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“I confess I feel very languid about this American business. The only thing that can restore common sense to this country is feeling the dreadful consequences which must soon follow such diabolical measures.”
WAITING FOR THE CONGRESS.
FRANKLIN's official life in London appeared to be ended. He went to court no more, nor to the levees of ministers, nor dangled about the office of Lord Dartmouth. He was a marked man, whom it was a point of party discipline for the tories to defame and the whigs to praise. The royal governors in America interposed obstacles to the payment of his salaries, and tory organs in England advised his arrest as the prime mover of the colonial discontents. His liberal friends were more attentive to him than before, and he continued to frequent his clubs and the circles of the Opposition. Resuming his preparations to return to Philadelphia, the great news that Massachusetts had come into the proposed measure of a general congress induced him to pause. Friends on both sides of the ocean entreated him to wait a little longer, since the congress might agree upon measures which his presence in Europe could materially forward. He consented to delay his departure the more willingly because Arthur Lee, who was to succeed him as agent for Massachusetts, was on the continent making the tour of Europe.
His pen and his influence were still actively employed in behalf of his country. He published, this year, a thick pamphlet, the joint production of himself and Arthur Lee, which gave a complete and passionless history of the whole controversy between the ministry and Massachusetts, with all the important documents and correspondence relating to it. Nothing could have been more convincing than this naked statement of facts. He gave to the Public Advertiser several Essays of his own; one entitled The Rise and Progress of the Differences between Great Britain and her Colo
nies, and others of a more humorous turn; all published with fictitious signatures. He concluded one of these little pieces with two questions: “Did ever any tradesman succeed who attempted to drub customers into his shop? And will honest John Bull, the farmer, be long satisfied with servants that before his face attempt to kill his plow-horses."
On another occasion he discoursed as follows: “Your correspondent Brittannicus inveighs violently against Dr. Franklin, for his ingratitude to the ministry of this nation, who have conferred upon him so many favors. They gave him the post-office of America; they made his son a governor; and they offered him a post of five hundred a year in the salt-office, if he would relinquish the interests of his country; but he has had the wickedness to continue true to it, and is as much an American as ever. As it is a settled point in government here, that every man has his price, it is plain they are bunglers in their business, and have not given him enough. Their master has as much reason to be angry with them, as Rodrigue in the play with his apothecary for not effectually poisoning Pandolpho, and they must probably make use of the apothecary's justification, viz. :
“ Rodrigue. "You promised to have this Pandolpho upon his bier in less than a week; 'tis more than a month since, and he still walks and stares me in the face.'
“ Fell. “True; and yet I have done my best endeavors. In various ways I have given the miscreant as much poison as would have killed an elephant. He has swallowed dose after dose; far from hurting him, he seems the better for it. He hath a wonderfully strong constitution. I find I cannot kill him but by cutting his throat, and that, as I take it, is not my business.'
“Rodrigue. "Then it must be mine.'"
At the same time he read in a Boston paper that he had been restored to the favor of the king, and was about to be employed in an office superior to that from which he had been dismissed. This announcement he had the amusement of reading when he was in some fear of arrest. “My situation here,” he wrote in October, " is thought by many to be a little hazardous ; for if, by surpa accident, the troops and people of New England should come to blows, I should probably be taken up; the ministerial people affecting everywhere to represent me as the cause of all the misunderstand
ing; and I have been frequently cautioned to secure my papers, and by some advised to withdraw. But I venture to stay, in compliance with the wish of others, till the result of the Congress arrives, since they suppose my being here might on that occasion be of use; and I confide in my innocence, that the worst which can happen to me will be an imprisonment upon suspicion, though that is a thing I should much desire to avoid, as it may be expensive and vexatious, as well as dangerous to my health."
It afterward appeared that his apprehensions of arrest were not groundless. Copies of some of his late letters to Boston, and of Arthur Lee's, having been transmitted to England, secret orders were sent out to General Gage to procure the originals, which the ministry intended to use as the basis of a prosecution for treason. Some old letters of Franklin's were afterward found in Boston and laid before the king, which happened to contain warm expressions of loyalty to the monarch and of affection for the mother country.
It must not be concealed from the reader that there were persons in Massachusetts who entertained suspicions of Dr. Franklin's fidelity to the cause of his country. No public man wbo deserves praise escapes censure. It may be comforting to some calumniated servants of the public to know that Benjamin Franklin, with all his merit and all his prudence, had to encounter his share of misrepresentation, not merely from the enemies of his country, but from its friends also. We must now expend a little space in pointing out the source and motive of the calumnies which, during the next ten years of his life, sometimes disturbed his peace, and sometimes lessened his influence.
Arthur Lee was the source, and desire of Franklin's place was the motive.
Many persons have gained immortal fame by being the friends of great men. Of Arthur Lee posterity will know little more than that he was the enemy of Franklin. Unless the reader of these lines is an exceptionally well-informed or an exceptionally ill-informed person, there is in his mind, at this moment, a lurking distrust of Franklin's absolute sincerity which could be traced back, through various channels of calumny, to the peculiarly constituted brain of Arthur Lee.
Yet Arthur Lee was long supposed to be an honest man and a fervent patriot!
He was of that family in Virginia which furnished three brothers to the civil service of the country during the revolutionary period: Richard Henry Lee, the well-known orator and member of Congress; Arthur Lee, noted in the diplomatic service; William Lee, first a merchant and alderman of London, afterward American minister to the courts of Frederick the Great and Maria Theresa. The two volumes of the Life and Letters of Arthur Lee contain seven lines of real biography. They are these: “ Arthur was the youngest son of the family; and, according to the customs of that day in regard to the youngest sons, was left, until an advanced period of boyhood, with the children of his father's slaves; to partake of their fare, and to participate in their hardy sports and toils. Hence his body was early inured to hardship, and his mind accustomed to unrestrained exercise and bold adventures." That is to say: Arthur Lee spent the first fourteen years of his life in the closest contact and most intimate association with servile barbarians; whom he could insult without receiving a word in reply; whom he could strike without being struck back; who were obliged to humor, obey, and flatter him; nourishing his worst propensities, and walling him in against the influences he needed most. It is one of the direst of the dire results of slavery, that it renders manly education hopelessly impossible; for that requires equality among playmates and subordination in the school-room.* Perhaps Arthur
**Watch the children play together; the young master romps with his dark-colored subjects; if they play 'horse' they are driven, he the driver; they must not contend with him for a point at marbles, or a right to be equal in a game; if they play at battles it is theirs to take, not to return blows; childhood does not make them equals in childhood's plays, and one gleam of independence on their, or assertion of unfairness on master's part, makes them liable to his complaint, and the angry touch of his mother's heavy hand. I have seen a little girl of ten years of age order a colored lad of eighteen to be flogged for simply mistaking upon which pony she had ordered the side-saddle to be placed for her lesson in equestrianship. In our latitude a smiling request to have the mistake rectified would have followed, but the pretty, spoiled daughter of the South lost her tiny temper, and her doting uncle, angry at her annoyance, confirmed her repulsive fiat. The writer was little beyond childhood herself at the time, and well remembers pleading for the remission of a lke sentence passed upon a slave girl who had forgotten to obey some one of her trivial requests. To have such an offense heavily punished was intended as a mark of respect to the youthful guest.
* The lady of this mansion, who was a confirmed invalid, always had a small hide whip in her work-basket; when this whip was occasionally hidden by some one of the horde of fearful little Degroes, I have known her to send them to cnt fresh switches and fetch them to be used upon their own trembling, ill-covered shoulders and arms. As to boxed-ears and most energetic slaps administered to govern house scrvants, they were too frequent to be instanced. Their own excuse, when any remark was hazarded upon this common practice was, that by no other means could slapes be kept under;' that they were too stupid, too obstinate, to be reasoned with; that to abolish frequent and instant punishment for oven trivial errors, would be to render them un
Lee was aware of this truth; he was a frequent declaimer against slavery, though he could not outlive its effects upon his own character. Nearly every Virginian, however, was then a hater of slavery. Three or four generations of Saxon men must live and die among slaves, and the race must get down to the very dre of its pristine intelligence and virtue, before it can produce human creatures capable of saying that slavery is not wrong. Believe it, no one ever did; no, not the most unrelenting overseer of Alabama; not the abjectest priest in either Carolina; not the fiercest editor in New Orleans; not the bloodiest Legree of Arkansas ; not the silliest woman in Virginia.
Arthur Lee had the opportunity of correcting his plantation habits on the free play-grounds of English Eton. He studied medicine at Edinburgh, graduating from the University there with distinction. He practiced his profession in Virginia, but abandoned it soon, returned to London, studied law, was admitted to the bar, and was getting into business of some emolument in London, when the controversy with the colonies drew him into politics. From the beginning to the end of that controversy he was a consistent and most earnest advocate of his country's cause.
The great defect of his character was an extreme and morbid propensity to think ill of other men's motives. He was one of those unhappy persons who are ceaselessly haunted with distrust, credulous of evil, incredulous of good. Even John Adams, his particular friend, himself too prone to suspicion, admitted that Arthur Lee “had confidence in nobody, believed all men selfish, and no man honest or sincere.” “ This,” adds Mr. Adams, “I fear is his creed, from what I have heard him say; I have often disputed with him on this point."* We need no testimony upon this unfortunate trait except his own letters, which teem with expressions of distrust. He thought Dr. Bancroft corrupt; he could not "implicitly confide in" Lord Shelburne; Lord North he pronounced in one letter to be “nothing," and in another plausible, deep, and treacherous." Lord
controllable. No assertion can be falser than this; upon the pliant, child-like mind of the colored race, kindness works like magic; their devotion and attachment to homes wherein they have been made to drink many a bitter cup, speaks loudly of their wonderful capacity of affection.
" But with such influence inolding the young character, is it to be wondered at that pride, impatienco, and love of aristocratic, unjust power, grow with the growth, and strengthen with tbo strength of this people, and that young men of the South are haughty, arrogant, and self-willed, or the young women high-tempered, basty, and often cruel 8---N. Y. Tribune, Jan. 17th, 1862,
* Life and Works of John Adams, fil., 188.