The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 1 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 191

farther trials and
observations; yet Mr. Kinnersley returning from the Islands just as I
left home, pursued the experiments during my absence, and informs me
that he always found the clouds in the _negative_ state.

So that, for the most part, in thunder-strokes, _it is the earth that
strikes into the clouds, and not the clouds that strike into the

Those who are versed in electric experiments, will easily conceive,
that the effects and appearances must be nearly the same in either
case; the same explosion, and the same flash between one cloud and
another, and between the clouds and mountains, &c. the same rending
of trees, walls, &c. which the electric fluid meets with in its
passage, and the same fatal shock to animal bodies; and that pointed
rods fixed on buildings, or masts of ships, and communicating with
the earth or sea, must be of the same service in restoring the
equilibrium silently between the earth and clouds, or in conducting a
flash or stroke, if one should be, so as to save harmless the house
or vessel: for points have equal power to throw off, as to draw on
the electric fire, and, rods will conduct up as well as down.

But though the light gained from these experiments makes no
alteration in the practice, it makes a considerable one in the
theory. And now we as much need an hypothesis to explain by what
means the clouds become negatively, as before to shew how they
became positively electrified.

I cannot forbear venturing some few conjectures on this occasion:
they are what occur to me at present, and though future discoveries
should prove them not wholly right, yet they may in the mean time be
of some use, by stirring up the curious to make more experiments, and
occasion more exact disquisitions.

I conceive then, that this globe of earth and water, with its plants,
animals, and buildings, have diffused throughout their substance, a
quantity of the electric fluid, just as much as they can contain,
which I call the _natural quantity_.

That this natural quantity is not the same in all kinds of common
matter under the same dimensions, nor in the same kind of common
matter in all circumstances; but a solid foot, for instance, of one
kind of common matter, may contain more of the electric fluid than a
solid foot of some other kind of common matter; and a pound weight of
the same kind of common matter may, when in a rarer state, contain
more of the electric fluid than when in a denser state.

For the electric fluid, being attracted

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