Posted by: Democratic Thinker | January 23, 2010

Weekly Story: Benjamin Franklin’s Supper

Weekly Story

Roberts Vaux relates to Martin Van Buren a family story of a plain supper with Benjamin Franklin.

Let us, then, be what we are, and speak what we think, in all things keep ourselves loyal to truth, and the sacred professions of friendship. —Longfellow.

To William Allen Butler.


In compliance with thy request I have written out the story of the saw-dust pudding supper given by Dr. Franklin to some of his friends about a century ago. Believe me always thy faithful and affectionate friend,


Saratoga Springs, 8 mo. 15, 1835.


SOON after Franklin made his first visit to Philadelphia in 1723, he became acquainted with my grandfather. The foundation of a mutual confidence and friendship was then laid, which endured through almost two-thirds of a century when death dissolved this long, and sincere attachment. They were born in the same year 1706, and so were several other members of the Junto which they formed in 1727 for the improvement of its associates in moral philosophy and political science. At that time there was but one newspaper in the Province, and Franklin’s sagacious mind saw the need of another journal, to rectify public opinion, and disseminate principles, which he deemed essential to the general welfare. It was not however until 1736, that he succeeded in establishing his afterward far famed Pennsylvania Gazette, which distributed so much political and economical wisdom, to the People.—A printer himself by profession, but without funds, he was under the necessity of borrowing from two, or three of his friends, money to enable him to commence his labours.—He now rented a room in an obscure alley, where he opened his office and unassisted, composed, struck off, and distributed his paper.—The acute and youthful champion of human rights, soon began to notice with great freedom and force, some of the men and measures of the day, which no one before had the moral courage to arraign. This exhibition, produced a concussion in the primitive community, not less startling, than the shocks which were afterward imparted by his original experiments with the electric fluid.—My Grandfather, and Philip Sing, and Luke Morris and some other members of the Junto, who felt a deep interest in Franklin’s success, hearing many complaints of the tone of his paragraphs, met one day to consider the propriety of advising him to be more moderate in that respect.—The consultation resulted in the appointment of two of them to administer a caution.—They found the editor with his sleeves rolled up, busy at his press, and on mentioning the purpose of their visit, he excused himself from want of time then, to hear them, but named an early evening when they and their constituents should take supper with him, and talk over the matter at leisure. On the appointed night they assembled at his house, and some time was spent in communicating their opinions and views.—At length Franklin’s wife made her appearance—she set out a table—covered it with a coarse tow cloth—placed a trencher and spoon and a penny porringer for each guest, and having deposited on one end of the simple board a large pudding, and on the other a stone pitcher, she retired.—The Philosopher now begged his friends to be seated.—To each he served a slice, and gave some water, and bid them enjoy themselves.—He supplied himself largely, and eat heartily; occasionally saying, “Come gentlemen help yourselves, we have another pudding in the pot.” But in vain they endeavored to dispose of their fare.—Finally they looked at one another, and toward their host, and were about to withdraw from the table; at this moment Franklin rose and said. “I am happy to have your company and to listen to your suggestions—some of you have been my benefactors especially—your advice is well meant I know, but I cannot think with you in some respects. You see upon what humble food I can live, and he who can subsist upon Saw Dust Pudding and Water, as can Benjamin Franklin, Printer, needs not the Patronage of any one.” Hereupon they parted, cordially shaking hands; the advisers resolving as they walked home, never more to interfere with the intrepid editor.


Saratoga Springs, 8 mo. 15, 1835.

The substance of the foregoing anecdote, was related at a meeting of the Contributors of the Penna. Institution for the instruction of the Blind, just before that body went into an election for its officers, when the narrator was left out of the station of Vice President, solely on account of his political opinions, having shared a similar fate in almost all the benevolent and literary associations of his native City during the reign of terror created by the advocates of the Bank of the U.S.

—R. V.