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To Th E Rev. DR. PRI est LEY.
Teflections on the conduct of mankind to each other—
Apologue—Experiments of Lavoisier in the presence of the Grand Duke of Russia.
DEAR SIR, Passy, June 7, 1782.
- I received your kind letter of the 7th of April, also one of the 3d of May. I have always great pleasure in hearing from you, in learning that you are well, and that you continue your experiments. I should rejoice much if I could once more recover the leisure to search with you into the works of nature; I mean the inanimate, not the animate or moral part of them : the more I discovered of the former, the more I admired them ; the more I know of the latter, the more I am disgusted with them. Men, I find to be a sort of beings very badly constructed, as they are gene
| rally more easily provoked than reconciled, more disposed
to do mischief to each other than to make reparation, much
| more easily deceived than undeceived, and having more
pride and even pleasure in killing than in begetting one another; for without a blush they assemble in great armies at moon-day to destroy, and when they have killed as many as
they can, they exaggerate the number to augment the fancied
glory; but they creep into corners, or cover themselves with the darkness of night, when they mean to beget, as being ashamed of a virtuous action. A virtuous action it would be, and a vicious one the killing of them, if the species were really worth producing or preserving; but of this I begin to doubt. I know you have no such doubts, because in your zeal for their welfare, you are taking a great deal of pains to save their souls. Perhaps as you grow older, you may look upon this as a hopeless project, or an idle amusement, repent of having murdered in mephitic air so many honest, harmless mice, and wish that to prevent mischief you had used boys and girls instead of them. . In what light we are viewed by superior beings, may be gathered from a piece of late West-India news, which possibly has not yet reached you. A young angel of distinction being sent down to this world on some business, for the first time, had an old courier-spirit assigned him as a guide: they arrived over the seas of Mar
timico, in the middle of the long day of obstinate fight be-,
tween the fleets of Rodney and De Grasse. When through the clouds of smoke, he saw the fire of the guns, the decks covered with mangled limbs, and bodies dead or dying; the ships sinking, burning, or blown into the air; and the quantity of pain, misery, and destruction, the crews yet alive were thus with so much eagerness dealing round to one another, he turned angrily to his guide, and said, “You blundering blockhead, you are ignorant of your business; you undertook to conduct me to the earth, and you have brought me into hell ?” “No, Sir,” says the guide, “I have made no mistake; this is really the earth, and these are men. Devils never treat one another in this cruel manner; they have more sense, and more of what men (vainly) call humanity.” - But to be serious, my dear old friend, I love you as much as ever, and I love all the honest souls that meet at the London Coffee-House. I only wonder how it happened that they and my other friends in England came to be such good creatures in the midst of so perverse a generation. I long to see them and you once more, and I labor for peace with more earnestness, that I may again be happy in your sweet society, I showed your letter to the Duke de la Rochefoucault, who thinks with me that the new experiments you have made are extremely curious, and he has given me thereupon a note
which I enclose, and I request you would furnish me with the answer-desired. Yesterday the Count du Nord * was at the Academy of Sciences, when sundry experiments were exhibited for his entertainment; among them, one by M. Lavoisier, to show that the strongest fire we yet know is made in a charcoal blown upon with dephlogisticated air. In a heat so produced, he melted platina presently, the fire being much more powerful than that of the strongest burning mirror. Adieu, and believe me ever, your's most affectionately, B. FRANKLIN.
To DR. Shi PLEY, Bishop of St. As APH.”
Passy, June 10, 1782. I received and read the letter from my dear and much respected friend, with infinite pleasure. After so long
• * The Grand Duke of Russia, afterwards Emperor Paul I.
* Jonathan Shipley took his degrees at Christ Church, and in 1743 was made Prebendary of Winchester. After travelling, in 1745, with the Duke of Cumberland, he was promoted in 1749 to a Canonry at Christ Church, became Dean of Winchester in 1760, and in 1769 Bishop of St. Asaph. He was author of some elegant verses on the death of Queen Caroline, and published besides, some poems and sermons, and died in 1788. " He was an intimate and much esteemed friend of Dr. Franklin's, and a warm and eloquent advocate in parliament in favor of America. Of the latter his “Speech intended to have been spoken” on the bill for altering the charter of the colony of Massachusetts Bay, (printed for Cadell in 1774) remains an honorable testimony. It has been thus noticed by a contemporary writer:—“Among all the productions, ancient or modern, it would be difficult to find an instance of more consummate elegance than in a printed speech intended to be spoken in the House of Lords.” (Introduction to Mainwaring's Sermons, 1780.) ~
a silence, and the long continuance of its unfortunate causes, a line from you was a prognostic of happier times approaching, when we may converse and communicate freely, without danger from the malevolence of men enraged by the ill success of their distracted projects. - of * I long with you for the return of peace, on the general principles of humanity. The hope of being able to passa few more of my last days happy in the sweet conversations and company I once enjoyed at Twyford,' is a particular motive that adds strength to the general wish, and quickens my industry to procure that best of blessings. After much occasion to consider the folly and mischiefs of a state of warfare, and the little or no advantage obtained even by those nations who have conducted it with the most success, I have been apt to think that there has never been, nor ever will be, any such thing as a good war, or a bad peace. You ask if I still relish my old studies: I relish them, but I cannot pursue them. My time is engrossed unhappily with other concerns. I requested of the congress last year, my discharge from this public station, that I might enjoy a little leisure in the evening of a long life of business; but it was refused me, and I have been obliged to drudge on a little longer. "You are happy as your years come on, in having that dear and most amiable family about you. Four daughters! how rich! I have but one, and she necessarily detained from me at a thousand leagues distance. I feel the want of that tender care of me which might be expected from a daughter, and would give the world for one. Your shades are all placed in a row over my fire-place, so that I not only have you always in my mind, but constantly before my eyes.
----- −. --------- w * The country residence of the bishop. . . . . . . .
The cause of liberty and America has been greatly obliged to you. I hope you will live long to see that country florish under its new constitution, which I am sure will give you great pleasure. Will you permit me to express another hope, that now your friends are in power, they will take the . first opportunity of showing the sense they ought to have of your virtues and your merit! r
Please to make my best respects acceptable to Mrs. Shipley, and embrace for me tenderly all our dear children. With the utmost esteem, respect, and veneration, I am ever, my dear friend, yours most affectionately, * B. FRANKLIN. ,
To DR. ING ENHA Usz." Refections on misunderstandings between friends—M. Lavoisier's experiment—American affairs.
(ExTRAct.) Passy, June 21, 1782.
I am sorry that any misunderstanding should arise between you and Dr. —. The indiscretions of friends on both sides often occasion such misunderstandings. When they produce public altercations, the ignorant are diverted at the expense of the learned. I hope, therefore, that you will omit the polemic piece in your French edition, and take no public notice of the improper behavior of your friend; but go on with your excellent experiments, produce facts, improve science, and do good to mankind. Reputation will follow, and the little injustices of contemporary laborers will be forgotten: my example may encourage you, or else I should not mention it. You know that when my papers were first published, the Abbé Nollet, then high in reputation, attacked them in a book of letters. An answer was expected
• John INGENhausz, F.R.S. an eminent physician and chemist, born at Breda, 1730, died in 1799.