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Illustration from “Observations and Experiments upon the Freshwater Polypus, by Monsieur Trembley”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol. 42, 1 January 1742, p. iii.
ADDISON, Joseph & Richard STEELE, The Tatler, ed. Donald F. Bond (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987), 3 vols.
Anon., “Historical Account of the wonderful discoveries, made in Germany, &c. concerning Electricity”. TheGentleman’s Magazine, April 1745, p. 193-7.
Anon., « Réflexions générales sur l’utilité des Belles-Lettres, et sur les inconvéniens du goût exclusif, qui paroît s’établir en faveur des Mathématiques & de la Physique », Histoire de l’Académie des Inscriptions et des Belles-Lettres, XVI, 1751), p. 11-37.
Anon. [Benjamin Franklin], “Extract from a piece written in Pensylvania in 1751, entitled, Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind, Peopling of Countries, &c.”, Annual Register for 1760 (London: Dodsley, 1761), p. 191-196.
BARROUX, Gilles, « Lorsque Tremblay et Réaumur parlaient de “régénération” ». Médecine/Sciences 2003: 19, 761-762. http://ist.inserm.fr/basismedsci/2003/ms_6-7_2003/761_Barroux_PH.pdf
CHAPLIN, Joyce, The First Scientific American. Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius (New York: Basic Books, 2006).
CLARK, J.C.D., The Language of Liberty, 1660-1832. Political Discourse and Social Dynamics in the Anglo-American World (Cambridge: CUP, 1994).
COHEN, I. Bernard, Benjamin Franklin’s Science (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1990).
DELBOURGO, James, “The Electric Machine in the American Garden” in Science and Empire in the Atlantic World, ed. James Delbourgo and Nicholas Dew (New York & Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), p. 255-280.
EDWARDS, Jonathan, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” in Basic Writings, ed. Ola Elizabeth Winslow (New York: New American Library, 1966), p. 150-168.
FRANKLIN, Benjamin, Experiments and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America, by Mr Benjamin Franklin. (London: Cave, 1751, 1753, 1760).
--- Writings (New York: Library of America, 1987).
--- The Papers of Benjamin Franklin.http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/
GIBBON, Edward, The Letters of Edward Gibbon, ed. J.E. Norton (London: Cassell, 1956), 3 vols.
HEILBRON, J.L., Electricity in the 17th and 18th Centuries. A Study of Early Modern Physics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979).
--- “Franklin, Haller and Franklinist History.” Isis 68 (24), 1977, p. 539-49.
HUME, David, The History of Great Britain (Edinburgh: Hamilton, Balfour & Neill, 1754)
--- idem, 2nd ed. (London: Millar, 1759).
--- The Letters of David Hume, ed. J.Y.T. Greig (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932).
LOCKE, John, Two Treatises of Government, ed. Peter Laslett (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, student edition 1988).
NOLLET, Jean-Antoine and William WATSON, “An Account of a Treatise, presented to the Royal Society, intituled, Letters concerning Electricity, in which the latest Discoveries upon this Subject, and the Consequences which may be deduced from them, are examined; by the Abbé Nollet…”, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol. 48, 17 May 1753, p. 201-216.
TREMBLEY, A., “Observations and Experiments upon the Freshwater Polypus, by Monsieur Trembley”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol. 42, 1 January 1742, p. iii-xi.
WATSON, William, “A Letter from Mr William Watson, F.R.S. to the Royal Society, declaring that he as well as many others have not been able to make Odours pass thro’ Gas by means of Electricity…”. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, vol. 46, 1 March 1749-1750, p. 348-356.
J.L. Heilbron, Electricity in the 17th and 18th Centuries. A Study of Early Modern Physics (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979), p. 346.
Benjamin Franklin, Writings (New York: Library of America [LA], 1987), p. 355-7. Franklin’s original project for the American Philosophical Society, in 1743, called for the founding of a society “for promoting useful knowledge among the British plantations in America”. The project did not take on its definitive name before 1766.
Edward Gibbon’s fright at the Gordon Riots recurred to this language, as if automatically: “As a M.[ember] of P[arliament], I cannot be exposed to any danger as the H[ouse] of C[ommons] has adjourned to Monday sennight: as an individual I do not conceive myself to be obnoxious. I am apt without duty or necessity to thrust myself into a Mob: and our part of the town is as quiet as a Country Village. So much for personal safety: but I cannot give the same assurances of public tranquillity: forty thousand Puritans such as they might be in the time of Cromwell have started out of their graves, the tumult has been dreadful.” The Letters of Edward Gibbon, ed. J.E. Norton (London: Cassell, 1956), 3 vols., ii.243; to Dorothea Gibbon, 8 June 1780. This reflex probably waned in the 1780’s, to be replaced by the conviction that Dissenters and revolutionaries were atheists.
To [Thomas Hopkinson?], 16 October 1746. Except when the LA volume is specifically mentioned, my references are taken from the material available online at the Franklin Papers website:http://franklinpapers.org/franklin/
In Philadelphia, Whitefield made his anti-Jacobite stance clear and Franklin was careful to report it. “Extract from The Pennsylvania Gazette”, 28 August 1746.
Franklin speaks of rural Europe as “old countries” (LA 367). And the newness and natural condition of America was memorably formulated by Locke: “In the Beginning, all the World was America” (Two Treatises of Government, 1690, II.49). But most of the rest of the world, for Locke, had since been subjected to appropriation of common lands, political organization and history.
Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”, 8 July 1741 in Basic Writings, ed. Ola Elizabeth Winslow (New York: New American Library, 1966), p. 150-168.
It may have been steep: “seven Shillings and Six-pence for each Person to go thro’ the Course” (AL, 357). In the same year (1751) Franklin’s book on electricity was being sold to a specialized audience for 2s 6d (as announced by its London publisher). Currency circulating in the colonies had roughly half the value of sterling.
Or so it was (January 2008). For a cogent and knowledgeable account that takes a more positive view, see James Delbourgo, “The Electric Machine in the American Garden” in Science and Empire in the Atlantic World, ed. James Delbourgo and Nicholas Dew (New York & Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), p. 255-280.
No. 21 of Steele’s “Tatler”, dated 28 May 1709, turns a report of witchcraft into a matter of common sense, e.g. when a ‘hag’ practicing voodoo turns out to be baking gingerbread. The mystery is not alleviated in Franklin’s show, nor ultimately in Addison and Steele’s. The Tatler and Spectator were powerful influences on his career as a writer.
“A Letter from Mr William Watson, F.R.S. to the Royal Society, declaring that he as well as many others have not been able…”, p. 351.
Idem, p. 354-5; Watson’s report to the RS on Nollet’s letters on electricity, dated 17 May 1753, suggests that Nollet and not Franklin may have performed experiments associated with Franklin most of all. Cf. “An Account of a Treatise, presented to the Royal Society, intituled, Letters concerning Electricity, in which the latest Discoveries upon this Subject, and the Consequences which may be deduced from them, are examined; by the Abbé Nollet…”, p. 204.
In this setting and elsewhere in the subjects of the present paper, it seems difficult to accept Joyce Chaplin’s vision of Franklin as perpetually “work[ing] his way to center stage”. Cf. The First Scientific American. Benjamin Franklin and the Pursuit of Genius (New York: Basic Books, 2006), p. 132.
In Benjamin Franklin’s Science (Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1990), p. 44-7, I. Bernard Cohen reproduces the probable contents of Spencer’s lectures, which in all sound less entertaining. Previous scholarly accounts of Spencer made him out to be more of a showman. Cohen also establishes the dates for Franklin’s viewing of Spencer’s lectures, which do not correspond exactly to Franklin’s recollections of “Dr Spence” in the Autobiography (LA 1452-3).
Cohen (op. cit., p. 224, n. 1) makes the extraordinary point that the Experiments had never been published as a separate volume in America before his edition of 1941. Yet as “one of the most widely reprinted scientific treatises of the Enlightenment”, there had been “five editions in English, three in French (in two different translations), and one each in German, Italian and Latin” (p. 28, 222 n. 56), presumably during Franklin’s lifetime. It is astonishing and suggestive that Franklin, a printer, never produced the book in America.
J.L. Heilbron aptly casts Priestley’s book as “the fountainhead of Franklinist historiography”. Cf. “Franklin, Haller and Franklinist History”. Isis 68 (24), 1977, p. 539-49.
Heilbron (Electricity in the 17th and 18th Centuries, p. 345) speaks of England’s “benign indifference” to Franklin’s discoveries. The Dissenters frequented by Franklin were active in science, radical in politics, and remarkably undecisive in the effects they produced on the mind of eighteenth-century Britain… For a portrait of the Dissenting community, see J.C.D. Clark, The Language of Liberty, 1660-1832. Political Discourse and Social Dynamics in the Anglo-American World (Cambridge: CUP, 1994), p. 328f. et passim.
Cf. Franklin to Michael Collinson, 8 February 1770. The complicated history of the article is explored in almost full detail in Heilbron’s Electricity in the 17th and 18th Centuries, op. cit., p. 324-5, and in his article in Isis.
Gentleman’s Magazine, April 1745, p. 193-7; here p. 194.
David Hume could associate substantial growth only with London, though he did so via a dialectic between city and country. In the course of his history of Britain, he cites population estimates for England in 1583 and immediately observes: “It is impossible to warrant the exactness of this computation; or rather, we may fairly presume it to be somewhat inaccurate. But, if it approached near the truth, England has probably, since that time, increased much in populousness. The growth of London, in riches and beauty, as well as numbers of inhabitants, has been prodigious. From 1600, it doubled every forty years [here a reference to Petty]; and consequently in 1680, it contained four times as many inhabitants, as at the beginning of the century. It has ever been the center of all the trade in the kingdom; and almost the only town which affords society and amusement. The affection, which the English bear to a country life, makes the provincial towns be little frequented by the gentry. Nothing but the allurements of the capital, which is favored by the residence of the king, by being the seat of government, and of all the courts of law, can prevail over their passion for their rural villas.” History of Great Britain (Edinburgh: Hamilton, Balfour & Neill, 1754) p. 129.
The mysteries of the polypus are put in a modern perspective by Gilles Barroux in « Lorsque Tremblay et Réaumur parlaient de “régénération” ». Médecine/Sciences 2003: 19, 761-762. Accessed (January 2008) at http://ist.inserm.fr/basismedsci/2003/ms_6-7_2003/761_Barroux_PH.pdf
This was the case even in Britain: the Annual Register for 1760 replaces the ending of the text, which it otherwise reprints in full, with asterisks.
In January 1760 Franklin wrote flatteringly to adopt Scotland as almost his second patria: “I think the Time we spent [in Scotland], was Six Weeks of the densest Happiness I have met with in any Part of my Life. And the agreable and instructive Society we found there in such Plenty, has left so pleasing an Impression on my Memory, that did not strong Connections draw me elsewhere, I believe Scotland would be the Country I should chuse to spend the Remainder of my Days in” (To Lord Kames, 3 January 1760; Franklin’s emphasis).
Hume, The History of Great Britain (1754 ed.), p. 134. The corresponding passage appears at p. 124 of the 1759 edition.
To Edward Gibbon, 24 October 1766, in The Letters of David Hume, ed. J.Y.T. Greig (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1932), 2 vols., ii.171. Hume may even be echoing Franklin’s language in a letter of 3 January 1760 to Lord Kames: “No one can rejoice more sincerely than I do on the Reduction of Canada; and this, not merely as I am a Colonist, but as I am a Briton. I have long been of Opinion, that the Foundations of the future Grandeur and Stability of the British Empire, lie in America; and tho’, like other Foundations, they are low and little seen, they are nevertheless, broad and Strong enough to support the greatest Political Structure Human Wisdom ever yet erected.” Hume and Kames were still fairly close at the time.
Cp. Franklin’s remarks on the subject to Collinson, in a letter dated 9 May 1753.
Letters of David Hume, i.280-1.
A 1751 meditation on science and letters argues that thanks to the publications of the Académie des Sciences, “les Sciences qu’on nomme Exactes” have been “insensiblement amenées au point d’être chez nous le goût dominant, ou plutôt un goût national, commun à toutes les conditions & à tous les états, sans excepter même cette moitié de la société, qui, contente autrefois des avantages qu’elle tient de la Nature, n’envioit point à l’autre ceux qu’on ne peut acquérir que par une étude pénible”. And the sciences have been changed in the process: certain of them “ont le privilège d’attacher tout à la fois l’esprit & les yeux, par des spectacles, qui, sans cesser d’être aussi agréables que s’ils étoient frivoles, conservent le mérite de paroître liés à une profonde théorie. Des observations amusantes, des expériences singulières, une machine ingénieuse, sont à la portée de tout le monde”. See the anonymous “Réflexions générales sur l’utilité des Belles-Lettres et sur les inconvéniens du goût exclusif, qui paroît s’établir en faveur des Mathématiques & de la Physique”, Histoire de l’Académie des Inscriptions et des Belles-Lettres, xvi (1751), p. 15, 17.Haut de page