« ZurückWeiter »
ment due to the memory of your husband, I retired to my chamber. Throwing myself upon my bed, I dreamt that I was dead and was transported to the Elysian fields. I was asked whether I wished to see any person in particular: to which I replied that I wished to see the philophers. There are two who live here at hand in this garden; they are good neighbours, and very friendly towards one another.' Who are they ?'
Socrates and Helvetius.' 'I esteem them both highly; but let me see Helvetius first, because I understand a little French, but not a word of Greek. I was conducted to him : he received me with much courtesy, having known me, he said, by character for some time past. He asked me a thousand questions relative to the war, to the present state of religion, of liberty, and of the government in France. "You do not inquire then,' said I, after your dear friend Madame Helvetius ; yet she loves you exceedingly: I was in her company not more than an hour ago.' "Ah!' said he, you make me recur to my past happiness, which ought to be forgotten in order to be happy here. For many years I could think of nothing but her, though at length I am consoled. I have taken another wife, the most like her I could find : she is not altogether so handsome, but she has a great fund of wit and good sense ; and her whole study is to please me. She is at this moment gone to fetch the best nectar and ambrosia to regale me; stay here awhile and you will see her.' 'I perceive,' said I, that your former friend is more faithful to you than you are to her : she has had several good offers, but has refused them all. I will confess to you that I loved her extremely; but she was cruel to me, and rejected me peremptorily for your sake.' 'I pity you sincerely,' said he, ‘for she is an excellent woman,-handsome and amiable. But do not the Abbé de la R -, and the Abbé M-- visit her ?' 'Certainly they do: not one of your friends has dropped her acquaintance. If you had gained the Abbé M with a bribe of good coffee and cream, perhaps you would have succeeded, for he is as deep a reasoner as Duns Scotus or Saint Thomas: be arranges and methodizes his argument in such a manner that they are almost irresistible. Or, if by a fine edition of some old classic, you had gained the Abbé de la R to speak against you, that would have been still better; as I always observed, that when he recommended anything to her, she had a great inclination to do directly the contrary. As he finished these words the new Madame Helvetius entered with the nectar, and I recognised her immediately as my former American friend, Mrs. Franklin! I reclaimed her, but she answered me coldly : 'I was a good
wife to you for forty-nine years and four months,-nearly half a century; let that content you. I have formed a new connexion here, which will last to eternity.' Indignant at this refusal of my Euridice, I immediately resolved to leave those ungrateful shades, and return to this good world again, to behold the sun and you! Here am I, let us avenge ourselves."
Franklin's desire to return home, and to spend the remainder of his days in the bosom of his family, at length increased upon him so much, that he repeatedly and earnestly solicited his recall. Deeming his services of great importance to his country, Congress delayed to comply with his request, and he submitted patiently to their decision. When he first asked permission to retire, he meditated a tour into Italy and Germany. Through his friend Dr. Ingenhousz, physician to their Imperial Majesties, he received flattering compliments from the Emperor and an invitation to visit Vienna. But he now found himself unable, from the infirmities of age, and his peculiar maladies, to undergo the fatigues of so long a journey; and his only hope was, that he might have strength to bear a voyage across the Atlantic.
At last his request was granted, and Mr. Jefferson was appointed to succeed him as minister-plenipotentiary in France. Franklin's final official act was the signing of the treaty between Prussia and the United States. He was the more pleased with this act, as the treaty contained his philanthropic article against privateering, and in favour of the freedom of trade, and of the protection of private property in time of war. The King of Prussia made po objection to this article. On the contrary, his ambassador, the Baron de Thulemeier, who signed the treaty, felicitated the commissioners on its being introduced. “The twenty-third article is dictated,” said he, “by the purest zeal in favour of humanity. Nothing can be more just than your reflections on the noble disinterestedness of the United States of America. It is to be desired that these sublime sentiments may be adopted by all the maritime powers without exception. The calamities of war will be much softened, and hostilities, often provoked by cupidity, and an inordinate love of gain will be of more rare occurrence.” Washington also spoke of this treaty in terms of high commendation. In a letter to Count de Rochambeau, he said, "The treaty of amity, which has lately taken place between the King of Prussia and the United States, marks a new era in negotiating. It is the most liberal which has ever been entered into between inde. pendent powers. It is perfectly original in many of its articles; and, should its principles be considered hereafter as the basis of connexion
between nations, it will operate more fully to produce a general pacification, than any measure hitherto attempted amongst mankind.” Franklin confidently hoped, that the benevolent principles so clearly recognized and announced in the treaty, would be wrought into the law of nations ; the example, however has not been followed.
Before the treaty was completed, he began to prepare for returning to America. He had resided eight years and a half in France. During that period, as has already been seen, he had been constantly engaged in public affairs of the greatest moment. As the champion of liberty he was known every where, and as a philosopher and sage, he was revered throughout Europe. No man had received in larger measure the homage of the wise, the good, and the renowned, or more affectionate kindness from numerous personal friends.
Franklin, in a very short time after his arrival in the French capital as envoy from the revolted colonies, found himself courted by the most distinguished persons in the city, rendering himself conspicuous in the political, scientific, and literary circles of that great metropolis. He was often present at the meetings of the Academy, where he was honoured with every mark of consideration and respect. When Voltaire came to Paris, for the last time to be idolized and to die, he expressed a desire to see the American philosopher. An interview took place. Voltaire accosted him in English, and pursued the conversation in that language. Madame Denis interrupted him by saying that Dr. Franklin understood French, and that the rest of the company wished to know the subject of their discourse. “Excuse me, my dear," he replied, “I have the vanity to show that I am not unacquainted with the language of a Franklin.”
Franklin presented his grandson to Voltaire, and asked a blessing. “God and liberty,” said the idol of the French, " is the only one fitting for Franklin's children." These two great men met again at a public sitting of the Academy; and when they took their places side by side, and shook hands together, a burst of applause involuntarily rose from the whole assembly.
Franklin's departure from France was anticipated with regret by all. One after another of his friends took their leave of him. The principal personages of the court testified their respect and their good wishes. 5. I have learned with much concern,” said Count de Vergennes, “ of your retiring, and of your approaching departure for America. You cannot doubt but that the regrets which you will leave, will be proportionate to the consideration you so justly enjoy. I can assure you, Sir, that the
esteem the King entertains for you, does not leave you anything to wish, and that his Majesty will learn with real satisfaction, that your fellowcitizens have rewarded, in a manner worthy of you, the important services, that you have rendered them. I beg, Sir, that you will preserve for me a share in your remembrance, and never doubt the sincerity of the interest I take in your happiness. The Marquis de Castries, minister of marine, wrote to him also, and as follows:--"I was not apprized until within a few hours, of the arrangements you have made for your departure. Had I been informed of it sooner, I should have proposed to the King, to order a frigate to convey you to your own country in such a manner as would mark the consideration which you have acquired by your distinguished services in France, and the particular esteem which his Majesty entertains for you !" About the same period the Abbé Morellet bore this testimony relative to the American philosopher :
“ There took place at this time a great void in our country by the departure of Franklin, who returned to America. He had lived at Passy, and Madame Helvetius, Cabanis, the Abbé de la Roche, and myself, used to dine with him once a week. He also came to dine very frequently at Anteuil, and our meetings were very gay. He was very fond of Scotch songs, and often remembered the powerful and gentle emotions he had received from them. He related to us, that in travelling in America, beyond the Alleghany mountains, he accidentally came to the habitation of a Scotchman, living far from society, on account of the loss of his fortune, with his wife, who had been handsome, and a daughter of fifteen, or sixteen years of age; and that in a fine evening, seated in front of their door, the woman sung the Scotch air, 'So merry as we've a' been,' in so soft and touching a manner, that he melted into tears, and the impression was still vivid in his mind, after a lapse of thirty years. Franklin's manners were in all respects delightful; there was about him perfect good humour and simplicity, an uprightness of mind that appeared in the smallest occurrences, and above all, a gentle sincerity, which was easily excited to gaiety. Such was the society of this great man, who has placed his country in the rank of independent nations, and made one of the most important discoveries of the age. He did not long speak in succession, excepting in relating anecdotes, a talent in which he excelled, and which he liked very much in others. His stories had always a philosophical object. Many of them had the form of apologues, which he had himself imagined, or which, when invented by others, he had applied with wonderful skill."
Thus closed the career, as foreign minister, of one of the brightest in the constellation of sages that ever guided a great nation through the perils of a tremendous revolution. The world may well glory in the contemplation of one, who bred in humble life, and to a mechanical art, has imparted a kind of borrowed lustre not only to all the succeeding professors of that particular calling, but to every department of industrial and manual labour-one,
" Whose Promethean line Drew a spark from the clouds, and made Printing divine." Franklin was immediately succeeded as American minister at the French court by Jefferson, one of the most distinguished of his countrymen at that or any other period, an individual who was indeed eminent amongst the great characters who figured in the last century. The new envoy was not insensible to the difficulties and disadvantages he had to encounter in coming after a man so universally loved, honoured, and admired, as was his far-famed friend. Jefferson, however, was so fortunate as at the very first to create for himself a most favourable impression by a ready and felicitous answer to a question put to him by the Count de Vergennes. When the Count said to him, at their earliest interview, “You replace Dr. Franklin, I believe ?” The new minister replied, “ Í succeed Dr. Franklin; no one can replace him." This happy return was speedily reported and propagated, serving materially to recommend Jefferson to a people, who set such a high rate upon polite repartee, and an easy unstudied courtesy.
It is instructive and admonitory, as well as curious to compare the manner of speaking by English writers of the present day, concerning Washington, Franklin, and the other American patriotic sages, who greatly distinguished themselves at the period of their revolution---with that of the authors and newspapers that were contemporaries of these illustrious men. In one of the prints of that time the following specimen of ignorance, insolence, and vulgarity appeared :-" The ringleaders in this unnatural rebellion, are George Washington, a Yankee farmer, Benjamin Franklin, a printer; with one Jefferson, one Adams, and such like crew ;-fine men to inake a government." The mighty transatlantic convulsion was thus absurdly attributed to the base and selfish ambition of a few imbecile upstarts.