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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, halfhumorous 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 appearance 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 Canadians to the side of the revolted colonies. Charles Carroll's brother John, a Roman Catholic priest, accompanied them at the request of the members of Congress, who hoped that he would be able to influence 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, accompanied 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 incipient attack of the gout which his constitution wanted strength to develop completely. At Saratoga 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 southern 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 Montreal.
Their mission was fruitless. The army under General Montgomery which had invaded the country 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 commissioners were compelled to return without having accomplished anything.
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 question 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 government 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.
THE EMBASSY TO FRANCE AND ITS SCANDALS
FRANKLIN's most important duties in the Continental Congress were connected with his membership 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 himself one of the agents and to represent in France the united colonies which had just declared their independence.
On September 26, 1776, he was given this important 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 received 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