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4. Essays and Tracts, Historical and Political, before the American Revolution.
5. Political Papers during and after the American Revolution.
6. Letters and Papers on Electricity. 7. Letters and Papers on Philosophical Subjects. 8. Correspondence.
Under each head all the articles have been placed in the order in which they were written, with the date of each prefixed, whenever this could be ascertained. The Correspondence is also printed in chronological order, from beginning to end, without regard to the contents of the letters. This method was believed to be preferable to any attempt at a classification, because in numerous instances a single letter treats of various subjects, both of a political and a private nature.
The Editor's notes throughout the work, and the historical remarks at the beginning of many of the essays and political treatises, are intended strictly as illustrations of the author's text, and not as commentaries or critical disquisitions. The substance of these notes and remarks has been drawn, in a great measure, from manuscripts. Mr. Fox's papers, and the public offices in Paris, have furnished copious materials for this part of the work. Some curious particulars, respecting the proceedings of the British ministry and Parliament for a few years after the repeal of the Stamp Act, are selected from the letters of Mr. William Samuel Johnson, who was the agent from Connecticut in London during that period. His original letter-book is in the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the use of it has been freely granted for this occasion. Many interesting and important extracts from Mr. Oswald's correspondence with the British ministry, while he was engaged in negotiating the treaty of peace in Paris, are likewise subjoined as notes to Dr. Franklin's letters on that subject. These extracts were taken from a manuscript volume, containing a copy of Mr. Oswald's entire correspondence, with which the Editor was favored by the Marquis of Lansdown, in addition to other evidences of that nobleman's liberal spirit and enlargement of mind, in aiding his researches for materials illustrative of American history.
A few notes have been selected from Mr. Vaughan's and William Temple Franklin's editions, which are indicated in each case by their initials. For all the notes, except those written by the author, and those for which some other authority is cited, the Editor is responsible.
The first volume consists of a Life of Franklin, being his autobiography, and a Continuation by the Editor. The autobiography has been divided into chapters, of suitable length, for the convenience of readers. In the Continuation the Editor has endeavoured to follow out the author's plan, by confining himself strictly to a narrative of the principal events and incidents of his life, as far as these could be ascertained from his writings, his public acts, and the testimony of his contemporaries.
The engraved portrait of Dr. Franklin, prefixed to the first volume, is from an original picture now in the possession of Mr. Thomas W. Sumner, of Brookline, Massachusetts. Neither the name of the artist, nor the precise time at which it was painted, is known. The picture formerly belonged to his brother, John Franklin, and it is mentioned in his will, dated in January, 1756. It has been retained in the family ever since. It was painted when Franklin was a young man, probably before he was thirty years old, and twenty-five or thirty years earlier than the portraits, from which any of the other engravings extant have been taken. The head of Mrs. Franklin, contained in this work, is from a picture owned by the Reverend Dr. Charles Hodge, of Princeton, New Jersey. Both these portraits are of the size of life. They have never before been engraved. The portrait by Duplessis has been generally acknowledged to exhibit the best likeness of Franklin in his old age. The engraving of it for this work was executed in Paris, from the original.
Although the Editor has spared neither labor nor expense in his endeavours to make this edition a complete collection of the writings of Franklin, yet he is constrained to say, in justice to the memory of the author, that he has been less successful than he could have wished. Many papers, known to have once existed, he has not been able to find. Of this description are numerous letters to his son, written before the Revolution; and also his letters, during a long course of years, to his daughter and his son-inlaw, a very few of which have been preserved. Again, his entire correspondence with the Assemblies of Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Georgia, while he was agent for those colonies in England, has hitherto eluded the most vigilant search. All these papers are probably lost, as well as those taken from the chest in Galloway's house, and others, described by him as important, which he had committed to the charge of his son, before bis mission to France. It is possible that other writings may yet be brought to light, which may afford some future editor the means of more entire success.