Archive for the ‘Mecom, Jane’ Category

“Favorable . . . that you can forgit you are grown old”

In the last post Jane Mecom mentions that her brother, Benjamin Franklin, was building a new house. Benjamin Franklin expected to retire upon his return from Europe in 1785, but he was drawn into politics and elected “president” of Pennsylvania, in effect the governor, the following year. In this letter Jane rather playfully remarks that the construction will give his life a focus and make him forget that he is getting old. Jane is such a character, lively and witty, always fun to read.

Boston Oct. 12 1786Dear Brother
I am sorry you are Pesterd with Law disputes in your old Age but as that is the case it is well you have Plenty of Ground to Inlarge your Present Dwelling. It will not only be an Amusement but in all Probebilety a sample of many Ingenious contrivances for others to Profit by in Future. I Imagin Part of your Plan will be to have a Front Dore, Entry and Starecase, to go all the way up to your Lodging Rooms and garretts; besides a Pasage from the mane Hous as I sopose thro won of your best chamber closets which will be saifer in case of Fier. I shall Expect Mrs. Bache to Inform me how it is Decorated when Finished if I live so long which it is Proble Enouf I may not. It is a Favourable circumstance that you can sometimes forgit you are grown old otherwise it might chick you in many Useful Discoveries you are makeing for yer fellow men, I wish our Poor Distracted State would atend to the many good Lesons which have been frequently Publishd for there Instruction, but we seem to want Wisdon to Giued, and honesty to comply with our Duty, and so keep allways in a Flame. . . .
Jane MecomMy love to your children and Grandchildren

Don’t you like the notion of an escape route in case of fire through a door inside a closet?

The letter can be found online in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, The Digital Edition maintained by the The Packard Humanities Institute in the unpublished letters for the years 1786-87.

posted March 26th, 2015 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Franklin, Benjamin,Mecom, Jane

“we might have been Buried Alive “

I cannot help coming back to Jane Mecom, Benjamin Franklin’s sister who lived in Boston. The two corresponded throughout their lives. Jane’s letters are delightful to read, if only to puzzle out what she is trying to say—her spelling was atrocious. Her life was filled with difficulties, but blessed with an optimistic nature, she always seemed to make the best of things. Franklin regularly sent her both practical necessities and thoughtful gifts.

Resuming residence in Philadelphia in 1785 after years abroad, Franklin continued to help his sister. In a letter dated November 5, 1786, Jane thanked him for ten cord of wood “so that we shall have Plenty Should your Prognostications happen to be in the Right.” Benjamin’s prediction of a hard winter proved to have been spot on as the following letter confirms. This past winter in Boston seems to have been a replay of the one Jane describes.

Boston Decr 17 1786
My Dear Brother
Mr. Bradford has Just informed me of his going to Philadelphia to morrow morning. I would not let him go without a Line as I have not yet had opertunity to thank you for the charming Barrill of Flower you sent me. He is to take the Bill you Premited me to Draw, I some times seem to feel giulty at being so Expencive to you, but why should I; when I know it gives you Pleasure to make Every won happy: and I constantly feal the Blesing. Your Predictons concerning a hard winter are begining to be Verified in a formidable maner. The snow has been so Deep and we no man in the House that we might have been Buried Alive were it not for the care of some good Neibours who began to Dig us out before we were up in the morning, and cousen Williams came Puffing and Sweating, as soon as it was Posable to see how we were and if we wanted any thing, but thank God we had no want of any thing Nesesary if we had been shutt up a fortnight. Exept milk.

My Daughters Gout, or Rhumitism or what Ever it is, has not Left her yet; but she can Just hobble about the chamber, she desires her Duty to you.

I want much to know if you were so Luckey as to git your New Apartments covered in before the hard wether [Franklin was building a new house]. . . .

I had Intended to have wrote to my Niece but cannot at this time but Remember my Love to Mr. and Mrs. Bache [Benjamin’s daughter Sarah] and all the Dear Children. From your Ever obliged and Affectionat sister
Jane MecomAddressed: His Excellancey Benjamin Franklin Esqr. / Philadelphia / Favrd by Col: Bradford

The letter can be found online in The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, The Digital Edition maintained by the The Packard Humanities Institute in the unpublished letters for the years 1786-87.

“I have such a Poor Fackulty at making Leters”

Jane Franklin Mecom was the younger sister of Benjamin Franklin. “my peculiar favorite,” he dubbed her. Jane married Edward Mecom, a small tradesman, in 1727. Over a period of twenty-two years they had twelve children. Jane also looked after her parents, took in boarders, and ran a small shop to make ends meet. Her life was not an easy or a happy one: her husband was apparently sick, her sons unable to make their way in life, several of her daughters died after giving birth. Although “Sorrow roll upon me like the waves of the sea,” and “Nothing but troble can you her from me,” she delighted in her correspondence with her brother even though she confessed “I have such a Poor Fackulty at making Leters.” She was proud of Benjamin and he was supportive of her and her family. She described the situation in Boston in 1774 in a letter he wrote to him.

Boston Novr 3 1774My Ever Dear Brother
I have Just recd yrs of August 18; wonder to see you complain of not receiving leters from Boston . . . it is like they have been Intercepted . . . I think it is not Profanity to compare you to our Blessed Saviour who Employed much of His time while here on Earth in doing Good to the body as well as souls of men, & I am sure I think the comparison Just, often when I hear the calumny Invented & thrown out against you while you are Improving all your Powers for the Salvation of them very Persons . . . I am as Happy as the Present state of affairs will Permit owing to your Bounty without which I must have been distressed as much as many others; Docter Chauncy says we have already had miracles wrought in our favour, one of which is the Uniting of the Colonies in such a manner, another the Extraordinary fruitful seasons & Bounty of our friends & looks on it as a token of Gods Design to deliver us out of all our troubles, but at Present we have a meloncholy Prospect for this winter at Least.
The towns being so full of Profligate soldiers & many such Officers, there is hardly four & twenty hours Passes without some fray amongst them & one can walk but a little way in the street without hearing their Profane language. We were much surprised the other day upon hearing a Tumult in the street & looking out saw a soldier all Bloody damning His Eyes but He would kill Every Inhabitant He met, & Pressing into a shop opposite us with His Bayonet drawn, bursting through the Glass Door, & the man of the house pushing Him out & he to do what mischief He could, Dashing the china & Earthenware which stood on the window, through the sashes with the most terrible Imprecations. The case it seems was He Perceived they sold liquor & went into the House Demanding some. But being refused, He went into the closet & took out a gun & said His commanding officer told Him he might take any thing out of any house He had a mind to, upon which the battle Ensued, & the man & His servant were both very much wounded. . . .
I think our Congress Address to the People of England is a Grand Performance & does them Honour & shows there was Really the wisdom among them that the Colonies Endeavored to collect, which Joined with yours . . . will, I hope, work some Glorious Effect. . . .
I have had no letter from Philadelphia a long time though I have written several times. The last I wrote, I heard my sister [Deborah Franklin*] Put under her cushion, I suppose in order to Read at more Leisure & Perhaps never thought of it more & one of the children got it & tore it up, as we know my sister is very forgetful. . . . yr Ever Affectionat & obliged Sister
Jane Mecom

*Deborah Franklin died in December, 1774.

The letter can be found on pages 27 and 28 of In the Words of Women. Jill Lepore has written about Jane although it was hard to locate documents attributed to her: Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (New York: Vintage, 2014)

“the distress it has ocationed is Past my discription”

Jane Mecom kept up a correspondence with her brother Benjamin Franklin throughout her life. In the following excerpt she describes for Franklin, recently returned from Britain, the situation in Boston after the battles of Lexington and Concord. She was so alarmed by developments that she and her granddaughter accepted an invitation from friends to take refuge in Rhode Island. [Mecom’s letter is as she wrote it, replete with her creative spelling, punctuation and captalization. Reading it aloud will help to understand it.]

Warwick 14 May 1775My Ever Dear & Much Hond Brother
God be Praised for bring you saif back to America & soporting you throw such fatuges as I know you have sufered while the minestry have been distresing Poor New England in such a cruil maner. yr last … Advises me to: keep up my curidg & that faul wither does not last all ways in any country. but I beleve you did not then Imagin the Storm would have Arisen so high as for the Generl to have sent out a party to creep out in the night & Slauter our Dear Brethern for Endevering to defend our own Property, but God Apeard for us & drove them back with much Grater Lose than they are willing to own, there countenances as well as confeshon of many of them shew they were much mistaken in the people they had to Deal with, but the distress it has ocationed is Past my discription. the Horror the Town was in when the Batle Aprochd within Hearing Expecting they would Proceed quite in to town, the comotion the Town was in after the batle ceasd by the Parties coming in bringing in there wounded men causd such an Agetation of minde I beleve none had much sleep, since which we could have no quiet, as we under stood our Bretheren without were determined to Disposes the Town of the Regelors, & the Generol shuting up the town not Leting any Pass out but throw such Grate Dificulties as were allmost insoportable, but throw the Goodnes of God I am at last Got Saif Hear & kindly Recved by Mr Green & His wife. …
Affectionat Sister

The excerpts are from In the Words of Women Chapter 1, page 33, and The Letters of Benjamin Franklin and Jane Mecom edited by Carl Van Doren (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950), pages 155-56. See other posts by Mecom HERE and HERE and HERE.

submit to His will and be cheerful

In the following excerpt Jane Mecom, Benjamin Franklin’s sister, writing from Rhode Island where she had sought refuge from the troubles in Boston, chides her daughter, Jane Collas, for not looking on the bright side of things. It is truly amazing that Mecom can be so accepting of the sadness and misfortune she endured and yet recommend being cheerful.

Warwick, May 16, 1778You say you will endeavour to correct all your faults. It is not among the least that you suffer yourself to look always on the dark side of God’s Providence towards you. … you have a long time experienced every distress this miserable world could inflict on you. … I never informed you of half I met with, but you know enough to see a vast disproportion between what I have had to undergo and what you have met with. If the loss of near and dear relations is an affliction, I have buried the best of parents, all my sisters and brethren except one [Benjamin Franklin], how many of my children and in what circumstances you know, and some small remembrance of my difficulties before your father’s death and after, you must have, which, if I had done as you do, might have sunk me into despair, but I have always tried to recollect the mercies afforded me and the blessings I still enjoy and endeavour to be thankful, which is a method you must take, if you mean to make the best improvement of your sufferings, for it cannot be acceptable to the Divine Being to have us always repining and take no notice of his mercies when we receive so many more than we deserve, Let us submit to His will and be cheerful.

The excerpt is from The Letters of Benjamin Franklin and Jane Mecom edited by Carl Van Doren (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950), page 180.

posted September 13th, 2012 by Janet, comments (0), CATEGORIES: Daily life,Death,Mecom, Jane,Religion

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