« ZurückWeiter »
have done the good effected by this man alone! Good, not only to his own nation, and to his cotemporaries, but to distant countries, and to late posterity: for such must be the effect of bis multiplying and distributing copies of the works of our best English writers, on subjects the most important to the welfare of society. .
. I knew him personally but little. I sometimes met with him at the Royal Society and the Society of Arts, but he appeared shy of my acquaintance, though he often sent me valuable presents, such as Hamilton's works, Sydney's works, &c. which are now among the most precious ornaments of my library. We might possibly, if we had been more intimate, have concerted some useful operations together ; but he loved to do his good alone and secretly; and I find besides, in perusing these memoirs, that I was a doubtful character with him. I do not respect him less for his error; and I am obliged to the editors for the justice they have done me. They have made a little mistake in page 400, where a letter, which appeared in a London paper, January 7th, 1768, is said to have been written by Mr. Adams. It was written by me, and is reprinted in Mr. Vaughan's Collection of my Political Pieces, p. 231. This erratum is of no great importance, but may be corrected in a future edition,
I see Mr. Hollis had a collection of curious medals. If he had been still living, I should certainly have sent him one of the medals that I have caused to be struck here. I think the countenance of my Liberty would have pleased him. I suppose you possess the collection, and have the same taste. I beg you therefore to accept of one of these medals as a mark of my respect, and believe me to be with sincere esteem, &c.
· DEAR Sir,
Passy, January 6, 1784. I received your kind letter of the 26th past, and inmediately sent that inclosed to Mrs. Jay, whom I saw a few days since with the children, all perfectly well. It is a happy thing that the little ones are so finely past the small pox, and I congratulate you upon it most cordially.
It is true, as you have heard, that I have the stone, but not that I have had thoughts of being cut for it. It is as yet very tolerable. It gives me no pain but when in a carriage on the pavement, or when I make some sudden quick movement. If I can prevent its growing larger, 'which I hope to do by abstenious living and gentle exercise, I can go on pretty comfortably with it to the end of my journey, which can now be at no great distance. I am cheerful, enjoy the company of my friends, sleep well, have sufficient appetite, and my stomach performs well its functions. The latter is very material to the preservation of health. I therefore take no drugs lest I should disorder it. You may judge that my disease is not very grievous, since I am more afraid of the medicines than of the malady. .
It gives me pleasure to learn from you that my friends still retain their regard for me. I long to see them again, but I doubt I shall hardly accomplish it. If our commission for the treaty of commerce were arrived, and we were at liberty to treat in England, I might then come over to you, supposing the English ministry disposed to enter into such a treaty.
I have, as you observe, some enemies in England, but they are my enemies as an American; I have also two or three in America, who are my enemies as a minister ; but I thank God there are not in the whole world any who are my enemies as a man; for by his grace, through a long life I have been enabled so to conduct myself, that there does not exist a human being who can justly say, Ben. Franklin has wronged me. This, my friend, is in old age a comfortable reflection. You too have, or may have, your enemies; but let not that render you unhappy. If you make a right use of them, they will do you more good than barm. They point out to us our faults; they put us upon our guard, and help us to live more correctly.
My grandsons are sensible of the honor of your remembrance, and join their respectful compliments and best wishes with those of, dear sir, your affectionate humble servant,
. . B. FRANKLIN.
On the proposed Order of the Cincinnati, Hereditury . . Nobility, and descending Honors.
MY DEAR CHILD, Passy, Jan. 26, 1784.
Your care in sending me the newspapers is very agreeable to me. I received by Captain Barney those relating to the Cincinnati. My opinion of the institution cannot be of much importance: I only wonder that, when the united wisdom of our nation had, in the articles of confederation, manifested their dislike of establishing ranks of nobility, by authority either of the congress or of any particular státe, a number of private persons should think proper to distinguish themselves and their posterity, from their fellow-citizens, and form an order of hereditary knights, in direct opposition to the solemnly-declared sense of their country! I imagine it must be likewise contrary to the good sense of most of those drawn into it, by the persuasion of its projectors, who have been too much struck with the ribbands and crosses they have seen hanging to the button-holes of foreign officers. And I suppose those who disapprove of it have not bithetto given it much opposition, from a principle somewhat like that of your good mother, relating to puuctilious persons, who are always exacting little observances of respect; that“ if people can be pleased with small matters, it is a pity but they should have them.". In this view, perhaps, I should not myself, if my advice had been asked, have objected to their wearing their ribband and badge themselves according to their fancy, though I certaiuly should to the entailing it as an honor on their posterity. For honor, worthily obtained, (as that for example of our officers) is in its nature a personal thing, and incommunicable to any but those who had some share in obtaining it. Thus among the Chinese, the most ancient, and from long experience the wisest of nations, honor does not descend, but ascends. If a man from his learning, his wisdom, or his valour, is promoted by the Emperor to the rank of Mandarin, his parents are immediately entitled to all the same ceremonies of respect from the people, that are established as due to the Mandarin himself; on the supposition that it must have been owing to the education, instruction, and good example afforded him
by his parents, that he was rendered capable of serving the public. This ascending honor is therefore useful to the state, as it encourages parents to give their children a good and virtuous education. But the descending honor, to a posterity who could have no share in obtaining it, is not only groundless and absurd, but often hurtful to that posterity, since it is apt to make them proud, disdaining to be employed in useful arts, and thence falling into poverty, and all the meannesses, servility, and wretchedness attending it; which is the present case with much of what is called the noblesse in Europe. Or if, to keep up the dignity of the family, estates are entailed entire on the eldest male heir, another pest to industry and improvement of the country is introduced, which will be followed by all the odious mixture of pride and beggary, and idleness that have half depopulated and decultivated Spain ; occasioning continual extinction of families by the discouragements of marriage, and neglect in the improvement of estates. I wish therefore that the Cincinnati, it they must go on with their project, would direct the badges of their order to be worn by their fathers and mothers, instead of handing them down to their children. It would be a good precedent, and might have good effects. It would also be a kind of obedience to the fourth commandment, in which God enjoins us to honor our father and mother, but has no where directed us to honor our children. And certajuly no mode of honoring those immediate authors of our being can be more effectual, than that of doing praiseworthy actions, which reflect honor on those who gave us our education; or more becoming, than that of manifesting, by some public expression or token, that it is to