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signers and one of the framers - attested successively and unmistakably, that it was a ball which could never go backwards,a Revolution which could never stop short of a full and perfect consummation.
When this great and glorious consummation was finally accomplished, Franklin was already older by many years than Archimedes was at the siege of Syracuse, and his work of life was finished. Happier than the great Sicilian philosopher, however, he fell by no hostile hand, and with no spectacle of his country's captivity and ruin before his eyes. He died, on the contrary, when he could not, in the course of nature, have expected or desired to live longer, at the age of eighty-four, and in the confident assurance, which he expressed so characteristically while the Constitution of the United States was in process of being signed, that the sun of his country's glory was a rising and not a setting sun, and was about to usher in a day, a long-continued day, of prosperity and true progress, such as the sun in the heavens had never before shone upon.
Brave, benevolent, wonderful old man ! Well did our own Congress declare of him, in the resolutions adopted on his death, on motion of James Madison, that “his native genius was not more an ornament to human nature, than his various exertions of it have been precious to science, to freedom, and to his country.” Well, too, was it said by that matchless French orator, Mirabeau, in announcing the event to the National Assembly of France, which went into mourning on the occasion, that " antiquity would have raised altars to this mighty genius, who, to the advantage of mankind, compassine was able to restrain alike thunderbolts and tyrants.'
And if a eulogy of later date, long, long after the immediate impressions of his life and his loss had passed away, and when the time had arrived for a cool, deliberate, and dispassionate judgment upon his abilities and his acts, his character and his whole career, — if such a eulogy be appealed to, as more worthy of reliance, — you may find it in the brief but glowing tribute to Franklin by Lord Brougham, in his late account of the statesmen of the times of George III., of which the opening paragraph will be more than enough for this occasion :
66 One of the most remarkable men, certainly of our times, as a politician," says he, “or of any age, as a philosopher, was Franklin ; who also stands alone in combining together these two characters, the greatest that man can sustain, and in this, that, having borne the first part in enlarging science by one of the greatest discoveries ever made, he bore the second part in founding one of the greatest empires of the world."
Undoubtedly, Mr. President, it is often a perplexing and a perilous thing to attempt, as Lord Brougham has here done, to assign the precise rank upon the scale of merit and of fame, to which any of the great lights and leaders of the world may be entitled. Our own country, certainly, has never yet been so unfruitful of such productions, that individual men could be at all times seen overtopping the level of those around them, and could be singled out at a glance as surpassing all their cotemporaries in the varied elements which enter into a just and true idea of human greatness. The North and the South, Virginia and New England, Kentucky, South Carolina, New York, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts, have more than once in our history been found vying with each other for the palm, as having produced the greatest statesman or the best man. It is a generous rivalry, and, in some respects, a wholesome one, and we would not desire to see it altogether extinguished. Our own little city of Boston, too, though she has often shone, and been proud to shine, with borrowed rays, - rays which she would have rejoiced to hold back still longer from their kindred skies, - has herself given birth to more than one luminary of no common brilliancy. That city need not be ashamed to compare calendars with any of its neighbors, which, to say nothing of the living, has given birth in a single generation to a Quincy, a Bowdoin, a Knox, and a Samuel Adams.
But no one, I think, can hesitate, for a moment, to admit, that while there are others who may be permitted to compete with Franklin for the title of the Great American, - a title, which I am sure would, everywhere and with one accord, be awarded, above all others and before all others, to the incomparable Washington, - that while others may be permitted to compete with Franklin for the title of the Great New-Englander, -- and I
would not anticipate your judgment or the judgment of posterity upon such a point, — that while others may even be permitted to compete with Franklin for the title of the Great Son of Massachusetts, there is no one, not one, who has ever yet been numbered among the native children of our own metropolis, who can be allowed to dispute his claim, for an instant, to the proud designation of the Great Bostonian. And if in the lapse of centuries, and in the providence of God, Boston shall ever become as Syracuse now is, her temples and her palaces prostrated in the dust, her fountains a place for the poor to wash clothes at, and her harbor for the fishermen to dry nets in, I am by no means sure that she will have any more effective claim, or any more certain hold, upon the memory and the respect of a remote and world-wide posterity, than that which Syracuse now has, - that within her walls was born and cradled and brought up to manhood the great Patriot Philosopher and Mechanic of his age.
And now, my friends, if some one of the renowned orators or philosophers of the old world, if some British or European Cicero, --a Brougham or a Macaulay, a Humboldt or a Guizot, - on coming over to visit this proud and prosperous Republic of ours, - should happen, as well he might, to take a Halifax steamer and arrive first at the birth-place of Franklin, — and if, upon being waited on by the magistrates of the city, as Cicero of old was waited upon on his arrival at ancient Syracuse, with an offer to show him our Yankee lions, — if such a man, under such circumstances, instead of asking to be conducted to our temples of education or of religion, of charity or of liberty, to our Asylums or Athenæums, our aqueducts, our fountains, or our Faneuil Hall, - should inquire at once, as Cicero inquired, for the monument commemorative of the genius and services of one so known and honored throughout the world, - of him who wrested the sceptre from tyrants and the thunderbolt from the skies, - I think it would not be difficult to realize something of the embarrassment with which His Honor the Mayor, or whoever else might be his conductor, would suggest to the distinguished stranger, that, though Franklin was born in Boston, he did not exactly die in Boston,- that there was, indeed, a little painted stone urn, without a name on it, in one of the side streets,
but that Philadelphia, perhaps, would be the more appropriate place to inquire at, as he was understood to have been buried there.
Our distinguished visitor, of course, would acquiesce in the suggestion; not, however, I imagine, without a shrug of astonishment, which French politeness might conceal, but which John Bull, in the person of my Lord Brougham, certainly, would be altogether likely to make quite as manifest as was agreeable. At any rate, he would postpone further inquiries until he reached Philadelphia, where he would rely on the satisfaction of paying his homage at the very grave of the great philosopher. And now let us imagine him to have reached the charming metropolis of Pennsylvania, and to have sallied out, as Cicero did, into the ancient grave-yards in quest of the tomb, - what, what, would he find there, if, indeed, he succeeded in finding any thing? Let me give you the description in the very words in which I have recently met with it, in one of the leading religious papers of our land :
“A dilapidated dark slab of stone, at the south-west corner of Fifth and Arch Streets, Philadelphia, marks (or did mark a few years ago) the spot where rest the remains of Benjamin and Deborah Franklin; but you cannot see their grave nor read the inscription without climbing a high brick wall, in violation of the law, or without securing a good opportunity and the favor of the sexton, each of which is said to be attended with difficulty. So well hidden is this grave, and so little frequented, that we have known many native Philadelphians of men's and women's estate, who could not direct one to the locality where it may be found."
Is this, Mr. President, a mere parody of Cicero's description of his hunt for the tomb of Archimedes before the Christian era ?
Or is it a genuine and authentic account of the tomb of Benjamin Franklin in this nineteenth century? If it be the latter, as, I am sorry to say, cannot be doubted, -- said I not rightly and justly, a moment since, that there was at least one thing in common to the memory of the great Syracusan and the great Bostonian, which, I trusted, for the honor of us all, would not be of much longer continuance? Archimedes had been dead a hundred and thirty-six years, before Cicero discovered his forgotten tombstone buried up beneath briers and brambles. Less than half that time has elapsed since Franklin was summoned to the skies. He died only five years before this Association was founded, and, thanks to a kind Providence, not even all your original members are yet numbered among the dead. There is at least one of them,* I rejoice to remember, who may be seen almost every day on 'Change, with a heart as young as the youngest within these walls, and whose name, inscribed in the second volume of Webster's Speeches, as a token of the constant friendship and regard of their illustrious author, will be preserved as fresh and fragrant with future generations, as it is with that which has been the immediate witness of his genial good nature, his fulness of information, and his untiring obligingness. Sixty-three years only — less by seven, than the allotted term of a single human life — have thus expired since Franklin's death ; but they have been enough, it seems, to consign his tomb to dilapidation and almost to oblivion.
It is true, indeed, and in justice to Franklin himself, I must not forget it or omit it, that with a native simplicity and modesty of character, which no compliments or caresses of the great or the learned, which no distinction or flattery at liome or abroad, could ever corrupt or impair, this truly great man prescribed, by his own Will, the plainest and humblest possible memorial for his own resting-place.
“I wish,” says he, “ to be buried by the side of my wife, if it may be, and that a marble stone, to be made by Chambers, six feet long and four feet wide, plain, with only a small moulding round the upper edge, and this inscription:
to be placed over us both."
It is true, also, that Franklin has left memorials enough of himself behind him, to render all further commemoration on his own account altogether superfluous.
* Isaac P. Davis, Esq.