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RETURN TO AMERICA IN 1785.
The infirmity under which Dr. Franklin laboured, was such, that on his quitting France he could not support the motion of a carriage. He left Passy on the 12th of July in the Queen's litter, which had been kindly offered for his journey to Havre de Grace. This vehicle was borne by Spanish mules, and he was able to travel in it without pain or fatigue. He slept the first night at St. Germains. Some of his friends accompanied him. On the journey he passed one night at the chateau of the Cardinal de la Rochefoucauld, who, according to Franklin's private journal, “would take no excuse, for being all powerful in his archbishopric, he would stops us, he declared, nolens volens at his habitation, and not permit us to lodge anywhere else.” The venerable traveller received civilities and complimentary visits from many of the inhabitants of the different places he passed through. The sixth day after leaving Passy he arrived at Havre de Grace.
From that port he embarked in a small packet, crossed the British channel, and landed at Southampton. Here he was met by Bishop Shipley and his fainily, Mr. Benjamin Vaughan, and other friends, whom he had known in England. He also found here his son William, whom he had not seen for more than nine years. In the revolution he had taken the side of the loyalists, and thus estranged himself from his father. He was now residing in England, where he spent the remainder of his days. This was the gentleman who had been appointed by the British government in 1762, to the office of governor of the state of New Jersey. It may easily be conceived that his desire and efforts to maintain the British ascendancy in America, grieved his father. However, their meeting seems to have been tender and cordial, the father refraining from all reproachful expressions and bearing to the son, and even distinctly allowing that every human being is not only liable to error in judgment, but that a man's opinions are not always in his own power.
* It appears that the son was illegitimate; but this does not seem to have caused any difference in Franklin's affections towards him. It also appears that there was only one legitimate child who survived the Doctor, or who indeed lived for any considerable time; a daughter, of whom notice has already been taken. Franklin at last chiefly concentrated his affections on his grand-children, of whom he had taken charge on proceeding to France.
We learn from Franklin's private journal that during every step (so to speak, of his return to America on this occasion, as on all others), his mind was directed or prompted to some one striking and useful subject, or another. While at Southampton, for example, where he continued four days, he says, naming the particular day--" I went at noon to bathe in Martin's salt-water hot-bath, and floating on my back fell asleep, and slept near an hour by my watch, without sinking or turn. ing, a thing I never did before, and should hardly have thought possible. Water is the easiest bed that can be.” From Southampton he embarked on board the London packet, a Philadelphia vessel. After a voyage of forty-eight days, without any remarkable incidents, he landed at Phila. delphia, on the 14th of September, having filled up his leisure, during the passage, by writing a long paper on “ Improvements in Navigation," and another on “Smoky Chimneys,” the former addressed to M. Le Roy, and the latter to Dr. Ingenhousz. They were both read a few weeks afterwards in the American Philosophical Society and were published in the Society's “ Transactions.” They contain many ingenious hints and practical remarks, founded on philosophical principles, and illustrated with drawings, and appropriate explanations. He also repeated his experiments for ascertaining the temperature of the sea in the Gulf Stream.
The aged philosopher supported the inconvenience of the voyage better than he had expected, and without any apparent injury to his health. The little private journal, devoted to his final return to his native country, concludes thus:
“Wednesday, Sept. 14th. With the flood in the morning came a light breeze, which brought us above Gloucester Point, in full view of dear Philadelphia ! when we again cast anchor to wait for the health officer, who having made his visit, and finding no sickness, gave us leave to land. My son-in-law came in a boat for us; we landed at Marketstreet wharf, where we were received by a crowd of people with huzzas, and accompanied with acclamations quite to my door. Found my family well.—God be praised and thanked for all his mercies."
The arrival of Dr. Franklin in Philadelphia, is thus described by one of his historians :-"He was received amidst the acclamations of an immense number of the inhabitants, who flocked from all parts in order to see him, and conduct him in triumph to his own house. In the mean time the cannon and the bells of the city announced the glad tidings to the neighbouring county; and he was waited upon by the Congress the
university, and all the principal citizens, who were eager to testify their esteem and veneration for his character.
Congratulatory addresses now poured in upon the Doctor from many quarters, to all of which he returned brief and appropriate answers ; but from no one came a more consistent or manly letter of welcome than his compatriot Washington, who addressed Franklin in the following unpretending strain :
“Dear Sir, --Amid the public gratulations on your safe return to America after a long absence, and the many eminent services you have rendered it, for which, as a benefited person, I feel the obligation, permit an individual to join the public voice in expressing his sense of them, and to assure you, that as no one entertains more respect for your character, so none can salute you with more sincerity, or with greater pleasure than I do on the occasion.
“ I am, dear Sir, your most obedient and most humble servant, “ The Honourable Dr. Franklin.
“ G. WASHINGTON."
LAST PUBLIC SERVICES. From some of Franklin's letters it would appear, that, when he left France, he looked upon his public life as at an end, anticipating the enjoyment of entire tranquility and freedom from care, after he should be again restored to the bosom of his family. In this expectation, however, he was disappointed. He had been at home but a few days, when he was elected a member of the Supreme Executive Council of Pensylvania. This was a preliminary step to a higher advancement ; for, when the Assembly met in October, he was chosen President of the State, the office being equivalent to that of governor in the other States. The choice was made by the joint ballot of the Assembly and Council. Under the first constitution of Pensylvania, no individual could serve in the council, or hold the office of president, more than three successive years, and he was then ineligible for the four following years. Dr. Franklin was annually chosen President till the end of the constitutional term, and each time by a unanimous vote, except the first, when there was one dissenting voice in seventy-seven. This unanimity is a proof, that, notwithstanding his great age and his bodily infirmities, he fulfilled the duties of the station to the complete satisfaction of the electors.
He was apparently at ease in his private circumstances, and happy in his domestic relations. He occupied himself for some time in finishing a house which had been begun many years before, and in which he fitted up a spacious apartment for his library. In writing to a friend, he said, "I am surrounded by my offspring ; a dutiful and affectionate daughter in my house with six children, the eldest of whom you have seen, who is now at college in the next street, finishing the learned part of his education; the others promising both for parts and good dispositions. What their conduct may be when they grow up and enter the important scenes of life, I shall not live to see, and I cannot foresee. I therefore enjoy among them the present hour, and leave the future to Providence.”
Again, to another correspondent he wrote ; " I am got into my niche after being kept out of it twenty-four years by foreign employments. It is a very good house that I built so long ago to retire into, without being able till now to enjoy it. I am again surrounded by my friends, with a fine family of grand-children about my knees, and an affectionate good daughter and son-in-law to take care of me. And after fifty years' public service, I have the pleasure to find the esteem of my country with regard to me undiminished.” Much of his time was devoted to the society of those around him, and of the numerous visiters whom curiosity and respect prompted to seek his acquaintance. His attachments to the many intimate friends he had left in Europe were likewise preserved by a regular and affectionate correspondence, in which are manifested the same steadiness of feeling and enlarged benevolence, the same playfulness and charm of style, that are conspicuous in the compositions of his earlier years.
Franklin was elected one of the delegates from Pensylvania to the Convention for forming the Constitution of the United States, which met at Philadelphia in May, 1787, and continued in session four months. Although he was now in the eighty-second year of his age, and at the same time discharged the duties of President of the State, yet ho attended faithfully to the business of the convention, and entered actively and heartily into the proceedings. Several of his speeches were written out and afterwards published. They are short, but well adapted to the occasion, clear, logical, and persuasive. He never pretended, as we have before seen, to the accomplishments of an orator or debater. He seldom spoke in deliberative assembly except for some special object, and then briefly, and with great simplicity of manner and language.
After the members of the convention had been together four or five weeks, and made very little progress in the important work they had in hand, on account of their unfortunate differences of opinion and disagree. ment on essential points, Franklin introduced a motion for daily prayers. “ In the beginning of the contest with Britain," says he, “when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard and they were graciously answered. All of us, who were engaged in the struggle, must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favour. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend ? or do we imagine that we no longer need his assistance. I have lived, Sir, a long time; and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that God governs the affairs of men. And, if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it possible that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe, that, without his concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel ; we shall be divided by our little, partial, local interests, our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a byword down to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest. I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers, imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before we proceed to business ; and that one or more of the clergy in this city be requested to officiate in that service.” The motion was not adopted, as the convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary.
These remarks afford some insight into Dr. Franklin's religious sentiments. Not a little has been said on this subject, and no doubt sometimes without a due degree of knowledge or charity. When Dr. Styles, president of Yale College, questioned him about his religious faith, he replied as follows, only five weeks before his death: “I believe in one God, creator of the universe ; that he governs it by his providence; that he ought to be worshipped; that the most acceptable service we can render to him is doing good to his other children ; that the soul of man is im