The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and Morals of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin, Vol. 2 [of 3]

By Benjamin Franklin

Page 34

up with it.

There appeared, not far from the mouth of the harbour of St. John's,
two or three water-spouts, one of which took its course up the
harbour. Its progressive motion was slow and unequal, not in a strait
line, but, as it were, by jerks or starts. When just by the wharf, I
stood about one hundred yards from it. There appeared in the water a
circle of about twenty yards diameter, which, to me, had a dreadful,
though pleasing appearance. The water in this circle was violently
agitated, being whisked about, and carried up into the air with great
rapidity and noise, and reflected a lustre, as if the sun shined
bright on that spot, which was more conspicuous, as there appeared
a dark circle around it. When it made the shore, it carried up with
the same violence shingles, staves[8], large pieces of the roofs of
houses, &c. and one small wooden house it lifted entire from the
foundation on which it stood, and carried it to the distance of
fourteen feet, where it settled without breaking or oversetting;
and, what is remarkable, though the whirlwind moved from west to
east, the house moved from east to west. Two or three negroes and a
white woman, were killed by the fall of timber, which it carried up
into the air and dropped again. After passing through the town, I
believe it was soon dissipated; for, except tearing a large limb from
a tree, and part of the cover of a sugar-work near the town, I do
not remember any farther damage done by it. I conclude, wishing you
success in your enquiry,

And am, &c.

W. M.


[7] Dr. Mercer. _Editor._

[8] I suppose shingles, staves, timber, and other lumber, might be
lying in quantities on the wharf, for sale, as brought from the
northern colonies. B. F.


_Shooting Stars._

Read at the Royal Society, July 8, 1756.

_Boston, May 14, 1753._


I received your letter of April last, and thank you for it. Several
things in it make me at a loss which side the truth lies on, and
determine me to wait for farther evidence.

As to shooting-stars, as they are called, I know very little, and
hardly know what to say. I imagine them to be passes of electric
fire from place to place in the atmosphere, perhaps occasioned by
accidental pressures of a non-electric circumambient fluid, and
so by propulsion, or allicited by the circumstance of a distant
quantity _minus_ electrified, which

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