Abbildungen der Seite




THE following admirable sketch of the character of Franklin is from a new work by Lord Brougham, recently published in London, entitled "Statesmen in the time of George III." It has not been published in this country:

"One of the most remarkable men, certainly, of our times as a politician, or of any age as a philosopher, was Franklin, who also stands alone in combining together these two characters, the greatest that man can sustain, and in this, that having borne the first part in enlarging science by one of the greatest discoveries ever made, he bore the second part in founding one of the greatest empires.

“In this truly great man everything seemed to concur that goes towards the constitution of exalted merit. First, he was the architect of his own fortune. Born in the humblest station, he raised himself, by his talents and his industry, first, to the place in society which may be attained with the help only of ordinary abilities, great application, and good luck; but next, to the loftier heights which a daring and happy genius alone can scale; and the poor printer's boy, who at one period of his life had no covering to shelter his head from the dews of night, rent in twain the proud dominion of England, and lived to be the ambassador of a commonwealth which he had formed, at the court of the haughty monarchs of France who had been his allies.

"Then he had been tried by prosperity as well as adverse fortune, and had passed unhurt through the perils of both. No ordinary apprentice, no commonplace journeyman, ever laid the foundation of


his independence in habits of industry and temperance more deep than he did, whose genius was afterward to rank him with the Galileos and the Newtons of the Old World. No patrician born to shine in courts, or assist at the councils of monarchs, ever bore his honours in a lofty station more easily, or was less spoiled by the enjoyment of them, than this common workman did when negotiating with royal representatives, or caressed by all the beauty and fashion of the most brilliant court in Europe. Again, he was self-taught in all he knew. His hours of study were stolen from those of sleep and of meals, or gained by some ingenious contrivance for reading while the work of his daily calling went on. Assisted by none of the helps which affluence tenders to the studies of the rich, he had to supply the place of tutors by redoubled diligence, and of commentaries by repeated perusal. Nay, the possession of books was to be obtained by copying what the art he himself exercised furnished easily to others.


'Next, the circumstances under which others succumb, he made to yield and bend to his own purposes; a successful leader of a revolt that ended in complete triumph, after appearing desperate for years; a great discoverer in philosophy, without the ordinary helps to knowledge; a writer famed for his chaste style, without a classical education; a skilful negotiator, though never bred to politics; ending as a favourite, nay, a pattern of fashion, when the guest of frivolous courts, the life which he had begun in garrets and in workshops.


Lastly, combinations of faculties, in others deemed impossible, appeared easy and natural in him. The philosopher, delighting in speculation, was also eminently a man of action. Ingenious reasoning, refined and subtile consultation, were in him combined with prompt resolution and inflexible firmness of purpose. To a lively fancy he joined a


learned, a deep reflection; his original and inventive genius stooped to the convenient alliance of the most ordinary prudence in every-day affairs; the mind that soared above the clouds, and was conversant with the loftiest of human contemplations, disdained not to make proverbs and feign parables for the guidance of apprenticed youths and servile maidens; and the hands that sketched a free constitution for a whole continent, or drew down the lightning from heaven, easily and cheerfully lent themselves to simplify the apparatus by which truths were to be illustrated or discoveries pursued.

"His discoveries were made with hardly any apparatus at all; and if, at any time, he had been led to employ instruments of a somewhat less ordinary description, he never seemed satisfied until he had, as it were, afterward translated the process, by resolving the problem with such simple machinery that you might say he had done it wholly unaided by apparatus. The experiments by which the identity of lightning and electricity was demonstrated, were made with a sheet of brown papar, a bit of twine, a silk thread, and an iron key.

"Upon the integrity of this man, whether in public or in private life, there rests no stain. Strictly honest and even scrupulously punctual in all his dealings, he preserved in the highest fortune that regularity which he had practised as well as inculcated in the lowest.

"In domestic life he was faultless, and in the intercourse of society delightful. There was a constant good humour and a playful wit, easy and of high relish, without any ambition to shine, the natural fruit of his lively fancy, his solid, natural good sense, and his cheerful temper, that gave his conversation an unspeakable charm, and alike suited every circle from the humblest to the most elevated. With all his strong opinions, so often solemnly declared, so imperishably recorded in his deeds,

he retained a tolerance for those who differed with him which could not be surpassed in men whose principles hang so loosely about them as to be taken up for a convenient cloak, and laid down when found to impede their progress. In his family he was everything that worth, warm affections, and sound prudence could contribute, to make a man both useful and amiable, respected and beloved.

"In religion he would be reckoned by many a latitudinarian, yet it is certain that his mind was imbued with a deep sense of the Divine perfections, a constant impression of our accountable nature; and a lively hope of future enjoyment. Accordingly, his deathbed, the test of both faith and works, was easy and placid, resigned and devout, and indicated at once an unflinching retrospect of the past, and a comfortable assurance of the future.

"If we turn from the truly great man whom we have been contemplating to his celebrated contemporary in the Old World (Frederic the Great), who only affected the philosophy that Franklin possessed, and employed his talents for civil and military affairs in extinguishing that independence which Franklin's life was consecrated to establish, the contrast is marvellous indeed between the monarch and the printer."


« ZurückWeiter »