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Copyright, 1889, 

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The Riverside Press, Cambridge, Mass., U. S. A.: 
Elecirotyped and Printed by II. 0. Houghton & Company. 



Just as I am reading the last proof-sheet of 
this volume, its publishers send me a catalogue 
of their " Books of Biography." In it my eye in- 
opportunely falls upon these discouraging words, 
quoted from the Hon. John Bigelow, concerning 
Parton's Life of Franklin: "The delightful work 
of Mr. Parton has left no place in English litera- 
ture for another biography of this most illustrious 
of our countrymen." I am much of Mr. Bigelow's 
opinion. Mr. Parton has given us such an admi- 
rable biography, so exhaustive and so remarkably 
happy in setting the real man vividly before the 
reader, that I feel that I must give something be- 
tween a reason and an apology for the existence of 
this volume. The fact is simply this: without a 
life of Franklin this series would have appeared as 
absurdly imperfect as a library of English fiction 
with Scott or Thackeray absent from the shelves. 
The volume was a necessity, and since Mr. Par- 
ton's work, even if it could be borrowed or stolen, 
would not fit the space, this little book has been 
written. No poor genie of oriental magic was ever 
squeezed into more disproportionately narrow quar- 



ters than is Franklin in these four hundred pages ; 
but again necessity must bear the burden of re- 

The edition of Franklin's works referred to in 
this volume is that of Mr. John Bigelow, published 
by G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 1887-88. 

The edition of Bancroft's History of the United 
States referred to is the earliest octavo edition. 

Beverly Farms, August 9, 1889. 



I. Early Years ] 

II. A CiTizKN OF Philadelphia: Concernment in 

Public Affairs 17 

III. Representative of Pennsylvania in England : 

f''~ Return Home 58 

IVr- Life in Philadelphia ...... 85 

V. Second Mission to Engl^vnd : 1 99 

VI. Second Mission to England : II. . . . 141 
VII. Second Mission to England : III The Hutchin- 
son Letters : the Privy Council Scene : 

/.— -^ Return Home , . 175 

\ YI^J- Services in the States 202 

IX. Minister to France : I. Deane and Beaumar- 

chais : Foreign Officers 217 

X. Minister to France : II. Prisoners : Trouble 

WITH Lee and others 245 

XI. Minister to France : III. Treaty with France : 

More Quarrels 264 

XXL Financiering 300 

XIIL Habits of Life and of Business : an Adams In- 

rHim;"" ciDENT 333 

^bSOy. Peace Negotiations : Last Years in France . 352 
XV. At Home : President of Pennsylvania :— Xtus 

Constitutional Convention : Death . . 397 




It is a lamentable matter for any writer to find 
himself compelled to sketch, however briefly, the 
early years of Benjamin Franklin. That autobiog- 
raphy, in which the story of those years is so inim- 
itably told, by its vividness, its simplicity, even by 
its straightforward vanity, and by the quaint charm 
of its old-fashioned but well-nigh faultless style, 
stands among the few masterpieces of English 
prose. It ought to have served for the perpetual 
protection of its subject as a copyright more sacred 
than any which rests upon mere statutory law. 
Such, however, has not been the case, and the nar- 
rative has been rehearsed over and over again till 
the American who is not familiar with it is indeed 
a curiosity. Yet no one of the subsequent narrators 
has justified his undertaking. Therefore because 
the tale has been told so often, and once has been 
told so well, and also in order that the stone which 
it is my lot to cast upon a cairn made up of so 
many failures may at least be only a small pebble, 


I shall get forward as speedily as possible to that 
point in Franklin's career where his important 
public services begin, at the same time commending 
every reader to turn again for further refreshment 
of his knowledge to those pages which might well 
have aroused the envy of Fielding and Defoe. 

Franklin came from typical English stock. For 
three hundred years, perhaps for many centuries 
more, his ancestors lived on a small freehold at 
Ecton in Northamptonshire, and so far back as 
record or tradition ran the eldest son in each gen- 
eration had been bred a blacksmith. But after the 
strange British fashion there was intertwined with 
this singular fixedness of ideas a stubborn inde- 
pendence in thinking, courageously exercised in 
times of peril. The Franklins were among the 
early Protestants, and held their faith unshaken 
by the terrors of the reign of Bloody Mary. By 
the end of Charles the Second's time they were 
non-conformists and attendants on conventicles ; 
and about 1682 Josiah Franklin, seeking the peace- 
ful exercise of his creed, migrated to Boston, Mas- 
sachusetts. His first wife bore him seven children, 
and died. Not satisfied, he took in second nuptials 
Abiah Folger, "daughter of Peter Folger, one of 
the first settlers of New England, of whom hon- 
orable mention is made by Cotton Mather," and 
justly, since in those dark days he was an active 
philanthropist towards the Indians, and an oppo- 
nent of religious persecution.^ This lady outdid 
^ Parton's Life of Franklin, i. 27. 


her predecessor, contributing no less than ten chil- 
dren to expand the family circle. The eighth of 
this second brood was named Benjamin, in memory 
of his father's favorite brother. He was born in 
a house on Milk Street, opposite the Old South 
Church, January 6, old style, 17, new style, 1706. 
Mr. Parton says that probably Benjamin " derived 
from his mother the fashion of his body and the 
cast of his countenance. There are lineal descend- 
ants of Peter Folger who strikingly resemble Frank- 
lin in these particulars ; one of whom, a banker of 
New Orleans, looks like a portrait of Dr. Franklin 
stepped out of its frame." ^ A more important in- 
heritance was that of the humane and liberal traits 
of his mother's father. 

In that young, scrambling village in the new 
country, where all material, human or otherwise, 
was roughly and promptly utilized, the unproduc- 
tive period of boyhood was cut very short. Frank- 
lin's father speedily resolved to devote him, " as the 
tithe of his sons, to the service of the church," and 
so sent him to the grammar school. A droller 
misfit than Franklin in an orthodox New England 
pulpit of that era can hardly be imagined ; but 
since he was only seven years old when his father 
endeavored to arrange his life's career, a misappre- 
ciation of his fitnesses was not surprising. The 
boy himself had the natural hankering of children 
bred in a seaboard town for the life of a sailor. 
It is amusing to fancy the discussions between this 

1 Parton's Li/r of Franklin, I 31. 


babe of seven years and his father, concerning his 
occupation in life. Certainly the babe had not 
altogether the worst of it, for when he was eight 
years old his father definitively gave up the notion 
of making him a preacher of the Gospel. At the 
ripe age of ten he was taken from school, and set 
to assist his father in the trade of tallow-chandler 
and soap-boiler. But dipping wicks and pouring 
grease pleased him hardly better than reconciling 
infant damnation and a red-hot hell with the love- 
liness of Christianity. The lad remained discon- 
tented. His chief taste seemed to be for reading, 
and great were the ingenuity and the self-sacrifice 
whereby he secured books and leisure to read them. 
The resultant of these several forces was at last 
a suggestion from his father that he should take 
up, as a sort of quasi-literary occupation, the trade 
of a printer. James Franklin, an older brother of 
Benjamin, was already of that calling. Benjamin 
stood out for some time, but at last reluctantly 
yielded, and in the maturity of his thirteenth year 
this child set his hand to an indenture of appren- 
ticeship which formally bound him to his brother 
for the next nine years of his life. 

Handling the types aroused a boyish ambition to 
see himself in print. He scribbled some ballads, 
one about a shipwreck, another about the capture 
of a pirate ; but he " escaped being a poet," as for- 
tunately as he had escaped being a clergyman. 
James Franklin seems to have trained his junior 
with such fraternal cuffs and abuse as the elder 


brothers of English biography and literature ap- 
pear usually to have bestowed on the younger. 
But this younger one got his revenges. James pub- 
lished the " New England Courant," and, inserting 
in it some objectionable matter, was forbidden to 
continue it. Thereupon he canceled the indenture 
of apprenticeship, and the newspaper was thereaf- 
ter published by Benjamin Franklin. A secret re- 
newal of the indenture was executed simultaneously. 
This " flimsy scheme " gave the boy his chance. 
Secure that the document would never be produced, 
he resolved to leave the printing-house. But the 
influence of James prevented his getting employ- 
ment elsewhere in the town. Besides this, other 
matters also harassed him. It gives an idea of the 
scale of things in the little settlement, and of the 
serious way in which life was taken even at its out- 
set, to hear that this 'prentice lad of seventeen 
years had already made himself " a little obnoxious 
to the governing party," so as to fear that he might 
soon " bring himself into scrapes." For the inher- 
ited habit of freedom in religious speculation had 
taken a new form in Franklin, who was already a 
free-thinker, and by his " indiscreet disputations 
about religion " had come to be " pointed at with 
horror by good j)eople as an infidel and atheist " — 
compromising, even perilous, names to bear in that 
Puritan village. Various motives thus combined 
to induce migration. He stole away on board a 
sloop bound for New York, and after three days 
arrived there, in October, 1723. He had but a 


trifling sum of money, and he knew no one in the 
strange city. He sought occupation in his trade, 
but got nothing better than advice to move on to 
Philadelphia ; and thither he went. The story of 
this journeying is delightfully told in the autobi- 
ography, with the famous little scene wherein he 
figures with a loaf under each arm and munch- 
ing a third while he walks " up Market Street, as 
far as Fourth Street, passing by the door of Mr. 
Read, my future wife's father; when she, stand- 
ing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as 
I certainly did, a most awkward, ridiculous appear- 

In Philadelphia Franklin soon found opportunity 
to earn a living at his trade. There were then only 
two printers in that town, ignorant men both, with 
scant capacity in the technique of their calling. 
His greater acquirements and ability, and superior 
knowledge of the craft, soon attracted attention. 
One day Sir William Keith, governor of the Prov- 
ince, appeared at the printing-office, inquired for 
Franklin, and carried him off " to taste some ex- 
cellent Madeira " with himself and Colonel French, 
while employer Keimer, bewildered at the compli- 
ment to his journeyman, " star'd like a pig poi- 
son'd." Over the genial glasses the governor pro- 
posed that Franklin should set up for himself, and 
promised his own influence to secure for him the 
public printing. Later he wrote a letter, intended 
to induce Franklin's father to advance the necessary 
funds. Equipped with this document, Franklin 


set out, in April, 1724, to seek his father's coopera- 
tion, and surprised his family by appearing unan- 
nounced among them, not at all in the classic garb 
of the prodigal son, but " having a genteel new suit 
from head to foot, a watch, and my pockets lin'd 
with near five pounds sterling in silver." But 
neither his prosperous appearance nor the flattering 
epistle of the great man could induce his hard- 
headed parent to favor a scheme " of setting a boy 
up in business, who wanted yet three years of being 
at man's estate." The independent old tallow- 
chandler only concluded that the distinguished 
baronet " must be of small discretion," So Frank- 
lin returned with " some small gifts as tokens " of 
parental love, much good advice as to " steady in- 
dustry and prudent parsimony," but no cash in 
hand. The gallant governor, however, said: "Since 
he will not set you up, I will do it myself," and a 
plan was soon concocted whereby Franklin was to 
go to England and purchase a press and types with 
funds to be advanced by Sir William. Everything 
was arranged, only from day to day there was delay 
in the actual delivery to Franklin of the letters of 
introduction and credit. The governor was a very 
busy man. The day of sailing came, but the docu- 
ments had not come, only a message from the gov- 
ernor that Franklin might feel eas}^ at embarking, 
for that the papers should be sent on board 
at Newcastle, down the stream. Accordingly, at 
the last moment, a messenger came hurriedly on 
board and put the packet into the captain's hands. 


Afterward, when during the leisure hours of the 
voyage the letters were sorted, none was found for 
Franklin. His patron had simply broken an in- 
convenient promise. It was indeed a "pitiful 
trick " to " impose so grossly on a poor innocent 
boy." Yet Franklin, in his broad tolerance of all 
that is bad as well as good in human nature, spoke 
with good-tempered indifference, and with more of 
charity than of justice, concerning the deceiver. 
*' It was a habit he had acquired. He wish'd to 
please everybody; and, having little to give, he 
gave expectations. He was otherwise an ingenious, 
sensible man, a pretty good writer, and a good gov- 
ernor for the people. . . . Several of our best laws 
were of his planning, and passed during his ad- 

None the less it turned out that this contemptible 
governor did Franklin a good turn in sending him 
to London, though the benefit came in a fashion 
not anticipated by either. For Franklin, not yet 
much wiser than the generality of mankind, had to 
go through his period of youthful folly, and it was 
good fortune for him that the worst portion of this 
period fell within the eighteen months which he 
passed in England. Had this part of his career 
been run in Philadelphia its unsavory aroma might 
have kept him long in ill odor among his fellow- 
townsmen, then little tolerant of profligacy. But 
the " errata " of a journeyman printer in London 
were quite beyond the ken of provincial gossips. 


lie easily gained employment in his trade, at wages 
which left him a little surplus beyond his mainte- 
nance. This surplus, during most of the time, he 
and his comrades squandered in the pleasures of 
the town. Yet in one matter his good sense showed 
itself, for he kept clear of drink ; indeed, his real 
nature asserted itself even at this time, to such a 
degree that we find him waging a temperance cru- 
sade in his printing-house, and actually weaning 
some of his fellow compositors from their dearly 
loved ''beer." One of these, David Hall, afterward 
became his able partner in the printing business in 
Philadelphia. Amid much bad companionship he 
fell in with some clever men. His friend James 
Ralph, though a despicable, bad fellow, had brains 
and some education. At this time, too, Franklin 
was in the proselyting stage of infidelity. He pub- 
lished " A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, 
Pleasure and Pain," and the pamphlet got him 
some little notoriety among the free-thinkers of 
London, and an introduction to some of them, but 
chiefly of the class who love to sit in taverns and 
blow clouds of words. Their society did him no 
good, and such effervescence was better blown off 
in London than in Philadelphia. 

But after the novelty of London life had worn off, 
it ceased to be to Franklin's taste. He began to 
reform somewhat, to retrench and lay by a little 
money ; and after eighteen montlis he eagerly seized 
an opportunity which offered for returning home. 


This was opened to him by a Mr. Denham, a 
good man and prosperous merchant, then engaged 
in England in purchasing stock for his store in 
Philadelphia. Franklin was to be his managing 
and confidential clerk, with the prospect of rapid 
advancement. At the same time Sir William 
Wyndham, ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, en- 
deavored to persuade Franklin to open a swimming 
school in London. He promised very aristocratic 
patronage ; and as an opening for money-getting 
this plan was perhaps the better. Franklin almost 
closed with the proposition. He seems, however, 
to have had a little touch of homesickness, a pre- 
ference, if not quite a yearning, for the colonies, 
which sufficed to turn the scale. Such was his 
third escape ; he might have passed his days in in- 
structing the scions of British nobility in the art of 
swimming ! He arrived at home, after a tedious 
voyage, October 11, 1726. But almost immedi- 
ately fortune seemed to cross him, for Mr. Denham 
and he were both taken suddenly ill. Denham 
died ; Franklin narrowly evaded death, and fancied 
himself somewhat disappointed at his recovery, " re- 
gretting in some degree that [he] must now some- 
time or other have all that disagreeable work to go 
over again." He seems to have become sufficiently 
interested in what was likely to follow his decease, 
in this world at least, to compose an epitaph which 
has become world-renowned, and has been often 
imitated : — 




(like the cover of an old book, 

its contents torn out, 

and stript of its lettering and gilding,) 

lies here, food for worms, 

yet the work itself shall not be lost, 

for it will, as he believed, appear once more, 





THE Author. 

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


His zeal increased ; he won good friends, gave gen- 
eral satisfaction, and absorbed all the best business 
in the Province. 

At the time of the formation of the partnership 
the only newspaper of Pennsylvania was published 
by Bradford, a rival of Keimer in the printing busi- 
ness. It was "a paltry thing, wretchedly man- 
aged, no way entertaining, and yet was profitable 
to him." Franklin and Meredith resolved to start 
a competing sheet ; but Keimer got wind of their 
plan, and at once " published proposals for printing 
one himself." He had got ahead of them, and they 
had to desist. But he was ignorant, shiftless, and 
incompetent, and after carrying on his enterprise 
for "three quarters of a year, with at most only 
ninety subscribers," he sold out his failure to Frank- 
lin and Meredith "for a trifle." To them, or 
rather to Franklin, " it prov'd in a few years ex- 
tremely profitable." Its original name, " The 
Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences, and 
Pennsylvania Gazette " was reduced by the ampu- 
tation of the first clause, and, relieved from the 
burden of its trailing title, it circulated actively 
throughout the Province, and further. Number 
40, Franklin's first number, appeared October 2, 
1729. Bradford, who was postmaster, refused to 
aUow his post-riders to carry any save his own 
newspaper. But Franklin, whose morality was 
nothing if not practical, fought the devil with 
fire, and bribed the riders so judiciously that his 
newspaper penetrated whithersoever they went. 


He says of it : " Our first papers made a quite dif- 
ferent appearance from any before in the Province ; 
a better type, and better printed ; but some spirited 
remarks of my writing, on the dispute then going 
on between Governor Burnet and the Massachu- 
setts Assembly, struck the principal people, occa- 
sioned the paper and the manager of it to be much 
talked of, and in a few weeks brought them all to 
be our subscribers." Later his articles in favor of 
the issue of a sum of paper currency were so largely 
instrumental in carrying that measure that the 
profitable job of printing the money became his 
reward. Thus advancing in prestige and prosper- 
ity, he was able to discharge by installments his in- 
debtedness. " In order to secure," he says, " my 
credit and character as a tradesman, I took care to 
be not only in reality industrious and frugal, but to 
avoid all appearances to the contrary." A charac- 
teristic remark. With Franklin every virtue had 
its market value, and to neglect to get that value 
out of it was the part of folly. 

About this time the wife of a glazier, who occu- 
pied part of Franklin's house, began match-making 
in behalf of a " very deserving " girl ; and Franklin, 
nothing loath, responded with " serious courtship." 
He intimated his willingness to accept the maiden's 
hand, provided that its fellow hand held a dowry, 
and he named an hundred pounds sterling as his 
lowest figure. The parents, on the other part, said 
tliat tliey had not so much ready money. Franklin 
civilly suggested that they could get it by mortgag- 


iiig their house ; they firmly declined. The nego- 
tiation thereupon was abandoned. " This affair," 
Franklin continues, " having turned my thoughts 
to marriage, I look'd round me and made overtures 
of acquaintance in other places ; but soon found 
that, the business of a printer being generally 
thought a poor one, I was not to expect money with 
a wife, unless with such a one as I should not 
otherwise think agreeable." Finding such difficul- 
ties in the way of a financial alliance, Franklin 
appears to have bethought him of affection as a 
substitute for dollars ; so he blew into the ashes of 
an old flame, and aroused some heat. Before going 
to England he had engaged himself to Miss Deb- 
orah Read ; but in London he had pretty well for- 
gotten her, and had written to her only a single 
letter. Many years afterward, writing to Catharine 
Ray in 1755, he said : " The cords of love and 
friendship .... in times past have drawn me , . . 
back from England to Philadelphia." If the re- 
mark referred to an affection for Miss Read, it was 
probably no more trustworthy than are most such 
allegations made when lapsing years have given 
a fictitious coloring to a remote past. If indeed 
Franklin's profligacy and his readiness to marry 
any girl financially eligible were symptoms attend- 
ant upon his being in love, it somewhat taxes the 
imagination to fancy how he would have conducted 
himself had he not been the victim of romantic 
passion. Miss Read, meanwhile, apparently about 
as much in love as her lover, had wedded another 


man, " one Rogers, a potter," a good workman but 
worthless fellow, wlio soon took fliglit from his 
bride and his creditors. Her position had since 
become somewhat questionable ; for there was a 
story that her husband had an earlier wife living, 
in which case of course her marriage with him was 
null. There was also a story that he was dead. 
But there was little evidence of the truth of either 
tale. Franklin, therefore, hardly knew what he 
was wedding, a maid, a widow, or another man's 
wife. Moreover the runaway husband " had left 
many debts, which his successor might be call'd 
upon to pay." Few men, even if warmly enamored, 
would have entered into tlie matrimonial contract 
under circumstances so discouraging; and there are 
no indications save the marriage itself that Frank- 
lin was deeply in love. Yet on September 1, 1780, 
the pair were wedded. Mrs. Franklin survived for 
forty years thereafter, and neither seems ever to 
have regretted the step. " None of the inconven- 
iences happened that we had apprehended," wrote 
Franklin ; " she proved a good and faithful help- 
mate ; assisted me much by attending the shop ; we 
throve together, and have ever mutually endeavored 
to make each other happy." A sensible, comfort- 
able, satisfactory union it was, showing how much 
better is sense than sensibility as an ingredient in 
matrimony. Mrs. Franklin was a handsome woman, 
of comely figure, yet nevertheless an industrious 
and frugal one ; later on in life Franklin boasted 
that he had '' been clothed from head to foot in 


linen of [his] wife's manufacture." An early contri- 
bution of his own to the domestic menage was his 
illegitimate son, William, born soon after his wed- 
ding, of a mother of whom no record or tradition 
remains. It was an unconventional wedding gift 
to bring home to a bride ; but Mrs. Franklin, with 
a breadth and liberality of mind akin to her hus- 
band's, readily took the babe not only to her home 
but really to her heart, and reared him as if he had 
been her own offspring. Mr. Parton thinks that 
Franklin gave this excellent wife no further cause 
for suspicion or jealousy. 



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

Yet, if plain truth is to be told, there was noth- 
ing unusual about this sunrise, no rare tints of 
divine augury ; the luminary came up in ^^^pry-day 


fashion. Franklin had done much reading ; he had 
taken pains to cultivate a good style in writing Eng- 
lish ; he had practiced himself in dispute ; he had 
adopted some odd notions, for example vegetarian- 
ism in diet ; he had at times acquired some influ- 
ence among his fellow-journeymen, and had used it 
for good ; he had occasionally fallen into the society 
of men of good social position ; he had kept clear 
of the prevalent habit of excessive drinking ; some- 
times he had lived frugally and had laid up a little 
money ; more often he had been wasteful ; Jie had 
been very dissolute, and in sowing his wild oats he 
had gone down into the mud. His autobiography 
gives us a simple, vivid, strong picture, which we 
accept as correct, though in reading it one sees that 
the lapse of time since the occurrences narrated, to- 
gether with his own success and distinction in life, 
have not been without their obvious effect. By the 
time he thought it worth while to write those pages, 
Franklin had been taught to think very well of 
himself and his career. For this reason he was, 
upon the one hand, somewhat indifferent as to set- 
ting down what smaller men would conceal, confi- 
dent that his fame would not stagger beneath the 
burden of youthful wrong - doing ; on the other 
hand, he deals rather gently, a little ideally, with 
himself, as old men are wont to acknowledge with 
condemnation tempered with mild forgiveness the 
foibles of their early days. It is evident that, as 
a young man, Franklin intermingled sense with 
folly, correct living with dissipation, in a manner 


that must have made it difficult for an observer 
to forecast the final outcome, and which makes it 
almost equally impossible now to form a satisfac- 
tory idea of him. He is not to be disposed of by 
placing him in any ready-made and familiar class. 
If he had turned out a bad man, there would have 
been abundance in his early life to point the moral- 
ist's warning tale ; as he turned out a very repu- 
table one, there is scarcely less abundance for 
panegyrists to expatiate upon. Certainly he was 
a man to attract some attention and to carry some 
weight, yet not more than many another of whom 
the world never hears. At the time of his mar- 
riage, however, he is upon the verge of develop- 
ment ; a new period of his life is about to begin ; 
what had been dangerous and evil in his ways dis- 
appears ; the breadth, originality, and practical 
character of his mind are about to show them- 
selves. He has settled to a steady occupation ; he 
is industrious and thrifty ; he has gathered much 
information, and may be regarded as a well-edu- 
cated man ; he writes a plain, forcible style ; he 
has enterprise and shrewdness in matters of busi- 
ness, and good sense in all matters, — that is the 
chief point, his sound sense has got its full growth 
and vigor, and of sound sense no man ever had 
more. Very soon he not only prospers financially, 
but begins to secure at first that attention and soon 
afterward that influence which always follow close 
upon success in practical affairs. He becomes the 
public-spirited citizen ; scheme after scheme of so- 


cial and public improvement is suggested and car- 
ried forward by him, until he justly comes to be 
one of the foremost citizens of Philadelphia. The 
enumeration of what he did within a few years in 
this small new town and poor community will be 
found surprising and admirable. 

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

From the course of this business he drew one of 
those shrewd, practical conclusions which aided 
him so much in life. He says that he soon felt 


" the impropriety of presenting one's self as the 
proposer of any useful project that might be sup- 
posed to raise one's reputation in the smallest de- 
gree above that of one's neighbors, when one has 
need of their assistance to accomplish that project. 
I therefore put myself as much as I could out of 
sight, and stated it as a scheme of a number of 
fi'iends, who had requested me to go about and 
propose it." This method he found so well suited 
to the production of results that he habitually fol- 
lowed it in his subsequent undertakings. It was 
sound policy ; the self-abnegation helped success ; 
the success secured personal prestige. It was soon 
observed that when " a number of friends " or " a 
few gentlemen " were represented by Franklin, 
their purpose was usually good and was pretty sure 
to be carried through. Hence came reputation and 

In December, 1732, he says, " I first published 
my Almanack, under the name of JRlchard Saun- 
ders,^^ price five pence, thereby falling in with a 
common custom among the colonial printers. 
Within the month three editions were sold ; and it 
was continued for twenty-five years thereafter with 
an average sale of 10,000 copies annually, until 
" Poor Richard " became a nom de plmne as re- 
nowned as any in English literature. The publi- 
cation ranks as one of the most influential in the 
world. Its '' proverbial sentences, chiefly such as 
inculcated industry and frugality as the means of 
procuring wealth and thereby securing virtue," 


were sown like seed all over the land. The al- 
manac went year after year, for quarter of a cen- 
tury, into the house of nearly every shopkeeper, 
planter, and farmer in the American provinces. 
Its wit and humor, its practical tone, its shrewd 
maxims, its worldly honesty, its morality of com- 
mon sense, its useful information, all chimed well 
with the national character. It formulated in 
homely phrase and with droll illustration what the 
colonists more vaguely knew, felt, and believed 
upon a thousand points of life and conduct. In so 
doing it greatly trained and invigorated the natural 
mental traits of the peoj)le. " Poor Kichard " was 
the revered and popular schoolmaster of a young 
nation during its period of tutelage. His teach- 
ings are among the powerful forces which have 
gone to shaping the habits of Americans. His 
terse and picturesque bits of the wisdom and the 
virtue of this world are familiar in our mouths to- 
day ; they moulded our great - grandjDarents and 
their children ; they have informed our popular 
traditions ; they still influence our actions, guide 
our ways of thinking, and establish our points of 
view, with the constant control of acquired habits 
which we little suspect. If we were accustomed 
still to read the literature of the almanac, we should 
be charmed with its humor. The world has not 
yet grown away from it, nor ever will. Addison 
and Steele had more polish but vastly less humor 
than Franklin. " Poor Richard " has found eter- 
nal life by passing into the daily speech of the peo- 


pie, while the " Spectator " is fast being crowded 
out of the hands of all save scholars in literature. 
At this period of his life he wrote many short fugi- 
tive pieces, which hold some of the rarest wit that 
an American library contains. Few people sus- 
pect that the ten serious and grave-looking octavos, 
imprinted " The Works of Benjamin Franklin," 
hide much of that delightful kind of wit that can 
never grow old, but is as charming to-day as when 
it came damp from the press a century and more 
ago. How much of " Poor Richard " was actually 
original is a sifting not worth while to make. 
Franklin said : " I was conscious that not a tenth 
part of the wisdom was my own which he ascribed 
to me, but rather the gleanings that I had made of 
the sense of all ages and nations." No profound 
wisdom is really new, but only the expression of 
it; and all that of ''Poor Richard " had been fused 
in the crucible of Franklin's brain. 

But the famous almanac was not the only pulpit 
whence Franklin preached to the people. He had 
an excellent ideal of a newspaper. He got news 
into it, which w^s seldom done in those days, and 
which made it attractive ; he got advertisements 
into it, which made it pay, and which also was a 
novel feature ; indeed, Mr. Pavton says that he 
" originated the modern system of business advertis- 
ing ; " he also discussed matters of public interest. 
Thus he anticipated the modern newspaper, but in 
some respects improved in advance upon that which 
he anticipated. He made his *' Gazette " a vehicle 


for disseminating information and morality, and he 
carefully excluded from it " all libeling and per- 
sonal abuse." The sheet in its every issue was 
doing the same sort of work as " Poor Kichard." 
In a word, Franklin was a born teacher of men, 
and what he did in this way in these his earlier 
days gives him rank among the most distinguished 
moralists who have ever lived. 

What kind of morality he taught is well known. 
It was human ; he kept it free from entangling 
alliances with any religious creed ; its foundations 
lay in common sense, not in faith. His own na- 
ture in this respect is easy to understand but dif- 
ficult to describe, since the words which must be 
used convey such different ideas to different per- 
sons. Thus, to say that he had the religious tem- 
perament, though he was skeptical as to all the 
divine and supernatural dogmas of the religions of 
mankind, will seem to many a self-contradiction, 
while to others it is entirely intelligible. In his 
boyhood one gets a flavor of irreverence which was 
slow in disappearing. When yet a mere child he 
suggested to his father the convenience of saying 
grace over the whole barrel of salt fish, in bulk, as 
the mercantile phrase would be. By the time that 
he was sixteen, Shaftesbury and Collins, efficiently 
aided by the pious writers who had endeavored to 
refute them, had made him *' a real doubter in many 
points of our religious doctrine ; " and while he was 
still his brother's apprentice in Boston, he fell into 
disrepute as a skeptic. Apparently he gathered 


momentum in moving along this line of thought, 
until in England his disbelief took on for a time 
an extreme and objectionable form. His opinions 
then were " that nothing could possibly be wrong 
in the world ; and that vice and virtue were empty- 
distinctions, no such things existing." But the 
pamphlet, already mentioned, in which he expressed 
these views, was the outburst of a youthful free- 
thinker not yet accustomed to his new ideas ; not 
many years passed over his head before it " appear'd 
not so clever a performance as [he] once thought 
it;" and in his autobiography he enumerates it 
among the " errata " of his life. 

It was not so very long afterward that he busied 
himself in composing prayers, and even an entire 
litany, for his own use. No Christian could have 
found fault with the morals therein embodied ; but 
Christ was entirely ignored. He even had the 
courage to draw up a new version of the Lord's 
Prayer ; and he arranged a code of thirteen rules 
after the fashion of the Ten Commandments ; of 
these the last one was : " Imitate Jesus and So- 
crates." Except during a short time just preced- 
ing and during his stay in London he seems never 
to have been an atheist ; neither was he ever quite 
a Christian ; but as between atheism and Chris- 
tianity he was very much further removed from 
the former than from the latter. He used to call 
himself a deist, or theist ; and said that a deist 
was as much like an atheist as chalk is like char- 
coal. The evidence is abundant that he settled 


down into a belief in a personal God, who was 
good, who concerned himself with the affairs of 
men, who was pleased with good acts and dis- 
pleased with evil ones. He believed also in im- 
mortality and in rewards in a life to come. But 
he supported none of these beliefs upon the same 
basis on which Christians support them. 

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

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


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

In 1756 he wrote to a friend : — 

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

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


Throughout his life he may be said to have very 
slowly moved nearer and nearer to the Christian 
faith, until at last he came so near that many of 
those somewhat nondescript persons who call them- 
selves " libera] Christians " might claim him as one 
of themselves. But if a belief in the divinity of 
Christ is necessary to make a " Christian," it does 
not appear that Franklin ever fully had the quali- 
fication. When he was an old man, in 1790, Pres- 
ident Stiles of Yale College took the freedom of 
interrogating him as to his religious faith. It was 
the first time that any one had ever thus ventured. 
His reply ^ is interesting : " As to Jesus of Naza- 
reth," he says, " I think his system of morals and 
his religion, as he left them to us, the best the 
world ever saw, or is like to see." But he thinks 
they have been corrupted. " I have, with most of 
the present dissenters in England, some doubts as 
to his divinity ; though it is a question I do not 
dogmatize upon, having never studied it, and think 
it needless to busy myself with it now, when I 
expect soon an opportunity of knowing the truth 
with less trouble. I see no harm, however, in its 
being believed, if that belief has the good conse- 
quences, as probably it has, of making his doctrines 
more respected and more observed ; especially as I 
do not see that the Supreme takes it amiss by dis- 
tinguishing the unbelievers in his government of 
the world with any peculiar marks of his displeas- 
ure." His God was substantially the God of 
1 Works, X. 192. 


Christianity ; but concerning Christ he was gen- 
erally reticent and non-committal. 

AVhatever were his own 02:)inions, which un- 
doubtedly underwent some changes during his life, 
as is the case with most of us, he never introduced 
Christianity, as a faith, into any of his moral writ- 
ings. A broad human creature, with a marvelous 
knowledge of mankind, with a tolerance as far- 
reaching as his knowledge, with a kindly liking 
for all men and women ; withal a prudent, shrewd, 
cool-headed observer in affairs, he was content to 
insist that goodness and wisdom were valuable, as 
means, towards good repute and well-being, as ends. 
He urges upon his nephew, about to start in busi- 
ness as a goldsmith, ^'•perfect honesty ; " and the 
reason he gives for his emphasis is, that the busi- 
ness is peculiarly liable to suspicion, and if a man is 
" once detected in the smallest fraud ... at once 
he is ruined." The character of his argument was 
always simple. He usually began with some such 
axiom as the desirability of success in one's enter- 
prises, or of health, or of comfort, or of ease of 
mind, or a sufficiency of money ; and then he showed 
that some virtue, or collection of virtues, would pro- 
mote this result. He advocated honesty upon the 
same principle upon which he advocated that women 
should learn to keep accounts, or that one should 
hold one's self in the background in the presenta- 
tion of an enterprise such as his public library ; 
that is to say, his advocacy of a cardinal virtue, of 
acquiring a piece of knowledge, or of adopting a 


certain method of procedure in business, ran upoji 
the same line, namely, the practical usefulness of 
the virtue, the knowledge, or the method, for in- 
creasing the probability of a practical success in 
worldly affairs. Among the articles inculcating 
morality which he used to put into his newspaper 
was a Socratic Dialogue, "tending to prove that 
whatever might be his parts and abilities, a vicious 
man could not properly be called a man of sense." 
He was forever at this business ; it was his nature 
to teach, to preach, to moralize. With creeds he 
had no concern, but took it as his function in life 
to instruct in what may be described as useful 
morals^ the gospel of good sense, the excellence of 
common humanity. About the time in his career 
which we have now reached this tendency of his 
had an interesting development in its relationship 
to his own character. He " conceiv'd the bold and 
arduous project of arriving at moral perfection." 
It is impossible to recite the details of his scheme, 
but the narration constitutes one of the most enter- 
taining and characteristic parts of the autobiogra- 
phy. Such a plan could not long be confined in its 
operation to himself alone ; the teacher must teach ; 
accordingly he designed to write a book, to be 
called " The Art of Virtue," a title with which he 
was greatly pleased, as indicating that the book was 
to show " the means and manner of obtaining vir- 
tue " as contradistinguished from the " mere exhor- 
tation to be good, that does not instruct or indicate 
the means." A receipt book for virtues ! Practi- 


cal instructions for acquiring goodness ! Nothing 
could have been more characteristic. One of his 
Busy-Body papers, February 18, 1728, begins with 
the statement that : " It is said that the Persians, 
in their ancient constitution, had public schools in 
which virtue was taught as a liberal art, or science ; '* 
and he goes on to laud the plan highly. Perhaps 
this was the origin of the idea which subsequently 
became such a favorite with him. It was his 

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

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

" Many people lead bad lives that Would gladly lead 
good ones, but do not know how to make the change. . . . 
To expect people to be good, to be just, to be temperate, 
etc., without showing them how they should hecoTne so 
seems like the ineffectual charity mentioned by the 
apostle, which consists in saying to the hungry, the cold, 
and the naked, ' Be ye fed, be ye warmed, be ye clothed,' 
without showing them how they should get food, fire, or 
clothing. ... To acquire those [virtues] that are want- 
ing, and secure what we acquire, as well as those we 
have naturally, is the subject of an art. It is as ])rop- 


erly an art as painting, navigation, or architecture. If a 
man would become a painter, navigator, or architect, it 
is not enough that he is advised to be one, that he is 
convinced by the arguments of his adviser that it would 
be for his advantage to be one, and that he resolves to 
be one ; but he must also be taught the principles of the 
art, be shown all the methods of working, and how to 
acquire, the habit of using properly all the instruments. 
. . . My ' Art of Virtue ' has also its instruments, and 
teaches the manner of using them." 

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

A matter more easy of accomplishment was the 
drawing up a creed which he thought to contain 
" the essentials of every known religion," and to 
be " free of everything that might shock the pro- 
fessors of any religion." He intended that this 


should serve as the basis of a sect, which should 
practice his rules for self-improvement. It was at 
first to consist of " young and single men only," 
and great caution was to be exercised in the admis- 
sion of members. The association was to be called 
the " Society of the Free and Easy ; " " free, as 
being, by the general practice and habit of the 
virtues, free from the dominion of vice ; and par- 
ticularly by the practice of industry and frugality 
free from debt, which exposes a man to confine- 
ment and a species of slavery to his creditors." It 
is hardly surprising to hear that this was one of the 
very few failures of Franklin's life. In 1788 he 
professed himself " still of the opinion that it was 
a practicable scheme." One hardly reads it with- 
out a smile nowadays, but it was not so out of keep- 
ing with the spirit and habits of those times. It in- 
dicates at least Franklin's appreciation of the power 
of fellowship, of association. No man knew better 
than he what stimulus comes from the sense of 
membership in a society, especially a secret society. 
He had a great fondness for organizing men into 
associations, and a singular aptitude for creating, 
conducting, and perpetuating such bodies. The 
Junto, a child of his active brain, became a power 
in local public affairs, though organized and con- 
ducted strictly as a " club of mutual improvement.'* 
He formed it among his "ingenious acquaintance" 
for the discussion of "queries on any point of 
morals, politics, or natural philosophy." He found 
his model, without doubt, in the "neighborhood 


benefit societies," established by Cotton Mather, 
during Franklin's boyhood, among the Boston 
churches, for mutual improvement among the mem- 
bers.i In time there came a great pressure for an 
increase of the number of members ; but Franklin 
astutely substituted a plan whereby each member 
was to form a subordinate club, similar to the orig- 
inal, but having no knowledge of its connection 
with the Junto. Thus sprang into being five or six 
more, " The Vine, The Union, The Band, etc.," 
" answering, in some considerable degree, our views 
of influencing the public opinion upon particular 
occasions." When Franklin became interested in 
any matter, he had but to introduce it before the 
Junto for discussion ; straightway each member 
who belonged to any one of the other societies 
brought it up in that society. Thus through so 
many active-minded and disputatious young men 
interest in the subject speedily percolated through 
a community of no greater size than Philadelphia. 
Franklin was the tap-root of the whole growth, and 
sent his ideas circulating throughout all the wide- 
spreading branches. He tells us that in fact he 
often used this efficient machinery to much advan- 
tage in carrying through his public and quasi pub- 
lic measures. Thus he anticipated more powerful 
mechanisms of the like kind, such as the Jacobin 
Club ; and he himself, under encouraging circum- 
stances, might have wielded an immense power as 
the creator and occult, inspiring influence of some 
great political society. 

1 Parton's Life of Franklin, i. 47. 


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

Soon afterward he conferred a signal benefit on 
his countrymen by inventing an " open stove for 
the better warming of rooms, and at the same time 
saving f uel,' ' — the Franklin stove, or, as he called it, 
" the Pennsylvania fireplace." Mr. Parton warmly 
describes it as the beginning of " the American 
stove system, one of the wonders of the industrial 
world." Franklin refused to take out a patent for 


it, '' from a principle which has ever weighed with 
me on such occasions, viz. : That as we enjoy great 
advantages from the inventions of others, we should 
be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any 
invention of ours; and this we should do freely 
and generously." This lofty sentiment, wherein 
the philanthropist got the better of the man of 
business, overshot its mark ; an iron-monger of 
London, who did not combine philosophy and phil- 
anthropy with his trade, made " some small 
changes in the machine, which rather hurt its 
operation, got a patent for it there, and made a lit- 
tle fortune by it." 

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

In 1743 Franklin broached the idea of an acad- 
emy ; but the time had not quite come when the 
purse-strings of well-to-do Pennsylvanians could be 
loosened for this purpose, and he had no success. 
It was, however, a project about which he was much 


in earnest, and a few years later he returned to it 
with better auspices. He succeeded in getting it 
under weigh by means of private subscriptions. It 
soon vindicated its usefulness, drew funds and en- 
dowments from various sources, and became the 
University of Pennsylvania. Franklin tells an 
amusing story about his subsequent connection 
with it. Inasmuch as persons of several religious 
sects had contributed to the fund, it was arranged 
that the board of trustees should consist of one 
member from each sect. After a while the Mora- 
vian died ; and his colleagues, having found him ob- 
noxious to them, resolved not to have another of 
the same creed. Yet it was difficult to find any 
one who did not belong to, and therefore unduly 
strengthen, some sect already represented. At 
length Franklin was mentioned as being '•'•merely 
an honest man^ and of no sect at all." The recom- 
mendation secured his election. It was always a 
great cause of his success and influence that noth- 
ing could be alleged against his correct and respect- 
able exterior and prudent, moderate deportment. 

He now endeavored to reorganize the system, if 
system it can be called, of the night-watch in Phila- 
delphia. His description of it is picturesque : — 

" It was managed by the constables of the respective 
wards, in turn; the constable warned a number of 
housekeepers to attend him for the night. Those who 
chose never to attend paid him six shillings to be ex- 
cus'd, which was supposed to be for hiring substitutes, 
but was, in reality, much mire than was necessary for 


that purpose, and made the constableship a place of 
profit ; and the constable, for a little drink, often got such 
ragamuffins about him as a watch, that respectable house- 
keepers did not choose to mix with. Walking the rounds, 
too, was often neglected, and most of the nights spent in 

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

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

About this time he became interested in the mat- 


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

That Franklin had been prospering in his pri- 
vate business may be judged from the facts that in 
1748 he took into partnership David Hall, who 
had been a fellow journeyman with him in London ; 
and that his purpose was substantially to retire and 
get some " leisure . . . for philosophical studies and 
amusements." He cherished the happy but foolish 
notion of becoming master of his own time. But 
his fellow-citizens had purposes altogether incon- 
sistent with those pleasing and comfortable plans 
which he sketched so cheerfully in a letter to his 
friend Golden in September, 1748. The Philadel- 
phians, whom he had taught thrift, were not go- 
ing to waste such material as he was. " The pub- 
lic!^," he found, " now considering me as a man of 
leisure, laid hold of mo for their purposes ; every 


part of our civil government, and almost at tlie 
same time, imposing some duty upon me. The 
governor put me into the commission of the peace ; 
the corporation of the city chose me of the common 
council, and soon after an alderman ; and the citi- 
zens at large chose me a burgess to represent them 
in the Assembly." This last position pleased him 
best, and he turned himself chiefly to its duties, 
with the gratifying result, as he records, that the 
" trust was repeated every year for ten years, with- 
out my ever asking any elector for his vote, or sig- 
nifying, either directly or indirectly, any desire of 
being chosen." 

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

In 1751 he assisted Dr. Bond in the foundation 
of his hospital. The doctor at first tried to carry 
out his scheme alone, but could not. The tranquil 
vanity of Franklin's narration is too good to be 
lost : " At length he came to me, with the compli- 
ment that he found there was no such thing as 
carrying a public-spirited project through, without 
my being concerned in it. ' For,' says he, ' I am 
often asked by those to whom I propose subscrib- 


iug, Have you consulted Franklin upon this busi- 
ness ? and what does he think of it ? And when I 
tell them that I have not (supposing it rather out 
of your line), they do not subscribe, but say they 
will consider of it.'" It is surprising that this art- 
ful and sugar-tongued doctor, who evidently could 
read his man, had not been more successful with 
his subscription list. With Franklin, at least, he 
was eminently successful, touching him with a con- 
summate skill which brought prompt response and 
cooperation. The result was as usual. Franklin's 
hand knew the way to every Philadelphian mer- 
chant's pocket. Respected as he was, it may be 
doubted whether he was always sincerely welcomed 
as he used to move from door to door down those 
tranquil streets, with an irresistible subscription 
paper in his hand. In this case private subscrip- 
tions were eked out by public aid. The legisla- 
ture was applied to for a grant. The country 
members objected, said that the benefit would be 
local, and doubted whether even the Philadelphian s 
wanted it. Thereupon Franklin drew a bill, by 
which the State was to give X2,000 upon condition 
that a like sum should be raised from private 
sources. This was soon done. Franklin regarded 
his device as a novelty and a ruse in legislation. 
He complacently says : " I do not remember any of 
my political manoeuvres, the success of which gave 
me at the time more pleasure, or wherein, after- 
thinking of it, 1 more easily excused myself for 
having made some use of cunning." Simple times^ 


in which such an act could be described as a " ma- 
noeuvre" and " cunning ! " 

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

For a long while Franklin was employed by the 
postmaster-general of the colonies as "his comp- 
troller in regulating several offices and bringing the 
officers to account." In 1753 the incumbent died, 
and Franklin and Mr. William Hunter, jointly, 
were appointed his successors. They set to work 
to reform the entire postal service of the country. 
The first cost to themselves was considerable, the 
office falling more than £900 in debt to them dur- 
ing the first four years. But thereafterward the 
benefit of their measures was felt, and an office 
which had never before paid anything to that of 
Great Britain came, under their administration, 
" to yield three times as much clear revenue to the 
crown as the post-office of Ireland." Franklin 


narrates that in time he was displaced " by a freak 
of the ministers," and in happy phrase adds, 
" Since that imprudent transaction, they have re- 
ceived from it — not one farthing ! " In this con- 
nection it may be worth while to quote Franklin's 
reply to a request to give a position to his nephew, 
a young man whom he liked well, and otherwise 
aided. " If a vacancy should happen, it is very 
probable he may be thought of to supply it ; but it 
is a rule with me not to remove any officer that 
behaves well, keeps regular accounts, and pays 
duly ; and I think the rule is founded on reason 
and justice." 

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

An interesting page in the autobiography con- 
cerns events in the year 1754. There were distinct 
foreshadowings of that war between England and 
France which soon afterward broke out, beginning 
upon this side of the water earlier than in Europe ; 
and the lords of trade ordered a congress of com- 
missioners from the several colonies to assemble 
at Albany for a conference with the chiefs of 
the Six Nations. They came together June 19, 
1754. Franklin was a deputy from Pennsylvania ; 


and on his way thither he " projected and drew a 
plan for the union of all the colonies under one 
government, so far as might be necessary for de- 
fense and other important general purposes." It 
was not altogether a new idea ; in 1697 William 
Penn had suggested a commercial union and an 
annual congress. The journal of the congress 
shows that on June 24th it was unanimously voted 
that a union of the colonies was " absolutely neces- 
sary for their security and defense." The Massa- 
chusetts delegation alone had been authorized to 
consider the question of a union, and they had 
power to enter into a confederation "as well in 
time of peace as of war." Franklin had already 
been urging this policy by writings in the Gazette, 
and now, when the ideas of the different commis- 
sioners were brought into comparison, his were 
deemed the best. His outline of a scheme, he says, 
" happen 'd to be preferr'd," and, with a few amend- 
ments, was accordingly reported. It was a league 
rather than a union, somewhat resembling the 
arrangement which came into existence for the 
purposes of the Revolution. But it came to noth- 
ing ; " its fate," Franklin said, " was singular." 
It was closely debated, article by article, and hav- 
ing at length been " pretty unanimously accepted, 
it came before the colonial assemblies for ratifica- 
tion." But they condemned it ; *' there was too 
much prerogative in it," they thought. On the 
other hand, the board of trade in England would 
not approve it because it had " too much of the 


democratic." All which led Franklin to ''suspect 
that it was really the true medium." He himself 
acknowledged that one main advantage of it would 
be " that the colonies would, by this connection, 
learn to consider themselves, not as so many inde- 
pendent states, but as members of the same body ; 
and thence be more ready to afford assistance and 
support to each other," etc. It was already the 
national idea which lay, not quite formulated, yet 
distinct enough in his mind. It was hardly to be 
expected that the home government would fail to 
see this tendency, or that they would look upon it 
with favor. Franklin long afterward indulged in 
some speculations as to what might have been the 
consequences of an adoption of his scheme, namely : 
united colonies, strong enough to defend them- 
selves against the Canadian French and their In- 
dian allies ; no need, therefore, of troops from 
England ; no pretext, therefore, for taxing the 
provinces ; no provocation, therefore, for rebellion. 
" But such mistakes are not new ; history is full 
of the errors of states and princes. . . . The best 
public measures are seldom adopted from previous 
wisdom hut forced hy the occasion.'''' But this 
sketch of what might have been sounds over-fanci- 
ful, and the English were probably right in think- 
ing that a strong military union, with home taxa- 
tion, involved more of danger than of safety for 
the future connection between the colonies and the 
mother country. 

There was much uneasiness, much planning, 


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

" That it is supposed an undoubted right of English- 
men not to be taxed but by their own consent, given 
through their representatives. 


" That the colonists have no representatives in Parlia- 

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

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

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

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

" These kinds of secondary taxes, however, we do not 
complain of, though we have no share in the laying or 
disposing of them ; but to pay immediate, heavy taxes, 


in the laying, appropriation, and disposition of which we 
have no part, and which perhaps we may know to be as 
unnecessary as grievous, must seem hard measures to 
Englishmen, who cannot conceive that by hazarding 
their lives and fortunes in subduing and settling new 
countries, extending the dominion and increasing the 
commerce of the mother nation, they have forfeited the 
native rights of Britons, which they think ought rather 
to be given to them, as due to such merit, if they had 
been before in a state of slavery." 

A third letter discussed a proposition advanced 
by Shirley for giving the colonies representation 
in Parliament. Franklin was a little skej)tical, 
and had no notion of being betrayed by a kiss. 
A real unification of the two communities lying 
upon either side of the Atlantic, and even a close 
approximation to proportionate representation, 
would constitute an excellent way out of the i3res- 
ent difficulties. But he saw no encouragement to 
hope for this. 

In fact, the project of laying direct internal 
taxes upon the colonies by act of Parliament was 
taking firm root in the English mind, and colonial 
protests could not long stay the execution of the 
scheme. Even such grants of money as were made 
by some of the colonial legislatures were vetoed, on 
the ground that they were connected with encroach- 
ments, schemes for independence, and an assump- 
tion of the right to exercise control in the matter 
of the public finances.^ The Penns rejoiced. 
1 Bancroft, Hist. TJ. S., iv. 176. 


Thomas Penn wrote, doubtless with a malicious 
chuckle : " If the several assemblies will not make 
provision for the general service, an act of Parlia- 
ment may oblige them here." He evidently thought 
that it would be very wholesome if government 
should become incensed and severe with the re- 

During his discussion with Shirley, Franklin had 
been upon a visit to Boston. He " left New Eng- 
land," he says, " slowly, and with great reluc- 
tance " for he loved the country and the people. 
He returned home to be swept into the hurly-burly 
of military affairs. War appropriations came hard 
from the legislature of the Quaker province ; but 
the occasion was now at hand when come they 
must. In the autumn of 1755 X 60,000 were voted, 
chiefly for defense, and Franklin was one of the 
committee in charge of the expenditure. The bor- 
der was already unsafe, and formal hostilities on a 
large scale were close at hand. France and Eng- 
land must fight it out for the possession of the new 
continent, which, boundless as it then seemed, was 
yet not big enough to admit of their both dwelling 
in it. France had been steadily pressing upon the 
northern and western frontiers of the British col- 
onies, and she now held Crown Point, Niagara, the 
fort on the present site of Pittsburg, and the whole 
valley of the Ohio River. It seemed that she would 
confine the English to the strip along the coast 
which they already occupied. It is true that she 
offered to relinquish the Ohio valley to the savages, 


to be a neutral belt between the European nations 
on either side of it. But the proposal could not be 
accepted ; the French were much too clever in man- 
aging the Indians. Moreover, it was felt that they 
would never permanently desist from advancing. 
Then, too, the gallant Braddock was on his way 
across seas, with a little army of English regulars. 
Finally, the disproportion between the English and 
French in the New World was too great for the 
former to rest satisfied with a compromise. There 
were about 1,165,000 whites in the British Prov- 
inces, and only about 80,000 French in Canada. 
The resources, also, of the former were in every re- 
spect vastly greater. These iron facts must tell ; 
were already telling. Throughout this last deadly 
grapple, now at hand, the French were in desperate 
earnest. History records few struggles wherein the 
strength of a combatant was more utterly spent, 
with more entire devotion, than was the case with 
these Canadian - French provinces. Every man 
gave himself to the fight, so literally that no one 
was left to till the fields, and erelong famine be- 
gan its hideous work among the scanty forces. The 
English and Americans, on the other hand, were 
far from conducting the struggle with the like tem- 
per as the French ; yet with such enormous advan- 
tages as they possessed, if they could not conquer 
a satisfactory peace in course of time, they ought 
to be ashamed of themselves. So no composition 
could be arranged ; the Seven Years' War began, 
and to open it with becoming Sclat Braddock de- 


barked, a gorgeous spectacle in red and gold. Yet 
still there had as yet been in Europe no declara- 
tion of hostilities between England and France; 
on the contrary, the government of the former 
country was giving very fair words to that of the 
latter ; and in America the British professed only 
to intend " to repel encroachments." ^ 

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

1 Bancroft, Hist. U. S., iv. 182. 


diery, with the long train of American attendants, 
had to make that terrible march to failure and 

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

Franklin's own good will to the cause, or his ill- 
luck, led him into an engagement, made just before 
his departure, whereby he undertook to procure 
horses and wagons enough for the transportation of 
the ordnance and all the appurtenances of the camp. 
It was not a personal contract upon his part to fur- 
nish these ; he was neither to make any money, 
nor to risk any ; he was simply to render the gra- 
tuitous service of inducing the Pennsylvania farm- 
ers to let out their horses, wagons, and drivers to 
the general. It was a difficult task, in which the 


emissaries of Braddock had utterly failed in Vir- 
ginia. But Franklin conceived the opportunities 
to be better in his own Province, and entered on 
the business with vigor and skill. Throughout the 
farming region he sent advertisements and circu- 
lars, cleverly devised to elicit what he wanted, and 
so phrased as to save him harmless from personal 
responsibility for any payment. Seven days' pay 
was to be " advanced and paid in hand " by him, 
the remainder to be paid by General Braddock, or 
by the paymaster of the army. He said, in closing 
his appeal : " I have no particular interest in this 
affair, as, except the satisfaction of endeavoring to 
do good, I shall have only my labor for my pains.'* 
But he was not to get off so easily ; for, he says, 
" the owners, . . . alleging that they did not know 
General Braddock, or what dependence might be 
had on his promise, insisted on my bond for the 
performance, which I accordingly gave them." This 
was the more patriotic because Franklin was by no 
means dazzled by the pomp and parade of the 
doughty warrior, but on the contrary, reflecting on 
the probable character of the campaign, he had " con- 
ceived some doubts and some fears for the event." 
What happened every one knows. The losses of 
wagons and horses in the slaughter amounted to 
the doleful sum of X20,000 ; " which to pay would 
have ruined me," wrote Franklin. Nevertheless 
the demands began at once to pour in upon him, 
and suits were instituted. It was a grievous affair, 
and the end was by no means clear. It was easily 


possible that in place of his fortune, sacrificed in 
the public service, he might have only the sorry- 
substitute of a claim against the government. But 
after many troubled weeks he was at length relieved 
of the heaviest portion of his burden, through Gen- 
eral Shirley's appointment of a commission to audit 
and pay the claims for actual losses. Other sums 
due him, representing considerable advances which 
he had made at the outset in the business, and 
later for provisions, remained unpaid to the end of 
his days. The British government in time prob- 
ably thought the Revolution as efficient as a stat- 
ute of limitations for barring that account. At 
the moment, however, Franklin not only lost his 
money, but had to suffer the affront of being sup- 
posed even to be a gainer, and to have filled his 
own pockets. He indignantly denied that he had 
" pocketed a farthing ; " but of course he was not 
believed. He adds, with delicious humor : " and, 
indeed, I have since learnt that immense fortunes 
are often made in such employments." Those, 
however, were simple, provincial days. In place 
of the money which he did not get, also of the 
further sum which he actually lost, he had to sat- 
isfy himself with the consolation derived from the 
approbation of the Pennsylvania Assembly, while 
also Braddock's dispatches gave him a good name 
with the officials in England, which was of some 
little service to him. 

A more comical result of the Braddock affair 
was that it made Franklin for a time a military 


man and a colonel. He had escaped being a cler- 
gyman and a poet, but he could not escape that 
common fate of Americans, the military title, the 
prevalence of which, it has been said, makes "the 
whole country seem a retreat of heroes." It befell 
Franklin in this wise : immediately after Brad- 
dock's defeat, in the panic which possessed the 
people and amid the reaction against professional 
soldiers, recourse was had to plain good sense, 
though unaccompanied by technical knowledge. 
No one, as all the Province knew, had such sound 
sense as Franklin, who was accordingly deputed to 
go to the western frontier with a small volunteer 
force, there to build three forts for the protection 
of the outlying settlements. "I undertook," he 
says, "this military business, though I did not con- 
ceive myself well qualified for it." It was a ser- 
vice involving much difficulty and hardship, with 
some danger ; General Braddock would have made 
a ridiculous failure of it ; Franklin acquitted him- 
self well. What he afterward wrote of General 
Shirley was true of himself: "For, tho' Shirley 
was not bred a soldier, he was sensible and saga- 
cious in himself, and attentive to good advice from 
others, capable of forming judicious plans, and 
quick and active in carrying them into execution." 
In a word, Franklin's military career was as cred- 
itable as it was brief. He was called forward at 
the crisis of universal dismay; he gave his popular 
influence and cool head to a peculiar kind of ser- 
vice, of which he knew much by hearsay, if nothing 


by personal experience ; he did bis work well ; 
and, mucb stranger to relate, be escaped tbe delu- 
sion tbat be was a soldier. So soon as be could 
do so, tbat is to say after a few weeks, be returned 
to bis civil duties. But be bad sbown courage, 
intelligence, and patriotism in a bigb degree, and 
he bad greatly increased tbe confidence reposed in 
him by his fellow-citizens. 

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

It Is true that these new settlements, regarded 
strictly as bulwarks, would have been only a change 


of "barrier," an advancement of frontier; they 
themselves would become frontier instead of the 
present line, and would be equally subject to Indian 
and French assaults. Still the step was in the 
direction of growth and expansion ; it was advanc- 
ing and aggressive, and indicated an appreciation 
of the enormous motive power which lay in Eng- 
lish colonization. Franklin pushed it earnestly, 
interested others in it, and seemed at one time on 
the point of securing the charters. But the con- 
quest of Canada within a very short time rendered 
defensive colonization almost needless, and soon 
afterward the premonitions and actual outbreak of 
the Revolution put an end to all schemes in this 



It was not possible to make a world-wide reputa- 
tion in the public affairs of the Province of Penn- 
sylvania ; but so much fame as opportunity would 
admit of had by this time been won by Franklin. 
In respect of influence and prestige among his fel- 
low-colonists none other came near to him. Mean- 
while among all his crowding occupations he had 
found time for those scientific researches towards 
which his heart always yearned. He had flown his 
famous kite ; had entrapped the lightning of the 
clouds ; had written treatises, which, having been 
collected into a volume, " were much taken notice 
of in England," made no small stir in France, and 
were "translated into the Italian, German, and 
Latin languages." A learned French abbe, " pre- 
ceptor in natural philosophy to the royal family, 
and an able experimenter," at first controverted his 
discoveries and even questioned his existence. But 
after a little time this worthy scientist became 
" assur'd that there really existed such a person as 
Franklin at Philadelphia," while other distinguished 
scientific men of Europe united in the adoption of 


his theories. Kaut called him the Prometheus of 
modern times. Thus, in one way and another, his 
name had probably already come to be more widely 
known than that of any other living man who had 
been born on this side of the Atlantic. It might 
have been even much more famous, had he been 
more free to follow his own bent, a pleasure which 
he could only enjoy in a very limited degree. In 
1753 he wrote: "I am so engaged in business, 
public and private, that those more pleasing pur- 
suits [philosophical enquiries] are frequently inter- 
rupted, and the chain of thought necessary to be 
closely continued in such disquisitions is so broken 
and disjointed that it is with difficulty I satisfy 
myself in any of them." Similar complaints occur 
frequently, and it is certain that his extensive phil- 
osophical labors were all conducted in those mere 
cracks and crannies of leisure scantily interspersed 
amid the hours of a man apparently overwhelmed 
with the functions of active life. 

He was now selected by the Assembly to en- 
counter the perils of crossing the Atlantic upon an 
important mission in behalf of his Province. For 
a long while past the relationship between the 
Penns, unworthy sons of the great William, and 
now the proprietaries, on the one side, and their 
quasi subjects, the people of the Province, upon 
the other, had been steadily becoming more and 
more strained, luitil something very like a crisis 
had been reached. As usual in English and Anglo- 
American communities, it was a quarrel over dol- 


lars, or rather over pounds sterling, a question of 
taxation, which was producing the alienation. At 
bottom, there was the trouble which always pertains 
to absenteeism ; the proprietaries lived in England, 
and regarded their vast American estate, with 
about 200,000 white inhabitants, only as a source 
of revenue. That mercantile community, however, 
with the thrift of Quakers and the independent 
temper of Englishmen, had a shrewd appreciation 
of, and an obstinate respect for, its own interests. 
Hence the discussions, already of threatening pro- 

The chief point in dispute was, whether or not 
the waste lands, still directly owned by the proprie- 
taries, and other lands let by them at quitrents, 
should be taxed in the same manner as like prop- 
erty of other owners. They refused to submit to 
such taxation ; the Assembly of Burgesses insisted. 
In ordinary times the proprietaries prevailed ; for 
the governor was their nominee and removable at 
their pleasure ; they gave him general instructions 
to assent to no law taxing their holdings, and he 
naturally obeyed his masters. But since govern- 
ors got their salaries only by virtue of a vote of 
the Assembly, it seems that they sometimes disre- 
garded instructions, in the sacred cause of their 
own interests. After a while, therefore, the pro- 
prietaries, made shrewd by experience, devised the 
scheme of placing their unfortunate sub-rulers un- 
der bonds. This went far towards settling the 
matter. Yet in such a crisis and stress as were 


now present in the colony, when exceptionally large 
sums had to be raised, and great sacrifices and suf- 
ferings endured, and when little less than the actual 
existence of the Province might be thought to be at 
stake, it certainly seemed that the rich and idle pro- 
prietaries might stand on the same footing with 
their poor and laboring subjects. They lived com- 
fortably in England upon revenues estimated to 
amount to the then enormous sum of .£20,000 
sterling; while the colonists were struggling un- 
der unusual losses, as well as enormous expenses, 
growing out of the war and Indian ravages. At 
such a time their parsimony, their " incredible 
meanness," as Franklin called it, was cruel as well 
as stupid. At last the Assembly flatly refused to 
raise any money unless the proprietaries should be 
burdened like the rest. All should pay together, 
or all should go to destruction together. The Penns 
too stood obstinate, facing the not less resolute 
Assembly. It was indeed a deadlock ! Yet the 
times were such that neither party could afford to 
maintain its ground indefinitely. So a temporary 
arrangement was made, whereby of £60,000 ster- 
ling to be raised the proprietaries agreed to contrib- 
ute £5,000, and the Assembly agreed to accept the 
same in lieu or commutation for their tax. But 
neither side abandoned its principle. Before long 
more money was needed, and the dispute was as 
fierce as ever. 

The burgesses now thought that it would be 
well to carry a statement of their case before the 


king in council and the lords of trade. In 
February, 1757, they named their speaker, Isaac 
Norris, and Franklin to be their emissaries " to 
represent in England the unhappy situation of the 
Province," and to seek redress by an act of Par- 
liament. Norris, an aged man, begged to be ex- 
cused ; Franklin accepted. His son was given 
leave of absence, in order to attend him as his 
secretary. During the prolonged and bitter con- 
troversies Franklin had been the most prominent 
member of the Assembly on the popular side. He 
had drawn many of the addresses, arguments, and 
other papers ; and his familiarity with the business, 
therefore, no less than his good judgment, shrewd- 
ness, and tact united to point him out as the man 
for the very unpleasant and difficult errand. 

A portion of his business also was to endeavor to 
induce the king to resume the Province of Penn- 
sylvania as his own. A clause in the charter had 
reserved this right, which could be exercised on 
payment of a certain sum of money. The colonists 
now preferred to be an appanage of the crown 
rather than a fief of the Penns. Oddly enough, 
some of the provincial governors were suggesting 
the like measure concerning other provinces ; but 
from widely different motives. The colonists 
thought a monarch better than private individuals, 
as a master ; while the governors thought that only 
the royal authority could enforce their theory of 
colonial government. They angrily complained 
that the colonies would do nothing voluntarily ; a 


most unjust charge, as was soon to be seen-, for in 
the Seven Years' War the colonists did three quar- 
ters of all that was done. What the governors 
really meant was that the colonies would not raise 
money and turn it over to other persons to spend 
for them. 

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

Franklin took his passage in a packet -ship, 
which was to sail from New York forthwith. But 
the vessel was subject to the orders of Lord Lou- 
doun, newly appointed governor of the Province of 
New York, and a sort of military over-lord over all 
the governors, assemblies, and people of the 
American provinces. His mission was to organize, 
to introduce system and submission, and above all 
else to overawe. But he was no man for the task ; 
not because his lordship was not a dominant char- 
acter, but because he was wholly unfit to transact 
business. Franklin tried some negotiations with 
him, and got no satisfaction or conclusion. 
1 Bancroft, Hist. U. S., iv. 255. 


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

Escaping at last from a detention more tedious, 
if less romantic, than any which ever befell Ulysses, 


Franklin steered for England. The vessel was 
" several times chas'd " by French cruisers, and 
later was actually within a few lengths of being 
wrecked on the Scilly rocks. Franklin wrote to 
his wife that if he were a Roman Catholic he should 
probably vow a chapel to some saint ; but, as he 
was not, he should much like to vow a light-house. 
At length, however, he came safely into Falmouth, 
and on July 27, 1757, arrived in London. 

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

" received me with great civility ; and after some ques- 
tions respecting the present state of affairs in America 
and discourse thereupon, he said to me : ' You Americans 
have wrong ideas of tlie nature of your constitution ; you 
contend that the king's instructions to his governors are 
not laws, and think yourselves at liberty to regard or 
disregard them at your own discretion. But these in- 
structions are not like the pocket instructions given to a 
minister going abroad, for regulating his conduct on some 
trifling point of ceremony. They are first drawn up by 
judges learned in the laws ; they are then considered, 
debated, and perhaps amended, in council, after which 
they are signed by the king. They are then, so far as 
they relate to you, the law of the land, for the king is 
the legislator of the colonies.'' I told his lordship this 
was new doctrine to me. I had always understood from 
our charters that our laws were to be made by our assem- 
blies, to be presented indeed to the king for his royal as- 
sent ; but that being once given, the king could not re- 


peal or alter them. And as the assemblies could not 
make permanent laws without his assent, so neither 
could he make a law for them without theirs. He assured 
me I was totally mistaken. I did not think so, however ; 
and his lordship's conversation having somewhat alarmed 
me as to what might be the sentiments of the court con- 
cerning us, I wrote it down as soon as I returned to my 
lodgings." ^ 

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

Next came an interview with the proprietaries. 
Each side declared itself disposed towards "rea- 
sonable accommodations ; " but Franklin supposed 
that " each party had its own ideas of what should 
be meant by reasonable^ Nothing came of all 
this palaver ; which only meant that time was be- 
ing wasted to no better purpose than to show that 
the two parties were " very wide, and so far from 
each other in [their] opinions as to discourage all 
hope of agreement." But this had long been evi- 
dent. The lawyer of the proprietaries was then 

1 Works, i. 295, 296 ; see also an account, substantially the 
same, in letter to Bowdoin, January 13, 1772. 


put forward. He was a " proud, angry man," with 
a " mortal enmity " toward Franklin ; for the two 
had exchanged buffets more than once already, and 
the " proud angry man " had been hit hard. It 
had been his professional duty, as counsel for the 
Penns, to prepare many papers to be used by their 
governor in the course of their quarrels with the 
Assembly. It had usually fallen to Franklin's lot 
to draft the replies of the Assembly, and by Frank- 
lin's own admission these documents of his, like 
those which they answered, were " often tart and 
sometimes indecently abusive." Franklin now 
found his old antagonist so excited that it seemed 
best to refuse to have any direct dealings with him. 
The proprietaries then put their interests in 
charge of Attorney-General Pratt, afterwards Lord 
Camden, and the Solicitor-General Charles Yorke, 
afterward Lord Chancellor. These legal lumina- 
ries consumed " a year, wanting eight days " before 
they were in a condition to impart light ; and dur- 
ing that period Franklin could of course achieve 
nothing with the proprietaries. After all, the pro- 
prietaries ignored and insulted him, and made 
further delay by sending a message to the Assem- 
bly of Pennsylvania, wherein they complained of 
Franklin's " rudeness," and professed themselves 
" willing to accommodate matters," if a " person 
of candour " should be sent to treat with them. 
The only reply to their message came in the pointed 
and intelligible shape of an act " taxing the pro- 
prietary estate in common with the estates of the 


people." Much disturbed, the proprietaries now 
obtained a hearing before the king in council. 
They requested his majesty to set aside this tax 
act, and several other acts which had been passed 
within two years by the Assembly. Of these other 
acts some were repealed, according to the prayer of 
the proprietaries ; but more were allowed to stand. 
These were, however, of comparatively little conse- 
quence ; the overshadowing grievance for the Penns 
lay in this taxation of their property. Concerning 
this it was urged by their counsel that the pro- 
prietaries were held in such odium by the people 
that, if left to the popular " mercy in apportioning 
the taxes, they would be ruined." The other side, 
of course, vehemently denied that there was the 
slightest ground for such a susjiicion. 

In June, 1760, the board of trade rendered a 
report very unfavorable to the Assembly. Their 
language showed that they had been much affected 
by the appearance of popular encroachments, and 
by the allegations of an intention on the part of 
the colonists " to establish a democracy in place of 
his majesty's government." Their advice was to 
bring " the constitution back to its proper princi- 
ples ; to restore to the crown, in the person of 
the proprietaries, its just prerogative ; to check the 
growing influence of assemblies, by distinguishing, 
what they are perpetually confounding, the execu- 
tive from the legislative power." News of this 
alarming document reached Franklin just as he 
was about to start upon a trip through Ireland. 


It put an end to that pleasure ; he had to set to 
work on the moment, with all the zeal and by all 
the means he could compass, to counteract this 
fulmination. Just how he achieved so difficult an 
end is not recorded; but it appears that he suc- 
ceeded in securing a further hearing, in the pro- 
gress of which Lord Mansfield " rose, and beckon- 
ing me, took me into the clerk's chambers, . . . 
and asked me, if I was really of opinion that no 
injury would be done to the proprietary estate 
in the execution of the act. I said : Certainly. 
'Then,' says he, 'you can have little objection to 
enter into an engagement to assure that point.' 
I answered : None at all." Thereupon a paper of 
this purport, binding personally upon Franklin 
and upon Mr. Charles, the resident agent of the 
Province, was drawn up, and was duly executed by 
them both ; and on August 28th the lords filed an 
amended report, in which they said that the act 
taxing the proprietary estates upon a common 
basis with those of other owners was " fundamen- 
tally wrong and unjust and ought to be repealed, 
unless six certain amendments were made therein." 
These amendments were, in substance, the under- 
takings entered into in the bond of the colonial 
agents. Franklin soon afterward had occasion to 
review this whole business. He showed that of the 
six amendments, five were immaterial, since they 
only expressed with greater clearness the intent of 
the Assembly. He admitted that the sixth was of 
more consequence. It seems that ^100,000 had 


been voted, appropriated, raised and, expended, 
chiefly for the defense of the colony. The manner 
of doing this was to issue paper money to this 
amount, to make it legal tender, and then to retire 
it by the proceeds of the tax levy. The proprie- 
taries insisted that they could not be compelled to 
receive their rents in this money, and the lords 
now found for them. Franklin acknowledged that 
herein perhaps the lords were right and the As- 
sembly wrong ; but he added this scathing para- 
graph : — 

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

This was, however, altogether a subordinate issue. 


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

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

This committee reported that — 

" there has not been any injustice done to the proprie- 
taries, or attempts made to rate or assess any part of 
their estates higher than the estates of the like kind be- 
longing to the inhabitants are rated and assessed ; but, 


on the contrary, . . . their estates are rated, in many 
instances, below others." 
So the matter ended. 

Franklin had been detained a little more than 
three years about this business. At its conclusion 
he anticipated a speedy return home ; but he had 
to stay yet two years more to attend to sundry 
matters smaller in importance, but which were ad- 
vanced almost as slowly. Partly such delay was 
because the aristocrats of the board of trade and 
the privy council had not the habits of business 
men, but consulted their own noble convenience in 
the transaction of affairs; and partly it was be- 
cause procrastination was purposely employed by 
his opponents, who harassed him and blocked his 
path by every obstacle, direct and indirect, which 
they could put in his way. For they seemed to 
hope for some turn in affairs, some event, or some 
too rapid advance of the popular party in America, 
which should arouse the royal resentment against 
the colonists and so militate on their side. Delay 
was easily brought about by them. They had 
money, connections, influence, and that familiarity 
with men and ways which came from their residence 
in England ; while Franklin, a stranger on an un- 
popular errand, representing before an aristocratic 
government a parcel of tradespeople and farmers 
who lived in a distant land and were charged with 
being both niggardly and disaffected, found that 
he could make only difficult and uncertain progress. 
He was like one who sails a race not only against 


hostile winds and tides, but also in strange waters 
where the shoals and rocks are unknown, and where 
invisible currents ceaselessly baffle his course. 
His lack of personal importance hampered him ex- 
asperatingly. Thus during his prolonged stay he 
repeatedly made every effort in his power to obtain 
an audience of William Pitt. But not even for 
once could he succeed. A provincial agent, en- 
gaged in a squabble about taxing proprietary lands, 
was too small a man upon too small a business to 
consume the precious time of the great prime min- 
ister, who was endeavoring to dominate the embroil- 
ments and intrigues of all Europe, to say nothing 
of the machinations of his opponents at home. So 
the subalterns of Mr. Pitt met Franklin, heard 
what he had to say, sifted it through the sieve of 
their own discretion, and bore to the ears of their 
principal only such compends as they thought 
worthy of attention. 

But the vexation of almost endless delay had its 
alleviations, apparently much more than enough to 
offset it. Early in September, 1757, that is to say 
some five or six weeks after his landing, Franklin 
was taken very ill of an intermittent fever, which 
lasted for eight weeks. During his convalescence 
he wrote to his wife that the agreeable conversa- 
tion of men of learning, and the notice taken of 
him by persons of distinction, soothed him under 
this painful absence from family and friends ; yet 
these solaces would not hold him there another 
week, were it not for duty to his country and the 


hope of being able to do it service. But after the 
early homesickness wore off, a great attachment for 
England took its place. He found himself a man 
of note among scientists there, who gave him a 
ready welcome and showed a courteous and flatter- 
ing recognition of his high distinction in their pur- 
suits. Thence it was easy to penetrate into the 
neighboring circle of literature, wherein he made 
warm personal friends, such as Lord Kames, David 
Hume, Dr. Robertson, and others. From time to 
time he was a guest at many a pleasant country 
seat, and at the universities. He found plenty of 
leisure, too, for travel, and explored the United 
Kingdom very thoroughly. When he went to Ed- 
inburgh he was presented with the freedom of the 
city ; and the University of St. Andrews conferred 
on him the degree of Doctor of Laws ; later, Ox- 
ford did the same. He even had time for a trip 
into the Low Countries. As months and finally 
years slipped away, with just enough of occupation 
of a dignified character to save him from an annoy- 
ing sense of idleness, with abundant opportunities 
for social pleasure, and with a very gratifying defer- 
ence shown towards himself, Franklin, who liked 
society and did not dislike flattery, began to think 
the mother country no such bad place. For an in- 
tellectual and social career London certainly had 
advantages over Philadelphia. Mr. Strahan, the 
well-known publisher of those days, whom Franklin 
used affectionately to caU Straney, became his close 
friend, and was very insistent with him that he 


should leave the Provinces and take up a permanent 
residence in England. He baited his hook with 
an offer of his son in marriage with Franklin's 
daughter Sarah. He had never seen Sarah, but he 
seems to have taken it for granted that any child 
of her father must be matrimonially satisfactory. 
Franklin wrote home to his wife that the young 
man was eligible, and that there were abundant 
funds in the Strahan treasury ; but that he did not 
suppose that she would be able to overcome her 
terror of the ocean voyage. Indeed this timidity 
on the part of his wife was more than once put 
forward by him as if it were really the feather 
which turned the scale in the choice of his future 

Franklin himself also was trying his hand at 
match-making. He had taken a great fancy to a 
young lady by the name of Mary Stevenson, with 
whom, when distance prevented their meeting, he 
kept up a constant correspondence concerning points 
of physical science. He now became very pressing 
with his son William to wed this learned maiden ; 
but the young man possibly did not hold a taste for 
science to be the most winning trait in woman ; at 
any rate, having bestowed his affections elsewhere, 
he refused to transfer them. So Franklin was 
compelled to give up his scheme, though with an 
extreme reluctance, which he expressed to the re- 
jected damsel with amusing openness. Had either 
of these matrimonial bonds been made fast, it is 
not improbable that Franklin would have lived out 


the rest of his life as a friend of the colonies in 
England. But his lot was otherwise cast ; a second 
time he escaped, though narrowly, the prospect of 
dying an Englishman and the subject of a king. 
At the moment he was not altogether glad that 
matters worked thus. On August 17, 1762, he 
wrote from Portsmouth to Lord Kames : — 

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

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


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


Every one knew that Canada could outweigh all 
these things fifty times over. But into the Guada- 
loupe scale was dropped a weighty consideration, 
which was clearly stated in an anonymous pam- 
phlet attributed to William Burke. This writer 
said : — 

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

From many other quarters came the same warn- 
ing predictions.^ 

Franklin watched the controversy with deep in- 
terest and no small anxiety. As the argument 
grew heated he could no longer hold his hand ; he 
cast into the Canadian scale an able pamphlet, in- 
1 Bancroft, Hist. U. -S., iv. 363-365. 


gen nous in the main if not in all the details. It is 
not worth wliile to rehearse what he had to say 
upon mercantile points, or even concerning the 
future growth of a great American empire. What 
he had really to encounter was the argument that 
it was sound policy to leave Canada in possession of 
the French. Those who pretended to want Gua- 
daloupe did not so much really want it as they did 
wish to have Canada remain French. To make 
good this latter point they had to show, first, that 
French ownership involved no serious danger to 
the English possessions; second, that it brought 
positive advantages. To the first proposition they 
said that the French had fully learned their lesson 
of inferiority, and that a few forts on the frontier 
would easily overawe the hostile Indians. To the 
second proposition, they elaborated the arguments 
of William Burke. Franklin replied that the war- 
parties of braves would easily pass by the forts in 
the forests, and after burning, pillaging, murder- 
ing, and scalping, would equally easily and safely 
return. Nothing save a Chinese wall the whole 
length of the western frontier would suffice for pro- 
tection against savages. Then, with one of those 
happy illustrations of which he was a master, he 
said: "In short, long experience has taught our 
planters that they cannot rely upon forts as a 
securit)'^ against Indians ; the inhabitants of Hack- 
ney might as well rely upon the Tower of London, 
to secure them against highwaymen and house- 
breakers." The admirable simile could neither be 
answered nor forgotten. 


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

" I shall next consider the other supposition, that their 
growth may render them dangerous. Of this, I own, I 
have not the least conception, when I consider that we 
have already fourteen separate governments on the 
maritime coast of the continent ; and, if we extend our 
settlements, shall probably have as many more behind 
them on the inland side." By reason of the different 
governors, laws, interests, religions and manners of 
these, " their jealousy of each other is so great, that, 
however necessary a union of the colonies has long been, 
for their common defence and security against their 
enemies, and how sensible soever each colony has been 
of that necessity, yet they have never been able to effect 
such a union among themselves, nor even to agree in re- 
questing the mother country to establish it for them." 
If they could not unite for self-defence against the 
French and the murderous savages, " can it reasonably 


be supposed there is any danger of their uniting against 
their own nation, which protects and encourages them, 
with which they have so many connexions and ties of 
blood, interest, and affection, and which, it is well 
known, they all love much more than they love one 
another ? 

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

We read these words, even subject to the mild 
saving of the final sentences, with some bewilder- 
ment. Did their shrewd and well-informed writer 
believe what he said ? Was he casting this polit- 
ical horoscope in good faith? Or was he only 
uttering a prophecy which he desired, if possible, 
and for his own purposes, to induce others to be- 
lieve? If he was in earnest, Attorney - General 
Pratt was a better astrologer. *' For all what you 
Americans say of your loyalty," he said to Franklin, 
" and notwithstanding your boasted affection, you 
will one day set up for independence." *' No such 
idea," said Franklin, *' is entertained by the Amer- 
iiMiis, oi- ever will be, unless you grossly abuse 


them." " Very true," said Pratt; " that I see will 
happen, and will produce the event." ^ Choiseul, 
the able French minister, expressed his wonder that 
the " great Pitt should be so attached to the acqui- 
sition of Canada," which, being in the hands of 
France, would keep the " colonies in that depend- 
ence which they will not fail to shake off the mo- 
ment Canada shall be ceded." ^ Vergennes saw 
the same thing not less clearly ; and so did many 

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

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

1 Bancroft, Hist. U. S., iv. 380. 

2 Ibid., iv. 399. 


Whatever regret Franklin may have felt at not 
being able to remain in England was probably 
greatly mitigated if not entirely dissipated by the 
cordial reception which he met with at home. On 
December 2, 1762, he wrote to Strahan that the 
reports of the diminution of his friends were all 
false ; that ever since his arrival his house had 
been full of a succession of them from morning 
till night, congratulating him on his return. The 
Assembly honored him with a vote of thanks, and 
also voted him X3,000 towards defraying his ex- 
penses. It was, of course, much less than he had 
expended during an absence of nearly six years ; 
but it seems that he considered that, since much of 
his time had been passed in the enjoyment of an 
agreeable leisure, he should bear a corresponding 
part of the expense. While on the sea he had 
been chosen unanimously, as indeed had been done 
in each year of his absence, a member of that 
body ; and he was told that, if he had not got so 
privately into town, he should have been met by 
an escort of 500 horsemen. All this must have 
been very gratifying. 

A different kind of tribute, somewhat indirect, 
but none the less intelligible, was at the same time 
paid to him by the British government. In the 
autumn of 1762 his illegitimate son, William 
Franklin, was appointed governor of New Jersey. 
This act created a g-reat storm of wrath from some 
of the provincial aristocratic party, and was vehe- 
mently railed at as an " indignity," a " dishonor 


and disgrace," an " insult." After all, it failed of 
its obvious purpose. The government shot brought 
down the wrong bird, common carrion, while the 
one aimed at never swerved in the slightest from 
his course. William, whom no one cared for in 
the least, became a confirmed royalist, and ulti- 
mately, as a Tory refugee, for years continued to 
absorb a pension for which he could return no 
adequate consideration. So far as Benjamin 
Franklin was concerned, he was at first much 
pleased ; but his political views and course were 
not in the slightest degree affected. On the con- 
trary, as the scheme developed, and the influence 
on the younger man became apparent, the final re- 
sult was an alienation between father and son, 
which was only partially healed so late as 1784, 
just before the former returned from Europe for 
the last time. 



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

His first labor in the provinces came in the shape 
of a journey about the country to supervise and 
regulate the postal business. Upon this errand he 
went 1,600 miles, which was no slight matter as 
travel was conducted in those days. He started 
in the spring of 1763, and did not get back until 
November. Upon his return he found himself at 


once immersed in public affairs. In October, 1763, 
Governor Hamilton was superseded by John Penn, 
nephew of the proprietary Thomas Penn. 

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

Moreover, the first event of public importance 
after Governor Penn's advent had, in its early 
stage, the effect of drawing him very closely to 
Franklin. Some of the settlers on the frontier, 
infuriated beyond the control of reason by the In- 
dian marauding parties, gathered together for the 
purpose of slaughter. If they had directed their 
vengeance against the braves, and even all the 
occupants of the villages of the wilderness, they 
might have been excused though their vindictive 


rage led them to retaliate by the same barbarities 
which the red men had practiced towards the whites. 
Unfortunately, instead of courageously turning 
their faces towards the forests, they turned their 
backs in that direction, where only there was any 
enemy to be feared, and in a safe expedition they 
wreaked a deadly, senseless, cowardly, and brutal 
vengeance on an unoffending group of twenty old 
men, women and children, living peacefully and 
harmlessly near Lancaster. The infamous story is 
familiar in the annals of Pennsylvania, as the 
"Paxton massacre," because the "Paxton boys," 
the perpetrators, came from the Scotch-Irish set- 
tlement bearing that name. 

Franklin's indignation was great, and he ex- 
pressed it forcibly in a pamphlet. But many, 
even of the class which should have felt with 
him, were in such a temper that they would 
condemn no act done against an Indian. En- 
couraged by the prevalence of this feeling, this 
same band, swelled to a numerous and really for- 
midable force, had the audacity to start for Phila- 
delphia itself, with the avowed purpose of massa- 
cring there a small body of civilized Christian In- 
dians, who had fled thither for safety under the 
charge of their Moravian missionary, and against 
whom not a complaint could be made. Panic 
reigned in the City of Brotherly Love, little com- 
petent to cope with imminent violence. In the 
crisis citizens and governor could conceive no more 
hopeful scheme than an appeal to Franklin, which 


was made at once and urgently. The governor 
himself actually took up his residence in Franklin's 
house, and stayed there till the threat of trouble 
passed over, speaking, writing, and ordering only 
at Franklin's dictation — a course which had in it 
more of sense than of dignity. The appeal was 
made in the right quarter. Already profoundly 
moved in this matter, Franklin was prompt and 
zealous to save his city from a shameful act, and 
the Indians from barbarous murder. His efforts 
soon gathered, and after a fashion organized, a body 
of defenders probably somewhat more numerous 
than the approaching mob. Yet a collision would 
have been most unfortunate, whatever the result ; 
and to avert it Franklin took it upon him to go in 
person to meet the assailants. His courage, cool- 
ness, and address prevailed ; he succeeded in satis- 
fying the *' Paxton boys " that they were so greatly 
outnumbered, that, far from attacking others, they 
could only secure their own safety by instant dis- 
persion. Thus by the resources and presence of 
mind of one man Philadelphia was saved from a 
day of which the bloody stain could never have 
been effaced from her good fame. 

But Franklin seemed for a while to reap more 
of hostility than of gratitude for his gallant and 
honorable conduct in this emergency. Governor 
Penn was an ignoble man, and after the danger was 
over he left the house, in which he had certainly 
played a rather ignominious part, with those feel- 
ings toward his host which a small soul inevitably 


cherishes toward a greater under such circum- 
stances. Moreover, there were very many among 
the people who had more of sympathy with the 
" Paxton boys " than with the wise and humane 
man who had thwarted them. " For about forty- 
eight hours," Franklin wrote to one of his friends, 
" I was a very great man ; " but after " the fight- 
ing face we put on " caused the insurgents to turn 
back, " I became a less man than ever ; for I had, 
by this transaction, made myself many enemies 
among the populace," a fact of which the governor 
speedily took advantage. But without this episode 
enmity between Penn and Franklin was inevitable. 
They served masters whose ends were wide apart ; 
upon the one side avaricious proprietaries of little 
foresight and judgment, upon the other side a peo- 
ple jealous of their rights and unwilling to leave to 
any one else the definition and interpretation of 

Soon it became known that the instructions of 
the new governor differed in no substantial particu- 
lar from those of his predecessors. The procession 
of vetoes upon the acts of the Assembly resumed 
its familiar and hateful march. A militia bill was 
thus cut off, because, instead of leaving with the 
governor the nomination of regimental officers, it 
stipulated that the rank and file should name three 
persons for each position, and that the governor 
should choose one of these, — an arrangement bad 
in itself, but perhaps well suited to the habits and 
even the needs of the Province at that time. A tax 


bill met the like fate, because it did not discriminate 
in favor of the located lands of the proprietaries by 
rating their best lands at no higher valuation than 
the worst lands of other persons. Soon it was 
generally felt that matters were as bad as ever, and 
with scantier chances of improvement. Then " all 
the old wounds broke out and bled afresh ; all the 
old grievances, still unredressed, were recollected ; 
despair succeeded of seeing any peace with a family 
that could make such returns to all overtures of 
kindness." The aggrieved party revived its scheme 
for a transfer of the government from the proprie- 
taries to the crown, and Franklin threw himself 
into the discussion with more of zeal and ardor 
than he had often shown. 

While the debates upon this subject waxed hot 
in the Assembly, it was moved and carried that 
that body should adjourn for a few weeks, in order 
that members might consult their constituents and 
sound the public feeling. During this recess it 
may be conceived that neither side was slack in its 
efforts. Franklin for his share contributed a pam- 
phlet, entitled " Cool Thoughts on the Present 
Situation of our Public Affairs." "Mischievous 
and distressing," he said, as the frequent disputes 
" have been found to both proprietaries and peo- 
ple, it does not appear that there is any prospect 
of their being extinguished, till either the proprie- 
tary purse is unable to support them, or the spirit 
of the people so broken that they shall be willing 
to submit to anything rather than continue them." 


With a happy combination of shrewdness and 
moderation he laid the blame upon the intrinsic na- 
ture o£ a proprietary government. " For though it 
is not unlikely that in these as well as in other dis- 
putes there are faults on both sides, every glowing 
coal being apt to inflame its opposite ; yet I see no 
reason to suppose that all proprietary rulers are 
worse men than other rulers, nor that all people in 
proprietary governments are worse people than those 
in other governments. I suspect, therefore, that 
the cause is radical, interwoven in the constitution, 
and so become the very nature, of proprietary 
governments ; and wiU therefore produce its effects 
as long as such governments continue." It indi- 
cated a broad and able mind, and one well under 
control, to assume as a basis this dispassionate 
assertion of a general principle, amid such personal 
heats as were then inflaming the passions of the 
whole community. His conclusion held one of his 
admirable similes which had the force of argument ; 
" There seems to remain then but one remedy for 
our evils, a remedy approved by experience, and 
which has been tried with success by other prov- 
inces ; I mean that of an immediate Royal Gov- 
ernment^ without the intervention of proprietary 
powers, which, like unnecessary springs and move- 
ments in a machine, are so apt to produce dis- 

Further, he held out a bait to the crown : — 
"The expression, change of government, seems indeed 
to be too extensive, and is apt to give the idea of a 


general and total change of our laws and constitution. 
It is rather and only a change of governor — that is, in- 
stead of self-interested proprietaries, a gracious king. 
His majesty, who has no views but for the good of the 
people, will thenceforth appoint the governor, who, un- 
shackled by proprietary instructions, will be at liberty 
to join with the Assembly in enacting wholesome laws. 
At present, when the king desires supplies of his faithful 
subjects, and they are willing and desirous to grant them, 
the proprietaries intervene and say : ' Unless our private 
interests in certain particulars are served, nothing shall 
be done.'' This insolent tribunal veto has long encum- 
bered our public affairs and been productive of many 

He then drew a petition " to the king's most ex- 
cellent majesty in council," which humbly showed 
"That the government of this Province by pro- 
prietaries has, by long experience, been found in- 
convenient, attended by many difficulties and ob- 
structions to your majesty's service, arising from 
the intervention of proprietary private interests in 
public affairs, and disputes concerning those inter- 
ests. That the said proprietary government is weak, 
unable to support its own authority, and maintain 
the common internal peace of the Province ; great 
riots have lately arisen therein. . . . And these 
evils are not likely to receive any remedy here, the 
continual disputes between the proprietaries and 
people, and their mutual jealousies and dislikes, 
preventing." Wherefore his majesty was asked 
to be " graciously pleased to resume the govern- 


ment of this Province, . . . permitting your duti- 
ful subjects therein to enjoy, under your majesty's 
more immediate care and protection, the privileges 
that have been granted to them by and under your 
royal predecessors." 

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

Another paper by Franklin upon the same sub- 
ject, and of considerable length, appeared in the 
shape of a preface to a speech delivered in the As- 
sembly by Joseph Galloway in answer to a speech 
on the proprietary side by John Dickinson, which 
speech, also with a long preface, had been printed. 
In this pamphlet he reviewed all the recent history 
of the Province. He devoted several pages to a 
startling exposition of the almost incredible usage 
which had long prevailed, whereby bills were left 
to accumulate on the governor's table, and then 
were finally signed by him in a batch, only upon 
condition that he should receive, or even sometimes 
upon his simultaneously receiving, a considerable 
douceur. Not only had this been connived at by 
the proprietaries, but sometimes these payments 
had been shared between the proprietaries and the 


governors. This topic Franklin finally dismissed 
with a few lines of admirable sarcasm ; " Do not, 
my courteous reader, take pet at our proprietary 
constitution for these our bargain and sale proceed- 
ings in legislation. It is a happy country where 
justice, and what was your own before, can be had 
for ready money. It is another addition to the 
value of money, and, of course, another spur to in- 
dustry. Every land is not so blessed." Many 
quotations from this able state paper have already 
been made in the preceding pages, though it is so 
brilliant a piece of work that to quote is only to 
mutilate. Its argument, denunciation, humor, and 
satire are interwoven in a masterly combination. 
The renowned " sketch in the lapidary style," pre- 
pared for the gravestone of Thomas and Richard 
Penn, with the introductory paragraphs, constitutes 
one of the finest assaults in political literature.^ It 
is unfortunately impossible to give any adequate 
idea or even abstract of a document which covers 
so much ground and with such variety of treat- 
ment. It had of course a powerful effect in stimu- 
lating the public sentiment, and it was especially 
useful in supplying formidable arguments to those 
of the popular way of thinking ; drawing their 
weapons from this armory, they felt themselves 

But it must not be supposed that all this while 
Franklin was treading the velvet path of universal 

1 Franklin's animosity against the Penns was mitigated in later 
years. See Franklin's Works, viii. 273. 


popularity, amid the unanimous encouragement of 
his fellow-citizens, and with only the frowns of the 
proprietary officials to disturb his serenity. By 
one means and another the proprietaries mustered 
a considerable party in the Province, and the hatred 
of all these men was concentrated upon Franklin 
with extreme bitterness. He said that he was " as 
much the butt of party rage and malice," and was 
as much pelted with hostile prints and pamphlets, 
as if he were prime minister. Neither was the no- 
tion of a royal government looked upon with liking 
even by all those who were indignant against the 
present system. Moreover many persons still re- 
mained ill-disposed towards him by reason of his 
opinions and behavior during the Paxton outbreak. 
The combination against him, made up of all these 
various elements, felt itself powerful enough for 
mischief, and found its opportunity in the election 
to the Assembly occurring in the autumn of 1764. 
The polls were opened on October 1, at nine 
o'clock in the morning. The throng was dense, and 
the column of voters could move but slowly. At 
three o'clock of the following morning, the voting 
having continued during the night, the friends of 
the " new ticket," that is to say of the new candi- 
date, moved to close the polls. The friends of the 
"old ticket" opposed this motion and unfortu- 
nately prevailed. They had a " reserve of the aged 
and lame," who had shunned the crowd and were 
now brought in chairs and litters. Thus in three 
hours they increased their score by some two hun- 


dred votes. But the other side was not less enter- 
prising, and devoting the same extension of time to 
scouring Germantown and other neighborhoods, 
they brought in near five hundred additional votes 
upon their side. It was apparently this strange 
blunder of the political managers for the " old 
ticket " party that was fatal to Franklin, for when 
the votes were all counted he was found to be beaten 
by a balance against him of twenty-five. He had 
therefore evidently had a majority at the hour 
when his friends prevented the closing of the polls. 
He " died like a philosopher. But Mr. Galloway 
agonized in death like a Mortal Deist, who has no 
Hopes of a Future Existence." ^ 

But the jubilation of the proprietary party over 
this signal victory was soon changed into mourning. 
For within a few days the new Assembly was in 
session, and at once took into consideration the ap- 
pointment of Dr. Franklin as its agent to pre- 
sent to the king in council another petition for a 
royal government. The wrath of the other side 
blazed forth savagely. "No measure," their leader, 
Dickinson, said, was " so likely to inflame the re- 
sentments and embitter the discontents of the peo- 
ple." He " appealed to the heart of every member 
for the truth of the assertion that no man in Penn- 
sylvania is at this time so much the object of public 
dislike as he that has been mentioned. To what 
a surprising height this dislike is carried among 

' Parton's Life of Franklin, i. 451, quoting Life of Joseph Eeccf, 
i. 37. 


vast numbers " he did " not choose to repeat." He 
said that within a few hours of the nomination 
hundreds of the most reputable citizens had pro- 
tested, and if time were given thousands " would 
crowd to present the like testimony against [him]. 
Why then should a majority of this House single 
out from the whole world the man most obnoxious 
to his country to represent his country, though he 
was at the last election turned out of the Assem- 
bly, where he had sat for fourteen years ? Why 
should they exert their power in the most disgust- 
ing manner, and throw pain, terror, and displeasure 
into the breasts of their fellow-citizens ? " The ex- 
cited orator then threw out a suggestion to which 
this vituperation had hardly paved a way of roses ; 
he actually appealed to Franklin to emulate Aris- 
tides, and not be worse than " the dissolute 
Otho," and to this end urged that he should dis- 
tinguish himself in the eyes of all good men by 
" voluntarily declining an office which he could not 
accept without alarming, offending, and disturbing 
his country.'' "Let him, from a private station, 
from a smaller sphere, diffuse, as I think he may, a 
beneficial light ; but let him not be made to move 
and blaze like a comet, to terrify and to distress." ^ 
The popular majority in the Assembly withstood 
Mr. Dickinson's rhetoric, and, to quote the forcible 
language of Bancroft, " proceeded to an act which in 
its consequences was to influence the world." That 
is to say, they carried the appointment. Franklin 

1 Partou's Life of Franklin^ i. 451, 452. 


likewise set aside Dickinson's seductive counsels, 
and accepted the position. 

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

1 See, for example, Franklin's Works, iii. 361, 362. 



Franklin so hastened his preparations that he 
was ready to depart again for England in twelve 
days after his election. There was no money in 
the provincial treasury ; but some of the well-to-do 
citizens, in expectation of reimbursement, raised 
by subscription .£1,100. He took only X500. A 
troop of three hundred mounted citizens escorted 
him from the city sixteen miles down the river to 
the ship, and " filled the sails with their good 
wishes." This parade, designed only as a friendly 
demonstration, was afterward made a charge against 
him, as an assumption of pomp and a display of 
popularity. If it had been deliberately planned, 
it would have been ill-advised ; but it took him by 
surprise, and he could not prevent it. The ship 
cast anchor in St. Helen's Road, Isle of Wight, on 
December 9, 1764. He forthwitli hastened to Lon- 
don, and installed himself in tlie familiar rooms 
at No. 7 Craven Street, Strand. In Philadelphia, 
when the news came of the safe arrival of this 
" man the most obnoxious to his country," the 
citizens kept the bells ringing until midnight. 

So altogether the prospect now seemed agree- 


able in whatever direction Dr. Franklin chose to 
look. He was in quarters in which he was at least 
as much at home as he could feel in his house at 
Philadelphia; Mrs. Stevenson, his landlady, and 
her daughter Mary, whom he had sought to per- 
suade his son to marry, upon the excellent ground 
of his own great affection for her, not only made 
him comfortable but saved him from homesickness ; 
old and warm friends welcomed him ; the pleasures 
of London society again spread their charms be- 
fore him. Without the regrets and doubts which 
must have attended the real emigration which he 
had been half inclined to make, he seemed to be 
reaping all the gratification which that could have 
brought him. At the same time he had also the 
pride of receiving from the other side of the Atlan- 
tic glowing accounts of the esteem in which he was 
held by a controlling body of those who were still 
his fellow-citizens there. But already there had 
shown itself above the horizon a cloud which rap- 
idly rose, expanded, and obscured all this fair sky. 
Franklin came to England in the anticipation of 
a short stay, and with no purpose beyond the pres- 
entation and urging of the petition for the change 
of government. Somewhat less than ten months, 
he thought, would suffice to finish this business. In 
fact, he did not get home for ten years, and this 
especial errand, which had seemed all that he had 
to do, soon sank into such comparative insignifi- 
cance that, though not actually forgotten, it could 
not secure attention. He conscientiously made re- 


peated efforts to keep the petition in the memory 
of the English ministry, and to obtain action upon 
it ; but his efforts were vain ; that body was ab- 
sorbed by other affairs in connection with the 
troublesome American colonies, — affairs which gave 
vastly more perplexity and called for much more 
attention than were becoming in the case of prov- 
inces that should have been submissive as well- 
behaved children. Franklin himself found his own 
functions correspondingly enlarged. Instead of re- 
maining simply an agent charged with urging a 
petition which brought him in conflict only with 
private persons, like himself subjects of the king, 
he found his position rapidly change and develop 
until he became really the representative of a dis- 
affected people maintaining a cause against the 
monarch and the government of the great British 
Empire. It was the " Stamp Act " which effected 
this transformation. 

Scarcely had the great war with France been 
brought to a close by the treaty of 1763, bringing 
such enormous advantages to the old British pos- 
sessions in America, before it became apparent 
that among the fruits some were mingled that were 
neither sweet nor nourishing. The war had moved 
the colonies into a perilous foreground. Their in- 
terests had cost much in men and money, and had 
been worth all that they had cost, and more ; the 
benefits conferred upon them had been immense, 
yet were recognized as not being in excess of their 
real importance, present and future. Worst of all, 


the masrnitude of their financial resources had been 
made apparent ; without a murmur, without visible 
injury to their prosperity, they had voluntarily 
raised large sums by taxation. Meanwhile the 
English treasury had been put to enormous charges, 
and the English people groaned beneath the un- 
wonted tax burdens which they had to bear. The 
attention of British financiers, even before the war 
was over, was turned toward the colonies, as a field 
of which the productive capacity had never been 

So soon as peace brought to the government 
leisure to adjust domestic matters in a thorough 
manner, the scheme for colonial taxation came to 
the front. " America . , . became the great sub- 
ject of consideration ; . . . and the minister who 
was charged with its government took the lead in 
public business." ^ This minister v/as at first 
Charles Townshend, than whom no man in Eng- 
land, it was supposed, knew more of the transat- 
lantic possessions. His scheme involved a standing 
army of 25,000 men in the provinces, to be sup- 
ported by taxes to be raised there. In order to 
obtain this revenue he first gave his care to the 
revision of the navigation act. Duties which had 
been so high that they had never been collected he 
now proposed to reduce and to enforce. This was 
designed to be only the first link in the chain, but 
before he could forge others he had to go out of 
office with the Bute ministry. The change in the 
1 Bancroft, Hist. U. S., iv. 28. 


cabinet, however, made no change in the colonial 
policy ; that was not " the wish of this man or that 
man," but apparently of nearly all English states- 

So in March, 1763, George Grenville, in the 
treasury department, took up the plan which Town- 
shend had laid down. Grenville was commer- 
cially-minded, and his first efforts were in the di- 
rection of regulating the trade of the colonies so 
as to carry out with much more stringency and 
thoroughness than heretofore three principles : first, 
that England should be the only shop in which a 
colonist could purchase; second, that colonists 
should not make for themselves those articles which 
England had to sell to them ; third, that the people 
of different colonies should not trade with each 
other even to the indirect or possible detriment of 
the trade of either with England. Severely as 
these restrictions bore upon the colonists, they were 
of that character, as relating to external trade, 
which no colonist denied to lie within the jurisdic- 
tion of Parliament. But they were not enough ; 
they must be supplemented ; and a stamp act was 
designed as the supplement. On March 9, 1764, 
Grenville stated his intention to introduce such a 
bill at the next session ; he needed the interval for 
inquiries and preparation. It was no very novel 
idea. It " had been proposed to Sir Robert Wal- 
pole ; it had been thought of by Pelham ; it had 
been almost resolved upon in 1755 ; it had been 
pressed upon Pitt; it seems, beyond a doubt, to 


have been a part of the system adopted in the 
ministry of Bute, and it was sure of the support of 
Charles Townshend. Knox, the agent of Georgia, 
stood ready to defend it. . . . The agent of Massa- 
chusetts favored raising the wanted money in that 
way." Little opposition was anticipated in Parlia- 
ment, and none from the king. In short, " every- 
body, who reasoned on the subject, decided for a 
stamp tax." ^ Never did any bill of any legisla- 
ture seem to come into being with better auspices. 
Some among the colonial agents certainly expressed 
ill feeling towards it ; but Grenville silenced them, 
telling them that he was acting " from a real regard 
and tenderness " towards the Americans. He said 
this in perfect good faith. His views both of the 
law and of the reasons for the law were intelligent 
and honest ; he had carefully gathered information 
and sought advice ; and he had a profound belief 
alike in the righteousness and the wisdom of the 

News of what was in preparation in England 
reached Pennsylvania in the summer of 1764, 
shortly before Franklin sailed. The Assembly 
debated concerning it ; Franklin was prominent in 
condemning the scheme ; and a resolution protest- 
ing against it was passed. It was made part of 
Franklin's duty in London to urge upon Grenville 
these views of Pennsylvania. But when he arrived 
he found that the grinding at the mills of govern- 
ment was going on much too evenly to be disturbed 
1 Bancroft, Hist. U. S., iv. 155. 


by the introduction of any such insignificant foreign 
substance as a colonial protest. Nevertheless he 
endeavored to do what he could. In company with 
three other colonial agents he had an interview 
with Grenville, February 2, 1765, in which he urged 
that taxation by act of Parliament was needless, 
inasmuch as any requisition for the service of the 
king always had found, and always would find, a 
prompt and liberal response on the part of the 
Assembly. Arguments, however, and protests 
struck ineffectually against the solid wall of Gren- 
ville's established purpose. He listened with a civil 
appearance of interest and dismissed his visitors 
and all memory of their arguments together. On 
the 13th of the same month he read the bill 
in Parliament ; on the 27th it passed the Com- 
mons ; on March 8th, the Lords ; and on March 
22d it was signed by a royal commission ; the 
insanity of the king saved him from placing his 
own signature to the ill - starred law. In July 
Franklin wrote to Charles Thomson : — 

" Depend upon it, my good neighbor, I took every 
step in my power to prevent the passing of tlie Stamp 
Act. Nobody could be more concerned and interested 
than myself to oppose it sincerely and heartily. But the 
tifle was too strong against us. The nation was provoked 
by American claims of independence, and all parties 
joined in resolving by this act to settle the point. We 
might as well have hindered the sun's setting. That we 
could not do. But since it is down, my friend, and it 
may be long before it rises again, let us make as good a 


night of it as we can. We can still light candles. Fru- 
gality and industry will go a great way towards indem- 
nifying us. Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand 
than kings and parliaments. If we can get rid of the 
former, we may easily bear the latter." 

In such a temper was he at this time, and so re- 
mained until he got news of the first mutterings of 
the storm in the colonies. His words show a dis- 
couragement and despondency unusual with him ; 
but what attracts remark is the philosophical pur- 
pose to make the best even of so bad a business, 
the hopeless absence of any suggestion of a further 
opposition, and that his only advice is patient en- 
durance. Unquestionably he did conceive the mat- 
ter to be for the time settled. The might of Eng- 
land was an awful fact, visible all around him ; he 
felt the tremendous force of the great British peo- 
ple ; and he saw their immense resources every day 
as he walked the streets of busy, prosperous Lon- 
don. As he recalled the infant towns and scattered 
villages of the colonies, how could he contemplate 
forcible resistance to an edict of Parliament and 
the king ? Had Otis, Adams, Henry, Gadsden, and 
the rest seen with their bodily eyes what Franklin 
was seeing every day, their words might have been 
more tempered. Even a year later, in talk with a 
gentleman who said that so far back as 1741 he 
had expressed an opinion that the colonies " would 
one day release themselves from England," Frank- 
lin answered, " with his earnest, expressive, and 
intelligent face : " '" Then you were mistaken ; the 


Americans have too much love for their mother 
country ; " and he added that " secession was im- 
possible, for all the American towns of importance, 
Boston, New York, and Philadelphia, were exposed 
to the English navy. Boston could be destroyed 
by bombardment." Near the same time he said to 
IngersoU of Connecticut, who was about departing 
for the colonies : " Go home and tell your country- 
men to get children as fast as they can." By no 
means without forebodings for the future, he was 
yet far from fancying that the time had come when 
physical resistance was feasible. It seemed still 
the day for arguments, not for menaces. 

To Franklin in this frame of mind, never doubt- 
ing that the act would be enforced, there was 
brought a plausible message from Grenville. The 
minister desired " to make the execution of the act 
as little inconvenient and disagreeable to America 
as possible," and to this end he preferred to nomi- 
nate as stamp distributers " discreet and reputa- 
ble " residents in the Province, rather than to send 
over strangers from Great Britain. Accordingly 
he solicited a nomination from Franklin of some 
" honest and responsible " man in Philadelphia. 
Franklin readily named a trustworthy merchant of 
his acquaintance, Mr. Hughes. The Stamp Act 
itself hardly turned out a greater blunder for Gren- 
ville than this well-meant suggestion was near turn- 
ing out for Franklin. When the Philadelphians 
got news of the passage of the act, the prepara- 
tions for its enforcement, the nomination of Mr. 


Hughes, and the fact that he had been suggested 
by Franklin, the whole city rose in a wild frenzy 
of rage. Never was such a sudden change of feel- 
ing. He who had been their trusted companion 
was now loudly reviled as a false and truckling 
traitor. He was said to have deserted his own, and 
to have gone over to the minister's side; to have 
approved the odious law, and to have asked that a 
position under it might be ^iven to his friend. The 
mobs ranging the streets threatened to destroy the 
new house, in which he had left his wife and daugh- 
ter. The latter was persuaded to seek safety in 
Burlington ; but Mrs. Franklin, with admirable 
courage, stayed in the house till the danger was 
over. Some armed friends stood ready to assist if 
the crisis should come, but fortunately it passed by. 
All sorts of stories were spread concerning Frank- 
lin, — even that it was he who had ''''planned the 
Stamp Act ; " and that he was endeavoring also to 
get the Test Act introduced into the colonies ! A 
caricature represented the devil whispering into his 
ear : " Ben, you shall be my agent throughout my 

Knowing Franklin's frame of mind, it is easy to 
fancy the surprise with which he learned of the 
spirit which had blazed forth in the colonies, and 
of the violent doings in many places ; and we may 
imagine the pain and mortification with which he 
heard of the opinions expressed by his fellow-citi- 
zens concerning his own action. He said little at 
the time, so far as we know ; but many years after- 


wards he gave a narrative of his course in language 
which was almost apologetic and deprecatory. A 
pen in his fingers became a sympathetic instrument, 
and betrays sometimes what his moderate language 
does not distinctly state. The intense, bitter con- 
demnation vented by his constituents, who so lately 
had been following his lead, but who now reviled 
a representative who had misrepresented them in 
so vital an affair, cut its way deep. 

The gap between him and them did indeed seem 
a wide one. In the colonies there was universal 
wrath, oftentimes swelling into fury ; in some places 
mobs, much sacking of houses, hangings and burn- 
ings in effigy ; compulsion put upon kings' officers 
publicly to resign their offices ; wild threats and 
violence; obstruction to the distribution of the 
stamped paper ; open menaces of forcible resistance, 
even of secession and rebellion ; a careful estimat- 
ing of the available armed forces among the colo- 
nies ; the proposal for a congress of colonies to 
promote community of action, to protest, and to 
consult for the common cause ; disobedient resolu- 
tions by legislatures; a spreading of the spirit of 
colonial union by the general cry of " Join or die ; " 
agreements not to import or use articles of English 
manufacture, with other sunderings of commercial 
relations. Far behind this mad procession, of which 
the more moderate divisions were marshalled by 
Otis, Sam Adams, and Gadsden, and soon also by 
John Adams and Patrick Henry, and by many 
other well-known "patriots," Franklin appeared to 


be a laggard in the rear distance, with disregarded 
arguments and protests, with words of moderation, 
even counsels of submission, nay, actually with a 
sort of connivance in the measure by the nomina- 
tion of an official under it. 

Yet the intervening space was not so great as it 
appeared. There was nothing in the counsels of the 
reasonable and intelligent " patriots " which was re- 
pugnant to Franklin's opinions. So soon as he saw 
the ground upon which they had placed themselves, 
he made haste to come into position with them. It 
was fortunate indeed that the transient separation 
was closed again before it could lead to the calam- 
ity of his removal from his office. For no man or 
even combination of men, whom it was possible to 
send from the provinces, could have dune them the 
services which Franklin was about to render. Be- 
sides the general power of his mind, he had peculiar 
fitnesses. He was widely known and very highly 
esteemed in England, where he moved in many 
circles. Among members of the nobility, among 
men high in office, among members of Parliament, 
among scientific men and literary men, among men 
of business and affairs, and among men who made a 
business of society, he was always welcome. In that 
city in which dinners constituted so important an 
element in life, even for the most serious purposes, 
he was the greatest of diners-out; while at the cof- 
fee-houses, clubs, and in the old-fashioned tavern 
circles no companion was more highly esteemed 
than he. He consorted not only with friends of the 


colonies, but was, and for a long time continued to 
be, on intimate terms of courteous intercourse also 
with those who were soon to be described as their 
enemies. Each and all, amid this various and ex- 
tensive acquaintance, listened to him with a respect 
no tithe of which could have been commanded by 
any other American then living. The force of his 
intelligence, the scope of his understanding, the 
soundness of his judgment, had already been appre- 
ciated by men accustomed to study and to estimate 
the value of such traits. His knowledge of Ameri- 
can affairs, of the trade and business of the prov- 
inces, of the characteristics of the people in differ- 
ent parts of the country, were very great, because 
of his habit of shrewd observation, of his taste for 
practical matters, and of his extensive travels and 
connections as postmaster. Add to this that he had 
a profound affection for the mother country, which 
was not only a tradition and a habit, but a warui 
and lively attachment nourished by delightful per- 
sonal experience, by long residence and numerous 
friendships, by gratifying appreciation of and com- 
pliments to himself. No one could doubt his sin- 
cerity when he talked of his love for England as a 
real and influential sentiment. At the same time 
he was an American and a patriot. Though he had 
failed to anticipate the state of feeling which the 
Stamp Act begot, it was his only failure of this 
kind ; generally he spoke the sentiments of the col- 
onists with entire truth and sympathy. lie was 
one who could combine force with moderation in 


the expression of liis views, the force being all the 
greater for the moderation ; he had an admirable 
head to conceive an argument, a tongue and pen to 
state it clearly and pointedly. He had presence 
of mind in conversation, was ready and quick at 
fence ; he was widely learned ; he was a sounder 
political economist than any member of the Eng- 
lish government ; above all, he had an unrivaled 
familiarity with the facts, the arguments, and the 
people on both sides of the controversy ; he kept 
perfect control of his temper, without the least loss 
of earnestness ; and had the rare faculty of being 
able to state his own side with plain force, and yet 
without giving offense. Such were his singular 
qualifications, which soon enabled him to perform 
the greatest act of his public life. 

Matters came by degrees into better shape for 
the colonies. In politics any statesman has but 
to propose a measure to find it opposed by those 
who oppose him. So what had seemed an univer- 
sal willingness to levy internal taxes upon the col- 
onies soon lost this aspect. No sooner did the 
news from the angry colonies bring the scheme into 
prominence than the assaults upon it became 
numerous, and enemies of Grenville became friends 
of America. Arguments so obvious and so strong 
as those against the measure were eagerly made 
the most of by the opponents of the men who were 
in office. Among these opponents was Pitt, that 
formidable man before whom all trembled. Gout 
bad disabled him, but who could tell when he 


might get sufficient respite to return and deal 
havoc ? Yet in spite of all that was said, the minis- 
try seemed impregnable. Grenville was very able, 
always of a stubborn temper, and in this especial 
case convinced to the point of intensity that the 
right lay with him ; moreover, he was complete 
master in Parliament, where his authority seemed 
still to increase steadily. No man was sanguine 
enough to see hope for the colonies, when suddenly 
an occurrence, which in this age could not appreci- 
ably affect the power of an English premier, snapped 
Grenville's sway in a few days. This was only the 
personal pique of the king, irritated by complaints 
made by the Duke of Bedford about the favorite, 
Bute. For such a cause George III. drove out of 
office, upon grounds of his own dislike, a prime 
minister and cabinet with whom he was in substan- 
tial accord upon the most important public matters 
then under consideration, and although it was al- 
most impossible to patch together any tolerably 
congruous or competent body of successors. 

Pitt endeavored to form a cabinet, but was 
obliged, with chagrin, to confess his inability. At 
last the Duke of Cumberland succeeded in forming 
the so-called Rockingham Cabinet, a weak combi- 
nation, but far less unfavorable than its predecessor 
towards America. The Marquis of Rockingham, as 
prime minister, had Edmund Burke as his private 
secretary ; while General Conway, one of the very 
few who had opposed the Stamp Act, now actually 
received the southern department of state within 


winch the colonies were included. Still there 
seemed little hope for any undoing of the past, 
which probably would never have been wrung 
from this or any British ministry so long as all the 
discontent was on the other side of three thousand 
miles of ocean. But this was ceasing to be the case. 
The American weapon of non-importation was 
proving most efficient. In the provinces the cus- 
tom of wearing mourning was abandoned ; no one 
killed or ate lamb, to the end that by the increase 
of sheep the supply of wool might be greater; 
homespun was now the only wear ; no man would 
be seen clad in English cloth. In a word, through- 
out Ameiica there was established what would now 
be called a thorough and comprehensive " boycott " 
against all articles of English manufacture. So 
very soon the manufacturers of the mother country 
began to find themselves the only real victims of the 
Stamp Act. In America it was inflicting no harm, 
but rather was encouraging economy, enterprise, 
and domestic industry; while the sudden closing 
of so enormous a market brought loss and bank- 
ruptcy to many an English manufacturer and ware- 
houseman. Shipping, too, was indirectly affected. 
An outcry for the change of a disastrous policy 
swelled rapidly in the manufacturing and trading 
towns ; and erelong the battle of the colonists was 
being fought by allies upon English soil, who were 
stimulated by the potent impulse of self-preserva- 
tion. These men cared nothing for the principle 
at stake, nothing for the colonists personally ; but 


they cared for the business by which they sustained 
their own homes, and they were resolved that the 
destroying Stamp Act should be got out of their 
way. Such an influence was soon felt. Death 
also came in aid of the Americans, removing in 
good time the Duke of Cumberland, the merciless 
conqueror of Culloden, who now was all ready to 
fight it out with the colonies, and only thus lost 
the chance to do so. 

Beneath the pressure of these events concession 
began to be talked of, though at first of course its 
friends were few and its enemies many. Charles 
Townshend announced himself able to contemplate 
with equanimity the picture of the colonies relaps- 
ing " to their primitive deserts." But the trouble 
was that little deserts began to spot the face of 
England ; and still the British merchant, who sel- 
dom speaks long in vain, was increasing his clamor, 
and did not fancy the prospect of rich trading fields 
reduced to desolation. In January, 1766, too, the 
dreaded voice of Pitt again made itself heard in 
St. Stephen's, sending forth an eloquent harangue 
for America: "The Americans are the sons, not 
the bastards, of England. As subjects they are en- 
titled to the common right of representation, and 
cannot be bound to pay taxes without their consent. 
Taxation is no part of the governing power. ^ The 
taxes are a voluntary gift and grant by the Com- 

^ Grenville had laid down the proposition that England was 
" the sovereign, the supreme legislative power over America," 
and that '* taxation is a part of that sovereign power." 


mons alone. In an American tax what do we do ? 
We, your Majesty's Commons of Great Britain, 
give and grant to your Majesty — what ? Our 
own property ? No ! we give and grant to your 
Majesty the property of your Majesty's commons 
in America. It is an absurdity in terms." ^ " The 
idea of a virtual representation of America in this 
House is the most contemptible that ever entered 
into the head of man." " I never shall own the 
justice of taxing America internally until she en- 
joys the right of representation." Not very many 
men in either house of Parliament would go the 
full logical length of Pitt's argument ; but men 
who held views quite opposite to his as to the law- 
ful authority of Parliament to lay this tax were 
beginning to feel that they must join him in get- 
ting it out of the way of domestic prosperity in 
England. It seemed to them a mistaken exer- 
cise of an unquestionable right. They were pre- 
pared to correct the mistake, which could be done 
without abandoning the right. As this feeling vis- 
ibly gained ground the ministry gathered courage 
to consider the expediency of introducing a bill to 
repeal the act. Could the king have had his way 
they would not have survived in office to do so. 
He would have had their ministerial heads off, as he 
had stricken those of their immediate predecessors. 
But efforts which he made to find successors for 
them were fruitless, and so they remained in places 
which no others could be induced to fill. Pitt was 
1 Bancroft, Uigt. U. S., v. 385-387. 


sounded, to see whether he would ally himself with 
them ; but he would not. Had he been gained the 
fight would not have come simply upon the repeal 
of the act as unsatisfactory, but as being contrary 
to the constitution of England. The narrower 
battle-ground was selected by Rockingham. 

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

It was at this juncture that Franklin, who had 

1 Bancroft, Hist. U. S., v. 417. 


been by no means idle during the long struggle, 
appeared as a witness in that examination which 
perhaps displayed his ability to better advantage 
than any other single act in his life. It was be- 
tween February 3 and 13, 1766, that he and others 
were summoned to give testimony concerning the 
colonies at the bar of the House of Commons 
sitting in committee of the whole. The others 
have been forgotten, but his evidence never will be. 
The proceeding was striking ; there were some of 
the cleverest and most experienced men in England 
to question him ; no one of them singly was his 
match ; but there were many of them, and they 
conducted an examination and a cross-examination 
both in one ; that is to say, those who wished to 
turn a point against him might at any moment 
interpose with any question which might suddenly 
confuse or mislead him. But no man was ever 
better fitted than Franklin to play the part of a 
witness, and no record in politics or in law can 
compare with the report of his testimony. Some 
persons have endeavored to account for, which 
means of course to detract from, its extraordinary 
merit by saying that some of the questions and 
replies had been prearranged; but it does not 
appear that such prearrangement went further 
than that certain friendly interrogators had dis- 
cussed the topics with him so as to be familiar with 
his views. Every lawyer does this with his wit- 
nesses. Nor can it be supposed that the admirable 
replies which he made to the enemies of America 


were otherwise than strictly impromptu. He had 
thorough knowledge of the subject ; he was in per- 
fect control of his head and his temper ; his ex- 
traordinary faculty for clear and pithy statement 
never showed to better advantage ; he was, as al- 
ways, moderate and reasonable ; but above all the 
wonderful element was the quick wit and ready 
skill with which he turned to his own service every 
query which was designed to embarrass him ; and 
this he did not in the vulgar way of flippant retort 
or disingenuous twistings of words or facts, but 
with the same straightforward and tranquil sim- 
plicity of language with which he delivered evidence 
for the friendly examiners. Burke likened the 
proceeding to an examination of a master by a 
parcel of schoolboys. 

Franklin used to say, betwixt plaint and humor, 
that it always seemed to him that no one ever gave 
an abbreviation or an abstract of anything which 
he had written, without very nearly spoiling the 
original. This would be preeminently true of an 
abstract of this examination ; abbreviation can be 
only mutilation. It ranged over a vast ground, — 
colonial history and politics, political economy, 
theories and practice in colonial trade, colonial 
commerce and industry, popular opinions and sen- 
timent, and the probabilities of action in supposed 
cases. His answers made a great stir ; they were 
universally admitted to have substantially advanced 
the day of repeal. They constituted the abundant 
armory to which the friends of the colonies resorted 


for weapons offensive and defensive, for facts and 
for ideas. He himself, with just complacency, re- 
marked : " The then ministry was ready to hug me 
for the assistance I afforded them." The "Gentle- 
man's Magazine " said : — 

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

Like praises descended from every quarter. 

One interesting fact clearly appears from this 
examination : that Franklin now fully understood 
the colonial sentiment, and was thoroughly in 
accord with it. Being asked whether the colonists 
" would submit to the Stamp Act, if it were modi- 
fied, the obnoxious parts taken out, and the duty 
reduced to some particulars of small moment," he 
replied with brief decision : " No, they will never 
submit to it." As to how they would receive "a 
future tax imposed on the same principle," he said, 


with the same forcible brevity : " Just as they do 
this : they would not pay it." Q. " Can anything 
less than a military force carry the Stamp Act into 
execution? ^. I do not see how a military force 
can be applied to that purpose. Q. Why may it 
not? A. Suppose a military force sent into Amer- 
ica, they will find nobody in arms. What are they 
then to do? They cannot force a man to take 
stamps who chooses to do without them. They will 
not find a rebellion ; they may indeed make one. 
Q. If the act is not repealed, what do you think 
will be the consequences? A. A total loss of the 
respect and affection the people of America bear 
to this country, and of all the commerce that de- 
pends on that respect and affection. Q. How can 
the commerce be affected ? A, You will find that 
if the act is not repealed, they will take a very 
little of your manufactures in a short time. Q. Is 
it in their power to do without them? A. The 
goods they take from Britain are either necessaries, 
mere conveniences, or superfluities. The first, as 
cloth, etc., with a little industry they can make at 
home ; the second they can do without until they 
are able to provide them among themselves ; and 
the last, which are much the greatest part, they will 
strike off immediately." This view of the willing- 
ness and capacity of the colonists to forego English 
importations he elsewhere elaborated fully. The 
English merchants knew to their cost that he spoke 
the truth. 

With reference to the enforcement of claims 


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

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

The main argument of the colonies : that under 
the British constitution there could be no taxation 
without representation, was of course introduced 
into the examination ; and Franklin seized the 
occasion to express his theory very ingeniously. 


Referring to the fact that, by the Declaration of 
Eights, no money could " be raised on the subject 
but by consent of Parliament," the subtle question 
was put : How the colonists could think that they 
themselves had a right to levy money for the crown ? 
Franklin replied : " They understand that clause 
to relate only to subjects within the realm ; that no 
money can be levied on them for the crown but by 
consent of Parliament. The colonies are not sup- 
posed to be within the realm ; they have assemblies 
of their own, which are their parliaments." This 
was a favorite theory with him, in expounding 
which he likened the colonies to Ireland, and to 
Scotland before the union. Many sentences to 
the same purport occur in his writings ; for example : 
" These writers against the colonies all bewilder 
themselves by supposing the colonies within the 
realm, which is not the case, nor ever was." " If 
an Englishman goes into a foreign country, he is 
subject to the laws and government he finds there. 
If he finds no government or laws there, he is sub- 
ject there to none, till he and his companions, if he 
has any, make laws for themselves ; and this was 
the case of the first settlers in America. Otherwise, 
if they carried the English laws and power of Par- 
liament with them, what advantage could the Puri- 
tans propose to themselves by going ? " " The col- 
onists carried no law with them ; they carried only 
a power of making laws, or adopting such parts of 
the English law or of any other law as they should 
think suitable to their circumstances." ^ Radical 

^ To same purport see, also, Wnrka. iv. oOO. 


doctrines these, wliich he could not reasonably 
expect would find favor under any principles of 
government then known in the world. To the like 
effect were other assertions of his, made somewhat 
later : "In fact, the British empire is not a single 
state ; it comprehends many." " The sovereignty 
of the crown I understand. The sovereignty of the 
British legislature out of Britain I do not under- 
stand." "The king, and not the King, Lords, and 
Commons collectively, is their sovereign ; and the 
king with their respective parliaments is their only 
legislator." ^ " The Parliament of Great Britain 
has not, never had, and of right never can have, 
without consent given either before or after, power 
to make laws of sufficient force to bind the subjects 
of America in any case whatever, and particularly 
in taxation." The singular phrase "the subjects 
of America " is worth noting. In 1769, still reit- 
erating the same principle, he said: "We are free 
subjects of the king ; and fellow-subjects of one 
part of his dominions are not sovereigns over fel- 
low-subjects in any other part." 

It is a singular fact that Franklin long cherished 
a personal regard towards the king, and a faith in 
his friendly and liberal purposes towards the col- 
onies. Indignation against the Parliament was 
offset by confidence in George III. Even so late 
as the spring of 1769, he writes to a friend in 
America : " I hope nothing that has happened, 

1 Concerning this theory, see Fiske's The Beginnings of New 
England, 266. 


or may happen, will diminish in the least our loy- 
alty to our sovereign, or affection for this nation in 
general. I can scarcely conceive a king of better 
disposition, of more exemplary virtues, or more 
truly desirous of promoting the welfare of all his 
subjects. The experience we have had of the 
family in the two preceding mild reigns, and the 
good temper of our young princes, so far as can 
yet be discovered, promise us a continuance of this 
felicity." Of the British people too he thought 
kindly. But for the Parliament he could find no 
excuse. He admitted that it might be " decent " 
indeed to speak in the " public papers " of the 
" wisdom and the justice of Parliament ; " never- 
theless, the ascription of these qualities to the pres- 
ent Parliament certainly was not true, whatever 
might be the case as to any future one. The next 
year found him still counseling that the colonies 
should hold fast to their allegiance to their king, 
who had the best disposition towards them, and 
was their most efficient bulwark against " the ar- 
bitrary power of a corrupt Parliament." In the 
summer of 1773, he was seeking excuses for the 
king's adherence to the principle that Parliament 
could legally tax the colonies : " when one con- 
siders the king's situation," with all his ministers, 
advisers, judges, and the great majority of both 
houses holding this view, when " one reflects how 
necessary it is for him to be well with his Parlia- 
ment," and that any action of his countenancing 
a doctrine contrary to that of both the Lords and 


the Commons '' would hazard his embroiling him- 
self with those powerful bodies," Franklin was of 
opinion that it seemed " hardly to be expected from 
him that he should take any step of that kind." 
But this was the last apology which he uttered for 
George III. He was about to reach the same esti- 
mation of that monarch which has been adopted 
by posterity. Only a very little later he writes : 
"Between you and me, the late measures have 
been, I suspect, very much the king's own, and he 
has in some cases a great share of what his friends 
call firmness.^' Thus tardily, reluctantly, and at 
first gently, the kindly philosopher began to admit 
to himself and others the truth as to his Majesty's 
disposition and character. 

Some persons in England, affected by the pow- 
erful argument of non-representation, proposed that 
the colonies should be represented in Parliament ; 
and about the time of the Stamp Act the possibility 
of such an arrangement was seriously discussed. 
Franklin was willing to speak kindly of a plan 
which was logically unobjectionable, and which in- 
volved the admission that the existing condition was 
unjust; but he knew very well that it would never 
develop into a practicable solution of the problem, 
and in fact it soon dropped out of men's minds. 
January 6, 1766, he wrote that in his opinion the 
measure of an Union^ as he shrewdly called it, was 
a wise one ; " but," he said, " I doubt it will 
hardly be thought so here until it is too late to 
attempt it. The time has been when the colonies 


would have esteemed it a great advantage, as well 
as honor, to be permitted to send members to Par- 
liament, and would have asked for that privilege if 
they could have had the least hopes of obtaining it. 
The time is now come when they are indifferent 
about it, and will probably not ask it, though they 
might accept it, if offered them ; and the time will 
come when they will certainly refuse it. But if 
such an Union were now established (which me- 
thinks it highly imports this country to establish), 
it would probably subsist so long as Britain shall 
continue a nation. This people, however, is too 
proud, and too much despises the Americans to 
bear the thought of admitting them to such an 
equitable participation in the government of the 
whole." ^ Haughty words these, though so tran- 
quilly spoken, and which must have startled many 
a dignified Briton : behold ! a mere colonist, the 
son of a tallow chandler, is actually declaring that 
those puny colonies of simple " farmers, husband- 
men, and planters" were already "indifferent" 
about, and would soon feel in condition to " refuse," 
representation in such a body as the Parliament of 
England ; also that it " highly imported " Great 
Britain to seek amalgamation while yet it could be 
had ! But Franklin meant what he said, and he 
repeated it more than once, very earnestly. He 
resented that temper, of which he saw so much on 
every side, and which he clearly described by saying 

^ To same purport see letter to Evans, May 9, 1766, Works^ iii. 


that every individual in England felt himself to be 
" part of a sovereign over America." 

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

Still another point which demanded elucidation 
was : why Parliament should not have the power to 
lay internal taxes just as much as to levy duties. 
Grenville said : " External and internal taxes are 

^ See also to same purport, Works, iv. 157. 


the same in effect, and only differ in name ; " and 
the authority of Parliament to lay external taxes 
had never been called in question. Franklin's ex- 
aminers tried him upon this matter: Can you 
show that there is any kind of difference between 
the two taxes, to the colony on which they are laid ? 
He answered : " I think the difference is very 
great. An external tax is a duty laid on commo- 
dities imported ; that duty is added to the first cost 
and other charges on the commodity, and, when it 
is offered for sale, makes a part of the price. If 
the people do not like it at that price, they refuse 
it ; they are not obliged to pay for it. But an 
internal tax is forced from the people without their 
consent, if not laid by their own representatives. 
The Stamp Act says, we shall have no commerce, 
make no exchange of property with each other, 
neither purchase, nor grant, nor recover debts ; we 
shall neither marry nor make our wills ; unless we 
pay such and such sums." It was suggested that 
an external tax might be laid on the necessaries 
of life, which the people must have ; but Franklin 
said that the colonies were, or very soon would be, 
in a position to produce for themselves all neces- 
saries. He was then asked what was the differ- 
ence "between a duty on the importation of goods 
and an excise on their consumption ? " He replied 
that there was a very material one ; the excise, for 
reasons given, seemed unlawful. " But the sea is 
yours ; you maintain by your fleets the safety of 
navigation in it, and keep it clear of pirates ; you 


may have, therefore, a natural and equitable right 
to some toll or duty on merchandises carried 
through that part of your dominions, towards de- 
fraying the expense you are at in ships to maintain 
the safety of that carriage." This was a rather 
narrow basis on which to build the broad and 
weighty superstructure of the British Custom 
House ; but it was not to be expected that Frank- 
lin should supply any better arguments upon that 
side of the question. It was obvious that Gren- 
ville's proposition might lead to two conclusions. 
He said: External and internal taxation are in 
principle substantially identical ; we have the right 
to the former ; therefore we must have the right 
to the latter. It was a quick reply : Since you 
have not a right to the latter, you cannot have 
a right to the former. But Franklin, being a 
prudent man, kept within his intrenchments, and 
would not hazard increasing the opposition to 
the colonial claims by occupying this advanced 
ground. He hinted at it, nevertheless : " At pres- 
ent the colonists do not reason so ; but in time 
they possibly may be convinced by these argu- 
ments ; " and so they were. 

Franklin also in his examination, and at many 
other times and places, had something to say as to 
the willingness of the colonies to bear their full 
share of public burdens. He spoke with warmth 
and feeling, but with an entire absence of boastf ul- 
ness or rodomontade. He achieved his purpose by 
simply recalling such facts as that the colonies in 


the late war had kept 25,000 troops in the field ; 
that they had raised sums of money so large that 
even the English Parliament had seen that they 
were exceeding any reasonable estimate of their 
capacity, and had voted some partial restitution to 
them ; and that they had received thanks, official 
and formal yet apparently sincere, for their zeal 
and their services. Few Englishmen knew these 
things. So, too, he said, the Americans would 
help the mother country in an European war, so 
far as they could ; for they regarded themselves as 
a part of the empire, and really had an affection 
and loyalty towards England. 

On February 21, 1766, General Conway moved 
for leave to introduce into the House of Commons 
a bill to repeal the Stamp Act. The motion was 
carried. The next day the House divided upon 
the repealing bill : 275 for repeal, 167 against it. 
The minority were willing greatly to modify the 
act ; but insisted upon its enforcement in some 
shape. The anxious merchants, who were gathered 
in throngs outside, and who really had brought 
about the repeal, burst into jubilant rejoicing. A 
few days later, March 4th and 5th, the bill took its 
third reading by a vote of 250 yeas against 122 
nays. In the House of Lords, upon the second read- 
ing, 73 peers voted for repeal, 61 against it. Thirty- 
three peers thereupon signed and recorded their 
protest. ^ the third reading no division was had, 
but a second protest, bearing 28 signatures, was 


entered. On March 18th the king, whose position 
had been a little enigmatical, but who at last had 
become settled in opposition to the bill, unwillingly 
placed his signature to it, and ever after regretted 
having done so. 

When the good news reached the provinces great 
indeed was the gladness of the people. They 
heeded little that simultaneously with the repeal a 
resolve had been carried through declaratory of the 
principle on which the Stamp Act had been based. 
The assertion of the right gave them at this mo- 
ment " very little concern," since they hugged a 
triumphant belief that no further attempt would be 
made to carry that right into practice. The people 
of Philadelphia seemed firmly persuaded that the 
repeal was chiefly due to the unwearied personal 
exertions of their able agent. They could not re- 
call their late distrust of him without shame, and 
now replaced it with boundless devotion. In the 
great procession which they made for the occasion 
" the sublime feature was a barge, forty feet long, 
named FRANKLIN, from which salutes were fired 
as it passed along the streets." ^ That autumn the 
old ticket triumphed again at the elections for 
members of the Assembly. Franklin's own pleas- 
ant way of celebrating the great event was by send- 
ing to his wife " a new gown," with the message, 
referring, of course, to the anti-importation league : 
that he did not send it sooner, because he knew that 
she would not like to be finer than her neighbors, 
unless in a gown of her own spinning. 
^ Parton's Life of Franklin, i. 481. 


No American will find it difficult to conceive the 
utter ignorance concerning the colonies which then 
prevailed in England ; about their trade, manufac- 
tures, cultivated products, natural resources, about 
the occupations, habits, manners, and ideas of their 
people, not much more was known than Americans 
now know concerning the boers of Cape Colony or 
the settlers of New Zealand. In his examination 
before the Commons, in many papers which he 
printed, by his correspondence, and by his conver- 
sation in all the various companies which he fre- 
quented, Franklin exerted himself with untiring in- 
dustry to shed some rays into this darkness. At 
times the comical stories which he heard about his 
country touched his sense of humor, with the happy 
result that he would throw off some droll bit of writ- 
ing for a newspaper, which would delight the friends 
of America and make its opponents feel very silly 
even while they could not help laughing at his wit. 
A good one of these was the paper in which he re- 
plied, among other things, to the absurd supposition 
that the Americans could not make their own cloth, 
because American sheep had little wool, and that 
little of poor quality : " Dear sir, do not let us suffer 
ourselves to be amused with such groundless objec- 
tions. The very tails of the American sheep are so 
laden with wool that each has a little car or wagon 
on four little wheels to support and keep it from 
trailing on the ground. Would they caulk their 
ships, would they even litter their horses, with 
wool, if it were not both plenty and cheap ? And 


what signifies the dearness of labor when an Eng- 
lish shilling passes for five and twenty?" and so 
on. It is pleasant to think that then, as now, many 
a sober Britisher, with no idea that a satirical jest 
at his own expense was hidden away in this extrav- 
agance, took it all for genuine earnest, and was 
sadly puzzled at a condition of things so far re- 
moved from his own experience. 

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

" I was down at Lord le Despencer's when the post 
brought that day's papers. Mr. Whitehead was there, 
too, who runs early through all the papers, and tells the 
company what he finds remarkable. . . . We were chat- 
ting in the breakfast parlor, when he came running in to 
us, out of breath, with the paper in his hand. ' Here,* 
says he, ' here 's news for ye ! Here 's the king of Prus- 
sia claiming a right to this kingdom ! ' All stared, and 
I as much as anybody ; and he went on to read it. When 
he had read two or three paragraphs, a gentleman pres- 
ent said : ' Damn their impudence ! I daresay we shall 


hear by the next post that he is upon his march with 
100,000 men to back this.' Whitehead, who is very 
shrewd, soon after began to smoke it, and looking in my 
face said, ' I '11 be hanged if this is not some of your 
American jokes upon us.' " 

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

Yet this English indifference to transatlantic 
facts could not always be met in a laughing mood. 
It was too serious, too unfortunate, too obstinately 
persisted in to excite only ridicule. It was deplor- 
able, upon the very verge of war, and incredible 
too, after all the warnings that had been had, that 
there should be among Englishmen such an utter 
absence of any desire to get accurate knowledge. 
In 1773 Franklin wrote : " The great defect here 
is, in all sorts of people, a want of attention to what 
passes in such remote countries as America ; an 
unwillingness to read anything about them, if it 
appears a little lengthy; and a disposition to post- 
pone a consideration even of the things which they 
know they must at last consider." Such ignorance, 
fertilized by ill will, bore the only fruit which could 


grow in such soil : abuse and vilification. Yet all 
the while the upper classes in France, with their 
eyes well open to a condition of things which 
seemed to threaten England, were keen enough in 
their desire for knowledge, translating all Frank- 
lin's papers, and keeping up constant communica- 
tion with him through their embassy. Patient in 
others of those faults of vehemence and prejudice 
which had no place in his own nature, Franklin 
endured long the English provocations and retorted 
only with a wit too perfect to be personal, with un- 
answerable arguments, and with simple recitals of 
facts. But we shall see, later on, that there came 
an occasion, just before his departure, when even 
his temper gave way. It was not surprising, for 
the blood-letting point had then been reached by 
both peoples. 

Franklin's famous examination and his other ef- 
forts in behalf of the colonies were appreciated by 
his countrymen outside of Pennsylvania. He was 
soon appointed agent also for New Jersey, Georgia, 
and Massachusetts. The last office was conferred 
upon him in the autumn of 1770, by no means 
without a struggle. Samuel Adams, a man as 
narrow as Franklin was broad, as violent as Frank- 
lin was calm, as bigoted a Puritan as Franklin 
was liberal a Free-thinker, felt towards Franklin 
that distrust and dislike which a limited but in- 
tense mind often cherishes towards an intellect 
whose vast scope and noble serenity it cannot com- 
prehend. Adams accordingly strenuously opposed 


the appointment. It was plausibly suggested that 
Franklin already held other agencies, and that 
policy would advise " to enlarge the number of our 
friends." It was meanly added that he held an of- 
fice under the crown, and that his son was a royal 
governor. Other ingenious, insidious, and personal 
objections were urged. Fortunately, however, it 
was in vain to array such points against Franklin's 
reputation. Samuel Cooper wrote to him that, 
though the House had certainly been much divided, 
" yet such was their opinion of your abilities and 
integrity, that a majority readily committed the af- 
fairs of the Province at this critical season to your 
care." By reason of this combination of agencies, 
besides his own personal capacity and prestige, 
Franklin seemed to become in the eyes of the Eng- 
lish the representative of all America. In spite of 
the unpopularity attaching to the American cause, 
the position was one of some dignity, greatly en- 
hanced by the respect inspired by the ability with 
which Franklin filled it, ability which was recog- 
nized no less by the enemies than by the friends 
of the provinces. It was also a position of grave 
responsibility ; and it ought to have been one of 
liberal emolument, but it was not. The sum of his 
four salaries should have been c£l,200 ; but only 
Pennsylvania and New Jersey actually paid him. 
Massachusetts would have paid, but the bills mak- 
ing the appropriations were obstinately vetoed by 
the royalist governor.^ 

1 Franklin's Works, iv. 88. 


Yet this matter of income was important to 
him, and it was at no slight personal sacrifice 
that he was now serving his country. He had a 
moderate competence, but his expenses were al- 
most doubled by living thus apart from his family, 
while his affairs suffered by reason of his absence. 
For a while he was left unmolested in the post- 
mastership, and in view of all the circumstances it 
must be confessed that the ministry behaved very 
well to him in this particular. Rumors which oc- 
casionally reached his ears made him uncomfort- 
ably aware how precarious his tenure of this posi- 
tion really was. His prolonged absence certainly 
gave an abundantly fair pretext for his removal ; 
still advantage was not taken of it. Some of his 
enemies, as he wrote in December, 1770, by plenti- 
ful abuse endeavored to provoke him to resign ; 
but they found him sadly " deficient in that Chris- 
tian virtue of resignation." It was not until 1774, 
after the episode of the Hutchinson letters and the 
famous hearing before the privy council, that he 
was actually displaced. If this forbearance of the 
ministry was attributable to magnanimity, it stands 
out in prominent inconsistence with the general 
course of official life in England at that time. 
Probably no great injustice would be done in sug- 
gesting a baser motive. The ministry doubtless 
aimed at one or both of two things: to keep a 
certain personal hold upon him, which might, in- 
sensibly to himself, mollify his actions ; and to dis- 


credit him among his countrymen by precisely such 
fleers as had been cast against him in the Massa- 
chusetts Assembly. More than once they sought 
to seduce him by offers of office ; it was said that 
he could have been an under-secretary of state, had 
he been willing to qualify himself for the position 
by modifying his views on colonial questions. 
More than once, too, gossip circulated in America 
that some such bargain had been struck, a slan- 
der which was cruel and ignoble indeed, when the 
opportunity and temptation may be said to have 
been present any and every day during many years 
without ever receiving even a moment of doubtful 
consideration. Yet for this the English ministry 
are believed not to have been wholly responsible, 
since some of these tales are supposed to have been 
the unworthy work of Arthur Lee of Virginia. 
This young man, a student at one of the Inns of 
Court in London, was appointed by the Massachu- 
setts Assembly as a successor to fill Franklin's 
place whenever the latter should return to Penn- 
sylvania. For at the time it was anticipated that 
this return would soon occur ; but circumstances 
interfered and prolonged Franklin's usefulness 
abroad during several years more. The heir ap- 
parent, who was ambitious, could not brook the 
disappointment of this delay ; and though kindly 
treated and highly praised by the unsuspicious 
Franklin, he gave nothing but malice in return. 
It is perhaps not fully proved, yet it is certainly 


well suspected by historians, that his desire to 
wreak injury upon Franklin became such a pas- 
sion as caused him in certain instances to for- 
get all principles of honor, to say nothing of 



In order to continue the narrative of events 
with due regard to chronological order it is neces- 
sary to revert to the repeal of the Stamp Act. 
The repealing act was fully as unpopular in Eng- 
land as the repealed act had been in America. It 
was brought about by no sense of justice, by no 
good will toward the colonists, but solely by reason 
of the injury which the law was causing in Eng- 
land, and which was forced upon the reluctant con- 
sideration of Parliament by the urgent clamor of 
the suffering merchants ; also perhaps in some de- 
gree by a disinclination to send an army across the 
Atlantic, and by the awkward difficulty suggested 
by Franklin when he said that if troops should be 
sent they would find no rebellion, no definite form 
of resistance, against which they could act. The 
repeal, therefore, though carried by a large major- 
ity, was by no means to be construed as an ac- 
knowledgment of error in an asserted principle, 
but only as an unavoidable admission of a mistake 
in the application of that principle. The repealing 
majority grew out of a strange coalition of men of 
the most opposite ways of thinking concerning 


the fundamental question. For example, Charles 
Townshend was a repealer, yet all England did 
not hold a man who was more wedded than was 
Townshend to the idea of levying internal taxes in 
the colonies by act of Parliament. The notion 
had been his own mischievous legacy to Grenville, 
but he now felt that it had been clumsily used by 
his legatee. Many men agreed with him, and the 
prevalence of this opinion was made obvious by 
the passage, almost simultaneously, of the resolu- 
tion declaratory of the right of parliamentary tax- 
ation. But the solace of an empty assertion was 
wholly inadequate to heal the deep wound which 
English pride had received. The great nation 
had been fairly hounded into receding before the 
angry resistance of a parcel of provincials dwell- 
ing far away across the sea ; the recession was 
not felt to be an act of magnanimity or generos- 
ity or even of justice, but only a bitter humiliation 
and indignity. Poor Grenville, the responsible 
adviser of the blundering and unfortunate measure, 
lost almost as much prestige as Franklin gained. 
It was hard luck for him ; he was as honest in his 
convictions as Franklin was in the opposite faith, 
and he was a far abler minister than the successor 
charged to undo his work. But his knowledge of 
colonial facts was very insufficient, and the light in 
which he viewed them was hopelessly false. Frank- 
lin had a knowledge immeasurably greater, and 
was almost incapable of an error of judgment ; of 
all the reputation which was won or lost in this 


famous contest he gathered the lion's share ; he 
was the hero of the colonists ; his ability was re- 
cognized impartially by both the contending parties 
in England, and he was marked as a great man 
by those astute French statesmen who were watch- 
ing with delight the opening of this very promis- 
ing rift in the British empire. 

Anger, like water, subsides quickly after the 
tempest ceases. As each day in its flight carried 
the Stamp Act and the repeal more remotely into 
past history, the sanguine and peaceably minded 
began to hope that England and the colonies might 
yet live comfortably in union. It only seemed ne- 
cessary that for a short time longer no fresh provo- 
cation should revive animosities which seemed com- 
posing themselves to slumber. The colonists tried 
to believe that England had learned wisdom ; Eng- 
lishmen were cautious about committing a second 
blunder. In such a time Franklin was the best 
man whom his countrymen could have had in Eng- 
land. His tranquil temperament, his warm regard 
for both sides, his wonderful capacity for living* 
well with men who could by no means live well 
with each other, his social tact, and the respect 
which his abilities inspired, all combined to enable 
him now more than ever to fill admirably the posi- 
tion of colonial representative. The effect of su(;h 
an influence is not to be seen in any single note- 
worthy occurrence, but is known by a thousand 
lesser indications, and it is unquestionable that no 
American representative even to this day has ever 


been held in Europe in such estimation as was ac- 
corded to Franklin at this time. He continued 
writing and instructing upon American topics, but 
to what has already been said concerning his ser- 
vices and opinions abroad, there is nothing of im- 
portance to be added occurring within two or three 
years after the repeal. While, however, he played 
the often thankless part of instructor to the Eng- 
lish, he had the courage to assume the even less 
popular role of a moderator towards the colonists. 
He made it his task to soothe passion and to preach 
reason. He did not do this as a trimmer ; never 
was one word of compromise uttered by him 
throughout all th^e alarming years. But he 
dreaded that weakness which is the inevitable re- 
action from excess ; and he was supremely anxious 
to secure that trustworthy strength which is impos- 
sible without moderation. What he profoundly 
wished was that the " fatal period " of war and 
separation should be as much as possible " post- 
poned, and that whenever this catastrophe shall 
liappen it may appear to all mankind that the fault 
has not been ours." Yet he fell far short of the 
Christian principle of turning to the smiter the 
other cheek. He wished the colonists to keep a 
steady front face, and only besought them not to 
rush forward so foolishly fast as to topple over, of 
which ill-considered violence there was much dan- 
ger. Of course the usual result of such efforts 
overtook him. He wrote somewhat sadly, in 1768 : 
" Being born and bred in one of the countries, and 


having lived long and made many agreeable con- 
nections of friendship in the other, I wish all pros- 
perity to both ; but I have talked and written so 
much and so long on the subject, that my acquaint- 
ance are weary of hearing and the public of read- 
ing any more of it, which begins to make me weary 
of talking and writing ; especially as I do not find 
that I have gained any point in either country, ex- 
cept that of rendering myself suspected by my im- 
partiality ; — in England of being too much an 
American, and in America of being too much an 
Englishman." More than once he repeated this 
last sentence with much feeling. But whatever 
there was of personal discouragement or despond- 
ency in this letter was only a temporary frame of 
mind. Dr. Franklin never really slackened his 
labors in a business which he had so much at heart 
as this of the relationship of the colonies to the 
mother country. Neither, it is safe to say, did he 
ever bore any one by what he wrote or by what he 
said, though his witty effusions in print were usu- 
ally anonymous, and only some of his soberer and 
argumentative papers announced their paternity. 

The agony with which the repeal of the Stamp 
Act was effected racked too severely the feeble 
joints of the Rockingham ministry, and that ill- 
knit body soon began to drop to pieces. A new 
incumbent was sought for the department which 
included the colonies, but that position seemed to 
be shunned with a sort of terror ; no one loved 
office enough to seek it in this niche ; no one could 


expect comfort in a chamber haunted by such rest- 
less ghosts. Early in July, at the earnest solicita- 
tion of the king, Pitt endeavored not so much to 
form a new ministry as to revamp the existing one. 
He partially succeeded, but not without difficulty. 
The result seemed to promise well for the colonies, 
since the new cabinet contained their chief friends : 
Pitt himself, Shelburne, Camden, Conway, names 
all justly esteemed by America. Yet all these 
were fully offset by the audacious Charles Towns- 
hend, the originator and great apostle of the scheme 
of colonial taxation, whom Pitt, much against his 
will, had been obliged to place in the perilous post 
of chancellor of the exchequer. It was true that 
Lord Shelburne undertook the care of the colonies, 
and that no Englishman cherished better dispo- 
sitions towards them ; but he had to encounter two 
difficulties, neither of which could be overcome. 
The one was that Townshend's views were those 
which soon proved not only to be coincident with 
those of the king, but also to be popular in Parlia- 
ment ; the other was that, while he had the admin- 
istration of colonial affairs, Townshend had the 
function of introducing schemes of taxation. So 
long as he remained in office he administered all 
the business of the colonies in the spirit of liberal 
reform. No reproach was ever brought against his 
justice, his generosity, his enlightened views of 
government. But unfortunately all that he had 
to do, being strictly in the way of administration^ 
such as the restraining over-loyal governors, the 


amelioration of harsh legislation, and universal mod- 
eration in language and behavior, could avail com- 
paratively little so long as Townshend, whom Pitt 
used to call " the incurable," could threaten and 
bring in obnoxious revenue measures. 

Shelburne had the backing of Pitt ; but, by ill 
luck, so soon as the cabinet was formed, Pitt 
ceased to be Pitt, and became the Earl of Chat- 
ham ; and with the loss of his own name he lost 
also more than half of his power. Moreover the 
increasing infirmities of his body robbed him of 
efficiency and impaired his judgment. He was 
utterly unable to keep in subordination his reck- 
less chancellor of the exchequer, betwixt whom 
and himself no good will had ever existed. On the 
other hand, this irrepressible Townshend had a far 
better ally in George III., who sympathized in his 
purposes, gave him assistance which was none the 
less powerful for being indirect and occult, and 
who hated and ingeniously thwarted Shelburne. 
Moreover, as has been said, it was a popular delu- 
sion that Townshend had exceptionally full and 
accurate knowledge concerning American affairs. 
His self-confident air, making assurance of success, 
won for him one half of the battle by so sure a 
presage of victory. He lured the members of the 
House by showing them a considerable remission 
in their own taxes, provided they would stand by 
his scheme of replacing the deficit by an income 
from the colonies ; and he boldly assured his de- 
lighted auditors that he knew "the mode by 


which a revenue could be drawn from America 
without offense." He was of the thoughtless class 
which learns no lesson. He still avowed himself 
"a firm advocate of the Stamp Act," and with 
cheerful scorn he " laughed at the absurd distinc- 
tion between internal and external taxes." He 
did not expect, he merrily said, alluding to the dis- 
tinction just conferred upon Chatham, to have 
his statue erected in America. The reports of his 
speeches kept the colonial mind disquieted. The 
act requiring the provinces in which regiments were 
quartered to provide barracks and rations for the 
troops at the public expense was a further irrita- 
tion. Shelburne sought to make the burden as 
easy as possible, but Townshend made Shelburne's 
duties as hard as possible. Of what use were the 
minister's liberality and moderation, when the chan- 
cellor of the exchequer evoked alarm and wrath 
by announcing insolently that he was for govern- 
ing the Americans as subjects of Great Britain, 
and for restraining their trade and manufactures in 
subordination to those of the mother country ! So 
the struggle went on within the ministry as well as 
without it ; but the opponents of royal prejudice 
were heavily handicapped ; for the king, though 
stupid in general, had some political skill and much 
authority. His ill - concealed personal hostility to 
his "enemy," as he called Shelburne, threatened 
like the little cloud in the colonial horizon. Nor 
was it long before Chatham, a dispirited wreck, 
withdrew himself entirely from all active partici- 


pation in affairs, shut himself up at Hayes, and 
refused to be seen by any one who wished to talk 
on business. 

On May 1 3, 1767, colonial agents and merchants 
trading to America were refused admission to 
hear the debates in the House of Commons. Upon 
that day Townshend was to develop his scheme. 
By way, as it were, of striking a keynote, he pro- 
posed that the Province of New York should be 
restrained from enacting any legislation until it 
should comply with the "billeting act," against 
which it had heretofore been recalcitrant. He 
then sketched a scheme for an American board of 
commissioners of customs. Finally he came to the 
welcome point of the precise taxes which he de- 
signed to levy : he proposed duties on wine, oil, and 
fruits, imported directly into the colonies from 
Spain and Portugal; also on glass, paper, lead, 
colors, and china, and three pence per pound on tea. 
The governors and chief justices, most of whom 
were already appointed by the king, but who got 
their pay by vote of the colonial assemblies, were 
hereafter to have fixed salaries, to be paid by the 
king from this American revenue. Two days later 
the resolutions were passed, directing the introduc- 
tion of bills to carry out these several propositions, 
and a month later the bills themselves were passed. 

Meantime the cabinet was again getting very 
rickety, and many heads were busy with sugges- 
tions for patching it in one part or another. With 
Chatham in retreat and the king in the ascendant, 


it seemed that Townshend had the surest seat. But 
there is one risk against which even monarchs can- 
not insure their favorites, and that risk now fell 
out against Townshend. He died suddenly of a 
fever, in September, 1767. Lord North succeeded 
him, destined to do everything which his royal 
master desired him to do, and bitterly to repent 
it. A little later, in December, the king scored an- 
other success ; Shelburne was superseded in the 
charge of the colonies by the Earl of Hillsborough, 
who reentered the board of trade as first commis- 
sioner, and came into the cabinet with the new 
title of secretary of state for the colonies. 

Hillsborough was an Irish peer, with some little 
capacity for business, but of no more than moderate 
general ability. He also was supposed, altogether 
erroneously, to possess a little more knowledge, or, 
as it might have been better expressed, to be 
shackled with a little less ignorance, concerning 
colonial affairs than could be predicated of most of 
the noblemen who were eligible for public office. 
America had acquired so much importance that the 
reputation of familiarity with its condition was an 
excellent recommendation for preferment. Frank- 
lin wrote that this change in the ministry was 
" very sudden and unexpected ; " and that " whether 
my- Lord Hillsborough's administration will be 
more stable than others have been for a long time, 
is quite uncertain ; but as his inclinations are 
rather favorable towards us (so far as he thinks 
consistent with what he supposes the unquestion- 


able rights of Britain), I cannot but wisli it may- 
continue. " 

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


every agent that valued his post must consider him- 
self as holding it by the favor of his lordship ; " 
whereof the consequences were easy to be seen. 

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

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

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

" Why, my lord ? 

" You are not appointed. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

So Mr. Pownall, invoked by the official bell, 


appeared upon the scene. But he could not play 
his part ; lie was obliged to say that there was no 
such letter. This was awkward ; but Franklin was 
too civil or too prudent to triumph in the discom- 
fiture of the other. He simply offered the "au- 
thentic copy of the vote of the House " appointing 
him, and asked if his lordship would "please to 
look at it." His lordship took the paper unwil- 
lingly, and then, without looking at it, said : — 

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

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

" {Hastily.) To what end would you leave it with 

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

" {Angrily.) It shall not be entered there. No such 
paper shall be entered there while I have anything to do 
with the business of that board. The House of Repre- 
sentatives has no right to appoint an agent. We shall 
take no notice of any agents but such as are appointed 
by acts of Assembly, to which the governor gives his 
assent. We have had confusion enough aheady. Here 
is one agent appointed by the Council, another by the 
House of Representatives.-^ Which of these is agent for 
the Province ? Who are we to hear in provincial affairs ? 
An agent appointed by act of Assembly we can under- 

^ The agent for the Council, Mr. Bollan, acted in entire accord 
with Dr. Franklin ; there was no inconsistency between the two 
offices, which were altogether distinct, neither any clashing be- 
tween the incumbents, as might be inferred from Lord Hillsbor- 
ougli's language. 


stand. No other will be attended to for the future, I 
can assure you. 

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

'^ {With a mixed look of anger and contempt.) I 
shall not enter into a dispute with you, Sir, upon this 

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

" {Hastily.) Whose agent is he ? 

" The king's, my lord. 

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

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

" Yes, your offering such a paper to be entered is an 
offense against them. No such appointment shall be en- 
tered. When I came into the administration of Amer- 
ican affairs 1 found them in great disorder. By my 
firmness they are now something mended ; and while I 
have the honor to hold the seals I shall continue the 
same conduct, the same firmness. I think my duty to 
the master I serve, and to the government of this nation, 


requires it of me. If that conduct is not approved, they 
may take that office from me when they please : I shall 
make them a bow and thank them ; I shall resign with 
pleasure. That gentleman [Mr. Pownall] knows it ; but 
while I continue in it I shall resolutely persevere in the 

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

" I beg your lordship's pardon for taking up so much 
of your lordship's time. It is, I believe, of no great 
importance whether the appointment is acknowledged or 
not, for I have not the least conception that an agent 
can, at prese7it, be of any use to any of the colonies. I 
shall therefore give your lordship no further trouble." 

Therewith he made his exit, and went home to 
write the foregoing sketch of the scene. Certainly 
throughout so irritating an interview he had con- 
ducted himself with creditable self-restraint and 
moderation, yet with his closing sentence he had 
sent home a dart which rankled. He soon heard 
that his lordship " took great offense " at these last 
words, regarding them as "extremely rude and 
abusive," and as " equivalent to telling him to his 
face that the colonies could expect neither favor 
nor justice during his administration." " I find," 


adds Franklin, with placid satisfaction in the skill 
with which he had shot his bolt, " I find he did not 
mistake me." 

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

From this time forth, of course, there was warfare 
between the secretary and the unacknowledged 
agent. Franklin began to entertain a " very mean 
opinion " of Hillsborough's " abilities and fitness 
for his station. His character is conceit, wrong- 
headedness, obstinacy, and passion. Those who 
speak most favorably of him allow all this ; they 
only add that he is an honest man and means well. 
If that be true, as perhaps it may, I only wish him 
a better place, where only honesty and well-mean- 
ing are required, and where his other qualities can 


do no harm. ... I hope, however, that our affairs 
will not much longer be perplexed and embarrassed 
by his perverse and senseless management." But 
for the present Franklin was of opinion that it 
would be well " to leave this omniscient, infallible 
minister to his own devices, and be no longer at the 
expense of sending any agent, whom he can displace 
by a repeal of the appointing act." 

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

In point of fact, Massachusetts seems to have 
taken no detriment from this foolish and captious 
bit of chicanery. All the papers and arguments 
wliich she had occasion to have presented always 
found their way to their destination as well as they 
would have done if Franklin had been acknowl- 


edged as the quasi public minister, which he con- 
ceived to be his proper character. 

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


It was, however, upon a comparatively trifling 
matter that Hillsborough finally lost his place. It 
has been already mentioned that many years before 
this time Franklin had urged the establishment of 
one or two frontier, or " barrier," provinces in the 
interior. He had never abandoned this scheme, 
and of late had been pushing it with some prospect 
of success ; for among other encouraging features 
he astutely induced three privy councilors to be- 
come financially interested in the project. The 
original purpose of the petitioners had been to ask 
for only 2,500,000 acres of land ; but Hillsborough 
bade them ask for '' enough to make a province." 
This advice was grossly disingenuous ; for Hills- 
borough himself afterward admitted that from the 
beginning he had intended to defeat the applica- 
tion, and had put the memorialists " upon asking so 
much with that very view, supposing it too much 
to be granted." But they, not suspecting, fell into 
the trap and increased their demand to 23,000,000 
acres, certainly a sufficient quantity to call for se- 
rious consideration. When the petition came be- 
fore the board of trade. Lord Hillsborough, who 
was president of the board, took upon himself the 
task of rendering a report. To the surprise of the 
petitioners, who had reason to suppose him well in- 
clined, he replied adversely. The region was so 
far away, he said, that it would not "lie within the 
reach of the trade and commerce of this king- 
dom ; " so far, also, as not to admit of " the exer- 
cise of that authority and jurisdiction . . . neces- 


sary for the preservation of the colonies in due 
subordination to and dependence upon the mother 
country." The territory appeared, " upon the full- 
est evidence," to be " utterly inaccessible to ship- 
ping," and therefore the inhabitants would " prob- 
ably be led to manufacture for themselves, ... a 
consequence . . . to be carefully guarded against." 
Also part belonged to the Indians, who ought not 
to be disturbed, and settlements therein would of 
course lead to Indian wars and to "' fighting for 
every inch of the ground." Further, the occupa- 
tion of this tract " must draw and carry out a great 
number of people from Great Britain," who would 
soon become " a kind of separate and independent 
people, . . . and set up for themselves," meeting 
their own wants and taking no " supplies from the 
mother country nor from the provinces " along the 
seaboard. At so great a distance from " the seat 
of government, courts, magistrates, etc.," the terri- 
tory would " become a receptacle and kind of asy- 
lum for offenders," full of crime itself, and encour- 
aging crime elsewhere. This disorderly population 
would soon " become formidable enough to oppose 
his majesty's authority, disturb government, and 
even give law to the other or first-settled part of 
the country, and thus throw everything into confu- 
sion." Such arguments were as feeble as they were 
bodeful. The only point which his lordship really 
scored was in reply to Franklin's theory of the 
protection against the Indians which these colonies 
would afford to those on the seaboard. Hillsbor- 


ough well said that the new settlements themselves 
would stand most in need of protection. It was 
only advancing, not eliminating, a hostile frontier. 
Evidently it required no very able reasoning, 
coming from the president of the board, to per- 
suade his subordinates ; and this foolish report was 
readily adopted. But Franklin was not so easily 
beaten ; the privy council furnished one more stage 
at which he could still make a fight. He drew up 
a reply to Lord Hillsborough's paper and submit- 
ted it to that body. It was a long and very care- 
fully prepared document; it dealt in facts histor- 
ical and statistical, in which the report was utterly 
deficient ; it furnished evidence and illustration ; 
in arguing upon probabilities it went far toward 
demolishing the theories advanced by the president 
of the board. The two briefs were laid before a 
tribunal in which three men sat who certainly ought 
not to have been sitting in this cause, since Frank- 
lin's interest was also their own ; but probably this 
did not more than counterbalance the prestige of 
official position in the opposite scale. Certainly 
Franklin had followed his invariable custom of 
furnishing his friends with ample material to 
justify them in befriending him. In this respect 
he always gallantly stood by his own side. The 
allies whom at any time he sought he always abun- 
dantly supplied with plain facts and sound argu- 
ments, in which weapons he always placed his chief 
trust. So at present, whatever was the motive 
which induced privy councilors to open their ears 


to what Franklin had to say, after they had heard 
him they could not easily decide against him. Nor 
had those of them who were personally disinter- 
ested any great inducement to do so, since, though 
some of them may have disliked him, none of them 
had any great liking for his noble opponent. So 
they set aside the report of the board of trade.^ 

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

So the earl, the enemy of America, went out ; 
and the colonial agent had shown him the door, 
with all England looking on. It was a mortifica- 
tion which Hillsborough could never forgive, and 
upon four occasions, when Franklin made the con- 
ventional call to pay his respects, he did not find 
his lordship at home. At his fifth call he received 
from a lackey a very plain intimation that there 

^ A very interesting statement of these proceedings may be 
found in Franklin's Works ^ x. 346. 


was no chance that he ever would find the ex-secre- 
tary at home, and thereafter he desisted from the 
forms of civility. " I have never since," lie said, 
" been nigh him, and we have only abused one an- 
other at a distance." Franklin had fully balanced 
one account at least. 

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

Franklin rejoiced in this departure of Hills- 
borough as a good riddance of a man whom he 
thought to be as " double and deceitful " as any 
one he had ever met. It is possible that, as he had 
been instrumental in creating the vacancy, he may 
also have assisted in some small degree in dispos- 
ing of the succession. One day he was complain- 
ing of Hillsborough to a " friend at court," when 
the friend replied that Hillsborough was wont to 


represent the Americans " as an unquiet people, 
not easily satisfied with any ministry ; that, how- 
ever, it was thought too much occasion had been 
given them to dislike the present ; " and the ques- 
tion was asked whether, in case of Hillsborough's 
removal, Franklin " could name another likely to 
be more acceptable " to his countrymen. He at 
once suggested Lord Dartmouth. This was the 
appointment which was now made, in August, 
1772, and the news of which gave much satisfac- 
tion to all the " friends of America." For Dart- 
mouth was of kindly disposition, and when previ- 
ously president of the board of trade had shown a 
liberal temper in provincial affairs. 

The relationship between Franklin and Lord 
Dartmouth opened auspiciously. Franklin waited 
upon him at his first levee, at the close of October, 
1772, and was received " very obligingly." Fur- 
ther Franklin was at once recognized as agent for 
Massachusetts, with no renewal of the caviling as 
to the manner of his appointment, from which he 
hopefully augured that " business was getting into 
a better train." A month later he reported him- 
self as being still " upon very good terms " with the 
new minister, who, he had " reason to think," meant 
well by the colonies." So Dartmouth did, un- 
doubtedly, and if the best of intentions and of feel- 
ings could have availed much at this stage of affairs, 
Franklin and his lordship might have postponed 
the Revolution until the next generation. But it 
was too late to counteract the divergent movements 


of the two nations, and no better proof could be 
desired of the degree to which this divergence had 
arrived than the fact itself that the moderate 
Franklin and the well - disposed Dartmouth could 
not come into accord. Each people had declared 
its political faith, its fundamental theory ; and the 
faith and theory of the one were fully and fairly 
adverse to those of the other ; and the instant that 
the talk went deep enough, this irreconcilable dif- 
ference was sure to be exposed. 

During the winter of 1772-3, following Lord 
Dartmouth's appointment, a lively dispute arose 
in Massachusetts between the Assembly and Gov- 
ernor Hutchinson. It was the old question, whe- 
ther the English Parliament had control in matters 
of colonial taxation. The governor made speeches 
and said Yea, while the Assembly passed resolu- 
tions and said Nay. The early ships, arriving in 
England in the spring of 1773, brought news of 
this dispute, which seemed to have been indeed a 
hot one. The English ministry were not pleased ; 
they wanted to keep their relationship with the 
colonies tranquil for a while, because there was a 
renewal of the danger of a war with Spain. There- 
fore they were vexed at the over zeal of Hutchin- 
son ; and Lord Dartmouth frankly said so. Frank- 
lin called one day upon the secretary and found 
him much perplexed at the "difficulties" into 
which the governor had brought the ministers by 
his " imprudence." Parliament, his lordship said, 
could not " suffer such a declaration of the colonial 


Assembly, asserting its independence, to pass un- 
noticed." Franklin thought otherwise : "It is 
words only," he said ; " acts of Parliament are 
still submitted to there ; " and so long as such was 
the case " Parliament would do well to turn a deaf 
ear. . . . Force could do no good." Force, it was 
replied, might not be thought of, but rather an act 
to lay the colonies " under some inconveniences, till 
they rescind that declaration." Could they by no 
possibility be persuaded to withdraw it ? Franklin 
was clearly of opinion that the resolve could only 
be withdrawn after the withdrawal of the speech 
which it answered, " an awkward operation, which 
perhaps the governor would hardly be directed to 
perform." As for an act establishing " inconven- 
iences," probably it would only put the colonies, "as 
heretofore, on some method of incommoding this 
country till the act is repealed ; and so we shall go 
on injuring and provoking each other instead of 
cultivating that good-will and harmony so necessary 
to the general welfare." Divisions, his lordship 
admitted, " must weaken the whole ; for we are yet 
one empire^ whatever may be the opinions of the 
Massachusetts Assembly." But how to escape 
divisions was the conundrum. Could his lordship 
withhold from Parliament the irritating documents, 
though in fact they were already notorious, and 
" hazard the being called to account in some future 
session of Parliament for keeping back the com- 
munication of despatches of such importance ? " 
He appealed to Franklin for advice ; but Franklin 


would undertake to give none, save that, in his 
opinion, if the despatches should be laid before Par- 
liament, it would be prudent to order them to lie 
on the table. For, he said, " were I as much an 
Englishman as I am an American, and ever so de- 
sirous of establishing the authority of Parliament, 
I protest to your lordship I cannot conceive of a 
single step the Parliament can take to increase it 
that will not tend to diminish it, and after abun- 
dance of mischief they must finally lose it." So 
whenever the crucial test was applied these two 
men found themselves utterly at variance, and the 
hopelessness of a peaceful conclusion would have 
been obvious, had not each shunned a prospect so 

It must be confessed that, if Lord Dartmouth 
was so pathetically desirous to undo an irrevocable 
past. Dr. Franklin was no less anxious for the per- 
formance of a like miracle. Both the statesman 
and the philosopher would have appreciated better 
the uselessness of their efforts, had their feelings 
been less deeply engaged. Franklin's vain wish at 
this time was to move the peoples of England and 
America back to the days before the passage of 
the Stamp Act. " I have constantly given it as 
my opinion," he wrote, early in 1771, "that, if 
the colonies were restored to the state they were in 
before the Stamp Act, they would be satisfied and 
contend no farther." Two and a half years later, 
following the fable of the sibylline books, he ex- 
pressed the more extreme opinion that " the letter 


of the two houses of the 29th of June, proposing 
as a satisfactory measure the restoring things to 
the state in which they were at the conclusion of 
the late war, is a fair and generous offer on our 
part, . . . and more than Britain has a right to ex- 
pect from us. . . . If she has any wisdom left, she 
will embrace it, and agree with us immediately." 

But the insuperable trouble was that, at the close 
of the last war and before the passage of the 
Stamp Act, the controversy upon the question of 
right had been unborn. Now, having come into 
being, this controversy could not be laid at rest by 
a mere waiver ; it was of that nature that its resur- 
rection would be sure and speedy. Anything else 
would have been, of course, the practical victory of 
the colonies and defeat of England ; and the Eng- 
lish could not admit that things had reached this 
pass as yet. If England should not renounce her 
right, the colonies would always remain uneasy be- 
neath the unretracted assertion of it ; if she should 
never again seek to exercise it, she would be really 
yielding. It was idle to talk of such a state of 
affairs ; it could not be brought about, even if it 
were conceivable that each side could be induced to 
repeal all its acts and resolves touching the subject, 
— and even this preliminary step was what no 
reasonable man could anticipate. In a word, when 
Franklin longed for the restoration of the status 
quo ante the Stamp Act, he longed for a chimera. 
A question had been raised, which was of that kind 
that it could not be compromised, or set aside, or 


ignored, or forgotten ; it must be settled by the re- 
cession or by the defeat of one contestant or the 
other. Nothing better than a brief period of rest- 
less and suspicious truce could be gained by an 
effort to restore the situation of a previous date, 
even were such restoration possible, since the in- 
tervening period and the memory of its undeter- 
mined dispute concerning a principle could not be 

Still Franklin persistently refused to despair, so 
long as peace was still unbroken. Until blood had 
been shed, war might be avoided. This was no 
lack of foresight; occasionally an expression es- 
caped him which showed that he fully understood 
the drift of affairs and saw the final outcome of the 
opposing doctrines. In 1769 he said that matters 
were daily tending more and more "to a breach 
and final separation." In 1771 he thought that 
any one might " clearly see in the system of cus- 
toms to be exacted in America by act of Parlia- 
ment, the seeds sown of a total disunion of the 
countries, though as yet that event may be at a con- 
siderable distance." By 1774 he said, in an arti- 
cle written for an English newspaper, that certain 
" angry writers " on the English side were using 
" their utmost efforts to persuade us that this war 
with the colonies (for a war it will be) is a na- 
tional cause, when in fact it is a ministerial one." 
But he very rarely spoke thus. It was at once his 
official duty as well as his strong personal wish to 
find some other exit from the public embarrass- 


ments than by this direful conclusion. Therefore, 
so long as war did not exist he refused to admit 
that it was inevitable, and he spared no effort to 
prevent it, leaving to fervid orators to declare the 
contrary and to welcome it; nor would he ever 
allow himself to be discouraged by any measure 
of apparent hopelessness. 

His great dread was that the colonies might go 
so fast and so far as to make matters incurable be- 
fore thinking people were ready to recognize such 
a crisis as unavoidable. He seldom wrote home 
without some words counseling moderation. He 
wanted to see " much patience and the utmost dis- 
cretion in our general conduct." It must not, 
however, be supposed that such language was used 
to cover any lukewarmness, or irresolution, or ten- 
dency towards halfway or temporizing measures. 
On the contrary, he was wholly and consistently 
the opposite of all this. His moderation was not 
at all akin to the moderation of Dickinson and 
such men, who were always wanting to add another 
to the long procession of petitions and protests. He 
only desired that the leading should be done by the 
wise men, so as not to have a Braddock's defeat in 
so grave and perilous an undertaking. He feared 
that a mob might make an irrevocable blunder, and 
the mischievous rabble create a condition of affairs 
which the real statesmen of the provinces could 
neither mend nor excuse. Certainly his anxiety 
was not without cause. He warned his country 
people that there was nothing which their enemies 


in England more wished than that, by insurrec- 
tions, they would give a good pretense for estab- 
lishing a large military force in the colonies. As 
between friends, he said, every affront is not worth 
a duel, so " between the governed and governing 
every mistake in government, every encroachment 
on right, is not worth a rebellion." So he thought 
that an " immediate rupture " was not in accord- 
ance with " general prudence," for by " a prema- 
ture struggle " the colonies might " be crippled and 
kept down another age." No one, however, was 
more resolute than he that the mistakes and en- 
croachments which had occurred should not be re- 
peated. An assurance against such repetition, he 
tried to think, might be effected within a reason- 
ably short time by two peaceful influences. One 
of these was a cessation of all colonial purchases of 
English commodities ; the other was the rapid in- 
crease of the visible strength and resources of the 
colonies. He was urgent and frequent in reiterat- 
ing his opinion of the great efficacy of the non- 
purchasing agreements. It is a little odd to find 
him actually declaring that, if the people would 
honestly persist in these engagements, he " should 
almost wish " the obnoxious act " never to be re- 
pealed ; " for, besides industry and frugality, such 
a condition of things would promote a variety of 
domestic manufactures. In a word, this British 
oppression would bring about all those advantages 
for the infant nation, which, through the medium 
of the protective tariff, have since been purchased 


by Americans at a vast expense. Moreover, the 
money which used to be sent to England in pay- 
ment for superfluous luxuries would be kept at 
home, to be there laid out in domestic improve- 
ments. Gold and silver, the scarcity of which 
caused great inconvenience in the colonies, would 
remain in the country. All these advantages would 
accrue from a course which at the same time must 
give rise in England itself to a pressure so extreme 
that Parliament could not long resist it. " The 
trading part of the nation, with the manufacturers, 
are become sensible how necessary it is for their 
welfare to be on good terms with us. The peti- 
tioners of Middlesex and of London have num- 
bered among their grievances the unconstitutional 
taxes on America; and similar petitions are ex- 
pected from all quarters. So that I think we need 
only be quiet, and persevere in our schemes of fru- 
gality and industry, and the rest will do itself." 
But it was obvious that, if the measures were not 
now persisted in until they should have had their 
full effect, a like policy could never again be re- 
sorted to ; and Franklin gave it as his belief that, 
" if we do persist another year, we shall never af- 
terwards have occasion to use " the remedy. 

To him it seemed incredible that the people of 
America should not loyally persist in a policy of 
non-importation of English goods. Not only was 
the doing without these a benefit to domestic indus- 
tries, but buying them was a direct aid and mainte- 
nance to the oppressor. He said : " If our people 


will, by consuming such commodities, purchase and 
pay for their fetters, who that sees them so shackled 
will think they deserve either redress or pity ? Me- 
thinks that in drinking tea, a true American, reflect- 
ing that by every cup he contributed to the salaries, 
pensions, and rewards of the enemies and persecu- 
tors of his country, would be half choked at the 
thought, and find no quantity of sugar sufficient to 
make the nauseous draught go down." ^ 

In this connection he was much " diverted " and 
gratified by the results of the Stamp Act, and espe- 
cially of the act laying the duty on tea. The gross 
proceeds of the former statute, gathered in the West 
Indies and Canada, since substantially nothing was 
got in the other provinces, was <£1,500 ; while 
the expenditure had amounted tp X12,000 ! The 
working of the Customs Act had been far worse. 
According to his statement, the unfortunate East 
India Company, in January, 1773, had at least 
£2,000,000, some said X4,000,000, worth of goods 
which had accumulated in their warehouses since 
the enactment, of which the chief part would, in the 
natural condition of business, have been absorbed 
by the colonies. The consequence was that the 
company's shares had fallen enormously in price, 
that it was hard pressed to make its payments, that 
its credit was so seriously impaired that the Bank 
of England would not help it, and that its dividends 
had been reduced below the point at and above 
which it was obliged to pay, and heretofore regu- 
larly had paid, .£400,000 annually to the govern- 

1 See also letter to Marshall, April 22, 1771, Works, x. 315. 


meiit. Many investors were painfully straitened, 
and not a few bankruptcies ensued. Besides the 
loss of this annual stipend the treasury was further 
the sufferer by the great expense which had been 
incurred in endeavoring to guard the American 
coast against smugglers ; with the added vexation 
that these costly attempts had, after all, been fruit- 
less. Fifteen hundred miles of shore line, occu- 
pied by people unanimously hostile to the king's 
revenue officers, presented a task much beyond the 
capabilities of the vessels which England could 
send thither. So the Dutch, the Danes, the Swedes, 
and the French soon established a thriving contra- 
band trade ; the American housewives were hardly 
interrupted in dispensing the favorite beverage ; the 
English merchant's heavy loss became the foreign 
smuggler's aggravating gain ; and the costly sacri- 
fice of the East India Company fell short of effect- 
ing the punishment of the wicked Americans. 
Franklin could not " help smiling at these blun- 
ders." Englishmen would soon resent them, he 
said, would turn out the ministry that was respons- 
ible for them, and put in a very different set of 
men, who would undo the mischief. "If we con- 
tinue firm and united, and resolutely persist in the 
non-consumption agreement, this adverse ministry 
cannot possibly stand another year. And surely 
the great body of our people, the farmers and arti- 
ficers, will not find it hard to keep an agreement by 
which they both save and gain." Thus he contin- 
ued to write so late as February, 1775, believing 
to the last in the efficacy of this policy. 





The famous episode of the Hutchinson letters, 
occurring near the close of Franklin's stay in Eng- 
land, must be narrated with a brevity more in ac- 
cord with its real historical value than with its in- 
terest as a dramatic story. In conversation one 
day with an English gentleman, Franklin spoke 
with resentment of the sending troops to Boston 
and the other severe measures of the government. 
The other in reply engaged to convince him that 
these steps were taken upon the suggestion and ad- 
vice of Americans. A few days later he made good 
his promise by producing certain letters, signed by 
Hutchinson, Oliver, and others, all natives of, and 
residents and office-holders in, America, The ad- 
dresses had been cut from the letters ; but in other 
respects they were un mutilated, and they were the 
original documents. They contained just such mat- 
ter as the gentleman had described, — opinions and 
advice which would have commended themselves 
highly to a royalist, but which could have seemed 
to a patriot in the provinces only the most danger- 


ous and abominable treason. Induced by obvious 
motives, Franklin begged leave to send these let- 
ters to Massachusetts, and finally obtained permis- 
sion to do so, subject to the stipulation that they 
should not be printed nor copied, and should be 
circulated only among a few leading men. His 
purpose, he said, lay in his belief that when the 
" principal people " in Boston " saw the measures 
they complained of took their rise in a great de- 
gree from the representations and recommendations 
of their own countrymen, their resentment against 
Britain might abate, as mine has done, and a recon- 
ciliation be more easily obtained." ^ Franklin ac- 
cordingly sent over the letters, together with strict 
injunctions in pursuance of his engagement to the 
giver of them : " In confidence of your following 
inviolably my engagement," etc., he wrote. But 
this solemn instruction was not complied with ; the 
temptation was too great for the honor of some 
among the patriots, who resolved that the letters 

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


should be made public despite any pledge to the 
contrary, and resorted to a shallow artifice for 
achieving their end. A story was started that au- 
thenticated copies of the same papers had been re- 
ceived from England by somebody. There was a 
prudent abstention from any inquiry into the truth 
of this statement. " I know," said Franklin, " that 
could not be. It was an expedient to disengage 
the House." Dishonest as it obviously was, it was 
successful ; members accepted it as a removal of 
the seal of secrecy ; and the documents having thus 
found their way before the Assembly were ordered 
to be printed. That body, greatly incensed, imme- 
diately voted a petition to the king for the re- 
moval of the governor and lieutenant-governor, 
and sent it over to Franklin to be presented. 

The publication of these letters made no little 
stir. The writers were furious, and of course 
brought vehement charges of bad faith and dishon- 
orable behavior. But they were at a loss to know 
upon whom to visit their wrath. For the person 
to whom they had written the letters was dead, and 
they knew no one else who had been concerned in 
the matter. The secret of the channel of convey- 
ance had been rigidly kept: No one had the 
slightest idea by whom the letters had been trans- 
mitted to Massachusetts, nor by whom they had 
been received there. To this day it is not known 
by whom the letters were given to Franklin. July 
25, 1773, he wrote to Mr. Gushing, the speaker 
of the Assembly, to whom he had inclosed the let- 


ters : " I observe that you meution that no person 
besides Dr. Cooper and one member of the com- 
mittee knew they came from me. I did not accom- 
pany them with any request of being myself con- 
cealed ; for, believing what I did to be in the way 
of my duty as agent, though I had no doubt of 
its giving offense, not only to the parties exposed 
but to administration here, I was regardless of the 
consequences. However, since the letters them- 
selves are now copied and printed, contrary to the 
promise 1 made, I am glad my name has not been 
heard on the occasion ; and, as I do not see how it 
could be of any use to the public, I now wish it 
may continue unknown ; though I hardly expect 
it." Unfortunately it soon became of such use to 
two individuals in England that Franklin himself 
felt obliged to divulge it ; otherwise it might have 
remained forever a mystery. 

Though the addresses had been cut from the 
letters, yet they had previously been shown to many 
persons in England, and it soon became known 
there that they had been written to Mr. William 
Whately, now dead, but who, when the letters 
were written, was a member of Parliament and 
private secretary to* George Grenville, who was 
then in the cabinet. Amid the active surmises as 
to the next link in the chain suspicion naturally 
attached to Thomas Whately, brother and executor 
of the dead man, and in possession of his papers. 
This gentleman denied that he had ever, to his 
knowledge, had these letters in his hands. Sus- 


pioion next attached to Mr. Temple, " our friend," 
as Franklin described him. He had had access to 
the letters of William Whately for the purpose of 
getting from among them certain letters written 
by himself and his brother ; he had lived in Amer- 
ica, had been governor of New Hampshire, and 
later in letters to his friends there had announced 
the coming of the letters before they had actually 
arrived. The expression of suspicion towards 
Temple found its way into a newspaper, bolstered 
with an intimation that the information came from 
Thomas Whately. Temple at once made a demand 
upon Whately to exculpate him. This of course 
Whately could not do, since he had not inspected 
the letters taken by Temple, and so could not say 
of his knowledge that these were not among them. 
But instead of taking this perfectly safe ground, 
he published a card stating that Temple had had 
access to the letters of the deceased for a special 
purpose, and that Temple had solemnly averred to 
him, Whately, that he had neither removed nor 
copied any letters save those written by himself 
and his brother. This exoneration was far from 
satisfying Temple, who conceived that it rather 
injured than improved his position. Accordingly 
he challenged Whately and the two fought in Hyde 
Park ring. The story of the duel, which was min- 
gled of comedy and tragedy, is vividly told by Mr. 
Parton. Whately was wounded twice, and at his 
request the fight then ceased. Temple was accused, 
but unfairly, of having thrust at him when he was 


down. But it was no conventional duel, or result 
of temporary hot blood. The contestants were 
profoundly angry with each other, and were bent 
on more serious results than curable wounds. It 
was understood that so soon as Whately should be 
well, the fight would be renewed. Thus matters 
stood when Franklin came up to London from a 
visit in the country, to be astonished by the news 
of what had occurred, and annoyed at the prospect 
of what was likely to occur. At once he inserted 
this letter : — 

To the Printer of the " Public Advertiser : " 

Sir, — Finding- that two gentlemen have been unfor- 
tunately engaged in a duel about a transaction and its 
circumstances of which both of them are totally ignorant 
and innocent, I think it incumbent upon me to declare 
(for the prevention of further mischief, as far as such a 
declaration may contribute to prevent it) that I alone 
am the person who obtained and transmitted to Boston 
the letters in question. Mr. Whately could not commu- 
nicate them, because they were never in his possession ; 
and for the same reason they could not be taken from 
him by Mr. Temple. They were not of the nature of 
private letters between friends. They were written by 
public officers to persons in public stations on public 
affairs, and intended to procure public measures ; they 
were therefore handed to other public persons, who might 
be influenced by them to produce those measures. Their 
tendency was to incense the mother country against her 
colonies, and, by the steps recommended, to widen the 
breach which they effected. The chief caution expressed 
with regard to privacy was, to keep their contents from 


the colony agents, who, the writers apprehended, might 
return them, or copies of them, to America. That ap- 
prehension was, it seems, well founded, for the first agent 
who laid his hands on them thought it his duty to trans- 
mit them to his constituents. 

B. Franklin, 
Agent for the House of Representatives of 
Massachusetts Bay. 
Craven Street, December 25, 1773. 

The petition, forwarded by the House of Repre- 
sentatives of Massachusetts Bay, after they had 
read the famous letters, recited that the petitioners 
had " very lately had before them certain papers^'' 
and it was upon the streng-th of the contents of 
these papers that they humbly prayed that his 
majesty would be " pleased to remove from their 
posts in this government " Governor Hutchinson 
and Lieutenant-Governor Oliver. Immediately 
upon receipt of this petition Franklin transmitted 
it to Lord Dartmouth, with a very civil and con- 
ciliatory note, to which Lord Dartmouth replied in 
the same spirit. This took place in August, 1773 ; 
the duel followed in December, and in the interval 
Franklin had heard nothing from the petition. 
But when his foregoing letter was published and 
conned over it seemed that the auspicious moment 
for the ministry was now at hand, and that it had 
actually been furnished to them by the astute 
Franklin himself. There is no question that he 
had acted according to his conscience, and it seems 
now to be generally agreed that his conscience did 


not mislead him. But he had been placed in a 
difficult position, and it was easily possible to give 
a very bad coloring to his conduct. There was in 
this business an opportunity to bring into discredit 
the character of the representative man of America, 
the man foremost of Americans in the eyes of the 
world, the man most formidable to the ministerial 
party ; such an opportunity was not to be lost.^ 

Franklin had anticipated that the " king would 
have considered this petition, as he had done the 
preceding one, in his cabinet, and have given an 
answer without a hearing." But on the afternoon 
of Saturday, January 8, 1774, he was surprised to 
receive notice of a hearing upon the petition before 

^ It must be confessed that the question whether Franklin 
should have sent these letters to be seen by the leading men of 
Massachusetts involves points of some delicacy. The very elab- 
orateness and vehemence of the exculpations put forth by Amer- 
ican writers indicate a lurking feeling that the opposite side is at 
least plausible. I add my opinion decidedly upon Franklin's side, 
though I certainly see force in the contrary view. Yet before one 
feels fully satisfied he would wish to know from whom these let- 
ters came to Franklin's hands, the information then given him 
concerning them, and the authority which the giver might be 
supposed to have over them, in a word all the attendant and qual- 
ifying circumstances and conversation upon which presumptions 
might have been properly founded by Franklin. Upon these 
essential matters there is absolutely no evidence. Franklin was 
bound to secrecy concerning them, at whatever cost to himself. 
But it is evident that Franklin never for an instant entertained 
the slightest doubt of the entire propriety of his action, and even 
in his own cause he was wont to be a fair-minded judge. One 
gets a glimpse of the other side in the Diary and Letters of his 
Excellency Thomas Hutchinson, Esq., etc, by Thomas Orlando 
Hutchinson, pp. 5, 82-93. 102, 356. 


the Lords of the Committee for Plantation Affairs, 
at the Cockpit, on the Tuesday following, at noon. 
Late in the afternoon of Monday he got notice 
that Mr. Mauduit, agent for Hutchinson and Oliver, 
would be represented at the hearing on the follow- 
ing morning by counsel. A less sagacious man 
than Franklin would have scented trouble in the 
air. He tried to find Arthur Lee ; but Lee was in 
Bath. He then sought advice from Mr. BoUan, a 
barrister, agent for the Council of Massachusetts 
Bay, and who also had been summoned. There 
was no time to instruct counsel, and Mr. BoUan 
advised to employ none ; he had found " lawyers 
of little service in colony cases." " Those who are 
eminent and hope to rise in their profession are 
unwilling to offend the court, whose disposition on 
this occasion was well known." The next day at 
the hearing Mr. Bollan endeavored to speak ; but, 
though he had been summoned, he was summarily 
silenced, on the ground that the colonial Council, 
whose agent he was, was not a party to the petition. 
Franklin then laid the petition and authenticated 
copies of the letters before the committee. Some 
objections to the receipt of copies instead of orig- 
inals were raised by Mr. Wedderburn, solicitor- 
general and counsel for Hutchinson and Oliver. 
Franklin then spoke with admirable keenness and 
skill. He said that he had not conceived the mat- 
ter to call for discussion by lawyers ; but that it 
was a " question of civil or political prudence, 
whether, on the state of the fact that the governors 


had lost all trust and confidence with the people, 
and become universally obnoxious, it would be for 
the interest of his majesty's service to continue 
them in those stations in that Province." Of this 
he conceived their lordships to be " perfect judges," 
not requiring " assistance from the arguments of 
counsel." Yet if counsel was to be heard he asked 
an adjournment to enable him to engage and in- 
struct lawyers. Time was accordingly granted, 
until January 29. Wedderburn waived his ob- 
jection to the copies, but both he and Lord Chief 
Justice De Grey intimated that inquiry would be 
made as to " how the Assembly came into possession 
of them, through whose hands and by what means 
they were procured, . . . and to whom they were 
directed." This was all irrelevant to the real issue, 
which had been sharply defined by Franklin. The 
lord president, near whom Franklin stood, asked 
him whether he intended to answer such questions. 
" In that I shall take counsel," replied Franklin. 

The interval which elapsed before the day nom- 
inated could not have been very lightsome for the 
unfortunate agent for the Massachusetts Bay. Not 
only had he the task of selecting and instructing 
competent counsel, but even his self-possessed and 
composed nature must have been severely harassed 
by the rumors of which the air was full. He heard 
from all quarters that the ministry and courtiers 
were highly enraged against him ; he was called an 
incendiary, and the newspapers teemed with invec- 
tives against him. He heard that he was to be ap- 


prehended and sent to Newgate, and that his papers 
were to be seized ; that after he had been sufficiently 
blackened by the hearing he would be deprived of 
his place ; with disheartening news also that the 
disposition of the petition had already been deter- 
mined.^ At the same time a subpoena was served 
upon him at the private suit of Whately, who was 
under personal obligations to him, but was also a 
banker to the government. Certainly the heavens 
threatened a cloudburst with appalling thunder 
and dangerous lightning. 

Upon reflection Franklin was disposed to do with- 
out counsel, but Mr. Bollan now became strongly 
of the contrary opinion. So Mr. Dunning and 
Mr. John Lee were retained. The former had 
been solicitor-general, and was a man of mark and 
ability in the profession. When the hearing came 
on, the Cockpit presented such a spectacle that 
Franklin felt assured that the whole affair had 
been "preconcerted." The hostile courtiers had 
been " invited, as to an entertainment, and there 
never was such an appearance of privy councilors 
on any occasion, not less than thirty-five, besides 
an immense crowd of other auditors." Every one 
save the privy councilors had to stand from 
beginning to end of the proceedings. Franklin 
occupied a position beside the fireplace, where he 
stood throughout immovable as a statue, his feat- 
ures carefully composed so that not one trace of 
emotion was apparent upon them, showing a degree 

1 Franklin's Works, v. 297, 298. 


of self-control which was extraordinary even in one 
who was at once a man of the world and a philoso- 
pher, with sixty-eight years of experience in life. 
Mr. Dunning, with his voice unfortunately weak- 
ened by a cold, was not always audible and made 
little impression. Mr. Lee was uselessly feeble. 
Wedderburn, thus inefficiently opposed, and con- 
scious of the full sympathy of the tribunal, poured 
forth a vile flood of personal invective. Through- 
out his life he approved himself a mean-spirited 
and ignoble man, despised by those who used and 
rewarded his able and debased services. On this 
occasion he eagerly took advantage of the protec- 
tion afforded by his position and by Dr. Frank- 
lin's age to use language which, under such circum- 
stances, was as cowardly as it was false. Nothing, 
he said, " will acquit Dr. Franklin of the charge of 
obtaining [the letters] by fraudulent or corrupt 
means, for the most malignant of purposes, unless 
he stole them from the person who stole them." 
" I hope, my lords, you will mark and brand the 
man, for the honor of this country, of Europe, and 
of mankind." " He has forfeited all the respect of 
societies and of men. Into what companies will he 
hereafter go with an unembarrassed face or the 
honest intrepidity of virtue ? Men will watch him 
with a jealous eye ; they will hide their papers 
from him, and lock up their escritoires. He will 
henceforth esteem it a libel to be called a man of 
letters, homo trium ^ literarum^ " But he not 

^ A play upon the Latin word, fur, a thief. 


only took away the letters from one brother, but 
kept himself concealed till he nearly occasioned 
the murder of the other. It is impossible to read 
his account, expressive of the coolest and most 
deliberate malice, without horror. Amidst these 
tragical events, — of one person nearly murdered, 
of another answerable for the issue, of a worthy 
governor hurt in his dearest interests, the fate of 
America in suspense, — here is a man who, with 
the utmost insensibility of remorse, stands up and 
avows himself the author of all. I can compare 
it only to Zanga, in Dr. Young's ' Revenge.' 

' Know then 't was — I ; 
I f org-ed the letter, I disposed the picture ; 
I hated, I despised, and I destroy.' 

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

Such was the torrent of vilification which flowed 
from the lips of one of the meanest of England's 
lawyers, and the speaker was constantly encouraged 
by applause, and by various indications of gratifica- 
tion on the part of the tribunal before which he 
argued. Dr. Priestley, who was present, said that 
from the opening of the proceedings it was evident 
" that the real object of the court was to insult Dr. 
Franklin," an object in which their lordships were, 
of course, able to achieve a complete success. " No 
person belonging to the coimcil behaved with de- 
cent gravity, except Lord North," who came late 



and remained standing behind a chair. It was a 
disgraceful scene, but not of long duration ; ap- 
parently there was little else done save to hear the 
speeches of counsel. The report of the lords was 
dated on the same day, and was a severe censure 
upon the petition and the petitioners. More than 
this, their lordships went out of their way to inflict 
a wanton outrage upon Franklin. The question of 
who gave the letters to him was one which all con- 
cerned were extremely anxious to hear answered. 
But it was also a question which he could not law- 
fully be compelled to answer in these proceedings ; 
it was wholly irrelevant ; moreover it was involved 
in the cause then pending before the lord chancellor 
in which Franklin was respondent. Accordingly, 
by advice of counsel, advice unquestionably correct, 
he refused to divulge what their lordships were so 
curious to hear. Enraged, they said in their re- 
port that his " silence " was abundant support for 
the conclusion that the " charge of surreptitiously 
obtaining the letters was a true one," although they 
knew that in law and in fact his silence was wholly 

Resolutely as Franklin sought at the time to re- 
press any expression of his natural indignation, 
there is evidence enough of how deeply he felt this 
indignity. For example, there is the familiar story 
of his dress. He wore, at the Cockpit, " a full 
dress suit of spotted Manchester velvet." Many 
years afterward, when it befell him, as one of the 
ambassadors of his country, to sign the treaty of 


alliance with France, the first treaty ever made by 
the United States of America, and which practi- 
cally insured the defeat of Great Britain in the 
pending war, it was observed by Dr. Bancroft that 
he was attired in this same suit. The signing was 
to have taken place on February 5, but was un- 
expectedly postponed to the next day, when again 
Franklin appeared in the same old suit and set his 
hand to the treaty. Dr. Bancroft says : " I once 
intimated to Dr. Franklin the suspicion which his 
wearing these clothes on that occasion had excited 
in my mind, when he smiled, without telling me 
whether it was well or ill founded." Having done 
this service, the suit was again laid away until it 
was brought forth to be worn at Paris at the sign- 
ing of the treaty of peace with England, a circum- 
stance the more noteworthy since at that time the 
French court was in mourning.^ 

It appears that Franklin for a time entertained 
a purpose of drawing up an " answer to the abuses " 
cast at him upon this occasion. There was, how- 
ever, no need for doing so, and his reason for 
not doing it is more eloquent on his behalf with 
posterity than any pamphlet could be. He said : 
"It was partly written, but the affairs of public 
importance I have been ever since engaged in pre- 
vented my finishing it. The injuries too that my 
country has suffered have absorbed private resent- 
ments, and made it appear trifling for an individual 
to trouble the world with his particular justifica- 
1 Parton's Life of Franklin, ii. 508. 



tion, when all his compatriots were stigmatized by 
the king and Parliament as being in every respect 
the worst of mankind." 

The proceedings at the Cockpit took place on a 
Saturday. On the following Monday morning 
Franklin got a " written notice from the secretary 
of the general post-office, that his majesty's post- 
master-general found it necessary to dismiss me 
from my office of deputy postmaster-general in 
North America." In other ways too the mischief 
done him by this public assault could not be con- 
cealed. It published to all the world the feeling 
of the court and the ministry toward him, and told 
Englishmen that it was no longer worth while to 
keep up appearances of courtesy and good will. It 
put upon him a judicial stigma, which was ample 
excuse for the enemies of America henceforth to 
treat him as both dishonored and dishonorable. 
Hitherto his tact and his high character had pre- 
served him in a great measure from the social an- 
noyances and curtailments which he would naturally 
have suffered as the prominent representative of 
an unpopular cause. But it seemed now as if his 
judgment had once and fatally played him false, 
and certainly his good name and his prestige were 
given over to his enemies, who dealt cruelly with 
them. He felt that it was the end of his useful- 
ness, also that his own self-respect and dignity 
must be carefully preserved ; and he wrote to the 
Assembly of Massachusetts to say that it would be 
impossible for him longer to act as its agent. From 


that time he never attended the levee of a minister. 
The portcullis had dropped ; the days of his service 
in England were over. 

The conclusion had come painfully, yet it was 
not without satisfaction that he saw himself free 
to return home. His affairs had suffered in his 
absence, and needed his attention now more than 
ever, since he was deprived of his income from the 
post-office. Moreover his efforts could no longer be 
cheered with hopes of success or even of achieving 
any substantial advantage for his countrymen. He 
was obliged to admit that the good disposition of 
Lord Dartmouth had had no practical results. 
" No single measure of his predecessor has since 
been even attempted to be changed, and, on the 
contrary, new ones have been continually added, 
further to exasperate these people, render them des- 
perate, and drive them, if possible, into open rebel- 
lion." It had been a vexatious circumstance, too, 
that not long before this time he had received a 
rebuke from the Massachusetts Assembly for hav- 
ing been lax, as they fancied, in notifying them of 
some legislation of an injurious character, which 
was in preparation. " This censure," he said, 
" though grievous, does not so much surprise me, 
as I apprehended all along from the beginning 
that between the friends of an old agent, my pre- 
decessor, who thought himself hardly used in his 
dismission, and those of a young man impatient for 
the succession, my situation was not likely to be 
a very comfortable one, as my faults could scarce 


pass unobserved." This reference to the malicious 
and untrustworthy backbiter, Arthur Lee, might 
have been much more severe, and still amply de- 
served. The most important acts of his ignoble 
life, by which alone his memory is preserved, were 
the slanders which he set in circulation concerning 
Franklin. Yet Franklin, little suspicious and very 
magnanimous, praised him as a " gentleman of 
parts and ability," likely to serve the Province with 
zeal and activity. Probably from this impure Lee 
fount, but possibly from some other source, there now 
came a renewal of the rumors that Franklin was to 
be gained over to the ministerial side by promotion 
to some office superior to that which he had held. 
The injurious story was told in Boston, where per- 
haps a few persons believed it to be true of a man 
who in fact could hardly have set upon his fealty a 
price so high that the British government would 
not gladly have paid it, and who heretofore had 
been, and at this very time again was, tempted by 
repeated solicitations and the intimations of grand 
rewards, only to change his mind — a matter so 
very easy in politics. 

Furthermore, beyond these assaults upon his 
fidelity, these insults of the privy council, Frank- 
lin had to contemplate the possibility of personal 
danger. He was a man of abundant courage, but 
courage does not make a prison or a gallows an 
agreeable object in one's horizon. The newspapers 
alleged that in his correspondence " treason " 
had been discovered. The ministry, as he was 


directly informed, thought no better of him than 
did. the editors, regarding him as "the great fo- 
menter of the opposition in America," the " great 
adversary to any accommodation." "It is given 
out," he wrote, " that copies of several letters of 
mine to you are sent over here to the ministers, 
and that their contents are treasonable, for which 
I should be prosecuted if copies could be made evi- 
dence." He was not conscious of any treasonable 
intention, but treason was a word to make a man 
anxious in those days, when uttered by the minis- 
try and echoed by the court. Franklin was quite 
aware that, though ministers might offer him a 
tempting place by way of bribe, they would far 
rather give him " a place in a cart to Tyburn." 
His friends warned him that his situation was 
hazardous ; that, " if by some accident the troops 
and the people of New England should come to 
blows," he would doubtless be seized ; and they 
advised him to withdraw while yet he could do so. 
Hutchinson frankly avowed that, if his advice were 
taken, the withdrawal would not be permitted. 
" But," said Franklin, " I venture to stay," upon 
the chance of still being of use, " and I confide on 
my innocence that the worst which can happen to 
me will be an imprisonment upon suspicion ; though 
that is a thing I should much desire to avoid, as it 
may be expensive and vexatious, as well as danger- 
ous to my health." So spoke this imperturbable 
man, and calmly stayed at his post. 

He was still consulted by both sides in England. 


In the August following the scene in the privy 
council chamber, he called upon Lord Chatham 
and had a long and interesting interview. He 
then said that he attributed the late " wrong poli- 
tics " to the departure from the old and true Brit- 
ish principle, " whereby every Province was well 
governed, being trusted in a great measure with 
the government of itself." When it was sought 
to take this privilege from the colonies, grave 
blunders had inevitably ensued ; because, as he 
admirably expressed it. Parliament insisted upon 
being omnipotent when it was not omniscient. In 
other words, the affairs of the unrepresented colo- 
nies were mismanaged through sheer ignorance. 
It is noteworthy that England has since recognized 
the necessity of precisely the principle indicated by 
Franklin for colonial government ; all her great 
colonies are now " trusted in a great measure with 
the government" of themselves, and are conse- 
quently " well governed." Franklin further as- 
sured his lordship that in all his travels in the 
provinces he had never once heard independence 
hinted at as a desirable thing. This gave Chat- 
ham much pleasure ; but perhaps neither of them 
at the moment reflected how many eventful years 
had elapsed since Franklin was last journeying in 
America. He further declared that the colonists 
were " even not against regulations of the general 
commerce by Parliament, provided such regulations 
were hona fide for the benefit of the whole empire^ 
not to the small advantage of one part to the great 


injury of another." This, by the way, was a good 
point, which he found very serviceable when peo- 
ple talked to him about the unity of the empire. 
A genuine unity was just the gospel which he liked 
to preach. " An equal dispensation," he said, " of 
protection, rights, privileges, and advantages is 
what every part is entitled to, and ought to enjoy, 
it being a matter of no moment to the state whether 
a subject grows rich and flourishing on the Thames 
or the Ohio, in Edinburgh or Dublin.'* But no 
living Englishman could accept this broad and 
liberal doctrine. The notion that the colonies were 
a dependency and should be tributary to the greater 
power was universal. It was admitted that they 
should not be oppressed ; but it was believed that 
between oppression and that perfect unity which 
involved entire equality there was certainly a mid- 
dle ground whereon the colonies might properly be 

Lord Chatham expressed in courteous compli- 
ments the gratification which this visit afforded 
him. Not long afterward he came gallantly to the 
defense of Franklin in the House of Lords. It was 
one day in February, 1775 ; Franklin was stand- 
ing in full view, leaning on a rail ; Lord Sandwich 
was speaking against a measure of conciliation or 
agreement just introduced by Chatham. He said 
that it deserved " only contempt," and *' ought to 
be immediately rejected. I can never believe it 
to be the production of any British peer. It ap- 
pears to me rather the work of some American. 


I fancy I have in my eye the person who drew it 
up, one of the bitterest and most mischievous ene- 
mies this country has ever known." Speaking 
thus, he looked full at Franklin, and drew upon 
him the general attention. But Chatham hastened 
to defend the defenseless one. " The plan is en- 
tirely my own," he said ; " but if I were the first 
minister, and had the care of settling this momen- 
tous business, I should not be ashamed of calling 
to my assistance a person so perfectly acquainted 
with the whole of American affairs, one whom all 
Europe ranks with our Boyles and Newtons, as an 
honor not to the English nation only but to human 
nature." This was spirited and friendly ; Frank- 
lin had a way of making warm and loyal friends. 
Most men would have rejoiced to be so abused by 
Sandwich in order to be so complimented by Chat- 

Yet in spite of the high esteem in which so many 
Englishmen still held Franklin an incident occurred 
at this time which showed very plainly that the 
term of his full usefulness was indeed over, though 
not altogether for the reasons which had led him to 
think so. The fact was that the proverbial last 
feather which breaks the back had been laid upon 
him. His endurance had been overtaxed, and he 
was at last in that temper and frame of mind in 
which the wisest men are liable to make grave mis- 
takes. He was one day present at a debate in the 
House of Commons, and found himself, as he says, 
1 Bancroft, Hist U. S., v. 220. 


" much disgusted, from the ministerial side, by 
many base reflections on American courage, reli- 
gion, understanding, etc., in which we were treated 
with the utmost contempt, as the lowest of man- 
kind, and almost of a different species from the 
English of Britain ; but particularly the American 
honesty was abused by some of the lords, who as- 
serted that we were all knaves, etc." Franklin went 
home " somewhat irritated and heated," and before 
he had cooled he wrote a paper which he hastened 
to show to his friend Mr. Thomas Walpole, a 
member of the House of Commons. Mr. Walpole 
" looked at it and at me several times alternately, 
as if he apprehended me a little out of my senses." 
Nor would Mr. Walpole have been altogether with- 
out reason, if in fact he entertained such a suspi- 
cion. The paper was the memorial of Benjamin 
Franklin to the Earl of Dartmouth, secretary of 
state. In its first clause it demanded " repara- 
tion " for the injury done by the blockade of the 
port of Boston. Conventional forms of speech 
were observed, yet there was an atmosphere almost 
of injurious insolence, entirely foreign to all other 
productions of Franklin's brain and pen. Its se- 
cond paragraph recited that the conquests made in 
the northeast from France, which included all 
those extensive fisheries which still survive as a 
bone of contention between the two countries, had 
been jointly won by England and the American 
colonies, at their common cost, and by an army in 
which the provincial troops were nearly equal in 


numbers to the British. "It follows," the auda- 
cious memorialist said, " that the colonies have an 
equitable and just right to participate in the advan- 
tage of those fisheries," and the present English 
attempt to deprive the Massachusetts people of 
sharing in them was " an act highly unjust and in- 
jurious." He concluded : " I give notice that satis- 
faction will probably one day be demanded for all 
the injury that may be done and suffered in the 
execution of such act ; and that the injustice of the 
proceeding is likely to give such umbrage to all the 
colonies that in no future war, wherein other con- 
quests may be meditated, either a man or a shilling 
will be obtained from any of them to aid such con- 
quests, till full satisfaction be made as aforesaid." 
Here was indeed a fulmination to strike an Eng- 
lishman breathless and dumb with amazement. It 
put the colonies in the position of a coequal or al- 
lied power, entitled to share with Britain the spoils 
of victory ; even in the position of an independent 
power which could refuse the military allegiance 
of subjects. English judges would have found 
abundant treason in this insubordinate document. 
It may soothe common men to see the wise, the se- 
rene, the self-contained Dr. Franklin, the philoso- 
pher and diplomatist, for once lose his head in a 
gust of uncontrollable passion. Walpole, though 
a loyal Englishman, was fortunately his true friend, 
and wrote him, with a brevity more impressive than 
argument, that the memorial "might be attended 
with dangerous consequences to your person and 


contribute to exasperate the nation." He closed 
with the significant sentence : " I heartily wish 
you a prosperous voyage and long health." The 
significant words remind one of the woodcock's 
feather with which Wildrake warned the disguised 
monarch that no time was to be lost in fleeing from 
Woodstock. But if the hint was curt, it was no 
less wise. There was no doubt that it was full 
time for the sage to be exchanging his farewells, 
when such a point had been reached. The next 
day, as Franklin relates, Walpole called and said 
that " it was thought my having no instructions 
directing me to deliver such a protest would make 
it appear still more unjustifiable, and be deemed a 
national affront. I had no desire to make matters 
worse, and, being grown cooler, took the advice so 
kindly given me." 

The last business which Franklin had to trans- 
act on the eve of his departure came in the shape of 
one of those mysterious and obscure bits of negotia- 
tion which are at times undertaken by private per- 
sons who are very " near " to ministers, and who 
conduct their affairs with impressive secrecy. Just 
how much this approach amounted to it is difficult 
to say ; no less a person than Lord Howe was con- 
cerned in it, and he was undoubtedly in direct 
communication with Lord North. But whether 
that potentate really anticipated any substantial 
good result may be doubted. Franklin himself has 
told the story with much particularity, and since it 
will neither bear curtailment nor admit of being 


related at length, and since the whole palaver ac- 
complished absolutely nothing, the relation will be 
omitted here. In the course of it the efforts to 
bribe Franklin were renewed, and briefly rejected 
by him. Also he met, and established a very 
friendly personal relation with. Lord Howe, who 
afterward commanded the British fleet in American 

Having discovered the emptiness of this busi- 
ness Franklin at last completed his arrangements 
for his return home. He placed his agencies in the 
hands of Arthur Lee. His last day in London he 
passed with his staunch old friend. Dr. Priestley, 
and a large part of the time, says the doctor, " he 
was looking over a number of American news- 
papers, directing me what to extract from them for 
the English ones ; and in reading them he was fre- 
quently not able to proceed for the tears literally 
running down his cheeks." Such was the depth of 
feeling in one often accounted callous, indifferent, 
or even untrustworthy in the matter of American 
relations with England. He felt some anxiety as 
to whether his departure might not be prevented 
by an arrest, and made his journey to Portsmouth 
with such speed and precautions as were possible.^ 
But he was not interrupted, and sailed on some day 
near the middle of March, 1775. His departure 
marked an era in the relations of Great Britain 
with her American colonies. It signified that all 
hope of agreement, all possibility of reconciliation 

1 Parton's Life of Franklin, ii. 70, 


upon one side or of recession upon the other, were 
absohitely over. That Franklin gave up in de- 
spair the task of preventing a war meant that war 
was certain and imminent. He arrived in Phila- 
delphia May 5, 1775. During his absence his 
wife had died, and his daughter had married a 
young man, Kichard Bache, whom he had never 
yet seen. 



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

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


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

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

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

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


On the very day after his return, when he had 
scarce caught the breath of land, he was unani- 
mously elected by the Assembly a delegate to the 
Provincial Congress. It was an emergency when 
the utmost must be made of time, brains, and men. 
By subsequent reelections he continued to sit in 
that body until his departure for France. There 
was business enough before it : the organization of 
a government, of the army, of the finances ; most 
difficult of all, the arrangement of a national policy, 
and the harmonizing of conflicting opinions among 
men of influence at home. In all that came before 
the Congress Franklin was obliged to take his full 
share. He seems to have been upon all the busy 
and important committees. There were more ar- 
dent spirits, greater propelling forces, than he was ; 
but his wisdom was transcendent. Dickinson and 
his followers were bent upon sending one more 
petition to the king, a scheme which was ridiculed 
almost with anger by the more advanced and reso- 
lute party. But Franklin's counsel was to give 
way to their wishes, as being the best policy for 
bringing them later into full accord with the party 
which was for war. He had no hopes of any other 
good result from the proceeding ; but it also 
chimed with his desire to put the English as much 
as possible in the wrong. In the like direction was 
a clause in his draft of a declaration, intended to 
be issued by Washington in the summer of 1775. 
To counteract the charge that the colonies refused 
to contribute to the cost of their own protection, 


he proposed that, if Great Britain would abolisli 
her monopoly of the colonial trade, allowing free 
commerce between the colonies and all the rest of 
the world, they would pay into the English sinking 
fund £100,000 annually for one hundred years ; 
which would be more than sufficient, if " faithfully 
and inviolably applied for that purpose, ... to 
extinguish all her present national debt." 

At the close of this document he administered a 
telling fillip in his humorous st^de to that numer- 
ous class who seek to control practical affairs by 
sentiment, and who now would have had their 
prattle about the " mother country " outweigh the 
whole accumulation of her very unmaternal o^- 
pression and injustice. Concerning the allegation 
of an unfilial ingratitude, he said: *' There is 
much more reason for retorting that charge on 
Britain, who not only never contributes any aid, 
nor affords, by an exclusive commerce, any advan- 
tages to Saxony, her mother country ; but, no 
longer since than the last war, without the least pro- 
vocation, subsidized the king of Prussia while he 
ravaged that mother country, and carried fire and 
sword into its capital. . . . An example we hope 
no provocation will induce us to imitate." Had this 
declaration ever been used, which it was not, the 
dignity of the grave general who commanded the 
American forces would have compelled him to cut 
off this closing snapper from the lash, amusing 
as it was. The witty notion had found a more 
appropriate place in the newspaper article which 


bad durufounded the guests at the English coun- 
try house. Commenting upon this, Mr. Parton 
well says : " Here perhaps we have one of the rea- 
sons why Dr. Franklin, who was universally con- 
fessed to be the ablest pen in America, was not al- 
ways asked to write the great documents of the 
Revolution. He would have put a joke into the 
Declaration of Independence, if it had fallen to him 
to write it. . . . His jokes, the circulating medium 
of Congress, were as helpful to the cause as Jay's 
conscience, or Adams's fire ; . . . but they were out 
of place in formal, exact, and authoritative papers." ^ 
A document which cost Dr. Franklin much more 
labor than this declaration was a plan for a union 
of the colonies, which he brought forward July 
21, 1775. It was the " first sketch of a plan of 
confederation which is known to have been pre- 
sented to Congress." No final action was ever 
taken upon it. It contained a provision that Ire- 
land, the West India Islands, the Canadian posses- 
sions, and Florida might, upon application, be re- 
ceived into the confederation. 

Franklin's duties in Congress were ample to 
consume his time and strength ; but they were far 
/ from being all that he had to do. Almost imme- 
/ diately after his return he was made chairman of a 
committee for organizing the postal service of the 
country. In execution of this duty he established 
in substance that system which has ever since pre- 
vailed ; and he was then at once appointed post- 

1 Life of Franklin, ii, 85. 


master-general, with a salary of £1,000 per annum. 
When franking letters he amused himself by 
changing the formula, " Free : B. Franklin " into 
" B. Free, Franklin." 

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

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

In September, 1775, Franklin, Lynch of South 
Carolina, and Harrison of Virginia, as a committee 
of Congress, were dispatched to Cambridge, Mas- 
sachusetts, to confer with Washington concern- 
ing military affairs. They rode from Philadelphia 
to the leaguer around Boston in thirteen days. 
Their business was achieved with no great diffi- 
culty ; but they lingered a few days more in that 
interesting camp, and were absent six weeks. Gen- 
eral Greene has recorded how he gazed upon Frank- 
lin, " that very great man, with silent admiration ;" 


and Abigail Adams tells with what interest she 
met him whom " from infancy she had been taught 
to venerate," and how she read in his grave coun- 
tenance " patriotism in its full lustre " and with it 
*' blended every virtue of a Christian." The phrase 
was not well chosen to fall from the pen of Mrs. 
Adams, yet was literally true ; Franklin had the 
virtues, though dissevered from the tenets which 
that worthy Puritan dame conceived essential to 
the make up of a genuine Christian. The time 
came when her husband would not have let her 
speak thus in praise of Benjamin Franklin. 

In the spring of 1776 Congress was inconsiderate 
enough to impose upon Franklin a journey to Mon- 
treal, there to confer with General Arnold concern- 
ing affairs in Canada. It was a severe, even a 
cruel task to put upon a man of his age ; but with 
his usual tranquil courage he accepted the mission. 
He met the ice in the rivers, and suffered much 
from fatigue and exposure ; indeed, the carelessness 
of Congress was near depriving the country of a 
life which could not have been spared. On April 
15th he wrote from Saratoga : " I begin to appre- 
hend that I have undertaken a fatigue that at my 
time of life may prove too much for me ; so I sit 
down to write to a few friends by way of farewell ; " 
and still the real wilderness with all its hardships 
lay before him. After he had traversed it he had 
the poor reward of finding himself on a bootless 
errand. The Canadian enterprise had no possible 
future save failure and retreat. There was abso- 


liitely nothing which he could do in Canada; he 
was being wasted there, and resolved to get away 
as soon as he could. Accordingly he made his 
painful way homeward ; but worn out as he was, 
he was given scant opportunity to recuperate from 
this perilous and mistaken journey. The times 
called upon every patriot to spend all he had of 
vigor, intellect, money, life itself, for the common 
cause, and Franklin was no niggard in the stress. 

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

Yet in spite of abundant acts, like this, of real 
independence taking place upon all sides, profession 
of it inspired alarm in a large proportion of the 
people. Congress even declared formally that 
independence was not aimed at. Sam Adams, dis- 
gusted, talked of forming a New England confed- 
eracy, and Franklin approved the scheme and said 
that in such an event he would cast in his lot with 
the New Englanders. But the stream ran on in 
spite of some snags in the current. It was not 


much later that Franklin found himself one of the 
committee of five elected by ballot to frame a decla- 
ration of independence. Had he been called upon 
to write the document he would certainly have 
given something more terse and simple than that 
rotund and magniloquent instrument which Jeffer- 
son bequeathed to the unbounded admiration of 
American posterity. As it was, Franklin's recorded 
connection with the preparation of that famous 
paper is confined to the amusing tale about John 
Thompson, Hatter, wherewith he mitigated the 
miseries of Jefferson during the debate ; and to his 
familiar bon-mot in reply to Harrison's appeal for 
unanimity : " Yes, we must indeed all hang to- 
gether, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." 
With this rather grim jest upon his lip, he set his 
signature to one of the greatest documents in the 
world's history. 

When it came to shaping the machinery of the 
confederation, the great difficulty, as is well known, 
lay in establishing a just proportion between the 
larger and the smaller states. Should they have 
equal weight in voting, or not ? It was a question 
so vital and so hard to settle that the confederacy 
narrowly survived the strain. Franklin was de- 
cidedly in favor of making the voting value propor- 
tionate to the size, measured by population, of the 
several states. He said : Let the smaller colonies 
give equal money and men, and then let them have 
an equal vote. If they have an equal vote without 
bearing equal burdens, a confederation based on 


such iniquitous princii3les will not last long. To 
set out with an unequal representation is unreason- 
able. There is no danger that the larger states 
will absorb the smaller. The same apprehension 
was expressed when Scotland was united to Eng- 
land. It was then said that the whale had swal- 
lowed Jonah ; but Lord Bute's administration came 
in, and then it was seen that Jonah had swallowed 
the whale. That Scotch favorite was the provoca- 
tion for many witty sayings, but for none better 
than this. 

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

"I consider this war against us, therefore, as both 
unjust and unwise ; and I am persuaded that cool, dis- 
passionate posterity will condemn to infamy those who 
advised it ; and that even success will not save from 
some degree of dishonor those who voluntarily engaged 


to conduct it. I know your great motive in coming 
hither was the hope of being instrumental in a reconciU- 
ation ; and I believe, when you find that impossible on 
any terms given you to propose, you will relinquish so 
odious a command, and return to a more honorable pri- 
vate station." 

If the Englishman had been hot-tempered, this 
would probably have ended the correspondence ; as 
it was, he only delayed for a while before writing 
civilly again. The battle of Long Island next 
occurred, and Lord Howe fancied that that disaster 
might bring the Americans to their senses. He 
paroled General Sullivan and by him sent a mes- 
sage to Congress : That he and his brother had 
full powers to arrange an accommodation ; that 
they could not at present treat with Congress as 
such, but would like to confer with some of its 
members as private gentlemen. After a long 
debate it was resolved to send a committee of Con- 
gress to meet the admiral and the general, and 
I Franklin, John Adams, and Edward Rutledge were 
I deputed. Lord Howe received them with much 
courtesy, and gave them a lunch before proceeding 
to business. But when luncheon was over and the 
substance of the errand was reached, it was very 
shortly disposed of. His lordship opened with a 
speech of elaborate civility, and concluded by say- 
ing that he felt for America as for a brother, and 
if America should fall he should feel and lament it 
like the loss of a brother. Franklin replied : " My 
lord, we will use our utmost endeavors to save your 


lordship that mortification." But Lord Howe did 
not relish this Yankee wit. He continued by a 
long, explanatory, conciliatory address. At its 
close there was necessarily brought up the question 
of the character in which the envoys came. His 
lordship thought that the idea of Congress might 
" easily be thrown out at present." Franklin 
adroitly settled it: "Your lordship may consider 
us in any view you think proper. We on our part 
are at liberty to consider ourselves in our real char- 
acter. But there is really no necessity on this 
occasion to distinguish between members of Con- 
gress and individuals. The conversation may be 
held as among friends." Mr. Adams made one of 
those blunt and pugnacious remarks which, when- 
ever addressed to Englishmen, are sure to endear 
the speaker to the American nation. Mr. Rutledge 
laid over it the courtesy of a gentleman ; and then 
the conference came to the point. 

Lord Howe expressed his majesty's earnest de- 
sire for a permanent peace and for the happiness 
of his American subjects, his willingness for a re- 
form and for a redress of grievances. But he ad- 
mitted that the Declaration of Independence was 
an awkward obstacle. He asked : " Is there no way 
of treating bach of this step of independency?" 
Franklin replied at some length, closing with the 
words: "Forces have been sent out, and towns 
have been burnt. We cannot now expect happi- 
ness under the domination of Great Britain. All 
former attachments are obliterated. America can- 


not return to the domination of Great Britain, and 
I imagine that Great Britain means to rest it upon 
force." Adams said : " It is not in our power to 
treat otherwise than as independent states ; and for 
my own part, I avow my determination never to 
depart from the idea of independency." Rutledge 
said: "With regard to the people consenting to 
come again under the English government, it is im- 
possible. I can answer for South Carolina." Lord 
Howe replied : " If such are your sentiments, I can 
only regret that it is not in my power to bring about 
the accommodation I wish." Thus the fruitlessness 
of such efforts was made manifest ; of all concerned 
it is probable that the most amiable of Englishmen 
was the only one who was disappointed at the re- 
sult. The Americans were by no means displeased 
at having another and conclusive proof to convince 
the doubting ones that reconciliation was an impos- 

Franklin's language was expressive of the way 
in which his mind had worked. Until it came to 
the " cutting of throats," he had never altogether 
and avowedly given up hopes that, from the re- 
servoir of unknown things in the future, something 
might in time come forth that would bring about 
a reasonable accommodation. But the first blood- 
shed effected a change in his feelings as irrevocable 
as that which Hawthorne so subtly represents as 
having been worked in the nature of Donatello by 
a violent taking of life. " Bunker's Hill " excited 
him ; the sack of Falmouth affected him with ter- 


rible intensity. When the foolish petition of the 
Dickinson party was sent to England, he wrote to 
Dr. Priestley that the colonies had given Britain 
one more chance of recovering their friendship, 
" which, however, I think she has not sense enough 
to embrace ; and so I conclude she has lost them 
forever. She has begun to burn our seaport towns, 
secure, I suppose, that we shall never be able to 
return the outrage in kind. ... If she wishes to 
have us subjects . . . she is now giving us such 
miserable specimens of her government that we 
shall ever detest and avoid it, as a combination of 
robbery, murder, famine, fire, and pestilence." His 
humor could not be altogether repressed, but there 
was sternness and bitterness underlying it : " Tell 
our dear, good friend, Dr. Price, who sometimes 
has his doubts and despondencies about our firm- 
ness, that America is determined and unanimous ; 
a very few Tories and placemen excepted, who will 
probably soon export themselves. Britain, at the 
expense of three millions, has killed one hundred 
and fifty Yankees, this campaign, which is twenty 
thousand pounds a head ; and at Bunker's Hill she 
gained a mile of ground, half of which she lost 
again by our taking post at Ploughed Hill. During 
the same time 60,000 children have been born in 
America. From these data his mathematical head 
will easily calculate the time and expense necessary 
to kill us all, and conquer our whole territory." It 
was a comical way of expressing the real truth that 
Britain neither would nor could give enough either 



of men, or money, or time to accomplish the task 
she had undertaken. To another he wrote : " We 
hear that more ships and troops are coming out. 
We know that you may do us a great deal of mis- 
chief, and are determined to bear it patiently, as 
long as we can. But if you flatter yourselves with 
beating us into submission, you know neither the 
people nor the country." Other men wrote ardent 
words and indulged in the rhetorical extravagance 
of intense excitement in those days; Franklin 
sometimes cloaked the intensity of his feeling in 
humor, at other times spoke with a grave and self- 
contained moderation which was within rather than 
without the facts and the truth. Everything which 
he said was true with precision to the letter. But 
his careful statement and measured profession indi- 
cate rather than belie the earnestness of his feeling, 
the strength of his conviction, and the fixedness of 
his resolution. 

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



It is difficult to pass a satisfactory judgment 
upon the diplomacy of the American Revolution. 
If one takes its history in detail it presents a dis- 
agreeable picture of importunate knocking at the 
closed doors of foreign courts, of incessant and al- 
most shameless begging for money and for any and 
every kind of assets that could be made useful in 
war, of public bickering and private slandering 
among the envoys and agents themselves. If, on 
the other hand, its achievements are considered, it 
appears crowned with the distinction of substantial, 
repeated, sometimes brilliant, successes. A like con- 
trast is found in its personnel. Between Franklin 
and Arthur Lee a distance opens like that between 
the poles, in which stand such men as Jay and 
Adams near the one extreme, Izard, William Lee, 
and Thomas Morris near the other, with Deane, 
Laurens, Carmichael, Jonathan Williams, and a 
few more in the middle ground. Yet what could 
have been reasonably expected ? Franklin had had 


some dealings with Englisli statesmen upon what 
may be called international business, and had justly- 
regarded himself in the light of a quasi foreign 
minister. But with this exception not one man in 
all the colonies had had the slightest experience in 
diplomatic affairs, or any personal knowledge of 
the requirements of a diplomatic office, or any op- 
portunity to gain any ideas on the subject beyond 
such as a well-educated man could glean from read- 
ing the scant historical literature which existed in 
those days. It was difficult also for Congress to 
know how to judge and discriminate concerning the 
material which it found at its disposal. There had 
been nothing in the careers of the prominent pa- 
triots to indicate whether or not any especial one 
among them had a natural aptitude for diplomacy. 
The selection must be made with little knowledge 
of the duties of the position, and with no knowl- 
edge of the responsive characteristics of the man. 
It was only natural that many of the appointments 
thus blindly made should turn out ill. After they 
were made, and the appointees had successfully 
crossed the ocean through the dangerous gauntlet 
of the English cruisers, there arose to be answered 
in Europe the embarrassing question : What these 
self-styled representatives represented. Was it a 
nation, or only a parcel of rebels ? Here was an 
unusual and vexatious problem, concerning which 
most of the cautious royal governments were in no 
hurry to commit themselves ; and their reticence 
added greatly to the perplexities of the fledgling 


diplomats. Nearly all cabinets felt it a great temp- 
tation to assist the colonies of the domineering 
mistress of the seas to change themselves from her 
dependencies into her naval rivals. But the at- 
tempt and not the deed might prove confounding ; 
neither could a wise monarch assume with entire 
complacency the position of an aider and an abet- 
tor of a rebellion on the part of subjects whose 
grievances appeared chiefly an antipathy to taxa.- 

From the earliest moment France had been hope- 
fully regarded by the colonists as probably their 
friend and possibly their ally. To France, there- 
fore, the first American envoy was dispatched with 
promptitude, even before there was a declaration 
of independence or an assumption of nationality. 
Silas Deane was the man selected. He was the 
true Yankee jack-at-all-trades ; he had been gradu- 
ated at Yale College, then taught school, then prac- 
ticed law, then engaged in trade, had been all the 
while advancing in prosperity and reputation, had 
been a member of the first and second congresses, 
had failed of reelection to the third, and was now 
without employment. Mr. Parton describes him 
as "of somewhat striking manners and good ap- 
pearance, accustomed to live and entertain in lib- 
eral style, and fond of showy equipage and appoint- 
ment." Perhaps his simple-minded fellow-country- 
men of the provinces fancied that such a man would 
make an imposing figure at an European court. He 
developed no other [)eculiar fitness for his position ; 


he could not even speak French ; and it proved an 
ill hour for himself in which he received this try- 
ing and difficult honor. By dint of native shrewd- 
ness, good luck, and falling among friends he made 
a fair beginning ; but soon he floundered beyond 
his depth, committed some vexatious blunders, and 
in the course of conducting some important busi- 
ness at last found himself in a position where he 
had reall}^ done right but appeared to have done 
wrong, without being free to explain the truth. 
The result was that he was recalled upon a pretext 
which poorly concealed his disgrace, that he found 
even his reputation for financial honesty clouded, 
and that his prospects for the future were of the 
worst. He was not a man of sufficient mental cali- 
bre or moral strength to endure his unmerited suf- 
ferings with constancy. After prolonged disap- 
pointments in his attempts to set himself right in 
the opinion of the country, he became embittered, 
lost all judgment and patriotism, turned a renegade 
to the cause of America, which had wronged him 
indeed, but rather in ignorance than from malice, 
and died unreconciled, a broken and miserable 
exile. Such were the perils of the diplomatic ser- 
vice of the colonies in those days. 

Deane arrived in France in June, 1776. He 
had with him a little ready money for his immedi- 
ate personal expenses, and some letters of introduc- 
tion from Franklin. It was intended to keep him 
supplied with money by sending cargoes of tobacco, 
rice, and indigo consigned to him, the proceeds of 


which would be at his disposal for the public ser- 
vice. He was instructed to seek an interview with 
de Vergennes, the French minister for foreign af- 
fairs, and to endeavor with all possible prudence 
and delicacy to find out what signs of promise the 
disposition of the French government really held 
for the insurgents. He was also to ask for equip- 
ment for 25,000 troops, ammunition, and 200 pieces 
of field artillery, all to be paid for — when Con- 
gress should be able ! In France he was to keep 
his mission cloaked in secure secrecy, appearing 
simply as a merchant conducting his own affairs ; 
and he was to write home common business letters 
under the very harmless and unsuggestive name of 
Timothy Jones, adding the real despatch in invisi- 
ble ink. But these commonplace precautions were 
rendered of no avail through the treachery of Dr. 
Edward Bancroft, an American resident abroad, 
who had the confidence of Congress, but who " ac- 
cepted the post of a paid American spy, to prepare 
himself for the more lucrative office of a double 
spy for the British ministers." ^ Deane, going some- 
what beyond his instructions to correspond with 
Bancroft, told him everything. Bancroft is sup- 
posed to have passed the information along to the 
British ministry, and thus enabled them to inter- 
pose serious hindrances in the way of the ingenious 
devices of the Frenchmen. 

Before the arrival of Deane the interests of the 
colonies had been already taken in hand and sub- 
1 Bancroft, Hist. U. S., ix. G3. 


stantially advanced in France by one of the most 
extraordinary cnaracters in history. Caron de 
Beaumarchais was a man whom no race save the 
French could produce, and whose traits, career, and 
success lie hopelessly beyond the comprehension of 
the Anglo-Saxon. Bred a watchmaker, he had the 
skill, when a mere youth, to invent a clever escape- 
ment balance for regulating watches ; had he been 
able to insert it into his own brain he might have 
held more securely his elusive good fortunes. From 
being an ingenious inventor he became an adven- 
turer general, watchmaker to the king, the king's 
mistresses, and the king's daughters, the lover, or 
rather the beloved, of the wife of the controller of 
the king's kitchen, then himself the controller, 
thence a courtier, and a favorite of the royal prin- 
cesses. Through a clever use of his opportunities 
he was able to do a great favor to a rich banker, 
who in return gave him chances to amass a fortune, 
and lent him money to buy a patent of nobility. 
This connection ended in litigation, which was near 
ruining him ; but he discovered corruption on the 
part of the judge, and thereupon wrote his Memo- 
rials, of which the wit, keenness, and vivacity made 
him famous. He then rendered a private, personal, 
and important service to Louis XV., and soon after- 
wards another to the young Louis XVI. His ca- 
pacity for secret usefulness gave him further occu- 
pation and carried him much to London. There he 
wrote the " Barber of Seville," and there also he 
fell in with Arthur Lee and became indoctrinated 


with grand notions of the resources and value of 
the colonies, and of the ruin which their separation 
must inflict upon England. Furthermore, as a 
Frenchman he naturally consorted with members 
of the opposition party who took views very favor- 
able to America. With such corroboration of Lee's 
statements, Beaumarchais, never moderate in any 
sentiment, leaped to the conclusion that the colo- 
nies " must be invincible," and that England was 
" upon the brink of ruin, if her neighbors and ri- 
vals were but in a state to think seriously of it." 
At once the lively and ambitious fancy of the im- 
petuous Frenchman spread an extravagant pano- 
rama of the possibilities thus opened to England's 
"natural enemy." He became frenzied in the 
American cause. In long and ardent letters he 
opened upon King Louis and his ministers a rat- 
tling fire of arguments sound and unsound, state- 
ments true and untrue, inducements reasonable and 
unreasonable, forecastings probable and improba- 
ble, policies wise and unwise, all designed to show 
that it was the bounden duty of France to adopt 
the colonial cause. The king, with no very able 
brain at any time, was very young and wholly in- 
experienced. He gazed bewildered at the brilliant 
pageantry of Beaumarchais' s wonderful and auda- 
cious statecraft, and sensibly sought the advice of 
his ministers. 

De Vergennes set out his views, in agreement 
with Beaumarchais. He declared that France now 
had her opportunity to reduce her dangerous rival 



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

The wise Turgot, in a state paper marked by 
great ability, opposed French intervention, and 
proved his case. Colonial independence was sure 
to come, a little sooner or later. Yet the reduction 
of the colonies would be the best possible assurance 
that England would not break the peace with 
France, since the colonists, being mutinous and dis- 
contented, would give her concern enough. On the 
other hand, should England fail, as he anticipated 
that she would, in this war, she would hardly emerge 
from it in condition to undertake another with 
France. As for the colonies themselves, should 
they win, the character of the Americans gave 
augury of their wishing a solid government and 
therefore cultivating peace. He uttered an admi- 


rable dissertation upon the relations between col- 
onies and a parent country, and upon the value of 
colonies in its bearing upon the present question. 
In conclusion he gravely referred to the alarming 
deficit in the French exchequer as the strongest of 
all arguments against incurring the heavy charge 
of a war not absolutely unavoidable. " For a neces- 
sary war resources could be found ; but war ought 
to be shunned as the greatest of misfortunes, since 
it would render impossible, perhaps forever, a re- 
form absolutely necessary to the prosperity of the 
state and the solace of the people." The king, to 
whom these wise words were addressed, lived to 
receive terrible proof of their truth. 

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


be compromised, and an ingenious scheme was 

The firm of Koderigue Hortalez & Co. made sud- 
den appearance in Paris. Beaumarchais alone con- 
ducted its affairs, the most extraordinary merchant 
surely who ever engaged in extensive commerce! 
The capital was secretly furnished by the Spanish 
and French governments; about 8400,000 the firm 
had to start with, and later the French government 
contributed 1200,000 more. De Vergennes was ex- 
plicit in his language to Beaumarchais : to English- 
men and Americans alike the affair must be an 
" individual speculation." With the capital given 
him Beaumarchais must " found a great commercial 
establishment," and " at his own risk and peril " 
sell to the colonies military supplies. These would 
be sold to him from the French arsenals ; but he 
" must pay for them." From the colonies he must 
"ask return in their staple products." Except 
that his silent partners might be lenient in demand- 
ing repayment Beaumarchais really was to be a 
merchant, engaged in an exceptionally hazardous 
trade. If he regarded himself in any other light 
he was soon painfully undeceived ; for de Vergennes 
was in earnest. But for the immediate present, 
upon the moment when he had arranged these pre- 
liminaries, doubtless fancying the government at 
his back, this most energetic of men plunged into 
his work with all the ardor of his excitable nature. 
He flew hither and thither ; got arms and munitions 
from the government; bought and loaded ships, 
and was soon conducting an enormous business. 


But it was by no means all smooth sailing for 
the vessels of Hortalez & Co. ; for Deane arrived, 
not altogether opportunely, just as Beaumarehais 
was getting well under weigh. The two were 
soon brought together, and Deane was told all that 
was going on save only the original connection 
of the French government, which it seems that 
he never knew. He in turn told all to Dr. Ban- 
croft, and so unwittingly to the English govern- 
ment. Thereupon the watchful English cruisers 
effectually locked up the ships of Hortalez in the 
French harbors. Also Lord Stormont, the Eng- 
lish ambassador, harassed the French government 
with ceaseless representations and complaints con- 
cerning these betrayed shipments of contraband 
cargoes. At the same time the news from Amer- 
ica, coming chiefly through English channels, took 
on a very gloomy coloring, and lent a certain 
emphasis to these protests of the English minister. 
De Vergennes felt compelled to play out his neu- 
tral part even more in earnest than had been in- 
tended. He sent to the ports at which Hortalez 
& Co. had ships very stringent instructions to 
check unlawful trade, and the officials obeyed in 
good faith to the letter. Beaumarehais was seri- 
ously embarrassed at finding himself bearing in 
fact the mercantile character which he had sup- 
posed that he was only dramatically assuming. 
He had to load his cargoes and clear his ships as 
best he could, precisely like any ordinary dealer in 
contraband wares ; there was no favoritism, no 


winking at his breaches of the law. The result 
was that it was a long while before he got any 
arms, ammunition, and clothing into an American 
port. Moreover the ships from America which 
were to have brought him payment in the shape of 
tobacco and other American commodities failed to 
arrive ; his royal co-partners declined to make 
further advances ; the ready money was gone, 
credit had been strained to the breaking point, and 
a real bankruptcy impended over the sham firm. 
Thus in the autumn and early winter of 1776 pros- 
pects in France wore no cheerful aspect for the 
colonies. It was at this juncture that Franklin 
arrived, and he came like a reviving breeze from 
the sea. 

Long and anxiously did Congress wait to get 
news from France ; not many trustworthy ships 
were sent on so perilous a voyage, and of those that 
ventured it only a few got across an ocean " porcu- 
pined " with English war-ships. At last in Sep- 
tember, 1776, Franklin received from Dr. Dubourg 
of Paris, a gentleman with whom his friendship 
dated back to his French trip in 1767, a long and 
cheering letter full of gratifying intelligence con- 
cerning the disposition of the court, and throwing 
out a number of such suggestions that the mere 
reading them was a stimulus to action. Congress 
was not backward to respond ; it resolved at once 
to send a formal embassage. Franklin was chosen 
unanimously by the first ballot. " I am old and 
good for nothing," he whispered to Dr. Rush, " but, 


as the storekeepers say of their remnants of cloth, 
' I am but a fag end and you may have me for what 
you please.' " ^ Thomas Jefferson and Deane were 
elected as colleagues ; but Jefferson declined the 
service and Arthur Lee was put in his stead. The 
Reprisal, sloop of war, of sixteen guns, took Dr. 
Franklin and his grandson on board for the dan- 
gerous voyage. It was a very different risk from 
that which Messrs. Slidell and Mason took nearly 
a century later. They embarked on a British mail 
steamship, and were subject, as was proved, only 
to the ordinary perils of navigation. But had 
Franklin been caught in this little rebel craft, 
which had actually been captured from English 
owners and condemned as prize by rebel tribunals, 
and which now added the aggravating circumstance 
that she carried an armament sufficient to destroy 
a merchantman but not to encounter a frigate, he 
would have had before him at best a long imprison- 
ment, at worst a trial for high treason and a halter. 
Horace Walpole gave the news that " Dr. Franklin, 
at the age of seventy-two or seventy-four, and at 
the risk of his head, had bravely embarked on 
board an American frigate." Several times he 
must have contemplated these pleasing prospects, 
for several times the small sloop was chased by 
English cruisers ; but she was a swift sailer and 
escaped them all. Just before making port she 
captured two English brigs and carried them in as 

^ Parton's Life of Franklin, ii. 166. 


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

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

The excitement which his arrival in the French 
capital created was unmistakable evidence of the 
estimate set by Europe upon his abilities. Some 
persons in England endeavored to give to his voy- 
age the color of a desertion from a cause of which 

he despaired. " The arch ■ , Dr. Franklin, has 

lately eloped under a cloak of plenipotentiary to 
Versailles," wrote Sir Grey Cooper. But Edmund 
Burke refused to believe that the man whom he 
had seen examined before the privy council was 
"going to conclude a long life, which has brightened 


every hour it has continued, with so foul and dis- 
honorable a flight." Lord Rockingham said that 
the presence of Franklin in Paris much more than 
offset the victory of the English on Long Island, 
and their capture of New York. Lord Stormont, 
it is said, threatened to leave sans prendre conge, 
if the " chief of the American rebels " were allowed 
to come to Paris. The adroit de Vergennes replied 
that the government had already dispatched a 
courier to direct Franklin to remain at Nantes ; 
but since they knew neither the time of his depart- 
ure nor his route, the message might not reach him. 
Should he thus innocently arrive in Paris it would 
be scandalous, inhospitable, and contrary to the 
laws of nations to send him away.^ 

But while the English were angry, the French 
indulged in a furore of welcome. They made 
feasts and hailed the American as the friend of 
human kind, as the " ideal of a patriarchal repub- 
lic and of idyllic simplicity," as a sage of anti- 
quity ; and the exuberant classicism of the nation 
exhausted itself in glorifying him by comparisons 
with those great names of Greece and Rome which 
have become symbols for all private and public 
virtues. They admired him because he did not 
wear a wig ; they lauded his spectacles ; they were 
overcome with enthusiasm as they contemplated 
his great cap of martin fur, his scrupulously white 
linen, and the quaint simplicity of his brown 
Quaker raiment of colonial make. They noted 
1 Hale's Franklin in France, i. 73. 


with amazement that his " only defense " was a 
" walking-stick in his hand." The print-shops were 
soon full of countless representations of his noble 
face and venerable figure, set off by all these pleas- 
ing adjuncts. The people thronged the streets to 
see him pass, and respectfully made way for him. 
He seemed, as John Adams said later, to enjoy a 
reputation " more universal than that of Leibnitz 
or Newton, Frederick or Voltaire." 

So soon as all this uproar gave him time to look 
about him, he established himself at Passy, in a 
part of the Hotel de Valentinois, which was kindly 
placed at his disposal by its owner, M. Ray de Chau- 
mont. In this at that time retired suburb he hoped 
to be able to keep the inevitable but useless inter- 
ruptions within endurable limits. Not improbably 
also he was further influenced, in accepting M. 
Chaumont's hospitality, by a motive of diplomatic 
prudence. His shrewdness and experience must 
soon have shown him that his presence in Paris, if 
not precisely distasteful to the French government, 
must at least in some degree compromise it, and 
might by any indiscretion on his part easily be made 
to annoy and vex the ministers. It therefore be- 
hoved him to make himself as little as possible con- 
spicuous in any official or public way. A rebuke, a 
cold reception, might do serious harm ; nor was it 
politic to bring perplexities to those whose friend- 
ship he sought. He could not avoid, nor had he any 
reason to do so, the social eclat with which he was 
greeted ; but he must shun the ostentation of 


any relationship with men in office. This would 
be more easily accomplished by living in a quarter 
somewhat remote and suburban. His retirement, 
therefore, while little curtailing his intercourse with 
private society, evinced his good tact, and doubt- 
less helped his good standing with the ministers. 
The police record reports that, if he saw them at 
all, it was secretly and under cover of night. He 
lived in comfortable style, but not 'showily, keep- 
ing a moderate retinue of servants for appearance 
as much as for use, and a carriage, which was in- 
dispensable to him. John Adams charged him with 
undue luxury and extravagance, but the accusation 
was ridiculous. 

Very exacting did the business of the American 
envoys soon become. On December 23, 1776, they 
wrote to acquaint the Count de Yergennes that they 
were " appointed and fully empowered by the Con- 
gress of the United States of America to propose 
and negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce be- 
tween France and the United States ; " and they 
requested an audience for the purpose of present- 
ing their credentials to his excellency. Five days 
later the audience was given them. They explained 
the desire of the American colonies to enter into 
a treaty of alliance and of commerce. They said 
that the colonists were anxious to get their ships, 
now lying at the home wharves laden with tobacco 
and other products, out of the American harbors, 
and to give them a chance to run for France. But 
the English vessels hovered thick up and down the 


coasts, and the Americans, though able to take 
care of frigates, could not encounter ships of the 
line. Would not France lend eight ships of the 
line, equipped and manned, to let loose all this 
blockaded commerce which was ready to seek her 
ports and to fill the coffers of her merchants? 
Under all the circumstances this was certainly ask- 
ing too much ; and in due time the envoys were 
courteously told so, but were also offered a strictly 
secret loan of $400,000, to be repaid after the war, 
without interest. 

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

1 Franklin's Works, ri. 199, 205 ; viii. 153, 183 ; Hale's Franh 
lin in France, i. 53. 


This leaving all to Deane might have been 
well enough had not Deane had an implacable 
enemy in Arthur Lee, who, for that matter, 
resembled the devil in at least one particular, 
inasmuch as he was the foe of all mankind. 
Beaumarchais early in the proceedings had sum- 
marily dropped Lee from his confidence and in- 
stated Deane in the vacancy. This was sufficient 
to set Lee at once at traducing, an art in which 
long experience had cultivated natural aptitude. 
He saw great sums of money being used, and he 
was not told whence they came. But he guessed, 
and upon his guess he built up a theory of finan- 
cial knavery. Deane had repeatedly assured 
Beaumarchais that he should receive the cargoes 
of American produce with promptitude,^ and he did 
his best to make these promises good, writing ur- 
gent letters to Congress to hasten forward the colo- 
nial merchandise. But Arthur Lee mischievously 
and maliciously blocked these perfectly straightfor- 
ward and absolutely necessary arrangements. For 
he had conceived the notion that Beaumarchais was 
an agent of the French court, that the supplies 
were free gifts from the French government, and 
that any payments for them to Hortalez & Co. would 
only go to fill the rascal purses of Deane and Beau- 
marchais, confederates in a scheme for swindling. 
He had no particle of evidence to sustain this no- 
tion, which was simply the subtle conception of his 
own bad mind ; but he was not the less positive 
^ Hale's Franklin in France, i. 45. 


and persistent in asserting it in his letters to mem- 
bers of Congress. Such accounts sadly puzzled 
that body ; and it may be imagined to what a 
further hopeless degree of bewilderment this 
gathering of American lawyers and tradesmen, 
planters and farmers, must have been reduced by 
the extraordinary letters of the wild and fanciful 
Beaumarchais. The natural consequence was that 
the easier course was pursued, and no merchandise 
was sent to Hortalez. If affairs had not soon 
taken a new turn in France this error might have 
had disastrous consequences for the colonies. In 
fact, it only ruined poor Deane. 

After this unfortunate man had been recalled, 
and while he was in great affliction at home be- 
cause he could not get his reputation cleared 
from these Lee slanders, being utterly unable 
in America to produce even such accounts and 
evidence as might have been had in France, 
Franklin more than once volunteered to express 
kindly and emphatically his entire belief in Deane's 
integrity. So late as October, 1779, though ad- 
mitting his lack of knowledge concerning an 
affair in which he had "never meddled," he still 
thought Deane " innocent." Finally in 1782, when 
Deane had become thoroughly demoralized by 
his hard fate, Franklin spoke of his fall not 
without a note of sympathy : " He resides at 
Ghent, is distressed both in mind and circum- 
stances, raves and writes abundance, and I imagine 
it will end in his going over to join his friend Arnold 


in England. I had an exceedingly good opinion 
of him when he acted with me, and I believe he 
was then sincere and hearty in our cause. But he 
is changed, and his character ruined in his own 
country and in this, so that I see no other but Eng- 
land to which he can now retire. He says we owe 
him about £12,000 sterling." i But of this Franklin 
knew nothing, and proposed getting experts to ex- 
amine the accounts. He did know very well, how- 
ever, what it was to be accused by Arthur Lee, and 
would condemn no man upon that basis ! 

Yet the matter annoyed him greatly. On June 
12, 1781, he wrote acknowledging that he was ab- 
solutely in the dark about the whole business : — 

" In 1776, being then in Congress, I received a letter 
from Mr. Lee, acquainting me that M. Beaumarchais 
had applied to him in London, informing him that 
200,000 guineas had been put into his hands, and was at 
the disposal of the Congress ; Mr. Lee added that it was 
agreed between them that he, M. Beaumarchais, should 
remit the same in arms, ammunition, etc., under the 
name of Hortalez & Co. Several cargoes were accord- 
ingly sent. Mr. Lee understood this to be a private aid 
from the government of France ; but M. Beaumarchais 
has since demanded from Congress payment of a gross 
sum, as due to him, and has received a considerable part, 
but has rendered no particular account. I have, by 
order of Congress, desired him to produce his account, 

1 See also letter to Morris, March 30, 1782, Works, vii. 419 ; 
also viii. 225. In 1835 sufficient evidence was discovered to in- 
duce Congress to pay to the heirs of this unfortunate man a part 
of the sum due to him. Parton's Life of Franklin, ii. 362. 


that we might know exactly what we owed, and for 
what ; and he has several times promised it, but has not 
yet done it ; and in his conversation he often mentions, 
as I am told, that we are greatly in his debt. These 
accounts in the air are unpleasant, and one is neither 
safe nor easy under them. I wish, therefore, you could 
help me to obtain a settlement of them. It has been said 
that Mr. Deane, unknown to his colleagues, wrote to Con- 
gress in favor ^of M. Beaumarchais's demand; on which 
Mr. Lee accuses him of having, to the prejudice of his 
constituents, negotiated a gift into a debt. At present all 
that transaction is in darkness ; ^ and we know not whether 
the whole, or a part, or no part, of the supplies he fur- 
nished were at the expense of government, the reports 
we have had being so inconsistent and contradictory ; 
nor, if we are in debt for them, or any part of them, 
whether it is the king or M. de Beaumarchais who is 
our creditor." ^ 

What chiefly irritated Congress against Deane 
and led to his recall was neither his dealings with 
Beaumarchais nor the slanders of Lee, but quite 
another matter, in which he certainly showed much 
lack of discretion. Cargoes of arms and munitions 
of war were very welcome in the States, but cargoes 
of French and other European officers were by no 
means so. Yet the inconsiderate Deane sent over 
these enthusiasts and adventurers in throngs. The 

1 Light was first let in upon this darkness by Louis de Lo- 
m^nie, in his Beaumarchais et Son Temps ; and the story as 
told by him may be read, in a spirited version, in Parton's Life 
of Franklin, chapters vii., viii. 

2 Hale's Franklin in France, i. 53. 


outbreak of the rebellion seemed to arouse a spirit 
of martial pilgrimage in Europe, a sort of crusad- 
ing ardor, which seized the Frenchmen especially, 
but also some few officers in other continental ar- 
mies. These all flocked to Paris and told Deane 
that they were burning to give the insurgent States 
the invaluable assistance of their distinguished ser- 
vices. Deane was little accustomed to the highly 
appreciative rhetoric with which the true French- 
man frankly describes his own merit, and appar- 
ently accepted as correct the appraisal which these 
warriors made of themselves. Soon they alighted 
in swarms upon the American coast, besieged the 
doors of Congress, and mingled their importunities 
with all the other harassments of Washington. 
Each one of them had his letter from Deane, re- 
citing the exaggerated estimate of his capacity, and 
worse still each one was armed with Deane's 
promise that he should hold in the American army 
a rank one grade higher than he had held in his 
home service. To keep these unauthorized pledges 
would have resulted in the resignation of all the 
good American officers, and in the utter disorgani- 
zation of the army. So the inevitable outcome 
was that the disappointed adventurers became 
furious ; that Congress, greatly annoyed, went to 
heavy expenses in sending them back again to 
Europe, and in giving some douceurs, which could 
be ill afforded by the giver and were quite insuffi- 
cient to prevent the recipients from spreading at 
home their bitter grudge against the young repub- 
lic. Altogether it was a bad business. 


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

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

But however firmly and wisely Franklin stood 


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

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


supply of officers and tlie chance of employment 
was extremely slight.^ 

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


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

It would be entertaining to know how many of 
these letters were delivered, and in what phrases of 

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


French courtesy gratitude was expressed for them. 
Sometimes, if any one persisted, in spite of dis- 
couragement, in making the journey at his own 
cost, and, being forewarned, also at his own risk of 
disappointment, Franklin gave him a letter strictly 
confined to the scope of a civil personal introduc- 
tion. Possibly, now and again, some useful officer 
may have been thus deterred from crossing the 
water ; but any such loss was compensated several 
hundredfold by shutting off the intolerable inun- 
dation of useless foreigners. Nor was Franklin 
wanting in discretion in the matter ; for he com- 
mended Lafayette and Steuben by letters, which 
had real value from the fact of the extreme rarity 
of such a warranty from this source. 

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

" All Europe is on our side of the question, as far as 
applause and good wishes can carry them. Those who 
live under arbitrary power do nevertheless approve of 
liberty, and wish for it ; they almost despair of recover- 
ing it in Europe ; they read the translations of our sep- 
arate colony constitutions with rapture ; and there are 
such numbers everywhere who talk of removing to 
America, with their families and fortunes, as soon as 
peace and our independence shall be estabhshed, that it 
is generally believed that we shall have a prodigious ad- 
dition of strength, wealth, and arts from the emigration 
of Europe ; and it is thought that to lessen or prevent 
such emigrations, the tyrannies established there must 


relax, and allow more liberty to their people. Hence it 
is a common observation here that our cause is the cause 
of all mankind, and that we are fighting for their lib- 
erty in defending our own. It is a glorious task as- 
signed us by Providence, which has, I trust, given us 
spirit and virtue equal to it, and will at last crown it 
with success." 

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



No sooner had the war taken on an assured char- 
acter than many quick-eyed and adventurous Amer- 
icans, and Franklin among the first, saw irresisti- 
ble temptation and great opportunity in that enor- 
mous British commerce which whitened all the seas. 
The colonists of that day, being a seafaring people 
with mercantile instincts, were soon industriously 
engaged in the lucrative field of maritime captures. 
Franklin recommended the fortifying of three or 
four harbors into which prizes could be safely car- 
ried. Nothing else, he said, would give the new 
nation " greater weight and importance in the eyes 
of the commercial states." Privateering is not al- 
ways described by such complimentary and digni- 
fied language, but the practical-minded rebel spoke 
well of that which it was so greatly to the advan- 
tage of his countrymen to do. After arriving in 
France he found himself in a position to advance 
this business very greatly. Conyngham, Wickes, 
with others only less famous, all active and gallant 
men as ever trod a deck, took the neighboring waters 



as their chosen scene of action, and very soon were 
stirring up a commotion such as Englishmen had 
never experienced before. They harried the high, 
and more especially the narrow, seas with a success 
at least equal to that of the Alabama, while some 
of them differed from Semmes and his compeers in 
being as anxious to fight as the Southern captains 
were to avoid fighting. Prize after prize they took 
and carried into port, or burned and sank ; prison- 
ers they had more than they knew what to do with ; 
they frightened the underwriters so that in Lon- 
don the insurance against capture ran up to the 
ruinous premium of sixty per cent. The Lisbon and 
the Dutch packets fell victims, and insurance of 
boats plying between Dover and Calais went to ten 
per cent. Englishmen began to feel that England 
was blockaded ! We are not so familiar as we 
ought to be with the interesting record of all these 
audacious and brilliant enterprises, conducted with 
dare-devil recklessness by men who would not im- 
probably have been hanged both as pirates and as 
traitors, had fortune led to their capture at this mo- 
ment of British rage and anxiety.^ 

All this cruising was conducted under the au- 
/ spices of Franklin. To him these gallant rovers 
looked for instructions and suggestions, for money 
and supplies. He had to issue commissions, to set- 
tle personal misunderstandings, to attend to ques- 
tions of prize money, to soothe unpaid mutineers, 
to advise as to the purchase of ships, and as to the 

' In fact, Conyngham, being at last captured, narrowly escaped 
this fate. 


enterprises to be undertaken ; in a word, he was 
the only American government which these inde- 
pendent sailors knew. The tax thus laid upon him 
was severe, for he was absohitely without experience 
in such matters. 

There was one labor, however, in this connection, 
which properly fell within his department, and in 
this his privateersmen gave him abundant occupa- 
tion. It was to stand between them and the just 
wrath and fatal interference of the French govern- 
ment. Crude as international law- was in those 
days, it was far from being crude enough for the 
strictly illegitimate purposes of these vikings. 
What they expected was to buy, equip, man, and 
supply their vessels in French ports, to sail out on 
their prize-taking excursions, and, having captured 
their fill, to return to these same ports, and there 
to have their prizes condemned, to sell their booty, 
to refit and re-supply, and then to sally forth again. 
In short, an Englishman would have been puzzled 
to distinguish a difference between the warlike 
ports of America and the neutral ports of France, 
save as he saw that the latter, being nearer, were 
much the more injurious. But de Vergennes had 
no notion of being used for American purposes in 
this jeopardizing style. He did not mean to have 
a war with England, if he could avoid it ; so he gave 
to the harbor masters orders which greatly annoyed 
and surprised the American captains, "extraor- 
dinary " orders, as these somewhat uninstructed 
sea-dogs described them in their complaining letters 


to Franklin. They thought it an outrage that the 
French minister should refuse to have English 
prizes condemned within French jurisdiction, and 
that he should not allow them to refit and to take 
on board cannon and ammunition at Nantes or 
Rochelle. They called upon Franklin to check 
these intolerable proceedings. Their audacious and 
boundless insolence is very entertaining to read, 
with the memory of " Alabama outrages " fresh in 

Franklin knew, just as well as de Vergennes 
did, that the French ministry was all the time fa- 
voring the privateersmen and cruisers far beyond 
the law, and that it was ready to resort to as many 
devices as ingenuity could concoct for that purpose ; 
also that the Americans by their behavior persist- 
ently violated all reason and neutral toleration. 
Nevertheless he stood gallantly b}^ his own, and in 
one case after another he kept corresponding with 
de Vergennes under pretense of correcting misrepre- 
sentations, presenting requests, and arguing points, 
until, by the time thus gained, the end was achieved. 
The truth was that Franklin's duty was to get from 
France just as much aid, direct and indirect, as 
could be either begged or filched from her. Such 
orders could not be written down in plain words in 
his instructions, but none the less they lurked there 
not illegible to him among the lines. He obeyed 
them diligently. France was willing to go fully as 
far as she could with safety ; his function was to 
push, to pull, to entice, even to mislead, in order to 


make her go farther. Perhaps it was a fair game ; 
France had her interest to see Great Britain dis- 
membered and weakened, but not herself to fight 
other people's battles ; the colonies had their inter- 
est to get France into the fight if they possibly 
could. It was a strictly selfish interest, and was 
pursued almost shamelessly. The colonial policy 
and the details of its execution are defensible sim- 
ply on the basis that all nations in their dealings 
with each other are always utterly selfish and gen- 
erally utterly unscrupulous. By and by, when it 
comes to the treating for peace between England 
and the colonies,* we shall find de Vergennes much 
reviled because he pursued exclusively French in- 
terests ; but it will be only fair to reflect that little 
more can be charged against him than that he was 
pla.ying the game with cards drawn from the same 
pack which the Americans had used in these 
earlier days of the war. 

A matter which grew out of privateering gave 
Franklin much trouble. The American captains, 
who were cruising on the European side of the At- 
lantic prior to the treaty of alliance with France, 
had no place in which to deposit their prisoners. 
They could not often send them to the States, nei- 
ther of course could they accumulate them on board 
their ships, nor yet store them, so to speak, in France 
and Spain ; for undeveloped as were the rules of 
neutrality they at least forbade the use of neutral 
prisons for the keeping of English prisoners of war 


in time of peace. Meanwhile the colonial captives, 
in confinement just across the Channel, in the pris- 
ons at Plymouth and Portsmouth, were subjected to 
very harsh treatment ; and others were even being 
sent to the fort of Senegal on the coast of Africa, 
and to the East Indies, whence they could not hope 
ever to regain their homes. Franklin immediately 
resolved, if possible, to utilize these assets in the 
shape of English sailors in the usual course of ex- 
change. A letter was accordingly addressed by 
him to Lord Stormont, asking whether it would be 
worth while to approach the British court with an 
offer to exchange one hundred English prisoners 
in the hands of the captain of the Reprisal for a 
like number of American sailors from the English 
prisons. The note was a simple interrogatory in 
proper form of civility. No answer was received. 
After a while a second letter was prepared, less 
formal, more forcible in statement and argument, 
and in the appeal to good sense and decent good 
feeling. This elicited from his lordship a brief 
response : " The king's ambassador receives no ap- 
plications from rebels, unless they come to implore 
his majesty's mercy." The commissioners indig- 
nantly rejoined : " In answer to a letter which con- 
cerns some of the most material interests of human- 
ity, and of the two nations, Great Britain and the 
United States of America, now at war, we received 
the inclosed indecent paper, as coming from your 
lordship, which we return for your lordship's more 
mature consideration." 


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

All sorts of stories continued to reach Franklin's 
ears as to the cruelty which his imprisoned coun- 
trymen had to endure. He heard that they were 
penniless and could get no petty comforts; that 
they suffered from cold and hunger, and were sub- 
jected to personal indignities ; that they were not 
allowed to read a newspaper or to write a letter ; 
that they were all committed by a magistrate on a 
charge of high treason, and were never allowed to 
forget their probable fate on the gibbet ; that some 
of them, as has been said, were deported to dis- 
tant and unwholesome English possessions. For 
the truth of these accounts it is not necessary to be- 
lieve that the English government was intentionally 


brutal ; but it was neglectful and indifferent, and 
those who had prisoners in charge felt assured that 
no sympathy for rebels would induce an investiga- 
tion into peculations or unfeeling behavior. More- 
over there was a deliberate design, by terror and 
discouragement, to break the spirit of the so-called 
traitors and persuade them to become real traitors 
by entering the English service. 

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

There was at this time in England a man to 
whose memory Americans ought to erect statues. 
This was David Hartley. He was a gentleman of 
the most liberal and generous sentiments, an old 
and valued friend of Franklin, member of Parlia- 
ment for Hull, allied with the opposition in this 
matter of the American war, but personally on 


good terms with Lord North. He had not very 
great ability ; he wrote long letters, somewhat sur- 
charged with morality and good-feeling. One would 
expect to hear that he was on terms of admiring 
intimacy with his contemporary, the good Mrs. 
Barbauld. But he had those opportunities which 
come only to men whose excellence of character 
and purity of motive place them above suspicion, — 
opportunities which might have been shut oif from 
an abler man, and which he now used with untir- 
ing zeal and much efficiency in behalf of the 
American prisoners. Lord North did not hesitate 
to permit him to correspond with Franklin, and he 
long acted as a medium of communication more 
serviceable than Lord Stormont had been. Further- 
more Hartley served as almoner to the poor fellows, 
and pushed a private subscription in England to 
raise funds for securing to them reasonable com- 
forts. There were responsive hearts and purses, 
even for rebels, among his majesty's subjects, and 
a considerable sum was collected. 

Franklin's first letter to Hartley on this subject, 
October 14, 1777, has something of bitterness in 
its tone, with much deep feeling for his country- 
men, whose reputed woes he narrates. " I can as- 
sure you," he adds, " from my certain knowledge, 
that your people, prisoners in America, have been 
treated with great kindness, having had the same 
rations of wholesome provisions as our own troops," 
" comfortable lodgings" in healthy villages, with 
liberty " to walk and amuse themselves on their 


parole." " Where you have thought fit to employ 
contractors to supply your people, these contractors 
have been protected and aided in their operations. 
Some considerable act of kindness towards our 
people would take off the reproach of inhumanity in 
that respect from the nation and leave it where it 
ought with more certainty to lie, on the conductors 
of your war in America. This I hint to you out of 
some remaining good will to a nation I once loved 
sincerely. But as things are, and in my present 
temper of mind, not being over-fond of receiving 
obligations, I shall content myself with proposing 
that your government should allow us to send or 
employ a commissary to take some care of those 
unfortunate people. Perhaps on your representa- 
tions this might be obtained in England, though it 
was refused most inhumanly at New York." 

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


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


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

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

Yet at the same time he showed himself fully 
able to conduct business according: to the usual 


commonplace method. This same letter closes 
with a threat under the lex talionis : " We have 
now obtained permission of this government to put 
all British prisoners, whether taken by continental 
frigates or by privateers, into the king's prisons ; 
and we are determined to treat such prisoners pre- 
cisely as our countrymen are treated in England, 
to give them the same allowance of provisions and 
accommodations, and no other." He was long 
obliged to reiterate the like menaces.^ 

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

November 19, 1778, nothing has been achieved, 
and he gets impatient : '* I have heard nothing 
from you lately concerning the exchange of the 

1 Hale's Franklin in France, i. 352. 


prisoners. Is that affair dropt ? Winter is com- 
ing on apace." January 25, 1779 ; "I a long time 
believed that your government were in earnest in 
agreeing to an exchange of prisoners. I begin 
now to think I was mistaken. It seems they can- 
not give up the pleasing idea of having at the end 
of the war 1,000 Americans to hang for high trea- 
son." Poor Hartley had been working with all 
the energy of a good man in a good cause ; but he 
was in the painful position of having no excuse to 
offer for the backwardness of his government. 

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

Thus after infinite difficulty the English govern- 
ment had been pushed into conformity with the 
ordinary customs of war among civilized nations. 
Yet subsequent exchanges seem to have been ef- 
fected only after every possible obstacle had been 
contumaciously thrown in the way by the English 
and patiently removed by Franklin. The Ameri- 


cans were driven to various devices. The captains 
sometimes released their prisoners at sea upon the 
written parole of each either to secure the return of 
an American, or to surrender himself to Franklin in 
France. In November, 1781, Franklin had about 
five hundred of these documents, "not one of 
which," he says, " has been regarded, so little faith 
and honor remain in that corrupted nation." At 
last, after France and Spain had joined in the war, 
Franklin arranged that the American captors might 
lodge their prisoners in French and Spanish prisons. 
Under flags of truce two cargoes of English 
sailors were dispatched from Boston to England ; 
but the English refused to reciprocate. " There is 
no getting anything from these barbarians," said 
Franklin, " by advances of civility or humanity." 
Then much trouble arose because the French bor- 
rowed from Franklin some English prisoners for 
exchange in Holland, and returned to him a like 
number a little too late for delivery on board the 
cartel ship, which had brought over one hundred 
Americans. Thereupon the Englishmen charged 
Franklin with " breach of faith," and with " deceiv- 
ing the Board," and put a stop to further exchang- 
ing. This matter was, of course, set right in time. 
But the next point made by the admiralty was that 
they would make no exchanges with Franklin ex- 
cept for English sailors taken by American cruis- 
ers, thus excluding captives taken by the privateers- 
men. Franklin, much angered at the thwarting of 
his humane and reasonable scheme, said that they 


had " given up all pretensions to equity and honor." 
In his disappointment he went a little too far ; if 
he had said " liberality and humanity " instead of 
" equity and honor " he would have kept within 
literal truth. To meet this last action on the part 
of England he suggested to Congress : " Whether 
it may not be well to set apart 500 or 600 English 
prisoners, and refuse them all exchange in America, 
but for our countrymen now confined in England ? " 

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

In all this business Franklin ought to have re- 
ceived efficient assistance from Thomas Morris, 
who held the position of commercial agent for the 


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

Arthur Lee also poured the destructive torrent 
of his malignant wrath over the ill-starred Wil- 
liams. For William Lee pretended to find his 
province and his profits also trenched upon. The 


facts were that he was appointed to the commercial 
agency jointly with Thomas Morris ; but shortly 
afterward he was promoted to the diplomatic ser- 
vice, and left Nantes for a permanent stay in 
Paris. He did not formally vacate his agency, but 
practically he abandoned it by rendering himself 
unable to attend to its duties. So even if by any 
construction he could have established a show of 
right to conduct the naval business, at least he 
never was on hand to do so. These considerations, 
however, did not in the least mitigate the rage of 
the Lee brethren, who now brought a great variety 
of charges. Franklin, they said, had no authority 
to make the appointment, and Williams was a 
knave engaged in a scandalous partnership with 
Deane to make money dishonestly out of the pub- 
lic business, especially the prizes. The quarrel 
continued unabated when John Adams arrived, 
in 1778, as joint commissioner with Franklin and 
Arthur Lee. At once the active Lee besieged the 
ear of the new-comer with all his criminations ; and 
he must have found a ready listener, for so soon as 
the fourth day after his arrival Adams felt himself 
sufficiently informed to take what was practically 
judicial action in the matter. He declared upon 
Lee's side. The two then signed an order for Wil- 
liams's dismissal, and presented it to Franklin. It 
was discourteous if not insulting behavior to an old 
man and the senior commissioner; but Franklin 
wisely said not a word, and added his signature to 
those of his colleagues. The rest of the story is 


the familiar one of many cases : the agent made 
repeated demands for the appointment of an ac- 
countant to examine his accounts, and Franklin 
often and very urgently preferred the same request. 
But the busy Congress would not bother itself ever 
so little with a matter no longer of any practi- 
cal moment. Lee's charges remained unrefuted, 
though not a shadow of justifiable suspicion rested 
upon Franklin's unfortunate nephew. 



The enthusiastic reception of Franklin in 
France was responded to by him with a bearing so 
cheerful and words so encouraging that all the 
auguries for America seemed for a while of the 
best. For he was sanguine by nature, by resolu- 
tion, and by policy ; and his way of alluring good 
fortune was to welcome it in advance. But in fact 
there were clouds enough floating in the sky, and 
soon they expanded and obscured the transitory 
brightness. Communication between the two con- 
tinents was extremely slow ; throughout the war in- 
tervals occurred when for long and weary months 
no more trustworthy news reached Paris than the 
rumors which got their coloring by filtration through 
Great Britain. Thus in the dread year of 1777, 
there traveled across the Channel tales that Wash- 
ington was conducting the remnant of his forces in 
a demoralized retreat ; that Philadelphia had fallen 
before Howe ; that Burgoyne, with a fine army, was 
moving to bisect the insurgent colonies from the 
north. It was very well for Franklin, when told 
that Howe had taken Philadelphia, to reply : " No, 


sir : Philadelphia has taken Howe." The jest \ 
may have relieved the stress of his mind, as Presi- 
dent Lincoln used often to relieve his own over- 
taxed endurance in the same way. But the unde- 
niable truth was that it looked much as if the aif air, 
to use Franklin's words, would prove to be a " re- 
bellion " and not a " revolution." Still, any mis- 
givings which he may have inwardly felt found no 
expression, and to no one would he admit the pos- 
sibility of such an ultimate outcome. Late in the 
autumn of this dismal year he wrote : — 

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

But though Franklin might thus refuse to de- 
spair for his country, the French ministry were not 
to be blamed if they betrayed an increased reserve 
in their communications with men who might soon 
prove to be traitors instead of ambassadors, and if 
they were careful to stop short of actually bringing 
on a war with England. It was an anxious period 
for Franklin when the days wore slowly into 


months and the months lengthened almost into a 
year, during which he had no trustworthy informa- 
tion as to all the ominous news which the English 
papers and letters brought. 

In this crisis of military affairs the anxious en- 
voys felt that the awful burden of their country's 
salvation not improbably rested upon them. If 
they could induce France to come to the rescue, aU 
would be well ; if they could not, the worst might 
be feared. Yet in this mortal jeopardy they saw 
France growing more guarded in her conduct, while 
in vain they asked themselves, in an agony, what 
influence it was possible for them to exert. At the 
close of November, 1777, they conferred upon the 
matter. Mr. Deane was in favor of demanding 
from the French court a direct answer to the ques- 
tion, whether or not France would come openly to 
the aid of the colonies ; and he advised that de 
Vergennes should be distinctly told that, if France 
should decline, the colonies would be obliged to 
seek an accommodation with Great Britain. But 
Dr. Franklin strenuously opposed this course. The 
effect of such a declaration seemed to him too un- 
certain ; France might take it as a menace; she 
might be induced by it to throw over the colonies 
altogether, in despair or anger. Neither would he 
admit that the case was in fact so desperate ; the 
colonies might yet work out their own safety, with 
the advantage in that event of remaining more 
free from any European influence. The soundness 
of this latter argument was afterward abundantly 


shown by the history of the country during the first 
three administrations. Fortunately upon this oc- 
casion Lee sided with Franklin, and the untimely 
trial of French friendship was not made. Had it 
been, it would have been more likely to jeopardize 
forever than to precipitate the good fortune which, 
though still invisible, was close at hand. 

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


road, this time bound to de Vergennes at Versailles, 
to tell the great tidings. Soon all Paris got the 
news and burst into triumphant rejoicing over the 
disaster to England. 

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

1 Parton's Life of Franklin, ii. 307. 


was probably the only American who could have 
furnished the opening. The adventure brings to 
mind some of the Jacobite tales of Sir Walter 
Scott's novels. 

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


US kindly. This is too much patience to be ex- 
pected of us ; indeed, I think it is not in human 

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

Hartley's advice, if not acceptable, was at least 
timely. At the very moment when he warned 
America against taking refuge in the arms of 
France, the colonists were joyously springing into 
that international embrace. The victory at Sara- 
toga had at last settled that matter. On December 
6, 1777, two days after the news was received, 
M. Gerard called upon the envoys and said that 
the capacity of the colonies to maintain their in- 
dependence could no longer be doubted, and that 
the French court would be pleased by a renewal of 
their proposals for an alliance. On December 8th 
a request for an alliance was placed by young Tem- 
ple Franklin in the hands of de Vergennes. On 
December 12th the cabinet met ; also Arthur Lee 
reports that the envoys went out to Versailles and 


concealed themselves at an appointed spot in the 
wood, whither soon came to them de Vergennes. 
In the talk that ensued he said to them everything 
which a liberal spirit of friendship could suggest, 
but nothing which was actually positive and bind- 
ing. For it was necessary, as he explained, first to 
consult with Spain, whose concurrence was desired ; 
this, however, could be safely counted upon, and 
a courier was to be dispatched at once to Madrid. 
But the return of this messenger was not awaited; 
for on December 17 the commissioners were for- 
mally notified that France would acknowledge the 
independence of the colonies, and would execute 
with them treaties of commerce and alliance imme- 
diately upon getting the Spanish reply. In return 
for her engagements France only asked that, in the 
probable event of a war ensuing between herself 
and England, the colonies would pledge themselves 
never to make peace save upon the terms of inde- 

On January 8, 1778, M. Gerard met the en- 
voys after dark at Mr. Deane's quarters. He in- 
formed them that the government had resolved 
immediately to conclude with the colonies a treaty 
of amity and commerce ; also another treaty, offen- 
sive and defensive, and guarantying independence, 
upon the conditions that the colonies would neither 
make a separate peace, nor one relinquishing their 
independence. The independence of the thirteen 
colonies being the king's sole purpose, no assistance 
would be extended for subduin«: Canada or the 


English West Indies. As it would probably not 
be agreeable to the colonies to have foreign troops 
in their country, the design was to furnish only 
naval aid. It would be left open for Spain to 
accede to the treaties at any time. Nothing could 
have been more agreeable and encouraging than 
these arrangements, by which France did all the 
giving and America all the receiving. A few days 
later Gerard said that the king would not only 
acknowledge, but would support American indepen- 
dence, and that the condition precluding the Amer- 
icans from making a separate peace, if France 
should be drawn into the war, would be waived. 

On January 18th Gerard came to the envoys with 
drafts which he had prepared for the two treaties, 
and which he left for them to consider at their 
leisure. It took them much longer to consider than 
it had taken him to devise these documents. Lee 
said that the delay was all Franklin's fault; but 
at least Franklin illumined it by one of his mots. 
There was sent to the envoys a large cake inscribed : 
" Le digne Franklin." Deane said that, with 
thanks, they would appropriate it to their joint use ; 
Franklin pleasantly replied that it was obviously 
intended for all three, only the French donor did 
not know how to spell " Lee, Deane, Franklin " cor- 
rectly. But the uneasy jealousy of Lee suggested 
a counter-argument : " When they remember us," 
i. e., himself and Deane, he said, " they always put 
you first." Lee, who in his lifetime could never 
endure being second to Franklin, must be astounded 


indeed if, in another existence, he sees the place 
which judicial posterity has assigned to him ! 

In their discussions concerning the treaty the 
commissioners fell into a contention over one article. 
Their secret instructions directed them to " press " 
for a stipulation that no export duties should be 
imposed by France upon molasses taken from the 
French West Indies into the States ; but they were 
not to let the " fate of the treaty depend upon ob- 
taining it." Of all merchandise imported into the 
States molasses was the most important to their 
general trade ; it was the " basis on which a very 
great part of the American commerce rested." ^ 
In exchange for it they sent to tlie islands consid- 
erable quantities of pretty much all their products, 
and they distilled it in enormous quantities into 
rum. Every man who drank a glass of rum seemed 
to be advancing pro tanto the national prosperity, 
and the zeal with which those godly forefathers of 
ours thus promoted the general welfare is feebly 
appreciated by their descendants. All this rum, 
said John Adams, has " injured our health and our 
morals ; " but " the taste for rum will continue ; " 
and upon this conviction the commissioners felt 
obliged to act. Accordingly they proposed that it 
should be "agreed and_concluded that there shall 
never be any duty imposed on the exportation of 
molasses that may be taken by the subjects of the 
United States from the islands of America which 
belong or may hereafter appertain to his most 
1 Diplomatic Correspondence of the Amer. Eev., i. 15G. 


Christian majesty." But Gerard said that this 
was " unequal," since the States made no balancing 
concession. It was not easy to suggest any " con- 
cession of equal importance on the part of the 
United States," and so " after long consideration 
Dr. Franklin proposed" this: "In compensation of 
the exemption stipulated in the preceding article, it 
is agreed and concluded that there shall never be 
any duties imposed on the exportation of any kind 
of merchandise, which the subjects of his most 
Christian majesty may take from the countries and 
possessions, present or future, of any of the thirteen 
United States, for the use of the islands which 
shall furnish molasses." 

This pleased Lee as little as the other article had 
pleased Gerard ; for it was " too extensive, and 
more than equivalent for molasses only." He was 
answered that " it was in reality nothing more than 
giving up what we could never make use of but to 
our own prejudice ; for nothing was more evident 
than the bad policy of laying duties on our own ex- 
ports." Franklin was of opinion that export duties 
were " a knavish attempt to get something for noth- 
ing ; " that the inventor of them had the " genius of 
a pickpocket." Britain had lost her colonies by an 
export duty on tea. Moreover since the States pro- 
duced no commodity which could not be procured 
elsewhere, to discourage consumption of their own 
and encourage the rivalship of others would be an 
"absolute folly" against which he would protest 
even if practiced by way of reprisal. Gerard finally 


said that he regarded these articles as "reciprocal 
and equal," that his majesty was " indifferent " 
about them, and that they might be retained or re- 
jected together, but that one could not be kept with- 
out the other. Lee then yielded, and Gerard was 
notified that both articles would be inserted. He 
assented. Soon, however, William Lee and Izard, 
being informed of the arrangement, took Arthur 
Lee's original view and protested against it. Lee 
reports that this interference put Franklin " much 
out of humor," and that he said it would "appear 
an act of levity to renew the discussion of a thing 
we had agreed to." None the less, Lee now re- 
sumed his first position so firmly that Franklin and 
Deane in their turn agreed to omit both articles. 
But they stipulated that Lee should arrange the 
matter with Gerard, since, as they had just agreed 
in writing to retain both, they " could not with any 
consistency make a point of their being expunged," 
and they felt that the business of a change at this 
stage might be disagreeable. In fact Lee found it 
so. When he called on Gerard and requested the 
omission of both, Gerard replied that the king had 
already approved the treaty, that it was now en- 
grossed on parchment, and that a new arrangement 
would entail "inconvenience and considerable de- 
lay." But finally, not without showing some irri- 
tation at the fickleness of the commissioners, he 
was brought to agree that Congress might ratify 
the treaty either with or without these articles, as 
it should see fit. This business cost Franklin, as 


an annoying incident, an encounter with Mr. Izard, 
and a tart correspondence ensued. 

On February 6th all was at length ready and 
the parties came together, M. Gerard for France 
and the envoys for the States, to execute these 
most important documents. Franklin wore the 
spotted velvet suit of privy council fame. They 
signed a treaty of amity and commerce, a treaty 
of alliance, and a secret article belonging with 
the latter providing that Spain might become a 
party to it — on the Spanish mahana. There was 
an express stipulation on the part of France that 
the whole should be kept secret until after ratifi- 
cation by Congress ; for there was a singular ap- 
prehension that in the interval some accommoda- 
tion might be brought about between the insurgent 
States and the mother country, which would leave 
France in a very embarrassing position if she should 
not be free to deny the existence of such treaties. 
It was undoubtedly a dread of some such occur- 
rence which had induced the promptitude and the 
ever-increasing liberality in terms which France 
had shown from the moment when the news of 
Saratoga arrived. Nor perhaj^s was her anxiety so 
utterly absurd as it now seems. There was some 
foundation for Gibbon's epigrammatic statement 
that "the two greatest nations in Europe were 
fairly running a race for the favor of America." 
For the disaster to the army on the Hudson had 
had an effect in England even greater than it 
had had in France, and Burgoyne's capitulation 


to " Mr. Gates " had very nearly brought on a 
capitulation of Lord North's cabinet to the insur- 
gent Congress. On February 17 that minister 
rose, and in a speech of two hours introduced two 
conciliatory bills. The one declared that Parlia- 
ment had no intention of exercising the right of 
taxing the colonies in America. The other author- 
ized sending to the States commissioners empow- 
ered to "treat with Congress, with provincial as- 
semblies, or with Washington ; to order a truce ; 
to suspend all laws ; to grant pardons and rewards ; 
to restore the form of constitution as it stood be- 
fore the troubles." ^ The prime minister substan- 
tially acknowledged that England's course toward 
her colonies had been one prolonged blunder, and 
now she was willing to concede every demand save 
actual independence. The war might be continued, 
as it was ; but such a confession could never be 
retracted. " A dull melancholy silence for some 
time succeeded to this speech. . . . Astonishment, 
dejection, and fear overclouded the assembly." 

But a fresh sensation was at hand. Horace and 
Thomas Walpole had obtained private information 
of what had taken place in France ; but had cau- 
tiously held it in reserve, and arranged that only 
two hours before the meeting of the House of Com- 
mons on that eventful day the Duke of Grafton 
should tell it to Charles Fox. So now when North 
sat down Fox rose, indulged in a little sarcasm on 
the conversion of the ministry to the views of the 
1 Bancroft, Hist. U. S., ix. AM. 


opposition, and then asked Ms lordship '' Whether a 
commercial treaty with France had not been signed 
by the American agents at Paris within the last 
ten days? 'If so,' he said, 'the administration 
is beaten by ten days, a situation so threatening 
that in such a time of danger the House must con- 
cur with the propositions, though probably now 
they would have no effect.' Lord North was thun- 
derstruck and would not rise." But at last, warned 
that it would be " criminal and a matter of im- 
peachment to withhold an answer," he admitted 
that he had heard a rumor of the signature of such 
a treaty.^ So the bills were passed too late. 

So soon as their passage was assured, Hartley, 
"acting on an understanding with Lord North," ^ 
dispatched copies to Franklin. Franklin upon his 
part, also first having an understanding with de 
Vergennes, replied that, if peace with the States 
upon equal terms were really desired, the commis- 
sioners need not journey to America for it, for " if 
wise and honest men, such as Sir George Saville, 
the Bishop of St. Asaph, and yourself were to come 
over here immediately with powers to treat, you 
might not only obtain peace with America but pre- 
vent a war with France." About the same time 
also Hartley visited Franklin in person ; but noth- 
ing came of their interview, of which no record 
is preserved. The two bills were passed, almost 

^ Parton's Life of Franklin, ii. 309. 

2 Bancroft, Hist. U. S., ix. 485 ; Hale's Franklin in France, 
i. 223. 


unanimously. But every one felt that their useful- 
ness had been taken out of them by the other con- 
sequences of that event which had induced their in- 
troduction. News of them, however, was dispatched 
to America by a ship which followed close upon the 
frigate which carried the tidings of the French 
treaties. If the English ship should arrive first, 
something might be effected. But it did not, and 
probably nothing would have been gained if it had. 
Franklin truly said to Hartley: "All acts that 
suppose your future government of the colonies 
can be no longer significant ; " and he described 
the acts as " two frivolous bills, which the present 
ministry, in their consternation, have thought fit 
to propose, with a view to support their public 
credit a little longer at home, and to amuse and 
divide, if possible, our people in America." But 
even for this purpose they came too late, and stirred 
no other response than a ripple of sarcastic tri- 
umph over such an act of humiliation, which was 
aggravated by being rejected almost without con- 
sideration by Congress. 

So there was an end of conciliation. On March 
23d the American envoys had the significant dis- 
tinction of a presentation to the king, who is said 
to have addressed to them this gracious and royal 
sentence : '' Gentlemen, I wish the Congress to be 
assured of my friendship. I beg leave also to ob- 
serve that I am exceedingly satisfied, in particular, 
with your own conduct during your residence in my 
kingdom." ^ This personal compliment, if paid, 

1 Parton's Life of Franklin, ii. 312. 


was gratifying ; for the anomalous and difficult posi- 
tion of the envoys had compelled them to govern 
themselves wholly by their own tact and judgment, 
with no aid from experience or precedents. 

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

On March 13th the Marquis de Noailles, French 
ambassador at St. James's, formally announced to 
the English secretary of state the execution of the 
treaty of amity and commerce ; and impudently 
added a hope that the English court would see 


therein "new proofs" of King Louis's "sincere 
disposition for peace ; " and that his Britannic 
majesty, animated by the same sentiments, would 
equally avoid everything that might alter their 
good harmony ; also that he would particularly 
take effective measures to prevent the commerce 
between his French majesty's subjects and the 
United States of North America from being inter- 
rupted. When this was communicated to Parlia- 
ment Conway asked : " What else have we to do 
but to take up the idea that Franklin has thrown 
out with fairness and manliness?"^ But Franklin's 
ideas had not now, any more than heretofore, the 
good fortune to be acceptable to English ministers. 
Indeed, the mere fact that a suggestion came from 
him was in itself unfortunate ; for the king, whose 
influence was preponderant in this American busi- 
ness, had singled out Franklin among all the 
" rebels " as the object of extreme personal hatred. ^ 
Franklin certainly reciprocated the feeling with an 
intensity which John Adams soon afterward noted, 
apparently with some surprise. The only real reply 
to Noailles's message which commended itself to 
government was the instant recall of Lord Stor- 
mont, who left Paris on March 23d, sans prendre 
conge, just as he had once before threatened to do. 
On the same day the French ambassador left Lon- 
don, accompanied, as Gibbon said, by "some slight 

^ The reference was to the suggestion made to Hartley for 
sending commissioners to Paris to treat for peace. 
'^ Franklin's Works, vi. 30, note. 


expression of ill humor from John Bull." At the 
end of the month M. Gerard sailed for America, 
the first accredited minister to the new member of 
the sisterhood of civilized nations. A fortnight 
later the squadron of D'Estaing sailed from Toulon 
for American waters, and two weeks later the Eng- 
lish fleet followed. 

Thus far the course of France throughout her re- 
lationship with the States had been that of a gen- 
erous friend. She undoubtedly had been primarily 
instigated by enmity to England ; and she had been 
for a while guarded and cautious ; yet not un- 
reasonably so ; on tlie contrary, she had in many 
instances been sufficiently remiss in regarding her 
neutral obligations to give abundant cause for war, 
though England had not felt ready to declare it. 
At the first interview concerning the treaty of com- 
merce de Vergennes had said that the French 
court desired to take no advantage of the condition 
of the States, and to exact no terms which they 
would afterward regi*et, but rather to make an ar- 
rangement so based upon the interest of both par- 
ties that it should last as long as human institu- 
tions should endure, so that mutual amity should 
subsist forever. M. Gerard reiterated the same 
sentiments. That this language was not mere 
French courtesy was proved by the fact that the 
treaties, when completed, were " founded on prin- 
ciples of equality and reciprocity, and for the most 
part were in conformity to the proposals of Con- 
gress." ^ Each part}', under the customs 'laws of 

^ Bancroft. Hist. U. S., ix. 481. 


the other, was to be upon the footing of the most 
favored nation. The transfer of the vahiable and 
growing trade of the States from England to France 
had been assiduously held out as a temptation to 
France to enter into these treaties ; but no effort 
was made by France to gain from the needs of the 
Americans any exclusive privileges for herself. 
She was content to stipulate only that no other 
people should be granted preferences over her, 
leaving the States entirely unhampered for making 
subsequent arrangements with other nations. The 
light in which these dealings about the treaties 
made the French minister and the French court 
appear to Franklin should be remembered in the 
discussions which arose later concerning the treaty 
of peace.^ 

It may further be mentioned, by the way, that 
Franklin had the pleasure of seeing inserted his 
favorite principle: that free ships should make 
free goods, and free persons also, save only soldiers 
in actual service of an enemy. In passing, it is 
pleasant to preserve this, amid the abundant other 
testimony to Franklin's humane and advanced 
ideas as to the conduct of war between civilized 
nations.^ The doctrine of free ships making free 

1 Soe Franklin's Works, vi. 133. At this time John Adams 
strongly entertained the same sentiments, though he afterward 
felt very differently about the sincerity of France. Diplomatic 
Correspondence of American Revolution, iv. 262, 202. 

2 He was able to give a practical proof of his liberality by 
furnishing a passport to the packets carrying goods to the Mora- 
vian brethren in Labrador. Hale's Franklin in France, i. 245. 


goods, though promulgated early in the century, 
was still making slow and difficult progress. 
Franklin accepted it with eagerness. He wrote 
that he was " not only for respecting the ships as 
the house of a friend, though containing the goods 
of an enemy, but I even wish that ... all those 
kinds of people who are employed in procuring 
subsistence for the species, or in exchanging the 
necessaries or conveniences of life, which are for 
the common benefit of mankind, such as husband- 
men on their lands, fishermen in their barques, and 
traders in unarmed vessels, shall be permitted to 
prosecute their several innocent and useful employ- 
ments without interruption or molestation, and 
nothing taken from them, even when wanted by an 
enemy, but on paying a fair price for the same." 
Also to the president of Congress he spoke of Rus- 
sia's famous proposal for an ^' armed neutrality for 
protecting the liberty of commerce "as " the great 
public event " of the year in Europe. He pro- 
posed that Congress should order their cruisers 
" not to molest foreign ships, but to conform to the 
spirit of that treaty of neutrality." Congress 
promptly voted to request the admission of the 
States to the league, and John Adams took charge 
of this business during his mission to Holland. 

Events having thus established the indefinite 
continuance of the war, the good Hartley, pro- 
foundly disappointed, wrote a brief note invoking 
blessings on his "dear friend," and closing with 
the ominous words, " If tempestuous times should 


come, take care of your own safety ; events are un- 
certain and men may be capricious." Franklin, 
however, declined to be alarmed. *'I thank you," 
he said, " for your kind caution, but having nearly 
finished a long life, I set but little value on what 
remains of it. Like a draper, when one chaffers 
with him for a remnant, I am ready to say : ' As it 
is only the fag end, I will not differ with you about 
it ; take it for what you please.' Perhaps the best 
use such an old fellow can be put to is to make a 
martyr of him." 

A few weeks after the conclusion of this diplo- 
matic bond of friendship between the two peoples, 
Franklin, in the words of Mr. Bancroft, "placed 
the public opinion of philosophical France con- 
spicuously on the side of America." Voltaire came 
back to Paris, after twenty-seven years of voluntary 
exile, and received such adoration that it almost 
seemed as if, for Frenchmen, he was taking the 
place of that God whom he had been declaring 
non-existent, but whom he believed it necessary for 
mankind to invent. Franklin had an interview 
with him, which presented a curious scene. The 
aged French philosopher, shriveled, bright -eyed, 
destructive -minded, received the aged American 
philosopher, portly, serene, the humanest of men, 
in theatrical French fashion, quoting a passage of 
English poetry, and uttering over the head of 
young Temple the appropriate benediction, " God 
and Liberty." This drama was enacted in private, 
but on April 29th occurred that public spectacle 


made familiar by countless engravings, decorating 
the walls of so many old-fashioned American " sit- 
ting-rooms " and " best parlors," when, upon the 
stage of the Academy of Sciences, before a numer- 
ous and distinguished audience, the two venerable 
sages met and saluted each other. " 11 favt ti'em- 
hrasser a la Frangaiae^' shouted the enthusiastic 
crowd ; so they fell into each other's arms, and 
kissed, after the continental mode. Great was the 
fervor aroused in the breasts of the classic people 
of France as they proudly saw upon their soil a 
new "Solon and Sophocles" in embrace. Who 
shall say that Franklin's personal prestige in 
Europe had not practical value for America? 

Silas Deane, recalled, accompanied Gerard to 
America. He carried with him a brief but gener- 
ous letter from Franklin to the president of Con- 
gress.^ - At the same time Izard was writing home 
that Deane's misbehavior had long delayed the al- 
liance with France, and he repeated what he had 
said in former letters, that " whatever good dispo- 
sitions were shown by Mr. Lee, they were always 
opposed and overruled by the two oldest commis- 
sioners." The departure of the two gentlemen was 
kept a close secret at Paris, and at the request of 
de Vergennes esj^ecially a secret from Arthur Lee. 
For the French ministry were well assured that 
Lee's private secretary was a spy in British pay, 
and had he got possession of this important bit of 
news, it would not only have been untimely in a 

^ Franklin's Works, vi. 153. 


diplomatic way, but it might have given opportu- 
nity for British cruisers to waylay a vessel carry- 
ing such distinguished passengers. The precaution 
was justifiable, but it had ill consequences for 
Franklin, since it naturally incensed Lee to an ex- 
treme degree, and led to a very sharp correspond- 
ence, which still further aggravated the discomfort 
of the situation. The legitimate trials to which 
the aged doctor was subjected were numerous and 
severe enough, but the untiring and malicious en- 
mity of Arthur Lee was an altogether illegitimate 

Mr. Hale in his recent volumes upon Franklin 
truly says that " it is unnecessary to place vitu- 
perative adjectives to the credit [discredit?] of 
Arthur Lee ; " and in fact to do so seems a work 
of supererogation, since there probably remain few 
such epithets in the English language which have 
not already been applied to him by one writer or 
another. Yet it is hard to hold one's hand, al- 
though humanity would perhaps induce us to pity 
rather than to revile a man cursed with so un- 
happy a temperament. But whatever may be said 
or left unsaid about him personally, the infinite 
disturbance which he caused cannot be wholly ig- 
nored. It was great enough to constitute an im- 
portant element in history. Covered by the power- 
ful authority of his influential and patriotic family 
at home, and screened by the profound ignorance 
of Congress concerning men and affairs abroad, 
Lee was able for a long time to run his mis- 


chievous career without discovery or interruption. 
He buzzed about Europe like an angry hornet, 
thrusting his venomous sting into every respecta- 
ble and useful servant of his country, and irritat- 
ing exceedingly the foreigners whom it was of 
the first importance to conciliate. Incredible as 
it seems, it is undoubtedly true that he did not 
hesitate to express in Paris his deep antipathy to 
France and Frenchmen ; and it was only the low 
esteem in which he was held that prevented his 
singular behavior from doing irreparable injury to 
the colonial cause. The English newspapers taunt- 
ingly ridiculed his insignificance and incapacity ; 
de Vergennes could not endure him, and scarcely 
treated him with civility. But his intense egotism 
prevented him from gathering wisdom from such 
harsh instruction, which only added gall to his na- 
tive bitterness. He wreaked his revenge upon his 
colleagues, and towards Franklin he cherished an 
envious hatred which developed into a monoma- 
nia. Perhaps Franklin was correct in charitably 
saying that at times he was " insane." He began 
by asserting that Franklin was old, idle, and use- 
less, fit only to be shelved in some respectable sine- 
cure mission ; but he rapidly advanced from such 
moderate condemnation until he charged Franklin 
with being a party to the abstraction of his de- 
spatches from a sealed parcel, which was rifled in 
some unexplained way on its passage home ; ^ and 
finally he even reached the extremity of alleging 

^ Parton's Franhlin, li. 354. 


financial dishonesty in the public business, and in- 
sinuated an opinion that the doctor's great rascality 
indicated an intention never again to revisit his 
native land. In all this malevolence he found an 
earnest colleague in the hot-blooded Izard, whose 
charsres agfainst Franklin were unmeasured. " His 
abilities," wrote this angry gentleman, " are great 
and his reputation high. Removed as he is at so 
considerable a distance from the observation of his 
constituents, if he is not guided by principles of 
virtue and honor, those abilities and that reputa- 
tion may produce the most mischievous effects. 
In my conscience I declare to you that I believe 
him under no such restraint, and God knows that 
I speak the real, unprejudiced sentiments of my 
heart." Such fulminations, reaching the States 
out of what was then for them the obscurity of 
Europe, greatly perplexed the members of Con- 
gress ; for they had very insufficient means for de- 
termining the value of the testimony given by these 
absent witnesses. 

It would serve no useful purpose to devote valu- 
able space to narrating at length all the slander 
and malice of these restless men, all the corre- 
spondence, the quarrels, the explanations, and 
general trouble to which they gave rise. But the 
reader must exercise his imagination liberally in 
fancying these things, in order to appreciate to 
what incessant annoyance Franklin was subjected 
at a time when the inevitable anxieties and severe 
labors of his position were far beyond the strength 


of a man of bis years. He showed wonderful pa- 
tience and dignity, and thougli he sometimes let 
some asperity find expression in his replies, he 
never let them degenerate into retorts. Moreover, 
he replied as little as possible, for he truly said 
that he hated altercation ; whereas Lee, who rev- 
eled in it, took as an aggravation of all his other 
injuries that his opponent was inclined to curtail 
the full luxury to be expected from a quarrel. 
Franklin also magnanimously refrained from ar- 
raigning Lee and Izard to Congress, either publicly 
or privately, a forbearance which these chivalrous 
gentlemen did not emulate. The memorial ^ of 
Arthur Lee, of May, 1779, addressed to Congress, 
contains criminations enough to furnish forth many 
impeachments. But Franklin would not conde- 
scend to allow his serenity to be disturbed by the 
news of these assaults. He felt " very easy," he 
said, about these efforts to injure him, trusting in 
the justice of the Congress to listen "^o no accusa- 
tions without giving him an opportunity to rej^ly.^ 
Yet his position was not so absolutely secure and 
exalted but that he suffered some little injury at 

John Adams, going out to replace Silas Deane, 
crossed him on the passage, arriving at Bordeaux 
on March 31, 1778. This ardent New Englander, 
orderly, business-like, endowed with an insatiate 
industry, plunged headlong into the midst of af- 

1 FranUin's Works, vi. 363. 

2 To Richard Baclie, Franklin's Workf', vi. 414. 


fairs. With that happy self-confidence character- 
istic of our people, which leads every American to 
believe that he can at once and without training do 
anything* whatsoever better than it can be done by 
any other living man no matter how well trained, 
Adams began immediately to act and to criticise. 
In a few hours he knew all about the discussions 
between the various envoys, quasi envoys, and 
agents, who were squabbling with each other to 
the scandal of Paris ; in a few days he was ready 
to turn out Jonathan Williams, unseen and un- 
heard. He was shocked at the confusion in which 
he saw all the papers of the embassy, and set vig- 
orously about the task of sorting, labeling, dock- 
eting, and tying up letters and accounts ; it was a 
task which Franklin unquestionably had neglected, 
and which required to be done. He was appalled 
at the " prodigious sums of money " which had 
been expended, at the further great sums which 
were still to be paid, and at the lack of any proper 
books of accounts, so that he could not learn " what 
the United States have received as an equivalent." 
He did not in direct words charge the other com- 
missioners with culpable negligence ; but it was an 
unavoidable inference from what he did say. Un- 
doubtedly the fact was that the accounts were dis- 
gracefully muddled and insufficient ; but the fault 
really lay with Congress, which had never permitted 
proper clerical assistance to be employed. Adams 
soon found this out, and appreciated that besides 
all the diplomatic affairs, which were their only 


proper concern, the commissioners were also trans- 
acting an enormous business, financial and commer- 
cial, involving innumerable payments great and 
small, loans, purchases, and correspondence, and 
that all was being conducted with scarcely any aid 
of clerks or accountants ; whereas a mercantile 
firm engaged in affairs of like extent and moment 
would have had an extensive establishment with a 
numerous force of skilled employees. When 
Adams had been a little longer in Paris, he also 
began to see where and how " the prodigious sums " 
went,^ and just what was the full scope of the func- 
tions of the commissioners ; then the censoriousness 
evaporated out of his language. He admitted that 
the neglects of subordinate agents were such that 
it was impossible for the commissioners to learn 
the true state of their finances ; and he joined in 
the demand, so often reiterated by Franklin, for 
the establishment of the usual and proper commer- 
cial agencies. The business of accepting and keep- 
ing the run of the bills drawn by Congress, and of 
teasing the French government for money to meet 
them at maturity, would still remain to be attended 
to by the ministers in person ; but these things long 
experience might enable them to manage. 

No sooner had Adams scented the first whiff 
of the quarrel-laden atmosphere of the embassy 
than he expressed in his usual self-satisfied, impetu- 
ous, and defiant way his purpose to be rigidly im- 
partial. But he was a natural fault-finder, and by 
1 Diplomatic Corrcsp. of Amer. 7?ey., iv. 249, 251. 


no means a natural peacemaker ; and his impar- 
tiality had no effect in assuaging the animosities 
which he found. However, amid all the discords 
of the embassy there was one note of harmony ; and 
the bewildered Congress must have felt much satis- 
faction in finding that all the envoys were agreed 
that one representative at the French court would 
be vastly better as well as cheaper than the sort of 
caucus which now held its angry sessions there. At 
worst one man could not be forever at odds with 
himself. Adams, when he had finished the task of 
arranging the archives, found no other occupation ; 
and he was scandalized at the extravagance of keep- 
ing three envoys. Lee, by the way, had constantly 
insinuated that Franklin was blamably lax, if not 
actually untrustworthy, in money matters, though 
all the while he and his friend Izard had been quite 
shameless in extorting from the doctor very large 
sums for their own expenses. When the figures 
came to be made up it appeared that Franklin had 
drawn less than either of his colleagues, and much 
less than the sum soon afterward established by 
Congress as the proper salary for the position.^ 
The frugal-minded New Englander himself now ac- 
knowledged that he could " not find any article of 
expense which could be retrenched," ^ and he hon- 
estly begged Congress to stop the triple outlay. 

Franklin, upon his part, wrote that in many 
ways the public business and the national prestige 

^ Diplomatic Corresp. of Amer. Rev., iv. 246. 
2 Ibkl., 24.-,. 


suffered much from the lack of unanimity among 
the envoys, and said : " In consideration of the 
whole, I wish Congress would separate us." Neither 
Adams nor Franklin wrote one word which either 
directly or indirectly had a personal bearing. 
Arthur Lee was more frank ; in the days of Deane 
he had begun to write that to continue himself 
at Paris would " disconcert effectually the wicked 
measures " of Franklin, Deane, and Williams, and 
that it was " the one way of redressing " the " neg- 
lect, dissipation, and private schemes " prevalent 
in the department, and of " remedying the public 
evil." He said that the French court was the 
place of chief importance, calling for the ablest and 
most efficient man, to wit, himself. He suggested 
that Franklin might be sent to Vienna, a dignified 
retreat without labor. Izard and William Lee 
wrote letters of like purport ; it was true that it 
was none of their affair, but they were wont to in- 
terfere in the business of the commissioners, as if the 
French mission were common property. Congress 
took so much of this advice as all their advisers 
were agreed upon ; that is to say, it broke up the 
commission to France. But it did not appoint 
Arthur Lee to remain there ; on the contrary, it 
nominated Franklin to be minister plenipotentiary 
at the French court, left Lee still accredited to 
Madrid, as he had been before, and gave Adams 
neither any place nor any instructions, so that he 
soon returned home. Gerard, at Philadelphia, 
claimed the credit of having defeated the machina- 


tlons of the " dangerous and bad man," Lee, and 
congratulated de Vergennes on bis relief from tbe 
burden .1 Franklin's commission was brought over 
by Lafayette in February, 1779. Thus ended the 
Lee-Izard cabal against Franklin ; it was not unlike 
the Gates-Conway cabal against Washington, save 
that it lasted longer and was more exasperating. 
The success of either would have been almost equally 
perilous to the popular cause ; for the instatement of 
Lee as minister plenipotentiary at the French court 
would inevitably have led to a breach with France. 
The result was very gratifying to Franklin, since 
it showed that all the ill tales about him which had 
gone home had not ruined, though certainly they 
had seriously injured, his good repute among his 
countrymen. Moreover, he could truly say that 
the office " was not obtained by any solicitation or 
intrigue," or by " magnifying his own services, or 
diminishing those of others." But apart from the 
gratification and a slight access of personal dignity, 
the change made no difference in his duties; he 
still combined the functions of loan-agent, consul, 
naval director, and minister, as before. Nor was 
he even yet wholly rid of Arthur Lee. He had, 
however, the satisfaction of absolutely refusing to 
honor any more of Lee's or Izard's exorbitant 
drafts for their personal expenses. 

Shortly after his appointment Franklin sent his 
grandson to Lee, with a note requesting Lee to 
send to him such papers belonging to the embassy 

' Parton's Life of Franklin, ii. 383. 


as were in his possession. Lee insolently replied 
that he had " no papers belonging to the depart- 
ment of minister plenipotentiary at the court of 
Versailles ; " that if Franklin referred to papers 
relating to transactions of the late joint commis- 
sion, he had " yet to learn and could not conceive " 
by what reason or authority one commissioner was 
entitled to demand custody of them. Franklin re- 
plied temperately enough that many of them were 
essential to him for reference in conducting the 
public business, but said that he should be per- 
fectly content to have copies. The captious Lee 
was still further irritated by this scheme for avoid- 
ing a quarrel, but had to accede to it. 

To John Paul Jones Franklin stood in the rela- 
tion of a navy department. The daring exploits of 
that gallant mariner form a chapter too fascinat- 
ing to be passed by without reluctance, but limi- 
tations of space are inexorable. His success and 
his immunity in his reckless feats seem marvelous. 
His chosen field was the narrow seas which sur- 
round Britain, which swarmed with British ship- 
ping, and were dominated by the redoubtable Brit- 
ish navy as the streets of a city are kept in order 
by police. But the rover Jones, though always 
close to his majesty's coasts, was too much for all 
his majesty's admirals and captains. He harried 
these home waters and captured prizes till he be- 
came embarrassed by the extent of liis own success ; 


he landed at Whitehaven, spiked the guns of the 
fort, and fired the ships of the fleet in the harbor 
beneath the eyes of the astounded Englishmen, 
who thronged the shore and gazed bewildered upon 
the spectacle which American audacity displayed 
for them; he made incursions on the land; he 
threatened the port of Leith, and would undoubt- 
edly have bombarded it, had not obstinate counter 
winds thwarted his plans ; he kept the whole Brit- 
ish shores in a state of feverish alarm ; he was al- 
ways ready to fight, and challenged the English 
warship, the Serapis, to come out and meet him ; 
she came, and he captured her after fighting so 
desperately that his own ship, the famous Bon 
Homme Richard, named after Poor Richard, sank 
a few hours after the combat was over. 

All these glorious feats were rendered possible by 
Franklin, who found the money, consulted as to the 
operations, issued commissions, attended to pur- 
chases and repairs, to supplies and equipment, who 
composed quarrels, settled questions of authority, 
and interposed to protect vessels and commanders 
from the perils of the laws of neutrality. Jones had 
a great respect and admiration for him, and said 
to him once that his letters would make a coward 
brave. The projects of Jones were generally de- 
vised in consultations with Franklin, and were in 
the direct line of enterprises already suggested by 
Franklin, who had urged Congress to send out 
three frigates, disguised as merchantmen, which 
could make sudden descents upon the English coast, 


destroy, burn, gather plunder, and levy contribu- 
tions, and be off before molestation was possible. 
" The burning or plundering of Liverpool or Glas- 
gow," he wrote, "would do us more essential ser- 
vice than a million of treasure, and much blood 
spent on the continent ; " and he was confident that 
it was " practicable with very little danger." This 
was not altogether in accord with his humane the- 
ory for the conduct of war ; but so long as that 
theory was not adopted by one side, it could not of 
course be allowed to handicap the other. 

As if Franklin had not enough legitimate trouble 
in furthering these naval enterprises, an entirely 
undeserved vexation grew out of them for him. 
There was a French captain Landais, who entered 
the service of the States and was given the com- 
mand of a ship in what was dignified by the name 
of Jones's " squadron." Of all the excitable 
Frenchmen who have ever lived none can have been 
more hot-headed than this remarkable man. Dur- 
ing the engagement between the Bon Homme Rich- 
ard and the Serapis, he sailed up and down beside 
the former and delivered broadsides into her until 
he was near disabling and sinking the ship of his 
own commander. The incomprehensible proceed- 
ing meant only that he was so wildly excited that 
he did not know at whom he was firing. Soon he 
quarreled with Jones ; Franklin had to intervene ; 
then Landais advanced all sorts of preposterous de- 
mands, which Franklin refused ; thereupon he quar- 
reled with Franklin ; a very disagreeable corre- 


spondence ensued ; Franklin finally had to displace 
Landais from command of his ship ; Landais de- 
fied him and refused to surrender command. Then 
Lee decided to go home to the States in Lan dais's 
ship. When the two got together they stirred up 
a mutiny on board, and more trouble was made for 
Franklin. At last they got away, and Landais 
went crazy during the voyage, was deposed by his 
officers, and placed in confinement. If the ship had 
been lost, it would have been a more tolerable loss 
than many for which the ocean is accountable ; but 
she was not, and Lee got safe ashore to continue 
his machinations at Philadelphia, and to publish 
an elaborate pamphlet against Franklin. All this 
story and the correspondence may be read at length 
in Mr. Hale's " Franklin in France." It is enter- 
taining and shows vividly the misery to which 
Franklin was subjected in attending to affairs 
which were entirely outside of the proper scope of 
his office. "It is hard," said he, "that I, who 
give others no trouble with my quarrels, should 
be plagued with all the perversities of those who 
think fit to wran<]rle with one another." 



Whether the financiering of the American 
Revolution is to be looked upon in a pathetic or in 
a comical light must depend upon the mood of the 
observer. The spectacle of a young people, with 
no accumulated capital, engaged in supporting the 
charge of a mortal struggle against all the vast re- 
sources of Britain, has in it something of pathos. 
But the methods to which this people resorted to 
raise funds were certainly of amusing simplicity. 
It was not until the appointment of Robert Mor- 
ris, in 1781, that a treasury department came into 
existence and some slight pretense of system was 
introduced into the financial affairs of the confed- 
eration. During the years prior to that time Con- 
gress managed the business matters. But Congress 
neither had funds nor the power to obtain any. It 
had an unlimited power for contracting debts: ab- 
solutely no power for collecting money. It used 
the former power freely. When creditors wanted 
payment, requisitions were made upon the states 
for their respective quotas. But the states were 
found to be sadly irresponsive ; probably the citi- 
zens really had not much ready money ; cer- 


tainly they had not enough to pay in taxes the cost 
of the war ; no civilized state has been able to con- 
duct a war, even a small one, in modern times 
without using the national credit. But the United 
States had absolutely no credit at all. It was well 
enough to exclaim " Millions for defense ; but not 
one cent for tribute ! " This was rhetoric, not busi- 
ness ; and Congress soon found that the driblets 
which trickled tardily to them in response to their 
demands on the several states would hardly mois- 
ten the bottom of the great exchequer tank, which 
needed to be filled to the brim. 

Two methods of relief were then adopted, crude, 
simple, but likely for a time to be efficient ; and 
provided only that within that time the war could 
be finished, all might go well. One of these meth- 
ods was to issue irredeemable paper "money;" the 
other was to borrow real money abroad. The droll 
part was that both these transactions were auda- 
ciously entered upon by a body which had abso- 
lutely no revenues at all to pledge as security, 
which had not a dollar of property, nor authority 
to compel any living man to pay it a dollar. A 
more utterly irresponsible debtor than Congress 
never asked for a loan or offered a promissory note. 
For the security of a creditor there was only the 
moral probability that in case of success the peo- 
ple would be honest enough to pay their debts ; 
and there was much danger that the jealousies be- 
tween the states as to their proportionate quotas 
might stimulate reluctance and furnish excuses 


which might easily become serious in so unpleasant 
a matter as paying out hard cash. At home Con- 
gress could manage to make its paper money per- 
colate among the people, and could pay a good 
many American creditors with it ; but there were 
some who would not be thus satisfied, and few 
European creditors, of course, would meddle with 
such currency. So to pay these people who would 
have real money Congress solicited loans from 
other nations. It was like the financiering of a 
schoolboy, who issues his I O U's among his mates, 
and refers the exacting and business-like trades- 
man to his father. France was cast for the rdle 
of father to the Congressional schoolboy for many 
wearisome years. 

The arrangement bore hard upon the American 
representatives, who, at European courts and upon 
European exchanges, had the embarrassing task of 
raising money. It was all very well to talk about 
negotiating a loan; the phrase had a Micawber- 
like sound as of real business ; but in point of plain 
fact the thing to be done was to beg. Congress 
had a comparatively easy time of it ; such burden 
and anxiety as lay upon that body were shared 
among many ; and after all, the whole scope of its 
duty was little else than to vote requisitions upon 
the states, to order the printing of a fresh batch of 
bills, and to " resolve that the Treasury Board be 
directed to prepare bills of exchange of suitable de- 
nominations upon the Honorable Benjamin Frank- 
lin [or sometimes Jay, or Adams, or another] , min- 


ister plenipotentiary at the court of Versailles, for 

thousand dollars in specie.^^ Having done 

this, Congress had fulfilled its simple part, and 
serenely waited for something to turn up. 

The plan which seemed most effective was to 
send a representative accredited to some foreign 
government, and instructed to raise money at once. 
Without wasting time by waiting to see whether he 
arrived safely, or was received, or was successful in 
his negotiations, the next ship which followed him 
brought drafts and bills which he was expected to 
accept, and at maturity to pay. Having thus skill- 
fully shifted the laboring oar into his hands Con- 
gress bestirred itself no further. Poor Jay, in 
Spain, had a terrible time of it in this way, and if 
ever a man was placed by his country in a painful 
and humiliating position, it was he. He faced it 
gallantly, but had to be carried through by Frank- 
lin. From first to last it was upon Franklin that 
the brunt fell; he had to keep the country from 
financial failure as Washington had to save it from 
military failure ; he was the real financier of the 
Revolution ; without him Robert Morris would have 
been helpless. Spain yielded but trifling sums in 
response to Jay's solicitations ; Holland, which was 
tried by Adams, was even more tardy and unwil- 
ling, though towards the end some money was got 
there. Franklin alone, at Paris, could tap the rock 
and make the waters flow. So upon him Congress 
sent in an endless procession of drafts, and com- 
pelled him to pay all their foreign bills and indebt- 


edness ; he gathered and he disbursed ; to him were 
referred all the drafts upon Jay and others, which 
they themselves could not pay, and he discharged 
them one and all. A heavier task never fell upon 
any man, nor one bringing less recognition ; for 
money matters usually seem so dry and unintelligi- 
ble that every one shirks informing himself about 
them. We read about the horrors of the winter 
camp at Valley Forge, and we shudder at all the 
details of the vivid picture. The anxiety, the toil, 
the humiliation, which Franklin endured for many 
winters and many summers in Paris, in sustaining 
the national credit, do not make a picture, do not 
furnish material for a readable chapter in history. 
Yet many a man would far rather have faced 
Washington's lot than Franklin's. 

I do not intend to tell this tale at length or mi- 
nutely, for I could trust no reader to follow me in so 
tedious an enterprise ; yet I must try to convey 
some notion of what this financiering really meant 
for Franklin, of how ably he performed it, of what 
it cost him in wear and tear of mind, of what toil 
it put upon him, and of what measure of gratitude 
was due to him for it. It may be worth mention- 
ing by the way that he not only spent himself in 
efforts to induce others to lend, but he himself 
lent. Before he embarked for Philadelphia on his 
French mission, he gathered together all that he 
could raise in money, some <£3,000 to X4,000, and 
paid it over as an unsecured loan for an indefinite 
period to the Continental Congress. 


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

The ship which brought Franklin also brought 
indigo to the value of X3,000, which was to serve 
as long as it could for the expenses of the commis- 
sioners. For keeping them supplied with money 
later on, it was the intention of Congress to pur- 
chase cargoes of American products, such as to- 
bacco, rice, indigo, etc., etc., and consign these to 
the commissioners, who, besides paying their per- 
sonal bills, were sure to have abundant other means 
for using the proceeds. Unfortunately, however, it 
so happened that the resources presented by this 
scheme were already exhausted. In January, 1777, 
a loan of one million livres had been advanced on a 
pledge of fifty-six thousand hogsheads of tobacco to 
the Farmers General of the French revenue ; and the 
rice and indigo had been in like manner mortgaged 
to Beaumarchais. Congressional jugglery could not 
quite compass the payment of different creditors 


with the same money, even supposing that the 
money came to hand. But it did not ; for a long 
while no cargoes arrived ; of those that were dis- 
patched, some were run away with by dishonest 
ship-masters, some were lost at sea, others were 
captured by the English, so that Franklin sadly 
remarked that the chief result was that the enemy 
had been supplied with these articles for nothing. 
But he preserved his resolute cheerfulness. " The 
destroying of our ships by the English," he said, 
" is only like shaving our beards, that will grow 
again. Their loss of provinces is like the loss of a 
limb, which can never again be united to their body." 
When at last a cargo did arrive, Beaumarchais de- 
manded it as his own, and Franklin at last yielded 
to his importunities and tears, though having no 
really sufficient knowledge of his right to it. Later 
a second vessel arrived, and Beaumarchais endeav- 
ored to pounce upon it by process of law. That 
one also Franklin let him have. Then no more 
came, and this promising resource seems never to 
have yielded one dollar for Franklin's use. 

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


Strange to say, the instructions given by Con- 
gress to the commissioners at the time of Frank- 
lin's appointment said nothing about borrowing 
money. In view of what he had to do in this way 
it was a singular omission ; but it was soon repaired 
by letters. In March, 1777, Franklin writes to 
Lee : " We are ordered to borrow X2, 000,000 on 
interest ; " also to " build six ships of war," pre- 
sumably on credit. In this same month Franklin 
wrote a paper, which was widely circulated in 
Europe, in which he endeavored to show that the 
honesty, the industry, the resources, and the pros- 
pects of the United States were so excellent that it 
would really be safer to lend to them than to Eng- 
land. It was a skillful piece of work, and its argu- 
ments had evidently persuaded the writer himself ; 
but they did not induce the money-lenders of the 
old countries to accept moral qualities and proba- 
bilities as collateral security. 

Fair success, however, was soon met with at the 
court of France, so that the commissioners had the 
pleasure of assuring Congress that they could 
safely be depended upon to meet the interest on a 
loan of f5,000,000, which by this aid Congress 
probably would be able to contract for. But that 
body had no idea of being content with this ! March 
17, 1778, Franklin writes to Lee that they have been 
drawn upon for 180,000 livres, to pay old indebt- 
edness of the army in Canada ; also that other bills 
have been drawn. The number and gross amount of 
these were not stated in the advices ; but the com- 


missioners were ordered to " accept them when they 
should appear." " I cannot conceive," said Franklin, 
" what encouragement the Congress could have had 
from any of us to draw on us for anything but that 
interest. I suppose their difficulties have compelled 
them to it. I see we shall be distressed here by 
these proceedings," etc., etc. Congress was com- 
posed of men far too shrewd to await " encourage- 
ment " to draw for money ! 

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

Congress could not fairly exact great accuracy 
from the drawees of its bills, when it never took 
pains to give notice of the facts of the drawing, of 
the number of bills drawn, of dates, or amounts ; in 
a word, really gave no basis for account-keeping or 
identification. No more helter-skelter way of con- 


(luctins: business has ever been seen since modern 
business methods were invented. The system, if 
system it may be called, would have been aggra- 
vating and confusing enough under any condition 
of attendant circumstances ; but it so happened 
that all attendant circumstances tended to increase 
rather than to mitigate the difficulties created by 
the carelessness of Congress. One naturally fan- 
cies that a nation deals in few and large transac- 
tions, that these drafts may have been for inconven- 
iently large sums, but that at least they probably 
were not numerous. The precise contrary was the 
case. The drafts were countless, and often were 
for very petty amounts, much as if a prosperous 
merchant were drawing cheques to pay his ordinary 
expenses. Further, the uncertainty of the passage 
across the Atlantic led to these bills appearing at 
all sorts of irregular times ; seconds often came to 
hand before firsts, and thirds before either ; the 
bills were often very old when presented. Knaves 
took advantage of these facts fraudulently to alter 
seconds and thirds into firsts, so that extreme care 
had to be taken to prevent constant duplication 
and even triplication of payments. It would have 
taken much of the time of an experienced banker's 
clerk to keep the bill and draft department in cor- 
rect shape. It is not improbable that Congress lost 
a good deal of money by undetected rascalities, but 
if so the fault lay with that body itself, not with 

Amid the harassments of these demands, Frank- 


lin was much vexed by the conduct of Arthur Lee 
and Izard in drawing money for their own ex- 
penses. In February, 1778, each insisted that he 
should be allowed a credit with the banker, M. 
Grand, to an amount of £2,000, as each then ex- 
pected to depart on a mission. Franklin reluc- 
tantly assented, and was then astonished and in- 
dignant to find that each at once drew out the full 
sum from the national account ; yet neither went 
upon his journey. In January, 1779, Izard applied 
for more. Franklin's anger was stirred ; Izard was 
a man of handsome private property, and was ren- 
dering no service in Paris ; and his requirements 
seemed to Franklin eminently unpatriotic and ex- 
orbitant. He therefore refused the request, writ- 
ing to Izard a letter which is worth quoting, both 
from the tone of its patriotic appeal and as a vivid 
sketch of the situation: — 

" Your intimation that you expect more money from 
us obliges us to expose to you our circumstances. Upon 
the supposition that Congress had borrowed in America 
but $5,000,000, and relying on the remittances intended 
to be sent to us for answering other demands, we gave 
expectations that we shoukl be able to pay here the in- 
terest of that sum as a means of supporting the credit of 
the currency. The Congi'ess have borrowed near twice 
that sum, and are now actually drawing on us for the 
interest, the bills appearing here daily for acceptance. 
Their distress for money in America has been so great 
from the enormous expense of the war that they have 
also been induced to draw on us for very large sums to 


stop other pressing demands ; and they have not been 
able to purchase remittances for us to the extent they 
proposed ; and of what they have sent, much has been 
taken, or treacherously carried into England, only two 
small cargoes of tobacco having arrived, and they are 
long since mortgaged to the Farmers General, so that 
they produce us nothing, but leave us expenses to pay. 

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

" In this situation of our affairs, we hope you will not 
insist on our giving you a farther credit with our banker, 
with whom we are daily in danger of having no farther 
credit ourselves. It is not a year since you received 
from us the sum of 2,000 guineas, which you thought 
necessary on account of your being to set out immedi- 
ately for Florence. You have not incurred the expense 
of that journey. You are a gentleman of fortune. You 
did not come to France with any dependence on being 
maintained here with your family at the expense of the 
United States, in the time of their distress, and without 
rendering them the equivalent service they expected. 

"On all these considerations we should rather hope 
that you would be willing to reimburse us the sum we 


have advanced to you, if it may be done with any pos- 
sible convenience to your affairs. Such a supply would 
at least enable us to relieve more liberally our unfortu- 
nate countrymen, who have long been prisoners, stripped 
of everything, of whom we daily expect to have nearly 
three hundred upon our hands by the exchange." 

At this same time Franklin wrote to Congress to 
explain how it had happened that so large a sum 
as X4,000 had been allowed to these gentlemen ; 
for he feared that this liberality might "subject 
the commissioners to censure." The explanation 
was so discreditable to Lee and Izard that it is 
charitable to think that there was some misunder- 
standing between the parties.^ The matter nat- 
urally rankled, and in May Franklin wrote that 
there was much anger against him, that he was 
charged with " disobeying an order of Congress, 
and with cruelly attempting to distress gentlemen 
who were in the service of their country." 

" They have indeed," he said, " produced to me a re- 
solve of Congress empowering them to draw . . . for 
their expenses at foreign courts ; and doubtless Congress, 
when that resolve was made, intended to enable us to 
pay those drafts ; but as that has not been done, and 
the gentlemen (except Mr. Lee for a few weeks) have 
not incurred any expense at foreign courts, and, if they 
had, the 5,500 guineas received by them in about nine 
months seemed an ample provision for it, ... I do not 
conceive that I disobeyed an order of Congress, and 
that if I did the circumstances will excuse it. . . . In 

^ See Franklin's Works, vi. 294. 


short, the dreadful consequences of ruin to our public 
credit, both in America and Europe, that must attend 
the protesting a single Congress draft for interest, after 
our funds were out, would have weighed with me against 
the payment of more money to those gentlemen, if the 
demand had otherwise been well founded. I am, how- 
ever, in the judgment of Congress, and if I have done 
amiss, must submit dutifully to their censure." 

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

In February and March, 1779, came demands 
from the officers of the frigate Alliance for their 
pay ; but Franklin was '* neither furnished with 
money nor authority for such purposes." It 
seemed, however, too hard to tell these gallant fel- 
lows, whose perilous and useful service was in Eu- 
ropean waters, that they could not have a dollar 
until they should get safely back to the States ; so 
Franklin agreed to pay for one suit of clothes for 
each of them. But he begged them to be as 
" frugal as possible," and not make themselves 

1 Bancroft, Hist. U. S., ix. 480. 


" expensively fine " from a notion that it was for 
the honor of the States, which could be better pro- 
moted in more sensible ways. 

May 26, 1779, he complains to the committee 
of foreign affairs that, whereas the commissioners 
had agreed to find in Paris means of paying inter- 
est on a loan of $5,000,000, that loan had been 
doubled, while, on the other hand, they had been 
" drained by a number of unforeseen expenses," 
including " orders and drafts " of Congress. " And 
now," he says, " the drafts of the treasurer of the 
loans coming very fast upon me, the anxiety I 
have suffered and the distress of mind lest I should 
not be able to pay them, have for a long time been 
very great indeed. To apply again to this court 
for money for a particular purpose, which they had 
already over and over again provided for and fur- 
nished us, was extremely awkward." One would 
think so, indeed ! So he fell back on a " general 
application " made some time before, and received 
naturally the general answer that France herself 
was being put to enormous expenses, which were 
aiding the States as efficiently as a direct loan of 
money could do. The most he could extort was 
the king's guaranty for the payment of the interest 
on $3,000,000, provided that sum could be raised 
in Holland. The embarrassing fact was that the 
plea of poverty advanced by the French govern- 
ment was perfectly valid. Turgot said so, and no 
man knew better than Turgot. He had lately 
told the king that even on a peace footing the 


annual expenditures exceeded the annual receipts 
of the exchequer by 20,000,000 livres ; and he even 
talked seriously of an avowal of national bank- 
ruptcy. The events preceding the French Revolu- 
tion soon proved that this great statesman did not 
exaggerate the ill condition of affairs. Yet instead 
of practicing rigid prudence and economy, France 
had actually gone into a costly war for the benefit 
of America. It was peculiarly disagreeable to be 
ceaselessly appealing for money to an impoverished 

Another vexation was found in the way in which 
the agents of the various individual states soon 
began to scour Europe in quest of money. First 
they applied to Franklin, and " seemed to think it 
his duty as minister for the United States to sup- 
port and enforce their particular demands." But 
the foreigners, probably not understanding these 
separate autonomies, did not relish these requisi- 
tions, and Franklin found that he could no nothin<r. 
On the contrary, he was hampered in effecting 
loans on the national credit ; for these state agents, 
hurrying clamorously hither and thither, gave an 
impression of poverty and injured the reputation of 
the country, which, indeed, was already low enough 
upon the exchanges without any such gratuitous im- 

February 19, 1780, there was an application 
from John Paul Jones for money for repairs on his 
ships. Franklin approved keeping the vessels in 
serviceable condition, but added : " Let me repeat. 


for God's sake be sparing, unless you mean to make 
me a bankrupt, or have your drafts dishonored for 
want of money in my hands to pay them." 

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

We next hear of his troubles in paying the bills 
which Congress, according to its usual custom, was 
drawing upon Jay. They sent Jay to Spain, and 
told him to borrow money there ; and as soon as 
they had got him fairly at sea, they began draw- 
ing drafts upon him. He soon found himself, as 
he said, in a "cruel situation," and the torture 
of mind which he endured and the responsibil- 
ity which he assumed are well known. He coura- 
geously accepted the bills, trusting to Providence 


and to Franklin, who seemed the agent of Provi- 
dence, to arrange for their payment. Franklin 
did not fail him. One of Jay's earliest letters to 
Franklin said : " I have no reason as yet to think 
a loan here will be practicable. Bills on me ar- 
rive daily. Be pleased to send me a credit for the 
residue of our salaries." Five days later : " Bills 
to the amount of §100,000 have arrived. A loan 
cannot be effected here." And so on. In April, 
1781, his appeal became pathetic : " Our situation 
here is daily becoming more disagreeable from the 
want of our salaries ; to be obliged to contract 
debts and live on credit is terrible. I have not to 
this day received a shilling from America, and we 
should indeed have been greatly distressed, had it 
not been for your good offices." An American 
minister without resources to pay his butcher and 
his grocer, his servant and his tailor, presented a 
spectacle which moved Franklin to great efforts ! 
In plain truth, Jay and his secretary, Carmichael, 
were dependent upon Franklin for everything ; 
they not only drew on him for their salaries to pay 
daily household expenses, but they sent him lists of 
the bills accepted by them for the " honor of Con- 
gress," and which they had no means of paying. 
It was fortunate that these two men were willing 
to incur such peril and anxiety in behalf of this 
same " honor of Congress," which otherwise would 
soon have been basely discredited ; for that body 
itself was superbly indifferent on the subject, and 
did not pretend to keep faith even with its own 


Thus matters continued to the end. Congress 
pledged itself not to draw bills, and immediately 
drew them in batches. Jay could report to Frank- 
lin only scant and reluctant promises won from the 
Spanish court ; and small as these engagements 
were, they were ill kept. Perhaps they could not 
be kept ; for, as Jay wrote, there was " little coin 
in Egypt," the country was really poor. So the 
end of it always was that Franklin remained as 
the only resource for payments, to be made week 
after week, of all sorts of sums ranging from little 
bills upon vessels up to great totals of 1150,000 or 
$230,000 upon bankers' demands. Such was the 
burden of a song which had many more woful 
stanzas than can be repeated here. 

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

At the same time he wrote to Adams that he 
had " long been humiliated with the idea of our 
running about from court to court begging for 
money and friendship, which are the more with- 
held the more eagerly they are solicited, and would 
perhaps have been offered if they had not been 
asked. The proverb says, God helps them that 
help themselves ; and the world too, in this sense, 


is very godly." This was an idea to which he 
more than once recurred. In March, 1782, in the 
course of a long letter to Livingston, he said : " A 
small increase of industry in every American, male 
and female, with a small diminution of luxury, 
would produce a sum far superior to all we can 
hope to beg or borrow from all our friends in 
Europe." He reiterated the same views again 
in March, and again in December, and doubtless 
much oftener.i No man was more earnest in the 
doctrine that every individual American owed his 
strenuous and unremitting personal assistance to 
the cause. It was a practical as well as a noble 
patriotism which he felt, preached, and exempli- 
fied ; and it was thoroughly characteristic of the 

What was then the real financial capacity of the 
people, and whether they did their utmost in the 
way of raising money to support the Revolution, is 
a question about which it is easy to express an 
opinion, but difficult to prove its accuracy by con- 
vincing evidence. On the one hand, it is true that 
the strain was extreme and that much was done 
to meet it ; on the other hand, it is no less true 
that even beneath this stress the. national pros- 
perity actually made a considerable advance dur- 
ing the war. The people as a whole gathered 
money rather than impoverished themselves. In 
the country at large the commercial instinct fully 
held its own in competition with the spirit of inde- 

J Franklin's Works, vii. 404 ; viii. 230. 


pendeuce. There was not much forswearing of 
little luxuries. Franklin said that he learned by 
inquiry that of the interest money which was 
disbursed in Paris most was laid out for " super- 
fluities, and more than half of it for tea." He 
computed that X500,000 were annually expended 
in the States for tea alone. This sum, " annually 
laid out in defending ourselves or annoying our 
enemies, would have great effect. With what face 
can we ask aids and subsidies from our friends, 
while we are wasting our own wealth in such 
prodigality ? " 

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

November 19, 1780, he wrote to de Vergennes 
announcing that Congress had notified him of 
drafts to the amount of about 1,400,000 livres, 
(about 1280,000). The reply was: "You can 
easily imagine my astonishment at your request of 


the necessary funds to meet these drafts, since you 
perfectly well know the extraordinary efforts which 
I have made thus far to assist you and support your 
credit, and especially since you cannot have for- 
gotten the demands you lately made upon me. 
Nevertheless, sir, I am very desirous of assisting 
you out of the embarrassed situation in which these 
repeated drafts of Congress have placed you ; and 
for this purpose I shall endeavor to procure for 
you, for the next year, the same aid that I have 
been able to furnish in the course of the present. 
I cannot but believe, sir, that Congress will faith- 
fully abide by what it now promises you, that in 
future no drafts shall be made upon you unless 
the necessary funds are sent to meet them." 

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

December 2, 1780, Franklin acknowledges " fav- 
ors," a conventional phrase which seems sarcastic. 


These tell hiai that Congress has resolved to draw 
on him " bills extraordinary, to the amount of near 
1300,000." These were doubtless what led to the 
foregoing correspondence with de Vergennes. In 
reply he says that he has already engaged himself 
for the bills drawn on Mr. Laurens, and adds : 
" You cannot conceive how much these things per- 
plex and distress me ; for the practice of this gov- 
ernment being yearly to apportion the revenue to 
the several expected services, any after demands 
made, which the treasury is not furnished to sup- 
ply, meet with great difficulty, and are very dis- 
agreeable to the ministers." 

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

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

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

" Jan. 8. Accepted many bills. 

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

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

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

*' Jan. 17th. Accepted many bills. 

" Jan. 22d. M. Grand informs me that Mr. Williams 
has drawn on me for 26,000 livres ; . . . I order pay- 
ment of his drafts. 

*' Jan. 24th. A great number of bills. 

*' Jan. 26th. Accept bills." 


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


Almost immediately afterward he extorted from 
Necker an agreement that the king of France would 
guaranty a loan of 10,000,000 livres, if it could be 
raised in Holland ; and upon these terms he was 
able to raise this sum. Trouble enough the pos- 
session of it soon gave him ; for the demands for it 
were numerous. Franklin needed it to keep himself 
solvent in Europe ; Congress greedily sought it for 
America ; William Jackson, who was buying sup- 
plies in Holland, required much of it there. Frank- 
lin was expected to repeat with it the miracle of 
the loaves and' fishes. 2,500,000 livres he sent 
to the States in the same ship which carried John 
Laurens. 2,200,000 Laurens disposed of in pur- 
chasing goods; 1,500,000 were sent to Holland to 
be thence sent to the States in another ship, so as 
to divide the risk. But while he thus took care of 
others, he himself was drawn upon by Jackson for 
X50,000 ; and at the same time he was expected to 
provide for all the bills accepted by Laurens, Jay, 
and Adams, and now rapidly maturing. He sent 
in haste to Holland to detain the 1,500,000 livres 
in transitu. "I am sorry," he said, "that this 
operation is necessary ; but it must be done, or 
the consequences will be terrible." 

Laurens and Jackson, however, in Holland had 
been actually spending this sum, and more. " I 
applaud the zeal you have both shown in the 
affair," said the harassed doctor, " but I see that 
nobody cares how much I am distressed, provided 
they can carry their own points." Fortunately the 


money still lay in the hands of the banker, and 
there Franklin stopped it ; whereupon Jackson fell 
into extreme rage, and threatened some sort of a 
" proceeding," which Franklin said would only be 
exceedingly imprudent, useless, and scandalous. 
" The noise rashly made about this matter " by 
Jackson naturally injured American credit in Hol- 
land, and especially rendered unniarketable his 
own drafts upon Franklin. In these straits he 
journeyed to Paris to see Franklin, represented 
that his goods were on board ship ; that they were 
articles much needed in America ; that they must 
be paid for, or else relanded and returned, or sold, 
which would be a public disgrace. So Franklin 
was prevailed ' upon to engage for the payment, 
and was " obliged to go with this afterclap to the 
ministers," a proceeding especially disagreeable be- 
cause, as he said, " the money was to be paid for 
the manufactures of other countries and not laid 
out in those of this kingdom, by whose friendship 
it was furnished." He was at first " absolutely re- 
fused," but in time prevailed, and "hoped the dif- 
ficulty was over." Not at all ! After all this ex- 
ertion and annoyance, the officers of the ship said 
she was overloaded, and turned out a large part of 
the goods, which were accordingly put into two 
other ships ; and then Franklin was offered the op- 
tion of buying these two vessels, of hiring them at 
a freight scarcely less than their value, or of hav- 
ing the goods again set on shore. He was now 
" ashamed to show his face to the minister," and 


was casting about for resources, when suddenly he 
was surprised by new demands to pay for the goods 
which he had every reason to believe had already 
been paid for. This produced such a dispute and 
complication that the goods remained long in Hol- 
land before aiffairs could be arranged, and the final 
settlement is not clearly to be made out. 

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

In July, 1781, came a broad hint from Robert 
Morris : " I will not doubt a moment that, at your 
instance, his majesty will make pressing represen- 
tations in support of Mr. Jay's application, and I 
hope that the authority of so great a sovereign and 
the arguments of his able ministry will shed aus- 
picious influence on our negotiations at Madrid." 
This fulsome language, intended of course to be 


read to de Vergennes, imposed the gratifying duty 
of begging the French minister to second American 
begging in Spain. 

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

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

He was now informed that Congress would not 
draw upon other ministers without providing funds, 
but that they would continue to draw on Mm 
" funds or no funds," an invidious distinction 
which " terrified " him ; for he had been obliged 
to promise de Vergennes not to accept any drafts 
drawn later than March, 1781, unless he should 
have in hand or in view funds sufficient to pay 
them. But before long he began to suspect that 
Congress could outwit the French minister. For 
so 1 <to as January, 1782, bills dated prior to the 


preceding April were still coming ; and lie said : 
" I begin to suspect that the drawing continues, and 
that the hills are antedated. It is impossible for 
me to go on with demands after demands." The 
next month also found these old bills on Laurens 
still coming in. Congress never let the ministers 
know how many bills it was drawing, perhaps fear- 
ing to discourage them by so appalling a disclosure. 
Franklin now wrote to Adams : " Perhaps from 
the series of numbers and the deficiencies one may 
be able to divine the sum that has been issued." 
Moreover, he reflects that he has never had any in- 
structions to pay the acceptances of Jay and Adams, 
nor has had any ratification of his payments ; 
neither had he " ever received a syllable of appro- 
bation for having done so. Thus I stand charged 
with vast sums which I have disbursed for the pub- 
lic service without authority." The thought might 
cause some anxiety, in view of the moral obliquity 
manifested by Congress in all its financial dealings. 
In November, 1781, came a long letter from Liv- 
ingston ; everything was wanted ; but especially the 
States must have money ! December 31, a day 
that often brings reflection on matters financial, 
de Vergennes sent a brief warning ; 1,000,000 
livres, which had been promised, Franklin should 
have, but not one livre more under any circum- 
stances ; if he had accepted, or should accept, Mor- 
ris's drafts in excess of this sum, he must trust to 
his own resources to meet his obligations. Accord- 
ingly on January 9, 1782, he wrote to Morris : 


" Bills are still coming in quantities. . . . You 
will see by the inclosed letter the situation I am at 
at last brought into. ... I shall be able to pay 
till the end of February, when, if I can get no more 
money, I must stop." 

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

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

February 13, 1782, Livingston wrote a letter 


which must have excited a grim smile. He com- 
forts himself, in making more "importunate de- 
mands," by reflecting that it is all for the good 
of France! which thought, he says, may enable 
Franklin to " press them with some degree of dig- 
nity." Franklin's sense of humor was touched. 
That means, he says, that I am to say to de Ver- 
gennes : " Help us, and we shall not be obliged to 
you." But in some way or another, probably not 
precisely in this eccentric way, he so managed it 
that in March he wheedled the French govern- 
ment into still another, and a large, loan of 24,- 
000,000 livres, payable quarterly during the year. 
March 9 he informs Morris " pretty fully of the 
state of our funds here, by which you will be ena- 
bled so to regulate your drafts as that our credit in 
Europe may not be ruined and your friend killed 
with vexation." 

He now engaged to pay all the drafts which Jay 
should send to him, so that Jay could extricate 
himself honorably from those dread engagements 
which had been giving that harassed gentleman in- 
finite anxiety at Madrid. Some of his acceptances 
had already gone to protest ; but Franklin soon 
took them all up. By the end of March he began 
to breathe more freely ; he had saved himself and 
his colleagues thus far, and now he hoped that the 
worst was over. He wrote to Morris : " Your 
promise that after this month no more bills shall 
be drawn on me keeps up my spirits and affords 
me the greatest satisfaction." By the following 

S'lNANCIERI^a. 331 

summer the accounts between France and the 
States were in course of liquidation, and Franklin 
called the attention of Livingston to the fact that 
the king practically made the States a further pres- 
ent "to the value of near two millions. These, 
added to the free gifts before made to us at differ- 
ent times, form an object of at least twelve millions, 
for which no returns but that of gratitude and 
friendship are expected. These, I hope, may be 
everlasting." But liquidation, though a necessary 
preliminary to payment, is not payment, and does 
not preclude a continuance of borrowing; and in 
August we find that Morris was still pressing for 
more money, still drawing drafts, in happy forget- 
f ulness of his promises not to do so, and still keep- 
ing Franklin in anxious dread of bankruptcy. By 
the same letter it appears that Morris had directed 
Franklin to pay over to M. Grand, the banker, any 
surplus funds in his hands ! " I would do it with 
pleasure, if there were any such," said Franklin ; 
but the question was still of a deficit, not of a sur- 

December 14, 1782, finds Franklin still at the 
old task, preferring " the application so strongly 
pressed by the Congress for a loan of $4,000,000." 
Lafayette again helped him, but the result re- 
mained uncertain. The negotiations for peace were 
so far advanced that the ministers thought it time 
for such demands to cease. But probably he suc- 
ceeded, for a few days later he appears to be remit- 
ting a considerable sum. Peace, however, was at 


hand, and in one respect at least it was peace for 
Franklin as well as for his country, for even Con- 
gress could no longer expect him to continue bor- 
rowing. He had indeed rendered services not less 
gallant though less picturesque than those of Wash- 
ington himself, vastly more disagreeable, and 
scarcely less essential to the success of the cause. 



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

" The other you know personally, and that he loves his 
Ease, hates to offend, and seldom gives any opinion till 
obliged to do it. I know also, and it is necessary that 


you should be informed, that he is overwhelmed with a 
correspondence from all quarters, most of them upon 
trifling subjects and in a more trifling style, with un- 
meaning visits from Multitudes of People, chiefly from 
the Vanity of having it to say that they have seen him. 
There is another thing that I am obliged to mention. 
There are so many private families, Ladies and gentle- 
men, that he visits so often, — and they are so fond of 
him, that he cannot well avoid it, — and so much inter- 
course with Academicians, that all these things together 
keep his mind in a constant state of dissipation. If in- 
deed you take out of his hand the Public Treasury and 
the direction of the Frigates and Continental vessels that 
are sent here, and all Commercial affairs, and entrust 
them to Persons to be appointed by Congress, at Nantes 
and Bordeaux, I should think it would be best to have 
him here alone, with such a Secretary as you can confide 
in. But if he is left here alone, even with such a secre- 
tary, and all maritime and Commercial as well as polit- 
ical affairs and money matters are left in his Hands, I am 
persuaded that France and America will both ha ire Rea- 
son to repent it. He is not only so indolent that Business 
will be neglected, but you know that, although he has 
as determined a soul as any man, yet it is his constant 
Policy never to say ' yes ' or ' no ' decidedly but when 
he cannot avoid it." 

This mischievous letter, not actually false, yet 
misrepresenting and misleading, has unfortunately 
survived to injure both the man who wrote it and 
the mail about whom it was written. It is quoted 
in order to show the sort of covert fire in the rear 
to which Franklin was subjected throughout his 


term of service. It is astonishing now, when the 
evidence is all before us and the truth is attain- 
able, to read such a description of such a patriot 
as Franklin, a man who went through labors and 
anxieties for the cause probably only surpassed by 
those of Washington, and whose services did more 
to promote success than did the services of any 
other save only Washington. How blind was the 
personal prejudice of the critic who saw Franklin 
in Paris and could yet suggest that the charge of 
the public treasury should be taken from him ! To 
whom else would the Frenchmen have unlocked 
their coffers as they did to him, whom they so 
warmly liked and admired ? John Adams and 
Arthur Lee and every other American who endeav- 
ored to deal with the French court got himself so 
thoroughly hated there that little aid would have 
been forthcoming at the request of such represent- 
atives. It was to Franklin's personal influence 
that a large portion of the substantial help in men, 
ships, and especially in money, accorded by France 
to the States, was due. He was as much the right 
man in Europe as was Washington in America. 

Nevertheless this attribution of traits, so mali- 
ciously penned, has passed into history, and though 
the world does not see that either France or the 
States had cause " to repent " keeping Franklin in 
Paris in general charge of affairs, and unwatched 
by a vigilant secretary, yet all the world believes 
that in the gay metropolis Franklin was indolent 
and given over to social pleasures, which flattered 


his vanity. Undoubtedly there is foundation in 
fact for the belief. But to arrive at a just con- 
clusion one must consider many things. The char- 
acter of the chief witness is as important as that of 
the accused. Adams, besides being a severe critic, 
was filled to the brim with an irrepressible activity, 
an insatiate industry, a restlessness and energy, all 
which were at this period stimulated by the excite- 
ment of the times to an intensity excessive and 
abnormal even for him. To him, in this condi- 
tion of chronic agitation, the serenity of Franklin's 
broad intellect and tranquil nature seemed inex- 
plicable and culpable. But Franklin had what 
Adams lacked, a vast experience in men and af- 
fairs. Adams knew the provinces and the provin- 
jeials ; Franklin knew the provinces and England 
and France, the provincials, Englishmen, French- 
men, and all ranks and conditions of men, — jour- 
neymen, merchants, philosophers, men of letters, 
diplomatists, courtiers, noblemen, and statesmen. 
The one was an able colonist, the other was a 
man of the world, of exceptionally wide personal 
experience even as such. Moreover Franklin's un- 
dertakings were generally crowned with a e^uccess 
which justifies us in saying that, however much or 
little exertion he visibly put forth, at least he put 
forth enough. Adams sometimes was for putting 
forth too much. Franklin, when he arrived in 
France, was in his seventy-first year ; his health 
was in the main good, yet his strength had been 
severely tried by his journey to Canada and by the 


voyage. .He was troubled with a cutaneous com- 
plaint, of which he makes light, but which was 
abundant evidence that his physical condition was 
far from perfect; he was a victim of the gout, 
which attacked him frequently and with great se- 
verity, so that he was often obliged to keep his 
bed for days and weeks ; when he was appointed 
sole minister of the States to France he remarked 
that there was " some incongruity in a plenipoten- 
tiary who could neither stand nor go ; " later on 
he suffered extremely from stone and gravel ; with 
all these diseases, and with the remorseless disease 
of old age gaining ground every day, it is hardly 
surprising that Franklin seemed to the hale and 
vigorous Adams not to be making that show of 
activity which would have been becoming in the 
chief representative of the United States during 
these critical years. Yet except that he was care- 
less about his papers and remiss in his correspond- 
ence no definite alleo^ations are made against him 
prior to the treating for peace ; no business of im- 
portance was ever said to have failed in his hands, 
which should be a sufficient vindication of his 
general efficiency. The amount of labor which 
was laid upon him was enormous : he did as much 
business as the managing head of a great banking- 
house and a great mercantile firm combined ; he 
did all the diplomacy of the United States ; he was 
also their consul-general, and though he had agents 
in some ports, yet they more often gave trouble 
than assistance ; after the commercial treaty with 


France he had to investigate French laws and 
tariffs and give constant advice to American mer- 
chants upon all sorts of questions as to statutes, 
trade, customs, dues, and duties. What he did 
concerning the war ships, the privateers, and the 
prizes has been hinted at rather than stated ; what 
he did in the way of financiering has been imper- 
fectly shown ; he was often engaged in planning 
naval operations either for Paul Jones and others 
in European waters or for the French fleet in 
American waters. He had for a perpetual annoy- 
ance all the captiousness and the quarrels of the 
two Lees, Izard, and Thomas Morris. When busi- 
ness had to be transacted, as often occurred, with 
states at whose courts the United States had no 
representative, Franklin had to manage it ; ^ es- 
pecially he was concerned with the business in 
Spain, whither he would have journeyed in person 
had his health and other engagements permitted. 
Moreover he was adviser-general to all American 
officials of any and every grade and function in 
Europe ; and much as some of these gentlemen 
contemned him, they each and all instinctively de- 
manded his guidance in every matter of importance. 
Even Arthur Lee deferred to him rather than de- 
cide for himself ; Dana sought his instructions for 
the mission to Russia ; men of the calibre of Jay 
and independent John Adams sought and respect- 
ed his views and his aid, perhaps more than they 

1 For example, with Norway, with Denmark, and with Por- 


themselves appreciated. Surely here was labor 
enough, and even more responsibility than labor ; 
but Franklin's great, well - trained mind worked 
with the ease and force of a perfectly regulated ma- 
chine whose smoothness of action almost conceals 
its power, and all the higher parts of his labor 
were achieved with little perceptible effort. For 
the matters of account-keeping and letter-writing, he 
neglected these things ; and one is almost provoked 
into respecting him for so doing when it is remem- 
bered that during all the time of his stay in France 
Congress never allowed to this aged and over-tasked 
man a secretary of legation, or even an amanuen- 
sis or a copyist. He had with him his grandson. 
Temple Franklin, a lad of sixteen years at the time 
of his arrival in France, and whom it had been 
intended to place at school. But Franklin could 
not dispense with his services, and kept this young- 
ster as his sole clerk and assistant. It should be 
mentioned also in this connection that it was not 
only necessary to prepare the customary duplicates 
of every document of importance, but every paper 
which was to be sent across the Atlantic had to be 
copied half a dozen extra times, in order to be 
dispatched in as many different ships, so great 
were the dangers of capture. It was hardly fair 
to expect a minister plenipotentiary to display un- 
wearied zeal in this sort of work. Adams himself 
would have done it, and grumbled ; Franklin did 
not do it, and preserved his good temper. In con- 
clusion it may be said that, if Franklin was indo- 


lent, as in some ways he probably was, he had 
at least much excuse for indolence, and the trait 
showed itself only on what may be called the phys- 
ical side of his duties ; upon the intellectual side, it 
cannot be denied that during the period thus far 
traversed he did more thinking and to better pur- 
pose than any other American of the day. 

In saying that Franklin was fond of society and 
pleased with the admiration expressed for him by 
the ardent and courteous Frenchmen and by other 
continental Europeans, Adams spoke correctly. 
Franklin was always social and always a little vain. 
But much less would have been heard of these traits 
if the distinction made between him and his col- 
leagues had been less conspicuous and less con- 
stant. That men of the size of the Lees and Izard 
should inflate themselves to the measure of harbor- 
ing a jealousy of Franklin's preeminence was only 
ridiculous; but Adams should have had, as Jay 
had, too much self-respect to cherish such a feeling. 
It was the weak point in his character that he could 
never acknowledge a superior, and the fact that the 
world at large estimated Washington, Franklin, 
and Hamilton as men of larger calibre than his 
own kept him in a state of exasperation all his 
life. Now the simple truth, forced in a thousand 
unintended ways upon the knowledge of all Amer- 
ican envoys during the Revolution, was, that in 
Europe Franklin was a distinguished man, while 
no other American was known or cared for at all. 
Franklin received deference, where others received 


civility ; Franklin was selected for attentions, for 
flattery, for official consultations and communica- 
tions, while his colleagues were " forgotten entirely 
by the French people." Jay, Dana, and Carmi- 
chael accepted this situation in the spirit of sen- 
sible gentlemen, but Adams, the Lees, and Izard 
were incensed and sought an offset in defamation. 
Compare Carmichael's language with what has been 
quoted from Adams : he says : " The age of Dr. 
Franklin in some measure hinders him from taking 
so active a part in the drudgery of business as his 
great zeal and abilities would otherwise enable him 
to execute. He is the Master, to whom we children 
in politics look up for counsel, and whose name is 
everywhere a passport to be well received." Still 
it must have been provoking to be customarily 
spoken of as " Dr. Franklin's associates." When 
Franklin was appointed minister plenipotentiary 
he was obliged to explain that he was not the " sole 
representative of America in Europe." De Ver- 
gennes always wished to deal only with him, and 
occasionally said things to him in secrecy so close 
as to be exclusive even of his " associates." Adams 
honestly admitted that " this court have confidence 
in him alone." When a favor was to be asked, it 
was Franklin who could best seek it ; and when it 
was granted it seemed to be vouchsafed to Frank- 
lin. In a word, Franklin had the monopoly of theJl 
confidence, the respect, and the personal regard or , 
the French ministry. It was the same way also | 
with the English ; when they made advances for ' 


conciliation or peace, they too selected Franklin for 
their communications. 

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

Pleasant as were many of the features of Frank- 
lin's residence in France, and skillfully as he may 
have evaded some of the more irksome labors im- 

* See, for example, Franklin's Works, vii. 2b?, note. 


posed upon him, the attraction was not always suf- 
ficient to make him reluctant to have done with the 
place. Its vexations and anxieties wore upon him 
grievously. He knew that unfriendly representa- 
tions concerning him were often made in America, 
and that these induced some men to distrust him, 
and caused others to feel anxious about him. He 
heard stories that he was to be recalled, other 
stories that there was a cabal to vent a petty ill- 
will by putting an end to the clerkship of his 
grandson. This cut him to the quick. " I should 
not part with the child," he said, " but with the 
employment ; " and so the ignoble scheme miscar- 
ried ; for Congress was not ready to lose Franklin, 
and did not really feel any extreme dread of harm 
from a lad who, though the son of a loyalist, had 
grown up under Franklin's personal influence. At 
times homesickness attacked him. When he heard 
of the death of an old friend at home he wrote 
sadly : " A few more such deaths will make me a 
stranger in my own country." He was not one 
of those patriots who like to live abroad and pro- 
test love for their own country. Generally he pre- 
served the delightful evenness of his temper with 
a success quite wonderful in a man troubled with 
complaints which preeminently make the sufferer 
impatient and irascible. Only once he said, when 
he was being very unreasonably annoyed about 
some shipping business : '^ I will absolutely have 
nothing to do with any new squadron project. I 
have been too long in hot water, plagued almost to 


death with the passions, vagaries, and ill-humors 
and madnesses of other people. I must have a lit- 
tle repose." A very mild outbreak this, under all 
his provocations, but it is the only one of which 
any record remains. His tranquil self-control was 
a very remarkable trait ; he was never made so an- 
gry by all the calumny and assaults of enemies 
peculiarly apt in the art of irritation as to use any 
immoderate or undignified language. He never 
retaliated, though he had the fighting capacity in 
him. Before the tribunal of posterity his patient 
endurance has counted greatly in his favor. 

By March, 1781, he had definitively made up 
^ his mind to resign, and wrote to the president of 
Congress a letter which was unmistakably earnest 
and in parts even touching.^ When this alarming 
communication was received all the depreciation of 
the Lees, Izard, and the rest went for nothing. 
Without hesitation Congress ignored the request, 
with far better reason than it could show for the 
utter indifference with which it was wont to regard 
pretty much all the other requests which Franklin 
ever made. Its behavior in this respect was in- 
deed very singular. He recommended his grand- 
son to it, and it paid absolutely no attention to 
the petition. He repeatedly asked the appoint- 
ment of consuls at some of the French ports ; it 
created all sorts of other officials, keeping Paris 
full of useless and costly " ministers " accredited to 

^ Franklin's Works, vii. 207; the letter is unfortunately too 
long to quote. See also his letter to Lafayette, Ibid., 237. 


courts which would not receive them, but appointed 
no consul. He urged hard, as a trifling personal 
favor, that an accountant might be appointed to 
audit his nephew Williams's accounts, but Congress 
would not attend to a matter which could have 
been disposed of in five minutes. He never could 
get a secretary or a clerk, nor even any proper ap- 
pointment of, or salary for, his grandson. He sel- 
dom got an expression of thanks or approbation for 
anything thai he did, though he did many things 
wholly outside of his regular functions and involv- 
ing great; personal risk and responsibility. Yet 
when he really wanted to resign he was not allowed 
to cio so ; and thus at last he was left to learn by 
inference that he had given satisfaction.^ 

No sooner had Adams got comfortably settled at 
home than he was obliged to return again to Eu- 
rope. Franklin, Jay, Laurens, Jefferson, and he 
were appointed by Congress commissioners to treat 
for peace, whenever the fitting time should come ; 
and so in February, 1780, he was back in Paris. 
But peace was still far away in the future, and 
Adams, meanwhile, finding the intolerable incum- 
brance of leisure upon his hands, exorcised the 
demon by writing long letters to de Vergennes 
upon sundry matters of interest in American af- 
fairs. It was an unfortunate scheme. If Nature 
had maliciously sought to create a man for the ex- 
press purpose of aggravating de Vergennes, she 

1 See letter to Canniehael, Works y vii. 285. 


could not have made one better adapted for that 
service than was Adams. Very soon there was a 
terrible explosion, and Franklin, invoked by both 
parties, had to hasten to the rescue, to his own se- 
rious injury. 

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


Adams was alarmed at the anger which he had 
excited, and besought de Vergennes to hold his 
hand until Franklin could " have opportunity to 
make his representations to his majesty's minis- 
ters." But this gleam of good sense was transitory, 
for on the same day, without waiting for Franklin 
to intervene, he composed and sent to de Ver- 
gennes a long, elaborate defense of the course of 
the States. It was such an argument as a stubborn 
lawyer might address to a presumably prejudiced 
(iourt ; it had not a pleasant word of gratitude for 
past favors, or of regret at the present necessity ; 
it was as undiplomatic and ill-considered as it cer- 
tainly was unanswerable. But its impregnability 
could not offset its gross imprudence. To exasper- 
ate de Vergennes and alienate the French govern- 
ment at that period, although by a perfectly sound 
l)resentation, was an act of madness as unpardon- 
able as any crime. 

Upon the same day on which Adams drew up 
this able, inexcusable brief for his unfortunate 
client, the Congress, he wrote to Franklin begging 
him to interfere. On June 29 he followed this 
request with a humbler note than John Adams of- 
ten wrote, acknowledging that he might have made 
some errors, and desiring to be set right. On June 
30 de Vergennes also appealed to Franklin, say- 
ing, amid much more : " The king is so firmly 
persuaded, sir, that your private opinion respecting 
the effects of that resolution of Congress, as far as 
it concerns sti'angers and especially Frenchmen, dif- 


fers from that of Mr. Adams, that he is not appre- 
hensive of laying you under any embarrassment by 
requesting you to support the representations which 
his minister is ordered to make to Congress." 

Franklin, receiving these epistles, was greatly 
vexed at the jeopardy into which the rash zeal of 
Adams had suddenly plunged the American inter- 
ests in France. His indignation was not likely to 
be made less by the fact that all this letter-writing 
to de Vergennes was a tacit reproach upon his own 
performance of his duties and a gratuitous intrench- 
ment upon his province. The question which pre- 
sented itself to him was not whether the argument 
of Adams was right or wrong, nor whether the dis- 
tinction which de Vergennes sought to establish 
between American citizens and foreigners was prac- 
ticable or not. This was fortunate, because, while 
Adams in the States had been forced to ponder 
carefully all the problems of a depreciating paper 
currency, Franklin in France had neither necessity, 
nor opportunity, nor leisure for studying either the 
ethics or the solution of so perplexing a problem. 
He now hastily made such inquiries as he could 
among the Americans lately arrived in Paris, but 
did not pretend "perfectly to understand " the sub- 
ject:. To master its difficulties, however, did not 
seem essential, because he recognized that the obvi- 
ous duty of the moment was to say something which 
might at least mitigate the present wrath of the 
French ministry, and so gain time for explana- 
tion and adjustment in a better state of feeling. 


He had once laid down to Arthur Lee the princi- 
ple : " While we are asking aid it is necessary to 
gratify the desires and in some sort comply with 
the humors of those we apply to. Our business 
now is to carry our point." Acting upon this rule 
of conciliation, he wrote, on July 10, to de Ver- 
gennes : — 

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

In pursuance of this promise Franklin wrote on 
August 9 a full narrative of the entire matter ; it 
was a fair and temperate statement of facts which 
it was his duty to lay before Congress.^ Before 
sending it he wrote to Adams that de Vergennes, 
" having taken much amiss some passages in your 
letter to him, sent the whole correspondence to me, 
requesting that I would transmit it to Congress. I 
was myself sorry to see those passages. If they 
were the effects merely of inadvertence, and you 
do not, on reflection, approve of them, perhaps you 
^ Franklin's Works, vii. 110-112. 


may think it proper to write something for effacing 
the impressions made by them. I do not presume 
to advise you ; but mention it only for your consid- 
eration." But Adams had already taken his own 
measures for presenting the case before Congress. 
. Such is the full story of Franklin's doings in this 
affair. His connection with it was limited to an 
effort to counteract the mischief which another had 
done. Whether he thought that the *' inconven- 
ience " which " ought to fall " only on Americans 
could be arranged to do so, does not appear ; prob- 
ably he never concerned himself to work out a 
problem entirely outside his own department. As 
a diplomatist, who had to gain time for angry peo- 
ple to cool down for amicable discussion, he was 
content to throw out this general remark, and to 
express confidence that his countrymen would do 
liberal justice. So far as he was concerned, this 
should have been the end of the matter, and Adams 
should have been grateful to a man whose tranquil 
wisdom and skillful tact had saved him from the 
self-reproach which he would ever have felt had 
his well-intentioned, ill-timed act borne its full 
possible fruit of injury to the cause of the States. 
But Adams, who knew that his views were intrin- 
sically correct, emerged from the imbroglio with an 
extreme resentment against his rescuer, nor was he 
ever able to see that Franklin did right in not re- 
iterating the same views. He wished not to be 
saved but to be vindicated. The consequence has 
been unfortunate for Franklin, because the affair 


has furnished material for one of the counts in the 
indictment which the Adamses have filed against 
him before the bar of posterity. 

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

^ See also Franklin's W&rks, vii. 343. 



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

A. few months later there occurred the singular 
and mysterious episode of Charles de Weissen- 
stein. Such was the signature to a letter dated 
at Brussels, June 16, 1778. The writer said that 
independence was an impossibility, and that the 
English title to the colonies, being indisputable. 


would be enforced by coming generations even if 
the present generation should have to " stop awhile 
in the pursuit to recover breath ; " he then sketched 
a plan of reconciliation, which included offices or 
life-pensions for Franklin, Washington, and other 
prominent rebels. He requested a personal inter- 
view with Franklin, and, failing that, he ap- 
pointed to be in a certain spot in Notre Dame at a 
certain hour, wearing a rose in his hat, to receive 
a written reply. The French police reported the 
presence at the time and place of a man obviously 
bent upon this errand, who was traced to his hotel 
and found, says John Adams, to be " Colonel Fitz- 
something, an Irish name, that I have forgotten." 
He got no answer, because at a consultation be- 
tween the American commissioners and de Ver- 
gennes it was so decided. But one had been writ- 
ten by Franklin, and though de Weissenstein and 
Colonel Fitz-something never saw it, at least it has 
afforded pleasure to thousands of readers since that 
time. For by sundry evidence Franklin became 
convinced, even to the point of alleging that he 
'^ knew," that the incognito correspondent was the 
English monarch himself, whose letter the Irish 
colonel had brought. The extraordinary occasion 
inspired him. It is a rare occurrence when one 
can speak direct to a king as man with man on 
terms of real equality. Franklin seized his chance, 
and wrote a letter in his best vein, a dignified, vig- 
orous statement of the American position, an elo- 
quent, indignant arraignment of the English meas- 


ures for which George III. more than any other 
one man was responsible. In language which was 
impassioned without being extravagant, he mingled 
sarcasm and retort, statement and argument, with 
a strenuous force that would have bewildered the 
royal " de Weissenstein." To this day one can- 
not read these stinging paragraphs without a feel- 
ing of disappointment that de Vergennes would 
not let them reach their destination. Such a bolt 
should have been sent hotly home, not dropped to 
be picked up as a curiosity by the groping histo- 
rians of posterity. 

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

With the outbreak of war Franklin's feelings to- 
wards England had taken on that extreme bitter- 
ness which so often succeeds when love and admi- 
ration seem to have been misplaced. " I was fond 
to a folly," he said, " of our British connections, 
. . . but the extreme cruelty with which we have 


been treated has now extinguished every thouglit 
of returning to it, and separated us forever. You 
have thereby lost limbs that will never grow again." 
English barbarities, he declared, " have at length 
demolished all my moderation." Often and often 
he reiterated such statements in burning words, 
which verge more nearly upon vehemence than 
any other reminiscence which survives to us of the 
great and calm philosopher. 

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

In point of fact the idea of an actual reunion 
seems never from the very outset to have had any 
real foothold in his mind. In 1779 he said : "We 
have long since settled all the account in our own 


minds. We know the worst you can do to us, if 
you have your wish, is to confiscate our estates and 
take our lives, to rob and murder us ; and this . . . 
we are ready to hazard rather than come again un- 
der your detested government." ^ This sentiment 
steadily gained strength as the struggle advanced. 
Whenever he talked about terms of peace he took 
a tone so high as must have seemed altogether ri- 
diculous to English statesmen. Independence, he 
said, was established ; no words need be wasted 
about that. Then he audaciously suggested that 
it would be good policy for England " to act nobly 
and generously; ... to cede all that remains in 
North America, and thus conciliate and strengthen 
a young power, which she wishes to have a future 
and serviceable friend." She would do well to 
"throw in" Canada, Nova Scotia, and the Flori- 
das, and " call it ... an indemnification for the 
burning of the towns." 

Englishmen constantly warned him of the blun- 
der which the colonies would commit, should they 
" throw themselves into the arms " of France, and 
they assured him that the alliance was the one 
"great stumbling-block in the way of making 
peace." But he had ever the reply, after the fash- 
ion of Scripture : By their fruits ye shall know 
them. France was as liberal of friendship and 
good services as England was of tyranny and cru- 
elties. This was enough to satisfy Franklin ; he 

^ See also a strong statement in letter to Hartley of October 14, 
1777; Works, vii. 106. 


saw no Judas in the constant and generous de Ver- 
gennes, and could recognize no inducement to drop 
the substance France for the shadow England.^ 
To his mind it seemed to concern equally the honor 
and the interest of the States to stand closely and 
resolutely by their allies, whom to abandon would 
be " infamy ; " and after all, what better bond 
could there be than a common interest and a com- 
mon foe ? From this view he never wavered to 
the hour when the definitive treaty of peace was 

Such was Franklin's frame of mind when the 
surrender at Yorktown and the events incident 
to the reception of the news in England at last 
brought peace into really serious consideration. 
The States had already been forward to place 
themselves in a position for negotiating at the first 
possible moment. For in 1779 Congress had re- 
ceived from France an intimation that it would be 
well to have an envoy in Europe empowered to 
treat ; and though it was seizing time very much 
by the forelock, yet that body was in no mood to 
dally with so pleasing a hint, and at once nomi- 
nated John Adams to be plenipotentiary. This, 
however, by no means fell in with the schemes of 
the French ministry, for de Vergennes knew and 
disliked Mr. Adams's very unmanageable character. 
Accordingly the French ambassador at Philadelphia 

1 See Franklin's Works, vi. 303. 

2 See Franklin's Works, vi. 151, 303, 310; vii. 3, for examples 
of his expressions on this subject. 


was instructed to use his great influence with Con- 
gress to effect some amelioration of the distasteful 
arrangement, and he soon covertly succeeded in in- 
ducing Congress to create a commission by appoint- 
ing Adams, Jay, Franklin, Jefferson, who never 
went on the mission, and Laurens, who was a pris- 
oner in England and joined his colleagues only 
after the business had been substantially concluded. 
Adams promptly came to Paris, created a great 
turmoil there, as has been in part narrated, and 
passed on to Holland, where he still remained. 
Jay, accredited to, but not yet received by, the 
Spanish court, was at Madrid. Franklin therefore 
alone was on hand in Paris when the great tidings 
of the capture of Cornwallis came. 

It was on November 25, 1781, that Lord North 
got this news, taking it " as he would have taken 
a ball in his breast." He recognized at once that 
" all was over," yet for a short time longer he re- 
tained the management of affairs. But his ma- 
jority in Parliament was steadily dwindling, and 
evidently with him also '^ all was over." In his 
despair he caught with almost pathetic eagerness 
at what for a moment seemed a chance to save his 
ministry by treating with the States secretly and 
apart from France. He was a man not troubled 
with convictions, and having been obstinate in con- 
ducting a war for which he really cared little, he 
was, equally ready to save his party by putting an 
end to it with the loss of all that had been at stake. 
Franklin, however, decisively cut off that hope. 


America, he assured Hartley, would not forfeit the 
world's good opinion by " such perfidy ; " and in the 
incredible event of Congress instructing its com- 
missioners to treat upon " such ignominious terms," 
he himself at least " would certainly refuse to act." 
So Digges, whom Franklin described as " the 
greatest villain I ever met with," carried back no 
comfort from secret, tentative errands to Adams in 
Holland and to Franklin in France. Simultaneous 
furtive advances to de Vergennes met with a like 
rebuff. France and America were not to be sepa- 
rated ; Lord North and his colleagues were not to 
be saved by the bad faith of either of their enemies. 
On February 22, 1782, an address to the king 
against continuing the American war was moved 
by Conway. It was carried by a majority of nine- 
teen. A few days later a second, more pointed, 
address was carried without a division. The next 
day leave was granted to bring in a bill enabling 
the king to make a peace or a truce with the colo- 
nies. The game was up; the ministry held no 
more cards to play ; on March 20 Lord North an- 
nounced that his administration was at an end. 

In his shrewd, intelligent fashion, Franklin was 
watching these events, perfectly appreciating the 
significance of each in turn. On March 22 he 
seized an opportunity which chance threw in his 
way for writing to Lord Shelburne a short note, 
in which he suggested a hope that the " returning 
good disposition" of England towards America 
would " tend to produce a general peace." It was 


a note of a few lines only, seemingly a mere pleas- 
ant passage of courtesy to an old friend, but sig- 
nificant and timely, an admirable specimen of the 
delicate tact with which Franklin could meet and 
almost create opportunity. A few days later the 
cabinet of Lord Rockingham was formed, composed 
of the friends of America. In it Charles Fox was 
secretary for foreign affairs, and Lord Shelburne 
had the home department, including the colonies. 
No sooner were the new ministers fairly instated 
than Shelburne dispatched Richard Oswald, a re- 
tired Scotch merchant, of very estimable charac- 
ter, of good temper, reasonable views, and sufficient 
ability, to talk matters over with Franklin at Paris. 
Oswald arrived on April 12, and had satisfactory 
interviews with Franklin and de Vergennes. The 
important fact of which he became satisfied by the 
explicit language of Franklin was, that the hope 
of inducing the American commissioners to treat 
secretly and separately from France was utterly 
groundless.^ After a few days he went back to 
London, carrying a letter from Franklin to Shel- 
burne, in which Franklin expressed his gratifica- 
tion at these overtures and his hope that Oswald 
might continue to represent the English minister. 
Oswald also carried certain " Notes for Conversa- 
tion," which Franklin had written out ; *' some loose 

^ About the same time Laurens was released on parole and 
sent to confer with Adams in Holland, concerning- a separate 
treating, and broug-ht from Adams the like response as Oswald 
brought from Franklin. 


thoughts on paper," as he called them, " which I 
intended to serve as memorandums for my dis- 
course, but without a fixed intention of showing 
them to him." As matters turned out later, it 
would have been better if Franklin had not been 
quite so free with these "memorandums," which 
contained a suggestion that the Englisli should 
cede Canada and the Americans should recoup the 
losses of the royalists. Indeed, no sooner had the 
paper left his hands than he saw his error, and was 
" a little ashamed of his weakness." The letter 
only was shown to the whole cabinet. 

On May 5 Oswald was again in Paris, charged to 
discuss terms with Franklin. But on May 7 there 
arrived also Thomas Grenville, deputed by Fox to 
approach de Vergennes with the design not only 
of treating with France, but also of treating with 
the States through France. The double mission 
indicated a division in the English cabinet. Fox 
and Shelburne were almost as hostile to each other 
as were both to Lord North ; and each was aiming 
to control the coming ne":otiations with the States. 
Which should secure it was a nice question. For 
English purposes of classification the States, until 
independence was acknowledged, remained colonies, 
and so within the charge of Shelburne. Hence 
came Fox's scheme for reaching them indirectly 
through France, also his avowed willingness to 
recognize their independence immediately , for for- 
eign business belonged to him. Shelburne, on tlic 
otlier hand, strenuously resisted this ; at worst, as 


he thought, independence must come through a 
treaty, and with equivalents. Moreover it seems 
that he cherished an odd, half-defined notion, ap- 
parently altogether peculiar to himself, that he 
might escape the humiliation of a grant of full 
independence, and in place thereof might devise 
some sort of " federal union." Perhaps it was out 
of this strange fancy that there grew at this time 
a story that the States were to be reconciled and 
joined to Great Britain by a gift of the same meas- 
ure of autonomy enjoyed by Ireland. 

When Oswald and Franklin next met, they made 
at first little progress ; each seemed desirous to 
keep himself closed while the other unfolded. The 
result was that Franklin wrote, with unusual na- 
'ivete : " On the whole I was able to draw so little 
of the sentiments of Lord Shelburne . . . that I 
could not but wonder at his being again sent to 
me." At the same time Grenville was offering to 
de Vergennes to acknowledge the independence of 
the United States, provided that in other respects 
the treaty of 1763 ^ should be reinstated. That is 
to say, France was to agree to a complete restora- 
tion of the status quo ante helium in every respect 
so far as her own interests were concerned, and to 
accept as the entire recompense for all her expendi- 
tures of money and blood a benefit accruing to the 
American States. This was a humorous assunij)- 
tion of the ingenuousness of her most disinterested 

' Made between England and France at the close of the hist 
war, in which France had lost Canada. 


protestations. The French minister, we are tokl, 
" seemed to smile " at this compliment to the un- 
selfishness of his chivalrous nation,^ and replied that 
the American States were making no request to 
England for independence. As Franklin happily 
expressed it : " This seems to me a proposition of 
selling to us a thing that was already our own, and 
making France pay the price they [the English] 
are pleased to ask for it." But the design of wean- 
ing the States from France, in the treating, was 

Grenville, thus checked, next tried to see what 
he could do with Franklin in the way of sepa- 
rate negotiation. But he only elicited a statement 
that the States were under no obligations save 
those embodied in the treaties of alliance and com- 
merce with France, and a sort of intimation, which 
might be pregnant of much or of little, that if the 
purpose of the former were achieved through the 
recognition of independence, then the commercial 
treaty alone would remain. This somewhat enig- 
matical remark doubtless indicated nothing more 
than that the States would not continue active and 
aggressive hostilities in order to further purely 
French designs. Clearly it would depend upon the 
demands of France whether the States might not 
find themselves in a somewhat delicate position. 
Their obligation to make no separate peace with 
England had been contracted upon the basis that 

1 " The Peace Nefforiations of 1782-83," etc., by John Jay ; in 
Winsor's Nnrr. ami Crit. Hist, of America, vol. vii. 


France should ally herself with them to obtain their 
independence ; and the injury expected to result 
therefrom to England, with the chance of commer- 
cial advantages accruing to France, had been re- 
garded as a full consideration. Yet it would seem 
ungrateful, to say the least, to step out of the fight 
and leave France in it, and to refuse to back her 
demands for the recoupment of some of the losses 
which she had suffered in the previous war. But 
now the French alliance with Spain threatened 
grave complications ; she had joined France in the 
war, and the two powers were held closely together 
by the Bourbon famil}^ interests. Spain now had 
demands of her own in the way of territory on the 
American continent, where she had made extensive 
conquests, and even for the cession of Gibraltar. 
But the States owed little to Spain, vastly less, in- 
deed, than they had tried to owe to her ; for their 
ihcessant begging had elicited only small sums, 
and they were more irritated at their failure to 
obtain much than thankful for the trifles they had 
extorted. So they now easily and gladly took the 
position of entire freedom from any obligation, 
either by treaty or of honor, towards that power. 
But in the probable event of France standing by 
Spain, peace might be deferred for the benefit of 
a country with which the States had no lien, unless 
the States could treat separately. It was not within 
the purview of the treaty that they should remain 
tied to France for such purposes ; and to this pur- 
port Fox wrote to Grenville. But though it might 


be tolerably easy to enunciate a theory by which 
the States could justly control their own affairs, 
with no regard to France, it was only too proba- 
ble that the application of that theory to circum- 
stances would be a very nice and perplexing task. 
It strongly behooved a new country to preserve its 
good name and its friendships. 

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


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

But the duel between Shelburne and Fox must 
first be settled, and it was now about to be settled 
suddenly and in an unexpected manner. On July 
1, 1782, Lord Rockingham died, and the crown, as 
Walpole facetiously remarked, thereby descended 
to the king of England. The monarch at once, 
though very reluctantly, requested Shelburne to ac- 
cept the post of prime minister, regarding him as in 
some degree less obnoxious than Fox. Thereupon 
Fox and his friends retired in high dudgeon from 


office, and Grenville promptly asked to be recalled. 
His opportune request was granted very readily, 
and his place was given to Fitzherbert, who brought 
personal letters to Franklin, but who was not ac- 
credited to treat with the States. It seemed that 
this business was now again to fall into the hands 
of Oswald, and accordingly, though he still re- 
mained without any definite authority, active dis- 
cussion was resumed between him and Franklin. 
Early in August both believed that an understand- 
ing upon all important points had been reached. 
Jay had been ill almost ever since his arrival in 
Paris, and was only now recovering ; Adams was 
still in Holland ; so that Franklin and Oswald had 
had the whole matter between themselves. 

Just at this time Parliament rose ; and Shel- 
burne sent Vaughan to Paris to give private assur- 
ance to Franklin that there would be no chansfe in 
policy towards America. A commission was at the 
same time drawn up and sent to Oswald empower- 
ing him to treat with commissioners of the " colo- 
nies or plantations, and any body or bodies corpo- 
rate or politic, or any assembly or assemblies." 
This singular phraseology at once produced trou- 
ble. Jay indignantly repudiated the colonial con- 
dition imputed by this language, and resolutely 
said that independence must be no item in any 
treaty, but must be recognized before he would 
even begin to treat. The point was discussed by 
him with de Vergennes and Franklin. The French 
minister at first had " objected to these general 


words as not being particular enough ; " but now 
he changed his mind and advised not to stickle ; 
for independence must be the result of the treaty, 
and it was not to be expected that the effect should 
precede the cause. Franklin, with evident hesita- 
tion and reluctance,^ gave his opinion that the 
commission " would do." Oswald then showed his 
instructions, which directed him to concede " the 
complete independence of the thirteen States." 
Unfortunately the enabling act had not even 
yet passed, so that there was some doubt as to the 
power of the ministers to agree to this. Jay's de- 
termination remained unchanged ; for he suspected 
that the motives of de Vergennes were not disin- 
terested, and thought that Franklin was hood- 
winked by his French predilections. Franklin, on 
the other hand, thought that the minister wished 
only to expedite the negotiation as much as possi- 
ble, a matter in which he himself also was very 
zealous ; for he understood the English political 
situation and knew that Shelburne's tenure of 
power was precarious, and that any possible suc- 
cessor of Shelburne would be vastly less well-dis- 
posed to the States. This induced him to stretch 
a point in order to go on with the treating. Par- 
liament was to meet on November 26, and unless 
peace could be concluded before that time, the 
chance for it thereafter would be diminished al- 
most to the point of hopelessness. But Adams 
wrote from Holland that he also disapproved the 

1 Franklin's Works, viii. 90, 101, 150, note. 


unusual form of the commission, though a commis- 
sion to treat with envoys of " the United States of 
America " would satisfy him, as a sufficient imj^li- 
cation of independence without an explicit prelim- 
inary acknowledgment of it. 

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

Jay's suspicions concerning the French minister 
happened now to receive opportune corroboration. 
On September 4th Rayneval, secretary to de Ver- 
gennes, had a long interview with Jay concerning 
boundaries, in which he argued strongly against 
the American claims to the western lands lying be- 
tween the Alleghanies and the Mississippi. This 
touched Jay nearly, for the navigation of the Mis- 


sissippi was the one object which he had especially 
at heart. Six days later the famous letter of Mar- 
bois, de la Luzerne's secretary, which had been 
captured en route from Philadelphia to de Ver- 
gennes at Paris, was put into the hands of Jay 
through the instrumentality of the English cabi- 
net. This outlined a scheme for a secret under- 
standing between England and France to deprive 
the Americans of the Newfoundland fisheries. 
This evidence seemed to prove Jay's case ; yet 
Franklin remained strangely unshaken by it, for 
he reflected that it came from the British ministry 
and was infected with suspicion by this channel. 
But still another occurrence came to strengthen 
Jay's conviction of some latent hostility in the 
French policy, for he learned that Rayneval was 
making a rapid and secret journey to London. He 
felt sure that this errand was to intimate to Shel- 
burne that France did not incline to support the 
demands of her American allies. In the fullness 
of his faith he took a courageous, very unconven- 
tional, but eminently successful step. He per- 
suaded Yaughan to hasten to London, and to pre- 
sent sundry strong arguments going to show that 
it was the true policy of England to grant the de- 
mands of the States rather than to fall in with the 
subtle plans of France. He felt with regret that 
he could not consult Franklin regarding this pro- 
ceeding, which he undertook upon his own sole re- 
sponsibility. It put Shelburne in a singular posi- 
tion, as arbiter between two nations enemies of 


England and allies of each otlier, but each ma- 
noeuvring to secure its own advantage at the cost 
of its friend, and to that end presuming to advise 
him upon English interests. He did not ponder 
long before accepting the American arguments as 
the better, and deciding that the English policy 
was rather to be liberal towards a kindred peo- 
ple than to unite with a traditional foe in curtail- 
ing their prosperity. He said to Vaughan : " Is 
the new commission necessary ? " " It is," replied 
Vaughan ; and his lordship at once gave orders for 
making: it out. Had he fallen in with the French 
ideas, he would, upon the contrary, have cherished 
this disagreement for a while, in order finally to 
sell out a concession on this point at the price of 
some such substantial matter as the fisheries or 
the western lands. Forthwith Vaughan was on his 
way back to Paris, accompanied by a messenger 
who carried the amended document empowering 
Oswald to treat with the commissioners of the 
" Thirteen United States of America, viz. : New 
Hampshire," etc., naming them all. " We have put 
the greatest confidence, I believe, ever placed in 
man, in the American commissioners. It is now 
to be seen how far they or America are to be de- 
pended upon. . . . There never was such a risk 
run ; I hope the public will be the gainer, else our 
heads must answer for it, and deservedly." Such 
were the grave and anxious words of the prime 

Upon the receipt of this commission negotiations 


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

Meantime another serious difference of opinion 
was developed between Franklin and Jay. The in- 
fluence of de Vergennes at Philadelphia had by no 
means been exhausted in securing colleagues for 
Mr. Adams. He had further desired to have the 
American envoys instructed that no American de- 
mands outside of independence must be allowed to 
interpose obstacles in the way of French purposes. 
In this he had been wholly successful. Of the 
demands which Congress had at first intended to 
insist upon, one after another was reduced to a 
mere recommendation, until at last independence 
alone was left as an absolute and definitive ulti- 
matum. Moreover the closing paragraph of the 
instructions actually bade the envoys to main- 
tain constant communication with their generous 


ally the king of France, and in the last resort to 
be governed in all matters by his advice. This ser- 
vility had raised the ire of Jay almost to the point 
of inducing him to refuse a post so hedged around 
with humiliation. With his views concerning the 
intentions of de Vergennes it now seemed to him 
intolerable to jeopard American interests by plac- 
ing them at the mercy of a cabinet which un- 
mistakably, as it seemed to him, designed to sac- 
rifice them to its own ends. Accordingly he was 
for disobeying this unworthy instruction of Con- 
gress, and for conducting the negotiation in strict 
secrecy as towards the French minister. But 
Franklin was no less resolute on the other side. 
His established and grateful confidence in de Ver- 
gennes remained unshaken, and he saw no error 
in consulting the wisest, and by all proofs the best 
and truest friend whom the States had ever had. 
Moreover he saw that the orders of Congress were 
imperative. It was a serious division. Fortu- 
nately it was soon settled by the advent of John 
Adams, about the end of October. That gentle- 
man, prompt, fearless, and suspicious, at once fell 
in with Jay's views. In a long evening's talk he 
apparently read Franklin a pretty severe lecture, 
and certainly ranged himself very positively on 
Jay's side. Franklin listened to his vehement col- 
league, and at the moment held his peace in his 
wise way. It was true that Adams bT'ought the 
casting vote, though Franklin of course might re- 
sist, and could make his resistance effectual by com- 


municating to de Vergennes all which passed, and 
in so doing he would be backed by the authority 
and orders of Congress. But he determined not to 
pursue this course. When next they all met for 
conference he turned to Jay and said : " I am of 
your opinion, and will go on without consulting 
this court." This was all that passed when thus 
for a second time Franklin surrendered. Noth- 
ing indicates by what motives he was influenced. 
Some writers suggest that he had a lurking notion 
that Jay's views were not altogether ill-founded ; 
but later he declared the contrary.^ Others fancy 
that he simply yielded to a majority vote. To me 
it seems more probable that, weighing comparative 
importance, he gave in to what he conceived to 
be the supreme necessity of advancing to a speedy 
conclusion ; for, as has been said, he keenly ap- 
preciated that time was pressing. Parliament was 
to meet in a few weeks, on November 26, and it 
daily became more evident that if a treaty was to 
be made at all, it must be consummated before 
that date. Now, as in the question concerning 
the preliminary acknowledgment of independence, 
peace overruled all considerations of minor points. 
If this was indeed his end, he achieved it, for 
negotiations were now zealously pushed. The im- 
portant question of the western boundaries and 
the navigation of the Mississippi was the especial 
concern of Jay. Spain covertly wished to see the 
States worsted upon these demands, and confined 

J Franklin's Works, viii. 805, 306. 


between the AUeghanles and the sea; and the 
Bourbon family compact influenced France to con- 
cur with the Spanish plans. But in the secret 
treating Jay prevailed. The fisheries were the 
peculiar affair of Adams, as the representative of 
New England. France would fain have had the 
States shut out from them altogether ; but Adams 
carried the day. Some concessions were made con- 
cerning the collection of debts owing in the States 
to Englishmen, and then there remained only the 
matter of indemnification to American royalists. 
Upon this the fight was waged with zeal by all ; 
yet Franklin had the chief responsibility to bear. 
For there now arose to plague him that unfortu- 
nate proposition of his for the cession of Canada 
and the restoration of confiscated tory property in 
the States. This encouraged the English and gave 
them a sort of argument. Moreover the indem- 
nification was " uppermost in Lord Shelburne's 
mind," because, unlike other matters, it seemed a 
point of honor. With what face could the min- 
istry meet Parliament with a treaty deserting all 
those who had been faithful to their king? It 
was indeed a delicate position, and the English 
were stubborn ; but no less so was Franklin, upon 
the other side. With the great province of Can- 
ada as an offset, or quasi fund, the States might 
have assumed such an obligation, but without it, 
never. Further the American commissioners re- 
iterated the explanation often given : that Congress 
had no power in the premises, for the matter lay 


within the sovereign jurisdiction of each state. 
This argument, however, really amounted to noth- 
ing ; for if the fact was so, it behoved the states 
to give their agent, the Congress, any power that 
was necessary for making a fair treaty ; and Eng- 
land was not to be a loser by reason of defects in 
the American governmental arrangements. For a 
while it really seemed that the negotiation would 
be wrecked upon this issue, so immovable was each 
side. As Vaughan wrote : " If England wanted to 
break, she could not wish for better ground on her 
side. Yoii, do not break, and therefore I conclude 
you both sincere. But in this way I see the trea|;y 
is likely of itself to break." 

Franklin now ingeniously counteracted his ear- 
lier imprudence by reviving an old suggestion of 
his, that immense claims might be preferred against 
England on behalf of Americans whose property 
had been wantonly destroyed, especially by the 
burning and plundering of towns, and he actually 
presented an article providing for such compen- 
sation, and an elaborate written paper sustain- 
ing it.^ At last the Englishmen sought final in- 
structions from Lord Shelburne. He replied with 
spirit that it should be understood that England 
was not yet in a position to submit to " humilia- 
tion," least of all at the hands of Americans ; but 
finally he so far yielded as to say that indemni- 
fication need not be absolutely an ultimatum. This 
settled the matter ; the negotiators who could yield 

^ Franklin's Works, viii. 218, text and note. 


must yield, and they did so. A sort of compro- 
mise article was inserted : " that Congress should 
recommend to the state legislatures to restore the 
estates, rights, and properties of real British sub- 
jects." The American envoys knew that this was 
worthless, and the English negotiators certainly 
were not deceived. But the article sounded well, 
and gave at least a standing ground for the min- 
istry to defend themselves.^ On November 30 the 
articles were at last signed, with the stipulation 
that they were for the present merely preliminary 
and provisional, and that they should be executed 
as a definitive treaty only simultaneously with tlie 
execution of a treaty of peace between France and 

The business was finished none too soon. In 
order to cover it the meeting of Parliament had 
been postponed until December 5. The danger 
which had been escaped, and which would not have 
been escaped had Franklin had a less correct ap- 

^ It is not without interest in this connection to remark that 
Franklin was very ill-disposed towards the "loyalists," having 
scant toleration for their choice of a party. For a man of his 
liberality and moderation his language concerning them was 
severe. He objected to calling them " loyalists," thinking " roy- 
alists " a more correct description. To indemnification of their 
losses by Parliament he had "no objection," for the damnatory 
reason that "even a hired assassin has a right to his pay from 
his employer." Franklin's Works^ ix. 1.33. He often spoke in 
the like tone about these people See, for example, Works, ix. 
70, 72. But when the war was over and the natural mildness of 
liis disposition could resume its sway, he once at least spoke more 
gently of them. Ibid., 415. 


preciation of relative values in the negotiation, at 
once became apparent. The howl of condemnation 
swelled loud in the House of Commons ; it was felt 
that the ministry had made not a treaty but a 
"capitulation." The unfortunate Shelburne was 
driven out of ])ower, pursued by an angry outcry 
from persons altogether incapable of appreciating 
the sound statesmanship and the wise forecast of 
the future advantage of England which he had 
shown in preferring to give the colonies a chance 
to become a great, English-speaking, English-sym- 
pathizing, commercial people, rather than to feed 
fat the aspirations of France and Spain. These 
proceedings would have been good evidence, had 
evidence been wanting, that the American commis- 
sioners had done a brilliant piece of work. De 
Vergennes also added his testimony, saying : " The 
English have bought the peace rather than made 

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


limited admiration. But at that time a different 
feeling prevailed. 

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


Franklin found himself in a painful position ; for 
he could by no means deny that he had duties, or at 
least something very near akin to duties, to the king, 
imposed upon him b}'- numerous and weighty obli- 
gations which at his request had been conferred 
upon him and accepted by him on behalf of the 
American people. The violation of the instruc- 
tions of Congress gave to the secret treating too 
much the air of an insulting distrust, of the throw- 
ing over a friend when he had been sufficiently 
used ; for whatever might be suspected, it could by 
no means be proved that de Vergennes was not 
still the sincere friend which he certainly long had 
been. This bore hard upon Franklin. The policy 
which in fact had been forced upon him against his 
will by his colleagues was now made a matter of 
personal reproach against him especially, because 
he was persistently regarded as the head and front 
of the commission ; no European yet dreamed of 
considering any other American as of much conse- 
quence in any matter in which Franklin was con- 
cerned. During long years de Vergennes had been 
his constant and efficient adviser and assistant in 
many a day of trial and of stress, and Franklin be- 
lieved him to be still an honest well-wisher to the 
States. Moreover it actually was only a very few 
weeks since Franklin had applied for and obtained 
a new loan at a time when the king was so pressed 
for his own needs that a lottery was projected, and 
bills drawn by his own officials were going to pro- 
test. All this made the secrecv which had been 


practiced seem almost like duplicity on Franklin's 
part, and he felt keenly the ill light in which he 
was placed. It is true that if he had known then 
all that we know now, his mind would have been at 
ease ; but he did not know it, and he was seriously 
disturbed at the situation into which he had been 

But his usual skill did not desert him, and his 
reply was aptly framed and i3rompt. " Nothing," 
he said, " had been agreed in the preliminaries 
contrary to the interests of France ; and no peace 
is to take place between us and England till you 
have concluded yours. Your observation is, how- 
ever, apparently just that, in not consulting you 
before they were signed, we have been guilty of 
neglecting a point of bie7iseance. But as this was 
not from want of respect for the king, whom we 
all love and honor, we hope it will be excused, and 
that the great work which has hitherto been so 
happily conducted, is so nearly brought to perfec- 
tion, and is so glorious to his reign, will not be 
ruined by a single indiscretion of ours. And cer- 
tainly the whole edifice sinks to the ground im- 
mediately if you refuse on that account to give us 
any further assistance. ... It is not possible for 
any one to be more sensible than I am of what I 
and every American owe to the king for the many 
and great benefits and favors he has bestowed upon 
us. . . . The English^ I just now learn^ flatter 
themselves they have already dwlded us, I hope 
this little misunderstanding will, therefore, be kept 


a secret, and that they will find themselves totally 

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

So soon as the facts were known in the States 
expressions of condemnation were lavished upon 
the commissioners by members of Congress who 
thought that the secrecy as towards France was an 
inexcusable slight to a generous and faithful ally. 
Livingston, as secretary for foreign affairs, wrote 
to the envoys, commending the treaty, but finding 
fault with the manner of attaining it. Jay, an- 
gered at the injustice of a reproof which belonged 
more especially to him, drew up an exculjiatory 
statement. But Franklin, showing his usual good 
sense and moderation, sought to mitigate Jay's in- 
dignation, drew all the sting out of the document, 


and insisted ujDon leaving the vindication to time 
and second thoughts. For his own part Frank- 
lin not only had to take his full share of the re- 
proaches heaped upon the commissioners for in- 
sulting France, but upon the other hand he was 
violently assaulted on the quite opposite ground, 
that he had desired to be too subservient to that 
power. Many persons insisted that he " favored, 
or did not oppose," the designs of France to rule 
out the States from the fisheries, and to curtail their 
boundaries ; and that it was only due to the " firm- 
ness, sagacity, and disinterestedness " of Jay and 
Adams that these mischiefs were escaped. 

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

Franklin, after a while, finding that these charges 
of his having preferred France to his own country 


were being reiterated with such innuendoes as to 
bring his integrity into serious question, felt it 
necessary to appeal to his colleagues for vindica- 
tion. He wrote to them a modest, manly letter,^ 
and in reply received from Jay a generous testi- 
monial,^ and from Adams a carefully narrow ac- 
quittal.'^ The subsequent publication of Franklin's 
papers written at, and long before, the time of the 
negotiation, show that he was inclined to demand 
from Great Britain fully as much as any American 
upon either side of the ocean. 

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

During the negotiation Franklin wrote to Lau- 
rens : " I have never yet known of a peace made 
that did not occasion a great deal of popular dis- 

1 Works, viii. 340; and see Ibid., 353. 

2 Ibid., 350. 3 ibia., 354. 

* I have not endeavored to give a detailed account of this ne- 
gx>tiation, though the narrative would be very interesting, because 
it seems to me that the proper place for it will be furnished by 
the Life of Jay. That volume will soon appear in this Series, and 
will contain a very full and accurate presentation of this entire 
affair, drawn from those sources which have only very recently 
become public, and which go far to remove former questions out 
of the realm of discussion. 


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

Yet one dispute, which has been long waged, 


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

There is abundant evidence that from the very 
outset Franklin was not less resolute than was 
Adams about the fisheries ; and that he was in per- 
fect accord with Jay about the western boundaries 
and the Mississippi ; though Adams and Jay did 
most of the talking concerning these subjects, re- 
spectively. When it came to the even more diffi- 
cult matter of the royalists, Franklin in turn took 
the laboring oar. So far therefore as the three 
cardinal points of the negotiation were concerned 
honors were very evenly divided. But the value 
of Franklin's contribution to the treating is not to 
be measured either by his backwardness in sup- 
porting Jay in certain points, or by his firm atti- 
tude about boundaries, royalists, and fisheries. All 
these things he had outlined and arranged with 


Oswald at an early stage in the negotiating. Later 
he fell seriously ill and was for a long while in no 
fit condition for work. Yet the treaty seemed to 
be made under his auspices. In reading the great 
quantity of diaries and correspondence which relate 
to the transactions, many a passage indicates the 
sense of respect with which he was looked up to. 
The high opinion entertained of his ability, integ- 
rity, and fair-mindedness influenced very power- 
fully the minds of the English ministry and their 
envoys. " I am disposed," said Shelburne, " to 
expect everything from Dr. Franklin's comprehen- 
sive understanding and character." The like feel- 
ing, strengthened by personal confidence and re- 
gard, went far to keep de Vergennes from untimely 
intermeddling and from advancing embarrassing 
claims of supervision. Altogether, it was again 
the case that Franklin's prestige in Europe was in- 
valuable to America, and it is certainly true that 
beneath its protection Jay and Adams were able to 
do their work to advantage. Had they stood alone 
they would have encountered difficulties which 
would have seriously curtailed their efforts. ^ It 
is truth and not theory that Franklin's mere name 
and presence were sufficient to balance the scale 
against the abilities and the zeal of both his coad- 

It seems hardly necessary to endeavor to palli- 
ate Franklin's error in failing to detect the dupli- 

^ See, for example, Franklin's Works, viii. 29, 67, note, 69, 
70, 77, 109, 112, note, 133, note, 260. 


city of de Vergeiines. On the contrary, it would 
give a less agreeable idea of liim had he been 
ready to believe so ill of an old and tried friend. 
For years Franklin had been the medium through 
whom had passed countless benefits from France to 
the States, benefits of which many had been costly 
and inconvenient for the giver ; he had been treated 
with high consideration at this court, when no 
other court in all Europe would even receive an 
American ambassador ; he had enjoyed every possi- 
ble token of esteem and confidence both personally 
and in his official capacity; he had ever found 
fair words backed by no less fair deeds. In short, 
the vast mass of visible evidence seemed to him 
to lie, and in fact did lie, all on one side. On 
September 13, 1781, writing to the president of 
Congress, he said that de Vergennes had just read 
to him a copy of the instructions prepared by Con- 
gress for the commissioners, and that the minister 
" expressed his satisfaction with the unreserved 
confidence placed in his court by the Congress, as- 
suring me that they would never have cause to re- 
gret it, for that the king had the honor of the 
United States at heart, as well as their welfare 
and independence. Indeed, this has been already 
manifested in the negotiations relative to the pleni- 
potentiaries ; and I have already had so much ex- 
perience of his majesty's goodness to us, in the 
aids afforded us from time to time, and by the sin- 
cerity of this upright and able minister, who never 
promised me anything that he did not punctually 


perform, that I cannot but think the confidence 
well and judiciously placed, and that it will have 
hajipy effects." Every event in the history of 
many years made it natural and right for Franklin 
to feel in this way ; and it surely was no cause for 
distrust that de Vergennes had had the interest of 
France in mind as an original motive for aiding 
America, when throughout the war Franklin had 
witnessed France straining every nerve and taxing 
every resource to aid her ally, in perfect sincerity ; 
and when also, upon the suggestion of negotiations, 
he had just seen de Vergennes adhere rigidly to 
his word to do no treating save collaterally with 
the Americans, and refuse to take advantage of 
Grenville's efforts to reach the Americans through 
the French minister. Even thouijh de Verg-ennes 
had disapproved the delay caused by Jay's objec- 
tion to the form of the commission, still he had 
honorably stayed his own negotiation until that 
matter was favorably settled. Early in the negoti- 
ations Grrenville said to Franklin that the States 
owed no gratitude to France, since she had in fact 
only promoted her own interests. The remark ex- 
cited Franklin's indignation, and he says : " I told 
him I was so strongly impressed with the kind as- 
sistance afforded us by France in our distress, and 
the generous and noble manner in which it was 
granted, without extracting or stipulating for a sin- 
gle privilege or particular advantage to herself in 
our commerce, or otherwise, that I could never suf- 
fer myself to think of snch reasonings for lessening 


the obligation, and I hoped, and indeed did not 
doubt, but my countrymen were all of the same 
sentiments." The words do his heart none the 
less honor, because it has been since discovered 
that his confidence was too implicit. In truth de 
Vergennes had been extremely scrupulous and deli- 
cate throughout, in all matters which could fall 
within the observation of the Americans. At the 
outset he said to Franklin : the English " want to 
treat with us for you ; but this the king will not 
agree to. He thinks it not consistent with the 
dignity of your state. You will treat for your- 
selves ; and every one of the powers at war will 
make its own treaty. All that is necessary is that 
the treaties go hand in hand, and are all signed on 
the same day." Thus, to one who could believe 
de Vergennes, everything seemed fair and sincere, 
and Franklin at least had a right to believe de 

Furthermore it was not until negotiations actu- 
ally began that the previous condition of French 
relationship, as Franklin had well known it for 
many years, underwent a sudden and complete 
change. Then at last were presented new tempta- 
tions before which friendship and good faith could 
not stand, and each nation, keeping a decorous ex- 
terior, anxigusly studied its own advantage. It 
was the trying hour when the spoils were to be 
divided. The States themselves preferred the 
profit of their enemy England to that of their half- 
friend Spain. Franklin did not appreciate this 


quick turning of the kaleidoscope, with the instant 
change of all the previous political proximities ; in 
view of his age, his infirmities, his recent experi- 
ence in France, and his habitual generous faith in 
his fellow-men, this failure should give rise neither 
to surprise nor censure. 

In 1782, after signing the preliminary articles, 
Franklin a second time sent to Congress his re- 
signation. He received no reply to this commu- 
nication, and again, therefore, after the execution 
of the definitive treaty, he renewed his request 
to be relieved. But still Congress delayed. They 
wished to enter into commercial treaties with the 
European nations, and in spite of the rebukes 
which their chairman of the committee for for- 
eign affairs had administered to Franklin, Jay, 
and Adams, they now showed no readiness to re- 
move these gentlemen from the diplomatic service. 
Franklin accordingly remained in Paris, probably 
with no great reluctance, for he was attached to the 
place and the people, and his affection was warmly 
returned. It was a light labor to conduct the 
negotiations for the desired commercial treaties. 
Sweden, Denmark, Portugal, and even Morocco, all 
made advances to him almost immediately after the 
signing of the treaty of peace. For the most part 
he had the gratification of success. His last official 
act, just before his departure from Paris, was the 
signature of a treaty with Prussia, in which it was 


agreed to abolish privateering,^ and to hold private 
property by land and sea secure from destruction 
in time of war. It was pleasant thus to be intro- 
ducing his country to the handshaking, so to speak, 
of the old established nations of the world. So his 
life glided on agreeably. He was recognized as one 
of the most illustrious men living ; and to enjoy 
such a reputation in Paris in those days, especially 
when it was supplemented by personal popularity, 
was to find one's self in the enjoyment of all which 
the world could bestow to make delightful days. 

In August, 1784, Jefferson arrived to assist in 
the commercial business. But it was not until 
March, 1785, that Congress at last voted that 
Franklin might " return to America as soon as con- 
venient," and that Jefferson should succeed him as 
minister at the French court. Jefferson has borne 
good testimony to Franklin's situation, as he ob- 
served it. A few years later, in February, 1791, 
he wrote : " I can only therefore testify in gen- 
eral that there appeared to me more respect and 
veneration attached to the character of Dr. Frank- 
lin in France, than to that of any other person in 
the same country, foreign or native. I had oppor- 
tunities of knowing particularly how far these sen- 
timents were felt by the foreign ambassadors and 
ministers at the court of Versailles. ... I found 
the ministers of France equally impressed with the 
talents and integrity of Dr. Franklin. The Count 
de Vergennes particularly gave me repeated and 

^ See letter to Hartley, Franklin's Works, viii. 287. 


unequivocal demonstrations of his entire confidence 
in him." When Jefferson was asked : " C'est 
vous, Monsieur, qui remplace le Docteur Frank- 
lin ?" he used to reply : " No one can replace him, 
sir ; I am only his successor ; " and we may be sure 
that the Frenchmen appreciated and fully agreed 
with an expression of courtesy which chimed so 
well with their own customs of speech. Later, in 
1818, Jefferson wrote an interesting letter concern- 
ing the calumnies from which Franklin's reputa- 
tion still suffered : — 

" Dr. Franklin had many political enemies, as every 
character must which, with decision enough to have 
opinions, has energy and talent to give them effect on 
the feelings of the adversary opinion. These enmities 
were chiefly in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. In 
the former they were merely of the proprietary party. 
In the latter they did not commence till the Revolu- 
tion, and then sprung chiefly from personal animosities, 
which, spreading by little and little, became at length of 
some extent. Dr. Lee was his principal calumniator, a 
man of much malignity, wlio, besides enlisting his whole 
family in the same hostility, was enabled, as the agent of 
Massachusetts with the British government, to infuse it 
into that State with considerable effect. Mr. Izard, the 
doctor's enemy also, but from a pecuniary transaction, 
never countenanced these charges against him. Mr. Jay, 
Silas Deane, Mr. Laurens, his colleagues also, ever main- 
tained towards him unlimited confidence and respect. 
That he would have waived the formal recognition of 
our independence, I never heard on any authority 
worthy notice. As to the fisheries, England was urgent 


to retain them exclusively, France neutral, and I believe 
that, had they ultimately been made a sine qua non, our 
commissioners (Mr. Adams excepted) would have re- 
linquished them rather than have broken off the treaty. 
To Mr. Adams's perseverance alone, on that point, I 
have always understood we were indebted for their re- 
servation. As to the charge of subservience to France, 
besides the evidence of his friendly colleagues before 
named, two years of my own service with him at Paris, 
daily visits, and the most friendly and confidential con- 
versation, convince me it had not a shadow of founda- 
tion. He possessed the confidence of that government in 
the highest degree, insomuch that it may truly be said 
that they were more under his influence than he under 
theirs. The fact is that his temjjer was so amiable and 
conciliatory, his conduct so rational, never urging impos- 
sibilities, or even things unreasonably inconvenient to 
them, in short so moderate and attentive to their diffi- 
culties, as well as our own, that what his enemies called 
subserviency I saw was only that reasonable disposition 
which, sensible that advantages are not all to be on one 
side, yielding what is just and liberal, is the more cer- 
tain of obtaining liberality and justice. Mutual confi- 
dence produces of course mutual influence, and this was 
all which subsisted between Dr. Franklin and the gov- 
ernment of France." ^ 

When at last, in the summer of 1785, Franklin 
took his farewell of the much-loved land of France, 
the distinguished attentions which he received left 
no doubt of the admiration in which he was held. 
Indeed, many persons pressed him to remain in 
^ Jefferson's Works, vii. 108. 


France, and three offered him homes in their own 
families, telling him that not even in America could 
he expect esteem and love so unallo3^ed as he en- 
joyed in France, and warning him also that he 
might not survive the voyage. But he said : " The 
, desire of spending the little remainder of life with 
my family is so strong as to determine me to try at 
least whether I can bear the motion of the ship. If 
not, I must get them to set me ashore somewhere in 
the Channel and content myself to die in Europe." 
When the day of departure from Passy came " it 
seemed," said Jefferson, " as if the village had lost 
its patriarch." His infirmities rendered the mo- 
tion of a carriage painful to him, and the king 
therefore placed at his disposal one of the queen's 
litters, which bore him by easy stages to the sea 
coast. He carried with him the customary compli- 
mentary portrait of the king ; but it was far be- 
yond the ordinary magnificence, for it was framed 
in a double circle of four hundred and eight dia- 
monds, and was of unusual cost and beauty. On 
July 18 he arrived at Havre, and crossed the Chan- 
nel to take ship at Portsmouth. The British gov- 
ernment offset the discourtesy with which it was 
irritating Mr. Adams by ordering that the effects 
of Dr. Franklin's party should be exempt from the 
usual examination at the custom house. His old 
friend, the Bishop of St. Asaph, "America's con- 
stant friend," came to see him. So also did his 
tory son, the ex-governor of New Jersey, with whom 
a sort of reconciliation had been patched up. He 


sailed with Captain, afterward Commodore, Trux- 
toii, who found him a most agreeable companion. 

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



On September 12, 1785, the ship brought Frank- 
lin into Delaware Bay, and the next morning he 
rejoiced to find himself " in full view of dear Phil- 
adelphia." A multitude, filling the air with huzzas 
of salutation, greeted his landing and escorted him 
to his door. Private welcomes and public addresses 
poured in upon him. His health had been much 
improved by the sea air and rest, and he rejoiced, 
as his foot touched the streets of the town which 
after all his wanderings was his home, to feel him- 
self by no means yet a worn-out man, though in fact 
he had seventy-nine years of a busy life behind 
him. His fellow-citizens evidently thought that the 
reservoir which had been so bountiful could not yet 
be near exhaustion, and were resolved to continue 
their copious draughts upon it. They at once 
elected him to the State Council, of which he was 
made President ; and, as he said, " I had not firm- 
ness enough to resist the unanimous desire of my 
country folks ; and I find myself harnessed again 
in their service for another year. They engrossed 
the prime of my life. They have eaten my flesh, 


and seem resolved now to pick my bones." A vis- 
ible and a natural pleasure lurks in the words ; old 
age finds nothing sweeter than a tribute to the 
freshness of its powers ; and especially Franklin 
saw in this honor a vindication against his malign- 
ers. From it he understood that, however some in- 
dividuals might indulge in dislike and distrust, the 
overwhelming mass of his fellow-citizens esteemed 
him as highly as he could wish. The distinction, 
however, cost posterity an unwelcome price, for it 
prevented further work on the autobiography, which 
otherwise would probably have been finished. ^ 

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

1 Franklin's Works, ix. 459. 

AT HOME. 399 

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

Nevertheless these English assaults nettled him 
not a little; and further he dreaded their possible 
influence in the rest of Europe outside of England. 
The English newspapers teemed with accounts of 
the general demoralization and disintegration of 
the States ; it was said that they had found their 
ruin in their independence, and the unwillingness 
of American merchants to pay their debts w^as in 


one paragraph attributed to tlieir dishonesty, and in 
the next to the hopeless poverty which was described 
as having possession of the country. It was in good 
truth what Mr. John Fiske has called it, " The 
Critical Period of American History." But Frank- 
lin was at once too patriotic and too sanguine to 
admit that matters were so bad as they seemed. 
His insight into the situation proved correct, and 
the outcome very soon showed that the elements of 
prosperity which he saw were substantial, and not 
merely the phantoms of a hopeful lover of his 
country. During these years of humiliation and 
discouragement he was busy in writing to many 
friends in England and in France very manly and 
spirited letters, declaring the condition of things in 
the States to be by no means so ill as it was repre- 
sented. Industry had revived, values were advanc- 
ing, the country was growing, welfare and success 
were within the grasp of the people. These things 
he said repeatedly and emphatically, and in a short 
time the accuracy of his knowledge had to be ad- 
mitted by all, whether friends or enemies. He 
would not even admit that the failure to arrange a 
treaty of commerce with England was the serious 
misfortune which most Americans conceived it to 
be. In his usual gallant fashion of facing down 
untoward circumstances he alleged again and again 
that the lack of such a treaty was worse for Great 
Britain than for the States. If British merchants 
could stand it, American merchants, he avowed, 
could stand it much, better. He was for showing 

AT HOME. 401 

uo more concern about it. " Let the merchants 
on both sides treat with one another. Laissez lea 
faire^' he said. The presence of such a temper in 
the States, in so prominent a man, was of infinite 
service in those troubled years of unsettled, novel, 
and difficult conditions. 

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

As between the two theories of government which 
divided that body, Franklin ranged himself with 
the party opposed to a strong and centralized gov- 
ernment endowed with many functions and much 
power.2 The simplest government seemed to him 

^ Parton's Life of Franklin, ii. 565. 

^ But later he remarked : ' ' Though there is a general dread of 
giving- too much power to our governors, I think we are more in 
danger from too little obedience in the governed.'''' 


the best ; and he substantially gave in his allegiance 
to those democratic ideas which afterward consti- 
tuted the doctrines of the Jeffersonian school in 
American politics. It was natural that he should 
do so ; he was a cheerful optimist all his life long, 
and few men have ever so trusted human kind as he 
did ; so now he believed that the people could take 
care of themselves, as indeed the history of the past 
few years and the character of the population of the 
States at that time indicated that they could. He 
attended regularly all the sessions, and gave his 
opinions freely ; but they are only dimly revealed 
in the half-light which enfolds in such lamenta- 
ble obscurity the debates of that interesting body. 
What little is known can be briefly stated. 

The same theory which he was practicing con- 
cerning his own salary he wished to see intro- 
duced as an article of the Constitution. The 
President, he thought, should receive no salary. 
Honor was enough reward ; a place which gave 
both honor and profit offered too corrupting a 
temptation, and instead of remaining a source of 
generous aspiration to " the wise and moderate, 
the lovers of peace and good order, the men fit- 
test for the trust," it would be scrambled for by 
" the bold and the violent, the men of strong pas- 
sions and indefatigable activity in their selfish 
pursuits." ^ In our day such a notion and such 
arguments would be quickly sneered out of the de- 

1 Franklin's Works, ix. 418. See, also, letter to Bishop of 
St. Asaph, Franklin's Works, viii. 270. 

AT HOME. 403 

bate ; but they were in keeping with the spirit of 
that era when the first generation which for ages 
had dared to contemplate popular government was 
carried away by the earliest romantic fervor of in- 
experienced speculation. 

It is familiar that the gravest question which 
perplexed the convention was whether the larger 
and the smaller states should stand upon terms of 
equality, or whether some proportion should be 
established. After a discussion, recurred to at in- 
tervals during many weeks, had failed to develop 
any satisfactory solution of this problem, pregnant 
with failure, Franklin moved that the daily pro- 
ceedings should be opened with prayer.^ But 
Hamilton said that a resort to prayer would indi- 
cate to the people that the convention had reached 
a desperate pass ; and either this or some other 
reason was so potent that scarcely any one voted 
yea on the motion. What could be more singular 
than to see the skeptical Franklin and the religious 
Hamilton thus opposed upon this question ! Frank- 
lin next suggested a compromise : an equal num- 
ber of delegates for all states ; an equal vote for 
all states upon all questions respecting the author- 
ity or sovereignty of a state, and upon appoint- 
ments and confirmations ; but votes to be appor- 
tioned according to the populations of the states 
respectively upon all bills for raising and spending 
money. He was in favor of a single legislative 
chamber, and his plan was designed to be applied 

1 Franklin's Works, ix. 428. 


to such a system. Its feasibility would probably 
have been defeated through the inevitable com- 
plexity which would have attended upon it in prac- 
tice.^ Nevertheless it was a suggestion in the 
right direction, and contained the kernel of that 
compromise which later on he developed into the 
system of an equal representation in the Senate, 
and a proportionate one in the House. This happy 
scheme may be fairly said to have saved the Union. 

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

When at last the long discussions were over and 
the final draft was prepared, Franklin found him- 
self in the position in which also were most of his 
associates, disapproving certain parts, but thinking 
adoption of the whole far better than rejection. 
He was wise enough and singular enough to admit 

^ One becomes quite convinced of this upon reading- his presen- 
tation of his scheme. Works, ix. 423 ; see, also, Ibid., 395. 

AT HOME. 405 

that he was not infallibly right. " Nothing in hu- 
man affairs and schemes is perfect/' he said, " and 
perhaps that is the case of our opinions." He 
made an excellent speech/ urging that at the close 
of their deliberations all should harmonize, sink 
their small differences of opinion, and send the 
document before the people with the prestige of 
their unanimous approbation. While the last mem- 
bers were signing, relates Madison, " Dr. Frank- 
lin, looking toward the president's chair, at the 
back of which a rising sun happened to be painted, 
observed to a few members near him that painters 
had found it difficult to distinguish in their art a 
rising from a setting sun. * I have,' he said, ' often 
and often in the course of the session, and the vicis- 
situdes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked 
at that behind the president without being able to 
tell whether it was rising or setting ; but now at 
length I have the happiness to know that it is a 
rising and not a setting sun.' " 

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

It was about the time of the election that he him- 

1 Franklin's Works, ix. 431. 


self took his farewell of public life. The third year 
of his incumbency in the office of president of 
Pennsylvania expired in the autumn of 1788, and 
his physical condition precluded all idea of further 
official labors. Nature could not have committed 
such an incongruity, such a sin against aesthetic 
justice, as not to preserve Benjamin Franklin's 
life long enough to enable him to see the United 
States fairly launched as a real nation, with an 
established government and a sound constitution 
giving promise of a vigorous career. But evi- 
dently with this boon the patience of nature was 
exhausted ; for Franklin's infirmities now increased 
upon him terribly. He endured extreme pain 
during periods steadily increasing in length and 
recurring at ever-shortening intervals. He bore 
his suffering, which too often became agony, with 
heroic fortitude ; but it was evident that even his 
strong frame could not long hold out against the 
debilitating effects of his merciless disease. Yet 
while it racked his body it fortunately spared his 
mental faculties ; and indeed so lively did his inter- 
est in affairs remain that it seemed to require these 
physical reminders to show him how old he was ; 
save for his body, he was still a man in his prime. 
He once said : " 1 often hear persons, whom I knew 
when children, called old Mr. Such-a-one, to dis- 
tinguish them from their sons, now men grown and 
in business ; so that by living twelve years beyond 
David's period, / seem to have intruded myself 
into the company of posterity^ when I ought to have 

AT HOME. 407 

heeti abed and asleep ^^^ — words which should take 
their place among the fine sayings of the ages. 

He was courageous and cheerful. In November, 
1788, he wrote: "You kindly inquire after my 
health. I have not of late much reason to boast of 
it. People that will live a long life and drink to 
the bottom of the cup must expect to meet with 
some of the dregs. However, when I consider how 
many more terrible maladies the human body is 
liable to, I think myself well off that I have only 
three incurable ones : the gout, the stone, and old 
age ; and, those notwithstanding, I enjoy many 
comfortable intervals, in which I forget all my ills, 
and amuse myself in reading or writing, or in con- 
versation with friends, joking, laughing, and tell- 
ing merry stories, as when you first knew me, a 
young man about fifty." ^ He does not seem to 
have taken undue credit to himself; there is no 
querulousness, or egotism, or senility in his let- 
ters, but a delightful tranquillity of spirit. His 
sister wrote to him that the Boston newspapers 
often had matter in his honor. " I am obliged to 
them," he wrote ; " on the other hand, some of our 
papers here are endeavoring to disgrace me. I 
take no notice. My friends defend me. I have 
long been accustomed to receive more blame, as 
well as more praise, than I have deserved. It is 
the lot of every public man, and I leave one ac- 
count to balance the other." So serene was the 

^ He habitually wrote in this vein ; see, for example, Works, 
ix. 266, 283, and; 


aged philosopher, a real philosophei*, not one who, 
having played a part in life, was to be betrayed in 
the weakness and irritability of old age. He felt 
none of the mental weariness which years so often 
bring. He was by no means tired of life and 
affairs in this world, yet he wrote in a characteris- 
tic vein to the Bishop of St. Asaph : " The course 
of nature must soon put a period to my present 
mode of existence. This I shall submit to with 
the less regret, as, having seen during a long life 
a good deal of this world, I feel a growing curi- 
osity to be acquainted with some other." It was 
characteristic that in these closing days it was the 
progress of mankind in knowledge and welfare 
which especially absorbed his thoughts. When he 
reflected on the great strides that were making he 
said that he almost wished that it had been his 
destiny to be born two or three centuries later. 
He was one of the few men wlio has left on re- 
cord his willingness to live his life over again, even 
though he should not be allowed the privilege of 
" correcting in the second edition the errors of the 

The French Revolution excited his profoundest 
interest. At first he said that he saw " nothing 
singular in all this, but on the contrary what might 
naturally be expected. The French have served 
an apprenticeship to liberty in this country, and 
now that they are out of their time they have 
set up for themselves." ^ He expressed his hope 

1 Parton's Life of Franklin, ii. 600. 

AT HOME. 409 

that " the fire of liberty, . . . spreading itself over 
Europe, would act upon the inestimable rights of 
man as common fire does upon gold : purify with- 
out destroying them ; so that a lover of liberty may 
find a country in any part of Christendom." The 
language had an unusual smack of the French re- 
volutionary slang, in which he seems in no other in- 
stance to have indulged. But as the fury swelled 
his earlier sympathies became merged in a painful 
anxiety concerning the fate of his many good old 

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

A large part of the last year or two of his life 
was passed by Franklin in his bed. At times 
when his dreadful suffering seemed to become in- 
tolerable, it was quelled, so far ^s possible, by 
opium. But at intervals it left him, and still when- 
ever he thus got a respite for a few days he was 
again at work. It was in such an interval that he 


wrote his paper condemning the liberty, which was 
becoming the license, of the press. If the law per- 
mitted this sort of thing, he said, then it should re- 
store also the liberty of the cudgel. The paper is 
not altogether antiquated, nor the idea altogether 

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

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

A great procession and a concourse of citizens 

AT HOME. 411 

escorted his funeral, and Congress voted to " wear 
the customary badge of mourning for one month." 
The bits of crape were all very well, a conven- 
tional, insignificant tribute ; but unfortunately the 
account of the country, or at least of Congress as 
representing the country, did not stand very hon- 
orably, to say nothing of generously, with one of 
its oldest, most faithful, and most useful servants.^ 
Again and again Franklin had asked for some 
modest office, some slight opening, for his grand- 
son, Temple Franklin. The young man's plans 
and prospects in life had all been sacrificed to the 
service of Franklin as his secretary, which was in 
fact the service of the country ; yet he had never 
been able to collect even the ordinary salary per- 
taining to such a position. Throughout a long life 
of public service, often costly to himself in his own 
affairs, Franklin had never asked any other favor 
than this, which after all was rather compensa- 
tion than favor, and this was never given to him. 
When one reflects how such offices are demanded 
and awarded in these days, one hardly knows 
whether to be more ashamed of the present or of 
the past. But this was not all nor even the worst ; 
for Franklin's repeated efforts to get his own ac- 
counts with the government audited and settled 
never met with any response. It needed only that 

^ One of the most painful letters to read which our annals 
contain is that written by Franklin to Charles Thomson, secretary 
of Congress, November 20, 1788, Works, viii. 26, 30. It is an 
arraignment which humiliates the descendants of the members of 
that bodv. 


Congress should appoint a competent accountant 
to examine and report. Before leaving France 
Franklin had begged for this act of simple, busi- 
ness-like justice, which it was the duty of Congress 
to initiate without solicitation ; he had the fate of 
the '' poor unhappy Deane " before his eyes, to 
make him uncomfortable, but in this respect he was 
treated nd better than that misused man. After 
his return home he continued his urgency during 
his last years, not wishing to die leaving malig- 
nant enemies behind him, and accounts open which 
he could no longer explain and elucidate. In- 
deed, stories were already circulating that he was 
"greatly indebted to the United States for large 
sums that had been put into [his] hands, and that 
[he] avoided a settlement ; " yet this request was 
still, with unpardonable disregard of decency and 
duty, utterly ignored. He never could get the busi- 
ness attended to, and Benjamin Franklin actually 
could not extort from an indifferent Congress the 
small satisfaction of having his accounts passed. 
The consequence was that when he died the United 
States appeared his debtor, and never extricated 
itself from that painful position.^ It was only in 
this matter that he ever showed the slightest anx- 
iety concerning his reputation with posterity. He 
wanted to leave the name of an honest man ; but 
otherwise he never was at the trouble of prepar- 
ing a line to justify any of his actions, therein 
differing from many of his contemporaries. 
1 Parton's Life nf Franklin, ii. 596. 

AT HOME. 413 

France showed a livelier affection and warmer 
appreciation toward the great dead than did his 
own countrymen. At the opening of the National 
Assembly, June 11, 1790, Mirabeau delivered an 
impassioned eulogy in the rhetorical French fash- 
ion ; and the motion to wear mourning for three 
days was carried by acclamation. The president 
of that body, M. Sieyes, was instructed to commu- 
nicate the resolution to Washington. At the cel- 
ebration of the municipality of Paris the citizens 
generally wore a mourning badge ; and the grain 
market, where the oration was delivered, was drai3ed 
in black. The Academy of Sciences of course did 
formal honor to his memory, as did likewise the 
revolutionary clubs. A street at what was in his 
day Passy, but is now included in Paris, near the 
Trocadero, perpetuates by his name the admira- 
tion which France felt for him. 

Among illustrious Americans Franklin stands 
preeminent in the interest which is aroused by a 
study of his character, his mind, and his career. 
One becomes attached to him, bids him farewell 
with regret, and feels that for such as he the longest 
span of life is all too short. Even though dead, 
he attracts a personal regard which renders easily 
intelligible the profound affection which so many 
men felt for him while living. It may be doubted 
whether any one man ever had so many, such con- 
stant, and such firm friends as in three different 
nations formed about him a veritable host. Tn the 


States and in France he was loved, and as he grew 
into old age he was revered, not by those who 
heard of him only, but most warmly by those who 
best knew him. Even in England, where for years 
he was tlie arch-rebel of all America, he w^as gen- 
erally held in respect and esteem, and had many 
constant friends whose confidence no events could 
shake. It is true, of course, that he had also his 
detractors, with most of whom the reader has al- 
ready made acquaintance. In Pennsylvania the 
proprietary party cherished an animosity which still 
survives against his memory, but which does not 
extend far beyond those who take it as an inherit- 
ance. It does him no discredit with persons who 
understand its source. In New England a loyalty 
to those famous New Englanders, John Adams and 
Samuel Adams, seems to involve in the minds of 
some persons a depreciation of Franklin. In Eng- 
lish historical literature the patriotic instinct stands 
in the way of giving Franklin quite his full due of 
praise. But the faults and defects of character 
and conduct which are urged against him appear 
little more than the expression of personal ill-will, 
when they are compared with the affection and 
the admiration given to him in liberal measure by 
the great mass of mankind both in the generations 
which knew him as a living contemporary and in 
those which hear of him only as one of the figures 
of history. It is not worth while to deify him, or 
to speak with extravagant reverence, as if he had 
neither faults nor limitations. Yet it seems un- 

AT HOME. 415 

gracious to recall these concerning one who did for 
liis fellow-men so much as Franklin did. Moral, 
intellectual, and material boons he conferred in such 
abundance that few such benefactors of the race 
can be named, though one should survey all the 
ages. A man of a greater humanity never lived ; 
and the quality which stood Abou Ben Adhem 
in good stead should suffice to save Franklin from 
human criticism. He not only loved his kind, but 
he also trusted them with an implicit confidence, 
reassuring if not extraordinary in an observer of 
his shrewdness and experience. Democrats of the 
revolutionary school in France and of the Jeffer- 
sonian school in the United States have preached an 
exaggerated gospel of the people, but their words 
are the dubious ones of fanatics or politicians. 
Franklin was of a different kind, and had a more 
genuine and more generous faith in man than the 
greatest democrat in politics who ever lived. 

Franklin's inborn ambition was the noblest of all 
ambitions : to be of practical use to the multitude 
of men. The chief motive of his life was to pro- 
mote the welfare of mankind. Every moment 
which he could snatch from enforced occupations 
was devoted to doing, devising, or suggesting some- 
thing advantageous more or less generally to men. 
His detractors have given a bad, but also a false 
coloring to this trait. They say that the spirit of 
all that he did and taught was sordid, that the 
motives and purposes which he set before men were 
selfish, that his messages spoken through the mouth 


of Poor Richard inculcated no higher objects in 
life than money-getting. This is an utterly unfair 
form of stating the case. Franklin was a great 
moralist: though he did not believe in the Chris- 
tian religion according to the strait-laced orthodox 
view, he believed in the virtues which that religion 
embodies ; and he was not only often a zealous 
preacher, but in the main a consistent exemplar 
of them. Perhaps he did not rest them upon pre- 
cisely the same basis upon which the Christian 
preacher does, but at least he put them on a basis 
upon which they could stand firm. In such mat- 
ters, however, one may easily make mistakes, breed 
ill blood, and do harm ; and his wisdom and good 
sense soon led him to put forth his chief efforts 
and to display especial earnestness and constancy 
in promoting the well-being of all men. It was an 
object sufficiently noble, one would think, worthy 
of the greatest brain and the largest heart, and 
having cerfain very commendable traits in the way 
of practicability and substantial possibilities. His 
desire was to see the community prosperous, com- 
fortable, happy, advancing in the accumulation of 
money and of all physical goods, but not to the 
point of luxury ; it was by no means the pile of 
dollars which was his end,' and he did not care to 
see many men rich, but rather to see all men well 
to do. Pie was perfectly right in thinking that 
virtuous living has the "best prospects in a well-to- 
do society. He gave liberally of his own means 
and induced others to give, and promoted in pro- 

AT HOME. 417 

portion to the ability of the community a surpris- 
ing number of public and quasi public enterprises ; 
and always the fireside of the poor man was as 
much in his thought as the benefit of the richer 
circle. Fair dealing and kindliness, prudence and 
economy in order to procure the comforts and sim- 
pler luxuries of life, reading and knowledge for 
those uses which wisdom subserves, constituted the 
real essence of his teaching. His inventive gen- 
ius was ever at work devising methods of making 
daily life more agreeable, comfortable, and whole- 
some for all who have to live. In a word, the ser- 
vice of his fellow-men was his constant aim ; and 
he so served them that those public official func- 
tions which are euphemistically called " public ser- 
vices" seemed in his case almost an interruption of 
the more direct and far-reaching services which he 
was intent upon rendering to all civilized peoples. 
Extreme religionists may audaciously fancy that 
the judgment of God upon Franklin may be se- 
vere ; but it would be gross disloyalty for his own 
kind to charge that his influence has been ignobly 

As a patriot none surpassed him. Again it was 
the love of the people that induced this feeling, 
w^hich grew from no theory as to forms of gov- 
ernment, no abstractions and doctrines about " the 
rights of man." He began by espousing the cause 
of the people of the Province of Pennsylvania 
against proprietary despotism, and for many years 
he was a patriot in his colony, before the great 


issue against England made patriotism common. 
His patriotism had not root in any revolutionary 
element in his temper, but was the inevitable out- 
come of his fair-mindedness. That which was un- 
fair as between man and man first aroused his ire 
against the grinding proprietaries ; and afterward 
it was the unfairness of taxation without represen- 
tation which especially incensed him ; for an intel- 
lect of the breadth and clearness of his sees and 
loves justice above all things. During the struggle 
of the States no man was more hearty in the cause 
than Franklin ; and the depth of feeling shown in 
his letters, simple and un rhetorical as they are, is 
impressive. All that he had he gave. What also 
strikes the reader of his writings is the broad na- 
tional spirit which he manifested. He had an im- 
mense respect for the dignity of America ; he was 
perhaps fortunately saved from disillusionment by 
his distance from home. But be this as it may, 
the way in which he felt and therefore genuinely 
talked about his nation and his country was not 
without its moral effect in Europe. 

Intellectually there are few men who are Frank- 
lin's peers in all the ages and nations. He covered, 
and covered well, vast ground. The reputation of 
doing and knowing various unrelated things is 
wont to bring suspicion of perfunctoriness ; but the 
ideal of the human intellect is an understanding to 
which all knowledge and all activity are germane. 
There have been a few, very few minds which have 
approximated toward this ideal, and among them 

AT HOME. 419 

Franklin's is prominent. He was one of the most 
distinguished scientists who have ever lived. Ban- 
croft calls him " the greatest diplomatist of his 
century." ^ His ingenious and useful devices and 
inventions were very numerous. He possessed a 
masterly shrewdness in business and practical af- 
fairs. He was a profound thinker and preacher 
in morals and on the conduct of life ; so that with 
the exception of the founders of great religions it 
would be difficult to name any persons who have 
more extensively influenced the ideas, motives, and 
habits of life of men. He was one of the most, per- 
haps the most agreeable conversationist of his age. 
He was a rare wit and humorist, and in an age 
when " American humor '* was still unborn, amid 
contemporaries who have left no trace of a jest, 
still less of the faintest appreciation of humor, all 
which he said and wrote was brilliant with both 
these most charming qualities of the human mind. 
Though sometimes lax in points of grammar, as 
was much the custom in his day, he wrote as de- 
lightful a style as is to be found in all English 
literature, and that too when the stilted, verbose, 
and turgid habit was tediously prevalent. He was 
a man who impressed his ability upon all who met 
him ; so that the abler the man and the more ex- 
perienced in judging men, the higher did he rate 
Franklin when brought into direct contact with 
him ; politicians and statesmen of Europe, dis- 
trustful and sagacious, trained readers and valu- 
1 Bancroft, llist. V. S., ix. 134. 


ers of men, gave him the rare honor of placing con- 
fidence not only in his personal sincerity, but in his 
broad fair-mindedness, a mental quite as much as 
a moral trait. 

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


Adams, Abigail, on Franklin, 208. 

Adams, John, 109, 217, 281, 284, 353, 
367, 378, 383, 391, 395, 414; at the 
conference with Lord Howe, 212- 
214 ; remarks concerning Franklin, 
232, 234, 333, 340 ; in the Williams 
quarrel, 262 ; concerning rum, 273 ; 
feeling toward France, 283 note ; 
arrival in Paris, and extreme ac- 
tivity there, 290-292 ; share in the 
quarrels there, 292 ; advises to break 
up the Frencli commission, 293, 294 ; 
returns home, 294 ; letter to, 318 ; 
drafts on, and financial labors in 
Holland, 326-328 ; unpopular at the 
French court, 335 ; relations with 
FrankUn, 336, 337, 338, 340, 341, 
342 ; return to Paris as peace com- 
missioner, 355, 357 ; trouble with 
de Vergennes, 345-349 ; consequent 
wrath against Franklin, 350 ; disap- 
proves Oswald's commission, 368 ; 
approves of treating without com- 
munication with de Vergennes, 373 ; 
his part in the negotiations, 375, 
386, 394; testimony in behalf of 
Franklin, 384 ; feud with Franklin, 

Adams, Samuel, 106, 109, 333, 414; 
opposes Franklin's nomination as 
agent for Massachusetts, 136; pro- 
jects a New England Confederacy, 

"Alliance," officers of, 313. 

Arnold, General, 208. 

" Art of Virtue," scheme for book, 

Austin, J. L., brings news of Bur- 
goyne's defeat, 207 ; secret mission 
to England, 268. 

Bache, Richard, marries Franklin's 

daughter, 201. 
Bancroft, Edward, 258 ; tells story 

about Franklin's coat, 189, 280 ; a 

spy, 221, 227. 
Beaumarchais, Car on de, early career, 

222 ; meets Arthur Lee, 222 ; es- 

pouses colonial cause, 223; estab- 
lishes firm of Hortalez & Co., 226- 
228 ; relations with Deane, 234, 235, 
237 ; suspected by Lee, 235 ; at Bur- 
goyne's surrender, 267 ; claims on 
cargoes of rice and indigo, 305, 306. 
Bedford, Duke of, 113; opposed to 
raising a colonial army, 51. 
j Bollan, Mr., agent for council of Mas- 
I sachusetts Bay, 153 ; in affair of the 
j Hutchinson letters and privy coun- 
I cil hearing, 183, 185. 
' " Bon Homme Richard," 297, 298. 

Bond, Dr., aided by Franklin in es- 
I tablishing hospital, 40. 
I Braddock, General, 50; visited by 
j Franklin, 52 ; expedition, 50 et 
seq. ; praises Franklin, 54. 

Bradford, , editor of rival news- 

I paper, 12. 

I Burgoyne, General, 264, 269 ; news of 

I defeat, 207 ; effect of, 331. 

Burke, Edmund, 113 ; on Franklin's 
! French mission, 230. 

Burke, William, pamphlet in favor of 
j retaining Guadaloupe rather than 
I Canada in 1700, 78, 79. 
"Busybody " papers, 31. 
Bute, Earl' of, 104, 113, 211. 

Camden, Marquis of, counsel for Penns, 

67 ; predicts an American revolt, 81 ; 

befriends the colonies, 117 ; enters 

cabinet, 146. 

Canada, question whether to retain it 

at peace of 17G3, 77-82. 
Carmichael, William, 217, 317 ; praises 
j Franklin, 341. 

j Charles, Mr., agent for colonies, exe- 
I cutes agreement as to taxation, 69. 
i Chatham, Earl of. See Pitt. 
Chaumont, M. Ray de, lends his house 

to Franklin, 2.32. 
Choiseul, Duke de, predicts American 

independence, 82. 
Colden, letter to, 39. 
Conway, General, receives office, 113 ; 
moves repeal of Stamp Act, 131 ; 



enters cabinet, 146 ; advises adop- 
tion of Franklin's ideas, 281 ; mo- 
tion, after news of Yorktown, 359. 

Conyngham, the privateersman, 245, 
24G et seq. 

" Cool thoughts on the Present Situa- 
tion," etc., published, 90. 

Cooper, 8ir Grey, on Franklin's 
French mission, 230. 

Cooper, Samuel, letter as to Frank- 
lin's appointment as agent for Mas- 
sachusetts, 137. 

Cornwallis, Lord, surrender, 358. 

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

Cushing, Thomas, letter to, as to 
Hutchinson's letters, 177. 

Dana, Francis, reliance on Franklin, 

Dartmouth, Lord, succeeds Hillsbor- 
ough in charge of colonies, 164 ; re- 
lations with Franklin, 164 ; aimoyed 
at Governor Hutchinson's behavior, 
165 ; discusses situation with Frank- 
lin, 165-167 ; petition to, for re- 
moval of Hutchinson, etc., 181 ; 
achieves nothing for colonies, 191 ; 
Franklin's memorial to, 197. 

Deane, Silas, 217, 229, 272, 412 ; char- 
acter and career, 219 ; arrival in 
France, 220, 227 ; instructions, 221 ; 
relations with Bancroft, 221, 227 ; 
relations with Beaumarchais, 234, 
235, 237 ; traduced by Arthur Lee, 
235, and by Izard, 286 ; defended by 
Franklin, 236, 286; sends foreign 
officers to the States, 238-240 ; favors 
strong appeal to France, 266 ; re- 
turn home, 286, 290 ; friendly to 
Franklin, 393. 

Declaration of rights, 123. 

De Grey, Lord Chief Justice, 184. 

De la Luzerne, minister to States, 346, 
357, 382. 

Denham, , offers Franklin a clerk- 
ship, 9 ; dies, 10. 

Despencer, Lord le, breakfast party 
at his house, 134. 

D'Estaing, Admiral, sails, 282. 

De Weissenstein, letter from, and re- 
ply, 352-354. 

Dickinson, John, 170 ; speech of, 93 ; 
opposition to election of Franklin as 
agent for Pennsylvania, 96, 97 ; de- 
sires to petition Parliament, 204, 

Digges, rascality of, 260, 359. 

" Dissertation on Liberty and Necessi- 
ty, Pleasure and Pain, "published, 9; 
Franklin's subsequent opinion of, 25. 

Duhourg, Dr., letter to Franklin, 228. 

Dunning, Mr., counsel for Franklin, 
185, 186. 

East India Company, suffers by Eng- 
lish legislation, 173. 

Fiske, John, 400. 

Folger, Abiah, wife of Joseph Frank- 
Im, 2. 

Folger, Peter, 2, 3. 

Fox, Charles, 268, attacks Lord 
North about the French alliance, 
277 ; in Rqckingham cabinet, 360 ; 
differences with Shelburne, 361, 
365, 366 ; retires from office, 366. 

Franklin, Benjamin, lineage, 2 ; birth, 
3 ; intended for the church, 3 ; ap- 
prenticed to his brother, 4 ; religious 
speculations, 5 ; runs away, 5 ; be- 
ginnings in Philadelphia, 6 ; returns 
home, 7 ; embarks for England, 
under auspices of Sir William Keith, 
7 ; career in London, 8 ; infidelity, 
9 ; returns home, 10 ; illness and 
epitaph, 10, 11 ; partnership with 
Meredith, 11 ; establishes a news- 
paper, 12, 23 ; matrimonial schemes, 
13; married, 15; establishes a li- 
brary, 20 ; publishes " Poor Rich- 
ard's " almanac, 21 ; as a teacher of 
morality, 24 et seq. ; religious views, 
24 et seq. ; scheme for " The Art of 
Virtue," 30-32; letter to President 
Stiles, 28 ; project for the " Society 
of the Free and Easy," 33 ; estab- 
lishes the Junto, 33 ; studies lan- 
guages, 35 ; clerk of the General As- 
sembly, 35 ; postmaster at Philadel- 
phia, 35 ; invents a stove, 35 ; founds 
a philosophical society, 36 ; interest 
in agriculture, 36 ; founds the Uni- 
versity of Pennsylvania, 36 ; en- 
deavors to reorganize the night 
watch, 37 ; establishes the Union 
Fire Company, 38 ; interest in mil- 
itary matters, 38 ; " Plain Truth," 
39 ; takes a partner, 39 ; elected to 
various offices, 40 ; commissioner to 
treat with the Indians, 40 ; assists 
Dr. Bond to establish his hospital, 
40 ; attends to lighting and cleaning 
streets, 42 ; postmaster general, 42 ; 
made Master of Arts of Harvard and 
Yale, 43 ; deputy to an Indian con- 
ference at Albany, 43 ; proposes a 
colonial confederation, 44 ; writes 
letters on Shirley's plan for assem- 
bly of governors, 46 ; early views on 
parliamentary taxation of colonies, 
46 et seq. ; and concerning colonial 
representation in parliament, 48 ; 
visits Boston, 49; appointed to 
supervise military expenditures, 49 ; 
concerned in Braddock's campaign, 
51-54 ; claims against the govern- 
ment for advances, 54 ; becomes a 
colonel, 54-56 ; scheme for planting 



colonies inland, 56 ; reputation 
among scientists in Europe, 58 ; his 
existence doubted, 58; deputed to 
represent Pennsylvania in England, 
59, 62 ; opposed to the proprietaries, 
61, 62 ; embarks, but is long de- 
tained, 63, 64 ; arrival in London, 
65 ; interview with Lord Granville 
as to colonial conditions, 65 ; with 
the proprietaries, 66 ; and with their 
counsel, 67 ; finally substantially 
carries Ins point, 6'J-71 ; prolonged 
detention in England, 72 ; vain 
efforts to see Mr. Pitt, 73 ; social 
amenities, 73 ; friendship with Stra- 
han, 74 ; university honors in Eng- 
land and Scotland, 74; fancy for liv- 
ing in England, 75, 76, 85; scheme 
for matrimonial alliance for his 
daughter, 75; and for his son, 75; 
efforts to induce England to retain 
Canada, 77-81 ; deprecates tlie idea 
of American independence, 80, 81; 
predicts the growth of the West, 
82 ; return home and warm wel- 
come, 83 ; chosen to the assem- 
bly, 83; voted an imperfect com- 
pensation, 83 ; unaffected by ap- 
pointment of his son as governor of 
New Jersey, 84 ; postal journey, 85 ; 
prognostications concerning Gov- 
ernor Penn, 86 ; opposition to the 
murdering " Paxton boys," 86-89 ; 
relations with Governor Penn, 89 ; 
a leader on the popular side, 90 ; 
campaign literature, 90-94; chosen 
speaker, to sign petition, 93 ; op- 
posed, and beaten at election for 
assembly in 1764, 95; chosen as 
agent for the colony, in England, 
96-98 ; embarkation at Philadelphia 
and arrival in London, 99 ; position 
and business in Engliuid, 100, 101 ; 
instructed to oppose the Stamp Act, 
104 ; interview with Grenville, 105 ; 
early opinion as to Stamp Act, 
105-107 ; no idea of independence, 
106 ; recommends Mr. Hughes to 
dispense stamps at Philadelphia, 
107 ; consequent unpopularity at 
home, 108, 109 ; falls in with public 
opinion in the States, 110, 120; his 
usefulness in England, 109-112 ; a 
witness before the House of Com- 
mons, 118, 120 ; American 
view as to principle of Stamp Act, 
120, 122 ; willing to hunt and fisli 
for a livelihood, 122 ; upon taxation 
without representation, 122; says 
Americans are not subjects of par- 
liament, 123, 124 ; personal regard 
for George III., 124-126; views as 
to colonial representation in par- 
liament, 126-128 ; on difference be- 

tween internal and externa] taxes, 
128-130 ; asserts willingness of colo- 
nies to bear their share of public 
burdens, 130 ; sudden return of 
popularity in Pennsylvania, 132 ; 
sends a gown to his wife, 132 ; efforts 
to instruct Englishmen concerning 
America, 133 et seq. ; jest as to 
claim of king of Prussia to England, 
134 ; " Rules for reducing a Great 
Empire to a small one," 135; com- 
munication with French govern- 
ment, 136 ; agent of New Jersey, 
Georgia, and Massachusetts, 136 ; 
opposed in Massachusetts, 137 ; posi- 
tion before Englislimen, 137 ; salary, 
137; financial affairs, 138, 143; 
postmastership, 138 ; attempts at 
bribery, 139 ; slandered, 139 ; ad- 
vises moderation, 144 ; on Hillsbor- 
ough's appointment, 150 ; relations 
and interview with Hillsborough, 
151-155 ; no longer recognized as 
agent for Massacliusetts, 156, 157 ; 
on bad terms with Hillsborough, 
156 ; views as to proper cliaracter of 
colonial agents, 157 ; works against 
Hillsborough, 158, and overthrows 
him, 158-162, and is snubbed by 
him, 162 ; argument addressed to 
Privy Council about a frontier prov- 
ince, 161 ; never gets tlie grant, 
163 ; suggests Hillsborough's suc- 
cessor, 163 ; relations with Dart- 
mouth, 164 ; again recognized as 
agent for Massachusetts, 164 ; con- 
versation with Dartmouth about 
quarrel between Hutchinson and 
Massachusetts assembly, 165-167 ; 
desire to restore an earlier status, 
167-169; forebodings of war, 169; 
counsels moderation, 170 ; faith in 
non-importation, 171-173, 174 ; on 
the result of the Stamp Act and the 
Customs Act, 173 ; sends the Hutch- 
inson letters to Massachusetts, 176- 
178 ; exculpates Whately and Tem- 
ple, 180 ; transmits petition to Lord 
Dartmouth, 181 ; notified of hearing 
before Privy Council, 182 ; remarks 
before the council, 183; assailed by 
Wedderbum, 186-188; his velvet 
coat, 188 ; deprived of office as post- 
master, 190 ; resigns agency for 
Massachusetts, 190 ; blamed by Mas- 
sachusetts Assembly, 191 ; speaks 
well of Arthur Lee, 192 ; personal 
danger, charges of treason, 192 ; 
on provincial government, 194 ; in- 
terview with Chatham, 194 ; views 
as to unity of the Empire, 195 ; com- 
plimented by Chatliam in House of 
Lords, 195 ; irritated into address- 
ing an angry memorial to Lord Dart- 



mouth, 196-199 ; secret negotiations 
for conciliation, 199 ; last day in 
England, with Dr. Priestley, 200 ; 
return home, 200 ; letter to Priestley, 
after Lexington and Concord, 202 ; 
to Strahau, 203 ; services in Pro- 
vincial Congress, as to new petition, 
204 ; declaration for Washington, 
204 ; jesting habit, 206 ; plan for a 
union of colonies, 206 ; postmaster 
general, 206 ; chairman of provincial 
committee of safety, 207 ; member 
of the assembly, 207 ; sent to confer 
with Washington at Cambridge, 
207 ; sent to Canada, 208 ; member 
of Constitutional Convention of 
Pennsylvania, 209 ; connection with 
Declaration of Independence, 209, 
210 ; opinion as to voting power of 
States in the confederacy, 210 ; cor- 
respondence with Lord Howe, 211 ; 
interview with him, 212-214; af- 
fected by bloodshed, 214 ; letters to 
Priestley, 215; fitness for diplo- 
macy, 217 et seq. ; gets news from 
France in September, 1776, 228 ; and 
is consequently sent thither, 228 ; 
his voyage, 229, 230; liis arrival, 
228, 230-232; takes quarters at 
Passy, 232 ; way of life, 232 ; audi- 
ence given by de Vergennes, 233; 
in connection with the Deane- 
Beaumarchais business, 234, 236, 
237 ; dealings with foreign military 
officers, 240-243 ; a political proph- 
ecy, 243 ; advises privateering, 245 ; 
connection with privateersmen in 
Europe, 246 et seq. ; protects them 
against French governmental inter- 
ference, 248 ; endeavors to effect 
exchange of prisoners with England, 
250 et seq. ; correspondence with 
Hartley on this subject, 253 et seq. ; I 
methods of business in this matter, | 
256, 257 ; remits money to prisoners, ' 
254, 260; appoints Jonathan Wil- 
liams naval agent, 261 ; consequent ( 
trouble, 201, 262 ; troubled by lack | 
of news from the States, 264 ; keeps 
up his spirits, 264-266 ; gets news 
of Burgoyne's surrender, 267 ; sends 
J. L. Austin to England, 268 ; cor- j 
respondence with Hartley about 
French alliance, 269, 270 ; negotia- 
ting treaties with France, 270-276 ; 
misimderstanding with Lee, 273- 
275 ; writes to Hartley about peace, 
278 ; granted an audience by Louis 
XVI., 279 ; his costume, 280 ; hated 
by George III., 281 ; ideas as to con- 
duct of warfare, 283, 284 ; meeting 
with Voltaire, 285 ; says a good word 
for Deane, 286 ; more assaults on the 
part of Lee, 287-290, 293, 294 ; ad- 

vises establishing a single represen- 
tative at Versailles, 293 ; appointed 
minister plenipotentiary to France, 
294, 295; trouble with Lee about 
official papers, 296; relations vnth 
John Paul Jones, 296, 297 ; troubles 
with Landais and Lee, 208, 299 ; as 
American financier in Europe, 303, 
305, 307 ; lends money to Congress, 
304 ; yields two cargoes to Beau- 
marchais, 306 ; appeals to Thomas 
Morris, 306 ; writes a pamphlet on 
credit of the States, 307 ; agrees to 
meet interest on loan in the States, 
307; annoyed by drafts, 308, 314, 
316, 327, 329, 331 ; not advised con- 
cerning bills drawn, 309 ; vexed by 
demands of Lee and Izard, 310-313 ; 
aids the officers of the Alliance, 
313 ; begging from France, 314, 320, 
321, 323; annoyed by state agents 
seeking loans, 315 ; applied to by 
Jones, 315; assists Jay, 317, 318, 
324, 329, 330; proposes furnishing 
supplies to French fleet, 318 ; urges 
self-help, 318 ; meets drafts on Lau- 
rens, 320, 322, 324 ; fragment of his 
diary, 322; secures a loan in Hol- 
land, 324 ; trouble about Jackson's 
purchases, 324-326 ; called upon to 
meet drafts on John Adams, 326; 
demands of Morris, 326, 329, 331 ; 
asks remittances from America, 
327 ; antedated bills, 328 ; personal 
liability, 327, 328; demands from 
Livingston, 328, 329; warned by 
de Vergennes, 328 ; relations with 
John Adams, 333, 350 ; influence in 
France, 335; discussion of his offi- 
cial life in France, 336-342 ; annoyed 
by rumors from home, 343 ; pa- 
tience, 343 ; effort to resign, 344 ; 
ill-treated by Congress, 344 ; in- 
voked to aid Adams in his trouble 
with de Vergennes, 346-351 ; opin- 
ions as to paper money, 351 ; ap- 
proached by Pulteney, as to peace, 
352 ; share in the de Weissenstein 
episode, 352-354; approached by 
Hartley, as to truce, 354 ; feelings 
toward England , 354, 355 ; as to re- 
union with England, 355 ; as to 
choice between England and France, 
356 ; one of the Commission to treat 
for peace, 358 ; refuses to treat sep- 
arately from France, 358, 359 ; op- 
portune note to Shelbume, 359 ; 
first interview with Oswald, 360 ; 
second interview, 362 ; refuses to 
negotiate separately from France, 
363 ; urges Jay's presence, 365 ; 
asks to treat with Oswald, 366 ; 
agrees with Oswald, 367 ; opinion 
as to Oswald's commission, 368; 



criticises Jay's letter, 369; differs 
with Jay, 370, 372-374 ; on compen- 
sation to American royalists, 375, 
376 ; antipathy to American royal- 
ists, 377 ; correspondence with de 
Vergennes as to the secret treating, 
379, 382 ; blamed by Congress, 382 ; 
and by others, 383 ; vindicated, 384 ; 
fend with the Adams family, 385 ; 
discussion of his part in making the 
treaty, 386-391 ; opinion of de Ver- ! 
gennes, 388 ; again resigns, 391 ; re- \ 
tained for commercial treaties, 391 ; j 
leave to retire, 392 ; Jefferson's tes- ! 
timony as to his position in France, 
392-394 ; departure from France, 
395 ; voyage, 396 ; arrival at home, 
397 ; councilor, 397 ; devotes sal- 
ary to public use, 398 ; proposal for 
repaying Britisli debts, 399 ; encour- 
aging views, 4(X); member of the 
Constitutional Convention, 401-405 ; 
comes out for Washington, 405; 
physical ills, 406 ; feeling about 
French revolution, 408 ; anti-slavery 
efforts, 409, 410 ; condemns the lib- 
erty of the press, 409 ; last illness 
and death, 410 ; ill treatment ex- 
perienced at the hands of Congress, 
411, 412 ; French action concerning 
his death, 413 ; reflections on his 
character, abilities, and life, 413- 

Franklin, Mrs. Deborah, receives 
Franklin's illegitimate son, 16 ; let- 
ter to, 74; dread of crossing the 
Atlantic, 75, 76 ; in the Stamp Act 
riots, 108; Franklin's present of a 
gown to, 132 ; dies, 201. See Read, 
Miss Deborah. 

Franklin, James, early relations with 
Benjamin, 4, 5. 

Franklin, Josiah, emigration and mar- 
riages of, 2 ; refuses to aid Franklin 
in setting up as a printer, 7. 

Franklin, Sarah, offer of marriage, 75 ; 
and the Stamp Act riots, 108 ; mar- 
ries, 201. 

Franklin, Temple, his unrequited ser- 
vices, 243, 245, 339, 411. 

Franklin, William, birth, 16 ; will not 
marry Mary Stevenson, 75 ; appoint- 
ed governor of New Jersey, 83 ; and 
becomes a Tory, 84 ; last interview 
with his father, 396. 

Gadsden, Christopher, 106, 109. 
Galloway, Joseph, speech of, 93; de- j 

feated at election for Assembly, 96. . 
Gates, General, 269, 277, 295. j 

" Gentleman's Magazine," The, on j 

Franklin's examination, 120. I 

George III., anxious for peace with j 

France in 1759^Q«. 77 ; displaces 1 

Grenville, 113 ; Franklin's opinion 
of, 124-126; hatred of Shelburne, 
147, 148 ; vexed with Hillsborough, 
158 ; hatred of Franklin, 281 ; and 
de Weissenstein, 353; makes Shel- 
burne prime minister, 3G6. 

George IV., 268. 

Gerard, M., negotiates with colonial 
commissioners, 270-276 ; liberal pro- 
fessions to them, 282 ; claims credit 
for ousting Arthur Lee, 294. 

Gibbon, Edward, quoted, 276, 281. 

Grand, M., the banker, 310, 322, 331. 

Granville, Lord, interview with Frank- 
lin concerning colonial politics, 65, 


Greene, General, on Franklin, 207. 

Grenville, George, 178; in the treas- 
ury department, 103 ; schemes con- 
cerning colonial taxation, 103, 104 ; 
interview with Franklin, 105; pro- 
cures from Franklin nomination of 
stamp distributor, 107 ; and the 
Stamp Act, 112, 113, 142 ; on exter- 
nal and internal taxes, 128, 130. 

Grenville, Thomas, mission to Paris, 
361, 363-366 ; recalled, 367 ; remarks 
concerning obligations to France, 

Guadaloupe, question of retaining, 77 
et seq. 

Hall, David, fellow-workman of Frank- 
lin, 9 ; taken into partnership, 39. 

Hamilton, Alexander, 340, 403. 

Hamilton, Governor, superseded, 86. 

Harrison, Benjamin, 207, 210. 

Hartley, David, 252, 359; and the 
American prisoners, 253, 255-258 ; 
advice as to alliance with France, 
269 ; and the conciliatory bills and 
peace, 278, 279 ; warning to Frank- 
lin, 284 ; proposes truce, 354 ; about 
a peace, 356. 

Harvard College makes Franklin mas- 
ter of arts, 43. 

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 214, 280. 

Henry, Patrick, 106, 109. 

Hillsborough, Earl of, placed in 
charge of the colonies, 150 ; Frank- 
lin's opinion of, and relations with, 
150 et seq., 156; interview with 
Franklin, 152-156 ; precarious ten- 
ure of office, 158 ; vexes the king, 
158 ; loses his place on the question 
of granting lands, 159-162 ; resent- 
ment against Franklin, 162 ; speaks 
ill of the colonists, 163, 164. 

Hortalez & Co. , firm of, 226, 227, 255. 

Howe, Lord, efforts at conciliation, in 
England, 199 ; and in America, 211- 
214 ; captures Philadelphia, 264. 

Hughes, nominated stamp distributor, 



Hume, David, 74. 

Hunter, William, associated with 
Franklin in managing the post-of- 
fice, 42. 

Hutchinson, Anne, 176, note. 

Hutchinson, Governor Thomas, 182, 
note, 183 ; quarrels with Massa- 
chusetts Assembly and irritates the 
ministry, 165 ; his letters, 175 et 
seq. ; position in Massachusetts, 
176, note ; petition for his removal, 
181 ; favors arrest of Franklin, 193. 

Izard, 217, 290, 295; meddles in the 
treaty negotiations, 275 ; traduces 
Deane, 286 ; and Franklin, 286, 289, 
294, 393; exorbitant demands for 
money rebuked by Franklin, 310- 

Jackson, William, demands for money, 
324, 325. 

Jay, John, 217, 383, 391; financial 
trouble in Spain, 303, 316, 318, 326 ; 
aided by Frankhn, 317, 327, 329, 
330 ; feeling towards Franklin, 338, 
341, 342, 365, 393; on peace com- 
mission, 358 ; comes to Paris, 365 ; 
ill, 367 ; objects to Oswald's com- 
mission, 367 ; letter on the subject, 
369; suspicious of de Vergennes, 
369, 370, 373 ; persuades Vaughan to 
go secretly to London, 370 ; desires 
to treat without communication 
with de Vergennes, 373 ; takes 
charge of boundaries and navigation 
of Mississippi, 374, 375; angry at 
congressional reproof, 382 ; testi- 
mony in behalf of Franklin, 384 ; 
his part in the negotiation, 386. 

Jefferson, Thomas, and Declaration of 
Independence, 210 ; French mission, 
229 ; on peace commission, 345, 358 ; 
tribute to Franklin, 392-394, 395. 

Jones, John Paul, his doings and re- 
lations with Franklin, 296, 297; 
trouble with Landais, 298; applies 
for money, 315. 

Junto, the, established, 33 ; aids in es- 
tablishing fire companies, 38. 

Kames, Lord, 74 ; letter to, as to 
"Art of Virtue," 31 ; letter to, on 
leaving England, 76 ; letter to, as to 
growth of the West, 82. 

Kant, Immanuel, calls Franklin Pro- 
metheus, etc., 59. 

Keimer, Franklin's employer, 6, 11 ; 
publishes a newspaper, and sells it, 

Keith, Sir William ; behavior to 
Franklin, 6-8. 

Knox, agent for Georgia, favors a 
Stamp Act, 104. 

Lafayette, Marquis de, recommended 
by Franklin, 243 ; aids Franklin to 
raise money, 329, 331. 

Landais, Captain, his misbehavior, 298, 

Laurens, Henry, 217, 384; complains 
of Franklin, 260 ; drafts on, 320, 
322 ; on peace commission, 358 ; 
friendly towards Franklin, 393. 

Laurens, John, expenses in Holland, 

Lee, Arthur, 183, 217, 270, 295 ; slan- 
ders Franklin, 139, 192, 288, 290, 
291, 294, 299, 393 ; praised by Frank- 
lin, 192; succeeds Franklin, 200; 
meets Beaumarchais, 222 ; commis- 
sioner to France, 229 ; traduces 
Deane, 235, 237 ; vituperates Wil- 
liams, 261 ; sides with Franklin, 
against Deane, 267 ; jealousy of 
Franklin, the cake story , 272 ; makes 
trouble about the alliance, 274, 275 ; 
not told of departure of Deane and 
Gerard, 286 ; comments upon, 287 ; 
general unpopularity, 288 ; exces- 
sive demands for money, 293, 310, 
312 ; removed from French com- 
j mission, 294, 295 ; bad behavior as 
' to official papers of French commis- 
sion, 295 ; return home, 299 ; spoils 
a loan, 313 ; relies on Franklin, 338. 

Lee, John, counsel for Franklin, 185, 

Lee, William, 217 ; and the Williams 
affair, 261 ; meddles in the French 
mediations, 275 ; traduces Franklin, 

Lincoln, Abraham, 265. 

Livingston, letters to, 319, 331 ; letters 
from, 328, 329, 382. 

" London Chronicle," letters of Frank- 
lin published in, 46, 

Loudoun, Lord, dispatched to the 
provinces, 63 ; his character and be- 
havior, 63, 64, 

Louis XVI,, 222, 223, 225 ; polite 
speech to American commissioners, 
279 ; civilities to Franklin, 395. 

Lovell, James, letter to, 308. 

Madison, James, story of the rising or 

. the setting sun, 405. 

Mansfield, Lord, interview with Frank- 
lin as to the disputes with the Penns, 
69 ; supports principle of Stamp 
Act, 117. 

Mason, J. M., 229, 230. 

Mather, Cotton, 2. 

Mauduit, Israel, 183. 

Meredith, , Franklin's partner, 

11, 12. 

Mirabeau, Comte de, eulogy on Frank- 
lin, 113. 

Morris, Robert, 300, 303 ; in matter of 



Tliomas Morris, 201 ; demands for 
money, 3'2(5, 328-331. 
Morris, Tliomas, '217, '2G0, 201, 30G. 

Necker, Jacques, loan to the States, 

" New England Courant," 5. 

Noailles, Marquis de, announces alli- 
ance between France and United 
States, 280. 

Norris, Isaac, speaker of Pennsylvania 
Assembly, 02 ; resigns rather than 
sign petition, 93. 

North, Lord, 301 ; chancellor of ex- 
chequer, 150 ; at privy council hear- 
ing,- 187 ; and conciliation, 199 ; and \ 
Hartley, 253 ; introduces concilia- j 
tory bills after Burgoyne's surren- 
der, 277 ; admits the alliance with 
France, 278 ; receives news of Corn- | 
wallis's surrender, 358 ; resigns, 359. 

Oliver, Lieutenant-Governor, 184 ; his I 
letters, 175 ; petition for his re- I 
TOOval, 181. ! 

Oswald, Richard, opens talk about j 
peace, 300 ; second interview, 302 ; j 
difficulties as to his authority, 365- 
308 ; receives new commission, 371 ; 
and treats, 372 et seq. \ 

Otis, James, 106. 

Oxford, University of, makes Frank- 
lin doctor of laws, 74. 

Parton, James, life of Franklin cited, 
16, 23, 35, 206, 219, 229, 237, 238, 
268, 278, 279, 280, 401, 408, 412. 

" Paxton boys," massacre and riot, 
86-88 ; the affair excites hostility 
toward Franklin, 89, 95. 

Pelham, Henry, 103. 

Penn, the family of, proprietaries, re- 
lations with the people, 49, 59-03 ; 
efforts of Franklin to negotiate with, 
GO et seq. ; their position concerning 
taxation, 07-70 ; beaten, 71 ; send 
one of their number to be governor, 
86 ; Franklin's ho.stility to, miti- 
gated, 94, note. 

PeiKi, John, made governor, 80 ; be- 
havior in the matter of the Paxton 
massacre and riot, 88 ; hostility to- 
ward Franklin, 89 ; his vetoes, 89, 

Penn, Richard, Franklin's famous epi- 
taph for, 94. 

Penn, Thomas, 49, O.", 80 ; Franklin's 
famous epitaph for, 94. 

" Pennsylvania Gazette," published 
by Franklin, 12, 13, 23; articles in, 

Pitt, William, 73, 82, 103; opposes 
Stamp Act, 112, 115, 117; fails to 
form a cabinet, 113; will not take I 

office, 116 ; reforms the Rockingham 
ministry, 146 ; backs Shelburne, 
147 ; statue to, in America, 148 ; se- 
clusion, 148, 149 ; Franklin's inter- 
view with, 194, 195 ; compliments 
Franklin in of Lords, 195. 

" Plain Truth " published, 39. 

" Poor Richard's Almanac," 21-23. 

Pownall, Governor, scheme for " bar- 
rier " colonies, 56, 

Pratt, John J. Cee Camden, Marquis 

Priestley, Dr., concerning privy coun- 
cil hearing, 187 ; passes day with 
Franklin, 200; letter to, at out- 
break of war, 202 ; humorous letter 
to, 215 ; and Austin, 208, 

Pulteney,William,mission about peace, 

Ray, Catherine, letter to, 14. 
Rayneval, F. M, G. de, views as to 

western lands, 309 ; secret mission 

to London, 370. 
Read, Miss Deborah, first sees Frank- 
lin, ; subsequent career, 14, 15 ; 

marries Franklin, 15. See Frank- 

Im, Mrs. Deborah. 
Rockingham, Marquis of ; his cabinet, 

113; position as to Stamp Act, 117 ; 

his cabinet revamped, 145, 146 ; on 

Franklin's French mission, 231 ; 

second cabinet, 360 ; death, 360. 
Robertson, Dr., 74. 
" Rules for reducing a Great Empire," 

etc., 135. 
Rush, Dr., 228. 
Rutledge, Edward, at conference with 

Lord Howe, 212-214. 

Sandwich, Lord, assails Franklin, 195. 

Serapis, Tha, 297, 298. 

Shelburne, Earl of, enters cabinet, and 
his position therein, 140-148 ; backed 
by Pitt, 147 ; opposed by Town- 
shend, 140-148; hated by George III., 
147, 148 ; superseded, 150 ; entertains 
Austin, 208 ; letter of Franklin to, 
359 ; in Rockingham cabinet, 300 ; 
opens talk about peace, 300 ; differ- 
ences with Fox, 301, 306 ; scheme 
for ''federal union," 362; prime 
minister, 306 ; his position in re- 
spect of the treaty, 367, 308 ; an 
arbiter between France and the 
States, 370, 371 ; earnest in behalf 
of An)*»rican royalists, 375 ; but 
yields, 376 ; thrust from power, 378. 

Shirley, William, Governor, plan for 
assembly of colonial governors, 46 ; 
for representation of colonies in Par- 
liament, 48 ; appoints auditors for 
claims inider Braddock's expedition, 
54 ; qualifications as a soldier, 55. 



Sit^yes, Abb6 E. J. de, 413. 

blidell, John, 229, 230. 

" Society of the Free and Easy," 33. 

Stamp Act, the, 101, 103, 104, 107, 
112, 143, 145, 167, 168 ; passed, 105; 
Franklin's feeling about, 105 et seq. ; 
effect in England, 114 ; opposed by 
Pitt, 112, 115 ; Rockingham's posi- 
tion, 117 ; debate on principle of, 
117 ; Franklin's examination in con- 
nection with, 120 et seq. ; repealed, 
131 ; causes of repeal, 141 ; opinion 
as to repeal, 141, 142 ; financial re- 
sults of, 173. 

St. Andrews, University of, makes 
Franklin doctor of laws, 74. 

St. Asaph, Bishop of, 278, 395, 402, 
note, 408. 

Steuben, Baron, introduced by Frank- 
lin, 243. 

Stevenson, Mary, 100 ; Franklin wish- 
es his son to marry, 75 ; letter to, 85. 

Stevenson, Mrs. , 100. 

Stiles, Ezra, letter to, 28. 

Stormont, Lord, interferes with Beau- 
marcliais, 227 ; on Franklin's recep- 
tion in France, 231 ; reply to Frank- 
lin concerning exchange of prisoners, 
250 ; leaves Paris, 281. 

Strachey, Henrj', sent to Paris, 372. 

Strahan, William, 74 ; offers matrimo- 
nial alliance, 75 ; letter to, on leav- 
ing England, 76 ; letter to, as to 
welcome home, 83 ; letter of enmi- 
ty to, 203. 

Sullivan, General, 212. 

Temple, , and the Hutchinson let- 
ters, 178-181. 

Thomson, Charles, letters to, 105, 411. 

Thornton, Major, agent to aid prison- 
ers, 254. 

Townshend, Charles, 104 ; in charge of 
colonial business, 102 ; his schemes, 
102 ; succeeded by Grenville, 103 ; 
hostility to colonies, 115 ; favors re- 
peal of Stamp Act, 142 ; chancellor 
of the exchequer, 146 ; position in 
liostility to Shelburne on colonial 
aifairs, 146-148 ; proposal for colo- 
nial taxation, 149 ; dies, 150. 

Tnixton, Commodore, 396. 

Turgot, views as to aiding the colo- 
nies, 224 ; displaced, 225 ; on French 
finances, 314. 

Union Fire Company established, 38. 
University of Pennsylvania, 37. 

Vaughan, Benjamin, mission to Lord 

Shelburne, 370, 371 ; about the roy- 
alists question, 376. 

Vergennes, Comte de, foresees Amer- 
ican independence, 82 ; views as to 
aiding the colonies, 223, 225; ar- 
rangements with Beaumarchais, 226, 
227 ; upon Franklin's arrival in 
France, 231 ; gives audience to co- 
lonial commissioners, 233 ; and the 
colonial privateers, 247, 248 ; charges 
of selfishness apaiust, 249 ; secret 
interview with colonial commission- 
ers, 270 ; liberal dealing witli them, 
282 ; as to Lee, 286, 288 ; financial 
applications to, 320, 323, 327, 328, 
330 ; liking for Franklin, 342, 393 ; 
trouble with John Adams as to pa- 
per money, 345-349; and the de 
Weissenstein letter, 353 ; trusted by 
Franklin, 357, 388-390; dislikes 
Adams, 367 ; influence in matter of 
peace commission, 357 ; at first sug- 
gestions of peace, 359, 360 ; amused 
at English propositions, 363 ; puz- 
zled, 3G5 ; opinion as to Oswald's 
commission, 367 ; suspicions against, 
368-370, 380 ; on the treaty of peace, 
378 ; anger at the secret treating, 

Voltaire meets Franklin, 285. 

Walpole, Horace, on Franklin's em- 
barkation, 229 ; and the French al- 
liance, 277. 

Walpole, Sir Robert, 103. 

Walpole, Thomas, 277 ; advice to 
Franklin, 197-199. 

Washington, George, 204, 241, 264, 
295, 303, 304, 323, 335, 340, 353, 398, 
413 ; visited by Pennsylvania dele- 
gation, 207 ; president, 405. 

Wedderburn, Alexander, Solicitor- 
General, at the hearing before the 
privy council, 183, 184, 186, 187. 

Weissenstein. See de Weissensteiyi. 

Whately, Thomas, and the Hutchinson 
letters, 178-181 ; sues Franklin, 185. 

Whately, William, and the Hutchin- 
son letters, 178. 

Williams, Jonathan, 217, 294, 322 ; re- 
ceives appointment from Franklin, 

' 261; displaced, 262; ill-treated, 263, 

Wyndham, Sir William, propo-ses to 
Franklin to teach swimming, 10. 

Yale College makes Franklin master 
of arts, 43. 

Yorke, Charles, counsel for Pennsyl- 
vania, 67. 

amertcatt Comnton\»ealt|)8. 



A seiies of volumes narrating the history of suck 
States of the Union as have exerted a positive influ- 
ence in the shaping of the national government, or 
have a striking political, social, or economical history, 

The commonwealth has always been a positive force 
in American history, and it is believed that no bettei 
time could be found for a statement of the life inher- 
ent in the States than when the unity of the nation 
has been assured ; and it is hoped by this means to 
throw new light upon the development of the country, 
and to give a fresh point of view for the study of 
American history. 

This series is under the editorial care of Mr. H6.- 
ace E. Scudder, who is well known both as a student 
of American history and as a writer. 

The aim of the Editor will be to secure trustworthy 
and graphic narratives, which shall have substantial 
value as historical monographs and at the si'me tine 
do full justice to the picturesque elements of the svL* 
jects. The volumes are uniform in size and general 
style with the series of ** American Statesmen " and 
"American Men of Letters," and are furnished with 
maps, indexes, and such brief critical apparatus as 
add to the thoroughness of the work. 

Speaking of the series, the Boston journal says: 
" It is clear that this series will occupy an entirely neM 
place in our historical literature. Written by compe- 
tent and aptly chosen authors, from fresh materials, 
in convenient form, and with a due regard to propor- 
tion and proper emphasis, they promise to supply 
most sati,sfactorily a positive want-*' 


Vtrginia. A History of the People. By John Esten 
Cooke, author of "The Virginia Comedians," 
"Life of Stonewall Jackson," "Life of General 
Robert E. Lee," etc. 

Oregon. The Struggle for Possession. By William 
Barrows, D. D. 

Maryland. By William Hand Browne, Associate 
of Johns Hopkins University. 

Kentucky. By Nathaniel Southgate Shaler, S. D., 
Professor of Palaeontology, Harvard University, re- 
cently Director of the Kentucky State Survey. 

Michigan. By Hon. T. M. Cooley, LL. D. 

Kansas. By Leverett W. Spring, lately Professor 
of English Literature in the University of Kansas. 

California. By Josiah Royce, Assistant Professor of 
Philosophy in Harvard University. 

New York. By Hon. Ellis H. Roberts, LL. D., 2 vols. 

Connecticut. By Alexander Johnston, LL. D., au- 
thor of a " Handbook of American Politics," late 
Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Economy 
in the College of New Jersey. 

Missouri. By Lucien Carr, M. A., Assistant Curator 
of the Peabody Museum of Archaeology. 

Indiana. A Redemption from Slavery. By J, P. Dunn, 
Jr., author of " Massacres of the Mountains." 

Ohio. First-Fruits of the Ordinance of 1787. By 
Hon. RuFUS King. 


New Jersey. By Austin Scott, Ph. D., Professor of 
History, etc., in Rutgers College. 

Pennsylvania. By Hon. Wayne MacVeagh, late At- 
torney-General of the United States. 

Illinois. By E. G. Mason. 

Other volumes to be announced hereafter. Each 

volume, with Map, i6mo» gilt top, $1.25. 



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of the settlement of Virginia is told in full. ... It is made as 
interesting as a romance. — The Critic (New York). 

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etory of Virginia's history. — Educational Journal of Virginia 
(Richmond, Va.). 


The long and interesting story of the struggle of five nations 
for the possession of Oregon is told in the graphic and reliable 
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American civilization upon the Pacific coast. — Springfield Re- 

There is so much that is new and informing embodied in this 
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Professor Shaler has made use of much valuable existing ma- 
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A capital example of what a short State history should be. -^ 
Hartford Courant. 


In all respects one of the very best of the series. . . . His work 
exhibits diligent research, discrimination in the selection of ma- 
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struggle. — Hartford Courant, 


An ably written and charmingly interesting volume. . . . For 
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of events, and for brilliancy and ability in the service of the lead- 
ing actors, the history of Michigan offers rare attractions ; and 
the writer of it has brought to his task the most excellent gifts 
and powers as a vigorous, impartial, and thoroughly accomplished 
historian. — Christian Register (Boston). 


Mr. Royce has made an admirable study. He has established 
his view and fortified his position with a wealth of illustration 
from incident and reminiscence. The story is made altogether 
entertaining. ... Of the country and its productions, of pioneer 
life and character, of social and political questions, of business 
and industrial enterprises, he has given us full and intelligent ac- 
counts. — Boston Transcript. 

It is the most truthful and graphic description that has been 
written of this wonderful history which has from time to time 
been written in scraps and sketches. — Chicago Ittter-Ocean. 

HOUGHTON, MIFFLIN & CO., Publishers, 
Boston and New York. 

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