Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

at length, six cannon were granted. " After a few more bumpers, he advanced to ten; and at last, he very good-naturedly conceded eighteen. They were fine cannon, eighteen-pounders, with the carriages, which were soon transported and mounted on our batteries ; where the associators kept a nightly guard, while the war lasted, and among the rest, I regularly took my turn of duty there, as a common soldier.”

Being soon after, in consequence of these efforts, made a member of the governor's council, Franklin proposed to promote the recent measures through the influence of the clergy. A public fast was proclaimed at his suggestion, the pulpit resounded with patriotic addresses, and the enrolling was carried on with great spirit and activity among all classes, except Quakers.

With this respectable part of the community, Franklin's friends began to fear he had embroiled himself hopelessly on this occasion. But his being many years in the Assembly, a majority of which were constantly of the sect, he had enjoyed frequent opportunities of seeing the embarrassment given them by their principle against war, whenever application was made to him by order of the crown, to gain aids for military purposes. '“ They were unwilling to offend government, on the one hand, by a direct refusal ; and their friends, the body of the Quakers, on the other, by a compliance, contrary to their principles; using a variety of evasions to avoid complying, and modes of disguising the compliance, when it became unavoidable. The common mode at last was, to grant money under the phrase of its being “for the King's use," and never to inquire how it was applied.

“ But, if the demand was not directly from the crown, that phrase was found not so proper, and some other was invented. Thus, when powder was wanted, and the government of New England solicited a grant of some from Pensylvania, which was much urged upon the House by Governor Thomas, they would not grant money to buy powder because that was an ingredient of war; but they granted an aid to New England, of three thousand pounds, to be put into the hands of the governors, and appropriated it for the purchase of bread, flour, wheat or other grain. Some of the Council, desirous of giving the house still farther embarrassment, advised the governor not to accept provision, as not being the thing he had demanded, but he replied, 'I shall take the money, for I understand very well their meaning; other grain is gunpowder,' which he accordingly bought, and they never objected to it.

« It was in allusion to this fact, that, when in our fire company we

feared the success of our proposal in favour of the lottery, and I had said to a friend of mine, one of our members, ' If we fail, let us move the purchase of a fire engine with the money, the Quakers can have no objection to that; and then, if you nominate me and 1 you as a committee for that purpose, we will buy a great gun, which is certainly a fire engine.' 'I see,' said he, you have improved by being so long in the Assembly ; your equivocal project would be just a match for their wheat or other grain.

But there were a number of the Quakers, who, though greatly against offensive, yet were clearly for defensive war, showed themselves ready to become members of the militia force in order to protect their country. There was a Mr. Logan, for example, a distinguished character belonging to the sect, who wrote an address in favour of defensive war, and subscribed sixty pounds to the lottery. This gentleman in his youth had accompanied the celebrated William Penn to America as his private secretary, and gave Franklin the following anecdote of their connection : -Their vessel, in its passage, was chased by a supposed enemy; and the captain pressed the passengers as well as crewdinto his service, except Penn and his associates, whom he expected to find impracticable. Logan, however, to his surprise joined in manning the guns, while the rest of the Quakers retired below. In a short time it was discovered that the vessel bearing down upon them was friendly; when the young secretary running to inform his master, was rebuked for his apparent willingness to abandon the principles of the Friends on the occasion. This reprimand being before all the company piqued the secretary, who answered—“I being thy servant, why did thee not order me to come down? But thee was willing enough that I should stay and help to fight the ship when thee thought there was danger.” Franklin declares that he had cause to believe, that the defence of the country was not disagreeable to any of the Quakers, provided they were not required to assist in it.

THE CITIZEN AND PHILOSOPHER. Peace being at length established, Franklin again turned his thoughts to the subject of education, and the founding of an academy on an extended and improved plan. The Junto accordingly was moved to influence the good work, while the great promoter of the institution published a pamphlet entitled, “ Proposals relating to the Education of Youth in Pensyl

vania," these being announced as the plan of “some public-spirited gentleman;" the author, according to his usual rule, avoiding as much as possible, presenting himself to the world as the originator of any scheme for its benefit. This institution proved deservedly popular, not only in Pensylvania and other parts of America, but also in England ; and many considerable donations were accordingly bestowed upon it. Franklin to the close of his life was peculiarly tenacious of the primary design of this academy, namely, to afford the young people of Philadelphia an accurate acquaintance with the English tongue, and to cultivate amongst them superior correctness and delicacy of taste in English composition. Even when stepping into the grave, he declaimed against the too great preponderance of Greek and Latin, and the "starvation” of the English part of the scheme of education ; imagining himself surrounded by the departed spirits of his dear friends, the original founders, urging him to use the only tongue of theirs now left, in demanding that justice for the next generation, which had been denied, he said, to the present.

But pursuits of quite a different nature from those of the active duties in civil life, now began to occupy a large share of Franklin's attention. During the year 1745, while the mother country was shaken to the centre by the last rebellion in favour of the Stuarts, he was meditating that retirement from business which his easy circumstances and philosophical taste suggested. The branch of physics to which he principally directed his inquiries was that of electricity, which was at this time in its infancy. “But the public now considering me," says our philosopher, "as a man of leisure, laid hold of me for their purposes; every part of our civil government, and almost at the same time, imposing some duty upon me. The governor put me into the commission of the peace; the corporation of the city chose me one of the common council, and soon after alderman; and the citizens at large elected me a burgess to represent them in the Assembly. This latter station was the more agreeable to me, as I grew at length tired with sitting there to hear the debates, in which as clerk, I could take no part; and which were often so uninteresting that I was induced to amuse myself with making magic squares or circles, or anything to avoid weariness.

“The office of justice of the peace I tried a little, by attending a few courts, and sitting on the bench to hear causes; but finding that more knowledge of the common law than I possessed was necessary to act in that station with credit, I gradually withdrew from it; excusing myself by being obliged to attend the higher duties of a legislator in the Assembly. My election to this trust was repeated every year for ten vears, without my ever asking any elector for his vote, or signifying either directly or indirectly any desire of being chosen. On taking my seat in the House, my son was appointed their clerk.

Most indefatigable and various were Franklin's efforts for the public goud, his views uniformly evincing his characteristic sagacity and benevolence. He acts as a co:nmissioner for making a treaty with the Indians at Carlisle, and strives lo arrest among them their frightful excesses in drinking rum. One of their orators, however, excused the destructive habit, by saying, “ The Great Spirit who made all things, made every thing for soine use, and whatever use he designed any thing for, that use it should always be put to. Now, when he made rum, he said, 'Let this be for the Indians to get drunk with;' and it must be so." “ Indeed,” observes Franklin, “If it be the design of Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make room for the cultivators of the earth, it seems not impossible that rum may be the appointed means.” It had already annihilated all the tribes who formerly inhabited the sea-coast. And here it will be acceptable when we cite from our philosopher's Miscellaneous Writings, some parts of his “ Remarks concerning the Savages of North America."

“ The Indian men, when young,” says the author,” are hunters and warriors, when old, counsellors; for all their goverment is by the counsel or advice of the sages : there is no force, there are no prisons, no officers to compel obedience, or inflict punishment, Hence, they generally study oratory—the best speaker having the most influence.***** Having frequent occasion to hold public councils, they have acquired great order and decency in conducting them. The old men sit in the foremost ranks, the warriors in the next, and the women and children hindmost. The business of the women is to take exact notice of what passes, imprint it on their memories for they have no writings and communicate it to the children. *****The politeness of these savages is indeed carried to excess, since it does not permit them to contradict or deny the truth of what is asserted in their presence. By this means they indeed avoid disputes; but then it becomes difficult to know their minds, or what impression you make upon them. The missionaries who have attempted to convert them to Christianity, all complain of this, as one of the great difficulties of their mission. The Indians hear with patience the truths of the Gospel explained to them, and give their

usual tokens of assent and approbation. You would think they were convinced: no such matter-it is mere civility.

“ A Swedish minister having assembled the chiefs of the Susquehannah Indians, made a sermon to them, acquainting them with the principal historical facts on which our religion is founded—such as the fall of our first parents by eating an apple—the coming of Christ to repair the mischief, his miracles and sufferings, &c. When he had finished, an Indian orator stood up to thank him. “What you have told us,' says ne is all very good. It is indeed bad to eat apples; it is better to make them all into cider. We are much obliged by your kindness in coming so far to tell us these things which you have heard from your mother. In return, I will tell you some of those which we have heard from ours.

[graphic][subsumed][ocr errors]

"'In the beginning, our fathers had only the flesh of animals to subsist on : and if their hunting was unsuccessful they were starving. Two

« ZurückWeiter »