Benjamin Franklin to Lord Kames, 1760 - 1775.
Benjamin Franklin to Lord Kames, 1760 - 1775.
Benjamin Franklin to Lord Kames, 1760 - 1775.
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PROPERTY FROM THE ROGER D. JUDD COLLECTION OF HISTORICAL LETTERS, DOCUMENTS & MANUSCRIPTS
Benjamin Franklin to Lord Kames, 1760 - 1775.

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Benjamin Franklin to Lord Kames, 1760 - 1775.

Franklin’s correspondent, Henry Home, Lord Kames (1696-1782) was a a key figure of the Scottish enlightenment. He was very friendly with David Hume and Adam Smith and closely involved in the intellectual life of eighteenth-century Edinburgh. Franklin, who was living in England as London agent of the Province of Pennsylvania, met Kames during his first visit to Scotland in 1759. He and his son stayed with Kames twice during that journey. “‘Franklin's oaks' are still pointed out growing to a great height in front of the house of Kames.” Their close friendship is well-described by I. S.Ross in Lord Kames and the Scotland of his Day (Oxford 1972), "One must imagine much philosophical conversation between host and chief guest, as well as talk of landscaping and farming. When the time came for the leave-taking of the Franklins, Lord Kames and his wife rode with them to the Border village of Coldstream and the friends parted with a promise to resort to the 'duller intercourse of epistolary correspondence' as Franklin called it." In his first letter of the correspondence, he describes his time in Scotland as “six weeks of the densest happiness I have met with in any part of my life”.

Christie’s was honored to offer the whole of this correspondence in London in 1995 when sold by the descendants of Lord Kames. We are pleased to offer a series of these important letters once again which stunningly reveal the American polymath’s inquisitive nature into all things: from art to inefficient chimneys to monetary policy. Most importantly, they chronicle the American polymath’s philosophical transformation from a champion of the British Empire in the wake of the conquest of Canada—to a staunch but reasoned advocate of American colonial rights on the eve of war and independence. Over the course of fifteen years, the “First American” had indeed become exactly that.

FRANKLIN, Benjamin (1706-1790). Autograph letter signed ('B. Franklin') to Henry Home, Lord Kames, London, 3 January 1760.

Four pages, 322 x 205mm (inner and upper blank margin and center-fold repaired; two mended tears in vertical fold without loss).

Franklin on the British conquest of Canada: "no one can rejoice more sincerely than I do on the Reduction of Canada." A remarkable letter written in the months following the fall of Quebec. Franklin rejoices in the news, "not merely as I am a Colonist, but as I am a Briton. I have been long of Opinion, that the Foundation of the future Grandeur & Stability of the British empire, lie in America; and tho; like other foundations, they are low and little seen, they are nevertheless, broad & strong enough to support the greatest Political Structure Human Wisdom every yet erected." For that reason, Franklin opposed any suggestion that Canada be returned to France: If we keep it, all the Country from St. Laurence to Missis[s]ip[p]i, will in another Century be fill'd with British People; Britain itself will become vastly more populous by the immense Increase of its Commerce; the Atlantic Sea will be cover'd with your Trading Ships; and your naval Power thence continually increasing, will extend your Influence round the whole Globe; & awe the World!" Conversely, "If the French remain in Canada, they will continually harass our colonies by the Indians, impede if not prevent their Growth; your Progress to Greatness will at best be slow, and give room for many Accidents that may forever prevent it.– But I refrain, for I see you begin to think my Notions extravagant, and look upon them as the Ravings of a mad Prophet."

Franklin also writes of his regrets that he has been unable to procure copies of his own publications, "very mortifying this, to an Author, that his Works should so soon be lost!" He is mailing his "Observations on the Peopling of Countries, which happens to have been reprinted here; The Description of the Pennsylvanian Fireplace, a Machine of my contriving: and some little sketches, that have been printed in the Grand Magazine".

Finally he explains at length, his reasons for not believing a portrait of William Penn, offered to him by Kames, to be genuine. Nevertheless he asks that it should be sent to him in London, so that he can obtain another opinion, as he has always wanted to have a portrait of Penn. (This so-called 'Whisker-portrait' proved not to be authentic). He ends by thanking Kames, also on behalf of his son for "the Pleasure we had enjoy'd and the Kindnesses we had receiv'd in Scotland ... the Time that we spent there, was six Weeks of the densest Happiness I have met with in any Part of my Life', stating 'I believe Scotland would be the Country I should chuse to spend the Remainder of my Days in". Published in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. L. W. Labaree, vol. 9, pp.5-10. Provenance: sold by the descendants of Lord Kames, Christie's, 29 June 1995, lot 503.
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