The Letters of Benjamin Franklin & Jane Mecom

By Benjamin Franklin; Jane Mecom et al. | Go to book overview

"Old Folks & old Trees"

[Printed first in Sparks, Familiar Letters, pp. 50-51, and here printed from the manuscript in the American Philosophical Society. It is the earliest of the three surviving letters that Franklin wrote to Jane Mecom while he waited in New York for the ship that was to take him to England. At the date of this letter Elizabeth Douse, his eldest sister, was eighty and more or less dependent on her family, particularly her youngest brother Benjamin, for her support. He held a mortgage on her house in Unity Street, Boston, and her bond for sums advanced. Nine days after the date of this letter to Jane Mecom he made his will of April 28, 1757, printed in facsimile by The Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania as The Will of Benjamin Franklin 1757 ( 1949) with an introduction by Carl Van Doren. The second of his legacies reads: "I give to my dear Sister Jane Mecom, the Mortgage I have on my Sister Douse's House and Lot in Boston, with said Douse's Bond, and every Demand I have against my said Sister Douse's Estate. Only I will that my said Sister Douse be never disturbed in her Possession of the said House and Lot during her Life, tho' she should not be able to discharge the said Mortgage or pay the interest arising on the same. Also I give to my Sister Jane Mecom the Share of my Father's Estate, and the particular Legacy which he left me by his will, and also the Debt due to me from that Estate. Also I give to my Sister Jane Mecom, my least Silver Tankard." Jonathan Williams Sr., who was a nephew of Franklin's, not a cousin, had charge of Elizabeth Douse's house and generally of Franklin's affairs in Boston.]

New York, April 19. 1757

DEAR SISTER

I wrote a few Lines to you yesterday, but omitted to answer yours relating to Sister Douse: As having their own Way, is one of the greatest Comforts of Life, to old People, I think their Friends should endeavour to accommodate them in that, as well as in any thing else.--When they have long liv'd in a House, it becomes natural to them, they are almost as closely connected with it as the Tortoise with his Shell, they die if you tear them out of it.--Old Folks & old Trees, if you remove them, tis ten to one that you kill them. So let our good old Sister be no more importun'd on that head. We are growing old fast our selves, and shall expect the same kind of Indulgencies. If we give them, we shall have a Right to receive them in our Turn.

And as to her few fine Things, I think she is in the right not

-57-

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