Abbildungen der Seite

and less ardently attached to the cause of his country. Congress might relieve themselves from the embarrassment of a new choice, by giving Dr. Franklin a secretary of legation, wise, discreet, well informed, and capable of supplying his place."

We here see in what light the French government regarded Dr. Franklin, as minister to that court, and we have no indication of any wish to retain him in that post, on account of his being compliant to their wishes. In addition to the natural infirmities of age, he was afflicted by two severe maladies, the gout and the stone, which sometimes confined him to his house for weeks together, and disabled him from bodily or mental exertion. Yet Congress never sent him a secretary, and he was obliged to discharge all the duties of his office alone, or with such assistance as could be rendered by his grandson. This is the more singular, as both Mr. Adams and Mr. Jay were accompanied by secretaries of legation chosen by Congress, men of character and talents, accustomed to business, and acquainted with the details of public affairs.

He was, moreover, burdened with the concerns of the American public vessels, which came into French ports, and these gave him infinite trouble. "My time is more taken up with matters extraneous to the functions of a minister," said he, in a letter to Mr. Jay, "than you can possibly imagine. I have written often to Congress to establish consuls in the ports, and ease me of what relates to maritime and mercantile affairs; but no notice has yet been taken of my request.' Nor was any consul appointed till near the end of the war. It must be inferred, at least, that Congress did not distrust his ability to perform the important services appertaining to his station, notwithstanding the machinations that were constantly at work to have him

removed. And, indeed, the resources and vigor of his mind nowhere appear to greater advantage, than in his correspondence during this period. Count de Vergennes was not well satisfied, that he did not write oftener and more fully with respect to the state of things in France, and thus discourage Congress from making such repeated and importunate demands for aids; but Franklin knew that the French minister in Philadelphia was perfectly informed of all these particulars, and represented them to Congress whenever occasion required.

The loans from the French government had amounted to about three millions of livres annually. For the year 1781, Dr. Franklin obtained a loan of four millions, besides a subsidy of six millions, which the minister told him was intended as a free gift to the United States. After these sums were granted, Colonel John Laurens arrived in France, commissioned by Congress to represent the extreme wants of the army, and to solicit further aids both in money and military supplies. Dr. Franklin joined heartily with Colonel Laurens in urging this application, and it met with some success. More direct aids could not be furnished; but, to facilitate a loan on American account in Holland, the King of France agreed to guaranty the payment of the interest of such a loan not exceeding ten millions of livres.

At this time Dr. Franklin proposed to retire from the public service, and requested that some other person might be appointed to supply his place. His reasons are given in the following extract from a letter to the President of Congress.

"I must now beg leave to say something relating to myself; a subject with which I have not often troubled the Congress. I have passed my seventy

fifth year, and I find, that the long and severe fit of the gout, which I had the last winter, has shaken me exceedingly, and I am yet far from having recovered the bodily strength I before enjoyed. I do not know that my mental faculties are impaired; perhaps I shall be the last to discover that; but I am sensible of great diminution in my activity, a quality I think particularly necessary in your minister for this court. I am afraid, therefore, that your affairs may some time. or other suffer by my deficiency. I find, also, that the business is too heavy for me, and too confining. The constant attendance at home, which is necessary for receiving and accepting your bills of exchange (a matter foreign to my ministerial functions), to answer letters, and perform other parts of my employment, prevents my taking the air and exercise, which my annual journeys formerly used to afford me, and which contributed much to the preservation of my health. There are many other little personal attentions, which the infirmities of age render necessary to an old man's comfort, even in some degree to the continuance of his existence, and with which business often interferes.

"I have been engaged in public affairs, and enjoyed public confidence, in some shape or other, during the long term of fifty years, and honor sufficient to satisfy any reasonable ambition; and I have no other left but that of repose, which I hope the Congress will grant me, by sending some person to supply my place. At the same time, I beg they may be assured, that it is not any the least doubt of their success in the glorious cause, nor any disgust received in their service, that induces me to decline it, but purely and simply the reasons above mentioned. And, as I cannot at present undergo the fatigues of a sea voyage (the last having been almost too much for me), and



would not again expose myself to the hazard of capture and imprisonment in this time of war, I purpose to remain here at least till the peace; perhaps it may be for the remainder of my life; and, if any knowledge or experience I have acquired here may be thought of use to my successor, I shall freely communicate it, and assist him with any influence I may be supposed to have, or counsel that may be desired of me."

Congress declined accepting his resignation, and, nearly at the same time, enlarging their commission for negotiating a treaty of peace, by joining with Mr. Adams four other commissioners, they appointed Dr. Franklin to be one of the number. This new mark of confidence, especially after he had asked, as a favor, to be relieved from his public charge, was a sufficient rebuke to his enemies, and left them little cause to be satisfied with the success of their schemes. He acquiesced in the decision of Congress. "It was my desire," said he, "to quit public business, fearing it might suffer in my hands through the infirmities incident to my time of life; but, as they are pleased to think I may still be useful, I submit to their judgment, and shall do my best."

His friend, Mr. Hartley, continued to write to him on the terms of peace, taking advantage of the correspondence, which, with the knowledge of the British ministry, was kept up between them concerning the American prisoners in England. It is evident, also, from the tenor of Mr. Hartley's letters, that his propositions were seen and approved by Lord North. His first aim, and the point which he labored with the greatest diligence, was to divide the United States from France, and to bring about a separate treaty with the former. This design was so inconsistent

with the nature and express stipulations of the alliance, which were well known, that Dr. Franklin could not forbear to retort upon his friend with warmth and some degree of asperity. Mr. Hartley spoke of the alliance as a stumblingblock, which must be removed before a treaty could be entered upon, and he suggested that it might be dissolved, at least by the consent of the parties. Dr. Franklin replied;

"The long, steady, and kind regard you have shown for the welfare of America, by the whole tenor of your conduct in Parliament, satisfies me, that this proposition never took its rise with you, but has been suggested from some other quarter; and that your excess of humanity, your love of peace, and your fear for us, that the destruction we are threatened with will certainly be effected, have thrown a mist before your eyes, which hindered you from seeing the malignity and mischief of it." "Nor does there appear any more necessity for dissolving an alliance with France, before you can treat with us, than there would of dissolving your alliance with Holland, or your union with Scotland, before we could treat with you. Ours is, therefore, no material obstacle to a treaty, as you suppose it to be. Had Lord North been the author of such a proposition, all the world would have said it was insidious, and meant only to deceive and divide us from our friends, and then to ruin us; supposing our fears might be so strong as to procure an acceptance of it." Again, alluding to the article in the alliance, by which both parties agree to continue the war in conjunction, and not to make a separate peace, he said; "It is an obligation not in the power of America to dissolve, being an obligation of gratitude and justice towards a nation, which is engaged in a war on her account and for her protection; and would

« ZurückWeiter »