Description

    [Benjamin Franklin] Contemporary Copy of Ben Franklin's Letter of Condolence Upon the Death of His Brother, addressed to his niece. One page, 7.75" x 12.5", Philadelphia, February 22, 1756. John Franklin, Ben Franklin's older brother, followed in their father's footsteps by becoming a soap and candlemaker in Rhode Island. Later, with Benjamin's help, John became the postmaster in Boston. Upon John's death, Benjamin sent a letter of condolence to the grieving Elizabeth Hubbart, John's stepdaughter, this being a contemporary copy of that letter:

    "I Condole with you, we have lost a most dear and Valuable Relation, but it is the will of God and Nature that these mortal Bodies be laid Aside, when the Soul is to Enter into Real life. Existing here on Earth is Scarce to be called life. 'Tis Rather an Embrio [sic] of Being State. A Preparation for living and man is not Completely born till he is Dead. Why then should we Greive [sic] that a New Child is Born among the immortals, a new member added to their Happy Society? We are spirits. That Bodies should be lent us, while they can afford us Pleasure, Assist us in Acquiring Knowledge, or doing Good to our Fellow Creatures, is a kind & Benevolent act of God - when they become unfit for these Purposes and afford us pain instead of Pleasure - Instead of an Aid, become an Incumbrance [sic] & Answer none of the Intentions for which they were given. It is Equally kind and Benevolent that a way is Provided by which we may Get Rid of them. Death is that way. We ourselves Prudently Choose a Partial Death in some cases. A mangled Painful limb, which Cannot be Restored, we willingly Cut off. He who Plucks out a tooth, parts with it freely since the pain goes with it. And he that Quits the whole Body parts at once with all the Pains and possibilities of Pains & Diseases it was liable to or Capable of making him Suffer.

    Our friend & we are invited Abroad on a party of Pleasure that is to last for Ever. His Chair was first Ready & he is gone before us. We could not all Conveniently Start together & why Should you & I Be Grieved at this Since we are soon to follow, & we know where to find him. Adieu
    ."

    It is interesting to note that what Elizabeth thought of as a life completed, Franklin portrayed as a mere rehearsal for the "real life" that is immortality. It is known that, while he professed a belief in God, Franklin had little good to say about organized religion and rarely attended church, particularly in his later years. Although Volume 6 of the Papers of Benjamin Franklin records in a footnote that manuscript copies of this widely printed letter were known to have existed, this is the first such period copy to be available at auction. Manuscript copies are recorded in the collection of John Franklin Carter, with a second at Yale University Library.

    Letter is lightly age-toned, with several small tears and areas of paper loss along the upper edge and at the upper right corner; a few areas of minor fold separation.


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    Auction Dates
    June, 2009
    16th-17th Tuesday-Wednesday
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