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discovery. If the ancients knew it, it must have been long since forgotten, for it certainly was unknown to the moderns, at least to the Parisians; which to prove, I need but use one plain simple argument. They are as well instructed, judicious, and prudent a people as exist any where in the world, all professing, like myself, to be lovers of economy; and from the many heavy taxes required from them by the necessities of the state, have surely reason to be economical. I say, it is impossible that so sensible a people, under such circumstances, should have lived so long by the smokey, unwholesome, and enormously expensive light of candles, if they had really known that they might have had as much pure light of the sun for nothing. I am, &c.-AN ABONNE."
THE PLENIPOTENTIARY. A conviction, which had at length taken hold of Franklin's mind, led him to represent to Congress, the inexpediency of employing three commissioners at the court of France, in a service, the duties of which might be discharged with equal facility and at less expense by one. In conformity with this suggestion, he was appointed Minister Plenip tentiary to that court on the 14th of September, 1778. It was not long after this appointment that the Doctor gave a signal proof how ready he always was to promote whatever could be useful to mankind, and that he considered the interests of science were not to be overlooked amidst the din of war. When Captain Cook's vessel was about to return from a voyage of discovery, he wrote the following circular letter to the commanders of American cruizers, in his character of minister plenipotentiary :-
“ To all Captains and Commanders of armed ships, acting by commission from the Congress of the United States of America, now in war with Great Britain. “GENTLEMEN,—A ship having been fitted out from England, before the commencement of this war, to make discoveries of new countries in unknown seas, under the conduct of that most celebrated navigator Captain Cook-an undertaking truly laudable in itself, as the increase of geographical knowledge facilitates the communication between distant nations in the exchange of useful products and manufactures, and the extension of arts, whereby the common enjoyments of human life are
multiplied and augmented, and science of other kinds increased, to the benefit of mankind in general ; this is therefore most earnestly to recommend to every one of you, that in case the said ship, which is now expected in the European seas on her return, should happen to fall into your hands, you would not consider her an enemy, nor suffer any plunder to be made of the effects contained in her, nor obstruct her immediate return to England, by detaining her or sending her into any other port of Europe or America, but that you would treat the said Captain Cook and his people with all civility and kindness, affording them as common friends to mankind, all the assistance in yonr power which they may happen to stand in need of. In so doing, you will not only gratify the generosity of your dispositions, but there is no doubt of your obtaining the approbation of the Congress, and your own American owners. I have the honour to be, gentlemen, your most obedient, &c.
“ B. FRANKLIN, “ Minister Plenipotentiary from the Congress of the United States to the Court of France."
This act of magnanimity was properly estimated by the British government. After Cook's Voyage” was published, being in three volumes quarto, a copy of the work was sent to Franklin, by the Board of Admiralty, with a letter from Lord Howe, stating that it was forwarded with the express approbation of the King. One of the gold medals struck by the Royal Society in honour of Captain Cook, was likewise presented to him after the peace, which as we shall soon find, took place towards the close of 1782. Franklin, in a like noble manner, protected a Moravian missionary vessel, and a vessel sent with provisions and clothing from some benevolent citizens in Dublin to the West Indies.
Having glanced at some of the more important public and diplomatic occupations of Franklin at Paris, we may give a few particulars of his occasional pursuits as a philosopher.
He had as early as 1772, offered a report to the Royal Society in England on lightning conductors for the powder magazines at Purfleet; and so generally had his principles been adopted that they had become very common both in public and private buildings. But while he was engaged in endeavouring at Paris to divert from his country the injuries of war, an ungenerous attempt was made in England to deprive him of the fair fame of this invention.
A fellow-member of the Royal Society, Mr. B Wilson of London, pro
fessed to demonstrate in certain experiments at the Pantheon, that knobs were superior as conductors to points ; experiments which it is said the royal family witnessed and patronised. It is certain that the pointed conductors were removed about this time from Buckingham house. Our absent philosopher however met with a spirited defender in the late Lord Stanhope. Other members of the Royal Society took up the business, and completely exposed the charlatanism of Wilson. When Franklin heard of the king's changing his pointed conductors for blunt ones, he said " It is matter of small importance to me. If I had a wish about it at all, it would be that he reject them altogether; for it is only since he thought himself and family safe from the thunder of heaven, that he dared to use his own thunder in destroying his innocent subjects.”
While our philosopher was at the court of France, animal magnetism attracted much attention in the world, particularly at Paris. The king appointed commissioners to examine into the foundation of this pretended science, amongst whom he requested that Franklin would act. But after a fair and diligent inquiry, the whole was declared to be a mere trick, to the entire destruction of the fame and hopes of the adventurer, Mesmer.
It is not the design of this narrative, nor is it possible within the limits prescribed, to write a history of the public transactions in which Franklin was concerned during his official residence in France. Some of the more prominent incidents and those of a personal nature, are all that can be introduced. But justice to his memory, as well as gratitude for the great services he rendered to his country, require that some of the particulars should be stated in regard to the means that were used to embarrass his proceedings and injure his character.
Among those who took upon themselves this unworthy task, the most active and persevering was Mr. Arthur Lee. . This gentleman was a Virginian by birth. A few years before the war broke out, he went to London, studied law in the Temple, and commenced practice. His talents and attainments were respectable, he was a good writer, and supported the cause of his country with ardour and a uniform consistency. But his temper was restless and vehement. Jealous of his rivals and distrustful of everybody, he involved himself and those connected with him, in a succession of disputes and difficulties.
His hostility to Franklin showed itself at an early date. When the Doctor was appointed agent for Massachusetts at the court of London,
Mr. Lee was nominated to be his successor whenever he should retire. Circumstances detained him longer in England than he had expected. Mr. Lee grew impatient, and fearing, as he said, that Franklin would
“depart, till he was gathered to his fathers,” he resorted to the dishonourable artifice of writing letters to one of the principal members of the Massachusetts legislature, filled with charges against him in regard to his official conduct, ,--as destitute of foundation in point of fact, as they were of candour and propriety. This was the more reprehensible, as Franklin consulted him on fitting occasions respecting the affairs of the colony, treated him as a friend, considered him as such, and spoke favourably of him in his correspondence. It is true, that these charges did not then produce the effect desired by Lee; yet they gave rise to suspicions, which long existed in the minds of the prominent men of Massachusetts, and which were utterly without any just cause.
Before Dr. Franklin's arrival in France, Mr. Lee had fallen into a quarrel with Mr. Deane, the other commissioner, so that his disposition towards his two associates was already virulent, when the three met in Paris. For seven or eight months, there was, to be sure, an apparent harmony, for Mr. Lee was absent the most of that time in Spain and Germany, and the business at the French court was transacted by Franklin and Deane. But no sooner had he again joined his colleagues, than his suspicious temper and aspiring ambition, raised up new troubles, and he began to foment discords both in Europe and America, which ultimately threatened alarming consequences to the foreign affairs of the United States. He was dissatisfied with all that the other two commissioners had done, found fault with their contracts, and more than insinuated that they had been heedlessly extravagant, partial to friends, and indulgent to themselves in the expenditure of public money. This was not the worst. His letters to members of Congress teemed with charges and insinuations, which, although they were not sustained by any positive evidence, could not fail to produce impressions, as erroneous as they were unjust to those, whom he chose to consider his enemies, and whom he believed to stand in his way.
As early as October, 1777, his designs were unfolded in letters to his brothers, and to Samuel Adams, who were then members of Congress. He represents American affairs in France to be in the utmost disorder and peril, by the negligence and faithlessness of his associate commissioners, who would pay no regard to his counsels, and admonitions, and whom it was impossible for him to controul; and he then begs
his friends, that if there should be a question in Congress about his des tination, he should “ prefer being at the court of France,” for he had discovered that court to be “the great wheel” by which all the others were moved. He recommended that Dr. Franklin should be sent to Vienna, and Mr. Deane to Holland. “ In that case," said he “I should have it in my power to call those to an account, through whose hands I know the public money has passed, and which will either never be accounted for, or misaccounted for by connivance between those who are to share in the public plunder. If this scheme can be executed, it will disconcert all their plans at one stroke without an appearance of intention, and save both the public and me.” Such hints and insinuations require no comment.
Lee pursued the same manœuvres for several months. At one time he intimated, that Dr. Franklin had sent out a public vessel on a “ cruising job,” in the profits of which he was to share; and, at ano. ther, that he and the American banker in Paris were in a league to defraud the public and to put money into their own pockets. It is now needless to say, that there was not one word of truth in these charges, nor any grounds for them except in Mr. Lee's heated passions, distempered imagination, and ambitious hopes, He did not succeed in his schemes, but he was not the less pertinacious in continuing them. His letters produced a mischievous influence, fanning the flame of party, and exciting suspicions of almost every public agent abroad, whom he did not regard as subservient to his views. It is scarcely too much to say, that the feuds and divisions, which reigned for a long time in Congress, with respect to the foreign affairs of the United States, are to be ascribed more to this malign source, than to all other causes.
Another individual, who placed himself among the foremost of Dr. Franklin's enemies, was Mr. Ralph Izard. He imbibed his prejudices in the first instance from Lee. He resided nearly two years in Paris as commissioner from the United States to the court of Tuscany; but having no direct intercourse with that court, and no encouragement that he would be received there, it was not in his power to render any public service, and he was at length recalled.
There were two causos of his enmity to Franklin. Whilst treaties were negotiating with Franco, he conceived that he ought to be con. sulted, in virtue of his commission to another court; he complained of being overlooked, and demanded an explanation. Not recognising his authority to make such a demand, Dr. Franklin was tardy in answering