« ZurückWeiter »
extra services may not be so well known, and therefore may be here mentioned. No secretary ever arriving, the business was in part before, and entirely when the other commissioners left him, executed by himself, with the help of his grandson, who at first was only allowed clothes, board, and lodging, and afterwards a salary, never exceeding £ 300 a year, (except while he served as secretary to the Commissioners for peace,) by which difference in salary, continued many years, the Congress saved, if they accept it, £ 700 sterling a year.
He served as consul entirely several years, till the arrival of Mr. Barclay, and even after, as that gentleman was obliged to be much and long absent in Holland, Flanders, and England; during which absence, what business of the kind occurred, still came to Mr. Franklin.
He served, though without any special commission for the purpose, as a judge of admiralty; for, the Congress having sent him a quantity of blank commissions for privateers, he granted them to cruisers fitted out in the ports of France, some of them manned by old smugglers, who knew every creek on the coast of England, and, running all round the island, distressed the British coasting trade exceedingly, and raised their general insurance. One of those privateers alone, the Black Prince, took in the course of a year seventy-five sail! All the papers, taken in each prize brought in, were in virtue of an order of council sent up to Mr. Franklin, who was to examine them, judge of the legality of the capture, and write to the admiralty of the port, that he found the prize good, and that the sale might be permitted. These papers, which are very voluminous, he has to produce.
He served also as merchant, to make purchases, and direct the shipping of stores to a very great value, for which he has charged no commission.
But the part of his service which was the most fatiguing and confining, was that of receiving and accepting, after a due and necessary examination, the bills of exchange drawn by Congress for interest money, to the amount of two millions and a half of livres annually; multitudes of the bills very small, each of which, the smallest, gave as much trouble in examining, as the largest. And this careful examination was found absolutely necessary, from the. constant frauds attempted by presenting seconds and thirds for payment after the firsts had been discharged. As these bills were arriving more or less by every ship and every post, they required constant attendance. Mr. Franklin could make no journey for exercise, as had been annually his custom, and the confinement brought on a malady that is likely to afflict him while he lives.
In short, though he has always been an active man, he never went through so much business during eight years, in any part of his life, as during those of his residence in France; which however he did not decline till he saw peace happily made, and found himself in the eightieth year of his age; when, if ever, a man has some right to expect repose.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF CONGRESS.
Requesting a Settlement of his Accounts.
Philadelphia, 29 November, 1788.
When I had the honor of being the Minister of the United States at the court of France, Mr. Barclay, arriving there, brought me the following resolution of Congress.
"Resolved, that a commissioner be appointed by Congress with full power and authority to liquidate, and finally to settle, the accounts of all the servants of the United States, who have been intrusted with the expenditure of public money in Europe, and to commence and prosecute such suits, causes, and actions as may be necessary for the purpose, or for the recovery of any property of the said United States in the hands of any person, or persons, whatsoever.
"That the said commissioner be authorized to appoint one or more clerks, with such allowance as he may think reasonable.
"That the said commissioner and clerks, respectively, take an oath before some person duly authorized to administer an oath, faithfully to execute the trust reposed in them respectively.
"Congress proceeded to the election of a commissioner, and, ballots being taken, Mr. Thomas Barclay was elected."
In pursuance of this resolution, and as soon as Mr. Barclay was at leisure from more pressing business, I rendered to him all my accounts, which he examined, and stated methodically. By this statement he found a balance due to me on the 4th of May, 1785, of 7,533 livres, 19 sols, 3 derniers, which I accordingly received of the Congress banker; the difference between my statement and his being only seven sols, which by mistake I had overcharged; about three pence half penny sterling.
At my request, however, the accounts were left open for the consideration of Congress, tand not finally settled, there being some articles on which I desired their judgment, and having some equitable demands, as I thought them, for extra services, which he had not conceived himself empowered to allow, and therefore I did not put them in my account. He transmitted the accounts to Congress, and had advice of their being received. On my arrival at Philadelphia, one of the first things I did was to despatch my grandson, William T. Franklin, to New York, to obtain a final settlement of those accounts; he, having long acted as my secretary, and being well acquainted with the transactions, was able to give an explanation of the articles, that might seem to require explaining, if any such there were. He returned without effecting the settlement, being told, that it could not be made till the arrival of some documents expected from France. What those documents were, I have not been informed, nor can I readily conceive, as all the vouchers existing there had been examined by Mr. Barclay. And I, having been immediately after my arrival engaged in the public business of this State, waited in expectation of hearing from Congress, in case any part of my accounts had been objected to.
It is now more than three years that those accounts have been before that honorable body, and, to this day, no notice of any such objection has been communicated to me. But reports have, for some time past, been circulated here, and propagated in the newspapers, that I am greatly indebted to the United States for large sums, that had been put into my hands, and that I avoid a settlement. This, together with the little time one of my age may expect to live, makes it necessary for me to request earnestly, which I hereby do, that the Congress would be pleased, without further delay, to examine those accounts, and if they find therein any article or articles, which they do not understand or approve, that they would cause me to be acquainted with the same, that I may have an opportunity of offering such explanations or reasons in sup
Vol. x. 48 rf*
port of them as may be in my power, and then that the accounts may be finally closed.
I hope the Congress will soon be able to attend to this business for the satisfaction of the public, as well as in condescension to my request . In the mean time, if there be no impropriety in it, I would desire that this letter, together with another* relating to the same subject, the copy of which is hereto annexed, may be put upon their minutes. With every sentiment of respect and duty to Congress, I am, Sir, &c .
• A letter to Mr. Barclay, written in France;see above, p. 184.
t The requests contained in this letter were never complied with. Some months afterwards Charles Thomson, the Secretary of Congress, wrote to him as follows.
"Dear Sir; I am sorry to inform yon, that the apprehensions suggested in my last are realized. The delegates, whom the States appointed to conduct the business of the Union in Congress till the meeting of the new government, have not assembled in sufficient number to form a House. Consequently there was no opportunity of laying your letter before them, and getting it inserted on their minutes. I now wish to be informed what is to be done with it; whether you would desire it to remain among the other papers of the late Congress, or have it returned to you. I shall wait your orders. In the mean while accept a fresh assurance of the sincere esteem and regard with which I am, &.c." — Mm York, March 7th, 1789.
There is no evidence, that any farther efforts were made by Dr. Franklin to obtain justice from Congress. On the 1st of April, 1789, a sufficient number of members had assembled to organize the Congress under the new Constitution; but there is no record in the Journals, which shows that the above letter to the President of the old Congress was ever laid before that body, or that the subject was in any manner brought into consideration. Dr. Franklin's accounts, therefore, remained unsettled till bis death, notwithstanding his repeated solicitations to have them examined, adjusted, and closed. No allowance was ever granted for the "equitable demands for extra services," to which he thought himself entitled, nor were the grounds of them even made a subject of inquiry; no vote of thanks or approbation was passed for his long, steady, and most successful labors in the cause of his country. These evidences of ingratitude and neglect are humiliating, but history should speak with an impartial voice. When time has cooled the heat of passion, and the feuds of party are forgotten, men will be judged by their acts. As