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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 worship from noblemen, ecclesiastics, governors, soldiers, and important public bodies on the journey to the
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 Chaumont 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 Franklin'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 requested 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 England 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 government 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 morning,” 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 ; something is perpetually occurring to remind us of the time spent with you.” They had besought him to finish 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 Philadelphia he was made President of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, under the extraordinary 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 described 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 genealogical 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 journal,
“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 appearance, the simplicity of his manner and language, and the novelty 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 extraordinary 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, between 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, little compunction in reflecting that I spend time so idly; but another 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 begin another game.”