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all the books in Europe were written in that language, the study of it was essential in every system of education; but it is now scarcely needed, except as an accomplishment, since it has everywhere given place, as a vehicle of thought and knowledge, to some one of the modern tongues.
At this time, Dr. Franklin was seldom free from acute bodily pain; but, during short intervals of relief, he wrote several other pieces, which exhibit proofs that his mind never acted with more vigor, or maintained a more cheerful and equable tone. One of these pieces is entitled The Court of the Press, in which he remarks with severity on the practice of certain editors of newspapers, who attack the characters of individuals, and shield themselves under a false interpretation of the liberty of the press. Another paper, called a Comparison of the Conduct of the Ancient Jews and the Antifederalists of the United States, is intended as a reproof to some of those who opposed the new constitution. Urged by the repeated solicitations of his friends, he likewise employed himself occasionally in writing his memoirs; but he seems not to have made so much progress in this work, as he had anticipated when he returned from Europe. He also drew up a Plan for improving the Condition of the Free Blacks. His last public act was to sign, as president, a memorial from the Abolition Society of Pennsylvania to Congress; and the last paper which he wrote was on the same subject. Mr. Jackson, a member of Congress from Georgia, had made a speech in favor of negro slavery. An ingenious parody of this speech was composed by Dr. Franklin, in which Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim is represented as speaking, in the Divan of Algiers, against granting the petition of a sect called Erika, who prayed for the abo
lition of piracy and slavery, as being unjust. In this pretended speech of Ibrahim, the same principles were advanced, and the same arguments were used in defence of plundering and enslaving Europeans, that had been urged by Mr. Jackson in justification of negro slavery. It is dated only twenty-four days before the author's decease; and, as a specimen of happy conception and sound reasoning, it is not inferior to any of his writings.
The state of his health and of his feelings may be inferred from a letter to President Washington, written on the 16th of September, 1789, in which he speaks as follows;
"My malady renders my sitting up to write rather painful to me; but I cannot let my son-in-law, Mr. Bache, part for New York, without congratulating you by him on the recovery of your health, so precious to us all, and on the growing strength of our new government under your administration. For my own personal ease, I should have died two years ago; but, though those years have been spent in excruciating pain, I am pleased that I have lived them, since they have brought me to see our present situation. I am now finishing my eighty-fourth year, and probably with it my career in this life; but, in whatever state of existence I am placed in hereafter, if I retain any memory of what has passed here, I shall with it retain the esteem, respect, and affection, with which I have long been, my dear friend, yours most sincerely."
Washington's reply was cordial and affectionate. Between these two distinguished patriots, who served their country in different spheres, but with equal fidelity and devotedness, there was ever a sincere friendship and an entire confidence. When General Washington came to Philadelphia as a member of the
national convention for forming the constitution, the first person he called upon was Dr. Franklin; and, when he passed through that city on his way to New York, where he was to be invested with the office of President of the United States, he paid him the same tribute of respect.
Although his malady and his sufferings continued, yet no material change in his health was observed till the first part of April, 1790, when he was attacked with a fever and a pain in the breast. From that time he was constantly under the care of Dr. John Jones, an eminent physician of Philadelphia, who wrote the following account of his illness and death.
"The stone, with which he had been afflicted for several years, had, for the last twelve months of his life, confined him chiefly to his bed; and, during the extremely painful paroxysms, he was obliged to take large doses of laudanum to mitigate his tortures. Still, in the intervals of pain, he not only amused himself by reading and conversing cheerfully with his family and a few friends who visited him, but was often employed in doing business of a public, as well as of a private nature, with various persons who waited upon him for that purpose; and, in every instance, displayed not only the readiness and disposition to do good, which were the distinguishing characteristics of his life, but the fullest and clearest possession of his uncommon abilities. He also not unfrequently indulged in those jeux d'esprit and entertaining anecdotes, which were the delight of all who heard them.
"About sixteen days before his death, he was seized with a feverish disposition, without any particular symptoms attending it till the third or fourth day, when he complained of a pain in his left breast, which increased till it became extremely acute, attended by
a cough and laborious breathing. During this state, when the severity of his pains drew forth a groan of complaint, he would observe, that he was afraid he did not bear them as he ought; acknowledging his grateful sense of the many blessings he had received from the Supreme Being, who had raised him, from small and low beginnings, to such high rank and consideration among men; and made no doubt but that his present afflictions were kindly intended to wean him from a world in which he was no longer fit to act the part assigned him. In this frame of body and mind, he continued until five days before his death, when the pain and difficulty of breathing entirely left him, and his family were flattering themselves with the hopes of his recovery; but an imposthume which had formed in his lungs, suddenly burst, and discharged a quantity of matter, which he continued to throw up while he had power; but, as that failed, the organs of respiration became gradually oppressed; a calm, lethargic state succeeded; and on the 17th instant (April, 1790), about eleven o'clock at night, he quietly expired, closing a long and useful life of eighty-four years and three months." *
In a letter from Dr. Rush to Dr. Price, dated at Philadelphia, a week after this event, the writer says; "The papers will inform you of the death of our late illustrious friend Dr. Franklin. The evening of his life was marked by the same activity of his moral and intellectual powers, which distinguished its meridian. His conversation with his family, upon the sub
* Dr. Jones added the following particulars. "In the year 1735, Dr. Franklin had a severe pleurisy, which terminated in an abscess of his lungs; and he was then almost suffocated by the quantity and suddenness of the discharge. A second attack, of a similar nature, happened some years after, from which he soon recovered; and he did not appear to suffer any inconvenience in his respiration from these diseases."
ject of his dissolution, was free and cheerful. A few days before he died, he rose from his bed, and begged that it might be made up for him, so that he might die in a decent manner. His daughter told him, that she hoped he would recover, and live many years longer. He calmly replied, "I hope not.' Upon being advised to change his position in bed, that he might breathe easy, he said, 'A dying man can do nothing easy. All orders and bodies of people among us have vied with each other in paying tributes of respect to his memory."
The following extracts are from a letter written by Mrs. Mary Hewson to Mr. Viny, one of Dr. Franklin's early friends in England.
"We have lost that valued, that venerable, kind friend, whose knowledge enlightened our minds, and whose philanthropy warmed our hearts. But we have the consolation to think, that, if a life well spent in acts of universal benevolence to mankind, a grateful acknowledgment of Divine favor, a patient submission under severe chastisement, and an humble trust in Almighty mercy, can insure the happiness of a future state, our present loss is his gain. I was the faithful witness of the closing scene, which he sustained with that calm fortitude which characterized him through life. No repining, no peevish expression, ever escaped him, during a confinement of two years, in which, I believe, if every moment of ease could be added together the sum would not amount to two whole months. When the pain was not too violent to be amused, he employed himself with his books, his pen, or in conversation with his friends; and upon every occasion displayed the clearness of his intellect and the cheerfulness of his temper. Even when the in
• See MORGAN's Life of Price, p. 147.