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“Life of Franklin," which has usually been circulated in Great Britain and the United States, and of which numerous editions have been printed. And even to this day it continues to be read, and to be quoted by respectable writers, as if it were the author's original work, although the fact of its being a translation is expressly stated in the preface to the first edition, and although more than twenty years have elapsed since the autobiography was published from the original manuscript. As there printed, it comes down no later than to the year 1731. The first volume contains this portion of the autobiography, and the continuation by Dr. Stuber, which had recently appeared in the Columbian Magazine at Philadelphia. The second volume consists of essays, the larger portion of which had been written since the publication of Mr. Vaughan's edition. Another retranslation of the French version of the autobiography was published the same year in London, which is described in the Monthly Review as possessing little merit.
The next edition in the order of time was that of Castéra, published in two octavo volumes at Paris, in 1798, being a selection of miscellaneous pieces, with the addition of a few that had been printed separately. They were all translated into French anew. It is a singular circumstance, that the autobiography was translated for this edition from the first English retranslation mentioned above. It thus passed through three changes, first into French, next
from French into English, and then back again into French. The editor does not explain why he preferred this method to that of adopting the first French version. He likewise translated Dr. Stuber's continuation.
In 1806 a larger collection, than had hitherto been made, was published in London by Johnson and Longman, in three volumes, octavo. The editor was
a Mr. Marshall. His name is not connected with the work; but he performed his part with good judgment, and used much diligence in searching for essays and papers, that had not before been comprised in any collection. Mr. Benjamin Vaughan, who was then in London, rendered him important assistance.
Dr. Franklin had been dead sixteen years when this edition appeared, and no one of his family had as yet taken measures to publish any of his writings from the original manuscripts. It was known, that, in his will, he had bequeathed all his papers to his grandson, William Temple Franklin, who, soon after his grandfather's death, went to London and made proposals to some of the booksellers for the publication of them. Nothing was done, however, and after a little time no more was heard of these proposals. There was a rumor, that the British ministry interposed, and offered the proprietor of the papers a large remuneration to suppress them, which he accepted. This rumor was so broadly stated in the preface to Johnson's edition, as to amount to a positive charge; and it was reiterated with an as
surance, that would seem at least to imply, that it was fully sustained by the public opinion.
To this charge William Temple Franklin replied, when, in the year 1817, he published an edition of his grandfather's works from the manuscripts in his possession. In the preface to the first volume he endeavours to explain the reason why he had so long delayed the publication, and he also takes notice of the charge in question. He treats it with indignation and contempt, and appears not to regard it as worthy of being refuted. He was less reserved in conversation. Dr. John W. Francis, of New York, saw him often in London, in the year 1816, while he was preparing his grandfather's papers for the press. "To me," says Dr. Francis, "he peremptorily denied all interference of any official authorities whatever with his intended publication, and assigned, as efficient causes for the non-execution of the task committed to him, the interruption of communication and the hostilities between the French and English nations, and the consequent embarrassments he encountered in collecting the scattered materials." The reason here assigned for delay is not very satisfactory, and there were doubtless others. His father, William Franklin, died in 1813. He had been a pensioner on the British government, in consequence of the part he had taken in the Revolution; and it is probable that he may have been averse to the publication of his father's papers during his lifetime. To say the least, the suspicion that papers were finally
suppressed, for any cause, is without proof and highly improbable. A paper mentioned by Mr. Jefferson, as having been shown to him by Dr. Franklin, and supposed to have been suppressed, was undoubtedly the one relating to a negotiation with Lord Howe and others, for a reconciliation between the two countries, just before Dr. Franklin left England for the last time. This was published by his grandson, and is contained in the fifth volume of the present edition.
The autobiography of Dr. Franklin, as he wrote it, first appeared in his grandson's edition. Many other valuable papers, particularly his official correspondence during his residence in France and numerous private letters, were printed from the original manuscripts. Of the philosophical and political papers, the work comprised only a selection from those that had already been printed. It was first published in three quarto volumes, and afterwards in six volumes octavo. Some time before this edition was put to press in London, another was begun by Mr. William Duane in Philadelphia. Three or four volumes were already printed, when William Temple Franklin's proposals were issued. Subsequently he and Mr. Duane entered into an arrangement, by which both were to have the use of all the materials, and the two works were to be published simultaneously in England and the United States. The Philadelphia edition, in six octavo volumes, includes many philosophical and political papers, and some letters, which are not found in the London edition; and it
has recently been reprinted, with some additions, in two volumes of the royal octavo size. There has also recently been published at Paris, in two small volumes, a selection from Franklin's writings, in Spanish, translated from the French by Mangino.
In the volumes now presented to the public, it has been the Editor's design to make a complete collection of the writings of Franklin, as far as they are known to exist, and to add such occasional notes and explanations, as he supposed would be in some degree useful to the reader. The previous collections have been examined, and every piece contained in them has been inserted, except a few, which the Editor was convinced by competent evidence were not written by Franklin. Moreover, a careful search has been made in all the printed books, magazines, pamphlets, and newspapers, in which it was deemed probable that any of the author's writings would be found, in the form either of essays, political tracts, or letters. By this research the mass of materials from printed sources has been considerably enlarged. Seven years ago the Editor published a small volume of Franklin's "Familiar Letters," which were then nearly all printed for the first time, and to which were added several original papers. The entire contents of that volume are embraced in the present work. In short, no printed paper has been omitted, which is known to have been written by Franklin.
The Editor has been fortunate, also, in obtaining