페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

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 aggressions of the proprietors these liberties remained unimpaired 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 election. He was, however, appointed by the Assembly its agent to convey the petition to England and present it to the king. He set out in November, 1764,

* Pennsylvania : Colony and Commonwealth, chap. xix.

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 scientific 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 devise 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 invited 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 became 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 12th, in the morning, she insisted on my staying that one day longer, that 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, 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 mor

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 degree, have felt the same touch of race. Blood is thicker than water. But I doubt if any of themLowell, 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 accompany me, especially if we have a peace.” * This

* Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. iii. p. 212; vol. x. pp. 295, 302.

« 이전계속 »