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long, and life is short! My friends would comfort me with the idea of a name, they say, I shall leave behind me; and they tell me I have lived long enough to nature and to glory. But, what will fame be to an ephemera who no longer exists ? and what will become of all history in the eighteenth hour, when the world itself, even the whole Moulin Joly shall come to its end, and be buried in an universal ruin ? 1.6 To me, after all my eager pursuits, no solid pleasures now remain, but the reflection of a long life spent in meaning well, the sensible conversation of a few good lady ephemeræ, and now and then a smile and a tune from the ever amiable Brillante."
RETURN TO AMERICA IN 1775.
The very day after his arrival at his home, Franklin was unani. mously chosen by the Assembly of Pensylvania, a delegate to the second Continental Congress, which was to meet in Philadelphia on the 10th of May. At this time the whole country was thrown into a state of extreme agitation by the news of the conflict at Lexington and Concord, in which the British troops were the aggressors. The yeomanry of New England, as if moved by a simultaneous impulse, seized their arms and hastened to the scene of action. The indignation of the people was everywhere roused to the highest pitch, and the cry of war resounded from one end of the continent to the other. In short, the conflict mentioned may be said to have rendered the breach between the two parties irreparable.
In addition to the duties in Congress, Franklin had a very laborious service to perform as chairman of the Committee of Safetv, appointed by the Assembly of Pensylvania. This committee consisted of twentyfive members. They were authorized to call the militia into actual service, whenever they should judge it necessary,—to pay and furnish them with supplies, and to provide for the defence of the province ; together with various other highly responsible and important powers. Franklin laboured in it with extraordinary diligence during eight months when he was called away upon another service. “My time," says he, “was never more fully employed ; in the morning at six, I am at the Committee of Safety, which committee holds till dear nine, when I am
at Congress, and that sits till after four in the afternoon. Both these bodies proceed with the greatest unanimity.”
While thus actively engaged, Franklin drew up and presented to Congross, a plan of confederation. It was not acted upon at that time, but it served as a basis for a more extended plan, when Congress were better prepared to consider the subject. In some of its articles it differed essentially from the one that was afterwards adopted, and approached more nearly to the present constitution.
The post-office establishment, which had existed under the British government, was broken up by the disorders of the times. Congress had therefore to make provision for a new one, appointing Franklin, postmaster-general, with a salary of one thousand dollars a-year.
For several months the proceedings of Congress turned mostly on military affairs. An army was to be raised, organized, and provided for. The wisdom, experience, and mental resources of every member were in as much demand as diligence, resolution, zeal, and public spirit. We find Franklin, notwithstanding his advanced age, taking a part in almost every important measure with all the ardour and activity of youth. He was placed at the head of the Commissioners for Indian affairs in the middle department; and few of the younger members served on so many committees requiring energy and close application. Among these were the committees for devising ways and means to protect the commerce of America-for establishing a war-office-for drawing up a plan of treaties to be proposed to foreign powers-for preparing the device of a national seal, &c.
As soon as Congress had determined to raise an army, and had selected a commander-in-chief and the other principal officers, they appointed themselves to the business of finance, and emitted two inillions of dollars in bills of credit. This was the beginning of the continental paper-money system. Franklin entered deeply into this subject, by his writings and otherwise. Indeed, no pen was more constantly or more effuctually at work during this period than his; being a man who had the great wisdom through life, to appear only to act with others, when he was acting for them. It was now too that, while fleets and armies were pouring in upon her shores, there was established in America the sight unparalleled in history of fifty or sixty intrepid senators sitting down to originate a new and supreme government, in opposition to the united councils, and strength of one of the mightiest empires of the world.
The army at Cambridge, employed in besieging the British forces in Boston, was adopted by Congress as a continental army before General Washington took the command. This army would cease at the end of the year, by the expiration of the periods for which the soldiers were enlisted. Thus the anxious task of recruiting and organising a new army devolved on the commanders in chief. To assist him in this work, Congress deputed three of their body, of whom Franklin was one, to proceed to the camp and confer with the General on the most efficient mode of continuing and supporting a continental force. Other delegates from other provincial governments attended ; and at last such a system was matured, as was satisfactory to Washington, and proved effectual in attaining the object.
Some time before, Franklin had received the sum of one hundred pounds sterling, sent to him by benevolent persons in England, as a donation for the relief of those, who had been wounded in the encounters with the British troops at Lexington and Concord, and of the widows and children of such as had fallen. While he was in the camp at Cambridge, he paid this money over to a committee of the Massachusetts Assembly.
During his absence, the Assembly of Pensylvania met, and by the returns of the election it appeared that Franklin had been chosen a representative for the City of Philadelphia. He was now a member of three public bodies, which convened daily for the despatch of business ;-—that is, Congress, the Assembly, and the Committee of Safety ; but he usually attended in Congress whenever the times of meeting interfered with each other.
At length the momentous question of a total separation from Great Britain, and the establishment of national independence, came to be agitated. It was evident that a very large majority was prepared for that measure On this side was Franklin. A committee of five was chosen to prepare a declaration, consisting of Jefferson, John Adams, Franklin, Sherman, and Livingston. The history of this measure is too well known to need a repetition of it in this place. The declaration, drafted by Jefferson, was reported as it came from his pen, except a few verbal alterations suggested by Adams and Franklin.
The declaration of Independence of the thirteen North American States, which was solemnly proclaimed on the 4th of July, 1776, is conceived in a tone of impassioned but majestic eloquence, descriptive of the wrongs which had been inflicted at the hands of the British monarchy, and the consequent right to an absolution from allegiance. It forms one of the most important public documents ever put upon record, and is frequently quoted as a specimen of the clear judgment and powerful sentiments of those who had taken counsel together towards its production, The declaration was debated three days.
Mr. Jefferson has related a characteristic anecdote of Franklin connected with this subject. Being annoyed at the alterations made in the draft, while it was under discussion, and at the censures freely bestowed upon parts of it, he began to fear it would be dissected and mangled till a skeleton only would remain. " I was sitting,” he observes,
by Dr. Franklin, who perceived that I was not insensible to those mutilations. I have made it a rule,' said he, 'whenever in my power to avoid becoming the draftsman of papers to be received by a public body. I took my lesson from an incident which I will relate to you. When I was a journeyman printer, one of my companions, an apprentice hatter, having served out his time, was about to open shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome sign board with a proper inscription. He composed it in these words, John Thompson, Hatter, Makes and Sells Hats for ready Money, with a figure of a hat subjoined. But he thought he would submit it to his friends for their amendments. The first he showed it to, thought the word hatter tau. tologous, because followed by the words makes hats, which showed that he was a hatter. It was struck out. The next observed, that the word makes might as well be omitted, because his customers would not care who made the hats; if good and to their mind, they would buy by whomsoever made. He struck it out. A third said, he thought the words for ready money were useless, as it was not the custom of the place to sell on credit. Every one who purchased expected to pay, They were parted with, and the inscription now stood—John Thompson sells hats. Sells hats, says his next friend ; why nobody will expect you to give them away. What then is the use of the word ? It was struck out, and hats followed, the rather as there was one painted on the board. So the inscription was reduced ultimately to John Thompson, with the figure of a hat subjoined.'"
There is another anecdote related of Franklin respecting an incident which took place when the members were about to sign the Declaration. “We must be unanimous,” said Hancock; “there must be no pulling different ways; we must all hang together.” “Yes," replied Franklin, “we must indeed hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately."
The British government discovered, when too late, that it would be their best course to attempt the conciliation of its colonies. Still, it had not the good sense or politic courage to propose an entire redress of grievances. Lord Howe was despatched with power to treat with the leaders of the insurrection; and as soon as he arrived on the American coast a correspondence took place between him and Franklin, on the subject of a reconcilation. The doctor was afterwards appointed, along with certain other individuals, to wait upon the commissioner, in order to ascertain what was the extent of his powers, which were found to be only to grant pardons upon submission. This was the last attempt to effect what Mr. Burke called in Parliament, an “armed negociation;" and it would be allowing too little credit to the understanding of the British ministers themselves, to suppose that they did not anticipate its failure when they set it on foot.
In answer to one of his lordship's letters to Franklin at this period, the following was returned :--" Long did I endeavour, with unfeigned and unwearied zeal, to preserve from breaking that fine and noble China vase, the British empire; for I know that, being once broken, the separate parts could not retain their share of the strength or value that existed in the whole, and that a perfect re-union of those parts could scarce ever be hoped for. Your Lordship may possibly remember the tears of joy that wet my cheeks, when, at your good sister's in London, you once gave me expectations that a reconciliation might soon take place. I had the misfortune to find these expectations disappointed, and to be treated as the cause of the mischief I was labouring to prevent. My consolation under that groundless and malevolent treatment was, that I retained the friendship of many wise and good men in that country, and among the rest, some share in the regard of Lord Howe.”
At this period no public man connected with its most polished courts, had greater reputation in Europe than Dr. Franklin. His philosophical attainments were the graceful ornaments of a solid and statesmanlike mind; while his political sentiments and liberal mode of thinking were exactly adapted to the new station he was about to occupy, being the most dignified he had ever yet filled.
Successful as the Americans had already been in their operations in the field, with General Washington their Commander-in-chief, it became manifest to Congress that assistance in money and military stores was necessary. Accordingly Congress had under their consideration the subject of foreign alliances. The States having declared themselves to