« ZurückWeiter »
tervals from pain were so short, that his words were frequently interrupted, I have known him to hold a discourse in a sublime strain of piety. I say this to you, because I know it will give you pleasure."
"I never shall forget one day that I passed with our friend last summer. I found him in bed in great agony; but, when that agony abated a little, I asked if I should read to him. He said, Yes; and the first book I met with was Johnson's Lives of the Poets.' I read the Life of Watts, who was a favorite author with Dr. Franklin; and, instead of lulling him to sleep, it roused him to a display of the powers of his memory and his reason. He repeated several of Watts's 'Lyric Poems,' and descanted upon their sublimity in a strain worthy of them and of their pious author. It is natural for us to wish that an attention to some ceremonies had accompanied that religion of the heart, which I am convinced Dr. Franklin always possessed; but let us, who feel the benefit of them, continue to practise them, without thinking lightly of that piety, which could support pain without a murmur, and meet death without terror."*
The funeral solemnities took place on the 21st of April. It was computed that more than twenty thousand people were assembled. In the procession were the clergy, the Mayor and Corporation of the City, the members of the Executive Council and of the Assembly of Pennsylvania, the Faculty and Students of the College of Philadelphia, the Philosophical Society, and several other societies, followed by a numerous train of citizens. All the bells of the city
See the London Monthly Repository, Vol. XVI. p. 3. An account of Mrs. Hewson and of her family may be seen in the present work, Vol. VII. p. 150. The letter from which the above extracts are taken, is dated at Philadelphia, May 5th, 1790.
were muffled and tolled; the flags of the vessels in the harbour were raised half-mast high; and discharges of artillery announced the time when the body was laid in the earth. Franklin was interred by the side of his wife, in the cemetery of Christ's Church. A plain marble slab covers the two graves, according to the direction in his will, with no other inscription than their names and the year of his decease. It yet remains for the city of his adoption, by erecting an appropriate monument, to render the same tribute of respect to his memory, which the city of his birth has rendered to that of his father and mother.
When the news of his death reached Congress, then sitting in New York, a resolution was moved by Mr. Madison, and unanimously adopted, that the members should wear the customary badge of mourning for one month, "as a mark of veneration due to the memory of a citizen, whose native genius was not more an ornament to human nature, than his various exertions of it have been precious to science, to freedom, and to his country." A similar resolution was passed by the Executive Council of Pennsylvania. The American Philosophical Society appointed one of their number, the Reverend Dr. William Smith, to pronounce a discourse commemorative of his character and his virtues. Nor were such honors confined to his own country. By a decree of the National Assembly of France, introduced by an eloquent speech from Mirabeau, and seconded by Lafayette and La Rochefoucauld, the members of that body wore a badge of mourning for three days, and the President wrote a letter of condolence to the Congress of the
United States. A public celebration was ordered by the Commune of Paris, which was attended by a large concourse of public officers and citizens, and a eulogy was pronounced by the Abbé Fauchet. Many other testimonies of respect were shown by the different scientific and literary societies in Paris, and eulogies were written by some of their most distinguished members.
Dr. Franklin was well formed and strongly built, in his latter years inclining to corpulency; his stature was five feet nine or ten inches; his eyes were grey, and his complexion light. Affable in his deportment, unobtrusive, easy, and winning in his manners, he rendered himself agreeable to persons of every rank in life. With his intimate friends he conversed freely, but with strangers and in mixed company he was reserved, and sometimes taciturn. His great fund of knowledge, and experience in human affairs, contributed to give a peculiar charm to his conversation, enriched as it was by original reflections, and enlivened by a vein of pleasantry, and by anecdotes and ingenious apologues, in the happy recollection and use of which he was unsurpassed.
The strong and distinguishing features of his mind were sagacity, quickness of perception, and soundness of judgment. His imagination was lively, without being extravagant. In short, he possessed a perfect mastery over the faculties of his understanding and over his passions. Having this power always at command, and never being turned aside either by vanity or selfishness, he was enabled to pursue his objects with a directness and constancy, that rarely failed to insure success. It was as fortunate for the world, as it was for his own fame, that the benevolence of such a man was limited only by his means and opportuni
ties of doing good, and that, in every sphere of action through a long course of years, his single aim was to promote the happiness of his fellow men by enlarging their knowledge, improving their condition, teaching them practical lessons of wisdom and prudence, and inculcating the principles of rectitude and the habits of a virtuous life.
In the preceding narrative it has been the author's design to touch briefly upon all the principal events in the life of Franklin, from the time his own narrative breaks off, according to the method adopted by him in his memoirs of himself, and not to write an essay on his genius and character, nor an historical account of his discoveries as a philosopher and his achievements as a statesman and moralist. Such an attempt would have required much more space than has been allotted to this performance; and in the present case it is the less to be desired, as this biographical sketch is connected with his writings, in which, particularly in his moral essays and correspondence, will be found a better representation of his character and of what he accomplished, than the reader could hope to derive from any other source.