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of mankind. Some characters appear great only when contemplated at a distance, and on a nearer inspection excite only derision or contempt: but the character of Franklin will bear the distant and the microscopic view. We may follow him from the great theatre of politics, where he discussed the destiny of nations, to his domestic fire-side, where he conversed with his friends and trifled with his grand-children, without any deduction from our reverence and our esteem. Nothing artificial appeared in his character, and he was never indebted for his sanctity to a mask.
As the title announces, the letters before us relate to miscellaneous, literary, and political topics. In most of them, we meet with acute remarks, perspicuously expressed; with prudential maxims, sometimes illustrated by appropriate instances and happy allusions; with much information scattered here and there, respecting the events of his own time; and with ample materials for the history of the shy, reluctant, lingering, interrupted, but finally successful negotiation, which made the pride of Britain bend to acknowlege the independence of her revolted colonies. Among these epistolary communications, those which are of the miscellaneous kind and have principally a domestic character, which display more of the effusions of friendship and the common--places of ordinary life, will probably be perused with the largest share of interest by the majority of readers. It is true that the portion of the work, in which Franklin appears as a public negotiator, exhibits him in the most dignified aspect as a champion for the liberties of mankind; yet the events to which it relates have become matters of history, and will excite the less curiosity from their general notoriety; though the picture of honest and straight-forward diplomacy which they exhibit deserves to be seriously studied by the politician. We shall attend to the letters chiefly in their order of classification.
Few persons have ever viewed the surface of common life with a more discriminating eye than Dr. Franklin; and his prudential admonitions always merit the most attentive consideration. It has been the practice of modern philosophers to discourage early marriages, and to put off the celebration of the nuptial solemnity from the juvenile period in which the heart is warm, though the head is often indiscreet, to a season of more reflective maturity, when the calculations of prudence have had time to wither the more vivid cfflorescence of a sensitive temperament. Dr. Franklin, however, who certainly was not wanting in any of the requisites of domestic prudence, was a friend to early marriages, as affording, on the whole, the best chances of happiness. He observes:
• Particular circumstances of particular persons may possibly sometimes nake it prudent to delay entering into that state; but in general, when nature has rendered our bodies fit for it, the presumption is in nature's favor that she has not judged amiss in making us desire it. Late marriages are often attended, too, with this further inconvenience, that there is not the same chance that the parents shall live to see their offspring educated. “ Late children, says the Spanish proverb, are early orphans." ' P. 5.
On some of the intricate and embarrassing questions which are often happening even in common life, when the will is assailed by conflicting considerations, and the mind is like a ship agitated by opposing winds, the following advice will be found of singular service, and deserves an impressive recommendation.
· When those difficult cases occur, they are difficult chiefly because, while we have them under consideration, all the reasons pro and con are not present to the mind at the same time; but sometimes one set present themselves; and at other times another, the first being out of sight. Hence the various purposes or inclinations that alternately prevail, and the uncertainty that perplexes us. To get over this, my way is to divide half a sheet of paper by a line into two columns; writing over the one pro and over the other con: then during three or four days' consideration, I put down under the different heads short hints of the different motives that at dif. ferent times occur to me, for or against the measure. When I have thus got them all together in one view, I endeavour to estimate their respective weights, and where I find two, one on each side, that seem equal, I strike them both out. If I find a reason pro equal to some two reasons con, I strike out the three. If I judge some two reasons con equal to some three reasons pro, I strike out the five; and thus proceeding, I find at length where the balance
and if after a day or two of further consideration, nothing new that is of importance occurs on either side, I come to a determination accordingly. And though the weight of reasons cannot be taken with the precision of algebraic quantities; yet when each is thus considered separately and comparatively, and the whole lies before me, I think I can judge better and am less liable to make a rash step; and in fact I have found great advantage from this kind of equation, in what may be called moral or prudential algebra.' P.12.
When Dr. Priestley, exulting in some of his philosophical discoveries, had written jocularly to Franklin that he did not despair of attaining the philosopher's stone, the American philosopher replied that, if Dr. Priestley should find it, he hoped that he would lose it again; for I believe in my conscience,' said he, that mankind are wicked enough to continue slaughtering one another as long as they can find money to pay the butchers.' P. 15. Dr. Franklin did not, at that
period, take into his consideration that the long-protracted devastation of the human species, by the horrid engine of war, might be as effectually encouraged by the politician's paper as by the philosopher's stone ; and that the indefinite multiplication of bank-notes might compensate for the want of some chemical menstruum for the unlimited production of gold.
A lively letter to Mrs. Thompson, written when Dr. Franklinwas at Paris in February 1777, contains this paragraph:
• I know you wish you could see me, but as you can't I will describe myself to you. Figure me in your mind as jolly as formerly and as strong and hearty, only a few years older ; very plainly dressed, wearing my thin grey straight hair, that peeps out under my only coiffure, & fine fur cap, which comes down my forehead almost to my spectacles. * Think how this must appear among the powdered heads of Paris! I wish every lady and gentleman in France would only be so obliging as to follow my fashion, comb their own heads, as I do mine, dismiss their friseurs, and pay me half the money they paid to them. You see the gentry might well afford this, and I could then enlist these friseurs, who are at least 100,000, and with the money I would maintain them, make a visit with them to England, and dress the heads of your ministers and privy counsellors; which I conceive at present io.be un peu dérangées.'
In two or three passages in the present correspondence, Dr. Franklin gives his opinion on parliamentary reform; a topic which had not been so generally discussed in his time as it has been in a more recent period. He seems to have thought that no reform in the mode of parliamentary representation would be of any avail, which did not greatly reduce the patronage of the executive part of the constitution; and to the enormity of that patronage he imputed a greater aggre. gate of political depravity and corruption than to any other
* Dr. Franklin, however, did give way to the Parisian fashion, and ordered a perruque in true court-costume.
When it was brought home, the Doctor waiting for it to go to Versailles, it was found to be too small; and all the efforts, grimace, and characteristic swearing of the maker of it failed to adapt it to the head for which it was designed. The Doctor then became rather angry; and the artist, endeavouring to excuse his fault, at last declared ;.“ Après tout, Monsieur, ce n'est pas que la perruque est trop petite, c'est que votre tête est trop grosse." The grossness of this speech was little consistent with french politesse; and, had the maker of wigs been gifted with a little more wit, he might have offered a similar excuse wrapped up in a compliment, by supposing that, since he had taken measure of the Doctor's head, some new and grand conception, with which he was labouring for the good of mankind, had actually enlarged its external dimensions. Rev.
source. He conceived that here public virtue was most incurably vitiated; and that the tree of liberty was cankered and mildewed from its top to its bottom, and from its lowest roots to its highest branches. I do not expect,' he says, in a letter to Dr. Price, October 9. 1780, that your new parlianient will be either wiser or honester than the last. All projects to procure an honest one by place-bills, &c. appear to me vain and impracticable. The true cure, I imagine, is to be found only in rendering all places unprofitable, and the King too poor to give bribes and pensions. Till this is done, your nation will always be plundered; and obliged to pay by taxes the plunderers for plundering and ruining.'
Writing in March 1783 to the Bishop of St. Asaph, and speaking of this country, Dr. F. says;
. Her great disease at present is the number and enormous salaries and emoluments of office. Avarice and ambition are strong passions, and separately act with great force on the human mind; but when both are united and may be gratified in the same object, their violence is almost irresistible, and they hurry men headlong into factions and contentions destructive of all good government. As long therefore as these great emoluments subsist, your parliament will be a stormy sea, and your public counsels confounded by private interests. But it requires much public spirit and virtue to abolish them; more perhaps than can now be found in a nation so long corrupted.'
A letter to Dr. Price in August 1784 states also Dr. Franklin's opinion that the enormous emoluments of place are among the greatest defects in the British constitution.
• It seems,' says he, to be a settled point that the minister must govern the parliament, who are to do everything that he would have done; and he is to bribe them to do this, and the people are to furnish the money to pay these bribes. The parliament appears to me a very expensive machine for government, and I apprehend the people will find out in time that they may as well be governed, and that it will be much cheaper to be governed, by the minister alone; no parliament being preferable to the present.
Sentiments similar to the above are repeated in other parts; and, without staying to scrutinize their exactness, it is a duty to record the opinion of a statesman of so much celebrity, and of such exalted disinterestedness, on a subject which is at present of the most vital importance both to the government and the people.
Mentioning the beneficence of Thomas Hollis, in a letter to Brand Hollis in 1783, Dr. Franklin makes a remark which, in a moral view, is of high interest, and merits the
attentive regard of those who possess the means of adding to the happiness or alleviating the miseries, of their fellowcreatures. It is prodigious the quantity of good that may be done by one man if he will make a business of it. It is equally surprising to think of the very little that is done by many; for such is the general frivolity of the employments and amusements of the rank we call gentlemen, that every century may have seen three generations of a set of a thousand each in every kingdom of Europe, no one of which set in the course of their lives have done the good effected by this man alone. Indeed, Dr. Franklin appears to have been very early in life strongly impressed with the paramount importance of the god-like virtue of doing good, over that of any other qualities which may rank higher in the false estimate of mankind. On this subject he mentions a circumstance which ought not to pass unnoticed, and which forcibly tends to prove what a permanent impulse is sometimes given to individual character by an incidental occurrence in that period of life, at which the force of impressions is increased by a vivid and unsophisticated. sensibility.
When I was a boy, says the Doctor, in a letter to the Rev. Dr. Mather of Boston, • I met with a book entitled Essays to do good, which I think was written hy your făther. It had been so little regarded by a former possessor, that several leaves of it were torn out: but the remainder gave me such a turn of thinking as to have an influence on my conduct through life; for I have always set a greater value on the character of a doer of good, than on any other kind of reputation; and if I have been, as you seem to think, a useful citizen, the public owes the advantage of it to that book;
Addressing Mr. Granville Sharpe, from Passy, July 5. 1785, Dr. Franklin speaks of an abridgment of the liturgy by a noble lord with whom he was acquainted, who had requested the Doctor to assist him by revising the rest of the book. In this undertaking, Dr. F. reduced the catechism to such slender dimensions that he retained only the two questions, “ What is your duty to God? What is your duty to your neighbour.?" with the answers. In the Psalms, he omitted the repetitions, which he found numerous, and the vindictive imprecations, which are not in unison with the doctrine of the forgiveness of injuries that forms such a bright feature in the moral page of Christianity.
When Dr. Franklin returned to Philadelphia in the latter part of the year 1785, he was chosen president or governor by the assembly and, council of the state of Pennsylvania, with only one dissentient voice, except his own; and this honourable office he continued to fill for three successive years, the