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Boston, was adopted by Congress as a continental army before General Washington took the command. This army would cease at the enri of the year,
by the expiration of the periods for which the soldiers were enlisted. Thus the anxious task of recruiting and organising a new arıny devolved on the commanders in chief. To assist him in this work, Congress deputed three of their body, of whom Franklin was one, to proceed to the camp and confer with the General on the most efficient mode of continuing and supporting a continental force. Other delegates from other provincial governments attended; and at last such a system was matured, as was satisfactory to Washington, and proved effectual in attaining the object.
Some time before, Franklin had received the sum of one hundred pounds sterling, sent to him by benevolent persons in England, as a donation for the relief of those, who had been wounded in the encounters with the British troops at Lexington and Concord, and of the widows and children of such as had fallen. While he was in the camp at Cambridge, he paid this money over to a committee of the Massachusetts Assembly.
During his absence, the Assembly of Pensylvania met, and by the returns of the election it appeared that Franklin had been chosen a representative for the City of Philadelphia. He was now a member of three public bodies, which convened daily for the despatch of business ;--that is, Congress, the Assembly, and the Committee of Safety ; but he usually attended in Congress whenever the times of meeting interfered with each other.
At length the momentous question of a total separation from Great Britain, and the establishment of national independence, came to be agitated. It was evident that a very large majority was prepared for that measure On this side was Franklin. A committee of five was chosen to prepare a declaration, consisting of Jefferson, John Adams, Franklin, Sherman, and Livingston. The history of this measure is too well known to need a repetition of it in this place. The declaration, drafted by Jefferson, was reported as it came from his peo, except a few verbal alterations suggested by Adams and Franklin.
The declaration of Independence of the thirteen North American States, which was solemnly proclaimed on the 4th of July, 1776, is conceived in a tone of impassioned but majestic eloquence, descriptive of the wrongs which had been inflicted at the hands of the British monarchy, and the consequent right to an absolution from allegiance. It forms one of the
most important public documents ever put upon record, and is frequently quoted as a specimen of the clear judgment and powerful sentiments of those who had taken counsel together towards its production. The declaration was debated three days.
Mr. Jefferson has related a eharaeteristic anecdote of Franklin connected with this subject. Being annoyed at the alterations made in the draft, while it was under discussion, and at the censures freely bestowed upon parts of it, he began to fear it would be dissected and mangled till a skeleton only would remain. “ I was sitting,” he observes, d by Dr. Franklin, who perceived that I was not insensible to those mutilations. I have made it a rule,' said he, whenever in my power to avoid becoming the draftsman of papers to be received by a public body. I took my lesson from an incident which I will relate to you. When I was a journeyman printer, one of my companions, an apprentice hatter, having served out his time, was about to open shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome sign board with a proper inscription. He composed it in these words, John Thompson, Hatter, Makes and Sells Hats for ready Money, with a figure of a hat subjoined. But he thought he would submit it to bis friends for their amendments. The first he showed it to, thought the word hatter tautologous, because followed by the words makes hats, which showed that he was a batter. It was struck out. The next observed, that the word makes might as well be omitted, because his customers would not care who made the hats ; if good and to their mind, they would buy by whomsoever made. He struck it out. A third said, he thought the words for ready money were useless, as it was not the custom of the place to sell on credit. Every one who purchased expected to pay. They were parted with, and the inscription now stood-John Thompson wells hats. Sells hats, says his next friend; why nobody will expect you to give them away. What then is the use of the word? It was struck out, and hats followed, the rather as there was one painted on the board. So the inscription was reduced ultimately to John Thompson, with the figure of a hat subjoined.''
There is another anecdote related of Franklin respecting an incident which took place when the members were about to sign the Declaration. “We must be unanimous,” said Hancock ; “there must be no pulling different ways; we must all hang together." “Yes," replied Franklin, " we must indeed hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."
The British government discovered, when too late, that it would be their best course to attempt the conciliation of its colonies. Still, it had not the good sense or politic courage tu propose an entire redress of grievances. Lord Howe was despatched with power to treat with the leaders of the insurrection; and as soon as he arrived on the American coast a correspondence took place between him and Franklin, on the subject of a reconcilation. The doctor was afterwards appointed, along with certain other individuals, to wait upon the commissioner, in order to ascertain what was the extent of his powers, which were found to be only to grant pardons upon submission. This was the last attempt to effect what Mr. Burke called in Parliament, an armed negociation;" and it would be allowing too little credit to the understanding of the British ministers themselves, to suppose that they did not anticipate its failure when they set it on foot.
In answer to one of his lordship’s letters to Franklin at this period, the following was returned :-"Long did I endeavour, with unfeigned and unwearied zeal, to preserve from breaking that fine and noble China vase, the British empire ; for I know that, being once broken, the separate parts could not retain their share of the strength or value that existed in the whole, and that a perfect re-union of those parts could scarce ever be hoped for. Your Lordship may possibly remember the tears of joy that wet my cheeks, when, at your good sister's in London, you once gave me expectations that a reconciliation might soon take place. I had the misfortune to find these expectations disappointed, and to be treated as the cause of the mischief I was labouring to prevent. My consolation under that groundless and malevolent treatment was, that I retained the friendship of many wise and good men in that country, and among the rest, some share in the regard of Lord Howe.”
At this period no public man connected with its most polished courts, had greater reputation in Europe than Dr. Franklin, His philosophical attainments were the graceful ornaments of a solid and statesmanlike mind; while his political sentiments and liberal mode of thinking were exactly adapted to the new station he was about to occupy, being the most dignified he had ever yet filled.
Successful as the Americans had already been in their operations in the field, with General Washington their Commander-in-chief, it became manifest to Congress that assistance in money and military stores was necessary. Accordingly Congress had under their consideration the subject of foreign alliances. The States having declared themselves to
be an independent power, they might properly assume and maintain this character in relation to other governments; and it was decided to make the first application to the court of France, and to proffer a coinmercial treaty, which should be mutually advantageous to both countries. Certain negociations had already been set on foot with France, and to hasten them to a happy conclusion, Congress appointed three commissioners -Dr. Franklin, Silas Deane, and Arthur Lee to act in this weighty affair. Deane was already in France, having been sent thither as a commercial and political agent. Lee was in England. Franklin made immediate preparations for his voyage. He left Philadelphia on the 26th of October, accompanied by two of his grandsons, William Temple Franklin, and Benjamin Franklin Bache.
As a proof of Franklin's zeal in the cause of his country, and of his confidence in the result, he raised, before he embarked, all the money he could command, being between three and four thousand pounds, and placed it as a loan at the disposal of Congress.
PARABLE AGAINST PERSECUTION. Franklin through life was an enemy to every species of persecution, on account of religious differences. On all proper occasions, he main.. tained the perfect liberty of private opinion on every matter, either of church or state, several times writing in favour of a general toleration of creeds. The following parable appeared originally in “ Sketches of the History of Man,” by Lord Kames, who says in that work, that it was communicated to me by Dr. Franklin of Philadelphia, a man who makes a great figure in the learned world, and who would still make a greater figure for benevolence and candour, were virtue as much regarded in this declining age as knowledge,” The piece is here inserted for the entertainment of the reader, while the doctor may be supposed to be on his way to Paris.
1. “And it came to pass after these things, that Abraham sat in the door of his tent, about the going down of the sun.
2. “ And behold a man, bowed with age, came from the way of the wilderness, leaning on a staff.
3. “ And Abraham arose and met him, and said unto him, 'Turn in,
I pray thee, and wash thy feet, and tarry all night, and thou shalt arise early on the morrow, and go on thy way.'
4. “ But the man said, Nay, for I will abide under this tree.'
5." And Abraham pressed him greatly, so he turned, and they went into the tent, and Abraham baked unleavened bread and they did eat.
6. “And when Abraham saw that the man blessed not God, he said unto him. Wherefore dost thou not worship the most high God, creator of beaven and earth ?!
7. “And the man answered and said, 'I do not worship the God thou speakest of, neither do I call upon his name; for I have made to myself a god, which abideth always in mine house and provideth me with ail things.'
8. “And Abraham's zeal was kindled against the man; and he arose and fell upon him, and drove him forth with blows into the wilderness.
9. “And at midnight, God called urto Abraham, saying Abraham, where is the stranger ?'