazette, Dec. 15, 1737), but it is dated several years earlier than any of his other pieces on philosophical subjects, and appears to be rather a compilation from various authors than an original composition. It is not without interest, however, as presenting a curious account of earthquakes, and of the theories respecting their causes.—Sparks.
[1 ]This paper appears to contain the first suggestion, in any public form, for an American Philosophical Society.
[1 ]This was in reply to an ingenious suggestion which partially anticipated the more modern systems of stereotyping. The author of it, Mr. Colden, was born in Scotland on the 17th of February, 1688, was educated at the University of Edinburgh, came to Philadelphia in 1708, where he practised medicine until 1715, then travelled in Europe, returned in 1718, and settled in New York. He died at his country home on Long Island on the 27th of September, 1776, in the eighty-ninth year of his age. Soon after taking up his residence in New York he abandoned his profession and entered public life, maintaining, however, meanwhile, an extensive correspondence, especially with the eminent men of science both at home and abroad. He held the offices of surveyor-general of the province, master in chancery, member of the council, and lieutenant-governor, which latter dignity he filled for some fifteen years. He wrote several treatises on medical, mathematical, and philosophical subjects, and a history of the Five Indian Nations, which is still read.
In his letter he solicits a correspondence with Franklin. In his reply Franklin promises to consider his proposal for a new method of printing, very particularly and attentively, and in a post or two to “send some observations on every article,” but no such observations have been found, nor is it likely that any were written.—Editor.
[1 ]Benjamin Mecom, a nephew of Dr. Franklin, whom he seems to have taken particularly under his charge.
[1 ]For an exposition of Franklin’s motives in writing this pamphlet, see supra, Vol. I., p. 237.
[1 ]Body or matter of any sort is said to be specifically heavier or lighter than other matter when it has more or less substance or weight in the same dimensions.
[1 ]As the writer is neither physician nor philosopher, the reader may expect he should justify these opinions by the authority of some that are so. M. Clare, F.R.S., in his treatise of The Motion of Fluids, says (p. 246, &c.): “And here it may be remarked, that it is more prejudicial to health to sit near a window or door, in a room where there are many candles and a fire, than in a room without; for the consumption of air thereby occasioned, will always be very considerable, and this must necessarily be replaced by cold air from without. Down the chimney can enter none, the stream of warm air always arising therein absolutely forbids it; the supply must therefore come in wherever other openings shall be found. If these happen to be small, let those who sit near them beware; the smaller the floodgate, the smarter will be the stream. Was a man, even in a sweat, to leap into a cold bath, or jump from his warm bed, in the intensest cold, even in a frost, provided he do not continue over-long therein, and be in health when he does this, we see by experience that he gets no harm. If he sits a little while against a window, into which a successive current of cold air comes, his pores are closed, and he gets a fever. In the first case, the shock the body endures is general, uniform, and therefore less fierce; in the other, a single part, a neck, or ear perchance, is attacked, and that with the greater violence probably, as it is done by a successive stream of cold air. And the cannon of a battery, pointed against a single part of a bastion, will easier make a breach than were they directed to play singly upon the whole face, and will admit the enemy much sooner into the town.”
That warm rooms, and keeping the body warm in winter, are means of preventing such diseases, take the opinion of that learned Italian physician, Antonino Parcio, in the preface to his tract, De Militis Sanitate Tuendâ, where, speaking of a particular wet and cold winter, remarkable at Venice for its sickliness, he says: “Popularis autem pleuritis, quæ Venetiis sæviit mensibus Dec., Jan., Feb., ex cœli aërisque inclementiâ facta est, quod non habeant hypocausta [stove-rooms], et quod non soliciti sunt Itali omnes de auribus, temporibus, collo, totoque corpore defendendis ab injuriis aëris; et tegmina domorum Veneti disponant parum inclinata, ut nives diutius permaneant super tegmina. E contra, Germani, qui experiuntur cœli inclementiam, perdidicere sese defendere ab aeris injuriâ. Tecta construunt multum inclinata, ut decidant nives. Germani abundant lignis, domusque hypocaustis; foris autem incedunt pannis, pellibus, gossipio, bene mehercule loricati atque muniti. In Bavariâ interrogabam (curiositate motus videndi Germaniam) quot nam elapsis mensibus pleuritide vel peripneumoniâ fuissent absumti; dicebant vix unus aut alter illis temporibus pleuritide fuit correptus.”
The great Dr. Boerhaave, whose authority alone might be sufficient in his Aphorisms, mentions, as one antecedent cause of pleurisies, “a cold air, driven violently through some narrow passage upon the body, overheated by labor or fire.”
The eastern physicians agree with the Europeans in this point; witness the Chinese treatise, Tschang Seng—that is, The Art of procuring Health and long Life, as translated in Père Du Halde’s account of China, which has this passage: “As, of all the passions which ruffle us, anger doth the most mischief, so of all the malignant affections of the air, a wind that comes through any narrow passage, which is cold and piercing, is most dangerous; and, coming upon us unawares, insinuates itself into the body, often causing grievous diseases. It should therefore be avoided, according to the advice of the ancient proverb, as carefully as the point of an arrow.” These mischiefs are avoided by the use of the new-invented fire-places, as will be shown hereafter.
[1 ]The shutter is slid up and down in this manner, only in those fire-places which are so made, as that the distance between the top of the arched opening and the bottom plate is the same as the distance between it and the top plate. Where the arch is higher, as it is in the draft annexed (which is agreeable to the last improvements), the shutter is set by and applied occasionally; because if it were made deep enough to close the whole opening when slid down, it would hide part of it when up.
[1 ]My Lord Molesworth, in his account of Denmark, says: “That few or none of the people there are troubled, with coughs, catarrhs, consumptions, or such like diseases of the lungs, so that in the midst of winter in the churches, which are very much frequented, there is no noise to interrupt the attention due to the preacher. I am persuaded,” says he, “their warm stoves contribute to their freedom from these kinds of maladies.”
[1 ]People who have used these fire-places differ much in their accounts of the wood saved by them. Some say five sixths, others three fourths, and others much less. This is owing to the great difference there was in their former fires, some (according to the different circumstances of their rooms and chimneys) having been used to make very large, others middling, and others, of a more sparing temper, very small ones, while in these fire-places (their size and draft being nearly the same) the consumption is more equal. I suppose, taking a number of families together, that two thirds or half the wood at least is saved. My common room, I know, is made twice as warm as it used to be, with a quarter of the wood I formerly consumed there.
[1 ]Mr. Boyle, in his experiments and observations upon cold, Shaw’s Abridgment, vol. i., p. 684, says: “It is remarkable that while the cold has strange and tragical effects at Moscow and elsewhere, the Russians and Livonians should be exempt from them, who accustom themselves to pass immediately from a great degree of heat to as great a one of cold without receiving any visible prejudice thereby. I remember being told by a person of unquestionable credit that it was a common practice among them to go from a hot stove into cold water; the same was also affirmed to me by another who resided at Moscow. This tradition is likewise abundantly confirmed by Olearius. ‘It is a surprising thing,’ says he, ‘to see how far the Russians can endure heat; and how, when it makes them ready to faint, they can go out of their stoves stark naked, both men and women, and throw themselves into cold water, and even in winter wallow in the snow.’ ”
[1 ]See page 94, where the trap-door is described, that ought to be in this closing.
[1 ]When this pamphlet was first printed, a copy of it was sent by Mr. Cadwallader Colden to the celebrated Gronovius, with a letter from which the following is an extract:
“I send with this a curious and new invention for warming a room with a small fire, and more effectually than can be done by a large fire, in the common method, and is free of the inconveniences which attend the Dutch and German stoves, because by this contrivance there is a continual supply of fresh warm air. It may be particularly useful to you and Dr. Linnæus, by preserving your health while it keeps you warm at your studies. It is the invention of Mr. Benjamin Franklin, of Philadelphia, the printer of it, a very ingenious man.”
To this passage, Gronovius replied as follows, in a letter dated at Leyden, July 9, 1745:
“I am very much obliged to you for Mr. Franklin’s book, which I don’t doubt the next letter shall bring to you translated into Dutch.”—Sparks.
[1 ]The American Philosophical Society, as afterwards instituted, was formed out of two societies, of which this was one. The other was the Society for Promoting and Propagating Useful Knowledge. The two societies were incorporated into one, called the American Philosophical Society, in December, 1768, and in January, 1769, Franklin was elected the first president, although he was at that time in England.
[1 ]It does not appear that this scheme was ever carried into execution.
[2 ]Dr. John Mitchell was a learned physician and botanist, and Fellow of the Royal Society. He was a native of England, but came over and established himself in Virginia. Dr. Miller says that “he wrote ably on the yellow fever, as it appeared in Virginia in 1742; and that his instructive manuscripts on this subject fell into the hands of Dr. Franklin, by whom they were communicated to Dr. Rush.”—Miller’s Retrospect, vol. i., p. 318.
[1 ]The father of Dr. Samuel Bard, of whom an interesting memoir has been published by Professor McVickar.
[1 ]A printer in New York.
[1 ]The expedition against Cape Breton proved successful, by the surrender of Louisburg, on the 17th of June. The news arrived in Boston on the 3d of July.
[1 ]Two of the more elaborate of Franklin’s jokes in the Pennsylvania Gazette says Mr. Parton in his charming biography of Franklin, have escaped the vigilance of editors hitherto. The speech of Polly Baker is one of these; which is not only humorous, but well rebukes the cruel immorality which sent a poor miserable drab to the whipping-post, and invited her seducer to dinner. This speech was a current joke in the colonial press for thirty years, and continued to be occasionally reprinted after the Revolution. It was inserted in the Gazette, Franklin tells us, to amuse the town at a time when there was little news stirring.
[1 ]The first edition of this pamphlet seems to be out of print. The second, at the close of which first appeared the foregoing translation, was printed in 1747. The publication was provoked by the defenceless condition of the colony at that time, exposed as it was to Spain on the south and to France on the west, with both of which nations Great Britain was then at war; to say nothing of the Indians, who, like the poor, they had always with them. The efforts to induce the Quaker Assembly of Pennsylvania to pass a militia law, and make other provisions for the security of the province, having proved abortive, Franklin proposed to try what might be done by voluntary subscription of the people. “To promote this,” he says in his Autobiography, “I first wrote and published a pamphlet entitled Plain Truth.” Its success was extraordinary (see Autobiography, vol. i., p. 213). An answer to it, entitled Necessary Truth, and enforcing the Quaker doctrine of non-resistance, was published in 1748. It came too late to impair, if it ever could have impaired, the impression left upon the colony by Plain Truth.
Substituting the words “United States” for “Pennsylvania,” this pamphlet is as timely to-day  as when it was written. Though we are at peace with all nations, we have many times as many lives, and many times as much property exposed, while our defences are relatively inferior to those which Franklin denounced nearly a century and a half ago as inexcusably deficient.
[1 ]The Praying Indians.
[1 ]By accounts, the ragged crew of the Spanish privateer that plundered Mr. Liston’s and another plantation, a little below Newcastle, was composed of such as these. The honor and humanity of their officers may be judged of by the treatment they gave poor Captain Brown, whom they took with Martin’s ship in returning from their cruise. Because he bravely defended himself and vessel longer than they expected, for which every generous enemy would have esteemed him, did they, after he had struck and submitted, barbarously stab and murder him, though on his knees, begging quarter!
[1 ]When God determined to punish his chosen people, the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who, though breakers of his other laws, were scrupulous observers of that one, which required keeping holy the Sabbath-day, he suffered even the strict observation of that command to be their ruin, for Pompey, observing that they then obstinately refused to fight, made a general assault on that day, took the town, and butchered them with as little mercy as he found resistance.—Josephus.
[2 ]Conjuravere cives nobilissimi patriam incendere, gallorum gentem, infestissimam nomini Romano, ad bellum arcessunt.—Cato, in Sallust.
[1 ]This power of points to throw off the electrical fire was first communicated to me by my ingenious friend, Mr. Thomas Hopkinson, since deceased, whose virtue and integrity, in every station of life, public and private, will ever make his memory dear to those who knew him, and knew how to value him.—F.
[2 ]This was Mr. Hopkinson’s experiment, made with an expectation of drawing a more sharp and powerful spark from the point, as from a kind of focus, and he was surprised to find little or none.—F.
[1 ]We suppose every particle of sand, moisture, or smoke, being first attracted and then repelled, carries off with it a portion of the electrical fire; but that the same still subsists in those particles till they communicate it to something else, and that it is never really destroyed. So, when water is thrown on common fire, we do not imagine the element is thereby destroyed or annihilated, but only dispersed, each particle of water carrying off in vapor its portion of the fire which it had attracted and attached to itself.—F.
[1 ]This different effect probably did not arise from any difference in the light, but rather from the particles separated from the candle, being first attracted and then repelled, carrying off the electric matter with them; and from the rarefying the air, between the glowing coal or red-hot iron and the electrized shot, through which rarefied air, the electric fluid could more readily pass.—F.
[2 ]These experiments with the wheels were made and communicated to me by my worthy and ingenious friend, Mr. Philip Syng; but we afterwards discovered that the motion of those wheels was not owing to any afflux or efflux of the electric fluid, but to various circumstances of attraction and repulsion. 1750.—F.
[1 ]By taking a spark from the wire, the electricity within the bottle is diminished, the outside of the bottle then draws some from the person holding it, and leaves him in a negative state. Then when his hand or face is touched, an equal quantity is restored to him from the person touching.—F.
[1 ]Our tubes are made here of green glass, twenty-seven or thirty inches long, as big as can be grasped.—F.
[1 ]This simple, easily-made machine was a contrivance of Mr. Syng’s.—F.
[2 ]The Reverend Jared Eliot was a graduate of Yale College, and for many years was settled as a clergyman at Killingworth in Connecticut. He had a taste for philosophical studies, and published essays on agriculture, some of which passed through several editions.
[1 ]See this opinion rectified in § 16 and 17, p. 242. The fire in the bottle was found by subsequent experiments not to be contained in the non-electric, but in the glass. 1748.
[2 ]What is said here, and after, of the top and bottom of the bottle, is true of the inside and outside surfaces, and should have been so expressed.
[1 ]See the preceding note, relating to top and bottom.
[2 ]Other circumstances being equal.
[1 ]That is, from the inside to the outside.
[2 ]Placing the book on glass or wax is not necessary to produce the appearance; it is only to show that the visible electricity is not brought up from the common stock in the earth.
[1 ]See this tract, supra.
[1 ]James Logan, descended from an ancient family of Restalrig in Scotland, was born at Lurgan, in Ireland, 1674. His father was a man of great learning, and educated for the Scottish church; but, having been converted to the principles of the Quakers, he was, at the time of his son’s birth, a teacher in a public school in that Society. At an early age James Logan became imbued with a love of letters and science. Before he was thirteen years old, he had made uncommon proficiency in the Latin, Greek, and Hebrew languages. He soon afterwards acquired a taste for the mathematics, in which he became profoundly skilled, and which science seems to have been his favorite study through life. For a few years he had charge of a large Grammar School at Bristol, in England; but he afterwards engaged in commerce. Becoming acquainted with William Penn, he was induced by him to give up his plans of life, and accompany him as secretary on his second visit to Pennsylvania, in 1699.
Having acquired the entire confidence of the Proprietor, he was left by him in charge of his private estate, and in the important offices of Provincial Secretary, Commissioner of Property, and Receiver-General. In the course of his life he filled the places of Recorder of the City of Philadelphia, Presiding Judge of Common Pleas, Chief Justice of the Province, and President of the Council, in which last office he governed the Province for two years, from 1736 to 1738. He also had the entire management of the intercourse with the Indians. When William Penn left the Province, in 1701, he presented Mr. Logan to the assembled Chiefs as his representative; and this choice of an agent was justified by his conduct. During the whole of his public life the affectionate intercourse commenced by William Penn, and the confidential reliance inspired by his justice and benevolence, were preserved by James Logan. It is perhaps worthy of being mentioned that the celebrated Mingo Chief, whose eloquent speech is contained in Mr. Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia, was named Logan by his father Shickellemy, as a mark of respect and gratitude for the friend and protector of himself and his race.
A history of James Logan’s public life would be that of Pennsylvania during the first forty years of the last century. Venerating William Penn, with whose noble and generous nature he was well acquainted, he stood up at all times in his defence against the encroachments of the Assembly; and if he forfeited his popularity, and endured calumny and persecution, he preserved his fidelity, the confidence of his employers, and the respect of all good men. Weary of the burden of public office he retired in 1738 from all his salaried employments, remaining only a short time longer a member of the Provincial Council. At his estate, called Stenton, near Germantown, he passed in retirement the remainder of his days devoted to agriculture and his favorite studies. A large collection of mathematical papers in manuscript, exhibiting extensive and varied researches in that science, are marked on the envelope, Horœ ante Nonam, and are doubtless the results of his morning recreations before office hours. His correspondence with the literary men of America and Europe, from the year 1713, proves that there was scarcely a department of learning in which he was not interested. History, archæology, criticism, theology, ethics, natural philosophy, anatomy, and law, are treated of. Sometimes Hebrew or Arabic characters and algebraic formulas roughen the pages of his letter books. Sometimes his letters convey a lively Greek ode to a learned friend, and often they are written in the Latin language. Among his correspondents in this country were Cadwallader Colden, Governor Burnet, and Colonel Hunter, the accomplished friend of Swift; and in Europe, Collinson, Fothergill, Mead, Sir Hans Sloane, Flamsteed, Jones the mathematician, father of the celebrated Sir William Jones, Fabricius, Gronovius, and Linnæus; the last of whom gave the name of Logan to a Class in botany.
Of his printed writings perhaps the best known is his translation of Cicero’s Cato Major, or a Discourse on Old Age, with explanatory notes, which was printed by Franklin in 1744, and several times reprinted in England. He also wrote Experimenta et Meletemata de Plantarum Generatione, printed at Leyden in 1739, and afterwards translated by Dr. Fothergill and printed in London; Demonstrationes de Radiorum in Superficies sphericas ab Axe incidentium a primario Foco Aberrationibus, printed at Leyden, 1741; Epistola ad Virum ClarissimumJoannem Albertum Fabricium, printed at Amsterdam, 1740; A Translation of Cato’s Distichs into English Verse, printed at Philadelphia. He furnished contributions to the Philosophical Transactions, and wrote other pieces on various subjects in Latin and English, some of which were published. He also left some curious papers in manuscript, particularly part of an ethical treatise, entitled The Duties of Man, as they may be deduced from Nature. This was prepared with great care. Parts of it were sent to his friends in England and received their high commendation; but it seems never to have been completed. Also fragments of a Dissertation on the Writings of Moses; A Defence of Aristotle and the Ancient Philosophers; Essays on Languages and on the Antiquities of the British Isles; a Translation of Maurocordatus περὶ ϰαθηϰόντων, and of Philo Judæus’ Allegory of the Essæans.
His acquaintance with Franklin began at an early date, and he had the highest opinion of him from the first, as an industrious, useful, and ingenious man; giving him every encouragement as a printer, and much assistance in his scientific pursuits and public enterprises. In the military defence of the city he was prominently active, notwithstanding his connection with the Friends’ Meeting. Indeed he at all times vindicated the principle of self-defence, as not only consistent with the Christian doctrines, but absolutely essential to the existence of society. In every other respect, though neither austere nor bigoted, he was a strict Friend. His virtues, his benevolence, his public integrity and services, his intimate connection with William Penn, and the honor which his talents and learning conferred on the Society of Friends, perhaps saved him from the censure which a less eminent man might have incurred.
In addition to his services as a public man, and his high reputation among his contemporaries, the valuable library left by him to the City of Philadelphia should preserve his name in grateful and honorable remembrance. . . .
James Logan died on the 31st of October, 1751, aged seventy-seven years, and was buried in the Friends’ graveyard at the corner of Arch Street and Fourth Street in Philadelphia.—J. Francis Fisher.
This letter to Logan is in reply to one received from him, dated Dec. 3d, in which he had said:
“Our friends spared no pains to get and accumulate estates, and are yet against defending them, though these very estates are in a great measure the sole cause of their being invaded, as I showed to our Yearly Meeting, last September was six years, in a paper thou then printed. But I request to be informed, as soon as thou hast any leisure, what measures are proposed to furnish small arms, powder, and ball to those in the country; and particularly what measures are taken to defend our river, especially at the Red Bank, on the Jersey side, and on our own, where there ought not to be less than 40 guns, from six- to twelve-pounders. What gunners are to be depended on?
The project of a lottery to clear £3,000 is excellent, and I hope it will be speedily filled, nor shall I be wanting. But thou wilt answer all these questions and much more, if thou wilt visit me here, as on First day to dine with me, and thou wilt exceedingly oblige thy very loving friend.”—Editor.
[1 ]Castle William in Boston Harbor.
[2 ]Thomas Hopkinson was born in London, in April, 1709, had been a student at Oxford, came to America while young, married and settled in Philadelphia, where he died in 1751. He was an intimate friend of Franklin, and associated with him in his electrical and philosophical experiments. Mr. Hopkinson was chosen the first president of the American Philosophical Society, instituted in the year 1744, and also took an active part in founding the City Library and the College of Philadelphia. He left several children, among whom was Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, well known as a writer, and for his valuable public services during and after the revolution.—Editor.
[1 ]It was a book by Andrew Baxter, entitled An Inquiry into the Nature of the Human Soul, wherein its Immateriality is evinced, &c. One of the chief objects of this book was to prove, that a resistance to any change is essential to matter, consequently inconsistent with active powers in it; and that, if matter wants active powers, an immaterial being is necessary for all those effects, &c., ascribed to its own natural powers. After stating the several proofs, questioned by Dr. Franklin, of a Vis inertiæ, or force of inertness, in matter, the author adds. “If the immateriality of the soul, the existence of God, and the necessity of a most particular, incessant providence in the world, are demonstrable from such plain and easy principles, the atheist has a desperate cause in hand.” (See the third edition, pp. 1-8.) In fact, Mr. Baxter’s doctrine seems to establish, rather than disprove, an activity in matter, and consequently to defeat his own conclusion, were not that conclusion to be found from other premises Primâ facie, it seems better for Mr. Baxter’s system to suppose matter incapable of force or effort, even in the case, as he calls it, of resisting change, which case appears to me no other than the simple one of matter not altering its state without a cause, and a cause exactly proportioned to the effect.—B. V.
[1 ]Dr. Franklin’s reasoning seems only to prove that where bodies of different masses have equal force, they “measure equal space in equal times.” For, allowing that 2a moves one hundred yards in a minute (because it moves two separate fifty yards in that time), yet surely that space is not the same with that of the one hundred yards moved by 1a, in the same time, though it may be equal to it; for the body 2a (that is, a and a), in the first case, describes a broad double space; and the body 1a, in the second case, describes a long and single space. There is a farther consideration which may show the difference of celerity and force. For when Dr. Franklin says, in his second paragraph, “there is no mass of matter, how great soever, but may be moved, with any velocity, by any continued force, how small soever,” I ask whether the moving body must not have its force rather in the shape of much celerity than of much matter for this purpose; since without much celerity it would not move fast enough to apply its force to give the required velocity, even though its quantity of matter, and consequently of force, were infinite. “Equal celerity, therefore, in moving bodies is their measuring equal space, along a continued line, in equal time.” Equal space measured along a number of smaller parallel lines, suits cases of equal motion indeed, but, according to this corrected definition, not of equal celerity.—B. V.
[1 ]Philadelphia Market, near which Dr. Franklin lived.
[1 ]The title of this treatise, as originally printed, was as follows: Explication of the first Causes of Action in Matter; and of the Cause of Gravitation. London, 1746. A second edition enlarged was published five years afterwards with a different title, namely: The Principles of Action in Matter, the Gravitation of Bodies and the Motion of the Planets explained from those Principles. By Cadwallader Colden, Esquire. London. Printed for Dodsley, 1751. Appended is a chapter entitled: “An Introduction to the Doctrine of Fluxions, or the Arithmetic of Infinities; in order to assist the Imagination in forming Conceptions of the Principles on which that Doctrine is founded.”—Ed.
[1 ]This piece I have found in Franklin’s handwriting among the papers of Cadwallader Colden. Its date is uncertain, but it was probably written before the year 1750.—Sparks.
[1 ]Mr. Colden’s History of the Five Indian Nations, which was published in London, and copies of which were sent over to be sold in Philadelphia.
[1 ]David Hall, a Scotchman by birth, and a friend of Mr. Strahan, who had worked in the same office with Franklin as a journeyman printer in London. His partnership with Franklin continued eighteen years, during which time he had the principal charge of the business. He conducted the Pennsylvania Gazette, and was likewise a bookseller and stationer. He died on the 17th of December, 1772, at the age of fifty-eight years. See Thomas’s History of Printing, vol. ii, p. 54.
[2 ]In his Autobiography Franklin says: “I proposed a Lottery to defray the expense of building a battery below the town, and furnishing it with cannon. It filled expeditiously, and the battery was soon erected.” “Mr. Logan put into my hands sixty pounds, to be laid out in lottery tickets for the battery, with directions to apply what prizes might be drawn wholly to that service.” The following memoranda, found in Franklin’s handwriting, show his manner of proceeding on this occasion:
“Proposed, That the Managers of the Lottery be applied to, to appoint suitable persons to go down the river to the Capes, and there consult with the persons in authority, and concert with them the modes of conveying intelligence to Philadelphia, whether by express or otherwise, when any enemies appear of such force as to make an alarm necessary, or even such as may endanger our trade; who may likewise, in returning, land at such places as they judge suitable to give signals from, and endeavour to agree with the neighbouring inhabitants to keep watch and give the signals that may be agreed on, and engage to furnish them with guns, tar-barrels, or whatever else may be necessary for that purpose.
That, for the more certain alarming the country on any occasion, as soon as the commander-in-chief at Philadelphia is well-informed of the approach, on our coasts, of any considerable force of the enemy, letters and orders may be despatched by expresses to the colonels of some or all of the regiments, as the occasion may require, who may immediately communicate the same to the other officers of the regiments, and they to the men of the respective companies, who are immediately to meet at their usual place of rendezvous, and from thence march to such place as the colonel shall appoint for assembling his regiment; and when all the companies are assembled, the regiment to march to such place as the commander-in-chief shall have directed.
That, in case of any attempt on the inhabitants of the frontiers by small parties, as the Indian custom is, the superior officers of the regiment, being well-informed of the facts, may despatch away on horseback suitable bodies of active men, well acquainted with the woods, to such places or passes among the mountains, or near the conflux of rivers, by which it is probable the enemy must endeavour to make their retreat, and there to take post and lie in wait till their return, keeping proper scouts or sentinels at a distance of the body to give notice of their approach; by which means they may be cut off, and the prisoners they take may be recovered; a few instances of which would probably much intimidate those cowardly people, and make them afraid of attempting to attack us hereafter. And that such places may be known to more people, it might be proper for the officers beforehand to make a few journeys to them, guided by Indian traders or hunters, accompanied by such of their men as would be suitable to act on occasion and are disposed that way, observing and pointing out all the proper places for ambushes, &c. The expense of which journeys might be defrayed by the managers of the lottery.
That, if there be certain accounts of any large body of the enemy marching towards any part of the frontiers, the colonels of the nearest frontier regiments may despatch expresses to the commander-in-chief at Philadelphia, with the vouchers of the intelligence, from whom orders may issue to raise such force as may be necessary to march to the assistance of such threatened frontier.
That the people on the frontiers be advised to pitch on some suitable places at proper distances, and there enclose pieces of ground with palisades or stockades, so as to make them defensible against Indians, whereto, on occasion, their wives, children, and ancient persons may retire in time of danger. In parts where there may not be had sufficient voluntary labor to erect such defences, and the neighbours, being poor, cannot bear the expense, some assistance might be obtained from the lottery managers, if another lottery should go on.
That those managers be applied to, to offer rewards by public declaration to such as should be maimed in action, and pensions to poor widows, whose husbands should happen to fall in defence of their country.
That a number of spades, pickaxes, shovels, &c., be provided for the city regiment, to be used by the negroes and others as pioneers for casting up sudden intrenchments on occasion.”—Editor.
[1 ]This was Peter Kalm, the Swedish traveller and naturalist, who spent some time in America, and afterwards published an account of his travels.
[1 ]This was a discovery of the very ingenious Mr. Kinnersley, and by him communicated to me.—F.
[1 ]To charge a bottle commodiously through the coating, place it on a glass stand; form a communication from the prime conductor to the coating, and another from the hook to the wall or floor. When it is charged, remove the latter communication before you take hold of the bottle, otherwise great part of the fire will escape by it.—F.
[1 ]I have since heard that Mr. Smeaton was the first who made use of panes of glass for that purpose.—F.
[2 ]Contrived by Mr. Kinnersley.—F.
[1 ]We have since found it fatal to small animals, though not to large ones. The biggest we have yet killed is a hen. 1750.—F.
[1 ]This was afterwards done with success by Mr. Kinnersley.—F.
[1 ]Probably the ground is never so dry.—F.
[1 ]We afterwards found that it failed after one stroke with a large bottle, and the continuity of the gold appearing broken, and many of its parts dissipated, the electricity could not pass the remaining parts without leaping from part to part through the air, which always resists the motion of this fluid, and was probably the cause of the gold’s not conducting so well as before; the number of interruptions in the line of gold, making, when added together, a space larger, perhaps, than the striking distance.—F.
[1 ]The river that washes one side of Philadelphia, as the Delaware does the other; both are ornamented with the summer habitations of the citizens and the agreeable mansions of the principal people of this colony.—F.
[2 ]As the possibility of this experiment has not been easily conceived, I shall here describe it. Two iron rods, about three feet long, were planted just within the margin of the river, on the opposite sides. A thick piece of wire, with a small round knob at its end, was fixed on the top of one of the rods, bending downwards, so as to deliver commodiously the spark upon the surface of the spirit. A small wire fastened by one end to the handle of the spoon, containing the spirit, was carried across the river and supported in the air by the rope commonly used to hold by in drawing the ferry-boats over. The other end of this wire was tied round the coating of the bottle; which being charged, the spark was delivered from the hook to the top of the rod standing in the water on that side. At the same instant the rod on the other side delivered a spark into the spoon and fired the spirit, the electric fire returning to the coating of the bottle, through the handle of the spoon and the supported wire connected with them.
That the electric fire thus actually passes through the water, has since been satisfactorily demonstrated to many by an experiment of Mr. Kinnersley’s, performed in a trough of water about ten feet long. The hand, being placed under water in the direction of the spark (which always takes the straight or shortest course, if sufficient, and other circumstances are equal), is struck and penetrated by it as it passes.—F.
[1 ]An electrified bumper is a small, thin, glass tumbler, nearly filled with wine, and electrified as the bottle. This when brought to the lips gives a shock, if the party be close shaved, and does not breathe on the liquor.—April 29, 1749.—F.
[1 ]This was tried with a bottle containing about a quart. It is since thought that one of the large glass jars mentioned in these papers might have killed him, though wet.—F.
[1 ]We have since fired spirits without heating them, when the weather is warm. A little, poured into the palm of the hand, will be warmed sufficiently by the hand, if the spirit be well rectified. Ether takes fire most readily.—F.
[1 ]These facts, though related in several accounts, are now doubted: since it has been observed that the parts of a bell-wire which fell on the floor, being broken and partly melted by lightning, did actually burn into the boards. (See Philosophical Transactions, vol. li., Part I.) And Mr. Kinnersley has found that a fine iron wire, melted by electricity, has had the same effect.—F.
[1 ]Franklin’s wife was a Miss Read.
[1 ]His son, William, had been an officer in the Pennsylvania forces raised for an expedition against Canada, in the year 1746.
[1 ]In a letter from James Logan to Mr. Collinson, dated February 14, 1750, he says: “Our Benjamin Franklin is certainly an extraordinary man, one of a singular good judgment, but of equal modesty. He is clerk of our Assembly, and there, for want of other employment, while he sat idle, he took it into his head to think of magical squares, in which he outdid Frenicle himself, who published above eighty pages in folio on that subject alone.”
[1 ]In the plate they are distinguished by dashed or dotted lines, as different as the engraver could well make them.—F.
[1 ]Professor Bache, of the University of Pennsylvania, has shown that the eclipse of the moon here alluded to happened in the evening of the 21st of October, 1743; as may be seen in his tract entitled. “An Attempt to Fix the Date of Observation of Dr. Franklin, in Relation to the Northeast Storms of the Atlantic Coast of the United States,” published in the Journal of the Franklin Institute, in the year 1833. It appears that Dr. Franklin was the first discoverer of the above facts respecting northeast storms.—Sparks.
[1 ]A Swedish botanist, sent by the Swedish government, at the suggestion of Linnæus, to make a botanical tour of North America. He arrived in 1748 and returned in 1751, having travelled and collected specimens in New York, Pennsylvania, and Canada. He published an account of his travels in Swedish in 1753-1761 in three vols. It was translated into English, Dutch, and German.—Editor.
[2 ]Lewis Evans, author of Geographical, Historical, Political, Philosophical, and Mechanical Essays, of some other tracts, and of a map of the Middle Colonies.
[1 ]The cushion being afterwards covered with a long flap of buckskin, which might cling to the globe, and care being taken to keep that flap of a due temperature between too dry and too moist, we found so much more of the electric fluid was obtained as that one hundred and fifty turns were sufficient. 1753.—F.
[1 ]See the ingenious essays on Electricity, in the Transactions, by Mr. Ellicot.—F.
[1 ]See Supra, p. 182.
[1 ]See the first sixteen sections of the former paper, No. LXI.
[1 ]See § 10 of paper No. LXI.
[1 ]In the dark the electric fluid may be seen on the cushion in two semi-circles or half-moons, one on the fore part, the other on the back part of the cushion, just where the globe and cushion separate. In the fore crescent the fire is passing out of the cushion into the glass, in the other it is leaving the glass and returning into the back part of the cushion. When the prime conductor is applied to take it off the glass, the back crescent disappears.—F.
[2 ]Gilt paper, with the gilt face next the glass, does well.
[1 ]See paper No. LXI., § 15.
[1 ]Dr. Samuel Johnson was the first president of King’s (now Columbia) College, New York. This letter appears to have been written at the time of the first establishment of the College of Philadelphia, the presidency of which institution had been offered to him, but was declined.
[1 ]Mr. Bowdoin was at this time twenty-three years old. He became distinguished afterwards as a philosopher and statesman, being one of the principal founders and the first president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He took an active and prominent part in the events of the American Revolution, and was subsequently governor of Massachusetts.—Sparks.
[1 ]A copy of this letter was found among Governor Bowdoin’s papers, without the name of the person to whom it was addressed.—Sparks.
[1 ]This proposition is since found to be too general, Mr. Wilson having discovered that melted wax and rosin will also conduct.
[1 ]The experiment here mentioned was thus made. An empty phial was stopped with a cork. Through the cork passed a thick wire, as usual in the Leyden experiment, which wire almost reached the bottom. Through another part of the cork passed one leg of a small glass siphon; the other leg on the outside came down almost to the bottom of the phial. This phial was held a short time in the hand, which, warming and of course rarefying the air within, drove a small part of it out through the siphon. Then a little red ink in a tea-spoon was applied to the opening of the outer leg of the siphon; so that as the air within cooled, a little of the ink might rise in that leg. When the air within the bottle came to be of the same temperature of that without, the drop of red ink would rest in a certain part of the leg. But the warmth of a finger applied to the phial would cause that drop to descend, as the least outward coolness applied would make it ascend. When it had found its situation, and was at rest, the wire was electrified by a communication from the prime conductor. This was supposed to give an electric atmosphere to the wire within the bottle, which might likewise rarefy the included air, and of course depress the drop of ink in the siphon. But no such effect followed.—F.
[1 ]The prospect of a rupture between the English and French governments in 1750-51 were so threatening that the friendship of the Indian tribes became a matter of supreme importance, and how to secure it occupied the attention of leading men throughout the colonies. In the appendix to the second edition of a pamphlet entitled The Importance of Gaining and Preserving the Friendship of the Indians to British Interests Considered, London, 1782, is a letter which bears so many distinctive traces of Franklin’s authorship that it has seemed to merit a place in this collection.
The editor is happy to acknowledge his obligations to Professor Edward Eggleston for calling his attention to this letter, which that gentleman found in the Harvard College Library. “I think,” says Professor Eggleston, in a note to the editor, “the pamphlet is anonymous, but I have a minute that the author is Archibald Kennedy. The first edition, N. Y., 1751, and the letter I believe to be Franklin’s was dated at Philadelphia and addressed to the printer of the first edition.—Parker.”
[1 ]Nor will tables which are accurately calculated at one period, necessarily continue to be correct in the same country at another period. The chances of life have been ascertained to be greater in Europe during the last half century than they were formerly.—W. Phillips.
[1 ]It is a curious fact that to this tract the world is largely, if not entirely, indebted for a book which, in its day, produced a remarkable sensation, and the theories of which are still occasionally debated. Malthus’ Essay on Population would probably never have been written but for the support of his theory which he was able to extract from the 22d clause of this paper. In that clause Franklin, with his habitual caution, referring to the number of “English souls” then in North America, says: “This million doubling, suppose but once in twenty-five years, will in another century be more than the people of England.” Malthus accepts this rather hypothetical statement as evidence of a demonstrated fact, and proceeds to build upon it his chimerical theory that the population of the earth increases in a geometrical ratio, while the means for its subsistence increases only in an arithmetical ratio William Godwin wrote a reply to Malthus entitled An Enquiry concerning the Power of Increase in the Numbers of Mankind, being an Answer to Mr. Malthus’ Essay on that Subject, which was published in 1820. He did not see any way of demolishing Malthus but by first trying to demolish the statement of Franklin. “Dr. Franklin,” he says, “is in this case particularly the object of our attention, because he was the first man who started the idea of the people of America being multiplied by procreation so as to double every twenty-five years. Dr. Franklin, born in Boston, was eminently an American patriot; and the paper from which these extracts are taken, was expressly written to exalt the importance and glory of his country.” Mr. Godwin, who is open to the suspicion of having taken his knowledge of Franklin’s paper at second-hand, and to have never read more of it than was quoted by Malthus, stumbles into a curious blunder as to its date. He says (p. 119) “it was written in 1731 when the author was twenty-five years of age,” meaning evidently to imply thereby that it was the work of an immature political economist. The fact was that Franklin’s paper was written in 1751, when he was forty-five years of age. Franklin understood what he was writing about much better than Godwin, and time and science have fully justified all the statements which Godwin contested.
[1 ]The explanation here referred to will be found in the following paragraph of a letter written to Franklin by Bowdoin on 21 Dec., 1751. Franklin had in September of the same year given Mr. Kinnersley a letter of introduction to Bowdoin, to pave the way for a course of lectures in Boston on electricity, which Mr. Kinnersley had prepared and delivered in Philadelphia:
“The electrical fire passing through the air has the same crooked direction as lightning. This appearance I endeavour to account for thus. Air is an electric per se; therefore there must be a mutual repulsion between air and the electrical fire. A column or cylinder of air having the diameter of its base equal to the diameter of the electrical spark, intervenes between that part of the body which the spark is drawn from and that of the body it aims at. The spark acts upon this column, and is acted upon by it more strongly than any other neighbouring portion of air. The column being thus acted upon, becomes more dense, and, being more dense, repels the spark more strongly; its repellency being in proportion to its density. Having acquired by being condensed a degree of repellency greater than its natural, it turns the spark out of its straight course, the neighbouring air, which must be less dense, and therefore has a smaller degree of repellency, giving it a more ready passage. The spark having taken a new direction must now act on, or most strongly repel, the column of air which lies in that direction, and consequently must condense that column in the same manner as the former, when the spark must again change its course, which course will be repeatedly changed, till the spark reaches the body that attracted it.”—Ed.
[1 ]The Rev. Ebenezer Kinnersley was a professor in the College of Philadelphia.—Editor.
[2 ]The experiments here referred to were described in the following letter from Mr. Kinnersley to Dr. Franklin:
I have the following experiments to communicate. I held in one hand a wire, which was fastened at the other end to the handle of a pump, in order to try whether the stroke from the prime conductor, through my arms, would be any greater than when conveyed only to the surface of the earth, but could discover no difference.
I placed the needle of a compass on the point of a long pin, and, holding it in the atmosphere of the prime conductor, at the distance of about three inches, found it to whirl round like the flyers of a jack, with great rapidity.
I suspended with silk a cork ball, about the bigness of a pea and presented to it rubbed amber, sealing-wax, and sulphur, by each of which it was strongly repelled; then I tried rubbed glass and China, and found that each of these would attract it, until it became electrified again, and then it would be repelled as at first; and while thus repelled by the rubbed glass or China, either of the others when rubbed would attract it. Then I electrified the ball with the wire of a charged phial, and presented to it rubbed glass (the stopper of a decanter) and a China tea-cup, by which it was as strongly repelled as by the wire but when I presented either of the other rubbed electrics, it would be strongly attracted, and when I electrified it by either of these, till it became repelled, it would be attracted by the wire of the phial, but be repelled by its coating.
These experiments surprised me very much, and have induced me to infer the following paradoxes.
1. If a glass globe be placed at one end of a prime conductor, and a sulphur one at the other end, both being equally in good order, and in equal motion, not a spark of fire can be obtained from the conductor; but one globe will draw out as fast as the other gives in.
2. If a phial be suspended on the conductor, with a chain from its coating to the table, and only one of the globes be made use of at a time, twenty turns of the wheel, for instance, will charge it, after which, so many turns of the other wheel will discharge it, and as many more will charge it again.
3. The globes being both in motion, each having a separate conductor, with a phial suspended on one of them, and the chain of it fastened to the other, the phial will become charged; one globe charging positively, the other negatively.
4. The phial being thus charged, hang it in like manner on the other conductor, set both wheels a going again, and the same number of turns that charged it before will now discharge it, and the same number repeated will charge it again.
5. When each globe communicates with the same prime conductor, having a chain hanging from it to the table, one of them, when in motion (but which I cannot say), will draw fire up through the cushion, and discharge it through the chain; the other will draw it up through the chain, and discharge it through the cushion.
[1 ]The discoveries of the late ingenious Mr. Symmer, on the positive and negative electricity produced by the mutual friction of white and black silk, etc., afford hints for farther improvements to be made with this view.—F.
[1 ]Dr. Perkins, of Boston, had asked Franklin for the number that had died of inoculation in Philadelphia, at the instance of Dr. Douglass, who designed to write something on the small-pox.
[1 ]See this paper Supra, p. 338.
[1 ]This is the only evidence in our literature, so far as I know, that any of this sect, for whose principles Fenelon suffered and Molinos died, ever found a refuge in the United States.—Ed.
[1 ]The bookseller in London, who first published Franklin’s papers on electricity.
[1 ]The paper alluded to, of which fifty copies were struck off for distribution, was entitled, Letters relating to a Transit of Mercury over the Sun, which is to happen May 6, 1753.
[1 ]As early as 1743, Franklin had endeavored to procure the establishment of an Academy in Philadelphia. His efforts were not successful till 1749, when, chiefly through his instrumentality, the Academy was instituted and went into operation. Franklin was chosen the first president of the Board of Trustees. From this institution arose, first the College of Philadelphia, and afterwards the present University of Pennsylvania. The Reverend William Smith was appointed Provost of the Academy in 1754, and he filled that office, at the head of the Academy and College successively, for the period of thirty-seven years, till the University was founded in 1791. A full account of these institutions, in their various stages, may be seen in Wood’s History of the University of Pennsylvania, contained in the third volume of the Memoirs of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
[2 ]A General Idea of the College of Mirania.—Stuber.
[1 ]The Rev. Francis Alison, afterwards Vice-Provost of the College in Philadelphia.—Stuber.
[2 ]Theophilus Grew, afterwards Professor of Mathematics in the College.—Stuber.
[3 ]Those assistants were at that time Charles Thomson, afterwards Secretary of Congress, Paul Jackson, and Jacob Duché.—Stuber.
[1 ]The name given to the principal or head of the ideal college, the system of education in which has nevertheless been nearly realized, or followed as a model, in the College and Academy of Philadelphia and some other American seminaries for many years past.—Stuber.
[1 ]The quotation alluded to (from the London Monthly Review for 1749) was judged to reflect too severely on the discipline and government of the English Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, and was expunged from the following editions of this work.—Stuber.
[1 ]This letter was first printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine for January, 1834, as contained in the Diary of Mr. Thomas Green. The person who communicated it to the Magazine says the original manuscript, from which he transcribed the letter, ends thus abruptly, and that the remainder could not be recovered. He conjectures that the words of Milton, alluded to by the writer are the following:
- “Yet sometimes nations will decline so low
- From virtue, which is reason, that no wrong
- But justice, and some fatal curse annex’d,
- Deprives them of their outward liberty,
- Their inward lust.’
- Paradise Lost, xii., 97.
[1 ]Mr. Bowdoin replied as follows, in a letter dated at Boston, November 12th:—“Our Indians formerly (as yours now) made great complaints of the abuses they suffered from private traders, which induced the government to erect truckhouses for them; where they have since been supplied with the goods they wanted in a much better manner both in regard of the quality and price of them, and with more certainty than the private traders could. The government used to put an advance on the goods supplied, but now they let the Indians have them in the small quantities they want at the same rate they are purchased here in the wholesale way, and allow them for their peltry what it sells for here; and, notwithstanding, they are frequently complaining about the prices of the exchanged commodities, and say that the French supply them at a cheaper rate, and allow them more for their skins than we do; but some allowance is to be made for this account of theirs.
“The best method we can go into, is to supply them with what they want at the cheapest rate possible, which will not only undermine the French trade with them, but in proportion thereto bring them into our interest and friendship against the French; for trade and commerce between nation and nation, especially when carried on to mutual advantage, have a natural tendency to beget and confirm a mutual and lasting friendship. Another good effect of this method is, that it prevents the Indians from being concerned with private traders; for not being able to supply them at so low a rate as the government, the Indians will not trade with them, and it is therefore a more effectual bar against private trade than all the laws that can be invented.
Our truckhouses are built in form of a square, each side one hundred and fifty feet or more, at each corner a flanker, in which is a couple of cannon; three sides of the square are built upon to accommodate the garrison and for storehouses, the whole being surrounded with palisades.”
[1 ]This treaty, or rather conference, was held at Carlisle, in Pennsylvania, with deputies from several tribes of western Indians. See Sparks’s Life of Washington, 2d edition, p. 25.
[2 ]To this inquiry Mr. Colden replied, November 19th:—“We have at present no law in this province for restraining the trade to Canada, except that by which a duty is laid on Indian goods sold out of the city of Albany and applied for support of the garrison at Oswego. It is certain that a very considerable trade is carried on between Albany and Canada by means of the Caghnawaga or French Indians, all of them deserters from the Five Nations. When I was last at Albany, there were at least two hundred of them, stout young fellows, at one time in the town. The Indians have passports from the governor of Canada, and I therefore conclude that this trade is thought beneficial to the French interest, and it may be a great inducement to our Indians to desert, by the benefit they receive from it; for none are allowed to be the carriers between Albany and Canada but French Indians.”
[1 ]President of Yale College.
[1 ]See a paper on this subject, by the late ingenious Mr. Hadley, in the Philosophical Transactions, wherein this hypothesis for explaining the trade-winds first appeared.—F.
[1 ]In Pennsylvania.