Unbound Correspondence, 1781-1936

(in progress)

George Washington to Joseph Willard, 1781 March 22

New Windsor Mar 22d. 1781


I am much indebted to you for announcing my election as a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences._ I feel myself particularly honored by this relation to a Society whose efforts to promote useful knowledge will, I am persuaded, acquire them a high reputation in the literary world._

I entreat you to present my warmest acknowledgements to that respectable body and to assure them that I shall with Zeal embrace every opportunity of seconding their laudable views and manifesting the exalted sense I have of the institution.

The Arts & Sciences essential to the prosperity of the State & to the ornament & happiness of human life have a primary claim to the encouragement of every lover of his Country & mankind.

For the polite & flattering terms in which you have been pleased to convey the sentiments of the Academy I beg you to accept my grateful thanks and the assurances of my being with great esteem & respect


Yr most Obedt. & oblig’d

Go. Washington

The Revd
Josph. Willard.

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Richard Price to [Joseph Willard], 1781 July 21

Newington-Green July 21st 1781

A.A. 38 [in pencil]

Dear Sir1

I think myself much honoured by the favour of your letter dated the 28th of Feby last w:ch I received about a month ago. I am ^made very happy by the information it contains, that in the midst of war and the most important struggle that a people were ever engaged in, a new Academy for promoting arts and sciences had been established at Boston.

In compliance with your desire, I have communicated the incorporating Act and list of members to the President and Secretaries of the Royal Society, attended with a letter of my own stating the contents of your letter to me, and the hopes w:ch the American Academy entertain that the Royal Society, governed by the neutrality of Philosophy, will favour it with its encouragemt. I do not yet know certainly what notice will be taken of these communications. The reply that has been reported to me from the President is, that it has not been customary to lay before the Royal Society notices of the institution of any Societies whatever.

I am obliged to be cautious in communicating the

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inaugural oration of your honourable and worthy President on account of some political passages in it. For my own part, I approve and admire these passages; and request the favour of you to deliver my best respects to the Author. I have delivered your letters to Dr Morell and Mr Maskelyne. I have likewise got a Friend to communicate to the Society of Arts and Commerce the copy of the incorporating Act which you intended for them.

I am at present very busy in preparing for the Press a fourth Edition of my Treatise on Life-annuities and Reversionary paym:ts. I shall enlarge it to two volumes, and when out of the Press (wch I am afraid will not be till the beginning of next summer) I shall endeavour to get it convey’d to you in hopes of the honour of its being accepted as a testimony of my respect for the American Academy. This work having been of some use I am anxious about making it as complete as possible. With this view I am collecting all the Observations I can get on population, the increase of mankind, and the duration of human life in different situations.

All that can be worth communicating to you in the Philosophical and Astronomical way is published in the numbers of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society which come out every half year. What has lately most engaged attention is the new star discovered near Auriga by Mr

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Herschel, a gentleman at Bath, who has for some time been very curious and diligent in watching the Heavens. This star was at first taken for a comet; and the Astronomer Royal once expected that it would have passed over the disk of the sun at the beginning of last month. But he has since told me, that it is doubted whether it may not be a planet never before discovered moving at a much greater distance from the sun than Saturn. It has for some time been hid by the sun’s rays. Should it appear again, something more certain will probably be determined concerning it.

Dr Priestley never went farther in his History of Philosophy than Electricity and Optics. He has been for some time wholly employ’d in making experimts on the different sorts of air. In this branch of Philosophy he has made several very important discoveries, an account of which he has given in five Octavo Volumes, the last published this summer. One of the most important facts which he has discovered is the effect of vegetation, aided by the action (not of heat but) of light, in purifying, preserving and restoring common air constantly injured and diminished by the breathing of animals, the burning of fires, putrefaction and other causes. In the day time and particularly in sun-shine, the purest kind of air is emitted by the leaves of trees and all vegetables; and this emission is more or less copious in proportion to the vigour

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of the vegetation and the force of the sun’s light. In the night and in the dark it ceases entirely. Dr Priestley is going on with these experimts, and very probably another volume will be published in a little time.

If you think that my best respects and wishes will be acceptable to the members of your Academy, I beg you would deliver them. No one can observe with a more earnest attention than I do all that now passes in America.

With much gratitude and the greatest regard I am, Sr, your most obedient and humble Serv

Richd Price

Deliver my very respectful complimts to the venerable Dr Chauncy. Dr Winthrop was my correspondent. With pain I reflect, that he is no more in this world to promote virtue, liberty, and Science. But we are all following him. God grant that we may leave the world wiser and better for us.

A copy of this letter was sent by another conveyance.

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  • 1While the intended recipient is not specified in this letter, the identification of Willard as the recipient is confirmed by the printing of the letter in the Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Third Series, Vol. 43 (Oct., 1909 – Jun., 1910), pp. 609-611.

Leonhard Euler to Joseph Willard, 1782 March 11

Viro clarissimo et plurimum reverendo

Josepho Willard

S.P.D. [Salutem plurimam dicit]

Leonardus Euler.

Litterae Tuae humanissimae, quibus me certiorem facis, mihi locum inter Socios novae Academiae Americanae destinari, per Sueciam mihi sumt allatae. Hunc honorem utique maximi facio, licet ob longinquitatem locorum, et quoniam aevo sum gravior, nihil plane ad ejus gloriam conferre queam. Tibi autem, vir clarissime, qui meum nomen Academiae detulisti, imprimis sum obstirictus. Vale mihique favere perge.

Dabam Petropoli. a.d. 11 Martii St. V. 1782


Distinguished and highly respected

Joseph Willard

[Sends many greetings]

Leonhard Euler.

Your kind letter by which you let me know that a place has been set for me among the Fellows of the new American Academy has come to me in Sweden. I make the most of this honor, but because of distance and because I am elderly, clearly I cannot contribute anything to its glory. To you, moreover, a man of great renown who brought my name before the Academy, I am most obliged. Farewell and continue to be well disposed to me.

Written from Petersburg a.d. 11 March (in the old style) 1782

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Letter from J[oseph] Priestley, 1785 June 23

[in pencil] 21

Revd Sir

I am truly sensible of the honour that has been done me by being elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and should have acknowledged it sooner, but that, living a a [sic] distance from London, I have not known of proper opportunities of conveying my letter: My friend Mr Vaughan going to America very soon makes it easy for me to do now that ought to have been done a long time ago.

I rejoice that, after so noble and successful a struggle for your liberties, you are now, in time of peace, attending to matters of science. I hope you will have the same success in [strikethrough] the [end strikethrough] your exertions in this way.

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As you are so obliging as to inquire after my Observation on air & I shall beg to have the honour of presenting my five volumes on that subject to the Academy, and hope that Mr Vaughan will take care of their conveyance.

I am still engaged in the same pursuits, and two papers of mine on that subject are published in the Philosophical Transactions.

I have the honour to be, with great respect,

Revd Sir,

Your obedient humble Servant

J Priestley.

Birmingham 23 June 1785

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Dr. Priestley.

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