« ZurückWeiter »
As biography is a species of history, which re cords the lives and characters of remarkable persons, it consequently becomes an interesting subject, and is of general utility. It would be bat fair to assert, that almost every civilized nation on the globe has, at one period or other, produced distinguished individuals in various stations of life.
Mr. Jefferson, the President of the United States of America, in his " Notes on Virginia," thus speaks,—in answer to the assertion of the Abbe Raynal, that 'America has not yet produced one good poet, one able mathematician, one man of genius, in a single art, or a single science,"—" When we Bhall have existed as a nation, as long as the Greeks did before they produced a Homer, the Romans a Virgil, the French a Racine and Voltaire, the English a Sbakspeare and Milton, should this reproach be still true, we will inquire from what unfriendly causes it has proceeded, that the other countries cf Europe and quarters of the earth shall not have inscribed any name in the roll of poets. In war we have produced a Washington, whose memory will be adored while liberty shall have votaries; whose name will triumph over time, and will in future ages assume its just station among the most celebrated worthies of the world, when that wretched philosophy shall be forgotten which would arrange him among the degeneracies of nature. In physics we have produced a Franklin, than whom no one of the present age has made more important discoveries, nor has enriched philosophy with more or more ingenious solutions of the phenomena of nature. We have supposed Mr. Rittenhouse second to no astronomer living; that in genius he must be the first, because he is self-taught," &c.
In philosophy, England caa boast of a Bacon the most eminent professor in this science the world has ever produced. The Essays of this great writer is one of the best proofs we can adduce of his transcendent abilities; and America claims the enlightened Franklin, a man who has not left his equal behind him, and whose life and writings are the subject of the following sheets.
To say more in this place of our author would be anticipating what is hereafter mentioned: it will therefore only be necessary to add, that due attention has been paid in the selection of such of his productions as may be adapted to general perusal. The following letter from the celehrated Dr. Price, to a gentleman in Philadelphia, upon the subject of Dr. Franklin's Memoirs of his own Life, will not, it is presumed, be considered inapplicable.
"Hackney, June 19, 1790
"I am hardly able to tell you how kindly I take the letters with which you favor me. Your last, containing an account of the death of our excellent friend, Dr. Franklin, and the circumstances attending it, deserves my particular gratitude. The account which he has left of his life will show, in a striking example, how a man, by talents, industry, and integrity, may rise from obscurity to the first eminence and consequence in the world; but it brings his history no lower than the year 1757, and I understand that since he sent over the copy, which I have read, he has been able to make no additions to it. It is with a melancholy regret that I think of his death; but to death we are all bound by the irrevocable order of nature, and in looking forward to it, there is a comfort in being able to reflect, that we have not lived*in vain, and that all the useful and virtuous shall meet in a better country beyond the grave.
"Dr. Franklin, in the last letter I received from him, after mentioning his age and infirmities, observes, that it has been kindly ordered by the Author of nature, that, as we draw nearer the conclusion of life we are furnished with more helps to wean us from it, amongst which one of the strongest is the loss of dear friends. I was delighted with the account you gave in your letter of the honor shown to his memory at Philal •