JANUARY MEETING, 1915
A Stated Meeting of the Society was held at the house of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, No. 28 Newbury Street, Boston, on Thursday, 28 January, 1915, at three o’clock in the afternoon, the President, Frederick Jackson Turner, LL.D., in the chair.
The Records of the last Stated Meeting were read and approved.
The Corresponding Secretary reported that a letter had been received from Mr. Francis Russell Hart accepting Resident Membership.
Mr. John Trowbridge read the following paper:
Many years ago I was asked to write a life of Franklin for the American Statesmen series and I declined, knowing my unfitness to weigh and present his achievements in statesmanship, and feeling also that whatever acquaintance I had with his scientific work would not be available in a discussion of his political career. Naturally, since that literary offer was made to me, I have been much interested in the efforts of biographers to present the man; and to discover whether they thought that his scientific reputation had any influence on his prestige in Paris. I may say here, that it was fortunate that I did not write a scientific life of Franklin, even thirty years ago; for it is only within ten years, as I shall endeavor to show, that he has come into his own and that the value of his scientific work has been fully recognized.
The life of Franklin in the Statesmen series was written by Mr. John T. Morse, Jr., and contains no reference to his scientific reputation. The work entitled Franklin in France, written by the Rev. Edward E. Hale and his son, has but one reference to science — a reference to a paper presented by Franklin to the Royal Academy of Sciences on the Aurora Borealis. One would have supposed that Dr. Hale would have referred to the immense reputation which the kite experiment must have given Franklin, especially when he was introduced to the most intellectual society in Europe by Turgot, the great minister of finance, with the celebrated phrase, “Eripuit fulmen cœlo, mox sceptra Tyrannis.” (“He snatched lightning from the sky and sceptres from tyrants.”) Dr. Hale, moreover, in quoting Condorcet’s Éloge of Franklin, delivered before the French Academy at the séance of November 13, 1790, omits the portion which relates to science. Recently I found in the library of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences a copy of this Éloge, presented by Létombe, the French consul of that time. It contains on the cover in letters of gold the words American Academy of Arts and Sciences. It was printed in 1791.5
Condorcet, in his Éloge, congratulates France, with that clearness and felicity of style for which the French are celebrated, in recognizing the scientific work of Franklin before England, and he attributes England’s tardiness not to the hostility engendered by the war with her colony, but to a reluctance to believe that a puritan rustic could have discovered what had escaped the attention of their philosophers.6 This Éloge of Franklin is contained in the complete edition of Condorcet’s works, but even there there is no reference to Turgot’s celebrated epigram.7 In the copy of the Éloge which I show you, the epigram is published on the title-page, where it reads as given above. It is often rendered “Eripuit fulmen cœlo, sceptrumque Tyrannis.” It may be that the phrase was suggested to Turgot by the “Eripuitque Jovi fulmen viresque tonandi” of Manilius, a poet of the time of the Emperor Tiberius.8
Condorcet congratulates the French Academy that the National Assembly was presided over by L’Abbé Sieyès, a man who was such a friend of liberty. You will remember that Sieyès wrote the celebrated paper on the Third Estate which led to the epigram, “Mirabeau was the voice of the French Revolution and Sieyès the soul.” He it was who answered where he had been or what he had done in the time of terror, “I have lived.” It would be interesting to trace the influence in constitution-making, if any, exerted upon him by Franklin’s work in connection with the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776 and the Federal Constitution of 1787. But I am straying from science like a historian I shall mention presently who strayed from history.
In Bigelow’s Life of Franklin there is no reference to Turgot’s epigram or to Condorcet’s Éloge. The only reference to Franklin’s science is in regard to a trivial controversy that had been raised among the philosophers in England respecting pointed and blunt lightning conductors. Mr. Wilson was the champion for blunt conductors, in opposition to the theory of Dr. Franklin. Pointed conductors had been erected at the Queen’s palace, but by the advice of Mr. Wilson they were taken down, and blunt ones substituted in their place. Dr. Ingenhousz, who was then in England, took up the subject with considerable warmth against Mr. Wilson, and wrote to a gentleman in Paris a letter which he desired might be shown to Dr. Franklin. Franklin answered as follows, October 14, 1777:
I am much obliged by your communication of the letter from England. I am of your opinion, that it is not proper for publication here. Our friend’s expressions concerning Mr. Wilson will be thought too angry to be made use of by one philosopher when speaking of another, and on a philosophical question. He seems as much heated about this one point as the Jansenists and Molinists were about the five. As to my writing any thing on the subject, which you seem to desire, I think it not necessary, especially as I have nothing to add to what I have already said upon it in a paper read to the committee who ordered the conductors at Purfleet, which paper is printed in the last French edition of my writings.
I have never entered into any controversy in defence of my philosophical opinions; I leave them to take their chance in the world. If they are right, truth and experience will support them; if wrong, they ought to be refuted and rejected. Disputes are apt to sour one’s temper, and disturb one’s quiet. I have no private interest in the reception of my inventions by the world, having never made, nor proposed to make, the least profit by any of them. The king’s changing his pointed conductors for blunt ones is, therefore, of small importance to me. If I had a wish about it, it would be that he had rejected them altogether as ineffectual. For it is only since he thought himself and his family safe from the thunder of Heaven that he dared to use his own thunder in destroying his innocent subjects.9
The discussion was waged in the Royal Society and King George took part in it outside this learned body. Lord Glenbervie says that Windham repeated the following lines to him when they were together in Paris, in 1788:
While you great G. for knowledge hunt,
And sharp conductors turn to blunt,
Your kingdom’s out of joint.
Franklin another course pursues,
Unmoved, he all your lightn’ngs views,
By sticking to his point.10
Bigelow’s work contains one other reference to Franklin’s scientific philosophy in a detailed account of his connection with a committee formed to inquire into the claims of Mesmer to perform cures by means of magnetism. Franklin was the electrician on the committee and it was probably due to him that the same conclusion was reached that the pretended cures were probably due to imagination. If he did not frame conclusions he joined with the committee in enunciating a psychological truth which is true to-day in regard to the effect of the mind on the body and the proneness of mankind, even the more educated, to believe in the occult. Bigelow says in regard to the conclusions of this committee:
Mesmer’s theory was supplanted by the discovery in the following year, 1785, of magnetic somnambulism with insensibility to pain and clairvoyance, by one of his pupils, the Marquis De Puységur. This really great discovery gave an importance to mesmerism which has rescued its author’s name, in some measure, from the contempt to which the hostile report of such a board must have consigned it.11
On seeing this, I congratulated myself that I had not presumed to write a book on Franklin’s statesmanship; for I saw how a historian can err if he enters the scientific field. Lafayette wrote to Washington of the wonders of mesmerism and Washington, in a letter12 to Mesmer himself, replied, with the caution which he had in common with Franklin, that he was glad that there was a promise of the world being benefited. A study of Franklin’s scientific habit of mind toward the fallacies of his time shows the clearness of his intellect, and this clearness, due I believe to his scientific genius, was an important factor in his diplomatic achievements. One of his colleagues in Paris said of him, “He observes much; and says little.” In this did he not exhibit the highest attribute of the scientific mind applied to diplomacy? I may say in passing that the committee did not kill mesmerism. It was renewed by a Baron Reichenbach eighty years later under the title of dynamics of magnetism or the Odic force, and it still has some vigor among the superstitious.
The fullest account of Franklin’s scientific labors can be found in Sparks’s Works of Benjamin Franklin, with Notes and a Life of the Author, in ten volumes. This work is a compilation and does not pretend to give an analysis of the importance of his work in science. Paul Leicester Ford’s work entitled The Many-sided Franklin gives the best popular account of his scientific labors I have seen. Even in essays by scientific men on these labors, there is a lack of fulness and a failure to state what is really great and enduring in these labors, and there is a need at the present time for a work which will show their bearing upon subsequent scientific progress.
I have said it was fortunate that I did not write a life of Franklin thirty years ago, for it is only within a few years that even scientific men have had a clear conception of the value of his contribution to science. I think I can make his present standing clear by contrasting what it was in this community one hundred and fifty years ago among the common people and Harvard College, and what it is now among the people at large and Harvard University.
I suppose that if I should ask each gentleman present what was Benjamin Franklin’s great achievement in electricity the answer would be, “He drew lightning from the sky, and invented the lightning rod.” If this, however, were a scientific audience, the kite experiment might be minimized by saying that it was merely a brilliant tour de force; that perhaps he did not really draw lightning from the sky and that what he obtained was only what we get in almost every thunder storm — throbs and sparks on telephone wires and other conductors — that is, effects of induction. Franklin erected an aerial and received a wireless message from a roving lightning flash. Was it not fortunate for his subsequent career that he really did not draw lightning from heaven? The answer to this scientific doubt is that he might have done so. It has taken eighty years fully to explain his great experiment. What possibilities it contained! facts of induction which have led to the dynamo, the telephone, and the wireless telegraph.
There is no doubt that he might have drawn down a lightning discharge and his lightning rod can also be effective. The doubts of scientific men as to his conclusions in regard to the kite experiment have been greatly exceeded by the doubts of the multitude in regard to the efficacy of his lightning rods. I am inclined to think that the comparative infrequency of damage by lightning and the cost of putting them on buildings has much to do with the doubt of their efficacy by the multitude. Boston and Cambridge, influenced I suppose by the adherence of Professor Winthrop to Franklin’s ideas, were said to have largely protected their buildings in 1755. The earthquake of that year called forth the following warning by the Rev. Thomas Prince:
The more Points of Iron are erected round the Earth, to draw the Electrical Substance out of the Air; the more the Earth must needs be charged with it. And therefore it seems worthy of Consideration, Whether any Part of the Earth being fuller of this terrible Substance, may not be more exposed to more Shocking Earthquakes. In Boston are more erected than anywhere else in New England; and Boston seems to be more dreadfully shaken. O! there is no getting out of the mighty Hand of God! If we think to avoid it in the Air, we cannot in the Earth: Yea it may grow more fatal.13
In these remarks we discern, I think, an opposition to Franklin’s freedom of opinion on religious matters which made many puritans fear that they might suffer from bombs from heaven directed against him and his arts. He, however, as we have seen, was supported by Harvard College, which gave him the degree of Master of Arts. I find that he had many admirers outside of academic circles; for his abundant common sense appealed to the common people. This admiration is expressed in the following poem which was given to me by a distinguished judge who is interested in the reception of Franklin’s ideas by our forefathers:
Dear Doctor let it not transpire
How much your learning we admire,
How at your eloquence we wonder
When you explain the cause of thunder,
Of lightning and electricity,
With so much plainness and simplicity.
The common people, hereabout, took to the lightning rods a hundred years ago; and the lightning rod promoter was a feature of the times, much as the patent medicine vendor or the platform agitator is a feature of our time. The scientific men of the time were not behind in belief. John Winthrop, Hollis Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Harvard College, wrote as follows, January 6, 1768:
I have read in the Philosophical Transactions the account of the effects of lightning on St. Bride’s steeple. It is amazing to me, that, after the full demonstration you had given, of the identity of lightning and of electricity, and the power of mettaline conductors, they should ever think of repairing that steeple without conductors. How astonishing is the force of prejudice, even in an age of so much knowledge and enquiry!14
When I was studying in Cambridge, forty years ago, many of the college buildings had lightning rods, which were laid on the bricks without insulation and without precautions in regard to proper earths. The dryness of the College Yard has always existed. None of the new buildings of the University are now protected by lightning rods except the Jefferson Physical Laboratory. I dwell here briefly upon the method of utilizing Franklin’s idea, in the protection of this building, so as to make it effectual. There are rods upon each chimney which are connected with a conductor which runs around the eaves; this conductor is connected at the four corners of the roof with conductors which descend to a conductor running entirely around the building underground in moist earth: thus the building is in a skeleton cage. The idea is taken from Faraday, who showed that a person in a metallic cage is entirely unaffected by any outside electrical disturbance. The arrangement of protection of the laboratory was the nearest possible to Faraday’s idea.
There is doubt, however, if even the cage method is entirely effective; for recently a powder magazine in Germany, protected in this manner, was struck by lightning and the bolt passed into a large metallic mass contained in the cage. The cage evidently must not contain a large collection of metal. Franklin and Faraday even, had no conception of the immense energy developed in a lightning flash, or of the immense energy that could be developed by electricity in harness. What a fairy tale an account of lighting of cities and the transmission of thousands of horse power in the future would have seemed to Franklin!
I was interested to discover what Winthrop had to say in his lectures in regard to Franklin’s work and I looked through the notebook of his lectures, contained in the University Library. There was only one lecture recorded on electricity. In it was stated that it was possible to transmit an electrical effect over a wire one hundred feet long.
For many years Franklin’s experiments in electricity have been greatly overshadowed by the remarkable advance in the subject which was such a favorite object of inquiry with him. The disappearance of the lightning-rod man seemed to be a characterization in the public mind of what was also in the mind of scientific men. Yet Franklin is now more than ever coming into his own. A distinguished Englishman of science said to me recently, “Are you familiar with Franklin’s account of his experiments? There is a mine of wealth there.” This remark led me to weigh these experiments in the light of our present knowledge, and I discovered what the Englishman had in mind; and what has not been dwelt upon, I believe, by any biographer.
The literary biographer and the historian can still, probably, find new material which may throw light upon the great man’s personality and his constructive work in statesmanship. But there will always be a lack of finality in the conclusions reached by such biographers and historians; for they are dealing with a somewhat puzzling and many-sided man; and he made enemies as well as friends. It is refreshing to turn from an account of his entangled political relations to a consideration of his scientific work. Here there is a clarity of statement which leaves no ground for controversy. His constantly expressed desire to leave diplomatic life and devote his time to experiment shows, I think, his philosophical reflection upon the transitory and changing nature of human affairs and the permanence of scientific truth.
Sir Humphry Davy once said of Franklin that he possessed a remarkable power of inductive reasoning, and a study of his scientific work in the light of modern advances confirms this opinion in an interesting way which I have not found dwelt upon by any of his scientific biographers. I do not know of any scientific man in any country of whom it can be said that his experiments and reflections embodied so much that it has taken more than a hundred years and the study of thousands of scholars to verify and reach his conclusions. In his one fluid theory of electricity he anticipated much of the modern theory of electrons. He supposed a deficit and an excess of electricity which he called the negative and positive state. In the electron theory, the negative electron detached from a collection of positive particles causes the effects which Franklin attributed to excess and deficit. The one fluid theory closely approaches Faraday’s supposition of the electrotonic state in the ether which surrounds us everywhere. His fluid was insensible while in equilibrium but manifested itself when this was disturbed, and when it reëstablished itself. We have arrived at this supposition to-day.
In a manner related to his one fluid hypothesis, is a remarkable statement, in a letter to Cadwallader Colden dated April 23, 1752, of his views in regard to the propagation of light:
I thank you for communicating the illustration of the theorem of light. It is very curious. But I must own I am much in the dark about light. I am not satisfied with the doctrine that supposes particles of matter, called light, continually driven off from the sun’s surface, with a swiftness so prodigious! Must not the smallest particle conceivable have, with such a motion, a force exceeding that of a twenty-four pounder discharged from a cannon? Must not the sun diminish exceedingly by such a waste of matter; and the planets, instead of drawing nearer to him, as some have feared, recede to greater distances through the lessened attraction? Yet these particles, with this amazing motion, will not drive before them, or remove the least and lightest dust they meet with. And the sun, for aught we know, continues of his ancient dimensions, and his attendants move in their ancient orbits.
May not all the phenomena of light be more conveniently solved, by supposing universal space filled with a subtile elastic fluid, which, when at rest, is not visible, but whose vibrations affect that fine sense in the eye, as those of air do the grosser organs of the ear? We do not, in the case of sound, imagine that any sonorous particles are thrown from a bell, for instance, and fly in straight lines to the ear; why should we believe that luminous particles leave the sun and proceed to the eye? . . . May not different degrees of the vibration of the above-mentioned universal medium occasion the appearances of different colors?15
This was in opposition to the corpuscular theory of light held by no less a master mind than Sir Isaac Newton. Franklin’s views are in complete agreement with our present theory of light and heat: and taken in connection with his one fluid theory of electricity do not materially differ from Maxwell’s electrodynamic theory which supposes that light and heat waves are electrical phenomena.
In a paper on the Aurora Borealis, Franklin asks:
May not air, suddenly rarified, give electrical fire to, and air, suddenly condensed, receive electrical fire from, clouds and vapours passing through it?
Is not the aurora borealis the flashing of electrical fire from positive towards negative clouds, at a great distance, through the upper part of the atmosphere, where the resistance is least?16
This is the main conclusion to-day, and he arrived at it without the complicated apparatus we now use in studying the analogous discharges of electricity through rarified gases.
I think we see that Franklin had clearer views on the greatest of nature’s agencies than any of his contemporaries, and that scientific men after more than one hundred and fifty years are recognizing truths expressed in his scientific work. This scientific work was given to the world largely in letters to his friends.
The Éloge read in the French Academy contains the remark that Franklin was entirely uneducated in science and obtained his results by the force of his genius. We find in his letters a constant desire to leave the contentions of political life in order to engage in the peaceful pursuit of science. It can be said of him that he gave to his country what was meant for science.
The position of Franklin among the greatest men in the history of electricity, in the estimation of scholars, is as follows: Franklin, Cavendish, Faraday, Maxwell.
Mr. George L. Kittredge made the following communication:
The ceremonies incident to Pope Night have already been treated in our Publications by Mr. Matthews17 and Mr. H. W. Cunningham.18 The library of Harvard College has recently acquired an eight-page tract of 1678 which gives an account of these performances in that momentous year.19 The narrative20 is lively, and short enough to be reprinted in full. The peculiar elaboration of the celebration of Guy Fawkes Night which it records was due to the recent utterances of Titus Oates, the murder of Godfrey, and the consequent feeling of panic among the people.
The manner of the burning the Pope in Effigies in London, on the 5th of November, 1678.
IT is a singular Prerogative attributed particularly to our Nation, and seems undissolvably intail’d on our Clime, that our Children, even whilst so young that they can hardly ask for the necessaries of Life, do yet in their sports and deportments divulge as particular a liking to Generosity and Virtue, as they demonstrate an irreconcileable Odium to Treachery and Deceit, which are their Contraries.
This is most apparent by their earnest Celebration of this 5th day of November; a day, which the oldest of us all indeed ought not to remember without sending up Vollies of Congratulations to Heaven, from whence we undeservedly receiv’d so extraordinary, and miraculous a deliverance, from that Hellish Gunpowder-Plot contriv’d in the year 1605 and levelled not only at the dissolution of our King and Peers, but at the total subversion of Religion, and the ruine and destruction of the whole Land.
 In that Age wherein this Conspiracy was contrived, and designed to have been effected, it was lookt on as so monstrously impudent, that it would admit of no parallel; All the Treacheries of Europe compounded would not come near it; nor all the Inhumanity of the Turks and Pagans give it but a faint resemblance, so that ’tis no wonder if the very remembrance of it did sharpen the Mother’s Milk, and their Children sucking it in with their sustenance, became instinctively irritated at theirs and their Parents intended Murder.
But that danger being over, who could expect the unwelcome repetition of any thing of the same nature by the same Party: But alas, it is little wonder to see such bad Practices from those, who by principle reckon upon’t as meritorious to undertake them.
Why should not even our Youth then espouse a noble Indignation at the injustice, and by their resentments on the Effigy, divulge a deserved contempt of the Original.
Which to effect, on this present Fifth Day of November, they caused several of the said Effigies, or Resemblances of the Pope, to be made; some of them displaying  him in one posture, and some in another; but all of them were followed with lowd and numerous acclamations to their several places of Execution.
He of them who might best pretend to the priority in point of Workmanship and invention, was raised on a small Pavillion, born like Pageants on Mens Backs, with a large Cross filled with Lamps, which in much majesty stalkt before him, whilst the Effigies, curiously adorned with his Triple Crown, Neck-lace of Beads, and all his other superstitious Accouterments, came very sumptuously behind, in procession from the Royal-Exchange to Temple-Bar, and visiting most Streets, Courts, and Alleys as he walkt along.
So frollick was he, that he danced before the Flames, and when he came near Temple-Bar (the place of Execution) cut a Caper into a great Bonefire, provided on purpose to entertain him, whose abominable civilities  had been so great, as heretofore to provide such large ones for others.
In fine after this feigned Pope had been sufficiently exposed to the Vulgar Reflections, he was hurl’d, Canopy, Triple Crown, Beads, Crucifix and all into the Bonefire near Chancery-Lane end, in Fleet-street, where a world of People celebrated his fall with a general Vtinam, that all his Majesties Enemies, or the perverters of the Protestant Religion, or English Government, may ere long be reduced to some such Fate.
The seventh and eighth pages of the tract contain “A brief Account of the Papistical Massacres and Cruelties towards Protestants,” which does not here concern us.
Mr. Albert Matthews spoke as follows:
In his account of Pope Day celebrations in this country, referred to by Mr. Kittredge, Mr. Cunningham cited no earlier instance than in 1685. When he was preparing that account, I said I thought that somewhere I had a reference to a notice of the day in Bradford’s History, though I was unable to find it at the time. Recently I have noted what, in all probability, I had in mind six years ago. In 1623 there was a fire in Plymouth, and Bradford says: “This fire was occasioned by some of the sea-men that were roystering in a house wher it first begane, makeing a great fire in very could weather, which broke out of the chimney into the thatch, and burnte downe .3. or .4. houses, and consumed all the goods and provisions in them.”21 Bradford does not give the exact date, but this is supplied by Morton, who against this passage inserted in the margin “This was on the fifth of November 162422” — the year 1624 being a slip of Morton’s or a typographical error for 1623.
On behalf of the Rev. Charles E. Park, Mr. Henry H. Edes read a correspondence between the Spain Lane Unitarian Chapel in Boston, England, and the First Church in Boston, Massachusetts, on the completion of one hundred years of peace from the signing of the Treaty of Ghent.
Mr. Samuel E. Morison read a letter dated 17 April, 1794, from George Hammond, the first British Minister to the United States, to Lord Grenville, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, describing an interview with Alexander Hamilton regarding British invasions of the rights of neutrals. In this the British Minister described the war as one “in which all the dearest interests of society were involved, and which was a contest between government and disorder, virtue and vice, and religion and impiety.”
Mr. Matthews made the following remarks:
In a paper read before the Society in April, 1912, it was stated that eight editions of Nathaniel Morton’s New England’s Memorial had been published — the third at Newport, Rhode Island, in 1772,23 the fourth by Allen Danforth at Plymouth in 1826, and the fifth (edited by Judge John Davis) at Boston in 1826 also.24 Several weeks ago, in running through some Boston newspapers and magazines, I was surprised to see advertised “Proposals for publishing by subscription, a new and improved edition” of Morton’s book. These proposals, dated January 14, 1803, stated that “Historical and Explanatory Notes will be added by the present Editor, together with a Map of the Old Colony of Plymouth;” but the name of the editor was not given.25 Of course, it at once occurred to me that these proposals must refer to the edition published by Judge Davis in 1826. Still, this was merely a conjecture. As there was only one living person who could speak with authority, I appealed to Mr. Lord, with a result which he himself will announce.
Let me call attention to a curiosity in connection with Judge Davis’s edition. In the preface, dated December 12, 1826, Davis says that “some explanation, or apology it may be thought, should be offered, for the long delay in the publication of this work.” The work was copyrighted on December 13th, and the following advertisement was printed in the Columbian Centinel of December 23d:
HAVE just published NEW-ENGLAND’S MEMORIAL. By Nathaniel Morton, Secretary to the Court for the Jurisdiction of New Plymouth. Fifth Edition. Containing besides the original work, and the Supplement annexed to the second edition, large additions in marginal notes, and an Appendix, with a lithographic copy of an ancient map. By John Davis, Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and Member of the Massachusetts Historical Society (p. 3/2).26
Hence the book was published between December 13th and 23d, 1826. Now on December 22, 1815, the Rev. James Flint delivered at Plymouth a Discourse, printed at Boston in 1816, which at the end contained this note:
To those who may wish to furnish themselves with a minute and full historical account of the pilgrims, and of the Plymouth colony and church, down to the present period, we would recommend the “New-England Memorial,” recently republished, with notes and an ample appendix, by the Hon. Judge Davis, of Boston. From the peculiar opportunities of that gentleman, being a native of Plymouth, and having been long a resident there, and from the known interest, ability and care with which his researches have been presented, the reader may confidently expect to find, in this publication, the most complete and satisfactory information, relative to the first settlers of the Old Colony, and its subsequent history, that, in all probability, will ever be obtained (p. 22).
A possible explanation occurs to me. Though Flint refers to Morton’s book as “recently republished,” yet he also says that “the reader may confidently expect to find,” etc. Is it possible that Davis’s edition had again been advertised in the papers in 1815, that Flint had seen the advertisement and concluded that the work had been published, but, not having actually himself seen the book, said that “the reader may confidently expect to find,” etc.? At all events, it is singular to find a book not published until 1826 alluded to as “recently republished” in a pamphlet printed in 1816.
Mr. Arthur Lord made the following communication:
Mr. Matthews has called to my attention the interesting advertisement in the New England Palladium of January 14, 1803, relating to a new and improved edition of Morton’s New England’s Memorial. The inquiry which he suggests as to whether there was an edition of the Memorial published at that time or between that date and 1826, when appeared the edition printed by Allen Danforth at Plymouth and the fifth edition of the Memorial, edited by John Davis, can be satisfactorily answered by reference to the records of the First Parish in Plymouth and to some original material in my collection.
The advertisement in the Palladium undoubtedly referred to the new edition of the Memorial which Judge Davis as early as 1802 proposed to edit. There is a letter dated Plymouth, October 11, 1802, from John Davis to my grandfather, the Rev. James Kendall, then minister of the First Church in Plymouth, copied in the records of the First Parish and reading as follows:
Plymouth, October 11, 1802.
I return you herewith the first volume of Church records with which you lately favored me for perusal. Accept my acknowledgement for the indulgence. I have read considerable a portion of the book and with a great deal of satisfaction, it is a precious morsel of antiquity and one cannot peruse it without feeling solicitous that it may be secured from the possible fatality of accident, or the slow but sure ravages of time, the Ecclesiastical history etc penned by Secretary Morton would be a suitable appendage to his New England Memorial which has been long out of print and would I am persuaded be very acceptable to the Public in a new edition — the present generation is at that distance from the founders of New England, that it has become interesting to trace the first line of their History, and if I be not greatly deceived in regard to the Public taste these plain and venerable originals would be generally and highly acceptable. Feeling a strong desire to have the work accomplished which I have suggested, it would be gratifying to me to be indulged with the use of these records for that purpose and I would cheerfully consent the entire Profit of the proposed publication, should be accounted for to the Precinct to constitute part of the fund for the maintenance of the Ministry therein. I am Sir respectfully and with great regard your obedient servant.
The Rev. James Kendall
This letter was read at the meeting of the parish held October 21 1802, and it was then —
Voted that the Precinct will unite with the Church in accomplishing the Proposal of the Honourable Judge Davis as above in procuring a republication of Secretary Morton’s Memorial of New England and for adding the History of the Church thereto, as an appendage as it shall be digested by him. Also that a Committee be raised to join with the Committee of the Church to carry said object into effect.
The parish then made choice of the standing committee of the precinct for that purpose, which committee consisted of Joshua Thomas, William Davis, James Thacher, and William Jackson, and it was then —
Voted and requested said Committee to use their best endeavour to procure donation to a fund to be added to what may be procured by the publication above, the interest of which to be applied to the Support of the Minister in this Precinct in future.
I have here a photostat of a broadside, dated Boston, December 22, 1802, the original of which is in the possession of the American Antiquarian Society, which upon comparison with the advertisement in the New England Palladium is found, with the exception of the place and the date at the top, to be identical, so far as the rule above the words “SPECIMEN of the PAGE and TYPE,” with the prospectus. This specimen of the page and type which appears in the broadside was omitted in the advertisement in the Palladium.27 The closing paragraph in the Palladium reading —
“☞ Subscriptions will be received at the Bookstores of Messrs. Manning & Loring, J. White & Co., Thomas & Andrews, E. Larkin, West & Greenleaf, W. P. & L. Blake, and at the different Bookstores in the principal towns in this and the neighbouring States” — is omitted in the broadside. The broadside, below the specimen of the page and type, has the words on the same line “Subscribers’ Names. Residence. No. of Copies,” leaving a place below for the signatures of the subscribers, their addresses and number of copies.
The broadside, down to the specimen of the pages and type, reads as follows:
boston, December 22, 1802.
For Publiſhing, by Subſcription,
A NEW AND IMPROVED EDITION
Firſt Publiſhed in the Year 1669.
BY NATHANIEL MORTON,
SECRETARY OF PLYMOUTH COLONY.
TO WHICH WILL BE ADDED,
A valuable TRACT by the same Author, compoſed in the Year 1680, and which has never been printed.
This Tract compoſes part of the Firſt Volume of the Records of the Firſt Church in Plymouth; it was intended to ſupply many omiſſions in the Memorial, and was compiled principally from the manuſcripts of Governor Bradford.
HISTORICAL and EXPLANATORY NOTES will be added by the preſent Editor, together with a Map of the Old Colony of Plymouth, in which the Indian, as well as the Engliſh names of places, will be inſerted.
I. The Work will be compriſed in one volume of about 400 pages, and will be delivered to Subſcribers at Two Dollars for each copy, handſomely bound and lettered, or at One Dollar and Fifty Cents, in boards. Payment to be made when the books ſhall be delivered.
III. Subſcribers for ten copies and upwards, ſhall be allowed a diſcount of ten per cent, from the price above mentioned.
IV. Every Subſcriber will be underſtood as engaging to take the book bound, unleſs it be otherwise expreſſed at the time of ſubſcribing.
V. The work will be printed by Meſſrs. Manning and Loring, and be put to preſs as ſoon as ſufficient encouragement ſhall be manifested. Subſcribers’ Names will be publiſhed, unleſs the omiſſion be requeſted.
II. The paper and type ſhall correspond to the ſpecimen annexed to theſe Propoſals, excepting that the Notes will be in a ſmaller type.
☞ The Subſcription will be open until the firſt day of April next: at which time, thoſe Gentlemen, to whom Propoſals may be committed, are requeſted to return them to MANNING & LORING, at their Bookſtore, No. 2, Cornhill, Boston.
THE New-England’s Memorial contains a faithful and intereſting narrative, relative to the ſettlement and infant ſtate of our Country. It was firſt published in London,28 and was received with great approbation by the people of New-England, and by all who felt intereſted in the great and magnanimous enterprize which it records. Some of the firſt characters in Church and State, gave their teſtimonials of the merit of the Work; and in every ſucceeding generation, it has been peruſed with pleaſure and improvement.
To the ſecond edition, publiſhed in 1721, there was annexed a Summary, by another hand,29 bringing down the Hiſtory of the Colony, though in a brief manner, to its incorporation with Maſſachuſetts in 1692.
It is a work that principally relates to the Colony of Plymouth; but the Author frequently adverts to tranſactions and events in the neighboring Colonies. It has long been out of print; and it is hoped, that a republication in the manner and with the improvements contemplated, will be acceptable to all, who reverence the characters and inſtitutions of our Anceſtors, and who indulge a liberal curioſity in tracing the firſt lines of their Hiſtory.
It is evident that Judge Davis and the committee regarded that the use of the first volume of the church records containing the ecclesiastical history, etc., penned by Secretary Morton, and which in 1841 was published by Dr. Young in his Chronicles of the Pilgrim Fathers, would be a useful and valuable “Appendage to the New England Memorial,” and that both the editor and the parish were of opinion that for the use of the church records for that purpose some consideration should be paid, and willingly accepted Judge Davis’s offer “that the entire profit of the proposed publication should be accounted for to the Precinct to constitute part of the funds for the maintenance of the ministry therein.”
The arrangement being then completed between the parish and the editor, the prospectus was issued and advertisements appeared in the Palladium and in the Boston Weekly Magazine and other papers, as stated by Mr. Matthews. The undertaking was fully launched and yet the publication of an edition, edited by John Davis, did not appear until 1826, and in that edition the only citation from the church records is relative to the removal to Nauset.30
No further action was taken by the parish or its committee so far as the records show until 1814, at which time an agreement was entered into, under date of the 7th of February, 1814, by and between the “Rev. James Kendall, Ephraim Spooner, Esquire, Nathaniel Goodwin, Esq., Capt. Nathaniel Russell and James Thacher, Physician, all of Plymouth, in the County of Plymouth, being a committee of the First Church in Plymouth aforesaid, of the one part, and Joseph Avery, Bookseller, of said Plymouth of the other part,” which agreement I have here, and which recites —
That whereas the said first church in Plymouth hath caused to be prepared and have ready for publication a work entitled A new and improved edition of the New-England Memorial first published in the year 1669 by Nathaniel Morton secretary of Plymouth colony. To which will be added a valuable tract by the same Author composed in the year 1680 and which has never been printed. This Tract composes part of the first volume of the records of the first Church in Plymouth it was intended to supply many omissions in the Memorial and was compiled principally from the manuscripts of Governor Bradford. To ensure correctness in the proposed republication the different editions of the Memorial will be carefully compared and such historical and explanatory notes as shall appear to be necessary will be added by the Editor.
And whereas the said Joseph Avery hath agreed to print and publish the said work and to purchase the right and interest which the said first church have in the same, Now know ye that the said committee in behalf and by the authority of the said first church for the consideration herein after expressed hath bargained sold and assigned and doth by these presents bargain sell and assign to the said Avery the work aforesaid and all the title interest and claim which the said church have to the same so far as respects the Edition of the said work now to be printed to have and to hold the same to him the said Avery his executors administrators and assigns to his and their use.
And the said Joseph Avery on his part covenants and agrees that he will print and publish the said work at his own expense with a fair type and on good paper and that he will deliver to the said committee or to such persons as the said church shall direct as soon as practicable after the publication of said work sixty copies handsomely bound and lettered provided this edition consists of two thousand copies only but if a greater number should be printed it is agreed by the parties that the said first church shall be entitled to receive from said Avery books bound and lettered at the rate of five per cent on the number so printed over and above the two thousand copies as aforesaid, and it is further stipulated and agreed by the said parties that the said church shall not be at liberty to dispose of the copyright of said work to any other person or cause to be printed another edition of said work so long as the said Avery shall have two hundred copies of the first edition unsold.
And the said parties to the faithful performance of this covenant bind themselves their heirs executors administrators and successors the aforesaid committee in behalf of the said first church and the said Avery for himself firmly by these presents in the final sum of five hundred dollars — In testimony where of they have hereunto and also unto another instrument of the same tenor and date interchangeably affixed their hands and seals this Eighth day February A. D. 1814.
It is expressly understood by the parties, that the edition to be published shall not exceed three thousand copies, and that the said Committee of the first Church of Plymo. convey no right to the said Joseph Avery except for one edition.
Signed Sealed and delivered in presence of
James A. Kendall
The agreement is witnessed by Sally Kendall and James A. Kendall, H. U. 1823, the wife and the eldest son of the Rev. James Kendall, D. D., H. U. 1796. It will be noted that the title of this publication —
A New and Improved Edition of the New England’s Memorial, first published in the year 1669, by Nathaniel Morton, Secretary of Plymouth Colony, to which will be added a valuable tract by the same author, composed in the year 1680, and which has never been printed. This tract composes part of the first volume of the records of the First Church in Plymouth. It was intended to supply many omissions in the Memorial and was compiled principally from the manuscripts of Governor Bradford —
is verbatim et literatim the language of the advertisement and of the prospectus before referred to.
The parish records do not show that any action on this subject was taken at the meetings of the parish of that year or later.
The existence of this agreement between the committee of the First Parish and the Plymouth bookseller, respecting the publication of the Memorial under the editorship of John Davis, explains the curious error made by the Rev. James Flint in the note to his Discourse, delivered at Plymouth December 22, 1815, which was printed in Boston by Lincoln & Edmands for Joseph Avery in Plymouth, in 1816. Dr. Flint was undoubtedly informed, either by the committee or by Mr. Avery, that there was an edition of the Memorial, edited by John Davis, which was to be shortly published, and presumably when Dr. Flint said in his note —
To those who may wish to furnish themselves with a minute and full historical account of the pilgrims, and of the Plymouth colony and church, down to the present period, we would recommend the “New-England’s Memorial,” recently republished, with notes and an ample appendix, by the Hon. Judge Davis, of Boston —
he assumed that it would be published by the date of the publication of his Discourse, and perhaps the bookseller Avery, if he read the note, regarded the statement therein made as a useful advertisement of the book which he had agreed to print, and whose early publication he undoubtedly anticipated. But the work which Dr. Flint announced in 1816 was delayed for ten years, and then not published by the too hopeful Avery.
This agreement entered into by the committee of the church conclusively shows that there had been no publication of the edition proposed in 1802, as if it had been published the agreement would not have contained the statement, “To which will be added a valuable tract by the same author, composed in the year 1680, and which has never been printed.” In 1826 the edition of New England’s Memorial, edited by John Davis, was printed at Boston by Crocker and Brewster, and the Preface by the editor refers to the previous editions, as follows:
The first edition of the Memorial was published in 1669. . . . A second edition was printed in 1721, at Boston, by Nicholas Boone. . . . In 1772, a third edition, copied from the second, was printed, at Newport, by Solomon Southwick. When another edition appeared to be demanded, it was thought desirable, that notes should be annexed, giving information in regard to many particulars, connected with the original narrative, that might, in a degree, meet the increased interest in the early history of our country. This was undertaken by the editor. Before the completion of his labours, which have been often interrupted, and for long intervals suspended, another edition of the Memorial and Mr. Cotton’s Supplement has appeared, printed at Plymouth by Allen Danforth, in a duodecimo volume, so that this enlarged edition, which, it was expected, would have been the fourth, is denominated the fifth.
If any further evidence were necessary to establish the fact that neither the edition referred to in the advertisement in the Palladium and in the prospectus, nor the edition contemplated under the agreement with Joseph Avery, made by the committee of the First Church, had been printed, the statement which Judge Davis made, that the Danforth edition was the fourth edition would be conclusive, for it is impossible that another edition could have been printed between 1802 and 1826 without the knowledge of Judge Davis.
It may be fairly inferred from the following extract from the Preface that this edition of 1826 was the edition contemplated by Judge Davis in his letter to the church in 1802. The Preface to that edition closes with the following sentences:
With these introductory notices, some explanation, or apology it may be thought, should be offered, for the long delay in the publication of this work. The usual excuse in such cases, circumstances beyond the control of the author, may not perhaps be admitted; and yet, to say more, would occupy the writer and the reader in details of little interest, at the present moment, and which will, soon, be of no interest whatever. The editor, might, perhaps, make out a case, inducing some mitigation of a sentence, that he may have reason to apprehend; but he is unwilling to connect such unimportant suggestions with the grave subject on which he has been employed, and with a work which he would now introduce, he hopes in an improved form, to public examination. Rather than to detain the reader, with awkward and unprofitable personal discussions, he would be disposed to admit that he has been to blame, and will be gratified if he shall have made his peace with expecting, and, sometimes, complaining friends, by any thing which may be found in the following pages.
Boston, December 12th, 1826.
The probable explanation of the unusual delay of nearly a quarter of a century in the publication of the edition of the Memorial, edited by Judge Davis, may be found in the fact that in 1801 he was appointed Judge of the United States District Court and held that office continuously until 1841, and that the labors and duties of that important judicial position prevented him from devoting the time and attention necessary in his opinion to such editorial work.
These words of explanation and apology in the Preface suggest the possibility that the First Church in Plymouth, anticipating with eagerness and hope some increase of its ministerial fund from the publication of the new and improved edition, had given some indication of impatience and regret at the long delay. I do not find in the church records any reference to any new arrangement or agreement with Judge Davis subsequent to that made in the year 1802. The slight use which Judge Davis in fact made of the first volume of the church records might negative any presumption that there was any obligation on his part to pay for the privilege of using those records.
The copyright entry of the edition edited by Judge Davis clearly shows that at that date — December 13, 1826 — the Pilgrim Society, and not the Parish, was to be the beneficiary from the publication. The fifth edition of Morton’s New England’s Memorial, edited by Judge Davis, was entered December 13, 1826, in the Clerk’s office of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, in the name of the Pilgrim Society, by their Treasurer, Isaac L. Hedge, as appears by the record given me by the Register of Copyrights in Washington.
At a meeting of the Pilgrim Society on the 22d of December, 1832, the librarian, Dr. Thacher, was appointed a committee to call on the Hon. John Davis and return to him the thanks of the Pilgrim Society for his generous donation to the Society of fifty volumes of his New England’s Memorial, and to receive the same and to dispose of them for a price of not less than two dollars for each volume for the use and benefit of the Society. In accordance with this vote Dr. Thacher called on Judge Davis and at the meeting of the Society on the 23d of December, 1833, Dr. Thacher reported as follows:
Being appointed a committee to consult with Hon. Judge Davis on the subject of disposing of a number of copies of the New England Memorial, belonging to the Society, I hereby report that I have performed that service and Judge Davis could see no prospect of disposing of said books, but at a very low price if at all, but he said if the Trustees desired it he would put them with his own and do the best he could with them.
The report was not encouraging or satisfactory to Dr. Thacher at least, for at the next meeting of the Society, held on the 15th of May, 1834, the matter was again considered and it was voted that Dr. Thacher be a committee to receive of the Hon. Judge Davis the fifty volumes of his New England’s Memorial, by him presented to the Pilgrim Society for the use and benefit of the Society. Dr. Thacher diligently attended to the duty assigned him and at the meeting in May, 1835, made a verbal report that he had received and deposited the same in the Society’s library, thirty-nine volumes of the New England’s Memorial, being in part of Judge Davis’s donation.
No further action seems to have been taken by the Society until 1839, when at the annual meeting of the Pilgrim Society, held on the 27th day of May, the Society voted that the Trustees be authorized to negotiate with Judge Davis for the sale of the copyright of the New England’s Memorial, and that they be fully empowered to convey the same to him, if they should judge it expedient, on such terms and conditions as they think proper.
On the 17th of July, 1840, the Trustees of the Pilgrim Society executed an assignment, conveying the copyright to Judge Davis for the sum of $100, and the assignment was recorded in the Copyright Records on the 24th of July of that year. This ended any pecuniary interest which the Pilgrim Society had in the publication, and the interest of the Parish was never more than a pleasant but ungratified expectation.
If it is ever possible to prove a negative, it would seem to be established that the edition of Morton’s New England’s Memorial, announced in the Palladium in January, 1803, and the edition announced by Dr. Flint in a note to his Discourse, published in 1816, never in fact existed and that from the time of the third edition of the New England’s Memorial, published in 1772, to 1826 no edition was published.