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Benjamin Franklin

benjamin-franklin-portraitSir Francis Dashwood, who succeeded to the barony of Le Despencer in 1763, was one of the Joint Postmasters General of Great Britain from 1766 until his death in 1781. In this position he was the superior officer of Benjamin Franklin, the Deputy Postmaster General for North America, who was in London from 1764 until 1775, as agent of the Pennsylvania Assembly. In addition to official business, the two men had common interests and shared similar points of view; and their formal acquaintance soon ripened into friendship. Franklin was invited to Le Despencer's house in Hanover Square for dinner, and he made longer annual visits to his Lordship's country place at West Wycombe.


Two hundred years later the Dashwoods, still in possession of their family home at West Wycombe Park, cherish the memory of their ancestors association with Franklin. The current head of the family is Sir Edward Dashwood, Bt.  Sir Edward's father, also named Sir Francis identified letters, papers, and books of Franklinian interest in the course of his historical research in the family archives. Many of these are now reproduced in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin. In addition to letters from Franklin to his friend, the Dashwood archive contained a draft of the preface to an abridgement of the Book of Cammon Prayer, which the two men made. There is also the very scrapbook into which Franklin's "Edict of the King of Prussia" was pasted down that morning in September 1773. This was  a hoax perpetrated by Franklin and which was published in the then national press and which Paul Whitehead, at first all unsuspecting, read out to the Franklin, Dashwood and their friends at breakfast.

 

These and other documents and books the Dashwood family have now loaned to the Library of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia so they may be seen by Americans and consulted easily by scholars in that country.

 

With other materials of Franklin-Dashwood interest belonging to the Society, they are on exhibit for the annual meeting of the Friends of the Library as a record of several little-known episodes of Franklin's life in England and another evidence of his talent for friendship.

 

"l am in this House as much at my Ease as if it was my own, and the Gardens are a Paradise," Benjamin Franklin wrote his son William from the home of Lord Le Despencer at West Wycombe on August 3, 1773. "But a pleasanter Thing," he continued, "is the kind Countenance, the facetious and very intelligent conversation of mine Host, who having been for many Years engaged in public Affairs, seen all Parts of Europe, and kept the best Company in the World is himself the best existing:"