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TO THE DUKE DE LA ROCHEFOUCAULD.
Philadelphia, 22 October, 1788.
- Our public affairs begin to wear a more quiet
aspect. The disputes about the faults of the new constitution are subsided. The first Congress will probably mend the principal ones, and future Congresses the rest. That which you mentioned did not pass unnoticed in the Convention. Many, if I remember right, were for making the President incapable of being chosen after the first four years; but the majority were for leaving the electors free to choose whom they pleased; and it was alleged, that such incapacity might tend to make the President less attentive to the duties of his office, and to the interests of the people, than he would be if a second choice depended on their good opinion of him. We are making experiments in politics; what knowledge we shall gain by them will be more certain, though perhaps we may
hazard too much in that mode of acquiring it .
Having now finished my turn of being President, and promising myself to engage no more in public business, I hope to enjoy the small remains of life that are allowed me, in the repose I have so long wished for. I purpose to employ it in completing the personal history you mention.* It is now brought down to my fiftieth year. What is to follow will be of more important transactions; but it seems to me what is done will be of more general use to young readers, exemplifying strongly the effects of prudent and imprudent conduct in the commencement of a life of business.t
* The Memoirs of his Life.
f Two days later he wrote to M. le Veillard as follows. "Our affair* mend daily, and are getting into good order very fast. Never was any measure so thoroughly discussed as our proposed new Constitution. Many objections were made to it in the public papers, and answers to those objections. Much party heat there was, and some violent personal abuse. I kept out of the dispute, and wrote only one little paper on the occasion, which I enclose. You seem to be too apprehensive about our President's being perpetual. Neither he nor we have any such intentions ; of what danger there may be of such an event we are all aware, and shall take care effectually to prevent it The choice is from four years to five years; the appointments will be small. Thus we may change our President if we do not like his conduct, and he will have less inducement to struggle for a new election. As to the ttvo chambers, I am of your opinion, that one alone would be better; but, my dear friend, nothing in human affairs and schemes is perfect; and perhaps this ia the case of our opinions." — October 'illh. On this subject of a single legislative body, see Vol. V. p. 1C5.
TO MADAME LAVOISIER.
Philadelphia, 23 October, 1788.
I have a long time been disabled from writing to my dear friend, by a severe fit of the gout, or I should sooner have returned my thanks for her very kind present of the portrait, which she has herself done me the honor to make of me. It is allowed by those, who have seen it, to have great merit as a picture in every respect; but what particularly endears it to me is the hand that drew it. Our English enemies, when they were in possession of this city and my house, made a prisoner of my portrait, and carried it off with them, leaving that of its companion, my wife, by itself, a kind of widow. You have replaced the husband, and the lady seems to smile as well pleased.
It is true, as you observe, that I enjoy here every thing that a reasonable mind can desire, a sufficiency of income, a comfortable habitation of my own building, having all the conveniences I could imagine; a dutiful and affectionate daughter to nurse and take care of me, a number of promising grandchildren, some old friends still remaining to converse with, and more respect, distinction, and public honors than I can possibly merit. These are the blessings of God, and depend on his continued, goodness; yet all do not make me forget Paris, and the nine years' happiness I enjoyed there, in the sweet society of a people whose conversation is instructive, whose manners are highly pleasing, and who, above all the nations of the world, have, in the greatest perfection, the art of making themselves beloved by strangers. And now, even in my sleep, I find, that the scenes of all my pleasant dreams are laid in that city, or in its neighbourhood.
VOl. Xr 46 E E
I like much young M. Dupont. He appears a very sensible' and valuable man, and I think his father will have a great deal of satisfaction in him.
Please to present my thanks to M. Lavoisier for the Nomenclature Chimique he has been so good as to send me, (it must be a very useful book,) and assure him of my great and sincere esteem and attachment . My best wishes attend you both; and I think I cannot wish you and him greater happiness, than a long continuance of the connexion. With great regard and affection, I have the honor to be, my dear friend, &c,
TO JOHN INGENHOUSZ.
State of his Health. — Steamboat.
Philadelphia, 24 October, 1788 .
You have always been kind enough to interest
yourself in what relates to my health. I ought therefore to acquaint you with what appears to me something curious respecting it. You may remember the cutaneous malady, I formerly complained of, and for which you and Dr. Pringle favored me with prescriptions and advice. It vexed me near fourteen years, and was, the beginning of this year, as bad as ever, covering almost my whole body, except my face and hands; when a fit of the gout came on, without very much pain, but a swelling in both feet, which at last appeared also in both knees, and then in my hands. As these swellings increased and extended, the other malady diminished, and at length disappeared entirely. Those swellings have some time since begun to fall, and are now almost gone; perhaps the cutaneous disease may return, or perhaps it is worn out . I may hereafter let you know what happens. I am on the whole much weaker than when it began to leave me. But possibly that may be the effect of age, for I am now near eighty-three, the age of commencing decrepitude.
I grieve at the wars Europe is engaged in, and wish they were ended; for I fear even the victors will be losers. I am ever, my dear friend, yours most affectionately, B. Franklin.
P. S. Our public affairs are drawing towards a settlement. I have served out the three years' term of my presidentship, limited by the Constitution; and, being determined to engage no more in public business, I hope, if health permits, to be a better correspondent . We have no philosophical news here at present, except that a boat moved by a steam engine rows itself against tide in our river, and it is apprehended the construction may be so simplified and improved as to become generally useful.*
* Alluding probably to Fitch's steamboat. See above, p. 232.
TO BENJAMIN VAUGHAN.
Memoirs of his Life. — Turkish War. — Price and Priestley. — Heresy.
Philadelphia, ii4 October, 1788.
Having now finished my term in the President
ship, and resolving to engage no more in public affairs, I hope to be a better correspondent for the little time I have to live. I am recovering from a long-continued gout, and am diligently employed in writing the History of my Life, to the doing of which the persuasions contained in your letter of January 31st, 1783, have not a little contributed. I am now in the year 1756, just before I was sent to England. To shorten the work, as well as for other reasons, I omit all facts and transactions, that may not have a tendency to benefit the young reader, by showing him from my example, and my success in emerging from poverty, and acquiring some degree of wealth, power, and reputation, the advantages of certain modes of conduct which I observed, and of avoiding the errors which were prejudicial to me. If a writer can judge properly of his own work, I fancy, on reading over what is already done, that the book will be found entertaining, interesting, and useful, more so than I expected when I began it. If my present state of health continues, I hope to finish it this winter. When done, you shall have a manuscript copy of it, that I may obtain from your judgment and friendship such remarks, as may contribute to its improvement.
The violence of our party debates about the new Constitution seems much abated, indeed almost extinct, and we are getting fast into good order. I kept out of those disputes pretty well, having wrote only one little piece, which I send you enclosed.