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die, to read what good husbands, good fathers, good friends, good citizens, and good Christians you were, concluding with a scrap of poetry that places you, with certainty, every one in heaven. So that I think Pennsylvania a good country to die in, though a very bad one to live in."
FROM THOMAS POWNALL
FROM THOMAS POWNALL TO B. FRANKLIN.
Political Condition of the Swiss Cantons. — Constitution of the United States.
Bristol, 8 April, 1788. MY DEAR OLD FRIEND, It is with more than common pleasure, that I sit down this day to write to you once more. As I have read my own death more than once in our newspapers, so I have read, and also heard, that you had quitted this present stage, and were gone where Lycurgus, Solon, Numa, and the elder Brutus have been long gone before you; and where I most decidedly believe, that you and others, who have served and have endeavoured to serve their country and the community of mankind at large, will compare notes with them. Although I considered your last quitting of Europe, as a departure like that of death, at least to us whom you left behind, yet, so long as you remained upon the same globe, in the same system of life, and since, as the proverb says, while there 's life, there 's hope, one might indulge a fond hope that we should meet again. But, when I was told you were dead, I was struck with a damp upon my heart, not for you, but for myself, as having lost the last friend remaining, with whom I could communicate on some points of the utmost importance to the liberty of man.
I believe that I am the only one now left, on this · stage of life, of those commissioners representing and
acting for the several provinces in America, whom I met at that Congress in Albany, in 1754, when the events, which have since come into fact, first began to develope themselves, as ready to burst into bloom and to bring forth the fruits of liberty, which you in America at present enjoy. How long I am to continue after these, is of very little consequence either to myself or to the world, as I now stand unconnected with it and its affairs.
In your last letter from Paris, when you took leave of me, then at Geneva, you desired I would consider the operations and effect of the Helvetic League, with a reference to the political union of the American States. I did so, and every thing, which I saw or had occasion to learn about this league, only served to confirm what I had already written and published in my “Memorial addressed to the Sovereigns of America.” I saw, that, if there was not in a people such a confidence in the basis of their liberty, as could suffer without fears and jealousies a spirit of sovereignty to establish a regulated rotary system of government, trusted, as to men in rotation, with every power necessary to render it effective, there could be neither the true spirit of liberty nor the fruits of government, and that either an aristocracy, or a monarchy, founded in faction or violence, must take place of it. I saw the traces of the politics of some high allies, false friends of the Swiss, establishing an aristocracy, whose members were their pensioners. I deprecated from my soul, that this might ever be the fate of America. And since you carried up from the committee of the Convention your report of a system of sovereignty founded in law, and above which law only was sovereign, I begin to
mies of enemies in our country, ravaging, plundering, and destroying our towns, and obstructing our agriculture, while their fleets ruined our commerce; and this for eight years together. I question, whether the public credit, even of your rich country, would have supported itself under similar treatment. But we are recovering fast, and, if peace continues, which God grant, we shall soon be in flourishing circumstances.
I did not think I could have written so much. I have done it, however, a little at a time. I can now only add, that I remain, with unalterable esteem and affection, my dear friend, yours most sincerely,
TO M. LE VEILLARD.
Dr. Franklin's Memoirs of his own Life. — New Constitution of the United States. - Restrictions on Trade. — Paper Money.
Philadelphia, 17 February, 1788. MY DEAR FRIEND, I received your kind letter of June 23d, by Mr. Saugrain, and it is the last of yours that is come to my hands. As you have so much leisure, and love writing, I cannot think you have been so long silent; you, who are so good as to love me, and who know how much pleasure your letters always afford me. I therefore rather suspect you may probably have written something too freely concerning public affairs, and that your letters may be arrested in your postoffice, and yourself lodged in the Bastille. You see I imagine any thing, however extravagant, rather than suppose, as your letters too often do, that my friends forget me.
I find Mr. Saugrain to answer well the good character you give of him, and shall with pleasure render him any services in my power. He is now gone down the Ohio, to reconnoitre that country.
I should have proceeded in the history you mention, * if I could well have avoided accepting the chair of President for this third and last year; to which I was again elected by the unanimous voice of the Council and General Assembly in November. If I live to see this year expire, I may enjoy some leisure, which I promise you to employ in the work you do me the honor to urge so earnestly.
I sent you with my last a copy of the new Constitution proposed for the United States by the late General Convention. I sent one also to our excellent friend the Duke de la Rochefoucauld. I attended the business of the Convention faithfully for four months. Enclosed you have the last speech I made in it. t Six States have already adopted the Constitution, and there is now little doubt of its being accepted by a sufficient number to carry it into execution, if not immediately by the whole. It has, however, met with great opposition in some States, for we are at present a nation of politicians. And, though there is a general dread of giving too much power to our governors, I think we are more in danger from too little obedience in the governed.
We shall, as you suppose, have imposts on trade, and custom-houses, not because other nations have them, but because we cannot at present do without · them. We want to discharge our public debt occasioned by the late war. Direct taxes are not so easily levied on the scantily settled inhabitants of our wideextended country; and what is paid in the price of
* The Memoirs of his own Life, to the continuance of which all his friends, who knew the importance of such a history, wished him anxiously to apply. –W.T. F. + See Vol. V. p. 155. VOL. X.
merchandise is less felt by the consumer, and less the cause of complaint. When we are out of debt we may leave our trade free, for our ordinary charges of government will not be great.
Where there is a free government, and the people make their own laws by their representatives, I see no injustice in their obliging one another to take their own paper money. It is no more so than compelling a man by law to take his own note. But it is unjust to pay strangers with such money against their will. The making of paper money with such a sanction is however a folly, since, although you may by law oblige a citizen to take it for his goods, you cannot fix his prices; and his liberty of rating them as he pleases, which is the same thing as setting what value he pleases on your money, defeats your sanction.
I have been concerned to hear of the troubles in the internal government of the country I love ;* and hope some good may come out of them; and that they may end without mischief.
In your letter to my grandson, you asked some questions that had an appearance as if you meditated a visit to us. Nothing in this world would give me greater pleasure, than to receive and embrace here the whole family; but it is too great a happiness to be expected. This family all join with me in best wishes of every felicity to you and yours; and I remain with unalterable and great esteem and affection, my dear friend, yours most sincerely,