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The True Benjamin Franklin 


The True 

Benjamin Franklin 


Sydney George Fisher 

Author of " Men, Women, and Manners in Colonial Times,' 
' The Making of Pennsylvania," " The Evolu- 
tion of the Constitution," etc. 

" If rigid moral analysis be not the purpose of historical 
writing, there is no more value in it than in the fictions of 
mythological antiquity." CHARLES FRANCIS ADAMS, SR. 



J. B. Lippincott Company 



Preface to the Third Edition 

SINCE the appearance of the first edition there has 
been some discussion of the question whether Mrs. 
Foxcroft was really Franklin's daughter. In the 
present edition I have added an appendix going 
fully into this question. 

Franklin's plain language about love and marriage 
and his very frank descriptions of his own short- 
comings in these matters seem to have surprised 
many people. I might have explained this more 
fully in the first edition, but to any one who knows 
the age in which Franklin lived there is nothing that 
need cause surprise. 

It was an age of frank autobiographies and plain, 
detailed, introspective statements about love affairs. 
Rousseau flourished in those days, also Gozzi and 
Madame Roland ; and Casanova began writing his 
most extraordinary memoirs just about the time of 
Franklin's death. Anyone who is at all familiar with 
these authors will readily understand why Franklin 
wrote his " Advice on the Choice of a Mistress." His 
" Speech of Polly Baker " was of the same sort. It had 
a most extraordinary circulation because people were 
then looking at these matters from that point of view. 
The philosophic thought of that age was somewhat 
inclining to the opinion, since then much developed 



by German theorists like Nietzche, that religion had 
made love impure. Franklin, as at page 106, was 
also inclining that way. 

Such things must be mentioned and given their 
proper position and importance in a book calling itself 
" The True Benjamin Franklin." There are many 
books describing the false Franklin, the impossible 
Franklin, the Franklin that never existed, and could 
not in the nature of things exist, and to these books 
those who do not like the truth are referred. 



THIS analysis of the life and character of Franklin 
has in view a similar object to that of the volume 
entitled "The True George Washington," which was 
prepared for the publishers by Mr. Paul Leicester 
Ford and issued a year or two ago. 

Washington sadly needed to be humanized, to be 
rescued from the myth-making process which had 
been destroying all that was lovable in his character 
and turning him into a mere bundle of abstract 
qualities which it was piously supposed would be 
wholesome examples for the American people. This 
assumption that our people are children who must 
not be told the eternal truths of human nature, but 
deceived into goodness by wooden heroes and lay 
figures, seems, fortunately, to be passing away, and 
in a few years it will be a strange phase to look back 

So thorough and systematic has been the expur- 
gating during the last century that some of its details 
are very curious. It is astonishing how easily an 
otherwise respectable editor or biographer can get 
himself into a state of complete intellectual dishon- 
esty. It is interesting to follow one of these literary 
criminals and see the minute care with which he 
manufactures an entirely new and imaginary being 
out of the real man who has been placed in his 
hands. He will not allow his victim to say even a 


single word which he considers unbecoming. The 
story is told that Washington wrote in one of his 
letters that a certain movement of the enemy would 
not amount to a flea-bite ; but one of his editors 
struck out the passage as unfit to be printed. He 
thought, I suppose, that Washington could not take 
care of his own dignity. 

Franklin in his Autobiography tells us that when 
working as a journeyman printer in London he 
drank nothing but water, and his fellow-workmen, 
in consequence, called him the " Water-American ;" 
but Weems in his version of the Autobiography 
makes him say that they called him the " American 
Aquatic," an expression which the vile taste of that 
time was pleased to consider elegant diction. In 
the same way Temple Franklin made alterations in 
his grandfather's writings, changing their vigorous 
Anglo-Saxon into stilted Latin phrases. 

It is curious that American myth-making is so 
unlike the ancient myth-making which as time went 
on made its gods and goddesses more and more hu- 
man with mortal loves and passions. Our process is 
just the reverse. Out of a man who actually lived 
among us and of whose life we have many truthful 
details we make an impossible abstraction of idealized 
virtues. It may be said that this could never happen 
among a people of strong artistic instincts, and we 
have certainly in our conceptions of art been the- 
atrical and imitative rather than dramatic and real. 
Possibly the check which is being given to our pe- 
culiar myth-making is a favorable sign for our art 

The myth-makers could not work with Franklin 


in quite the same way that they worked with Wash- 
ington. With Washington they ignored his personal 
traits and habits, building him up into a cold military 
and political wonder. But Franklin's human side 
would not down so easily. The human in him was 
so interlaced with the divine that the one dragged 
the other into light His dramatic and artistic sense 
was very strong, far stronger than in most distin- 
guished Americans ; and he made so many plain 
statements about his own shortcomings, and followed 
pleasure and natural instincts so sympathetically, 
broadly, and openly, that the efforts to prepare him 
for exhibition are usually ludicrous failures. 

But the eulogists soon found an effective way to 
handle him. Although they could ignore certain 
phases of his character only so far as the genial old 
fellow would let them, they could exaggerate the 
other phases to an almost unlimited extent ; for his 
career was in many ways peculiarly open to exag- 
geration. It was longer, more varied, and more full 
of controversy than Washington's. Washington was 
twenty-six years younger than Franklin and died 
at the age of sixty-seven, while Franklin lived to be 
eighty-four. Washington's important public life was 
all covered by the twenty- two years from 1/75 * 
1797, and during more than three of those years he 
was in retirement at Mount Vernon. But Franklin 
was an active politician, philosopher, man of science, 
author, philanthropist, reformer, and diplomat for 
the forty-odd years from 1745 to 1788. 

Almost every event of his life has been distorted 
until, from the great and accomplished man he really 



was, he has been magnified into an impossible 
prodigy. Almost everything he wrote about in 
science has been put down as a discovery. His 
wonderful ability in expressing himself has assisted 
in this ; for if ten men wrote on a subject and Frank- 
lin was one of them, his statement is the one most 
likely to be preserved, because the others, being infe- 
rior in language, are soon forgotten and lost. 

Every scrap of paper he wrote upon is now consid- 
ered a precious relic and a great deal of it is printed, 
so that statements which were but memoranda or 
merely his way of formulating other men's knowl- 
edge for his own convenience or for the sake of 
writing a pleasant letter to a friend, are given undue 
importance. Indeed, when we read one of these 
letters or memoranda it is so clearly and beautifully 
expressed and put in such a captivating form that, 
as the editor craftily forbears to comment on it, we 
instinctively conclude that it must have been a gift 
of new knowledge to mankind. 

The persistency with which people have tried to 
magnify Franklin is curiously shown in the peculiar 
way in which James Logan's translation of Cicero's 
essay on old age was attributed to him. This trans- 
lation with notes and a preface was made by Logan 
and printed in 1744 by Franklin in his Philadelphia 
printing-office, and at the foot of the title-page 
Franklin's name appeared as the printer. In 1778 
the book was reprinted in London, with Franklin's 
name on the title-page as the translator. In 1809 
one of his editors, William Duane, actually had 
this translation printed in his edition of Franklin's 



works. The editor was afterwards accused of having 
done this with full knowledge that the translation 
had not been made by Franklin ; but, under the 
code of literary morals which has so long prevailed, 
I suppose he would be held excusable. 

One of Franklin's claims to renown is that he was 
a self-made man, the first distinguished American 
who was created in that way ; and it would seem, 
therefore, all the more necessary that he should be 
allowed to remain as he made himself. I have en- 
deavored to act upon this principle and so far as 
possible to let Franklin speak for himself. The ana- 
lytical method of writing a man's life is well suited 
to this purpose. There are already chronological 
biographies of Franklin in two volumes or more giv- 
ing the events in order with very full details from his 
birth to his death. The present single volume is 
more in the way of an estimate of his position, worth, 
and work, and yet gives, I believe, every essential fact 
of his career with enough detail to enable the reader 
to appreciate it At the same time the chapters 
have been arranged with such regard to chronological 
order as to show the development of character and 
achievement from youth to age. 

















List of Illustrations with Notes 



Painted from life by Duplessis in Paris in 1778, and 
believed to be the best likeness of Franklin. The repro- 
duction is from the original in the Academy of Fine Arts, 
Philadelphia, by permission of the owner. Duplessis also 
made a pastel drawing of Franklin in 1783, which has often 
been reproduced. 


This picture is copied from an engraving on the title-page 
of the old English edition of Franklin's Works, published 
in 1806 by J. Johnson & Co., London. 


Painted, as is supposed, in London in 1736, when he was 
twenty years old, and now in the possession of Harvard 
University. Its history and the doubts as to its authenticity 
are given in the text. 


Painted by Martin in England in 1765, at the request of 
Mr. Robert Alexander, for whom Franklin had performed 
a service in examining some documents and giving his 


Painted by Otto Grundmann, a German artist in America, 
after a careful study of Franklin's career and of the por- 
traits of him taken from life. The original is now in the 
Boston Art Museum. 


Franklin's parents lived in this house, which stood on Milk 
Street, Boston, until 1810, when it was destroyed by fire. 


From a photograph kindly furnished by the Mechanics' 
Institute of Boston, in whose rooms the press is exhibited. 





The changes in the Venite on the left-hand page are by 
Franklin, and perhaps also those in the Te Deum. The 
changes in the rubrics are by Lord Despencer, and pos- 
sibly he also made the changes in the Te Deum. The 
copy of the prayer-book from which this reproduction is 
made is in the collection of Mr. Howard Edwards, of 


Reproduced by permission of the Historical Society of 
Pennsylvania from the painting in their possession. It 
has been supposed by some to be a portrait of Franklin ; 
but it has not the slightest resemblance to his other por- 
traits, and the letter held in the hand is addressed to John 


Born 1730, died 1813; son of Benjamin Franklin; was 
Governor of New Jersey from 1762 to 1776, when he be- 
came a Tory. The reproduction is from an etching by 
Albert Rosenthal of the portrait once temporarily in the 
Philadelphia Library and owned by Dr. T. Hewson Bache, 
of Philadelphia. 


Born 1760, died 1823, son of William Franklin, Governor 
of New Jersey. He was brought up principally by his 
grandfather, for whom he acted as secretary in Paris, dur- 
ing the Revolution, and by whom he was saved from fol- 
lowing his father to Toryism. The reproduction is from 
an etching by Albert Rosenthal of the portrait in the 
Trumbull Collection, Yale School of Art. 


This reproduction is from the portrait painted by Matthew 
Pratt, and now in the possession of Rev. F. B. Hodge, 
of Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania. 




This picture is copied from an engraved reproduction 
which has often appeared in books relating to Franklin; 
but none of these reproductions are faithful copies of the 
original painting, which represents an older and less hand- 
some woman, with more rugged features and more resem- 
blance to Franklin. Permission to reproduce the painting 
could not be secured. 


Reproduced by permission from the collection of the His- 
torical Society of Pennsylvania. 

Reproduced by permission from the collection of the His- 
torical Society of Pennsylvania. 


These figures accompanied Franklin's letter to Alphonsus 
Le Roy on maritime improvements. 


William Strahan was Franklin's intimate friend, although 
they differed on the subject of the Revolution. The letter 
was half jest, half earnest, and in this tone Franklin always 
wrote to him on political subjects. In 1784 he wrote him 
an affectionate, but teasing and sarcastic letter on the suc- 
cess of the Revolution. 


From an old French engraving in the collection of Mr. 
Clarence S. Bement, of Philadelphia. Death has seized 
Franklin and is dragging him to the lower world. The 
figure half kneeling is America, with her bow and arrows 
and the skin of a wild beast, imploring Death to spare her 
deliverer. Fame is flying in the air, with a crape on her 
arm and a trumpet, announcing that le grand Franklin has 
saved his country and given her liberty in spite of tyrants. 
The spirit of Philosophy and a warrior are weeping at the 
foot of the monument, on which is a lightning-rod ; while 
France, a fair, soft woman, seizes Franklin in her arms to 
bear him to the sky. 





From an old French engraving in the collection of Mr. 
Clarence S. Bement, of Philadelphia. Like the preceding 
one, from the same collection, it represents America as a 
savage, in accordance with the French ideas of that time. 

From an old French engraving in the collection of Mr. 
Clarence S. Bement, of Philadelphia. The figure with her 
arm on Franklin's lap is America. 


The cups and saucers are Dresden china, given him by 
Madame Helvetius. The china punch-barrel was given 
him by Count d'Artois ; the wine-glass is one of the heavy 
kind then in use; the picture-frame contains a printed 
dinner invitation sent by him to the members of the Con- 
stitutional Convention of 1787. 


The kings of France at that time usually gave their por- 
trait to a foreign ambassador on his return to his country. 
This one, by Sicardi, which was given to Franklin, was 
formerly surrounded by two rows of four hundred and 
eight diamonds, and was probably worth from ten to fifteen 
thousand dollars. It is now in the possession of Mr. J. 
May Duane, of Philadelphia, by whose permission it is 


A pencil drawing with Benjamin West's name on the 
back, now the property of Hon. S. W. Pennypacker, of 
Philadelphia. It is supposed by some authorities to be 
merely a copy of the bust by Ceracchi ; others believe it 
to be a drawing from life by West. 


The flat stone marks the grave of Franklin and his wife. 
The larger upright stone is in memory of John Read, Mrs. 
Franklin's father, and the smaller one is in memory of 
Franklin's son, Francis, who died in infancy. 

The True 
Benjamin Franklin 


FRANKLIN was a rather large man, and is supposed 
to have been about five feet ten inches in height 
In his youth he was stout, and in old age corpulent 
and heavy, with rounded shoulders. The portraits 
of him reveal a very vigorous-looking man, with a 
thick upper arm and a figure which, even in old age, 
was full and rounded. In fact, this rounded con- 
tour is his most striking characteristic, as the angular 
outline is the characteristic of Lincoln. Franklin's 
figure was a series of harmonious curves, which make 
pictures of him always pleasing. These curves ex- 
tended over his head and even to the lines of his 
face, softening the expression, slightly veiling the 
iron resolution, and entirely consistent with the wide 
sympathies, varied powers, infinite shrewdness, and 
vast experience which we know he possessed. < 

In his earliest portrait as a youth of twenty he 
looks as if his bones were large ; but in later por- 
traits this largeness of bone which he might have 
had from his Massachusetts origin is not so evident 

2 17 

He was, however, very muscular, and prided himself 
on it When he was a young printer, as he tells us in 
his Autobiography, he could carry with ease a large 
form of letters in each hand up and down stairs. In 
his old age, when past eighty, he is described as insist- 
ing on lifting unaided heavy books and dictionaries to 
show the strength he still retained. 

He was not brought up on fox-hunting and other 
sports, like Washington, and there are no amuse- 
ments of this sort to record of him, except his swim- 
ming, in which he took great delight and continued 
until long after he had ceased to be a youth. He 
appears, when a boy, to have been fond of sailing 
in Boston Harbor, but has told us little about it 
In swimming he excelled. He could perform all the 
ordinary feats in the water which were described in 
the swimming-books of his day, and on one occa- 
sion tied himself to the string of his kite and was 
towed by it across a pond a mile wide. In after- 
years he believed that he could in this way cross the 
English Channel from Dover to Calais, but he ad- 
mitted that the packet-boat was preferable. 

His. natural fondness for experiment led him to 
try the effect of fastening oval paddles to his hands, 
which gave him greater speed in swimming, but were 
too fatiguing to his wrists. Paddles or large sandals 
fastened to his feet he soon found altered the stroke, 
which the observant boy had discovered was made 
with the inside of the feet and ankles as well as with 
the flat part of the foot 

While in London, as a wandering young journey- 
man printer, he taught an acquaintance, Wygate, to 



swim in two lessons. Returning from Chelsea with a 
party of Wygate's friends, he gave them an exhibition 
of his skill, going through all the usual tricks in the 
water, to their great amazement and admiration, and 
swimming from near Chelsea to Blackfriars, a distance 
of four miles. Wygate proposed that they should 
travel through Europe, maintaining themselves by 
giving swimming-lessons, and Franklin was at first 
inclined to adopt the suggestion. 

Just as he was on the eve of returning to Pennsyl- 
vania, Sir William Wyndham, at one time Chancellor 
of the Exchequer, having heard of his swimming 
feats, wanted to engage him to teach his sons ; but 
his ship being about to sail, Franklin was obliged to 
decline. If he had remained in England, he tells us, 
he would probably have started a swimming-school. 

When forty-three years old, retired from active 
business, and deep in scientific researches, he lived 
in a house at Second and Race Streets, Philadelphia. 
His garden is supposed to have extended to the river, 
where every warm summer evening he used to spend 
an hour or two swimming and sporting in the water. 

This skill in swimming and the agility and grace 
which Franklin displayed in performing feats in the 
water are good tests of general strength of muscles, 
lungs, and heart. So far as can be discovered, only 
one instance is recorded of his using his physical 
power to do violence to his fellow-man. 

He had a friend named Collins, rather inclined to 
drink, who, being in a boat with Franklin and some 
other youths, on the Delaware, refused to take his 
turn at rowing. He announced that the others 



should row him home. Franklin, already much 
provoked at him for not returning money which he 
had lent him, and for other misconduct, insisted that 
he row his share. Collins replied that Franklin 
should row or he would throw him overboard, and, 
as he was approaching him for that purpose, Franklin 
seized him by the collar and breeches and threw him 
into the river, where they kept him till his strength 
was exhausted and his temper cooled. 

Until he was forty years old Franklin worked on 
his own account or for others as a printer, which in- 
cluded hard manual labor ; for, even when in busi- 
ness for himself, he did everything, made his own 
ink, engraved wooden cuts and ornaments, set the 
type, and worked the heavy hand-presses. His 
pleasures were books, the theatre, and love-affairs. 
Except swimming, he had no taste for out-door 
amusements. Sport, either with rod, gun, horse, 
or hound, was altogether out of his line. As he 
became prosperous and retired from the active busi- 
ness of money-getting, he led an entirely sedentary 
life to the end of his long career. 

Although he did a vast amount of work in his 
time, was fond of early rising, and had the greatest 
endurance and capacity for labor, there was, never- 
theless, a touch of indolence about him. He did 
the things which he loved and which came easy to 
him, cultivated his tastes and followed their bent in 
a way rather unusual in self-made men. It has been 
said of him that he never had the patience to write 
a book. His writings have exerted great influence, 
are now considered of inestimable value, and fill ten 


large volumes, but they are all occasional pieces, let- 
ters, and pamphlets written to satisfy some need of 
the hour. 

His indolence was more in his manner than in his 
character. It was the confident indolence of genius. 
He was never in a hurry, and this was perhaps one 
of the secrets of his success. His portraits all show 
this trait. In nearly every one of them the whole 
attitude, the droop of the shoulders and arms, and 
the quietude of the face are reposeful. 

He seems to have been totally without either 
irritability or excitability. In this he was the reverse 
of Washington, who was subject to violent outbursts 
of anger, could swear "like an angel of God," as 
one of his officers said, and had a fiery temper to 
control. Perhaps Franklin's strong sense of humor 
saved him from oaths ; there are no swearing stories 
recorded of him ; instead of them we have innumer- 
able jokes and witticisms. His anger when aroused 
was most deliberate, calculating, and judicious. His 
enemies and opponents he always ridiculed, often, 
however, with, so little malice or sting that I have no 
doubt they were sometimes compelled to join in the 
laugh. He never attacked or abused. 

Contentment was a natural consequence of these 
qualities, and contributed largely to maintain his 
vigor through eighty-four years of a very storyny 
life. It was a family trait Many of his relations 
possessed it ; and he describes some of them whom 
he looked up in England as living in happiness and 
enjoyment, in spite of the greatest poverty. Some 
able men struggle with violence, bitterness, and heart- 



ache for the great prizes of life, but all these prizes 
tumbled in on Franklin, who seems to have had a 
fairy that brought them to him in obedience to his 
slightest wish. 

His easy-going sedentary life, of course, told on 
him in time. After middle life he had both the 
gout and the stone, but his natural vitality fortified 
him against them. He was as temperate as it was 
possible to be in that age, and he studied his con- 
stitution and its requirements very closely. He was 
so much interested in science that he not infrequently 
observed, reasoned, and to some extent experimented 
in the domain which properly belongs to physicians. 

When only fifteen years old, and apprenticed in 
the printing-office of his brother in Boston, in the 
year 1721, he became a vegetarian. A book written 
by one of the people who have for many centuries 
been advocating that plan of living fell in his way 
and converted him. It appealed to his natural 
economy and to his desire for spare money with 
which to buy books. He learned from the book the 
various ways of cooking vegetables, and told his 
brother that if he would give him half the money 
paid for his board he would board himself. He 
found very soon that he could pay for his vegetable 
diet and still save half the money allowed him, and 
that he could also very quickly eat his rice, potatoes, 
and pudding at the printing-office and have most 
of the dinner-hour for reading the books his spare 
money procured. 

This was calculating very closely for a boy of 
fifteen, and shows unusual ability as well as willing- 



ness to observe and master small details. Such 
ability usually comes later in life with strengthened 
intellect, but Franklin seems to have had this sort of 
mature strength very early. 

He did not remain an entire convert to the vege- 
tarians, but he often practised their methods and 
apparently found no inconvenience in it He could 
eat almost anything, and change from one diet to 
another without difficulty. Two years after his first 
experiment with vegetarianism he ran away from his 
brother at Boston, and found work at Philadelphia 
with a rough, ignorant old printer named Keimer, 
who wanted, among other projects, to form a re- 
ligous sect, and to have Franklin help him. Franklin 
played with his ideas for a while, and finally said that 
he would agree to wear a long beard and observe 
Saturday instead of Sunday, like Keimer, if Keimer 
would join him in a vegetable diet. 

He found a woman in the neighborhood to cook 
for them, and taught her how to prepare forty kinds 
of vegetable food, which reduced their cost of living 
to eighteen pence a week for each. But Keimer, 
who was a heavy meat-eater, could stand it only 
three months, and then ordered a roast-pig dinner, 
to be enjoyed by the two vegetarians and a couple 
of women. Keimer, however, arrived first at the 
feast, and before any of his guests appeared had eaten 
the whole pig. 

While working in the printing-office in London, 
Franklin drank water, to the great astonishment 
and disgust of the beer-guzzling Englishmen who 
were his fellow-laborers. They could not under- 



stand how the water-American, as they called him, 
could go without strength-giving beer and yet be 
able to carry a large form of letters in each hand 
up and down stairs, while they could carry only one 
with both hands. 

The man who worked one of the presses with 
Franklin drank a pint before breakfast, a pint with 
bread and cheese for breakfast, one between break- 
fast and dinner, one at dinner, another at six o'clock, 
and another after he had finished his day's work. 
The American boy, with his early mastery of details, 
reasoned with him that the strength furnished by the 
beer could come only from the barley dissolved in 
the water of which the beer was composed ; that 
there was a larger portion of flour in a penny loaf, 
and if he ate a loaf and drank a pint of water with 
it he would derive more strength than from a pint 
of beer. But the man would not be convinced, and 
continued to spend a large part of his weekly wages 
for what Franklin calls the cursed beverage which 
kept him in poverty and wretchedness. 

Franklin was, however, never a teetotaler. He 
loved, as he tells us, a glass and a song. Like 
other people of that time, he could drink without 
inconvenience a quantity which nowadays, especially 
in America, seems surprising. Some of the chief- 
justices of England are described by their biogra- 
pher, Campbell, as two- or four-bottle men, accord- 
ing to the quantity they could consume at a sitting. 
Washington, Mr. Ford tells us, drank habitually from 
half a pint to a pint of Madeira, besides punch and 
beer, which would now be thought a great deal 



But Franklin considered himself a very temperate 
man. When writing his Autobiography, in his old 
age, he reminds his descendants that to temperance 
their ancestor "ascribes his long-continued health 
and what is still left to him of a good constitution." 

Like most of those who live to a great age, he 
was the child of long-lived parents. " My mother," 
he says, " had likewise an excellent constitution ; 
she suckled all her ten children. I never knew either 
my father or mother to have any sickness but that 
of which they died, he at eighty-nine and she at 
eighty-five years of age." 

He was fond of air-baths, which he seems to have 
thought hardened his skin and helped it to perform 
its functions, and when in London in 1768 he wrote 
one of his pretty letters about them to Dr. Dubourg 
in Paris. 

" You know the cold bath has long been in vogue here as a tonic ; 
but the shock of the cold water has always appeared to me, gener- 
ally speaking, as too violent, and I have found it much more agree- 
able to my constitution to bathe in another element, I mean cold air. 
With this view I rise almost every morning and sit in my chamber, 
without any clothes whatever, half an hour or an hour, according to 
the season, either reading or writing. This practice is not in the 
least painful, but, on the contrary, agreeable ; and if I return to 
bed afterwards, before I dress myself, as sometimes happens, I make 
a supplement to my night's rest of one or two hours of the most 
pleasing sleep that can be imagined. I find no ill consequences 
whatever resulting from it, and that at least it does not injure 
my health, if it does not in fact contribute much to its preservation. 
I shall therefore call it for the future a bracing or tonic bath." 
(Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. iv. p. 193.) 

Some years afterwards, while in Paris and suffering 
severely from gout in his foot, he used to expose the 

2 5 

foot naked out of bed, which he found relieved the 
pain, because, as he supposed, the skin was given 
more freedom to act in a natural way. His remarks 
on air-baths were published in the early editions of 
his works and induced many people to try them. 
Davis, in his "Travels in America," says that they 
must have been suggested to him by a passage in 
Aubrey's " Miscellanies ;" but, after searching all 
through that old volume, I cannot find it Franklin, 
however, made no claim to a discovery. Such baths 
have been used by physicians to strengthen delicate 
persons, but in a more guarded and careful manner 
than that in which Franklin applied them. 

It was characteristic of his genial temperament 
that he loved to dream in his sleep and to recollect 
his dreams. "I am often," he says, "as agreeably 
entertained by them as by the scenery of an opera." 
He wrote a pleasant little essay, addressed to an 
unknown young lady, on "The Art of Procuring 
Pleasant Dreams," which may be said to belong 
among his medical writings. Fresh air and ventila- 
tion are the important dream-persuaders, and bad 
dreams and restlessness in bed are caused by excess 
of perspirable matter which is not allowed to get 
away from the skin. Eat less, have thinner and 
more porous bedclothes, and if you are restless, get 
up, beat and turn your pillows, shake all the sheets 
twenty times, and walk about naked for a while. 
Then, when you return, the lovely dreams will 

Closely connected with his faith in air-baths was 
his opinion that people seldom caught cold from 



exposure to air or even to dampness. He wrote 
letters on the subject and prepared notes of his 
observations. These notes are particularly interest- 
ing and full of curious suggestions. The diseases 
usually classed as colds, he said, are not known by 
that name in any other language, and the name is 
misleading, for very few of them arise from cold or 
dampness. Indians and sailors, who are continually 
wet, do not catch cold ; nor is cold taken by swim- 
ming. And he went on enumerating the instances 
of people who lived in the woods, in barns, or with 
open windows, and, instead of catching cold, found 
their health improved. Cold, he thought, was caused 
in most cases by impure air, want of exercise, or 

" I have long been satisfied from observation, that besides the 
general colds now termed influenzas (which may possibly spread by 
contagion, as well as by a particular quality of the air), people often 
catch cold from one another when shut up together in close rooms 
and coaches, and when sitting near and conversing so as to breathe 
in each other's transpiration ; the disorder being in a certain state. I 
think, too, that it is the frouzy, corrupt air from animal substances, 
and the perspired matter from our bodies, which being long confined 
in beds not lately used, and clothes not lately worn, and books long 
shut up in close rooms, obtains that kind of putridity which occasions 
the colds observed upon sleeping in, wearing, and turning over such 
bedclothes or books, and not their coldness or dampness. From 
these causes, but more from too full living, with too little exercise, 
proceed, in my opinion, most of the disorders which, for about one 
hundred and fifty years past, the English have called colds" 

Much of this is true in a general way, for medi- 
cal practitioners have long held that all colds do 
not arise from exposure or draughts ; but they do 
not admit that colds can be taken from turning over 



old books and clothes, although the dust from these 
might make one sneeze. 

John Adams and Franklin while travelling together 
through New Jersey to meet Lord Howe, in 1776, 
discussed the question of colds, and the former has 
left an amusing account of it The taverns were so 
full at Brunswick that they had to sleep in the same 
bed. Franklin insisted on leaving the window wide 
open, and discoursed on the causes of colds until 
they both fell asleep. 

"I have often asked him whether a person heated with exercise 
going suddenly into cold air, or standing still in a current of it, 
might not have his pores suddenly contracted, his perspiration 
stopped, and that matter thrown into the circulation, or cast upon 
the lungs, which he acknowledged was the cause of colds. To this 
he never could give me a satisfactory answer, and I have heard that 
in the opinion of his own able physician, Dr. Jones, he fell a sacrifice 
at last, not to the stone, but to his own theory, having caught the 
violent cold which finally choked him, by sitting for some hours at a 
window, with the cool air blowing upon him." (Adams's Works, 
vol. iii. p. 75.) 

In some of his letters Franklin denied positively 
that colds could be taken by exposure. He got a 
young physician to experiment on the effect of 
nakedness in increasing perspiration, and when he 
found, or thought he had found, that the perspira- 
tion was greater than when the body was clothed, 
he jumped to the conclusion that exposure could not 
check perspiration. In a passage in his notes, how- 
ever, he seems to admit that a sudden cold air or a 
draught might check it. 

He wrote so well and so prettily on colds that people 
began to think he was the discoverer of their causes, 




and his biographer, Parton, goes so far as to say 
so. But upon inquiry among learned physicians 
I cannot find that they recognize him as a dis- 
coverer, or that he has any standing on this ques- 
tion in medical history. It would seem that he 
merely collected and expressed the observations of 
others as well as his own ; none of them were en- 
tirely new, and many of them are now considered 

Nearer to the truth is Parton' s statement that " he 
was the first effective preacher of the blessed gospel 
of ventilation." He certainly studied that subject 
very carefully, and was an authority on it, being 
appointed while in England to prepare a plan for 
ventilating the Houses of Parliament It would, 
however, be better to say that he was one of the 
most prominent advocates of ventilation rather than 
the first effective preacher of it ; for in Bigelow's 
edition of his works* will be found an excellent 
essay on the subject in which the other advocates 
are mentioned. But Parton goes on to say, "He 
spoke, and the windows of hospitals were lowered ; 
consumption ceased to gasp and fever to inhale poi- 
son ;" which is an extravagant statement that he 
would find difficulty, I think, in supporting. 

In Franklin's published works there is a short 
essay called " A Conjecture as to the Cause of the 
Heat of the Blood in Health and of the Cold and 
Hot Fits of Some Fevers." The blood is heated, 
he says, by friction in the action of the heart, by the 

* Vol. iv. p. 271. 


distention and contraction of the arteries, and by- 
being forced through minute vessels. This essay is 
very ingenious and well written, and the position 
given to it in his works might lead one to suppose 
that it was of importance ; but I am informed by 
physicians that it was merely the revamping of an 
ancient theory held long before his time, and quite 
without foundation. 

Franklin's excursions into the domain of medicine 
are not, therefore, to be considered among his valua- 
ble contributions to the welfare of man, except so 
far as they encouraged him to advocate fresh air 
and ventilation, though they may have assisted him 
to take better care of his own health. 

Of the numerous portraits of him of varying merit, 
nearly all of which have been reproduced over and 
over again, only a few deserve consideration for the 
light they throw on his appearance and character. The 
Sumner portrait, as it used to be called, is supposed 
to have been painted in London in 1726, when he was 
there as a young journeyman printer, twenty years 
old, and was brought by him to America and given 
to his brother John, of Rhode Island. He evidently 
dressed himself for this picture in clothes he was not 
in the habit of wearing at his work ; for he appears 
in a large wig, a long, decorated coat and waistcoat, 
with a mass of white ruffles on his bosom and con- 
spicuous wrist-bands. The rotund and strongly de- 
veloped figure is well displayed. Great firmness and 
determination are shown in the mouth and lower part 
of the face. The animal forces are evidently strong. 
The face is somewhat frank, and at the same time 



very shrewd. The eyes are larger than in the later 
portraits, which is not surprising, for eyes are apt 
to grow smaller in appearance with age. 

This portrait, which is now in Memorial Hall at 
Harvard University, has been supposed by some 
critics not to be a portrait of Franklin at all. How, 
they ask, could Franklin, who was barely able to 
earn his living at that time, and whose companions 
were borrowing a large part of his spare money, 
afford to have an oil-painting made of himself in 
such expensive costume ? and why is there no men- 
tion of this portrait in any of his writings ? But, on 
the other hand, the portrait has the peculiar set ex- 
pression of the mouth and the long chin which were 
so characteristic of Franklin ; and it would have been 
entirely possible for him to have borrowed the clothes 
and had the picture painted cheaply or as a kind- 
ness. It is not well painted, need not have been 
expensive, and, as there were no photographs then, 
paintings were the only way by which people could 
give their likenesses to relatives. 

The Martin portrait, painted when he was about 
sixty years old, represents him seated, his elbows 
resting on a table, and holding a document, which 
he is reading with deep but composed and serene 
attention. It was no doubt intended to represent 
him in a characteristic attitude. As showing the 
calm philosopher and diplomat reading and think- 
ing, somewhat idealized and yet a more or less true 
likeness, it is in many respects the best picture we 
have of him. But we cannot see the eyes, and it 
does not reveal as much character as we could wish. 


The Grundmann portrait, an excellent photograph 
of which hangs in the Philadelphia Library, was 
painted by a German artist, after a careful study of 
Franklin's career and of all the portraits of him 
which had been painted from life. As an attempt to 
reproduce his characteristics and idealize them it 
is a distinct success and very interesting. He is 
seated in a chair, in his court-dress, with long stock- 
ings and knee-breeches, leaning back, his head and 
shoulders bent forward, while his gaze is downward. 
He is musing over something, and there is that char- 
acteristic shrewd smile on the lower part of the rugged 
face. It is the smile of a most masterful and cun- 
ning intellect ; but no one fears it : it seems as harm- 
less as your mother's. You try to imagine which 
one of his thousand clever strokes and sayings was 
passing through his mind that day ; and the strong, 
intensely individualized figure, which resembles that 
of an old athlete, is wonderfully suggestive of life, 
experience, and contest 

But the Duplessis portrait, which was painted from 
life in Paris in 1778, when he was seventy-two, re- 
veals more than any of them. The Sumner portrait 
is Franklin the youth ; the Martin and the Grund- 
mann portraits are Franklin the philosopher and 
statesman ; the Duplessis portrait is Franklin the 

Unfortunately, it is impossible to get a good repro- 
duction of the Duplessis portrait, because there is so 
much detail in it and the coloring and lights and 
shadows cannot be successfully copied. But any one 
who will examine the original or any good replicas 




of it in oil will, I am convinced, see Franklin as he 
really was. The care in details, the wrinkles, and the 
color of the skin give us confidence in it as a like- 
ness. The round, strong, but crude form of the 
boy of twenty has been beaten and changed by 
time into a hundred qualities and accomplishments, 
yet the original form is still discernible, and the face 
looks straight at us : we see the eyes and every line 
close at hand. 

In this, the best portrait for studying Franklin's 
eye, we see at once that it is the eye of a very sen- 
suous man, and we also see many details which mark 
the self-made man, the man who never had been and 
never pretended to be an aristocrat This is in strong 
contrast to Washington's portraits, which all disclose 
a man distinctly of the upper class and conscious 
of it 

But, in spite of this homeliness in the Duplessis 
portrait and the easy, careless manner in which the 
clothes are worn, there are no signs of what might 
be called vulgarity. The wonderful and many-sided 
accomplishments of the man carried him well above 
this. Brought up as a boy at candle- and soap- 
making, he nevertheless, when prosperous, turned 
instinctively to higher things and refined accomplish- 
ments and was comparatively indifferent to material 
wealth. Nor do we find in him any of that bitter 
hostility and jealousy of the established and success- 
ful which more modern experience might lead us to 

The Duplessis portrait conforms to what we read 
of Franklin in representing him as hale and vigorous 
3 33 


at seventy-two. The face is full of lines, but they are 
the lines of thought, and of thought that has come 
easily and cheerfully ; there are no traces of anxiety, 
gnawing care, or bitterness. In Paris, at the time 
the Duplessis portrait was painted, Franklin was 
regarded as a rather unusual example of vigor and 
good health in old age. John Adams in his Diary 
uses him as a standard, and speaks of other old men 
in France as being equal or almost equal to him in 

Although not so free from disease as were his 
parents, he was not much troubled with it until late 
in life. When a young man of about twenty-one he 
had a bad attack of pleurisy, of which he nearly died. 
It terminated in an abscess of the left lung, and when 
this broke, he was almost suffocated by the quantity 
and suddenness of the discharge. A few years after- 
wards he had a similar attack of pleurisy, ending in 
the same way ; and it was an abscess in his lung 
which finally caused his death. The two abscesses 
which he had when a young man seem to have left 
no ill effects ; and after his two attacks of pleurisy 
he was free from serious sickness for many years, 
until at the age of fifty-one he went to England to 
represent the Province of Pennsylvania. Soon after 
landing he was attacked by an obscure fever, of 
which he does not give the name, and which disabled 
him for eight weeks. He was delirious, and they 
cupped him and gave him enormous quantities of 

After he had passed middle life he found that he 
could not remain entirely well unless he took a 




journey every year. During the nine years of his 
residence in Paris as minister to France he was unable 
to take these journeys, and as a consequence his 
health rapidly deteriorated. He had violent attacks 
which incapacitated him for weeks, sometimes for 
months, and at the close of the nine years he could 
scarcely walk and could not bear the jolting of a 

In France his diseases were first the gout and after- 
wards the stone. He was one of those stout, full- 
blooded men who the doctors say are peculiarly 
liable to gout, and his tendency to it was evidently 
increased by his very sedentary habits. He confesses 
this in part of that clever dialogue which he wrote to 
amuse the Parisians : 

" MIDNIGHT, October 22, 1780. 

" Franklin. Eh ! Oh ! Eh ! What have I done to merit these 
cruel sufferings ? 

" Gout. Many things ; you have ate and drank too freeely, and 
too much indulged those legs of yours in their indolence. 

" Franklin. Who is it that accuses me ? 

" Gout. It is I, even I, the Gout. 

"Franklin. What ! my enemy in person? 

" Gout. No, not your enemy. 

"Franklin. I repeat it ; my enemy ; for you would not only tor- 
ment my body to death, but ruin my good name ; you reproach me 
as a glutton and a tippler ; now all the world, that knows me, will 
allow that I am neither the one nor the other. 

" Gout. The world may think as it pleases ; it is always very 
complaisant to itself, and sometimes to its friends ; but I very well 
know that the quantity of meat and drink proper for a man, who 
takes a reasonable degree of exercise, would be too much for another, 
who never takes any. 

"Franklin. I take Eh ! Oh ! as much exercise Eh ! as I 
can, Madam Gout. You know my sedentary state, and on that ac- 
count, it would seem, Madam Gout, as if you might spare me a 
little, seeing it is not altogether my own fault. 



** Gout. Not a jot ; your rhetoric and your politeness are thrown 
away ; your apology avails nothing. If your situation in life is a 
sedentary one, your amusements, your recreations, at least, should 
be active. You ought to walk or ride ; or, if the weather prevents 
that, play at billiards. But let us examine your course of life. 
While the mornings are long, and you have leisure to go abroad, 
what do you do ? Why, instead of gaining an appetite for breakfast, 
by salutary exercise, you amuse yourself with books, pamphlets, or 
newspapers, which commonly are not worth the reading. Yet you 
eat an inordinate breakfast, four dishes of tea, with cream, and one 
or two buttered toasts, with slices of hung beef, which I fancy are 
not things the most easily digested. Immediately afterward you sit 
down to write at your desk, or converse with persons who apply to 
you on business. Thus the time passes till one, without any kind 
of bodily exercise. But all this I could pardon, hi regard, as you 
say, to your sedentary condition. But what is your practice after 
dinner? Walking in the beautiful garden of those friends, with 
whom you have dined, would be the choice of men of sense ; yours 
is to be fixed down to chess, where you are found engaged lor two 
or three hours ! . . . Wrapt in the speculations of this wretched 
game, you destroy your constitution. What can be expected from 
such a course of living, but a body replete with stagnant humors, 
ready to fall a prey to all kinds of dangerous maladies, if I, the 
Gout, did not occasionally bring you relief by agitating those humors, 
and so purifying or dissipating them ? . . . But amidst my instruc- 
tions, I had almost forgot to administer my wholesome corrections ; 
so take that twinge, and that. ..." 

He tried to give himself exercise by walking up 
and down his room. In that humorous essay, " The 
Craven Street Gazette," in which he describes the 
doings of Mrs. Stevenson's household, where he lived 
in London, there is a passage evidently referring to 
himself : " Dr. Fatsides made four hundred and sixty 
turns in his dining-room as the exact distance of a 
visit to the lovely Lady Barwell, whom he did not 
find at home ; so there was no struggle for and against 
a kiss, and he sat down to dream in the easy-chair 
that he had it without any trouble." 



Some years afterwards, when he was in Paris, John 
Adams upbraided him for not taking more exercise ; 
but he replied, " Yes, I walk a league every day in 
my chamber. I walk quick, and for an hour, so that 
I go a league ; I make a point of religion of it" 
This was not a very good substitute for out-of-door 
exertion. In fact, Franklin's opinions on the subject 
of exercise were not wise. The test of exercise was, 
he thought, the amount of warmth it added to the 
body, and he inferred, therefore, that walking must 
be better than riding on horseback, and he even 
recommended walking up and down stairs. Walk- 
ing, being monotonous and having very little effect 
on the trunk and upper portions of the body, is 
generally admitted to be insufficient for those who 
require much exercise ; while running up and down 
stairs would now be considered positively injurious. 
But it is, perhaps, hardly in order to criticise the 
methods of a man who succeeded in living to be 
eighty-four and who served the public until the last 
year of his life. 

Even when he was at his worst in Paris and unable 
to walk, his mind was as vigorous as ever, and he 
looked well. Adams, who was determined to com- 
ment on his neglect of exercise, says of him when in 
his crippled condition, in 1785, "but he is strong 
and eats freely, so that he will soon have other com- 
plaints besides the stone if he continues to live as 
entirely without exercise as he does at present" 
Adams also said that his only chance for life was a 

Soon afterwards Franklin was carried in a litter 


by easy journeys from Paris to the sea-coast, and 
crossed to Southampton, England, to wait for the 
vessel that was to take him to Philadelphia. While 
at Southampton he says, 

" I went at noon to bathe in the Martin salt water hot bath, and 
floating on my back, fell asleep, and slept near an hour by my watch 
without sinking or turning ! a thing I never did before and should 
hardly have thought possible. Water is the easiest bed that can be. " 

It was certainly odd that in his seventy-ninth 
year and enfeebled by disease he should renew his 
youthful skill as a swimmer and justify to himself his 
favorite theory that nakedness and water are not the 
causes of colds. 

His opinion that occasional journeys were essential 
to his health and Adams's opinion of the necessity 
of a sea- voyage were both justified ; for when he 
reached Philadelphia, September 14, 1785, he could 
walk the streets and bear the motion of an easy car- 
riage. He was almost immediately elected Governor 
of Pennsylvania, and held the office by successive 
annual elections for three years. The public, he 
said, have " engrossed the prime of my life. They 
have eaten my flesh, and seem resolved now to 
pick my bones." During the summer of 1787 he 
served as a member of the convention which framed 
the national Constitution, although unable to stand 
up long enough to make a speech, all his speeches 
being read by his colleague, James Wilson ; and 
yet it was in that convention, as we shall see, that 
he performed the most important act of his political 



In December, 1787, he had a fall down the stone 
steps of his garden, spraining his right wrist and 
bringing on another attack of the stone. But he 
recovered in the spring ; and at this period, and in- 
deed to the end of his life, his wonderful vitality 
bore up so well against severe disease that his mental 
faculties were unimpaired, his spirits buoyant, and 
his face fresh and serene. 

But towards the end he had to take to his bed, and 
the last two or three years of his life were passed in 
terrible pain, with occasional respites of a few weeks, 
during which he would return to some of his old 
avocations, writing letters or essays of extraordinary 
brightness and gayety. He wrote a long letter on 
his religious belief to President Stiles about five 
weeks before his death, his humorous protest against 
slavery two weeks later, and an important letter to 
Thomas Jefferson on the Northeast Boundary question 
nine days before bis death. 

His grandchildren played around his bedside ; 
friends and distinguished men called to see him, and 
went away to write notes of what they recollected 
of his remarkable conversation and cheerfulness. 
One of his grandchildren, afterwards Mrs. William 
J. Duane, was eight years old during the last year of 
his life, and she has related that every evening after 
tea he insisted that she should bring her Webster's 
spelling-book and say her lesson to him. 

"A few days before he died, he rose from his bed and begged 
that it might be made up for him so that he might die in a decent 
manner. His daughter told him that she hoped he would recover 
and live many years longer. He calmly replied, ' I hope not. ' 



Upon being advised to change his position in bed, that he might 
breathe easy, he said, 'A dying man can do nothing easy.'" 
(Bigelow's Franklin from his own Writings, vol. iii. p. 464.) 

His physician, Dr. Jones, has described his last 

"About sixteen days before his death he was seized with a fever- 
ish indisposition, without any particular symptoms attending it, till 
the third or fourth day, when he complained of a pain in the left 
breast, which increased till it became extremely acute, attended 
with a cough and laborious breathing. During this state when the 
severity of his pains drew forth a groan of complaint, he would 
observe that he was afraid he did not bear them as he ought 
acknowledged his grateful sense of the many blessings he had re- 
ceived from that Supreme Being, who had raised him from small 
and low beginnings to such high rank and consideration among 
men and made no doubt but his present afflictions were kindly 
intended to wean him from a world, in which he was no longer fit 
to act the part assigned him. In this frame of body and mind he 
continued till five days before his death, when his pain and difficulty 
of breathing entirely left him, and his family were flattering them- 
selves with the hopes of his recovery, when an imposthumation, 
[abscess] which had formed itself in his lungs suddenly burst, and 
discharged a great quantity of matter, which he continued to throw 
up while he had sufficient strength to do it ; but, as that failed, the 
organs of respiration became gradually oppressed a calm lethargic 
state succeeded and, on the iyth of April, 1790, about eleven 
o'clock at night, he quietly expired, closing a long and useful life 
of eighty-four years and three months." 



SELF-MADE men of eminence have been quite 
numerous in America for a hundred years. Frank- 
lin was our first hero of this kind, and I am inclined 
to think our greatest The others have achieved 
wealth or political importance ; sometimes both. But 
Franklin achieved not only wealth and the reputa- 
tion of a diplomatist and a statesman, but made him- 
self a most accomplished scholar, a man of letters 
of world-wide fame, a philosopher of no small im- 
portance, and as an investigator and discoverer in 
science he certainly enlarged the domain of human 

His father, Josiah Franklin, an industrious candle- 
maker in Boston, intended that his youngest son, 
Benjamin, should enter the ministry of the Puritan 
Church. With this end in view he sent him, when 
eight years old, to the Boston Grammar-School ; but 
before a year had expired he found that the cost of 
even this slight schooling was too much for the 
slender means with which he had to provide for a 
large family of children. So Franklin went to 
another school, kept by one George Brownell, where 
he stayed for about a year, and then his school-days 
were ended forever. He entered his father's shop to 
cut wicks and melt tallow. During his two years of 



schooling he had learned to read and write, but 
was not very good at arithmetic. 

His associations were all humble, but they cannot 
be said to have been those of either extreme poverty 
or ignorance. At Ecton, Northamptonshire, Eng- 
land, whence his father came, the family had lived 
for at least three hundred years, and how much 
longer is not known. Several of those in the lineal 
line of Benjamin had been blacksmiths. They were 
plain people who, having been always respectable 
and lived long in one neighborhood, could trace their 
ancestry back for several centuries. 

They were unambitious, contented with their con- 
dition, and none of them except Benjamin ever rose 
much above it, or even seriously tried to rise. This 
may not have been from any lack of mental ability. 
Franklin's father was a strong, active man, as was 
to be expected of the descendant of a line of black- 
smiths. He was intelligent and inquiring, conversed 
well on general subjects, could draw well, played the 
violin and sang in his home when the day's work 
was done, and was respected by his neighbors as a 
prudent, sensible citizen whose advice was worth 
obtaining. It does not appear that he was studious. 
But his brother Benjamin, after whom our Franklin 
was named, was interested in politics, collected 
pamphlets, made short-hand notes of the sermons 
he heard, and was continually writing verses. 

This Uncle Benjamin, while in England, took a 
great interest in the nephew in America who was 
named after him, and he sent verses to him on all 
sorts of subjects. He was unsuccessful in business, 




lost his wife and all his children, save one, and finally 
came out to America to join the family at Boston. 

Franklin's mother was Abiah Folger, the second 
wife of his father. She was the daughter of Peter 
Folger, of Nantucket, a surveyor, who is described 
by Cotton Mather as a somewhat learned man. He 
made himself familiar with some of the Indian 
languages, and taught the Indians to read and write. 
He wrote verses of about the same quality as those 
of Uncle Benjamin. One of these, called "A Look- 
ing Glass for the Times," while it is mere doggerel, 
shows that its author was interested in literature. 
He was a man of liberal views and opposed to the 
persecution of the Quakers and Baptists in Massa- 

From this grandfather on his mother's side Frank- 
lin no doubt inherited his fondness for books, a 
fondness that was reinforced by a similar tendency 
which, though not very strong in his father, evidently 
existed in his father's family, as Uncle Benjamin's 
verses show. These verses sent to the boy Franklin 
and his efforts at times to answer them were an 
encouragement towards reading and knowledge. 
Franklin's extremely liberal views may possibly 
have had their origin in his maternal grandfather, 
Peter Folger. 

But independently of these suppositions as regards 
heredity, we find Franklin at twelve years of age 
reading everything he could lay his hands on. His 
first book was Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress," which 
would not interest boys nowadays, and scarcely in- 
terests mature people any more ; but there were no 



novels then and no story-books for boys. " Pil- 
grim's Progress" is a prose story with dialogues be- 
tween the characters, the first instance of this sort of 
writing in English, and sufficient to fascinate a boy 
when there was nothing better in the world. 

He liked it so well that he bought the rest of Bun- 
yan's works, but soon sold them to procure Burton's 
Historical Collections, which were forty small chap- 
men's books, full of travels, adventures, history, and 
descriptions of animals, well calculated to stimulate 
the interest of a bright lad. Among his father's 
theological books was Plutarch's " Lives," which 
young Franklin read eagerly, also De Foe's "Essay 
upon Projects," and Cotton Mather's "Essays to do 
Good," which he said had an important influence on 
his character. 

He so hated cutting wicks and melting tallow that, 
like many other boys of his time, he wanted to run 
away to sea ; and his father, to check this inclination 
and settle him, compelled him to sign articles of ap- 
prenticeship with his brother James, who was a printer. 
The child's taste for books, the father thought, fitted 
him to be a printer, which would be a more profita- 
ble occupation than the ministry, for which he was 
at first intended. 

So Franklin was bound by law to serve his brother 
until he was twenty-one. He learned the business 
quickly, stealing time to read books, which he some- 
times persuaded booksellers' apprentices to take from 
their masters' shops in the evening. He would sit up 
nearly all night to read them, so that they might be re- 
turned early in the morning before they were missed. 



He wrote ballads, like his uncle Benjamin and his 
grandfather Peter Folger, on popular events, the 
drowning of a Captain Worthilake, and the pirate 
Blackbeard, and, after his brother had printed them, 
sold them in the streets. His biographer, Weems, 
quotes one of these verses, which he declares he had 
seen and remembered, and I give it with the quali- 
fication that it comes from Weems : 

"Come all you jolly sailors, 

You all, so stout and brave ; 
Come hearken and I'll tell you 
What happened on the wave. 

" Oh ! 'tis of that bloody Blackbeard 

I'm going now for to tell ; 

And as how by gallant Maynard 

He soon was sent to hell 

With a down, down, down, deny down." 

His father ridiculed these verses, in spite of their 
successful sale, and dissuaded him from any more 
attempts ; but Franklin remained more or less of a 
verse-writer to the end of his life. Verse-writing 
trained him to write good prose, and this accom- 
plishment contributed, he thought, more than any- 
thing else to his advancement 

He had an intimate friend, John Collins, like- 
wise inclined to books, and the two argued and dis- 
puted with each other. Franklin was fond of wordy 
contention at that time, and it was possibly a good 
mental training for him. He had caught it, he says, 
from reading his father's books of religious contro- 
versy. But in after-years he became convinced that 
this disputatious turn was a very bad habit, which 


made one extremely disagreeable and alienated 
friends ; he therefore adopted during most of his life 
a method of cautious modesty. 

He once disputed with Collins on the propriety of 
educating women and on their ability for study. He 
took the side of the women, and, feeling himself 
worsted by Collins, who had a more fluent tongue, he 
reduced his arguments to writing and sent them to 
him. A correspondence followed, and Franklin's 
father, happening to find the papers, pointed out to 
his son the great advantage Collins had in clearness 
and elegance of expression. A hint is all that genius 
requires, and Franklin went resolutely to work to 
improve himself. 

'About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. It 
was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, 
read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought 
the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With 
this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the 
sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, 
without looking at the book, try'd to compleat the papers again, by 
expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had 
been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to 
hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered 
some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found I wanted a 
stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them, which 
I thought I should have acquired before that time if I had gone on 
making verses ; since the continual occasion for words of the same 
import, but of different length, to suit the measure, or of different 
sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity 
of searching for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety in 
my mind, and make me master of it. Therefore I took some of the 
tales and turned them into verse ; and, after a time, when I had 
pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again. I also 
sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, and after 
some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I 



began to form the full sentences and compleat the paper. This was 
to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts. By comparing 
my work afterwards with the original, I discovered many faults and 
amended them ; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying that, 
in certain particulars of small import, I had been lucky enough to 
improve the method or the language, and this encouraged me to 
think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English writer, 
of which I was extremely ambitious." 

In some respects this is the most interesting pas- 
sage in all of Franklin's writings. It was this severe 
training of himself which gave him that wonderful 
facility in the use of English that made him a great 
man. Without it he would have been second-rate or 
ordinary. His method of improving his style served 
also as a discipline in thought and logic such as is sel- 
dom, if ever, given nowadays in any school or college. 

Many of those who have reflected deeply on the 
subject of college education have declared that its 
ultimate object should be to give in the highest 
degree the power of expression. Some have said 
that a sense of honor and the power of expression 
should be its objects. But there are few who will 
dispute the proposition that a collegian who receives 
his diploma without receiving with it more of the art 
of expression than most men possess has spent his 
time and his money in vain. 

During the last thirty years we have been trying 
every conceivable experiment in college education, 
many of them mere imitations from abroad and 
many of them mere suggestions, suppositions, or 
Utopian theories. When we began these experiments 
it was taken for granted that the old methods, which 
had produced in this country such scholars, writers, 



and thinkers as Lowell, Longfellow, Holmes, Haw- 
thorne, Webster, Prescott, Motley, Bancroft, Everett, 
Phillips, Channing, Parker, and Parkman, and in Eng- 
land a host too numerous to name, must necessarily 
be wrong. We began to imitate Germany. It was 
assumed that if we transplanted the German system 
we should begin to grind out Mommsens and Bun- 
sens by the yard, like a cotton-mill ; and that if we 
added to the German system every plausible sug- 
gestion of our own for making things easy, the result 
would be a stupendous success. 

But how many men have we produced who can be 
compared with the men of the old system ? Not one. 
The experiment, except so far as it has given a large 
number of people a great deal of pretty information 
about history and the fine arts, is a vast failure. After 
thirty years of effort we have just discovered that the 
boys whose nerves and eyesight are being worn out 
under our wonderful system cannot write a decent 
letter in the English language ; and a committee of 
Harvard University have spent months of labor and 
issued a voluminous report of hundreds of pages 
on this mortifying discovery, leaving it as perplexing 
and humiliating as they found it 

Remedies are proposed. We have made a mis- 
take, say some, and they suggest that for a change 
we adopt the English University system. After par- 
tially abolishing Latin and Greek we were to have 
in place of them a great deal of history and mathe- 
matics, which were more practical, it was said ; but 
now we are informed that this also was a mistake, and 
a movement is on foot to abolish history and algebra. 



Others suggest the French system, and one individual 
writes a long article for the newspapers proving 
beyond the possibility of a doubt that French edu- 
cation is just the thing we need. Always imitating 
something ; always trying to bring in the foreign and 
distant And until we stop this vulgar provincial 
snobbery and believe in ourselves and learn to do 
our own work with our own people in our own way, 
we shall continue to flounder and fail. 

Let us distinguish clearly between information and 
education. If it is necessary, especially in these 
times, to give people information on various subjects, 
on science, history, art, bric-a-brac, or mud pies, 
very good ; let it be done by all means, for it seems 
to have a refining influence on the masses. But do 
not call it education. Education is teaching a per- 
son to do something with his mind or his muscles or 
with both. It involves training, discipline, drill ; things 
which, as a rule, are very unpleasant to young peo- 
ple, and which, unless they are geniuses, like Frank- 
lin, they will not take up of their own accord. 

You can never teach a boy to write good English 
by having him read elegant extracts from distin- 
guished authors, or by making him wade through 
endless text-books of anatomy, physics, botany, his- 
tory, and philosophy, or by giving him a glib 
knowledge of French or German, or by perfunctory 
translations of Latin and Greek prepared in the new- 
fashioned, easy way, without a grammar. 

The old English method, by which boys were 
compelled to write Latin verses, was simply another 
form of Franklin's method, but rather more severe in 

4 49 


some respects, because the boy was compelled to dis- 
cipline his versifying power and hunt for and use 
words in two languages at once. The result was 
some of the greatest masters of language that the 
world has ever known, and the ordinary boy, though 
perhaps not a wonder in all the sciences, did not 
have a learned committee of a university investi- 
gating his disgraceful failure to use his native tongue. 
His mind, moreover, had been so disciplined by the 
severe training in the use of language which is only 
another name for thought that he was capable of 
taking up and mastering with ease any subject in 
science or philosophy, and could make as good mud 
pies and judge as well of bric-a-brac as those who 
had never done anything else. 

In this country people object to compelling boys 
to write verse, because, as they say, it is an endeavor 
to force them to become poets whether they have 
talent for it or not. Any one who reflects, however, 
knows that there is no question of poetry in the 
matter. It is merely a question of technical versi- 
fying and use of language. Franklin never wrote 
a line of poetry in his life, but he wrote hundreds 
of lines of verse, to the great improvement of the 
faculty which made him the man he was. 

When he voluntarily subjected himself to a mental 
discipline which modern parents would consider cruel 
he was only fifteen years old ; certainly a rather un- 
usual precocity, from which some people would 
prophesy a dwarfed career or an early death. But he 
did some of his best work after he was eighty, and 
died at the age of eighty-four. 



He lived in the little village of Boston nearly two 
hundred years ago, the wholesome wilderness on one 
side of him and the wholesome ocean on the other. 
He worked with his strong arms and hands all day, 
and the mental discipline and reading were stolen 
sweets at the dinner-hour, at night, and on Sunday, 
for he neglected church-going for the sake of his 
studies. Could he have budded and grown amid 
our distraction, dust, and disquietude? and have we 
any more of the elements of happiness than he ? 

Ashamed of his failure to learn arithmetic during 
his two short years at school, he procured a book on 
the subject and studied it by himself. In the same 
way he studied navigation and a little geometry. 
When scarcely seventeen he read Locke's "Essay 
on the Human Understanding" and "The Art of 
Thinking," by Messieurs du Port-Royal. 

"While I was intent on improving my language I met with an 
English grammar (I think it was Greenwood's) at the end of which 
there were two little sketches of the arts of rhetoric and logic, the 
latter finishing with a specimen of a dispute in the Socratic method ; 
and soon after I procured Xenophon's memorable things of Socrates, 
wherein there are many instances of the same method. I was 
charmed with it, adopted it, dropt my abrupt contradiction and posi- 
tive argumentation, and put on the humble inquirer and doubter." 

It was very shrewd of the boy to see so quickly 
the strategic advantage of the humbler method. It 
was also significant of genius that he should of his 
own accord not only train and discipline himself, but 
feed his mind on the great masters of literature in- 
stead of on trash. He could hardly have done any 
better at school, for he was gifted with unusual 



power of self-education. Boys are occasionally met 
with who have by their own efforts acquired a suf- 
ficient education to obtain a good livelihood or even 
to become rich ; but it would be difficult to find an- 
other instance of a boy with only two years' school- 
ing self-educating himself up to the ability not only 
of making a fortune, but of becoming a man of let- 
ters, a man of science, a philosopher, a diplomat, 
and a statesman of such very distinguished rank. 

There was no danger of his inclination for the 
higher departments of learning making him visionary 
or impractical, as is so often the case with the modern 
collegian. He was of necessity always in close con- 
tact with actual life. His brother, in whose printing- 
office he worked as an apprentice, was continually 
beating him ; perhaps not without reason, for Frank- 
lin himself admits that he was rather saucy and pro- 
voking. He was, it seems, at this period not a little 
vain of his learning and his skill as a workman. He 
had been writing important articles for his brother's 
newspaper, and he thought that his brother failed to 
appreciate his importance. They soon quarrelled, 
and Franklin ran away to New York. 

He went secretly on board a sloop at Boston, 
having sold some of his books to raise the passage- 
money ; and after a three days' voyage, which com- 
pletely cured his desire for the sea, he found himself 
in a strange town, several hundred miles from home. 
He applied for work to old Mr. William Bradford, 
the famous printer of the colonies, who had recently 
removed from Philadelphia. But he had no position 
to give the boy, and recommended him to go to 



Philadelphia, where his son kept a printing-office and 
needed a hand. 

Franklin started for Amboy, New Jersey, in a 
sloop ; but in crossing the bay they were struck by a 
squall, which tore their rotten sails to pieces and 
drove them on Long Island. They saved them- 
selves from wreck on the beach by anchoring just 
in time, and lay thus the rest of the day and the 
following night, soaked to the skin and without food 
or sleep. They reached Amboy the next day, having 
had nothing to eat for thirty hours, and in the 
evening Franklin found himself in a fever. 

He had heard that drinking plentifully of cold 
water was a good remedy ; so he tried it, went to 
bed, and woke up well the next morning. But it 
was probably his boyish elasticity that cured him, 
and not the cold water, as he would have us believe. 

He started on foot for Burlington, a distance of 
fifty miles, and tramped till noon through a hard 
rain, when he halted at an inn, and wished that 
he had never left home. He was a sorry figure, 
and people began to suspect him to be a runaway 
servant, which in truth he was. But the next day he 
got within eight miles of Burlington, and stopped 
at a tavern kept by a Dr. Brown, an eccentric man, 
who, finding that the boy had read serious books, 
was very friendly with him, and the two continued 
their acquaintance as long as the tavern-keeper lived. 

Reaching Burlington on Saturday, he lodged with 
an old woman, who sold him some gingerbread and 
gave him a dinner of ox-cheek, to which he added 
a pot of ale. His intention had been to stay until 



the following Tuesday, but he found a boat going 
down the river that evening, which brought him to 
Philadelphia on Sunday morning. 

He walked up Market Street from the wharf, dirty, 
his pockets stuffed with shirts and stockings, and 
carrying three great puffy rolls, one under each arm 
and eating the third. Passing by the house of a Mrs. 
Read, her daughter, standing at the door, saw the 
ridiculous, awkward-looking boy, and was much 
amused. But he continued strolling along the 
streets, eating his roll and calmly surveying the town 
where he was to become so eminent. One roll was 
enough for his appetite, and the other two, with a 
boy's sincere generosity, he gave to a woman and 
her child. He had insisted on paying for his pas- 
sage, although the boatman was willing to let him 
off because he had assisted to row. A man, Frank- 
lin sagely remarks, is sometimes more generous when 
he has but little money through fear of being thought 
to have but little. 

He wandered into a Quaker meeting-house and, as 
it was a silent meeting, fell fast asleep. Aroused by 
some one when the meeting broke up, he sought 
the river again, and was shown the Crooked Billet 
Inn, where he spent the afternoon sleeping, and im- 
mediately after supper went sound asleep again, and 
never woke till morning. 

The next day he succeeded in obtaining work 
with a printer named Keimer, a man who had been 
a religious fanatic and was a good deal of a knave ; 
and this Keimer obtained lodging for him at the 
house of Mrs. Read, whose daughter had seen him 



walking up Market Street eating his roll. Well 
lodged, at work, and with a little money to spend, 
he lived agreeably, he tells us, in Philadelphia, made 
the acquaintance of young men who were fond of 
reading, and very soon his brother-in-law, Robert 
Holmes, master of a sloop that traded between Bos- 
ton and the Delaware River, heard that the runaway 
was in Philadelphia. 

Holmes wrote from New Castle, Delaware, to the 
boy, assuring him of the regret of his family at his 
absconding, of their continued good will, and urging 
him to return. Franklin replied, giving his side of 
the story, and Holmes showed the letter to Sir Wil- 
liam Keith, Governor of Pennsylvania and Delaware, 
who happened to be at New Castle. 

Keith was one of the most popular colonial gov- 
ernors that Pennsylvania ever had, and enjoyed a 
successful administration of ten years, which might 
have lasted much longer but for his reckless ambition. 
He had allowed himself to fall into habits of extrava- 
gance and debt, and had a way of building up his 
popularity by making profuse promises, most of which 
he could not keep. Chicanery finally became an 
habitual vice which he was totally unable to restrain, 
and he would indulge in it without the slightest rea- 
son or excuse. 

He was surprised at the ability shown in Frank- 
lin's letter, declared that he must be set up in the 
printing business in Philadelphia, where a good 
printer was sadly needed, and promised to procure 
for him the public printing. A few days afterwards 
Franklin and Keimer, working near the window, were 



very much surprised to see the governor and Colo- 
nel French, of New Castle, dressed in all the finery 
of the time, walking across the street to their shop. 
Keimer thought that the visit was to him, and ' ' stared 
like a poisoned pig," Franklin tells us, when he saw 
the governor addressing his workman with all the 
blandishments of courtly flattery. "Why," exclaimed 
the unscrupulous Keith, " did you not come to me 
immediately on your arrival in the town? It was 
unkind not to do so." He insisted that the boy 
should accompany him to the tavern, where he and 
Colonel French were going to try some excellent 

At the tavern the boy's future life was laid out 
for him. The governor and Colonel French would 
give him the public printing of both Pennsylvania 
and Delaware. Meantime he was to go back to 
Boston, see his father, and procure his assistance in 
starting in business. The father would not refuse, 
for Sir William would write him a letter which would 
put everything right. So Franklin, completely de- 
ceived, agreed, and, until a ship could be found that 
was going to Boston, he dined occasionally with the 
governor, and became very much inflated with a 
sense of his own importance. 

Arrived at Boston, he strolled into his brother's 
printing-office, dressed in beautiful clothes, with a 
watch, and jingling five pounds sterling in silver in 
his pockets. He drew out a handful of the silver 
and spread it before the workmen, to their great sur- 
prise, for at that time Massachusetts was afflicted 
with a paper currency. Then, with consummate im- 



pudence and in his brother's presence, he gave the 
men a piece of eight to buy drink, and, after telling 
them what a good place Philadelphia was, swaggered 
out of the shop. It is not surprising that his brother 
turned away from him and refused to forgive or for- 
get his conduct 

His father, being a man of sense, flatly refused to 
furnish money to start a boy of eighteen in an ex- 
pensive business, and was curious to know what sort 
of man 'Governor Keith was, to recommend such a 
thing. So Franklin, with his conceit only slightly 
reduced, returned to Philadelphia, but this time with 
the blessing and consent of his parents. 

He stopped in Rhode Island on his way, to visit 
his brother John, who had quite an affection for him, 
and while there was asked by a Mr. Vernon to col- 
lect thirty-five pounds due him in Pennsylvania, and 
was given an order for the money. On the vessel 
from Newport to New York were two women of the 
town, with whom Franklin, in his ignorance of the 
world, talked familiarly, until warned by a matronly 
Quaker lady. When the vessel reached New York, 
the women robbed the captain and were arrested. 

His education in worldly matters was now to be- 
gin in earnest His friend Collins accompanied him 
to Philadelphia ; but Collins had taken to drink and 
gambling, and from this time on was continually bor- 
rowing money of Franklin. The Governor of New 
York, son of the famous Bishop Burnet, hearing from 
the captain that a plain young man who was fond of 
books had arrived, sent for him, flattered him, and 
added to his increasing conceit The boy who within 



a year had been made so much of by two governors 
was on the brink of ruin. 

On his journey to Philadelphia he collected the 
money due Mr. Vernon, and used part of it to pay 
the expenses of Collins and himself. Collins kept 
borrowing Mr. Vernon's money from him, and Frank- 
lin was soon in the position of an embezzler. 

Governor Keith laughed at the prudence of his 
father in refusing to set up in business such a prom- 
ising young man. " I will do it myself," he said. 
" Give me an inventory of the things necessary to be 
had from England, and I will send for them. You 
shall repay me when you are able." 

Thinking him the best man that had ever lived, 
Franklin brought him the inventory. 

"But now," said Keith, "if you were on the spot 
in England to choose the types and see that every- 
thing was good, might not that be of some advan- 
tage ? And then you may make acquaintances there 
and establish correspondences in the bookselling and 
stationery way." 

Of course that was delightful 

"Then," said Keith, "get yourself ready to go 
with Annis," who was captain of a vessel that traded 
annually between Philadelphia and London. 

Meantime, Franklin made love to Miss Read, who 
had seen him parading up Market Street with his 
rolls, and, if we may trust a man's account of such 
matters, he succeeded in winning her affections. He 
had lost all faith in religion, and his example un- 
settled those friends who associated and read books 
with him. He was at times invited to dine with the 



governor, who promised to give him letters of credit 
for money and also letters recommending him to his 
friends in England. 

He called at different times for these letters, but 
they were not ready. The day of the ship's sailing 
came, and he called to take leave of his great and 
good friend and to get the letters. The governor's 
secretary said that his master was extremely busy, but 
would meet the ship at New Castle, and the letters 
would be delivered. 

The ship sailed from Philadelphia with Franklin 
and one of his friends, Ralph, who was going to 
England, ostensibly on business, but really to desert 
his wife and child, whom he left in Philadelphia. 
While the vessel was anchored off New Castle, Frank- 
lin went ashore to see Keith, and was again informed 
that he was very busy, but that the letters would be 
sent on board. 

The despatches of the governor were brought on 
board in due form by Colonel French, and Franklin 
asked for those which were to be under his care. 
But the captain said that they were all in the bag 
together, and before he reached England he would 
have an opportunity to pick them out Arrived in 
London after a long, tempestuous voyage, Franklin 
found that there were no letters for him and no 
money. On consulting with a Quaker merchant, 
Mr. Denham, who had been friendly to him on the 
ship, he was told that there was not the slightest 
probability of Keith's having written such letters ; 
and Denham laughed at Keith's giving a letter of 
credit, having, as he said, no credit to give. 



Franklin was stranded, alone and almost penniless, 
in London. When seven years old he had been 
given pennies on a holiday and foolishly gave them 
all to another boy in exchange for a whistle which 
pleased his fancy. Mortified by the ridicule of his 
brothers and sisters, he afterwards made a motto for 
himself, " Don't give too much for the whistle." More 
than fifty years afterwards, when minister to France, 
he turned the whistle story into a little essay which 
delighted all Paris, and "Don't give too much for 
the whistle" became a cant saying in both Europe 
and America, He seldom forgot a lesson of expe- 
rience ; and, though he says but little about it, the 
Keith episode, like the expensive whistle, must have 
made a deep impression on him and sharpened his 

His life in London may be said to have been a 
rather evil one. He forgot Miss Read ; his com- 
panion, Ralph, forgot the wife and child he had left 
in Philadelphia, and kept borrowing money from 
him, as Collins had done. Franklin wrote a small 
pamphlet about this time, which he printed for him- 
self and called "A Dissertation on Liberty and 
Necessity, Pleasure and Pain." It was an argument 
in favor of fatalism, and while acknowledging the 
existence of God, it denied the immortality of the 
soul ; suggesting, however, as a possibility, that there 
might be a transmigration of souls. It was a clever 
performance in its way, with much of the power of 
expression and brightness which were aftenvards so 
characteristic of him ; but in later years he regretted 
having published such notions. 



He sums up his argument on Liberty and Neces- 
sity as follows : 

"When the Creator first designed the universe, either it was his 
will and intention that all things should exist and be in the manner 
they are at this time ; or it was his will they should be otherwise, 
i.e. in a different manner : To say it was his will things should be 
otherwise than they are is to say somewhat hath contracted his will 
and broken his measures, which is impossible because inconsistent 
with his power ; therefore we must allow that all things exist now in 
a manner agreeable to his will, and in consequence of that are all 
equally good, and therefore equally esteemed by him." 

His argument, though shorter, is almost precisely 
the same as that with which Jonathan Edwards after- 
wards began his famous essay against the freedom of 
the will, and it is strange that Franklin's biographers 
have not claimed that he anticipated Edwards. But, 
so far as Franklin is concerned, it is probable that 
he was only using ideas that were afloat in the 
philosophy of the time ; the two men were merely 
elaborating an argument and dealing with a meta- 
physical problem as old as the human mind. But 
Edwards carried the train of thought far beyond 
Franklin, and added the doctrine of election, while 
Franklin contented himself with establishing to his 
own satisfaction the very ancient proposition that 
there can be no freedom of the will, and that God 
must be the author of evil as well as of good. 

In the second part of his pamphlet, " Pleasure and 
Pain," he argues that pleasure and pain are exactly 
equal, because pain or uneasiness produces a desire 
to be freed from it, and the accomplishment of this 
desire produces a corresponding pleasure. His ar- 



gument on this, as well as on the first half of his 
subject, when we consider that he was a mere boy, 
is very interesting. He had picked up by reading 
and conversation a large part of the philosophy that 
permeated the mental atmosphere of the time, and 
his keen observation of life and of his own conscious- 
ness supplied the rest 

" It will possibly be objected here, that even common Experience 
shows us, there is not in Fact this Equality : Some we see hearty, 
brisk and cheerful perpetually, while others are constantly burden'd 
with a heavy ' Load of Maladies and Misfortunes, remaining for 
Years perhaps in Poverty, Disgrace, or Pain, and die at last without 
any Appearance of Recompence.' . . . And here let it be ob- 
served, that we cannot be proper Judges of the good or bad For- 
tune of Others ; we are apt to imagine, that what would give us a 
great Uneasiness or a great Satisfaction, has the same Effect upon 
others ; we think, for instance, those unhappy, who must depend 
upon Charity for a mean Subsistence, who go in Rags, fare hardly, 
and are despis'd and scorn'd by all ; not considering that Custom 
renders all these Things easy, familiar, and even pleasant. When 
we see Riches, Grandeur and a chearful Countenance, we easily im- 
agine Happiness accompanies them, when often times 'tis quite 
otherwise : Nor is a constantly sorrowful Look, attended with con- 
tinual Complaints, an infallible Indication of Unhappiness. . . . 
Besides some take a Satisfaction in being thought unhappy, (as 
others take a Pride in being thought humble,) these will paint their 
Misfortunes to others in the strongest Colours, and leave no Means 
unus'd to make you think them thoroughly miserable ; so great a 
Pleasure it is to them to be pitied ; Others retain the form and out- 
side Shew or Sorrow, long after the thing itself, with its Cause, is 
remov'd from the Mind ; it is a Habit they have acquired and can- 
not leave." 

A very sharp insight into human nature is shown 
in this passage, and it is not surprising that the boy 
who wrote it afterwards became a mover of men. 
His mind was led to the subject by being employed 



to print a book which was very famous in its day, 
called "The Religion of Nature Delineated." He 
disliked its arguments, and must needs refute them 
by his pamphlet "Liberty and Necessity," which was 
certainly a most vigorous mental discipline for him, 
although he was afterwards dissatisfied with its nega- 
tive conclusions. 

Obscure and poor as he was, he instinctively seized 
on everything that would contribute to his education 
and enlargement of mind. He made the acquaint- 
ance of a bookseller, who agreed for a small com- 
pensation to lend him books. His pamphlet on 
Liberty and Necessity brought him to the notice of 
Dr. Lyons, author of "The Infallibility of Human 
Judgment," who took him to an ale-house called 
The Horns, where a sort of club of free-thinkers as- 
sembled. There he met Dr. Mandeville, who wrote 
"The Fable of the Bees." Lyons also introduced 
him to Dr. Pemberton, who promised to give him an 
opportunity of seeing Sir Isaac Newton ; but this was 
never fulfilled. 

The conversation of these men, if not edifying 
in a religious way, was no doubt stimulating to 
his intelligence. He had brought over with him 
a purse made of asbestos, and this he succeeded 
in selling to Sir Hans Sloane, who invited him 
to his house and showed him his museum of curi- 

He says of the asbestos purse in his Autobiography 
that Sir Hans " persuaded me to let him add it to 
his collection, for which he paid me handsomely." 
But the persuasion was the other way, for the letter 



which he wrote to Sir Hans, offering to sell him the 
purse, has been discovered and printed. 

Even the woman he lodged with contributed to 
his education. She was a clergyman's daughter, 
had lived much among people of distinction, and 
knew a thousand anecdotes of them as far back as 
the time of Charles II. She was lame with the gout, 
and, seldom going out of her room, liked to have 
company. Her conversation was so amusing and 
instructive that he often spent an evening with her ; 
and she, on her part, found the young man so 
agreeable that after he had engaged a lodging near 
by for two shillings a week she would not let him 
go, and agreed to keep him for one and sixpence. 
So the future economist of two continents enlarged 
his knowledge and at the same time reduced his 
board to thirty-seven cents a week. 

He certainly needed all the money he could get, 
for he was helping to support Ralph, who was trying 
to become a literary man and gradually degenerating 
into a political hack. Ralph made the acquaintance 
of a young milliner who lodged in the same house 
with them. She had known better days and was 
genteelly bred, but before long she became Ralph's 

Ralph went into the country to look for employ- 
ment at school-teaching, and left his mistress in 
Franklin's care. As she had lost friends and em- 
ployment by her association with Ralph, she was 
soon in need of money, and borrowed from Franklin. 
Presuming on her dependent position, he attempted 
liberties with her, and was repulsed with indignation. 



Ralph hearing of it on his return, informed him that 
their friendship was at an end and all obligations 
cancelled. This precluded Franklin's hope of being 
repaid the money he had lent, but it had the advan- 
tage of putting a stop to further lending. 

For a year and a half he lived in London, still 
keeping up his reading, but also going to the 
theatres and meeting many odd characters and a 
few distinguished ones. It was an experience which 
at least enlarged his mind if it did not improve his 
morals. He eventually became very tired of Lon- 
don, longing for the simple pleasures and happy 
days he had enjoyed in Pennsylvania, and he seized 
the first opportunity to return. Mr. Denham, the 
Quaker merchant who had come over in the same 
ship with him, was about to return, and offered to 
employ him as clerk. He eagerly accepted the offer, 
helped his benefactor to buy and pack his supply 
of goods, and landed again in Philadelphia in the 
autumn of 1726. 

Keith was no longer governor. ' Miss Read, de- 
spairing of Franklin's return, had yielded to the per- 
suasions of her family and married a potter named 
Rogers, and Keimer seemed to be prospering. But 
the young printer was in a business that he liked. He 
was devoted to Mr. Denham, with whom his pros- 
pects were excellent, and he thought himself set- 
tled at last In a few months, however, both he 
and Mr. Denham were taken with the pleurisy. Mr. 
Denham died, and Franklin, fully expecting to die, 
made up his mind to it like a philosopher who be- 
lieved that there was nothing beyond the grave. He 
s 65 


was rather disappointed, he tells us, when he got 
well, for all the troublesome business of resignation 
would some day have to be done over again. 

Finding himself on his recovery without employ- 
ment, he went back again to work at his old trade 
with Keimer, and before long was in business for 
himself with a partner. He had never paid Mr. 
Vernon the money he had collected for him ; but, 
fortunately, Mr. Vernon was easy with him, and, ex- 
cept for worrying over this very serious debt and 
the loss of Miss Read, Franklin began to do fairly 
well, and his self-education was continued in earnest 

It was about this time that he founded the club 
called the Junto, which he has described as " the 
best school of philosophy, morality, and politics that 
then existed in the province." 

This description was true enough, but was not 
very high praise, for at that time Pennsylvania had 
no college, and the schools for children were mostly 
of an elementary kind. Franklin, in making this 
very sweeping assertion, may have intended one of 
his deep, sly jokes. It was the only school of philoso- 
phy in the province, and in that sense undoubtedly 
the best 

It was a sort of small debating club, in which the 
members educated one another by discussion ; and 
Franklin's biographer, Parton, supposes that it was in 
part suggested by Cotton Mather's benefit societies, 
which were well known in Boston when Franklin 
was a boy. 

The first members of the Junto were eleven in 
number, young- workmen like Franklin, four of 



them being printers. The others were Joseph Brient- 
nal, a copier of deeds ; Thomas Godfrey, a self-taught 
mathematician, inventor of the quadrant now known 
as Hadley's ; Nicholas Scull ; William Parsons, a shoe- 
maker ; William Maugridge, a carpenter ; William 
Coleman, a merchant's clerk ; and Robert Grace, a 
witty, generous young gentleman of some fortune. 
The Junto was popularly known as the Leather- 
Apron Club, and Franklin has told us in his Auto- 
biography of its methods and rules : 

" We met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required 
that every member, in his turn, should produce one or more queries 
on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be dis- 
cuss'd by the company ; and once in three months produce and read 
an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates 
were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted 
in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dis- 
pute, or desire of victory ; and, to prevent warmth, all expressions 
of positiveness hi opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some 
time made contraband, and prohibited under small pecuniary penal- 

From other sources we learn that when a new 
member was initiated he stood up and, with his hand 
on his breast, was asked the following questions : 

"I. Have you any particular disrespect to any present member? 
Answer : I have not. 

"2. "Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general 
of what profession or religion soever ? Answer : I do. 

' ' 3. Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, 
name, or goods for mere speculative opinions or his external way of 
worship ? Answer : No. 

"4. Do you love truth for truth's sake, and will you endeavor 
impartially to find and receive it yourself and communicate it to 
others? Answer: Yes." 



At every meeting certain questions were read, with 
a pause after each one ; and these questions might 
very well have been suggested by those of the 
Mather benefit societies. The first six are sufficient 
to give an idea of them all : 

"I. Have you met with anything in the author you last read, 
remarkable or suitable to be communicated to the Junto, particularly 
in history, morality, poetry, physic, travels, mechanic arts, or other 
parts of knowledge ? 

" 2. What new story have you lately heard, agreeable for telling 
in conversation ? 

"3. Hath any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business 
lately, and what have you heard of the cause ? 

"4. Have you lately heard of any citizen's thriving well, and by 
what means ? 

"5. Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or 
elsewhere, got his estate ? 

"6. Do you know of a fellow-citizen, who has lately done a 
worthy action, deserving praise and imitation ; or who has lately 
committed an error, proper for us to be warned against and avoid?" 

The number of members was limited to twelve, 
and Franklin always opposed an increase. Instead 
of adding to the membership, he suggested that each 
member form a similar club, and five or six were 
thus organized, with such names as The Vine, The 
Union, The Band. The original club is said to have 
continued for forty years. But it did not keep up its 
old character. Its original purpose had been to 
educate its members, to supply the place of the 
modern academy or college ; but when the mem- 
bers became older and their education more com- 
plete, they cared no longer for self-imposed tasks of 
essay-writing and formal debate on set questions. 
They turned it into a social club, or, rather, they 



dropped its educational and continued its social side, 
for it had always been social, and even convivial, 
which was one of the means adopted for keeping the 
members together and rendering their studies easy 
and pleasant 

A list of some of the questions discussed by the 
Junto has been preserved, from which a few are given 
as specimens : 

1 Is sound an entity or body ? 

' How may the phenomena of vapors be explained ? 

' Is self-interest the rudder that steers mankind ? 

' Which is the best form of government, and what was that iorm 
which first prevailed among mankind ? 

' Can any one particular form of government suit all mankind ? 

What is the reason that the tides rise higher in the Bay of Fuady 
than in the Bay of Delaware?" 

The young men who every Friday evening de- 
bated such questions as these were certainly ac- 
quiring an education which was not altogether an 
inferior substitute for that furnished by our modern 
institutions endowed with millions of dollars and 
officered by plodding professors prepared by years 
of exhaustive study. But the plodding professors 
and the modern institutions are necessary, because 
young men, as a rule, cannot educate themselves. 
The Junto could not have existed without Franklin. 
He inspired and controlled it His personality and 
energy pervaded it, and the eleven other members 
were but clay in his hands. His rare precocity and 
enthusiasm inspired a love for and an interest in 
study which money, apparatus, and professors often 
fail to arouse. 



The Junto debated the question of paper money, 
which was then agitating the Province of Pennsyl- 
vania, and Franklin was led to write and publish a 
pamphlet called "A Modest Inquiry into the Na- 
ture and Necessity of a Paper Currency," a very 
crude performance, showing the deficiencies of his 
self-education. The use of the word modest in the 
title was in pursuance of the shrewd plan he had 
adopted of affecting great humility in the expression 
of his opinions. But his description in his Auto- 
biography of the effect of this pamphlet is by no 
means either modest or humble : 

" It was well received by the common people in general ; but the 
rich men disliked it, for it increased and strengthened the clamor for 
more money, and they happening to have no writers among them 
that were able to answer it their opposition slackened, and the point 
was carried by a majority in the House." 

In other words, he implies that the boyish debate 
of twelve young workingmen, resulting in the publi- 
cation of a pamphlet by one of them, was the means 
of passing the Pennsylvania paper-money act of 
1729. His biographers have echoed his pleasant 
delusion, and this pamphlet, which in reality con- 
tains some of the most atrocious fallacies in finance 
and political economy, has been lauded as a wonder, 
the beginning of modern political economy, and the 
source from which Adam Smith stole the material 
for his "Wealth of Nations."* 

In spite of all his natural brightness and laudable 

* Pennsylvania : Colony and Commonwealth, p. 80. 


efforts for his own improvement, he was but half 
educated and full of crude enthusiasm. He was 
only twenty-three, and nothing more could be ex- 

Fifteen or twenty years afterwards, with added 
experience, Franklin became a very different sort 
of person. The man of forty, laboriously investi- 
gating science, discovering the secrets of electricity, 
and rejecting everything that had not been subjected 
to the most rigid proof, bore but little resemblance 
to the precocious youth of twenty-three, the victim 
of any specious sophism that promised a millennium. 
But he never fully apologized to the world for his 
paper-money delusion, contenting himself with say- 
ing in his Autobiography, " I now think there are 
limits beyond which the quantity may be hurtful." 

Three years after the publication of his pamphlet 
on paper money he began to study modern lan- 
guages, and soon learned to read French, Italian, 
and Spanish. An acquaintance who was also study- 
ing Italian often tempted him to play chess. As 
this interfered with the Italian studies, Franklin 
arranged with him that the victor in any game 
should have the right to impose a task, either in 
grammar or translation ; and as they played equally, 
they beat each other into a knowledge of the 

After he had become tolerably well acquainted 
with these modern languages he happened one day 
to look into a Latin Testament, and found that he 
could read it more easily than he had supposed. The 
modern languages had, he thought, smoothed the 


way for him, and he immediately began to study 
Latin, which had been dropped ever since, as a little 
boy, he had spent a year in the Boston Grammar 

From this circumstance he jumped to the con- 
clusion that the usual method pursued in schools 
of studying Latin before the modern languages was 
all wrong. It would be better, he said, to begin 
with the French, proceed to the Italian, and finally 
reach the Latin. This would be beginning with 
the easiest first, and would also have the advantage 
that if the pupils should quit the study of languages, 
and never arrive at the Latin, they would have ac- 
quired another tongue or two which, being in modern 
use, might be serviceable to them in after-life. 

This suggestion, though extravagantly praised, 
has never been adopted, for the modern languages 
are now taught contemporaneously with Latin. It 
was an idea founded exclusively on a single and 
very unusual experience, without any test as to its 
general applicability. But all Franklin's notions of 
education were extremely radical, because based on 
his own circumstances, which were not those of the 
ordinary youth, to whom all systems of education 
have to be adapted. 

He wished to entirely abolish Latin and Greek. 
They had been useful, he said, only in the past, 
when they were the languages of the learned and 
when all books of science and important knowledge 
were written in them. At that time there had been 
a reason for learning them, but that reason had now 

passed away. English should be substituted for 



them, and its systematic study would give the same 
knowledge of language-structure and the same men- 
tal training that were supposed to be attainable only 
through Latin and Greek. His own self-education 
had been begun in English. He had analyzed and 
rewritten the essays in Addison's Spectator, and, 
believing that in this way he had acquired his own 
most important mental training, he concluded that 
the same method should be imposed on every one. 
He wished to set up the study of that author and 
of Pope, Milton, and Shakespeare as against Cicero, 
Virgil, and Homer. 

One of our most peculiar American habits is 
that every one who has a pet fancy or experience 
immediately wants it adopted into the public school 
system. We not uncommonly close our explana- 
tion of something that strikes us as very important 
by declaring, " and I would have it taught in the 
public schools." It has even been suggested that 
the game of poker should be taught as tending to 
develop shrewdness and observation. 

Franklin's foundation for all education was Eng- 
lish. He would have also French, German, or 
Italian, and practical subjects, natural science, as- 
tronomy, history, government, athletic sports, good 
manners, good morals, and other topics ; for when 
one is drawing up these ideal schemes without a 
particle of practical experience in teaching it is so 
easy to throw in one thing after another which seems 
noble or beautiful for boys and girls to know. But 
English he naturally thought from his own experi- 
ence was the gate-way to everything. 



In the course of his life Franklin received the 
honorary degree of doctor of laws from Harvard, 
Yale, Oxford, Edinburgh, and St Andrew's, and he 
founded a college. It has been said in support of 
his peculiar theories of education that when, in 1776, 
the Continental Congress, which was composed 
largely of college graduates, was considering who 
should be sent as commissioner to France, the only 
member who knew enough of the language to be 
thoroughly eligible was the one who had never been 
near a college except to receive honorary degrees 
for public services he had performed without the 
assistance of a college training. 

This is, of course, an interesting statement ; but 
as an argument it is of no value. Franklin could 
read French, but could not speak it, and he had 
to learn to do so after he reached France. By his 
own confession he never was able to speak it well, 
and disregarded the grammar altogether, a natural 
consequence of being self-taught. John Adams and 
other members of the Congress could read French 
as well as Franklin ; and when, in their turn, they 
went to France, they learned to speak it as fluently 
as he. 

In 1743 Franklin attempted to establish an acad- 
emy in Philadelphia. The higher education was 
very much neglected at that time in the middle 
colonies. The nearest colleges were Harvard and 
Yale, far to the north in New England, and William 
and Mary, far to the south in Virginia. The Pres- 
byterians had a few good schools in Pennsylvania 
of almost the grade of academies, but none in 



Philadelphia. The Quakers, as a class, were not 
interested in colleges or universities, and confined 
their efforts to elementary schools. People were 
alarmed at the ignorance in which not only the 
masses but even the sons of the best citizens were 
growing up, and it was the general opinion that 
those born in the colony were inferior in intelli- 
gence to their fathers who had emigrated from 

Franklin's efforts failed in 1743 because there 
was much political agitation in the province and 
because of the preparations for the war with Spain 
in which England was about to engage ; but in 1 749 
he renewed his attempt, and was successful. He 
was then a man of forty-three, had been married 
thirteen years, and had children, legitimate and ille- 
gitimate, to be educated. The Junto supported 
him, and in aid of his plan he wrote a pamphlet 
called "Proposals relating to the Education of 
Youth in Pennsylvania." 

In this pamphlet he could not set forth his extreme 
views of education because even the most liberal 
people in the town were not in favor of them. Phila- 
delphia was at that time the home of liberal ideas 
in the colonies. Many people were in favor of alter- 
ing the old system of education and teaching science 
and other practical subjects in addition to Latin and 
Greek ; but they did not favor abolishing the study 
of these languages, and they could not see the neces- 
sity of making English so all-important as Franklin 
wished. He was compelled, therefore, to conform 
his arguments to the opinions of those from whom 



he expected subscriptions, and he did this with 
his usual discretion, making, however, the English 
branches as important as was possible under the 

The result of the pamphlet was that five thousand 
pounds were subscribed, and the academy started 
within a year, occupying a large building on Fourth 
Street, south of Arch, which had been built for 
the use of George Whitefield, the famous English 
preacher. It supplied a real need of the com- 
munity and had plenty of pupils. Within six years 
it obtained a charter from the proprietors of the 
province, and became a college, with an academy 
and a charitable school annexed. 

A young Scotchman, the Rev. William Smith, 
was appointed to govern the institution, and was 
called the provost He had very advanced opinions 
on education, holding much the same views as were 
expressed in Franklin's proposals ; but he was not 
in accord with Franklin's extreme ideas.* Those 
who intended to become lawyers, doctors, or clergy- 
men should be taught to walk in the old paths and 
to study Latin and Greek ; but the rest were to be 
deluged with a knowledge of accounts, mathematics, 
oratory, poetry, chronology, history, natural and 
mechanic philosophy, agriculture, ethics, physics, 
chemistry, anatomy, modern languages, fencing, 
dancing, religion, and everything else that by any 
chance might be useful. 

Thus the academy founded by Franklin became 

* Pennsylvania : Colony and Commonwealth, p. 141. 


the College of Philadelphia, and as managed by 
Provost Smith it was a very good one and played 
a most interesting part in the life and politics of the 
colony. Its charter was revoked and its property 
confiscated during the Revolution, and another col- 
lege was created, called the University of the State 
of Pennsylvania, which was worthless. Eleven years 
afterwards the old college was restored to its rights, 
and soon after that it was combined with the State 
University, and the union of the two produced the 
present University of Pennsylvania.* It should, 
however, have been called Franklin University, which 
would have been in every way a better name. 

* Pennsylvania : Colony and Commonwealth, pp. 374-377, 381. 




FRANKLIN'S father and mother were Massachu- 
setts Puritans who, while not conspicuously re- 
ligious, attended steadily to their religious duties. 
They lived in Milk Street, Boston, near the Old 
South Church, and little Benjamin was carried 
across the street the day he was born and baptized 
in that venerable building. 

He was born on Sunday, January 6, 1706 (Old 
Style), and if it had occurred in one of the Massa- 
chusetts towns where the minister was very strict, 
baptism might have been refused, for some of the 
Puritans were so severe in their views of Sabbath- 
keeping that they said a child born on the Sabbath 
must have been conceived on the Sabbath, and was 
therefore hopelessly unregenerate.* 

These good men would have found their theory 
fully justified in Franklin, for he became a terrible 
example of the results of Sabbath birth and be- 
getting. As soon as opportunity offered he became 
a most persistent Sabbath-breaker. While he lived 
with his parents he was compelled to go to church ; 
but when apprenticed to his elder brother, and living 
away from home, he devoted Sunday to reading and 

* Men, Women, and Manners in Colonial Times, vol. i. p. 210. 



study. He would slip off to the printing-office and 
spend nearly the whole day there alone with his 
books ; and during a large part of his life Sunday 
was to him a day precious for its opportunities for 
study rather than for its opportunities for worship. 

His persistence in Sabbath-breaking was fortified 
by his entire loss of faith in the prevailing religion. 

"I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; and tho' 
some of the dogmas of that persuasion, such as the eternal decrees 
of God, election, reprobation, etc., appeared to me unintelligible, 
others doubtful, and I early absented myself from the public assem- 
blies of the sect, Sunday being my studying day, I never was with- 
out some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the 
existence of the Deity ; that he made the world and governed it by 
his Providence ; that the most acceptable service of God was the 
doing good to man ; that our souls are immortal ; and that all crime 
will be punished and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter." 
(Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. i. p. 172.) 

It will be observed that he speaks of himself as 
having been educated a Presbyterian, a term which 
in his time was applied to the Puritans of Massa- 
chusetts. We find Thomas Jefferson also describing 
the New Englanders as Presbyterians, and in colo- 
nial times the Quakers in Pennsylvania used the 
same term when speaking of them. But they were 
not Presbyterians in the sense in which the word 
is now used, and their religion is usually described 
as Congregationalism. 

In the earlier part of his Autobiography Franklin 
describes more particularly how he was led away 
from the faith of his parents. Among his father's 
books were some sermons delivered on the Boyle 
foundation, which was a fund established at Oxford, 



England, by Robert Boyle for the purpose of having 
discourses delivered to prove the truth of Chris- 
tianity. Franklin read some of these sermons when 
he was only fifteen years old, and was very much in- 
terested in the attacks made in them on the deists, 
the forerunners of the modern Unitarians. He 
thought that the arguments of the deists which 
were quoted to be refuted were much stronger than 
the attempts to refute them. 

Shaftesbury and Collins were the most famous 
deistical writers of that time. Their books were in 
effect a denial of the miraculous part of Christian- 
ity, and whoever accepted their arguments was left 
with a belief only in God and the immortality of 
the soul, with Christianity a code of morals and 
beautiful sentiments instead of a revealed religion. 
From reading quotations from these authors Frank- 
lin was soon led to read their works entire, and 
they profoundly interested him. Like their suc- 
cessors, the Unitarians, they were full of religious 
liberty and liberal, broad ideas on all subjects, and 
Franklin's mind tended by nature in that direc- 

It seems that Franklin's brother James was also 
a liberal. He had been employed to print a little 
newspaper, called the Boston Gazette, and when this 
work was taken from him, he started a newspaper 
of his own, called the Neiv England Courant. His 
apprentice, Benjamin, delivered copies of it to the 
subscribers, and before long began to write for it 

The Courant, under the guidance of James Frank- 
lin and his friends, devoted itself to ridiculing the 



government and religion of Massachusetts. A de- 
scription of it, supposed to have been written by 
Cotton Mather, tells us that it was "full-freighted 
with nonsense, unmanliness, raillery, profaneness, 
immorality, arrogance, calumnies, lies, contradic- 
tions, and what not, all tending to quarrels and 
divisions and to debauch and corrupt the minds 
and manners of New England." Among other 
things, the Courant, as Increase Mather informs us, 
was guilty of saying that "if the ministers of God 
approve of a thing, it is a sign it is of the devil ; 
which is a horrid thing to be related." Its printer 
and editor was warned that he would soon, though 
a young man, have to appear before the judgment- 
seat of God to answer for things so vile and abomi- 

Some of the Puritan ministers, under the lead of 
Cotton Mather, were at that time trying to introduce 
inoculation as a preventive of small-pox, and for 
this the Courant attacked them. It attempted to 
make a sensation out of everything. Increase 
Mather boasted that he had ceased to take it To 
which the Courant replied that it was true he was 
no longer a subscriber, but that he sent his grand- 
son every week to buy it It was a sensational 
journal, and probably the first of its kind in this 
country. People bought and read it for the sake 
of its audacity. It was an instance of liberalism 
gone mad and degenerated into mere radicalism and 

Some of the articles attributed to Franklin, and 
which were in all probability written by him, were 

6 8l 


violent attacks on Harvard College, setting forth 
the worthlessness of its stupid graduates, nearly all 
of whom went into the Church, which is described 
as a temple of ambition and fraud controlled by 
money. There is a touch of what would now be 
called Socialism or Populism in these articles, and 
it is not surprising to find the author of them after- 
wards writing a pamphlet in favor of an inflated 
paper currency. 

The government of Massachusetts allowed the 
Courant to run its wicked course for about a year, 
and then fell upon it, imprisoning James Franklin for 
a month in the common jail. Benjamin conducted 
the journal during the imprisonment of his brother, 
who was not released until he had humbly apolo- 
gized. The Courant then went on, and was worse 
than ever, until an order of council was issued for- 
bidding its publication, because it had mocked re- 
ligion, brought the Holy Scriptures into contempt, 
and profanely abused the faithful ministers of God, 
as well as His Majesty's government and the govern- 
ment of the province. 

The friends of James Franklin met and decided 
that they would evade the order of council. James 
would no longer print the paper, but it should be 
issued in the name of Benjamin. So Benjamin's 
papers of apprenticeship were cancelled, lest it should 
be said that James was still publishing the paper 
through his apprentice. And, in order to retain 
Benjamin's services, James secured from him secret 
articles of apprenticeship. A little essay on " Hat 
Honor" which appeared in the Courant soon after- 



wards is supposed to have been written by Benja- 
min and is certainly in his style. 

" In old Time it was no disrespect for Men and Women to be 
called by their own Names : Adam was never called Master Adam ; 
we never read of Noah Esquire, Lot Knight and Baronet, nor the 
Right Honourable Abraham, Viscount of Mesopotamia, Baron of 
Canaan ; no, no, they were plain Men, honest Country Grasiers, that 
took care of their Families and Flocks. Moses was a great Prophet, 
and Aaron a priest of the Lord ; but we never read of the Reverend 
Moses, nor the Right Reverend Father in God Aaron, by Divine 
Providence, Lord Arch- Bishop of Israel ; Thou never sawest Madam 
Rebecca in the Bible, my Lady Rachel : nor Mary, tho' a Princess 
of the Blood after the death of Joseph, called the Princess Dowager 
of Nazareth." 

This was funny, irreverent, and reckless, and 
shows a mind entirely out of sympathy with its 
surroundings. In after-years Franklin wrote several 
humorous parodies on the Scriptures, but none that 
was quite so shocking to religious people as this 

The Courant, however, was not again molested ; 
but Franklin quarrelled with his brother James, and 
was severely beaten by him. Feeling that James 
dare not make public the secret articles of appren- 
ticeship, he resolved to leave him, and was soon on 
his way to Philadelphia, as has been already related. 

He had been at war with the religion of his native 
province, and, though not yet eighteen years old, had 
written most violent attacks upon it It is not likely 
that he would have prospered if he had remained 
in Boston, for the majority of the people were against 
him and he was entirely out of sympathy with the 
prevailing tone of thought. He would have become 



a social outcast devoted to mere abuse and nega- 
tion. A hundred years afterwards the little party 
of deists who gave support to the Courant increased 
so rapidly that their opinions, under the name of 
Unitarianism, became the most influential religion 
of Massachusetts.* If Franklin had been born in 
that later time he would doubtless have grown and 
flourished on his native soil along with Emerson 
and Channing, Lowell and Holmes, and with them 
have risen to greatness. But previous to the Revo- 
lution his superb faculties, which required the 
utmost liberty for their expansion, would have been 
starved and stunted in the atmosphere of intolerance 
and repression which prevailed in Massachusetts. 

After he left Boston, his dislike for the religion of 
that place, and, indeed, for all revealed religion, 
seems to have increased. In London we find him 
writing the pamphlet "Liberty and Necessity," 
described in the previous chapter, and adopting what 
was in effect the position of Voltaire, namely, an 
admission of the existence of some sort of God, 
but a denial of the immortality of the soul. He 
went even beyond Voltaire in holding that, inas- 
much as God was omnipotent and all-wise, and had 
created the universe, whatever existed must be right, 
and vice and virtue were empty distinctions. 

I have already told how this pamphlet brought 
him to the notice of a certain Dr. Lyons, who had 
himself written a sceptical book, and who introduced 
Franklin to other philosophers of the same sort who 

* Men, Women, and Manners in Colonial Times, vol. i. p. 222. 


met at an inn called The Horns. But, in spite of 
their influence, Franklin began to doubt the princi- 
ples he had laid down in his pamphlet He had 
gone so far in negation that a reaction was started in 
his mind. He tore up most of the hundred copies 
of "Liberty and Necessity," believing it to be of 
an evil tendency. Like most of his writings, how- 
ever, it possessed a vital force of its own, and some 
one printed a second edition of it. 

His morals at this time were, according to his own 
account, fairly good. He asserts that he was neither 
dishonest nor unjust, and we can readily believe him, 
for these were not faults of his character. In his 
Autobiography he says that he passed through this 
dangerous period of his life "without any willful 
gross immorality or injustice that might have been 
expected from my want of religion." In the first 
draft of the Autobiography he added, "some fool- 
ish intrigues with low women excepted, which from 
the expense were rather more prejudicial to me than 
to them." But in the revision these words were 
crossed out* 

On the voyage from London to Philadelphia he 
kept a journal, and in it entered a plan which he 
had formed for regulating his future conduct, no 
doubt after much reflection while at sea. Towards 
the close of his life he said of it, "It is the more 
remarkable as being formed when I was so young 
and yet being pretty faithfully adhered to quite 
thro' to old age." This plan was not found in the 

* Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. i. p. 180. 


journal, but a paper which is supposed to contain 
it was discovered and printed by Parton in his " Life 
of Franklin. " It recommends extreme frugality until 
he can pay his debts, truth-telling, sincerity, devo- 
tion to business, avoidance of all projects for be- 
coming suddenly rich, with a resolve to speak ill of 
no man, but rather to excuse faults. Revealed re- 
ligion had, he says, no weight with him ; but he 
had become convinced that "truth, sincerity, and 
integrity in dealings between man and man were 
of the utmost importance to the felicity of life." 

Although revealed religion seemed of no im- 
portance to him, he had begun to think that, 
"though certain actions might not be bad because 
they were forbidden by it, or good because it com- 
manded them, yet probably those actions might be 
forbidden because they were bad for us or com- 
manded because they were beneficial to us in their 
own natures, all the circumstances of things con- 

It was in this way that he avoided and confuted 
his own argument in the pamphlet "Liberty and 
Necessity." He had maintained in it that God must 
necessarily have created both good and evil. And as 
he had created evil, it could not be considered as 
something contrary to his will, and therefore forbid- 
den and wrong in the sense in which it is usually 
described. If it was contrary to his will it could not 
exist, for it was impossible to conceive of an om- 
nipotent being allowing anything to exist contrary 
to his will, and least of all anything which was evil 
as well as contrary to his will. What we call evil, 



therefore, must be no worse than good, because both 
are created by an all-wise, omnipotent being. 

This argument has puzzled many serious and 
earnest minds in all ages, and Franklin could never 
entirely give it up. But he avoided it by saying 
that "probably" certain actions "might be forbid- 
den," because, "all the circumstances of things con- 
sidered," they were bad for us, or they might be 
commanded because they were beneficial to us. In 
other words, God created evil as well as good ; but 
for some reason which we do not understand he 
has forbidden us to do evil and has commanded us 
to do good. Or, he has so arranged things that 
what we call evil is injurious to us and what we 
call good is beneficial to us. 

This was his eminently practical way of solving 
the great problem of the existence of evil. It will be 
said, of course, that it was simply exchanging one 
mystery for another, and that one was as incompre- 
hensible as the other. To which he would probably 
have replied that his mystery was the pleasanter one, 
and, being less of an empty, dry negation and giving 
less encouragement to vice, was more comforting to 
live under, "all the circumstances of things con- 

He says that he felt himself the more confirmed 
in this course because his old friends Collins and 
Ralph, whom he had perverted to his first way of 
thinking, went wrong, and injured him greatly with- 
out the least compunction. He also recollected the 
contemptible conduct of Governor Keith towards 
him, and Keith was another free-thinker. His own 



conduct while under the influence of arguments 
like those in "Liberty and Necessity" had been by 
no means above reproach. He had wronged Miss 
Read, whose affections he had won, and he had em- 
bezzled Mr. Vernon's money. So he began to sus- 
pect, he tells us, that his early doctrine, "tho 1 it 
might be true, was not very useful." 

When back again in Philadelphia and beginning 
to prosper a little, he set himself more seriously to 
the task of working out some form of religion that 
would suit him. He must needs go to the bottom 
of the subject ; and in this, as in other matters, 
nothing satisfied him unless he had made it himself. 
In the year 1728, when he was twenty-two years 
old, he framed a creed, a most curious compound, 
which can be given no other name than Franklin's 

Having rejected his former negative belief as not 
sufficiently practical for his purposes, and having once 
started creed-building, he was led on into all sorts 
of ideas, which it must be confessed were no better 
than those of older creed-makers, and as difficult to 
believe as anything in revealed religion. But he 
would have none but his own, and its preparation 
was, of course, part of that mental training which, 
consciously or unconsciously, was going on all the 

He began by saying that he believed in one 
Supreme Being, the author and father of the gods, 
for in his system there were beings superior to man, 
though inferior to God. These gods, he thought, 
were probably immortal, or possibly were changed 



and others put in their places. Each of them had 
a glorious sun, attended by a beautiful and admirable 
system of planets. God the Infinite Father, required 
no praise or worship from man, being infinitely above 
it ; but as there was a natural principle in man which 
inclined him to devotion, it seemed right that he 
should worship something. 

He went on to say that God had in him some of 
the human passions, and was " not above caring for 
us, being pleased with our praise and offended when 
we slight him or neglect his glory;" which was a 
direct contradiction of what he had previously said 
about the Creator being infinitely above praise 
or worship. "As I should be happy," says this 
bumptious youth of twenty-two, " to have so wise, 
good, and powerful a Being my friend, let me con- 
sider in what manner I shall make myself most 
acceptable to him." 

This good and powerful Being would, he thought, 
be delighted to see him virtuous, because virtue 
makes men happy, and the great Being would be 
pleased to see him happy. So he constructed a sort 
of liturgy, prefacing it with the suggestion that he 
ought to begin it with "a countenance that ex- 
presses a filial respect, mixed with a kind of smiling 
that signifies inward joy and satisfaction and admira- 
tion," a piece of formalism which was rather worse 
than anything that has been invented by the eccle- 
siastics he so much despised. At one point in the 
liturgy he was to sing Milton's hymn to the Crea- 
tor ; at another point " to read part of some such 
book as Ray's Wisdom of God in the Creation, or 



Blackmore on the Creation." Then followed his 
prayers, of which the following are specimens : 

" O Creator, O Father, I believe that thou art Good, and that thou 
art pleased with the pleasure of thy children. 
" Praised be thy name for ever." 

" That I may be preserved from Atheism, and Infidelity, Impiety 
and Profaneness, and in my Addresses to thee carefully avoid Ir- 
reverence and Ostentation, Formality and odious Hypocrisy. 

" Help me, O Father. 

" That I may be just in all my Dealings and temperate in my 
pleasures, full of Candour and Ingenuity, Humanity and Benevolence. 
"Help me, O Father." 

He was doing the best he could, poor boy! but 
as a writer of liturgies he was not a success. His 
own liturgy, however, seems to have suited him, 
and it is generally supposed that he used it for a 
great many years, probably until he was forty years 
old. He had it all written out in a little volume, 
which was, in truth, Franklin's prayer-book in the 
fullest sense of the word. 

Later in life he appears to have dropped the 
eccentric parts of it and confined himself to a more 
simple statement. At exactly what period he made 
this change is not known. But when he was eighty- 
four years old, and within a few weeks of his death, 
Ezra Stiles, the President of Yale College, in a letter 
asking him to sit for his portrait for the college, 
requested his opinion on religion. In his reply 
Franklin said, that as to the portrait he was willing 
it should be painted, but the artist should waste no 
time, or the man of eighty-four might slip through 
his fingers. He then gave his creed, which was that 


there was one God, who governed the world, who 
should be worshipped, to whom the most acceptable 
service was doing good to man, and who would deal 
justly with the immortal souls of men. 

"As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly 
desire, 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 I apprehend 
it has received various corrupting changes, and 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 
consequence, as probably it has, of making his doctrines more re- 
spected and more observed ; especially as I do not perceive that 
the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the unbelievers in 
his government of the world with any peculiar marks of his dis- 

" I shall only add, respecting myself, having experienced the 
goodness of that Being in conducting me prosperously through a 
long life, I have no doubt of its continuance in the next, though 
without the smallest conceit of meriting such goodness. 

"P. S. I confide, that you will not expose me to criticisms and 
censures by publishing any part of this communication to you. I 
have ever let others enjoy their religious sentiments, without reflect- 
ing on them for those that appeared to me unsupportable or even 
absurd. All sects here, and we have a great variety, have experi- 
enced my good will in assisting them with subscriptions for the build- 
ing their new places of worship ; and, as I have never opposed any 
of their doctrines, I hope to go out of the world in peace with them 

So Franklin's belief at the close of his life was 
deism, which was the same faith that he had pro- 
fessed when a boy. From boyish deism he had 
passed to youthful negation, and from negation 
returned to deism again. He also in his old age 
argued out his belief in immortality from the opera- 


tions he had observed in nature, where nothing is 
lost ; why then should the soul not live? 

In the convention that framed the National Con- 
stitution in 1787, when there was great conflict of 
opinion among the members and it seemed doubtful 
whether an agreement could be reached, he moved 
that prayers be said by some clergyman every 
morning, but the motion was lost. In a general 
way he professed to favor all religions. A false 
religion, he said, was better than none ; for if men 
were so bad with religion, what would they be with- 
out it? 

Commenting on the death of his brother John, he 

" He who plucks out a tooth, parts with it freely, since the pain 
goes with it ; and he who quits the whole body parts at once with all 
pains, and possibilities of pains and diseases, which it was liable to 
or capable of making him suffer. Our friend and we were invited 
abroad on a party of pleasure, which is to last forever. His chair 
was ready first, and he is gone before us. We could not all con- 
veniently start together ; and why should you and I be grieved at 
this, since we are soon to follow and know where to find him ?" 

He not infrequently expressed his views on the 
future life in a light vein : 

" With regard to future bliss, I cannot help imagining that multi- 
tudes of the zealously orthodox of different sects who at the last day 
may flock together in hopes of seeing each other damned, will be 
disappointed and obliged to rest content with their own salvation. ' ' 

His wife was an Episcopalian, a member of Christ 
Church in Philadelphia, and he always encouraged 
her, as well as his daughter, to attend the services 
of that church. 



" Go constantly to church," he wrote to his daughter after he had 
started on one of his missions to England, " whoever preaches. The 
act of devotion in the common prayer book is your principal business 
there, and if properly attended to, will do more towards mending the 
heart than sermons generally can do. For they were composed by 
men of much greater piety and wisdom than our common composers 
of sermons can pretend to be ; and therefore, I wish you would 
never miss the prayer days ; yet I do not mean that you should de- 
spise sermons even of the preachers you dislike ; for the discourse 
is often much better than the man, as sweet and clear waters come 
through very dirty earth. ' ' 

It does not appear that he himself attended the 
services of Christ Church, for to the end of his life 
he was always inclined to use Sunday as a day for 
study, as he had done when a boy. At one time, 
soon after he had adopted his curious creed, he was 
prevailed upon to attend the preaching of a Presby- 
terian minister for five Sundays successively. But 
finding that this preacher devoted himself entirely 
to the explanation of doctrine instead of morals, he 
left him, and returned, he says, to his own little 

Not long afterwards another Presbyterian preacher, 
a young man named Hemphill, came to Philadelphia, 
and as he was very eloquent and expounded mo- 
rality rather than doctrine, Franklin was completely 
captivated, and became one of his regular hearers. 
We would naturally suppose that a Presbyterian 
minister able to secure the attention of Franklin 
was not altogether orthodox, and such proved to 
be the case. He was soon tried by the synod for 
wandering from the faith. Franklin supported him, 
wrote pamphlets in his favor, and secured for him 
the support of others. But it was soon discovered 



that the sermons of the eloquent young man had 
all been stolen from a volume published in England. 
This was, of course, the end of him, and he lost 
all his adherents except Franklin, who humorously 
insisted that he "rather approved of his giving us 
sermons composed by others, than bad ones of his 
own manufacture ; though the latter was the practice 
of our common teachers." 

Whiten" eld, the great preacher who towards the 
middle of the eighteenth century started such a re- 
vival of religion in all the colonies, was, of course, a 
man of too much ability to escape the serious regard 
of Franklin, who relates that he attended one of his 
sermons, fully resolved not to contribute to the col- 
lection at the close of it " I had in my pocket," 
he says, "a handful of copper money, three or 
four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he 
proceeded, I began to soften and concluded to give 
him the copper. Another stroke of his oratory made 
me ashamed of that, and determined me to give the 
silver ; and he finished so admirably, that I emptied 
my pocket wholly into the collector's dish, gold and 

This seems to have been the only time that 
Franklin was carried away by preaching. On an- 
other occasion, when Whitefield was preaching in 
Market Street, Philadelphia, Franklin, instead of 
listening to the sermon, employed himself in esti- 
mating the size of the crowd and the power of the 
orator's voice. He had often doubted what he had 
read of generals haranguing whole armies, but when 
he found that Whitefield could easily preach to 



thirty thousand people and be heard by them all, 
he was less inclined to be incredulous. 

He and Whitefield became fast friends, and 
Whitefield stayed at his house. In replying to his 
invitation to visit him, Whitefield answered, " If 
you make that offer for Christ's sake, you will not 
miss of the reward." To which the philosopher 
replied, " Don't let me be mistaken ; it was not for 
Christ's sake, but for your sake." Whitefield often 
prayed for his host's conversion, but "never," says 
Franklin, " had the satisfaction of believing that his 
prayers were heard." 

He admitted that Whitefield had an enormous 
influence, and that the light-minded and indifferent 
became religious as the result of his revivals. Whether 
the religion thus acquired was really lasting he has 
not told us. He was the publisher of Whitefield's 
sermons and journals, of which great numbers were 
sold ; but he thought that their publication was an 
injury to their author's reputation, which depended 
principally upon his wonderful voice and delivery. 
He commented in his bright way on a sentence in 
the journal which said that there was no difference 
between a deist and an atheist " M. B. is a deist," 
Whitefield said, " I had almost said an atheist." 
"He might as well have written," said Franklin, 
"chalk, I had almost said charcoal." 

In spite of his deism and his jokes about sacred 
things, he enjoyed most friendly and even influen- 
tial relations with religious people, who might have 
been supposed to have a horror of him. His con- 
ciliatory manner, dislike of disputes, and general 



philanthropy led each sect to suppose that he was 
on its side, and he made a practice of giving money 
to them all without distinction. John Adams said 
of him, 

"The Catholics thought him almost a Catholic. The Church oi 
England claimed him as one of them. The Presbyterians thought 
him half a Presbyterian, and the Friends believed him a wet 

When in England he was the intimate friend of 
the Bishop of St Asaph, stayed at his house, and 
corresponded in the most affectionate way with the 
bishop's daughters. At the outbreak of the Revo- 
lution he was sent to Canada in company with the 
Rev. John Carroll, of Maryland, in the hope of win- 
ning over that country to the side of the revolted 
colonies. His tendency to form strong attachments 
for religious people again showed itself, and he and 
Carroll, who was a Roman Catholic priest, became 
life-long friends. Eight years afterwards, in 1784, 
when he was minister to France, finding that the 
papal nuncio was reorganizing the Catholic Church 
in America, he urged him to make Carroll a bishop. 
The suggestion was adopted, and the first Roman 
Catholic bishop of the United States owed his ele- 
vation to the influence of a deist. 

At the same time the members of the Church of 
England in the successfully revolted colonies were 
adapting themselves to the new order of things ; but, 
having no bishops, their clergy were obliged to 
apply to the English bishops for ordination. They 
were, of course, refused, and two of them applied to 



Franklin, who was then in Paris, for advice. It was 
strange that they should have consulted the philoso- 
pher, who regarded bishops and ordinations as mere 
harmless delusions. But he was a very famous man, 
the popular representative of their country, and of 
proverbial shrewdness. 

He suggested doubtless with a sly smile that 
the Pope's nuncio should ordain them. The nuncio, 
though their theological enemy, believed in the 
pretty delusion as well as they, and his ordination 
would be as valid as that of the Archbishop of 
Canterbury. He asked the nuncio, with whom he 
was no doubt on terms of jovial intimacy, if he 
would do it; but that functionary was of course 
obliged to say that such a thing was impossible, 
unless the gentlemen should first become Roman 
Catholics. So the philosopher had another laugh 
over the vain controversies of man. 

He carried on the joke by telling them to try the 
Irish bishops, and, if unsuccessful, the Danish and 
Swedish. If they were refused, which was likely, for 
human folly was without end, let them imitate the 
ancient clergy of Scotland, who, having built their 
Cathedral of St. Andrew, wanted to borrow some 
bishops from the King of Northumberland to ordain 
them a bishop for themselves. The king would lend 
them none. So they laid the mitre, crosier, and 
robes of a bishop on the altar, and, after earnest 
prayers for guidance, elected one of their own mem- 
bers. "Arise," they said to him, "go to the altar 
and receive your office at the hand of God," And 
thus he became the first bishop of Scotland. " If 
7 97 


the British isles," said Franklin, "were sunk in the 
sea (and the surface of this globe has suffered greater 
changes) you would probably take some such method 
as this." And so he went on enlarging on the topic 
until he had a capital story to tell Madame Helvetius 
the next time they flirted and dined together in their 
learned way. 

But his most notable escapade in religion, and 
one in which his sense of humor seems to have 
failed him, was his abridgment of the Church of 
England's " Book of Common Prayer." It seems 
that in the year 1772, while in England as a repre- 
sentative of the colonies, he visited the country-seat 
of Sir Francis Dashwood, Lord le Despencer, a re- 
formed rake who had turned deist and was taking 
a gentlemanly interest in religion. He had been, it 
is said, a companion of John Wilkes, Bubb Dod- 
dington, Paul Whitehead, the Earl of Sandwich, and 
other reckless characters who established themselves 
as an order of monks at Medmenham Abbey, where 
they held mock religious ceremonies, and where the 
trial of the celebrated Chevalier D'Eon was held 
to prove his disputed sex. An old book, called 
"Chrysal, or the Adventures of a Guinea," professes 
to describe the doings of these lively blades. 

Lord Despencer and Franklin decided that the 
prayer-book was entirely too long. Its prolixity 
kept people from going to church. The aged and 
infirm did not like to sit so long in cold churches 
in winter, and even the young and sinful might attend 
more willingly if the service were shorter. 

Franklin was already a dabster at liturgies. Had 


he not, when only twenty-two, written his own creed 
and liturgy, compounded of mythology and Chris- 
tianity ? and had he not afterwards, as is supposed, 
assisted David Williams to prepare the "Apology 
for Professing the Religion of Nature," with a most 
reasonable and sensible liturgy annexed? Lord 
Despencer had also had a little practice in such mat- 
ters in his mock religious rites at the old abbey. 
Franklin, who was very fond of him, tells of the de- 
lightful days he spent at his country-seat, and adds, 
" But a pleasanter thing is the kind countenance, the 
facetious and very intelligent conversation of mine 
host, who having been for many years engaged in 
public affairs, seen all parts of Europe, and kept the 
best company in the world, is himself the best ex- 
isting." * I have no doubt that his lordship's ex- 
perience had been a varied one ; but it is a question 
whether it was of such a character as to fit him for 
prayer-book revision. He, however, went seriously 
to work, and revised all of the book except the cate- 
chism and the reading and singing psalms, which he 
requested Franklin to abridge for him. 

The copy which this precious pair went over and 
marked with a pen is now in the possession of Mr. 
Howard Edwards, of Philadelphia, and is a most 
interesting relic. From this copy Lord Despencer 
had the abridgment printed at his own expense ; 
but it attracted no attention in England. All refer- 
ences to the sacraments and to the divinity of the 
Saviour were, of course, stricken out and short work 

* Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. v. p. 209. 


made of the Athanasian and the Apostles' Creed. 
Even the commandments in the catechism had the 
pen drawn through them, which was rather incon- 
sistent with the importance that Franklin attached 
to morals as against dogma. But both editors, no 
doubt, had painful recollections on this subject ; and 
as Franklin would have been somewhat embarrassed 
by the seventh, he settled the question by disposing 
of them all. 

The most curious mutilation, however, was in the 
Te Deum, most of which was struck out, pre- 
sumably by Lord Despencer. The Venite was treated 
in a similar way by Franklin. The beautiful can- 
ticle, " All ye Works of the Lord," which is some- 
times used in place of the Te Deum, was entirely 
marked out. As this canticle is the nearest ap- 
proach in the prayer-book to anything like the re- 
ligion of nature, it is strange that it should have suf- 
fered. But Franklin, though of picturesque life and 
character, interested in music as a theory, a writer 
of verse as an exercise, and a lover of the har- 
mony of a delicately balanced prose sentence, had, 
nevertheless, not the faintest trace of poetry in his 

The book, which is now a very rare and costly relic, 
a single copy selling for over a thousand dollars, 
was known in America as " Franklin's Prayer-Book," 
and he was usually credited with the whole revision, 
although he expressly declared in a letter on the sub- 
ject that he had abridged only the catechism and the 
reading and singing psalms. But he seems to have 
approved of the whole work, for he wrote the preface 



which explains the alterations. A few years after 
the Revolution, when the American Church was re- 
organizing itself, the "Book of Common Prayer" 
was revised and abbreviated by competent hands ; 
and from a letter written by Bishop White it would 
seem that he had examined the "Franklin Prayer- 
Book, " and was willing to adopt its arrangement of 
the calendar of holy days.* 

The preface which Franklin wrote for the abridg- 
ment was an exquisitely pious little essay. It was 
written as though coming from Lord Despencer, " 3 
Protestant of the Church of England," and a "sin- 
cere lover of social worship." His lordship also 
held " in the highest veneration the doctrines of 
Jesus Christ," which was a gratifying assurance. 

When Franklin was about twenty-two or twenty- 
three and wrote his curious creed and liturgy, he 
seems to have been in that not altogether desirable 
state of mind which is sometimes vulgarly described 
as "getting religion." He was not the sort of man 
to be carried away by one of those religious revival 
excitements of which we have seen so many in our 
time, but he was as near that state as a person of 
his intellect could be. 

Preaching to him and direct effort at his conver- 
sion would, of course, have had no effect on such 
an original disposition. The revival which he ex- 
perienced was one which he started for himself, and, 
besides his creed and liturgy, it consisted of an 
attempt to arrive at moral perfection. 

* H. W. Smith's Life of Rev. William Smith, vol. ii. p. 174. 


" I wished to live," he says, " without committing any fault at any 
time ; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or 
company might lead me into. As I knew or thought I knew what 
was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the 
one and avoid the other." 

So he prepared his moral code of all the virtues 
he thought necessary, with his comments thereon, 
and it speaks for itself: 

"I. TEMPERANCE. Eat not to dullness ; drink not to elevation. 

"2. SILENCE. Speak not but what may benefit others or your- 
self; avoid trifling conversation. 

" 3. ORDER. Let all your things have their places ; let each 
part of your business have its time. 

"4. RESOLUTION. Resolve to perform what you ought; per- 
form without fail what you resolve. 

"5. FRUGALITY. Make no expense but to do good to others 
or yourself ; i. e. waste nothing. 

"6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employed in some- 
thing useful ; cut off all unnecessary actions. 

." 7. SINCERITY. Use no hurtful deceit ; think innocently and 
justly ; and if you speak, speak accordingly. 

"8. JUSTICE. Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the 
benefits that are your duty. 

"9. MODERATION. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries 
so much as you think they deserve. 

" 10. CLEANLINESS. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, 
or habitation. 

"II. TRANQUILLITY. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at acci- 
dents common or unavoidable. 

" 12. CHASTITY. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, 
never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's 
peace or reputation. 

" 13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates." 

He thought that he could gradually acquire the 
habit of keeping all these virtues, and instead of at- 
tempting the whole at once, he fixed his attention 

on one at a time, and when he thought he was 



master of that, proceeded to the next, and so on. 
He had arranged them in the order he thought 
would most facilitate their gradual acquisition, be- 
ginning with temperance and proceeding to silence ; 
for the mastery of those which were easiest would 
help him to attain the more difficult He has, there- 
fore, left us at liberty to judge which were his most 
persistent sins. 

He had a little book with a page for each virtue, 
and columns arranged for the days of the week, so 
that he could give himself marks for failure or suc- 
cess. He began by devoting a week to each virtue, 
by which arrangement he could go through the com- 
plete course in thirteen weeks, or four courses in a 

His intense moral earnestness and introspection 
were doubtless inherited from his New England 
origin. But when he was in the midst of all this 
creed- and code-making, he records of himself: 

" That hard to be governed passion of youth had hurried me fre- 
quently into intrigues with low women that fell in my way, which 
were attended with some expense and great inconvenience, besides 
a continual risk to my health by a distemper, which of all things I 
dreaded, though by great good luck I escaped it" 

His biographer, Parton, reminds us that his liturgy 
has no prayer against this vice, and that about a year 
after the date of the liturgy his illegitimate son Wil- 
liam was born. The biographer then goes on to say 
that Franklin was " too sincere and logical a man to 
go before his God and ask assistance against a fault 
which he had not fully resolved to overcome." 



There is, however, a prayer in the liturgy against 
lasciviousness. He had not yet paid Mr. Vernon the 
money he had embezzled, although he was the author 
of a prayer asking to be delivered from deceit and 
fraud, and another against unfaithfulness in trust* 

It is obvious that this inconsistency is very like 
human nature, especially youthful human nature. 
There is nothing wonderful in it It was simply the 
struggle which often takes place in boys who are 
both physically and mentally strong. The only thing 
unusual is that the person concerned has made a 
complete revelation of it Such things are gen- 
erally deeply concealed from the public. But that 
curious frankness which was mingled with Frank- 
lin's astuteness has in his own case opened wide the 

It has been commonly stated in his biographies 
that he had but one illegitimate child, a son ; but 
from a manuscript letter in the possession of the 
Pennsylvania Historical Society, written by John 
Foxcroft, February 2, 1772, and never heretofore 
printed, it appears that he had also an illegitimate 
daughter, married to John Foxcroft : 

" PHILAD* Feby ad, 1779. 

" I have the happiness to acquaint you that your Daughter was 
safely brot to Bed the 2oth ulto and presented me with a sweet little 
girl, they are both in good spirits and are likely to do very well. 

" I was seized with a Giddyness in my head the Day before yes- 
terday wch alarms me a good deal as I had 20 oz of blood taken 

* Some years afterwards, when he had become prosperous, he re- 
stored the money to Mr. Vernon, with interest to date. 




from me and took physick wch does not seem in the least to have 
relieved me. 

"I am hardly able to write this. Mrs F joins me in best affec- 
tions to yourself and compts to Mrs Stevenson and Mr and Mrs 

" I am Dr Sir 

"Yrs. affectionately 


"Mrs Franklin, Mrs Bache, little Ben & Family at Burlington 
are all well. I had a letter from ye Govr yesterday J. F." 

Among the Franklin papers in the State Depart- 
ment at Washington there are copies of a number 
of letters which Franklin wrote to Foxcroft, and in 
three of them October 7, 1772, November 3, 1772, 
and March 3, 1773 he sends "love to my daugh- 
ter." There is also in Bigelow's edition of his 
works* a letter in which he refers to Mrs. Foxcroft 
as his daughter. The letter I have quoted above 
was written while Franklin was in England as the 
representative of some of the colonies, and is ad- 
dressed to him at his Craven Street lodgings. Fox- 
croft, who was postmaster of Philadelphia, seems to 
have been on friendly terms with the rest of Frank- 
lin's family. 

Mrs. Bache, whom Foxcroft mentions in the 
letter, was Franklin's legitimate daughter, Sarah, 
who was married. The family at Burlington was 
the family of the illegitimate son, William, who was 
the royal governor of New Jersey. This extraordi- 
narily mixed family of legitimates and illegitimates 
seems to have maintained a certain kind of harmony. 

* Vol. v. p. 201. 


The son William, the governor, continued the line 
through an illegitimate son, William Temple Frank- 
lin, usually known as Temple Franklin. This con- 
dition of affairs enables us to understand the odium 
in which Franklin was held by many of the upper 
classes of Philadelphia, even when he was well re- 
ceived by the best people in England and France. 

In his writings we constantly find him encouraging 
early marriages ; and he complains of the great 
number of bachelors and old maids in England. 
"The accounts you give me," he writes to his wife, 
" of the marriages of our friends are very agreeable. 
I love to hear of everything that tends to increase 
the number of good people." He certainly lived 
up to his doctrine, and more. 

" Men I find to be a sort of beings very badly constructed, as 
they are generally more easily provoked than reconciled, more dis- 
posed to do mischief to each other than to make reparation, much 
more easily deceived than undeceived, and having more pride and 
even pleasure in killing than in begetting one another ; for without 
a blush they assemble in great armies at noonday to destroy, and 
when they have killed as many as they can they exaggerate the 
number to augment the fancied glory ; but they creep into corners 
or cover themselves with the darkness of night when they mean to 
beget, as being ashamed of a virtuous action." (Bigelow's Works 
of Franklin, vol. vii. p. 464.) 

There has always been much speculation as to 
who was the mother of Franklin's son, William, the 
governor of New Jersey ; but as the gossips of Phil- 
adelphia were never able to solve the mystery, it is 
hardly possible that the antiquarians can succeed. 
Theodore Parker assumed that he must have been 
the son of a girl whom Franklin would have mar- 



ried if her parents had consented. Her name is 
unknown, for Franklin merely describes her as a 
relative of Mrs. Godfrey, who tried to make the 
match. Parker had no evidence whatever for his 
supposition. He merely thought it likely ; and, as 
a Christian minister, it would perhaps have been 
more to his credit if he had abstained from attack- 
ing in this way the reputation of even an unnamed 
young woman. An English clergyman, Rev. Ben- 
net Allen, writing in the London Morning Post, June 
i, 1779, when the ill feeling of the Revolution was 
at its height, says that William's mother was an 
oyster wench, whom Franklin left to die of disease 
and hunger in the streets. The gossips, indeed, 
seem to have always agreed that the woman must 
have been of very humble origin. 

The nearest approach to a discovery has, however, 
been made by Mr. Paul Leicester Ford, in his essay 
entitled "Who was the Mother of Franklin's Son?" 
He found an old pamphlet written during Frank- 
lin's very heated controversy with the proprietary 
party in Pennsylvania when the attempt was made 
to abolish the proprietorship of the Penn family and 
make the colony a royal province. The pamphlet, 
entitled " What is Sauce for a Goose is also Sauce 
for a Gander," after some general abuse of Franklin, 
says that the mother of his son was a woman named 
Barbara, who worked in his house as a servant for 
ten pounds a year ; that he kept her in that position 
until her death, when he stole her to the grave in 
silence without a pall, tomb, or monument This is, 
of course, a partisan statement only, and reiterates 


what was probably the current gossip of the time 
among Franklin's political opponents. 

There have also been speculations in Philadelphia 
as to who was the mother of Franklin's daughter, 
the wife of John Foxcroft ; but they are mere guesses 
unsupported by evidence. 

From what Franklin has told us of the advice 
given him when a young man by a Quaker friend, 
he was at that time exceedingly proud, and also occa- 
sionally overbearing and insolent, and this is con- 
firmed by various passages in his early life. But in 
after-years he seems to have completely conquered 
these faults. He complains, however, that he never 
could acquire the virtue of order in his business, 
having a place for everything and everything in its 
place. This failing seems to have followed him to 
the end of his life, and was one of the serious com- 
plaints made against him when he was ambassador 
to France. 

But he believed himself immensely benefited by his 
moral code and his method of drilling himself in it 

" It may be well my posterity should be informed that to this little 
artifice, with the blessing of God, their ancestor owed the constant 
felicity of his life, down to his 79th year in which this is written. . . . 
To Temperance he ascribes his long continued health, and what is 
still left to him of a good constitution ; to Industry and Frugality, the 
early easiness of his circumstances and acquisition of his fortune, 
with all that knowledge that enabled him to be a useful citizen, and 
obtained for him some degree of reputation among the learned ; to 
Sincerity and Justice, the confidence of his country, and the honor- 
able employs it conferred upon him ; and to the joint influence of 
the whole mass of the virtues, even in the imperfect state he was 
able to acquire then, all that evenness of temper and that cheerfulness 
in conversation, which makes his company still sought for and agree- 
able even to his younger acquaintances." 




At the same time that he was trying to put into 
practice his moral code, he conceived the idea of 
writing a book called "The Art of Virtue," in which 
he was to make comments on all the virtues, and 
show how each could be acquired. Most treatises 
of this sort, he had observed, were mere exhortations 
to be good ; but "The Art of Virtue" would point 
out the means. He collected notes and hints for this 
volume during many years, intending that it should 
be the most important work of his life ; "a great and 
extensive project," he calls it, into which he would 
throw the whole force of his being, and he expected 
great results from it He looked forward to the time 
when he could drop everything else and devote him- 
self to this mighty project, and he received grandilo- 
quent letters of encouragement from eminent men. 
His vast experience of life would have made it a 
fascinating volume, and it is to be regretted that 
public employments continually called him to other 

A young man such as he was is not infrequently 
able to improve his morals more effectually by mar- 
rying than by writing liturgies and codes. He 
decided to marry about two years after he had 
begun to discipline himself in his creed and moral 
precepts. The step seems to have been first sug- 
gested to him by Mrs. Godfrey, to whom, with her 
husband, he rented part of his house and shop. She 
had a relative who, she thought, would make a good 
match for him, and she took opportunities of bring- 
ing them often together. The girl was deserving, 
and Franklin began to court her. But he has de- 



scribed the affair so well himself that it would be 
useless to try to abbreviate it 

" The old folks encouraged me by continual invitations to supper, 
and by leaving us together, till at length it was time to explain. Mrs. 
Godfrey managed our little treaty. I let her know that I expected as 
much money with their daughter as would pay off my remaining 
debt for the printing-house, which I believe was not then above a 
hundred pounds. She brought me word they had no such sum to 
spare ; I said they might mortgage their house in the loan office. 
The answer to this, after some days, was, that they did not approve 
the match ; that, on inquiry of Bradford, they had been informed 
the printing business was not a profitable one ; the types would soon 
be worn out, and more wanted ; that S. Keimer and D. Harry had 
failed one after the other, and I should probably soon follow them ; 
and, therefore, I was forbidden the house and the daughter shut up." 

This the young printer thought was a mere arti- 
fice, the parents thinking that the pair were too fond 
of each other to separate, and that they would steal 
a marriage, in which event the parents could give or 
withhold what they pleased. He resented this at- 
tempt to force his hand, dropped the whole matter, 
and as a consequence quarrelled with Mrs. Godfrey, 
who with her husband and children left his house. 

The passage which follows in Franklin's Auto- 
biography implies that his utter inability at this 
period to restrain his passions directed his thoughts 
more seriously than ever to marriage, and he was 
determined to have a wife. It may be well here to 
comment again on his remarkable frankness. There 
have been distinguished men, like Rousseau, who 
were at times morbidly frank. Their frankness, 
however, usually took the form of a confession 
which did not add to their dignity. But Franklin 
never confessed anything ; he told it. His dig- 


nity was as natural and as instinctive as Washing- 
ton's, though of a different kind. His supreme 
intellect easily avoided all positions in which he 
would have to confess or make admissions ; and, as 
there was nothing morbid in his character, so there 
was nothing morbid in his frankness. 

The frankness seems to have been closely con- 
nected with his serenity and courage. There never 
was a man so little disturbed by consequences or 
possibilities. He was quick to take advantage of 
popular whims, and he would not expose himself 
unnecessarily to public censure. His letter to Presi- 
dent Stiles, of Yale, is an example. Being asked 
for his religious opinion, he states it fully and with- 
out reserve, although knowing that it would be ex- 
tremely distasteful to the man to whom it was ad- 
dressed, and, if made public, would bring upon him 
the enmity of the most respectable people in the 
country, whose good opinion every one wishes to 
secure. The only precaution he takes is to ask the 
president not to publish what he says, and he gives 
his reasons as frankly as he gives the religious opin- 
ion. But if the letter had been published before his 
death, he would have lost neither sleep nor appetite, 
and doubtless, by some jest or appeal to human 
sympathy, would have turned it to good account 

Since his time there have been self-made men in 
this country who have advanced themselves by pro- 
fessing fulsome devotion to the most popular forms 
of religion, and they have found this method very 
useful in their designs on financial institutions or 

public office. We would prefer them to take Frank- 



lin for their model ; and they may have all his fail- 
ings if they will only be half as honest 

But to return to his designs for a wife, which were 
by no means romantic. Miss Read, for whom he 
had a partiality, had married one Rogers during 
Franklin's absence in London. Rogers ill treated 
and deserted her, and, dejected and melancholy, 
she was now living at home with her mother. She 
and Franklin had been inclined to marry before he 
went to London, but her mother prevented it Ac- 
cording to his account, she had been in love with 
him ; but, although he liked her, we do not under- 
stand that he was in love. He never seems to have 
been in love with any woman in the sense of a ro- 
mantic or exalted affection, although he flirted with 
many, both young and old, almost to the close of 
his life. 

But now, on renewing his attentions, he found 
that her mother had no objections. There was, 
however, one serious difficulty, for Mr. Rogers, al- 
though he had deserted her, was not known to be 
dead, and divorces were but little thought of at 
that time. Franklin naturally did not want to add 
bigamy to his other youthful offences, and it would 
also have required a revision of his liturgy and code. 
Rogers had, moreover, left debts which Franklin 
feared he might be expected to pay, and he had had 
enough of that sort of thing. " We ventured, how- 
ever," he says, " over all these difficulties, and I 
took her to wife September i, 1730." None of 
the inconveniences happened, for neither Rogers nor 
his debts ever turned up. 



Franklin's detractors have always insisted that no 
marriage ceremony was performed and that he was 
never legally married. There is no record of such a 
marriage in Christ Church, of which Mrs. Rogers 
was a member, and the phrase used, "took her to 
wife," is supposed to show that they simply lived 
together, fearing a regular ceremony, which, if Rogers 
was alive, would convict them of bigamy. The ab- 
sence of any record of a ceremony is, however, not 
necessarily conclusive that there was no ceremony of 
any kind ; and the question is not now of serious 
importance, for they intended marriage, always re- 
garded themselves as man and wife, and, in any 
event, it was a common-law marriage. Their chil- 
dren were baptized in Christ Church as legitimate 
children, and in a deed executed three or four years 
after 1730 they are spoken of as husband and wife. 

A few months after the marriage his illegitimate 
son William was born, and Mr. Bigelow has made 
the extraordinary statement, " William may therefore 
be said to have been born in wedlock, though he was 
not reputed to be the son of Mrs. Franklin." * This 
is certainly an enlarged idea of the possibilities of 
wedlock, and on such a principle marriage to one 
woman would legitimatize the man's illegitimate off- 
spring by all others. It is difficult to understand 
the' meaning of such a statement, unless it is an in- 
direct way of suggesting that William was the son of 
Mrs. Franklin ; but of this there is no evidence. 

Franklin always considered his neglect of Miss 

* Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. iii. p. 216, note. 


Read after he had observed her affection for him 
one of the errors of his life. He had almost for- 
gotten her while in London, and after he returned 
appears to have shown her no attention, until, by 
the failure of the match Mrs. Godfrey had arranged 
for him, he was driven to the determination to marry 
some one. He believed that he had largely cor- 
rected this error by marrying her. " She proved a 
good and faithful helpmate," he says ; "assisted me 
much by attending the shop ; we throve together, 
and have ever mutually endeavored to make each 
other happy." She died in 1774, while Franklin 
was in England. 

There is nothing in anything he ever said to 
show that they did not get on well together. On 
the contrary, their letters seem to show a most 
friendly companionship. He addressed her in his 
letters as " my dear child," and sometimes closed by 
calling her "dear Debby," and she also addressed 
him as "dear child." During his absence in Eng- 
land they corresponded a great deal. Her letters to 
him were so frequent that he complained that he 
could not keep up with them ; and his letters to her 
were written in his best vein, beautiful specimens of 
his delicate mastery of language, as the large collec- 
tion of them in the possession of the American 
Philosophical Society abundantly shows. 

In writing to Miss Catharine Ray, afterwards the 
wife of Governor Greene, of Rhode Island, who had 
sent him a cheese, he said, 

" Mrs. Franklin was very proud that a young lady should have so 
much regard for her old husband as to send him such a present. 



We talk of you every time it conies to the table. She is sure you 
are a sensible girl, and a notable housewife, and talks of bequeath- 
ing me to you as a legacy ; but I ought to wish you a better, and I 
hope she will live these hundred years ; for we are grown old 
together, and if she has any faults, I am so used to them that I 
don't perceive them. As the song says, 

" ' Some faults we have all, & so has my Joan, 

But then they're exceedingly small ; 
And, now I'm grown used to them, so like my own, 
I scarcely can see them at all, 

My dear friends, 
I scarcely can see them at all. ' 

" Indeed I begin to think she has none, as I think of you. And 
since she is willing I should love you as much as you are willing to 
be loved by me, let us join in wishing the old lady a long life and a 
happy one." 

While absent at an Indian conference on the 
frontier, he wrote reprovingly to his wife for not 
sending him a letter : 

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

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

Mrs. Franklin was a stout, handsome woman. 
We have a description of her by her husband in 
a letter he wrote from London telling her of the 
various presents and supplies he had sent home : 

" I also forgot, among the china, to mention a large find jug for 
beer, to stand in the cooler. I fell in love with it at first sight ; for 
I thought it looked like a fat jolly dame, clean and tidy, with a neat 
blue and white calico gown on, good natured and lovely, and put 
me in mind of somebody." 



This letter is full of interesting details. He tells 
her of the regard and friendship he meets with from 
persons of worth, and of his longing desire to be 
home again. A full description of the articles sent 
would be too long to quote entire, but some of it 
may be given as a glimpse of their domestic life : 

" I send you some English china ; viz, melons and hams for a 
dessert of fruit or the like ; a bowl remarkable for the neatness of 
the figures, made at Bow, near this city ; some coffee cups of the 
same ; a Worcester bowl, ordinary. To show the difference of 
workmanship, there is something from all the china works in Eng- 
land ; and one old true china bason mended, of an odd color. The 
same box contains four silver salt ladles, newest but ugliest fashion ; 
a little instrument to core apples ; another to make little turnips out 
of great ones ; six coarse diaper breakfast cloths ; they are to spread 
on the tea table, for nobody breakfasts here on the naked table, but 
on the cloth they set a large tea board with the cups. There is also 
a little basket, a present from Mrs. Stevenson to Sally, and a pair of 
garters for you, which were knit by the young lady, her daughter, 
who favored me with a pair of the same kind ; the only ones I have 
been able to wear, as they need not be bound tight, the ridges in 
them preventing their slipping. We send them therefore as a curi- 
osity for the form, more than for the value. Goody Smith may, if she 
pleases, make such for me hereafter. My love to her." 

At the time of the Stamp Act, in 1765, when the 
Philadelphians were much incensed against Franklin 
for not having, as they thought, sufficiently resisted, 
as their agent in England, the passage of the act, 
the mob threatened Mrs. Franklin's house, and she 
wrote to her husband : 

" I was for nine days kept in a continual hurry by people to re- 
move, and Sally was persuaded to go to Burlington for safety. 
Cousin Davenport came and told me that more than twenty people 
had told him it was his duty to be with me. I said I was pleased to 
receive civility from anybody, so he staid with me some tune ; 




towards night I said he should fetch a gun or two, as we had none. 
I sent to ask my brother to come and bring his gun also, so we 
turned one room into a magazine ; I ordered some sort of defense 
up stairs such as I could manage myself. I said when I was ad- 
vised to remove, that I was very sure you had done nothing to hurt 
anybody, nor had I given any offense to any person at all, nor 
would I be made uneasy by anybody, nor would I stir or show the 
least uneasiness, but if any one came to disturb me I would show a 
proper resentment. I was told that there were eight hundred men 
ready to assist anyone that should be molested." 

This letter is certainly written in a homely and 
pleasant way, not unlike the style of her husband, 
and other letters of hers have been published at dif- 
ferent times possessing the same merit ; but they have 
all been more or less corrected, and in some in- 
stances rewritten, before they appeared in print, for 
she was a very illiterate woman. I have not access 
to the original manuscript of the letter I have quoted, 
but I will give another, which is to be found in the 
collection of the American Philosophical Society, 
exactly as she wrote it : 

October ye 29. 1773. 

" I have bin very much distrest a boute as I did not oney letter 
nor one word from you nor did I hear one word from oney bodey 
that you wrote to So I must submit and indever to submit to what 
I ame to bair I did write by Capt Folkner to you but he is gone 
doun and when I read it over I did not like it and so if this dont 
send it I shante like it as I donte send you oney news nor I donte go 

' ' I shall tell you what consernes myself our yonegest Grandson is 
the finest child as alive he has had the small Pox and had it very fine 
and got abrod agen Capt All will tell you a boute him Benj Franklin 
Beache but as it is so deficall to writ I have desered him to tell you 
I have sente a squerel for your friend and wish her better luck it is 
a very fine one I have had very bad luck with two they one killed 
and another run a way allthou they was bred up tame I have not a 
caige as I donte know where the man lives that makes them my love 



to Sally Franklin my love to all our cousins as thou menthond 
remember me to Mr and Mrs Weste due you ever hear aney thing 
of Ninely Evers as was. 

" I cante write any mor I am your afeckthone wife 


She was not a congenial companion for Franklin 
in most of his tastes and pursuits, in his studies in 
science and history, or in his political and diplomatic 
career. He never appears to have written to her on 
any of these subjects. But she helped him, as he has 
himself said, in the early days in the printing-office, 
buying rags for the paper and stitching pamphlets. 
It was her homely, housewifely virtues, handsome 
figure, good health, and wholesome common sense 
which appealed to him ; and it was a strong appeal, 
for he enjoyed these earthly comforts fully as much 
as he did the high walks of learning in which his 
fame was won. He once wrote to her, "it was a 
comfort to me to recollect that I had once been 
clothed from head to foot in woolen and linen of my 
wife's manufacture, and that I never was prouder of 
any dress in my life." 

She bore him two children. The first was a son, 
Francis Folger Franklin, an unusually bright, hand- 
some boy, the delight of all that knew him. Frank- 
lin had many friends, and seems to have been very 
much attached to his wife, but this child was the one 
human being whom he loved with extravagance and 
devotion. Although believing in inoculation as a 
remedy for the small-pox, he seems to have been 
unable to bear the thought of protecting in this way 




his favorite son ; at any rate, he neglected to take 
the precaution, and the boy died of the disease 
when only four years old. The father mourned for 
him long and bitterly, and nearly forty years after- 
wards, when an old man, could not think of him 
without a sigh. 

The other child was a daughter, Sarah, also very 
handsome, who married Richard Bache and has left 
numerous descendants. His illegitimate son, Wil- 
liam, was brought home when he was a year old and 
cared for along with his other children; and Wil- 
liam's illegitimate son, Temple Franklin, was the 
companion and secretary of his grandfather in Eng- 
land and France. The illegitimate daughter was 
apparently never brought home, and is not referred 
to in his writings, except in those occasional let- 
ters in which he sends her his love. According to 
the letter already mentioned as in the collection of 
the Pennsylvania Historical Society, she was married 
to John Foxcroft, who was deputy colonial post- 
master in Philadelphia. It was well that she was 
kept away from Franklin's house, for the presence 
of William appears to have given trouble enough. 
A household composed of legitimate and illegitimate 
children is apt to be inharmonious at times, espe- 
cially when the mother of the legitimate children is 
the mistress of the house. 

Franklin's biographies tell us that Mrs. Franklin 
tenderly nurtured William. This may be true, and, 
judging from expressions in her printed letters, she 
seems to have been friendly enough with him. But 
from other sources we find that as William grew up 



she learned to hate him, and this, with some other 
secrets of the Franklin household, has been described 
in the diary of Daniel Fisher : 

' ' As I was coming down from my chamber this afternoon a gen- 
tlewoman was sitting on one of the lowest stairs which were but 
narrow, and there not being room enough to pass, she rose up & 
threw herself upon the floor and sat there. Mr. Soumien & his Wife 
greatly entreated her to arise and take a chair, but in vain, she would 
keep her seat, and kept it, I think, the longer for their entreaty. 
This gentlewoman, whom though I had seen before I did not know, 
appeared to be Mrs. Franklin. She assumed the airs of extraor- 
dinary freedom and great Humility, Lamented heavily the misfor- 
tunes of those who are unhappily infected with a too tender or 
benevolent disposition, said she believed all the world claimed a 
privilege of troubling her Pappy (so she usually calls Mr. Franklin) 
with their calamities and distresses, giving us a general history of 
many such wretches and their impertinent applications to him." 
(Pennsylvania Magazine of History, vol. xvii. p. 271.) 

In the pamphlet called "What is Sauce for a 
Goose is also Sauce for a Gander," already alluded 
to, Franklin is spoken of as " Pappy" in a way 
which seems to show that the Philadelphians knew 
his wife's nickname for him and were fond of using 
it to ridicule him. 

Aftenvards, Daniel Fisher lived in Franklin's 
house as his clerk, and thus obtained a still more 
intimate knowledge of his domestic affairs. 

"Mr. Soumien had often informed me of great uneasiness and 
dissatisfaction in Mr. Franklin's family in a manner no way pleasing 
to me, and which in truth I was unwilling to credit, but as Mrs. 
Franklin and I of late began to be Friendly and sociable I dis- 
cerned too great grounds for Mr. Soumien's Reflections, arising 
solely from the turbulence and jealousy and pride of her disposition. 
She suspecting Mr. Franklin for having too great an esteem for 
his son in prejudice of herself and daughter, a young woman of 
about 12 or 13 years of age, for whom it was visible Mr. Franklin 
had no less esteem than for his son young Mr. Franklin. I have 


often seen him pass to and from his father's apartment upon Busi- 
ness (for he does not eat, drink, or sleep in the House) without the 
least compliment between Mrs. Franklin and him or any sort of 
notice taken of each other, till one Day as I was sitting with her hi 
the passage when the young Gentleman came by she exclaimed to 
me (he not hearing) : 

" ' Mr. Fisher there goes the greatest Villain upon Earth.' 
"This greatly confounded & perplexed me, but did not hinder 
her from pursuing her Invectives in the foulest terms I ever heard 
from a Gentlewoman." (Pennsylvania Magazine of History, vol. 
rvii. p. 276.) 

Fisher's descriptions confirm the gossip which has 
descended by tradition in many Philadelphia fami- 
lies. He found Mrs. Franklin to be a woman of 
such "turbulent temper" that this and other un- 
pleasant circumstances forced him to leave. Possi- 
bly these were some of the faults which her husband 
speaks of as so exceedingly small and so like his own 
that he scarcely could see them at all. The presence 
of her husband's illegitimate son must have been 
very trying, and goes a long way to excuse her. 

All that Franklin has written about himself is so 
full of a serene philosophic spirit, and his biogra- 
phers have echoed it so faithfully, that, in spite of 
his frankness, things are made to appear a little 
easier than they really were. His life was full of 
contests, but they have not all been noted, and the 
sharpness of many of them has been worn off by 
time. In Philadelphia, where he was engaged in 
the most bitter partisan struggles, where the details 
of his life were fully known, his humble origin, 
his slow rise, his indelicate jokes, and his illegitimate 
children, there were not a few people who cher- 
ished a most relentless antipathy towards him which 



neither his philanthropy nor his philosophic and 
scientific mind could soften. This bitter feeling 
against the "old rogue," as they called him, still 
survives among some of the descendants of the 
people of his time, and fifty or sixty years ago there 
were virtuous old ladies living in Philadelphia who 
would flame into indignation at the mention of his 

Chief-Justice Allen, who was his contemporary 
and opponent in politics, described him as a man 
of "wicked heart," and declared that he had often 
been a witness of his "envenomed malice." In H. 
W. Smith's " Life of Rev. William Smith" a great 
deal of this abuse can be found. Provost Smith 
and Franklin quarrelled over the management of 
the College of Philadelphia, and on a benevolent 
pamphlet by the provost Franklin wrote a verse 
from the poet Whitehead : * 

" Full many a peevish, envious, slanderous elf 
Is in his works, Benevolence itself 
For all mankind, unknown his bosom heaves, 
He only injures those with whom he lives. 
Read then the man. Does truth his actions guide ? 
Exempt from petulance, exempt from pride ? 
To social duties does his heart attend 
As son, as father, husband, brother, friend ? 
Do those who know him love him ? If they do 
You have my permission you may love him too." 

(Smith's Life of Rev. William Smith, vol. i. p. 341.) 

Provost Smith's biographer resents this attack 
by giving contemporary opinions of Franklin ; and 

* This verse Franklin also quotes against Smith in a letter to Miss 
Stevenson. (Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. iii. p. 235.) 


a paragraph omitted in the regular edition (page 
347 of volume i.), but printed on an extra leaf and 
circulated among the author's friends, may be quoted 
as an example. It was, however, not original with 
Smith's biographer, but was copied with a few 
changes from Cobbett's attack on Franklin : 

"Dr. Benjamin Franklin has told the world in poetry what, in 
his judgment, my ancestor was. His venerable shade will excuse 
me, if I tell in prose what, in the judgment of men who lived near 
a century ago, Dr. Smith was not : He was no almanack maker, 
nor quack, nor chimney-doctor, nor soap boiler, nor printer's devil, 
neither was he a deist ; and all his children were born in wedlock. 
He bequeathed no old and irrecoverable debts to a hospital. He 
never cheated the poor during his life nor mocked them in his death. 
If his descendants cannot point to his statue over a library, they have 
not the mortification of hearing him daily accused of having been a 
fomicator, a hypocrite, and an infidel." 

Some of the charges in this venomous statement 
are in a sense true, but are exaggerated by the 
manner in which they are presented, an art in which 
Cobbett excelled. I have in the preceding chap- 
ters given sufficient details to throw light on many 
of them. Franklin was an almanac-maker, a chim- 
ney-doctor, and a soap-boiler, but in none of these is 
there anything to his discredit As to his irrecovera- 
ble debts, it is true that he left them to the Pennsyl- 
vania Hospital, saying in his will that, as the persons 
who owed them were unwilling to pay them to him, 
they might be willing to pay them to the hospital 
as charity. They were a source of great annoy- 
ance to the managers, and were finally returned to 
his executors. The statement that he cheated the 
poor during his life and mocked them in his death 



is entirely unjustified. He was often generous with 
his money to people in misfortune, and several such 
instances can be found in his letters. It is also 
going too far to say that he was a quack and a 

While in England he associated on the most in- 
timate terms with eminent literary and scientific men. 
Distinguished travellers from the Continent called on 
him to pay their respects. He stayed at noblemen's 
country-seats and with the Bishop of St Asaph. 
He corresponded with all these people in the most 
friendly and easy manner ; they were delighted with 
his conversation and could never see enough of him. 
In France everybody worshipped him, and the court 
circles received him with enthusiasm. But in Phila- 
delphia the colonial aristocracy were not on friendly 
terms with him. He had, of course, numerous 
friends, including some members of aristocratic fami- 
lies ; but we find few, if any, evidences of that close 
intimacy and affection which he enjoyed among the 
best people of Europe. 

This hostility was not altogether due to his humble 
origin or to the little printing-office and stationery 
store where he sold goose-feathers as well as writing 
material and bought old rags. These disadvantages 
would not have been sufficient, for his accomplish- 
ments and wit raised him far above his early sur- 
roundings, and the colonial society of Philadelphia 
was not illiberal in such matters. The principal 
cause of the hostility towards him was his violent 
opposition to the proprietary party, to which most of 
the upper classes belonged, and, having this ground 


of dislike, it was easy for them to strengthen and ex- 
cuse it by the gossip about his illegitimate son and 
the son's mother kept as a servant in his house. 
They ridiculed the small economies he practised, 
and branded his religious and moral theorizing as 

He was very fond of broad jokes, which have 
always been tolerated in America under certain 
circumstances ; but the man who writes them, 
especially if he also writes and talks a great deal 
about religion and undertakes to improve prayer- 
books, gives a handle to his enemies and an oppor- 
tunity for unfavorable comment The Portfolio, a 
Philadelphia journal, of May 23, 1801, representing 
more particularly the upper classes of the city, prints 
one of his broad letters, and takes the opportunity 
to assail him for "hypocrisy, hackneyed deism, 
muck-worn economy," and other characteristics of 
what it considers humbug and deceit It has been 
suggested that far back in the past one of Franklin's 
ancestors might have been French, for his name in 
the form Franquelin was at one time not uncommon 
in France. This might account for his easy bright- 
ness and vivacity, and also, it may be added, for 
such letters as he sometimes wrote : 


" Saturday morning Aug 17 '45. 

" I have been reading your letter over again, and since you de- 
sire an answer I sit me down to write you ; yet as I write in the 
market, will I believe be but a short one, tho' I may be long about 
it I approve of your method of writing one's mind when one is too 
warm to speak it with temper : but being myself quite cool in this 
affair I might as well speak as write, if I had opportunity. Your copy 



of Kempis must be a corrupt one if it has that passage as you quote 
it, in omnibus requiem quaesivi, sed non invent, nisi in angulo cum 
libello. The good father understood pleasure (requiem] better, and 
wrote in angulo cum puella. Correct it thus without hesitation." 

(Portfolio, vol. i. p. 165.) 

The letter continues the jest in a way that I do 
not care to quote ; but the last half of it is full of 
sage and saintly advice. It is perhaps the only letter 
which gives at the same time both sides of Franklin's 
character. But Sparks and Bigelow in their edi- 
tions of his works give the last half only, with no in- 
dication that the first half has been omitted. 

In the same year that he wrote this letter he also 
wrote his letter of advice to a young man on the 
choice of a mistress, a copy of which is now in the 
State Department at Washington, while numerous 
copies taken from it have been circulated secretly all 
over the country. This year (1/45) seems to have 
been his reckless period, for it was about that time 
that he published "Polly Baker's Speech," which 
will be given in another chapter. In the State De- 
partment at Washington is also preserved his letter 
on Perfumes to the Royal Academy of Brussels, which 
cannot be published under the rules of modern taste, 
and, in fact, Franklin himself speaks of it as having 
"too much grossierete" to be borne by polite readers.* 
I shall, however, give as much of the letter on the 
choice of a mistress as is proper to publish. 

"June 25th, 1745. 


' ' I know of no medicine fit to diminish the violent natural in- 
clinations you mention, and if I did, I think I should not communi- 

* Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. vii. p. 374. 


cate 'it to you. Marriage is the proper remedy. It is the most 
natural state of man, and, therefore, the state in which you are most 
likely to find solid happiness. Your reasons against entering it at 
present appear to me not well founded. The circumstantial advan- 
tages you have in view of postponing it are not only uncertain, but 
they are small in comparison with that of the thing itself. 

" It is the man and woman united that make the complete human 
being. Separate she wants his force of body and strength of rea- 
son. He her softness, sensibility, and acute discernment. Together 
they are more likely to succeed in the world. A single man has not 
nearly the value he would have in a state of union. He is an in- 
complete animal. He resembles the odd half of a pair of scissors. 
If you get a prudent, healthy wife, your industry in your profession, 
with her good economy will be a fortune sufficient. 

" But if you will not take this counsel, and persist in thinking a 
commerce with the sex inevitable, then I repeat my former advice, 
that in all your amours you should prefer old -women to young 
ones. You call this a paradox and demand my reasons. They are 
these : 

" 1st. Because they have more knowledge of the world, and their 
minds are better stored with observations ; their conversation is more 
improving and more lastingly agreeable. 

"2d. Because when women cease to be handsome, they study to 
be good. To maintain their influence over men, they supply the 
diminution of beauty by an augmentation of utility. They learn to 
do a thousand services, small and great, and are the most tender and 
useful of all friends when you are sick. Thus they continue ami- 
able, and hence there is scarcely such a thing to be found as an old 
woman who is not a good woman. 

"3d. Because there is no hazard of children, which, irregularly 
produced, may be attended with much inconvenience. 

"4th. Because, through more experience, they are more prudent 
and discreet in conducting an intrigue to prevent suspicion. The 
commerce with them is therefore safe with regard to your reputation 
and with regard to theirs. If the affair should happen to be known, 
considerate people might be rather inclined to excuse an old woman 
who would kindly take care of a young man, form his manners by 
her good counsels, and prevent his ruining his health and fortunes 
among mercenary prostitutes. 

"5th. . . . 

"6th. . . . 

"yth. Because the compunction is less. The having made a 


young girl miserable may give you frequent bitter reBections, none 
of which can attend the making an old woman happy. 
"8th and lastly. . . . 

"Thus much for my paradox, but I still advise you to marry 
directly, being sincerely, 

"Your Affectionate Friend, 

"B. F." 

Franklin, however, was capable of the most cour- 
teous gallantry to ladies. In France he delighted 
the most distinguished women of the court by his 
compliments and witticisms. When about fifty years 
old he wrote some letters to Miss Catharine Ray, of 
Rhode Island, which, as coming from an elderly man 
to a bright young girl who was friendly with him 
and told him her love-affairs, are extremely interest- 
ing. One of them about his wife we have already 
quoted. In a letter to him Miss Ray had asked, 
"How do you do and what are you doing? Does 
everybody still love you, and how do you make 
them do so?" After telling her about his health, he 

" As to the second question, I must confess (but don't you be 
jealous), that many more people love me now than ever did before ; 
for since I saw you, I have been able to do some general services to 
the country and to the army, for which both have thanked and praised 
me, and say they love me. They say so, as you used to do ; and if 
I were to ask any favors of them, they would, perhaps, as readily 
refuse me ; so that I find little real advantage in being beloved, but 
it pleases my humor. ' ' 

On another occasion he wrote to her, 

"Persons subject to the hyp complain of the northeast wind as 
increasing their malady. But since you promised to send me kisses 
in that wind, and I find you as good as your word, it is to me the 
gayest wind that blows, and gives me the best spirits. I write this 
during a northeast storm of snow, the greatest we have had this 



winter. Your favors come mixed with die snowy fleeces, which are 
pure as your virgin innocence, white as your lovely bosom, and as 
cold. But let it warm towards some worthy young man, and may 
Heaven bless you both with every kind of happiness." 

He had another young friend to whom he wrote 
pretty letters, Miss Mary Stevenson, daughter of 
the Mrs. Stevenson in whose house he lived in Lon- 
don when on his diplomatic missions to England. 
He encouraged her in scientific study, and some of 
his most famous explanations of the operations of 
nature are to be found in letters written to her. He 
had hoped that she would marry his son William, 
but William's fancy strayed elsewhere. 

" PORTSMOUTH, n August, 1761. 


"This is the best paper I can get at this wretched inn, but it will 
convey what is intrusted to it as faithfully as the finest. It will tell 
my Polly how much her friend is afflicted that he must perhaps never 
again see one for whom he has so sincere an affection, joined to so 
perfect an esteem ; who he once flattered himself might become his 
own, in the tender relation of a child, but can now entertain such 
pleasing hopes no more. Will it tell hmv much he is afflicted ? No, 
it cannot. 

"Adieu, my dearest child. I will call you so. Why should I 
not call you so, since I love you with all the tenderness of a father ? 
Adieu. May the God of all goodness shower down his choicest 
blessings upon you, and make you infinitely happier than that event 
would have made you. ..." 

(Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. iii. p. 209.) 

This correspondence with Miss Stevenson con- 
tinued for a great many years, and there are beauti- 
ful letters to her scattered all through his published 
works. The letters both to her and to Miss Ray be- 
came more serious as the two young women grew 
older and married. Miss Stevenson sought his ad- 
9 "9 


vice on the question of her marriage, and his reply 
was as wise and affectionate as anything he ever 
wrote. She married Dr. Hewson, of London, and 
they migrated to Philadelphia, where she became the 
mother of a numerous family. 

Franklin had a younger sister, Jane, a pretty girl, 
afterwards Mrs. Mecom, of whom he was very fond, 
and he kept up a correspondence with her all his 
life, sending presents to her at Boston, helping her 
son to earn a livelihood, and giving her assistance 
in her old age. Their letters to each other were 
most homely and loving, and she took the greatest 
pride in his increasing fame. 

His correspondence with his parents was also 
pleasant and familiar. In one of his letters to his 
mother he amuses her by accounts of her grand- 
children, and at the same time pays a compliment 
to his sister Jane. 

"As to your grandchildren, Will is now nineteen years of age, a 
tall, proper youth, and much of a beau. He acquired a habit of 
idleness on the Expedition, but begins of late to apply himself to 
business, and I hope will become an industrious man. He im- 
agined his father had got enough for him, but I have assured him 
that I intend to spend what little I have myself, if it pleases God 
that I live long enough ; and, as he by no means wants acuteness, 
he can see by my going on that I mean to be as good as my word. 

" Sally grows a fine girl, and is extremely industrious with her 
needle, and delights in her work. She is of a most affectionate 
temper, and perfectly dutiful and obliging to her parents, and to all. 
Perhaps I flatter myself too much, but I have hopes that she will 
prove an ingenious, sensible, notable and worthy woman like her 
aunt Jenny." (Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. ii. p. 154.) 

Over the grave of his parents in the Granary 
Burial-Ground in Boston he placed a stone, and pre- 



pared for it one of those epitaphs in which he was 
so skilful and which were almost poems : 

Josiah Franklin and Abiah his wife 

lie here interred. 

They lived together in wedlock fifty- five years ; 

and without an estate or any gainful employment, 

by constant labour, and honest industry, 

(with God's blessing,) 
maintained a large family comfortably ; 
and brought up thirteen children and seven grand- 
children reputably. 
From this instance, reader, 
be encouraged to diligence in thy calling, 

and distrust not Providence. 

He was a pious and prudent man, 

she a discreet and virtuous woman. 

Their youngest son, 
in filial regard to their memory, 

places this stone. 

Tf. F. born 1655 died 1744, M. 89. 
A. F. born 1667 died 1752, JE. 85. 



FRANKLIN'S ancestors in both America and Eng- 
land had not been remarkable for their success in 
worldly affairs. Most of them did little more than 
earn a living, and, being of contented dispositions, 
had no ambition to advance beyond it Some of 
them were entirely contented with poverty. All of 
them, however, were inclined to be economical and 
industrious. They had no extended views of busi- 
ness enterprise, and we find none of them among 
the great merchants or commercial classes who were 
reaching out for the foreign trade of that age. 
Either from lack of foresight or lack of desire, they 
seldom selected very profitable callings. They took 
what was nearest at hand making candles or shoe- 
ing horses and clung to it persistently. 

Franklin advanced beyond them only because all 
their qualities of economy, thrift, industry, and serene 
contentedness were intensified in him. His choice of 
a calling was no better than theirs, for printing was not 
a very profitable business in colonial times, and was 
made so in his case only by his unusual sagacity. 

I have already described his adventures as a young 
printer, and how he was sent on a wild-goose chase 
to London by Governor Keith, of Pennsylvania. I 
have also told how on his return to Philadelphia he 



gave up printing and became the clerk of Mr. Den- 
ham. He liked Mr. Denham and the clerkship, and 
never expected to return to his old calling. If Mr. 
Denham had lived, Franklin might have become a 
renowned Philadelphia merchant and financier, like 
Robert Morris, an owner of ships and cargoes, a 
trader to India and China, and an outfitter of priva- 
teers. But this sudden change from the long line 
of his ancestry was not to be. Nature, as if indig- 
nant at the attempt, struck down both Denham and 
himself with pleurisy within six months of their asso- 
ciation in business. Denham perished, and Franklin, 
after a narrow escape from death, went back reluc- 
tantly to set type for Keimer. 

He was* now twenty-one, a good workman, with 
experience on two continents, and Keimer made 
him foreman of his printing-office. Within six 
months, however, his connection with Keimer was 
ended by a quarrel, and one of the workmen, Hugh 
Meredith, suggested that he and Franklin should set 
up in the printing business for themselves, Meredith 
to furnish the money through his father, and Frank- 
lin to furnish the skill. This offer was eagerly ac- 
cepted ; but as some months would be required to 
obtain type and materials from London, Franklin's 
quarrel with Keimer was patched up and he went 
back to work for him. 

In the spring of 1728 the type arrived. Frank- 
lin parted from Keimer in peace, and then with 
Meredith sprung upon him the surprise of a rival 
printing establishment They rented a house for 
twenty-four pounds a year, and to help pay it took 



in Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Godfrey as lodgers. But 
their money was all spent in getting started, and 
they had a hard struggle. Their first work was a 
translation of a Dutch history of the Quakers. 
Franklin worked late and early. People saw him 
still employed as they went home from their clubs 
late at night, and he was at it again in the morning 
before his neighbors were out of bed. 

There were already two other printing-offices, 
Keimer's and Bradford's, and hardly enough work 
for them. The town prophesied failure for the firm 
of Franklin & Meredith ; and, indeed, their only hope 
of success seemed to be in destroying one or both 
of their rivals, a serious undertaking for two young 
men working on borrowed capital. There was so 
little to be made in printing at that time that most 
of the printers were obliged to branch out into 
journalism and to keep stationery stores. Franklin 
resolved to start a newspaper, but, unfortunately, 
told his secret to one of Keimer's workmen, and 
Keimer, to be beforehand, immediately started a 
newspaper of his own, called The Universal In- 
structor in all Arts and Sciences and the Pennsyl- 
vania Gazette. 

Franklin was much disgusted, and in resentment, 
as he tells us, and to counteract Keimer, began 
writing amusing letters for the other newspaper of 
the town, Bradford's Mercury. His idea was to 
crush Keimer's paper by building up Bradford's 
until he could have one of his own. His articles, 
which were signed "Busy Body," show the same 
talent for humor that he had displayed in Boston a 



Numb. XL. 

Pennfylvania GAZETTE. 

Containing the frejhejl Advices Foreign and Dome flick. 

From Thurfday, September Jj. to Thuriday, Odober J. 171^. 

rH B Pennfj-Ivanii Gazette ,*J ** to 
tt (jrry'i en tj otter HJUO\ i RuJtr 
may ixftd fcmt Account cf tbt MttboJ tt-* 
dtfni tc fncitd in. 

I'fonaVuw / Chambers'; grtat DiOitnarits, 
from wbtmt mm taktu tbt Mittrtali of tbt 
Univerfal loftrador in til Arts and Sciences, 
which n/nally ma4t It* Firjt Wart ef this <Paftr, 
Wt find tint btfidts tbtir containing mjuj Things 
at/trnft or afoaificanl to HI, a wilt fntatly 
tt fifty Tiart btfort tht Wtxtlt tan tt font tbrt' 
in tbii Mj*ntr of 'PntlicjtKt. Tbtrt art litt- 
wifi / tbaft Bfttt comanal Riftrtncts from 
Tbngs nmdtr MM Lttttr of ibt Jlfbjbit tt thtft 
nnJtr anothtr, which rttati to tbt ffmt Sutjta, 
t*J mrt uKTffarj tt titflam iioj ttmflut a ; 
tif't tfktm in Ikar farm m*j ftrbjfi ki Tin 
ft art dtftaat; gn4Kwtt it a Uulj ttut thtj mht 
4tfin to tttflftfl Ittmfihil witk any ptrtualtr 
Jtri tr Sonet, amiUt t U4Uj txnt tht wb*lt tt- 
fori tbtm or mwtk Itft Titu, vt Mint our 
Rmim Witt uot tbakfteb * MttboJ tfnmrna- 
nitftnig Kmmiulft t*o frtftr Out. 

Hrmintr, At mo 4 mtt tuttn4 to cnitiunt tbo 
'PaHimtom of tbofo EMitnfrni m * rifitljr 
^IfbofftutJ J^abtJ, w kit tatbtrto knm Jew; 
ytt M frorrsJ Ibatgi txbititt.i fnu tbtm in tbt 
Camrft of Ibtft Vfftn, knt fun ttttrttmui^ 
le f*tb of tbt Oirioiu, who anitr tjJ tn.i uu- 
ot km Ibt jUmmtfft of food LArtrut ; tnJ 
I tbtri to m*ey Ttiufi Jlttl ktbiuA, vr-ab it- 
rj tu tkti Mtuottr mjJi rtmrjlly tjnvu, may 
frrbffs hfomt of nufidtriAlt I/ft, try ^miif focb 
Hitti It tbo outUttit tiotnrjl GIUIMI'S of oar 
Ctautry, tj mey tomtntttt titbtr It tbt 1m- 
frrcmttX of tmr frtfmt MjuufjOuru, tr tt- 
WfrJi tbo hntmtitm of tew Outs ; * f"ff' 
from Tau tt Ttmo U cntmumtat fueb fjrtun- 
L" Vrn> ta rffttr to rt of tbt milt ttutrtl 

4* tt tbo Religious Court (hip, <Pjrf of 
mkub b*t ton nttfd to tbo <P,H,tk in tbtfi 
fffori^ tbt RtfJtr m*y kt inform',!, tbjt tbt 
wbtU Bttk mtU frtffUy im litllo Tau tt 
fmtttl **4 btomtf * by itftlf; *ui tbofo mho 
ffrt, tf it, mill dtfttltCs tt Itlttr f,lt.n'J to 
&** it ttlirr- tbsm m thu troten innrrtift.i 

Tbtrt art many afco tfJt lour difrti to fit J 
fct.l \nei-'Pjftr-*tt Fcnnfylvanu , <iu.i tt'< bcpt 
theft Gtutltmtu vho rt at/It, will coutritatt ta- 
Wfrdi tbt makiHt Tbtt fucb. tt'i ask jlj/iftaact, 
tKSft vt art fully ftnJiHt, that to f-MiJb a 
rptd ftrxs-Taftr a tnt ft tafy am UuJtrtjkiuf 
at mjuy <Pnflt tmayjna it to it. fbt Jmtbtr of 
j Guettc fin ttt Opinion oflbt Lurutd) eitgbt 
tt to toxlijftj with Ju txttnfrut jtcqiiaiataact 
wab LaegtMfti, * trial Ef/ixefs au.i CtmmtJmti 
of Writ ivt and Rtljtiur Tbinti cltauly aud in- 
ttllytly, ana" atftv IforJi ; ktlttnUft afU 
to/fiak if Mr tab ky Laui anj Sta : It will 
mt^ntinttd xtta Gtofrafby, with Ibt n:jhry of 
tbt Timt, vitf tht jrwrjl luttrtfli rf-Printtt, 
mnd SlattSj tit Sttrttl of Courts, fuJ tht .\fjti- 
mtrt an4 Cnfttnm tf all Katani. JHeu tf>.n ae- 
comfliit'J an vtrj rjrt in till rtmttt <Pjrt of 
tbt World ; and a vealj tt fill if tit Writtr 
of tbtft 'fjftrs coal.i mjkt of tuttu^ bit FntvJt 
vbat is vautiug in I imft.'f. 

Uftn ll>t Ir'bolt, v* mjf ofirt ttt <Patltct, 
thai as fjr as tbt Euco:trj'ti.ii;t KI nut 'iLttb 
will mJUt as, uo Cart av,i P.tim /b.ill tt omit- 
ttd, that may matt tht JVnnfi Kinia Gazette 
as atrs\/lt and nftfttl an EuttrtJinmtvt as tbt 
Njtart of tit ri'itif Kill jllox. 

The Following is the lift Meflage fcnt by 
hi* Excellency Govcrnour I'.untr, to 'he 
Houl'c ot'Rcprcfcotati\cs it Bojicu. 

Cntltmt* tflU Hmfi / Cfr^nUMr/, 

IT OB wilh fa TW Hope ii I" convince you, AM 
I tike the TiatKr la inf.ct your Mt(T$o, but. if 
po&Mc. ID open the Eyti of the dcMnl People lxxa- 
)rou irpirftnt. *i bom jrau jrr a lo iruxh Pum to kcef 
IB Iffnnraare ibe Due Suie of their Aif*trv I need nae 
go fiiither "or in undcaijble Praof ol iKu Endewoui to 
bind thrni. tKu vow o.,i.-iin- tlic Lettei of Mrffimt 
WVtxnd Adr/nof the ?th of 7r Li* to yam Spnkct 10 
be uUtOicd Tbu Lettei Jt (M (in ffft I of your 
rtMjIomnntaOtft) m ttfmi of ntt ttnh tfti, Om- 
~*r // .u,j,f,; r,~, C .W. o+ H, litMi *r 

fitmm ~4 Or** Itrnm m Cm*J , Yet thcfe GeatUaea 
bid * the fine time the unpjnlkllM rVfumptioa M 
i* 10 the Spe.let m tbii Minnet ; fmV *fin <f * 
&*>. ** > fHttfau tr < C~>)~.. 4 *~ 9* am- 
rtfe *H Mi ilofft-t 1-fnO^ flit wMr UWIT H V 



few years before, when he wrote for his brother's 
newspaper over the name " Silence Dogood ;" but 
there is a great difference in their tone. No ridi- 
cule of the prevailing religion or hatred of those in 
authority appears in them. The young man evi- 
dently found Philadelphia more to his taste than 
Boston, and was not at war with his surroundings. 
The " Busy Body" papers are merely pleasant rail- 
lery at the failings of human nature in general, 
interspersed with good advice, something like that 
which he soon afterwards gave in " Poor Richard." 

Keimer tried to keep his journal going by pub- 
lishing long extracts from an encyclopaedia which 
had recently appeared, beginning with the letter A, 
and he tried to imitate the wit of the " Busy Body." 
But he merely laid himself open to the " Busy 
Body's" attacks, who burlesqued and ridiculed his 
attempts, and Franklin in his Autobiography gives 
himself the credit of having drawn public attention 
so strongly to Bradford's Mercury that Keimer, after 
keeping his Universal Instructor going on only 
ninety subscribers for about nine months, gave it 
up. Franklin & Meredith bought it in and thus 
disposed of one of their rivals. That rival, being 
incompetent and ignorant, soon disposed of himself 
by bankruptcy and removal to the Barbadoes. 
Franklin continued the publication of the news- 
paper under the title of the Pennsylvania Gazette ; 
but it was vastly improved in every way, better 
type, better paper, more news, and intelligent, well- 
reasoned articles on public affairs instead of Keimer's 
stupid prolixity. 


An article written by Franklin on that great ques- 
tion of colonial times, whether the Legislature of 
each colony should give the governor a fixed salary 
or pay him only at the end of each year, according 
as he had pleased them, attracted much attention. 
It was written with considerable astuteness, and, while 
upholding the necessity of the governor's dependence 
on the Legislature, was careful not to give offence to 
those who were of a different opinion. The young 
printers also won favor by reprinting neatly and cor- 
rectly an address of the Assembly to the governor, 
which Bradford had previously printed in a blunder- 
ing way. The members of the Assembly were so 
pleased with it that they voted their printing to 
Franklin & Meredith for the ensuing year. These 
politicians, finding that Franklin knew how to han- 
dle a pen, thought it well, as a matter of self-interest, 
to encourage him. 

The two young men were kept busily employed, 
yet found it very difficult to make both ends meet, 
although they did everything themselves, not having 
even a boy to assist them. Meredith's father, having 
suffered some losses, could lend them but half of the 
sum they had expected from him. The merchant 
who had furnished them their materials grew im- 
patient and sued them. They succeeded in staying 
judgment and execution for a time, but fully ex- 
pected to be eventually sold out by the sheriff" and 

At this juncture two friends of Franklin came to 
him and offered sufficient money to tide over his 
difficulties if he would get rid of Meredith, who was 



intemperate, and take all the business on himself. 
This he succeeded in doing, and with the money 
supplied by his friends paid off his debts and added 
a stationery shop, where he sold paper, parchment, 
legal blanks, ink, books, and, in time, soap, goose- 
feathers, liquors, and groceries; he also secured the 
printing of the laws of Delaware, and, as he says, 
went on swimmingly. Soon after this he married 
Miss Read, and he has left us an account of how 
they lived together : 

" We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our 
furniture of the cheapest. For instance, my breakfast was for a long 
time bread and milk (no tea), and I ate it out of a twopenny earthen 
porringer, with a pewter spoon. But mark how luxury will enter 
families, and make a progress in spite of principle : being called one 
morning to breakfast, I found it in a china bowl, with a spoon of 
silver ! They had been bought for me without my knowledge by my 
wife, and had cost her the enormous sum of three and twenty shil- 
lings, for which she had no other excuse or apology to make but that 
she thought her husband deserved a silver spoon and china bowl as 
well as any of his neighbors." 

A story is told on the Eastern Shore of Maryland 
of a young man who called one evening on an old 
farmer to ask him how it was that he had become 

" It is a long story," said the old man, "and while 
I am telling it we might as well save the candle," and 
he put it out 

"You need not tell it," said the youth. "I see." 

Franklin's method was the one that had always 
been practised by his ancestors, and with his wider 
intelligence and great literary ability it was sure to 
succeed. The silver spoons slowly increased until 


in the course of years, as he tells us, the plate in 
his house was "augmented gradually to several 
hundred pounds in value." 

His newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette, was the 
best in the colonies. Besides the ordinary news and 
advertisements, together with little anecdotes and 
squibs which he was always so clever in telling, he 
printed in it extracts from The Spectator and various 
moral writers, articles from English newspapers, as 
well as articles of his own which had been previously 
read to the Junto. He also published long poems 
by Stephen Duck, now utterly forgotten ; but he 
was then the poet laureate and wrote passable verse. 
He carefully excluded all libelling and personal 
abuse ; but what would now be considered indeli- 
cate jests were not infrequent These broad jokes, 
together with witticisms at the expense of ecclesi- 
astics, constituted the stock amusements of the time, 
as the English literature of that period abundantly 

Opening one of the old volumes of his Gazette 
at random, we find for September 5, 1734, a humor- 
ous account of a lottery in England, by which, to 
encourage the propagation of the species, all the old 
maids of the country are to be raffled for. Turning 
over the leaves, we find the humorous will of a fel- 
low who, among other queer bequests, leaves his 
body " as a very wholesome feast to the worms of 
his family vault" In another number an account 
is given of some excesses of the Pope, with a Latin 
verse and its translation which had been pasted on 
Pasquin's statue : 



" Omnia Venduntur imo 

Dogmata Christi 
Et ne me vendunt, evolo. 
Roma Vale." 

" Rome all things sells, even doctrines old and new. 
I'll fly for fear of sale ; so Rome adieu." 

In the number for November 7, 1734, we are 
given "The Genealogy of a Jacobite." 

" The Devil begat Sin, Sin begat Error, Error begat Pride, Pride 
begat Hatred, Hatred begat Ignorance, Ignorance begat Blind Zeal, 
Blind Zeal begat Superstition, Superstition begat Priestcraft, Priest- 
craft begat Lineal Succession, Lineal Succession begat Indelible Char- 
acter, Indelible Character begat Blind Obedience, Blind Obedience 
begat Infallibility, Infallibility begat the Pope and his Brethren in the 
time of Egyptian Darkness, the Pope begat Purgatory, Purgatory 
begat Auricular Confession, Auricular Confession begat Renouncing 
of Reason, Renouncing of Reason begat Contempt of Scriptures, 
Contempt of the Scriptures begat Implicit Faith, Implicit Faith begat 
Carnal Policy, Carnal Policy begat Unlimited Passive Obedience, 
Unlimited Passive Obedience begat Non- Resistance, Non- Resistance 
begat Oppression, Oppression begat Faction, Faction begat Patriotism, 
Patriotism begat Opposition to all the Measures of the Ministry, Op- 
position begat Disaffection, Disaffection begat Discontent, Discontent 
begat a Tory, and a Tory begat a Jacobite, with Craftsman and Fog 
and their Brethren on the Body of the Whore of Babylon when she 
was deemed past child bearing." 

Franklin's famous " Speech of Polly Baker " is 
supposed to have first appeared in the Gazette. This 
is a mistake, but it was reprinted again and again in 
American newsapers for half a century. 

" The Speech of Miss Polly Baker before a Court of Judicatory, 
in New England, where she was prosecuted for a fifth time, for 
having a Bastard Child ; which influenced the Court to dispense 
with her punishment, and which induced one of her judges to marry 
her the next day by whom she had fifteen children. 



"May it please the honourable bench to indulge me in a few 
words : I am a poor, unhappy woman, who have no money to fee 
lawyers to plead for me, being hard put to it to get a living. . . . 
Abstracted from the law, I cannot conceive (may it please your 
honours) what the nature of my offence is. I have brought five 
children into the world, at the risque of my life ; I have maintained 
them well by my own industry, without burthening the township, 
and would have done it better, if it had not been for the heavy 
charges and fines I have paid. Can it be a crime (in the nature 
of things, I mean) to add to the King's subjects, in a new country 
that really needs people? I own it, I should think it rather a 
praiseworthy than a punishable action. I have debauched no other 
woman's husband, nor enticed any youth ; these things I never was 
charged with ; nor has any one the least cause of complaint against 
me, unless, perhaps, the ministers of justice, because I have had 
children without being married, by which they have missed a wed- 
ding fee. But can this be a fault of mine ? I appeal to your honours. 
You are pleased to allow I don't want sense ; but I must be stupefied 
to the last degree, not to prefer the honourable state of wedlock to 
the condition I have lived in. I always was, and still am willing to 
enter into it ; and doubt not my behaving well in it ; having all the 
industry, frugality, fertility, and skill in economy appertaining to a 
good wife's character. I defy any one to say I ever refused an offer 
of that sort ; on the contrary, I readily consented to the only pro- 
posal of marriage that ever was made me, which was when I was a 
virgin, but too easily confiding in the person's sincerity that made it, 
I unhappily lost my honour by trusting to his ; for he got me with 
child, and then forsook me. 

"That very person, you all know ; he is now become a magistrate 
of this country ; and I had hopes he would have appeared this day 
on the bench, and have endeavoured to moderate the Court in my 
favour ; then I should have scorned to have mentioned it, but I must 
now complain of it as unjust and unequal, that my betrayer, and 
undoer, the first cause of all my faults and miscarriages (if they must 
be deemed such), should be advanced to honour and power in the 
government that punishes my misfortunes with stripes and infamy. 
. . . But how can it be believed that Heaven is angry at my having 
children, when to the little done by me towards it, God has been 
pleased to add his divine skill and admirable workmanship in the for- 
mation of their bodies, and crowned the whole by furnishing them 
with rational and immortal souls ? Forgive me, gentlemen, if I talk 
a little extravagantly on these matters : I am no divine, but if you, 



gentlemen, must be making laws, do not tarn natural and useful 
actions into crimes by your prohibitions. But take into your wise 
consideration the great and growing number of bachelors in the 
country, many of whom, from the mean fear of the expense of a 
family, have never sincerely and honestly courted a woman in their 
lives ; and by their manner of living leave unproduced (which is little 
better than murder) hundreds of their posterity to the thousandth 
generation. Is not this a greater offence against the public good 
than mine ? Compel them, then, by law, either to marriage, or to 
pay double the fine of fornication every year. What must poor 
young women do, whom customs and nature forbid to solicit the 
men, and who cannot force themselves upon husbands, when the 
laws take no care to provide them any, and yet severely punish 
them if they do their duty without them ; the duty of the first and 
great command of nature and nature's God, increase and multiply ; 
a duty, from the steady performance of which nothing has been able 
to deter me, but for its sake I have hazarded the loss of the public 
esteem, and have frequently endured public disgrace and punish- 
ment ; and therefore ought, in my bumble opinion, instead of a 
whipping, to have a statue erected to my memory." 

A newspaper furnishing the people with so much 
information and sound advice, mingled with broad 
stories, bright and witty, and appealing to all the 
human passions, in other words, so thoroughly like 
Franklin, was necessarily a success. It was, how- 
ever, a small affair, a single sheet which, when 
folded, was about twelve by eighteen inches, and 
it appeared only twice a week. 

It differed from other colonial newspapers chiefly 
in its greater brightness and in the literary skill 
shown in its preparation. But attempts have been 
made to exaggerate its merits, and Parton declares 
that in it Franklin " originated the modern system 
of business advertising" and that "he was the first 
man who used this mighty engine of publicity as 
we now use it" A careful examination of the 



Gazette and the other journals of the time fails to 
disclose any evidence in support of this extravagant 
statement The advertisements in the Gazette are 
like those in the other papers, runaway servants 
and slaves, ships and merchandise for sale, articles 
lost or stolen. On the whole, perhaps more ad- 
vertisements appear in the Gazette than in any of 
the others, though a comparison of the Gazette with 
Bradford's Mercury shows days when the latter has 
the greater number. 

Franklin advertised rather extensively his own 
publications, and the lamp-black, soap, and " ready 
money for old rags" which were to be had at his 
shop, for the reason, doubtless, that, being owner of 
both the newspaper and the shop, the advertise- 
ments cost him nothing. This is the only founda- 
tion for the tale of his having originated modern 
advertising. His advertisements are of the same 
sort that appeared in other papers, and there is 
not the slightest suggestion of modern methods in 

Parton also says that Franklin " invented the plan 
of distinguishing advertisements by means of little 
pictures which he cut with his own hands." If he 
really was the inventor of this plan, it is strange that 
he allowed his rival Bradford to use it in the Mercury 
before it was adopted by the Gazette. No cuts ap- 
pear in the advertisements in the Gazette until May 
30, 1 734 ; but the Mercury's advertisements have 
them in the year 1733. 

Franklin made no sudden or startling changes in 
the methods of journalism ; he merely used them 



effectively. His reputation and fortune were in- 
creased by his newspaper, but his greatest success 
came from his almanac, the immortal "Poor Rich- 

In those days almanacs were the literature of the 
masses, very much as newspapers are now. Every- 
body read them, and they supplied the place of 
books to those who would not or could not buy 
these means of knowledge. Every farm-house and 
hunter's cabin had one hanging by the fireplace, and 
the rich were also eager to read afresh every year 
the weather forecasts, receipts, scraps of history, and 
advice mingled with jokes and verses. 

Every printer issued an almanac as a matter of 
course, for it was the one publication which was sure 
to sell, and there was always more or less money to 
be made by it While Franklin and Meredith were 
in business they published their almanac annually, 
and it was prepared by Thomas Godfrey, the mathe- 
matician, who with his wife lived in part of Franklin's 
house. But, as has been related, Mrs. Godfrey tried 
to make a match between Franklin and one of her 
relatives, and when that failed the Godfreys and 
Franklin separated, and Thomas Godfrey devoted 
his mathematical talents to the preparation of Brad- 
ford's almanac. 

This was in the year 1732, and the following year 
Franklin had no philomath, as such people were 
called, to prepare his almanac. A great deal de- 
pended on having a popular philomath. Some of 
them could achieve large sales for their employer, 
while others could scarcely catch the public attention 



at all. Franklin's literary instinct at once suggested 
the plan of creating a philomath out of his own 
imagination, an ideal one who would achieve the 
highest possibilities of the art So he wrote his 
own almanac, and announced that it was prepared 
by one Richard Saunders, who for short was called 
"Poor Richard," and he proved to be the most 
wonderful philomath that ever lived. 

As Shakespeare took the suggestions and plots of 
his plays from old tales and romances, endowing his 
spoils by the touch of genius with a life that the 
originals never possessed, so Franklin plundered 
right and left to obtain material for the wise sayings 
of "Poor Richard." There was, we are told, a 
Richard Saunders who was the philomath of a popu- 
lar English almanac called " The Apollo Anglicanus," 
and another popular almanac had been called " Poor 
Robin ;" but " Poor Richard" was a real creation, a 
new human character introduced to the world like 
Sir Roger de Coverley. 

Novel-writing was in its infancy in those days, and 
Bunyan's " Pilgrim's Progress," Addison's character 
of Sir Roger, and the works of Richardson, Fielding, 
and Smollett were the only examples of this new 
literature. That beautiful sentiment that prompts 
children to say, "Tell us a story," and which is now 
fed to repletion by trash, was then primitive, fresh, 
and simple. Franklin could have written a novel 
in the manner of Fielding, but he had no inclina- 
tion for such a task. He took more naturally and 
easily to creating a single character somewhat in 
the way Sir Roger de Coverley was created by 


Poor Richard, 1733. 

A N 



Being the Firft after LEAP YEAR: 

And M*ktt Jinct tf* Crratim Years 

By the Account of the Eaftcrn Gruki 7241 

By the Latin Church, when O ent. f 6932 

By the Computation of W.lf 5742 

By the Roman Chronology 56*82 

By the Jcwijb Rabbies 5W4 

Wherein is contained 
The Lunations, Eclipfes, Judgment of 
the Weather, Spring Tides, Planets Motions & 
mutual Afpeb, Sun and Moon's Rifing and Set- 
ting, Length of Days, Time of High Water, 
Fans, Courts, and obfcrvable Days 
Fitted tothe Latitude of Forty Degrees, 
and a Meridian of Fivr Hours Weft from Ltmim, 
but NMV without fenfiblc Error, fcive xll the ad- 
jaccnt Places, even from 



Piinted and fod l>y B. FR.JKKL/M, at the New 

Printing Office near tle Market. (T 

The Third ImprcQion. 



Addison, whose essays he had rewritten so often for 

Sir Roger was so much of a gentleman, there were 
so many delicate touches in him, that he never be- 
came the favorite of the common people. But "Poor 
Richard" was the Sir Roger of the masses ; he won 
the hearts of high and low. In that first number for 
the year 1733 he introduces himself very much after 
the manner of Addisoa 


" I might in this pkce attempt to gain thy favor by declaring that 
I write almanacks with no other view than that of the public good, 
but in this I should not be sincere ; and men are now-a-days too 
wise to be deceived by pretences, how specious soever. The plain 
truth of the matter is, I am excessive poor, and my wife, good 
woman, is, I tell her, excessive proud ; she cannot bear, she says, to 
sit spinning in her shift of tow, while I do nothing but gaze at the 
stars ; and has threatened more than once to bum all my books and 
rattling traps (as she calls my instruments) if I do not make some 
profitable use of them for the good of my family. The printer has 
offered me some considerable share of the profits, and I have thus 
begun to comply with my dame's desire." 

There was a rival almanac, of which the philo- 
math was Titan Leeds. " Poor Richard" affects 
great friendship for him, and says that he would have 
written almanacs long ago had he not been unwilling 
to interfere with the business of Titan. But this 
obstacle was soon to be removed. 

" He dies by my calculation, ' ' says ' ' Poor Richard, " " made at his 
request, on Oct. 17, 1733, 3 ho., 29m., P. M., at the very instant of the 
(J of Q and . By his own calculation he will survive till the z6th 
of the same month. This small difference between us we have dis- 
puted whenever we have met these nine years past ; but at length 
he is inclinable to agree with my judgment. Which of us is most 
exact, a little time will now determine." 



In the next issue "Poor Richard" announces that 
his circumstances are now much easier. His wife has 
a pot of her own and is no longer obliged to borrow 
one of a neighbor ; and, best of all, they have some- 
thing to put in it, which has made her temper more 
pacific. Then he begins to tease Titan Leeds. He 
recalls his prediction of his death, but is not quite 
sure whether it occurred ; for he has been prevented 
by domestic affairs from being at the bedside and 
closing the eyes of his old friend. The stars have 
foretold the death with their usual exactitude ; but 
sometimes Providence interferes in these matters, 
which makes the astrologer's art a little uncertain. 
But on the whole he thinks Titan must be dead, "for 
there appears in his name, as I am assured, an Al- 
manack for the year 1734 in which I am treated in a 
very gross and unhandsome manner ; in which I am 
called a false predicter, an ignorant, a conceited 
scribbler, a fool, and a lyar;" and he goes on to show 
that his good friend Titan would never have treated 
him in this way. 

The next year he is still making sport of Titan, 
the deceased Titan, and the ghost of Titan, "who 
pretends to be still living, and to write Almanacks in 
spight of me ;" and he proves again by means of the 
funniest arguments that he must be dead. Another 
year he devotes several pages of nonsense to dis- 
proving the charge that "Poor Richard" is not a real 
person. He ridicules astrology and weather fore- 
casting by pretending to be very serious over it At 
any rate, he says, "we always hit the day of the 
month, and that I suppose is esteemed one of the 



most useful things in an Almanack." He and his 
good old wife are getting on now better than ever ; 
and the almanac for 1738 is prepared by Mis- 
tress Saunders herself, who rails at her husband 
and makes queer work with eclipses and forecasting. 
Then in the number for 1740 Titan writes a letter 
to " Poor Richard" from the other world. 

Besides the formal essays or prefaces which ap- 
peared in each number, there were numerous verses, 
paragraphs of admirable satire on the events of the 
day or the weaknesses of human nature, and those 
prudential maxims which in the end became the 
most famous of all. As we look through a collection 
of these almanacs for an hour or so we seem to have 
lived among the colonists, who were not then Ameri- 
cans, but merry Englishmen, heavy eaters and 
drinkers, full of broad jokes, whimsical, humorous 
ways, and forever gossiping with hearty good nature 
over the ludicrous accidents of life, the love-affairs, 
the married infelicities, and the cuckolds. It is the 
freshness, the sap, and the rollicking happiness of 
old English life. 

" Old Batchelor would have a wife that's wise, 
Fair, rich and young a maiden for his bed ; 
Not proud, nor churlish, but of faultless size, 
A country housewife in the city bred. 

He's a nice fool and long in vain hath staid ; 

He should bespeak her, there's none ready made." 

"Never spare the parson's wine, nor the baker's pudding." 

" Ne'er take a wife till thou hast a house (and a fire) to put her in." 



* My love and I for kisses play'd, 

She would keep stakes, I was content, 
But when I won, she would be paid, 
This made me ask her what she meant : 

Quoth she, since you are in the wrangling vein 
Here take your kisses, give me mine again." 

" Who has deceived thee so oft as thyself?" 
" There is no little enemy." 

" Of the Eclipses this year. 

" During the first visible eclipse Saturn is retrograde : For which 
reason the crabs will go sidelong and the ropemakers backward. 

The belly will wag before, and the will sit down first. . . . 

When a New Yorker thinks to say THIS he shall say DISS, and the 
People in New England and Cape May will not be able to say Cow 
for their Lives, but will be forc'd to say KEOW by a certain involuntary 
Twist in the Root of their Tongues. ..." 

" Many dishes many diseases." 
" Let thy maid servant be faithful, strong and homely." 

" Here I sit naked, like some fairy elf; 
My seat a pumpkin ; I grudge no man's pelf, 
Though I've no bread nor cheese upon my shelf, 

I'll tell thee gratis, when it safe is 
To purge, to bleed, or cut thy cattle or thyself." 

" Necessity never made a good bargain." 

"A little house well filled, a little field well till'd and a little wife 
well will'd are great riches." 

" Of the Diseases this year. 

" This Year the Stone-blind shall see but very little ; the Deaf shall 
hear but poorly ; and the Dumb shan't speak very plain. And it's 
much, if my Dame Bridget talks at all this Year. Whole Flocks, 
Herds and Droves of Sheep, Swine and Oxen, Cocks and Hens, 
Ducks and Drakes, Geese and Ganders shall go to Pot; but the 
Mortality will not be altogether so great among Cats, Dogs and 
Horses. . . ." 



" Of the Fruits of the Earth. 

" I find that this will be a plentiful Year of all manner of good 
Things, to those who have enough ; but the Orange Trees in Green- 
land will go near to fare the worse for the Cold. As for Oats, 
they'll be a great Help to Horses. . . ." 

" Lend money to an enemy, and thou'lt gain him ; to a friend, and 
thou'lt lose him." 

"Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, half shut after- 

" It is hard for an empty sack to stand uprignt. " 

For twenty years and more " Poor Richard" kept 
up this continuous stream of fun, breaking forth 
afresh every autumn, sound, wholesome, dealing 
with the real things and the elemental joys of life, 
and expressed in that inimitable language of which 
Franklin was master. In this way was built up the 
greater part of his wonderful reputation, which in 
some of its manifestations surprises us so much. 
Such a reputation is usually of long growth ; one or 
two conspicuous acts will not achieve it But the 
man who every year for nearly a generation de- 
lighted every human being in the country, from the 
ploughman and hunter to the royal governors, was 
laying in store for himself a sure foundation of influ- 

The success of "Poor Richard" was immediate. 
The first number of it went through several edi- 
tions, and after that the annual sales amounted to 
about ten thousand copies. For the last number 
which Franklin prepared for the year 1758, before 
he turned over the enterprise to his partner, he wrote 
a most happy preface. It was always his habit, when 
a controversy or service he was engaged in was fin- 



ished, to summarize the whole affair in a way that 
strengthened his own position and left an indelible 
impression which all the efforts of his enemies could 
not efface. Accordingly, for this last preface he 
invented a homely, catching tale that enabled him 
to summarize all the best sayings of "Poor Richard" 
for the last twenty-five years. 

" I stopt my Horse lately where a great Number of people were 
collected at a Vendue of Merchant Goods. The Hour of Sale not 
being come, they were conversing on the Badness of the Times, and 
one of the Company call'd to a plain clean old Man, with white 
Locks, ' Pray, Father Abraham, what think you of the Times ? 
Won't these heavy Taxes quite ruin the Country ? How shall we be 
ever able to pay them ? What would you advise us to ?' Father 
Abraham stood up, and reply'd, ' If you'd have my Advice, I'll give 
it you in short, for a Word to the Wise is enough, and many Words 
won't fill a Bushel, as Poor Richard says.' They join'd in desiring 
him to speak his Mind, and gathering round him, he proceeded as 
follows : 

" ' Friends,' says he, ' and neighbours, the Taxes are indeed very 
heavy, and if those laid on by the Government were the only Ones 
we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them ; but we have 
many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed 
twice as much by our Idleness, three times as much by our Pride, and 
four times as much by our Folly, and from these Taxes the Commis- 
sioners cannot ease or deliver us by allowing an Abatement. How- 
ever let us hearken to good Advice, and something may be done for 
us ; God helps them that help themselves, as Poor Richard says in 
his Almanack of 1733. 

" ' It would be thought a hard Government that should tax its Peo- 
ple one tenth Part of their Time, to be employed in its Service. But 
Idleness taxes many of us much more, if we reckon all that is spent 
in absolute Sloth, or doing of nothing, with that which is spent in idle 
Employments or Amusements, that amount to nothing. Sloth, by 
bringing on Diseases absolutely shortens Life. Sloth, like Rust, con- 
sumes faster than Labour wears, while the used Key is always bright, 
as Poor Richard says. But dost thou love Life, then do not squander 
Time, for that's the Stuff Life is made of, as poor Richard says. 
How much more than is necessary do we spend in Sleep ! forgetting 



that The Sleeping Fox catches no Poultry, and that there will be 
sleeping enough in the Grave, as Poor Richard says. If Time be of 
all Things the most precious, wasting of Time must be, as Poor 
Richard says, the greatest Prodigality, since, as he elsewhere tells us, 
Lost Time is never found again; and what we call Time-enough, 
always proves little enough. Let us then be up and doing, and 
doing to the Purpose ; so by Diligence shall we do more with less 
Perplexity. Sloth makes all Things difficult, but Industry all Things 
easy, as Poor Richard says; and He that riseth late, must trot all 
Day, and shall scarce overtake his Business at night. While Laziness 
travels so slowly, that Poverty soon overtakes him, as we read in 
Poor Richard, who adds, Drive thy Business, let that not drive thee; 
and Early to Bed, and early to rise, makes a Man healthy, wealthy, 
and wise. 

. . +jk 

" ' So mu A^or Industry, my Friends, and Attention to one's own 
Business ; but tojhese we must add Frugality, if we would make our 
Industry more certainly successful. A man may, if he knows not how 
to save as he gets, Keep his nose all his life to the Grindstone, and 
die not worth a Groat at last. 

" ' And now to conclude, Experience keeps a dear School, but 
Fools will learn in no other, and scarce in that ; for it is true, we may 
give Advice, but we cannot give Conduct, as Poor Richard says : 
However, remember this, They that won't be counselled, can't be 
helped, as Poor Richard says : and farther, That if you will not hear 
Reason, she'll surely wrap your Knuckles.' 

" Thus the old Gentleman ended his Harangue. The People 
heard it, and approved the Doctrine, and immediately practised the 
contrary, just as if it had been a common Sermon ; for the Vendue 
opened and they began to buy extravagantly, notwithstanding all his 
Cautions and their own Fear of Taxes." 

This speech of the wise old man at the auction, 
while perhaps not so interesting to us now as are 
some other parts of " Poor Richard," was a great hit 
in its day ; in fact, the greatest Franklin ever made. 
Before it appeared "Poor Richard's" reputation was 
confined principally to America, and without this 


final speech might have continued within those limits. 
But the "clean old Man, with white locks" spread the 
fame of "Poor Dick" over the whole civilized world. 
His speech was reprinted on broadsides in England 
to be fastened to the sides of houses, translated into 
French, and bought by the clergy and gentry for dis- 
tribution to parishioners and tenants. Mr. Paul 
Leicester Ford, in his excellent little volume, " The 
Sayings of Poor Richard," has summarized its success. 
Seventy editions of it have been printed in English, 
fifty-six in French, eleven in German, and nine in 
Italian. It has also been translated into Spanish, 
Danish, Swedish, Welsh, Polish, Gaelic, Russian, Bo- 
hemian, Dutch, Catalan, Chinese, and Modern Greek, 
reprinted at least four hundred times, and still lives. 

It was quite common a hundred years ago to 
charge Franklin with being an arrant plagiarist. It 
is true that the sayings of "Poor Richard" and a 
great deal that went to make up the almanac were 
taken from Rabelais, Bacon, Rochefoucauld, Ray 
Palmer, and any other sources where they could be 
found or suggested. But "Poor Richard" changed 
and rewrote them to suit his purpose, and gave most 
of them a far wider circulation than they had before. 

More serious charges have, however, been made, 
and they are summarized in Davis's "Travels in 
America,"* which was published in 1803. I have 
already noticed one of these, the charge that his 
letter on air-baths was taken from Aubrey's "Miscel- 
lanies," which, on examination, I cannot find to be 

* Pp. 209-217. 


sustained. Davis also charges that Franklin's famous 
epitaph on himself was taken from a Latin one by 
an Eton school-boy, published with an English trans- 
lation in the Gentleman's Magazine for February, 
1 736. Franklin's epitaph is already familiar to most 

of us : 

The Body 

Benjamin Franklin 

(Like the cover of an old book 

Its contents torn out 
And stript of its lettering and gilding) 

Lies here, food for worms. 

But the work shall not be lost 

For it will (as he believed) appear once more 

In a new and more elegant edition 

Revised and corrected 

The Author. 

The Eton boy's was somewhat like it : 

Vitoe Volumine peracto 

Hie Finis Jacobi Tonson 

Perpoliti Sociorum Principis; 

Qui Velut Obstetrix Musarum 

In Lucem Edivit 

Fcelices Ingenii Partus. 

Lugete, Scriptorum chorus, 

Et Frangite Calamos ; 

Hie vester, Margine Erasus, deletur ! 

Sed haec postrema Inscriptio 

Huic primre Mortis Paginae 


Ne Praelo Sepulchri Commissus, 

Ipse Editor careat Titulo : 

Hie Jacet Bibliopola 

Folio vitae delapso 

Expectans novam Editionem 

Auctiorem et Emendatiorem. 



One of these productions might certainly have 
been suggested by the other. But Franklin's grand- 
son, William Temple Franklin, who professed to 
have the original in his possession, in his grandfather's 
handwriting, said that it was dated 1728, and it is 
printed with that date in one of the editions of 
Franklin's works. If this date is correct, it would be 
too early for the epitaph to have been copied from 
the one in the Gentleman's Magazine for February, 
1736. It might be said that possibly the Eton boy 
knew of Franklin's epitaph ; but I cannot find that 
it was printed or in any way made public before 
1736. There is no reason why both should not be 
original, for everybody wrote epitaphs in that century. 

Franklin has been credited by one of his biog- 
raphers with the invention of the comic epitaph, 
and Smollett's famous inscription on Commodore 
Trunnion's tomb in "Peregrine Pickle" is described 
as a mere imitation of Franklin's epitaph on him- 
self But there is no evidence that Smollett had seen 
Franklin's production before " Peregrine Pickle" was 
published in 1750, and it was not necessary that he 
should. There were plenty of similar productions 
long before that time. Franklin's own Gazette, Jan- 
uary 6 to January 15, 1735/6, gives a very witty in- 
scription on a dead greyhound, which is described 
as cut on the walls of Lord Cobham's gardens at 
Stow. In writing comic epitaphs Franklin was merely 
following the fashion of his time, and he was hardly 
as good at it as Smollett. 

He has himself told us the source of one of his 
best short essays, "The Ephemera," a beautiful little 



allegory which he wrote to please Madame Brillon in 
Paris. In a letter to William Carmichael, of June 
17, 1780, he describes the circumstances under which 
it was written, and says that " the thought was partly 
taken from a little piece of some unknown writer, 
which I met with fifty years since in a newspaper." : 
It was in this way that he worked over old material 
for " Poor Richard." Everything he had read seemed 
capable of supplying suggestions, and it must be said 
that he usually improved on the work of other men. 

He was very fond of paraphrasing the Bible as a 
humorous task and also to show what he conceived 
to be the meaning of certain passages. He altered 
the wording of the Book of Job so as to make it a 
satire on English politics. He did it cleverly, and it 
was amusing ; but it was a very cheap sort of humor. 

His most famous joke of this kind was his " Parable 
against Persecution." He had learned it by heart, 
and when he was in England, and the discussion 
turned on religious liberty, he would open the Bible 
and read his parable as the last chapter in Gene- 
sis. The imitation of the language of Scripture 
was perfect, and the parable itself was so interest- 
ing and striking that every one was delighted with 
it His guests would wonder and say that they had 
never known there was such a chapter in Genesis. 

The parable was published and universally ad- 
mired, but when it appeared in the Gentleman 's 
Magazine some one very quickly discovered that it 
had been taken from Jeremy Taylor's Polemical Dis- 

* Bigelow's Franklin from His Own Writings, vol. ii. p. 511. 


courses, and there was a great discussion over it 
Franklin afterwards said, in a letter to Mr. Vaughan, 
that he had taken it from Taylor ; and John Adams 
said that he never pretended that it was original.* 
It is interesting to see how cleverly he improved on 
Taylor's language : 


"When Abraham sat at his 
tent door according to his cus- 
tom, waiting to entertain stran- 
gers, he espied an old man stoop- 
ing and leaning on his staff; 
weary with age and travel, com- 
ing towards him, who was an 
hundred years old. He received 
him kindly, washed his feet, pro- 
vided supper, and caused him to 
sit down ; but observing that the 
old man ate and prayed not, nor 
begged for a blessing on his meat, 
he asked him why he did not 
worship the God of heaven? 
The old man told him, that he 
worshipped the fire only and ac- 
knowledged no other god. At 
which answer Abraham grew so 
zealously angry, that he thrust 
the old man out of his tent, and 
exposed him to all the evils of 
the night and an unguarded con- 
dition. When the old man was 
gone, God called to Abraham, 
and asked him where the stran- 
ger was ? He replied, I thrust 
him away, because he did not 
worship thee. God answered 


" fl * And it came to pass after 
these things, that Abraham sat 
in the door of his tent, about the 
going down of the sun. ^ a And 
behold a man, bent with age, 
coming from the way of the 
wilderness leaning on his staff. 
^[3 And Abraham rose and met 
him, and said unto him : Turn in, 
I pray thee, and wash thy feet, 
and tarry all night ; and thou 
shalt arise early in the morn- 
ing and go on thy way. r But 
the man said, Nay, for I will 
abide under this tree. *[ s And 
Abraham pressed him greatly : 
so he turned and they went into 
the tent, and Abraham baked 
unleavened bread, and they did 
eat. ^[ 6 And when Abraham saw 
that the man blessed not God he 
said unto him, wherefore dost 
thou not worship the Most High 
God, Creator of heaven and 
earth ? fl 1 And the man answered , 
and said, I do not worship thy 
God, neither do I call upon his 
name ; for I have made to my- 
self a god, which abideth in my 

* Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. v. p. 376 ; also vol. x. p. 78 ; 
Adams's Works, vol. i. p. 659. 



him, I have suffered him these 
hundred years, although he dis- 
honoured me; and couldst not 
thou endure him one night, and 
when he gave thee no trouble? 
Upon this, saith the story, Abra- 
ham fetched him back again, and 
gave him hospitable entertain- 
ment and wise instruction. Go 
thou and do likewise and thy 
charity will be rewarded by the 
God of Abraham." 

house and provideth me with all 
things, f ' And Abraham's zeal 
was kindled against the man; 
and he arose and fell upon him, 
and drove him forth with blows 
into the wilderness. flAnd at 
midnight God called unto Abra- 
ham saying, Abraham, where is 
the stranger ? fl n And Abraham 
answered and said, Lord, he 
would not worship thee, neither 
would he call upon thy name; 
therefore have I driven him out 
from before my face into the wil- 
derness, fl " And God said, have 
I borne with him these hundred 
and ninety and eight years, and 
nourished him, and Cloathed him, 
notwithstanding his rebellion 
against me ; and couldest not 
thou, who art thyself a sin- 
ner, bear with him one night? 
fi " And Abraham said, Let not 
the anger of the Lord wax hot 
Against his servant; lo, I have 
sinned ; forgive me I pray thee. 
fl *J And Abraham arose and went 
forth into the wilderness and 
sought diligently for the man and 
found him, and returned with 
him to the tent; and when he 
had entreated him kindly, he 
sent him away on the morrow 
with gifts, flu And God spake 
unto Abraham, saying, For this 
thy sin shall thy seed be afflicted 
four hundred years in a strange 
land, fl *s But for thy repentance 
will I deliver them ; and they 
shall come forth with power and 
gladness of heart, and with much 


The parable was, indeed, older than Taylor for 
Taylor said he had found it in " The Jews' Book," 
and at length it was discovered in a Latin dedication 
of a rabbinical work, called "The Rod of Judah," 
published at Amsterdam in 1651, which ascribed the 
parable to the Persian poet Saadi. None of them, 
however, had thought of introducing it into the Old 
Testament, nor had they told it so well as Franklin, 
who gave it a new currency, and it was reprinted as a 
half-penny tract and also in Lord Kames's ' ' Sketches 
of the History of Man." 

While on this question of plagiarism it may be said 
that Franklin's admirable style was in part modelled 
on that of the famous Massachusetts divine, Cotton 
Mather, whom he had known and whose books he 
had read in his boyhood. The similarity is, indeed, 
quite striking, and for vigorous English he could 
hardly have had a better model. But he improved 
so much on Mather that his style is entirely his own. 
It is the most effective literary style ever used by an 
American. Nearly one hundred and fifty years have 
passed since his Autobiography was written, yet it 
is still read with delight by all classes of people, has 
been called for at some public libraries four hundred 
times a year, and shows as much promise of immor- 
tality as the poems of Longfellow or the romances 
of Hawthorne. 

Besides his almanac and newspaper, Franklin ex- 
tended his business by publishing books, consisting 
mostly of religious tracts and controversies. He also 
imported books from England, and sold them along 
with the lamp-black, soap, and groceries contained in 



that strange little store and printing-office on Market 
Street He sent one of his journeymen to Charles- 
ton to establish a branch printing-office, of which 
Franklin was to pay one-third of the expense and 
receive one-third of the profits. After continuing 
in this manner some five years, the Legislature of 
the province in 1736 elected him clerk of that body, 
which enabled him to retain the printing of the 
notes, laws, paper money, and other public jobs, 
which he tells us were very profitable. 

The next year Colonel Spotswood, Postmaster- 
General of the colonies, made him deputy post- 
master of Philadelphia. This appointment reinforced 
his other occupations. He could collect news for 
his Gazette more easily, and also had greater facili- 
ties for distributing it to his subscribers. In those 
days the postmaster of a town usually owned a 
newspaper, because he could have the post-riders 
distribute copies of it without cost, and he did not 
allow them to carry any newspaper but his own. 
Franklin had been injured by the refusal of his pre- 
decessor to distribute his Gazette ; but when he 
became postmaster, finding his subscriptions and 
advertisements much increased and his competitor's 
newspaper declining, he magnanimously refused to 
retaliate, and allowed his riders to carry the rival 

How much money Franklin actually made in his 
business is difficult to determine, although many 
guesses have been made. He was, it would seem, 
more largely and widely engaged than any other 
printer in the colonies, for nearly all the important 


printing of the middle colonies and a large part of 
that of the southern colonies came to his office. 
He made enough to retire at forty-two years of age, 
having been working for himself only twenty years. 

On retiring he turned over his printing and pub- 
lishing interest to his foreman, David Hall, who was 
to carry on the business in his own way, but under 
the firm name of Franklin & Hall, and to pay 
Franklin a thousand pounds a year for eighteen 
years, at the end of which time Hall was to become 
sole proprietor. This thousand pounds which Frank- 
lin was to receive may be looked upon as an indica- 
tion that before his retirement the business was 
yielding him annually something more than that 
sum, possibly almost two thousand pounds, as some 
have supposed. 

He never again engaged actively in any gainful 
trade, and his retirement seems to have been caused 
by the passion for scientific research which a few 
years before had seized him, and by that trait of 
his character which sometimes appears in the form 
of a sort of indolence and at other times as a wilful 
determination to follow the bent of his inclinations 
and pleasures. Although extremely economical and 
thrifty in practice as well as in precept, he had very 
little love of money, and took no pleasure in busi- 
ness for mere business' sake. The charges of sordid- 
ness and mean penny-wisdom are not borne out by 
any of the real facts of his life. It is not improbable 
that just before his retirement he had advanced far 
enough in his scientific experiments to see dimly in 

the future the chance of a great discovery and dis- 



tinction. He certainly went to work with a will as 
soon as he got rid of the cares of the printing-office, 
and in a few years was rewarded. 

He had invested some of his savings in houses 
and land in Philadelphia, and the thousand pounds 
(five thousand dollars) which he was to receive for 
eighteen years was a very good income in those 
times, and more than equivalent to ten thousand 
dollars at the present day. He moved from the 
bustle of Market Street and his home in the old 
printing, stationery, and grocery house, and is sup- 
posed to have taken a house at the southeast corner 
of Second and Race Streets. This was at the 
northern edge of the town, close to the river, where 
in the summer evenings he renewed his youthful 
fondness for swimming. 

It must be confessed that very few self-made men, 
conducting a profitable business with the prospect of 
steady accumulation of money, have willingly resigned 
it in the prime of life, under the influence of such 
sentiments as appear to have moved him. But that 
intense and absolute devotion to business which is 
the prevailing mood of our times had not then 
begun in America, and it was rather the fashion to 

The years which followed his retirement, and before 
he became absorbed in political affairs, seem to have 
had for him a great deal of ideal happiness. He 
lived like a man of taste and a scholar accustomed to 
cultured surroundings more than like a self-made 
man who had battled for forty years with the material 
world. In writing to his mother, he said, 



" I read a great deal, ride a little, do a little business for myself, 
now and then for others, retire when I can, and go into company 
when I please ; so the years roll round, and the last will come, when 
I would rather have it said, He lived usefully than He died rich." 

After his withdrawal from business he remained 
postmaster of Philadelphia, and in 1753, after he had 
held that office for sixteen years, he was appointed 
Postmaster-General of all the colonies, with Wil- 
liam Hunter, of Virginia, as his colleague, and he 
retained this position until dismissed from it by the 
British government in 1774, on the eve of the Revo- 
lution. There was some salary attached to these 
offices, that of Postmaster-General yielding three 
hundred pounds. The postmastership of Philadel- 
phia entailed no difficult duties at that time, and 
his wife assisted him ; but when he was made Post- 
master-General he more than earned his salary 
during the first few years by making extensive 
journeys through the colonies to reform the sys- 
tem. The salary attached to the office was not to 
be allowed unless the office produced it ; and during 
the first four years the unpaid salary of Franklin and 
his colleague amounted to nine hundred and fifty 
pounds. He procured faster post-riders, increased 
the number of mails between important places, made 
a charge for carrying newspapers, had all newspapers 
carried by the riders, and reduced some of the rates 
of postage. 

But he was not the founder of the modern post- 
office system, nor was he the first Postmaster-General 
of America, as some of his biographers insist He 
merely improved the system which he found and in- 



creased its revenues as others have done before and 

The leisure he sought by retirement was enjoyed 
but a few years. He became more and more in- 
volved in public affairs, and soon spent most of his 
time in England as agent of Pennsylvania or other 
colonies, and during the Revolution he was in 
France. There was a salary attached to these offices. 
As agent of Pennsylvania he received five hundred 
pounds a year, and when he represented other colo- 
nies he received from Massachusetts four hundred, 
from Georgia two hundred, and from New Jersey 
one hundred. These sums, together with the thou- 
sand pounds a year from Hall, would seem to be 
enough for a man of his habits ; but apparently 
he used it all, and was often slow in paying his 

In a letter written to Mrs. Stevenson in London, 
while he was envoy to France, he expresses surprise 
that some of the London tradespeople still consid- 
ered him their debtor for things obtained from them 
during his residence there some years before, and 
he asks Mrs. Stevenson, with whom he had lodged, 
how his account stands with her. The thousand 
pounds from Hall ceased in 1766, and after that his 
income must have been seriously diminished, for the 
return from his invested savings is supposed to have 
been only about seven hundred pounds. He ap- 
pears to have overdrawn his account with Hall, for 
there is a manuscript letter in the possession of Mr. 
Howard Edwards, of Philadelphia, written by Hall 
March I, 1770, urging Franklin to pay nine hun- 



dred and ninety-three pounds which had been due 
for three years. 

He procured for his natural son, William, the royal 
governorship of New Jersey, and he was diligent all 
his life in getting government places for relatives. 
This practice does not appear to have been much 
disapproved of in his time ; he was not subjected 
to abuse on account of it ; and, indeed, nepotism is 
far preferable to some of the more modern methods. 

When Governor of Pennsylvania, after the Revolu- 
tion, he declined, we are told, to receive any salary 
for his three years' service, accepting only his ex- 
penses for postage, which was high in those times, 
and amounted in this case to seventy-seven pounds 
for the three years. This is one of the innumerable 
statements about him in which the truth is distorted 
for the sake of eulogy. He did not decline to re- 
ceive his salary, but he spent it in charity, and we 
find bequests of it in his will. 

As minister to France he had at first five hun- 
dred pounds a year and his expenses, and this was 
paid. He was also promised a secretary at a salary 
of one thousand pounds a year ; but, as the secre- 
tary was never sent, he did the work himself with 
the assistance of his grandson, William Temple 
Franklin, who was allowed only three hundred 
pounds a year. 

He considered himself very much underpaid for 
his services in resisting the Stamp Act, for his mission 
to Canada in 1776 at the risk of his life, and for the 
long and laborious years which he spent in France. 
Certainly five hundred pounds a year and expenses 



was very small pay for his diplomatic work in Paris, 
but during the last six years of his mission there he 
received two thousand five hundred pounds a year, 
which would seem to be sufficient compensation for 
acting as ambassador, as well as merchant to buy 
and ship supplies to the United States, and as finan- 
cial agent to examine and accept innumerable bills 
of exchange drawn by the Continental Congress 
(Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. ix. p. 127). In 
1788, two years before his death, he made a state- 
ment of these claims for extra service and sent it to 
Congress, accompanied by a letter to his friend, 
Charles Thomson, the secretary. 

He thought that Congress should recognize these 
services by a grant of land, an office, or in some 
other way, as was the custom in Europe when an 
ambassador returned from a long foreign service ; 
and he reminded Thomson that both Arthur Lee and 
John Jay had been rewarded handsomely for similar 
services. But the old Congress under the Articles 
of Confederation was then just expiring, and took no 
notice of his petition ; and when the new Congress 
came in under the Constitution, it does not appear 
that his claims were presented. It is a mistake to 
say, however, as some have done, that the United 
States never paid him for his services and still owes 
him money. These claims were for extra services 
which the government had never obligated itself to 

He died quite well off for those times, leaving an 
estate worth, it is supposed, considerably over one 
hundred thousand dollars. The rapid rise in the 


value of houses and land in Philadelphia after the 
Revolution accounts for a part of this sum. He 
owned five or six large houses in Philadelphia, the 
printing-house which he built for his grandson, and 
several small houses. He had also a number of va- 
cant lots in the town, a house and lot in Boston, a 
tract of land in Nova Scotia, another large tract in 
Georgia, and still another in Ohio. His personal 
property, consisting mostly of bonds and money, 
was worth from sixty to seventy thousand dollars. 



THE exact period at which Franklin began to turn 
his attention to original researches in science is diffi- 
cult to determine. There are no traces of such 
efforts when he was a youth in Boston. He was not 
then interested in science, even in a boyish way. 
His instincts at that time led him almost exclusively 
in the direction of general reading and the training 
of himself in the literary art by verse-writing and by 
analyzing the essays of the Spectator. 

The atmosphere of Boston was completely theo- 
logical. There was no room, no opportunity, for 
science, and no inducement or even suggestion that 
would lead to it, still less to original research in it 
We find Franklin in a state of rebellion against the 
prevailing tone of thought, writing against it in his 
brother's newspaper at the risk of imprisonment, and 
in a manner more bitter and violent than anything 
he afterwards composed. If he had remained in 
Boston it is not likely that he would ever have taken 
seriously to science, for all his energies would have 
been absorbed in fighting those intolerant conditions 
which smothered all scientific inquiries. 

In Pennsylvania he found the conditions reversed. 
The Quakers and the German sects which made up 
the majority of the people of that province in colo- 



nial times had more advanced ideas of liberty and 
free thought than any of the other religious bodies 
in America, and in consequence science flourished 
in Pennsylvania long before it gained entrance into 
the other colonies. The first American medical col- 
lege, the first hospital, and the first separate dis- 
pensary were established tr^re. Several citizens of 
Philadelphia who were contemporaries of Franklin 
achieved sufficient reputation in science to make 
their names well known in Europe. 

David Rittenhouse invented the metallic ther- 
mometer, developed the construction of the compen- 
sation pendulum, and made valuable experiments 
on the compressibility of water. He became a 
famous astronomer, constructed an orrery to show 
the movements of the stars which was an improve- 
ment on all its predecessors, and conducted the 
observations of the transit of Venus in 1769. 
Pennsylvania was the only one of the colonies that 
took these observations, which in that year were 
taken by all the European governments in various 
parts of the world. The Legislature and public 
institutions, together with a large number of in- 
dividuals, assisted in the undertaking, showing what 
very favorable conditions for science prevailed in 
the province.* 

These were the conditions which seem to have 
aroused Franklin. Without them his mind tended 
more naturally to literature, politics, and schemes 
of philanthropy and reform ; but when his strong 

* Making of Pennsylvania, chap. ix. 


intellect was once directed towards science, he easily 
excelled in it Some of the early questions dis- 
cussed by the Junto, such as " Is sound an entity or 
body?" and "How may the phenomena of vapors 
be explained?" show an inclination towards scien- 
tific research ; and it is very likely that he studied 
such subjects more or less during the ten years 
which followed his beginning business for himself. 

In his Gazette for December 15, 1737, there is an 
essay on the causes of earthquakes, summarizing 
the various explanations which had been given by 
learned men, and this essay is supposed to have 
been written by him. Six years afterwards he made 
what has been usually considered his first discovery, 
namely, that the northeast storms of the Atlantic 
coast move against the wind ; or, in other words, 
that instead of these storms coming from the north- 
east, whence the wind blows, they come from the 
southwest He was led to this discovery by at- 
tempting to observe an eclipse of the moon which 
occurred on the evening of October 21, 1743 ; but 
he was prevented by a heavy northeaster which did 
great damage on the coast He was surprised to 
find that it had not prevented the people of Boston 
from seeing the eclipse. The storm, though coming 
from the northeast, swept over Philadelphia before 
it reached Boston. For several years he carefully 
collected information about these storms, and found 
in every instance that they began to leeward and 
were often more violent there than farther to wind- 

He seems to have been the first person to observe 


these facts, but he took no pains to make his ob- 
servations public, except in conversation or in letters 
to prominent men like Jared Eliot, of Connecticut, 
and these letters were not published until long after- 
wards. This was his method in all his investigations. 
He never wrote a book on science ; he merely re- 
ported his investigations and experiments by letter, 
usually to learned people in England or France. 
There were no scientific periodicals in those days. 
The men who were interested in such things kept in 
touch with one another by means of correspondence 
and an occasional pamphlet or book. 

During the same period in which he was making 
observations on northeast storms he invented the 
"Pennsylvania Fireplace," as he called it, a new 
sort of stove which was a great improvement over 
the old methods of heating rooms. He published 
a complete description of this stove in 1745, and it 
is one of the most interesting essays he ever wrote. 
It is astonishing with what pleasure one can still read 
the first half of this essay written one hundred and 
fifty years ago on the driest of dry subjects. The 
language is so clear and beautiful, and the homely 
personality of the writer so manifest, that one is 
inclined to lay down the principle that the test of 
literary genius is the ability to be fascinating about 

He explained the laws of hot air and its move- 
ments ; the Holland stove, which afforded but little 
ventilation ; the German stove, which was simply an 
iron box fed from outside, with no ventilating proper- 
ties ; and the great open fireplace fed with huge logs, 



which required such a draft to prevent the smoke 
from coming back into the room that the outer door 
had to be left open, and if the door was shut the 
draft would draw the outer air whistling and howling 
through the crevices of the windows. His " Penn- 
sylvania Fireplace" was what we would now call an 
open-fireplace stove. It was intended to be less 
wasteful of fuel than the ordinary fireplace and to 
give ventilation, while combining the heating power 
of the German and Holland stoves. It continued 
in common use for nearly a century, and modified 
forms of it are still called the Franklin stoves. 

One of its greatest advantages was that it saved 
wood, which, for some time prior to the introduction 
of coal, had to be brought such a long distance 
that it was becoming very expensive. Franklin 
refused to take out a patent for his invention; for 
he was on principle opposed to patents, and said that 
as we enjoyed great advantages from the inventions 
of others, we should be willing to serve them by in- 
ventions of our own. He afterwards learned that 
a London ironmonger made a few changes in the 
"Pennsylvania Fireplace" and sold it as his own, 
gaining a small fortune. 

Franklin's invention was undoubtedly an improve- 
ment on the old methods of heating and ventilation ; 
but he was not, as has been absurdly claimed, the 
founder of the "American stove system," for that 
system very soon departed from his lines and went 
back to the air-tight stoves of Germany and Holland. 

It was not until 1 746 or 1 747, after he had been 
making original researches in science for about five 



years, that he took up the subject of electricity, and 
he was then forty-one years old. It appears that Mr. 
Peter Collinson, of London, who was interested in 
botany and other sciences, and corresponded largely 
on such subjects, had presented to the Philadelphia 
Library one of the glass tubes which were used at 
that time for producing electricity by rubbing them 
with silk or skin. Franklin began experimenting 
with this tube, and seems to have been fascinated by 
the new subject On March 28, 1747, he wrote to 
Mr. Collinson thanking him for the tube, and saying 
that they had observed with its aid some phenomena 
which they thought to be new. 

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

It will be observed that he speaks of crowds coming 
to see the experiments, and this confirms what I have 
already shown of the strong interest in science which 
prevailed at that time in Pennsylvania, and which had 
evidently first aroused Franklin. In fact, a renewed 
interest in science had been recently stirred up all 
over the world, and people who had never before 
thought much of such things became investigators. 
Voltaire, who resembled Franklin in many ways, had 
turned aside from literature, and at forty-one, the 
same age at which Franklin began the study of elec- 
tricity, had become a man of science, and for four 

years devoted himself to experiments. 



Franklin was by no means alone in his studies. 
Besides the crowds who were interested from mere 
curiosity, there were three men Ebenezer Kinners- 
ley, Thomas Hopkinson, and Philip Syng who ex- 
perimented with him, and it was no mere amateurish 
work in which these men were engaged. Franklin 
was their spokesman and reported the results of his 
and their labor by means of letters to Mr. Peter Col- 
linson. Within six months Hopkinson had observed 
the power of points to throw off electricity, or elec- 
trical fire, as he called it, and Franklin had discovered 
and described what is now known as positive and 
negative electricity. Within the same time Syng 
had invented an electrical machine, consisting of a 
sphere revolved on an axis with a handle, which was 
better adapted for producing the electrical spark than 
the tube-rubbing practised in Europe. 

The experiments and the letters to Collinson de- 
scribing them continued, and about this time we find 
Franklin writing a long and apparently the first intel- 
ligent explanation of the action of the Leyden jar. 
Then followed attempts to explain thunder and light- 
ning as phenomena of electricity, and on July 29, 
1750, Franklin sent to Collinson a paper announcing 
the invention of the lightning-rod, together with an 
explanation of its action. 

In these papers he also suggested an experiment 
which would prove positively that lightning was a 
form of electricity. The two phenomena were alike 
as regarded light, color, crooked direction, noise, 
swift motion, being conducted by metals, subsisting 
in water or ice, rending bodies, killing animals, melt- 



ing metals, and setting fire to various substances. It 
remained to demonstrate with absolute certainty that 
lightning resembled electricity in being attracted by 
points ; and for this purpose Franklin proposed that 
a man stand in a sort of sentry-box on the top of 
some high tower or steeple and with a pointed rod 
draw electricity from passing thunder-clouds. 

This suggestion was successfully carried out in 
France, in the presence of the king, at the county- 
seat of the Duke D'Ayen ; and afterwards Buffon, 
D'Alibard, and Du Lor confirmed it by experiments 
of their own. But they did not use steeples ; they 
erected lofty iron rods, in one instance ninety-nine 
feet high. Nevertheless, it was in effect the same 
method that Franklin had suggested. The experi- 
ment was repeated in various forms in England, and 
the Philadelphia philosopher, postmaster, and author 
of "Poor Richard" became instantly famous as the 
discoverer of the identity of lightning with electricity. 

Two years before these experiments were inaugu- 
rated he had retired from business for various rea- 
sons, chief among which was his strong desire to 
devote more time to science. His letters continue to 
be filled with closely reasoned details of all sorts of 
experiments. So earnest were these Philadelphia 
investigators, that when Kinnersley wrote complain- 
ing that in travelling to Boston he found difficulty in 
keeping up his experiments, Franklin, in reply, sug- 
gested a portable electrical apparatus which would 
not break on a journey. 

In a letter written to Collinson on October 19, 
1752, Franklin says he had heard of the success in 



France of the experiment he had suggested for 
drawing the lightning from clouds by means of an 
elevated metal rod ; but in the mean time he had 
contrived another method for accomplishing the same 
result without the aid of a steeple or lofty iron rod. 
This was the kite experiment of which we have heard 
so much, and he goes on to describe it : 

" Make a small cross of two light strips of cedar, the arms so long 
as to reach to the four corners of a large thin silk handkerchief when 
extended ; tie the corners of the handkerchief to the extremities of 
the cross, so you have the body of a kite; which being properly 
accommodated with a tail, loop, and string, will rise in the air, like 
those made of paper; but this being of silk is fitter to bear the wet 
and wind of a thunder gust without tearing. To the top of the up- 
right stick of the cross is to be fixed a very sharp pointed wire, rising 
a foot or more above the wood. To the end of the twine, next the 
hand, is to be tied a silk ribbon, and where the silk and twine join, a 
key may be fastened. This kite is to be raised when a thunder-gust 
appears to be coming on, and the person who holds the string must 
stand within a door or window, or under some cover, so that the silk 
ribbon may not be wet ; and care must be taken that the twine does 
not touch the frame of the door or window. As soon as any of the 
thunder clouds come over the kite, the pointed wire will draw the 
electric fire from them, and the kite, with all the twine, will be elec- 
trified, and the loose filaments of the twine, will stand out every way, 
and be attracted by an approaching finger. And when the rain has 
wetted the kite and twine, so that it can conduct the electric fire 
freely, you will find it stream out plentifully from the key on the ap- 
proach of your knuckle. At this key the phial may be charged : and 
from electric fire thus obtained, spirits may be kindled, and all the 
other electric experiments be performed, which are usually done by 
the help of a rubbed glass globe or tube, and thereby the sameness 
of the electric matter with that of lightning completely demonstrated." 

This is the only description by Franklin of the 
experiment which added so much to his reputation. 
Franklin and the kite became a story for school- 



books ; innumerable pictures of him and his son 
drawing the lightning down the string were made and 
reproduced for a century or more in every con- 
ceivable form, and even engraved on some of our 
national currency. 

The experiment was made in June, 1752 ; in the 
following October the above letter was written, and 
the news it contained appears to have rushed over 
the world without any effort on his part to spread it 
He never wrote anything more concerning this ex- 
periment than the very simple and unaffected letter 
to Mr. Collinson. But people, of course, asked him 
about it, and from the details which they professed 
to have obtained grand statements have been built 
up describing his conduct and emotions on that 
memorable June afternoon on the outskirts of Phila- 
delphia, probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 
the present Vine Street, near Fourth ; how his heart 
stood still with anxiety lest the trial should fail ; how 
with trembling hand he applied his knuckles to the 
key, and the wild exultation with which he saw suc- 
cess crown his efforts. 

But it is safe to say that there were none of these 
theatrical exhibitions, and that he made the experi- 
ment in that matter-of-fact and probably half-humor- 
ous way in which he did everything. Nothing im- 
portant depended on it, for he had already proved 
conclusively, not only by reasoning but by his sug- 
gested experiments which had been tried in Europe, 
that thunder and lightning were phenomena of elec- 
tricity. The kite was used because there were in 
Philadelphia no high steeples on which he could try 



the experiment that had proved his discovery in 

But it was Franklin's good fortune on a number 
of occasions to be placed in picturesque and striking 
situations, which greatly increased his fame. He did 
not foresee that kite-flying would be one of these, 
and as it was not essential to his discovery of the 
nature of lightning, he was disinclined at first to 
think much of it, and did not even report it to Mr. 
Collinson until after several months had elapsed. 
But the world fixed upon it instantly as something 
easy to remember. To this day it is the popular way 
of illustrating Franklin's discovery, and is all that 
most people know of his contributions to science. 

He went on steadily reporting his experiments to 
Collinson, and in 1753 was at work on the mistaken 
hypothesis of the sea being the grand source of 
lightning, but at the same time making the discovery 
of the negative and sometimes positive electricity 
of the clouds. He had a rod erected on his house 
to draw down into it the mystical fire of any passing 
clouds, with bells arranged to warn him when his 
apparatus was working ; and it was about this time 
that he was struck senseless and almost killed while 
trying the effect of an electrical shock on a turkey. 

Collinson kept his letters, and in May, 1751, had 
them published in a pamphlet called " New Experi- 
ments and Observations in Electricity made at Phil- 
adelphia in America." It had immediately, like all 
of Franklin's writings, a vast success, at first in 
France, and afterwards in England and other coun- 
tries. Franklin was, strange to say, always more 


popular in France than in either America or Eng- 
land. In England his experiments in electricity 
were at first laughed at, and the Royal Society re- 
fused to publish his letters in their proceedings. 
But after Collinson had secured their publication in 
a pamphlet, they were translated into German, Italian, 
and Latin, as well as into French, and were greatly 
admired not only for the discoveries and knowledge 
they revealed, but for their fascinating style and 
noble candor tinged occasionally with the most 
telling and homely humor. 

It has been repeatedly charged that Franklin was 
indebted to his fellow-worker, Kinnersley, for his 
discoveries in electricity. The charge is so vaguely 
made that it is impossible to ascertain which of 
them are supposed to have been stolen. In Frank- 
lin's letters on electricity there are frequent foot- 
notes giving credit to Hopkinson and Syng for their 
original work, and there are also in his published 
works letters to and from Kinnersley. He and 
Kinnersley seem to have been always fast friends, 
and, so far as I can discover, the latter never 
accused Franklin of stealing from him. 

After he had proved in such a brilliant manner 
that lightning was merely one of the forms or phe- 
nomena of that mysterious fire which appears when 
we rub a glass tube with buckskin, Franklin made 
no more discoveries in science ; but his interest and 
patience of research were unabated. He cannot 
be ranked among the great men of science, the 
Newtons and Keplers, or the Humboldts, Huxleys, 

or Darwins. He belongs rather in the second class, 



among the minor discoverers. But his discovery of 
the nature of lightning was so striking and so capa- 
ble of arousing the wonder of the masses of man- 
kind, and his invention of the lightning-rod was 
regarded as so universally valuable, that he has re- 
ceived more popular applause than men whose 
achievements were greater and more important 

During the rest of his life his work in science was 
principally in the way of encouraging its study. 
He was always observing, collecting facts, and 
writing out his conclusions. The public business 
in which he was soon constantly employed, and 
the long years of his diplomatic service in England 
and France, were serious interruptions, and during 
the last part of his life it was not often that he could 
steal time for that loving investigation of nature 
which after his thirtieth year became the great 
passion of his life. 

His command of language had seldom been put 
to better use than in explaining the rather subtle 
ideas and conceptions in the early development of 
electricity. Even now after the lapse of one hun- 
dred and fifty years we seem to gain a fresher un- 
derstanding of that subject by reading his homely 
and beautiful explanations ; and modern students 
would have an easier time if Franklin were still here 
to write their text-books. His subsequent letters 
and essays were many of them even more happily 
expressed than the famous letters on electricity. 

In old editions of his works all his writings on 
science were collected in one place, so that they 
could be read consecutively, which was rather better 


than the modern strictly chronological plan by which 
they are scattered throughout eight or ten large vol- 
umes. As we look over one of the old editions we 
feel almost compelled to begin original research at 
once, it seems so easy and pretty. There are long 
investigations about water-spouts and whirlwinds, 
whether a water-spout ever actually touches the sur- 
face of the sea, and whether its action is downward 
from the sky or upward from the water. He inter- 
viewed sea-captains and received letters from people 
in the West Indies to help him, and those who had 
once come within the circle of his fascination were 
never weary of giving aid. 

He investigated what he called the light in sea- 
water, now called phosphorescence. The cause of 
the saltness of the sea and the existence of masses 
of salt or salt-mines in the earth he explained by the 
theory that all the water of the world had once been 
salt, for sea-shells and the bones of fishes were found, 
he said, on high land ; upheavals had isolated parts 
of the original water, which on evaporation had left 
the salt, and this being covered with earth, became a 
salt-mine. This explanation was given in a letter 
to his brother Peter, and is really a little essay on 
geology, which was then not known by that or any 
other name, but consisted merely of a few scattered 

Many of his most interesting explanations of phe- 
nomena appear in letters to the young women with 
whom he was on such friendly terms. Indeed, it 
has been said that he was never at his best except 
when writing to women. People believe, he tells 



Miss Stevenson, that all rivers run into the sea, and 
he goes on to show in his most clever way that 
some rivers do not The waters of the Delaware, 
for example, and the waters of the rivers that flow 
into Chesapeake Bay, probably never reach the 
ocean. The salt water backing up against them 
twice a day acts as a dam, and their fresh water is 
dissipated by evaporation. Only a few, like the 
Amazon and the Orinoco, are known to force their 
fresh water far out on the surface of the sea. In this 
same letter he describes the experiments he made to 
prove that dark colors absorb more of the sun's rays, 
and are therefore warmer than white. 

While representing Pennsylvania in England, and 
living with Mrs. Stevenson, in Craven Street, Lon- 
don, he made an experiment to prove that vessels 
move faster in deep than in shallow water. This was 
generally believed by seafaring men ; but Franklin 
had a wooden trough made with a false bottom by 
which he could regulate the depth of water, and he 
put in it a little boat drawn by a string which ran 
over a pulley at the end of the trough, with a shil- 
ling attached for a weight In this way he suc- 
ceeded in demonstrating a natural law which, though 
known to practical men, had never been described 
in books of science. 

He took much pains to collect information about 
the Gulf Stream. This wonderful river in the 
ocean has been long known, but the first people to 
observe it closely were the Nantucket whalemen, 
who found that their game was numerous on the 
edges of it, but was never seen within its warm 



waters. In consequence of their more exact knowl- 
edge they were able to make faster voyages than 
other seamen. Franklin learned about it from them, 
and on his numerous voyages made many observa- 
tions, which he carefully recorded. He obtained a 
map of it from one of the whalemen, which he 
caused to be engraved for the general benefit of 
navigation on the old London chart then universally 
used by sailors. But the British captains slighted it, 
and this, like his other efforts in science, was first 
appreciated in France. 

He has been called the discoverer of the tempera- 
ture of the Gulf Stream ; but this statement is some- 
what misleading. That the stream was warmer than 
the surrounding ocean seems to have been long 
known ; but Franklin was the first to take its tem- 
perature at different points with a thermometer. He 
did this most systematically on several of his voyages, 
even when suffering severely from sea-sickness, and 
thus suggested the use of the thermometer in investi- 
gating ocean currents. He first took these tempera- 
tures in 1775, and the next year Dr. Charles Blagden, 
of the British army, took them while on the voyage to 
America with troops to suppress the Revolution. 
He and Franklin are ranked together as the first to 
show the value of an instrument which is now uni- 
versally used in ocean experiments as well as in the 
practical navigation of ships.* 

In the same careful manner he collected all that 
was known of the effect of oil in stilling waves by 

* Pillsbury's Gulf Stream, published by the U. S. government. 


making the surface so smooth and slippery that the 
wind cannot act on it So fascinated was he with 
this investigation that he had a cane made with a 
little receptacle for oil in the head of it, and when 
walking in the country in England experimented on 
every pond he passed. But it would be long to tell 
of all he wrote on light and heat, the vis inertias of 
matter, magnetism, rainfall, evaporation, and the 
aurora borealis. 

One of the discomforts of colonial times, when 
large open fireplaces were so common, was a smoky 
chimney. Franklin's attention was drawn to this 
question about the time that he invented the Penn- 
sylvania fireplaces, and he made an exhaustive study 
of the nature of smoke and heated air. He became 
very skilful in correcting defects in the chimneys of 
his friends' houses, and while he was in England 
noblemen and distinguished people often sought his 
aid. It was not, however, until 1785, near the close 
of his life, that he put his knowledge in writing in a 
letter to Dr. Ingenhausz, physician to the Emperor 
of Austria. The letter was published and exten- 
sively circulated as the best summary of all that was 
known on this important question. It is as fresh and 
interesting to-day as when it was written, and well 
worth reading, because it explains so charmingly the 
philosophy of some phenomena of common occur- 
rence which modern books of science are not at 
much pains to make clear. 

His enemies, of course, ridiculed him as a chimney 
doctor, and his friends have gone to the other extreme 
in implying that he was the only man in the world 



who understood the action of heat and smoke, and 
that, alone and unaided, he delivered mankind from 
a great destroyer of their domestic comfort But his 
letter shows that most of his knowledge and reme- 
dies were drawn from the French and Germans. In 
this, as in many other similar services, he was merely 
an excellent collector of scattered material, which he 
summarized so well that it was more available than 
before. He was by no means the only person in the 
world who could doctor a chimney ; but there were 
few, if any, who could describe in such beautiful 
language the way in which it was done. 

He invented a stove that would consume its own 
smoke, taking the principle from a Frenchman who 
had shown how the flame of a burning substance 
could be made to draw downward through the fuel, 
so that the smoke was burnt with the fuel. But the 
way in which this invention is usually described 
would lead one to suppose that it was entirely origi- 
nal with Franklin. 

He was much interested in agriculture, and was 
an earnest advocate of mineral manures, encouraged 
grape culture, and helped to introduce the basket 
willow and broom-corn into the United States. He 
at one time owned a farm of three hundred acres 
near Burlington, New Jersey, where he tried agri- 
cultural experiments. He dabbled in medicine, as 
has been shown, and also wasted time over that 
ancient delusion, phonetic spelling. 

Knowing, as we do, Franklin's versatility, it is 
nevertheless somewhat of a surprise to find him 
venturing into the sphere of music. He is said to 



have been able to play on the harp, the guitar, and 
the violin, but probably only in a philosopher's way 
and not well on any of them. Some people in Eng- 
land had succeeded in constructing a musical instru- 
ment made of glasses, the idea being taken from the 
pleasant sound produced by passing a wet finger 
round the brim of a drinking-glass. When in Eng- 
land Franklin was so delighted with these instru- 
ments that he set about improving them. He had 
glasses specially moulded of a bell-like shape and 
ground with great care until each had its proper 
note. They were placed in a frame in such a way 
that they could all be set revolving at once by means 
of a treadle worked by the foot, and as they revolved 
they were played by the wet fingers pressed on their 
brims. He gave the name "Armonica" to his in- 
strument, and describes its tones as " incomparably 
sweet beyond those of any other." It is said to have 
been used in public concerts, and it was one of the 
curiosities at his famous Craven Street lodging-house 
in London, where he also had a fine electrical ap- 
paratus, and took pleasure in showing his English 
friends the American experiments of which they had 
heard so much. 

He seems to have studied music with great care 
as a science, just as he studied the whirlwinds, 
the smoke, and the lightning ; but he was unalter- 
ably opposed to the so-called modern music then 
becoming fashionable, and which is still to a great 
extent the music of our time. The pleasure de- 
rived from it was, he said, not the natural pleasure 
caused by harmony of sounds, but rather that felt 



on seeing the surprising feats of tumblers and rope- 

" Many pieces of it are mere compositions of tricks. I have 
sometimes, at a concert, attended by a common audience, placed my- 
self so as to see all their faces, and observed no signs of pleasure in 
them during the performance of a great part that was admired by the 
performers themselves ; while a plain old Scotch tune, which they 
disdained, and could scarcely be prevailed upon to play, gave mani- 
fest and general delight." 

In a letter to Lord Kames which has been often 
quoted he explained at length, and for the most part 
in very technical language, the reasons for the supe- 
riority of the Scotch tunes. 

" Farther, when we consider by whom these ancient tunes were 
composed and how they were first performed we shall see that such 
harmonical successions of sounds were natural and even necessary 
in their construction. They were composed by the minstrels of 
those days to be played on the harp accompanied by the voice. The 
harp was strung with wire, which gives a sound of long continuance 
and had no contrivance like that in the modern harpsichord, by which 
the sound of the preceding could be stopped the moment a succeed- 
ing note began. To avoid actual discord, it was therefore necessary 
that the succeeding emphatic note should be a chord with the pre- 
ceding, as their sounds must exist at the same time. Hence arose 
that beauty in those tunes that has so long pleased, and will please 
forever, though men scarce know why." 

Franklin's numerous voyages naturally turned his 
mind to problems of the sea. He pondered much 
on the question whether the daily motion of the 
earth from west to east would increase the speed of 
a ship sailing eastward and retard it on a westward 
passage. He was not quite sure that the earth's 
motion would have such an effect, but he thought it 



" I wish I had mathematics enough to satisfy myself whether the 
much shorter voyages made by ships bound hence to England, than 
by those from England hither, are not in some degree owing to the 
diurnal motion of the earth, and if so in what degree. It is a notion 
that has lately entered my mind ; I know not if ever any other's." 
(Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. ii. p. 14.) 

'He referred to the subject again soon after, and 
finally a few years before his death,* but always as 
an unsettled question. The idea seems never to 
have got beyond the stage of investigation with 
him, but Parton has built up out of it a wonderful 

" He conceived an idea still more practically useful, which has 
since given rise to a little library of nautical works, and conferred 
unmerited honor upon a naval charlatan Maury. This idea was that 
by studying the form and motions of the earth and directing a ship's 
course so that it shall partake of the earth's diurnal motion a voyage 
may be materially shortened." (Parton's " Life of Franklin," vol. ii. 
p. 72.) 

This is certainly a most extraordinary statement 
to be made by a writer like Parton, who has given 
the main facts of Franklin's life with considerable 
fidelity. He refers to it again in another passage, in 
which he says that this method of navigation is now 
used by all intelligent seamen. But there is no evi- 
dence that it was ever so used. He may have con- 
fused it with great circle sailing. The theory is an 
exploded one. There is no library of nautical works 
on the subject, and I think that the officers of the 
United States navy, the captains of the great ocean 
liners, and thousands of sailors all over the world 

* Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. ii. p. 331 ; vol. ix. p. 185. 


would be very much surprised to hear Maury called 
a charlatan. 

Maury's wonderful investigations were not in the 
line of sailing a ship so as to take advantage of the 
earth's diurnal motion, and could not have been 
suggested by such an idea. He explored the 
physical geography of the sea, and particularly the 
currents, trade-winds, and zones of calm. It was 
he who first worked out the shortest routes from 
place to place, which are still used. Although he 
never made a picturesque and brilliant discovery 
about lightning, and had not Franklin's exquisite 
power of expression, he was a much more remark- 
able man of science. 

In a long letter to Alphonsus Le Roy, of Paris, 
written in 1785, on his voyage home from France 
with Captain Truxton, Franklin summed up all his 
maritime observations, including what he knew of 
the Gulf Stream. This letter is full of most curious 
suggestions for the navigation of ships, and was ac- 
companied by a plate of carefully drawn figures, 
which has been reproduced in most editions of his 

So much attention had been given, he said, to 
shaping the hull of a vessel so as to offer the least 
resistance to the water, that it was time the sails were 
shaped so as to offer the least resistance to the air. 
He proposed to do this by making the sails smaller 
and increasing their number, and contrived a most 
curious rig (Fig. 4) which he thought would offer the 
least resistance both in sailing free and in beating to 

1 88 




Figs. 5, 6, and 7 show why, in those days of rope 
cables, a ship was always breaking the cable where 
it bent at right angles just outside the hawse-hole. 
All the strain was on the outer strands of the rope 
at a b c, Fig. 7, and as they broke the others fol- 
lowed one by one. His remedy for this was to have 
a large wheel or pulley in the hawse-hole. 

Figs. 8 and 9 show how a vessel with a leak at 
first fills very rapidly, so that the crew, finding they 
cannot gain on the water with the pumps, take to 
their boats. But if they would remain they would 
find after a while that the quantity entering would 
be less as the surfaces without and within became 
more nearly equal, and that the pumps would now 
be able to prevent it from rising higher. The water 
would also begin to reach light wooden work, empty 
chests, and water-casks, which would give buoy- 
ancy, and thus the ship could be kept afloat longer 
than the crew at first expected. In this connection 
he calls attention to the Chinese method of water- 
tight compartments which Mr. Le Roy had already 
adopted in his boat on the Seine. 

Fig. 1 2 is intended to show the loss of power in a 
paddle-wheel because the stroke from A to B is 
downward and from D to X upward, and the only 
effective stroke is from B to D. A better method 
of propulsion, he thinks, is by pumping water out 
through the stern, as shown in Figs. 13 and 14. 

Figs. 15, 1 6, 17, 1 8, 19, 20, 21, and 22 illustrate 
methods of making floating sea anchors by which to 
lay a vessel to in a gale. Fig. 24 shows how a heavy 
boat may be drawn ashore by bending the rope from 



C to D. Fig. 23 represents a new way of planking 
ships to secure greater strength, and Figs. 26 and 
27 are soup-dishes which will not spill in a heavy 
sea. But this delightful letter is published in all of 
the editions of his works, and should be read in order 
to render his ingenious contrivances intelligible. 

Among the few of Franklin's writings on scientific 
subjects which are not in the form of letters is an 
essay, entitled " Peopling of Countries," supposed 
to have been written in 1751. It is in part intended 
to show that Great Britain was not injured by the 
immigration to America ; the gap was soon filled 
up ; and the colonies, by consuming British manu- 
factures, increased the resources of the mother 
country. The essay is full of reflections on political 
economy, which had not then become a science, and 
the twenty-second section contains the statement 
that there is no bound to the productiveness of 
plants and animals other than that occasioned by 
their crowding and interfering with one another's 
means of subsistence. This statement supplied Mal- 
thus with the foundation for his famous theory that 
the population of the earth increased in a geometrical 
ratio, while the means of subsistence increased only 
in an arithmetical ratio, and some of those who op- 
posed this theory devoted themselves to showing 
error in Franklin's twenty-second section rather 
than to disputing the conclusions of Malthus, which 
they believed would fall if Franklin could be shown 
to be in the wrong. 

He investigated the new field of political economy 

with the same thoroughness as the other depart- 



ments of science, and wrote on national wealth, the 
price of corn, free trade, the effects of luxury, idle- 
ness, and industry, the slave-trade, and peace and 
war. The humor and imagination in one of his let- 
ters to Dr. Priestley on war justify the quoting of a 
part of it : 

" A young angel of distinction being sent down to this world on 
some business, for the first time, had an old courier-spirit assigned 
him as a guide. They arrived over the seas of Martinico, in the 
middle of the long day of obstinate fight between the fleets of Rod- 
ney and De Grasse. When through the clouds of smoke he saw 
the fire of the guns, the decks covered with mangled limbs and 
bodies dead and dying, or blown into the air, and the quantity of 
pain, misery, and destruction the crews yet alive were thus with so 
much eagerness dealing round to one another, he turned angrily to 
his guide and said, ' You blundering blockhead, you are ignorant 
of your business ; you undertook to conduct me to the earth and 
you have brought me into hell !' " No, sir, 1 says the guide, ' I have 
made no mistake ; this is really the earth, and these are men. 
Devils never treat one another in this cruel manner ; they have more 
sense, and more of what men (vainly) call humanity.' " (Bigelow's 
Works of Franklin, vol. vii. p. 465.) 




WHILE Franklin kept his little stationery shop 
and printing-office, sent out his almanacs every 
year, read and studied, experimented in science, 
and hoped for an assured income which would 
give larger leisure for study and experiment, he was 
all the time drifting more and more into public life. 
In a certain sense he had been accustomed to deal- 
ing with living public questions from boyhood. 
When an apprentice in his teens, he had written 
articles for his brother's newspaper attacking the 
established religious and political system of Massa- 
chusetts, and during his brother's imprisonment the 
newspaper had been published in the apprentice's 
name. In Pennsylvania his own newspaper, the 
Gazette, which he established when he was but 
twenty-three years old, made him something of a 
public man ; and his pamphlet in favor of paper 
money, which appeared at about the same period, 
showed how strongly his mind inclined towards the 
large questions of government 

When he reached manhood he also developed a 
strong inclination to assist in public improvements, 
in the encouragement of thrift and comfort, and in 
the relief of suffering, subjects which are now in- 
cluded under the heads of philanthropy and reform. 



He had in full measure the social and public spirit 
of the Anglo-Saxon, the spirit which instinctively 
builds up the community while at the same time it 
is deeply devoted to its own concerns. The only 
one of his ancestors that had risen above humble 
conditions was of this sort, and had been a leader in 
the public affairs of a village. 

His natural disposition towards benevolent enter- 
prises was much stimulated, he tells us, by a book 
called " Essays to do Good," by the eminent Massa- 
chusetts divine, Cotton Mather, of witchcraft fame. 
He also read about the same time De Foe's " Essay 
upon Projects," a volume recommending asylums 
for the insane, technical schools, mutual benefit 
societies, improved roads, better banking, bankrupt 
laws, and other things which have now become the 
commonplace characteristics of our age. 

His club, the Junto, was the first important fruit 
of this benevolent disposition. At first its members 
kept all their books at its rooms for the common 
benefit ; but some of the books having been injured, 
all were taken back by the owners, and this loss 
suggested to Franklin the idea of a circulating 
library supported by subscriptions. He drew up a 
plan and went about soliciting money in 1731, but 
it took him more than a year to collect forty-five 
pounds. James Logan, the secretary of the prov- 
ince, gave advice as to what books to buy, and the 
money was sent to London to be expended by Mr. 
Peter Collinson, to whom Franklin's famous letters 
on electricity were afterwards written. 

Mr. Collinson was the literary and philosophic 
13 i93 


agent of Pennsylvania in those days. To him John 
Bartram, the first American botanist, sent the plants 
that he collected in the New World, and Mr. Gol- 
linson obtained for him the money with which to 
pursue his studies. Collinson encouraged the new 
library in every way. For thirty years he made for 
it the annual purchase of books, always adding one 
or two volumes as a present, and it will be remem- 
bered that it was through him that Franklin ob- 
tained the electrical tube which started him on his 
remarkable discoveries. 

The library began its existence at the Junto's 
rooms and grew steadily. Influential people gradu- 
ally became interested in it and added their gifts. 
For half a century it occupied rooms in various 
buildings, at one time in the State-House, and 
during the Revolution in Carpenters' Hall, until 
in 1790, the year of Franklin's death, it erected a 
pretty building on Fifth Street, opposite Indepen- 
dence square. During the period from 1731 to 1790 
similar libraries were established in the town, which 
it absorbed one by one : in 1 769 the Union Library, 
in 1771 the Association Library Company and Ami- 
cable Library Company, and, finally, in 1790 the 
Loganian Library, which James Logan had estab- 
lished by his will. Before the Revolution the num- 
ber of books increased but slowly, and in 1785 was 
only 5487. They now number 190,000. 

Franklin says that it was the mother of subscrip- 
tion libraries in North America, and that in a few 
years the colonists became more of a reading people, 
and the common tradesmen and farmers were as 



intelligent as most gentlemen from other countries. 
This statement seems to be justified ; for within a 
few years libraries sprang up in New England and 
the South, and they may have been suggested by the 
Philadelphia Library which Franklin founded. 

I have already shown how Franklin established 
the academy which soon became the College of 
Philadelphia, but this was some twenty years after 
he founded the library. Almost immediately after 
the academy was started Dr. Thomas Bond sought 
his assistance in establishing a hospital. Pennsyl- 
vania was receiving at that time great numbers of 
German immigrants, who arrived in crowded ships 
after a voyage of months, in a terrible state of dirt 
and disease. There was no proper place provided 
for them, and they were a source of danger to the 
rest of the people. A hospital was needed, and Dr. 
Bond, at first meeting with but little success, finally 
accomplished his object with the assistance of Frank- 
lin, who obtained for him a grant of two thousand 
pounds from the Assembly, and helped to stir up 

This was the first hospital in America, and it still 
fulfils its mission in the beautiful old colonial build- 
ings which were originally erected for it Additional 
buildings have been since added, fortunately, in the 
same style of architecture. For the corner-stone 
Franklin wrote an inscription matchless for its origi- 
nality and appropriateness : 

"In the year of CHRIST MDCCLV George the Second hnppily 
reigning (for he sought the happiness of his people^, Philadelphia 
flourishing (for its inhabitants were public spirited), this building, 



by the bounty of the government, and of many private persons, was 
piously founded for the relief of the sick and miserable. May the 
GOD OF MERCIES bless the undertaking." 

In the same spirit Franklin secured by a little 
agitation the paving of the street round the market, 
and afterwards started subscriptions to keep this 
pavement clean. At that time the streets of Phil- 
adelphia, like those of most of the colonial towns, 
were merely earth roads, and it was not until some 
years after Franklin's first efforts at the market that 
there was any general paving done. He also 
secured a well-regulated night watch for the city in 
place of the disorderly, drunken heelers of the con- 
stables, who had long made a farce of the duty ; 
and he established a volunteer fire company which 
was the foundation of the system that prevailed in 
Philadelphia until the paid department was intro- 
duced after the civil war. 

The American Philosophical Society, which was 
also originated by him, might seem to be more 
entitled to mention in the chapter on science. 
But it was really a benevolent enterprise, intended 
to propagate useful knowledge, to encourage agri- 
culture, trade, and the mechanic arts, and to multi- 
ply the conveniences and pleasures of life. He first 
suggested it in 1743, in which year he prepared a 
plan for a society for promoting useful knowledge, 
and one appears to have been organized which led 
a languishing existence until 1769, when it was 
joined by another organization, called " The Ameri- 
can Society held at Philadelphia for Promoting Use- 
ful Knowledge," and from this union resulted the 



American Philosophical Society, which still exists. 
Franklin was for a long time its president, and was 
succeeded by Rittenhouse. It was the first society 
in America devoted to science. Thomas Jefferson 
and other prominent persons throughout the colonies 
were members of it, and during the colonial period 
and long afterwards it held a very important position. 

Franklin was by nature a public man ; but the 
beginning of his life as an office-holder may be said 
to have dated from his appointment as clerk of the 
Assembly. This took place in 1736, when he had 
been in business for himself for some years, and his 
newspaper and " Poor Richard" were well under 
way. It was a tiresome task to sit for hours listening 
to buncombe speeches, and drawing magic squares 
and circles to while away the time. But he valued 
the appointment because it gave him influence with 
the members and a hold on the public printing. 

The second year his election to the office was op- 
posed ; an influential member wanted the place for 
a friend, and Franklin had a chance to show a phi- 
losopher's skill in practical politics. 

" Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and 
curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing 
that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it 
to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return'd it in 
about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the 
favour. When we next met, in the House, he spoke to me (which 
he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after 
manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we be- 
came great friends and our friendship continued to his death. This 
is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which 
says ' He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do 
you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.' " (Bigelow's 
Franklin from his own Writings, vol. i. p. 260.) 



Some people have professed to be very much 
shocked at this disingenuous trick, as they call it, 
although perhaps capable of far more discreditable 
ones themselves. It would be well if no worse 
could be said of modern practical politics. 

Franklin held his clerkship nearly fifteen years. 
During this period he was also postmaster of Phil- 
adelphia, and these two offices, with the benevolent 
enterprises of the library, the hospital, the Philo- 
sophical Society, and the academy and college, 
made him very much of a public man in the best 
sense oi the word long before he was engaged in 
regular politics. 

In the year 1747 he performed an important pub- 
lic service by organizing the militia. War had been 
declared by England against both France and Spain, 
and the colonies were called upon to help the mother 
country. Great difficulty was experienced in recruit- 
ing troops in Quaker Pennsylvania, although the 
Quakers would indirectly consent to it when given 
a reasonable excuse. They would vote money for 
the king's use, and the king's officials might take 
the responsibility of using it for war ; they would 
supply provisions to the army, for that was charity ; 
and on one occasion they voted four thousand 
pounds for the purchase of beef, pork, flour, wheat, 
or other grain ; and as powder was grain, the money 
was used in supplying it 

But the actual recruiting of troops was more diffi- 
cult, and it was to further this object that Franklin 
exerted himself. He wrote one of his clever pam- 
phlets showing the danger of a French invasion, and 



supplied biblical texts in favor of defensive war. Then 
calling a mass-meeting in the large building afterwards 
used for the college, he urged the people to form an 
association for defence. Papers were distributed 
among them, and in a few minutes he had twelve hun- 
dred signatures. These citizen soldiers were called 
"Associators," a name used down to the time of 
the Revolution to describe the Pennsylvania militia. 
In a few days he had enrolled ten thousand volun- 
teers, which shows how large the combatant portion 
of the population was in spite of Quaker doctrine. 

In 1 748 he retired from active business with the 
purpose of devoting himself to science. It was the 
custom at that time to give retired men of business 
the more important public offices; and in 1752, about 
the time of his discovery of the nature of lightning, 
he was elected to the Assembly as one of the mem- 
bers to represent Philadelphia. In the same year 
he was also elected a justice of the peace and a 
member of the City Councils. 

At this time France and England were tempo- 
rarily at peace. The treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle in 
1 748 had resulted in a sort of cessation of hostilities, 
which France was using to push more actively her 
advantages on the Ohio River and in the Mississippi 
Valley. She intended to get behind all the colonies 
and occupy the continent to the Pacific Ocean. The 
efforts of Great Britain to check these designs, in- 
cluding the expeditions of the youthful Washington 
to the Ohio, need not be given here.* England 

* Pennsylvania : Colony and Commonwealth, p. 147. 


broke the treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, and what is 
known as the Seven Years' War began with the 
memorable defeat of Braddock. 

Franklin was sent by the Pennsylvania Assembly 
to Braddock's head-quarters in Virginia to give any 
assistance he could and to prevent Braddock from 
making a raid into Pennsylvania to procure wagons, 
as he had threatened. The journey was made on 
horseback in company with the governors of New 
York and Massachusetts, and on the way Franklin 
had an opportunity to observe the action of a small 
whirlwind, which he reported in a pleasant letter to 
Mr. Collinson. It was while on this visit that Frank- 
lin appears in Thackeray's "Virginians," in which he 
is strangely described as a shrewd, bright little man 
who would drink only water. 

He told Braddock that there were plenty of 
wagons in Pennsylvania, and he was accordingly 
commissioned to procure them. He returned to 
Philadelphia, and within two weeks had delivered 
one hundred and fifty wagons and two hundred 
and fifty pack-horses. He had received only eight 
hundred pounds from Braddock, and was obliged 
to advance two hundred pounds himself and give 
bond to indemnify the owners of such horses as 
should be lost in the service. Claims to the amount 
of twenty thousand pounds were afterwards made 
against him, and he would have been ruined if the 
government, after long delay, had not come to his 
rescue. Such disinterested service was not forgot- 
ten, and his popularity was greatly increased. 

He had the year before been one of the repre- 


sentatives of Pennsylvania in the convention at Al- 
bany, where he had offered a plan for the union of 
all the colonies, which was generally approved, and 
I shall consider this plan more fully in another chap- 
ter. It was intended, of course, primarily to enable 
the colonies to make more effective resistance against 
the French and Indians, and as an additional assist- 
ance he suggested that a new colony be planted on 
the Ohio River. The establishment of this colony 
was a favorite scheme with him, and he urged it 
again many years afterwards while in England. 

As a member of the Pennsylvania Assembly he 
joined the Quaker majority in that body and became 
one of its leaders. This majority was in continual 
conflict with the governor appointed by William 
Penn's sons, who were the proprietors of the prov- 
ince. The government of the colony was divided 
in a curious way. The proprietors had the right to 
appoint the governor, judges, and sheriffs, or, in 
other words, had absolute control of the executive 
offices, while the colonists controlled the Legislature, 
or Assembly, as it was called, and in this Assembly 
the Quakers exercised the strongest influence. 

During the seventy years that the colony had been 
founded the Assembly had built up by slow degrees 
a body of popular rights. It paid the governor his 
salary, and this gave it a vast control over him ; for 
if he vetoed any favorite law it could retaliate by 
cutting off his means of subsistence. This right to 
withhold the governor's salary constituted the most 
important principle of colonial constitutional law, and 
by it not only Pennsylvania but the other colonies 



maintained what liberty they possessed and saved 
themselves from the oppression of royal or proprie- 
tary governors. 

Another right for which the Pennsylvania Assem- 
bly always strenuously contended was that any bill 
passed by it for raising money for the crown must 
be simply accepted or rejected by the governor. 
He was not to attempt to force its amendment by 
threats of rejection, or to interfere in any way with 
the manner of raising the money, and was to have 
no control over its disbursement The king had a 
right to ask for aid, but the colony reserved the 
right to use its own methods in furnishing it 

These rights the proprietors were constantly trying 
to break down by instructing their governors to as- 
sent to money and other bills only on certain condi- 
tions, among which was the stipulation that they 
should not go into effect until the king's pleasure 
was known. They sent out their governors with 
secret instructions, and compelled them to give 
bonds for their faithful performance. When the 
governors declined to reveal these instructions, the 
Assembly thought it had another grievance, for it 
had always refused to be governed in this manner ; 
and was now more determined than ever to main- 
tain this point because several bills had been intro- 
duced in Parliament for the purpose of making royal 
instructions to governors binding on all the colonial 
assemblies without regard to their charters or con- 

These were all very serious designs on liberty, and 
the proprietors took advantage of the war necessi- 



ties and Braddock's defeat to carry them out in the 
most extreme form. The home government was call- 
ing on all the colonies for war supplies, and Pennsyl- 
vania must comply not only to secure her own safety 
but under fear of displeasing the Parliament and 
king. If under such pressure she could be induced 
to pass some of the supply bills at the dictation of 
the governor, or with an admission of the validity of 
his secret instructions, a precedent would be estab- 
lished and the proprietary hold on the province 
greatly strengthened. 

The Quakers, especially those comprising the ma- 
jority in the Assembly, were not at heart opposed 
to war or to granting war supplies. As they ex- 
pressed it in the preamble to one of their laws, they 
had no objection to others bearing arms, but were 
themselves principled against it If the others 
wished to fight, or if it was necessary for the prov- 
ince to fight, they, as the governing body, would 
furnish the means. Franklin relates how, when he 
was organizing the Associators, it was proposed in 
the Union Fire Company that sixty pounds should 
be expended in buying tickets in a lottery, the ob- 
ject of which was to raise money for the purchase of 
cannon. There were twenty-two Quakers in the fire 
company and eight others ; but the twenty-two, by 
purposely absenting themselves, allowed the propo- 
sition to be carried 

The Quaker Assembly voted money for war sup- 
plies as liberally and as loyally as the Assembly of 
any other colony ; but at every step it was met by 

the designs of the governor to force upon it those 



conditions which would be equivalent to a surrender 
of the liberties of the colony. Thus, in 1754 it voted 
a war supply of twenty thousand pounds, which was 
the same amount as Virginia, the most active of the 
, colonies against the French, had just subscribed, and 
was much more than other colonies gave. New 
York gave only five thousand pounds, Maryland six 
thousand pounds, and New Jersey nothing. But the 
governor refused his assent to the bill unless a clause 
was inserted suspending it until the approval of the 
king had been obtained, and this condition the 
Assembly felt bound to reject 

During the whole seven years of the war these con- 
tests with the governor continued ; and the members 
of the Assembly, to show their zeal for the war, were 
obliged at times to raise the money on their own 
credit without submitting their bill to the governor 
for his approval. In these struggles Franklin bore a 
prominent part, drafting the replies which the Assem- 
bly made to the governor's messages, and acquiring 
a most thorough knowledge of all the principles of 
colonial liberty. At the same time he continued to en- 
joy jovial personal relations with the governors whom 
he resisted so vigorously in the Assembly, and was 
often invited to dine with them, when they would 
joke with him about his support of the Quakers. 

The disputes were increased about the time of 
Braddock's defeat by a new subject of controversy. 
As the Assembly was passing bills for war supplies 
which had to be raised by taxation, it was thought 
to be no more than right that the proprietary estates 

should also bear their share of the tax. The pro- 



prietors owned vast tracts of land which they had 
not yet sold to the people, and as the war was being 
waged for the defence of these as well as all the 
other property of the country, the Assembly and the 
people in general were naturally very indignant when 
the governor refused his consent to any bill which 
did not expressly exempt these lands from taxation. 
The amount assessed on the proprietary land was 
trifling, only five hundred pounds ; but both parties 
felt that they were contending for a principle, and 
when some gentlemen offered to pay the whole 
amount in order to stop the dispute, it was rejected. 

The proprietors, through the governor, offered a 
sort of indirect bribe in the form of large gifts of 
land, a thousand acres to every colonel, five hun- 
dred to every captain, and so on down to two hun- 
dred to each private, which seemed very liberal, 
and was an attempt to put the Assembly in an un- 
patriotic position if it should refuse to exempt the 
estates after such a generous offer. But the Assem- 
bly was unmoved, and declined to vote any more 
money for the purposes of the war, if it involved a 
sacrifice of the liberties of the people or enabled 
the proprietors to escape taxation. "Those," said 
Franklin, " who would give up essential liberty for 
the sake of a little temporary safety, deserve neither 
liberty nor safety." 

But the proprietors were determined to carry the 
point of exemption of their estates, and as a clamor 
was being raised against them in England for defeat- 
ing, through their governor, the efforts of the Assem- 
bly to raise money for the war, they sent over word 


that they would subscribe five thousand pounds for 
the protection of the colony. Such munificence took 
the Assembly by surprise, and an appropriation bill 
was passed without taxing the proprietary estates. 
But popular resentment against the proprietors was 
raised to a high pitch when it was discovered that 
the five thousand pounds was to be collected out of 
the arrears of quit-rents due the proprietors. It was 
merely a clever trick on their part to saddle their 
bad debts on the province, have their estates ex- 
empted from taxation, and at the same time give 
themselves a reputation for generosity. 

The defeat of Braddock in July, 1755, was followed 
in September and October by a terrible invasion of 
the Indians, who massacred the farmers almost as 
far east as Philadelphia. Evidently something more 
was necessary to protect the province than the mere 
loose organization of the Associators, and a militia 
law drafted by Franklin was passed by the Quaker 
Assembly. The law had a long preamble attached, 
which he had prepared with great ingenuity to sat- 
isfy Quaker scruples. It was made up largely of 
previous Quaker utterances on war, and declared 
that while it would be persecution, and therefore un- 
lawful in Pennsylvania, to compel Quakers to bear 
arms against their consciences, so it would be wrong 
to prohibit from engaging in war those who thought 
it their duty. The Quaker Assembly, as represent- 
ing all the people of the province, would accordingly 
furnish to those who wanted to fight the legal means 
for carrying out their wish ; and the law then went 
on to show how they should be organized as soldiers. 



In his Gazette Franklin published a Dialogue 
written by himself, which was intended to answer 
criticisms on the law and especially the objections 
of those who were disgusted because the new law 
exempted the Quakers. Why, it was asked, should 
the combatant portion of the people fight for the lives 
and property of men who are too cowardly to fight 
for themselves ? These objectors required as deli- 
cate handling as the Quakers, and Franklin ap- 
proached them with his usual skilL 

" Z. For my part I am no coward, but hang me if I will fight to 
save the Quakers. 

" X. That is to say, you will not pump ship, because it will save 
the rats as well as yourself." 

As a consequence of his success in writing in 
favor of war, the philosopher, electrician, and editor 
found himself elected colonel of the men he had 
persuaded, and was compelled to lead about five 
hundred of them to the Lehigh Valley, where the 
German village of Gnadenhutten had been burnt 
and its inhabitants massacred. He had no taste 
for such business, and would have avoided it if he 
could ; for he never used a gun even for amuse- 
ment, and would not keep a weapon of any kind in 
his house. But the province with its peace-loving 
Quakers and Germans had never before experienced 
actual war, nor even difficulties with the Indians, 
and Franklin was as much a military man as any- 

So the philosopher of nearly fifty years, famous 
the world over for his discoveries in electricity and 

ao 7 


his " Poor Richard's Almanac," set forth in Decem- 
ber, slept on the ground or in barns, arranged the 
order of scouting parties, and regulated the serving 
f g r g to his men. He built a line of small forts 
in the Lehigh Valley, and during the two months 
that he was there no doubt checked the Indians 
who were watching him all the time from the hill- 
tops, and who went no farther than to kill ten un- 
fortunate farmers. He had no actual battle with 
them, and was perhaps fortunate in escaping a sur- 
prise ; but he was very wily in his movements, and 
in his shrewd common-sense way understood Indian 
tactics. He has left us a description in one of his 
letters how a force like his should, before stopping 
for the night, make a circuit backward and camp 
near their trail, setting a guard to watch the trail so 
that any Indians following it could be seen long 
before they reached the camp. 

He, indeed, conducted his expedition in the most 
thorough and systematic manner, marching his men 
in perfect order with a semicircle of scouts in front, 
an advance-guard, then the main body, with scouts 
on each flank and spies on every hill, followed by a 
watchful rear-guard. He observed all the natural 
objects with his usual keen interest, noting the exact 
number of minutes required by his men to fell a tree 
for the palisaded forts he was building. After two 
months of roughing it he could not sleep in a bed 
on his return to Bethlehem. "It was so different," 
he says, " from my hard lodging on the floor of a 
hut at Gnadenhutten with only a blanket or two." 

Very characteristic of him also was the suggestion 


he made to his chaplain when the good man found 
it difficult to get the soldiers to attend prayers. " It 
is perhaps beneath the dignity of your profession," 
said Franklin, " to act as steward of the rum ; but 
if you were only to distribute it after prayers you 
would have them all about you." The chaplain 
thought well of it, and "never," Franklin tells us, 
"were prayers more generally or more punctually 

On the return of the troops to Philadelphia after 
their two months' campaign they had a grand parade 
and review, saluting the houses of all their officers 
with discharges of cannon and small-arms ; and the 
salute given before the door of their philosopher 
colonel broke several of the glasses of his electrical 

The next year, 1756, brought some relief to the 
colonists by Armstrong's successful expedition 
against the Indians at Kittanning. But the year 
1757 was more gloomy than ever. Nothing was 
wanting but a few more soldiers to enable the 
French to press on down the Mississippi and secure 
their line to New Orleans, or to fall upon the rear 
of the colonies and conquer them. The proprietors 
of Pennsylvania took advantage of the situation to 
force the Assembly to abandon all its most cher- 
ished rights. The new governor came out with full 
instructions to assent to no tax bill unless it ex- 
empted the proprietary estates, to have the proprie- 
tary quit-rents paid in sterling instead of Pennsyl- 
vania currency, and to assent to no money bill unless 
the money to be raised was appropriated for some 
M 209 


particular object or was to be at the disposal of the 
governor and Assembly jointly. 

Their attack on the liberties of the province was 
well timed ; for, the English forces having been 
everywhere defeated, the Assembly felt that it must 
assist in the prosecution of the war at all hazards. 
It therefore resolved to waive its rights for the 
present, and passed a bill for raising thirty thousand 
pounds to be expended under the joint supervision 
of the Assembly and the governor. So the pro- 
prietors gained one of their points, and they soon 
gained another. The Assembly was before long 
obliged to raise more money, and voted one hun- 
dred thousand pounds, the largest single appropria- 
tion ever made. It was to be raised by a general 
tax, and the tax was to include the proprietary 
estates. The governor objected, and the Assembly, 
influenced by the terrible necessities of the war, 
yielded and passed the bill in February, 1757, with- 
out taxing the estates. 

But it was determined to carry on its contest with 
the governor in another way, and resolved to send 
two commissioners to England to lay before the 
king and Privy Council the conduct of the proprie- 
tors. The first avowed object of the commissioners 
was to secure the taxing of the proprietary estates, 
and the second was to suggest that the proprietor- 
ship be abolished and the province taken under the 
direct rule of the crown. Franklin and Isaac Nor- 
ris, the Speaker of the Assembly, were appointed 
commissioners, but Norris being detained by ill 
health, Franklin started alone. 



He set forth as a sort of minister plenipotentiary 
to London, where he had at one time worked as 
a journeyman printer. He had left London an 
obscure, impoverished boy ; he was returning as a 
famous man of science, retired from worldly busi- 
ness *on an assured income. He remained in Eng- 
land for five years, and so full of pleasure, interest- 
ing occupation, and fame were those years that it 
is remarkable that he was willing to come back to 

He secured lodgings for himself and his son Wil- 
liam at Mrs. Stevenson's, No. 7 Craven Street Here 
he lived all of the five years and also during his 
subsequent ten years' residence in London. He 
had been recommended to her house by some 
Pennsylvania friends who had boarded there ; but 
he soon ceased to be a mere lodger, and No. 7 
Craven Street became his second home. He and 
Mrs. Stevenson became firm friends, and for her 
daughter Mary he formed a strong attachment, which 
continued all his life. His letters to her are 
among the most beautiful ever written by him, and 
he encouraged her to study science. " In all that 
time," he once wrote to her, referring to the happy 
years he had spent at her mother's house, "we 
never had among us the smallest misunderstanding ; 
our friendship has been all clear sunshine, without 
the least cloud in its hemisphere." 

Mrs. Stevenson took care of the small every-day 
affairs of his life, advised as to the presents he sent 
home to his wife, assisted in buying them, and when 
a child of one of his poor English relatives needed 



assistance, she took it into her house and cared for it 
with almost as tender an interest as if she had been 
its mother. Many years afterwards, in a letter to 
her written while he was in France, Franklin re- 
grets " the want of that order and economy in my 
family which reigned in it when under your prudent 
direction." * 

The familiar, pleasant life he led with her family 
is shown in a little essay written for their amuse- 
ment, called "The Craven Street Gazette." It is a 
burlesque on the pompous court news of the Eng- 
lish journals. Mrs. Stevenson figures as the queen 
and the rest of the family and their friends as cour- 
tiers and members of the nobility, and we get in this 
way pleasant glimpses of each one's peculiarities and 
habits, the way they lived, and their jokes on one 

He had an excellent electrical machine and other 
apparatus for experiments in her house, and went on 
with the researches which so fascinated him in much 
the same way as he had done at home. It was at 
No. 7 Craven Street that he planned his musical 
instrument, the armonica, already described, and 
exhibited it to his friends who came to see his 
electrical experiments. He quickly became a mem- 
ber of all the learned societies, was given the degree 
of doctor of laws by the universities of St Andrew's, 
Edinburgh, and Oxford, and soon knew all the celeb- 
rities in England. But he does not appear to have 
seen much of that burly and boisterous literary 

* Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. vi. p. 300. 


chieftain, Dr. Johnson. This was unfortunate, for 
Franklin's description of him would have been in- 

Peter Collinson, to whom his letters on electricity 
had been sent, of course welcomed him. He be- 
came intimate with Dr. Fothergill, the fashionable 
physician of London, who had assisted to make his 
electrical discoveries known. This was another of 
his life-long friendships : the two were always in 
perfect sympathy, investigating with the enthusiasm 
of old cronies everything of philosophic and human 

Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen and one of the 
foremost men of science of that time, became an- 
other bosom friend, and Franklin furnished him the 
material for his " History of Electricity." William 
Strahan, the prosperous publisher and friend of Dr. 
Johnson, also conceived a great liking for the Penn- 
sylvania agent. Strahan afterwards became a mem- 
ber of Parliament, and was fond of saying to Frank- 
lin that they both had started life as printers, but no 
two printers had ever risen so high. He was a whole- 
souled, jovial man, wanted his son to marry Frank- 
lin's daughter, and wanted Mrs. Franklin to come 
over to England and settle there with her husband, 
who, he said, must never go back to America. He 
used to write letters to Mrs. Franklin trying to per- 
suade her to overcome her aversion to the sea, and 
he made bets with Franklin that his persuasions 
would succeed. 

We need not wonder that Franklin spent five 
years on his mission, when he was so comfortably 



settled with his own servant in addition to those 
of Mrs. Stevenson, his chariot to drive in like an 
ambassador, and his son William studying law at 
the inns of court During his stay, and about the 
year 1760, William presented him with an illegiti- 
mate grandson, William Temple Franklin. This 
boy was brought up exclusively by his grandfather, 
and scarcely knew his father, who soon married a 
young lady from the West Indies. In his infancy 
Temple was not an inmate of the Craven Street 
house, but he lived there afterwards during his grand- 
father's second mission to England, and accompanied 
him to France. 

The birth of Temple and his parentage were prob- 
ably not generally known among Franklin's English 
friends during this first mission. It has been said 
also that William's illegitimacy was not known in 
London, but this is unlikely. It did not, however, 
interfere with the young man's advancement ; for in 
1762, just before Franklin returned to America, Wil- 
liam was appointed by the crown governor of New 
Jersey. This honor, it is said, was entirely unso- 
licited by either father or son, and the explanation 
usually given is that it was intended to attach the 
father more securely to the royal interest in the dis- 
putes which were threatening between the colonies 
and the mother country. 

William and his father were on very good terms 
at this time. Every summer they took a little tour 
together, and on one occasion travelled in Holland. 
On a visit they made to the University of Cambridge 
they were entertained by the heads of colleges, the 



chancellor, and the professors in the most distin- 
guished manner, discussed new points of science 
with them, and with Professor Hadley experimented 
on what was then a great wonder, the production of 
cold by evaporation. They wandered also to the 
o!4 village of Ecton, where the Franklins had lived 
poor and humble for countless generations, saw 
many of the old people, and copied inscriptions on 
tombstones and parish registers. But Scotland they 
enjoyed most of all. There they met Lord Kames, 
the author of the " Elements of Criticism," and the 
historians Hume and Robertson. It was an atmos- 
phere of philosophy and intelligence which Franklin 
thoroughly enjoyed. "The time we spent there," 
he wrote to Lord Kames, "was six weeks of the 
densest happiness I have met with in any part of my 

During his stay in England the war against the 
French and Indians, which was raging when he left 
America, came to a close, and Quebec and Canada 
were surrendered. It became a question in settling 
with France whether it would be most advanta- 
geous for Great Britain to retain Canada or the Gua- 
deloupe sugar islands, and there were advocates on 
both sides. Franklin published an admirable argu- 
ment in favor of retaining Canada, without which 
the American colonies would never be secure from 
the Indians instigated by the French, and the acqui- 
sition of Canada would also tend to a grander devel- 
opment of the British empire. It was an able ap- 
peal, but there is no evidence that it alone influenced 

the final decision of the ministry, as has been claimed, 



any more than there is evidence that Franklin sug- 
gested the policy of William Pitt which had brought 
the war to a successful close. There were many ad- 
vocates of these opinions and suggestions, and Frank- 
lin was merely one of them, though unquestionably 
an able one. 

He also published his essay on the " Peopling of 
Countries" and an article in favor of the vigorous 
prosecution of the war in Europe. These, with his 
pleasures and experiments in science, occupied 
most of the five years, and the work of his mission, 
though well done, was by no means absorbing. 

When he arrived, in July, 1757, he had, under 
the advice of Dr. Fothergill, first sought redress 
from the proprietors themselves before appealing to 
the government ; but meeting with no success, he 
tried the members of the Privy Council, and first of 
all William Pitt, the great minister who was then 
conducting the war against France and recreating 
England. But he could not even secure an inter- 
view with that busy minister, which is a commen- 
tary on the extravagant claims of those who say 
that Franklin suggested Pitt's policy. 

Two years and more passed without his being 
able to accomplish anything except enlighten the 
general public concerning the facts of the situation. 
An article appeared in the General Advertiser abusing 
the Pennsylvania Assembly, and his son William re- 
plied to it The reply being extensively copied by 
other newspapers, the son was set to work on a book 
now known as the " Historical Review of Pennsyl- 
vania," which went over the whole ground of the 



quarrels of the Assembly with the proprietors and 
their deputy governors. It was circulated quite 
widely, some copies being sold and others distrib- 
uted free to important persons. But it is doubtful 
whether it had very much influence, for it was an 
extremely dull book, and valuable only for its quota- 
tions from the messages of the governors and the 
replies of the Assembly. 

His opportunity to accomplish the main object of 
his mission came at last by accident The Assembly 
in Pennsylvania were gradually starving the governor 
into submission by withholding his salary, and under 
pressure for want of money, he gave his assent to a 
bill taxing the proprietary estates. The bill being 
sent to England, the proprietors opposed it before 
the Privy Council as hostile to their rights, and ob- 
tained a decision in their favor in spite of the ar- 
guments of Franklin and his lawyers. But Franklin 
secured a reconsideration, and Lord Mansfield asked 
him if he really thought that no injury would be 
done the proprietary estates by the Assembly, for 
the proprietors had represented that the colonists 
intended to tax them out of existence. Franklin 
assured him that no injury would be done, and he 
was immediately asked if he would enter into an 
engagement to assure that point. On his agreeing 
to do this, the papers were drawn, the Assembly's 
bill taxing the estates was approved by the crown, 
and from that time the assaults of the proprietors 
on the liberties of the colony were decisively 

Franklin was now most furiously attacked and 


hated by the proprietary party in Pennsylvania, but 
from the majority of the people, led by the Quakers, 
he received increased approbation and applause, and 
his willingness to risk his own personal engagement, 
as in the affair with Braddock, was regarded as an 
evidence of the highest public spirit 

He remained two years longer in England on one 
pretext or another, and no doubt excuses for con- 
tinuing such a delightful life readily suggested them- 
selves. He returned in the early autumn of 1762, 
receiving from the Assembly three thousand pounds 
for his services, and during the five years of his 
absence he had been annually elected to that body. 
For a few months he enjoyed comparative quiet, but 
the next year he was again in the turmoil of a most 
bitter political contest 

The war with France was over, and Canada and 
the Ohio Valley had been ceded to the English by 
the treaty of Paris, signed in February, 1 763. But 
the Indians, having lost their French friends, deter- 
mined to destroy the English, and, inspired by the 
genius of Pontiac, they took fort after fort and, 
rushing upon the whole colonial frontier of Pennsyl- 
vania, swept the people eastward to the Delaware 
with even worse devastation and slaughter than they 
had inflicted after Braddock's defeat. I cannot give 
here the full details of this war,* and must confine 
myself to one phase of it with which Franklin was 
particularly concerned. 

The Scotch-Irish who occupied the frontier coun- 

* Pennsylvania : Colony and Commonwealth, p. 221. 


ties of Pennsylvania suffered most severely from these 
Indian raids, and believed that the proprietary and 
Quaker government at Philadelphia neglected the 
defence of the province. Their resentment was 
strongest against the Quakers. They held the 
Quaker religion in great contempt and viewed with 
scorn the attempts of the Quakers to pacify the In- 
dians and befriend those of them who were willing 
to give up the war-path and adopt the white man's 
mode of life. 

Some friendly Indians, descendants of the tribes 
that had welcomed William Penn, were living at 
Conestoga, near Lancaster, in a degenerate condi- 
tion, having given up both war and hunting, and 
following the occupations of basket- and broom- 
making. They were the wards of the proprietary 
government, and were given presents and supplies 
from time to time. There were also at Bethlehem 
some other friendly Indians who had been converted 
to Christianity by the Moravians. 

The Scotch-Irish believed that all of these so- 
called friendly Indians were in league with the hos- 
tile tribes, furnished them with information, and even 
participated in their murders. They asked the gov- 
ernor to remove them, and assured him that their 
removal would secure the safety of the frontier. 
Nothing being done by the governor, a party of 
Scotch-Irish rangers started to destroy the Moravian 
Indians, but were prevented by a rain-storm. The 
governor afterwards, through commissioners, inves- 
tigated these Moravian Indians, and finding reason 
to suspect them, they were all brought down to Phila- 



delphia and quartered in barracks. But the Cones- 
toga Indians were attacked by a party of fifty-seven 
Scotch-Irish, afterwards known as the " Paxton 
Boys," who, finding only six of them in the vil- 
lage, three men, two women, and a boy, massa- 
cred them all, mangled their bodies, and burnt their 
property. The remaining fourteen of the tribe were 
collected by the sheriff and put for protection in the 
Lancaster jail. The Paxtons hearing of it, immedi- 
ately attacked the jail and cut the Indians to pieces 
with hatchets. 

We have grown so accustomed to lynch law that 
this slaughter of the Conestogas would not now cause 
much surprise, especially in some parts of the coun- 
try ; but it was a new thing to the colonists, who in 
many respects were more orderly than are their de- 
scendants, and a large part of the community were 
shocked, disgusted, and indignant Franklin wrote 
a pamphlet which had a wide circulation and assailed 
the Scotch-Irish as inhuman, brutal cowards, worse 
than Arabs and Turks ; fifty-seven of them, armed 
with rifles, knives, and hatchets, had actually suc- 
ceeded, he said, in killing three old men, two women, 
and a boy. 

The Paxton lynchers, however, were fully sup- 
ported by the people of the frontier. A large body 
of frontiersmen marched on Philadelphia with the 
full intention of revolutionizing the Quaker govern- 
ment, and they would have succeeded but for the 
unusual preparations for defence. They were 
finally, with some difficulty, persuaded to return 
without using their rifles. 



The governor was powerless to secure even the ar- 
rest of the men who had murdered the Indians in the 
jail, and the disorder was so flagrant and the weak- 
ness of the executive branch of the government so 
apparent that the Quakers and a majority of the peo- 
ple thought there was now good reason for openly 
petitioning the crown to abolish the proprietorship. 
While in England, Franklin had been advised not 
to raise this question, and he had accordingly con- 
fined his efforts to taxing the proprietary estates. 

The arrangement he had made provided that the 
estates should be fairly taxed, but the governor and 
the Assembly differed in opinion as to what was fair. 
The governor claimed that the best wild lands of the 
proprietors should be taxed at the rate paid by the 
people for their worst, and he tried the old tactics 
of forcing this point by delaying a supply bill in- 
tended to defend the province against Pontiac and 
his Indians. The Assembly passed the bill to suit 
him, but immediately raised the question of the 
abolition of the proprietorship. Twenty-five reso- 
lutions were passed most abusive of the proprietors, 
and the Assembly then adjourned to let the people 
decide by a general election whether a petition 
should be sent to the king asking for direct royal 

A most exciting political campaign followed in 
which Franklin took the side of the majority in favor 
of a petition, and wrote several of his most brilliant 
pamphlets. He particularly assailed Provost Smith, 
who, in a preface to a printed speech by John Dick- 
inson defending the proprietary government, had 



eulogized William Perm in one of those laudatory 
epitaphs which were the fashion of the day : 

" Utterly to confound the assembly, and show the excellence of 
proprietary government, the Prefacer has extracted from their own 
votes the praises they have from time to time bestowed on the first 
proprietor, in their addresses to his son. And, though addresses are 
not generally the best repositories of historical truth, we must not in 
this instance deny their authority. 

" That these encomiums on the father, though sincere, have oc- 
curred so frequently, was owing, however, to two causes : first, a 
vain hope the assemblies entertained, that the father's example, and 
the honors done his character, might influence the conduct of the 
sons ; secondly, for that, in attempting to compliment the sons upon 
their own merits, there was always found an extreme scarcity of 
matter. Hence, the father, the honored and honorable father, was 
so often repeated, that the sons themselves grew sick of it, and have 
been heard to say to each other with disgust, when told that A, B, 
and C, were come to wait upon them with addresses on some public 
occasion, ' Then I suppose we shall hear more about our father? So 
that, let me tell the Prefacer, who perhaps was unacquainted with this 
anecdote, that if he hoped to curry more favor with the family, by the 
inscription he has framed for that great man's monument, he may find 
himself mistaken ; for there is too much in it of our father" 

Franklin then goes on to say that he will give a 
sketch " in the lapidary way" which will do for a 
monument to the sons of William Penn. 

" Be this a Memorial 

Of T and R P 

P of P 

Who with estates immense 

Almost beyond computation 

When their own province 

And the whole British empire 

Were engaged in a bloody & most expensive war 

Begun for the defence of those estates 

Could yet meanly desire 

To have those very estates 

Totally or partially 
Exempted from taxation 



While their fellow subjects all around them 

Under the universal burden. 

To gain this point 

They refused the necessary laws 

For the defence of their people 

And suffered their colony to welter in its blood 

Rather than abate in the least 
Of these their dishonest pretensions. 
The privileges granted by their father 

Wisely and benevolently 
To encourage the first settlers of the province 


Foolishly and cruelly, 

Taking advantage of public distress, 

Have extorted from the posterity of those settlers ; 

And are daily endeavoring to reduce them 

To the most abject slavery ; 
Though to the virtue and industry of those people, 

In improving their country 
They owe all that they possess and enjoy. 

A striking instance 

Of human depravity and ingratitude ; 

And an irrefragable proof, 

That wisdom and goodness 

Do not descend with an inheritance ; 

But that ineffable meanness 
May be connected with unbounded fortune." 

Dickinson's followers, of course, assailed Franklin 
on all sides. Their pamphlets are very exciting read- 
ing, especially Hugh Williamson's "What is Sauce 
for a Goose is also Sauce for a Gander," which de- 
scribes itself in its curious old-fashioned subtitle as 

" Being a small Touch in the Lapidary Way, or Tit for Tat, in your 
own way. An Epitaph on a certain Great Man. Written by a De- 
parted Spirit, and now most humbly inscribed to all his dutiful Sons 
and Children, who may hereafter choose to distinguish him by the 
Name of A Patriot. Dear Children, I send you here a little Book 
for you to look upon that you may see your Pappy's Face when he is 
dead and gone. Philadelphia, Printed in Arch Street 1764." 



" Pappy" is then described for the benefit of his 
children in an epitaph : 

" An Epitaph &c 

To the much esteem'd Memory of 
B . . . F . . . Esq., LL.D. 

Possessed of many lucrative 


Procured to him by the Interest of Men 

Whom he infamously treated 

And receiving enormous sums 

from the Province 

For Services 
He never performed 

After betraying it to Party and Contention 
He lived, as to the Appearance of Wealth 

In moderate circumstances; 

His principal Estate, seeming to consist 

In his Hand Maid Barbara 

A most valuable Slave 

The Foster Mother 

of his last offspring 

Who did his dirty Work 

And in two Angelic Females 

Whom Barbara also served 

As Kitchen Wench and Gold Finder 

But alas the Loss ! 
Providence for wise tho' secret ends 
Lately deprived him of the Mother 

of Excellency. 

His Fortune was not however impaired 
For he piously withheld from her 


The pitiful stipend of Ten pounds per Annum 
On which he had cruelly suffered her 

To starve 

Then stole her to the Grave in Silence 
Without a Pall, the covering due to her dignity 

Without a tomb or even 

A Monumental Inscription." 



Franklin was a more skilful "lapidary" than his 
enemies, and his pamphlets were expressed in better 
language, but there is now very little doubt that he 
and the majority of the people were in the wrong. 
The colony had valuable liberties and privileges which 
had been built up by the Assembly through the efforts 
of nearly a hundred years. In spite of all the aggres- 
sions of the proprietors these liberties remained un- 
impaired and were even stronger than ever. The 
appeal to the king to take the colony under his direct 
control might lead to disastrous results ; for if the 
people once surrendered themselves to the crown 
and the proprietorship was abolished, the king and 
Parliament might also abolish the charter and destroy 
every popular right* In fact, the ministry were at 
that very time contemplating the Stamp Act and 
other measures which brought on the Revolution. 
Franklin seemed incapable of appreciating this, and 
retained for ten years, and in the face of the most 
obvious facts, his strange confidence in the king. 

But the petition was carried by an overwhelming 
majority, although Franklin failed to be re-elected 
to the Assembly. He never had been so fiercely 
assailed, and it is probable that the attacks on his 
morals and motives were far more bitter in ordinary 
conversation than in the pamphlets. This abuse may 
have had considerable effect in preventing his elec- 
tion. He was, however, appointed by the Assembly 
its agent to convey the petition to England and pre- 
sent it to the king. He set out in November, 1764, 

* Pennsylvania : Colony and Commonwealth, chap. xix. 
15 22 5 


on this his second mission to England which resulted 
in a residence there of ten years. Fortunately, the 
petition was unsuccessful. He did not press it much, 
and the Assembly soon repented of its haste. 

He settled down comfortably at No. 7 Craven 
Street, where Mrs. Stevenson and her daughter were 
delighted to have again their old friend. His scien- 
tific studies were renewed, spots on the sun, smoky 
chimneys, the aurora borealis, the northwest passage, 
the effect of deep and shallow water on the speed of 
boats, and he was appointed on committees to de- 
vise plans for putting lightning-rods on St Paul's 
Cathedral and the government powder-magazines. 
The circle of his acquaintance was much enlarged. 
He associated familiarly with the noblemen he met 
at country houses, was dined and entertained by 
notables of every sort, became acquainted with 
Garrick, Mrs. Montague, and Adam Smith, and 
added another distinguished physician, Sir John 
Pringle, to the list of his very intimate friends. He 
dined out almost every day, was admitted to all 
sorts of clubs, and of course diligently attended the 
meetings of all the associations devoted to learning 
and science. 

Although only an amateur in medicine, he was in- 
vited by the physicians to attend the meetings of 
their club, and it was of this club that he told the 
story that the question was once raised whether 
physicians had, on the whole, done more good than 
harm. After a long debate, Sir John Pringle, the 
president, was asked to give his opinion, and replied 

that if by physicians they meant to include old 



women, he thought they had done more good than 
harm ; otherwise more harm than good. 

During this his second mission to England he be- 
came more intimate than ever with the good Bishop 
of St. Asaph, spending part of every summer with 
him,' and it was at his house that he wrote the first 
part of his Autobiography. In a letter to his wife, 
dated August 14, 1771, he describes the close of 
a three weeks' stay at the bishop's : 

" The Bishop's lady knows what children and grandchildren I have 
and their ages; so, when I was to come away on Monday, the 1 2th, 
in the morning, she insisted on my staying that one day longer, lhat 
we might together keep my grandson's birthday. At dinner, among 
other nice things, we had a floating island, which they always par- 
ticularly have on the birthdays of any of their own six children, who 
were all but one at table, where there was also a clergyman's widow, 
now above one hundred years old. The chief toast of the day was 
Master Benjamin Bache, which the venerable old lady began in a 
bumper of mountain. The Bishop's lady politely added and that he 
may be as good a man as his grandfather.' I said I hoped he would 
be much better. The Bishop, still more complaisant than his lady, 
said : ' We will compound the matter and be contented if he should 
not prove quite so good? " (Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. vi. 
p. 71.) 

The bishop's daughters were great friends of 
Franklin, and often exchanged with him letters 
which in many respects were almost equal to his 
own. Years afterwards, when he was in France 
during the Revolution, and it was rather imprudent 
to write to him, one of them, without the knowledge : 
of her parents, sent him a most affectionate and ' 
charming girl's letter, which is too long to quote, I 
but is well worth reading. 

He had his wife send him from Pennsylvania a 


number of live squirrels, which he gave to his 
/ friends. One which he presented to one of the 
bishop's daughters having escaped from its cage, 
and being killed by a dog, he wrote an epitaph on 
it rather different from his political epitaph : 

"Alas ! poor MuNGO ! 
Happy wert thou, hadst thou known 

Thy own felicity. 
Remote from the fierce bald eagle 

Tyrant of thy native woods, 

Thou hadst naught to fear from his piercing talons, 
Nor from the murdering gun 
Of the thoughtless sportsman. 

Safe in thy weird castle 

GRIMALKIN never could annoy thee. 

Daily wert thou fed with the choicest viands, 

By the fair hand of an indulgent mistress ; 

But, discontented, 

Thou wouldst have more freedom. 

Too soon, alas ! didst thou obtain it ; 

And wandering 
Thou art fallen by the fangs of wanton cruel Ranger ! 

Learn hence 

Ye who blindly seek more liberty, 

Whether subjects, sons, squirrels or daughters, 

That apparent restraint may be real protection 

Yielding peace and plenty 

With security." 

Franklin's pleasures in England remind us of 
other distinguished Americans who, having gone to 
London to represent their country, have suddenly 
found themselves in congenial intercourse with all 
that was best in the nation and enjoying the happiest 
days of their lives. Lowell, when minister there, 
had the same experience as Franklin, and when we 
read their experiences together, the resemblance is 




very striking. Others, though perhaps in less de- 
gree, have felt the same touch of race. Blood is 
thicker than water. But I doubt if any of them 
Lowell, Motley, or even Holmes in his famous three 
months' visit had such a good time as Franklin. 

He loved England and was no doubt delighted 
with the appointments that sent him there. If it is 
true, as his enemies have charged, that he schemed 
for public office, it is not surprising in view of the 
pleasure he derived from appointments such as 
these. Writing to Miss Stevenson on March 23, 
1763, after he had returned to Pennsylvania from 
his first mission, he says, 

" Of all the enviable things England has, I envy it most its people. 
Why should that petty Island, which, compared to America, is but 
a stepping stone in a brook, scarce enough of it above water to 
keep one's shoes dry ; why, I say should that little Island enjoy, in 
almost every neighborhood, more sensible, virtuous, and elegant 
minds than we can collect in ranging a hundred leagues of our vast / 
forests?" (Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. iii. p. 233.) 

In fact, he had resolved at one time, if he could 
prevail on Mrs. Franklin to accompany him, to settle 
permanently in England. His reason, he writes to 
Mr. Strahan, was for America, but his inclination 
for England. " 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 accom- 
pany me, especially if we have a peace." * This 

* Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. iii. p. 212 ; vol. x. pp. 295, 



fondness for the old home no doubt helped to form 
that very conservative position which he took in the 
beginning of the Revolution, and which was so dis- 
pleasing to some people in Massachusetts. His 
reason, though not his inclination, was, as he says, 
for America, but the ignorant and brutal course of 
the British ministry finally made reason and inclina- 
tion one. 




FRANKLIN'S diplomatic career was now to begin 
in earnest Although the petition to change Penn- 
sylvania into a royal province under the direct rule 
of the crown was, fortunately, not acted upon and 
not very seriously pressed, he, nevertheless, continued 
to believe that such a change would be beneficial and 
might some day be accomplished. 

He looked upon the king as supreme ruler of the 
colonies, and retained this opinion until he heard of 
actual bloodshed in the battle of Lexington. The 
king and not Parliament had in the beginning given 
the colonies their charters ; the king and not Parlia- 
ment had always been the power that ruled them ; 
wherefore the passage by Parliament of stamp acts 
and tea acts was a usurpation. This was one of the 
arguments in which many of the colonists had sought 
refuge, but few of them clung to it so long as 

Almost immediately after his arrival in London in 
December, 1764, the agitations about the proposed 
Stamp Act began, and within a few weeks he was 
deep in them. His previous residence of five years 
in London when he was trying to have the proprie- 
tary estates taxed had given him some knowledge of 
men and affairs in the great capital ; had given him, 



indeed, his first lessons in the diplomat's art ; but he 
was now powerless against the Stamp Act The 
ministry had determined on its passage, and they 
considered the protests of Franklin and the other 
colonial agents of little consequence. 

The act passed, and Franklin wrote home on the 
subject one of his prettiest letters to Charles Thom- 
son : 

" Depend upon it, my good neighbor, I took every step in my power 
to prevent the passing of the Stamp Act. But the tide was too strong 
against us. ... The nation was provoked by American claims of in- 
dependence, 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 
may still light candles. Frugality and industry will go a great way 
towards indemnifying us. Idleness and pride tax with a heavier hand 
than kings and parliaments. If we can get rid of the former we may 
easily bear the latter." 

Grenville, in conformity with his assurance that 
the act would work satisfactorily even to the Ameri- 
cans, announced that stamp officers would not be 
sent from England, but that the kind mother would 
appoint colonists, and he asked the colonial agents 
to name to him honest and responsible men in their 
several colonies. Franklin recommended his old 
friend John Hughes, a respectable merchant of 
Philadelphia, never dreaming that by so doing he 
was getting the good man into trouble. But as 
soon as Hughes's commission arrived his house was 
threatened by the mob and he was forced to resign. 

Franklin had no idea that the colonies would be 
so indignant and offer so much resistance. He sup- 



posed that they would quietly submit, buy the stamps, 
and paste them on all their documents. He bought 
a quantity of stamped paper and sent it over to his 
partner, David Hall, to sell in the little stationery 
shop which was still attached to their printing-office. 
When he heard of the mob violence and the positive 
determination not to pay the tax, he was surprised 
and disgusted. He wrote to John Hughes, express- 
ing surprise at the indiscretion of the people and the 
rashness of the Virginia Assembly. "A firm loy- 
alty to the crown," he said, " and a faithful adherence 
to the government of this nation, which it is the safety 
as well as honour of the colonies to be connected 
with, will always be the wisest course for you and I 
to take." * 

His old opponents, the proprietary party, were 
not slow to take this opportunity to abuse him as 
faithless to his province and the American cause. 
A certain Samuel Smith went about telling the 
people that Franklin had planned the Stamp Act 
and intended to have the Test Act put in force in 
America A caricature of the time represents the 
devil whispering in his ear, "Thee shall be agent, 
Ben, for all my dominions," and underneath was 

" All his designs concentre in himself 
For building castles and amassing pelf. 
The public 'tis his wit to sell for gain, 
Whom private property did ne'er maintain." 

The mob even threatened his house, much to the 
alarm of his wife, who, however, sturdily remained 

* Pennsylvania : Colony and Commonwealth, p. 314. 


and refused to seek safety in flight This and other 
events, together with the information that he re- 
ceived from America during the next few months, 
compelled him to change his ground. He saw that 
there was to be substantial resistance to the act, and 
he joined earnestly in the agitation for its repeal. 
This agitation was carried on during the autumn of 
1765 and a very strong case made for the colonies, 
the most telling part of which was the refusal of the 
colonists to buy English manufactured goods, which 
had already lost the British merchants millions of 
pounds sterling. 

In December Parliament met and the whole ques- 
tion was gone into with thoroughness. For six weeks 
testimony was taken before the House sitting as 
committee of the whole, and merchants, manufac- 
turers, colonial agents, and every one who was sup- 
posed to be able to throw light on the subject were 
examined. It was during the course of this investi- 
gation that Franklin was called and gave those 
famous answers which enhanced his reputation more 
than any other one act of his life, except, perhaps, 
his experiment with the kite. 

For a long time before the examination he had 
been very busy interviewing all sorts of persons, 
going over the whole ground of the controversy and 
trying to impress members of Parliament with the 
information and arguments that had come to him 
from the colonies. His answers in the examination 
were not given so entirely on the spur of the 
moment as has sometimes been supposed, for 
he had gone over the subject again and again in 



conversation, and was well prepared. But his re- 
plies are truly wonderful in their exquisite shrewd- 
ness, the delicate turns of phrase, and the subtle but 
perfectly clear meaning given to words. The severe 
training in analyzing and rewriting the essays of the 
Spectator stood him in good stead that day, and we 
realize more fully what he himself said, that it was 
to his mastery of language that he owed his great 

They asked him, for example, "Are you ac- 
quainted with Newfoundland ?" He could not tell 
to what they might be leading him, and some peo- 
ple would have replied no, or yes ; but the wily old 
philosopher contented himself with saying, ' ' I never 
was there." 

They drove him into an awkward corner at one 
point of the examination. He had been showing 
that the colonies had no objection to voting of their 
own free will supplies to the British crown, and had 
frequently done so in the French and Indian wars. 

"But," said his questioner, "suppose one of the 
colonial assemblies should refuse to raise supplies 
for its own local government, would it not then be 
right, in order to preserve order and carry on the 
government in that locality, that Parliament should 
tax that colony, inasmuch as it would not tax itself 
for its own support?" 

Franklin parried the question by saying that such 
a case could not happen, and if it did, it would cure 
itself by the disorder and confusion that would 

"But," insisted his tormentor, "just suppose that 


it did happen ; should not Parliament have the right 
to remedy such an evil state of affairs ?" 

The philosopher yielded a little to this last ques- 
tion, and said that there might be such a right if it 
were used only for the good of the people of the 
colony. This was exactly what they had wanted 
him to say, so they put the next question which 
would clinch the nail. 

"But who is to judge of that, Britain or the 
colonies ?" 

This was difficult to answer ; but with inimitable 
sagacity their victim replied, 

"Those that feel can best judge." 

It was a narrow escape, but he was safely out of 
the trap. Then they badgered him about the differ- 
ence between external taxes, such as customs duties 
and taxes on commerce, which he said the colonists 
had always been willing to pay, and internal taxes, 
like the Stamp Tax, which they would never pay and 
could not be made to pay. He was very positive 
on this point ; so a member asked him whether it 
was not likely, since the colonists were so opposed 
to internal taxes, that they would in time assume 
the same rebellious attitude towards external taxes. 
Franklin's reply was very subtle in showing how 
Great Britain was driving the colonies more and 
more into rebellion : 

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



They reminded him of the clause in the charter 
of Pennsylvania which expressly allowed Parliament 
to tax that colony. How, then, they said, can the 
Pennsylvanians assert that the Stamp Act is an in- 
fringement of their rights ? This was a poser ; but 
Franklin was equal to the occasion. 

"They understand it thus: by the same charter and otherwise 
they are entitled to all the privileges and liberties of Englishmen. 
They lind in the Great Charters and the Petition and Declaration of 
Rights that one of the privileges of English subjects is, that they 
are not to be taxed but by their common consent. They have 
therefore relied upon it, from the first settlement of the province, 
that the Parliament never would, nor could, by color of that clause 
in the charter, assume a right of taxing them till it had qualified 
itself to exercise such right by admitting representatives from the 
people to be taxed, who ought to make a part of that common 
consent. ' ' 

But to print all the brilliant passages of this ex- 
amination would require too much space. It should 
be read entire ; for in its wonderful display of human 
intelligence we see Franklin at his best. He never 
did anything else quite equal to it, and he never 
again had such an opportunity. It was an ordeal 
that would have crushed or appalled ordinary men, 
and would have been too much for some very able 
men. They would have evaded the severe questions, 
given commonplace answers, or sought refuge in ob- 
scurity, eloquence, or sentiment But Franklin, with 
perfect composure, ease, and almost indifference, 
met every question squarely as it was asked. Many 
other persons were examined during the long weeks 
of that investigation, but who now knows who they 
were? They may have been as well informed as 



Franklin, and doubtless many of them were ; but 
they were submerged in the situation which he made 
a stepping-stone to greatness. 

In nothing that he said can there be discovered 
the slightest trace of hurry, surprise, or disturbed 
temper ; everything is unruffled and smooth. He 
guards without effort the beauty and perfection of 
his language as carefully as its substance. Each 
reply is complete. Nothing can be added to it, 
and it would be impossible to abbreviate it It was 
his superb physical constitution that enabled him to 
bear himself thus. No prize-fighter could have been 
more self-possessed. 

As is well known, he could seldom speak long, 
especially at this time of his life, without jesting or 
telling stories ; but there is no trace of this in the 
examination, and the slightest touch of anything of 
the kind would have marred its wonderful merit. 
In his previous conversations with members he had 
been humorous enough. On one occasion a Tory 
asked him, as he would not agree to the act, to at 
least help them to amend it He said he could 
easily do that by the change of a single word. The 
act read that it was to be enforced on a certain day 
in the year one thousand seven hundred and sixty- 
five. Just change one to two, he said, and America 
will have little or no objection to it. During his ex- 
amination members who favored the repeal asked 
him questions calculated to bring out his favorite 
arguments, and one of them, remembering this jest, 
asked him a question which would lead to it It 
seems to have been the only question he evaded ; 

238 ' 


for, as he has told us, he considered such a jest too 
light and ridiculous for the occasion. 

The Stamp Act was repealed principally through 
the efforts of the merchants and tradespeople who 
thronged the lobbies of the House of Commons and 
clam6rously demanded that the Americans should 
be restored to a condition in which they would be 
willing to buy British goods ; but there is no ques- 
tion that Franklin's efforts and examination greatly 
assisted, and members of the opposition party thanked 
him for the aid he had given them in carrying the 
repeal. Pennsylvania reappointed him her agent, 
and he continued his life in London as a sort of 
colonial ambassador. In 1768 Georgia made him 
her agent, and during the next two years he was 
appointed agent for both New Jersey and Massa- 
chusetts ; so that he was in a sense representing at 
London the interests of America. 

His appointment as the agent of Massachusetts 
had been opposed by many of the leaders of the 
liberty party in Boston ; for his opinions were rather 
too moderate to suit them. He still retained his 
confidence in George III. as a safe ruler for Ameri- 
ica, and he did all he could to soften and accom- 
modate the differences existing between the colonies 
and the mother country. 

His motives were, of course, attacked and his 
moderation ascribed to his love of office. He was 
at that time Postmaster of North America, and as 
his income of a thousand pounds a year from his 
partnership with David Hall in the printing business 
ceased in 1/66, he was naturally desirous to retain 



his postmaster's salary. His zeal for the American 
cause was inclining Lord Sandwich, the Postmaster- 
General, to remove him, while the Duke of Grafton 
was disposed to give him a better office in England, 
in order to identify him with the mother country 
and bring him into close relations with the govern- 

There is no evidence that he was unduly influ- 
enced by love of office. His confidence in the king 
was merely a mistake which many other people 
made, and his moderation and attempt to settle all 
difficulties amicably were measures which a man of 
his temperament and in his position would naturally 

He tried to give the English correct opinions 
about America, and to disclose the true interest and 
the true relations which should subsist between the 
mother and her daughters. To this end he wrote 
articles for the newspapers, and reprinted Dickin- 
son's " Farmer's Letters" with a preface written by 
himself. There was a large party led by Burke, 
Barre, Onslow, Lord Chatham, and others who were 
favorable to America, and it seemed as if this party 
might be made larger. At any rate, Franklin felt 
bound to take sides with them, and assist them as 
far as possible. His articles were humorous, and 
necessarily anonymous ; for he feared they would 
lose half of the slight effect they had if the name of 
the American agent were signed to them. 

His two famous articles were published in the 
early autumn of 1/73. One, called "Rules for 
Reducing a Great Empire to a Small One," was an 



admirable satire on the conduct of the British 
government A great empire is like a cake, most 
easily diminished at the edges. Take care that 
colonies never enjoy the same rights as the mother 
country. Forget all benefits conferred by colonies ; 
treat them as if they were always inclined to revolt ; 
send prodigals, broken gamesters, and stock-jobbers 
to rule over them ; punish them for petitioning 
against injustice ; despise their voluntary grants of 
money, and harass them with novel taxes ; threaten 
that you have the right to tax them without limit ; 
take away from them trial by jury and habeas corpus, 
and those who are suspected of crimes bring to the 
mother country for trial ; send the most insolent 
officials to collect the taxes ; apply the proceeds of 
the taxes to increasing salaries and pensions ; keep 
adjourning the colonial assemblies until they pass 
the laws you want ; redress no grievances ; and send 
a standing army among them commanded by a 
general with unlimited power. 

The popularity of this piece was so great that all 
the newspapers copied it and new editions had to 
be issued. The other article was a short squib, 
called " An Edict of the King of Prussia," and pro- 
fesses to be a formal announcement by Frederick 
the Great that, inasmuch as the British isles were 
originally Saxon colonies and have now reached a 
flourishing condition, it is just and expedient that a 
revenue be raised from them ; and he goes on to 
declare the measures he had decided to put in force, 
which are most clever burlesques on the measures 
adopted by England for America. 

16 341 


This edict also had a great run of popularity, and 
of course its authorship became known. Many of 
the slow-witted English at first thought it real, and 
Franklin in a letter to his son gives an interesting 
account of its reception, and at the same time allows 
us a glimpse of his life at English country houses : 

" I was down at Lord le Despencer's, when the post brought that 
day's papers. Mr. Whitehead was there, too, (Paul Whitehead, the 
author of ' Manners,') who runs early through all the papers, and 
tells the company what he finds remarkable. He had them in 
another room, and we were chatting in the breakfast parlor, when 
he came running in to us out of breath, with the paper in his hand. 
' Here,' says he, 'here's news for ye ! Here's the King of Prussia 
claiming a right to this kingdom !' All stared, and I as much as 
anybody ; and he went on to read it. When he had read two or 
three paragraphs, a gentleman present said, ' Damn his impudence ; 
I dare say we shall hear by next post that he is upon his march with 
one hundred thousand men to back this.' Whitehead, who is very 
shrewd, soon after began to smoke it, and looking in my face, said, 
' I'll be hanged if this is not some of your American jokes upon us.' 
The reading went on, and ended with abundance of laughing, and 
a general verdict that it was a fair hit ; and the piece was cut out of 
the paper and preserved in my Lord's collection. " 

This was all very pleasant for Franklin, and in- 
creased his fame, especially among the Whigs, who 
were already on the side of America. But the 
Tories, whom it was necessary to win, were so indig- 
nant and so deeply disgusted that these brilliant 
essays may be said to have done more harm than 

It is not usual for an ambassador in a foreign 
country to discuss in the public prints the questions 
at issue between that country and his own. It 
would generally be regarded as serious misconduct, 



and the rule which prohibits it seems to be founded 
on good reasons. The ambassador is not there for 
the purpose of instructing or influencing the general 
public. He is not in any way concerned with them, 
but is concerned only with the heads of the govern- 
ment, with whom alone he carries on the business 
of his mission. In order that he may fulfil his part 
successfully he must be acceptable, or at least not 
offensive, to the persons in control of the govern- 
ment. But how can he be acceptable to them if he 
is openly or in secret appealing to the people of the 
country against them ? Will they not regard him 
very much as if he were a spy or an enemy in dis- 
guise in their midst? 

This was precisely the difficulty into which Frank- 
lin got himself. He was not called an ambassador, 
and he would not have been willing to admit that 
he was in a foreign country. But in effect he was 
in that position, being the duly accredited agent of 
colonies that had a serious quarrel with the mother 
country which every one knew might terminate in 
war. When he began to write anonymous articles 
full of sarcasm and severity against the ministry of 
the party in power he was doing what, under ordi- 
nary diplomatic circumstances, might have caused 
his dismissal. It was distinctly a step downward. 
It was not different in essentials from that of an am- 
bassador joining one of the political parties of the 
country to which he is accredited and making stump 
speeches for it. His arguments were approved only 
by people among the English liberals who were al- 
ready convinced, while they made him bitter ene- 



mies among the Tory governing class at a time 
when he had every reason to mollify them, and 
when he was doing his utmost to accommodate 
amicably the differences between the mother and 
her daughters. They had now a handle against 
him, something that would offset the charm of his 
conversation, his learning, and his discoveries in 
science which gave him such influence among nota- 
ble people. They soon had the opportunity they 
wanted in the famous episode of the Hutchinson 

In order to carry out his purpose of accommo- 
dating all disputes, he was in the habit of saying 
wherever he went in England that the colonies 
were most loyal and loving ; that there was no 
necessity for the severe measures against Boston, 
quartering troops on her, and other oppressions. 
Such severities created the impression among the 
Americans that the whole English nation was against 
them ; they did not stop to think that it was merely 
the ministry and the party in power. Accordingly 
there were riots and tumults among some of the 
disorderly classes in America which in their turn 
created a wrong impression in England, where such 
disturbances were falsely supposed to be representa- 
tive of the colonists at large. In this way the mis- 
understanding was continually aggravated because 
the true state of things was unknown. 

Many people in England were disposed to smile 
at this pretty delusion of peace and affection, but 
they thought it best to let the colonial agents con- 
tinue under its influence and not acquaint them 



with the means they had of knowing the contrary. 
At last, however, in the year 1772, one of them let 
the cat out of the bag. Franklin was talking in 
his usual strain to a Whig member of Parliament 
who was disposed to be very friendly to America, 
when that member frankly told him that he must 
be mistaken. The disorders in America were much 
worse than he supposed. The severe measures com- 
plained of were not the mere suggestion of the party 
in power in England, but had been asked for by 
people in Boston as the only means of restoring 
order and pacifying the country, which was really 
in a most rebellious and dangerous state. 

When Franklin expressed surprise and doubt, the 
member said he would soon satisfy him, and a few 
days after placed in his hands a packet of letters 
which had been written by Thomas Hutchinson, the 
Governor of Massachusetts, Andrew Oliver, the 
Lieutenant-Governor, and some other officials to 
Mr. William Whately, a man who had held some 
subordinate offices and had been an important politi- 
cal worker in the Grenville party. 

The letters described the situation in Massachu- 
setts in the year 1 768 ; the riotous proceedings when 
John Hancock's sloop was seized for violating the 
revenue laws ; how the customs officers were in- 
sulted, beaten, the windows of their houses broken, 
and they obliged to take refuge on the " Romney" 
man-of-war. These and other proceedings the 
writers of the letters intimated were approved by 
the majority of the people, and they recommended 
that these turbulent colonists should, for their own 



good, be restrained by force, and the liberty they were 
misusing curtailed. " There must be an abridgment," 
said one of Hutchinson's letters, " of what are called 
English liberties." 

Hutchinson, as well as some of the other writers 
of the letters, were natives of New England ; and 
Hutchinson, before he became governor, had had 
a long public career in Massachusetts in which he 
had distinguished himself as a most conservative, 
prudent, and able man who had conferred many 
benefits on the colony. The letters by him and 
the other officials had been handed about among 
prominent people in London, who regarded them 
as better evidence of the real situation in America 
than the benevolent talk of the colonial agent or his 
brilliant and anonymous sallies in the newspapers. 

The condition which the member of Parliament 
annexed to his loan of the letters to Franklin was 
that they should not be printed or copied, and after 
having been read by the leaders of the patriot move- 
ment in Massachusetts, they were to be returned to 
London. He must have had very little knowledge 
of the world, and Franklin must have smiled at the 
condition. Of course, in transmitting the letters to 
Massachusetts Franklin mentioned the condition. 
This relieved him from responsibility, and John 
Adams and John Hancock could do what they 
thought right under the circumstances. 

What might have been expected soon followed. 
The leaders in Boston read the letters and were 
furious. Here were their own governors and offi- 
cials secretly furnishing the British government with 



information that would bring punishment on the 
colony, and actually recommending that the punish- 
ment should be inflicted. One of Hutchinson's 
letters distinctly stated that the information fur- 
nished by him in a previous letter had brought the 
troo x ps to Boston ; and, as is well known, it was the 
collision of some of these troops with a mob which led 
to what has been called the " Boston massacre." 

John Adams showed the letters to his aunt; 
others showed them to relatives and friends, no 
doubt, with the most positive instructions that they 
were not to be copied or printed, and were to be 
exhibited only to certain people. The Assembly 
met, and John Hancock, with a mysterious air, an- 
nounced that a most important matter would in a 
few days be submitted to that body for considera- 
tion ; but most of the members knew about it al- 
ready ; and when the day arrived the public was 
refused admittance and the letters read to the As- 
sembly in secret session. As for publishing them, 
they were soon in print in London as well as in the 
colonies ; and when the originals could be of no 
further use, John Adams put them in an envelope 
and sent them back to London, as the condition 

The Assembly resolved to ask the crown to re- 
move both Hutchinson and Oliver, and prepared a 
petition to that effect, basing the request on the 
ground that these two men had plotted to encourage 
and intensify the quarrel of the colonies with the 
mother country. By their false representations they 

had caused a fleet and an army to be brought to 



Massachusetts, and were therefore the cause of the 
confusion and bloodshed which had resulted. This 
petition reached the king in the summer of 1 773. 

Franklin thought that the whole affair would have 
a good effect The resentment of the colonies 
against the mother country would be transferred to 
Hutchinson and the other individuals who had 
caused it ; the ministry would see that the colonists 
were sincerely desirous of a good understanding 
with the British government and that Hutchinson 
and Oliver were evil persons bent on fomenting 
trouble and responsible for all the recent difficulties 
in Massachusetts. This was a pleasant theory, but 
it turned out to be utterly unsound and useless. 
The effect of the letters was just the opposite of 
what was expected. Instead of modifying the feel- 
ings of the colonists and the ministry, they increased 
the resentment of both. 

The king and his Privy Council were not inclined 
to pay any attention to the petition, and it might 
have slept harmlessly like other petitions from 
America at that time. But when the letters were 
printed in London, people began to wonder how 
they had reached the colonists. They were in a 
sense secret information, and had been intrusted to 
persons who were supposed to understand that they 
were for government circles alone. William Whately, 
to whom they had been written, was dead, and as it 
began to be suspected that his brother and executor, 
Thomas Whately, might have put them into circula- 
tion, he felt bound to defend himself. 

As a matter of fact, they seem to have passed out 


of William Whately's hands before his death, and 
were never in the possession of the executor. But 
the executor had given permission to John Temple 
to look over the deceased Whately's papers and to 
take from them certain letters which Temple and his 
brother had written to him. Accordingly, Thomas 
Whately went to see Temple, who gave the most 
positive assurances that he had taken only his own 
and his brother's letters, and he repeated these as- 
surances twice afterwards. But the suspicion against 
him getting into the newspapers, he demanded from 
Whately a public statement exonerating him. 
Whately published a statement which merely gave 
the facts and exonerated him no more than to say 
that Temple had assured him he did not take the 
Hutchinson letters. Such a statement left an un- 
pleasant implication against Temple, for the exec- 
utor seemed studiously to avoid saying that he 
believed Temple's assurances. 

So Temple challenged Whately, and the challenge 
was carried by Ralph Izard, of South Carolina. 
They fought a queer sort of duel which would have 
amused Frenchmen, and half a century later would 
have amused Carolinians. Whately declined to be 
bothered with a second, so Temple could not have 
one. They met in Hyde Park at four in the morn- 
ing, Whately with a sword and Temple with both 
sword and pistols. Seeing that Whately had only a 
sword, he supposed that he must be particularly 
expert with it, and he therefore suggested that they 
fight with pistols. They emptied their weapons 
without effect, and then took to their blades. 



Temple, who was something of a swordsman, 
soon discovered that Whately knew nothing of the 
art, and he chivalrously tried to wound him slightly, 
so as to end the encounter. But Whately slashed 
and cut in a bungling way that was extremely dan- 
gerous ; and Temple, finding that he was risking his 
life by his magnanimity, aimed a thrust which would 
have killed Whately if he had not seized the blade 
in his left hand. As it was, it wounded him severely 
in the side, and he suggested that the fight end. 
But his opponent in this extraordinary duel was 
deaf, and, recovering his sword, as Whately slipped 
forward he wounded him in the back of the shoulder. 

Izard and Arthur Lee, of Virginia, now arrived on 
the scene and separated the combatants. One re- 
sult of not fighting in the regular manner with wit- 
nesses was that some people believed, from the 
wound on Whately's back, that Temple had at- 
tempted to stab him when he was down. Meantime 
Franklin, who had been out of town on one of his 
pleasant excursions, returned to London and, hear- 
ing that another duel between the two was imminent, 
published a letter in the newspapers announcing 
that he was the person who had obtained and sent 
the letters to Massachusetts, and that they had 
never been in the possession of the executor and 
consequently could not have been stolen from him 
by Temple. 

He supposed that he had ended the difficulty most 
handsomely, and he continued to hope for good re- 
sults from making the letters public. But the min- 
istry and the Tories had now the opportunity they 



wanted They saw a way to deprive him of his office 
of postmaster and attack his character. He had ad- 
mitted sending the letters to Massachusetts. But 
how had he obtained them ? How did he get pos- 
session of the private letters of a deceased member 
of the government ; letters, too, that every one had 
been warned not to allow to get into a colonial 
agent's hands? If the distinguished man of science 
whose fascinating manner and conversation were the 
delight of London drawing-rooms and noblemen's 
country-seats had stepped down from the heights 
of philosophy to do this sort of work, why, then, his 
great reputation and popularity need no longer be 
considered as protecting him. 

It was unfortunate that Franklin sent these letters 
to Massachusetts in the way that has been described. 
At the same time it is rather too much to expect 
that he should have foreseen all the results. But 
after more than a hundred years have passed we 
can perhaps review the position of the Tory govern- 
ment a little more calmly than has been usual. 

Let us suppose that the Spanish minister in the 
United States should get possession of letters sent 
from Spain by our minister there to the Secretary 
of State at Washington ; and we will assume also 
that these letters relate to a matter of serious con- 
troversy between our country and Spain, and are 
the private communications from our minister to the 
Secretary of State. If the Spanish minister should 
send these letters to his government, and that gov- 
ernment should publish them in its own and our 
newspapers, would there not be considerable indig- 



nation in America ? Would it not be said that the 
Spanish minister was here to conduct diplomatic 
negotiations in the usual way and not for the pur- 
pose of securing possession of the private documents 
of our government? Would it not be assumed at 
once that he must have bribed some one to give 
him the letters, or got them in some other clandes- 
tine way ? and would not his country in all proba- 
bility be asked to recall him ? 

Then, too, we must remember that Franklin's ar- 
gument that the colonies were all loyal and needed 
only a little kind treatment was in the eyes of the 
Tories a pious sham ; and they were somewhat jus- 
tified in thinking so. It is true, indeed, that outside 
of Massachusetts the people were very loyal, and 
determined not to break with Great Britain unless 
they were forced to it But in Massachusetts Samuel 
Adams was laboring night and day to force a breach. 
He had as much contempt as the Tories for Frank- 
lin's peace and love policy, and thought it ridiculous 
that such a man should be the agent for Massachu- 
setts. He was convinced that there never would be 
peace, that it was not desirable, and that the sooner 
there were war and independence the better. 

The Tory government knew all this ; it knew of 
the committees of correspondence that the Boston 
patriots were inaugurating to inflame the whole 
country ; it knew all these things, from the reports 
of the royal governors and other officials in the 
colonies, and it was probably better acquainted with 
the real situation than was Franklin. There may 
still be read among the documents of the British 



government the affidavits of the persons who fol- 
lowed Samuel Adams about and took down his words 
when he was secretly inciting the lower classes of 
the people in Boston to open rebellion.* About the 
time that Whately and Temple fought their duel, in 
December, 17/3, the tea was thrown overboard in 
Boston harbor, and it is now generally believed that 
Samuel Adams inspired and encouraged this act as 
one which would most surely lead to a breach with 
the mother country. 

The school-book story of the " Boston Tea Party" 
has been so deeply impressed upon our minds as 
one of the glorious deeds of patriotism that its true 
bearings are obscured. There were many patriots 
at the time who did not consider it a wise act 
Besides Boston, the tea was sent by the East India 
Company to Charleston, Philadelphia, and New 
York, and in these cities the people prevented its 
being landed and sold ; but they did not destroy it 
They considered that they had a right to prevent its 
landing and sale ; that in doing this they were act- 
ing in a legal and constitutional manner to protect 
their rights ; but to destroy it would have been both 
a riotous act and an attack on private property. 

The Tory ministry, while having no serious objec- 
tion to the method adopted in Charleston, Philadel- 
phia, and New York, considered the Boston method 
decidedly riotous, and from its point of view such a 
conclusion was natural. It seemed to be of a piece 
with all the other occurrences which Hutchinson 

* Hosmer's Life of Samuel Adams, p. 117. 


and Oliver had described in their letters, and it con- 
firmed most strongly all the statements and recom- 
mendations in those letters. It was decided to 
punish Boston in a way that she would remember, 
and in the following March, after careful delibera- 
tion, Parliament passed the Boston Port Bill, which 
locked up the harbor of that town, destroyed for the 
time her commerce, and soon brought on the actual 
bloodshed of the Revolution. 

Meantime the ministry also attended to Frank- 
lin's case. The Privy Council sent word to Franklin 
that it was ready to take up the petition of the 
Massachusetts Assembly asking for the removal of 
Governor Hutchinson, and required his presence as 
the colony's agent He found that Hutchinson and 
Oliver had secured as counsel Alexander Wedder- 
burn, a Scotch barrister, afterwards most successful 
in securing political preferment, and ending his 
career as Lord Rosslyn. Franklin had no counsel, 
and asked for a postponement of three weeks to 
obtain legal aid and prepare his case, which was 

The day fixed for the hearing aroused great ex- 
pectations. An unprecedented number of the mem- 
bers of the Privy Council attended. The Archbishop 
of Canterbury', Burke, Dr. Priestley, Izard, Lee, and 
many other distinguished persons, friends or oppo- 
nents of Franklin, crowded into the chamber. The 
members of the Privy Council sat at a long table, and 
every one else had to stand as a mark of respect 
The room was one of those apartments which tour- 
ists are often shown in palaces in Europe, somewhat 



like a large drawing-room with an open fireplace at 
one end. The fireplace projected into the room, 
and in one of the recesses at the side of it Franklin 
stood, not far behind Lord Gower, president of the 
Council, who had his back to the fireplace. 

Franklin's astute counsel, John Dunning, a famous 
barrister, afterwards Lord Ashburton, told him that 
his peace and love theory was not a very good 
ground to rest his case on before the Council. It 
would be well not to use the Hutchinson letters at 
all, or refer to them as little as possible ; for the 
Privy Council believed every word in them to be 
true, and the passages in them which had most in- 
flamed the colonists were the very ones which were 
most acceptable to the Council. 

So Dunning made a speech in which he said that 
no crime or offence was charged against Hutchinson 
and Oliver ; they were in no way attacked or ac- 
cused ; the colonists were simply asking a favor of 
His Majesty, which was that the governor and the 
lieutenant-governor had become so distasteful to the 
people that it would be good policy and tend to 
peace and quiet to remove them. 

It was a ridiculous attempt, of course, and none 
knew better than Dunning that there was not the 
slightest hope of success. The Privy Council would 
never have taken up the petition, it would have slept 
in the dust of its pigeon-hole, if the council had not 
seen in it a way of attacking Franklin. Wedder- 
burn's speech was the event awaited, and to it the 
Tories looked forward as to a cock-fight or a bull- 


A little volume published in England and to be 
found in some of the libraries in America contains 
an account of the proceedings and gives a large part 
of Wedderburn's speech. He has been most abun- 
dantly abused in America and by Whigs in England 
as an unprincipled office-seeker and a shallow orator, 
with no other talent than that of invective. That he 
was successful in obtaining office and rising to high 
distinction as an ardent Tory cannot be denied, and 
in this respect he did not differ materially from others 
or from the Whigs themselves when they had their 
innings. As to the charge of shallowness, it is not 
borne out by his speech on this occasion. Once 
concede his point of view as a Tory, and the speech 
is a very clever one. 

He began by a history of Hutchinson's useful 
public career in Massachusetts ; and there is no 
question that Hutchinson had been a most valuable 
official ; even the Massachusetts people themselves 
conceded that. The difficulty with Hutchinson was 
the same as with Wedderburn, his point of view 
was not ours. Having reviewed Hutchinson, he 
went on to show how ridiculous it was to suppose 
that he alone had been the cause of sending the 
troops to Boston, and in this he was again probably 
right. The home government, as he well said, had 
abundant other means of information from General 
Gage, Sir Francis Bernard, and its officials all 
through the colonies ; and he concluded this part of 
his speech with the point that Hutchinson, by the 
admission of Massachusetts herself, had never done 
anything wrong except write these letters, and would 



it not be ridiculous to dismiss a man for giving in- 
formation which had been furnished by a host of 
others ? 

Then he turned his attention to Franklin. How 
had he obtained those letters ? And here it must 
be confessed that Franklin was in a scrape, and from 
the Tory point of view was fair game. He could 
not disclose the name of the member of Parliament 
who gave them to him, for he had promised not to 
do so, and even without this promise it would have 
been wanton cruelty to have subjected the man to 
the ruin and disgrace that would have instantly 
fallen upon him. Nothing could drag this secret 
from Franklin. He refused to answer questions on 
the subject, and it is a secret to this day, as it is also 
still a secret who was the mother of his son. Inge- 
nious persons have written about one as about the 
other, and supposed and guessed and piled up prob- 
abilities to no purpose. Franklin told the world 
more private matters than is usual with men in his 
position ; but in the two matters on which he had 
determined to withhold knowledge the world has 
sought for it in vain. 

Praiseworthy as his conduct may have been in 
this respect, it gave his opponents an advantage 
which we must admit they were entitled to take. 
If, as Wedderburn put it, he refused to tell from 
whom he received the letters, they were at liberty to 
suppose the worst, and the worst was that he had 
obtained them by improper means and fraud. 

For a time which must have seemed like years to 
Franklin, Wedderburn drew out and played on this 
17 257 


point with most exasperating skill. Gentlemen re- 
spect private correspondence. They do not usually 
steal people's letters and print them. Even a foreign 
ambassador on the outbreak of war would hardly be 
justified in stealing documents. Must he not have 
known as soon as the letters were handed to him 
that honorable permission to use them could be ob- 
tained only from the family of Whately ? Why had 
he chosen to bring that family into painful notoriety 
and one of them within a step of being murdered ? 
He had sent the letters to Massachusetts with the 
address removed from them, and he was here sup- 
porting the petition with nothing but copies of the 
letters. He would, forsooth, have removed from 
office a governor in the midst of a long career of 
usefulness on the ground of letters the originals of 
which he could not produce and which he dared 
not tell how he had obtained. 

The orator went on to cite some of Franklin's let- 
ters to the people in Massachusetts encouraging 
them in their opposition. He read the resolutions 
of New England town meetings, and gave what, 
indeed, was a truthful description, from his point of 
view, of the measures taken for resistance in Amer- 
ica. Franklin was aspiring to be Governor of Mas- 
sachusetts in the place of Hutchinson, that was the 
secret of the whole affair, he said ; and as for that 
beautiful argument that Hutchinson and Oliver had 
incensed the mother country against the colonies, 
what absurdity ! 

We are perpetually told, he said, of men's in- 
censing the mother country against the colonies, 



but we hear nothing of the vast variety of acts 
which have been made use of to incense the colo- 
nies against the mother country, setting at defiance 
the king's authority, treating Parliament as usurpers, 
pulling down the houses of royal officials and at- 
tacking their persons, burning His Majesty's ships 
of war, and denying the supreme jurisdiction of the 
British empire ; and yet these people pretend a 
great concern about these letters as having a ten- 
dency to incense the parent state against the colo- 
nies, and would have a governor turned out because 
he reports their doings. " Was it to confute or pre- 
vent the pernicious effect of these letters that the 
good men of Boston have lately held their meetings, 
appointed their committees, and with their usual mod- 
eration destroyed the cargo of three British ships?" 

While this ferocious attack was being delivered, 
and it is said to have been delivered in thundering 
tones, emphasized by terrible blows of the orator's 
fist on a cushion before him on the table, Franklin 
stood with head erect, unmoved, and without the 
slightest change upon his face from the beginning 
to the end. When all was over he went out, silent, 
dignified, without a word or sign to any one except 
that, as he passed Dr. Priestley, he secretly pressed 
his hand. His superb nerves and physique again 
raised him far above the occasion. 

It was one of the most remarkable traits of his 
wonderful personality that in all the great trials of 
his life he could give a dramatic interest and force 
to the situation which in the end turned everything 

in his favor. Burke said that his examination be- 



fore Parliament reminded him of a master examined 
by a parcel of school-boys ; and Whitefield said that 
every answer he gave made the questioner appear 
insignificant In his much severer test before Wed- 
derburn and the Privy Council he was defeated ; but 
his supreme and serene manner was never forgotten 
by the spectators, and will live forever as a dramatic 
incident Pictures have been painted of it, for it 
lends itself irresistibly to the purposes of the artist. 
In these pictures Franklin is the hero, for it is im- 
possible, from an artistic point of view, to make any 
one else the hero in that scene. 

The petition of the Massachusetts Assembly was, 
of course, rejected with contempt ; Franklin was im- 
mediately deprived of his office of postmaster of the 
colonies, and his usefulness as a colonial agent or as 
a diplomatist was at an end. He could no longer 
go to court or even be on friendly terms with the 
Tory party which controlled the government ; and 
from this time on he was compelled to associate 
almost exclusively with the opposition, who still 
continued to be his friends. In other words, from 
being a colonial representative he had become a 
mere party man or party politician in England, and 
his own acts had brought him to this condition. 
While in a position which was essentially diplomatic, 
he had chosen to write anonymous newspaper arti- 
cles against the very men with whom he was com- 
pelled to carry on his diplomatic negotiations. 
They naturally watched their opportunity to destroy 
him ; and his conduct with regard to the Hutchinson 
letters gave it to them. 



He fully realized his situation, and made prepara- 
tions to return to Philadelphia. He was, in fact, in 
danger of arrest ; and the government had sent to 
America for the originals of some of his letters on 
which to base a prosecution for treason. But when 
it became known that the first Continental Congress 
was called to meet in September, he was persuaded 
to remain, as the Congress might have business for 
him to transact He still believed that all difficulties 
would be finally settled. He did not think that 
there would be war ; and this belief may have been 
caused partly by his conviction of the utter folly of 
such a war and partly because it was impossible for 
him to get full and accurate information of the real 
state of mind of the people in America. He had 
great faith in a change of ministry. If the Ameri- 
cans refused for another year to buy British goods, 
there would be such a clamor from the merchants 
and manufacturers that the Whigs would ride into 
power and colonial rights be safe. 

He remained until the following spring, without 
being able to accomplish anything, but he caught at 
several straws. Lord Chatham, who, as William 
Pitt, had conquered Canada in the French and In- 
dian wars and laid the foundations of the modern 
British empire, was thoroughly disgusted at the con- 
duct of the administration towards America. An 
old man, living at his country-seat within a couple 
of hours' drive from London, and suffering severely 
at times from the gout, he nevertheless aroused him- 
self to reopen the subject in the House of Lords. 
He sent for Franklin, who has left us a most graphic 



account of the great man, so magnificent, eloquent, 
and gracious in his declining years. 

Franklin went over the whole ground with him ; 
but the aged nobleman who had been such a con- 
queror of nations was fond of having everything his 
own way, and Franklin confesses that he was so 
charmed in watching the wonderful powers of his 
mind that he cared but little about criticising his 
plans. His lordship raised the question in the 
House of Lords in a grand oration, parts of which 
are still spoken by our school-boys, and he fol- 
lowed it by other speeches. He was for withdraw- 
ing all the troops from the colonies and restoring 
peace ; but his oratory had no more effect on 
Parliament than Franklin's jokes. 

At the same time Lord Howe, brother of the 
General Howe who was afterwards prominent in the 
war against the colonies, attempted a plan of paci- 
fication which was to be accomplished through 
Franklin's aid. The Howes were favorably inclined 
towards America. Their brother, General Viscount 
Howe, had been very popular in the colonies, was 
killed at Ticonderoga in 1758 in the French and 
Indian war, and Massachusetts had erected a monu- 
ment to his memory in Westminster Abbey. 

Lord Howe's object was to secure some basis of 
compromise which both Franklin and the ministry 
could agree upon, an essential part of which was 
that his lordship was to be sent over to the colonies 
as a special commissioner to arrange final terms. 
The negotiations began by Franklin being asked to 
play chess with Lord Howe's sister, and he was also 



approached by a prominent Quaker, David Barclay, 
and by his old friend, Dr. Fothergill. There were 
numerous interviews, and Franklin prepared several 
papers containing conditions to which he thought 
the colonies would agree. Lord Howe promised 
him high rewards in case of success, and even offered, 
as an assurance of the good things to come, to pay 
him at once the arrears of his salary as agent of 

Whether this was a sincere attempt at accommo- 
dation on the part of some of the more moderate 
of the Tories, or a scheme of Lord Howe's private 
ambition, or a mere trap for Franklin, has never been 
made clear. Franklin, however, rejected all the 
bribes and stood on the safe ground of terms which 
he knew would be acceptable in America ; so this 
attempt also came to naught. 

After reading the long account Franklin has given 
of these negotiations, and the innumerable letters 
and proposals that were exchanged, one may see 
many causes of the break with the colonies, igno- 
rance, blindness, the infatuation of the king or of 
North or of Townsend, but the primary cause of 
all is the one given at the end by Franklin, cor- 
ruption. The whole British government of that time 
was penetrated through and through with a vast 
system of bribery. Statesmen and politicians cared 
for nothing and would do nothing that did not give 
them offices to distribute. That was one of the 
objects of Lord Howe's scheme. Dr. Fothergill 
was intimate with all the governing class, and he 
said to Franklin, " Whatever specious pretences are 



offered, they are hollow ; to get a larger field on 
which to fatten a herd of worthless parasites is all 
that is regarded." England lost her colonies by 
corruption, and she could not have built up her 
present vast colonial empire unless corruption had 
been abolished. 

At the end of April Franklin set out on his re- 
turn to Philadelphia, and there was some question 
whether he would not be arrested before he could 
start He used some precautions in getting away 
as quietly as possible, and sailed from Portsmouth 

He still believed that there would be no war, and 
fully expected to return in October with instructions 
from the Continental Congress that would end the 
controversy. His ground for this belief seems to 
have been the old one that the hostility in England 
towards America was purely a ministerial or party 
question, and would be overthrown by the refusal 
of the colonists to buy British goods. But on his 
arrival in Philadelphia on the 5th of May he heard 
of the battle of Lexington, and never after that en- 
tertained much hope of a peaceful accommodation. 




FRANKLIN'S wife had died while he was in Eng- 
land, and his daughter, Mrs. Sarah Bache, was now 
mistress of his new house, which had been built 
during his absence. The day after his arrival the 
Assembly made him one of its deputies in the Con- 
tinental Congress which was soon to meet in Phila- 
delphia. For the next eighteen months (from his 
arrival on the 5th of May, 1775, until October 26, 
1776, when he sailed for France) every hour of his 
time seems to have been occupied with labors which 
would have been enough for a man in his prime, 
but for one seventy years old were a heavy burden. 

He was made Postmaster- General of the united 
colonies, and prepared a plan for a line of posts 
from Maine to Georgia. He dropped all his con- 
servatism and became very earnest for the war, but 
was humorous and easy-going about everything. 
He had, of course, the privilege of franking his own 
letters; but instead of the usual form, "Free. B. 
Franklin," he would mark them "B free Franklin." 
He prepared a plan or constitution for the union of 
the colonies, which will be considered hereafter. 
Besides his work in Congress, he was soon made a 
member of the Pennsylvania Legislature, and was 
on the Committee of Safety which was preparing 



the defences of the province, and was, in effect, the 
executive government in place of the proprietary 
governor. From six to nine in the morning he was 
with this committee, and from nine till four in the 
afternoon he attended the session of Congress. He 
assisted in devising plans for obstructing the channel 
of the Delaware River, and the chevaux-de-frise, as 
they were called, which were placed in the water 
were largely of his design. 

It was extremely difficult for the Congress to ob- 
tain gunpowder for the army. The colonists had 
always relied on Europe for their supply, and were 
unaccustomed to manufacturing it Franklin sug- 
gested that they should return to the use of bows 
and arrows : 

" These were good weapons not wisely laid aside : ist. Because a 
man may shoot as truly with a bow as with a common musket, adly. 
He can discharge four arrows in the time of charging and discharging 
one bullet, sdly. His object is not taken from his view by the smoke 
of his own side. 4thly. A flight of arrows seen coming upon them, 
terrifies and disturbs the enemies' attention to their business. Sthly. 
An arrow striking any part of a man puts him hors de combat till it 
is extracted. 6thly. Bows and arrows are more easily provided every- 
where than muskets and ammunition." 

This suggestion seems less strange when we re- 
member that the musket of that time was a smooth- 
bore and comparatively harmless at three hundred 

His letters to his old friends in England were full 
of resentment against the atrocities of the British 
fleet and army, especially the burning of the town 
of Portland, Maine. It was at this time that he 


'-. /'. -*. . , , 




,, } -) /7 n 

' -- 6/V^- 

'" "*" "'"t ' 




wrote his famous letter to his old London friend, 
Mr. Strahan, a reproduction of which, taken from the 
copy at the State Department, Washington, is given 
in this volume. It is a most curiously worded, half- 
humorous letter, and the most popular one he ever 
wrote. It has been reprinted again and again, and 
fac-similes of it have appeared for a hundred years, 
some of them in school-books. 

He could have desired nothing better than its ap- 
pearance in school-books. One of his pet projects 
was that all American school-children should be 
taught how shockingly unjust and cruel Great 
Britain had been to her colonies ; they must learn, 
he said, to hate her ; and while he was in France 
he prepared a long list of the British outrages which 
he considered contrary to all the rules of civilized 
warfare. He intended to have a picture of each 
one prepared by French artists and sent to America, 
that the lesson of undying hatred might be burnt 
into the youthful mind. 

In the autumn of 1775 he went with two other 
commissioners to Washington's army before Boston 
to arrange for supplies and prepare general plans 
for the conduct of the war. In the following March 
he was sent to Canada with Samuel Chase and 
Charles Carroll, of Maryland, to win over the Cana- 
dians to the side of the revolted colonies. Charles 
Carroll's brother John, a Roman Catholic priest, ac- 
companied them at the request of the members of 
Congress, who hoped that he would be able to influ- 
ence the French Canadian clergy. 

It was a terrible journey for Franklin, now an old 


man ; for as they advanced north they found the 
ground covered with snow and the lakes filled with 
floating ice. They spent five days beating up the 
Hudson in a little sloop to Albany, and two weeks 
after they had started they reached Lake George. 
General Schuyler, who lived near Albany, accom- 
panied them after they had rested at his house, and 
assisted in obtaining wagons and boats. Franklin 
was ill with what he afterwards thought was an in- 
cipient attack of the gout which his constitution 
wanted strength to develop completely. At Sara- 
toga he made up his mind that he would never see 
his home again, and wrote several letters of farewell. 

But by the care and assistance of John Carroll, the 
priest, with whom he contracted a life-long friendship, 
he was able to press on, and they reached the south- 
ern end of Lake George, where they embarked on a 
large flat-bottomed boat without a cabin, and sailed 
the whole length of the lake through the floating ice 
in about a day. Their boat was hauled by oxen 
across the land to Lake Champlain, and after a delay 
of five days they embarked again amidst the floating 
ice. Sailing and rowing, sleeping under a canvas 
cover at night, and going ashore to cook their meals, 
they made the upper end of the lake in about four 
days, and another day in wagons brought them to 

Their mission was fruitless. The army under 
General Montgomery which had invaded the coun- 
try had been unsuccessful against the British, had 
contracted large debts with the Canadians which it 
was unable to pay, and the Canadians would not 



join in the Revolution. So Franklin and the com- 
missioners had to make their toilsome journey back 
again without having accomplished anything; and 
many years afterwards Franklin mentioned this 
journey, which nearly destroyed his life, as one of 
the reasons why Congress should vote him extra pay 
for his services in the Revolution. 

In June, 1776, Franklin was made a member of 
the convention which framed a new constitution for 
Pennsylvania to supply the place of the old colonial 
charter of William Penn, and he was engaged in 
this work during the summer, when his other duties 
permitted ; but of this more hereafter. At the same 
time he was laboring in the Congress on the ques- 
tion of declaring independence. He was in favor 
of an immediate declaration, and his name is signed 
to the famous instrument 

During this same summer he also had another 
conference with Lord Howe, who had arrived in 
New York harbor in command of the British fleet, 
and again wanted to patch up a peace. He failed, 
of course, for he had authority from his govern- 
ment only to receive the submission of the colonies ; 
and he was plainly told by Franklin and the other 
commissioners who met him that the colonies would 
make no treaty with England except one that 
acknowledged them as an independent nation. 




FRANKLIN'S most important duties in the Conti- 
nental Congress were connected with his member- 
ship of the " Secret Committee," afterwards known 
as the "Committee of Correspondence." It was 
really a committee on foreign relations, and had 
been formed for the purpose of corresponding with 
the friends of the revolted colonies in Europe and 
securing from them advice and assistance. From 
appointing agents to serve this committee in France 
or England, Franklin was soon promoted to be him- 
self one of the agents and to represent in France 
the united colonies which had just declared their 

On September 26, 1776, he was given this impor- 
tant mission, not by the mere appointment of his 
own committee, but by vote of Congress. He was to 
be one of three commissioners of equal powers, who 
would have more importance and weight than the 
mere agents hitherto sent to Europe. The news re- 
ceived of the friendly disposition of France was very 
encouraging, and it was necessary that envoys should 
be sent with full authority to take advantage of it. 
Silas Deane, who had already gone to France as a 
secret agent, and Thomas Jefferson were elected as 
Franklin's fellow-commissioners. The ill health of 



Jefferson's wife compelled him to decline, and 
Arthur Lee, already acting as an agent for the 
colonies in Europe, was elected in his place. 

When the result of the first ballot taken in Con- 
gress showed that Franklin was elected, he is said 
to have turned to Dr. Rush, sitting near him, and 
remarked, " I am old and good for nothing ; but as 
the storekeepers say of their remnants of cloth, I 
am but a fag end, you may have me for what you 

There was, however, fourteen more years of labor 
in the "fag end," as he called himself; and the 
jest was one of those appropriately modest remarks 
which he knew so well how to make. He prob- 
ably looked forward with not a little satisfaction to 
the prospect of renewing again those pleasures of 
intercourse with the learned and great which he was 
so capable of enjoying and which could be found 
only in Europe. His reputation was already greater 
in France than in England. He would be able to 
see the evidences of it as well as increase it in this 
new and delightful field. But the British newspapers, 
of course, said that he had secured this appointment 
as a clever way of escaping from the collapse of the 
rebellion which he shrewdly foresaw was inevitable. 

On October 26, 1776, he left Philadelphia very 
quietly and, accompanied by his two grandsons, 
William Temple Franklin and Benjamin Franklin 
Bache, drove some fifteen miles down the river to 
Marcus Hook, where the " Reprisal," a swift war- 
vessel of the revolted colonies, awaited him. She 
set sail immediately and got out of the river into the 



ocean as quickly as possible, for the British desired 
nothing better than to capture this distinguished 
envoy to the court of France. Wickes, the captain, 
afterwards famous for the prizes he took from the 
British, knew that he must run the gauntlet of the 
cruisers, and he drove his little vessel with all sail 
through the November gales, making Quiberon 
Bay, on the coast of France, in thirty-three days. 

It was a rough, dangerous, exciting voyage ; the 
venerable philosopher of seventy years was confined 
to a little, cramped cabin, more sick and distressed 
than he had ever been before on the ocean ; and 
yet he insisted on taking the temperature of the 
water every day to test again his theory of the Gulf 
Stream. They were chased by cruisers, but the 
fleet "Reprisal" could always turn them into fading 
specks on the horizon's verge ; and as she neared the 
coast of France she fell in with some good luck, 
two British vessels loaded with lumber, wine, brandy, 
and flaxseed, which were duly brought to and car- 
ried into a French port to be sold. The " Reprisal" 
had on board a small cargo of indigo, which, with 
the prizes, was to go towards paying the expense of 
the mission to France. In this simple and homely 
way were the colonies beginning their diplomatic 

The French people received Franklin with an 
outburst of enthusiasm which has never been given 
by them to any other American. So weak from the 
sickness of the voyage that he could scarcely stand, 
the old man was overwhelmed with attention, a 

grand dinner at Nantes, an invitation to a country 



house where he expected to find rest, but had none 
from the ceaseless throng of visitors. The unex- 
pected and romantic manner of his arrival, dodging 
the cruisers and coming in with two great merchant- 
men as prizes, aroused the greatest interest and de- 
light It was like a brilliant stroke in a play or a 
tale from the "Arabian Nights," worthy of French 
imagination ; and here this wonderful American from 
the woods had made it an accomplished fact 

The enthusiasm of this reception never abated, 
but, on the contrary, soon became extravagant 
worship, which continued during the nine years of 
his residence in France. Even on his arrival they 
were exaggerating everything about him, adding 
four years to his age to make his adventures seem 
more wonderful ; and Paris waited in as much rest- 
less expectation for his arrival as if he had been a 

Beneath all this lay, of course, the supreme satis- 
faction with which the French contemplated the re- 
volt of the colonies and the inevitable weakening of 
their much-hated enemy and rival, Great Britain ; 
and they had made up their minds to assist in this 
dismemberment to the utmost of their ability. They 
were already familiar with Franklin ; his name was 
a household word in France ; his brilliant discovery 
of the nature of lightning appealed strongly to every 
imagination ; " Poor Richard" had been translated 
for them, and its shrewd economy and homely wis- 
dom had been their delight for years. Its author 
was the synonyme and personification of liberty, 
that liberty which they were just beginning to rave 

18 273 


about, for their own revolution was not twenty 
years away. 

It interested them all the more that the man who 
represented all this for them, and whose name 
seemed to be really a French one, came from the 
horrible wilderness of America, the home of inter- 
minable dark forests, filled with savage beasts and 
still more savage men. 

France at that time was the gay, pleasure- and 
sensation-loving France which had just been living 
under the reign of Louis XIV. Sated with luxury 
and magnificence, with much intelligence and culture 
even among the middle classes, there was no novelty 
that pleased Frenchmen more than something which 
seemed to be close to nature ; and when they dis- 
covered that this exceedingly natural man from the 
woods had also the severe and serene philosophy of 
Cato, Phocion, Socrates, and the other sages of an- 
tiquity, combined with a conversation full of wit, 
point, and raillery like their own, it is not surprising 
that they made a perpetual joy and feast over him. 
It was so delightful for a lady to pay him a pretty 
compliment about having drawn down the fire from 
heaven, and have him instantly reply in some most 
apt phrase of an old man's gallantry ; and then he 
never failed ; there seemed to be no end to his re- 

Amidst these brilliant surroundings he wore for a 
time that shocking old fur cap which appears in one 
of his portraits ; and although his biographers earn- 
estly protest that he was incapable of such affecta- 
tion, there is every reason to believe that he found 


( From a French engraving) 


that it intensified the character the French people 
had already formed of him. Several writers of the 
time speak of his very rustic dress, his firm but free 
and direct manner which seemed to be the sim- 
plicity of a past age. But if he was willing to en- 
courage their laudation by a little clever acting, he 
never carried it too far ; and there is no evidence 
that his head was ever turned by all this extrava- 
gant worship. He was altogether too shrewd to 
make such a fatal mistake. He knew the meaning 
and real value of it, and nursed it so carefully that 
he kept it living and fresh for nine years. 

So he went to live in Paris, while the people be- 
gan to make portraits, medals, and busts of him, 
until there were some two hundred different kinds to 
be set in rings, watches, snuff-boxes, bracelets, look- 
ing-glasses, and other articles. Within a few days 
after his arrival it was the fashion for every one to 
have a picture of him on their mantel-piece. He 
selected for his residence the little village of Passy, 
about two miles from the heart of Paris, and not too 
far from the court at Versailles. There for nine 
years his famous letters were dated, and Franklin at 
Passy, with his friends, their gardens and their wit, 
was a subject of interest and delight to a whole 
generation of the civilized world. 

M. Ray de Chaumont had there a large establish- 
ment called the Hotel de Valentinois. In part of it 
he lived himself, and, to show his devotion to the 
cause of America, he insisted that Franklin should 
occupy the rest of it as his home and for the busi- 
ness of the embassy free of rent. This arrangement 


Franklin accepted in his easy way, and nothing 
more was thought of it until precise John Adams 
arrived from Massachusetts and was greatly shocked 
to find an envoy of the United States living in a 
Frenchman's house without paying board. 

Pleasantly situated, with charming neighbors who 
never wearied of him, enjoying the visits and im- 
proving conversation of the great men of the learned 
and scientific worlds, caressed at court, exchanging 
repartees and flirtations with clever women, op- 
pressed at times with terrible anxiety for his coun- 
try, but slowly winning success, and dining out six 
nights of nearly every week when he was not dis- 
abled by the gout, the old Philadelphia printer can- 
not be said to have fallen upon very evil days. 

His position was just the reverse of what it had 
been in England, where his task had been almost 
an impossible one. In France everything was in his 
favor. There were no Wedderburns or Tory minis- 
ters, no powerful political party opposed to his pur- 
poses, and no liberal party with which he might be 
tempted to take sides. The whole nation king, 
nobles, and people was with him. He had only to 
suggest what was wanted ; and, indeed, a great deal 
was done without even his suggestion. 

This condition of affairs precluded the possibility 
of his accomplishing any great feat in diplomacy. 
The tide being all in his favor, he had only to take 
advantage of it and abstain from anything that 
would check its flow. Instead of the aggressive 
course he had seen fit to follow in England, he must 
avoid everything which in the least resembled ag- 



gression. He must be complaisant, popular, and 
encourage the universal feeling instead of opposing 
it, and this part he certainly played to perfection. 

He was by no means the sole representative of 
his country in France, and considerable work had 
been accomplished before he arrived. In fact, the 
French were ready to do the work themselves with- 
out waiting for a representative. When Franklin 
was leaving London in 1775 the French ambassador 
called upon him and gave him to understand in no 
doubtful terms that France would be on the side of 
the colonies. 

It is a mistake to suppose, as has sometimes been 
done, that some one person suggested to the French 
government, or that Franklin himself suggested or 
urged, the idea of weakening England by assist- 
ing America. It was a policy the wisdom of which 
was obvious to every one. As early as the time 
of the Stamp Act, Louis XV. sent De Kalb to 
America to watch the progress of the rebellion, and 
to foment it The English themselves foresaw and 
dreaded a French alliance with the colonies. Lord 
Howe referred to it in his last interview with Frank- 
lin ; Beaumarchais argued about it in long letters to 
the king ; it was favored by the Count d'Artois, the 
Duke of Orleans, and the Count de Broglie, not to 
mention young Lafayette ; and the colonists them- 
selves thought of it as soon as they thought of 
resistance. The French king, Louis XVI., who, as 
an absolute monarch, disliked rebellion, hesitated 
for a time ; but he was won over by Vergennes and 



France had just come out of a long war with 
England in which she had lost Canada and valuable 
possessions in the East and West Indies. England 
held the port of Dunkirk, on French soil, and 
searched French ships whenever she pleased. France 
was humiliated and full of resentment She had 
failed to conquer the English colonies ; but it would 
be almost as good and some slight revenge if she 
deprived England of them by helping them to 
secure their own independence. It would cripple 
English commerce, which was rapidly driving that 
of France from the ocean. England had in 1768 
helped the Corsican rebels against France, and that 
was a good precedent for France helping the Amer- 
ican rebels against England. 

In the autumn of 1775 the Secret Committee of 
Congress had sent Thomas Story to London, Hol- 
land, and France to consult with persons friendly to 
the colonies. He was also to deliver a letter to Ar- 
thur Lee, who had taken Franklin's place as agent 
of Massachusetts in London, and this letter in- 
structed Lee to learn the disposition of foreign 
powers. A similar letter was to be delivered to Mr. 
Dumas in Holland, and soon after Story's departure 
M. Penet, a French merchant of Nantes, was sent 
to France to buy ammunition, arms, and clothing. 

A few months afterwards, in the beginning of 1 776, 
the committee sent to Paris Silas Deane, of Connec- 
ticut, who had served in the Congress. He was 
more of a diplomatic representative than any of the 
others, and was instructed to procure, if possible, an 
audience with Vergennes, the French Minister of 



Foreign Affairs, suggest the establishment of friendly 
relations, the need of arms and ammunition, and 
finally lead up to the question whether, if the colo- 
nies declared their independence, they might look 
upon France as an ally. 

Meantime that strange character, Beaumarchais, 
the author of "The Barber of Seville" and "The 
Marriage of Figaro," and still a distinguished light 
of French literature, fired by the general enthusiasm 
for the Americans, constituted himself their agent 
and ambassador, and was by no means an unimpor- 
tant one. He was the son of a respectable watch- 
maker, and when a mere youth had distinguished 
himself by the invention of an improvement in 
escapements, which was stolen by another watch- 
maker, who announced it as his own. Beaumar- 
chais appealed to the Academy of Sciences in a 
most cleverly written petition, and it decided in his 
favor. Great attention had been drawn to him by 
the contest ; he appeared at court, and was soon 
making wonderful little watches for the king and 
queen ; he became a favorite, the familiar friend of 
the king's daughters, and his career as an adven- 
turer, courtier, and speculator began. A most won- 
derful genius, typical in many ways of his century, 
few men have ever lived who could play so many 
parts, and his excellent biographer, Lomenie, has 
summed up the occupations in which he excelled : 

"Watch-maker, musician, song writer, dramatist, comic writer, 
man of fashion, courtier, man of business, financier, manufacturer, 
publisher, ship-owner, contractor, secret agent, negotiator, pam- 
phleteer, orator on certain occasions, a peaceful man by taste, and 



yet always at law, engaging, like Figaro, in every occupation, Beau- 
marchais was concerned in most of the events, great or small, which 
preceded the Revolution." 

He traded all over the world, and made three or 
four fortunes and lost them ; he had at times forty 
vessels of his own on the ocean, and his private 
man-of-war assisted the French navy at the battle 
of Grenada. In fact, he was like his great con- 
temporary, Voltaire, who, besides being a dramatist, 
a philosopher, a man of letters, and a reformer, was 
one of the ablest business men of France, a ship- 
owner, contractor, and millionaire. 

The resemblance of Franklin to these two men is 
striking. He showed the same versatility of talents, 
though perhaps in less degree. He had the same 
strange ability to excel at the same time in both lit- 
erary and practical affairs, he had very much the 
same opinion on religion, and his morals, like Vol- 
taire's, were somewhat irregular. When we connect 
with this his wonderful reputation in France, the 
adoration of the people, and the strange way in 
which during his residence in Paris he became part 
of the French nation, we are almost led to believe 
that through some hidden process the causes which 
produced Franklin must have been largely of French 
origin. He is, indeed, more French than English, 
and seems to belong with Beaumarchais and Voltaire 
rather than with Chatham, Burke, or Priestley. 

But to return to Beaumarchais and the Revolu- 
tion. He was carried away by the importance of 
the rebellion in America, and devoted his whole 
soul to bringing France to the assistance of the 



colonies. He argued with the court and the king, 
visited London repeatedly in the secret service of 
his government, and became more than ever con- 
vinced of the weakness of Great Britain. 

The plan which the French ministry now adopted 
was to aid the colonies in secret and avoid for the 
present an open breach with England. Arms were 
to be sent to one of the French West India islands, 
where the governor would find means of delivering 
them to the Americans. Soon, however, this method 
was changed as too dangerous, and in place of it 
Beaumarchais established in Paris a business house, 
which he personally conducted under the name of 
Roderique Hortalez & Company. He did this at 
the request of the government, and his biographer, 
De Lomenie, has given us a statement of the ar- 
rangement in language which he assumes Vergennes 
must have used in giving instructions to Beaumar- 
chais : 

" The operation must essentially in the eyes of the English govern- 
ment, and even in the eyes of the Americans, have the appearance 
of an individual speculation, to which the French ministers are 
strangers. That it may be so in appearance, it must also be so, to a 
certain point, in reality. We will give a million secretly, we will try 
to induce the court of Spain to unite with us in this affair, and supply 
you on its side with an equal sum ; with these two millions and the 
co-operation of individuals who will be willing to take part in your 
enterprise you will be able to found a large house of commerce, and 
at your own risk can supply America with arms, ammunition, articles 
of equipment, and all other ankles necessary for keeping up the 
war. Our arsenals will give you arms and ammunition, but you 
shall replace them or shall pay for them. You shall ask for no 
money from the Americans, as they have none ; but you shall ask 
them for returns in products of their soil, and we will help you to 
get rid of them in this country, while you shall grant them, on your 



side, every facility possible. In a word, the operation, after being 
secretly supported by us at the commencement, must afterwards feed 
and support itself ; but, on the other side, as we reserve to ourselves 
the right of favoring or discouraging it, according to the require- 
ments of our policy, you shall render us an account of your profits 
and your losses, and we will judge whether we are to accord you 
fresh assistance, or give you an acquittal for the sums previously 
granted." (De Lomenie's Beaumarchais, p. 273.) 

It was in June, 1776, that Beaumarchais started 
his extraordinary enterprise in the Rue Vieille du 
Temple, in a large building called the Hotel de 
Hollande, which had formerly been used as the resi- 
dence of the Dutch ambassador. The million francs 
was paid to him by the French government, another 
million by Spain in September, and still another 
million by France in the following year. So with 
the greatest hopefulness and delight he began ship- 
ping uniforms, arms, ammunition, and all sorts of 
supplies to America. He had at times great diffi- 
culty in getting his laden ships out of port The 
French government was perfectly willing that they 
should go, and always affected to know nothing about 
them. But Lord Stormont, the British ambassador, 
would often discover their destination and protest in 
most vigorous and threatening language. Then the 
French ministry would appear greatly surprised and 
stop the ships. This process was repeated during 
two years, a curious triangular, half-masked con- 
test between Beaumarchais, Lord Stormont, and the 

" If government caused my vessels to be unloaded in one port, I 
sent them secretly to reload at a distance in the roads. Were they 
stopped under their proper names, I changed them immediately, or 



made pretended sales, and put them anew under fictitious commis- 
sions. Were obligations in writing exacted from my captains to go 
nowhere but to the West India Islands, powerful gratifications on 
my part made them yield again to my wishes. Were they sent to 
prison. on their return for disobedience, I then doubled their grati- 
fications to keep their zeal from cooling, and consoled them with 
gold for the rigor of our government." 

In this way he sent to the colonies within a year 
eight vessels with supplies worth six million francs. 
Sometimes, in spite of all efforts, one of his vessels 
with a valuable cargo was obliged to sail direct to 
the West Indies, and could go nowhere else. In one 
instance of this sort he wrote to his agent Francy, 
in America, to have several American privateers sent 
to the West Indies to seize the vessel. 

" My captain will protest violently, and will draw up a written 
statement threatening to make his complaint to the Congress. The 
vessel will be taken where you are. The Congress will loudly dis- 
avow the action of the brutal privateer, and will set the vessel at 
liberty with polite apologies to the French flag ; during this time you 
will land the cargo, fill the ship with tobacco, and send it back to 
me as quickly as possible, with all you may happen to have ready 
to accompany it." 

Imagination is sometimes a very valuable quality 
in practical affairs, and this neat description by the 
man of letters was actually carried out in every 
detail and with complete success by his agent in 
America. He was certainly a valuable ambassador 
of the colonies, this wonderful Beaumarchais ; but 
he suffered severely for his devotion. Under his 
agreement with his government, the government's 
outlay was to be paid back gradually by American 



produce ; but Congress would not send the produce, 
or sent it so slowly that Beaumarchais was threat- 
ened with ruin, and suffered the torturing anxiety 
which comes with the conviction that those for 
whom you are making the greatest sacrifices are 
indifferent and incapable of gratitude. 

It was in vain that he appealed to Congress ; for 
Arthur Lee was continually informing that body 
that he was a fraud and his claims groundless, be- 
cause the French government intended that all the 
supplies sent through Hortalez & Co. should be a 
free gift to the revolted colonies. Lee may have 
sincerely believed this ; but it was very unfortunate, 
because more than two years elapsed before Con- 
gress became convinced that the supplies were not 
entirely a present, and voted Beaumarchais its 
thanks and some of the money he claimed. A large 
part of his claims were never paid. For fifty years 
there was a controversy about "the lost million," 
and for its romantic history the reader is referred 
to De Lomenie, Durand's " New Material for the 
History of the American Revolution," and Dr. 
Stille's "Beaumarchais and the Lost Million." 

But he was not the only person who suffered. 
The truth is that the whole arrangement made by 
Congress for conducting the business in France was 
ridiculously inefficient, not to say cruel and inhu- 
man. That we got most important aid from France 
was due to the eagerness and efforts of the French 
themselves, and not to anything done by Congress. 

Franklin and his two fellow-commissioners, Silas 
Deane and Arthur Lee, had equal powers. They 



had to conduct a large and complicated business 
involving the expenditure of millions of dollars with- 
out knowing exactly where the millions were to come 
from, v and with no regular system of accounts or 
means of auditing and investigating ; their arrange- 
ments had to be largely kept secret ; they expended 
money in lump sums without always knowing what 
use was made of it ; they were obliged to rely on the 
assistance of all sorts of people, naval agents, com- 
mercial agents, and others for whose occupation there 
was no exact name ; and they had no previous expe- 
rience or precedents to guide them. On their ar- 
rival at Paris, the three commissioners found a fourth 
person, Beaumarchais, well advanced in his work, 
and accomplishing in a practical way rather more 
than any of them could hope to do. Moreover, 
Beaumarchais's arrangement was necessarily so se- 
cret that though they knew in a general way, as did 
Lord Stormont and all Paris, what he was doing, yet 
only one of them, Deane, was ever fully admitted into 
the secret, and it is probable that the other two died 
without having fully grasped the real nature and 
conditions of his service. 

That three joint commissioners of equal powers 
should conduct such an enormous business of expen- 
diture and credit for a series of years without be- 
coming entangled in the most terrible suspicions and 
bitter quarrels was in the nature of things impos- 
sible. The result was that the history of their horrible 
disputes and accusations against one another is more 
voluminous than the history of their services. Deane, 
who did more actual work than any one except 


Beaumarchais, was thoroughly and irretrievably 
ruined Arthur Lee, who accomplished very little 
besides manufacturing suspicions and charges, has 
left behind him a reputation for malevolence which 
no one will envy ; Beaumarchais suffered tortures 
which he considered almost equivalent to ruin, and 
his reputation was not entirely rescued until nearly 
half a century after his death ; and Franklin came 
nearer than ever before in his life to sinking his 
great fame in an infamy of corruption, for the at- 
tacks made upon him by Arthur Lee were a hundred 
times worse than those of Wedderburn. 

It was a terrible ordeal for the four men, those 
two years before France made an open alliance with 
the colonies, and I will add a few other circum- 
stances which contributed variety to their situation. 
Ralph Izard, of South Carolina, a very passionate 
man, was appointed by the wise Congress an envoy 
to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. He never went to 
Tuscany for the simple reason that the duke could 
not receive him without becoming embroiled with 
Great Britain ; so he was obliged to remain in Paris, 
where he assisted Lee in villifying Deane, Franklin, 
and Beaumarchais, and his letters home were full of 
attacks on their characters. 

He was not a member of the commission which 
had charge of French affairs, and yet, in the loose 
way in which all the foreign business of the colonies 
was being managed, it was perhaps natural that, as 
an energetic and able man and an American, he 
should wish to be consulted occasionally by Frank- 
lin and Deane. In a certain way he was directly 



connected with them, for he had to obtain money 
from them for some of his expenses incurred in at- 
tempting to go to Tuscany, and on this subject he 
quarrelled with Franklin, who thought that he had 
used too much. He was also obliged to apply to 
Franklin for certain papers to enable him to make a 
commercial treaty with Tuscany, and these, he said, 
Franklin had delayed supplying. He complained 
further of Franklin's neglect to answer his letters 
and obstructing his means of sending information 
to America. 

Franklin afterwards admitted that he might have 
saved himself from Izard's enmity by showing him 
a little attention ; his letters to both Izard and Lee 
were very stinging ; in fact, they were the severest 
that he ever wrote ; and Izard's charge that he de- 
layed answering letters was probably true, for we 
know from other sources that he was never orderly 
in business matters. At any rate, the result of his 
neglect of Izard was that that gentleman's hatred 
for him steadily increased to the end of his life, and 
years after Izard had left Paris he is described as 
unable to contain himself at the mention of Frank- 
lin's name, bursting out into passionate denunciation 
of him like the virtuous old ladies we are told of in 

Then there was William Lee, brother of Arthur 
Lee, appointed envoy to Berlin and Vienna, which 
places he could not reach for the same reason that 
prevented Izard from going to Tuscany. So he also 
stayed in Paris, assisted his brother Arthur, became 
a commercial agent, and had no love for either 



Franklin or Deane. There was also Dr. Edward 
Bancroft, who had no regular appointment, but 
flitted back and forth between London and Paris. 
He was intimate with Franklin, assisted Deane, knew 
the secrets of the American business in Paris, which 
knowledge Lee tells us he used for the purpose of 
speculating in London, and Bancroft the historian 
says that he was really a British spy. Thomas 
Morris, a younger brother of Robert Morris, was a 
commercial agent at Nantes, wrecked himself with 
drink, and started what came near being a serious 
dispute between Robert Morris and Franklin ; and 
Franklin himself had his own nephew, Jonathan 
Williams, employed as naval agent, which gave Lee 
a magnificent opportunity to charge that the nephew 
was in league with the uncle and with Deane to steal 
the public money and share with them the proceeds 
of the sale of prizes. 

It is impossible to go fully into all these details ; 
but we are obliged to say, in order to make the sit- 
uation plain, that Deane, being taken into the full 
confidence of Beaumarchais, conducted with him an 
immense amount of business through the firm of 
Hortalez & Co. On several occasions Franklin tes- 
tified in the warmest manner to Deane's efficiency 
and usefulness, and this testimony is the stronger 
because Franklin was never taken into the confidence 
of Beaumarchais, had no intercourse with him, and 
might be supposed to be piqued, as Lee was, by this 
neglect But the greatest secrecy was necessary, 
and Deane could not reveal his exact relationship 
with the French contractor and dramatist. So letter 



after letter was received by Congress from Lee, 
describing what dreadful fraud and corruption the 
wicked pair, Deane and Beaumarchais, were guilty 
of every day. Deane, he said, was making a fortune 
for himself by his relations with Beaumarchais, and 
was speculating in London. Deane also urged that 
Beaumarchais should be paid for the supplies, which 
were not, he said, a present from the king, and this 
Lee, of course, thought was another evidence of his 

Some of Lee's accusations are on their face 
rather far-fetched. On the charge, however, that 
Deane and Franklin's nephew, Jonathan Williams, 
were speculating on their own account in the sale 
of prizes, he quotes a letter from Williams to Deane 
which is rather strong : 

" I have been on board the prize brig. Mr. Ross tells me he has 
written to you on the subject and the matter rests whether according 
to his letter you will undertake or not ; if we take her on private 
account she must be passed but 13,000 livres." 

This, it must be confessed, looked very sus- 
picious, for Williams was in charge of the prizes, 
and by this letter he seemed prepared to act as 
both seller and purchaser and to share with Deane. 

The charge that Deane had assumed to himself the 
whole management of affairs and ignored Lee was 
undoubtedly true, and no one has ever denied it 
Franklin also ignored him, for he was an unbear- 
able man with whom no one could live at peace. 

Lee kept on with his accusations, declaring that 
Deane's accounts were in confusion. A packet of 
19 289 


despatches sent to Congress was found on its arrival 
to contain nothing but blank paper. It had evi- 
dently been opened and robbed. Lee promptly 
insinuated that Deane must have been the thief, 
and that Franklin probably assisted. 

In a letter to Samuel Adams, Lee said, 

" It is impossible to describe to you to what a degree this kind of 
intrigue has disgraced, confounded, and injured our affairs here. 
The observation of this at head-quarters has encouraged and produced 
through the whole a spirit of neglect, abuse, plunder, and intrigue in 
the public business which it has been impossible for me to prevent or 

So the evidence, or rather suspicions, piled up 
against Deane, and he was ordered home. Sup- 
posing that Congress wanted him merely for infor- 
mation about the state of France, he returned after 
the treaty of alliance was signed, coming over, as he 
thought, in triumph with Admiral D'Estaing and the 
fleet that was to assist the Americans. 

He expected to be welcomed with gratitude, but 
Congress would not notice him ; and when at last 
he was allowed to tell his story, the members of that 
body did not believe a word of it. He made public 
statements in the newspapers, fought Lee with paper 
and ink, and the curious may still read his and Lee's 
recriminations, calling one another traitors, and be- 
come more confused than ever over the controversy. 
His arguments only served to injure his case. He 
made the mistake of attacking Lee instead of merely 
defending himself, and he talked so openly about 
our affairs in France, revealing, among other things, 
the dissensions among the members of the commis- 



sion, that he was generally regarded as having 
injured our standing among the governments of 

He. struggled with Congress, and returned to 
Paris to have his accounts audited ; but it was all 
useless ; he was ruined ; and, in despair and fury at 
the injustice done him, he went over to the British, 
like Arnold, and died in poverty and obscurity. 

In America both he and Beaumarchais seem to 
have been considered rascals until far into the next 
century, when the publication of Beamarchais's life 
and the discovery of some papers by a member of the 
Connecticut Historical Society put a different face 
upon their history. Congress voted Deane's heirs 
thirty-eight thousand dollars as a recompense for the 
claims which the Continental Congress had refused 
to pay their ancestor. Indeed, the poverty in which 
Deane died was not consistent with Lee's story that 
he had been making millions by his arrangement 
with Beaumarchais. Franklin always stood by him, 
and publicly declared that in all his dealings with 
him he had never had any occasion to suspect that 
he lacked integrity. 

Lee was a Virginian, a member of the famous 
family of that name, and a younger brother of 
Richard Henry Lee, who was a member of the 
Continental Congress. Though born in Virginia, 
he was educated in England at Eton and also at 
Edinburgh, where he took the degree of doctor of 
medicine. The easy-going methods by which Frank- 
lin and Deane handled millions of dollars, sold hun- 
dreds of prizes brought in by Paul Jones and other 



American captains, and shipped cargoes of arms, 
ammunition, and clothing to America were extremely 
shocking to him. Or perhaps he was extremely 
shocked because he was not allowed a hand in it. 
But it was necessary to be prompt in giving assist- 
ance to the revolted colonies, and Franklin and 
Deane pushed the business along as best they could. 

If Congress had made a less stupid arrangement 
the embassy might have been organized on a busi- 
ness-like system in which everything would move 
by distinct, definite orders, everybody's sphere be 
defined, with a regular method of accounts in which 
every item should have its voucher. But, as Frank- 
lin himself confessed, he never could learn to be 
orderly ; and now, when he was past seventy, infirm, 
often laid up with violent attacks of the gout, with 
a huge literary and philosophic reputation to sup- 
port, tormented by Lee and Izard, the whole French 
nation insane with admiration for him, and dining 
out almost every day, it was difficult for him to do 
otherwise than as he did. 

Although the others had equal power with him, 
he was necessarily the head of the embassy, for his 
reputation was so great in France that everything 
gravitated towards him. Most people scarcely knew 
that there were two other commissioners, and the 
little they knew of Lee they did not like. Lee was 
absent part of the time on journeys to Spain, Berlin, 
and Vienna, and as Deane had started the business 
of sending supplies before either Franklin or Lee 
arrived, the conduct of affairs naturally drifted away 
from Lee. It afforded a good excuse for ignoring 



him. He was insanely suspicious, and charged John 
Jay, Reed, Duane, and other prominent Americans 
with treason, apparently without the slightest foun- 

Finding himself ignored and in an awkward and 
useless position, he should have resigned, giving his 
reasons. But he chose to stay and send private 
letters to members of Congress attacking the char- 
acters of his fellow-commissioners and intriguing to 
have himself appointed the sole envoy to France. 
Among his letters are to be found three on this 
subject, two to his brother in Congress and one to 
Samuel Adams. 

' ' There is but one way of redressing this and remedying the pub- 
lic evil ; that is the plan I before sent you of appointing the Dr. 
honoris causa to Vienna, Mr. Deane to Holland, Mr. Jennings to 
Madrid, and leaving me here." (Life of Arthur Lee, vol. ii. p. 127.) 

His attack on Franklin and his nephew, Jonathan 
Williams, was a very serious one, and was published 
in a phamphlet, entitled " Observations on Certain 
Commercial Transactions in France Laid Before 
Congress." Williams was one of Franklin's Boston 
nephews who turned up in Paris poor and with- 
out employment. Franklin was always taking care 
of his relatives with government positions, and he 
gave this one the position of naval agent at Nantes. 
He had charge of the purchase of supplies for Ameri- 
can men-of-war, sold the prizes that were brought in, 
and also bought and shipped arms and ammunition. 
It was a large business involving the handling of 
enormous sums of money, and there is no doubt that 



there were opportunities in it for making a fortune. 
Under the modern spoils system it would be re- 
garded as a precious plum which a political party 
would be justified in making almost any sacrifices to 

Franklin and Deane seem to have let Williams 
manage this department pretty much as he pleased, 
and, as has been already shown, Lee had some 
ground for suspecting that Deane was privately in- 
terested with Williams in the sale of prizes. Wil- 
liams certainly expended large sums on Deane 's 
orders alone, and he was continually calling for 
more money from the commissioners' bankers. 
Lee demanded that there should be no more orders 
signed by Deane alone, and that Williams should 
send in his accounts ; and, notwithstanding Lee's 
naturally captious and suspicious disposition, he was 
perfectly right in this. 

Deane and Williams kept demanding more money, 
and Lee asked Franklin to stop it, which he not only 
refused to do, but wrote a letter to his nephew justi- 
fying him in everything : 

" PASST, Dec. aa, 1777. 


" I received yours of the l6th and am concerned as well as you 
at the difference between Messrs. Deane and Lee, but cannot help 
it. You need, however, be under no concern as to your orders 
being only from Mr. Deane. As you have always acted uprightly 
and ably for the public service, you would be justified if you had no 
orders at all. But as he generally consulted with me and had my 
approbation in the orders he gave, and I know they were for the 
best and aimed at the public good, I hereby certify you that I ap- 
prove and join in those you received from him and desire you to 
proceed in the execution of the same." 



Williams at last sent in his accounts, and Lee 
went over them, marking some items " manifestly 
unjust," others "plainly exorbitant," and others 
" altogether unsatisfactory for want of names, dates, 
or receipts." He refused to approve the accounts, 
sent them to Congress, and asked Williams to pro- 
duce his vouchers. The vouchers, Lee tells us, 
were never produced. He asked for them again 
and again, but there was always some excuse, and 
he charges that Williams had in his possession a 
hundred thousand livres more than was accounted 
for. Finally, John Adams, who had come out to 
supersede Deane, joined with Franklin in giving 
Williams an order on the bankers for the balance 
claimed by him ; but the order expressly stated that 
it was not to be understood as an approval of his 
accounts, for which he must be responsible to Con- 
gress. Franklin appointed certain persons to audit 
the accounts, but at a time, Lee says, when they 
were on the point of sailing for America, and there- 
fore could not act. Adams seems to have been 
convinced that Williams was not all that could be 
desired, and he and Franklin soon dismissed him from 
his office, again reminding him that this was not to 
be considered as an approval of his accounts. 

Lee's charge against Franklin was that he had 
connived at the acts of his nephew and done every- 
thing possible to shield him and enable him to get 
possession of the balance of money he claimed. 
Readers must draw their own conclusions, for the 
matter was never officially investigated. It would 
have been unwise for Congress to inaugurate a pub- 



lie scandal at a time when the country was struggling 
for existence, needed all the moral and financial 
support it could obtain from Europe, and as yet saw 
no end to the Revolution. 

One more point must be noticed. Lee com- 
mented with much sarcasm on the sudden prosperity 
of Jonathan Williams. He had been clerk to a sugar- 
baker in England, and was supposed to be without 
means ; but as naval agent he soon began to call 
himself a merchant, and when waiting on the com- 
missioners charged five Louis d'ors a day for the loss 
of his time. Lee, according to some of his letters, 
had been trying for some time to have a certain 
John Lloyd, of South Carolina, appointed in the 
place of Williams ; and I shall quote part of one of 
these letters, which shows why Lee wanted Wil- 
liams' s place for one of his friends. 

" My brother and myself have conceived that as the public allow- 
ance to the commercial agent is very liberal and the situation neces- 
sarily must recommend considerable business, the person appointed 
might with the most fair and conscientious discharge of his duty to 
the public make his own fortune." (Life of Arthur Lee, vol. ii. p. 

He did not succeed in having Lloyd appointed, 
but he and his brother William secured the posi- 
tion for a friend of theirs called Schweighauser, on 
the dismissal of Williams, and this Schweighauser 
appointed a nephew of the Lees as one of his 

It should be said that although Lee and Izard 
were constantly hinting at evil practices by Frank- 
lin, and sometimes directly stigmatized him as the 



"father of corruption" and deeply involved in the 
most disreputable schemes, they never produced any 
proof that he had enriched himself or was directly 
engaged in anything discreditable. There seems to 
be no doubt that certain people were making money 
under cover of the loose way in which affairs were 
managed. Franklin must have known of this, as 
well as Adams and the other commissioners, but 
neither he nor they were enriched by it Lee's 
pamphlet goes no farther than to say that Franklin 
had shielded his nephew. John Adams, it may be 
observed, assisted in this shielding, if it can with 
justice be so called, for he signed with Franklin the 
order allowing the money to be paid to Williams 
on condition that it should not be considered an ap- 
proval of his accounts. Adams afterwards described 
very concisely the situation, and how he, with the 
others, was compelled to connive at peculations 
under the absurd system. 

" I knew it to be impossible to give any kind of satisfaction to our 
constituents, that is to Congress, or their constituents, while we 
consented or connived at such irregular transactions, such arbitrary 
proceedings, and such contemptible peculations as had been prac- 
tised in Mr. Deane's time, not only while he was in France, alone, 
without any public character, but even while he was associated with 
Dr. Franklin and Mr. Arthur Lee in a real commission ; and which 
were continued in some degree while I was combined in the com- 
mission with Franklin and Lee, in spite of all the opposition and 
remonstrance that Lee and I could make." (Adams's Works, vol. 
i. p. 657.) 

Franklin said and wrote very little on the subject 
He sent no letters to members of Congress under- 
mining the chanictwrs of his fellow-commissioners j 



the few statements that he made were exceedingly 
mild and temperate, and were usually to the effect 
that there were differences and disputes which he 
regretted. He usually invited his fellow-commis- 
sioners to dine with him every Sunday, and on these 
occasions they appeared very friendly, though at 
heart cherishing vindictive feelings towards one 

In truth, Lee and Izard wrote so much and so 
violently that they dug the graves of their own rep- 
utations. It was Dr. Johnson who said that no man 
was ever written down except by himself, and Frank- 
lin once shrewdly remarked, "spots of dirt thrown 
upon my character I suffered while fresh to remain ; 
I did not choose to spread by endeavoring to remove 
them, but relied on the vulgar adage that they would 
all rub off when they were dry. " 

General public opinion was then and has remained 
in favor of Franklin, and the prominent men of 
France were, without exception, on his side. They 
all in the end detested Lee, whose conduct showed 
a vindictive disposition, and who evidently had pur- 
poses of his own to serve. One of his pet suspicions 
was that Paul Jones was a rascal in league with the 
other rascal, Franklin, and he protests in a letter to 
a member of Congress against Jones being "kept 
upon a cruising job of Chaumont and Dr. Frank- 
lin." Jones, he predicted, would not return from 
this cruise, but would go over to the enemy. 

Franklin's service in France may be divided into 
four periods. First, from his arrival in December, 
1 776, until February, 1 778, during which two years 



he and Deane conducted the business as best they 
could and quarrelled with Lee and Izard. Second, 
the year from February, 1778, until February, 1779, 
during which John Adams was in Paris in the place 
of Silas Deane. Third, some of the remaining 
months of 1779, during which, although Franklin 
was sole plenipotentiary to France, Lee, Izard, and 
others still retained their appointments to other 
countries, and remained in Paris, continuing the 
quarrels more viciously than ever. They were re- 
called towards the close of 1779, and from that time 
dates the fourth period, during which Franklin en- 
joyed the sole control, unassailed by the swarm of 
hornets which had made his life a burden. 

I have already described most of the first period 
as briefly as possible ; its full treatment would re- 
quire a volume. All that remains is to describe the 
act with which it closed, the signing of the treaty 
of alliance. This treaty, which secured the success 
of our Revolution by giving us the assistance of a 
French army and fleet, was the result of unforeseen 
events, ^nd was not obtained by the labors of Frank- 
lin or those of any of the commissioners. 

France had been anxious to ally herself with us 
during the first two years of the Revolution, but 
dared not, because there was apparently no prospect 
that we would be successful. In fact, all the indica- 
tions pointed to failure. Washington was every- 
where defeated ; had been driven from New York, 
lost the battle of the Brandywine, lost Philadelphia, 
and then the news arrived in Europe that Burgoyne 
was moving from Canada down the Hudson, and 



would be joined by Howe from New York. This 
would cut the colonies in half; separate New Eng- 
land, the home of the Revolution, from the Middle and 
Southern Colonies and result in our total subjugation. 

The situation of the commissioners in Paris was 
dismal enough at this time. They had been success- 
ful at first, with the aid of Beaumarchais ; but now 
Beaumarchais was in despair at the ingratitude of 
Congress and its failure to pay him ; no more prizes 
were coming in, for the British fleets had combined 
against the American war vessels and driven them 
from the ocean ; the commissioners had spent all 
their money, and Franklin proposed that they 
should sell what clothing and arms they had been 
unable to ship and pay their debts as far as possible 
with the proceeds. At any moment they might 
hear that they had neither country nor flag, that the 
Revolution had collapsed, and that they must spend 
the rest of their lives in France as pensioners on the 
royal bounty, daring to go neither to America nor 
to England, where they would be hung as ring- 
leaders of the rebels. 

In their dire extremity they forgot their animosi- 
ties, and one is reminded of those pictures of the 
most irreconcilable wild animals foxes and hares, or 
wolves and wild-cats seeking refuge together from 
a flood on a floating log. In public they kept a 
bold front, in spite of the sneers of the English resi- 
dents in Paris and the shrugging shoulders of the 

"Well, doctor," said an Englishman to Franklin, 
" Howe has taken Philadelphia." 



" I beg your pardon, sir ; Philadelphia has taken 

But in his heart Franklin was bowed down with 
anxiety and apprehension. We all know what hap- 
pened. Burgoyne and Howe failed to connect, and 
Burgoyne surrendered his army to the American 
general, Gates. That was the turning-point of the 
Revolution, and there was now no doubt in France 
of the final issue. A young man, Jonathan Austin, 
of Massachusetts, was sent on a swift ship to carry 
the news to Paris. The day his carriage rolled into 
the court-yard of Chaumont's house at Passy, Frank- 
lin, Deane, both the Lees, Izard, Beaumarchais, in 
fact, all the snarling and quarrelling agents, were 
there, debating, no doubt, where they would drag 
out the remains of their miserable lives. 

They all rushed out to see Austin, and Franklin 
addressed to him one sad question which they all 
wanted answered, whether Philadelphia really was 

"Yes, sir," said Austin. 

The old philosopher clasped his hands and was 
stumbling back into the house. 

" But, sir, I have greater news than that General 
Burgoyne and his whole army are prisoners of war." 

Beaumarchais drove his carriage back to Paris so 
fast that it was overturned and his arm dislocated. 
Austin relates that for a long time afterwards Frank- 
lin would often sit musing and dreaming and then 
break out, " Oh, Mr. Austin, you brought us glorious 

Austin had arrived on December 3, 1 777. On the 


6th of the same month the French government re- 
quested the commissioners to renew their proposals 
for an alliance. Eleven days after that they were 
told that the treaty would be made, and within two 
months, namely, on February 6, 1778, after full 
discussion of all the details, it was signed. This was 
certainly very prompt action on the part of France 
and shows her eagerness. 

On the day that he signed the treaty, Franklin, it 
is said, wore the same suit of Manchester velvet in 
which he had been dressed when Wedderburn made 
his attack upon him before the Privy Council in Lon- 
don, and after the signing it was never worn again. 
When asked if there had not been some special 
meaning attached to the wearing of these clothes at 
the signing, he would make no other reply than a 
smile. It was really beautiful philosophic ven- 
geance, and adds point to Walpole's epigram on 
the scene before the Council : 

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

There was much discussion among the three 
envoys over the terms of the treaty, and their love 
for one another was not increased. The principal 
part of Izard's bitterness against Franklin is sup- 
posed to have begun at this time. Lee made a 
point on the question of molasses. In the first 
draft of the treaty it was agreed that France should 
never lay an export duty on any molasses taken 



from her West India islands by Americans. Ver- 
gennes objected that this was not fair, as the Amer- 
icans bound themselves to no equivalent restriction 
on their own exports. Franklin suggested a clause 
that, in consideration of France agreeing to lay no 
export duty on molasses, the United States should 
agree to lay no export duty on any article taken by 
Frenchmen from America, and this was accepted 
by Vergennes. 

Lee, however, objected that we were binding our- 
selves on every article of export, while France bound 
herself on only one. In this he was entirely right, 
and it was not an officious interference, as Franklin's 
biographers have maintained. He pressed his point 
so hard that it was finally agreed with the French 
government that Congress might accept or reject 
the whole arrangement on this question, if it saw fit 
Congress supported Lee and rejected it 

The signing of the treaty of course rendered 
Beaumarchais's secret work through Hortalez & Co. 
of less importance. France was now the open ally 
of the United States ; the French government need 
no longer smuggle arms and clothing into America, 
but was preparing to send a fleet and an army to 
assist the insurgents, as they were still called in Paris. 
All this rendered the labors of the embassy lighter 
and less complicated. 

In April, 1778, a few months after the signing of 
the treaty, John Adams, after a most dangerous and 
adventurous voyage across the Atlantic, arrived to 
take the place of Silas Deane. He has left us a 
very full account of the condition of affairs and his 



efforts at reform. Franklin's biographers have been 
sorely puzzled to know what to do with these criti- 
cisms ; but any one who will take the trouble to 
read impartially all that Adams has said, and not 
merely extracts from it, will easily be convinced of 
his fairness. He makes no mistake about Lee ; 
speaks of him as a man very difficult to get on with, 
and describes Izard in the same way. There is not 
the slightest evidence that these two men poisoned 
his mind against Franklin. He does not side with 
them entirely ; but, on the contrary, in the changes 
he undertook to make was sometimes on their side 
and sometimes against them. He held the scales 
very evenly. 

Lee wanted all the papers of the embassy brought 
to his own house, and Adams wrote him a letter 
which certainly shows that Adams had not gone over 
to the Lee party, and is also an example of the efforts 
he was making to improve the situation. 

" I have not asked Dr. Franklin's opinion concerning your pro- 
posal of a room in your bouse for the papers, and an hour to meet 
there, because I know it would be in vain ; for I think it must 
appear to him more unequal still. It cannot be expected, that two 
should go to one, when it is as easy again for one to go to two ; not 
to mention Dr. Franklin's age, his rank in the country, or his char- 
acter in the world ; nor that nine-tenths of the public letters are 
constantly brought to this house, and will ever be carried where Dr. 
Franklin is. I will venture to make a proposition in my turn, in 
which I am very sincere ; it is that you would join families with us. 
There is room enough in this house to accommodate us all. You 
shall take the apartments which belong to me at present, and I will 
content myself with the library room and the next to it. Appoint a 
room for business, any that you please, mine or another, a person to 
keep the papers, and certain hours to do business. This arrange- 
ment will save a large sum of money to the public, and, as it would 



give us a thousand opportunities of conversing together, which now 
we have not, and, by having but one place for our countrymen and 
others to go to, who have occasion to visit us, would greatly facilitate 
the public business. It would remove the reproach we lie under, 
of which I cpnfess myself very much ashamed, of not being able to 
agree together, and would make the commission more respectable, 
if not in itself, yet in the estimation of the English, the French, and 
the American nations ; and, I am sure, if we judge by the letters we 
receive, it wants to be made more respectable, at least in the eyes 
of many persons of this country." (Bigelow's Franklin from His 
Own Writings, vol. ii. p. 424.) 

Adams had none of the rancor of Lee and Izard, 
but he tells us candidly that he found the public 
business in great confusion. It had never been 
methodically conducted. " There never was before 
I came a minute book, a letter book, or an ac- 
count book ; and it is not possible to obtain a 
clear idea of our affairs." Of Deane he says that 
he "lived expensively, and seems not to have had 
much order in his business, public or private ; but 
he was active, diligent, subtle, and successful, having 
accomplished the great purpose of his mission to 

Adams procured blank books and devoted him- 
self to assorting the papers of the office at Passy, 
where Franklin had allowed everything to lie about 
in the greatest confusion. He found that too many 
people had been making money out of the em- 
bassy, and of these Jonathan Williams appears to 
have been one. He united with Lee in demanding 
Williams's accounts, and compelled Franklin to join 
in dismissing him. A man named Ross was another 
delinquent who was preying on the embassy, and 
the arrangement by which he was allowed to do it is 



described by Adams as "more irregular, more in- 
consistent with the arrangement of Congress and 
every way more unjustifiable than even the case of 
Mr. Williams." 

He gives us many glimpses of Franklin's life, his 
gayety, the bright stories he told, and his wonderful 
reputation among the French. An interesting young 
lady, Mademoiselle de Passy, was a great favorite 
with Franklin, who used to call her his flame and 
his love. She married a man whose name trans- 
lated into English would be "Marquis of Thunder." 
The next time Madame de Chaumont met Franklin, 
she cried out, "Alas ! all the conductors of Mr. 
Franklin could not prevent the thunder from falling 
on Mademoiselle de Passy." 

Adams was at the Academy of Sciences when 
Franklin and Voltaire were present, and a general 
cry arose among the sensation -loving people that 
these two wonderful men should be introduced to 
each other. They accordingly bowed and spoke. 
But this was not enough, and the two philosophers 
could not understand what more was wanted. They 
took each other by the hand ; but still the clamor 
continued. Finally it was explained to them that 
"they must embrace in French fashion." The two 
old men immediately began hugging and kissing 
each other, which satisfied the company, and the 
cry spread through the whole country, " How beau- 
tiful it was to see Solon and Sophocles embrace !" 

Some of Adams's criticisms and estimates of 
Franklin, though not satisfactory to his eulogists, 
are, on the whole, exceedingly just 



"That he was a great genius, a great wit, a great humorist, a 
great satirist, and a great politician is certain. That he was a great 
philosopher, a great moralist, and a great statesman is more ques- 
tionable." (Adams's Works, vol. Hi. p. 139.) 

This brief statement will bear the test of very 
close investigation. Full credit, it will be observed, 
is given to his qualities as a humorous and satirical 
writer, and even as a politician. The word politician 
is used very advisedly, for up to that time Franklin 
had done nothing that would raise him beyond that 
class into statesmanship. 

He had had a long career in Pennsylvania poli- 
tics, where his abilities were confined to one prov- 
ince, and in the attempt to change the colony into 
a royal government he had been decidedly in the 
wrong. While representing Pennsylvania, Massa- 
chusetts, and Georgia in England from the time of 
the Stamp Act until the outbreak of the Revolution, 
he had accomplished nothing, except that his exam- 
ination before Parliament had encouraged the col- 
onists to persist in their opposition ; he had got 
himself into a very bad scrape about the Hutchin- 
son letters ; and his plan of reconciliation with the 
mother country had broken down. In France, the 
government being already very favorable to the 
colonies, there was but little for the embassy to do 
except to conduct the business of sending supplies 
and selling prizes, and in this Deane and Beaumar- 
chais did most of the work, while Franklin had 
kept no accounts, had allowed his papers to get 
into confusion, was utterly unable to keep the 
envoys in harmony, and had not made any effective 


appeal to Congress to change the absurd system 
which permitted the sending to a foreign country 
of three commissioners with equal powers. In the 
last years of his mission in France he did work 
which was more valuable ; but it was not until some 
years afterwards, when he was past eighty and on the 
verge of the grave, that he accomplished in the 
Constitutional Convention of 1787 the one act of 
his life which may be called a brilliant stroke of 

His qualities as a moralist have been discussed in 
a previous chapter which fully justifies Adams's as- 
sertion. As a philosopher, by which Adams meant 
what we now call a man of science, Franklin was 
distinguished, but not great It could not be said 
that he deserved to be ranked with Kepler or New- 
ton. His discovery of the nature of lightning was 
picturesque and striking, and had given him popular 
renown, but it could not put him in the front rank 
of discoverers. 

In a later passage in his Diary Adams attempts 
to combat the French idea that Franklin was the 
American legislator. 

"'Yes,' said M. Marbois, 'he is celebrated as the great philos- 
opher and the great legislator of America. ' ' He is, ' said I, ' a 
great philosopher, but as a legislator of America he has done very 
little. It is universally believed in France, England, and all 
Europe, that his electric wand has accomplished all this revolution. 
But nothing is more groundless. He has done very little. It is 
believed that he made all the American constitutions and their con- 
federation ; but he made neither. He did not even make the con- 
stitution of Pennsylvania, bad as it is.' . . . 

"I said that Mr. Franklin had great merit as a philosopher. His 
discoveries in electricity were very grand, and he certainly was a 


(From a French engraving) 


great genius, and had great merit in our American affairs. But he 
had no title to the ' legislator of America.' M. Marbois said he had 
wit and irony ; but these were not the faculties of statesmen. His 
Essay upon the true means of bringing a great Empire to be a small 
one was very pretty. I said he had wrote many things which had 
great merit, and infinite wit and ingenuity. His Bonhomme Richard 
was a very ingenious thing, which had been so much celebrated in 
France, gone through so many editions, and been recommended by 
curates and bishops to so many parishes and dioceses. 

" M. Marbois asked, ' Are natural children admitted in America 
to all privileges like children born in wedlock ?' . . . M. Marbois 
said this, no doubt, in allusion to Mr. F.'s natural son, and natural 
son of a natural son. I let myself thus freely into this conversation, 
being led on naturally by the Chevalier and M. Marbois on purpose, 
because I am sure it cannot be my duty, nor the interest of my 
country, that I should conceal any of my sentiments of this man, at 
the same time that I do justice to his merits. It would be worse 
than folly to conceal my opinion of his great faults." (Adams's 
Works, vol. iii. p. 22O.) 

The French always believed that Franklin was 
the originator of the Revolution, and that he was a 
sort of Solon who had prepared laws for all the 
revolted colonies, directed their movements, and 
revised all their state papers and public documents. 
It was under the influence of this notion that they 
worshipped him as the personification of liberty. It 
must have been extremely irritating to Adams and 
others to find the French people assuming that the 
old patriarch in his fur cap had emancipated in the 
American woods a rude and strange people who 
without him could not have taken care of them- 
selves. But, protest as they might, they never could 
persuade the French to give up their ideal, and this 
was undoubtedly the foundation of a great deal of 
the hostility to Franklin which showed itself in Con- 



In 1811, long after Franklin's death, Adams wrote 
a newspaper article defending himself against some 
complaints that Franklin had made, of which I shall 
have more to say hereafter. It is a most vigorous 
piece of writing, and, in spite of some unfounded 
suspicions which it contains and the bluster and 
egotism so characteristic of its author, is by far the 
most searching and fairest criticism of Franklin that 
was ever written : 

" His reputation was more universal than that of Leibnitz or 
Newton, Frederick or Voltaire, and his character more beloved and 
esteemed than any or all of them. . . . His name was familiar to 
government and people, to kings and courtiers, nobility, clergy and 
philosophers, as well as plebeians, to such a degree that there was 
scarcely a peasant or a citizen, a valet de chambre, coachman or 
footman, a lady's chambermaid or a scullion in a kitchen who was 
not familiar with it, and who did not consider him as a friend to 
human kind." (Adams's Works, vol. i. p. 660.) 

A large part of this reputation rested, Adams 
thought, on great talents and qualities, but the rest 
was artificial, the result of peculiar circumstances 
which had exaggerated the importance of Franklin's 
opinions and actions. The whole tribe of printers 
and newspaper editors in Europe and America had 
become enamoured and proud of him as a member 
of their body. Every day in the year they filled 
the magazines, journals, pamphlets, and all the ga- 
zettes of Europe " with incessant praise of Monsieur 
Franklin." From these gazettes could be collected 
" a greater number of panegyrical paragraphs upon 
' le grand Franklin' than upon any other man that 
ever lived." He had become a member of two of 
the most powerful democratic and liberal bodies in 



Europe, the Encyclopedists and the Society of 
Economists, and thus effectually secured their devo- 
tion and praise. All the people of that time who 
were reusing discontent in Europe and preparing the 
way for the French Revolution counted Franklin as 
one of themselves. When he took part in the Amer- 
ican Revolution their admiration knew no bounds. 
He was " the magician who had excited the ignorant 
Americans to resistance," and he would soon "abol- 
ish monarchy, aristocracy, and hierarchy throughout 
the world." But most important of all in building 
up his reputation was the lightning-rod. 

" Nothing," says Adams, " perhaps, that ever occurred upon the 
earth was so well calculated to give any man an extensive and uni- 
versal a celebrity as the discovery of the efficacy of iron points and 
the invention of lightning-rods. The idea was one of the most sub- 
lime that ever entered a human imagination, that a mortal should dis- 
arm the clouds of heaven, and almost ' snatch from his hand the 
sceptre and the rod.' The ancients would have enrolled him with 
Bacchus and Ceres, Hercules and Minerva. His paratonnerres 
erected their heads in all parts of the world, on temples and palaces 
no less than on cottages of peasants and the habitations of ordinary 
citizens. These visible objects reminded all men of the name and 
character of their inventor ; and in the course of time have not only 
tranquillized the minds and dissipated the fears of the tender sex and 
their timorous children, but have almost annihilated that panic, terror, 
and superstitious horror which was once almost universal in violent 
storms of thunder and lightning." (Adams's Works, vol. I. p. 66 1.) 

The Latin motto universally applied to Franklin 
at this time, Eripuit ccelo fulmen septrumque tyrannis, 
has usually been attributed to Turgot, the French 
Minister of Finance ; but Adams believed that Sir 
William Jones was the author of it Turgot made 
an alteration in it As usually understood, the last 



half referred to the American colonies delivered 
from the oppression of Great Britain ; but as Frank- 
lin grew to be more and more the favorite of that 
large class of people in Europe who were opposed 
to monarchy, and who believed that he would soon 
be instrumental in destroying or dethroning all kings 
and abolishing all monarchical government, Turgot 
suggested that the motto should read, Eripuit ccelo 
fulmen ; max septra tyrannis, which may be freely 
translated, " He has torn the lightning from the sky ; 
soon he will tear their sceptres from the kings." 

At first Adams took the quarrelling lightly, trying 
to ignore and keep clear of it ; but in a little while he 
confesses that " the uncandor, the prejudices, the rage 
among several persons here make me sick as death." 
After about a month he was so disgusted with the 
service, so fully convinced that the public business 
was being delayed and neglected on account of the 
disputes, that he determined to try to effect a change. 
He therefore wrote to Samuel Adams, then in Con- 
gress, declaring that the affairs of the embassy were 
in confusion, prodigious sums of money expended, 
large sums yet due, but no account-books or docu- 
ments ; the commissioners lived expensively, each 
one at the rate of from three to six thousand pounds 
a year ; this would necessarily continue as long as 
their salaries were not definitely fixed, and it would 
be impossible to get an account of the expenditure 
of the public money. Equally ridiculous was the 
arrangement which made the envoys half ambassa- 
dors and half commercial agents. Instead of all 
this he suggested that Congress separate the offices 



(From a French engraving' 


of public ministers from those of commercial agents, 
recall all the envoys except one, define with pre- 
cision the salary he should receive, and see that he 
got no more. 

This is what Lee should have done long before. 
Franklin had indeed recommended a change in one 
of his letters, but not with such force as to cause its 
adoption. Now that Adams had set the example, 
they all wrote letters in the succeeding months beg- 
ging for reform. The wisdom of Adams's plan was 
so apparent that when the facts were laid before 
Congress it was quickly adopted and Franklin made 
sole plenipotentiary. 

But Lee and Izard retained their missions to other 
countries and remained in Paris, renewing their dis- 
cussions and attacks on Franklin until the subject 
was again brought before Congress, and it was pro- 
posed to order all of them back to America and 
send others in their stead. Franklin had a narrow 
escape. The large committee which had the ques- 
tion before it was at one time within a couple of 
votes of recalling him and sending Arthur Lee in 
his place, which, whatever were the failings of 
Franklin, would have been a terrible misfortune. 
The French minister to the United States, M. 
Gerard, came to the rescue. He disclosed the ex- 
treme favor with which the French government re- 
garded Franklin and its detestation of Lee. Frank- 
lin's wonderful reputation in Europe saved him, for 
it would have been folly to recall under a cloud the 
one man whom our allies took such delight in 


CONGRESS not only refused to recall Franklin, but 
relieved him entirely of the presence of Lee and 
Izard, so that the remaining six years of his service 
were peaceful and can be very briefly described. 
The improvement in the management of the em- 
bassy which immediately followed shows what a 
serious mistake the previous arrangement had been. 
Left entirely to his own devices, and master of the 
situation, he began the necessary reforms of his own 
accord, had complete books of account prepared, 
and managed the business without difficulty. 

It is curious to read of the diverse functions the 
old man of seventy-four had to perform in this in- 
fancy of our diplomatic service. He was a merchant, 
banker, judge of admiralty, consul, director of the 
navy, ambassador to France, and negotiator with 
England for the exchange of prisoners and for peace, 
in addition to attending to any other little matter, 
personal or otherwise, which our representatives to 
other countries or the individual States of the Union 
might ask of him. The crudeness of the situation 
is revealed when we remember that not only was 
Congress obtaining loans of money and supplies of 
arms in Europe, but several of the States were doing 
the same thing, and it was often rather difficult for 


Franklin to assist them all without discrimination or 

Paul Jones and the other captains of our navy 
who were cruising against British commerce on that 
side of the Atlantic made their head-quarters in 
French ports, and were necessarily under the direc- 
tion of Franklin because the great distance made it 
impossible to communicate with Congress without 
months of delay. That they were lively sailors we 
may judge from the exploits of the " Black Prince," 
which in three months on the English coast took 
thirty-seven prizes, and brought in seventy-five 
within a year. Franklin had to act as a court of 
admiralty in the matter of prizes and their cargoes, 
settle disputes between the officers and men, quiet 
discontent about their pay by advancing money, 
decide what was to be done with mutineers, and see 
that ships were refitted and repaired A couple of 
quotations from one of his letters to Congress will 
give some idea of his duties : 

" In the mean time, I may just mention some particulars of our 
disbursements. Great quantities of clothing, arms, ammunition, 
and naval stores, sent from time to time ; payment of bills from Mr. 
Bingham, one hundred thousand livres ; Congress bills in favor of 
Haywood & Co., above two hundred thousand; advanced to Mr. 
Ross, about twenty thousand pounds sterling ; paid Congress drafts 
in favor of returned officers, ninety-three thousand and eighty 
livres ; to our prisoners in England, and after their escape to help 
them home, and to other Americans here in distress, a great sum, I 
cannot at present say how much ; supplies to Mr. Hodge for fitting 
out Captain Conyngham, very considerable ; for the freight of ships 
to carry over the supplies, great sums ; to Mr. William Lee and Mr. 
Izard, five thousand five hundred pounds sterling ; and for fitting 
the frigates Raleigh, Alfred, Boston, Providence, Alliance, Ranger, 
c., I imagine not less than sixty or seventy thousand livres each, 


taken one with another; and for the maintenance of the English 
prisoners, I believe, when I get in all the accounts, I shall find one 
hundred thousand livres not sufficient, having already paid above 
sixty-five thousand on that article. And now, 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." 

"With regard to the fitting out of ships, receiving and disposing 
of cargoes, and purchasing of supplies, I beg leave to mention, that, 
besides my being wholly unacquainted with such business, the dis- 
tance I am from the ports renders my having anything to do with it 
extremely inconvenient. Commercial agents have indeed been 
appointed by Mr. William Lee ; but they and the captains are con- 
tinually writing for my opinion or orders, or leave to do this or that, 
by which much tune is lost to them, and much of mine taken up to 
little purpose, from my ignorance. I see clearly, however, that 
many of the captains are exorbitant in their demands, and in some 
cases I think those demands are too easily complied with by the 
agents, perhaps because the commissions are in proportion to the 
expense. I wish, therefore, the Congress would appoint the consuls 
they have a right to appoint by the treaty, and put into their hands 
all that sort of employment. I have in my desk, I suppose, not less 
than fifty applications from different ports, praying the appointment, 
and offering to serve gratis for the honor of it, and the advantage it 
gives in trade ; but I imagine, that, if consuls are appointed, they 
will be of our own people from America, who, if they should make 
fortunes abroad, might return with them to their country." 

He was, in fact, deciding questions and assuming 
responsibilities which with other nations and after- 
wards with our own belonged to the home govern- 
ment He had great discretionary power, an in- 
stance of which may be given in connection with 
the subject which was then agitating European 
countries, of "free ships, free goods." He wrote to 
Congress, telling that body how the matter stood : 

*' Whatever may formerly have been the law of nations, all the 
neutral powers at the instance of Russia seem at present disposed to 



change it, and to enforce the rule that free ships shall make free 
goods, except in the case of contraband. Denmark, Sweden, and 
Holland have already acceded to the proposition, and Portugal is 
expected to follow. France and Spain, in their answers, have also 
expressed their approbation of it. I have, therefore, instructed our 
privateers to bring in no more neutral ships, as such prizes occasion 
much litigation, and create ill blood." 

He did not know whether Congress would approve 
of this new rule of law, but he took his chances. 
He was not the first person to suggest the principle 
of " free ships, free goods," nor was he a prominent 
advocate of it, as has sometimes been implied ; for 
his letter shows that Russia had suggested this im- 
provement in the rules of international law, and that 
other nations were accepting it He, however, urged 
on a number of occasions that war should be con- 
fined exclusively to regularly organized armies and 
fleets, that privateering should be abolished, that 
merchant vessels should be free from capture even 
by men-of-war, and that fishermen, farmers, and all 
who were engaged in supplying the necessaries of 
life should be allowed to pursue their avocations 
unmolested. The world has not yet caught up with 
this suggestion. 

The great difficulty during the last two or three 
years of the Revolution was the want of money. 
The supplies sent out by Beaumarchais and Deane 
in the early part of the struggle merely served to 
start it In the long run expenses increased enor- 
mously, the resources of the country were drained, 
the paper money depreciated with terrible rapidity, 
and we were compelled to continue borrowing from 
France or Holland. We borrowed principal and 


then borrowed more to pay the interest on the prin- 
cipal, and a large part of this business passed through 
Franklin's hands. 

He persuaded the French government to lend, 
and then to lend again to pay interest He was 
regarded as the source from which all the money 
was to come. Congress drew on him, John Jay in 
Spain drew on him, he had to pay salaries and the 
innumerable expenses appertaining to the fitting out 
and repairing of ships and the exchange of pris- 
oners. These calls upon him were made often from 
a long distance, with a sort of blind confidence that 
he would in some way manage to meet them. A 
captain in the West Indies would run his ship into a 
port to be careened, refitted, and supplied, and 
coolly draw on him for the expense. It was ex- 
tremely dangerous sometimes to refuse to accept a 
bill presented to him, and, as he said to Congress, 
if a single draft for interest on a loan went to protest 
there would be "dreadful consequences of ruin to 
our public credit both in America and Europe." 

He suffered enough anxiety and strain to have 
destroyed some men. When Jay went to Spain in 
1780, Congress was so sure he would obtain money 
from that monarchy that it drew on him. But as Jay 
could not get a cent, he forwarded the drafts to 
Franklin, who in reply wrote, "the storm of bills 
which I found coming upon us both has terrified and 
vexed me to such a degree that I have been de- 
prived of sleep, and so much indisposed by con- 
tinual anxiety as to be rendered almost incapable of 
writing." He would have gone under in this storm 



if he had not persuaded the French government to 
come to his rescue. 

He was also from time to time receiving all sorts 
of proposals of peace from emissaries or agents of 
the British government ; and he had a long corre- 
spondence on this subject with David Hartley, who 
helped him to arrange the exchange of prisoners in 
England. Nearly all these proposals contained a 
trap of some kind, as that we should break our 
alliance with France and then England would treat 
with us, or that there should be a peace without a 
definite recognition of independence ; and some of 
them may have been intended to entrap Franklin 
himself. It was, in any event, most dangerous and 
delicate work, for it was corresponding with the pub- 
lic enemy. Most men in Franklin's position would 
have been compelled to drop it entirely, for fear of 
becoming involved in some serious difficulty ; for it 
was suspected, if not actually proved, that persons 
connected with our own embassy in France were 
using their official knowledge to speculate in stocks 
in England. But Franklin came through it all 

He was much annoyed by numerous applications 
from people who wished to serve in the American 
army. Most of them had proved failures in France 
and were burdens on their relations. In the early 
years of the embassy many were sent out who gave 
endless trouble and embarrassment to Washington 
and Congress. Out of the whole horde, only about 
three Lafayette, Steuben, and De Kalb were 
ever anything more than a nuisance. But, to avoid 



giving offence to the French people, Franklin was 
often obliged to give these applicants some sort of 
letter of recommendation, and he drew up a form 
which he sometimes used in extreme cases : 

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

The old man's sense of humor carried him through 
many a difficulty ; and it is hardly necessary to say 
that the management of all this multifarious busi- 
ness, the exercise of such large authority and dis- 
cretion, and the weight of such responsibility re- 
quired a nervous force, patience, tact, knowledge of 
men and affairs, mental equipoise, broad, cool judg- 
ment, and strength of character which comparatively 
few men in America possessed. Indeed, it is diffi- 
cult to name another who could have filled the po- 
sition. John Adams could not have done it He 
would have lost his temper and blazed out at some 
point, or have committed some huge indiscretion 
that would have wrecked everything. That Lee, 
Izard, or even Deane could have held the post would 
be ridiculous to suppose. 



Adams appeared again in Paris in the beginning 
of the year 1 780, having been sent by Congress to 
await England's expected willingness to treat for 
peace. He was authorized to receive overtures for a 
general peace, and also, if possible, to negotiate a 
special commercial treaty with England. He had 
nothing to do but wait, and was in no way connected 
with our embassy in France. But being presented 
at court and asked by Vergennes to furnish informa- 
tion, he must needs try to make an impression. He 
assailed Vergennes, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, 
with numerous reasons why he should at once dis- 
close to the court at London his readiness to make 
a commercial treaty. He argued about the ques- 
tion of the Continental currency and how it should 
be redeemed. He urged the sending of a large 
naval force to the United States ; and when told 
that the force had already been sent without solici- 
tation, he attempted to prove in the most tactless 
and injudicious manner that it was not without so- 
licitation, but, on the contrary, the king had been 
repeatedly asked for it, and had yielded at last to 

This conduct was so offensive to Vergennes that 
he complained of it to Franklin, who was obliged 
to rebuke Adams ; and Congress, when the matter 
came before it, administered another rebuke. Adams 
never forgave Franklin for this, and afterwards pub- 
licly declared that Franklin and Vergennes had con- 
spired to destroy his influence and ruin him. At 
the time, however, he had the good sense to take 
his rebuff in silence, and went off grumbling to Hoi- 
21 321 


land to see if something could not be done to render 
the United States less dependent on France. 

Adams represented a large party, composed prin- 
cipally of New-Englanders, who did not like the 
alliance with France and were opposed to Franklin's 
policy of extreme conciliation and friendliness with 
the French court It was as one of this party that 
Adams had attempted to give Vergennes a lesson 
and show him that America was not a suppliant and 
a pauper. Like the rest of his party, he harbored 
the bitter thought that France intended to lord it 
over the United States, send a general over there 
who would control all the military operations, get all 
the glory, and give the French ever after a prepon- 
derating influence. He thought America had been 
too free in expressions of gratitude to France, that a 
little more stoutness, a greater air of independence 
and boldness in our demands, would procure suffi- 
cient assistance and at the same time save us from 
the calamity of passing into the hands of a tyrant 
who would be worse than Great Britain had been. 

His attempt at stoutness, however, was at once 
checked by Vergennes, who refused to answer any 
more of his letters ; and there is no doubt that 
if Adams's plan had been adopted by the United 
States government, our alliance with France would 
have been jeopardized. It is not pleasant to think 
that without the aid of France the Revolution would 
have failed and we would have again been brought 
under subjection to England ; but it is unquestion- 
ably true, and as Washington had no hesitation in 
frankly admitting it, we need have none. 



At the time of Adams's attempted interference 
with Franklin's policy our fortunes were at a very- 
low ebb. The resources of the country were ex- 
hausted and the army could no longer be maintained 
on them. The soldiers were starving and naked, 
and the generals could not show themselves without 
being assailed with piteous demands for food and 
clothes. France had much to gain by assisting us 
against England, and she never pretended that she 
had not ; but in all the documents and correspond- 
ence that have been brought to light there is no evi- 
dence that she intended to take advantage of our 
situation or that her ministers had designs on our 
liberties. Indeed, when we read the whole story 
of her assistance, including the secret correspond- 
ence, it will be found almost unequalled for its 
worthiness of purpose and for the honorable means 

Franklin had spent several years at the court, 
knew everybody, and thoroughly understood the 

" The king, a young and virtuous prince, has, I am persuaded, a 
pleasure in reflecting on the generous benevolence of the action in 
assisting an oppressed people, and proposes it as a part of the glory 
of his reign. I think it right to increase this pleasure by our thank- 
ful acknowledgments, and that such an expression of gratitude is not 
only our duty, but our interest. A different conduct seems to me 
what is not only improper and unbecoming, but what may be hurtful 
to us. ... It is my intention while I stay here to procure what 
advantages I can for our country by endeavoring to please this court ; 
and I wish I could prevent anything being said by any of our coun- 
trymen here that may have a contrary effect, and increase an opinion 
lately showing itself in Paris, that we seek a difference, and with a 
view of reconciling ourselves in England." 



Please the court, as well as the whole French 
nation, he most certainly did. His communications 
with Vergennes, even when he was asking for money 
or some other valuable thing, were not only free 
from offence, but so adroit, so beautifully and 
happily expressed, that they charmed the exquisite 
taste of Frenchmen. There is not space in this 
volume to give expression to all that the people of 
the court thought of his way of managing the busi- 
ness intrusted to him by America, but one sentence 
from a letter of Vergennes to the French minister 
in America may be given : 

" If you are questioned respecting our opinion of Dr. Franklin, 
you may without hesitation say that we esteem him as much on ac- 
count of the patriotism as the wisdom of his conduct, and it has 
been owing in a great part to this cause, and to the confidence we 
put in the veracity of Dr. Franklin, that we have determined to 
relieve the pecuniary embarrassments in which he has been placed 
by Congress." 

It is not likely that Gouverneur Morris, Jefferson, 
or any other American of that time possessed the 
qualifications necessary to give them such a hold on 
the French court as Franklin had. We were colo- 
nists, very British in our manners, of strong energy 
and intelligence, but quite crude in many things, 
and capable of appearing in a very ridiculous light 
in French society, which was in effect the society of 
Louis XIV., very exacting, and by no means so 
republican as it has since become. 

As a matter of fact, the French disliked every- 
body we sent to them at that time except Franklin. 
Deane they tolerated, Izard they laughed at, Adams 



they snubbed, and Lee they despised as a stupid 
blunderer who knew no better than to abuse French 
manners in the presence of his servants, who spread 
the tale all over Paris. But dear, delightful, philo- 
sophic, shrewd, economical, naughty, flirtatious, and 
anecdote-telling Franklin seemed like one of them- 
selves. He still remains the only American that the 
French have thoroughly known and liked. The 
more we read of him the more confidence we are 
inclined to place in the supposition that three or 
four centuries back he must have had a French 
ancestor who migrated to England, and some of 
whose characteristics were reproduced in his famous 
descendant The little fables and allegories he 
wrote to please them read like translations from the 
most subtle literary men of France. Fancy any 
other American or Englishman writing to Madame 
Brillon the letter which was really a little essay after- 
wards known as the " Ephemera," and very popular 
in France. 

" You may remember, my dear friend, that when we lately spent 
that happy day in the delightful garden and sweet society of the 
Moulin Joly, I stopped a little in one of our walks, and stayed some 
time behind the company. We had been shown numberless skele- 
tons of a kind of little fly, called an ephemera, whose successive 
generations, we were told, were bred and expired within the day. 
I happened to see a living company of them on a leaf, who appeared 
to be engaged in conversation. You know I understand all the 
inferior animal tongues. My too great application to the study of 
them is the best excuse I can give for the little progress I have made 
in your charming language. I listened through curiosity to the dis- 
course of these little creatures ; but as they, in their natural vivacity, 
spoke three or four together, I could make but little of their conver- 
sation. I found, however, by some broken expressions that I heard 
now and then, they were disputing warmly on the merit of two 



foreign musicians, one a cousin, the other a moschcto ; in which dis- 
pute they spent their time, seemingly as regardless of the shortness 
of life as if they had been sure of living a month. Happy people ! 
thought I ; you are certainly under a wise, just, and mild govern- 
ment, since you have no public grievances to complain of, nor any 
subject of contention but the perfections and imperfections of foreign 
music. I turned my head from them to an old grey-headed one, 
who was single on another leaf, and talking to himself. Being 
amused with his soliloquy, I put it down in writing, in hopes it will 
likewise amuse her to whom I am so much indebted for the most 
pleasing of all amusements, her delicious company and heavenly 
harmony." . . . 

The letter is too long to quote entire ; but some 
of the fine touches in the passage given should be 
observed. He refers to the little progress he had 
made in French, and he certainly spoke that lan- 
guage badly, although he read it with ease. He 
probably had a large vocabulary ; but he trampled 
all over the grammar, as Adams tells us. He man- 
aged, however, by means of a little humor to make 
this defect endear him still more to the people. 
The musical dispute of the insects is a hit at a simi- 
lar dispute among the Parisians over two musicians, 
Gluck and Picini. But what a depth of subtlety is 
shown in the suggestion which follows, that the 
French were under such a wise government and 
such a good king that they could afford to waste 
their time in disputing about trifles ! No wonder 
that all the notable people and the rulers loved him. 

This single delicately veiled point was alone al- 
most sufficient to make his fortune in the peculiar 
society of that time. It was in such perfect taste, 
so French, such a rebuke to the fanatics who were 

laying the foundations of the Reign of Terror ; and 



yet, at the same time, Franklin, as the apostle 
of liberty, was regarded by many of those fanatics 
as one of themselves. In this way he carried with 
him all France. 

But suppose that John Adams had been given the 
opportunity to write such a letter to a French lady ; 
what would he have done ? The straightforward fel- 
low would probably have thought it his religious, 
moral, and patriotic duty to tell her that the govern- 
ment she lived under was wasteful and extravagant, 
and was plotting to destroy the liberties of America. 

Madame Brillon, for whom the " Ephemera" was 
written, was a charming woman and more domestic 
than French ladies are supposed to be. For her 
amusement were written some of Franklin's most 
famous essays, " The Morals of Chess," " The Dia- 
logue between Franklin and the Gout," "The Story 
of the Whistle," "The Handsome and Deformed 
Leg," and "The Petition of the Left Hand." In a 
letter telling how the " Ephemera" happened to be 
written he has described the intimacy he and his 
grandson enjoyed at her house : 

"The person to whom it was addressed is Madame Brillon, a 
lady of most respectable character and pleasing conversation ; mis- 
tress of an amiable family in this neighborhood, with which I spend 
an evening twice every week. She has, among other elegant 
accomplishments, that of an excellent musician ; and with her 
daughter who sings prettily, and some friends who play, she kindly 
entertains me and my grandson with little concerts, a cup of tea, 
and a game of chess. I call this my Opera, for I rarely go to the 
Opera at Paris." 

Madame Helvetius, a still more intimate friend, 
was a very different sort of woman. She was the 



widow of a literary man of some celebrity, and she 
and Franklin were always carrying on an absurd sort 
of flirtation. They hugged and kissed each other in 
public, and exchanged extravagant notes which were 
sometimes mock proposals of marriage, although 
some have supposed them to have been real ones. 
He wrote a sort of essay addressed to her, in which he 
imagines himself in the other world, where he meets 
her husband, and, after the exchange of many clever 
remarks with him about madame, he discovers that 
Helvetius is married to his own deceased wife, Mrs. 
Franklin, who declares herself rather better pleased 
with him than she had been with the Philadelphia 

" Indignant at this refusal of my Eurydice, I immediately resolved 
to quit those ungrateful shades, and return to this good world again, 
to behold the sun and you ! Here I am : let us avenge our- 

Such sport over deceased wives and husbands 
would not be in good taste in America or England, 
but it was correct enough in France. One of his 
short notes to Madame Helvetius has also been pre- 
served : 

" Mr. Franklin never forgets any party at which Madame Helve- 
tius is expected. He even believes that if he were engaged to go to 
Paradise this morning, he would pray for permission to remain on 
earth until half-past one, to receive the embrace promised him at the 

Mrs. Adams has left a description of Madame 
Helvetius which admirers of Franklin have in vain 



attempted to explain away by saying that all French 
women were like her, and that she was, after all, a 
really noble person : 

44 She entered the room with a careless, jaunty air ; upon seeing 
ladies who were strangers to her, she bawled out, 4 Ah ! mon Dieu, 
where is Franklin? Why did you not tell me there were ladies 
here ?' You must suppose her speaking all this in French. * How 
I look !' said she, taking hold of a chemise made of tiffany, which 
she had on over a blue lute-string, and which looked as much upon 
the decay as her beauty, for she was once a handsome woman ; her 
hair was frizzled ; over it she had a small straw hat, with a dirty 
gauze half-handkerchief round it, and a bit of dirtier gauze than 
ever my maids wore was bowed on behind. She had a black gauze 
scarf thrown over her shoulders. She ran out of the room ; when 
she returned, the Doctor entered at one door, she at the other ; 
upon which she ran forward to him, caught him by the hand, 
4 Helas ! Franklin ;' then gave him a double kiss, one upon each 
cheek, and another upon his forehead. When we went into the 
room to dine, she was placed between the Doctor and Mr. Adams. 
She carried on the chief of the conversation at dinner, frequently 
locking her hand into the Doctor's, and sometimes spreading her 
arms upon the backs of both the gentlemen's chairs, then throwing 
her arm carelessly upon the Doctor's neck. 

" I should have been greatly astonished at this conduct, if the 
good Doctor had not told me that in this lady I should see a genuine 
Frenchwoman, wholly free from affectation or stiffness of behavior, 
and one of the best women hi the world. For this I must take the 
Doctor's word ; but I should have set her down for a very bad one, 
although sixty years of age, and a widow. I own I was highly dis- 
gusted, and never wish for an acquaintance with any ladies of this 
cast. After dinner she threw herself upon a settee, where she 
showed more than her feet. She had a little lap-dog, who was, next 
to the Doctor, her favorite. This she kissed, and when he wet the 
floor she wiped it up with her chemise. This is one of the Doctor's 
most intimate friends, with whom he dines once every week, and 
she with him. She is rich, and is my near neighbor ; but I have not 
yet visited her. Thus you see, my dear, that manners differ exceed- 
ingly in different countries. I hope, however, to find amongst the 
French ladies manners more consistent with my ideas of decency, or 
I shall be a mere recluse." (Letters of Mrs. John Adams, p. 252.) 



It is not likely that Franklin had the respect for 
Madame Helvetius that he had for Madame Brillon. 
She was, strange to say, an illiterate woman, as one 
of her letters to him plainly shows. Some of his 
letters to her read as if he were purposely feeding 
her inordinate vanity. He tells her in one that her 
most striking quality is her artless simplicity ; that 
statesmen, philosophers, and poets flock to her ; that 
he and his friends find in her " sweet society that 
charming benevolence, that amiable attention to 
oblige, that disposition to please and to be pleased 
which we do not always find in the society of one 
another." She lived at Auteuil, and he and the 
Abbe Morellet and others called her "Our Lady 
of Auteuil." They boasted much of their love for 
her, and enjoyed many wonderful conversations on 
literature and philosophy, and much gayety at her 
house, which they called "The Academy." 

After Franklin had returned to America the Abbe 
Morellet, who was an active and able man in his 
way, wrote him many amusing letters about their 
lady and her friends. 

" I shall never forget the happiness I have enjoyed in knowing 
you and seeing you intimately. I write to you from Auteuil, seated 
in your arm chair, on which I have engraved Benjamin Franklin 
hie sedebat, and having by my side the little bureau, which you be- 
queathed to me at parting with a drawerful of nails to gratify the 
love of nailing and hammering, which I possess in common with 
you. But, believe me, I have no need of all these helps to cherish 
your endeared remembrance and to love you. 

" ' Dum memor ipse mei, dum spiritus hos reget artus.' " 

One of the cleverest letters Franklin wrote while 
in France was addressed to an old English friend, 



Mrs. Thompson, who had called him a rebel. "You 
are too early, hussy" he says, " as well as too saucy, 
in calling me 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 that usually 
pleases them." He continues chaffing her, and de- 
scribes himself as wearing his own hair in France, 
where every one else had on a great powdered wig. 
If they would only dismiss their friseurs and give 
him half the money they pay to them, "I could 
then enlist these friseurs, who are at least one hun- 
dred thousand, and with the money I would main- 
tain them, make a visit with them to England, and 
dress the heads of your ministers and privy coun- 
cillors, which I conceive at present to be un peu 
derangees. Adieu, madcap ; and believe me ever, 
your affectionate friend and humble servant" 

In the large house of M. de Chaumont, which 
he occupied, he, of course, had his electrical appa- 
ratus, and played doctor by giving electricity to 
paralytic people who were brought to him. On 
one occasion he made the wrong contact, and fell 
to the floor senseless. He had, also, a small print- 
ing-press with type made in the house by his own 
servants, and he used it to print the little essays 
with which he amused his friends. 

His friendships in France seem to have been 
mostly among elderly people. There are only a few 
traces of his fondness for young girls, and we find 
none of those pleasant intimacies such as he en- 
joyed with Miss Ray, Miss Stevenson, or the daugh- 

ters of the Bishop of St Asaph. Unmarried women 
in France were too much restricted to be capable 
of such friendships even with an elderly man. But 
among his papers in the collection of the American 
Philosophical Society there is a letter written by 
some French girl who evidently had taken a fancy 
to him and playfully insisted on calling herself his 


" god Bess liberty ! I drunk with all my heart to the republick of 
the united provinces. I am prepared to my departure if you will 
and if it possible, give me I pray you leave to go. I shall be 
happy of to live under the laws of venerable good man richard. 
adieu my dear father I am with the most respect and tenderness 
" Your humble Servant 

" and your daughter 
"Auxerrea2M.i7 7 8." "J. B. J. CONWAY. 

Besides the dining abroad, which, he tells us, oc- 
curred six days out of seven, he gave a dinner at 
home every Sunday for any Americans that were in 
Paris; "and I then," he says, "have my grandson 
Ben, with some other American children from the 

New-Englanders had very economical ideas in 
those days, and when it was learned that Franklin 
entertained handsomely in Paris there was a great 
fuss over it in the Connecticut newspapers. 

The fete-champetre that was given to him by the 
Countess d'Houdetot must have been a ridiculous 
and even nauseous dose of adulation to swallow ; 
but he no doubt went through it all without a smile, 
and it serves to show the extraordinary position that 



he occupied. He was more famous in France than 
Voltaire or any Frenchman. 

A formal account of the fete was prepared by 
direction of the countess, and copies circulated in 
Paris. The victim of it is described as "the ven- 
erable sage" who, " with his gray hairs flowing down 
upon his shoulders, his staff in his hand, the spec- 
tacles of wisdom on his nose, was the perfect picture 
of true philosophy and virtue ;" and this sentence is 
as complete a summary as could be made of what 
Franklin was to the French people. 

As soon as he arrived the countess addressed him 
in verse : 

" Soul of the heroes and the wise, 
Oh, Liberty ! first gift of the gods. 
Alas ! at too great a distance do we offer our vows. 
As lovers we offer homage 
To the mortal who has made citizens happy." 

The company walked through the gardens and 
then sat down to the banquet. At the first glass of 
wine they rose and sang, 

" Of Benjamin let us celebrate the glory; 
Let us sing the good he has done to mortals. 
In America he will have altars ; 
And in Sanoy let us drink to his glory." 

At the second glass the countess sang a similar 
refrain, at the third glass the viscount sang, and so 
on for seven glasses, each verse more extraordinary 
than the others. Virtue herself had assumed the 
form of Benjamin ; he was greater than William 
Tell ; Philadelphia must be such a delightful place ; 



the French would gladly dwell there, although there 
was neither ball nor play. But Sanoy was Philadel- 
phia as long as dear Benjamin remained there. He 
was led to the garden to plant a tree, with more 
singing about the lightning that he had drawn from 
the sky, and the lightning, of course, would never 
strike that tree. Finally he was allowed to depart 
with another song of adulation addressed to him 
after he was seated in the carriage. 

Now that more than a hundred years have passed 
it is gratifying to our national pride to reflect that a 
man who was so thoroughly American in his origin 
and education should have been worshipped in this 
way by an alien race as no other man, certainly no 
other American, was ever worshipped by foreigners. 
But the enjoyment of this stupendous reputation, 
overshadowing and dwarfing the Adamses, Jays, and 
all other public men who went to Europe, was 
marred by some unpleasant consequences. Jeal- 
ousies were aroused not only among individuals, but 
to a certain extent among all the American people. 
It was too much. He had ceased to be one of them. 
It was rumored that he would never return to Amer- 
ica, but would resign and settle down among those 
strangers who treated him as though he were a god. 

It was also inevitable that a worse suspicion 
should arise. He was too subservient, it was said, 
to France. He yielded everything to her. He was 
turning her from an ally into a ruler. He could no 
longer see her designs ; or, if he saw them, he ap- 
proved of them. This suspicion gained such force 
that it was the controlling principle with Adams and 


Jay when they went to Paris to arrange the treaty 
of peace with England after the surrender of Lord 
Cornwallis at Yorktown in October, 1781. We 
have seen instances in our own time of our ministers 
to Great Britain becoming very unpopular at home 
because they were liked in England, and in Frank- 
lin's case this feeling was vastly greater than any- 
thing we have known in recent years, because his 
popularity in France was prodigious, and he avow- 
edly acted upon the principle that it was best to be 
complaisant to the French court 

During the winter which followed the surrender 
of Lord Cornwallis overtures of peace were made 
by England to Franklin, as representing America, 
and to Vergennes, as representing France, and they 
became more earnest in March after the Tory min- 
istry, which had been conducting the war, was driven 
from power. In April the negotiations with Frank- 
lin were well under way, and he continued to con- 
duct them until June, when he was taken sick and 
incapacitated for three months. After his recovery 
he took only a minor part in the proceedings, for Jay 
and Adams had meanwhile arrived. 

Congress had appointed Adams, Jay, Franklin, 
Jefferson, and Laurens commissioners to arrange the 
treaty, and made Adams head of the commission. 
When the negotiations began, however, Franklin was 
the only commissioner at Paris, and necessarily took 
charge of all the business. Just before he was taken 
sick Jay arrived, and he and Jay conducted affairs 
until Adams joined them at the end of October. 
Laurens, who had been a prisoner in England, did 



not reach Paris until just before the preliminary 
treaty was signed, and Jefferson, being detained in 
America, took no part in the proceedings. 

While Franklin was carrying on the negotiations 
alone, he insisted on most of the terms which were 
afterwards agreed upon : first of all, independence, 
and, in addition to that, the right to fish on the New- 
foundland Banks and a settlement of boundaries ; 
but he added a point not afterwards pressed by the 
others, namely, that Canada should be ceded to 
the United States. In exchange for Canada he was 
prepared to allow some compensation to the Tories 
for their loss of property during the war. Adams 
and Jay, on taking up the negotiations, dropped 
Canada entirely and insisted stoutly to the end that 
there should be no compensation whatever to the 

Franklin's admirers have always contended that it 
would have been better if Jay and Adams had kept 
away altogether, for in that case Franklin would 
have secured all that they got for us and Canada 
besides. This, however, is mere supposition, one of 
those vague ideas of what might have been without 
any proof to support it Franklin pressed the ces- 
sion of Canada, it is true ; but there is no evidence 
that it would have been granted. At that time the 
people of the United States appear not to have 
wanted the land of snow, and ever since then the gen- 
eral opinion has been that we have enough to manage 
already, and are better off without a country vexed 
with serious political controversies with its French 
population and the Roman Catholic school question. 



On the whole, it would not have been well for 
Franklin to have continued to conduct the negotia- 
tions alone. The situation was difficult, and the united 
efforts and varied ability of at least three commis- 
sioners were required. Neither Franklin nor Jay 
knew much about the fisheries question, and they 
might have been forced to yield on this point But 
Adams, from his long experience in conducting liti- 
gation for the Massachusetts fishing interests, was 
better prepared on this subject than any other 
American, and it was generally believed by the 
public men of that time that the important rights 
we secured on the Newfoundland Banks were due 
almost entirely to his skill. He was also more 
familiar with the boundary question between Maine 
and New Brunswick, and had brought with him docu- 
ments from Massachusetts which were invaluable. 

While Jay and Franklin were acting together be- 
fore the arrival of Adams, a serious question arose 
about the commission of Oswald, the British nego- 
tiator who had come over to Paris. He was em- 
powered to treat with the "Colonies or Plantations," 
and nowhere in the document was the term United 
States of America used. Jay refused to treat with 
a man who held such a commission. Franklin and 
Vergennes vainly urged that it was a mere form, 
and that Great Britain had already in several ways 
acknowledged the independence of the United 
States. Oswald showed an article of his instructions 
which authorized him to grant complete indepen- 
dence to the thirteen colonies, and he offered to 
write a letter declaring that he treated with them 
M 337 


as an independent power ; but Jay was inflexible, 
and in this he seems to have been right 

Franklin made a great mistake in not agreeing 
with him, for in the suspicious state of people's 
minds at that time his conduct in this respect was 
taken as proof positive of his subserviency to the 
French court Jay suspected that Vergennes ad- 
vised accepting Oswald's commission so as to pre- 
vent a clear admission of independence, and thus 
keep the United States embroiled with England as 
long as possible. In order to support his opposition 
to Jay, Franklin was obliged to talk about his con- 
fidence in the French court, its past generosity and 
friendliness, and also to call attention to the instruc- 
tion of Congress that the commissioners should do 
nothing without the knowledge of the French gov- 
ernment, and in all final decisions be guided by 
that government's advice. 

This instruction had been passed by Congress 
after much debate and hesitation, and was finally 
carried, it is said, through the influence of the 
French minister. Its adoption was a mistake ; with- 
out it the commissioners would probably of their 
own accord have sought the advice of Vergennes ; 
but a positive order to do so put them in an undig- 
nified and humiliating position. Franklin had been 
so long intimate with Vergennes and was so accus- 
tomed to consulting him that the instruction was 
superfluous as to him. His reputation was so great 
in France and his tact so perfect that he was in no 
danger of feeling overshadowed or subdued by such 
consultations ; but Jay and Adams so thoroughly 



detested the instruction that they had made up their 
minds to disregard it altogether. 

"Would you break your instruction?" said 

"Yes," said Jay, "as I break this pipe," and he 
threw the pieces into the fire. 

Jay's firmness compelled Oswald to obtain a new 
commission in the proper form, and while he de- 
serves credit for this and also for his principle, " We 
must be honest and grateful to our allies, but think 
for ourselves," he seems in the light of later evidence 
to have been mistaken in his deep mistrust of the 
French court. His opinions have been briefly stated 
by Adams : 

" Mr. Jay likes Frenchmen as little as Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard did. 
He says they are not a moral people ; they know not what it is ; he 
don't like any Frenchman ; the Marquis de Lafayette is clever, but 
he is a Frenchman. Our allies don't play fair, he told me ; they 
were endeavoring to deprive us of the fishery, the western lands, 
and the navigation of the Mississippi ; they would even bargain with 
the English to deprive us of them ; they want to play the western 
lands, Mississippi, and whole Gulf of Mexico into the hands of 
Spain." (Adams's Works, vol. iii. p. 303.) 

Jay had had a very bitter experience in Spain, 
where the cold haughtiness and chicanery of the 
court had made him feel that he was among enemies. 
The instructions sent to him by Congress had been 
intercepted, and instead of receiving them as secret 
orders from his government, they had been handed 
to him by the Spanish prime-minister after that offi- 
cial had read them. He was accordingly prepared 
to think that the French government was no better. 



In a certain sense there were grounds for his sus- 
picion of France. She was interested in the fisheries 
on the Banks of Newfoundland, and would naturally 
like to have a share in them. It was also obviously 
her policy to prevent the United States and England 
from becoming too friendly and from making too 
firm a peace, for fear that they might unite at some 
future time against her. If she could get them to 
make a sort of half peace with a number of subjects 
left unsettled, about which there would be difficulties 
for many years, it would be a great advantage to 

Spain wanted to secure the control of the Gulf of 
Mexico, the exclusive navigation of the Mississippi, 
and the possession of the lands west of that river, 
and France, as her ally, might be expected to assist 
her to obtain these concessions. Arguments and 
suggestions favoring all these projects were unques- 
tionably used by Frenchmen at that time, and no 
doubt Vergennes and other public men often had 
them in mind. It was their duty at least to consider 
them. But there is no evidence that they actively 
promoted these schemes or acted in any other than 
an honorable manner towards us. 

As a matter of fact, our commercial relations with 
England were left unsettled. England claimed, 
among other things, the right to search our ships, 
and there was great discontent over this for a long 
time, amply sufficient to keep us from friendship 
with England until the question was finally set- 
tled by the war of 1812. Adams seems to imply 
that he could have settled this and other difficulties 



in 1780 by the commercial treaty which he was 
empowered to make with England, and that Ver- 
gennes, in advising him not to communicate with 
England, had intended to keep England and the 
United States embroiled. Possibly that may have 
been Vergennes's intention. But as it was after- 
wards found impossible to adjust these commercial 
difficulties until the war of 1 8 1 2, and as Adams him- 
self did not attempt it, though he might have done 
so in spite of Vergennes's advice, and as they were 
finally settled only by a war, it is not probable that 
Adams could have adjusted them in the easy, off- 
hand way he imagines. In any event, it was not 
worth while for the sake of these future contingen- 
cies to offend Vergennes and jeopardize our alliance 
and the loans of money we were obtaining from 

Franklin's policy of making absolutely sure of the 
friendship and assistance of France seems to have 
been the sound one, and with his wonderful accom- 
plishments and adaptability he could be friendly and 
agreeable without sacrificing anything. But Adams 
went at everything with a club, and could understand 
no other method. 

I cannot find that Franklin was at any time willing 
to sacrifice the fisheries, or the Mississippi River or 
the western lands. In fact, he was more firm on 
the question of the Mississippi than Congress. In 
its extremity, Congress finally instructed Jay to yield 
the navigation of the Mississippi if he could get 
assistance from Spain in no other way ; and the 
Spanish premier, having intercepted this instruction 



and read it, had poor Jay at his mercy. But Frank- 
lin was very strenuous on this point, and wrote to 

J a y 

" Poor as we are, yet, as I know we shall be rich, I would 
rather agree with them to buy at a great price the whole of their 
right on the Mississippi, than sell a drop of its waters. A neigh- 
bor might as well ask me to sell my street door." 

Jay grew more and more suspicious of France, and 
Adams reports him as saying, " Every day produces 
some fresh proof and example of their vile schemes." 
One of the British negotiators obtained for him a 
letter which Marbois, the secretary of the French 
legation in America, had written home, urging Ver- 
gennes not to support the commissioners in their 
claim to the right of fishing on the Newfoundland 
Banks. This he considered absolute proof; but the 
examination which has since been made of all the 
confidential correspondence of that period does not 
show that Marbois' s suggestion was ever acted upon. 
Individuals doubtless cherished purposes of their 
own, but the French government in all its actions 
seems to have fully justified Franklin's confidence in 
it Jefferson, who afterwards went to France, de- 
clared that there was no proof whatever of Franklin's 

When Adams arrived he was delighted to find 
himself in full accord with Jay. He had been in 
Holland, where he had succeeded in negotiating a 
loan and a commercial treaty, and consequently felt 
that he was somewhat of a success as a diplomatist, 
and need not any longer be so much overawed by 
Franklin. He relates in his diary how the French 


courtiers heaped compliments on him. "Sir, "they 
would say, "you have been the Washington of the 
negotiation." To which he would answer in his best 
French, " Sir, you have given me the grandest honor 
and a compliment the most sublime." They would 
reply, " Ah, sir, in truth you have well deserved it" 
And he concludes by saying, " A few of these com- 
pliments would kill Franklin, if they should come to 
his ears." 

He uses strong language about the " base system" 
pursued by Franklin, and talks in a lofty way of the 
impossibility of a man becoming distinguished as a 
diplomatist who allows his passion for women to get 
the better of him. He and Jay conducted the rest 
of the negotiations and completed the treaty, Frank- 
lin merely assisting ; and Adams gloried in breaking 
the instruction of Congress to take the advice of 
France. He was still smarting under the rebuke 
administered for his interference and for the offence 
he gave Vergennes a year or two before, and after 
declaring that Congress in this rebuke had prostituted 
its own honor as well as his, he breaks forth on the 
subject of the instruction to take the advice of 
France : 

" Congress surrendered their own sovereignty into the hands of a 
French minister. Blush ! blush ! ye guilty records ! blush and 
perish ! It is glory to have broken such infamous orders. Infa- 
mous, I say, for so they will be to all posterity. How can such a 
stain be washed out? Can we cast a veil over it and forget it?" 
(Adams's Works, vol. iii. p. 359.) 

Franklin finally agreed that they should go on 
with the negotiations and make the treaty without 



consulting the French government. Vergennes was 
offended, but Franklin managed to smooth the matter 
over and pacify him. Congress censured the com- 
missioners for violating the instruction, and they all 
made the best excuses they could. Franklin's was a 
very clever one. 

"We did what appeared to all of us best at the time, and if we 
have done wrong, the Congress will do right, after hearing us, to 
censure us. Their nomination of five persons to the service seems 
to mark, that they had some dependence on our joint judgment, 
since one alone could have made a treaty by direction of the French 
ministry as well as twenty." 

It is probable that Franklin agreed to ignore the 
instruction, and assented to all the other acts of the 
commissioners, because he thought it best to have 
harmony. Such an opportunity for a terrible quarrel 
could not have been resisted by some men, for 
Adams bluntly told him that he disapproved of all 
his previous conduct in the matter of the treaty. 
As Adams was the head of the commission, it would 
seem that Franklin, finding himself outvoted, took 
the proper course of not blocking a momentous ne- 
gotiation by his personal feelings or opinions, so long 
as substantial results were being secured. In this 
respect he did exactly the reverse of what Adams 
had prophesied. In the beginning of the negotia- 
tions Adams entered in his diary, " Franklin's cun- 
ning will be to divide us ; to this end he will provoke, 
he will insinuate, he will intrigue, he will manoeuvre." 
Instead of that he encouraged their union. 

Adams's writings are full of extraordinary sus- 
picions of this sort which turned out to be totally 



unfounded ; but so fond was he of them that, after 
having been obliged to confess that Franklin had 
acted in entire harmony with the commissioners, and 
after all had ended well and Franklin had obtained 
another loan of six millions from Vergennes, he can- 
not resist saying, " I suspect, however, and have 
reason, but will say nothing." Those familiar with 
him know that this means that he had no reason or 
evidence whatever, but was simply determined to 
gratify his peculiar passion. 

Franklin wrote a long letter to Congress about the 
treaty, and after saying that he entirely discredited 
the suspicions of the treachery of the French court, 
he squares accounts with Adams : 

"I ought not, however, to conceal from you, that one of my col- 
leagues is of a very different opinion from me in these matters. He 
thinks the French minister one of the greatest enemies of our coun- 
try, that he would have straitened our boundaries, to prevent the 
growth of our people ; contracted our fishery, to obstruct the in- 
crease of our seamen ; and retained the royalists among us, to keep 
us divided ; that he privately opposes all our negotiations with for- 
eign courts, and afforded us, during the war, the assistance we re- 
ceived, only to keep it alive, that we might be so much the more 
weakened by it ; that to think of gratitude to France is the greatest 
of follies, and that to be influenced by it would ruin us. He makes no 
secret of his having these opinions, expresses them publicly, some- 
times in presence of the English ministers, and speaks of hundreds 
of instances which he could produce in proof of them. None, 
however, have yet appeared to me, unless the conversations and 
letter above-mentioned are reckoned such. 

" If I were not convinced of the real inability of this court to fur- 
nish the further supplies we asked, I should suspect these discourses 
of a person in his station might have influenced the refusal ; but I 
think they have gone no further than to occasion a suspicion, that we 
have a considerable party of Antigallicians in America, who are not 
Tories, and consequently to produce some doubts of the continuance 



of our friendship. As such doubts may hereafter have a bad effect, 
I think we cannot take too much care to remove them ; and it is 
therefore I write this, to put you on your guard, (believing it my 
duty, though I know that I hazard by it a mortal enmity), and to 
caution you respecting the insinuations of this gentleman against 
this court, and the instances he supposes of their ill will to us, which 
I take to be as imaginary as I know his fancies to be, that Count de 
Vergennes and myself are continually plotting against him, and em- 
ploying the news-writers of Europe to depreciate his character, &c. 
But as Shakespeare says, ' Trifles light as air, ' &c. I am persuaded, 
however, that he means well for his country, is always an honest 
man, often a wise one, but sometimes, and hi some things, absolutely 
out of his senses." 

Adams never forgave this slap, and he and his 
descendants have kept up the "mortal enmity" 
which Franklin knew he was hazarding. 

Before he left France Franklin took part in making 
a treaty with Prussia, and secured the insertion of an 
article which embodied his favorite idea that in case 
of war there should be no privateering, the merchant 
vessels of either party should pass unmolested, and 
unarmed farmers, fishermen, and artisans should re- 
main undisturbed in their employments. But as a 
war usually breaks all treaties between the contending 
nations, this one might have been difficult to enforce. 

At last, in July, 1785, came the end of his long 
and delightful residence in a country which he seems 
to have loved as much as if it had been his own. No 
American, and certainly no Englishman, has ever 
spoken so well of the French. He never could 
forget, he said, the nine years' happiness that he had 
enjoyed there " in the sweet society of a people whose 
conversation is instructive, whose manners are highly 
pleasing, and who, above all the nations of the world, 




have, in the greatest perfection, the art of making 
themselves beloved by strangers." 

The king gave him his picture set in two circles 
of four hundred and eight diamonds,* and furnished 
the litter, swung between two mules, to carry him to 
the coast. If the king himself had been in the litter 
he could not have received more attention and wor- 
ship from noblemen, ecclesiastics, governors, soldiers, 
and important public bodies on the journey to the 
sea. It was a triumphal march for the American 
philosopher, now so old and so afflicted with the 
gout and the stone that he could barely endure the 
easy motion of the royal mules. 

His two grandsons accompanied him. De Chau- 
mont and his daughter insisted on going as far as 
Nanterre, and his old friend Le Veillard went with 
him all the way to England. He kept a diary of 
the journey, full of most interesting details of the 
people who met him on the road, how the Cardinal 
de la Rochefoucauld sent messengers to stop him 
and order him with mock violence to spend the 
night at his castle. It is merely the jotting down 
of odd sentences in a diary, but the magic of Frank- 
lin's genius has given to the smallest incidents an 
immortal fascination. 

* By his will Franklin left this picture to his daughter, Sarah 
Bache, and it is still in the possession of her descendants. He re- 
quested her not to use the outer circle of diamonds as ornaments 
and introduce the useless fashion of wearing jewels in America, but 
he implied that she could sell them. She sold them, and with the 
proceeds she and her husband made the tour of Europe. The inner 
circle he directed should be preserved with the picture, but they 
were removed. 



He would have liked to spend some time in Eng- 
land among his old friends, but the war feeling was 
still too violent He, however, crossed to England 
and stayed four days at Southampton waiting for 
Captain Truxton's ship, which was to call for him. 
English friends flocked down to see him and to 
give him little mementos, and the British govern- 
ment gave orders that his baggage should not be 
examined. The Bishop of St Asaph, who lived 
near by, hastened to Southampton with his wife 
and one of his daughters and spent several days 
in saying farewell. On the evening of the last day 
they accompanied him on board the ship, dined 
there, and intended to stay all night ; but, to save 
him the pain of parting, they went ashore after he 
had gone to bed. "When I waked in the morn- 
ing," he says, "found the company gone and the 
ship under sail" 

The bishop's daughter, Catherine, wrote him one 
of her charming letters which, as it relates to him, is 
as immortal as any of his own writings. Every day 
at dinner, she tells him, they drank to his prosperous 
voyage. She is troubled because she forgot to give 
him a pin-cushion. He seemed to have everything 
else he needed, and that might have been useful. 
" We are forever talking of our good friend ; some- 
thing is perpetually occurring to remind us of the 
time spent with you." They had besought him to fin- 
ish during the voyage his Autobiography, which had 
been begun at their house. " We never walk in the 
garden without seeing Dr. Franklin's room, and 
thinking of the work that was begun in it" 




ALMOST immediately on Franklin's return to Phil- 
adelphia he was made President of the Supreme 
Executive Council of Pennsylvania, under the extraor- 
dinary constitution he had helped to make before he 
went to France in 1776. This office was somewhat 
like that of the modern governor. He held it for 
three years, by annual re-elections, but without being 
involved in any notable questions or controversies. 

He was at this period of his life still genial and 
mellow, in spite of disease, and full of anecdotes, 
learning, and curious experiences. His voice is de- 
scribed as low and his countenance open, frank, 
and pleasing. 

He enjoyed what to him was one of the greatest 
pleasures of life, children and grandchildren. He 
had six grandchildren, and no doubt often wished 
that he had a hundred. He had no patience with 
celibacy, and was constantly urging marriage on his 
friends. To John Sargent he wrote, 

" The account you give me of your family is pleasing, except that 
your eldest son continues so long unmarried. I hope he does not 
intend to live and die in celibacy. The wheel of life that has rolled 
down to him from Adam without interruption should not stop with 
him. I would not have one dead unbearing branch in the genea- 
logical tree of the Sargents. The married state is, after all our 
jokes, the happiest." 



Sir Samuel Romilly, who visited him in Paris 
shortly before his return to America, says in his 

" Of all the celebrated persons whom in my life I have chanced to 
see, Dr. Franklin, both from his appearance and his conversation, 
seemed to me the most remarkable. His venerable patriarchal ap- 
pearance, the simplicity of his manner and language, and the nov- 
elty of his observations, at least the novelty of them at that time to 
me, impressed me with an opinion of him as one of the most ex- 
traordinary men that ever existed." (Life of Romilly. By his 
Sons. Vol. i. p. 50.) 

He lived in a large house in Philadelphia, situated 
on a court long afterwards called by his name, a 
little back from the south side of Market Street, be- 
tween Third and Fourth Streets. There was a small 
garden attached to it, and also a grass-plot on which 
was a large mulberry-tree, under which he often sat 
and received visitors on summer afternoons. He 
built a large addition to the house, comprising a 
library, a room for the meetings of the American 
Philosophical Society, with some bedrooms in the 
third story. Here he passed the closing years of 
his life with his daughter and six grandchildren, 
reading, writing, receiving visits from distinguished 
men, and playing cards in the winter evenings. 

"I have indeed now and then," he writes to Mrs. Hewson, "a 
little compunction in reflecting that I spend time so idly ; but an- 
other reflection comes to relieve me, whispering, ' You know that the 
soul is immortal ; why then should you be such a niggard of a little 
time, when you have a whole eternity before you ?' So, being easily 
convinced, and, like other reasonable creatures, satisfied with a small 
reason, when it is in favor of doing what I have a mind to, I shuffle 
the cards again, and begm another game." 




He was soon, however, given very important em- 
ployment in spite of his age. He had made him- 
self famous in many varied spheres, from almanacs 
and stove-making to treaties of alliance. Nothing 
seemed to be too small or too great for him. He 
invented an apparatus for taking books from high 
shelves. He suggested that sailors could mitigate 
thirst by sitting in the salt water or soaking their 
clothes in it. The pores of the skin, he said, while 
large enough to admit the water, are too small to 
allow the salt to penetrate ; and the experiment was 
successfully tried by shipwrecked crews. He sug- 
gested that bread and flour could be preserved for 
years in air-tight bottles, and Captain Cook tried it 
with good results in his famous voyage. It is cer- 
tainly strange that the man who was so passionately 
interested in such subjects should enter the great 
domain of constitution-making and, in spite of many 
blunders, excel those who had made it their special 

He had no knowledge of technical law, either in 
practice or as a science. He was once elected a 
justice of the peace in Philadelphia, but soon re- 
signed, because, as he said, he knew nothing of the 
rules of English common law. It was perhaps the 
only important domain of human knowledge in which 
he was not interested. 

As a public man of long experience he had con- 
siderable knowledge of general laws and their prac- 
tical effect He was a law-maker rather than a law- 
interpreter. He understood colonial rights, and 
knew every phase of the controversy with Great 


Britain, and he had fixed opinions as to constitu- 
tional forms and principles. Some of his ideas on 
constitution-making were unsound ; but it is astonish- 
ing what an important part he played during his 
long life in American constitutional development. 

I have shown in another volume, called "The 
Evolution of the Constitution of the United States," 
how the principles and forms of that instrument were 
developed out of two hundred years' experience with 
more than forty colonial charters and Revolutionary 
constitutions and more than twenty plans of union. 
The plans of union were devised from time to time 
with the purpose of uniting the colonies under one 
general government. None of them was put into 
actual practice until the "Articles of Confederation" 
were adopted during the Revolution. But although 
unsuccessful in the sense that no union was formed 
under any of them, they contributed ideas and prin- 
ciples which finally produced the federalism of the 
national Constitution under which we now live. 

Two of these plans of union were prepared by 
Franklin. No other American prepared more than 
one, and Franklin's two were the most important of 
all. Not only was he the originator of the two 
most important plans, but he lived long enough to 
take part in framing the final result of all the plans, 
the national Constitution, and he was the author of 
one of the most valuable provisions in it 

The first plan of union which he drafted was the 
one adopted by the Albany Conference of 1754, 
that had been called to make a general treaty with 
the Indians which would obviate the confusion of 



separate treaties made by the different colonies. 
Such a general treaty, by controlling the Indians, 
would, it was hoped, assist in resisting the designs 
of the French in Canada. It was obvious, also, 
that if the colonies were united under a general 
government they would be better able to withstand 
the French. Franklin had advocated this idea of 
union in his Gazette, and had published a wood-cut 
representing a wriggling snake separated into pieces, 
each of which had on it the initial letter of one of 
the colonies, and underneath was written, "Join or 

He was sent to the conference as one of the dele- 
gates from Pennsylvania, and his plan of union, 
which was adopted, was a distinct improvement on 
all others that had preceded it, and contained the 
germs of principles which are now a fundamental 
part of our political system. In 1775, while a mem- 
ber of the Continental Congress, he drafted another 
plan, which, though not adopted, added new sug- 
gestions and developments. But as both of these 
plans are fully discussed in " The Evolution of the 
Constitution," * it is unnecessary to say more about 
them here. 

He was a member of the convention which in 
1776 framed a new constitution for Pennsylvania, 
and in this instrument he secured the adoption of 
two of his favorite ideas. He believed that a Legis- 
lature should consist of only one House, and that 
the executive authority, instead of being vested in a 

* Pp. 218, 231-236. 
23 353 

single person, should be exercised by a committee. 
The executive department of Pennsylvania became, 
therefore, a Supreme Executive Council of twelve 
members elected by the different counties. In order 
to make up for the lack of a double House, there 
was a sort of makeshift provision providing that 
every bill must pass two sessions of the Assembly 
before it became a law. There was also a curious 
body called the Council of Censors, two from each 
city and county, who were to see that the constitu- 
tion was not violated and that all departments of 
government did their duty. It was a crude and awk- 
ward attempt to prevent unconstitutional legislation, 
and proved an utter failure. The whole constitution 
was a most bungling contrivance which wrought great 
harm to the State and was replaced by a more suit- 
able one in 1790. 

But Franklin heartily approved of it, and in 1 790 
protested most earnestly against a change. He 
argued at length against a single executive and in 
favor of a single house Legislature in the teeth of 
innumerable facts proving the utter impracticability 
of both. No other important public men of the time 
believed in them, and they had been rejected in the 
national Constitution. He was, however, as humor- 
ous and clever in this argument as if he had been in 
the right. A double-branch Legislature would, he 
said, be too weak in each branch to support a good 
measure or obstruct a bad one. 

" Has not the famous political fable of the snake with two heads 
and one body some useful instruction contained in it? She was 
going to a brook to drink, and in her way was to pass through a 



hedge, a twig of which opposed her direct course ; one head chose 
to go on the right side of the twig, the other on the left ; so that 
time was spent in the contest, and, before the decision was com- 
pleted, the poor snake died with thirst." (Bigelow's Works of 
Franklin, vol. x. p. 1 86.) 

After Franklin had taken part in framing the 
Pennsylvania constitution of 1776 and had gone to 
Paris as ambassador to France, he had all the new 
Revolutionary constitutions of the American States 
translated into French and widely circulated. Much 
importance has been attached to this translation by 
some writers, Thomas Paine saying that these trans- 
lated constitutions "were to liberty what grammar 
is to language : they define its parts of speech and 
practically construct them into syntax ;" and both 
he and some of Franklin's biographers ascribe to 
them a vast influence in shaping the course of the 
French Revolution. Franklin wrote to the Rev. Dr. 
Cooper, of Boston, that the French people read the 
translations with rapture, and added, 

' ' There are such numbers everywhere who talk of removing to 
America with their families and fortunes as soon as peace and our 
independence shall be established that it is generally believed we 
shall have a prodigious addition of strength, wealth and arts from the 
emigration of Europe ; and it is thought that to lessen or prevent 
such emigration the tyrannies established there must relax and allow 
more liberty to their people. Hence it is a common observation 
here that our cause is the cause of all mankind and that we are 
fighting for their liberty in defending our own." 

As there was none of the vast emigration out of 
France which he speaks of, and the great emigration 
from Europe did not begin until after the year 1820, 
it may very well be that both he and his biographers 



have exaggerated the effect of the translations. But 
there seems to be no doubt that the translations 
must, on general principles, have had a stimulating 
effect on liberal ideas, although we may not be able 
to measure accurately the full force of their influence. 
They also were valuable in arousing the enthusiasm 
of the French forces, and making more sure of their 
assistance and alliance. 

His last work in constitution-making was in 1787, 
when the convention met at Philadelphia to frame 
the national document which was to take the place 
of the old Articles of Confederation, and this was 
also the last important work of his life. He was then 
eighty-one years old, and suffering so much from the 
gout and stone that he could not remain standing 
for any length of time. His important speeches he 
usually wrote out and had his colleague, Mr. Wilson, 
read them to the convention. This was in some re- 
spects an advantage, for these speeches have been 
preserved entire in Madison's notes of the debates, 
while what was said by the other members was writ- 
ten by Madison from memory or much abbreviated. 
It was Franklin's characteristic good luck attending 
him to the last. 

Considering his age and infirmity, one would nat- 
urally not expect much from him, and, as we go over 
the debates, some propositions which he advocated 
and his treatment by the other members incline us at 
first to the opinion that he had passed his days of 
great usefulness, and that he was in the position of 
an old man whose whims are treated with kindness. 

One of the principles which he advocated most 


earnestly was that the President, or whatever the 
head of the government should be called, should 
receive no salary. He moved to amend the part 
relating to the salary by substituting for it "whose 
necessary expenses shall be defrayed, but who shall 
receive no salary, stipend, fee, or reward whatsoever 
for their services." 

He wrote an interesting speech in support of his 
amendment But it is easy to see that his suggestion 
is not a wise one. No one familiar with modern 
politics would approve of it, and scarcely any one in 
the convention looked upon it with favor. Madison 
records that Hamilton seconded the motion merely to 
bring it before the House and out of regard for Dr. 
Franklin. It was indefinitely postponed without de- 
bate, and Madison adds that "it was treated with 
great respect, but rather for the author of it than from 
any apparent conviction of its expediency or prac- 

He also clung steadfastly to his old notions that 
the executive authority should be vested in a number 
of persons, a sort of council, like the absurd ar- 
rangement in Pennsylvania, and that the Legislature 
should consist of only one House. These two propo- 
sitions he advocated to the end of the session. We 
find, moreover, that he seconded the motion giving 
the President authority to suspend the laws for a 
limited time, certainly a most dangerous power to 
give, and very inconsistent with Franklin's other 
opinions on the subject of liberty. 

On the other hand, however, we find him opposing 
earnestly any restrictions on the right to vote. He 



was always urging the members to a spirit of con- 
ciliation and a compromise of their violent opinions 
on the ground that it was only by this means that a 
national government could be created. It was for 
this purpose that he proposed the daily reading of 
prayers by some minister of the Gospel, which was 
rejected by the convention, because, as they had not 
begun in this way, their taking it up in the midst of 
their proceedings would cause the outside world to 
think that they were in great difficulties. 

He was strongly in favor of a clause allowing the 
President to be impeached for misdemeanors, which 
would, he said, be much better than the ordinary 
old-fashioned way of assassination ; and he was op- 
posed to allowing the President an absolute veto on 
legislation. All matters relating to money should, 
he thought, be made public ; there should be no 
limitation of the power of Congress to increase the 
compensation of the judges, and very positive proof 
should be required in cases of treason. In these 
matters he was in full accord with the majority of the 

But his great work was done in settling the ques- 
tion of the amount of representation to be given to 
the smaller States, and was accomplished in a cu- 
rious way. John Dickinson, of Delaware, was the 
champion of the interests of the small common- 
wealths, which naturally feared that if representation 
in both Houses of Congress was to be in proportion 
to population, their interests would be made subor- 
dinate to those of the States which outnumbered 
them in inhabitants. This was one of the most 



serious difficulties the convention had to face, and 
the strenuousness with which the small States main- 
tained their rights came near breaking up the con- 

Franklin was in favor of only one House of Con- 
gress, with the representation in it proportioned to 
population, and he made a most ingenious and falla- 
cious argument to show that there was more danger 
of the smaller States absorbing the larger than of 
the larger swallowing the smaller. But, in the hope 
of conciliating Dickinson and his followers, he sug- 
gested several compromises, the first one of which 
was very cumbersome and impracticable and need 
not be mentioned here. It seemed to take for 
granted that there was to be only one House of 

Afterwards, when it was definitely decided to have 
two Houses, the question as to the position of the 
smaller States was again raised in deciding how the 
Senate was to be composed. Some were for making 
its representation proportional to population, like 
that of the lower House, and this the small States 
resisted. Franklin said that the trouble seemed to 
be that with proportional representation in the Sen- 
ate the small States thought their liberties in danger, 
and if each State had an equal vote in the Senate 
the large States thought their money was in danger. 
He would, therefore, try to unite the two factions. 
Let each State have an equal number of delegates 
in the Senate, but when any question of appropri- 
ating money arose, let these delegates " have suffrage 
in proportion to the sums which their respective 



States do actually contribute to the treasury." This 
was not very practical, but it proved to be a step 
which led him in the right direction. 

A few days afterwards, in a committee appointed 
to consider the question, he altered his suggestion so 
that in the lower House the representation should 
be in proportion to population, but in the Senate 
each State should have an equal vote, and that 
money bills should originate only in the lower 
House. The committee reported in favor of his 
plan, and it was substantially adopted in the Consti- 
tution. The lower House was given proportional 
representatives, and the Senate was composed of 
two Senators from each State, which gave ab- 
solute equality of representation in that body to 
all the States. Money bills were allowed to origi- 
nate only in the lower House, but the Senate could 
propose or concur with amendments as on other 

Thus the great question was settled by one of 
those strokes of Franklin's sublime luck or genius. 
He disapproved of the whole idea of a double- 
headed Congress, and thought the fears of the small 
States ridiculous ; but, for the sake of conciliation 
and compromise with John Dickinson and his earnest 
followers, his masterful intellect worked out an ar- 
rangement which satisfied everybody and is one of 
the most important fundamental principles of our 
Constitution. Without it there would be no federal 
union. We would be a mere collection of warring, 
revolutionary communities like those of South 
America. It has never been changed and in all 
* 360 



human probability never will be so long as we retain 
even the semblance of a republic. 

This was Franklin's greatest and most permanent 
service to his country, more valuable than his work 
in England or France, and a fitting close to his long 
life. The most active period of his life, as he has 
told us, was between his seventieth and eighty-second 
years. How much can be done in eighty vigorous 
years, and what labors had he performed and what 
pleasures and vast experiences enjoyed in that time ! 
Few men do their best work at such a great age. 
Moses, however, we are told, was eighty years old 
before he began his life's greatest work of leading 
the children of Israel out of Egypt But it would 
be difficult to find any other instances in history ex- 
cept Franklin. 

After the Constitution as prepared by the conven- 
tion had been engrossed and read, it became a ques- 
tion whether all the members of the convention 
could be persuaded to sign it, and Franklin handed 
one of his happy speeches to Mr. Wilson to be read. 
He admitted that the Constitution did not satisfy 
him ; it was not as he would have had it prepared ; 
but still he would sign it. With all its faults it was 
better than none. A new convention would not 
make a better one, for it would merely bring to- 
gether a new set of prejudices and passions. He 
was old enough, he said, to doubt somewhat the 
infallibility of his own judgment He was willing 
to believe that others might be right as well as he ; 
and he amused the members with his humor and 
the witty story of the French lady who, in a dispute 



with her sister, said, " I don't know how it happens, 
sister, but I meet with nobody but myself that is 
always in the right." 

" It therefore astonishes me, sir, to find this system approaching 
so near to perfection as it does ; and I think it will astonish our 
enemies, who are waiting with confidence to hear that our councils 
are confounded, like those of the builders of Babel, and that our 
States are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the 
purpose of cutting one another's throats. . . . 

" On the whole, sir, I cannot help expressing a wish, that every 
member of the Convention who may still have objections to it, 
would with me on this occasion doubt a little of his own infalli- 
bility, and, to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this 

At the close of the reading of his speech Franklin 
moved that the Constitution be signed, and offered 
as a convenient form, 

"Done in Convention by the unanimous consent of the States 
present the I7th day of September, etc. In witness whereof we 
have hereunto subscribed our names." 

Madison explains that this form, with the words 
"consent of the States," had been drawn up by 
Gouverneur Morris to gain the doubtful States' 
rights party. It was given to Franklin, he says, 
"that it might have the better chance of success." 

"Whilst the last members were signing," says Madison, "Dr. 
Franklin, looking towards 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,' said he, 'often and often in 
the course of the session and the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears 
as to its issue, looked at that behind the president, without being 
able to tell whether it was rising or setting, but now at length I have 
the happiness to know that it is a rising and not a setting sun.' " 



So Franklin, from whose life picturesqueness and 
charm were seldom absent, gave, in his easy manner, 
to the close of the dry details of the convention a 
touch of beautiful and true sentiment which can 
never be dissociated from the history of the republic 
he had helped to create, 


Appendix to Page 104 


IT was impossible in the text at page 104 to give 
in full all the letters which showed that Mrs. Fox- 
croft was Franklin's daughter. Most of them, how- 
ever, were cited. It seems necessary now to give 
them in full, because since the book was first pub- 
lished the correctness of the statement in the text 
has been questioned ; and the reasons for question- 
ing it have been set forth by a reviewer in a New 
York newspaper called The Nation. A reply to this 
review appeared in Lippincotfs Magazine for May, 
1899, and this reply, so far as it relates to Mrs. Fox- 
croft, was as follows : 

The best way to discuss the above statement, and 
a great deal more nonsense that the reviewer has 
written on this subject, is to give in full the letters 
and reasons which have led the members of the His- 
torical Society of Pennsylvania to believe that a 
certain manuscript letter in the possession of the 
society showed that Franklin had an illegitimate 

The letter itself, which Mr. Fisher gives in his 
book, is addressed to Franklin at his Craven Street 
lodgings in London, and is as follows : 



PHILADA. Feby. 2d, 1772. 
Dear Sir : 

I have the happiness to acquaint you that your daughter was 
safely brot to Bed the 2Oth ulto. and presented me with a sweet little 
girl, they are both in good spirits and are likely to do very well. 

I was seized with a Giddyness in my head the Day before yester- 
day as I had 20 oz. of blood taken from me and took physick wch 
does not seem in the least to have relieved me. 

I am hardly able to write this. Mrs. F. Joins me in best affec- 
tions to yourself and compts to Mrs. Stevenson and Mr. and Mrs. 

I am Dr Sir 

yrs affectionately 


Mrs. Franklin, Mrs. Bache, little Ben & Family at Burlington 
are all well. I had a letter from yr. Govr. yesterday. J. F. 

It is to be observed that the above letter is an 
entirely serious one from beginning to end ; there is 
no attempt to joke or make sport, as some of Frank- 
lin's correspondents did; and the first sentence in 
the letter states that the writer's wife was Franklin's 
daughter and that she had given birth to a girl. The 
letter is apparently written to announce that event to 
Franklin. Such a statement, made by a man about 
his wife, is certainly deserving of serious considera- 
tion. Would he on such an occasion and in such a 
manner have said that she was Franklin's daughter 
unless he firmly believed that she was ? 

If she was Franklin's daughter, as her husband 
describes her, she must have been illegitimate, for 
it is well known that Franklin's only legitimate 
daughter was Mrs. Sarah Bache. 

John Foxcroft, the writer of the letter, is well 
known as the deputy postmaster of Philadelphia at 
that time, and Franklin was postmaster-general of 



the Colonies. Foxcroft and Franklin were close 
friends and often corresponded on business matters. 
We shall give, therefore, the letters of Franklin to 
Foxcroft in which he refers to Mrs. Foxcroft as his 
daughter, and we shall give them in full, so that the 
connection can be seen. Some of these letters are 
in the collection of Franklin's papers in the State 
Department at Washington, and have been copied 
from that source. Others are from the collection of 
the American Philosophical Society at Philadelphia, 
and one or two can be found in Bigelow's " Works 
of Franklin." 

American Philosophical Society Collection, vol. 
xlv., No. 46 : 

LONDON, Feb. 4, 1772. 

Dear Friend 

I have written two or three small letters to you since 
my return from Ireland and Scotland. I now have before me your 
favours of Oct. I, Nov. 5 and Nov. 13. 

Mr. Todd has not yet shown me that which you wrote to him 
about the New Colony, tho he mentioned it and will let me see it, I 
suppose, when I call on him. I told you in one of mine, that he 
had advanced for your share what has been paid by others, tho I 
was ready to [torn] and shall in the whole Affair take the same care 
of your interests as of my own. You take notice that Mr. Wharton' s 
friends will not allow me any Merit in this transaction, but insist the 
Whole is owing to his superior Abilities. It is a common error in 
Friends when they would extol their Friend to make comparison and 
depreciate the merit of others. It was not necessary for his Friends 
to do so in this case. Mr. Wharton will in truth have a good deal 
of Merit in the Affair if it succeeds, he having been exceedingly 
active and industrious in soliciting it, and in drawing up Memorials 
and Papers to support the Application, remove objections &c. But 
tho I have not been equally active (it not being thought proper that 
I should appear much in the solicitation since I became a little ob- 
noxious to the Ministry on acct. of my Letters to America) yet I 



suppose my Advice may have been thought of some use since it has 
been asked in every step, and I believe that being longer and better 
known here than Mr. Wharton, I may have lent some weight to his 
Negotiations by joining in the Affair, from the greater confidence 
men are apt to place in one they know than in a stranger. However, 
as I neither ask or expect any particular consideration for any service 
I may have done and only think I ought to escape censure, I shall 
not enlarge on this invidious topic. Let us all do our endeavours, in 
our several capacities, for the common Service, and if one has the 
ability or opportunity of doing more for his Friends than another let 
him think that a happiness and be satisfied. 

The Business is not yet quite completed and as many Things 
happen between the Cup and the Lip, perhaps there may be nothing 
of this kind for Friends to dispute about For if no body should 
receive any Benefit there would be no scrambling for the Honour. 

Stavers is in the wrong to talk of my promising him the Rider's 
Place again. I only told him that I would (as he requested it) 
recommend him to Mr. Hubbard to be replaced if it could be done 
without impropriety or inconveniency. This I did & the rather as I 
had always understood him to have been a good honest punctual 
Rider. His behaviour to you entitles him to no Favour, and I 
believe any Application he may make here will be to little purpose. 

In yours from N York of July 3 you mention your intention of 
purchasing a Bill to send hither as soon as you return home from 
your journey. I have not since received any from you, which I only 
take notice of to you, that if you have sent one you may not blame 
me for not acknowledging the Receipt of it. 

In mine of April 20 I explained to you what I had before men- 
tioned that in settling our private Account I had paid you the sum 
of 389 (or thereabouts) in my own Wrong, having before paid it 
for you to the General Post Office. I hope that since you have re- 
ceived your Books and looked over the Accounts you are satisfied of 
this. I am anxious for your Answer upon it, the sum being large 
and what cannot prudently for you or me be left long without an 

My Love to my Daughter and compliments to your Brother, I 
am ever my dear Friend 

Yours most affectionately 


The above letter is taken from the copy kept by 
Franklin in his own handwriting in the collection of 



the American Philosophical Society. The same 
letter, with some verbal differences and without the 
last clause relating to the daughter, appears in Bige- 
low's " Works of Franklin," vol. iv., p. 473. 

Library of State Department, Washington, n 
R, 8: 

LONDON, Oct. 7, 1772. 

Dear Sir 

I had no line from you by this last Packet, but find with 
Pleasure by yours to Mr. Todd that you and yours are well. 

The affair of the Patent is in good Train and we hope, if new 
Difficulties unexpected do not arise, we may get thro' it as soon as 
the Board meet. We are glad you made no Bargain [torn] your 
Share and hope none of our Partners [torn] do any such thing ; for 
the Report of such a Bargain before the Business is completed might 
overset the whole. 

Mr. Golden has promised by this Packet that we shall certainly 
have the Accounts by the next If they do not come I think we 
shall be blamed, and he will be superseded ; For their Lordships 
our masters are incensed with the long Delay. 

I hope you have by this time examined our private Accounts as 
you promised, and satisfyd yourself that I did, as I certainly did, 
pay you that Ballance of about 389 ; in ray own wrong. It would 
relieve me of some uneasiness to have the Matter settled between us, 
as it is a Sum of Importance and in case of Death might be not so 
easily understood as while we are both living. 

With love to my Daughter and best Wishes of Prosperity to you 
both, and to the little one, I am ever my dear Friend 

Yours most affectionately, 


Library of State Department, Washington, 1 1 R, 

LONDON Nov 3 1772 
Dear Sir 

I received your Favour of June 22d by Mr. Finlay and 
shall be glad of an opportunity of rendering him any service on 
your Recommendation. There does not at present appear to be any 
S4 369 


Disposition in the Board to appoint a Riding Surveyor, nor does Mr. 
Finlay seem desirous of such an Employment. Everything at the 
Office remains as when I last wrote only the Impatience for the Ac- 
counts seems increasing. I hope they are in the October Packet 
now soon expected agreeable to Mr. Golden' s last promise. 

I spent a Fortnight lately at West Wycomb with our good master 
Lord Le Despencer and left him well. 

The Board has begun to act again and I hope our Business will 
again go forward. 

My love to my Daughter concludes from 

Your affectionate Friend 

and humble servant 

B. F. 

There is a letter to Foxcroft in the Library of the 
State Department, Washington, 1 1 R, 8, dated Lon- 
don, December 2, 1772, which need not perhaps be 
given in full, because Franklin sends love to his 
daughter and then crosses it out as follows : 

I can now only add my Love to my Daughter and best Wishes 
of Happiness to you and yours from Dear Friend 
Yours most affectionately 


He apparently struck out the words " Love to my 
Daughter and " because they were in effect included 
in the best wishes and happiness which followed. 

Library of State Department, Washington, 1 1 R, 


LONDON Mar. 3, 73 
Dear Friend 

I am favoured with yours of June 5, and am glad to 
hear that you and yours are well. The Flour and Bisket came to 
hand in good order. I am much obliged to you and your brother 
for your care in sending them. 

I believe I wrote you before that the Demand made upon us on 
Acct of the Packet Letters was withdrawn as being without Founda- 



tion. As to the Ohio Affair we are daily amused with Expectations 
that it is to be compleated at this and T'other time, but I see no 
Progress made in it. And I think more and more that I was right 
in never placing any great dependence on it. Mr. Todd has re- 
ceived your 2<x>. 

Mr. Finlay sailed yesterday for New York. Probably you will 
have seen him before this comes to hand. 

You misunderstood me if you thought I meant in so often men- 
tioning our Acct. to press an immediate Payment of the Ballance. 
My Wish only was, that you would inspect the Account and satisfy 
yourself that I had paid you when here that large supposed Ballance 
in my own wrong. If you are now satisfied about it and transmit 
me the Account you promise with the Ballance stated I shall be easy 
and you will pay it when convenient. 

With my Love to my Daughter &c I am ever Dear Friend 
Yours most affectionately 


Bigelow's " Works of Franklin," vol. v. p. 201 : 

LONDON, 14 July, 1773. 

Dear Friend : I received yours of June 7th, and am glad to 
find by it that you are safely returned from your Virginia journey, 
having settled your affairs there to satisfaction, and that you found 
your family well at New York. 

I feel for you in the fall you had out of your chair. I have had 
three of those squelchers in different journeys, and never desire a 

I do not think it was without reason that you continued so long 
one of St. Thomas' disciples : for there was always some cause for 
doubting. Some people always ride before the horse's head. The 
draft of the patent is at length got into the hands of the Attorney 
General, who must approve the form before it passes the seals, so 
one would think much more time can scarce be required to complete 
the business : but 't is good not to be too sanguine. He may go into 
the country, and the Privy Councillors likewise, and some months 
elapse before they get together again : therefore, if you have any 
patience, use it. 

I suppose Mr. Finlay will be some time at Quebec in settling his 
affairs. By the next packet you will receive a draft of instructions 
for him. 



In mine of December 2d, upon the post-office accounts to April, 
1772, I took notice to you that I observed I had full credit for my 
salary : but no charge appeared against me for money paid on my 
account to Mrs. Franklin from the Philadelphia office. I supposed 
the thirty pounds currency per month was regularly paid, because I 
had had no complaint from her for want of money, and I expected 
to find the charge in the accounts of the last year that is, to April 
3, 1773 : but nothing of it appearing there, I am at a loss to under- 
stand it, and you take no notice of my observation above mentioned. 
The great balance due from that office begins to be remarked here, 
and I should have thought the officer would, for his own sake, not 
have neglected to lessen it by showing what he had paid on my ac- 
count Pray, my dear friend, explain this to me. 

I find by yours to Mr. Todd that you expected soon another little 
one. God send my daughter a good time, and you a good boy. 
Mrs. Stevenson is pleased with your remembrance of her, and joins 
with Mr. and Mrs. Hewson and myself in best wishes for you and 

I am ever yours affectionately, 


American Philosophical Society Collection, vol. 
xlv., No. 80 : 

LONDON Feb. 18, 1774 
Dear Friend 

It is long since I have heard from you. I hope 
nothing I have written has occasioned any coolness. We are no 
longer Colleagues, but let us part as we have lived so long in 

I am displaced unwillingly by our masters who were obliged to 
comply with the orders of the Ministry. It seems I am too much 
of an American. Take care of yourself for you are little less. 

I hope my daughter continues well. My blessing to her. I 
shall soon, God willing, have the Pleasure of seeing you, intending 
homewards in May next. I shall only wait the Arrival of the April 
Pacquet with the accounts, that I may settle them here before I go. 
I beg you will not fail of forwarding them by that Opportunity, 
which will greatly oblige. 

Dear Friend 

Yours most affectionately 


It is to be observed of all these letters that, like 
the original letter of Foxcroft, they are entirely 
serious. They are business letters. They are not 
letters of amusement and pleasure, in which Frank- 
lin might joke and laugh with a young girl and in 
sport call her his daughter. They are not addressed 
to the woman in question but to her husband, and at 
the close of long details about business matters he 
simply says " give my love to my daughter," or he 
refers to her, as in the letter next to the last, as about 
to have another child. Read in connection with Fox- 
croft's original letter, they form very strong proof that 
Franklin believed Mrs. Foxcroft to be his daughter. 

But the reviewer says that Mr. Fisher notes in two 
places that women correspondents in writing to 
Franklin called him father and signed themselves 
"your daughter." Mr. Fisher notes on page 332 
the letter of a girl written to Franklin in broken 
French and English, in which she begins by calling 
him " My dear father Americain," and signs herself 
"your humble servant and your daughter J. B. J. 
Conway." The letter is obviously childish and 
sportive. We do not find the other instance of a 
similar letter to which the reviewer alludes. The 
Conway letter is such a frivolous one that it amounts 
to nothing as proof to overcome the serious, solemn 
statements by Franklin and Foxcroft in their letters. 
A light-minded French girl calling Franklin her father 
is very different from serious, business-like statements 
by Franklin saying that a certain woman was his 

The reviewer goes on to say that "a little more 


research would have shown him [Mr. Fisher] letters 
of Franklin couched in the same parental terms." 
The meaning of this is presumably that Franklin 
was in the habit of calling the young women he cor- 
responded with his daughters. This, however, it will 
be observed, is quite a different matter from Franklin's 
writing to a husband and sending love to the hus- 
band's wife as his daughter. But there are some 
letters to young girls on which a reckless, slap-dash 
reviewer would be likely to base the statement that 
Franklin habitually called women his daughters. 
Let us look into these letters and see what they are. 

Franklin's first correspondent of this sort was Miss 
Catherine Ray, of Rhode Island. They were great 
friends and exchanged some beautiful letters, almost 
unequalled in the English language. They are col- 
lected in Bigelow's "Works of Franklin," vol. ii. pp. 
387, 414, 495. The letter at page 387 begins " Dear 
Katy," and ends "believe me, my dear girl, your 
affectionate faithful friend and humble servant." The 
letter at page 414 begins " My Katy," speaks of her 
as " dear girl," and ends with the same phrase as the 
previous one, except that the word " faithful " is left 
out. The one at page 495 begins " Dear Katy," and 
closes " Adieu dear good girl and believe me ever 
your affectionate friend." In none of these letters 
does he speak of her as his daughter. 

The letters to Miss Catherine Louisa Shipley and 
to Miss Georgiana Shipley, the daughters of the 
Bishop of St. Asaph, are friendly but not very en- 
dearing in the terms used. He once calls Georgiana 
" My dear friend," and in the famous letter on the 



squirrel addresses her as " My dear Miss." He no- 
where calls them his daughters. 

The letters that come nearest to what the reviewer 
wants are those to Miss Mary Stevenson. There are 
quite a number of them, and she and Franklin were 
on the most affectionate terms. We will give the 
citations of them in Bigelow, although any one can 
look them up in the index : In vol. iii. pp. 34, 46, 54, 
56, 62, 139, 151, 186, 187, 195, 209, 232, 238, 245; 
in vol. iv. pp. 17, 33, 212, 258, 264, 287, 332, 339; in 
vol. x. p. 285. These letters call Miss Stevenson 
" Dear Polly," " My dear friend," " My good girl," 
and " My dear good girl." The first of them, vol. iii. 
p. 34, begins by addressing her as " dear child," and 
another, vol. iii. p. 209, closes by saying " Adieu my 
dear child. I will call you so. Why should I not 
call you so, since I love you with all the tenderness 
of a father." 

This may be what the reviewer had in his mind. 
But Franklin nowhere calls Miss Stevenson his 
daughter. The word daughter and child are very 
different. We all of us often call children we fancy 
"my child." Franklin's use of the word child as 
applied to Miss Stevenson has from the context of 
the letters a perfectly obvious meaning, no one can 
mistake it ; just as his use of the word daughter in 
the Foxcroft letters has, from the context and all the 
circumstances, a perfectly obvious meaning. 

It would be endless to discuss all the reviewer's 
irrelevant and extravagant statements. We shall call 
attention to only one other illustration of his methods. 
He closes one of his wild paragraphs by saying that 



if " Mr. Fisher wishes further knowledge on this 
subject for ' speculation,' we recommend him to read 
Franklin's letter to Foxcroft of September 7, 1774. 

The reviewer is careful not to quote from this 
letter or even to say where it may be found, and the 
inference the ordinary reader would draw from the 
way it is paraded is that it contains some very posi- 
tive denial that Mrs. Foxcroft was Franklin's daugh- 
ter. But when it is examined, it is found to be a 
business letter like the others, referring to the lady 
in question as " Mrs. Foxcroft " instead of as " my 
daughter," a perfectly natural way of referring to 
her and entirely consistent with the other letters. 
We give the letter in full. It is in the American 
Philosophical Society Collection, vol. xlv., No. 94 : 

LONDON Sept. 7, 1774. 
Dear Friend 

Mr. Todd called to see me yesterday. I perceive 
there is good deal of uneasiness at the office concerning the Delay 
of the Accounts. He sent me in the Evening to read and return to 
him a Letter he had written to you for the Mail. Friendship re- 
quires me to urge earnestly your Attention to the contents, if you 
value the Continuance of your Appointment ; for these are times of 
uncertainty, and I think it not unlikely that there is some Person in 
view ready to step into your Shoes, if a tolerable reason could be 
given for dismissing you. Mr. Todd is undoubtedly your Friend. 
But everything is not always done as he would have it This to your- 
self ; and I confide that you will take it as I mean it for your Good. 
Several Packets are arrived since I have had a Line from you. 
But I had the pleasure of seeing by yours to Mr. Todd that you and 
Mrs. Foxcroft with your little Girl are all in good Health which I 
pray may continue. 

I am ever my dear old friend 

Yours most affectionately 



Academy established by Franklin, 


of Madame Helvetius, 330. 

ADAMS, John, 295, 297, 303-5; 

criticisms of Franklin, 306-12; 

his difficulties with Vergennes, 

321 ; opposed to France, 322-3, 

341-6 ; Franklin criticises, 345-6. 

, Mrs. John, 328-9. 

Advertising, Franklin's methods 

of, 141-2. 
Air-baths, 25-6. 

Albany Conference, 201, 352-3. 
ALLEN, Chief-Justice, 122. 
Alliance, treaty of, 299-303. 
Almanac, Franklin's, 143-52. 
American Philosophical Society, 


Amusements as a youth, 18, 20. 
Ancestors of Franklin, 42, 132. 
Aristocracy, colonial, opposed to 

Franklin, 124. 

Arithmetic, Franklin learns, 51. 
"Armonica," the, 185. 
Asaph, St., the Bishop of, 227, 348 ; 

his daughters, 227-8. 
Asbestos purse, the, 63. 
Assembly, Franklin clerk of, 159; 

elected a member of, 199. 
" Associators," the, 199. 
AUSTIN, Jonathan, 301. 
Autobiography, Franklin's, 158. 

BACHE, Sarah, 119, 265. 
BAKER, Polly, 139. 
Ballads by Franklin, 45. 

BANCROFT, Dr. Edward, 288. 
BARTRAM, John, 192. 
Black Prince, the, 315. 
BLAGDEN, Dr. Charles, 182. 
Blood, causes of heat of, 29. 
Books read by Franklin, 44. 
Bows and arrows, Franklin sug- 
gests use of, 266. 
BRADDOCK, Franklin visits, 200. 
BRILLON, Madame, 325-7. 
Broad jokes of Franklin, 125. 
Broom-corn, 184. 
BURGOYNE surrender of, 301. 
" Busy Body" papers, 135. 

Canada, cession of, 336; Frank- 
lin's journey to, 267-9. 

CARROLL, Rev. John, 96, 267. 

Celibacy, Franklin's dislike of, 
i6, 349. 

CHATHAM, Lord, assists the 
Americans, 261. 

CHAUMONT, Ray de, 275, 347. 

Chevaux-de-frise devised by Frank- 
lin, 266. 

Chimneys, smoky, 183. 

Claims for extra service, 164-5. 

Clerk of the Assembly, 159, 197. 

COBBETT, his attack on Franklin, 

Colds, Franklin's theory of, 27-9. 

College of Philadelphia founded, 

COLLINS, John, 19-20, 45, 57. 

COLLINSON, Peter, 172-3, 177. 



Constitution of Pennsylvania, 349, 


, signing of, 361-2. 

Constitutional Convention of 1787, 

Constitution-making, 349-63. 

Constitutions, American, trans- 
lated into French, 355. 

Contentment of Franklin, 21. 

CONWAY, Mademoiselle, 332. 

Courant, New England, 80-1. 

COVERLEY, Sir Roger de, 144-5. 

Creed, Franklin's, 88-91. 

DEANE, Silas, 270, 278, 288, 289- 


Death of Franklin, 39-40. 
Deep water, effect of, on vessels, 

DE FOE'S " Essay upon Projects," 


Deism, Franklin's, 80, 84, 91. 

DENHAM, Mr., befriends Frank- 
lin, 59. 65, 133- 

DESPENCER, Lord le, 98, 242, 

Diseases of Franklin, 34-40. 

Diurnal motion of the earth, 186-7. 

" Dogood, Silence," 135. 

Dreams, Franklin's fondness for, 

Edict of the King of Prussia, 241-2. 

Education, defects of modern, 47- 

Electricity, 172-8. 

ELIOT, Jared, 170. 

" Ephemera, The," 154-5, 3 2 5-6- 

Epitaph of Franklin on himself, 
153 ; comic epitaphs, 154 ; on 
the Penns, 223; on Franklin, 
224 ; on the squirrel, 228. 

Examination before Parliament, 

Exercise, Franklin's opinion of, 37. 

" Fireplace, Pennsylvania," 170. 
Fisheries, the, 337, 340-2. 
FORD, Paul Leicester, his essay 

on the mother of Franklin's 

son, 106-7. 

FOTHERGILL, Dr., 213. 
FOXCROFT, John, 104-5. 
France, willingness of, to assist 

America, 277-8 ; loans from, 

317-18 ; Franklin's love for, 346 ; 

appointed commissioner to, 270 ; 

subserviency to, 343 ; departure 

from, 347. 
FRANKLIN, Mrs., 114-18, 120-1, 


, William, 105-7, 113, 214. 

, William Temple, 106, 214. 

Free ships, 316. 

French, enthusiasm of the, for 

Franklin, 273-5. 
, Franklin's knowledge of, 71. 

74. 325-6. 
Fur cap, Franklin's, 274. 

Gazette, Pennsylvania, founded by 
Franklin, 135-42 ; advertise- 
ments in, 142. 

Girls, Franklin's fondness for, 
128-9, 332-3- 

GODFREY, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas, 

134. 143- 

Gout, dialogue of the, with Frank- 
lin, 35. 

Governor, the Assembly's contests 
with the, 204. 

Governor's salary, contests about, 

" Great Empire, Rules for Re- 
ducing a," 240-1. 

Gulf Stream, 181-2. 

HALL, David, Franklin's partner, 


HARTLEY, David, 319. 
" Hat Honor," 82-3. 



HELVETIUS, Madame, 327-30. 
HOPKINSON, Thomas, 173. 
Hospital, the Pennsylvania, 123, 


HOUDETOT, Countess d', 332-4. 
HOWE, Lord, 262, 269. 
HUGHES, John, 232. 
Hutchinson Letters, the, 245-60. 

Illegitimate children of Franklin, 


Immorality, Franklin's, 103. 
Indolence, Franklin's, 21. 
IZARD, Ralph, 286-7. 

" Jacobite, The Genealogy of a," 


JAY, John, 318, 338-9, 341-2. 
Junto, the, 66-70. 

KAMES, Lord, 158, 186. 215. 
KEIMER, 54-5, 65, 133-5. 
KEITH, Governor, 55, 56-9. 
KlNNERSLEY, Ebenezer, 173-4, 

Kite experiment, 175-6. 

Languages, modern, 71-8. 

Latin, Franklin learns, 71 ; wants 
to abolish the study of, 72. 

LEE, Arthur, 286, 291-5. 

LEEDS, Titan, 145-6. 

Legislature, Franklin clerk of, 159 ; 
elected a member of, 199. 

Lehigh Valley, expedition to, 

" Liberty and Necessity," Frank- 
lin's pamphlet on, 60-3, 85-6. 

Library, the Philadelphia, 193-4. 

Liturgy, Franklin's, 89-90. 

Loans from France, 317-18. 

London, Franklin's first visit to, 
59 ; his life there, 60-5. 

Louis XVI. gives his portrait to 
Franklin, 347. 

Love of money, Franklin's, 160. 

MALTHUS, 190. 

Manures, mineral, 184. 

MARBOIS, 342. 

Maritime suggestions, 188-90. 

Marriage, Franklin favors, 106, 
349 ; attempts it for himself, 
109, in ; marries Mrs. Rogers, 

MATHER, Cotton, 66, 68, 81, 158, 


MAURY, 187-8. 
MECOM, Jane, 130. 
Mercury, the, 134-5, 142. 
MEREDITH, Hugh, 133, 136. 
Militia, Franklin organizes the, 


law drafted by Franklin, 206. 
Mississippi, navigation of the, 341. 
Mistress, Franklin's advice on the 

choice of a, 126-7. 
Modern languages, 71-2. 
Molasses, export duty on, 302-3. 
Money, Franklin's love of, 160. 
Moral code, Franklin's, 102, 108. 
Music, 185. 

Nepotism, 164, 293. 

Northeast storms, origin of, 169. 

Nuncio, the papal, 96-7. 

Oil, effect of, on waves, 182-3. 
Ordination of bishops, 96-7. 
OSWALD, commission of, 337-9. 

Paper money, Franklin's pamphlet 
on, 70. 

Parable against persecution, 155-8. 

Paralytic people brought to Frank- 
lin, 331. 

PARKER, Theodore, 106. 

Passy, Franklin at, 275. 

PASSY, Mademoiselle de, 306. 

" Paxton Boys," 219-20. 

Peace, proposals of, 319; treaty 
of, 335- 



" Pennsylvania Fireplace," 170. 

Hospital, 195. 

Peopling of countries, 190. 

Perfumes, Franklin's letter on, 

Persecution, parable against,is5-8. 

Philadelphia, Franklin's first jour- 
ney to, 52-4. 

Library, 193-4. 

Plagiarism, 26, 152. 

Plan of life. Franklin's, 8$. 

Polly Baker's speech, 139. 

PONTIAC, conspiracy of, 218. 

" Poor Richard," 143-52. 

Portraits of Franklin, 30-3. 

Postmaster of Philadelphia, 159. 

Postmaster-General of the colo- 
nies, 162 ; under Congress, 265. 

Prayer-book, Franklin's revision 
of, 98-101. 

PRIESTLEY, Joseph, 213. 

Privateering, Franklin opposed to, 


Profits of business, 159-61, 163-5. 
Proprietary estates, taxing of, 204- 

5, 209-10, 216-17, 22I > 
Proprietorship, abolition of, 221-6, 


RALPH, a friend of Franklin, 59, 


RAY, Miss Catharine, 128. 
READ, Miss, 54, 58, 60, 65-6, 112. 
Reading as a boy, 42. 
Recommendation, letters of, 319- 


" Reprisal," the, 271-2. 
Retirement from business, 160-1. 
RlTTENHOUSE, David, 168. 
Rolls, Franklin's story of the, 54. 
ROMILLY, Sir Samuel, visits 

Franklin, 350. 
Royal government, petition to, 

221-6, 231. 

" Rules for Reducing a Great 
Empire," 240-1. 

Sabbath-breaker, Franklin as a, 

78, 93- 

Salaries of Franklin's offices, 163-4. 

Salary of the President, Franklin 
opposes, 357. 

School-days, 41. 

Scotch-Irish, the, 219-20. 

Sedentary life of Franklin, 22. 

Self-made man, Franklin as a, 41. 

Senate, composition of the, 360. 

Shallow water, effect of, 181. 

SLOANE, Sir Hans, 63. 

Small-pox, inoculation for, 81. 

SMITH, Rev. William, 76, 122. 

Smoke-consuming stove, 184. 

Smoky chimneys, 183. 

Soldier, Franklin as a, 207. 

Spain, her interests in the Missis- 
sippi, 340. 

Spectator. The, analyzed by Frank- 
lin, 46. 

Stamp Act, 231-9. 

States, the smaller, 358. 

STEVENSON, Miss Mary, 129. 

, Mrs., 2ii-i2. 

Storms from the northeast, 169. 

STRAHAN, William, 213, 267. 

Street-cleaning, 196. 

Subserviency to France, 334-5, 343. 

Swimming, 18-19. 

SYNC, Philip, 173. 

Taxing the estates, 204-5, 209-10, 

216-17, 221. 
Temperance, 24-5. 
TEMPLE, John, his duel with 

Whately, 249. 
THOMPSON, Mrs., calls Franklin 

a rebel, 331. 

THUNDER, Marquis of, 306. 
TRUXTON, Captain, 348. 
TURGOT. 311-12. 


Union, plans of, 352-3. 

Vegetarianism, 22. 

VEILLARD, Le, 347. 

Ventilation, 29. 

Venus, transit of, 168. 

VERGENNES, 277, 281, 303, 321-2, 
324. 338, 34L 344- 

" Virtue, The Art of," planned by 
Franklin, 109. 

VOLTAIRE, resemblance of, to 
Franklin, 280; embraces Frank- 
lin, 306. 

War, Franklin's opinion of, 191. 

War, Quaker opinion of, 203. 

Water, depth of, as affecting ves- 
sels, 181. 

Water-drinking, 23. 

Water-spouts, 180. 

Wealth of Franklin, 165. 


WHATELY, Thomas, his duel with 
Temple, 249. 

Whistle, story of the, 60. 

WHITEFIELD, Rev. George, 

WILLIAMS, Jonathan, 293-8. 

Writing, Franklin trains himself 
in, 46. 




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