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Mr. Jefferson, just arrived here, after a journey through all the States from Virginia to Boston, assures me, that all is quiet, a general tranquillity reigns, and the people well satisfied with their present forms of government, a few insignificant persons only excepted. These accounts are. I suppose intended as consolatory, and to discourage emigrations. I think with you, that our Revolution is an important event for the advantage of mankind in general. It is to be hoped that the lights we enjoy, which the ancient governments in their first establishment could not have, may preserve us from their errors. In this the advice of wise friends may do much good, and I am sure that which you have been so kind as to offer us will be of great service.
Mr. Jay has gone to America; but Mr. Adams is just arrived here, and I shall acquaint him with your remembrance of him. Many thanks for your kind wishes respecting my health and happiness, which I return fourfold, being ever with the sincerest esteem, my dear friend, your most affectionate
TO LORD HOWE.
* See Vol. V. p. 123.
On receiving a Copy of Cook's Voyages by Order of the King.
Passy, 18 August, 1784.
I received lately the very valuable Voyage of the late Captain Cook, kindly sent to me by your Lordship in consideration of my good-will in issuing orders towards the protection of that illustrious discoverer from any interruption in his return home by American cruisers.*
The reward vastly exceeds the small merit of the action, which was no more than a duty to mankind. I am very sensible of his Majesty's goodness in perinitting this favor to me, and I desire that my thankful acknowledgments may be accepted. With great respect, I am, my Lord, your Lordship's most obedient and most humble servant,
TO WILLIAM STRAHAN.
Invites him to Passy.-Annihilation of profitable Places. -American Congress and British Parliament.- The late War.- Emigration.
Passy, 19 August, 1784.
I received your kind letter of April 17th. You will have the goodness to place my delay in answering to the account of indisposition and business, and excuse it. I have now that letter before me; and my grandson, whom you may formerly remember a little scholar at Mr. Elphinston's, purposing to set out in a day or two on a visit to his father in London, I sit down to scribble a little to you, first recommending him as a worthy young man to your civilities and counsels.
You press me much to come to England. I am not without strong inducements to do so; the fund of knowledge you promise to communicate to me is an addition to them, and no small one. At present it is
* A gold medal was struck by order of the Royal Society, with particular reference to the protection afforded to Captain Cook's vessels by the Emperor of Russia and the King of France. The Society bestowed upon Dr. Franklin a compliment similar to the King's, by presenting to him one of these medals.
impracticable. But, when my grandson returns, come with him. We will talk the matter over, and perhaps you may take me back with you. I have a bed at your service, and will try to make your residence, while you can stay with us, as agreeable to you, if possible, as I am sure it will be to me.
You do not "approve the annihilation of profitable places; for you do not see why a statesman, who does his business well, should not be paid for his labor as well as any other workman." Agreed. But why more than any other workman? The less the salary the greater the honor. In so great a nation, there are many rich enough to afford giving their time to the public; and there are, I make no doubt, many wise and able men, who would take as much pleasure in governing for nothing, as they do in playing chess for nothing. It would be one of the noblest amusements. That this opinion is not chimerical, the country I now live in affords a proof; its whole civil and criminal law administration being done for nothing, or in some sense for less than nothing; since the members of its judiciary parliaments buy their places, and do not make more than three per cent for their money by their fees and emoluments, while the legal interest is five; so that in fact they give two per cent to be allowed to govern, and all their time and trouble into the bargain. Thus profit, one motive for desiring place, being abolished, there remains only ambition; and that being in some degree balanced by loss, you may easily conceive, that there will not be very violent factions and contentions for such places, nor much of the mischief to the country, that attends your factions, which have often occasioned wars, and overloaded you with debts impayable.
I allow you all the force of your joke upon the
vagrancy of our Congress. They have a right to sit where they please, of which perhaps they have made too much use by shifting too often. But they have two other rights; those of sitting when they please, and as long as they please, in which methinks they have the advantage of your Parliament; for they cannot be dissolved by the breath of a minister, or sent packing as you were the other day, when it was your earnest desire to have remained longer together.
You "fairly acknowledge, that the late war terminated quite contrary to your expectation." Your expectation was ill founded; for you would not believe your old friend, who told you repeatedly, that by those measures England would lose her colonies, as Epictetus warned in vain his master that he would break his leg. You believed rather the tales you heard of our poltroonery and impotence of body and mind. Do you not remember the story you told me of the Scotch sergeant, who met with a party of forty American soldiers, and, though alone, disarmed them all, and brought them in prisoners? A story almost as improbable as that of the Irishman, who pretended to have alone taken and brought in five of the enemy by surrounding them. And yet, my friend, sensible and judicious as you are, but partaking of the general infatuation, you seemed to believe it.
The word general puts me in mind of a general, your General Clarke, who had the folly to say in my hearing at Sir John Pringle's, that, with a thousand British grenadiers, he would undertake to go from one end of America to the other, and geld all the males, partly by force and partly by a little coaxing. It is plain he took us for a species of animals very little superior to brutes. The Parliament too believed the stories of another foolish general, I forget his name,
that the Yankeys never felt bold. Yankey was understood to be a sort of Yahoo, and the Parliament did not think the petitions of such creatures were fit to be received and read in so wise an assembly. What was the consequence of this monstrous pride and insolence? You first sent small armies to subdue us, believing them more than sufficient, but soon found yourselves obliged to send greater; these, whenever they ventured to penetrate our country beyond the protection of their ships, were either repulsed and obliged to scamper out, or were surrounded, beaten, and taken prisoners. An American planter, who had never seen Europe, was chosen by us to command our troops, and continued during the whole war. This man sent home to you, one after another, five of your best generals baffled, their heads bare of laurels, disgraced even in the opinion of their employers.
Your contempt of our understandings, in comparison with your own, appeared to be not much better founded than that of our courage, if we may judge by this circumstance, that, in whatever court of Europe a Yankey negotiator appeared, the wise British minister was routed, put in a passion, picked a quarrel with your friends, and was sent home with a flea in his ear.
But after all, my dear friend, do not imagine that I am vain enough to ascribe our success to any superiority in any of those points. I am too well acquainted with all the springs and levers of our machine, not to see, that our human means were unequal to our undertaking, and that, if it had not been for the justice of our cause, and the consequent interposition of Providence, in which we had faith, we must have been ruined. If I had ever before been an atheist, I should now have been convinced of the being and government of a Deity! It is he who abases the proud