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begin to make serious impressions on those who at first rejected the counsels you gave; and they will acquire new weight every day, and be in high esteem when the cavils against them are dead and forgotten. Please to present my affectionate respects to that honest, sensible, and intelligent society,1 who did me so long the honor of admitting me to share in their instructive conversations. I never think of the hours I so happily spent in that company, without regretting that they are never to be repeated; for I see no prospect of an end to this unhappy war in my time. Dr. Priestley, you tell me, continues his experiments with success. We make daily great improvements in natural—there is one I wish to see in moral philosophy; the discovery of a plan that would induce and oblige nations to settle their disputes without first cutting one another's throats. When will human reason be sufficiently improved to see the advantage of this I When will men be convinced that even successful wars at length become misfortunes to those who unjustly commenced them, and who triumphed blindly in their success, not seeiug all its consequences? Your great comfort and mine in this war is, that we honestly and faithfully did every thing in our power to prevent it. Adieu, and believe me ever, my dear friend, yours, &c.
, B. Fhanklin.
» Supposed to allude to a club at the London Coffee-house.
To Dr. Priestley.
On true Science and its progress. Reflections on the Inconveniences attending all Situations in Life.
Dear Sir, Passy, Februarys, 1780.
Your kind letter of September 27th, came to hand but very lately, the bearer having staid long in Holland.
I always rejoice to hear of your being still employed in experimental researches into nature, and of the success you meet with. The rapid progress true science now makes, occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born so soon: it is impossible to imagine the height to which may be carried in a thousand years, the power of man over matter; we may perhaps learn to deprive large masses of their gravity, and give them absolute levity, for the sake of easy transport. Agriculture may diminish its labor and double its produce: all diseases may by sure means be prevented or cured, (not excepting even that of old age) and our lives lengthened at pleasure, even beyond the antediluvian standard. O that moral science were in as fair a way of improvement, that men would cease to be wolves to one another, and that human beings would at length learn what they now improperly call humanity!
[ am glad my little paper on the Aurora Borealis pleased. If it should occasion farther inquiry, and so produce a better hypothesis, it will not be wholly useless.
I am ever, with the greatest and most sincere esteem, Dear Sir, 8cc. B. Franklin.
[Enclosed in the foregoing Letter; being an answer to a separate paper received from Dr. Priestley.]
I have considered the situation of that person very attentively: I think that with a little help from the Moral Algebra,' he might form a better judgment than any -other person can form for him. But since my opinion seems to be desired, 1 give it for continuing to the end of the term, under all the present disagreeable circumstances: the connexion will then die a natural death. No reason will be expected to be given for the separation, and of course no offence taken at reasons given, the friendship may still subsist, and in some other way be useful. The time diminishes daily, and is usefully employed. All human situations have their inconveniences; we feel those that we find in the present, and we neither feel nor see those that exist in another. Hence we make frequent and troublesome changes without amendment, and often for the worse. In my youth I was passenger in a little sloop, descending the river Delaware. There being no wind, we were obliged when the ebb was spent, to cast anchor, and wait for the next. The heat of the sun on the vessel was excessive, the company strangers to me, and not very agreeable. Near the river side 1 saw what I took to be a pleasant green meadow, in the middle of which was a large shady tree, where it struck my fancy I could sit and read, (having a book in my pocket) and pass the time agreeably till the tide turned; 1 therefore prevailed with the captain to put me ashore. Being landed, I found the greatest part of my meadow was really a marsh, in crossing which, to come at my tree, I was up to my knees in mire: and 1 had not placed myself under its shade five minutes before the muskitoes in swarms found me out, attacked my legs, hands, and face, and made my reading and my rest impossible; so that I returned to the beach, and called for the boat to come and take me on board again, where I was obliged to bear the heat I had strove to quit,
and also the laugh of the company. Similar cases in the affairs of life have since frequently fallen under my observation.
I have had thoughts of a college for him in America: I know no one who might be more useful to the public in the institution of youth. But there are possible unpleasantnesses in fhat situation: it cannot be obtained but by a too hazardous voyage at this time for a family; and the time for experiments would be all otherwise engaged. 1
To General Washington.
Relative to the Marquis de la Fayette—Invitation to visit
SiR> Passy, March 5, 1780.
I have received but lately the letter your excellency did me the honor of writing to me in recommendation of the Marquis de la Fayette. His modesty detained it long in his own hands. We became acquainted, however, from the time of his arrival at Paris; and his zeal for the honor of our country, his activity in our affairs here, and his firm attachment to our cause, and to you, impressed me with the same regard and esteem for him that your excellency's letter would have done had it been immediately delivered to me.
Should peace arrive after another campaign or two, and afford us a little leisure, I should be happy to see your excellency in Europe, and to accompany you, if my age and
1 The advice contained in this paper related to Dr. Priestley himself, who had engaged to live with Lord Shelburne, as his librarian, at a salary of about ,£300 per annum, for a certain number of years: but before the term had expired, he became disgusted with his situation, and requested counsel from Dr. Franklin on the subject.
strength would permit, in visiting some of its ancient and most famous kingdoms. You would on this side the sea, enjoy the great reputation you have acquired, pure and free from those little shades that the jealousy and envy of a man's countrymen and cotemporaries are ever endeavoring to cast over living merit. Here you would know, and enjoy, what posterity will say of Washington. For a thousand leagues have nearly the same effect as a thousand years. The feeble voice of those grovelling passions cannot extend so far either in time or distance. At present I enjoy that pleasure for you: as I frequently hear the old generals of this martial country (who study the maps of America, and mark upon them all your operations) speak with sincere approbation and great applause of your conduct; and join in giving you the character of one of the greatest captains of the age.
I must soon quit the scene, but you may live to see our country florish, as it will amazingly and rapidly after the war is over; like a field of young Indian com, which long fair weather and sunshine had enfeebled and discolored, and which in that weak state, by a thunder gust of violent wind, hail, and rain, seemed to be threatened with absolute destruction; yet the storm being past, it recovers fresh verdure, shoots up with double vigor, and delights the eye not of its owner only, but of every observing traveller.
The best wishes that can be formed for your health, honor, and happiness, ever attend you, from yours, &c.