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Title: Benjamin Franklin; Self-Revealed, Volume II (of 2) - A Biographical and Critical Study Based Mainly on his own Writings
Author: Bruce, Wiliam Cabell
Language: English
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_The Knickerbocker Press_


_The Knickerbocker Press, New York_


CHAPTER                                      PAGE



III.--FRANKLIN AS A STATESMAN                  95


V.--FRANKLIN AS A WRITER                      423

INDEX                                         531

Benjamin Franklin



Franklin's Personal Characteristics

The precise explanation of the great concourse of friends that Franklin
drew about him, at the different stages of his long journey through the
world, is to be found partly in his robust, honorable character and mental
gifts. The sterner virtues, which are necessarily the foundations of such
esteem as he enjoyed, he possessed in an eminent degree. An uncommonly
virile and resolute spirit animated the body, which was equal in youth to
the task of swimming partly on and partly under water from near Chelsea to
Blackfriars, and of exhibiting on the way all of Thevenot's motions and
positions as well as some of its own, and which shortly afterwards even
sported about the becalmed Berkshire in the Atlantic almost with the
strength and ease of one of the numerous dolphins mentioned by Franklin in
his Journal of his voyage on that ship from England to America. He hated
cruelty, injustice, rapacity and arbitrary conduct. It was no idle or
insincere compliment that Burke paid him when he spoke of his "liberal and
manly way of thinking." How stoutly his spirit met its responsibilities in
Pennsylvania, prior to the Declaration of Independence, we have seen. The
risks incident to the adoption of that declaration it incurred with the
same fearless courage. Of all the men who united in its adoption, he,
perhaps, was in the best position to know, because of his long residence in
England, and familiarity with the temper of the English monarch and his
ministry, what the personal consequences to the signers were likely to be,
if the American cause should prove unsuccessful. He had a head to lose even
harder to replace than that of his friend Lavoisier, he had a fortune to be
involved in flame or confiscation, the joy of living meant to him what it
has meant to few men, and more than one statement in his writings affords
us convincing proof that, quite apart from the collective act of all the
signers in pledging their lives, fortunes and sacred honor to the "glorious
cause," he did not lose sight of the fact that the Gray Tower still stood
upon its ancient hill with its eye upon the Traitor's Gate, and its bosom
stored with instruments of savage vengeance. Indeed, it was the thought
that his son had been engaged against him in a game, in which not only his
fortune but his neck had been at stake, that made it so difficult for him,
forgiving as he was, to keep down the bile of violated nature. But, when
the time came for affixing his signature to the Declaration, he not only
did it with the equanimity of the rest, but, if tradition may be believed,
with a light-hearted intrepidity like that of Sir Walter Raleigh jesting on
the scaffold with the edge of the axe. "We must all hang together,"
declared John Hancock, when pleading for unanimity. "Yes," Franklin is said
to have replied, "we must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we
shall all hang separately."

The inability of old age, partly from sheer loss of animal vigor, and
partly from the desire for peace, produced by the general decline in
vividness of everything in a world, that it is about to quit, to assert
itself with the force of will and temper, that belongs to us in our prime,
is one of the most noticeable phenomena of the later stages of human
existence. But John Adams to the contrary, the evidence all tends to show
that the resolution of character exhibited by Franklin in the heyday of his
physical strength he exhibited to the last. He was always slow to anger.
Independent of the remarkable self-control, which enabled him to preserve a
countenance, while Wedderburn was traducing him, as fixed as if it had been
carved out of wood, his anger was not kindled quickly, among other reasons
because he was too wise and just not to know that, if we could lay aside
the sensitiveness of exaggerated self-importance, there would be but little
real occasion for anger in the ordinary course of human life. But when
meanness, injustice or other aggravated forms of human depravity were to be
rebuked, the indignation of Franklin remained deliberate, judicious,
calculating and crushing to the last. One illustration of this we have
already given in his letter to Captain Peter Landais. Others we shall have
brought to our attention in several of his letters to Arthur Lee. Upon
these occasions, angry as he was, he was apt to make out his case with very
much the same cool completeness as that with which he demonstrated in a
letter to the British Post Office that it would be a mistake to shift His
Majesty's mails from the Western to the Eastern Post Route in New Jersey.
The time never came when he was not fully as militant as the occasion
required, though never more so.

And his integrity was as marked as his courage. "Splashes of Dirt thrown
upon my Character, I suffered while fresh to remain," he once said. "I did
not chuse to spread by endeavouring to remove them, but rely'd on the
vulgar Adage _that they would all rub off when they were dry_." And such
was his reputation for uprightness that, as a rule, he could neglect
attacks upon his character with impunity. The one vaunt of his life, if
such it can be called, was his statement to John Jay that no person could
truthfully declare that Benjamin Franklin had wronged him. A statement of
that kind, uttered by an even better man than Franklin, might well be
answered in the spirit that prompted Henry IV of France, when his attention
was called to a memorial inscription, which asserted that its subject never
knew fear, to remark, "Then he never snuffed a candle with his fingers."
But that Franklin was a man of sterling probity is unquestionable.[1] "We
ought always to do what appears best to be done without much regarding what
others may think of it," he wrote to William Carmichael, and, at more than
one trying crisis of his career, he rose without difficulty to the
requirements of his maxim. Lord North had little love for him, but he is
credited with the remarkable statement, during the American War, that, in
his belief, Franklin was the only man in France whose hands were not
stained with stock jobbery. When the false charge was made that Franklin
had never accounted for one of the many millions of livres entrusted to him
by our French ally, no pride could suffer more acutely than did his from
its inability to disprove the charge immediately. When enemies, to whom he
had never given any just cause of offence whatever, were calumniating him
towards the close of his life, his desire to leave the reputation of an
honest man behind him became the strongest of his motives. The flattering
language of great men, he said in his _Journal of the Negotiation for Peace
with Great Britain_, did not mean so much to him when he found himself so
near the end of life as to esteem lightly all personal interests and
concerns except that of maintaining to the last, and leaving behind him the
tolerably good character that he had previously supported. Still later he
wrote to Henry Laurens, accepting the offer of that true patriot and
gentleman to refute the slanders with regard to his career in France, and

     I apprehend that the violent Antipathy of a certain
     person to me may have produced some Calumnies, which,
     what you have seen and heard here may enable you easily
     to refute. You will thereby exceedingly oblige one, who
     has lived beyond all other Ambition, than that of dying
     with the fair Character he has long endeavoured to

When the negotiations for peace between Great Britain and the United States
began, Richard Oswald, the envoy of Lord Shelburne, told Franklin that a
part of the confidence felt in him by the English Ministry was inspired by
his repute for open, honest dealing. This was not a mere diplomatic
_douceur_, but a just recognition of his candid, straightforward conduct in
his commerce with men. He was very resourceful and dexterous, if need were,
and, in his early life, when he was promoting his own, or the public
interests, he exhibited at times a finesse that bordered upon craftiness;
but, when Wedderburn taxed him with duplicity, he imputed to Franklin's
nature a vice incompatible with his frank, courageous disposition. It was
his outspoken sincerity of character that enabled him, during the American
War, to retain the attachment of his English friends even when he was
holding up their land as one too wicked for them to dwell in.

His intellectual traits, too, were of a nature to win social fame. In his
graphic description of Franklin in extreme old age, Doctor Manasseh Cutler,
of Massachusetts, brings him before us with these telling strokes of his

     I was highly delighted with the extensive knowledge he
     appeared to have of every subject, the brightness of
     his memory, and clearness and vivacity of all his
     mental faculties, notwithstanding his age. His manners
     are perfectly easy, and everything about him seems to
     diffuse an unrestrained freedom and happiness. He has
     an incessant vein of humour, accompanied with an
     uncommon vivacity, which seems as natural and
     involuntary as his breathing.

In other words, whatever knowledge Franklin had was readily available for
social purposes, and suffused with the gaiety and humor which are so
ingratiating, when accompanied, as they were in his case, by the desire to
please and do good.[3] "He had wit at will," is the testimony of an
unfriendly but honest witness, John Adams. His humor it would be difficult
to over-emphasize. It ranged from punning, trifling, smutty jests and horse
laughter to the sly, graceful merriment of Addison and the bitter realism
of Swift. It irradiated his conversation, his letters, his writings, his
passing memoranda, at times even his scientific essays and political
papers. "Iron is always sweet, and every way taken is wholesome and
friendly to the human Body," he states in his _Account of the New-Invented
Pennsylvanian Fireplaces_; but his waggish propensity is too much for him,
and he adds, "except in Weapons." Jefferson said that Franklin was not
allowed to draft the Declaration of Independence for fear that he would
insert a joke in it. So far as his humor assumed literary forms, we shall
speak of it in another place. We are concerned with it now only so far as
it influenced his conversation. In the _Autobiography_ he tells us that his
reputation among his fellow-printers at Watts's Printing House in London as
"a pretty good _riggite_, that is, a jocular verbal satirist," helped to
support his consequence in the society. In the same book, he also tells us
that later, wishing to break a habit that he was getting into of
prattling, punning and joking, which made him acceptable to trifling
company only, he gave Silence the second place in his little _Book of
Virtues_. "What new story have you lately heard agreeable for telling in
conversation?" was one of the standing questions, of his conception, which
were to be answered by the members of the Junto at each of its meetings.
And, even when he was in his eighty-third year, he could say to Elizabeth
Partridge that, notwithstanding the gout, the stone and old age, he enjoyed
many comfortable intervals, in which he forgot all his ills, and amused
himself in reading or writing, or in conversation with friends, joking,
laughing and telling merry stories, as when she first knew him a young man
about fifty. His puns at times were as flat as puns usually are, and some
of his stories could hardly have prospered in the ear that heard them, if
they had not been set off by high animal spirits and contagious good humor.
But some of those that crept into his letters, whether original or
borrowed, are good enough for repetition. He seems to have had one for
every possible combination of circumstances. "The Doctor," Miss Adams
observes, "is always silent unless he has some diverting story to tell, of
which he has a great collection." The mutinous and quarrelsome temper of
his soldiers at Gnadenhutten, when they were idle, put him in mind of the
sea-captain, who made it a rule to always keep his men at work, and who
exclaimed, upon being told by his mate, that there was nothing more to
employ them about, "_Oh, make them scour the anchor._" His
absent-mindedness, when electrocuting a turkey, in setting up an electric
circuit through his own body, which cost him the loss of his consciousness,
and a numbness in his arms and the back of his neck, which did not wear off
until the next morning, put him in mind of the blunderer who, "being about
to steal powder, made a hole in the cask with a hot iron." At times, there
was a subjective quality about his stories which lifted them above the
level of mere jests. When the suggestion was made that, in view of the
favor conferred upon America by the repeal of the Stamp Act by Parliament,
America could not, with any face of decency, refuse to defray the expense
incurred by Great Britain in stamping so much paper and parchment, Franklin
did not lack an apposite story in which a hot iron was again made to

     The whole Proceeding [he said] would put one in Mind of
     the Frenchman that used to accost English and other
     Strangers on the Pont-Neuf, with many Compliments, and
     a red hot Iron in his Hand; _Pray Monsieur Anglois_,
     says he, _Do me the Favour to let me have the Honour of
     thrusting this hot Iron into your Backside?_ Zoons,
     what does the Fellow mean! Begone with your Iron or
     I'll break your Head! _Nay Monsieur_, replies he, _if
     you do not chuse it, I do not insist upon it. But at
     least, you will in Justice have the Goodness to pay me
     something for the heating of my Iron._

This story was too good not to have a sequel.

     As you observe [he wrote to his sister Jane] there was
     no swearing in the story of the poker, when I told it.
     The late new dresser of it was, probably, the same, or
     perhaps akin to him, who, in relating a dispute that
     happened between Queen Anne and the Archbishop of
     Canterbury, concerning a vacant mitre, which the Queen
     was for bestowing on a person the Archbishop thought
     unworthy, made both the Queen and the Archbishop swear
     three or four thumping oaths in every sentence of the
     discussion, and the Archbishop at last gained his
     point. One present at this tale, being surprised, said,
     "But did the Queen and the Archbishop swear so at one
     another?" "O no, no," says the relator; "that is only
     _my way_ of telling the story."

Another rather elaborate story was prompted by Franklin's disapproval of
the Society of the Cincinnati.

    The States [he said in his famous letter to his
    daughter] should not only restore to them the _Omnia_ of
    their first Motto (omnia reliquit servare rempublicam)
    which many of them have left and lost, but pay them
    justly, and reward them generously. They should not be
    suffered to remain, with (all) their new-created
    Chivalry, _entirely_ in the Situation of the Gentleman
    in the Story, which their _omnia reliquit_ reminds me
    of.... He had built a very fine House, and thereby much
    impair'd his Fortune. He had a Pride, however, in
    showing it to his Acquaintance. One of them, after
    viewing it all, remark'd a Motto over the Door
    [Transcriber's note: The = represents a dash above the
    O] "[=O]IA VANITAS." "What," says he, "is the Meaning
    of this [=O]IA? It is a word I don't understand." "I
    will tell you," said the Gentleman; "I had a mind to
    have the Motto cut on a Piece of smooth Marble, but
    there was not room for it between the Ornaments, to be
    put in Characters large enough to be read. I therefore
    made use of a Contraction antiently very common in Latin
    Manuscripts, by which the _m's_ and _n's_ in Words are
    omitted, and the Omissions noted by a little Dash above,
    which you may see there; so that the Word is _omnia_,
    OMNIA VANITAS." "O," says his Friend, "I now comprehend
    the Meaning of your motto, it relates to your Edifice;
    and signifies, that, if you have abridged your _Omnia_,
    you have, nevertheless, left your VANITAS legible at
    full length."

The determination of the enemies of America after the Revolution to have it
that, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, America was going from
bad to worse, brought out still another story:

     They are angry with us and hate us, and speak all
     manner of evil of us; but we flourish, notwithstanding
     [he wrote to his grandnephew, Jonathan Williams]. They
     put me in mind of a violent High Church Factor,
     resident some time in Boston, when I was a Boy. He had
     bought upon Speculation a Connecticut Cargo of Onions,
     which he flatter'd himself he might sell again to great
     Profit, but the Price fell, and they lay upon hand. He
     was heartily vex'd with his Bargain, especially when he
     observ'd they began to _grow_ in the Store he had
     fill'd with them. He show'd them one Day to a Friend.
     "Here they are," says he, "and they are _growing_ too!
     I damn 'em every day; but I think they are like the
     Presbyterians; the more I curse 'em, the more they

It was impossible for such an irrational thing as the duel to escape
Franklin's humorous insight, and a story like the following tended far more
effectively to end the superstition upon which it throve than any pains or
penalties that law could devise:

     A Man [wrote Franklin from Passy to Thomas Percival]
     says something, which another tells him is a Lie. They
     fight; but, whichever is killed, the Point in dispute
     remains unsettled. To this purpose they have a pleasant
     little Story here. A Gentleman in a Coffee-house
     desired another to sit farther from him. "Why so?"
     "Because, Sir, you stink." "That is an Affront, and you
     must fight me." "I will fight you, if you insist upon
     it; but I do not see how that will mend the Matter. For
     if you kill me, I shall stink too; and if I kill you,
     (you) will stink, if possible, worse than you do at

This is one of those stories which make their own application, but the
grave reflections, by which it was followed, are well worthy of quotation

     How can such miserable Sinners as we are [added
     Franklin] entertain so much Pride, as to conceit that
     every Offence against our imagined Honour merits
     _Death_? These petty Princes in their own Opinion would
     call that Sovereign a Tyrant, who should put one of
     them to death for a little uncivil Language, tho'
     pointed at his sacred Person; yet every one of them
     makes himself Judge in his own Cause, condemns the
     offender without a Jury, and undertakes himself to be
     the Executioner.

Some _bon mots_, too, of Franklin have come down to us with his stories.
When a neighbor of his in Philadelphia consulted him as to how he could
keep trespassers from coming into his back yard, and stealing small beer
from a keg, which he kept there, he replied, "Put a pipe of Madeira
alongside of it." When Lord Stormont, the British Ambassador to France,
hatched the report that a large part of Washington's army had surrendered,
Franklin was asked whether it was true. "No sir," he said, "it is not a
truth, it is only a stormont." The result was that for some time no lies
were told in Paris but only "stormonts." It was not often that the wit of
Franklin was barbed with malice, but there were good reasons why the malice
in this instance should never have cost him any regret. When the American
Commissioners proposed an exchange of prisoners to Lord Stormont, he did
not deign to reply, but when they followed up their proposition with
another letter, he returned a communication to them without date or
signature in these insolent words: "The King's Ambassador receives no
letters from rebels but when they come to implore his Majesty's mercy." The
American Commissioners, with Franklin doubtless as their scrivener, were
quite equal to the occasion. "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," they retorted, "we
received the inclosed _indecent_ paper, as coming from your lordship, which
we return, for your lordship's more mature consideration." Between Franklin
and the vivacity of the Parisians, Lord Stormont found it not a little
difficult to maintain his position of frigid and relentless dignity.
Commenting in a letter to John Lovell, after Lord Stormont had left France,
upon the expense entailed upon the United States by supernumerary
commissioners, Franklin takes this parting shot at the Ambassador; we
reduce such of his words as were in French to English:

     I imagine every one of us spends nearly as much as Lord
     Stormont did. It is true, he left behind him the
     character of a niggard; and, when the advertisement
     appeared for the sale of his household goods, all
     Paris laughed at an article of it, perhaps very
     innocently expressed, "a great quantity of table linen,
     which has never been used." "That is very true," say
     they, "for he has never given any one anything to

Another _bon mot_ of Franklin was his reply when he was told that Howe had
taken Philadelphia. "No," he said, "Philadelphia has taken Howe"; and so it
proved. Still another owed its origin to the balloon in its infancy. "Of
what use is a balloon?" someone asked in Franklin's presence. "Of what
use," he answered, "is a new-born baby?"

But to form a correct impression of Franklin's humor we should think of it,
to use Dr. Cutler's comparison, as something as natural to him as the rise
and fall of his chest in breathing. It played like an iris over the
commonest transactions of his life. If it was only a lost prayer book of
his wife that he was advertising for in his _Gazette_, he did it in such
terms as these:

     Taken out of a Pew in the Church some months since, a
     Common Prayer-Book, bound in Red, gilt, and letter'd
     D. F. on each corner. The Person who took it is desir'd
     to open it, and read the Eighth Commandment, and
     afterwards return it to the same Pew again; upon which
     no further Notice will be taken.

At times, the humor is mere waggishness. When he was the Colonial Deputy
Postmaster-General, he indorsed his letters, "Free, B. Franklin," but,
after he became the Postmaster-General of the United States, out of
deference for the American struggle for liberty, he changed the indorsement
to "B. Free Franklin." Even in his brief memoranda on the backs of letters,
there are gleams of the same overflowing vivacity. Upon the manuscript of a
long poem, received by him, when in France, he jotted down the words: "From
M. de Raudiere, a poor Poet, who craves assistance to enable him to finish
an epic poem which he is writing against the English. He thinks General
Howe will be off as soon as the poem appears." When a Benedictine monk, the
prior for a time of the Abbey of St. Pierre de Chalon, lost money at cards,
and wrote to him for his aid, he made this endorsement upon the letter:
"Dom Bernard, Benedictine, wants me to pay his Gaming Debts--and he will
pray for success to our Cause!"

The humor of Franklin was too broad at times not to find expression
occasionally in practical jokes. When in England, during his maturer years,
he was in the habit of pretending to read his Parable against Persecution,
which he had learnt by heart, and in which the manner of the Old Testament
is skilfully imitated, out of his Bible, as the fifty-first Chapter of the
Book of Genesis. The remarks of the Scripturians on it, he said in a letter
written by him a year before his death, were sometimes very diverting. On
one occasion, he wrote to the famous English printer, John Baskerville,
that, to test the acumen of a connoisseur, who had asserted that
Baskerville would blind all the readers of the nation by the thin and
narrow strokes of his letters, he submitted to the inspection of the
gentleman, as a specimen of Baskerville's printing, what was in reality a
fragment of a page printed by Caslon. Franklin protested that he could not
for his life see in what respects the print merited the gentleman's
criticism. The gentleman saw in it everywhere illustrations of the justice
of this criticism and declared that he could not even then read the
specimen without pain in his eyes.

     I spared him that Time [said Franklin] the Confusion of
     being told, that these were the Types he had been
     reading all his life, with so much Ease to his Eyes;
     the Types his adored Newton is printed with, on which
     he has pored not a little; nay, the very Types his own
     Book is printed with, (for he is himself an Author) and
     yet never discovered this painful Disproportion in
     them, till he thought they were yours.[5]

Associated with these moral and intellectual traits was a total lack of all
anti-social characteristics or habits. When Franklin was in his
twenty-first year, he made this sage entry in his Journal of his voyage
from London to Philadelphia:

     Man is a sociable being, and it is, for aught I know,
     one of the worst of punishments to be excluded from
     Society. I have read abundance of fine things on the
     subject of solitude, and I know 'tis a common boast in
     the mouths of those that affect to be thought wise,
     _that they are never less alone than when alone_. I
     acknowledge solitude an agreeable refreshment to a busy
     mind; but were these thinking people obliged to be
     always alone, I am apt to think they would quickly find
     their very being insupportable to them.

In his youth he adopted the Socratic method of argument, and grew, he tells
us in the _Autobiography_, very artful and expert in drawing people, even
of superior knowledge, into concessions, the consequences of which they did
not foresee, entangling them in difficulties out of which they could not
extricate themselves, and so obtaining victories that neither he nor his
cause always deserved. But, in a few years, he discovered that these
victories were Pyrrhic victories, and he gradually left off this doubtful
kind of dialectics, retaining only the habit of expressing himself in terms
of modest diffidence, never using when he advanced anything, that might
possibly be disputed, the words "certainly," "undoubtedly" or any others
that gave the air of positiveness to an opinion, but rather saying "I
conceive" or "apprehend" a thing to be so and so; "it appears to me," or "I
should think it is so or so" for such and such reasons; or "I imagine it to
be so," or "it is so if I am not mistaken."

     As the chief ends of conversation [he declared] are to
     _inform_ or to be _informed_, to _please_ or to
     _persuade_, I wish well-meaning, sensible men would not
     lessen their power of doing good by a positive,
     assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to
     create opposition, and to defeat every one of those
     purposes for which speech was given to us, to wit,
     giving or receiving information or pleasure.

And that Franklin completely succeeded in rooting out the last vestige of
dogmatism in his nature we not only have his testimony but that of
Jefferson, who was not even born when he resolved to do it. "It was one of
the rules which, above all others, made Dr. Franklin the most amiable of
men in society," he said, "never to contradict anybody." Long before this,
when Franklin was only in his forty-fifth year, James Logan wrote of him to
Peter Collinson in these words: "Our Benjamin Franklin is certainly an
extraordinary man, one of a singular good judgment, but of equal modesty."

How noble was his capacity for self-effacement in the investigation of
truth we shall see later on. In this place, it is enough to say that even
the adulation poured out upon him in France did not in the slightest degree
turn his head. He accepted it with the ingenuous pleasure with which he
accepted everything that tended to confirm his impression that life was a
game fully worth the candle, but, much as he loved France and the French,
ready as he was to take a sip of everything that Paris pronounced
exquisite, celestial or divine, it is manifest enough that he regarded with
no little amusement the effort of French hyperbole to assign to him the
rôle of Jupiter Tonans. When Felix Nogaret submitted to him his French
version of Turgot's epigram, "Eripuit cælo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis,"
Franklin, after acknowledging the flood of compliments that he could never
hope to merit, with which the writer had overwhelmed him in his letter,
added, "I will only call your attention to two inaccuracies in the original
line. In spite of my electrical experiments, the lightning descends just
the same before my very nose and beard, and, as to tyrants, there have been
more than a million of us engaged in snatching his sceptre from him." His
pen, however, was wasting its breath when it attempted to convince a
Frenchman of that day that his countrymen did not owe their liberties
solely to him. If the French had not been too generous and well-bred to
remind him of the millions of livres obtained by him from the French King
for the support of the American cause, he might have found it more
difficult to deny that he was the real captor of Cornwallis.

How heartily Franklin hated disputation we have already had some occasion
to see. This aversion is repeatedly expressed in the _Autobiography_.
Referring to his arguments with Collins, he tells us in one place that the
disputatious turn of mind

     is apt to become a very bad habit, making people often
     extremely disagreeable in company by the contradiction
     that is necessary to bring it into practice; and
     thence, besides souring and spoiling the conversation,
     is productive of disgusts and perhaps enmities where
     you may have occasion for friendship.

In another place, he has this to say of the contentious Governor Morris,
one of the Colonial governors of Pennsylvania:

     He had some reason for loving to dispute, being
     eloquent, an acute sophister, and, therefore, generally
     successful in argumentative conversation. He had been
     brought up to it from a boy, his father, as I have
     heard, accustoming his children to dispute with one
     another for his diversion, while sitting at table after
     dinner; but I think the practice was not wise; for, in
     the course of my observation, these disputing,
     contradicting, and confuting people are generally
     unfortunate in their affairs. They get victory
     sometimes, but they never get good will, which would be
     of more use to them.

The same thought is stated in a letter from Franklin to Robert Morris in
which the former told the latter that he would see, on comparing a letter
which Franklin had written, with the answer, that, if he had replied, which
he could easily have done, a dispute might have arisen out of it, in which,
if he had got the better, he should perhaps have got nothing else.

Facetious and agreeable as he was, he was likewise free from the unsocial
habit of monopolizing conversation:

     The great secret of succeeding in conversation, [he
     declared], is to admire little, to hear much; always to
     distrust our own reason, and sometimes that of our
     friends; never to pretend to wit, but to make that of
     others appear as much as possibly we can; to hearken to
     what is said, and to answer to the purpose.

Nor, in making or borrowing these just observations, was Franklin like
Carlyle who has been wittily said to have preached the doctrine of silence
in thirty volumes. What he preached in these respects, he practised.

     He was friendly and agreeable in conversation [Miss
     Logan tells us], which he suited to his company,
     appearing to wish to benefit his hearers. I could
     readily believe that he heard nothing of consequence
     himself but what he turned to the account he desired,
     and in his turn profited by the conversation of others.

It is hardly just to Franklin, however, to portray his social character
negatively. The truth is, as the extracts from his correspondence have
clearly enough shown, he was one of the most companionable and one of the
kindest and most sympathetic and affectionate of human beings. He detested
wrangling and discord. He had no patience with malice, and refused to allow
the _Pennsylvania Gazette_ to be made a vehicle for detraction. To tell a
chronic grumbler that he was hurt by his "voluminous complaints," or to
write to a friend that he would have sent him a longer letter but for the
coming in of a _bavard_ who had worried him till evening was about as close
as he ever got to fretfulness. There is testimony to the effect that he
never uttered a hasty or angry word to any member of his household, servant
or otherwise. Even where he had strong reasons for resentment, he was
remarkably just, generous and forgiving. Speaking in the _Autobiography_ of
the manner in which he had been deceived by Governor Keith, he had only
these mild words of reproof for him:

     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, tho' not for his
     constituents, the proprietaries, whose instructions he
     sometimes disregarded. Several of our best laws were of
     his planning and passed during his administration.

When Bradford was Postmaster, he refused to allow his post-riders to carry
any newspaper but his own. When the tables were turned, and Franklin was in
the position as Postmaster himself to shut out every publication from the
mails except his _Gazette_, he declined to retaliate on Bradford's
meanness. Drained of money, as he was by Ralph, when they were in London
together, he nevertheless summed up the situation in the _Autobiography_
with the charitable statement: "I lov'd him, notwithstanding, for he had
many amiable qualities." If there was any person for whom Franklin
entertained, and had just cause to entertain, a bitter feeling of contempt
and dislike, it was Thomas Penn. Yet, when Lady Penn solicited his
assistance, for the protection of her interests in Pennsylvania, after the
Proprietary Government in that Province had collapsed with the royal
authority, he did all that he could properly do to aid her.

He was always ready for a friendly game of cribbage, cards or chess. Though
entirely too temperate to indulge any physical appetite to excess, he was
not insensible to the pleasures of the table in his later years. Wine, too,
he relished sufficiently to thank God for it liturgically in his youth, and
to consume a second bottle of it at times in middle age with the aid of his
friend "Straney." When Col. Henry Bouquet was looking forward to a hot
summer in Charleston, he wrote to him that he did all that he could for his
relief, by recommending him to an ingenious physician of his acquaintance,
who knew the rule of making cool, weak, refreshing punch, not inferior to
the nectar of the gods. It would not do, of course, to accept too literally
the song in which Franklin exalted Bacchus at the expense of Venus, or the
Anacreontic letter to the Abbé Morellet, in which wine was extolled as if
it were all milk of our Blessed Lady. But these convivial effusions of his
pen nevertheless assist us in arriving at a correct interpretation of his

He was fond of music also, and was something of a musician himself. He
could play on the harp, the guitar and the violin, and he improved the
armonica, which acquired some temporary repute. His interest in this
musical instrument owed its birth to the melodious sounds which a member of
the Royal Society, Mr. Delavel, happened to produce in his presence by
rubbing his fingers on the edges of bowls, attuned to the proper notes by
the different measures of water that they contained. It was upon the
armonica that Franklin played at the social gatherings under M. Brillon's
roof which he called his Opera, and to which such lively references are
made in the letters that passed between Madame Brillon and himself. The
advantages of the instrument, he wrote to Giambatista Beccaria, were that
its tones were incomparably sweet beyond those of any other; that they
could be swelled and softened at pleasure by stronger or weaker pressures
of the fingers, and continued to any length; and that the instrument, being
once well tuned, never again required tuning.

Blend with all this the happy disposition, which led Franklin to declare in
his eighty-second year that he comforted himself with the reflection that
only three incurable diseases, the gout, the stone, and old age, had fallen
to his share, and that they had not yet deprived him of his natural
cheerfulness, his delight in books, and enjoyment of social conversation,
and we can form some adequate idea of what he brought to intercourse with
his fellow-creatures. Only about two weeks before his death he wrote to
Jane Mecom from his death-bed:

     I do not repine at my malady, though a severe one, when
     I consider how well I am provided with every
     convenience to palliate it, and to make me comfortable
     under it; and how many more horrible evils the human
     body is subject to; and what a long life of health I
     have been blessed with, free from them all.

In his _Proposals Relating to Education_, he dwelt upon the importance of
"that _Benignity of Mind_, which shows itself in _searching for_ and
_seizing_ every Opportunity _to serve_ and _to oblige_; and is the
Foundation of what is called Good Breeding; highly useful to the Possessor,
and most agreeable to all." This benignity of mind belonged to him in an
eminent degree. The grape vines that he procured for his friend Quincy at
the cost of so much trouble to himself were but one of the ten thousand
proofs that he gave his friends of his undiminished affection and unselfish
readiness to serve them. Throughout his whole life, he had a way of keeping
friendship fresh by some thoughtful gift or act of kindness. Books,
pamphlets, writing materials, seeds of many descriptions, candles, hams,
American nuts and dried apples, even choice soap, were among the articles
with which he reminded his friends that he had not forgotten them.

     The Box not being full [he wrote to Collinson], I have
     put in a few more of our Candles which I recommend for
     your particular Use when you have Occasion to read or
     write by Night; they give a whiter Flame than that of
     any other kind of Candle, and the Light is more like
     Daylight than any other Light I know; besides they need
     little or no Snuffing, and grease nothing. There is
     still a little Vacancy at the End of the Box, so I'll
     put in a few Cakes of American Soap made of Myrtle Wax,
     said to be the best Soap in the World for Shaving or
     Washing fine Linnens etc. Mrs. Franklin requests your
     Daughter would be so good as to accept 3 or 4 Cakes of
     it, to wash your Grandson's finest Things with.

In a letter to Bartram, who had informed him that his eye sight was
failing, Franklin surmises that this good and dear old friend did not have
spectacles that suited him.

     Therefore [he said] I send you a complete set, from
     number one to thirteen, that you may try them at your
     ease; and, having pitched on such as suit you best at
     present, reserve those of higher numbers for future
     use, as your eyes grow still older; and with the lower
     numbers, which are for younger people, you may oblige
     some other friends. My love to good Mrs. Bartram and
     your children.

Afterwards, he sends to Bartram several sorts of seed and the English medal
which had been awarded to him for his botanical achievements. And with them
went also one of the compliments in which his urbanity abounded. Alluding
to the medal, he says, "It goes in a Box to my Son Bache, with the Seeds. I
wish you Joy of it. Notwithstanding the Failure of your Eyes, you write as
distinctly as ever."

"Please to accept a little Present of Books, I send by him, curious for the
Beauty of the Impression," he wrote to Benjamin Vaughan, when Temple was on
the point of visiting England. One of his last gifts was a collection of
books to Abdiel Holmes, the father of Oliver Wendell Holmes. In addition to
the gifts that he made to his friends, and the numerous commissions that he
executed for them, when he was in London, he was prompt to let them feel
that they could always be certain of his sympathy in every respect that
affected their prosperity or happiness for good or for evil. In one of his
letters, he assures Jared Eliot that, if he should send any of his steel
saws to Philadelphia for sale, the writer would not be wanting, where his
recommendation might be of service. When at Passy, he wrote to George
Whatley for a copy of his "excellent little Work," _The Principles of
Trade_. "I would get it translated and printed here," he said. The same
generous impulse led him to write to Robert Morris, when Morris was
acquiring his reputation as "The Financier," "No one but yourself can enjoy
your growing reputation more than I do." Often as he was honored both at
home and abroad by institutions of learning, it is safe to say that no
honor that he ever received afforded him more pleasure than he experienced
when the degree of Doctor of Divinity was conferred at his instance by the
University of Edinburgh upon Dr. Samuel Cooper.

In no respect, however, did Franklin commend himself more signally to the
affection of his friends than in the notice that he took of their children.
His relations to some of these children were closely akin to those of
adoption. To John Hughes, Josiah Quincy, Henry Laurens and de Chaumont, he
wrote at one time or another referring to their "valuable" sons, and
filling their bosoms with the parental joy that his commendation could not
fail to excite.

In these attributes of mind, character and nature can readily be found, we
think, the explanation of that capacity for winning and retaining friends
which made the life of Franklin as mellow as a ripe peach. The most
important of them in a social sense lead us, of course, simply to the
statement that he was far more beloved than most men are because he was
himself influenced far more than most men are by the spirit of love. His
sympathy and affection were given to men in gross, and they were given to
men in detail. His heart was capacious enough to take in the largest
enterprises of human benevolence, but, unlike the hearts of many
philanthropists and reformers, it was not so intensely preoccupied with
them as to have no place for

    That best portion of a good man's life,--
    His little, nameless, unremembered acts
    Of Kindness and of Love.


[1] In his _True Benjamin Franklin_, p. 163, Sydney George Fisher makes
these statements: "In a letter written to Mrs. Stevenson in London, while
he (Franklin) was envoy to France, he expresses surprise that some of the
London tradespeople still considered him their debtor for things obtained
from them during his residence there some years before, and he asks Mrs.
Stevenson, with whom he had lodged, how his account stands with her.... He
appears to have overdrawn his account with Hall, for there is a manuscript
letter in the possession of Mr. Howard Edwards, of Philadelphia, written by
Hall, March 1, 1770, urging Franklin to pay nine hundred and ninety-three
pounds which had been due for three years." What Franklin's letter to Mrs.
Stevenson, which is dated Jan. 25, 1779, states is that he had been told
after reaching France that Mr. Henley, the linen-draper, had said that,
when the former left England for America, he had gone away in his debt. The
letter questions whether Henley ever made such a statement, asks Mrs.
Stevenson to let the writer know the meaning of it all, and adds: "I
thought he had been fully paid, and still think so, and shall, till I am
assur'd of the contrary." The account that the letter asks of Mrs.
Stevenson was probably for the shipping charges on the white cloth suit,
sword and saddle, which had been forwarded, as the letter shows, to
Franklin at Passy by Mrs. Stevenson. Or it may have well been for expense
incurred by Mrs. Stevenson in performing some similar office for him. For
instance, when he was on the point of leaving England in 1775, he wrote to
a friend on the continent that, if he had purchased a certain book for the
writer, Mrs. Stevenson, in whose hands he left his little affairs till his
return, which he proposed, God willing, in October, would pay the draft for

A letter from Franklin to Mrs. Stevenson, dated July 17, 1775, shows that
there had been mutual accounts between them during his long and familiar
intercourse with her under the Craven Street roof. With this letter, he
incloses an order for a sum of money that she had intrusted to him for
investment, and also an order for £260 more, "supposing," he says, "by the
Sketch Mr. Williams made of our Accts. that I may owe you about that Sum."
"When they are finally settled," he further says, "we shall see where the
Ballance lies, and easily rectify it." If the account in question had any
connection with these accounts the unliquidated nature of the latter, the
abruptness with which Franklin was compelled to leave England in 1775,
coupled with his expectation of returning, the troubled years which
followed and the difficulty of finally settling detailed accounts, when the
parties to them are widely separated, furnish a satisfactory explanation of
the delay in settlement. If Franklin did not pay a balance claimed from him
by Hall on the settlement of their partnership accounts, after the
expiration of the partnership in 1766, it was doubtless because of his own
copyright counter-claim to which we have already referred in our text.

[2] In recent years there has been a tendency to disparage the merits of
Henry Laurens. The Hales in their _Franklin in France_ speak of him "as a
very worthy, but apparently very inefficient, member of the Commission." In
his admirable prolegomena to the _Diplomatic Correspondence of the American
Revolution_, which is well calculated to excite the regret that lawyers do
not oftener bring the professional habit of weighing evidence to bear upon
historical topics, Dr. Francis Wharton says: "The influence he exerted in
the formation of the treaty was but slight, and his attitude as to the mode
of its negotiation and as to its leading provisions so uncertain as to
deprive his course in respect to it of political weight." Dr. Wharton also
reaches the conclusion that Henry Laurens was deficient, in critical
moments, both in sagacity and resolution. On the other hand Moses Coit
Tyler in his _Literary History of the American Revolution_ declares that,
coming at last upon the arena of national politics, Laurens was soon
recognized for what he was, "a trusty, sagacious, lofty, imperturbable
character." In another place in the same work, Tyler speaks of the
"splendid sincerity, virility, wholesomeness and competence of this
man--himself the noblest Roman of them all--the unsurpassed embodiment of
the proudest, finest, wittiest, most efficient, and most chivalrous
Americanism of his time." And in still another place in the same work the
_Narrative of the Capture of Henry Laurens_ is described "as a modest and
fascinating story of an heroic episode in the history of the Revolution, a
fragment of autobiography fit to become a classic in the literature of a
people ready to pay homage to whatever is magnanimous, exquisite and
indomitable in the manly character." To anyone familiar with the whole
conduct of Laurens in the Tower and the other facts upon which Dr. Wharton
based his judgment as to his sagacity and firmness at trying conjunctures,
these statements of Tyler are to a certain extent mere academic puffery. We
see no reason, however, to shade the character that we have ascribed to
Laurens in the text. Writing to Franklin about him after his release from
the Tower, John Adams said: "I had vast pleasure in his conversation; for I
found him possessed of the most exact judgment concerning our enemies, and
of the same noble sentiments in all things which I saw in him in Congress."
And some eighteen months later Franklin wrote to Laurens himself in terms
as strong as that he should ever look on his friendship as an honor to him.

[3] The Abbé Morellet in his Memoirs gives us very much the same impression
of the social characteristics of Franklin that Cutler does. "His
conversation was exquisite--a perfect good nature, a simplicity of manners,
an uprightness of mind that made itself felt in the smallest things, an
extreme gentleness, and, above all, a sweet serenity that easily became
gayety." But this was Franklin when he was certain of his company. "He
conversed only with individuals," John Adams tells us, "and freely only
with confidential friends. In company he was totally silent." If we may
judge by the few specimens reserved by the Diary of Arthur Lee, the Diary
of John Baynes, an English barrister, and Hector St. John, the author of
_Letters from an American Farmer_, the grave talk of Franklin was as good
as his conversation in its livelier moods. After a call with Baynes upon
Franklin at Passy, Sir Samuel Romilly wrote in his Journal: "Of all the
celebrated persons whom in my life I have chanced to see, Dr. Franklin,
both from his appearance and his conversation, seemed to me the most
remarkable. His venerable patriarchal appearance, the simplicity of his
manner and language, and the novelty of his observations, at least the
novelty of them at that time to me, impressed me with an opinion of him as
one of the most extraordinary men that ever existed."

[4] The lack of generous fare imputed by the Parisians to the table of Lord
Stormont was in keeping with the hopelessly rigid and bigoted nature
revealed by his dispatches when in France. Writing from Paris on Dec. 11,
1776, to Lord Weymouth, he says of Franklin: "Some people think that either
some private dissatisfaction or despair of success have brought him into
this country. I can not but suspect that he comes charged with a secret
commission from the Congress, and as he is a subtle, artful man, and void
of all truth, he will in that case use every means to deceive, will avail
himself of the general ignorance of the French, to paint the situation of
the rebels in the falsest colours, and hold out every lure to the
ministers, to draw them into an open support of that cause. He has the
advantage of several intimate connexions here, and stands high in the
general opinion. In a word, my Lord, I look upon him as a dangerous engine,
and am very sorry that some English frigate did not meet with him by the
way." In another letter to Lord Weymouth, dated Apr. 16, 1777, Lord
Stormont declared that he was thoroughly convinced that few men had done
more than Franklin to poison the minds of the Americans, or were more
totally unworthy of his Majesty's mercy.

[5] It was Balzac who said that the _canard_ was a discovery of
Franklin--the inventor of the lightning rod, the hoax, and the republic.


Franklin as a Man of Business

When some one said to Erskine that punning was the lowest kind of wit, he
replied that the statement was true, because punning was the foundation of
all wit.

The business career of Franklin did not move upon such an exalted plane as
his scientific or political career, but it was the basis on which the
entire superstructure of his renown as a philosopher and a statesman was
built up; inasmuch as it was his early release from pecuniary cares which
enabled him to apply himself with single-minded devotion to electrical
experiments, and to accept at the hands of the people of Pennsylvania the
missions to England which opened up the wider horizon of his postmeridian
life. Quite apart, however, from the scientific and political reputation,
to which his material success smoothed the way, his business career has an
intrinsic interest of its own. In itself alone, when the limited
opportunities afforded by Colonial conditions for the accumulation of a
fortune are considered, it is a remarkable illustration of the extent to
which sleepless energy and wise conduct rise superior to the most
discouraging circumstances. Comparatively few young men aspire to be
philosophers or statesmen, but almost every young man of merit finds
himself under the necessity of striving for a pecuniary independence or at
any rate for a pecuniary livelihood. How this object can be most
effectually accomplished, is the problem, above all others in the world,
the most importunate; and the effort to solve it from generation to
generation is one of the things that invest human existence with perpetual
freshness. To a young man, involved in the hopes and anxieties of his first
struggles for a foothold in the world, the history of Franklin, as a
business man, could not but be full of inspiration, even if it had not
flowered into higher forms of achievement, and were not reflected in
publications of rare literary value. But, putting altogether out of sight
the great fame acquired by Franklin in scientific and political fields, a
peculiar vividness is imparted to his business career by other
circumstances which should not be overlooked. His main calling was that of
a printer, a vocation of unusual importance and influence in a free
community. "I, Benjamin Franklin, of Philadelphia, printer, late Minister
Plenipotentiary from the United States of America to the Court of France,
now President of the State of Pennsylvania," is the way in which he
describes himself in his will executed less than two years before his
death. And from that day to this, upon one memorable occasion or another,
guilds of printers on both sides of the Atlantic have acclaimed him as
little less than the patron saint of their craft.

Two of his commercial enterprises were the _Pennsylvania Gazette_, the most
readable newspaper of Colonial America, and _Poor Richard's Almanac_, the
only almanac that has ever attained the rank of literature. And finally the
story of Franklin's business vicissitudes and the fortune, that he
ultimately won, has been pictured with incomparable distinctness in the
fascinating _Autobiography_. There he has set forth, as no other man with
such lowly beginnings has had the genius to set forth, the slow, painful
progress of a printer and merchant, under harsh and rigid conditions, from
poverty to wealth. That fortune cannot be won under such circumstances
except by the exercise of untiring industry, pinching frugality and
unceasing vigilance, but that, with good health, good character, unquailing
courage and due regard to Father Abraham's harangue, every man can conquer
adversity, is the moral which the _Autobiography_ has for the youth who has
no inheritance but his own hands or brain. It is sad to reflect how much
more impressive and stimulating this moral would be, if the _Autobiography_
did not also disagreeably remind us that pecuniary ideals subject human
character to many peculiar temptations of their own, and that, as the
result of the destructive competition, which extends even to the sapling
struggling in the thick set copse for its share of light and air, the
success of one man in business is too often founded upon the ruins of that
of another.

The business life of Franklin began when he was ten years old. At that age,
he was taken from Mr. Brownell's school in Boston, and set to the task at
the Blue Ball, his father's shop, of "cutting wick for the candles, filling
the dipping mold and the molds for cast candles, attending the shop, going
of errands, etc." At this he continued until he was twelve years of age,
but his duties were so distasteful to him that his father feared that,
unless he could find some more congenial occupation for him, he would run
off to sea. To avert this danger, Josiah sometimes took Benjamin about with
him, and showed him joiners, bricklayers, turners, braziers and other
artisans at their several trades in the hope of awakening an inclination in
him for one of them. The walks were not unprofitable to the son.

     It has ever since [he says in the _Autobiography_] been
     a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their
     tools; and it has been useful to me, having learnt so
     much by it as to be able to do little jobs myself in my
     house when a workman could not readily be got, and to
     construct little machines for my experiments, while
     the intention of making the experiment was fresh and
     warm in my mind.

After this circuit of the various handicrafts, Josiah decided to make a
cutler of Benjamin, and he placed him on probation with Samuel Franklin, a
cutler, and a son of Josiah's brother, Benjamin. But Samuel thought that he
should be paid a fee for instructing his cousin, and the suggestion was so
displeasing to Josiah that he took the lad back to his own home. He
doubtless felt that Samuel might have remembered whose roof it was that had
sheltered his father when the latter first came over from England to

The real inclination, however, that Benjamin discovered at this period of
his life was for books. His father observed it, and decided to make a
printer of him, and it was when James, an older son of Josiah, returned
from England, with a press and letters, to set up as a printer at Boston,
that Benjamin was finally persuaded to enter into indentures of
apprenticeship with him. He did not yield at once, because, while he
preferred the business of a printer to that of a tallow chandler, the salt
of the sea was still in his blood. Under the provisions of the indentures,
he was to serve as his brother's apprentice, until he was twenty-one years
of age, but he was to be allowed the wages of a journeyman during the last
year of the apprenticeship. It was a fortunate thing for the apprentice
that he should have become bound to a master, who had been trained for his
craft in London, and the extraordinary skill which he early acquired as a
printer was probably due in part to this circumstance. Among the
publications printed by James, while the apprenticeship lasted, were
Stoddard's _Treatise on Conversion_, Stone's _Short Catechism_ and _A
Prefatory Letter about Psalmody_. These publications were all of the kind
that Franklin afterwards came to regard as hopelessly dry pemmican. Other
publications, printed by James Franklin, during the same time, were
various New England sermons, _The Isle of Man, or Legal Proceedings in
Manshire against Sin_, an allegory, _A Letter from One in the Country to
his Friend in Boston_, _News from the Moon_, _A Friendly Check from a kind
Relation to the Chief Cannoneer_ and _A Word of Comfort to a Melancholy
Country_--all political pamphlets,--several papers on inoculation, and a
production bearing the quaint title _Hooped Petticoats Arraigned by the
Light of Nature and the Law of God_. But it was through a publication of a
very different nature from these that James Franklin has come to occupy his
position of prominence in the life of his apprentice. This publication was
the _New England Courant_, already mentioned above. Its first issue
appeared at Boston on August 21, 1721, and so bold were its pungent
comments upon the clergy and magistrates of the Colony that, within a year,
James Franklin was by the Council summoned before it for what it conceived
to be highly injurious reflections upon the civil authorities. The
reflections consisted in this: A letter from Newport in the _Courant_ for
June 11, 1722, stated that a piratical vessel had been seen off Block
Island, and that two vessels were being fitted out to pursue her. "We are
advised from Boston," was the conclusion of the letter, "that the
Government of the Massachusetts are fitting out a ship (The Flying Horse)
to go after the pirates, to be commanded by Captain Peter Papillon, and
'tis thought he will sail some time this month, wind and weather
permitting." The letter, of course, was fictitious, and but a mild piece of
satire in comparison with some of the prior utterances of the _Courant_.
But this time the magistracy of the Colony was too much exasperated by the
past misdemeanors of the _Courant_ to overlook such a gibe at the expense
of its activity. When questioned by the Council, James admitted that he was
the owner of the paper, but refused to disclose the name of the author of
the offensive letter. Benjamin was questioned, too, and united in the
refusal. This was excusable in him as it was a point of honor for an
apprentice not to betray his master's secrets, but James had no such plea
behind which to shelter himself. Indeed, his bearing before the Council
appears to have been too haughty to warrant the idea that he was much
concerned about bringing forward any sort of defence. The examination
resulted in a decision by the Council that the letter was "a high affront
to the Government" and an order to the Sheriff to commit James to the
Boston Jail.

A week in jail was sufficient to bring James a whining suppliant to the
feet of his oppressors. At the end of that time, he addressed an humble
petition to the Council, acknowledging his folly in affronting the civil
government, and his indecent behavior, when arraigned for it, and praying
for forgiveness and less rigorous confinement. The petition was granted,
but, when he was released, he had been a whole month in durance. In the
meantime, however, Benjamin, who had attracted the attention of his brother
and the group of writers, who contributed to the columns of the _Courant_,
by a sprightly series of letters signed Silence Dogood, of which we shall
say something hereafter, had been conducting the publication, and, with the
aid of his literary coadjutors, assailing the proceedings of the Council in
prose and verse. These attacks continued for six months after James was
released, and were borne by the Council with a supineness which was
probably due to the fear of exciting popular sympathy with the _Courant_ as
a champion of free speech. But in the issue of the _Courant_ for January
14, 1723, appeared an article so caustic that the Council could contain
itself no longer. It was headed by the well known lines of _Hudibras_,
which are significant of the spirit in which the youthful Franklin
confronted the whole system of Puritan Asceticism:

    In the wicked there's no vice,
    Of which the saints have not a spice;
    And yet that thing that's pious in
    The one, in t'other is a sin.
    Is't not ridiculous and nonsense,
    A saint should be a slave to conscience?

The performance has so many earmarks of Franklin's peculiar modes of
thought and speech that it is hard not to ascribe its authorship to him
without hesitation. Besides thrusts at the Governor and other public
functionaries, it lashed the pietists of the place and time with unsparing
severity. Many persons, it declared, who seemed to be more than "ordinarily
religious," were often found to be the greatest cheats imaginable. They
would dissemble and lie, snuffle and whiffle, and, if it were possible,
would overreach and defraud all who dealt with them.

     For my own part [the writer further declared] when I
     find a man full of religious cant and pellavar, I
     presently suspect him to be a knave. Religion is,
     indeed, the _principal thing_; but too much of it is
     worse than none at all. The world abounds with knaves
     and villains; but of all knaves, the _religious knave_
     is the worst; and villainies acted under the cloak of
     religion are the most execrable. Moral honesty, though
     it will not of itself, carry a man to heaven, yet I am
     sure there is no going thither _without it_. And
     however such men, of whom I have been speaking, may
     palliate their wickedness, they will find that
     _publicans and harlots will enter the kingdom of heaven
     before themselves_.

The same day, on which this issue of the _Courant_ appeared, the Council
passed an order, denouncing it in scathing terms, and appointing a
committee of three persons to consider and report what was proper for the
Court to do with regard to it. It did not take the committee long to
report. They condemned the _Courant_ in stern language as an offence to
church and state, and "for precaution of the like offence for the future,"
humbly proposed that "James Franklin, the printer and publisher thereof,
be strictly forbidden by this Court to print or publish the New England
_Courant_, or any other pamphlet or paper of the like nature, except it be
first supervised by the Secretary of this Province." The report was
approved, and followed by an order, carrying its recommendations into
execution. But the proprietor of the _Courant_ and his literary retainers
were equal to the crisis. They assembled at once, and resolved that the
paper should thenceforth be issued in the name of Benjamin, at that time a
boy of seventeen. At the same time, to retain his hold on his apprentice
until the expiration of his term, James resorted to a knavish expedient.

     The contrivance [the _Autobiography_ tells us] was that
     my old indenture should be return'd to me, with a full
     discharge on the back of it, to be shown on occasion,
     but to secure to him the benefit of my service, I was
     to sign new indentures for the remainder of the term,
     which were to be kept private. A very flimsy scheme it
     was; however, it was immediately executed.

As the final step in the fraud, the next issue of the _Courant_ announced
that the late publisher of the paper, finding that so many inconveniences
would arise by his taking the manuscripts and public news to be supervised
by the Secretary as to render his carrying it on unprofitable, had entirely
dropped the undertaking. The _Courant_ itself, however, went merrily along
in its old evil courses, despite the fact that the same issue, speaking
through its new management, as if it were an entire stranger to its guilty
past, deprecated newspaper license in the strongest terms, looked forward
to a future of genial good-humor only, and even gave expression to such a
deceitful sentiment as this: "Pieces of pleasancy and mirth have a secret
charm in them to allay the heats and tumors of our spirits, and to make a
man forget his restless resentments." These debonair pretences were hardly
uttered before they were laid aside, and the attacks on the clergy and
their sanctimonious adherents renewed with as much wit and vivacity as
formerly, if not more; and so eagerly read were the lampoons of the
_Courant_ by the population of Boston, which, perhaps, after all,
stiff-necked as it was, did not differ from most urban populations in
containing more sinners than saints, that, under the management of "Old
Janus," the mask behind which young Franklin concealed his features, the
_Courant_ was in a few months able to raise its price from ten to twelve
shillings a year. It was a lawless sheet, but, in its contest against
arbitrary power and muffled speech, it was swimming with a current that was
to gather up additional elements of irresistible volume and force at every
stage of its journey towards the open main of present American political

In the management of the _Courant_, Franklin had scored his first business
success. James might well have made his gifted apprentice his co-partner;
but, whether from jealousy, the sauciness of the apprentice, mere choler,
or the domineering temper that we should naturally expect in a man who
meekly kissed the hand of tyranny after a single week in jail, he was far
from doing anything of the sort. Smarting under the snubs and blows
administered to him by a brother, from whose fraternal relationship to him
he thought that he was entitled to receive somewhat more than the ordinary
indulgence shown an apprentice, Benjamin, to use his own words, took upon
him to assert his freedom; presuming that James would not venture to
produce the new indentures. When James found that his apprentice was about
to leave him, he prevented him from securing employment with any other
Boston printer by warning them all against him. The consequence was that
the boy, between his reputation as "a young genius that had a turn for
libelling and satyr," the horror with which he was pointed at by good
people as an infidel or atheist, the lowering eye of the Provincial
Government, and the rancor with which he was pursued by his brother, found
himself under a cloud of opprobrium from which he could not escape except
by making his home in another place than Boston. Knowing that his father
would detain him, if he learnt that he was about to go elsewhere, he sold
enough of his books to obtain a small sum of money for his journey, and
contrived, through the management of Collins, to be secretly taken on board
of a sloop on the eve of sailing for New York, under the pretence of his
being a young acquaintance of Collins, who had got a naughty girl with
child. The flight which followed has been narrated and pictured until it is
almost as well known as the exodus of the Old Testament. He would be a rash
writer, indeed, who imagined that he could tell that story over again in
any words except those of Franklin himself without dispelling a charm as
subtle as that which forbids a seashell to be removed from the seashore.
How, with a fair wind, he found himself, a boy of seventeen, in New
York,[6] without a claim of friendship, acquaintance or recommendation upon
a human being in that town; how he fruitlessly applied for employment to
the only printer there, William Bradford, and was advised by him to go on
to Philadelphia; how, owing to an ugly squall, he was thirty hours on the
waters of New York Bay before he could make the Kill, without victuals, or
any drink except a bottle of filthy rum, and with no companion except his
boatman and a drunken Dutchman; how after breaking up a fever, brought on
by this experience, with copious draughts of cold water, he trudged on foot
all the way across New Jersey from Amboy to Burlington; stopping the first
day for the night at a poor inn, where travel-stained and drenched to the
skin by rain, he was in danger of being taken up as a runaway servant;
stopping the second day at an inn within eight or ten miles of Burlington,
kept by a Dr. Brown, an infidel vagabond, with a flavor of letters, and
arriving the next morning at Burlington, where a kindly old woman of whom
he had bought gingerbread, to eat on his way down the Delaware, gave him a
dinner of ox cheek with great good will, and accepted only a pot of ale in
return--all these things are told in the _Autobiography_ in words as well
known to the ordinary American boy as the prominent incidents of his own
life. And so also is the descent of the Delaware in the timely boat that
hove in sight as Benjamin was walking in the evening by the water-side at
Burlington on the day of his arrival there, and took him aboard, putting in
about midnight at Cooper's Creek for fear that it had passed in the
darkness the town which has since grown to be a vast city more luminous at
night than the heavens above it, and landing at Market Street,
Philadelphia, the next day, Sunday, at eight or nine o'clock. Here the
dirty, hungry wayfarer found himself in a land marked by many surprising
contrasts with the one from which he had fled. There was no biscuit to be
had in the town, nor could he even obtain a three-penny loaf at the baker
shop on Second Street; but for three pence he purchased to his astonishment
three great puffy rolls, so large that, after sating his hunger with one of
them, as he walked up Market Street as far as Fourth Street, and then back
by other streets for a drink of river-water to the Market Street Wharf, he
still had the other two left to give to a mother and child, who had come
down the Delaware with him, and were on their way to a more distant point.
But, doubtless, of all the things in that unfamiliar place, the one that
seemed to him most unlike his former home was the serene, mild face that
religion wore. It must have been like mollifying oil poured into a wound
for him to find himself in such an edifice as the Great Quaker meeting
house near the market with a placid, clean-dressed concourse of
worshippers, whose brooding silence, so unlike the strident voices of the
Saints, with whom he had been warring in Boston, soon lulled him to sleep;
a sleep not so deep or so long, however, that the youth, exhausted by the
labor of rowing, and the want of rest, could not, when diverted from the
sign of the disreputable Three Mariners, and directed to the sign of the
more reputable Crooked Billet, in Water Street, by a friendly Quaker guide,
consume in profound slumber, with a brief intermission for supper, the
entire time between dinner and the next morning. He was too young yet to
need to be reminded by any Poor Richard that there is sleeping enough in
the grave, and the next morning was to see the beginning of a struggle,
first for subsistence, and then for a fortune, hard as a muscle tense with
the utmost strain that it can bear.

With the return of day, he made himself as tidy as he could without the aid
of his clothes chest, which was coming around by sea, and repaired to the
printing shop of Andrew Bradford, to whom he had been referred by William
Bradford, the father of Andrew, in New York. When he arrived at the shop,
he found the father there. By travelling on horseback, he had reached
Philadelphia before Benjamin. By him Benjamin was introduced to Andrew
Bradford, who received him civilly, and gave him breakfast but told him
that he was not at present in need of a hand, having recently secured one.
There was another printer in town, however, he said, lately set up, one
Keimer, who perhaps might employ him. If not, Benjamin was welcome to lodge
at his house, and he would give him a little work to do now and then until
he could find steadier employment for him.

Benjamin then went off to see Keimer; and William Bradford accompanied him;
for what purpose soon became apparent enough. "Neighbor," said Bradford, "I
have brought to see you a young man of your business; perhaps you may want
such a one." Keimer asked Benjamin a few questions, put a composing stick
in his hands to test his competency, and declared that he would employ him
soon though he had just then nothing for him to do. Then taking old
Bradford, whom he had never seen before, and whose relationship to Andrew
he never suspected, to be a friendly fellow townsman, he opened up his
plans and prospects to his visitors, and announced that he expected to get
the greater part of the printing business in Philadelphia into his hands.
This announcement prompted William Bradford to draw him on "by artful
questions, and starting little doubts, to explain all his views, what
interest he reli'd on, and in what manner he intended to proceed." "I,"
observes Franklin, "who stood by and heard all, saw immediately that one of
them was a crafty old sophister, and the other a mere novice. Bradford left
me with Keimer, who was greatly surpris'd when I told him who the old man

There was room enough in Philadelphia for such an expert craftsman as
Benjamin. Andrew Bradford had not been bred to the business of printing,
and was very illiterate, and Keimer, though something of a scholar, was a
mere compositor, and knew nothing of presswork. His printing outfit
consisted of an old shattered press, and one small, worn-out font of
English letters. When Benjamin called on him, he was composing directly out
of his head an elegy on Aquila Rose, a worthy young Philadelphian who had
just died:

    What mournful accents thus accost mine ear,
    What doleful echoes hourly thus appear!
    What sighs from melting hearts proclaim aloud
    The solemn mourning of this numerous crowd.
    In sable characters the news is read,
    Our Rose is withered, and our Eagle's fled,
    In that our dear Aquila Rose is dead.

These are a few of the many lines in which Keimer, disdaining ink-bottle
and quill, traced with his composing stick alone from birth to death the
life of his lost Lycidas. As there was no copy, and but one pair of cases,
and the threnody was likely to require all the letters that Keimer had, no
helper could be of any assistance to him. So Benjamin put the old press
into as good a condition as he could, and, promising Keimer to come back
and print off the elegy, as soon as it was transcribed into type from the
tablets of his brain, returned to Bradford's printing-house. Here he was
given a small task, and was lodged and boarded until Keimer sent for him to
strike off his poem. While he had been away, Keimer had procured another
pair of cases, and had been employed to reprint a pamphlet; and upon this
pamphlet Benjamin was put to work.

During the period of his employment by Keimer, an incident arose which gave
a decisive turn to his fortunes for a time. Happening to be at New Castle,
his brother-in-law, Robert Holmes, the master of a sloop that plied between
Boston and the Delaware River, heard that he was at Philadelphia, and wrote
to him, earnestly urging him to return to Boston. To this letter Benjamin
replied, thanking Holmes for his advice, but stating his reasons for
leaving Boston fully and in such a way as to convince him that the flight
from Boston was not so censurable as he supposed. The letter was shown by
Holmes to Sir William Keith, who read it, and was surprised when he was
told the age of the writer. Benjamin, he said, appeared to be a young man
of promising parts, and should, therefore, be encouraged, for the printers
at Philadelphia were wretched ones, and he did not doubt that, if Benjamin
would set up as a printer there, he would succeed. As to himself, he would
procure him the public printing and render him any other service in his
power. Before these circumstances were brought to the knowledge of
Benjamin, the Governor and Col. French of New Castle proceeded to look him
up, and one day, while he and Keimer were working together near the window
of the Keimer printing-office, they saw the pair coming across the street
in their fine clothes towards its door. As soon as they were heard at the
door, Keimer, assuming that they were calling upon him, ran down to greet
them, but the Governor inquired for Benjamin, walked upstairs, and, with a
condescension and politeness to which the youth was quite unaccustomed,
paid him many compliments, expressed a desire to be acquainted with him,
blamed him kindly for not making himself known to him, when Benjamin first
came to Philadelphia, and invited him to accompany him to the tavern where
he was going, he said, with Col. French to taste some excellent Madeira.

"I," says Franklin, "was not a little surprised, and Keimer star'd like a
pig poison'd." But the invitation was accepted, and, at a tavern, at the
corner of Third Street, and over the Madeira, Keith suggested that the
youth should become a printer on his own account, and pointed out to him
the likelihood of his success; and both he and Col. French assured him that
he would have their interest and influence for the purpose of securing the
public printing in Pennsylvania and the three Lower Counties on the
Delaware. When Benjamin stated that he doubted whether his father would
assist him in the venture, Keith replied that he would give him a letter to
Josiah, presenting the advantages of the scheme, and that he did not doubt
that it would be effectual. The result of the conversation was a secret
understanding that Benjamin should return to Boston in the first available
vessel with Keith's letter, and, while he was awaiting this vessel,
Benjamin continued at work with Keimer as usual; Keith sending for him now
and then to dine with him, and conversing with him in the most affable,
familiar and friendly manner imaginable.

Later a little vessel came along bound for Boston. With Keith's letter in
his possession, Benjamin took passage in her, and, after a dangerous voyage
of two weeks, found himself again in the city from which he had fled seven
months before. All the members of his family gave him a hearty welcome
except his brother James, but Josiah, after reading the Governor's letter,
and considering its contents for some days, expressed the opinion that he
must be a man of small discretion to think of setting up a boy in business
who wanted yet three years of being at man's estate. He flatly refused to
give his consent to the project, but wrote a civil letter to the Governor,
thanking him for the patronage that he had proffered Benjamin, and stating
his belief that his son was too young for such an enterprise. Nevertheless,
Josiah was pleased with the evidences of material success and standing that
his son had brought back with him from Philadelphia, and, when Benjamin
left Boston on his return to Philadelphia, it was with the approbation and
blessing of his parents, and some tokens, in the form of little gifts, of
their love, and with the promise, moreover, of help from Josiah, in case he
should not, by the time he reached the age of twenty-one, save enough money
by his industry and frugality to establish himself in business.

When Benjamin arrived at Philadelphia, and communicated Josiah's decision
to Keith, the Governor was not in the least disconcerted. There was a great
difference in persons he was so kind as to declare. Discretion did not
always accompany years, nor was youth always without it. "And since he will
not set you up," he said to Benjamin, "I will do it myself. Give me an
inventory of the things necessary to be had from England, and I will send
for them. You shall repay me when you are able; I am resolv'd to have a
good printer here, and I am sure you must succeed." This, the
_Autobiography_ tells us, was uttered with such apparently heartfelt
cordiality that Benjamin did not entertain the slightest doubt of Keith's
sincerity, and, as he had kept, and was still keeping, his plans entirely
secret, there was no one more familiar with Keith's character than himself
to warn him that the actual value of Keith's promises was a very different
thing from their face value. Believing the Governor to be one of the best
men in the world to have thus unsolicited made such a generous offer to
him, Benjamin drew up an inventory calling for a small printing outfit of
the value of about one hundred pounds sterling, and handed it to him. It
met with his approval, but led him to ask whether it might not be of some
advantage for Benjamin to be on the spot in England to choose the type, and
to see that everything was good of its kind. Moreover, he suggested that,
when Benjamin was there, he might make some useful acquaintance, and
establish a profitable correspondence with book-sellers and stationers. To
the advantage of all this Benjamin could not but assent. "Then," said
Keith, "get yourself ready to go with Annis"; meaning the master of the
_London Hope_, the annual ship, which was the only one at that time plying
regularly between London and Philadelphia.

Until Annis sailed, Benjamin continued in the employment of Keimer, whom he
still kept entirely in ignorance of his project, and was frequently at the
home of Keith. During this time, Keith's intention of establishing him in
business was always mentioned as a fixed thing, and it was understood that
he was to take with him letters of recommendation from Keith to a number of
the latter's friends in England besides a letter of credit from Keith to
supply him with the necessary money for buying the printing outfit and the
necessary printer's supplies. Before Annis' ship sailed, Benjamin
repeatedly called upon Keith for these letters at different times appointed
by him, but on each occasion their delivery was postponed to a subsequent
date. Thus things went on until the ship was actually on the point of
sailing. Then, when Benjamin called on Keith, to take his leave of him and
to receive the letters, the Governor's secretary, Dr. Bard, came out from
Keith and told him that the Governor was busily engaged in writing, but
would be at New Castle before the ship, and that there the letters would be
delivered. Upon the arrival of the ship at New Castle, Keith, true to his
word, was awaiting it, but, when Benjamin went to Keith's lodgings to get
the letters, the Governor's secretary again came out from him with a
statement by him that he was then absorbed in business of the utmost
importance, but that he would send the letters aboard. The message was
couched in highly civil terms, and was accompanied by hearty wishes that
Benjamin might have a good voyage, and speedily be back again. "I returned
on board," says Franklin in the _Autobiography_, "a little puzzled, but
still not doubting." At the very beginning of the voyage, Benjamin and his
graceless friend Ralph had an unusual stroke of good luck. Andrew Hamilton,
a famous lawyer of Philadelphia, who was accompanied by his son, afterwards
one of the Colonial Governors of Pennsylvania, Mr. Denham, a Quaker
merchant, and Messrs. Onion and Russell, the masters of the Principio Iron
Works in Cecil County, Maryland, had engaged the great cabin of the ship;
so that it looked as if Benjamin and Ralph, who were unknown to any of the
cabin passengers, were doomed to the obscurity and discomfort of the
steerage. But, while the ship was at New Castle, the elder Hamilton was
recalled to Philadelphia by a great fee in a maritime cause, and, just
before she sailed, Col. French came on board, and treated Benjamin with
such marked respect that he and Ralph were invited by the remaining cabin
passengers to occupy the cabin with them--an invitation which the two
gladly accepted. They had good reason to do so. The cabin passengers formed
a congenial company, the plenteous supply of provisions laid in by Andrew
Hamilton, with the stores to which they were added, enabled them to live
uncommonly well, and Mr. Denham contracted a lasting friendship for
Benjamin. The latter, however, had not lost sight of the letters from Keith
which had been so long on their way to his hands. As soon as he learnt at
New Castle that Col. French had brought the Governor's dispatches aboard,
he asked the captain for the letters that were to be under his care. The
captain said that all were put into the bag together, and that he could not
then come at them, but that, before they landed in England, Benjamin should
have the opportunity of picking them out. When the Channel was reached, the
captain was as good as his word, and Benjamin went through the bag; but no
letters did he find that were addressed in his care. He picked out six or
seven, however, that he thought from the handwriting might be the promised
letters, especially as one was addressed to Basket, the King's printer, and
another to some stationer. On the 24th day of December, 1724, the ship
reached London. The first person that Benjamin waited upon was the
stationer, to whom he delivered the letter addressed to him, with the
statement that it came from Governor Keith. "I don't know such a person,"
the stationer said, but, on opening the letter, he exclaimed, "O! this is
from Riddlesden. I have lately found him to be a compleat rascal, and I
will have nothing to do with him, nor receive any letters from him." With
that he gave the letter back to Benjamin and turned on his heel to serve a
customer. Then it was that Benjamin, putting two and two together, began to
doubt Keith's sincerity, and looked up Mr. Denham, and told him what had
happened. There was not the least probability, Mr. Denham declared, that
Keith had written any letters for him. No one, he said, who knew the
Governor, trusted him in the slightest degree, and, as for his giving a
letter of credit to Benjamin, he had no credit to give. One advantage,
however, Benjamin reaped from the deception practised upon him. Both Mr.
Denham and himself as well as the stationer knew that Riddlesden was a
knave. Not to go further, Deborah's father by becoming surety for him had
been half ruined. His letter disclosed the fact that there was a scheme on
foot to the prejudice of Andrew Hamilton, and also the fact that Keith was
concerned in it with Riddlesden; so, when Hamilton came over to London
shortly afterwards, partly from ill will to Keith and Riddlesden, and
partly from good will to Hamilton, Benjamin adopted the advice of Mr.
Denham and waited on him, and gave him the letter. He thanked Benjamin
warmly, and from that time became his friend, to his very great advantage
on many future occasions. "I got his son once £500," notes the grateful
Franklin briefly in a foot-note of the _Autobiography_.

By cozenage almost incredible, Benjamin, at the age of eighteen, had been
thus lured off to London; the London of Addison, Pope and Sir Isaac Newton.
Rather than confess the emptiness of his flattering complaisance Keith
preferred to rely upon the chance that, once in London, the youth would be
either unable or disinclined to return to his own native land. It would be
hard to say what might have become of him if he had not had the skill as a
printer which exemplified in a striking way the truth of two of the sayings
of Poor Richard, "He that hath a Trade hath an Estate" and "He that hath a
Calling, hath an Office of Profit and Honour."

The most serious stumbling block to his advancement in London was the one
that he brought over seas with him, namely, Ralph himself, who had deserted
his wife and child in Philadelphia, and now let his companion know for the
first time that he never meant to return to that city. All the money that
Ralph had, when he left home, had been consumed by the expenses of the
voyage, but Benjamin was still the possessor of fifteen pistoles when the
voyage was over, and from this sum Ralph occasionally borrowed while he
was endeavoring to convert some of his high-flown ambitions into practical
realities. First, he applied for employment as an actor, only to be told by
Wilkes that he could never succeed on the stage, then he tried to induce
Roberts, a publisher in Paternoster Row, to establish a weekly periodical
like the _Spectator_, with himself as the Addison, on certain conditions to
which Roberts would not give his assent. Finally, he was driven to the
stress of seeking employment as a copyist for stationers and lawyers about
the Temple, but he could not find an opening for even such ignoble drudgery
as this. Soon all of Benjamin's pistoles were gone. But, in the meantime,
with his training as a printer, he had secured employment without
difficulty at Palmer's, a famous printing-house in Bartholomew Close, where
he remained for nearly a year. Here he labored pretty diligently, but with
Ralph as well as himself to maintain, and with the constant temptations to
expense, afforded by playhouses and other places of amusement, he was
unable to hoard enough money to pay his passage back to Philadelphia.

For a time, after Ralph and himself arrived at London, they were
inseparable companions, occupying the same lodgings in Little Britain, the
home of bookstalls, and sharing the same purse. But when Ralph drifted off
into the country, all intercourse between the friends was brought to an end
by the overtures that Benjamin made to his mistress in his absence. It was
then that Benjamin, relieved of the burden which the pecuniary necessities
of Ralph had imposed on him, began to think of laying aside a little money,
and left Palmer's to work at Watts' near Lincoln's Inn Fields, a still more
important printing-house, where he was employed so long as he remained in
London. His reminiscences of this printing-house are among the most
interesting in the _Autobiography_. One episode during his connection with
it presents him to us with some of the lines of his subsequent maturity
plainly impressed on him. "I drank," he says, "only water; the other
workmen, near fifty in number, were great guzzlers of beer." When they
observed that his physical strength was superior to theirs, they wondered
that the Water-American, as they called him, should be stronger than they
who drank strong beer. A boy was incessantly running between an alehouse
and the printing-house for the purpose of keeping the latter supplied with
drink. Benjamin's pressmate drank every day a pint of beer before
breakfast, a pint at breakfast, with his bread and cheese, a pint between
breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a pint in the afternoon about six
o'clock, and another pint when he had done his day's work. Franklin vainly
endeavored to convince him that the physical strength, produced by beer,
could only be in proportion to the grain or barley-flour dissolved in water
that the beer contained, that there was more flour in a pennyworth of
bread, and that, therefore, if he would eat that with a pint of water, it
would give him more strength than a quart of beer. As it was, he had four
or five shillings to pay out of his wages every Saturday night for muddling
liquor, and in this way he and his fellow-workmen kept themselves always

Benjamin began at Watts' as a pressman, but, after some weeks of service,
he was transferred by the master to the composing-room. There a toll of
five shillings for drink was demanded of him by the other compositors as
the price of his admission to their society. At first he refused to pay it,
as he had already paid a similar _bienvenu_ in the press-room, and the
master followed his refusal up by positively forbidding him to pay it; but
after a few weeks of recusancy he learnt how despotic a thing an inveterate
custom is. He was excommunicated for a while by all his fellow-workmen, and
could not leave the composing-room for even the briefest time without
having his sorts mixed or his pages transposed by the Chapel ghost, who
was said to have a deep grudge against all imperfectly initiated
compositors. Master or no master, he finally found himself forced to comply
with the custom and to pay the exaction, convinced as he became of the
folly of being on ill terms with those with whom one is bound to live
continually. Erelong his offence was forgotten, and his influence firmly
established among his fellow-compositors. It was prevailing enough to
enable him to propose some reasonable changes in the Chapel laws, and to
carry them through in the face of all opposition. At the same time, the
example of temperance, set by him, induced a great part of his companions
to give up their breakfast of beer, bread and cheese, and to supply
themselves from a neighboring public-house with a large porringer of hot
water-gruel, seasoned with butter and pepper, and crumbed with bread, for
the price of a pint of beer, namely, three half-pence. This made a more
comfortable as well as a cheaper breakfast, and one that left their heads
clear besides. Those of Benjamin's fellow-workmen whom he could not reclaim
fell into the habit of using his credit for the purpose of getting beer
when their _light_ at the alehouse, to use their own cant expression, was
out. To protect himself, he stood by the pay-table on Saturday night, and
collected enough from their wages to cover the sums for which he had made
himself responsible, amounting sometimes to as much as thirty shillings a
week. The loan of his credit in this way and his humor gave him an assured
standing in the composing-room. On the other hand, his steadiness--for he
never, he says, made a St. Monday--recommended him to the favor of his
master; and his uncommon quickness in composing enabled him to secure the
higher compensation which was paid for what would now be termed "rush
work." His situation was at this time very agreeable and his mind became
intently fixed upon saving as much of his wages as he could.

Finding that his lodgings in Little Britain were rather remote from his
work, he obtained others in Duke Street, opposite the Romish Chapel, with a
widow, who had been bred a Protestant, but had been converted to
Catholicism by her husband, whose memory she deeply revered. It is a
pleasing face that looks out at us from the portrait painted of her by
Franklin in the _Autobiography_. She

     had lived much among people of distinction, and knew a
     thousand anecdotes of them as far back as the time of
     Charles the Second. She was lame in her knees with the
     gout, and, therefore, seldom stirred out of her room,
     so sometimes wanted company; and hers was so highly
     amusing to me, that I was sure to spend an evening with
     her whenever she desired it. Our supper was only half
     an anchovy each, on a very little strip of bread and
     butter, and half a pint of ale between us; but the
     entertainment was in her conversation. My always
     keeping good hours, and giving little trouble in the
     family, made her unwilling to part with me; so that,
     when I talk'd of a lodging I had heard of, nearer my
     business, for two shillings a week, which, intent as I
     now was on saving money, made some difference, she bid
     me not think of it, for she would abate me two
     shillings a week for the future, so I remained with her
     at one shilling and six pence as long as I staid in

It was in the garret of this house that the nun mentioned by us in
connection with the religious opinions of Franklin passed her secluded

It was while he resided here that Wygate, a fellow-printer, made a proposal
to him that, if accepted, might have given a different direction to his
career. Drawn to Benjamin, who had taught him how to swim, by common
intellectual tastes, and by the admiration excited in him by Benjamin's
vigor and agility as a swimmer, he suggested to the latter that they should
travel all over Europe together, and support themselves as they went by the
exercise of their handicraft. Benjamin was disposed to adopt the
suggestion, but, when he mentioned it to his friend, Mr. Denham, upon whom
he was in the habit of calling, the latter disapproved of it, and advised
him to dismiss every thought from his mind except that of returning to
Pennsylvania, which he was about to do himself. Nay more, he told Benjamin
that he expected to take over a large amount of merchandise with him, and
to open a store in Philadelphia; and he offered to employ Benjamin as his
clerk to keep his books, when the latter had acquired a sufficient
knowledge of bookkeeping under his instruction, copy his letters, and
attend to the store. In addition, he promised that, as soon as Benjamin
should have the requisite experience, he would promote him by sending him
with a cargo of bread-stuffs to the West Indies, and would, moreover,
procure profitable commissions for him from others, and, if Benjamin made a
success of these opportunities, establish him in life handsomely. The
proposal was accepted by Benjamin. He was tired of London, remembered with
pleasure the happy months spent by him in Pennsylvania, and was desirous of
seeing it again. He agreed, therefore, at once, to become Mr. Denham's
clerk at an annual salary of fifty pounds, Pennsylvania money. This was
less than he was earning at the time as a compositor, but Mr. Denham's
offer held out the prospect of a better future on the whole to him.

After entering into this agreement, Benjamin supposed that he was done with
printing forever. During the interval preceding the departure of Mr. Denham
and himself for America, he went about with his employer, when he was
purchasing goods, saw that the goods were packed properly for shipment, and
performed other helpful offices. After the stock of goods had been all
safely stored on shipboard, he was, to his surprise, sent for by Sir
William Wyndham, who had heard of his swimming exploits, and who offered to
pay him generously, if he would teach his two sons, who were about to
travel, how to swim; but the two youths had not yet come to town, and
Benjamin did not know just when he would sail; so he was compelled to
decline the invitation. The offer of Sir William, however, made him feel
that he might earn a good deal of money, were he to remain in England and
open a swimming school, and the reflection forced itself upon his attention
so strongly that he tells us in the _Autobiography_ that, if Sir William
had approached him earlier, he would probably not have returned to America
so soon.

He left Gravesend for Philadelphia on July 23, 1726, after having been in
London for about eighteen months. During the greater part of this time, he
had worked hard, and spent but little money upon himself except in seeing
plays and for books. It was Ralph who had kept him straitened by borrowing
sums from him amounting in the whole to about twenty-seven pounds. "I had
by no means improv'd my fortune," Franklin tells us in the _Autobiography_,
"but I had picked up some very ingenious acquaintance, whose conversation
was of great advantage to me; and I had read considerably."[7]

After a long voyage, he was again in Philadelphia, and Keith was now a
private citizen. When Benjamin met him on the street, he showed a little
shame at the sight of his dupe, but he passed on without saying anything.
Keimer seemed to have a flourishing business. He had moved into a better
house, and had a shop well supplied with stationery, plenty of type, and a
number of hands, though none of them were efficient.

Mr. Denham opened a store in Water Street, and the merchandise brought over
with him was placed in it. Benjamin gave his diligent attention to the
business, studied accounts, and was in a little while an expert salesman.
But then came one of those sudden strokes of misfortune, which remind us on
what perfidious foundations all human hopes rest. Beginning with his
relations to Mr. Denham, Franklin narrates the circumstances in these

     We lodg'd and boarded together; he counsell'd me as a
     father, having a sincere regard for me. I respected and
     loved him, and we might have gone on together very
     happy, but, in the beginning of February, 1726/7, when
     I had just pass'd my twenty-first year, we both were
     taken ill. My distemper was a pleurisy, which very
     nearly carried me off. I suffered a good deal, gave up
     the point in my own mind, and was rather disappointed
     when I found myself recovering, regretting, in some
     degree, that I must now, some time or other, have all
     that disagreeable work to do over again. I forget what
     his distemper was; it held him a long time, and at
     length carried him off. He left me a small legacy in a
     nuncupative will, as a token of his kindness for me,
     and he left me once more to the wide world; for the
     store was taken into the care of his executors, and my
     employment under him ended.

Franklin did have all that disagreeable work to do over again, for it was
of a pleuritic abscess that he died in the end. Of Mr. Denham we cannot
take our leave without drawing upon the _Autobiography_ for an incident
which shows that he was one of the many good men whose friendship was given
so generously to Franklin. He was at one time a merchant at Bristol, and
failed in business. After compounding with his numerous creditors, he
migrated to America where he made a fortune in a few years. While he was
in England with Benjamin, he invited his former creditors to an
entertainment, and, when they were all seated, thanked them for the easy
terms on which they had compromised their claims against him. Duly thanked,
they supposed that there was nothing in store for them but the ordinary
hospitality of such an occasion, but, when each turned his plate over, he
found under it an order upon a banker for the full amount, with interest,
of the unpaid balance of the debt that he had released.

At the time of Mr. Denham's death, Franklin had only recently arrived at
the age of twenty-one. Holmes, his brother-in-law, now urged him to return
to his trade, and Keimer offered him a liberal yearly wage to take charge
of his printing-office, so that he himself might have more time for his
stationery business. Franklin had heard a bad character of Keimer in London
from Keimer's wife and her friends, and he was reluctant to have anything
more to do with him; so much so that he endeavored to secure employment as
a merchant's clerk, but, being unable to do so, he closed with Keimer.

     I found in his house [says the _Autobiography_] these
     hands: Hugh Meredith, a Welsh Pennsilvanian, thirty
     years of age, bred to country work; honest, sensible,
     had a great deal of solid observation, was something of
     a reader, but given to drink. Stephen Potts, a young
     countryman of full age, bred to the same, of uncommon
     natural parts, and great wit and humour, but a little
     idle. These he had agreed with at extream low wages per
     week, to be rais'd a shilling every three months, as
     they would deserve by improving in their business; and
     the expectation of these high wages, to come on
     hereafter, was what he had drawn them in with. Meredith
     was to work at press, Potts at book-binding, which he,
     by agreement, was to teach them, though he knew neither
     one nor t'other. John,--a wild Irishman, brought up to
     no business, whose service, for four years, Keimer had
     purchased from the captain of a ship; he, too, was to
     be made a pressman. George Webb, an Oxford scholar,
     whose time for four years he had likewise bought,
     intending him for a compositor, of whom more presently;
     and David Harry, a country boy, whom he had taken

George Webb is later described by Franklin as being lively, witty,
good-natured and a pleasant companion, but idle, thoughtless, and imprudent
to the last degree. While a student at Oxford, he had become possessed with
the desire to see London and be a player. Yielding to this impulse, he
walked outside of Oxford, hid his gown in a furze bush, and strode on to
London where he fell into bad company, spent all his money, pawned his
clothes and lacked bread; having failed to secure an opening as a player.
While in this situation, he was induced by his necessities to bind himself
to go over to America as an indentured servant, and this he did without
ever writing a line to his friends to let them know what had become of him.
John, the Irishman, soon absconded. With the rest of Keimer's awkward
squad, Franklin quickly formed very agreeable relations, all the more so
because they had found Keimer incapable of teaching them, but now found
that Franklin taught them something daily. By Keimer, too, Franklin was for
a time treated with great civility and apparent regard. The selfish reasons
for such treatment were patent enough.

     Our printing-house [declares the _Autobiography_] often
     wanted sorts, and there was no letter-founder in
     America; I had seen types cast at James's in London,
     but without much attention to the manner; however, I
     now contrived a mould, made use of the letters we had
     as puncheons, struck the matrices in lead, and thus
     supply'd in a pretty tolerable way all deficiencies. I
     also engrav'd several things on occasion; I made the
     ink; I was warehousman, and everything, and, in short,
     quite a fac-totum.

Keimer was simply using Franklin to lick his rough cubs into shape. The
value of Franklin's services declined every day as his other hands became
more efficient, and, when he paid him his wages for the second quarter, he
let him know that he thought that he should submit to a reduction. By
degrees, he grew less civil, assumed a more imperious air, became
fault-finding and captious, and seemed ready for an outbreak. Nevertheless,
Franklin preserved his patience, thinking that Keimer's demeanor was partly
due to his embarrassed circumstances. But a very small spark was enough to
produce an explosion. Startled one day by a loud noise near the
court-house, Franklin put his head out of the window of the printing-office
to see what was the matter. Just then, Keimer, who was in the street,
looked up and saw him, and called out to him in vociferous and angry tones
to mind his business, adding some reproachful words that nettled Franklin
the more because they were heard by the whole neighborhood. Keimer made
things still worse by coming up into the printing-office and continuing his
rebuke. High words passed between the two, and Keimer gave Franklin the
quarter's notice to quit, to which he was entitled, saying as he did it
that he wished he could give him a shorter one. Franklin replied that the
wish was unnecessary, and, taking up his hat, walked out of doors,
requesting Meredith, as he left, to take care of some of his things that
remained behind him, and to bring them to his lodgings. This Meredith, who
had a great regard for Franklin, and regretted very much the thought of
being in the printing-office without him, did the evening of the same day,
and he availed himself of the opportunity to dissuade Franklin from
returning to New England. Keimer, he said, was in debt for all that he
possessed, his creditors were beginning to be uneasy, and he managed his
shop wretchedly, often selling without profit for ready money, and
frequently giving credit without keeping an account. He must, therefore,
fail, which would make an opening for Franklin. To this reasoning Franklin
objected his want of means. Meredith then informed him that his father had
a high opinion of him, and, from some things, that his father had said to
him, he was sure that, if Franklin would enter into a partnership with him,
the elder Meredith would advance enough money to set them going in
business. His time with Keimer, he further said, would be out in the
spring. Before then, they might procure their press and type from London.
"I am sensible," added Meredith, "I am no workman; if you like it, your
skill in the business shall be set against the stock I furnish, and we will
share the profits equally."

Franklin acceded to the proposal, and Meredith's father ratified it all the
more willingly as he saw that Franklin had a great deal of influence with
his son, had prevailed on him to abstain from dram-drinking for long
periods of time, and might be able to induce him to give up the miserable
habit entirely when they came to form the close relations of partners with
each other. An inventory of what was needed for the business was
accordingly given to the father; an order for it was placed by him in the
hands of a merchant; and the things were sent for. Until they arrived, the
partnership was to be kept secret, and Franklin was to seek employment from
Bradford. Bradford, however, was not in need of a hand, and for some days
Franklin was condemned to idleness. But opportunely enough the chance
presented itself to Keimer just at this time of being employed to print
some paper money for the Province of New Jersey which would require cuts
and type that nobody but Franklin was clever enough to execute or make.
Fearing that Bradford might employ him, and secure the work, Keimer sent
Franklin word that old friends should not be estranged by a few passionate
words, and that he hoped Franklin would return to him. Influenced by the
desire of Meredith to derive still further benefit from his instruction,
Franklin did return to Keimer, and entered upon relations with him that
proved more satisfactory than any that he had had with him for some time
past. Keimer secured the New Jersey contract.

     The New Jersey jobb was obtain'd [the _Autobiography_
     states], I contriv'd a copperplate press for it, the
     first that had been seen in the country; I cut several
     ornaments and checks for the bills. We went together to
     Burlington, where I executed the whole to satisfaction;
     and he received so large a sum for the work as to be
     enabled thereby to keep his head much longer above

One of the attractive things about the youth of Franklin is the extent to
which his love of reading and intellectual superiority gave him a standing
with distinguished or prominent men much older than himself. In the case of
Sir William Keith, the standing produced nothing but deception and
disappointment, but, in the case of Cotton Mather, it supplied Franklin
with one of those moral lessons for which his mind had such an eager

     The last time I saw your father [he wrote late in life
     to Samuel Mather, the son of Cotton] was in the
     beginning of 1724, when I visited him after my first
     trip to Pennsylvania. He received me in his library,
     and on my taking leave showed me a shorter way out of
     the house through a narrow passage, which was crossed
     by a beam overhead. We were still talking as I
     withdrew, he accompanying me behind, and I turning
     partly toward him, when he said hastily, _Stoop,
     stoop!_ I did not understand him, till I felt my head
     hit against the beam. He was a man that never missed
     any occasion of giving instruction, and upon this he
     said to me, "_You are young, and have the world before
     you_; STOOP _as you go through it, and you will miss
     many hard thumps_." This advice, thus beat into my
     head, has frequently been of use to me; and I often
     think of it, when I see pride mortified, and misfortune
     brought upon people by their carrying their heads too

Gov. William Burnet, of New York, the son of the famous English Bishop of
that name, was another conspicuous personage to whose friendly notice the
youth was brought. Shortly after the apt admonition of Cotton Mather, when
Franklin was on his return to Philadelphia, the Governor heard from the
captain of the vessel, by which Franklin had been conveyed to New York,
that a young man, one of his passengers, had a great many books with him,
and asked the captain to bring this young man to see him. The Governor
loved books and lovers of books.

     I waited upon him accordingly [says Franklin] and
     should have taken Collins with me but that he was not
     sober. The gov'r. treated me with great civility,
     show'd me his library, which was a very large one, and
     we had a good deal of conversation about books and
     authors. This was the second governor who had done me
     the honour to take notice of me; which, to a poor boy
     like me, was very pleasing.

The happy consequences to Ralph and himself of the respect, shown him by
Col. French at New Castle, and the lasting sense of gratitude that he soon
afterwards excited in Andrew Hamilton have just been mentioned. This
capacity for arresting the attention of men of years and influence now made
its mark in New Jersey. Some of the principal men of the province were
appointed by the Assembly to oversee the working of Keimer's press, and to
take care that no more bills were printed than were authorized by law. They
discharged this duty by turns, and usually each one, when he came, brought
a friend or so with him for company. In this way, Franklin was introduced
to a considerable group of persons who invited him to their houses,
introduced him to their friends, and showed him much attention. Keimer, on
the other hand, perhaps, Franklin surmises, because his mind had not been
so much improved by reading as his, was a little neglected, though the
master. The explanation given by Franklin for this neglect would seem a
rather inadequate one when we recollect that in the same context he sums up
the character of Keimer in these trenchant words: "In truth, he was an odd
fish; ignorant of common life, fond of rudely opposing receiv'd opinions,
slovenly to extream dirtiness, enthusiastic in some points of religion, and
a little knavish withal." Like St. Sebastian, poor Keimer will never be
drawn without that arrow in his side.

For three months Franklin remained at Burlington, making printer's ink
money. At the end of that time, he could reckon among his friends Judge
Allen, Samuel Bustill, the Secretary of the Province, Isaac Pearson, Joseph
Cooper, and several of the Smiths, members of the Assembly, and Isaac
Decow, the surveyor-general.

     The latter [he says] was a shrewd, sagacious old man,
     who told me that he began for himself, when young, by
     wheeling clay, for the brickmakers, learned to write
     after he was of age, carri'd the chain for surveyors,
     who taught him surveying and he had now by his
     industry, acquir'd a good estate; and says he, "I
     foresee that you will soon work this man out of his
     business, and make a fortune in it at Philadelphia." He
     had not then the least intimation of my intention to
     set up there or anywhere. These friends were afterwards
     of great use to me, as I occasionally was to some of
     them. They all continued their regard for me as long as
     they lived.

Shortly after the completion of the New Jersey contract, the new type,
which had been ordered for Franklin and Meredith from London, arrived at
Philadelphia. With Keimer's consent, the two friends left him before he
knew of its arrival. They rented a house near the market, and, to reduce
the rent of twenty-four pounds a year, they sublet a part of it to Thomas
Godfrey, who was to board them. They had scarcely made ready for business
when George House, an acquaintance of Franklin, brought to them a
countryman who had inquired of him on the street where he could find a
printer. By this countryman the firm was paid for the work that he gave
them the sum of five shillings, and this sum, Franklin declares in the
_Autobiography_, being their first fruits, and coming in at a time when
they had expended all their available cash in preparing for business,
awakened more pleasure in him than any crown that he had ever since earned,
and, besides, made him prompter than he, perhaps, would otherwise have been
to help beginners. Whether there were any "boomers," to use the cant term
of to-day, in Philadelphia at that time the _Autobiography_ does not tell
us, but there was, to use another cant term of to-day, at least one

     There are croakers in every country [says Franklin in
     the _Autobiography_] always boding its ruin. Such a one
     then lived in Philadelphia: a person of note, an
     elderly man, with a wise look and a very grave manner
     of speaking; his name was Samuel Mickle. This
     gentleman, a stranger to me, stopt one day at my door,
     and asked me if I was the young man who had lately
     opened a new printing-house. Being answered in the
     affirmative, he said he was sorry for me, because it
     was an expensive undertaking, and the expense would be
     lost; for Philadelphia was a sinking place, the people
     already half bankrupts, or near being so; all
     appearances to the contrary, such as new buildings and
     the rise of rents, being to his certain knowledge
     fallacious, for they were, in fact, among the things
     that would soon ruin us. And he gave me such a detail
     of misfortunes now existing, or that were soon to
     exist, that he left me half melancholy. Had I known him
     before I engaged in this business, probably I never
     should have done it. This man continued to live in this
     decaying place, and to declaim in the same strain,
     refusing for many years to buy a house there, because
     all was going to destruction; and at last I had the
     pleasure of seeing him give five times as much for one
     as he might have bought it for when he first began his

The outlook of Franklin was a cheerful, optimistic one, and he had no
sympathy with pessimists of any sort. Even his civic interests came back to
him in personal profit, since, aside from its public aims, the Junto was a
most useful aid to the business of Franklin and Meredith. All its members
made a point of soliciting patronage for the new printing firm. Breintnal,
for instance, obtained for it the privilege of printing forty sheets of the
history which the Quakers published of their sect; the rest having gone to
Keimer. The price was low, and the job cost Franklin and Meredith much hard
labor. The work, Franklin tells us, with the fond minuteness with which a
man is disposed to dwell upon the events of his early life, was a folio, of
_pro patria_ size, and in pica, with long primer notes. Franklin composed
it at the rate of a sheet a day, and Meredith ran off what was composed at
the press. It was often eleven at night and later, when Franklin had
completed his distribution for the work of the next day, for now and then
he was set back by other business calls. So resolved, however, was he never
to default on his sheet a day that one night, when one of his forms was
accidentally broken up, and two pages of his work reduced to pi, he
immediately distributed and composed it over again before he went to bed,
though he had supposed, when the accident occurred, that a hard day's task
had ended. This industry brought the firm into favorable notice, and
especially was Franklin gratified by what Dr. Baird had to say about it.
When the new printing-office was mentioned at the Merchants' Every Night
Club, and the opinion was generally expressed that three printing-offices
could not be maintained in Philadelphia, he took issue with this view; "For
the industry of that Franklin," he said, "is superior to anything I ever
saw of the kind; I see him still at work when I go home from club, and he
is at work again before his neighbors are out of bed." This statement led
one of the persons who heard it to offer to furnish the new firm with
stationery; but it was not yet ready to open a stationery shop.

About this time, George Webb, who had bought his time of Keimer, with the
aid of one of his female friends, solicited from the firm employment as a
journeyman. Its situation was not such as to warrant his employment, but
Franklin indiscreetly let him know as a secret that he expected to
establish a newspaper soon; when he might have work for him. Bradford's
newspaper, _The American Mercury_, he told Webb, was a paltry thing, stupid
and wretchedly managed, and yet was profitable. "Three can keep a Secret if
two are dead," is a saying of Poor Richard. It would have been well if
Franklin on this occasion had been mindful of the wisdom in which it was
conceived. He requested Webb not to mention what he said; but, as is often
true under such circumstances, it would have been more prudent for him to
have asked him to mention it. Webb did tell Keimer, and he immediately
published the prospectus of a newspaper on which Webb was to be employed.
This was resented by Franklin, and, to counteract the scheme, he and his
friend Breintnal wrote some clever little essays for Bradford's newspaper
under the title of the "Busy Body." In that dull sheet, they were, to
borrow Shakespeare's image, like bright metal on sullen ground. Public
attention was fixed upon them, and Keimer's prospectus was overlooked. He
founded his newspaper nevertheless, and conducted it for nine months under
the prolix name of the _Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences and
Pennsylvania Gazette_. It never had, at any time, more than ninety
subscribers, and, at the end of the nine months, in 1729, Franklin, who had
for some time had his arms extended to catch it when it fell, bought it at
a trifling price. Under his ownership, the cumbrous name of the paper was
cut down simply to that of the _Pennsylvania Gazette_, and the absurd plan
formed by Keimer of publishing an instalment of Chambers' Universal
Dictionary of all the Arts and Sciences in every issue was abandoned for a
strain of original comment and unctuous humor which made the _Gazette_ in
popularity second only to _Poor Richard's Almanac_. Under Franklin's hands,
the paper assumed from the beginning a better typographical appearance than
any previously known to the Province, and some spirited observations by him
on a controversy between Governor Burnet and the Massachusetts Assembly,
which called into play his aversion to political tyranny, aroused so much
public attention that all the leading citizens of the Province became
subscribers. Many other subscribers followed in their train, and the
subscriptions went on continually increasing until in a few years, to quote
Franklin's own words, the _Gazette_ proved extremely profitable to him.

     This was one of the first good effects of my having
     learnt a little to scribble [he tells us], another was
     that the leading men, seeing a newspaper now in the
     hands of one who could also handle a pen, thought it
     convenient to oblige and encourage me. Bradford still
     printed the Votes and laws, and other publick business.
     He had printed an address of the House to the Governor,
     in a coarse, blundering manner; we reprinted it
     elegantly and correctly, and sent one to every member.
     They were sensible of the difference: it strengthened
     the hands of our friends in the House, and they voted
     us their printers for the year ensuing.

Among these friends, was the grateful Andrew Hamilton.

The young printer had pushed himself forward successfully enough to make
his competition keenly felt by both Keimer and Bradford. But now
unexpectedly, when all the omens were so fair, he found himself on the
brink of ruin. For some time past, he had faithfully observed his
obligations to Meredith, though his friends lamented his connection with
him. Meredith was no compositor, and but a poor pressman, and, if he had
been the best compositor or pressman in the world, he would have been a
poor partner, for he was seldom sober. While Franklin was bearing him along
on his back as well as he could, Meredith's father found himself unable to
advance for the firm the second instalment of one hundred pounds, necessary
to complete the payment for its printing outfit. The result was that the
merchant, who had sold it to the firm, grew impatient, and sued them all.
They gave bail, but realized that, if the money could not be raised in
time, judgment and execution would follow, and that the outfit would be
sold at half price. Then it was, to recall the simple and affecting words
of Franklin himself in the _Autobiography_, that two true friends, William
Coleman and Robert Grace, whose kindness he had never forgotten, and never
would forget, while he could remember anything, came to him separately,
unknown to each other, and, without any application from him, each offered
to advance to him all the money that should be necessary to enable him to
acquire the whole business of the firm, if that should be practicable.[8]
They did not like the idea of his continuing to be a partner of Meredith,
who, they said, was often seen drunk in the streets, and playing at low
games in alehouses to the discredit of the firm. Distressing, however, as
his situation was, Franklin appears to have acted with a high-minded regard
to the proprieties of the occasion. He told Coleman and Grace that, so long
as there was any prospect that the Merediths might live up to their
agreement, he was under too great obligations to them for what they had
done, and would do, if they could, to suggest a dissolution of the
partnership, but that, if they finally defaulted in the performance of
their part of the agreement, and the partnership was dissolved, he would
feel at liberty to accept the assistance of his friends.

But he was astute as well as conscientious. After the matter had rested in
this position for some time, he said to Meredith:

     Perhaps your father is dissatisfied at the part you
     have undertaken in this affair of ours, and is
     unwilling to advance for you and me what he would for
     you alone. If that is the case, tell me, and I will
     resign the whole to you, and go about my business.

     No, said he, my father has really been disappointed,
     and is really unable; and I am unwilling to distress
     him farther. I see this is a business I am not fit for.
     I was bred a farmer, and it was a folly in me to come
     to town, and put myself, at thirty years of age, an
     apprentice to learn a new trade. Many of our Welsh
     people are going to settle in North Carolina, where
     land is cheap. I am inclin'd to go with them, and
     follow my old employment. You may find friends to
     assist you. If you will take the debts of the company
     upon you; return to my father the hundred pound he has
     advanced; pay my little personal debts, and give me
     thirty pounds and a new saddle, I will relinquish the
     partnership, and leave the whole in your hands.

Franklin agreed to this proposal. It was made the basis of a contract which
was immediately signed and sealed. Meredith received the thirty pounds and
the saddle, and soon afterwards went off to North Carolina, whence he sent
to Franklin the next year two long letters containing the best account of
the climate, soil, husbandry and other features of that Province that had
been given up to that time. "For in those matters," adds Franklin, with his
usual generosity, "he was very judicious. I printed them in the papers, and
they gave great satisfaction to the publick."

After the departure of Meredith for North Carolina, Franklin turned to the
two friends who had proffered their help. He accepted from each of them,
because he would not give an unkind preference to either, one half of the
money he needed, paid off the debts of the partnership, advertised its
dissolution and went on with the business in his own name. This was on July
14, 1730.

Seasonably for him, there was a loud cry among the people at this time for
a more abundant issue of paper money. The wealthier members of the
community were all against the proposition. They feared that an addition to
the existing paper circulation would depreciate, as it had done in New
York, and that the debts due to them would be discharged by payment in a
medium worth less than its nominal value. The question was discussed by the
Junto, and Franklin argued in favor of the issue; being persuaded that the
prosperity of the Province had been very much promoted by a small previous
issue of paper money in 1723. He remembered, he says in the
_Autobiography_, that, when he first walked about the streets of
Philadelphia, eating his roll, most of the houses on Walnut Street, between
Second and Front Streets, and many besides, on Chestnut and other streets,
were placarded, "To be let"; which made him feel as if the inhabitants of
Philadelphia were deserting the town one after the other; whereas at the
time of this discussion all the old houses were occupied, and many new ones
were in process of construction. Not content with presenting his views on
the subject to the Junto, he wrote an anonymous pamphlet on it entitled
_The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency_. This pamphlet was well
received by the common people, he tells us, but met with the disfavor of
the rich, because it swelled the clamor for more money. Their opposition,
however, for lack of writers, competent to refute its reasoning,
languished, and the issue was authorized by the Assembly. Franklin's
friends in the house rewarded him for his part in the controversy over it
by employing him to print the money. "A very profitable jobb and a great
help to me," remarks Franklin complacently in the _Autobiography_, and he
adds, "This was another advantage gain'd by my being able to write."

Through the influence of his friend Hamilton, he likewise secured the
contract for printing the paper money, issued by the Three Lower Counties
on the Delaware. "Another profitable jobb as I then thought it," he says,
"small things appearing great to those in small circumstances." Hamilton
also procured for him the privilege of printing the laws and legislative
proceedings of the Three Lower Counties, and he retained it as long as he
remained in the printing business. Now, for the first time, he felt that
his position was assured enough for him to open up a small stationery shop,
where he sold blanks of all sorts, paper, parchment, chapmen's books and
other such wares. The blanks he believed to be "the correctest that ever
appear'd among us, being assisted in that by my friend Breintnal." The
demands on his printing-office, too, increased to such a degree that he
employed a compositor, one Whitemarsh, an excellent workman, whom he had
known in London, and undertook the care of an apprentice, a son of the
ever-to-be-lamented Aquila Rose. Soon he was prospering to such an extent
that he could begin to pay off the debt that he owed on his printing
outfit. These are the words in which he himself described his situation at
this time:

     In order to secure my credit and character as a
     tradesman, I took care not only to be in _reality_
     industrious and frugal, but to avoid all appearances to
     the contrary. I drest plainly; I was seen at no places
     of idle diversion. I never went out a fishing or
     shooting; a book, indeed, sometimes debauch'd me from
     my work, but that was seldom, snug, and gave no
     scandal; and, to show that I was not above my business,
     I sometimes brought home the paper I purchas'd at the
     stores thro' the streets on a wheel-barrow. Thus being
     esteem'd an industrious, thriving young man, and paying
     duly for what I bought, the merchants who imported
     stationery solicited my custom; others proposed
     supplying me with books, and I went on swimmingly. In
     the meantime, Keimer's credit and business declining
     daily, he was at last forc'd to sell his printing-house
     to satisfy his creditors. He went to Barbadoes, and
     there lived some years in very poor circumstances.

For some time before Keimer went off to Barbadoes, he had been in the
condition of an unsound tree, which still stands but with a dry rot at its
heart momentarily presaging its fall. As far back as Issue No. 27 of _The
Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences_, and _Pennsylvania Gazette_,
he had found it necessary to explain a week's delay in the publication of
that issue by stating to the public that he had been awakened, when fast
asleep in bed, about eleven at night, over-tired with the labor of the day,
and taken away from his dwelling by a writ and summons; it being basely and
confidently given out that he was that very night about to run away, though
there was not the least color or ground for such a vile report. He was, he
further declared, "the shuttlecock of fortune ... the very but for villany
to shoot at, or the continued mark for slander and her imps to spit their
venom upon." It was remarkable, he thought, that

     a person of strict sincerity, refin'd justice, and
     universal love to the whole creation, should for a
     series of near twenty years, be the constant but of
     slander, as to be three times ruin'd as a
     master-printer, to be nine times in prison, one of
     which was six years together, and often reduc'd to the
     most wretched circumstances, hunted as a partridge upon
     the mountains, and persecuted with the most abominable
     lies the devil himself could invent or malice utter.

It was but the old story of the man, who is dizzy, thinking that the whole
world is spinning around.

David Harry, Keimer's former apprentice, had also opened a printing-office
in Philadelphia. When his enterprise was in its inception, Franklin
regarded his rivalry with much uneasiness on account of his influential
connections. He accordingly proposed a partnership to him, a proposal
which, fortunately for the former, was disdainfully refused. "He was very
proud," says Franklin, "dress'd like a gentleman, liv'd expensively, took
much diversion and pleasure abroad, ran in debt, and neglected his
business; upon which, all business left him." The result was that Harry had
to follow Keimer to Barbadoes, taking his printing outfit with him. Here
the former apprentice employed the former master as a journeyman; they
frequently quarrelled with each other; Harry steadily fell behind, and was
compelled to sell his type, and to return to his country work in
Pennsylvania. The purchaser of the outfit employed Keimer to operate it,
but, in a few years more, Keimer was transported by death out of the world,
which for a considerable part of his life he had seen only through the
gratings of a jail.

The departure of Harry left Franklin without any competitor except his old
one, Bradford, who was too rich and easy-going to actively push for
business. But, in one respect, Bradford was a formidable rival. He was the
Postmaster at Philadelphia, and his newspaper flourished at the expense of
the _Gazette_ upon the public impression that his connection with the
Post-office gave him facilities for gathering news and for circulating
advertisements that Franklin did not enjoy.

To this period belong Franklin's treaty for a wife with enough means to
discharge the balance of one hundred pounds still due on his printing
outfit, and his final recoil to Deborah whose industry and frugality were
far more than the pecuniary equivalent of one hundred pounds. After his
marriage, he was, if anything, even more industrious than before, and this
is what he has to say about his habits and employments during the period
that immediately followed that event:

     Reading was the only amusement I allow'd myself. I
     spent no time in taverns, games, or frolicks of any
     kind; and my industry in my business continu'd as
     indefatigable as it was necessary. I was indebted for
     my printing-house; I had a young family coming on to be
     educated, and I had to contend with for business two
     printers, who were established in the place before me.
     My circumstances, however, grew daily easier. My
     original habits of frugality continuing, and my father
     having among his instructions to me when a boy,
     frequently repeated a proverb of Solomon, "Seest thou a
     man diligent in his calling, he shall stand before
     kings, he shall not stand before mean men," I from
     thence considered industry as a means of obtaining
     wealth and distinction, which encourag'd me, tho' I did
     not think that I should ever literally _stand before_
     kings, which, however, has since happened; for I have
     stood before _five_, and even had the honour of sitting
     down with one, the King of Denmark, to dinner.

Another passage in the _Autobiography_ tells us just what degree of
frugality Franklin and Deborah practiced at this stage of his business

     We kept no idle servants [he says], our table was plain
     and simple, our furniture of the cheapest. For
     instance, my breakfast was a long time bread and milk
     (no tea), and I ate it out of a twopenny earthen
     porringer, with a pewter spoon. But mark how luxury
     will enter families, and make a progress, in spite of
     principle: being call'd one morning to breakfast, I
     found it in a China bowl, with a spoon of silver! They
     had been bought for me without my knowledge by my wife,
     and had cost her the enormous sum of three-and-twenty
     shillings, for which she had no other excuse or apology
     to make, but that she thought _her_ husband deserv'd a
     silver spoon and China bowl as well as any of his
     neighbors. This was the first appearance of plate and
     China in our house, which afterward, in a course of
     years, as our wealth increased, augmented gradually to
     several hundred pounds in value.

In 1732 was first published, at fivepence a copy, Franklin's famous almanac
known as _Poor Richard's Almanac_, which for twenty-five years warmed the
homes of Pennsylvania with the ruddy glow of its wit, humor and wisdom. His
endeavor in conducting it he tells us was to make it both entertaining and
useful, and he was so successful that he reaped considerable profit from
the nearly ten thousand copies of it that he annually sold. Hundreds of the
inhabitants of Pennsylvania, who read nothing else, read the _Almanac_. Its
infectious humor, its coarse pleasantry, its proverbs and sayings so much
wiser than the wisdom, and so much wittier than the wit of any single
individual, made the name of Franklin a common household word from one end
of Pennsylvania to another, and, when finally strained off into Father
Abraham's speech, established his reputation as a kindly humorist and moral
teacher throughout the world.

In somewhat the same spirit of instruction as well as entertainment was the
_Gazette_, too, conducted.

     I considered my newspaper, also [says Franklin], as
     another means of communicating instruction, and in that
     view frequently reprinted in it extracts from the
     _Spectator_, and other moral writers; and sometimes
     publish'd little pieces of my own, which had been first
     compos'd for reading in our Junto.

The caution exercised by the _Gazette_ in shutting out malice and personal
abuse from its columns is the subject of one of the weightiest series of
statements in the _Autobiography_.

     In the conduct of my newspaper [Franklin declares] I
     carefully excluded all libelling and personal abuse,
     which is of late years become so disgraceful to our
     country. Whenever I was solicited to insert anything
     of that kind, and the writers pleaded, as they
     generally did, the liberty of the press, and that a
     newspaper was like a stage-coach, in which any one who
     would pay had a right to a place, my answer was, that I
     would print the piece separately if desired, and the
     author might have as many copies as he pleased to
     distribute himself, but that I would not take upon me
     to spread his detraction; and that, having contracted
     with my subscribers to furnish them with what might be
     either useful or entertaining, I could not fill their
     papers with private altercation, in which they had no
     concern, without doing them manifest injustice. Now,
     many of our printers make no scruple of gratifying the
     malice of individuals by false accusations of the
     fairest characters among ourselves, augmenting
     animosity even to the producing of duels; and are,
     moreover, so indiscreet as to print scurrilous
     reflections on the government of neighboring states,
     and even on the conduct of our best national allies,
     which may be attended with the most pernicious
     consequences. These things I mention as a caution to
     young printers, and that they may be encouraged not to
     pollute their presses and disgrace their profession by
     such infamous practices, but refuse steadily, as they
     may see by my example that such a course of conduct
     will not, on the whole, be injurious to their

By 1733 Franklin was sufficiently established in business to branch out
still more. That year he sent one of his journeymen, Thomas Whitemarsh, to
Charleston, South Carolina, where a printer was needed, under an agreement
of partnership which was the prototype of most of the subsequent articles
of copartnership formed by him with other printers under similar
conditions; that is to say, he furnished the printing outfit, paid one
third of the expenses, and received one third of the profits. The history
of this partner gave Franklin an opportunity to moralize a little in the
_Autobiography_ upon the importance of a knowledge of accounts rather than
of music or dancing as a part of female education. The Carolina printer was
a man of education and honest, but ignorant of accounts, and, though he
made occasional remittances, Franklin could never get any account from him,
nor any satisfactory statement of the condition of the partnership
business. On his death, however, his widow, who had been born and bred in
Holland, not only sent Franklin as clear a statement as was possible of the
past transactions of the firm, but subsequently rendered him an exact
account every quarter with the utmost punctuality, and, besides, managed
the business with such success that she reared a family of children
decently, and, upon the expiration of the copartnership, purchased the
outfit from Franklin, and turned it over to her son.

The success of the Carolina partnership encouraged Franklin to form
partnerships with other journeymen of his, and by 1743 he had opened three
printing-offices in three different colonies, and proposed to open a
fourth, if he could find a suitable person to take charge of it. Others
were opened by him later. Among the persons besides Whitemarsh, established
by him at different times as printers, under one arrangement or another
with himself, were Peter Timothy in South Carolina, Smith and Benjamin
Mecom in Antigua, James Parker in New York, his brother in Rhode Island,
Hall and Miller and Samuel Holland at Lancaster, and William Daniell at
Kingston, Jamaica. Speaking of his partners in the _Autobiography_, he says
of them:

     Most of them did well, being enabled at the end of our
     term, six years, to purchase the types of me and go on
     working for themselves, by which means several families
     were raised. Partnerships often finish in quarrels; but
     I was happy in this, that mine were all carried on and
     ended amicably, owing, I think, a good deal to the
     precaution of having very explicitly settled, in our
     articles, everything to be done by or expected from
     each partner, so that there was nothing to dispute,
     which precaution I would therefore recommend to all who
     enter into partnerships; for, whatever esteem partners
     may have for, and confidence in each other at the time
     of the contract, little jealousies and disgusts may
     arise, with ideas of inequality in the care and burden
     of the business, etc., which are attended often with
     breach of friendship and of the connection, perhaps
     with lawsuits and other disagreeable consequences.

Two other business enterprises of Franklin merit notice. He was the founder
of the first newspaper in the United States to be published in a foreign
tongue, namely, the _Philadelphische Zeitung_, which owed its origin to the
large number of Germans who came over to Pennsylvania during the Colonial
Period. He was also the founder of a monthly literary magazine which for
some reason he does not mention in the _Autobiography_ at all. It was the
second enterprise of the kind undertaken in America, and was known as _The
General Magazine and Historical Chronicle for All the British Plantations
in America_. To Franklin as a business man might aptly be applied the words
of Emerson with respect to Guy:

    Stream could not so perversely wind
    But corn of Guy's was there to grind.

One exception, however, appears to have been this magazine which lasted but
a short time. It was ill-starred from the start. When Franklin was ready to
spring it upon the public, he engaged John Webbe as its editor, but Webbe
betrayed the project to Bradford, who at once announced that, a little
later, a magazine would be offered to the public edited by Webbe, and
published by himself. When the first number of Franklin's magazine came
out, he stated that its publication was earlier than he had intended
because of the faithless conduct of Webbe. This Webbe resented by charging
Franklin, who was then Postmaster at Philadelphia, with shutting out
Bradford's _Mercury_ from the post, but Franklin silenced his fire by
stating and proving that he had had no choice in the matter, because he had
been commanded by Postmaster-General Spottswood, on account of Bradford's
failure as Postmaster at Philadelphia to account with him, to suffer no
longer any of his newspapers or letters to be conveyed by post free of

The business of Franklin received another push forward with the political
consequence which he acquired through the _Gazette_ and the influence of
the Junto. In 1736, he was chosen Clerk of the General Assembly, and in the
succeeding year he was appointed Postmaster at Philadelphia, in the place
of Bradford, by Alexander Spottswood, who had been Governor of Virginia,
and was then the Deputy Postmaster-General for America. The salary of the
Postmastership was small, but, for the purposes of the _Gazette_, the
office gave him the same advantage that Bradford had enjoyed, when he
refused to allow that newspaper to be carried by his post-riders. The
positions of the two men were now reversed, but Franklin was too
magnanimous to remind Bradford, sternly, as he did Jemmy Read, that
Fortune's Wheel is ever turning. "My old competitor's newspaper," he says,
"declined proportionably, and I was satisfy'd without retaliating his
refusal, while postmaster, to permit my papers being carried by the
riders." Bradford had suffered, Franklin adds, "for his neglect in due
accounting." And this gave him occasion to observe that regularity and
clearness in rendering accounts and punctuality in making remittances are
"the most powerful of all recommendations to new employments and increase
of business."

The office of Clerk of the Assembly also had its business value.

     Besides the pay for the immediate service as clerk
     [Franklin says] the place gave me a better opportunity
     of keeping up an interest among the members, which
     secur'd to me the business of printing the votes,
     laws, paper money, and other occasional jobbs for the
     public, that, on the whole, were very profitable.

The first year that he came up for election the vote in his favor was
unanimous, but the next year, while he was elected, it was only after a new
member had made a long speech against him in the interest of another
candidate. How Franklin conciliated the unfriendliness of this member is
fully told in the _Autobiography_;

     I therefore did not like the opposition of this new
     member, who was a gentleman of fortune and education,
     with talents that were likely to give him, in time,
     great influence in the House, which, indeed, afterwards
     happened. I did not, however, aim at gaining his favour
     by paying any servile respect to him, but, after some
     time, took this other method. Having heard that he had
     in his library a certain very scarce and curious book,
     I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing
     that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of
     lending it to me for a few days. He sent it
     immediately, and I return'd it in about a week with
     another note, expressing strongly my sense of the
     favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me
     (which he had never done before), and with great
     civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to
     serve me on all occasions, so that we became great
     friends, and our friendship continued to his death.
     This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I
     had learned, which says, "_He that has once done you a
     kindness will be more ready to do you another, than he
     whom you yourself have obliged._" And it shows how much
     more profitable it is prudently to remove, than to
     resent, return, and continue inimical proceedings.

The artifice practised by Franklin on this occasion has been condemned.
What he really did, of course, was to use gratified vanity as a foil to
mortified vanity. The possible consequences of the new member's hostility
were too serious for him to say as Washington was in the habit of saying
when he had a bad cold: "Let it go as it came." He knew that the malice was
as shallow as the good will; and the alternatives were resentment,
sycophancy, or a little subtlety. Under the circumstances, Franklin would
not have been Franklin, if he had not elected subtlety.

Nothing was now wanting to the full development of his business career
except the repetition in other communities of the success that had crowned
his personal exertions in Pennsylvania. Referring to the state of his
business at this time, he says in the _Autobiography_;

     My business was now continually augmenting, and my
     circumstances growing daily easier, my newspaper having
     become very profitable, as being for a time almost the
     only one in this and the neighboring provinces. I
     experienced, too, the truth of the observation, "_that
     after getting the first hundred pound, it is more easy
     to get the second_," money itself being of a prolific

The outcome of it all was that, in the year 1748, at the age of forty-two,
he flattered himself, to repeat his own language, that, by the sufficient,
though moderate, fortune which he had acquired, he had secured leisure
during the rest of his life for philosophical studies and amusements.

The plan that he formed for securing this leisure, which he turned to such
fruitful, purposes, was marked by his usual good judgment. In 1744, he had
taken into his employment David Hall, a Scotch journeyman, and a friend of
Strahan. He now admitted Hall to partnership with him. "A very able,
industrious, and honest partner, Mr. David Hall, with whose character I was
well acquainted, as he had work'd for me for four years," are the terms in
which he speaks of Hall in the _Autobiography_. "He took off my hands," he
continues, "all care of the printing-office, paying me punctually my share
of the profits. The partnership continued eighteen years, successfully for
us both." Under the provisions of the partnership agreement, Hall was to
carry on the printing and publishing business of Franklin in his own way,
but in the firm name of Franklin and Hall, and Hall was to pay to Franklin
a thousand pounds a year for eighteen years; at the end of which period
Hall was to become the sole proprietor of the business.[9] Exactly what
income Franklin was deriving from his printing and publishing business at
the time that this agreement was entered into is not known, but reasonable
conjecture has placed it at something like two thousand pounds a year. At
that time he was also the owner of a considerable amount of property,
representing invested returns from his business in the past. The _Gazette_
continued to be published until the year 1821. When the term of eighteen
years, during which the partnership was to last, expired in 1766, the
profits had been over twelve thousand pounds, Pennsylvania currency, from
subscriptions, and over four thousand pounds, Pennsylvania currency, from
advertisements. Judged by the standards of the time and place, it was an
extraordinary degree of success which had enabled Franklin in some twenty
years to establish so lucrative a business as that which he handed over to
the management of Hall in 1748, and few indeed have been the men in
mercantile history, who have been willing, after so long a period of
prosperous addiction to gain, to turn away to purely intellectual and
unremunerative pursuits from such a prospect of increasing self-enrichment
as that renounced by Franklin when he wrote to Cadwallader Colden that he,
too, was taking the proper measures for obtaining leisure to enjoy life and
his friends more than in the past; having put his printing-house under the
care of his partner, David Hall, absolutely left off book-selling, and
removed to a more quiet part of the town, where he was settling his old
accounts, and hoped soon to be quite master of his own time, and no longer,
as the song had it, at everyone's call but his own. Nobody knew better than
he that, if, after getting the first hundred pounds, it is easier to get
the second, it is still easier, after getting the second hundred pounds, to
get the third.

For Hall, Franklin entertained uninterrupted feelings of respect and
affection, down to the date of the former's death on December 17, 1772. "My
Love to Mr. Hall," is one of his messages to Deborah some seven years after
the firm of Franklin and Hall was created. Before that he had written to
Strahan, "Our friend, Mr. Hall, is well, and manages perfectly to my
satisfaction." Many years after the death of Hall, the account between
Franklin and him had not been wholly settled, and a letter from the former
to Strahan in the year 1785 tells him that Hall and himself had not been of
the same mind as to "the value of a copyright in an established newspaper,
of each of which from eight to ten thousand were printed," but "were to be
determined" by Strahan's opinion. "My long absence from that country, and
immense employment the little time I was there," Franklin wrote, "have
hitherto prevented the settlement of all the accounts that had been between
us; though we never differed about them, and never should if that good
honest man had continued in being."

Franklin's failure to forecast the stubborn hostility of the Colonies to
the Stamp Act not only cost him some personal popularity but it caused his
firm some pecuniary loss. Anticipating with his usual shrewdness the
passage of that Act, which imposed a tax of a sterling half-penny on every
half-sheet of a newspaper, however small, he sent over to Hall one hundred
reams of large half-sheet paper, but permission could not be obtained to
have it stamped in America, and it was all reshipped to England at a loss.

     As to the Paper sent over [he wrote to Hall] I did it
     for the best, having at that time Expectations given me
     that we might have had it stampt there; in which case
     you would have had great Advantage of the other
     Printers, since if they were not provided with such
     Paper, they must have either printed but a half sheet
     common Demi, or paid for two Stamps on each Sheet. The
     Plan was afterward alter'd notwithstanding all I could
     do, it being alledged that Scotland & every Colony
     would expect the same Indulgence if it was granted to
     us. The Papers must not be sent back again: But I hope
     you will excuse what I did in Good will, tho' it
     happen'd wrong.

After the retirement of Franklin from active business, he still continued
to hold his office as Postmaster at Philadelphia, and, while holding it, he
was employed by the Deputy Postmaster-General for America as his
comptroller to examine and audit the accounts of several of his subordinate
officers. Upon the death of the Deputy Postmaster-General, he was appointed
his successor, jointly with William Hunter, of Virginia, by the British
Postmasters-General. When the pair were appointed, the office had never
earned any net revenue for the British Crown. Under the terms of their
appointment, they were to have six hundred pounds a year between them, if
they could make that sum out of its profits, and, when they entered upon
it, so many improvements had to be effected by them that, in the first four
years, it ran into debt to them to the extent of upwards of nine hundred
pounds; but, under the skilful management of Franklin, it became
remunerative, and, before he was removed by the British Government, after
his arraignment before the Privy Council, it had been brought to yield
three times as much clear revenue to the Crown as the Irish Post-office.
"Since that imprudent transaction," Franklin observes in the
_Autobiography_, "they have receiv'd from it--not one farthing!"

On August 10, 1761, eight years after the appointment of Franklin and
Hunter, and a few weeks before Foxcroft succeeded Hunter, there was a net
balance of four hundred and ninety-four pounds four shillings and eight
pence due by the American Post-office to the British Crown; which was duly
remitted. "And this," exclaims the astonished official record of the fact
in England, "is the first remittance ever made of the kind." Between August
10, 1761, and the beginning of 1764, the net profits of the American
Post-office amounted to two thousand and seventy pounds twelve shillings
and three and one quarter pence, and drew from the British
Postmasters-General the statement, "The Posts in America are under the
management of persons of acknowledged ability." With this record of
administrative success, it is not surprising that, when Franklin was
removed from office, he should have written to Thomas Cushing these bitter

     I received 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. The expression was well chosen, for in truth
     they were _under a necessity_ of doing it; it was not
     their own inclination; they had no fault to find with
     my conduct in the office; they knew my merit in it, and
     that, if it was now an office of value, it had become
     such chiefly through my care and good management; that
     it was worth nothing, when given to me; it would not
     then pay the salary allowed me, and, unless it did, I
     was not to expect it; and that it now produces near
     three thousand pounds a year clear to the treasury
     here. They had beside a personal regard for me. But as
     the postoffices in all the principal towns are growing
     daily more and more valuable, by the increase of
     correspondence, the officers being paid _commissions_
     instead of _salaries_, the ministers seem to intend, by
     directing me to be displaced on this occasion, to hold
     out to them all an example that, if they are not
     corrupted by their office to promote the measures of
     administration, though against the interests and rights
     of the colonies, they must not expect to be continued.

Not only was the American postal service made by Franklin's able management
to yield a net revenue to the British Crown, but it was brought up to a
much higher level of efficiency. For one thing, the mails between New York
and Philadelphia were increased from one a week in summer and two a month
in winter to three a week in summer and one a week in winter. In 1764, a
Philadelphia merchant could mail a letter to New York and receive a reply
the next day. For another thing, post-riders were required to carry all
newspapers offered to them for carriage whether the newspapers of
postmasters or not. In the discharge of his postal duties, Franklin was
compelled to make many long journeys outside of Pennsylvania, and these
journeys did much, as we have said, to extend his reputation on the
American continent and to confirm his extraordinary familiarity with
American conditions. As soon as he was appointed Deputy Postmaster-General
for America with Hunter, William Franklin was appointed Comptroller of the
Post-office. The post-office at Philadelphia he first conferred upon
William Franklin, then upon Joseph Read, one of Deborah's relatives, and
then upon Peter Franklin, Franklin's brother. Indeed, so long as there was
a Franklin or a Read willing to enter the public service, Franklin's other
fellow-countrymen had very little chance of filling any vacant post in the
American Post-office. This was doubtless due not only to his clannishness
but also to the fact that, as far as we can now judge, nepotism was a much
more venial offence in the eyes of the public during the colonial era than
now. Even now it may be doubted whether the disfavor with which it is
regarded is prompted so much by its prejudicial tendency from a public
point of view as by its tendency, from the point of view of the spoilsman,
to interfere with the repeated use of office for partisan purposes.

The income upon which Franklin retired from business was the sum of one
thousand pounds a year for eighteen years, which Hall agreed to pay him,
the small salary, arising from the office of Postmaster at Philadelphia,
and the income, supposed to be about seven hundred pounds a year, produced
by his invested savings. When in England, in addition to the one thousand
pounds a year, paid to him by Hall, which ended in the year 1766, and the
income derived by him from invested savings, he received a salary of three
hundred pounds a year from his office as Deputy Postmaster-General for
America, until he was removed in 1774, and for briefer periods a salary of
five hundred pounds a year from his office as Colonial Agent for
Pennsylvania, and salaries of four hundred pounds, two hundred pounds and
one hundred pounds as the Colonial Agent of Massachusetts, Georgia and New
Jersey, respectively. With his removal from his office of Deputy
Postmaster-General, all these agencies and the salaries attached to them
came to an end. When the annuity paid to him by Hall ceased, his income was
so seriously curtailed that he was compelled, as we have seen, to remind
Deborah of the fact. After his return from England in 1775, he was
appointed the Postmaster-General of the United States at a salary of one
thousand pounds a year.

For his public services in France, he was allowed at first a salary of five
hundred pounds a year and his expenses, and subsequently, when his rank was
advanced to that of ambassador, two thousand five hundred pounds a year.
When he returned from France to America, he communicated to his old friend,
Charles Thomson, the Secretary of Congress, his hope that Congress might be
kind enough to recognize the value of his services and sacrifices in the
American cause by granting him some small tract of land in the West. He
saw, he said, that Congress had made a handsome allowance to Arthur Lee for
his services to America in England before his appointment as Commissioner
to France, though it had made none to the writer or to Mr. Bollan, who were
also parties to these services. Moreover, Lee, on his return to America, as
well as John Jay, had been rewarded by Congress with a good office. The
letter, of course, made out an irrefragable case; for, if the United States
had given the whole Northwest Territory to Franklin, his heirs and assigns
forever, the gift would hardly have exceeded the value of his services. It
was written just before the Old Congress gave way to the First Congress
under the Federal Constitution, and nothing ever came of it. The conduct of
the Old Congress to Franklin in other respects had been so ungenerous that
it is hardly likely that it would have made any response to the appeal
anyhow unless solicited by a more intriguing spirit than his.

The State of Georgia was more mindful of its obligations to him, and voted
him the right to take up three thousand acres of land within its limits.

After his return from France, a great rise took place in the value of real
estate in Philadelphia, and his houses and lots reaped its benefits to a
conspicuous degree. On Jan. 29, 1786, he wrote to Ferdinand Grand, "My own
Estate I find more than tripled in Value since the Revolution"; and similar
statements are to be found in other letters of his at this time.

At this period of his life, a considerable amount of his attention was
given to the improvement of his property. On Apr. 22, 1787, in a letter to
Ferdinand Grand, he said, "The three Houses which I began to build last
year, are nearly finished, and I am now about to begin two others. Building
is an Old Man's Amusement. The Advantage is for his Posterity."

When Franklin died, his estate consisted of ten houses in Philadelphia, and
almost as many vacant lots, a pasture lot near Philadelphia, a farm near
Burlington, New Jersey, a house in Boston, the right to the three thousand
acres of land in Georgia, a tract of land on the Ohio, a tract of land in
Nova Scotia, twelve shares of the capital stock of the Bank of North
America and bonds of individuals in excess of eighteen thousand pounds. The
value of his entire estate was supposed to be between two hundred and two
hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

Under his management, the _Gazette_ was probably the best newspaper
produced in Colonial America. In its early history, it appeared first twice
a week, and then weekly, and consisted of but a single sheet, which, when
folded, was about 12 by 18 inches square. Parton is not accurate, as his
own context shows, in stating that Franklin "originated the modern system
of business-advertising." Other newspapers of the time, including
Bradford's _Mercury_, contained advertisements for the recovery of runaway
servants and slaves, and lost or stolen articles, and for the sale of
different kinds of merchandise. When Franklin fled from Boston, his brother
James advertised for another apprentice in the _Courant_. Nor is Parton
accurate, either, in stating that Franklin "invented the plan of
distinguishing advertisements by means of little pictures, which he cut
with his own hands." There were such cuts in Bradford's _Mercury_ even
before the _Gazette_ was founded. The _Gazette_ won a position of its own
because its proprietor and editor brought to its issues that knowledge of
human life and human nature and that combination of practical sagacity,
humor and literary skill which he carried into everything. The latest
advices of the day, foreign and domestic, which were tardy enough, extracts
from the _Spectator_ and other moral writers of the age, verses from
contemporary poets, cuttings from the English newspapers, broad, obscene
jokes, as unconscious of offence as the self-exposure of a child or an
animal, all assembled with the instinctive eye to unity of effect, which is
the most consummate achievement of journalistic art, made up the usual
contents of the _Gazette_. Now, along with news items of local and outside
interest, we have a humorous account of a lottery in England, by which, for
the better increase of the King's subjects, all the old maids are to be
raffled for; now some truculent flings at the Catholics, the _caput
lupinum_ of that age; now a hint to a delinquent subscriber that it was
considerably in his power to contribute towards the happiness of his most
humble obliged servant; now an exasperating intimation that the _Mercury_
has been depredating upon the columns of its rival; now some little essay
or dialogue from the pen of Franklin himself, good enough to be classed as
literature. The open, kindly, yet shrewd, face, with the crow's-feet,
furrowed by the incessant play of humor about the corners of its eyes,
looks out at us from every page.

The editor of the _Gazette_ sustains to his readers a relation as personal
as that sustained by Poor Richard to his. He goes off to New Jersey to
print some paper currency for that Colony, and he inserts this paragraph in
the _Gazette_: "The Printer hopes the irregular Publication of this Paper
will be excused a few times by his Town Readers, on consideration of his
being at Burlington with the press, labouring for the publick Good, to make
Money more plentiful." The statement that a flash of lightning in Bucks
County had melted the pewter buttons off the waistband of a farmer's
breeches elicits the observation, "Tis well nothing else thereabouts was
made of pewter." When contributions by others failed him, he even wrote
letters to himself under feigned names. "Printerum est errare," we are
told, and then, under this announcement, Franklin, in another name,
addresses the following facetious letter to himself:

     Sir, As your last Paper was reading in some Company
     where I was present, these Words were taken Notice of
     in the Article concerning Governor Belcher (After which
     his Excellency, with the Gentlemen trading to New
     England, died elegantly at Pontack's). The Word died
     should doubtless have been dined, Pontack's being a
     noted Tavern and Eating house in London for Gentlemen
     of Condition; but this Omission of the Letter (n) in
     that Word, gave us as much Entertainment as any Part of
     your Paper. One took the Opportunity of telling us,
     that in a certain Edition of the Bible, the Printer
     had, where David says I am fearfully and wonderfully
     made, omitted the Letter (e) in the last Word, so that
     it was, I am fearfully and wonderfully mad; which
     occasion'd an ignorant Preacher, who took that Text, to
     harangue his Audience for half an hour on the Subject
     of Spiritual Madness. Another related to us, that when
     the Company of Stationers in England had the Printing
     of the Bible in their Hands, the Word (not) was left
     out of the Seventh Commandment, and the whole Edition
     was printed off with Thou shalt commit Adultery,
     instead of Thou shalt not, &c. This material Erratum
     induc'd the Crown to take the Patent from them which is
     now held by the King's Printer. The Spectator's Remark
     upon this Story is, that he doubts many of our modern
     Gentlemen have this faulty edition by 'em, and are not
     made sensible of the Mistake. A Third Person in the
     Company acquainted us with an unlucky Fault that went
     through a whole Impression of Common-Prayer Books; in
     the Funeral Service, where these Words are, We shall
     all be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an Eye,
     &c., the Printer had omitted the (c) in changed, and it
     read thus, We shall all be hanged, &c. And lastly, a
     Mistake of your Brother News-Printer was mentioned, in
     The Speech of James Prouse written the Night before he
     was to have been executed, instead of I die a
     Protestant, he has put it, I died a Protestant. Upon
     the whole you came off with the more favourable
     Censure, because your Paper is most commonly very
     correct, and yet you were never known to triumph upon
     it, by publickly ridiculing and exposing the continual
     Blunders of your Contemporary Which Observation was
     concluded by a good old Gentleman in Company, with this
     general just Remark, That whoever accustoms himself to
     pass over in Silence the Faults of his Neighbours,
     shall meet with much better Quarter from the World when
     he happens to fall into a Mistake himself; for the
     Satyrical and Censorious, whose Hand is against every
     Man, shall upon such Occasions have every Man's Hand
     against him.

This is an accusation of plagiarism made by Franklin against Bradford:

     When Mr. Bradford publishes after us [he declared], and
     has Occasion to take an Article or two out of the
     _Gazette_, which he is always welcome to do, he is
     desired not to date his Paper a Day before ours, (as
     last Week in the Case of the Letter containing Kelsey's
     Speech, &c) lest distant Readers should imagine we take
     from him, which we always carefully avoid.

Bradford hit back as best he could. On one occasion he charged that the
contract for printing paper money for the Province of New Jersey had been
awarded to Franklin at a higher bid than that of another bidder. "Its no
matter," he said, "its the Country's Money, and if the Publick cannot
afford to pay well, who can? Its proper to serve a Friend when there is an

One of Franklin's favorite devices for filling up gaps in the _Gazette_ was
to have himself, in the guise of a correspondent, ask himself questions,
and then answer them. "I am about courting a girl I have had but little
acquaintance with; how shall I come to a knowledge of her faults, and
whether she has the virtues I imagine she has," is one such supposititious
question. "Commend her among her female acquaintance," is the ready-made
answer. Another imaginary question was of this tenor: "Mr. Franklin: Pray
let the prettiest Creature in this Place know (by publishing this), that if
it was not for her Affectation she would be absolutely irresistible." Next
week a flood of replies gushed out of the editor's pigeon-holes. One ran

"I cannot conceive who your Correspondent means by 'the prettiest creature'
in this Place; but I can assure either him or her, that she who is truly
so, has no Affectation at all."

And another ran thus:

"Sir, Since your last Week's Paper I have look'd in my Glass a thousand
Times, I believe, in one way; and if it was not for the Charge of
Affectation I might, without Partiality believe myself the Person meant."

At times we cannot but suspect that Franklin has deliberately created a
sensation for the purpose of quickening the sale of the _Gazette_. For
instance, a peruke maker in Second Street advertises that he will "leave
off the shaving business after the 22nd of August next." Commenting on this
advertisement, Franklin observes that barbers are peculiarly fitted for
politics, for they are adept shavers and trimmers; and, when the angry
peruke maker calls him to task for his levity, he replies that he cherishes
no animosity at all towards him, and can only impute his feelings to a
"Want of taste and relish for pieces of that force and beauty which none
but a University bred gentleman can produce."

On another occasion, when advertising the sailing of a ship, he added this
N. B. of his own: "No Sea Hens, nor Black Gowns will be admitted on any
terms." To such a degree were some of the clergy incensed by it that they
withdrew their subscriptions; but it is not unlikely that in a day or so
twice their number in scoffers were added to the subscription list of the
young printer. At times the fooling is bald buffoonery.

     On Thursday last [he informed his readers] a certain
     P--r ('tis not customary to give names at length on
     these occasions) walking carefully in clean clothes
     over some barrels of tar on Carpenter's Wharf, the head
     of one of them unluckily gave way, and let a leg of him
     in above the knee. Whether he was upon the Catch at
     that time, we can not say, but 'tis certain he caught a
     _Tar-tar_, 'Twas observed he sprang out again right
     briskly, verifying the common saying, as nimble as a
     Bee in a Tar barrel. You must know there are several
     sorts of bees: 'tis true he was no honey bee, nor yet a
     humble bee: but a _Boo-bee_ he may be allowed to be,
     namely B. F.

Franklin was a publisher of books as well as a newspaper proprietor. Most
of the books and pamphlets published by him were of a theological or
religious nature, in other words books which, aside from the pecuniary
profit of printing them, he was very much disposed to regard as no books at
all. Others were of a description to serve the practical wants of a society
yet simple in its structure, such as _The Gentlemen's Pocket Farrier_ and
_Every Man his Own Doctor, or the Poor Planter's Physician_. But some were
of real note such as two little volumes of native American poetry, Colden's
_Essay on the Iliac Passion_, which is said to have been the first American
medical treatise, Cadwallader's _Essay on the West India Dry Gripes_, and
James Logan's translation of Cato's _Moral Distichs_, which Franklin
regarded as his _chef d'oeuvre_, and which is said to have been the first
book in the Latin tongue to have been both translated and printed in
America. Worthy of mention also are various publications on the subject of
slavery, precursors of the endless succession a little later on of
anti-slavery tracts, books and speeches, which anon became a mountain. The
mercantile business, of which Franklin's stationery shop was the nucleus,
was of a highly miscellaneous character. In addition to books and pamphlets
printed by himself, he imported and sold many others including chapmen's
books and ballads.

     At the time I establish'd myself in Pennsylvania [he
     tells us in the _Autobiography_], there was not a good
     bookseller's shop in any of the Colonies to the
     southward of Boston. In New York and Philad'a the
     printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper,
     etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books.
     Those who lov'd reading were oblig'd to send for their
     books from England.

The spirit in which he imported the pamphlets sold by him is indicated in
one of his letters to Strahan. "Let me have everything, good or bad, that
makes a Noise and has a Run," he says. His stock of merchandise included
everything usually sold at a stationer's shop such as good writing paper,
choice writing parchment, cyphering slates and pencils, Holman's ink
powders, ivory pocket books, pounce and pounce boxes, sealing wax, wafers,
pencils, fountain pens, choice English quills, brass inkhorns, and sand
glasses. There were besides "fine mezzotints, a great variety of maps,
cheap pictures engraved on copper plate of all sorts of birds, beasts,
fishes, fruits, flowers etc., useful to such as would learn to draw." Along
with these things, and choice consignments of the Franklin Crown Soap, were
vended articles almost as varied as the contents of a junkshop, such as
the following:

     very good sack at 6s per gallon, glaz'd fulling papers
     and bonnet-papers, very good lamp-black, very good
     chocolate, linseed oil, very good coffee, compasses and
     scales, Seneca rattlesnake root, with directions how to
     use it in the pleurisy &c, dividers and protractors, a
     very good second hand two-wheel chaise, a very neat,
     new fashion'd vehicle, or four wheel'd chaise, very
     convenient to carry weak or other sick persons, old or
     young, good Rhode Island cheese and codfish, quadrants,
     forestaffs, nocturnals, mariner's compasses, season'd
     murchantable boards, coarse and fine edgings, fine
     broad scarlet cloth, fine broad black cloth, fine white
     thread hose and English sale duck, very good iron
     stoves, a large horse fit for a chair or saddle, the
     true and genuine Godfrey's cordial, choice bohea tea,
     very good English saffron, New York Lottery tickets,
     choice makrel, to be sold by the barrel, a large copper
     still, very good spermacety, fine palm oyl, very good
     Temple spectacles and a new fishing net.

Another commodity in which Franklin dealt was the unexpired time of
indentured or bond servants, who had sold their services for a series of
years in return for transportation to America. This traffic is illustrated
in such advertisements in the _Gazette_ as these: "To be sold. A likely
servant woman, having three years and a half to serve. She is a good
spinner"; "To be sold. A likely servant lad about 15 years of age, and has
6 years to serve." And alas! the humanitarian, who strove so earnestly,
during the closing years of his life, when he was famous and rich, and the
President of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the Abolition of
Slavery, to bring home the horrors of slavery to the Southern conscience,
was himself what involved until the end utter social disrepute in the
slaveholding South, that is to say, a negro-trader. "Some of these slaves,"
Paul Leicester Ford tells us in _The_ _Many Sided Franklin_, "he procured
from New England where, as population grew in density, the need for them
passed, leading to their sale in the colonies to the southward." The
business was certainly a repulsive one, even when conducted by such a lover
of the human species as Franklin. How far this is true the reader can judge
for himself when he reads the following advertisements, which are but two
of the many of the same kind that appeared in the _Gazette_:

     To be sold a likely negro woman, with a man-child, fit
     for town or country business. Enquire of the printer

     To be sold. A prime able young negro man, fit for
     laborious work, in town or country, that has had the
     small pox: As also a middle aged negro man, that has
     likewise had the small pox. Enquire of the printer
     hereof: Or otherwise they will be expos'd to sale by
     publick vendue, on Saturday the 11th of April next, at
     12 o'clock, at the Indian-king, in Market Street.

While Franklin was printing pamphlets against slavery and selling negroes,
and Deborah was stitching pamphlets and vending old rags, Mrs. Read, the
mother of Deborah, was engaged in compounding and vending an ointment
suited to conditions still graver than those for which the Franklin Crown
Soap was intended. We can hardly doubt that this advertisement, which was
published in the _Gazette_, was penned by the same hand which wrote the

     The Widow Read, removed from the upper End of High
     Street to the _New Printing Office_ near the Market,
     continues to make and sell her well-known Ointment for
     the ITCH, with which she has cured abundance of People
     in and about this City for many Years past. It is
     always effectual for that purpose, and never fails to
     perform the Cure speedily. It also kills or drives away
     all Sorts of Lice in once or twice using. It has no
     offensive Smell, but rather a pleasant one; and may be
     used without the least Apprehension of Danger, even to
     a sucking Infant, being perfectly innocent and safe.
     Price 2s. a Galleypot containing an Ounce; which is
     sufficient to remove the most inveterate Itch, and
     render the Skin clear and smooth.

The same advertisement informed the public that the Widow Read also
continued to make and sell her excellent _Family Salve_ or Ointment, for
Burns or Scalds, (Price 1s. an Ounce) and several other Sorts of Ointments
and Salves as usual.

From this review of the business career of Franklin, it will be seen that
the stairway, by which he climbed to pecuniary independence and his wider
fame, though not long, was, in its earlier gradations, hewn step by step
from the rock. From the printing office of Keimer to Versailles and the
_salon_ of Madame Helvétius was no primrose path. As long as the human
struggle in its thousand forms, for subsistence and preferment, goes on, as
long as from year to year youth continues to be rudely pushed over the edge
of the nest, with no reliance except its own strength of wing, it is safe
to say that the first chapters of the _Autobiography_ will remain a
powerful incentive to human hope and ambition.


[6] In 1723 the town of New York had a population of seven or eight
thousand persons.

[7] In his edition of Franklin's works, vol. x., p. 154, Smyth says of him,
when he was in London in his youth, "His nights were spent in cynical
criticism of religion or in the company of dissolute women." It is likely
enough that the religious skepticism of Franklin at this time found
expression in his conversation as well as in his _Dissertation on Liberty
and Necessity_, though there is no evidence to justify the extreme
statement that his nights _were spent_ in irreligious talk. His days, we do
know, were partly spent in listening to London preachers. He may have had
good reason, too, to utter a _peccavi_ in other sexual relations than those
that he so disastrously attempted to sustain to Ralph's mistress; but of
this there is no evidence whatever.

[8] The ineffaceable impression of gratitude left upon the mind of Franklin
by the timely assistance of these two dear friends was again expressed in
the Codicil to his Will executed in 1789. In it he speaks of himself as
"assisted to set up" his business in Philadelphia by kind loans of money
from two friends there, which was the foundation, he said, of his fortune
and of all the utility in life that might be ascribed to him.

[9] The interest of Franklin in the Art of Printing did not end with his
retirement from his vocation as a printer. When he arrived in England in
1757, he is said to have visited the composing-room at Watts' printing
establishment, where he was employed many years before, and to have
celebrated the occasion by giving to the composing force there a
_bienvenu_, or fee for drink, and proposing as a toast "Success to
Printing." The type of Baskerville, the "charming Editions" of Didot _le
Jeune_, the even finer _Sallust_, and _Don Quixote_ of Madrid, and the
method of cementing letters, conceived by John Walter, the founder of the
_London Times_, all came in for his appreciative attention. It is said that
the process of stereotyping was first communicated to Didot by him. When he
visited the establishment of the latter, in 1780, he turned to one of his
presses, and printed off several sheets with an ease which excited the
astonishment of the printers about him. Until the close of his life he had
a keen eye for a truly black ink and superfine printing paper and all the
other niceties of his former calling. The only trace of eccentricity in his
life is to be found in his methods of punctuation, which are marked by a
sad lack of uniformity in the use of commas, semicolons and colons, and by
the lavish employment of the devices to denote emphasis which someone has
happily termed "typographical yells."


Franklin as a Statesman

The career of Franklin as a public official began in 1736, when he was
appointed Clerk of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania. In this position,
he remained until his retirement from business precipitated so many
political demands upon him that he had to give it up for still higher

     The publick [he says in the _Autobiography_] 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

His legislative seat was all the more agreeable to him because he had grown
tired as clerk of listening to debates in which he could take no part, and
which were frequently so lifeless that for very weariness he had to amuse
himself with drawing magic squares or circles, or what not, as he sat at
his desk. The office of justice of the peace he withdrew from by degrees,
when he found that, to fill it with credit, more knowledge of the common
law was requisite than he possessed, and, in this connection, the belief
maybe hazarded that his influence in Congress and the Federal Convention of
1787 would have been still greater, if he had been a better lawyer, and,
therefore, more competent to cope in debate with contemporaries fitter than
he was to discuss questions which, true to the time-honored Anglo-Saxon
traditions, turned largely upon the provisions of charters and statutes.
That he was lacking in fluency of speech we have, as we have seen, his own
admission--a species of evidence, however, by no means conclusive in the
case of a man so little given to self-praise as he was. But there is
testimony to convince us that, as a debater, Franklin was, at least, not
deficient in the best characteristic of a good debater, that of placing the
accent upon the truly vital points of his case.

     I served [declares Jefferson] with General Washington
     in the legislature of Virginia, before the revolution,
     and, during it, with Dr. Franklin in Congress. I never
     heard either of them speak ten minutes at a time, nor
     to any but the main point, which was to decide the
     question. They laid their shoulders to the great
     points, knowing that the little ones would follow of

What John Adams has to say about Franklin as a legislator is manifestly the
offspring of mere self-love. After taking a view of his own legislative
activity through the highly magnifying lens, which he brought to bear upon
everything relating to himself, he pictures Franklin in Congress as "from
day to day, sitting in silence, a great part of his time fast asleep in his

But whatever were the demerits of Franklin as a speaker, his influence was
very great in every legislative assembly in which he ever sat. To begin
with, he had the kind of eloquence that gives point to his own saying,
"Whose life lightens, his words thunder." Commenting in the latter part of
his career to Lord Fitzmaurice upon the stress laid by Demosthenes upon
action as the point of first importance in oratory, he said that he

     thought another kind of action of more importance to an
     orator, who would persuade people to follow his advice,
     viz. such a course of action in the conduct of life, as
     would impress them with an opinion of his integrity as
     well as of his understanding; that, this opinion once
     established, all the difficulties, delays, and
     oppositions, usually occasioned by doubts and
     suspicions, were prevented; and such a man, though a
     very imperfect speaker, would almost always carry his
     points against the most flourishing orator, who had not
     the character of sincerity.

In the next place, Franklin's rare knowledge and wisdom made him an
invaluable counsellor for any deliberative gathering. He was the
protagonist in the Pennsylvania Assembly of the Popular Party, in its
contest with the Proprietary Party, and was for a brief time its Speaker.
As soon as he returned from Europe, at the beginning of the Revolution, he
was thrice honored by being elected to the Continental Congress, the
Pennsylvania Assembly, and the Convention to frame a constitution for
Pennsylvania. Besides appointing him Postmaster-General, Congress placed
him upon many of its most important committees; the Assembly made him
Chairman of its Committee of Safety, a post equivalent, for all practical
purposes, to the executive headship of the Province; and the Convention
made him its President. It is safe to say that, had there not been a
Washington, even his extreme old age and physical infirmities would not
have kept him from being the presiding officer of the Federal Convention of
1787 and the first President of the United States. The intellect of
Franklin was too solid to be easily imposed upon by mere glibness of
speech. "Here comes the orator, with his flood of words and his drop of
reason," remarks Poor Richard. Equally pointed is that other saying of his,
"The worst wheel of the cart makes the most noise." But Franklin was fully
alive to the splendid significance of human eloquence, when enlisted in the
service of high-minded and far-seeing statesmanship. Speaking in a letter
to Lord Stanhope of Lord Chatham's speech in support of his motion for the
removal of the King's troops from Boston, he said, "Dr. F. is fill'd with
admiration of that truly great Man. He has seen, in the course of Life,
sometimes Eloquence without Wisdom, and often Wisdom without Eloquence; in
the present Instance he sees both united; and both, as he thinks, in the
highest Degree possible."

When Franklin took his seat in the Assembly, William Franklin was elected
its clerk in his place; for heredity as well as consanguinity was a feature
of the Franklin system of patronage. Once elected to the Assembly, he
acquired a degree of popularity and influence that rendered his re-election
for many years almost a matter of course. "My election to this trust," he
says in the _Autobiography_, "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." So eager were his
constituents to confer the honor upon him that they kept on conferring it
upon him year after year, even when he was abroad.[11] He proved himself
eminently worthy of this confidence. By nature and training, he was a true
democrat, profoundly conservative at the core, but keenly sensitive to
every rational and wholesome appeal to his liberal or generous instincts.
He loved law and order, stable institutions, and settled forms and
tendencies, rooted in the soil of transmitted wisdom and experience. He was
too much of an Englishman to have any sympathy with hasty changes or rash
innovations. Much as he loved France he could never have been drawn into
such a delirious outburst as the French Revolution. He loved liberty as
Hampden loved it, as Chatham loved it, as Gladstone loved it. John Wilkes,
though in some respects an ignoble, was in other respects an indubitable
champion of English freedom; yet Franklin utterly failed to see in him even
a case for the application of his reminder to his daughter that sweet and
clear waters come through very dirty earth. His happy nature and his faith
in individual thrift sometimes made him slow to believe that masses of men
had as much cause for political discontent as they claimed, and for such
mob violence, as attended the career of Wilkes, of whom he speaks in one of
his letters to his son as "an outlaw and an exile, of bad personal
character, not worth a farthing," it was impossible for his deep-seated
respect for law and order to have any toleration; though he did express on
one occasion the remarkable conviction that, if George the Third had had a
bad private character, and John Wilkes a good one, the latter might have
turned the former out of his kingdom.

It is certain, however, that few men have ever detested more strongly than
he did the baseness and meanness of arbitrary power. And he had little
patience at the same time with conditions of any sort that rested upon mere
precedent, or prescription. He welcomed every new triumph of science over
inert matter, every fresh victory of truth over superstition, bigotry, or
the unseeing eye, every salutary reform that vindicated the fitness of the
human race for its destiny of unceasing self-advancement. His underlying
instincts were firmly fixed in the ground, but his sympathies reached out
on every side into the free air of expanding human hopes and aspirations.
In his faith in the residuary wisdom and virtue of the mass of men, he is
more like Jefferson than any of his Revolutionary compeers. "The People
seldom continue long in the wrong, when it is nobody's Interest to mislead
them," he wrote to Abel James. The tribute, it must be confessed, is a
rather equivocal one, as it is always somebody's interest to mislead the
People, but the sanguine spirit of the observation pervades all his
relations to popular caprice or resentment. Less equivocal was his
statement to Galloway: "The People do not indeed always see their Friends
in the same favourable Light; they are sometimes mistaken, and sometimes
misled; but sooner or later they come right again, and redouble their
former Affection." Few were the public men of his age who looked otherwise
than askance at universal suffrage, but he was not one of them.

     Liberty, or freedom [he declared in his _Some Good Whig
     Principles_], consists in having _an actual share_ in
     the appointment of those who frame the laws, and who
     are to be the guardians of every man's life, property,
     and peace; for the _all_ of one man is as dear to him
     as the _all_ of another; and the poor man has an
     _equal_ right, but _more_ need, to have representatives
     in the legislature than the rich one.

For similar reasons he was opposed to entails, and favored the application
of the just and equal law of gavelkind to the division of intestate

It was impossible for such a man as this not to ally himself with the
popular cause, when he became a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly. At
that time, the Proprietary Government of Pennsylvania had proved as odious
to the people of the Province as the proprietary governments of South
Carolina and the Jerseys had proved to the people of those Colonies. Almost
from the time of the original settlement, the relations between the
Assembly and the Penns had been attended by mutual bickerings and
reproaches. First William Penn had scolded the Assembly in a high key, then
his sons; and, in resolution after resolution, the Assembly had, in true
British fashion, stubbornly asserted the liberties and privileges of their
constituents, and given the Proprietary Government, under thinly veiled
forms of parliamentary deference, a Roland for its every Oliver. The truth
was that a Proprietary Government, uniting as it did governmental
functions, dependent for their successful exercise upon the popular faith
in the disinterestedness of those who exercised them, with the selfish
concerns of a landlord incessantly at loggerheads with his vendees and
tenants over purchase money and quitrents, was utterly incompatible with
the dignity of real political rule,[12] and hopelessly repugnant to the
free English spirit of the Pennsylvanians. Under such circumstances, there
could be no such thing as a true commonwealth; nor anything much better
than a feudal fief. Political sovereignty lost its aspect of detachment and
legitimate authority in the eyes of the governed, and wore the appearance
of a mere organization for the transaction of private business. Almost as a
matter of course, the Proprietaries came to think and speak of the Province
as if it were as much their personal property as one of their household
chattels, refusing, as Franklin said, to give their assent to laws, unless
some private advantage was obtained, some profit got or unequal exemption
gained for their estate, or some privilege wrested from the people; and
almost, as a matter of course, the disaffected people of the Province
sullenly resented a situation so galling to their pride and self-respect.
Franklin saw all this with his usual clearness. After conceding in his
_Cool Thoughts_ that it was not unlikely that there were faults on both
sides, "every glowing Coal being apt to inflame its Opposite," he expressed
the opinion that the cause of the contentions was

     radical, interwoven in the Constitution, and so become
     of the very Nature, of Proprietary Governments. And [he
     added] as some Physicians say, every Animal Body brings
     into the World among its original Stamina the Seeds of
     that Disease that shall finally produce its
     Dissolution; so the Political Body of a Proprietary
     Government, contains those convulsive Principles that
     will at length destroy it.

The Proprietary Government of Pennsylvania was bad enough in principle; it
was made still worse by the unjust and greedy manner in which it was
administered by Thomas and Richard Penn, who were the Proprietaries, when
Franklin became a member of the Assembly. The vast estate of William Penn
in Pennsylvania, consisting of some twenty-six million acres of land, held
subject to the nominal obligation of the owner to pay to the King one fifth
of such gold and silver as the Province might yield, descended upon the
death of Penn to his sons John, Thomas and Richard, in the proportion of
one half to John, as the eldest son, and in the proportion of one fourth
each to Thomas and Richard. John died in 1746, after devising his one half
share to Thomas; thus making Thomas the owner of three out of the four
shares.[13] The political powers of the Proprietaries were exercised by a
deputy-governor whose position was in the highest degree vexatious and
perplexing. He held his office by appointment of the Proprietaries, who
resided in England, and the mode in which he was to discharge his duties
was prescribed by rigid "instructions," issued to him by them. His salary,
however, was derived from the Assembly, which was rarely at peace with the
Proprietary Government. If he obeyed his instructions, he ran the risk of
losing his salary; if he disobeyed them, he was certain to lose his place.
Incredible as it may now seem, the main duty imposed upon him by his
instructions was that of vetoing every tax bill enacted by the Assembly
which did not expressly exempt all the located, unimproved and unoccupied
lands of the Proprietaries, and all the quitrents, fines and purchase money
out at interest, to which they were entitled, that is to say, the greater
part of their immense estate. This was the axis about which the bitter
controversy between the Popular and Proprietary parties, in which Franklin
acquired his political training and reputation, revolved like one of the
lurid waterspouts with which a letter that his correspondent John Perkins
received from him has been illustrated. The Assembly insisted that they
should not be required to vote money for the support of the Proprietary
Government, unless the proprietary estate bore its proper share of the
common burden. The Governor did not dare to violate his instructions for
fear of being removed by his masters, and of being sued besides on the bond
by which he had bound himself not to violate them. At times, the feud was
so intense and absorbing, that, like a pair of gamecocks, too intent on
their own deadly encounter to hear an approaching footstep, the combatants
almost lost sight of the fact that, under the shelter of their dissensions,
the Indian was converting the frontiers of Pennsylvania into a charred and
blood-stained wilderness. Occasionally the Assembly had to yield the point
with a reservation asserting that its action was not to be taken as a
precedent, and once, when England as well as America was feeling the shock
of Braddock's defeat, the pressure of public opinion in England was
sufficient to coerce the Proprietaries into adding five thousand pounds to
the sum appropriated by the Assembly for the defence of the Province. But,
as a general thing, there was little disposition on either side to
compromise. The sharpness of the issue was well illustrated in the bill
tendered by the Assembly to Governor Morris for his signature after
Braddock's defeat. Both before, and immediately after that catastrophe, he
had, in reliance upon the critical condition of the public safety,
endeavored to drive the Assembly into providing for the defence of the
Province without calling upon the proprietary estate for a contribution.
The bill in question declared "that all estates, real and personal, were to
be taxed, those of the proprietaries _not_ excepted." "His amendment," says
Franklin in his brief way, "was, for _not_ read _only_; a small, but very
material alteration."[14]

This dependence of the Governor upon the Assembly for his salary and the
dependence of the Assembly upon the Governor for the approval of its
enactments brought about a traffic in legislation between them which was
one of the most disgraceful features of the Proprietary régime; though it
became so customary that even the most honorable Governor did not scruple
to engage in it. This traffic is thus described by Franklin in his stirring
"Preface to the Speech of Joseph Galloway, Esq.":

     Ever since the Revenue of the Quit-rents first, and
     after that the Revenue of Tavern-Licenses, were settled
     irrevocably on our Proprietaries and Governors, they
     have look'd on those Incomes as their proper Estate,
     for which they were under no Obligations to the People:
     And when they afterwards concurr'd in passing any
     useful Laws, they considered them as so many Jobbs, for
     which they ought to be particularly paid. Hence arose
     the Custom of Presents twice a Year to the Governors,
     at the close of each Session in which Laws were past,
     given at the Time of Passing. They usually amounted to
     a Thousand Pounds per Annum. But when the Governors and
     Assemblies disagreed, so that Laws were not pass'd, the
     Presents were withheld. When a Disposition to agree
     ensu'd, there sometimes still remain'd some Diffidence.
     The Governors would not pass the Laws that were wanted,
     without being sure of the Money, even all that they
     call'd their Arrears; nor the Assemblies give the Money
     without being sure of the Laws. Thence the Necessity of
     some private Conference, in which mutual Assurances of
     good Faith might be receiv'd and given, that the
     Transactions should go hand in hand.

This system of barter prevailed even before Franklin became a member of the
Assembly, and how fixed and ceremonious its forms sometimes were we can
infer from what happened on one of the semi-annual market days during
Governor Thomas' administration. Various bills were lying dormant in his
hands. Accordingly the House ordered two of its members to call upon him
and acquaint him that it had long "waited for his Result" on these bills,
and desired to know when they might expect it. They returned and reported
that the Governor was pleased to say that he had had the bills long under
consideration, and "_waited the Result_" of the House. Then, after the
House had resolved itself into a committee of the whole, for the purpose of
taking the "Governor's support" into consideration, there was a further
interchange of communications between the House and the Governor; the
former reporting "some progress" to the Governor, and the Governor replying
that, as he had received assurances of a "_good disposition_," on the part
of the House, he thought it incumbent upon him to show _the like_ on his
part by sending down the bills, which lay before him, without any
amendment. The manifestation of a good disposition was not the same thing
as an actual promise to approve the bills; so the wary assembly simply
resolved that, on the passage of such bills as then lay before the
Governor, and of the Naturalization Bill, and such other bills as might be
presented to him during the pending session, there should be paid to him
the sum of five hundred pounds; and that, on the passage of the same bills,
there should be paid to him the further sum of one thousand pounds for the
current year's support. Agreeably with this resolution, orders were drawn
on the Treasurer and Trustees of the Loan-Office, and, when the Governor
was informed of the fact, he appointed a time for passing the bills which
was done with one hand, while he received the orders in the other.
Thereupon with the utmost politeness he thanked the House for the fifteen
hundred pounds as if it had been a free gift, and a mere mark of respect
and affection. "_I thank you_, Gentlemen," he said, "for this _Instance_ of
_your Regard_; which I am the more pleased with, as it gives an agreeable
Prospect of _future Harmony_ between me and the Representatives of the

Despicably enough, while this treaty was pending, the Penns had a written
understanding with the Governor, secured by his bond, that they were to
receive a share of all money thus obtained from the people whom they sought
to load with the entire weight of taxation. Indeed, emboldened as Franklin
said by the declining sense of shame, that always follows frequent
repetitions of sinning, they later in Governor Denny's time had the
effrontery to claim openly, in a written reply to a communication from the
Assembly, with respect to their refusal to bear any part of the expenses
entailed on the Province by the Indians, that the excess of these donatives
over and above the salary of the Governor should belong to them. By the
Constitution, they said, their consent was essential to the validity of the
laws enacted by the People, and it would tend the better to facilitate the
several matters, which had to be transacted with them, for the
representatives of the People to show a regard to them and their interest.
The Assembly hotly replied that they hoped that they would always be able
to obtain needful laws from the goodness of their sovereign without going
to the market for them to a subject. But the hope was a vain one, and to
that market, directly or indirectly, the People of Pennsylvania still had
to go, for some time to come. To use Franklin's language, there was no
other market that they could go to for the commodity that they wanted.

     Do not, my courteous Reader [he exclaims with fine
     scorn in the "Preface to the Speech of Joseph Galloway,
     Esq."] take Pet at our Proprietary Constitution, for
     these our Bargain and Sale Proceedings in Legislation.
     'Tis a happy Country where Justice, and what was your
     own before, can be had for Ready Money. 'Tis another
     Addition to the Value of Money, and of Course another
     Spur to Industry. Every Land is not so bless'd. There
     are Countries where the princely Proprietor claims to
     be Lord of all Property; where what is your own shall
     not only be wrested from you, but the Money you give to
     have it restor'd, shall be kept with it, and your
     offering so much, being a Sign of your being too Rich,
     you shall be plunder'd of every Thing that remain'd.
     These Times are not come here yet: Your present
     Proprietors have never been more unreasonable hitherto,
     than barely to insist on your Fighting in Defence of
     their Property, and paying the Expences yourselves; or
     if their estates must, (ah! _must_) be tax'd towards
     it, that the _best_ of their Lands shall be tax'd no
     higher than the _worst_ of yours.

Governor Hamilton, who succeeded Governor Thomas, so far departed from the
vicious practice of buying and selling laws as to sign them without
prepayment, but, when he observed that the Assembly was tardy in making
payment, and yet asked him to give his assent to additional laws, before
prior ones had been paid for, he stated his belief to it that as many
useful laws had been enacted by him as by any of his predecessors in the
same space of time, and added that, nevertheless, he had not understood
that any allowance had been made to him for his support, as had been
customary in the Province. The hint proved effective, the money was paid
and the bills were approved.

From the time that Franklin became a member of the Assembly until the time
that the minor controversy between the Proprietary Party and the Popular
Party in Pennsylvania was obscured by the larger controversy between the
Crown and all the American Colonies, he was engaged in an almost
uninterrupted struggle with the Proprietaries, first, for the annulment of
their claim to exemption from taxation, and, secondly, for the displacement
of their government by a Royal Government. If there was ever an interlude
in this struggle, it was only because, in devising measures for the defence
of the Province, a Proprietary Governor found it necessary, at some trying
conjuncture, to rely upon the management of Franklin to quiet the Quakers,
who constituted a majority of the Assembly and detested both war and the
Proprietaries, or upon the general abilities and popularity of Franklin to
strengthen his own feeble counsels. If there was any political tranquillity
in the Province during this time, it was, to employ one of Franklin's own
comparisons, only such tranquillity as exists in a naval engagement between
two broadsides. On the one hand were ranged the official partisans and
dependents of the Proprietary Government and other adherents of the kind,
whose allegiance is likely to be won by the social prestige and political
patronage of executive authority. To this faction, in the latter stages of
the conflict, was added a large body of Presbyterians whose sectarian
sympathies had been excited by the Scotch-Irish uprising against the
Indians, of which we have previously spoken. On the other hand were ranged
the Quakers, upon whom the burden of resisting the Proprietary
encroachments upon the popular rights had mainly rested from the origin of
the Province, and middle-class elements of the population whose views and
sympathies were not highly colored by any special influences. The task of
preparing resolutions, addresses and remonstrances, voicing the popular
criticism of the Proprietaries, was mainly committed to Franklin by the
Assembly. It was with him, too, as the ablest and most influential
representative of the popular interest that the various Proprietary
Governors usually dealt.

We first find him high in favor with Governor Thomas and his Council at the
time of the Association because of his activity, when still only Clerk of
the Assembly, in providing for the defence of the Province and arousing a
martial spirit in its people. This was the period when the Quaker found it
necessary to help his conscience out a little with his wit, and when
Franklin made good use of the principle that men will countenance many
things with their backs that they will not countenance with their faces.
The Quaker majority in the Assembly did not relish his intimacy at this
time with the members of the Council who had so often trod on their
punctilio about military expenditures, and it might have been pleased, he
conjectured, if he had voluntarily resigned his clerkship; "but," he
declares in the _Autobiography_, "they did not care to displace me on
account merely of my zeal for the association, and they could not well give
another reason."

Governor Hamilton became so sick of the broils, in which he was involved by
the Proprietary instructions, that he resigned. His successor was the
Governor Morris whose father loved disputation so much that he encouraged
his children to practise it when he was digesting his dinner. Franklin met
him at New York when he was on his way to Boston, and Morris was on his way
to Philadelphia to enter upon his duties as Governor. So ready for a war of
words was the new Governor that, when Franklin returned from Boston to
Philadelphia, he and the House had already come to blows, and the conflict
never ceased as long as he remained Governor. In the conflict, Franklin
was his chief antagonist. Whenever a speech or message of the Governor was
to be answered, he was made a member of the Committee appointed to answer
it, and by such committees he was invariably selected to draft the answer.
"Our answers," he says, "as well as his messages, were often tart, and
sometimes indecently abusive." But the Governor was at heart an amiable
man, and Franklin, resolute as he was, when his teeth were fairly set, had
no black blood in his veins. Though one might have imagined, he says, that
he and the Governor could not meet without cutting throats, so little
personal ill-will arose between them that they even often dined together.

     One afternoon [he tells us in the _Autobiography_] in
     the height of this public quarrel, we met in the
     street. "Franklin," says he, "you must go home with me
     and spend the evening; I am to have some company that
     you will like"; and, taking me by the arm, he led me to
     his house. In gay conversation over our wine, after
     supper, he told us, jokingly, that he much admir'd the
     idea of Sancho Panza, who, when it was proposed to give
     him a government, requested it might be a government of
     _blacks_, as then, if he could not agree with his
     people, he might sell them. One of his friends, who sat
     next to me, says, "Franklin, why do you continue to
     side with these damn'd Quakers? Had you not better sell
     them? The Proprietor would give you a good price." "The
     Governor," says I, "has not yet _blacked_ them enough."
     He, indeed, had laboured hard to blacken the Assembly
     in all his messages, but they wip'd off his colouring
     as fast as he laid it on, and plac'd it, in return,
     thick upon his own face; so that, finding he was likely
     to be negrofied himself, he, as well as Mr. Hamilton,
     grew tir'd of the contest, and quitted the Government.

All these disputes originated in the instructions given by the
Proprietaries to their Governors not to approve any tax measure enacted by
the Assembly that did not expressly exempt their estates; conduct which
Franklin justly terms in the _Autobiography_ "incredible meanness."

The ability of Governor Morris to keep on good terms with Franklin in spite
of the perpetual wrangling between the Assembly and himself Franklin
sometimes thought was due to the fact that the Governor was bred a lawyer
and regarded him as simply the advocate of the Assembly and himself as
simply the advocate of the Proprietaries. However this was, he sometimes
called upon Franklin in a friendly way to advise with him on different
points; and occasionally, though not often, Franklin tells us, took his
advice. But when the miserable fugitives, who escaped from the _Aceldama_
on the Monongahela, brought back to the settlements their awful tale of
carnage and horror, and Dunbar and his rout were cravenly seeking the
protection of those whom they should have protected, Governor Morris was
only too glad to consult, and take the advice of, the strongest man on the
American Continent, except the gallant Virginian, young in years, but from
early responsibilities and hardships, as well as native wisdom and
intrepidity, endowed with a calm judgment and tempered courage far beyond
his years, whom Providence almost seemed to have taken under its direct
guardianship for its future purposes on the day that Braddock fell. Later,
when it appeared as if the Indians would carry desolation and death into
the very bowels of Pennsylvania, the Governor was equally glad to place
Franklin in charge of its Northwestern Frontier, and to thrust blank
military commissions into his hands to be filled up by him as he pleased.
And later still, when the desire of the Governor to consult with Franklin
about the proper measures for preventing the desertion of the back counties
of Pennsylvania had brought the latter home from the Northwestern Frontier,
the Governor did not hesitate, in planning an expedition against Fort
Duquesne, to offer Franklin a commission as general. If Franklin had
accepted the offer, we are justified, we think, in assuming that he would
have won at least as high a degree of credit as that which he accorded to
Shirley. "For tho' Shirley," he tells us in the _Autobiography_, "was not a
bred 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." No mean summary of the military
virtues of Franklin himself as a citizen soldier. But Franklin knew the
limitations of his training too well to be allured by such a deceitful
honor. There were few civil tasks to which he was not equal, but, when it
came to being a military commander, he had the good sense to make an
admission like that which Shirley made to him. When a banquet was given to
Lord Loudon by the city of New York, Shirley was present, though the
occasion was due to the fact that the command previously held by him had
just been transferred to Loudon. Franklin noticed that he was sitting in a
very low seat. "They have given you, sir, too low a seat," he said. "No
matter, Mr. Franklin," replied Shirley, "I find _a low seat_ the easiest."
When Governor Morris saw that, disputatious as he was, he was no match in
that respect for the Assembly, he was succeeded by Governor Denny, who
brought over with him from England the gold medal awarded by the Royal
Society to Franklin for his electrical discoveries. This honor as well as
the political experience of his predecessors was calculated to impress upon
the Governor the importance of being on good terms with Franklin. At all
events, when the medal was delivered by him to Franklin at a public dinner
given to himself, after his arrival at Philadelphia, he added to the gift
some very polite expressions of his esteem, and assured Franklin that he
had long known him by reputation. After dinner, he left the diners with
their wine, and took Franklin aside into another room, and told him that he
had been advised by his friends in England to cultivate a friendship with
him as the man who was best able to give him good advice, and to make his
task easy. Much also was said by the Governor about the good disposition of
the Proprietary towards the Province and the advantage that it would be to
everyone and to Franklin particularly if the long opposition to the
Proprietary was abandoned, and harmony between him and the people restored.
No one, said the Governor, could be more serviceable in bringing this about
than Franklin himself, who might depend upon his services being duly
acknowledged and recompensed. "The drinkers," the _Autobiography_ goes on,
"finding we did not return immediately to the table, sent us a decanter of
Madeira, which the Governor made liberal use of, and in proportion became
more profuse of his solicitations and promises."

To these overtures Franklin replied in a proper strain of mingled
independence and good feeling, and concluded by expressing the hope that
the Governor had not brought with him the same unfortunate instructions as
his predecessors. The only answer that the Governor ever gave to this
inquiry was given when he settled down to the duties of his office. It then
became plain enough that he was under exactly the same instructions as his
predecessors; the old ulcer broke out afresh, and Franklin's pen was soon
again prodding Proprietary selfishness. But through it all he contrived to
maintain the same relations of personal amity with Governor Denny that he
had maintained with Governor Morris. "Between us personally," he says, "no
enmity arose; we were often together; he was a man of letters, had seen
much of the world, and was very entertaining and pleasing in conversation."
But the situation, so far as the Province was concerned, was too grievous
to be longer borne without an appeal for relief to the Crown. The Assembly
had enacted a bill, appropriating the sum of sixty thousand pounds for the
King's use, ten thousand pounds of which were to be expended on Lord
Loudon's orders, and the Governor, in compliance with his instructions, had
refused to give it his approval. This brought things to a head, the House
resolved to petition the King to override the instructions and Franklin was
appointed its agent to go over to England and present the petition. His
passage was engaged, his sea-stores were actually all on board, when Lord
Loudon himself came over to Philadelphia for the express purpose of
bringing about an accommodation between the jarring interests. The Governor
and Franklin met him at his request, and opened their minds fully to him;
Franklin revamping all the old popular arguments, so often urged by him,
and the Governor pleading his instructions, the bond that he had given and
the ruin that awaited him if he disregarded it. "Yet," says Franklin,
"seemed not unwilling to hazard himself if Lord Loudon would advise it."
This his Lordship did not choose to do, though Franklin once thought that
he had nearly prevailed on him to do it; and finally he entreated Franklin
to use his influence with the Assembly to induce it to yield, promising, if
it did, to employ unsparingly the King's troops for the defence of the
frontiers of Pennsylvania, but stating that, if it did not, those frontiers
must remain exposed to hostile incursion. The result was that the packet,
in which Franklin engaged passage, sailed off with his sea-stores, while
the parties were palavering, and the Assembly, after entering a formal
protest against the duress, under which it gave way, abandoned its bill,
and enacted another with the hateful exemption in it which was promptly
approved by the Governor.

Franklin was now free to embark upon his voyage, whenever he could find a
ship ready to sail, but, unfortunately for him, all the packets by which he
could sail were at the beck of Lord Loudon, who was the most vacillating of
human beings. When Franklin, before leaving Philadelphia, inquired of him
the precise time at which a packet boat, that he said would be off soon,
would sail, he replied: "I have given out that she is to sail on Saturday
next; but I may let you know, _entre nous_, that if you are there by Monday
morning, you will be in time, but do not delay longer." Because of
detention at a ferry, Franklin did not reach New York before noon on
Monday, but he was relieved, when he arrived, to be told that the packet
would not sail until the next day. This was about the beginning of April.
In point of fact, it was near the end of June when it got off. At the time
of Franklin's arrival in New York, it was one of the two packets, that were
being kept waiting in port for the dispatches, upon which his Lordship
appeared to be always engaged. While thus held up, another packet arrived
only to be placed under the same embargo. Each had a list of impatient
passengers, and many letters and orders for insurance against war risks
from American merchants, but, day after day, his Lordship, entirely
unmindful of the impatience and anxiety that he was creating, sat
continually at his desk, writing his interminable dispatches. Calling one
morning to pay his respects, Franklin found in his ante-chamber Innis, a
Philadelphia messenger, who had brought on a batch of letters to his
Lordship from Governor Denny, and who told Franklin that he was to call the
next day for his Lordship's answer to the Governor, and would then set off
for Philadelphia at once. On the strength of this assurance, Franklin the
same day placed some letters of his own for delivery in that city in Innis'
hands. A fortnight afterwards, he met the messenger in the same
ante-chamber. "So, you are soon return'd, Innis" he said. "_Return'd!_"
replied Innis, "No, I am not _gone_ yet." "How so?" "I have called here by
order every morning these two weeks past for his lordship's letter, and it
is not yet ready." "Is it possible, when he is so great a writer? for I see
him constantly at his escritoire." "Yes," says Innis, "but he is like St.
George on the signs, _always on horseback, and never rides on_." Indeed, so
purely rotatory was all his Lordship's epistolary energy, unremitting as it
seemed to be, that one of the reasons given by William Pitt for
subsequently removing him was that "_the minister never heard from him, and
could not know what he was doing_." Finally, the three packets dropped down
to Sandy Hook to join the British fleet there. Not knowing but that they
might make off any day, their passengers thought it safest to board them
before they dropped down. The consequence was that they found themselves
anchored at Sandy Hook for about six weeks, "as idle as a painted ship upon
a painted ocean," and driven to the necessity of consuming all their
sea-stores and buying more. At length, when the fleet did weigh anchor,
with his Lordship and all his army on board, bound for the reduction of
Louisburg, the three packets were ordered to attend it in readiness to
receive the dispatches which the General was still scribbling upon the
element that was not more mutable than his own purposes. When Franklin had
been five days out, his packet was finally released, and stood off beyond
the reach of his Lordship's indefatigable pen, but the other two packets
were still kept in tow by him all the way to Halifax, where, after
exercising his men for some time in sham attacks on sham forts, he changed
his mind about besieging Louisburg, and returned to New York with all his
troops and the two packets and their passengers. In the meantime, the
French and their savage friends had captured Fort George, and butchered
many of the garrison after its capitulation. The captain of one of the two
packets, that were brought back to New York, afterwards told Franklin in
London that, when he had been detained a month by his Lordship, he
requested his permission to heave his ship down and clear her bottom. He
was asked how long that would require. He answered three days. His Lordship
replied, "If you can do it in one day, I give leave; otherwise not; for
you must certainly sail the day after tomorrow." So he never obtained
leave, though detained afterwards, from day to day, during full three
months. No wonder that an irate passenger, who represented himself as
having suffered considerable pecuniary loss, swore after he finally reached
London in Franklin's presence, that he would sue Lord Loudon for damages.

As Oxenstiern's son was enjoined by his father to do, Franklin had gone out
into the world and seen with what little wisdom it is ruled. "On the
whole," he says in the _Autobiography_, "I wonder'd much how such a man
came to be intrusted with so important a business as the conduct of a great
army; but, having since seen more of the great world, and the means of
obtaining, and motives for giving places, my wonder is diminished."

The _Autobiography_ makes it evident enough that for Loudon Franklin came
to entertain the heartiest contempt.[15] His Lordship's movements in 1757
he stigmatized as frivolous, expensive and disgraceful to the nation beyond
conception. He was responsible, Franklin thought, for the loss of Fort
George, and for the foundering of a large part of the Carolina fleet,
which, for lack of notice from him, remained anchored in the worm-infested
waters of Charleston harbor for three months, after he had raised his
embargo on the exportation of provisions. Nor does Franklin hesitate to
charge that this embargo, while laid on the pretence of cutting off the
enemy from supplies, was in reality laid for the purpose of beating down
the price of provisions in the interest of the contractors, in whose
profits, it was suspected, that Loudon had a share. Not only did his
Lordship decline, on the shallow pretext that he did not wish to mix his
accounts with those of his predecessors, to give Franklin the order that he
had promised him for the payment of the balance, still due him on account
of Braddock's expedition, though liquidated by his own audit, but, when
Franklin urged the fact that he had charged no commission for his services,
as a reason why he should be promptly paid, his Lordship cynically replied,
"O, Sir, you must not think of persuading us that you are no gainer; we
understand better those affairs, and know that everyone concerned in
supplying the army finds means, in the doing it, to fill his own pockets."

Franklin and his son arrived in London on July 27, 1757. Shortly after he
had settled down in his lodgings, he called upon Dr. Fothergill, whose
counsel he had been advised to obtain, and who thought that, before an
application was made to the British Government, there should be an effort
to reach an understanding with the Penns themselves. Then took place the
interview between Franklin and Lord Granville, at which his Lordship, after
some preliminary discourse, expressed this alarming opinion:

     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 those instructions are not like the
     pocket instructions given to a minister going abroad,
     for regulating his conduct in 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

The correctness of this opinion was combated by Franklin. He told his
Lordship that this was new doctrine to him, and that he had always
understood from the American charters that the colonial laws were to be
enacted by the assemblies of the Colonies, and that, once enacted and
assented to by the King, the King could not repeal or alter them, and that,
as the colonial assemblies could not make laws for themselves without his
assent, so he could not make laws for them without their assent. The great
man's reply was as brief as a great man's reply is only too likely to be
when his opinions are questioned by his inferiors. It was merely that
Franklin was totally mistaken. Franklin did not think so, and, concerned
for fear that Lord Granville might be but expressing the sentiment of the
Court, he wrote down what had been said to him as soon as he returned to
his lodgings. The utterance reminded him that some twenty years before a
bill had been introduced into Parliament by the ministry of that time
containing a clause, intended to make the King's instructions laws in the
Colonies, but that the clause had been stricken out of it by the House of
Commons. For this, he said, the Colonies adored the Commons, as their
friends and the friends of liberty, until it afterwards seemed as if they
had refused the point of sovereignty to the King only that they might
reserve it for themselves.

A meeting between the Proprietaries and Franklin was arranged by Doctor
Fothergill. It assumed the form that such meetings are apt to assume, that
is of mutual professions of an earnest desire to agree, repetition of the
old antagonistic reasonings and a disagreement as stubborn as before.
However, it was agreed that Franklin should reduce the complaints against
the Proprietaries to writing, and that the Proprietaries were to consider
them. When the paper was drawn, they submitted it to their solicitor,
Ferdinand John Paris, who had represented them in the celebrated litigation
between the Penns and the Lords Baltimore over the boundary line between
Pennsylvania and Maryland, and had written all their papers and messages
in their disputes with the Pennsylvania Assembly. "He was," says Franklin,
"a proud, angry man, and as I had occasionally in the answers of the
Assembly treated his papers with some severity, they being really weak in
point of argument and haughty in expression, he had conceived a mortal
enmity to me." With Paris, Franklin refused to discuss the points of his
paper, and the Proprietaries then, on the advice of Paris, placed it in the
hands of the Attorney- and Solicitor-Generals for their opinion and advice.
By them no answer was given for nearly a year, though Franklin frequently
called upon the Proprietaries for an answer only to be told that they had
not yet received the opinion of their learned advisers. What the opinion
was when it was finally rendered the Proprietaries did not let Franklin
know, but instead addressed a long communication, drawn and signed by
Paris, to the Assembly, reciting the contents of Franklin's paper,
complaining of its lack of formality as rudeness, and justifying their
conduct. They would be willing, they said, to compose the dispute, if the
Assembly would send out _some person of candor_ to treat with them.
Franklin supposed that the incivility imputed to him consisted in the fact
that he had not addressed the Proprietaries by their assumed title of True
and Absolute Proprietaries of the Province of Pennsylvania.

The letter of the Proprietaries was not answered by the Assembly. While
they were pretending to treat with Franklin, Governor Denny had been unable
to withstand the pressure of his situation, and, at the request of Lord
Loudon, had approved an act subjecting the estates of the Penns to
taxation. When this Act was transmitted to England, the Proprietaries, upon
the advice of Paris, petitioned the King to withhold his assent from it,
and, when the petition came on for hearing, the parties were represented by
counsel. On the one hand it was contended that the purpose of the Act was
to impose an oppressive burden upon the Proprietary estates, and that the
assessment under it would be so unequal because of the popular prejudice
against the Penns that they would be ruined. To this it was replied that
the Act was not conceived with any such purpose, and would not have any
such effect, that the assessors were honest and discreet men under oath,
and that any advantage that might inure to them individually from
over-assessing the property of the Proprietaries would be too trifling to
induce them to perjure themselves. It was also urged in opposition to the
petition that the money, for which the Act provided, had been printed and
issued, and was now in the hands of the inhabitants of the Province, and
would be deprived of all value, to their great injury, if the Act did not
receive the royal assent merely because of the selfish and groundless fears
of the Proprietaries. At this point, Lord Mansfield, one of the counsel for
the Proprietaries, led Franklin off into a room nearby, while the other
lawyers were still pleading, and asked him if he was really of the opinion
that the Proprietary estate would not be unfairly taxed if the Act was
executed. "Certainly," said Franklin. "Then," said he, "you can have little
objection to enter into an engagement to assure that point." "None at all,"
replied Franklin. Paris was then called in, and, after some discussion, a
paper, such as Lord Mansfield suggested, was drawn up and signed by
Franklin and Mr. Charles, who was the agent of Pennsylvania for ordinary
purposes, and the law was given the royal assent with the further
engagement, upon the part of Franklin and Mr. Charles, that it should be
amended in certain respects by subsequent legislation. This legislation,
however, the Assembly afterwards declined to enact when a committee,
appointed by it, upon which it was careful to place several close friends
of the Proprietaries, brought in an unanimous report stating that the
yearly tax levied before the order of the Council reached Pennsylvania had
been imposed with perfect fairness as between the Proprietaries and the
other tax-payers.

In the most important respect, therefore, Franklin's mission to England had
resulted in success. The principle was established by the Crown that the
estate of the Proprietaries was subject to taxation equally with that of
the humblest citizen of Pennsylvania; and the credit of the paper money,
then scattered throughout the province, was saved. The Assembly rewarded
its servant, when he returned to Pennsylvania, with its formal thanks and
the sum of three thousand pounds. He responded in the happy terms which he
always had at his command on occasions of this sort. "He made answer," says
the official report, "that he was thankful to the House, for the very
handsome and generous Allowance they had been pleased to make him for his
Services; but that the Approbation of this House was, in his Estimation,
far above every other kind of Recompense."

The Proprietaries punished their servant, Governor Denny, by removing him
and threatening him with suit for the breach of his bond, but it is a
pleasure to be told in the _Autobiography_ that his position was such that
he could despise their threats.

While the duel was going on between the Proprietaries and the Assembly,
Franklin had some significant things at times to say about it in his
familiar letters. As far as we can see, his political course, during this
period, was entirely candid and manly. He was on agreeable personal terms
with all the colonial governors, he seems to have cherished an honest
desire to be helpful to the Proprietaries, so far as their own illiberality
and folly would allow him to be, and it is very plain that he was not
without the feeling that the demands of the Popular Party itself were
occasionally immoderate. He was quite willing for the sake of peace to
concede anything except the essential points of the controversy, but when
it came to these he was immovable as men of his type usually are when they
realize that a claim upon them is too unjust or exorbitant even for their
pacific temper.

     I am much oblig'd to you for the favourable Light you
     put me in, to our Proprietor, as mention'd in yours of
     July 30 [he wrote to Peter Collinson in 1754], I know
     not why he should imagine me not his Friend, since I
     cannot recollect any one Act of mine that could
     denominate me otherwise. On the contrary if to concur
     with him, so far as my little Influence reach'd in all
     his generous and benevolent Designs and Desires of
     making his Province and People flourishing and happy be
     any Mark of my Respect and Dutyful Regard to him, there
     are many who would be ready to say I could not be
     suppos'd deficient in such Respect. The Truth is I have
     sought his _Interest_ more than his _Favour_; others
     perhaps have sought both, and obtain'd at least the
     latter. But in my Opinion great Men are not always best
     serv'd by such as show on all Occasions a blind
     Attachment to them: An Appearance of Impartiality in
     general gives a Man sometimes much more Weight when he
     would serve in particular instances.

To the friend to whom these words were written Franklin was disposed to
unbosom himself with unusual freedom, and, in the succeeding year, in
another letter to Collinson, he used words which showed plainly enough that
he thought that the Assembly too was at times inclined to indulge in more
hair-splitting and testiness than was consistent with the public welfare.

     You will see [he said] more of the same Trifling in
     these Votes in both sides. I am heartily sick of our
     present Situation; I like neither the Governor's
     Conduct, nor the Assembly's; and having some Share in
     the Confidence of both, I have endeavour'd to reconcile
     'em but in vain, and between 'em they make me very
     uneasy. I was chosen last Year in my Absence and was
     not at the Winter Sitting when the House sent home that
     Address to the King, which I am afraid was both
     ill-judg'd and ill-tim'd. If my being able now and then
     to influence a good Measure did not keep up my Spirits
     I should be ready to swear never to serve again as an
     Assembly Man, since both Sides expect more from me than
     they ought, and blame me sometimes for not doing what I
     am not able to do, as well as for not preventing what
     was not in my Power to prevent. The Assembly ride
     restive; and the Governor tho' he spurs with both
     heels, at the same time reins in with both hands, so
     that the Publick Business can never move forward, and
     he remains like St. George on the Sign, Always a
     Horseback and never going on. Did you never hear this
     old Catch?

         _Their was a mad Man--He had a mad Wife,
         And three mad Sons beside;
         And they all got upon a mad Horse
         And madly they did ride._

     Tis a Compendium of our Proceedings and may save you
     the Trouble of reading them.

In a still later letter to the same correspondent, Franklin asserted that
there was no reason for excluding Quakers from the House, since, though
unwilling to fight themselves, they had been brought to unite in voting the
sums necessary to enable the Province to defend itself. Then, after
referring to the defamation, that was being heaped upon him by the
Proprietary Party, in the place of the court paid to him when he had
exerted himself to secure aids from the House for Braddock and Shirley, he
said, "Let me know if you learn that any of their Slanders reach England. I
abhor these Altercations and if I did not love the Country and the People
would remove immediately into a more quiet Government, Connecticut, where I
am also happy enough to have many Friends."

However, there was too much fuel for the fire to die down. The claim of the
Proprietaries to exemption from taxation was only the most aggravated
result of their efforts, by their instructions to their Governors, to
shape the legislation of the Province in accordance with their own personal
aims and pecuniary interests instead of in the spirit of the royal charter,
which gave to William Penn, and his heirs, and his, or their, deputies or
lieutenants, free, full and absolute power, for the good and happy
government of Pennsylvania, to make and enact any laws, according to their
best discretion, by and with the advice, assent and approbation of the
freemen of the said country, or of their delegates or deputies. In the
report of the Committee of Aggrievances of the Assembly, drawn by Franklin,
the case of the freemen of the Province against the Penns, which led to
Franklin's first mission to England, is clearly stated. They are arraigned
not only for seeking to exempt the bulk of their estate from the common
burden of taxation, but also, apart from this, for stripping, by their
instructions, their governors, and thereby the People themselves, of all
real discretion in fixing by legislation the measure and manner in which,
and the time at which, aids and supplies should be furnished for the
defence of the Province. They had even, the report charged, prohibited
their governors, by their instructions, from assenting to laws disposing of
interest arising from the loan of bills of credit or money raised by excise
taxes--forms of revenue to which the Proprietary estate did not contribute
at all--unless the laws contained a clause giving their governors the right
to negative a particular application of the sums. Another grievance was the
issuance by the governor of commissions to provincial judges, to be held
during the will and pleasure of the governors instead of during good
behavior, as covenanted by William Penn--a practice which gave the
Proprietaries control of the judicial as well as the executive Branch of
the provincial government.

For a time, after Franklin returned to Pennsylvania in 1762, there was
something like peace between the Proprietaries and the people. When a
nephew of Thomas Penn was appointed governor, the Assembly accepted him as
a family pledge of restored good feeling.

     The Assembly [Franklin wrote to Dr. Fothergill]
     received a Governor of the Proprietary family with open
     arms, addressed him with sincere expressions of
     kindness and respect, opened their purses to them, and
     presented him with six hundred pounds; made a Riot Act
     and prepared a Militia Bill immediately, at his
     instance, granted supplies, and did everything that he
     requested, and promised themselves great happiness
     under his administration.

And no governor was ever so dependent upon the good will of the Assembly.
It was during his administration that the Scotch-Irish inhabitants of the
frontier, inflamed by Indian outrages, imbrued their hands in the blood of
the Conestoga Indians, and, so far from being intimidated by the public
proclamations issued by the Governor for their arrest and punishment,
marched to the very threshold of Philadelphia itself with the purpose of
destroying the Moravian Indians huddled there in terror of their lives. The
whole Province outside of the City of Philadelphia was given over to
lawlessness and disorder. In the contagious excitement of the hour, a
considerable portion of its population even believed that the Quakers had
gained the friendship of the Indians by presents, supplied them secretly
with arms and ammunition, and engaged them to fall upon and kill the whites
on the Pennsylvania frontier. Under these circumstances, the Governor
simply did what Governor Morris and Governor Denny had been compelled to do
before him, namely, call in the aid of the man who could in a letter to
Peter Collinson truthfully sum up all that there was in the military
demonstration which angered Thomas Penn so deeply with the simple
utterance, "The People happen to love me." The whole story was told by
Franklin to Dr. Fothergill in the letter from which we have just quoted.

     More wonders! You know that I don't love the
     Proprietary and that he does not love me. Our totally
     different tempers forbid it. You might therefore expect
     that the late new appointments of one of his family
     would find me ready for opposition. And yet when his
     nephew arrived, our Governor, I considered government
     as government, and paid him all respect, gave him on
     all occasions my best advice, promoted in the Assembly
     a ready compliance with everything he proposed or
     recommended, and when those daring rioters, encouraged
     by general approbation of the populace, treated his
     proclamation with contempt, I drew my pen in the cause;
     wrote a pamphlet (that I have sent you) to render the
     rioters unpopular; promoted an association to support
     the authority of the Government and defend the Governor
     by taking arms, signed it first myself, and was
     followed by several hundreds, who took arms
     accordingly. The Governor offered me the command of
     them, but I chose to carry a musket and strengthen his
     authority by setting an example of obedience to his
     order. And would you think it, this proprietary
     Governor did me the honour, in an alarm, to run to my
     house at midnight, with his counsellors at his heels,
     for advice, and made it his head-quarters for some
     time. And within four and twenty hours, your old friend
     was a common soldier, a counsellor, a kind of dictator,
     an ambassador to the country mob, and on his returning
     home, nobody again. All this has happened in a few

With the retirement of the backwoodsmen from Philadelphia to their homes,
sprang up one of the angriest factional contests that Pennsylvania had ever
known. Every malignant passion, political or sectarian, that lurked in the
Province was excited into the highest degree of morbid life. The
Presbyterians, the Churchmen, even some of the Quakers, acclaimed the
Paxton Boys as instruments of a just vengeance, and they constituted a
political force, which the Governor was swift to utilize for the purpose of
strengthening his party. He dropped all efforts to apprehend the murderers
of the Conestoga Indians, granted a private audience to the insurgents,
and accused the Assembly of disloyalty, and of encroaching upon the
prerogatives of the Crown, only because it had been presumptuous enough to
make an appointment to a petty office in a bill tendered to him for his
assent. It was during his administration, too, that the claim was made
that, even if the Proprietary estate had been subjected to taxation by the
Lords in Council, under the terms of one of the amendments, proposed by
them, "_the best and most valuable_," of the Proprietary lands "should be
tax'd no higher than the _worst and least valuable_ of the People's."

When the conflict was reopened, the Assembly boldly brought it to an issue.
One of its committees, with Franklin at its head, reported a series of
resolutions censuring the proprietaries, condemning their rule as too weak
to maintain its authority and repress disorder, and petitioning the King to
take over the Government of the Province, after such compensation to the
Proprietaries as was just. The Assembly then adjourned to sound the temper
of their constituents, and their adjournment was the signal for a pamphlet
war attended by such a hail of paper pellets as rarely marked any contest
so early in the history of the American Colonies. Among the best of them
was the pamphlet written by Franklin, and entitled _Cool Thoughts on the
Present Situation of our Public Affairs_, which has already been mentioned,
and which denounced in no uncertain terms the "insolent Tribunitial VETO,"
with which the Proprietaries were in the habit of declaring that nothing
should be done, unless their private interests in certain particulars were

On May 14, 1764, the Assembly met again, and was soon deeply engaged in a
debate as to whether an address should be sent to the King, praying the
abolition of the Proprietary Government. Long did the debate last; Joseph
Galloway making the principal argument in support of the proposition, and
John Dickinson the principal one against it. When the vote was taken, the
affirmative prevailed, but, as Isaac Norris, who had been a member of the
body for thirty years, and its speaker for fifteen, was about to be bidden
by it to sign the address, he stated that, since he did not approve it, and
yet would have to sign it as speaker, he hoped that he might have time to
draft his objections to it. A short recess ensued, and when the members
convened again, Norris sent word that he was too sick to be present, and
requested that another person should be chosen as speaker. The choice of
the body then fell upon Franklin, who immediately signed the paper.

The next sitting of the Assembly was not to be held until the succeeding
October, and before that time the annual election for members of the
Assembly was to take place. For the purpose of influencing public opinion,
Dickinson, upon its adjournment, published his speech with a long preface
by Dr. William Smith. Galloway followed suit by publishing his speech with
a long preface by Franklin. This preface is one of Franklin's masterpieces,
marked it is true by some quaint conceits and occasional relaxations of
energy, but full of power and withering sarcasm. Preceded by such a lengthy
and brilliant preface, Galloway must have felt that his speech had little
more than the secondary value of an appendix. With the consummate capacity
for pellucid statement, which was one of Franklin's most remarkable gifts,
it narrated the manner in which the practice of buying legislation from the
Proprietaries had been pursued. With equal force and ingenuity, it
demonstrated that five out of the six amendments, proposed by the Lords in
Council to the Act, approved by Governor Denny, did not justify the charge
that the circumstances, in which they originated, involved any real
injustice to the Proprietaries, and that the sixth, which forbade the
tender to the Proprietaries of paper bills of fluctuating value, in payment
of debts payable to them, under the terms of special contracts, in coin,
if a measure of justice to them, would be also a measure of justice to
other creditors in the same situation, who were not mentioned in the

Referring to the universal practice in America of making such bills a legal
tender and the fact that the bills in question would have been a legal
tender as respects the members of the Assembly and their constituents as
well as the Proprietaries, Franklin's preface glows like an incandescent
furnace in these words:

     But if he (the reader) can not 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 Defence of their
     vast Estates, with those of the People, and who must
     therefore reap, at least, equal Advantages from those
     Bills with 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 blush'd 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, mov'd Heaven and Earth to obtain it,
     resolv'd 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_.... Those who study
     Law and Justice, as a Science [he added in an indignant
     note] have established it a Maxim in Equity, "Qui
     sentit commodum, sentire debet et onus." And so
     consistent is this with the _common_ Sense of Mankind,
     that even our lowest untaught Coblers and Porters feel
     the Force of it in their own Maxim, (which _they_ are
     _honest enough_ never to dispute) "Touch Pot, touch

Other passages in the Preface were equally scorching. Replying to the
charge of the Proprietaries that the Quaker Assembly, out of mere malice,
because they had conscientiously quitted the Society of Friends for the
Church, were wickedly determined to ruin them by throwing the entire burden
of taxation on them, Franklin had this to say:

     How foreign these Charges were from the Truth, need not
     be told to any Man in _Pennsylvania_. And as the
     Proprietors knew, that the Hundred Thousand Pounds of
     paper money, struck for the defence of their enormous
     Estates, with others, was actually issued, spread thro'
     the Country, and in the Hands of Thousands of poor
     People, who had given their Labor for it, how base,
     cruel, and inhuman it was, to endeavour by a Repeal of
     the Act, to strike the Money dead in those Hands at one
     Blow, and reduce it all to Waste Paper, to the utter
     Confusion of all Trade and Dealings, and the Ruin of
     Multitudes, merely to avoid paying their own just
     Tax!--Words may be wanting to express, but Minds will
     easily conceive, and never without Abhorrence!

But fierce as these attacks were, they were mild in comparison with the
shower of stones hurled by Franklin at the Proprietaries in the Preface in
one of those lapidary inscriptions which were so common in that age. The
prefacer of Dickinson's Speech had inserted in his introduction a lapidary
memorial of William Penn made up of tessellated bits of eulogy, extracted
from the various addresses of the Assembly itself. This gave Franklin a
fine opportunity to retort in a similar mosaic of phrases and to contrast
the meanness of the sons with what the Assembly had said of the father.

     That these Encomiums on the Father [he said] tho'
     sincere, have occurr'd so frequently, was owing,
     however, to two Causes; first, a vain Hope the
     Assemblies entertain'd, that the Father's Example, and
     the Honors done his Character, might influence the
     Conduct of the Sons; secondly, for that in attempting
     to compliment the Sons on their own Merits, there was
     always found an extreme Scarcity of Matter. Hence _the
     Father, the honored and honorable Father_, was so
     often repeated, that the Sons themselves grew sick of
     it; and have been heard to say to each other with
     Disgust, when told that A, B, and C. were come to wait
     upon them with Addresses on some public Occasion,
     "_Then I suppose we shall hear more about our Father._"
     So that, let me tell the Prefacer, who perhaps was
     unacquainted with this Anecdote, that if he hop'd to
     curry more Favor with the Family, by the Inscription he
     has fram'd for that great Man's Monument, he may find
     himself mistaken; for,--there is too much in it of _our

     If therefore, he would erect a Monument to the Sons,
     the Votes of Assembly, which are of such Credit with
     him, will furnish him with ample Materials for his

     To save him Trouble, I will essay a Sketch for him, in
     the Lapidary Style, tho' mostly in the Expressions, and
     everywhere in the Sense and Spirit of the Assembly's
     Resolves and Messages.

         Be this a Memorial
         Of T-- and R-- P--,
         P-- of P,--
         Who, with Estates immense,
         Almost beyond Computation,
         When their own Province,
         And the whole _British_ Empire
         Were engag'd in a bloody and most expensive War,
         Begun for the Defence of those Estates,
         Could yet meanly desire
         To have those very Estates
         Totally or Partially
         Exempted from Taxation,
         While their Fellow-Subjects all around them, Groan'd
         Under the Universal Burthen.
         To gain this Point,
         They refus'd the necessary Laws
         For the Defence of their People,
         And suffer'd their Colony to welter in its Blood,
         Rather than abate in the least
         Of these their dishonest Pretensions.
         The Privileges granted by their Father
             Wisely and benevolently
         To encourage the first Settlers of the Province,
         Foolishly and cruelly,
         Taking Advantage of public Distress,
         Have extorted from the Posterity of those Settlers;
         And are daily endeavouring to reduce them
         To the most abject Slavery:
         Tho' to the Virtue and Industry of those People
         In improving their Country,
         They owe all that they possess and enjoy.
             A striking Instance
         Of human Depravity and Ingratitude;
         And an irrefragable Proof,
         That Wisdom and Goodness
         Do not descend with an Inheritance;
         But that ineffable Meanness
         May be connected with unbounded Fortune.

It may well be doubted whether any one had ever been subjected to such
overwhelming lapidation as this since the time of the early Christian

There are many other deadly thrusts in the Preface, and nowhere else are
the issues between the Proprietaries and the People so clearly presented,
but the very completeness of the paper renders it too long for further

Franklin, however, was by no means allowed to walk up and down the field,
vainly challenging a champion to come out from the opposing host and
contend with him. At his towering front the missiles of the Proprietary
Party were mainly directed. Beneath one caricature of him were these lines:

     "Fight dog, fight bear! You're all my friends:
     By you I shall attain my ends,
     For I can never be content
     Till I have got the government.
     But if from this attempt I fall,
     Then let the Devil take you all!"

Another writer strove in his lapidary zeal to fairly bury Franklin beneath
a whole cairn of opprobrious accusations, consuming nine pages of printed
matter in the effort to visit his political tergiversation, his greed for
power, his immorality and other sins, with their proper deserts, and ending
with this highly rhetorical apostrophe:

     "Reader, behold this striking Instance of
       Human Depravity and Ingratitude;
     An irrefragable Proof
     That neither the Capital services of _Friends_
     Nor the attracting Favours of the Fair,
     Can fix the Sincerity of a Man,
     _Devoid of Principles_ and
     Ineffably mean:
     Whose ambition is
     And whose intention is

The illegitimacy of William Franklin, of course, was freely used during the
conflict as a means of paining and discrediting Franklin. In a pamphlet
entitled, _What is sauce for a Goose is also Sauce for a Gander_, the
writer asserted that the mother of William was a woman named Barbara, who
worked in Franklin's house as a servant for ten pounds a year, that she
remained in this position until her death and that Franklin then stole her
to the grave in silence without pall, tomb or monument. A more refined
spirit, which could not altogether free itself from the undertow of its
admiration for such an extraordinary man, penned these lively lines
entitled, "Inscription on a Curious Stove in the Form of An Urn, Contrived
in such a Manner As To Make The Flame Descend Instead of Rising from the
Fire, Invented by Dr. Franklin."

    "Like a Newton sublimely he soared
      To a summit before unattained,
    New regions of science explored
      And the palm of philosophy gained.

    "With a spark which he caught from the skies
      He displayed an unparalleled wonder,
    And we saw with delight and surprise
      That his rod could secure us from thunder.

    "Oh! had he been wise to pursue
      The track for his talents designed,
    What a tribute of praise had been due
      To the teacher and friend of mankind.

    "But to covet political fame
      Was in him a degrading ambition,
    The spark that from Lucifer came
      And kindled the blaze of sedition.

    "Let candor then write on his urn,
      Here lies the renowned inventor
    Whose fame to the skies ought to burn
      But inverted descends to the centre."

The election began at nine o'clock in the morning on October 1, 1764.
Franklin and Galloway headed the "Old Ticket," and Willing and Bryan the
"New." The latter ticket was supported by the Dutch Calvinists, the
Presbyterians and many of the Dutch Lutherans and Episcopalians; the former
by the Quakers and Moravians and some of the McClenaghanites. So great was
the concourse of voters that, until midnight, it took fifteen minutes for
one of them to work his way from the end of the line of eager electors to
the polling place. Excitement was at white heat, and, while the election
was pending, hands were busy scattering squibs and campaign appeals in
English and German among the crowd. Towards three the next morning, the
new-ticket partisans moved that the polls be closed, but the motion was
opposed by their old-ticket foes, because they wished to bring out a
reserve of aged or lame retainers who could not stand long upon their feet.
These messengers were dispatched to bring in such retainers from their
homes in chairs and litters, and, when the new-ticket men saw the success,
with which the old-ticket men were marshalling their recruits, they, too,
began to scour the vicinage for votes, and so successful were the two
parties in mobilizing their reserves that the polls did not close until
three o'clock in the afternoon of the second day. Not until the third day
were the some 3900 real and fraudulent votes cast counted; and, when the
count was over, it was found that Franklin and Galloway had been defeated.
"Franklin," said an eye-witness of the election, "died like a philosopher.
But Mr. Galloway agonized in death like a mortal deist, who has no hopes of
a future life."

As for Franklin, his enemies had simply kicked him upstairs. A majority of
the persons returned as elected belonged to his faction, and, despite the
indignant eloquence of Dickinson, who declared him to be the most bitterly
disliked man in Pennsylvania, the Assembly, by a vote of nineteen to
eleven, selected him as the agent of the Province to go over to England,
and assist Richard Jackson, its standing agent, in "representing,
soliciting and transacting the affairs" of the Province for the ensuing

The minority protested; and moved that its protest be spread upon the
minutes, and, when this motion was denied, it published its remonstrance in
the newspapers. This act provoked a pamphlet in reply from Franklin
entitled _Remarks on a Late Protest_. Though shorter it is as good, as far
as it goes, as the preface to Galloway's speech. He tosses the protestants
and their reasons for believing him unfit for the agency on his horns with
astonishing ease and strength, calls attention to the trifling majority of
some twenty-five votes by which he was returned defeated, and chills the
habit that we often indulge of lauding the political integrity and decorum
of our American ancestors at our own expense by inveighing against the
"many Perjuries procured among the wretched Rabble brought to swear
themselves intitled to a Vote" and roundly saying to the protestants to
their faces, "Your Artifices did not prevail everywhere; nor your double
Tickets, and Whole Boxes of Forged Votes. A great Majority of the
new-chosen Assembly were of the old Members, and remain uncorrupted."

Apart from the reference to the illegitimacy of William Franklin, Franklin
had passed through the heated contest with the Proprietaries without the
slightest odor of fire upon his garments. With his hatred of contention, it
is natural enough that he should have written to Collinson, when the pot of
contention was boiling so fiercely in Pennsylvania in 1764: "The general
Wish seems to be a King's Government. If that is not to be obtain'd, many
talk of quitting the Province, and among them your old Friend, who is tired
of these Contentions & longs for philosophic Ease and Leisure." But he did
not overstate the case when he wrote to Samuel Rhoads in the succeeding
year from London, "The Malice of our Adversaries I am well acquainted with,
but hitherto it has been Harmless; all their Arrows shot against us, have
been like those that Rabelais speaks of which were headed with Butter
harden'd in the Sun."

Franklin was a doughty antagonist when at bay, but he had few obdurate
resentments, and was quick to see the redeeming virtues of even those who
had wronged him. He assisted in the circulation of John Dickinson's famous
Farmer's Letters, and curiously enough when Dickinson was the President of
the State of Pennsylvania at the close of the Revolution, and the 130,000
pounds which that State had agreed to pay for the vacant lots and
unappropriated wilderness lands of the Penns was claimed to be an
inadequate consideration by some of them, he gave to John Penn, the son of
Thomas Penn, a letter of recommendation to "the Civilities and Friendship"
of Dickinson.

     I would beg leave to mention it to your Excellency's
     Consideration [he said], whether it would not be
     reputable for the Province, in the cooler Season of
     Peace to reconsider that Act, and if the Allowance made
     to the Family should be found inadequate, to regulate
     it according to Equity, since it becomes a Virgin State
     to be particularly careful of its Reputation, and to
     guard itself not only against committing Injustice, but
     against even the suspicion of it.

But nothing better proves what a selfish cur Thomas Penn was than the fact
that, more than twenty years after the election, of which we have been
speaking, so magnanimous a man as Franklin could express this sober
estimate of his conduct and character in a letter to Jan Ingenhousz:

     In my own Judgment, when I consider that for near 80
     Years, viz., from the Year 1700, William Penn and his
     Sons receiv'd the Quit-rents which were originally
     granted for the Support of Government, and yet refused
     to support the Government, obliging the People to make
     a fresh Provision for its Support all that Time, which
     cost them vast Sums, as the most necessary Laws were
     not to be obtain'd but at the Price of making such
     Provision; when I consider the Meanness and cruel
     Avarice of the late Proprietor, in refusing for several
     Years of War, to consent to any Defence of the
     Frontiers ravaged all the while by the Enemy, unless
     his Estate should be exempted from paying any Part of
     the Expence, not to mention other Atrocities too long
     for this letter, I can not but think the Family well
     off, and that it will be prudent in them to take the
     Money and be quiet. William Penn, the First Proprietor,
     Father of Thomas, the Husband of the present Dowager,
     was a wise and good Man, and as honest to the People as
     the extream Distress of his Circumstances would permit
     him to be, but the said Thomas was a miserable Churl,
     always intent upon Griping and Saving; and whatever
     Good the Father may have done for the Province was
     amply undone by the Mischief received from the Son, who
     never did anything that had the Appearance of
     Generosity or Public Spirit but what was extorted from
     him by Solicitation and the Shame of Backwardness in
     Benefits evidently incumbent on him to promote, and
     which was done at last in the most ungracious manner
     possible. The Lady's Complaints of not duly receiving
     her Revenues from America are habitual; they were the
     same during all the Time of my long Residence in
     London, being then made by her Husband as Excuses for
     the Meanness of his Housekeeping and his Deficiency in
     Hospitality, tho' I knew at the same time that he was
     then in full Receipt of vast Sums annually by the Sale
     of Lands, Interest of Money, and Quit-rents. But
     probably he might conceal this from his Lady to induce
     greater Economy as it is known that he ordered no more
     of his Income home than was absolutely necessary for
     his Subsistence, but plac'd it at Interest in
     Pennsylvania & the Jerseys, where he could have 6 and 7
     per Cent, while Money bore no more than 5 per cent in
     England. I us'd often to hear of those Complaints, and
     laugh at them, perceiving clearly their Motive. They
     serv'd him on other as well as on domestic Occasions.
     You remember our Rector of St. Martin's Parish, Dr.
     Saunders. He once went about, during a long and severe
     Frost, soliciting charitable Contributions to purchase
     Coals for poor Families. He came among others to me,
     and I gave him something. It was but little, very
     little, and yet it occasion'd him to remark, "You are
     more bountiful on this Occasion than your wealthy
     Proprietary, Mr. Penn, but he tells me he is distress'd
     by not receiving his Incomes from America." The Incomes
     of the family there must still be very great, for they
     have a Number of Manors consisting of the best Lands,
     which are preserved to them, and vast Sums at Interest
     well secur'd by Mortgages; so that if the Dowager does
     not receive her Proportion, there must be some Fault in
     her Agents. You will perceive by the length of this
     Article that I have been a little _échauffé_ by her
     making the Complaints you mention to the Princess
     Dowager of Lichtenstein at Vienna. The Lady herself is
     good & amiable, and I should be glad to serve her in
     anything just and reasonable; but I do not at present
     see that I can do more than I have done.

And Thomas Penn, too, like St. Sebastian, will never be drawn without
_that_ arrow in _his_ side.

When Franklin was appointed agent, the provincial treasury was empty, but
so deeply aroused was public sentiment, in favor of the substitution of a
royal for the proprietary government, that the merchants of Philadelphia in
a few hours subscribed a sum of eleven hundred pounds, to defray his
expenses. Of this amount, however, he refused to accept but five hundred
pounds, and, after a trying passage of thirty days, he found himself again
at No. 7 Craven Street.

So far as the immediate object of his mission was concerned, it proved a
failure. Before he left Pennsylvania, George Grenville, the Prime Minister
of England, had called the agents of the American Colonies, resident at
London, together and informed them that a debt of seventy-three millions
sterling had been imposed upon England by the recent war, and that he
proposed to ask Parliament to place a part of it upon the American
Colonies. In the stream of events, which began with this proposal, the
proprietary government in Pennsylvania and the royal governments in other
American Colonies were alike destined to be swept away.

After the arrival of Franklin in England, the local struggle in
Pennsylvania was of too secondary importance to command serious attention;
and, beyond a few meagre allusions to it, there is no mention made of it in
his letters. The temper of the English Ministry was not friendly to such a
revolutionary change as the abolition of the proprietary government, and
Franklin, after he had been in England a few years, had too many matters of
continental concern to look after to have any time left for a single phase
of the general conflict between the Colonies and the mother country.

Before passing to his share in this conflict, a word should be said about
the Albany Congress, in which he was the guiding spirit. In 1754, when
another war between England and France was feared, a Congress of
Commissioners from the several Colonies was ordered by the Lords of Trade
to be held at Albany. The object of the call was to bring about a
conference between the Colonies and the Chiefs of the Six Nations as to the
best means of defending their respective territories from invasion by the
French. When the order reached Pennsylvania, Governor Hamilton communicated
it to the Assembly, and requested that body to provide proper presents for
the Indians, who were to assemble at Albany; and he named Franklin and
Isaac Norris, the Speaker of the Assembly, as the Commissioners from
Pennsylvania, to act in conjunction with Thomas Penn and Richard Peters,
the Secretary of the Proprietary Government. The presents were provided,
and the nominations confirmed by the Assembly, and Franklin and his
colleagues arrived at Albany in the month of June, 1754.

He brought his usual zeal to the movement. Before he left Philadelphia,
with a view to allaying the jealousies, which existed between the different
colonies, he published an article in his _Gazette_ pointing out the
importance of unanimity, which was accompanied by a woodcut representing a
snake severed into as many sections as there were colonies. Each section
bore the first letter of the name of a colony, and beneath the whole, in
capital letters, were the words, "Join or die." On his way to Albany, he
drafted a plan of union, looking to the permanent defence of the colonies,
which closely resembled a similar plan of union, put forward thirty-two
years before by Daniel Coxe in a tract entitled _A Description of the
English Province of Carolina_. The Congress was attended by Commissioners
from all the Colonies except New Jersey, Virginia, the Carolinas and
Georgia. One of its members was Thomas Hutchinson, of Massachusetts, who
was to bring down on Franklin's head the most trying crisis in his career.
James De Lancey, the Lieutenant-Governor of New York, was chosen to be its
presiding officer. Mingled with the Commissioners and the inhabitants of
Albany, as they walked its streets, were the representatives of the
Iroquois, whose tribes had cherished an unappeasable hatred for the French
ever since the fatal day when Frontenac had thrown in his fortunes with
those of their traditional enemies, the Hurons. Much time had to be
expended by the Commissioners in distributing among them the presents that
they had brought for them, and in conducting with ceremonious and tedious
formality the long powwows in which the Indian heart, if there was such a
thing, so dearly delighted. When the assembly entered upon its
deliberations, a committee of seven was appointed by it to consider the
objects of the Congress, and it was composed of one commissioner from each
colony; Franklin being the member from Pennsylvania, and Thomas Hutchinson
the member from Massachusetts. After the Commissioners gathered at Albany,
it was found that plans of union had been framed by other members of the
Congress besides Franklin. All the plans were compared and considered by
the committee, and Franklin's was adopted, amended and reported to the
Congress, and was by it, after a long debate, approved, and recommended to
the favorable consideration of Parliament and the King whose assent, it was
conceded, was essential to its efficacy.

It was a simple but comprehensive scheme of government. The several
colonies were to remain independent except so far as they surrendered their
autonomy for purposes of mutual defence; there were to be a
President-General, appointed and paid by the King, who was to be the
executive arm of the Union, and a Grand Council of forty-eight members,
elected by the different Colonial Assemblies, which was to be its
legislative organ. The first meeting of the Council was to be at
Philadelphia[16]; it was to meet once a year or oftener, if there was need,
at such times and places as it should fix on adjournment, or as should be
fixed, in case of an emergency, by the call of the President-General, who
was authorized to issue such a call, with the consent of seven members of
the Council; the tenure of members of the Council was to be for three
years, and, on the death or resignation of a member, the vacancy was to be
filled by the Assembly of his colony at its next sitting; after the
election of the first members of the Council, the representation of the
colonies in it was to be in proportion to their respective contributions to
the Treasury of the Union, but no colony was to be represented by more than
seven nor less than two members; the Council was to have the power to
choose its Speaker, and was to be neither dissolved, prorogued nor
continued in session longer than six weeks at one time without its consent,
or the special command of the Crown; its members were to be allowed for
their services ten shillings sterling a day, whether in session or
journeying to or from the place of meeting; twenty-five members were to
constitute a quorum, provided that among this number was at least one
member from a majority of the Colonies; the assent of the President General
was to be essential to the validity of all acts of the Council, and it was
to be his duty to see that they were carried into execution, and the
President-General and Council were to negotiate all treaties with the
Indians, declare war and make peace with them, regulate all trade with
them, purchase for the Crown from them all lands sold by them, and not
within the limits of the old Colonies; and make and govern new settlements
on such lands until erected into formal colonies. They were also to enlist
and pay soldiers, build forts and equip vessels for the defence of the
Colonies, but were to have no power to impress men in any colony without
the consent of its assembly; all military and naval officers of the Union
were to be named by the President-General with the approval of the Council,
and all civil officers of the Union were to be named by the Council with
the approval of the President-General; in case of vacancies, resulting from
death or removal, in any such offices, they were to be filled by the
Governors of the Provinces in which they occurred until appointments could
be made in the regular way; and the President-General and Council were also
to have the power to appoint a General Treasurer for the Union and a Local
Treasurer for the Union in each colony, when necessary. All funds were to
be disbursed on the joint order of the President-General and the Council,
except when sums had been previously appropriated for particular purposes,
and the President-General had been specially authorized to draw upon them;
the general accounts of the Union were to be each year communicated to the
several Colonial Assemblies; and, for the limited purposes of the Union,
the President-General and the Council were authorized to enact laws, and to
levy general duties, imposts and taxes; the laws so enacted to be
transmitted to the King in Council for his approbation, and, if not
disapproved within three years, to remain in force. A final feature of the
plan was the provision that each Colony might in a sudden emergency take
measures for its own defence, and call upon the President-General and
Council for reimbursement.

The Albany plan of union was one of the direct lineal antecedents of the
Federal Constitution. In other words, it was one of the really significant
things in our earlier history that tended to foster the habit of union,
without which that constitution could never have been adopted. But, when
considered in the light of the jealousy with which the mother country then
regarded the Colonies, and with which the Colonies regarded each other, it
is not at all surprising that the plan recommended by it should have to
come to nothing. "Its fate was singular," says Franklin in the
_Autobiography_. "The assemblies did not adopt it, as they all thought
there was too much _prerogative_ in it, and in England it was judg'd to
have too much of the _democratic_." Even in Pennsylvania, though the
Governor laid it before the Assembly with a handsome tribute to "the great
clearness and strength of judgment," with which it had been drawn up, that
body, when Franklin was absent, condemned it without giving it any serious
consideration. In England it met with the disapproval of the Board of
Trade, and "another scheme," to recur to the _Autobiography_, "was form'd,
supposed to answer the same purpose better, whereby the governors of the
provinces, with some members of their respective councils, were to meet and
order the raising of troops, building of forts, etc., and to draw on the
treasury of Great Britain for the expense, which was afterwards to be
refunded by an act of Parliament laying a tax on America."

The Albany plan was an eminently wise one, and Franklin was probably
justified in forming the favorable view of it which he expressed in these
words in the _Autobiography_:

     The different and contrary reasons of dislike to my
     plan makes me suspect that it was really the true
     medium; and I am still of opinion it would have been
     happy for both sides the water if it had been adopted.
     The colonies, so united, would have been sufficiently
     strong to have defended themselves; there would then
     have been no need of troops from England; of course,
     the subsequent pretence for taxing America, and the
     bloody contest it occasioned, would have been avoided.
     But such mistakes are not new; history is full of the
     errors of states and princes.

    "Look round the habitable world, how few
    Know their own good, or, knowing it, pursue!"

     Those who govern, having much business on their hands,
     do not generally like to take the trouble of
     considering and carrying into execution new projects.
     The best public measures are therefore seldom _adopted
     from previous wisdom, but forc'd by the occasion_.

In the autumn of 1754, Franklin made a journey to Boston. There he met
Shirley, and was apprised by him of the plan formed in England for the
defence of the Colonies. This intelligence elicited three notable letters
from him to Shirley in which he succinctly but luminously and vigorously
stated his objections to the plan. In the first letter, he deprecated in
brief but grave general terms a scheme of colonial administration, in which
the people of the Colonies were to be excluded from all share in the choice
of the Grand Council contemplated by the scheme, and were to be taxed by a
Parliament in which they were to have no representation. Where heavy
burdens are laid on the people, it had been found useful, he said, to make
such burdens as much as possible their own acts. The people bear them
better when they have, or think they have, some share in the direction;
and, when any public measures are generally grievous, or even distasteful
to the people, the wheels of government move more heavily.

In the second letter, Franklin states what in his opinion the people of the
Colonies were likely to say of the proposed plan, namely, that they were as
loyal as any other subjects of the King; that there was no reason to doubt
their readiness to grant such sums as they could for the defence of the
Colonies; that they were likely to be better judges of their own military
necessities than the remote English Parliament; that the governors, who
came to the Colonies, often came merely to make their fortunes, and to
return to England, were not always men of the best abilities or integrity,
had little in common with the colonists, and might be inclined to lavish
military expenditures for the sake of the profit to be derived from such
expenditures by them for themselves and their friends and dependents; that
members of colonial councils being appointed by the Crown, on the
recommendation of colonial governors, and being often men of small estates,
and dependent on such governors for place, were too subject to influence;
that Parliament was likely to be misled by such governors and councils; and
yet their combined influence would probably shield them against popular
resentment; that it was deemed an unquestionable right of Englishmen not to
be taxed but by their own consent, given through their representatives, and
that the Colonies had no representation in Parliament; that to tax the
people of the Colonies without such representation, and to exclude them
altogether from the proposed plan was a reflection on their loyalty, or
their patriotism, or their intelligence, and that to tax them without their
consent, was, indeed, more like raising contributions in an enemy's country
than the taxation of Englishmen. Such were some of the objections stated in
this letter to the imposition of taxes on the Colonies by the British
Parliament. There were others of a kindred nature, and still others, based
upon the claim that the Colonies were already paying heavy secondary taxes
to England. Taxes, paid by landholders and artificers in England, Franklin
declared, entered into the prices paid in America for their products, and
were therefore really taxes paid by America to Britain. The difference
between the prices, paid by America for these products, and the cheaper
prices, at which they could be bought in other countries, if America were
allowed to trade with them, was also but a tax paid by America to Britain
and, where the price was paid for goods which America could manufacture
herself, if allowed by Great Britain to do so, the whole of it was but such
a tax. Such a tax, too, was the difference between the price that America
received for its own products in Britain, after the payment of duties, and
the price that it could obtain in other countries, if allowed to trade with
them. In fine, as America was not permitted to regulate its trade, and
restrain the importation and consumption of British superfluities, its
whole wealth ultimately found its way to Great Britain, and, if the
inhabitants of Great Britain were enriched in consequence, and rendered
better able to pay their taxes, that was nearly the same thing as if
America itself was taxed. Of these kinds of indirect taxes America did not
complain, but to pay direct taxes, without being consulted as to whether
they should be laid, or as to how they should be applied, could not but
seem harsh to Englishmen, who could not conceive that by hazarding their
lives and fortunes in subduing and settling new countries, and in extending
the dominion and increasing the commerce of the mother country, they had
forfeited the native rights of Britons; which they thought that, on these
accounts, might well be given to them, even if they had been before in a
state of slavery. Another objection to the scheme, the letter asserted, was
the likelihood that the Governors and Councillors, not being associated
with any representatives of the people, to unite with them in their
measures, and to render these measures palatable to the people, would
become distrusted and odious; and thus would embitter the relations
between governors and governed and bring about total confusion. The letter,
short as it is, sums up almost all the main points of the more copious
argument that was, in a few years, to be made with so much pathos as well
as power by the Colonies against the resolve of the British Ministry to tax
them without their consent.

Franklin's third letter to Shirley is but the statement in embryo of the
sagacious and enlarged views of the policy of Great Britain, with respect
to the Colonies, which he subsequently expressed in so many impressive
forms. The letter is, first of all, interesting as showing that the subject
of promoting a closer union between Great Britain and her colonies by
allowing the latter to be represented in Parliament had already been
discussed by Shirley and Franklin in conversation. It is also an
indication, for all that was said later about the submissive loyalty of the
Colonies, that the sense of injustice and hardship worked by the repressive
effects of the existing British restrictions on American commerce and
manufactures was widely diffused in America. The proposal to allow America
representatives in Parliament would, Franklin thought, be very acceptable
to the Colonies, provided the presentation was a reasonable one in point of
numbers, and provided all the old acts of Parliament, limiting the trade,
or cramping the manufactures, of the Colonies, were, at the same time,
repealed and the cis-Atlantic subjects of Great Britain put on the same
footing of commercial and industrial freedom as its trans-Atlantic
subjects, until a Parliament, in which both were represented, should deem
it to be to the interest of the whole empire that some or all of the
obnoxious laws should be revived. Franklin also was too much of a
latter-day American not to believe that laws, which then seemed to the
colonists to be unjust to them, would be acquiesced in more cheerfully by
them, and be easier of execution, if approved by a Parliament in which they
were represented. The letter ended with a series of original reflections,
highly characteristic of the free play, which marked the mental operations
of the writer in dealing with any subject, encumbered by short-sighted
prejudices. Of what importance was it, he argued, whether manufacturers of
iron lived at Birmingham or Sheffield, or both, since they were still
within the bounds of Great Britain? Could the Goodwin Sands be laid dry by
banks, and land, equal to a large county thereby gained to England, and
presently filled with English inhabitants, would it be right to deprive
such inhabitants of the common privileges enjoyed by other Englishmen, the
right of vending their produce in the same ports, or of making their own
shoes, because a merchant or a shoemaker, living on the old land, might
fancy it more for his advantage to trade or make shoes for them? Would this
be right even if the land was gained at the expense of the State? And would
it seem less right if the charge and labor of gaining the additional
territory to Great Britain had been borne by the settlers themselves?

     Now I look on the colonies [Franklin continued] as so
     many counties gained to Great Britain, and more
     advantageous to it than if they had been gained out of
     the seas around its coasts, and joined to its land: For
     being in different climates, they afford greater
     variety of produce, and being separated by the ocean,
     they increase much more its shipping and seamen; and
     since they are all included in the British Empire,
     which has only extended itself by their means; and the
     strength and wealth of the parts are the strength and
     wealth of the whole; what imports it to the general
     state, whether a merchant, a smith, or a hatter, grow
     rich in Old or New England?

To this question, of course, the nineteenth or twentieth century could only
have had one answer; but the eighteenth, blinded by economic delusions, had

In the opinion of Franklin, expressed in his letters to Peter Collinson,
until the Albany plan of union, or something like it, was adopted, no
American war would ever be carried on as it should be, and Indian affairs
would continue to be mismanaged. But he was fair-minded and clear-sighted
enough to see that, if some such plan was not adopted, the fault would lie
with the Colonies rather than with Great Britain. In one of his letters to
Peter Collinson, he declared that, in his opinion, it was not likely that
any of them would agree to the plan, or even propose any amendments to it.

     Every Body [he said] cries, a Union is absolutely
     necessary; but when they come to the Manner and Form of
     the Union, their weak Noddles are perfectly distracted.
     So if ever there be an Union, it must be form'd at home
     by the Ministry and Parliament. I doubt not but they
     will make a good one, and I wish it may be done this

The essential features of the Albany plan of union were all outlined by
Franklin three or four years before the Albany Congress met, in a letter to
James Parker, his New York partner. A union of the colonies, under existing
conditions, was, he thought, impracticable. If a governor became impressed
with the importance of such a union, and asked the other colonial governors
to recommend it to their assemblies, the request came to nothing, either
because the governors were often on ill terms with their assemblies, and
were seldom the men who exercised the most influence over them, or because
they threw cold water on the request for fear that the cost of such a union
might make the people of their colonies less able or willing to give to
them, or simply because they did not earnestly realize the necessity for
it. Besides, under existing conditions, there was no one to back such a
request or to answer objections to it. A better course would be to select
half a dozen men of good understanding and address, and send them around,
as ambassadors to the different colonies, to urge upon them the expediency
of the union. It would be strange, indeed, Franklin thought, if the six
Iroquois tribes of ignorant savages could be capable of forming a union
which had lasted for ages, and yet ten or a dozen English colonies be
incapable of forming a similar one. These views were elicited by a pamphlet
on the importance of gaining and preserving the friendship of the Indians,
which had been sent to Franklin by Parker, and they constitute a natural
introduction to a brief review of the relations sustained by one of the
most reasonable of the children of men to perhaps the most unreasonable of
all the children of men, the Indian of the American forest.

With the Indians, their habits, characteristics, polity and trade Franklin
was very conversant. Repeatedly, during his lifetime, the frontiers of
Pennsylvania were harried by the tomahawk and scalping-knife. In a letter,
written a few months after Braddock's defeat to Richard Partridge, he
mentions, for instance, that the savages had just surprised and cut off
eight families near Shamokin, killing and scalping thirteen grown persons
and kidnapping twelve children. In another letter to Peter Collinson,
written the next year, he made this appalling summary of what, with the aid
of the French, the revenge of the Delawares for the imposition practised
upon them in the Walking Purchase was supposed to have cost the Province.
"Some Hundreds of Lives lost, many Farms destroy'd and near £100,000 spent,
yet," he added, "the Proprietor refuses to be taxed except for a trifling
Part of his Estate." During the incursions of this period, the Indian
war-parties pushed their outrages to a point only eighty miles from
Philadelphia. A diarist, Thomas Lloyd, who accompanied Franklin on his
expedition to Gnadenhutten, gives us this ghastly description of what they
found there:

     Here all round appears nothing but one continued scene
     of horror and destruction. Where lately flourished a
     happy and peaceful village, it is now all silent and
     desolate; the houses burnt; the inhabitants butchered
     in the most shocking manner; their mangled bodies, for
     want of funerals, exposed to birds and beasts of prey;
     and all kinds of mischief perpetrated that wanton
     cruelty can invent.

Not even a Rizpah left to brood over the scalpless forms, and to drive away
the buzzard and the wild things of the forest! In this scene, and the
pettier but similarly tragic scenes of death and havoc, furnished, from
time to time, over a wide range of frontier territory, by lonely fields and
cabins, upon which the tomahawk had ruthlessly descended, is to be found
the psychology of the furious passions, which hurried the wretched
Conestoga Indians out of existence, and of the outspoken or covert
sympathy, which made a mockery of the attempt to bring their butchers to
justice. Even men cooler than the Paxton Boys, hardened by revolting
cruelties, not distinguishable from those inflicted by talon or tooth,
except in their atrocious refinements of torture, and yet brought home in
some form or other to almost every fireside in Pennsylvania, came to think
of killing and mutilating an Indian with no more compunction than if he
were a rattlesnake. James Parton mentions with a natural shudder the fact
that Governor John Penn, after the retirement of the Paxton Boys from
Philadelphia, offered the following bounties: For every captive male Indian
of any hostile tribe one hundred and fifty dollars; for every female
captive one hundred and thirty-eight dollars, for the scalp of a male
Indian one hundred and thirty-four dollars, for the scalp of a female
Indian fifty dollars. To Franklin himself, when on the Gnadenhutten
expedition, fell the duty of instructing a Captain Vanetta, who was about
to raise a company of foot-soldiers for the protection of upper Smithfield,
while its inhabitants were looking after their corn, that forty dollars
would be allowed and paid by the Provincial Government for each Indian
scalp produced by one of his men with the proper attestations. How
accustomed even Franklin became to the ever-repeated story of Indian
barbarities, and to occasional reprisals by the whites, hardly less
shocking, is revealed by a brief letter from him to Peter Collinson in
1764, in which, with the dry conciseness of an old English chronicler, he
reports the narratives of a British soldier, Owens, who had deserted to the
Indians, and a white boy, whom Owens had brought back with him from
captivity, together with five propitiatory Indian scalps, when he returned
to his former allegiance.

     The Account given by him and the Boy [wrote Franklin]
     is, that they were with a Party of nine Indians, to
     wit, 5 men, 2 Women, and 2 Children, coming down
     Susquehanah to fetch Corn from their last Year's
     Planting Place; that they went ashore and encamp'd at
     Night and made a Fire by which they slept; that in the
     Night Owens made the White Boy get up from among the
     Indians, and go to the other side of the Fire; and then
     taking up the Indians' Guns, he shot two of the Men
     immediately, and with his Hatchet dispatch'd another
     Man together with the Women and Children. Two men only
     made their escape. Owens scalp'd the 5 grown Persons,
     and bid the White Boy scalp the Children; but he
     declin'd it, so they were left.

Franklin, however, was not the man to say, as General Philip Sheridan was
many years afterwards to be reputed to have said, that the only good Indian
is a dead Indian. In the course of his varied life, he had many
opportunities for becoming familiarly acquainted with the history and
character of the Indians, and forming a just judgment as to how far their
fiendish outbreaks were due to sheer animal ferocity, and how far to the
provocation of ill-treatment by the whites; and he was too just not to know
and declare that almost every war between the Indians and the whites in his
time had been occasioned by some injustice of the latter towards the
former. As far back as 1753, he and Isaac Norris, the Speaker of the
Assembly, were appointed commissioners by it to unite with Richard Peters,
the Secretary of the Proprietary Government, in negotiating a treaty with
the western Indians at Carlisle, and the manner, in which this treaty was
conducted, is told in the _Autobiography_ in his lively way. In 1756, he
again served as a commissioner, this time with William Logan and Richard
Peters, two members of the Governor's Council, and Joseph Fox, William
Masters and John Hughes, three members of the Assembly, for the purpose of
negotiating a treaty at Easton with Teedyuscung, the King of the Delawares.
At this conference, Governor Denny himself was likewise present. In 1763,
he was appointed one of the commissioners to expend the money appropriated
by the Assembly for levying a military force to defend the Pennsylvania
frontier against the Indians. The Albany Congress, as we have seen, brought
him into direct personal contact with the Iroquois who, to a fell savagery
only to be compared with that of the most ferocious beasts of the jungle,
united a capacity for political cohesion and the rudiments of civilized
life which gave them quite an exceptional standing in the history of the
American Indian. By virtue of these circumstances, to say nothing of other
sources of knowledge and information, Franklin obtained an insight, at once
shrewd and profound, into everything that related to the American Indian,
including the best methods by which his good will could be conciliated and
his trade secured. The following remarks in his Canada Pamphlet give us a
good idea of the mobility and special adaptation to his physical
environment which made the Indian, in proportion to his numbers, the most
formidable foe that the world has ever seen:

     They go to war, as they call it, in small parties, from
     fifty men down to five. Their hunting life has made
     them acquainted with the whole country, and scarce any
     part of it is impracticable to such a party. They can
     travel thro' the woods even by night, and know how to
     conceal their tracks. They pass easily between your
     forts undiscovered; and privately approach the
     settlements of your frontier inhabitants. They need no
     convoys of provisions to follow them; for whether they
     are shifting from place to place in the woods, or lying
     in wait for an opportunity to strike a blow, every
     thicket and every stream furnishes so small a number
     with sufficient subsistence. When they have surpriz'd
     separately, and murder'd and scalp'd a dozen families,
     they are gone with inconceivable expedition through
     unknown ways, and 'tis very rare that pursuers have any
     chance of coming up with them. 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

This is the Indian seen from the point of view of the soldier and colonial
administrator. He is fully as interesting, when considered by Franklin in a
letter to Richard Jackson from the point of view of the philosopher:

     They visit us frequently, and see the advantages that
     arts, sciences, and compact societies procure us. They
     are not deficient in natural understanding; and yet
     they have never shown any inclination to change their
     manner of life for ours, or to learn any of our arts.
     When an Indian child has been brought up among us,
     taught our language, and habituated to our customs,
     yet, if he goes to see his relatives, and makes one
     Indian ramble with them, there is no persuading him
     ever to return. And that this is not natural to them
     merely as Indians, but as men, is plain from this, that
     when white persons, of either sex, have been taken
     prisoners by the Indians, and lived a while with them,
     though ransomed by their friends, and treated with all
     imaginable tenderness to prevail with them to stay
     among the English, yet in a short time they become
     disgusted with our manner of life, and the care and
     pains that are necessary to support it, and take the
     first opportunity of escaping again into the woods,
     from whence there is no redeeming them. One instance I
     remember to have heard, where the person was brought
     home to possess a good estate; but, finding some care
     necessary to keep it together, he relinquished it to a
     younger brother, reserving to himself nothing but a gun
     and a match-coat, with which he took his way again into
     the wilderness.

     So that I am apt to imagine that close societies,
     subsisting by labour and art, arose first not from
     choice but from necessity, when numbers, being driven
     by war from their hunting grounds, and prevented by
     seas, or by other nations, from obtaining other hunting
     grounds, were crowded together into some narrow
     territories, which without labour could not afford them

A man had to be humorous, indeed, to see anything humorous in the American
Indian, but Franklin's sense of the ludicrous was equal to even that
supreme achievement. We have already referred to the image of hell that he
saw in the nocturnal orgies of the drunken Indians at Carlisle. Prudently
enough, they were not allowed by the Provincial Commissioners to have the
rum that was in store for them until they had ratified the treaty entered
into on that occasion; an artifice that doubtless proved quite as effective
in hastening its consummation as the one adopted by Chaplain Beatty of
distributing the rum before, instead of after, prayers, did in securing the
punctual attendance of Franklin's soldiers at them. But diabolical as were
the gestures and yells of the drink-crazed Indians, men and women, at
Carlisle, Franklin contrived to bring away a facetious story from the
conference for the _Autobiography_. The orator, who called on the
Commissioners the next day, after the debauch, for the purpose of
apologizing for the conduct of himself and his people,

     laid it upon the rum; and then endeavoured to excuse
     the rum by saying, "_The Great Spirit, who made all
     things, made everything for some use, and whatever use
     he design'd anything for, that use it should always be
     put to. Now, when he made rum, he said 'Let this be for
     the Indians to get drunk with'; and it must be so._"...
     And indeed [adds Franklin] if it be the design of
     Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make
     room for cultivators of the earth, it seems not
     improbable that rum may be the appointed means. It has
     already annihilated all the tribes who formerly
     inhabited the seacoast.

There is another good Indian story in the letter from Franklin to Richard
Jackson from which we have recently quoted. When everything had been
settled at a conference between the Six Nations and some of the Colonies,
and nothing remained to be gone through with but a mutual exchange of
civilities, the English Commissioners told the Indians that they had in
their country a college for the instruction of youth in the various
languages, arts and sciences, and that, if the Indians were willing, they
would take back with them a half-dozen of their brightest lads and bring
them up in the best manner. The Indians, after weighing the proposal,
replied that they remembered that some of their youths had formerly been
educated at that college, but that it had been observed that for a long
time, after they returned to their friends, they were absolutely good for
nothing; being neither acquainted with the true methods of killing deer,
catching beaver, or surprising an enemy. The proposition, however, they
regarded as a mark of kindness and good will on the part of the English,
which merited a grateful return, and therefore, if the English gentlemen
would send a dozen or two of their children to Opondago, the Great Council
would take care of their education, bring them up in what was really the
best manner, and make men of them.[17]

That the whites had much to answer for in their intercourse with the
Indians Franklin saw clearly. The Canada Pamphlet speaks of the goods sold
to them by French and English traders as loaded with all the impositions
that fraud and knavery could contrive to enhance their value, and in one of
Franklin's notes on the Albany plan of union he referred many Indian wars
to cheating, practised by Indian traders on Indians, whom they had first
made drunk. These traders he termed on another occasion, "the most vicious
and abandoned Wretches of our Nation." "I do not believe we shall ever have
a firm peace with the Indians," he wrote to Thomas Pownall in 1756, "till
we have well drubbed them." This was the natural language of a man who had
no toleration for wanton applications of force but did not shrink from
applying it, when nothing else would answer. But no man could have been
more fearless than he in denouncing outrages committed by the whites upon
inoffensive Indians, or Indians of any sort, when not on the war path. "It
grieves me," he wrote to Sir William Johnson in 1766, "to hear that our
Frontier People are yet greater Barbarians than the Indians, and continue
to murder them in time of peace."

His views about the proper methods of controlling the Indians and securing
their trade were worthy of his liberal and enlightened mind. Their
friendship he deemed to be of the greatest consequence to the Colonies, and
the best way to make sure of it, he thought, was to regulate trade between
the whites and the Indians in such a way as to convince the latter that, as
between France and England, the English goods were the best and cheapest,
and the English merchants the most honorable, and to form a union between
the Colonies strong enough to make the Indians feel that they could depend
on it for protection against the French, or that they would suffer at its
hands if they should break with it. The Indian trade, for which the
colonists had sacrificed so much blood and treasure, was, he boldly
reminded his auditors, in his famous examination before the House of
Commons, not an American but a British interest, maintained with British
manufactures for the profit of British merchants and manufacturers. In a
letter to Cadwallader Colden, he even suggested that the Government should
take it over, and furnish goods to the Indians at the cheapest prices,
without regard to profit, as Massachusetts had done.

Other suggestions of Franklin with respect to the conduct of the Indian
trade were hardly less interesting. Pittsburg, he contended, after the
restoration of peace in 1759, should be retained by the English, with a
small tract of land about it for supplying the fort with provisions, and
with sufficient hunting grounds in its vicinity for the peculiar needs of
their Indian friends. A fort, and a small population of sober, orderly
people there, he thought, would help to preserve the friendship of the
Indians by bringing trade and the arts into close proximity to them, and
would bridle them, if seduced from their allegiance by the French, or
would, at least, stand in the gap, and be a shield to the other American

Another suggestion of his was that, in time of peace, parties should be
allowed to issue from frontier garrisons on hunting expeditions, with or
without Indians, and enjoy the profits of the peltry that they brought
back. In this way, a body of wood-runners would be formed, well acquainted
with the country and of great value in time of war as guides and scouts.
Every Indian was a hunter, every Indian was a disciplined soldier. They
hunted in precisely the same manner as they made war. The only difference
was that in hunting they skulked, surprised and killed animals, and, in
making war, men. It was just such soldiers that the colonies needed; for
the European military discipline was of little use in the woods. These
words were penned four or five years before the battle of the Monongahela
confirmed so bloodily their truth. Franklin also thought that a number of
sober, discreet smiths should be encouraged to reside among the Indians.
The whole subsistence of Indians depended on their keeping their guns in
order. They were a people that thought much of their temporal, but little
of their spiritual interests, and, therefore, a smith was more likely to
influence them than a Jesuit. In a letter to his son, he mentions that he
had dined recently with Lord Shelburne, and had availed himself of the
occasion to urge that a colony should be planted in the Illinois country
for furnishing provisions to military garrisons more cheaply, clinching the
hold of the English upon the country, and building up a strength which, in
the event of a future war, might easily be poured down the Mississippi upon
the lower country, and into the Bay of Mexico, to be used against Cuba or
Mexico itself.

The reader has already had brought to his attention the provisions of the
Albany plan of union which were intended to vest in the government sketched
by it the control of Indian treaties, trade and purchases.

The ignorance of the Indian character, which prevailed in England, often,
we may be sure, brought a smile to the face of Franklin. Among his writings
are remarks made at the request of Lord Shelburne on a plan for regulating
Indian affairs submitted to him by the latter. It is to be regretted that
the circumstances of the case were such that it was impossible for Franklin
to escape the restraints of official gravity even when he was assigning the
rambling habits of the Indians as his reason for believing that an Indian
chief would hardly be willing to reside permanently with one of the
functionaries, who was to aid in carrying the plan into effect, or when he
was giving the high value, that the Indian attached to personal liberty,
and the low value, that he attached to personal property, as his reason for
thinking that imprisonment for debt was scarcely consistent with aboriginal
ideas of equity. The plan was of a piece with the suggestion attributed to
Dean Tucker that the colonies should be protected from Indian incursions by
clearing away the trees and bushes from a tract of land, a mile in width,
at the back of the colonies. As Benjamin Vaughan said, this brilliant idea
not only involved a first cost (not to mention the fact that trees and
bushes grow again when cut down) of some £128,000 for every hundred miles
but quite overlooked the fact that the Indians, like other people, knew the
difference between day and night. He forgot, said Franklin, "that there is
a night in every twenty-four hours."

The distinction, which Franklin enjoyed in England, during his first
mission to that country, was due to his philosophical and literary
reputation, but his second mission to England and the colonial agencies,
held by him while it lasted, afforded him an opportunity for playing a
conspicuous part in the stirring transactions, which ushered in the
American Revolution. Apart from all other considerations, his place in the
history of these transactions will always be an extraordinary one because
of the consummate wisdom and self-restraint exhibited by him in his
relations to the controversy that finally ended in a fratricidal war
between Great Britain and her colonies, which should never have been
kindled. To the issues, involved in this controversy, he brought a vision
as undimmed by political bigotry and false economic conceptions of colonial
dependence as that of a British statesman of the present day. It is easy to
believe that, if his counsels had been heeded, Great Britain and the
communities, which make up the American Union, would now be connected by
some close organic or federative tie. It is, at least, certain that no
other Englishman on either side of the Atlantic saw as clearly as he did
the true interests of both parties to the fatal conflict, or strove with
such unerring sagacity and sober moderation of purpose to avert the breach
between the two great branches of the English People. In no way can the
extreme folly, which forced independence upon the colonies, be better
measured than by contrasting the heated vehemence of Franklin's later
feelings about the King and Parliament with his earlier sentiments towards
the country that he did not cease to call "home" until to call it so would
have been mockery. Devoted attachment to England, the land endeared to him
by so many ties of family, intellectual sympathy and friendship, profound
loyalty to the British Crown, deep-seated reverence for the laws,
institutions and usages of the noble people, in whose inheritance of
enlightened freedom he vainly insisted upon having his full share as an
Englishman, were all characteristics of his, before the alienation of the
colonies from Great Britain.[18]

His earlier utterances breathe a spirit of ingrained loyalty to the British
Crown. The French were "mischievous neighbors," France "that perfidious
nation." "I congratulate you on the defeat of Jacobitism by your glorious
Duke," he wrote to Strahan in 1746, after the Duke of Cumberland had earned
his title of "The Butcher" at Culloden. "I pray God to preserve long to
Great Britain the English Laws, Manners, Liberties, and Religion," was an
exclamation seven years later in one of his letters to Richard Jackson.
"Wise and good prince," "the best of Kings," "Your good King," are some of
the terms in which he expressed his opinion of his royal master. In the
light of later events, there is something little short of amusing about the
horoscope which he framed of the reign of George the Third in a letter to
Strahan a year or so before the passage of the Stamp Act. Replying to
forebodings of Strahan, Franklin said of the Prince, whom he styled "Our
virtuous young King":

     On the contrary, I am of Opinion that his Virtue and
     the Consciousness of his sincere Intentions to make his
     People happy will give him Firmness and Steadiness in
     his Measures and in the Support of the honest Friends
     he has chosen to serve him; and when that Firmness is
     fully perceiv'd, Faction will dissolve and be
     dissipated like a Morning Fog before the rising Sun,
     leaving the rest of the Day clear with a Sky serene and
     cloudless. Such after a few of the first Years will be
     the future course of his Majesty's Reign, which I
     predict will be happy and truly glorious.

In his letter to Polly about the French King and Queen, whom he had seen
dining in state, which was written the year after the repeal of the Stamp
Act, he declared, in his fear that he might seem to be too well pleased
with them, that no Frenchman should go beyond him in thinking his own King
and Queen, "the very best in the World, and the most amiable." The popular
commotions in the succeeding year, with their watch cry of Wilkes and
Liberty, seemed to him to indicate that some punishment was preparing for a
people, who were ungratefully abusing the best Constitution and the best
King that any nation was ever blessed with. As late as 1770, he wrote to
Dr. Samuel Cooper, "Let us, therefore, hold fast our Loyalty to our King,
who has the best Disposition towards us, and has a Family Interest in our
Prosperity." Indeed, even two years later than this, he complacently wrote
to his son, "The King, too, has lately been heard to speak of me with great
regard." Strangely enough it was not until two years before the battle of
Bunker Hill that he awoke sufficiently from his fool's paradise to write to
his son, "Between you and I, 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_." Even then he hazarded the opinion that by
painstaking and proper management the wrong impression of the colonists
that George the Third had received might be removed. Down to this time so
secretly had the King pursued the insidious system of corruption by which
he kept his Parliamentary majority unmurmuringly subservient to his system
of personal government, that Franklin does not appear to have even
suspected that his was the master hand, or rather purse, which shaped all
its proceedings against America. When the whole truth, however, was made
manifest to Franklin, his awakening was correspondingly rude and
unforgiving. How completely reversed became the current of all his feelings
towards George the Third, after the Revolution began, we have already seen
in some of our references to letters written by him to his English friends,
in which the King, whom he once revered, was scored in terms of passionate

Tenacious, too, was the affection with which Franklin clung to England and
the English people. Some years before the passage of the Stamp Act, he
wrote to Lord Kames from London that he purposed to give form to the
material that he had been gathering for his _Art of Virtue_ when he
returned to his _other_ country, that is to say, America.

     Of all the enviable Things England has [he wrote a few
     years later to Polly], I envy it most its People. Why
     should that petty Island, which compar'd to America, is
     but like a stepping Stone in a Brook, scarce enough of
     it above Water to keep one's Shoes dry; why, I say,
     should that little Island enjoy in almost every
     Neighbourhood, more sensible, virtuous, and elegant
     Minds, than we can collect in ranging 100 Leagues of
     our vast Forests?

How eagerly even when he was in the New World he relished the observations
of his friend Strahan on current English politics, we have already seen. We
have also already seen how seriously he entertained even the thought of
transferring his family for good to England. Indeed his intense loyalty to
English King and People, together with his remoteness from the contagious
excitement of the Colonies over the passage of the Stamp Act, caused him
for a time, with a curious insensibility to the real state of public
opinion in America, to lag far behind the revolutionary movement in that
country. Not only, before he was fully aroused to the stern purpose of his
fellow-countrymen to resist the collection of the stamp tax to the last
extremity, did he recommend his friend John Hughes to the British Ministry
as a stamp-tax collector, and send to his partner Hall a large quantity of
paper for the use of the _Gazette_, of such dimensions as to secure a
saving in stamps for its issues, but he wrote to Hughes in these terms

     If it (the Stamp Act) continues, your undertaking to
     execute it may make you unpopular for a Time, but your
     acting with Coolness and Steadiness, and with every
     Circumstance in your Power of Favour to the People,
     will by degrees reconcile them. In the meantime, a firm
     Loyalty to the Crown & faithful Adherence to the
     Government of this Nation, which it is the Safety as
     well as Honour of the Colonies to be connected with,
     will always be the wisest Course for you and I to take,
     whatever may be the Madness of the Populace or their
     blind Leaders, who can only bring themselves and
     Country into Trouble and draw on greater Burthens by
     Acts of Rebellious Tendency.

The rashness of the Virginia Assembly in relation to the Stamp Act he
thought simply amazing.

Much better known is the letter that he wrote about the same time to
Charles Thomson. After stating that he had done everything in his power to
prevent the passage of the Stamp Act, he said:

     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 'tis 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 may still
     light candles. Frugality and Industry will go a great
     way toward 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.

Six months later, when the loud and fierce protest of his fellow-countrymen
against the Stamp Act had reached his ear, and convinced him that they were
more likely to light camp-fires than candles, he held a very different
language. Asked, during his famous examination before the House of Commons,
whether he thought that the people of America would submit to pay the Stamp
Tax, if it were moderated, he replied, "No, never, unless compelled by
force of arms." Public leaders, after all, to use Gladstone's happy image
with regard to the orator, do little more than give back in rain what they
receive in mist from the mass of men. But with the repeal of the Stamp Act,
and part of the duties imposed upon America, Franklin would readily have
lapsed in every respect into his old affectionate relations to England, if
Parliament had not, by its unwise reservation of its right to tax America,
fallen into the bad surgery, to use his own words, of leaving splinters in
the wound that it had inflicted. It now seems strange enough that, after
the turbulent outbreak in America, which preceded the repeal, he should
have been willing to accept a post under the Duke of Grafton, and to remain
in England for some time longer if not for the rest of his life; yet such
is the fact. When he heard through a friend that the Duke had said that, if
he chose rather to reside in England than to return to his office as Deputy
Postmaster-General for America, it would not be the Duke's fault, if he was
not well provided for, he declared in the polished phrases of a courtier
that there was no nobleman, to whom he could from sincere respect for his
great abilities and amiable qualities so cordially attach himself, or to
whom he should so willingly be obliged for the provision mentioned, as to
the Duke of Grafton, if his Grace should think that he could in any
station, where he might be placed, be serviceable to him and to the public.
To any one who knows what a profligate the Duke was, during the most
scandalous part of his career, this language sounds not a little like the
conventional phrases in which Franklin, during his mission to France,
assured Crocco, the blackmailing emissary of the piratical emperor of
Morocco that he had no doubt but that, as soon as the affairs of the United
States were a little settled, they would manifest equally good dispositions
as those of his master and take all the proper steps to cultivate and
secure the friendship of a monarch, whose character, Franklin knew, they
had long esteemed and respected.

But in the same letter to his son, in which the declaration about the Duke
of Grafton was recalled, Franklin made it clear that he was unwilling, by
accepting office, to place himself in the power of any English Minister
committed to the fatuous policy of taxing America. It was not until
forbearance had ceased to be a virtue, and an American Whig could no longer
hold an English office without reproach, that his innate conservatism of
character yielded to the forces which were slowly but certainly rending the
two countries apart. Three years after the repeal of the Stamp Act, which
he dubbed "the mother of mischief," he wrote to Jean Baptiste Le Roy of the
popular disturbances in Boston as "sudden, unpremeditated things, that
happened only among a few of the lower sort." A month later, he wrote to
Dr. Cooper:

     I have been in constant Pain since I heard of Troops
     assembling at Boston, lest the Madness of Mobs, or the
     Insolence of Soldiers, or both, should, when too near
     each other, occasion some Mischief difficult to be
     prevented or repaired, and which might spread far and
     wide. "I hope however," he added, "that Prudence will
     predominate, and keep all quiet."

A little later still, in another letter to the same correspondent, after
saying that he could scarcely conceive a King of better dispositions, of
more exemplary virtues, or more truly desirous of promoting the welfare of
all his subjects than was George the Third, he further and truly said: "The
Body of this People, too, is of a noble and generous Nature, loving and
honouring the Spirit of Liberty, and hating arbitrary Power of all sorts.
We have many, very many, friends among them."

As late as the autumn of 1774 he was grieved to hear of mobs and violence
and the pulling down of houses in America, which the friends of America in
England could not justify, and which gave a great advantage to the enemies
of America in that country. He was in perpetual anxiety, he wrote Thomas
Cushing, lest the mad measures of mixing soldiers among a people whose
minds were in such a state of irritation might be attended with some
mischief, for an accidental quarrel, a personal insult, an imprudent order,
an insolent execution of even a prudent one, or twenty other things might
produce a tumult, unforeseen, and, therefore, impossible to be prevented,
in which such a carnage might ensue as to make a breach that could never
afterwards be healed. That the insults of Wedderburn, heaped upon Franklin
in the Privy Council Chamber, under circumstances, calculated to make him
feel as if all England were pillorying him, and his subsequent dismissal
from the office of Deputy Postmaster-General for America, exerted some
degree of corrosive influence upon his mind cannot be denied; but he still
kept up his counsels of patience to his people upon the other side of the
Atlantic until patience no longer had any meaning, and, when his last
efforts, just before he left England for Independence Hall, to bring about
a satisfactory adjustment of the quarrel between Great Britain and her
colonies finally came to nothing, the tears that Priestley tells us wet his
cheeks, as he was leaving England, were proof enough that even a nature,
little given to weakness, might well grow faint at the thought of such a
tragic separation as that of England and the thirteen colonies nurtured at
her breast. But no one can read the life of Franklin without feeling that
there never was a time when his heart was not wholly true to the just
rights of America. In America, he might miss the companionship of the
learned and distinguished friends from whose conversation he derived so
much profit and pleasure in England and France. Only such a capital as
London or Paris could fully gratify the social and intellectual wants of a
man whose survey of human existence was so little subject to cramping
restrictions of any kind. But it was the very breadth of Franklin's
character which made him first of all an American, instinct with the free
spirit of the New World, and faithful to the democratic institutions and
ideals, which throve on its freshness and exemption from inherited
complications. Over and over again, when he is abroad, he compares the
economic and political conditions of his own country with those of foreign
countries to the marked disadvantage of the latter. The painful
impression, left upon his mind by the squalor and misery of the lower
orders of the Irish people, is manifest enough in his correspondence.

     Ireland is in itself [he declared in a letter to Thomas
     Cushing] a poor Country, and Dublin a magnificent City;
     but the appearances of general extreme poverty among
     the lower people are amazing. They live in wretched
     hovels of mud and straw, are clothed in rags, and
     subsist chiefly on potatoes. Our New England farmers,
     of the poorest sort, in regard to the Enjoyment of all
     the Comforts of life, are princes when compared to
     them. Such is the effect of the discouragements of
     industry, the non-residence not only of pensioners, but
     of many original landlords, who lease their lands in
     gross to undertakers that rack the tenants and fleece
     them skin and all to make estates to themselves, while
     the first rents, as well as most of the pensions, are
     spent out of the country. An English gentleman there
     said to me, that by what he had heard of the good
     grazing in North America, and by what he saw of the
     plenty of flax-seed imported in Ireland from thence, he
     could not understand why we did not rival Ireland in
     the beef and butter trade to the West Indies, and share
     with it in its linen trade. But he was satisfied when I
     told him that I supposed the reason might be, _our
     people eat beef and butter every day, and wear shirts

     In short, the chief exports of Ireland seem to be
     pinched off the backs and out of the bellies of the
     miserable inhabitants.

Darker and more forbidding still glooms the background of the joyous hours
spent by Franklin in Ireland, Scotland and England in these painful words
which he wrote to Dr. Joshua Babcock in the early part of 1772:

     I have lately made a Tour thro' Ireland and Scotland.
     In those Countries a small Part of the Society are
     Landlords, great Noblemen, and Gentlemen, extreamly
     opulent, living in the highest Affluence and
     Magnificence: The Bulk of the People Tenants, extreamly
     poor, living in the most sordid Wretchedness, in dirty
     Hovels of Mud and Straw, and cloathed only in Rags.

     I thought often of the Happiness of New England, where
     every Man is a Freeholder, has a Vote in publick
     Affairs, lives in a tidy, warm House, has plenty of
     good Food and Fewel, with whole cloaths from Head to
     Foot, the Manufacture perhaps of his own Family. Long
     may they continue in this Situation! But if they should
     ever envy the Trade of these Countries, I can put them
     in a Way to obtain a Share of it. Let them with three
     fourths of the People of Ireland live the Year round on
     Potatoes and Buttermilk, without shirts, then may their
     Merchants export Beef, Butter, and Linnen. Let them,
     with the Generality of the Common People of Scotland,
     go Barefoot, then may they make large exports in Shoes
     and Stockings: And if they will be content to wear
     Rags, like the Spinners and Weavers of England, they
     may make Cloths and Stuffs for all Parts of the World.

     Farther, if my Countrymen should ever wish for the
     honour of having among them a gentry enormously
     wealthy, let them sell their Farms & pay rack'd Rents;
     the Scale of the Landlords will rise as that of the
     Tenants is depress'd, who will soon become poor,
     tattered, dirty, and abject in Spirit. Had I never been
     in the American Colonies, but was to form my Judgment
     of Civil Society by what I have lately seen, I should
     never advise a Nation of Savages to admit of
     Civilization: For I assure you, that, in the Possession
     & Enjoyment of the various Comforts of Life, compar'd
     to these People every Indian is a Gentleman: And the
     Effect of this kind of Civil Society seems only to be,
     the depressing Multitudes below the Savage State that a
     few may be rais'd above it.

America on the other hand, as Franklin pictured it, was the land of neither
the very rich nor the very poor, but one in which "a general happy
mediocrity" prevailed. It was not a Lubberland, nor a Pays de Cocagne,
where the streets were paved with half-peck loaves, and the houses tiled
with pancakes, and where the fowls flew about ready roasted, crying Come
eat me! These were all wild imaginations. On the contrary, it was a land
of labor, but also a land where multitudes of emigrants from foreign lands,
who would never have emerged from poverty, if they had remained at home,
had, with savings out of the wages, earned by them, after they arrived in
America, acquired land, and, in a few years, become wealthy farmers. It was
a land, too, where religious infidelity was unknown, and where all the
means of education were plenteous, the general manners simple and pure, and
the temptations to vice and folly fewer than in England.

The contrast between political conditions in Great Britain and political
conditions in America was in Franklin's opinion equally unfavorable to
Great Britain. Loyal as he was to the King, attached as he was to the
English people, he harbored a deep feeling of aversion and contempt for the
Parliament which he did not realize was but the marionette of the King.
When certain residents of Oxford, after being confined for some days in
Newgate for corrupt practices, knelt before the Speaker of the House of
Commons, and received his reprimand, Franklin wrote to Galloway:

     The House could scarcely keep countenances, knowing as
     they all do, that the practice is general. People say,
     they mean nothing more than to _beat down the price_ by
     a little discouragement of borough jobbing, now that
     their own elections are all coming on. The price indeed
     is grown exorbitant, no less than _four thousand
     pounds_ for a member.

In the same letter, a grim story is told of the callous levity with which
the Parliamentary majority regarded its own debasement. It was founded upon
a bill brought in by Beckford for preventing bribery and corruption at
elections, which contained a clause obliging every member to swear, on his
admission to the House, that he had not directly or indirectly given any
bribe to any elector. This clause was so generally opposed as answering no
end except that of inducing the members to perjure themselves that it was
withdrawn. Commenting on the incident, Franklin said:

     It was indeed a cruel contrivance of his, worse than
     the gunpowder plot; for that was only to blow the
     Parliament up to heaven, this to sink them all down to
     ----. Mr. Thurlow opposed his bill by a long speech.
     Beckford, in reply, gave a dry hit to the House, that
     is repeated everywhere. "The honourable gentleman,"
     says he, "in his learned discourse, gave us first one
     definition of corruption, then he gave us another
     definition of corruption, and I think he was about to
     give us a third. Pray does that gentleman imagine
     _there is any member of this House that does not_ KNOW
     what corruption is?" which occasioned only a roar of
     laughter, for they are so hardened in the practice,
     that they are very little ashamed of it.

Later Franklin wrote to Galloway that it was thought that near two million
pounds would be spent in the Parliamentary election then pending, but that
it was computed that the Crown had _two millions a year in places and
pensions to dispose of_. On the same day, he wrote to his son, "In short,
this whole venal nation is now at market, will be sold for about two
millions, and might be bought out of the hands of the present bidders (if
he would offer half a million more) by the very Devil himself." To Thomas
Cushing he wrote that luxury brought most of the Commons as well as Lords
to market, and that, if America would save for three or four years the
money she spent in the fashions and fineries and fopperies of England, she
might buy the whole Parliament, minister and all.

Over against these depraved electoral conditions he was in the habit of
placing the simpler and purer conditions of his native land. In most of the
Colonies, he declared in his _Rise and Progress of the Differences between
Great_ _Britain and her American Colonies_, there was no such thing as
standing candidate for election. There was neither treating nor bribing. No
man expressed the least inclination to be chosen. Instead of humble
advertisements, entreating votes and interest, one saw before every new
election requests of former members, acknowledging the honor done them by
preceding elections, but setting forth their long service and attendance on
the public business in that station, and praying that in consideration
thereof some other person might be chosen in their room. After a
dissolution, the same representatives might be and usually were re-elected
without asking a vote or giving even a glass of cider to an elector. On the
eve of his return to America in 1775, the contrast between the extreme
corruption prevalent in the old rotten state and the glorious public
virtue, so predominant in rising America, as he expressed it, assumed a
still more aggravated form. After mentioning in his last letter to his
friend Galloway the "Numberless and needless Places, enormous Salaries,
Pensions, Perquisites, Bribes, groundless Quarrels, foolish Expeditions,
false Accounts or no Accounts, Contracts and Jobbs," which in England
devoured all revenue, and produced continual necessity in the midst of
natural plenty, he said:

     I apprehend, therefore, that to unite us intimately
     will only be to corrupt and poison us also. It seems
     like Mezentius's coupling and binding together the dead
     and the living.

         "Tormenti genus, et sanie taboque fluentes,
         Complexu in misero, longâ sic morte necabat."

     However [he added with his readily re-awakened loyalty
     to the mother country], I would try anything, and bear
     anything that can be borne with Safety to our just
     Liberties, rather than engage in a War with such near
     relations, unless compelled to it by dire Necessity in
     our own Defence.

Nor was any American of Franklin's time more profoundly conscious than he
of the growing power and splendid destiny of the Colonies. His familiarity
with America was singularly minute and accurate. He had supped at its inns
and sojourned in its homes, been delayed at its ferries and crippled on its
roads. In one way or another, he had acquired a correct and searching
insight into almost everything that related to its political, social and
industrial life. His answers to the questions put to him during his famous
examination before the House of Lords have been justly reputed to be among
the most striking of all the proofs of ability that he ever gave, marked as
they were by great wisdom and acuteness, marvellous conciseness as well as
clearness of statement, invincible tact and dexterity. But in no respect
are these answers more remarkable than in the knowledge that they display
of colonial America in all its relations. Accompanying this knowledge, too,
was unquestionably a powerful feeling of affection for the land of his
birth which renders us more or less skeptical as to whether he was at all
certain of himself on the different occasions when he expressed his
willingness to die in some other land than his own.

     I have indeed [he wrote to his son from England in
     1772] so many good kind Friends here, that I could
     spend the Remainder of my Life among them with great
     Pleasure, if it were not for my American connections, &
     the indelible Affection I retain for that dear Country,
     from which I have so long been in a State of Exile.

At all times the tread of those coming millions of human beings, which the
family fecundity of America made certain, sounded majestically in his ears.
Referring to America in a letter to Lord Kames in the year after the repeal
of the Stamp Act, he employed these significant words:

     She may suffer at present under the arbitrary power of
     this country; she may suffer for a while in a
     separation from it; but these are temporary evils that
     she will outgrow. Scotland and Ireland are differently
     circumstanced. Confined by the sea, they can scarcely
     increase in numbers, wealth and strength, so as to
     overbalance England. But America, an immense territory,
     favoured by Nature with all advantages of climate,
     soil, great navigable rivers, and lakes, &c. must
     become a great country, populous and mighty; and will,
     in a less time than is generally conceived, be able to
     shake off any shackles that may be imposed on her, and
     perhaps place them on the imposers. In the mean time,
     every act of oppression will sour their tempers, lessen
     greatly, if not annihilate the profits of your commerce
     with them, and hasten their final revolt; for the seeds
     of liberty are universally found there, and nothing can
     eradicate them.

Even, if confined westward by the Mississippi and northward by the St.
Lawrence and the Lakes, he thought that, in some centuries, the population
of America would amount to one hundred millions of people.

Such were the prepossessions brought by Franklin to the controversy between
Great Britain and her colonies. In his view he was none the less an
Englishman because he was an American, and, as the controversy gained in
rancor, his dual allegiance to the two countries led to no little
misconstruction. To an unknown correspondent he wrote several years after
the repeal of the Stamp Act that he was becoming weary of talking and
writing about the quarrel, "especially," he said, "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."

His view of the legal tie between England and the Colonies was very simple.
How, he wrote to William Franklin, the people of Boston could admit that
the General Court of Massachusetts was subordinate to Parliament, and yet,
in the same breath, deny the power of Parliament to enact laws for them, he
could not understand; nor could he understand what bounds the Farmer's
Letters set to the authority in Parliament, which they conceded, to
"regulate the trade of the Colonies." It was difficult, he thought, to draw
lines between duties for regulation and those for revenue; and, if
Parliament was to be the judge, it seemed to him that the distinction would
amount to little. Two years previously, however, when examined before the
House of Commons; he had stated that, while the right of a Parliament in
which the colonies were not represented to impose an internal tax upon them
was generally denied in America, he had never heard any objection urged in
America to duties laid by Parliament to regulate commerce; and, when he was
asked whether there was any kind of difference between the two taxes to the
colonies on which they might be laid, he had a prompt answer:

     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 to 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 it.
     But an internal tax is forced from the people without
     their consent, if not laid by their own

And then, when asked immediately afterwards whether, if the external tax or
duty was laid on the necessaries of life imported into Pennsylvania, that
would not be the same thing in its effects as an internal tax, he doubtless
filled the minds of his more insular auditors with astonishment by
replying, "I do not know a single article imported into the Northern
Colonies, but what they can either do without, or make themselves."

Another neat answer in the examination was his answer when asked whether
there was any kind of difference between a duty on the importation of goods
and an excise on their consumption:

     Yes, a very material one; an excise, for the reasons I
     have just mentioned, they (the colonists) think you can
     have no right to lay within their country. 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 merchandizes carried through that part
     of your dominions, towards defraying the expence you
     are at in ships to maintain the safety of that

Finally he grew weary of the repeated effort to fix the reproach of
inconsistency upon the colonies because of their acquiescence in
Parliamentary regulation of their commerce; and, when asked whether
Pennsylvania might not, by the same interpretation of her charter, object
to external as well as internal taxation without representation, he

     They never have hitherto. Many arguments have been
     lately used here to show them, that there is no
     difference, and that, if you have no right to tax them
     internally, you have none to tax them externally, or
     make any other law to bind them. At present they do not
     reason so; but in time they may possibly be convinced
     by these arguments.

Nearly ten years later, Franklin had in a conversation with Lord Chatham at
his country seat a notable opportunity to say something further with
respect to Parliamentary regulations of American commerce. On this
occasion, the great English statesman, then earnestly engaged in a last
effort to avert the approaching rupture, observed that the opinion
prevailed in England that America aimed at setting up for itself as an
independent state; or at least getting rid of the Navigation Acts; and
Franklin assured him that, having more than once travelled almost from one
end of the continent to the other, and kept a great variety of company,
eating, drinking and conversing with them freely, he never had heard in any
conversation from any person, drunk or sober, the least expression of a
wish for a separation, or hint that such a thing would be advantageous to
America. And, as to the Navigation Act, he said that the main material part
of it, that of carrying on trade in British or Plantation bottoms,
excluding foreign ships from colonial ports, and navigating with three
fourths British seamen was as acceptable to America as it could be to
Britain. Indeed, he declared, America was not even against regulations of
the general commerce by Parliament, provided such regulations were _bona
fide_ for the benefit of the whole empire, not for the small advantage of
one part to the great injury of another, such as obliging American ships to
call in England with their wine and fruit from Portugal or Spain, the
restraints on American manufactures in the woollen and hat-making branches,
the prohibiting of slitting-mills, steel-works and the like.

In the opinion of Franklin, Great Britain and America were legally
connected as England and Scotland were before the Union by having one
common sovereign. He denied that the instructions of the King had the force
of law in the Colonies, as Lord Granville had contended, or that the King
and Parliament had any legislative authority over them. "Something," he
told his son, "might be made of either of the extremes; that Parliament has
a power to make _all laws_ for us, or that it has a power to make _no laws_
for us; and I think the arguments for the latter more numerous and weighty
than those for the former." The King with his Plantation Parliaments was,
in his opinion, the sole legislator of his American subjects, and, in that
capacity, was, and ought to be, free to exercise his own judgment,
unrestrained and unlimited by the English Parliament.[19] That the
Colonies were originally constituted distinct states and intended to be
continued such, was clear to him, he wrote to Dr. Cooper, from a thorough
consideration of their first charters and the whole conduct of the crown
and nation towards them until the Restoration. Since that time Parliament
had usurped an authority of making laws for them which before it had not,
and America had for some time submitted to the usurpation partly through
ignorance and inattention and partly from its weakness and inability to
contend. He wished therefore that such expressions as "the supreme
authority of Parliament," "the subordinacy of our Assemblies to the
Parliament" and the like were no longer employed in the colonies. These
opinions were formed at a time when he labored under the egregious error of
supposing that, in spite of the wicked machinations of his Parliament, the
King regarded his colonies with the eye of mild paternal favor; but they
remained his opinions long after he ceased to be the cheat of this

How far Franklin's idea of the legal bond between Great Britain and the
Colonies was a correct one is a technical inquiry that we need not discuss;
but his conception of the solidarity of interests which should exist
between all parts of the British Empire was as generous and glowing as any
federal rhapsodist of the present day could form. When he expounded it to
Lord Chatham at Hayes, the latter in his grand way declared that it was a
sound one, worthy of a great, benevolent and comprehensive mind. And such
it was. The truth is that Franklin was an Imperialist, and the union which
he saw was that of a vast English-speaking empire, made up of parts, held
in harmony with each other not only by their common English heritage but
also by a measure of self-government liberal enough to assure to each of
them an intelligent and sympathetic administration of its particular
interests. Until the colonial history of England began, all great empires,
he told Lord Chatham, had crumbled first at their extremities, because

     Countries remote from the Seat and Eye of Government
     which therefore could not well understand their Affairs
     for want of full and true Information, had never been
     well governed but had been oppress'd by bad Governors,
     on Presumption that Complaint was difficult to be made
     and supported against them at such a distance.

Had this process of disintegration not been invited in recent years by
wrong politics (which would have Parliament to be omnipotent, though it
ought not to be so unless it could at the same time be omniscient) they
might have gone on extending their Western Empire, adding Province to
Province, as far as the South Sea.

     It has long appeared to me [he said in his _Tract
     relative to the Affair of Hutchinson's Letters_], that
     the only true British Politicks were those which aim'd
     at the Good of the _Whole British Empire_, not that
     which sought the Advantage of _one Part_ in the
     Disadvantage of the others; therefore all Measures of
     procuring Gain to the Mother Country arising from Loss
     to her Colonies, and all of Gain to the Colonies
     arising from or occasioning Loss to Britain, especially
     where the Gain was small and the Loss great, every
     Abridgment of the Power of the Mother Country, where
     that Power was not prejudicial to the Liberties of the
     Colonists, and every Diminution of the Privileges of
     the Colonists, where they were not prejudicial to the
     Welfare of the Mo. Country, I, in my own Mind,
     condemned as improper, partial, unjust, and
     mischievous; tending to create Dissensions, and weaken
     that Union, on which the Strength, Solidity, and
     Duration of the Empire greatly depended; and I opposed,
     as far as my little Powers went, all Proceedings,
     either here or in America, that in my Opinion had such

But in no words of Franklin is his inspiring idea of British unity more
strikingly expressed than in one of his letters to Lord Howe during the
Revolutionary War.

     Long did I endeavour, with unfeigned and unwearied Zeal
     [was his touching language] to preserve from breaking
     that fine and noble China Vase, the British Empire; for
     I knew, that, being once broken, the separate Parts
     could not retain even their Shares of the Strength and
     Value that existed in the Whole, and that a perfect
     Reunion of those Parts could scarce ever be hoped for.
     Your Lordship may possibly remember the tears of Joy
     that wet my Cheek, when, at your good Sister's in
     London, you once gave me Expectations that a
     Reconciliation might soon take place.

That there was only one way in which the fair vase upon which his eye
lingered so fondly and proudly could for certainty be preserved from
irreparable ruin, namely, by admitting the colonies to representation in
the British Parliament, Franklin saw with perfect clearness. Repeatedly the
thought of such a union emerges from his correspondence only to be
dismissed as impracticable. As far back as 1766, he wrote from London to
Cadwallader Evans these pregnant words:

     My private opinion concerning a union in Parliament
     between the two countries is, that it would be best for
     the whole. But I think it will never be done. For
     though I believe, that, if we had no more
     representatives than Scotland has, we should be
     sufficiently strong in the House to prevent, as they do
     for Scotland, anything ever passing to our
     disadvantage; yet we are not able at present to furnish
     and maintain such a number, and, when we are more able,
     we shall be less willing than we are now. The
     Parliament here do at present think too highly of
     themselves to admit representatives from us, if we
     should ask it; and, when they will be desirous of
     granting it, we shall think too highly of ourselves to
     accept of it. It would certainly contribute to the
     strength of the whole, if Ireland and all the dominions
     were united and consolidated under one common council
     for general purposes, each retaining its particular
     council or parliament for its domestic concerns. But
     this should have been more early provided for. In the
     infancy of our foreign establishments it was neglected,
     or was not thought of. And now the affair is nearly in
     the situation of Friar Bacon's project of making a
     brazen wall round England for its eternal security. His
     servant, Friar Bungey, slept while the brazen head,
     which was to dictate how it might be done, said _Time
     is_, and _Time was_. He only waked to hear it say,
     _Time is past_. An explosion followed, that tumbled
     their house about the conjuror's ears.

In a subsequent letter to his son in 1768, Franklin again indulges the same
day dream, and again reaches the conclusion that such a union would be the
best for the whole, and that, though particular parts might find particular
disadvantages in it, they would find greater advantages in the security
arising to every part from the increased strength of the whole. But such a
union, he concluded, was not likely to take place, while the nature of the
existing relation was so little understood on both sides of the water, and
sentiments concerning it remained so widely different.

Nothing, therefore, remained for Franklin to do except to fall back upon
this relation and to make the best of it, to insist that the only
constitutional tie between England and the Colonies was the King, and that
Parliament had no more right to tax America than to tax Hanover, though the
legislative assemblies of the colonies would always be ready in the future
as they had been in the past to honor the requisitions for pecuniary aids
made upon them by the King, through his Secretary of State; to combat the
political and economic dogmas and the national prejudices which stood in
the way of the full recognition by England of the fact that her true
interest was to be found in the liberal treatment of the Colonies; to warn
the Colonies that their connection with England was attended with too many
obligations and advantages to be hastily or prematurely forfeited by rash
resentments, so long as there was any definite prospect of their appeal to
English self-interest and good-feeling not proving in vain; and finally to
couple the warning with the suggestion that they should unceasingly keep up
the assertion of their just rights, and be prepared, all else failing, to
maintain them with an unabated military spirit. It was not to be expected
of a man so conservative and constant in nature, and bound to England by so
many strong and endearing associations, that he should wage a solitary
combat for American rights on English soil before he or any man had reason
to know how bitterly the Stamp Act would be returned upon the head of
Parliament by America, but never, after the temper of his countrymen in
regard to it, was made manifest to him, were his elbows again out of touch
with those of his compatriots in America. To their assistance and to the
assistance as well of the great body of wise and generous Englishmen, who
loved liberty too much at home to begrudge it to Englishmen in America, he
brought his every resource, his scientific fame, his social gifts, his
personal popularity, his knowledge of the world and the levers by which it
is moved, the sane, searching mind, too full of light for bigotry,
superstition, or confusion, the pen that enlisted satirical point as
readily as grave dissertation in the service of instruction. It cannot be
doubted that his exertions should be reckoned among the potent influences
that secured the repeal of the Stamp Act. To Charles Thomson he wrote that
he had reprinted everything from America that he thought might help their
common cause. His examination before the House of Commons was published and
had a great run. "You guessed aright," he wrote to Lord Kames with regard
to the repeal, "in supposing that I would not be a _mute in that play_. I
was extremely busy, attending Members of both Houses, informing,
explaining, consulting, disputing, in a continual hurry from morning to
night, till the affair was happily ended."

Some years after the repeal of the Stamp Act, he wrote to Jane Mecom that,
at the time of the repeal, the British Ministry were ready to hug him for
the assistance that he had afforded them in bringing it about. From the
time of the repeal until he returned to America in 1775, his one absorbing
object was to create a better understanding between England and her
colonies, and to avert the possibility of war between them. Among the
things with which he had to contend in accomplishing his aims was the
haughty spirit in which the English people were disposed to look down upon
the colonists, and to resent any manifestation of independence upon their
part as insolent. It was this spirit which made him feel that the assent of
England would never be obtained to the representation of America in

     I am fully persuaded with you [he wrote to Lord Kames],
     that a _Consolidating Union_, by a fair and equal
     representation of all the parts of this Empire in
     Parliament, is the only firm basis on which its
     political grandeur and prosperity can be founded.
     Ireland once wished it, but now rejects it. The time
     has been, when the colonies might have been pleased
     with it; they are now _indifferent_ about it; and if it
     is much longer delayed, they too will _refuse it_. But
     the pride of this people can not bear the thought of
     it, and therefore it will be delayed. Every man in
     England seems to consider himself as a piece of a
     sovereign over America; seems to jostle himself into
     the throne with the King, and talks of _our subjects in
     the Colonies_.

This was the sentiment of England in general. In the guard-room and
barracks, it assumed at times the grosser form of such contempt as that
which led General Clarke to believe as we have seen that the emasculation
of all the male Americans would be little more than a holiday task for a
handful of British grenadiers. Along with this haughty spirit went a crass
ignorance of America and Americans which Franklin despaired of ever
enlightening except by good-natured ridicule. An illustration of the manner
in which he employed this agency is found in his letter to the Editor of a
Newspaper. It had been claimed, he said, that factories in America were
impossible because American sheep had but little wool, and the dearness of
American labor rendered the profitable working of iron and other materials,
except in some few coarse instances, impracticable.

     Dear Sir [was his reply], do not let us suffer
     ourselves to be amus'd with such groundless Objections.
     The very Tails of the American Sheep are so laden with
     Wooll, that each has a little Car or Waggon on four
     little Wheels, to support & keep it from trailing on
     the Ground. Would they caulk their Ships, would they
     fill their Beds, would they even litter their Horses
     with Wooll, if it were not both plenty and cheap? And
     what signifies Dearness of Labour, when an English
     shilling passes for five and Twenty? Their engaging 300
     Silk Throwsters here in one Week, for New York, was
     treated as a Fable, because, forsooth, they have "no
     Silk there to throw." Those, who made this Objection,
     perhaps did not know, that at the same time the Agents
     from the King of Spain were at Quebec to contract for
     1000 Pieces of Cannon to be made there for the
     Fortification of Mexico, and at New York engaging the
     annual Supply of woven Floor-Carpets for their West
     India Houses, other Agents from the Emperor of China
     were at Boston treating about an Exchange of raw Silk
     for Wooll, to be carried in Chinese Junks through the
     Straits of Magellan.

Another thing, with which Franklin had to contend, was the
misrepresentations that the colonial governors were constantly making about
American conditions. These misrepresentations were in keeping with the
unworthy character of some of them and with the transitory relation that
almost all of them bore to the Colonies, of which they were the executives.
What the Americans truly thought of them is pointedly expressed in
Franklin's _Causes of the American Discontents_.

     They say then as to Governors [he declared], that they
     are not like Princes whose posterity have an
     inheritance in the Government of a nation, and
     therefore an interest in its prosperity; they are
     generally strangers to the Provinces they are sent to
     govern, have no estate, natural connexion, or relation
     there, to give them an affection for the country; that
     they come only to make money as fast as they can; are
     sometimes men of vicious characters and broken
     fortunes, sent by a Minister merely to get them out of
     the way; that as they intend staying in the country no
     longer than their government continues, and purpose to
     leave no family behind them, they are apt to be
     regardless of the goodwill of the people, and care not
     what is said or thought of them after they are gone.

That such men were biased and untrustworthy witnesses touching American
conditions goes without saying, but, when discontent became deeply
implanted in the breasts of the colonists, their partisan and perverted
reports to the English Government as to the state of America did much to
mislead their masters. The burden of these reports as a rule was that the
disaffected were few in numbers and persons of little consequence, that
the colonists of property and social standing were satisfied, and inclined
to submit to Parliamentary taxation, that it was impossible to establish
manufacturing industries in America, and that, if Parliament would only
steadily persist in the exercise of its legislative authority over America,
the non-importation agreements and other defensive measures adopted by its
people would be abandoned.

But the most intractable of all the obstacles with which Franklin had to
contend was the policy of commercial and industrial restriction, partly the
result of economic purblindness, peculiar to the time, and partly the
result of sheer selfishness, which England relentlessly pursued in her
relations to the colonies. Every suggestion that this policy should be
relaxed was met by its more extreme champions, such as George Grenville,
with the statement that the Acts of Navigation were the very Palladium of
England. On no account were the Colonies to be allowed to import wine, oil
and fruit directly from Spain and Portugal, or to even import iron directly
from foreign countries. Enlarged as was the understanding of Lord Chatham
himself, it could not tolerate the thought that America should be permitted
to convert any form of crude material into manufactured products. Every hat
made in America, every shipload of emigrants that left the shores of
England for America, was jealously regarded as signifying so much pecuniary
loss to England. The colonists were to be mere _adscripti glebæ_, mere
tillers of the American soil for the purpose of wringing from it the price
of the manufactured commodities, with which they were to be exclusively
supplied by the factories and shops of the mother country. The idea that,
in any other sense, the expanding numbers and wealth of America could inure
to the benefit of England, was one that seemed to be wholly foreign to its
consciousness. To this Little England Franklin steadfastly opposed his
conception of an Imperial England, based upon the freedom of all its parts
to contribute to the wealth and importance of the whole by the full
enjoyment of all their peculiar natural gifts and advantages.

     No one can more sincerely rejoice than I do [he wrote
     to Lord Kames in 1760], on the reduction of Canada; and
     this is not merely as I am a colonist, but as I am a
     Briton. I have long been of opinion, that the
     _foundations of the future grandeur and stability of
     the British Empire lie in America_; and though, like
     other foundations, they are low and little seen, they
     are, nevertheless, broad and strong enough to support
     the greatest political structure human wisdom ever yet

These words, splendid as was the vision by which they were illumined, were
but the utterance in another form of the thought that he had expressed nine
years before in America in his essay on the _Increase of Mankind_. Speaking
of the population of the colonies at that time he said:

     This Million doubling, suppose but once in 25 years,
     will, in another Century, be more than the People of
     _England_, and the greatest Number of _Englishmen_ will
     be on this Side the Water. What an Accession of Power
     to the _British Empire_ by Sea as well as Land! What
     Increase of Trade and Navigation! What Numbers of Ships
     and Seamen! We have been here but little more than 100
     years, and yet the Force of our Privateers in the late
     War, united, was greater, both in Men and Guns, than
     that of the whole _British_ Navy in Queen _Elizabeth's_

Indeed so fully possessed was he even as late as 1771 with the federative
spirit, which has brought recruits from Canada and Australia to the side of
England in recent wars that, after urging upon Thomas Cushing the
importance of a well-disciplined militia being maintained by
Massachusetts, for her protection against invasion by a foreign foe, he
added, "And what a Glory would it be for us to send, on any trying
Occasion, ready and effectual Aid to our Mother Country!" It is only by
reading such words as these that we can begin to divine what the divulsion
of England and America has really meant to the vast host of human beings
throughout the world who speak the English tongue.

To all the shallow sophistries or sottish errors, that tended to falsify
his glorious dream of world-wide British unity, Franklin presented a
merciless intellect. With regard to the intention of Parliament to tax the
colonies, he had these pointed words to say in a letter to Peter Collinson
in 1764: "What we get above a Subsistence we lay out with you for your

"Therefore what you get from us in Taxes you must lose in Trade. The Cat
can yield but her skin."

Even more acute was his letter to the _Public Advertiser_ on a proposed Act
to prevent emigration from England. Such an Act, he declared, was
unnecessary, impracticable, impolitic and unjust. What is more, with an
insight into the laws governing population, superior to that of any man of
his time, he made his assertions good. To illustrate this claim in part, we
need go no further than what he had to say about the necessity of the Act.

     As long as the new situation shall be _far_ preferable
     to the old [he said], the emigration may possibly
     continue. But when many of those, who at home
     interfered with others of the same rank (in the
     competition for farms, shops, business, offices, and
     other means of subsistence), are gradually withdrawn,
     the inconvenience of that competition ceases; the
     number remaining no longer half starve each other; they
     find they can now subsist comfortably, and though
     perhaps not quite so well as those who have left them,
     yet, the inbred attachment to a native country is
     sufficient to overbalance a moderate difference; and
     thus the emigration ceases naturally. The waters of
     the ocean may move in currents from one quarter of the
     globe to another, as they happen in some places to be
     accumulated, and in others diminished; but no law,
     beyond the law of gravity, is necessary to prevent
     their abandoning any coast entirely. Thus the different
     degrees of happiness of different countries and
     situations find, or rather make, their level by the
     flowing of people from one to another; and where that
     level is once found, the removals cease. Add to this,
     that even a real deficiency of people in any country,
     occasioned by a wasting war or pestilence, is speedily
     supplied by earlier and more prolific marriages,
     encouraged by the greater facility of obtaining the
     means of subsistence. So that a country half
     depopulated would soon be repeopled, till the means of
     subsistence were equalled by the population. All
     increase beyond that point must perish, or flow off
     into more favourable situations. Such overflowings
     there have been of mankind in all ages, or we should
     not now have had so many nations. But to apprehend
     absolute depopulation from that cause, and call for a
     law to prevent it, is calling for a law to stop the
     Thames, lest its waters, by what leave it daily at
     Gravesend, should be quite exhausted.

Twenty-three years before he had stated the same truths more sententiously
in his essay on the _Increase of Mankind_.

     In fine [he said in that essay] a Nation well regulated
     is like a Polypus; take away a Limb, its Place is soon
     supply'd; cut it in two, and each deficient Part shall
     speedily grow out of the Part remaining. Thus if you
     have Room and Subsistence enough, as you may by
     dividing, make ten Polypes out of one, you may of one
     make ten Nations, equally populous and powerful; or
     rather increase a Nation ten fold in Numbers and

Franklin clearly saw that, with the increase of population in the colonies,
the demand for British manufactures would increase _pari passu_, and that,
with the increased demand for them, the population of Great Britain would
increase, perhaps, tenfold. Much as he made of the economic conditions that
tended to give a purely agricultural direction to the energies of America,
he laughed to scorn the idea that America would always remain in a state of
industrial subjection to England.

     Only consider _the rate of our Increase_ [he wrote to
     Peter Collinson, after stating that it was folly to
     expect that America would always be supplied with cloth
     by England] and tell me if you can increase your Wooll
     in that Proportion, and where, in your little Island
     you can feed the Sheep. Nature has put Bounds to your
     Abilities, tho' none to your Desires. Britain would, if
     she could, manufacture & trade for all the World;
     England for all Britain;--London for all England;--and
     every Londoner for all London. So selfish is the human
     Mind! But 'tis well there is One above that rules these
     Matters with a more equal Hand.

The agency that Franklin held for Pennsylvania in the first instance, and
the agencies that he afterwards held for Massachusetts, New Jersey and
Georgia, too, afforded him a solid standing for influencing public opinion
both in England and America. He was actually in England, and, at the same
time, in incessant correspondence with the popular leaders in America. With
the beginning of the agitation for the repeal of the Stamp Act he entered
upon a course of political activity which added greatly, in another form,
to the reputation already acquired by him as a man of science. For his
services in securing the repeal, including the flood of light that his
answers, when examined before the House of Commons, shed upon the points at
issue between the two countries, he was repaid by the English Ministry with
attentions which he describes by a term as strong as "caress." Even when
the dust of the conflict had thickened, and popular sentiment in England
had ranged itself more and more on the side of the King and Parliament,
his advice was still eagerly sought by Chatham, Camden, Shelburne and Burke
and other liberal and sagacious English statesmen, when they were vainly
striving in opposition to restore sanity to the distracted counsels that
were menacing the security of the Empire.[20] Those must have been proud
moments for Franklin, when the elder Pitt, whom he had come to regard in
the earlier stages of his maturer life in England as an "inaccessible,"
received him as an honored guest under his roof at Hayes, or conferred with
him at No. 7 Craven Street, or delivered him to the doorkeepers in the
House of Lords, saying aloud, "This is Dr. Franklin, whom I would have
admitted into the House." There have been few men who might not have envied
the privilege of intimate communion with a man not greater, when he was
making his country the mistress of the world, than, when decrepit, and in a
hopeless minority, he rose in the House of Lords to plead with a voice,
inspired not only by his own matchless eloquence but by all that was best
in the history and temper of England for the removal of His Majesty's
troops from the town of Boston. On the other side of the Atlantic, too, as
the final catastrophe drew nearer, Franklin acquired a position, as the
champion of the Colonies, which led Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts to
say of the memorable report, made by a committee to the town meeting, held
in Boston on November 20, 1772, that "although at its first appearance it
was considered as their own work, yet they had little more to do than to
make the necessary alterations in the arrangement of materials prepared for
them by their great director in England, whose counsels they obeyed, and in
whose wisdom and dexterity they had an implicit faith."

And with entire truth it can be said that, until war became inevitable,
Franklin used his influence in both countries with the unwavering purpose
of promoting the best interests of both. The representation of America in
Parliament at that time he saw was impracticable, and it is hard to
believe, though the imbecility of a government without a sanction had not
yet been forced upon his attention by the Articles of Confederation, that
so practical a man could have had much faith in the steady efficacy of mere
requisitions for aids by the Crown on the colonial assemblies. But, within
the limits set him by the insurmountable barriers of the hour, it can not
be doubted, bold as such an assertion may be, that the wisest thing that
both England and the Colonies could have done, if such an idea is
conceivable, would have been to leave the controversy between them to his
sole arbitration. The most striking tribute that can be paid to the wisdom
and open-mindedness of Franklin is to say that, if this had been done, an
accommodation would unquestionably have been reached with due regard to the
honor, dignity and essential interests of both countries. His attitude in
England was that of a loyal friend to both parties to the controversy, who,
as he viewed it, had no cause for disagreement that a temperate and
sensible man would not know how to readily remove. To the British public he
addressed with numerous variations the following arguments: Notwithstanding
the rapid increase of population in America, its area was so vast, and
contained so much vacant land, that even such artisans as it had soon
drifted into the possession and cultivation of land. The danger, therefore,
of industrial competition between the two countries was very remote. The
people of America, however, would multiply so rapidly that, in the course
of a brief time, the demand for manufactures would increase to such an
extent that Great Britain would be powerless alone to supply it. He had
satisfied himself by an inspection of the cloth factories in Yorkshire
that, with a population doubling as did that of America every twenty-five
years, Great Britain would in the future be unable to keep the Americans
clothed. It was not right that the interests of a particular class of
British merchants, tradesmen or artificers should outweigh those of all the
King's subjects in the Colonies. Iron was to be found everywhere in
America, and beaver furs were the natural productions of that country;
hats, nails and steel were wanted there as well as in England. It was of no
importance to the common welfare of the empire whether a subject of the
King got his living by making hats on one or the other side of the water,
whether he grew rich on the Thames or the Ohio, in Edinburgh or Dublin. Yet
the hatters of England had obtained an act in their own favor, restraining
that manufacture in America in order to oblige the Americans to send their
beaver to England to be manufactured, and to purchase back the hats loaded
with the charges of a double transportation. In the same manner, had a few
nail-makers and a still smaller body of steel-makers (perhaps there were
not a half-dozen of these in England) been able to totally forbid by an Act
of Parliament the erecting of slitting mills or steel-furnaces in America.
All money made by America in trade, or derived by it from fisheries, the
produce of the soil or commerce, finally centred in England; yet, though
America was drained of all its specie in the purchase of English goods,
often mere luxuries and superfluities, she was not even allowed to issue
paper money, however carefully safeguarded, to take its place. The idea
that the numerous and separate colonies might become dangerous to the
mother country was visionary. They were so jealous of each other that they
had been wholly unable to agree upon a union for their common defence or to
unite in requesting the mother country to establish one for them. The truth
was that they loved England much more than they loved each other. There
remained among them so much respect, veneration and affection for Britain,
that, if cultivated prudently, with kind usage, and tenderness for their
privileges, they might be easily governed still for ages, without force, or
any considerable expense. Parliament had no constitutional right to levy a
direct tax of any kind on America. The King was the only bond between
America and Great Britain. In the beginning, no claim had been made by
Parliament of a right to even regulate American commerce, but the power had
long been exercised by it without any objection on the part of the
colonies, and could, at any rate, be reasonably defended on the ground that
Great Britain was put to a great expense in policing the seas over which
American commerce moved. If England felt that she could not rely upon the
voluntary grants of America, to defray the charges imposed upon her by
America, then the logical and proper thing to do before she levied direct
taxes upon America was to provide for the representation of the Colonies in
Parliament. Until that was done, if it was practicable to do it, she should
confine herself to the old constitutional practice of requisitions for
pecuniary aid, issued by the Secretary of State, at the instance of the
Crown, to the Legislative Assemblies of America. These requisitions of a
gracious King had been freely honored in the past. Indeed, the pecuniary
burden of the wars, which had been carried on in America, though they were
not of her kindling, had been borne by America in a larger proportion to
her means than England. But to impose a stamp or tea duty upon America by
Act of Parliament was simple madness. No taxes of that sort would ever be
collected in America except such as were stained with blood. If Parliament,
in which America was not represented, had the right to take from her a
penny in a pound, what was there to hinder it from calling, whenever it
pleased, for the other nineteen shillings and eleven pence? The only
result of a continued attempt to tax America would be the complete loss of
her respect and affection, and all the political and commercial advantages
that accompanied them. It was a mistake to heed the statements of the
Colonial Governors as to the limited extent of popular disaffection in
America and the inability of the Colonies to dispense with English
manufactures. Their dependence was such as to render them more eager to
conciliate court than colonial favor. It was also a mistake to suppose that
America could not either make or forego any articles whatsoever that she
was in the habit of buying from England. Men would tax themselves as
heavily to gratify their resentment as their pride. The Americans had
resolved to wear no more mourning, and it was now totally out of fashion
with near two millions of people. They had resolved to eat no more lamb,
and not a joint of lamb had since been seen on any of their tables, but the
lambs themselves were all alive with the prettiest of fleeces on their
backs imaginable. Look, too, at the pitiful sum of eighty pounds which was
all that the odious tea duty banned by America had produced in a year to
defray the expense of some hundreds of thousands of pounds incurred by
England in maintaining armed ships and soldiers to support the innumerable
officeholders charged with the duty of enforcing the tax.

The argument addressed by Franklin to America was equally earnest. The
protection that England could afford her, the office of umpire that England
could perform for her, in case of disputes between the Colonies, so that
they could go on without interruption with their improvements, and increase
their numbers, were the advantages that America enjoyed in her connection
with England.

     By the Exercise of prudent Moderation on her part,
     mix'd with a little Kindness [Franklin wrote to Thomas
     Cushing], and by a decent Behaviour on ours, excusing
     where we can excuse from a Consideration of
     Circumstances, and bearing a little with the
     Infirmities of her Government, as we would with those
     of an aged Parent,[21] tho' firmly asserting our
     Privileges, and declaring that we mean at a proper time
     to vindicate them, this advantageous Union may still be
     long continued. We wish it, and we may endeavour it;
     but God will order it as to His Wisdom shall seem most
     suitable. The Friends of Liberty here, wish we may long
     preserve it on our side the Water, that they may find
     it there if adverse Events should destroy it here. They
     are therefore anxious and afraid, lest we should hazard
     it by premature Attempts in its favour. They think we
     may risque much by violent Measures and that the Risque
     is unnecessary, since a little Time must infallibly
     bring us all we demand or desire, and bring it us in
     Peace and Safety. I do not presume to advise. There are
     many wiser men among you, and I hope you will be
     directed by a still superior Wisdom.

Every personal difference Franklin contended did not justify a quarrel nor
did every act of oppression on the part of the mother country justify a
war. The policy, which he laid down for the Colonies, was to exercise
patience and forbearance, and to look to political changes in England and
their own rapidly increasing numbers and wealth for the ultimate redress of
their grievances, but, in the meantime, to reaffirm fearlessly their
constitutional rights on every proper occasion. This policy is again and
again recommended in his letters to his friends and political
correspondents over-sea. Even before the Stamp Act was actually repealed,
he wrote to Charles Thomson expressing the hope that, when that happened,
the behavior of America would be so prudent, decent and grateful that their
friends in England would have no reason to be ashamed, and their enemies in
England, who had predicted that Parliamentary indulgence would only make
them more insolent and ungovernable, would find themselves, and be found,
false prophets. After the repeal of the Stamp Act, in a letter to Galloway,
he expressed deep regret that the English merchants, who had helped to
secure that result, and to communicate the knowledge of it, at their
expense to America, should feel that the Americans had proved themselves
ingrates, and he accordingly said that he hoped that some decent
acknowledgments or thanks would be sent to these merchants by the colonial
assemblies. When the idea of taxing America was subsequently revived, he
wrote to the same correspondent that he knew not what to advise, but that
they should all do their endeavors on both sides the water to lessen the
present unpopularity of the American cause, conciliate the affections of
the British towards them, increase by all possible means the number of
their friends, and be careful not to weaken their hands, and strengthen
their enemies, by rash proceedings on their side; the mischiefs of which
were inconceivable. In a letter to the printer of the _Gazetteer_, signed
"New England," he said: "I only hate calumniators and boutefeus on either
side the water, who would for the little dirty purposes of faction, set
brother against brother, turn friends into mortal enemies, and ruin an
empire by dividing it." In a letter to Cadwallader Evans, in 1768, he even
approved the idea that America should manufacture only such things as
England neglected.

These are but scant gleanings from the numerous letters in which, down to
the very last, Franklin unweariedly repeated his counsels of self-restraint
to his fellow-countrymen. Accompanying them was every word of good cheer
that he thought might tend to make this self-restraint easier. Several
times he assured his American correspondents that, in the debate with the
mother country, America had the sympathy of all Europe. For a long time, he
endeavored to allay the resentment of his countrymen, under the sting of
parliamentary injustice, by voicing the delusion that the King did not
share the sentiments of the corrupt legislature which, as a matter of fact,
he was all the time corrupting for the purpose of fostering such
sentiments. Every indication of a favorable disposition towards the
Colonies upon the part of the English People, during the alternations of
anxiety and confidence that his mind underwent with the rise and fall of
English ministries, friendly or unfriendly to America, was promptly
observed by him and reported to America. At times, it is plain enough that
he thought a war it would be; yet as late as 1775, when he believed that
the adverse ministry of that time was tottering, his sanguine nature
reached the conclusion in a letter to James Bowdoin that the redoubled
clamor of the trading, manufacturing and Whig interests in England would
infallibly overthrow all the enemies of America, and produce an
acknowledgment of her rights and satisfaction for her injuries. Parliament
rarely gave him any occasion to speak of it except in terms of mingled
amazement and indignation; but it is agreeable to remember that, in a
letter in 1774 to Jane Mecom, he made grateful mention of "the generous and
noble friends of America" in both houses, whose names, dear to the highest
traditions of human genius and public spirit, should never be forgotten in
any movement to reintegrate in some form the broken fragments of the china
vase in which Franklin saw a symbol of the unity of the British Empire.

Accompanying Franklin's counsels of patience, however, was also an
unceasing warning to America not to alter for a moment her posture of
resistance and protest. "If under all the Insults and Oppressions you are
now exposed to," he told Dr. Cooper, "you can prudently, as you have lately
done, continue quiet, avoiding Tumults, but still resolutely keeping up
your Claim and asserting your Rights, you will finally establish them, and
this military Cloud that now blusters over you will pass away, and do no
more Harm than a Summer Thunder Shower." "The Colonies," he wrote
subsequently to Robert Morris and Thomas Leach, "have Adversaries enow to
their common Privileges: They should endeavour to agree among themselves,
and avoid everything that may make ill-Blood and promote Divisions, which
must weaken them in their common Defence." To Thomas Cushing he wrote that
America should continue from time to time to assert its rights in
occasional solemn resolves and other public acts, never yielding them up,
and avoiding even the slightest expressions that seemed confirmatory of the
claim that had been set up against them. As the end of it all became more
and more obvious, his note of warning assumed an additional significance.
In a letter to Thomas Cushing in 1773, he wrote:

     But our great Security lies, I think, in our growing
     Strength, both in Numbers and Wealth; that creates an
     increasing Ability of assisting this Nation in its
     Wars, which will make us more respectable, our
     Friendship more valued, and our Enmity feared; thence
     it will soon be thought proper to treat us not with
     Justice only, but with Kindness, and thence we may
     expect in a few Years a total Change of Measures with
     regard to us; unless, by a Neglect of military
     Discipline, we should lose all martial Spirit, and our
     Western People become as tame as those in the Eastern
     Dominions of Britain, when we may expect the same
     Oppressions; for there is much Truth in the Italian
     saying, _Make yourselves Sheep_, _and the Wolves will
     eat you_.

Indeed the almost miraculous way in which the population and wealth of
America were increasing from year to year was one of the facts which
entered most deeply into Franklin's calculation of the resources upon which
she could rely not for the purpose of breaking away from the British
connection but for the purpose of preventing it from being abused by
England. No one saw more clearly than he that the day would come when some
descendant, such as Gladstone, of one of his British contemporaries might
well apostrophize America as a daughter that, at no very distant time,
would, whether fairer or less fair, be unquestionably stronger than the
mother.[22] To Thomas Cushing he wrote in 1773 that the longer England
delayed the accommodation, which finally for her own sake she must obtain,
the worse terms she might expect, since the inequality of power and
importance that then subsisted between her and America was daily
diminishing; while the latter's sense of her own rights and of England's
injustice was continually increasing.

Optimistic on the whole, however, as was Franklin's outlook during the
interval of political strife which preceded the American Revolution,
intently as he watched every ebb and flow of English feeling, while this
period lasted, it is manifest that in its later stages he realized that the
currents upon which he was being borne were steadily moving towards the
jaws of the maelstrom. This is apparent enough in his perspicacious letter
of May 15, 1771, to the Committee of Correspondence in Massachusetts.

     I think one may 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 two countries,
     though, as yet, that event may be at a considerable
     distance. The course and natural progress seems to be,
     first, the appointment of needy men as officers, for
     others do not care to leave England; then, their
     necessities make them rapacious, their office makes
     them proud and insolent, their insolence and rapacity
     make them odious, and, being conscious that they are
     hated, they become malicious; their malice urges them
     to a continual abuse of the inhabitants in their
     letters to administration, representing them as
     disaffected and rebellious, and (to encourage the use
     of severity), as weak, divided, timid, and cowardly.
     Government believes all; thinks it necessary to support
     and countenance its officers; their quarreling with the
     people is deemed a mark and consequence of their
     fidelity; they are therefore more highly rewarded, and
     this makes their conduct still more insolent and

     The resentment of the people will, at times and on
     particular incidents, burst into outrages and violence
     upon such officers, and this naturally draws down
     severity and acts of further oppression from hence. The
     more the people are dissatisfied, the more rigor will
     be thought necessary; severe punishments will be
     inflicted to terrify; rights and privileges will be
     abolished; greater force will then be required to
     secure execution and submission; the expense will
     become enormous; it will then be thought proper, by
     fresh exactions, to make the people defray it; thence,
     the British nation and government will become odious,
     the subjection to it will be deemed no longer
     tolerable; war ensues, and the bloody struggle will end
     in absolute slavery to America, or ruin to Britain by
     the loss of her colonies; the latter most probable,
     from America's growing strength and magnitude.

     But, as the whole empire must, in either case, be
     greatly weakened, I cannot but wish to see much
     patience and the utmost discretion in our general
     conduct, that the fatal period may be postponed, and
     that, whenever this catastrophe shall happen, it may
     appear to all mankind that the fault has not been ours.

Franklin's written comments upon the American controversy between the
passage of the Stamp Act and his return to America in 1775 are usually
marked by a sobriety and dignity of expression worthy of their wisdom. It
is only at times that the strong character, habitually held in leash by
innate prudence and severely disciplined self-control, breaks out into
impatience. Naturally enough now and then he has a word of scorn for the
graceless venality which made Westminster almost as much a market as
Smithfield, and was, after all, the real thing that rendered England deaf
to the warning "Time is" of Friar Bacon's brazen mouth-piece.

     Many think the new Parliament will be for reversing the
     late proceedings [he wrote to Galloway in 1774], but
     that depends on the Court, on which every Parliament
     seems to be dependent; so much so, that I begin to
     think a Parliament here of little Use to the People:
     For since a Parliament is always to do as a ministry
     would have it, why should we not be govern'd by the
     Ministry in the first Instance? They could afford to
     govern us cheaper, the Parliament being a very
     expensive Machine, that requires a vast deal of oiling
     and greasing at the People's Charge; for they finally
     pay all the enormous Salaries of Places, the Pensions,
     and the Bribes, now by Custom become necessary to
     induce the Members to vote according to their

Franklin would have been more than human if he had not had a resentful word
to say too, when, as the result of the refusal of the Americans to drink
any tea, except such as was smuggled into America, free of the detested
duty, by the commercial rivals of England, the East India Company could no
longer meet its debts, let alone pay dividends and the annuity of four
hundred thousand pounds, payable by it to the British Government, and
bankruptcy was following bankruptcy like a series of falling bricks, and
thousands of Spitalfield and Manchester weavers were starving, or
subsisting upon charity. "Blessed Effects of Pride, Pique, and Passion in
Government, which should have no Passions," was the caustic observation of
Franklin in one of his letters to his son. Bitterness welled up again in
his throat when, after he had been bayed by the Privy Council, and
dismissed from his office, a special instruction was issued to the Governor
of Massachusetts not to sign any warrant on the Treasury for the purpose of
paying him any salary as the agent of Massachusetts or reimbursing him for
any expenses incurred on her behalf.

     The Injustice [he said in his _Tract Relative to the
     Affair of Hutchinson's Letters_] of thus depriving the
     People there of the Use of their own Money, to pay an
     Agent acting in their Defence, while the Governor, with
     a large Salary out of the Money extorted from them by
     Act of Parliament, was enabled to pay plentifully
     Maudit and Wedderburn to abuse and defame them and
     their Agent, is so evident as to need no Comment. But
     this they call GOVERNMENT!

Indecent, however, as was the treatment accorded by the Privy Council to
the man, who had striven so loyally, so zealously and so wisely to promote
the greatness and glory of England, it hardly conveyed a ruder shock to his
mind than that which it received later when he saw the plan for the
settlement of the American Controversy drafted by Lord Chatham rejected by
the House of Lords, with as much contempt he told Charles Thomson, "as they
could have shown to a Ballad offered by a drunken Porter."

     To hear so many of these _Hereditary_ Legislators [he
     said in his _Account of Negotiations in London_],
     declaiming so vehemently against, not the Adopting
     merely, but even the _Consideration_ of a Proposal so
     important in its Nature, offered by a Person of so
     weighty a Character, one of the first Statesmen of the
     Age, who had taken up this Country when in the lowest
     Despondency, and conducted it to Victory and Glory,
     thro' a War with two of the mightiest Kingdoms in
     Europe; to hear them censuring his Plan, not only for
     their own Misunderstandings of what was in it, but for
     their Imaginations of what was not in it, which they
     would not give themselves an Opportunity of rectifying
     by a second Reading; to perceive the total Ignorance of
     the Subject in some, the Prejudice and Passion of
     others, and the wilful Perversion of Plain Truth in
     several of the Ministers; and upon the whole to see it
     so ignominiously rejected by so great a Majority, and
     so hastily too, in Breach of all Decency, and prudent
     Regard to the Character and Dignity of their Body, as a
     third Part of the National Legislature, gave me an
     exceeding mean Opinion of their Abilities, and made
     their Claim of Sovereignty over three Millions of
     Virtuous, sensible People in America seem the greatest
     of Absurdities, since they appear'd to have scarce
     Discretion enough to govern a Herd of Swine.
     _Hereditary Legislators_! thought I. There would be
     more Propriety, because less Hazard of Mischief, in
     having (as in some University of Germany) _Hereditary
     Professors of Mathematicks_.

     Yet this is the Government [Franklin declared in the
     letter to Charles Thomson, in which he used the simile
     of the ballad and the drunken porter, and also referred
     to equally rash conduct upon the part of the House of
     Commons], by whose Supreme Authority, we are to have
     our Throats cut, if we do not acknowledge, and whose
     dictates we are implicitly to obey, while their conduct
     hardly entitles them to Common Respect.

But it was only after he had been shamelessly and publicly proscribed,
under circumstances which gave him good reason to believe that he was but
the vicarious victim of a People unfeelingly doomed to the cruel
alternatives of fratricidal resistance or vassalage, that he gave way,
though still engaged in a last effort to stave off the evil day of
separation, to such reproachful or denunciatory utterances as these.
Indeed, as it is a satisfaction to a stupid man to know that Homer
sometimes nodded, and to a vicious man to know that the character of
Washington is supposed to have been at last successfully fly-specked by
some petty scandal-monger, so it ought to be a relief to a hasty man to
know that Franklin was once on the point of succumbing entirely to a sudden
flaw of anger. Goaded beyond endurance by the reflections, which he had
just heard in the House of Lords on everything American, including American
courage, honesty and intelligence, reflections as contemptuous, he said, as
if his countrymen were the lowest of mankind, and almost of a different
species from the English of Britain, he drew up a heated protest, as the
agent of Massachusetts, demanding from Great Britain present satisfaction
for the blockade of Boston, and stating that satisfaction for the proposed
exclusion of Massachusetts from the Newfoundland and other fisheries, if
carried into effect, would probably also some day be demanded. When he
showed the paper to his friend, Thomas Walpole, a member of the House of
Commons, Walpole, we are told by him, looked at it and him several times
alternately, as if he apprehended him to be out of his senses. However,
Franklin asked him to lay it before Lord Camden, which he undertook to do.
When it came back to Franklin, it was with a note from Walpole telling him
simply that it was thought that it might be attended with dangerous
consequences to his person, and contribute to exasperate the nation. The
caution that Franklin exhibited before permitting the protest to pass from
his possession suggests the idea that, in writing it, he was merely seeking
a safe vent for the mental ferment of the moment. It was doubtless well for
him that the paper got no further; for it is painful to relate that the
disposition was not wanting in England to construe some of his letters to
Thomas Cushing as treasonable. In a letter to Cushing, he said that he was
not conscious of any treasonable intention, but that, after the manner in
which he had recently been treated in the matter of the Hutchinson letters,
he was not to wonder if less than a small lump in his forehead was voted a
horn. Six months later, he wrote to Galloway that it was thought by many
that, if the British soldiers and the New Englanders should come to blows,
he would probably be taken up; for the ministerial people affected
everywhere to represent him as the cause of all the misunderstanding. We
know nothing better calculated to show how hopeless it is for the lamb
downstream to convince the wolf upstream that the water flowing by him was
not muddied from below than the fact that, during the debate over Lord
Chatham's conciliatory Plan, Lord Sandwich referred to Franklin as one of
the bitterest and most mischievous enemies that England had ever known.
That is to say, Franklin, the loyal Englishman who, in one of his early
papers on electricity, could not even mention the King without adding, "God
preserve him," who had shrunk in the beginning from the agitation against
the Stamp Act as little less than treason, who had deprecated the Boston
tea-party as lawless violence, and had, from first to last, condemned
mob-license in every form in America as steadfastly as tyranny in England.

The wonder is that he should not have reached the decision sooner than he
did that there was nothing to be gained for his country by his longer
sojourn in England. His intercourse, as an American agent with Lord
Hillsborough, when Secretary of State for America and First Commissioner to
the Board of Trade, was alone enough to bring him to such a decision.[23]
As an Irishman, familiar with the repressive policy of England in Ireland,
Hillsborough could not well approve of British restrictions upon American
commerce and manufactures; but there his sympathy with America ceased.
Franklin truly said that the agents of the Colonies in England were quite
as useful to England as to the Colonies, since they had more than once by
timely advice kept the English Government from making mistakes arising out
of ignorance of special conditions peculiar to America. But this view was
not shared by Hillsborough. He insisted that no agent from Massachusetts
should be recognized in England, who was not appointed, from year to year,
by the General Court of Massachusetts by an act, to which the Governor of
that colony had given his assent. As the Governor was dependent for his
appointment upon the British Ministry, and would hardly fail to name any
one as agent, who might be selected by it, such a tenure was equivalent to
vesting the selection of the agent in Hillsborough himself, whose wishes,
when selected, the agent was not likely to oppose. Under such conditions,
an agent would be of no value to the colony, Franklin declared, and, under
such conditions, he further declared, he would not be willing himself to
hold the post. "His Character is Conceit, Wrongheadedness, Obstinacy, and
Passion." Such were the terms in which Franklin summed up the moral
attributes of Hillsborough to Dr. Cooper, after he had vainly striven for
several years to give the former some salutary conception of the importance
of ascertaining the real sentiments and wants of America. The letter, in
which these terms were employed, was accompanied by minutes of a spirited
dialogue between Franklin and Hillsborough, which almost makes us regret
that the former, among his other literary ventures, had not tested his
qualifications as a playwright. The part of Hillsborough in the colloquy
was to let Franklin fully know in language of mixed petulance and contempt
that he declined to recognize him as an agent.

     No such appointment shall be entered [he is minuted as
     declaring]. 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 honour 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 my office from me when they
     please. I shall make them a bow, and thank them; I
     shall resign with pleasure. That gentleman knows it,
     (_pointing to Mr. Pownall_), but, while I continue in
     it, I shall resolutely persevere in the same FIRMNESS.
     (_Spoken with great warmth, and turning pale in his
     discourse, as if he was angry at something or somebody
     besides the agent, and of more consequence to

Then follows Franklin's reply:

     B. F. (_Reaching out his hand for the paper, which his
     Lordship returned to him_). I beg your Lordship's
     pardon for taking up so much of your 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 trouble. (Withdrew.)

As the dialogue discloses, Hillsborough had quite enough enemies already to
render it prudent for him to abstain from making another of a man who had
declared in the letter, with which it was enclosed, that, if there was to
be a war between them, he would do his best to defend himself, and annoy
his adversary little, regarding the story of the Earthen Pot and Brazen

     One encouragement I have [Franklin said in his letter],
     the knowledge, that he is not a whit better lik'd by
     his Colleagues in the Ministry, than he is by me, that
     he can not probably continue where he is much longer,
     and that he can scarce be succeeded by anybody, who
     will not like me the better for his having been at
     Variance with me.

Later, Franklin wrote to Thomas Cushing:

     This Man's Mandates have been treated with Disrespect
     in America, his Letters have been criticis'd, his
     Measures censur'd and despis'd; which has produced in
     him a kind of settled Malice against the Colonies,
     particularly ours, that would break out into greater
     Violence if cooler Heads did not set some Bounds to it.
     I have indeed good Reason to believe that his Conduct
     is far from being approved by the King's other
     Servants, and that he himself is so generally dislik'd
     by them that it is not probable he will continue much
     longer in his present Station, the general Wish here
     being to recover (saving only the Dignity of
     Government) the Good-Will of the Colonies, which there
     is little reason to expect while they are under his
     wild Administration. Their permitting so long his
     Eccentricities (if I may use such an Expression) is
     owing, I imagine, rather to the Difficulty of knowing
     how to dispose of or what to do with a man of his
     wrong-headed bustling Industry, who, it is apprehended,
     may be more mischievous out of Administration than in
     it, than to any kind of personal Regard for him.

The Earthen Pot and the Brazen Pitcher _did_ collide, and, contrary to
every physical law, it was not the Earthen Pot that suffered. Certain
Americans, including Franklin himself, and certain Englishmen had applied
to the Crown for a tract of land between the Alleghanies and the Ohio
River, and their petition was referred to the Board of Trade of which
Hillsborough was President. It asked for the right to settle two million,
five hundred thousand acres. Hillsborough, who was secretly hostile to the
grant, for the purpose of over-loading the application, deceitfully
suggested that the applicants should ask for enough land to constitute a
province; whereupon Franklin took him at his word and changed the acreage
petitioned for to twenty-three million acres. When the report of the Lords
Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, drafted by Hillsborough, was made,
it opposed the grant.

     If a vast territory [said His Majesty's Governor of
     Georgia, in a letter to the Commissioners, which is
     quoted in the Report], be granted to any set of
     gentlemen, who really mean to people it, and actually
     do so, it must draw and carry out a great number of
     people from Great Britain; and I apprehend they will
     soon become a kind of separate and independent people,
     and who will set up for themselves; that they will soon
     have manufactures of their own; that they will neither
     take supplies from the mother country, nor from the
     provinces, at the back of which they are settled; that,
     being at a distance from the seat of government,
     courts, magistrates, &c., &c., they will be out of the
     reach and control of law and government; that it will
     become a receptacle and kind of asylum for offenders,
     who will fly from justice to such new country or

To this report, which sought to confine America to practically the same
limits as those fixed by the French, Franklin, with his knowledge of
American conditions, and breadth of vision, made such a crushing reply
that, when the report and the reply came before the Privy Council, the
application for the grant, partly because of the strength of Franklin's
reply, and, partly from dislike to Hillsborough, was approved. Mortified by
this action, Hillsborough resigned his office, and was succeeded by Lord
Dartmouth, the nobleman described by Cowper as "One who wears a coronet,
and prays."

In keeping with the deceit, practiced by Hillsborough, in endeavoring to
give an extravagant turn to the Ohio petition, was his previous bearing
towards Franklin after the interview with the latter, at which he paid such
a fulsome tribute to his own firmness. During the year preceding the action
of the Privy Council, Franklin had heard that Hillsborough had expressed
himself about him in very angry terms, calling him a Republican, a
factious, mischievous fellow, and the like. Nevertheless, a few weeks
later, when he was in Ireland, Hillsborough pressed him so warmly to call
upon him at his country-seat, upon his way to the North of Ireland, that he
did so, and was detained there no less than four days, in the enjoyment of
a hospitality so assiduous that his host, Franklin tells us, even put his
oldest son, Lord Kilwarling, into his phaeton with him, to drive him a
round of forty miles, that he might see the country, the seats,
manufactures, etc., and moreover covered him with his own great coat lest
he should take cold. Later, after both Franklin and Hillsborough had
returned to London, the former called upon the latter repeatedly for the
purpose of thanking him for his civilities in Ireland. On each day, he was
told that his Lordship was not at home, although on two of them he had good
reason to know the contrary. On the last of the two, which was one of his
Lordship's levee days, the porter, seeing Franklin, came out and surlily
chid the latter's coachman for opening the door of his coach before he had
inquired whether his Lordship was at home. Then, turning to Franklin, he
said, "My Lord is not at home." "I have never since been nigh him,"
Franklin wrote to his son, "and we have only abused one another at a

During the year succeeding the action of the Privy Council, when Franklin
was with his friend Lord Le Despencer at Oxford, Lord Hillsborough, upon
being told by Lord Le Despencer, as they were descending the stairs in
Queen's College, that Franklin was above, reascended them immediately, and,
approaching Franklin in the pleasantest manner imaginable, said, "Dr.
Franklin, I did not know till this Minute that you were here, and I am come
back _to make you my Bow_! I am glad to see you at Oxford, and that you
look so well," &c.

     In Return for this Extravagance [Franklin said in a
     letter to his son], I complimented him on his Son's
     Performance in the Theatre, tho' indeed it was but
     indifferent, so that Account was settled. For as People
     say, when they are angry, _If he strikes me_, _I'll
     strike him again_; I think sometimes it may be right to
     say, _If he flatters me_, _I'll flatter him again_.
     This is _Lex Talionis_, returning Offences in kind. His
     Son however (Lord Fairford), is a valuable young Man,
     and his Daughters, Ladys Mary and Charlotte, most
     amiable young Women. My Quarrel is only with him, who,
     of all the Men I ever met with, is surely the most
     unequal in his Treatment of People, the most insincere,
     and the most wrong-headed.

Such was the man, to whom the oversight of American affairs was committed
at a highly critical period in the relations of England and the Colonies.
Speaking of Hillsborough's successor, Lord Dartmouth, Franklin said, "he is
truly a good Man, and wishes sincerely a good Understanding with the
Colonies, but does not seem to have Strength equal to his Wishes." This
minister was wise enough to recognize the agents of the American colonies,
including Franklin, again, despite the stand taken by Hillsborough against
them. But, when Lord Chatham's conciliatory plan was so summarily rejected
by the House of Lords, Dartmouth, though he had, when the motion was first
made, suggested that it should be deliberately considered, was later swept
along unresistingly by the majority. In his account of the incident,
Franklin said, "I am the more particular in this, as it is a Trait of that
Nobleman's Character, who from his Office is suppos'd to have so great a
Share in American affairs, but who has in reality no Will or Judgment of
his own, being with Dispositions for the best Measures, easily prevail'd
with to join in the worst."

But it is in the history of the Hutchinson letters that we find the most
convincing proof of the hopelessness of Franklin's task in his endeavor to
bring public opinion in England over to his generous views of her true
interests. On one occasion, when speaking in terms of warm resentment of
the conduct of the ministry in dispatching troops to Boston, he was to his
great surprise, to use his own words, assured by a gentleman of character
and distinction that the action of the ministry in this, and the other
respects, obnoxious to America, had been brought about by some of the most
reputable persons among the Americans themselves. He was skeptical, and the
gentleman, whose name he never revealed, being desirous of establishing the
truth of his statement to the satisfaction of both Franklin and Franklin's
countrymen, called upon Franklin a few days afterwards, and exhibited to
him letters from Lieutenant-Governor Hutchinson and Secretary Andrew Oliver
of Massachusetts, and other residents of that colony which only too
conclusively confirmed what had been said. The gentleman would not permit
copies to be taken of the letters, but he delivered the originals to
Franklin with the express understanding that they were not to be printed,
that no copies were to be taken of them, that they were to be shown only
to a few leading men in Massachusetts, and were to be carefully returned.
Franklin transmitted them, subject to these conditions, to Thomas Cushing
of the Committee of Correspondence at Boston. He did so, he tells us,
because he thought that to shift the responsibility for the recent
ministerial measures from England to America would tend to restore good
feeling between the people of Massachusetts and England, and, moreover,
because he felt that intelligence of such importance should not be withheld
from the constituents whose agent he was. In his communication,
accompanying the letters, Franklin stipulated that they were to be read
only by the members of the Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence,
Messrs. Bowdoin and Pitts of the Council, Drs. Chauncey, Cooper and
Winthrop, and a few such other persons as Cushing might select; and were to
be returned in a few months to him; but it is not true, as was afterwards
alleged by his enemies, that his communication was attended by any effort
to conceal his personal relations to the letters. A part of the
communication is too good a specimen of the precision that Franklin always
brought to the language of rebuke or condemnation not to be quoted at

     As to the writers [he said], I can easily as well as
     charitably conceive it possible, that a Man educated in
     Prepossessions of the unbounded Authority of
     Parliament, &c. may think unjustifiable every
     Opposition even to its unconstitutional Exactions, and
     imagine it their Duty to suppress, as much as in them
     lies, such Opposition. But when I find them bartering
     away the Liberties of their native Country for Posts,
     and negociating for Salaries and Pensions extorted from
     the People; and, conscious of the Odium these might be
     attended with, calling for Troops to protect and secure
     the Enjoyment of them: When I see them exciting
     Jealousies in the Crown, and provoking it to Wrath
     against so great a Part of its most faithful Subjects;
     creating Enmities between the different Countries of
     which the Empire consists; occasioning a great Expence
     to the _Old_ Country for Suppressing or Preventing
     imaginary Rebellions in the _New_, and to the new
     Country for the Payment of needless Gratifications to
     useless Officers and Enemies; I can not but doubt their
     Sincerity even in the political Principles they
     profess, and deem them mere Time-servers seeking their
     own private Emolument, thro' any Quantity of Publick
     Mischief; Betrayers of the Interest, not of their
     native Country only, but of the Government they pretend
     to serve, and of the whole English Empire.

Later, after strong representations had been made to Franklin by Cushing
that the letters could be put to no effective use, unless they could be
retained or copied, Franklin obtained leave from the gentleman, who had
entrusted them to him, to authorize Cushing to show them to any persons
that he chose. The fact that the letters were in Boston was soon noised
abroad, whereupon the Assembly required them to be laid before it, though
under its promise that they would not be printed. An occasion or pretext
for disregarding this promise soon arose, when copies were produced in the
House by a member who was said to have received them from England. Then the
Assembly adopted a series of indignant resolutions, declaring, among other
things, that the authors of the letters were justly chargeable with the
great corruption of morals, and all the confusion, misery and bloodshed
which had been the natural effects of the introduction of troops into the
Province, and that it was its bounden duty to pray that his Majesty would
be pleased to remove Hutchinson and Oliver forever from the Government
thereof. These resolutions were duly followed by a petition for the removal
which was transmitted to Franklin and by him transmitted to Lord Dartmouth,
who laid it before the King.

When the news reached England that the letters had been published in
Massachusetts, there was great curiosity to know who had transmitted them.
Thomas Whately, a London banker, and the brother of William Whately, then
deceased, to whom they were written, was suspected; he suspected John
Temple, a former Governor of New Hampshire, who had had access to the
papers of the decedent, and, his suspicions having been brought to the
attention of Temple, the latter called upon him, denied all knowledge of
the letters, and demanded a public exoneration. The written statement from
Whately which followed was not satisfactory to Temple, and he challenged
the former to a duel in which Whately was severely wounded. Up to this
time, it was not known except to a few persons that Franklin had forwarded
the letters to America; nor even for a time after the duel did he feel that
it was incumbent upon him to tell the world that he had done so. But, when
he heard that the duel would probably be renewed, as soon as Whately
recovered his strength, he felt discharged from the obligation of silence
that he had previously recognized to the person from whom he had received
the letters, and published a communication in the _Public Advertiser_
stating that it was impossible for Whately to have sent the letters to
Boston, or for Temple to have purloined them from Whately, because they had
never been in Whately's possession, and that he, Franklin alone, was the
person who "obtained and transmitted to Boston the letters in

Franklin had put his head into the lion's jaws. While he was preparing for
his return to America, for the purpose of attending to a matter arising out
of the operations of the American Post-office Department, he received a
notice from the Clerk of the Privy Council, informing him that the Lords of
the Committee for Plantation Affairs would meet at the Cockpit on Tuesday,
January 11, 1774, at noon, for the purpose of considering the petition for
the removal of Hutchinson and Oliver, which had been referred to the
Council by the King, and requiring him to be present. A similar notice was
sent to Bollan, the London Agent of the Massachusetts Council. When the
petition came on for hearing, at the request of Franklin, its consideration
was postponed for some three weeks, so that he could retain counsel to face
Alexander Wedderburn, the Solicitor-general, who had been retained by
Israel Mauduit, the agent of the Governor and Lieutenant-Governor of

The counsel retained by Franklin were John Dunning, a former
Solicitor-general, and subsequently Lord Ashburton, and John Lee, who later
became the Solicitor-general under the administration of Charles James Fox.
When the hearing did take place, it proved for every reason a memorable
one. Edmund Burke could not recollect that so many Privy Councillors had
ever attended a meeting of the Council before. There were no less than
thirty-five in attendance. The Lord President Gower presided. In the
audience, among other persons, were the Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord
North, the Prime Minister, Lord Shelburne, Edmund Burke, Joseph Priestley,
Jeremy Bentham, Arthur Lee, of Virginia, then a law student in London, who
had been selected by the Legislature of Massachusetts to act as its agent,
in the event of the absence or death of Franklin, Ralph Izard, of South
Carolina, who had borne Temple's challenge to Thomas Whately, and Dr.
Edward Bancroft, who was afterwards at Paris with Franklin. The hearing was
opened by the reading of the letter written by Franklin to Lord Dartmouth,
when transmitting the petition to him, the petition itself, the resolutions
of the Massachusetts Assembly and the letters upon which they were based.
In Franklin's opinion, Dunning and Lee in their pleas "acquitted
themselves very handsomely." Dunning's points, Burke thought, were "well
and ably put." The appeal of the Massachusetts Assembly, Dunning argued was
to the wisdom and goodness of his Majesty; they were asking a favor, not
demanding justice. As they had no impeachment to make, so they had no
evidence to offer. Of similar tenor was the address of John Lee. The reply
of Wedderburn was pointed and brilliant, and as rabid as if he had been
summing up against an ordinary criminal at an ordinary assize.

     The letters, could not have come to Dr. Franklin [he
     argued], by fair means. The writers did not give them
     to him; nor yet did the deceased correspondent, who,
     from our intimacy, would otherwise have told me of it.
     Nothing, then, will acquit Dr. Franklin of the charge
     of obtaining them by fraudulent or corrupt means, for
     the most malignant of purposes, unless he stole them
     from the person who stole them. This argument is
     irrefragable. I hope, my lords, you will mark and brand
     the man, for the honor of this country, of Europe, and
     of mankind. Private correspondence has hitherto been
     held sacred in times of the greatest party rage, not
     only in politics but religion.... He has forfeited all
     the respect of societies and of men [the orator went
     on]. 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
     escritoirs. He will henceforth esteem it a libel to be
     called a _man of letters_; _homo TRIUM literarum_!
     [_Trium litterarum homo_, a man of three letters, was a
     fur, or thief]. But [continued Wedderburn], 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_:

         "Know then 'twas--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?

More than one bystander has recorded the impressions left upon his mind by
this savage philippic.

     I was not more astonished [Jeremy Bentham tells us] at
     the brilliancy of his lightning, than astounded at the
     thunder that accompanied it. As he stood, the cushion
     lay on the council table before him; his station was
     between the seats of two of the members, on the side of
     the right hand of the Lord President. I would not for
     double the greatest fee the orator could on that
     occasion have received, been in the place of that
     cushion; the ear was stunned at every blow.

"At the sallies of his sarcastic wit," Priestley declares, "all the members
of the Council, the President himself not excepted, frequently laughed
outright. No person belonging to the Council behaved with decent gravity,
except Lord North, who, coming late, took his stand behind the chair
opposite to me." Burke spoke of the attack on "Poor Dr. Franklin" as
"beyond all bounds and decency," and the language, used by Lord Shelburne,
in describing it to Lord Chatham, was hardly, if any, less emphatic. "The
behavior of the Judges," he said, "exceeded, as was agreed on all hands,
that of any committee of elections." Dunning's rejoinder to Wedderburn was
wholly ineffective. His voice, always thick, was, from illness, feebler and
huskier than usual even in his first address, and, exhausted as he was by
standing for three hours in a room, in which no one was allowed to sit but
the Privy Councillors themselves, who were supposed on such occasions to be
the immediate representatives of the King, his second address was hardly
audible. Lee was equally ineffective. Wedderburn's speech, therefore, which
from a purely forensic point of view was really a masterpiece, was left to
assert its full effect, to become the sensation of every Club in London,
and to win the plaudit of every bigoted or unreflecting Englishman. "All
men," Fox said, "tossed up their hats and clapped their hands in boundless
delight at it."

What of Franklin during the malignant assault? The apartment, in which the
hearing took place, was a small one. At one end, was an open fireplace,
with a recess on each side of it. The Council table stretched from a point
near this fireplace to the other end of the room. The Lord President sat at
its head, and the other councillors were ranged in seats down its sides.
Such spectators as had been able to secure the highly-prized privilege of
being present remained standing throughout the session. In the chimney
recess to the left of the President, stood Franklin with Burke and
Priestley nearby. The dialectical ability and skill, which made his
examination before the House of Commons so famous, he now had no
opportunity to display; and unfailing fortitude was all that he could
oppose to the outrage for which he had been singled out. With that,
however, his uncommon strength of character abundantly supplied him.

     The Doctor was dressed in a full dress suit of spotted
     Manchester velvet [Dr. Edward Bancroft wrote years
     afterwards to William Temple Franklin], and stood
     _conspicuously erect_, without the smallest movement of
     any part of his body. The muscles of his face had been
     previously composed, so as to afford a placid, tranquil
     expression of countenance, and he did not suffer the
     slightest alteration of it to appear during the
     continuance of the speech, in which he was so harshly
     and improperly treated. In short, to quote the words
     which he employed concerning himself on another
     occasion, he kept "his countenance as immovable as if
     his features had been made of wood."

     Alone, in the recess on the left hand of the president,
     stood Benjamin Franklin [is the account of Bentham], in
     such position as not to be visible from the situation
     of the president, remaining the whole time like a rock,
     in the same posture, his head resting on his left hand;
     and in that attitude abiding the pelting of the
     pitiless storm.

Nothing but Jedburgh justice, of course, was to be expected from such a
Committee in such a case, represented by such an advocate. Its report,
dated the same day as its sitting, and as likely as not drafted beforehand,
found that the letters had been surreptitiously obtained, and contained
"nothing reprehensible"; that the petition was based on resolutions, formed
on false and erroneous allegations; and was groundless, vexatious and
scandalous; and calculated only for the seditious purpose of keeping up a
spirit of clamor and discontent in the province; and that nothing had been
laid before the Committee which did, or could, in their opinion, in any
manner, or in any degree, impeach the honor, integrity, or conduct of the
Governor or Lieutenant-Governor. Wherefore, the Lords of the Committee were
humbly of the opinion that the petition ought to be dismissed. This
recommendation was approved by the King, and an order was issued by him
that the petition be dismissed, as answering the character imputed to it by
the Committee. Nor did vengeance stop here. On the second day, after the
Committee rose, Franklin was handed a communication from the
Postmaster-General, informing him in brief terms that the King had "found
it necessary" to dismiss him from the office of Deputy Postmaster-General
in America.

In reporting the manner in which he had been affronted by the Privy Council
to his Massachusetts constituents, Franklin used language in keeping with
the sober spirit in which he had striven from the beginning to bring about
an understanding between England and her Colonies.

     What I feel on my own account [he said], is half lost
     in what I feel for the public. When I see, that all
     petitions and complaints of grievances are so odious to
     government, that even the mere pipe which conveys them
     becomes obnoxious, I am at a loss to know how peace and
     union are to be maintained or restored between the
     different parts of the empire. Grievances cannot be
     redressed unless they are known; and they cannot be
     known but through complaints and petitions. If these
     are deemed affronts, and the messengers punished as
     offenders, who will henceforth send petitions? And who
     will deliver them? It has been thought a dangerous
     thing in any state to stop up the vent of griefs. Wise
     governments have therefore generally received petitions
     with some indulgence, even when but slightly founded.
     Those, who think themselves injured by their rulers,
     are sometimes, by a mild and prudent answer, convinced
     of their error. But where complaining is a crime, hope
     becomes despair.

His fellow-Americans were not so self-restrained. The American Post Office
was shunned by its former patrons, and letters were delivered largely by
private agencies, effigies of Wedderburn and Hutchinson were carried about
the streets of Philadelphia, and, at night, were burnt, we are told, by
Joseph Reed, "with the usual ceremonies, amidst the acclamations of the
multitude." "Nothing can exceed," the same narrator adds, "the veneration
in which Dr. Franklin is now held, but the detestation we have of his
enemies." Wedderburn, who had complained in his speech of the attention
paid by the press to the movements of Franklin, as though he were a great
diplomatic character, had more occasion than ever to sneer at his public
prominence. Hutchinson was compelled to resign his office, and to retire
from execration in America to a slender pension and obscurity in England.
Even in England, Horace Walpole stayed the pen, to which we are indebted
for so many charming letters, long enough to write:

    "Sarcastic Sawney, swol'n with spite and prate,
    On silent Franklin poured his venal hate,
    The calm philosopher, without reply,
    Withdrew, and gave his country liberty."[25]

Lord John Russell has said that it is "impossible to justify the conduct of
Franklin" in the matter of the Hutchinson letters, and from time to time
the same idea has been more or less hesitatingly advanced by others. Its
justice, we confess, has never been apparent to us. That the letters did
pass into the possession of Franklin, under the circumstances stated by
him, which certainly do not reflect in any manner upon his honor, can
hardly be doubted, unless mere suspicion is to give the lie to a life of
uniform integrity. The mode, in which they were transmitted to America,
under the restrictions imposed by him, was attended with so little regard
to secrecy, so far as his connection with them was concerned, that Dr.
Cooper wrote to him, "I can not, however, but admire your honest openness
in this affair, and noble negligence of any inconveniences that might arise
to yourself in this essential service to our injured country." It was not
until the letters had been printed in America, contrary to his engagement
with the gentleman, who had handed them to him, that he expressed the wish
to Dr. Cooper that the fact of his having sent them should be kept secret,
and not then until his inclinations on the subject were pointedly sounded
by Dr. Cooper. As soon as they threatened to cause bloodshed, which he had
a chance to avert, he made his connection with them public, and assumed the
full responsibility for his act. Moreover, he truly said of the letters,
when he assumed this responsibility in his communication to the _Public
Advertiser_, "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." Little can be added to this convincing
statement. If a political agent of England in Boston had, under the same
circumstances, come into possession of letters from English officials in
England to Cushing or Dr. Cooper, revealing a deliberate intent on the
part of the writers to initiate measures aimed at the just prerogatives of
the Crown or Parliament, who would have thought the worse of him if he had
transmitted them to King or Parliament? Were letters designed to help along
the introduction of a military force into Boston for the purpose of
abridging the political liberties of its people entitled to any higher
degree of privacy? The accusation that Franklin had violated the confidence
of private correspondence came with but poor grace, to say the least, from
a Government which made a practice of breaking the seals of letters, and of
no letters oftener than of those of Franklin, entrusted to its care.
Indeed, not only were the seals of Franklin's letters frequently broken,
and the letters read, but, in some instances, the letters were permanently
retained by the English Government.

It was the fashion in England for a long time to ascribe the intense
resentment felt by Franklin against England, after war broke out between
that country and the colonies, to the indignity to which he was subjected
by the Privy Council, and his dismission from office. The statement is not
supported by the facts. That these circumstances made a deep impression
upon his mind is undeniable, but it was really not until he found himself
in America in 1775 that he gave himself up to the conclusion that nothing
was to be gained by his remaining longer in England. After his removal from
office, he still counselled his correspondents in America to adhere to a
policy of patience and self-restraint, and in a letter to Thomas Cushing
and others, written only a few days after the hearing at the Cockpit, he
termed the destruction of the tea at Boston an unwarrantable destruction of
private property and "an Act of violent Injustice." To all the efforts of
Lord Chatham and his high-minded associates, after this hearing, to bring
about a reconciliation between England and America, he lent the full weight
of his advice and experience. And, when some of the members of the British
Ministry, after it, ashamed to deal with him directly, covertly opened up
an interchange of proposals with him through David Barclay, Dr. Fothergill
and Lord Howe, in regard to the terms upon which a reconciliation might
still be reached, he entered into the negotiations with a spirit singularly
free from personal bitterness. There are few things more pathetic in the
history of sundered ties than the account that Priestley has given us of
the last days that Franklin spent in England in 1775. "A great part of the
day above-mentioned that we spent together," Priestley tells us, "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." These,
however, were not womanish tears, but rather such iron tears as ran down
Pluto's cheeks. Never was there a time after the heart of America was laid
bare to Franklin by the remonstrance against the Stamp Act when he was not
unflinchingly prepared, if the painful necessity was forced upon him, to
unite with his countrymen in defying the armed power of England. As the
fateful issue of the protracted controversy approached nearer and nearer,
his language became bolder and bolder.

     The eyes of all Christendom [he wrote to James Bowdoin
     a few days before he left England in 1775], are now
     upon us, and our honour as a people is become a matter
     of the utmost consequence to be taken care of. If we
     tamely give up our rights in this contest, a century to
     come will not restore us in the opinion of the world;
     we shall be stamped with the character of dastards,
     poltrons and fools; and be despised and trampled upon,
     not by this haughty, insolent nation only, but by all
     mankind. Present inconveniences are, therefore, to be
     borne with fortitude, and better times expected.

         "Informes hyemes reducit
         Jupiter; idem
         Summovet. Non si male nunc, et olim
         Sic erit."[26]

When he reached the shores of his native land, it was to hear that, while
he was at sea, the battles of Lexington and Concord had been fought, and
that the veins of the two countries, which he had striven so hard to keep
closed, were already open and running.[27]

From that day, Franklin took his place with Washington, the Adamses,
Jefferson and Patrick Henry as an inflexible champion of armed resistance
to England. If he humored the more timid patriots, who were disposed to
make still further appeals to English generosity, it was not because he
shared their fallacious hopes but because he did not wish one column of the
revolutionary movement to get too far in advance of the other. At this
period of his life, his reputation was already very great. The English
Tories believed or affected to believe that he was the father of all the
mischief responsible for the American crisis. The English Whigs leaned upon
his advice and assistance as those of a man who had the welfare of the
entire British Empire deeply at heart. How he was regarded at home, is well
illustrated in what General Nathanael Greene and Abigail Adams had to say
of him when he subsequently visited Washington's head-quarters during the
siege of Boston as a member of the Committee appointed by Congress to
confer with Washington and delegates from the New England Colonies as to
the best plan for raising, maintaining and disciplining the continental
army. Recalling an occasion at this time, when Franklin had been brought
under his observation, Greene wrote, "During the whole evening, I viewed
that very great man with silent admiration." The language of Abigail Adams
was not less intense.

     I had the pleasure of dining with Dr. Franklin [she
     said], and of admiring him, whose character from my
     infancy I had been taught to venerate. I found him
     social but not talkative; and, when he spoke, something
     useful dropped from his tongue. He was grave, yet
     pleasant and affable. You know I make some pretensions
     to physiognomy, and I thought I could read in his
     countenance the virtues of his heart, among which,
     patriotism shone in its full lustre: and with that is
     blended every virtue of a Christian.

Those were dramatic hours when highly wrought feelings readily ran into
hyperbole; nor had any Madame Helvétius come along yet with her "Hélas!
Franklin," and disordered skirts.

The reputation, which called forth these tributes, brought Franklin at once
to the very forefront of the American Revolution, when he arrived at
Philadelphia. The morning after his arrival, he, Thomas Willing and James
Wilson, were elected by the Assembly of Pennsylvania as additional deputies
to the Continental Congress that was to meet in Philadelphia in a few days,
and he was re-elected to Congress at every succeeding election until his
departure for France. By the first Congress, he was appointed Chairman of a
Committee to devise a postal system for America; and when this Committee
recommended the appointment of a Postmaster-General and various postal
subordinates, and the establishment of a line of posts from Falmouth (now
Portland) in Maine to Savannah, with as many cross posts as the
Postmaster-General might think fit, Franklin was elected by Congress the
Postmaster-General for the first year. He was also appointed by Congress
one of the members of a committee to draw up a declaration, to be published
by Washington when he took command of the American army, but the paper
drafted by him does not appear to have ever been presented by him to
Congress. At any rate, it adds nothing to his literary reputation, and is
disfigured by one of the unseasonable _facetiæ_ into which he had a way of
wandering at times on grave occasions, after he found his feet again in the
easy slippers of his old American environment.

Franklin also made some wise suggestions to Congress with respect to the
best method of preventing the depreciation of the paper money issued by it.
His first suggestion was that the bills should bear interest. This
suggestion was rejected. His next was that, instead of the issuance of any
more paper money, what had already been issued should be borrowed back upon
interest. His last was that the interest should be paid in hard money, but
both of the latter suggestions, though approved by Congress, were approved
too late to accomplish their objects. After due tenderness had been
exhibited by him to John Dickinson and the other members of Congress, who
still clung to the hope of a reconciliation with England, Franklin brought
forward a plan for the permanent union and efficient government of the
Colonies. Under this plan each colony was to retain its internal
independence, but its external relations, especially as respected
resistance to the measures of the English Ministry, were committed to an
annually-elected Congress. The supreme executive authority of the union was
to be vested in a council of twelve, to be elected by the Congress.
Ireland, Canada, the West Indies, Bermuda, Nova Scotia and Florida as well
as the thirteen colonies within the present limits of the United States,
were to be invited to join the confederacy. The union was to last until
British oppression ceased, and reparation was made to the Colonies for the
injuries inflicted upon them; which, of course, under the circumstances,
meant until the Greek Calends. The plan was referred to a committee, but it
was never acted upon by the House; being too bold a project to suit the
cautious scruples of John Dickinson and the other moderate members of the
Continental Congress, who dreaded the effect of a project of union upon the
mind of the King, while the petition of Congress to him was pending. Among
other important committees upon which Franklin served, when a member of the
first Continental Congress, was one to investigate the sources of
saltpetre; another to treat with the Indians; another to look after the
engraving and printing of the continental paper money; another to consider
Lord North's conciliatory resolution; another on salt and lead; and still
another to report a plan for regulating and protecting the commerce of the
Colonies. At the next session of the Congress, he was equally active. Among
the things in which we find him engaged at this session, are the
arrangement of a system of posts and expresses for the rapid transmission
of dispatches; the establishment of a line of packets between America and
Europe; an effort to promote the circulation of the continental money; and
the preparation of instructions for the American generals. It was at this
session of Congress, too, that Thomas Lynch, of South Carolina, Benjamin
Harrison, of Virginia, and himself were appointed the committee to visit
Washington's camp before Boston. The journey to Boston consumed thirteen
days, and the conference, which followed with the American
Commander-in-Chief and the delegates from the New England Colonies,
resulted in many judicious conclusions with regard to the organization of
the American army, and the conduct of the war, and, moreover, was an
additional assurance to Washington and New England that, in the military
operations before Boston, they could count upon the support of all America.
It is obvious enough from writings, found among the papers of Franklin in
his handwriting, that months before the Declaration of Independence was
signed he was fully ready to renounce all allegiance to Great Britain. When
the more conservative members of Congress so far yielded to their fears as
to adopt, with the aid of some of the members from New England, a
declaration that independence was not their aim, Franklin approved a plan
then formed by Samuel Adams of bringing at least all the New England
provinces together in a confederacy. "If you succeed," he said to Adams, "I
will cast in my lot among you." This was six months before the adoption of
the Declaration of Independence. Franklin also served with John Jay and
Thomas Jefferson upon a committee to interview a mysterious foreigner who
had repeatedly expressed a desire to make a confidential communication to
Congress. The stranger, who possessed a military bearing and spoke with a
French accent, assured the committee that his most Christian Majesty, the
King of France, had heard with pleasure of the exertions made by the
American Colonies in defence of their rights and privileges, wished them
success, and would, when necessary, manifest in a more open manner his
friendly sentiments towards them. But, as often as he was asked by the
committee for his authority for conveying such flattering assurances, he
contented himself with drawing his hand across his throat, and saying,
"Gentlemen, I shall take care of my head."

When the report of this committee was made to Congress, a motion on the
strength of it to send envoys to France was defeated, but later a
committee composed of Benjamin Harrison, John Dickinson, Thomas Johnson,
John Jay and Franklin was appointed "to correspond secretly with friends in
Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world." The duties of this
committee were mainly discharged by Franklin, who had, as we have seen,
contracted many durable friendships abroad with men whose aid might mean
much to America. To Charles W. F. Dumas, a native of Switzerland, residing
at The Hague, he wrote, asking him to sound secretly the ambassadors of the
different Powers, other than Great Britain, there for the purpose of
ascertaining whether any of their courts were inclined to aid the Colonies
or to form alliances with them, to let the mercantile world know that
America was prepared to pay very high prices for arms, gunpowder and
saltpetre, to send to America two engineer officers qualified to direct
siege operations, construct forts and field-works and command artillery,
and to receive and forward all letters that passed between the committee
and its friends and agents abroad. A draft for one hundred pounds sterling
accompanied the letter, together with an assurance from the committee that
Dumas' services would be "considered and honorably rewarded by Congress." A
similar letter was sent to Arthur Lee in London, accompanied by a
remittance of two hundred pounds as his compensation. By the same ship went
a letter from Franklin to Don Gabriel de Bourbon of Spain, in which, after
thanking the Prince for the copy which he had sent him of the handsome
Sallust, printed several years before at the royal press at Madrid,
Franklin cleverly leads the attention of the Prince on to the consideration
of a rising state which seemed likely soon to act a part of some importance
on the stage of human affairs, and to furnish materials for a future
Sallust. This letter, in which literary sympathy, the high-bred courtesy of
a Spanish hidalgo and political address are mingled with the happiest
effect, is a good example of what it meant to America to have such a man as
Franklin as her world-interpreter. These letters were all entrusted to the
care of a special messenger, Thomas Story. Soon after he left America, M.
Penet, a merchant of Nantes, sailed for France with a contract from the
committee for furnishing arms, ammunition and clothing to the American army
and various letters from Franklin to friends of his in France, including
his devoted pupil, Dr. Dubourg. Subsequently, before a reply had been
received to any of the letters written by Franklin on its behalf, the
committee decided to send an agent to Paris duly empowered to treat with
the French King. Silas Deane, a Yale graduate, and a man, who might have
left an unblemished reputation as an American patriot behind him, if Arthur
Lee had not hounded him out of France and America into England, was
selected for this mission. He was selected, Adams is so unkind as to
intimate, because he was a Congressman who had lost his seat in Congress.
For him Franklin drew up a letter of instruction, fixing the character that
he was to assume, that of a merchant, when he reached France, mentioning
the persons friendly to America with whom he was to establish a familiar
intercourse, and prescribing the manner in which he was to approach M. de
Vergennes, the French Minister, for the purpose of soliciting the
friendship and assistance of France.

Another important call was made upon the services of Franklin, when with
Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll of Carrollton, as his colleagues, he was
appointed by Congress to visit Canada, and to endeavor to rescue our
affairs in that country from the lamentable condition of confusion and
distress into which they had fallen. Quebec had been assaulted by
Montgomery and Arnold, and had repelled the assault, Montgomery being
killed and Arnold wounded in the attempt, and the American army was
wasting away in the face of the intense cold, hunger and the small-pox. For
the Continental paper money the Canadians had come to entertain a supreme
contempt, and their attitude towards the Americans, with whom they had so
often been at war in their earlier history, was in every respect that of
distrust and aversion. With the committee went John Carroll, the brother of
Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who had been educated for the priesthood in
France, and spoke its language with perfect fluency. It was thought at the
time that for the Commission to take with it to Catholic and French Canada
such a companion was a masterly stroke of policy. The powers, with which
the Commission were clothed, were of a plenary description; to admit Canada
into the union of the Colonies, when brought over to the American cause by
the appeals of the Commissioners, and to admit it with a republican form of
government, to settle disputes between the civil and military authorities
in Canada, and to exercise an extraordinary degree of authority in one form
or another with respect to the military forces of America there. They were
even to take steps to establish a newspaper in Canada to help along the
American propaganda.

Of all the episodes in the life of Franklin, this is the one upon which the
reader dwells with the least satisfaction. He was entirely too old for the
fatigues and hardships of the long April journey of five hundred miles from
Philadelphia to New York, and up the Hudson, and over Lakes George and
Champlain, and across the country at the head of Lake Champlain to
Montreal. The distance between Philadelphia and New York was covered by the
party in two days, the journey up the Hudson to Albany was made in a sloop,
engaged for them by Lord Stirling, and from Albany to the country seat of
General Philip Schuyler at Saratoga, thirty-two miles from Albany, they
were conveyed over deep roads in a large country-wagon furnished by the
General. Here it was that Franklin, debilitated by the exposure and shocks,
to which his frame had been subjected, began to apprehend that he had
undertaken a fatigue which, at his time of life, might prove too much for
him, and sat down to write to some of his friends by way of farewell. After
a few days' rest at Saratoga, the party, preceded by General Schuyler, went
forward to Lake George. Though it was the middle of April, the lakes of
that country were still covered with ice, and the roads with six inches of
snow. After two days and a half of further travel, the southern end of the
lake was reached. So encumbered with ice was it that the batteau, equipped
with an awning for a cabin, with which General Schuyler had provided the
party, took about thirty-six hours to traverse the thirty-six miles between
the southern extremity of the lake and its northern. Then came the portage
over the neck of land between Lake George and Lake Champlain, and the
re-embarkation, after a delay of five days, on the waters of the latter
lake. The portage was effected by placing the batteau on wheels and yoking
it up to a string of oxen. Three days and a half more brought the party to
St. John's, near the head of Lake Champlain, after a strenuous struggle
with baffling ice and head winds. Another day's journey in _calèches_
brought them to Montreal where they were received by Arnold and a concourse
of officers and citizens, and saluted with military honors.

It is enough to say that the Commissioners found American credit in Canada
sunk to the lowest point. Even the express, sent by them from St. John's to
tell Arnold of their arrival at that point, was held at a ferry for the
ferriage charge until a friend, who was passing, changed an American paper
dollar for him into silver; nor would the _calèches_ have come for the
Commissioners if this friend had not engaged to pay the hire. Military
defeat, violated contracts, discredited paper money and the anticipated
coming of a British force overhung like a bank of nimbus cloud the entire
horizon of American hopes in Canada. The Commissioners could not borrow
money either upon the public or upon their own private credit. In a letter
to Congress after they had been in Canada a week, they declared that, if
money could not be had to support the American army in Canada with honor,
so as to be respected instead of being hated by the people, it was their
firm and unanimous opinion that it would be better to immediately withdraw
it. With his usual public spirit, Franklin advanced on the credit of
Congress to Arnold and other servants of Congress three hundred and
fifty-three pounds in gold out of his own pocket--a loan which proved of
great service in procuring provisions for the American army at a time of
dire necessity. Two days after the letter of the Commissioners to Congress
was written, news came to Montreal that a British fleet, full of troops,
had reached Quebec, and landed a force, which had routed the small American
army there. The decision was at once reached that there was nothing for the
American forces to do but to retire to St. John's, and to prepare to resist
at that point the advance of the British. This decision was acted upon at
once, and the next morning Franklin, attended by John Carroll, set out on
his return to Philadelphia; leaving his fellow-commissioners to oversee the
retreat to St. John's and the establishment of defensive works at that
point. With the assistance of General Schuyler, he and his companion passed
safely down the lakes to Albany, and from Albany, after they had again
enjoyed the General's hospitality, they were conveyed by his chariot to New
York. Here Franklin wrote to his fellow-commissioners that he grew daily
more feeble, and thought that he could hardly have got along so far but for
Mr. Carroll's friendly assistance and tender care of him. Some symptoms of
the gout, he further said, had appeared, which made him believe that his
indisposition had been a smothered fit of that disorder, which his
constitution wanted strength to form completely. But, with the reappearance
of his old malady, came back the wit which, indeed, seems to have
languished but little at any time under the rigors of his arduous mission.
After congratulating Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll upon the recent
capture of a British prize, loaded with seventy-five tons of gunpowder and
a thousand carbines with bayonets, he further wrote: "The German
Auxiliaries are certainly coming. It is our Business to prevent their

In the early part of June, Franklin was again in Philadelphia after an
absence of about ten weeks. A little later the Declaration of Independence
was reported to Congress by the committee, consisting of Thomas Jefferson,
John Adams, Robert R. Livingston, Roger Sherman and himself, which had been
elected by Congress to draft it, and after a debate, during which John
Adams won only less reputation in defending, than Jefferson in writing, it,
was adopted and given to the world, whose political opinions it was to
influence so profoundly. Owing to a serious attack of the gout, Franklin
had no hand in its preparation beyond suggesting a few verbal alterations.
His part, however, in the adoption of the Articles of Confederation was
more active. To the plan of allowing the thirteen States to vote on all
questions by States, and of giving to each State, without reference to
population or wealth, a single vote, he was strongly opposed; so much so
that he even thought at one time of counselling Pennsylvania not to enter
into the union if the plan was adopted. He hotly declared that a
confederation upon such iniquitous terms would not last long. But we know
from what Jefferson tells us that he also had his humorous fling at it. "At
the time of the union of England and Scotland," he said, "the Duke of
Argyle was most violently opposed to that measure, and among other things
predicted that, as the whale had swallowed Jonah, so Scotland would be
swallowed by England." "However," added Franklin, "when Lord Bute came into
the government, he soon brought into its administration so many of his
countrymen that it was found, in event, that Jonah had swallowed the

About the same time, Franklin, Jefferson and John Adams were appointed a
committee by Congress to hit upon a device for the seal of the Confederacy.
No more congenial task could possibly have been set for Franklin, whose
ingenuity always revelled in conceits of this kind. A device, based upon
the drowning of Pharaoh, and accompanied by the motto, "Rebellion to
tyrants is obedience to God," was suggested by him, and was made by the
Committee, together with the Eye of Providence in a radiant triangle, the
motto, _E Pluribus Unum_, and other elaborate features a part of its
recommendation. As soon as Franklin was safely out of the country in
France, Congress, perhaps not forgetting his story of John Thompson, the
hatter, rejected as too redundant the entire complicated design except the
_E Pluribus Unum_ and the Eye of Providence.

In the summer of 1776, Franklin also endeavored to carry out in another
form his idea of preventing the Hessians from returning to their own
country by assisting in distributing among them tobacco wrapped in copies
of an address offering in the name of Congress a tract of land to every
soldier who should desert the British service. Congress could not see why,
if these hirelings were to be sold, they should not do the selling
themselves instead of their Princes.

It was in the summer of 1776, too, that Franklin, John Adams and Edward
Rutledge, of South Carolina, were elected a committee by Congress to call
upon Lord Howe at Staten Island for the purpose of ascertaining whether he
had any authority to negotiate a treaty of peace, and, if so, of learning
what that authority was, and of receiving such propositions as he should
think fit to make. Lord Howe was at the time the Admiral of the King's
naval forces in America and joint commissioner with his brother General
William Howe to grant pardons to such of the American rebels as should be
ready to renew their allegiance to the King. On his arrival in July, 1776,
at Sandy Hook, he had taken steps to distribute throughout the Colonies a
declaration explaining the nature of the commission committed to his
brother and himself. At the same time, he had written a letter to Franklin
indicating his earnest desire to be instrumental in restoring peace between
England and America. The same carrier delivered a copy of the declaration
to Congress and the letter to Franklin. Both the declaration and the letter
were given rude rebuffs. Congress ordered the declaration to be inserted in
the newspapers so that, as it said, the few, who still remained suspended
by a hope, founded either in the justice or moderation of their late King,
might now at length be convinced that the valor alone of their country was
to save its liberties. Franklin, after obtaining the permission of
Congress, sent a reply to Lord Howe's letter by the hand of Colonel Palfrey
of the American army. It is one of the best letters that he ever wrote, and
told Lord Howe such blunt truths, and gave him such candid advice that,
after reading it with surprise repeatedly flitting over his face, Lord Howe
remarked to Colonel Palfrey with a gentleness as honorable to his amiable
character as to that of Franklin that his old friend had expressed himself
very warmly. Then subsequently had followed the disaster on Long Island,
and the arrival of General Sullivan on parole at Philadelphia with a verbal
message from Lord Howe to Congress, stating that he would like to confer
with some of its members as private individuals though he could not yet
treat with Congress itself. The result was the appointment of the committee
to call upon him at Staten Island. The conference between the committee
and Lord Howe took place at a house on that island and came to nothing. The
committee had no authority to do anything except to receive proposals from
Lord Howe, who really had no seasonable proposition to make, and Lord Howe
had no authority to do anything except to grant pardons to persons who were
not conscious of having committed any offence. When he stated in polite
terms that he could not confer with the members of the committee as a
committee of Congress but only as gentlemen of great ability and influence
in the colonies, Adams declared in his emphatic way that he was willing to
consider himself for a few moments in any character which would be
agreeable to his Lordship except that of a British subject. "Mr. Adams,"
gravely observed Lord Howe, "is a decided character." All three of the
Commissioners one by one made it clear to Lord Howe that the colonies were
irrevocably committed to Independence. There was, therefore, nothing for
him to do except to say in the end, "I am sorry, gentlemen, that you have
had the trouble of coming so far to so little purpose." Minutes of this
interesting conference were jotted down by Henry Strachey, Lord Howe's
Secretary, and he has recorded two highly characteristic utterances of
Franklin on the occasion. Such, Lord Howe declared, were his feelings
towards America, on account of the honor conferred upon his family, by its
recognition of the services rendered to it by his eldest brother (Viscount
Howe), that, if America should fall, he would feel and lament it like the
loss of a brother. Franklin's answer to this generous outburst is thus
recorded by Strachey. "Dr. Franklin (with an easy air, a collected
countenance, a bow, a smile, and all that _naïveté_ which sometimes
appeared in his conversation and often in his writings), My Lord, we will
use our utmost endeavors to save your Lordship that mortification." Later,
when Lord Howe assured Franklin that it was the commerce, the strength,
the men of America rather than her money that Great Britain wanted,
Franklin, ever alive to the military advantage possessed by the Colonies in
the amazing capacity for reproduction of their people, replied, "Ay, My
Lord, we have in America a pretty considerable manufactory of men."
Strachey supposed that he meant to convey by this remark the impression
that the American army was a large one, but Lord Howe knew Franklin's turn
of mind better, and penciled on the margin of Strachey's manuscript, "No;
their increasing population."

Lord Howe seems to have borne himself on this occasion in every respect
like a gallant gentleman. When the three members of Congress reached the
shore opposite to Staten Island, after the journey from Philadelphia, which
Adams had made on horseback, and Franklin and Rutledge in chairs, they
found a barge from him awaiting them with an officer in it as a hostage for
their safe return from the island. Adams suggested that the hostage should
be dispensed with, and his colleagues, he tells us in his grandiose way,
"exulted in the proposition and agreed to it instantly." The fact was
communicated to the officer, who bowed his assent, and re-embarked with the
Americans. When Lord Howe saw the barge approaching the beach of the
island, he walked down to meet it, and the Hessian regiment, which attended
him, was drawn up in two lines facing each other. Upon seeing that the
officer, whom he had sent over to the Jersey shore, had returned, Lord Howe
exclaimed, "Gentlemen, you make me a very high compliment, and you may
depend upon it I will consider it as the most sacred of things." When the
party landed, he shook hands very cordially with Franklin, and, after being
introduced to Adams and Rutledge, conducted the three between the two files
of Hessians to the house where the conference was to take place; all four
chatting pleasantly together as they walked along. Adams, who was far too
intense an American not to hate savagely a Hessian, fresh from the
cattle-pen of his Prince, described these soldiers as "looking fierce as
ten Furies, and making all the grimaces, and gestures, and motions of their
muskets with bayonets fixed, which, I suppose, military etiquette requires,
but which we neither understood nor regarded." The house, which was to be
the scene of the conference, was dilapidated and dirty from military use,
but the apartment, into which the Americans were ushered, had been hung
with moss and branches by Lord Howe with such refinement of taste that
Adams subsequently pronounced it "not only wholesome, but romantically
elegant." After reaching it, the whole party, including the colonel of the
Hessian regiment, sat down to a collation "of good claret, good bread, cold
ham, tongues, and mutton." When the repast was over, the colonel withdrew,
the table was cleared and the fruitless conference began.

Nor was the activity of Franklin after his return from England limited to
his duties as a member of Congress. If he fell asleep at times, when
questions were under discussion by that body, it might well have been
because he had no other time to sleep. Shortly after his return, he was
elected Chairman of the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, which was charged
with the duty of arming and defending the Province, and of issuing bills of
credit to defray the expense. In this office, he proved quite as fertile in
expedients as he had done at the time of the Association years before. In
the course of a year, the Delaware was effectively protected by forts and
batteries and by a marine _chevaux-de-frise_, planned by Franklin himself;
so much so that, when a British fleet attempted several years later to
ascend the river, its progress was blocked for two months. Other features
of the defensive plans adopted by the committee were row-galleys, fully
armed and manned, of which Josiah Quincy spoke in a letter to Washington as
"Dr. Franklin's row-galleys."

     In the morning at six [Franklin wrote to Priestley], I
     am at the Committee of Safety, appointed by the
     Assembly to put the Province in a state of defence;
     which committee holds till near nine, when I am at the
     Congress, and that sits till after four in the
     afternoon. Both these bodies proceed with the greatest
     unanimity, and their meetings are well attended. It
     will scarce be credited in Britain, that men can be as
     diligent with us from zeal for the public good, as with
     you for thousands per annum. Such is the difference
     between uncorrupted new states, and corrupted old ones.

To the period when the Committee of Safety was holding its sessions belongs
a story which William Temple Franklin tells us of his grandfather. Some of
the more intolerant Pennsylvanians asked the Committee to call upon the
Episcopal clergy to refrain from prayers for the King.

     The measure [said Franklin, who always preserved his
     sense of proportion] is quite unnecessary; for the
     Episcopal clergy, to my certain knowledge, have been
     constantly praying, these twenty years, that "_God
     would give to the king and his council wisdom_"; and we
     all know that not the least notice has ever been taken
     of that prayer.

While a member of Congress and the Committee of Safety, Franklin was also
elected a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly, but, as the members of that
body were still required before taking their seats to pledge their
allegiance to the King, he was unwilling to actually take his seat. The
Assembly was under the dominion of John Dickinson, the leader of the
Proprietary Party, and was very reluctant to break finally with the Crown.
Nevertheless, it re-elected Franklin to Congress, though he alone of the
nine delegates, elected from Pennsylvania to that body, was unhesitatingly
in favor of independence. This position of isolation he was not condemned
to occupy long. At a subsequent election, the party in Pennsylvania, which
shared Franklin's views, obtained the upper hand, followed the lead of
Congress in repudiating all authority derived from the King and declared
the Proprietary Government dissolved. For a time, there was no government
of any kind in Pennsylvania for even the most elementary needs of society.
The result, however, was an impressive illustration of the fact that all
government is by no means on paper, for, at a later period of his life,
Franklin told Sir Samuel Romilly that, while this anarchical condition
lasted, order was perfectly preserved in every part of Pennsylvania, and
that no man, who should have attempted to take advantage of the situation,
for the purpose of evading the payment of a debt, could have endured the
contempt with which he would have been visited.

The first step towards the restoration of civil government was taken by the
Committee of Safety. It advised the people of Pennsylvania to elect
delegates to a conference; they responded by doing so, and the delegates
met at Philadelphia, sat five days, renounced allegiance to the King, took
an oath of obedience to Congress and issued a call to the people to elect
delegates to meet in convention and to form a constitution. At the
election, which ensued, Franklin was one of the eight delegates elected
from Philadelphia, and, when the convention met, he was unanimously chosen
its President. On account of his duties as a member of Congress, his
attendance upon the sessions of the convention was irregular, but it was
regular enough to exert a marked influence over the proceedings of the
body. In one respect, that is in the adoption of a single legislative
chamber, the constitution framed by the convention bore the unmistakable
impress of his peculiar political ideas.[28]

A few weeks after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Franklin
received a long letter from Dubourg addressed to "My Dear Master," which
justified at least the inference that Vergennes leaned towards the cause of
the Colonies. Encouraged by this letter, Congress elected three envoys to
represent America in France: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and Silas
Deane. Deane was already in France. Jefferson was compelled by the ill
health of his wife to decline, and Arthur Lee, then in London, was elected
in his stead.

After a voyage of thirty days in the _Reprisal_, commanded by Captain
Wickes, a small war-vessel in the service of Congress, Franklin reached
Quiberon Bay. Thence he proceeded by land to Nantes and from Nantes to
Paris. After his arrival at Paris, he lodged at the Hôtel d'Hambourg, in
the Rue de l'Université, until he found a home in the house at Passy placed
at his disposal by M. Donatien LeRay de Chaumont. For a time, he courted
retirement, but, as France was drawn more and more closely into concert
with the American rebels, his activity became more and more open, until the
surrender of Burgoyne at Saratoga induced that country to abandon the
policy of connivance and secret assistance, which it had pursued behind the
screen, supplied by the commercial adventures of Caron de Beaumarchais,
even before Franklin landed in Europe, and to enter into the treaty of
alliance with the United States which made Adams, Lee and himself our fully
acknowledged representatives at the French Court. The circumstances, under
which the news of Burgoyne's capitulation was communicated to Franklin and
his colleagues, constitute one of the most thrilling moments in history.
The messenger, who conveyed it, was Jonathan Loring Austin, a young New
Englander, and the Secretary of the Massachusetts Board of War; and he was
sent in a swift vessel for the very purpose by the State of Massachusetts.
"Whatever in thy wise providence thou seest best to do with the young man,
we beseech thee most fervently, at all events, to preserve the packet," is
the tactless petition that Dr. Cooper is said to have addressed to Heaven
on the Sunday before Austin sailed. The rumor of his coming preceded his
arrival at Passy, and, when his chaise was heard in the court of the Hôtel
de Chaumont, Deane, Arthur and William Lee, Ralph Izard, Dr. Bancroft,
Beaumarchais and Franklin went out to meet him. "Sir," said Franklin, "_is_
Philadelphia taken?" "Yes, sir," replied Austin. At this Franklin clasped
his hands and turned as if to go back into the house. "But, sir," said
Austin, "I have greater news than that. General Burgoyne and his whole army
are prisoners of war!" The night of American adversity was now for the
first time lit up by a real augury of dawn, and the treaties of amity and
commerce and alliance between France and the United States, in the existing
state of French feeling, followed almost as a matter of course.

When, weak from his long voyage, Franklin started out on the journey from
the seashore to Paris, which led him at one point through the forest haunts
of a bloodthirsty gang of robbers, he was seventy years of age. "Yet," he
could truly declare some ten years later to George Whatley, "had I gone at
seventy, it would have cut off twelve of the most active years of my life,
employed too in matters of the greatest importance." These were indeed
years of precious service to his country and of a fame for himself as
resplendent as any in modern history which lacks the lustre of military
glory. What Washington was to America in the field, Franklin was to her in
the foreign relations upon which it may well be doubted whether the success
of her arms did not at times depend. To obtain material aid in the form of
money and munitions of war, soldiers and fleets from the one powerful
country in Europe, which manifested a disposition to side actively with
America, was the cardinal object of American policy after the outbreak of
the Revolution, and rarely has any man ever been more richly qualified for
the accomplishment of any object than was Franklin for the accomplishment
of this. In the first place, his liberal and sympathetic nature, with its
unrivalled capacity for assimilating foreign usages and habits of thought
and feeling, slid without the slightest friction into every recess of its
French environment. This was a fact of supreme importance in the case of a
people so distinctive in point of race and temperament, and so irredeemably
wedded to their own national prepossessions and prejudices as the French.
Doubtless, Franklin was too wise a man not to have courted French favor, in
a social sense, to some extent as a matter of political policy. Then, too,
there is every reason to know that he was sincerely grateful to France for
the benefits which she showered upon his country and himself. But it was
mainly the spell of La Belle France herself, with her cordial appeal to his
delight in existence, which finally produced the state of mutual affection
that enabled him to say with truth that he loved the French and that they
loved him. What this meant to our cause we can easily divine when we
remember how wholly some of the colleagues of Franklin failed to recommend
themselves to the good will of the people, whose good will it was of the
utmost concern to America that they should conciliate, or to abstain from
untimely dissensions. The exact reverse of what Franklin said of himself
might be said of them. They disliked the French People, and the French
People disliked them.[29] More than once it required all the management of
Franklin to placate feelings that they had aroused in Vergennes, the French
Minister, by lack of tact or good judgment. On one occasion, after being
lectured by Adams, on the subject of the American paper money, held by
citizens of France, Vergennes wrote to Franklin that nothing could be less
analogous than the language of Adams to the alliance subsisting between his
Majesty and the United States. In the same letter, he asked Franklin to lay
the whole correspondence between Adams and himself before Congress, adding
that his Majesty flattered himself that that Assembly, inspired with
principles different from those which Mr. Adams had discovered, would
convince his Majesty that they knew how to prize those marks of favor which
the King had constantly shown to the United States. No choice was left to
Franklin except to comply with the request and to do what he could to
satisfy Vergennes that the sentiments of Congress and of Americans
generally were very different from those of Adams. But unfortunately,
before the correspondence between Adams and Vergennes could reach Congress,
Adams had again, by his officious conduct in another particular, elicited a
sharp rebuke from Vergennes. This correspondence, too, Vergennes requested
Franklin to lay before Congress, which Franklin did with comments not more
severe than the occasion called for, but which the pride of Adams, already
deeply infected with the jealousy of Franklin, which he shared with Arthur
Lee, so far as his manlier and wholesomer nature allowed, never fully
forgave. "He," Vergennes said of Adams, in a letter to La Luzerne,
"possesses a rigidity, a pedantry, an arrogance and a vanity which render
him unfit to treat political questions."

After peace was restored between Great Britain and the United States, the
strictures of Adams upon Vergennes and France became so imprudent and
outspoken that Franklin wrote to Robert Morris:

     I hope the ravings of a certain mischievous madman here
     against France and its ministers, which I hear of every
     day, will not be regarded in America, so as to diminish
     in the least the happy union that has hitherto
     subsisted between the two nations, and which is indeed
     the solid foundation of our present importance in

Four months later, Franklin, to use his own words, hazarded a mortal enmity
by making this communication to Robert R. Livingston:

     I ought not, however, to conceal from you, that one of
     my Colleagues is of a very different Opinion from me in
     these Matters. He thinks the French Minister one of the
     greatest Enemies of our Country, that he would have
     straitned our Boundaries, to prevent the Growth of our
     People; contracted our Fishery, to obstruct the
     Increase of our Seamen; and retained the Royalists
     among us, to keep us divided; that he privately opposes
     all our Negociations with foreign Courts, and afforded
     us, during the War, the Assistance we receiv'd, only to
     keep it alive, that we might be so much the more
     weaken'd by it; that to think of Gratitude to France is
     the greatest of Follies, and that to be influenc'd by
     it would ruin us. He makes no Secret of his having
     these Opinions, expresses them publicly, sometimes in
     presence of English Ministers, and speaks of hundreds
     of Instances which he could produce in Proof of them.

All this Franklin believed to be

     as imaginary as I know his Fancies to be, that Count de
     V. and myself are continually plotting against him, and
     employing the News-Writers of Europe to depreciate his
     Character, &c. But as Shakespear says, "Trifles light
     as Air, &c." I am persuaded, however, that he means
     well for his Country, is always an honest Man, often a
     wise one, but sometimes, and in some things, absolutely
     out of his senses.

A clever and just flash of characterization but for the usual inability of
Franklin to refer abnormal conduct to anything short of dementia.[30] In
the latter part of the same year, Franklin again had occasion to write to
Robert Morris,

     My Apprehension that the Union between France and our
     States might be diminished by Accounts from hence, was
     occasioned by the extravagant and violent Language held
     here by a Public Person, in public Company, which had
     that Tendency; and it was natural for me to think his
     Letters might hold the same Language, in which I was
     right; for I have since had Letters from Boston
     informing me of it. Luckily here, and I hope there, it
     is imputed to the true Cause, a Disorder in the Brain,
     which, tho' not constant, has its Fits too frequent.

Apart from more general considerations, as Franklin was, at the very time
that Adams was holding this kind of discourse, soliciting more money from
Vergennes for the United States, it was natural enough that he should fear
the tendency of such ungrateful and provoking language to chill the
liberality of the French Minister. It is agreeable, however, to recollect
that in the succeeding year the able, upright and patriotic statesman, who
had to such a conspicuous degree the defects of his virtues, was so far
restored to reason, that Franklin could write to William Temple Franklin
that he had walked to Auteuil on Saturday to dine with Mr. A. &c., with
whom he went on comfortably.

As to how far Arthur Lee succeeded in ingratiating himself with Vergennes,
the correspondence of that Minister with the French Minister in America
enables us to judge without difficulty. In one letter, he wrote that he had
too good an opinion of the intelligence and wisdom of the members of
Congress and of all true patriots to suppose that they would allow
themselves to be led astray by the representations of a man (Lee) whose
character they ought to know.

     As to Dr. Franklin [he continued], his conduct leaves
     nothing for Congress to desire. It is as zealous and
     patriotic, as it is wise and circumspect; and you may
     affirm with assurance, on all occasions where you think
     proper, that the method he pursues is much more
     efficacious than it would be if he were to assume a
     tone of importunity in multiplying his demands, and
     above all in supporting them by menaces, to which we
     should neither give credence nor value, and which would
     only tend to render him personally disagreeable.

The writer might as well have added "as is Arthur Lee." In another letter,
Vergennes stated that the four millions more that France had decided to
grant Dr. Franklin would convince Congress that they had "no occasion to
employ the false policy of Mr. Izard and Mr. Lee to procure succors."[31]

For very different reasons, even Jay, with his admirable character, did not
achieve any success in dealing with the French people beyond the kind of
success which the French themselves damn with the phrase _succès d'estime_.
The complaint that M. Grand made of him, when he was in Spain, "that he
always appeared very much buttoned up," was hardly less applicable to him
when he was transferred to Paris as one of our Peace Commissioners. "Mr.
Jay," diarizes Adams, "likes Frenchmen as little as Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard
did. He says they are not a moral people; they know not what it is; he
don't like any Frenchman; the Marquis de Lafayette is clever, but he is a

John Laurens, too, when he came over to Paris to solicit money for the
American army, _beau sabreur_ as he was, handled the French as awkwardly as
the rest. "He was indefatigable, while he staid," Franklin wrote to
William Carmichael, "and took true Pains, but he _brusqu'd_ the Ministers
too much, and I found after he was gone that he had thereby given more
Offence than I could have imagin'd." The truth is that, until the watchful
detachment of Adams and Jay from their foreign environment became of some
service to the United States in helping to assure to them the full fruits
of their victory in the final shuffle of diplomacy over the Treaty of
Peace, Franklin after the return of Silas Deane to America was the only one
of our diplomatic representatives who can be said to have earned his salt
in France.[32] The rest, so far from promoting the objects of the French
mission, did much to jeopard its success. The United States could well have
afforded to keep them all at home and to pay them double the amount of the
salaries which were wasted upon them abroad. They either could not rise
above the limitations and prejudices of foreigners in dealing with a people
peculiarly tenacious of their own national views and characteristics, or
were too lacking in diplomatic instinct and _savoir faire_ to hold their
own grating idiosyncracies of temper and disposition in check, when it was
of the highest importance to their country that they should do so; or they
were so restive under the pre-eminence of Franklin as to be unable to
control the envy and ill-feeling, which harassed his peace, and tended to
discredit the cause, in which they were engaged. Congress did not do many
wise things in regard to our interests in France during the Revolution, but
undoubtedly it did one, when it finally brought the discord of its envoys
in that country to an end by declining to accept the resignation of
Franklin and appointing him the sole Ambassador of the United States at
Paris.[33] Under no circumstances, does his success in obtaining succor
for America from France stand out so clearly as when contrasted with the
futile missions of Arthur Lee, William Lee, Ralph Izard, Francis Dana and
John Jay to other courts than that of France. So far from obtaining any
material aid for the United States from the countries, to which they were
accredited, and should never have been sent,[34] they had to fall back upon
Franklin himself for their own subsistence; though it is only fair to them
to say that some of them were allowed by these countries too little freedom
of approach to make an impression of any kind upon them, good or otherwise.
For the bad feeling entertained by Adams, Lee and Izard towards Franklin
there is no valid reason for holding Franklin responsible. It is plain that
he did not lack the inclination to be on friendly terms with Adams; and
there is no evidence that he in any way provoked the malice which he
suffered at the hands of Arthur Lee, or the passionate animosity which he
excited in Ralph Izard. As late as 1780, after the return of Adams to
Europe as a peace commissioner, Franklin wrote to William Carmichael that
Adams and himself lived on good terms with each other, though the former,
he added, had never communicated anything of his business to him, and he
had made no inquiries of him. If Franklin did not live on good terms with
Arthur Lee, it was because no one, unless it were Adams, or Ralph Izard,
when drawn to Lee by common jealousy of Franklin, could live on good terms
with a man whose character was so hopelessly soured and perverted by
suspicion and spleen. It was doubtless with entire truth that Franklin in a
letter to William Carmichael, in which he termed Lee the most malicious
enemy that he ever had, declared that there was not the smallest cause for
his enmity. It had been inspired in England, as it had been revived in
France, simply by the brooding desire of Lee to displace Franklin. In 1771,
he made it plain in a letter from England to Samuel Adams that Franklin, in
his opinion, was not too good to be the instrument of Lord Hillsborough's
treachery in pretending that all designs against the charter of
Massachusetts had been laid aside.

     The possession of a profitable office at will, the
     having a son in a high post at pleasure, the grand
     purpose of his residence here being to effect a change
     in the government of Pennsylvania, for which
     administration must be cultivated and courted [Lee
     wrote], are circumstances which, joined with the
     temporizing conduct he has always held in American
     affairs, preclude every rational hope that, in an open
     contest between an oppressive administration and a free
     people, Dr. Franklin can be a faithful advocate for the

In another letter he intimated a suspicion that Dr. Franklin had been
"bribed to betray his trust." The motive for such communications is made
clear enough by still another letter that he sent over to Boston stating
that, while Dr. Franklin frequently assured him that he would sail for
Philadelphia in a few weeks, he believed he would not quit them till he
was gathered to his fathers.[35] The insidious calumnies that Lee sowed in
Massachusetts, when he was coveting Franklin's agency for that colony, were
only too effective for a time in creating even in the minds of such men as
Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Josiah Quincy an impression unfavorable to
Franklin's fidelity to the American cause. How little based on any real
misgivings as to the character of the man, whose place he craved, were the
innuendoes and accusations of Lee, may be inferred from his statement at
the time of the Privy Council outrage that Franklin bore the assaults of
Wedderburn "with a firmness and equanimity which conscious integrity can
inspire." In a letter to Lord Shelburne in 1776, he even spoke of Franklin
as "our _Pater Patriæ_."

In France, the same sense of having a young man's revenue withered out by
tedious expectation led to similar misrepresentations and intrigue. This
time, the object was to bring about the transfer of Franklin from France,
where the jealousy of Lee was incessantly inflamed by his great reputation
and influence, to some other post, and the appointment of Lee himself as
his successor. If the change had not been such as to foreshadow utter ruin
to American interests in France, the letters that Arthur Lee wrote to his
brother Richard Henry Lee in the prosecution of these aims would be little
less than ludicrous. "My idea of adapting characters and places is this,"
he said in one letter, "Dr. F. to Vienna, as the first, most respectable,
and quiet; Mr. Deane to Holland.... France remains the centre of political
activity, and here, therefore, I should choose to be employed." There was
but one way, he said in another letter to his brother, of bringing to an
end the neglect, dissipation, and private schemes, which he saw in every
department of the American Mission at Paris, and that was the plan he had
before suggested of appointing the Dr. _honoris causa_ to Vienna, Mr. Deane
to Holland, and Mr. Jennings to Madrid, and of leaving him (Lee) at Paris.
To Samuel Adams he wrote that he had been at the several courts of Spain,
Vienna and Berlin, and found that of France to be the great wheel that
moved them all. He would, therefore, be much obliged to Adams for
remembering that he should prefer being at the court of France.

Lee was a man of considerable ability, though his incurable defects of
disposition and temper almost wholly deprived him of the profitable use of
it, and he was from first to last, when in Europe, loyal to the American
cause. But, if there ever was a person born under the malignant sign,
Scorpio, it was he. He was

    "More peevish, cross and splenetic
    Than dog distract or monkey sick."

In the course of his suspicious, jealous and quarrelsome life he appears to
have inflicted a venomous sting upon almost every human being that ever
crossed the path of his inordinate and intriguing ambition. In the monopoly
of intelligence and public virtue that he arrogated to himself he was not
unlike the French woman who was credited by Franklin with the assertion
that she met with nobody but herself that was always in the right. With a
few exceptions, no prominent American in France, when he was in that
country, escaped his insidious defamation. Silas Deane was the accomplice
of Beaumarchais in his effort to make the United States pay for free gifts
of the French King. Franklin was a cunning rogue ever on the watch to line
the pockets of his grandnephew, Jonathan Williams; indeed Lee did not
scruple to term him "the father of corruption"; every day gave him fresh
reasons for suspecting William Carmichael; John Paul Jones was merely the
captain of "a cruising job of Chaumont and Dr. Franklin." And so on with
the other contemporaries, whose character he did his best to tarnish with
the breath of calumny, ever actuated as he was by the sinister,
backward-spelling disposition which

    "Never gives to truth and virtue that
    Which simpleness and merit purchaseth."

What both Lee and Adams could not forgive in Franklin was the fact that,
though there were three American envoys at Paris, the French Ministry and
People would have it that there was only one, "_le digne Franklin_,"[36]
"_le plus grand philosophe du siècle_," "_l'honneur de l'Amérique, et de
l'humanité_." The wounded sense of self-importance, awakened by this fact,
assumed in Adams, except in his more extravagant moments, no worse form
than that of quickened self-assertion, or the charge that Franklin was
grown too inert, from years and physical infirmities, to conduct the
routine business of the mission with the proper degree of order and system,
or was too susceptible to social and academic flattery to keep a vigilant
eye upon the more selfish side of French policy. But in the case of Lee,
lacerated vanity not only led him along finally to the conclusion that
Deane and Franklin were both rascals, but early convinced him that all
their transactions, even the simplest, where he was concerned, were shaped
by a desire to slight or affront him, or to deprive him of his just
privileges and standing as one of the Commissioners. He had hardly been in
France a year before his perverse pen was lecturing and scolding Franklin
as if he were one of the most arbitrary and inconsiderate of men instead of
one of the most reasonable and considerate. At first, Franklin did not
reply to such letters, but his failure to reply simply supplied Lee with
another excuse for scolding. At last, Lee, after taxing him with tardiness
in settling the accounts of the Commissioners, and with keeping him in the
dark about the mission on which M. Gérard had been sent to America,
expressed the hope that he would not treat this letter from him as he had
many others with the indignity of not answering it.

     It is true [said Franklin], that I have omitted
     answering some of your Letters, particularly your angry
     ones, in which you, with very magisterial Airs,
     school'd and documented me, as if I had been one of
     your Domestics. I saw in the strongest Light the
     Importance of our living in decent Civility towards
     each other, while our great Affairs were depending
     here. I saw your jealous, suspicious, malignant and
     quarrelsome Temper, which was daily manifesting itself
     against Mr. Deane, and almost every other Person you
     had any Concern with: I therefore pass'd your Affronts
     in Silence; did not answer but burnt your angry
     Letters, and received you when I next saw you with the
     same Civility as if you had never wrote them.

These words are taken from a letter in which Franklin replied in detail to
all the grievances vented in Lee's letter. On the day before, he had
written a curter reply which gives us a good idea of what his anger was at

     It is true [this reply began], I have omitted answering
     some of your Letters. I do not like to answer angry
     Letters. I hate Disputes. I am old, can not have long
     to live, have much to do and no time for Altercation.
     If I have often receiv'd and borne your Magisterial
     Snubbings and Rebukes without Reply, ascribe it to the
     right Causes, my Concern for the Honour & Success of
     our Mission, which would be hurt by our Quarrelling, my
     Love of Peace, my Respect for your good Qualities, and
     my Pity of your Sick Mind, which is forever tormenting
     itself, with its Jealousies, Suspicions & Fancies that
     others mean you ill, wrong you, or fail in Respect for
     you. If you do not cure yourself of this Temper it will
     end in Insanity, of which it is the Symptomatick
     Forerunner, as I have seen in several Instances. God
     preserve you from so terrible an Evil: and for his sake
     pray suffer me to live in quiet.

The petition was not heeded. Cut off by his impracticable temper and the
dis-esteem of the French Ministry from any participation in the more
important transactions of the Mission, the industrious malice of Lee found
employment in accusations of peculation against the other agents of the
United States in France and in petty refinements over the proper methods of
keeping the accounts and papers of the Commissioners. Everything that he
touched threw out thorns and exuded acrid juices. Franklin might well have
said of him what he said of his brother, William Lee, that he was not only
a disputatious but a very artful man. He pursued Deane with such plausible
misrepresentations, when the latter sought justice at the hands of
Congress, that the unhappy man was finally hurried, to use Franklin's
phrase, into joining his friend, Arnold. How he harried Jonathan Williams,
we have already seen. So well understood was his litigious, malevolent
temper that, when the State of Virginia desired to purchase arms and
military stores in France, several merchants refused to have any dealings
with him, and one firm dealt with him only to be involved in the usual web
of fine-spun suspicion and controversy.

     I hope, however [wrote Franklin to Patrick Henry, at
     the time Governor of Virginia, who had solicited
     Franklin's assistance in the matter], that you will at
     length be provided with what you want, which I think
     you might have been long since, if the Affair had not
     been in Hands, which Men of Honour and Candour here are
     generally averse to dealing with, as not caring to
     hazard Quarrels and Abuses in the settlement of their

He dared not meddle, he said, with the dispute in which Lee was engaged,
"being charg'd by the Congress to endeavour at maintaining a good
Understanding with their other Servants," which was, "indeed, a hard task
with some of them," he declared.

As his acquaintance with Lee and his brother, William Lee, extended,
Franklin became more and more wary in dealing with them. This was
illustrated in his attitude towards the papers of Thomas Morris, the
brother of Robert Morris, and the Commercial Agent of the United States at
Nantes. When this gentleman, who, according to one of his contemporaries,
"turned out the greatest drunkard the world ever produced," had duly paid
the forfeit of his bibulous life, William Lee, with the aid of an order
from the French Ministry, secured possession of all his papers, public and
private, and, when on the eve of setting out for Germany, placed the trunk
containing them sealed in the custody of Franklin. The key, Franklin told
him, he would rather have in the keeping of Arthur Lee. A correspondence
followed between Franklin and John Ross, who had obtained an order from
Congress for the delivery of the trunk to him. If it had been Pandora's
box, Franklin could not have undertaken the delivery of the papers in a
more gingerly manner.

     I am glad [he wrote to Ross], an Order is come for
     delivering them to you. But as the Dispute about them
     may hereafter be continued, and Papers suspected to be
     embezzled by somebody; and as I have sign'd a terrible
     long Receipt for the Trunk, of which I have no copy,
     and only remember that it appear'd to be constructed
     with all the Circumspection of the Writers Motto, _Non
     incautus futuri_ and that it fill'd a Half Sheet so
     full there was scarce Room for the Names of the four
     Evidences he requir'd to witness it; I beg you will not
     expect me to send it to you at Nantes but appoint who
     you please to receive it for you here. For I think I
     must deliver it before Witnesses, who may certify the
     State of the Seals; nothing being more likely than that
     Seals on a Trunk may rub off in the Carriage on so long
     a Journey; and then I should be expos'd to the Artful
     Suggestions of some who do not love me, & whom I
     conceive to be of very malignant Dispositions.

Afterwards, when Arthur Lee informed Franklin that, unless he was furnished
with money by him, he would have to give up the thought of proceeding to
Spain, Franklin replied dryly: "As I can not furnish the Expence, and there
is not, in my Opinion, any Likelihood at Present of your being received at
that Court, I think your Resolution of returning forthwith to America is
both wise and honest." And, even when he supposed that he was finally rid
of the gad-fly, which had annoyed him so long, and that Lee was off for
America, with his poisoned ink-well and busy pen, Franklin took pains that
he should not have everything his own way, though a thousand leagues
distant. "There are some Americans returning hence," he wrote to Samuel
Cooper, "with whom our people should be upon their guard, as carrying with
them a spirit of enmity to this country. Not being liked here themselves,
they dislike the people; for the same reason, indeed, they ought to
dislike all that know them."

Three days later, he wrote to Joseph Reed, of Pennsylvania, a letter in
which, after denying a false statement made about the writer by Lee, he
said, "He proposes, I understand, to settle in your Government. I caution
you to beware of him; for, in sowing Suspicions and Jealousies, in creating
Misunderstandings and Quarrels among friends, in Malice, Subtilty, and
indefatigable industry, he has I think no equal." A few days later, he
wrote to William Carmichael, "Messrs. Lee and Izard are gone to L'Orient,
in order to embark in the _Alliance_ together, but they did not travel
together from hence. No soul regrets their departure. They separately came
to take leave of me, very respectfully offering their services to carry any
dispatches, etc."

But gone the gad-fly was not yet. After Lee reached L'Orient, the officers
and men of the _Alliance_ refused to weigh anchor until certain claims of
theirs to wages and prize money were complied with, and, while John Paul
Jones, their captain, was away at Paris, engaged in an effort to hasten the
payment of the prize-money, Captain Peter Landais, acting under the advice
of Arthur Lee and Commodore Gillon, took possession of the ship and sailed
off for America. As soon as the news of the mutiny came to Franklin, he
suspected that Arthur Lee was at the bottom of it.

     I have no doubt [he wrote to Samuel Wharton, in regard
     to Landais] that your suspicion of his Adviser is well
     founded. That Genius must either find or make a Quarrel
     wherever he is. The only excuse for him that his
     Conduct will admit of, is his being at times out of his
     Senses. This I always allow, and am persuaded that if
     some of the many Enemies he provokes do not kill him
     sooner he will die in a madhouse.

The sequel of this high-handed proceeding afforded Franklin another
opportunity to question Lee's mental soundness. The _Alliance_ was not long
out before Landais exhibited such flightiness that its passengers deposed
him, and placed the ship in command of its first lieutenant. Commenting on
the incident, Franklin wrote to Samuel Cooper:

     Dr. Lee's accusation of Capt. Landais for Insanity was
     probably well founded; as in my Opinion would have been
     the same Accusation, if it had been brought by Landais
     against Lee; For tho' neither of them are permanently
     mad, they are both so at times; and the Insanity of the
     Latter is the most Mischievous.

How truly high-handed the rape of the _Alliance_ was, will be realized,
when the reader is told that at the time Landais had been deprived of the
captaincy of the _Alliance_, upon the charge of gross misconduct in the
glorious engagement between the _Serapis_ and the _Bon Homme Richard_, and
was looking forward to a court-martial in America upon specifications
involving a capital offence; that he had abandoned the ship, and that
Jones, who had won imperishable honor and renown in the conflict between
the _Serapis_ and the _Bon Homme Richard_, had been placed in command of
her by Franklin, and had been in command of her for eight months; and that
Franklin had in a letter to Landais sternly refused to restore her to him.

Of William Lee, Franklin had, as we have just seen, very much the same
opinion that he had of Arthur Lee. When he talked to Franklin of nominating
Jonathan Williams, his grandnephew, and Mr. Lloyd in the place of Thomas
Morris and himself as the Commercial Agents of the United States at Nantes,
Franklin wrote to Williams: "I question whether there be Flesh enough upon
the Bone for two to pick. I doubt its being worth your while to accept of
it. I did not thank him for mentioning you because I do not wish to be much
oblig'd to him and less to be a little oblig'd."

Not long after this, Franklin had less cause to think well of William Lee
than ever. Upon representations being made by Ralph Izard and him to the
three Commissioners, Arthur Lee, Deane and Franklin, that, though they had
been appointed Ministers to the courts of Berlin, Vienna and Florence by
Congress, no provision for their expenses had reached them, the three
Commissioners asked what sums they would require. William Lee replied that
he could not exactly compute in advance what he would need, but that, if he
was empowered to draw upon the banker of the Commissioners, he would
certainly only draw from time to time for such sums as were absolutely
necessary; and that it was therefore a matter of little importance at what
amount the credit was fixed. "It would however look handsome &
confidential," he said, "if the sum were two Thousand Louis." Thereupon,
Franklin tells us, the Commissioners "did frankly but unwarily give the
Orders." Soon afterwards, Deane and Franklin were informed that William Lee
and Izard had gone directly to the banker of the Commissioners, and drawn
out the whole amount of the credit, and had deposited it to their own
account exclusively. After that, even an order from Congress, empowering
William Lee and Izard to draw upon the Commissioners for their expenses at
foreign courts, was unavailing to open Franklin's purse strings. Doubtless,
he wrote with calm irony to the Committee on Foreign Affairs at home,
Congress, when it passed its resolution, intended to supply the
Commissioners with funds for meeting the drafts of William Lee and Izard.
And, to make things still worse for the disappointed beneficiaries of the
resolution, he further said: "I could have no intention to distress them,
because I must know it is out of my Power, as their private Fortunes and
Credit will enable them at all times to pay their own Expences."

Arthur Lee had taken good care to protect himself against any such
afterclaps. In a formal letter to him, refusing to accede to his suggestion
that no orders should be drawn upon the banker of the Commissioners, unless
signed by all three of the Commissioners, Franklin told him flatly that he
did not choose to be obliged to ask Mr. Lee's consent, whenever he might
have occasion to draw for his subsistence, as that assent could not be
expected from any necessity of a reciprocal compliance on Mr. Franklin's
part, Mr. Lee having secured his subsistence by taking into his own
disposition 185,000 livres, and his brother, by a deception on the
Commissioners, 48,000.

Ralph Izard, of South Carolina, was very closely linked with Arthur Lee in
Franklin's mind. Though appointed by Congress Commissioner to the court of
the Grand Duke of Tuscany at Florence, this court refused to receive him
for fear of offending England, and he remained in Paris during the entire
period of his appointment. In a letter to James Lovell, Franklin stated
that he had made it a constant rule to answer no angry, affronting or
abusive letters, of which he had received many, and long ones, from Mr. Lee
and Mr. Izard. The hostility of Izard to Franklin, due in the main to the
same causes as Arthur Lee's, was whetted partly by the fact that he was not
consulted, when the treaty of alliance was entered into between the
American Commissioners and France, and partly by the fact that Franklin
refused to honor some of his pecuniary applications. In a letter from Passy
to Francis Hopkinson, Franklin, as we have seen, said that he deserved
Izard's enmity because he might have avoided it by paying him a compliment
which he neglected, but elsewhere in his correspondence he rests this
enmity upon substantially the same grounds as that of Arthur Lee. When
Izard assailed him, because he had not conferred with him in relation to
the treaty of alliance, Franklin replied that he would give his letter a
full answer when he had the honor of seeing him. "But," he said, "I must
submit to remain some days under the Opinion you appear to have form'd not
only of my poor Understanding in the general Interests of America, but of
my Defects in Sincerity, Politeness & Attention to your Instructions."

It is doubtful whether a letter in which, in reply to an application for
money, he reminded Izard of the latter's own pecuniary independence, was
ever sent; but part of it is too pointed not to bear quotation. After
dwelling upon the many calls upon the funds in the hands of the
Commissioners, it goes on in these words:

     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 Two Thousand Guineas, which
     you thought necessary on Acct of your being to set
     out immediately for Florence. You have not incurr'd the
     Expence 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
     Expence of the United States, in the Time of their
     Distress, and without rendering them the equivalent
     Service they expected.

Izard seems to have had the kind of temper that heats as readily as iron
but cools off as slowly as a footbrick, wrapped up in flannels.[37]
Speaking of the indignity, to which Franklin had been subjected in his
sight before the Privy Council, he said: "When Dr. Franklin was so
unmercifully bespattered by Wedderburn, I sat upon thorns; and had it been
me that was so grossly insulted, I should instantly have repelled the
attack, in defiance of every consequence." It is not unlikely that he would
have been as good as his word, so prompt was the second, who had borne the
challenge from Temple to Whately, to give free play to his irascible and
imperious nature. But Graydon is our authority for the statement, too, that
as long as four years after Izard had returned in the _Alliance_ from
France to the United States, the name of Franklin could not be mentioned in
his presence without hurrying him into a state of excitement.

Altogether, our readers will agree with us, we are sure, in thinking that
few things in our national history are calculated to leave a more painful
impression upon the mind than the conduct of some of the men, who were
supposed to represent the United States abroad, while Franklin, in spite of
the jarring discords, of which he was the innocent author, was manfully
struggling with the responsibilities which belonged in part to others, but
never really rested upon any but his own old shoulders (as he termed them).
By character and temperament, in some instances, they were conspicuously
unfitted for the delicate tasks of diplomacy, and were too raw and rigidly
set in their personal and national prejudices besides ever to succeed in
repressing their dislike for the French. There can be no doubt, Jay aside,
that they would have quarrelled with each other as rancorously as they did
with Franklin but for the cohesion created by their common jealousy of him.
How indefensible their attitude towards him was becomes all the more
apparent when we recollect that rarely has any man ever been endowed with a
mind or nature better fitted to disarm malice than those of Franklin. It is
a hard judgment, not to be formed without due allowance for the extent to
which the testimony of history is always suborned by the glamour of a
great reputation, but it is nevertheless, we believe, only a just judgment,
to declare that Franklin spoke the simple truth when he wrote to William
Carmichael, "Lee and Izard are open, and, so far, honourable Enemies; the
Adams, if Enemies, are more covered. I never did any of them the least
Injury, and can conceive no other Source of their Malice but Envy." The
excessive respect, shown him in France by all ranks of people, he said in
the same letter, and the little notice taken of them, was a mortifying
circumstance, but it was what he could neither prevent nor remedy.

This "excessive respect," or justly deserved fame, as the biographer of
Franklin might call it, was another thing which contributed to Franklin's
brilliant success at the Court of France. When he arrived in that country,
he was no stranger there. His two previous visits to it had made him well
acquainted with Turgot, Quesnay, Dupont de Nemours, the elder Mirabeau,
Dubourg and Morellet and the other members of the group, known as the
Physiocrats, whose speculative passion for Agriculture was one of the
active intellectual forces of the time. His literary and scientific
attainments had likewise won him the favor of other famous Frenchmen. These
are facts of no slight importance, when we recall the extent to which the
currents of French thought, on the eve of the French Revolution, were fed
and directed by men of letters and philosophers. When Franklin found
himself in France, for the third time, he was a member of the Royal Society
at London and the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, and had been honored
with academic degrees not only by Yale, Harvard and William and Mary in his
own country, but by Oxford in England and St. Andrews in Scotland.[38] An
edition of his scientific works had been translated into French by his
friend Dubourg, and his _Way to Wealth_ had been translated into the same
language, and distributed broadcast by bishops and curés among the members
of their flocks as incentives to industry and frugality. It was in France,
too, that D'Alibard had verified the sublime hypothesis of Franklin by
drawing down the lightning from the clouds. Moreover, before he left
England at the end of his second mission to that country, his activity and
prominence in resisting the arbitrary measures of the British Ministry had
made his political influence and standing thoroughly familiar to the French
Cabinet, which had for many years kept a close watch upon every movement or
event that portended a revolt of the American Colonies. Along with these
solid claims to the attention and respect of the French people were certain
other circumstances that strongly tended to heighten the fame of Franklin.
It was the era when the modern Press was beginning to assert its new-born
power, and the fur cap, one of the badges of the mediæval printer, that he
wore, was hardly necessary to remind the newspapers of that day, with all
their facilities for rouging public reputation by artful and persistent
publicity, that Franklin was first of all a printer. It was also the era
when the idea of the universal brotherhood of men of all classes and races
made an uncommonly strong appeal to democratic and humanitarian impulses.
Such an age could readily enough regard a man like Franklin as a true
citizen of the world, a veritable friend of man and a torch-bearer of the
new social and political freedom. It was also the era when it was the mode
to indulge dreams of primitive beatitude and idyllic simplicity, and around
no figure could such dreams more naturally gather than that of the
venerable and celebrated man, whose thin white hair, worn straight without
wig or powder, plain dress and frank, direct speech seemed to make him the
ideal exemplar of a state of society devoid of monarch, aristocrat or

That Franklin, when he came to Paris, as the representative of a country,
which was not only at war with the hereditary enemy of France, but had
fearlessly avowed general political sentiments, that France herself was
eager to avow, should, with his fame, simple manners and social charm, have
excited for a time the surpassing enthusiasm which he did is not
surprising; for what the French ardently admire they usually festoon with
fireworks and crown with flowers; but that this enthusiasm should have
continued, so far as we can see, wholly unabated for nine years, is a
surprising thing, indeed, when we recollect how inclined the fickle
populace of every country is to beat in its hour of inevitable reaction the
idol before which it has prostrated itself in its hour of infatuation.
While in France, Franklin was not simply the mode, he was the rage. Learned
men from every part of Europe thought a visit to Paris quite incomplete, if
it did not include a call upon him. Even the Emperor Joseph, "a King by
trade," as he once termed himself, intrigued to meet him _incognito_. Among
the many letters that he received from individuals, distinguished or
obscure, who sought to flatter him or to draw upon his wisdom or treasured
knowledge, was Robespierre--then a young advocate at Arras--who sent him a
copy of his argument in defence of the lightning rod before the Council of
Artois, and Marat who, true enough to his future, was investigating the
physical laws of heat and flame. In the letter to Franklin, by which the
copy of his argument was accompanied, Robespierre spoke of Franklin as "a
man whose least merit is to be the most illustrious _savant_ of the world."
To have a Franklin stove in its fireplace, with a portrait of Franklin on
the wall above it, grew to be a common feature of the home of the wealthier
householder in Paris. His spectacles, his marten fur cap, his brown coat,
his bamboo cane became objects of general imitation. Canes and snuff-boxes
were carried _à la Franklin_. Portraits, busts and medallions of him were
multiplied without stint. Among the busts were some in Sèvres china, set in
blue stones with gold borders, and among the medallions were innumerable
ones made of clay dug at Passy.

     The clay medallion of me [Franklin wrote to Sarah
     Bache] you say you gave to Mr. Hopkinson was the first
     of the kind made in France. A variety of others have
     been made since of different sizes; some to be set in
     the lids of snuff-boxes, and some so small as to be
     worn in rings; and the numbers sold are incredible.
     These, with the pictures, busts, and prints (of which
     copies upon copies are spread everywhere) have made
     your father's face as well known as that of the moon,
     so that he durst not do anything that would oblige him
     to run away, as his phiz would discover him wherever he
     should venture to show it.

It was computed that some two hundred different kinds of representations of
his face were turned out to be set in rings, watches, snuff-boxes,
bracelets, looking-glasses and other chattels. One print of him is said to
have made the fortune of the engraver. Particularly striking is the
testimony of John Adams to the fame of Franklin when in France, which is
part of the remarkable letter published by him in the _Boston Patriot_ on
May 11, 1811, in answer to Franklin's strictures on his conduct in France:

     His reputation was more universal than that of Leibnitz
     or Newton, Frederick or Voltaire; and his character
     more beloved and esteemed than any or all of them....
     His name was familiar to government and people, to
     kings, courtiers, nobility, clergy, and philosophers,
     as well as plebeians, to such a degree that there was
     scarcely a peasant or a citizen, a _valet de chambre_,
     coachman or footman, a lady's chambermaid, or a
     scullion in a kitchen, who was not familiar with it,
     and who did not consider him as a friend to human kind.
     When they spoke of him, they seemed to think he was to
     restore the golden age.

To the pen of Adams we are also indebted for an account of the first public
meeting between Voltaire and Franklin, which also testified with such
dramatic _éclat_ to the place occupied by Franklin in the hearts of the
French people. This was at the hall of the Academy of Science in Paris.

     Voltaire and Franklin were both present, and there
     presently arose a general cry that M. Voltaire and M.
     Franklin should be introduced to each other. This was
     done, and they bowed and spoke to each other. This was
     no satisfaction; there must be something more. Neither
     of our philosophers seemed to divine what was wished or
     expected; they, however, took each other by the hand.
     But this was not enough; the clamor continued, until
     the explanation came out. "_Il faut s'embrasser, à la
     Française._" The two aged actors upon this great
     theatre of philosophy and frivolity then embraced each
     other, by hugging one another in their arms, and
     kissing each other's cheeks, and then the tumult
     subsided. And the cry immediately spread through the
     whole kingdom, and, I suppose, over all Europe, _"Qu'il
     était charmant de voir embrasser Solon et Sophocle!"_

A few weeks later Voltaire was dead, and, in the fall of the same year, his
Apotheosis was celebrated by the Lodge of Nine Sisters--a Freemason's Lodge
in Paris. An account of this memorable occasion was subsequently published
by the officers of the Lodge. Madame Denis, the niece of Voltaire, and the
Marchioness of Villette, whom he called his _Belle et Bonne_, and under
whose roof he died, were present. After various addresses and strains of
orchestral music, a clap of thunder was heard. Then

     the sepulchral pyramid disappeared, great light
     succeeded the gloom which had prevailed till now, an
     agreeable symphony sounded in the place of the mournful
     music, and an immense picture of the apotheosis of
     Voltaire was disclosed. The picture represented
     Corneille, Racine and Molière above Voltaire as he
     leaves his tomb. Truth and Beneficence present him to
     them. Envy pulls at his shroud, in the wish to hold him
     back, but is driven away by Minerva. Higher up may be
     seen Fame, publishing the triumph of Voltaire.

Crowns were then laid upon the heads of La Dixmerie, the orator, Gauget,
the painter, and Franklin, who lifted them from their heads and laid them
at the feet of Voltaire's image.

Madame Campan in her _Memoirs_ mentions another occasion on which the most
beautiful of three hundred women was designated to place a crown of laurel
on Franklin's head, and to kiss him on each cheek.

Add to all these evidences of popular admiration and affection the intimate
footing maintained by Franklin in so many French homes, and we begin to
understand how powerfully his public and social standing helped to swell
the resistless tide of sympathy and enthusiasm which bore down all
opposition to the French alliance.

But far more than to his mere congeniality with the social spirit of the
French People, or to his literary and scientific fame, or to his kinship
with all the liberal tendencies of the eighteenth century in America and
Europe, was the success of Franklin at the French court due to those
general attributes of mind and character which he brought to every exigency
of his private or public life: his good sense, his good feeling, his
perfect equipoise, his tact, his reasonableness, his kindly humor. It was
these things which, above everything else, enabled him to surmount all the
trying difficulties of his situation, and to give to the world the most
imposing example of fruitful pecuniary solicitation that it has ever known.
The firm hold that he obtained upon the esteem and good will of Vergennes,
"that just and good man" he terms him in one of his letters, was but the
merited reward of personal qualities which invite, secure and retain esteem
and good will under all human conditions. Vergennes, who held the keys of
the French money-chest, and directed the policies of France, respected,
trusted and liked Franklin, because Franklin, at any rate, duly recognized
and acknowledged the generous motives which had, in part, inspired French
intervention in the American contest, because he exhibited a considerate
appreciation of the sacrifices which it cost France, still bleeding from
her last struggle with Great Britain, to make such large and repeated loans
to the United States, and because his tactful and discreet applications
for pecuniary assistance for his country were never marked by disgusting
importunity or thinly veiled menaces. How true this is we have already
seen; and its truth is still further confirmed by the testimony of
Franklin's successor, Jefferson, who, when asked in Paris, whether he
replaced Franklin, was in the habit of replying, "No one can replace him,
sir; I am only his successor." After stating the circumstances, including
his own association with Franklin at Paris, which had convinced him that
the charge of subservience to France, made against Franklin, had not a
shadow of foundation, Jefferson pays this impressive tribute to him:

     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

To Jefferson we are also indebted for the statement that, when he was in
France, there appeared to him more respect and veneration attached to the
character of Franklin than to that of any other person in the same country,
foreign or native.

The volume of multifarious tasks performed by Franklin in France was
immense. The most valuable service rendered by him to the United States was
in obtaining from the French King the pecuniary aids which helped Congress
to defray the expenses of the Revolutionary War. It has been truly said
that he, and not Robert Morris, was the real financier of the Revolution.
Until the triumph of the patriot cause was assured, he was the only one of
the American envoys in Europe whose pecuniary solicitations met with any
material success. Sometimes even such sums as were obtained by others
outside of France were more attributable to his indirect influence than to
their own direct efforts. No matter upon whom Congress might recklessly
draw drafts, they were certain to come around to the aged negotiator, who
appeared to be able to secure money from France even when France had no
money for herself. He might be told that a loan which he had just procured
from Vergennes was positively the last that France could make, and, yet,
when he was compelled by desperation at home to give another reluctant rub
to his magic lamp, there always stood the French servitor with his chest of
gold. The aggregate amount of the loans and gifts made by France to the
United States was on February 21, 1783, little short of forty-three
millions of francs. It was these loans and gifts, transformed into
munitions of war and military supplies, which again and again infused
reviving life into the fainting bosom of his country, and enabled her
soldiers to turn an undaunted face to her foes. How a man of Franklin's
years could have borne up under such frightful anxieties as those imposed
upon him by the pecuniary demands of Congress and her other foreign envoys,
to say nothing of additional burdens, it is difficult to understand. In the
second year after his arrival in France, when drafts began to pour in on
him from Congress, he reminded it that the envoys had not undertaken to do
more than to honor its bills for interest on certain specified sums; and
this reminder was frequently repeated. It might as well have been syllabled
to the winds. Though most of the limited cargoes of tobacco and other
products remitted by Congress as a basis of credit fell into the hands of
the ever-watchful British cruisers, almost every ship brought over bills
upon the envoys or large orders for clothing, arms and ammunition. At one
time, they had notice that bills for interest had been drawn on them to the
amount of two million and a half, when they did not have a fifth of that
sum on deposit with their banker. In a letter to the Committee on Foreign
Affairs in 1779, Franklin, who was really our sole envoy for the purpose of
paying such bills, enumerates the great quantities of clothing, arms,
ammunition and naval stores, which the envoys had sent over to America, the
heavy drafts paid by them that Congress had drawn in favor of officers
returning to France, or of other persons, the outlays of the envoys for the
benefit of American prisoners, the amounts advanced by them to other agents
of the United States, the freight charges paid by them and the sums
expended by them in fitting out Captain Conygham and the _Raleigh_,
_Alfred_, _Boston_, _Providence_, _Alliance_, _Ranger_ and other frigates.
"And now," he concluded, "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, has for a long time been very great
indeed." This was but one of the earlier crises in the financial experience
which led Franklin to say that his seemed to be the Gibeonite task of
drawing water for all the congregation of Israel. The point of the
observation becomes still more manifest when the reader is told that drafts
were also frequently drawn on Franklin by the European agents of the
Committee of Commerce of Congress, and that even the foreign agents of
individual States of the Union, finding that no American abroad but he
seemed to have any credit, applied to him for assistance in effecting loans
for their principals. Indeed, one agent of the United States, a Mr.
Bingham, did not scruple, without authority from Congress, or any other
source, to notify Franklin that the _Deane_ and the _General Gates_ had
just arrived at Martinique and were in need of overhauling and provisions,
and that he would have to draw upon him for the expense. This was too much
even for Franklin's patience, and, when Mr. Bingham's bills were returned
protested, that gentleman loudly complained that his credit had been
effectually ruined. And, as the necessities of Congress became greater and
greater, it almost wholly ceased to recognize that there were any
limitations upon its right to draw upon Franklin, or that there was even
any reason why it should notify him that such drafts were drawn. It simply
drew, hit or miss. For pursuing this course in regard to him, there was at
least the excuse that, no matter how freely it drew upon him, he somehow
contrived to preserve the credit of Congress unstained. But Congress had no
such excuse for drawing bills in this reckless manner, as it did too often,
upon John Jay, Henry Laurens or John Adams. It is a laughable fact that,
when some of its bills drawn upon Henry Laurens reached Europe, the drawee,
who had never arrived in Holland, the country to which he was accredited,
at all, was a prisoner in the Tower. As none of the other envoys, upon whom
Congress drew, had any resource but to beg Franklin to pay the drafts,
these drafts might as well have been drawn upon him in the first instance.
No wonder that, with this accumulation of responsibility upon his
shoulders, Franklin should have written to John Jay in Spain in these

     But the little Success that has attended your late
     applications for money mortified me exceedingly; and
     the Storm of Bills, which I found coming upon us both
     has terrified and vexed me to such a Degree, that I
     have been deprived of Sleep, and so much indispos'd by
     continual anxiety, as to be render'd almost incapable
     of writing.

This very letter, however, bears witness to his remarkable aptitude for
dunning without incurring its odious penalties. Overcoming his almost
invincible reluctance, he said, he had made another application to the
French Court for more money, and had been told to make himself easy as he
would be assisted with what was necessary. Indeed, so generous was its
conduct on this occasion that, when Franklin, in part payment for the loan,
proposed that Congress should provision the French army in America with
produce demanded from the States, his Majesty declined the proposal, saying
that to furnish his army with such a large quantity of provisions as it
needed might straiten Congress. "You will not wonder at my loving this good
prince," Franklin concluded.

Amid all the cruel embarrassments of his situation, however, he never
abated one jot of heart or hope, nor for one moment lost sight of the
imperial future which he so clearly foresaw for the country that was adding
sixty thousand children to her numbers annually. In this same letter, he
let Jay know that in his opinion no amount of present distress should
induce the United States to make the concessions to Spain that she was
disposed to hold out as the price of her assistance. "Poor as we are," his
indomitable spirit declared, "yet, as I know we shall be rich, I would
rather agree with them to buy at a great Price the whole of their Right on
the Mississippi, than sell a Drop of its waters. A Neighbour might as well
ask me to sell my Street Door." Loyal, too, to Congress he remained from
first to last. The worst that he was willing to say in a letter to Thomas
Ruston of its rash conduct in flooding the world with bills that for all it
knew might never be paid was a quiet, "That body Is, as you suppose, not
well skill'd in Financing."

Less than two months after his letter to Jay, we find him again appealing
to Vergennes for pecuniary aid with which to enable Congress to co-operate
with the French forces in America, and, a few weeks later, when the
vitality of the American cause was at its lowest point, he again takes up,
on fresh calls from Congress, the same tedious refrain. The letter written
by him to Vergennes on this occasion is one of his supplicatory
masterpieces. He lays before the French Minister evidence that the spirit
of the United States is unbroken, and that the recent success of the
British in Carolina was chiefly due to the lack of the necessary means for
"furnishing, marching, and paying the Expence of Troops sufficient to
defend that Province." He tells him that Lafayette had written that it was
impossible to conceive, without seeing it, the distress that the troops had
suffered for want of clothing; and that Washington, too, had written to him
that the situation of the United States made one of two things essential to
them, a peace, or the most vigorous aid of their allies, particularly in
the article of money. For the aid, so necessary in the present conjuncture,
he said, they could rely on France alone, and the continuance of the King's
goodness towards them. And then he concluded with these affecting but not
altogether artless words:

     I am grown old. I feel myself much enfeebled by my late
     long Illness, and it is probable I shall not long have
     any more Concern in these Affairs. I therefore take
     this Occasion to express my Opinion to your Excellency,
     that the present Conjuncture is critical; that 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 that the whole System of the
     New Governt in America may thereby be shaken; that, if
     the English are suffer'd once to recover that Country,
     such an Opportunity of effectual Separation as the
     present may not occur again in the Course of Ages; and
     that the Possession of those fertile and extensive
     Regions, and that vast Sea Coast, will afford them so
     Broad a Basis for future Greatness, by the rapid growth
     of their Commerce, and Breed of Seamen and Soldiers, as
     will enable them to become the _Terror of Europe_, and
     to exercise with impunity that Insolence, which is so
     natural to their Nation, and which will increase
     enormously with the Increase of their Power.

Hard upon the heels of this letter came a letter from John Adams, inquiring
whether Franklin could furnish funds for paying bills to the amount of ten
thousand pounds sterling which had been drawn by Congress on Adams.
Franklin replied by saying that he had not yet received a positive answer
to his last appeal for aid to the French King, but that he had, however,
two of the Christian Graces, Faith and Hope, though his faith was only that
of which the Apostle speaks--the evidence of things not seen. In truth, he
declared, he did not see at that time how so many bills drawn at random on
the Ministers of Congress in France, Spain and Holland were to be paid. But
all bills drawn upon them by Congress should be accepted at any risk; and
he would accordingly do his best, and, if those endeavors failed, he was
ready to break, run away or go to prison with Adams, as it should please
God. His endeavors were successful, so startlingly successful that
Vergennes informed him that his Majesty, to give the States a signal proof
of his friendship, had resolved to grant them the sum of six millions, not
as a loan, but as a free gift. But the announcement was accompanied by the
significant statement that, as the supplies previously purchased in France
by the United States, were supposed to be of bad quality, the Ministers
would themselves take care of the purchase, with part of the gift, of such
articles as were urgently needed in America, and the balance, remaining
after these purchases, was to be drawn for by General Washington upon M.
d'Harvelay, Garde du Trèsor Royal. "There was no room to dispute on this
point," Franklin wrote to Samuel Huntington, "every donor having the right
of qualifying his gifts with such terms as he thinks proper"; but the
restrictions upon the gift would seem, after all, to have been waived.
Shortly after the six millions was promised, Colonel Laurens, who was
supposed by Washington to be peculiarly competent to state the needs of the
American army, arrived in France, and to him Franklin delegated the task of
making purchases for Congress with part of the sum. Franklin was already
supporting Adams, Dana, Jay and Carmichael on the proceeds of his
persuasive approaches to the French King, and, at best, the arrival of
Laurens would have meant little except another ministerial mouth to feed.
Unfortunately, however, it signified much more to Franklin's peace. Before
returning to America, with two millions and a half of the six millions,
Laurens made such free use of the remainder that Franklin, unable to meet
bills, with which he was threatened, was compelled to write to Adams not to
accept any more bills that were expected to be paid by him without notice
to him, and to Jay that, if the bills drawn upon him some months before
could not be paid by him, they would have to go to protest. "For," Franklin
said, "it will not be in my Power to help you. And I see that nothing will
cure the Congress of this Madness of Drawing upon the Pump at Aldgate, but
such a Proof that its Well has a Bottom."

To make things worse, though Congress continued to draw bills upon Franklin
after the gift of the six millions, it deprived him of the ability to use
that fund by forbidding any portion of it to be used without its order.
Franklin by prompt action did succeed in intercepting a part of the six
millions, which Laurens had taken to Holland, and which was about to follow
him to America. Speaking of this in a letter to William Jackson, who had
come over with Laurens, and was very angry with Franklin for detaining the
amount, Franklin wrote, "I see, that nobody cares how much I am distressed,
provided they can carry their own Points. I must, therefore, take what care
I can of mine, theirs and mine being equally intended for the Service of
the Public." It would have been well for Jackson if he had let the matter
rest there, but he did not, and had the temerity to write to Franklin a
saucy letter to which he replied in these terms:

     These Superior Airs you give yourself, young Gentleman,
     of Reproof to me, and Reminding me of my Duty do not
     become you, whose special Department and Employ in
     Public Affairs, of which you are so vain, is but of
     yesterday, and would never have existed but by my
     Concurrence, and would have ended in Disgrace if I had
     not supported your enormous Purchases by accepting your
     Drafts. The charging me with want of oeconomy is
     particularly improper in _you_, when the only Instance
     you know of it is my having indiscreetly comply'd with
     your Demand in advancing you 120 Louis for the Expence
     of your Journey to Paris and when the only Instance I
     know of your oeconomizing Money is your sending me
     three Expresses, one after another, on the same Day,
     all the way from Holland to Paris, each with a Letter
     saying the same thing to the same purpose.

One of the transactions, mentioned in this correspondence, is a good
illustration of the pecuniary "afterclaps," to use Franklin's term, to
which Franklin was frequently subjected. He had agreed to pay for goods for
the United States to the amount of fifteen thousand pounds. Instead of the
purchases amounting to fifteen thousand pounds, they amounted to fifty
thousand, and he persistently refused to pay for them. Jackson then hurried
express to him, urged that the goods were bought by order of Colonel
Laurens, that they were on shipboard, and that, if Franklin did not pay for
them, they would have to be relanded and returned, or sold; which would be
a disgrace, he insisted, to the United States. In the end, Franklin
accepted the bills for the whole amount, and applied to the French Ministry
for the money with which to pay for them. The application was a
particularly disagreeable one to him, not only because all the fiscal
calculations of the French Government for the year had been completed, but
because no part of the purchase price of the goods would be expended in
France. At first, the grant was absolutely refused, but at length Franklin
obtained it, and hoped that the difficulty was over. It was not.
Afterwards, the officers of the ship decided that she was overloaded, and
the goods were transferred to two other ships, whose owners required
Franklin to either buy the ships, or to pay them a freight bill nearly
equal to the value of the ships. This whole transaction was bad enough, but
William Jackson at least had the grace to notify Franklin that the bills in
this instance were about to descend upon him before their descent. This, we
know from a mildly reproachful letter, written by Franklin to John Paul
Jones, a Mr. Moylan was not kind enough to do when he drew upon Franklin
for nearly one hundred thousand livres for supplies ordered by Jones for
the _Ariel_.

These are but typical instances of the financial complications in which
Franklin was involved from time to time while he was drawing water for all
the congregation of Israel. Long after their date, bills were still making
his life miserable.

     This serves chiefly to acquaint you [he wrote on one
     occasion to John Adams] that I will endeavour to pay
     the Bills that have been presented to you drawn on Mr.
     Laurens. But you terrify me, by acquainting me that
     there are yet a great number behind. It is hard that I
     never had any information sent me of the Sums drawn, a
     Line of Order to pay, nor a Syllable of Approbation for
     having paid any of the Bills drawn on Mr. Laurens, Mr.
     Jay or yourself.

To John Jay about the same time he wrote, "The cursed Bills, as you justly
term them, do us infinite Prejudice." In a letter to John Adams, he speaks
of "the dreaded Drafts." At times it looked as if the stream of French
bounty was at last exhausted. "With the million mentioned," he wrote to
John Adams in substantially the same terms as he had written to Robert
Morris two days before, "I can continue paying to the end of February, and
then, if I get no more I must shut up shop." This was in January, 1782,
when France, in addition to assisting the United States with a fleet and
army, had advanced great additional sums to them since the beginning of the
preceding year. At this time, for very shame Franklin could scarcely pluck
up courage enough to make another pecuniary application to the French
Ministry. In giving in a letter to John Jay his reasons for not holding out
the hope of pecuniary relief to him, he said, "I had weary'd this friendly
& generous Court with often repeated after-clap Demands, occasioned by
these unadvised (as well as ill advis'd) & therefore unexpected Drafts, and
was ashamed to show my Face to the Minister." In the same letter, Franklin
also said: "We have been assisted with near 20 Millions since the Beginning
of last Year, besides a Fleet and Army; and yet I am oblig'd to worry
[them] with my Solicitations for more, which makes us appear insatiable."

But the most interesting passage in this letter is the following: "You
mention my Proposing to repay the Sum you want in America. I had try'd that
last year. I drew a Bill on Congress for a considerable Sum to be advanced
me here, and paid in provisions for the French Troops. My Bill was not
honoured!" Worst of all, when Bills from Congress still showered upon him,
after its promise that no more bills would be drawn on him subsequent to a
fixed date, he began to suspect that the drawing was still going on, and
that the bills were antedated. To no American was the heedless reliance of
Congress upon the generosity of France more mortifying than to him. He
repeatedly suggested the obligation of his own country to look more to
self-help and less to the aid of her friendly and generous ally, and, at
times, in his characteristic way, he would demonstrate arithmetically how
easy it would be for the United States to support the burden of the war
themselves if they would only keep down the spirit of luxury and
extravagance at home, and cease to buy so many foreign gewgaws and
superfluities and so much tea. "In my opinion, the surest way to obtain
liberal aid from others is vigorously to help ourselves," he wrote to
Robert R. Livingston. "It is absurd," he said later in another letter to
Robert Morris, "the pretending to be lovers of liberty while they (the
American people) grudge paying for the defence of it." He was generously
prompt always also to ascribe any temporary interruption to the flow of
French subsidy to the pressing necessities of France herself. Full, too,
always he was of simple-hearted gratitude to France for the princely help
that she had given to the American cause. No one knew better than he that
this help originated partly in selfish policy, and was continued partly
because it had been extended too liberally already to be easily
discontinued. "Those, who have begun to assist us," he shrewdly observed to
Jay, when counselling him that every first favor obtained from Spain was
_tant de gagné_, "are more likely to continue than to decline." Every
appeal that he ever made in his life to liberality in any form took the
bias of self-interest duly into account. But he was merely true to his
settled principle that human character is an amalgam of both unselfish and
selfish motives, when, realizing that the aid rendered by France to the
United States originated partly in the glow of a generous enthusiasm for
the cause of human liberty and fraternity, he wrote to Robert R. Livingston
on August 12, 1782, a letter in which, after stating that the whole amount
of the indebtedness, then due by the United States to France, amounted to
eighteen million livres, exclusive of the Holland loan guaranteed by the
King of France, he said:

     In reading it [a statement of the account] you will
     discover several fresh marks of the King's goodness
     towards us, amounting 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.

In a subsequent letter to Vergennes, Franklin referred to the King as our
"Friend and Father." But naturally enough deep-seated gratitude found its
most impressive utterance when the long and bloody war was at an end, the
independence of the United States fully established and Franklin ready, as
he wrote to Robert R. Livingston, to say with old Simeon, "Now lettest thou
thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation."

     May I beg the favour of you, Sir [he wrote to
     Vergennes, when he was soon to leave France forever],
     to express respectfully for me to his Majesty, the deep
     Sense I have of all the inestimable Benefits his
     Goodness has conferr'd on my Country; a Sentiment that
     it will be the Business of the little Remainder of Life
     now left me, to impress equally on the Minds of all my
     Countrymen. My sincere Prayers are, that God may shower
     down his Blessings on the King, the Queen, their
     children, and all the royal Family to the latest

It would be irksome to detail all the loans obtained by Franklin from the
French King, and all the terrifying drafts drawn upon him. Profuse from
first to last as were the bills, which he was called upon to pay, he
appears to have met them all, with a few exceptions, whether drawn upon
Adams, Jay, Laurens or himself. Nor, when an extortioner attempted to
perpetrate an outrage upon the United States, did he fail to oppose him
with a wit quite as keen as his and with a spirit far more resolute. Such
a skinflint seems to have been De Neufville, of Amsterdam, who offered on
one occasion to borrow money for the United States, provided that their
representatives hypothecated to his firm, in the name of the whole Congress
of the Thirteen United States, as security for the loan, all the lands,
cities, territories and possessions of the said Thirteen States, present or
prospective. After mercilessly analyzing in a letter to John Adams the
unconscionable covenants by which this tremendous hypothecation was to be
accompanied, Franklin ended with these observations:

     By this time, I fancy, your Excellency is satisfy'd,
     that I was wrong in supposing J. de Neufville as much a
     Jew as any in Jerusalem (a reference to what he had
     said in a former letter) since Jacob was not content
     with any per cents, but took the whole of his Brother
     Esau's Birthright, & his Posterity did the same by the
     Cananites, & cut their Throats into the Bargain; which,
     in my Conscience, I do not think M. J. de Neufville has
     the least Inclination to do by us,--while he can get
     anything by our being alive.

The immediate occasion for this letter was the refusal of De Neufville to
allow the goods which had bred trouble between Franklin and William Jackson
to be delivered to the agents of the United States until a claim for
damages that he had preferred against the United States was satisfied. "We
have, you observe" Franklin had written in an earlier letter to John Adams,
"our Hands in the Lyon's Mouth; but if Mr. N. is a Lyon, I am a Bear, and I
think I can hug & gripe him till he lets go our Hands." And he was as good
as his word, and let De Neufville know that, if he did not deliver the
goods, the bills drawn by him on Franklin for the price, though accepted,
would not be paid. A few days later, in another letter to Adams with
respect to the same matter, Franklin said in regard to a proposal of
settlement made by De Neufville, "I think that the less we have to do with
that Shark the better; his jaws are too strong, his teeth too many and his
appetite immensely voracious." Before the episode was ended, De Neufville
was only too glad to dispatch his son to Paris to beseech the bear to relax
his hug.

There was still another reason why the arrival of bills from America should
be feared by Franklin. They were drawn in three sets each, and there was
constant danger, as the sets came in at different times, of the same bill
being paid more than once. In fact, repeated efforts were fraudulently made
to palm off duplicates and triplicates as firsts upon Franklin. To shut off
frauds, the minutest inspection of the bills, as they were presented for
payment, was indispensable, and, for this task, Franklin, Congress having
wholly ignored his request for a secretary, had no one to help him but
Temple and the French clerk at fifty louis a year. The task was rendered
especially laborious by the fact that a host of the bills was drawn by
Congress in very small amounts for the payment of interest abroad.

Far less tedious, of course, but still burdensome enough, was the labor of
copying the dispatches that left Franklin's hands. At one time, the
Atlantic was so alive with British cruisers that a dispatch on its way to
Congress from France had almost as little chance of escape as a jettisoned
dog in a shark-infested sea.

     Adams [stated one of the letters in 1777 of our envoys
     in France], by whom we wrote early this summer, was
     taken on this coast, having sunk his dispatches. We
     hear that Hammond shared the same fate on your coast.
     Johnson, by whom we wrote in September, was taken going
     out of the channel, and poor Captain Wickes (of the
     _Reprisal_) who sailed at the same time, and had
     duplicates, we just now hear foundered near
     Newfoundland, every man perishing but the cook.

It was a batch of papers tossed into the ocean, and snatched up by a nimble
British sailor, before they sank, that first apprised the British Ministry
of the treaty for an alliance hatching between Holland and the United
States, and led Great Britain to declare war promptly against Holland. With
such perilous conditions to face, Franklin's dispatches were sometimes
copied as often as seven times. Besides the copy retained by him, and the
copy sent to Congress, other copies were later sent to Congress by the next
ships leaving France for the United States.

Another most onerous function imposed upon Franklin, until the appointment
of Thomas Barclay, a merchant, as Consul-General to France, was that of
purchasing supplies for Congress and fitting out ships. Special provision
for this function should, of course, have been made by Congress, so as to
leave him free to give his attention to what he termed his political
duties, but it was not until after he had repeatedly begged Congress to
relieve him from it that Congress first appointed for that purpose Colonel
Palfrey, who was lost at sea, on his way over to France, and then Barclay.
In the meantime, Franklin had suffered infinite annoyance in the
performance of duties for which he had no time, and insisted that he had no
knowledge or training. Writing to Jonathan Williams about the dispatch of
certain goods to America, he said:

     At this Distance from the Ports, and unacquainted as I
     am with such Affairs, I know not what to advise about
     getting either that Cloathing or the small Arms and
     Powder at L'Orient or the Cloth of Mr. Ross transported
     to America; and yet everybody writes to me for Orders,
     or Advice, or Opinion, or Approbation, which is like
     calling upon a blind Man to judge of Colours.

Writing later to Williams about the same matter, when it had assumed a
still more vexatious aspect, he peremptorily turned down a project laid
before him by Williams, saying with an ebullition of impatience quite
unlike the ordinary tenor of his even temper, "I have been too long in hot
Water, plagu'd almost to Death with the Passions, Vagaries, and ill Humours
and Madnesses of other People. I must have a little Repose."

Another office performed by Franklin, though no special commission for the
purpose was ever issued to him by Congress, was that of a Judge in
Admiralty. A large quantity of blank commissions for privateers having been
sent to him by Congress shortly after his arrival in France, he delivered
them to cruisers, fitted out in the ports of France, and manned by
smugglers, who knew every creek and cove on the English coast which they
had so often visited by night as well, to use a simile employed by one of
Franklin's correspondents, as they knew the corners of their beds. The
alarm and loss created by these privateers was no mean offset to the
destructive efficiency of the British cruisers. One privateer, the _Black
Prince_, took in the course of three months more than thirty sail. Such was
the apprehension excited by the depredations of American privateers that
the seacoasts of England were kept in a constant state of panic, and the
premium rate on marine insurance was largely enhanced. As prizes were
brought into French harbors, the papers seized in them were examined by
Franklin for the purpose of passing upon their legality and the liability
of the prizes to sale. It was also under the patronage of Franklin and
Deane that the _Reprisal_, the first American ship to fire a gun or capture
a prize in European waters, the _Lexington_, a sloop-of-war, of fourteen
guns, fitted out by Congress, and commanded by Captain Johnson, the
_Dolphin_, a cutter of ten guns, purchased by our envoys from M. de
Chaumont, and the _Surprise_, a cutter, commanded by the doughty Captain
Gustavus Conyngham, inflicted such injury upon English commerce, including
the capture of the Lisbon packet by Captain Wickes, that the French
Ministry was compelled to heed the remonstrances of Lord Stormont, the
English Minister, so far as to make a deceitful show, in one form or
another, of vindicating the outraged neutrality of France. But, when the
flimsiest ruses were allowed by the French Ministry to circumvent its
interdiction of the abuse of its ports by American ships, with prizes in
tow, and Captain Conyngham and his crew, after passing a few days in luxury
in a French prison, found means in some unaccountable manner to escape,
just as two English men-of-war were coming over to ask that they be
delivered to them as pirates, there was little fear anywhere along the
French coast, or in the breasts of our envoys, that any sternly vigorous
embargo was likely to be laid upon the privateering activities of the
United States by anything except the naval energy of England itself.

At this time, Franklin was eager to retaliate the destruction and suffering
wantonly inflicted upon some of the defenceless seacoast towns of America
by the British. He, therefore, advised Congress to put three frigates into
the very best fighting trim, and to send them, loaded with tobacco, as if
they were common merchantmen, to Nantes or Bordeaux, but with instructions,
when they reached the one or the other port, to make off suddenly for some
unsuspecting British port, pounce upon the vessels in its harbor, levy
contributions, burn, plunder and get away before any harm could be done to
them by a counterstroke.

     The burning or plundering of Liverpool or Glasgow [he
     said] would do us more essential service than a million
     of treasure and much blood spent on the continent. It
     would raise our reputation to the highest pitch, and
     lessen in the same degree that of the enemy. We are
     confident it is practicable, and with very little

In a letter to Lafayette, too, Franklin stated that the coasts of England
and Scotland were extremely open and defenceless, and that there were many
rich towns in those countries near the sea "which 4 or 5000 Men, landing
unexpectedly, might easily surprize and destroy, or exact from them a heavy
Contribution taking a part in ready Money and Hostages for the rest." He
even calculated in livres the amounts that might be demanded of Bristol,
Bath, Liverpool, Lancaster and other English towns.

But the most eventful thing that Franklin ever did in relation to American
activity on the sea was to invite John Paul Jones to take command of a fine
frigate that the envoys had ordered from Holland, but had been compelled by
the vigilance of Great Britain to turn over to France, when but partially
built. While at Brest, Jones received a confidential note from Franklin
telling him that the King had asked the loan of him to the French navy for
a while, and wished him to take command of the frigate. "She is at
present," he said, "the property of the King; but, as there is no war yet
declared, you will have the commission and flag of the United States, and
act under their orders and laws." The frigate, however, was far from being
completed, and the thought of a stranger being placed in command of her was
highly irritating to French naval officers with a mind to promotion.
Chafing under the delay and uncertainty, occasioned by these circumstances,
Jones, whose remarkable literary facility, despite his lack of education,
is at least one illustration of the truth of Dogberry's saying that reading
and writing come by nature, wrote impatient appeals to the French Minister,
Franklin, the members of the Royal Family and the King himself.

While in this humor, his eye happened to fall upon a maxim in one of Poor
Richard's Almanacs, "If you would have your business done, go; if not,
send." He heeded the suggestion, proceeded to Versailles and secured an
order for the purchase of the forty-gun ship, which, in honor of his
monitor, he called the _Bon Homme Richard_. What she did, old as she was,
with her heroic commander, and her medley crew of Americans, Irish,
English, Scotch, French, Portuguese, Maltese and Malay sailors, before she
relaxed her dying clutch upon the _Serapis_, and sank, immortalized by a
splendid victory, to the bottom of the ocean, there is no need for the
biographer of Franklin to tell. It is enough to say that for Franklin Jones
ever entertained a feeling little short of passionate reverence. "The
letter which I had the honor to receive from your Excellency to-day ...
would make a coward brave," was his reply to one of Franklin's wise and
humane letters of instruction. This letter is evidence enough that Franklin
was not so incensed by the ruthless conduct at times of the British in
America as to be lost to the clemency of his own abstract views about the
proper limits of warfare.

     Altho' [he said] the English have wantonly burnt many
     defenceless Towns in America, you are not to follow
     this Example, unless where a Reasonable Ransom is
     refused; in which Case, your own generous feelings, as
     well as this Instruction, will induce you to give
     timely Notice of your Intention, that sick and ancient
     Persons, Women and Children, may be first removed.

The relief of American prisoners in England was another thing which
continually taxed the attention of Franklin during the Revolutionary War.
"I was sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not," was a reproach that no
one of them could justly address to him. His nature was a truly
compassionate one, and, in few respects, does it show to greater advantage
than in his unceasing efforts to secure the exchange of his unhappy
countrymen, confined at Portsmouth and Plymouth, or, that failing, to
provide them with all the pecuniary succor in his power, in addition to
that so generously extended to them by many kind hearts in England.[40] In
his friend, David Hartley, a man, whose peaceful and humane instincts even
the vilest passions of war could not efface, he had an agent in a position
to reach the ear of the English Ministry for the purpose of promoting the
exchange of prisoners. For different reasons, the task was a painfully slow
one. In the beginning, all American prisoners were committed to prison upon
the charge of high treason, a charge entirely inconsistent with the idea of
exchange. Besides, England was reluctant to relinquish the advantage that
she had, until the treaty of alliance between France and America was
consummated, in the fact that American ships had nowhere to confine their
prisoners except under their own hatches. They tried to meet this
difficulty by releasing English prisoners on parole on their each promising
that they would secure the release of an American prisoner, but the English
Admiralty, after some hesitation, finally refused to surrender a single
American prisoner in exchange for such paroled Englishmen. Commenting upon
this fact, along with another incident, Franklin wrote to James Lovell,
"There is no gaining anything upon these Barbarians by Advances of Civility
or Humanity." At last, however, several cartels were agreed upon, and he
enjoyed the great happiness of seeing some hundred or so American captives
brought over to France and released. He was still, however, to incur a
great disappointment when, owing to the fear on the part of Holland of
provoking English resentment, the five hundred prisoners, transferred to
Holland by John Paul Jones, after his engagement with the _Serapis_, had to
be exchanged for French instead of American prisoners. The French Ministry
promised to make this disappointment good by advancing to Franklin an equal
number of English prisoners taken by French ships, but the English
Ministry promptly met this promise by refusing to exchange American
prisoners for any English prisoners except such as had been captured by
American ships. It was also a great disappointment to Franklin that he
could not induce the English Ministry to give its assent to a formal
proposition from him that prisoners, taken by either country, should be
immediately released upon the understanding that an equal number of
prisoners held by the other should also be released. The high-minded
conduct of Hartley, inspired in part by the hope that lenient treatment of
American prisoners might help to re-unite the two countries, was all the
more admirable, when contrasted with the harsh words, in which Franklin
sometimes in his letters to him inveighed against the English King,
Parliament and People. It is inconceivable that even Hartley would not have
gradually wearied of well-doing, if his perfect knowledge of Franklin's
benevolent nature had not taught him how to make liberal allowances for his
friend's occasional gusts of indignation.

This indignation was usually visited upon the English King and Ministry,
but upon one occasion it was visited upon the English people as well.

     It is now impossible [he wrote to Hartley] to persuade
     our people, as I long endeavoured, that the war was
     merely ministerial, and that the nation bore still a
     good will to us. The infinite number of addresses
     printed in your gazettes, all approving this conduct of
     your government towards us, and encouraging our
     destruction by every possible means, the great majority
     in Parliament constantly manifesting the same
     sentiments, and the popular public rejoicings on
     occasion of any news of the slaughter of an innocent
     and virtuous people, fighting only in defence of their
     just rights; these, together with the recommendations
     of the same measures by even your celebrated moralists
     and divines, in their writings and sermons, that are
     cited approved and applauded in your great national
     assemblies; all join in convincing us, that you are no
     longer the magnanimous and enlightened nation, we once
     esteemed you, and that you are unfit and unworthy to
     govern us, as not being able to govern your own

Indeed, in this letter Franklin even told Hartley that, if the resentment
of the English people did not speedily fall on their ministry, the future
inhabitants of America would detest the name of Englishman as much as the
children in Holland did those of Alva and Spaniard. But, scold as he might
England and her rulers, he deeply appreciated the magnanimity of the good
man, who even took pains to see that sums placed in his hands by Franklin
were duly applied to the relief of the prisoners for whose liberty he
strove so disinterestedly. Referring in one of his letters to Hartley to
two little bills of exchange that he had sent to him for this purpose, he
said, "Permit me to repeat my thankful Acknowledgments for the very humane
and kind part you have acted in this Affair. If I thought it necessary I
would pray God to bless you for it. But I know he will do it without my

Correspondingly stern was the rebuke of Franklin for the heartless knave,
Thomas Digges, equal even to the theft of an obolus placed upon the closed
eyelids of a dead man as the price of his ferriage across the Styx--who
drew upon Franklin in midwinter for four hundred and ninety-five pounds
sterling for the relief of the American prisoners, and converted all but
about thirty pounds of the sum to his own personal use. "We have no Name in
our Language," said Franklin in a letter to William Hodgson, "for such
atrocious Wickedness. If such a Fellow is not damn'd, it is not worth while
to keep a Devil."

Besides Hartley, to say nothing of this William Hodgson, a merchant, who
performed offices for Franklin similar to those of Hartley, there was
another Englishman whose humanity with regard to American prisoners
elicited the grateful acknowledgments of Franklin. This was Thomas Wren, a
Presbyterian minister at Portsmouth, who was untiring in soliciting
contributions from his Christian brethren in England, and applying the sums
thus obtained by him, as well as the weekly allowances sent to him by
Franklin, to the wants of American prisoners in Forton Prison. "I think
some public Notice," Franklin wrote to Robert R. Livingston, "should be
taken of this good Man. I wish the Congress would enable me to make him a
Present, and that some of our Universities would confer upon him the Degree
of Doctor." The suggestion bore fruit, Congress sent Wren a vote of thanks,
and the degree of Doctor in Divinity was conferred upon him by Princeton
College. He, too, did not need the prayers of Franklin to receive the
blessings reserved for the few rare spirits who can hear the voice of the
God of Mercy even above the tumult of his battling children.

There were many other engrossing claims of a public or quasi-public nature
upon Franklin's attention in France. In the earlier stages of the
Revolutionary War, he was fairly besieged by foreign officers eager to
share in its peril and glory. Several of those recommended by him to
Congress--such as Steuben--gave a good account of themselves in America,
but the number of those, who had no special title to his recommendation,
was so great, that his ingenuity and sense of humor were severely strained
to evade them or laugh them off.

     You can have no Conception [he wrote to a friend] how I
     am harass'd. All my Friends are sought out and teiz'd
     to teize me. Great officers of all Ranks, in all
     Departments; Ladies, great and small, besides professed
     Sollicitors, 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, being
     almost sure of meeting with some Officer or Officer's
     Friend, who, as soon as I am put in a good Humour by a
     Glass or two of Champaign, begins his Attack upon me.
     Luckily I do not often in my sleep dream myself in
     these vexatious Situations, or I should be afraid of
     what are now my only Hours of Comfort. If, therefore,
     you have the least remaining Kindness for me, if you
     would not help to drive me out of France, for God's
     sake, my dear friend, let this your 23rd Application be
     your last.

The friend to whom this letter was written was a Frenchman, and the lecture
that Franklin read to him in it on the easy-going habits of his countrymen
in giving recommendations is also worthy of quotation:

     Permit me to mention to you [he said] that, in my
     Opinion, the natural complaisance of this country often
     carries People too far in the Article of
     _Recommendations_. You give them with too much Facility
     to Persons of whose real Characters you know nothing,
     and sometimes at the request of others of whom you know
     as little. Frequently, if a man has no useful Talents,
     is good for nothing and burdensome to his Relations, or
     is indiscreet, Profligate, and extravagant, they are
     glad to get rid of him by sending him to the other end
     of the World; and for that purpose scruple not to
     recommend him to those that they wish should recommend
     him to others, as "_un bon sujet, plein de mérite_,"
     &c. &c. In consequence of my crediting such
     Recommendations, my own are out of Credit, and I can
     not advise anybody to have the least Dependence on
     them. If, after knowing this, you persist in desiring
     my Recommendation for this Person, who is known neither
     to _me_ nor to _you_, I will give it, tho', as I said
     before, I ought to refuse it.

The subject was one that repeatedly awakened his humorous instincts.

     You can have no conception of the Arts and Interest
     made use of to recommend and engage us to recommend
     very indifferent persons [he wrote to James Lovell].
     The importunity is boundless. The Numbers we refuse
     incredible: which if you knew you would applaud us for,
     and on that Account excuse the few we have been
     prevail'd on to introduce to you. But, as somebody

         "Poets lose half the Praise they would have got,
         Were it but known what they discreetly blot."

The extent to which Silas Deane yielded to the solicitations of eager
candidates abroad for military honor was one of the things that helped to
destroy his standing with Congress. A second letter was written by Franklin
to Lovell in which he had a word of extenuation for Deane's weakness in
this respect.

     I, who am upon the spot [he said] and know the infinite
     Difficulty of resisting the powerful Solicitations here
     of great Men, who if disoblig'd might have it in their
     Power to obstruct the Supplies he was then obtaining,
     do not wonder, that, being a Stranger to the People,
     and unacquainted with the Language, he was at first
     prevail'd 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 Talents, et de Zèle pour notre Cause_, &c.
     &c. in short, mere Cesars, each of whom would have been
     an invaluable Acquisition to America.

Franklin even had the temerity to draft this _jeu d'esprit_ to suit the
character of the more extreme class of applications made to him for
military employment, and it was actually used at times according to William
Temple Franklin.

     The bearer of this, who is going to America, presses me
     to give him a Letter of Recommendation, tho' 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 Favour that, on further Acquaintance, you shall
     find him to deserve.

An ill-balanced man might have fretted himself into an angry outbreak or a
state of physical decline under the exasperation of such importunities, but
none of the petty annoyances of Franklin's position were too rough to
withstand the smoothing effect of his unctuous humor. It was like the oil
that he was in the habit of carrying around with him in the hollow joint of
a bamboo cane during the period of his life when he was testing the
tranquillizing effect of oil upon ruffled water.

At times, however, the unreasonableness of some of the applicants was too
much even for Rabelais in his easy chair.

     First [he wrote to a M. Lith], you desired to have
     Means procur'd for you of taking a Voyage to America
     "_avec sureté_"; which is not possible, as the Dangers
     of the Sea subsist always, and at present there is the
     additional Danger of being taken by the English. Then
     you desire that this may be _sans trop grandes
     Dépenses_, which is not intelligible enough to be
     answer'd, because, not knowing your Ability of bearing
     expences, one can not judge what may be _trop grandes_.
     Lastly, you desire Letters of Address to the Congress
     and to General Washington; which it is not reasonable
     to ask of one who knows no more of you, than that your
     name is Lith, and that you live at Bayreuth.

Another applicant, who thirsted for military renown, was one, Louis
Givanetti Pellion, "ci-devant Garde du Corps de S. M. le Roi de Sardaigne,
aujourd'hui Controlleur de la Cour de S. Mo susdite." "I know how," this
gentleman wrote, "to accommodate myself to all climates, manners,
circumstances, and times. I am passionately fond of travel, I love to see
the great world, its armies and navies. Neither cards, nor wine nor women
have any influence over me; but a ship, an army, long voyages, all these
are Paradise to me."

It was also Franklin's lot to receive many letters of inquiry about the New
World from individuals in Europe, who were thinking of migrating to America
for peaceable purposes. What of its climate, its trade, its people, its
laws? These were some of the questions relating to the New Eldorado which
these individuals wished answered. To all who questioned him about the
opportunities held out by America, when he did not simply refer the
questioners to Crèvecoeur's "Letters from an American Farmer," his
answers were substantially the same. The emigrants to America would find a
good climate, good air, good soil, good government, good laws and liberty
there, but no Lotus Land. One Reuben Harvey wrote to him from Cork that
about one hundred poor Irish tradesmen and husbandmen desired to settle in
America. Franklin replied sententiously, "They will go to a Country where
People do not Export their Beef and Linnen to import Claret, while the Poor
at home live on Potatoes and wear Rags. Indeed America has not Beef and
Linnen sufficient for Exportation because every man there, even the
poorest, eats Beef and wears a Shirt."

Numerous letters came to him from authors inviting his literary criticism,
or asking him to accord to them the honor of permitting them to dedicate
their works to him. Allamand, the Warden of the forests and waters of the
Island of Corsica, wished to know from him what canals there were in
America. None, he replied, unless a short water-way, cut, it was said, in a
single night across a loop formed by a long bend in Duck Creek, in the
State of Delaware, could be called such. Projectors of all kinds solicited
his views about their several projects, sane or crack-brained. Sheer
beggars, as we have already seen, were likewise among his correspondents.
One, La Baronne de Randerath, tells him that she has been advised by the
doctors to take her husband to Aix, and, as her justification for
requesting a loan from Franklin for the purpose, she mentions that her
husband and Franklin are both Masons, though members of different lodges.
Another letter requests him to exercise his influence with the Minister of
Marine in behalf of the writer, a sea captain, who wishes to be discharged
from the King's service. Dartmouth College, Brown University, Princeton
College and Dickinson College all appealed to him for his aid in their
efforts to secure money or other gifts abroad. In a word, he was not only
world-famous but paid fully all the minor as well as major penalties of

How curdled by the animosities of the Revolutionary War was the milk of
human kindness even in such an amiable breast as that of Franklin, we have
already had reason enough to know. His nature yielded slowly to the intense
feelings, aroused by the long conflict between Great Britain and her
Colonies, but it was equally slow to part with them when once inflamed. The
most notable thing about his attitude towards Great Britain, after the
first effusion of American blood at Lexington, was the inexorable firmness
with which he repelled all advances upon the part of England that fell
short of the recognition of American Independence. When the English
Ministry fully realized that Great Britain was not waging war against a few
rebellious malcontents but against a whole people in arms, overture after
overture was informally made to Franklin by one English emissary or
another, in the effort to dissolve the alliance between France and the
United States, and to restore, as far as possible, the old connection
between Great Britain and America. Among the first of these emissaries was
Franklin's good friend, James Hutton. Franklin received him with the most
affectionate kindness, but a letter, which he wrote to Hutton, after Hutton
had returned to England, showed how entirely fruitless the journey of the
latter had been. A peace, Franklin said, England might undoubtedly obtain
by dropping all her pretensions to govern America, but, if she did not,
with the peace, recover the affections of the American people, it would be
neither a lasting nor a profitable one. To recover the respect and
affection of America, England must tread back the steps that she had taken
and disgrace the American advisers and promoters of the war, with all those
who had inflamed the nation against America by their malicious writings;
and all the ministers and generals who had prosecuted the war with such
inhumanity. A little generosity, in the way of territorial concessions
added to the counsels of necessity, would have a happy effect. For
instance, Franklin said, if England would have a real friendly as well as
able ally in America, and avoid all occasions of future discord, which
would otherwise be continually arising along its American frontiers, it
might throw in Canada, Nova Scotia and the Floridas.

Hutton was succeeded by William Pulteney, a member of Parliament. All of
his propositions were predicated upon the continued dependence of America.
Every proposition, Franklin let him know, which implied the voluntary
return of America to dependence on Great Britain was out of the question.
The proper course for Great Britain, in his judgment, was to acknowledge
the independence of the United States, and to enter into such a treaty of
peace, friendship and commerce with them as France itself had formed. The
concluding words of Franklin's letter were hardly necessary to convince
Pulteney of the hopelessness of his task. "May God at last," they ran,
"grant that Wisdom to your national Councils, which he seems long to have
deny'd them, and which only sincere, just, and humane Intentions can merit
or expect." Ten days before this letter was written, the American envoys
had been presented to the French King. Then followed David Hartley and Mr.
George Hammond, the father of the George Hammond, who, many years
afterwards, became Minister Plenipotentiary from England to the United
States. When they arrived at Paris, it was only to find that the treaty of
alliance between France and the United States had already been signed, and
to learn soon afterwards that one of its clauses obliged the United States
to make common cause with France, in case England declared war against her.
How authentic were the credentials of the next emissary it is impossible to
say, but Franklin was entirely confident that he came over to France under
the direct patronage of George III. The circumstances were these. One
morning, a lengthy letter was thrown into a window of Franklin's residence
at Passy, written in English, dated at Brussels, and signed Charles de
Weissenstein. The letter conjured Franklin in the name of the Just and
Omniscient God, before whom all must soon appear, and by his hopes of
future fame, to consider if some expedient could not be devised for ending
the desolation of America and preventing the war imminent in Europe. It
then declared that France would certainly at last betray America, and
suggested a plan for the union of England and America. Under the plan,
among other things, judges of the American courts were to be named by the
King, and to hold their offices for life, and were to bear titles either as
peers of America, or otherwise, as should be decided by his Majesty; there
were to be septennial sessions of Congress, or more frequent ones, if his
Majesty should think fit to call Congress together oftener, but all its
proceedings were to be transmitted to the British Parliament, without whose
consent no money was ever to be granted by Congress, or any separate State
of America to the Crown; the chief offices of the American civil list were
to be named in the plan, and the compensation attached to them was to be
paid by America; the naval and military forces of the Union were to be
under the direction of his Majesty, but the British Parliament was to fix
their extent, and vote the sums necessary for their maintenance. It was
also proposed by the letter that, to protect Franklin, Washington, Adams,
Hancock and other leaders of the American Revolution from the personal
enmity in England, by which their talents might otherwise be kept down,
they were to have offices or pensions for life at their option. The promise
was also made that, in case his Majesty, or his successors, should ever
create American peers, then those persons, or their descendants, were to be
among the first peers created, if they desired. Moreover, _Mr._ Washington
was to have immediately a brevet of lieutenant-general, and all the honors
and precedence incident thereto, but was not to assume or bear any command
without a special warrant, or letter of service for that purpose, from the

The writer further asked for a personal interview with Franklin for the
purpose of discussing the details of the project, or, he stated, if that
was not practicable, he would be in a certain part of the Cathedral of
Notre Dame on a certain day at noon precisely, with a rose in his hat, to
receive a written answer from Franklin which he would transmit directly to
the King himself. Franklin laid the letter before his colleagues, and it
was agreed that it should be answered by him, and that both it and the
answer should be laid before Vergennes, and that the answer should be sent
or kept back as Vergennes believed best. The French Minister decided that
it had best not be sent. At the hour fixed for the interview, however, an
agent of the French police was on hand, and he reported that a gentleman,
whose name he afterwards ascertained to be an Irish one by tracking him to
his hotel, did appear at the appointed time, and, finding no one to meet
him, wandered about the Cathedral, looking at the altars and pictures, but
never losing sight of the place suggested for the tryst, and often
returning to it, and gazing anxiously about him as if he expected some one.
The scornful tone of the letter, drafted by Franklin, which is not unlike
one of the scolding speeches, with which the Homeric heroes expressed their
opinions of each other, leaves little room for doubt that he truly believed
himself to be assailing no less a person than the bigoted King himself.
After some savage thrusts, which remind us of those aimed by Hamlet at
Polonius behind the arras, he bursts out into these exclamatory words:

     This proposition of delivering ourselves, bound and
     gagged, ready for hanging, without even a right to
     complain, and without a friend to be found afterwards
     among all mankind you would have us embrace upon the
     faith of an act of Parliament! Good God! An act of your
     Parliament! This demonstrates that you do not yet know
     us, and that you fancy we do not know you; but it is
     not merely this flimsy faith, that we are to act upon;
     you offer us _hope_, the hope of PLACES, PENSIONS, and
     PEERAGES. These, judging from yourselves, you think are
     motives irresistible. This offer to corrupt us, Sir, is
     with me your credential, and convinces me that you are
     not a private volunteer in your application. It bears
     the stamp of British court character. It is even the
     signature of your King.

The next bearer of the olive branch, who came over to Paris, came under
very different auspices. This was William Jones, afterwards Sir William
Jones, who was at the time affianced to Anna Maria Shipley. He did not come
as the representative of the King or his Ministers, but as the
representative of the generous and patriotic Englishmen, who had cherished
the same dream of world-wide British unity as Franklin himself, and whose
sacrifices in behalf of their fellow-Englishmen in America should be
almost as gratefully remembered by us as the Continental soldiers who
perished at Monmouth or Camden. Draping his thoughts with academic terms,
he submitted a paper to Dr. Franklin entitled _A Fragment from Polybius_ in
which England, France, the United States and Franklin are given names
borrowed from antiquity, and various suggestions are made for the
settlement of the existing controversy between Great Britain and America.
England becomes Athens, France, Caria, America, the Islands, and Franklin,
Eleutherion; and Jones himself is masked as an Athenian lawyer.

     This I _know_ [observes the latter-day Athenian] and
     positively pronounce, that, while Athens is Athens, her
     proud but brave citizens will never _expressly_
     recognize the independence of the Islands; their
     resources are, no doubt, exhaustible, but will not be
     exhausted in the lives of us and of our children. In
     this resolution all parties agree.

There should be, the writer suggested, "a perfect coordination between
Athens and the Thirteen United Islands, they considering her not as a
parent, whom they must obey, but as an elder sister, whom they can not help
loving, and to whom they shall give pre-eminence of honor and co-equality
of power." Other suggestions were that the new constitutions of the Islands
should remain intact, but that, on every occasion, requiring acts for the
general good, there should be an assembly of deputies from the Senate of
Athens, and the Congress of the Islands, who should fairly adjust the whole
business, and settle the ratio of the contributions on both sides; that
this committee should consist of fifty Islanders and fifty Athenians, or of
a smaller number chosen by them, and that, if it was thought necessary, and
found convenient, a proportionate number of Athenian citizens should have
seats, and the power of debating and voting on questions of common concern
in the great assembly of the Islands, and a proportionable number of
Islanders should sit with the like power in the Assembly at Athens. The
whole reminds the reader of the classical fictions to which the first
Parliamentary reporters were driven by press censorship. The paper, drafted
by Jones, was little more than a mere literary exercise, prompted by
ingenuous enthusiasm, but we may be sure that it kindled in Franklin very
different feelings from those aroused in him by the insidious appeal of
Charles de Weissenstein.

The shortcomings, which Franklin is supposed by his enemies to have
exhibited in France with respect to the duties of his post, require but
little attention. Apart from a lack of clerical neatness and system, such
as might more justly be imputed as a serious reproach to a book-keeper or
clerk, they rest upon evidence easily perverted by enmity or jealousy.[41]
Adams had no little to say about Franklin's love of ease and tranquillity,
the social and academic distractions, to which he was subject, and the
extent to which his time was consumed by curious visitors. It is a
sufficient answer to all such disparagement to declare that he successfully
dispatched an enormous amount of public business with but very little aid,
and unflinchingly bore a load of responsibility only less weighty than that
of Washington; that no spy, such as obtained secret access to the papers of
Silas Deane and Arthur Lee for the purposes of the British Government, ever
abstracted any valuable information from his papers; and that his position
in the polite and learned world, and the popular curiosity, excited by his
fame, were among the things which tended most effectually to recommend him
to the favor of the French People and Ministry. The effort was also made by
John Adams to create the impression that Franklin was unduly subservient to
the influence of France, and that, but for the superior firmness of John
Jay and himself, the United States would not have concluded a peace with
England on terms anything like so favorable as those actually obtained from

In what respects Franklin can be truly said to have been servile to French
influence, it is impossible to see. If by this is meant that he did not
share the prejudices of Adams and Jay against the French people, did not
harbor their keen distrust of the motives of the French ministry and did
not feel as free as they to ignore the proprieties, arising out of the
profound obligations of America to France, the reflection is just enough.
Neither Adams nor Jay ever succeeded in making himself sufficiently
acceptable to the French people or ministry, or obtained sufficient
benefits from them for his countrymen, to feel any sense of personal
indebtedness to them, or to be inclined to show any unusual degree of
consideration to them. This was true of Jay, if for no other reason,
because his intercourse with them was but limited in point of time.
Franklin, on the other hand, was the idol of the French people, and
received from Vergennes as decisive proofs of confidence as one individual
can confer upon another. No one could have been in a better position than
he was to know that the French alliance was hardly more the fruit of
selfish policy upon the part of the French ministry, or of a desire upon
its part to avenge historic injuries, than of the generous sensibility of
the French people to the liberal and democratic impulses, which were
hurrying them on to the fiercest outbreak of uncalculating enthusiasm that
the world has ever seen. He had never entered the cabinet of the French
Minister to sue for pecuniary aid without coming away with a fresh cordial
for the drooping energies of his people. That upright and able minister, he
wrote to Samuel Huntington, on one occasion, had never promised him
anything which he did not punctually perform.[42] No matter how dark were
the thick clouds that enveloped the fate of his country, no matter how
acute was the pecuniary distress of France herself, there was always
another million at the bottom of the stocking of the French tax-payer for
the land of freedom and opportunity. Franklin had even known what it was to
beg for a loan from the French King and to receive it as a gracious gift.
He would have been fashioned of ignoble materials, indeed, if he had been
too quick, in seeking the selfish advantage of his country, to forget the
extraordinary magnanimity of her ally, and to suspect a disposition upon
her part to deprive the United States of the just rewards of the triumph,
which they might never have achieved but for her. And he, at any rate, with
his strong sense of justice, was not likely to commit himself with
unhesitating alacrity to a coldblooded scramble for concessions from
England to America which took no account of the fact that France not only
had the interests of America, but also her own necessities to consult, and
that it was as essential to her interests that America should not make
peace with England before she did, as it was to the interests of America
that France should not make peace with England before America did. In the
Treaty of Alliance, France had assumed no obligation to the United States
except that of continuing to wage war against England until their
independence was acknowledged, and of not concluding any peace with England
that did not include them. She had never bound herself to secure to America
the right of fishery on the Newfoundland Banks, or to oppose every
restriction upon the extension of her western boundaries. In the course of
the war, there was a time when the situation of America was so desperate
that Vergennes was, with perfect fidelity to the American cause, brought to
the conclusion that the Thirteen States might well afford to surrender a
part of their territory to England as the price of independence; and this
was a conclusion to which any honest American mind might have been brought
under the circumstances. And, even after this crisis had passed, and
negotiations for peace were pending between Great Britain and the Allies,
it is not surprising that he should not have foreseen that he would ever
have occasion to say, as he did after England and America came to terms,
that England had bought rather than made a peace, but should have thought
that England might still hold out stubbornly enough to cause even America
to feel that she could be reasonably expected by France to forego more than
one minor expectation to make certain of her independence. There was also
the fact, which could hardly escape the attention of a man so deferential
to the authority of his principals as Franklin always was, that Congress
had positively instructed its Commissioners to make the most candid and
confidential communications upon all subjects to the minister of its
generous ally, the King of France, to undertake nothing in the negotiations
for peace or a truce without the knowledge and concurrence of the Minister
and King, and ultimately to govern themselves by their advice and opinion.

And there was also the fact that Franklin had always had such marked
success in influencing the conclusions of Vergennes, that he might well
have confided in his ability to bring the French minister over to any
reasonable views that he might form about the results that America had the
right to expect from the Peace; particularly as Vergennes had long been
possessed with a haunting fear that America might be detached from her
alliance with France.

In the light of all these circumstances, it is not strange that Franklin
should have been reluctant, in the first instance, to unite with Adams and
Jay in signing the preliminary treaty of peace with England without
previously consulting with Vergennes; for that is the only tangible
foundation for the claim that he was too submissive to the selfish designs
of France; and there is no substantial evidence that any real point was
gained by America by the act, or that it awakened any feeling in Vergennes
profounder than the passing disappointment, born of realized distrust and
affronted pride, which led him to write to M. de la Luzerne, the French
Minister to the United States, immediately after it as follows:

     I think it proper that the most influential members of
     Congress should be informed of the very irregular
     conduct of their Commissioners in regard to us. You may
     speak of it not in the tone of complaint. I accuse no
     person; I blame no one, 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. If we may
     judge of the future from what has passed here under our
     eyes, we shall be but poorly paid for all that we have
     done for the United States, and for securing to them a
     national existence.

When we recollect how faithfully France had rejected every effort upon the
part of England to treat for peace with her separately, and insisted that
the treaty of peace between England and France, on the one hand, and the
treaty of peace between England and the United States, on the other, should
go hand in hand, how entirely Vergennes had refrained from inquiring into
the course of the pending negotiations between England and our
commissioners, which resulted in the signing of the preliminary treaty of
peace between England and the United States; and how singularly limited was
the measure of concession that France asked for herself from England, these
words cannot be read by any true American without a highly painful

When Franklin appealed, after the peace, to both Adams and Jay to deny the
statement, current in America, that he had not stood up stoutly for
American rights, when the peace was being concluded, Jay complied with
unreserved emphasis, and Adams with a reluctant note which rendered his
testimony but the stronger. The truth is that, if Franklin's conduct during
the peace negotiations was not admirable in every respect, it was only
because he found that he could not decline to unite with his colleagues in
violating the instruction of Congress without breaking with them and
hazarding discord that might be fatal to the interests of his country. He
did not, of course, believe that France, after the enormous sacrifices that
she had made for American independence, was engaged in a treacherous effort
to shackle the growth of the United States. He could not readily have
entertained such a totally ungrounded suspicion as that which led Jay, when
he learnt that De Rayneval was going over to London to have an interview
with Shelburne, to leap to the conclusion that it was for the purpose of
confounding American aspirations, and to inform Shelburne that now was the
time for England to outbid France for the favor of America by executing at
once preliminary articles of peace, conceding to America the points about
which she was most concerned. The overture was a bold one, but if it had
not been accepted in the manner that it was, and had been communicated by
Shelburne to Vergennes, it might have been attended by consequences
inimical to the Alliance which even the personal influence of Franklin
might not have been able to prevent. Franklin was too prudent to risk
rashly the support of an ally, from which the United States still found it
necessary to borrow money, even after their independence was acknowledged,
and too grateful to risk lightly the friendship of an ally which had not
only aided the United States with soldiers, ships and money to secure their
independence, but had repeatedly declined to treat with England except on
the basis of American independence. His inclination naturally and properly
enough was to maintain with Vergennes until the last the frank and intimate
relations that he had always maintained with him; to avoid everything that
might have the least savor of faithlessness or sharp practice in the
opinion of our ally, and to rely upon our growing importance and the
ordinary appeals of argument and persuasion for a peace at once fair and
just to both the United States and France. But never once from the time
that he wrote to Lord Shelburne the brief letter, that initiated the
negotiations for peace between England and the United States, until the day
that he threw himself, after the consummation of peace, into the arms of
the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, saying, "My friend! Could I have hoped at my
age to enjoy such a happiness," was he animated by any purpose except that
of securing for his countrymen the most generous terms that he could. It is
by no means improbable that, if he had been our sole negotiator, he would
not only have obtained for us all that was secured by his
Fellow-Commissioners and himself but Canada besides, and would, moreover,
have saved the United States the reproach that justly attached to them
because of the precipitate signature of the preliminary articles of peace.
As we have already seen, the acquisition of Canada by the United States
was something that he had definitely in mind even before the negotiations
for peace began, and, when they did begin, this was one of the things that
he specified in a memorandum that he gave to Oswald, the British envoy, as
concessions that it was advisable for England to make, and we also know
from the correspondence of Oswald that it was a topic to which his
conversation frequently turned. With such address did he ply Oswald upon
this point that the latter went so far as to say that it might be conceded.
To compass it, he was even willing to agree that the Loyalists should be
compensated by the United States for their losses; which was the point upon
which the English Ministry was most earnestly bent, and the one which
aroused in him feelings of the deepest antagonism. What a trifling
recompense the compensation of the Loyalists would have been for such an
addition to our national domain as Canada we hardly need say; nor need we
dilate upon the far-sighted statesmanship which so surely foresaw what
futurity held in store for a country which, as late as 1760, had been
gravely proposed to be exchanged with France for the Island of Guadeloupe.
It is to be regretted by the United States, if the present happy lot of
Canada is to be the subject of regret at all, that the desire of Franklin
to secure Canada for them was not more urgently seconded by Adams and Jay.
The former was enthusiastically resolved, as was but proper, to secure for
New England the right to fish on the Newfoundland Banks, and the latter was
especially eager, as any statesman with the slightest glow of imagination
might well have been, to remove every obstacle in our pathway westward.
Neither appears to have been zealously alive to the considerations, which
led Franklin to cast a covetous eye upon Canada, and to make it one of the
primary objects of his efforts to promote the interests of America during
the peace negotiations. On the other hand, Franklin was not less impressed
than they were with the importance of our North Eastern Fisheries and our
Western Destiny; and was quite as stiff as they in maintaining our rights
with respect to them. Moreover, when the insistence of the English Ministry
upon compensation for the Loyalists threatened to be the only rock, upon
which the negotiations were likely to split, it was his suggestiveness
which relieved the situation by proposing, as an offset to the losses of
the Loyalists, the payment by England of the pecuniary losses wantonly
inflicted by her upon the inhabitants of such towns as Fairfield and
Norfolk on our Atlantic seaboard. After this timely counter-claim, a
compromise was soon reached, under which it was agreed that the Loyalists
should be referred to the justice of the individual States with a favorable
recommendation from the Commissioners. This was but a diplomatic way of
disposing of the proposition adversely without seeming to do so, for
Shelburne as well as the American Commissioners must have realized that the
recommendation was the only form of indemnity that the Loyalists were
likely to obtain.

Friendly as Franklin was to the French Court, it was only where some treaty
stipulation was involved, or some definite rule of courtesy was to be
observed, that he recognized the right of France to influence the course of
the negotiations between England and the American Commissioners. He knew as
well as Adams and Jay that French policy, partly because of considerations,
peculiar to France herself, and partly because of obligations, that France
owed to Spain, differed in some very material respects from American
policy. But he entertained the belief, and justly entertained the belief,
that this was no reason why Vergennes should necessarily be moved by the
settled, perfidious purpose of arresting an agreement between England and
America until the negotiations between England and France and Spain had
gone too far for the United States to be any longer in the position to
insist effectively upon their fishery and boundary claims. The disposition
of the French Minister to contemplate contingencies, in which concessions
would have to be made by America, was in Franklin's judgment "due to the
moderation of the minister and to his desire of removing every obstacle to
speedy negotiations for peace"; and there is no real reason to believe that
he was not right. It is quite true that Marbois, when he was the French
Secretary of Legation in the United States, in his famous letter to
Vergennes, which the English were at pains to bring to the notice of John
Jay, suggested to Vergennes that he should let the Americans know that
their pretensions to the Newfoundland fisheries were not well founded, and
that the French King did not mean to support them; but, as Vergennes wrote
to M. de la Luzerne, the successor of Gérard, the opinion of Marbois was
not necessarily that of the King, and, moreover the views of his letter had
not been followed. When Franklin made his suggestion to Oswald in respect
to Canada, he did not bring it to the knowledge of Vergennes. In the very
commencement of the negotiations between England and the United States, he
let it be known to Grenville, the envoy of Charles James Fox, that, when
Great Britain acknowledged the independence of America, the treaty, that
America had made with France for gaining it, ended, and no conventional tie
remained between America and France but that of the treaty of commerce
which England, too, might establish between America and herself, if she
pleased. Indeed, Vergennes himself clearly recognized the right of the
American Commissioners to make the best terms that they could for
themselves in the matter of the fisheries, the western boundaries or any
other object of American policy.

     We are [he wrote Luzerne on April 9, 1782], and shall
     always be, disposed to consent that the American
     plenipotentiaries in Europe should treat according to
     their instructions directly and without our
     intervention with those of the Court of London, while
     we on our side shall treat in the same way, provided
     that the two negotiations continue at the same rate,
     and that the two treaties shall be signed the same day,
     and shall not be good the one without the other.

The hesitation of Franklin about executing the preliminary articles of
peace between England and the United States was not due to any doubt as to
the technical right of the American Commissioners to sign it, aside from
the instruction of Congress that they were not to take any important step
without the advice of the French Ministry. He hesitated to sign it because
he was subject to this instruction, and also because he felt that for the
Commissioners to sign such a treaty, without taking Vergennes into their
confidence, was hardly compatible with the scrupulous deference due to such
a timely, generous and powerful ally as France had proved herself to be and
might be again. His reason for disregarding the instruction of Congress,
and uniting with his colleagues in signing the articles doubtless was that
he deemed it unwise, in any view of the case, not to subordinate his own
judgment, after full discussion, to that of the majority of the Commission
in a case where, if the French Minister were acting in bad faith, it was
but proper that his bad faith should be anticipated, and where, if he were
acting in good faith, his resentment was not likely to be more serious than
that which is usually visited upon a mere breach of diplomatic decorum. The
execution of the articles was expressly made subject to the proviso that
they were to have no force, if England did not reach an understanding with
France also. Without such a proviso, the action of our Commissioners, of
course, would have merited the contempt of the world. With it, Franklin was
left free to say, disingenuously it must be confessed, to Vergennes that,
in signing the articles, the Commissioners had at the most been guilty of
neglecting a point of _bienséance_. No one knew better than he that no such
soothing pretence could be set up by Adams and Jay, and that, even as
respected himself, though the extent of his offence consisted, as Vergennes
truly divined, in yielding to the bias of his colleagues, he had been drawn
into a position in which it was impossible for him to separate himself
wholly from either the motives or the moral responsibilities of his
colleagues. In transmitting with them to Congress a copy of the articles,
he united with them in this statement:

     As we had reason to imagine that the Articles
     respecting the boundaries, the refugees and fisheries,
     did not correspond with the policy of this court, we
     did not communicate the preliminaries to the Minister
     until after they were signed, and not even then the
     separate Article. We hope that these considerations
     will excuse our having so far deviated from the spirit
     of our instructions. The Count de Vergennes, on
     perusing the Articles, appeared surprised, but not
     displeased, at their being so favorable to us.

The separate article was one fixing the northern boundary of West Florida,
in case Great Britain, at the conclusion of the war, should recover, or be
put in possession of, that Province. In reply to a letter from Robert R.
Livingston, disapproving the manner, in which the articles had been signed,
Franklin said that they had done what appeared to all of them best at the
time, and, if they had done wrong, the Congress would do right, after
hearing them, to censure them. The nomination by Congress of five persons
to the service, he further said, seemed to mark that they had some
dependence on their joint judgment, since one alone could have made a
treaty by direction of the French Ministry, as well as twenty. But there
can be no doubt that the individual views of Franklin about the aims of the
French Court, in relation to the United States, are to be found not in the
letter of the Commissioners to Congress, but in his own words in this same
reply to Livingston:

     I will only add [he said] that, with respect to myself,
     neither the Letter from M. de Marbois, handed us thro'
     the British Negociators (a suspicious Channel) nor the
     Conversations respecting the Fishery, the Boundaries,
     the Royalists, &c., recommending Moderation in our
     Demands, are of Weight sufficient in my Mind to fix an
     Opinion, that this Court wish'd to restrain us in
     obtaining any Degree of Advantage we could prevail on
     our Enemies to accord; since those Discourses are
     fairly resolvable, by supposing a very natural
     Apprehension, that we, relying too much on the Ability
     of France to continue the War in our favour, and supply
     us constantly with Money, might insist on more
     Advantages than the English would be willing to grant,
     and thereby lose the Opportunity of making Peace, so
     necessary to all our friends.

It is impossible, however, to believe that Franklin could have taken such a
step except with grave misgivings as to its effect on the mind of
Vergennes. This is shown by the reserve which he, as well as his
fellow-commissioners, maintained towards Vergennes, while the preliminary
articles were being matured.

     According to the injunctions of Congress [Vergennes
     wrote to Luzerne], they should have done nothing
     without our participation. I have pointed out to you,
     Sir, that the King would not have sought to interest
     himself in the negotiations, save in so far as his
     offices might be necessary to his friends. The American
     Commissioners will not say that I have sought to
     intervene in their business, still less that I have
     wearied them by my curiosity. They have kept themselves
     carefully out of my way.

It must have taxed even the nice judgment of Franklin to calculate
precisely the degree of resentment that the act of the Commissioners would
excite. He took the precaution of sending a copy of the articles to
Vergennes the day after they were signed. His receipt of them was followed
by an ominous silence. Some days later, Franklin called upon Vergennes, and
the latter took pains to let him perceive that the signing of the articles
had little in it which could be agreeable to the King, and Franklin
advanced such excuses for his colleagues and himself as the case permitted.
According to Vergennes, the conversation was amicable, but for a time it
did not efface the impression that his mind had received. A week or so
later, when Franklin proposed to send the preliminary articles to America
by a ship, for which an English passport had been provided, and was
soliciting a loan of twenty millions of francs from France, Vergennes gave
him a bad quarter of an hour.

     I am at a loss sir [he said] 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 on 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 to
     consider how you propose to fulfill those, which are
     due to the King! I am not desirous of enlarging these
     reflections; I commit them to your own integrity. When
     you shall be pleased to relieve my uncertainty, I will
     entreat the King to enable me to answer your demands.

The reply of Franklin was almost abject.

     Nothing [he said] has 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 honour,
     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.

Again, unpromising as the conditions were, there was no resisting the voice
of the seductive mendicant. France did not lend the twenty millions of
francs to the United States because she did not have that much to lend; but
she did lend six. If any loss of dignity or self-respect was suffered on
this occasion it was not by her.

The definitive treaty of peace between Great Britain and the United States
was signed at Paris on September 3, 1783, and was ratified a few months
later by both the contracting powers. Several weeks after it was signed,
Franklin again tendered his resignation to Congress, but it was not
accepted until March 7, 1785. Three days later, Jefferson, who had been in
France ever since August, 1784, for the purpose of co-operating with
Franklin and Adams in the negotiation of commercial treaties with England
and other European countries, was appointed the American plenipotentiary at
the Court of Versailles in the place of Franklin.

Shortly after the return of Franklin to Philadelphia, he was elected
President of the Executive Council of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,
and, in 1787, he was elected a member of the convention which adopted the
Federal Constitution. There was only one man in the United States whose
claims to the Presidency of the Convention could possibly be deemed
paramount to his; and that was Washington. The nomination of Washington to
the position was to have been made by him, but the weather on the day,
fixed for it, was too bad to permit him at his advanced age, and in his
infirm condition, to venture abroad. The honor of making the nomination,
therefore, fell to Robert Morris, another member of the Pennsylvania
delegation. It was thought becoming and graceful in Pennsylvania, Madison
tells us, to pass by her own distinguished citizen as President, and to
take the lead in giving that pre-eminence to the late Commander-in-Chief of
the American Army, which the country felt to be his due.[43] At the next
session of the Convention, Franklin was present, and thereafter he attended
its sessions regularly for five hours each day for more than four months.
His stone made it impossible for him to stand long upon his feet, and, when
he participated on any important occasion in the discussions of the body,
it was his habit to reduce his thoughts to writing, and to have them read
to the body by one of his colleagues, usually James Wilson. Copies of these
speeches were made by Madison from the original manuscripts for his reports
of the debates of the Convention, and, unlike the speeches of the other
leading members of the Assembly, the speeches of Franklin have consequently
come down to us in their entirety. Of his general course in the Convention,
it is enough to say that it was strongly marked by liberalism, faith in the
popular intelligence and virtue, and the aversion to arbitrary power which
was always such a prominent feature of his conduct in every relation. He
had a quick eye to the abuses of authority, and it is probable that, if he
had been a younger man, when the Convention met, and had lived until the
clash between the Federalists and the Republicans arose, he would have been
a Republican. Inane idealism, lack of energy and resolution did not belong
to his character, but, to say nothing more, what he had seen of the
workings of monarchical and aristocratic institutions, during the long
dispute between England and her colonies, was not calculated to prejudice
him in their favor.[44]

The compensation that should be paid to the Chief Magistrate of the Union
was the first topic to which he formally addressed himself as a member of
the Convention. In his opinion, no pecuniary compensation should be paid to
him. The argument that he pursued in support of his proposition was one
that he had often made with respect to the Government of Great Britain.

     Sir [he said] there are two Passions which have a
     powerful Influence in the Affairs of Men. These are
     _Ambition and Avarice_; the Love of Power and the Love
     of Money. Separately, each of these has great Force in
     prompting Men to Action; but when united in View of the
     same Object, they have in many Minds the most violent
     Effects. Place before the Eyes of such Men a Post of
     _Honour_, that shall at the same time be a Place of
     _Profit_, and they will move Heaven and Earth to obtain
     it. The vast Number of such Places it is that renders
     the British Government so tempestuous. The Struggles
     for them are the true source of all those Factions
     which are perpetually dividing the Nation, distracting
     its Councils, hurrying it sometimes into fruitless and
     mischievous Wars, and often compelling a Submission to
     dishonorable Terms of Peace.

The argument, of course, fell upon deaf ears. It really presupposes a
numerous class, at once sufficiently free from pecuniary anxieties to give
its exclusive attention to public duties, and sufficiently qualified to
discharge them with the requisite degree of success. Such a class was not
to be found in America, at any rate, and, even if it was, it would have
been invidious in the eyes of a democratic community to limit the enjoyment
of public office to it. The subsequent history of the Republic showed that,
in the beginning of our national existence, even moderate salaries did not
suffice to keep some of the ablest men in the United States from declining
or resigning federal office. The long journeys and the bad roads and
taverns of that day were probably responsible for this state of things. In
the first thirty years after the adoption of the Federal Constitution, no
less than one hundred and ten seats in the United States Senate were
resigned, and Washington experienced great difficulty in inducing lawyers
to accept positions even on the Supreme Bench of the United States. It is a
remarkable fact that, during the first thirty years after the adoption of
the Federal Constitution, ten persons either declined to serve as associate
justices of the Supreme Court, or resigned the office. It is a still more
remarkable fact that both Jay and Ellsworth resigned as Chief Justice after
brief terms of office. There was, however, undoubtedly an element of
expediency in the views of Franklin, for it is no uncommon thing in the
United States to see the supervisory functions of certain offices,
connected with the educational or eleemosynary systems of the country, more
efficiently and faithfully exercised, when exercised without pay by men, in
whom public spirit or philanthropic zeal is highly developed, than they
would be, if exercised by the very different kind of men who would be
attracted to them, if salaried.

In connection with another question, the extent to which the superior
wealth and population of the larger states were to be represented in
Congress, it was the fortune of Franklin to exert a powerful and decisive
influence. The debate over this question was so protracted and heated, the
smaller States demanding equal representation with the larger in both
Houses of Congress, and the larger repelling the claim as utterly
unreasonable and unjust, that it looked, at one time, as if the Convention
would break up like a ship lodged on a fatal rock. Then it was that
Franklin found out to his surprise that his colleagues did not set the same
value as himself upon the harmonizing influence of prayer. Not only was his
suggestion that the proceedings of the Convention be opened each day with
it rejected, but the controversy became more acrimonious than ever; John
Dickinson, one of the members from Delaware, who always had a way of
chafing in harness, even declaring that rather than be deprived of an
equality of representation in the Legislature he would prefer to be a
foreign subject. At this point, Franklin came forward with a proposition of
compromise, accompanied by one of his happy illustrations.

     The diversity of opinion [he said] turns on two points.
     If a proportional representation take place, the small
     States contend that their liberties will be in danger.
     If an equality of votes is to be put into its place,
     the larger States say their money will be in danger.
     When a broad table is to be made, and the edges of the
     planks do not fit, the artist takes a little from both,
     and makes a good joint.

He then proposed that all the States should have an equal number of
delegates in Congress, and that on all questions affecting the authority or
sovereignty of a State, or, when appointments and confirmations were under
consideration, every State should have an equal vote, but that on bills to
raise or expend money every State should have a vote proportioned to its
population. This compromise did not meet with the favor of the smaller
States. Under the lead of Dickinson, they still contended for unvarying
equality between them and the larger States. At length, a committee was
appointed to consider the matter, and to report a compromise, and Franklin
was one of its members. It came back with a plan, proposed by his
constructive intellect, namely, that, in the Senate, every State should
have equal representation, but that, in the other House, every State should
have a representation proportioned to its population; and that bills to
raise or expend money should originate in the other House. The report of
the committee was adopted, and no device of the Constitution has, in
practice, more strikingly vindicated the wisdom of the brain by which it
was conceived than that hit upon by Franklin for disarming the jealousy and
fears of the smaller States represented in the Convention.

He approved the proposed article making the presidential term of office
seven years, and declaring its incumbent ineligible for a second term. The
sagacity of this conclusion has been confirmed by experience. There was
nothing degrading, Franklin thought, in the idea of the magistrate
returning to the mass of the people; for in free governments rulers are the
servants, and the people are their superiors and sovereigns. The same
popular bias manifested itself when the proposition was made to limit the
suffrage to freeholders. "It is of great consequence," he said, "that we
should not depress the virtue and public spirit of our common people, of
which they displayed a great deal during the war, and which contributed
principally to the favorable issue of it." The British statute, setting
forth the danger of tumultuous meetings, and, under that pretext, narrowing
the right of suffrage to persons having freeholds of a certain value, was
soon followed, he added, by another, subjecting the people, who had no
votes, to peculiar labors and hardships. Some days later, Madison informs
us, he expressed his dislike to everything that tended to debase the spirit
of the common people. If honesty was often the companion of wealth, and, if
poverty was exposed to peculiar temptations, it was not less true, he
declared, that the possession of property increased the desire for more
property. Some of the greatest rogues he was ever acquainted with were the
richest rogues. They should remember the character which the Scriptures
require in rulers, that they should be men hating covetousness. The
Constitution would be much read and attended in Europe, and, if it should
betray a great partiality to the rich, would not only cost them the esteem
of the most liberal and enlightened men there, but discourage the common
people from removing to America.

He strongly favored the clause giving Congress the power to impeach the
President. When the head of the government cannot be lawfully called to
account, the people have no recourse, he said, against oppression but
revolution and assassination. These, it should be recollected, were the
utterances of a man who was from age too near the end of political ambition
to be possibly influenced by demagogic designs of any sort. Franklin also
opposed the idea of conferring an absolute veto upon the President, and the
requirement of fourteen years' residence as a condition of citizenship.
Four years he believed to be enough. He approved the article making an
overt act essential to the crime of treason, and exacting the evidence of
two witnesses to establish the overt act.

He also forcibly expressed his views with regard to the respective powers
with which the two Houses of Congress should be invested. When the
Convention was drawing to a close, he urged its members in a tactful and
persuasive speech to lay aside their individual disappointments, and to
give their work to the world with the stamp of unanimity. As is well known,
when the last members were signing, he looked towards the President's
chair, at the back of which there was a representation of a rising sun,
and, after observing to some of his associates near him that painters had
found it difficult in their art to distinguish a rising from a setting sun,
he concluded with this exultant peroration: "I have 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." And a rising sun,
indeed, it was, starting out upon its splendid circuit like the sun in the
lines of Charles Lamb, "with all his fires and travelling glories round

The opinions of Franklin with regard to general political topics are always
acute and interesting, and, unlike the opinions of most great men, even the
greatest, are rarely, if ever, flecked by the errors of his time. In some
quarters, there has been a disposition to reproach him with being an
advocate of what since his day has come to be known in the United States as
rag or fiat money. The reproach loses sight of the fact that the currency
problems, with which he had to deal, did not turn upon the true respective
functions of paper and real money, under conditions that permit their
application to their several natural and proper uses. No such conditions
existed in America during the colonial period or the Revolutionary War.
There was no California, Alaska, Nevada, or Colorado then. "Gold and
Silver," Franklin said in 1767, in his _Remarks and Facts Concerning
American Paper Money_, "are not the Produce of _North-America_, which has
no Mines."

Every civilized community, unless it is to be remanded to mere barter, must
have some kind of convenient medium for the exchange of commodities and
the payment of debts, even though it be no better than wampum or tobacco.
Paper money, whether it bore interest or not, and whether it was a legal
tender or not, was, unsupported by any real provision for its redemption, a
dangerous currency for America, in her early history, as it is for any
country, whatever its state of maturity; but she had no choice. It was
either that or something not even as good on the whole for monetary
purposes. Not only were there no gold or silver mines in North America, but
the balance of trade between the Colonies and Great Britain was so greatly
in favor of the latter country that even such gold and silver coin, as
found its way to them, was at once drawn off to her.

     However fit [bitterly declared Franklin in the
     pamphlet, to which we have just referred], a particular
     Thing may be for a particular Purpose, wherever that
     Thing is not to be had, or not to be had in sufficient
     Plenty, it becomes necessary to use something else, the
     fittest that can be got, in lieu of it.

In America, this undoubtedly was a paper currency, even though issued as
real, and not representative, money. At times, in the history of the
Colonies, it worked much pecuniary loss and debasement of morals, but,
makeshift as it was, it was the best makeshift that the situation of the
Colonies allowed; and, when New England petitioned for the Act of
Parliament, depriving it of the legal-tender quality within her limits, it
was only, Franklin contended, because the close intercourse between the
four provinces, of which she was constituted, and the large supply of hard
money, derived by her from her whale and cod fisheries, took the sting out
of the act. But, when the act was afterwards extended to the other
colonies, it became a real grievance, and, as such, was stated by Franklin,
in his examination before the House of Commons, to be one of the causes,
which had lessened the respect of the Colonies for Parliament. "It seems
hard therefore," he said in the paper just mentioned, "to draw all their
real Money from them, and then refuse them the poor Privilege of using
Paper instead of it." In the same essay, the circumstances, in which the
need for a paper currency in the Colonies originated, are stated in his
perspicuous manner: "The Truth is, that the Balance of their Trade with
Britain being generally against them, the Gold and Silver is drawn out to
pay that Balance; and then the Necessity of some Medium of Trade has
induced the making of Paper Money, which could not be carried away."

In his capacity as colonial agent, Franklin earnestly strove to secure the
repeal of the British legislation, forbidding the use of paper money in the
Colonies as a legal tender, and he even enlisted for this purpose the aid
of a large body of London merchants, engaged in the American trade, but his
efforts met with slight success. Some of the members of the Board of Trade,
who had united in recommending the restraint upon colonial paper money,
were, it was said, at the time in the state of mind of Soame Jenyns, who
had laughingly declared, when he was asked as a member of the Board to
concur in some measure, "I have no kind of objection to it, provided we
have heretofore signed nothing to the contrary."[45] Worse still, Grenville
threw out the chilling suggestion in the House of Commons that Great
Britain should make the paper money for the Colonies, issue it upon loan
there, take the interest and apply it as Parliament might think
proper.[46] This suggestion, and the interest excited by it led to a letter
from Franklin to Galloway in which he said that he was not for applying
again very soon for a repeal of the restraining act. "I am afraid," he
remarked, "an ill use will be made of it. The plan of our adversaries is to
render Assemblies in America useless; and to have a revenue independent of
their grants, for all the purposes of their defence, and supporting
governments among them."

These comments were followed by the suggestion that the Pennsylvania
Assembly might be petitioned by the more prominent citizens of Pennsylvania
to authorize a moderate emission of paper money, though without the
legal-tender feature; the petition to be accompanied by a mutual engagement
upon the part of the petitioners to take the money in all business
transactions at rates fixed by law. Or, perhaps, Franklin said, a bank
might be established that would meet the currency needs of the community.
In any event, should the scarcity of money continue, they would rely more
upon their own industrial resources, to the detriment of the British
merchant, and by keeping in Pennsylvania the real cash, that came into it,
would, in time, have a quantity sufficient for all their occasions. The
same thought, tinged with a trace of resentment, emerges in one of his
letters to Lord Kames:

     As I think a scarcity of money will work with our other
     present motives for lessening our fond extravagance in
     the use of the superfluous manufactures of this
     country, which unkindly grudges us the enjoyment of
     common rights, and will tend to lead us naturally into
     industry and frugality, I am grown more indifferent
     about the repeal of the act, and, if my countrymen will
     be advised by me, we shall never ask it again.[47]

The relations sustained by Franklin to the Continental paper currency we
have already seen. There was an apparent element of inconsistency in his
suggestion that it should bear interest; for interest-bearing bills, he had
contended in his _Remarks and Facts Concerning American Paper Money_, were
objectionable as currency, because it was tedious to calculate interest on
one of them, as often as it changed hands, and also because a distinct
advantage was to be gained by hoarding them.

The Continental bills depreciated so rapidly that in 1777 the price of a
bushel of salt at Baltimore was nine pounds. Three years later, the price
of a yard of cassimere in America was $300, and of a yard of jean and habit
cloth $60. Inflated as the bills were, Franklin with his cheerful habit of
mind was not at a loss to say a good word for them. There was some
advantage to the general public, at any rate, he wrote to Stephen Sayre, in
the facility with which taxes could be paid off with the depreciated
paper. Congress, he wrote to Dr. Cooper, had blundered in not earlier
adopting his suggestion that the interest on the bills should be paid in
real money.

     The _only Remedy_ now [he said] seems to be a
     Diminution of the Quantity by a vigourous Taxation, of
     great nominal Sums, which the People are more able to
     pay, in proportion to the Quantity and diminished
     Value; and the _only Consolation_ under the Evil is,
     that the Publick Debt is proportionably diminish'd with
     the Depreciation; and this by a kind of imperceptible
     Tax, everyone having paid a Part of it in the Fall of
     Value that took place between his receiving and Paying
     such Sums as pass'd thro' his hands.

In this same letter, Franklin declared that it was a mystery to foreign
politicians how America had been able to continue a war for four years
without money, and how it could pay with paper that had no previously fixed
fund appropriated specifically to redeem it. "This Currency, as we manage
it," he said, "is a wonderful Machine. It performs its Office when we issue
it; it pays and clothes Troops, and provides Victuals and Ammunition; and
when we are obliged to issue a Quantity excessive, it pays itself off by
Depreciation." The paper he subsequently wrote to Thomas Ruston had really
operated as a tax, and was perhaps the most equal of all taxes, since it
depreciated in the hands of holders of money, and thereby taxed them in
proportion to the sums they held and the time they held them, which
generally was in proportion to men's wealth.

All this, of course, was but making the best of a _pis-aller_. Franklin in
a sense held a brief for paper money all his life, because, during almost
his whole life, his country had to put up with paper money, whether she
wanted to do so or not. When the Revolutionary War was over, he could be
less of an advocate, and more of a judge with respect to such money; and
the change is neatly illustrated in the words that he wrote from
Philadelphia to the Duc de la Rochefoucauld in 1787. "Paper money in
moderate quantities has been found beneficial; when more than the occasions
of commerce require, it depreciated and was mischievous; and the populace
are apt to demand more than is necessary."

To see at once how quickly Franklin could evade the danger, lurking in the
proposition, urged by John Adams upon Vergennes, that the subjects of King
Louis were as fairly amenable to the will of Congress, in reducing the
value of paper money in their hands to one part in forty, as the Americans
themselves, and yet how perfectly Franklin understood the workings of a
depreciated paper currency, we need but turn to a letter from him to M. Le
Veillard dated Feb. 17, 1788.

     Where there is a free government [he said in this
     letter] and the people make their own laws by their
     representatives, I see no injustice in their obliging
     one another to take their own paper money. It is no
     more so than compelling a man by law to take his own
     note. But it is unjust to pay strangers with such money
     against their will. The making of paper money with such
     a sanction is however a folly, since, although you may
     by law oblige a citizen to take it for his goods, you
     cannot fix his prices; and his liberty of rating them
     as he pleases, which is the same thing as setting what
     value he pleases on your money, defeats your sanction.

Franklin was a free-trader, but his opinions with regard to import duties
are sometimes streaked with Protectionist reasoning. All the natural
leanings of such a broad-minded man were, it almost goes without saying, in
favor of unrestricted commerce. His general attitude towards commercial
restrictions was emphatically expressed in one of his letters to Peter
Collinson from which we have already quoted.

     In time perhaps [he said] Mankind may be wise enough to
     let Trade take its own Course, find its own Channels,
     and regulate its own Proportions, etc. At present, most
     of the Edicts of Princes, Placaerts, Laws & Ordinances
     of Kingdoms & States for that purpose, prove political
     Blunders. The Advantages they produce not being
     _general_ for the Commonwealth; but _particular_, to
     private Persons or Bodies in the State who procur'd
     them, and _at the Expence of the rest of the People_.

Many years later, he wrote to Benjamin Vaughan, "The making England
entirely a free port would have been the wisest step ever taken for its
advantage." In recent years, his _Wail of a Protected Manufacturer_ has
been reprinted and widely circulated in England by the opponents of the
Fair Trade movement:

     Suppose a country, X, which has three
     industries--cloth, silk, iron--and supplies three other
     countries--A, B, and C--therewith, wishes to increase
     the sale and raise the price of cloth in favour of its

     To that end X prohibits the importation of cloth from

     In retaliation A prohibits silks coming from X.

     The workers in silk complain of the decline in their

     To satisfy them X excludes silk from B.

     B, to retaliate, shuts out iron and hardware against X.

     Then the makers of iron and hardware cry out that their
     trades are being ruined.

     So X closes its doors against iron and hardware from C.

     In return C refuses to take cloth from X.

     Who is the gainer by all these prohibitions?


     All the four countries have diminished their common
     fund of the enjoyments and conveniences of life.

The open ports of the United States, after the conclusion of the American
Revolution, were a source of keen gratification to Franklin. They had
brought in, he thought, a vast plenty of foreign goods, and occasioned a
demand for domestic produce; so that America enjoyed the double advantage
of buying what they consumed cheap, and of selling what they could spare

The following views in a letter from him to Jared Eliot, as far back as the
year 1747, sound like a recent tariff reform speech in Congress:

     First, I imagine that the Five Per Cent Duty on Goods
     imported from your Neighbouring Governments, tho' paid
     at first Hand by the Importer, will not upon the whole
     come out of his Pocket, but be paid in Fact by the
     Consumer; for the Importer will be sure to sell his
     Goods as much dearer as to reimburse himself; so that
     it is only another Mode of Taxing your own People tho'
     perhaps meant to raise Money on your Neighbours.

But then follows what a free trader, using Franklin's own coarse phrase,
might call "spitting in the soup." "Yet, if you can make some of the Goods,
heretofore imported, among yourselves, the advanc'd price of five per cent
may encourage your own Manufacture, and in time make the Importation of
such Articles unnecessary, which will be an Advantage."

In another place, he employed language in harmony with the importance that
the Protectionist assigns to his favorite system as a means of building up
local markets for the produce of the farmer.[48] It may be truly said,
however, as has already been hinted, that Franklin was never more friendly
to the principle of international free trade than in the latter years of
his life. In his letter to Le Veillard of Feb. 17, 1788, he used language
which demonstrates that he was still convinced that import duties are paid
by the consumer, and in an earlier letter to Robert R. Livingston in 1783
he said that he felt inclined to believe that a State, which left all her
ports open to all the world, upon equal terms, would, by that means, have
foreign commodities cheaper, sell its own productions dearer and be on the
whole the most prosperous.

For export duties, he had a fierce contempt. "To lay duties on a commodity
exported, which our neighbours want," he wrote to James Lovell in 1778, "is
a knavish attempt to get something for nothing. The statesman who first
invented it had the genius of a pickpocket, and would have been a
pickpocket if fortune had suitably placed him."

How thoroughly Franklin understood the principles, which regulate the ebb
and flow of population, we have had occasion to note.

With equal intelligence, he laid bare the pauperizing effect of aid
injudiciously extended to the poor in too generous a measure. Commenting in
his essay on the Laboring Poor on the liberal provision, made for indigence
in England, he said:

     I fear the giving mankind a dependance on anything for
     support, in age or sickness, besides industry and
     frugality during youth and health, tends to flatter our
     natural indolence, to encourage idleness and
     prodigality, and thereby to promote and increase
     poverty, the very evil it was intended to cure; thus
     multiplying beggars instead of diminishing them.

In his essay, Franklin makes the interesting statement that the condition
of the poor in England was by far the best in Europe; "for that," he adds,
"except in England and her American colonies, there is not in any country
of the known world, not even in Scotland or Ireland, a provision by law to
enforce a support of the poor. Everywhere else necessity reduces to
beggary." The whole essay is a highly ingenious argument to the effect that
it is a misconception to think of a rich man as the sole possessor of his
wealth, and that in one way or another the laboring poor have the usufruct
of the entire clear income of all the property owners in the community.
Nobody knew better than Poor Richard that no help is worth speaking of save
that which promotes self-help.

     The support of the poor [he wrote to Richard Jackson]
     should not be by maintaining them in idleness, but by
     employing them in some kind of labour suited to their
     abilities of body, as I am informed begins to be of
     late the practice in many parts of England, where
     workhouses are erected for that purpose. If these were
     general, I should think the poor would be more careful,
     and work voluntarily to lay up something for themselves
     against a rainy day, rather than run the risk of being
     obliged to work at the pleasure of others for a bare
     subsistence, and that too under confinement.

For Agriculture, Franklin always had an appreciative word. "Agriculture,"
he observed in a letter to Cadwallader Evans, "is truly _productive of new
wealth_; manufacturers only change forms, and, whatever value they give to
the materials they work upon, they in the meantime consume an equal value
in provisions, &c."

His other observations on Agriculture are worthy of being read for the
light that they cast on his own character, if for no other reason. It is,
he declared, in a letter to Jonathan Shipley, "the most useful, the most
independent, and therefore the noblest of Employments." Another remark of
his in his _Positions to be Examined, Concerning National Wealth_ is that
there seemed to him but three ways for a nation to acquire wealth:

     The first is by _war_, as the Romans did, in plundering
     their conquered neighbors. This is _robbery_. The
     second by _commerce_, which is _generally_ cheating.
     The third by _agriculture_, the only _honest way_,
     wherein man receives a real increase of the seed
     thrown into the ground, in a kind of continual miracle,
     wrought by the hand of God in his favour, as a reward
     for his innocent life and his virtuous industry.

The same spirit gives life to the following observations too in his essay
on "The Internal State of America": "The Agriculture and Fisheries of the
United States are the great Sources of our Encreasing Wealth. He that puts
a Seed into the Earth is recompens'd, perhaps, by receiving twenty out of
it; and he who draws a Fish out of our Waters, draws up a Piece of Silver."

In Franklin's time as now there was a feeling that the farmer did not
receive his full share of the blessings of organized society. In his _Price
of Corn, and Management of the Poor_, he makes a farmer say, "I am one of
that class of people, that feeds you all, and at present is abused by you
all. In short I am a _farmer_."

Franklin's views about punishment were also conspicuously worthy of his
kind heart and sound sense. His letter to Benjamin Vaughan on the Criminal
Laws is one of his best essays, and merited the honor conferred on it by
Samuel Romilly, when he added it in the form of an appendix to his own
observations on _Dr. Madan's Thoughts on Executive Justice_. In the course
of his feeling exposures of existing fallacies with respect to the
philosophy of punishment, Franklin, who did not scruple to say that there
would be less crime, if there were no criminal laws, asked these searching

     I see, in the last Newspaper from London, that a Woman
     is capitally convicted at the Old Bailey, for privately
     stealing out of a Shop some Gauze, value 14 Shillings
     and three pence; is there any Proportion between the
     Injury done by a Theft, value 14/3, and the Punishment
     of a human Creature, by Death, on a Gibbet? Might not
     that Woman, by her Labour, have made the Reparation
     ordain'd by God, in paying fourfold? Is not all
     Punishment inflicted beyond the Merit of the Offence,
     so much Punishment of Innocence? In this light, how
     vast is the annual Quantity of not only _injured_, but
     _suffering_ Innocence, in almost all the civilized
     States of Europe!

That Franklin was opposed to imprisonment for debt it is hardly necessary
to say. His sense of humor, if nothing else, was sufficient to point out to
him the absurdity of depriving a debtor of all means of earning money until
he earned enough to satisfy his creditors. John Baynes, in his Journal,
informs us that, in a conversation with him, Franklin expressed his
disapprobation of "this usage" in very strong terms. He said he could not
compare any sum of money with imprisonment--they were not commensurable

Both slavery and the slave trade were held by Franklin in just reprobation,
but his views on these subjects, it must be confessed, would be weightier,
if he had not trafficked at one time in slaves himself. As it is, he
occupies somewhat the same equivocal position as that which inspired Thomas
Moore to pen the blackguard lines in which he pictured the American
slaveholding patriot as dreaming of Freedom in his bondmaid's arms.[49] The
economic truth, however, of what he had to say about Slave Labor in his
essay on "The Increase of Mankind" is undeniable.

     Tis an ill-grounded Opinion [he declared] that by the
     Labour of slaves, _America_ may possibly vie in
     Cheapness of Manufactures with _Britain_. The Labour of
     Slaves here can never be so cheap here as the Labour of
     working Men is in _Britain_. Anyone may compute it.
     Interest of Money is in the Colonies from 6 to 10 per
     Cent. Slaves one with another cost 30£ Sterling per
     Head. Reckon then the Interest of the first Purchase of
     a Slave, the Insurance or Risque on his Life, his
     Cloathing and Diet, Expences in his Sickness and Loss
     of Time, Loss by his Neglect of Business (Neglect is
     natural to the Man who is not to be benefited by his
     own Care or Diligence), Expence of a Driver to keep him
     at Work, and his Pilfering from Time to Time, almost
     every Slave being _by Nature_ a Thief, and compare the
     whole Amount with the Wages of a Manufacturer of Iron
     or Wool in _England_, you will see that Labour is much
     cheaper there than it ever can be by Negroes here.

In this essay, the introduction of slaves is enumerated as one of the
causes that diminish the growth of white population.

     The Negroes brought into the _English_ Sugar _Islands_
     [he says] have greatly diminish'd the Whites there; the
     Poor are by this Means deprived of Employment, while a
     few Families acquire vast Estates; which they spend on
     Foreign Luxuries, and educating their Children in the
     Habit of those Luxuries; the same Income is needed for
     the Support of one that might have maintain'd 100. The
     Whites who have Slaves, not labouring, are enfeebled,
     and therefore not so generally prolific; the Slaves
     being work'd too hard, and ill fed, their Constitutions
     are broken, and the Deaths among them are more than the
     Births; so that a continual Supply is needed from
     _Africa_. The Northern Colonies, having few Slaves,
     increase in Whites. Slaves also pejorate the Families
     that use them; the white Children become proud,
     disgusted with Labour, and being educated in Idleness,
     are rendered unfit to get a Living by Industry.[50]


[10] There is no evidence that, while he was a member of the Pennsylvania
Assembly, Franklin ever had occasion, as every member of an American State
legislature is likely to have, to deal with a bill for the extermination of
hawks and owls; but a skeleton sketch by his hand of his services as an
assemblyman shows that he shared the fate of the ordinary member of an
American State legislature in having a bill relating to dogs referred to a
Committee of which he was a member.

[11] Franklin, though in no sense a time server, rarely got out of touch
with the majority simply because he always saw things as the best
collective intelligence of the community is likely to see them--only a
little sooner and more clearly. "Friend Joseph," one Quaker is said to have
asked of an acquaintance, "didst thee ever know Dr. Franklin to be in a

[12] "I believe it will in time be clearly seen by all thinking People that
the Government and Property of a Province should not be in the same family.
Tis too much weight in one scale." Letter from Franklin to Israel
Pemberton, Mar. 19, 1759.

[13] In 1768, the revenues of the Proprietaries from their Pennsylvania
estates were estimated by Joseph Galloway to be not much short of one
hundred thousand pounds.

[14] "The shocking news of the strange, unprecedented and ignominious
defeat of General Braddock," William Franklin said, "had no more effect
upon Governor Morris than the miracles of Moses had on the heart of

[15] Franklin's first impressions of Lord Loudon were very different from
his later ones. In a letter to Strahan from New York, dated July 27, 1756,
he said: "I have had the honour of several conferences with him on our
American affairs, and am extremely pleased with him. I think there can not
be a fitter person for the service he is engaged in."

[16] In connection with this feature of the proposed Plan of Union,
Franklin gives us some interesting facts in regard to the distances that
could be made in a day's journey in America in 1754. Philadelphia, he said,
was named as the place for the first meeting of the Grand Council because
it was central, and accessible by high roads, which were for the most part
so good that forty or fifty miles a day might very well be, and frequently
were, travelled over them. It could also be reached under very favorable
conditions by water. In summer the passage from Charleston to Philadelphia
often did not consume more than a week. Two or three days were required for
the passage from Rhode Island to New York, through the Sound, and the
distance between New York and Philadelphia could be covered in two days by
stage-boats and wheel-carriages that set out every other day. The transit
from Charleston to Philadelphia could be facilitated by the use of the
Chesapeake Bay. But, if all the members of the Grand Council were to set
out for Philadelphia on horseback, the most distant ones, those from New
Hampshire and South Carolina, could probably arrive at their destination in
fifteen or twenty days.

[17] Another good Indian story is told by Franklin in his _Remarks
Concerning the Savages of North America_: "A Swedish Minister, having
assembled the chiefs of the Susquehanah Indians, made a Sermon to them,
acquainting them with the principal historical Facts on which our Religion
is founded; such as the Fall of our First Parents by eating an Apple, the
coming of Christ to repair the Mischief, his Miracles and Suffering, &c.
When he had finished, an Indian Orator stood up to thank him. 'What you
have told us,' says he, 'is all very good. It is indeed bad to eat Apples.
It is better to make them all into Cyder. We are much oblig'd by your
kindness in coming so far, to tell us these Things which you have heard
from your Mothers. In return, I will tell you some of those we have heard
from ours. In the Beginning, our Fathers had only the Flesh of Animals, to
subsist on; and if their Hunting was unsuccessful, they were starving. Two
of our young Hunters, having kill'd a Deer, made a Fire in the Woods to
broil some Part of it. When they were about to satisfy their Hunger, they
beheld a beautiful young Woman descend from the Clouds, and seat herself on
that Hill, which you see yonder among the blue Mountains. They said to each
other, it is a Spirit that has smelt our broiling Venison, and wishes to
eat of it; let us offer some to her. They presented her with the Tongue;
she was pleas'd with the Taste of it, and said, "Your kindness shall be
rewarded; come to this Place after thirteen Moons, and you shall find
something that will be of great Benefit in nourishing you and your children
to the latest Generations." They did so, and, to their surprise, found
Plants they had never seen before; but which, from that ancient time, have
been constantly cultivated among us, to our great Advantage. Where her
right Hand had touched the Ground, they found Maize; where her left hand
had touch'd it, they found Kidney-Beans, and where her Back side had sat on
it they found Tobacco.' The good Missionary, disgusted with this idle Tale,
said: 'What I delivered to you were sacred Truths; but what you tell me is
mere Fable, Fiction, and Falsehood.' The Indian, offended, reply'd, 'My
brother, it seems your Friends have not done you Justice in your Education;
they have not well instructed you in the Rules of common Civility. You saw
that we, who understand and practise those Rules, believ'd all your
stories; why do you refuse to believe ours?'"

[18] When asked in the course of his examination before the House of
Commons what the temper of America towards Great Britain was before the
year 1763, Franklin made this reply: "The best in the world. They submitted
willingly to the government of the Crown, and paid, in all their courts,
obedience to acts of parliament. Numerous as the people are in the several
provinces, they cost you nothing in forts, citadels, garrisons, or armies,
to keep them in subjection. They were governed by this country at the
expence only of a little pen, ink and paper. They were led by a thread.
They had not only a respect, but an affection for Great-Britain; for its
laws, its customs and manners, and even a fondness for its fashions, that
greatly increased the commerce. Natives of Britain were always treated with
particular regard; to be an Old England man was, of itself, a character of
some respect, and gave a kind of rank among us."

How little colored by the exigencies of the moment these words were is made
apparent in a letter from Franklin to Francis Maseres after the
independence of the Colonies had been acknowledged by England. "The true
_loyalists_ were the people of America, against whom they (the Tories)
acted. No people were ever known more truly loyal, and universally so, to
their sovereigns. The Protestant succession in the House of Hanover was
their idol. Not a Jacobite was to be found from one end of the Colonies to
the other. They were affectionate to the people of England, zealous and
forward to assist in her wars, by voluntary contributions of men and money,
even beyond their proportion. The King and Parliament had frequently
acknowledged this by public messages, resolutions, and reimbursements. But
they were equally fond of what they esteemed their rights; and, if they
resisted when those were attacked, it was a resistance in favour of a
British constitution, which every Englishman might share in enjoying, who
should come to live among them; it was resisting arbitrary impositions,
that were contrary to common right and to their fundamental constitutions,
and to constant ancient usage. It was indeed a resistance in favour of the
liberties of England, which might have been endangered by success in the
attempt against ours; and therefore a great man in your Parliament did not
scruple to declare, he _rejoiced that America had resisted_. I, for the
same reason, may add this very resistance to the other instances of their

[19] The view that Franklin took of the constitutional tie between Great
Britain and America was expressed in many different forms. One of the
concisest is to be found in a letter to his grandnephew Jonathan Williams,
dated Feb. 12, 1786, and, therefore, written after the tie, whatever its
exact nature was, had become a subject for the historian rather than the
politician. Speaking of a controversy in which Williams had been involved,
he says: "It seems to me that instead of discussing _When_ we ceas'd to be
British Subjects you should have deny'd our _ever having been such_. We
were Subjects to the King of G. Britain, as were also the Irish, the Jersey
and Guernsey People and the Hanoverians, but we were American Subjects as
they were Irish, Jersey and Hanoverian Subjects. None are British Subjects
but those under the Parliament of Britain."

[20] "Your medallion is in good company; it is placed with those of Lord
Chatham, Lord Camden, Marquis of Rockingham, Sir George Saville, and some
others, who honoured me with a show of friendly regard, when in England."

(Letter from Franklin to Geo. Whatley, May 18, 1787.)

[21] This idea is advanced also in _The Mother Country_, _A Song_, which
Jared Sparks thought was probably written by Franklin about the time of the
Stamp Act or a little later:

    "We have an old mother that peevish is grown;
    She snubs us like children that scarce walk alone;
    She forgets we're grown up and have sense of our own;
                        Which nobody can deny, deny,
                        Which nobody can deny.

    If we don't obey orders, whatever the case,
    She frowns, and she chides and she loses all pati-
    Ence, and sometimes she hits us a slap in the face,
                        Which nobody can deny, etc.

    Her orders so odd are, we often suspect
    That age has impaired her sound intellect.
    But still an old mother should have due respect,
                        Which nobody can deny, etc.

    Let's bear with her humors as well as we can;
    But why should we bear the abuse of her man?
    When servants make mischief, they earn the rattan,
                        Which nobody should deny, etc.

    Know too, ye bad neighbours, who aim to divide
    The sons from the mother, that still she's our pride;
    And if ye attack her we're all of her side,
                        Which nobody can deny, etc.

    We'll join in her lawsuits, to baffle all those,
    Who, to get what she has, will be often her foes;
    For we know it must all be our own, when she goes,
                        Which nobody can deny, deny,
                        Which nobody can deny."

[22] "But there can hardly be a doubt, as between the America and the
England of the future, that the daughter, at some no very distant time,
will, whether fairer or less fair, be unquestionably yet stronger than the

    "'O matre forti filia fortior.'"

    _Kin Beyond Sea_, by William E. Gladstone.

[23] Jared Sparks hardly overstates the case when he asserts that the
policy and acts of Lord Hillsborough contributed more, perhaps, than those
of any other man towards increasing the discontents which led to the
separation of the Colonies from Great Britain.

[24] On Jan. 28, 1820, John Adams stated in a letter to Dr. Hosack, of New
York, that Temple had told him in Holland that he had communicated the
Hutchinson letters to Dr. Franklin, though "I swear to you," he said to
Adams, "that I did not procure them in the manner represented."

[25] Worldly success has rarely been less effective in gilding an unworthy
character than it was in the case of Wedderburn. American indignation over
his tirade against Franklin, indecent as it was under the circumstances,
would seem to be somewhat overdone, when we remember the professional
license allowed from time immemorial to the pleas of lawyers. It is enough
to say that we can safely leave his English contemporaries to take care of
his forbidding reputation. The searing irons of two of the most ferocious
satirists of literary history have left ineffaceable scars upon his
forehead. In the _Rosciad_ Churchill lifted the veil from the future in
these terms:

    "To mischief train'd, e'en from his mother's womb,
    Grown old in fraud, tho. yet in manhood's bloom,
    Adopting arts, by which gay villains rise,
    And reach the heights, which honest men despise."

"In vain," Junius wrote to the Duke of Grafton, some ten years later,
"would our gracious sovereign have looked round him for another character
as consummate as yours. Lord Mansfield shrinks from his principles; Charles
Fox is yet in blossom; and as for Mr. Wedderburn, there is something about
him which even treachery can not trust." But the "gracious sovereign," to
whom Wedderburn, afterwards Lord Rosslyn, sold his Whig principles, when
they had reached just the right stage of merchantable maturity, was equally
hard upon him. "When he died," Lord Brougham tells us, "after a few hours'
illness, the intelligence was brought to the King, who, with a
circumspection abundantly characteristic, asked the bearer of it if he was
quite _sure_ of the fact, as Lord Rosslyn had not been ailing before; and,
upon being assured that a sudden attack of gout in the stomach had really
ended the days of his late servant and once assiduous courtier, his majesty
was graciously pleased to exclaim: 'Then he has not left a worse man behind

[26] It is hard to think of a man, whose life was so essentially urban as
that of Franklin, becoming a backwoodsman, but such he was ready to become,
if necessary. In his _Hints for a Reply to the Protests of Certain Members
of the House of Lords against the Repeal of the Stamp Act_, he uses this
resolute language: "I can only Judge of others by myself. 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 can not defend that right, I can retire cheerfully with my
little 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."

[27] In 1780, Franklin wrote from Passy to Georgiana Shipley: "I am
unhappily an Enemy, yet I think there has been enough of Blood spilt, and I
wish what is left in the Veins of that once lov'd People, may be spared by
a Peace solid and everlasting."

[28] Franklin's three political hobbies were gratuitous public service, a
plural executive and a single legislature. Through his influence, the
second and third of these two ideas were engrafted upon the Revolutionary
Constitution of the State of Pennsylvania, and were later ably defended by
him, when assailed. The manner in which he illustrated his opposition to a
bi-cameral legislature is well-known. "Has not," he said, "the famous
political Fable of the Snake, with two Heads and one Body, some useful
Instruction contained in it? She was going to a Brook to drink, and in her
Way was to pass thro' a Hedge, a Twig of which opposed her direct course;
one Head chose to go on the right side of the Twig, the other on the left;
so that time was spent in the Contest, and, before the Decision was
completed, the poor Snake died with thirst." As far as carrying the idea of
gratuitous public service into execution was concerned, Franklin, of
course, might as well have attempted to grow pineapples in the squares of

[29] In his Diary John Adams states shortly after his arrival in France
that it was said among other things that Arthur Lee had given offence by an
unhappy disposition, and by indiscreet speeches before servants and others
concerning the French nation and government--despising and cursing them.

[30] Deprived of its epigrammatic form, this estimate does not differ so
very greatly from that of Jefferson a few years later: "He is vain,
irritable and a bad calculator of the force and probable effects of the
motives which govern men. This is all the ill which can possibly be said of
him. He is as disinterested as the being who made him; he is profound in
his views and accurate in his judgment, except when a knowledge of the
world is necessary to form a judgment. He is so amiable, that I pronounce
you will love him if ever you become acquainted with him. He would be, as
he was, a great man in Congress."

[31] On Oct. 29, 1778, Vergennes finally wrote to Gérard, the French
Minister at Philadelphia, that his fear of Lee and of _ses entours_ made
the communication of state secrets to him impossible, and he instructed
Gérard to inform Congress that Lee's conduct had "created the highest
disgust" in the courts of France and Spain. It is doubtful whether any man
of the same degree of parts, courage and patriotic constancy as Arthur Lee
was ever more irredeemably condemned by the general verdict of his
contemporaries or posterity. It would be a profitless task to bring
together the most notable of these judgments. Jefferson summed up most of
them in a few words: "Dr. Lee," he said, "was his (Franklin's) 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." Silas Deane, the most efficient envoy
except Franklin sent abroad by Congress during the Revolution, derived a
degree of unaffected pleasure from the respect felt for Franklin in France
that contrasts most favorably with the base jealousy of Arthur Lee and the
ignoble jealousy of John Adams. After telling how the French populace on a
certain occasion showed Franklin a measure of deference seldom paid to
their first princes of the blood, he says: "When he attended the operas and
plays, similar honors were paid him, and I confess I felt a joy and pride
which was pure and honest, though not disinterested, for I considered it an
honor to be known to be an American and his acquaintance."

[32] John Adams admits in his Diary that Deane was "active, diligent,
subtle and successful, having accomplished the great purpose of his mission
to advantage." After the recall of Deane from France, Franklin wrote of him
to Henry Laurens: "Having lived intimately with him now fifteen months, the
greatest part of the time in the same House, and been a constant witness of
his public Conduct, I can not omit giving this Testimony, tho. unasked, in
his Behalf, that I esteem him a faithful, active, and able Minister, who,
to my Knowledge, has done in various ways great and important Service to
his Country, whose Interests I wish may always, by every one in her employ,
be as much and as effectually promoted." On other occasions, Franklin spoke
in equally laudatory terms of the abilities and services of Deane. But when
Deane, soured by the persistent malevolence of Arthur Lee and the injustice
of Congress, was weak enough to fall away from "the glorious cause,"
Franklin gave him up. "I see no place for him but England," he wrote to
Robert Morris. "He continues, however, to sit croaking at Ghent chagrined,
discontented, and dispirited." Franklin, however, was too nice a judge of
conduct, and of the balanced considerations, which have to be taken into
account in passing upon it, not to refer later to Deane as "poor, unhappy
Deane,"--language such as he would have been the last man in the world to
use with regard to a perfidious scoundrel like Benedict Arnold.

[33] The Diary of John Adams shows that shortly after he arrived in France
Franklin took pains to lay before him the lamentable situation created by
the impracticable tempers of the Lees and Izard. It would have been well
for the reputation of Adams if this conversation had resulted in a thorough
understanding between Franklin and himself, but the bias that he brought to
France as a member of the Adams-Lee faction in Congress and the inability
of his egotistical, jealous, suspicious and bustling, though honorable and
fearless, nature, to reconcile itself to the overshadowing fame and
influence of Franklin at the French Court drew him into working relations
with Lee and Izard, which abundantly verified all that Franklin had said to
him about them. "There are two men in the world," he declares in his Diary,
"who are men of honor and integrity, I believe, but whose prejudices and
violent tempers would raise quarrels in the Elysian fields, if not in
Heaven." At times the vanity of Adams--easily mortified, easily elated as
all vanity is--was humbled by some fresh proof of the dwarfing prominence
of Franklin. "Neither Lee nor myself is looked upon of much consequence,"
he observes in his Diary. On another occasion, when Arthur Lee suggested
that the papers of the mission should be kept in a room in his own house,
Adams objected for the reason, among others, that nine tenths of the public
letters would ever be carried where Dr. Franklin was. These were but
temporary reactions. When down, the vanity of Adams was soon on its legs
again. The reminder given by Vergennes to the officious, tactless
reasonings and strictures, to which he was subjected by Adams, that
Franklin was the sole American plenipotentiary in France, and the steps
that the latter was compelled to take, both by the request of Vergennes and
his own sense of the peril, that such injudicious conduct on the part of
Adams signified to the American cause, to smooth over the rupture, sent
Adams off to Holland in a resentful but subdued state of mind. But his
success in negotiating a loan in Holland and the prospect of engaging in a
matter of such supreme importance as the final negotiations for peace
lifted him up to giddy heights of intoxicated self-importance again.
Referring to the loan in his Diary, he says: "The compliment of _Monsieur_,
_Vous êtes le Washington de la négociation_ (Sir, you are the Washington of
the negotiation) was repeated to me by more than one person.... A few of
these compliments would kill Franklin if they should come to his ears." His
observations in his Diary on Jay and Franklin, when he came over to France
to participate with them in the final negotiations for peace, are equally
characteristic. "Between two as subtle spirits as any in this world, the
one malicious, the other, I think honest, I shall have a delicate, a nice,
a critical part to act. Franklin's cunning will be to divide us; to this
end he will provoke, he will insinuate, he will intrigue, he will
manoeuvre. My curiosity will at least be employed in observing his
invention and his artifice."

[34] "I think," said Franklin in a letter to Charles W. F. Dumas, in 1778,
"that a young State like a young Virgin, should modestly stay at home, &
wait the Application of Suitors for an Alliance with her; and not run about
offering her Amity to all the World; and hazarding their Refusal." "Our
Virgin," he added a line or so later, "is a jolly one; and tho. at present
not very rich, Will in time be a great Fortune."

[35] Franklin was entirely cognizant of the motive by which Lee was
influenced. Referring in a letter to Thomas Cushing, dated July 7, 1773, to
censure with which he had been visited for supposed neglect in not sending
earlier intelligence to Massachusetts of certain English measures affecting
her welfare, he said, "This Censure, tho. grievous, does not so much
surprize me, as I apprehended from the Beginning, that between the Friends
of an old Agent, my Predecessor, who thought himself hardly us'd in his
Dismission, and those of a young one impatient for the Succession, my
situation was not likely to be a very comfortable one, as my Faults could
scarce pass unobserved."

[36] On one occasion this expression gave rise to an incident that is worth
recalling. We tell it as it is told by Parton. A large cake was sent to the
apartment in which the envoys were assembled, bearing this inscription: _Le
digne Franklin_--the worthy Franklin. Upon reading the inscription, Mr.
Deane said: "As usual, Doctor, we have to thank you for our accommodation,
and to appropriate your present to our joint use." "Not at all," said
Franklin, "this must be intended for all the Commissioners; only these
French people can not write English. They mean no doubt, Lee, Deane,
Franklin." "That might answer," remarked the magnanimous Lee, "but we know
that whenever they remember us at all they always put you first."

[37] "It must," Adams says in his letter to the Boston _Patriot_ of Aug.
21, 1811, with the whiff of bombast that is wafted to us from so many of
his vigorous and vivid utterances, "suffice to say that Mr. Izard, with a
fund of honor, integrity, candor and benevolence in his character, which
must render him eternally estimable in the sight of all moral and social
beings, was, nevertheless, the most passionate, and in his passions the
most violent and unbridled in his expressions, of any man I ever knew."

[38] In the latter part of his life, it must have severely taxed the memory
of Franklin to recollect all the honors paid to him by educational
institutions and learned societies of one kind or another. The honorary
degree of Master of Arts was conferred on him in July, 1753, by Harvard
College, and in September of the same year by Yale College. In April, 1756,
the degree of Master of Arts was bestowed on him by William and Mary
College. In 1759, he received the degree of Doctor in Laws from the
University of St. Andrews, and in 1762, he was made a Doctor of Civil Laws
by the University of Oxford. At various times in his life, he was elected
an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, an Honorary Fellow of
the Philosophical Society of Edinburgh, a member of the Royal Society of
London, one of the eight foreign associates of the Royal Academy of
Sciences at Paris, an honorary member of the Medical Society of London, the
first foreign associate of the Royal Society of Medicine at Paris, and a
member of other learned societies or academies at Padua, Turin, Orleans,
Madrid, Rotterdam, Göttingen and elsewhere.

[39] "It would be difficult," says Count Ségur, "to describe the eagerness
and delight with which the American envoys, the agents of a people in a
state of insurrection against their monarch, were received in France, in
the bosom of an ancient monarchy. Nothing could be more striking than the
contrast between the luxury of our capital, the elegance of our fashions,
the magnificence of Versailles, the still brilliant remains of the
monarchical pride of Louis XIV., and the polished and superb dignity of our
nobility on the one hand, and, on the other hand, the almost rustic
apparel, the plain but firm demeanor, the free and direct language of the
envoys, whose antique simplicity of dress and appearance seemed to have
introduced within our walls, in the midst of the effeminate and servile
refinement of the eighteenth century, some sages contemporary with Plato,
or republicans of the age of Cato and of Fabius. This unexpected apparition
produced upon us a greater effect in consequence of its novelty, and of its
occurring precisely at the period when literature and philosophy had
circulated amongst us an unusual desire for reforms, a disposition to
encourage innovations, and the seeds of an ardent attachment to liberty."

[40] Compassion, it must be confessed, was not the only motive that made
Franklin so eager to secure the freedom of his imprisoned countrymen. "If
we once had our Prisoners from England," he wrote to M. de Sartine on Feb.
13, 1780, "several other privateers would immediately be manned with them."

[41] A Commissioner, Thomas Barclay, was appointed by Congress to audit the
accounts of all the servants of the United States who had been entrusted
with the expenditure of money in Europe during the Revolutionary War. "I
rendered to him," said Franklin in a letter to Cyrus Griffin, the President
of Congress, dated Nov. 29, 1788, "all my accounts, which he examined, and
stated methodically. By this statement he found a balance due me on the 4th
of May, 1785, of 7,533 livres, 19 sols, 3 den., which I accordingly
received of the Congress banker; the difference between my statement and
his being only seven sols, which by mistake I had overcharged;--about three
pence half penny sterling."

[42] The dogged steadfastness with which Vergennes pursued his task of
humbling the pride and power of England through her rebellious colonies was
in keeping with the main point of what Choiseul had said about him as the
French Ambassador at Constantinople: "The Count de Vergennes has something
to say against whatever is proposed to him, but he never finds any
difficulty in carrying out his instructions. Were we to order him to send
us the Vizier's head, he would write that it was dangerous, but the head
would come." The levity of Maurepas, as President of the Council of State,
and the grave diligence of Vergennes, as Minister for Foreign Affairs, led
D'Aranda to say of them, "I chat with M. de Maurepas, I negotiate with M.
de Vergennes."

[43] In a letter to William Carmichael in 1788, after saying that he
presumed that there would not be a vote against the election of Washington
to the Presidency, Jefferson added: "It is more doubtful who will be
Vice-President. The age of Dr. Franklin, and the doubt whether he would
accept it, are the only circumstances that admit a question, but that he
would be the man." Some twenty-two years afterwards, he wrote to Col.
William Duane that he believed that a greater or better character than
Franklin had rarely existed.

[44] Optimist and thorough-going democrat as Franklin was, Shays' Rebellion
and the heated conflict of opposing principles, concomitant with the
adoption of the Federal Constitution, set up a slight current of reaction
in his sanguine nature. On May 25, 1789, he wrote to Charles Carroll of
Carrollton: "We have been guarding against an evil that old States are most
liable to, _excess of power_, in the rulers; but our present danger seems
to be _defect of obedience_ in the subjects." Some six months later, in his
_Queries and Remarks respecting Alterations in the Constitution of
Pennsylvania_, he quoted the advice of the prophet, "Stand in the old ways,
view the ancient Paths, consider them well, and be not among those that are
given to Change." But in this instance Franklin was really invoking the
spirit of conservatism in aid of liberalism; for the occasion for the
Biblical reference was the suggestion that the Pennsylvania Assembly should
no longer consist of a single chamber but of an Upper House based on
property and a Lower House based on population.

[45] This remark brings up in a timely way another member of the Board of
Trade, Lord Clare, whose habits were such as to aid us in understanding why
the Board did not always retain a clear recollection of its past
transactions. Speaking of an interview with him, Franklin wrote to his son:
"He gave me a great deal of flummery; saying, that though at my Examination
(before the House of Commons) I answered some of his questions a little
pertly, yet he liked me, from that day, for the spirit I showed in defence
of my country; and at parting, after we had drank a bottle and a half of
claret each, he hugged and kissed me, protesting he never in his life met
with a man he was so much in love with."

[46] The story told by Franklin of a running colloquy between George
Grenville, who had on one occasion, as usual, been denouncing the Americans
as rebels and Colonel Onslow, a warm friend of America, is good enough to
be related. After recalling the Roman practice of sending a commission to a
disaffected province for the purpose of investigating the causes of its
discontent, Onslow declared his willingness, if the House of Commons should
think fit to appoint them, to go over to America _with that honorable
gentleman_. "Upon this there was a great laugh, which continued some time,
and was rather increased by Mr. Grenville's asking, 'Will the gentleman
engage, that I shall be safe there? Can I be assured that I shall be
allowed to come back again to make the report?' As soon as the laugh was so
far subsided, as that Mr. Onslow could be heard again, he added: 'I can not
absolutely engage for the honorable gentleman's safe return, but if he goes
thither upon this service, I am strongly of opinion the _event_ will
contribute greatly to the future quiet of both countries.' On which the
laugh was renewed and redoubled."

[47] The principal features of a plan for the issuance of a stable colonial
currency proposed by Franklin and Governor Pownall to the British Ministry,
in 1764, 1765 and 1766 were these: bills of credit to a certain amount were
to be printed in England for the use of the Colonies; and a loan office was
to be established in each colony, empowered to issue the bills, take
security for their payment and receive payment of them. They were to be
paid in full in ten years, and were to bear interest at the rate of five
per centum per annum; and one tenth of the principal was to be paid each
year with the proper proportion of interest. They were to be a legal

[48] "Here in England," Franklin wrote to Humphrey Marshall on Apr. 22,
1771, "it is well known and understood, that whenever a Manufacture is
established which employs a Number of Hands, it raises the Value of Lands
in the neighbouring Country all around it; partly by the greater Demand
near at hand for the produce of the Land; and partly from the Plenty of
Money drawn by the Manufacturers to that part of the Country. It seems
therefore the Interest of all our Farmers and Owners of Lands, to encourage
our Young Manufactures in preference to foreign ones imported among us from
distant Countries."


    The patriot, fresh from Freedom's Councils come,
    Now pleas'd retires to lash his slaves at home;
    Or woo, perhaps, some black Aspasia's charms,
    And dream of freedom in his bondsmaid's arms.

                   To Thomas Hume, Esq., M.D.
                   From the City of Washington.

[50] By his will Franklin released his son-in-law from the payment of a
bond for £2172, 5s, with the request that he would immediately after the
death of the testator set free "his negro man Bob."


Franklin as a Man of Science

Franklin, as we have said, was primarily a man of action. If we do not
always think of him as deeply involved in what Goethe calls "being's ocean,
action's storm," it is only because he moved from appointed task to
appointed task with such frictionless self-command and ease. But,
throughout his life, his mind was quick to make excursions into the domain
of philosophical speculation and experiment, whenever business cares or
political responsibilities allowed it to do so. Poor Richard would seem to
have little in common with Prometheus, but Prometheus, if Condorcet is to
be believed, as well as Poor Richard, Franklin was; to say nothing of other
transmigrations. That his interest in natural phenomena began at a very
early age, is disclosed by his _Journal of a Voyage from London to
Philadelphia_ in 1726, when he was in his twenty-first year. Throughout the
course of this voyage, his faculties were intently concentrated upon all
the marvels of the sea and its setting. With sedulous minuteness, he
registers the state of the winds each day, and records the impression made
on him by every object with a secret at its heart, to be plucked out by an
inquisitive mind. A lunar rainbow, an eclipse of the sun, which darkened
ten twelfths of his disk, an eclipse of the moon, which spread over six
digits of her surface, dolphins in their bright mail of mixed green, silver
and gold, a shark moving around the ship in a slow, majestic manner, and
attended by an obsequious retinue of pilot fish, schools of harried flying
fish, groups of young crabs, clinging to seaweeds, with indented leaves
about three quarters of an inch long, and small yellow berries filled with
nothing but wind, a white, tropical bird, said never to be seen further
north than latitude 40, and marked by short wings and a single tail
feather, other birds, too near the western continent not to be Americans,
are among the things that the open-eyed and thoughtful youth jotted down in
his Journal in terms that plainly enough indicated not only the eager
curiosity but the exactitude of a future man of science. As almost always,
the child was but the father of the man. Upon each of his subsequent six
voyages across the Atlantic, Franklin exhibited the same, though severer,
and more practised, vigilance in observing everything that the ocean,
including the instruments of commerce afloat on it, have for a penetrating
and suggestive intelligence. How essentially he was a man of science, is
demonstrated by the fact that, whenever he was on the element, where alone
he could hope for exemption from the political demands of his countrymen,
his intellect turned at once with ardor to the study of Nature. Old and
feeble as he was, he wrote no less than three valuable dissertations on his
last voyage across the Atlantic, one on the causes and cure of smoky
chimneys, one on his smoke-consuming stove, and a third, distinguished by
an extraordinary wealth of knowledge and observation, on the construction,
equipment and provisioning of ships, and the winds, currents and
temperature of the sea; which was accompanied by valuable thermometric
tables, based upon observations made by him during three of his
transatlantic voyages. The maritime essay was written with the closest
regard to detail, and contains such a mass of information and luminous
comment as has rarely been condensed into the same space. It makes up some
thirty-four quarto pages of Smyth's edition of Franklin's works, exclusive
of the thermometric notes. The other two essays occupy some forty-nine
pages more. All three are elucidated by numerous explanatory charts and
illustrations, and are marked by the mastery of scientific principles,
which no mere artificer or artisan could have displayed in discussing such
topics; but, at the same time, they could not have been more intensely
practical, as respects minutiæ of construction, if Franklin had been a
professional sailor, mason or stove-maker. The maritime observations range
from the Chinese method of dividing the hulls of vessels into separate
compartments, which is now regarded as one of the most efficient devices
for securing the safety of ocean greyhounds, to an inquiry into the reason
why fowls served up at sea are usually too tough to be readily masticated
and the best means of dishing soup on a rolling and pitching vessel.

After his return in his youth from London to Philadelphia, Franklin was for
a long time too much immersed in business and civic projects to give much
attention to natural phenomena. "Why does the flame of a candle tend upward
in a spire?", "whence comes the dew, that stands on the outside of a
tankard that has cold water in it in the summer time?", are among the few
questions of a scientific nature that he appears to have framed for the
discussions of the Junto; and they are elementary enough. But with the
coming of pecuniary ease, the natural bent of his mind soon asserted
itself. While in Boston in 1746, he happened to see some electrical
experiments performed by a Dr. Spence, who had recently arrived from
Scotland. They were clumsily conducted, but crude as they were, they filled
his mind with mixed sensations of surprise and delight; so much so that,
when, shortly after his return to Philadelphia from Boston, the Library
Company found itself the owner of a glass tube, for the production of
electricity by friction, given to it by Peter Collinson, then a Fellow of
the Royal Society of London, with instructions for its use, he eagerly
availed himself of Collinson's generosity to repeat the experiments that he
had witnessed at Boston, and, by continuous practice, became very expert in
making them as well as others. Indeed, his house was soon overrun to such
an extent with eager visitors that he was compelled in self-defence to
relieve it of its congestion by supplying some of his friends with similar
tubes blown at the Philadelphia glass-house. One of these friends was his
ingenious neighbor, Kinnersley, who chanced at the time to be out of
business. Franklin advised him to exhibit the experiments for profit, and
followed up the advice by preparing two lectures for him, in which the
details of the experiments were clearly set forth. Kinnersley himself
employed skilled workmen to make the necessary electrical apparatus for
him, modelled upon the rough agencies designed by Franklin for himself, and
used in his own exhibitions. The lectures, when delivered by him in
Philadelphia, were so well attended that he made a tour of all the chief
towns of the Colonies with a considerable degree of pecuniary success. Some
years later, similar instructions given by Franklin to Domien, a Greek
priest, proved so useful to him on a long tramp that he wrote to his
benefactor that he had lived eight hundred miles upon electricity, and that
it had been meat, drink and clothing to him. When Franklin last heard from
him, he was contemplating a journey from Havana to Vera Cruz, thence
through Mexico to Acapulco, on its western coast, and from Acapulco to
Manila, and from Manila through China, India, Persia and Turkey to his home
in Transylvania; all with electricity as his main _viaticum_.

Franklin's own experiments fortunately ended in something better than
vagabondage, however respectable or profitable. Grateful to Collinson for
his timely gifts, he wrote to him several letters, laying before him the
results of the Philadelphia experiments. Collinson procured for these
letters the privilege of being read before the Royal Society, where they
did not excite enough notice to be printed among its Transactions. Another
letter, one to Kinnersley, in which Franklin propounded the identity of
lightning and electricity, he sent to Dr. Mitchell, an acquaintance of his,
and also a member of the Royal Society, who replied by telling him that it
had been read before the Society, but had been laughed at by the
connoisseurs. Then it was that the happy obstetric suggestion of Dr.
Fothergill that the letters were of too much value to be stifled led
Collinson to gather them together for publication by Cave in the
_Gentleman's Magazine_. They were not published in this magazine, but Cave
did bring them out in pamphlet form with a preface by Dr. Fothergill. The
event showed that he and the general public had more acumen than the sages
of the Royal Society, for the letters, when subsequently published in a
quarto volume, with additions by Franklin, ran through five editions,
without the cost of a penny to Cave for copyright. It was from France,
however, that they first received the full meed of prompt approbation that
they deserved. A copy of them happened to fall into the hands of Buffon,
who prevailed upon D'Alibard to translate them into French. Their
publication in that language provoked an attack upon them by the Abbé
Nollet, Preceptor in Natural Philosophy to the Royal Family, and the author
of a popular theory of Electricity. At first, the Abbé could not believe
that America was capable of producing such letters, and insisted that they
must have been fabricated at Paris for the purpose of discrediting his
system. In fact, he even doubted whether there was such a person as
Franklin, but, afterwards, being convinced upon that point, he published a
volume of letters, mainly addressed to Franklin, in which he defended his
own theory, and denied the accuracy of Franklin's experiments and
conclusions. Le Roy, of the Royal Academy of Sciences, rejoined on behalf
of Franklin, who had decided to let the truth be its own champion, and
easily refuted the Abbé. The papers could not have asked for a better
advertisement than this controversy. They were further translated into the
Italian, German and Latin languages, and Franklin's theory of electricity
was so generally adopted by the learned men of Europe, in preference to
that of the Abbé, that the latter lived, Franklin tells us, to see himself
the last of his sect, except Monsieur B. of Paris, his _élève_ and
immediate disciple. It is surprising that even the solitary _élève_ should
have been left clinging to his master; for, in the meantime, the most
momentous experiment, suggested by Franklin in his letters, had been
performed, substantially in the manner outlined by him, with brilliant
success, by D'Alibard, on a hill at Marly-la-Ville, where a pointed rod of
iron, forty feet high, and planted on an electric stand, had been erected
for the purpose of carrying it into execution. When a thundercloud passed
over the rod on May 10, 1752, between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the
persons, set by D'Alibard to watch it, had drawn near "and attracted from
it sparks of fire, perceiving the same kind of commotions as in the common
electrical experiments." A week later, the fire and crackling sound,
elicited by M. de Lor from a rod, erected at his house in Paris on a cake
of resin, and electrified by a cloud between 4 and 5 o'clock in the
afternoon, told the same story. He had previously performed what he called
the "Philadelphia experiments" in the presence of Louis XV., who seems to
have been as much delighted with them as if they had been a new mistress.
In a short time, they became so popular that we are told by Franklin that
"all the curious of Paris flocked to see them." One of the results of the
fame acquired by him in France was a letter written by Dr. Wright, an
English physician, then in Paris, to a member of the Royal Society,
apprising the latter of the excitement that the experiments had created in
France, and expressing his astonishment that Franklin's papers had been so
little noticed in England. Quickened by Dr. Wright's words, the Society
reconsidered the letters which had been read before them, and caused an
abstract of them and the other letters on electricity, sent to England by
Franklin, to be printed among its Transactions. Afterwards, when several
members of the Society had themselves drawn down lightning from the clouds,
it elected Franklin a member, and, in view of the fact that the honor had
not been sought by him, voted that he "was not to pay anything"; which
meant that he was to be liable for neither admission fee nor annual dues,
and was even to receive his copy of the Transactions of the Society free of
charge. Nor did it stop here. It also awarded to Franklin, for the year
1753, the Copley gold medal, accompanied by an address, in which Lord
Macclesfield, its President, endeavored to make full amends to him for its
belated recognition of the value of his discoveries.

The suggestion by Franklin, which led to the experiments of D'Alibard and
De Lor, is as matter-of-fact as a cooking recipe.

     To determine the question [he said in a letter to Peter
     Collinson] whether the clouds that contain lightning
     are electrified or not, I would propose an experiment
     to be try'd where it may be done conveniently. On the
     top of some high tower or steeple, place a kind of
     centry box,... big enough to contain a man and an
     electrical stand. From the middle of the stand let an
     iron rod rise and pass bending out of the door, and
     then upright 20 or 30 feet, pointed very sharp at the
     end. If the electrical stand be kept clean and dry, a
     man standing on it when such clouds are passing low,
     might be electrified and afford sparks, the rod drawing
     fire to him from a cloud. If any danger to the man
     should be apprehended (though I think there would be
     none), let him stand on the floor of his box, and now
     and then bring near to the rod the loop of a wire that
     has one end fastened to the leads, he holding it by a
     wax handle; so the sparks, if the rod is electrified,
     will strike from the rod to the wire, and not affect

Before the news of the success achieved by D'Alibard and De Lor reached
Franklin, he himself had conducted a similar experiment "though made in a
different and more easy manner." This experiment has become one of the
veriest commonplaces of physical science. It was performed, when a thunder
gust was coming on, in a field near Philadelphia, with such simple
materials as a silk kite, topped off with a foot or more of sharp pointed
wire, and controlled by a twine string, equipped with a key for casting off
the electric sparks, and ending in a silk ribbon to secure the safety of
the hand that held it. The whole construction is set out in a letter
written to Collinson by Franklin shortly after the incident, in which, with
his usual modesty, the latter describes the kite as if he had had nothing
to do with it. Something like the feelings of Sir Isaac Newton, when the
falling apple brought to his ear the real music of the spheres, must have
been those of Franklin, when the loose filaments of twine bristled up
stiffly, as if stirred by some violated instinct of wild freedom, and the
stream of sparks from the key told him that he was right in supposing that
the mysterious and appalling agency, which had for centuries been
associated in the human mind with the resistless wrath of Omnipotence, was
but the same subtle fluid that had so often lit up his electrical apparatus
with its playful corruscations.

The letters to Collinson contained another suggestion almost equally
pregnant. Speaking of the power of pointed conductors to draw off
electricity noiselessly and harmlessly, Franklin asked,

     May not the knowledge of this power of points be of use
     to mankind, in preserving houses, churches, ships, &c.
     from the stroke of lightning, by directing us to fix on
     the highest parts of those edifices, upright rods of
     iron made sharp as a needle, and gilt to prevent
     rusting, and from the foot of those rods a wire down
     the outside of the building into the ground, or down
     round one of the shrouds of a ship, and down her side
     till it reaches the water? Would not these pointed rods
     probably draw the electrical fire silently out of a
     cloud before it came nigh enough to strike, and thereby
     secure us from that most sudden and terrible mischief?

The suggestion was but slowly adopted, not in Europe, indeed, at all, until
the efficacy of the lightning rod in protecting buildings had been
generally recognized in America. In time, however, the device came into use
both in Great Britain and on the Continent; Voltaire being one of the first
persons in Geneva to erect one, and, wherever it was erected, it helped to
confirm the fame of Franklin by its silent effect upon the human
imagination. In recent years, the lightning rod, once in almost universal
use in America, has fallen into neglect, but the explanation of this fact
is to be found not in any just doubts about its utility, when properly
constructed, affixed and grounded, but in the growth of fire insurance, and
the inutility, or danger, of such rods, if carelessly set in place.[51]

The domestication of lightning and the invention of the lightning rod were
the two things to which Franklin was principally indebted for his brilliant
reputation as a philosopher. At this day, the application of electricity to
common uses is so familiar to us that it is hard, without a little
reflection, to realize how well calculated his electrical achievements
were to send a thrill of astonishment and awe through the human mind. Of
all the manifestations of the physical world, lightning with its
inscrutable, swift, and all but irresistible, stroke, followed by the
sublime detonations of thunder, is the one most suggestive of supernatural
influence exerted by an all-powerful deity. The mythological dreams of the
Greeks, the visions of the Old Testament, the simple emotions of the savage
had all paid their homage of dread to the fearful force--like a madman
pitilessly destructive, and yet like a madman diverted from its rage by the
barest trifle--which had clothed Jove with the greater part of his
grandeur, licked up even the water that was in the trench about the altar,
built by Elijah in the name of the Lord, and filled the breast of the
Indian with superstitious terror. Discovery, that laid bare the real nature
and destructive limits of this force, could not fail to excite an
extraordinary degree of attention everywhere. It was the singular fortune
of Franklin, though a practical, sober-minded denizen of the earth, if ever
man was, to have enjoyed in his day a reputation not unlike that of a
divinity of the upper ether.[52] It so happens that the atmosphere was, in
one way or another, the home of all the scientific problems which engaged
his interest most deeply. His philosophical Pegasus, so little akin to the
humble brute bestrid by Poor Richard, was "a beast for Perseus--pure air
and fire"; and especially, it is needless to say, was this true of his
relations to the lightning. When the fact became known throughout the
civilized world that human ingenuity had succeeded in even snaring it,
Franklin was exalted for a time to a seat on Olympus. All the literature
of the period, as well as that of a much later period, bears out the
statement that rarely has any single, peaceful incident ever so fired the
human imagination.[53] For many years, the natural background for a
portrait of Franklin might have been a bank of cloud lit up by the
incessant play of summer lightning. _Eripuit coelo fulmen sceptrumque
tyrannis_, was but the mightiest of the electrical discharges that flattery
poured upon him. Turn where we may to the poetry of the latter half of the
eighteenth century, and of the earlier part of the nineteenth, whether
epigram or otherwise, we are likely to come upon some imprint left upon the
thought of those periods by the subjugation of lightning.

The interest of Franklin in electrical science was but another sequel of
the world-wide avidity with which learned men had recently turned to the
study of that subject. One of them, Grey, had pursued a series of
experiments for the purpose of determining the relative conductivity of
various substances, another, Du Fay, had erroneously classified electricity
as resinous and vitreous, and the perfected Leyden Jar particularly had
given a new momentum to the progress of electrical investigation. Into this
movement, after witnessing Dr. Spence's awkward experiments at Boston,
Franklin threw himself with the utmost enthusiasm, and his discovery of
the identity of lightning and electricity and his lightning-rod conception
were but the chief fruits of this enthusiasm. Between the _Autobiography_
and his letters, we are at no loss to follow closely the steps by which he
reached all the results which have given him such a high position as an
electrical investigator. "I purchased all Dr. Spence's apparatus ..." he
tells us in the _Autobiography_, "and I proceeded in my electrical
experiments with great alacrity." How keen this alacrity became, after he
had been rubbing for a time the glass tube, sent over to Philadelphia by
Collinson, may be seen in what he wrote to Collinson himself on March 28,

     For my own part, I never was before engaged in any
     study that so totally engrossed my attention and my
     time as this has lately done; for what with making
     experiments when I can be alone, and repeating them to
     my Friends and Acquaintance, who, from the novelty of
     the thing, come continually in crouds to see them, I
     have, during some months past, had little leisure for
     anything else.

The result of this experimentation was the various letters to Collinson and
others that constitute Franklin's highest claim to distinction as a man of
science. By following them in their chronological order, the reader can
trace with little difficulty the genesis of each of his more valuable
conclusions touching electricity. They are distinguished by remarkable
simplicity and force of reasoning and by a clearness of statement as
transparent as crystal. Moreover, they are even enlivened at times by
gleams of fancy or humor. In a word they indisputably merit the judgment
that Sir Humphry Davy, no mean judge of style as well as scientific truth,
passes upon them:

     The style and manner of his publication on electricity
     are almost as worthy of admiration as the doctrine it
     contains. He has endeavoured to remove all mystery and
     obscurity from the subject. He has written equally for
     the uninitiated and the philosopher; and he has
     rendered his details amusing as well as perspicuous,
     elegant as well as simple. Science appears in his
     language in a dress wonderfully decorous, the best
     adapted to display her native loveliness. He has in no
     instance exhibited that false dignity, by which
     philosophy is kept aloof from common applications; and
     he has sought rather to make her a useful inmate and
     servant in the common habitations of man, than to
     preserve her merely as an object of admiration in
     temples and palaces.

While recalling these words, it is not amiss to recall, too, what Lord
Brougham had to say about the agencies with which Franklin conducted his

     He could make an experiment [said Brougham] with less
     apparatus and conduct his experimental inquiry to a
     discovery with more ordinary materials than any other
     philosopher we ever saw. With an old key, a silk
     thread, some sealing wax and a sheet of paper he
     discovered the identity of lightning and electricity.

The truth of these observations is strikingly instanced in a story told of
Franklin in Pettigrew's _Life of Lettsom_. When Henry Smeathman was
insisting that the flight of birds is on inclined planes, and that they
could not fly at all, but would simply float with the wind, if they were
not heavier than the air, Franklin launched half a sheet of paper obliquely
into the air, observing, as he watched its course, that that was an evident
proof of the propriety of Smeathman's doctrines.

In a letter to Collinson, dated July 11, 1747, Franklin communicated to him
the earliest results of his experimental use of the glass tube that
Collinson had sent over to Philadelphia. The first phenomenon, which fixed
his attention, was the wonderful effect of pointed bodies in drawing off
the electrical fire. This was the lightning rod in its protoplasmal stage.
The manner in which he described the experiment, by which this particular
truth was demonstrated, is a good specimen of his remarkable faculty for
simple and clear statement:

     Place an iron shot of three or four inches diameter on
     the mouth of a clean dry glass bottle. By a fine silken
     thread from the ceiling, right over the mouth of the
     bottle, suspend a small cork ball, about the bigness of
     a marble; the thread of such a length, as that the cork
     ball may rest against the side of the shot. Electrify
     the shot, and the ball will be repelled to the distance
     of four or five inches, more or less, according to the
     quantity of Electricity. When in this state, if you
     present to the shot the point of a long slender sharp
     bodkin, at six or eight inches distance, the repellency
     is instantly destroy'd, and the cork flies to the shot.
     A blunt body must be brought within an inch, and draw a
     spark, to produce the same effect. To prove that the
     electrical fire is _drawn off_ by the point, if you
     take the blade of the bodkin out of the wooden handle,
     and fix it in a stick of sealing wax, and then present
     it at the distance aforesaid, or if you bring it very
     near, no such effect follows; but sliding one finger
     along the wax till you touch the blade, and the ball
     flies to the shot immediately. If you present the point
     in the dark, you will see, sometimes at a foot
     distance, and more, a light gather upon it, like that
     of a firefly, or glowworm; the less sharp the point,
     the nearer you must bring it to observe the light; and,
     at whatever distance you see the light, you may draw
     off the electrical fire, and destroy the repellency. If
     a cork ball so suspended be repelled by the tube, and a
     point be presented quick to it, tho' at a considerable
     distance, 'tis surprizing to see how suddenly it flies
     back to the tube. Points of wood will do near as well
     as those of iron, provided the wood is not dry; but
     perfectly dry wood will no more conduct electricity
     than sealing-wax.

The repellency between the ball and the shot was likewise destroyed,
Franklin stated, 1, by sifting fine sand on it; this did it gradually, 2,
by breathing on it, 3, by making a smoke about it from burning wood, and 4,
by candlelight, even though the candle was at a foot distance; these did
it suddenly.

       *       *       *       *       *

The same result was also produced, he found, by the light of a bright coal
from a wood fire, or the light of red-hot iron; but not at so great a
distance. Such was not the effect, however, he said, of smoke from dry
resin dropped on hot iron. It was merely attracted by both shot and cork
ball, forming proportionable atmospheres round them, making them look
beautifully, somewhat like some of the figures in Burnet's or Whiston's
_Theory of the Earth_.

Franklin also noted the fact that, unlike fire-light, sunlight, when thrown
on both cork and shot, did not impair the repellency between them in the

In the same letter, guided by the belief that he had formed that
electricity is not created by friction but, except when accumulated or
depleted by special causes, is equally diffused through material substances
generally, he also reached the conclusion that electrical discharges are
due to circuits set up by substances that offer little resistance to the
transit of the electrical current between bodies charged with more than the
ordinary quantity of electrical energy and bodies not in that condition. In
other words, electricity is always alert to restore its equilibrium when
lost, and, if accumulated beyond its normal measure in one body, seeks with
violent eagerness, as soon as a favorable medium of transmission is
presented to it, to pass on its surplus of electrical energy to another
body less amply supplied.

These conceptions, too, which lie at the very foundations of modern
electrical science, are illustrated by Franklin with extraordinary
simplicity and clearness as follows:

     1. A person standing on wax, and rubbing the tube, and
     another person on wax drawing the fire, they will both
     of them, (provided they do not stand so as to touch one
     another) appear to be electrised, to a person standing
     on the floor; that is, he will perceive a spark on
     approaching each of them with his knuckle.

     2. But, if the persons on wax touch one another during
     the exciting of the tube, neither of them will appear
     to be electrised.

     3. If they touch one another after exciting the tube,
     and drawing the fire as aforesaid, there will be a
     stronger spark between them, than was between either of
     them and the person on the floor.

     4. After such strong spark, neither of them discover
     any electricity.

     These appearances we attempt to account for thus: We
     suppose, as aforesaid, that electrical fire is a common
     element, of which every one of the three persons above
     mentioned has his equal share, before any operation is
     begun with the tube. A, who stands on wax and rubs the
     tube, collects the electrical fire from himself into
     the glass; and his communication with the common stock
     being cut off by the wax, his body is not again
     immediately supply'd. B, (who stands on wax likewise)
     passing his knuckle along near the tube, receives the
     fire which was collected by the glass from A; and his
     communication with the common stock being likewise cut
     off, he retains the additional quantity received. To C,
     standing on the floor, both appear to be electrised:
     for he having only the middle quantity of electrical
     fire, receives a spark upon approaching B, who has an
     over quantity; but gives one to A, who has an under
     quantity. If A and B approach to touch each other, the
     spark is stronger, because the difference between them
     is greater: After such touch there is no spark between
     either of them and C, because the electrical fire in
     all is reduced to the original equality. If they touch
     while electrising, the equality is never destroy'd, the
     fire only circulating. Hence have arisen some new terms
     among us: We say, B, (and bodies like circumstanced) is
     electrised _positively_; A, _negatively_. Or rather, B
     is electrised _plus_; A, _minus_. And we daily in our
     experiments electrise bodies _plus_ or _minus_, as we
     think proper. To electrise _plus_ or _minus_, no more
     needs to be known than this, that the parts of the tube
     or sphere that are rubbed, do, in the instant of the
     friction, attract the electrical fire, and therefore
     take it from the thing rubbing: The same parts
     immediately, as the friction upon them ceases, are
     disposed to give the fire they have received, to
     anybody that has less. Thus you may circulate it, as
     Mr. _Watson_ has shown; you may also accumulate or
     subtract it upon, or from anybody, as you connect that
     body with the rubber or with the receiver, the
     communication with the common stock being cut off.

The same letter recounts some of the tricks that Franklin and his
fellow-experimenters were in the habit of making their new plaything
perform. They fired spirits, lit candles just blown out, mimicked
lightning, produced sparks with the touch of the finger, on the human hand
or face, and gave electrical kisses. Other feats consisted in animating an
artificial spider in such a way as to keep him oscillating in a very
lifelike and entertaining manner between two wires, and lighting up the
gilding on the covers of a book with a brilliant flash. This letter also
shows that the provincial philosophers had already made improvements in the
usual electrical methods. They had found that it was better to fill the
phial with granulated lead than with water because of the superior facility
with which the former could be warmed, and kept warm and dry in a damp
place. They rubbed their tubes with buckskin, and, by observing certain
precautions, such as never sullying the tubes by handling them, and keeping
them in tight, close-fitting cases of pasteboard, lined with flannel,
increased their efficiency. Their spheres for charging phials with
electricity were mounted on iron axes with a small handle on one end, with
which they could be set revolving like a common grindstone. It was in this
same letter that Franklin with his usual generosity was careful to state
that the power of pointed bodies to throw off as well as draw off the
electrical fire was a discovery of his friend Hopkinson, and that the
revolving sphere used by them was the invention of his friend Syng. About a
month later, Franklin wrote to Collinson that, in the course of further
experiments, he had observed several phenomena which made him distrust some
of his former conclusions. "If there is no other use discover'd of
Electricity," he said, "this however is something considerable, that it may
_help to make a vain man humble_."

Another letter from Franklin to Collinson, written about two weeks later,
communicated to him some valuable observations upon "M. Muschenbroeck's
wonderful bottle"--the Leyden Jar. This bottle was a mere ordinary bottle,
with a common cork in its neck, into which a common wire had been inserted.
He wrote that, at the same time that the wire and the top of the bottle
were electrised positively or plus, the bottom of the bottle was electrised
negatively or minus, in exact proportion; the consequence was that,
whatever quantity of electrical fire was thrown in at the top, an equal
quantity went out at the bottom until, if the process was kept up long
enough, the point was reached in the operation, when no more could be
thrown into the upper part of the bottle, because no more could be drawn
out of the lower part. If the attempt was made to throw more in, the fire
was spewed back through the wire, or flew out in loud cracks through the
sides of the bottle.

He also noted that an equilibrium could not be restored in the bottle by
inward communication or contact of the parts, but only by a communication,
formed without the bottle between its top and bottom.

He also noted that no electrical fire could be thrown into the top of the
bottle, when none could get out at its bottom, either because the bottom
was too thick, or because it stood on some non-conducting material, and
likewise that, when the bottle was electrified, but little of the
electrical fire could be drawn from the top by touching the wire, unless
an equal quantity could at the same time get in at the bottom.

     So wonderfully [he adds] are these two states of
     electricity, the _plus_ and _minus_, combined and
     balanced in this miraculous bottle! situated and
     related to each in a manner that I can by no means
     comprehend! If it were possible that a bottle should in
     one part contain a quantity of air strongly comprest,
     and in another part a perfect vacuum, we know the
     equilibrium would be instantly restored _within_. But
     here we have a bottle containing at the same time a
     _plenum_ of electrical fire, and a _vacuum_ of the same
     fire; and yet the equilibrium cannot be restored
     between them but by a communication without! though the
     _plenum_ presses violently to expand, and the hungry
     vacuum seems to attract as violently in order to be

The letter concludes with an elaborate statement of the experiments by
which the correctness of its conclusions could be established.

Franklin's next discovery communicated to Collinson in a letter dated the
succeeding year was that, when the bottle was electrified, the electric
fluid resided in the glass itself of the bottle. The manner in which he
proved this fact is a good example of his inductive thoroughness.

     Purposing [he said] to analyze the electrified bottle,
     in order to find wherein its strength lay, we placed it
     on glass, and drew out the cork and wire, which for
     that purpose had been loosely put in. Then taking the
     bottle in one hand, and bringing a finger of the other
     near its mouth, a strong spark came from the water, and
     the shock was as violent as if the wire had remained in
     it, which shewed that the force did not lie in the
     wire. Then, to find if it resided in the water, being
     crouded into and condensed in it, as confin'd by the
     glass, which had been our former opinion, we
     electrified the bottle again, and, placing it on glass,
     drew out the wire and cork as before; then, taking up
     the bottle, we decanted all its water into an empty
     bottle, which likewise stood on glass; and taking up
     that other bottle, we expected, if the force resided in
     the water, to find a shock from it; but there was
     none. We judged then, that it must either be lost in
     decanting, or remain in the first bottle. The latter we
     found to be true; for that bottle on trial gave the
     shock, though filled up as it stood with fresh
     unelectrified water from a teapot.

By a similar course of experimentation with sash glass and lead plates, he
also demonstrated that the form of the glass in the bottle was immaterial,
that the power resided in the glass as glass, and that the non-electrics in
contact served only like the armature of a loadstone to unite the force of
the several parts, and to bring them at once to any point desired; it being
the property of a non-electric that the whole body instantly receives or
gives what electric fire is given to, or taken from, anyone of its parts.
These experiments suggested the idea of intensifying the application of
electrical forces by grouping numerous electrical centres.

     We made [he said] what we called an _electrical
     battery_, consisting of eleven panes of large
     sash-glass, arm'd with thin leaden plates, pasted on
     each side, placed vertically, and supported at two
     inches distance on silk cords, with thick hooks of
     leaden wire, one from each side, standing upright,
     distant from each other, and convenient communications
     of wire and chain, from the giving side of one pane, to
     the receiving side of the other; that so the whole
     might be charged together, and with the same labour as
     one single pane; and another contrivance to bring the
     giving sides, after charging, in contact with one long
     wire, and the receivers with another, which two long
     wires would give the force of all the plates of glass
     at once through the body of any animal forming the
     circle with them. The plates may also be discharged
     separately, or any number together that is required.

When the idea of the electrical battery was formed by him, Franklin was not
aware that Smeaton and Bains had previously assembled panes of glass for
the purpose of giving an electrical shock.

At the time that this letter was written, Franklin had added to his
electrical exploits that of electrifying a mezzotint of the King in such a
manner that, if anyone attempted to take the crown off his head, he would
receive a "terrible blow."

     If the picture were highly charged [he said], the
     consequence might perhaps be as fatal as that of high

     The operator [he continues], who holds the picture by
     the upper end, where the inside of the frame is not
     gilt, to prevent its falling, feels nothing of the
     shock, and may touch the face of the picture without
     danger, which he pretends is a test of his loyalty. If
     a ring of persons take the shock among them, the
     experiment is called _The Conspirators_.

Another far more significant exploit was the application of electrical
energy in such a way as to set an electrical Jack revolving with such force
and swiftness as to carry a spitted fowl around before a fire with a motion
fit for roasting.

This wheel was driven by an electrical battery, but Franklin also devised
what he called a self-moving wheel that was, by a different electrical
method, revolved with so much force and rapidity that he thought that it
might be used for the ringing of chimes and the movement of light-made
orreries. And after observing that a thin glass bubble, about an inch in
diameter, weighing only six grains, being half filled with water, partly
gilt on the outside, and furnished with a wire hook, gave, when
electrified, as great a shock as a man can well bear, Franklin exclaims,
"How great must be the quantity (of electrical fire) in this small portion
of glass! It seems as if it were of its very substance and essence. Perhaps
if that due quantity of electrical fire so obstinately retained by glass,
could be separated from it, it would no longer be glass; it might lose its
transparency, or its brittleness, or its elasticity."

This letter also reaches the conclusion that bodies, having less than the
common quantity of electricity, repel each other, as well as those that
have none.

It concludes with a lively paragraph:

     Chagrined a little that we have been hitherto able to
     produce nothing in this way of use to mankind; and the
     hot weather coming on, when electrical experiments are
     not so agreeable, it is proposed to put an end to them
     for this season, somewhat humorously, in a party of
     pleasure on the banks of _Skuylkil_. Spirits, at the
     same time, are to be fired by a spark sent from side to
     side through the river, without any other conductor
     than the water; an experiment which we some time since
     performed, to the amazement of many. A turkey is to be
     killed for our dinner by the _electrical shock_, and
     roasted by the _electrical jack_, before a fire kindled
     by the _electrified bottle_; when the healths of all
     the famous electricians in _England_, _Holland_,
     _France_ and _Germany_ are to be drank in _electrified
     bumpers_, under the discharge of guns from the
     _electrical_ battery.

An electrified bumper, a note to the letter explained, was a small thin
glass tumbler, nearly filled with wine, and charged, which, when brought to
the lips of a person, gave him a shock, if he was close-shaved, and did not
breathe on the liquor. Another note states that the biggest animal that the
experimenters had yet killed was a hen.

A later letter to Collinson on the phenomena of thunder-gusts takes
Franklin away from the Leyden Jar of the laboratory to the stupendous
batteries of the outer universe--from the point of a bodkin to the lofty
natural or artificial objects, upon which lightning descends from the
illimitable sky. "As electrified clouds pass over a country," he remarks,
"high hills and high trees, lofty towers, spires, masts of ships, chimneys,
&c., as so many prominencies and points, draw the electrical fire, and the
whole cloud discharges there." From this observation to the lightning rod
was but a short step.

Another letter to Collinson in the succeeding year brings us to the
lightning rod in principle if not in name. Speaking of what a sea captain
had said of luminous objects, which had settled on the spintles at the
topmast heads of his ship before an electrical shock, and burned like very
large torches, he says:

     According to my opinion, the electrical fire was then
     drawing off, as by points, from the cloud; the
     largeness of the flame betokening the great quantity of
     electricity in the cloud: and had there been a good
     wire communication from the spintle heads to the sea,
     that could have conducted more freely than tarred
     ropes, or masts of turpentine wood, I imagine there
     would either have been no stroke; or, if a stroke, the
     wire would have conducted it all into the sea without
     damage to the ship.

In the same letter, there is an adumbration of his grandest experiment,
when he speaks of the flash from two of his jars as "our mimic lightning."

This letter also shows that with electricity Franklin had frequently
imparted polarity to needles and reversed it at pleasure. Wilson, at
London, he said, had failed to produce these results because he had tried
it on too large masses and with too small force. The letter also evidences
the fact that he had employed the electric spark for the practical purpose
of firing gunpowder.

Another letter to Collinson dated July 29, 1750, is accompanied by an
additional paper on the properties and effects of the Electrical Matter. It
acknowledges the debt that Franklin owed to Collinson for the glass tube
and the instructions which attended it, and to the Proprietary for the
generous present of a complete electrical apparatus which "that bountiful
benefactor to our library," as he calls him, had made to it. The telegraph,
the Marconi tower, the telephone, the electric bulb, the electric
automobile and the trolley car rise up before us when we read this
observation in the paper that accompanied the letter: "The beneficial uses
of this electric fluid in the creation, we are not yet well acquainted
with, though doubtless such there are, and those very considerable." The
paper is the most important that Franklin ever wrote on electricity;
containing as it does the two suggestions which, when carried into
execution, made his name famous throughout the world, that is to say, his
suggestion, already quoted by us at length, that houses, churches and ships
might be protected by upright rods of iron, and his suggestion, already
quoted by us, too, as to how the identity of lightning and electricity
could be established. The point of the bodkin and the electrified shot and
ball, and the mimic brightness, agility and fury of the lurking fire in the
wonderful bottle had led, step by step, to two of the most splendid
conceptions in the early history of electrical science.[54]

With the discovery that electricity and lightning were the same thing, the
real achievements of Franklin in the province of electricity came to an
end. But he still continued his electrical experiments with undiminished
ardor. We find him on one occasion prostrating with a single shock six
persons who were so obliging as to lend themselves to the pursuit of
scientific truth. Twice he was the victim of his own inadvertence. Speaking
of one of these occasions, in a letter to a friend in Boston, he said:

     The flash was very great, and the crack as loud as a
     pistol; yet, my senses being instantly gone, I neither
     saw the one nor heard the other; nor did I feel the
     stroke on my hand, though I afterwards found it raised
     a round swelling where the fire entered, as big as half
     a pistol-bullet; by which you may judge of the
     quickness of the electrical fire, which by this
     instance seems to be greater than that of sound, light,
     or animal sensation.... I then felt what I know not how
     well to describe; a universal blow throughout my whole
     body from head to foot, which seemed within as well as
     without; after which the first thing I took notice of
     was a violent quick shaking of my body, which gradually
     remitting, my sense as gradually returned, and then I
     thought the bottles must be discharged, but could not
     conceive how, till at last I perceived the chain in my
     hand, and recollected what I had been about to do. That
     part of my hand and fingers, which held the chain, was
     left white, as though the blood had been driven out,
     and remained so eight or ten minutes after, feeling
     like dead flesh; and I had a numbness in my arms and
     the back of my neck, which continued till the next
     morning, but wore off. Nothing remains now of this
     shock, but a soreness in my breast-bone, which feels as
     if it had been bruised. I did not fall, but suppose I
     should have been knocked down, if I had received the
     stroke in my head. The whole was over in less than a

On the second occasion, while making ready to give a healing shock to a
paralytic, he received a charge through his own head. He did not see the
flash, hear the report or feel the stroke.

     When my Senses returned [he told Jan Ingenhousz], I
     found myself on the Floor. I got up, not knowing how
     that had happened. I then again attempted to discharge
     the Jars; but one of the Company told me they were
     already discharg'd, which I could not at first
     believe, but on Trial found it true. They told me they
     had not felt it, but they saw I was knock'd down by it,
     which had greatly surprised them. On recollecting
     myself, and examining my Situation, I found the Case
     clear. A small swelling rose on the Top of my Head,
     which continued sore for some Days; but I do not
     remember any other Effect good or bad.

One of Franklin's contemporaries, Professor Richmann, of St. Petersburg,
did not fare so well; for a stroke of the lightning that he had allured
from the clouds brought his life to an end. Priestley, however, seems to
have regarded such a death as a form of euthanasia. At any rate, in
speaking of this martyr of science in his _History of Electricity_ he terms
him "the justly envied Richmann."

After Franklin learned how to impound lightning, his intercourse with
electricity was more familiar than ever.

     In September, 1752 [he wrote to Collinson], I erected
     an iron rod to draw the lightning down into my house,
     in order to make some experiments on it, with two bells
     to give notice when the rod should be electrify'd: a
     contrivance obvious to every electrician.

     I found the bells rang sometimes when there was no
     lightning or thunder, but only a dark cloud over the
     rod; that sometimes, after a flash of lightning, they
     would suddenly stop; and, at other times, when they had
     not rang before, they would, after a flash, suddenly
     begin to ring; that the electricity was sometimes very
     faint, so that, when a small spark was obtain'd,
     another could not be got for some time after; at other
     times the sparks would follow extremely quick, and once
     I had a continual stream from bell to bell, the size of
     a crow quill: Even during the same gust there were
     considerable variations.

     In the winter following I conceived an experiment, to
     try whether the clouds were electrify'd _positively_ or

The result of these experiments, conducted with Franklin's usual
painstaking completeness, was the conclusion on his part that
thunder-clouds are, as a rule, in a negatively electrical state, and that,
therefore, generally speaking, they do not discharge electricity upon the
earth, but receive it from the earth. For the most part, he said, "_tis the
earth that strikes into the clouds, and not the clouds that strike into the

The thoroughness with which he addressed himself to the study of
electricity was very marked. His investigation was as searching and minute
as that of an anatomist engaged in the dissection of nervous tissue. Under
his hands, the bare Leyden Jar became a teeming storehouse of instruction
and amusement. He collected electricity from common objects by friction, he
brought it down from the sky, he sought its properties in amber, in the
tourmaline stone, in the body of the torpedo; he thought that he discerned
it in the radiance of the Aurora Borealis. He put it through all its
vagaries, juggled with it, teased it, cowed it until it confessed its
kinship with the tempestuous heavens. He tested its destructive effects
upon hens and turkeys, its therapeutic value to paralytic patients, its
efficacy as a corrective of tough meat. He even, it is said, charged the
railing under his windows with it to repel loafers standing about his front
door. And, in his relations to electricity, as to everything else, his
purposes were always those of practical utility. In one of his papers, he
admits that he cannot tell why points possess the power of drawing off the
electrical fire;

     nor is it of much importance to us [he adds] to know
     the manner in which nature executes her laws. 'Tis
     enough if we know the laws themselves. 'Tis of real use
     to know that china left in the air unsupported will
     fall and break; but _how_ it comes to fall, and _why_
     it breaks, are matters of speculation. 'Tis a pleasure
     indeed to know them, but we can preserve our china
     without it.

He anticipated, or, in some instances, all but anticipated, several of the
more important discoveries of modern electrical science. He knew that,
when a number of Leyden jars are connected up under certain conditions, the
extent, to which each jar can be charged from a given source, varies
inversely as the number of jars. For a time, he was puzzled by the fact
that the light of a candle, or of a fire-coal, or of red-hot iron, would
destroy the repellency between his electrified ball and shot, but that the
light of the sun would not. But it was not long before he hit upon this
ingenious explanation:

     This different Effect probably did not arise from any
     difference in the light, but rather from the particles
     separated from the candle, being first attracted and
     then repelled, carrying off the electric matter with
     them; and from the rarefying the air, between the
     glowing coal or red-hot iron, and the electrised shot,
     through which rarefied air the electric fluid could
     more readily pass.

Referring to what Franklin had to say about the action of sunlight in this
connection, Arthur Schuster, in his _Some Remarkable Passages in the
Writings of Benjamin Franklin_, observes: "Had Franklin used a clean piece
of zinc instead of iron shot he might have anticipated Hertz's discovery of
the action of strong light on the discharge of gases."

In the course of one of his experiments with an electrified can, Franklin
reached the conclusion that a cork, which he had lowered into the can, was
not attracted to its internal surface, as it would have been to its
external, because the mutual repulsion of the two inner opposite sides of
the can might prevent the accumulation of an electrical atmosphere upon
them. From the same experiment, the genius of Henry Cavendish deduced his
law that electrical repulsion varies inversely as the square of the
distance between the charges.

Instead of declining, it can truly be said that the reputation of Franklin
as an electrical investigator and writer has increased with the progress
of electrical science. "We shall, I am sure," remarks Professor J. J.
Thomson in his _Electricity and Matter_, "be struck by the similarity
between some of the views which we are led to take by the results of the
most recent researches, with those enunciated by Franklin in the very
infancy of the subject." Nor should we omit a tribute of Dr. William
Garnett, in his _Heroes of Science_, in regard to the statements in
Franklin's first letters to Collinson. "They are," he says, "perfectly
consistent with the views held by Cavendish and by Clerk Maxwell, and,
though the phraseology is not that of modern text-books, the statements
themselves can hardly be improved upon to-day."

If Franklin achieved a higher degree of success in the electrical than in
any other scientific field, it was partly, at any rate, because he never
again had the opportunity to give such continuous attention to scientific
pursuits. To him this was at times a source of very great disappointment.
In one of his letters to Beccaria, dated Sept. 21, 1768, he tells the
latter that, preoccupied as he was, he had constantly cherished the hope of
returning home, where he could find leisure to resume the philosophical
studies that he had shamefully put off from time to time. In a letter, some
eleven years later, from Paris, to the same correspondent, he said that he
was then prevented by similar distractions from pursuing those studies in
which he always found the highest satisfaction, and that he was grown so
old as hardly to hope for a return of the leisure and tranquillity, so
necessary for philosophical disquisitions. To Sir Joseph Banks he was
inspired some years later, by recent astronomical discoveries, made under
the patronage of the Royal Society, to write: "I begin to be almost sorry I
was born so soon, since I cannot have the happiness of knowing what will be
known 100 years hence," Indeed, to him, leisure, whether only the seclusion
of a thirty-day voyage across the Atlantic, or the final cessation of
public life, was but another term for recurrence to his scientific
predilections. When he received his leave from Congress to return home from
Paris, he wrote joyously to Ingenhousz: "I shall now be free of Politicks
for the Rest of my Life. Welcome again my dear Philosophical Amusements."
There was, to use his own expression, still too much flesh on his bones for
his countrymen to allow him any time except for political experiments; but,
for proof of the eager interest that he felt in science, and of the
prominent position, that he occupied in the scientific world of America,
until the last, we need go no further than the fact that, when he died, the
meetings of the American Philosophical Society had, for some time, been
held at his home in Philadelphia.

How far Franklin might have added to his reputation as a man of science, if
he had not become engrossed by political duties and cares, is mere matter
of surmise. But there can be no doubt that he was eminently fitted in many
respects for scientific inquiry. The scientific temperament he possessed in
the very highest degree. He loved the truth too much to allow the workings
of human weakness in himself or others to deface its fair features. In
reporting to Collinson the electrical achievements, which crowned him with
such just renown, he almost invariably spoke of them as if they were the
joint achievements of a group of collaborators, of whom he was but one. The
generous alacrity, with which he credits to his friends Hopkinson,
Kinnersley, or Syng exclusively special discoveries or inventions, made by
them, shows conclusively enough how little this was true. There is no
reason to believe that his letters to Collinson on electricity would ever
have been published but for the unsolicited initiative of Dr. Fothergill
and Collinson; or that they would ever have been translated into French but
for the spontaneous persuasion that Buffon brought to bear upon D'Alibard.
In a letter to Collinson, after expressing distrust of an hypothesis,
advanced by him in former letters to the same correspondent, he declares
that he is ashamed to have expressed himself in so positive a manner.
Indeed, he said, he must request Collinson not to expose those letters, or,
if he communicated them to any of his friends, at least to conceal the name
of the author. His attitude towards his scientific triumphs was, when not
that of entire self-effacement, always that of unaffected humility.

     I am indebted for your preceding letter [he wrote in
     his forty-seventh year to John Perkins] but business
     sometimes obliges one to postpone philosophical
     amusements. Whatever I have wrote of that kind, are
     really, as they are entitled, but _Conjectures_ and
     _Suppositions_; which ought always to give place, when
     careful observation militates against them. I own I
     have too strong a penchant to the building of
     hypotheses; they indulge my natural indolence: I wish I
     had more of your patience and accuracy in making
     observations, on which, alone, true philosophy can be

Equally candid and noble are other observations in a subsequent letter to
the same correspondent. Referring to certain objections, made by Perkins to
his theory of water spouts, he observed:

     Nothing certainly can be more improving to a Searcher
     into Nature, than Objections judiciously made to his
     Opinions, taken up perhaps too hastily: For such
     Objections oblige him to re-study the Point, consider
     every Circumstance carefully, compare Facts, make
     Experiments, weigh Arguments, and be slow in drawing
     Conclusions. And hence a sure Advantage results; for he
     either confirms a Truth, before too lightly supported;
     or discovers an Error, and receives Instruction from
     the Objector.

     In this View I consider the Objections and Remarks you
     sent me, and thank you for them sincerely.

When he found that he was in error, it cost him no struggle to recant. For
a while he believed the sea to be the grand source of lightning, and built
up an imposing fabric of conclusions upon the belief; but he did not
hesitate afterwards to admit that he had embraced this opinion too hastily.
The same thing is true of the opinion that he held for a time, that the
progress of a ship westward, across the Atlantic, is retarded by the
diurnal motion of the earth. He supposed that the melting brought about by
the action of lightning was a cold fusion until holes burnt in a floor by
portions of a molten bell wire convinced him that this was not so.

     I was too easily led into that error [he said] by
     accounts given even in philosophical books, and from
     remote ages downwards, of melting money in purses,
     swords in scabbards, etc. without burning the
     inflammable matters that were so near those melted
     metals. But men are, in general, such careless
     observers, that a philosopher can not be too much on
     his guard in crediting their relations of things
     extraordinary, and should never build an hypothesis on
     anything but clear facts and experiments, or it will be
     in danger of soon falling, as this does, like a house
     of cards.

In one of his letters to Collinson, he declared that, even though future
discoveries should prove that certain conjectures of his were not wholly
right, yet they ought in the meantime to be of some use by stirring up the
curious to make more experiments and occasion more exact disquisitions.
Following out the same thought in another letter to Collinson he concluded:
"You are at liberty to communicate this paper to whom you please; it being
of more importance that knowledge should increase, than that your friend
should be thought an accurate philosopher." In a letter to John Lining, in
which he described the experiment from which Cavendish deduced the law of
which we have spoken, he observed:

     I find a frank acknowledgement of one's ignorance is
     not only the easiest way to get rid of a dificulty, but
     the likeliest way to obtain information, and therefore
     I practise it: I think it an honest policy. Those who
     affect to be thought to know everything, and so
     undertake to explain everything often remain long
     ignorant of many things that others could and would
     instruct them in, if they appeared less conceited.

The fact is that Franklin had such a keen sense of the dignity and
invincibility of truth that he could not be induced to enter into any
personal controversy about it. His feelings with regard to such
controversies are pointedly expressed in the _Autobiography_ in connection
with the attack made by the Abbé Nollet upon his electrical experiments.

     I once purpos'd [he said] answering the abbé, and
     actually began the answer; but, on consideration that
     my writings contain'd a description of experiments
     which anyone might repeat and verify, and if not to be
     verifi'd, could not be defended; or of observations
     offer'd as conjectures, and not delivered dogmatically,
     therefore not laying me under any obligation to defend
     them; and reflecting that a dispute between two
     persons, writing in different languages, might be
     lengthened greatly by mistranslations, and thence
     misconceptions of one another's meaning, much of one of
     the abbé's letters being founded on an error in the
     translation, I concluded to let my papers shift for
     themselves, believing it was better to spend what time
     I could spare from public business in making new
     experiments, than in disputing about those already

But in this instance, too, after all, he acted upon the principle, stated
in one of his letters to Cadwallader Colden, that he who removes a
prejudice, or an error from our minds contributes to their beauty, as he
would do to that of our faces who should clear them of a wart or a wen. He
went through his experiments again, and satisfied himself that the Abbé had
not shaken his positions. At one time, when he was hesitating as to whether
he should reply to him, he heard that D'Alibard was preparing to do so.
"Perhaps," he wrote to his friend, James Bowdoin, "it may then appear
unnecessary for me to do anything farther in it. And will not one's vanity
be more gratified in seeing one's adversary confuted by a disciple, than
even by one's self?" When Wilson published a pamphlet, contending that
lightning rods should be blunt rather than pointed, he simply observed, "I
have not answered it, being averse to Disputes."

Not only his temperament but his general mental attitude was instinctively
scientific. As we have seen, while Whitefield's other auditors were
standing mute and spellbound, he was carefully computing the distance that
the words of the orator would carry. As we have also seen, when his
soldiers were cutting down the giant pines at Gnadenhutten, he had his
watch out, deep in his observation of the time that it took them to fell a
tree. When his friend, Small, complained of deafness, he wrote to him that
he had found by an experiment at midnight that, by putting his thumb and
fingers behind his ear, and pressing it out and enlarging it as it were
with the hollow of his hand, he could hear the tick of a watch at the
distance of forty-five feet which was barely audible at a distance of
twenty feet without these aids. Even in his relations to the simplest
concerns of life, he had always the eye of a man of science to weight,
measure, dimension and distance. If anyone wishes to see how easily he
reduced everything to its scientific principles, let him read Franklin's
letter to Oliver Neave, who thought that it was too late in life for him to
learn to swim. With the confidence bred by a proper sense of the specific
gravity of the human body as compared with that of water, Franklin said,
there was no reason why a human being should not swim at the first trial.
If Neave would only wade out into a body of water, until it came up to his
breast and by a cast of his hand sink an egg to the bottom, between him and
the shore, where it would be visible, but could not be reached except by
diving, and then endeavor to recover it, he would be surprised to find what
a buoyant thing water was.

Franklin also had all the inquisitiveness of a born philosopher. The winds,
the birds, the fish, the celestial phenomena brought to his attention on
his first voyage from England, the sluggish movement of his ship on his
voyage to England in 1757, the temperature and movement of the Gulf Stream,
the social and religious characteristics of the Moravians, Indian traits
and habits, the still flies in their bath of Madeira wine--all excited his
insatiable curiosity, and started him off on interesting trains of
observation or reflection.

He was in the 78th year of his age, when, in the sight of fifty thousand
people, one of the balloons recently invented by the Montgolfiers, and
inflated with gas, produced by pouring oil of vitriol on iron filings,
ascended from the Champs de Mars, shining brightly in the sun during the
first stages of its ascent, then dwindling until it appeared scarcely
larger than an orange, and then melting away in the clouds that had never
before been invaded by such a visitant. But so fresh still was his interest
in every triumph of human ingenuity, that it required a long letter to Sir
Joseph Banks, the President of the Royal Society, supplemented by two
postscripts, to disburthen his mind of the sensations and thoughts excited
by the thrilling spectacle. Mingled in this letter with many precise
details of size, weight and distance are the speculations of the Parisians
with respect to the practical uses to which the toy might be put. Some
believed that, now that men might be supported in the air, nothing was
wanted but some light handy instruments to give and direct motion. Others
believed that a running footman, or a horse, slung and suspended under such
a globe, so as to diminish the weight of their feet on the ground to
perhaps eight or ten pounds, might, with a fair wind, run in a straight
line across country as fast as that wind, and over hedges, ditches and even
waters. Still other fantasies were that in time such globes might be kept
anchored in the air for the purpose of preserving game, or converting water
into ice; or might be turned to pecuniary profit as a means of giving
recreation-seekers a chance, at an altitude of a mile, to see far below
them a vast stretch of the terrestrial surface. Already, said Franklin, one
philosopher, M. Pilâtre de Rozier, had applied to the Academy for the
privilege of ascending in a larger Montgolfier in order to make certain
scientific experiments. The peasants at Gonesse, however, who had seen the
balloon, cut adrift on the Champs de Mars, fall to the earth, had regarded
it with very different feelings from the citizens of Paris. Frightened, and
conceiving from its bounding a little, when it touched the ground, that
there was some living animal in it, they had attacked it with stones and
knives, so that it was much mangled.

With a subsequent letter to Dr. Price, Franklin enclosed a small balloon,
which his grandson had filled with inflammable air the night before, and
which, after mounting to the ceiling of Franklin's chamber, had remained
rolling about there for some time. "If a Man," this letter suggestively
asks, "should go up with one of the large ones, might there not be some
mechanical Contrivance to compress the Globe at pleasure; and thereby
incline it to descend, and let it expand when he inclines to rise again?"
The same eager curiosity about the balloon was manifested by Franklin in
many other later letters. Another great one, he informed Banks, had gone up
from Versailles. It was supposed to have been inflated with air, heated by
burning straw, and to have risen about two hundred toises; but did not
continue long at that height, and, after being wafted in a horizontal
direction by the wind, descended gently, as the air in it grew cooler. "So
vast a Bulk," said Franklin, "when it began to rise so majestically in the
Air, struck the Spectators with Surprise and Admiration. The Basket
contain'd a Sheep, a Duck & a Cock, who except the Cock receiv'd no hurt by
the fall." Another balloon of about five feet in diameter, the same letter
stated, had been sent up about one o'clock in the morning with a large
lanthorn under it by the Duke de Crillon at an entertainment, given by him,
during the preceding week, in the Bois de Boulogne in honor of the birth of
two Spanish princes. These were but a few of many recent ascensions. Most
interesting of all, however, a new balloon, designed by Messieurs Charles
and Robert, who were men of science and mechanical dexterity, was to carry
up a man.

Another balloon, described by Franklin in one of his letters to Banks, was
open at the bottom, and was fed with heated air from a grate, fixed in the
middle of the opening, which was kept replenished with faggots and sheaves
of straw by men, posted in a wicker gallery, attached to the outside of the
lower part of the structure. By regulating the amount of fire in the grate,
the balloon could be given an upward or downward direction at pleasure.

It was thought, Franklin said, that a balloon of this type, because of the
rapidity and small expense, with which it could be inflated, might be made
useful for military purposes.

Still another balloon described by Franklin in the same letter was one
which was to be first filled with "permanently elastic inflammable air,"
and then closed. It was twenty-six feet in diameter, and made of gores of
red and white silk, which presented a beautiful appearance. There was a
very handsome triumphal car, to be suspended from it, in which two
brothers, the Messrs. Robert, were to ascend with a table for convenience
in jotting down their thermometric and other observations. There was no
telling, Franklin declared, how far aeronautic improvements might be
pushed. A few months before, the idea of witches riding through the air on
a broomstick, and that of philosophers upon a bag of smoke would have
appeared equally impossible and ridiculous. The machines, however, he
believed, would always be subject to be driven by the winds, though perhaps
mechanic art might find easy means of giving them progressive motion in a
calm, and of slanting them a little in the wind. English philosophy was too
bashful, and should be more emulous in this field of competition. If, in
France, they did a foolish thing, they were the first to laugh at it
themselves, and were almost as much pleased with a _bon mot_ or a good
_chanson_, that ridiculed well the disappointment of the project, as they
might have been with its success.

The experiment might be attended with important consequences that no one
could foresee.

     Beings of a frank and--nature far superior to ours [the
     letter continued] have not disdained to amuse
     themselves with making and launching balloons,
     otherwise we should never have enjoyed the light of
     those glorious objects that rule our day and night, nor
     have had the pleasure of riding round the sun ourselves
     upon the balloon we now inhabit.

In due course, the Messrs. Robert, accompanied by M. Charles, a professor
of experimental philosophy, and an enthusiastic student of aeronautics,
made their perilous venture, which was likewise fully chronicled by
Franklin. The spectators, he said, were infinite, crowding about the
Tuileries, on the quays and bridges, in the fields and streets, and at the
windows, and on the roofs, of houses. The device of stimulating flagging
ascent by dropping sand bags from the car was one of the features of this
incident, and so was the device of protecting the envelope of the balloon
from rupture by covering it with a net, as well as that of lowering it by
letting a part of its contents escape through a valve controlled by a

     Between one and two o'clock [Franklin's narrative
     states] all eyes were gratified with seeing it rise
     majestically from among the trees, and ascend gradually
     above the buildings, a most beautiful spectacle. When
     it was about two hundred feet high, the brave
     adventurers held out and waved a little white pennant,
     on both sides their car, to salute the spectators who
     returned loud claps of applause.

When Franklin last saw the vanishing form of this balloon, it appeared no
bigger than a walnut. The experiment proved a most prosperous one. From
first to last the aerial navigators retained perfect command of their
air-ship, descending, when they pleased, by letting some of the air in it
escape, and rising, when they pleased, by discharging sand; and at one time
skimming over a field so low as to be able to talk to some laborers.
Pleased as Franklin was with the experiment, he wrote to Henry Laurens that
he yet feared that the machine would hardly become a common carriage in his
time, though, being the easiest of all _voitures_, it would be extremely
convenient to him, now that his malady forbade him the use of the old ones
over a pavement. The idea, however, was such an agreeable one to him that,
when he returned to Philadelphia, he wrote to his friend Jean Baptiste Le
Roy that he sometimes wished that he had brought a balloon from France with
him sufficiently large to raise him from the ground, and to permit him,
without discomfort from his stone, to be led around in his novel conveyance
by a string, attached to it, and held by an attendant on foot.

On the whole, it appeared to Franklin that the invention of the balloon was
a thing of great importance.

     Convincing sovereigns of the Folly of Wars [he wrote to
     Ingenhousz] may perhaps be one Effect of it; since it
     will be impracticable for the most potent of them to
     guard his Dominions. Five thousand Balloons, capable of
     raising two Men each could not cost more than Five
     Ships of the Line; and where is the Prince who can
     afford so to cover his Country with Troops for its
     Defence, as that Ten Thousand Men descending from the
     Clouds might not in many places do an infinite deal of
     mischief, before a Force could be brought together to
     repel them?

But nothing happened in Franklin's time, nor has happened since, to warrant
the belief that human flying-devices of any sort will ever be free enough
from danger to human life to be a really useful vehicle of transportation
in times of peace. So far their principal value has been during war, when
human safety has little to choose between the earth and the sky, but it is
fair to say that Franklin would have loathed war even more deeply than he
did, if he could have lived to see them in the form of aeroplane or
dirigible, making their way through the air like winged monsters of the
antediluvian past, and dropping devilish agencies of death and desolation
upon helpless innocence, and the fairest monuments of human industry and
art. Poor M. Pilâtre de Rozier, whom we have already mentioned, and who was
no less a person than the Professor of Chemistry, at the Athenée Royale, of
which he was the founder, fell with a companion, from an altitude of one
thousand toises to the rocky coast near Boulogne-sur-Mer, and was, as well
as his companion, dashed to pieces. Since his time the discharioted
Phaetons, who have fallen from the upper levels of the atmosphere, even
when not engaged in war, with the same fearful result, have been numerous
enough to constitute a ghastly necrology. Nor, it would appear, was the
peril under the conditions of aerial navigation in its earliest stages
limited to the aeronaut himself. In dissuading Ingenhousz from attempting a
balloon experiment, Franklin said that it was a serious thing to draw out
from their affairs all the inhabitants of a great city and its environs,
and that a disappointment made them angry. At Bordeaux lately, a person,
who pretended to send up a balloon, and had received money from many
people, not being able to make it rise, the populace were so exasperated
that they pulled down his house, and had like to have killed him. Anyone,
who has ever heard the execrations hurled at the head of a baseball umpire
in the United States, when one of his decisions has failed to command
general assent, will experience no difficulty, we are sure, in
understanding the force of the impulse that provoked this outbreak of
Gallic excitement.

The enthusiasm, aroused in Franklin by the balloon, is not more noticeable
than his brooding desire to find some practical use for it. The visionary
speculation, which seeks to take the moon in its teeth, was no part of his
character. He grew no orchids in the air. To use his homely words in a
letter to Charles Thomson, he made no shoes for feet that he had never
measured. Every conclusion, every hypothesis had to be built upon a basis
of patient observation and gradual induction; every invention or discovery
had to have some useful application.

At an earlier period than that of the discovery of the balloon, his
inquisitive spirit had led him to the study of marsh-gas and the pacifying
effect of oil upon troubled waters. In 1764, he had reason to believe that
a friend of his had succeeded in igniting the surface of a river in New
Jersey, after stirring up the mud beneath it, but his scientific friends in
England found it difficult to believe that he had not been imposed upon;
and the Royal Society withheld from publication among its Transactions a
paper on the experiment, written by Dr. Finley, the President of Princeton
College, and read before it. Franklin twice tried it in England without
success, and he prosecuted his investigation with such energy and
persistency that he finally contracted an intermittent fever by bending
over the stagnant water of a deep ditch, and inhaling its foul breath, or,
as would now be said, by being bitten by a mosquito hovering about it.

In 1757, when on one of the ships, bound on Lord Loudon's fool's errand to
Louisburg, he observed that the water in the wake of two of them was
remarkably smooth, while that in the wake of the others was ruffled by the
wind, which was blowing freshly, and, when he spoke of the circumstance to
his captain, the latter answered somewhat contemptuously, as if to a person
ignorant of what everybody else knew, "The cooks have, I suppose, been just
emptying their greasy water through the scuppers, which has greased the
sides of those ships a little." The incident, and what he had read in Pliny
about the practice among the seamen of Pliny's time of calming rough seas
with oil, made him resolve to test the matter by experiment at the first
opportunity. This intention was afterwards strengthened, when he was again
at sea in 1762, by the "wonderful quietness" of oil, resting on the surface
of an agitated bed of water in the glass lamp swinging in his cabin, and by
the supposition of an old sea captain that the phenomenon was in keeping
with the practice, pursued by the Bermudians, of putting oil on water, when
they would strike fish. By the same captain, he was told that he had heard
that fishermen at Lisbon were in the habit of emptying a bottle or two of
oil on the sea, when the breakers on the bar at that port were running too
high for their boats to cross it in safety. From another person, he learnt
that, when divers in the Mediterranean needed more light for their
business, they spewed out from their mouths now and then a small quantity
of oil, which, rising to the surface, smoothed out its refracting waves.
This additional information supplied his curiosity with still further fuel.
It all ended in his dropping a little oil from a cruet on a large pond at
Clapham. The fluid spread with surprising swiftness over the surface, on
which it had fallen; but he found that he had made the mistake of dropping
it on the leeward, instead of the windward, side of the pond. When this
mistake was repaired, and a teaspoonful of oil was poured on its windward
side, where the waves were in an incipient state, and the oil could not be
driven back on the shore, an instant calmness diffused itself over a space
several yards square, which extended gradually until it reached the lee
side of the pond, making all that quarter of it, perhaps half an acre, as
smooth as a looking-glass. After this, he took with him, whenever he went
into the country, a little oil, in the upper hollow joint of his bamboo
cane for the purpose of repeating his experiment, whenever he had a chance
to do so, and, when he did repeat it, it was usually with success.

Far from being so successful, however, was the experiment when, on a
blustering, unpleasant day, he attempted, with the co-operation of Sir
Joseph Banks and other friends, to still the surf on a shore at Portsmouth
with oil poured continually on the sea, at some distance away, through a
hole, somewhat bigger than a goose quill, in the cork of a large stone
bottle, though the effusion did flatten out a considerable tract of the sea
to such an extent that a wherry, making for Portsmouth, seemed to turn into
that tract of choice, and to use it from end to end as a piece of turnpike
road. All this is described by Franklin in a letter to William Brownrigg,
dated November 7, 1773, in which he cited some other illustrations of the
allaying effect of oil on waves besides those that we have mentioned, and
developed the philosophy of the subject with that incomparable clarity of
his, not unlike the action of oil itself in subduing refractions of light.

     Now I imagine [he says] that the wind, blowing over
     water thus covered with a film of oil, can not easily
     _catch_ upon it, so as to raise the first wrinkles, but
     slides over it, and leaves it smooth as it finds it. It
     moves a little the oil indeed, which being between it
     and the water, serves it to slide with, and prevents
     friction, as oil does between those parts of a machine
     that would otherwise rub hard together. Hence the oil
     dropped on the windward side of a pond proceeds
     gradually to leeward, as may be seen by the smoothness
     it carries with it, quite to the opposite side. For the
     wind being thus prevented from raising the first
     wrinkles, that I call the elements of waves, cannot
     produce waves, which are to be made by continually
     acting upon, and enlarging those elements, and thus the
     whole pond is calmed.

And the water in which the Bermudian struck his fish is not more limpid
than these observations suggested by the Portsmouth experiment:

     I conceive, that the operation of oil on water is,
     first, to prevent the raising of new waves by the wind;
     and, secondly, to prevent its pushing those before
     raised with such force, and consequently their
     continuance of the same repeated height, as they would
     have done, if their surface were not oiled. But oil
     will not prevent waves being raised by another power,
     by a stone, for instance, falling into a still pool;
     for they then rise by the mechanical impulse of the
     stone, which the greasiness on the surrounding water
     cannot lessen or prevent, as it can prevent the winds
     catching the surface and raising it into waves. Now
     waves once raised, whether by the wind or any other
     power, have the same mechanical operation, by which
     they continue to rise and fall, as a _pendulum_ will
     continue to swing a long time after the force ceases to
     act by which the motion was first produced; that motion
     will, however, cease in time; but time is necessary.
     Therefore, though oil spread on an agitated sea may
     weaken the push of the wind on those waves whose
     surfaces are covered by it, and so, by receiving less
     fresh impulse, they may gradually subside; yet a
     considerable time, or a distance through which they
     will take time to move, may be necessary to make the
     effect sensible on any shore in a diminution of the
     surf; for we know, that, when wind ceases suddenly, the
     waves it has raised do not as suddenly subside, but
     settle gradually, and are not quite down till after the
     wind has ceased. So, though we should, by oiling them,
     take off the effect of wind on waves already raised, it
     is not to be expected that those waves should be
     instantly levelled. The motion they have received will,
     for some time, continue; and, if the shore is not far
     distant, they arrive there so soon, that their effect
     upon it will not be visibly diminished.

Nor was it on Clapham Pond and at Portsmouth alone that Franklin, when in
England, tested the tranquillizing properties of oil. He performed the same
experiment on Derwentwater and a small pond near the house of John Smeaton,
the celebrated engineer, at Austhorpe Lodge; and also on a large sheet of
water at the head of the Green Park. And the idea that there was something
almost supernatural about his quick insight and fertility of conception, of
which we find more than one trace in the utterances of his contemporaries,
is suggested in an interesting manner in the account left to us by the Abbé
Morellet of one of these experiments, which he witnessed when Colonel
Barre, Dr. Hawkesworth, David Garrick, Franklin and himself happened to be
guests of Lord Shelburne at Wycombe in 1772.

     It is true [the Abbé says] it was not upon the waves of
     the sea but upon those of a little stream which flowed
     through the park at Wycombe. A fresh breeze was
     ruffling the water. Franklin ascended a couple of
     hundred paces from the place where we stood, and
     simulating the grimaces of a sorcerer, he shook three
     times upon the stream a cane which he carried in his
     hand. Directly the waves diminished and soon the
     surface was smooth as a mirror.

On one occasion, William Small wrote to him from Birmingham that Matthew
Boulton had "astonished the rural philosophers exceedingly by calming the
waves _à la Franklin_."

Struck, when travelling on a canal in Holland, with the statement of a
boatman that their boat was going slow because the season had been a dry
one, and the water in the canal was not as deep as usual, Franklin, by
experiment with a trough and a little boat borrowed for the purpose,
established the fact that the friction caused by the displacement by a
moving boat of shallow water is measurably greater than that caused by the
displacement by such a boat of deeper water. Under like conditions in other
respects, the difference, he concluded, in a distance of four leagues, was
the difference between five and four hours.

A conversation with Captain Folger, of Nantucket, produced far more
important consequences. Influenced by what the captain told him of the
knowledge that the Nantucket whalers had acquired of the retarding effect
of the Gulf Stream upon navigation, Franklin induced him to plat for him
the dimensions, course and swiftness of the stream, and to give him written
directions as to how ships, bound from the Newfoundland Banks to New York,
might avoid it, and at the same time keep clear of certain dangerous banks
and shoals. The immediate object of Franklin was to procure information for
the English Post Office that would enable the mail packets between England
and America to shorten their voyages. At his instance, Captain Folger's
drawing was engraved on the old chart of the Atlantic at Mount and Page's,
Tower Hill, and copies of it were distributed among the captains of the
Falmouth packets. Ever afterwards the Gulf Stream was a favorite field of
investigation to him, when at sea, and its phenomena were mastered by him
with remarkable thoroughness. It was generated, he conjectured, by the
great accumulation of water on the eastern coast of America created by the
trade winds which constantly blew there. He found that it was always warmer
than the sea on each side of it, and that it did not sparkle at night; and
he assigned to its influence the tornadoes, waterspouts and fogs by which
its flow was attended.

Franklin also possessed to a striking degree the inventive capacity which
is such a valuable qualification for experimental philosophy. We have
already seen how ready his mechanical skill was in supplying printing
deficiencies. Speaking of the pulse glasses, made by Nairne, in which water
could be brought to the boiling point with the heat of the hand, he tells

     I plac'd one of his glasses, with the elevated end
     against this hole (a hole that he had opened through
     the wainscot in the seat of his window for the access
     of outside air); and the bubbles from the other end,
     which was in a warmer situation, were continually
     passing day and night, to the no small surprize of even
     philosophical spectators.

As he sat in his library at Philadelphia, in his last years, he was
surrounded by various objects conceived by his own ingenuity. The seat of
his chair became a step-ladder, when reversed, and to its arm was fastened
a fan that he could work with a slight motion of his foot. Against his
bookcase rested "the long arm" with which he lifted down the books on its
upper shelves. The hours, minutes and seconds were told for him by a clock,
of his own invention, with only three wheels and two pinions, in which even
James Ferguson, mathematician as he was, had to confess that he experienced
difficulty in making improvements. The very bifocal glasses, now in such
general use, that he wore were a triumph of his own quick wit. Describing
this invention of his in a letter to George Whatley, he said:

     I therefore had formerly two Pair of Spectacles, which
     I shifted occasionally, as in travelling I sometimes
     read, and often wanted to regard the Prospects. Finding
     this Change troublesome, and not always sufficiently
     ready, I had the Glasses cut, and half of each kind
     associated in the same Circle.... By this means, as I
     wear my Spectacles constantly, I have only to move my
     Eyes up or down, as I want to see distinctly far or
     near, the proper Glasses being always ready. This I
     find more particularly convenient since my being in
     France, the Glasses that serve me best at Table to see
     what I eat, not being the best to see the Faces of
     those on the other Side of the Table who speak to me;
     and when one's Ears are not well accustomed to the
     Sounds of a Language, a Sight of the Movements in the
     Features of him that speaks helps to explain; so that I
     understand French better by the help of my Spectacles.

The shrinking that a mahogany box, given to him in England, underwent, when
subjected to the atmospheric conditions of America, suggested a hygrometer
to him which Nairne afterwards constructed in accordance with his

His mind seems to have had no torpid moments, except, perhaps, when some
Congressional orator was speaking. When, in early life, he had nothing else
better to do, he would address himself to making magic squares and circles
as intricate as Rosamond's walk. "He took it into his head," James Logan
wrote to Collinson, "to think of _magical squares_, in which he outdid
Frenicle himself, who published above eighty pages in folio on that subject
alone." Not willing to be outdone even by Stifelius, Franklin drew a square
of such extraordinary numerical properties that not only did the numbers on
all the rows and diagonals on its face total 2056, but the sum of the
numbers on every group of 16 smaller squares on its face, when revealed
through a hole in a piece of paper, moved backwards and forwards over its
face, equalled precisely 2056 too. He likewise drew a

     magick circle, consisting of 8 concentric circles, and
     8 radial rows, filled with a series of numbers, from 12
     to 75, inclusive, so disposed as that the numbers of
     each circle or each radial row, being added to the
     central number 12, they made exactly 360, the number of
     degrees in a circle; and this circle had, moreover, all
     the properties of the square of 8.

Both of these conceits were duly forwarded to Collinson and, with regard to
the square of 16, Franklin wrote to him playfully that he made no question
but that he would readily allow that it was the most magically magical of
any magic square ever made by any magician. From the terms of this letter,
it is plain that the practical intellect of Franklin was a little ashamed
of these feats as but _difficiles nugæ_, but his misgivings were somewhat
soothed by the suggestion of Logan that they might not be altogether
useless if they produced by practice an habitual readiness and exactness in
mathematical disquisitions.

Hardly more profitable than the magic squares but indicative, too, of the
same mental initiative, was the scheme formed by Franklin for a new
alphabet and a reformed mode of spelling. In the new alphabet, the first
effort was to arrange the letters in what was supposed to be a more natural
order than that of the old alphabet by beginning with the simple sounds
framed by the breath with no or very little help from the tongue, teeth
and lips, and proceeding gradually forward from sounds, produced at the
back of the mouth, to the sound produced by closing the lips, that is _m_.
The _c_ of the old alphabet was omitted, _k_ being left to supply its hard
sound, and _s_ its soft, and _k_ being also left to supply the place of
_q_, and with an _s_ added, the place of _x_. _W_ as well as _q_ and _x_
was also dismissed from service, the vowel _u_, sounded as _oo_, being
relied upon to perform its function. _Y_ also went by the board, _i_ taking
its place, where used singly, and two vowels, where used as a diphthong.
_J_ was superseded by an entirely new symbol, shaped something like a small
_h_, and sounded as _ish_, when used singly, but subserving various other
offices, when conjoined with _d_, _t_ and _z_. As a whole, the new alphabet
was so systematized that the sound of any letter, vowel or consonant was
always the same, wherever it occurred, or whatever its alphabetical
collocation. Nor did the new alphabet contain any silent letters, or fail
to provide a letter for every distinct sound in the language. The
difference between short and long vowels was compassed by a single vowel
where short, and a double one, where long. For illustration, "mend"
remained "mend" and "did," "did," but "remained" reappeared as "remeened,"
and "deed" as "diid." Typographical obstacles prevent us from bringing to
the eye of the reader a specimen of the reformed alphabet and spelling as
they looked on a printed page. They, of course, issued from the mind of
Franklin as stillborn as his reformed Episcopal Prayer Book. His only
proselytes appear to have been Polly, who even wrote a letter to him in the
strange forms, and his loving sister, Jane, who was delighted to have
another language with which to express her affection for him. Our world is
one in which some things are made but others make themselves, and, however
arbitrary their character, will not allow themselves to be made over, even
at the behest of such merciless rationalism as that of Franklin.

In the latter part of Franklin's life, Noah Webster, the lexicographer,
also formed a scheme for the reform of the alphabet, and Franklin had the
pleasure of writing to him, "Our Ideas are so nearly similar, that I make
no doubt of our easily agreeing on the Plan." Several years later, Webster,
in his _Dissertations on the English Language_, stated that Franklin had
compiled a dictionary, based upon his own reformatory system, and procured
the types for printing it, but, finding himself too old to prosecute his
design, had offered both manuscript and types to him. "Whether this
project, so deeply interesting to this country," Webster said, "will ever
be effected; or whether it will be defeated by insolence and prejudice,
remains for my countrymen to determine."

Another thing upon which the ingenuity of Franklin was brought to bear, as
the reader has already been told, was the Armonica. In his letter to
Beccaria, extolling its merits, he describes it with a wealth of detail,
not only thoroughly in keeping with his knack for mechanics, but showing
that to music as to everything else, that won the favor of his intellect,
he brought the ken of a man of science. The letter concludes with a dulcet
compliment, which harmonizes well with its subject: "In honour of your
musical language (the Italian), I have borrowed from it the name of this
instrument, calling it the Armonica." In one of his papers, he drew up
instructions for the proper use of the instrument which nothing but the
most intimate familiarity with its operation could have rendered possible.

Admiration has often been expended upon the acuteness with which Franklin,
in a letter to Lord Kames, accounted for the pleasure afforded by the old
Scotch tunes, as compared with the pleasure afforded by the difficult music
of his day, which, he said, was of the same nature as that awakened by the
feats of tumblers and rope-dancers. The reason was this. The old Scotch
melodies were composed by the minstrels of former days, to be played on the
harp, accompanied by the voice. The harp was strung with wire (which gives
a sound of long continuance) and had no contrivance like that in the modern
harpsichord, by which the sound of the preceding note could be stopped, the
moment a succeeding note began. To avoid _actual_ discord, it was therefore
necessary that the succeeding emphatic note should be a chord with the
preceding, as their sounds must exist at the same time. Hence arose that
beauty in those tones that had so long pleased, and would please forever,
though men scarce knew why.

The most useful invention of Franklin was what came to be known as the
Franklin stove. With modifications, it is still in use, and the essay
written on it by Franklin, entitled _An Account of the New-invented
Pennsylvanian Fireplaces_, is one of the best illustrations of the capacity
of his scientific genius to adapt itself to the hardest and barest offices
that human comfort and convenience could impose upon it with a nicety and
accuracy of trained insight and touch worthy of the cleverest journeyman, a
command of scientific principles to be expected only of a professional
student, and a gift of clear, lively expression which reminds us of the
remark of Stella that Dean Swift could write agreeably even about a
broomstick. The principle upon which the Franklin stove was constructed was
that of making the heat from its open fireplace, after first ascending to
its top, descend in such a manner at its back, before passing off into the
chimney, as to diffuse by radiation through the room, in which it stood, a
large part of its warmth. The essay enumerates the different methods of
heating rooms then in use: the great, open, smoky chimney-place, that the
unremitting labor of one man could scarce keep supplied with fuel, and that
gave out little more heat for human warmth than a fire outdoors; this
chimney-place reduced to a smaller size with jambs, and free, to a great
extent from the reproach of smokiness, yet, with its contraction setting up
strong currents of whistling and howling air, which reminded Franklin of
the Spanish proverb,

    "If the Wind blows on you thro' a Hole,
    Make your Will, and take Care of your Soul";

the expensive and intricate French fireplaces with hollow backs, hearths
and jambs of iron; the Holland stove, which shut off the sight of the fire,
and could not conveniently be used for any purposes except those of warmth;
the German stove which was subject to very much the same disadvantages as
the Holland stove; and charcoal fires in pots which emitted disagreeable
and dangerous fumes and were used chiefly in the shops of handicraftsmen.
From the shortcomings of all these methods of heating rooms, the Franklin
stove, its inventor contended, was exempt. It diffused heat equally
throughout a whole room; if you sat in an apartment warmed by it, you were
not scorched before, while you were frozen behind; nor were you exposed to
the drafts from which so many women, particularly, got colds in the head,
rheums and defluxions that fell upon their jaws and gums, and destroyed
early many a fine set of teeth in the northern colonies, and from which so
many persons of both sexes contracted coughs, catarrhs, toothaches, fevers,
pleurisies and other diseases. It kept a sick room supplied with a fresh
and yet properly tempered flow of pure air. It conserved heat. It
economized fuel. With it, Franklin said, he could make his room twice as
warm as it used to be with a quarter of the wood that he used to consume.
If you burned candles near it, they did not flare and run off into tallow
as in the case of ordinary fireplaces with their excessive drafts. It
corrected most smoky chimneys. It prevented all kinds of chimneys from
fouling, and if they fouled made them less likely to fire, and, if they
fired, made the fire easier to repress. A flame could be speedily kindled
in it with the help of the shutter or trap-bellows that went along with
it. A fire could be readily extinguished in it, or could be so secured in
it that not one spark could fly out of it to do any damage. A room once
warmed remained warm all night. "With all these Conveniences," concludes
Franklin, "you do not lose the pleasing Sight nor Use of the Fire, as in
the Dutch Stoves, but may boil the Tea-Kettle, warm the Flat-Irons, heat
Heaters, keep warm a Dish of Victuals by setting it on the Top, &c. &c."

Some years after the publication of this essay, Franklin devised an
improvement in the open chimney-place which tended to abate drafts and
check the escape of heat up the chimney by contracting the chimney opening,
bringing its breast down to within three feet of the hearth, and placing an
iron frame just under this breast, with grooves on each side of the frame,
in which an iron plate could be slid backwards and forwards at pleasure,
for the purpose of cutting off the mouth of the chimney entirely from the
chimney itself, when there was no fire on the hearth, or of leaving a space
of not more than two inches for the escape of smoke between the further
edge of the plate and the back of the chimney-mouth. This improved
chimney-place was described by Franklin in letters to Alexander Dick and
James Bowdoin. The letter to Bowdoin seems to leave little to be said on
the subject of chimneys. It indicates that Franklin had subjected them to a
scrutiny hardly less close than that which he had fixed upon the Leyden
Jar. In connection with the currents and reverse currents, set up in them
in summer by the relations of inequality, which the air in them sustains,
at different hours of the day and night, to the outside temperature, he
suggests that joints of meat might keep for a week or more during the
hottest weather in chimney-openings, if well wrapt three or four fold in
wet linen cloths, sprinkled once a day with water to prevent evaporation.
Butter and milk in vessels and bottles covered with wet cloths might, he
thought, be preserved in the same way. And he even thought, too, that the
movements of air in chimneys might, with the aid of smoke-jack vanes, be
applied to some mechanical purposes, where a small but pretty constant
power only was needed. To appreciate how patiently and exhaustively
Franklin was in the habit of pursuing every course of observation or
reflection opened up by his scientific propensities, the whole of this
letter, which had much more to say on the subject of chimneys than we have
mentioned, should be read.

At a later period of his life, Franklin describes to Turgot what he called
his new stove. The novel feature of this consisted of an aerial syphon by
which the smoke from the fireplace of the stove was first drawn upwards
through the longer leg of the syphon, and then downwards through its
shorter leg, and over burning coals, by which it was kindled into flame and

The ingenuity of Franklin was also exerted very successfully in the
rectification of smoky chimneys. In his essay on the causes and cure of
such chimneys, written on his last ocean voyage, he resolved the causes
into no less than nine heads, and stated with his accustomed perspicuity
and precision the remedy for each cause. In his time, the art of properly
carrying off smoke through chimneys was but imperfectly understood by
ordinary builders and mechanics, and it was of too humble a nature to tempt
discussion by such men of science as were capable of clearly expounding the
physical principles upon which it rested. It was not strange, therefore,
that Franklin, who deemed nothing, that was useful, to be beneath the
dignity of philosophy, should have acquired in his time the reputation of
being a kind of "universal smoke doctor" and should have been occasionally
consulted by friends of his, such as Lord Kames, about refractory chimneys.
The only smoky chimney, that seems to have completely baffled his
investigation, recalls in a way the philosopher, who thought that he had
discovered a new planet, but afterwards found that what he saw was only a
fly in the end of his telescope. After exhausting every scientific resource
in an effort to ascertain why the chimney in the country-house of one of
his English friends smoked, Franklin was obliged to own the impotence for
once of his skill; but, subsequently, his friend, who made no pretensions
to the character of a fumist, climbed to the top of the funnel of his
chimney by a ladder, and, on peering down into it, found that it had been
filled by nesting birds with twigs and straw, cemented with clay, and lined
with feathers.

Nor was the attention given by Franklin to ventilation by any means
confined to chimneys. Air vitiated by human respiration also came in for a
share of it. Describing an experiment by which he demonstrated the manner
in which air affected in this way is purified, Alexander Small said:

     The Doctor confirmed this by the following experiment.
     He breathed gently through a tube into a deep glass
     mug, so as to impregnate all the air in the mug with
     this quality. He then put a lighted bougie into the
     mug; and upon touching the air therein the flame was
     instantly extinguished; by frequently repeating the
     operation, the bougie gradually preserved its light
     longer in the mug, so as in a short time to retain it
     to the bottom of it; the air having totally lost the
     bad quality it had contracted from the breath blown
     into it.

Franklin became deeply interested in the brilliant course of investigation
pursued by Priestley with respect to gases, and several penetrating glances
of his into the relations of carbonic acid gas to vegetation have come down
to us. Observing on a visit to Priestley the luxuriance of some mint
growing in noxious air, he suggested to Priestley that "the air is mended
by taking something from it, and not by adding to it." He hoped, he said in
a letter to Priestley, that the nutriment derived by vegetation from
carbonic acid gas would give some check to the rage of destroying trees
that grew near houses, which had accompanied recent improvements in
gardening from an opinion of their being unwholesome.

Just as he was consulted about the best methods of protecting St. Paul's
Cathedral and the arsenals at Purfleet from lightning, so he was also
consulted by the British Government as to the best method for ventilating
the House of Commons. "The personal atmosphere surrounding the members," he
thought, "might be carried off by making outlets in perpendicular parts of
the seats, through which the air might be drawn off by ventilators, so
placed, as to accomplish this without admitting any by the same channels."
The experiment might be tried upon some of our City Councilmen. Principles
of ventilation, expounded by Franklin, were also utilized by the Messrs.
Adam of the Adelphi, in the construction of the large room built by them
for the meetings of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts. We also find
him suggesting openings, close to the ceilings of rooms, and communicating
with flues, constructed alongside of chimney flues, as effective means for
ventilating rooms.

With all his primary and secondary gifts for scientific research, it is
difficult to believe that, if Franklin had not been diverted from it by
engrossing political cares, he would have added both to his special
reputation as a student of electricity and to his general reputation as a
man of science. As it was, his civic activity and popular leadership in
Pennsylvania, his several agencies abroad, his participation in the
American Revolution, his career as Minister to France, and his official
duties, after his return, made such imperious demands upon his time that he
had little or no leisure left for scientific pursuits. This picture of his
situation which he presented in a letter to Ingenhousz, when he was in
France, was more or less true of almost every part of his life after he
became famous:

     Besides being harass'd with too much Business, I am
     expos'd to numberless Visits, some of Kindness and
     Civility, many of mere idle Curiosity, from Strangers
     of America & of different Parts of Europe, as well as
     the Inhabitants of the Provinces who come to Paris.
     These devour my Hours, and break my Attention, and at
     Night I often find myself fatigu'd without having done
     anything. Celebrity may for a while flatter one's
     Vanity, but its Effects are troublesome. I have begun
     to write two or three Things, which I wish to finish
     before I die; but I sometimes doubt the possibility.

Some of the reflections of Franklin on scientific subjects, such as his
early letters to Cadwallader Colden with regard to "perspirants and
absorbents" are, to use his own expression in one of them, too plainly
_ultra crepidam_ to have any value. Of others, we might fairly say that his
knowledge of the topics which he handled in them was hardly deep enough to
deserve any praise more confident than that which he allowed himself when
writing to Cadwallader Colden in 1751 of the Philadelphia Experiments.
"So," he said to Colden in this letter, "we are got beyond the skill of
_Rabelais's_ devils of two years old, who, he humorously says, had only
learnt to thunder and lighten a little round the head of a cabbage." All
the same, even aside from his electrical experiments, Franklin acquired no
little fame as a philosopher, made more than one fruitful suggestion to
fellow-workers of his in the domain of science and contributed many useful
observations to the general fund of scientific thought.

Apparently his views on medical topics were held in very considerable
respect. In 1777, he was elected a member of the Royal Medical Society of
Paris, and in 1787 an honorary member of the Medical Society of London.
Many works on medical subjects were dedicated to him by their authors. He
was one of the commission which exposed the imposture of Mesmer. There are
few things that give us a better idea of the extraordinary celebrity
enjoyed by him than the wide currency obtained by a spurious opinion of
his, ascribing great merit to tobacco ashes as a remedy for dropsy. It won
such an extensive circulation, and brought down on his head such a flood of
questions from physicians and others, that he was compelled to deny flatly
the truth of the story. One person, Lord Cadross, afterwards the Earl of
Buchan, firmly believed that he would have perished at the hands of a
professional physician, who wished to blister him, when he was afflicted
with a fever, if Franklin had not dissented from the treatment. Franklin
probably deserved no higher credit for his dissent on this occasion than
that of sharing the opinion of Sir John Pringle, who was convinced that,
out of every one hundred fevers, ninety-two cured themselves. So far as we
can see, there is nothing in the works of Franklin to warrant the belief
that he possessed any uncommon degree of medical knowledge, though he was
full of curiosity with regard to medicine as with regard to every other
branch of human learning. In one of his letters to Colden, written in his
fortieth year, he expressed the hope that future experiment would confirm
the idea that the yaws could be cured by tar-water. In a later letter to
Colden, he expressed his pleasure at hearing more instances of the success
of the poke-weed "in the Cure of that horrible Evil to the human Body, a
Cancer." At his suggestion, a young physician, with the aid of Sanctorius'
balance, tested alternately each hour, for eight hours, the amount of the
perspiration from his body, when naked, and when warmly clad, and found
that it was almost as great during the hours when he was naked. By his
investigations into the malady known in his time popularly as "the dry
bellyache," and learnedly as the "_colica Pictonum_," he conferred a real
benefit upon medical science. His views upon the subject received the honor
of being incorporated with due acknowledgments into Dr. John Hunter's essay
on the _Dry Bellyache of the Tropics_. Summarily speaking they were that
the complaint was a form of lead poisoning.

     I have long been of opinion [he wrote to Dr.
     Cadwallader Evans in 1768] that that distemper proceeds
     always from a metallic cause only; observing that it
     affects, among tradesmen, those that use lead, however
     different their trades,--as glaziers, letter-founders,
     plumbers, potters, white-lead makers, and painters;...
     although the worms of stills ought to be of pure tin,
     they are often made of pewter, which has a great
     mixture in it of lead.

The year before this letter was written, Franklin had found on reading a
pamphlet, containing the names and vocations of the persons, who had been
cured of the colic at Charité, a Parisian hospital, that all of them had
followed trades, which handle lead in some form or other. On going over the
vocations, he was at first puzzled to understand why there should be any
stonecutters or soldiers among the sufferers, but his perplexity was
cleared up by a physician at the hospital, who informed him that
stonecutters frequently used melted lead for fixing the ends of iron
balustrades in stone, and that the soldiers had been employed as laborers
by painters, when grinding colors. These facts were long afterwards
communicated by Franklin to Benjamin Vaughan in a letter, in which he cited
other incidents, interesting partly because they corroborated his theory,
and partly because they are additional proofs of his vigilance and patience
in collecting facts, before advancing an hypothesis, as well as of a
memory, which retained every instructive circumstance imparted to it by eye
or ear as imperishably as hardening cement retains the impression of a
dog's foot. When he was a boy at Boston, Franklin said, it was discovered
that New England rum, which had produced the dry bellyache and paralyzed
the limbs in North Carolina, had been made by distilleries with leaden
still-heads and worms. Later, when he was in London, he had been warned by
an old workman at Palmer's printing-house, as well as by an obscure pain in
his own hands, that it was a dangerous practice to handle a heated case of
types. About the same time, a letter-founder in the same close at Palmer's,
in a conversation with him, ascribed the existence of the ailment among his
workmen to the fact that some of them were slovenly enough to go to their
meals with unwashed hands that had come into contact with molten lead. He
had also observed in Derbyshire that the smoke from lead furnaces was
pernicious to grass and other vegetables, and in America had often observed
that streaks on shingle roofs, made by white lead, washed from balusters or
dormer window frames, were always entirely free from moss. He had also been
told of a case where this colic had afflicted a whole family, and was
supposed to be due to the corrosive effect of the acid in leaves, shed upon
the roof, from which the family derived the supply of rain water, upon
which it relied for drink.

More important still than the insight that Franklin obtained into the
Painter's Colic was the insight which he obtained into the salutary effect
of the custom which is now almost universal, except in the homes of the
ignorant and squalid, of sleeping at night in rooms with the windows up.
This custom, as well as the outdoor regimen, which has proved of such
signal value in the treatment of tuberculosis, originated in hygienic
conceptions identical with those steadfastly inculcated by him. His
opinions with regard to colds and the benefits of pure air were expressed
at many different times, and in many different forms, but nowhere so
conveniently for the purposes of quotation as in a letter which he wrote to
Dr. Benjamin Rush in 1773.

     I hope [he said in this letter] that after having
     discovered the benefit of fresh and cool air applied to
     the sick, people will begin to suspect that possibly it
     may do no harm to the well. I have not seen Dr.
     Cullen's book, but am glad to hear that he speaks of
     catarrhs or colds by contagion. I have long been
     satisfied from observation, that besides the general
     colds now termed _influenzas_ (which may possibly
     spread by contagion, as well as by a particular quality
     of the air), people often catch cold from one another
     when shut up together in close rooms, coaches, &c., and
     when sitting near and conversing so as to breathe in
     each other's transpiration; the disorder being in a
     certain state. I think, too, that it is the frouzy,
     corrupt air from animal substances, and the perspired
     matter from our bodies, which being long confined in
     beds not lately used, and clothes not lately worn, and
     books long shut up in close rooms, obtains that kind of
     putridity, which occasions the colds observed upon
     sleeping in, wearing, and turning over such bedclothes,
     or books, and not their coldness or dampness. From
     these causes, but more from too full living, with too
     little exercise, proceed in my opinion most of the
     disorders, which for about one hundred and fifty years
     past the English have called _colds_.

     As to Dr. Cullen's cold or catarrh _a frigore_, I
     question whether such an one ever existed. Travelling
     in our severe winters, I have suffered cold sometimes
     to an extremity only short of freezing, but this did
     not make me _catch cold_. And, for moisture, I have
     been in the river every evening two or three hours for
     a fortnight together, when one could suppose I might
     imbibe enough of it to _take cold_ if humidity could
     give it; but no such effect ever followed. Boys never
     get cold by swimming. Nor are people at sea, or who
     live at Bermudas, or St. Helena, small islands, where
     the air must be ever moist from the dashing and
     breaking of waves against their rocks on all sides,
     more subject to colds than those who inhabit part of a
     continent where the air is driest. Dampness may indeed
     assist in producing putridity and those miasmata which
     infect us with the disorder we call a cold; but of
     itself can never by a little addition of moisture hurt
     a body filled with watery fluids from head to foot.

Franklin's belief that colds and overeating often went hand in hand also
found expression in one of his letters to Polly Stevenson. When sending
her an account of some seamen, who had experienced considerable relief from
thirst by wearing clothes kept constantly wet with salt water, he said, "I
need not point out to you an Observation in favour of our Doctrine, that
you will make on reading this Paper, that, _having little to eat_, these
poor People in wet Clothes Day and Night _caught no cold_." In every, or in
practically every, case, he seems to have referred colds to what he rather
vaguely calls a siziness and thickness of the blood, resulting from checked
perspiration, produced by different agencies, including a gross diet.

     Thus [he says in his _Notes and Hints for Writing a
     Paper Concerning what is called Catching Cold_], People
     in Rooms heated by a Multitude of People, find their
     own Bodies heated; thence the quantity of perspirable
     Matter is increased that should be discharged, but the
     Air, not being changed, grows so full of the same
     Matter, that it will receive no more. So the Body must
     retain it. The Consequence is, the next Day, perhaps
     sooner, a slight putrid Fever comes on, with all the
     Marks of what we call a Cold, and the Disorder is
     suppos'd to be got by coming out of a warm Room,
     whereas it was really taken while in that Room.

He did not shrink from any of the consequences of his reasoning about colds
however extreme.

     Be so kind as to tell me at your leisure [he wrote to
     Barbeu Dubourg], whether in France, you have a general
     Belief that moist Air, and cold Air, and damp Shirts or
     Sheets, and wet Floors, and Beds that have not lately
     been used, and Clothes that have not been lately worn,
     and going out of a warm Room into the Air, and leaving
     off a long-worn Wastecoat, and wearing leaky Shoes, and
     sitting near an Open Window, or Door, or in a Coach
     with both Glasses down, are all or any of them capable
     of giving the Distemper we call _a Cold_, and you _a
     Rheum, or Catarrh_? Or are these merely _English_

His views on the wholesomeness of fresh air were far in advance of the
general intelligence of his time, and were expressed in spirited terms.
After stating in a letter to Jean Baptiste Le Roy that he had become
convinced that the idea that perspiration is checked by cold was an error
as well as the idea that rheum is occasioned by cold, he added:

     But as this is Heresy here, and perhaps may be so with
     you, I only whisper it, and expect you will keep my
     Secret. Our Physicians have begun to discover that
     fresh Air is good for People in the Small-pox & other
     Fevers. I hope in time they will find out that it does
     no harm to People in Health.

At times his language on what he called _aerophobia_ grew highly animated.

     What Caution against Air [he said in a letter to Thomas
     Percival], what stopping of Crevices, what wrapping up
     in warm Clothes, what shutting of Doors and Windows!
     even in the midst of Summer! Many London Families go
     out once a day to take the Air; three or four Persons
     in a Coach, one perhaps Sick; these go three or four
     Miles, or as many Turns in Hide Park, with the Glasses
     both up close, all breathing over & over again the same
     Air they brought out of Town with them in the Coach
     with the least change possible, and render'd worse and
     worse every moment. And this they call _taking the

Indeed, there is at times something just a little ludicrous in the
uncompromising fervor with which Franklin insisted upon his proposition. It
seemed strange he said, in the letter from which we have just quoted, that
a man whose body was composed in great part of moist fluids, whose blood
and juices were so watery, and who could swallow quantities of water and
small beer daily without inconvenience, should fancy that a little more or
less moisture in the air should be of such importance; but we abound in
absurdity and inconsistency.

It is a delightful account that John Adams gives us of a night which he
spent in the same bed with Franklin at New Brunswick, on their way to the
conference with Lord Howe:

     The chamber [Adams tells us] was little larger than the
     bed, without a chimney, and with only one small window.
     The window was open, and I, who was an invalid, and
     afraid of the air in the night, shut it close. "Oh!"
     says Franklin, "don't shut the window, we shall be
     suffocated." I answered I was afraid of the evening
     air. Dr. Franklin replied, "The air within this chamber
     will soon be, and indeed is now, worse than that
     without doors. Come, open the window and come to bed,
     and I will convince you. I believe you are not
     acquainted with my theory of colds." Opening the window
     and leaping into bed, I said I had read his letters to
     Dr. Cooper, in which he had advanced that nobody ever
     got cold by going into a cold church or any other cold
     air, but the theory was so little consistent with my
     experience, that I thought it a paradox. However, I had
     so much curiosity to hear his reasons, that I would run
     the risk of a cold. The Doctor then began a harangue
     upon air and cold, and respiration and perspiration,
     with which I was so much amused that I soon fell
     asleep, and left him and his philosophy together; but I
     believe they were equally sound and insensible within a
     few minutes after me, for the last words I heard were
     pronounced as if he was more than half asleep. I
     remember little of the lecture, except that the human
     body, by respiration and perspiration, destroys a
     gallon of air in a minute; that two such persons as we
     were now in that chamber would consume all the air in
     it in an hour or two; that by breathing over again the
     matter thrown off by the lungs and the skin, we should
     imbibe the real cause of colds, not from abroad, but
     from within.

At times Franklin merely gave hints to brother philosophers and left them
to run the hints down. For instance, he suggested to M. De Saussure, of
Geneva, who succeeded in ascending Mont Blanc, the idea of ascertaining
the lateral attraction of the Jura Mountains for the purpose of discovering
the mean density of the earth upon the Newtonian theory of gravitation.
This was subsequently done with complete success by Nevil Maskelyne on Mt.
Schehallion in Perthshire. To Ingenhousz he suggested the idea of "hanging
a weight on a spiral spring, to discover if bodies gravitated differently
to the earth during the conjunctions of the sun and moon, compared with
other times."

He gave very close study to the philosophy of waterspouts and whirlwinds
and came to the conclusion that they were generated by the same causes, and
were of the same nature, "the only Difference between them being, that the
one passes over Land, the other over Water." He was the first person to
discover that northeast storms did not begin in the northeast at all. The
manner in which he did it is another good illustration of his quickness in
noting the significance of every fact by which his attention was
challenged. He desired to observe a lunar eclipse at nine o'clock in the
evening at Philadelphia, but his efforts were frustrated by a northeast
storm, which lasted for a night and a day, and did much damage all along
the Atlantic coast. To his surprise he afterwards learnt from the Boston
newspapers that the eclipse had been visible there, and, upon writing to
his brother for particulars, was informed by him that it had been over for
an hour when the storm set in at Boston; though it was apparently fair to
assume that the storm began sooner at Boston than at Philadelphia. This
information and further inquiry satisfied him that northeast storms
commence southward and work their way to the northeast at the rate of a
hundred miles an hour. When we read the words in which he stated his theory
of such storms, we begin to understand what Sir Humphry Davy meant in
saying that science appeared in Franklin's language in a dress wonderfully
decorous, and best adapted to display her native loveliness.

     Suppose [he said to Jared Eliot] a great tract of
     country, land and sea, to wit, Florida and the Bay of
     Mexico, to have clear weather for several days, and to
     be heated by the sun, and its air thereby exceedingly
     rarefied. Suppose the country northeastward, as
     Pennsylvania, New England, Nova Scotia, and
     Newfoundland, to be at the same time covered with
     clouds, and its air chilled and condensed. The rarefied
     air being lighter must rise, and the denser air next to
     it will press into its place; that will be followed by
     the next denser air, that by the next, and so on. Thus,
     when I have a fire in my chimney, there is a current of
     air constantly flowing from the door to the chimney;
     but the beginning of the motion was at the chimney,
     where the air being rarefied by the fire rising, its
     place was supplied by the cooler air that was next to
     it, and the place of that by the next, and so on to the
     door. So the water in a long sluice or mill-race, being
     stopped by a gate, is at rest like the air in a calm;
     but as soon as you open the gate at one end to let it
     out, the water next the gate begins first to move, that
     which is next to it follows; and so, though the water
     proceeds forward to the gate, the motion which began
     there runs backward, if one may so speak, to the upper
     end of the race, where the water is last in motion.

It may be truly said of every province of scientific research into which
Franklin ventured that he brought to it a bold and original spirit of
speculation which gave it new interest and meaning. Even when he was not
the first to kindle a light, he had a happy and effective way of trimming
it anew and freshening its radiance. To Collinson he wrote on one occasion,
"But I must own I am much in the _Dark_ about _Light_." But noonday is not
more luminous than what he had to say on the subject in this letter.

     May not all the Phaenomena of Light [he asked] be more
     conveniently solved, by supposing universal Space
     filled with a subtle elastic Fluid, which, when at
     rest, is not visible, but whose Vibrations affect that
     fine Sense the Eye, as those of Air do the grosser
     Organs of the Ear? We do not, in the Case of Sound,
     imagine that any sonorous Particles are thrown off from
     a Bell, for Instance, and fly in strait Lines to the
     Ear; why must we believe that luminous Particles leave
     the Sun and proceed to the Eye? Some Diamonds, if
     rubbed, shine in the Dark, without losing any Part of
     their Matter. I can make an Electrical Spark as big as
     the Flame of a Candle, much brighter, and, therefore,
     visible farther, yet this is without Fuel; and, I am
     persuaded no part of the Electric Fluid flies off in
     such Case to distant Places, but all goes directly, and
     is to be found in the Place to which I destine it. May
     not different Degrees of Vibration of the
     above-mentioned Universal Medium occasion the
     Appearances of different Colours? I think the Electric
     Fluid is always the same; yet I find that weaker and
     stronger Sparks differ in apparent Colour; some white,
     blue, purple, red; the strongest, White; weak ones,
     red. Thus different Degrees of Vibration given to the
     Air produce the 7 different Sounds in Music, analagous
     to the 7 Colours, yet the Medium, Air, is the same.

"Universal Space, as far as we know of it," he declared in his _Loose
Thoughts on a Universal Fluid_, "seems to be filled with a subtil Fluid,
whose Motion, or Vibration is called Light." And he then proceeds to found
on this statement a series of speculations marked by too high a degree of
temerity to have much scientific value. One sentiment in the paper,
however, is well worth recalling as showing how clearly its author had
grasped the conservation of matter. "The Power of Man relative to Matter,"
he observed, "seems limited to the dividing it, or mixing the various kinds
of it, or changing its Form and Appearance by different Compositions of it;
but does not extend to the making or creating of new Matter, or
annihilating the old."

The Science of Palæontology was in its infancy during the lifetime of
Franklin. Many years before Cuvier gave the name of mastodon to the
prehistoric beast, whose fossil remains had been brought to sight from time
to time in different parts of the world, George Croghan, the Indian trader,
sent to Franklin a box of tusks and grinders, which had been found near the
Ohio, and which he supposed to be parts of a dismembered elephant. In his
reply of thanks, Franklin observed that the tusks were nearly of the same
form and texture as those of the African and Asiatic elephant. "But the
grinders differ," he added, "being full of knobs, like the grinders of a
carnivorous animal; when those of the elephant, who eats only vegetables,
are almost smooth. But then we know of no other animal with tusks like an
elephant, to whom such grinders might belong." The fact that, while
elephants inhabited hot countries only, fragments such as those sent to him
by Croghan were found in climates like those of the Ohio Territory and
Siberia, looked, Franklin concluded, "as if the earth had anciently been in
another position, and the climates differently placed from what they are at
present." Contrasting the observations of this letter with the paper read
long afterwards by Thomas Jefferson before the American Philosophical
Society on the bones of a large prehistoric quadruped resembling the sloth,
William B. Scott, the American palæontologist, remarks:

     Franklin's opinions are nearer to our present beliefs
     than were Jefferson's, written nearly forty years
     later. Of course, we now know that Franklin was
     mistaken in supposing that such bones were found only
     in what is now Kentucky and in Peru, and his comparison
     of the teeth of the mastodon with the "grinders of a
     carnivorous animal" is not very happy, but the
     inferences are remarkably sound, when we consider the
     state of geological knowledge in 1767.

In a letter to Antoine Court de Gébelin, the author of the _Monde
Primitif_, Franklin gave him a valuable caution, in relation to apparent
linguistic variations. Strangers, who learnt the language of an Indian
nation, he said, finding no orthography, formed each his own orthography
according to the usual sounds given to the letters in his own language.
Thus the same words of the Mohawk language, written by an English, a French
and a German interpreter, often differed very much in the spelling.

Franklin's letters to Herschel, Maskelyne, Rittenhouse, Humphrey Marshall
and James Bowdoin reveal a keen interest in astronomy, but this is not one
of the fields from which he came off _cum laude_. Gratifying to the pride
of an American, however, is an observation which he made to William
Herschel, when the latter sent to him for the American Philosophical
Society a catalogue of one thousand new nebulæ and star-clusters and stated
at the same time that he had discovered two satellites, which revolved
about the Georgian planet. In congratulating him on the discovery, Franklin

     You have wonderfully extended the Power of human
     Vision, and are daily making us Acquainted with Regions
     of the Universe totally unknown to mankind in former
     Ages. Had Fortune plac'd you in this part of America,
     your Progress in these Discoveries might have been
     still more rapid, as from the more frequent clearness
     of our Air, we have near one Third more in the year of
     good observing Days than there are in England.

The production of cold by evaporation was another subject which enlisted
the eager interest of Franklin. In co-operation with Dr. Hadley, the
Professor of Chemistry at Cambridge, England, he was so successful in
covering a ball with ice by wetting it from time to time with ether, and
blowing upon the ether with a bellows, that he could write to John Lining
in these words: "From this experiment one may see the possibility of
freezing a man to death on a warm summer's day, if he were to stand in a
passage through which the wind blew briskly, and to be wet frequently with
ether, a spirit that is more inflammable than brandy, or common spirits of

Geology was in its infancy during Franklin's time, but he hazarded some
conjectures about the formation of the earth that are perhaps not less
trustworthy than those advanced by riper geologists. In the letter, in
which these conjectures were communicated to the Abbé Soulavie, he said:

     Part of the high county of Derby being probably as much
     above the level of the sea, as the coal mines of
     Whitehaven were below it, seemed a proof that there had
     been a great _bouleversement_ in the surface of that
     Island (Great Britain), some part of it having been
     depressed under the sea, and other parts which had been
     under it being raised above it.... Such changes in the
     superficial parts of the globe [he continued] seemed to
     me unlikely to happen if the earth were solid to the
     centre. I therefore imagined that the internal parts
     might be a fluid more dense, and of greater specific
     gravity than any of the solids we are acquainted with;
     which therefore might swim in or upon that fluid. Thus
     the surface of the globe would be a shell, capable of
     being broken and disordered by the violent movements of
     the fluid on which it rested.

The letter contains other speculations equally bold:

     It has long been a supposition of mine that the iron
     contained in the substance of this globe, has made it
     capable of becoming as it is a great magnet. That the
     fluid of magnetism exists perhaps in all space; so that
     there is a magnetical North and South of the universe
     as well as of this globe, and that if it were possible
     for a man to fly from star to star, he might govern his
     course by the compass. That it was by the power of this
     general magnetism this globe became a particular
     magnet. In soft or hot iron the fluid of magnetism is
     naturally diffused equally; when within the influence
     of the magnet, it is drawn to one end of the Iron, made
     denser there, and rare at the other, while the iron
     continues soft and hot, it is only a temporary magnet:
     If it cools or grows hard in that situation, it becomes
     a permanent one, the magnetic fluid not easily resuming
     its equilibrium. Perhaps it may be owing to the
     permanent magnetism of this globe, which it had not at
     first, that its axis is at present kept parallel to
     itself, and not liable to the changes it formerly
     suffered, which occasioned the rupture of its shell,
     the submersions and emersions of its lands and the
     confusion of its seasons.

It was probably, Franklin thought, different relations between the earth
and its axis in the past that caused much of Europe, including the
mountains of Passy, on which he lived, and which were composed of limestone
rock and sea shells, to be abandoned by the sea, and to change its ancient
climate, which seemed, he said, to have been a hot one.

The physical convulsions to which the earth had been subject in the past
were, however, in his opinion beneficent.

     Had [he said in a letter to Sir John Pringle] the
     different strata of clay, gravel, marble, coals,
     limestone, sand, minerals, &c., continued to lie level,
     one under the other, as they may be supposed to have
     done before these convulsions, we should have had the
     use only of a few of the uppermost of the strata, the
     others lying too deep and too difficult to be come at;
     but the shell of the earth being broke, and the
     fragments thrown into this oblique position, the
     disjointed ends of a great number of strata of
     different kinds are brought up to-day, and a great
     variety of useful materials put into our power, which
     would otherwise have remained eternally concealed from
     us. So that what has been usually looked upon as a
     _ruin_ suffered by this part of the universe, was, in
     reality, only a preparation or means of rendering the
     earth more fit for use, more capable of being to
     mankind a convenient and comfortable habitation.

The scientific conjectures of Franklin may not always have been sound, but
they are invariably so readable that we experience no difficulty in
understanding why the Abbé Raynal should have preferred his fictions to
other men's truths.


[51] The lightning rod in its origin encountered the same religious
misgivings as inoculation and insurance and many other ideas which have
promoted human progress and happiness. The Rev. Thomas Prince at the time
of the Lisbon earthquake thought that the more lightning rods there were
the greater was the danger that the earth might become perilously
surcharged with electricity. "In Boston," he said, "are more erected than
anywhere else in New England; and Boston seems to be more dreadfully
shaken. Oh! there is no getting out of the Mighty Hand of God! If we think
to avoid it in the Air we can not in the Earth. Yea, it may grow more

[52] The lines under the portrait of Franklin by Cochin do not hesitate to
exalt him above the most powerful forces of Nature and the authority of the

    "C'est l'honneur et l'appui du nouvel hémisphère,
    Les flots de l'Océan s'abaissent à sa voix;
    Il réprime ou dirige à son gré le tonnerre.
    Qui désarme les dieux peut-il craindre les rois?"

[53] "With Franklin grasp the lightning's fiery wing," is a line in Thomas
Campbell's _Pleasures of Hope_. In his _Age of Bronze_, Byron asks in one
place why the Atlantic should "gird a tyrant's grave"

    "While Franklin's quiet memory climbs to heaven,
    Calming the lightning which he thence hath riven."

And in another place in the same poem he speaks of

    "Stoic Franklin's energetic shade,
    Robed in the lightnings which his hand allayed."

Crabbe in his tribute to "Divine Philosophy" in the _Library_ exclaims,

    "'Tis hers the lightning from the clouds to call,
    And teach the fiery mischief where to fall."

[54] The inductive process by which Franklin arrived at the identity of
lightning and electricity was set forth in one of his letters to John
Lining, of Charleston, dated March 18, 1755. The minutes kept by him of his
experiments and observations, contained, he said, the following entry:

"November 7, 1749. Electrical fluid agrees with lightning in these
particulars. 1. Giving light. 2. Colour of the light. 3. Crooked direction.
4. Swift motion. 5. Being conducted by metals. 6. Crack or noise in
exploding. 7. Subsisting in water or ice. 8. Rending bodies it passes
through. 9. Destroying animals. 10. Melting metals. 11. Firing inflammable
substances. 12. Sulphureous smell. The electric fluid is attracted by
points. We do not know whether this property is in lightning. But since
they agree in all particulars wherein we can already compare them, is it
not probable they agree likewise in this? Let the Experiment be made."

[55] The standing of Franklin as an inventor would be better established if
he had not been so resolute in his unwillingness to take out patents upon
his inventions. Besides the various inventions mentioned by us in the text,
he was the father of other valuable mechanical conceptions. The first hint
of the art of engraving upon earthenware appears to have originated with
him. Moved by his constant desire to inculcate moral truths, he suggested
about 1753 to a correspondent the idea of engraving from copper plates on
square chimney tiles "moral prints"; "which," to use his words, "being
about our Chimneys, and constantly in the Eyes of Children when by the
Fireside, might give Parents an Opportunity, in explaining them, to impress
moral Sentiments."

He also appears to have anticipated the Argand burner. A description has
come down to us of a lamp devised by him which, with only three small
wicks, had a lustre equal to six candles. It was fitted with a pipe that
supplied fresh and cool air to its lights. If Franklin did not invent, he
was the first to communicate to his friend, Mr. Viny, the wheel
manufacturer at Tenderden, Kent, the art of flexing timber used in making
wheels for vehicles. But of few things did Franklin take a gloomier view
than the fate of the inventor as his observations in a letter to John
Lining, dated March 18, 1755, demonstrate. "One would not," he said, "of
all faculties or qualities of the mind, wish, for a friend, or a child,
that he should have that of invention. For his attempts to benefit mankind
in that way, however well imagined, if they do not succeed, expose him,
though very unjustly, to general ridicule and contempt; and, if they do
succeed, to envy, robbery, and abuse."


Franklin as a Writer

Franklin, as Hume truly said, was the first great man of letters, for whom
Great Britain was beholden to America, and, among his writings, are some
that will always remain classics. But it is a mistake to think of him as in
any sense a professional author. He was entirely accurate when he declared
in the _Autobiography_ that prose-writing had been of great use to him in
the course of his life and a principal means of his advancement; but always
to him a pen was but an implement of action. When it had accomplished its
purpose, he threw it aside as a farmer discards a worn-out plowshare, or a
horse casts a shoe.[56] There is nothing in his writings or his utterances
to show that he ever regarded himself as a literary man, or ever harbored a
thought of permanent literary fame. The only productions of his pen, which
suggest the sandpaper and varnish of a professional writer, are his
Bagatelles, such as _The Craven Street Gazette_ and _The Ephemera_,
composed for the amusement of his friends; and, in writing them, the idea
of permanency was as completely absent from his mind as it was from that
of the Duke of Crillon, when he sent up his balloon in honor of the two
Spanish princes. The greater part of his writings were composed in haste,
and published anonymously, and without revision. And, when once published,
if they did not remain dispersed and neglected, it was only because their
merits were too great for them not to be snatched from the "abhorred abyss
of blank oblivion" by some disciple or friend of his, who had more regard
for posterity than he had. So far as we are aware, no edition of his
scientific essays or other writings was ever in the slightest degree
prompted by any personal concern or request of his. As soon as the didactic
purpose of the earlier chapters of the _Autobiography_ had been gratified
by the composition of those chapters, it was only by incessant proddings
and importunities that he could be induced to bring his narrative down to
as late a period as he did. When Lord Kames expressed a desire to have all
his publications, the only ones on which he could lay his hands were the
_Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind_, _Peopling of Countries,
etc._, the _Account of the New-invented Pennsylvanian Fireplaces_, and some
little magazine sketches. He had had, he wrote Lord Kames, daily
expectations of procuring some of his performances from a friend to whom he
had formerly sent them, when the author was in America, but this friend had
at length told him that he could not find them. "Very mortifying this to an
author," said Franklin, "that his works should so soon be lost!" When
Jefferson called upon him, during his last days, he placed in the former's
hands the valuable manuscript of his negotiations with Lord Howe, and it
was not until he had twice told Jefferson to keep it, in reply to
statements by Jefferson that he would return it, after reading it, that the
recipient could realize that the intention was to turn over the manuscript
to him absolutely. In a letter to Vaughan, he mentions that, after writing
a parable, probably that on Brotherly Love, he laid it aside and had not
seen it for thirty years, when a lady, a few days before, furnished him
with a copy that she had preserved.

The indifference of Franklin to literary reputation is all the more
remarkable in view of the clearness with which he foresaw the increased
patronage that the future had in store for English authors. "I assure you,"
he wrote on one occasion to Hume, "it often gives me pleasure to reflect,
how greatly the _audience_ (if I may so term it) of a good English writer
will, in another century or two, be increased by the increase of English
people in our colonies." Twenty-four years later, he had already lived long
enough to see his prescience in this respect to no little extent verified.

     By the way [he wrote to William Strahan], the rapid
     Growth and extension of the English language in
     America, must become greatly Advantageous to the
     book-sellers, and holders of Copy-Rights in England. A
     vast audience is assembling there for English Authors
     ancient, present, and future, our People doubling every
     twenty Years; and this will demand large and of course
     profitable Impressions of your most valuable Books. I
     would, therefore, if I possessed such rights, entail
     them, if such a thing be practicable, upon my
     Posterity; for their Worth will be continually

This grave advice was followed by the jolly laugh that was never long
absent from the intercourse between Franklin and Strahan. "This," Franklin
said, "may look a little like Advice, and yet I have drank no _Madeira_
these Ten Months."

The manner in which Franklin acquired the elements of his literary
education is one of the inspiring things in the history of knowledge. At
the age of ten, as we have seen, he was done forever with all schools
except those of self-education and experience; but he had one of those
minds that simply will not be denied knowledge. Even while he was pouring
tallow into his father's moulds, he was reading the _Pilgrim's Progress_,
Burton's _Historical Collections_, "small chapmen's books, and cheap, 40 or
50 in all," Plutarch's _Lives_, Defoe's _Essay on Projects_ and Cotton
Mather's _Essay upon the Good that is to be Devised and Designed by those
who desire to answer the Great end of Life, and to do Good while they
Live_; all books full of wholesome and stimulating food for a hungry mind.
Happily for him, his propensity for reading found ampler scope when his
father bound him over as an apprentice to James Franklin. Here he had
access to better books.

     An acquaintance with the apprentices of book-sellers
     [he tells us in the _Autobiography_] enabled me
     sometimes to borrow a small one, which I was careful to
     return soon and clean. Often I sat up in my room
     reading the greatest part of the night, when the book
     was borrowed in the evening and to be returned early in
     the morning, lest it should be missed or wanted.

This clandestine use of what did not belong to him or to his obliging young
friends was an illicit enjoyment; but was one of those offences, we may be
sure, for which the Recording Angel has an expunging tear. More legitimate
was the use that he made of the volumes lent to him by Mr. Matthew Adams,
who had a pretty collection of books, and who frequented the
printing-house, took notice of him and invited him to his library, and very
kindly lent him such books as he chose to read. As we have seen, it was not
long before Benjamin struck a bargain with his brother, by which the
obligation of the latter to board him was commuted into a fixed weekly sum,
which, though only half what had been previously paid by James for his
weekly board, proved large enough to afford the boy a fund for buying books
with. Not only under this arrangement did he contrive to save for this
purpose one half of the sum allowed him by James but also to secure an
additional margin of time for reading.

     My brother and the rest [Franklin tells us in the
     _Autobiography_] going from the printing-house to their
     meals, I remained there alone, and, despatching
     presently my light repast, which often was no more than
     a bisket or a slice of bread, a handful of raisins or a
     tart from the pastry-cook's, and a glass of water, had
     the rest of the time till their return for study, in
     which I made the greater progress, from that greater
     clearness of head and quicker apprehension which
     usually attend temperance in eating and drinking.

Then it was that he read Locke's _Essay on Human Understanding_ and the
_Art of Thinking_ by "Messrs. du Port Royal." To the same period belongs
his provoking dalliance with the Socratic method of reasoning.

From reading the works of others to what Sir Fopling Flutter called "the
natural sprouts" of one's own brain is always but a short step for a clever
and ambitious boy. Franklin's first literary ventures were metrical ones,
the lispings that filled the mind of his uncle Benjamin with such glowing
anticipations, and "some little pieces" which excited the commercial
instincts of James Franklin to the point of putting Benjamin to composing
occasional ballads. The subject of one ballad, _The Light House Tragedy_,
was the death by drowning of Captain Worthilake and his two daughters;
another ballad was a sailor's song on the taking of Teach (or Blackbeard),
the flagitious pirate. The opinion of these ballads held by Franklin is
probably just enough, if we may judge by his subsequent irruptions into the
province of Poetry.

     They were wretched stuff, in the Grub-Street-ballad
     style [he says in the _Autobiography_], and when they
     were printed he (James Franklin) sent me about the town
     to sell them. The first sold wonderfully, the event
     being recent, having made a great noise. This
     flattered my vanity; but my father discouraged me by
     ridiculing my performances, and telling me verse-makers
     were generally beggars. So I escaped being a poet, most
     probably a very bad one.

From the doggerel, thus condemned by the hard head of Josiah, Benjamin
turned to prose. Believing that in oral discussion with his friend Collins
on the qualifications of women for learning, he had been borne down rather
by the fluency than the logic of his antagonist, he reduced his arguments
to writing, copied them in a fair hand and sent them to Collins. He
replied, and Franklin rejoined, and no less than three or four letters had
been addressed by each of the friends to the other when the correspondence
happened to fall under the eye of Josiah. Again the son had reason to be
thankful for the candid discernment of the father, for Josiah pointed out
to him that, while he had the advantage of Collins in correct spelling and
pointing (thanks to the printing-house) he fell far short of Collins in
elegance of expression, method and perspicuity, all of which he illustrated
by references to the correspondence.

The son realized the justice of the father's criticisms, and resolved to
amend his faults. The means to which he resorted he has laid before us in
the _Autobiography_:

     About this time [he says] I met with an odd volume of
     the _Spectator_. It was the third. I had never before
     seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over,
     and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing
     excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With
     this view I took some of the papers, and, making short
     hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a
     few days, and then, without looking at the book, try'd
     to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted
     sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been
     expressed before, in any suitable words that should
     come to hand. Then I compared my _Spectator_ with the
     original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected
     them. But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a
     readiness in recollecting and using them, which I
     thought I should have acquired before that time if I
     had gone on making verses; since the continual occasion
     for words of the same import, but of different length,
     to suit the measure, or of different sound for the
     rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of
     searching for variety, and also have tended to fix that
     variety in my mind, and make me master of it. Therefore
     I took some of the tales, and turned them into verse;
     and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the
     prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled
     my collection of hints into confusion, and after some
     weeks endeavoured to reduce them into the best order,
     before I began to form the full sentences and compleat
     the paper. This was to teach me method in the
     arrangement of thoughts. By comparing my work
     afterwards with the original, I discovered many faults
     and amended them; but I sometimes had the pleasure of
     fancying that, in certain particulars of small import,
     I had been lucky enough to improve the method of the
     language, and this encouraged me to think I might
     possibly in time come to be a tolerable English writer,
     of which I was extreamly ambitious. My time for these
     exercises and for reading was at night, after work or
     before it began in the morning, or on Sundays, when I
     contrived to be in the printing-house alone, evading as
     much as I could the common attendance on public worship
     which my father used to exact of me when I was under
     his care, and which indeed I still thought a duty,
     though I could not, as it seemed to me, afford time to
     practise it.

The next step in Benjamin's literary development was when he contrived to
disguise his handwriting and thrust the first of his Silence Dogood letters
under the door of his brother's printing-house; and we can readily imagine
what his feelings were when the group of contributors to the _Courant_, who
frequented the place, read it and commented on it, in his hearing, and
afforded him what he terms in the _Autobiography_ the exquisite pleasure
of finding that it met with their approbation; and that in their different
guesses at the author none were named but men of some character in the town
for learning and ingenuity. Encouraged by his success, he wrote and
communicated to the _Courant_ in the same furtive way the other letters in
the Silence Dogood series, keeping his secret, he tells us, until his small
fund of sense for such performances was pretty well exhausted, when he
disclosed his authorship, only to arouse the jealousy of the churlish
brother, who, alone of the _Courant_ circle, failed to regard him with
augmented respect. If there was no extrinsic evidence to fix the authorship
of the Dogood letters, their intrinsic characteristics, incipient as they
are, would be enough to disclose the hand of Franklin. The good dame, who
finally succumbed to the rhetoric of her reverend master and protector,
after he had made several fruitless attempts on the more topping part of
her sex, bears very much the same family lineaments as the Anthony Afterwit
and Alice Addertongue of the _Pennsylvania Gazette_. Deprived of her good
husband by inexorable death, when her sun was in its meridian altitude, she
proceeds to gratify her natural inclination for observing and reproving the
faults of others, and to open up her mind in a way that leaves us little
room for doubt as to who the lively, free-spirited and free-spoken boy was
that she concealed beneath her petticoats. "A hearty Lover of the Clergy
and all good Men, and a mortal Enemy to arbitrary Government & unlimited
Power," she was, she assures us in one letter, besides being courteous and
affable, good-humored (unless first provoked) and handsome, and sometimes
witty. In her next paper, she tells us that she had from her youth been
indefatigably studious to gain and treasure up in her mind all useful and
desirable knowledge, especially such as tends to improve the mind and
enlarge the understanding. With this frontispiece, she, from time to time,
delivers her views on various topics with glib vivacity, set off by Latin
quotations. In one letter, she falls asleep in her usual place of
retirement under the Great Apple Tree, and is transported in a dream to the
Temple of Learning (Harvard College), which we can only hope was not quite
so bad as it appeared to be when seen through the distorting medium of her
slumbers. Describing the concourse of outgoing students, she says, "SOME I
perceiv'd took to Merchandizing, others to Travelling, some to one Thing,
some to another, and some to Nothing; and many of them from henceforth, for
want of Patrimony, liv'd as poor as church Mice, being unable to dig, and
asham'd to beg, and to live by their Wits it was impossible." In another
letter, Silence unsparingly lashes the existing system of female education.
"Their Youth," she says, borrowing the words of an "ingenious writer," is
spent to teach them to stitch and sow, or make Baubles. "They are taught to
read indeed and perhaps to write their Names, or so; and that is the Heigth
of a Womans Education."

In another letter, she holds up hoop-petticoats to laughter. If a number of
them, she declared, were well mounted on Noddle's Island, they would look
more like engines of war for bombarding the town than ornaments of the fair
sex; and she concludes by asking her sex, "whether they, who pay no Rates
or Taxes, ought to take up more Room in the King's Highway, than the Men,
who yearly contribute to the Support of the Government."

Another letter makes unmerciful fun of an Elegy upon the much Lamented
Death of Mrs. Mehitebell Kitel, the wife of Mr. John Kitel, of Salem etc.

Two lines,

    "Come let us mourn, for we have lost a
    Wife, a Daughter, and a Sister,"

affords Silence an opportunity for some merry satire. Contrasting these
lines with Dr. Watts'

    "GUNSTON the Just, the Generous, and the Young,"

she says:

     The latter (Watts) only mentions three Qualifications
     of _one_ Person who was deceased, which therefore could
     raise Grief and Compassion but for _One_. Whereas the
     former, (_our most excellent Poet_) gives his Reader a
     Sort of an Idea of the Death of _Three Persons_, viz.

         --a Wife, a Daughter, and a Sister,

     which is _Three Times_ as great a Loss as the Death of
     _One_, and consequently must raise _Three Times_ as
     much Grief and Compassion in the Reader.

It was a pity, Silence added, that such an excellent piece should not be
dignified with a particular name. Seeing that it could not justly be called
either _Epic_, _Saphhic_, _Lyric_ or _Pindaric_, nor any other name yet
invented, she presumed it might (in honour and remembrance of the dead) be
called the Kitelic.

The next letter on freedom of speech was, or purported to be, an extract
from the _London Journal_, and is written in such a totally masculine
spirit that the reader might well have exclaimed like Hugh Evans in the
_Merry Wives of Windsor_: "I like not when a 'oman has a great peard; I spy
a great peard under her muffler." This is one of its masculine sentiments:
"Who ever would overthrow the Liberty of a Nation, must begin by subduing
the Freeness of Speech; a _Thing_ Terrible to Publick Traytors."

And this is another, phrased very much as Grover Cleveland might have
phrased it. "The Administration of Government is nothing else but the
Attendance of the _Trustees of the People_ upon the Interest and Affairs of
the People."

The next letter inveighs against hypocritical pretenders to religion. It
had for some time, Silence says, been a question with her whether a
commonwealth suffers more by hypocritical pretenders to religion, or by the
openly profane; but she is inclined to think that the hypocrite is the most
dangerous person of the two, especially if he sustains a post in the
Government, and his conduct is considered as it regards the public. The
local application of these remarks to Boston at the time could be left to
take care of itself.

The next letter gives us another peep under Silence's petticoats, for it
advances a plan for the insurance of widows, worked out with actuarial
precision, and bearing the unmistakable earmarks of the projecting spirit
of the founder of the Junto. "For my own Part," Silence ends, "I have
nothing left to live on, but Contentment and a few Cows; and tho' I cannot
expect to be reliev'd by this Project, yet it would be no small
Satisfaction to me to See it put in Practice for the Benefit of Others."

The next letter contains a missive from Margaret After cast, a forlorn
Virgin, well stricken in years and repentance, to Silence, in which the
writer, prompted by the provision for widows proposed by Silence, begs her
to form a project also for the relief of "all those penitent Mortals of the
fair Sex, that are like to be punish'd with their Virginity until old Age,
for the Pride and Insolence of their Youth."

The next letter is a clever discourse on drunkenness. It hints at the truth
that Franklin afterwards insisted upon in the "Dialogue between Horatio and
Philocles" that we must stint sensual pleasure to really enjoy it, and sets
forth a vocabulary of cant terms for intoxication similar to that
subsequently published by him in the _Pennsylvania Gazette_.

The next letter is on the forbidding subject of night-walkers. The
familiarity that it exhibits with the peripatetic side of Boston Common
after dark at that day makes it a little difficult for us to understand why
Franklin should ever have had occasion to tell us in the _Autobiography_,
as he does, how on his second voyage from Boston to New York, a grave,
sensible, matronlike Quakeress rescued him from the clutches of two young
women, who afterwards proved to be a couple of thievish strumpets.

The final letter in the series is on the danger of religious zeal, if

We have referred to these letters at some length, not only because they are
not too immature to be even now read with pleasure for their wit and humor,
but because they help to give us a still more faithful idea of the
rebellious youth of Franklin, which, if it had not been so full of scornful
protest against the whole system of New England Puritanism, might have
shaded off, with the chastening effects of time, into too passive a type of
liberalism for such a career as his.

From the Dogood letters Benjamin passed as we have seen to the editorship
of the _Courant_ and to the gibes at the Boston clergy and magistracy,
which ended in his ignominious flight from that city. But never was there a
time in his youth, however restive under the check-rein, when his love of
books was not the chief resource of his life. When on his return from
Boston to Philadelphia, after receiving his father's blessing, it was the
fact that he had a great many books with him which led Governor Burnet of
New York to send for him, and to show him his large library, and to
discourse with him at considerable length about books and authors. He had
previously begun to have "some acquaintance among the young people" of
Philadelphia "that were lovers of reading," and subsequently came those
academic strolls with Osborne, Watson and Ralph through the woods along the
Schuylkill. And later even London, with all its tumult and dissipation,
could not long extinguish his thirst for the sweet, cool wells of human
thought and sentiment from which the soul of a gifted boy drinks with such
passionate eagerness. Circulating libraries were unknown at that time, but
he agreed on reasonable terms with Wilcox, a bookseller, with an immense
collection of second-hand books, whose shop was next door to his place of
lodging in Little Britain, that he might take home and read and return any
of his wares. We have already quoted the passages in the _Autobiography_ in
which he tells us that, during the eighteen months that he was in London in
his youth, he spent little upon himself except in seeing plays, and for
books; and that he read considerably.

The _Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain_, which he
wrote while in London, of little value as it was in itself, yet also aided
in confirming his literary tendencies; for it arrested the attention of
Lyons, the author of _The Infallibility of Human Judgment_, who introduced
him to Bernard Mandeville, the author of the _Fable of the Bees_, "a most
facetious, entertaining companion," and Dr. Henry Pemberton, the author of
_A View of Sir I. Newton's Philosophy_.

The love of reading, thus acquired by Franklin in early life, never
deserted him, and was afterwards strengthened by his own ever-increasing
library, which, before his death, became so large that he had to build a
spacious room for its reception at his home in Philadelphia, the books
owned by the other members of the Junto, the extensive library of James
Logan at Stenton, and the collections of the Philadelphia Library Company.
Even when his private business was too exacting to allow him time for any
other form of recreation, he still found time for reading, including the
acquirement of several modern languages, and the consequence was that, when
he began to write in earnest, he was well supplied with all the materials
for literary workmanship.

While Franklin never became a professional writer, he was very scrupulous
about the typographical dress of what he wrote and not a little of a
purist in his choice of words. Nor does he seem to have been less averse
than authors usually are to editorial mutilation. Among his letters is one
to Woodfall, the printer of Junius' Letters, asking him to take care that
the compositor observed "strictly the Italicking, Capitalling and Pointing"
of the copy enclosed with the letter. Referring in a letter to William
Franklin to a reprint in the _London Chronicle_ of his "Edict by the King
of Prussia," he said:

     It is reprinted in the _Chronicle_, where you will see
     it, but stripped of all the capitaling and italicing,
     that intimate the allusions and mark the emphasis of
     written discourses, to bring them as near as possible
     to those spoken: printing such a piece all in one even
     small character, seems to me like repeating one of
     Whitefield's sermons in the monotony of a schoolboy.

On another occasion he was led by the alterations made in the text of one
of his papers to write to William Franklin in these terms: "The editor of
that paper, one Jones, seems a Grenvillian, or is very cautious, as you
will see by his corrections and omissions. He has drawn the teeth and pared
the nails of my paper, so that it can neither scratch nor bite."

Among the many delightful letters of Franklin is one that he wrote in his
extreme old age to Noah Webster, acknowledging the receipt of a copy of the
latter's _Dissertations on the English Language_, and applauding his zeal
for preserving the purity of the English language both in its expressions
and pronunciation; and in correcting the popular errors into which several
of the States were continually falling with respect to both. In this
letter, the writer again takes occasion to reprobate the use in New England
of the word "improved" in the sense of "employed." The word in that
signification appears to have been decidedly obnoxious to him, for he had
previously banned it in a letter to Jared Eliot. Among the ludicrous
instances that he gave in his letter to Webster of its use in its perverted
sense was an obituary statement to the effect that a certain deceased
country gentleman had been for more than thirty years _improved_ as a
justice of the peace. He also found, he said, that, during his absence in
France, several newfangled words had been introduced into the parliamentary
vocabulary of America, such as the verb formed from the substantive
"Notice," as "_I should not have NOTICED this, were it not that the
Gentleman_, &c.," the verb formed from the substantive "Advocate," as "_the
Gentleman who ADVOCATES or has ADVOCATED that Motion_, &c.," and the verb
formed from the substantive "progress," the most awkward and abominable of
the three, as "_the committee, having PROGRESSED resolved to adjourn_." He
also found that the word "opposed," though not a new word, was used in a
new manner, as "_the Gentlemen who are OPPOSED to this Measure_." From
these verbal criticisims he passed to the advantages that had inured to the
French language from obtaining the universal currency in Europe previously
enjoyed by Latin. It was perhaps, he thought, owing to the fact that
Voltaire's treatise on Toleration was written in French that it had exerted
so sudden and so great an effect on the bigotry of Europe as almost
entirely to disarm it. The English language bid fair to occupy a place only
second to that of the French, and the effort therefore should be to relieve
it still more of all the difficulties, however small, which discouraged its
more general diffusion. A book, ill-printed, or a pronunciation in
speaking, not well articulated, would render a sentence unintelligible,
which from a clear print, or a distinct speaker, would have been
immediately comprehended.

Instead of diminishing, however, the obstacles to the extension of the
English language, Franklin declared, had increased. The practice, for
illustration, of beginning all substantives with a capital letter, which
had done so much to promote intelligibility, had been laid aside. And so,
from the same fondness for an even and uniform appearance, had been the
practice of italicizing important words, or words which should be
emphasized when read. Another innovation was the use of the short round s
instead of the long one which had formerly served so well to distinguish a
word readily by its varied aspect. Certainly the omission of these
prominent letters made the line appear more even, but it rendered it less
immediately legible; as the paring all men's noses might smooth and level
their faces, but would render their physiognomies less distinguishable. All
these, Franklin said, were improvements backwards, and classed with them
too should be the modern fancy that gray printing--read with difficulty by
old eyes--unless in a very strong light and with good glasses, was more
beautiful than black. A comparison between a volume of the _Gentleman's
Magazine_, printed between the years 1731 and 1740, and one printed in the
last ten years would demonstrate the contrary. Lord Chesterfield pleasantly
remarked this difference to Faulkener, the printer of the _Dublin Journal_,
when he was vainly making encomiums on his own paper as the most complete
of any in the world. "But, Mr. Faulkener," said my Lord, "don't you think
it might be still farther improved by using Paper and Ink not quite so near
of a Colour"? Another point in favor of clear and distinct printing was
that it afforded the eye, when it was being read aloud, an opportunity to
take a look forward in time to supply the voice with the proper modulations
for coming words. But, if words were obscurely printed or disguised by
omitting the capitals and the long s, or otherwise, the reader was apt to
modulate wrong, and, finding that he had done so, would be obliged to go
back, and begin the sentence again, with a loss of pleasure to his

Two features, however, of the old system of printing did not meet with the
approval of Franklin. It was absurd to place the interrogation point at the
end of a sentence where it is not descried until it is too late for the
inflection of interrogation to be given. The practice of the Spanish of
putting this point at the beginning of the sentence was more sensible. The
same reasoning was applicable to the practice of putting the stage
direction "aside" at the end of a sentence.

Nice, however, as were the prejudices of Franklin with respect to the use
of words, some of his own did not escape the vigilant purism of Hume, who,
notwithstanding his admiration for Franklin, as the first great man of
letters produced by America, was, where fastidious diction was concerned,
not unlike John Randolph of Roanoke, whose exquisite fidelity to correct
English impelled him even on his death-bed, when asked whether he _lay_
easily, to reply with marked emphasis, "I _lie_ as easily as a dying man
can." After reading Franklin's Canada pamphlet and essay on Population,
Hume took exception to several of his expressions; as is shown by one of
the latter's letters to him.

     I thank you [wrote Franklin] for your friendly
     admonition relating to some unusual words in the
     pamphlet. It will be of service to me. The "_pejorate_"
     and the "_colonize_," since they are not in common use
     here, I give up as bad; for certainly in writings
     intended for persuasion and for general information,
     one can not be too clear; and every expression in the
     least obscure is a fault. The "_unshakeable_" too,
     though clear, I give up as rather low. The introducing
     new words, where we are already possessed of old ones
     sufficiently expressive, I confess must be generally
     wrong, as it tends to change the language; yet, at the
     same time, I can not but wish the usage of our tongue
     permitted making new words, when we want them, by
     composition of old ones whose meanings are already well
     understood. The German allows of it, and it is a
     common practice with their writers. Many of our
     present English words were originally so made; and many
     of the Latin words. In point of clearness, such
     compound words would have the advantage of any we can
     borrow from the ancient or from foreign languages. For
     instance, the word _inaccessible_, though long in use
     among us, is not yet, I dare say, so universally
     understood by our people, as the word _uncomeatable_
     would immediately be, which we are not allowed to
     write. But I hope with you, that we shall always in
     America make the best English of this Island our
     standard, and I believe it will be so.

Franklin has left behind him his own conception of what constitutes a good
piece of writing.

     To be good [he says] it ought to have a tendency to
     benefit the reader, by improving his virtue or his
     knowledge. But, not regarding the intention of the
     author, the method should be just; that is, it should
     proceed regularly from things known to things unknown,
     distinctly and clearly without confusion. The words
     used should be the most expressive that the language
     affords, provided that they are the most generally
     understood. Nothing should be expressed in two words
     that can be as well expressed in one; that is, no
     synonymes should be used, or very rarely, but the whole
     should be as short as possible, consistent with
     clearness; the words should be so placed as to be
     agreable to the ear in reading; summarily it should be
     smooth, clear and short, for the contrary qualities are

Though entirely familiar, as we know from one of his letters, with the fate
that befell Gil Blas, when he was so imprudent as to comply with the
invitation of his master, the Archbishop, Franklin did not shrink from the
peril of telling Benjamin Vaughan at his request what the faults of his
writings were; and the terms in which he performed this delicate and
hazardous office were suggested in part at least by his own methods of

     Your language [he told Vaughan] seems to me to be good
     and pure, and your sentiments generally just; but your
     style of composition wants perspicuity, and this I
     think owing principally to a neglect of method. What I
     would therefore recommend to you is, that, before you
     sit down to write on any subject, you would spend some
     days in considering it, putting down at the same time,
     in short hints, every thought which occurs to you as
     proper to make a part of your intended piece. When you
     have thus obtained a collection of the thoughts,
     examine them carefully with this view, to find which of
     them is properest to be presented _first_ to the mind
     of the reader that he, being possessed of that, may the
     more easily understand it, and be better disposed to
     receive what you intend for the _second_; and thus I
     would have you put a figure before each thought, to
     mark its future place in your composition. For so,
     every preceding proposition preparing the mind for that
     which is to follow, and the reader often anticipating
     it, he proceeds with ease, and pleasure, and
     approbation, as seeming continually to meet with his
     own thoughts. In this mode you have a better chance for
     a perfect production; because the mind attending first
     to the sentiments alone, next to the method alone, each
     part is likely to be better performed, and I think too
     in less time.

The writings of Franklin as a whole were true to his literary ideals, for
they are, as a rule, smooth, clear and short; and the paper of preliminary
hints that he drew up for the composition of the _Autobiography_ was in
accord with his advice to Vaughan in regard to the value of such aids to
perspicuity. His familiar letters, agreeable as they are, bear evidence at
times of haste and lack of revision, and even his more informal writings,
other than letters, occasionally betray a certain sort of carelessness of
construction and expression. This is conspicuously true of the
_Autobiography_, and, indeed, it is one of the merits of that work, so
perfectly is it in keeping with its easy, meandering narrative. But,
generally speaking, the compositions of Franklin are fully in harmony with
his best standards of literary accomplishment. They are flowing and
euphonious, moving with a steady, smooth and sometimes powerful, current
from things known to things unknown, distinctly and lucidly without
confusion. They are as clear as a trout stream. If one of his sentences is
read a second time, it is not for his meaning, but merely for a renewal of
the gratification that the mind derives from a thought presented free from
the slightest trace of intercepting obscurity. They are so concise that the
endeavor to make an abstract of one of them is likely to result in a
sacrifice of brevity. But smoothness, clearness, and brevity, are far from
being the only merits of Franklin's writings. He was not richly endowed
with imagination; though he was by no means destitute of that sovereign
faculty; placid and sober as the ordinary operations of his mind were. But
Fancy, the graceful sister of Imagination, Invention, Wit and Humor, and
remarkable powers of statement and reasoning, all, except humor in its more
wayward moods, under the complete sway of a sound judgment, gave life and
strength to almost all that he wrote. His similes and metaphors are often
strikingly original and apt; never more so than when they light up with a
sudden flash the dark core of some abstruse scientific problem. A vivacity
of spirits that nothing could long depress, accompanied by a quick but
kindly sense of the ludicrous rises like bubbles of mellow wine to the
surface of his intimate letters, and other lighter compositions; and, when
associated with conceptions lured from the bright heaven of invention, and
elaborated with the utmost finish, as in the case of his Bagatelles,
imparts to his productions a quality that does not belong to any but the
best creations of literary genius. It is interesting to note how even the
most intractable subject, the new-invented Pennsylvania fireplace, smoky
chimneys, interest calculations become suffused with some sort of
intellectual charm, born of absolute transparency of speech, if nothing
else, as soon as they pass through the luminous and tapestried cells of
his spacious mind. That mind, indeed, like all minds of the same
comprehensive character, in which the balance has not been lost between the
subjective and objective faculties, was prone to see everything in large
pictorial outlines. Fable, epilogue, parable, a story that was not so much
the jest of a moment as the wisdom of all time, a historical incident, that
pointed some grave moral, or enforced some invaluable truth, came naturally
to his mind as they might well do to the minds of all men who are
creed-founders, or teachers, in any sense, on a large scale, of the mass of
men, as he was. How naturally such methods of instruction belonged to him
is well illustrated in the story told of him by John Adams. One evening, at
a social gathering, shortly before he left England, at the close of his
second mission to that country, a gentleman expressed the opinion that
writers like Æsop and La Fontaine had exhausted the resources of fable.
Franklin, so far from concurring with this view, declared that many new and
instructive fables could still be invented, and, when asked whether he
could think of one, replied that, if he was furnished with pen and paper,
he would produce one forthwith. The pen and paper were handed to him, and,
in a few minutes, he summed up the existing relations between England and
America in this fable:

     Once upon a time, an eagle, scaling round a farmer's
     barn, and espying a hare, darted down upon him like a
     sunbeam, seized him in his claws, and remounted with
     him in the air. He soon found that he had a creature of
     more courage and strength than a hare; for which,
     notwithstanding the keenness of his eyesight, he had
     mistaken a cat. The snarling and scrambling of the prey
     was very inconvenient; and, what was worse, she had
     disengaged herself from his talons, grasped his body
     with her four limbs, so as to stop his breath, and
     seized fast hold of his throat with her teeth. "Pray,"
     said the eagle, "let go your hold, and I will release
     you." "Very fine," said the cat, "I have no fancy to
     fall from this height, and be crushed to death. You
     have taken me up, and you shall stoop, and let me
     down." The eagle thought it necessary to stoop

In the course of the preceding pages, we have had occasion to refer at
considerable length to not a few of Franklin's writings, but by no means to
all. Among the best of his published pamphlets, is the one entitled _The
Interest of Great Britain considered with regard to her Colonies and the
Acquisitions of Canada and Guadaloupe_. Remarkable as it may now seem, when
the peace of 1763 between Great Britain and France was approaching, there
was some division of opinion in the former country as to whether she should
insist upon the cession by France to her of Canada or Guadeloupe, then one
of the rich sugar islands of the West Indies; and the object of this
pamphlet was to establish the superior claims of Canada. It is written with
great lucidity and force of argument, and is especially valuable for its
revelations of the extent to which the acquisition of Canada by England was
opposed in England for fear that it would tend to augment the power and
precipitate the independence of the American Colonies. Richard Jackson is
alleged to have had a share in its composition, exactly what Benjamin
Vaughan was unable to say after a careful investigation before the
publication of his edition of Franklin's writings in 1779. For our part, we
find it difficult to believe that he could have had any considerable share
in its production. Internal evidences of authorship are undoubtedly
misleading, but it is hard to read this paper, so similar to Franklin's
other pamphlets in point of peculiarities of diction and method without
exclaiming, "St. Dunstan or the Devil!" Its intimate, nay perfect,
familiarity with Indian habits and characteristics could not well have been
possessed by anyone who had never personally mixed with the Indians, and
formed his knowledge of them from his own and other first-hand information.
The arguments, too, employed in the pamphlet to allay English jealousy of
colonial aggrandizement, are the same that are found scattered through
Franklin's other writings. There is also the fact that the authorship of
the paper is referred to in the paper itself throughout in the first person
singular. There is also the fact that in the same letter to Hume, in which
Franklin disclaims the authorship of the _Historical Review_, he told him,
in reply to one of his criticisms, that he gave up as rather low the word
"unshakeable," used in the Canada pamphlet, but said nothing to indicate
that the pamphlet was not wholly his own. More conclusive are the words in
the paper of hints upon which the composition of the _Autobiography_ was
based. "_Canada delenda est_. My Pamphlet. Its reception and effect."
Certainly a man, whose relations to his own productions were always marked
by an uncommon degree of modesty, if not of indifference, and whose
generosity in awarding due credit to the labors of others was one of his
most striking and laudable qualities, was scarcely the man to have used
such words as these about a pamphlet, mainly or largely the work of another
hand. There is besides the fact that in the Franklin collection of the
Pennsylvania Historical Society there is a copy of the pamphlet indorsed in
the handwriting of Franklin as presented "to the Rev. Dr. Mayhew, from his
humble servt, the Author."

In view of these circumstances we should say that the probabilities
decidedly are that the connection of Jackson with the pamphlet, whatever it
may have been, was of a purely subordinate character.

The papers, written by Franklin from time to time during the controversy
between Great Britain and her Colonies, before the sword grew too impatient
to remain in its scabbard, such as his letters to the _London Chronicle_
and the _London Public Advertiser_, his Answers to Strahan's _Queries
respecting American Affairs_, his essay on _Toleration in Old England and
New England_, his _Tract relative to the Affair of Hutchinson's Letters_,
and his _Account of Negotiations in London for effecting a Reconciliation
between Great Britain and the American Colonies_ were, taken as a whole,
pamphleteering or narration of a very interesting and effective order. The
substance of the majority of them is found in his Examination before the
House of Commons, as the quintessence of most that is best in _Poor
Richard's Almanac_ is found in Father Abraham's Speech. They are written,
as a rule, in a singularly clear and readable style, present with unusual
skill and cogency all the points of the colonial argument, and display the
insight of an almost faultlessly honest and sane intelligence into the true
obligations and interests of the mother country and her disaffected
children. Among these graver productions, Franklin also contributed to the
American controversy, in addition to the humorous letter to the press, in
which he held up to English ignorance of America, as one of the finest
spectacles in nature, the grand leap of the whale, in his chase of the cod
up Niagara Falls, two papers worthy of the satirical genius of Swift. One
is his _Edict by the King of Prussia_ and the other is his _Rules by Which
a Great Empire May be Reduced to a Small One_. In the first piece,
Frederick the Great is gravely credited with an edict, in which, after
reciting that Great Britain was colonized in the beginning by subjects of
his renowned ducal ancestors, led by Hengist, Horsa, Hella, Uff, Cerdicus,
Ida and others, he proceeds to impose _seriatim_ upon the English
descendants of these German colonists in terms, exactly like those employed
by the prohibitory and restrictive statutes of Great Britain, bearing upon
the commerce and industry of America, all the disabilities and burdens
under which America labored. The parallel is sustained with unbroken spirit
and the happiest irony from beginning to end. After all the manacles by
which the freedom of America was restrained have been duly fastened by the
arbitrary mandates of the edict upon Great Britain herself, it concludes
with these words:

     We flatter ourselves, that these our royal regulations
     and commands will be thought just and reasonable by our
     much-favoured colonists in England; the said
     regulations being copied from their statutes of 10 and
     11 William III. c. 10, 5 Geo. II. c. 22, 23 Geo. II. c.
     29, 4 Geo. I. c. 11, and from other equitable laws made
     by their parliaments; or from instructions given by
     their Princes; or from resolutions of both Houses,
     entered into for the good government of their _own
     colonies in Ireland and America_.

The second paper commences in this manner:

"An ancient Sage boasted, that, tho' he could not fiddle, he knew how to
make a _great city_ of a _little one_. The science that I, a modern
simpleton, am about to communicate, is the very reverse." Then, assuming as
a postulate that a great empire, like a great cake, is most easily
diminished at the edges, the paper goes on to point out one by one as the
best means for reducing such an empire to a small one the very British
policies and abuses that were then producing incurable disaffection in the
mind of America, and menacing the power and prestige of Great Britain
herself. These two papers, though clothed in forms that belong to
literature rather than to politics, assert the whole case of the Colonies
against Great Britain almost, if not altogether, as fully as the
Declaration of Independence afterwards did. They have in every respect the
polished completeness given by Franklin to all the productions of his pen
that called for the exercise of true literary art, and deserve to be
included in any separate publication of the best creations of his literary
genius. They both met with the popular favor that they merited. The Rules
was read with such eagerness that it was reprinted in the _Public
Advertiser_ at the request of many individuals and some associations of
individuals, and this notwithstanding the fact that it had been copied in
several other newspapers and _The Gentleman's Magazine_. So great was the
demand for the issue of the _Advertiser_, in which the Edict appeared,
that, the day after its appearance, Franklin's clerk could obtain but two
copies of it, though he endeavored to obtain more both at the office of the
_Advertiser_ and elsewhere. Its authorship being unknown except to a few of
the writer's friends, he had the pleasure besides, he tells us, of hearing
it spoken of in the highest terms as the keenest and severest piece that
had been published in London for a long time. Lord Mansfield, he was
informed, said of it that it was very able and artful indeed, and would do
mischief by giving in England a bad impression of the measures of
government, and in the Colonies by encouraging them in their contumacy.
Among the persons taken in by its apparent genuineness was Paul Whitehead.

     I was down at Lord Le Despencer's [Franklin wrote to
     William Franklin] when the post brought that day's
     papers. Mr. Whitehead was there, too, (Paul Whitehead,
     the author of _Manners_,) who runs early through all
     the papers, and tells the company what he finds
     remarkable. He had them in another room, and we were
     chatting in the breakfast parlour, 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 his impudence, I dare say, we shall
     hear by next post that he is upon his march with one
     hundred thousand 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._ The reading went on, and
     ended with abundance of laughing, and a general verdict
     that it was a fair hit; and the piece was cut out of
     the paper and preserved in My Lord's collection.

There are some humorous passages in other contributions made by Franklin,
in one assumed character or another, to the American controversy. The
dialogue as well as the fable was, as the reader is aware, one of his
striking methods of arresting popular attention when he wished to make an
impression upon the popular mind. In an anonymous letter to the _Public
Advertiser_, he undertook to defend Dr. Franklin from the charge of
ingratitude to the Ministry, which had, it was alleged, given him the Post
Office of America, offered him a post of five hundred a year in the Salt
Office, if he would relinquish the interests of his country and made his
son a colonial governor. As it was a settled point in government in England
that every man had his price, it was plain, the letter declared, that the
English Ministers were bunglers in their business, and had not given him
enough. Their Master had as much reason to be angry with them as Rodrigue
in the play with his apothecary for not effectually poisoning Pandolpho,
and they must probably make use of the Apothecary's Justification, as urged
in the following colloquy:

     SCENE IV. _Rodrigue_ and _Fell_, the Apothecary

     _Rodrigue._ You promised to have this Pandolpho upon
     his Bier in less than a Week; 'tis more than a Month
     since, and he still walks and stares me in the face.

     _Fell._ True and yet I have done my best Endeavours. In
     various ways I have given the Miscreant as much Poison
     as would have kill'd an Elephant. He has swallow'd Dose
     after Dose; far from hurting him, he seems the better
     for it. He hath a wonderfully strong Constitution. I
     find I can not kill him but by cutting his Throat, and
     that, as I take it, is not my Business.

     _Rodrigue._ Then it must be mine.

Another letter, signed "A Londoner," illustrates the difficulty which the
sober good-sense of Franklin, always disposed to reduce things to their
material terms, experienced in understanding the recklessness with which
the British Government was hazarding the commercial value of the colonies.

     To us in the Way of Trade comes now, and has long come
     [he said] all the superlucration arising from their
     Labours. But will our reviling them as Cheats,
     Hypocrites, Scoundrels, Traitors, Cowards, Tyrants,
     &c., &c., according to the present Court Mode in all
     our Papers, make them more our Friends, more fond of
     our Merchandise? Did ever any Tradesmen succeed, who
     attempted to drub Customers into his Shop? And will
     honest JOHN BULL, the Farmer, be long satisfied with
     Servants, that before his Face attempt to kill his
     _Plow Horses?_

In his eager desire to influence public sentiment in England in behalf of
the Colonies, Franklin even devised and distributed a rude copper plate
engraving, visualizing the woful condition to which Great Britain would be
reduced, if she persisted in her harsh and unwise conduct towards her
colonies. Many impressions of this engraving were struck off at his request
on the cards which he occasionally used in writing his notes, and the
design he also had printed for circulation on half sheets of paper with an
explanation and a moral of his composition. The details of the
illustration, which are all duly elucidated in the explanation, are those
of abject and irredeemable ruin. The limbs of Britannia, duly labelled
Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York and New England respectively, lie
scattered about her, and she herself, with her eyes and arm stumps,
uplifted to Heaven, is seen sliding off the globe, with a streamer
inscribed _Date Obolum Bellisario_ thrown across all that remains of her
legs. Her shield, which she is unable to handle, lies useless by her side.
The leg, labelled New England, has been transfixed by her lance. The hand
of the arm, labelled Pennsylvania, has released its grasp upon a small
spray of laurel. The English oak has lost its crown, and stands a bare
trunk with briars and thorns at its feet, and a single dry branch sticks
out from its side. In the background are Britannia's ships with brooms at
their topmastheads denoting that they are for sale. The moral of the whole
was that the Thames and the Ohio, Edinburgh and Dublin were all one, and
that invidious discriminations in favor of one part of the Empire to the
prejudice of the rest could not fail to be attended with the most
disastrous consequences to the whole State.

Nothing produced by Franklin between the date of his return from his second
mission to England and his departure from America for France needs to be
noticed. The two or three papers from his pen, which belong to this period,
are distinctly below his ordinary standards of composition. Nor are any of
the graver writings composed by him during the remainder of his life with
some exceptions very noteworthy. In one, his comparison of Great Britain
and the United States in regard to the basis of credit in the two
countries, he presented with no little ability the proposition that, by
reason of general industry, frugality, ability, prudence and virtue,
America was a much safer debtor than Britain; to say nothing of the
satisfaction that generous minds were bound to feel in reflecting that by
loans to America they were opposing tyranny, and aiding the cause of
liberty, which was the cause of all mankind. The object of this paper was
to forward the loan of two millions of pounds sterling that the United
States were desirous of procuring abroad. Unfortunately, the matter was one
not to be settled by argument but by the Bourse, which has a barometric
reasoning of its own. In another paper, thrown into the form of a
catechism, Franklin, by a series of clever questions and answers, brings to
the attention of the world the fact that it would take one hundred and
forty-eight years, one hundred and nine days and twenty-two hours for a
man to count the English national debt, though he counted at the rate of
one hundred shillings per minute, during twelve hours of each day. That the
shillings, making up this enormous sum, would weigh sixty-one millions,
seven hundred and fifty-two thousand, four hundred and seventy-six Troy
pounds, that it would take three hundred and fourteen ships, of one hundred
tons each, or thirty-one thousand, four hundred and fifty-two carts to move
them, and that, if laid close together in a straight line, they would
stretch more than twice around the circumference of the earth, are other
facts elicited by the questions of the catechism. It concludes in this

     Q. When will government be able to pay the principal?

     A. When there is more money in England's treasury than
     there is in all Europe.

     Q. And when will that be?

     A. Never.

This was very ingenious and clever, and has been imitated a hundred times
over since by _ad captandum_ statisticians, but it needed an interest
default on the part of John Bull to make it effective.

Franklin's conceit in the Edict that Saxony was as much the mother country
of England as England was of America was, it must be admitted, made to do
rather more than its share of service. It reappeared in his _Vindication
and Offer from Congress to Parliament_, when, in repelling the charge that
America was ungrateful to England, he said that there was much more reason
for retorting that charge on Britain which not only never contributed any
aid, nor afforded, 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, the fine City
of Dresden.

The same conceit also reappeared a second time in the _Dialogue between
Britain, France, Spain, Holland, Saxony and America_, which he wrote soon
after he arrived in France as one of our envoys. In this lively dialogue,
Britain beseeches Spain, France and Holland successively not to supply
America with arms. Spain reminds her of her intervention in behalf of the
Dutch, and expresses surprise at her impudence. France reminds her of her
intervention in behalf of the Huguenots, and tells her that she must be a
little silly, and Holland ends by informing her defiantly that, with the
prospect of a good market for brimstone, she, Holland, would make no
scruple of even sending her ships to Hell, and supplying the Devil with it.
America then takes a hand, and denounces Britain as a bloodthirsty bully,
to which Britain replies as quickly as her choking rage will permit by
denouncing America as a wicked--Whig-Presbyterian--serpent. To this America
rejoins with the statement that she will not surrender her liberty and
property but with her life, and some additional statements which cause
Britain to exclaim: "You impudent b--h! Am not I your Mother Country? Is
that not a sufficient Title to your Respect and Obedience?" At this point
Saxony, for the first time breaks in:

     "_Mother Country!_ Hah, hah, he! What Respect have
     _you_ the front to claim as a Mother Country? You know
     that _I_ am _your_ Mother Country, and yet you pay me
     none. Nay, it is but the other day, that you hired
     Ruffians to rob me on the Highway, and burn my House.
     For shame! Hide your Face and hold your Tongue. If you
     continue this Conduct, you will make yourself the
     Contempt of Europe!"

This is too much for even the assurance of the dauntless termagant who,
before the American war was over, was to be engaged in conflict at one time
with every one of the other parties to the dialogue except Saxony.

     "O Lord," she exclaims in despair, "where are my
     friends?" The question does not remain long unanswered.

     "_France, Spain, Holland, and Saxony, all together_.
     Friends! Believe us, you have none, nor ever will have
     any, 'till you mend your Manners. How can we, who are
     your Neighbours, have any regard for you, or expect any
     Equity from you, should your Power increase, when we
     see how basely and unjustly you have us'd both _your
     own Mother--and your own Children_?"

With such rollicking fun, did Franklin, beguile his Gibeonite tasks.

A letter of information to those who would remove to America, an essay on
the _Elective Franchises enjoyed by the Small Boroughs in England_, the
three essays on Smoky Chimneys, the New Stove, and Maritime Topics, _The
Retort Courteous_, in which some pithy reasons were given why Americans
were slow in paying their old debts to British merchants, the _Observations
Relative to the Intentions of the Original Founders of the Academy in
Philadelphia_, the _Address of the Pennsylvania Society for Promoting the
Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Free Negroes Unlawfully Held in
Bondage_, the _Plan for Improving the Condition of the Free Blacks_, the
essay on _The Internal State of America_ and the paper on _Good Whig
Principles_ make up the bulk of the graver pamphlets and papers written by
Franklin between the beginning of his mission to France and his death.
Some, if not all, of them have already come in for our attention, and most
of them invite no special comment. All, like everything that he wrote, even
the _marginalia_ on the books that he read, have some kind of salt in them
that keeps them sweet, assert itself as time will.

Other serious papers of Franklin, not inspired by political motives, belong
to an earlier date, and, with the exception of those, to which we have more
than barely referred in previous chapters of this book, call for a word of
comment. Two, _The Hints for Those that would be Rich_ and the _Advice to a
Young Tradesman_ are merely echoes of _Poor Richard's Almanac_ but are good
examples of the teachings that make Franklin the most effective of all
propagandists. "He that loses 5s. not only loses that Sum, but all the
Advantage that might be made by turning it in Dealing, which, by the time
that a young Man becomes old, amounts to a comfortable Bag of Money." This
is a typical sentence taken from the Hints. After reading such a discourse
as the _Advice to a Young Tradesman_, it is easy enough to see why it was
that pecuniary truisms took on new life when vitalized by the mind of
Franklin. Money he tells the young tradesman is of the prolific, generating
nature. "He that kills a breeding sow, destroys all her offspring to the
thousandth generation. He that murders a crown, destroys all that it might
have produced, even scores of pounds." The young novice is also told that
the most trifling actions that affect a man's credit are to be regarded.
"The sound of your hammer at five in the morning, or nine at night, heard
by a creditor, makes him easy six months longer; but, if he sees you at a
billiard-table, or hears your voice at a tavern, when you should be at
work, he sends for his money the next day." The paper ends with this
pointed sermon:

     In short, the way to wealth, if you desire it, is as
     plain as the way to market. It depends chiefly on two
     words, _industry_ and _frugality_; that is, waste
     neither _time_ nor _money_, but make the best use of
     both. Without industry and frugality nothing will do,
     and with them everything. He that gets all he can
     honestly, and saves all he gets (necessary expenses
     excepted) will certainly become _rich_, if that Being
     who governs the world, to whom all should look for a
     blessing on their honest endeavours, doth not, in his
     wise providence, otherwise determine.

Scattered through the works of Franklin are various miscellaneous
productions of no slight literary value. The _Parable against Persecution_
was an ancient conception, old, we are told by Jeremy Taylor in his
_Liberty of Prophesying_, as the Jews' Books. Franklin never claimed more
credit for it, as he stated in a letter to Vaughan, "than what related to
the style, and the addition of the concluding threatening and promise."
These qualifications, however, leave him quite a different measure of
credit from that of an artist who merely touches up a portrait by another
hand, as a perusal of the parable will satisfy any reader. The incident,
upon which the story turns, is the reception by Abraham into his tent of a
stranger who fails to bless God at meat. Abraham expels him from the tent
with blows for not worshipping the most high God, Creator of Heaven and
Earth; only to be rebuked by the Almighty in these impressive words: "Have
I borne with him these hundred and ninety and eight years, and nourished
him, and cloathed him, notwithstanding his rebellion against me; and
couldst not thou, who art thyself a sinner, bear with him one night?"

Only less felicitous was Franklin's _Parable on Brotherly Love_. Simeon,
Levi and Judah are successively denied by their brother Reuben the use of
an axe which he had bought of the Ishmaelite merchants, and which he highly
prized. Therefore, they buy axes themselves from the Ishmaelites, and, as
luck will have it, while Reuben is hewing timber on the river bank, his axe
slips into the water and is lost. Reuben then applies to each of his three
brothers in turn for the use of their axes. Simeon reminds him of his
selfishness, and flatly refuses. Levi reproaches him, but adds that he will
be better than he, and will lend his axe to him. Reuben, however, is too
ashamed to accept it. Judah, seeing the grief and shame in his countenance,
anticipates the request and exclaims, "My brother, I know thy loss; but why
should it trouble thee? Lo, have I not an axe that will serve both thee
and me!" And then the lovely parable continues in these words:

     And Reuben fell on his neck, and kissed him, with
     tears, saying, "Thy kindness is great, but thy goodness
     in forgiving me is greater. Thou art indeed my brother,
     and whilst I live, will I surely love thee."

     And Judah said, "Let us also love our other brethren:
     behold, are we not all of one blood?" And Joseph saw
     these things, and reported them to his father Jacob.

     And Jacob said, "Reuben did wrong, but he repented.
     Simeon also did wrong; and Levi was not altogether
     blameless. But the heart of Judah is princely. Judah
     hath the soul of a king. His father's children shall
     bow down before him, and he shall rule over his

The papers contributed by Franklin to the _Busy-Body_ and the _Pennsylvania
Gazette_ clearly indicate the influence of Addison and Steele. The
Ridentius and Eugenius of the second issue, Ridentius, the wight, who gave
himself an hour's diversion on the cock of a man's hat, the heels of his
shoes or on one of his unguarded expressions or personal defects, Eugenius
who preferred to make himself a public jest rather than be at the pains of
seeing his friend in confusion, pale phantoms though they be, are palpably
imitations of the Spectator and Tatler. So are the Cato of the third issue
of the _Busy-Body_, whose countenance revealed habits of virtue that made
one forget his homespun linen and seven days' beard, and the Cretico of the
same issue, the "sowre Philosopher" who commanded nothing better from his
dependents than the submissive deportment, which was like the worship paid
by the Indians to the Devil.

Unlike these characters, the Patience of the fourth issue of the
_Busy-Body_ is a real creature of flesh and blood. She writes to the
Busy-Body for advice, informing him that she is a single woman, and keeps a
shop in the town for her livelihood, and has a certain neighbor, who is
really agreeable company enough, and has for some time been an intimate of
hers, but who, of late, has tried her out of all patience by her frequent
and long visits. She cannot do a thing in the world but this friend must
know all about it, and her friend has besides two children just big enough
to run about and do petty mischief, who accompany their mother on her
visits and put things in the shop out of sorts; so that the writer has all
the trouble and pesterment of children without the pleasure--of calling
them her own.

     Pray, Sir [concludes the unhappy Patience], tell me
     what I shall do; and talk a little against such
     unreasonable Visiting in your next Paper; tho' I would
     not have her affronted with me for a great Deal, for
     sincerely I love her and her Children, as well, I
     think, as a Neighbour can, and she buys a great many
     Things in a Year at my Shop. But I would beg her to
     consider that she uses me unmercifully, Tho' I believe
     it is only for want of Thought. But I have twenty
     Things more to tell you besides all this: There is a
     handsome Gentleman, that has a Mind (I don't question)
     to make love to me, but he can't get the least
     Opportunity to--O dear! here she comes again; I must
     conclude, yours, &c.

This letter is made the subject of some sensible comments by the
_Busy-Body_ on the importance of remembering the words of the Wise Man,
"Withdraw thy Foot from the House of thy Neighbour, lest he grow weary of
thee, and so hate thee." Later the same caution was to be conveyed in Poor
Richard's, "Fish and Visitors smell after three days." The paper ends with
the approval by the _Busy-Body_ of the Turkish practice of admonishing
guests that it is time for them to go, without actually asking them to do
so, by having a chafing dish with the grateful incense of smoking aloes
rising from it brought into the room and applied to their beards.

Even more lifelike than Patience are Anthony Afterwit, Celia Single, Mr.
and Mrs. Careless and Alice Addertongue, the figures brought to our eye by
the _Pennsylvania Gazette_. Indeed, Addison himself would have had no
occasion to be ashamed of them, if they had been figments of his own fancy.
In his letter to the editor of the _Gazette_, Anthony Afterwit told him
that about the time that he first addressed his spouse her father let it be
known that, if she married a man of his liking, he would give two hundred
pounds with her on the day of marriage, and that he had made some fine
plans, and had even, in some measure, neglected his business on the
strength of this assurance, but that, when the old gentleman saw that the
writer was pretty well engaged, he, without assigning any reason, grew very
angry, forbade him the house and told his daughter that, if she married
him, he would not give her a farthing. However (as the father foresaw), he
stole a wedding, and took his wife to his house, where they were not in
quite so poor a condition as the couple described in the Scotch song who

    "Neither Pot nor Pan,
    But four bare Legs together,"

for he had a house tolerably furnished for an ordinary man. His wife,
however, was strongly inclined to be a gentlewoman. His old-fashioned
looking-glass was one day broke, "_No Mortal could tell which way_," she
said, and was succeeded by a large fashionable one. This in turn led to
another table more suitable to such a glass, and the new table to some very
handsome chairs. Thus, by degrees, he found all his old furniture stored up
in the garret and everything below altered for the better.

Then, on one pretext or another, came along a tea-table with all its
appurtenances of china and silver, a maid, a clock, and a pacing mare, for
which he paid twenty pounds. The result was that, receiving a very severe
dun, which mentioned the next court, he began in earnest to project relief.
His dear having gone over the river the preceding Monday to see a relation,
and stay a fortnight, because she could not bear the heat of the town, he
took his turn at alterations. He dismissed the maid, bag and baggage; he
sold the pacing mare, and bought a good milch cow with three pounds of the
money; he disposed of the tea-table, and put a spinning wheel in its place;
he stuffed nine empty tea canisters with flax, and with some of the money,
derived from the sale of the tea-furniture, he bought a set of knitting
needles; "for to tell you a truth, which I would have go no farther," added
honest Anthony, "_I begin to want stockings_." The stately clock he
transformed into an hour glass, by which he had gained a good round sum,
and one of the pieces of the old looking-glass, squared and framed,
supplied the place of the old one. In short, the face of things was quite
changed, and he had paid his debts and found money in his pocket. His good
dame was expected home next Friday, and, if she could conform with his new
scheme of living, they would be the happiest couple, perhaps, in the
Province, and, by the blessings of God, might soon be in thriving
circumstances. He had reserved the great glass for her, and he would allow
her, when she came in, to be taken suddenly ill with the _headache_, the
_stomachache_, the fainting fits, or whatever other disorder she might
think more proper, and she might retire to bed as soon as she pleased, but,
if he did not find her in perfect health, both of body and mind, the next
morning, away would go the aforesaid great glass, with several other
trinkets, to the _vendue_ that very day.

That the wife of Anthony did succumb to the situation, we know, for it was
an unfortunate reference to her that caused Celia Single to write her
letter to the editor of the _Gazette_. During the morning of the preceding
Wednesday, she said, she happened to be in at Mrs. Careless', when the
husband of that lady returned from market, and showed his wife some balls
of thread which he had bought. "My Dear," says he, "I like mightily these
Stockings, which I yesterday saw Neighbour Afterwit knitting for her
Husband, of Thread of her own Spinning. I should be glad to have some such
stockins myself: I understand that your Maid Mary is a very good Knitter,
and seeing this Thread in Market, I have bought it, that the Girl may make
a Pair or two for me." Then, according to Celia, there took place in her
presence a dialogue between husband and wife so animated that, knowing as
she did that a man and his wife are apt to quarrel more violently, when
before strangers, than when by themselves, she got up and went out hastily.
She was glad, however, to understand from Mary, who came to her of an
errand in the evening, that the couple dined together pretty peaceably (the
balls of thread, that had caused the difference, being thrown into the
kitchen fire).

The story, beginning with the reply of Mrs. Careless to the offensive
suggestion of Mr. Careless, is too good not to be reproduced in full.

     Mrs. Careless was just then at the Glass, dressing her
     Head, and turning about with the Pins in her Mouth,
     "Lord, Child," says she, "are you crazy? What Time has
     Mary to knit? Who must do the Work, I wonder, if you
     set her to Knitting?" "Perhaps, my Dear," says he, "you
     have a mind to knit 'em yourself; I remember, when I
     courted you, I once heard you say, that you had learn'd
     to knit of your Mother." "I knit Stockins for you!"
     says she; "not I truly! There are poor Women enough in
     Town, that can knit; if you please, you may employ
     them." "Well, but my Dear," says he, "you know _a penny
     sav'd is a penny got_, A pin a day is a groat a year,
     every little makes a muckle, and there is neither Sin
     nor Shame in Knitting a pair of Stockins; why should
     you express such a mighty Aversion to it? As to _poor_
     Women, you know we are not People of Quality, we have
     no Income to maintain us but what arises from my
     Labour and Industry: Methinks you should not be at all
     displeas'd, if you have an Opportunity to get something
     as well as myself."

     "I wonder," says she, "how you can propose such a thing
     to me; did not you always tell me you would maintain me
     like a Gentlewoman? If I had married Captain ----, he
     would have scorn'd even to mention Knitting of
     Stockins." "Prithee," says he, (a little nettled,)
     "what do you tell me of your Captains? If you could
     have had him, I suppose you would, or perhaps you did
     not very well like him. If I did promise to maintain
     you like a Gentlewoman, I suppose 'tis time enough for
     that, when you know how to behave like one; Meanwhile
     'tis your Duty to help make me able. How long, d'ye
     think, I can maintain you at your present Rate of
     Living?" "Pray," says she, (somewhat fiercely, and
     dashing the Puff into the Powder-box,) "don't use me
     after this Manner, for I assure you I won't bear it.
     This is the Fruit of your poison Newspapers; there
     shall come no more here, I promise you." "Bless us,"
     says he, "what an unaccountable thing is this? Must a
     Tradesman's Daughter, and the Wife of a Tradesman,
     necessarily and instantly be a Gentlewoman? You had no
     Portion; I am forc'd to work for a Living; you are too
     great to do the like; there's the Door, go and live
     upon your Estate, if you can find it; in short, I don't
     desire to be troubled w'ye."

And then it was that Celia Single gathered up her skirts and left.

The letter from Alice Addertongue to the editor of the _Gazette_ is exactly
in the manner of the _School for Scandal_, written many years later. She is
a young girl of about thirty-five, she says, and lives at present with her
mother. Like the Emperor, who, if a day passed over his head, during which
he had conferred no benefit on any man, was in the habit of saying, _Diem
perdidi_, _I have lost a Day_, she would make use of the same expression,
were it possible for a day to pass over her head, during which she had
failed to scandalize someone; a misfortune, thanks be praised, that had not
befallen her these dozen years.

     My mother, good Woman, and I [the forked tongue plays
     precisely as it might have done in the mouth of Lady
     Sneerwell] have heretofore differ'd upon this Account.
     She argu'd, that Scandal spoilt all good Conversation;
     and I insisted, that without it there would be no such
     Thing. Our Disputes once rose so high, that we parted
     Tea-Tables, and I concluded to entertain my
     Acquaintance in the Kitchin. The first Day of this
     Separation we both drank Tea at the same Time, but she
     with her Visitors in the Parlor. She would not hear of
     the least Objection to anyone's Character, but began a
     new sort of Discourse in some queer philosophical
     Manner as this; "I am mightily pleas'd sometimes," says
     she, "when I observe and consider, that the World is
     not so bad as People out of humour imagine it to be.
     There is something amiable, some good Quality or other,
     in everybody. If we were only to speak of People that
     are least respected, there is such a one is very
     dutiful to her Father, and methinks has a fine Set of
     Teeth; such a one is very respectful to her Husband;
     such a one is very kind to her poor Neighbours, and
     besides has a very handsome Shape; such a one is always
     ready to serve a Friend, and in my opinion there is not
     a Woman in Town that has a more agreable Air and Gait."
     This fine kind of Talk, which lasted near half an Hour,
     she concluded by saying, "I do not doubt but everyone
     of you have made the like Observations, and I should be
     glad to have the Conversation continu'd upon this
     Subject." Just at that Juncture I peep'd in at the
     Door, and never in my Life before saw such a Set of
     simple vacant Countenances. They looked somehow neither
     glad, nor sorry, nor angry, nor pleas'd, nor
     indifferent, nor attentive; but (excuse the Simile)
     like so many blue wooden images of Rie Doe. I in the
     Kitchin had already begun a ridiculous Story of Mr.
     ----'s Intrigue with his Maid, and his Wife's Behaviour
     upon the Discovery; at some Passages we laugh'd
     heartily, and one of the gravest of Mama's Company,
     without making any Answer to her Discourse, got up _to
     go and see what the Girls were so merry about_: She was
     follow'd by a Second, and shortly by a Third, till at
     last the old Gentlewoman found herself quite alone,
     and, being convinc'd that her Project was
     impracticable, came herself and finish'd her Tea with
     us; ever since which _Saul also has been among the
     Prophets_, and our Disputes lie dormant.

It was in the _Pennsylvania Gazette_, too, that Franklin published his
"Dialogue between Philocles and Horatio," in which Philocles twice meets
Horatio in the fields, and, in accents full of persuasive blandishment,
diverts his feet from the pursuit of sensual pleasure into paths of
contentment and peace. In the first dialogue, the moralist takes as his
thesis the proposition that self-denial is not only the most reasonable but
the most pleasant thing in the world. In the second, he holds up to Horatio
the constant and durable happiness, so unlike the chequered, fleeting
pleasures of Sense, which springs from acts of humanity, friendship,
generosity and benevolence. One maxim in the last dialogue is worth many of
the sayings of Poor Richard: "The Foundation of all Virtue and Happiness is
Thinking rightly."

Other papers from the hand of Franklin that appeared in the _Gazette_ were
_A Witch Trial at Mount Holly_, _An Apology for Printers_, _A Meditation on
a Quart Mugg_, _Shavers and Trimmers_, and _Exporting of Felons to the

In the "Witch Trial at Mount Holly," Franklin describes in a highly
humorous manner the results of the ordeals to which a man and a woman,
accused by a man and a woman of witchcraft, were subjected. One of these
ordeals consisted in weighing the accused in scales against a Bible for the
purpose of seeing whether it would prove too heavy for them.

     Then [the facetious narrative relates] came out of the
     House a grave, tall Man carrying the Holy Writ before
     the supposed Wizard etc., (as solemely as the
     Sword-Bearer of London before the Lord Mayor) the
     Wizard was first put in the Scale, and over him was
     read a Chapter out of the Books of Moses, and then the
     Bible was put in the other Scale, (which, being kept
     down before) was immediately let go; but, to the great
     surprize of the Spectators, Flesh and Bones came down
     plump, and outweighed that great good Book by
     abundance. After the same Manner the others were
     served, and their Lumps of Mortality severally were too
     heavy for Moses and all the Prophets and Apostles.

This ordeal was followed by the Trial by Water. Both accused and accusers
were stripped, except that the women were not deprived of their shifts,
bound hand and foot and let down into the water by ropes from the side of a
barge. The rest is thus told:

     The accused man being thin and spare with some
     Difficulty began to sink at last; but the rest, every
     one of them, swam very light upon the Water. A Sailor
     in the Flat jump'd out upon the Back of the Man accused
     thinking to drive him down to the Bottom; but the
     Person bound, without any Help, came up some time
     before the other. The Woman Accuser being told that she
     did not sink, would be duck'd a second Time; when she
     swam again as light as before. Upon which she declared,
     That she believed the Accused had bewitched her to make
     her so light, and that she would be duck'd again a
     Hundred Times but she would duck the Devil out of her.
     The Accused Man, being surpriz'd at his own swimming,
     was not so confident of his Innocence as before, but
     said, "If I am a Witch, it is more than I know." The
     more thinking Part of the Spectators were of Opinion
     that any Person so bound and placed in the Water
     (unless they were mere Skin and Bones) would swim, till
     their breath was gone, and their Lungs fill'd with
     Water. But it being the general Belief of the Populace
     that the Women's Shifts and the Garters with which they
     were bound help'd to support them, it is said they are
     to be tried again the next Warm Weather, naked.

In the "Apology for Printers," Franklin defends his guild with much point
and good sense, in terms modern enough to be fully applicable to
newspapers at the present time. It was inspired by the resentment which his
advertisement relating to Sea Hens and Black Gowns excited, and, though
written in a half-humorous style, states the difficulties of an editor,
between his duty to publish everything, and the certainty of private
resentment, if he does, with about as much felicity of presentation as they
are ever likely to be stated. Among the various solid reasons, set forth in
formal numerical sequence, that he gave, by way of mitigation, for
publishing the advertisement, he mentioned these, too:

"6. That I got Five Shillings by it.

"7. That none who are angry with me would have given me so much to let it

In answer to the accusation that printers sometimes printed vicious or
silly things not worth reading, he charged the fact up to the vicious taste
of the public itself. He had known, he said, a very numerous impression of
Robin Hood's songs to go off in the Province at 2 s. per book in less than
a twelvemonth, when a small quantity of David's Psalms (an excellent
version) had lain upon his hands about twice that long.

       *       *       *       *       *

In the "Meditation on a Quart Mugg" Franklin begins with the exclamation,
"WRETCHED, miserable, and unhappy Mug!" and traces with mock sympathy all
the misfortunes of its ignoble and squalid career from the time that it is
first forced into the company of boisterous sots, who lay all their
nonsense, noise, profane swearing, cursing and quarrelling on it, though it
speaks not a word, until the inevitable hour when it is broken into pieces,
and finds its way for the most part back to Mother Earth. The paper is only
a trifle, but a trifle fashioned with no little skill to hit the fancy of
an age that, as Franklin's "Drunkard's Vocabulary" (also published in the
_Gazette_) shows, had innumerable cant terms for the condition for which
the mug was held to such an unjust responsibility.

The paper on "Shavers and Trimmers" is not so happy and well sustained, but
its classifications of the different species of persons, answering these
descriptions, is not without humor. One sentence in it, when Franklin
speaks of the species of Shavers and Trimmers, who "cover (what is called
by an eminent Preacher) _their poor Dust_ in tinsel Cloaths and gaudy
Plumes of Feathers," reads like a paragraph in the _Courant_. "A competent
Share of religious Horror thrown into the Countenance," he says, "with
proper Distortions of the Face, and the Addition of a lank Head of Hair, or
a long Wig and Band, commands a most profound Respect to Insolence and

The paper on the "Exporting of Felons to the Colonies" is marked by the
grim, biting irony of Swift, but was no severer than the practice of
setting British criminals at large in America deserved. Such tender
parental concern, Franklin said, called aloud for due returns of gratitude
and duty, and he suggested that these returns should assume the form of
rattlesnakes, "Felons-convict from the Beginning of the World." In the
spring of the year, when they first crept out of their holes, they were
feeble, heavy, slow and easily taken, and, if a small bounty was allowed
per head, some thousands might be collected annually, and transported to
Britain. There he proposed that they should be carefully distributed in St.
James' Park, in the Spring Gardens, and other pleasure resorts about
London, and in the gardens of all the nobility and gentry throughout the
nation, but particularly in the gardens of the Prime Ministers, the Lords
of Trade and Members of Parliament; for to them they were most particularly
obliged. Such a paper, it is needless to say, was better calculated for its
purpose than a thousand appeals of the ordinary type would have been.

The speech of Polly Baker is one of the most famous of Franklin's _jeux
d'esprit_. The introduction to it states that it was delivered when she
was prosecuted for the fifth time for having a bastard child, and with such
effect that the court decided not to punish her; indeed with such effect
that one of her judges even married her the next day, and in time had
fifteen children by her. The perfectly ingenuous manner in which the
traverser refuses to admit that she has committed any offence whatever and
insists that, in default of honorable suitors, she has but dutifully,
though irregularly, complied with the first and great command of nature and
nature's God--increase and multiply--is undoubtedly, coarse as it is, a
stroke of art, but the performance is too gross for modern scruples.

More decorous reading is the fictitious discourse by a Spanish Jesuit on
the "Meanes of disposing the Enemie to Peace," which Franklin, during his
first mission to England, contributed to the _London Chronicle_ for the
purpose of rousing the English people to a sense of the artifices, that
were being employed by the French to build up a party in England for peace
at any price. In the introduction to the discourse, it is stated that it
was taken from a book containing a number of discourses, addressed by the
Jesuit to the King of Spain in 1629, and that nothing was needed to render
it _apropos_ to the existing situation of England except the substitution
of France for Spain. The discourse points out in detail, with shrewd
insight into all the selfish and timid impulses, by which a society is
corrupted or enervated, when cunningly practised upon, the different
classes in the country of the enemy that could be manipulated in one way or
another until no sound but that of Peace, Peace, Peace would be heard from
any quarter.

_The Craven Street Gazette_, written in mock court language, and replete
with the subtle suggestions of household intimacy, is one of the most
exquisite triumphs of Franklin's wit and fancy.

     This morning [it begins], Queen Margaret, accompanied
     by her first maid of honour, Miss Franklin, (Sally
     Franklin) set out for Rochester. Immediately on their
     departure, the whole street was in tears--from a heavy
     shower of rain. It is whispered, that the new family
     administration which took place on her Majesty's
     departure, promises, like all other new
     administrations, to govern much better than the old

     We hear, that the great person (so called from his
     enormous size), of a certain family in a certain
     street, is grievously affected at the late changes, and
     could hardly be comforted this morning, though the new
     ministry promised him a roasted shoulder of mutton and
     potatoes for his dinner.

     It is said, that the same great person intended to pay
     his respects to another great personage this day, at
     St. James's, it being coronation-day; hoping thereby a
     little to amuse his grief; but was prevented by an
     accident, Queen Margaret, or her maid of honour having
     carried off the key of the drawers, so that the lady of
     the bed-chamber could not come at a laced shirt for his
     Highness. Great clamours were made on this occasion
     against her Majesty.

And so the _Gazette_ goes on, gay and graceful as the play of sunshine on
the surface of a dimpled sea, from incident to incident that took place
during the absence of Queen Margaret (Mrs. Stevenson) and Miss Franklin,
investing each with a ceremonious dignity and importance that never descend
to buffoonery.

These are some of the occurrences chronicled as taking place on the first
Sunday after the departure of the Queen. Walking up and down in his room we
might observe was one of Franklin's ways of taking exercise.

     Lord and Lady Hewson walked after dinner to Kensington,
     to pay their duty to the Dowager, and Dr. Fatsides made
     four hundred and sixty-nine turns in his dining-room,
     as the exact distance of a visit to the lovely Lady
     Barwell, whom he did not find at home; so there was no
     struggle for and against a kiss, and he sat down to
     dream in the easy-chair that he had it without any

And these are some of the observations made under the date of the
succeeding Tuesday.

     It is remark'd, that the Skies have wept every Day in
     Craven Street, the Absence of the Queen.

     The Publick may be assured that this Morning a certain
     _great_ Personage was asked very complaisantly by the
     Mistress of the Household, if he would chuse to have
     the Blade-Bone of Saturday's Mutton that had been kept
     for his Dinner to-day _broil'd_ or _cold_. _He answer'd
     gravely, If there is any Flesh on it, it may be
     broil'd; if not, it may as well be cold._ Orders were
     accordingly given for Broiling it. But when it came to
     Table, there was indeed so very little Flesh, or rather
     none, (Puss having din'd on it yesterday after
     Nanny)[57] that if our new Administration had been as
     good Oeconomists as they would be thought, the Expence
     of Broiling might well have been saved to the Publick,
     and carried to the Sinking Fund. It is assured the
     _great_ Person bears all with infinite Patience. But
     the Nation is astonish'd at the insolent Presumption,
     that dares treat so much Mildness in so cruel a manner!

Under the same date is made the announcement that at six o'clock, that
afternoon, news had come by the post that her Majesty arrived safely at
Rochester on Saturday night. "The Bells," the _Gazette_ adds, "immediately
rang--for Candles to illuminate the Parlour, the Court went into Cribbidge,
and the Evening concluded with every other Demonstration of Joy." This is
followed by a letter to the _Gazette_ from a person signing himself
"Indignation," who says that he makes no doubt of the truth of the
statement that a certain great person is half-starved on the blade-bone of
a sheep by a set of the most careless, worthless, thoughtless,
inconsiderate, corrupt, ignorant, blundering, foolish, crafty & knavish
ministers that ever got into a house and pretended to govern a family and
provide a dinner. "Alas for the poor old England of Craven Street!" this
correspondent exclaims, "If they continue in Power another Week, the Nation
will be ruined. Undone, totally undone, if I and my Friends are not
appointed to succeed them."

This letter is accompanied by another signed, "A Hater of Scandal," which
takes "Indignation" to task, and declares that the writer believes that,
even if the Angel Gabriel would condescend to be their minister, and
provide their dinners, he would scarcely escape newspaper defamation from a
gang of hungry, ever-restless, discontented and malicious scribblers. It
was a piece of justice, he declared, that the publisher of the _Gazette_
owed to their righteous administration to undeceive the public on this
occasion by assuring them of the fact, which is that there was provided and
actually smoking on the table under his royal nose at the same instant as
the blade-bone as fine a piece of ribs of beef roasted as ever knife was
put into, with potatoes, horse-radish, pickled walnuts &c. which his
Highness might have eaten, if so he had pleased to do.

Along with the political intelligence and the letters the _Gazette_ also
contains these notices and stock quotations:

     MARRIAGES, none since our last--but Puss begins to go a

     DEATHS, In the back Closet and elsewhere, many poor

     STOCKS Biscuit--very low. Buckwheat & Indian Meal--both
     sour. Tea, lowering daily--in the Canister. Wine, shut.

The _Petition of the Letter Z_ was a humorous offshoot of Franklin's
Reformed Alphabet. In a formal complaint after the manner of a bill in
chancery, to the worshipful Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire, Censor-General, Z
complains that his claims to respect are as good as those of the other
letters of the Alphabet, but that he had not only been placed at its tail,
when he had as much right as any of his companions to be at its head, but
by the injustice of his enemies had been totally excluded from the word
WISE and his place filled by a little hissing, crooked, serpentine,
venomous letter, called S, though it must be evident to his worship and to
all the world that W, I, S, E does not spell _Wize_ but _Wise_. The
petition ends with the prayer that, in consideration of his long-suffering
and patience, the petitioner may be placed at the head of the Alphabet, and
that S may be turned out of the word _wise_, and the Petitioner employed
instead of him.

Z did not make out his case, for at the foot of the petition is appended
this order: "Mr. Bickerstaff, having examined the allegations of the above
petition, judges and determines, that Z be admonished to be content with
his station, forbear reflections upon his brother letters, and remember his
own small usefulness, and the little occasion there is for him in the
Republic of Letters, since S whom he so despises can so well serve instead
of him."

Some of the liveliest of the lighter papers of Franklin were written during
the course of his French Mission. His inimitable _Journey to the Elysian
Fields_ and _Conte_ have already received our attention in an earlier
chapter. Among the others was _The Sale of the Hessians_, _The Supplement
to the Boston Independent Chronicle_, _The Ephemera_, _The Whistle_, his
letter to the Abbé de la Roche, communicating to him the _petite chanson à
boire_ that he had written forty years before, his letter to the Abbé
Morellet on wine, the _Dialogue between him and the Gout_, _The Handsome
and Deformed Leg_ and _The Economical Project_. If there was nothing else
to support the claim of Franklin to the authorship of _The Sale of the
Hessians_, the difficulty of abridging it would be one proof. Its humor is
as trenchant as that of Frederick the Great in levying the same toll upon
these hirelings, when passing through his dominions on their way to
America, pursuant to the mercenary engagements between their German masters
and George III., as that levied by him upon other cattle. The paper is
thrown into the form of a letter from the Count De Schaumbergh to the Baron
Hohendorf, commanding the Hessian troops in America. It begins as follows:

     MONSIEUR DE BARON:--On my return from Naples, I
     received at Rome your letter of the 27th December of
     last year. I have learned with unspeakable pleasure the
     courage our troops exhibited at Trenton, and you cannot
     imagine my joy on being told that of the 1,950 Hessians
     engaged in the fight, but 345 escaped. There were just
     1,605 men killed, and I can not sufficiently commend
     your prudence in sending an exact list of the dead to
     my minister in London. This precaution was the more
     necessary, as the report sent to the English Ministry
     does not give but 1,455 dead. This would make 483,450
     florins instead of 643,500 which I am entitled to
     demand under our convention. You will comprehend the
     prejudice which such an error would work in my
     finances, and I do not doubt you will take the
     necessary pains to prove that Lord North's list is
     false and yours correct.

This is another paragraph:

     I am about to send to you some new recruits. Don't
     economize them. Remember glory before all things. Glory
     is true wealth. There is nothing degrades the soldier
     like the love of money. He must care only for honour
     and reputation, but this reputation must be acquired in
     the midst of dangers. A battle gained without costing
     the conqueror any blood is an inglorious success, while
     the conquered cover themselves with glory by perishing
     with their arms in their hands. Do you remember that of
     the 300 Lacedaemonians who defended the defile of
     Thermopylae, not one returned? How happy should I be
     could I say the same of my brave Hessians!

     It is true that their King, Leonidas, perished with
     them: but things have changed, and it is no longer the
     custom for princes of the empire to go and fight in
     America for a cause with which they have no concern.

The Baron is further commended for sending back to Europe that Dr. Crumerus
who was so successful in curing dysentery, and is told that it is better
that the Hessians should burst in their barracks than fly in a battle, and
tarnish the glory of the Count's arms.

     Besides [the Count continues], you know that they pay
     me as killed for all who die from disease, and I don't
     get a farthing for runaways. My trip to Italy, which
     has cost me enormously, makes it desirable that there
     should be a great mortality among them. You will
     therefore promise promotion to all who expose
     themselves; you will exhort them to seek glory in the
     midst of dangers; you will say to Major Maundorff that
     I am not at all content with his saving the 345 men who
     escaped the massacre of Trenton. Through the whole
     campaign he has not had ten men killed in consequence
     of his orders. Finally, let it be your principal object
     to prolong the war and avoid a decisive engagement on
     either side, for I have made arrangements for a grand
     Italian opera, and I do not wish to be obliged to give
     it up. Meantime I pray God, my dear Baron de Hohendorf,
     to have you in his holy and gracious keeping.

The _Supplement to the Boston Independent Chronicle_ is distinguished by
the same sort of cool, dry mocking verisimilitude. Captain Gerrish, of the
New England Militia, is supposed to write a letter in which he says that
the members of a recent expedition against the Indians were struck with
horror to find among the packages of peltry captured by them eight large
ones containing scalps of their unhappy country-folks taken in the last
three years by the Seneca Indians from the heads of inhabitants of the
frontiers of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia, and sent by
them as a present to Colonel Haldimand, the Governor of Canada; to be
forwarded by him to England. The scalps, Captain Gerrish asserts, were
accompanied by a curious letter to the Governor from one, James Craufurd.
Then is set forth this letter which describes with the minuteness of a
mercantile invoice the contents of each of the eight packages of scalps,
some of Congress soldiers, some of farmers surprised in their houses at
night, some of farmers killed in their houses by day, some of farmers
killed in the fields, some of women, some of boys, some of girls and some
of little infants ripped from the womb. The contents of several of the
packages are described as mixed lots. The letter also fully explains the
Indian triumphal marks painted upon the different scalps, which were all
cured, dried and stretched like the pelts of the otter or beaver on hoops.
The black circle denoted that the victim had perished at night, the little
red foot that he had died in defence of his life and family, the little
yellow flame that he had been tortured at the stake. The hair braided in
the Indian fashion meant that the victim was a mother, other tokens that
the victim was a boy or a girl. A band fixed to the hoop of one of the
scalps signified that the head to which it had been attached was that of a
rebel clergyman. Many gruesome tokens are explained in the same systematic
and businesslike manner. Along with several other passages from a speech of
Conejogatchie in Council, the letter also communicates one in which the
speaker declares that his people wished the scalps to be sent across the
water to the great King that he might regard them and be refreshed. In
concluding his own letter, Captain Gerrish states that Lieutenant
Fitzgerald would have undertaken to convey the scalps to England and to
hang them all up some dark night on the trees in St. James' Park, where
they could be seen from the King and Queen's Palaces in the morning. But
this proposal, the _Chronicle_ says, was not approved in Boston. It was
proposed instead to make the scalps up in decent little packets, and to
seal and direct them; one to the King containing a sample of every kind
for his museum, one to the Queen, with some of women and children; the rest
to be distributed among both Houses of Parliament, and a double quantity to
be given to the Bishops. The relations of the _Chronicle_ to this
production were, of course, as purely fictitious as every other part of it.
Associated with the performance, as another publication in the _Chronicle_,
is a fictitious letter, too, from Paul Jones to Sir Joseph Yorke, the
English Ambassador to Holland, in which he defends himself with
considerable spirit from the charge of being a pirate, and reminds Sir
Joseph of the freebooting principles upon which England was waging war
against America. When he read this letter, Horace Walpole wrote to the
Countess of Ossory, "Have you seen in the papers an excellent letter of
Paul Jones to Sir Joseph Yorke? Elle nous dit bien des vérités! I doubt
poor Sir Joseph cannot answer them! Dr. Franklin himself, I should think,
was the author. It is certainly written by a first-rate pen, and not by a
common man of war."

_The Ephemera_ was addressed to Madame Brillon, and is one of the most
justly famous of all Franklin's writings. In a letter to William
Carmichael, he states that the thought was partly taken from a little piece
of some unknown writer, which he had met with fifty years before in a
newspaper. Another proof, we might say in passing, how little disposed
Franklin was to borrow from Richard Jackson, or any one else without due

So dependent is every part of this paper for its effect upon the whole that
to quote only a portion of it would be as futile as an effort to divide a
bubble without destroying it. These are the precise words in full of this
bewitching little production:

     You may remember, my dear friend, that when we lately
     spent that happy day in the delightful garden and sweet
     society of the Moulin Joly, I stopt a little in one of
     our walks, and staid some time behind the company. We
     had been shown numberless skeletons of a kind of little
     fly, called an ephemera, whose successive generations,
     we were told, were bred and expired within the day. I
     happened to see a living company of them on a leaf, who
     appeared to be engaged in conversation. You know I
     understand all the inferior animal tongues; my too
     great application to the study of them is the best
     excuse I can give for the little progress I have made
     in your charming language. I listened through curiosity
     to the discourse of these little creatures; but as
     they, in their national vivacity, spoke three or four
     together, I could make but little of their
     conversation. I found, however, by some broken
     expressions that I heard now and then, they were
     disputing warmly on the merit of two foreign musicians,
     one a _cousin_, the other a _moscheto_; in which
     dispute they spent their time, seemingly as regardless
     of the shortness of life as if they had been sure of
     living a month. Happy people! thought I, you are
     certainly under a wise, just, and mild government,
     since you have no public grievances to complain of, nor
     any subject of contention but the perfections and
     imperfections of foreign music. I turned my head from
     them to an old grey-headed one, who was single on
     another leaf, and talking to himself. Being amused with
     his soliloquy, I put it down in writing, in hopes it
     will likewise amuse her to whom I am so much indebted
     for the most pleasing of all amusements, her delicious
     company and heavenly harmony.

     It was [said he] the opinion of learned philosophers of
     our race, who lived and flourished long before my time,
     that this vast world, the Moulin Joly, could not itself
     subsist more than eighteen hours; and I think there was
     some foundation for that opinion, since, by the
     apparent motion of the great luminary that gives life
     to all nature, and which in my time has evidently
     declined considerably towards the ocean at the end of
     our earth, it must then finish its course, be
     extinguished in the waters that surround us, and leave
     the world in cold and darkness, necessarily producing
     universal death and destruction. I have lived seven of
     those hours, a great age, being no less than four
     hundred and twenty minutes of time. How very few of us
     continue so long! I have seen generations born,
     flourish, and expire. My present friends are the
     children and grandchildren of the friends of my youth,
     who _are now_, alas, no more! And I must soon follow
     them; for, by the course of nature, though still in
     health, I cannot expect to live above seven or eight
     minutes longer. What now avails all my toil and labor,
     in amassing honey-dew on this leaf, which I cannot live
     to enjoy! What the political struggles I have been
     engaged in, for the good of my compatriot inhabitants
     of this bush, or my philosophical studies for the
     benefit of our race in general! for, in politics, what
     can laws do without morals? Our present race of
     ephemeræ will in a course of minutes become corrupt,
     like those of other and older bushes, and consequently
     as wretched. And in philosophy how small our progress!
     Alas! art is long, and life is short! My friends would
     comfort me with the idea of a name, they say, I shall
     leave behind me; and they tell me I have lived long
     enough to nature and to glory. But what will fame be to
     an ephemera who no longer exists? And what will become
     of all history in the eighteenth hour, when the world
     itself, even the whole Moulin Joly, shall come to its
     end, and be buried in universal ruin?

     To me, after all my eager pursuits, no solid pleasures
     now remain, but the reflection of a long life spent in
     meaning well, the sensible conversation of a few good
     lady ephemeræ, and now and then a kind smile and a tune
     from the ever amiable _Brillante_.

_The Whistle_, too, was addressed to Madame Brillon and is also one of the
most celebrated of Franklin's bagatelles, but is scarcely equal, we think,
to the best of them.

In his opinion, Franklin said, they might all draw more good from the world
than they did if they would take care not to give too much for whistles.
With this foreword, he tells his story. When a child of seven years of age,
his friends on a holiday filled his pocket with coppers, and, being charmed
with the sound of a whistle that he met by the way in the hands of another
boy, he voluntarily offered, and gave all his money for one. He then came
home, and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with his whistle,
but disturbing the entire family. But his brothers and sisters told him
that he had given four times as much for the whistle as it was worth, put
him in mind of what good things he might have bought with the rest of the
money and laughed at him so much for his folly that he cried with vexation.
The lesson, however, was of use to him, so that often, when he was tempted
to buy some unnecessary thing, he said to himself, "_Don't give too much
for the whistle_," and he saved his money. And so, when he grew up, came
into the world and observed the actions of men, he thought he met with
many, very many who gave too much for the whistle.

He then mentions who some of these men were, the man ambitious of court
favor, the man covetous of political popularity, the miser, the slave of
pleasure, the devotee of fashion, the beautiful, sweet-tempered girl,
married to an ill-natured brute of a husband, and, after the mention of
each, comes the running comment, "This man gives too much for his whistle,"
or its equivalent.

     Yet [Franklin concludes], I ought to have charity for
     these unhappy people, when I consider, that, with all
     this wisdom of which I am boasting, there are certain
     things in the world so tempting, for example, the
     apples of King John, which happily are not to be
     bought; for if they were put to sale by auction, I
     might very easily be led to ruin myself in the
     purchase, and find that I had once more given too much
     for the _whistle_.

The reader has already had occasion to know what kind of fruit these apples
of King John were, and in whose orchard they grew.

To realize what an indifferent poet Franklin was, and yet at the same time
what a master of prose, one has but to first read his _petite chanson à
boire_ beginning,

    "Fair Venus calls; her voice obey,"

and then his letter to the Abbé Morellet on wine. The letter was written to
repay the Abbé for some of his excellent drinking songs.

     "In vino veritas," said the sage, [is the way Franklin
     begins]. Before Noah, when men had nothing but water to
     drink, they could not find the truth, so they went
     astray, and became abominably wicked, and were justly
     exterminated by the water that they were fond of
     drinking. Good man Noah, seeing that this bad drink had
     been the death of all his contemporaries, contracted an
     aversion to it, and God to quench his thirst, created
     the vine, and revealed to him the art of making wine.
     With its aid, Noah discovered many and many a truth,
     and, since his time, the word "divine" has been in use,
     meaning originally to discover by means of wine....
     Since that time, too, all excellent things, even
     deities themselves, have been called divine or

     Men speak of the conversion of water into wine at the
     marriage of Cana as a miracle. But this change is
     worked every day by the goodness of God under our eyes.
     Witness the water, that falls from the skies upon our
     vineyards, and then passes into the roots of the vines
     to be converted into wine, a constant proof that God
     loves us, and that he is pleased to see us happy. The
     miracle in question was performed merely to hasten the
     operation on an occasion of sudden need that made it

     It is true that God has also taught men how to reduce
     wine to water; but what kind of water? Why

Franklin then begs his Christian brother to be kindly and beneficent like
God and not to spoil his good work. When he saw his table companion pour
wine into his glass he should not hasten to pour water into it. Why should
he desire to drown the truth? His neighbor was likely to know better what
suited him than he. Perhaps he does not like water, perhaps he wishes only
a few drops of it out of complaisance to the fashion of the day, perhaps
he does not wish another to see how little he puts in his glass. Water
then should be offered only to children; it was a false and annoying form
of politeness to do otherwise. This the writer told the Abbé as a man of
the world, and he would end as he had begun, like a good Christian, by
making one very important religious observation suggested by the Holy
Scriptures. While the Apostle Paul had gravely advised Timothy to put wine
into his water for his health, not one of the Apostles, nor any of the Holy
Fathers, had ever advised anyone to put water into wine.

The "Dialogue between Franklin and the Gout" owes its value not so much to
its humor as to the knowledge that it incidentally affords us of the
personal habits of the former and his intimacy with Madame Helvétius and
Madame Brillon. Along with the reproaches and twinges of pain which evoke
repeated Ehs! and Ohs! from Franklin, as the colloquy proceeds, the Gout
contrives to communicate to us no little information on these subjects in
terms in which physiology, hygiene and gallantry are each made to do duty.
He tells Franklin that he, the Gout, very well knows that the quantity of
meat and drink proper for a man, who takes a reasonable degree of exercise,
is too much for another who never takes any. If his, Franklin's, situation
in life is a sedentary one, his amusements and recreations at least should
be active. He ought to walk or ride, or, if the weather prevents that, play
at billiards. But, instead of gaining an appetite for breakfast by salutary
exercise, he amuses himself with books, pamphlets or newspapers, which
commonly are not worth the reading. Yet he eats an inordinate breakfast,
four dishes of tea, with cream, and one or two buttered toasts, with slices
of hung beef, which the Gout fancies are not things the most easily
digested. Immediately afterwards he sits down to write at his desk or
converse with persons who apply to him on business. Thus the time passes
till one without any kind of bodily exercise. This might be pardoned out
of regard, as Franklin said, for his sedentary condition, but what is his
practice after dinner? Walking in the beautiful gardens of those friends
with whom he had dined would be the choice of men of sense. His was to be
fixed down to chess, where he was found engaged for two or three hours!
This was his perpetual recreation, which was the least eligible of any for
a sedentary man, because, instead of accelerating the motion of the fluids,
the rigid attention it required helped to retard the circulation and
obstruct internal secretions. Wrapped in the speculations of this wretched
game, he destroyed his constitution. What could be expected from such a
course of living but a body replete with stagnant humours, ready to fall a
prey to all kinds of dangerous maladies, if he, the Gout, did not
occasionally bring him relief by agitating those humors, and so purifying
or dissipating them. If it was in some nook or alley in Paris deprived of
walks that Franklin played awhile at chess after dinner, this might be
excusable, but the same taste prevailed with him in Paris, at Auteuil
Montmartre or Sanois, places where there were the finest, gardens and
walks, a pure air, beautiful women and most agreeable and instructive
conversation; all of which he might enjoy by frequenting the walks. At this
point, Franklin, after some more prolonged Ehs! and Ohs!, manages to remind
the Gout that it is not fair to say that he takes no exercise when he does
so very often in going out to dine and returning in his carriage; but this
statement the Gout brushes brusquely aside. That of all imaginable
exercises, he asserts, is the most slight and insignificant, if Franklin
alludes to the motion of a carriage suspended on springs. By observing the
degree of heat obtained by different kinds of motion, we may form an
estimate of the quantity of exercise given by each. Thus, for example, if
Franklin should turn out to walk in winter with cold feet, in an hour's
time he would be in a glow all over; if he should ride on horseback, the
same effect would scarcely be perceived by four hours' round trotting,
but, if he should loll in a carriage, such as he had mentioned, he might
travel all day, and gladly enter the last inn to warm his feet by a
fire.[58] Providence has appointed few to roll in carriages, while it has
given to all a pair of legs, which are machines infinitely more commodious
and serviceable. He should observe, when he walked, that all his weight was
alternately thrown from one leg to the other; this occasions a great
pressure upon the vessels of the foot, and repels their contents. When
relieved by the weight being thrown on the other foot, the vessels of the
first are allowed to replenish, and, by a return of this weight, this
repulsion again succeeds; thus accelerating the circulation of the blood,
with the result that the cheeks are ruddy and the health established.

     Behold [the Gout is then artfully made to say], your
     fair friend at Auteuil (Madame Helvétius); a lady who
     received from bounteous nature more really useful
     science, than half a dozen such pretenders to
     philosophy as you have been able to extract from all
     your books. When she honours you with a visit, it is on
     foot. She walks all hours of the day, and leaves
     indolence, and its concomitant maladies, to be endured
     by her horses. In this see at once the preservative of
     her health and personal charms.

Nor does the Gout go off before he is with equal art made to say a
flattering word about the Brillons.

     You know [he declares], M. Brillon's gardens, and what
     fine walks they contain; you know the handsome flight
     of an hundred steps, which lead from the terrace above
     to the lawn below. You have been in the practice of
     visiting this amiable family twice a week, after
     dinner, and it is a maxim of your own, that "a man may
     take as much exercise in walking a mile, up and down
     stairs, as in ten on level ground." What an opportunity
     was here for you to have had exercise in both these
     ways. Did you embrace it, and how often?

Franklin is bound to admit that he cannot immediately answer the question,
and the Gout answers it for him. "Not once," he says, and then goes on to
chide Franklin with the fact that, during the summer, he is in the habit of
going to M. Brillon's at six o'clock and contenting himself with the view
from his terrace, tea and the chess-board, though the charming lady, with
her lovely children and friends, are eager to walk with him, and entertain
him with their agreeable conversation.

A little more interchange of conversation and poor Franklin in despair
asks, "What then would you have me do with my carriage?" and the Gout
replies, "Burn it if you choose; you would at least get heat out of it once
in this way." In the end, Franklin promises that, if his persecutor will
only leave him, he will never more play at chess, but will take exercise
daily, and live temperately--a promise the Gout tells him that, with a few
months of good health, "will be forgotten like the forms of last year's

"The Handsome and Deformed Leg" divides the world into two classes, the
happy, who fix their eyes on the bright side of things and enjoy
everything, and the unhappy, who fix their eyes on the dark side of things,
and criticise everything; and thereby render themselves completely odious.
An old philosophical friend of his, Franklin said, carefully avoided any
intimacy with the latter class of people. He had, like other philosophers,
a thermometer to show him the heat of the weather, and a barometer to mark
when it was likely to prove good or bad; but, there being no instrument
invented to discern at first sight whether a person had their unpleasant
disposition, he, for that purpose, made use of his legs, one of which was
remarkably handsome, and the other, by some accident, crooked and deformed.
If a stranger, at the first interview, regarded his ugly leg more than his
handsome one, he doubted him. If he spoke of it and took no notice of the
handsome leg, that was sufficient to determine this philosopher to have no
further acquaintance with him.

     Everybody [concludes Franklin] has not this two-legged
     Instrument, but every one with a little Attention, may
     observe Signs of that carping, fault-finding
     Disposition, & take the same Resolution of avoiding the
     Acquaintance of those infected with it. I therefore
     advise those critical, querulous, discontented, unhappy
     People, that if they wish to be respected and belov'd
     by others, & happy in themselves they should _leave off
     looking at the ugly leg_.

"The Economical Project" is a happy combination of humor and prudential
instruction, and was written about the time when the Quinquet lamp was an
object of general public curiosity. An inquiry having been started on one
occasion in his presence, Franklin says, as to whether its brightness was
not offset by its lavish consumption of oil, he went home, and to bed,
three or four hours after midnight, with his head full of the subject. At
about six in the morning, he was awakened by a noise, and was surprised to
find his room full of light. At first, he imagined that he was surrounded
by a number of Quinquet lamps, but, on rubbing his eyes, he perceived that
the light came in at the windows, and, when he got up and looked out to see
what caused it, he saw the sun just rising above the horizon. His servant
had forgotten the preceding evening to close the shutters. Looking at his
watch, and finding that it was but six o'clock, and still thinking it
something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early, he consulted an
almanac, and ascertained that it was just the hour for sunrise on that day,
and, moreover, he learned from the almanac that the sun would rise still
earlier every day till towards the end of June. His readers, he was sure,
would be as much astonished as he was when they heard that the sun rises so
early, and especially when he assured them that it gives light as soon as
it rises. He was convinced of this. He was certain of his fact. One could
not be more certain of any fact. On repeating his observation the three
following mornings, he found always precisely the same result.

Yet when he spoke of the matter it was to incredulous countenances. One
auditor, a learned natural philosopher, assured him that he must certainly
be mistaken as to the light coming into his room, for, it being well known
that there could be no light abroad at that hour, it followed that none
could enter from without, and that, of consequence, his open windows,
instead of letting in the light, must have only served to let out the
darkness. This philosopher, Franklin confessed, puzzled him a little, but
subsequent observation confirmed him in his first opinion. On the strength
of these facts, Franklin enters upon a series of elaborate calculations to
demonstrate that, between the 20th of March and 20th of September, the
Parisians, because of their habit of preferring candlelight in the evening
to sunlight in the morning, had consumed sixty-four millions and fifty
thousand pounds of candles, which, at an average price of thirty sols per
pound, made ninety-six millions and seventy-five thousand livres tournois.
An immense sum! that the City of Paris might save every year by the economy
of using sunshine instead of candles; to say nothing of the period of the
year during which the days are shorter. This computation is succeeded by a
number of suggestions as to the different means by which such of the
Parisians as did not amend their hours upon learning from this paper that
it is daylight when the sun rises could be induced to reform their habits.

For his discovery, Franklin further said that he demanded neither place,
pension, exclusive privilege nor any other reward whatever. He was looking
only to the honor of it. He would not deny, when he was assailed by little,
envious minds, that the ancients knew that the sun rises at certain hours.
They too possibly had almanacs, but it does not follow that they knew that
it gives light as soon as it rises. That was what he claimed as his
discovery. It was certainly unknown to the moderns, at least to the
Parisians; which to prove he need use but one plain, simple argument. It
was impossible that a people as well-instructed, judicious and prudent as
any in the world, all professing to be lovers of economy, and subject to
onerous taxation, should have lived so long by the smoky, unwholesome and
enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known that they
might have as much pure light of the sun for nothing.

_A Letter from China_ in which a sailor, who had passed some time in that
country, is made to narrate in a simple, bald way what he saw and
experienced while there, is worth reading, if only because of the evidence
that it furnishes that almost every trifle from Franklin's pen has a
certain literary quality. One sentence in the letter at any rate possesses
the true Franklin flavor; that in which the wanderer states that in China
stealing, robbing and housebreaking are punished severely, but that
cheating is free there in everything, as cheating in horses is among
gentlemen in England.

Other humorous or satirical compositions from the hand of Franklin belong
to the period between his return from the French mission and his death.

His letter to the _Pennsylvania Gazette_ on the _Abuse of the Press_,
deprecates in a familiar and jocular way the scurrilous license which
marked the newspaper controversies of the time. After recalling insulting
epithets heaped upon other public servants, he mentions that he, too, the
unanimous choice as President of the Council and Assembly of Pennsylvania,
had been denounced as "_An old Rogue_," who had given his assent to the
Federal Constitution merely to avoid the refunding of money that he had
purloined from the United States.

     There is--indeed [the letter ends], a good deal of
     manifest _Inconsistency_ in all this, and yet a
     Stranger, seeing it in your own Prints, tho' he does
     not believe it all, may probably believe enough of it
     to conclude, that Pennsylvania is peopled by a Set of
     the most unprincipled, wicked, rascally and quarrelsome
     Scoundrels upon the Face of the Globe. I have
     sometimes, indeed, suspected that those Papers are the
     Manufacture of foreign Enemies among you, who write
     with a view of disgracing your Country, and making you
     appear contemptible and detestable all the World over;
     but then I wonder at the Indiscretion of your Printers
     in publishing such Writings! There is, however, one of
     your _Inconsistencies_ that consoles me a little, which
     is, that tho' _living_, you give one another the
     characters of Devils; _dead_, you are all Angels! It is
     delightful, when any of you die, to read what good
     Husbands, good Fathers, good Friends, good Citizens,
     and good Christians you were, concluding with a Scrap
     of Poetry that places you, with certainty, every one in
     Heaven. So that I think Pennsylvania a good country _to
     dye in_, though a very bad one to _live in_.

The _Comparison of the Conduct of the Ancient Jews and of the
Anti-Federalists in the United States of America_ belongs to the same
category as _Plain Truth_ rather than to the class of writings which
Franklin termed "Bagatelles." The parallel, however, between the jealousy,
worked upon by insidious men, pretending public good, but with nothing
really in view except private interest, which led the Israelites to oppose
the establishment of the New Constitution, after the flight from Egypt, and
the hostility of the Anti-Federalists to the work of the Convention of
1787, is pursued with such cleverness as to lift it out of the province of
the ordinary newspaper essay. There is an unwonted strain of solemnity in
its last sentences.

     To conclude [Franklin declares], I beg I may not be
     understood to infer, that our General Convention was
     divinely inspired, when it form'd the new federal
     Constitution, merely because that Constitution has been
     unreasonably and vehemently opposed; yet I must own I
     have so much Faith in the general Government of the
     world by _Providence_, that I can hardly conceive a
     Transaction of such momentous Importance to the Welfare
     of Millions now existing, and to exist in the Posterity
     of a great Nation, should be suffered to pass without
     being in some degree influenc'd, guided, and governed
     by that omnipotent, omnipresent and beneficent Ruler,
     in whom all inferior Spirits live, and move, and have
     their Being.

Of the _Account of the Supremest Court of Judicature in Pennsylvania, viz.,
the Court of the Press_, in which Franklin suggested that formal cognizance
should be taken of the Cudgel as well as of the Liberty of the Press, we
have already said enough.

The pretended speech of Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, a member of the Divan of
Algiers against the Petition of the Erika or Purists, asking that Piracy
and Slavery be abolished, was written by him on the eve of his death, and
is one of his best satirical thrusts. It was a parody on a speech that had
been lately delivered in Congress in defence of negro slavery by Mr.
Jackson of Georgia, and its wit consists in the art with which it
appositely urges in justification of the Algerian practice of plundering
and enslaving Christians all the considerations urged by Jackson in his
plea for African slavery. In his letter, conveying Sidi's speech to the
_Federal Gazette_, Franklin states that it might be found in Martin's
Account of the former's consulship, anno 1687, and we are told that this
statement caused many persons to apply to bookstores and libraries for
Martin's supposed work. Then, as now, there could be no better means for
determining how matter-of-fact a person was than to test his sense of humor
with one of Franklin's facetious cheats.

The exact time at which the _Petition of the Left Hand to those who have
the Superintendency of Education_ was written is unknown. Its _motif_ is
not unlike that of the _Petition of the Letter Z_. It complains that from
infancy the petitioner had been led to consider her sister as a being of
more elevated rank. She had been suffered to grow up without the least
instruction while nothing was spared in the education of the latter, who
had had masters to teach her writing, drawing, music and other
accomplishments. If by chance the Petitioner touched a pencil, a pen or a
needle, she was bitterly rebuked, and more than once had been beaten for
being awkward and wanting a graceful manner.

     But conceive not Sirs [says the left hand further],
     that my complaints are instigated merely by vanity. No;
     my uneasiness is occasioned by an object much more
     serious. It is the practice in our family, that the
     whole business of providing for its subsistence falls
     upon my sister and myself. If any indisposition should
     attack my sister,--and I mention it in confidence upon
     this occasion, that she is subject to the gout, the
     rheumatism, and cramp, without making mention of other
     accidents,--what would be the fate of our poor family?
     Must not the regret of our parents be excessive, at
     having placed so great a difference between sisters who
     are so perfectly equal? Alas! we must perish from
     distress; for it would not be in my power even to
     scrawl a suppliant petition for relief, having been
     obliged to employ the hand of another in transcribing
     the request which I have now the honour to prefer to

One of the essays of Franklin is an essay which he termed a "bagatelle,"
but which is of a different cast from most of his papers bearing that
designation. This is the essay on the _Morals of Chess_. As a mere literary
production, it possesses remarkable merit, but it is more valuable still
for the singular union of wisdom and benevolence found in all of the
writer's precepts relating to the conduct of life. It is only upon the
contracted face of an ordinary chess-board that the sagacious reflections
and salutary counsels of this paper are based, but many of them are quite
extensive enough in their application to be suitable for the morals of the
wider chess-board on which men and women themselves are the pawns, and the
universal currents of human nature and human existence the players. By
playing at chess, Franklin thought, we may learn foresight, circumspection,
caution and hopefulness. When playing it, if the agreement is that the
rules of the game shall be strictly observed, they should be strictly
observed by both parties. If the agreement is that they shall not be
strictly observed, one party should claim no indulgence for himself that he
is not willing to grant to his adversary. No false move should ever be made
by a player to extricate himself from a difficulty or to gain an advantage.
There can be no pleasure in playing with a person once detected in such an
unfair practice. If your adversary is long in playing, you should not hurry
him, or express any uneasiness at his delay, nor sing, nor whistle, nor
look at your watch, nor take up a book to read, nor tap with your feet on
the floor, or with your fingers on the table, nor do anything that may
disturb his attention. For all these things displease, and they do not show
your skill in playing but your craftiness or your rudeness.

       *       *       *       *       *

You should not endeavor to amuse and deceive your adversary by pretending
to have made bad moves in order to render him confident and careless and
inattentive to your schemes. This is fraud and deceit, not skill. If you
gain the victory, you should not give way to exultation or insult, nor show
too much pleasure. On the contrary, you should endeavor to console your
adversary, and soothe his wounded pride by every sort of civil expression
that may be used with truth, such as, "You understand the game better than
I, but you are a little inattentive," or "You play too fast," or "You had
the best of the game, but something happened to divert your thoughts, and
that turned it in my favour." If you are simply a spectator, you should
observe the most perfect silence; for, if you give advice, you offend both
parties, him, against whom you give it, because it may cause the loss of
his game, him, in whose favour you give it, because though it be good, and
he follows it, he loses the pleasure he might have had, if you had
permitted him to think until it had occurred to himself.

And thus this essay, so full of wholesome, kind advice from a counsellor,
who loved men none the less because he knew all their failings and foibles
as well as virtues, continues a little longer, until the reader, already
won over to its perfect rectitude of sentiment and purpose, entirely
forgets how obvious are all the truisms of its stating that he has so often
offended. The measure of self-abnegation, suggested by the conclusion of
the essay, is, we fear, rather too exacting for the tug of chess-board
selfishness upon the weaker side of human nature. If it is agreed that the
rules of the game are not to be rigorously enforced, then, says Franklin,
moderate your desire of victory over your adversary, and be pleased with
one over yourself. Do not snatch eagerly at every advantage offered by his
unskilfulness or inattention, but point out to him kindly that by such a
move he places or leaves a piece in danger and unsupported; or that by
another he will put his king in a perilous situation &c. "By this generous
civility (so opposite to the unfairness above forbidden) you may, indeed,
happen to lose the game to your opponent," the close of the essay declares,
"but you will win what is better, his esteem, his respect, and his
affection, together with the silent approbation and goodwill of impartial

We shall not linger upon the letters of Franklin. The substance of them has
already been worked into this book too freely for that. It is sufficient to
say that they are among the very best in the English language. It would be
idle to compare them with those of Gray, Horace Walpole, Cowper, Byron or
Fitzgerald, the acknowledged masters of that form of composition. Franklin
was not a conscious man of letters at all, and is not to be judged by such
academic standards. If he was, we might say that Cowper aerated with a
little of Walpole most nearly, though, after all, but remotely, suggests a
true conception of what Franklin was as a letter-writer. Few men were ever
saner than Cowper was during his really lucid intervals; but then Cowper
was not a man of business, a statesman or a philosopher, and the elixir of
Walpole's gaiety differs from that of Franklin's as a stimulant of the
wine-shop differs from fresh air and sunshine. The official and
semi-official letters of Franklin contain some of the most solid and
sagacious of his reflections and observations on political topics. His
familiar letters to his kinsfolk and friends often run out into thoughts
upon the management of our individual lives and our relations to the
visible and invisible universe which are likely to be a part of the
currency of human wisdom as long as human society lasts. And almost all of
his known letters have value enough to make us feel, when still another of
the thousands written by him happens to be reclaimed from loss, as Reuben
in his parable might have felt, if he had recovered his precious axe.

Among the cleverest of his letters was his familiar one to his daughter on
the Order of the Cincinnati. If his advice had been asked, he said, he
perhaps would not have objected to their wearing their ribbon and badge
themselves, if they derived pleasure from such trivial things, but he
certainly should have objected to the idea of making the honor hereditary.
And this was the amusing and original way in which he presented his views
on the subject:

     For Honour, worthily obtain'd (as for Example that of
     our Officers), is in its Nature a _personal_ Thing, and
     incommunicable to any but those who had some Share in
     obtaining it. Thus among the Chinese, the most ancient,
     and from long Experience the wisest of Nations, honour
     does not _descend_, but _ascends_. If a man from his
     Learning, his Wisdom, or his Valour, is promoted by the
     Emperor to the Rank of Mandarin, his Parents are
     immediately entitled to all the same Ceremonies of
     Respect from the People, that are establish'd as due to
     the Mandarin himself; on the supposition that it must
     have been owing to the Education, Instruction, and good
     Example afforded him by his Parents, that he was
     rendered capable of serving the Publick.

     This _ascending_ Honour is therefore useful to the
     State, as it encourages Parents to give their Children
     a good and virtuous Education. But the _descending
     Honour_, to Posterity who could have no Share in
     obtaining it, is not only groundless and absurd, but
     often hurtful to that Posterity, since it is apt to
     make them proud, disdaining to be employ'd in useful
     Arts, and thence falling into Poverty, and all the
     Meannesses, Servility, and Wretchedness attending it;
     which is the present case with much of what is called
     the _Noblesse_ in Europe. Or if to keep up the Dignity
     of the Family, Estates are entailed entire on the
     Eldest male heir, another Pest to Industry and
     Improvement of the Country is introduc'd, which will be
     followed by all the odious mixture of pride and
     Beggary, and idleness, that have half depopulated [and
     _decultivated_] Spain; occasioning continual Extinction
     of Families by the Discouragements of Marriage [and
     neglect in the improvement of estates].

     I wish, therefore, that the Cincinnati, if they must go
     on with their Project, would direct the Badges of their
     Order to be worn by their Parents, instead of handing
     them down to their Children. It would be a good
     Precedent, and might have good Effects. It would also
     be a kind of Obedience to the Fourth Commandment, in
     which God enjoins us to honour our Father and Mother,
     but has nowhere directed us to honour our Children. And
     certainly no mode of honouring those immediate Authors
     of our Being can be more effectual, than that of doing
     praiseworthy Actions, which reflect Honour on those who
     gave us our Education; or more becoming, than that of
     manifesting, by some public Expression or Token, that
     it is to their Instruction and Example we ascribe the
     Merit of those Actions.

     But the Absurdity of _descending Honours_ is not a mere
     Matter of philosophical Opinion; it is capable of
     mathematical Demonstration. A Man's Son, for instance,
     is but half of his Family, the other half belonging to
     the Family of his Wife. His Son, too, marrying into
     another Family, his Share in the Grandson is but a
     fourth; in the Great Grandson, by the same Process, it
     is but an Eighth; in the next Generation a Sixteenth;
     the next a Thirty-second; the next a Sixty-fourth; the
     next an Hundred and Twenty-eighth; the next a Two
     hundred and Fifty-sixth; and the next a Five hundred
     and twelfth; thus in nine Generations, which will not
     require more than 300 years (no very great Antiquity
     for a Family), our present Chevalier of the Order of
     Cincinnatus's Share in the then existing Knight, will
     be but a 512th part; which, allowing the present
     certain Fidelity of American Wives to be insur'd down
     through all those Nine Generations, is so small a
     Consideration, that methinks no reasonable Man would
     hazard for the sake of it the disagreeable
     Consequences of the Jealousy, Envy, and Ill will of his

     Let us go back with our Calculation from this young
     Noble, the 512th part of the present Knight, thro' his
     nine Generations, till we return to the year of the
     Institution. He must have had a Father and Mother, they
     are two. Each of them had a Father and Mother, they are
     four. Those of the next preceding Generation will be
     eight, the next Sixteen, the next thirty-two, the next
     sixty-four, the next one hundred and Twenty-eight, the
     next Two hundred and fifty-six, and the ninth in this
     Retrocession Five hundred and twelve, who must be now
     existing, and all contribute their Proportion of this
     future _Chevalier de Cincinnatus_. These, with the
     rest, make together as follows:


     One Thousand and Twenty-two Men and Women, contributors
     to the formation of one Knight. And if we are to have a
     Thousand of these future Knights, there must be now and
     hereafter existing One Million and Twenty-two Thousand
     Fathers and Mothers, who are to contribute to their
     Production, unless a Part of the Number are employ'd in
     making more Knights than One. Let us strike off then
     the 22,000, on the Supposition of this double Employ,
     and then consider whether, after a reasonable
     Estimation of the Number of Rogues, and Fools, and
     Royalists and Scoundrels and Prostitutes, that are
     mix'd with, and help to make up necessarily their
     Million of Predecessors, Posterity will have much
     reason to boast of the noble Blood of the then existing
     Set of Chevaliers de Cincinnatus. [The future
     genealogists, too, of these Chevaliers, in proving the
     lineal descent of their honour through so many
     generations (even supposing honour capable in its
     nature of descending), will only prove the small share
     of this honour, which can be justly claimed by any one
     of them; since the above simple process in arithmetic
     makes it quite plain and clear that, in proportion as
     the antiquity of the family shall augment, the right to
     the honour of the ancestor will diminish; and a few
     generations more would reduce it to something so small
     as to be very near an absolute nullity.] I hope,
     therefore, that the Order will drop this part of their
     project, and content themselves, as the Knights of the
     Garter, Bath, Thistle, St. Louis, and other Orders of
     Europe do, with a Life Enjoyment of their little Badge
     and Ribband, and let the Distinction die with those who
     have merited it. This I imagine will give no offence.
     For my own part, I shall think it a Convenience, when I
     go into a Company where there may be Faces unknown to
     me, if I discover, by this Badge, the Persons who merit
     some particular Expression of my Respect; and it will
     save modest Virtue the Trouble of calling for our
     Regard, by awkward roundabout Intimations of having
     been heretofore employ'd in the Continental Service.

     The Gentleman, who made the Voyage to France to provide
     the Ribands and Medals, has executed his Commission. To
     me they seem tolerably done; but all such Things are
     criticis'd. Some find Fault with the Latin, as wanting
     classic Elegance and Correctness; and, since our Nine
     Universities were not able to furnish better Latin, it
     was pity, they say, that the Mottos had not been in
     English. Others object to the Title, as not properly
     assumable by any but Gen. Washington, [and a few
     others] who serv'd without Pay. Others object to the
     _Bald Eagle_ as looking too much like a _Dindon_, or
     Turkey. For my own Part, I wish the Bald Eagle had not
     been chosen as the Representative of our Country; he is
     a Bird of bad moral Character; he does not get his
     living honestly; you may have seen him perch'd on some
     dead Tree, near the River where, too lazy to fish for
     himself, he watches the Labour of the Fishing-Hawk;
     and, when that diligent Bird has at length taken a
     Fish, and is bearing it to his Nest for the support of
     his Mate and young ones, the Bald Eagle pursues him,
     and takes it from him. With all this Injustice he is
     never in good Case; but, like those among Men who live
     by Sharping and Robbing, he is generally poor, and
     often very lousy. Besides, he is a rank Coward; the
     little _King Bird_, not bigger than a Sparrow, attacks
     him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is
     therefore by no means a proper emblem for the brave and
     honest Cincinnati of America, who have driven all the
     _King-birds_ from our Country; though exactly fit for
     that Order of Knights, which the French call
     _Chevaliers d'Industrie_.

     I am, on this account, not displeas'd that the Figure
     is not known as a Bald Eagle, but looks more like a
     Turk'y. For in Truth, the Turk'y is in comparison a
     much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original
     Native of America. Eagles have been found in all
     Countries, but the Turk'y was peculiar to ours; the
     first of the Species seen in Europe being brought to
     France by the Jesuits from Canada, and serv'd up at the
     Wedding Table of Charles the Ninth. He is, [though a
     little vain and silly, it is true, but not the worse
     emblem for that,] a Bird of Courage, and would not
     hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards,
     who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a _red_
     Coat on.

Nor need we dwell longer either upon Franklin as a poet. Considered
seriously as such, he was undoubtedly one of the kind, that, as Horace
says, neither Gods nor men can endure. But he should not be seriously
regarded as a poet at all. We should bring no severer judgment, to his
couplets than was brought to them by the plowmen and frontiersmen, who kept
_Poor Richard's Almanac_ suspended over their mantelpieces; and his
anacreontics should be read, as they were sung, after the edge of criticism
has been dulled by a bottle or so. It is only fair to Poor Richard,
however, to say that no one had a poorer opinion of his gifts as a poet
than himself. "I know as thee," he says in one of his prefaces, "that I am
no _Poet born_: and it is a Trade I never learnt, nor indeed could learn.
_If I make Verses, 'tis in Spight of Nature and my Stars, I write._" In
another preface, after honoring his friend Taylor, of Ephemerides fame,
with a considerable number of lines, he exclaims: "Souse down into Prose
again, my Muse; for Poetry's no more thy Element, than Air is that of the
Flying-Fish." And we need go no further than one of Franklin's lively
letters to Polly, at which we have already glanced, to satisfy ourselves
that he placed quite as low an estimate on his verses as Poor Richard did
on his. Speaking of the Muse, which he mentioned in his letter as having
visited him that morning, he observes in his light-hearted way:

     This Muse appear'd to be no Housewife. I suppose few of
     them are. She was _drest_ (if the Expression is
     allowable) in an _Undress_, a kind of slatternly
     _Negligée_, neither neat nor clean, nor well made; and
     she has given the same sort of Dress to my Piece. On
     reviewing it, I would have reform'd the lines and made
     them all of a Length, as I am told Lines ought to be;
     but I find I can't lengthen the short ones without
     stretching them on the Rack, and I think it would be
     equally cruel to cut off any Part of the long ones.
     Besides the Superfluity of _these_ makes up for the
     Deficiency of _those_; and so, from a Principle of
     Justice, I leave them at full Length, that I may give
     you, at least in one Sense of the Word, _good Measure_.

Of all the productions of Franklin, the _Autobiography_ and _Poor Richard's
Almanac_, are those upon which his literary fame will chiefly rest. Of the
former, we have already said too much to say much more about it. It is the
only thing written by Franklin that can properly be called a book, and even
it is marked by the brevity which he regarded as one of the essentials of
good writing. If he did not write other books, it was not, so far as we can
see, because, as has been charged, he lacked constructive capacity, but
rather because, when he resorted to the pen, he did it not for literary
celebrity, but for practical purposes of the hour, best subserved by brief
essays or papers. It is true that in writing the early chapters of the
_Autobiography_, which brought his life down to the year 1730, he was not
exactly writing for the moment, but, still, the motive by which he was
actuated was a purely practical one. "They were written to my Son," he said
in a letter to Matthew Carey, "and intended only as Information to my
Family." Even in the later chapters, which brought his life down to his
fiftieth year, he still had a similar incentive to literary effort, highly
congenial with the general bent of his character, that is to say, the
opportunity that they afforded him to point to his business success as an
example of what might be accomplished by frugality and industry. "What is
to follow," he wrote to the Duc de la Rochefoucauld, "will be of more
important Transactions: But it seems to me that what is done will be of
more general Use to young Readers; as exemplifying strongly the Effects of
prudent and imprudent Conduct in the Commencement of a Life of Business."
Two days later, he wrote to Benjamin Vaughan from Philadelphia that he was
diligently employed in writing the _Autobiography_, to which his
persuasions had not a little contributed.

     To shorten the work [he said], as well as for other
     reasons, I omit all facts and transactions, that may
     not have a tendency to benefit the young reader, by
     showing him from my example, and my success in emerging
     from poverty, and acquiring some degree of wealth,
     power, and reputation, the advantages of certain modes
     of conduct which I observed, and of avoiding the errors
     which were prejudicial to me.

To the limited nature of the inducements to the composition of the
_Autobiography_, disclosed by these letters, it was due that the interest
of Franklin in the subsequent continuation of the work was too languid for
the completion of the whole plan of the _Autobiography_, as intimated in
the Hints which he gives of its intended scope, notwithstanding the urgent
appeals which his friends never ceased to make to him to complete it.

If one of the effects of the fearless self-arraignment of the
_Autobiography_ has been to lower the standing of Franklin in some respects
with posterity, we should remember the unselfish motive, which induced him
to turn his youthful errors to the profit of others, and also the fact that
he had his own misgivings about the bearing upon his reputation of such
outspoken self-exposure, and submitted the propriety of publishing the
_Autobiography_ unreservedly to the judgment of friends who were certainly
competent judges in every regard of what the moral sense of their time
would approve.

     I am not without my Doubts concerning the Memoirs,
     whether it would be proper to publish them, or not, at
     least during my Life time [he wrote to the Duc de la
     Rochefoucauld], and I am persuaded there are many
     Things that would, in Case of Publication, be best
     omitted; I therefore request it most earnestly of you,
     my dear Friend, that you would examine them carefully &
     critically, with M. Le Veillard, and give me your
     candid & friendly Advice thereupon, as soon as you can

Later, he wrote to Benjamin Vaughan from Philadelphia that he had, of late,
been so interrupted by extreme pain, which obliged him to have recourse to
opium, that, between the effects of both, he had but little time, in which
he could write anything, but that his grandson was copying what was done,
which would be sent to Vaughan for his opinion by the next vessel; for he
found it a difficult task to speak decently and properly of one's own
conduct, and felt the want of a judicious friend to encourage him in
scratching out. The next time that Franklin wrote to Vaughan it was when
opium alone could render existence tolerable to him, but in the interim, he
had happily discovered that he could dictate even when he could not write.

     What is already done [he said] I now send you, with an
     earnest request that you and my good friend Dr. Price
     [later in the letter he calls him "my dear Dr. Price"]
     would be so good as to take the trouble of reading it,
     critically examining it, and giving me your candid
     opinion whether I had best publish or suppress it; and
     if the first, then what parts had better be expunged or
     altered. I shall rely upon your opinions, for I am now
     grown so old and feeble in mind, as well as body, that
     I can not place any confidence in my own judgment.

Of the same tenor was a still later letter to M. Le Veillard, in which
Franklin expressed the hope that Le Veillard would, with the Duc de la
Rochefoucauld, read the Memoirs over carefully, examine them critically and
send him his friendly, candid opinion of the parts that he would advise him
to correct or expunge, in case he should think that the work was generally
proper to be published, but, if he judged otherwise, that he would inform
him of that fact, too, as soon as possible, and prevent him from incurring
further trouble in the endeavor to finish the work. The world has reason to
be thankful that the fate of the _Autobiography_ should thus have been left
to the decision of men who, even if they had not lived in the eighteenth
century, would have been robust enough, in point of intelligence and
morals, to believe that the youthful _errata_ laid bare in that book were
more than atoned for by the manly and generous aims that inspired it.

Of the _Autobiography_ it is enough now to say that it is one of the few
books which have arrested and permanently riveted the attention of the
whole civilized world. Commenting in it on the copy of _Pilgrim's
Progress_, "in Dutch, finely printed on good paper, with copper cuts,"
which the drunken Dutchman, whom he drew up by the shock-pate from the
waters of New York Bay, on his first journey to Philadelphia, handed to him
to dry, Franklin says: "I have since found that it has been translated into
most of the languages of Europe, and suppose it has been more generally
read than any other book, except perhaps the Bible." The _Autobiography_ is
hardly less popular. It, too, has been translated into most of the
languages of Europe, and has been printed and reprinted until it is one of
the most widely-read books in existence. Such it is likely to remain
always, not simply because it was written by a very famous man, who
possessed, to an extraordinary degree, the power of impressing his thoughts
and fancies on the hearts and imagination of the human race, but because it
tells a story of self-conquest and self-promotion full of warning, guidance
and hope for every human being, who wishes to make the best of his own
opportunities and powers. As a mere composition, dressed though it is like
the poetic Muse described by Franklin in his letter to Polly "in a kind of
slatternly Negligée," it is one of the masterpieces of literature. Its very
careless loquacity is but suggestive of a mind overflowing with its own
profusion of experience and reflection. There is no better test of the
extent, to which a writer has proved himself equal to the highest
possibilities of his art, than to ask how readily his conceptions can be
pictured; for the mind of a great writer is but a gallery hung with such
pictures as the painter reduces to material form and color. Tried by this
test, the universal popularity of the _Autobiography_ can be readily
understood. The Book of Genesis, the plays of Shakespeare, _Pilgrim's
Progress_, the novels of Sir Walter Scott, are not more easily illustrated
than are the incidents depicted to the life in its early chapters. Some of
them wear a hard and coarse aspect as if they had been struck off from
ruder plates than any belonging to the present state of the art of
engraving, but this is only another proof of the fidelity of Franklin to
his eighteenth century background. We might