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TO MRS. SARAH DAVENPORT.
(Date uncertain.) DEAR SISTER, Your kind and affectionate letter of May 15th was extremely agreeable to me, and the more so, because I had not for two years before received a line from any relation, my father and mother only excepted. I am glad to hear your family are got well through the smallpox, and that you have your health continued to you.
I am sorry to hear of sister Mecom's loss, and should be mighty glad to have a line from her, and from sister Holmes, who need be under no apprehensions of not writing polite enough to such an unpolite reader as 1 am. I think, if politeness is necessary to make letters between brothers and sisters agreeable, there must be very little love among them.
I am not about to be married, as you have heard. At present I am much hurried in business, but hope to make a short trip to Boston in the spring.
Please to let me know how sister Dowse is, and remember my kind love to her, as also to brother Peter and sister Lydia.* Dear sister, I love you tenderly. Adieu.
. This sister was afterwards married to Mr. Robert Scott
TO MRS. JANE MECOM.*
Family Afflictions. — Singular Instance of Mortality.
Philadelphia, 19 June, 1731. DEAR SISTER, Yours of May 26th I received, with the melancholy news of the death of sister Davenport, a loss, without doubt, regretted by all that knew her, for she was a good woman. Her friends ought, however, to be comforted that they have enjoyed her so long, and that she has passed through the world happily, having never had any extraordinary misfortune or notable affliction, and that she is now secure in rest, in the place provided for the virtuous. I had before heard of the death of. your first child, and am pleased that the loss is in some measure made up to you by the birth of a second.
We have had the smallpox here lately, which raged violently while it lasted. There have been about fifty persons inoculated, who all recovered, except a child of the doctor's, upon whom the smallpox appeared within a day or two after the operation, and who is therefore thought to have been certainly infected before. In one family in my neighbourhood there appeared a great mortality. Mr. George Claypoole (a descendant of Oliver Cromwell) had, by industry, acquired a great estate, and being in excellent business, a merchant, would probably have doubled it, had he lived according to the common course of years. He died first, suddenly; within a short time died his best negro; then one of his children; then a negro woman; then two children more, buried at the same time; then two more;
* His sister Jane was married to Mr. Edward Mecom, of Boston, on the 27th of July, 1727.-DUANE.
so that I saw two double buryings come out of the house in one week. None were left in the family, but the mother and one child, and both their lives till lately despaired of; so that all the father's wealth, which every: body thought, a little while ago, had heirs enough, and no one would have given sixpence for the reversion, was in a few weeks brought to the greatest probability of being divided among strangers; so uncertain are all human affairs. The dissolution of this family is generally ascribed to an imprudent use of quicksilver in the cure of the itch, Mr. Claypoole applying it as he thought proper, without consulting a physician for fear of charges; and the smallpox coming upon them at the same time made their case desperate.
But what gives me the greatest concern, is the account you give me of my sister Holmes's misfortune. I know a cancer in the breast is often thought incurable; yet we have here in town a kind of shell made of some wood, cut at a proper time, by some man of great skill, (as they say,) which has done wonders in that disease among us, being worn for some time on the breast. I am not apt to be superstitiously fond of believing such things, but the instances are so well attested, as sufficiently to convince the most incredulous.
This, if I have interest enough to procure, as I think I have, I will borrow for a time, and send it to you, and hope the doctors you have will at least allow the experiment to be tried, and shall rejoice to hear it has the accustomed effect.
You have mentioned nothing in your letter of our dear parents; but I conclude they are well, because you say nothing to the contrary. I want to hear from sister Dowse, and to know of her welfare, as also of my sister Lydia, who I hear is lately married. I intended to have visited you this summer, but printing the paper
money here has hindered me near two months, and our Assembly will sit the 2d of August next, at which time ( must not be absent; but I hope to see you this fall. I am your affectionate brother,
TO JOSIAH FRANKLIN.
Religious Opinions and Practice. — Freemasons.
Philadelphia, 13 April, 1738. HONORED FATHER, I have your favors of the 21st of March, in which you both seem concerned lest I have imbibed some erroneous opinions. Doubtless I have my share; and when the natural weakness and imperfection of human understanding is considered, the unavoidable influence of education, custom, books, and company upon our ways of thinking, I imagine a man must have a good deal of vanity who believes, and a good deal of boldness who affirms, that all the doctrines he holds are true, and all he rejects are false. And perhaps the same may be justly said of every sect, church, and society of men, when they assume to themselves that infallibility, which they deny to the Pope and councils.
I think opinions should be judged of by their influences and effects; and, if a man holds none that tend to make him less virtuous or more vicious, it may be concluded he holds none that are dangerous; which I hope is the case with me.
I am sorry you should have any uneasiness on my account; and, if it were a thing possible for one to alter bis opinions in order to please another, I know none whom I ought more willingly to oblige in that respect than yourselves. But, since it is no more in a man's power to think than to look like another, methinks all that should be expected from me is, to keep my mind open to conviction, to hear patiently, and examine attentively, whatever is offered me for that end ; and, if after all I continue in the same errors, I believe your usual charity will induce you to rather pity and excuse, than blame me. In the mean time your care and concern for me is what I am very thankful for.
My mother grieves, that one of her sons is an Arian, another an Arminian. What an Arminian or an Arian is, I cannot say that I very well know. The truth is, I make such distinctions very little my study. I think vital religion has always suffered, when orthodoxy is more regarded than virtue; and the Scriptures assure me, that at the last day we shall not be examined what we thought, but what we did; and our recommendation will not be, that we said, Lord! Lord! but that we did good to our fellow creatures. See Matt. xxv.
As to the freemasons, I know no way of giving my mother a better account of them than she seems to have at present, since it is not allowed that women should be admitted into that secret society. She has, I must confess, on that account, some reason to be displeased with it; but, for any thing else, I must entreat her to suspend her judgment till she is better informed, unless she will believe me, when I assure her, that they are in general a very harmless sort of people, and have no principles or practices that are inconsistent with religion and good manners.
We have had great rains here lately, which, with the thawing of snow on the mountains back of our country, have made vast floods in our rivers, and, by carrying away bridges, boats, &c., made travelling almost impracticable for a week past; so that our post has entirely. inissed making one trip.