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six months past. I have now taken the resolution to endeavour completing them in this way of dictating to an amanuensis. What is already done, I now send you, with an earnest request that you and my good friend Dr. Price would be so good as to take the trouble of reading it, critically examining it, and giving me your candid opinion whether I had best publish or suppress it; and if the first, then what parts had better be expunged or altered. I shall rely upon your opinions, for I am now grown so old and feeble in mind, as well as body, that I cannot place any confidence in my own judgment. In the mean time, I desire and expect that you will not suffer any copy of it, or of any part of it, to be taken for any purpose whatever.
You present me with a pleasing idea of the happiness I might have enjoyed in a certain great house, and in the conversation of its excellent owner, and his well chosen guests, if I could have spent some more time in England. That is now become impossible. My best wishes, however, attend him and his amiable son, in whose promising virtues and abilities I am persuaded the father will find much satisfaction.
The revolution in France is truly surprising. I sincerely wish it may end in establishing a good constitution for that country. The mischiefs and troubles it suffers in the operation, however, give me great
You request advice from me respecting your conduct and writings, and desire me to tell you their faults. As to your conduct, I know of nothing that looks like a fault, except your declining to act in any public station, although you are certainly qualified to do much public good in many you must have had it in your power to occupy. In respect to your writings, your language seems to me to be good and pure, and your sentiments generally just; but your style or composition wants perspicuity, and this I think owing principally to a neglect of method. What I would therefore recommend to you is, that, before you sit down to write on any subject, you would spend some days in considering it, putting down at the same time, in short hints, every thought which occurs to you as proper to make a part of your intended piece. When you have thus obtained a collection of the thoughts, examine them carefully with this view, to find which of them is properest to be presented first to the mind of the reader, that he, being possessed of that, may the more easily understand it, and be better disposed to receive what you intend for the second; and thus I would have you put a figure before each thought, to mark its future place in your composition.
For so, every preceding proposition preparing the mind for that which is to follow, and the reader often anticipating it, he proceeds with ease, and pleasure, and approbation, as seeming continually to meet with his own thoughts. In this mode you have a better chance for a perfect production; because, the mind attending first to the sentiments alone, next to the method alone, each part is likely to be better performed, and I think too in less time.
You see I give my counsel rather bluntly, without attempting to soften my manner of finding fault by any apology, which would give some people great offence; but in the present situation of affairs between us, when I am soliciting the advantage of your criticisms on a work of mine, it is perhaps my interest that you should be a little offended, in order to produce a greater degree of wholesome severity. I think with you, that, if my Memoirs are to be published, an edition of them should be printed in England for that country, as well as here for this, and I shall gladly leave it to your friendly management.
We have now had one session of Congress under our new Constitution, which was conducted with, I think, a greater degree of temper, prudence, and unanimity, than could well have been expected, and our future prospects seem very favorable. The harvests of the last summer have been uncommonly plentiful and good; yet the produce bears a high price, from the great foreign demand. At the same time, immense quantities of foreign goods are crowded upon us, so as to overstock the market, and supply us with what we want at very low prices. A spirit of industry and frugality is also very generally prevailing, which, being the most promising sign of future national felicity, gives me infinite satisfaction.
Remember me most respectfully and affectionately to your good mother, sisters, and brother, and also to my dear Dr. Price; and believe me, my dearest friend, yours most sincerely,
P. S. I have not received the Philosophical Transactions for the two or three last years. They are usually laid by for me at the Society's house, with my name upon them, and remain there till called for. I shall be much obliged to you, if you can conveniently take them up and send them to me.
Your mention of plagiarism puts me in mind of a charge of the same kind, which I lately saw in the British Repository, concerning the Chapter of Abraham and the Stranger. Perhaps this is the attack your letter hints at, in which you defended me. The truth is, as I think you observe, that I never published that Chapter, and never claimed more credit from it, than what related to the style, and the addition of the concluding threatening and promise. The publishing of it by Lord Kames, without my consent, deprived me of a good deal of amusement, which I used to take in reading it by heart out of my Bible, and obtaining the remarks of the Scripturians upon it, which were sometimes very diverting; not but that it is in itself, on account of the importance of its moral, well worth being made known to all mankind.* When I wrote that in the form you now have it, I wrote also another, the hint of which was also taken from an ancient Jewish tradition; but, not having the same success with it as the other, I laid it aside, and have not seen it for thirty years past, till within these few days a lady of my acquaintance furnished me with a copy, which she had preserved. I think however it is not a bad one, and send it to you enclosed.
TO JOHN WRIGHT, LONDON.
Philadelphia, 4 November, 1789.
See the Parable against Persecution, Vol. II. p. 118. For some time after this Apologue first appeared, Dr. Franklin was charged with having published it as his own, whereas it was given to the world by Lord Kames without his consent or knowledge; nor did he ever claim any other originality in regard to it, than what he has mentioned above. But whoever will compare it as printed in this work, with the sources whence it was derived, will see that its chief point and beauty consist in the dress and additions, which it received from his hand; and indeed to this dress and these additions is to be ascribed the importance, that has been attached to it. † Probably the Parable on Brotherly Love. See Vol. II. p. 123. VOL. X.
fare both of yourself and your good lady, to whom please to present my respects. I thank you for the epistle of your yearly meeting, and for the card, a specimen of printing, which was enclosed.
We have now had one session of Congress, which was conducted under our new Constitution, and with as much general satisfaction as could reasonably be expected. I wish the struggle in France may end as happily for that nation. We are now in the full enjoyment of our new government for eleven of the States, and it is generally thought that North Carolina is about to join it. Rhode Island will probably take longer time for consideration.
We have had a most plentiful year for the fruits of the earth, and our people seem to be recovering fast from the extravagance and idle habits, which the war had introduced; and to engage seriously in the country habits of temperance, frugality, and industry, which give the most pleasing prospect of future national felicity. Your merchants, however, are, I think, imprudent in crowding in upon us such quantities of goods for sale here, which are not written for by ours, and are beyond the faculties of this country to consume in any reasonable time. This surplus of goods is, therefore, to raise present money, sent to the vendues, or auction-houses, of which we have six or seven in and near this city; where they are sold frequently for less than prime cost, to the great loss of the indiscreet adventurers. Our newspapers are doubtless to be seen at your coffeehouses near the Exchange. In their advertisements you may observe the constancy and quantity of this kind of sales; as well as the quantity of goods imported by our regular traders. I see in your English newspapers frequent mention of our being out of credit with you; to us it appears, that we have abundantly