Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

case.

it; and Mr. Izárd chose to look upon this remissness as a slight, and to assume it as the ground of a quarrel. On this point it is enough to say, that he was not in the commission for treating with France, and could not, with the least propriety, claim to be consulted in the negotiation. Again, after Dr. Franklin became minister plenipotentiary, the drafts for public money expended in Europe passed through his hands. He was to pay the American commissioners at other courts. He paid to Izard about twelve thoasand dollars, and, there being no prospect of his going to the court of Tuscany, he declined accepting further drafts, till he should receive such instructions from Congress as would meet the

Mr. Izard's pride was wounded by this refusal. He neither suppressed nor concealed his resentment; nor ever practised any reserve in avowing his settled hostility to the plenipotentiary.

The imputations of these gentlemen, and some others with whom they were allied in opinion and sympathy, reiterated in letters to members of Congress, did necessarily produce a strong impression, espea cially as Franklin took no pains to vindicate himself, or to counteract the arts of his enemies. He was not ignorant of their proceedings. The substance of their letters, which the writers seemed not to desire should be kept secret, was communicated to him by his friends. Relying on his character, and conscious of the rectitude of his course, he allowed them to waste their strength in using their own weapons, and never condescended to repel their charges or explain his conduct. This apparent apathy on his part contributed to give countenance to the suspicions which had been infused into the minds of many, by the persevering industry of his adversaries. At one time those suspicions had gained so much ascendency, that his recall was proposed in Congress. There were thirty-five members present, eight of whom voted for his recall, and twenty-seven against it. Some of the latter were probably not his friends, but yielded to the motives of a patriotic policy, rather than to the impulse of personal feeling. That he was the best man to fill a pube lic station abroad, no one could doubt; that he should be sacrificed to gratify the spleen of disappointed ambition and offended pride, few could reconcile to their sense of justice, or to their regard for the true interests of their country.

It is a rare, and certainly a glorious felicity that, much as has been given to the world of this great man's works, each successive publication increases our esteem for his virtues, and our admiration of his understandings and thus it is, that although he did not escape such invidious

detractions during his lifetime as most men filling public situations have to encounter, yet his integrity is unsullied at this day, and posterity will, we may feel perfectly assured, continue to do him justice. Every insinuation and charge to his injury were speedily put to shame, never again to be repeated but with scorn, although for the time they inflicted pain, no doubt, upon the mind of one of the most disinterested and patriotic men that ever existed.

It is interesting to see in what manner Franklin speaks of his enemies, and of the artifices they employed to injure him. In writing to the Committee of Foreign Affairs, eighteen months after Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard began their opposition, he says,-“ Congress have wisely, enjoined the ministers in Europe to agree with one another. I had always resolved to have no quarrel, and have, therefore, made it a constant rule to answer no angry, affronting, or abusive letters, of which I have received many, and long ones from Mr. Lee and Mr. Izard, who, I understand, and see indeed by the papers, have been writing liberally, or rather illiberally against me, to prevent, as one of them says here, any impressions my writings against them might occasion to their prejudice; but I have never before mentioned them in any of my letters." To his son-in-law, who had informed him of the efforts made against him by certain persons, he replies, that he is “ very easy about their efforts and adds ;-"I trust in the justice of Congress, that they will listen to no accusation against me, that I have not first been acquainted with, and had an opportunity of answering. I know those gentlemen have plenty of ill will to me, though I have never done to either of them the smallest injury, or given the least just cause of offence. But my too great reputation, and the respect they show me, and even the compliments they make me, all grieve those unhappy gentlemen.”

He writes in a similar tone, whenever he has occasion to allude to the subject, which rarely occurs except when his attention is called to it by his correspondents. At a date two years later than that of the above extracts, he says to Mr. Hopkinson :-"As to the friends and enemies you just mention, I have hitherto, thanks to God, had plenty of the former kind; they have been my treasure; and it has perhaps been no disadvantage to me, that I have had a few of the latter. They serve to put us upon correcting the faults we have, and avoiding those we are in danger of having. They counteract the mischief Aattery might do us, and their malicious attacks make our friends more zealous in serving us and promoting our interests. At present I do not know more than

two such enemies that I enjoy. I deserved the enmity of the latter, because I might have avoided it by paying him a compliment, which I neglected. That of the former I owe to the people of France, who happened to respect me too much and him too little; which I could bear, and he could not. They are unhappy that they cannot make every body hate me as much as they do, and I should be so if my friends did not love me much more than those gentlemen can possibly love one another."

Dr. Franklin was ever actuated by the principles of an enlarged humanity and a far-sighted policy, which went to the foundations of civilization. Even when most eagerly employed as a public functionary, bis feelings and thoughts were ceaselessly branching out in a variety of directions for the well-being and enlightenment of his species. In these respects he was greatly in advance of his age. The four following papers, on different topics, are illustrations of his important services as a moral teacher and reformer. The quiet satire of the first of them is very good.

ON THE SLAVE TRADE.

Reading in the newspapers the speech of Mr. Jackson in Congress, against meddling with the affair of slavery, or attempting to mend the condition of slaves, it put me in mind of a similar speech, made about one hundred years since, by Sidi Mahomet Ibrahim, a member of the Divan of Algiers, which may be seen in Martin's account of his consulship, 1687. It was against granting the petition of the sect called Erika, or Purists, who prayed for the abolition of piracy and slavery, as being unjust. Mr. Jackson does not quote it: perhaps he has not seen it. If, therefore, some of its reasonings are to be found in his eloquent speech, it may only show that men's interests operate, and are operated on, with surprising similarity, in all countries and climates, whenever they are under similar circumstances. The African speech, as translated, is as follows.

« Alla Bismillah, &c. God is great, and Mahomet is his prophet.

“Have these Erika considered the consequences of granting their petition ! If we cease our cruises against the Christians, how shall we be furnished with the commodities their country produces, and which are &o necessary for us? If we forbear to make slaves of their people, who,

in this hot chimate, are to cultivate our lands? Who are to perform tha common labours of our city, and of your families? Must we not then be our own slaves ? And is there not more compassion and more favour due to us Mussulmen than to those Christian dogs ? We have now above fifty thousand slaves in and near Algiers. This number, if not kept up by fresh supplies, will soon diminish, and be gradually annihilated. If, then, we cease taking and plundering the infidels' ships, and making slaves of the seamen and passengers, our lands will become of no value, for want of cultivation; the rents of houses in the city will sink one-half; and the revenues of government, arising from the share of prizes, must be totally destroyed. And for what? To gratify the whim of a whimsical sect, who would have us not only forbear making more slaves, but even manumit those we have. But who is to indemnify their masters for the loss? Will the state do it? Is our treasury sufficient ? Will the Erika do it?---can they do it? Or would they, to do what they think justice to the slaves, do a greater injustice to the owners? And if we set our slaves free, what is to be done with them ? Few of them will return to their native countries--they know too well the greater hardships they must there be subject to. They will not embrace our holy religion : they will not adopt our manners : our people will not pollute themselves by intermarrying with them. Must we maintain them as beggars in our streets; or suffer our properties to be the prey of their pillage ? for men accustomed to slavery will not work for a livelihood when not compelled. Were they not slaves in their own countries ? Are not Spain, Portugal, France, and the Italian states, governed by despots, who hold all their subjects in slavery, without exception ? Even England treats her sailors as slaves ; for they are, whenever the government pleases, seized and contined in ships of war, condemned not only to work, but to fight for small wages, or a mere subsistence, not better than our slaves are allowed by us. Is their condition, then, made worse by their falling into our hands ? No: they have only exchanged one slavery for another; and, I may say, a better: for here they are brought into a land where the sun of Islamism gives forth its light, and shines in full splendour, and they have an opportunity of making themselves ac. quainted with the true doctrine, and thereby saving their immortal souls. Those who remain at home have not that happiness. Sending the slavęs home, then, would be sending them out of light into darkpess

“ I repeat the question, what is to be done with them? I have heard it suggested, that they might be planted in the wilderness, where there is plenty of land for them to subsist on, and where they may flourish as a free state. But they are, I doubt, too little disposed to labour without compulsion, as well as too ignorant to establish good government; and the wild Arabs would soon molest and destroy, or again enslave them. While serving us, we take care to provide them with every thing; and they are treated with humanity. The labourers in their own countries are, as I am informed, worse fed, lodged, and clothed.

The condition of most of them is therefore already mended, and requires no farther improvement. Here their lives are in safety. They are not liable to be impressed for soldiers, and forced to cut one another's Christian throats, as in the wars of their own countries. If some of the religious mad bigots, who now tease us with their silly petitions, have, in a fit of blind zeal, freed their slaves, it was not generosity, it was not humanity, that moved them to the action; it was from the conscious burden of a load of sins, and hope, from the supposed merits of so good a work, to be excused from damnation. How grossly are they mistaken, in imagining slavery to be disavowed by the Alcoran! Are not the two precepts, to quote no more, 'Masters, treat your slaves with kindness slaves, serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity,' clear proofs to the contrary ?-Nor can the plundering of infidels be in that sacred book forbidden; since it is well known from it, that God has given the world, and all that it contains, to his faithful Mussulmen, who are to enjoy it of right, as fast as they conquer it. Let us then hear no more of this detestable proposition, the manumission of Christian slaves, the adoption of which would, by depreciating our lands and houses, and thereby depriving so many good citizens of their properties, create universal discontent and provoke insurrections, to the endangering government, and producing general confusion. I have, therefore, no doubt that this wise council will prefer the comfort and happiness of a whole nation of true believers, unto the whim of a few Erika, and dismiss the petition.'

The result was, as Mr. Martin tells us, that the Divan came to this resolution :- That the doctrine, that the plundering and enslaving the Christians is unjust, is at the best problematical; but that it is the interest of this state to continue the practice, is clear : therefore, let the petition be rejected.'-And it was rejected accordingly.

"And since like motives are apt to produce, in the minds of men, like

« ZurückWeiter »