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To DR. PRIESTLEY. On true Science and its progress. Reflections on the Incon... veniences attending all Situations in Life. Dear Sir,
Passy, February 8, 1780. Your kind letter of September 27th, came to hand but very lately, the bearer having staid long in Holland.
I always rejoice to hear of your being still employed in experimental researches into nature, and of the success you nieet with. The rapid progress true science now makes, occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born so soon : it is impossible to imagine the height to wbich may be carried in a thousand years,
man over matter; we may perhaps learn to deprive large masses of their gravity, and give them absolute levity, for the sake of easy transport. Agriculture may diminish its labor and double its produce : all diseases may by sure means be prevented or cured, (not excepting even that of old age) and our lives lengthened at pleasure, even beyond the antediluvian standard, O that moral science were in as fair a way of improvement, that men would cease to be wolves to one another, and that human beings would at length learn what they now improperly call humanity!
I am glad my little paper on the Aurora Borealis pleased. If it should occasion farther inquiry, and so produce a better hypothesis, it will not be wholly useless. I am ever, with the greatest and most sincere esteem, Dear Sir, &c.
[Enclosed in the foregoing Letter; being an answer to a sepa
rate paper received from Dr. Priestley.]
I have considered the situation of that person very attentively: I think that with a little help from the
Moral Algebra,' he might form a better judgment than any other person can form for him. But since my opinion seems to be desired, I give it for continuing to the end of the term, under all the present disagreeable circumstances : the connexion will then die a natural death. No reason will be expected to be given for the separation, and of course no offence taken at reasons given, the friendship may still subsist, and in some other way be useful. The time diminishes daily, and is usefully employed. All human situations have their inconveniences; we feel those that we find in the present, and we neither feel nor see those that exist in another. Hence we make frequent and troublesome changes without amendment, and often for the worse. In my youth I was passenger in a little sloop, descending the river Delaware. There being no wind, we were obliged when the ebb was spent, to cast anchor, and wait for the next. The heat of the sun on the vessel was excessive, the company strangers to me, and not very agreeable. Near the river side I saw what I took to be a pleasant green meadow, in the middle of which was a large shady tree, where it struck my fancy I could sit and read, (having a book in my pocket) and pass the time agreeably till the tide turped; I therefore prevailed with the captain to put me ashore. Being landed, I found the greatest part of my meadow was really a marsh, in crossing which, to come at my tree, I was up to my knees in mire : and I had not placed myself under its shade five minutes before the muskitoes in swarms found me out, attacked my legs, hands, and face, and made my reading and my rest impossible ; so that I returned to the beach, and called for the boat to come and take me on board again, where I was obliged to bear the heat I had strove to quit,
See Letter to Dr. Priestley, Sept. 19, 1772, Part I.
and also the laugh of the company. Similar cases in the affairs of life have sioce frequently fallen under my observation.
I have had thoughts of a college for him in America: I know no one who might be more useful to the public in the institution of youth. But there are possible unpleasantnesses in that situation: it cannot be obtained but by a too hazardous voyage at this time for a family, and the time for experiments would be all otherwise engaged."
To GeneRAL WASHINGTON.
Relative to the Marquis de la Fayette- Invitation to visit
Passy, March 5, 1780. I have received but lately the letter your excellency did me the honor of writing to me in recommendation of the Marquis de la Fayette. His modesty detained it long in his own hands. We became acquainted, however, from the time of his arrival at Paris ; and his zeal for the honor of our country, his activity in our affairs bere, and his firm attachment to our cause, and to you, impressed me with the same regard and esteem for him that your excellency's letter would have done had it been immediately delivered to me.
Should peace arrive after another campaign or two, and afford us a little leisure, I should be happy to see your excellency in Europe, and to accompany you, if my age and
The advice contained in this paper related to Dr. Priestley himself, who had engaged to live with Lord Shelburne, as his librarian, at a salary of about £300 per annum, for a certain number of years: but before the term had expired, he became disgusted with his situation, and requested counsel from Dr. Franklin on the subject.
strength would permit, in visiting some of its ancient and most famous kingdoms. You would on this side the sea, enjoy the great reputation you have acquired, pure and free from those little shades that the jealousy and envy of a man's countrymen and cotemporaries are ever endeavoring to cast over living merit. Here you would know, and enjoy, what posterity will say of Washington. For a thousand leagues have nearly the same effeet as a thousand years. The feeble voice of those grovelling passions cannot extend so fár either in time or distance. At présent I enjoy that pleasure for you: as I frequently hear the old generals of this martial country (who study the maps of America, and mark upon them all your operations) speak with sincere approbation and great applause of your conduct; and join in giving you the character of one of the greatest captains of the age.
I must soon quit the scene, but you may live to see our country florish; as it will amazingly and rapidly after the war is over; like a field of young Indian corn, which long fair weather and sunshine had enfeebled and discolored, and which in that weak state, by a thunder gust of violent wind, hail, and rain, seemed to be threatened with absolute destruction; yet the storm being past, it recovers fresh verdure, shoots up with double vigor, and delights the eye not of its owner only, but of every observing traveller.
The best wishes that can be formed for your health, honor, and happiness, ever attend you, from
To MR, LE CHEVALIER DE LA LUZERNE,
Passy, March 5, 1780. I received with great pleasure the letter you did me the honor of writing to me from Boston. I rejoiced to hear of your safe arrival, and that the reception you met with in ay country, had been agreeable to you. I hope its air will: suit you, and that while you reside in it you will enjoy constant health and happiness.
Your good brother does me sometimes the honor of calling on me, and we converse in English, which he speaks very intelligibly, I suppose that by this time you do the same. Mr. de Malesherbes did me lately the same honor. That great man seems to have no wish of returning into public 'employment, but amuses himself with planting, and is desirous of obtaining all those trees of North America that have not yet been introduced into France. Your sending him a box of the seeds would, I am persuaded, much ohlige him. They may be obtained of ny young friend Bartram, living near Philadelphia.
You will have heard that Spain has lately met with a little misfortune at sea, but the bravery with which her ships fought a vastly superior force, has gained her great honor. anxious here for farther news from that coast, which is daily expected. Great preparations are making here for the ensuing campaign, and we flatter ourselves that it will be more active and successful in Europe than the last.
One of the advantages of great states is, that the calamity occasioned by a foreign war falls only on a very small part of the community, who happen from their situation and particular