Project Canterbury

Life and Correspondence of Samuel Johnson, D.D.
Missionary of the Church of England in Connecticut and First President of King's College, New York.

By E. Edwards Beardsley, D.D.

New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1874.

Chapter VII.


A.D. 1750-1754.

THE fondness of Johnson for learning and colleges induced him to take into serious consideration the overtures from Philadelphia. They were urged upon him in a way which made them somewhat attractive, but his reluctance to leave the region of his nativity and separate himself from the cherished associations of his brethren formed a great obstacle to their acceptance. He spoke freely of his age as against the change, and did not think it was warranted by the prospect of increased usefulness and better pecuniary support. Dr. Franklin's letters to him present the subject very fully, and show the points on which Johnson dwelt in his replies. The first that has been preserved is dated:

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 9, 1750.

REV. SIR,--At my return home I found your favor of June the 28th, with the Bishop of Cloyne's letter inclosed, which I will take care of, and beg leave to keep a little longer.

Mr. Francis, our Attorney General, who was with me at your house, from the conversation then had with you, and reading some of your pieces, has conceived an esteem for you equal to mine. The character we have given of you to the other trustees, and the sight of your letters relating to the academy, has made them very desirous of engaging you in that design, as a person whose experience and judgment would be of great use in forming rules and establishing good methods in the beginning, and whose name for learning would give it a reputation. We only lament, that in the infant state of our funds, we cannot make you an offer equal to your merit. But as the view of being useful has most weight with generous and benevolent minds, and in this affair you may do great service not only to the present but to future generations, I flatter myself sometimes that if you were here, and saw things as they are, and conversed a little with our people, you might be prevailed with to remove. I would therefore earnestly press you to make us a visit as soon as you conveniently can; and in the mean time let me represent to you some of the circumstances as they appear to me.

1. The Trustees of the Academy are applying for a charter, which will give an opportunity of improving and modeling our constitution in such a manner as, when we have your advice, shall appear best. I suppose we shall have power to form a regular college.

2. If you would undertake the management of the English Education, I am satisfied the trustees would, on your account, make the salary £100 sterling, (they have already voted £150 currency which is not far from it), and pay the charge of your removal. Your son might also be employed as tutor at £360 or perhaps £70 per annum.

3. It has been long observed, that our church is not sufficient to accommodate near the number of people who would willingly have seats there. The buildings increase very fast towards the south end of the town, and many of the principal merchants now live there; which being at a considerable distance from the present church, people begin to talk much of building another, and ground has been offered as a gift for that purpose. The Trustees of the Academy are three-fourths of them members of the Church of England, and the rest men of moderate principles. They have reserved in the building a large hall for occasional preaching, public lectures, orations, etc.; it is 70 feet by 60, furnished with a handsome pulpit, seats, etc. In this Mr. Tennent collected his congregation, who are now building him a meeting-house. In the same place, by giving now and then a lecture, you might, with equal ease, collect a congregation that would in a short time build you a church, if it should be agreeable to you.

In the mean time, I imagine you will receive something considerable yearly, arising from marriages and christenings in the best families, etc., not to mention presents that are not unfrequent from a wealthy people to a minister they like; and though the whole may not amount to more than a due support, yet I think it will be a comfortable one. And when you are well settled in a church of your own, your son may be qualified by years and experience to succeed you in the Academy; or if you rather choose to continue in the Academy, your son might probably be fixed in the Church.

These are my private sentiments which I have communicated only to Mr. Francis, who entirely agrees with me. I acquainted the trustees that I would write to you, but could give them no dependence that you would be prevailed on to remove. They will, however, treat with no other till I have your answer.

You will see by our newspaper, which I inclose, that the Corporation of this city have voted £200 down and £100 a year out of their revenues to the Trustees of the Academy. As they are a perpetual body, choosing their own successors, and so not subject to be changed by the iaprice of a governor or of the people, and as 18 of the members (some the most leading) are of the trustees, we look on this donation to be as good as so much real estate; being confident it will be continued as long as it is well applied, and even increased, if there should be occasion. We have now near £35,000 subscribed, and expect some considerable sums besides may be procured from the merchants of London trading hither. And as we are in the centre of the Colonies, a healthy place, with plenty of provisions, we suppose a good academy here may draw numbers of youth for education from the neighboring Colonies, and even from the West Indies.

I will shortly print proposals for publishing your pieces by subscription, and disperse them among my friends along the continent. My compliments to Mrs. Johnson and your son; and Mr. and Mrs. Walker your good neighbors.

I am, with great esteem and respect, Sir,

Your most humble servant,


P.S. There are some other things best treated of when we have the pleasure of seeing you. It begins now to be pleasant travelling. I wish you would conclude to visit us in the next month at farthest. Whether the journey produce the effect we desire or not, it shall be no expense to you.

The Rev. Richard Peters, though he had no personal acquaintance with him, wrote him on the same day, and invited him to his house. Mr. Peters was an Englishman of culture and good manners, who came to this country in Holy Orders, with his young wife, and served for a time as an assistant in Christ Church, Philadelphia. He afterwards accepted the appointment of Provincial Secretary, and acquired a considerable fortune, but did not relinquish his ministerial character, and continued occasionally to perform clerical duty. The letter below has allusion to his official position in the government which he still held:--

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 9, 1750.

REVEREND SIR,--I am obliged to you for the honor you did me in your compliments by Mr. Franklin and Mr. Francis. They said so many good things of your abilities and inclinations to promote useful knowledge, and the Trustees of the Academy are so much in want of your advice and assistance, that, though personally unknown to you, I must take the freedom, from a hint that such a journey would not be disagreeable to you, to give you an invitation to my house. Let me, good Sir, have the pleasure of conversing with a gentleman whose character I have a long time esteemed, and provided your journey be not between the 20th October and 1st November, when I am obliged to attend the Governor and Assembly at New Castle, I will meet you at Trenton or Brunswick, or any other place you shall appoint. I will tell you beforehand, that can my friends or I find any expedient to engage your residence among us, I will leave nothing unattempted in the power of, Reverend Sir,

Your affectionate brother and humble servant,


Johnson replied:--

Aug. 16.

SIR,--I am extremely obliged to you for the honor you have done me in writing so kind and polite a letter to me, who am a perfect stranger to you, and a person whose real character I doubt you will find much below what the candor of the openly friendly gentlemen have represented. You will see by my letter to Mr. Franklin what difficulties lie in my way with regard to my residence. among you, which otherwise would, doubtless, be vastly agreeable to me. However, as I do think in earnest, if practicable, to make a tour to Philadelphia in acknowledgment of the great kindness you express towards me, I shall most gratefully accept of your kind invitation, and let you know beforehand when to expect me. If I can come at all it will be before the time you mention, but I would first see my brethren here together at our Commencement on the 2d week in Sept., by conversing with whom I shall be the better able to make a judgment whether a remove would be practicable. Meantime,

I remain, Sir, etc.,


The next letter of Franklin, so characteristic of the man, goes more deeply into the objections which Johnson had raised, and intimates to him that his "talents for the education of youth were the gift of God," and it was his duty to employ them for the public service. [This letter was first printed in the Port Folio, 1809, and it also appears in Sparks' Works of Franklin, vol. vii. pp. 47-50.] It shows too the writer's practical wisdom in regard to the extension of the Church:--

PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 23, 1750.

DEAR SIR,--We received your favor of the 16th inst. Mr. Peters will hardly have time to write to you per this post, and I must be short. Mr. Francis spent the last evening with me, and we were all glad to hear that you seriously meditate a visit after the middle of next month, and that you will inform us by a line when to expect you. We drank your health and Mrs. Johnson's, remembering your kind entertainment of us at Stratford.

I think, with you, that nothing is of more importance for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue. Wise and good men are, in my opinion, the strength of a state far more so than riches or arms, which, under the management of ignorance and wickedness, often draw on destruction, instead of promoting the safety of a people. And though the culture bestowed on youth be successful only with a few, yet the influence of those few, for the service in their power, may be very great. Even a single woman, that was wise, by her wisdom saved a city.

I think, also, that general virtue is more probably to be expected and obtained from the education of youth than from the exhortation of adult persons; bad habits and vices of the mind being, like diseases of the body, more easily prevented than cured.

I think, moreover, that talents for the education of youth are the gift of God; and that he on whom they are bestowed, whenever a way is opened for the use of them, is as strongly called as if he heard a voice from heaven. Nothing more surely pointing out duty, in a public service, than ability and opportunity of performing it.

I have not yet discoursed with Dr. Jenney concerning your removal hither. You have reason, I own, to doubt whether your coming on the foot I proposed would not be disagreeable to him, though I think it ought not. For should his particular interest be somewhat affected by it, that ought not to stand in competition with the general good; especially as it cannot be much affected, he being old, and rich, and without children. I will however learn his sentiments before the next post. But whatever influence they might have on your determinations about removing, they need have none on your intention of visiting. And if you favor us with the visit, it is not necessary that you should previously write to him to learn his dispositions about your removal, since you will see him, and when we are all together those things may be better settled in conversation than by letters at a distance. Your tenderness of the Church's peace is truly laudable; but, methinks, to build a new church in a growing place is not properly dividing but multiplying; and will really be a means of increasing the number of those who worship God in that way. Many who cannot now be accommodated in the church go to other places or stay at home; and if we had another church, many, who go to other places or stay at home, would go to church. I suppose the interest of the Church has been far from suffering in Boston by the building of two new churches there in my memory. I had for several years nailed against the wall of my house, a pigeon-box that would hold six pair; and though they bred as fast as my neighbor's pigeons, I never had more than six pair; the old and strong driving out the young and weak, and obliging them to seek new habitations. At length I put up an additional box, with apartments for entertaining twelve pair more, and it was soon filled with inhabitants, by the overflowings of my first box and of others in the neighborhood. This I take to be a parallel case with the building a new church here.

Your years, I think, are not so many as to be an objection of any weight, especially considering the vigor of your constitution. For the small-pox, if it should spread here, you might inoculate with great probability of safety; and I think that distemper generally more favorable here than further northward. Your objection about the politeness of Philadelphia, and your imagined rusticity, is mere compliment; and your diffidence of yourself absolutely groundless.

My humble respects, if you please, to your brethren at the Commencement. I hope they will advise you to what is most for the good of the whole, and then I think they will advise you to move hither. Please to tender my best respects and service to Mrs. Johnson and your son.

I am, dear Sir,

Your obliged and affectionate, humble servt,


Illness prevented Johnson from making his contemplated visit. Franklin wrote him again and gave up all expectation of seeing him immediately, as the small-pox was spreading in the city, and it would not be prudent to expose himself to its dangers:--

DEAR SIR,--I am sorry to hear of your illness. If you have not been used to the fever-and-ague let me give you one caution. Don't imagine yourself thoroughly cured, and so omit the use of the bark too soon. Remember to take the preventing doses faithfully. If you were to continue taking a dose or two every day for two or three weeks after the fits have left you, 'twould not be amiss. If you take the powder mixed quick in a tea-cup of milk, 'tis no way disagreeable, but looks and even tastes like chocolate. 'Tis an old saying: That an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,--and certainly a true one, with regard to the bark; a little of which will do more in preventing the fits than a great deal in removing them.

But if your health would permit I should not expect the pleasure of seeing you soon. The small-pox spreads apace, and is now in all quarters; yet as we have only children to have it, and our Doctors inoculate apace, I believe they will soon drive it through the town; so that you may possibly visit us with safety in the spring. In the mean time we should be glad to know the result you came to after consulting your brethren at the Commencement. Messrs. Peters and Francis have directed me on all occasions to present their compliments to you. Please to acquaint me if you propose to make any considerable additions to the "Ethics," that I may be able in the proposals to compute the bigness of the book.

I am, with sincere esteem and respect, dear Sir,

Your most obliged humble servant,


PHILADELPHIIA, September 13, 1750.

Inclosed I return the good Bishop's letter with thanks.

Before this correspondence was begun, Dr. Johnson received a second invitation to the Rectorship of Trinity Church, Newport, made vacant by the death of his friend, the Rev. James Honyman. But he felt that his removal would prejudice the interests of the Church in Connecticut, and he finally declined it, and suggested to the Vestry whether it would not be advisable to think of Dr. Cutler's son for the place. He had been a long time officiating in England, and was "doubtless, he said, " very well experienced and accomplished." The same motive which led him to decline Newport helped him to come to a determination about Philadelphia. He had been quite ready to give his friends there the benefit of his counsels in regard to their Institution; but the following letters were the last that related to the acceptance of their proposals.

PHILADELPHIA, December 24, 1751.

DEAR SIR,--I received your favor of the 11th inst. and thank you for the hint you give of the omission in the "Idea." The "Sacred Classics" are read in the English school, though I forgot to mention them. And I shall propose at the meeting of the Schools, after the Holidays, that the English master begin and continue to read select portions of them daily with the prayers as you advise.

But if you can be thus useful to us at this distance, how much more might you be so if you were present with us, and had the immediate inspection and government of the schools. I wrote to you in my last that Mr. Martin our Rector died suddenly of a quinsy. His body was carried to the Church, respectfully attended by the trustees, all the masters and scholars in their order, and a great number of the citizens. Mr. Peters preached his funeral sermon, and gave him the just and honorable character he deserved. The schools are now broke up for Christmas, and will not meet again till the 7th of January. Mr. Peters took care of the Latin and Greek School after Mr. Martin's death till the breaking up. And Mr. Allison, a dissenting minister, has promised to continue that care for a month after their next meeting. Is it impossible for you to make us a visit in that time? I hope by the next post to know something of your sentiments, that I may be able to speak more positively to the Trustees concerning the probability of your being prevailed with to remove hither.

The English master is Mr. Dove, a gentleman about your age, who formerly taught grammar sixteen years at Chichester in England. He is an excellent master, and his scholars have made a surprising progress.

I shall send some of the "conomies" to Mr. Havens per next post. If you have a spare one of your "Essays on the Method of Study," the English edition, please to send it me. My wife joins in the compliments of the season to you and Mrs. Johnson, with, dear Sir,

Your affectionate humble servant,



DEAR SIR,--I now write my most thankful acknowledgments for your two kind letters of December 24 and January 8, and have received your most obliging letters of the summer before last, to which you refer me. There was one of August 23, to which I did not make a particular reply by reason of my illness at that time. In that you reasoned, I own, in a very forcible manner upon the head of duty. You argued that ability, with opportunity, manifestly pointed out duty, as though it were a voice from Heaven. This, Sir, I agree to, and therefore have always endeavored to use what little ability I have that way in the best manner I could, having never been without pupils of one sort or other half a year at a time, and seldom that, for thirty-eight years. And, thank God, I have the great satisfaction to see some of them in the first pulpits, not only in Connecticut, but also in Boston and New York, and others in some of the first places in the land. But I am now plainly in the decline of life, both as to activity of body and vigor of mind, and must, therefore, consider myself as being an Emeritus, and unfit for any new situation in the world or to enter on any new business, especially at such a distance from my hitherto sphere of action and my present situation, where I have as much duty on my hands as I am capable of and where my removal would make too great a breach to be countervailed by any good I am capable of doing elsewhere, for which I have but a small chance left for much opportunity. So that I must beg my good friends at, Philadelphia to excuse me, and I pray God they may be directed to a better choice. And as Providence has so unexpectedly provided so worthy a person as Mr. Dove for your other purpose, I hope the same good Providence will provide for this. I am not personally acquainted with Mr. Winthrop, the Professor at Cambridge, but by what I have heard of him, perhaps he might do. But I rather think it would be your best way to try if you cannot get some friend and faithful gentleman at home, of good judgment and care, to inquire and try if some worthy Fellow of one or other of the Universities could not be obtained. Perhaps Mr. Peters or Mr. Dove may know of some acquaintance of theirs, that might do likely: dulcius ex ipsis fortibus. Your son intimated that you had thought of a voyage home yourself; if you should you might undoubtedly look out a fit person to be had, and you had better do as you can for some time than not be well provided. I could, however, wish to make you a visit in the Spring, if the way were safe, but it seems the small-pox is propagating at New York, and perhaps you will be scarcely free of it. Meantime you have, indeed, my heart with you as though I were ever so much with you in presence, and if there were any good office in my power you might freely command it.

I thank you for sending the two sheets of my "Noetica" which are done with much care. I find no defects worth mentioning but what were probably my own. At page 62, 1. 19, there should have been a (;) after "6 universal," and 1. 21 a (;) after "affirmative." On reviewing the former sheets I observe a neglect, p. 30, 1. 24, "on account of which," and p. 36, l. 3, there should be a (,) after "is." [In the copy before me there are pen corrections of these and other errors by Johnson himself.]

I am very much obliged to you for Short and the Almanac and my wife for hers. I have had five parcels of the "conomies" and Fisher. I think you told me they were a dollar each parcel, besides that of Havens, who desires you to send him another parcel, and begs you to send one or more of your pieces on "Electricity," published in England. By your son's account I am much charmed with this, and beg if you have a spare copy to send it me. And as you desire a copy of my "Introduction," since I had many sent me from home, I send half a dozen, of which with my humble service to Messrs. Peters and Francis and your son, pray them to accept each a copy. My wife and son, with me, desire our service may be acceptable to them and Mrs. Franklin and your son.

I am, Sir, etc.

S. J.

The work referred to in the foregoing letter was the "Elementa Philosophica: containing chiefly Noetica, or Things relating to the Mind or Understanding; and Ethica, or Things relating to the Moral Behaviour." This was the summary title, and three great philosophers were grouped together in the issue of the work. It was written by Johnson, dedicated,'" from the deepest sense of gratitude," to the Bishop of Cloyne, and printed by Benjamin Franklin. The first part, Noetica, was mainly new, prepared for young beginners to show them the principles of knowledge and the progress of the human mind towards its highest perfection; and in the advertisement, Johnson said: "Though I would not be too much attached to any one author or system, exclusive of any others; yet whoever is versed in the writings of Bishop Berkeley will be sensible that I am in a particular manner beholden to that excellent philosopher for several thoughts that occur in the following Tract." The remaining part was a second edition of his "System of Morality," described in the previous chapter. The graceful dedication to Berkeley was too late to be seen by that eminent man. The correspondence between them had been kept up, and every opportunity improved to communicate with each other, as the following letters will show.

CLOYE, July 17, 1750.

REV. SIR, A few months ago I had an opportunity of writing to you and Mr. Honyman by an inhabitant of the Rhode Island Government. I would not, nevertheless, omit the present occasion of saluting you, and letting you know that it gave me great pleasure to hear from Mr. Bourk, a passenger from those parts, that a late sermon of yours at New Haven hath had a very good effect in reconciling several to the Church. I find also by a letter from Mr. Clap, that learning continues to make notable advances in Yale College. This gives me great satisfaction, and that God may bless your worthy endeavors and crown them with success, is the sincere prayer of, Rev. Sir,

Your faithful brother and obedient servt,


P.S. I hope your ingenious sons are still an ornament to Yale College, and tread in their father's footsteps.


December 17.

MY LORD,--I yesterday received your Lordship's most kind letter of July 17, from New Haven, and as there is a vessel soon going from New York, I take the opportunity of making my most humble acknowledgments to your Lordship, though I lately wrote by the way of NeWv York, my humble thanks for your kind letter before received which came not to hand till last summer. In that letter I informed you of the death of good Mr. Honyman, and of the controversy between the Governor of New York and their Assembly, which hath hindered their College from going forward,--since which, things have been so far accommodated that they have nominated the Trustees, and I hope they will proceed. They are very thankful for the notice you so kindly took of what I had mentioned to you in their behalf, and will form their College upon the model you suggested to me. I intended to have written by Mr. Bourk, but he was just going when I saw him, and I had not time, nor had I then received your Lordship's last kind letter. We should soon have a flourishing Church at New Haven, if we could get a minister,--but the Secretary of the Society writes very discouragingly about expecting any more ministers for these parts. Here is one of your Lordship's scholars, one Colton, that is a worthy candidate, and another equally deserving, one Camp, but we cannot yet have leave for their going home for Orders. [Jonathan Colton was afterwards admitted to Holy Orders is England, and died on his returning voyage to this country in 1752. Ichabod Camp, his companion, a graduate of Yale College, 1743, was ordained at the same time.] No endeavors of mine shall be wanting, my Lord, while I live, to promote sound learning and religion in these parts, and particularly your Lordship's excellent system, in order to which I am preparing a short draught for the use of pupils, but it will much want your Lordship's correction.

I thank God my sons yet give me good hopes, and there is scarce anything I want to hear of more than of Mr. Harry's welfare and of your Lordship's family, for whom I most ardently pray. I heartily thank your Lordship for your prayers and good wishes for me and mine, and beg the continuance of them, and remain, my Lord, your Lordship's, etc.

S. J.

Berkeley wrote one more letter to Johnson, partly in answer to the foregoing, and it is believed to have been his last to the great American friend who never ceased to love him for his virtues, and to honor him for his learning and philosophy. It was dated:--

CLOYNE, July 25, 1751.

REV. SIR,--I would not let Mr. Hall depart without a line from me in acknowledgment of your letter which he put into my hands. As for Mr. Hutchinson's writings, I am not acquainted with them. I live in a remote corner where many modern things escape me. Only this I can say, that I have observed that author to be mentioned as an enthusiast, which gave me no prepossession in his favor.

I am glad to find by Mr. Clap's letter, and the specimens of literature inclosed in his packet, that learning continues to make a progress in Yale College, and hope that virtue and Christian charity may keep pace with it.

The letters which you and Mr. Clap say you had written, in answer to my last, never came into my hands. I am glad to hear, by Mr. Hall, of the good health and condition of yourself and family. I pray God to bless you and yours, and prosper your good endeavors. I am Rev. Sir,

Your faithful friend and humble servt,


As soon as his "Elementa Philosophica" was published, Johnson wrote to Berkeley and sent him a copy, not knowing that he had broken up at Cloyne, and exchanged its gloomy retirement and the life of a recluse philosopher for the classic shades and ideal beauty of Oxford. His son George had been entered a student at Christ Church, and parental tenderness, joined to other considerations, led him to follow him with his family and make his future residence at the seat of the venerable University in the'" fair vale of the Cherwell and the Isis." The issue of "Elementa Philosophica" must have been about the time when he was settling his affairs, preparatory to the final departure from Cloyne. The following letter shows this as well as the use to which the work was put and the estinration in which it was held. It gives, moreover, a sketch of the progress of the Institution of which Johnson had declined the oversight.

PHILADELPHIA, July 2,--52.

REV. SIR,--I have sent you, via New York, twenty-four of your books bound as those I sent per post. The remainder of the fifty are binding in a plainer manner, and shall be sent as soon as done and left at Mr. Stuyvesant's as you order.

Our Academy, which you so kindly inquire after, goes on well. Since Mr. Martin's death the Latin and Greek school has been under the care of Mr. Allison, a Dissenting minister, well skilled in those languages and long practiced in teaching. But he refused the Rectorship, or to have anything to do with the government of the other schools. So that remains vacant, and obliges the Trustees to more frequent visits. We have now several young gentlemen desirous of entering on the study of Philosophy, and Lectures are to be opened this week. Mr. Allison undertakes Logic and Ethics, making your work his text to comment and lecture upon. Mr. Peters and some other gentlemen undertake the other branches, till we shall be provided with a Rector capable of the whole, who may attend wholly to the instructions of youth in the higher parts of learning as they come out fitted from the lower schools. Our proprietors have lately wrote that they are extremely well pleased with the design, will take our Seminary under their patronage, give us a charter, and, as an earnest of their benevolence, Five Hundred Pounds sterling. And by our opening a charity school, in which near one hundred poor children are taught Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic, with the rudiments of religion, we have gained the general good will of all sorts of people, from whence donations and bequests may be reasonably expected to accrue from time to time. This is our present situation, and we think it a promising one; especially as the reputation of our schools increases, the masters being all very capable and diligent and giving great satisfaction to all concerned.

I have heard of no exceptions yet made to your work, nor do I expect any, unless to those parts that savor of what is called Berkeleyanism, which is not well understood here. When any occur I shall communicate them.

With great esteem and respect, I am, dear Sir, Your obliged humble servt,


Berkeley had not long enjoyed the academic repose of Oxford before his family and friends were thrown into the deepest affliction by his sudden death. He had received neither the book nor the letter from Johnson when it occurred, on the evening of Sunday, the 14th of January, 1753, but the author had sent another copy of his work to Dr. Thos. Seeker, then Bishop of Oxford and almost the only survivor of the distinguished men in England with whom Berkeley corresponded in his later years. The funeral solemnities were scarcely over when he wrote to his son and apprized him of its reception and offered it to his acceptance, and he in acknowledging the Bishop's kindness said -" Dr. Johnson's book I have not seen, but shall be greatly obliged to you for a copy of it, as I suppose it is not reprinted in England, and. as my dear father had a great esteem for the author." The best and most authentic account of Berkeley's death is contained in the following letter to Dr. Johnson, written by this son, and dated:--

CHRIST CHURCH, October 16, 1753.

REV. SIR,--With inexpressible sorrow I repeat the dismal account (for I suppose you have heard it before) of my dearest and ever honored father's removal to the enjoyment of eternal rewards, which happened suddenly and without the least previous notice or pain on Sunday evening, Jan. 14th, as he was sitting with my mother, sister, and myself, and although all possible means were instantly used, no symptom of life ever appeared after, nor could the physicians assign ally cause for his death, as they were certain it was not an apoplexy. He had made his will at Cloyne a few days before he left it (which he did in the middle of August), and has very wisely left us all entirely under the care, and in the power of the best of mothers. He arrived at Oxford on the 25th of August and had received great benefit from the change of air, and by God's blessing on Tar Water, insomuch that for some years he had not been in better health than he was the instant before he left us. He had been indeed much out of order the whole summer at Cloyne, which prevented his coming over with me in May, 1752. His remains are interred in the Cathedral of Christ Church, and next week a monument to his memory will be erected with an inscription by Dr. Markham, a student of this College. [Berkeley provided in his will that his body should be buried in the Churchyard. of the parish where he died. In the summer of 1870, in company with two friends, spent a day at Cloyne, and walked through its narrow streets, and under the ancient elms that overshadow the dwellings of this thriftless village. I thought of Berkeley at every turn and was disappointed when we entered the Cathedral to find no memorial of the great name associated with it for nearly a score of years. The mysterious Round Tower, the Cave, the See House and the Palace garden, were there as they were a century ago, and the myrtle and the ivy grew in wonderful luxuriance, but there was nothing to perpetuate the memory of the good Bishop, or to show that there had ever been a people here who knew his intellectual greatness. ] A few days after this greatest of human misfortunes befell us I received from Cloyne your letter to my dearest father, but his agent there has not yet got an opportunity of sending me the Book mentioned in it, but the Bishop of Oxford has been so good as to send it to me, and you must give me leave to say that (except those wrote by him to whom this was dedicated) I never read any with equal pleasure, and the more so as it shows that a person so very capable and willing to spread his Philosophy, understands it so thoroughly. This little book contains and teaches the wisdom of ages and numberless volumes, and I entreat you would accept my hearty thanks for the honor you have done my dearest parent by choosing him for its patron, and also for the improvement I have met with in it.

It is now high time that I should apologize for the liberty I have taken, and which nothing should have encouraged me to but the great friendship that subsisted between you and him whose image is ever fresh before me, and whose memory shall ever be most dear to me. I have inherited his high esteem for you, Sir, and this will, I hope, plead my excuse for giving you this trouble. My mother, who remembers you with the truest regard, desires me to assure you of her most sincere services. Your countryman, my brother has been near two years abroad in the south of France for his health, which has been very bad ever since a violent fever which he had some years ago. [Henry, the eldest son, born at Newport. In Fraser's admirable Life of Berkeley, p. 336, it is conjectured that he "had been left behind in Ireland," when the removal to Oxford took place.] He is now, I thank God, much better, and is lately returned to Dublin, from whence we expect him here next summer. Not knowing any other way of conveyance, I have taken the liberty of inclosing this to Dr. Bearcroft, the Secretary of your Society (of which I have the honor to be a member), to forward it. If ever you can think of anything in which I can render you the least service, I assure you that nothing will more highly oblige me than receiving any commands from one whom I so honor and esteem, and to whom I am a most dutiful and faithful humble servant.


A third edition of Dr. Johnson's cc Elements of Philosophy," corrected and enlarged, was published in London in the spring of 1754, under the editorship of Rev. William Smith, afterwards Provost of the College of Philadelphia. He sent by him letters to several of his friends, and among the rest to Mr. Berriman, who answered,--

February 7, 1754.

DEAR SIR,--I had the pleasure of yours by Mr. Smith, but have as yet had but little of that gentleman's company; I once called at his lodgings, and found him at home; but having no time to stay then, he promised to favor me with a visit, which promise he has not yet fulfilled: however, I hope he will do it hereafter, as I understood by him he intended to continue some time in England before he returned to your parts.

Dr. Bearcroft is made Master of the Charter House, but still holds his place of Secretary to the Society. There has been some talk of Capt. Thomlinson for Treasurer. Perhaps I may let you know more about it before I seal up this letter.

Mr. Pollen is appointed Missionary to Rhode Island. He is a worthy clergyman and esteemed a good scholar; he was contemporary at C. C. C. Oxon. with your friend Dr. Burton, who is now Vice Provost of Eton College. I would beg leave to recommend him to your favorable notice, and that you would advise and assist him in any case that may need your helping hand. He is a traveller, and has seen the world; and has been lately employed in an Episcopal chapel at Glasgow, but never was in your parts, and being quite a stranger to such a kind of settlement, may often have occasion to consult you, who are so much known, and so well esteemed by all around you. We have had such bad accounts of poor Mr. Checkley that we fear the next news will bring an account of his death.

I thank God I am rather the better for the change of my situation, and at this time in tolerable good health; but I must never expect to get free from my old companions, the cough and shortness of breath, but God be praised, they are not by many degrees so bad with me as with many others: and I ought to be very thankful for the long intervals I have, and the health and strength afforded me to attend my duty in the Church. I quitted my Lecture at Aldermary at Lady-Day last and have done scarce any duty in the Church but supplying my own pulpit or desk on Sunday mornings, since midsummer. I find my strength somewhat decayed, and my eyes begin to wax dim (though I can make no use of spectacles), and I have this day completed my grand climacteric.

Feb. 15.--The choice of a Treasurer came on at the anniversary meeting of the Society in the Vestry at Bow Church. Mr. Pearson (recommended by the Bishops) was elected, and nobody named in opposition to him.

I am affectionately yours, J. BERRIMAN.

To the London edition of the "Elements of Philosophy" was annexed "A Letter containing some Impartial Thoughts concerning the Settlement of Bishops in America, by Dr. Johnson and some of his Brethren." In this connection the following letter is important, written by the Bishop of Oxford from the--

DEANERY OF ST. PAUL'S, March 19, 1754.

GOOD DR. JOHNSON,--I should have returned you my hearty thanks before now, if extraordinary business had not put it partly out of my power, and partly out of my thoughts, for your favors by Mr. Smith. He is indeed a very ingenious and able, and seems a very well disposed young man. And if he had pursued his intention of residing a while at Oxford, I should have hoped for more of his company and acquaintance. Nor would he, I think, have failed to see more fully, what I flatter myself he is convinced of without it, that our Universities do not deserve the sentence which is passed on them by the author whom he cites, and whose words he adopts in page 84 of his "General Idea of the College of Mirania." [This was an imaginary scheme drawn up and published at the desire of some gentlemen of New York, who were appointed to receive proposals relative to the establishment of a college in that province, and it contained a pretty exact representation of what the author endeavored to realize in the Institution over which he afterwards presided at Philadelphia.] He assures me they are effaced in almost all the copies. I wish they had not been printed, or that the leaf had been cancelled. But the many valuable things which there are in that performance and in the papers which he published at New York, will atone for this blemish with all candid persons. And there seems a fair prospect of his doing great service in the place where he is going to settle.

I am particularly obliged to you for sending me your Book; of which I made a very acceptable present to the late excellent Bishop of Cloyne's son,- a most serious, and sensible, and prudent young man, whom his father placed at Christ Church, and who, with his mother and sister, spent the last summer with me in Oxfordshire. I have now lately received from Mr. Smith another copy of it, printed here, and have read several parts of it, and a1l with much pleasure. You have taken very proper care to keep those who do not enter into all the philosophy of the good and great man from being shocked at it, and you have explained and recommended just reasoning, virtue, and religion, so as to make them not only well understood, but ardently loved. Would God there were any present hopes of executing what the concluding piece unanswerably proves to be harmless, useful, and requisite. But we have done all we can here in vain; and must wait for more favorable times; which I think it will contribute not a little to bring on, if the ministry of our Church in America, by friendly converse with the principal Dissenters, can satisfy them that nothing more is intended or desired than that our Church may enjoy the full benefit of its own institutions, as all others do. For so long as they are uneasy and remonstrate, regard will be paid to them and their friends here by our ministers of state. And yet it will be a hard matter for you to prevent their being uneasy, while they find you gaining ground upon them. That so much of the money of the Society was employed in supporting Episcopal congregations amongst them, was industriously made an argument against the late collection. And though, God be thanked, the collection hath notwithstanding proved a very good one, yet unless we be cautious on that head, we shall have farther clamor; and one knows not what the effect of it may be. Our friends in America will furnish us, I hope, from time to time, with all such facts, books, observations, and reasonings, as may enable us the better to defend our common cause.

I am with great regard and esteem, Sir,

Your loving brother and humble servant,


Johnson felt some disappointment that his work was not more generally appreciated, and appeared to regret that he had ventured on its publication. The cost of printing it was likely to exceed the amount of sales,--as it was not so well calculated for popular reading as for use in educational institutions. Franklin relieved him from any anxiety on this subject, and wrote him a kind and encouraging letter, offering to assume the loss, should there be any:--

PHILADELPHIA, April 15, 17 54.

DEAR SIR,--When I returned from Maryland in February last, I found your favor of Jan'y 1, but having mislaid it soon after, I deferred answering till I should find it again, which I have now done. I think you ought not to be, as you say you are, vexed at yourself that you offered your "Noetica" to be printed; for though the demand for it in this part of the world has not yet been equal to the merit of the work, yet you will see by the inclosed newspaper they are reprinting it in England, where good judges being more plenty than with us, it will, I doubt not, acquire a reputation that may not only make it extensively useful there, but bring it more into notice in its native America.

As to the use of it in our Academy, you are to consider. that though our plan is large, we have as yet been able to carry little more into execution than the grammatical and mathematical parts: the rest must follow gradually, as the youth come forward and we can provide suitable masters. Some of the eldest scholars, who have now left us, did read it; but those at present in the Academy are chiefly engaged in lower studies. For my own part, I know too well the badness of our general taste, to expect any great profit in printing it; though I did think it might sell better than I find it does, having struck off five hundred, and not disposed of more than fifty in these parts. There were parcels sent to New York, Rhode Island, and Boston, and advertised there, though it seems you have not heard of it. How they sold I have not learnt, and did not remember to inquire when I was there last year. I am far from thinking it right that the loss should fall on you, who took so much pains in the composition. You gave me no other expectation than what I might gather from your saying in your letter of May 10, 1750, you believed you could dispose of one hundred copies in Connecticut, and perhaps another hundred might be disposed of at Boston. All I would request of you is, that if you think fit, you would take the trouble of writing to such of the Ministers of your Church in New England and New York as you are acquainted with, and desire them to recommend the book to their friends; and if, with those you have had, all that shall be disposed of in those Colonies amount to two hundred, I will cheerfully take my chance with the remainder. And if you cannot procure the sale of so many, make yourself easy nevertheless; I shall be perfectly satisfied with your endeavor. With my best respects to good Mrs. Johnson and your valuable sons,

I am, dear Sir, very affectionately,

Your most humble servant,


Among the friends and correspondents of Dr. Johnson, Lieutenant-governor Colden was not forgotten in the distribution of the spare copies of his "Noetica." It has been seen how these two men discussed philosophical subjects and exchanged publications: and the following letters, after glancing at the points of their disagreement, advert to matters of domestic interest, and show the concurrence of their ideas upon the subject of education:--

December 20, 1752. SIR,--I sometime since received your book which Mr. Nicholls told me you was pleased to send me. Since that time my thoughts happened by several incidents to be so much engaged that I could not write to you in the manner I inclined to do, and they continued so when I sent you the " Principles of Action in Matter," about ten days or a fortnight since. I had at that time just received three copies of it from England, and had only time to run it cursorily over to correct the most obvious errors in the press, which happen to be numerous. I know we (you and I) differ in the fundamentals of that Essay, and for that reason I expect from you the strongest arguments that can be brought against it, and therefore, if I am under an error, you are the most capable to set me right, and I assure you that I have that esteem of your judgment that I unwillingly differ from you. Pray then, Sir, let me have your objections to those principles with that freedom that ought always to subsist in philosophical inquiries.

In the sixth page of your "Noetica," you say our perceptions cannot be produced in our minds without a cause (so far we agree); or, which is the same thing, by any imagined, unintelligent, inert, or unactive cause. I likewise agree that an unactive cause and no cause are synonymous; but I am not convinced that intelligence is an essential concomitant to all action, for then I could not conceive the action of a mill without supposing it endowed with intelligence. You seem likewise to think that the words inert and unactive are synonymous. Sir Isaac Newton was certainly of a different opinion, as appears by the third definition in the beginning of his "Principia," viz.: Materiae vis inerta est Potentia resistendi, etc. We certainly can have no conception of Force or Power devoid of all kind of action. Now, Sir, these are fundamental differences. One of us must be under a very great mistake, and if you incline to write with the same freedom that I incline to think on these subjects, I hope we shall not continue long of a different opinion. Inert in common discourse is often synonymous with unactive, but I take it in the sense that philosophers of late use the word Inertia when they say vis inertiae, which certainly cannot mean mere inaction. I shall say nothing more on these matters of speculation, that I may pass to a subject of more immediate concern.

It gave me a great deal of pleasure when Mr. De Lancey resolved to send his children to you for their education in learning, as I am confident they will thereby imbibe principles which will be of the greatest use to themselves and to their neighbors in whatever course of life they shall afterwards take to. I am under little concern as to their learning languages, or as to their skill in what may be called the learned sciences, but I am earnestly desirous that they have the true principles of good manners early implanted in their minds; to have their affections always moved by universal benevolence, and to have a true sense of honor wherein it really consists. It is from you that I hope they will receive these great advantages, of which they will find the benefits in every station of life and in all emergencies or turns of fortune. These I beg you will again and again explain to them and never cease to inculcate upon their minds. As it is not determined what course of life any of them shall pursue, it may be best to instruct them in such parts of learning as will be of use in every station. I think knowledge in geography as useful as any other part for these purposes, especially the modern geography with an account of the present state of the kingdoms and republics in Europe and of the great monarchies in other parts of the world. Peter, in a letter he wrote to me from West Chester, tells me that he inclines to study Divinity and to fit himself for that study with you. I shall be far from diverting these thoughts, because he may be as useful in that way as in any, and the more so that few of any distinguished families in America apply themselves to the Church. His applying to it may (if others follow his example) prevent a contempt of the character which otherwise may in time be produced. For this reason I do not doubt but the bishops in England will think it for the interest of the Church to encourage any young gentlemen in America who shall turn their thoughts that way from worthy principles.

I had thoughts of writing to my grandchildren, but I have said all to you that I had in my thoughts to write to them, and therefore if you think proper you may communicate it to them and remember me affectionately to them and tell them that we are all in health. [Elizabeth Colden, daughter of the Lieutenant-governor, married Peter De Lancey, and was the mother of eleven children, six sons and five daughters. Peter, one of the sons, did not fulfill the promise of his boyhood in regard to the Church,--having been killed in a duel at a comparatively early age; but a grand-nephew of his father, Wm. Heathcote De Lancey, was consecrated the first Bishop of Western New York, May 9, 1839, and died April 5, 1865. MS. Letter D. Colden Murray, Dec. 10, 1872.] I hope to hear often from you. Mr. Nicholls will take care of your letters.

I am affectionately, Sir,

Your most humble servant,


January 29, 1753.

The river being full of ice has deprived me of any opportunity of sending this letter till now. We continue in health. Remember us again to the children. Their grand-mamma, uncles and aunts all join with me. Yours, C. C.


February 19.

SIR,--I sent you that Book without any imagination of its being worthy your perusal. I only meant it as a testimony of my humble respect and gratitude, though not without my wishes that so far as you should condescend [to] cast your eye upon it, if you see anything that might much tend to mislead youth in the entrance of their studies, for whose use it was written, you would be so good as to intimate it to me. I now return you my humble thanks for your very ingenious performance and this kind letter upon it. I have perused it with some care, though I have not yet had it long enough to spend so much thought upon it as I intend. I am glad to see the whole of it published, and doubt not but it will be an acceptable present to the public, and must own that now I see the whole of it together, it appears to me in a much more advantageous light than that piece of it did before, and do not think we differ so much in the principles you set out with as you seem to imagine. I do not differ with you at all, considered as a natural philosopher, which is the light in which you are principally to be considered in that Treatise. For it is evident there are those three distinct principles of action in nature you go upon,--media or endings of action I should call them as a metaphysician, referring the same origin of them to the one great principle of natural discovery and action; but which you as a natural philosopher,--as such going no higher,--do very well to consider as distinct principles. The principle of resistance of motion and of elasticity--and the contemporative (if I may so speak) of those principles in their various exertions and operations you seem to have happily demonstrated--will well account for the phenomena, and as to what is metaphysical in your Treatise, I think you have explained yourself to my satisfaction in your chapter of the Intelligent Being, ~ 10 - where you allow the Intelligent Being to be the real author of all material (I should call them sensible) beings, and to govern or direct their actions in such a manner as is most conducive to the advantage of the whole, which you rightly deduce from the power of our minds over the ether in the nerves which we observe to quiesce till put in action by our hands. The reasons indeed we know not, but it is the fact.

So that I believe what we seem to differ in, if at all, will amount to little more than words. I agree with you in saying " we can certainly have no conception of Force or Power devoid of all kind of action," and when I do so, it seems to me that you must with me allow that Sir Isaac's vis inertiae is a contradiction in terms, and that that great man, in that definition and the explication of it, has some expressions that have no meaning; for I must think it is plain that by Inertia (as in Ovid, pondus iners) the old Romans meant an utter destitution of any principle of activity in se, or power of self-exertion or action, terminating on anything without, and I don't see what right he had to use or define it in a quite contrary sense; at best his expressions are figurative.

As to that question whether the same Being that is the principle of action must as such be also a principle of Intelligence, I have nothing to say for it more than I said in a former letter, that it seems to follow from that principle "Non est philosophia extera multiplicare sine necessitate," and that a blind principle or power of action without Intelligence seems repugnant and useless. However it seems a question of little real consequence, or indeed of scarce any meaning after what you allow in the chapter of the Intelligent Being; the action of what you call matter being according to you derived originally from and directed by the Intelligent Being. And so matter is no more than merely His instrument, so that what you call the action of a mill or watch is really only a successive series of passions till you come to the principle of Intelligence, which will ultimately prove to be also the principle of the action.

That expression of yours, page 164, "That perfect Intelligence will not act in contradiction to the action of matter," I should have chosen to express thus: Will not in the settled course of things act in contradiction to the Laws He hath established according to which He wills matter to act. For I cannot conceive you to imagine the action of matter to be independent of the Divine will. I rather imagine from other passages that you do with me conceive it to be entirely dependent, as well as matter itself, on the constant free exertion of the Divine will and power.

I don't deny, Sir, but that I am yet a little in the dark about the operations of that elastic fluid by which you account for gravitation. I should scarce ever say that there should be a perpetual return of the ethereal fluid to the sun as well as a perpetual flow from it, agreeable to Mr. Hutchinson's notion, who imagines a perpetual circulation of it from the sun, and after a kind of condensation of it at the utmost bounds of the system, a reverberation and return of it to the sun again; so that according to that great man the effects of gravitation, circular motion, and rotation, will be the result of the struggle between those contrary tendencies. This being supposed, you and he seem well to coincide. I wish you had opportunity, if you have not had, to read his system with some attention and exactness, if not in his works, which are something tedious, at least in that beautiful short sketch of them set forth by your excellently great and good countryman, Lord President Forbes, in his "Letter to a Bishop and Thoughts on Religion." But what you call the different principles of Light and Ether, he supposes to be the one ethereal fluid or fire of the sun in the different conditions of Light and Spirit as it flies from or returns to its fountain. Perhaps your notion and his may come nearly to the same thing. The Abbé Pluche of France, as well as he and Bp. Berkeley, agree that this ethereal fire is the light and life of the whole sensible world, and grand agent in all nature, or the immediate engine from whence all the phenomena mechanically derive: and that this was the original philosophy of Moses and in all the Hebrew Scriptures, and taught mankind from the beginning. And I am pleased in thinking that your demonstrations and Mr. Franklin's experiments illustrate and confirm it to be the only true and genuine philosophy. Pardon, Sir, my incoherent and rambling way of writing. I hope you may pick out my meaning. I would transcribe, but my care of your grandchildren and other duties will not admit of time for it.

As to your grandchildren, I have the same notion of education with you (my plan you may see in my 6th chapter), and do not fail, as you -desire, to inculcate those principles you mention as far as I am able. And besides the moral and classical part (in which they have almost finished "Cornelius Nepos" and two thirds of "Justin"), I have gone over and explained a short History of England and a short Geography you gave them, and am now going over a short system of Universal History and Chronology, and point out to them in maps the Ancient Geography of the Classics as well as the modern. But they have (the eldest especially) such a violent impetuosity to their play that I find it exceeding difficult to gain so strong an attention as I could wish to their books and studies. They seem well cut out for business, as farming and merchandise, but Peter has an excellent turn for learning, and it is a pity but he should go through an entire course of education. As to what he wrote to you, I am exceeding glad his dispositions are such and that you approve of them, and agree with you and thank you for your remark of the vast importance to religion and the public weal that any of distinguished families should apply themselves to Divinity. Mrs. De Lancey first mentioned it tome, and I ventured to encourage it, and shall henceforward encourage myself to hope that your daughter has borne, and that I am educating one who, in God's time, may become a bishop in America. I communicated your letter to them and inculcated it. They send their humblest thanks and duty to you and their grandmamma and uncles and aunts. They have had an uninterrupted course of perfect health.

I cannot take leave without giving you my humble thanks for the favor you have done me in the good character you gave of me in your account of Pokeweed, etc., which was published in the "Gentleman's Magazine," and wish I may deserve it. I have since heard of several others of the eating cancers cured by it, but a man in this town has a strange sore on his legs they call a heaving or gnawing cancer, on which it was tried without success; and both cutting, burning, and several caustics have since been tried, which have only made it grow the faster, and it is now larger than the hand can cover, and is like to cost the poor man his life.

I am, Sir, your most obliged humble servant,

S. J.

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