Newly Found Treasure Trove of Ben Franklin's Letters

USA TODAY, August 2009 | Go to article overview

Newly Found Treasure Trove of Ben Franklin's Letters


A trove of Benjamin Franklin letters has turned up in the British Library. Discovered by Alan Houston, professor of political science at the University of California, Davis, they are copies of correspondence that have not been seen in more than 250 years. All dating from the spring and summer of 1755, the 47 letters by, to, and about Franklin are in the hand of one Thomas Birch, a contemporary of Franklin's who was a prodigious--almost inveterate--compiler and transcriber of historical documents.

The letters concern Franklin's involvement in the first phase of the French and Indian War, specifically Gen. Edward Braddock and what Franklin later called the "Wagon affair." The French and Indian War is the North American chapter of The Seven Years' War. The most important colonial clash between Great Britain and France, it resulted, by 1763, in the French loss of most of its colonial possessions in the New World. Yet, in 1755, that eventual outcome was not at all clear.

Following George Washington's defeat at Ft. Necessity the previous year, imperial authorities dispatched one of their top commanders, Gen. Braddock, to regain control of the frontier. Braddock landed in Virginia, tasked with capturing France's Ft. Duquesne in what today is Pittsburgh.

He had been promised 2,500 horses and 250 wagons by Virginia and Maryland for his 250-mile overland march. Instead, he received only 200 horses and 20 wagons, and exploded in anger. Franklin arrived just in time, offering to arrange the help of Pennsylvania farmers. Franklin was successful; Braddock, less so, as the general died in a surprise attack just a few miles short of the fort. About 1,000 of his 1,500 men in the field were killed or wounded.

Houston was working on his latest book, Benjamin Franklin and the Politics of Improvement, when he discovered the "new" letters. It was Houston's final day of his scheduled trip to England. The last document he asked to see in the Manuscripts Reading Room was catalogued as "Copies of Letters relating to the March of General Braddock" by Thomas Birch. Birch was a colorful figure and an important man in his own right--a member of the Society of Antiquaries of London and secretary of the Royal Society from 1752-65--but he "doesn't show up in any of the biographies on Franklin," Houston relates.

Houston was not looking for traces of Franklin in Birch's handiwork--which numbers an astonishing 400-plus volumes in the British Library. Rather, he was combing the archives for documents that might shed light on political and economic dimensions of the Seven Years' War. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • A full archive of books and articles related to this one
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Newly Found Treasure Trove of Ben Franklin's Letters
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

    Already a member? Log in now.