« ZurückWeiter »
Even in the simple operation of sailing when at sea, I have often observed different judgments in the officers who commanded the successive watches, the wind being the same. One would have the sails trimmed sharper or flatter than another; so that they seemed to have no certain rule to govern by. Yet I think a set of experiments might be instituted, - first, to determine the most proper form of the hull for swift sailing; next, the best dimensions and most proper place for the masts; then, the form and quantity of sails, and their position, as the winds may be ; and lastly, the disposition of the lading. This is an age of experiments, and I think a set accurately made and combined would be of great use.
We were several times chased in our passage, but outsailed everything, and in thirty days had soundings. We had a good observation, and the captain judged himself so near our port, Falmouth, that, if we made a good run in the night, we might be off the mouth of that harbor in the morning; and by running in the night might escape the notice of the enemy's privateers, who often cruised near the entrance of the channel. Accordingly all the sail was set that we could possibly carry, and, the wind being very fresh and fair, we stood right before it, and made great way. The captain, after his observation, shaped his course, as he thought, so as to pass wide of the Scilly Rocks; but it seems there is sometimes a strong current setting up St. George's Channel, which formerly caused the loss of Sir Cloudesley Shovel's squadron, in 1707. This was probably also the cause of what happened to us.
We had a watchman placed in the bow, to whom they often called, “Look well out before there; ” and he as often answered, “Ay, ay;” but perhaps had his eyes shut, and was half asleep, at the time; they sometimes answering, as is said, mechanically; for he did not see a light just before us, which had been hid by the studding-sails from the man at the helm, and from the rest of the watch, but by an accidental yaw of the ship was discovered, and occasioned a great alarm, we being very near it; the light appearing to me as large as a cart-wheel. It was midnight, and our captain fast asleep; but Captain Kennedy, jumping upon deck, and seeing the danger, ordered the ship to wear round, all sails standing; an operation dangerous to the masts, but it carried us clear, and we avoided shipwreck, for we were running fast on the rocks on which the light was erected. This deliverance impressed me strongly with the utility of lighthouses, and made me resolve to encourage the building some of them in America, if I should live to return thither.
In the morning it was found, by the soundings, that we were near our port, but a thick fog hid the land from our sight. About nine o'clock the fog began to rise, and seemed to be lifted up from the water like the curtain of a theatre, discovering underneath the town of Falmouth, the vessels in the harbor, and the fields that surround it. This was a pleasing spectacle to those who had been long without any other prospect than the uniform view of a vacant ocean; and it gave us the more pleasure, as we were now free from the anxieties which had arisen.*
I set out immediately, with my son, for London, and we only stopped a little by the way to view Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, and Lord Pembroke's house and gardens, with the very curious antiquities at Wilton. We arrived in London the 27th of July, 1757.t
* In a letter from Franklin to his wife, dated at Falmouth, the 17th of July, 1757, after giving her a similar account of his voyage, escape and landing, he adds: “The bell ringing for church, we went thither immediately, and, with hearts full of gratitude, returned sincere thanks to God for the mercies we had received. Were I a Roman Catholic, perhaps I should on this occasion vow to build a chapel to some saint ; but, as I am not, if I were to vow at all, it should be to build a lighthouse.”
f The Autobiography of Franklin terminates here. He had intended resuming it, but was prevented either by the pressure of public business or physical infirmities.
INTERVIEWS WITH LORD CHATHAM.*
WHEN I came to England in 1757, you may remember I made several attempts to be introduced to Lord Chatham (at that time first minister), on account of my Pennsylvania business, but without success. He was then too great a man, or too much occupied in affairs of greater moment. I was therefore obliged to content myself with a kind of non-apparent and unacknowledged communication, through Mr. Potter and Mr. Wood, his secretaries, who seemed to cultivate an acquaintance with me by their civilities, and drew from me what information I could give relative to the American war, with my sentiments occasionally on measures that were proposed or advised by others, which gave me the opportunity of recommending and enforcing the utility of conquering Canada. I afterwards considered Mr. Pitt as an inaccessible; I admired him at a distance, and made no more attempts for a nearer acquaintance. I had only once or twice the satisfaction of hearing, through Lord Shelburne, and I think Lord Stanhope, that he did me the honor of mentioning me sometimes as a person of respectable character.
But, towards the end of August last, returning from Brighthelmstone, I called to visit my friend, Mr. Sargent, at his seat, Halsted, in Kent, agreeable to a former engagement. He let me know that he had promised to conduct me to Lord Stanhope's, at Chevening, who expected I would call on him when I came into that neighborhood. We accordingly waited on Lord Stanhope that evening, who told me that Lord Chatham desired to see me, and that Mr. Sargent's house, where I was to lodge, being in the way, he would call for me there the next morning, and carry me to Hayes. This was done accordingly. That truly great man received me with abundance of civility, inquired particularly into the situation of affairs in America, spoke feelingly of the severity of the late laws against Massachusetts, gave me some account of his speech in opposing them, and expressed great regard and esteem for the people of that country, who he hoped would continue firm and united in defending, by all peaceable and legal means, their constitutional rights. I assured him that I made no doubt they would do so; which he said he was pleased to hear from me, as he was sensible I must be well acquainted with them. #: #: #: In fine, he expressed much satisfaction in my having called upon him, and particularly in the assurances I had given him that America did not aim at independence; adding that he should be glad to see me again as often as might be. I said I should not fail to avail myself of the permission he was pleased to give me, of waiting upon his lordship occasionally, being very sensible of the honor, and of the great advantages and improvement I should reap from his instructive conversation; which indeed was not a mere compliment. 3% 3% 3% I had promised Lord Chatham to communicate to him the first important news I should receive from America. I therefore sent him the proceedings of the Congress as soon as I received them; but a whole week passed, after Ireceived the petition, before I could, as I wished to do, wait upon him with it, in order to obtain his sentiments on the whole ; for my time was taken up in meetings with the other agents to consult about presenting the petition, in waiting three different days with them on. Lord Dartmouth, in consulting upon and writing letters to the speakers of Assemblies, and other business, which did not allow me a day to go to Hayes. At last, on Monday the 26th, I got out, and was there about one o'clock; he received me with an affectionate kind of respect that from so great a man was extremely engaging; but the opinion he expressed of the Congress was still more so. They had acted, he said, with so much temper, moderation and wisdom, that he thought it the most honorable assembly of statesmen since those of the ancient Greeks and Romans in the most virtuous times: that there was not in their whole proceedings above one or two things he could have wished otherwise;
* On his passage from England in March 1775, in a letter to his son, Franklin committed to paper a statement of his “efforts to effect a reconciliation and prevent a breach between Great Britain and her Colonies.” In the introductory memoir we have given an abstract of that portion of this statement relating to the interviews with Lord Howe, Mr. Barclay and others. The passages relating to Lord Chatham possess superior interest, and we have here detached them from the context.
perhaps but one, and that was their assertion that the keeping up a standing army in the colonies in time of peace, without consent of their legislatures, was against law; he doubted that was not well founded, and that the law alluded to did not extend to the colonies. The rest he admired and honored; he thought the petition decent, manly, and properly expressed; he inquired much and particularly concerning the state of America, the probability of their perseverance, the difficulties they must meet with in adhering for any long time to their resolutions, the resources they might have to supply the deficiency of commerce; to all which I gave him answers with which he seemed well satisfied. He expressed a great regard and warm affection for that country, with hearty wishes for their prosperity, and that government here might soon come to see its mistakes and rectify them; and intimated that possibly he might, if his health permitted, prepare something for its consideration, when the Parliament should meet after the holidays, on which he should wish to have previously my sentiments. I mentioned to him the very hazardous state I conceived we were in, by the continuance of the army in Boston; that whatever disposition there might be in the inhabitants to give no just cause of offence to the troops, or in the general to preserve order among them, an unpremeditated, unforeseen quarrel might happen between perhaps a drunken porter and a soldier, that might bring on a riot, tumult and bloodshed, and its consequences produce a breach impossible to be healed; that the army could not possibly answer any good purpose there, and might be infinitely mischievous; that no accommodation could be properly proposed and entered into by the Americans while the bayonet was at their breasts; that, to have any agreement binding, all force should be withdrawn. His lordship seemed to think these sentiments had something in them that was reasonable. From Hayes I went to Halsted, Mr. Sargent's place, to dine, intending thence a visit to Lord Stanhope at Chevening; but, hearing there that his lordship and the family were in town, I staid in Halsted all night, and the next morning went to Chiselhurst to call upon Lord Camden, it being in my way to town. I met his lordship and family in two carriages, just without his gate, going on a visit of congratulation to Lord Chatham and his lady, on the late marriage of their daughter to Lord Mahon, son of Lord Stanhope. They were to be back to dinner; so I agreed to go in, stay dinner, and spend the evening there, and not to return to town till next morning. We had that afternoon and evening a great deal of conversation on American affairs,