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on Melancholy, went through six editions in about forty years. We have, I believe, more readers now, but not of such large books.
You seem desirous of knowing what progress we make here in improving our governments. We are, I think, in the right road of improvement, for we are making experiments. I do not oppose all that seem wrong, for the multitude are more effectually set right by experience, than kept from going wrong by reasoning with them. And I think we are daily more and more enlightened; so that I have no doubt of our obtaining in a few years as much public felicity, as good government is capable of affording.
Your newspapers are filled with fictitious accounts of anarchy, confusion, distresses, and miseries we are supposed to be involved in, as consequences of the revolution; and the few remaining friends of the old government among us take pains to magnify every little inconvenience a change in the course of commerce may have occasioned. To obviate the complaints they endeavour to excite, was written the enclosed little piece,* from which you may form a truer idea of our situation, than your own public prints would give you. And I can assure you, that the great body of our nation find themselves happy in the change, and have not the smallest inclination to return to the domination of Britain. There could not be a stronger proof of the general approbation of the measures, that promoted the change, and of the change itself, than has been given by the Assembly and Council of this State, in the nearly unanimous choice for their governor, of one who had been so much concerned in those measures; the Assembly being themselves the unbribed choice of
* Probably the piece entitled, The Retort Courteous. See Vol. II. p. 498.
the people, and therefore may be truly supposed of the same sentiments. I say nearly unanimous, because, of between seventy and eighty votes, there were only my own and one other in the negative.
As to my domestic circumstances, of which you kindly desire to hear something, they are at present as happy as I could wish them. I am surrounded by my offspring, a dutiful and affectionate daughter in my house, with six grandchildren, the eldest of whom you have seen, who is now at College in the next street, finishing the learned part of his education; the others promising, both for parts and good dispositions. What their conduct may be, when they grow up and enter the important scenes of life, I shall not live to see, and I cannot foresee. I therefore enjoy among them the present hour, and leave the future to Providence.
He that raises a large family does, indeed, while he lives to observe them, stand, as Watts says, a broader mark for sorrow; but then he stands a broader mark for pleasure too. When we launch our little fleet of barks into the ocean, bound to different ports, we hope for each a prosperous voyage; but contrary winds, hidden shoals, storms, and enemies come in for a share in the disposition of events; and though these occasion a mixture of disappointment, yet, considering the risk where we can make no insurance, we should think ourselves happy if some return with success. My son's son, Temple Franklin, whom you have also seen, having had a fine farm of six hundred acres conveyed to him by his father when we were at Southampton, has dropped for the present his views of acting in the political line, and applies himself ardently to the study and practice of agriculture. This is much more agreeable to me, who esteem it the most useful, the most independent, and therefore the noblest
of employments. His lands are on navigable water, communicating with the Delaware, and but about sixteen miles from this city. He has associated to himself a very skilful English farmer lately arrived here, who is to instruct him in the business, and partakes for a term the profits; so that there is a great apparent probability of their success.
You will kindly expect a word or two concerning myself. My health and spirits continue, thanks to God, as when you saw me. The only complaint I then had, does not grow worse, and is tolerable. I still have enjoyment in the company of my friends; and, being easy in my circumstances, have many reasons to like living. But the course of nature must soon put a period to my present mode of existence. This I shall submit to with the less regret, as, having seen during a long life a good deal of this world, I feel a growing curiosity to be acquainted with some other; and can cheerfully, with filial confidence, resign my spirit to the conduct of that great and good Parent of mankind, who created it, and who has so graciously protected and prospered me from my birth to the present hour. Wherever I am, I hope always to retain the pleasing remembrance of your friendship, being with sincere and great esteem, my dear friend, yours most affectionately, B. FRANKLIN.
P. S. We all join in respects to Mrs. Shipley, and best wishes for the whole amiable family.
TO M. LE VEILLARD, OF PASSY.
Flourishing State of America. Cardinal de Rohan. Philadelphia, 6 March, 1786.
MY DEAR FRIEND,
I received and read with great pleasure your kind letter of October 9th. It informed me of your welfare, and that of the best of good women, and of her amiable daughter, who I think will tread in her steps. My effects came all in the same ship, in good order; and we are now drinking every day les eaux épurées de Passy with great satisfaction, as they kept well, and seem to be rendered more agreeable by the long voyage.
I am here in the bosom of my family, and am not only happy myself, but have the felicity of seeing my country so. Be assured, that all the stories spread in the English papers of our distresses, and confusions, and discontents with our new governments, are as chimerical as the history of my being in chains at Algiers. They exist only in the wishes of our enemies. America never was in higher prosperity, her produce abundant and bearing a good price, her working people all employed and well paid, and all property in lands and houses of more than treble the value it bore before the war; and, our commerce being no longer the monopoly of British merchants, we are furnished with all the foreign commodities we need, at much more reasonable rates than heretofore. So that we have no doubt of being able to discharge more speedily the debt incurred by the war, than at first was apprehended.
Our modes of collecting taxes are indeed as yet imperfect, and we have need of more skill in finan
ciering; but we improve in that kind of knowledge daily by experience. That our people are contented with the revolution, with their new constitutions, and their foreign connexions, nothing can afford a stronger proof, than the universally cordial and joyous reception with which they welcomed the return of one, that was supposed to have had a considerable share in promoting them. All this is in answer to that part of your letter, in which you seem to have been too much impressed with some of the ideas, which those lying English papers endeavour to inculcate concerning us.
I am astonished by what you write concerning the Prince Evêque. If the charges against him are made good, it will be another instance of the truth of those proverbs which teach us, that Prodigality begets necessily, that Without economy no revenue is sufficient, and that It is hard for an empty sack to stand upright.
I am glad to hear of the marriage of Mademoiselle Brillon; for every thing, that may contribute to the happiness of that beloved family, gives me pleasure. Be pleased to offer them my felicitations, and assure them of my best wishes.
Will you also be so good as to present my respectful compliments to Madame la Duchesse d'Enville, and to M. le Duc de la Rochefoucauld? You may communicate the political part of this letter to that excellent man. His good heart will rejoice to hear of the welfare of America.
I made no progress when at sea in the history you mention;* but I was not idle there, having written three pieces, each of some length; one on Nautical matters; another on Chimneys; and a third a Description of my Vase for consuming smoke, with directions
* Memoirs of his own life.