Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

cans unwisely and unbecomingly refused to hold out to the minister and parliament, was actually held out to them, but they refused to walk over it. This is the true history of that transaction; and as it is probable there may be another edition of that excellent pamphlet, I wish this may be communicated to the candid author, who, I doubt not, will correct that error.-I am ever, with sincere esteem, dear sir, your most obedient, humble servant,

"B. FRANKLIN."

Dr. Franklin strenuously exerted himself to free America from this odious tax; the principal objection to which was, that it was imposed by a British parliament, which the Americans asserted had no right to tax them. Dr. Franklin thus expresses his sentiments on the subject, in a letter to a friend, dated London, January 6, 1766:—

satisfaction, with gracious expressions of his majesty's confidence in their known duty and affection, on which he relied, that they would grant such sums as should be suitable to their abilities, loyalty, and zeal for his service. That the colonies had always granted liberally on such requisitions, and so liberally during the late war, that the king, sensible they had granted much more than their proportion, had recommended it to parliament, five years successively, to make them some compensation, and the parliament accordingly returned them two hundred thousand pounds a-year to be divided among them. That the proposition of taxing them in parliament, was therefore both cruel and unjust.* That by the constitution of the colonies their business was with the king in matters of aid, they had nothing to do with any financier, nor he with them; nor were the agents the proper channels through which requisitions should be "In my own private judgment, I think an made; it was therefore improper for them to immediate repeal of the Stamp Act would be enter into any stipulation, or make any pro- the best measure for this country; but a susposition to Mr. Grenville about laying taxes pension of it for three years, the best for that. on their constituents by parliament, which The repeal would fill them with joy and grahad really no right at all to tax them, espe- titude, re-establish their respect and veneracially as the notice he had sent them did not tion for parliament, restore at once their anappear to be by the king's order, and perhaps cient and natural love for this country, and was without his knowledge; as the king, their regard for every thing that comes from when he would obtain any thing from them, it hence; the trade would be renewed in all always accompanied his requisition with good its branches; they would again indulge in all words, but this gentleman, instead of a decent the expensive superfluities you supply them demand, sent them a menace, that they should with, and their own new assumed home incertainly be taxed, and only left them the dustry would languish. But the suspension, choice of the manner. But all this notwith- though it might continue their fears and standing, they were so far from refusing to anxieties, would, at the same time, keep up grant money, that they resolved to the follow- their resolutions of industry and frugality; ing purpose:-That they always had, so which in two or three years would grow into they always should, think it their duty to habits, to their lasting advantage. However, grant aid to the crown, according to their as the repeal will probably not now be agreed abilities, whenever required of them in the to, from what I now think a mistaken opinion, usual constitutional manner.' I went soon that the honour and dignity of government is after to England, and took with me an au- better supported by persisting in a wrong thentic copy of this resolution, which I pre-measure, once entered into, than by rectifysented to Mr. Grenville before he brought in the Stamp Act. I asserted in the house of commons (Mr. Grenville being present) that I had done so, and he did not deny it. Other colonies made similar resolutions. And had Mr. Grenville, instead of that act, applied to the king in council for such requisi-after the date of this letter, it began to appear tional letters to be circulated by the secretary of state, I am sure he would have obtained more money from the colonies by their voluntary grants, than he himself expected from his stamps. But he chose compulsion rather than persuasion, and would not receive from their good-will what he thought he could obtain without it. And thus the golden bridge which the ingenious author thinks the Ameri"There is neither king, nor sovereign lord on earth, who has, beyond his own domain, power to lay one far thing on the subjects, without the grant and consent of those who pay it; unless he does it by tyranny and violence." (Philippe de Commines, chap. 108.)

ing an error as soon as it is discovered; we must allow the next best thing for the advantage of both countries is, the suspension. For as to executing the act by force, it is madness, and will be ruin to the whole."

Contrary to Dr. Franklin's surmise, shortly

expedient to the administration, then under the marquis of Rockingham, to endeavour to calm the minds of the colonists; and the repeal of the Stamp Tax was contemplated. Amongst other means of collecting information on the disposition of the people to submit to it, Dr. Franklin was (Feb. 3, 1766,) “ordered to attend the committee of the whole house of commons, to whom it was referred to consider further the several papers relative to America, which were presented to the house by Mr. secretary Conway, &c." It contains a striking account of the extent and

accuracy of Dr. Franklin's information, and the facility and manliness with which he communicated his sentiments. He represented facts in so strong a point of view, that the inexpediency of the act must have appeared clear to every unprejudiced mind.

Dr. Franklin about this period, in addition to his agency for Pennsylvania, received the separate appointments of agent for the respective colonies of New Jersey, Georgia, and Massachusetts. All of which he continued to fill with equal credit to himself and advantage to his constituents, during his stay in England.

In the course of this year (1766) he visited Holland and Germany, and received the greatest marks of attention and respect from men of science in those countries. In his passage through Holland, he learned from the watermen the effect which a diminution of the quantity of water in canals has, in impeding the progress of boats. Upon his re

Feb. 24. The resolutions of the committee were reported by the chairman, Mr. Fuller; their seventh and last resolution setting forth, "that it was their opinion that the house be moved, that leave be given to bring in a bill to repeal the Stamp Act." A proposal for re-committing this resolution, was negatived by two hundred and forty votes, to one hundred and thirty-three: and the act, after some opposition, was repealed about a year after it was enacted, and before it had ever been car-turn to England he was induced to make a ried into execution.* number of experiments, which tended to confirm the observation. These, with an ex

nexed thereto :

A ludicrous caricature was published on this occa-planation of the phenomenon, he communision, of which the following description was given, an-cated in a letter to his friend sir John Pringle, which will be found among his philosophical writings.

"An Account of a humorous political print, called, The Repeal; which (in the Painters' phrase) may be called A Companion to the Tomb-stone, a print not long since published.

"The subject of this print is the Funeral of Miss AME STAMP, the favourite child and youngest daughter of

the honourable Mr. George Stamp, the well-known
Gentle Shepherd. At one end of the print stands the
Family Vault, with a mutilated inscription, signifying
that within it lie (it is to be hoped never to rise
again) the remains of ........ Hearth Mon**,.
Ship Mon**,. .. Excise B***....... Jew B*** ̧
Gen**** Warrants,.. ..&c.' On the top of the vault
are two heads on poles, like those on Temple Bar,

marked on the skull with the numbers 1715 and 1745. The vault is supposed to be situated on the side of the river, along the Strand, of which the funeral procession proceeds. The Reverend Mr. ANTI-SEJANUS,I that noted Constitutionalist, drawn to the life, appears first, reading the burial service: after him follow those two eminent pillars of the law, sir Bullface Doublefee § and Mr. Alexander Scotburn, supporting two black flags; on which are delineated the Stamps, with the Semper eadem; to which is annexed a new motto, consisting of those significant words, Three Farthings taken from the budget. Beneath this motto, as if meant to certify the number of the despicable fighting under these banners, appear on one flag the figures 71. and on the other 122, with a flying label surrounding both, bearing these words, All of a STAMP. Next appears the sad father of the deceased child, the honoura ble Mr. George Stamp himself, with grief and despair pictured on his countenance, carrying in his arms the

white rose and thistle interweaved, with the old motto of

infant's coffin, on which is written Miss AME STAMP, born 1765, died 1766.' Immediately after follows the chief mourner, Sejanus: then his grace of Spitalfields T and lord Gawkee:** after these Jemmy Twitcher, with a catch by way of funeral anthem; and by his side his friend and partner Mr. Falconer Donaldson of Halifax. At a little distance, to close the procession, are two worthy B****ps, Dr. Squirt, and another right reverend gentleman, who shall be nameless: and behind them lie, on this side of the river, two huge bales of returned commodities, one marked Stamps from

America, the other Black Cloth from America.

scene that appears in the back ground, by the River "These few mourners are separated from the joyful Thames, in which are riding three first-rate ships, called, The ROCKINGHAM, The GRAFTON, and The CONWAY. Along the shore stand open warehouses for the seve

[blocks in formation]

In the following year, as also in 1769, he visited Paris, where he was no less favourably received than he had been in Germany. He was introduced to the king (Louis XV.) and his sisters Mesdames de France, and particularly distinguished by them: as he was also by the Academy of Sciences (of which he was afterwards elected a foreign associate,) and many other scientific and literary characters.

Mons. Dubourg, a member of the same academy, undertook a French_translation of Dr. Franklin's letters on his Discoveries in Electricity, and the third English edition of the same work was now published in London. With respect to the general merit and originality of the experiments and hypotheses of Dr. Franklin, as described and explained in these letters, that eminent natural philosopher, the late Dr. Priestly, bears the following testimony in his " History of Electricity."

66

Nothing was ever written upon the subject of electricity, which was more generally read and admired in all parts of Europe than these letters. There is hardly any European language into which they have not been translated; and, as if this were not sufficient to make them properly known, a translation of them has lately been made into Latin. It is not easy to say, whether we are most pleased with the simplicity and perspicuity with with which the author proposes every hypowhich these letters are written, the modesty thesis of his own, or the noble frankness with

ral goods of our principal manufacturing towns, from which cargoes are Now shipping for America: among these is a large case, containing a statue of Mr. PITT, which is heaving on board a boat number 250; and there is another boat taking in goods, nearer the first-rates, which is numbered 105; numbers which will ever remain sacred to liberty, and render the memory of the triumphant MAJORITY, on this side of the river, revered by our latest posterity.

which he relates his mistakes, when they were corrected by subsequent experiments. "Though the English have not been backward in acknowledging the great merit of this philosopher, he has had the singular good fortune to be, perhaps, even more celebrated abroad than at home; so that, to form a just idea of the great and deserved reputation of Dr. Franklin, we must read the foreign publications on the subject of electricity; in many of which the terms Franklinism, Franklinist, and the Franklinian system, occur in almost every page. In consequence of this, Dr. Franklin's principles bid fair to be handed down to posterity as equally expressive of the true principles of electricity, as the Newtonian philosophy is of the true system of nature in general.'

As Dr. Franklin has only mentioned his electrical discoveries in a very transient way, in the former part of these memoirs, and as they are of a most important and interesting nature, it has been thought a short digression on the subject would be excusable, and not void of entertainment. For this purpose the following account of the same, including the first experiment of the Lightning Kite, as given by Dr. Stuber, is here given.

"Dr. Franklin engaged in a course of electrical experiments, with all the ardour and thirst for discovery which characterized the philosophers of that day. Of all the branches of experimental philosophy, Electricity had been least explored. The attractive power of amber is mentioned by Theophrastus and Pliny, and, from them, by later naturalists. In the year 1600, Gilbert, an English physician, enlarged considerably the catalogue of substances which have the property of attracting light bodies. Boyle, Otto Guericke, a burgomaster of Magdeburg, (celebrated as the inventor of the air pump,) Dr. Wall, and sir Isaac Newton, added some facts. Guericke first observed the repulsive power of electricity, and the light and noise produced by it. In 1709, Hawkesbee communicated some important observations and experiments to the world. For several years electricity was entirely neglected, until Mr. Grey applied himself to it, in 1728, with great as siduity. He and his friend Mr. Wheeler, made a great variety of experiments; in which they demonstrated, that electricity may be communicated from one body to another, even without being in contact, and in this way may be conducted to a great distance. Mr. Grey afterwards found, that by suspending rods of iron by silk or hair lines, and bringing an excited tube under them, sparks might be drawn, and a light perceived at the extremities in the dark. M. Du Faye, intendant of the French king's gardens, made number of experiments, which added not a little to the science. He made the discovery VOL. I....L

a

of two kinds of electricity, which he called vitreous and resinous; the former produced by rubbing glass, the latter from excited sulphur, sealing-wax, &c. But this idea he afterwards gave up as erroneous. Between the years 1739 and 1742, Desaguliers made a number of experiments, but added little of importance. He first used the terms conductors and electrics, per se. 1742, several ingenious Germans engaged in this subject. Of these the principal were, professor Boze of Wittemberg, professor Winkler of Leipsic, Gordon, a Scotch Benedictine monk, professor of philosophy at Erfurt, and Dr. Ludolf of Berlin. The result of their researches astonished the philosophers of Europe. Their apparatus was large, and by means of it they were enabled to collect large quantities of electricity, and thus to produce phenomena which had been hitherto unobserved. They killed small birds, and set spirits on fire. Their experiments excited the curiosity of other philosophers. Collinson, about the year 1745, sent to the library company of Philadelphia an account of these experiments, together with a tube, and directions how to use it. Franklin, with some of his friends, immediately engaged in a course of experiments; the result of which is well known. He was enabled to make a number of important discoveries, and to propose theories to account for various phenomena; which have been universally adopted, and which bid fair to endure for ages. His observations he communicated, in a series of letters, to his friend Collinson; the first of which is dated March 28, 1747. In these he makes known the power of points in drawing and throwing off the electrical matter, which had hitherto escaped the notice of electricians. He also made the grand discovery of a plus and minus, or of a positive and negative state of electricity. We give him the honour of this, without hesitation; although the English have claimed it for their countryman Dr. Watson. Watson's paper is dated Jan. 21, 1748; Franklin's, July 11, 1747; several months prior. Shortly after, Franklin, from his principles of plus and minus state, explained, in a satisfactory inanner, the phenomena of the Leyden phial, first observed by Mr. Cuneus, or by professor Muschenbroeck of Leyden, which had much perplexed philosophers. He showed clearly that the bottle, when charged, contained no more electricity than before, but that as much was taken from one side as was thrown on the other; and that to discharge it, nothing was necessary but to make a communication between the two sides, by which the equilibrium might be restored, and that then no signs of electricity would remain. He afterwards demonstrated by experiments, that the electricity did not reside in the coating, as had been supposed, but in the pores

of the glass itself. After a phial was charged, too generally for the interest of science, he removed the coating, and found that upon awaits unsuccessful experiments in philosoapplying a new coating the shock might still phy. He placed himself under a shed to be received. In the year 1749, he first sug- avoid the rain. His kite was raised. A gested his idea of explaining the phenomena thunder-cloud passed over it. No sign of of thunder-gusts and of the aurora borealis, electricity appeared. He almost despaired upon electrical principles. He points out of success; when suddenly, he observed the many particulars in which lightning and loose fibres of his string to move towards an electricity agree; and he adduces many facts, erect position. He now presented his knuckle and reasonings from facts, in support of his to the key, and received a strong spark. How positions. In the same year he conceived the exquisite must his sensations have been at astonishingly bold and grand idea of ascer- this moment! On this experiment depended taining the truth of his doctrine, by actually the fate of his theory. If he succeeded, his drawing down the forked lightning, by means name would rank high amongst those who of sharp-pointed iron rods raised into the have improved science; if he failed, he must region of the clouds. Even in this uncertain inevitably be subjected to the derision of manstate, his passion to be useful to mankind dis-kind, or what is worse, their pity, as a wellplays itself in a powerful manner. Admit- meaning man, but a weak, silly projector.ting the identity of electricity and lightning, The anxiety with which he looked for the and knowing the power of points in repelling result of his experiment, may be easily conbodies charged with electricity, and in con- ceived. Doubts and despair had begun to ducting their fire silently and imperceptibly, he suggests the idea of securing houses, ships, &c., from being damaged by lightning, by erecting pointed iron rods, which should rise some feet above the most elevated part, and descend some feet into the ground or the water. The effect of these, he concluded, would be either to prevent a stroke by repelling the cloud beyond the striking distance, or by drawing off the electrical fire which it contained; or, if they could not effect this, they would at least conduct the stroke to the earth, without any injury to the building.

prevail, when the fact was ascertained in so clear a manner, that even the most incredulous could no longer withhold their assent. Repeated sparks were drawn from the key, a phial was charged, a shock given, and all the experiments made, which are usually performed with electricity.

"About a month before this period, some ingenious Frenchmen had completed the discovery in the manner originally proposed by Dr. Franklin. The letters which he sent to Mr. Collinson, it is said, were refused a place amongst the papers of the Royal Society of "It was not until the summer of 1752, that London. However this may be, Collinson he was enabled to complete his grand and published them in a separate volume, under unparalleled discovery by experiment. The the title of, New Experiments and Observaplan which he had originally proposed, was, tions on Electricity, made at Philadelphia, to erect on some high tower, or other elevated in America. They were read with avidity, place, a sentry-box, from which should rise a and soon translated into different languages pointed iron rod, insulated by being fixed in A very incorrect French translation fell into a cake of resin. Electrified clouds passing the hands of the celebrated Buffon, who, notover this, would, he conceived, impart to it a withstanding the disadvantages under which portion of their electricity, which would be the work laboured, was much pleased with it, rendered evident to the senses by sparks be- and repeated the experiments with success. ing emitted, when a key, a knuckle, or other He prevailed upon his friend, M. D'Alibard, conductor was presented to it. Philadelphia to give to his countrymen a more correct at this time afforded no opportunity of trying translation of the work of the American elecan experiment of this kind. Whilst Franklin trician. This contributed much towards was waiting for the erection of a spire, it oc- spreading a knowledge of Franklin's princicurred to him, that he might have more ready ples in France. The king, Louis XV., hearaccess to the region of clouds, by means of a ing of these experiments, expressed a wish to common kite. He prepared one, by attach- be a spectator of them. A course of experiing two cross sticks to a silk handkerchief, ments was given at the seat of the Duc which would not suffer so much from the rain D'Ayen, at St. Germains, by M. De Lor. as paper. To his upright stick, was affixed The applauses which the king bestowed upon an iron point. The string was, as usual, of Franklin, excited in Buffon, D'Alibard, and hemp, except the lower end, which was silk. De Lor, an earnest desire of ascertaining the Where the hempen string terminated, a key truth of his theory of thunder-gusts. Buffon was fastened. With this apparatus, on the erected his apparatus on the tower of Montappearance of a thunder-gust approaching, he bar, M. D'Alibard at Marly-la-ville, and De went out into the commons, accompanied by Lor at his house in the Estrapade, at Paris, his son, to whom alone he communicated his some of the highest ground in that capital. intentions, well knowing the ridicule which, | D'Alibard's machine first showed signs of

electricity. On the 10th of May, 1752, a thunder-cloud passed over it, in the absence of M. D'Alibard; and a number of sparks were drawn from it by Coiffier, a joiner, with whom D'Alibard had left directions how to proceed, and by M. Raulet, the prior of Marly-la-ville. An account of this experiment was given to the royal academy of sciences, in a memoir of M. D'Alibard, dated May 13, 1752. On the 16th of May, M. De Lor proved equally successful with the apparatus erected at his own house. These discoveries soon excited the philosophers of other parts of Europe to repeat the experiment. Amongst these, none signalized himself more than father Beccaria of Turin, to whose observations, science is much indebted. Even the cold regions of Russia were penetrated, by the ardour for discovery. Professor Richmann bade fair to add much to the stock of knowledge on this subject, when an unfortunate flash from his rod put a period to his existence. The friends of science will long remember with regret, the amiable martyr to electricity.

"By these experiments, Franklin's theory was established in the most firm manner. When the truth of it could no longer be doubted, the vanity of men endeavoured to detract from its merit. That an American, an inhabitant of the obscure city of Philadelphia, the name of which was hardly known, should be able to make discoveries, and to frame theories, which had escaped the notice of the enlightened philosophers of Europe, was too mortifying to be admitted. He must certainly have taken the idea from some one else. Ăn American, a being of an inferior order, make discoveries! Impossible. It was said, that the abbé Nollet, in 1748, had suggested the idea of the similarity of lightning and electricity, in his Leçons de Physique. It is true that the abbé mentions the idea; but he throws it out as a bare conjecture, and proposes no mode of ascertaining the truth of it. He himself acknowledges, that Franklin first entertained the bold thought of bringing lightning from the heavens, by means of pointed rods fixed in the air. The similarity of electricity and lightning is so strong, that we need not be surprised at notice being taken of it, as soon as electrical phenomena became familiar. We find it mentioned by Dr. Wall and Mr. Grey, while the science was in its infancy. But the honour of forming a regular theory of thundergusts, of suggesting a mode of determining the truth of it by experiments, and of putting these experiments in practice, and thus establishing his theory upon a firm and solid basis, is incontestibly due to Franklin. D'Alibard, who made the first experiments in France, says, that he only followed the track which Franklin had pointed out.

"It has been of late asserted, that the ho

nour of completing the experiment with the electrical kite, does not belong to Franklin. Some late English paragraphs have attributed it to some Frenchman, whose name they do not mention; and the abbé Bertholon gives it to M. De Romas, assessor to the presideal of Nérac; the English paragraphs probably refer to the same person. But a very slight attention will convince us of the injustice of this procedure. Dr. Franklin's experiment was made in June, 1752; and his letter, giving an account of it, is dated October 19, 1752. M. De Romas made his first attempt on the 14th of May, 1753, but was not successful until the 7th of June, a year after Franklin had completed the discovery, and when it was known to all the philosophers in Europe.

"Besides these great principles, Franklin's letters on electricity contain a number of facts and hints, which have contributed greatly towards reducing this branch of knowledge to a science. His friend, Mr. Kinnersley, communicated to him a discovery of the different kinds of electricity excited by rubbing glass and sulphur. This we have said, was first observed by M. Du Faye; but it was for many years neglected. The philosophers were disposed to account for the phenomena, rather from a difference in the quantity of electricity collected; and even Du Faye himself seems at last to have adopted this doctrine. Franklin at first entertained the same idea; but upon repeating the experiments, he perceived that Mr. Kinnersley was right; and that the vitreous and resinous electricity of Du Faye were nothing more than the positive and negative states which he had before observed; that the glass globe charged positively, or increased the quantity of electricity on the prime conductor, whilst the globe of sulphur diminished its natural quantity, or charged negatively. These experiments and observations opened a new field for investigation, upon which electricians entered with avidity; and their labours have added much to the stock of our knowledge.

"In September, 1752, Franklin entered upon a course of experiments, to determine the state of electricity in the clouds. From a number of experiments he formed this conclusion: "that the clouds of a thunder-gust are most commonly in a negative state of electricity, but sometimes in a positive state;" and from this it follows, as a necessary consequence, "that, for the most part, in thunder-strokes, it is the earth that strikes into the clouds, and not the clouds that strike into the earth." The letter containing these observations, is dated in September, 1753; and yet the discovery of ascending thunder has been said to be of a modern date, and has been attributed to the abbé Bertholon, who published his memoir on the subject in 1776.

« ZurückWeiter »