Abbildungen der Seite

cline a trust, which had been spontaneously conferred upon him by so respectable a portion of his countrymen, and which he might possibly execute for their benefit. This kept him till winter; other business followed, and he found himself detained in England much longer than he had anticipated.*

Having read, with approbation and pleasure, the celebrated "Farmer's Letters," written by John Dickinson, he caused them to be republished in London, with a commendatory Preface from his own pen. Besides the patriotic motive for this publication, it afforded him an opportunity of showing, that the extreme warmth, with which Mr. Dickinson had opposed his appointment in the Pennsylvania Assembly, had not produced on his part any diminution of friendship or personal regard. This was still further manifested by their harmonious intercourse after he returned again to his own country.

The Farmer's Letters were written against the late revenue acts. The depth of research, force of argument, and perspicuity of style, which appeared in these letters, made them popular with all classes of readers in America. Franklin had a high opinion of their general merits, but he thought there was one important point, which was not well established nor clearly explained. The Farmer acknowledged the power of Parliament to regulate the trade of the colonies, yet he denied the right of laying certain duties, which

Whilst the King of Denmark was on a visit to London, he sought the acquaintance of Dr. Franklin, who was one of the sixteen invited guests at a dinner, when the King dined in public, on the 1st of October, 1768. The company consisted mostly of foreign ambassadors and officers of distinction. The other English gentlemen, who were present besides Dr. Franklin, were Lord Moreton, Admiral Rodney, General Hervey, Mr. Dunning, and Dr. Maty.

AA *

would seem to be included in the power of regulation. If Parliament was to be the judge, this distinction amounted to little. Every state in Europe claimed and exercised the right of laying duties on its exports. In Franklin's opinion the grievance was not, that Britain imposed duties on exported commodities, but that she prohibited the colonists from purchasing the like commodities in the markets of other countries, thus forcing them to pay such prices as she pleased, and depriving them of the advantages of a competition in trade. It was true, that Parliament had exercised this power, and compelled obedience, under the vague pretence of regulating trade; but it had been done in violation of the principles upon which the relations between Great Britain and the colonies had originally been established.

As early as the year 1743, when Franklin was much engaged in philosophical studies, he projected a society, which was to include the principal men in America, who were fond of such pursuits, and who would thus be enabled to combine their efforts for the promotion of science. The plan met with favor, and an association was formed. The original members, besides Franklin, were Thomas Hopkinson, John Bartram the botanist, Thomas Godfrey the mathematician, Dr. Thomas Bond, Dr. Phineas Bond, William Parsons, Samuel Rhoads, and William Coleman, of Philadelphia; Chief Justice Morris, Mr. Home, John Coxe, and Mr. Martyn, of New Jersey; Cadwallader Colden and William Alexander, of New York. Other members were soon added, whose names are not known. Hopkinson was president, and Franklin secretary.

This association proceeded with some degree of vigor at first, but it gradually declined. It was re

vived at a later day, and, in January, 1769, it was united with another society, which had been formed in Philadelphia for similar objects. The institution, which grew out of this union, took the name of the American Philosophical Society. Franklin was chosen president, and the same honor was annually conferred upon him to the end of his life, although he was much the larger part of the time absent from the country. He contributed several valuable papers to the second volume of the Society's Transactions. *

All his philosophical inquiries, and, indeed, all the studies to which he applied his mind, whether in science, politics, morals, or the economy of life, were directed to some useful end, either for the improvement of mankind, or the increase of human comfort. With this aim he endeavoured to promote the culture of silk in America, believing the soil and climate extremely well adapted to it, and that it might be carried to a great extent without interfering with any other branch of industry. He spared no pains to collect in Europe such information, as would enable the cultivators to prosecute the undertaking with success, as


Dr. Franklin was a member of nearly all the principal scientific and literary societies in America and Europe. By the diplomas and other evidences among his papers, it appears, that he was one of the earliest members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences at Boston; a member of the Royal Societies of London and Göttingen; of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris, to which place he was nominated by the King. Eight foreign members only belonged to the Society at that time. He was chosen in 1772, and succeeded the celebrated Van Swieten of Vienna. He was likewise a member of the Philosophical Societies of Rotterdam, Edinburgh, and Manchester; the Academy of Sciences, Belles Lettres, and Arts at Lyons; the Academy of Sciences and Arts at Padua; the Royal Academy of History in Madrid; the Patriotic Society of Milan; the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburgh; the Medical Society of London; the Royal Medical Society of Paris; and others, of which an exact list has not been obtained.

well in regard to the planting of mulberry trees, as to the rearing of silkworms, and reeling the silk from the cocoons. The particulars were communicated, from time to time, to Dr. Cadwallader Evans, of Philadelphia, who, with some other gentlemen, was zealously engaged in the enterprise. A company was formed for the cultivation of silk, and public-spirited individuals contributed money to aid in prosecuting the work.

In one of his letters on this subject, Dr. Franklin says; "There is no doubt with me but that it might succeed in our country. It is the happiest of all inventions for clothing. Wool uses a good deal of land to produce it, which, if employed in raising corn, would afford much more subsistence for man, than the mutton amounts to. Flax and hemp require good land, impoverish it, and at the same time permit it to produce no food at all. But mulberry trees may be planted in hedgerows on walks or avenues, or for shade near a house, where nothing else is wanted to grow. The food for the worms, which produce the silk, is in the air, and the ground under the trees may still produce grass, or some other vegetable good for man or beast. Then the wear of silken garments continues so much longer, from the strength of the materials, as to give it greatly the preference. Hence it is, that the most populous of all countries, China, clothes its inhabitants with silk, while it feeds them plentifully, and has besides a vast quantity, both raw and manufactured, to spare for exportation." And again; "I hope our people will not be disheartened by a few accidents, and such disappointments as are incident to all new undertakings, but persevere bravely in the silk business, till they have conquered all difficulties. By diligence and patience the mouse ate in twain the cable. It is

not two centuries since it was as much a novelty in France, as it is now with us in North America, and the people as much unacquainted with it." The difficulties have not yet been conquered; but so much progress has been made as to render it certain, that these anticipations will finally be realized.*

The Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's having requested the opinion of the Royal Society in regard to the best method of protecting the cathedral from lightning, Dr. Franklin was one of the committee appointed to investigate the subject. The other members were Mr. Canton, Dr. Watson, Mr. Delaval, and Mr. Wilson. On the 8th of June they made a report, which was approved by the Society, and the method recommended by them for putting up electrical conductors was accordingly followed.

Dr. Franklin did not cease, in writing to his friends in America, to urge upon them a strict adherence to the resolutions, which had been universally adopted, not to import or use British goods. The more he reflected on what was passing before him, the more he was convinced, that the British government would not relax from the measures, so much and so justly complained of by the colonists, which, it was now said, even if they had originated in ignorance and a false policy, must be continued for the honor and dignity of Parliament. The supremacy of the national

* The operations of Dr. Evans and his associates were continued, till the Revolution put a stop to all enterprises of this sort. A quantity of raw silk, produced by them, was sent over to England in 1772, which Dr. Franklin sold at a good price, and obtained a bounty on it from the British government. Some of the Company's silk was likewise manufactured in Pennsylvania. In his paper concerning a new settlement proposed to be made on the Ohio River, Dr. Franklin says; "Above ten thousand weight of cocoons was, in August, 1771, sold at the public filature in Philadelphia."

[blocks in formation]
« ZurückWeiter »