« ZurückWeiter »
signs of the Proprietaries. With this aim, he sketches the political history of the province from its first settlement; and, in executing his task, he is led occasionally to touch with considerable severity upon the transactions both of William Penn and of his descendants. As a composition, the treatise possesses merits of a high order. The style is vigorous and clear, always well sustained, and rising sometimes to eloquence. The Dedication and Introduction, especially, are finished specimens of their kind. The tone and sentiments of the work may be inferred from the motto; "Those, who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."
As a history, however, it wants the essential requisites of completeness and impartiality. Yet there is no disguise about it. From the first page to the last the reader is made to see and understand the writer's drift and purpose, which are, to describe in strong language the oppressions under which the people have struggled, and to vindicate them from the censures of their enemies. This is done, in the first place, by copious abstracts and selections from public records and documents, and, next, by such deductions and arguments as seem naturally to flow from them. As to the facts, there can be no doubt of their accuracy, since they are all drawn from authentic sources. The reader is left to judge how well they bear out the inferences and arguments. In short, the writer's statements, as far as they go, cannot be charged with misrepresentation or with essential errors in point of fact. Their chief fault is, that they exhibit only one side of the subject. The evils of the proprietary system, emanating from its inherent defects and a vicious administration, are represented in glowing colors, while the advantages derived from it, such as they were, have no place in his picture.
The partisans of the Proprietaries, in England and Pennsylvania, eagerly ascribed this performance to the pen of Franklin, the leader of the popular party, whose influence and talents they most dreaded. The style, and other circumstances, gave countenance to such a suspicion. As he never publicly affirmed the contrary, it has generally been supposed that the suspicion was well founded.
Very recently, however, an original letter has been obtained, which was written by him to David Hume soon after the work was published, and in which he explicitly disavows the authorship. "I am obliged to you," he says in that letter, "for the favorable sentiments you express of the pieces sent to you; though the volume relating to our Pennsylvania affairs was not written by me, nor any part of it, except the remarks on the Proprietor's estimate of his estate, and some of the inserted messages and reports of the Assembly, which I wrote when at home, as a member of committees appointed by the House for that purpose. The rest was by another hand."* This declaration, made for no other end than to correct an erroneous impression on the mind of Mr. Hume, puts to rest the question of authorship. It is certain, however, that the book was written under his direction, and he may fairly be considered responsible for its contents. Nor does it appear, that he was disposed to shrink from this responsibility, since, if he had been, nothing more was necessary than to avow publicly what he wrote to Mr. Hume. In fact, he was really the author of a large portion of the work, which consists of the messages and reports mentioned above. The reason for withholding the author's name at the time was,
See Vol. VII. p. 208.
that, if this were known, it would weaken the effect intended to be produced, by fixing the public attention upon an individual, rather than upon the book itself. Those, who have doubted Franklin's authorship, have attributed it to Ralph, one of his early associates, an able political writer, and an historian of some celebrity. Ralph was then in London, and this conjecture, to say the least, is not improbable.
Franklin advises the Conquest of Canada. - His Scheme adopted by the Ministry. Journey to Scotland. - Lord Kames, Robertson, Hume."Parable against Persecution." - First published by Lord Kames.— How far Franklin claimed to be its Author. - His Mission brought to a favorable Termination. - Lord Mansfield's Agency in the Affair. - Franklin's Sentiments in Regard to Canada. — Writes a Pamphlet to show that it ought to be retained at the Peace.-Tour to the North of England. — Receives Public Money for Pennsylvania. Tour in Holland. Experiments to prove the Electrical Properties of Cold produced by Evaporation.-Ingenious Theory for explaining the Causes of Northeast Storms. - Invents a Musical Instrument, called the Armonica. - His Son appointed Governor of New Jersey. Returns to America.
ALTHOUGH Franklin devoted himself mainly to the affairs of his agency, yet a mind like his could not be inattentive to the great events that were taking place around him, and he entered warmly into the general politics of the nation. Just before his arrival in England, Mr. Pitt had become prime minister. In the hope of drawing the attention of this sagacious statesman to the concerns of Pennsylvania, he made several attempts to gain an introduction to him, but without success. Alluding to this circumstance at a subsequent date, he said of Mr. Pitt; "He was then too great a man, or too much occupied in affairs of greater moment. therefore obliged to content myself with a kind of nonapparent and unacknowledged communication through Mr. Potter and Mr. Wood, his secretaries, who seemed to cultivate an acquaintance with me by their civilities, and drew from me what information I could give relative to the American war, with my sentiments occasionally on measures that were proposed or advised by others, which gave me the opportunity of recommending and
enforcing the utility of conquering Canada. I afterwards considered Mr. Pitt as an inaccessible. I admired him at a distance, and made no more attempts for a nearer acquaintance." It will be seen hereafter, when Mr. Pitt was no longer minister, that his reserve had softened, and that he not only sought the acquaintance of Franklin, but consulted him confidentially on important national affairs.
It is known, moreover, that his advice at this time was both received and followed. It has been said on good authority, that the expedition against Canada, and its consequences in the victory of Wolfe at Quebec and the conquest of that country, may be chiefly ascribed to Franklin. He disapproved the policy, by which the ministry had hitherto been guided, of carrying on the war against the French in the heart of Germany, where, if successful, it would end in no real gain to the British nation, and no essential loss to the enemy. In all companies, and on all occasions, he urged the reduction of Canada as an object of the utmost importance. It would inflict a blow upon the French power in America, from which it could never recover, and which would have a lasting influence in advancing the prosperity of the British Colonies. These sentiments he conveyed to the minister's friends, with such remarks on the practicability of the enterprise, and the manner of conducting it, as his intimate knowledge of the state of things in America enabled him to communicate. They made the impression he desired, and the result verified his prediction.
During the year 1759, little progress, if any, was made in the Pennsylvania affair. The Historical Review was silently operating on public opinion, and preparing the minds of men in office to act with a better understanding of the subject, than they had heretofore