THE sharp tone of Franklin's letter to the dilatory Jeremiah Meyer is in marked contrast to the cordiality of his attitude toward most artists and their work. Charles Willson Peale, a native of Maryland, first met Franklin in 1767 in London, where the young man had gone to study painting. The Pennsylvania agent befriended him and, back in America four years later, the artist wrote to tell of his progress as a portrait painter in Maryland and Philadelphia. The very practical Franklin replied to the thirty-year-old Peale with sound advice on the conduct of his affairs and with encouraging remarks on the future of the arts in America.
London, July 4, 1771
I received your obliging Letter of April 21 and it gave me great Pleasure to hear that you had met with such Encouragement at Philadelphia, and that you succeed so well in your Business in your native Country. If I were to advise you, it should be, by great Industry and Frugality to secure a Competency as early in Life as may be: For as your Profession requires good Eyes, cannot so well be follow'd with Spectacles, and therefore will not probably afford Subsistence so long as some other Employments, you have a Right to claim proportionably larger Rewards while you continue able to exercise it to general Satisfaction.
The Arts have always travelled Westward, and there is no doubt of their flourishing hereafter on our side the Atlantic, as the Number of wealthy Inhabitants shall increase, who may be able and willing suitably to reward them, since from several Instances it appears that our People are not deficient in Genius.