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

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 214

in New England.--Remarks on the Subject._

Read at the Royal Society, Dec. 18, 1755.


_Philadelphia, June 29, 1755._

SIR,

You desire my opinion of Pere Beccaria's Italian book[68]. I have
read it with much pleasure, and think it one of the best pieces on
the subject that I have seen in any language. Yet as to the article
of water-spouts, I am not at present of his sentiments; though I must
own with you, that he has handled it very ingeniously. Mr. Collinson
has my opinion of whirlwinds and water-spouts at large, written some
time since. I know not whether they will be published; if not, I
will get them transcribed for your perusal[69]. It does not appear
to me that Pere Beccaria doubts of the _absolute impermeability
of glass_ in the sense I meant it; for the instances he gives of
holes made through glass by the electric stroke are such as we have
all experienced, and only show that the electric fluid could not
pass without making a hole. In the same manner we say, glass is
impermeable to water, and yet a stream from a fire-engine will force
through the strongest panes of a window. As to the effect of points
in drawing the electric matter from clouds, and thereby securing
buildings, &c. which, you say, he seems to doubt, I must own I think
he only speaks modestly and judiciously. I find I have been but
partly understood in that matter. I have mentioned it in several of
my letters, and except once, always in the _alternative, viz_. that
pointed rods erected on buildings, and communicating with the moist
earth, would either _prevent_ a stroke, _or_, if not prevented, would
_conduct_ it, so as that the building should suffer no damage. Yet
whenever my opinion is examined in Europe, nothing is considered but
the probability of those rods _preventing_ a stroke or explosion,
which is only a _part_ of the use I proposed for them; and the
other part, their conducting a stroke, which they may happen not to
prevent, seems to be totally forgotten, though of equal importance
and advantage.

I thank you for communicating M. de Buffon's relation of the effect
of lightning at Dijon, on the 7th of June last. In return, give me
leave to relate an instance I lately saw of the same kind. Being in
the town of Newbury in New England, in November last, I was shewn
the effect of lightning on their church, which had been struck a
few months before. The steeple was a square tower of wood, reaching
seventy

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