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You are so good as to offer me your friendly services. You cannot do me one more acceptable at present, than that of forwarding my dismission. In all other respects, as well as that, I shall ever look on your friendship as an honor to me; being with sincere and great esteem, dear Sir, &c.
P. S. March 13. Having had a tolerable night, I .find myself something better this morning. In reading over my letter, I perceive an omission of my thanks for your kind assurances of never forsaking my defence, should there be need. I apprehend that the violent antipathy of a certain person to me may have produced some calumnies, which, what you have seen and heard here may enable you to refute. You will thereby exceedingly oblige one, who has lived beyond all other ambition, than that of dying with the fair character he has long endeavoured to deserve. As to my infallibility, which you do not undertake to maintain, I am too modest myself to claim it, that is, in general; though when we come to-particulars, I, like other people, give it up with difficulty. Steele says, that the difference between the Church of Rome, and the Church of England on that point, is only this; that the one pretends to be infallible, and the other to be never in the wrong. In this latter sense, we are most of us Church of England men, though few of us confess it, and express it so naturally and frankly, as a certain lady here, who said, "I do not know how it happens, but I meet with nobody, except myself, that is always in the right; Je ne trouve que moi qui a toujours raison."
My grandson joins me in affectionate respects to you and the young lady; with best wishes for your health and prosperity.
TO MRS. MARY HEWSON.
Passy, 19 March, 1784.
You will forget me quite, my dear old friend, if I do not write to you now and then.
I still exist, and still enjoy some pleasure in that existence, though how in my seventy-ninth year. Yet I feel the infirmities of age come on so fast, and the building to need so many repairs, that in a little time the owner will find it cheaper to pull it down andbuild a new one. I wish, however, to see you first, but I begin to doubt the possibility. My children join in love to you and yours, with your affectionate friend,
TO M. DE LA CONDAMINE.
.Animal Magnetism. — Cure of Diseases.
Passy, 19 March, 1784.
I received the very obliging letter you did me the honor of writing to me the 8th instant, with the epigram, for which, please to accept my thanks.
You desire my sentiments concerning the cures performed by Camus and Mesmer. I think, that, in general, maladies caused by obstructions may be treated by electricity with advantage. As to the animal magnetism, so much talked of, I must doubt its existence till I can see or feel some effect of it. None of the cures said to be performed by it have fallen under my observation, and there being so many disorders which cure themselves, and such a disposition in mankind to deceive themselves and one another on these occasions, and living long has given me so frequent opportunities of seeing certain remedies cried up as curing every thing, and yet soon after totally laid aside as useless, I cannot but fear that the expectation of great advantage from this new method of treating diseases will prove a delusion. That delusion may, however, and in some cases, be of use while it lasts. There are in every great, rich city a number of persons, who are never in health, because they are fond of medicines, and always taking them, whereby they derange the natural functions, and hurt their constitution. If these people can be persuaded to forbear their drugs, in expectation of being cured by only the physician's finger, or an iron rod pointing at them, they may possibly find good effects, though they mistake the cause.* I have the honor to be, Sir, &.c.
• In March, 1784, Commissioners were appointed at the instance of the King of France for examining into the subject of animal magnetism, as practised by the followers of Mesmer. Five members were selected from the Royal Academy of Sciences, namely, Franklin, Le Roy, Bailly, De Bory, and Lavoisier. To these were joined Majault, Sallin, D'Arcet, and Guillotin, from the Faculty of Medicine. The Commissioners went through a long and detailed investigation, and presented an elaborate report on the 11th of August .
In writing to Dr. Ingenhousz some time afterwards on this subject, Dr. Franklin said; "Mesmer is still here, and has still some adherents and some practice. It is surprising how much credulity still subsists in the world. I suppose all the physicians in France put together have not made so much money, during the time he has been here, as he alone has done. And we have now a fresh folly. A magnetizer pretends, that he can, by establishing what is called a rapport between any person and a somnambvle, put it in the power of that person to direct the actions of the somnambvle, by a simple strong volition only, without speaking or making any signs; and many people daily flock to see this strange operation."
FROM RICHARD PRICE TO B. FRANKLIN.
The Royal Society. — Political Affairs in England. — Dr. Price's Design to write concerning the United States.
Newington-Green, 6 April, 1784.
My Dear Friend,
I have been long intending to write to you, and I feel ashamed that I have not done it sooner. Your letter, which was brought to me by Mr. Bingham, gave me great pleasure, ft enclosed a case for an air balloon, and a print, which, in conformity to your desire, I delivered to the President of the Royal Society. Soon after Mr. Bingham's arrival, Mr. Dagge brought me your paper on a mathematical prize question, proposed by the Royal Academy of B . I conveyed this to Dr Priestley, and we have been entertained with the pleasantry of it, and the ridicule it contains.
The discovery of air balloons seems to make the present time a new epoch, and the last year will, I suppose, be always distinguished as the year in which mankind began to fly in France. Nothing has yet been done here in this way of any consequence. In the Royal Society a great part of the winter has been employed in a manner very unworthy of philosophers. An opposition has been formed to the President. Motions for censuring him have been repeatedly made at our weekly meetings, and supported by Dr. Horsley, the Astronomer Royal, Mr. Maseres, Mr. Maty, and others. These motions have produced long and warm debates. Lately, there has been a suspension of these debates; but there is now some danger that they may be revived again, for Mr. Maty has just resigned his place of Secretary, in resentment .
In your letter you have intimated, that you then entertained some thoughts of visiting London in the spring. This is much wished for by your friends here, and particularly by the Club at the London Coffee House, which you have so often made happy by your company. Dr. Priestley intends coming to London from Birmingham in about a fortnight; but, could he reckon upon the pleasure of seeing you in London at any time, he would contrive to come up at that time. He has, I find, been chosen a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris. This is indeed a singular honor, and must give him particular pleasure.
Political affairs in this country are at present in great confusion. The King, after dismissing from his service the leaders of the late odious coalition, and appointing other ministers in their room, to the great joy of the kingdom, has at last found it necessary, in order to maintain the new ministers in power, and to carry on the public business, to dissolve the Parliament . We are, therefore, now in the midst of the heat and commotion of a general election; and such is the influence of government on elections, and also the present temper of the people, that probably the new ministers will have a great majority in their favor in the new Parliament .
The more wise and virtuous part of the nation are struggling hard to gain a Parliamentary reform, and think, with great reason, that, while the representation continues such a mockery as it is, no change of ministers can do us much good. But an equal representation is a blessing, which probably we shall never obtain till a convulsion comes, which will dissolve all government and give an opportunity for erecting a new frame.
In America, there is, I hope, an opening for a better