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FROM THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE TO B. FRANKLIN.
Tour in Germany. - Prussia. — Austria. - Indian Vocabularies for the Empress of Russia.
Paris, 10 February, 1786. MY DEAR FRIEND, With unspeakable satisfaction I have heard of your safe arrival in America, and heartily wished I had been mingled in the happy crowd of your fellow citizens, when they saw you set your foot on the shore of Liberty. When your friends in Paris meet together, their first talk is of you. The wishes for you of a fortunate voyage, and pleasing sight of your family and friends, became a national sentiment. In my tour through Germany, I have been asked a thousand questions about you, when I felt equally proud and happy to boast of our affectionate intimacy.
Prussia and the Austrian dominions, with some parts of the German empire, the liberties of which have been so much spoken of in treaties and so little felt by the people, have been the object of my very agreeable journey.* The first class of people are, I found, misinformed, with respect to American affairs. What may be wrong, they know perfectly, with an addition of a thousand falsehoods; and I wish no ground was left for our enemies to found those falsehoods upon. Although they have an enthusiastic admiration of the virtues displayed by America during the war, yet it is a matter of doubt with them, (some sensible and feeling men excepted, particularly Prince Henry,) if free con
• Lafayette had recently returned from a tour through Germany. An account of this tour is contained in the Diplomatic Correspondence, VoL X. p. 53
stitutions can support themselves. The King of Prussia himself is blinded by habit and prejudices. .
That monarch's temper is very bad; the Emperor's not very quiet. But, the affairs of Great Britain being embarrassed, and our politics very pacific, I do not think any storm is to be feared. I have been happy to hear you have accepted the presidency of Pennsylvania. Nothing but that could speedily restore internal union, and remove the jealousies against neighbours. You will encourage federal measures, regulations for trade, a general system of militia; and, the more I learn the opinions of foreign nations, the more I wish for such arrangements, the necessity of which is obvious to almost every American. A committee, consisting of the intendants of finance, counsellors of state, and farmers-general, has been appointed to consider the affairs of American commerce. I shall attend regularly, but, as it is just begun, I cannot tell whether it will be very useful.
Enclosed I send you a vocabulary, which the Empress of Russia requests may be filled up with Indian words. You know her plan of a Universal Dictionary. I have thought you might send me the Delaware and Shawanese languages, with some others. Your commissioners for Indian affairs, Colonel Harmar and General Butler, will be able to superintend the business, which it is important to have well done, as the Empress, although I think to very little purpose, sets a great value upon it.*
Be so kind as to remember me most affectionately to your family, daughter, grandsons, son-in-law, and to all our friends in Philadelphia. My heart has been
* For other particulars respecting these Indian vocabularies, see Washington's Writings, Vol. IX. pp. 195, 301, 306.
long opened to you, and I need not assure you, that, with the highest regard and tenderest affection, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO JONATHAN SHIPLEY.
Progress of the Government in the United States. —
Philadelphia, 24 February, 1786. DEAR FRIEND, I received lately your kind letter of November 27th. My reception here was, as you have heard, very honorable indeed; but I was betrayed by it, and by some remains of ambition, from which I had imagined myself free, to accept of the chair of government for the State of Pennsylvania, when the proper thing for me was repose and a private life. I hope, however, to be able to bear the fatigue for one year, and then to retire.
I have much regretted our having so little opportunity for conversation when we last met.* You could have given me informations and counsels that I wanted, but we were scarce a minute together without being broken in upon. I am to thank you, however, for the pleasure I had after our parting, in reading the new book t you gave me, which I think generally well written and likely to do good; though the reading time of most people is of late so taken up with newspapers and little periodical pamphlets, that few now-a-days venture to attempt reading a quarto volume. I have admired to see, that, in the last century, a folio, Burton
* At Southampton, previous to Dr. Franklin's embarking for the United States. - W. T. F. † Paley's Moral Philosophy. - W.T. F. VOL. X.
on Melancholy, went through six editions in about forty years. We have, I believe, more readers now, but not of such large books.
You seem desirous of knowing what progress we make here in improving our governments. We are, I think, in the right road of improvement, for we are making experiments. I do not oppose all that seem wrong, for the multitude are more effectually set right by experience, than kept from going wrong by reasoning with them. And I think we are daily more and more enlightened; so that I have no doubt of our obtaining in a few years as much public felicity, as good government is capable of affording.
Your newspapers are filled with fictitious accounts of anarchy, confusion, distresses, and miseries we are supposed to be involved in, as consequences of the revolution; and the few remaining friends of the old government among us take pains to magnify every little inconvenience a change in the course of commerce may have occasioned. To obviate the complaints they endeavour to excite, was written the enclosed little piece, * from which you may form a truer idea of our situation, than your own public prints would give you. And I can assure you, that the great body of our nation find themselves happy in the change, and have not the smallest inclination to return to the domination of Britain. There could not be a stronger proof of the general approbation of the measures, that promoted the change, and of the change itself, than has been given by the Assembly and Council of this State, in the nearly unanimous choice for their governor, of one who had been so much concerned in those measures; the Assembly being themselves the unbribed choice of
* Probably the piece entitled, The Retort Courteous. p. 498.
See Vol. II.
the people, and therefore may be truly supposed of . the same sentiments. I say nearly unanimous, because, of between seventy and eighty votes, there were only my own and one other in the negative.
As to my domestic circumstances, of which you kindly desire to hear something, they are at present as happy as I could wish them. I am surrounded by my offspring, a dutiful and affectionate daughter in my house, with six grandchildren, 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.
He that raises a large family does, indeed, while he lives to observe them, stand, as Watts says, a broader mark for sorrow; but then he stands a broader mark for pleasure too. When we launch our little fleet of barks into the ocean, bound to different ports, we hope for each a prosperous voyage ; but contrary winds, hidden shoals, storms, and enemies come in for a share in the disposition of events; and though these occasion a mixture of disappointment, yet, considering the risk where we can make no insurance, we should think ourselves happy if some return with success. My son's son, Temple Franklin, whom you have also seen, having had a fine farm of six hundred acres conveyed to him by his father when we were at Southampton, has dropped for the present his views of acting in the political line, and applies himself ardently to the study and practice of agriculture. This is much more agreeable to me, who esteem it the most useful, the most independent, and therefore the noblest