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be reached through this channel, it was intended, as a last resort, to seek redress from Parliament.
The delays necessarily attending all affairs of this kind, left no room to hope for a speedy termination. The public mind was so much occupied with European politics and the war on the continent, and the attention of the ministers and other officers of the government was so deeply engaged with these great concerns, that there was as little leisure as inclination to meddle with the colonial disputes, and least of all to go through a laborious investigation of facts, and a discussion of the complex difficulties in which the subject was involved.
In a letter to his wife, dated January 21st, 1758, Franklin says; "I begin to think I shall hardly be able to return before this time twelve months. I am for doing effectually what I came about; and I find it requires both time and patience. You may think, perhaps, that I can find many amusements here to pass the time agreeably. It is true, the regard and friendship I meet with from persons of worth, and the conversation of ingenious men, give me no small pleasure; but, at this time of life, domestic comforts afford the most solid satisfaction, and my uneasiness at being absent from my family, and longing desire to be with them, make me often sigh in the midst of cheerful company." He could do no more than to put the business in train, by furnishing the lawyers, employed on the part of his constituents, with the materials and facts for enabling them to appear in behalf of the province, whenever the Board of Trade should take the case into consideration.
For more than a year afterwards scarcely any progress seems to have been made. He spent the summer in journeying through various parts of England.
He visited the University of Cambridge twice, and was present by invitation at the Commencement. He expresses himself as having been particularly gratified with the civilities and regard shown to him by the Chancellor and the heads of Colleges. Curiosity led him also to the town where his father was born, and where his ancestors had lived; and he sought out with a lively interest such traditions concerning them, as could be gathered from the memory of ancient persons, from parish registers, and inscriptions on their tombstones. At Wellingborough he found a Mrs. Fisher, the only daughter of Thomas Franklin, his father's eldest brother, advanced in years, but in good circumstances.
"From Wellingborough," he says, "we went to Ecton, about three or four miles, being the village where my father was born, and where his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather had lived, and how many of the family before them we know not. We went first to see the old house and grounds; they came to Mr. Fisher with his wife, and, after letting them for some years, finding his rent something ill paid, he sold them. The land is now added to another farm, and a school kept in the house. It is a decayed old stone building, but still known by the name of Franklin House. Thence we went to visit the rector of the parish, who lives close by the church, a very ancient building. He entertained us very kindly, and showed us the old church register, in which were the births, marriages, and burials of our ancestors for two hundred years, as early as his book began. His wife, a goodnatured, chatty old lady, (granddaughter of the famous Archdeacon Palmer, who formerly had that parish and lived there,) remembered a great deal about the family; carried us out into the churchyard, and showed us several of their gravestones, which were so covered with
moss, that we could not read the letters, till she ordered a hard brush and basin of water, with which Peter scoured them clean, and then Billy copied them. She entertained and diverted us highly with stories of Thomas Franklin, Mrs. Fisher's father, who was a conveyancer, something of a lawyer, clerk of the county courts, and clerk to the Archdeacon in his visitations; a very leading man in all county affairs, and much employed in public business."
He was alike successful at Birmingham. "Here, upon inquiry," he adds, in writing to his wife, "we soon found out yours, and cousin Wilkinson's, and cousin Cash's relations. First, we found out one of the Cashes, and he went with us to Rebecca Flint's, where we saw her and her husband. She is a turner and he a buttonmaker; they have no children; were very glad to see any person that knew their sister Wilkinson; told us what letters they had received, and showed us some of them; and even showed us that they had, out of respect, preserved a keg, in which they had received a present of some sturgeon. They sent for their brother, Joshua North, who came with his wife immediately to see us; he is a turner also, and has six children, a lively, active man. Mrs. Flint desired me to tell her sister, that they live still in the old house she left them in, which I think she says was their father's." On his return to London he pursued his inquiries still further, and "found out a daughter of his father's only sister, very old and never married; a good, clever woman, but poor, though vastly contented with her situation, and very cheerful."
He mentions other relations, of whom he heard in his journey, but, being out of the range of his tour, he intended visiting them at another time. His manner of speaking on this subject, in both his autobiography and
his letters, shows that he took much delight in seeking out and rendering kindness to the members of his family, even where the relationship was remote, although they were all in humble life, and many of them poor; and there are evidences of his substantial and continued bounty to such as were in a needy condition.
At Birmingham he became acquainted with the celebrated type-founder and printer, Baskerville, one of those men, the results of whose labors prove how much can be achieved in the arts by resolution, perseverance, and an energetic devotion to a favorite object. Franklin always loved the profession by which he had first gained a livelihood and afterwards a liberal competency; and, even when he had risen to eminence, and whilst he associated with statesmen and courtiers, he was fond of talking with printers, entering into their schemes, and suggesting or aiding improvements in their art. So far was he from being reserved on the subject of his early condition and pursuits, that he often alluded to them as giving value to his experience, and as furnishing incidents illustrative of his maxims of life. One day at his dinner-table in Passy, surrounded by men of rank and fashion, a young gentleman was present who had just arrived from Philadelphia. He showed a marked kindness to the young stranger, conversed with him about the friends he had left at home, and then said, "I have been under obligation to your family; when I set up business in Philadelphia, being in debt for my printing materials and wanting employment, the first job I had was a pamphlet written by your grandfather; it gave me encouragement and was the beginning of my success." A similarity of taste was the foundation of an intimate and lasting friendship between him and Baskerville.
After passing a few days at Tunbridge Wells, his
health being much improved by travel and recreation, he went back to London and established himself again at his lodgings. Nor was he neglectful of his public duties. It was not possible to advance in the business of his mission, till the government should be ready to give it a hearing; but the press, which had been freely employed to calumniate the Pennsylvanians, was open to his use. His friends, who understood the state of opinion in England, advised him to resort to it, as affording the best means of counteracting the errors that were abroad, and defeating the arts by which they were disseminated.
Speaking of Mr. Charles, an eminent lawyer employed as counsel on the part of the Assembly, he says in an official letter, "One thing, that he recommends to be done before we push our point in Parliament, is, removing the prejudices, that art and accident have spread among the people of this country against us, and obtaining for us the good opinion of the bulk of mankind without doors. This I hope we have it in our power to do, by means of a work now nearly ready for the press, calculated to engage the attention of many readers, and at the same time to efface the bad impression received of us; but it is thought best not to publish it, till a little before the next session of Parliament."
The work, here alluded to, was the Historical Review of Pennsylvania, rendered famous not more on account of the ability with which it is written and the matter it contains, than of the abuse it brought upon Franklin as its supposed author. It was published anonymously near the beginning of the year 1759. It is the professed object of the writer to support the cause of the Assembly and people of Pennsylvania against the encroachments and arbitrary de