Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB
[graphic][graphic][merged small]

PREFACE.

An apology for presenting to the Republic of Letters the authentic memorials of Benjamin Franklin, illustrative of his Life and Times, written almost entirely with his own hand, would be at once superfluous and disrespectful. If any observation be at all requisite in the shape of explanation, it must be% answer to the inquiry, why such interesting documents have been so long withheld from public view? To this the Editor has no hesitation in replying, that were he conscious of having neglected a solemn trust by disobeying a positive injunction; or could he be convinced that the world has sustained any real injury by the delay of the publication, he certainly should take shame to himself for not having sooner committed to the press, what at an earlier period, would have been much more to his pecuniary advantage. But aware, as he is, of the deference due to the general feeling of admiration for the illustrious dead, he is no less sensible that there are times and seasons when prudence imposes the restriction of silence in the gratification even of the most laudable curiosity.

It was the lot of this distinguished character above most men, to move, in the prominent parts of his active life, within a sphere agitated to no ordinary degree of heat by the inflammatory passions of political fury; and he had scarcely seated himself in the shade of repose, from the turmoil of public employment, when another revolution burst forth with far more tremendous violence; during the progress of which his name was adduced by anarchists as a sanction for their practices, and his authority quoted by dreaming theorists in support of their visionary projects. Whether, therefore, the publication of his Memoirs and other papers amidst such a scene of perturbation would have been conducive to the desirable ends of peace, may be a matter of question; but at all events the sober and inquisitive part of mankind can have no cause to regret the suspension of what might have suffered from the perverted talents of designing partizans and infuriated zealots. It may fairly be observed that the writings of Dr. Franklin are calculated to serve a far more important purpose than that of ministering to the views of party, and keeping alive national divisions which, however necessitated by circumstances, ought to cease with the occasion, and yield to the spirit of philanthropy. Even amidst the din of war and the contention of faction, it was the constant aim of this excellent man to promote a conciliatory disposition and to correct the acerbity of controversy. Though no one could feel more sensibly for the wrongs of his country, or have more enlarged ideas on the subject of general liberty, his powerful efforts to redress the one and extend the other, were always connected with the paramount object of social improvement in the recommendation of those habits which tend most effectually to unite men together in the bonds of amity. Happening, however, to live himself in a turbulent period, and called upon to take a leading part in those scenes which produced a new empire in the Western world; much of his latter memoirs and correspondence will be found to exhibit his undisguised thoughts upon the public men and occurrences of his day. These sketches, anecdotes and reflections will now be read by men of opposite sentiments, without awakening painful recollections or rekindling the dying embers of animosity: while the historian and the moralist may learn from them the secret springs of public events, and the folly of being carried away by political prejudice.

While, therefore, some contracted minds in different countries may be querulously disposed to censure the delay that has taken place in the publication of these posthumous papers, it is presumed that the more considerate and liberal on either side of the Atlantic will approve of the motives which have operated for the procrastination, even though the period has so far exceeded the nonum prematur annum, assigned by Horace, the oldest and best of critics, for the appearance of a finished performance.

The Editor, in offering this justificatory plea to the public, and taking credit for having exercised so much discretion as to keep these relics in his private custody till the return of halcyon days and a brightened horizon, when their true value might be best appreciated, feels that he has discharged his duty in that manner which the venerable writer himself would have prescribed, could he have anticipated the disorders which have ravaged the most polished and enlightened states since his removal from this scene of pride and weakness, where nations as well as individuals have their periods of infancy and decrepitude, of moral vigor and wild derangement.

Shortly after the death of Dr. Franklin there were not wanting the usual train of Literary Speculators to exercise their industry in collecting his avowed productions, together with those which public rumour ascribed to his pen. These miscellanies were printed in various forms both in England and America, greatly to the advantage of the pub

« ZurückWeiter »