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FROM JONATHAN SHIPLEY, BISHOP OF ST. ASAPH, TO B. FRANKLIN.
Twyford, 27 November, 1785.
My Dear Friend,
I felt myself much obliged to your worthy nephew, Mr. Williams, for the account of your safe arrival, and very honorable reception at Philadelphia. Our last short interview at Southampton was so much in mixed company, and your hours were so entirely taken up with the final business of leaving this ungrateful country, that I hardly found a single opportunity for the confidential information, to which our old friendship seemed to entitle us, and I on my part was very ready to give.
But, to own the truth, I had but little curiosity to know the particulars of your negotiations with either the French or the English ministers. The event has shown, that, in their own arts, you were not inferior to the ablest of them. I had much rather hear from you, with what prudence and success^ your countrymen proceed in reviving and establishing that civil liberty, which is extinguished everywhere else. Sure there never was opened so fine a field for making experiments and improvements in the philosophy of government, which I take to be the noblest species of philosophy that can exercise the mind of man. But your great blessing is, that he, who is best able to serve his country, is sure of being rewarded. Make the most of the golden opportunity. It has seldom lasted long. I live in a very different scene, where the most unprofitable and perhaps the most dangerous part a man can act, is, to mention the faults or propose any amendment in our corrupt and shattered frame of government. Yet I feel every day more reason to be pleased with the part I myself have acted.
But whether you had rather give us only an account of your domestic circumstances, which I think must necessarily be happy, I fancy you will give me credit for saying, that nobody will be more warmly interested in what concerns you, than the part of my family you saw at Southampton. Mrs. Shipley and her daughter Kitty, in their passion for you, rival Georgians They agree with me in interesting ourselves for all the worthy family party we met with you. I wish your nephew, and my old friend, Mr. Williams, success in all his future views. He can hardly undertake any business for which he is unqualified. Your promising grandson, who has the courage to tread in your early steps, I hope, will preserve the same generous emulation through his life. Few professions are in my eyes more respectable, than the character of a printer, who excels in his art. Aldus and Stephens stand high as men of letters, and made their learning and criticism subservient to their business.
Let me hope, that you will sometimes remember, amidst the applauses of your countrymen, that there is a family in England, who love you as well as your own. Your ever affectionate
J. St. Asaph.
TO JAMES BOWDOIN.
Dr. Jeffries''s Jterial Voyage from England to France.
Philadelphia, 1 January, 1786.
My Dear Friend, It gave me great pleasure to receive your kind letter of congratulation, as it proved, that all my old friends in Boston were not estranged from me by the malevolent misrepresentations of my conduct, that had been circulated there, but that one of the most esteemed still retained a regard for me. Indeed, you are now almost the only one left me by nature; death having, since we were last together, deprived me of my dear Cooper, Winthrop, and Quincy.
I have not received the letter you mention to have sent me with some Memoirs, under cover to Dr. Price. I must have left Europe before they got to his hands; but he will doubtless send them to me by the first convenient opportunity. It was not necessary to make any apology for the liberty you say you have taken in those Memoirs, in making observations on my Queries upon light, for I am sure they will help me to understand it better, and that must make them agreeable to me. I shall be glad to see the whole volume,* which you are so kind as to promise me; and I hope in the course of a few months to be able to make returns, in a second volume of our Memoirs, f now in the press.
I sent to you by Mr. Gerry, some weeks since, Dr. Jeffries's account of his aerial voyage from England to France, which I received from him just before I left that country. In his letter, that came with it, he requests I would not suffer it to be printed, because a copy of it had been put into the hands of Sir Joseph Banks for the Royal Society, and was to be read there in November. If they should not think fit to publish it, as I apprehend may be the case, they having hitherto avoided meddling with the subject of balloons, I shall be glad to have the minutes returned to me. In the mean time, I thought it might afford some amusement to you and to your Society.* My acquaintance with Dr. Jeffries began by his bringing me a letter in France, the first through the air, from England. With best wishes of many happy new years to you, and good Madam Bowdoin, I have the honor to be, dear Sir, &c. B. Franklin^
* First volume of the Memoirs of the American Academy of Arta and Sciences.
f Transactions of the American Philosophical Society.
FROM THE DUKE DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULD
Paris, 8 February, 1786.
My Dear Friend, I have heard of you through Mr. Jefferson and M. le Veillard. The latter showed me the letter, in which you announced to him your nomination to the office of President, and I admired the resolution which determined you to take upon yourself an employment so fatiguing, but in which you can labor effectually for the happiness of Pennsylvania, and for that of the other States, upon which the example of your own will assuredly have a great influence. I know that two powerful and nearly equal parties support different principles as the basis of the Constitution; but nobody is better qualified than yourself to conciliate both of them, and to obtain, not perhaps the constitution most absolutely perfect, but at least, as Solon said, the best which your fellow citizens are able to bear.
.•The paper was printed in London, entitled, "A Narrative of two Aerial Voyages," 4to. 1786.
f Extract from a letter to his sister.
"PhilaMphia, 24 January, 1786. Your letter to Mr. V. seems to me very proper and well written, and I think he was wrong in detaining the five dollars. But when we consider that he was under no legal obligation to pay a debt contracted by his son, we may be glad, that we have received so much of it, and that, when it is common to pay the interest of an old debt in ill language, he has paid you only in silence. It is a family I have formerly been in friendship with, and I would not have you trouble them with any further demands.
"I do not wonder at your blaming me for accepting the government [the office of President of Pennsylvania]. We have all of us wisdom enough to judge what others ought to do, or not to do, in the management of their affairs; and it is possible I might blame you as much if you were to accept the offer of a young husband. My example may teach you not to be too confident in your own prudence, as it teachea me not to be surprised at such an event, should it really happen."
This is the critical moment for the Americans. The return of peace and the certainty of independence demand of them a general revision of their laws, and the formation of new codes, no longer a servile imitation of the laws of England, but dictated by reason, conformed to their actual situation, and adapted to insure the happiness of States and individuals. In legislation you must be the teachers of the world, which is expecting from you some important lessons.
I will not trespass upon the time of so busy a man as yourself, and will therefore close by offering you the compliments of all my family, to which M. de Condorcet requests me to add his. That your life and health may be prolonged is the unanimous prayer of all those, who have ever heard of you. All, who have had the satisfaction of knowing you, add the hope, that they may retain a place in your friendship. I venture to believe, that I deserve this, by the sincere attachment and veneration which I feel for you.
Duke De La Rochefoucauld.