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A comparison of dates will show that M. Castera's theory was purely imaginary.
* * * The self-torturing sophist, wild Rousseau,
wrote the first part of his Confessions during his residence in England in the years 1766 and 1767. The second was composed in Dauphiny and at Trye in the years 1768 and 1770. It was his intention that they should not be printed until 1800, presuming that by that time all who figured in them would have ceased to live; but the period he had fixed for their publication was anticipated. The first part was printed in 1781, and the second in 1788. It is not likely that Franklin or any of his friends knew anything of them till the first part was published in 1781, and all of Franklin's Memoirs that Castera published or knew anything of had been written ten years before.
The Doctor returned to the United States in the summer of 1785. In the fall of that year he received a note from his friend, Mr. Edward Bancroft, the tenor of which is sufficiently explained in the following extract from the Doctor's reply:
“PHILADELPHIA, 26th November, 1785. 66 DEAR SIR:
“I received your kind letter of September 5th, informing me of the intention Mr. Dilly has of printing a new edition of my writings, and of his desire that I would furnish him with such additions as I may think proper. At present all my papers and manuscripts are so mixed with other things, by the confusions occasioned in sudden and various removals during the late troubles, that I can hardly find anything. But having nearly finished an
addition to my house, which will afford me room to put all in order, I hope soon to be able to comply with such a request; but I hope Mr. Dilly will have a good understanding in the affair with Henry & Johnson, who, having risked the former impressions, may suppose they thereby acquired some right in the copy. As to the Life proposed to be written, if it be by the same hand who furnished a sketch to Dr. Lettsom, which he sent me, I am afraid it will be found too full of errors for either you or me to correct; and having been persuaded by my friends, Messrs. Vaughan and M. le Veillard, Mr. James, of this place, and some others, that such a Life written by myself may be useful to the rising generation, I have made some progress in it, and hope to finish it this winter; so I cannot but wish that project of Mr. Dilly's biographer may be laid aside. I am nevertheless thankful to you for your friendly offer of correcting it.*
The Doctor's hopes of completing the Memoirs during the winter of 1785 were not realized, nor did he resume work upon them until three years later.
“ As to the little history† I promised you,” he writes to his friend, Le Veillard, the 15th April, 1787, “my purpose still continues of completing it, and I hoped to do it this summer, having built an addition to my house, in which I have placed my library, and where I can write without being disturbed by the noise of the children; but
Sparks' Works of Franklin, vol. x. p. 240. † The only letter we have from M. le Veillard bears date, Passy, Oct. 9, 1785. He says, in allusion to this subject : “I hope you have been industrious during your passage, and that you have finished your Memoirs, and will send them to me.” Sparks' Works of Franklin, vol. X. p. 231.
the General Assembly having lately desired my assistance at a great convention to be held in May next for amending the Federal Constitution, I begin to doubt whether I can make any progress in it till that business is over.” *
In the same letter he adds farther on :
“You blame me for writing three pamphlets and neglecting to write the little history: you should consider they were written at sea, out of my own head; the other could not so well be written there for want of the documents that could only be had here.”
On the 24th of October, 1788, the Doctor writes to M. le Veillard as follows:
6. I have been much afflicted the last summer with a long-continued fit of the gout, which I am not quite clear of, though much better; my other malady is not augmented. I have lately made great progress in the work you so urgently demand, and have come as far as my fiftieth year. Being now free from public business, as my term in the Presidentship is expired, and resolving to engage in no other public employment, I expect to have it finished in about two months, if illness or some unforeseen interruption does not prevent. I do not, therefore, send a part at this time, thinking it better to retain the whole till I can view it all together, and make the proper corrections." +
William Temple Franklin also writes on the 17th of November, 1788:
“Our new government goes on in its way. Many
* Le Veillard Collection. For the entire letter, see Appendix, No. 2.
| Ibid. For the entire letter, see Appendix, No. 3.
States have elected their Senators. The people are soon to elect their representatives. It is in March next they should meet. There is but one voice for the PresidentGeneral, the illustrious Washington. In respect to the Vice President, opinions are shared between General Knox, Messrs. Hancock, Adams, &c. My grandfather having served the three years as President of this State, Genl. Mimin has been elected in his place. My grandfather now calls himself a free man, and I believe it would be difficult to induce him to change his condition. No one could more enjoy his liberty and repose. He is now occupied in writing the continuation of his life, which you have so urgently desired of him. His health improves every day. Farewell, my friend. Recall me to the recollection of all our common friends, and say a thousand tender things to all your family. I write to your son.
. T. F.”*
In three other letters to M. le Veillard, written during the year 1788, Dr. Franklin alludes to his promise and his reasons for not having hitherto been able to keep it. Under date of February 17, 1788, he writes:
" I should have proceeded in the history you mention, if I could well have avoided accepting the chair of President for this third and last year; to which I was again elected by the unanimous voice of the Council and General Assembly in November. If I live to see this year expire, I may enjoy some leisure, which I promise you to employ in the work you do me the honor to urge so earnestly." +
* Le Veillard Collection. See Appendix, No. 4.
Scarcely two months later, and under date of April 22, he writes again :
“I received but a few days since your favor of Nov. 30, 1787, in which you continue to urge me to finish the Memoirs. My three years of service will expire in October, when a new President must be chosen, and I had the project of retiring then to my grandson's estate, in New Jersey, where I might be free from the interruption of visits, in order to complete that work for your satisfaction ; for in this city my time is so cut to pieces by friends and strangers, that I have sometimes envied the prisoners in Bastille. But considering now the little remnant of life I have left, the accidents that may happen between this and October, and your earnest desire, I have come to the resolution to proceed in that work to-morrow, and continue it daily till finished, which, if my health permits, may be in the course of the ensuing summer. As it goes on I will have a copy made for you,
you may expect to receive a part by the next packet.”*
About six weeks after the foregoing, and under date of June 6, he writes again :
“ Eight States have now agreed to the proposed new Constitution; there remain five who have not yet discussed it, their appointed times of meeting not having yet arrived. Two are to meet this month; the rest later. One more agreeing, it will be carried into execution. Probably some will not agree at present, but time may bring them in; so that we have little doubt of its becoming general, perhaps with some corrections. As to your friend's taking a share in the management of it; his
* Sparks' Works of Franklin, vol. x. p. 345.