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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 die."
He was sent to the conference as one of the delegates 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 member of the Continental Congress, he drafted another plan, which, though not adopted, added new suggestions 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 Legislature should consist of only one House, and that the executive authority, instead of being vested in a
Pp. 218, 231-236.
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 constitution was not violated and that all departments of government did their duty. It was a crude and awkward 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 suitable one in 1790.
But Franklin heartily approved of it, and in 1790 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 humorous 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 completed, the poor snake died with thirst." (Bigelow's Works of Franklin, vol. x. p. 186.)
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 translated 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 respects 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 written 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 naturally 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 debate, 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 practicability.”
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 arrangement in Pennsylvania,—and that the Legislature should consist of only one House. These two propositions 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