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TO BENJAMIN VAUGHAN. Memoirs of his Life. — Turkish War. — Price and
Priestley. — Heresy.
Philadelphia, 24 October, 1788. Having now finished my term in the Presidentship, 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.
I regret the immense quantity of misery brought upon mankind by this Turkish war; and I am afraid the King of Sweden may burn his fingers by attacking Russia. When will princes learn arithmetic enough to calculate, if they want pieces of one another's territory, how much cheaper it would be to buy them, than to make war for them, even though they were to give a hundred years' purchase? But, if glory cannot be valued, and therefore the wars for it cannot be subject to arithmetical calculation so as to show their advantage or disadvantage, at least wars for trade, which have gain for their object, may be proper subjects for such computation; and a trading nation, as well as a single trader, ought to calculate the probabilities of profit and loss, before engaging in any considerable adventure. This however nations seldom do, and we have had frequent instances of their spending more money in wars for acquiring or securing branches of commerce, than a hundred years' profit or the full enjoyment of them can compensate.
Remember me affectionately to good Dr. Price, and to the honest heretic, Dr. Priestley. I do not call him honest by way of distinction; for I think all the heretics I have known have been virtuous men. They have the virtue of fortitude, or they would not venture to own their heresy; and they cannot afford to be deficient in any of the other virtues, as that would give advantage to their many enemies; and they have not, like orthodox sinners, such a number of friends to excuse or justify them. Do not, however, mistake me. It is not to my good friend's heresy that I impute his honesty. On the contrary, it is his honesty that has brought upon him the character of heretic. I am ever, my dear friend, yours sincerely,
TO MRS. ELIZABETH PARTRIDGE.
Philadelphia, 25 November, 1788. You tell me our poor friend Ben Kent is gone; I hope to the regions of the blessed; or at least to some place where souls are prepared for those regions. I found my hope on this, that, though not so orthodox as you and I, he was an honest man, and had his virtues. If he had any hypocrisy it was of that inverted kind, with which a man is not so bad as he seems to be. And, with regard to future bliss, I cannot help imagining, that multitudes of the zealously orthodox of different sects, who at the last day may flock together in hopes of seeing each other damned, will be disappointed, and obliged to rest content with their own salvation. Yours, &c.
TO MRS. JANE MECOM.
Philadelphia, 26 November, 1788. MY DEAR SISTER, I received your kind letter of the 11th instant. The two former ones you mention, I had answered, though it seems the answer had not reached you. If it has finally miscarried, I will look for the letters, and answer them again.
I am sorry you should suffer so much uneasiness with tears and apprehensions about my health. There are in life real evils enough, and it is a folly to afflict ourselves with imaginary ones; and it is time enough when the real ones arrive. I see by the papers that to-morrow is your thanksgiving day. The flour will arrive too late for your plum puddings, for I find it went from hence but a few days since. I hope, however, it will be with you before the winter shuts up your harbour.
I never see any Boston newspapers. You mention there being often something in them to do me honor. I am obliged to them. On the other hand, some of our papers here are endeavouring to disgrace me. I take no notice. My friends defend me. I have long been accustomed to receive more blame, as well as more praise, than I have deserved. It is the lot of every public man, and I leave one account to balance the other.
As you observe, there was no swearing in the story of the poker, when I told it. The late new dresser of it was, probably, the same, or perhaps akin to him, who, in relating a dispute that happened between. Queen Anne and the Archbishop of Canterbury, concerning a vacant mitre, which the Queen was for bestowing on a person the Archbishop thought unworthy, made both the Queen and the Archbishop swear three or four thumping oaths in every sentence of the discussion, and the Archbishop at last gained his point. One present at this tale, being surprised, said, “But did the Queen and the Archbishop swear so at one another ?” “O no, no," says the relator; “that is only my way of telling the story.” ·
This family is all well at present, and join in love to you and yours, with your affectionate brother,
TO CHARLES THOMSON, SECRETARY OF CONGRESS.
Dr. Franklin's Public Services.
Philadelphia, 29 November, 1788. DEAR OLD FRIEND, Enclosed I send a' letter to the President of Congress for the time being, which, if you find nothing improper in it, or that in regard to me you could wish changed or amended, I would request you to present. I rely much on your friendly counsel, as you must be better acquainted with persons and circumstances than I am; and I suppose there will be time enough before the new Congress is formed to make any alterations you may advise, though, if presented at all, it should be to the old one.
In the copy of my letter to Mr. Barclay you may observe, that mention is made of some “considerable articles which I have not charged in my accounts with Congress, but on which I should expect from their equity some consideration.” That you may have some information what those articles are, I enclose also a " Sketch of my Services to the United States," wherein you will find mention of the extra services I performed, that do not appertain to the office of plenipotentiary, viz. as judge of 'admiralty, as consul before the arrival of Mr. Barclay, as banker in examining and accepting the multitude of bills of exchange, and as secretary for several years, none being sent to me, though other ministers were allowed such assistance.
I must own, I did hope, that, as it is customary in Europe to make some liberal provision for ministers when they return home from foreign service, the Congress would at least have been kind enough to have shown their approbation of my conduct by a grant of