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Title: Benjamin Franklin
Author: Morse, John T. (John Torrey), 1840-1937
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Benjamin Franklin" ***

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[Illustration: Benj. Franklin]

American Statesmen

Standard Library Edition

[Illustration: _Independence Hall, Philadelphia, 1776_]






The Riverside Press, Cambridge 1899

Copyright, 1898,


_All rights reserved._


The editor has often been asked: "Upon what principle have you
constructed this series of lives of American statesmen?" The query has
always been civil in form, while in substance it has often implied that
the "principle," as to which inquiry is made, has been undiscoverable by
the interrogator. Other queries, like pendants, have also come: Why have
you not included A, or B, or C? The inference from these is that the
querist conceives A, or B, or C to be statesmen certainly not less
eminent than E, or F, or G, whose names he sees upon the list. Now there
really has been a principle of selection; but it has not been a
mathematical principle, whereby the several statesmen of the country
have been brought to the measuring-pole, like horses, and those of a
certain height have been accepted, and those not seeming to reach that
height have been rejected. The principle has been to make such a list of
men in public life that the aggregation of all their biographies would
give, in this personal shape, the history and the picture of the growth
and development of the United States from the beginning of that
agitation which led to the Revolution until the completion of that
solidarity which we believe has resulted from the civil war and the
subsequent reconstruction.

In illustration, let me speak of a few volumes. Patrick Henry was hardly
a great statesman; but, apart from the prestige and romance which his
eloquence has thrown about his memory, he furnished the best opportunity
for drawing a picture of the South in the period preceding the
Revolution, and for showing why and how the southern colonies, among
whom Virginia was easily the leader, became sharers in the strife.

Benton might possibly have been included upon his own merits. But if
there were any doubt upon this point, or if including him would seem to
have rendered it proper to include others equally eminent and yet
omitted, the reply is that Benton serves the important purpose of giving
the best available opportunity to sketch the character of the Southwest,
and the political feeling and development in that section of the

In like manner, Cass was hardly a great statesman, although very active
and prominent for a long period. But the Northwest--or what used to be
the Northwest not so very long ago--comes out of the wilderness and into
the domain of civilization in the life of Cass.

John Randolph, erratic and bizarre, was not justly entitled to rank
among great statesmen. But the characteristics of Congress, as a body,
can be brought into better relief in the narrative of his life than in
that of any other person of his day. These characteristics were so
striking, so essential to an understanding of the history of those
times, and so utterly different from the habits and ways of our own era,
that an opportunity to present them must have been forced if Randolph
had not fortunately offered it.

These four volumes are mentioned by way of illustration of the plan of
the series in some of its less obvious purposes. By the light of the
suggestions thus afforded, readers will probably see for themselves the
motives which have led to the presence of other volumes. But one further
statement should be made. It has been the editor's intention to deal
with the advancement of the country. When the people have moved steadily
along any road, the men who have led them on that road have been
selected as subjects. When the people have refused to enter upon a road,
or, having entered, have soon turned back from it, the leaders upon such
inchoate or abandoned excursions have for the most part been rejected.
Those who have been exponents of ideas and principles which have entered
into the progress and have developed in a positive way the history of
the nation have been chosen; those who have unfortunately linked
themselves with rejected ideas and principles have themselves also been
rejected. Calhoun has been made an exception to this rule, for reasons
so obvious that they need not be rehearsed.

A Series of Great Failures presents fine opportunities, which will some
day attract some enterprising editor; but that is not the undertaking
here in hand. If the men who guided and the men who failed to guide the
movement and progress of the country were to stand side by side in this
series its size would be increased by at least one third, but probably
not so its value. Yet the failures have held out some temptations which
it has been difficult to resist. For example, there was Governor
Hutchinson, whose life has since been written by the same gentleman who
in this series has admirably presented his great antagonist, Samuel
Adams. There was much to be said in favor of setting the two portraits,
done by the same hand, side by side. It must be remembered that the
cause for the disaffected colonists is argued by the writers in this
series in the old-fashioned way,--that is to say, upon the fundamental
theory that Great Britain was foully wrong and her cis-Atlantic subjects
nobly right. A life of Hutchinson would have furnished an opportunity
for showing that, as an unmodified proposition, this is very far from
being correct. The time has come when efforts to state the quarrel
fairly for both parties are not altogether refused a hearing in the
United States. Nevertheless the admission of Hutchinson for this purpose
would have entailed too many consequences. The colonists _did_ secede
and _did_ establish independence; their action and their success
constitute the history of the country; and the leaders of their movement
are the persons whose portraits are properly hung in this gallery. The
obstructionists, leaders of the defeated party, who failed to control
our national destiny, must find room elsewhere. In the same way, Stephen
A. Douglas has been left outside the door. Able, distinguished,
influential, it was yet his misfortune to represent ideas and policies
which the people decisively condemned. Sufficient knowledge of these
ideas and policies is obtained from the lives of those who opposed and
triumphed over them. The history of non-success needs not the elaborate
presentation of a biography of the defeated leader in a series of
statesmen. The work of Douglas was discredited; it does not remain as an
active surviving influence, or as an integral part amid our modern
conditions. Andrew Johnson, also, furnished such an admirable
opportunity for the discussion of the subject of reconstruction that
some persons have thought that he should have found a place. But this
was impossible unless he were absolutely necessary for this especial
purpose; and fortunately he was not so, since the work could be done in
the lives of Seward and Stevens and Sumner. Then, if one were willing to
contribute to the immortality of a scoundrel, there was Aaron Burr; but
large as was the part which he played for a while in American politics,
and near as it came to being very much larger, the presence of his name
would have been a degradation of the series. Moreover his career was
strictly selfish and personal; he led no party, represented no idea, and
left no permanent trace. There was also William H. Crawford, who
narrowly missed being President, and who was a greater man than many of
the Presidents; but he _did_ miss, and he died, and there was an end of
him. There was Buchanan also; intellectually he had the making of a
statesman; but his wrong-headed blundering is sufficiently depicted for
the purposes of this series by the lives of those who foiled him.

These names, again, are mentioned only as indications of the scheme, as
explaining some exclusions. There are other exclusions, which have been
made, not because the individuals were not men of note, but because it
seemed that the story of their lives would fill no hiatus among the
volumes of the completed series.

The editor cannot expect every one to agree with him in the selection
which he has made. We all have our favorites in past history as well as
in modern politics, and few lists would precisely duplicate each other.
So the only thing which would seriously afflict the editor with a sense
of having made a bad blunder would be, if some one should detect a
really gaping chasm, a neglect to treat somewhere among the lives some
important item of our national history falling within the period which
the series is designed to cover.

The whole series naturally shapes itself, in a somewhat crude and rough
way to be sure, yet by virtue of substantial lines of division, into a
few sub-series or groups. The first of these belongs to the
Revolutionary period, what may be called the destructive period, since
it witnessed the destruction of the long-established political
conditions. In this group we find the leaders of the disaffection and
revolt: Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and George
Washington. Washington, of course, might properly find a place also in
the second group; but for the purposes of separation he is by preference
placed in the first one, because the Revolution was to so great an
extent his own personal achievement, his transcendent and crowning

The second group, constituting the constructive period, comprises the
men who were foremost in framing the Constitution, and in organizing and
giving coherence and life to the new government and to the nationality
thereby created. This is introduced by John Adams. He, like Washington,
might properly find a place in both the first and the second groups, but
the distinction of the presidential office brings him with sufficient
propriety into the second. The others in this group are Alexander
Hamilton, Gouverneur Morris, John Jay, and John Marshall.

The third group follows the overthrow of Federalism with its theory of a
strongly centralized government. This, of course, begins with Thomas
Jefferson, who led and organized the new party of the democracy. He is
followed by his political disciple, James Madison; by their secretary of
the treasury, Albert Gallatin; and by James Monroe, John Quincy Adams,
and John Randolph. The two last named are hardly to be called
Jeffersonians, but they mark the passage of the nation from the
statesmanship of Jefferson to the widely different democracy of Jackson.

The fourth group witnesses the absorption of the nation in questions of
domestic policy. The crude and rough domination of Andrew Jackson opened
a new order of things. Men's minds were busied with affairs at home, at
first more especially with the tariff, then more and more exclusively
with slavery. This group, besides Jackson, includes Martin Van Buren,
Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun, Thomas H. Benton, and Lewis

The fifth and closing group is that of the civil war. This of course
opens with Abraham Lincoln. The others are William H. Seward, as being a
sort of prime minister throughout the period; Salmon P. Chase, in whose
life can properly be discussed the financial policy and the principal
legal matters; Charles Francis Adams, embodying the important topic of
diplomatic relations; Charles Sumner, representing the advanced
abolitionist element; and Thaddeus Stevens, who appears as a tribune,
perhaps we may say the leader, in the popular branch of Congress.

Almost inevitably the series begins with Benjamin Franklin, the first
great American, the first man born on this side of the water who was
"meant for the universe." His mere existence was a sort of omen. It was
absurd to suppose that a people which could produce a man of that scope,
in character and intellect, could long remain in a condition of
political dependence. It would have been preposterous to have had
Franklin die a colonist, and go down to posterity, not as an American,
but as a colonial Englishman. He was a microcosm of the coming nation of
the United States; all the better moral and intellectual qualities of
our people existed in him, save only the dreamy philosophy of the famous
New England school of thinkers. It is very interesting to see how slowly
and reluctantly, yet how surely and decisively, he came to the point of
resistance and independence. He was not like so many, who were unstable
and shifting. There was no backward step, though there were many painful
and unwilling forward ones in his progress. One feels almost as if an
apology were needed for writing another life of a man so be-written. Yet
there is some reason for doing so; the chapter concerning his services
in France during the Revolution presents the true facts and the
magnitude of his usefulness more carefully than, so far as I am aware,
it has previously been done.

As a promoter of the Revolution, Samuel Adams has easily the most
conspicuous place. He was an agitator to the very centre of his marrow.
He was the incarnation of New England; to know thoroughly his career is
to know the Massachusetts of that day as an anatomist knows the human
frame. The man of the town meeting did more to kindle the Revolution
than any other one person. Many stood with him, but his life tells the
story and presents the picture. The like service is done for Virginia by
Patrick Henry; and the contrast between the two men is most striking
and picturesque, yet not more so than the difference between the two
sections of the country to which they respectively belonged.

If John Adams had died before he was made President, he also would have
been one of this group. But the lustre of his official position prevents
our placing him in the earlier constellation. Yet, though not more
prominent than many others, in fact hardly to be called prominent at all
in the events which led up to the Revolution, he became a leader in the
first Congress, and it is probable that no one contributed more than he
did--possibly no one contributed so much--towards forcing the adoption
of the Declaration of Independence.

Washington, though a member of Congress, was by no means conspicuous in
the agitation which preceded the actual outbreak of hostilities. His
entry in his uniform among his civilian comrades was indeed dramatic;
but his important public career really began with his acceptance of the
position of commander in chief. In this capacity he achieved the
overthrow of the British supremacy, and brought to a successful close
the period of destruction.

This first group is a small one, for the first Congress brought no new
men to the front. Indeed, that body lost its own prestige very soon
after independence was declared; thereafter it was no stage on which
new men could win distinction, or men already famous could add to their
store; indeed, members were lucky if they escaped without diminution of
their reputations, by very reason of being parts of so nerveless and
useless a body. The fact is, that the civilians, after they had set the
ball going, did little more. They contributed almost nothing to the
Revolution in any practical way during its actual progress. Perhaps they
could not; but certainly they did not. Washington and his officers and
soldiers deserve all the credit for making independence a reality
instead of an assertion. They were not very strenuously or generously
backed by the mass of the people after the first fervor was over. The
truth is that that grand event was the work of a small body of heroes,
who presented freedom and nationality to the people of the thirteen
colonies. John Adams and Congress said that the colonists were free, and
there left the matter, _functi officio_. Washington and the troops took
up the business, and actually made colonists into freemen. Those upon
whom this dignity and advantage were conferred were, for the most part,
content somewhat supinely to allow the new condition to be established
for them.


September, 1898.


   I. EARLY YEARS                                                        1



  IV. LIFE IN PHILADELPHIA                                              86

   V. SECOND MISSION TO ENGLAND: I.                                    100

  VI. SECOND MISSION TO ENGLAND: II.                                   142


VIII. SERVICES IN THE STATES                                           204

      DEANE AND BEAUMARCHAIS: FOREIGN OFFICERS                         220

      PRISONERS: TROUBLE WITH LEE AND OTHERS                           248

      TREATY WITH FRANCE: MORE QUARRELS                                267

 XII. FINANCIERING                                                     304


 XIV. PEACE NEGOTIATIONS: LAST YEARS IN FRANCE                         357

      THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION: DEATH                             403

INDEX                                                                  429



From the original by Jean Baptiste Greuze, in the
Boston Public Library. It was painted for Benjamin
Franklin as a gift to Richard Oswald, the English
commissioner associated with him in the peace negotiations
of 1782. Gardner Brewer of Boston bought the painting
in 1872 and presented it to the Library.

Autograph from the Declaration of Independence.

The vignette of Independence Hall is after a drawing
in the possession of the American Bank Note Co., Philadelphia.


From the frontispiece to Doniol, "Histoire de la Participation de la
France à l'Establissement des Etats-Unis d'Amérique," Paris, 1886, 5
vols., 4to. vol. i.; an engraving by Vangelisti, from the original
painting by Antoine Francois Callet.

Autograph from same book.

LORD HILLSBOROUGH (Born Wills Hill; afterwards Marquis of Downshire)

From a painting by J. Rising, owned by Lord Salisbury.

Autograph from MS. collection in the New York Public Library, Lenox Building.


From the original portrait by C. W. Peale in Independence

Autograph from MS. collection in Library of Boston Athenæum.


Off Flamborough Head, September 3, 1779. Paul

Jones's ship, in compliment to the author of "Poor Richard's
Maxims," was named "Bon Homme Richard." Captain Pearson, who
commanded the Serapis, was knighted for his heroic resistance. Paul
Jones, tradition says, on hearing of the honor conferred on
Pearson, good-naturedly observed, "If I ever meet him again, I'll
make a lord of him."




It is a lamentable matter for any writer to find himself compelled to
sketch, however briefly, the early years of Benjamin Franklin. That
autobiography, in which the story of those years is so inimitably told,
by its vividness, its simplicity, even by its straightforward vanity,
and by the quaint charm of its old-fashioned but well-nigh faultless
style, stands among the few masterpieces of English prose. It ought to
have served for the perpetual protection of its subject as a copyright
more sacred than any which rests upon mere statutory law. Such, however,
has not been the case, and the narrative has been rehearsed over and
over again till the American who is not familiar with it is indeed a
curiosity. Yet no one of the subsequent narrators has justified his
undertaking. Therefore because the tale has been told so often, and once
has been told so well, and also in order that the stone which it is my
lot to cast upon a cairn made up of so many failures may at least be
only a small pebble, I shall get forward as speedily as possible to that
point in Franklin's career where his important public services begin, at
the same time commending every reader to turn again for further
refreshment of his knowledge to those pages which might well have
aroused the envy of Fielding and Defoe.

Franklin came from typical English stock. For three hundred years,
perhaps for many centuries more, his ancestors lived on a small freehold
at Ecton in Northamptonshire, and so far back as record or tradition ran
the eldest son in each generation had been bred a blacksmith. But after
the strange British fashion there was intertwined with this singular
fixedness of ideas a stubborn independence in thinking, courageously
exercised in times of peril. The Franklins were among the early
Protestants, and held their faith unshaken by the terrors of the reign
of Bloody Mary. By the end of Charles the Second's time they were
non-conformists and attendants on conventicles; and about 1682 Josiah
Franklin, seeking the peaceful exercise of his creed, migrated to
Boston, Massachusetts. His first wife bore him seven children, and died.
Not satisfied, he took in second nuptials Abiah Folger, "daughter of
Peter Folger, one of the first settlers of New England, of whom
honorable mention is made by Cotton Mather," and justly, since in those
dark days he was an active philanthropist towards the Indians, and an
opponent of religious persecution.[1] This lady outdid her predecessor,
contributing no less than ten children to expand the family circle. The
eighth of this second brood was named Benjamin, in memory of his
father's favorite brother. He was born in a house on Milk Street,
opposite the Old South Church, January 6, old style, 17, new style,
1706. Mr. Parton says that probably Benjamin "derived from his mother
the fashion of his body and the cast of his countenance. There are
lineal descendants of Peter Folger who strikingly resemble Franklin in
these particulars; one of whom, a banker of New Orleans, looks like a
portrait of Dr. Franklin stepped out of its frame."[2] A more important
inheritance was that of the humane and liberal traits of his mother's

[Note 1: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, i. 27.]

[Note 2: _Ibid._ i. 31.]

In that young, scrambling village in the new country, where all
material, human or otherwise, was roughly and promptly utilized, the
unproductive period of boyhood was cut very short. Franklin's father
speedily resolved to devote him, "as the tithe of his sons, to the
service of the church," and so sent him to the grammar school. A droller
misfit than Franklin in an orthodox New England pulpit of that era can
hardly be imagined; but since he was only seven years old when his
father endeavored to arrange his life's career, a misappreciation of his
fitnesses was not surprising. The boy himself had the natural hankering
of children bred in a seaboard town for the life of a sailor. It is
amusing to fancy the discussions between this babe of seven years and
his father, concerning his occupation in life. Certainly the babe had
not altogether the worst of it, for when he was eight years old his
father definitively gave up the notion of making him a preacher of the
Gospel. At the ripe age of ten he was taken from school, and set to
assist his father in the trade of tallow-chandler and soap-boiler. But
dipping wicks and pouring grease pleased him hardly better than
reconciling infant damnation and a red-hot hell with the loveliness of
Christianity. The lad remained discontented. His chief taste seemed to
be for reading, and great were the ingenuity and the self-sacrifice
whereby he secured books and leisure to read them. The resultant of
these several forces was at last a suggestion from his father that he
should take up, as a sort of quasi-literary occupation, the trade of a
printer. James Franklin, an older brother of Benjamin, was already of
that calling. Benjamin stood out for some time, but at last reluctantly
yielded, and in the maturity of his thirteenth year this child set his
hand to an indenture of apprenticeship which formally bound him to his
brother for the next nine years of his life.

Handling the types aroused a boyish ambition to see himself in print. He
scribbled some ballads, one about a shipwreck, another about the capture
of a pirate; but he "escaped being a poet," as fortunately as he had
escaped being a clergyman. James Franklin seems to have trained his
junior with such fraternal cuffs and abuse as the elder brothers of
English biography and literature appear usually to have bestowed on the
younger. But this younger one got his revenges. James published the "New
England Courant," and, inserting in it some objectionable matter, was
forbidden to continue it. Thereupon he canceled the indenture of
apprenticeship, and the newspaper was thereafter published by Benjamin
Franklin. A secret renewal of the indenture was executed simultaneously.
This "flimsy scheme" gave the boy his chance. Secure that the document
would never be produced, he resolved to leave the printing-house. But
the influence of James prevented his getting employment elsewhere in the
town. Besides this, other matters also harassed him. It gives an idea of
the scale of things in the little settlement, and of the serious way in
which life was taken even at its outset, to hear that this 'prentice lad
of seventeen years had already made himself "a little obnoxious to the
governing party," so as to fear that he might soon "bring himself into
scrapes." For the inherited habit of freedom in religious speculation
had taken a new form in Franklin, who was already a free-thinker, and by
his "indiscreet disputations about religion" had come to be "pointed at
with horror by good people as an infidel and atheist"--compromising,
even perilous, names to bear in that Puritan village. Various motives
thus combined to induce migration. He stole away on board a sloop bound
for New York, and after three days arrived there, in October, 1723. He
had but a trifling sum of money, and he knew no one in the strange city.
He sought occupation in his trade, but got nothing better than advice to
move on to Philadelphia; and thither he went. The story of this
journeying is delightfully told in the autobiography, with the famous
little scene wherein he figures with a loaf under each arm and munching
a third while he walks "up Market Street, as far as Fourth Street,
passing by the door of Mr. Read, my future wife's father; when she,
standing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as I certainly did, a
most awkward, ridiculous appearance."

In Philadelphia Franklin soon found opportunity to earn a living at his
trade. There were then only two printers in that town, ignorant men
both, with scant capacity in the technique of their calling. His greater
acquirements and ability, and superior knowledge of the craft, soon
attracted attention. One day Sir William Keith, governor of the
province, appeared at the printing-office, inquired for Franklin, and
carried him off "to taste some excellent Madeira" with himself and
Colonel French, while employer Keimer, bewildered at the compliment to
his journeyman, "star'd like a pig poison'd." Over the genial glasses
the governor proposed that Franklin should set up for himself, and
promised his own influence to secure for him the public printing. Later
he wrote a letter, intended to induce Franklin's father to advance the
necessary funds. Equipped with this document, Franklin set out, in
April, 1724, to seek his father's coöperation, and surprised his family
by appearing unannounced among them, not at all in the classic garb of
the prodigal son, but "having a genteel new suit from head to foot, a
watch, and my pockets lin'd with near five pounds sterling in silver."
But neither his prosperous appearance nor the flattering epistle of the
great man could induce his hard-headed parent to favor a scheme "of
setting a boy up in business, who wanted yet three years of being at
man's estate." The independent old tallow-chandler only concluded that
the distinguished baronet "must be of small discretion." So Franklin
returned with "some small gifts as tokens" of parental love, much good
advice as to "steady industry and prudent parsimony," but no cash in
hand. The gallant governor, however, said: "Since he will not set you
up, I will do it myself," and a plan was soon concocted whereby Franklin
was to go to England and purchase a press and types with funds to be
advanced by Sir William. Everything was arranged, only from day to day
there was delay in the actual delivery to Franklin of the letters of
introduction and credit. The governor was a very busy man. The day of
sailing came, but the documents had not come, only a message from the
governor that Franklin might feel easy at embarking, for that the papers
should be sent on board at Newcastle, down the stream. Accordingly, at
the last moment, a messenger came hurriedly on board and put the packet
into the captain's hands. Afterward, when during the leisure hours of
the voyage the letters were sorted, none was found for Franklin. His
patron had simply broken an inconvenient promise. It was indeed a
"pitiful trick" to "impose so grossly on a poor innocent boy." Yet
Franklin, in his broad tolerance of all that is bad as well as good in
human nature, spoke with good-tempered indifference, and with more of
charity than of justice, concerning the deceiver. "It was a habit he had
acquired. He wish'd to please everybody; and, having little to give, he
gave expectations. He was otherwise an ingenious, sensible man, a pretty
good writer, and a good governor for the people.... Several of our best
laws were of his planning, and passed during his administration."

None the less it turned out that this contemptible governor did Franklin
a good turn in sending him to London, though the benefit came in a
fashion not anticipated by either. For Franklin, not yet much wiser than
the generality of mankind, had to go through his period of youthful
folly, and it was good fortune for him that the worst portion of this
period fell within the eighteen months which he passed in England. Had
this part of his career been run in Philadelphia its unsavory aroma
might have kept him long in ill odor among his fellow townsmen, then
little tolerant of profligacy. But the "errata" of a journeyman printer
in London were quite beyond the ken of provincial gossips. He easily
gained employment in his trade, at wages which left him a little surplus
beyond his maintenance. This surplus, during most of the time, he and
his comrades squandered in the pleasures of the town. Yet in one matter
his good sense showed itself, for he kept clear of drink; indeed, his
real nature asserted itself even at this time, to such a degree that we
find him waging a temperance crusade in his printing-house, and actually
weaning some of his fellow compositors from their dearly loved "beer."
One of these, David Hall, afterward became his able partner in the
printing business in Philadelphia. Amid much bad companionship he fell
in with some clever men. His friend James Ralph, though a despicable,
bad fellow, had brains and some education. At this time, too, Franklin
was in the proselyting stage of infidelity. He published "A Dissertation
on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain," and the pamphlet got him
some little notoriety among the free-thinkers of London, and an
introduction to some of them, but chiefly of the class who love to sit
in taverns and blow clouds of words. Their society did him no good, and
such effervescence was better blown off in London than in Philadelphia.

But after the novelty of London life had worn off, it ceased to be to
Franklin's taste. He began to reform somewhat, to retrench and lay by a
little money; and after eighteen months he eagerly seized an
opportunity which offered for returning home. This was opened to him by
a Mr. Denham, a good man and prosperous merchant, then engaged in
England in purchasing stock for his store in Philadelphia. Franklin was
to be his managing and confidential clerk, with the prospect of rapid
advancement. At the same time Sir William Wyndham, ex-chancellor of the
exchequer, endeavored to persuade Franklin to open a swimming school in
London. He promised very aristocratic patronage; and as an opening for
money-getting this plan was perhaps the better. Franklin almost closed
with the proposition. He seems, however, to have had a little touch of
homesickness, a preference, if not quite a yearning, for the colonies,
which sufficed to turn the scale. Such was his third escape; he might
have passed his days in instructing the scions of British nobility in
the art of swimming! He arrived at home, after a tedious voyage, October
11, 1726. But almost immediately fortune seemed to cross him, for Mr.
Denham and he were both taken suddenly ill. Denham died; Franklin
narrowly evaded death, and fancied himself somewhat disappointed at his
recovery, "regretting in some degree that [he] must now sometime or
other have all that disagreeable work to go over again." He seems to
have become sufficiently interested in what was likely to follow his
decease, in this world at least, to compose an epitaph which has become
world-renowned, and has been often imitated:--

                 THE BODY
                  IN A NEW
              THE AUTHOR.

But there was no use for this graveyard literature; Franklin got well,
and recurred again to his proper trade. Being expert with the
composing-stick, he was readily engaged at good wages by his old
employer, Keimer. Franklin, however, soon suspected that this man's
purpose was only to use him temporarily for instructing some green
hands, and for organizing the printing-office. Naturally a quarrel soon
occurred. But Franklin had proved his capacity, and forthwith the father
of one Meredith, a fellow journeyman under Keimer, advanced sufficient
money to set up the two as partners in the printing business. Franklin
managed the office, showing admirable enterprise, skill, and industry.
Meredith drank. This allotment of functions soon produced its natural
result. Two friends of Franklin lent him what capital he needed; he
bought out Meredith and had the whole business for himself. His zeal
increased; he won good friends, gave general satisfaction, and absorbed
all the best business in the province.

At the time of the formation of the partnership the only newspaper of
Pennsylvania was published by Bradford, a rival of Keimer in the
printing business. It was "a paltry thing, wretchedly managed, no way
entertaining, and yet was profitable to him." Franklin and Meredith
resolved to start a competing sheet; but Keimer got wind of their plan,
and at once "published proposals for printing one himself." He had got
ahead of them, and they had to desist. But he was ignorant, shiftless,
and incompetent, and after carrying on his enterprise for "three
quarters of a year, with at most only ninety subscribers," he sold out
his failure to Franklin and Meredith "for a trifle." To them, or rather
to Franklin, "it prov'd in a few years extremely profitable." Its
original name, "The Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences, and
Pennsylvania Gazette," was reduced by the amputation of the first
clause, and, relieved from the burden of its trailing title, it
circulated actively throughout the province, and further. Number 40,
Franklin's first number, appeared October 2, 1729. Bradford, who was
postmaster, refused to allow his post-riders to carry any save his own
newspaper. But Franklin, whose morality was nothing if not practical,
fought the devil with fire, and bribed the riders so judiciously that
his newspaper penetrated whithersoever they went. He says of it: "Our
first papers made a quite different appearance from any before in the
Province; a better type, and better printed; but some spirited remarks
of my writing, on the dispute then going on between Governor Burnet and
the Massachusetts Assembly, struck the principal people, occasioned the
paper and the manager of it to be much talked of, and in a few weeks
brought them all to be our subscribers." Later his articles in favor of
the issue of a sum of paper currency were so largely instrumental in
carrying that measure that the profitable job of printing the money
became his reward. Thus advancing in prestige and prosperity, he was
able to discharge by installments his indebtedness. "In order to
secure," he says, "my credit and character as a tradesman, I took care
to be not only in reality industrious and frugal, but to avoid all
appearances to the contrary." A characteristic remark. With Franklin
every virtue had its market value, and to neglect to get that value out
of it was the part of folly.

About this time the wife of a glazier, who occupied part of Franklin's
house, began match-making in behalf of a "very deserving" girl; and
Franklin, nothing loath, responded with "serious courtship." He
intimated his willingness to accept the maiden's hand, provided that its
fellow hand held a dowry, and he named an hundred pounds sterling as his
lowest figure. The parents, on the other part, said that they had not
so much ready money. Franklin civilly suggested that they could get it
by mortgaging their house; they firmly declined. The negotiation
thereupon was abandoned. "This affair," Franklin continues, "having
turned my thoughts to marriage, I look'd round me and made overtures of
acquaintance in other places; but soon found that, the business of a
printer being generally thought a poor one, I was not to expect money
with a wife, unless with such a one as I should not otherwise think
agreeable." Finding such difficulties in the way of a financial
alliance, Franklin appears to have bethought him of affection as a
substitute for dollars; so he blew into the ashes of an old flame, and
aroused some heat. Before going to England he had engaged himself to
Miss Deborah Read; but in London he had pretty well forgotten her, and
had written to her only a single letter. Many years afterward, writing
to Catharine Ray in 1755, he said: "The cords of love and friendship ...
in times past have drawn me ... back from England to Philadelphia." If
the remark referred to an affection for Miss Read, it was probably no
more trustworthy than are most such allegations made when lapsing years
have given a fictitious coloring to a remote past. If indeed Franklin's
profligacy and his readiness to marry any girl financially eligible were
symptoms attendant upon his being in love, it somewhat taxes the
imagination to fancy how he would have conducted himself had he not been
the victim of romantic passion. Miss Read, meanwhile, apparently about
as much in love as her lover, had wedded another man, "one Rogers, a
potter," a good workman but worthless fellow, who soon took flight from
his bride and his creditors. Her position had since become somewhat
questionable; for there was a story that her husband had an earlier wife
living, in which case of course her marriage with him was null. There
was also a story that he was dead. But there was little evidence of the
truth of either tale. Franklin, therefore, hardly knew what he was
wedding, a maid, a widow, or another man's wife. Moreover the runaway
husband "had left many debts, which his successor might be call'd upon
to pay." Few men, even if warmly enamored, would have entered into the
matrimonial contract under circumstances so discouraging; and there are
no indications save the marriage itself that Franklin was deeply in
love. Yet on September 1, 1730, the pair were wedded. Mrs. Franklin
survived for forty years thereafter, and neither seems ever to have
regretted the step. "None of the inconveniences happened that we had
apprehended," wrote Franklin; "she proved a good and faithful helpmate;
assisted me much by attending the shop; we throve together, and have
ever mutually endeavored to make each other happy." A sensible,
comfortable, satisfactory union it was, showing how much better is sense
than sensibility as an ingredient in matrimony. Mrs. Franklin was a
handsome woman, of comely figure, yet nevertheless an industrious and
frugal one; later on in life Franklin boasted that he had "been clothed
from head to foot in linen of [his] wife's manufacture." An early
contribution of his own to the domestic _ménage_ was his illegitimate
son, William, born soon after his wedding, of a mother of whom no record
or tradition remains. It was an unconventional wedding gift to bring
home to a bride; but Mrs. Franklin, with a breadth and liberality of
mind akin to her husband's, readily took the babe not only to her home
but really to her heart, and reared him as if he had been her own
offspring. Mr. Parton thinks that Franklin gave this excellent wife no
further cause for suspicion or jealousy.



So has ended the first stage, in the benign presence of Hymen. The
period of youth may be regarded as over; but the narrative thereof,
briefly as it has been given, is not satisfactory. One longs to help out
the outline with color, to get the expression as well as merely the
features of the young man who is going to become one of the greatest men
of the nation. Many a writer and speaker has done what he could in this
task, for Franklin has been for a century a chief idol of the American
people. The Boston boy, the boy printer, the runaway apprentice, the
young journeyman, friendless and penniless in distant London, are
pictures which have been made familiar to many generations of
schoolboys; and the trifling anecdote of the bread rolls eaten in the
streets of Philadelphia has for its only rival among American historical
traditions the more doubtful story about George Washington, the
cherry-tree, and the little hatchet.

Yet, if plain truth is to be told, there was nothing unusual about this
sunrise, no rare tints of divine augury; the luminary came up in
every-day fashion. Franklin had done much reading; he had taken pains to
cultivate a good style in writing English; he had practiced himself in
dispute; he had adopted some odd notions, for example vegetarianism in
diet; he had at times acquired some influence among his fellow
journeymen, and had used it for good; he had occasionally fallen into
the society of men of good social position; he had kept clear of the
prevalent habit of excessive drinking; sometimes he had lived frugally
and had laid up a little money; more often he had been wasteful; he had
been very dissolute, and in sowing his wild oats he had gone down into
the mud. His autobiography gives us a simple, vivid, strong picture,
which we accept as correct, though in reading it one sees that the lapse
of time since the occurrences narrated, together with his own success
and distinction in life, have not been without their obvious effect. By
the time he thought it worth while to write those pages, Franklin had
been taught to think very well of himself and his career. For this
reason he was, upon the one hand, somewhat indifferent as to setting
down what smaller men would conceal, confident that his fame would not
stagger beneath the burden of youthful wrong-doing; on the other hand,
he deals rather gently, a little ideally, with himself, as old men are
wont to acknowledge with condemnation tempered with mild forgiveness the
foibles of their early days. It is evident that, as a young man,
Franklin intermingled sense with folly, correct living with dissipation,
in a manner that must have made it difficult for an observer to forecast
the final outcome, and which makes it almost equally impossible now to
form a satisfactory idea of him. He is not to be disposed of by placing
him in any ready-made and familiar class. If he had turned out a bad
man, there would have been abundance in his early life to point the
moralist's warning tale; as he turned out a very reputable one, there is
scarcely less abundance for panegyrists to expatiate upon. Certainly he
was a man to attract some attention and to carry some weight, yet not
more than many another of whom the world never hears. At the time of his
marriage, however, he is upon the verge of development; a new period of
his life is about to begin; what had been dangerous and evil in his ways
disappears; the breadth, originality, and practical character of his
mind are about to show themselves. He has settled to a steady
occupation; he is industrious and thrifty; he has gathered much
information, and may be regarded as a well-educated man; he writes a
plain, forcible style; he has enterprise and shrewdness in matters of
business, and good sense in all matters,--that is the chief point, his
sound sense has got its full growth and vigor, and of sound sense no man
ever had more. Very soon he not only prospers financially, but begins to
secure at first that attention and soon afterward that influence which
always follow close upon success in practical affairs. He becomes the
public-spirited citizen; scheme after scheme of social and public
improvement is suggested and carried forward by him, until he justly
comes to be one of the foremost citizens of Philadelphia. The
enumeration of what he did within a few years in this small new town and
poor community will be found surprising and admirable.

His first enterprise, of a quasi public nature, was the establishment of
a library. There were to be fifty subscribers for fifty years, each
paying an entrance fee of forty shillings and an annual due of ten
shillings. He succeeded only with difficulty and delay, yet he did
succeed, and the results were important. Later a charter was obtained,
and the number of subscribers was doubled. "This," he says, "was the
mother of all the North American subscription libraries, now so
numerous.... These libraries have improved the general conversation of
the Americans, made the common traders and farmers as intelligent as
most gentlemen from other countries, and perhaps have contributed in
some degree to the stand so generally made throughout the colonies in
defense of their privileges." "Reading became fashionable," he adds. But
it was not difficult to cultivate the desire for reading; that lay close
to the surface. The boon which Franklin conferred lay rather in setting
the example of a scheme by which books could be cheaply obtained in
satisfactory abundance.

From the course of this business he drew one of those shrewd, practical
conclusions which aided him so much in life. He says that he soon felt
"the impropriety of presenting one's self as the proposer of any useful
project that might be supposed to raise one's reputation in the smallest
degree above that of one's neighbors, when one has need of their
assistance to accomplish that project. I therefore put myself as much as
I could out of sight, and stated it as a scheme of a _number of
friends_, who had requested me to go about and propose it." This method
he found so well suited to the production of results that he habitually
followed it in his subsequent undertakings. It was sound policy; the
self-abnegation helped success; the success secured personal prestige.
It was soon observed that when "a number of friends" or "a few
gentlemen" were represented by Franklin, their purpose was usually good
and was pretty sure to be carried through. Hence came reputation and

In December, 1732, he says, "I first published my Almanack, under the
name of _Richard Saunders_," price five pence, thereby falling in with a
common custom among the colonial printers. Within the month three
editions were sold; and it was continued for twenty-five years
thereafter with an average sale of 10,000 copies annually, until "Poor
Richard" became a _nom de plume_ as renowned as any in English
literature. The publication ranks as one of the most influential in the
world. Its "proverbial sentences, chiefly such as inculcated industry
and frugality as the means of procuring wealth and thereby securing
virtue," were sown like seed all over the land. The almanac went year
after year, for quarter of a century, into the house of nearly every
shopkeeper, planter, and farmer in the American provinces. Its wit and
humor, its practical tone, its shrewd maxims, its worldly honesty, its
morality of common sense, its useful information, all chimed well with
the national character. It formulated in homely phrase and with droll
illustration what the colonists more vaguely knew, felt, and believed
upon a thousand points of life and conduct. In so doing it greatly
trained and invigorated the natural mental traits of the people. "Poor
Richard" was the revered and popular schoolmaster of a young nation
during its period of tutelage. His teachings are among the powerful
forces which have gone to shaping the habits of Americans. His terse and
picturesque bits of the wisdom and the virtue of this world are familiar
in our mouths to-day; they moulded our great-grandparents and their
children; they have informed our popular traditions; they still
influence our actions, guide our ways of thinking, and establish our
points of view, with the constant control of acquired habits which we
little suspect. If we were accustomed still to read the literature of
the almanac, we should be charmed with its humor. The world has not yet
grown away from it, nor ever will. Addison and Steele had more polish
but vastly less humor than Franklin. "Poor Richard" has found eternal
life by passing into the daily speech of the people, while the
"Spectator" is fast being crowded out of the hands of all save scholars
in literature. At this period of his life he wrote many short fugitive
pieces, which hold some of the rarest wit that an American library
contains. Few people suspect that the ten serious and grave-looking
octavos, imprinted "The Works of Benjamin Franklin," hide much of that
delightful kind of wit that can never grow old, but is as charming
to-day as when it came damp from the press a century and more ago. How
much of "Poor Richard" was actually original is a sifting not worth
while to make. Franklin said: "I was conscious that not a tenth part of
the wisdom was my own which he ascribed to me, but rather the gleanings
that I had made of the sense of all ages and nations." No profound
wisdom is really new, but only the expression of it; and all that of
"Poor Richard" had been fused in the crucible of Franklin's brain.

But the famous almanac was not the only pulpit whence Franklin preached
to the people. He had an excellent ideal of a newspaper. He got news
into it, which was seldom done in those days, and which made it
attractive; he got advertisements into it, which made it pay, and which
also was a novel feature; indeed, Mr. Parton says that he "originated
the modern system of business advertising;" he also discussed matters of
public interest. Thus he anticipated the modern newspaper, but in some
respects improved in advance upon that which he anticipated. He made his
"Gazette" a vehicle for disseminating information and morality, and he
carefully excluded from it "all libeling and personal abuse." The sheet
in its every issue was doing the same sort of work as "Poor Richard." In
a word, Franklin was a born teacher of men, and what he did in this way
in these his earlier days gives him rank among the most distinguished
moralists who have ever lived.

What kind of morality he taught is well known. It was human; he kept it
free from entangling alliances with any religious creed; its foundations
lay in common sense, not in faith. His own nature in this respect is
easy to understand but difficult to describe, since the words which must
be used convey such different ideas to different persons. Thus, to say
that he had the religious temperament, though he was skeptical as to all
the divine and supernatural dogmas of the religions of mankind, will
seem to many a self-contradiction, while to others it is entirely
intelligible. In his boyhood one gets a flavor of irreverence which was
slow in disappearing. When yet a mere child he suggested to his father
the convenience of saying grace over the whole barrel of salt fish, in
bulk, as the mercantile phrase would be. By the time that he was
sixteen, Shaftesbury and Collins, efficiently aided by the pious writers
who had endeavored to refute them, had made him "a real doubter in many
points of our religious doctrine;" and while he was still his brother's
apprentice in Boston, he fell into disrepute as a skeptic. Apparently he
gathered momentum in moving along this line of thought, until in England
his disbelief took on for a time an extreme and objectionable form. His
opinions then were "that nothing could possibly be wrong in the world;
and that vice and virtue were empty distinctions, no such things
existing." But the pamphlet, already mentioned, in which he expressed
these views, was the outburst of a youthful free-thinker not yet
accustomed to his new ideas; not many years passed over his head before
it "appear'd not so clever a performance as [he] once thought it;" and
in his autobiography he enumerates it among the "errata" of his life.

It was not so very long afterward that he busied himself in composing
prayers, and even an entire litany, for his own use. No Christian could
have found fault with the morals therein embodied; but Christ was
entirely ignored. He even had the courage to draw up a new version of
the Lord's Prayer; and he arranged a code of thirteen rules after the
fashion of the Ten Commandments; of these the last one was: "Imitate
Jesus and Socrates." Except during a short time just preceding and
during his stay in London he seems never to have been an atheist;
neither was he ever quite a Christian; but as between atheism and
Christianity he was very much further removed from the former than from
the latter. He used to call himself a deist, or theist; and said that a
deist was as much like an atheist as chalk is like charcoal. The
evidence is abundant that he settled down into a belief in a personal
God, who was good, who concerned himself with the affairs of men, who
was pleased with good acts and displeased with evil ones. He believed
also in immortality and in rewards in a life to come. But he supported
none of these beliefs upon the same basis on which Christians support

Unlike the infidel school of that day he had no antipathy even to the
mythological portions of the Christian religion, no desire to discredit
it, nor ambition to distinguish himself in a crusade against it. On the
contrary, he was always resolute to live well with it. His mind was too
broad, his habit of thought too tolerant, to admit of his antagonizing
so good a system of morals because it was intertwined with articles of
faith which he did not believe. He went to church frequently, and always
paid his contribution towards the expenses of the society; but he kept
his commendation only for those practical sermons which showed men how
to become virtuous. In like manner the instruction which he himself
inculcated was strictly confined to those virtues which promote the
welfare and happiness of the individual and of society. In fact, he
recognized none other; that which did not advance these ends was but a
spurious pretender to the title of virtue.

One is tempted to make many quotations from Franklin's writings in this
connection; but two or three must suffice. In 1743 he wrote to his

     "There are some things in your New England doctrine and worship
     which I do not agree with; but I do not therefore condemn them, or
     desire to shake your belief or practice of them. We may dislike
     things that are nevertheless right in themselves. I would only have
     you make me the same allowance, and have a better opinion both of
     morality and your brother."

In 1756 he wrote to a friend:--

     "He that for giving a draught of water to a thirsty person should
     expect to be paid with a good plantation, would be modest in his
     demands compared with those who think they deserve Heaven for the
     little good they do on earth.... For my own part, I have not the
     vanity to think I deserve it, the folly to expect it, nor the
     ambition to desire it; but content myself in submitting to the will
     and disposal of that God who made me, who hitherto has preserved
     and blessed me, and in whose fatherly goodness I may well

     "The faith you mention has doubtless its use in the world; I do not
     desire it to be diminished, nor would I endeavor to lessen it in
     any man. But I wish it were more productive of good works than I
     have generally seen it. I mean real good works,--works of kindness,
     charity, mercy, and public spirit; not holiday-keeping, sermon
     reading or hearing, performing church ceremonies, or making long
     prayers, filled with flatteries and compliments despised even by
     wise men and much less capable of pleasing the Deity. The worship
     of God is a duty, the hearing and reading of sermons may be
     useful; but if men rest in hearing and praying, as too many do, it
     is as if a tree should value itself in being watered and putting
     forth leaves, though it never produced any fruit."

Throughout his life he may be said to have very slowly moved nearer and
nearer to the Christian faith, until at last he came so near that many
of those somewhat nondescript persons who call themselves "liberal
Christians" might claim him as one of themselves. But if a belief in the
divinity of Christ is necessary to make a "Christian," it does not
appear that Franklin ever fully had the qualification. When he was an
old man, in 1790, President Stiles of Yale College took the freedom of
interrogating him as to his religious faith. It was the first time that
any one had ever thus ventured. His reply[3] is interesting: "As to
Jesus of Nazareth," he says, "I think his system of morals and his
religion, as he left them to us, the best the world ever saw, or is like
to see." But he thinks they have been corrupted. "I have, with most of
the present dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity;
though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied
it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon
an opportunity of knowing the truth with less trouble. I see no harm,
however, in its being believed, if that belief has the good
consequences, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more
respected and more observed; especially as I do not see that the Supreme
takes it amiss by distinguishing the unbelievers in his government of
the world with any peculiar marks of his displeasure." His God was
substantially the God of Christianity; but concerning Christ he was
generally reticent and non-committal.

[Note 3: _Works_, x. 192.]

Whatever were his own opinions, which undoubtedly underwent some changes
during his life, as is the case with most of us, he never introduced
Christianity, as a faith, into any of his moral writings. A broad human
creature, with a marvelous knowledge of mankind, with a tolerance as
far-reaching as his knowledge, with a kindly liking for all men and
women; withal a prudent, shrewd, cool-headed observer in affairs, he was
content to insist that goodness and wisdom were valuable, as means,
towards good repute and well-being, as ends. He urges upon his nephew,
about to start in business as a goldsmith, "_perfect honesty_;" and the
reason he gives for his emphasis is, that the business is peculiarly
liable to suspicion, and if a man is "once detected in the smallest
fraud ... at once he is ruined." The character of his argument was
always simple. He usually began with some such axiom as the desirability
of success in one's enterprises, or of health, or of comfort, or of ease
of mind, or a sufficiency of money; and then he showed that some virtue,
or collection of virtues, would promote this result. He advocated
honesty upon the same principle upon which he advocated that women
should learn to keep accounts, or that one should hold one's self in the
background in the presentation of an enterprise such as his public
library; that is to say, his advocacy of a cardinal virtue, of acquiring
a piece of knowledge, or of adopting a certain method of procedure in
business, ran upon the same line, namely, the practical usefulness of
the virtue, the knowledge, or the method, for increasing the probability
of a practical success in worldly affairs. Among the articles
inculcating morality which he used to put into his newspaper was a
Socratic Dialogue, "tending to prove that whatever might be his parts
and abilities, a vicious man could not properly be called a man of

He was forever at this business; it was his nature to teach, to preach,
to moralize. With creeds he had no concern, but took it as his function
in life to instruct in what may be described as _useful morals_, the
gospel of good sense, the excellence of common humanity. About the time
in his career which we have now reached this tendency of his had an
interesting development in its relationship to his own character. He
"conceiv'd the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral
perfection." It is impossible to recite the details of his scheme, but
the narration constitutes one of the most entertaining and
characteristic parts of the autobiography. Such a plan could not long be
confined in its operation to himself alone; the teacher must teach;
accordingly he designed to write a book, to be called "The Art of
Virtue," a title with which he was greatly pleased, as indicating that
the book was to show "the means and manner of obtaining virtue" as
contradistinguished from the "mere exhortation to be good, that does not
instruct or indicate the means." A receipt book for virtues! Practical
instructions for acquiring goodness! Nothing could have been more
characteristic. One of his Busy-Body papers, February 18, 1728, begins
with the statement that: "It is said that the Persians, in their ancient
constitution, had public schools in which virtue was taught as a liberal
art, or science;" and he goes on to laud the plan highly. Perhaps this
was the origin of the idea which subsequently became such a favorite
with him. It was his

     "design to explain and enforce this doctrine: that vicious actions
     are not hurtful because they are forbidden, but forbidden because
     they are hurtful, the nature of man alone considered; that it was
     therefore every one's interest to be virtuous who wished to be
     happy even in this world; and I should ... have endeavored to
     convince young persons that no qualities were so likely to make a
     poor man's fortune as those of probity and integrity."

Long years afterward, in 1760, he wrote about it to Lord Kames:--

     "Many people lead bad lives that would gladly lead good ones, but
     do not know _how_ to make the change.... To expect people to be
     good, to be just, to be temperate, etc., without _showing_ them
     _how_ they should _become_ so seems like the ineffectual charity
     mentioned by the apostle, which consists in saying to the hungry,
     the cold, and the naked, 'Be ye fed, be ye warmed, be ye clothed,'
     without showing them how they should get food, fire, or
     clothing.... To acquire those [virtues] that are wanting, and
     secure what we acquire, as well as those we have naturally, is the
     subject of _an art_. It is as properly an art as painting,
     navigation, or architecture. If a man would become a painter,
     navigator, or architect, it is not enough that he is _advised_ to
     be one, that he is _convinced_ by the arguments of his adviser that
     it would be for his advantage to be one, and that he resolves to be
     one; but he must also be taught the principles of the art, be shown
     all the methods of working, and how to acquire the habit of using
     properly all the instruments.... My 'Art of Virtue' has also its
     instruments, and teaches the manner of using them."

He was then full of zeal to give this instruction. A year later he said:
"You will not doubt my being serious in the intention of finishing my
'Art of Virtue.' It is not a mere ideal work. I planned it first in
1732.... The materials have been growing ever since. The form only is
now to be given." He even says that "experiments" had been made "with
success;" one wonders how; but he gives no explanation. Apparently
Franklin never definitely abandoned this pet design; one catches
glimpses of it as still alive in his mind, until it seems to fade away
in the dim obscurity of extreme old age. He said of it that it was only
part of "a great and extensive project that required the whole man to
execute," and his countrymen never allowed Franklin such uninterrupted
possession of himself.

A matter more easy of accomplishment was the drawing up a creed which he
thought to contain "the essentials of every known religion," and to be
"free of everything that might shock the professors of any religion." He
intended that this should serve as the basis of a sect, which should
practice his rules for self-improvement. It was at first to consist of
"young and single men only," and great caution was to be exercised in
the admission of members. The association was to be called the "Society
of the Free and Easy;" "free, as being, by the general practice and
habit of the virtues, free from the dominion of vice; and particularly
by the practice of industry and frugality free from debt, which exposes
a man to confinement and a species of slavery to his creditors." It is
hardly surprising to hear that this was one of the very few failures of
Franklin's life. In 1788 he professed himself "still of the opinion that
it was a practicable scheme." One hardly reads it without a smile
nowadays, but it was not so out of keeping with the spirit and habits of
those times. It indicates at least Franklin's appreciation of the power
of fellowship, of association. No man knew better than he what stimulus
comes from the sense of membership in a society, especially a secret
society. He had a great fondness for organizing men into associations,
and a singular aptitude for creating, conducting, and perpetuating such
bodies. The Junto, a child of his active brain, became a power in local
public affairs, though organized and conducted strictly as a "club of
mutual improvement." He formed it among his "ingenious acquaintance" for
the discussion of "queries on any point of morals, politics, or natural
philosophy." He found his model, without doubt, in the "neighborhood
benefit societies," established by Cotton Mather, during Franklin's
boyhood, among the Boston churches, for mutual improvement among the
members.[4] In time there came a great pressure for an increase of the
number of members; but Franklin astutely substituted a plan whereby each
member was to form a subordinate club, similar to the original, but
having no knowledge of its connection with the Junto. Thus sprang into
being five or six more, "The Vine, The Union, The Band," etc.,
"answering, in some considerable degree, our views of influencing the
public opinion upon particular occasions." When Franklin became
interested in any matter, he had but to introduce it before the Junto
for discussion; straightway each member who belonged to any one of the
other societies brought it up in that society. Thus through so many
active-minded and disputatious young men interest in the subject
speedily percolated through a community of no greater size than
Philadelphia. Franklin was the tap-root of the whole growth, and sent
his ideas circulating throughout all the widespreading branches. He
tells us that in fact he often used this efficient machinery to much
advantage in carrying through his public and quasi public measures. Thus
he anticipated more powerful mechanisms of the like kind, such as the
Jacobin Club; and he himself, under encouraging circumstances, might
have wielded an immense power as the creator and occult, inspiring
influence of some great political society.

[Note 4: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, i. 47.]

Besides his didactic newspaper, his almanac even more didactic, the
Junto, the subscription library, the Society of the Free and Easy, his
system of religion and morals, and his scheme for acquiring all the
virtues, Franklin was engaged in many other matters. He learned French,
Italian, and Spanish; and in so doing evolved some notions which are now
beginning to find their way into the system of teaching languages in our
schools and colleges. In 1736 he was chosen clerk to the General
Assembly, and continued to be reëlected during the next fourteen years,
until he was chosen a member of the legislature itself. In 1737 he was
appointed postmaster of Philadelphia, an office which he found "of great
advantage, for, tho' the salary was small, it facilitated the
correspondence that improv'd my newspaper, increased the number
demanded, as well as the advertisements to be inserted, so that it came
to afford me a considerable income. My old competitor's newspaper
declined proportionably, and I was satisfied without retaliating his
refusal, while postmaster, to permit my papers being carried by the

Soon afterward he conferred a signal benefit on his countrymen by
inventing an "open stove for the better warming of rooms, and at the
same time saving fuel,"--the Franklin stove, or, as he called it, "the
Pennsylvania fireplace." Mr. Parton warmly describes it as the beginning
of "the American stove system, one of the wonders of the industrial
world." Franklin refused to take out a patent for it, "from a principle
which has ever weighed with me on such occasions, viz.: That as we enjoy
great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an
opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should
do freely and generously." This lofty sentiment, wherein the
philanthropist got the better of the man of business, overshot its mark;
an ironmonger of London, who did not combine philosophy and philanthropy
with his trade, made "some small changes in the machine, which rather
hurt its operation, got a patent for it there, and made a little fortune
by it."

A little later Franklin founded a philosophical society, not intended to
devote its energies to abstractions, but rather to a study of nature,
and the spread of new discoveries and useful knowledge in practical
affairs, especially in the way of farming and agriculture. Franklin
always had a fancy for agriculture, and conferred many a boon upon the
tillers of the soil. A good story, which may be true, tells how he
showed the fertilizing capacity of plaster of Paris. In a field by the
roadside he wrote, with plaster, THIS HAS BEEN PLASTERED; and soon the
brilliant green of the letters carried the lesson to every passer-by.

In 1743 Franklin broached the idea of an academy; but the time had not
quite come when the purse-strings of well-to-do Pennsylvanians could be
loosened for this purpose, and he had no success. It was, however, a
project about which he was much in earnest, and a few years later he
returned to it with better auspices. He succeeded in getting it under
weigh by means of private subscriptions. It soon vindicated its
usefulness, drew funds and endowments from various sources, and became
the University of Pennsylvania. Franklin tells an amusing story about
his subsequent connection with it. Inasmuch as persons of several
religious sects had contributed to the fund, it was arranged that the
board of trustees should consist of one member from each sect. After a
while the Moravian died; and his colleagues, having found him obnoxious
to them, resolved not to have another of the same creed. Yet it was
difficult to find any one who did not belong to, and therefore unduly
strengthen, some sect already represented. Finally Franklin was
mentioned as being "_merely an honest man_, and of no sect at all." The
recommendation secured his election. It was always a great cause of his
success and influence that nothing could be alleged against his correct
and respectable exterior and prudent, moderate deportment.

He now endeavored to reorganize the system, if system it can be called,
of the night-watch in Philadelphia. His description of it is

     "It was managed by the constables of the respective wards, in turn;
     the constable warned a number of housekeepers to attend him for the
     night. Those who chose never to attend paid him six shillings to be
     excus'd, which was supposed to be for hiring substitutes, but was,
     in reality, much more than was necessary for that purpose, and made
     the constableship a place of profit; and the constable, for a
     little drink, often got such ragamuffins about him as a watch, that
     respectable housekeepers did not choose to mix with. Walking the
     rounds, too, was often neglected, and most of the nights spent in

But even Franklin's influence was overmatched by this task. An abuse,
nourished by copious rum, strikes its roots deep, and many years elapsed
before this one could be eradicated.

In another enterprise Franklin shrewdly enlisted the boon-companion
element on his side, with the result of immediate and brilliant success.
He began as usual by reading a paper before the Junto, and through this
intervention set the people thinking concerning the utter lack of any
organization for extinguishing fires in the town. In consequence the
Union Fire Company was soon established, the first thing of the kind in
the city. Franklin continued a member of it for half a century. It was
thoroughly equipped and efficiently conducted. An item in the terms of
association was that the members should spend a social evening together
once a month. The example was followed; other companies were formed, and
fifty years later Franklin boasted that since that time the city had
never "lost by fire more than one or two houses at a time; and the
flames have often been extinguished before the house in which they began
has been half consumed."

About this time he became interested in the matter of the public
defenses, and wrote a pamphlet, "Plain Truth," showing the helpless
condition of Pennsylvania as against the French and their Indian allies.
The result was that the people were alarmed and aroused. Even the
Quakers winked at the godless doings of their fellow citizens, while the
enrollment and drill of a volunteer force went forward, and funds were
raised for building and arming a battery. Franklin suggested a lottery,
to raise money, and went to New York to borrow guns. He was very active
and very successful; and though the especial crisis fortunately passed
away without use being made of these preparations, yet his energy and
efficiency greatly enhanced his reputation in Pennsylvania.

That Franklin had been prospering in his private business may be judged
from the facts that in 1748 he took into partnership David Hall, who
had been a fellow journeyman with him in London; and that his purpose
was substantially to retire and get some "leisure ... for philosophical
studies and amusements." He cherished the happy but foolish notion of
becoming master of his own time. But his fellow citizens had purposes
altogether inconsistent with those pleasing and comfortable plans which
he sketched so cheerfully in a letter to his friend Colden in September,
1748. The Philadelphians, whom he had taught thrift, were not going to
waste such material as he was. "The publick," he found, "now considering
me as a man of leisure, laid hold of me for their purposes; every part
of our civil government, and almost at the same time, imposing some duty
upon me. The governor put me into the commission of the peace; the
corporation of the city chose me of the common council, and soon after
an alderman; and the citizens at large chose me a burgess to represent
them in the Assembly." This last position pleased him best, and he
turned himself chiefly to its duties, with the gratifying result, as he
records, that the "trust was repeated every year for ten years, without
my ever asking any elector for his vote, or signifying, either directly
or indirectly, any desire of being chosen."

The next year he was appointed a commissioner to treat with the Indians,
in which business he had so much success as can ever attend upon
engagements with savages. He gives an amusing account of the way in
which all the Indian emissaries got drunk, and of their quaint apology:
that the Great Spirit had made all things for some use; that "when he
made rum, he said, 'Let this be for the Indians to get drunk with;' _and
it must be so_."

In 1751 he assisted Dr. Bond in the foundation of his hospital. The
doctor at first tried to carry out his scheme alone, but could not. The
tranquil vanity of Franklin's narration is too good to be lost: "At
length he came to me, with the compliment that he found there was no
such thing as carrying a public-spirited project through, without my
being concerned in it. 'For,' says he, 'I am often asked by those to
whom I propose subscribing. Have you consulted Franklin upon this
business? and what does he think of it? And when I tell them that I have
not (supposing it rather out of your line), they do not subscribe, but
say they will consider of it.'" It is surprising that this artful and
sugar-tongued doctor, who evidently could read his man, had not been
more successful with his subscription list. With Franklin, at least, he
was eminently successful, touching him with a consummate skill which
brought prompt response and coöperation. The result was as usual.
Franklin's hand knew the way to every Philadelphian merchant's pocket.
Respected as he was, it may be doubted whether he was always sincerely
welcomed as he used to move from door to door down those tranquil
streets, with an irresistible subscription paper in his hand. In this
case private subscriptions were eked out by public aid. The legislature
was applied to for a grant. The country members objected, said that the
benefit would be local, and doubted whether even the Philadelphians
wanted it. Thereupon Franklin drew a bill, by which the State was to
give £2000 upon condition that a like sum should be raised from private
sources. This was soon done. Franklin regarded his device as a novelty
and a ruse in legislation. He complacently says: "I do not remember any
of my political manoeuvres, the success of which gave me at the time
more pleasure, or wherein, after thinking of it, I more easily excused
myself for having made some use of cunning." Simple times, in which such
an act could be described as a "manoeuvre" and "cunning!"

He further turned his attention to matters of local improvement. He got
pavements laid; and even brought about the sweeping of the streets twice
in each week. Lighting the streets came almost simultaneously; and in
connection with this he showed his wonted ingenuity. Globes open only at
the top had heretofore been used, and by reason of the lack of draft,
they became obscured by smoke early in the evening. Franklin made them
of four flat panes, with a smoke-funnel, and crevices to admit the air
beneath. The Londoners had long had the method before their eyes, every
evening, at Vauxhall; but had never got at the notion of transferring it
to the open streets.

For a long while Franklin was employed by the postmaster-general of the
colonies as "his comptroller in regulating several offices and bringing
the officers to account." In 1753 the incumbent died, and Franklin and
Mr. William Hunter, jointly, were appointed his successors. They set to
work to reform the entire postal service of the country. The first cost
to themselves was considerable, the office falling more than £900 in
debt to them during the first four years. But there-afterward the benefit
of their measures was felt, and an office which had never before paid
anything to that of Great Britain came, under their administration, "to
yield three times as much clear revenue to the crown as the post-office
of Ireland." Franklin narrates that in time he was displaced "by a freak
of the ministers," and in happy phrase adds, "Since that imprudent
transaction, they have received from it--not one farthing!" In this
connection it may be worth while to quote Franklin's reply to a request
to give a position to his nephew, a young man whom he liked well, and
otherwise aided. "If a vacancy should happen, it is very probable he may
be thought of to supply it; but it is a rule with me not to remove any
officer that behaves well, keeps regular accounts, and pays duly; and I
think the rule is founded on reason and justice."

At this point in his autobiography he records, with just pride, that he
received the degree of Master of Arts, first from Yale College and
afterward from Harvard. "Thus, without studying in any college, I came
to partake of their honors. They were conferred in consideration of my
improvements and discoveries in the electric branch of natural

An interesting page in the autobiography concerns events in the year
1754. There were distinct foreshadowings of that war between England and
France which soon afterward broke out, beginning upon this side of the
water earlier than in Europe; and the lords of trade ordered a congress
of commissioners from the several colonies to assemble at Albany for a
conference with the chiefs of the Six Nations. They came together June
19, 1754. Franklin was a deputy from Pennsylvania; and on his way
thither he "projected and drew a plan for the union of all the colonies
under one government, so far as might be necessary for defense and other
important general purposes." It was not altogether a new idea; in 1697
William Penn had suggested a commercial union and an annual congress.
The journal of the congress shows that on June 24 it was unanimously
voted that a union of the colonies was "absolutely necessary for their
security and defense." The Massachusetts delegation alone had been
authorized to consider the question of a union, and they had power to
enter into a confederation "as well in time of peace as of war."
Franklin had already been urging this policy by writings in the
"Gazette," and now, when the ideas of the different commissioners were
brought into comparison, his were deemed the best. His outline of a
scheme, he says, "happen'd to be preferr'd," and, with a few amendments,
was accordingly reported. It was a league rather than a union, somewhat
resembling the arrangement which came into existence for the purposes of
the Revolution. But it came to nothing; "its fate," Franklin said, "was
singular." It was closely debated, article by article, and having at
length been "pretty unanimously accepted, it came before the colonial
assemblies for ratification." But they condemned it; "there was too much
prerogative in it," they thought. On the other hand, the board of trade
in England would not approve it because it had "too much of the
democratic." All which led Franklin to "suspect that it was really the
true medium." He himself acknowledged that one main advantage of it
would be "that the colonies would, by this connection, learn to consider
themselves, not as so many independent states, but as members of the
same body; and thence be more ready to afford assistance and support to
each other," etc. It was already the _national idea_ which lay, not
quite formulated, yet distinct enough in his mind. It was hardly to be
expected that the home government would fail to see this tendency, or
that they would look upon it with favor. Franklin long afterward
indulged in some speculations as to what might have been the
consequences of an adoption of his scheme, namely: united colonies,
strong enough to defend themselves against the Canadian French and
their Indian allies; no need, therefore, of troops from England; no
pretext, therefore, for taxing the provinces; no provocation, therefore,
for rebellion. "But such mistakes are not new; history is full of the
errors of states and princes.... The best public measures are seldom
_adopted from previous wisdom but forc'd by the occasion_." But this
sketch of what might have been sounds over-fanciful, and the English
were probably right in thinking that a strong military union, with home
taxation, involved more of danger than of safety for the future
connection between the colonies and the mother country.

There was much uneasiness, much planning, theorizing, and discussing
going on at this time about the relationship between Great Britain and
her American provinces; earlier stages of that talk which kept on
growing louder, more eager, and more disputatious, until it was
swallowed up in the roar of the revolutionary cannon. Among others,
Shirley, governor of Massachusetts, concocted a scheme and showed it to
Franklin. By this an assembly of the governors of all the colonies,
attended by one or two members of their respective councils, was to have
authority to take such measures as should seem needful for defense, with
power to draw upon the English treasury to meet expenses, the amount of
such drafts to be "re-imbursed by a tax laid on the colonies by act of
Parliament." This alarming proposition at once drew forth three letters
from Franklin, written in December, 1754, and afterward published in
the "London Chronicle" in December, 1766. His position amounted to this:
that the business of self-defense and the expense thereof were matters
neither beyond the abilities of the colonies, nor outside their
willingness, and should therefore be managed by them. Their loyalty
could be trusted; their knowledge must be the best; on the other hand,
governors were apt to be untrustworthy, self-seeking, and ignorant of
provincial affairs. But the chief emphasis of his protest falls against
taxation without representation. He says:--

     "That it is supposed an undoubted right of Englishmen not to be
     taxed but by their own consent, given through their

     "That the colonists have no representative in Parliament.

     "That compelling the colonists to pay money without their consent
     would be rather like raising contributions in an enemy's country,
     than taxing of Englishmen for their own public benefit.

     "That it would be treating them as a conquered people, and not as
     true British subjects."

And so on; traversing beforehand the same ground soon to be so
thoroughly beaten over by the patriot writers and speakers of the
colonies. In a very few years the line of argument became familiar, but
for the present Franklin and a very few more were doing the work of
suggestion and instruction for the people at large, teaching them by
what logic their instinctive convictions could be maintained.

He further ingeniously showed that the colonists were already heavily
taxed in ways from which they could not escape. Taxes paid by British
artificers came out of the colonial consumers, and the colonists were
compelled to buy only from Britain those articles which they would
otherwise be able to buy at much lower prices from other countries.
Moreover, they were obliged to sell only in Great Britain, where heavy
imposts served to curtail the net profits of the producer. Even such
manufactures as could be carried on in the colonies were forbidden to
them. He concluded:--

     "These kinds of secondary taxes, however, we do not complain of,
     though we have no share in the laying or disposing of them; but to
     pay immediate, heavy taxes, in the laying, appropriation, and
     disposition of which we have no part, and which perhaps we may know
     to be as unnecessary as grievous, must seem hard measures to
     Englishmen, who cannot conceive that by hazarding their lives and
     fortunes in subduing and settling new countries, extending the
     dominion and increasing the commerce of the mother nation, they
     have forfeited the native rights of Britons, which they think ought
     rather to be given to them, as due to such merit, if they had been
     before in a state of slavery."

A third letter discussed a proposition advanced by Shirley for giving
the colonies representation in Parliament. Franklin was a little
skeptical, and had no notion of being betrayed by a kiss. A real
unification of the two communities lying upon either side of the
Atlantic, and even a close approximation to proportionate
representation, would constitute an excellent way out of the present
difficulties. But he saw no encouragement to hope for this.

In fact, the project of laying direct internal taxes upon the colonies
by act of Parliament was taking firm root in the English mind, and
colonial protests could not long stay the execution of the scheme. Even
such grants of money as were made by some of the colonial legislatures
were vetoed, on the ground that they were connected with encroachments,
schemes for independence, and an assumption of the right to exercise
control in the matter of the public finances.[5] The Penns rejoiced.
Thomas Penn wrote, doubtless with a malicious chuckle: "If the several
assemblies will not make provision for the general service, an act of
Parliament may oblige them here." He evidently thought that it would be
very wholesome if government should become incensed and severe with the

[Note 5: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ iv. 176.]

During his discussion with Shirley, Franklin had been upon a visit to
Boston. He "left New England," he says, "slowly, and with great
reluctance;" for he loved the country and the people. He returned home
to be swept into the hurly-burly of military affairs. War appropriations
came hard from the legislature of the Quaker province; but the occasion
was now at hand when come they must. In the autumn of 1755 £60,000 were
voted, chiefly for defense, and Franklin was one of the committee in
charge of the expenditure. The border was already unsafe, and formal
hostilities on a large scale were close at hand. France and England must
fight it out for the possession of the new continent, which, boundless
as it then seemed, was yet not big enough to admit of their both
dwelling in it. France had been steadily pressing upon the northern and
western frontiers of the British colonies, and she now held Crown Point,
Niagara, the fort on the present site of Pittsburg, and the whole valley
of the Ohio River. It seemed that she would confine the English to the
strip along the coast which they already occupied. It is true that she
offered to relinquish the Ohio valley to the savages, to be a neutral
belt between the European nations on either side of it. But the proposal
could not be accepted; the French were much too clever in managing the
Indians. Moreover, it was felt that they would never permanently desist
from advancing. Then, too, the gallant Braddock was on his way across
seas, with a little army of English regulars. Finally, the disproportion
between the English and French in the New World was too great for the
former to rest satisfied with a compromise. There were about 1,165,000
whites in the British provinces, and only about 80,000 French in Canada.
The resources, also, of the former were in every respect vastly greater.
These iron facts must tell; were already telling. Throughout this last
deadly grapple, now at hand, the French were in desperate earnest.
History records few struggles wherein the strength of a combatant was
more utterly spent, with more entire devotion, than was the case with
these Canadian-French provinces. Every man gave himself to the fight, so
literally that no one was left to till the fields, and erelong famine
began its hideous work among the scanty forces. The English and
Americans, on the other hand, were far from conducting the struggle with
the like temper as the French; yet with such enormous advantages as they
possessed, if they could not conquer a satisfactory peace in course of
time, they ought to be ashamed of themselves. So no composition could be
arranged; the Seven Years' War began, and to open it with becoming éclat
Braddock debarked, a gorgeous spectacle in red and gold. Yet still there
had as yet been in Europe no declaration of hostilities between England
and France; on the contrary, the government of the former country was
giving very fair words to that of the latter; and in America the British
professed only to intend "to repel encroachments."[6]

[Note 6: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ iv. 182.]

Franklin had to take his share of the disasters attendant upon the fatal
campaign of Braddock. According to his notion that foolish officer and
his two ill-behaved regiments should never, by good rights, have been
sent to the provinces at all; for the colonists, being able and willing
to do their own fighting, should have been allowed to undertake it. But
eleven years before this time the Duke of Bedford had declared it a
dangerous policy to enroll an army of 20,000 provincials to serve
against Canada, "on account of the independence it might create in those
provinces, when they should see within themselves so great an army,
possessed of so great a country by right of conquest." This anxiety had
been steadily gaining ground. The home government did not choose "to
permit the union of the colonies, as proposed at Albany, and to trust
that union with their defense, lest they should thereby grow too
military and feel their own strength, suspicions and jealousies being at
this time entertained of them." So it was because the shadow of the
Revolutionary War already darkened the visions of English statesmen that
the gallant array of soldiery, with the long train of American
attendants, had to make that terrible march to failure and death.

The Assembly of the Quaker province was sadly perturbed lest this
arbitrary warrior, encamped hard by in Virginia, should "conceive
violent prejudices against them, as averse to the service." In their
alarm they had recourse to Franklin's shrewd wit and ready tongue.
Accordingly, he visited Braddock under pretense of arranging for the
transmission of mails during the campaign, stayed with him several days,
and dined with him daily. There were some kinds of men, perhaps, whom
Braddock appreciated better than he did Indians; nor is it a slight
proof of Franklin's extraordinary capacity for getting on well with
every variety of human being that he could make himself so welcome to
this testy, opinionated military martinet, who in every particular of
nature and of training was the precise contrary of the provincial

Franklin's own good will to the cause, or his ill luck, led him into an
engagement, made just before his departure, whereby he undertook to
procure horses and wagons enough for the transportation of the ordnance
and all the appurtenances of the camp. It was not a personal contract
upon his part to furnish these; he was neither to make any money, nor to
risk any; he was simply to render the gratuitous service of inducing the
Pennsylvania farmers to let out their horses, wagons, and drivers to the
general. It was a difficult task, in which the emissaries of Braddock
had utterly failed in Virginia. But Franklin conceived the opportunities
to be better in his own province, and entered on the business with vigor
and skill. Throughout the farming region he sent advertisements and
circulars, cleverly devised to elicit what he wanted, and so phrased as
to save him harmless from personal responsibility for any payment. Seven
days' pay was to be "advanced and paid in hand" by him, the remainder to
be paid by General Braddock, or by the paymaster of the army. He said,
in closing his appeal: "I have no particular interest in this affair,
as, except the satisfaction of endeavoring to do good, I shall have only
my labor for my pains."

But he was not to get off so easily; for, he says, "the owners, ...
alleging that they did not know General Braddock, or what dependence
might be had on his promise, insisted on my bond for the performance,
which I accordingly gave them." This was the more patriotic because
Franklin was by no means dazzled by the pomp and parade of the doughty
warrior, but on the contrary, reflecting on the probable character of
the campaign, he had "conceived some doubts and some fears for the
event." What happened every one knows. The losses of wagons and horses
in the slaughter amounted to the doleful sum of £20,000; "which to pay
would have ruined me," wrote Franklin. Nevertheless the demands began at
once to pour in upon him, and suits were instituted. It was a grievous
affair, and the end was by no means clear. It was easily possible that
in place of his fortune, sacrificed in the public service, he might have
only the sorry substitute of a claim against the government. But after
many troubled weeks he was at length relieved of the heaviest portion of
his burden, through General Shirley's appointment of a commission to
audit and pay the claims for actual losses. Other sums due him,
representing considerable advances which he had made at the outset in
the business, and later for provisions, remained unpaid to the end of
his days. The British government in time probably thought the Revolution
as efficient as a statute of limitations for barring that account. At
the moment, however, Franklin not only lost his money, but had to suffer
the affront of being supposed even to be a gainer, and to have filled
his own pockets. He indignantly denied that he had "pocketed a
farthing;" but of course he was not believed. He adds, with delicious
humor: "and, indeed, I have since learnt that immense fortunes are often
made in such employments." Those, however, were simple, provincial days.
In place of the money which he did not get, also of the further sum
which he actually lost, he had to satisfy himself with the consolation
derived from the approbation of the Pennsylvania Assembly, while also
Braddock's dispatches gave him a good name with the officials in
England, which was of some little service to him.

A more comical result of the Braddock affair was that it made Franklin
for a time a military man and a colonel. He had escaped being a
clergyman and a poet, but he could not escape that common fate of
Americans, the military title, the prevalence of which, it has been
said, makes "the whole country seem a retreat of heroes." It befell
Franklin in this wise: immediately after Braddock's defeat, in the panic
which possessed the people and amid the reaction against professional
soldiers, recourse was had to plain good sense, though unaccompanied by
technical knowledge. No one, as all the province knew, had such sound
sense as Franklin, who was accordingly deputed to go to the western
frontier with a small volunteer force, there to build three forts for
the protection of the outlying settlements. "I undertook," he says,
"this military business, though I did not conceive myself well qualified
for it." It was a service involving much difficulty and hardship, with
some danger; General Braddock would have made a ridiculous failure of
it; Franklin acquitted himself well. What he afterward wrote of General
Shirley was true of himself: "For, tho' Shirley was not bred a soldier,
he was sensible and sagacious in himself, and attentive to good advice
from others, capable of forming judicious plans, and quick and active in
carrying them into execution." In a word, Franklin's military career was
as creditable as it was brief. He was called forward at the crisis of
universal dismay; he gave his popular influence and cool head to a
peculiar kind of service, of which he knew much by hearsay, if nothing
by personal experience; he did his work well; and, much stranger to
relate, he escaped the delusion that he was a soldier. So soon as he
could do so, that is to say after a few weeks, he returned to his civil
duties. But he had shown courage, intelligence, and patriotism in a high
degree, and he had greatly increased the confidence reposed in him by
his fellow citizens.

Beyond those active military measures which the exigencies of the time
made necessary, Franklin fell in with, if he did not originate, a plan
designed to afford permanent protection in the future. This was to
extend the colonies inland. His notions were broad, embracing much both
in space and time. He thought "what a glorious thing it would be to
settle in that fine country a large, strong body of religious,
industrious people. What a security to the other colonies and advantage
to Britain by increasing her people, territory, strength, and commerce."
He foretold that "perhaps in less than another century" the Ohio valley
might "become a populous and powerful dominion, and a great accession of
power either to England or France." Having this scheme much at heart, he
drew up a sort of prospectus "for settling two western colonies in North
America;" "barrier colonies" they were called by Governor Pownall, who
was warm in the same idea, and sent a plan of his own, together with
Franklin's, to the home government.

It is true that these new settlements, regarded strictly as bulwarks,
would have been only a change of "barrier," an advancement of frontier;
they themselves would become frontier instead of the present line, and
would be equally subject to Indian and French assaults. Still the step
was in the direction of growth and expansion; it was advancing and
aggressive, and indicated an appreciation of the enormous motive power
which lay in English colonization. Franklin pushed it earnestly,
interested others in it, and seemed at one time on the point of
securing the charters. But the conquest of Canada within a very short
time rendered defensive colonization almost needless, and soon afterward
the premonitions and actual outbreak of the Revolution put an end to all
schemes in this shape.



It was not possible to make a world-wide reputation in the public
affairs of the province of Pennsylvania; but so much fame as opportunity
would admit of had by this time been won by Franklin. In respect of
influence and prestige among his fellow colonists none other came near
to him. Meanwhile among all his crowding occupations he had found time
for those scientific researches towards which his heart always yearned.
He had flown his famous kite; had entrapped the lightning of the clouds;
had written treatises, which, having been collected into a volume, "were
much taken notice of in England," made no small stir in France, and were
"translated into the Italian, German, and Latin languages." A learned
French abbé, "preceptor in natural philosophy to the royal family, and
an able experimenter," at first controverted his discoveries and even
questioned his existence. But after a little time this worthy scientist
became "assur'd that there really existed such a person as Franklin at
Philadelphia," while other distinguished scientific men of Europe
united in the adoption of his theories. Kant called him the 'Prometheus
of modern times.' Thus, in one way and another, his name had probably
already come to be more widely known than that of any other living man
who had been born on this side of the Atlantic. It might have been even
much more famous, had he been more free to follow his own bent, a
pleasure which he could only enjoy in a very limited degree. In 1753 he
wrote: "I am so engaged in business, public and private, that those more
pleasing pursuits [philosophical inquiries] are frequently interrupted,
and the chain of thought necessary to be closely continued in such
disquisitions is so broken and disjointed that it is with difficulty I
satisfy myself in any of them." Similar complaints occur frequently, and
it is certain that his extensive philosophical labors were all conducted
in those mere cracks and crannies of leisure scantily interspersed amid
the hours of a man apparently overwhelmed with the functions of active

He was now selected by the Assembly to encounter the perils of crossing
the Atlantic upon an important mission in behalf of his province. For a
long while past the relationship between the Penns, unworthy sons of the
great William, and now the proprietaries, on the one side, and their
quasi subjects, the people of the province, upon the other, had been
steadily becoming more and more strained, until something very like a
crisis had been reached. As usual in English and Anglo-American
communities, it was a quarrel over dollars, or rather over pounds
sterling, a question of taxation, which was producing the alienation. At
bottom, there was the trouble which always pertains to absenteeism; the
proprietaries lived in England, and regarded their vast American estate,
with about 200,000 white inhabitants, only as a source of revenue. That
mercantile community, however, with the thrift of Quakers and the
independent temper of Englishmen, had a shrewd appreciation of, and an
obstinate respect for, its own interests. Hence the discussions, already
of threatening proportions.

The chief point in dispute was, whether or not the waste lands, still
directly owned by the proprietaries, and other lands let by them at
quit-rents, should be taxed in the same manner as like property of other
owners. They refused to submit to such taxation; the Assembly of
Burgesses insisted. In ordinary times the proprietaries prevailed; for
the governor was their nominee and removable at their pleasure; they
gave him general instructions to assent to no law taxing their holdings,
and he naturally obeyed his masters. But since governors got their
salaries only by virtue of a vote of the Assembly, it seems that they
sometimes disregarded instructions, in the sacred cause of their own
interests. After a while, therefore, the proprietaries, made shrewd by
experience, devised the scheme of placing their unfortunate sub-rulers
under bonds. This went far towards settling the matter. Yet in such a
crisis and stress as were now present in the colony, when exceptionally
large sums had to be raised, and great sacrifices and sufferings
endured, and when little less than the actual existence of the province
might be thought to be at stake, it certainly seemed that the rich and
idle proprietaries might stand on the same footing with their poor and
laboring subjects. They lived comfortably in England upon revenues
estimated to amount to the then enormous sum of £20,000 sterling; while
the colonists were struggling under unusual losses, as well as enormous
expenses, growing out of the war and Indian ravages. At such a time
their parsimony, their "incredible meanness," as Franklin called it, was
cruel as well as stupid. At last the Assembly flatly refused to raise
any money unless the proprietaries should be burdened like the rest. All
should pay together, or all should go to destruction together. The Penns
too stood obstinate, facing the not less resolute Assembly. It was
indeed a deadlock! Yet the times were such that neither party could
afford to maintain its ground indefinitely. So a temporary arrangement
was made, whereby of £60,000 sterling to be raised the proprietaries
agreed to contribute £5000, and the Assembly agreed to accept the same
in lieu or commutation for their tax. But neither side abandoned its
principle. Before long more money was needed, and the dispute was as
fierce as ever.

The burgesses now thought that it would be well to carry a statement of
their case before the king in council and the lords of trade. In
February, 1757, they named their speaker, Isaac Norris, and Franklin to
be their emissaries "to represent in England the unhappy situation of
the province," and to seek redress by an act of Parliament. Norris, an
aged man, begged to be excused; Franklin accepted. His son was given
leave of absence, in order to attend him as his secretary. During the
prolonged and bitter controversies Franklin had been the most prominent
member of the Assembly on the popular side. He had drawn many of the
addresses, arguments, and other papers; and his familiarity with the
business, therefore, no less than his good judgment, shrewdness, and
tact united to point him out as the man for the very unpleasant and
difficult errand.

A portion of his business also was to endeavor to induce the king to
resume the province of Pennsylvania as his own. A clause in the charter
had reserved this right, which could be exercised on payment of a
certain sum of money. The colonists now preferred to be an appanage of
the crown rather than a fief of the Penns. Oddly enough, some of the
provincial governors were suggesting the like measure concerning other
provinces; but from widely different motives. The colonists thought a
monarch better than private individuals, as a master; while the
governors thought that only the royal authority could enforce their
theory of colonial government. They angrily complained that the
colonies would do nothing voluntarily; a most unjust charge, as was soon
to be seen; for in the Seven Years' War the colonists did three quarters
of all that was done. What the governors really meant was that the
colonies would not raise money and turn it over to other persons to
spend for them.

It must be acknowledged that the prospects for the success of this
mission were not good. Almost simultaneously with Franklin's
appointment, the House of Commons resolved that "the claim of right in a
colonial Assembly to raise and apply public money, by its own act alone,
is derogatory to the crown, and to the rights of the people of Great
Britain." This made Thomas Penn jubilant. "The people of Pennsylvania,"
he said, "will soon be convinced ... that they have not a right to the
powers of government they claim."[7]

[Note 7: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ iv. 255.]

Franklin took his passage in a packet-ship, which was to sail from New
York forthwith. But the vessel was subject to the orders of Lord
Loudoun, newly appointed governor of the province of New York, and a
sort of military over-lord over all the governors, assemblies, and
people of the American provinces. His mission was to organize, to
introduce system and submission, and above all else to overawe. But he
was no man for the task; not because his lordship was not a dominant
character, but because he was wholly unfit to transact business.
Franklin tried some negotiations with him, and got no satisfaction or

The ship which waited upon the will of this noble procrastinator had a
very doubtful future. Every day at nine o'clock his lordship seated
himself at his desk, and stayed there writing industriously, hour after
hour, upon his dispatches; every day he foretold with much accuracy and
positiveness of manner that these would surely be ready, and the ship
would inevitably sail, on the next day. Thus week after week glided by,
and still he uttered the same prediction, "to-morrow, and to-morrow, and
to-morrow." Yet in spite of this wonderful industry of the great man his
letters never got written, so that, says Franklin, "it was about the
beginning of April that I came to New York, and I think it was the end
of June before we sail'd." Even then the letters were not ready, and for
two days the vessel had to accompany his lordship's fleet on the way
towards Louisburg, before she got leave to go upon her own proper
voyage. It is entertaining to hear that this same lord, during his stay
in America, detained other packets for other letters, until their
bottoms got so foul and worm-eaten that they were unseaworthy. He was
irreverently likened by those who waited on his pleasure to "St. George
on the signs, always on horseback, and never rides on." He was at last
removed by Mr. Pitt, because that energetic minister said "that he never
heard from him, and could not know what was doing."

Escaping at last from a detention more tedious, if less romantic, than
any which ever befell Ulysses, Franklin steered for England. The vessel
was "several times chas'd" by French cruisers, and later was actually
within a few lengths of being wrecked on the Scilly rocks. Franklin
wrote to his wife that if he were a Roman Catholic he should probably
vow a chapel to some saint; but, as he was not, he should much like to
vow a lighthouse. At length, however, he came safely into Falmouth, and
on July 27, 1757, arrived in London.

Immediately he was taken to see Lord Granville, president of the
council; and his account of the interview is too striking not to be
given entire. His lordship, he says,

     "received me with great civility; and after some questions
     respecting the present state of affairs in America and discourse
     thereupon, he said to me: 'You Americans have wrong ideas of the
     nature of your constitution; you contend that the king's
     instructions to his governors are not laws, and think yourselves at
     liberty to regard or disregard them at your own discretion. But
     these instructions are not like the pocket instructions given to a
     minister going abroad, for regulating his conduct on some trifling
     point of ceremony. They are first drawn up by judges learned in the
     laws; they are then considered, debated, and perhaps amended, in
     council, after which they are signed by the king. They are then, so
     far as they relate to you, the _law of the land_, for the king is
     the _legislator of the colonies_.' I told his lordship this was new
     doctrine to me. I had always understood from our charters that our
     laws were to be made by our assemblies, to be presented indeed to
     the king for his royal assent; but that being once given, the king
     could not repeal or alter them. And as the assemblies could not
     make permanent laws without his assent, so neither could he make a
     law for them without theirs. He assured me I was totally mistaken.
     I did not think so, however; and his lordship's conversation having
     somewhat alarmed me as to what might be the sentiments of the court
     concerning us, I wrote it down as soon as I returned to my

[Note 8: _Works_, i. 295, 296; see also an account, substantially
the same, in letter to Bowdoin, January 13, 1772.]

Granville also defended the recent act of Parliament laying "grievous
restrictions on the export of provisions from the British colonies," the
intent being to distress the American possessions of France by famine.
His lordship said: "America must not do anything to interfere with Great
Britain in the European markets." Franklin replied: "If we plant and
reap, and must not ship, your lordship should apply to Parliament for
transports to bring us all back again."

Next came an interview with the proprietaries. Each side declared itself
disposed towards "reasonable accommodations;" but Franklin supposed that
"each party had its own ideas of what should be meant by _reasonable_."
Nothing came of all this palaver; which only meant that time was being
wasted to no better purpose than to show that the two parties were "very
wide, and so far from each other in [their] opinions as to discourage
all hope of agreement." But this had long been evident. The lawyer of
the proprietaries was then put forward. He was a "proud, angry man,"
with a "mortal enmity" toward Franklin; for the two had exchanged
buffets more than once already, and the "proud angry man" had been hit
hard. It had been his professional duty, as counsel for the Penns, to
prepare many papers to be used by their governor in the course of their
quarrels with the Assembly. It had usually fallen to Franklin's lot to
draft the replies of the Assembly, and by Franklin's own admission these
documents of his, like those which they answered, were "often tart and
sometimes indecently abusive." Franklin now found his old antagonist so
excited that it seemed best to refuse to have any direct dealings with

The proprietaries then put their interests in charge of Attorney-General
Pratt, afterwards Lord Camden, and the Solicitor-General Charles Yorke,
afterward lord chancellor. These legal luminaries consumed "a year,
wanting eight days" before they were in a condition to impart light; and
during that period Franklin could of course achieve nothing with the
proprietaries. After all, the proprietaries ignored and insulted him,
and made further delay by sending a message to the Assembly of
Pennsylvania, wherein they complained of Franklin's "rudeness," and
professed themselves "willing to accommodate matters," if a "person of
candour" should be sent to treat with them. The only reply to their
message came in the pointed and intelligible shape of an act "taxing the
proprietary estate in common with the estates of the people." Much
disturbed, the proprietaries now obtained a hearing before the king in
council. They requested his majesty to set aside this tax act, and
several other acts which had been passed within two years by the
Assembly. Of these other acts some were repealed, according to the
prayer of the proprietaries; but more were allowed to stand. These were,
however, of comparatively little consequence; the overshadowing
grievance for the Penns lay in this taxation of their property.
Concerning this it was urged by their counsel that the proprietaries
were held in such odium by the people that, if left to the popular
"mercy in apportioning the taxes, they would be ruined." The other side,
of course, vehemently denied that there was the slightest ground for
such a suspicion.

In June, 1760, the board of trade rendered a report very unfavorable to
the Assembly. Their language showed that they had been much affected by
the appearance of popular encroachments, and by the allegations of an
intention on the part of the colonists "to establish a democracy in
place of his majesty's government." Their advice was to bring "the
constitution back to its proper principles; to restore to the crown, in
the person of the proprietaries, its just prerogative; to check the
growing influence of assemblies, by distinguishing, what they are
perpetually confounding, the executive from the legislative power." News
of this alarming document reached Franklin just as he was about to start
upon a trip through Ireland. It put an end to that pleasure; he had to
set to work on the moment, with all the zeal and by all the means he
could compass, to counteract this fulmination. Just how he achieved so
difficult an end is not recorded; but it appears that he succeeded in
securing a further hearing, in the progress of which Lord Mansfield
"rose, and beckoning me, took me into the clerk's chambers, ... and
asked me, if I was really of opinion that no injury would be done to the
proprietary estate in the execution of the act. I said: Certainly.
'Then,' says he, 'you can have little objection to enter into an
engagement to assure that point.' I answered: None at all." Thereupon a
paper of this purport, binding personally upon Franklin and upon Mr.
Charles, the resident agent of the province, was drawn up, and was duly
executed by them both; and on August 28 the lords filed an amended
report, in which they said that the act taxing the proprietary estates
upon a common basis with those of other owners was "fundamentally wrong
and unjust and ought to be repealed, _unless_ six certain amendments
were made therein." These amendments were, in substance, the
undertakings entered into in the bond of the colonial agents. Franklin
soon afterward had occasion to review this whole business. He showed
that of the six amendments, five were immaterial, since they only
expressed with greater clearness the intent of the Assembly. He admitted
that the sixth was of more consequence. It seems that £100,000 had been
voted, appropriated, raised, and expended, chiefly for the defense of
the colony. The manner of doing this was to issue paper money to this
amount, to make it legal tender, and then to retire it by the proceeds
of the tax levy. The proprietaries insisted that they could not be
compelled to receive their rents in this money, and the lords now found
for them. Franklin acknowledged that herein perhaps the lords were right
and the Assembly wrong; but he added this scathing paragraph:--

     "But if he cannot on these considerations quite excuse the
     Assembly, what will he think of those honourable proprietaries,
     who, when paper money was issued in their colony for the _common
     defense_ of their vast estates with those of the people, could
     nevertheless wish to be exempted from their share of the
     unavoidable disadvantages. Is there upon earth a man besides, with
     any conception of what is honest, with any notion of honor, with
     the least tincture in his veins of the gentleman, but would have
     blushed at the thought, but would have rejected with disdain such
     undue preference, if it had been offered him? Much less would he
     have struggled for it, moved heaven and earth to obtain it,
     resolved to ruin thousands of his tenants by a repeal of the act,
     rather than miss of it, and enforce it afterwards by an
     audaciously wicked instruction, forbidding aids to his king, and
     exposing the province to destruction, unless it was complied with.
     And yet, these are honourable men!"

This was, however, altogether a subordinate issue. The struggle had
really been conducted to determine whether the proprietary estate should
be taxed like other estates, and the decision upheld such taxation. This
was a complete triumph for the Assembly and their representative. "But
let the proprietaries and their discreet deputies hereafter recollect
and remember," said Franklin, "that the same august tribunal, which
censured some of the modes and circumstances of that act, did at the
same time establish and confirm the grand principle of the act, namely:
'That the proprietary estate ought, with other estates, to be taxed;'
and thereby did, in effect, determine and pronounce that the opposition
so long made in various shapes to that just principle, by the
proprietaries, was 'fundamentally _wrong_ and _unjust_!'"

It was a long while before the Assembly found leisure to attend to that
engagement of their agents which stipulated for an investigation to see
whether the proprietaries had not been unduly and excessively assessed.
But at length, after having had the spur of reminder constantly applied
to their laggard memories, they appointed a committee to inquire and
report concerning the valuations made by the tax-gatherers.

This committee reported that--

     "there has not been any injustice done to the proprietaries, or
     attempts made to rate or assess any part of their estates higher
     than the estates of the like kind belonging to the inhabitants are
     rated and assessed; but, on the contrary, ... their estates are
     rated, in many instances, below others."

So the matter ended.

Franklin had been detained a little more than three years about this
business. At its conclusion he anticipated a speedy return home; but he
had to stay yet two years more to attend to sundry matters smaller in
importance, but which were advanced almost as slowly. Partly such delay
was because the aristocrats of the board of trade and the privy council
had not the habits of business men, but consulted their own noble
convenience in the transaction of affairs; and partly it was because
procrastination was purposely employed by his opponents, who harassed
him and blocked his path by every obstacle, direct and indirect, which
they could put in his way. For they seemed to hope for some turn in
affairs, some event, or some too rapid advance of the popular party in
America, which should arouse the royal resentment against the colonists
and so militate on their side. Delay was easily brought about by them.
They had money, connections, influence, and that familiarity with men
and ways which came from their residence in England; while Franklin, a
stranger on an unpopular errand, representing before an aristocratic
government a parcel of tradespeople and farmers who lived in a distant
land and were charged with being both niggardly and disaffected, found
that he could make only difficult and uncertain progress. He was like
one who sails a race not only against hostile winds and tides, but also
in strange waters where the shoals and rocks are unknown, and where
invisible currents ceaselessly baffle his course. His lack of personal
importance hampered him exasperatingly. Thus during his prolonged stay
he repeatedly made every effort in his power to obtain an audience of
William Pitt. But not even for once could he succeed. A provincial
agent, engaged in a squabble about taxing proprietary lands, was too
small a man upon too small a business to consume the precious time of
the great prime minister, who was endeavoring to dominate the
embroilments and intrigues of all Europe, to say nothing of the
machinations of his opponents at home. So the subalterns of Mr. Pitt met
Franklin, heard what he had to say, sifted it through the sieve of their
own discretion, and bore to the ears of their principal only such
compends as they thought worthy of attention.

But the vexation of almost endless delay had its alleviations,
apparently much more than enough to offset it. Early in September, 1757,
that is to say some five or six weeks after his landing, Franklin was
taken very ill of an intermittent fever, which lasted for eight weeks.
During his convalescence he wrote to his wife that the agreeable
conversation of men of learning, and the notice taken of him by persons
of distinction, soothed him under this painful absence from family and
friends; yet these solaces would not hold him there another week, were
it not for duty to his country and the hope of being able to do it
service. But after the early homesickness wore off, a great attachment
for England took its place. He found himself a man of note among
scientists there, who gave him a ready welcome and showed a courteous
and flattering recognition of his high distinction in their pursuits.
Thence it was easy to penetrate into the neighboring circle of
literature, wherein he made warm personal friends, such as Lord Kames,
David Hume, Dr. Robertson, and others. From time to time he was a guest
at many a pleasant country seat, and at the universities. He found
plenty of leisure, too, for travel, and explored the United Kingdom very
thoroughly. When he went to Edinburgh he was presented with the freedom
of the city; and the University of St. Andrews conferred on him the
degree of Doctor of Laws; later, Oxford did the same. He even had time
for a trip into the Low Countries. As months and finally years slipped
away, with just enough of occupation of a dignified character to save
him from an annoying sense of idleness, with abundant opportunities for
social pleasure, and with a very gratifying deference shown towards
himself, Franklin, who liked society and did not dislike flattery, began
to think the mother country no such bad place. For an intellectual and
social career London certainly had advantages over Philadelphia. Mr.
Strahan, the well-known publisher of those days, whom Franklin used
affectionately to call Straney, became his close friend, and was very
insistent with him that he should leave the provinces and take up a
permanent residence in England. He baited his hook with an offer of his
son in marriage with Franklin's daughter Sarah. He had never seen Sarah,
but he seems to have taken it for granted that any child of her father
must be matrimonially satisfactory. Franklin wrote home to his wife that
the young man was eligible, and that there were abundant funds in the
Strahan treasury, but that he did not suppose that she would be able to
overcome her terror of the ocean voyage. Indeed, this timidity on the
part of his wife was more than once put forward by him as if it were
really the feather which turned the scale in the choice of his future

Franklin himself also was trying his hand at match-making. He had taken
a great fancy to a young lady by the name of Mary Stevenson, with whom,
when distance prevented their meeting, he kept up a constant
correspondence concerning points of physical science. He now became very
pressing with his son William to wed this learned maiden; but the young
man possibly did not hold a taste for science to be the most winning
trait in woman; at any rate, having bestowed his affections elsewhere,
he refused to transfer them. So Franklin was compelled to give up his
scheme, though with an extreme reluctance, which he expressed to the
rejected damsel with amusing openness. Had either of these matrimonial
bonds been made fast, it is not improbable that Franklin would have
lived out the rest of his life as a friend of the colonies in England.
But his lot was otherwise cast; a second time he escaped, though
narrowly, the prospect of dying an Englishman and the subject of a king.
At the moment he was not altogether glad that matters worked thus. On
August 17, 1762, he wrote from Portsmouth to Lord Kames:--

     "I am now waiting here only for a wind to waft me to America; but
     cannot leave this happy island and my friends in it without extreme
     regret, though I am going to a country and a people that I love. I
     am going from the old world to the new; and I fancy I feel like
     those who are leaving this world for the next: grief at the
     parting; fear of the passage; hope of the future. These different
     passions all affect their minds at once; and these have _tendered_
     me down exceedingly."

And six days later, from the same place, he wrote to Strahan: "I cannot,
I assure you, quit even this disagreeable place, without regret, as it
carries me still farther from those I love, and from the opportunities
of hearing of their welfare. The attraction of reason is at present for
the other side of the water, but that of inclination will be for this
side. You know which usually prevails. I shall probably make but this
one vibration and settle here forever. Nothing will prevent it, if I
can, as I hope I can, prevail with Mrs. F. to accompany me, especially
if we have a peace." Apparently the Americans owe a great debt of
gratitude to Mrs. Franklin's fearfulness of the untrustworthy Atlantic.

Before dismissing this stay of Franklin in England a word should be said
concerning his efforts for the retention of Canada by the British, as
spoils of war. The fall of Quebec, in the autumn of 1759, practically
concluded the struggle in America. The French were utterly spent; they
had no food, no money; they had fought with desperate courage and heroic
self-devotion; they could honestly say that they had stood grimly in the
last trench, and had been slaughtered there until the starved and
shattered remnant could not find it in their exhausted human nature
longer to conduct a contest so thoroughly finished. In Europe, France
was hardly less completely beaten. At the same time the singular
position of affairs existed that the triumphant conqueror was even more
resolutely bent upon immediate peace than were the conquered. George
III., newly come to the throne, set himself towards this end with all
the obstinacy of his resolute nature. It became a question of terms, and
eager was the discussion thereof. The colonies were profoundly
interested, for a question sharply argued was: whether England should
retain Guadaloupe or Canada. She had conquered both, but it seemed to
be admitted that she must restore one. It was even then a comical bit of
political mathematics to establish anything like an equation between the
two, nor could it possibly have been done with reference to intrinsic
values. It was all very well to dilate upon the sugar crop of the
island, its trade, its fertility, its harborage. Every one knew that
Canada could outweigh all these things fifty times over. But into the
Guadaloupe scale was dropped a weighty consideration, which was clearly
stated in an anonymous pamphlet attributed to William Burke. This writer

     "If the people of our colonies find no check from Canada, they will
     extend themselves almost without bound into the inland parts. They
     will increase infinitely from all causes. What the consequence will
     be, to have a numerous, hardy, independent people, possessed of a
     strong country, communicating little or not at all with England, I
     leave to your own reflections. By eagerly grasping at extensive
     territory we may run the risk, and in no very distant period, of
     losing what we now possess. A neighbor that keeps us in some awe is
     not always the worst of neighbors. So that, far from sacrificing
     Guadaloupe to Canada, perhaps, if we might have Canada without any
     sacrifice at all, we ought not to desire it. There should be a
     balance of power in America.... The islands, from their weakness,
     can never revolt; but, if we acquire all Canada, we shall soon find
     North America itself too powerful and too populous to be governed
     by us at a distance."

From many other quarters came the same warning predictions.[9]

[Note 9: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ iv. 363-365.]

Franklin watched the controversy with deep interest and no small
anxiety. As the argument grew heated he could no longer hold his hand;
he cast into the Canadian scale an able pamphlet, ingenuous in the main
if not in all the details. It is not worth while to rehearse what he had
to say upon mercantile points, or even concerning the future growth of a
great American empire. What he had really to encounter was the argument
that it was sound policy to leave Canada in possession of the French.
Those who pretended to want Guadaloupe did not so much really want it as
they did wish to have Canada remain French. To make good this latter
point they had to show, first, that French ownership involved no serious
danger to the English possessions; second, that it brought positive
advantages. To the first proposition they said that the French had fully
learned their lesson of inferiority, and that a few forts on the
frontier would easily overawe the hostile Indians. To the second
proposition, they elaborated the arguments of William Burke. Franklin
replied that the war-parties of braves would easily pass by the forts in
the forests, and after burning, pillaging, murdering, and scalping,
would equally easily and safely return. Nothing save a Chinese wall the
whole length of the western frontier would suffice for protection
against savages. Then, with one of those happy illustrations of which
he was a master, he said: "In short, long experience has taught our
planters that they cannot rely upon forts as a security against Indians;
the inhabitants of Hackney might as well rely upon the Tower of London,
to secure them against highwaymen and house-breakers." The admirable
simile could neither be answered nor forgotten.

Concerning the positive desirability of leaving the French as masters of
Canada to "check" the growth of the colonies, Franklin indignantly
exclaimed: "It is a modest word, this '_check_' for massacring men,
women, and children!" If Canada is to be "restored on this principle,
... will not this be telling the French in plain terms, that the horrid
barbarisms they perpetrate with Indians on our colonists are agreeable
to us; and that they need not apprehend the resentment of a government
with whose views they so happily concur." But he had the audacity to say
that he was abundantly certain that the mother country could never have
any occasion to dread the power of the colonies. He said:--

     "I shall next consider the other supposition, that their growth may
     render them _dangerous_. Of this, I own, I have not the least
     conception, when I consider that we have already _fourteen separate
     governments_ on the maritime coast of the continent; and, if we
     extend our settlements, shall probably have as many more behind
     them on the inland side." By reason of the different governors,
     laws, interests, religions, and manners of these, "their jealousy
     of each other is so great, that, however necessary a union of the
     colonies has long been, for their common defence and security
     against their enemies, and how sensible soever each colony has been
     of that necessity, yet they have never been able to effect such a
     union among themselves, nor even to agree in requesting the mother
     country to establish it for them." If they could not unite for
     self-defence against the French and the murderous savages, "can it
     reasonably be supposed there is any danger of their uniting against
     their own nation, which protects and encourages them, with which
     they have so many connexions and ties of blood, interest, and
     affection, and which, it is well known, they all love much more
     than they love one another?

     "In short there are so many causes that must operate to prevent it,
     that I will venture to say a union amongst them for such a purpose
     is not merely improbable, it is impossible. And if the union of the
     whole is impossible, the attempt of a part must be madness.... When
     I say such a union is impossible, I mean without the most grievous
     tyranny and oppression.... _The waves do not rise but when the
     winds blow_.... What such an administration as the Duke of Alva's
     in the Netherlands might produce, I know not; but this, I think, I
     have a right to deem impossible."

We read these words, even subject to the mild saving of the final
sentences, with some bewilderment. Did their shrewd and well-informed
writer believe what he said? Was he casting this political horoscope in
good faith? Or was he only uttering a prophecy which he desired, if
possible, and for his own purposes to induce others to believe? If he
was in earnest, Attorney-General Pratt was a better astrologer. "For all
what you Americans say of your loyalty," he said to Franklin, "and
notwithstanding your boasted affection, you will one day set up for
independence." "No such idea," said Franklin, "is entertained by the
Americans, or ever will be, unless you grossly abuse them." "Very true,"
said Pratt; "that I see will happen, and will produce the event."[10]
Choiseul, the able French minister, expressed his wonder that the "great
Pitt should be so attached to the acquisition of Canada," which, being
in the hands of France, would keep the "colonies in that dependence
which they will not fail to shake off the moment Canada shall be
ceded."[11] Vergennes saw the same thing not less clearly; and so did
many another.

[Note 10: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ iv. 380.]

[Note 11: _Ibid_. iv. 399.]

If Franklin was really unable to foresee in this business those
occurrences which others predicted with such confidence, at least he
showed a grand conception of the future, and his vision took in more
distant and greater facts and larger truths of statesmanship than were
compassed by the British ministers. Witness what he wrote to Lord

     "I have long been of opinion that the foundations of the future
     grandeur and stability of the British empire lie in America.... I
     am therefore by no means for restoring Canada. If we keep it, all
     the country from the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi will in
     another century be filled with British people. Britain itself will
     become vastly more populous by the immense increase to its
     commerce; the Atlantic sea will be covered with your trading ships;
     and your naval power, thence continually increasing, will extend
     your influence round the whole globe, and awe the world."

Whatever regret Franklin may have felt at not being able to remain in
England was probably greatly mitigated if not entirely dissipated by the
cordial reception which he met with at home. On December 2, 1762, he
wrote to Strahan that the reports of the diminution of his friends were
all false; that ever since his arrival his house had been full of a
succession of them from morning till night, congratulating him on his
return. The Assembly honored him with a vote of thanks, and also voted
him £3000 towards defraying his expenses. It was, of course, much less
than he had expended during an absence of nearly six years; but it seems
that he considered that, since much of his time had been passed in the
enjoyment of an agreeable leisure, he should bear a corresponding part
of the expense. While on the sea he had been chosen unanimously, as
indeed had been done in each year of his absence, a member of that body;
and he was told that, if he had not got so privately into town, he
should have been met by an escort of 500 horsemen. All this must have
been very gratifying.

[Illustration: De Vergennes]

A different kind of tribute, somewhat indirect, but none the less
intelligible, was at the same time paid to him by the British
government. In the autumn of 1762 his illegitimate son, William
Franklin, was appointed governor of New Jersey. This act created a great
storm of wrath from some of the provincial aristocratic party, and was
vehemently railed at as an "indignity," a "dishonor and disgrace," an
"insult." After all, it failed of its obvious purpose. The government
shot brought down the wrong bird, common carrion, while the one aimed at
never swerved in the slightest from his course. William, whom no one
cared for in the least, became a confirmed royalist, and ultimately, as
a Tory refugee, for years continued to absorb a pension for which he
could return no adequate consideration. So far as Benjamin Franklin was
concerned, he was at first much pleased; but his political views and
course were not in the slightest degree affected. On the contrary, as
the scheme developed, and the influence on the younger man became
apparent, the final result was an alienation between father and son,
which was only partially healed so late as 1784, just before the former
returned from Europe for the last time.



When Franklin came home he was fifty-six years old. By nature he was
physically indolent, and fifteen years ago he had given proof of his
desire for the command of his own time by retiring from a lucrative
business. But his forecasting of a tranquil, social career in
Philadelphia, with science as his chief and agreeable occupation, was
still to continue a day-dream, interrupted only by some thoughts of an
English home. "Business, public and private, consumes all my time; I
must return to England for repose. With such thoughts I flatter myself,
and need some kind friend to put me often in mind that old trees cannot
safely be transplanted." Thus he wrote to Mary Stevenson, the young lady
whom he had hoped to have as a daughter-in-law.

His first labor in the provinces came in the shape of a journey about
the country to supervise and regulate the postal business. Upon this
errand he went 1600 miles, which was no slight matter as travel was
conducted in those days. He started in the spring of 1763, and did not
get back until November. Upon his return he found himself at once
immersed in public affairs. In October, 1763, Governor Hamilton was
superseded by John Penn, nephew of the proprietary Thomas Penn.

     "Never," said Franklin, "did any administration open with a more
     promising prospect than this of Governor Penn. He assured the
     people in his first speeches of the proprietaries' paternal regard
     for them, and their sincere dispositions to do everything that
     might promote their happiness. As the proprietaries had been
     pleased to promote a son of the family to the government, it was
     thought not unlikely that there might be something in these
     professions; for that they would probably choose to have his
     administration made easy and agreeable, and to that end might think
     it prudent to withdraw those harsh, disagreeable, and unjust
     instructions, with which most of his predecessors had been
     hampered. The Assembly therefore believed fully and rejoiced
     sincerely. They showed the new governor every mark of respect and
     regard that was in their power. They readily and cheerfully went
     into everything he recommended to them."

Moreover, the first event of public importance after Governor Penn's
advent had, in its early stage, the effect of drawing him very closely
to Franklin. Some of the settlers on the frontier, infuriated beyond the
control of reason by the Indian marauding parties, gathered together for
the purpose of slaughter. If they had directed their vengeance against
the braves, and even all the occupants of the villages of the
wilderness, they might have been excused though their vindictive rage
led them to retaliate by the same barbarities which the red men had
practiced towards the whites. Unfortunately, instead of courageously
turning their faces towards the forests, they turned their backs in that
direction, where only there was any enemy to be feared, and in a safe
expedition they wreaked a deadly, senseless, cowardly, and brutal
vengeance on an unoffending group of twenty old men, women, and
children, living peacefully and harmlessly near Lancaster. The infamous
story is familiar in the annals of Pennsylvania as the "Paxton
massacre," because the "Paxton boys," the perpetrators, came from the
Scotch-Irish settlement bearing that name.

Franklin's indignation was great, and he expressed it forcibly in a
pamphlet. But many, even of the class which should have felt with him,
were in such a temper that they would condemn no act done against an
Indian. Encouraged by the prevalence of this feeling, this same band,
swelled to a numerous and really formidable force, had the audacity to
start for Philadelphia itself, with the avowed purpose of massacring
there a small body of civilized Christian Indians, who had fled thither
for safety under the charge of their Moravian missionary, and against
whom not a complaint could be made. Panic reigned in the City of
Brotherly Love, little competent to cope with imminent violence. In the
crisis citizens and governor could conceive no more hopeful scheme than
an appeal to Franklin, which was made at once and urgently. The governor
himself actually took up his residence in Franklin's house, and stayed
there till the threat of trouble passed over, speaking, writing, and
ordering only at Franklin's dictation,--a course which had in it more of
sense than of dignity. The appeal was made in the right quarter. Already
profoundly moved in this matter, Franklin was prompt and zealous to save
his city from a shameful act, and the Indians from barbarous murder. His
efforts soon gathered, and after a fashion organized, a body of
defenders probably somewhat more numerous than the approaching mob. Yet
a collision would have been most unfortunate, whatever the result; and
to avert it Franklin took it upon him to go in person to meet the
assailants. His courage, coolness, and address prevailed; he succeeded
in satisfying the "Paxton boys" that they were so greatly outnumbered
that, far from attacking others, they could only secure their own safety
by instant dispersion. Thus by the resources and presence of mind of one
man Philadelphia was saved from a day of which the bloody stain could
never have been effaced from her good fame.

But Franklin seemed for a while to reap more of hostility than of
gratitude for his gallant and honorable conduct in this emergency.
Governor Penn was an ignoble man, and after the danger was over he left
the house, in which he had certainly played a rather ignominious part,
with those feelings toward his host which a small soul inevitably
cherishes toward a greater under such circumstances. Moreover, there
were very many among the people who had more of sympathy with the
"Paxton boys" than with the wise and humane man who had thwarted them.
"For about forty-eight hours," Franklin wrote to one of his friends, "I
was a very great man;" but after "the fighting face we put on" caused
the insurgents to turn back, "I became a less man than ever; for I had,
by this transaction, made myself many enemies among the populace," a
fact of which the governor speedily took advantage. But without this
episode enmity between Penn and Franklin was inevitable. They served
masters whose ends were wide apart; upon the one side avaricious
proprietaries of little foresight and judgment, upon the other side a
people jealous of their rights and unwilling to leave to any one else
the definition and interpretation of them.

Soon it became known that the instructions of the new governor differed
in no substantial particular from those of his predecessors. The
procession of vetoes upon the acts of the Assembly resumed its familiar
and hateful march. A militia bill was thus cut off, because, instead of
leaving with the governor the nomination of regimental officers, it
stipulated that the rank and file should name three persons for each
position, and that the governor should choose one of these,--an
arrangement bad in itself, but perhaps well suited to the habits and
even the needs of the province at that time. A tax bill met the like
fate, because it did not discriminate in favor of the located lands of
the proprietaries by rating their best lands at no higher valuation than
the worst lands of other persons. Soon it was generally felt that
matters were as bad as ever, and with scantier chances of improvement.
Then "all the old wounds broke out and bled afresh; all the old
grievances, still unredressed, were recollected; despair succeeded of
seeing any peace with a family that could make such returns to all
overtures of kindness." The aggrieved party revived its scheme for a
transfer of the government from the proprietaries to the crown, and
Franklin threw himself into the discussion with more of zeal and ardor
than he had often shown.

While the debates upon this subject waxed hot in the Assembly, it was
moved and carried that that body should adjourn for a few weeks, in
order that members might consult their constituents and sound the public
feeling. During this recess it may be conceived that neither side was
slack in its efforts. Franklin for his share contributed a pamphlet,
entitled "Cool Thoughts on the Present Situation of our Public Affairs."
"Mischievous and distressing," he said, as the frequent disputes "have
been found to both proprietaries and people, it does not appear that
there is any prospect of their being extinguished, till either the
proprietary purse is unable to support them, or the spirit of the
people so broken that they shall be willing to submit to anything rather
than continue them." With a happy combination of shrewdness and
moderation he laid the blame upon the intrinsic nature of a proprietary
government. "For though it is not unlikely that in these as well as in
other disputes there are faults on both sides, every glowing coal being
apt to inflame its opposite; yet I see no reason to suppose that all
proprietary rulers are worse men than other rulers, nor that all people
in proprietary governments are worse people than those in other
governments. I suspect, therefore, that the cause is radical, interwoven
in the constitution, and so become the very nature, of proprietary
governments; and will therefore produce its effects as long as such
governments continue." It indicated a broad and able mind, and one well
under control, to assume as a basis this dispassionate assertion of a
general principle, amid such personal heats as were then inflaming the
passions of the whole community. His conclusion held one of his
admirable similes which had the force of argument: "There seems to
remain then but one remedy for our evils, a remedy approved by
experience, and which has been tried with success by other provinces; I
mean that of an immediate _Royal Government_, without the intervention
of proprietary powers, which, like unnecessary springs and movements in
a machine, are so apt to produce disorder."

Further, he held out a bait to the crown:--

     "The expression, _change of government_, seems indeed to be too
     extensive, and is apt to give the idea of a general and total
     change of our laws and constitution. It is rather and only a
     _change of governor_--that is, instead of self-interested
     proprietaries, a gracious king. His majesty, who has no views but
     for the good of the people, will thenceforth appoint the governor,
     who, unshackled by proprietary instructions, will be at liberty to
     join with the Assembly in enacting wholesome laws. At present, when
     the king desires supplies of his faithful subjects, and they are
     willing and desirous to grant them, the proprietaries intervene and
     say: 'Unless our private interests in certain particulars are
     served, _nothing shall be done_.' This insolent tribunal VETO has
     long encumbered our public affairs and been productive of many

He then drew a petition "to the king's most excellent majesty in
council," which humbly showed "That the government of this province by
proprietaries has, by long experience, been found inconvenient, attended
by many difficulties and obstructions to your majesty's service, arising
from the intervention of proprietary private interests in public
affairs, and disputes concerning those interests. That the said
proprietary government is weak, unable to support its own authority, and
maintain the common internal peace of the province; great riots have
lately arisen therein.... And these evils are not likely to receive any
remedy here, the continual disputes between the proprietaries and
people, and their mutual jealousies and dislikes, preventing." Wherefore
his majesty was asked to be "graciously pleased to resume the
government of this province, ... permitting your dutiful subjects
therein to enjoy, under your majesty's more immediate care and
protection, the privileges that have been granted to them by and under
your royal predecessors."

The result of feeling the public pulse showed that it beat very high and
strong for the proposed change. Accordingly the resolution to present
the petition was now easily carried. But again the aged speaker, Norris,
found himself called upon to do that for which he had not the nerve. He
resigned the speakership; Franklin was chosen in his place and set the
official signature to the document.

Another paper by Franklin upon the same subject, and of considerable
length, appeared in the shape of a preface to a speech delivered in the
Assembly by Joseph Galloway in answer to a speech on the proprietary
side by John Dickinson, which speech, also with a long preface, had been
printed. In this pamphlet he reviewed all the recent history of the
province. He devoted several pages to a startling exposition of the
almost incredible usage which had long prevailed, whereby bills were
left to accumulate on the governor's table, and then were finally signed
by him in a batch, only upon condition that he should receive, or even
sometimes upon his simultaneously receiving, a considerable _douceur_.
Not only had this been connived at by the proprietaries, but sometimes
these payments had been shared between the proprietaries and the
governors. This topic Franklin finally dismissed with a few lines of
admirable sarcasm: "Do not, my courteous reader, take pet at our
proprietary constitution for these our bargain and sale proceedings in
legislation. It is a happy country where justice, and what was your own
before, can be had for ready money. It is another addition to the value
of money, and, of course, another spur to industry. Every land is not so
blessed." Many quotations from this able state paper have already been
made in the preceding pages, though it is so brilliant a piece of work
that to quote is only to mutilate. Its argument, denunciation, humor,
and satire are interwoven in a masterly combination. The renowned
"sketch in the lapidary style," prepared for the gravestone of Thomas
and Richard Penn, with the introductory paragraphs, constitutes one of
the finest assaults in political literature.[12] It is unfortunately
impossible to give any adequate idea or even abstract of a document
which covers so much ground and with such variety of treatment. It had
of course a powerful effect in stimulating the public sentiment, and it
was especially useful in supplying formidable arguments to those of the
popular way of thinking; drawing their weapons from this armory, they
felt themselves invincible.

[Note 12: Franklin's animosity against the Penns was mitigated in
later years. See Franklin's _Works_, viii. 273.]

But it must not be supposed that all this while Franklin was treading
the velvet path of universal popularity, amid the unanimous
encouragement of his fellow citizens, and with only the frowns of the
proprietary officials to disturb his serenity. By one means and another
the proprietaries mustered a considerable party in the province, and the
hatred of all these men was concentrated upon Franklin with extreme
bitterness. He said that he was "as much the butt of party rage and
malice," and was as much pelted with hostile prints and pamphlets, as if
he were prime minister. Neither was the notion of a royal government
looked upon with liking even by all those who were indignant against the
present system. Moreover many persons still remained ill disposed
towards him by reason of his opinions and behavior during the Paxton
outbreak. The combination against him, made up of all these various
elements, felt itself powerful enough for mischief, and found its
opportunity in the election to the Assembly occurring in the autumn of
1764. The polls were opened on October 1, at nine o'clock in the
morning. The throng was dense, and the column of voters could move but
slowly. At three o'clock of the following morning, the voting having
continued during the night, the friends of the "new ticket," that is to
say of the new candidate, moved to close the polls. The friends of the
"old ticket" opposed this motion and unfortunately prevailed. They had a
"reserve of the aged and lame," who had shunned the crowd and were now
brought in chairs and litters. Thus in three hours they increased their
score by some two hundred votes. But the other side was not less
enterprising, and devoting the same extension of time to scouring
Germantown and other neighborhoods, they brought in near five hundred
additional votes upon their side. It was apparently this strange blunder
of the political managers for the "old ticket" party that was fatal to
Franklin, for when the votes were all counted he was found to be beaten
by a balance against him of twenty-five. He had therefore evidently had
a majority at the hour when his friends prevented the closing of the
polls. He "died like a philosopher. But Mr. Galloway _agonized in death_
like a Mortal Deist, who has no Hopes of a Future Existence."[13]

[Note 13: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, i. 451, quoting _Life of
Joseph Reed_, i. 37.]

But the jubilation of the proprietary party over this signal victory was
soon changed into mourning. For within a few days the new Assembly was
in session, and at once took into consideration the appointment of Dr.
Franklin as its agent to present to the king in council another petition
for a royal government. The wrath of the other side blazed forth
savagely. "No measure," their leader, Dickinson, said, was "so likely to
inflame the resentments and embitter the discontents of the people." He
"appealed to the heart of every member for the truth of the assertion
that no man in Pennsylvania is at this time so much the object of
public dislike as he that has been mentioned. To what a surprising
height this dislike is carried among vast numbers" he did "not choose to
repeat." He said that within a few hours of the nomination hundreds of
the most reputable citizens had protested, and if time were given
thousands "would crowd to present the like testimony against [him]. Why
then should a majority of this House single out from the whole world the
man most obnoxious to his country to represent his country, though he
was at the last election turned out of the Assembly, where he had sat
for fourteen years? Why should they exert their power in the most
disgusting manner, and throw pain, terror, and displeasure into the
breasts of their fellow citizens?" The excited orator then threw out a
suggestion to which this vituperation had hardly paved a way of roses;
he actually appealed to Franklin to emulate Aristides, and not be worse
than "the dissolute Otho," and to this end urged that he should
distinguish himself in the eyes of all good men by "voluntarily
declining an office which he could not accept without alarming,
offending, and disturbing his country." "Let him, from a private
station, from a smaller sphere, diffuse, as I think he may, a beneficial
light; but let him not be made to move and blaze like a comet, to
terrify and to distress."[14] The popular majority in the Assembly
withstood Mr. Dickinson's rhetoric, and, to quote the forcible language
of Bancroft, "proceeded to an act which in its consequences was to
influence the world." That is to say, they carried the appointment.
Franklin likewise set aside Dickinson's seductive counsels, and accepted
the position.

[Note 14: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, i, 451, 452.]

It is not in human nature to be so extravagantly abused in times of
intense excitement, and wholly to hold one's peace. Even the cool temper
of Dr. Franklin was incited to a retort; his defense was brief and
dignified, in a very different tone from that of the aspersions to which
it replied; and it carries that influence which always belongs to him
who preserves moderation amid the passions of a fierce controversy.[15]

[Note 15: See, for example, Franklin's _Works_, iii. 361, 362.]



Franklin so hastened his preparations that he was ready to depart again
for England in twelve days after his election. There was no money in the
provincial treasury; but some of the well-to-do citizens, in expectation
of reimbursement, raised by subscription £1100. He took only £500. A
troop of three hundred mounted citizens escorted him from the city
sixteen miles down the river to the ship, and "filled the sails with
their good wishes." This parade, designed only as a friendly
demonstration, was afterward made a charge against him, as an assumption
of pomp and a display of popularity. If it had been deliberately
planned, it would have been ill advised; but it took him by surprise,
and he could not prevent it. The ship cast anchor in St. Helen's Road,
Isle of Wight, on December 9, 1764. He forthwith hastened to London, and
installed himself in the familiar rooms at No. 7 Craven Street, Strand.
In Philadelphia, when the news came of the safe arrival of this "man the
most obnoxious to his country," the citizens kept the bells ringing
until midnight.

So altogether the prospect now seemed agreeable in whatever direction
Dr. Franklin chose to look. He was in quarters in which he was at least
as much at home as he could feel in his house at Philadelphia; Mrs.
Stevenson, his landlady, and her daughter Mary, whom he had sought to
persuade his son to marry, upon the excellent ground of his own great
affection for her, not only made him comfortable but saved him from
homesickness; old and warm friends welcomed him; the pleasures of London
society again spread their charms before him. Without the regrets and
doubts which must have attended the real emigration which he had been
half inclined to make, he seemed to be reaping all the gratification
which that could have brought him. At the same time he had also the
pride of receiving from the other side of the Atlantic glowing accounts
of the esteem in which he was held by a controlling body of those who
were still his fellow citizens there. But already there had shown itself
above the horizon a cloud which rapidly rose, expanded, and obscured all
this fair sky.

Franklin came to England in the anticipation of a short stay, and with
no purpose beyond the presentation and urging of the petition for the
change of government. Somewhat less than ten months, he thought, would
suffice to finish this business. In fact, he did not get home for ten
years, and this especial errand, which had seemed all that he had to do,
soon sank into such comparative insignificance that, though not
actually forgotten, it could not secure attention. He conscientiously
made repeated efforts to keep the petition in the memory of the English
ministry, and to obtain action upon it; but his efforts were vain; that
body was absorbed by other affairs in connection with the troublesome
American colonies,--affairs which gave vastly more perplexity and called
for much more attention than were becoming in the case of provinces that
should have been submissive as well-behaved children. Franklin himself
found his own functions correspondingly enlarged. Instead of remaining
simply an agent charged with urging a petition which brought him in
conflict only with private persons, like himself subjects of the king,
he found his position rapidly change and develop until he became really
the representative of a disaffected people maintaining a cause against
the monarch and the government of the great British Empire. It was the
"Stamp Act" which effected this transformation.

Scarcely had the great war with France been brought to a close by the
treaty of 1763, bringing such enormous advantages to the old British
possessions in America, before it became apparent that among the fruits
some were mingled that were neither sweet nor nourishing. The war had
moved the colonies into a perilous foreground. Their interests had cost
much in men and money, and had been worth all that they had cost, and
more; the benefits conferred upon them had been immense, yet were
recognized as not being in excess of their real importance, present and
future. Worst of all, the magnitude of their financial resources had
been made apparent; without a murmur, without visible injury to their
prosperity, they had voluntarily raised large sums by taxation.
Meanwhile the English treasury had been put to enormous charges, and the
English people groaned beneath the unwonted tax burdens which they had
to bear. The attention of British financiers, even before the war was
over, was turned toward the colonies, as a field of which the productive
capacity had never been developed.

So soon as peace brought to the government leisure to adjust domestic
matters in a thorough manner, the scheme for colonial taxation came to
the front. "America ... became the great subject of consideration; ...
and the minister who was charged with its government took the lead in
public business."[16] This minister was at first Charles Townshend, than
whom no man in England, it was supposed, knew more of the transatlantic
possessions. His scheme involved a standing army of 25,000 men in the
provinces, to be supported by taxes to be raised there. In order to
obtain this revenue he first gave his care to the revision of the
navigation act. Duties which had been so high that they had never been
collected he now proposed to reduce and to enforce. This was designed to
be only the first link in the chain, but before he could forge others
he had to go out of office with the Bute ministry. The change in the
cabinet, however, made no change in the colonial policy; that was not
"the wish of this man or that man," but apparently of nearly all English

[Note 16: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ iv. 28.]

So in March, 1763, George Grenville, in the treasury department, took up
the plan which Townshend had laid down. Grenville was commercially
minded, and his first efforts were in the direction of regulating the
trade of the colonies so as to carry out with much more stringency and
thoroughness than heretofore three principles: first, that England
should be the only shop in which a colonist could purchase; second, that
colonists should not make for themselves those articles which England
had to sell to them; third, that the people of different colonies should
not trade with each other even to the indirect or possible detriment of
the trade of either with England. Severely as these restrictions bore
upon the colonists, they were of that character, as relating to external
trade, which no colonist denied to lie within the jurisdiction of
Parliament. But they were not enough; they must be supplemented; and a
stamp act was designed as the supplement. On March 9, 1764, Grenville
stated his intention to introduce such a bill at the next session; he
needed the interval for inquiries and preparation. It was no very novel
idea. It "had been proposed to Sir Robert Walpole; it had been thought
of by Pelham; it had been almost resolved upon in 1755; it had been
pressed upon Pitt; it seems, beyond a doubt, to have been a part of the
system adopted in the ministry of Bute, and it was sure of the support
of Charles Townshend. Knox, the agent of Georgia, stood ready to defend
it.... The agent of Massachusetts favored raising the wanted money in
that way." Little opposition was anticipated in Parliament, and none
from the king. In short, "everybody, who reasoned on the subject,
decided for a stamp tax."[17] Never did any bill of any legislature seem
to come into being with better auspices. Some among the colonial agents
certainly expressed ill feeling towards it; but Grenville silenced them,
telling them that he was acting "from a real regard and tenderness"
towards the Americans. He said this in perfect good faith. His views
both of the law and of the reasons for the law were intelligent and
honest; he had carefully gathered information and sought advice; and he
had a profound belief alike in the righteousness and the wisdom of the

[Note 17: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ iv. 155.]

News of what was in preparation in England reached Pennsylvania in the
summer of 1764, shortly before Franklin sailed. The Assembly debated
concerning it; Franklin was prominent in condemning the scheme; and a
resolution protesting against it was passed. It was made part of
Franklin's duty in London to urge upon Grenville these views of
Pennsylvania. But when he arrived he found that the grinding at the
mills of government was going on much too evenly to be disturbed by the
introduction of any such insignificant foreign substance as a colonial
protest. Nevertheless he endeavored to do what he could. In company with
three other colonial agents he had an interview with Grenville, February
2, 1765, in which he urged that taxation by act of Parliament was
needless, inasmuch as any requisition for the service of the king always
had found, and always would find, a prompt and liberal response on the
part of the Assembly. Arguments, however, and protests struck
ineffectually against the solid wall of Grenville's established purpose.
He listened with a civil appearance of interest and dismissed his
visitors and all memory of their arguments together. On the 13th of the
same month he read the bill in Parliament; on the 27th it passed the
Commons; on March 8, the Lords; and on March 22 it was signed by a royal
commission; the insanity of the king saved him from placing his own
signature to the ill-starred law. In July Franklin wrote to Charles

     "Depend upon it, my good neighbor, I took every step in my power to
     prevent the passing of the Stamp Act. Nobody could be more
     concerned and interested than myself to oppose it sincerely and
     heartily. But the tide was too strong against us. The nation was
     provoked by American claims of independence, and all parties joined
     in resolving by this act to settle the point. We might as well have
     hindered the sun's setting. That we could not do. But since it is
     down, my friend, and it may be long before it rises again, let us
     make as good a night of it as we can. We can still light candles.
     Frugality and industry will go a great way towards indemnifying us.
     Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand than kings and
     parliaments. If we can get rid of the former, we may easily bear
     the latter."

In such a temper was he at this time, and so remained until he got news
of the first mutterings of the storm in the colonies. His words show a
discouragement and despondency unusual with him; but what attracts
remark is the philosophical purpose to make the best even of so bad a
business, the hopeless absence of any suggestion of a further
opposition, and that his only advice is patient endurance.
Unquestionably he did conceive the matter to be for the time settled.
The might of England was an awful fact, visible all around him; he felt
the tremendous force of the great British people; and he saw their
immense resources every day as he walked the streets of busy, prosperous
London. As he recalled the infant towns and scattered villages of the
colonies, how could he contemplate forcible resistance to an edict of
Parliament and the king? Had Otis, Adams, Henry, Gadsden, and the rest
seen with their bodily eyes what Franklin was seeing every day, their
words might have been more tempered. Even a year later, in talk with a
gentleman who said that so far back as 1741 he had expressed an opinion
that the colonies "would one day release themselves from England,"
Franklin answered, "with his earnest, expressive, and intelligent face:"
"Then you were mistaken; the Americans have too much love for their
mother country;" and he added that "secession was impossible, for all
the American towns of importance, Boston, New York, and Philadelphia,
were exposed to the English navy. Boston could be destroyed by
bombardment." Near the same time he said to Ingersoll of Connecticut,
who was about departing for the colonies: "Go home and tell your
countrymen to get children as fast as they can." By no means without
forebodings for the future, he was yet far from fancying that the time
had come when physical resistance was feasible. It seemed still the day
for arguments, not for menaces.

To Franklin in this frame of mind, never doubting that the act would be
enforced, there was brought a plausible message from Grenville. The
minister desired "to make the execution of the act as little
inconvenient and disagreeable to America as possible," and to this end
he preferred to nominate as stamp distributers "discreet and reputable"
residents in the province, rather than to send over strangers from Great
Britain. Accordingly he solicited a nomination from Franklin of some
"honest and responsible" man in Philadelphia. Franklin readily named a
trustworthy merchant of his acquaintance, Mr. Hughes. The Stamp Act
itself hardly turned out a greater blunder for Grenville than this
well-meant suggestion was near turning out for Franklin. When the
Philadelphians got news of the passage of the act, the preparations for
its enforcement, the nomination of Mr. Hughes, and the fact that he had
been suggested by Franklin, the whole city rose in a wild frenzy of
rage. Never was such a sudden change of feeling. He who had been their
trusted companion was now loudly reviled as a false and truckling
traitor. He was said to have deserted his own, and to have gone over to
the minister's side; to have approved the odious law, and to have asked
that a position under it might be given to his friend. The mobs ranging
the streets threatened to destroy the new house, in which he had left
his wife and daughter. The latter was persuaded to seek safety in
Burlington; but Mrs. Franklin, with admirable courage, stayed in the
house till the danger was over. Some armed friends stood ready to assist
if the crisis should come, but fortunately it passed by. All sorts of
stories were spread concerning Franklin,--even that it was he who had
"_planned_ the Stamp Act;" and that he was endeavoring also to get the
Test Act introduced into the colonies! A caricature represented the
devil whispering into his ear: "Ben, you shall be my agent throughout my

Knowing Franklin's frame of mind, it is easy to fancy the surprise with
which he learned of the spirit which had blazed forth in the colonies,
and of the violent doings in many places; and we may imagine the pain
and mortification with which he heard of the opinions expressed by his
fellow citizens concerning his own action. He said little at the time,
so far as we know; but many years afterwards he gave a narrative of his
course in language which was almost apologetic and deprecatory. A pen in
his fingers became a sympathetic instrument, and betrays sometimes what
his moderate language does not distinctly state. The intense, bitter
condemnation vented by his constituents, who so lately had been
following his lead, but who now reviled a representative who had
misrepresented them in so vital an affair, cut its way deep.

The gap between him and them did indeed seem a wide one. In the colonies
there was universal wrath, oftentimes swelling into fury; in some places
mobs, much sacking of houses, hangings and burnings in effigy;
compulsion put upon king's officers publicly to resign their offices;
wild threats and violence; obstruction to the distribution of the
stamped paper; open menaces of forcible resistance, even of secession
and rebellion; a careful estimating of the available armed forces among
the colonies; the proposal for a congress of colonies to promote
community of action, to protest, and to consult for the common cause;
disobedient resolutions by legislatures; a spreading of the spirit of
colonial union by the general cry of "Join or die;" agreements not to
import or use articles of English manufacture, with other sunderings of
commercial relations. Far behind this mad procession, of which the more
moderate divisions were marshaled by Otis, Sam Adams, and Gadsden, and
soon also by John Adams and Patrick Henry, and by many other well-known
"patriots," Franklin appeared to be a laggard in the rear distance, with
disregarded arguments and protests, with words of moderation, even
counsels of submission, nay, actually with a sort of connivance in the
measure by the nomination of an official under it.

Yet the intervening space was not so great as it appeared. There was
nothing in the counsels of the reasonable and intelligent "patriots"
which was repugnant to Franklin's opinions. So soon as he saw the ground
upon which they had placed themselves, he made haste to come into
position with them. It was fortunate indeed that the transient
separation was closed again before it could lead to the calamity of his
removal from his office. For no man or even combination of men, whom it
was possible to send from the provinces, could have done them the
services which Franklin was about to render. Besides the general power
of his mind, he had peculiar fitnesses. He was widely known and very
highly esteemed in England, where he moved in many circles. Among
members of the nobility, among men high in office, among members of
Parliament, among scientific men and literary men, among men of business
and affairs, and among men who made a business of society, he was always
welcome. In that city in which dinners constituted so important an
element in life, even for the most serious purposes, he was the greatest
of diners-out; while at the coffee-houses, clubs, and in the
old-fashioned tavern circles no companion was more highly esteemed than
he. He consorted not only with friends of the colonies, but was, and for
a long time continued to be, on intimate terms of courteous intercourse
also with those who were soon to be described as their enemies. Each and
all, amid this various and extensive acquaintance, listened to him with
a respect no tithe of which could have been commanded by any other
American then living. The force of his intelligence, the scope of his
understanding, the soundness of his judgment, had already been
appreciated by men accustomed to study and to estimate the value of such
traits. His knowledge of American affairs, of the trade and business of
the provinces, of the characteristics of the people in different parts
of the country, was very great, because of his habit of shrewd
observation, of his taste for practical matters, and of his extensive
travels and connections as postmaster. Add to this that he had a
profound affection for the mother country, which was not only a
tradition and a habit, but a warm and lively attachment nourished by
delightful personal experience, by long residence and numerous
friendships, by gratifying appreciation of and compliments to himself.
No one could doubt his sincerity when he talked of his love for England
as a real and influential sentiment. At the same time he was an
American and a patriot. Though he had failed to anticipate the state of
feeling which the Stamp Act begot, it was his only failure of this kind;
generally he spoke the sentiments of the colonists with entire truth and
sympathy. He was one who could combine force with moderation in the
expression of his views, the force being all the greater for the
moderation; he had an admirable head to conceive an argument, a tongue
and pen to state it clearly and pointedly. He had presence of mind in
conversation, was ready and quick at fence; he was widely learned; he
was a sounder political economist than any member of the English
government; above all, he had an unrivaled familiarity with the facts,
the arguments, and the people on both sides of the controversy; he kept
perfect control of his temper, without the least loss of earnestness;
and had the rare faculty of being able to state his own side with plain
force, and yet without giving offense. Such were his singular
qualifications, which soon enabled him to perform the greatest act of
his public life.

Matters came by degrees into better shape for the colonies. In politics
any statesman has but to propose a measure to find it opposed by those
who oppose him. So what had seemed an universal willingness to levy
internal taxes upon the colonies soon lost this aspect. No sooner did
the news from the angry colonies bring the scheme into prominence than
the assaults upon it became numerous, and enemies of Grenville became
friends of America. Arguments so obvious and so strong as those against
the measure were eagerly made the most of by the opponents of the men
who were in office. Among these opponents was Pitt, that formidable man
before whom all trembled. Gout had disabled him, but who could tell when
he might get sufficient respite to return and deal havoc? Yet in spite
of all that was said, the ministry seemed impregnable. Grenville was
very able, always of a stubborn temper, and in this especial case
convinced to the point of intensity that the right lay with him;
moreover, he was complete master in Parliament, where his authority
seemed still to increase steadily. No man was sanguine enough to see
hope for the colonies, when suddenly an occurrence, which in this age
could not appreciably affect the power of an English premier, snapped
Grenville's sway in a few days. This was only the personal pique of the
king, irritated by complaints made by the Duke of Bedford about the
favorite, Bute. For such a cause George III. drove out of office, upon
grounds of his own dislike, a prime minister and cabinet with whom he
was in substantial accord upon the most important public matters then
under consideration, and although it was almost impossible to patch
together any tolerably congruous or competent body of successors.

Pitt endeavored to form a cabinet, but was obliged, with chagrin, to
confess his inability. At last the Duke of Cumberland succeeded in
forming the so-called Rockingham Cabinet, a weak combination, but far
less unfavorable than its predecessor towards America. The Marquis of
Rockingham, as prime minister, had Edmund Burke as his private
secretary; while General Conway, one of the very few who had opposed the
Stamp Act, now actually received the southern department of state within
which the colonies were included. Still there seemed little hope for any
undoing of the past, which probably would never have been wrung from
this or any British ministry so long as all the discontent was on the
other side of three thousand miles of ocean. But this was ceasing to be
the case. The American weapon of non-importation was proving most
efficient. In the provinces the custom of wearing mourning was
abandoned; no one killed or ate lamb, to the end that by the increase of
sheep the supply of wool might be greater; homespun was now the only
wear; no man would be seen clad in English cloth. In a word, throughout
America there was established what would now be called a thorough and
comprehensive "boycott" against all articles of English manufacture. So
very soon the manufacturers of the mother country began to find
themselves the only real victims of the Stamp Act. In America it was
inflicting no harm, but rather was encouraging economy, enterprise, and
domestic industry; while the sudden closing of so enormous a market
brought loss and bankruptcy to many an English manufacturer and
warehouseman. Shipping, too, was indirectly affected. An outcry for the
change of a disastrous policy swelled rapidly in the manufacturing and
trading towns; and erelong the battle of the colonists was being fought
by allies upon English soil, who were stimulated by the potent impulse
of self-preservation. These men cared nothing for the principle at
stake, nothing for the colonists personally; but they cared for the
business by which they sustained their own homes, and they were resolved
that the destroying Stamp Act should be got out of their way. Such an
influence was soon felt. Death also came in aid of the Americans,
removing in good time the Duke of Cumberland, the merciless conqueror of
Culloden, who now was all ready to fight it out with the colonies, and
only thus lost the chance to do so.

Beneath the pressure of these events concession began to be talked of,
though at first of course its friends were few and its enemies many.
Charles Townshend announced himself able to contemplate with equanimity
the picture of the colonies relapsing "to their primitive deserts." But
the trouble was that little deserts began to spot the face of England;
and still the British merchant, who seldom speaks long in vain, was
increasing his clamor, and did not fancy the prospect of rich trading
fields reduced to desolation. In January, 1766, too, the dreaded voice
of Pitt again made itself heard in St. Stephen's, sending forth an
eloquent harangue for America: "The Americans are the sons, not the
bastards, of England. As subjects they are entitled to the common right
of representation, and cannot be bound to pay taxes without their
consent. Taxation is no part of the governing power.[18] The taxes are a
voluntary gift and grant by the Commons alone. In an American tax what
do we do? We, your Majesty's Commons of Great Britain, give and grant to
your Majesty--what? Our own property? No! we give and grant to your
Majesty the property of your Majesty's commons in America. It is an
absurdity in terms."[19] "The idea of a virtual representation of
America in this House is the most contemptible that ever entered into
the head of man." "I never shall own the justice of taxing America
internally until she enjoys the right of representation." Not very many
men in either house of Parliament would go the full logical length of
Pitt's argument; but men who held views quite opposite to his as to the
lawful authority of Parliament to lay this tax were beginning to feel
that they must join him in getting it out of the way of domestic
prosperity in England. It seemed to them a mistaken exercise of an
unquestionable right. They were prepared to correct the mistake, which
could be done without abandoning the right.

[Note 18: Grenville had laid down the proposition that England was
"the sovereign, the supreme legislative power over America," and that
"taxation is a part of that sovereign power."]

[Note 19: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ v. 385-387.]

As this feeling visibly gained ground the ministry gathered courage to
consider the expediency of introducing a bill to repeal the act. Could
the king have had his way they would not have survived in office to do
so. He would have had their ministerial heads off, as he had stricken
those of their immediate predecessors. But efforts which he made to find
successors for them were fruitless, and so they remained in places which
no others could be induced to fill. Pitt was sounded, to see whether he
would ally himself with them; but he would not. Had he been gained the
fight would not have come simply upon the repeal of the act as
unsatisfactory, but as being contrary to the constitution of England.
The narrower battle-ground was selected by Rockingham.

The immediate forerunner in Parliament of the repeal of the Stamp Act
was significant. A resolution was introduced into the House of Lords,
February 3, 1766, that the "king in Parliament has full power to bind
the colonies and people of America in all cases whatsoever." The debate
which followed showed what importance this American question had assumed
in England; the expression of feeling was intense, the display of
ability very great. Lord Camden and Lord Mansfield encountered each
other; but the former, with the best of the argument, had much the worst
of the division. One hundred and twenty-five peers voted for the
resolution, only five against it. In the Commons, Pitt assailed the
resolution, with no better success than had attended Camden. No one
knew how many voted Nay, but it was "less than ten voices, some said
five or four, some said but three."[20] Immediately after this assertion
of a principle, the same Parliament prepared to set aside the only
application of it which had ever been attempted. It was well understood
that the repeal of the Stamp Act was close at hand.

[Note 20: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ v. 417.]

It was at this juncture that Franklin, who had been by no means idle
during the long struggle, appeared as a witness in that examination
which perhaps displayed his ability to better advantage than any other
single act in his life. It was between February 3 and 13, 1766, that he
and others were summoned to give testimony concerning the colonies at
the bar of the House of Commons sitting in committee of the whole. The
others have been forgotten, but his evidence never will be. The
proceeding was striking; there were some of the cleverest and most
experienced men in England to question him; no one of them singly was
his match; but there were many of them, and they conducted an
examination and a cross-examination both in one; that is to say, those
who wished to turn a point against him might at any moment interpose
with any question which might suddenly confuse or mislead him. But no
man was ever better fitted than Franklin to play the part of a witness,
and no record in politics or in law can compare with the report of his
testimony. Some persons have endeavored to account for, which means of
course to detract from, its extraordinary merit by saying that some of
the questions and replies had been prearranged; but it does not appear
that such prearrangement went further than that certain friendly
interrogators had discussed the topics with him so as to be familiar
with his views. Every lawyer does this with his witnesses. Nor can it be
supposed that the admirable replies which he made to the enemies of
America were otherwise than strictly impromptu. He had thorough
knowledge of the subject; he was in perfect control of his head and his
temper; his extraordinary faculty for clear and pithy statement never
showed to better advantage; he was, as always, moderate and reasonable;
but above all the wonderful element was the quick wit and ready skill
with which he turned to his own service every query which was designed
to embarrass him; and this he did not in the vulgar way of flippant
retort or disingenuous twistings of words or facts, but with the same
straightforward and tranquil simplicity of language with which he
delivered evidence for the friendly examiners. Burke likened the
proceeding to an examination of a master by a parcel of schoolboys.

Franklin used to say, betwixt plaint and humor, that it always seemed to
him that no one ever gave an abbreviation or an abstract of anything
which he had written, without very nearly spoiling the original. This
would be preëminently true of an abstract of this examination;
abbreviation can be only mutilation. It ranged over a vast
ground,--colonial history and politics, political economy, theories and
practice in colonial trade, colonial commerce and industry, popular
opinions and sentiment, and the probabilities of action in supposed
cases. His answers made a great stir; they were universally admitted to
have substantially advanced the day of repeal. They constituted the
abundant armory to which the friends of the colonies resorted for
weapons offensive and defensive, for facts and for ideas. He himself,
with just complacency, remarked: "The then ministry was ready to hug me
for the assistance I afforded them." The "Gentleman's Magazine" said:--

     "From this examination of Dr. Franklin the reader may form a
     clearer and more comprehensive idea of the state and disposition in
     America, of the expediency or inexpediency of the measure in
     question, and of the character and conduct of the minister who
     proposed it, than from all that has been written upon the subject
     in newspapers and pamphlets, under the titles of essays, letters,
     speeches, and considerations, from the first moment of its becoming
     the subject of public attention until now. The questions in general
     are put with great subtlety and judgment, and they are answered
     with such deep and familiar knowledge of the subject, such
     precision and perspicuity, such temper and yet such spirit, as do
     the greatest honor to Dr. Franklin, and justify the general opinion
     of his character and abilities."

Like praises descended from every quarter.

One interesting fact clearly appears from this examination: that
Franklin now fully understood the colonial sentiment, and was thoroughly
in accord with it. Being asked whether the colonists "would submit to
the Stamp Act, if it were modified, the obnoxious parts taken out, and
the duty reduced to some particulars of small moment," he replied with
brief decision: "No, they will never submit to it." As to how they would
receive "a future tax imposed on the same principle," he said, with the
same forcible brevity: "Just as they do this: they would not pay it."
_Q._ "Can anything less than a military force carry the Stamp Act into
execution? _A._ I do not see how a military force can be applied to that
purpose. _Q._ Why may it not? _A._ Suppose a military force sent into
America, they will find nobody in arms. What are they then to do? They
cannot force a man to take stamps who chooses to do without them. They
will not find a rebellion; they may indeed make one. _Q._ If the act is
not repealed, what do you think will be the consequences? _A._ A total
loss of the respect and affection the people of America bear to this
country, and of all the commerce that depends on that respect and
affection. _Q._ How can the commerce be affected? _A._ You will find
that if the act is not repealed, they will take a very little of your
manufactures in a short time. _Q._ Is it in their power to do without
them? _A._ The goods they take from Britain are either necessaries,
mere conveniences, or superfluities. The first, as cloth, etc., with a
little industry they can make at home; the second they can do without
until they are able to provide them among themselves; and the last,
which are much the greatest part, they will strike off immediately."
This view of the willingness and capacity of the colonists to forego
English importations he elsewhere elaborated fully. The English
merchants knew to their cost that he spoke the truth.

With reference to the enforcement of claims in the courts, he was asked
whether the people would not use the stamps "rather than remain ...
unable to obtain any right or recover by law any debt?" He replied: "It
is hard to say what they would do. I can only judge what other people
will think, and how they will act, by what I feel within myself. I have
a great many debts due to me in America, and I would rather they should
remain unrecoverable by any law than submit to the Stamp Act."

A few weeks later he wrote: "I have some little property in America. I
will freely spend nineteen shillings in the pound to defend my right of
giving or refusing the other shilling. And, after all, if I cannot
defend that right, I can retire cheerfully with my family into the
boundless woods of America, which are sure to afford freedom and
subsistence to any man who can bait a hook or pull a trigger." The
picture of Dr. Franklin, the philosopher, at the age of sixty-one,
"cheerfully" sustaining his family in the wilderness by the winnings of
his rod and his rifle stirs one's sense of humor; but the paragraph
indicates that he was in strict harmony with his countrymen, who were
expressing serious resolution with some rhetorical exaggeration, in the
American fashion.

The main argument of the colonies, that under the British constitution
there could be no taxation without representation, was of course
introduced into the examination; and Franklin seized the occasion to
express his theory very ingeniously. Referring to the fact that, by the
Declaration of Rights, no money could "be raised on the subject but by
consent of Parliament," the subtle question was put: How the colonists
could think that they themselves had a right to levy money for the
crown? Franklin replied: "They understand that clause to relate only to
subjects within the realm; that no money can be levied on _them_ for the
crown but by consent of Parliament. The colonies are not supposed to be
within the realm; they have assemblies of their own, which are their
parliaments." This was a favorite theory with him, in expounding which
he likened the colonies to Ireland, and to Scotland before the union.
Many sentences to the same purport occur in his writings; for example:
"These writers against the colonies all bewilder themselves by supposing
the colonies _within_ the realm, which is not the case, nor ever was."
"If an Englishman goes into a foreign country, he is subject to the laws
and government he finds there. If he finds no government or laws there,
he is subject there to none, till he and his companions, if he has any,
make laws for themselves; and this was the case of the first settlers in
America. Otherwise, if they carried the English laws and power of
Parliament with them, what advantage could the Puritans propose to
themselves by going?" "The colonists carried no law with them; they
carried only a power of making laws, or adopting such parts of the
English law or of any other law as they should think suitable to their
circumstances."[21] Radical doctrines these, which he could not
reasonably expect would find favor under any principles of government
then known in the world. To the like effect were other assertions of
his, made somewhat later: "In fact, the British Empire is not a single
state; it comprehends many." "The sovereignty of the crown I understand.
The sovereignty of the British legislature out of Britain I do not
understand." "The king, and not the King, Lords, and Commons
collectively, is their sovereign; and the king with their respective
parliaments is their only legislator."[22] "The Parliament of Great
Britain has not, never had, and of right never can have, without consent
given either before or after, power to make laws of sufficient force to
bind the subjects of America in any case whatever, and particularly in
taxation." The singular phrase "the subjects of America" is worth
noting. In 1769, still reiterating the same principle, he said: "We are
free subjects of the king; and fellow subjects of one part of his
dominions are not sovereigns over fellow subjects in any other part."

[Note 21: To same purport, see also _Works_, iv. 300.]

[Note 22: Concerning this theory, see Fiske's _The Beginnings of New
England_, 266.]

It is a singular fact that Franklin long cherished a personal regard
towards the king, and a faith in his friendly and liberal purposes
towards the colonies. Indignation against the Parliament was offset by
confidence in George III. Even so late as the spring of 1769, he writes
to a friend in America: "I hope nothing that has happened, or may
happen, will diminish in the least our loyalty to our sovereign, or
affection for this nation in general. I can scarcely conceive a king of
better disposition, of more exemplary virtues, or more truly desirous of
promoting the welfare of all his subjects. The experience we have had of
the family in the two preceding mild reigns, and the good temper of our
young princes, so far as can yet be discovered, promise us a continuance
of this felicity." Of the British people too he thought kindly. But for
the Parliament he could find no excuse. He admitted that it might be
"decent" indeed to speak in the "public papers" of the "wisdom and the
justice of Parliament;" nevertheless, the ascription of these qualities
to the present Parliament certainly was not true, whatever might be the
case as to any future one. The next year found him still counseling that
the colonies should hold fast to their allegiance to their king, who
had the best disposition towards them, and was their most efficient
bulwark against "the arbitrary power of a corrupt Parliament." In the
summer of 1773, he was seeking excuses for the king's adherence to the
principle that Parliament could legally tax the colonies: "when one
considers the king's situation," with all his ministers, advisers,
judges, and the great majority of both houses holding this view, when
"one reflects how necessary it is for him to be well with his
Parliament," and that any action of his countenancing a doctrine
contrary to that of both the Lords and the Commons "would hazard his
embroiling himself with those powerful bodies," Franklin was of opinion
that it seemed "hardly to be expected from him that he should take any
step of that kind." But this was the last apology which he uttered for
George III. He was about to reach the same estimation of that monarch
which has been adopted by posterity. Only a very little later he writes:
"Between you and me, the late measures have been, I suspect, very much
the king's own, and he has in some cases a great share of what his
friends call _firmness_." Thus tardily, reluctantly, and at first
gently, the kindly philosopher began to admit to himself and others the
truth as to his Majesty's disposition and character.

Some persons in England, affected by the powerful argument of
non-representation, proposed that the colonies should be represented in
Parliament; and about the time of the Stamp Act the possibility of such
an arrangement was seriously discussed. Franklin was willing to speak
kindly of a plan which was logically unobjectionable, and which involved
the admission that the existing condition was unjust; but he knew very
well that it would never develop into a practicable solution of the
problem, and in fact it soon dropped out of men's minds. January 6,
1766, he wrote that in his opinion the measure of an _Union_, as he
shrewdly called it, was a wise one; "but," he said, "I doubt it will
hardly be thought so here until it is too late to attempt it. The time
has been when the colonies would have esteemed it a great advantage, as
well as honor, to be permitted to send members to Parliament, and would
have asked for that privilege if they could have had the least hopes of
obtaining it. The time is now come when they are indifferent about it,
and will probably not ask it, though they might accept it, if offered
them; and the time will come when they will certainly refuse it. But if
such an Union were now established (which methinks it highly imports
this country to establish), it would probably subsist so long as Britain
shall continue a nation. This people, however, is too proud, and too
much despises the Americans to bear the thought of admitting them to
such an equitable participation in the government of the whole."[23]

[Note 23: To same purport, see letter to Evans, May 9, 1766,
_Works_, iii. 464.]

Haughty words these, though so tranquilly spoken, and which must have
startled many a dignified Briton: behold! a mere colonist, the son of a
tallow chandler, is actually declaring that those puny colonies of
simple "farmers, husbandmen, and planters" were already "indifferent"
about, and would soon feel in condition to "refuse," representation in
such a body as the Parliament of England; also that it "highly imported"
Great Britain to _seek_ amalgamation while yet it could be had! But
Franklin meant what he said, and he repeated it more than once, very
earnestly. He resented that temper, of which he saw so much on every
side, and which he clearly described by saying that every individual in
England felt himself to be "part of a sovereign over America."

Men of a different habit of mind of course reiterated the shallow and
threadbare nonsense about "virtual," or as it would be called nowadays
constructive, representation of the colonies, likening them to
Birmingham, Manchester, and other towns which sent no members to
Parliament--as if problems in politics followed the rule of algebra,
that negative quantities, multiplied, produce a positive quantity. But
Franklin concerned himself little about this unreasonable reasoning,
which indeed soon had an effect eminently disagreeable to the class of
men who stupidly uttered it. For it was promptly replied that if there
were such large bodies of unrepresented Englishmen, it betokened a wrong
state of affairs in England also. If English freeholders have not the
right of suffrage, said Franklin, "they are injured. Then rectify what
is amiss among yourselves, and do not make it a justification of more
wrong."[24] Thus that movement began which in time brought about
parliamentary reform, another result of this American disturbance which
was extremely distasteful to that stratum of English society which was
most strenuous against the colonists.

[Note 24: See also to same purport, _Works_, iv. 157.]

Still another point which demanded elucidation was, why Parliament
should not have the power to lay internal taxes just as much as to levy
duties. Grenville said: "External and internal taxes are the same in
effect, and only differ in name;" and the authority of Parliament to lay
external taxes had never been called in question. Franklin's examiners
tried him upon this matter: Can you show that there is any kind of
difference between the two taxes, to the colony on which they are laid?
He answered: "I think the difference is very great. An _external_ tax is
a duty laid on commodities imported; that duty is added to the first
cost and other charges on the commodity, and, when it is offered for
sale, makes a part of the price. If the people do not like it at that
price, they refuse it; they are not obliged to pay for it. But an
_internal_ tax is forced from the people without their consent, if not
laid by their own representatives. The Stamp Act says, we shall have no
commerce, make no exchange of property with each other, neither
purchase, nor grant, nor recover debts; we shall neither marry nor make
our wills; unless we pay such and such sums." It was suggested that an
external tax might be laid on the necessaries of life, which the people
must have; but Franklin said that the colonies were, or very soon would
be, in a position to produce for themselves all necessaries. He was then
asked what was the difference "between a duty on the importation of
goods and an excise on their consumption?" He replied that there was a
very material one; the excise, for reasons given, seemed unlawful. "But
the sea is yours; you maintain by your fleets the safety of navigation
in it, and keep it clear of pirates; you may have, therefore, a natural
and equitable right to some toll or duty on merchandises carried through
that part of your dominions, towards defraying the expense you are at in
ships to maintain the safety of that carriage." This was a rather narrow
basis on which to build the broad and weighty superstructure of the
British Custom House; but it was not to be expected that Franklin should
supply any better arguments upon that side of the question. It was
obvious that Grenville's proposition might lead to two conclusions. He
said: External and internal taxation are in principle substantially
identical; we have the right to the former; therefore we must have the
right to the latter. It was a quick reply: Since you have not a right to
the latter, you cannot have a right to the former. But Franklin, being
a prudent man, kept within his intrenchments, and would not hazard
increasing the opposition to the colonial claims by occupying this
advanced ground. He hinted at it, nevertheless: "At present the
colonists do not reason so; but in time they possibly may be convinced
by these arguments;" and so they were.

Franklin also in his examination, and at many other times and places,
had something to say as to the willingness of the colonies to bear their
full share of public burdens. He spoke with warmth and feeling, but with
an entire absence of boastfulness or rodomontade. He achieved his
purpose by simply recalling such facts as that the colonies in the late
war had kept 25,000 troops in the field; that they had raised sums of
money so large that even the English Parliament had seen that they were
exceeding any reasonable estimate of their capacity, and had voted some
partial restitution to them; and that they had received thanks, official
and formal yet apparently sincere, for their zeal and their services.
Few Englishmen knew these things. So, too, he said, the Americans would
help the mother country in an European war, so far as they could; for
they regarded themselves as a part of the empire, and really had an
affection and loyalty towards England.


On February 21, 1766, General Conway moved for leave to introduce into
the House of Commons a bill to repeal the Stamp Act. The motion was
carried. The next day the House divided upon the repealing bill: 275 for
repeal, 167 against it. The minority were willing greatly to modify the
act; but insisted upon its enforcement in some shape. The anxious
merchants, who were gathered in throngs outside, and who really had
brought about the repeal, burst into jubilant rejoicing. A few days
later, March 4 and 5, the bill took its third reading by a vote of 250
yeas against 122 nays. In the House of Lords, upon the second reading,
73 peers voted for repeal, 61 against it. Thirty-three peers thereupon
signed and recorded their protest. At the third reading no division was
had, but a second protest, bearing 28 signatures, was entered. On March
18 the king, whose position had been a little enigmatical, but who at
last had become settled in opposition to the bill, unwillingly placed
his signature to it, and ever after regretted having done so.

When the good news reached the provinces great indeed was the gladness
of the people. They heeded little that simultaneously with the repeal a
resolve had been carried through declaratory of the principle on which
the Stamp Act had been based. The assertion of the right gave them at
this moment "very little concern," since they hugged a triumphant belief
that no further attempt would be made to carry that right into practice.
The people of Philadelphia seemed firmly persuaded that the repeal was
chiefly due to the unwearied personal exertions of their able agent.
They could not recall their late distrust of him without shame, and now
replaced it with boundless devotion. In the great procession which they
made for the occasion "the sublime feature was a barge, forty feet long,
named FRANKLIN, from which salutes were fired as it passed along the
streets."[25] That autumn the old ticket triumphed again at the
elections for members of the Assembly. Franklin's own pleasant way of
celebrating the great event was by sending to his wife "a new gown,"
with the message, referring, of course, to the anti-importation league:
that he did not send it sooner, because he knew that she would not like
to be finer than her neighbors, unless in a gown of her own spinning.

[Note 25: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, i. 481.]

No American will find it difficult to conceive the utter ignorance
concerning the colonies which then prevailed in England; about their
trade, manufactures, cultivated products, natural resources, about the
occupations, habits, manners, and ideas of their people, not much more
was known than Americans now know concerning the boers of Cape Colony or
the settlers of New Zealand. In his examination before the Commons, in
many papers which he printed, by his correspondence, and by his
conversation in all the various companies which he frequented, Franklin
exerted himself with untiring industry to shed some rays into this
darkness. At times the comical stories which he heard about his country
touched his sense of humor, with the happy result that he would throw
off some droll bit of writing for a newspaper, which would delight the
friends of America and make its opponents feel very silly even while
they could not help laughing at his wit. A good one of these was the
paper in which he replied, among other things, to the absurd supposition
that the Americans could not make their own cloth, because American
sheep had little wool, and that little of poor quality: "Dear sir, do
not let us suffer ourselves to be amused with such groundless
objections. The very tails of the American sheep are so laden with wool
that each has a little car or wagon on four little wheels to support and
keep it from trailing on the ground. Would they caulk their ships, would
they even litter their horses, with wool, if it were not both plenty and
cheap? And what signifies the dearness of labor when an English shilling
passes for five and twenty?" and so on. It is pleasant to think that
then, as now, many a sober Britisher, with no idea that a satirical jest
at his own expense was hidden away in this extravagance, took it all for
genuine earnest, and was sadly puzzled at a condition of things so far
removed from his own experience.

Very droll is the account of how nearly a party of clever Englishmen
were taken in by the paper which purported to advance the claim of the
king of Prussia to hold England as a German province, and to levy taxes
therein, supported by precisely the same chain of reasoning whereby
Britain claimed the like right in respect of the American colonies.
This keen and witty satire had a brilliant success, and while Franklin
prudently kept his authorship a close secret, he was not a little
pleased to see how well his dart flew. In one of his letters he says:--

     "I was down at Lord le Despencer's when the post brought that day's
     papers. Mr. Whitehead was there, too, who runs early through all
     the papers, and tells the company what he finds remarkable.... We
     were chatting in the breakfast parlor, when he came running in to
     us, out of breath, with the paper in his hand. 'Here,' says he,
     'here's news for ye! Here's the king of Prussia claiming a right to
     this kingdom!' All stared, and I as much as anybody; and he went on
     to read it. When he had read two or three paragraphs, a gentleman
     present said: 'Damn their impudence! I daresay we shall hear by the
     next post that he is upon his march with 100,000 men to back this.'
     Whitehead, who is very shrewd, soon after began to smoke it, and
     looking in my face said, 'I'll be hanged if this is not some of
     your American jokes upon us.'"

Then, amid much laughter, it was admitted to be "a fair hit." Of a like
nature was his paper setting out "Rules for reducing a great Empire to a
small one," which prescribed with admirable satire such a course of
procedure as English ministries had pursued towards the American
provinces. Lord Mansfield honored it with his condemnation, saying that
it was "very able and very artful indeed; and would do mischief by
giving here a bad impression of the measures of government."

Yet this English indifference to transatlantic facts could not always be
met in a laughing mood. It was too serious, too unfortunate, too
obstinately persisted in to excite only ridicule. It was deplorable,
upon the very verge of war, and incredible too, after all the warnings
that had been had, that there should be among Englishmen such an utter
absence of any desire to get accurate knowledge. In 1773 Franklin wrote:
"The great defect here is, in all sorts of people, a want of attention
to what passes in such remote countries as America; an unwillingness to
read anything about them, if it appears a little lengthy; and a
disposition to postpone a consideration even of the things which they
know they must at last consider." Such ignorance, fertilized by ill
will, bore the only fruit which could grow in such soil: abuse and
vilification. Yet all the while the upper classes in France, with their
eyes well open to a condition of things which seemed to threaten
England, were keen enough in their desire for knowledge, translating all
Franklin's papers, and keeping up constant communication with him
through their embassy. Patient in others of those faults of vehemence
and prejudice which had no place in his own nature, Franklin endured
long the English provocations and retorted only with a wit too perfect
to be personal, with unanswerable arguments, and with simple recitals of
facts. But we shall see, later on, that there came an occasion, just
before his departure, when even his temper gave way. It was not
surprising, for the blood-letting point had then been reached by both

Franklin's famous examination and his other efforts in behalf of the
colonies were appreciated by his countrymen outside of Pennsylvania. He
was soon appointed agent also for New Jersey, Georgia, and
Massachusetts. The last office was conferred upon him in the autumn of
1770, by no means without a struggle. Samuel Adams, a man as narrow as
Franklin was broad, as violent as Franklin was calm, as bigoted a
Puritan as Franklin was liberal a Free-thinker, felt towards Franklin
that distrust and dislike which a limited but intense mind often
cherishes towards an intellect whose vast scope and noble serenity it
cannot comprehend. Adams accordingly strenuously opposed the
appointment. It was plausibly suggested that Franklin already held other
agencies, and that policy would advise "to enlarge the number of our
friends." It was meanly added that he held an office under the crown,
and that his son was a royal governor. Other ingenious, insidious, and
personal objections were urged. Fortunately, however, it was in vain to
array such points against Franklin's reputation. Samuel Cooper wrote to
him that, though the House had certainly been much divided, "yet such
was their opinion of your abilities and integrity, that a majority
readily committed the affairs of the province at this critical season
to your care." By reason of this combination of agencies, besides his
own personal capacity and prestige, Franklin seemed to become in the
eyes of the English the representative of all America. In spite of the
unpopularity attaching to the American cause, the position was one of
some dignity, greatly enhanced by the respect inspired by the ability
with which Franklin filled it, ability which was recognized no less by
the enemies than by the friends of the provinces. It was also a position
of grave responsibility; and it ought to have been one of liberal
emolument, but it was not. The sum of his four salaries should have been
£1200; but only Pennsylvania and New Jersey actually paid him.
Massachusetts would have paid, but the bills making the appropriations
were obstinately vetoed by the royalist governor.[26]

[Note 26: Franklin's _Works_, iv. 88.]

Yet this matter of income was important to him, and it was at no slight
personal sacrifice that he was now serving his country. He had a
moderate competence, but his expenses were almost doubled by living thus
apart from his family, while his affairs suffered by reason of his
absence. For a while he was left unmolested in the post-mastership, and
in view of all the circumstances it must be confessed that the ministry
behaved very well to him in this particular. Rumors which occasionally
reached his ears made him uncomfortably aware how precarious his tenure
of this position really was. His prolonged absence certainly gave an
abundantly fair pretext for his removal; still advantage was not taken
of it. Some of his enemies, as he wrote in December, 1770, by plentiful
abuse endeavored to provoke him to resign; but they found him sadly
"deficient in that Christian virtue of resignation." It was not until
1774, after the episode of the Hutchinson letters and the famous hearing
before the privy council, that he was actually displaced. If this
forbearance of the ministry was attributable to magnanimity, it stands
out in prominent inconsistence with the general course of official life
in England at that time. Probably no great injustice would be done in
suggesting a baser motive. The ministry doubtless aimed at one or both
of two things: to keep a certain personal hold upon him, which might,
insensibly to himself, mollify his actions; and to discredit him among
his countrymen by precisely such fleers as had been cast against him in
the Massachusetts Assembly. More than once they sought to seduce him by
offers of office; it was said that he could have been an under-secretary
of state, had he been willing to qualify himself for the position by
modifying his views on colonial questions. More than once, too, gossip
circulated in America that some such bargain had been struck, a slander
which was cruel and ignoble indeed, when the opportunity and temptation
may be said to have been present any and every day during many years
without ever receiving even a moment of doubtful consideration. Yet for
this the English ministry are believed not to have been wholly
responsible, since some of these tales are supposed to have been the
unworthy work of Arthur Lee of Virginia. This young man, a student at
one of the Inns of Court in London, was appointed by the Massachusetts
Assembly as a successor to fill Franklin's place whenever the latter
should return to Pennsylvania. For at the time it was anticipated that
this return would soon occur; but circumstances interfered and prolonged
Franklin's usefulness abroad during several years more. The heir
apparent, who was ambitious, could not brook the disappointment of this
delay; and though kindly treated and highly praised by the unsuspicious
Franklin, he gave nothing but malice in return. It is perhaps not fully
proved, yet it is certainly well suspected by historians, that his
desire to wreak injury upon Franklin became such a passion as caused him
in certain instances to forget all principles of honor, to say nothing
of honesty.



In order to continue the narrative of events with due regard to
chronological order it is necessary to revert to the repeal of the Stamp
Act. The repealing act was fully as unpopular in England as the repealed
act had been in America. It was brought about by no sense of justice, by
no good will toward the colonists, but solely by reason of the injury
which the law was causing in England, and which was forced upon the
reluctant consideration of Parliament by the urgent clamor of the
suffering merchants; also perhaps in some degree by a disinclination to
send an army across the Atlantic, and by the awkward difficulty
suggested by Franklin when he said that if troops should be sent they
would find no rebellion, no definite form of resistance, against which
they could act. The repeal, therefore, though carried by a large
majority, was by no means to be construed as an acknowledgment of error
in an asserted principle, but only as an unavoidable admission of a
mistake in the application of that principle. The repealing majority
grew out of a strange coalition of men of the most opposite ways of
thinking concerning the fundamental question. For example, Charles
Townshend was a repealer, yet all England did not hold a man who was
more wedded than was Townshend to the idea of levying internal taxes in
the colonies by act of Parliament. The notion had been his own
mischievous legacy to Grenville, but he now felt that it had been
clumsily used by his legatee. Many men agreed with him, and the
prevalence of this opinion was made obvious by the passage, almost
simultaneously, of the resolution declaratory of the right of
parliamentary taxation. But the solace of an empty assertion was wholly
inadequate to heal the deep wound which English pride had received. The
great nation had been fairly hounded into receding before the angry
resistance of a parcel of provincials dwelling far away across the sea;
the recession was not felt to be an act of magnanimity or generosity or
even of justice, but only a bitter humiliation and indignity. Poor
Grenville, the responsible adviser of the blundering and unfortunate
measure, lost almost as much prestige as Franklin gained. It was hard
luck for him; he was as honest in his convictions as Franklin was in the
opposite faith, and he was a far abler minister than the successor
charged to undo his work. But his knowledge of colonial facts was very
insufficient, and the light in which he viewed them was hopelessly
false. Franklin had a knowledge immeasurably greater, and was almost
incapable of an error of judgment; of all the reputation which was won
or lost in this famous contest he gathered the lion's share; he was the
hero of the colonists; his ability was recognized impartially by both
the contending parties in England, and he was marked as a great man by
those astute French statesmen who were watching with delight the opening
of this very promising rift in the British Empire.

Anger, like water, subsides quickly after the tempest ceases. As each
day in its flight carried the Stamp Act and the repeal more remotely
into past history, the sanguine and peaceably minded began to hope that
England and the colonies might yet live comfortably in union. It only
seemed necessary that for a short time longer no fresh provocation
should revive animosities which seemed composing themselves to slumber.
The colonists tried to believe that England had learned wisdom;
Englishmen were cautious about committing a second blunder. In such a
time Franklin was the best man whom his countrymen could have had in
England. His tranquil temperament, his warm regard for both sides, his
wonderful capacity for living well with men who could by no means live
well with each other, his social tact, and the respect which his
abilities inspired, all combined to enable him now more than ever to
fill admirably the position of colonial representative. The effect of
such an influence is not to be seen in any single noteworthy occurrence,
but is known by a thousand lesser indications, and it is unquestionable
that no American representative even to this day has ever been held in
Europe in such estimation as was accorded to Franklin at this time. He
continued writing and instructing upon American topics, but to what has
already been said concerning his services and opinions abroad, there is
nothing of importance to be added occurring within two or three years
after the repeal. While, however, he played the often thankless part of
instructor to the English, he had the courage to assume the even less
popular rôle of a moderator towards the colonists. He made it his task
to soothe passion and to preach reason. He did not do this as a trimmer;
never was one word of compromise uttered by him throughout all these
alarming years. But he dreaded that weakness which is the inevitable
reaction from excess; and he was supremely anxious to secure that
trustworthy strength which is impossible without moderation. What he
profoundly wished was that the "fatal period" of war and separation
should be as much as possible "postponed, and that whenever this
catastrophe shall happen it may appear to all mankind that the fault has
not been ours." Yet he fell far short of the Christian principle of
turning to the smiter the other cheek. He wished the colonists to keep a
steady front face, and only besought them not to rush forward so
foolishly fast as to topple over, of which ill-considered violence there
was much danger. Of course the usual result of such efforts overtook
him. He wrote somewhat sadly, in 1768: "Being born and bred in one of
the countries, and having lived long and made many agreeable connections
of friendship in the other, I wish all prosperity to both; but I have
talked and written so much and so long on the subject, that my
acquaintance are weary of hearing and the public of reading any more of
it, which begins to make me weary of talking and writing; especially as
I do not find that I have gained any point in either country, except
that of rendering myself suspected by my impartiality;--in England of
being too much an American, and in America of being too much an
Englishman." More than once he repeated this last sentence with much
feeling. But whatever there was of personal discouragement or
despondency in this letter was only a temporary frame of mind. Dr.
Franklin never really slackened his labors in a business which he had so
much at heart as this of the relationship of the colonies to the mother
country. Neither, it is safe to say, did he ever bore any one by what he
wrote or by what he said, though his witty effusions in print were
usually anonymous, and only some of his soberer and argumentative papers
announced their paternity.

The agony with which the repeal of the Stamp Act was effected racked too
severely the feeble joints of the Rockingham ministry, and that ill-knit
body soon began to drop to pieces. A new incumbent was sought for the
department which included the colonies, but that position seemed to be
shunned with a sort of terror; no one loved office enough to seek it in
this niche; no one could expect comfort in a chamber haunted by such
restless ghosts. Early in July, at the earnest solicitation of the king,
Pitt endeavored not so much to form a new ministry as to revamp the
existing one. He partially succeeded, but not without difficulty. The
result seemed to promise well for the colonies, since the new cabinet
contained their chief friends: Pitt himself, Shelburne, Camden, Conway,
names all justly esteemed by America. Yet all these were fully offset by
the audacious Charles Townshend, the originator and great apostle of the
scheme of colonial taxation, whom Pitt, much against his will, had been
obliged to place in the perilous post of chancellor of the exchequer. It
was true that Lord Shelburne undertook the care of the colonies, and
that no Englishman cherished better dispositions towards them; but he
had to encounter two difficulties, neither of which could be overcome.
The one was that Townshend's views were those which soon proved not only
to be coincident with those of the king, but also to be popular in
Parliament; the other was that, while he had the administration of
colonial affairs, Townshend had the function of introducing schemes of
taxation. So long as he remained in office he administered all the
business of the colonies in the spirit of liberal reform. No reproach
was ever brought against his justice, his generosity, his enlightened
views of government. But unfortunately all that he had to do, being
strictly in the way of _administration_, such as the restraining
over-loyal governors, the amelioration of harsh legislation, and
universal moderation in language and behavior, could avail comparatively
little so long as Townshend, whom Pitt used to call "the incurable,"
could threaten and bring in obnoxious revenue measures.

Shelburne had the backing of Pitt; but, by ill luck, so soon as the
cabinet was formed, Pitt ceased to be Pitt, and became the Earl of
Chatham; and with the loss of his own name he lost also more than half
of his power. Moreover the increasing infirmities of his body robbed him
of efficiency and impaired his judgment. He was utterly unable to keep
in subordination his reckless chancellor of the exchequer, betwixt whom
and himself no good will had ever existed. On the other hand, this
irrepressible Townshend had a far better ally in George III., who
sympathized in his purposes, gave him assistance which was none the less
powerful for being indirect and occult, and who hated and ingeniously
thwarted Shelburne. Moreover, as has been said, it was a popular
delusion that Townshend had exceptionally full and accurate knowledge
concerning American affairs. His self-confident air, making assurance of
success, won for him one half of the battle by so sure a presage of
victory. He lured the members of the House by showing them a
considerable remission in their own taxes, provided they would stand by
his scheme of replacing the deficit by an income from the colonies; and
he boldly assured his delighted auditors that he knew "the mode by which
a revenue could be drawn from America without offense." He was of the
thoughtless class which learns no lesson. He still avowed himself "a
firm advocate of the Stamp Act," and with cheerful scorn he "laughed at
the absurd distinction between internal and external taxes." He did not
expect, he merrily said, alluding to the distinction just conferred upon
Chatham, to have _his_ statue erected in America. The reports of his
speeches kept the colonial mind disquieted. The act requiring the
provinces in which regiments were quartered to provide barracks and
rations for the troops at the public expense was a further irritation.
Shelburne sought to make the burden as easy as possible, but Townshend
made Shelburne's duties as hard as possible. Of what use were the
minister's liberality and moderation, when the chancellor of the
exchequer evoked alarm and wrath by announcing insolently that he was
for governing the Americans as subjects of Great Britain, and for
restraining their trade and manufactures in subordination to those of
the mother country! So the struggle went on within the ministry as well
as without it; but the opponents of royal prejudice were heavily
handicapped; for the king, though stupid in general, had some political
skill and much authority. His ill-concealed personal hostility to his
"enemy," as he called Shelburne, threatened like the little cloud in
the colonial horizon. Nor was it long before Chatham, a dispirited
wreck, withdrew himself entirely from all active participation in
affairs, shut himself up at Hayes, and refused to be seen by any one who
wished to talk on business.

On May 13, 1767, colonial agents and merchants trading to America were
refused admission to hear the debates in the House of Commons. Upon that
day Townshend was to develop his scheme. By way, as it were, of striking
a keynote, he proposed that the province of New York should be
restrained from enacting any legislation until it should comply with the
"billeting act," against which it had heretofore been recalcitrant. He
then sketched a scheme for an American board of commissioners of
customs. Finally he came to the welcome point of the precise taxes which
he designed to levy: he proposed duties on wine, oil, and fruits,
imported directly into the colonies from Spain and Portugal; also on
glass, paper, lead, colors, and china, and three pence per pound on tea.
The governors and chief justices, most of whom were already appointed by
the king, but who got their pay by vote of the colonial assemblies, were
hereafter to have fixed salaries, to be paid by the king from this
American revenue. Two days later the resolutions were passed, directing
the introduction of bills to carry out these several propositions, and a
month later the bills themselves were passed.

Meantime the cabinet was again getting very rickety, and many heads were
busy with suggestions for patching it in one part or another. With
Chatham in retreat and the king in the ascendant, it seemed that
Townshend had the surest seat. But there is one risk against which even
monarchs cannot insure their favorites, and that risk now fell out
against Townshend. He died suddenly of a fever, in September, 1767. Lord
North succeeded him, destined to do everything which his royal master
desired him to do, and bitterly to repent it. A little later, in
December, the king scored another success; Shelburne was superseded in
the charge of the colonies by the Earl of Hillsborough, who reëntered
the board of trade as first commissioner, and came into the cabinet with
the new title of secretary of state for the colonies.

Hillsborough was an Irish peer, with some little capacity for business,
but of no more than moderate general ability. He also was supposed,
altogether erroneously, to possess a little more knowledge, or, as it
might have been better expressed, to be shackled with a little less
ignorance, concerning colonial affairs than could be predicated of most
of the noblemen who were eligible for public office. America had
acquired so much importance that the reputation of familiarity with its
condition was an excellent recommendation for preferment. Franklin wrote
that this change in the ministry was "very sudden and unexpected;" and
that "whether my Lord Hillsborough's administration will be more stable
than others have been for a long time, is quite uncertain; but as his
inclinations are rather favorable towards us (so far as he thinks
consistent with what he supposes the unquestionable rights of Britain),
I cannot but wish it may continue."

It was Franklin's temperament to be hopeful, and he also purposely
cultivated the wise habit of not courting ill fortune by anticipating
it. In this especial instance, however, he soon found that his
hopefulness was misplaced. Within six months he discovered that this new
secretary looked upon the provincial agents "with an evil eye, as
obstructors of ministerial measures," and would be well pleased to get
rid of them as "unnecessary" impediments in the transaction of business.
"In truth," he adds, "the nominations, particularly of Dr. Lee and
myself, have not been at all agreeable to his lordship." It soon
appeared that his lordship had the Irish quickness for taking a keen
point of law; he broached the theory that no agent could lawfully be
appointed by the mere resolution of an assembly, but that the
appointment must be made by bill. The value of this theory is obvious
when we reflect that a bill did not become law, and consequently an
appointment could not be completed, save by the signature of the
provincial governor. "This doctrine, if he could establish it," said
Franklin, "would in a manner give to his lordship the power of
appointing, or, at least, negativing any choice of the House of
Representatives and Council, since it would be easy for him to instruct
the governor not to assent to the appointment of such and such men, who
are obnoxious to him; so that if the appointment is annual, every agent
that valued his post must consider himself as holding it by the favor of
his lordship;" whereof the consequences were easy to be seen.

There was a lively brush between the noble secretary and Franklin, when
the former first propounded this troublesome view. It was in January,
1771, that Franklin called upon his lordship--

     "to pay my respects ... and to acquaint him with my appointment by
     the House of Representatives of Massachusetts Bay to be their agent
     here." But his lordship interrupted:--

     "I must set you right there, Mr. Franklin; you are not agent.

     "Why, my lord?

     "You are not appointed.

     "I do not understand your lordship; I have the appointment in my

     "You are mistaken; I have later and better advices. I have a letter
     from Governor Hutchinson; he would not give his assent to the bill.

     "There was no bill, my lord; it was a vote of the House.

     "There was a bill presented to the governor for the purpose of
     appointing you and another, one Dr. Lee I think he is called, to
     which the governor refused his assent.

     "I cannot understand this, my lord; I think there must be some
     mistake in it. Is your lordship quite sure that you have such a

     "I will convince you of it directly; Mr. Pownall will come in and
     satisfy you."

So Mr. Pownall, invoked by the official bell, appeared upon the scene.
But he could not play his part; he was obliged to say that there was no
such letter. This was awkward; but Franklin was too civil or too prudent
to triumph in the discomfiture of the other. He simply offered the
"authentic copy of the vote of the House" appointing him, and asked if
his lordship would "please to look at it." His lordship took the paper
unwillingly, and then, without looking at it, said:--

     "An information of this kind is not properly brought to me as
     secretary of state. The board of trade is the proper place.

     "I will leave the paper then with Mr. Pownall to be--

     "(_Hastily._) To what end would you leave it with him?

     "To be entered on the minutes of the board, as usual.

     "(_Angrily._) It shall not be entered there. No such paper shall be
     entered there while I have anything to do with the business of that
     board. The House of Representatives has no right to appoint an
     agent. We shall take no notice of any agents but such as are
     appointed by acts of Assembly, to which the governor gives his
     assent. We have had confusion enough already. Here is one agent
     appointed by the Council, another by the House of
     Representatives.[27] Which of these is agent for the province? Who
     are we to hear in provincial affairs? An agent appointed by act of
     Assembly we can understand. No other will be attended to for the
     future, I can assure you.

     "I cannot conceive, my lord, why the consent of the governor should
     be thought necessary to the appointment of an agent for the people.
     It seems to me that--

     "(_With a mixed look of anger and contempt._) I shall not enter
     into a dispute with _you_, Sir, upon this subject.

     "I beg your lordship's pardon; I do not mean to dispute with your
     lordship. I would only say that it appears to me that every body of
     men who cannot appear in person, where business relating to them
     may be transacted, should have a right to appear by an agent. The
     concurrence of the governor does not seem to be necessary. It is
     the business of the people that is to be done; he is not one of
     them; he is himself an agent.

     "(_Hastily._) Whose agent is he?

     "The king's, my lord.

     "No such matter. He is one of the corporation by the province
     charter. No agent can be appointed but by an act, nor any act pass
     without his assent. Besides, this proceeding is directly contrary
     to express instructions.

     "I did not know there had been such instructions. I am not
     concerned in any offense against them, and--

[Note 27: The agent for the Council, Mr. Bollan, acted in entire
accord with Dr. Franklin; there was no inconsistency between the two
offices, which were altogether distinct, neither any clashing between
the incumbents, as might be inferred from Lord Hillsborough's

     "Yes, your offering such a paper to be entered is an offense
     against them. No such appointment shall be entered. When I came
     into the administration of American affairs I found them in great
     disorder. By _my firmness_ they are now something mended; and while
     I have the honor to hold the seals I shall continue the same
     conduct, the same _firmness_. I think my duty to the master I
     serve, and to the government of this nation, requires it of me. If
     that conduct is not approved, _they_ may take that office from me
     when they please: I shall make them a bow and thank them; I shall
     resign with pleasure. That gentleman [Mr. Pownall] knows it; but
     while I continue in it I shall resolutely persevere in the same

Speaking thus, his lordship seemed warm, and grew pale, as if "angry at
something or somebody besides the agent, and of more consequence to
himself." Franklin thereupon, taking back his credentials, said,
speaking with an innuendo aimed at that which had not been expressed,
but which lay plainly visible behind his lordship's pallor and

     "I beg your lordship's pardon for taking up so much of your
     lordship's time. It is, I believe, of no great importance whether
     the appointment is acknowledged or not, for I have not the least
     conception that an agent can, _at present_, be of any use to any of
     the colonies. I shall therefore give your lordship no further

Therewith he made his exit, and went home to write the foregoing sketch
of the scene. Certainly throughout so irritating an interview he had
conducted himself with creditable self-restraint and moderation, yet
with his closing sentence he had sent home a dart which rankled. He soon
heard that his lordship "took great offense" at these last words,
regarding them as "extremely rude and abusive," and as "equivalent to
telling him to his face that the colonies could expect neither favor nor
justice during his administration." "I find," adds Franklin, with placid
satisfaction in the skill with which he had shot his bolt, "I find he
did not mistake me."

So Franklin retained the gratification which lies in having administered
a stinging and appreciated retort; a somewhat empty and entirely
personal gratification, it must be admitted. Hillsborough kept the
substance of victory, inasmuch as he persisted in refusing to recognize
Franklin as the agent of the Massachusetts Bay. Yet in this he did not
annihilate, indeed very slightly curtailed, Franklin's usefulness. It
merely signified that Franklin ceased to be an official conduit for
petitions and like communications. His weight and influence, based upon
his knowledge and prestige, remained unimpugned. In a word, it was of
little consequence that the lord secretary would not acknowledge him as
the representative of one province, so long as all England practically
treated him as the representative of all America.

From this time forth, of course, there was warfare between the secretary
and the unacknowledged agent. Franklin began to entertain a "very mean
opinion" of Hillsborough's "abilities and fitness for his station. His
character is conceit, wrong-headedness, obstinacy, and passion. Those
who speak most favorably of him allow all this; they only add that he is
an honest man and means well. If that be true, as perhaps it may, I only
wish him a better place, where only honesty and well-meaning are
required, and where his other qualities can do no harm.... I hope,
however, that our affairs will not much longer be perplexed and
embarrassed by his perverse and senseless management." But for the
present Franklin was of opinion that it would be well "to leave this
omniscient, infallible minister to his own devices, and be no longer at
the expense of sending any agent, whom he can displace by a repeal of
the appointing act."

Hillsborough's theory was adopted by the board of trade, and Franklin
therefore remained practically stripped of the important agency for
Massachusetts. He anticipated that this course would soon put an end to
all the colonial agencies; but he said that the injury would be quite as
great to the English government as to the colonies, for the agents had
often saved the cabinet from introducing, through misinformation,
"mistaken measures," which it would afterward have found to be "very
inconvenient." He expressed his own opinion that when the colonies "came
to be considered in the light of _distinct states_, as I conceive they
really are, possibly their agents may be treated with more respect and
considered more as public ministers." But this was a day-dream; the
current was setting in quite the opposite direction.

In point of fact, Massachusetts seems to have taken no detriment from
this foolish and captious bit of chicanery. All the papers and arguments
which she had occasion to have presented always found their way to their
destination as well as they would have done if Franklin had been
acknowledged as the quasi public minister, which he conceived to be his
proper character.

Franklin perfectly appreciated that Hillsborough retained his position
by precarious tenure. He shrewdly suspected that if the war with Spain,
which then seemed imminent, were to break out, Hillsborough would at
once be removed. For in that case it would be the policy of the
government to conciliate the colonies, at any cost, for the time being.
This crisis passed by, fortunately for the secretary and unfortunately
for the provinces. Yet still the inefficient and ill-friended minister
remained very infirm in his seat. An excuse only was needed to displace
him, and by a singular and unexpected chance Franklin furnished that
excuse. It was the humble and discredited colonial agent who unwittingly
but not unwillingly gave the jar which toppled the great earl into
retirement. His fall when it came gave general satisfaction. His
unfitness for his position had become too obvious to be denied; he had
given offense in quarters where he should have made friends; he had
irritated the king and provoked the cabinet. Franklin, with his
observant sagacity, quickly divined that George III. was "tired" of
Hillsborough and "of his administration, which had weakened the
affection and respect of the colonies for a royal government;" and
accordingly he "used proper means from time to time that his majesty
should have due information and convincing proofs" of this effect of his
lordship's colonial policy.

It was, however, upon a comparatively trifling matter that Hillsborough
finally lost his place. It has been already mentioned that many years
before this time Franklin had urged the establishment of one or two
frontier, or "barrier," provinces in the interior. He had never
abandoned this scheme, and of late had been pushing it with some
prospect of success; for among other encouraging features he astutely
induced three privy councilors to become financially interested in the
project. The original purpose of the petitioners had been to ask for
only 2,500,000 acres of land; but Hillsborough bade them ask for "enough
to make a province." This advice was grossly disingenuous; for
Hillsborough himself afterward admitted that from the beginning he had
intended to defeat the application, and had put the memorialists "upon
asking so much with that very view, supposing it too much to be
granted." But they, not suspecting, fell into the trap and increased
their demand to 23,000,000 acres, certainly a sufficient quantity to
call for serious consideration. When the petition came before the board
of trade, Lord Hillsborough, who was president of the board, took upon
himself the task of rendering a report. To the surprise of the
petitioners, who had reason to suppose him well inclined, he replied
adversely. The region was so far away, he said, that it would not "lie
within the reach of the trade and commerce of this kingdom;" so far,
also, as not to admit of "the exercise of that authority and
jurisdiction ... necessary for the preservation of the colonies in due
subordination to and dependence upon the mother country." The territory
appeared, "upon the fullest evidence," to be "utterly inaccessible to
shipping," and therefore the inhabitants would "probably be led to
manufacture for themselves, ... a consequence ... to be carefully
guarded against." Also part belonged to the Indians, who ought not to be
disturbed, and settlements therein would of course lead to Indian wars
and to "fighting for every inch of the ground." Further, the occupation
of this tract "must draw and carry out a great number of people from
Great Britain," who would soon become "a kind of separate and
independent people, ... and set up for themselves," meeting their own
wants and taking no "supplies from the mother country nor from the
provinces" along the seaboard. At so great a distance from "the seat of
government, courts, magistrates, etc.," the territory would "become a
receptacle and kind of asylum for offenders," full of crime itself, and
encouraging crime elsewhere. This disorderly population would soon
"become formidable enough to oppose his majesty's authority, disturb
government, and even give law to the other or first-settled part of the
country, and thus throw everything into confusion." Such arguments were
as feeble as they were bodeful. The only point which his lordship really
scored was in reply to Franklin's theory of the protection against the
Indians which these colonies would afford to those on the seaboard.
Hillsborough well said that the new settlements themselves would stand
most in need of protection. It was only advancing, not eliminating, a
hostile frontier.

Evidently it required no very able reasoning, coming from the president
of the board, to persuade his subordinates; and this foolish report was
readily adopted. But Franklin was not so easily beaten; the privy
council furnished one more stage at which he could still make a fight.
He drew up a reply to Lord Hillsborough's paper and submitted it to that
body. It was a long and very carefully prepared document; it dealt in
facts historical and statistical, in which the report was utterly
deficient; it furnished evidence and illustration; in arguing upon
probabilities it went far toward demolishing the theories advanced by
the president of the board. The two briefs were laid before a tribunal
in which three men sat who certainly ought not to have been sitting in
this cause, since Franklin's interest was also their own; but probably
this did not more than counterbalance the prestige of official position
in the opposite scale. Certainly Franklin had followed his invariable
custom of furnishing his friends with ample material to justify them in
befriending him. In this respect he always gallantly stood by his own
side. The allies whom at any time he sought he always abundantly
supplied with plain facts and sound arguments, in which weapons he
always placed his chief trust. So at present, whatever was the motive
which induced privy councilors to open their ears to what Franklin had
to say, after they had heard him they could not easily decide against
him. Nor had those of them who were personally disinterested any great
inducement to do so, since, though some of them may have disliked him,
none of them had any great liking for his noble opponent. So they set
aside the report of the board of trade.[28]

[Note 28: A very interesting statement of these proceedings may be
found in Franklin's _Works_, x. 346.]

Upon this Lord Hillsborough fell into a hot rage, and sent in his
resignation. It was generally understood that he had no notion that it
would be accepted, or that he would be allowed to leave upon such a
grievance. He fancied that he was establishing a dilemma which would
impale Franklin. But he was in error; he himself was impaled. No one
expostulated with him; he was left to exercise "the Christian virtue of
resignation" without hindrance. Franklin said that the anticipation of
precisely this result, so far from being an obstacle in the way of his
own success, had been an additional incitement to the course taken by
the council.

So the earl, the enemy of America, went out; and the colonial agent had
shown him the door, with all England looking on. It was a mortification
which Hillsborough could never forgive, and upon four occasions, when
Franklin made the conventional call to pay his respects, he did not find
his lordship at home. At his fifth call he received from a lackey a very
plain intimation that there was no chance that he ever would find the
ex-secretary at home, and thereafter he desisted from the forms of
civility. "I have never since," he said, "been nigh him, and we have
only abused one another at a distance." Franklin had fully balanced one
account at least.

So far as the special matter in hand was concerned, the worsting of
Hillsborough, though a gratification, did not result in the bettering of
Franklin and his co-petitioners. April 6, 1773, he wrote: "The affair of
the grant goes on but slowly. I do not yet clearly see land. I begin to
be a little of the sailor's mind, when they were landing a cable out of
a store into a ship, and one of 'em said: ''T is a long heavy cable, I
wish we could see the end of it.' 'Damn me,' says another, 'if I believe
it has any end; somebody has cut it off.'" A cable twisted of British
red tape was indeed a coil without an end. In this case, before the
patent was granted, Franklin had become so unpopular, and the Revolution
so imminent, that the matter was dropped by a sort o£ universal consent.

[Illustration: Hillsborough]

Franklin rejoiced in this departure of Hillsborough as a good riddance
of a man whom he thought to be as "double and deceitful" as any one he
had ever met. It is possible that, as he had been instrumental in
creating the vacancy, he may also have assisted in some small degree in
disposing of the succession. One day he was complaining of Hillsborough
to a "friend at court," when the friend replied that Hillsborough was
wont to represent the Americans "as an unquiet people, not easily
satisfied with any ministry; that, however, it was thought too much
occasion had been given them to dislike the present;" and the question
was asked whether, in case of Hillsborough's removal, Franklin "could
name another likely to be more acceptable" to his countrymen. He at once
suggested Lord Dartmouth. This was the appointment which was now made,
in August, 1772, and the news of which gave much satisfaction to all the
"friends of America." For Dartmouth was of kindly disposition, and when
previously president of the board of trade had shown a liberal temper in
provincial affairs.

The relationship between Franklin and Lord Dartmouth opened
auspiciously. Franklin waited upon him at his first levee, at the close
of October, 1772, and was received "very obligingly." Further Franklin
was at once recognized as agent for Massachusetts, with no renewal of
the caviling as to the manner of his appointment, from which he
hopefully augured that "business was getting into a better train." A
month later he reported himself as being still "upon very good terms"
with the new minister, who, he had "reason to think, meant well by the
colonies." So Dartmouth did, undoubtedly, and if the best of intentions
and of feelings could have availed much at this stage of affairs,
Franklin and his lordship might have postponed the Revolution until the
next generation. But it was too late to counteract the divergent
movements of the two nations, and no better proof could be desired of
the degree to which this divergence had arrived than the fact itself
that the moderate Franklin and the well-disposed Dartmouth could not
come into accord. Each people had declared its political faith, its
fundamental theory; and the faith and theory of the one were fully and
fairly adverse to those of the other; and the instant that the talk went
deep enough, this irreconcilable difference was sure to be exposed.

During the winter of 1772-73, following Lord Dartmouth's appointment, a
lively dispute arose in Massachusetts between the Assembly and Governor
Hutchinson. It was the old question, whether the English Parliament had
control in matters of colonial taxation. The governor made speeches and
said Yea, while the Assembly passed resolutions and said Nay. The early
ships, arriving in England in the spring of 1773, brought news of this
dispute, which seemed to have been indeed a hot one. The English
ministry were not pleased; they wanted to keep their relationship with
the colonies tranquil for a while, because there was a renewal of the
danger of a war with Spain. Therefore they were vexed at the over-zeal
of Hutchinson; and Lord Dartmouth frankly said so. Franklin called one
day upon the secretary and found him much perplexed at the
"difficulties" into which the governor had brought the ministers by his
"imprudence." Parliament, his lordship said, could not "suffer such a
declaration of the colonial Assembly, asserting its independence, to
pass unnoticed." Franklin thought otherwise: "It is _words_ only," he
said; "acts of Parliament are still submitted to there;" and so long as
such was the case "Parliament would do well to turn a deaf ear....Force
could do no good." Force, it was replied, might not be thought of, but
rather an act to lay the colonies "under some inconveniences, till they
rescind that declaration." Could they by no possibility be persuaded to
withdraw it? Franklin was clearly of opinion that the resolve could only
be withdrawn after the withdrawal of the speech which it answered, "an
awkward operation, which perhaps the governor would hardly be directed
to perform." As for an act establishing "inconveniences," probably it
would only put the colonies, "as heretofore, on some method of
incommoding this country till the act is repealed; and so we shall go on
injuring and provoking each other instead of cultivating that good will
and harmony so necessary to the general welfare." Divisions, his
lordship admitted, "must weaken the whole; for we are yet _one empire_,
whatever may be the opinions of the Massachusetts Assembly." But how to
escape divisions was the conundrum. Could his lordship withhold from
Parliament the irritating documents, though in fact they were already
notorious, and "hazard the being called to account in some future
session of Parliament for keeping back the communication of dispatches
of such importance?" He appealed to Franklin for advice; but Franklin
would undertake to give none, save that, in his opinion, if the
dispatches should be laid before Parliament, it would be prudent to
order them to lie on the table. For, he said, "were I as much an
Englishman as I am an American, and ever so desirous of establishing the
authority of Parliament, I protest to your lordship I cannot conceive of
a single step the Parliament can take to increase it that will not tend
to diminish it, and after abundance of mischief they must finally lose
it." So whenever the crucial test was applied these two men found
themselves utterly at variance, and the hopelessness of a peaceful
conclusion would have been obvious, had not each shunned a prospect so

It must be confessed that, if Lord Dartmouth was so pathetically
desirous to undo an irrevocable past, Dr. Franklin was no less anxious
for the performance of a like miracle. Both the statesman and the
philosopher would have appreciated better the uselessness of their
efforts, had their feelings been less deeply engaged. Franklin's vain
wish at this time was to move the peoples of England and America back to
the days before the passage of the Stamp Act. "I have constantly given
it as my opinion," he wrote, early in 1771, "that, if the colonies were
restored to the state they were in before the Stamp Act, they would be
satisfied and contend no farther." Two and a half years later, following
the fable of the sibylline books, he expressed the more extreme opinion
that "the letter of the two houses of the 29th of June, proposing as a
satisfactory measure the restoring things to the state in which they
were at the conclusion of the late war, is a fair and generous offer on
our part, ... and more than Britain has a right to expect from us.... If
she has any wisdom left, she will embrace it, and agree with us

But the insuperable trouble was that, at the close of the last war and
before the passage of the Stamp Act, the controversy upon the question
of right had been unborn. Now, having come into being, this controversy
could not be laid at rest by a mere waiver; it was of that nature that
its resurrection would be sure and speedy. Anything else would have
been, of course, the practical victory of the colonies and defeat of
England; and the English could not admit that things had reached this
pass as yet. If England should not renounce her right, the colonies
would always remain uneasy beneath the unretracted assertion of it; if
she should never again seek to exercise it, she would be really
yielding. It was idle to talk of such a state of affairs; it could not
be brought about, even if it were conceivable that each side could be
induced to repeal all its acts and resolves touching the subject,--and
even this preliminary step was what no reasonable man could anticipate.
In a word, when Franklin longed for the restoration of the _status quo
ante_ the Stamp Act, he longed for a chimera. A question had been
raised, which was of that kind that it could not be compromised, or set
aside, or ignored, or forgotten; it must be _settled_ by the recession
or by the defeat of one contestant or the other. Nothing better than a
brief period of restless and suspicious truce could be gained by an
effort to restore the situation of a previous date, even were such
restoration possible, since the intervening period and the memory of its
undetermined dispute concerning a principle could not be annihilated.

Still Franklin persistently refused to despair, so long as peace was
still unbroken. Until blood had been shed, war _might_ be avoided. This
was no lack of foresight; occasionally an expression escaped him which
showed that he fully understood the drift of affairs and saw the final
outcome of the opposing doctrines. In 1769 he said that matters were
daily tending more and more "to a breach and final separation." In 1771
he thought that any one might "clearly see in the system of customs to
be exacted in America by act of Parliament, the seeds sown of a total
disunion of the countries, though as yet that event may be at a
considerable distance." By 1774 he said, in an article written for an
English newspaper, that certain "angry writers" on the English side were
using "their utmost efforts to persuade us that this war with the
colonies (for a war it will be) is a national cause, when in fact it is
a ministerial one." But he very rarely spoke thus. It was at once his
official duty as well as his strong personal wish to find some other
exit from the public embarrassments than by this direful conclusion.
Therefore, so long as war did not exist he refused to admit that it was
inevitable, and he spared no effort to prevent it, leaving to fervid
orators to declare the contrary and to welcome it; nor would he ever
allow himself to be discouraged by any measure of apparent hopelessness.

His great dread was that the colonies might go so fast and so far as to
make matters incurable before thinking people were ready to recognize
such a crisis as unavoidable. He seldom wrote home without some words
counseling moderation. He wanted to see "much patience and the utmost
discretion in our general conduct." It must not, however, be supposed
that such language was used to cover any lukewarmness, or irresolution,
or tendency towards halfway or temporizing measures. On the contrary, he
was wholly and consistently the opposite of all this. His moderation was
not at all akin to the moderation of Dickinson and such men, who were
always wanting to add another to the long procession of petitions and
protests. He only desired that the leading should be done by the wise
men, so as not to have a Braddock's defeat in so grave and perilous an
undertaking. He feared that a mob might make an irrevocable blunder, and
the mischievous rabble create a condition of affairs which the real
statesmen of the provinces could neither mend nor excuse. Certainly his
anxiety was not without cause. He warned his country people that there
was nothing which their enemies in England more wished than that, by
insurrections, they would give a good pretense for establishing a large
military force in the colonies. As between friends, he said, every
affront is not worth a duel, so "between the governed and governing
every mistake in government, every encroachment on right, is not worth a
rebellion." So he thought that an "immediate rupture" was not in
accordance with "general prudence," for by "a premature struggle," the
colonies might "be crippled and kept down another age." No one, however,
was more resolute than he that the mistakes and encroachments which had
occurred should not be repeated. An assurance against such repetition,
he tried to think, might be effected within a reasonably short time by
two peaceful influences. One of these was a cessation of all colonial
purchases of English commodities; the other was the rapid increase of
the visible strength and resources of the colonies. He was urgent and
frequent in reiterating his opinion of the great efficacy of the
non-purchasing agreements. It is a little odd to find him actually
declaring that, if the people would honestly persist in these
engagements, he "should almost wish" the obnoxious act "never to be
repealed;" for, besides industry and frugality, such a condition of
things would promote a variety of domestic manufactures. In a word, this
British oppression would bring about all those advantages for the infant
nation, which, through the medium of the protective tariff, have since
been purchased by Americans at a vast expense. Moreover, the money which
used to be sent to England in payment for superfluous luxuries would be
kept at home, to be there laid out in domestic improvements. Gold and
silver, the scarcity of which caused great inconvenience in the
colonies, would remain in the country. All these advantages would accrue
from a course which at the same time must give rise in England itself to
a pressure so extreme that Parliament could not long resist it. "The
trading part of the nation, with the manufacturers, are become sensible
how necessary it is for their welfare to be on good terms with us. The
petitioners of Middlesex and of London have numbered among their
grievances the _unconstitutional_ taxes on America; and similar
petitions are expected from all quarters. So that I think we need only
be quiet, and persevere in our schemes of frugality and industry, and
the rest will do itself." But it was obvious that, if the measures were
not now persisted in until they should have had their full effect, a
like policy could never again be resorted to; and Franklin gave it as
his belief that, "if we do persist another year, we shall never
afterwards have occasion to use" the remedy.

To him it seemed incredible that the people of America should not
loyally persist in a policy of non-importation of English goods. Not
only was the doing without these a benefit to domestic industries, but
buying them was a direct aid and maintenance to the oppressor. He said:
"If our people will, by consuming such commodities, purchase and pay for
their fetters, who that sees them so shackled will think they deserve
either redress or pity? Methinks that in drinking tea, a true American,
reflecting that by every cup he contributed to the salaries, pensions,
and rewards of the enemies and persecutors of his country, would be half
choked at the thought, and find no quantity of sugar sufficient to make
the nauseous draught go down."[29]

[Note 29: See also letter to Marshall, April 22, 1771, _Works_, x.

In this connection he was much "diverted" and gratified by the results
of the Stamp Act, and especially of the act laying the duty on tea. The
gross proceeds of the former statute, gathered in the West Indies and
Canada, since substantially nothing was got in the other provinces, was
£1500; while the expenditure had amounted to £12,000! The working of the
Customs Act had been far worse. According to his statement, the
unfortunate East India Company, in January, 1773, had at least
£2,000,000, some said £4,000,000, worth of goods which had accumulated
in their warehouses since the enactment, of which the chief part would,
in the natural condition of business, have been absorbed by the
colonies. The consequence was that the company's shares had fallen
enormously in price, that it was hard pressed to make its payments, that
its credit was so seriously impaired that the Bank of England would not
help it, and that its dividends had been reduced below the point at and
above which it was obliged to pay, and heretofore regularly had paid,
£400,000 annually to the government. Many investors were painfully
straitened, and not a few bankruptcies ensued. Besides the loss of this
annual stipend the treasury was further the sufferer by the great
expense which had been incurred in endeavoring to guard the American
coast against smugglers; with the added vexation that these costly
attempts had, after all, been fruitless. Fifteen hundred miles of shore
line, occupied by people unanimously hostile to the king's revenue
officers, presented a task much beyond the capabilities of the vessels
which England could send thither. So the Dutch, the Danes, the Swedes,
and the French soon established a thriving contraband trade; the
American housewives were hardly interrupted in dispensing the favorite
beverage; the English merchant's heavy loss became the foreign
smuggler's aggravating gain; and the costly sacrifice of the East India
Company fell short of effecting the punishment of the wicked Americans.
Franklin could not "help smiling at these blunders." Englishmen would
soon resent them, he said, would turn out the ministry that was
responsible for them, and put in a very different set of men, who would
undo the mischief. "If we continue firm and united, and resolutely
persist in the non-consumption agreement, this adverse ministry cannot
possibly stand another year. And surely the great body of our people,
the farmers and artificers, will not find it hard to keep an agreement
by which they both save and gain." Thus he continued to write so late as
February, 1775, believing to the last in the efficacy of this policy.



The famous episode of the Hutchinson letters, occurring near the close
of Franklin's stay in England, must be narrated with a brevity more in
accord with its real historical value than with its interest as a
dramatic story. In conversation one day with an English gentleman,
Franklin spoke with resentment of the sending troops to Boston and the
other severe measures of the government. The other in reply engaged to
convince him that these steps were taken upon the suggestion and advice
of Americans. A few days later he made good his promise by producing
certain letters, signed by Hutchinson, Oliver, and others, all natives
of and residents and office-holders in America. The addresses had been
cut from the letters; but in other respects they were unmutilated, and
they were the original documents. They contained just such matter as the
gentleman had described,--opinions and advice which would have commended
themselves highly to a royalist, but which could have seemed to a
patriot in the provinces only the most dangerous and abominable
treason. Induced by obvious motives, Franklin begged leave to send these
letters to Massachusetts, and finally obtained permission to do so,
subject to the stipulation that they should not be printed nor copied,
and should be circulated only among a few leading men. His purpose, he
said, lay in his belief that when the "principal people" in Boston "saw
the measures they complained of took their rise in a great degree from
the representations and recommendations of their own countrymen, their
resentment against Britain might abate, as mine has done, and a
reconciliation be more easily obtained."[30] Franklin accordingly sent
over the letters, together with strict injunctions in pursuance of his
engagement to the giver of them: "In confidence of your following
inviolably my engagement," etc., he wrote. But this solemn instruction
was not complied with; the temptation was too great for the honor of
some among the patriots, who resolved that the letters should be made
public despite any pledge to the contrary, and resorted to a shallow
artifice for achieving their end. A story was started that authenticated
copies of the same papers had been received from England by somebody.
There was a prudent abstention from any inquiry into the truth of this
statement. "I know," said Franklin, "that could not be. It was an
expedient to disengage the House." Dishonest as it obviously was, it was
successful; members accepted it as a removal of the seal of secrecy; and
the documents having thus found their way before the Assembly were
ordered to be printed. That body, greatly incensed, immediately voted a
petition to the king for the removal of the governor and
lieutenant-governor, and sent it over to Franklin to be presented.

[Note 30: The importance of establishing the fact that the
government's course was instigated by Hutchinson is liable at the
present day to be underrated. For his name has fallen into such extreme
disrepute in America that to have been guided by his advice seems only
an additional offense. But such was not the case; Hutchinson came of old
and prominent Massachusetts stock; he was a descendant of Anne
Hutchinson, of polemic fame, and when appointed to office he appeared a
man of good standing and ability. The English government had a perfect
right to rely upon the soundness of his statements and opinions. Thus it
was really of great moment for Franklin to be able to convince the
people of Massachusetts that the English measures were in strict
conformity with Hutchinson's suggestions. It was an excuse for the
English, as it also was the condemnation of Hutchinson, in colonial

The publication of these letters made no little stir. The writers were
furious, and of course brought vehement charges of bad faith and
dishonorable behavior. But they were at a loss to know upon whom to
visit their wrath. For the person to whom they had written the letters
was dead, and they knew no one else who had been concerned in the
matter. The secret of the channel of conveyance had been rigidly kept.
No one had the slightest idea by whom the letters had been transmitted
to Massachusetts, nor by whom they had been received there. To this day
it is not known by whom the letters were given to Franklin. July 25,
1773, he wrote to Mr. Cushing, the speaker of the Assembly, to whom he
had inclosed the letters: "I observe that you mention that no person
besides Dr. Cooper and one member of the committee knew they came from
me. I did not accompany them with any request of being myself concealed;
for, believing what I did to be in the way of my duty as agent, though I
had no doubt of its giving offense, not only to the parties exposed but
to administration here, I was regardless of the consequences. However,
since the letters themselves are now copied and printed, contrary to the
promise I made, I am glad my name has not been heard on the occasion;
and, as I do not see how it could be of any use to the public, I now
wish it may continue unknown; though I hardly expect it." Unfortunately
it soon became of such use to two individuals in England that Franklin
himself felt obliged to divulge it; otherwise it might have remained
forever a mystery.

Though the addresses had been cut from the letters, yet they had
previously been shown to many persons in England, and it soon became
known there that they had been written to Mr. William Whately, now dead,
but who, when the letters were written, was a member of Parliament and
private secretary to George Grenville, who was then in the cabinet. Amid
the active surmises as to the next link in the chain suspicion
naturally attached to Thomas Whately, brother and executor of the dead
man, and in possession of his papers. This gentleman denied that he had
ever, to his knowledge, had these letters in his hands. Suspicion next
attached to Mr. Temple, "our friend," as Franklin described him. He had
had access to the letters of William Whately for the purpose of getting
from among them certain letters written by himself and his brother; he
had lived in America, had been governor of New Hampshire, and later in
letters to his friends there had announced the coming of the letters
before they had actually arrived. The expression of suspicion towards
Temple found its way into a newspaper, bolstered with an intimation that
the information came from Thomas Whately. Temple at once made a demand
upon Whately to exculpate him. This of course Whately could not do,
since he had not inspected the letters taken by Temple, and so could not
say of his knowledge that these were not among them. But instead of
taking this perfectly safe ground, he published a card stating that
Temple had had access to the letters of the deceased for a special
purpose, and that Temple had solemnly averred to him, Whately, that he
had neither removed nor copied any letters save those written by himself
and his brother. This exoneration was far from satisfying Temple, who
conceived that it rather injured than improved his position. Accordingly
he challenged Whately and the two fought in Hyde Park ring. The story
of the duel, which was mingled of comedy and tragedy, is vividly told by
Mr. Parton. Whately was wounded twice, and at his request the fight then
ceased. Temple was accused, but unfairly, of having thrust at him when
he was down. But it was no conventional duel, or result of temporary hot
blood. The contestants were profoundly angry with each other, and were
bent on more serious results than curable wounds. It was understood that
so soon as Whately should be well, the fight would be renewed. Thus
matters stood when Franklin came up to London from a visit in the
country, to be astonished by the news of what had occurred, and annoyed
at the prospect of what was likely to occur. At once he inserted this


     _Sir_,--Finding that two gentlemen have been unfortunately engaged
     in a duel about a transaction and its circumstances of which both
     of them are totally ignorant and innocent, I think it incumbent
     upon me to declare (for the prevention of further mischief, as far
     as such a declaration may contribute to prevent it) that I alone am
     the person who obtained and transmitted to Boston the letters in
     question. Mr. Whately could not communicate them, because they were
     never in his possession; and for the same reason they could not be
     taken from him by Mr. Temple. They were not of the nature of
     _private_ letters between friends. They were written by public
     officers to persons in public stations on public affairs, and
     intended to procure public measures; they were therefore handed to
     other public persons, who might be influenced by them to produce
     those measures. Their tendency was to incense the mother country
     against her colonies, and, by the steps recommended, to widen the
     breach which they effected. The chief caution expressed with regard
     to privacy was, to keep their contents from the colony agents, who,
     the writers apprehended, might return them, or copies of them, to
     America. That apprehension was, it seems, well founded, for the
     first agent who laid his hands on them thought it his duty to
     transmit them to his constituents.


_Agent for the House of Representatives of
Massachusetts Bay_.

CRAVEN STREET, _December 25, 1773_.

The petition, forwarded by the House of Representatives of Massachusetts
Bay, after they had read the famous letters, recited that the
petitioners had "very lately had before them _certain papers_," and it
was upon the strength of the contents of these papers that they humbly
prayed that his majesty would be "pleased to remove from their posts in
this government" Governor Hutchinson and Lieutenant-Governor Oliver.
Immediately upon receipt of this petition Franklin transmitted it to
Lord Dartmouth, with a very civil and conciliatory note, to which Lord
Dartmouth replied in the same spirit. This took place in August, 1773;
the duel followed in December, and in the interval Franklin had heard
nothing from the petition. But when his foregoing letter was published
and conned over it seemed that the auspicious moment for the ministry
was now at hand, and that it had actually been furnished to them by the
astute Franklin himself. There is no question that he had acted
according to his conscience, and it seems now to be generally agreed
that his conscience did not mislead him. But he had been placed in a
difficult position, and it was easily possible to give a very bad
coloring to his conduct. There was in this business an opportunity to
bring into discredit the character of the representative man of America,
the man foremost of Americans in the eyes of the world, the man most
formidable to the ministerial party; such an opportunity was not to be

[Note 31: It must be confessed that the question whether Franklin
should have sent these letters to be seen by the leading men of
Massachusetts involves points of some delicacy. The very elaborateness
and vehemence of the exculpations put forth by American writers indicate
a lurking feeling that the opposite side is at least plausible. I add my
opinion decidedly upon Franklin's side, though I certainly see force in
the contrary view. Yet before one feels fully satisfied he would wish to
know from whom these letters came to Franklin's hands, the information
then given him concerning them, and the authority which the giver might
be supposed to have over them; in a word, all the attendant and
qualifying circumstances and conversation upon which presumptions might
have been properly founded by Franklin. Upon these essential matters
there is absolutely no evidence. Franklin was bound to secrecy
concerning them, at whatever cost to himself. But it is evident that
Franklin never for an instant entertained the slightest doubt of the
entire propriety of his action, and even in his own cause he was wont to
be a fair-minded judge. One gets a glimpse of the other side in the
_Diary and Letters of his Excellency Thomas Hutchinson_, _Esq._, etc.,
by Thomas Orlando Hutchinson, pp. 5, 82-93, 192, 356.]

Franklin had anticipated that the "king would have considered this
petition, as he had done the preceding one, in his cabinet, and have
given an answer without a hearing." But on the afternoon of Saturday,
January 8, 1774, he was surprised to receive notice of a hearing upon
the petition before the Lords of the Committee for Plantation Affairs,
at the Cockpit, on the Tuesday following, at noon. Late in the afternoon
of Monday he got notice that Mr. Mauduit, agent for Hutchinson and
Oliver, would be represented at the hearing on the following morning by
counsel. A less sagacious man than Franklin would have scented trouble
in the air. He tried to find Arthur Lee; but Lee was in Bath. He then
sought advice from Mr. Bollan, a barrister, agent for the Council of
Massachusetts Bay, and who also had been summoned. There was no time to
instruct counsel, and Mr. Bollan advised to employ none; he had found
"lawyers of little service in colony cases." "Those who are eminent and
hope to rise in their profession are unwilling to offend the court,
whose disposition on this occasion was well known." The next day at the
hearing Mr. Bollan endeavored to speak; but, though he had been
summoned, he was summarily silenced, on the ground that the colonial
Council, whose agent he was, was not a party to the petition. Franklin
then laid the petition and authenticated copies of the letters before
the committee. Some objections to the receipt of copies instead of
originals were raised by Mr. Wedderburn, solicitor-general and counsel
for Hutchinson and Oliver. Franklin then spoke with admirable keenness
and skill. He said that he had not conceived the matter to call for
discussion by lawyers; but that it was a "question of civil or political
prudence, whether, on the state of the fact that the governors had lost
all trust and confidence with the people, and become universally
obnoxious, it would be for the interest of his majesty's service to
continue them in those stations in that province." Of this he conceived
their lordships to be "perfect judges," not requiring "assistance from
the arguments of counsel." Yet if counsel was to be heard he asked an
adjournment to enable him to engage and instruct lawyers. Time was
accordingly granted, until January 29. Wedderburn waived his objection
to the copies, but both he and Lord Chief Justice De Grey intimated that
inquiry would be made as to "how the Assembly came into possession of
them, through whose hands and by what means they were procured, ... and
to whom they were directed." This was all irrelevant to the real issue,
which had been sharply defined by Franklin. The lord president, near
whom Franklin stood, asked him whether he intended to answer such
questions. "In that I shall take counsel," replied Franklin.

The interval which elapsed before the day nominated could not have been
very lightsome for the unfortunate agent for the Massachusetts Bay. Not
only had he the task of selecting and instructing competent counsel, but
even his self-possessed and composed nature must have been severely
harassed by the rumors of which the air was full. He heard from all
quarters that the ministry and courtiers were highly enraged against
him; he was called an incendiary, and the newspapers teemed with
invectives against him. He heard that he was to be apprehended and sent
to Newgate, and that his papers were to be seized; that after he had
been sufficiently blackened by the hearing he would be deprived of his
place; with disheartening news also that the disposition of the petition
had already been determined.[32] At the same time a subpoena was
served upon him at the private suit of Whately, who was under personal
obligations to him, but was also a banker to the government. Certainly
the heavens threatened a cloudburst with appalling thunder and dangerous

[Note 32: Franklin's _Works_, v. 297, 298.]

Upon reflection Franklin was disposed to do without counsel, but Mr.
Bollan now became strongly of the contrary opinion. So Mr. Dunning and
Mr. John Lee were retained. The former had been solicitor-general, and
was a man of mark and ability in the profession. When the hearing came
on, the Cockpit presented such a spectacle that Franklin felt assured
that the whole affair had been "preconcerted." The hostile courtiers
had been "invited, as to an entertainment, and there never was such an
appearance of privy councilors on any occasion, not less than
thirty-five, besides an immense crowd of other auditors." Every one save
the privy councilors had to stand from beginning to end of the
proceedings. Franklin occupied a position beside the fireplace, where he
stood throughout immovable as a statue, his features carefully composed
so that not one trace of emotion was apparent upon them, showing a
degree of self-control which was extraordinary even in one who was at
once a man of the world and a philosopher, with sixty-eight years of
experience in life. Mr. Dunning, with his voice unfortunately weakened
by a cold, was not always audible and made little impression. Mr. Lee
was uselessly feeble. Wedderburn, thus inefficiently opposed, and
conscious of the full sympathy of the tribunal, poured forth a vile
flood of personal invective. Throughout his life he approved himself a
mean-spirited and ignoble man, despised by those who used and rewarded
his able and debased services. On this occasion he eagerly took
advantage of the protection afforded by his position and by Dr.
Franklin's age to use language which, under such circumstances, was as
cowardly as it was false. Nothing, he said, "will acquit Dr. Franklin of
the charge of obtaining [the letters] by fraudulent or corrupt means,
for the most malignant of purposes, unless he stole them from the
person who stole them." "I hope, my lords, you will mark and brand the
man, for the honor of this country, of Europe, and of mankind." "He has
forfeited all the respect of societies and of men. Into what companies
will he hereafter go with an unembarrassed face or the honest
intrepidity of virtue? Men will watch him with a jealous eye; they will
hide their papers from him, and lock up their escritoires. He will
henceforth esteem it a libel to be called _a man of letters_, _homo_
TRIUM[33] _literarum_." "But he not only took away the letters
from one brother, but kept himself concealed till he nearly occasioned the
murder of the other. It is impossible to read his account, expressive of the
coolest and most deliberate malice, without horror. Amidst these
tragical events,--of one person nearly murdered, of another answerable
for the issue, of a worthy governor hurt in his dearest interests, the
fate of America in suspense,--here is a man who, with the utmost
insensibility of remorse, stands up and avows himself the author of all.
I can compare it only to Zanga, in Dr. Young's 'Revenge.'

[Note 33: A play upon the Latin word, FUR, a thief.]

    'Know then 't was--I;
    I forged the letter, I disposed the picture;
    I hated, I despised, and I destroy.'

I ask, my lords, whether the revengeful temper attributed, by poetic
fiction only, to the bloody African, is not surpassed by the coolness
and apathy of the wily American."

Such was the torrent of vilification which flowed from the lips of one
of the meanest of England's lawyers, and the speaker was constantly
encouraged by applause, and by various indications of gratification on
the part of the tribunal before which he argued. Dr. Priestley, who was
present, said that from the opening of the proceedings it was evident
"that the real object of the court was to insult Dr. Franklin," an
object in which their lordships were, of course, able to achieve a
complete success. "No person belonging to the council behaved with
decent gravity, except Lord North," who came late and remained standing
behind a chair. It was a disgraceful scene, but not of long duration;
apparently there was little else done save to hear the speeches of
counsel. The report of the lords was dated on the same day, and was a
severe censure upon the petition and the petitioners. More than this,
their lordships went out of their way to inflict a wanton outrage upon
Franklin. The question of who gave the letters to him was one which all
concerned were extremely anxious to hear answered. But it was also a
question which he could not lawfully be compelled to answer in these
proceedings; it was wholly irrelevant; moreover it was involved in the
cause then pending before the lord chancellor in which Franklin was
respondent. Accordingly, by advice of counsel, advice unquestionably
correct, he refused to divulge what their lordships were so curious to
hear. Enraged, they said in their report that his "silence" was abundant
support for the conclusion that the "charge of surreptitiously obtaining
the letters was a true one," although they knew that in law and in fact
his silence was wholly justifiable.

Resolutely as Franklin sought at the time to repress any expression of
his natural indignation, there is evidence enough of how deeply he felt
this indignity. For example, there is the familiar story of his dress.
He wore, at the Cockpit, "a full dress suit of spotted Manchester
velvet." Many years afterward, when it befell him, as one of the
ambassadors of his country, to sign the treaty of alliance with France,
the first treaty ever made by the United States of America, and which
practically insured the defeat of Great Britain in the pending war, it
was observed by Dr. Bancroft that he was attired in this same suit. The
signing was to have taken place on February 5, but was unexpectedly
postponed to the next day, when again Franklin appeared in the same old
suit and set his hand to the treaty. Dr. Bancroft says: "I once
intimated to Dr. Franklin the suspicion which his wearing these clothes
on that occasion had excited in my mind, when he smiled, without telling
me whether it was well or ill founded." Having done this service, the
suit was again laid away until it was brought forth to be worn at Paris
at the signing of the treaty of peace with England, a circumstance the
more noteworthy since at that time the French court was in mourning.[34]

It appears that Franklin for a time entertained a purpose of drawing up
an "answer to the abuses" cast at him upon this occasion. There was,
however, no need for doing so, and his reason for not doing it is more
eloquent on his behalf with posterity than any pamphlet could be. He
said: "It was partly written, but the affairs of public importance I
have been ever since engaged in prevented my finishing it. The injuries
too that my country has suffered have absorbed private resentments, and
made it appear trifling for an individual to trouble the world with his
particular justification, when all his compatriots were stigmatized by
the king and Parliament as being in every respect the worst of mankind."

The proceedings at the Cockpit took place on a Saturday. On the
following Monday morning Franklin got a "written notice from the
secretary of the general post-office, that his majesty's
postmaster-general _found it necessary_ to dismiss me from my office of
deputy postmaster-general in North America." In other ways, too, the
mischief done him by this public assault could not be concealed. It
published to all the world the feeling of the court and the ministry
toward him, and told Englishmen that it was no longer worth while to
keep up appearances of courtesy and good will.

[Note 34: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, ii. 508.]

It put upon him a judicial stigma, which was ample excuse for the
enemies of America henceforth to treat him as both dishonored and
dishonorable. Hitherto his tact and his high character had preserved him
in a great measure from the social annoyances and curtailments which he
would naturally have suffered as the prominent representative of an
unpopular cause. But it seemed now as if his judgment had once and
fatally played him false, and certainly his good name and his prestige
were given over to his enemies, who dealt cruelly with them. He felt
that it was the end of his usefulness, also that his own self-respect
and dignity must be carefully preserved; and he wrote to the Assembly of
Massachusetts to say that it would be impossible for him longer to act
as its agent. From that time he never attended the levee of a minister.
The portcullis had dropped; the days of his service in England were

The conclusion had come painfully, yet it was not without satisfaction
that he saw himself free to return home. His affairs had suffered in his
absence, and needed his attention now more than ever, since he was
deprived of his income from the post-office. Moreover his efforts could
no longer be cheered with hopes of success or even of achieving any
substantial advantage for his countrymen. He was obliged to admit that
the good disposition of Lord Dartmouth had had no practical results. "No
single measure of his predecessor has since been even attempted to be
changed, and, on the contrary, new ones have been continually added,
further to exasperate these people, render them desperate, and drive
them, if possible, into open rebellion." It had been a vexatious
circumstance, too, that not long before this time he had received a
rebuke from the Massachusetts Assembly for having been lax, as they
fancied, in notifying them of some legislation of an injurious
character, which was in preparation. "This censure," he said, "though
grievous, does not so much surprise me, as I apprehended all along from
the beginning that between the friends of an old agent, my predecessor,
who thought himself hardly used in his dismission, and those of a young
man impatient for the succession, my situation was not likely to be a
very comfortable one, as my faults could scarce pass unobserved." This
reference to the malicious and untrustworthy back-biter, Arthur Lee,
might have been much more severe, and still amply deserved. The most
important acts of his ignoble life, by which alone his memory is
preserved, were the slanders which he set in circulation concerning
Franklin. Yet Franklin, little suspicious and very magnanimous, praised
him as a "gentleman of parts and ability," likely to serve the province
with zeal and activity. Probably from this impure Lee fount, but
possibly from some other source, there now came a renewal of the rumors
that Franklin was to be gained over to the ministerial side by
promotion to some office superior to that which he had held. The
injurious story was told in Boston, where perhaps a few persons believed
it to be true of a man who in fact could hardly have set upon his fealty
a price so high that the British government would not gladly have paid
it, and who heretofore had been, and at this very time again was,
tempted by repeated solicitations and the intimations of grand rewards,
only to change his mind--a matter so very easy in politics.

Furthermore, beyond these assaults upon his fidelity, these insults of
the privy council, Franklin had to contemplate the possibility of
personal danger. He was a man of abundant courage, but courage does not
make a prison or a gallows an agreeable object in one's horizon. The
newspapers alleged that in his correspondence "treason" had been
discovered. The ministry, as he was directly informed, thought no better
of him than did the editors, regarding him as "the great fomenter of the
opposition in America," the "great adversary to any accommodation." "It
is given out," he wrote, "that copies of several letters of mine to you
are sent over here to the ministers, and that their contents are
treasonable, for which I should be prosecuted if copies could be made
evidence." He was not conscious of any treasonable intention, but
treason was a word to make a man anxious in those days, when uttered by
the ministry and echoed by the court. Franklin was quite aware that,
though ministers might offer him a tempting place by way of bribe, they
would far rather give him "a place in a cart to Tyburn." His friends
warned him that his situation was hazardous; that, "if by some accident
the troops and the people of New England should come to blows," he would
doubtless be seized; and they advised him to withdraw while yet he could
do so. Hutchinson frankly avowed that, if his advice were taken, the
withdrawal would not be permitted. "But," said Franklin, "I venture to
stay," upon the chance of still being of use, "and I confide on my
innocence that the worst which can happen to me will be an imprisonment
upon suspicion; though that is a thing I should much desire to avoid, as
it may be expensive and vexatious, as well as dangerous to my health."
So spoke this imperturbable man, and calmly stayed at his post.

He was still consulted by both sides in England. In the August following
the scene in the privy council chamber, he called upon Lord Chatham and
had a long and interesting interview. He then said that he attributed
the late "wrong politics" to the departure from the old and true British
principle, "whereby every province was well governed, being trusted in a
great measure with the government of itself." When it was sought to take
this privilege from the colonies, grave blunders had inevitably ensued;
because, as he admirably expressed it, Parliament insisted upon being
_omnipotent_ when it was not _omniscient_. In other words, the affairs
of the unrepresented colonies were mismanaged through sheer ignorance.
It is noteworthy that England has since recognized the necessity of
precisely the principle indicated by Franklin for colonial government;
all her great colonies are now "trusted in a great measure with the
government" of themselves, and are consequently "well governed."
Franklin further assured his lordship that in all his travels in the
provinces he had never once heard independence hinted at as a desirable
thing. This gave Chatham much pleasure; but perhaps neither of them at
the moment reflected how many eventful years had elapsed since Franklin
was last journeying in America. He further declared that the colonists
were "even not against regulations of the general commerce by
Parliament, provided such regulations were _bona fide_ for the benefit
of the _whole empire_, not to the small advantage of one part to the
great injury of another." This, by the way, was a good point, which he
found very serviceable when people talked to him about the unity of the
empire. A genuine unity was just the gospel which he liked to preach.
"An equal dispensation," he said, "of protection, rights, privileges,
and advantages is what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy, it
being a matter of no moment to the state whether a subject grows rich
and flourishing on the Thames or the Ohio, in Edinburgh or Dublin." But
no living Englishman could accept this broad and liberal doctrine. The
notion that the colonies were a dependency and should be tributary to
the greater power was universal. It was admitted that they should not be
oppressed; but it was believed that between oppression and that perfect
unity which involved entire equality there was certainly a middle ground
whereon the colonies might properly be established.

Lord Chatham expressed in courteous compliments the gratification which
this visit afforded him. Not long afterward he came gallantly to the
defense of Franklin in the House of Lords. It was one day in February,
1775; Franklin was standing in full view, leaning on a rail; Lord
Sandwich was speaking against a measure of conciliation or agreement
just introduced by Chatham. He said that it deserved "only contempt,"
and "ought to be immediately rejected. I can never believe it to be the
production of any British peer. It appears to me rather the work of some
American. I fancy I have in my eye the person who drew it up, one of the
bitterest and most mischievous enemies this country has ever known."
Speaking thus, he looked full at Franklin, and drew upon him the general
attention. But Chatham hastened to defend the defenseless one. "The plan
is entirely my own," he said; "but if I were the first minister, and had
the care of settling this momentous business, I should not be ashamed of
calling to my assistance a person so perfectly acquainted with the
whole of American affairs, one whom all Europe ranks with our Boyles
and Newtons, as an honor not to the English nation only but to human
nature." This was spirited and friendly; Franklin had a way of making
warm and loyal friends. Most men would have rejoiced to be so abused by
Sandwich in order to be so complimented by Chatham.[35]

[Note 35: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ v. 220.]

Yet, in spite of the high esteem in which so many Englishmen still held
Franklin, an incident occurred at this time which showed very plainly
that the term of his full usefulness was indeed over, though not
altogether for the reasons which had led him to think so. The fact was
that the proverbial last feather which breaks the back had been laid
upon him. His endurance had been over-taxed, and he was at last in that
temper and frame of mind in which the wisest men are liable to make
grave mistakes. He was one day present at a debate in the House of
Commons, and found himself, as he says, "much disgusted, from the
ministerial side, by many base reflections on American courage,
religion, understanding, etc., in which we were treated with the utmost
contempt, as the lowest of mankind, and almost of a different species
from the English of Britain; but particularly the American honesty was
abused by some of the lords, who asserted that we were all knaves, etc."
Franklin went home "somewhat irritated and heated," and before he had
cooled he wrote a paper which he hastened to show to his friend Mr.
Thomas Walpole, a member of the House of Commons. Mr. Walpole "looked at
it and at me several times alternately, as if he apprehended me a little
out of my senses." Nor would Mr. Walpole have been altogether without
reason, if in fact he entertained such a suspicion. The paper was the
memorial of Benjamin Franklin to the Earl of Dartmouth, secretary of
state. In its first clause it demanded "reparation" for the injury done
by the blockade of the port of Boston. Conventional forms of speech were
observed, yet there was an atmosphere almost of injurious insolence,
entirely foreign to all other productions of Franklin's brain and pen.
Its second paragraph recited that the conquests made in the northeast
from France, which included all those extensive fisheries which still
survive as a bone of contention between the two countries, had been
_jointly_ won by England and the American colonies, at their common
cost, and by an army in which the provincial troops were nearly equal in
numbers to the British. "It follows," the audacious memorialist said,
"that the colonies have an equitable and just right to participate in
the advantage of those fisheries," and the present English attempt to
deprive the Massachusetts people of sharing in them was "an act highly
unjust and injurious." He concluded: "I give notice that satisfaction
will probably one day be demanded for all the injury that may be done
and suffered in the execution of such act; and that the injustice of
the proceeding is likely to give such umbrage to _all the colonies_ that
in no future war, wherein other conquests may be meditated, either a man
or a shilling will be obtained from any of them to aid such conquests,
till full satisfaction be made as aforesaid."

Here was indeed a fulmination to strike an Englishman breathless and
dumb with amazement. It put the colonies in the position of a coequal or
allied power, entitled to share with Britain the spoils of victory; even
in the position of an independent power which could refuse the military
allegiance of subjects. English judges would have found abundant treason
in this insubordinate document. It may soothe common men to see the
wise, the serene, the self-contained Dr. Franklin, the philosopher and
diplomatist, for once lose his head in a gust of uncontrollable passion.
Walpole, though a loyal Englishman, was fortunately his true friend, and
wrote him, with a brevity more impressive than argument, that the
memorial "might be attended with dangerous consequences to your person
and contribute to exasperate the nation." He closed with the significant
sentence: "I heartily wish you a prosperous voyage and long health." The
significant words remind one of the woodcock's feather with which
Wildrake warned the disguised monarch that no time was to be lost in
fleeing from Woodstock. But if the hint was curt, it was no less wise.
There was no doubt that it was full time for the sage to be exchanging
his farewells, when such a point had been reached. The next day, as
Franklin relates, Walpole called and said that "it was thought my having
no instructions directing me to deliver such a protest would make it
appear still more unjustifiable, and be deemed a national affront. I had
no desire to make matters worse, and, being grown cooler, took the
advice so kindly given me."

The last business which Franklin had to transact on the eve of his
departure came in the shape of one of those mysterious and obscure bits
of negotiation which are at times undertaken by private persons who are
very "near" to ministers, and who conduct their affairs with impressive
secrecy. Just how much this approach amounted to it is difficult to say;
no less a person than Lord Howe was concerned in it, and he was
undoubtedly in direct communication with Lord North. But whether that
potentate really anticipated any substantial good result may be doubted.
Franklin himself has told the story with much particularity, and since
it will neither bear curtailment nor admit of being related at length,
and since the whole palaver accomplished absolutely nothing, the
relation will be omitted here. In the course of it the efforts to bribe
Franklin were renewed, and briefly rejected by him. Also he met, and
established a very friendly personal relation with, Lord Howe, who
afterward commanded the British fleet in American waters.

Having discovered the emptiness of this business, Franklin at last
completed his arrangements for his return home. He placed his agencies
in the hands of Arthur Lee. His last day in London he passed with his
stanch old friend. Dr. Priestley, and a large part of the time, says the
doctor, "he was looking over a number of American newspapers, directing
me what to extract from them for the English ones; and in reading them
he was frequently not able to proceed for the tears literally running
down his cheeks." Such was the depth of feeling in one often accounted
callous, indifferent, or even untrustworthy in the matter of American
relations with England. He felt some anxiety as to whether his departure
might not be prevented by an arrest, and made his journey to Portsmouth
with such speed and precautions as were possible.[36] But he was not
interrupted, and sailed on some day near the middle of March, 1775. His
departure marked an era in the relations of Great Britain with her
American colonies. It signified that all hope of agreement, all
possibility of reconciliation upon one side or of recession upon the
other, were absolutely over. That Franklin gave up in despair the task
of preventing a war meant that war was certain and imminent. He arrived
in Philadelphia May 5, 1775. During his absence his wife had died, and
his daughter had married a young man, Richard Bache, whom he had never
yet seen.

[Note 36: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, ii. 70.]



From the solitude of the ocean to the seething turmoil which Franklin
found in the colonies must have been a startling transition. He had come
home an old man, lacking but little of the allotted threescore years and
ten. He had earned and desired repose, but never before had he
encountered such exacting, important, and unremitting labor as
immediately fell to his lot. Lexington and Concord fights had taken
place a fortnight before he landed, and the news preceded him in
Philadelphia by a few days only. Many feelings may be discerned in the
brief note which he wrote on May 16 to Dr. Priestley:--

     "DEAR FRIEND,--You will have heard, before this reaches you, of a
     march stolen by the regulars into the country by night, and of
     their _expedition_ back again. They retreated twenty miles in six
     hours. The governor had called the Assembly to propose Lord North's
     pacific plan, but before the time of their meeting began the
     cutting of throats. You know it was said he carried the sword in
     one hand and the olive branch in the other, and it seems he chose
     to give them a taste of the sword first."

To another correspondent he said that "the feeble Americans, who pelted
them all the way, could scarcely keep up with" the rapidly retreating
redcoats. But the occurrence of bloodshed had an immense meaning for
Franklin; it opened to his vision all the future: an irreconcilable
struggle, and finally independence, with a bitter animosity long
surviving. He could not address all those who had once been near and
dear to him in England as he did the good Dr. Priestley. The letter to
Strahan of July 5, 1775, is famous:--

     "MR STRAHAN,--You are a member of Parliament, and one of that
     majority which has doomed my country to destruction. You have begun
     to burn our towns and murder our people. Look upon your hands; they
     are stained with the blood of your relations! You and I were long
     friends; you are now my enemy, and I am,

"Yours,    B. FRANKLIN."

But strained as his relations with Strahan were for a while, it is
agreeable to know that the estrangement between such old and close
friends was not everlasting.

To write at length concerning Franklin's services during his brief stay
at home would involve giving a history of the whole affairs of the
colonies at this time. But space presses, and this ground is familiar
and has been traversed in other volumes in this series. It seems
sufficient, therefore, rather to enumerate than to narrate his various
engagements, and thus to reserve more room for less well-known matters.

On the very day after his return, when he had scarce caught the breath
of land, he was unanimously elected by the Assembly a delegate to the
Provincial Congress. It was an emergency when the utmost must be made of
time, brains, and men. By subsequent reëlections he continued to sit in
that body until his departure for France. There was business enough
before it: the organization of a government, of the army, of the
finances; most difficult of all, the arrangement of a national policy,
and the harmonizing of conflicting opinions among men of influence at
home. In all that came before the Congress Franklin was obliged to take
his full share. He seems to have been upon all the busy and important
committees. There were more ardent spirits, greater propelling forces,
than he was; but his wisdom was transcendent. Dickinson and his
followers were bent upon sending one more petition to the king, a scheme
which was ridiculed almost with anger by the more advanced and resolute
party. But Franklin's counsel was to give way to their wishes, as being
the best policy for bringing them later into full accord with the party
which was for war. He had no hopes of any other good result from the
proceeding; but it also chimed with his desire to put the English as
much as possible in the wrong. In the like direction was a clause in his
draft of a declaration, intended to be issued by Washington in the
summer of 1775. To counteract the charge that the colonies refused to
contribute to the cost of their own protection, he proposed that, if
Great Britain would abolish her monopoly of the colonial trade, allowing
free commerce between the colonies and all the rest of the world, they
would pay into the English sinking fund £100,000 annually for one
hundred years; which would be more than sufficient, if "faithfully and
inviolably applied for that purpose, ... to extinguish all her present
national debt."

At the close of this document he administered a telling fillip in his
humorous style to that numerous class who seek to control practical
affairs by sentiment, and who now would have had their prattle about the
"mother country" outweigh the whole accumulation of her very unmaternal
oppression and injustice. Concerning the allegation of an unfilial
ingratitude, he said: "There is much more reason for retorting that
charge on Britain, who not only never contributes any aid, nor affords,
by an exclusive commerce, any advantages to Saxony, _her_ mother
country; but, no longer since than the last war, without the least
provocation, subsidized the king of Prussia while he ravaged that
_mother country_, and carried fire and sword into its capital.... An
example we hope no provocation will induce us to imitate." Had this
declaration ever been used, which it was not, the dignity of the grave
general who commanded the American forces would have compelled him to
cut off this closing snapper from the lash, amusing as it was. The
witty notion had found a more appropriate place in the newspaper article
which had dumfounded the guests at the English country house. Commenting
upon this, Mr. Parton well says: "Here perhaps we have one of the
reasons why Dr. Franklin, who was universally confessed to be the ablest
pen in America, was not always asked to write the great documents of the
Revolution. He would have put a joke into the Declaration of
Independence, if it had fallen to him to write it.... His jokes, the
circulating medium of Congress, were as helpful to the cause as Jay's
conscience or Adams's fire; ... but they were out of place in formal,
exact, and authoritative papers."[37]

[Note 37: _Life of Franklin_, ii, 85.]

A document which cost Dr. Franklin much more labor than this declaration
was a plan for a union of the colonies, which he brought forward July
21, 1775. It was the "first sketch of a plan of confederation which is
known to have been presented to Congress." No final action was ever
taken upon it. It contained a provision that Ireland, the West India
Islands, the Canadian possessions, and Florida might, upon application,
be received into the confederation.

Franklin's duties in Congress were ample to consume his time and
strength; but they were far from being all that he had to do. Almost
immediately after his return he was made chairman of a committee for
organizing the postal service of the country. In execution of this duty
he established in substance that system which has ever since prevailed;
and he was then at once appointed postmaster-general, with a salary of
£1000 per annum. When franking letters he amused himself by changing the
formula, "Free: B. Franklin" into "B. Free, Franklin."

He was next made chairman of the provincial committee of safety, a body
which began its sittings at the comfortable, old-fashioned hour of six
o'clock in the morning. Its duty was to call out and organize all the
military resources of Pennsylvania, and generally to provide for the
defenses of the province. It worked with much efficiency in its novel
and difficult department. Among other things, Franklin devised and
constructed some ingenious "marine _chevaux de frise_" for closing the
river approaches to Philadelphia.

In October, 1775, he was elected a member of the Assembly of the
Province. But this did not add to his labors; for the oath of allegiance
had not yet been dispensed with; he would not take it, and resigned his

In September, 1775, Franklin, Lynch of South Carolina, and Harrison of
Virginia, as a committee of Congress, were dispatched to Cambridge,
Massachusetts, to confer with Washington concerning military affairs.
They rode from Philadelphia to the leaguer around Boston in thirteen
days. Their business was achieved with no great difficulty; but they
lingered a few days more in that interesting camp, and were absent six
weeks. General Greene has recorded how he gazed upon Franklin, "that
very great man, with silent admiration;" and Abigail Adams tells with
what interest she met him whom "from infancy she had been taught to
venerate," and how she read in his grave countenance "patriotism in its
full lustre" and with it "blended every virtue of a Christian." The
phrase was not well chosen to fall from the pen of Mrs. Adams, yet was
literally true; Franklin had the virtues, though dissevered from the
tenets which that worthy Puritan dame conceived essential to the make-up
of a genuine Christian. The time came when her husband would not have
let her speak thus in praise of Benjamin Franklin.

In the spring of 1776 Congress was inconsiderate enough to impose upon
Franklin a journey to Montreal, there to confer with General Arnold
concerning affairs in Canada. It was a severe, even a cruel task to put
upon a man of his age; but with his usual tranquil courage he accepted
the mission. He met the ice in the rivers, and suffered much from
fatigue and exposure; indeed, the carelessness of Congress was near
depriving the country of a life which could not have been spared. On
April 15 he wrote from Saratoga: "I begin to apprehend that I have
undertaken a fatigue that at my time of life may prove too much for me;
so I sit down to write to a few friends by way of farewell;" and still
the real wilderness with all its hardships lay before him. After he had
traversed it he had the poor reward of finding himself on a bootless
errand. The Canadian enterprise had no possible future save failure and
retreat. There was absolutely nothing which he could do in Canada; he
was being wasted there, and resolved to get away as soon as he could.
Accordingly he made his painful way homeward; but worn out as he was, he
was given scant opportunity to recuperate from this perilous and
mistaken journey. The times called upon every patriot to spend all he
had of vigor, intellect, money, life itself, for the common cause, and
Franklin was no niggard in the stress.

In the spring of 1776 the convention charged to prepare a constitution
for the independent State of Pennsylvania was elected. Franklin was a
member, and when the convention came together he was chosen to preside
over its deliberations. It sat from July 16 to September 28. The
constitution which it presented to the people established a legislature
of only one house, a feature which Franklin approved and defended. At
the close of the deliberations thanks were unanimously voted to him for
his services as presiding officer, and for his "able and disinterested

Yet in spite of abundant acts, like this, of real independence taking
place upon all sides, profession of it inspired alarm in a large
proportion of the people. Congress even declared formally that
independence was not aimed at. Sam Adams, disgusted, talked of forming a
New England confederacy, and Franklin approved the scheme and said that
in such an event he would cast in his lot with the New Englanders. But
the stream ran on in spite of some snags in the current. It was not much
later that Franklin found himself one of the committee of five elected
by ballot to frame a declaration of independence. Had he been called
upon to write the document he would certainly have given something more
terse and simple than that rotund and magniloquent instrument which
Jefferson bequeathed to the unbounded admiration of American posterity.
As it was, Franklin's recorded connection with the preparation of that
famous paper is confined to the amusing tale about John Thompson,
Hatter, wherewith he mitigated the miseries of Jefferson during the
debate; and to his familiar bonmot in reply to Harrison's appeal for
unanimity: "Yes, we must indeed all hang together, or assuredly we shall
all hang separately." With this rather grim jest upon his lip, he set
his signature to one of the greatest documents in the world's history.

When it came to shaping the machinery of the confederation, the great
difficulty, as is well known, lay in establishing a just proportion
between the larger and the smaller States. Should they have equal weight
in voting, or not? It was a question so vital and so hard to settle that
the confederacy narrowly survived the strain. Franklin was decidedly in
favor of making the voting value proportionate to the size, measured by
population, of the several States. He said: Let the smaller colonies
give equal money and men, and then let them have an equal vote. If they
have an equal vote without bearing equal burdens, a confederation based
on such iniquitous principles will not last long. To set out with an
unequal representation is unreasonable. There is no danger that the
larger States will absorb the smaller. The same apprehension was
expressed when Scotland was united to England. It was then said that the
whale had swallowed Jonah; but Lord Bute's administration came in, and
then it was seen that Jonah had swallowed the whale. That Scotch
favorite was the provocation for many witty sayings, but for none better
than this.

In July, 1776, Lord Howe arrived, in command of the English fleet. He
immediately sought to open a friendly correspondence with Franklin. He
had played a prominent part in those efforts at conciliation which had
come to naught just before Franklin's departure from England; and he now
renewed his generous attempt to act as a mediator. There is no doubt
that this nobleman, as kindly as brave, would far rather have reconciled
the Americans than have fought them. By permission of Congress Franklin
replied by a long letter, not deficient in courtesy of language, but
full of argument upon the American side, and in a tone which there was
no misconceiving. Its closing paragraph was:--

     "I consider this war against us, therefore, as both unjust and
     unwise; and I am persuaded that cool, dispassionate posterity will
     condemn to infamy those who advised it, and that even success will
     not save from some degree of dishonor those who voluntarily engaged
     to conduct it. I know your great motive in coming hither was the
     hope of being instrumental in a reconciliation; and I believe, when
     you find _that_ impossible on any terms given you to propose, you
     will relinquish so odious a command, and return to a more honorable
     private station."

If the Englishman had been hot-tempered, this would probably have ended
the correspondence; as it was, he only delayed for a while before
writing civilly again. The battle of Long Island next occurred, and Lord
Howe fancied that that disaster might bring the Americans to their
senses. He paroled General Sullivan, and by him sent a message to
Congress: That he and his brother had full powers to arrange an
accommodation; that they could not at present treat with Congress as
such, but would like to confer with some of its members as private
gentlemen. After a long debate it was resolved to send a committee of
Congress to meet the admiral and the general, and Franklin, John Adams,
and Edward Rutledge were deputed. Lord Howe received them with much
courtesy, and gave them a lunch before proceeding to business. But when
luncheon was over and the substance of the errand was reached, it was
very shortly disposed of. His lordship opened with a speech of elaborate
civility, and concluded by saying that he felt for America as for a
brother, and if America should fall he should feel and lament it like
the loss of a brother. Franklin replied: "My lord, we will use our
utmost endeavors to save your lordship that mortification." But Lord
Howe did not relish this Yankee wit. He continued by a long,
explanatory, conciliatory address. At its close there was necessarily
brought up the question of the character in which the envoys came. His
lordship thought that the idea of Congress might "easily be thrown out
at present." Franklin adroitly settled it: "Your lordship may consider
us in any view you think proper. We on our part are at liberty to
consider ourselves in our real character. But there is really no
necessity on this occasion to distinguish between members of Congress
and individuals. The conversation may be held as among friends." Mr.
Adams made one of those blunt and pugnacious remarks which, whenever
addressed to Englishmen, are sure to endear the speaker to the American
nation. Mr. Rutledge laid over it the courtesy of a gentleman; and then
the conference came to the point.

Lord Howe expressed his majesty's earnest desire for a permanent peace
and for the happiness of his American subjects, his willingness for a
reform and for a redress of grievances. But he admitted that the
Declaration of Independence was an awkward obstacle. He asked: "Is
there no way of treating _back_ of this step of independency?" Franklin
replied at some length, closing with the words: "Forces have been sent
out, and towns have been burnt. We cannot now expect happiness under the
domination of Great Britain. All former attachments are obliterated.
America cannot return to the domination of Great Britain, and I imagine
that Great Britain means to rest it upon force." Adams said: "It is not
in our power to treat otherwise than as independent States; and for my
own part, I avow my determination never to depart from the idea of
independency." Rutledge said: "With regard to the people consenting to
come again under the English government, it is impossible. I can answer
for South Carolina." Lord Howe replied: "If such are your sentiments, I
can only regret that it is not in my power to bring about the
accommodation I wish." Thus the fruitlessness of such efforts was made
manifest; of all concerned, it is probable that the most amiable of
Englishmen was the only one who was disappointed at the result. The
Americans were by no means displeased at having another and conclusive
proof to convince the doubting ones that reconciliation was an

Franklin's language was expressive of the way in which his mind had
worked. Until it came to the "cutting of throats," he had never
altogether and avowedly given up hopes that, from the reservoir of
unknown things in the future, something might in time come forth that
would bring about a reasonable accommodation. But the first bloodshed
effected a change in his feelings as irrevocable as that which Hawthorne
so subtly represents as having been worked in the nature of Donatello by
a violent taking of life. "Bunker's Hill" excited him; the sack of
Falmouth affected him with terrible intensity. When the foolish petition
of the Dickinson party was sent to England, he wrote to Dr. Priestley
that the colonies had given Britain one more chance of recovering their
friendship, "which, however, I think she has not sense enough to
embrace; and so I conclude she has lost them forever. She has begun to
burn our seaport towns, secure, I suppose, that we shall never be able
to return the outrage in kind.... If she wishes to have us subjects ...
she is now giving us such miserable specimens of her government that we
shall ever detest and avoid it, as a combination of robbery, murder,
famine, fire, and pestilence." His humor could not be altogether
repressed, but there were sternness and bitterness underlying it: "Tell
our dear, good friend, Dr. Price, who sometimes has his doubts and
despondencies about our firmness, that America is determined and
unanimous; a very few Tories and placemen excepted, who will probably
soon export themselves. Britain, at the expense of three millions, has
killed one hundred and fifty Yankees, this campaign, which is twenty
thousand pounds a head; and at Bunker's Hill she gained a mile of
ground, half of which she lost again by our taking post at Ploughed
Hill. During the same time 60,000 children have been born in America.
From these data his mathematical head will easily calculate the time and
expense necessary to kill us all, and conquer our whole territory." It
was a comical way of expressing the real truth that Britain neither
would nor could give enough either of men, or money, or time to
accomplish the task she had undertaken. To another he wrote: "We hear
that more ships and troops are coming out. We know that you may do us a
great deal of mischief, and are determined to bear it patiently as long
as we can. But if you flatter yourselves with beating us into
submission, you know neither the people nor the country." Other men
wrote ardent words and indulged in the rhetorical extravagance of
intense excitement in those days; Franklin sometimes cloaked the
intensity of his feeling in humor, at other times spoke with a grave and
self-contained moderation which was within rather than without the facts
and the truth. Everything which he said was true with precision to the
letter. But his careful statement and measured profession indicate
rather than belie the earnestness of his feeling, the strength of his
conviction, and the fixedness of his resolution.

Thus briefly must be dismissed the extensive and important toil of
eighteen months, probably the busiest of Franklin's long and busy life.
In September, 1776, he was elected envoy to France, and scant space is
left for narrating the events of that interesting embassage.



It is difficult to pass a satisfactory judgment upon the diplomacy of
the American Revolution. If one takes its history in detail, it presents
a disagreeable picture of importunate knocking at the closed doors of
foreign courts, of incessant and almost shameless begging for money and
for any and every kind of assets that could be made useful in war, of
public bickering and private slandering among the envoys and agents
themselves. If, on the other hand, its achievements are considered, it
appears crowned with the distinction of substantial, repeated, sometimes
brilliant successes. A like contrast is found in its _personnel_.
Between Franklin and Arthur Lee a distance opens like that between the
poles, in which stand such men as Jay and Adams near the one extreme,
Izard, William Lee, and Thomas Morris near the other, with Deane,
Laurens, Carmichael, Jonathan Williams, and a few more in the middle
ground. Yet what could have been reasonably expected? Franklin had had
some dealings with English statesmen upon what may be called
international business, and had justly regarded himself in the light of
a quasi foreign minister. But with this exception not one man in all the
colonies had had the slightest experience in diplomatic affairs, or any
personal knowledge of the requirements of a diplomatic office, or any
opportunity to gain any ideas on the subject beyond such as a
well-educated man could glean from reading the scant historical
literature which existed in those days. It was difficult also for
Congress to know how to judge and discriminate concerning the material
which it found at its disposal. There had been nothing in the careers of
the prominent patriots to indicate whether or not any especial one among
them had a natural aptitude for diplomacy. The selection must be made
with little knowledge of the duties of the position, and with no
knowledge of the responsive characteristics of the man. It was only
natural that many of the appointments thus blindly made should turn out
ill. After they were made, and the appointees had successfully crossed
the ocean through the dangerous gauntlet of the English cruisers, there
arose to be answered in Europe the embarrassing question: What these
self-styled representatives represented. Was it a nation, or only a
parcel of rebels? Here was an unusual and vexatious problem, concerning
which most of the cautious royal governments were in no hurry to commit
themselves; and their reticence added greatly to the perplexities of the
fledgling diplomats. Nearly all cabinets felt it a great temptation to
assist the colonies of the domineering mistress of the seas to change
themselves from her dependencies into her naval rivals. But the attempt
and not the deed might prove confounding; neither could a wise monarch
assume with entire complacency the position of an aider and an abettor
of a rebellion on the part of subjects whose grievances appeared chiefly
an antipathy to taxation.

From the earliest moment France had been hopefully regarded by the
colonists as probably their friend and possibly their ally. To France,
therefore, the first American envoy was dispatched with promptitude,
even before there was a declaration of independence or an assumption of
nationality. Silas Deane was the man selected. He was the true Yankee
jack-at-all-trades; he had been graduated at Yale College, then taught
school, then practiced law, then engaged in trade, had been all the
while advancing in prosperity and reputation, had been a member of the
First and Second Congresses, had failed of reëlection to the Third, and
was now without employment. Mr. Parton describes him as "of somewhat
striking manners and good appearance, accustomed to live and entertain
in liberal style, and fond of showy equipage and appointment." Perhaps
his simple-minded fellow countrymen of the provinces fancied that such a
man would make an imposing figure at an European court. He developed no
other peculiar fitness for his position; he could not even speak
French; and it proved an ill hour for himself in which he received this
trying and difficult honor. By dint of native shrewdness, good luck, and
falling among friends he made a fair beginning; but soon he floundered
beyond his depth, committed some vexatious blunders, and in the course
of conducting some important business at last found himself in a
position where he had really done right but appeared to have done wrong,
without being free to explain the truth. The result was that he was
recalled upon a pretext which poorly concealed his disgrace, that he
found even his reputation for financial honesty clouded, and that his
prospects for the future were of the worst. He was not a man of
sufficient mental calibre or moral strength to endure his unmerited
sufferings with constancy. After prolonged disappointments in his
attempts to set himself right in the opinion of the country, he became
embittered, lost all judgment and patriotism, turned a renegade to the
cause of America, which had wronged him indeed, but rather in ignorance
than from malice, and died unreconciled, a broken and miserable exile.
Such were the perils of the diplomatic service of the colonies in those

Deane arrived in France in June, 1776. He had with him a little ready
money for his immediate personal expenses, and some letters of
introduction from Franklin. It was intended to keep him supplied with
money by sending cargoes of tobacco, rice, and indigo consigned to him,
the proceeds of which would be at his disposal for the public service.
He was instructed to seek an interview with de Vergennes, the French
minister for foreign affairs, and to endeavor with all possible prudence
and delicacy to find out what signs of promise the disposition of the
French government really held for the insurgents. He was also to ask for
equipment for 25,000 troops, ammunition, and 200 pieces of field
artillery, all to be paid for--when Congress should be able! In France
he was to keep his mission cloaked in secure secrecy, appearing simply
as a merchant conducting his own affairs; and he was to write home
common business letters under the very harmless and unsuggestive name of
Timothy Jones, adding the real dispatch in invisible ink. But these
commonplace precautions were rendered of no avail through the treachery
of Dr. Edward Bancroft, an American resident abroad, who had the
confidence of Congress, but who "accepted the post of a paid American
spy, to prepare himself for the more lucrative office of a double spy
for the British ministers."[38] Deane, going somewhat beyond his
instructions to correspond with Bancroft, told him everything. Bancroft
is supposed to have passed the information along to the British
ministry, and thus enabled them to interpose serious hindrances in the
way of the ingenious devices of the Frenchmen.

[Note 38: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ ix. 63.]

Before the arrival of Deane the interests of the colonies had been
already taken in hand and substantially advanced in France by one of the
most extraordinary characters in history. Caron de Beaumarchais was a
man whom no race save the French could produce, and whose traits,
career, and success lie hopelessly beyond the comprehension of the
Anglo-Saxon. Bred a watchmaker, he had the skill, when a mere youth, to
invent a clever escapement balance for regulating watches; had he been
able to insert it into his own brain he might have held more securely
his elusive good fortunes. From being an ingenious inventor he became an
adventurer general, watchmaker to the king, the king's mistresses, and
the king's daughters, the lover, or rather the beloved, of the wife of
the controller of the king's kitchen, then himself the controller,
thence a courtier, and a favorite of the royal princesses. Through a
clever use of his opportunities he was able to do a great favor to a
rich banker, who in return gave him chances to amass a fortune, and lent
him money to buy a patent of nobility. This connection ended in
litigation, which was near ruining him; but he discovered corruption on
the part of the judge, and thereupon wrote his Memorials, of which the
wit, keenness, and vivacity made him famous. He then rendered a private,
personal, and important service to Louis XV., and soon afterwards
another to the young Louis XVI. His capacity for secret usefulness gave
him further occupation and carried him much to London. There he wrote
the "Barber of Seville," and there also he fell in with Arthur Lee and
became indoctrinated with grand notions of the resources and value of
the colonies, and of the ruin which their separation must inflict upon
England. Furthermore, as a Frenchman he naturally consorted with members
of the opposition party who took views very favorable to America. With
such corroboration of Lee's statements, Beaumarchais, never moderate in
any sentiment, leaped to the conclusion that the colonies "must be
invincible," and that England was "upon the brink of ruin, if her
neighbors and rivals were but in a state to think seriously of it." At
once the lively and ambitious fancy of the impetuous Frenchman spread an
extravagant panorama of the possibilities thus opened to England's
"natural enemy." He became frenzied in the American cause. In long and
ardent letters he opened upon King Louis and his ministers a rattling
fire of arguments sound and unsound, statements true and untrue,
inducements reasonable and unreasonable, forecastings probable and
improbable, policies wise and unwise, all designed to show that it was
the bounden duty of France to adopt the colonial cause. The king, with
no very able brain at any time, was very young and wholly inexperienced.
He gazed bewildered at the brilliant pageantry of Beaumarchais's
wonderful and audacious statecraft, and sensibly sought the advice of
his ministers.

De Vergennes set out his views, in agreement with Beaumarchais. He
declared that France now had her opportunity to reduce her dangerous
rival to the place of a second-rate power. To this end it was desirable
that the rebellion should endure at least one year. The sufferings of
the colonists in that period would so embitter them that, even if they
should finally be subdued, they would ever remain a restless, dangerous
thorn in the side of England, a bond with a heavy penalty effectually
binding her to keep the peace. To make sure that neither side should
move for peace before this one valuable year of warfare should have been
secured, it was the policy of France to maintain a pacific front towards
Great Britain, thus relieving her from any fear that the colonies would
obtain a French alliance, but clandestinely to furnish the insurgents
with munitions of war and money sufficient to enable and encourage them
to hold out.

The wise Turgot, in a state paper marked by great ability, opposed
French intervention, and proved his case. Colonial independence was sure
to come, a little sooner or later. Yet the reduction of the colonies
would be the best possible assurance that England would not break the
peace with France, since the colonists, being mutinous and discontented,
would give her concern enough. On the other hand, should England fail,
as he anticipated that she would, in this war, she would hardly emerge
from it in condition to undertake another with France. As for the
colonies themselves, should they win, the character of the Americans
gave augury of their wishing a solid government and therefore
cultivating peace. He uttered an admirable dissertation upon the
relations between colonies and a parent country, and upon the value of
colonies in its bearing upon the present question. In conclusion he
gravely referred to the alarming deficit in the French exchequer as the
strongest of all arguments against incurring the heavy charge of a war
not absolutely unavoidable. "For a necessary war resources could be
found; but war ought to be shunned as the greatest of misfortunes, since
it would render impossible, perhaps forever, a reform absolutely
necessary to the prosperity of the state and the solace of the people."
The king, to whom these wise words were addressed, lived to receive
terrible proof of their truth.

This good advice fell in well with the bent of Louis's mind. For, though
no statesman, he had in this matter a sound instinct that an absolute
monarch aiding rebels to erect a free republic was an anomaly, and a
hazardous contradiction in the natural order of things. But de Vergennes
was the coming man in France, and Turgot no longer had the influence or
the popularity to which his ability entitled him. In May, 1776, on an
ill day for the French monarchy, but a fair one for the American
provinces, this able statesman was ousted from the cabinet. De Vergennes
remained to wield entire control of the policy of the kingdom in this
business, and his triumph was the great good fortune of the colonies.
Yet his design was sufficiently cautious, and strictly limited to the
advantage of his own country. France was not to be compromised, and an
ingenious scheme was arranged.

The firm of Roderigue Hortalez & Co. made sudden appearance in Paris.
Beaumarchais alone conducted its affairs, the most extraordinary
merchant surely who ever engaged in extensive commerce! The capital was
secretly furnished by the Spanish and French governments; about $400,000
the firm had to start with, and later the French government contributed
$200,000 more. De Vergennes was explicit in his language to
Beaumarchais: to Englishmen and Americans alike the affair must be an
"individual speculation." With the capital given him Beaumarchais must
"found a great commercial establishment," and "at his own risk and
peril" sell to the colonies military supplies. These would be sold to
him from the French arsenals; but he "must pay for them." From the
colonies he must "ask return in their staple products." Except that his
silent partners might be lenient in demanding repayment Beaumarchais
really was to be a merchant, engaged in an exceptionally hazardous
trade. If he regarded himself in any other light he was soon painfully
undeceived; for de Vergennes was in earnest. But for the immediate
present, upon the moment when he had arranged these preliminaries,
doubtless fancying the government at his back, this most energetic of
men plunged into his work with all the ardor of his excitable nature. He
flew hither and thither; got arms and munitions from the government;
bought and loaded ships, and was soon conducting an enormous business.

But it was by no means all smooth sailing for the vessels of Hortalez &
Co.; for Deane arrived, not altogether opportunely, just as Beaumarchais
was getting well under weigh. The two were soon brought together, and
Deane was told all that was going on, save only the original connection
of the French government, which it seems that he never knew. He in turn
told all to Dr. Bancroft, and so unwittingly to the English government.
Thereupon the watchful English cruisers effectually locked up the ships
of Hortalez in the French harbors. Also Lord Stormont, the English
ambassador, harassed the French government with ceaseless
representations and complaints concerning these betrayed shipments of
contraband cargoes. At the same time the news from America, coming
chiefly through English channels, took on a very gloomy coloring, and
lent a certain emphasis to these protests of the English minister. De
Vergennes felt compelled to play out his neutral part even more in
earnest than had been intended. He sent to the ports at which Hortalez &
Co. had ships very stringent instructions to check unlawful trade, and
the officials obeyed in good faith to the letter. Beaumarchais was
seriously embarrassed at finding himself bearing in fact the mercantile
character which he had supposed that he was only dramatically assuming.
He had to load his cargoes and clear his ships as best he could,
precisely like any ordinary dealer in contraband wares; there was no
favoritism, no winking at his breaches of the law. The result was that
it was a long while before he got any arms, ammunition, and clothing
into an American port. Moreover, the ships from America which were to
have brought him payment in the shape of tobacco and other American
commodities failed to arrive; his royal copartners declined to make
further advances; the ready money was gone, credit had been strained to
the breaking point, and a real bankruptcy impended over the sham firm.
Thus in the autumn and early winter of 1776 prospects in France wore no
cheerful aspect for the colonies. It was at this juncture that Franklin
arrived, and he came like a reviving breeze from the sea.

Long and anxiously did Congress wait to get news from France; not many
trustworthy ships were sent on so perilous a voyage, and of those that
ventured it only a few got across an ocean "porcupined" with English
warships. At last in September, 1776, Franklin received from Dr. Dubourg
of Paris, a gentleman with whom his friendship dated back to his French
trip in 1767, a long and cheering letter full of gratifying
intelligence concerning the disposition of the court, and throwing out a
number of such suggestions that the mere reading them was a stimulus to
action. Congress was not backward to respond; it resolved at once to
send a formal embassage. Franklin was chosen unanimously by the first
ballot. "I am old and good for nothing," he whispered to Dr. Rush, "but,
as the storekeepers say of their remnants of cloth, 'I am but a fag end
and you may have me for what you please.'"[39] Thomas Jefferson and
Deane were elected as colleagues; but Jefferson declined the service and
Arthur Lee was put in his stead. The Reprisal, sloop of war, of sixteen
guns, took Dr. Franklin and his grandson on board for the dangerous
voyage. It was a very different risk from that which Messrs. Slidell and
Mason took nearly a century later. They embarked on a British mail
steamship, and were subject, as was proved, only to the ordinary perils
of navigation. But had Franklin been caught in this little rebel craft,
which had actually been captured from English owners and condemned as
prize by rebel tribunals, and which now added the aggravating
circumstance that she carried an armament sufficient to destroy a
merchantman but not to encounter a frigate, he would have had before him
at best a long imprisonment, at worst a trial for high treason and a
halter. Horace Walpole gave the news that "Dr. Franklin, at the age of
seventy-two or seventy-four, and at the risk of his head, had bravely
embarked on board an American frigate." Several times he must have
contemplated these pleasing prospects, for several times the small sloop
was chased by English cruisers; but she was a swift sailer and escaped
them all. Just before making port she captured two English brigs and
carried them in as prizes.

[Note 39: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, ii. 166.]

The reference to Slidell and Mason, by the way, calls to mind the
humorous but accurate manner in which Franklin described the difference
between revolution and rebellion. Soon after landing from this hazardous
voyage he wrote merrily to a lady friend: "You are too early, hussy, as
well as too saucy, in calling me a _rebel_. You should wait for the
event, which will determine whether it is a _rebellion_ or only a
_revolution_. Here the ladies are more civil; they call us _les
insurgens_, a character which usually pleases them."

The voyage, though quick, was very rough, and Franklin, confined in a
small cabin and "poorly nourished," since much of the meat was too tough
for his old teeth, had a hard time of it; so that upon coming on shore
he found himself "much fatigued and weakened," indeed, "almost
demolished." He therefore rested several days at Nantes before going to
Paris, where he arrived just before the close of the year.

The excitement which his arrival in the French capital created was
unmistakable evidence of the estimate set by Europe upon his abilities.
Some persons in England endeavored to give to his voyage the color of a
desertion from a cause of which he despaired. "The arch----, Dr.
Franklin, has lately eloped under a cloak of plenipotentiary to
Versailles," wrote Sir Grey Cooper. But Edmund Burke refused to believe
that the man whom he had seen examined before the privy council was
"going to conclude a long life, which has brightened every hour it has
continued, with so foul and dishonorable a flight." Lord Rockingham said
that the presence of Franklin in Paris much more than offset the victory
of the English on Long Island, and their capture of New York. Lord
Stormont, it is said, threatened to leave _sans prendre congé_, if the
"chief of the American rebels" were allowed to come to Paris. The adroit
de Vergennes replied that the government had already dispatched a
courier to direct Franklin to remain at Nantes; but since they knew
neither the time of his departure nor his route, the message might not
reach him. Should he thus innocently arrive in Paris it would be
scandalous, inhospitable, and contrary to the laws of nations to send
him away.[40]

[Note 40: Hale's _Franklin in France_, i. 73.]

But while the English were angry, the French indulged in a _furore_ of
welcome. They made feasts and hailed the American as the friend of human
kind, as the "ideal of a patriarchal republic and of idyllic
simplicity," as a sage of antiquity; and the exuberant classicism of
the nation exhausted itself in glorifying him by comparisons with those
great names of Greece and Rome which have become symbols for all private
and public virtues. They admired him because he did not wear a wig; they
lauded his spectacles; they were overcome with enthusiasm as they
contemplated his great cap of martin fur, his scrupulously white linen,
and the quaint simplicity of his brown Quaker raiment of colonial make.
They noted with amazement that his "only defense" was a "walking-stick
in his hand." The print-shops were soon full of countless
representations of his noble face and venerable figure, set off by all
these pleasing adjuncts. The people thronged the streets to see him
pass, and respectfully made way for him. He seemed, as John Adams said
later, to enjoy a reputation "more universal than that of Leibnitz or
Newton, Frederick or Voltaire."

So soon as all this uproar gave him time to look about him, he
established himself at Passy, in a part of the Hôtel de Valentinois,
which was kindly placed at his disposal by its owner, M. Ray de
Chaumont. In this at that time retired suburb he hoped to be able to
keep the inevitable but useless interruptions within endurable limits.
Not improbably also he was further influenced, in accepting M.
Chaumont's hospitality, by a motive of diplomatic prudence. His
shrewdness and experience must soon have shown him that his presence in
Paris, if not precisely distasteful to the French government, must at
least in some degree compromise it, and might by any indiscretion on his
part easily be made to annoy and vex the ministers. It therefore
behooved him to make himself as little as possible conspicuous in any
official or public way. A rebuke, a cold reception, might do serious
harm; nor was it politic to bring perplexities to those whose friendship
he sought. He could not avoid, nor had he any reason to do so, the
social éclat with which he was greeted; but he must shun the ostentation
of any relationship with men in office. This would be more easily
accomplished by living in a quarter somewhat remote and suburban. His
retirement, therefore, while little curtailing his intercourse with
private society, evinced his good tact, and doubtless helped his good
standing with the ministers. The police record reports that, if he saw
them at all, it was secretly and under cover of night. He lived in
comfortable style, but not showily, keeping a moderate retinue of
servants for appearance as much as for use, and a carriage, which was
indispensable to him. John Adams charged him with undue luxury and
extravagance, but the accusation was ridiculous.

Very exacting did the business of the American envoys soon become. On
December 23, 1776, they wrote to acquaint the Count de Vergennes that
they were "appointed and fully empowered by the Congress of the United
States of America to propose and negotiate a treaty of amity and
commerce between France and the United States;" and they requested an
audience for the purpose of presenting their credentials to his
excellency. Five days later the audience was given them. They explained
the desire of the American colonies to enter into a treaty of alliance
and of commerce. They said that the colonists were anxious to get their
ships, now lying at the home wharves laden with tobacco and other
products, out of the American harbors, and to give them a chance to run
for France. But the English vessels hovered thick up and down the
coasts, and the Americans, though able to take care of frigates, could
not encounter ships of the line. Would not France lend eight ships of
the line, equipped and manned, to let loose all this blockaded commerce
which was ready to seek her ports and to fill the coffers of her
merchants? Under all the circumstances this was certainly asking too
much; and in due time the envoys were courteously told so, but were also
offered a strictly secret loan of $400,000, to be repaid after the war,
without interest.

It appears that Franklin had substantially no concern in the quasi
commercial transactions pending at the time of his arrival between Deane
and Beaumarchais. Deane himself did not know and could not disclose the
details of the relationship between Beaumarchais and the government,
which indeed were not explored and made public until more than half a
century had elapsed after their occurrence. Therefore Franklin saw
nothing more than mercantile dealings in various stages of forwardness,
whose extensive intricacies it did not seem worth while for him to
unravel at a cost of much time and labor, which could be better expended
in other occupations.[41] Deane held all the threads, and it seemed
natural and proper to leave this business as his department. So Franklin
never had more than a general knowledge concerning this imbroglio.

This leaving all to Deane might have been well enough had not Deane had
an implacable enemy in Arthur Lee, who, for that matter, resembled the
devil in at least one particular, inasmuch as he was the foe of all
mankind. Beaumarchais early in the proceedings had summarily dropped Lee
from his confidence and instated Deane in the vacancy. This was
sufficient to set Lee at once at traducing, an art in which long
experience had cultivated natural aptitude. He saw great sums of money
being used, and he was not told whence they came. But he guessed, and
upon his guess he built up a theory of financial knavery. Deane had
repeatedly assured Beaumarchais that he should receive the cargoes of
American produce with promptitude,[42] and he did his best to make these
promises good, writing urgent letters to Congress to hasten forward the
colonial merchandise. But Arthur Lee mischievously and maliciously
blocked these perfectly straightforward and absolutely necessary
arrangements. For he had conceived the notion that Beaumarchais was an
agent of the French court, that the supplies were free gifts from the
French government, and that any payments for them to Hortalez & Co.
would only go to fill the rascal purses of Deane and Beaumarchais,
confederates in a scheme for swindling. He had no particle of evidence
to sustain this notion, which was simply the subtle conception of his
own bad mind; but he was not the less positive and persistent in
asserting it in his letters to members of Congress. Such accounts sadly
puzzled that body; and it may be imagined to what a further hopeless
degree of bewilderment this gathering of American lawyers and tradesmen,
planters and farmers, must have been reduced by the extraordinary
letters of the wild and fanciful Beaumarchais. The natural consequence
was that the easier course was pursued, and no merchandise was sent to
Hortalez. If affairs had not soon taken a new turn in France this error
might have had disastrous consequences for the colonies. In fact, it
only ruined poor Deane.

[Note 41: Franklin's _Works_, vi. 199, 205; viii. 153, 183; Hale's
_Franklin in France_, i. 53.]

[Note 42: Hale's _Franklin in France_, i. 45.]

After this unfortunate man had been recalled, and while he was in great
affliction at home because he could not get his reputation cleared from
these Lee slanders, being utterly unable in America to produce even such
accounts and evidence as might have been had in France, Franklin more
than once volunteered to express kindly and emphatically his entire
belief in Deane's integrity. So late as October, 1779, though admitting
his lack of knowledge concerning an affair in which he had "never
meddled," he still thought Deane "innocent." Finally in 1782, when Deane
had become thoroughly demoralized by his hard fate, Franklin spoke of
his fall not without a note of sympathy: "He resides at Ghent, is
distressed both in mind and circumstances, raves and writes abundance,
and I imagine it will end in his going over to join his friend Arnold in
England. I had an exceedingly good opinion of him when he acted with me,
and I believe he was then sincere and hearty in our cause. But he is
changed, and his character ruined in his own country and in this, so
that I see no other but England to which he can now retire. He says we
owe him about £12,000 sterling."[43] But of this Franklin knew nothing,
and proposed getting experts to examine the accounts. He did know very
well, however, what it was to be accused by Arthur Lee, and would
condemn no man upon that basis!

[Note 43: See also letter to Morris, March 30, 1782, _Works_, vii.
419; also viii. 225. In 1835 sufficient evidence was discovered to
induce Congress to pay to the heirs of this unfortunate man a part of
the sum due to him. Parton's _Life of Franklin_, ii. 362.]

Yet the matter annoyed him greatly. On June 12, 1781, he wrote
acknowledging that he was absolutely in the dark about the whole

     "In 1776, being then in Congress, I received a letter from Mr.
     Lee, acquainting me that M. Beaumarchais had applied to him in
     London, informing him that 200,000 guineas had been put into his
     hands, and was at the disposal of the Congress; Mr. Lee added that
     it was agreed between them that he, M. Beaumarchais, should remit
     the same in arms, ammunition, etc., under the name of Hortalez &
     Co. Several cargoes were accordingly sent. Mr. Lee understood this
     to be a private aid from the government of France; but M.
     Beaumarchais has since demanded from Congress payment of a gross
     sum, as due to him, and has received a considerable part, but has
     rendered no particular account. I have, by order of Congress,
     desired him to produce his account, that we might know exactly what
     we owed, and for what; and he has several times promised it, but
     has not yet done it; and in his conversation he often mentions, as
     I am told, that we are greatly in his debt. These accounts in the
     air are unpleasant, and one is neither safe nor easy under them. I
     wish, therefore, you could help me to obtain a settlement of them.
     It has been said that Mr. Deane, unknown to his colleagues, wrote
     to Congress in favor of M. Beaumarchais's demand; on which Mr. Lee
     accuses him of having, to the prejudice of his constituents,
     negotiated a gift into a debt. At present all that transaction is
     in darkness;[44] and we know not whether the whole, or a part, or
     no part, of the supplies he furnished were at the expense of
     government, the reports we have had being so inconsistent and
     contradictory; nor, if we are in debt for them, or any part of
     them, whether it is the king or M. de Beaumarchais who is our

[Note 44: Light was first let in upon this darkness by Louis de
Loménie, in his _Beaumarchais et Son Temps_; and the story as told by
him may be read, in a spirited version, in Parton's _Life of Franklin_,
chapters vii., viii.]

[Note 45: Hale's _Franklin in France_, i. 53.]

What chiefly irritated Congress against Deane and led to his recall was
neither his dealings with Beaumarchais nor the slanders of Lee, but
quite another matter, in which he certainly showed much lack of
discretion. Cargoes of arms and munitions of war were very welcome in
the States, but cargoes of French and other European officers were by no
means so. Yet the inconsiderate Deane sent over these enthusiasts and
adventurers in throngs. The outbreak of the rebellion seemed to arouse a
spirit of martial pilgrimage in Europe, a sort of crusading ardor, which
seized the Frenchmen especially, but also some few officers in other
continental armies. These all flocked to Paris and told Deane that they
were burning to give the insurgent States the invaluable assistance of
their distinguished services. Deane was little accustomed to the highly
appreciative rhetoric with which the true Frenchman frankly describes
his own merit, and apparently accepted as correct the appraisal which
these warriors made of themselves. Soon they alighted in swarms upon the
American coast, besieged the doors of Congress, and mingled their
importunities with all the other harassments of Washington. Each one of
them had his letter from Deane, reciting the exaggerated estimate of his
capacity, and worse still each one was armed with Deane's promise that
he should hold in the American army a rank one grade higher than he had
held in his home service. To keep these unauthorized pledges would have
resulted in the resignation of all the good American officers, and in
the utter disorganization of the army. So the inevitable outcome was
that the disappointed adventurers became furious; that Congress, greatly
annoyed, went to heavy expenses in sending them back again to Europe,
and in giving some _douceurs_, which could be ill afforded by the giver
and were quite insufficient to prevent the recipients from spreading at
home their bitter grudge against the young republic. Altogether it was a
bad business.

No sooner was Franklin's foot on French soil than the same eager horde
assailed him. But they found a respondent very different from Deane.
Franklin had experience. He knew the world and men; and now his tranquil
judgment and firmness saved him and the applicants alike from further
blunders. His appreciation of these fiery and priceless gallants, who so
dazzled the simple-minded Deane, is shown with charming humor in his
effort to say a kindly word for his unfortunate colleague. He did not
wonder, he said, that Deane,--

     "being then a stranger to the people, and unacquainted with the
     language, was at first prevailed on to make some such agreements,
     when all were recommended, as they always are, as _officiers
     expérimentés, braves comme leurs épées, pleins de courage, de
     talent, et de zêle pour notre cause_, etc., etc.; in short, mere
     Cæsars, each of whom would have been an invaluable acquisition to
     America. You can have no conception how we are still besieged and
     worried on this head, our time cut to pieces by personal
     applications, besides those contained in dozens of letters by every
     post.... I hope therefore that favorable allowance will be made to
     my worthy colleague on account of his situation at the time, as he
     has long since corrected that mistake, and daily approves himself,
     to my certain knowledge, an able, faithful, active, and extremely
     useful servant of the public; a testimony I think it my duty of
     taking this occasion to make to his merit, unasked, as, considering
     my great age, I may probably not live to give it personally in
     Congress, and I perceive he has enemies."

But however firmly and wisely Franklin stood out against the storm of
importunities he could not for a long time moderate it. He continued to
be "besieged and worried," and to have his time "cut to pieces;" till at
last he wrote to a friend: "You can have no conception how I am
harassed. All my friends are sought out and teased to tease me. Great
officers of all ranks, in all departments, ladies great and small,
besides professed solicitors, worry me from morning to night. The noise
of every coach now that enters my court terrifies me. I am afraid to
accept an invitation to dine abroad.... Luckily I do not often in my
sleep dream of these vexatious situations, or I should be afraid of what
are now my only hours of comfort.... For God's sake, my dear friend, let
this, your twenty-third application, be your last."

His plain-spoken replies, however harshly they may have struck upon
Gallic sensitiveness, at least left no room for any one to misunderstand
him. "I know that officers, going to America for employment, will
probably be disappointed," he wrote; "that our armies are full; that
there are a number of expectants unemployed and starving for want of
subsistence; that my recommendation will not make vacancies, nor can it
fill them to the prejudice of those who have a better claim." He also
wrote to Washington, to whom the letter must have brought joyous relief,
that he dissuaded every one from incurring the great expense and hazard
of the long voyage, since there was already an over-supply of officers
and the chance of employment was extremely slight.[46]

[Note 46: As an example of the manner in which Franklin sometimes
was driven to express himself, his letter to M. Lith is admirable. This
gentleman had evidently irritated him somewhat, and Franklin demolished
him with a reply in that plain, straightforward style of which he was a
master, in which appeared no anger, but sarcasm of that severest kind
which lies in a simple statement of facts. I regret that there is not
space to transcribe it, but it may be read in his _Works_, vi. 85.]

The severest dose which he administered must have made some of those
excitable swords quiver in their scabbards. He drew up and used this


     "_Sir_,--The bearer of this, who is going to America, presses me to
     give him a letter of recommendation, though I know nothing of him,
     not even his name. This may seem extraordinary, but I assure you it
     is not uncommon here. Sometimes, indeed, one unknown person brings
     another equally unknown to recommend him; and sometimes they
     recommend one another! As to this gentleman, I must refer you to
     himself for his character and merits, with which he is certainly
     better acquainted than I can possibly be. I recommend him however
     to those civilities, which every stranger, of whom one knows no
     harm, has a right to; and I request you will do him all the good
     offices and show him all the favor, that, on further acquaintance,
     you shall find him to deserve. I have the honor to be, &c."

It would be entertaining to know how many of these letters were
delivered, and in what phrases of French courtesy gratitude was
expressed for them. Sometimes, if any one persisted, in spite of
discouragement, in making the journey at his own cost, and, being
forewarned, also at his own risk of disappointment, Franklin gave him a
letter strictly confined to the scope of a civil personal introduction.
Possibly, now and again, some useful officer may have been thus deterred
from crossing the water; but any such loss was compensated several
hundredfold by shutting off the intolerable inundation of useless
foreigners. Nor was Franklin wanting in discretion in the matter; for he
commended Lafayette and Steuben by letters, which had real value from
the fact of the extreme rarity of such a warranty from this source.

Franklin was little given to political prophecy, but it is interesting
to read a passage written shortly after his arrival, May 1, 1777:--

     "All Europe is on our side of the question, as far as applause and
     good wishes can carry them. Those who live under arbitrary power do
     nevertheless approve of liberty, and wish for it; they almost
     despair of recovering it in Europe; they read the translations of
     our separate colony constitutions with rapture; and there are such
     numbers everywhere who talk of removing to America, with their
     families and fortunes, as soon as peace and our independence shall
     be established, that it is generally believed that we shall have a
     prodigious addition of strength, wealth, and arts from the
     emigration of Europe; and it is thought that to lessen or prevent
     such emigrations, the tyrannies established there must relax, and
     allow more liberty to their people. Hence it is a common
     observation here that our cause is the _cause of all mankind_, and
     that we are fighting for their liberty in defending our own. It is
     a glorious task assigned us by Providence, which has, I trust,
     given us spirit and virtue equal to it, and will at last crown it
     with success."

The statesmanship of the time-honored European school, ably practiced by
de Vergennes, was short-sighted and blundering in comparison with this
broad appreciation of the real vastness and far-reaching importance of
that great struggle betwixt the Old and the New.



No sooner had the war taken on an assured character than many quick-eyed
and adventurous Americans, and Franklin among the first, saw
irresistible temptation and great opportunity in that enormous British
commerce which whitened all the seas. The colonists of that day, being a
seafaring people with mercantile instincts, were soon industriously
engaged in the lucrative field of maritime captures. Franklin
recommended the fortifying of three or four harbors into which prizes
could be safely carried. Nothing else, he said, would give the new
nation "greater weight and importance in the eyes of the commercial
states." Privateering is not always described by such complimentary and
dignified language, but the practical-minded rebel spoke well of that
which it was so greatly to the advantage of his countrymen to do. After
arriving in France he found himself in a position to advance this
business very greatly. Conyngham, Wickes, with others only less famous,
all active and gallant men as ever trod a deck, took the neighboring
waters as their chosen scene of action, and very soon were stirring up
a commotion such as Englishmen had never experienced before. They
harried the high, and more especially the narrow, seas with a success at
least equal to that of the Alabama, while some of them differed from
Semmes and his compeers in being as anxious to fight as the Southern
captains were to avoid fighting. Prize after prize they took and carried
into port, or burned and sank; prisoners they had more than they knew
what to do with; they frightened the underwriters so that in London the
insurance against capture ran up to the ruinous premium of sixty per
cent. The Lisbon and the Dutch packets fell victims, and insurance of
boats plying between Dover and Calais went to ten per cent. Englishmen
began to feel that England was blockaded! We are not so familiar as we
ought to be with the interesting record of all these audacious and
brilliant enterprises, conducted with dare-devil recklessness by men who
would not improbably have been hanged both as pirates and as traitors,
had fortune led to their capture at this moment of British rage and

[Note 47: In fact, Conyngham, being at last captured, narrowly
escaped this fate.]

All this cruising was conducted under the auspices of Franklin. To him
these gallant rovers looked for instructions and suggestions, for money
and supplies. He had to issue commissions, to settle personal
misunderstandings, to attend to questions of prize money, to soothe
unpaid mutineers, to advise as to the purchase of ships, and as to the
enterprises to be undertaken; in a word, he was the only _American
government_ which these independent sailors knew. The tax thus laid upon
him was severe, for he was absolutely without experience in such

There was one labor, however, in this connection, which properly fell
within his department, and in this his privateersmen gave him abundant
occupation. It was to stand between them and the just wrath and fatal
interference of the French government. Crude as international law was in
those days, it was far from being crude enough for the strictly
illegitimate purposes of these vikings. What they expected was to buy,
equip, man, and supply their vessels in French ports, to sail out on
their prize-taking excursions, and, having captured their fill, to
return to these same ports, and there to have their prizes condemned, to
sell their booty, to refit and re-supply, and then to sally forth again.
In short, an Englishman would have been puzzled to distinguish a
difference between the warlike ports of America and the neutral ports of
France, save as he saw that the latter, being nearer, were much the more
injurious. But de Vergennes had no notion of being used for American
purposes in this jeopardizing style. He did not mean to have a war with
England, if he could avoid it; so he gave to the harbor masters orders
which greatly annoyed and surprised the American captains,
"extraordinary" orders, as these somewhat uninstructed sea-dogs
described them in their complaining letters to Franklin. They thought it
an outrage that the French minister should refuse to have English prizes
condemned within French jurisdiction, and that he should not allow them
to refit and to take on board cannon and ammunition at Nantes or
Rochelle. They called upon Franklin to check these intolerable
proceedings. Their audacious and boundless insolence is very
entertaining to read, especially if, in connection therewith, we call to
mind the history of the "Alabama outrages."

Franklin knew, just as well as de Vergennes did, that the French
ministry was all the time favoring the privateersmen and cruisers far
beyond the law, and that it was ready to resort to as many devices as
ingenuity could concoct for that purpose; also that the Americans by
their behavior persistently violated all reason and neutral toleration.
Nevertheless he stood gallantly by his own, and in one case after
another he kept corresponding with de Vergennes under pretense of
correcting misrepresentations, presenting requests, and arguing points,
until, by the time thus gained, the end was achieved. The truth was that
Franklin's duty was to get from France just as much aid, direct and
indirect, as could be either begged or filched from her. Such orders
could not be written down in plain words in his instructions, but none
the less they lurked there not illegible to him among the lines. He
obeyed them diligently. France was willing to go fully as far as she
could with safety; his function was to push, to pull, to entice, even to
mislead, in order to make her go farther. Perhaps it was a fair game;
France had her interest to see Great Britain dismembered and weakened,
but not herself to fight other people's battles; the colonies had their
interest to get France into the fight if they possibly could. It was a
strictly selfish interest, and was pursued almost shamelessly. The
colonial policy and the details of its execution are defensible simply
on the basis that nations in their dealings with each other are always
utterly selfish and generally utterly unscrupulous. By and by, when it
comes to the treating for peace between England and the colonies, we
shall find de Vergennes much reviled because he pursued exclusively
French interests; but it will be only fair to reflect that little more
can be charged against him than that he was playing the game with cards
drawn from the same pack which the Americans had used in these earlier
days of the war.


A matter which grew out of privateering gave Franklin much trouble. The
American captains, who were cruising on the European side of the
Atlantic prior to the treaty of alliance with France, had no place in
which to deposit their prisoners. They could not often send them to the
States, neither of course could they accumulate them on board their
ships, nor yet store them, so to speak, in France and Spain; for
undeveloped as were the rules of neutrality they at least forbade the
use of neutral prisons for the keeping of English prisoners of war in
time of peace. Meanwhile the colonial captives, in confinement just
across the Channel, in the prisons at Plymouth and Portsmouth, were
subjected to very harsh treatment; and others were even being sent to
the fort of Senegal on the coast of Africa, and to the East Indies,
whence they could not hope ever to regain their homes. Franklin
immediately resolved, if possible, to utilize these assets in the shape
of English sailors in the usual course of exchange. A letter was
accordingly addressed by him to Lord Stormont, asking whether it would
be worth while to approach the British court with an offer to exchange
one hundred English prisoners in the hands of the captain of the
Reprisal for a like number of American sailors from the English prisons.
The note was a simple interrogatory in proper form of civility. No
answer was received. After a while a second letter was prepared, less
formal, more forcible in statement and argument, and in the appeal to
good sense and decent good feeling. This elicited from his lordship a
brief response: "The king's ambassador receives no applications from
rebels, unless they come to implore his majesty's mercy." The
commissioners indignantly rejoined: "In answer to a letter which
concerns some of the most material interests of humanity, and of the two
nations, Great Britain and the United States of America, now at war, we
received the inclosed indecent paper, as coming from your lordship,
which we return for your lordship's more mature consideration."

The technical position of the English in this business was that the
captured Americans were not prisoners of war, but traitors. Their
practical position was that captains of American privateers, not finding
it a physical possibility to keep their prisoners, would erelong be
obliged to let them go without exchange. This anticipation turned out to
be correct, and so far justified their refusal; for soon some five
hundred English sailors got their freedom as a necessity, without any
compensatory freeing of Americans. Each of them gave a solemn promise in
writing to obtain the release of an American prisoner in return; but he
had as much authority to hand over the Tower of London, and the British
government was not so romantically chivalrous as to recognize pledges
entered into by foremast hands.

All sorts of stories continued to reach Franklin's ears as to the
cruelty which his imprisoned countrymen had to endure. He heard that
they were penniless and could get no petty comforts; that they suffered
from cold and hunger, and were subjected to personal indignities; that
they were not allowed to read a newspaper or to write a letter; that
they were all committed by a magistrate on a charge of high treason, and
were never allowed to forget their probable fate on the gibbet; that
some of them, as has been said, were deported to distant and unwholesome
English possessions. For the truth of these accounts it is not necessary
to believe that the English government was intentionally brutal; but it
was neglectful and indifferent, and those who had prisoners in charge
felt assured that no sympathy for rebels would induce an investigation
into peculations or unfeeling behavior. Moreover there was a deliberate
design, by terror and discouragement, to break the spirit of the
so-called traitors and persuade them to become real traitors by entering
the English service.

By all these tales Franklin's zeal in the matter of exchange was greatly
stimulated. His humane soul revolted at keeping men who were not
criminals locked up in wasting misery, when they might be set free upon
terms of perfect equality between the contending parties. Throughout his
correspondence on this subject there is a magnanimity, a humanity, a
spirit of honesty and even of honor so extraordinary, or actually
unique, in dealings between diplomats and nations, that the temptation
is irresistible to give a fuller narrative than the intrinsic importance
of the subject would warrant. For after all there were never many
English prisoners in France to be exchanged; after a while they might be
counted by hundreds, but perhaps they never rose to a total of one

There was at this time in England a man to whose memory Americans ought
to erect statues. This was David Hartley. He was a gentleman of the most
liberal and generous sentiments, an old and valued friend of Franklin,
member of Parliament for Hull, allied with the opposition in this matter
of the American war, but personally on good terms with Lord North. He
had not very great ability; he wrote long letters, somewhat surcharged
with morality and good-feeling. One would expect to hear that he was on
terms of admiring intimacy with his contemporary, the good Mrs.
Barbauld. But he had those opportunities which come only to men whose
excellence of character and purity of motive place them above
suspicion,--opportunities which might have been shut off from an abler
man, and which he now used with untiring zeal and much efficiency in
behalf of the American prisoners. Lord North did not hesitate to permit
him to correspond with Franklin, and he long acted as a medium of
communication more serviceable than Lord Stormont had been. Furthermore
Hartley served as almoner to the poor fellows, and pushed a private
subscription in England to raise funds for securing to them reasonable
comforts. There were responsive hearts and purses, even for rebels,
among his majesty's subjects, and a considerable sum was collected.

Franklin's first letter to Hartley on this subject, October 14, 1777,
has something of bitterness in its tone, with much deep feeling for his
countrymen, whose reputed woes he narrates. "I can assure you," he adds,
"from my certain knowledge, that your people, prisoners in America, have
been treated with great kindness, having had the same rations of
wholesome provisions as our own troops," "comfortable lodgings" in
healthy villages, with liberty "to walk and amuse themselves on their
parole." "Where you have thought fit to employ contractors to supply
your people, these contractors have been protected and aided in their
operations. Some considerable act of kindness towards our people would
take off the reproach of inhumanity in that respect from the nation and
leave it where it ought with more certainty to lie, on the conductors of
your war in America. This I hint to you out of some remaining good will
to a nation I once loved sincerely. But as things are, and in my present
temper of mind, not being over-fond of receiving obligations, I shall
content myself with proposing that your government should allow us to
send or employ a commissary to take some care of those unfortunate
people. Perhaps on your representations this might be obtained in
England, though it was refused most inhumanly at New York."

In December following he had arranged with Major Thornton, "who appears
a man of humanity," to visit the prisons and give relief to the
prisoners, and he hopes that Thornton "may obtain permission for that
purpose." "I have wished," he added, "that some voluntary act of
compassion on the part of your government towards those in your power
had appeared in abating the rigors of their confinement, and relieving
their pressing necessities, as such generosity towards enemies has
naturally an effect in softening and abating animosity in their
compatriots, and disposing to reconciliation." Of such unconventional
humanity was he!

Hartley met Franklin's ardent appeals with responsive ardor. May 29,
1778, he writes that he will press the point of exchange as much as he
can, "which in truth," he says, "I have done many times since I saw you;
but official departments move slowly here. A promise of five months is
yet unperformed." But a few days later, June 5, he is "authorized" to
propose that Franklin should send to him "the number and rank of the
prisoners, upon which an equal number shall be prepared upon this side
for the exchange." Franklin at once demanded lists from his captains,
and replied to Hartley: "We desire and expect that the number of ours
shall be taken from Forton and Plymouth, in proportion to the number in
each place, and to consist of those who have been longest in
confinement." He then made this extraordinary suggestion: "If you think
proper to clear all your prisoners at once, and give us all our people,
we give you our solemn engagement, which we are sure will be punctually
executed, to deliver to Lord Howe in America, or to his order, a number
of your sailors equal to the surplus, as soon as the agreement arrives
there." It is easy to fancy a British minister thrusting his tongue into
his cheek as this simple-minded proposal of the plain-dealing colonist
was read to him. The only occasion on which Franklin showed ignorance of
diplomacy was in assuming, in this matter of the prisoners, that honesty
and honor were bases of dealing between public officials in
international matters.

He suggested also retaining a distinction between sailors of the navy
and of the commercial marine. After repeated applications to the Board
of Admiralty, Hartley was only able to reply to all Franklin's proposals
that no distinction could be made between the naval and merchant
services, because all the Americans were "detained under commitments
from some magistrate, as for high treason."

July 13, 1778, Franklin remitted to Hartley the lists of English
prisoners. September 14 he recurs again to the general release: "You
have not mentioned whether the proposition of sending us the whole of
those in your prisons was agreed to. If it is, you may rely on our
sending immediately all that come to our hands for the future; or we
will give you, [at] your option, an order for the balance to be
delivered to your fleet in America. By putting a little confidence in
one another, we may thus diminish the miseries of war." Five days later
he took a still more romantic position: heretofore, he said, the
American commissioners had encouraged and aided the American prisoners
to try to escape; "but if the British government should honorably keep
their agreement to make regular exchanges, we shall not think it
consistent with the honor of the United States to encourage such
escapes, or to give any assistance to such as shall escape."

Yet at the same time he showed himself fully able to conduct business
according to the usual commonplace method. This same letter closes with
a threat under the _lex talionis_: "We have now obtained permission of
this government to put all British prisoners, whether taken by
continental frigates or by privateers, into the king's prisons; and we
are determined to treat such prisoners precisely as our countrymen are
treated in England, to give them the same allowance of provisions and
accommodations, and no other." He was long obliged to reiterate the like

[Note 48: Hale's _Franklin in France_, i. 352.]

October 20, 1778, he reverts to his favorite project: "I wish their
lordships could have seen it well to exchange upon account; but though
they may not think it safe trusting to us, we shall make no difficulty
in trusting to them;" and he proposes that, if the English will "send us
over 250 of our people, we will deliver all we have in France;" if these
be less than two hundred and fifty, the English may take back the
surplus Americans; but if these be more than two hundred and fifty,
Franklin says that he will nevertheless deliver them all in expectation
that he will receive back an equivalent for the surplus. "We would thus
wish to commence, by this first advance, that mutual confidence which it
would be for the good of mankind that nations should maintain honorably
with each other, tho' engaged in war."

November 19, 1778, nothing has been achieved, and he gets impatient: "I
have heard nothing from you lately concerning the exchange of the
prisoners. Is that affair dropt? Winter is coming on apace." January 25,
1779: "I a long time believed that your government were in earnest in
agreeing to an exchange of prisoners. I begin now to think I was
mistaken. It seems they cannot give up the pleasing idea of having at
the end of the war 1000 Americans to hang for high treason." Poor
Hartley had been working with all the energy of a good man in a good
cause; but he was in the painful position of having no excuse to offer
for the backwardness of his government.

February 22, 1779, brought more reproaches from Franklin. Months had
elapsed since he had heard that the cartel ship was prepared to cross
the Channel, but she had never come. He feared that he had been
"deceived or trifled with," and proposed sending Edward Bancroft on a
special mission to England, if a safe conduct could be procured. At
last, on March 30, Hartley had the pleasure of announcing that the
exchange ship had "sailed the 25th instant from Plymouth." Franklin
soon replied that the transaction was completed, and gave well-earned
thanks to Hartley for his "unwearied pains in that affair."

Thus after infinite difficulty the English government had been pushed
into conformity with the ordinary customs of war among civilized
nations. Yet subsequent exchanges seem to have been effected only after
every possible obstacle had been contumaciously thrown in the way by the
English and patiently removed by Franklin. The Americans were driven to
various devices. The captains sometimes released their prisoners at sea
upon the written parole of each either to secure the return of an
American, or to surrender himself to Franklin in France. In November,
1781, Franklin had about five hundred of these documents, "not one of
which," he says, "has been regarded, so little faith and honor remain in
that corrupted nation." At last, after France and Spain had joined in
the war, Franklin arranged that the American captors might lodge their
prisoners in French and Spanish prisons.

Under flags of truce two cargoes of English sailors were dispatched from
Boston to England; but the English refused to reciprocate. "There is no
getting anything from these barbarians," said Franklin, "by advances of
civility or humanity." Then much trouble arose because the French
borrowed from Franklin some English prisoners for exchange in Holland,
and returned to him a like number a little too late for delivery on
board the cartel ship, which had brought over one hundred Americans.
Thereupon the Englishmen charged Franklin with "breach of faith," and
with "deceiving the Board," and put a stop to further exchanging. This
matter was, of course, set right in time. But the next point made by the
admiralty was that they would make no exchanges with Franklin except for
English sailors taken by American cruisers, thus excluding captives
taken by the privateersmen. Franklin, much angered at the thwarting of
his humane and reasonable scheme, said that they had "given up all
pretensions to equity and honor." In his disappointment he went a little
too far; if he had said "liberality and humanity" instead of "equity and
honor" he would have kept within literal truth. To meet this last action
on the part of England he suggested to Congress: "Whether it may not be
well to set apart 500 or 600 English prisoners, and refuse them all
exchange in America, but for our countrymen now confined in England?"

Another thing which vexed him later was that the English government
would not give the Americans an "equal allowance" with the French and
Spanish prisoners. He suggested retaliation upon a certain number of
English prisoners in America. He himself was constantly remitting money
to be distributed to the American prisoners, at the rate of one shilling
apiece each week. But he had the pain to hear that the wretched fellow,
one Digges, to whom he sent the funds, embezzled much of them. "If such
a fellow is not damned," he said, "it is not worth while to keep a
devil." One prisoner of distinction, Colonel Laurens, captured on his
way to France, complained that Franklin did not show sufficient zeal in
his behalf. But he made the assertion in ignorance of Franklin's
efforts, which for a long while Franklin had reason to believe had been
successful in securing kind and liberal treatment for this captive.

In all this business Franklin ought to have received efficient
assistance from Thomas Morris, who held the position of commercial agent
for the States at Nantes, and who might properly have extended his
functions to include so much of the naval business as required personal
attention at that port. But he turned out to be a drunken rascal, active
only in mischief. Thereupon, early in 1777, Franklin employed a nephew
of his own from Boston, Jonathan Williams, not to supersede Morris in
the commercial department, but to take charge of the strictly naval
affairs, which were construed to include all matters pertaining to
warships, privateers, and prizes. This action became the source of much
trouble. It was a case of nepotism, of course, which was unfortunate;
yet there was an absolute necessity to engage some one for these duties,
and there was scant opportunity for choice. During the year that
Williams held the office there is no reason to believe that he did not
prove himself both efficient and honest. Robert Morris, however, whose
brother Thomas was, and who had obtained for him the commercial office,
was much offended, and it was not until in the course of time he
received masses of indisputable evidence of his brother's worthlessness,
that he was placated. Then at length he wrote a frank, pathetic letter,
in which he acknowledged that he had been misled by natural affection,
and that his resentment had been a mistake.

Arthur Lee also poured the destructive torrent of his malignant wrath
over the ill-starred Williams. For William Lee pretended to find his
province and his profits also trenched upon. The facts were that he was
appointed to the commercial agency jointly with Thomas Morris; but
shortly afterward he was promoted to the diplomatic service, and left
Nantes for a permanent stay in Paris. He did not formally vacate his
agency, but practically he abandoned it by rendering himself unable to
attend to its duties. So even if by any construction he could have
established a show of right to conduct the naval business, at least he
never was on hand to do so. These considerations, however, did not in
the least mitigate the rage of the Lee brethren, who now brought a great
variety of charges. Franklin, they said, had no authority to make the
appointment, and Williams was a knave engaged in a scandalous
partnership with Deane to make money dishonestly out of the public
business, especially the prizes. The quarrel continued unabated when
John Adams arrived, in 1778, as joint commissioner with Franklin and
Arthur Lee. At once the active Lee besieged the ear of the newcomer with
all his criminations; and he must have found a ready listener, for so
soon as the fourth day after his arrival Adams felt himself sufficiently
informed to take what was practically judicial action in the matter. He
declared upon Lee's side. The two then signed an order for Williams's
dismissal, and presented it to Franklin. It was discourteous if not
insulting behavior to an old man and the senior commissioner; but
Franklin wisely said not a word, and added his signature to those of his
colleagues. The rest of the story is the familiar one of many cases: the
agent made repeated demands for the appointment of an accountant to
examine his accounts, and Franklin often and very urgently preferred the
same request. But the busy Congress would not bother itself ever so
little with a matter no longer of any practical moment. Lee's charges
remained unrefuted, though not a shadow of justifiable suspicion rested
upon Franklin's unfortunate nephew.



The enthusiastic reception of Franklin in France was responded to by him
with a bearing so cheerful and words so encouraging that all the
auguries for America seemed for a while of the best. For he was sanguine
by nature, by resolution, and by policy; and his way of alluring good
fortune was to welcome it in advance. But in fact there were clouds
enough floating in the sky, and soon they expanded and obscured the
transitory brightness. Communication between the two continents was
extremely slow; throughout the war intervals occurred when for long and
weary months no more trustworthy news reached Paris than the rumors
which got their coloring by filtration through Great Britain. Thus in
the dread year of 1777, there traveled across the Channel tales that
Washington was conducting the remnant of his forces in a demoralized
retreat; that Philadelphia had fallen before Howe; that Burgoyne, with a
fine army, was moving to bisect the insurgent colonies from the north.
It was very well for Franklin, when told that Howe had taken
Philadelphia, to reply: "No, sir: Philadelphia has taken Howe." The
jest may have relieved the stress of his mind, as President Lincoln used
often to relieve his own over-taxed endurance in the same way. But the
undeniable truth was that it looked much as if the affair, to use
Franklin's words, would prove to be a "rebellion" and not a
"revolution." Still, any misgivings which he may have inwardly felt
found no expression, and to no one would he admit the possibility of
such an ultimate outcome. Late in the autumn of this dismal year he

     "You desire to know my opinion of what will probably be the end of
     this war, and whether our new establishments will not be thereby
     again reduced to deserts. I do not, for my part, apprehend much
     danger of so great an evil to us. I think we shall be able, with a
     little help, to defend ourselves, our possessions, and our
     liberties so long that England will be ruined by persisting in the
     wicked attempt to destroy them.... And I sometimes flatter myself
     that, old as I am, I may possibly live to see my country settled in
     peace, when Britain shall make no more a formidable figure among
     the powers of Europe."

But though Franklin might thus refuse to despair for his country, the
French ministry were not to be blamed if they betrayed an increased
reserve in their communications with men who might soon prove to be
traitors instead of ambassadors, and if they were careful to stop short
of actually bringing on a war with England. It was an anxious period for
Franklin when the days wore slowly into months and the months
lengthened almost into a year, during which he had no trustworthy
information as to all the ominous news which the English papers and
letters brought.

In this crisis of military affairs the anxious envoys felt that the
awful burden of their country's salvation not improbably rested upon
them. If they could induce France to come to the rescue, all would be
well; if they could not, the worst might be feared. Yet in this mortal
jeopardy they saw France growing more guarded in her conduct, while in
vain they asked themselves, in an agony, what influence it was possible
for them to exert. At the close of November, 1777, they conferred upon
the matter. Mr. Deane was in favor of demanding from the French court a
direct answer to the question, whether or not France would come openly
to the aid of the colonies; and he advised that de Vergennes should be
distinctly told that, if France should decline, the colonies would be
obliged to seek an accommodation with Great Britain. But Dr. Franklin
strenuously opposed this course. The effect of such a declaration seemed
to him too uncertain; France might take it as a menace; she might be
induced by it to throw over the colonies altogether, in despair or
anger. Neither would he admit that the case was in fact so desperate;
the colonies might yet work out their own safety, with the advantage in
that event of remaining more free from any European influence. The
soundness of this latter argument was afterward abundantly shown by the
history of the country during the first three administrations.
Fortunately upon this occasion Lee sided with Franklin, and the untimely
trial of French friendship was not made. Had it been, it would have been
more likely to jeopardize forever than to precipitate the good fortune
which, though still invisible, was close at hand.

It was not until December 4, 1777, that there broke a great and sudden
rift in the solid cloudiness. First there came a vague rumor of good
news, no one at all knew what; then a post-chaise drove into Dr.
Franklin's courtyard, and from it hastily alighted the young messenger,
Jonathan Loring Austin, whom Congress had sent express from
Philadelphia, and who had accomplished an extraordinarily rapid journey.
The American group of envoys and agents were all there, gathered by the
mysterious report which had reached them, and at the sound of the wheels
they ran out into the courtyard and eagerly surrounded the chaise.
"Sir," exclaimed Franklin, "is Philadelphia taken?" "Yes, sir," replied
Austin; and Franklin clasped his hands and turned to reënter the house.
But Austin cried that he bore greater news: that General Burgoyne and
his whole army were prisoners of war! At the words the glorious sunshine
burst forth. Beaumarchais, the ecstatic, sprang into his carriage and
drove madly for the city to spread the story; but he upset his vehicle
and dislocated his arm. The envoys hastily read and wrote; in a few
hours Austin was again on the road, this time bound to de Vergennes at
Versailles, to tell the great tidings. Soon all Paris got the news and
burst into triumphant rejoicing over the disaster to England.

Austin's next errand was a secret and singular one. Franklin managed
throughout his residence in France to maintain a constant communication
with the opposition party in England. He now thought it wise to enable
them to obtain full information from an intelligent man who was not many
weeks absent from the States. Accordingly he dispatched Austin, using
extreme precautions of secrecy, making him "burn every letter which he
had brought from his friends in America," but giving him in exchange two
other letters, which certainly introduced him to strange society for an
American "rebel" to frequent. During his visit he was "domesticated in
the family of the Earl of Shelburne; placed under the particular
protection of his chaplain, the celebrated Dr. Priestley; introduced" to
George IV., then Prince of Wales, with whom was Charles Fox, and was
"present at all the coteries of the opposition." Almost every evening he
was invited to dinner-parties, at which the company was chiefly composed
of members of Parliament, and they plied him with interrogations about
his country and its affairs, so that, as he reported, "no question which
you can conceive is omitted."[49] He answered well, and rendered
service as good as it was singular, for which Franklin was probably the
only American who could have furnished the opening. The adventure brings
to mind some of the Jacobite tales of Sir Walter Scott's novels.

[Note 49: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, ii. 307.]

One half of the advantages accruing from "General Burgoyne's
capitulation to Mr. Gates"--such was the Tory euphemism, somewhat ill
considered, since it implied that the gallant British commander had
capitulated to a civilian--was to be reaped in Europe. The excellent
Hartley was already benevolently dreaming of effecting an accommodation
between the two contestants; and seeing clearly that an alliance with
France must be fatal to any such project, he closed a letter on February
3, 1778, to Franklin, by "subjoining one earnest caution and request:
Let nothing ever persuade America to throw themselves into the arms of
France. Times may mend. I hope they will. An American must always be a
stranger in France; Great Britain may for ages to come be their home."
This was as kindly in intention as it was bad in grammatical
construction; but it was written from a point of view very different
from that which an American could adopt. Franklin promptly replied:
"When your nation is hiring all the cut-throats it can collect, of all
countries and colors, to destroy us, it is hard to persuade us not to
ask or accept aid from any power that may be prevailed with to grant it;
and this only from the hope that, though you now thirst for our blood,
and pursue us with fire and sword, you may in some future time treat us
kindly. This is too much patience to be expected of us; indeed, I think
it is not in human nature."

A few days later he transposed Hartley's advice, not without irony: "Let
nothing induce [the English Whigs] to join with the Tories in supporting
and continuing this wicked war against the Whigs of America, whose
assistance they may hereafter want to secure their own liberties, or
whose country they may be glad to retire to for the enjoyment of them."
Hartley must have had a marvelous good temper, if he read without
resentment the very blunt and severe replies which Franklin a little
mercilessly made to the other's ever temperate and amiable letters.

Hartley's advice, if not acceptable, was at least timely. At the very
moment when he warned America against taking refuge in the arms of
France, the colonists were joyously springing into that international
embrace. The victory at Saratoga had at last settled that matter. On
December 6, 1777, two days after the news was received, M. Gérard called
upon the envoys and said that the capacity of the colonies to maintain
their independence could no longer be doubted, and that the French court
would be pleased by a renewal of their proposals for an alliance. On
December 8 a request for an alliance was placed by young Temple Franklin
in the hands of de Vergennes. On December 12 the cabinet met; also
Arthur Lee reports that the envoys went out to Versailles and concealed
themselves at an appointed spot in the wood, whither soon came to them
de Vergennes. In the talk that ensued he said to them everything which a
liberal spirit of friendship could suggest, but nothing which was
actually positive and binding. For it was necessary, as he explained,
first to consult with Spain, whose concurrence was desired; this,
however, could be safely counted upon, and a courier was to be
dispatched at once to Madrid. But the return of this messenger was not
awaited; for on December 17 the commissioners were formally notified
that France would acknowledge the independence of the colonies, and
would execute with them treaties of commerce and alliance immediately
upon getting the Spanish reply. In return for her engagements France
only asked that, in the probable event of a war ensuing between herself
and England, the colonies would pledge themselves never to make peace
save upon the terms of independence.

On January 8, 1778, M. Gérard met the envoys after dark at Mr. Deane's
quarters. He informed them that the government had resolved immediately
to conclude with the colonies a treaty of amity and commerce; also
another treaty, offensive and defensive, and guaranteeing independence,
upon the conditions that the colonies would neither make a separate
peace, nor one relinquishing their independence. The independence of the
thirteen colonies being the king's sole purpose, no assistance would be
extended for subduing Canada or the English West Indies. As it would
probably not be agreeable to the colonies to have foreign troops in
their country, the design was to furnish only naval aid. It would be
left open for Spain to accede to the treaties at any time. Nothing could
have been more agreeable and encouraging than these arrangements, by
which France did all the giving and America all the receiving. A few
days later Gérard said that the king would not only acknowledge, but
would support American independence, and that the condition precluding
the Americans from making a separate peace, if France should be drawn
into the war, would be waived.

On January 18 Gérard came to the envoys with drafts which he had
prepared for the two treaties, and which he left for them to consider at
their leisure. It took them much longer to consider than it had taken
him to devise these documents. Lee said that the delay was all
Franklin's fault; but at least Franklin illumined it by one of his
_mots_. There was sent to the envoys a large cake inscribed: "Le digne
Franklin." Deane said that, with thanks, they would appropriate it to
their joint use; Franklin pleasantly replied that it was obviously
intended for all three, only the French donor did not know how to spell
"Lee, Deane, Franklin" correctly. But the uneasy jealousy of Lee
suggested a counter-argument:

"When they remember us," _i. e._, himself and Deane, he said, "they
always put you first." Lee, who in his lifetime could never endure being
second to Franklin, must be astounded indeed if, in another existence,
he sees the place which judicial posterity has assigned to him!

In their discussions concerning the treaty the commissioners fell into a
contention over one article. Their secret instructions directed them to
"press" for a stipulation that no export duties should be imposed by
France upon molasses taken from the French West Indies into the States;
but they were not to let the "fate of the treaty depend upon obtaining
it." Of all merchandise imported into the States molasses was the most
important to their general trade; it was the "basis on which a very
great part of the American commerce rested."[50] In exchange for it they
sent to the islands considerable quantities of pretty much all their
products, and they distilled it in enormous quantities into rum. Every
man who drank a glass of rum seemed to be advancing _pro tanto_ the
national prosperity, and the zeal with which those godly forefathers of
ours thus promoted the general welfare is feebly appreciated by their
descendants. All this rum, said John Adams, has "injured our health and
our morals;" but "the taste for rum will continue;" and upon this
conviction the commissioners felt obliged to act. Accordingly they
proposed that it should be "agreed and concluded that there shall never
be any duty imposed on the exportation of molasses that may be taken by
the subjects of the United States from the islands of America which
belong or may hereafter appertain to his most Christian majesty." But
Gérard said that this was "unequal," since the States made no balancing
concession. It was not easy to suggest any "concession of equal
importance on the part of the United States," and so "after long
consideration Dr. Franklin proposed" this: "In compensation of the
exemption stipulated in the preceding article, it is agreed and
concluded that there shall never be any duties imposed on the
exportation of any kind of merchandise, which the subjects of his most
Christian majesty may take from the countries and possessions, present
or future, of any of the thirteen United States, for the use of the
islands which shall furnish molasses."

[Note 50: _Diplomatic Correspondence of the Amer. Rev._ i. 156.]

This pleased Lee as little as the other article had pleased Gérard; for
it was "too extensive, and more than equivalent for molasses only." He
was answered that "it was in reality nothing more than giving up what we
could never make use of but to our own prejudice; for nothing was more
evident than the bad policy of laying duties on our own exports."
Franklin was of opinion that export duties were "a knavish attempt to
get something for nothing;" that the inventor of them had the "genius of
a pickpocket." Britain had lost her colonies by an export duty on tea.
Moreover since the States produced no commodity which could not be
procured elsewhere, to discourage consumption of their own and encourage
the rivalship of others would be an "absolute folly" against which he
would protest even if practiced by way of reprisal. Gérard finally said
that he regarded these articles as "reciprocal and equal," that his
majesty was "indifferent" about them, and that they might be retained or
rejected together, but that one could not be kept without the other. Lee
then yielded, and Gérard was notified that both articles would be
inserted. He assented. Soon, however, William Lee and Izard, being
informed of the arrangement, took Arthur Lee's original view and
protested against it. Lee reports that this interference put Franklin
"much out of humor," and that he said it would "appear an act of levity
to renew the discussion of a thing we had agreed to." None the less, Lee
now resumed his first position so firmly that Franklin and Deane in
their turn agreed to omit both articles. But they stipulated that Lee
should arrange the matter with Gérard, since, as they had just agreed in
writing to retain both, they "could not with any consistency make a
point of their being expunged," and they felt that the business of a
change at this stage might be disagreeable. In fact Lee found it so.
When he called on Gérard and requested the omission of both, Gérard
replied that the king had already approved the treaty, that it was now
engrossed on parchment, and that a new arrangement would entail
"inconvenience and considerable delay." But finally, not without showing
some irritation at the fickleness of the commissioners, he was brought
to agree that Congress might ratify the treaty either with or without
these articles, as it should see fit. This business cost Franklin, as an
annoying incident, an encounter with Mr. Izard, and a tart
correspondence ensued.

On February 6 all was at length ready and the parties came together, M.
Gérard for France and the envoys for the States, to execute these most
important documents. Franklin wore the spotted velvet suit of privy
council fame. They signed a treaty of amity and commerce, a treaty of
alliance, and a secret article belonging with the latter providing that
Spain might become a party to it--on the Spanish _mañana_. There was an
express stipulation on the part of France that the whole should be kept
secret until after ratification by Congress; for there was a singular
apprehension that in the interval some accommodation might be brought
about between the insurgent States and the mother country, which would
leave France in a very embarrassing position if she should not be free
to deny the existence of such treaties. It was undoubtedly a dread of
some such occurrence which had induced the promptitude and the
ever-increasing liberality in terms which France had shown from the
moment when the news of Saratoga arrived. Nor perhaps was her anxiety
so utterly absurd as it now seems. There was some foundation for
Gibbon's epigrammatic statement that "the two greatest nations in Europe
were fairly running a race for the favor of America." For the disaster
to the army on the Hudson had had an effect in England even greater than
it had had in France, and Burgoyne's capitulation to "Mr. Gates" had
very nearly brought on a capitulation of Lord North's cabinet to the
insurgent Congress. On February 17 that minister rose, and in a speech
of two hours introduced two conciliatory bills. The one declared that
Parliament had no intention of exercising the right of taxing the
colonies in America. The other authorized sending to the States
commissioners empowered to "treat with Congress, with provincial
assemblies, or with Washington; to order a truce; to suspend all laws;
to grant pardons and rewards; to restore the form of constitution as it
stood before the troubles."[51] The prime minister substantially
acknowledged that England's course toward her colonies had been one
prolonged blunder, and now she was willing to concede every demand save
actual independence. The war might be continued, as it was; but such a
confession could never be retracted. "A dull melancholy silence for some
time succeeded to this speech.... Astonishment, dejection, and fear
overclouded the assembly."

[Note 51: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ ix. 484.]

But a fresh sensation was at hand. Horace and Thomas Walpole had
obtained private information of what had taken place in France, but had
cautiously held it in reserve, and arranged that only two hours before
the meeting of the House of Commons on that eventful day the Duke of
Grafton should tell it to Charles Fox. So now when North sat down Fox
rose, indulged in a little sarcasm on the conversion of the ministry to
the views of the opposition, and then asked his lordship "Whether a
commercial treaty with France had not been signed by the American agents
at Paris within the last ten days? 'If so,' he said, 'the administration
is beaten by ten days, a situation so threatening that in such a time of
danger the House must concur with the propositions, though probably now
they would have no effect.' Lord North was thunderstruck and would not
rise." But at last, warned that it would be "criminal and a matter of
impeachment to withhold an answer," he admitted that he had heard a
rumor of the signature of such a treaty.[52] So the bills were passed
too late.

[Note 52: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, ii. 309.]

So soon as their passage was assured, Hartley, "acting on an
understanding with Lord North,"[53] dispatched copies to Franklin.
Franklin upon his part, also first having an understanding with de
Vergennes, replied that, if peace with the States upon equal terms were
really desired, the commissioners need not journey to America for it,
for "if wise and honest men, such as Sir George Saville, the Bishop of
St. Asaph, and yourself were to come over here immediately with powers
to treat, you might not only obtain peace with America but prevent a war
with France." About the same time also Hartley visited Franklin in
person; but nothing came of their interview, of which no record is
preserved. The two bills were passed, almost unanimously. But every one
felt that their usefulness had been taken out of them by the other
consequences of that event which had induced their introduction. News of
them, however, was dispatched to America by a ship which followed close
upon the frigate which carried the tidings of the French treaties. If
the English ship should arrive first, something might be effected. But
it did not, and probably nothing would have been gained if it had.
Franklin truly said to Hartley: "All acts that suppose your future
government of the colonies can be no longer significant;" and he
described the acts as "two frivolous bills, which the present ministry,
in their consternation, have thought fit to propose, with a view to
support their public credit a little longer at home, and to amuse and
divide, if possible, our people in America." But even for this purpose
they came too late, and stirred no other response than a ripple of
sarcastic triumph over such an act of humiliation, which was aggravated
by being rejected almost without consideration by Congress.

[Note 53: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ ix. 485; Hale's _Franklin in
France_, i. 223.]

So there was an end of conciliation. On March 23 the American envoys had
the significant distinction of a presentation to the king, who is said
to have addressed to them this gracious and royal sentence: "Gentlemen,
I wish the Congress to be assured of my friendship. I beg leave also to
observe that I am exceedingly satisfied, in particular, with your own
conduct during your residence in my kingdom."[54] This personal
compliment, if paid, was gratifying; for the anomalous and difficult
position of the envoys had compelled them to govern themselves wholly by
their own tact and judgment, with no aid from experience or precedents.

[Note 54: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, ii. 312.]

The presentation had been delayed by reason of Franklin having an attack
of the gout, and the effort, when made, laid him up for some time
afterward. It was on this occasion, especially, that he made himself
conspicuous by wearing only the simple dress of a gentleman of the day
instead of the costume of etiquette. Bancroft says that again he donned
the suit of spotted Manchester velvet. He did not wear a sword, but made
up for it by keeping on his spectacles; he had a round white hat under
his arm, and no wig concealed his scanty gray hair. America has always
rejoiced at this republican simplicity; but the fact seems to be that it
was largely due to chance. Parton says that the doctor had ordered a
wig, but when it came home it proved much too small for his great head,
and there was no time to make another. Hawthorne also repeats the story
that Franklin's court suit did not get home in time, and so he had to go
in ordinary apparel; but it "took" so well that the shrewd doctor never
explained the real reason.

On March 13 the Marquis de Noailles, French ambassador at St. James's,
formally announced to the English secretary of state the execution of
the treaty of amity and commerce; and impudently added a hope that the
English court would see therein "new proofs" of King Louis's "sincere
disposition for peace;" and that his Britannic majesty, animated by the
same sentiments, would equally avoid everything that might alter their
good harmony; also that he would particularly take effective measures to
prevent the commerce between his French majesty's subjects and the
United States of North America from being interrupted. When this was
communicated to Parliament Conway asked: "What else have we to do but to
take up the idea that Franklin has thrown out with fairness and
manliness?"[55] But Franklin's ideas had not now, any more than
heretofore, the good fortune to be acceptable to English ministers.
Indeed, the mere fact that a suggestion came from him was in itself
unfortunate; for the king, whose influence was preponderant in this
American business, had singled out Franklin among all the "rebels" as
the object of extreme personal hatred.[56] Franklin certainly
reciprocated the feeling with an intensity which John Adams soon
afterward noted, apparently with some surprise. The only real reply to
Noailles's message which commended itself to government was the instant
recall of Lord Stormont, who left Paris on March 23, _sans prendre
congé_, just as he had once before threatened to do. On the same day the
French ambassador left London, accompanied, as Gibbon said, by "some
slight expression of ill humor from John Bull." At the end of the month
M. Gérard sailed for America, the first accredited minister to the new
member of the sisterhood of civilized nations. A fortnight later the
squadron of D'Estaing sailed from Toulon for American waters, and two
weeks later the English fleet followed.

[Note 55: The reference was to the suggestion made to Hartley for
sending commissioners to Paris to treat for peace.]

[Note 56: Franklin's _Works_, vi. 39, note.]

Thus far the course of France throughout her relationship with the
States had been that of a generous friend. She undoubtedly had been
primarily instigated by enmity to England; and she had been for a while
guarded and cautious; yet not unreasonably so; on the contrary, she had
in many instances been sufficiently remiss in regarding her neutral
obligations to give abundant cause for war, though England had not felt
ready to declare it. At the first interview concerning the treaty of
commerce de Vergennes had said that the French court desired to take no
advantage of the condition of the States, and to exact no terms which
they would afterward regret, but rather to make an arrangement so based
upon the interest of both parties that it should last as long as human
institutions should endure, so that mutual amity should subsist forever.
M. Gérard reiterated the same sentiments. That this language was not
mere French courtesy was proved by the fact that the treaties, when
completed, were "founded on principles of equality and reciprocity, and
for the most part were in conformity to the proposals of Congress."[57]
Each party, under the customs laws of the other, was to be upon the
footing of the most favored nation. The transfer of the valuable and
growing trade of the States from England to France had been assiduously
held out as a temptation to France to enter into these treaties; but no
effort was made by France to gain from the needs of the Americans any
exclusive privileges for herself. She was content to stipulate only that
no other people should be granted preferences over her, leaving the
States entirely unhampered for making subsequent arrangements with other
nations. The light in which these dealings about the treaties made the
French minister and the French court appear to Franklin should be
remembered in the discussions which arose later concerning the treaty of

[Note 57: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ ix. 481.]

[Note 58: See Franklin's _Works_, vi. 133. At this time John Adams
strongly entertained the same sentiments, though he afterward felt very
differently about the sincerity of France. _Diplomatic Correspondence of
American Revolution_, iv. 262, 292.]

It may further be mentioned, by the way, that Franklin had the pleasure
of seeing inserted his favorite principle: that free ships should make
free goods, and free persons also, save only soldiers in actual service
of an enemy. In passing, it is pleasant to preserve this, amid the
abundant other testimony to Franklin's humane and advanced ideas as to
the conduct of war between civilized nations.[59] The doctrine of free
ships making free goods, though promulgated early in the century, was
still making slow and difficult progress. Franklin accepted it with
eagerness. He wrote that he was "not only for respecting the ships as
the house of a friend, though containing the goods of an enemy, but I
even wish that ... all those kinds of people who are employed in
procuring subsistence for the species, or in exchanging the necessaries
or conveniences of life, which are for the common benefit of mankind,
such as husbandmen on their lands, fishermen in their barques, and
traders in unarmed vessels, shall be permitted to prosecute their
several innocent and useful employments without interruption or
molestation, and nothing taken from them, even when wanted by an enemy,
but on paying a fair price for the same." Also to the president of
Congress he spoke of Russia's famous proposal for an "armed neutrality
for protecting the liberty of commerce" as "the great public event" of
the year in Europe. He proposed that Congress should order their
cruisers "not to molest foreign ships, but to conform to the spirit of
that treaty of neutrality." Congress promptly voted to request the
admission of the States to the league, and John Adams took charge of
this business during his mission to Holland.

[Note 59: He was able to give a practical proof of his liberality by
furnishing a passport to the packets carrying goods to the Moravian
brethren in Labrador. Hale's _Franklin in France_, i. 245.]

Events having thus established the indefinite continuance of the war,
the good Hartley, profoundly disappointed, wrote a brief note invoking
blessings on his "dear friend," and closing with the ominous words, "If
tempestuous times should come, take care of your own safety; events are
uncertain and men may be capricious." Franklin, however, declined to be
alarmed. "I thank you," he said, "for your kind caution, but having
nearly finished a long life, I set but little value on what remains of
it. Like a draper, when one chaffers with him for a remnant, I am ready
to say: 'As it is only the fag end, I will not differ with you about it;
take it for what you please.' Perhaps the best use such an old fellow
can be put to is to make a martyr of him."

A few weeks after the conclusion of this diplomatic bond of friendship
between the two peoples, Franklin, in the words of Mr. Bancroft, "placed
the public opinion of philosophical France conspicuously on the side of
America." Voltaire came back to Paris, after twenty-seven years of
voluntary exile, and received such adoration that it almost seemed as
if, for Frenchmen, he was taking the place of that God whom he had been
declaring non-existent, but whom he believed it necessary for mankind to
invent. Franklin had an interview with him, which presented a curious
scene. The aged French philosopher, shriveled, bright-eyed,
destructive-minded, received the aged American philosopher, portly,
serene, the humanest of men, in theatrical French fashion, quoting a
passage of English poetry, and uttering over the head of young Temple
the appropriate benediction, "God and Liberty." This drama was enacted
in private, but on April 29 occurred that public spectacle made familiar
by countless engravings, decorating the walls of so many old-fashioned
American "sitting-rooms" and "best parlors," when, upon the stage of the
Academy of Sciences, before a numerous and distinguished audience, the
two venerable sages met and saluted each other. "_Il faut s'embrasser à
la Française_," shouted the enthusiastic crowd; so they fell into each
other's arms, and kissed, after the continental mode. Great was the
fervor aroused in the breasts of the classic people of France as they
proudly saw upon their soil a new "Solon and Sophocles" in embrace. Who
shall say that Franklin's personal prestige in Europe had not practical
value for America?

Silas Deane, recalled, accompanied Gérard to America. He carried with
him a brief but generous letter from Franklin to the president of
Congress.[60] At the same time Izard was writing home that Deane's
misbehavior had long delayed the alliance with France, and he repeated
what he had said in former letters, that "whatever good dispositions
were shown by Mr. Lee, they were always opposed and overruled by the two
oldest commissioners." The departure of the two gentlemen was kept a
close secret at Paris, and at the request of de Vergennes especially a
secret from Arthur Lee. For the French ministry were well assured that
Lee's private secretary was a spy in British pay, and had he got
possession of this important bit of news, it would not only have been
untimely in a diplomatic way, but it might have given opportunity for
British cruisers to waylay a vessel carrying such distinguished
passengers. The precaution was justifiable, but it had ill consequences
for Franklin, since it naturally incensed Lee to an extreme degree, and
led to a very sharp correspondence, which still further aggravated the
discomfort of the situation. The legitimate trials to which the aged
doctor was subjected were numerous and severe enough, but the untiring
and malicious enmity of Arthur Lee was an altogether illegitimate

[Note 60: Franklin's _Works_, vi. 153.]

Mr. Hale in his recent volumes upon Franklin truly says that "it is
unnecessary to place vituperative adjectives to the credit [discredit?]
of Arthur Lee;" and in fact to do so seems a work of supererogation,
since there probably remain few such epithets in the English language
which have not already been applied to him by one writer or another. Yet
it is hard to hold one's hand, although humanity would perhaps induce us
to pity rather than to revile a man cursed with so unhappy a
temperament. But whatever may be said or left unsaid about him
personally, the infinite disturbance which he caused cannot be wholly
ignored. It was great enough to constitute an important element in
history. Covered by the powerful authority of his influential and
patriotic family at home, and screened by the profound ignorance of
Congress concerning men and affairs abroad, Lee was able for a long time
to run his mischievous career without discovery or interruption. He
buzzed about Europe like an angry hornet, thrusting his venomous sting
into every respectable and useful servant of his country, and irritating
exceedingly the foreigners whom it was of the first importance to
conciliate. Incredible as it seems, it is undoubtedly true that he did
not hesitate to express in Paris his deep antipathy to France and
Frenchmen; and it was only the low esteem in which he was held that
prevented his singular behavior from doing irreparable injury to the
colonial cause. The English newspapers tauntingly ridiculed his
insignificance and incapacity; de Vergennes could not endure him, and
scarcely treated him with civility. But his intense egotism prevented
him from gathering wisdom from such harsh instruction, which only added
gall to his native bitterness. He wreaked his revenge upon his
colleagues, and towards Franklin he cherished an envious hatred which
developed into a monomania. Perhaps Franklin was correct in charitably
saying that at times he was "insane." He began by asserting that
Franklin was old, idle, and useless, fit only to be shelved in some
respectable sinecure mission; but he rapidly advanced from such moderate
condemnation until he charged Franklin with being a party to the
abstraction of his dispatches from a sealed parcel, which was rifled in
some unexplained way on its passage home;[61] and finally he even
reached the extremity of alleging financial dishonesty in the public
business, and insinuated an opinion that the doctor's great rascality
indicated an intention never again to revisit his native land. In all
this malevolence he found an earnest colleague in the hot-blooded Izard,
whose charges against Franklin were unmeasured. "His abilities," wrote
this angry gentleman, "are great and his reputation high. Removed as he
is at so considerable a distance from the observation of his
constituents, if he is not guided by principles of virtue and honor,
those abilities and that reputation may produce the most mischievous
effects. In my conscience I declare to you that I believe him under no
such restraint, and God knows that I speak the real, unprejudiced
sentiments of my heart." Such fulminations, reaching the States out of
what was then for them the obscurity of Europe, greatly perplexed the
members of Congress; for they had very insufficient means for
determining the value of the testimony given by these absent witnesses.

[Note 61: Parton's _Franklin_, ii. 354.]

It would serve no useful purpose to devote valuable space to narrating
at length all the slander and malice of these restless men, all the
correspondence, the quarrels, the explanations, and general trouble to
which they gave rise. But the reader must exercise his imagination
liberally in fancying these things, in order to appreciate to what
incessant annoyance Franklin was subjected at a time when the inevitable
anxieties and severe labors of his position were far beyond the strength
of a man of his years. He showed wonderful patience and dignity, and
though he sometimes let some asperity find expression in his replies, he
never let them degenerate into retorts. Moreover, he replied as little
as possible, for he truly said that he hated altercation; whereas Lee,
who reveled in it, took as an aggravation of all his other injuries that
his opponent was inclined to curtail the full luxury to be expected from
a quarrel. Franklin also magnanimously refrained from arraigning Lee and
Izard to Congress, either publicly or privately, a forbearance which
these chivalrous gentlemen did not emulate. The memorial[62] of Arthur
Lee, of May, 1779, addressed to Congress, contains criminations enough
to furnish forth many impeachments. But Franklin would not condescend to
allow his serenity to be disturbed by the news of these assaults. He
felt "very easy," he said, about these efforts to injure him, trusting
in the justice of the Congress to listen to no accusations without
giving him an opportunity to reply.[63] Yet his position was not so
absolutely secure and exalted but that he suffered some little injury at

[Note 62: Franklin's _Works_, vi. 363.]

[Note 63: To Richard Bache, Franklin's _Works_, vi. 414.]

John Adams, going out to replace Silas Deane, crossed him on the
passage, arriving at Bordeaux on March 31, 1778. This ardent New
Englander, orderly, business-like, endowed with an insatiate industry,
plunged headlong into the midst of affairs. With that happy
self-confidence characteristic of our people, which leads every American
to believe that he can at once and without training do anything
whatsoever better than it can be done by any other living man no matter
how well trained, Adams began immediately to act and to criticise. In a
few hours he knew all about the discussions between the various envoys,
quasi envoys, and agents, who were squabbling with each other to the
scandal of Paris; in a few days he was ready to turn out Jonathan
Williams, unseen and unheard. He was shocked at the confusion in which
he saw all the papers of the embassy, and set vigorously about the task
of sorting, labeling, docketing, and tying up letters and accounts; it
was a task which Franklin unquestionably had neglected, and which
required to be done. He was appalled at the "prodigious sums of money"
which had been expended, at the further great sums which were still to
be paid, and at the lack of any proper books of accounts, so that he
could not learn "what the United States have received as an equivalent."
He did not in direct words charge the other commissioners with culpable
negligence; but it was an unavoidable inference from what he did say.
Undoubtedly the fact was that the accounts were disgracefully muddled
and insufficient; but the fault really lay with Congress, which had
never permitted proper clerical assistance to be employed. Adams soon
found this out, and appreciated that besides all the diplomatic affairs,
which were their only proper concern, the commissioners were also
transacting an enormous business, financial and commercial, involving
innumerable payments great and small, loans, purchases, and
correspondence, and that all was being conducted with scarcely any aid
of clerks or accountants; whereas a mercantile firm engaged in affairs
of like extent and moment would have had an extensive establishment with
a numerous force of skilled employees. When Adams had been a little
longer in Paris, he also began to see where and how "the prodigious
sums" went,[64] and just what was the full scope of the functions of the
commissioners; then the censoriousness evaporated out of his language.
He admitted that the neglects of subordinate agents were such that it
was impossible for the commissioners to learn the true state of their
finances; and he joined in the demand, so often reiterated by Franklin,
for the establishment of the usual and proper commercial agencies. The
business of accepting and keeping the run of the bills drawn by
Congress, and of teasing the French government for money to meet them at
maturity, would still remain to be attended to by the ministers in
person; but these things long experience might enable them to manage.

[Note 64: _Diplomatic Corresp. of Amer. Rev_. iv. 249, 251.]

No sooner had Adams scented the first whiff of the quarrel-laden
atmosphere of the embassy than he expressed in his usual self-satisfied,
impetuous, and defiant way his purpose to be rigidly impartial. But he
was a natural fault-finder, and by no means a natural peacemaker; and
his impartiality had no effect in assuaging the animosities which he
found. However, amid all the discords of the embassy there was one note
of harmony; and the bewildered Congress must have felt much satisfaction
in finding that all the envoys were agreed that one representative at
the French court would be vastly better as well as cheaper than the sort
of caucus which now held its angry sessions there. At worst one man
could not be forever at odds with himself. Adams, when he had finished
the task of arranging the archives, found no other occupation; and he
was scandalized at the extravagance of keeping three envoys. Lee, by
the way, had constantly insinuated that Franklin was blamably lax, if
not actually untrustworthy, in money matters, though all the while he
and his friend Izard had been quite shameless in extorting from the
doctor very large sums for their own expenses. When the figures came to
be made up it appeared that Franklin had drawn less than either of his
colleagues, and much less than the sum soon afterward established by
Congress as the proper salary for the position.[65] The frugal-minded
New Englander himself now acknowledged that he could "not find any
article of expense which could be retrenched,"[66] and he honestly
begged Congress to stop the triple outlay.

[Note 65: _Diplomatic Corresp. of Amer. Rev._ iv. 246.]

[Note 66: _Ibid._ 245.]

Franklin, upon his part, wrote that in many ways the public business and
the national prestige suffered much from the lack of unanimity among the
envoys, and said: "In consideration of the whole, I wish Congress would
separate us." Neither Adams nor Franklin wrote one word which either
directly or indirectly had a personal bearing. Arthur Lee was more
frank; in the days of Deane he had begun to write that to continue
himself at Paris would "disconcert effectually the wicked measures" of
Franklin, Deane, and Williams, and that it was "the one way of
redressing" the "neglect, dissipation, and private schemes" prevalent in
the department, and of "remedying the public evil." He said that the
French court was the place of chief importance, calling for the ablest
and most efficient man, to wit, himself. He suggested that Franklin
might be sent to Vienna, a dignified retreat without labor. Izard and
William Lee wrote letters of like purport; it was true that it was none
of their affair, but they were wont to interfere in the business of the
commissioners, as if the French mission were common property. Congress
took so much of this advice as all their advisers were agreed upon; that
is to say, it broke up the commission to France. But it did not appoint
Arthur Lee to remain there; on the contrary, it nominated Franklin to be
minister plenipotentiary at the French court, left Lee still accredited
to Madrid, as he had been before, and gave Adams neither any place nor
any instructions, so that he soon returned home. Gérard, at
Philadelphia, claimed the credit of having defeated the machinations of
the "dangerous and bad man," Lee, and congratulated de Vergennes on his
relief from the burden.[67] Franklin's commission was brought over by
Lafayette in February, 1779. Thus ended the Lee-Izard cabal against
Franklin; it was not unlike the Gates-Conway cabal against Washington,
save that it lasted longer and was more exasperating. The success of
either would have been almost equally perilous to the popular cause; for
the instatement of Lee as minister plenipotentiary at the French court
would inevitably have led to a breach with France. The result was very
gratifying to Franklin, since it showed that all the ill tales about him
which had gone home had not ruined, though certainly they had seriously
injured, his good repute among his countrymen. Moreover, he could truly
say that the office "was not obtained by any solicitation or intrigue,"
or by "magnifying his own services, or diminishing those of others." But
apart from the gratification and a slight access of personal dignity,
the change made no difference in his duties; he still combined the
functions of loan-agent, consul, naval director, and minister, as
before. Nor was he even yet wholly rid of Arthur Lee. He had, however,
the satisfaction of absolutely refusing to honor any more of Lee's or
Izard's exorbitant drafts for their personal expenses.

[Note 67: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, ii. 383.]

Shortly after his appointment Franklin sent his grandson to Lee, with a
note requesting Lee to send to him such papers belonging to the embassy
as were in his possession. Lee insolently replied that he had "no papers
belonging to the department of minister plenipotentiary at the court of
Versailles;" that if Franklin referred to papers relating to
transactions of the late joint commission, he had "yet to learn and
could not conceive" by what reason or authority one commissioner was
entitled to demand custody of them. Franklin replied temperately enough
that many of them were essential to him for reference in conducting the
public business, but said that he should be perfectly content to have
copies. The captious Lee was still further irritated by this scheme for
avoiding a quarrel, but had to accede to it.


To John Paul Jones Franklin stood in the relation of a navy department.
The daring exploits of that gallant mariner form a chapter too
fascinating to be passed by without reluctance, but limitations of space
are inexorable. His success and his immunity in his reckless feats seem
marvelous. His chosen field was the narrow seas which surround Britain,
which swarmed with British shipping, and were dominated by the
redoubtable British navy as the streets of a city are kept in order by
police. But the rover Jones, though always close to his majesty's
coasts, was too much for all his majesty's admirals and captains. He
harried these home waters and captured prizes till he became embarrassed
by the extent of his own success; he landed at Whitehaven, spiked the
guns of the fort, and fired the ships of the fleet in the harbor beneath
the eyes of the astounded Englishmen, who thronged the shore and gazed
bewildered upon the spectacle which American audacity displayed for
them; he made incursions on the land; he threatened the port of Leith,
and would undoubtedly have bombarded it, had not obstinate counter winds
thwarted his plans; he kept the whole British shores in a state of
feverish alarm; he was always ready to fight, and challenged the
English warship, the Serapis, to come out and meet him; she came, and he
captured her after fighting so desperately that his own ship, the famous
Bon Homme Richard, named after Poor Richard, sank a few hours after the
combat was over.


All these glorious feats were rendered possible by Franklin, who found
the money, consulted as to the operations, issued commissions, attended
to purchases and repairs, to supplies and equipment, who composed
quarrels, settled questions of authority, and interposed to protect
vessels and commanders from the perils of the laws of neutrality. Jones
had a great respect and admiration for him, and said to him once that
his letters would make a coward brave. The projects of Jones were
generally devised in consultations with Franklin, and were in the direct
line of enterprises already suggested by Franklin, who had urged
Congress to send out three frigates, disguised as merchantmen, which
could make sudden descents upon the English coast, destroy, burn, gather
plunder, and levy contributions, and be off before molestation was
possible. "The burning or plundering of Liverpool or Glasgow," he wrote,
"would do us more essential service than a million of treasure, and much
blood spent on the continent;" and he was confident that it was
"practicable with very little danger." This was not altogether in accord
with his humane theory for the conduct of war; but so long as that
theory was not adopted by one side, it could not of course be allowed
to handicap the other.

As if Franklin had not enough legitimate trouble in furthering these
naval enterprises, an entirely undeserved vexation grew out of them for
him. There was a French captain Landais, who entered the service of the
States and was given the command of a ship in what was dignified by the
name of Jones's "squadron." Of all the excitable Frenchmen who have ever
lived none can have been more hot-headed than this remarkable man.
During the engagement between the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis, he
sailed up and down beside the former and delivered broadsides into her
until he was near disabling and sinking the ship of his own commander.
The incomprehensible proceeding meant only that he was so wildly excited
that he did not know at whom he was firing. Soon he quarreled with
Jones; Franklin had to intervene; then Landais advanced all sorts of
preposterous demands, which Franklin refused; thereupon he quarreled
with Franklin; a very disagreeable correspondence ensued; Franklin
finally had to displace Landais from command of his ship; Landais defied
him and refused to surrender command. Then Lee decided to go home to the
States in Landais's ship. When the two got together they stirred up a
mutiny on board, and more trouble was made for Franklin. At last they
got away, and Landais went crazy during the voyage, was deposed by
his officers, and placed in confinement. If the ship had been lost,
it would have been a more tolerable loss than many for which the ocean
is accountable; but she was not, and Lee got safe ashore to continue his
machinations at Philadelphia, and to publish an elaborate pamphlet
against Franklin. All this story and the correspondence may be read at
length in Mr. Hale's "Franklin in France." It is entertaining and shows
vividly the misery to which Franklin was subjected in attending to
affairs which were entirely outside of the proper scope of his office.
"It is hard," said he, "that I, who give others no trouble with my
quarrels, should be plagued with all the perversities of those who think
fit to wrangle with one another."




Whether the financiering of the American Revolution is to be looked upon
in a pathetic or in a comical light must depend upon the mood of the
observer. The spectacle of a young people, with no accumulated capital,
engaged in supporting the charge of a mortal struggle against all the
vast resources of Britain, has in it something of pathos. But the
methods to which this people resorted to raise funds were certainly of
amusing simplicity. It was not until the appointment of Robert Morris,
in 1781, that a treasury department came into existence and some slight
pretense of system was introduced into the financial affairs of the
confederation. During the years prior to that time Congress managed the
business matters. But Congress neither had funds nor the power to obtain
any. It had an unlimited power for contracting debts: absolutely no
power for collecting money. It used the former power freely. When
creditors wanted payment, requisitions were made upon the States for
their respective quotas. But the States were found to be sadly
irresponsive; probably the citizens really had not much ready money;
certainly they had not enough to pay in taxes the cost of the war; no
civilized state has been able to conduct a war, even a small one, in
modern times without using the national credit. But the United States
had absolutely no credit at all. It was well enough to exclaim "Millions
for defense; but not one cent for tribute!" This was rhetoric, not
business; and Congress soon found that the driblets which trickled
tardily to them in response to their demands on the several States would
hardly moisten the bottom of the great exchequer tank, which needed to
be filled to the brim.

Two methods of relief were then adopted, crude, simple, but likely for a
time to be efficient; and provided only that within that time the war
could be finished, all might go well. One of these methods was to issue
irredeemable paper "money;" the other was to borrow real money abroad.
The droll part was that both these transactions were audaciously entered
upon by a body which had absolutely no revenues at all to pledge as
security, which had not a dollar of property, nor authority to compel
any living man to pay it a dollar. A more utterly irresponsible debtor
than Congress never asked for a loan or offered a promissory note. For
the security of a creditor there was only the moral probability that in
case of success the people would be honest enough to pay their debts;
and there was much danger that the jealousies between the States as to
their proportionate quotas might stimulate reluctance and furnish
excuses which might easily become serious in so unpleasant a matter as
paying out hard cash. At home Congress could manage to make its paper
money percolate among the people, and could pay a good many American
creditors with it; but there were some who would not be thus satisfied,
and few European creditors, of course, would meddle with such currency.
So to pay these people who would have real money Congress solicited
loans from other nations. It was like the financiering of a schoolboy,
who issues his IOU's among his mates, and refers the exacting and
business-like tradesman to his father. France was cast for the rôle of
father to the congressional schoolboy for many wearisome years.

The arrangement bore hard upon the American representatives, who, at
European courts and upon European exchanges, had the embarrassing task
of raising money. It was all very well to talk about negotiating a loan;
the phrase had a Micawber-like sound as of real business; but in point
of plain fact the thing to be done was to beg. Congress had a
comparatively easy time of it; such burden and anxiety as lay upon that
body were shared among many; and after all, the whole scope of its duty
was little else than to vote requisitions upon the States, to order the
printing of a fresh batch of bills, and to "resolve that the Treasury
Board be directed to prepare bills of exchange of suitable denominations
upon the Honorable Benjamin Franklin [or sometimes Jay, or Adams, or
another], minister plenipotentiary at the court of Versailles, for----
thousand dollars _in specie_." Having done this, Congress had fulfilled
its simple part, and serenely waited for something to turn up.

The plan which seemed most effective was to send a representative
accredited to some foreign government, and instructed to raise money at
once. Without wasting time by waiting to see whether he arrived safely,
or was received, or was successful in his negotiations, the next ship
which followed him brought drafts and bills which he was expected to
accept, and at maturity to pay. Having thus skillfully shifted the
laboring oar into his hands Congress bestirred itself no further. Poor
Jay, in Spain, had a terrible time of it in this way, and if ever a man
was placed by his country in a painful and humiliating position, it was
he. He faced it gallantly, but had to be carried through by Franklin.
From first to last it was upon Franklin that the brunt fell; he had to
keep the country from financial failure as Washington had to save it
from military failure; he was the real financier of the Revolution;
without him Robert Morris would have been helpless. Spain yielded but
trifling sums in response to Jay's solicitations; Holland, which was
tried by Adams, was even more tardy and unwilling, though towards the
end some money was got there. Franklin alone, at Paris, could tap the
rock and make the waters flow. So upon him Congress sent in an endless
procession of drafts, and compelled him to pay all their foreign bills
and indebtedness; he gathered and he disbursed; to him were referred all
the drafts upon Jay and others, which they themselves could not pay, and
he discharged them one and all. A heavier task never fell upon any man,
nor one bringing less recognition; for money matters usually seem so dry
and unintelligible that every one shirks informing himself about them.
We read about the horrors of the winter camp at Valley Forge, and we
shudder at all the details of the vivid picture. The anxiety, the toil,
the humiliation, which Franklin endured for many winters and many
summers in Paris, in sustaining the national credit, do not make a
picture, do not furnish material for a readable chapter in history. Yet
many a man would far rather have faced Washington's lot than Franklin's.

I do not intend to tell this tale at length or minutely, for I could
trust no reader to follow me in so tedious an enterprise; yet I must try
to convey some notion of what this financiering really meant for
Franklin, of how ably he performed it, of what it cost him in wear and
tear of mind, of what toil it put upon him, and of what measure of
gratitude was due to him for it. It may be worth mentioning by the way
that he not only spent himself in efforts to induce others to lend, but
he himself lent. Before he embarked for Philadelphia on his French
mission, he gathered together all that he could raise in money, some
£3000 to £4000, and paid it over as an unsecured loan for an indefinite
period to the Continental Congress.

It is not probable that from any records now existing the most patient
accountant could elicit any statement, even approximating to accuracy,
of the sums which Franklin received and paid out. But if such an account
could be drawn up, it would only indicate some results in figures which
would have little meaning for persons not familiar with the national
debts, revenues, and outlays of those times, and certainly would not at
all answer the purpose of showing what he really did. The only
satisfactory method of giving any passably clear idea on the subject
seems to be to furnish some extracts from his papers.

The ship which brought Franklin also brought indigo to the value of
£3000, which was to serve as long as it could for the expenses of the
commissioners. For keeping them supplied with money later on, it was the
intention of Congress to purchase cargoes of American products, such as
tobacco, rice, indigo, etc., etc., and consign these to the
commissioners, who, besides paying their personal bills, were sure to
have abundant other means for using the proceeds. Unfortunately,
however, it so happened that the resources presented by this scheme were
already exhausted. In January, 1777, a loan of one million livres had
been advanced on a pledge of fifty-six thousand hogsheads of tobacco to
the Farmers General of the French revenue; and the rice and indigo had
been in like manner mortgaged to Beaumarchais. Congressional jugglery
could not quite compass the payment of different creditors with the same
money, even supposing that the money came to hand. But it did not; for a
long while no cargoes arrived; of those that were dispatched, some were
run away with by dishonest ship-masters, some were lost at sea, others
were captured by the English, so that Franklin sadly remarked that the
chief result was that the enemy had been supplied with these articles
for nothing. But he preserved his resolute cheerfulness. "The destroying
of our ships by the English," he said, "is only like shaving our beards,
that will grow again. Their loss of provinces is like the loss of a
limb, which can never again be united to their body." When at last a
cargo did arrive, Beaumarchais demanded it as his own, and Franklin at
last yielded to his importunities and tears, though having no really
sufficient knowledge of his right to it. Later a second vessel arrived,
and Beaumarchais endeavored to pounce upon it by process of law. That
one also Franklin let him have. Then no more came, and this promising
resource seems never to have yielded one dollar for Franklin's use.

Already so early as January 26, 1777, it was necessary to appeal to
Thomas Morris, from whom remittances had been expected on account of
sales made at Nantes: "You must be sensible how very unbecoming it is
of the situation we are in to be dependent on the credit of others. We
therefore desire that you will remit with all possible expedition the
sum allotted by the Congress for our expenses." But the commissioners
appealed in vain to this worthless drunkard.

Strange to say, the instructions given by Congress to the commissioners
at the time of Franklin's appointment said nothing about borrowing
money. In view of what he had to do in this way it was a singular
omission; but it was soon repaired by letters. In March, 1777, Franklin
writes to Lee: "We are ordered to borrow £2,000,000 on interest;" also
to "build six ships of war," presumably on credit. In this same month
Franklin wrote a paper, which was widely circulated in Europe, in which
he endeavored to show that the honesty, the industry, the resources, and
the prospects of the United States were so excellent that it would
really be safer to lend to them than to England. It was a skillful piece
of work, and its arguments had evidently persuaded the writer himself;
but they did not induce the money-lenders of the old countries to accept
moral qualities and probabilities as collateral security.

Fair success, however, was soon met with at the court of France, so that
the commissioners had the pleasure of assuring Congress that they could
safely be depended upon to meet the interest on a loan of $5,000,000,
which by this aid Congress probably would be able to contract for. But
that body had no idea of being content with this! March 17, 1778,
Franklin writes to Lee that they have been drawn upon for 180,000
livres, to pay old indebtedness of the army in Canada; also that other
bills have been drawn. The number and gross amount of these were not
stated in the advices; but the commissioners were ordered to "accept
them when they should appear." "I cannot conceive," said Franklin, "what
encouragement the Congress could have had from any of us to draw on us
for anything but that interest. I suppose their difficulties have
compelled them to it. I see we shall be distressed here by these
proceedings," etc., etc. Congress was composed of men far too shrewd to
await "encouragement" to draw for money!

July 22, 1778, he wrote to Lovell: "When we engaged to Congress to pay
their bills for the interest of the sums they could borrow, we did not
dream of their drawing on us for other occasions. We have already paid
of Congress's drafts, to returned officers, 82,211 livres; and we know
not how much more of that kind we have to pay, because the committee
have never let us know the amount of those drafts, or their account of
them never reached us, and they still continue coming in. And we are now
surprised with drafts from Mr. B. for 100,000 more. If you reduce us to
bankruptcy here by a non-payment of your drafts, consider the
consequences. In my humble opinion no drafts should be made on us
without first learning from us that we shall be able to answer them."

Congress could not fairly exact great accuracy from the drawees of its
bills, when it never took pains to give notice of the facts of the
drawing, of the number of bills drawn, of dates, or amounts; in a word,
really gave no basis for account-keeping or identification. No more
helter-skelter way of conducting business has ever been seen since
modern business methods were invented. The system, if system it may be
called, would have been aggravating and confusing enough under any
condition of attendant circumstances; but it so happened that all
attendant circumstances tended to increase rather than to mitigate the
difficulties created by the carelessness of Congress. One naturally
fancies that a nation deals in few and large transactions, that these
drafts may have been for inconveniently large sums, but that at least
they probably were not numerous. The precise contrary was the case. The
drafts were countless, and often were for very petty amounts, much as if
a prosperous merchant were drawing cheques to pay his ordinary expenses.
Further, the uncertainty of the passage across the Atlantic led to these
bills appearing at all sorts of irregular times; seconds often came to
hand before firsts, and thirds before either; the bills were often very
old when presented. Knaves took advantage of these facts fraudulently to
alter seconds and thirds into firsts, so that extreme care had to be
taken to prevent constant duplication and even triplication of payments.
It would have taken much of the time of an experienced banker's clerk to
keep the bill and draft department in correct shape. It is not
improbable that Congress lost a good deal of money by undetected
rascalities, but if so the fault lay with that body itself, not with

Amid the harassments of these demands, Franklin was much vexed by the
conduct of Arthur Lee and Izard in drawing money for their own expenses.
In February, 1778, each insisted that he should be allowed a credit with
the banker, M. Grand, to an amount of £2000, as each then expected to
depart on a mission. Franklin reluctantly assented, and was then
astonished and indignant to find that each at once drew out the full sum
from the national account; yet neither went upon his journey. In
January, 1779, Izard applied for more. Franklin's anger was stirred;
Izard was a man of handsome private property, and was rendering no
service in Paris; and his requirements seemed to Franklin eminently
unpatriotic and exorbitant. He therefore refused the request, writing to
Izard a letter which is worth quoting, both from the tone of its
patriotic appeal and as a vivid sketch of the situation:--

     "Your intimation that you expect more money from us obliges us to
     expose to you our circumstances. Upon the supposition that Congress
     had borrowed in America but $5,000,000, and relying on the
     remittances intended to be sent to us for answering other demands,
     we gave expectations that we should be able to pay here the
     interest of that sum as a means of supporting the credit of the
     currency. The Congress have borrowed near twice that sum, and are
     now actually drawing on us for the interest, the bills appearing
     here daily for acceptance. Their distress for money in America has
     been so great from the enormous expense of the war that they have
     also been induced to draw on us for very large sums to stop other
     pressing demands; and they have not been able to purchase
     remittances for us to the extent they proposed; and of what they
     have sent, much has been taken, or treacherously carried into
     England, only two small cargoes of tobacco having arrived, and they
     are long since mortgaged to the Farmers General, so that they
     produce us nothing, but leave us expenses to pay.

     "The continental vessels of war which come to France have likewise
     required great sums of us to furnish and refit them and supply the
     men with necessaries. The prisoners, too, who escape from England
     claim a very expensive assistance from us, and are much
     dissatisfied with the scanty allowance we are able to afford them.
     The interest bills above mentioned, of the drawing of which we have
     received notice, amount to $2,500,000, and we have not a fifth part
     of the sum in our banker's hands to answer them; and large orders
     to us from Congress for supplies of clothing, arms, and ammunition
     remain uncomplied with for want of money.

     "In this situation of our affairs, we hope you will not insist on
     our giving you a farther credit with our banker, with whom we are
     daily in danger of having no farther credit ourselves. It is not a
     year since you received from us the sum of 2000 guineas, which you
     thought necessary on account of your being to set out immediately
     for Florence. You have not incurred the expense of that journey.
     You are a gentleman of fortune. You did not come to France with any
     dependence on being maintained here with your family at the expense
     of the United States, in the time of their distress, and without
     rendering them the equivalent service they expected.

     "On all these considerations we should rather hope that you would
     be willing to reimburse us the sum we have advanced to you, if it
     may be done with any possible convenience to your affairs. Such a
     supply would at least enable us to relieve more liberally our
     unfortunate countrymen, who have long been prisoners, stripped of
     everything, of whom we daily expect to have nearly three hundred
     upon our hands by the exchange."

At this same time Franklin wrote to Congress to explain how it had
happened that so large a sum as £4000 had been allowed to these
gentlemen; for he feared that this liberality might "subject the
commissioners to censure." The explanation was so discreditable to Lee
and Izard that it is charitable to think that there was some
misunderstanding between the parties.[68] The matter naturally rankled,
and in May Franklin wrote that there was much anger against him, that he
was charged with "disobeying an order of Congress, and with cruelly
attempting to distress gentlemen who were in the service of their

[Note 68: See Franklin's _Works_, vi. 294.]

     "They have indeed," he said, "produced to me a resolve of Congress
     empowering them to draw ... for their expenses at foreign courts;
     and doubtless Congress, when that resolve was made, intended to
     enable us to pay those drafts; but as that has not been done, and
     the gentlemen (except Mr. Lee for a few weeks) have not incurred
     any expense at foreign courts, and, if they had, the 5500 guineas
     received by them in about nine months seemed an ample provision for
     it, ... I do not conceive that I disobeyed an order of Congress,
     and that if I did the circumstances will excuse it.... In short,
     the dreadful consequences of ruin to our public credit, both in
     America and Europe, that must attend the protesting a single
     Congress draft for interest, after our funds were out, would have
     weighed with me against the payment of more money to those
     gentlemen, if the demand had otherwise been well founded. I am,
     however, in the judgment of Congress, and if I have done amiss,
     must submit dutifully to their censure."

Burgoyne's surrender had a market value; it was worth ready money in
France and Spain. Upon the strength of it the former lent the States
3,000,000 livres; and the like amount was engaged for by Spain. But,
says Bancroft, "when Arthur Lee, who was equally disesteemed in
Versailles and Madrid, heard of the money expected of Spain, he talked
and wrote so much about it that the Spanish government, who wished to
avoid a rupture with England, took alarm, and receded from its

[Note 69: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ ix. 480.]

In February and March, 1779, came demands from the officers of the
frigate Alliance for their pay; but Franklin was "neither furnished
with money nor authority for such purposes." It seemed, however, too
hard to tell these gallant fellows, whose perilous and useful service
was in European waters, that they could not have a dollar until they
should get safely back to the States; so Franklin agreed to pay for one
suit of clothes for each of them. But he begged them to be as "frugal as
possible," and not make themselves "expensively fine" from a notion that
it was for the honor of the State, which could be better promoted in
more sensible ways.

May 26, 1779, he complains to the committee of foreign affairs that,
whereas the commissioners had agreed to find in Paris means of paying
interest on a loan of $5,000,000, that loan had been doubled, while, on
the other hand, they had been "drained by a number of unforeseen
expenses," including "orders and drafts" of Congress. "And now," he
says, "the drafts of the treasurer of the loans coming very fast upon
me, the anxiety I have suffered and the distress of mind lest I should
not be able to pay them, have for a long time been very great indeed. To
apply again to this court for money for a particular purpose, which they
had already over and over again provided for and furnished us, was
extremely awkward." One would think so, indeed! So he fell back on a
"_general_ application" made some time before, and received naturally
the general answer that France herself was being put to enormous
expenses, which were aiding the States as efficiently as a direct loan
of money could do. The most he could extort was the king's guaranty for
the payment of the interest on $3,000,000, provided that sum could be
raised in Holland. The embarrassing fact was that the plea of poverty
advanced by the French government was perfectly valid. Turgot said so,
and no man knew better than Turgot. He had lately told the king that
even on a peace footing the annual expenditures exceeded the annual
receipts of the exchequer by 20,000,000 livres; and he even talked
seriously of an avowal of national bankruptcy. The events preceding the
French Revolution soon proved that this great statesman did not
exaggerate the ill condition of affairs. Yet instead of practicing rigid
prudence and economy, France had actually gone into a costly war for the
benefit of America. It was peculiarly disagreeable to be ceaselessly
appealing for money to an impoverished friend.

Another vexation was found in the way in which the agents of the various
individual States soon began to scour Europe in quest of money. First
they applied to Franklin, and "seemed to think it his duty as minister
for the United States to support and enforce their particular demands."
But the foreigners, probably not understanding these separate
autonomies, did not relish these requisitions, and Franklin found that
he could do nothing. On the contrary, he was hampered in effecting loans
on the national credit; for these state agents, hurrying clamorously
hither and thither, gave an impression of poverty and injured the
reputation of the country, which, indeed, was already low enough upon
the exchanges without any such gratuitous impairment.

February 19, 1780, there was an application from John Paul Jones for
money for repairs on his ships. Franklin approved keeping the vessels in
serviceable condition, but added: "Let me repeat, for God's sake be
sparing, unless you mean to make me a bankrupt, or have your drafts
dishonored for want of money in my hands to pay them."

May 31, 1780, he complains that he has been reproached by one of the
congressional agents whose unauthorized drafts he had refused. He has
been drawn upon by Congress, he says, for much more than the interest,
which only he had agreed to furnish, and he has answered every demand,
and supported their credit in Europe. "But if every agent of Congress in
different parts of the world is permitted to run in debt, and draw upon
me at pleasure to support his credit, under the idea of its being
necessary to do so for the honor of Congress, the difficulty upon me
will be too great, and I may in fine be obliged to protest the interest
bills. I therefore beg that a stop may be put to such irregular
proceedings." It was a reasonable prayer, but had no effect. Franklin
continued to be regarded as paymaster-general for the States in Europe.

We next hear of his troubles in paying the bills which Congress,
according to its usual custom, was drawing upon Jay. They sent Jay to
Spain, and told him to borrow money there; and as soon as they had got
him fairly at sea, they began drawing drafts upon him. He soon found
himself, as he said, in a "cruel situation," and the torture of mind
which he endured and the responsibility which he assumed are well known.
He courageously accepted the bills, trusting to Providence and to
Franklin, who seemed the agent of Providence, to arrange for their
payment. Franklin did not fail him. One of Jay's earliest letters to
Franklin said: "I have no reason as yet to think a loan here will be
practicable. Bills on me arrive daily. Be pleased to send me a credit
for the residue of our salaries." Five days later: "Bills to the amount
of $100,000 have arrived. A loan cannot be effected here." And so on. In
April, 1781, his appeal became pathetic: "Our situation here is daily
becoming more disagreeable from the want of our salaries; to be obliged
to contract debts and live on credit is terrible. I have not to this day
received a shilling from America, and we should indeed have been greatly
distressed, had it not been for your good offices." An American minister
without resources to pay his butcher and his grocer, his servant and his
tailor, presented a spectacle which moved Franklin to great efforts! In
plain truth, Jay and his secretary, Carmichael, were dependent upon
Franklin for everything; they not only drew on him for their salaries to
pay daily household expenses, but they sent him lists of the bills
accepted by them for the "honor of Congress," and which they had no
means of paying. It was fortunate that these two men were willing to
incur such peril and anxiety in behalf of this same "honor of Congress,"
which otherwise would soon have been basely discredited; for that body
itself was superbly indifferent on the subject, and did not pretend to
keep faith even with its own agents.

Thus matters continued to the end. Congress pledged itself not to draw
bills, and immediately drew them in batches. Jay could report to
Franklin only scant and reluctant promises won from the Spanish court;
and small as these engagements were, they were ill kept. Perhaps they
could not be kept; for, as Jay wrote, there was "little coin in Egypt,"
the country was really poor. So the end of it always was that Franklin
remained as the only resource for payments, to be made week after week,
of all sorts of sums ranging from little bills upon vessels up to great
totals of $150,000 or $230,000 upon bankers' demands. Such was the
burden of a song which had many more woeful stanzas than can be repeated

By way of affording some sort of encouragement to the French court,
Franklin now proposed that the United States government should furnish
the French fleet and forces in the States with provisions, of which the
cost could be offset, to the small extent that it would go, against
French loans. It seemed a satisfactory arrangement, and France assented
to it.

At the same time he wrote to Adams that he had "long been humiliated
with the idea of our running about from court to court begging for money
and friendship, which are the more withheld the more eagerly they are
solicited, and would perhaps have been offered if they had not been
asked. The proverb says, God helps them that help themselves; and the
world too, in this sense, is very godly." This was an idea to which he
more than once recurred. In March, 1782, in the course of a long letter
to Livingston, he said: "A small increase of industry in every American,
male and female, with a small diminution of luxury, would produce a sum
far superior to all we can hope to beg or borrow from all our friends in
Europe." He reiterated the same views again in March, and again in
December, and doubtless much oftener.[70] No man was more earnest in the
doctrine that every individual American owed his strenuous and
unremitting personal assistance to the cause. It was a practical as well
as a noble patriotism which he felt, preached, and exemplified; and it
was thoroughly characteristic of the man.

[Note 70: Franklin's _Works_, vii. 404; viii. 236.]

What was then the real financial capacity of the people, and whether
they did their utmost in the way of raising money to support the
Revolution, is a question about which it is easy to express an opinion,
but difficult to prove its accuracy by convincing evidence. On the one
hand, it is true that the strain was extreme and that much was done to
meet it; on the other hand, it is no less true that even beneath this
stress the national prosperity actually made a considerable advance
during the war. The people as a whole gathered money rather than
impoverished themselves. In the country at large the commercial instinct
fully held its own in competition with the spirit of independence. There
was not much forswearing of little luxuries. Franklin said that he
learned by inquiry that of the interest money which was disbursed in
Paris most was laid out for "superfluities, and more than half of it for
tea." He computed that £500,000 were annually expended in the States for
tea alone. This sum, "annually laid out in defending ourselves or
annoying our enemies, would have great effect. With what face can we ask
aids and subsidies from our friends, while we are wasting our own wealth
in such prodigality?"

Henry Laurens, dispatched as minister to the Hague in 1780, was captured
on the voyage and carried into England. But this little incident
mattered not at all to the Congress, which for a long while cheerfully
drew a great number of bills upon the poor gentleman, who, held in the
Tower of London as a traitor, was hardly in a position to negotiate
large loans for his fellow "rebels." In October, 1780, these bills
began to flutter down upon Franklin's desk, drawn by a sort of natural
gravitation. He felt "obliged to accept them," and said that he should
"with some difficulty be able to pay them, though these extra demands
often embarrass me exceedingly."

November 19, 1780, he wrote to de Vergennes announcing that Congress had
notified him of drafts to the amount of about 1,400,000 livres (about
$280,000). The reply was: "You can easily imagine my astonishment at
your request of the necessary funds to meet these drafts, since you
perfectly well know the extraordinary efforts which I have made thus far
to assist you and support your credit, and especially since you cannot
have forgotten the demands you lately made upon me. Nevertheless, sir, I
am very desirous of assisting you out of the embarrassed situation in
which these repeated drafts of Congress have placed you; and for this
purpose I shall endeavor to procure for you, for the next year, the same
aid that I have been able to furnish in the course of the present. I
cannot but believe, sir, that Congress will faithfully abide by what it
now promises you, that in future no drafts shall be made upon you unless
the necessary funds are sent to meet them."

Such a letter, though only gratitude could be felt for it, must have
stung the sensitiveness of Franklin, who had already a great national
pride. Nor was the pain likely to be assuaged by the conduct of
Congress; for that body had not the slightest idea of keeping the
promises upon which de Vergennes expressed a reliance perhaps greater
than he really felt. It is not without annoyance, even now, that one
reads that only two days after the French minister wrote this letter,
Congress instructed Franklin to do some more begging for clothes, and
for the aid of a fleet, and said: "With respect to the loan, we foresee
that the sum which we ask will be greatly inadequate to our wants."

December 2, 1780, Franklin acknowledges "favors," a conventional phrase
which seems sarcastic. These tell him that Congress has resolved to draw
on him "bills extraordinary, to the amount of near $300,000." These were
doubtless what led to the foregoing correspondence with de Vergennes. In
reply he says that he has already engaged himself for the bills drawn on
Mr. Laurens, and adds: "You cannot conceive how much these things
perplex and distress me; for the practice of this government being
yearly to apportion the revenue to the several expected services, any
after demands made, which the treasury is not furnished to supply, meet
with great difficulty, and are very disagreeable to the ministers."

A short fragment of a diary kept in 1781 gives a painful vision of the
swarm of bills:--

     "Jan. 6. Accepted a number of loan office bills this day, and every
     day of the past week.

     "Sunday, Jan. 7. Accepted a vast number of loan office bills. Some
     of the new drafts begin to appear.

     "Jan. 8. Accepted many bills.

     "Jan. 10th. Informed that my recall is to be moved for in Congress.

     "Jan. 12th. Sign acceptation [qu. "of"? mutilated] many bills. They
     come thick.

     "Jan. 15th. Accepted above 200 bills, some of the new.

     "Jan. 17th. Accepted many bills.

     "Jan. 22d. M. Grand informs me that Mr. Williams has drawn on me
     for 25,000 livres; ... I order payment of his drafts.

     "Jan. 24th. A great number of bills.

     "Jan. 26th. Accept bills."

February 13 he writes a general begging and stimulating letter to de
Vergennes. He says that the plain truth is that the present situation in
the States "makes one of two things essential to us--a peace, or the
most vigorous aid of our allies, particularly in the article of
_money_.... The present conjuncture is critical; there is some danger
lest the Congress should lose its influence over the people, if it is
found unable to procure the aids that are wanted;" and in that case the
opportunity for separation is gone, "perhaps for ages." A few days later
he was "under the necessity of being importunate for an answer to the
application lately made for stores and money." De Vergennes replied, in
an interview, that Franklin must know that for France to lend the
25,000,000 livres asked for was "at present impracticable." Also his
excellency mentioned other uncomfortable and distasteful facts, but
concluded by saying that the king, as a "signal proof of his
friendship," would make a free gift of 6,000,000 livres, in addition to
3,000,000 recently furnished for interest drafts. But the French court
had at last so far lost confidence in Congress that in order to make
sure that this money should be applied in aid of the army, and not be
vaguely absorbed by committees, a stipulation was inserted that it
should be paid only upon the order of General Washington. This was a
trifle insulting to Congress, and made trouble; and it seems that
ultimately the sum was intrusted to Franklin.

Almost immediately afterward he extorted from Necker an agreement that
the king of France would guaranty a loan of 10,000,000 livres, if it
could be raised in Holland; and upon these terms he was able to raise
this sum. Trouble enough the possession of it soon gave him; for the
demands for it were numerous. Franklin needed it to keep himself solvent
in Europe; Congress greedily sought it for America; William Jackson, who
was buying supplies in Holland, required much of it there. Franklin was
expected to repeat with it the miracle of the loaves and fishes.
2,500,000 livres he sent to the States in the same ship which carried
John Laurens. 2,200,000 Laurens disposed of in purchasing goods;
1,500,000 were sent to Holland to be thence sent to the States in
another ship, so as to divide the risk. But while he thus took care of
others, he himself was drawn upon by Jackson for £50,000; and at the
same time he was expected to provide for all the bills accepted by
Laurens, Jay, and Adams, and now rapidly maturing. He sent in haste to
Holland to detain the 1,500,000 livres _in transitu_. "I am sorry," he
said, "that this operation is necessary; but it must be done, or the
consequences will be terrible."

Laurens and Jackson, however, in Holland, had been actually spending
this sum, and more. "I applaud the zeal you have both shown in the
affair," said the harassed doctor, "but I see that nobody cares how much
I am distressed, provided they can carry their own points." Fortunately
the money still lay in the hands of the banker, and there Franklin
stopped it; whereupon Jackson fell into extreme rage, and threatened
some sort of a "proceeding," which Franklin said would only be
exceedingly imprudent, useless, and scandalous. "The noise rashly made
about this matter" by Jackson naturally injured American credit in
Holland, and especially rendered unmarketable his own drafts upon
Franklin. In these straits he journeyed to Paris to see Franklin,
represented that his goods were on board ship; that they were articles
much needed in America; that they must be paid for, or else relanded and
returned, or sold, which would be a public disgrace. So Franklin was
prevailed upon to engage for the payment, and was "obliged to go with
this after-clap to the ministers," a proceeding especially disagreeable
because, as he said, "the money was to be paid for the manufactures of
other countries and not laid out in those of this kingdom, by whose
friendship it was furnished." He was at first "absolutely refused," but
in time prevailed, and "hoped the difficulty was over." Not at all!
After all this exertion and annoyance, the officers of the ship said she
was overloaded, and turned out a large part of the goods, which were
accordingly put into two other ships; and then Franklin was offered the
option of buying these two vessels, of hiring them at a freight scarcely
less than their value, or of having the goods again set on shore. He was
now "ashamed to show his face to the minister," and was casting about
for resources, when suddenly he was surprised by new demands to pay for
the goods which he had every reason to believe had already been paid
for. This produced such a dispute and complication that the goods
remained long in Holland before affairs could be arranged, and the final
settlement is not clearly to be made out.

In the spring of 1781 John Adams was in Holland, and of course Congress
was drawing bills upon him, and equally of course he had not a stiver
with which to meet them. He had "opened a loan," but so little had
fallen into the opening that he was barely able to pay expenses; so,
still of course, he turned to Franklin: "When they [the bills] arrive
and are presented I must write to you concerning them, and desire you to
enable me to discharge them." He added that it was a "grievous
mortification to find that America has no credit here, while England
certainly still has so much." Apparently the pamphlet in which Franklin
had so convincingly shown that the reverse of this should be the case
had not satisfied the minds of the Dutch bankers.

In July, 1781, came a broad hint from Robert Morris: "I will not doubt a
moment that, at your instance, his majesty will make pressing
representations in support of Mr. Jay's application, and I hope that the
authority of so great a sovereign and the arguments of his able ministry
will shed auspicious influence on our negotiations at Madrid." This
fulsome language, intended of course to be read to de Vergennes, imposed
the gratifying duty of begging the French minister to second American
begging in Spain.

In the same month Franklin wrote to Morris that the French were vexed at
the purchasing of goods in Holland, and would not furnish the money to
pay for them, and he actually suggested a remittance from America!
"Otherwise I shall be ruined, with the American credit in Europe." He
might have had some motive besides patriotism in thus uniting himself
with the credit of his country; for he had been warned that the consul's
court in Paris had power even over the persons of foreign ministers in
the case of bills of exchange.

September 12, 1781, he announces triumphantly that "the remittances ...
which I requested are now unnecessary, and I shall finish the year with
honor," notwithstanding "drafts on Mr. Jay and on Mr. Adams much
exceeding what I had been made to expect."

He was now informed that Congress would not draw upon _other_ ministers
without providing funds, but that they would continue to draw on _him_
"funds or no funds," an invidious distinction which "terrified" him; for
he had been obliged to promise de Vergennes not to accept any drafts
drawn later than March, 1781, unless he should have in hand or in view
funds sufficient to pay them. But before long he began to suspect that
Congress could outwit the French minister. For so late as January, 1782,
bills dated prior to the preceding April were still coming; and he said:
"I begin to suspect that the drawing continues, and _that the bills are
antedated_. It is impossible for me to go on with demands after
demands." The next month also found these old bills on Laurens still
coming in. Congress never let the ministers know how many bills it was
drawing, perhaps fearing to discourage them by so appalling a
disclosure. Franklin now wrote to Adams: "Perhaps from the series of
numbers and the deficiencies one may be able to divine the sum that has
been issued." Moreover, he reflects that he has never had any
instructions to pay the acceptances of Jay and Adams, nor has had any
ratification of his payments; neither had he "ever received a syllable
of approbation for having done so. Thus I stand charged with vast sums
which I have disbursed for the public service without authority." The
thought might cause some anxiety, in view of the moral obliquity
manifested by Congress in all its financial dealings.

In November, 1781, came a long letter from Livingston; everything was
wanted; but especially the States must have _money_! December 31, a day
that often brings reflection on matters financial, de Vergennes sent a
brief warning; 1,000,000 livres, which had been promised, Franklin
should have, but not one livre more under any circumstances; if he had
accepted, or should accept, Morris's drafts in excess of this sum, he
must trust to his own resources to meet his obligations. Accordingly on
January 9, 1782, he wrote to Morris: "Bills are still coming in
quantities.... You will see by the inclosed letter the situation I am at
last brought into.... I shall be able to pay till the end of February,
when, if I can get no more money, I must stop."

Ten days later he writes to Jay that his solicitations make him appear
insatiable, that he gets no assurances of aid, but that he is "very
sensible" of Jay's "unhappy situation," and therefore manages to send
him $30,000, though he knows not how to replace it. In the sad month of
March, 1782, Lafayette nobly helped Franklin in the disagreeable task of
begging, but to little purpose; for at length there seemed a general
determination to furnish no more money to the States. The fighting was
over, and it seemed reasonable that the borrowing should be over

In February, 1782, Franklin says that Mr. Morris supposes him to have a
sum "vastly greater than the fact," and has "given orders far beyond my
abilities to comply with." Franklin was regarded as a miraculous orange
which, if squeezed hard enough, would always yield juice! It could not
have been reassuring, either, to have one of the American agents at this
time ask to have 150,000 livres advanced to him _at once_; especially
since the frankly provident gentleman based his pressing haste upon the
avowed fear that, as business was going on, Franklin's embarrassments in
money matters were likely to increase.

February 13, 1782, Livingston wrote a letter which must have excited a
grim smile. He comforts himself, in making more "importunate demands,"
by reflecting that it is all _for the good of France!_ which thought, he
says, may enable Franklin to "press them with some degree of dignity."
Franklin's sense of humor was touched. That means, he says, that I am to
say to de Vergennes: "Help us, and we shall not be obliged to you." But
in some way or another, probably not precisely in this eccentric way, he
so managed it that in March he wheedled the French government into still
another and a large loan of 24,000,000 livres payable quarterly during
the year. March 9 he informs Morris "pretty fully of the state of our
funds here, by which you will be enabled so to regulate your drafts as
that our credit in Europe may not be ruined and your friend killed with

He now engaged to pay all the drafts which Jay should send to him, so
that Jay could extricate himself honorably from those dread engagements
which had been giving that harassed gentleman infinite anxiety at
Madrid. Some of his acceptances had already gone to protest; but
Franklin soon took them all up. By the end of March he began to breathe
more freely; he had saved himself and his colleagues thus far and now he
hoped that the worst was over. He wrote to Morris: "Your promise that
after this month no more bills shall be drawn on me keeps up my spirits
and affords me the greatest satisfaction." By the following summer the
accounts between France and the States were in course of liquidation,
and Franklin called the attention of Livingston to the fact that the
king practically made the States a further present "to the value of near
two millions. These, added to the free gifts before made to us at
different times, form an object of at least twelve millions, for which
no returns but that of gratitude and friendship are expected. These, I
hope, may be everlasting." But liquidation, though a necessary
preliminary to payment, is not payment, and does not preclude a
continuance of borrowing; and in August we find that Morris was still
pressing for more money, still drawing drafts, in happy forgetfulness of
his promises not to do so, and still keeping Franklin in anxious dread
of bankruptcy. By the same letter it appears that Morris had directed
Franklin to pay over to M. Grand, the banker, any surplus funds in his
hands! "I would do it with pleasure, if there were any such," said
Franklin; but the question was still of a deficit, not of a surplus.

December 14, 1782, finds Franklin still at the old task, preferring "the
application so strongly pressed by the Congress for a loan of
$4,000,000." Lafayette again helped him, but the result remained
uncertain. The negotiations for peace were so far advanced that the
ministers thought it time for such demands to cease. But probably he
succeeded, for a few days later he appears to be remitting a
considerable sum. Peace, however, was at hand, and in one respect at
least it was peace for Franklin as well as for his country, for even
Congress could no longer expect him to continue borrowing. He had indeed
rendered services not less gallant though less picturesque than those of
Washington himself, vastly more disagreeable, and scarcely less
essential to the success of the cause.



John Adams wielded a vivid and vicious pen; he neglected the Scriptural
injunction: "Judge not," and he set honesty before charity in speech.
His judgments upon his contemporaries were merciless; they had that kind
of truthfulness which precluded contradiction, yet which left a sense of
injustice; they were at once accurate and unfair. His strictures
concerning Franklin are an illustration of these peculiarities. What he
said is of importance because he said it, and because members of the
Adams family in successive generations, voluminous contributors to the
history of the country, have never divested themselves of the inherited
enmity toward Franklin. During Adams's first visit to France the
relationship between him and Franklin is described as sufficiently
friendly rather than as cordial. December 7, 1778, in a letter to his
cousin Samuel Adams, John thus described his colleague:--

     "The other you know personally, and that he loves his Ease, hates
     to offend, and seldom gives any opinion till obliged to do it. I
     know also, and it is necessary that you should be informed, that he
     is overwhelmed with a correspondence from all quarters, most of
     them upon trifling subjects and in a more trifling style, with
     unmeaning visits from Multitudes of People, chiefly from the Vanity
     of having it to say that they have seen him. There is another thing
     that I am obliged to mention. There are so many private families,
     Ladies and gentlemen, that he visits so often,--and they are so
     fond of him, that he cannot well avoid it,--and so much intercourse
     with Academicians, that all these things together keep his mind in
     a constant state of dissipation. If indeed you take out of his hand
     the Public Treasury and the direction of the Frigates and
     Continental vessels that are sent here, and all Commercial affairs,
     and entrust them to Persons to be appointed by Congress, at Nantes
     and Bordeaux, I should think it would be best to have him here
     alone, with such a Secretary as you can confide in. But if he is
     left here alone, even with such a secretary, and all maritime and
     Commercial as well as political affairs and money matters are left
     in his Hands, I am persuaded that France and America will both have
     Reason to repent it. He is not only so indolent that Business will
     be neglected, but you know that, although he has as determined a
     soul as any man, yet it is his constant Policy never to say 'yes'
     or 'no' decidedly but when he cannot avoid it."

This mischievous letter, not actually false, yet misrepresenting and
misleading, has unfortunately survived to injure both the man who wrote
it and the man about whom it was written. It is quoted in order to show
the sort of covert fire in the rear to which Franklin was subjected
throughout his term of service. It is astonishing now, when the
evidence is all before us and the truth is attainable, to read such a
description of such a patriot as Franklin, a man who went through labors
and anxieties for the cause probably only surpassed by those of
Washington, and whose services did more to promote success than did the
services of any other save only Washington. How blind was the personal
prejudice of the critic who saw Franklin in Paris and could yet suggest
that the charge of the public treasury should be taken from him! To whom
else would the Frenchmen have unlocked their coffers as they did to him,
whom they so warmly liked and admired? John Adams and Arthur Lee and
other Americans who endeavored to deal with the French court got
themselves so thoroughly hated there that little aid would have been
forthcoming at the request of such representatives. It was to Franklin's
personal influence that a large portion of the substantial help in men,
ships, and especially in money, accorded by France to the States, was
due. He was as much the right man in Europe as was Washington in

Nevertheless this attribution of traits, so maliciously penned, has
passed into history, and though the world does not see that either
France or the States had cause "to repent" keeping Franklin in Paris in
general charge of affairs, and unwatched by a vigilant secretary, yet
all the world believes that in the gay metropolis Franklin was indolent
and given over to social pleasures, which flattered his vanity.
Undoubtedly there is foundation in fact for the belief. But to arrive at
a just conclusion one must consider many things. The character of the
chief witness is as important as that of the accused. Adams, besides
being a severe critic, was filled to the brim with an irrepressible
activity, an insatiate industry, a restlessness and energy, all which
were at this period stimulated by the excitement of the times to an
intensity excessive and abnormal even for him. To him, in this condition
of chronic agitation, the serenity of Franklin's broad intellect and
tranquil nature seemed inexplicable and culpable. But Franklin had what
Adams lacked, a vast experience in men and affairs. Adams knew the
provinces and the provincials; Franklin knew the provinces and England
and France, the provincials, Englishmen, Frenchmen, and all ranks and
conditions of men,--journeymen, merchants, philosophers, men of letters,
diplomatists, courtiers, noblemen, and statesmen. The one was an able
colonist, the other was a man of the world, of exceptionally wide
personal experience even as such. Moreover Franklin's undertakings were
generally crowned with a success which justifies us in saying that,
however much or little exertion he visibly put forth, at least he put
forth enough. Adams sometimes was for putting forth too much. Franklin,
when he arrived in France, was in his seventy-first year; his health was
in the main good, yet his strength had been severely tried by his
journey to Canada and by the voyage. He was troubled with a cutaneous
complaint, of which he makes light, but which was abundant evidence that
his physical condition was far from perfect; he was a victim of the
gout, which attacked him frequently and with great severity, so that he
was often obliged to keep his bed for days and weeks; when he was
appointed sole minister of the States to France he remarked that there
was "some incongruity in a _plenipotentiary_ who could neither stand nor
go;" later on he suffered extremely from stone and gravel; with all
these diseases, and with the remorseless disease of old age gaining
ground every day, it is hardly surprising that Franklin seemed to the
hale and vigorous Adams not to be making that show of activity which
would have been becoming in the chief representative of the United
States during these critical years. Yet except that he was careless
about his papers and remiss in his correspondence, no definite
allegations are made against him prior to the treating for peace; no
business of importance was ever said to have failed in his hands, which
should be a sufficient vindication of his general efficiency. The amount
of labor which was laid upon him was enormous: he did as much business
as the managing head of a great banking-house and a great mercantile
firm combined; he did all the diplomacy of the United States; he was
also their consul-general, and though he had agents in some ports, yet
they more often gave trouble than assistance; after the commercial
treaty with France he had to investigate French laws and tariffs and
give constant advice to American merchants upon all sorts of questions
as to statutes, trade, customs, dues, and duties. What he did concerning
the warships, the privateers, and the prizes has been hinted at rather
than stated; what he did in the way of financiering has been imperfectly
shown; he was often engaged in planning naval operations either for Paul
Jones and others in European waters or for the French fleet in American
waters. He had for a perpetual annoyance all the captiousness and the
quarrels of the two Lees, Izard, and Thomas Morris. When business had to
be transacted, as often occurred, with states at whose courts the United
States had no representative, Franklin had to manage it;[71] especially
he was concerned with the business in Spain, whither he would have
journeyed in person had his health and other engagements permitted.
Moreover he was adviser-general to all American officials of any and
every grade and function in Europe; and much as some of these gentlemen
contemned him, they each and all instinctively demanded his guidance in
every matter of importance. Even Arthur Lee deferred to him rather than
decide for himself; Dana sought his instructions for the mission to
Russia; men of the calibre of Jay and independent John Adams sought and
respected his views and his aid, perhaps more than they themselves
appreciated. Surely here was labor enough, and even more responsibility
than labor; but Franklin's great, well-trained mind worked with the ease
and force of a perfectly regulated machine whose smoothness of action
almost conceals its power, and all the higher parts of his labor were
achieved with little perceptible effort. For the matters of
account-keeping and letter-writing, he neglected these things; and one
is almost provoked into respecting him for so doing when it is
remembered that during all the time of his stay in France Congress never
allowed to this aged and overtasked man a secretary of legation, or even
an amanuensis or a copyist. He had with him his grandson, Temple
Franklin, a lad of sixteen years at the time of his arrival in France,
and whom it had been intended to place at school. But Franklin could not
dispense with his services, and kept this youngster as his sole clerk
and assistant. It should be mentioned also in this connection that it
was not only necessary to prepare the customary duplicates of every
document of importance, but every paper which was to be sent across the
Atlantic had to be copied half a dozen extra times, in order to be
dispatched in as many different ships, so great were the dangers of
capture. It was hardly fair to expect a minister plenipotentiary to
display unwearied zeal in this sort of work. Adams himself would have
done it, and grumbled; Franklin did not do it, and preserved his good
temper. In conclusion it may be said that, if Franklin was indolent, as
in some ways he probably was, he had at least much excuse for indolence,
and the trait showed itself only on what may be called the physical side
of his duties; upon the intellectual side, it cannot be denied that
during the period thus far traversed he did more thinking and to better
purpose than any other American of the day.

[Note 71: For example, with Norway, with Denmark, and with

In saying that Franklin was fond of society and pleased with the
admiration expressed for him by the ardent and courteous Frenchmen and
by other continental Europeans, Adams spoke correctly. Franklin was
always social and always a little vain. But much less would have been
heard of these traits if the distinction made between him and his
colleagues had been less conspicuous and less constant. That men of the
size of the Lees and Izard should inflate themselves to the measure of
harboring a jealousy of Franklin's preëminence was only ridiculous; but
Adams should have had, as Jay had, too much self-respect to cherish such
a feeling. It was the weak point in his character that he could never
acknowledge a superior, and the fact that the world at large estimated
Washington, Franklin, and Hamilton as men of larger calibre than his own
kept him in a state of exasperation all his life. Now the simple truth,
forced in a thousand unintended ways upon the knowledge of all American
envoys during the Revolution, was, that in Europe Franklin was a
distinguished man, while no other American was known or cared for at
all. Franklin received deference, where others received civility;
Franklin was selected for attentions, for flattery, for official
consultations and communications, while his colleagues were "forgotten
entirely by the French people." Jay, Dana, and Carmichael accepted this
situation in the spirit of sensible gentlemen, but Adams, the Lees, and
Izard were incensed and sought an offset in defamation. Compare
Carmichael's language with what has been quoted from Adams: he says:
"The age of Dr. Franklin in some measure hinders him from taking so
active a part in the drudgery of business as his great zeal and
abilities would otherwise enable him to execute. He is the Master, to
whom we children in politics look up for counsel, and whose name is
everywhere a passport to be well received." Still it must have been
provoking to be customarily spoken of as "Dr. Franklin's associates."
When Franklin was appointed minister plenipotentiary he was obliged to
explain that he was not the "sole representative of America in Europe."
De Vergennes always wished to deal only with him, and occasionally said
things to him in secrecy so close as to be exclusive even of his
"associates." Adams honestly admitted that "this court have confidence
in him alone." When a favor was to be asked, it was Franklin who could
best seek it; and when it was granted it seemed to be vouchsafed to
Franklin. In a word, Franklin had the monopoly of the confidence, the
respect, and the personal regard of the French ministry. It was the same
way also with the English; when they made advances for conciliation or
peace, they too selected Franklin for their communications.

Adams was not sufficiently familiar with the modes of political life in
Europe to appreciate what a substantial value Franklin's social and
scientific prestige among the "ladies and gentlemen" and the
"academicians" had there. All those tributes which the great
"philosopher" was constantly receiving may have been, as Adams said,
pleasant food for his vanity, but they were also of practical worth and
service, signifying that he was a man of real note and importance in
what European statesmen regarded as "the world." If Franklin relished
the repast, who among mortals would not? And was his accuser a man to
have turned his back on such viands, had he also been bidden to the
feast of flattery? Franklin's vanity was a simple, amiable, and harmless
source of pleasure to himself; it was not of the greedy or envious type,
nor did its gratification do any injury to any person or any interest.
Jay, a man of generous temper, understood the advantage reaped by the
States from being represented at the French court by a man whose
greatness all Europe recognized. More than once he bore this testimony,
honorable alike to the giver and to him for whom it was given.[72]

[Note 72: See, for example, Franklin's _Works_, vii. 252, note.]

Pleasant as were many of the features of Franklin's residence in France,
and skillfully as he may have evaded some of the more irksome labors
imposed upon him, the attraction was not always sufficient to make him
reluctant to have done with the place. Its vexations and anxieties wore
upon him grievously. He knew that unfriendly representations concerning
him were often made in America, and that these induced some men to
distrust him, and caused others to feel anxious about him. He heard
stories that he was to be recalled, other stories that there was a cabal
to vent a petty ill will by putting an end to the clerkship of his
grandson. This cut him to the quick. "I should not part with the child,"
he said, "but with the employment;" and so the ignoble scheme
miscarried; for Congress was not ready to lose Franklin, and did not
really feel any extreme dread of harm from a lad who, though the son of
a loyalist, had grown up under Franklin's personal influence. At times
homesickness attacked him. When he heard of the death of an old friend
at home he wrote sadly: "A few more such deaths will make me a stranger
in my own country." He was not one of those patriots who like to live
abroad and protest love for their own country. Generally he preserved
the delightful evenness of his temper with a success quite wonderful in
a man troubled with complaints which preëminently make the sufferer
impatient and irascible. Only once he said, when he was being very
unreasonably annoyed about some shipping business: "I will absolutely
have nothing to do with any new squadron project. I have been too long
in hot water, plagued almost to death with the passions, vagaries, and
ill humors and madnesses of other people. I must have a little repose."
A very mild outbreak this, under all his provocations, but it is the
only one of which any record remains. His tranquil self-control was a
very remarkable trait; he was never made so angry by all the calumny and
assaults of enemies peculiarly apt in the art of irritation as to use
any immoderate or undignified language. He never retaliated, though he
had the fighting capacity in him. Before the tribunal of posterity his
patient endurance has counted greatly in his favor.

By March, 1781, he had definitively made up his mind to resign, and
wrote to the president of Congress a letter which was unmistakably
earnest and in parts even touching.[73] When this alarming communication
was received all the depreciation of the Lees, Izard, and the rest went
for nothing. Without hesitation Congress ignored the request, with far
better reason than it could show for the utter indifference with which
it was wont to regard pretty much all the other requests which Franklin
ever made. Its behavior in this respect was indeed very singular. He
recommended his grandson to it, and it paid absolutely no attention to
the petition. He repeatedly asked the appointment of consuls at some of
the French ports; it created all sorts of other officials, keeping Paris
full of useless and costly "ministers" accredited to courts which would
not receive them, but appointed no consul. He urged hard, as a trifling
personal favor, that an accountant might be appointed to audit his
nephew Williams's accounts, but Congress would not attend to a matter
which could have been disposed of in five minutes. He never could get a
secretary or a clerk, nor even any proper appointment of, or salary for,
his grandson. He seldom got an expression of thanks or approbation for
anything that he did, though he did many things wholly outside of his
regular functions and involving great personal risk and responsibility.
Yet when he really wanted to resign he was not allowed to do so; and
thus at last he was left to learn by inference that he had given

[Note 73: Franklin's _Works_, vii. 207; the letter is unfortunately
too long to quote. See also his letter to Lafayette, _Ibid._ 237.]

[Note 74: See letter to Carmichael, _Works_, vii. 285.]


No sooner had Adams got comfortably settled at home than he was obliged
to return again to Europe. Franklin, Jay, Laurens, Jefferson, and he
were appointed by Congress commissioners to treat for peace, whenever
the fitting time should come; and so in February, 1780, he was back in
Paris. But peace was still far away in the future, and Adams, meanwhile,
finding the intolerable incumbrance of leisure upon his hands,
exorcised the demon by writing long letters to de Vergennes upon sundry
matters of interest in American affairs. It was an unfortunate scheme.
If Nature had maliciously sought to create a man for the express purpose
of aggravating de Vergennes, she could not have made one better adapted
for that service than was Adams. Very soon there was a terrible
explosion, and Franklin, invoked by both parties, had to hasten to the
rescue, to his own serious injury.

On May 31, 1780, in a letter to the president of Congress, Franklin
said: "A great clamor has lately been made by some merchants, who say
they have large sums on their hands of paper money in America, and that
they are ruined by some resolution of Congress, which reduces its value
to one part in forty. As I have had no letter explaining this matter I
have only been able to say that it is probably misunderstood, and that I
am confident the Congress have not done, nor will do, anything unjust
towards strangers who have given us credit." Soon afterward Adams got
private information of the passage of an act for the redemption of the
paper money at the rate of forty dollars for one in silver. At once he
sent the news to de Vergennes. That statesman took fire at the tidings,
and promptly responded that foreigners ought to be indemnified for any
losses they might suffer, and that Americans alone should "support the
expense which is occasioned by the defense of their liberty," and should
regard "the depreciation of their paper money only as an impost which
ought to fall upon themselves." He added that he had instructed the
Chevalier de la Luzerne, French minister to the States, "to make the
strongest representations on this subject" to Congress.

Adams was alarmed at the anger which he had excited, and besought de
Vergennes to hold his hand until Franklin could "have opportunity to
make his representations to his majesty's ministers." But this gleam of
good sense was transitory, for on the same day, without waiting for
Franklin to intervene, he composed and sent to de Vergennes a long,
elaborate defense of the course of the States. It was such an argument
as a stubborn lawyer might address to a presumably prejudiced court; it
had not a pleasant word of gratitude for past favors, or of regret at
the present necessity; it was as undiplomatic and ill considered as it
certainly was unanswerable. But its impregnability could not offset its
gross imprudence. To exasperate de Vergennes and alienate the French
government at that period, although by a perfectly sound presentation,
was an act of madness as unpardonable as any crime.

Upon the same day on which Adams drew up this able, inexcusable brief
for his unfortunate client, the Congress, he wrote to Franklin begging
him to interfere. On June 29 he followed this request with a humbler
note than John Adams often wrote, acknowledging that he might have made
some errors, and desiring to be set right. On June 30 de Vergennes also
appealed to Franklin, saying, amid much more: "The king is so firmly
persuaded, sir, that your private opinion respecting the effects of that
resolution of Congress, as far as it concerns strangers and especially
Frenchmen, differs from that of Mr. Adams, that he is not apprehensive
of laying you under any embarrassment by requesting you to support the
representations which his minister is ordered to make to Congress."

Franklin, receiving these epistles, was greatly vexed at the jeopardy
into which the rash zeal of Adams had suddenly plunged the American
interests in France. His indignation was not likely to be made less by
the fact that all this letter-writing to de Vergennes was a tacit
reproach upon his own performance of his duties and a gratuitous
intrenchment upon his province. The question which presented itself to
him was not whether the argument of Adams was right or wrong, nor
whether the distinction which de Vergennes sought to establish between
American citizens and foreigners was practicable or not. This was
fortunate, because, while Adams in the States had been forced to ponder
carefully all the problems of a depreciating paper currency, Franklin in
France had neither necessity, nor opportunity, nor leisure for studying
either the ethics or the solution of so perplexing a problem. He now
hastily made such inquiries as he could among the Americans lately
arrived in Paris, but did not pretend "perfectly to understand" the
subject. To master its difficulties, however, did not seem essential,
because he recognized that the obvious duty of the moment was to say
something which might at least mitigate the present wrath of the French
ministry, and so gain time for explanation and adjustment in a better
state of feeling. He had once laid down to Arthur Lee the principle:
"While we are asking aid it is necessary to gratify the desires and in
some sort comply with the humors of those we apply to. Our business now
is to carry our point." Acting upon this rule of conciliation, he wrote,
on July 10, to de Vergennes:--

     "In this I am clear, that if the operation directed by Congress in
     their resolution of March the 18th occasions, from the necessity of
     the case, some inequality of justice, that inconvenience ought to
     fall wholly upon the inhabitants of the States, who reap with it
     the advantages obtained by the measure; and that the greatest care
     should be taken that foreign merchants, particularly the French,
     who are our creditors, do not suffer by it. This I am so confident
     the Congress will do that I do not think any representations of
     mine necessary to persuade them to it. I shall not fail, however,
     to lay the whole before them."

In pursuance of this promise Franklin wrote on August 9 a full narrative
of the entire matter; it was a fair and temperate statement of facts
which it was his duty to lay before Congress.[75] Before sending it he
wrote to Adams that de Vergennes, "having taken much amiss some passages
in your letter to him, sent the whole correspondence to me, requesting
that I would transmit it to Congress. I was myself sorry to see those
passages. If they were the effects merely of inadvertence, and you do
not, on reflection, approve of them, perhaps you may think it proper to
write something for effacing the impressions made by them. I do not
presume to advise you; but mention it only for your consideration." But
Adams had already taken his own measures for presenting the case before

[Note 75: Franklin's _Works_, vii. 110-112.]

Such is the full story of Franklin's doings in this affair. His
connection with it was limited to an effort to counteract the mischief
which another had done. Whether he thought that the "inconvenience"
which "_ought_ to fall" only on Americans could be arranged to do so,
does not appear; probably he never concerned himself to work out a
problem entirely outside his own department. As a diplomatist, who had
to gain time for angry people to cool down for amicable discussion, he
was content to throw out this general remark, and to express confidence
that his countrymen would do liberal justice. So far as he was
concerned, this should have been the end of the matter, and Adams should
have been grateful to a man whose tranquil wisdom and skillful tact had
saved him from the self-reproach which he would ever have felt had his
well-intentioned, ill-timed act borne its full possible fruit of injury
to the cause of the States. But Adams, who knew that his views were
intrinsically correct, emerged from the imbroglio with an extreme
resentment against his rescuer, nor was he ever able to see that
Franklin did right in not reiterating the same views. He wished not to
be saved but to be vindicated. The consequence has been unfortunate for
Franklin, because the affair has furnished material for one of the
counts in the indictment which the Adamses have filed against him before
the bar of posterity.

It may be remarked here that the few words which Franklin ever let drop
concerning paper money indicate that he had given it little thought. He
said that in Europe it seemed "a mystery," "a wonderful machine;" and
there is no reason why he should have understood it better than other
people in Europe. He also said that the general effect of the
depreciation had operated as a gradual tax on the citizens, and "perhaps
the most equal of all taxes, since it depreciated in the hands of the
holders of money, and thereby taxed them in proportion to the sums they
held and the time they held it, which is generally in proportion to
men's wealth."[76] The remark could not keep a place in any very
profound discussion of the subject; but it should be noted that in this
point of view the contention of de Vergennes might be logically
defended, on the ground that a foreigner ought not to be taxed like a
citizen; but the insuperable difficulty of making the distinction
practicable remained undisposed of.

[Note 76: See also Franklin's _Works_, vii. 343.]



The war had not been long waging before overtures and soundings
concerning an accommodation, abetted and sometimes instigated by the
cabinet, began to come from England. Nearly all these were addressed to
Franklin, because all Europe persisted in regarding him as the one
authentic representative of America, and because Englishmen of all
parties had long known and respected him far beyond any other American.
In March, 1778, William Pulteney, a member of Parliament, came under an
assumed name to Paris and had an interview with him. But it seemed that
England would not renounce the theory of the power of Parliament over
the colonies, though willing by way of favor to forego its exercise.
Franklin declared an arrangement on such a basis to be impossible.

A few months later there occurred the singular and mysterious episode of
Charles de Weissenstein. Such was the signature to a letter dated at
Brussels, June 16, 1778. The writer said that independence was an
impossibility, and that the English title to the colonies, being
indisputable, would be enforced by coming generations even if the
present generation should have to "stop awhile in the pursuit to recover
breath;" he then sketched a plan of reconciliation, which included
offices or life pensions for Franklin, Washington, and other prominent
rebels. He requested a personal interview with Franklin, and, failing
that, he appointed to be in a certain spot in Notre Dame at a certain
hour, wearing a rose in his hat, to receive a written reply. The French
police reported the presence at the time and place of a man obviously
bent upon this errand, who was traced to his hotel and found, says John
Adams, to be "Colonel Fitz-something, an Irish name, that I have
forgotten." He got no answer, because at a consultation between the
American commissioners and de Vergennes it was so decided. But one had
been written by Franklin, and though de Weissenstein and Colonel
Fitz-something never saw it, at least it has afforded pleasure to
thousands of readers since that time. For by sundry evidence Franklin
became convinced, even to the point of alleging that he "knew," that the
incognito correspondent was the English monarch himself, whose letter
the Irish colonel had brought. The extraordinary occasion inspired him.
It is a rare occurrence when one can speak direct to a king as man with
man on terms of real equality. Franklin seized his chance, and wrote a
letter in his best vein, a dignified, vigorous statement of the American
position, an eloquent, indignant arraignment of the English measures
for which George III. more than any other one man was responsible. In
language which was impassioned without being extravagant, he mingled
sarcasm and retort, statement and argument, with a strenuous force that
would have bewildered the royal "de Weissenstein." To this day one
cannot read these stinging paragraphs without a feeling of
disappointment that de Vergennes would not let them reach their
destination. Such a bolt should have been sent hotly home, not dropped
to be picked up as a curiosity by the groping historians of posterity.

The good Hartley also was constantly toiling to find some common ground
upon which negotiators could stand and talk. One of his schemes, which
now seems an idle one, was for a long truce, during which passions might
subside and perhaps a settlement be devised. Franklin ever lent a
courteous ear to any one who spoke the word Peace. But neither this
strong feeling, nor any discouragement by reason of American reverses,
nor any arguments of Englishmen ever induced him to recede in the least
from the line of demands which he thought reasonable, nor to abate his
uncompromising plainness of speech.

With the outbreak of war Franklin's feelings towards England had taken
on that extreme bitterness which so often succeeds when love and
admiration seem to have been misplaced. "I was fond to a folly," he
said, "of our British connections, ... but the extreme cruelty with
which we have been treated has now extinguished every thought of
returning to it, and separated us forever. You have thereby lost limbs
that will never grow again." English barbarities, he declared, "have at
length demolished all my moderation." Often and often he reiterated such
statements in burning words, which verge more nearly upon vehemence than
any other reminiscence which survives to us of the great and calm

Yet in the bottom of his heart he felt that the chasm should not be made
wider and deeper than was inevitable. In 1780 he told Hartley that
Congress would fain have had him "make a school-book" from accounts of
"British barbarities," to be illustrated by thirty-five prints by good
artists of Paris, "each expressing one or more of the different horrid
facts, ... in order to impress the minds of children and posterity with
a deep sense of your bloody and insatiable malice and wickedness." He
would not do this, yet was sorely provoked toward it. "Every kindness I
hear of done by an Englishman to an American prisoner makes me resolve
not to proceed in the work, hoping a reconciliation may yet take place.
But every fresh instance of your devilism weakens that resolution, and
makes me abominate the thought of a reunion with such a people."

In point of fact the idea of an actual reunion seems never from the very
outset to have had any real foothold in his mind. In 1779 he said: "We
have long since settled all the account in our own minds. We know the
worst you can do to us, if you have your wish, is to confiscate our
estates and take our lives, to rob and murder us; and this ... we are
ready to hazard rather than come again under your detested
government."[77] This sentiment steadily gained strength as the struggle
advanced. Whenever he talked about terms of peace he took a tone so high
as must have seemed altogether ridiculous to English statesmen.
Independence, he said, was established; no words need be wasted about
that. Then he audaciously suggested that it would be good policy for
England "to act nobly and generously; ... to cede all that remains in
North America, and thus conciliate and strengthen a young power, which
she wishes to have a future and serviceable friend." She would do well
to "throw in" Canada, Nova Scotia, and the Floridas, and "call it ... an
indemnification for the burning of the towns."

[Note 77: See also a strong statement in letter to Hartley of
October 14, 1777; _Works_, vii. 106.]

Englishmen constantly warned him of the blunder which the colonies would
commit, should they "throw themselves into the arms" of France, and they
assured him that the alliance was the one "great stumbling-block in the
way of making peace." But he had ever the reply, after the fashion of
Scripture: By their fruits ye shall know them. France was as liberal of
friendship and good services as England was of tyranny and cruelties.
This was enough to satisfy Franklin; he saw no Judas in the constant
and generous de Vergennes, and could recognize no inducement to drop the
substance France for the shadow England.[78] To his mind it seemed to
concern equally the honor and the interest of the States to stand
closely and resolutely by their allies, whom to abandon would be
"infamy;" and after all, what better bond could there be than a common
interest and a common foe? From this view he never wavered to the hour
when the definitive treaty of peace was signed.[79]

[Note 78: See Franklin's _Works_, vi. 303.]

[Note 79: See Franklin's _Works_, vi. 151, 303, 310; vii. 3, for
examples of his expressions on this subject.]

Such was Franklin's frame of mind when the surrender at Yorktown and the
events incident to the reception of the news in England at last brought
peace into really serious consideration. The States had already been
forward to place themselves in a position for negotiating at the first
possible moment. For in 1779 Congress had received from France an
intimation that it would be well to have an envoy in Europe empowered to
treat; and though it was seizing time very much by the forelock, yet
that body was in no mood to dally with so pleasing a hint, and at once
nominated John Adams to be plenipotentiary. This, however, by no means,
fell in with the schemes of the French ministry, for de Vergennes knew
and disliked Mr. Adams's very unmanageable character. Accordingly the
French ambassador at Philadelphia was instructed to use his great
influence with Congress to effect some amelioration of the distasteful
arrangement, and he soon covertly succeeded in inducing Congress to
create a commission by appointing Adams, Jay, Franklin, Jefferson, who
never went on the mission, and Laurens, who was a prisoner in England
and joined his colleagues only after the business had been substantially
concluded. Adams promptly came to Paris, created a great turmoil there,
as has been in part narrated, and passed on to Holland, where he still
remained. Jay, accredited to, but not yet received by, the Spanish
court, was at Madrid. Franklin therefore alone was on hand in Paris when
the great tidings of the capture of Cornwallis came.

It was on November 25, 1781, that Lord North got this news, taking it
"as he would have taken a ball in his breast." He recognized at once
that "all was over," yet for a short time longer he retained the
management of affairs. But his majority in Parliament was steadily
dwindling, and evidently with him also "all was over." In his despair he
caught with almost pathetic eagerness at what for a moment seemed a
chance to save his ministry by treating with the States secretly and
apart from France. He was a man not troubled with convictions, and
having been obstinate in conducting a war for which he really cared
little, he was equally ready to save his party by putting an end to it
with the loss of all that had been at stake. Franklin, however,
decisively cut off that hope. America, he assured Hartley, would not
forfeit the world's good opinion by "such perfidy;" and in the
incredible event of Congress instructing its commissioners to treat upon
"such ignominious terms," he himself at least "would certainly refuse to
act." So Digges, whom Franklin described as "the greatest villain I ever
met with," carried back no comfort from secret, tentative errands to
Adams in Holland and to Franklin in France. Simultaneous furtive
advances to de Vergennes met with a like rebuff. France and America were
not to be separated; Lord North and his colleagues were not to be saved
by the bad faith of either of their enemies. On February 22, 1782, an
address to the king against continuing the American war was moved by
Conway. It was carried by a majority of nineteen. A few days later a
second, more pointed, address was carried without a division. The next
day leave was granted to bring in a bill enabling the king to make a
peace or a truce with the colonies. The game was up; the ministry held
no more cards to play; on March 20 Lord North announced that his
administration was at an end.

In his shrewd, intelligent fashion, Franklin was watching these events,
perfectly appreciating the significance of each in turn. On March 22 he
seized an opportunity which chance threw in his way for writing to Lord
Shelburne a short note, in which he suggested a hope that the
"returning good disposition" of England towards America would "tend to
produce a general peace." It was a note of a few lines only, seemingly a
mere pleasant passage of courtesy to an old friend, but significant and
timely, an admirable specimen of the delicate tact with which Franklin
could meet and almost create opportunity. A few days later the cabinet
of Lord Rockingham was formed, composed of the friends of America. In it
Charles Fox was secretary for foreign affairs, and Lord Shelburne had
the home department, including the colonies. No sooner were the new
ministers fairly instated than Shelburne dispatched Richard Oswald, a
retired Scotch merchant, of very estimable character, of good temper,
reasonable views, and sufficient ability, to talk matters over with
Franklin at Paris. Oswald arrived on April 12, and had satisfactory
interviews with Franklin and de Vergennes. The important fact of which
he became satisfied by the explicit language of Franklin was, that the
hope of inducing the American commissioners to treat secretly and
separately from France was utterly groundless.[80] After a few days he
went back to London, carrying a letter from Franklin to Shelburne, in
which Franklin expressed his gratification at these overtures and his
hope that Oswald might continue to represent the English minister.
Oswald also carried certain "Notes for Conversation," which Franklin had
written out; "some loose thoughts on paper," as he called them, "which I
intended to serve as memorandums for my discourse, but without a fixed
intention of showing them to him." As matters turned out later, it would
have been better if Franklin had not been quite so free with these
"memorandums," which contained a suggestion that the English should cede
Canada and the Americans should recoup the losses of the royalists.
Indeed, no sooner had the paper left his hands than he saw his error,
and was "a little ashamed of his weakness." The letter only was shown to
the whole cabinet.

[Note 80: About the same time Laurens was released on parole and
sent to confer with Adams in Holland, concerning a separate treating,
and brought from Adams the like response as Oswald brought from

On May 5 Oswald was again in Paris, charged to discuss terms with
Franklin. But on May 7 there arrived also Thomas Grenville, deputed by
Fox to approach de Vergennes with the design not only of treating with
France, but also of treating with the States through France. The double
mission indicated a division in the English cabinet. Fox and Shelburne
were almost as hostile to each other as were both to Lord North; and
each was aiming to control the coming negotiations with the States.
Which should secure it was a nice question. For English purposes of
classification the States, until independence was acknowledged, remained
colonies, and so within the charge of Shelburne. Hence came Fox's scheme
for reaching them indirectly through France, also his avowed
willingness to recognize their independence immediately, for foreign
business belonged to him. Shelburne, on the other hand, strenuously
resisted this; at worst, as he thought, independence must come through a
treaty, and with equivalents. Moreover it seems that he cherished an
odd, half-defined notion, apparently altogether peculiar to himself,
that he might escape the humiliation of a grant of full independence,
and in place thereof might devise some sort of "federal union." Perhaps
it was out of this strange fancy that there grew at this time a story
that the States were to be reconciled and joined to Great Britain by a
gift of the same measure of autonomy enjoyed by Ireland.

When Oswald and Franklin next met, they made at first little progress;
each seemed desirous to keep himself closed while the other unfolded.
The result was that Franklin wrote, with unusual _naïveté_: "On the
whole I was able to draw so little of the sentiments of Lord Shelburne
... that I could not but wonder at his being again sent to me." At the
same time Grenville was offering to de Vergennes to acknowledge the
independence of the United States, provided that in other respects the
treaty of 1763[81] should be reinstated. That is to say, France was to
agree to a complete restoration of the _status quo ante bellum_ in every
respect so far as her own interests were concerned, and to accept as
the entire recompense for all her expenditures of money and blood a
benefit accruing to the American States. This was a humorous assumption
of the ingenuousness of her most disinterested protestations. The French
minister, we are told, "seemed to smile" at this compliment to the
unselfishness of his chivalrous nation,[82] and replied that the
American States were making no request to England for independence. As
Franklin happily expressed it: "This seems to me a proposition of
selling to us a thing that was already our own, and making France pay
the price they [the English] are pleased to ask for it." But the design
of weaning the States from France, in the treating, was obvious.

[Note 81: Made between England and France at the close of the last
war, in which France had lost Canada.]

[Note 82: "The Peace Negotiations of 1782-83," etc., by John Jay; in
Winsor's _Narr. and Crit. Hist. of America_, vol. vii.]

Grenville, thus checked, next tried to see what he could do with
Franklin in the way of separate negotiation. But he only elicited a
statement that the States were under no obligations save those embodied
in the treaties of alliance and commerce with France, and a sort of
intimation, which might be pregnant of much or of little, that if the
purpose of the former were achieved through the recognition of
independence, then the commercial treaty alone would remain. This
somewhat enigmatical remark doubtless indicated nothing more than that
the States would not continue active and aggressive hostilities in order
to further purely French designs. Clearly it would depend upon the
demands of France whether the States might not find themselves in a
somewhat delicate position. Their obligation to make no separate peace
with England had been contracted upon the basis that France should ally
herself with them to obtain their independence; and the injury expected
to result therefrom to England, with the chance of commercial advantages
accruing to France, had been regarded as a full consideration. Yet it
would seem ungrateful, to say the least, to step out of the fight and
leave France in it, and to refuse to back her demands for the recoupment
of some of the losses which she had suffered in the previous war. But
now the French alliance with Spain threatened grave complications; she
had joined France in the war, and the two powers were held closely
together by the Bourbon family interests. Spain now had demands of her
own in the way of territory on the American continent, where she had
made extensive conquests, and even for the cession of Gibraltar. But the
States owed little to Spain, vastly less, indeed, than they had tried to
owe to her; for their incessant begging had elicited only small sums,
and they were more irritated at their failure to obtain much than
thankful for the trifles they had extorted. So they now easily and
gladly took the position of entire freedom from any obligation, either
by treaty or of honor, towards that power. But in the probable event of
France standing by Spain, peace might be deferred for the benefit of a
country with which the States had no lien, unless the States could treat
separately. It was not within the purview of the treaty that they should
remain tied to France for such purposes; and to this purport Fox wrote
to Grenville. But though it might be tolerably easy to enunciate a
theory by which the States could justly control their own affairs, with
no regard to France, it was only too probable that the application of
that theory to circumstances would be a very nice and perplexing task.
It strongly behooved a new country to preserve its good name and its

If Fox had been able to carry his point, matters might have moved more
expeditiously. But pending the struggle between him and Shelburne no
advance could be made at Paris. Grenville and Oswald could not work in
unison. Franklin and de Vergennes became puzzled and suspicious, having
only an imperfect inkling by report and gossip concerning the true state
of affairs. They suspected, with good show of evidence, that the real
object of English diplomacy was to drive in a wedge between the allies.
Amid these perplexities, on April 22, Franklin wrote to Jay, begging him
to come to Paris: "Here you are greatly wanted, for messengers begin to
come and go, ... and I can neither make nor agree to conditions of peace
without the assistance of my colleagues.... I wish therefore you would
... render yourself here as soon as possible. You would be of infinite
service." Jay arrived on June 23, to Franklin's "great satisfaction,"
and the meeting was cordial. Jay was thirty-seven years old, and
Franklin was seventy-six, but Jay says: "His mind appears more vigorous
than that of any man of his age I have known. He certainly is a valuable
minister and an agreeable companion."

The deadlock continued. Grenville showed a commission to treat with
France and "any other prince or state." But the "enabling act," giving
the king authority to acknowledge the independence of the States, had
not yet been passed by Parliament; and it did not appear that England
recognized the ex-colonies as constituting either a prince or a state.
Oswald had no commission at all. Franklin, though he found himself "in
some perplexity with regard to these two negotiations," strove to set
things in motion. He preferred Oswald to Grenville, and intimated to
Lord Shelburne his wish that Oswald should receive exclusive authority
to treat with the American commissioners. He at the same time suggested
sundry _necessary_ articles to be disposed of by the treaty, namely:
independence, boundaries, and the fisheries; and sundry _advisable_
articles, namely: an indemnity to be granted by England to the sufferers
by the war; an acknowledgment of her error by England, and the cession
of Canada.

But the duel between Shelburne and Fox must first be settled, and it was
now about to be settled suddenly and in an unexpected manner. On July
1, 1782, Lord Rockingham died, and the crown, as Walpole facetiously
remarked, thereby descended to the king of England. The monarch at once,
though very reluctantly, requested Shelburne to accept the post of prime
minister, regarding him as in some degree less obnoxious than Fox.
Thereupon Fox and his friends retired in high dudgeon from office, and
Grenville promptly asked to be recalled. His opportune request was
granted very readily, and his place was given to Fitzherbert, who
brought personal letters to Franklin, but who was not accredited to
treat with the States. It seemed that this business was now again to
fall into the hands of Oswald, and accordingly, though he still remained
without any definite authority, active discussion was resumed between
him and Franklin. Early in August both believed that an understanding
upon all important points had been reached. Jay had been ill almost ever
since his arrival in Paris, and was only now recovering; Adams was still
in Holland; so that Franklin and Oswald had had the whole matter between

Just at this time Parliament rose; and Shelburne sent Vaughan to Paris
to give private assurance to Franklin that there would be no change in
policy towards America. A commission was at the same time drawn up and
sent to Oswald empowering him to treat with commissioners of the
"colonies or plantations, and any body or bodies corporate or politic,
or any assembly or assemblies." This singular phraseology at once
produced trouble. Jay indignantly repudiated the colonial condition
imputed by this language, and resolutely said that independence must be
no item in any treaty, but must be recognized before he would even begin
to treat. The point was discussed by him with de Vergennes and Franklin.
The French minister at first had "objected to these general words as not
being particular enough;" but now he changed his mind and advised not to
stickle; for independence must be the result of the treaty, and it was
not to be expected that the effect should precede the cause. Franklin,
with evident hesitation and reluctance,[83] gave his opinion that the
commission "would do." Oswald then showed his instructions, which
directed him to concede "the complete independence of the thirteen
States." Unfortunately the enabling act had not even yet passed, so that
there was some doubt as to the power of the ministers to agree to this.
Jay's determination remained unchanged; for he suspected that the
motives of de Vergennes were not disinterested, and thought that
Franklin was hoodwinked by his French predilections. Franklin, on the
other hand, thought that the minister wished only to expedite the
negotiation as much as possible, a matter in which he himself also was
very zealous; for he understood the English political situation and
knew that Shelburne's tenure of power was precarious, and that any
possible successor of Shelburne would be vastly less well-disposed to
the States. This induced him to stretch a point in order to go on with
the treating. Parliament was to meet on November 26, and unless peace
could be concluded before that time, the chance for it thereafter would
be diminished almost to the point of hopelessness. But Adams wrote from
Holland that he also disapproved the unusual form of the commission,
though a commission to treat with envoys of "the United States of
America" would satisfy him, as a sufficient implication of independence
without an explicit preliminary acknowledgment of it.

[Note 83: Franklin's _Works_, viii. 99, 101, 150, note.]

About the middle of August Jay drew up a letter, suggesting very
ingeniously that it was incompatible with the dignity of the king of
England to negotiate except with an independent power; also that an
obstacle which meant everything to the States, but nothing to Great
Britain, should be removed by his majesty. Franklin thought that the
letter expressed too positively the resolve not to treat save upon this
basis of pre-acknowledged independence. He evidently did not wish to
bolt too securely the door through which he anticipated that the
commissioners might in time feel obliged to withdraw. Moreover Jay
thought that at this time "the doctor seemed to be much perplexed and
fettered by our instructions to be guided by the advice of this court,"
a direction correctly supposed to have been procured by the influence of
the French envoy at Philadelphia.

Jay's suspicions concerning the French minister happened now to receive
opportune corroboration. On September 4 Rayneval, secretary to de
Vergennes, had a long interview with Jay concerning boundaries, in which
he argued strongly against the American claims to the western lands
lying between the Alleghanies and the Mississippi. This touched Jay
nearly, for the navigation of the Mississippi was the one object which
he had especially at heart. Six days later the famous letter of Marbois,
de la Luzerne's secretary, which had been captured _en route_ from
Philadelphia to de Vergennes at Paris, was put into the hands of Jay
through the instrumentality of the English cabinet. This outlined a
scheme for a secret understanding between England and France to deprive
the Americans of the Newfoundland fisheries. This evidence seemed to
prove Jay's case; yet Franklin remained strangely unshaken by it, for he
reflected that it came from the British ministry and was infected with
suspicion by this channel. But still another occurrence came to
strengthen Jay's conviction of some latent hostility in the French
policy, for he learned that Rayneval was making a rapid and secret
journey to London. He felt sure that this errand was to intimate to
Shelburne that France did not incline to support the demands of her
American allies. In the fullness of his faith he took a courageous,
very unconventional, but eminently successful step. He persuaded Vaughan
to hasten to London, and to present sundry strong arguments going to
show that it was the true policy of England to grant the demands of the
States rather than to fall in with the subtle plans of France. He felt
with regret that he could not consult Franklin regarding this
proceeding, which he undertook upon his own sole responsibility. It put
Shelburne in a singular position, as arbiter between two nations enemies
of England and allies of each other, but each manoeuvring to secure
its own advantage at the cost of its friend, and to that end presuming
to advise him upon English interests. He did not ponder long before
accepting the American arguments as the better, and deciding that the
English policy was rather to be liberal towards a kindred people than to
unite with a traditional foe in curtailing their prosperity. He said to
Vaughan: "Is the new commission necessary?" "It is," replied Vaughan;
and his lordship at once gave orders for making it out. Had he fallen in
with the French ideas, he would, upon the contrary, have cherished this
disagreement for a while, in order finally to sell out a concession on
this point at the price of some such substantial matter as the fisheries
or the western lands. Forthwith Vaughan was on his way back to Paris,
accompanied by a messenger who carried the amended document empowering
Oswald to treat with the commissioners of the "Thirteen United States of
America, viz.: New Hampshire," etc., naming them all. "We have put the
greatest confidence, I believe, ever placed in man, in the American
commissioners. It is now to be seen how far they or America are to be
depended upon.... There never was such a risk run; I hope the public
will be the gainer, else our heads must answer for it, and deservedly."
Such were the grave and anxious words of the prime minister.

Upon the receipt of this commission negotiations were actively resumed,
Franklin and Jay on one side, Oswald alone on the other. The old ground
was gone over again. On October 5-8, both parties assented to a sketch
of a treaty, which Oswald transmitted to London for consideration by the
ministry. But the raising of the siege of Gibraltar, and reflection upon
the probable results of the incipient estrangement between American
interests and those of France and Spain, now induced the English to hope
for more favorable terms in some particulars. So instead of adopting
this draft they sent over Mr. Strachey, a man especially well informed
concerning the disputed boundaries, to reinforce Oswald in an effort to
obtain modifications on these points.

Meantime another serious difference of opinion was developed between
Franklin and Jay. The influence of de Vergennes at Philadelphia had by
no means been exhausted in securing colleagues for Mr. Adams. He had
further desired to have the American envoys instructed that no American
demands outside of independence must be allowed to interpose obstacles
in the way of French purposes. In this he had been wholly successful. Of
the demands which Congress had at first intended to insist upon, one
after another was reduced to a mere recommendation, until at last
independence alone was left as an absolute and definitive ultimatum.
Moreover the closing paragraph of the instructions actually bade the
envoys to maintain constant communication with their generous ally the
king of France, and in the last resort to be governed in all matters by
his advice. This servility had raised the ire of Jay almost to the point
of inducing him to refuse a post so hedged around with humiliation. With
his views concerning the intentions of de Vergennes it now seemed to him
intolerable to jeopard American interests by placing them at the mercy
of a cabinet which unmistakably, as it seemed to him, designed to
sacrifice them to its own ends. Accordingly he was for disobeying this
unworthy instruction of Congress, and for conducting the negotiation in
strict secrecy as towards the French minister. But Franklin was no less
resolute on the other side. His established and grateful confidence in
de Vergennes remained unshaken, and he saw no error in consulting the
wisest, and by all proofs the best and truest friend whom the States had
ever had. Moreover he saw that the orders of Congress were imperative.
It was a serious division. Fortunately it was soon settled by the advent
of John Adams, about the end of October. That gentleman, prompt,
fearless, and suspicious, at once fell in with Jay's views. In a long
evening's talk he apparently read Franklin a pretty severe lecture, and
certainly ranged himself very positively on Jay's side. Franklin
listened to his vehement colleague, and at the moment held his peace in
his wise way. It was true that Adams brought the casting vote, though
Franklin of course might resist, and could make his resistance effectual
by communicating to de Vergennes all which passed, and in so doing he
would be backed by the authority and orders of Congress. But he
determined not to pursue this course. When next they all met for
conference he turned to Jay and said: "I am of your opinion, and will go
on without consulting this court." This was all that passed when thus
for a second time Franklin surrendered. Nothing indicates by what
motives he was influenced. Some writers suggest that he had a lurking
notion that Jay's views were not altogether ill founded; but later he
declared the contrary.[84] Others fancy that he simply yielded to a
majority vote. To me it seems more probable that, weighing comparative
importance, he gave in to what he conceived to be the supreme necessity
of advancing to a speedy conclusion; for, as has been said, he keenly
appreciated that time was pressing. Parliament was to meet in a few
weeks, on November 26, and it daily became more evident that if a treaty
was to be made at all, it must be consummated before that date. Now, as
in the question concerning the preliminary acknowledgment of
independence, peace overruled all considerations of minor points.

[Note 84: Franklin's _Works_, viii. 305, 306.]

If this was indeed his end, he achieved it, for negotiations were now
zealously pushed. The important question of the western boundaries and
the navigation of the Mississippi was the especial concern of Jay. Spain
covertly wished to see the States worsted upon these demands, and
confined between the Alleghanies and the sea; and the Bourbon family
compact influenced France to concur with the Spanish plans. But in the
secret treating Jay prevailed. The fisheries were the peculiar affair of
Adams, as the representative of New England. France would fain have had
the States shut out from them altogether; but Adams carried the day.
Some concessions were made concerning the collection of debts owing in
the States to Englishmen, and then there remained only the matter of
indemnification to American royalists. Upon this the fight was waged
with zeal by all; yet Franklin had the chief responsibility to bear. For
there now arose to plague him that unfortunate proposition of his for
the cession of Canada and the restoration of confiscated Tory property
in the States. This encouraged the English and gave them a sort of
argument. Moreover the indemnification was "uppermost in Lord
Shelburne's mind," because, unlike other matters, it seemed a point of
honor. With what face could the ministry meet Parliament with a treaty
deserting all those who had been faithful to their king? It was indeed a
delicate position, and the English were stubborn; but no less so was
Franklin, upon the other side. With the great province of Canada as an
offset, or quasi fund, the States might have assumed such an obligation,
but without it, never. Further the American commissioners reiterated the
explanation often given: that Congress had no power in the premises, for
the matter lay within the sovereign jurisdiction of each State. This
argument, however, really amounted to nothing; for if the fact was so,
it behooved the States to give their agent, the Congress, any power that
was necessary for making a fair treaty; and England was not to be a
loser by reason of defects in the American governmental arrangements.
For a while it really seemed that the negotiation would be wrecked upon
this issue, so immovable was each side. As Vaughan wrote: "If England
wanted to break, she could not wish for better ground on _her_ side.
_You_ do not break, and therefore I conclude you both sincere. But in
this way I see the treaty is likely of _itself_ to break."

Franklin now ingeniously counteracted his earlier imprudence by reviving
an old suggestion of his, that immense claims might be preferred
against England on behalf of Americans whose property had been wantonly
destroyed, especially by the burning and plundering of towns, and he
actually presented an article providing for such compensation, and an
elaborate written paper sustaining it.[85] At last the Englishmen sought
final instructions from Lord Shelburne. He replied with spirit that it
should be understood that England was not yet in a position to submit to
"humiliation," least of all at the hands of Americans; but finally he so
far yielded as to say that indemnification need not be absolutely an
ultimatum. This settled the matter; the negotiators who _could_ yield
_must_ yield, and they did so. A sort of compromise article was
inserted: "that Congress should recommend to the state legislatures to
restore the estates, rights, and properties of real British subjects."
The American envoys knew that this was worthless, and the English
negotiators certainly were not deceived. But the article sounded well,
and gave at least a standing ground for the ministry to defend

[Note 85: Franklin's _Works_, viii. 218, text and note.]

[Note 86: It is not without interest in this connection to remark
that Franklin was very ill disposed towards the "loyalists," having
scant toleration for their choice of a party. For a man of his
liberality and moderation his language concerning them was severe. He
objected to calling them "loyalists," thinking "royalists" a more
correct description. To indemnification of their losses by Parliament he
had "no objection," for the damnatory reason that "even a hired assassin
has a right to his pay from his employer." Franklin's _Works_, ix. 133.
He often spoke in the like tone about these people. See, for example,
_Works_, ix. 70, 72. But when the war was over and the natural mildness
of his disposition could resume its sway, he once at least spoke more
gently of them. _Ibid_. 415.]

On November 30 the articles were at last signed, with the stipulation
that they were for the present merely preliminary and provisional, and
that they should be executed as a definitive treaty only simultaneously
with the execution of a treaty of peace between France and England.

The business was finished none too soon. In order to cover it the
meeting of Parliament had been postponed until December 5. The danger
which had been escaped, and which would not have been escaped had
Franklin had a less correct appreciation of relative values in the
negotiation, at once became apparent. The howl of condemnation swelled
loud in the House of Commons; it was felt that the ministry had made not
a treaty but a "capitulation." The unfortunate Shelburne was driven out
of power, pursued by an angry outcry from persons altogether incapable
of appreciating the sound statesmanship and the wise forecast of the
future advantage of England which he had shown in preferring to give
the colonies a chance to become a great, English-speaking,
English-sympathizing, commercial people, rather than to feed fat the
aspirations of France and Spain. These proceedings would have been good
evidence, had evidence been wanting, that the American commissioners had
done a brilliant piece of work. De Vergennes also added his testimony,
saying: "The English have bought the peace rather than made it."

If the original instructions given to Oswald are compared with the
treaty it will be found that England had conceded much; on the other
hand the Americans, with no ultimatum save independence, had gained in
substance all that they had dared seriously to insist upon. One would
think that Franklin, Jay, and Adams had fairly won warm gratitude at the
hands of their countrymen. Posterity, at least since the publication of
long suppressed private papers and archives has shown what powerful
occult influences were at work to thwart them, regards their achievement
with unlimited admiration. But at that time a different feeling

No sooner were the preliminary or provisional articles signed than
Franklin informed de Vergennes of the fact. That minister was much
surprised. He had been quietly biding his time, expecting to be invoked
when the English and the Americans should find themselves stopped by
that deadlock which he had done his best to bring about by his secret
intimations to England. He was now astonished to learn that England had
not availed herself of his astute suggestions, but had given terms which
the Americans had gladly accepted. The business was all done, and the
clever diplomat had not had his chance. At first he said nothing, but
for a few days pondered the matter. Then on December 15 he disburdened
his mind in a very sharp letter to Franklin. "I am at a loss," he
wrote, "to explain your conduct and that of your colleagues on this
occasion. You have concluded your preliminary articles without any
communication between us, although the instructions from Congress
prescribe that nothing shall be done without the participation of the
king. You are about to hold out a certain hope of peace to America,
without even informing yourself of the state of the negotiation on our
part. You are wise and discreet, sir; you perfectly understand what is
due to propriety; you have all your life performed your duties; I pray
you consider how you propose to fulfill those which are due to the

Franklin found himself in a painful position; for he could by no means
deny that he had duties, or at least something very near akin to duties,
to the king, imposed upon him by numerous and weighty obligations which
at his request had been conferred upon him and accepted by him on behalf
of the American people. The violation of the instructions of Congress
gave to the secret treating too much the air of an insulting distrust,
of the throwing over a friend when he had been sufficiently used; for
whatever might be suspected, it could by no means be proved that de
Vergennes was not still the sincere friend which he certainly long had
been. This bore hard upon Franklin. The policy which in fact had been
forced upon him against his will by his colleagues was now made a
matter of personal reproach against him especially, because he was
persistently regarded as the head and front of the commission; no
European yet dreamed of considering any other American as of much
consequence in any matter in which Franklin was concerned. During long
years de Vergennes had been his constant and efficient adviser and
assistant in many a day of trial and of stress, and Franklin believed
him to be still an honest well-wisher to the States. Moreover it
actually was only a very few weeks since Franklin had applied for and
obtained a new loan at a time when the king was so pressed for his own
needs that a lottery was projected, and bills drawn by his own officials
were going to protest. All this made the secrecy which had been
practiced seem almost like duplicity on Franklin's part, and he felt
keenly the ill light in which he was placed. It is true that if he had
known then all that we know now, his mind would have been at ease; but
he did not know it, and he was seriously disturbed at the situation into
which he had been brought.

But his usual skill did not desert him, and his reply was aptly framed
and prompt. "Nothing," he said, "had been agreed in the preliminaries
contrary to the interests of France; and no peace is to take place
between us and England till you have concluded yours. Your observation
is, however, apparently just that, in not consulting you before they
were signed, we have been guilty of neglecting a point of _bienséance_.
But as this was not from want of respect for the king, whom we all love
and honor, we hope it will be excused, and that the great work which has
hitherto been so happily conducted, is so nearly brought to perfection,
and is so glorious to his reign, will not be ruined by a single
indiscretion of ours. And certainly the whole edifice sinks to the
ground immediately if you refuse on that account to give us any further
assistance.... It is not possible for any one to be more sensible than I
am of what I and every American owe to the king for the many and great
benefits and favors he has bestowed upon us.... _The English, I just now
learn, flatter themselves they have already divided us._ I hope this
little misunderstanding will, therefore, be kept a secret, and that they
will find themselves totally mistaken."

This letter in a measure accomplished its soothing errand. Yet de
Vergennes did not refrain from writing to de la Luzerne that "the
reservation retained on our account does not save the infraction of the
promise, which we have mutually made, not to sign except conjointly;"
and he said that it would be "proper that the most influential members
of Congress should be informed of the very irregular conduct of their
commissioners in regard to us," though "not in the tone of complaint."
"I accuse no person," he added, "not even Dr. Franklin. He has yielded
too easily to the bias of his colleagues, who do not pretend to
recognize the rules of courtesy in regard to us. All their attentions
have been taken up by the English whom they have met in Paris."

So soon as the facts were known in the States expressions of
condemnation were lavished upon the commissioners by members of Congress
who thought that the secrecy as towards France was an inexcusable slight
to a generous and faithful ally. Livingston, as secretary for foreign
affairs, wrote to the envoys, commending the treaty, but finding fault
with the manner of attaining it. Jay, angered at the injustice of a
reproof which belonged more especially to him, drew up an exculpatory
statement. But Franklin, showing his usual good sense and moderation,
sought to mitigate Jay's indignation, drew all the sting out of the
document, and insisted upon leaving the vindication to time and second
thoughts. For his own part Franklin not only had to take his full share
of the reproaches heaped upon the commissioners for insulting France,
but upon the other hand he was violently assaulted on the quite opposite
ground, that he had desired to be too subservient to that power. Many
persons insisted that he "favored, or did not oppose," the designs of
France to rule out the States from the fisheries, and to curtail their
boundaries; and that it was only due to the "firmness, sagacity, and
disinterestedness" of Jay and Adams that these mischiefs were escaped.

Such were the fault-findings and criminations to which the diplomatic
complexities, which it was impossible then to unravel, gave rise.
Fortunately they were soon rendered mere personal and abstract disputes,
of little practical consequence, by the simultaneous execution of
definitive treaties by France and the United States with Great Britain
on September 3, 1783. Many efforts had been made to insert additional
articles, especially as to commercial matters; but they were all
abortive. The establishment of peace had exhausted the capacity of the
States and England to agree together; and the pressure of war being
removed, they at once fell into very inimical attitudes. So the
definitive treaty was substantially identical with the provisional one.

Franklin, after a while, finding that these charges of his having
preferred France to his own country were being reiterated with such
innuendoes as to bring his integrity into serious question, felt it
necessary to appeal to his colleagues for vindication. He wrote to them
a modest, manly letter,[87] and in reply received from Jay a generous
testimonial,[88] and from Adams a carefully narrow acquittal.[89] The
subsequent publication of Franklin's papers written at, and long before,
the time of the negotiation, shows that he was inclined to demand from
Great Britain fully as much as any American upon either side of the

[Note 87: _Works_, viii. 340; and see _Ibid._ 353.]

[Note 88: _Ibid._ 350.]

[Note 89: _Ibid._ 354.]

In taking leave of the subject it is interesting to know that in point
of fact the secret action of the American commissioners was very nearly
fraught with serious injury to France. For when the States were
practically eliminated from active war by the signing of the provisional
articles, five members of Shelburne's cabinet were in favor of breaking
off negotiations with France, and continuing the contest with her.[90]

[Note 90: I have not endeavored to give a detailed account of this
negotiation, though the narrative would be very interesting, because it
finds its proper place in the life of _John Jay_ in this Series. In that
volume there is a very full and accurate presentation of this entire
affair, drawn from those sources which have only very recently become
public, and which go far to remove former questions out of the realm of

During the negotiation Franklin wrote to Laurens: "I have never yet
known of a peace made that did not occasion a great deal of popular
discontent, clamor, and censure on both sides, ... so that the blessing
promised to peacemakers, I fancy, relates to the next world, for in this
they seem to have a greater chance of being cursed." The prognostication
was fulfilled. The act which gave peace to the warring nations brought
anything but good will among the American negotiators. Jay was so just,
conscientious, and irreproachable a gentleman in every respect that he
escaped unvexed by any personal quarrel; moreover he was not so
distinguished as to have become the victim of envy and jealousy. But the
antipathy previously so unhappily existing between Franklin and Adams
became greatly aggravated, and their respective advocates in historical
literature have not to this day reached an accord. Adams was a
relentless hater, and has bequeathed bitter diatribes, which, as they
can never be obliterated, can never cease to excite the ire of the
admirers of Franklin. On the other side, Franklin has at least the merit
of having left not a malicious line behind him. I have no mind to
endeavor to apportion merits and demerits between these two great
foemen, able men and true patriots both, having no room for these
personalities of history, which, though retaining that kind of interest
always pertaining to a feud, are really very little profitable. Perhaps,
after all, the discussion would prove to be not unlike the classic one
which led two knights to fight about the golden-silver shield.

Yet one dispute, which has been long waged, no longer admits of doubt.
The suspicions of the good faith of de Vergennes which Jay first
entertained, which Adams adopted, and which Franklin rejected, were
undoubtedly correct. As the years go by and collections of private
papers and of hitherto suppressed public archives find their way to the
light, the accumulated evidence to this effect has become overwhelming.
Such being the case, it must be admitted that the vital merit in the
conduct of this difficult negotiation rests with Jay; that Adams has the
credit belonging to one who accepts a correct view when presented to
him; and that Franklin did more wisely than he knew in twice assenting
to a course which seemed to him based upon erroneous beliefs.

There is abundant evidence that from the very outset Franklin was not
less resolute than was Adams about the fisheries; and that he was in
perfect accord with Jay about the western boundaries and the
Mississippi; though Adams and Jay did most of the talking concerning
these subjects, respectively. When it came to the even more difficult
matter of the royalists, Franklin in turn took the laboring oar. So far
therefore as the three cardinal points of the negotiation were concerned
honors were very evenly divided. But the value of Franklin's
contribution to the treating is not to be measured either by his
backwardness in supporting Jay in certain points, or by his firm
attitude about boundaries, royalists, and fisheries. All these things he
had outlined and arranged with Oswald at an early stage in the
negotiating. Later he fell seriously ill and was for a long while in no
fit condition for work. Yet the treaty seemed to be made under his
auspices. In reading the great quantity of diaries and correspondence
which relate to the transactions, many a passage indicates the sense of
respect with which he was looked up to. The high opinion entertained of
his ability, integrity, and fair-mindedness influenced very powerfully
the minds of the English ministry and their envoys. "I am disposed,"
said Shelburne, "to expect everything from Dr. Franklin's comprehensive
understanding and character." The like feeling, strengthened by personal
confidence and regard, went far to keep de Vergennes from untimely
intermeddling and from advancing embarrassing claims of supervision.
Altogether, it was again the case that Franklin's prestige in Europe was
invaluable to America, and it is certainly true that beneath its
protection Jay and Adams were able to do their work to advantage. Had
they stood alone they would have encountered difficulties which would
have seriously curtailed their efforts.[91] It is truth and not theory
that Franklin's mere name and presence were sufficient to balance the
scale against the abilities and the zeal of both his coadjutors.

[Note 91: See, for example, Franklin's _Works_, viii. 29, 67, note,
69, 70, 77, 109, 112, note, 133, note, 260.]

It seems hardly necessary to endeavor to palliate Franklin's error in
failing to detect the duplicity of de Vergennes. On the contrary, it
would give a less agreeable idea of him had he been ready to believe so
ill of an old and tried friend. For years Franklin had been the medium
through whom had passed countless benefits from France to the States,
benefits of which many had been costly and inconvenient for the giver;
he had been treated with high consideration at this court, when no other
court in all Europe would even receive an American ambassador; he had
enjoyed every possible token of esteem and confidence both personally
and in his official capacity; he had ever found fair words backed by no
less fair deeds. In short, the vast mass of visible evidence seemed to
him to lie, and in fact did lie, all on one side. On September 13, 1781,
writing to the president of Congress, he said that de Vergennes had just
read to him a copy of the instructions prepared by Congress for the
commissioners, and that the minister "expressed his satisfaction with
the unreserved confidence placed in his court by the Congress, assuring
me that they would never have cause to regret it, for that the king had
the honor of the United States at heart, as well as their welfare and
independence. Indeed, this has been already manifested in the
negotiations relative to the plenipotentiaries; and I have already had
so much experience of his majesty's goodness to us, in the aids afforded
us from time to time, and by the sincerity of this upright and able
minister, who never promised me anything that he did not punctually
perform, that I cannot but think the confidence well and judiciously
placed, and that it will have happy effects." Every event in the history
of many years made it natural and right for Franklin to feel in this
way; and it surely was no cause for distrust that de Vergennes had had
the interest of France in mind as an original motive for aiding America,
when throughout the war Franklin had witnessed France straining every
nerve and taxing every resource to aid her ally, in perfect sincerity;
and when also, upon the suggestion of negotiations, he had just seen de
Vergennes adhere rigidly to his word to do no treating save collaterally
with the Americans, and refuse to take advantage of Grenville's efforts
to reach the Americans through the French minister. Even though de
Vergennes had disapproved the delay caused by Jay's objection to the
form of the commission, still he had honorably stayed his own
negotiation until that matter was favorably settled. Early in the
negotiations Grenville said to Franklin that the States owed no
gratitude to France, since she had in fact only promoted her own
interests. The remark excited Franklin's indignation, and he says: "I
told him I was so strongly impressed with the kind assistance afforded
us by France in our distress, and the generous and noble manner in which
it was granted, without extracting or stipulating for a single privilege
or particular advantage to herself in our commerce, or otherwise, that I
could never suffer myself to think of such reasonings for lessening the
obligation, and I hoped, and indeed did not doubt, but my countrymen
were all of the same sentiments." The words do his heart none the less
honor, because it has been since discovered that his confidence was too
implicit. In truth de Vergennes had been extremely scrupulous and
delicate throughout, in all matters which could fall within the
observation of the Americans. At the outset he said to Franklin: the
English "want to treat with us for you; but this the king will not agree
to. He thinks it not consistent with the dignity of your state. You
will treat for yourselves; and every one of the powers at war will make
its own treaty. All that is necessary is that the treaties go hand in
hand, and are all signed on the same day." Thus, to one who could
believe de Vergennes, everything seemed fair and sincere, and Franklin
at least had a right to believe de Vergennes.

Furthermore it was not until negotiations actually began that the
previous condition of French relationship, as Franklin had well known it
for many years, underwent a sudden and complete change. Then at last
were presented new temptations before which friendship and good faith
could not stand, and each nation, keeping a decorous exterior, anxiously
studied its own advantage. It was the trying hour when the spoils were
to be divided. The States themselves preferred the profit of their enemy
England to that of their half-friend Spain. Franklin did not appreciate
this quick turning of the kaleidoscope, with the instant change of all
the previous political proximities; in view of his age, his infirmities,
his recent experience in France, and his habitual generous faith in his
fellow men, this failure should give rise neither to surprise nor


In 1782, after signing the preliminary articles, Franklin a second time
sent to Congress his resignation. He received no reply to this
communication, and again, therefore, after the execution of the
definitive treaty, he renewed his request to be relieved. But still
Congress delayed. They wished to enter into commercial treaties with the
European nations, and in spite of the rebukes which their chairman of
the committee for foreign affairs had administered to Franklin, Jay, and
Adams, they now showed no readiness to remove these gentlemen from the
diplomatic service. Franklin accordingly remained in Paris, probably
with no great reluctance, for he was attached to the place and the
people, and his affection was warmly returned. It was a light labor to
conduct the negotiations for the desired commercial treaties. Sweden,
Denmark, Portugal, and even Morocco, all made advances to him almost
immediately after the signing of the treaty of peace. For the most part
he had the gratification of success. His last official act, just before
his departure from Paris, was the signature of a treaty with Prussia, in
which it was agreed to abolish privateering,[92] and to hold private
property by land and sea secure from destruction in time of war. It was
pleasant thus to be introducing his country to the handshaking, so to
speak, of the old established nations of the world. So his life glided
on agreeably. He was recognized as one of the most illustrious men
living; and to enjoy such a reputation in Paris in those days,
especially when it was supplemented by personal popularity, was to find
one's self in the enjoyment of all which the world could bestow to make
delightful days.

[Note 92: See letter to Hartley, Franklin's _Works_, viii. 287.]

In August, 1784, Jefferson arrived to assist in the commercial business.
But it was not until March, 1785, that Congress at last voted that
Franklin might "return to America as soon as convenient," and that
Jefferson should succeed him as minister at the French court. Jefferson
has borne good testimony to Franklin's situation, as he observed it. A
few years later, in February, 1791, he wrote: "I can only therefore
testify in general that there appeared to me more respect and veneration
attached to the character of Dr. Franklin in France, than to that of any
other person in the same country, foreign or native. I had opportunities
of knowing particularly how far these sentiments were felt by the
foreign ambassadors and ministers at the court of Versailles.... I found
the ministers of France equally impressed with the talents and integrity
of Dr. Franklin. The Count de Vergennes particularly gave me repeated
and unequivocal demonstrations of his entire confidence in him." When
Jefferson was asked: "C'est vous, Monsieur, qui remplace le Docteur
Franklin?" he used to reply: "No one can replace him, sir; I am only his
successor;" and we may be sure that the Frenchmen appreciated and fully
agreed with an expression of courtesy which chimed so well with their
own customs of speech. Later, in 1818, Jefferson wrote an interesting
letter concerning the calumnies from which Franklin's reputation still

     "Dr. Franklin had many political enemies, as every character must
     which, with decision enough to have opinions, has energy and talent
     to give them effect on the feelings of the adversary opinion. These
     enmities were chiefly in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. In the
     former they were merely of the proprietary party. In the latter
     they did not commence till the Revolution, and then sprung chiefly
     from personal animosities, which, spreading by little and little,
     became at length of some extent. Dr. Lee was his principal
     calumniator, a man of much malignity, who, besides enlisting his
     whole family in the same hostility, was enabled, as the agent of
     Massachusetts with the British government, to infuse it into that
     State with considerable effect. Mr. Izard, the doctor's enemy also,
     but from a pecuniary transaction, never countenanced these charges
     against him. Mr. Jay, Silas Deane, Mr. Laurens, his colleagues
     also, ever maintained towards him unlimited confidence and respect.
     That he would have waived the formal recognition of our
     independence, I never heard on any authority worthy notice. As to
     the fisheries, England was urgent to retain them exclusively,
     France neutral, and I believe that, had they ultimately been made a
     _sine quâ non_, our commissioners (Mr. Adams excepted) would have
     relinquished them rather than have broken off the treaty. To Mr.
     Adams's perseverance alone, on that point, I have always understood
     we were indebted for their reservation. As to the charge of
     subservience to France, besides the evidence of his friendly
     colleagues before named, two years of my own service with him at
     Paris, daily visits, and the most friendly and confidential
     conversation, convince me it had not a shadow of foundation. He
     possessed the confidence of that government in the highest degree,
     insomuch that it may truly be said that they were more under his
     influence than he under theirs. The fact is that his temper was so
     amiable and conciliatory, his conduct so rational, never urging
     impossibilities, or even things unreasonably inconvenient to them,
     in short so moderate and attentive to their difficulties, as well
     as our own, that what his enemies called subserviency I saw was
     only that reasonable disposition which, sensible that advantages
     are not all to be on one side, yielding what is just and liberal,
     is the more certain of obtaining liberality and justice. Mutual
     confidence produces of course mutual influence, and this was all
     which subsisted between Dr. Franklin and the government of

[Note 93: Jefferson's _Works_, vii. 108.]

When at last, in the summer of 1785, Franklin took his farewell of the
much-loved land of France, the distinguished attentions which he
received left no doubt of the admiration in which he was held. Indeed,
many persons pressed him to remain in France, and three offered him
homes in their own families, telling him that not even in America could
he expect esteem and love so unalloyed as he enjoyed in France, and
warning him also that he might not survive the voyage. But he said: "The
desire of spending the little remainder of life with my family is so
strong as to determine me to try at least whether I can bear the motion
of the ship. If not, I must get them to set me ashore somewhere in the
Channel and content myself to die in Europe." When the day of departure
from Passy came "it seemed," said Jefferson, "as if the village had lost
its patriarch." His infirmities rendered the motion of a carriage
painful to him, and the king therefore placed at his disposal one of the
queen's litters, which bore him by easy stages to the seacoast. He
carried with him the customary complimentary portrait of the king; but
it was far beyond the ordinary magnificence, for it was framed in a
double circle of four hundred and eight diamonds, and was of unusual
cost and beauty. On July 18 he arrived at Havre, and crossed the Channel
to take ship at Portsmouth. The British government offset the
discourtesy with which it was irritating Mr. Adams by ordering that the
effects of Dr. Franklin's party should be exempt from the usual
examination at the custom house. His old friend, the Bishop of St.
Asaph, "America's constant friend," came to see him. So also did his
Tory son, the ex-governor of New Jersey, with whom a sort of
reconciliation had been patched up. He sailed with Captain, afterward
Commodore, Truxton, who found him a most agreeable companion.

Of all things in the world a sea voyage most induces to utter idleness,
and it is a striking proof of the mental industry of this aged man that
during the seven weeks of this summer passage across the Atlantic he
wrote three essays, which remain among his best. But he never in his
life found a few weeks in which his mind was relieved from enforced
reflection upon affairs of business that he did not take his pen in hand
for voluntary tasks. During the last eighteen months of his life in
Paris all the social distractions incident to his distinguished position
had not prevented his writing some of the best papers which he has
bequeathed to literature.



On September 12, 1785, the ship brought Franklin into Delaware Bay, and
the next morning he rejoiced to find himself "in full view of dear
Philadelphia." A multitude, filling the air with huzzas of salutation,
greeted his landing and escorted him to his door. Private welcomes and
public addresses poured in upon him. His health had been much improved
by the sea air and rest, and he rejoiced, as his foot touched the
streets of the town which after all his wanderings was his home, to feel
himself by no means yet a worn-out man, though in fact he had
seventy-nine years of a busy life behind him. His fellow citizens
evidently thought that the reservoir which had been so bountiful could
not yet be near exhaustion, and were resolved to continue their copious
draughts upon it. They at once elected him to the State Council, of
which he was made President; and, as he said, "I had not firmness enough
to resist the unanimous desire of my country folks; and I find myself
harnessed again in their service for another year. They engrossed the
prime of my life. They have eaten my flesh, and seem resolved now to
pick my bones." A visible and a natural pleasure lurks in the words; old
age finds nothing sweeter than a tribute to the freshness of its powers;
and especially Franklin saw in this honor a vindication against his
maligners. From it he understood that, however some individuals might
indulge in dislike and distrust, the overwhelming mass of his fellow
citizens esteemed him as highly as he could wish. The distinction,
however, cost posterity an unwelcome price, for it prevented further
work on the autobiography, which otherwise would probably have been

[Note 94: Franklin's _Works_, ix. 459.]

He came into office as a peacemaker amid warring factions, and in the
fulfillment of his functions gave such satisfaction that in 1786 he was
unanimously reëlected; and the like high compliment was paid him again
in the autumn of 1787. It was like Washington and the presidency: so
long as he would consent to accept the office, no other candidate was
thought of. He also took substantially the same course which had been
taken by Washington as commander-in-chief concerning his pay; for he
devoted his whole salary to public uses. He had the good fortune to be
able to carry out his somewhat romantic, and for most persons
impracticable, theory in this respect, because his private affairs were
prospering. His investments in real estate in Philadelphia had risen
greatly in value and in their income-producing capacity since the war,
and he was now at least comfortably endowed with worldly goods.

He still continued to ply his pen, and the just but annoying complaints
which came from Great Britain, that English creditors could not collect
their _ante-bellum_ debts from their American debtors, stimulated him to
a bit of humor at which his own countrymen at least were sure to laugh,
however little droll it might seem to Englishmen, who reasonably
preferred good dollars to good jokes. "We may all remember the time," he
wrote, "when our mother country, as a mark of her parental tenderness,
emptied her gaols into our habitations, '_for the better peopling_,' as
she expressed it, '_of the colonies_.' It is certain that no due returns
have yet been made for these valuable consignments. We are therefore
much in her debt on that account; and as she is of late clamorous for
the payment of all we owe her, and some of our debts are of a kind not
so easily discharged, I am for doing, however, what is in our power. It
will show our good will as to the rest. The felons she planted among us
have produced such an amazing increase that we are now enabled to make
ample remittance in the same commodity," etc., etc.

Nevertheless these English assaults nettled him not a little; and
further he dreaded their possible influence in the rest of Europe
outside of England. The English newspapers teemed with accounts of the
general demoralization and disintegration of the States; it was said
that they had found their ruin in their independence, and the
unwillingness of American merchants to pay their debts was in one
paragraph attributed to their dishonesty, and in the next to the
hopeless poverty which was described as having possession of the
country. It was in good truth what Mr. John Fiske has called it, "The
Critical Period of American History." But Franklin was at once too
patriotic and too sanguine to admit that matters were so bad as they
seemed. His insight into the situation proved correct, and the outcome
very soon showed that the elements of prosperity which he saw were
substantial, and not merely the phantoms of a hopeful lover of his
country. During these years of humiliation and discouragement he was
busy in writing to many friends in England and in France very manly and
spirited letters, declaring the condition of things in the States to be
by no means so ill as it was represented. Industry had revived, values
were advancing, the country was growing, welfare and success were within
the grasp of the people. These things he said repeatedly and
emphatically, and in a short time the accuracy of his knowledge had to
be admitted by all, whether friends or enemies. He would not even admit
that the failure to arrange a treaty of commerce with England was the
serious misfortune which most Americans conceived it to be. In his usual
gallant fashion of facing down untoward circumstances he alleged again
and again that the lack of such a treaty was worse for Great Britain
than for the States. If British merchants could stand it, American
merchants, he avowed, could stand it much better. He was for showing no
more concern about it. "Let the merchants on both sides treat with one
another. _Laissez les faire_," he said. The presence of such a temper in
the States, in so prominent a man, was of infinite service in those
troubled years of unsettled, novel, and difficult conditions.

Dr. Franklin was not at first elected a member of the deputation from
Pennsylvania to the convention which framed the Constitution of the
United States. But in May, 1787, he was added in order that, in the
possible absence of General Washington, there might be some one whom all
could agree in calling to the chair.[95] It was fortunate that even an
unnecessary reason led to his being chosen, for all future generations
would have felt that an unpardonable void had been left in that famous
assemblage, had the sage of America not been there. Certainly the
"fitness of things," the historical picturesqueness of the event,
imperatively demanded Dr. Franklin's venerable figure in the
constitutional convention of the United States of America.

[Note 95: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, ii. 565.]

As between the two theories of government which divided that body,
Franklin ranged himself with the party opposed to a strong and
centralized government endowed with many functions and much power.[96]
The simplest government seemed to him the best; and he substantially
gave in his allegiance to those democratic ideas which afterward
constituted the doctrines of the Jeffersonian school in American
politics. It was natural that he should do so; he was a cheerful
optimist all his life long, and few men have ever so trusted human kind
as he did; so now he believed that the people could take care of
themselves, as indeed the history of the past few years and the
character of the population of the States at that time indicated that
they could. He attended regularly all the sessions, and gave his
opinions freely; but they are only dimly revealed in the half-light
which enfolds in such lamentable obscurity the debates of that
interesting body. What little is known can be briefly stated.

[Note 96: But later he remarked: "Though there is a general dread of
giving too much power to our _governors_, I think we are more in danger
from too little obedience in the _governed_."]

The same theory which he was practicing concerning his own salary he
wished to see introduced as an article of the Constitution. The
President, he thought, should receive no salary. Honor was enough
reward; a place which gave both honor and profit offered too corrupting
a temptation, and instead of remaining a source of generous aspiration
to "the wise and moderate, the lovers of peace and good order, the men
fittest for the trust," it would be scrambled for by "the bold and the
violent, the men o£ strong passions and indefatigable activity in their
selfish pursuits."[97] In our day such a notion and such arguments would
be quickly sneered out of the debate; but they were in keeping with the
spirit of that era when the first generation which for ages had dared to
contemplate popular government was carried away by the earliest romantic
fervor of inexperienced speculation.

[Note 97: Franklin's _Works_, ix. 418. See also letter to Bishop of
St. Asaph, _Ibid._ viii. 270.]

It is familiar that the gravest question which perplexed the convention
was whether the larger and the smaller States should stand upon terms of
equality, or whether some proportion should be established. After a
discussion, recurred to at intervals during many weeks, had failed to
develop any satisfactory solution of this problem, pregnant with
failure, Franklin moved that the daily proceedings should be opened with
prayer.[98] But Hamilton said that a resort to prayer would indicate to
the people that the convention had reached a desperate pass; and either
this or some other reason was so potent that scarcely any one voted yea
on the motion. What could be more singular than to see the skeptical
Franklin and the religious Hamilton thus opposed upon this question!
Franklin next suggested a compromise: an equal number of delegates for
all States; an equal vote for all States upon all questions respecting
the authority or sovereignty of a State, and upon appointments and
confirmations; but votes to be apportioned according to the populations
of the States respectively upon all bills for raising and spending
money. He was in favor of a single legislative chamber, and his plan was
designed to be applied to such a system. Its feasibility would probably
have been defeated through the inevitable complexity which would have
attended upon it in practice.[99] Nevertheless it was a suggestion in
the right direction, and contained the kernel of that compromise which
later on he developed into the system of an equal representation in the
Senate, and a proportionate one in the House. This happy scheme may be
fairly said to have saved the Union.

[Note 98: Franklin's _Works_, ix. 428.]

[Note 99: One becomes quite convinced of this upon reading his
presentation of his scheme. _Works_, ix. 423; see also _Ibid._ 395.]

Upon the matter of suffrage Franklin voted against limiting it to
freeholders, because to do so would be to "depress the virtue and public
spirit of our common people," for whose patriotism and good sense he
expressed high esteem. He opposed the requirement of a residence of
fourteen years as a preliminary to naturalization, thinking four years a
sufficient period. He thought that the President should hold office for
seven years, and should not be eligible for a second term; he should be
subject to impeachment, since otherwise in case of wrong-doing recourse
could be had only to revolution or assassination; he should not have
the power of an absolute veto.

When at last the long discussions were over and the final draft was
prepared, Franklin found himself in the position in which also were most
of his associates, disapproving certain parts, but thinking adoption of
the whole far better than rejection. He was wise enough and singular
enough to admit that he was not infallibly right. "Nothing in human
affairs and schemes is perfect," he said, "and perhaps that is the case
of our opinions." He made an excellent speech,[100] urging that at the
close of their deliberations all should harmonize, sink their small
differences of opinion, and send the document before the people with the
prestige of their unanimous approbation. While the last members were
signing, relates Madison, "Dr. Franklin, looking toward the president's
chair, at the back of which a rising sun happened to be painted,
observed to a few members near him that painters had found it difficult
to distinguish in their art a rising from a setting sun. 'I have,' he
said, 'often and often in the course of the session, and the
vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that
behind the president without being able to tell whether it was rising or
setting; but now at length I have the happiness to know that it is a
rising and not a setting sun.'"

[Note 100: Franklin's _Works_, ix. 431.]

He did what he could to secure the adoption of the instrument by the
people; and when that end was happily achieved he joined his voice to
the unanimous cry with which the American nation nominated George
Washington as the only possible candidate for the presidency. He said:
"General Washington is the man whom all our eyes are fixed on for
President, and what little influence I may have is devoted to him."

It was about the time of the election that he himself took his farewell
of public life. The third year of his incumbency in the office of
president of Pennsylvania expired in the autumn of 1788, and his
physical condition precluded all idea of further official labors. Nature
could not have committed such an incongruity, such a sin against
æsthetic justice, as not to preserve Benjamin Franklin's life long
enough to enable him to see the United States fairly launched as a real
nation, with an established government and a sound constitution giving
promise of a vigorous career. But evidently with this boon the patience
of nature was exhausted; for Franklin's infirmities now increased upon
him terribly. He endured extreme pain during periods steadily increasing
in length and recurring at ever-shortening intervals. He bore his
suffering, which too often became agony, with heroic fortitude; but it
was evident that even his strong frame could not long hold out against
the debilitating effects of his merciless disease. Yet while it racked
his body it fortunately spared his mental faculties; and indeed so
lively did his interest in affairs remain that it seemed to require
these physical reminders to show him how old he was; save for his body,
he was still a man in his prime. He once said: "I often hear persons,
whom I knew when children, called _old_ Mr. Such-a-one, to distinguish
them from their sons, now men grown and in business; so that by living
twelve years beyond David's period, _I seem to have intruded myself into
the company of posterity, when I ought to have been abed and
asleep_,"--words which should take their place among the fine sayings of
the ages.

He was courageous and cheerful. In November, 1788, he wrote: "You kindly
inquire after my health. I have not of late much reason to boast of it.
People that will live a long life and drink to the bottom of the cup
must expect to meet with some of the dregs. However, when I consider how
many more terrible maladies the human body is liable to, I think myself
well off that I have only three incurable ones: the gout, the stone, and
old age; and, those notwithstanding, I enjoy many comfortable intervals,
in which I forget all my ills, and amuse myself in reading or writing,
or in conversation with friends, joking, laughing, and telling merry
stories, as when you first knew me, a young man about fifty."[101] He
does not seem to have taken undue credit to himself; there is no
querulousness, or egotism, or senility in his letters, but a delightful
tranquillity of spirit. His sister wrote to him that the Boston
newspapers often had matter in his honor. "I am obliged to them," he
wrote; "on the other hand, some of our papers here are endeavoring to
disgrace me. I take no notice. My friends defend me. I have long been
accustomed to receive more blame, as well as more praise, than I have
deserved. It is the lot of every public man, and I leave one account to
balance the other." So serene was the aged philosopher, a _real_
philosopher, not one who, having played a part in life, was to be
betrayed in the weakness and irritability of old age. He felt none of
the mental weariness which years so often bring. He was by no means
tired of life and affairs in this world, yet he wrote in a
characteristic vein to the Bishop of St. Asaph: "The course of nature
must soon put a period to my present mode of existence. This I shall
submit to with the less regret, as, having seen during a long life a
good deal of this world, I feel a growing curiosity to be acquainted
with some other." It was characteristic that in these closing days it
was the progress of mankind in knowledge and welfare which especially
absorbed his thoughts. When he reflected on the great strides that were
making he said that he almost wished that it had been his destiny to be
born two or three centuries later. He was one of the few men who has
left on record his willingness to live his life over again, even though
he should not be allowed the privilege of "correcting in the second
edition the errors of the first."

[Note 101: He habitually wrote in this vein; see, for example,
_Works_, ix. 266, 283, and _passim_.]

The French Revolution excited his profoundest interest. At first he said
that he saw "nothing singular in all this, but on the contrary what
might naturally be expected. The French have served an apprenticeship to
liberty in this country, and now that they are out of their time they
have set up for themselves."[102] He expressed his hope that "the fire
of liberty, ... spreading itself over Europe, would act upon the
inestimable rights of man as common fire does upon gold: purify without
destroying them; so that a lover of liberty may find _a country_ in any
part of Christendom." The language had an unusual smack of the French
revolutionary slang, in which he seems in no other instance to have
indulged. But as the fury swelled, his earlier sympathies became merged
in a painful anxiety concerning the fate of his many good old friends.

[Note 102: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, ii. 600.]

Franklin's last act was a memorial addressed to Congress, signed by him
in his capacity as president of the abolition society, and praying that
body: "That you will devise means for removing this inconsistency from
the character of the American people; that you will promote mercy and
justice towards this distressed race; and that you will step to the very
verge of the power vested in you for discouraging every species of
traffic in the persons of our fellow men." He had always spoken of
slavery with the strongest condemnation, and branded the slave-trade as
"abominable," a "diabolical commerce," and a "crime."

A large part of the last year or two of his life was passed by Franklin
in his bed. At times when his dreadful suffering seemed to become
intolerable, it was quelled, so far as possible, by opium. But at
intervals it left him, and still whenever he thus got a respite for a
few days he was again at work. It was in such an interval that he wrote
his paper condemning the liberty, which was becoming the license, of the
press. If the law permitted this sort of thing, he said, then it should
restore also the liberty of the cudgel. The paper is not altogether
antiquated, nor the idea altogether bad!

It was even so late as March 23, 1790, that he wrote the humorous
rejoinder to the pro-slavery speech delivered in Congress by Jackson of
Georgia. But the end was close at hand; and when this brilliant satire
was composed, there lacked but a few days of the allotted term when that
rare humor was to be stilled forever, and that broad philanthropy was to
cease from the toil in which it had never tired alike for the free and
the oppressed.

On April 12, 1790, a pain in the chest and difficulty of breathing,
which had been giving him much trouble, ceased for a short while, and he
insisted upon getting up in order to have his bed re-made; for he wished
to "die in a decent manner." His daughter expressed the conventional
wish that he might yet recover and live many years. "I hope not," he
replied. Soon afterward the pain returned, and he was advised to change
his position, so that he could breathe more easily. "A dying man can do
nothing easy," he said; and these are the last words which he is known
to have uttered. Soon afterward he sank into a lethargy, and so remained
until at eleven o'clock, P. M., on April 17, 1790, he died.

A great procession and a concourse of citizens escorted his funeral, and
Congress voted to "wear the customary badge of mourning for one month."
The bits of crape were all very well, a conventional, insignificant
tribute; but unfortunately the account of the country, or at least of
Congress as representing the country, did not stand very honorably, to
say nothing of generously, with one of its oldest, most faithful, and
most useful servants.[103] Again and again Franklin had asked for some
modest office, some slight opening, for his grandson, Temple Franklin.
The young man's plans and prospects in life had all been sacrificed to
the service of Franklin as his secretary, which was in fact the service
of the country; yet he had never been able to collect even the ordinary
salary pertaining to such a position. Throughout a long life of public
service, often costly to himself in his own affairs, Franklin had never
asked any other favor than this, which after all was rather compensation
than favor, and this was never given to him. When one reflects how such
offices are demanded and awarded in these days, one hardly knows whether
to be more ashamed of the present or of the past. But this was not all
nor even the worst; for Franklin's repeated efforts to get his own
accounts with the government audited and settled never met with any
response. It needed only that Congress should appoint a competent
accountant to examine and report. Before leaving France Franklin had
begged for this act of simple, business-like justice, which it was the
duty of Congress to initiate without solicitation; he had the fate of
the "poor unhappy Deane" before his eyes, to make him uncomfortable, but
in this respect he was treated no better than that misused man. After
his return home he continued his urgency during his last years, not
wishing to die leaving malignant enemies behind him, and accounts open
which he could no longer explain and elucidate. Indeed, stories were
already circulating that he was "greatly indebted to the United States
for large sums that had been put into [his] hands, and that [he] avoided
a settlement;" yet this request was still, with unpardonable disregard
of decency and duty, utterly ignored. He never could get the business
attended to, and Benjamin Franklin actually could not extort from an
indifferent Congress the small satisfaction of having his accounts
passed. The consequence was that when he died the United States appeared
his debtor, and never extricated itself from that painful position.[104]
It was only in this matter that he ever showed the slightest anxiety
concerning his reputation with posterity. He wanted to leave the name of
an honest man; but otherwise he never was at the trouble of preparing a
line to justify any of his actions, therein differing from many of his

[Note 103: One of the most painful letters to read which our annals
contain is that written by Franklin to Charles Thomson, secretary of
Congress, November 29, 1788, _Works_, viii. 26, 30. It is an arraignment
which humiliates the descendants of the members of that body.]

[Note 104: Parton's _Life of Franklin_, ii. 596.]

France showed a livelier affection and warmer appreciation toward the
great dead than did his own countrymen. At the opening of the National
Assembly, June 11, 1790, Mirabeau delivered an impassioned eulogy in the
rhetorical French fashion; and the motion to wear mourning for three
days was carried by acclamation. The president of that body, M. Siéyes,
was instructed to communicate the resolution to Washington. At the
celebration of the municipality of Paris the citizens generally wore a
mourning badge; and the grain market, where the oration was delivered,
was draped in black. The Academy of Sciences of course did formal honor
to his memory, as did likewise the revolutionary clubs. A street at what
was in his day Passy, but is now included in Paris, near the Trocadéro,
perpetuates by his name the admiration which France felt for him.

Among illustrious Americans Franklin stands preëminent in the interest
which is aroused by a study of his character, his mind, and his career.
One becomes attached to him, bids him farewell with regret, and feels
that for such as he the longest span of life is all too short. Even
though dead, he attracts a personal regard which renders easily
intelligible the profound affection which so many men felt for him while
living. It may be doubted whether any one man ever had so many, such
constant, and such firm friends as in three different nations formed
about him a veritable host. In the States and in France he was loved,
and as he grew into old age he was revered, not by those who heard of
him only, but most warmly by those who best knew him. Even in England,
where for years he was the arch-rebel of all America, he was generally
held in respect and esteem, and had many constant friends whose
confidence no events could shake. It is true, of course, that he had
also his detractors, with most of whom the reader has already made
acquaintance. In Pennsylvania the proprietary party cherished an
animosity which still survives against his memory, but which does not
extend far beyond those who take it as an inheritance. It does him no
discredit with persons who understand its source. In New England a
loyalty to those famous New Englanders, John Adams and Samuel Adams,
seems to involve in the minds of some persons a depreciation of
Franklin. In English historical literature the patriotic instinct
stands in the way of giving Franklin quite his full due of praise. But
the faults and defects of character and conduct which are urged against
him appear little more than the expression of personal ill will, when
they are compared with the affection and the admiration given to him in
liberal measure by the great mass of mankind both in the generations
which knew him as a living contemporary and in those which hear of him
only as one of the figures of history. It is not worth while to deify
him, or to speak with extravagant reverence, as if he had neither faults
nor limitations. Yet it seems ungracious to recall these concerning one
who did for his fellow men so much as Franklin did. Moral, intellectual,
and material boons he conferred in such abundance that few such
benefactors of the race can be named, though one should survey all the
ages. A man of a greater humanity never lived; and the quality which
stood Abou Ben Adhem in good stead should suffice to save Franklin from
human criticism. He not only loved his kind, but he also trusted them
with an implicit confidence, reassuring if not extraordinary in an
observer of his shrewdness and experience. Democrats of the
revolutionary school in France and of the Jeffersonian school in the
United States have preached an exaggerated gospel of the people, but
their words are the dubious ones of fanatics or politicians. Franklin
was of a different kind, and had a more genuine and more generous faith
in man than the greatest democrat in politics who ever lived.

Franklin's inborn ambition was the noblest of all ambitions: to be of
practical use to the multitude of men. The chief motive of his life was
to promote the welfare of mankind. Every moment which he could snatch
from enforced occupations was devoted to doing, devising, or suggesting
something advantageous more or less generally to men. His detractors
have given a bad, but also a false coloring to this trait. They say that
the spirit of all that he did and taught was sordid, that the motives
and purposes which he set before men were selfish, that his messages
spoken through the mouth of Poor Richard inculcated no higher objects in
life than money-getting. This is an utterly unfair form of stating the
case. Franklin was a great moralist: though he did not believe in the
Christian religion according to the straitlaced orthodox view, he
believed in the virtues which that religion embodies; and he was not
only often a zealous preacher, but in the main a consistent exemplar of
them. Perhaps he did not rest them upon precisely the same basis upon
which the Christian preacher does, but at least he put them on a basis
upon which they could stand firm. In such matters, however, one may
easily make mistakes, breed ill blood, and do harm; and his wisdom and
good sense soon led him to put forth his chief efforts and to display
especial earnestness and constancy in promoting the well-being of all
men. It was an object sufficiently noble, one would think, worthy of the
greatest brain and the largest heart, and having certain very
commendable traits in the way of practicability and substantial
possibilities. His desire was to see the community prosperous,
comfortable, happy, advancing in the accumulation of money and of all
physical goods, but not to the point of luxury; it was by no means the
pile of dollars which was his end, and he did not care to see many men
rich, but rather to see all men well to do. He was perfectly right in
thinking that virtuous living has the best prospects in a well-to-do
society. He gave liberally of his own means and induced others to give,
and promoted in proportion to the ability of the community a surprising
number of public and quasi public enterprises; and always the fireside
of the poor man was as much in his thought as the benefit of the richer
circle. Fair dealing and kindliness, prudence and economy in order to
procure the comforts and simpler luxuries of life, reading and knowledge
for those uses which wisdom subserves, constituted the real essence of
his teaching. His inventive genius was ever at work devising methods of
making daily life more agreeable, comfortable, and wholesome for all who
have to live. In a word, the service of his fellow men was his constant
aim; and he so served them that those public official functions which
are euphemistically called "public services" seemed in his case almost
an interruption of the more direct and far-reaching services which he
was intent upon rendering to all civilized peoples. Extreme religionists
may audaciously fancy that the judgment of God upon Franklin may be
severe; but it would be gross disloyalty for his own kind to charge that
his influence has been ignobly material.

As a patriot none surpassed him. Again it was the love of the people
that induced this feeling, which grew from no theory as to forms of
government, no abstractions and doctrines about "the rights of man." He
began by espousing the cause of the people of the province of
Pennsylvania against proprietary despotism, and for many years he was a
patriot in his colony, before the great issue against England made
patriotism common. His patriotism had not root in any revolutionary
element in his temper, but was the inevitable outcome of his
fair-mindedness. That which was unfair as between man and man first
aroused his ire against the grinding proprietaries; and afterward it was
the unfairness of taxation without representation which especially
incensed him; for an intellect of the breadth and clearness of his sees
and loves justice above all things. During the struggle of the States no
man was more hearty in the cause than Franklin; and the depth of feeling
shown in his letters, simple and unrhetorical as they are, is
impressive. All that he had he gave. What also strikes the reader of his
writings is the broad national spirit which he manifested. He had an
immense respect for the dignity of America; he was perhaps fortunately
saved from disillusionment by his distance from home. But be this as it
may, the way in which he felt and therefore genuinely talked about his
nation and his country was not without its moral effect in Europe.

Intellectually there are few men who are Franklin's peers in all the
ages and nations. He covered, and covered well, vast ground. The
reputation of doing and knowing various unrelated things is wont to
bring suspicion of perfunctoriness; but the ideal of the human intellect
is an understanding to which all knowledge and all activity are germane.
There have been a few, very few minds which have approximated toward
this ideal, and among them Franklin's is prominent. He was one of the
most distinguished scientists who have ever lived. Bancroft calls him
"the greatest diplomatist of his century."[105] His ingenious and useful
devices and inventions were very numerous. He possessed a masterly
shrewdness in business and practical affairs. He was a profound thinker
and preacher in morals and on the conduct of life; so that with the
exception of the founders of great religions it would be difficult to
name any persons who have more extensively influenced the ideas,
motives, and habits of life of men. He was one of the most, perhaps the
most agreeable conversationist of his age.

[Note 105: Bancroft, _Hist. U. S._ ix. 134.]

He was a rare wit and humorist, and in an age when "American humor" was
still unborn, amid contemporaries who have left no trace of a jest,
still less of the faintest appreciation of humor, all which he said and
wrote was brilliant with both these most charming qualities of the human
mind. Though sometimes lax in points of grammar, as was much the custom
in his day, he wrote as delightful a style as is to be found in all
English literature, and that too when the stilted, verbose, and turgid
habit was tediously prevalent. He was a man who impressed his ability
upon all who met him; so that the abler the man and the more experienced
in judging men, the higher did he rate Franklin when brought into direct
contact with him; politicians and statesmen of Europe, distrustful and
sagacious, trained readers and valuers of men, gave him the rare honor
of placing confidence not only in his personal sincerity, but in his
broad fair-mindedness, a mental quite as much as a moral trait.

It is hard indeed to give full expression to a man of such scope in
morals, in mind, and in affairs. He illustrates humanity in an
astonishing multiplicity of ways at an infinite number of points. He,
more than any other, seems to show us how many-sided our human nature
is. No individual, of course, fills the entire circle; but if we can
imagine a circumference which shall express humanity, we can place
within it no one man who will reach out to approach it and to touch it
at so many points as will Franklin. A man of active as well as universal
good will, of perfect trustfulness towards all dwellers on the earth, of
supreme wisdom expanding over all the interests of the race, none has
earned a more kindly loyalty. By the instruction which he gave, by his
discoveries, by his inventions, and by his achievements in public life
he earns the distinction of having rendered to men varied and useful
services excelled by no other one man; and thus he has established a
claim upon the gratitude of mankind so broad that history holds few who
can be his rivals.


Abolition of Slavery, petition for, signed by Franklin, 415, 416.

Adams, Abigail, on meeting Franklin, 210.

Adams, John, 111, 208;
  dislike of Franklin, 210;
  on committee to confer with Lord Howe, 214;
  pugnacious remarks, 215, 216;
  rank as diplomate, 220;
  remarks on Franklin in France, 235, 236;
  joins Lee in forcing dismissal of Williams, 266;
  on rum trade, 276;
  feeling towards France, 286;
  charged to request admission of United States into Armed Neutrality, 288;
  replaces Deane, 294;
  his egotism, 294;
  endeavors to reform French mission, 294;
  censorious language, 295;
  advises having a single minister at Paris, 296, 297;
  returns home, 298;
  financial agent in Holland, 307;
  inability to borrow money, 330;
  helped by Franklin, 331;
  judgment of Franklin, 337, 338;
  unable to appreciate his value, 339;
  contrast between the two men, 340;
  really follows Franklin, 342;
  his vanity, 344;
  envy of Franklin's popularity, 345;
  does not understand its value, 346;
  appointed commissioner to treat for peace, 349;
  informs Vergennes of paper money redemption in America, 350;
  writes an unwise defense of repudiation, 351;
  begs Franklin to help, 351;
  presents case to Congress, 354;
  angry at Franklin for not supporting his position, 355;
  on the De Weissenstein episode, 358;
  refuses to treat apart from France, 365, note;
  disapproves Oswald's commission, 374;
  joins with Jay in deciding to treat without consulting Vergennes, 379;
  arranges fisheries clause, 380, 392, 399;
  testimony in behalf of Franklin, 389;
  feud with Franklin, 390, 391.

Adams, Samuel, 107, 111;
  distrusts Franklin, 138;
  opposes his nomination as agent for Massachusetts, 138;
  threatens to form a New England confederacy, 212;
  supported by Franklin, 212.

"Alliance," officers of, helped by Franklin, 317.

Arnold, Benedict, mission of Franklin to confer with, 210.

"Art of Virtue," a receipt book for virtues, 31, 32.

"Armed Neutrality," approved by Franklin, 288;
  vote of Congress requesting admission of the United States, 288.

Austin, J. L., brings news to France of Burgoyne's capture, 270;
  sent by Franklin on secret mission to opposition in England, 271.

Bache, Richard, marries Sarah Franklin, 203.

Bancroft, Dr. Edward,
  tells story of Franklin's Manchester velvet suit, 191, 283;
  spy for England betrays Deane, 224.

Beaumarchais, Caron de, his romantic career, 225;
  inspired by Arthur Lee to aid the colonies, 226;
  appeals to Louis XVI., 226;
  supported by Vergennes, opposed by Turgot, 227;
  establishes firm of Hortalez & Co. to trade with the colonies, 229;
  communicates with Deane, 230;
  project betrayed by Bancroft, 230;
  fails to do a successful business, 231;
  suspected and thwarted by Arthur Lee, 238, 239;
  partly paid by Congress, 241;
  joy at Burgoyne's surrender, 270;
  claims cargoes of rice and indigo, 310.

Bedford, Duke of, opposes raising a colonial army, 52;
  irritates George III. into dismissing Grenville, 114.

Bollan, ----,
  agent for Massachusetts Council, works in harmony with Franklin, 155;
  advises against employing counsel in Hutchinson letter case, 185;
  changes his opinion, 187.

"Bon Homme Richard," 302.

Bond, Dr., aided by Franklin in establishing a hospital, 41.

Braddock, General, 50, 51; visited by
  Franklin, 52;
  distrusted by Pennsylvania farmers, 53, 54;
  his expedition, 51-54;
  praises Franklin, 55.

Bradford, ----, editor of rival newspaper in Philadelphia, 12;
  refuses as postmaster to let Franklin's paper go by mail, 12, 13.

Burgoyne, General, invades the colonies, 261;
  captured, 270;
  effect of news on American loans, 317.

Burke, Edmund, Rockingham's secretary, 115;
  on Franklin's examination by the commons, 120.

Burke, William, writes pamphlet in favor of returning Canada to France
  in order to check the colonies, 79.
  "Busybody" papers, 31.

Bute, Earl of, favors a Stamp Act, 105;
  complaints against by Bedford, 114;
  Franklin's witty remark upon, 213.

Camden, Lord, counsel for Penn family, 68;
  predicts American independence, 83;
  denies unlimited power of Parliament over colonies, 118;
  enters cabinet, 149.

Canada, conquered by English, 78;
  its recession to France advocated as a check to colonies, 79;
  controversy on this point, 80-82;
  suggested as member of confederation by Franklin, 208;
  mission of Franklin to, 210, 211.

Carmichael, William, rank as diplomate, 220;
  Jay's secretary in Spain, 321;
  praises Franklin, 345.

Charles, ----, agent for Pennsylvania, 70.

Chatham, Earl of. See Pitt, William.

Chaumont, M. Ray de, lends Franklin a house in Passy, 235.

Choiseul, Duc de, predicts American independence, 83.

Colden, ----, letter from Franklin to, 40.

"Colonial System," criticised by Franklin, 48;
  defended by Granville, 67;
  enforced by Grenville, 104.

Colonial union, suggested by William Penn, 44;
  by Franklin, 44, 45;
  by Gov. Shirley, 46;
  opposed by colonies and board of trade, 45, 52;
  proposed at time of Stamp Act, 110.

Concord, fight at, 204; effect on Franklin, 205.

Constitutional Convention, Franklin chosen a member, 407;
  the two parties, 408;
  part played by Franklin, 408;
  unsalaried presidency, 408;
  debate on representation, 409;
  single legislative chamber, 410;
  suffrage, 410;
  naturalization, 410;
  presidential term, 410;
  story about the "rising sun," 411.

Continental Congress, 206-212;
  its duties, 206;
  resolves to petition once more, 206;
  takes no action on Franklin's plan for a confederation, 208;
  makes Franklin head of postal system, 209;
  sends him on mission to Montreal, 210;
  repudiates independence, 211;
  adopts declaration, 212;
  forms Confederation, 212;
  sends Franklin and others to confer with Lord Howe, 214;
  elects Franklin envoy to France, 219;
  has difficulty in choosing ministers, 221;
  instructs Deane to get help from France, 224;
  sends Franklin on formal embassy, 232;
  puzzled by letters of Deane, Lee, and Beaumarchais, 239;
  irritated at Deane's sending military adventurers, 242, 243;
  sends Austin as special messenger, 270;
  rejects North's conciliatory offers, 282;
  votes to request admission into Armed Neutrality, 288;
  stinginess toward Franklin, 295-343;
  breaks up French mission, 298;
  management of finances, 304-336;
  has power to borrow but not to tax, 304-306;
  method of drawing bills on foreign envoys, 306, 307;
  proposes to secure loans by pledging merchandise, 309, 310;
  orders Franklin to borrow money and build warships, 311;
  issues drafts on Franklin, 312, 315, 325-327, 330-334;
  on Jay, 321;
  on Laurens, 324;
  on Adams, 330;
  fails to advise ministers of bills drawn, 313, 315, 318;
  fails to keep promises, 322, 325, 326, 332;
  loses confidence of French court, 328;
  antedates bills to evade a promise, 332;
  ill-treatment of Franklin, 349;
  ignores his request to resign, 349;
  appoints commissioners to treat for peace, 349;
  passes act to redeem paper money at forty to one, 350;
  angers Vergennes, 350 seq.;
  induced by France to name commission instead of plenipotentiary, 363;
  at French suggestion omits all but independence from ultimatum, 378;
  instructs commissioners to be guided by France, 378;
  condemns independent action of commissioners, 388;
  again refuses Franklin's request to be relieved, 397;
  finally permits him, 398;
  honors Franklin's memory, 417;
  neglects to reward Temple Franklin, 417;
  neglects to audit Franklin's accounts, 418.

Conway, General, opposes Stamp Act, 115;
  secretary for colonies, 115;
  reënter's cabinet, 147;
  suggests treating for peace, 284;
  moves address against the war, after Yorktown, 364.

Conyngham, ----, American privateer, 248, 249.

"Cool Thoughts on the Present Situation," a pamphlet by Franklin, 91.

Cooper, Sir Grey, thinks Franklin's mission is a desertion, 234.

Cooper, Samuel, tells Franklin of the sentiment in Massachusetts regarding
  his appointment as agent, 138;
  letter to, regarding Hutchinson letters, 180.

"Critical Period of American History" a time of reviving industrial
  prosperity, 406.

Cornwallis, Lord, effect of his surrender, 363.

Cumberland, Duke of, forms cabinet, 115; dies, 116.

Cushing, Thomas, letter from Franklin to, about the Hutchinson letters, 180.

Dana, Francis, his reliance on Franklin, 342, 345.

Dartmouth, Lord, suggested as Hillsborough's successor by Franklin, 165;
  friendly relations with Franklin, 166;
  later divergence, 166;
  discusses with Franklin Massachusetts
    resolves denying parliamentary control, 167;
  impossibility of agreement, 168, 193;
  Franklin's memorial to, 200.

Deane, Silas, rank as diplomate, 220;
  first envoy to France, 222;
  previous career and character, 222;
  his mistakes, 223;
  abandons America, 223;
  introduced in France by Franklin, 223;
  his instructions, 224;
  balked by Bancroft, 224;
  joins plans of Beaumarchais, 230;
  not interfered with by Franklin, 238;
  slandered by Arthur Lee, 238, 239;
  ruined by him, 239;
  defended by Franklin, 240, 243, 290;
  sends European officers to America, 242;
  proposes an ultimatum to France, 269;
  recalled, 289;
  confidence in Franklin, 399.

De Grey, Lord Chief Justice, in Hutchinson letters affair, 186.

Denham, ----, offers Franklin a clerkship, 10;
  his death, 10.

Despencer, Lord le, breakfast party with, 136.

D'Estaing, Admiral, sails to aid America, 285.

"De Weissenstein"
  makes mysterious offer of peace with pensions for leading rebels, 358;
  supposed to be
  George III., 358;
  Franklin's reply to, 358, 359.

Dickinson, John, defends the Pennsylvania proprietors, 94;
  personal attack on Franklin, 97, 98;
  protests against his appointment as agent of the Assembly, 98;
  advocates renewed petitioning to king in Continental Congress, 206;
  supported by Franklin, 206.

Digges, ----, embezzles funds sent by Franklin to American prisoners, 264;
  makes secret proposals on behalf of Lord North, 364.

Diplomacy of the Revolution, its general character, 220;
  varied personnel, 220;
  difficulties in choosing ministers, 221;
  vagueness as to status of representatives, 222;
  mission of Silas Deane to France, 222-231;
  assistance gained from France through Beaumarchais, 225-231;
  mission of Franklin to France, 232-401;
  first offer of alliance, 236, 237;
  dealings of Franklin and Deane with foreign military adventurers, 242-246;
  management of privateers, 248-252;
  negotiations relative to exchange of prisoners, 252-264;
  dealings with opposition in England, 271;
  alliance with France, 273-279;
  proposal of Deane to force a decision, 269;
  effect of news of Burgoyne's capture, 273;
  discussion over terms of alliance, 273-277;
  debate over molasses duties, 276;
  concessions arranged by Franklin, 277, 278;
  peace with England suggested, 282, 284;
  quarrels in the French mission, 290-298;
  Franklin minister plenipotentiary, 298;
  methods of raising money in Europe, 306;
  history of Franklin's efforts in France,
  306-336 [see Finances of the Revolution];
  unique position of Franklin in Europe, 340-343;
  superiority to other diplomatists, 342, 344-346;
  mistake of John Adams in irritating Vergennes
    about American paper money, 350-352;
  the affair smoothed over by Franklin, 352-355;
  futile advances toward reconciliation made by English emissaries, 357-360;
  events leading up to treaty of peace [see treaty of peace], 363-396;
  commercial treaties with Prussia and other countries, 397.

Dubourg, Dr.,
  conveys to Franklin news of French willingness to help colonies, 232.

Dunning, ----, counsel for Franklin in Hutchinson letters affair, 187, 188.

Edinburgh gives Franklin freedom of the city, 75.

East India Company, hurt by colonial non-importation, 175.

Finances of the Revolution, difficulties, 304;
  vague powers of Congress, 304;
  inability to offer security, 305;
  methods of raising money adopted, 305, 306;
  burden of making loans thrown on foreign representatives, 306;
  situation of Jay, 307;
  of Adams, 307;
  real brunt borne by Franklin, 307, 321;
  unpicturesqueness and indispensableness of his labors, 308, 336;
  description of them, 308-336;
  proposed payments by cargoes of American products, 309;
  failure of this method, 310;
  loans made by French court on pure credit, 311, 317, 319;
  Franklin's pamphlet on resources of the United States, 311;
  neglect of Congress to advise ministers of bills, 312, 313, 326, 332;
  protests from Franklin, 312, 318, 320;
  lack of business methods in Congress, 313, 314, 320;
  extravagance of Lee and Izard, 314-316;
  difficulties of French court in furnishing money, 319;
  injurious influence of State agents, 320;
  difficulties of Jay in Spain, 321, 322, 332;
  criticisms of Vergennes, 325;
  neglect of Congress to keep promises, 322, 326, 332;
  begging from Vergennes, 327;
  from Necker, 328;
  difficulties over loan raised in Holland, 328;
  extravagance of Laurens and Jackson, 329;
  difficulties of Adams in Holland, 331, 332;
  antedating of bills to elude a promise, 332;
  further loans, 334, 336;
  liquidation of accounts begins, 335;
  peace alone puts an end to borrowing, 336.

Fisheries, importance of, to New England, 380;
  right to, upheld by Adams, 380, 399.

Fitzherbert, ----, replaces Grenville, 372.

Florida, suggested as member of Confederation by Franklin, 208.

Folger, Abiah, mother of Franklin, 2.

Folger, ancestry of Franklin, 3.

Fox, C. J., member of opposition, 271;
  attacks North regarding French and American alliance, 281;
  in Rockingham cabinet, 365;
  tries to outdo Shelburne by treating with colonies through France, 366;
  willing to acknowledge their independence, 367;
  urges Franklin to negotiate separately, 370;
  retires from Shelburne's cabinet, 372.

France, policy of; early interest in English colonial controversy, 137;
  regarded as probable ally of colonies, 222;
  intervention suggested by Beaumarchais and Vergennes, 226-228;
  enthusiasm over Franklin, 233-235;
  secret assistance, 251;
  self-interest of France, 252, 285, 368, 375, 380, 391, 396;
  treaty of alliance with, 273-279;
  war with England, 285;
  financial assistance, 307-336.

Franklin ancestry, 2; from Northamptonshire, 2;
  religious independence, 2.
  Franklin, Benjamin. _Early years._ Ancestry, 2;
  birth, 3;
  intended at first for the church, 3;
  assists father as tallow chandler, 4;
  apprenticed as printer to his brother, 4;
  "escapes being a poet," 4;
  bold religious speculations, 5;
  runs away, 6;
  begins printing in Philadelphia, 6;
  receives offer of help from Gov. Temple, 6;
  fails to induce his father to assist, 7;
  tricked by Temple into sailing for England, 8;
  lives in London, 8;
  "errata" in his career, 9;
  bad company, 9;
  infidelity, 9;
  declines proposal to establish swimming school, 10;
  returns home, 10;
  composes epitaph, 11;
  rise as printer in Philadelphia, 11, 12;
  publishes "Pennsylvania Gazette," 12, 13;
  matrimonial projects, 13, 14;
  marriage, 15;
  rise in society, 19;
  establishes a library, 20;
  effective methods of agitation, 21;
  publishes Poor Richard's almanac, 21;
  his management of the Gazette, 24;
  religious and moral views, 24-33;
  gains political influence through the Junto, 34;
  establishment of affiliated clubs, 34;
  studies languages, 35;
  clerk of General Assembly, 35;
  postmaster of Philadelphia, 35;
  invents a stove, and refuses to patent it, 36;
  founds a philosophical society, 36;
  an academy, 37;
  tries to reorganize night-watch, 38;
  founds the Union Fire Company, 39;
  begins organization of military force against French, 39;
  takes a partner, 39;
  enters public life, 40;
  appointed to various offices and elected burgess, 40;
  commissioner to treat with Indians, 40;
  assists Dr. Bond in founding hospital, 41;
  induces legislature to make a contingent grant, 42;
  his pride over this device, 42;
  improves cleaning and lighting of streets, 42;
  appointed head of postal system, his successful management of it, 43;
  receives degree
  of Master of Arts from Yale and Harvard, 43;
  deputy to Indian conference at Albany, 44;
  proposes a colonial union, 44;
  his plan adopted, 45;
  later rejected by England and by colonies, 45;
  speculations as to possible results if successful, 46;
  opposes Shirley's plan of a parliamentary tax, 47;
  proclaims theory of no taxation without consent, 47;
  points out heaviness of existing indirect taxation, 48;
  doubts feasibility of colonial representation in Parliament, 48, 49;
  visits Boston, 49;
  on committee to supervise military expenditure in Pennsylvania, 50;
  disapproves of Braddock's expedition, 51;
  acts in behalf of the Assembly, 52;
  arranges for transportation for the expedition, 53;
  obliged to give bonds to owners, 54;
  in danger of ruin owing to failure of
    expedition and losses of wagons and horses, 54;
  escapes with slight losses, 54;
  reputed to have made money, 55;
  builds forts on frontier, 56;
  increased popularity, 56;
  scheme for settling barrier colonies west of mountains, 57;
  scientific studies, 59;
  reputation in Europe, 59, 60.
 _Representative of Pennsylvania in conflict with proprietors._
  Sent to England by burgesses to appeal
    to the king against the proprietors, 63;
  his share in previous agitation, 63;
  detained from sailing by Lord Loudoun's procrastination, 65;
  arrival in London, 66;
  interview with Lord Granville, 66;
  dispute over legal rights of the colonies, 67;
  futile interview with proprietors, 67;
  with their counsel, 68;
  kept waiting a year, 68;
  complained of to the Assembly by the proprietors, 68;
  learns of an adverse report of the board of trade, 70;
  engages that proprietors shall be fairly treated by the Assembly, 70;
  thus gains main contention that proprietors may be taxed, 71;
  comments on proprietors' behavior, 71, 72;
  detained two years in England on business, 73;
  purposely delayed by opponents, 73;
  suffers from lack of social influence, 74;
  fails to see Pitt, 74;
  illness, 74;
  welcomed in scientific circles, 75;
  travels, 75;
  receives degree of Doctor of Laws from St. Andrews and Oxford, 75;
  friendship with Strahan, 76;
  attempts at match-making with Sarah Franklin and William Franklin, 76;
  willing to live in England, 77;
  regret at leaving, 77;
  interested in proposal to leave Canada
    to French in order to overawe colonies, 80;
  shows fallacy in a pamphlet, 80, 81;
  denies possibility of colonial independence, 81, 82, 83;
  predicts future development of the West, 84;
  returns home, 84;
  popularity, 84;
  elected to assembly, 84;
  receives partial compensation, 84;
  desires repose, 86;
  regulates post-office, 86;
  friendly relations with Governor Penn, 87;
  condemns "Paxton massacre" of friendly Indians, 88;
  organizes force to protect Christian Indians in Philadelphia, 89;
  protects governor in his house, 89;
  joins popular party in opposing governor, 91;
  urges change to Royal Government, 91, 92, 93;
  draws petition to this effect, 93;
  chosen speaker, 94;
  attacks governor's methods, 94, 95;
  defeated in election to Assembly, 96, 97;
  appointed agent to present petition for Royal Government, 97, 99;
  attacked by Dickinson, 98;
  expenses of journey paid by subscription, 100;
  return to old lodgings in London, 100;
  fails to gain consideration for his petition, 101, 102.
 _Colonial representative in England._
    Instructed by Pennsylvania to oppose Stamp Act, 105;
  fruitless interview with Grenville, 106;
  writes home advising submission, 107;
  no thought of resistance, 107;
  names Hughes for stamp-distributer at Grenville's request, 108;
  temporary fury of Philadelphia at the news, 109;
  his surprise and mortification, 109, 110;
  apparent disagreement with colonists, but real unity of opinion, 111;
  his fitness for diplomatic position in England, 111, 112;
  sympathizes with both sides, 113;
  tact and coolness, 113;
  appears as witness at bar of Commons, 119;
  ability displayed under cross-examination, 119;
  thorough mastery of situation, 120;
  great effect of his testimony, 121;
  presents American sentiment against the Stamp Act, 122;
  expresses willingness to sacrifice all rather than submit, 123, 124;
  states legislative independence of colonies, 124, 125;
  has friendly feeling for George III., 126;
  seeks to defend him, 126, 127;
  thinks colonial representation in Parliament impossible of adoption, 128;
  views on "virtual" representation, 130;
  draws distinctions between external and internal taxation, 130, 131;
  asserts willingness of colonies to bear their share of public burdens, 132;
  return of popularity in Pennsylvania, 134;
  satirical publications at expense of
    English ignorance of colonies, 134, 135;
  joke concerning a claim of the king of Prussia to England, 136;
  "rules for reducing a great empire to a small one," 136;
  communications with the French, 137;
  appointed agent for Georgia and Massachusetts, 138;
  opposed by Samuel Adams, 138;
  increased prestige, 139;
  pecuniary sacrifice, 139;
  retains post-mastership, 140;
  motives of ministry in leaving him undisturbed, 140;
  rumors circulated in America that he had accepted royal office, 141;
  his reputation increases in England and France, 144;
  urges moderation at home, 145;
  disliked by extremists, 146;
  hopes advantage from Hillsborough's appointment, 151;
  discovers Hillsborough's enmity, 152;
  dispute with him over legality of commission from Massachusetts, 152-157;
  a telling retort, 157;
  no longer recognized as agent of Massachusetts, 157;
  low opinion of Hillsborough, 158;
  thinks agents quite as valuable to government as to colonies, 158;
  works to undermine Hillsborough, 159, 160;
  controverts Hillsborough's objections to two frontier colonies, 162;
  his arguments prevail with the privy council, 163;
  drives Hillsborough to resign, 163;
  snubbed by him, 164;
  fails to get the grant for frontier provinces, 164;
  suggests Lord Dartmouth for colonial secretary, 165;
  amicable relations with him, 166;
  counsels him to be patient with Massachusetts, 167, 168;
  would be satisfied with a return to conditions before Stamp Act, 169;
  begins to forbode separation, but hopes and works for peace, 171;
  continually urges moderation on colonists, 172;
  belief in efficacy of non-importation, 173;
  urges its advantages, 173;
  and effects upon England, 174;
  comments on complete financial failure of Stamp Act and Customs Act, 176;
  shown copies of Tory letters from Massachusetts, 177;
  sends them to Boston under pledge of secrecy, 178;
  publishes a letter taking upon himself
    responsibility of their discovery, 182, 183;
  presents petition of Massachusetts to Dartmouth, 183;
  delicacy of his position, 184;
  learns that Hutchinson and Oliver are to be represented by counsel, 185;
  fearing trouble and foreseeing an attack, asks for time, 186;
  threats and rumors, 187;
  appears before a hostile privy council, 187, 188;
  violently attacked as a thief by Wedderburn, 188, 189;
  the "suit of Manchester velvet," 191;
  begins and abandons a defense of himself, 192;
  dismissed from office of postmaster, 192;
  loses his standing in England, 192, 193;
  resigns agency for Massachusetts, 193;
  rebuked by Massachusetts for laxity, 194;
  slandered by Arthur Lee, 194;
  danger of charges of treason, 195;
  interview with Lord Chatham, 196;
  urges policy of colonial self-government, 197;
  denies that independence is desired, 197;
  wishes unity of the Empire, 198;
  attacked by Lord Sandwich in House of Lords, 198;
  defended by Chatham, 198, 199;
  irritated at attacks on America in House of Commons, 199;
  writes an angry letter to Dartmouth, 200;
  demands reparation for injuries done America and rights denied, 200;
  saved from presenting this by advice of Walpole, 201, 202;
  rejects secret attempts by ministry to negotiate, 202;
  again rejects bribes, 202;
  last day in London with Priestley, 203;
  emotion at situation, 203;
  leaves for home, 203;
  significance of his failure, 203.
 _Member of Congress._ Revulsion of feeling on reaching America, 204;
  anger against England, 205;
  letters to Priestly and Strahan, 204, 205;
  elected to Congress, 206;
  active in committee work, 206;
  willing to send the Olive Branch petition, 206;
  hopes thus to put England in the wrong, 206;
  suggests offer by colonies to pay annual sum
    for privilege of Free Trade, 207;
  repels humorously charge of colonial ingratitude, 207, 208;
  formulates a plan of union, 208;
  chairman of committee on postal service, 209;
  postmaster-general, 209;
  chairman of Committee of Safety, 209;
  plans defenses for Philadelphia, 209;
  prevented by necessary oath of allegiance from
    sitting in Pennsylvania Assembly, 209;
  sent to Boston to confer with Washington, 209;
  to Montreal to confer with Arnold, 210;
  president of Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention, 211;
  willing to join a New England confederacy rather than none, 212;
  connection with Declaration of Independence, 212;
  his famous jests, 212;
  in the Articles of Confederation wishes votes of States
    according to population, 212;
  correspondence with Lord Howe, who wishes reconciliation, 213;
  replies condemning the English, 213, 214;
  member of committee of Congress to confer with Howe, 214;
  remarks, 215;
  says nothing short of independence is possible, 216;
  his indignation at British attacks, 217;
  suggests, in humorous form, to Priestley, the impossibility
    of conquering the Americans, 217, 218;
  depth of his feeling, 218.
 _Minister to France._ Appointed, 219, 232;
  the only American with diplomatic experience, 220, 221;
  voyage, 232, 233;
  alarm of English at news of his arrival, 234;
  French enthusiasm, 234, 235;
  settles at Passy, 235;
  avoids thrusting himself upon the government, 236;
  presents credentials at audience given by Vergennes, 236, 237;
  gains a secret loan, 237;
  not involved in Deane's schemes, 238;
  befriends Deane, 240;
  much annoyed by the complications, 241, 242;
  and by French officers previously encouraged by Deane, 243, 244;
  discourages them, 245;
  uses an unvarnished form of letter of recommendation, 245;
  recognizes value of Lafayette and Steuben, 246;
  impressed with feeling for liberty in Europe, 247;
  expects great liberal immigration, 247;
  advises privateering, 248;
  charged with duty of regulating it, 249, 250;
  protects privateers against French government, 250;
  works to gain time, 251;
  tries to exchange prisoners with England, 253;
  tart correspondence with Stormont, 253;
  indignant at treatment of American prisoners by English, 254, 255;
  correspondence with Hartley on the subject, 256-262;
  urges humane treatment, 257, 258;
  proposes liberation by English "on account," 258, 259, 260;
  threatens retaliatory treatment, 260, 263;
  finally succeeds, 261, 262;
  difficulties raised by English, 262, 263;
  sends money to prisoners, 263;
  appoints Williams naval agent, 264;
  acquiesces in his dismissal, 266;
  predicts in 1777 the ultimate success of the war, 268;
  prevents desperate measures on Deane's part, 269;
  receives news of Burgoyne's surrender, 270;
  sends J. L. Austin to confer with English liberals, 271;
  justifies to Hartley the project of a French alliance, 272, 273;
  secret negotiations with France, 274, 275;
  misunderstanding with Lee, 275;
  arranges commercial concessions, 277;
  plans nearly upset by Lee and Izard, 278-9;
  signs treaty in "Manchester velvet suit," 279;
  writes to Hartley urging peace, 281, 282;
  predicts futility of English conciliatory bills, 282;
  presented to Louis XVI., 283;
  his costume, 283;
  secures in treaty principle of "free ships, free goods," 287;
  favors the "armed neutrality," 288;
  meetings with Voltaire, 287, 288;
  speaks well of Deane, 290;
  accused of inefficiency and corruption by Lee and Izard, 292, 293, 298;
  criticised by Adams, 294, 296;
  personal frugality of Franklin, 297;
  advises a single representative at Versailles, 297;
  made minister plenipotentiary, 298;
  insulted by Lee, 299;
  supplies money, commissions, and protection to Paul Jones, 300, 301;
  advises plundering English coast, 301;
  difficulties with Landais, 302.
 _Foreign Financial Agent._
    Forced to beg money to meet congressional bills, 306;
  assists Jay, 307;
  sole effective financier, 307, 308;
  lends money to Congress, 308;
  yields two cargoes to Beaumarchais, 310;
  appeals vainly to Thomas Morris, 310;
  instructed by Congress to borrow money and build ships of war, 311;
  writes pamphlet on credit of the United States, 311;
  agrees to meet interest on congressional loan, 311;
  obliged to meet drafts, 312;
  continually surprised by new and old ones, 312;
  not warned of bills drawn, 312, 313, 318, 332;
  annoyed by exorbitant demands of Lee and Izard, 314;
  refuses Izard, 315;
  attacked bitterly, 316, 317;
  helps officers of "Alliance," 317;
  humiliating necessity of begging from France, 318;
  hampered by state agents making loans, 319;
  aids Jones, 320;
  begs Congress not to permit its agents to draw upon him, 320;
  assists Jay, 321, 322, 333, 335;
  proposes that Congress furnish supplies to French fleet, 322;
  urges sacrifice in America, 323, 324;
  meets drafts on Laurens, 324, 326, 332;
  overwhelmed by fresh demands, 325;
  fragment of his diary showing the swarm of bills, 326;
  more begging from Vergennes, 327, 328;
  secures loan in Holland, 328;
  difficulties over William Jackson's purchases, 329, 330;
  helps John Adams meet drafts, 331;
  directed by Robert Morris to make further requests, 331;
  in return asks remittance from America, 331;
  yet manages to meet drafts, 332;
  promises Vergennes to accept no drafts dated later than March, 1781, 332;
  discovers that Congress is antedating bills, 332;
  personal liability, 332;
  more demands from Livingston, 333, 334;
  warned by Vergennes, 333;
  refused further aid from French, but succeeds in getting more, 334;
  begins liquidation of accounts, 335;
  receives further demands for loans, 335, 336;
  released by treaty of peace, 336;
  accused of sloth, luxury, and indecision by Adams, 337, 338;
  political value of his personal popularity in France, 339;
  breadth of view, 340;
  carelessness never caused failure, 341;
  amount of his labors, 341, 342;
  variety of functions, 342;
  meagreness of assistance rendered him, 343;
  his indolence only physical, 344;
  his great social prestige in Europe, 345;
  its value, 346;
  annoyed by attacks at home, 347;
  patient under calumny, 348;
  tries vainly to resign, 348;
  his requests uniformly ignored by Congress, 349;
  urges Congress not to injure foreign creditors, 350;
  appealed to by Adams and Vergennes to settle quarrel, 351;
  agrees with Vergennes in favor of foreign creditors, 353;
  advises Adams to smooth over unwise expressions to Vergennes, 354;
  hated by Adams, 355.
 _Commissioner to make peace._ Approached by Pulteney as to peace, 357;
  by de Weissenstein, 358;
  thinks latter an agent for George III., 358;
  writes a severe answer which he does not send, 359;
  approached by Hartley as to truce, 359;
  bitterness toward England, 359, 360;
  refuses from the outset to discuss possibility of reunion, 360, 361;
  gratitude toward France, 362;
  commissioned to treat for peace, 363;
  refuses to treat separately from France, 364;
  suggests peace to Shelburne, 364;
  interview with Oswald, 365;
  again refuses separate negotiations, 366;
  sends suggestions to Shelburne, 366, 371;
  second inconclusive interview with Oswald, 367;
  dealings with Grenville, 368;
  urges Jay to join him, 371;
  asks Shelburne to give Oswald exclusive authority, 371;
  continues to discuss with Oswald, 372;
  willing to accept vague commission given Oswald, 373;
  well of Vergennes' motives, 373;
  criticises Jay's letter on this point, 374;
  differs with Jay regarding French duplicity, 375, 378;
  resumes negotiations with Oswald, 377;
  surrenders his view to Jay and Adams, probably to save time, 379;
  on compensation to Tories, 381;
  suggests counter-claims, 382;
  antipathy to loyalists, 382;
  informs Vergennes of treaty, 384;
  criticised by him, 385;
  apparent duplicity, 386;
  tries to defend his action, 387;
  blamed at home for too great subservience to France, 388;
  persuades Jay not to write a defense, 388;
  asks Jay and Adams to vindicate him, 389;
  increased ill-feeling with Adams, 391;
  merits of the dispute, 391;
  large part played by him in negotiations, 392;
  value of his reputation, 392, 393;
  his friendly opinion of Vergennes, 393, 394, and of France, 395;
  again resigns, 396;
  retained for commercial treaties, 397;
  pleasant life in Paris, 397, 398;
  departure from France, 400, 401;
  voyage, 401, 402.
 _President of Pennsylvania._ Arrival at Philadelphia, popular welcome, 403;
  elected President of State Council, 403;
  acts as peacemaker between factions, 404;
  successive reëlections, 404;
  devotes salary to public use, 404;
  humorous proposal for paying British debts, 405;
  not discouraged by condition of America, 406;
  preaches coolness, 407;
  elected member of Constitutional Convention, 407.
 _In Constitutional Convention._
    Elected in order to preside in possible absence of Washington, 407;
  opposes centralization, 408;
  views on constitutional points, 408-411;
  moves that sessions open with prayer, 409;
  urges harmony, 411;
  favors Washington for president, 412;
  leaves public life, 412;
  physical infirmities, 412;
  cheerfulness of mind in later days, 413, 414;
  applauds French Revolution, 415;
  president of abolition society, 415;
  condemns too great license of press, 416;
  death, 417;
  public honors in America, 417;
  but continued neglect on part of Congress
    to adjust his accounts or recompense Temple Franklin, 417, 418;
  memorial ceremonies in France, 419.
 _Character._ General summary 420-427;
  an unfavorable view, 337, 338;
  criticisms on the foregoing, 338-344;
  religious views, 5, 9, 24-29;
  moral attitude, 21, 24, 29-33;
  utilitarianism, 29-30; 422-424;
  wit and humor, 11, 120, 134, 207, 212, 268, 405, 426;
  humanity, 101, 112, 144, 254-264, 393, 425;
  patriotism, 203, 424;
  courage and cheerfulness, 145, 172, 268, 406;
  business ability, 12, 13, 39;
  literary ability, 22, 35, 43, 426;
  diplomatic ability, 338-344;
  tact, 52, 112, 113, 243, 244, 365;
  political insight, 121-126;
  other characteristics, 19, 20, 21, 33, 36, 171, 172, 218;
  reputation in Europe, 75, 111, 144, 235, 398, 401, 419.
 _Political Opinions._ On colonial union, 44, 208;
  on parliamentary supremacy, 46, 47, 196;
  on colonial representation in Parliament, 49, 128;
  on relation of colonies to England, 66, 124-126;
  on external and internal taxation, 130, 131;
  on free ships and free goods, 207;
  on colonial system, 48, 197;
  on paper money, 13, 355;
  on export duties, 277;
  on non-importation, 173, 174;
  on proprietary government, 92, 93;
  in constitutional convention, favors unpaid presidency, 408;
  favors representation proportional to population, 212, 409;
  suggests compromise, 410;
  favors wide suffrage, 410;
  brief naturalization period, 410;
  president for seven years,
    ineligible for reëlection, and liable to impeachment, 410;
  on French Revolution, 415;
  on slavery, 415, 416;
  a believer in democracy, 408, 421;
  but from faith in mankind, not mere theory, 421, 424.

Franklin, Mrs. Deborah, 6;
  engaged to Franklin, 14;
  previous matrimonial experiences, 15;
  marries Franklin, 15;
  receives Franklin's illegitimate son, 16;
  dread of crossing the Atlantic, 76, 78;
  in danger during Stamp Act riots, 109;
  Franklin's present of a gown to, 134;
  death, 203.

Franklin, James, takes his brother Benjamin Franklin as apprentice, 4;
  unfriendly relations, 5.

Franklin, Josiah, emigrates to Boston, 2;
  his family, 2, 3;
  father of Benjamin Franklin, 3;
  devotes him to the church, 3;
  suggests that he become a printer, 4;
  refuses to aid him in Philadelphia, 7.

Franklin, Sarah, offer of marriage, 76;
  leaves Philadelphia to escape Stamp Act riots, 109;
  marriage to Richard Bache, 203.

Franklin, Temple, assists his grandfather in Paris, 273, 343, 347;
  neglected by Congress, 417.

Franklin, William, birth, 16;
  refuses to marry Mary Stevenson, 76;
  appointed governor of New Jersey, 85;
  becomes a Tory and alienated from his father, 85;
  partial reconciliation, 85, 401.

"Free Ships and Free Goods," doctrine upheld by Franklin, 287.

"French and Indian War," 49-58;
  conflict inevitable, 44, 50;
  inequality of combatants, 50;
  Braddock's expedition, 51-55;
  outcome of war, 78.

French Revolution, applauded by Franklin, 415.

Gadsden, Christopher, 107, 111.

Galloway, Joseph, speech against Pennsylvania Proprietors, 94;
  defeated for reëlection, 97.

Gates, General, captor of Burgoyne, 272, 280, 298.

"Gentleman's Magazine," praises Franklin's examination before Commons, 121.

George III., desires peace with France, 78;
  displaces Grenville, 114;
  favorable opinion of Franklin towards, 126, 127;
  hatred of Shelburne, 148, 150;
  vexed with Hillsborough, 160;
  hatred of Franklin, 284;
  supposed to be author of De Weissenstein letter, 358;
  makes Shelburne prime minister, 372.

George IV., interview with Austin, 271.

Georgia, appoints Franklin its agent, 138.

Gérard, M., asks for proposals for alliance, 274;
  negotiates treaty, 274, 275;
  arranges reciprocity with Franklin, 278;
  signs treaty, 279;
  minister to United States, 285;
  claims credit of having defeated Lee's schemes, 298.

Gibbon, remark on diplomatic events in 1777, 280.

Grand, M., banker for Franklin, 314, 327, 336.

Granville, Lord, interview with Franklin, 66;
  asserts that king is legislator for the colonies, 66;
  defends English colonial system, 67.

Greene, General, his remark on meeting Franklin, 210.

Grenville, George, proposes enforcement of colonial trade regulations, 104;
  introduces Stamp Act, 104;
  honesty of his intentions, 105, 143;
  unmoved by Franklin's protest, 106;
  asks Franklin to name a distributer, 108;
  views on parliamentary power over America, 117;
  loss of prestige, 143.

Grenville, Thomas, sent by Fox to
  treat with France and with the United States, 366;
  preposterous offer to Vergennes, 367;
  relations with Franklin, 368, 369;
  difficulty over his commission, 371;
  recalled, 372;
  remark on self-seeking of France, 395.

Guadaloupe. See Canada.

Hale, Edward E., quoted, 234, 238, 242, 281, 290, 303.

Hall, David, fellow workman of Franklin, 9;
  taken into partnership, 39.

Hamilton, Alexander, mentioned, 344;
  opposes Franklin's motion to open sessions
    of Constitutional Convention with prayer, 409.

Hamilton, governor of Pennsylvania, superseded, 87.

Harrison, Benjamin, on committee with Franklin, 209.

Hartley, David, character and friendship with Franklin, 256;
  aids American prisoners, 256;
  tries to arrange exchanges, 258;
  unable to hasten matters, 261;
  finally succeeds, 262;
  cautions Franklin against a French alliance, 272;
  sends copies of conciliatory bills to Franklin, 281;
  visits him, 282;
  warning to Franklin, 288;
  proposes a truce, 359;
  letters to, 360, 364.

Harvard College makes Franklin Master of Arts, 43.

Henry, Patrick, 107, 111.

Hillsborough, Earl of, replaces Shelburne in charge of the colonies, 151, 157;
  Franklin's opinion of, 151;
  holds that colonial agents were illegally appointed, 152;
  interview and dispute with Franklin, 153-157;
  angry at Franklin's retort, 157;
  refuses to recognize Franklin as agent, 157;
  his theory followed by board of trade, 158;
  loses prestige, 159;
  disliked by George III., 160;
  tries to prevent granting of barrier colonies, 160-162;
  his action reversed by privy council at Franklin's suggestion, 163;
  resigns, 163;
  resentment against Franklin, 164.

Hortalez & Co. See Beaumarchais.

Howe, Lord, negotiations with Franklin in England, 202;
  tries to mediate in America, 213;
  arranges a conference with Franklin, Adams, and Rutledge, 214, 215;
  fails to find common ground, 216.

Hughes, ----, named stamp distributer at Franklin's suggestion, 108.

Hume, David, 75.

Hunter, William, 43.

Hutchinson, Anne, 178 note.

Hutchinson, Governor,
    disputes over parliamentary taxation with Massachusetts Assembly, 166;
  vexes Dartmouth, 167;
  writes letters urging ministry to take severe measures in Boston, 177;
  value of his advice to ministry, 178 note;
  petition for his removal, 183;
  advises detention of Franklin, 196.

Hutchinson Letters, 177-193;
  shown to Franklin, 177;
  sent by him to America under pledge of secrecy, 178;
  published, 179;
  manner of transmission unknown, 180;
  quarrel between Temple and Whately, 181;
  responsibility taken by Franklin, 182, 183;
  question as to honorableness of his action, 184;
  attack on Franklin before Privy Council, 185-191;
  incident ruins Franklin's standing, 193.

Ignorance of English concerning America, 132, 134, 135, 137.

Indians, Franklin's dealings with, 40, 44;
  their opinion of rum, 41;
  hated in Pennsylvania, 83, 87.

Independence of colonies, dreaded in England, 49, 66, 79, 106;
  its possibility denied by Franklin, 81, 82, 83, 108, 197;
  foreseen by Pratt, Choiseul, Vergennes, 83;
  its approach recognized by Franklin, 107, 171;
  repudiated by Congress, 211;
  declaration of, 212.

Internal and external taxation, dispute concerning difference, 130;
  identity upheld by Grenville, 130;
  by Townshend, 149;
  denied by Franklin, 130, 131.

Ireland, suggested as possible member of Confederation by Franklin, 208.

Izard, rank as diplomate, 220;
  sides with Lee against Franklin, 278;
  quarrel with Franklin, 279;
  attacks Deane and Franklin, 290;
  charges against Franklin, 292, 298, 399;
  extravagant demands for money, 297, 299, 314;
  letter of Franklin to, 314.

Jackson, William, buys supplies in Holland, 328, 329;
  draws on Franklin, 329;
  damages American credit, 329;
  complications about goods, 330;
  his pro-slavery speech in Congress, 416.

Jay, John, his "conscience" in Congress, 208;
  rank as diplomate, 220;
  humiliating situation as financial agent in Spain, 307;
  inability to raise money, 307, 321;
  helped by Franklin, 307, 322, 332, 333, 335;
  defers to Franklin's opinion, 342;
  recognizes importance of Franklin's position, 346;
  appointed commissioner to treat for peace, 349;
  sent for by Franklin to aid in treating, 370;
  illness, 372;
  insists on recognition of independence in Oswald's commission, 373;
  suspects Vergennes' motives, 373;
  is certain that Vergennes is secretly working against United States, 375;
  persuades Shelburne to grant the new commission, 376;
  wishes to negotiate without Vergennes, 378;
  arranges boundaries and Mississippi navigation in the treaty, 380;
  indignant at congressional reproof, 388;
  dissuaded by Franklin from replying, 388;
  testimony in behalf of Franklin, 390, 399;
  freedom from quarrels, 390;
  the real leader in the negotiations, 391.

Jefferson, Thomas, mentioned, 212;
  declines mission to France, 232;
  appointed commissioner to treat for peace, 349;
  arrival in Paris, 398;
  succeeds Franklin, 398;
  describes his popularity, 398;
  on Franklin's calumniators, 399.

Jones, John Paul, his daring exploits, 300, 301;
  supported by Franklin, 301;
  advised by him, 301.

"Junto," club founded by Franklin, 34;
  becomes a political engine, 34, 35.

Kames, Lord, 75;
  letters to, 77, 83.

Kant, Immanuel, calls Franklin Prometheus, 60.

Keimer, ----, Franklin's employer in Philadelphia, 6, 11;
  prints a newspaper and sells out to Franklin, 12.

Keith, Sir William, governor of Pennsylvania,
   proposes to set Franklin up as printer, 6;
  tricks him into sailing to England, 7, 8.

Knox, ----, agent of Georgia, favors Stamp Act, 105.

Lafayette, Marquis de, recommended by Franklin, 246;
  brings Franklin's commission, 298;
  tries to help Franklin raise money, 333.

Landais, French captain of American vessel, 302;
  refuses to obey Franklin, 302;
  goes insane, 302, 303.

Laurens, Henry, rank as diplomate, 220;
  complains of Franklin's neglect, 264;
  captured, 324;
  appointed commissioner to treat for peace, 349;
  letter from Franklin to, 390;
  confidence in Franklin, 399.

Laurens, John, great expenses in Holland, 238, 329.

Lee, Arthur, appointed by Massachusetts
    to succeed Franklin as her agent on his departure from England, 141;
  praised by Franklin, 141;
  slanders him, 141;
  unable to help Franklin when attacked before Privy Council, 185;
  circulates rumors of Franklin's treachery, 194;
  still praised by Franklin, 194;
  succeeds Franklin, 203;
  rank as diplomate, 220;
  influences Beaumarchais, 226;
  appointed Franklin's colleague in France, 232;
  suspects Deane and Beaumarchais, 238;
  prevents Congress from sending them goods, 239;
  ruins Deane, 239, 240;
  slanders Williams, 265;
  secures his removal, 266;
  joins with Franklin against Deane, 270;
  description of secret meetings of Vergennes with commissioners, 274;
  jealousy of Franklin, the cake episode, 275;
  objects to reciprocity with French West Indies, 277;
  tries to reverse action taken on it, 278;
  rage with Franklin at not being told of sailing of Gérard and Deane, 290;
  his evil influence at home, 291;
  general unpopularity, 291, 317;
  virulent hatred of Franklin, 292;
  extravagant slanders, 292, 293, 297;
  excessive demands for money, 297, 299, 314, 316;
  sent to Madrid, 298;
  refuses to give up papers of French embassy, 299;
  prevents a Spanish loan by his imprudence, 317;
  defers to Franklin, 342;
  influence in prejudicing Massachusetts against Franklin, 399.

Lee, John, counsel for Franklin in Hutchinson letters affair, 187, 188.

Lee, William, rank as diplomate, 220;
  offended at appointment of Jonathan Williams, 265;
  sides with Arthur Lee against terms of French treaty, 278;
  makes charges against Franklin, 298.

Lexington, fight at, 204.

Library, established by Franklin, 20;
  parent of later subscription libraries, 20.

Livingston, R. R., letters of Franklin to, 323, 335;
  letters from, asking money, 333, 334;
  condemns commissioners for making treaty without French advice, 388.

"London Chronicle" publishes Franklin's letters to Shirley, 47.

Loudoun, Lord, appointed military head of colonies, 64;
  his procrastination and inefficiency, 65.

Louis XVI., puzzled by Beaumarchais' zeal for the colonies, 226;
  sides with Turgot in opposing intervention, 228;
  compliments American
  envoys, 283;
  civilities to Franklin, 401.

Lovell, James, Franklin's letter to, 312.

Luzerne, Chevalier de la, French minister to the United States, 351, 363, 387.

Lynch, ----, on committee with Franklin, 209.

Mansfield, Lord, arranges settlement of Penn dispute with Franklin, 70, 71;
  upholds parliamentary power over colonies, 118;
  condemns a pamphlet of Franklin's, 136.

Massachusetts appoints Franklin its agent, 138;
  fails to pay him, 139;
  quarrels with Hutchinson over parliamentary supremacy, 166;
  petitions for removal of Hutchinson and Oliver, 183;
  rebukes Franklin for carelessness, 194.

Mauduit, ----, agent for Hutchinson, 185.

Meredith, ----, Franklin's partner, 11, 12.

Mirabeau, eulogy on Franklin, 419.

Molasses trade, its importance to the colonies, 276;
  remarks of Adams upon, 276;
  secured in French treaty, 277-279.

Morris, Robert, offended at appointment of Jonathan Williams, 265;
  appointed treasurer, 304;
  complete reliance on Franklin, 307;
  urges Franklin to suggest
    to Vergennes to help America to raise a loan at Madrid, 331;
  drafts on Franklin, 333-336;
  letters of Franklin to, 333, 334, 335, 336;
  directs Franklin to leave surplus, if any, to M. Grand, 336.

Morris, Thomas, rank as diplomate, 220;
  commercial agent at Nantes, 264;
  his incompetence, 264, 265, 311.

Navy, United States, supported by Franklin, 300-303.

Necker, induced by Franklin to guarantee a loan, 328.

New Jersey, appoints Franklin its agent, 138.

"New England Courant," printed under Franklin's name, 5.

Noailles, Marquis de,
    announces to England alliance of French with United States, 284.

Non-importation, its effectiveness against the Stamp Act, 115, 116;
  urged later by Franklin, 173, 175;
  acts like "protection," 173;
  its effects upon the East India Company, 175;
  other effects, 176.

Norris, Isaac, declines to represent
  Pennsylvania against the Proprietors in England, 63;
  resigns speakership rather than sign petition, 94.

North, Lord, chancellor of exchequer, 151;
  at Privy Council hearing, 190;
  attempts to bribe Franklin, 202;
  permits Hartley to correspond with Franklin, 256;
  forced by Burgoyne's surrender to attempt conciliation with colonies, 280;
  twitted by Fox with French and American alliance, 281;
  receives news of Cornwallis's surrender, 363;
  tries to alienate France from the States, 363, 364;
  resigns, 364.

Oliver, Lieutenant-Governor, his letters, 177;
  petition for his removal, 183.

Oswald, Richard, sent by Shelburne to discuss peace with Franklin, 365;
  second visit, 366;
  fruitless interview with Franklin, 367;
  preferred to Grenville by Franklin, 371;
  continues negotiation, 372;
  difficulty over his commission, 373;
  receives satisfactory commission, 376;
  agrees to a draft treaty, 377.

Otis, James, opposition to Stamp Act, 107, 111.

Oxford University makes Franklin Doctor of Laws, 75.

Parliament, supremacy of, over colonies, denied by Franklin, 47;
  asserted by Shirley, 46;
  by Parliament, 64;
  Stamp Act raises question, 110;
  denied by Pitt, 114, 117;
  debate over declaratory resolution in Parliament, 118;
  arguments of Franklin before Commons, 124-126;
  distinction between internal and external taxes, 130;
  debates under Dartmouth's ministry, 167-170.

Parton, James, Life of Franklin, quoted,
    3, 16, 23, 36, 97, 208, 222, 232, 240, 241, 271, 281, 283, 407, 415, 419.

"Paxton massacre," 87-89;
  Paxton boys threaten Indians in Philadelphia, 88;
  overawed by Franklin's preparations, 89;
  unpopularity of latter with lower classes, 90.

Pelham, Henry, said to have planned a Stamp Act, 104.

Penn family, proprietaries, strained relations with people, 49, 60;
  refuse to allow lands to be taxed by Assembly, 61, 62;
  interviews with Franklin, 67;
  complain to Pennsylvania of him, 68;
  endeavor to get taxing acts disallowed, 69;
  denied by the board of trade, 70, 72;
  continue struggle with Assembly, 90;
  their corrupt practices, 94, 95;
  famous epitaph by Franklin, 95;
  his hostility later diminished, 95.

Penn, John, appointed governor of Pennsylvania, 87;
  agreeable beginning of administration, 87;
  protected and directed by Franklin at time of Paxton massacre, 89;
  vetoes bills of the Assembly, 90, 91.

Penn, Thomas, wishes Parliament to tax colonies, 49, 64.

Penn, William, suggests colonial union, 44.

Pennsylvania, reluctance to take military measures, 39, 49, 52;
  controversy with proprietors, 60-64, 69, 72, 73, 90-99;
  desires to be a crown colony, 63, 64, 91-93;
  labors of Franklin in behalf of, 66-72, 101, 102;
  adopts a state constitution, 211;
  chooses Franklin president of legislature, 403, 404.

"Pennsylvania Gazette," published by Franklin, 12;
  its character and success, 13, 23;
  Franklin's writings in, 44.

Pitt, William, refuses audience to Franklin, 74;
  opposes Stamp Act, 114, 117;
  upholds American claim to self-taxation, 117;
  denies parliamentary power over colonies, 118;
  reorganizes cabinet, 147;
  supports Shelburne, 148;
  becomes Earl of Chatham, 148;
  loses control of affairs, 148, 150;
  statue erected in America, 149;
  interview with Franklin, 196;
  compliments Franklin in House of Lords, 198.

"Plain Truth," effect upon Pennsylvania, 39.

"Poor Richard's Almanac," 21;
  its character and influence, 22;
  wit and wisdom, 22, 23.

Pownall, Governor, favors barrier Western colonies, 57.

Pratt, Attorney-General [see Camden, Lord].

Price, Dr., humorous message of Franklin to, 217, 218.

Priestley, Dr., present at Privy Council hearing, 190;
  describes Franklin's last day with him in London, 203;
  letters of Franklin to, 204, 217;
  protects Austin, 271.

Prisoners, exchange of, difficulties attending, 252, 253;
  hardships of American prisoners, 253, 254, 255;
  refusal of British to consider them prisoners of war, 254;
  efforts of Franklin to secure this recognition, 255-264;
  correspondence with Hartley, 256-262;
  proposes exchange "on account," 258, 260;
  final success, 262, 263;
  refusal to exchange privateer prisoners, 263;
  retaliation suggested, 263.

Privateers, their feats in English waters, 248, 249;
  protected and commissioned by Franklin, 250, 252.

Prussia, treaty with, signed by Franklin, 397.

Pulteney, William, visits Franklin with a view to peace, 357.

Ralph, James, 9.

Rayneval, F. M. G. de, secretary to Vergennes, 375;
  argues with Jay against American claims to Western lands, 375;
  secret journey to London, 375.

Representation in Parliament, colonial, proposed by Shirley, 48;
  by others, 127, 128;
  views of Franklin, 48, 49, 128, 129.

Robertson, Dr., 75.

Rockingham, Marquis of, prime minister, 115;
  decides to repeal Stamp Act, 118;
  on importance of Franklin's arrival in France, 234;
  forms cabinet after Yorktown, 365;
  death, 372.

"Rules for reducing a great empire to a small one," 136;
  condemned by Mansfield, 136, 137.

Rutledge, Edward, on committee to treat with Lord Howe, 214, 215, 216.

Sandwich, Lord, attacks Franklin in House of Lords, 198.

Saville, Sir George, friendly to America, 282.

Shelburne, Earl of, friendly to America, 147;
  administers colonial affairs, 147;
  hampered by Townshend, 148;
  and hated by George III., 148, 149;
  superseded by Hillsborough, 151;
  protects Austin, 271;
  timely letter of Franklin to, 365;
  enters Rockingham cabinet, 365;
  sends Oswald to Franklin, 365;
  unwilling to admit independence of colonies, 367;
  idea of a federal union, 367;
  difficulties with Fox, 366, 370, 372;
  becomes prime minister, 372;
  assures Franklin of continuation of previous policy toward America, 372;
  issues vague commission to Oswald, 372;
  appealed to by Jay not to be led by Vergennes, 376;
  his liberal views, 376;
  gives new commission, 376;
  his anxiety over the concession, 377;
  earnest in behalf of Tories, 381, 382;
  finally yields, 382;
  condemned in England and loses office, 383.

Shirley, governor of Massachusetts, proposes scheme of colonial union, 46;
  discussion with Franklin, 47-49;
  appoints auditors for claims under Braddock's expedition, 54;
  his success as a soldier explained by Franklin, 56.

Siéyes, M., 419.

Spain, secretly aids Beaumarchais, 229;
  aid asked in recognizing United States, 274, 275, 279;
  gives slight financial aid, 307, 317, 321;
  interests in America threaten to prolong war, 369;
  or divide France and States, 370;
  tries to prevent States gaining Western lands, 380.

Stamp Act, causes leading to it, 102, 103;
  colonial taxation proposed by Townshend, 103;
  plan resumed by Grenville, 104, 105;
  protests of colonial agents disregarded, 106;
  passed, 106;
  opinion of Franklin concerning, 106;
  causes violent outbreak in Pennsylvania, 109;
  in other colonies, 110;
  rouses opposition among Grenville's opponents, 114;
  among English exporters who find trade cut down, 115, 116;
  attacked by Pitt, 117;
  its repeal decided on, 118;
  way paved by a declaratory resolution of its validity, 118;
  debated, 118;
  examination of Franklin as to its effects, 119-123;
  effect on English sentiment, 121;
  testimony as to colonial feeling, 122;
  argument as to colonial right of self-taxation, 124;
  repealed, 132, 133;
  popular rejoicing in England, 133;
  in America, 133, 134;
  causes for repeal, 142;
  repeal caused by union of diverse elements, 143.

St. Andrews University makes Franklin Doctor of Laws, 75.

St. Asaph, Bishop of, friend to America, 282;
  visits Franklin at Portsmouth, 401;
  letters to, 409, 414.

Steuben, Baron, recommended by Franklin, 246.

Stevenson, Mary, scientific tastes, 76;
  wished by Franklin to marry his son, 76;
  letters to, 86, 101.

Stiles, Ezra, letter to, 28.

Stormont, Lord, English ambassador to France, complains of Beaumarchais, 230;
  threatens to leave if Franklin is allowed to come to Paris, 234;
  refuses to communicate with Franklin, 253;
  recalled, 285.

Strachey, Henry, sent to Paris by Shelburne, 377.

Strahan, William, offers his son to marry Franklin's daughter, 76;
  letters to, 77, 84, 205.

Sullivan, General, carries message of Lord Howe to Congress, 214.

Temple, ----, suspected of having sent
  Hutchinson letters to America, 181;
  calls on Whately to exonerate him, 181;
  quarrel and duel, 182;
  exculpated by Franklin, 182.

Thomson, Charles, letters to, 106, 417.

Thornton, Major, agent of Franklin to aid prisoners, 257.

Townshend, Charles, proposes colonial taxation, 103;
  goes out of office, 104;
  hostility to colonies, 116;
  willing to repeal Stamp Act, 143;
  chancellor of exchequer, 147;
  favored by George III., 148;
  renews proposal to draw a revenue from America, 149;
  proposes disciplining New York, 150;
  introduces bill for American customs duties, 150;
  death, 151.

"Townshend duties," introduction, 150;
  passage, 150;
  non-importation used against, 174-175;
  effect in destroying revenue, 175;
  and increasing cost of collection, 176.

Treaty of peace, early suggestions
    of peace without independence by Pulteney, 357;
  by "Charles de Weissenstein," 357, 358;
  latter supposed to be George III., 358;
  answered by Franklin, 358, 359;
  proposals by Hartley, 359;
  high tone of Franklin's replies, 361;
  effects of capture of Cornwallis, 363;
  efforts by Lord North to divide the States and France, 363;
  repudiated by Franklin and by Vergennes, 364;
  fall of North cabinet, 364;
  formation of Rockingham cabinet, friendly to America, 365;
  Shelburne sends Oswald to see Franklin and Vergennes, 365;
  plan of separate treaty with America again rejected, 365;
  Laurens brings same news from Adams, 365;
  Franklin suggests certain concessions, 366, 371;
  rivalry of Fox and Shelburne, 366;
  both send emissaries, 366;
  dealings of Grenville with Vergennes and Franklin, 367-370;
  possibility that to avoid prolonging war on Spain's account,
    the States might treat separately, 369;
  difficulties over Grenville's and Oswald's commissions, 371;
  retirement of Fox and Grenville from Shelburne ministry, 372;
  Oswald resumes negotiation, 372;
  debate over form of his commission, 373-377;
  Jay and Adams overrule Franklin, 374;
  their suspicions of French friendliness, 374-376;
  Jay persuades Shelburne to yield his objections, 376;
  negotiations resumed, 377;
  draft agreed upon but rejected by English, 377;
  difficulties of American commissioners
    on account of their instructions, 377, 378;
  Adams and Jay again overrule Franklin
    and determine not to follow French advice, 379;
  boundaries agreed upon, 380;
  fisheries, 380;
  responsibility of Franklin for dispute over indemnification of Tories, 380;
  a deadlock, 381;
  counter-claims suggested by Franklin, 381, 382;
  Shelburne yields, 382;
  provisional articles signed, 383;
  condemnation of treaty in England, 383;
  real success of Americans, 384;
  anger of Vergennes, 384, 385, 387;
  Franklin's reply, 386;
  condemnation in America, 388;
  justification of Adams and Jay, 391, 392, 396.

Truxton, Commodore, 401.

Turgot, opposes France's aiding colonies, 227, 228;
  on French poverty, 319.

University of Pennsylvania, founded by Franklin, 37.

Vaughan, Benjamin, sent by Shelburne to Paris, 372;
  carries Jay's message to Shelburne, 376;
  fears failure of treaty over royalist indemnity, 381.

Vergennes, Comte de, predicts American independence, 83;
  favors policy of aiding colonies to weaken England, 227;
  gets control of king's foreign policy, 229;
  establishes Beaumarchais as Hortalez & Co., 229;
  maintains outward neutrality, 230, 231;
  avoids a quarrel on Franklin's account with English ambassadors, 234;
  meets the commissioners, 237;
  tries to suppress license of colonial privateers, 250, 251;
  self-interest of his policy toward America, 252;
  secret interview with envoys, 274;
  liberal dealings with States, 285;
  keeps departure of Gérard and Deane secret, 290;
  suspects Lee's secretary of being a spy, 290;
  dislike for Lee, 291;
  complains of exorbitant financial demands, 325, 328, 333;
  appealed to by Morris to help American credit in Spain, 331;
  confidence in Franklin, 345;
  antipathy to Adams, 350;
  angry at proposal to scale American paper money, 350;
  insists that French creditors be spared, 351;
  appeals to Franklin against Adams, 352;
  advises against answering "De Weissenstein," 359;
  trusted by Franklin, 362, 378;
  refuses to treat with England apart from United States, 364;
  amused at Grenville's proposal, 368;
  puzzled at discord between Grenville and Oswald, 370;
  advises commissioners not
    to quibble over wording of Oswald's commission, 373;
  suspected by Jay, 373, 375;
  succeeds in having American ultimatum reduced to independence, 378;
  and commissioners instructed to follow his advice, 378;
  suspected by Adams, 379;
  praises success of treaty, 383;
  informed of the conclusion of preliminary articles, 384;
  angry note to Franklin, 385;
  to Luzerne, 387;
  personal regard for Franklin, 387, 393, 398;
  apparent generosity, 393-396.

"Virtual" representation of the colonies in Parliament, 129;
  Pitt's opinion, 117;
  Franklin's, 129.

Voltaire, relations with Franklin, 288, 289.

Walpole, Horace, remarks on Franklin's voyage to France, 232;
  receives private news of French and American alliance, 281.

Walpole, Robert, said to have planned a stamp tax, 104.

Walpole, Thomas, astonished at Franklin's proposed memorial to Dartmouth, 200;
  advises Franklin not to present it, but to leave England, 201, 202;
  receives private news of French and American alliance, 281.

Washington, George, mentioned, 206, 209, 267, 298, 307, 328, 344, 358;
  harassed by foreign military adventurers, 242;
  relieved by Franklin, 245;
  comparison of services with those of Franklin, 308, 339, 404, 407;
  supported for president by Franklin, 412.

Wedderburn, Alexander, solicitor-general
    and counsel for Hutchinson and Oliver, 186;
  bitter attack on Franklin before Privy Council, 188, 189.

West, the, its expansion foreseen by Franklin, 57, 83, 84.

West India Islands, suggested as members of Confederation by Franklin, 208.

Whately, Thomas, denies knowledge of Hutchinson letters, 181;
  refuses to exculpate Temple, 181;
  quarrel and duel, 182;
  exculpated by Franklin, 182;
  sues him, 187.

Whately, William, recipient of Hutchinson
    letters, as secretary of Grenville, 180.

Whitehead, ----, deceived by a satire of Franklin, 135, 136.

Wickes, ----, colonial privateer, 248.

Williams, Jonathan, rank as diplomate, 220;
  appointed naval agent by Franklin, 264;
  accused of dishonesty by the Lees, 265;
  dismissed, 266;thereafterward
  ill-treated by Congress, 266.

Wyndham, Sir William, wishes Franklin to open a swimming-school in London, 10.

Yale College makes Franklin Master of Arts, 43.

Yorke, Charles, solicitor-general, counsel for Penn family, 68.

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