« ZurückWeiter »
his acquaintance. One of them, after viewing it all, remarked a motto over the door OIA VANITAS. What, says he, is the meaning of this OIA? 'tis a word I don't understand. I will tell you, said the gentleman: I had a mind to have the motto cut on apiece of smooth marble, but there was not room for it between the ornaments, to be put in: characters large enough to be read. 1 therefore made use of, a contraction anciently very common in Latin manuscripts, whereby the m's and n's in words are omitted, and the omission noted by a little dash above, which you may see there, so that the word is omnia, Omnia Vanitas. O, said his frjeiKLI now comprehend the meaning of your motto, it relates to your edifice; and signifies, that if you have abridged your 'omnia, you have nevertheless left your Vanitas legible at full length. I am, as ever, your affectionate father,
... B. Franklin. ,
To His Excellency Henry Laurens, Esq. .
Remarks on the British government.
Dear Sir, / Passy, Feb. 12, 1784.
I received your favor of the 3d instant by your son, with the newspapers, for which I thank you. The disorders of that government whose constitution has been so much praised, are come to a height that threatens some violent convulsion, if not a dissolution; and its physicians do not even seem to guess at the cause of the disease, and therefore prescribe insufficient remedies, such as place bills, more equal representation, more frequent elections, &c. &c. In my humble opinion, the malady consists in the enormous salaries, emoluments, and patronage of great offices. Ambition and avarice are separately strong passions: when they are united in pursuit of the same object, they are too strong to be governed
VOL. I. K
by common prudence, or influenced by public spirit and love of country; they drive men irresistibly into factions, cabals, dissensions, and violent divisions, always mischievous to public councils, destructive to the peace of society, and sometimes fatal to its existence. As long as the immense profits of these offices subsist, members of the shortest and most equally chosen parliaments will have them in view, and contend for them, and their contentions will have all the same ruinous consequences. To me then there seems to be but one effectual remedy, and that not likely to be adopted by so corrupt a nation; which is, to abolish these profits, and make every place of honor a place of burthen. By that means the effect of one of the passions above-mentioned would be taken away, and something would be added to counteract the other. Thus the number of competitors for great offices would be diminished, and the efforts of those who still would obtain them moderated.
Thank God we have now less connexion with the affairs of these people, and are more at liberty to take care of our own, which I hope we shall manage better.
We have a terrible winter here, such another in this country is not remembered by any man living. The snow has been thick upon the ground ever since Christmas; and the frost constant.
My grandson joins in best compliments to yourself and Miss Laurens. With sincere esteem and affection I have the honor to be, dear sir, &c. B.franklin.
To W. Strahan, Esq. M. P. King's Printer, London.
Suggestions as to the deplorable situation of the English government.
Dear Sir, Passy, Feb. 16, 1784.
I received and read with pleasure your kind letter of the first instant, as it informed me of the welfare of you and yours. I am glad the accounts you have from your kinswoman at Philadelphia are agreeable, and 1 shall be happy if any recommendations from me can be serviceable to Dr. Ross, or any others, friends of yours going to Anierica.
Your arguments persuading me to come once more to England, are very powerful. To be sure I long to see again my friends there, whom I love abundantly: but there are difficulties and objections of several kinds, which at present 1 don't see how to get over.
'I lament with you the political disorders England at present labors under. Your papers are full of strange accounts of anarchy and confusion in America, of which we know nothing, while your own affairs are really in a deplorable situation. In my humble opinion, the root of the evil lies not so much in too long, or too unequally chosen parliaments, as in the enormous salaries, emoluments, and patronage of your great officers; and that you will never be at rest till they are all abolished, and every place of honor made at the same time, instead of a place of profit, a place of expense and burthen. Ambition and avarice are each of them strong passions, and when they are united in the same persons, and have the same objects in view for their gratification, they are too strong for public spirit and love of country, and are apt to produce the most violent factions and contentions. They should therefore be separated, and. made to act one against the other. Those places, to speak in our old style (brother type) may be good for the Chapel but they are bad for the master, as they create constant quarrels that hinder the business. For example, here are two months that your government has been employed in getting its form to press; which is not yet fit to work on, every page of it being squabbled, and the whole ready to fall into pye. The founts too must be very scanty, or strangely out of sorts, since your compositors cannot find either upper or lower-case letters sufficient to set the word Administration, but are forced to be continually turning for them. However, to return to common (though perhaps too saucy)language, don't despair; you have still one resource left, and that not a bad one, since it may re-unite the empire. We have some remains of affection for you, and shall always be ready to receive and take care of you in case of distress. So if you have not sense and virtue enough to govern yourselves, e'en dissolve your present old crazy constitution and send members to congress.
You will say my advice " smells of Madeira." You are
right. This foolish letter is mere chit-chat between ourselves,
over the second bottle. If, therefore, you show it to any body,
, (except our indulgent friends, Dagge and lady Strachan) I
will positively solles you. Yours ever most affectionately,
To Henry Laurens, Esq.
Dear Sir, Passy, March 12, 1784.
I write this in great pain from the gout in both feet; but my young friend your son havirlg informed me that he sets out for London to-morrow, I could not slip the opportunity, as perhaps it is the only safe one that may occur before your departure for America. I wish mine was as near. I think I have reason to complain that I am so long wi^r-ut an answer from congress to my request of recal. I wish rather to die in my own country than here; and though the tipper part of the building appears yet tolerably firm, yet being undermined by the stone and gout united, its fall cannot be far distant. You are so good as to offer me your friendly services. You cannot do me one more acceptable at present than that of forwarding my dismission. In all other respects as well as that, I shall ever look on your friendship as an honor to me; being with sincere and great esteem,
.: :.'/, .... dear sir, &c. &c.
i . r.-' "i. . . . ;•} •.
Ijj4.:i ,::.'.: . •; '. » March 13,1784.
P. S. Having had a tolerable night, I find myself something better this morning. In reading over my letter, I perceive an omission of my thanks for your kind assurances of never forsaking my defence, should there be need. I apprehend that the violent antipathy of a certain person to me may have produced some calumnies, which what you have seen and heard here may enable you to refute. You will thereby exceedingly oblige one, who has lived beyond all other ambition than that of dying with the fair character he has long endeavored to deserve. As to my infallibility, which you do not undertake to maintain, I am too modest myself to claim it, that is, in general; though when we come to particulars, 1, like other people, give it up with difficulty. Steele says, that the difference between the church of Rome and the church of England on that point is only this; that the one pretends to be infallible, and the other to be never in the wrong. In this latter sense we are most of us church of England men, though few of us confess it, and express it to naturally and frankly as a certain lady here, who said, I don't know how it happens, but I meet with nobody except myself,