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AT HOME AGAIN
FRANKLIN's wife had died while he was in England, 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 Continental Congress which was soon to meet in Philadelphia. 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 conservatism 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 obtain gunpowder for the army. The colonists had always relied on Europe for their supply, and were unaccustomed to manufacturing it. Franklin suggested 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. 2dly. He can discharge four arrows in the time of charging and discharging one bullet. 3dly. His object is not taken from his view by the smoke of his own side. 4thly. A fight of arrows seen coming upon them, terrifies and disturbs the enemies' attention to their business. 5thly. 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 everywhere than muskets and ammunition."
This suggestion seems less strange when we remember that the musket of that time was a smoothbore and comparatively harmless at three hundred yards.
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
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