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Benjamin Franklin, A Picture of the Struggles of Our Infant Nation One Hundred Years Ago - American Pioneers and Patriots Series
by John S. C. Abbott
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Such were the themes which this apostolic preacher unfolded, and which moved human hearts, in these new colonies as seventeen hundred years ago they were moved by the preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, and his disciple Paul, upon the plains of Asia.

Whitefield taught that belief controlled conduct. As a man sincerely believes so will he act. Franklin, with his accustomed candor, in his Autobiography, wrote in the following terms, the effects of the preaching of this remarkable reformer:

"The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous. It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world were growing religious; so that one could not walk through the town, in an evening, without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.

"Mr. Whitefield, on leaving us, went preaching all the way through the colonies to Georgia. The settlement of that province had been lately begun; but instead of being made with hardy, industrious husbandmen, accustomed to labor, the only people fit for such an enterprise, it was with families of broken shop-keepers, and other insolvent debtors; many of indolent and idle habits, taken out of the jails who, being set down in the woods, unqualified for clearing land, and unable to endure the hardships of a new settlement, perished in numbers, leaving many helpless children unprovided for.

"The sight of their miserable situation inspired the benevolent heart of Mr. Whitefield with the idea of building an Orphan House there in which they might be supported and educated. Returning northward, he preached up this charity, and made large collections.

"I did not disapprove of the design; but as Georgia was then destitute of materials and workmen, and it was proposed to send them from Philadelphia at a great expense, I thought it would have been better to have built the house at Philadelphia, and brought the children to it. This I advised. But he was resolute in his first project, rejected my counsel, and I therefore refused to contribute.

"I happened soon after to attend one of his sermons, in the course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me. I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold, (about twenty-five dollars). As he proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the copper; another stroke of his oratory made me ashamed of that, and determined me to give the silver; and he finished so admirably that I emptied my pockets wholly into the collector's dish, gold and all.

"Some of Mr. Whitefield's enemies affected to suppose that he would apply these collections to his own private emolument. But I, who was intimately acquainted with him, being employed in printing his sermons and journals, never had the least suspicion of his integrity; but am to this day decidedly of the opinion, that he was in all his conduct a perfectly honest man; and methinks my testimony ought have the more weight, as we had no religious connection. He used, indeed, sometimes to pray for my conversion, but never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard. Ours was a friendship sincere on both sides, and lasted to his death."[19]

[Footnote 19: "Autobiography of Franklin," as given by Sparks, p. 139.]

At one time Franklin wrote to Whitefield, in Boston, inviting him, as he was about to come to Philadelphia, to make his house his home. The devout preacher replied,

"If you make this offer for Christ's sake you will not lose your reward."

Promptly the philosopher rejected any such motive, and rejoined,

"Do not be mistaken. It was not for Christ's sake I invited you, but for your own sake."

In all the numerous letters, essays, and philosophical and religious disquisitions of Franklin, we seldom, I think, find a sentiment indicative of any high appreciation of the character of Jesus Christ; or the debt of gratitude we owe to him, either for his teaching or for his example. As Franklin discarded all idea of the Atonement, he of course could not express any gratitude for that which is, to the Christian, the crowning act even of divine love. This Saviour, to millions who cannot be counted, has proved, even if the comfort be a delusion, in temptation, disappointment, and death, more precious than it is in the power of words to declare.

One article from Franklin's newspaper, published in the year 1740, gives an idea of the extraordinary interest which the preaching of Whitefield excited.

"On Thursday last the Reverend Mr. Whitefield left this city, and was accompanied to Chester by about one hundred and fifty horse; and preached there to about seven thousand people. On Friday he preached twice at Willings Town to about five thousand. On Saturday, at Newcastle, to about two thousand five hundred; and the same evening at Christiana Bridge to about three thousand; on Sunday at White Clay Creek, he preached twice, resting about half an hour between the sermons, to eight thousand, of whom three thousand, it is computed, came on horseback. It rained most of the time, and yet they stood in the open air."

The keenness of the scrutiny with which Franklin watched all the operations of nature, led him to the discovery of the before unknown fact that the fierce north-east storms which sweep our Atlantic coast invariably begin in the south-west, and move backwards, diminishing in violence as they go. He also, about this time, invented the Franklin stove, which in the day when wood was the only fuel consumed has invested so many firesides with a rare aspect of cheerfulness. He wrote a very ingenious pamphlet, elucidating the philosophy of house-warming.

There is great moral power in prosperity, when wisely accepted and enjoyed. Franklin was now a prosperous man. His income was constantly increasing. His virtues, and they were great ones, proved in all respects promotive of his worldly welfare. His journal was the leading paper, certainly in all that region, and had not its superior in any of the colonies. His renowned almanac, Poor Richard, attained an unexampled sale. The work executed in his printing office was so excellent as to bring in to him many orders even from the other provinces. The various books and pamphlets he had published had all been successful. Philadelphia had already become the chief town of the Colonies.

Notwithstanding Franklin's devotion to books, to business, and to philosophical research, he is represented to have been at this time, a jovial man, very fond of convivial gatherings. He could not only write a good song, but he could sing it, to the acceptance of his companions. One of these songs entitled "The Old Man's Wish" he says he sang over a thousand times. We give the concluding stanza, illustrative of its general character.

"With a courage undaunted, may I face the last day, And when I am gone may the better sort say,— In the morning when sober, in the evening when mellow, He has gone and not left behind him his fellow, For he governed his passions with absolute sway."

There was, as usual, war in Europe. Enormous armies were burning cities and villages, drenching the trampled harvest fields with blood, and filling the humble hamlets of the poor with misery. There was every reason to fear that these awful storms, raised by the passions of depraved men, would reach the peaceful shores of the Delaware. Philadelphia was entirely undefended. It is said that there was not an available cannon in Pennsylvania.

A well-armed privateer could at any hour, seize and sack the city. Quaker influence so far prevailed that the legislature could not be induced to raise a battery, or purchase a gun. Franklin wrote a very powerful pamphlet, called Plain Truth, urging the necessity of adopting some measures of defence. He showed how the colony could, at any time, be ravaged by a few vessels from any European nation then in conflict with England. I give a few extracts from this admirable pamphlet:

"On the first alarm, terror will spread over all. Many will seek safety by flight. Those that are reputed rich will flee, through fear of torture to make them produce more than they are able. The man that has a wife and children, will find them hanging on his neck, beseeching him to quit the city, and save his life. All will run into confusion, amid cries and lamentations, and the hurry and disorder of departures. The few that remain, will be unable to resist.

"Sacking the city will be the first; and burning it, in all probability, the last act of the enemy. This I believe will be the case, if you have timely notice. But what must be your condition, if suddenly surprised without previous alarm, perhaps in the night. Confined to your houses, you will have nothing to trust but the enemy's mercy. Your best fortune will be to fall under the power of commanders of king's ships, able to control the mariners, and not into the hands of licentious privateers.

"Who can without the utmost horror, conceive the miseries of the latter when your persons, fortunes, wives and daughters, shall be subject to the wanton and unbridled rage, rapine, and lust, of negroes, mulattoes, and others, the vilest and most abandoned of mankind?"

This warning effectually roused the community. A public meeting was summoned, in the immense building erected to accommodate the crowds who flocked to hear Whitefield. Here Franklin harangued the multitude. An Association of Defence was organized. Ten thousand persons enrolled their names. In a few days nearly every man in the province, who was not a Quaker, had joined some military organization. Each man purchased for himself a weapon, and was learning how to use it.

Eighty companies were organized and disciplined. The companies in Philadelphia united in a regiment, and chose Franklin their colonel. Wisely he declined the office, "conceiving myself unfit," he says. A battery was thrown up below the town. Some cannon were sent for from Boston. Several eighteen-pounders were obtained in New York, and more were ordered from London. In manning the battery, Franklin took his turn of duty as a common soldier.

There was not a little opposition to these measures, but still the strong current of popular opinion was in their favor. Even the young Quakers, though anxious to avoid wounding the feelings of their parents, secretly gave their influence to these preparations of defence. The peace of Aix la Chapelle in 1748, terminated these alarms. But the wisdom and energy which Franklin had displayed, caused him to be regarded as the most prominent man in Pennsylvania. The masses of the people regarded him with singular homage and confidence.

In 1744, Franklin had a daughter born, to whom he gave the name of Sarah. His motherless son William, who was destined to give his father great trouble, was growing up, stout, idle, and intractable. Early in the war he had run away, and enlisted on board a privateer. With much difficulty his father rescued him from these engagements. Franklin was evidently embarrassed to know what to do with the boy. He allowed him, when but sixteen years of age, to enlist as a soldier in an expedition against Canada.

About this time Franklin wrote to his sister Jane, whose son had also run away to enlist as a privateer. He wished to console her by the assurance that it was not in consequence of unkind treatment, that the boys were induced thus to act. He wrote:

"When boys see prizes brought in, and quantities of money shared among the men, and their gay living, it fills their heads with notions that half distract them; and puts them quite out of conceit with trades and the dull ways of getting money by working. My only son left my house unknown to us all, and got on board a privateer, from whence I fetched him. No one imagined it was hard usage at home that made him do this. Every one that knows me thinks I am too indulgent a parent, as well as master."

The father of Benjamin Franklin died in Boston, at the great age of eighty-nine years. He had secured, in a very high degree, the respect of the people, not only by his irreproachable morals, but by his unfeigned piety. The Boston News Letter, of January 17, 1745, in the following brief obituary, chronicles his death:

"Last night died Mr. Josiah Franklin, tallow chandler, and soap maker. By the force of steady temperance he had made a constitution, none of the strongest, last with comfort to the age of eighty-nine years. And by an entire dependence on his Redeemer, and a constant course of the strictest piety and virtue, he was enabled to die as he lived, with cheerfulness and peace, leaving a numerous posterity the honor of being descended from a person who, through a long life, supported the character of an honest man."

In the year 1743 Franklin drew up a plan for an Academy in Philadelphia. In consequence of the troubled times the tract was not published until the year 1749. It was entitled, "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania." The suggestions he presented indicated a wide acquaintance with the writings of the most eminent philosophers. He marked out minutely, and with great wisdom, the course of study to be pursued. It is pleasant to read the following statement, in this programme. Urging the study of History, he writes,

"History will also afford frequent opportunities of showing the necessity of a public religion, from its usefulness to the public; the advantages of a religious character among private persons; the mischiefs of superstition and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient and modern."

Perhaps this tribute to the excellence of Christianity ought in some degree to modify the impression left upon the mind, by Franklin's studious avoidal, in all his writings, of any allusion to the name of Jesus Christ its founder.

Twenty-five thousand dollars were speedily raised for this institution. All the religious sects harmoniously united. One individual from each sect was appointed, to form the corporate body intrusted with the funds. But almost the entire care and trouble of rearing the building, and organizing the institution fell upon Franklin. He was found to be fully adequate to all these responsibilities.



CHAPTER VII.

The Tradesman becomes a Philosopher.

Franklin appointed Indian commissioner—Effects of Rum—Indian logic—Accumulating honors—Benevolent enterprises—Franklin's counsel to Tennent—Efforts for city improvement—Anecdotes—Franklin appointed postmaster—Rumors of War—England enlists the Six Nations in her cause—Franklin plans a Confederacy of States—Plans rejected—Electrical experiments—Franklin's increase of income—Fearful experiments—The kite—New honors—Views of the French philosopher—Franklin's Religious views—His counsel to a young pleader—Post-office Reforms.

In the year 1740, Franklin, then forty-four years of age, was appointed on a commission to form a treaty with the Indians at Carlisle. Franklin, knowing the frenzy to which the savages were plunged by intoxication, promised them that, if they would keep entirely sober until the treaty was concluded, they should then have an ample supply of rum. The agreement was made and faithfully kept.

"They then," writes Franklin, "claimed and received the rum. This was in the afternoon. They were near one hundred men, women and children, and were lodged in temporary cabins, built in the form of a square, just without the town. In the evening, hearing a great noise among them, the commissioners walked to see what was the matter.

"We found that they had made a great bonfire in the middle of the square; that they were all drunk, men and women quarreling and fighting. Their dark-colored bodies, half-naked, seen only by the gloomy light of the bonfire, running after and beating one another with firebrands, accompanied by their horrid yellings, formed a scene the most resembling our ideas of hell, that could well be imagined. There was no appeasing the tumult, and we returned to our lodgings. At midnight a number of them came thundering at our door demanding more rum, of which we took no notice.

"The next morning they all seemed very much ashamed of the disgraceful orgies in which they had indulged. There was a law written in their own hearts, which told them that they had done wrong. Three chiefs were appointed to call upon the commissioners with an humble apology. With downcast looks they confessed their fault, and then with logic which more intelligent men sometimes use, endeavored to throw the blame upon God. In remarkable speech one of them said,

"'The Great Spirit, who made all things, made everything for some use. Whatever use he designed anything for, that use it should be always put to. Now, when he made rum, he said, "Let this be for the Indians to get drunk with! and it must be so."'"

The Governor at this time appointed Franklin a Justice of Peace. Franklin says he was much flattered by these accumulating honors. Soon he was elected to a seat, as one of the Legislators in the Assembly. Mainly through his influence, a hospital for the sick was established in Philadelphia. Though the measure encountered much opposition, he carried it; and the institution proved of incalculable benefit.

The Rev. Gilbert Tennent solicited Franklin's aid in raising money for building a Meeting House. As Franklin had been so continually engaged in asking for money for various objects of benevolence, he was afraid he should become obnoxious to his fellow-citizens, and declined. Mr. Tennent then requested him to give him a list of the names of those influential persons upon whom it would be well for him to call. Every Christian minister who reads this, will appreciate the nature of his embarrassment. Franklin says that he thought it would be unbecoming in him, after having emptied the purses of his friends, to send other beggars to them, with renewed importunities. This request he therefore declined. Mr. Tennent then urged him to give him some advice. Franklin replied,

"That I will willingly do. In the first place, I advise you to apply to all those who you know will do something; next, to those who you are uncertain whether they will give anything or not, and show them the list of those who have given; and lastly, do not neglect those who you are sure will give nothing, for in some of them you may be mistaken."

Mr. Tennent laughed heartily, and declared that he would rigorously follow out this advice. He did so. His success was wonderful; a much larger sum was raised than he had anticipated, and soon a capacious and beautiful Meeting House rose in Arch street.

The streets of Philadelphia, though laid out with great regularity, were unpaved, and in wet weather were almost impassable quagmires. Franklin, by talking with his friends, and by urging the subject in his paper, at length succeeded in having a sidewalk paved with stone, upon one of the most important streets. It gave great satisfaction, but the rest of the street not being paved, the mud was thrown by passing carriages upon it, and as the city employed no street cleaners, the sidewalk soon ceased to afford a clean passage to pedestrians.

Franklin found an industrious man who was willing to sweep the pavement twice a week, carrying off the dirt from before all the doors, for the sum of sixpence a month, to be paid by each house.

The philosophic Franklin then, having started this enterprise, printed on a sheet of paper the great advantages of keeping the sidewalk clean, and sent one of these papers to each house. He urged that much of the soiling of the interior of the houses would thus be avoided, that an attractive sidewalk would lure passengers to the shops; and that, in windy weather, their goods would be preserved from the dust.

After a few days he called, in person, at each house and shop to see who would subscribe sixpence a month. It was a great success. The cleanliness of the pavement in the important streets surrounding the market, greatly delighted the people, and prepared the way for carrying a bill which Franklin presented to the Assembly for paving and lighting all the important streets of the city.

A gentleman, by the name of John Clifton, had placed a lamp before his door. This suggested the idea. Lamps were sent for from London. Globes were furnished. They were expensive. The smoke circulated in the globe and obstructed the light. They had to be wiped clean each day. An accidental stroke demolished the whole globe. Franklin suggested four flat panes. One might be broken, and easily replaced. Crevices were left below to admit a current of air, and a funnel to draw off the smoke. Thus for a long time the glass remained undimmed.

Wherever Franklin went, he carried with him this spirit of improvement. When in London, he found the streets wretchedly dirty. One morning he found a poor woman at his door in Craven street, sweeping the sidewalk with a wretched broom. Her pallid and exhausted appearance touched the sympathies of Franklin. He asked who employed her. She replied:

"Nobody. I am poor and in distress. I sweeps before gentlefolks's doors, and hopes they will give me something."

Franklin immediately engaged her to sweep the whole street. It was nine o'clock in the morning. She was so languid and debilitated that he thought it would take her nearly all day. But in three hours she came for her shilling. Franklin thought she could not have done her work faithfully. He sent his servant to examine. He reported that the work was thoroughly done. A new problem rose before Franklin: If this feeble woman could in so short a time sweep such a street, a strong man, with a suitable broom, could certainly do it in half of the time. He therefore drew up a plan for cleaning the streets of London and Westminster, which was placed in the hands of one of the most influential of the public-spirited men of London.

Franklin apologizes for speaking in his autobiography of such trifles. Very truly, he says,

"Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day. Thus if you teach a poor young man to shave himself and keep his razor in order, you may contribute more to the happiness of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas. This sum may be soon spent, the regret only remaining of having foolishly consumed it. But in the other case, he escapes the frequent vexation of waiting for barbers, and of their sometimes dirty fingers, offensive breath, and dull razors. He shaves when most convenient to him, and enjoys daily the pleasure of its being done with a good instrument."

Nearly all the important offices in the colonies were filled by appointments from the British Crown. For some time, Franklin had been employed as an assistant to the Postmaster General, in simplifying and bringing regularity into his accounts. Upon the death of the American Postmaster, Franklin, in 1753, was appointed jointly with Sir William Hunter to succeed him. The appointment was made by the Postmaster General in England.

The post-office department had scarcely been self-supporting. It had never paid anything to the crown. The salary offered to the two postmasters was three thousand dollars a year each, if they could save that sum from the profits of the office. Franklin writes,

"To do this a variety of improvements was necessary. Some of these were inevitably, at first, expensive; so that in the first four years, the office became above nine hundred pounds in debt to us. But it soon after began to repay us. And before I was displaced by a freak of the ministers, of which I shall hereafter speak, we had brought it to yield three times as much clear revenue to the crown as the post-office of Ireland. Since that imprudent transaction, they have received from it not one farthing."

Again there were menaces of war, insane and demoniac, to fill the world with tears and woe. As we read the record of these horrid outrages which through all the centuries have desolated this globe, it would seem that there must be a vein of insanity as well as of depravity, in the heart of fallen man. England and France were again marshaling their armies, and accumulating their fleets, for the terrible conflict.

It was certain that France, in Canada, and England, in her colonies, could not live in peace here, while the volcanic throes of war were shaking the island of Great Britain, and the Continent of Europe.

In the heart of New York, then almost an unbroken wilderness, there were six exceedingly fierce and war-like tribes called the Six Nations. Like the wolves they delighted in war. The greatness of a man depended on the number of scalps with which he could fringe his dress. These savage warriors were ready and eager to engage as the allies of those who would pay them the highest price. Mercy was an attribute of which they knew not even the name.

It was not doubted that France would immediately send her emissaries from Canada to enlist these savages on her side. Awful would be the woes with which these demoniac men could sweep our defenceless frontiers; with the tomahawk and the scalping knife, exterminating families, burning villages, and loading their pack-horses with plunder. To forestall the French, and to turn these woes from our own frontier to the humble homes of the Canadian emigrants, the English government appointed a commissioner to visit the chiefs of these tribes in the year 1754.

The all important council was to be held in Albany. Governor Hamilton appointed four commissioners, of whom Franklin was one, to act in behalf of Pennsylvania. They were furnished with rich gifts with which to purchase the favor of the Indians. It was a long and tedious journey from Philadelphia to Albany.

Franklin, on this journey, was deeply impressed with the importance of a union of the colonies for self-defence. He therefore drew up a plan for such union. Several gentlemen of the highest intelligence in New York, having examined it, gave it their cordial approval. He accordingly laid it before Congress.

There were several other persons in other colonies who were impressed as deeply as Franklin with a sense of the importance of such a confederacy, and they also sent in their suggestions.

Congress appointed a committee of one from each province, to consider the several plans. The committee approved of Franklin's plan, and reported accordingly. While the commissioners were conferring with the Indians in Albany, Congress was engaged in discussing the plans of a confederacy. Franklin's plan was finally rejected. It did not meet the views either of the Assembly, or of the British Court. And here we see, perhaps the germs of the great conflict which soon culminated in the cruel war of the Revolution.

The Assembly objected to the plan as too aristocratic, conferring too much power upon the crown. The court emphatically rejected it as too democratic, investing the people with too much power. Franklin ever affirmed that his plan was the true medium. Even the royalist governor of Pennsylvania warmly commended the compromise he urged.

In visiting Boston he was shown an electric tube, recently sent from England. With this tube some very surprising electrical experiments were performed, ushering in a new science, of which then but very little was known. Franklin became intensely interested in the subject. Upon his return to Philadelphia, he devoted himself, with great assiduity, to experimenting with electric tubes. At this time he wrote to a friend,

"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 acquaintances, who, from the novelty of the thing, come continually in crowds to see them, I have little leisure for anything else."

This was during the winter of 1746-7. Franklin suggested that the electricity was collected, not created by friction. He also propounded the theory of positive and negative electricity. He was, at this time, comparatively a wealthy man, and consequently could afford to devote his time to philosophical investigation. It is estimated that his income, from his estates, amounted to about seven hundred pounds a year; this was equal to about six or seven thousand dollars at the present time. Mr. Parton writes,

"Besides this independence, Franklin was the holder of two offices, worth together perhaps one hundred and fifty pounds a year. His business, then more flourishing than ever, produced an annual profit, as before computed, of two thousand pounds; bringing up his income to the troublesome and absurd amount of nearly three thousand pounds; three times the revenue of a colonial governor."

Under these prosperous circumstances, Franklin withdrew from active business, became a silent partner in the firm, and devoted nearly all his time to the new science. He wrote, in the autumn of 1748, to his friend Cadwallader Colden of New York,

"I have removed to a more quiet part of the town, where I am settling my old accounts, and hope soon to be quite master of my own time, and no longer, as the song has it, 'at every one's call but my own.'

"Thus you see I am in a fair way of having no other tasks than such as I shall like to give myself, and of enjoying what I look upon as a great happiness, leisure to read, study, make experiments, and converse at large with such ingenious and worthy men, as are pleased to honor me with their friendship or acquaintance, on such points as may produce something for the common benefit of mankind, uninterrupted by the cares and fatigues of business."

He wrote a treatise upon thundergusts, which displayed wonderful sagacity, and which arrested the attention of nearly all the philosophers in Europe and America. The all-important topics of this exceedingly important document, were the power of points to draw off electricity, and also the similarity of electricity and lightning. He therefore urged that metallic rods might be attached to buildings and ships, which, pushing their needle points above roofs and masts, might draw the electric fire harmlessly from the clouds. He confesses that he cannot imagine why the points should possess this curious power, but urges that facts seem to demonstrate it.

One day, for the entertainment of his friends, he had made arrangements to kill a turkey with an electric shock. Two large jars were heavily charged. Incautiously manipulating, he took the shock himself. In the following language, he describes the effect:

"The flash was very great, and the crack was 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.

"I then felt what I know not well how 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 bottle 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 numbness in my arms and the back of my neck which continued to the next morning, but wore off."

Franklin was much mortified at his awkwardness in this experiment. He declared it to be a notorious blunder, and compared it with the folly of the Irishman, who wishing to steal some gun-powder, bored a hole through the cask with red hot iron. But notwithstanding this warning, not long afterwards, in endeavoring to give a shock to a paralytic patient, he received the whole charge himself, and was knocked flat and senseless on the floor.

In the spring of 1752, Franklin tried his world renowned experiment with the kite. A June thunder cloud was rising in all its majesty. Franklin, accompanied by his son, repaired to a field secretly, being afraid of the ridicule of the people. Here he raised the kite, made of a large silk handkerchief. The top of the perpendicular stick was pointed with a sharp metallic rod. The string was hemp with the exception of the part held in the hand, which was silk; at the end of the hempen string a common key was suspended. With intense anxiety and no slight apprehension of danger, he held the line. Soon he observed the fibres of the hempen string to rise and separate themselves, as was the case of the hair on the head, when any one was placed on an insulating stool. He applied his knuckle to the key, and received an unmistakable spark. As the story is generally told, with occasionally slight contradictions, he applied his knuckle again and again to the key with a similar result. He charged a Leyden jar with the fluid and both he and his son took a shock. He then drew in his kite, packed up his apparatus and returned to his laboratory probably the most exultant and happy man in this wide world.

Most of the English and many of the French philosophers were very unwilling to believe that an obscure American, in what they deemed the savage and uncultivated wilds of the New World, was outstripping them in philosophical research. They were unwilling to acknowledge the reality of his experiments; but in France, where an American would receive more impartial treatment, three of the most eminent philosophers, Count de Buffon, M. Dalibard and M. de Lor, at different places, raised the apparatus Franklin had recommended to draw electricity from the clouds. Their success was unmistakable; the results of these experiments were proclaimed throughout Europe.

Franklin had now obtained renown. No one could deny that he merited a high position among the most eminent philosophers. The experiments he had suggested were tried by scientists in the philosophical circles of every country in Europe.

Both Yale and Harvard, in this country, conferred upon him the honorary degree of Master of Arts, and the Royal Society, in Europe, by a unanimous vote, elected him a member, remitting the usual initiation fee of five guineas, and the annual charge of two and a half guineas. The next year this Society conferred upon him the Copley medal.

For seven years Franklin continued to devote himself almost exclusively to this science, and he became, without doubt, the most accomplished electrician in the world. At the same time his mind was ever active in devising new schemes for the welfare of humanity. The most trivial events would often suggest to him measures conducive to the most beneficial results. It is said that Franklin saw one day in a ditch the fragments of a basket of yellow willow, in which some foreign commodity had been imported to this country. One of the twigs had sprouted. He planted it; and it became the parent of all the yellow willows in our country.

Franklin was best loved where he was best known. And this was right; for he was ever conferring deeds of kindness upon his neighbors. His religious views excited sorrow among his Christian friends. Others, composing perhaps a majority, cared nothing about what he believed. In conversation he ever frankly avowed himself a deist, though generally he made no attempt to convert others to his views. It is not improbable that he was in some degree influenced by the beneficial effect produced upon the popular mind by the preaching of his friend Mr. Whitefield.

The writer was once, in Paris, conversing with one of the most illustrious of the French philosophers. He said to the philosopher, "I am much interested to ascertain the views of gentlemen of your intellectual position respecting the Christian religion." He with perfect frankness replied, "I think that there are no men of high culture in France, with a few exceptions, who believe in the divine origin of Christianity. But there is no philanthropist who will say so. We have been taught, by the horrors of the French Revolution, that the masses of the people can only be restrained from violence by the superstitious restraints which Christianity presents. We therefore think that every man, who is a gentleman, will do what he can to sustain the church and the clergy. Men of culture and refinement, are governed by principles of honor, and they do not need the superstitious motives of Christianity to influence them."

I may remark, in passing, that this gentlemanly philosopher had abandoned his own wife, and was then living with the wife of another man. It is not improbable that Franklin, as he looked upon the tumultuous and passion-tossed young men of Philadelphia, did not deem it expedient to say to them,

"The Bible is a fable. The Sabbath is no more sacred than any other day. The church is merely a human club without any divine authority. Marriage is an institution which is not founded upon any decree which God has issued, but one of the expediency of which each individual must judge for himself. The Sacraments of Baptism, and the Lord's Supper, are mere human contrivances. The preaching of the Gospel had better be laid aside for literary and scientific disquisitions."

With the eye of a benevolent philosopher, Franklin, as we have seen, had watched the effect of the preaching of Mr. Whitefield, and had candidly acknowledged its power in reforming society. It is improbable that, in his heart, he felt that the preaching of pure deism could ever secure such results. In 1753 he wrote to Mr. Whitefield, in reply to a communication from him upon the Christian faith:

"The faith you mention certainly has its use in the world. I do not desire to see it diminished, nor would I endeavor to lessen it in any man."

Franklin had resolved to decline all office, that he might devote himself to his studies. But his reputation for wisdom was such, that he found it very difficult to persevere in this plan. Menaces of war were continually arising. The majority of the members, in the Assembly, were Quakers. It was a small body consisting of but forty delegates. The Quakers opposed every measure for public defence. Franklin, as we have mentioned, became a Justice of the Peace. Soon after he was an Alderman, and then he took his seat in the General Assembly.

"I was a bad speaker," he writes, "never eloquent; subject to much hesitation in the choice of words; and yet I generally carried my point."

He adds, in language which every young man should treasure up in his memory, "I retained the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest diffidence; never using, when I advanced anything that might possibly be disputed, the words, certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather, I conceive, or apprehend a thing to be so and so. It appears to me, or, I should not think it so for such and such reasons, or, I imagine it to be so, or, It is so if I am not mistaken. This habit, I believe, has been of great advantage to me when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions; and to persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time proposing."

When Franklin assumed the charge of the post-office, the department was in a feeble and peculiar condition. As late as the year 1757, the mail-bag in Virginia was passed from planter to planter. Each one was required to forward it promptly, under the penalty of forfeiting a hogshead of tobacco. Every man took, from the bag, what belonged to his family, and sent on the rest. The line of post-offices then extended from Boston, Mass., to Charleston, S. C. It was twenty years after this, before any governmental mail penetrated the interior.

In the year 1753, Franklin visited every post-office excepting that of Charleston. His wisdom introduced reforms, some of which have continued to the present day. A newspaper was charged nine pence a year, for a distance of fifty miles, and eighteen pence for one hundred miles or more. In the large towns a penny post was established, and all letters left remaining in the office were advertised.

A mail was conveyed from Philadelphia to New York once a week in summer, and once in two weeks in winter. Franklin started a mail to leave each of these cities three times a week in summer, and twice in winter. It generally required six weeks to obtain an answer from a letter sent to Boston. Most of the roads, into the interior, consisted of narrow passages, cut through the forest, called Bridle Paths, because the pack horses were led through them, in single file by the bridle.



CHAPTER VIII.

The Rising Storms of War.

Aristocracy—Anecdote—Conflicting laws of Nations—Franklin's scheme of colonization—Proposal of the British Court—The foresight of Franklin—Braddock's campaign—Remonstrances of Franklin and Washington—Franklin's interviews with Braddock—Franklin's efficiency—Confidence of Braddock—The conflict with the Proprietaries—The non-resistant Quakers—Fate of the Moravian villages—The winter campaign—The camp of Gaudenhutton—Anecdote—Renewal of the strife with the Proprietaries—Franklin recalled to assist the Assembly—Destruction of the Fort—Claim of the Proprietaries—The great controversy.

With increasing wealth the spirit of aristocratic exclusiveness gained strength in the higher circles of Philadelphia. Some of the more opulent families planned for a series of dancing entertainments during the winter. It was proposed among other rules that no mechanic, or mechanic's wife or daughter, should be invited. The rules were shown to Franklin. He glanced his eye over them and pithily remarked,

"Why these rules would exclude God Almighty!"

"How so?" inquired the manager.

"Because," Franklin replied, "the Almighty, as all know, is the greatest mechanic in the universe. In six days he made all things." The obnoxious article was stricken out.

The following incident, narrated by Franklin, illustrates a very important principle in political economy, which those are apt to ignore, who denounce all the elegancies and luxuries of life.

Mrs. Franklin received some small favor from the captain of a little coaster, which ran between Cape May and Philadelphia. He declined to receive any remuneration for his trifling services. Mrs. Franklin, learning that he had a pretty daughter, sent her a new-fashioned Philadelphia cap or bonnet. Three years after, the captain called again at the house of Mr. Franklin. A very plain but intelligent farmer accompanied him. The captain expressed his thanks to Mrs. Franklin for the gift she had sent his daughter, and rather discourteously added,

"But it proved a dear cap to our congregation. When my daughter appeared with it at meeting, it was so much admired that all the girls resolved to get such caps from Philadelphia. And my wife and I computed that the whole could not have cost less than a hundred pounds."

The farmer, with far higher intelligence, said, "This is true; but you do not tell the whole story. I think the cap was nevertheless an advantage to us. It was the first thing that put our girls upon knitting worsted mittens, for sale at Philadelphia, that they might have wherewithal to buy caps and ribbons there. And you know that that industry has continued and is likely to continue and increase, to a much greater value, and answer better purposes."

"Thus by a profitable exchange, the industrious girls at Cape May had pretty bonnets, and the girls at Philadelphia had warm mittens."

For seventy-five years it had been the constant design of the British government to drive the French from North America. England claimed the whole country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, because her ships had first sailed along the Atlantic coast. It was one of the recognized laws of nations that a newly discovered region belonged to the nation who had first raised upon it its flag.

France, admitting the claim of England to the Atlantic coast, asserted her right to the great valleys of the interior, those of the Ohio and the Mississippi, because her boatmen had first discovered those magnificent rivers, had explored them throughout, and had established upon them her trading and military posts. It was a recognized law of nations, that the power which discovered, explored, and took possession of a new river, was the rightful possessor of the valley which that river watered. Thus the conflict of claims originated.

To add to the intensity of the insane strife, which caused an amount of blood and misery which no tongue can tell, religious bitterness was aroused, and the French Roman Catholic was arrayed against the British Protestant.

Three wars, bloody and woful, had already ravaged this continent. We have before alluded to the menace of a new war in the year 1754, and to Franklin's mission to Albany to enlist the chiefs of the Six Nations to become allies of the English. We have also alluded to the plan, which Franklin drew up on this journey, for the union of the colonies, and which was rejected. The wisdom of this plan was, however, subsequently developed by the fact that it was remarkably like that by which eventually the colonies were bound together as a nation.

Assuming that the English were right in their claim for the whole continent, Franklin urged the eminently wise measure of establishing strong colonies, in villages of a hundred families each, on the luxuriant banks of the western rivers. But the haughty British government would receive no instructions from American provincials.

Governor Shirley, of Boston, showed Mr. Franklin a plan, drawn up in England, for conducting the war. It developed consummate ignorance of the difficulties of carrying on war in the pathless wilderness; and also a great disregard of the political rights of the American citizens. According to this document, the British court was to originate and execute all the measures for the conduct of the war; and the British Parliament was to assess whatever tax it deemed expedient upon the American people to defray the expenses. The Americans were to have no representation in Parliament, and no voice whatever in deciding upon the sum which they were to pay.

Franklin examined the document carefully, and returned it with his written objections. In this remarkable paper, he anticipated the arguments which our most distinguished statesmen and logicians urged against the Stamp Act—against Taxation without Representation. A brief extract from this important paper, will give the reader some idea of its character:

"The colonists are Englishmen. The accident of living in a colony deprives them of no right secured by Magna Charta. The people in the colonies, who are to feel the immediate mischiefs of invasion and conquest by an enemy, in the loss of their estates, lives and liberties, are likely to be better judges of the quantity of forces necessary to be raised and maintained, and supported, and of their own ability to bear the expense, than the Parliament of England, at so great a distance. Compelling the colonists to pay money without their consent, would be rather like raising contributions in an enemy's country, than taxing of Englishmen for their own public benefit. It would be treating them as a conquered people, and not as true British subjects."

At length the brave, but self-conceited and haughty General Braddock came with his army of British Regulars. Frenchmen, Indians, and Americans, he alike regarded with contempt. His troops were rendezvoused at Fredericktown, in Maryland. A bridle path led through the wilderness to this place, from Philadelphia, a distance of a hundred and twenty miles.

Intelligent American gentlemen were much alarmed, by the reckless and perilous measures which the ignorant British general declared his intention to pursue. He became very angry with Pennsylvanians, because they were so unwilling to fall in with his plans. It was said that, in his anger, he manifested more desire to ravage Pennsylvania than to defeat the French.

The Assembly at Philadelphia appointed a commission, consisting of Benjamin Franklin and his son, a resolute, insubordinate man of thirty years, and of the Governors of New York and Massachusetts, to visit the arrogant British officer, and to endeavor, in some way, to influence him to wiser measures. It was the middle of April, a beautiful season in that climate, of swelling buds, and opening leaves.

Each of the four gentlemen was attended by servants, as was customary in those days. They were all finely mounted. Joyfully they rode along, seeking entertainment each night at the residence of some planter. A courier was always sent forward to announce their coming, and the planter, accompanied by one or two of his servants, would generally ride forward a few miles to meet them, and escort them to his hospitable home.

Franklin was received by Gen. Braddock with the condescension with which, in that day, English gentlemen were ever accustomed to regard Americans of whatever name or note. The little army, which was to march upon Fort Duquesne, was to traverse the dreary and pathless ridges and ravines of the Alleghany mountains, and force their way through a tangled wilderness, for a distance of several hundred miles. During all this march they were hourly exposed to be attacked by an overpowering force of French and Indians. The French could easily descend to the Ohio, in their boats from Canada, and nearly all the Indians of this vast interior, were in alliance with them.

Braddock insisted upon encumbering his march with heavily laden wagons, which were to penetrate savage regions through which he must, every mile, construct his road. There was a young American in the camp by the name of George Washington. He was a man of the highest rank, and of commanding influence, having obtained much experience in Indian warfare. Modestly, but warmly, he remonstrated against this folly. He not only feared, but was fully assured that such a measure would lead to the inevitable destruction of the army. He urged that pack horses only should be employed, and as few of them as possible; and that thus they should hurry along as rapidly and in as compact a mass as they could.

But Braddock was inexorable. He demanded his two hundred and fifty wagons, and a large train of pack horses, to be laden with sumptuous provisions for his officers. The farmers of Maryland and Virginia were reluctant to expose the few wagons and teams they had, to such inevitable destruction. Neither had they any confidence that the British Government would ever remunerate them in case of their loss.

Four-wheeled vehicles were very scarce in the colonies. There were many people who had never seen one. The general, after exhausting all his efforts, could obtain but twenty-four. One day as he was giving vent to his indignation, Franklin suggested that it would probably be much more easy to obtain wagons in the more densely settled parts of Pennsylvania. Braddock immediately urged him to undertake the enterprise. Unwisely, we think, he consented. With his son he hastened to Pennsylvania, and selected Lancaster, York, and Carlisle as his centres of operation.

Whatever Franklin undertook, he was pretty sure to accomplish. In twenty days he obtained one hundred and fifty four-horse wagons, and two hundred and fifty-nine pack-horses. He did not accomplish this feat however, until he had exhausted all the money which Braddock had furnished him, had spent over a thousand dollars of his own money, and had given bonds for the safe return of horses and wagons, whose money value was estimated at one hundred thousand dollars.

Braddock was lavish in his compliments. Franklin dined with him daily. The idea seemed never to have entered Braddock's mind that British Regulars, under his command, could ever be seriously annoyed by bands of French and Indians. He said one day,

"After taking Fort Duquesne, I shall go to Niagara. Having taken that, if the season will permit, I shall proceed to Fort Frontenac. Fort Duquesne can hardly detain me more than three or four days."

Franklin, who was well aware that Braddock was entering upon a far more formidable campaign than he anticipated, ventured very modestly to suggest,

"To be sure, sir, if you arrive well before Duquesne with the fine troops so well provided with artillery, the fort, though completely fortified, and assisted with a very strong garrison, can probably make but a short resistance. The only danger I apprehend of obstruction to your march, is of ambuscades of the Indians, who, by constant practice, are dexterous in laying and executing them. And the slender line, near four miles long, which your army must make, may expose it to be attacked by surprise in its flanks, and to be cut like a thread into several pieces, which, from their distance, cannot come up in time to support each other."

Braddock smiled derisively, at this ignorance of a benighted American. "These savages may indeed," he said, "be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia. But upon the king's regular and disciplined troops, it is impossible that they should make any impression."

Colonel Washington regarded the wagons, and the long array of pack-horses, as so many nuisances, arresting the rapidity of their march, and inviting attacks which it would be impossible to repel. At length the army was in motion. The progress was very slow. Franklin was continually forwarding supplies; and even advanced between six and seven thousand dollars, from his own purse, to expedite purchases. A part of this he never received back.

The attack upon Braddock's army, and its terrible defeat soon came. A minute account of the conflict is given in the Life of George Washington, one of the volumes of this series. The teamsters cut the traces of their horses, mounted the swiftest, and, in the frenzy of their panic, rushed for home. The other horses and the wagons, with their abounding supplies, were left to magnify the triumph of the exultant Indians. Disastrous as was the campaign, Franklin obtained much credit for the efficient services he had rendered.

War, with all its horrors, had now penetrated the beautiful region of Pennsylvania, which had enjoyed eighty years of peace, through the Christian philanthropy of William Penn. Nearly all of the Indians, beyond the mountains, were allies of the French. The news of Braddock's defeat reached Philadelphia about the middle of July, 1755. Immediately a violent conflict arose between the royalist governor Morris, and the Colonial Assembly. The Legislative body voted liberal taxes for the public defence. But very justly it was enacted that these taxes should be assessed impartially upon all estates alike, upon those of the wealthy Proprietaries, as well as upon the few hundred acres which were owned by the humble farmers. The Proprietaries, consisting of two of the sons of William Penn, revolted against this. The Governor, appointed by them, as their agent of course, united with them in opposition. For many weeks the conflict between the Assembly and the Governor as agent of the Proprietaries, raged fiercely. Under these circumstances no military supplies could be voted, and the peril of the community was very great.

Franklin warmly espoused and eloquently advocated the claim of the Assembly. During the months of July and August, the Indians, satiated with the vast plunder of Braddock's camp, made no attempt to cross the Alleghanies, in predatory excursions against the more settled portions of Pennsylvania. But September and October ushered in scenes of horror and carnage, too awful to be depicted. Villages were laid in ashes, cottages were burned, families tomahawked and scalped, women and children carried into captivity, and many poor creatures perished at the stake, in the endurance of all the tortures which savage ingenuity could devise.

And still the Quakers, adhering to their principle of non-resistance, refused to contribute any money, or in any way to unite in any military organization for self-defence. But in candor it must be admitted, that had the principles of the Quakers been adopted by the British court, this whole disastrous war might have been avoided. It was a war of invasion commenced by the English. They were determined, by force of arms, to drive the French out of the magnificent valleys beyond the mountains. In the conflict which ensued, both parties enlisted all the savages they could, as allies. Will not England at the judgment be held responsible for this war and its woes?

To rouse the Quakers to a sense of shame, the bodies of a whole murdered family, mutilated and gory, were brought to Philadelphia and paraded through all its streets, in an open wagon. In November, as the Indians, often led by French officers, were sweeping the frontier in all directions, killing, burning, destroying, the antagonistic parties in the Assembly, for a time laid aside their quarrels, and with the exception of the Quakers, adopted vigorous military measures. The Quakers were generally the most opulent people in the State. It is not strange that the common people should be reluctant to volunteer to defend the property of the Quakers, since they refused either to shoulder a musket, or to contribute a dollar.

The pen of Franklin rendered wonderful service in this crisis. With his accustomed toleration, he could make allowance for the frailties of conscience-bound men. He wrote a very witty pamphlet which was very widely read, and produced a powerful impression. Its character may be inferred from the following brief quotation:

"'For my part,' says A., 'I am no coward; but hang me if I fight to save the Quakers.'

"'That is to say,' B. replied, 'you will not pump the sinking ship, because it will save the rats as well as yourselves.'"

The dialogue ends with the following admirable words:

"O! my friends, the glory of serving and saving others is superior to the advantage of being served and secured. Let us resolutely and generously unite in our country's cause, in which to die is the sweetest of all deaths; and may the God of armies bless our honest endeavors."

The colonists of Pennsylvania now generally rushed to arms. There were, on the frontiers, several flourishing Moravian villages. They were occupied by a peculiarly industrious and religious people. The traveller through their quiet streets heard, morning and evening, the voice of prayer ascending from many firesides, and the melody of Christian hymns. Guadenhutton, perhaps the most flourishing of them, was attacked by the Indians, burned, and the inhabitants all massacred or carried into captivity. Terrible was the panic in the other villages. They were liable at any day, to experience the same fate.

Under these circumstances the Governor raised five hundred and forty volunteers, and placed them under the command of Franklin, with the title of General. He was to lead them, as rapidly as possible, to Northampton county, for the protection of these people. His son, William, was his aid-de-camp. He proved an efficient and valiant soldier.

It was the middle of December when this heroic little band commenced its march. Snow whitened the hills. Wintry gales swept the bleak plains, and moaned through the forests. The roads were almost impassable. Fierce storms often entirely arrested their march. The wilderness was very thinly inhabited. It required the toil of a month, for Franklin to force his way through these many obstructions to the base of his operations, though it was distant not more than ninety miles.

The troops moved very cautiously to guard against ambush. The philosopher, Franklin, though he had never received a military education, and was quite inexperienced in military affairs, was the last man to be drawn into such a net as that in which the army of Braddock was destroyed.

Franklin, as a philosopher, could appreciate the powerful influence of religious motives upon the mind. Rev. Mr. Beatty was his chaplain, whose worth of character Franklin appreciated. Before commencing their march, all the troops were assembled for a religious service. After an earnest exhortation to fidelity and duty, a fervent prayer was offered.

The march was conducted with great regularity. First, scouts advanced in a semi-circular line, ranging the woods. Then came the advanced guard, at a few hundred paces behind. The centre followed, with all the wagons and baggage. Then came the rear guard, with scouts on each flank, and spies on every hill.

Upon reaching Guadenhutton, an awful scene of desolation and carnage met the eye. The once happy village presented now but a revolting expanse of blackened ruins. The mangled bodies of the dead strewed the ground, mutilated alike by the savages and the howling wolves. Franklin ordered huts immediately to be reared to protect his troops from the inclemency of the weather. No man knew better than he, how to make them comfortable and cheerful with the least expense.

A fort was promptly constructed, which he called Fort Allen, and which could easily repel any attack the Indians might make, unless they approached with formidable French artillery. There were many indications that the Indians, in large numbers, were hovering around, watching all their movements. But the sagacity of Franklin baffled them. They kept concealed without any attack. The savages were very cautious men; they would seldom engage in a battle, unless they were sure of victory.

A trifling incident occurred at this time, worthy of record as illustrative of the shrewdness of General Franklin.

The chaplain complained that the men were remiss in attending prayers. Franklin suggested that though it might not be exactly consistent with the dignity of the chaplain to become himself the steward of the rum, still, if he would order it to be distributed immediately after prayers, he would probably have all the men gathering around him.

"He liked the thought," Franklin wrote, "under took the task, and with the help of a few hands to measure out the liquor, executed it to satisfaction. Never were prayers more generally and more punctually attended. So that I think this method preferable to the punishment inflicted by some military laws for non-attendance on divine worship."

Bitter quarrels were renewed in the Assembly. The presence of Franklin was indispensable to allay the strife. Governor Morris wrote entreating him immediately to return to Philadelphia. It so happened at this time, that Col. Clapham, a New England soldier of experience and high repute, visited the camp at Guadenhutton. Franklin placed him in command, and warmly commending him to the confidence of the troops, hurried home. He reached Philadelphia on the 10th of February, 1756, after two months' service in the field. Universal applause greeted him. Several military companies, in Philadelphia, united in a regiment of about twelve hundred men. Franklin was promptly elected their colonel, which office he accepted.

In tracing the disasters of war, it is interesting to observe how many of those disasters are owing to unpardonable folly. Some months after Franklin's departure, on a cold, bleak day in November, a large part of the garrison, unmindful of danger, were skating, like school-boys on the Lehigh river. The vigilant Indians saw their opportunity. Like howling wolves they made a rush upon the fort, entered its open gates, and killed or captured all its inmates. The skaters fled into the woods. They were pursued. Some were killed or captured. Some perished miserably of cold and starvation. Probably a few escaped. The triumphant savages, having plundered the fort and the dwellings of all their contents, applied the torch, and again Guadenhutton was reduced to a pile of ashes.

The controversy which arose between the Governor and the Assembly became acrimonious in the extreme. The principles there contended for, involved the very existence of anything like American liberty. For fifteen years the pen and voice of Franklin were influential in this controversy. He probably did more than any other man to prepare the colonists to resist the despotism of the British court, and to proclaim their independence.

On the 5th of January, 1681, King Charles the Second had conferred upon William Penn twenty-six million acres of the "best land in the universe." This land was in the New World, and received the name of Pennsylvania. In return for this grant, Penn agreed to pay annually, at Windsor Castle, two beaver skins, and one-fifth of the gold and silver which the province might yield. He also promised to govern the province in conformity with the laws of England.

He could treat with the savages, appoint ordinary magistrates, and pardon petty crimes. But he could lay no tax, and impose no law without consent of the freemen of the province, represented in the Assembly.

Of this whole wide realm, Penn was the absolute proprietor. He refused to sell a single acre, absolutely, but in all the sales reserved for himself what may be called a ground-rent. Immense tracts were sold at forty shillings, about ten dollars, for one hundred acres, reserving a rent of one shilling for each hundred acres. He also reserved, entirely to himself, various portions of the territory which promised to become the site of important cities and villages. All these rights descended to the heirs of William Penn.

Seventy-four years passed away, when the estate thus founded, was estimated to be worth ten millions sterling, and popular belief affirmed that it produced a revenue of one hundred thousand pounds.

Penn, when he died, bequeathed the province to his three sons, John, Thomas, and Richard. To John he gave a double part, or one-half of Pennsylvania. John died and left his half to Thomas, who thus became proprietor of three-fourths of the province, while Richard held one-fourth. Thus there were but two proprietors, Thomas and Richard Penn. They were both weak men; resided in England, were thoroughly imbued with Tory principles, and, in the consciousness of their vast estates, assumed to be lords and princes.

They ruled their province by a deputy-governor. His position was indeed no sinecure. The two proprietaries, who appointed him, could at any time deprive him of office. The Assembly could refuse to vote his salary, and if he displeased the king of England, he might lose, not only his office, but his head.

The controversy which had arisen, in consequence of these involvements between the proprietaries and the people, engrossed universal attention. During the four years between 1754 and 1758, the ravaged colony of Pennsylvania had raised the sum of two hundred and eighteen thousand pounds sterling, (over a million of dollars,) for defending its borders. And still the two lordly proprietaries demanded that their vast possessions should be entirely exempt from taxation.

To an earnest remonstrance of the Assembly, they returned an insulting answer, in which they said,

"We are no more bound to pay taxes than any other chief governor of the King's colonies. Your agitation of this matter is a new trick to secure your re-election. We advise you to show us the respect due to the rank which the crown has been pleased to bestow upon us. The people of Pennsylvania, in ordinary times, are so lightly taxed, that they hardly know that they are taxed. What fools you are to be agitating this dangerous topic of American taxation. It is beneath the dignity of the Assembly to make trouble about such small sums of money. We do not deny that you have been at some expense in pacifying the Indians, but that is no affair of ours. We already give the province a larger sum per annum, than our share of the taxes would amount to. One of us, for example, sent over four hundred pounds' worth of cannon, for the defence of our city of Philadelphia."

Such was their answer. It was conveyed in sixteen sentences which were numbered and which were very similar to the ones we have given. The communication excited great displeasure. It was considered alike false and insolent. Even the tranquil mind of Franklin was fired with indignation. He replied to the document with a power of eloquence and logic which carried the convictions of nearly all the colonists.



CHAPTER IX.

Franklin's Mission to England.

New marks of respect—Lord Loudoun—Gov. Denny and Franklin—Visit the Indians—Franklin commissioner to England—His constant good nature—Loudoun's delays—Wise action of an English captain—The voyagers land at Falmouth—Journey to London—Franklin's style of living in London—His electrical experiments—He teaches the Cambridge professor—Complimentary action of St. Andrews—Gov. Denny displaced, and dark clouds arising—Franklin's successful diplomacy—His son appointed Governor of New Jersey—Great opposition—The homeward voyage—Savage horrors—Retaliating cruelties—Franklin's efforts in behalf of the Moravian Indians.

The general impression, produced throughout the colonies, by the controversy with the proprietaries, was that they were very weak men. Indeed it does not appear that they were much regarded even in London. A gentleman, writing from that city, said, "They are hardly to be found in the herd of gentry; not in court, not in office, not in parliament."

In March, Franklin left his home for a post-office tour. Some forty of the officers of his regiment, well mounted, and in rich uniform, without Franklin's knowledge, came to his door, to escort him out of the village. Franklin says,

"I had not previously been made acquainted with their project, or I should have prevented it, being naturally averse to the assuming of state on any occasion."

The proprietaries in London heard an account of this affair. They were very much displeased, saying they had never been thus honored, and that princes of the blood alone were entitled to such distinction. The war was still raging. Large bodies of troops were crossing the ocean to be united with the colonial forces.

Lord Loudoun was appointed by the court commander-in-chief for America. He was an exceedingly weak and inefficient man; scarcely a soldier in the ranks could be found more incompetent for the situation. Governor Morris, of Pennsylvania, worn out with his unavailing conflicts with the Assembly, was withdrawn, and the proprietaries sent out Captain William Denny as their obsequious servant in his stead. The Philadelphians, hoping to conciliate him, received him cordially, and with a public entertainment. William Franklin wrote:

"Change of devils, according to the Scotch proverb, is blithesome."

At the close of the feast, when most of the party were making themselves merry over their wine, Governor Denny took Franklin aside into an adjoining room, and endeavored, by the most abounding flattery, and by the bribe of rich promises, to induce him to espouse the cause of the proprietaries. But he soon learned that Franklin could not be influenced by any of his bribes.

There was but a brief lull in the storm. Governor Denny had no power of his own. He could only obey the peremptory instructions he had received. These instructions were irreconcilably hostile to the resolves of the Assembly. Franklin was the all-powerful leader of the popular party. There was something in his imperturbable good nature which it is difficult to explain. No scenes of woe seemed to depress his cheerful spirits. No atrocities of oppression could excite his indignation. He could thrust his keen dagger points into the vitals of his antagonist, with a smile upon his face and jokes upon his lips which would convulse both friend and foe with laughter. He was the most unrelenting antagonist of Governor Denny in the Assembly, and yet he was the only man who remained on good terms with the governor, visiting him, and dining with him.

Governor Denny was a gentleman, and well educated, and few men could appear to better advantage in the saloons of fashion. But he was trammeled beyond all independent action, by the instructions he had received from the proprietaries. He was right in heart, was in sympathy with Franklin, and with reluctance endeavored to enforce the arbitrary measures with which he was entrusted.

Franklin was one of the most companionable of men. His wonderful powers of conversation, his sweetness of temper, and his entire ignoring of all aristocratic assumption, made him one of the most fascinating of guests in every circle. He charmed alike the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant.

In November, 1756, he accompanied Governor Denny to the frontier to confer with the chiefs of several Indian tribes. The savages, to say the least, were as punctilious in the observance of the laws of honor, in securing the safety of the ambassadors on such an occasion, as were the English.

The governor and the philosopher rode side by side on horseback, accompanied by only a few body servants. The governor, familiar with the clubs and the wits of England, entertained Franklin, in the highest degree, with the literary gossip of London, and probably excited in his mind an intense desire to visit those scenes, which he himself was so calculated to enjoy and to embellish. On the journey he wrote the following comic letter to his wife. He had been disappointed in not receiving a line from her by a certain messenger.

"I had a good mind not to write to you by this opportunity, but I never can be ill-natured enough even when there is most occasion. I think I won't tell you that we are well, and that we expect to return about the middle of the week, nor will I send you a word of news; that's poz. My duty to mother, love to the children, and to Miss Betsy and Gracie. I am your loving husband.

"P. S. I have scratched out the loving words, being writ in haste by mistake, when I forgot I was angry."

Gov. Denny, unable to accomplish his purposes with the Assembly, resolved to make a final appeal to the king. The House promptly decided to imitate his example. Its Speaker, Mr. Norris, and Benjamin Franklin, were appointed commissioners. The Speaker declined the office, and Franklin was left as sole commissioner. He probably was not at all reluctant to be introduced to the statesmen, the philosophers, and the fashionable circles of the Old World. To defray his expenses the Assembly voted a sum of nearly eight thousand dollars. He had also wealth of his own. By correspondence, he was quite intimately acquainted with very many of the scientific men of England and France. It was very certain that he would have the entree to any circle which he might wish to honor with his presence.

It was at that time a very serious affair to cross the Atlantic. The ocean swarmed with pirates, privateers, and men-of-war. On the fourth of April, 1757, Franklin, with his son William, set out from Philadelphia. His cheerfulness of spirits did not forsake him as he left a home where he had been remarkably happy for twenty-six years. The family he left behind him consisted of his wife, his wife's aged mother, his daughter Sarah, a beautiful child of twelve years, one or two nieces, and an old nurse of the family.

Franklin had written to the governor to ascertain the precise time when the packet would sail. The reply he received from him was,

"I have given out that the ship 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 any longer."

Franklin was accompanied by a number of his friends as far as Trenton, where they spent a very joyful evening together. At one of the ferries on this road, they were delayed by obstructions so that they could not reach the Hudson River until noon of Monday. Franklin feared that the ship might sail without him; but upon reaching the river he was relieved by seeing the vessel still in the stream.

Eleven weeks passed before Lord Loudoun would issue his permission for the ship to sail. Every day this most dilatory and incompetent of men announced that the packet would sail to-morrow. And thus the weeks rolled on while Franklin was waiting, but we do not hear a single word of impatience or remonstrance from his lips. His philosophy taught him to be happy under all circumstances. With a smiling face he called upon Lord Loudoun and dined with him. He endeavored, but in vain, to obtain a settlement of his claims for supplies furnished to Braddock's army.

He found much in the society of New York to entertain him. And more than all, and above all, he was doing everything that could be done for the accomplishment of his mission. Why, then, should he worry?

"New York," he records, "was growing immensely rich by money brought into it from all quarters for the pay and subsistence of the troops."

Franklin was remarkably gallant in his intercourse with ladies. He kept up quite a brisk correspondence with several of the most brilliant ladies of the day. No man could more prettily pay a compliment. To his lively and beautiful friend Miss Ray he wrote upon his departure,

"Present my best compliments to all that love me; I should have said all that love you, but that would be giving you too much trouble."

At length Lord Loudoun granted permission for the packet to drop down to the Lower Bay, where a large fleet of ninety vessels was assembled, fitted out for an attack upon the French at Louisburg. Franklin and his friends went on board, as it was announced that the vessel would certainly sail "to-morrow." For six weeks longer the packet rode there at anchor. Franklin and his companions had for the third time consumed all the provisions they had laid in store for the voyage. Still we hear not a murmur from our imperturbable philosopher.

At length the signal for sailing was given. The whole squadron put to sea, and the London packet, with all the rest, was swept forward toward Louisburg. After a voyage of five days, a letter was placed in the hands of the captain, authorizing him to quit the fleet and steer for England.

The days and nights of a long voyage came and went, when the packet at midnight in a gale of wind, and enveloped in fogs, was approaching Falmouth. A light-house, upon some rocks, had not been visible. Suddenly the lifting of the fog revealed the light-house and the craggy shore, over which the surf was fearfully breaking, at the distance of but a few rods. A captain of the Royal Navy, who chanced to be near the helmsman, sprang to the helm, called upon the sailors instantly to wear ship, and thus, at the risk of snapping every mast, saved the vessel and the crew from otherwise immediate and certain destruction.

There was not, at that time, a single light-house on the North American coast. The event impressed the mind of Franklin deeply, and he resolved that upon his return, light-houses should be constructed.

About nine o'clock the next morning the fog was slowly dispersed, and Falmouth, with its extended tower, its battlemented castles, and the forests of masts, was opened before the weary voyagers. It was Sunday morning and the bells were ringing for church. The vessel glided into the harbor, and joyfully the passengers landed. Franklin writes,

"The bell ringing for church, we went thither immediately, and with hearts full of gratitude returned sincere thanks to God far the mercies we had received."

We know not whether this devout act was suggested by Franklin, or whether he courteously fell in with the arrangement proposed, perhaps, by some religious companion. It is, however, certain that the sentence which next followed, in his letter, came gushing from his own mind.

"Were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should, on this occasion, vow to build a chapel to some saint. But as I am not, if I were to vow at all it should be to build a light-house."

It required a journey of two hundred and fifty miles to reach London. Franklin and his son posted to London, which was the most rapid mode of traveling in those days. They seem to have enjoyed the journey in the highest degree, through blooming, beautiful, highly cultivated England. Almost every thing in the charming landscape, appeared different from the rude settlements which were springing up amid the primeval forests of the New World.

They visited the Cathedral at Salisbury, Stonehenge, Wilton Hall, the palatial mansion of the Earl of Pembroke. England was in her loveliest attire. Perhaps there could not then be found, upon this globe, a more lovely drive, than that through luxuriant Devonshire, and over the Hampshire Downs.

Peter Collinson, a gentleman of great wealth, first received the travelers to his own hospitable mansion. Here Franklin was the object of marked attentions from the most distinguished scientists of England. Other gentlemen of high distinction honored themselves by honoring him. Franklin visited the old printing house, where he had worked forty years before, and treated the workmen with that beer, which he had formerly so efficiently denounced in that same place.

Soon he took lodgings with a very agreeable landlady, Mrs. Stevenson, No. 7, Craven street, Strand. He adopted, not an ostentatious, but a very genteel style of living. Both he and his son had brought with them each a body servant from America. He set up a modest carriage, that he might worthily present himself at the doors of cabinet ministers and members of parliament.

The Proprietaries received him very coldly, almost insolently. They were haughty, reserved and totally uninfluenced by his arguments. He presented to them a brief memorandum, which very lucidly explained the views of the Assembly. It was as follows,

1. "The Royal Charter gives the Assembly the power to make laws; the proprietary instructions deprive it of that power. 2. The Royal Charter confers on the Assembly the right to grant or withhold supplies; the instructions neutralize that right. 3. The exemption of the proprietary estate from taxation is unjust. 4. The proprietaries are besought to consider these grievances seriously and redress them, that harmony may be restored."

The Penn brothers denounced this brief document, as vague, and disrespectful. It was evident that Franklin had nothing to hope from them. He therefore directed all his energies to win to his side the Lords of Trade, and the members of the King's Council, to whom the final decision must be referred. Twelve months elapsed, during which nothing was accomplished. But we hear not a murmur from his lips. He was not only contented but jovial. For two whole years he remained in England, apparently accomplishing nothing. These hours of leisure he devoted to the enjoyment of fashionable, intellectual and scientific society. No man could be a more welcome guest, in such elevated circles, for no man could enjoy more richly the charms of such society, or could contribute more liberally to its fascination. Electricity was still a very popular branch of natural science. The brilliant experiments Franklin performed, lured many to his apartments. His machine was the largest which had been made, and would emit a spark nine inches in length. He had invented, or greatly improved, a new musical machine of glass goblets, called the Armonica.

It was listened to with much admiration, as it gave forth the sweetest tones. He played upon this instrument with great effect.

The theatre was to Franklin an inexhaustible source of enjoyment. Garrick was then in the meridian of his fame. He loved a good dinner, and could, without inconvenience, empty the second bottle of claret. He wrote to a friend,

"I find that I love company, chat, a laugh, a glass, and even a song as well as ever."

At one time he took quite an extensive tour through England, visiting the University at Cambridge. He was received with the most flattering attentions from the chancellor and others of the prominent members of the faculty. Indeed every summer, during his stay in England, Franklin and his son spent a few weeks visiting the most attractive scenes of the beautiful island. Wherever he went, he left an impression behind him, which greatly increased his reputation.

At Cambridge he visited the chemical laboratory, with the distinguished Professor of Chemistry, Dr. Hadley. Franklin suggested that temperature could be astonishingly reduced by evaporation. It was entirely a new idea to the Professor. They both with others repaired to Franklin's room. He had ether there, and a thermometer. To the astonishment of the Professor of Chemistry in Cambridge University, the printer from Philadelphia showed him that by dipping the ball into the ether, and then blowing upon it with bellows to increase the evaporation, the mercury rapidly sunk twenty-five degrees below the freezing point. Ice was formed a quarter of an inch thick, all around the ball. Thus, surrounded by the professors of one of the most distinguished universities of Europe, Benjamin Franklin was the teacher of the teachers.

The father and the son visited the villages where their ancestors had lived. They sought out poor relations, and examined the tombstones. In the spring of 1769, they spent six weeks in Scotland. The University of St. Andrews conferred upon Franklin the honorary title of doctor, by which he has since been generally known. Other universities received him with great distinction. The corporation of Edinburgh voted him the freedom of the city. All the saloons of fashion were not only open to receive him, but his presence, at every brilliant entertainment, was eagerly sought. The most distinguished men of letters crowded around him. Hume, Robertson and Lord Kames became his intimate friends.

These were honors sufficient to turn the head of almost any man. But Franklin, who allowed no adversity to annoy him, could not be unduly elated by any prosperity or flattery.

"On the whole," writes Franklin, "I must say, that the time we spent there (Scotland) was six weeks of the densest happiness I have met with in any part of my life."

Still it is evident that occasionally he felt some slight yearnings for the joys of that home, over which his highly esteemed wife presided with such economy and skill. He wrote to her,

"The regard and friendship I meet with from persons of worth, and the conversation of ingenuous men give me no small pleasure. But at this time of life, domestic comforts afford the most solid satisfaction;[20] and my uneasiness at being absent from my family and longing desire to be with them, make me often sigh, in the midst of cheerful company."

[Footnote 20: Franklin was then 53 years of age.]

An English gentleman, Mr. Strahan, wrote to Mrs. Franklin, urging her to come over to England and join her husband. In this letter he said,

"I never saw a man who was, in every respect, so perfectly agreeable to me. Some are amiable in one view, some in another; he in all."

Three years thus passed away. It must not be supposed that the patriotic and faithful Franklin lost any opportunity whatever, to urge the all important cause with which he was entrusted. His philosophy taught him that when he absolutely could not do any thing but wait, it was best to wait in the most agreeable and profitable manner.

It was one of his strong desires, which he was compelled to abandon, to convert the proprietary province of Pennsylvania into a royal province. After Franklin left Philadelphia, the strife between the Assembly, and Governor Denny, as the representative of the proprietaries, became more violent than ever. The governor, worn out by the ceaseless struggle, yielded in some points. This offended the proprietaries. Indignantly they dismissed him and appointed, in his place, Mr. James Hamilton, a more obsequious servant.

By the royal charter it was provided that all laws, passed by the Assembly and signed by the governor, should be sent to the king, for his approval. One of the bills which the governor, compelled as it were by the peril of public affairs, had signed, allowed the Assembly to raise a sum of about five hundred thousand dollars, to be raised by a tax on all estates. This was a dangerous precedent. The aristocratic court of England repealed it, as an encroachment upon the rights of the privileged classes. It was a severe blow to the Assembly. The speaker wrote to Franklin:

"We are among rocks and sands, in a stormy season. It depends upon you to do every thing in your power in the present crisis. It is too late for us to give you any assistance."

When Franklin received the crushing report against the Assembly he was just setting off for a pleasant June excursion in Ireland. Immediately he unpacked his saddle-bags, and consecrated all his energies to avert the impending evils. He enlisted the sympathies of Lord Mansfield, and accomplished the astonishing feat in diplomacy, of inducing the British Lords of Commission to reverse their decision, and to vote that the act of the Assembly should stand unrepealed.

His business detained Franklin in London all summer. In the autumn he took a tour into the west of England and Wales. The gales of winter were now sweeping the Atlantic. No man in his senses would expose himself to a winter passage across the ocean, unless it was absolutely necessary. Indeed it would appear that Franklin was so happy in England, that he was not very impatient to see his home again. Though he had been absent three years from his wife and child, still two years more elapsed before he embarked for his native land.

On the 25th of October George II. died. His grandson, a stupid, stubborn fanatically conscientious young man ascended the throne, with the title of George III. It would be difficult to compute the multitudes in Europe, Asia and America, whom his arrogance and ambition caused to perish on the battle field. During these two years there was nothing of very special moment which occurred in the life of Franklin. Able as he was as a statesman, science was the favorite object of his pursuit. He wrote several very strong pamphlets upon the political agitations of those tumultuous days, when all nations seem to have been roused to cutting each other's throats. He continued to occupy a prominent position wherever he was, and devoted much time in collecting his thoughts upon a treatise to be designated "The Art of Virtue." The treatise, however, was never written.

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