Philadelphia, November 4, 1789
I received your kind letter of July the 31st which gave me great pleasure, as it inform’d me of the welfare 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 were enclosed.
We have now had one session of congress, 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 us; 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 extravagant and idle habits which the war had introduced, and to engage seriously in the contrary habits of temperance, frugality, and industry, which give the most pleasing prospects 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 wrote for by ours, and are beyond the faculties of the 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 or 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 coffee houses near the Exchange; in their advertisements you may observe the constancy and quantity of these kind of sales, as well as the quantity of goods imported by our regular traders. I see in your English newspapers frequent mention made of our being out of credit with you; to us it appears that we have abundantly too much, and that your exporting merchants are rather out of their senses.
I wish success to your endeavours for obtaining an abolition of the Slave Trade. The epistle from your yearly meeting for the year 1758 was not the first sowing of the good seed you mention; for I find by an old pamphlet in my possession that George Keith near 100 years since wrote a paper against the practice, said to be “given forth by the appointment of the meeting held by him at Phillip James’s house in the city of Philadelphia, about the year 1693,” wherein a strict charge was given to Friends that they should set their negroes at liberty after some reasonable time of service, &c. &c. And about the year 1728 or 29 I myself printed a book for Ralph Sandyford, another of your friends of this city, against keeping negroes in slavery, two editions of which he distributed gratis. And about the year 1736 I printed another book on the same subject for Benjamin Lay, who also professed being one of your Friends, and he distributed the books chiefly among them. By these instances it appears that the seed was indeed sown in the good ground of your profession, though much earlier than the time you mention; and its springing up to effect at last, though so late, is some confirmation of Lord Bacon’s observation that a good motion never dies, and may encourage us in making such, though hopeless of their taking an immediate effect. I doubt whether I shall be able to finish my memoirs, and if I finish them whether they will be proper for publication: you seem to have too high an opinion of them, and to expect too much from them.
I think you are right in preferring a mixed form of government for your country under its present circumstances, and if it were possible for you to reduce the enormous salaries and emoluments of great offices, which are at bottom the source of all your violent factions, that form might be conducted more quietly and happily; but I am afraid that none of your factions when they get uppermost will ever have virtue enough to reduce those salaries and emoluments, but will choose rathr to enjoy them.
I inclose a bill for £25 for which, when received, please to credit my account, and out of it pay Mr. Benjamin Vaughan of Jefferies square, and Mr. Wm. Vaughan his brother of Mincing Lane, such accounts against me as they shall present to you for that purpose.
I am, my dear friend, yours very affectionately,
To: Mr. John Wright, Banker, Lombard-street, London
Labels: Papers of Benjamin Franklin