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time afterwards, met the enemy, and gained a brilliant victory in the well known and desperate engagement between the Bon Homme Richard and the Serapis. The task of settling the affairs of his cruise, of reconciling the difficulties between him and Captain Landais, who was the second in command, and of deciding on the conflicting claims for prize money, devolved on Franklin.
Notwithstanding his laborious duties in the public service, he found time to bestow some attention upon philosophical studies; and, in the year 1779, he read a paper on the Aurora Borealis to the Royal Academy of Sciences at Paris, in which he professed only to advance Suppositions and Conjectures towards forming an hypothesis for its explanation. His ideas are original and curious, though his conjectures may not perhaps be sustained by more recent discoveries. He says of this paper, in a letter to Dr. Priestley; "If it should occasion further inquiry, and so produce a better hypothesis, it will not be wholly useless." He seeks for the cause of this phenomenon in electricity, and supports his theory by plausible reasons, founded on such a knowledge of the science and of facts as then existed.*
It was also in the course of this year, that he communicated to Mr. Benjamin Vaughan, of London, materials for a more complete collection of his miscel
Sir Humphrey Davy has described, with an acute discrimination, the predominant characteristics of Franklin's philosophical writings. "A singular felicity of induction guided all his researches, and by very small means he established very grand truths. The style and manner of his publication on Electricity are almost as worthy of admiration, as the doctrine it contains. He has endeavoured to remove all mystery and obscurity from the subject. He has written equally for the uninitiated and for the philosopher; and he has rendered his details amusing as well as perspicuous, elegant as well as simple. Science appears in his language in a dress wonderfully decorous, the best adapted to dis58
laneous and political writings, than had hitherto appeared. Mr. Vaughan's edition is comprised in a single volume, but it possesses the merit of a methodical arrangement, and of having judicious and appropriate notes, explanatory and illustrative, which he was enabled to render accurate and valuable by his correspondence with the author.*
Doubting his powers to treat of peace, under his commission of plenipotentiary to France, even if an opportunity should offer, he recommended to Congress to appoint a minister for that purpose, and invest him with the requisite powers. The appointment was conferred on Mr. John Adams, soon after his return to the United States.
play her native loveliness. He has in no instance exhibited that false dignity, by which philosophy is kept aloof from common applications; and he has sought rather to make her a useful inmate and servant in the common habitations of man, than to preserve her merely as an object of admiration in temples and palaces."
* The volume is entitled, "Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces." It was published by Johnson, in London, 1779. The editor's name is not mentioned in the title-page. Dr. Franklin read the printed sheets before they were published, and, in writing to Mr. Vaughan on the subject, he said; "I thank you for the great care and pains you have taken in regulating and correcting the edition of those papers. Your friendship for me appears in almost every page; and, if the preservation of any of them should prove of use to the public, it is to you that the public will owe the obligation." Under an engraved head of the author, at the beginning of the volume, is the following motto (from Horace), which was suggested by Bishop Shipley, - NON SORDIDUS AUCTOR NATURE VERIQUE. He also proposed another, — "His Country's Friend, but more of Human Kind."
A French Army sent to the United States.-Lafayette. - Northern Powers of Europe combine in Defence of Neutrals. Franklin's Opinion of Privateering. Correspondence between Count de Vergennes and Mr. Adams. - Franklin's Remarks upon it. - Charges against Franklin by his Enemies, examined and refuted. - New Attempt in Congress to procure his Recall. - Count de Vergennes's Opinion of him as Minister at the French Court. The numerous Duties of his Office. Colonel John Laurens. - Franklin proposes to retire from the Public Service. - New Propositions for Peace, through the Agency of Mr. Hartley. - Franklin's Answer to them. - His Friends at Passy and Auteuil. - Madame Brillon. - Madame Helvétius.
IT had been a question much agitated both in France and America, since the treaty of alliance, whether it was advisable to send French troops to coöperate with the armies of the United States. The prudence of such an experiment was thought extremely doubtful. While fighting the battles of the mother country in former wars, the Americans had often been brought into conflict with the French on the frontiers. It was feared, that prejudices had been contracted, and habits formed, which would prevent the troops of the two nations from acting together in harmony, even if the people themselves could be reconciled to the presence of a French army. All aids from France, it was said, would be the most effectually rendered in money and by a naval force. Such was likewise the view taken by the French cabinet, and they acted upon this plan for two years. But many persons in the United States thought differently. They saw no reason, in the common principles of human nature, why a people should sacrifice their interests, and put their freedom in jeopardy, by giving themselves up to an inherited prejudice.
A conviction of the justness of this sentiment was deeply wrought into the mind of Lafayette. He had been a year and a half in the country, and, from the manner in which he and other French officers were treated by all classes of people, he was satisfied, that there would be no hazard in bringing an army of Frenchmen to coöperate with American soldiers. He conversed frequently with General Washington on the subject, and, although the opinion of the latter is nowhere explicitly recorded, it is certain that Lafayette returned to France fully convinced, that such a measure would meet his approbation. He applied to the ministers accordingly; who hesitated for some time, influenced by the same motives of prudence, which had hitherto guided their counsels. But Lafayette persevered, and his zeal and the force of his arguments at last prevailed. In the early part of the year 1780, preparations were made for sending an army under Count de Rochambeau to America, with a fleet commanded by the Chevalier de Ternay.
In all these transactions he was assisted by the advice and cordial support of Dr. Franklin. They also procured large supplies of arms, equipments, and clothing for the American army. As the bearer of the good news, Lafayette sailed for the United States, authorized to concert measures with Washington and Congress for the reception and future employment of the French troops.
The northern powers of Europe, at the instance of Russia, had recently come into an arrangement respecting neutrals, which Dr. Franklin so highly approved, that he issued orders to the American cruisers in conformity with it, even before he ascertained the views of Congress. By the practice of nations in time of war, it had been a rule to seize the prop
erty of an enemy wherever found at sea; and neutral vessels having such property on board were captured under this rule, the cargo being confiscated as a prize to the captors, and the vessel being restored to the owners. This rule was reversed by the combined powers, and the law was established, that goods belonging to an enemy on board a neutral vessel, except such as were contraband, should not be subject to capture, or, in other words, that free ships should make free goods. A law so clearly founded in justice and humanity could not but receive his hearty concurrence. In his opinion, the application of the law ought to be extended still further, so as to mitigate the evils of war as much as possible, by leaving individuals to pursue their occupations unmolested.
"I approve much of the principles of the confederacy of the neutral powers," said he, "and am not only for respecting the ships as the house of a friend, though containing the goods of an enemy, but I even wish, for the sake of humanity, that the law of nations may be further improved, by determining, that, even in time of war, all those kinds of people, who are employed in procuring subsistence for the species, or in exchanging the necessaries or conveniences of life, which are for the common benefit of mankind, such as husbandmen on their lands, fishermen in their barques, and traders in unarmed vessels, shall be permitted to prosecute their several innocent and useful employments without interruption or molestation, and nothing taken from them, even when wanted by an enemy, but on paying a fair price for the
Privateering he called "robbing," and "a remnant of the ancient piracy." In an able paper on this practice, he shows its inhumanity, and condemns it