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Jong 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. — Domestic Circumstances.
Philadelphia, 24 February, 1786.
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 bookt 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. 32
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. 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 of employments. His lands are on navigable water, communicating with the Delaware, and but about sixteen miles from this city. He has associated to himself a very skilful English fanner lately arrived here, who is to instruct him in the business, and partakes for a term the profits; so that there is a great apparent probability of their success.
You will kindly expect a word or two concerning myself. My health and spirits continue, thanks to God, as when you saw me. The only complaint I then had, does not grow worse, and is tolerable. I still have enjoyment in the company of my friends; and, being easy in my circumstances, have many reasons to like living. But the course of nature must soon put a period to my present mode of existence. This I shall submit to with the less regret, as, having seen during a long life a good deal of this world, I feel a growing curiosity to be acquainted with some other; and can cheerfully, with filial confidence, resign my spirit to the conduct of that great and good Parent of mankind, who created it, and who has so graciously protected and prospered me from my birth to the present hour. Wherever I am, I hope always to retain the pleasing remembrance of your friendship, being with sincere and great esteem, my dear friend, yours most affectionately, B. Franklin.
P. S. We all join in respects to Mrs. Shipley, and best wishes for the whole amiable family.
TO M. LE VEILLARD, OF PASST.
Nourishing State of America. — Cardinal de Rohan.
.Philadelphia, 6 March, 1786.
Mr Dear Friend,
I received and read with great pleasure your kind letter of October 9 th. It informed me of your welfare, and that of the best of good women, and of her amiable daughter, who I think will tread in her steps. My effects came all in the same ship, in good order; and we are now drinking every day les eaux epurees de Passy with great satisfaction, as they kept well, and seem to be rendered more agreeable by the long voyage.
I am here in the bosom of my family, and am not only happy myself, but have the felicity of seeing my country so. Be assured, that all the stories spread in the English papers of our distresses, and confusions, and discontents with our new governments, are as chimerical as the history of my being in chains at Algiers. They exist only in the wishes of our enemies. America never was in higher prosperity, her produce abundant and bearing a good price, her working people all employed and well paid, and all property in lands and houses of more than treble the value it bore before the war; and, our commerce being no longer the monopoly of British merchants, we are furnished with all the foreign commodities we need, at much more reasonable rates than heretofore. So that we have no doubt of being able to discharge more speedily the debt incurred by the war, than at first was apprehended.
Our modes of collecting taxes are indeed as yet imperfect, and we have need of more skill in finan
VOl. X. V