Caleb Whitefoord, F.R.S (1734–1810)


    CALEB WHITEFOORD, friend of Benjamin Franklin in the hey-day of the latter's fame, was born in 1734, at Edinburgh (the exact date would seem to be unrecorded). Whitefoord was the natural son of Col. Charles Whitefoord, himself the third son of Sir Adam Whitefoord, Bt., of the shire of Ayr. He died on February 4, 1810, at his home in Argyle Street, in the vicinity of Soho, and was buried in Paddington Churchyard. Graduating at the University of Edinburgh, Whitefoord sought London as the best field for the exercise of his varied gifts, chief among these being a faculty for satirical journalism. Eventually there were few literary, scientific and political celebrities of his period outside his circle. Intimacy with Franklin (they were then neighbours in Craven Street, Strand) led to the opinion that Whitefoord would make an eligible diplomatic agent for the purpose of assisting in the restoration of peace with America. Accordingly, he became secretary to the Commission which concluded peace with the United States at Paris, in 1782. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society on June 24, 1784, when Sir Joseph Banks was president. A fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and of the Society of Antiquaries, London, he was a vice-president of the Society of Arts, and a member of the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia. Whitefoord's portrait was painted by Sir Joshua Reynolds in the eventful year 1782, and hangs in the National Portrait Gallery; a mezzotint of this by S. W. Reynolds is prized. A pleasing drawing (head and bust), by R. Cosway, is reproduced in the European Magazine for 1810. In 1790 Whitefoord presented a fine portrait of Benjamin Franklin, by Joseph Wright, to the Royal Society. Such interesting connexion with the Society is further-emphasised by the circumstance that Whitefoord, with Count Rumford, signed, in 1801, the certificate of recommendation for the election of Warren Hastings.

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