Abbildungen der Seite

possessed. The Proprietaries sent out a new governor to take the place of Mr. Denny, with whom they became dissatisfied as having been too compliant to the Assembly. His successor was Mr. Hamilton, who had formerly held the office. In their instructions to him, they still refused to have their estates taxed, though they consented, that, in case the exigency of the times demanded it, a tax might be laid on their rents and quitrents only, provided their "tenants should be obliged to pay the same," the amount being deducted when payments were made by the tenants to their receiver in Pennsylvania. Mr. Hamilton endeavoured to procure better terms, and told them plainly before he left England, that, in his opinion, "the proprietary estates ought to be taxed in common with all the other estates in the province." His efforts to carry this point, however, were unavailing.

In the summer of this year Franklin made a journey to Scotland, accompanied by his son. His reputation as a philosopher was well established there, and he was received and entertained in a manner that evinced the highest respect for his character. The University of St. Andrews had some time before honored him with the degree of Doctor of Laws. He formed an acquaintance with nearly all the distinguished men, who then adorned Scotland by their talents and learning, particularly Lord Kames, Dr. Robertson, and Mr. Hume, with whom he kept up long afterwards a friendly correspondence. The pleasure he derived from his visit is forcibly expressed in a letter to Lord Kames. "On the whole, I must say, I think the time we spent there was six weeks of the densest happiness I have met with in any part of my life; and the agreeable and instructive society we found there in such plenty has left so pleasing an impression on my memory,

[blocks in formation]

that, did not strong connexions draw me elsewhere, I believe Scotland would be the country I should choose to spend the remainder of my days in." Similar sentiments are repeated at a later date, and he often resolved to renew his visit; but this he was not able to do, till several years afterwards, being prevented by his numerous occupations, and by the increasing pressure of public business.*

He passed several days with Lord Kames at his mansion in the country. While there, he read or recited from memory the celebrated Parable against Persecution, which, on account of the notoriety it has gained, deserves a notice in this place, especially as some writers have inconsiderately, and without a knowledge of the facts, charged him with plagiarism for allowing it to be published as his own. The particulars are these. Some time after this visit, Lord Kames wrote to him for a copy of this Parable, which he accordingly forwarded. No more was heard of it for fourteen years,

The University of St. Andrews had conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws in the month of February preceding his visit to Scotland. The following is a copy of the diploma.

"Nos Universitatis St. Andreæ apud Scotos Rector, Promotor, Collegiorum Præfecti, Facultatis Artium Decanus, cæterique Professorum Ordines, Lectoribus Salutem.

[ocr errors]

Quandoquidem æquum est et rationi congruens, ut qui magno studio bonas didicerunt artes, iidem referant præmium studiis suis dignum, ac pro inerti hominum vulgo propriis quibusdam fulgeant honoribus et privilegiis, unde et ipsis bene sit, atque aliorum provocetur industria; Quando etiam eò præsertim spectant amplissima illa jura Universitati Andreanæ antiquitus concessa, ut, quoties res postulat, idoneos quosque in quâvis facultate viros, vel summis, qui ad eam facultatem pertinent, honoribus amplificare queat; Quumque ingenuus et honestus vir, Benjaminus Franklin, Artium Magister, non solum jurisprudentiæ cognitione, morum integritate, suavique vitæ consuetudine nobis sit commendatus, verum etiam acutè inventis et exitu felici factis experimentis, quibus Rerum Naturalium, et imprimis Rei Electrica parum hactenus exploratæ, scientiam locupletavit, tantam sibi conciliaverit per orbem terrarum laudem, ut summos in Republicà Literariâ mereatur honores; Hisce nos adducti, et præmia virtuti debita, quantum in nobis est, tribuere

when Lord Kames published the first edition of his "Sketches of the History of Man." In that work the Parable was inserted, with the following declaration by the author. "It was communicated to me by Dr. Franklin of Philadelphia, a man who makes a great figure in the learned world, and who would still make a greater figure for benevolence and candor, were virtue as much regarded in this declining age as knowledge."

Lord Kames does not say, that Dr. Franklin wrote the Parable, yet such an inference is fairly deducible from his language, and in this light it was understood by the public. At length some one lit upon a similar story in Jeremy Taylor's "Liberty of Prophesying," where Taylor says, that it was taken from the "Jews' books." So vague a reference afforded no clue to its origin, but a Latin version of it was found in the dedication of a work by George Gentius, who ascribes it to Saadi the Persian poet; and Saadi relates it as coming from another person, so that its source still remains a matter for curious research.

volentes, Magistrum Benjaminum Franklin supra nominatum, Utriusque Juris Doctorem creamus, constituimus, et renunciamus, eumque deinceps ab universis pro Doctore dignissmo haberi volumus; adjicimusque ei, plenâ manu, quæcunque, uspiam gentium, Juris Utriusque Doctoribus competunt privilegia et ornamenta. In cujus rei testimonium hasce nostras privilegii Literas, chirographis singulorum confirmatas, et communi Almæ Universitatis sigillo munitas, dedimus Andreapoli duodecimo die Mensis Februarii, Anno Domini millesimo septingentesimo quinquagesimo nono."

This diploma was signed by Andrew Shaw, Rector of the University, David Gregory, Professor of Mathematics, Robert Watson, the historian, and nine other officers of the University.

While he was at Edinburgh, the freedom of the city was presented to him. The following is an extract from the record, dated September, 5th, 1759. "Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia is hereby admitted a burgess and guild-brother of this city, as a mark of the affectionate respect, which the Magistrates and Council have for a gentleman, whose amiable character, greatly distinguished for usefulness to the society which he belongs to, and love to all mankind, had long ago reached them across the Atlantic Ocean." On the 2d of October the same compliment was paid to him by the magistrates of St. Andrew's.

The Parable was imperfectly printed from Lord Kames's copy. The last four verses were omitted, and these are essential to its completeness and beauty as it came from the hands of Franklin. Nor are there any grounds for the charge of plagiarism, since it was published without his knowledge, and without any pretence of authorship on his part. In a letter to Mr. Vaughan, written a short time before his death, he says; "The truth is, that I never published the Parable, and never claimed more credit from it, than what related to the style, and the addition of the concluding threatening and promise. The publishing of it by Lord Kames, without my consent, deprived me of a good deal of amusement, which I used to take in reading it by heart out of any Bible, and obtaining the remarks of the scripturians upon it, which were sometimes very diverting; not but that it is in itself, on account of the importance of its moral, well worth being made known to all mankind."

A principal charm of this apologue is the felicity with which the Scripture style is imitated, both as to the thoughts and the manner of expressing them. For this charm, as well as for the closing verses, which give additional force to the moral, it is wholly indebted to Franklin; and it should moreover be observed, that the popular favor it has received, and the curiosity it has excited, are to be ascribed to the dress in which he clothed it. Till it appeared in this dress, it never attracted notice, although made public, long before, in so remarkable a work as the one into which it was incorporated by Jeremy Taylor.*

After a delay of nearly three years, Franklin finally succeeded in bringing his public business to a termi

See the Parable, and other particulars concerning it, Vol. II. p. 118,

nation. The case was decided in June, 1760. Governor Denny had given his assent to several acts of the Assembly, which displeased the Proprietaries, and on account of which they removed him from office. Among them was an act for raising one hundred thousand pounds by a tax, in which the proprietary estates were put on the same footing as the estates of other landholders in the province. These laws were sent over to England, as usual, to be approved by the King; but the Proprietaries opposed them, and exerted their endeavours to procure their rejection.

Able lawyers were employed on both sides to argue the points at issue before the Board of Trade, and in the end all the laws were repealed except the one for raising money. This was strenuously resisted by the counsel for the Proprietaries, on the ground that it was an invasion of the prerogative, and an encroachment upon the proprietary rights; but the equity of the case was too plain to be misunderstood or eluded. The law was confirmed, under certain conditions, requiring that the Governor should have a voice in the disposal of the money, that the waste lands of the Proprietaries should not be taxed, and that their unimproved lands should be rated as low as those of any of the inhabitants. The agent engaged, on the part of the Assembly, that these conditions should be complied with. In fact, they did not materially affect the original claim of the Assembly, as the great principle, so long contended for, of taxing the proprietary estates, was established.

Thus, after much embarrassment and vexatious delay, Franklin succeeded in accomplishing the main object of his mission, and his services met with the entire approbation of his constituents. It was obvious, however, from the spirit which had been shown in


« ZurückWeiter »