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self-command, which bore him through all the negotiations, strifes with ignorance, obstinacy, duplicity, and opposing interest, and through tiresome delays and untoward incidents, with a sustained firmness, which preserved to him in all cases the most advantageous exercise of his faculties, and with a prudence of deportment beyond the attainment of the most disciplined adepts in mere political intrigue and court-practice. He was capable, indeed, of feeling an intense indignation, which comes out in full expression in some of the letters, relating to the character of the English government, as displayed in its policy toward America. This bitter detestation is the most unreservedly disclosed in some of his confidential correspondence with David Hartley, an English member of parliament, a personal friend of Franklin, a constant advocate, to a measured extent, of the Americans, and a sort of self-offered, clandestine, but tacitly recognized medium for a kind of understanding, at some critical periods, between the English government and Dr. Franklin, without costing the ministers the condescension of official intercourse and inquiry. These vituperative passages have a corrosive energy, by virtue of force of mind and of justice, which perfectly precludes all appearance of littleness and mere temper in the indignation. It is the dignified character of Cato or Aristides. And if a manifestation of it in similar terms ever took place in personal conference with such men as were its objects, it must have appeared any thing rather than an ungoverned irritability ; nor would it have been possible to despise the indignant tone in which contempt was mingled with anger, as far as the two sentiments are compatible. Believing that the men who provoked these caustic sentences did for the most part deserve them, we confess we have read them with that sort of pleasure which is felt in seeing justice made to strike, by vindictive power of mind, on the characters of men whose stations defended their persons and fortunes from the most direct modes of retribution.
When, at length, all was accomplished that, with long and earnest expostulation, he had predicted, and heen ridiculed for predicting, to the English statesmen, as the certain consequence of persisting in their infatuated course, we find no rancorous recollection, no language of extravagant triumph at the splendid result, nor of excessive self-complacency in the retrospect of his own important share in conducting the great undertaking to such a consummation. His feelings do not seem to have been elated above the pitch of a calm satisfaction at having materially contributed to the success of a righteous cause, a success in which he was convinced he saw not simply the vindication of American rights, but the prospect of unlimited benefit to mankind.
And here it may be remarked, that his predominant passion appears to have been a love of the useful. The useful was to him the summum bonum, the supreme fair, the sublime and beautiful, which it may not perhaps be extravagant to believe he was in quest of every week for half a century, in whatever place, or study, or practical undertaking. No department was too plain or humble for him to occupy himself in for this purpose ; and in affairs of the most ambitious order this was still systematically his object. Whether in directing the constructing of chimneys or of constitutions, lecturing on the saving of candles or on the economy of national revenues, he was still intent on the same end, the question always being how to obtain the most of solid tangible advantage by the plainest and easiest means. There has rarely been a mortal, of high intelligence and flattering fame, on whom the pomps of life were so powerless. On him were completely thrown away the oratorical and poetical heroics about glory, of which heroics it was enough that he easily perceived the intention or effect to be, to explode all sober truth and substantial good, and to impel men, at the very best of the matter, through some career of vanity, but commonly through mischief, slaughter, and devastation, in mad pursuit of what amounts at last, if attained, to some certain quantity of noise, and empty show, and intoxicated transient elation. He was so far an admirable spirit for acting the Mentor to a young republic. It will not be his fault if the citizens of America shall ever become so servile to European example, as to think a multitude of supernumerary places, enormous salaries, and a factitious economy of society, a necessary security or decoration of that political liberty which they enjoy in pre-eminence above every nation on earth. In these letters of their patriarch and philosopher, they will be amply warned, by repeated and emphatical representations, of the desperate mischief of a political system in which the public resources shall be expended in a way to give the govern. ment both the interest and the means to corrupt the people. Of such representations the following passages will afford a tolerably fair specimen.
“ Her” (England's) “ great disease at present is the number and enormous salaries and emoluments of office. Avarice and ambition are strong passions, and separately act with great force on the human mind; but when both are united and may be gratified in the same object, their violence is almost irresistible, and they hurry men headlong into factions and contentions destructive of all good government. As long therefore as these great emoluments subsist, your parliament will be a stormy sea, and your public counsels confounded by private interests.”
“When I think of your present crazy constitution and its diseases, I imagine the enormous emoluments of place to be among the greatest.” “ As it seems to be a settled point at present that the minister must govern the parliament, who are to do every thing he would have done, and he is to bribe them to do this, and the people are to furnish the money to pay these bribes, the parliament appears to me a very expensive machine for government, and I apprehend the people will find out in time that they may as well be governed, and that it will be much cheaper to be governed, by the minister alone."
“As long as the immense profits of these offices subsist, members of the shortest and most equally chosen parliaments will have them in view, and contend for them, and their contests will have all the same ruinous consequences. To me there appears to be but one effectual remedy, and that not likely to be adopted by so corrupt a nation ; which is to abolish these profits, and make every place of honour a place of burden. By that means the effect of one of the passions above mentioned would be taken away, and something would be added to counteract the other.”
“The parliament have of late been acting an egregious farce, calling before them the mayor and aldermen of Oxford, for proposing a sum to be paid by their old members on being re-chosen at the next election ; and sundry printers and brokers for advertising and dealing in boroughs, &c. The Oxford people were sent to Newgate, and discharged after some days, on humble petition, and receiving the Speaker's reprimand upon their knees. The house could scarcely keep countenance, knowing as they all do, that the practice is general. People say they mean nothing more than to beat down the price by a little discouragement of borough jobbing, now that their own elections are all coming on. The price indeed is grown exorbitant, no less than 40001. for a member. Mr. Beckford has brought in a bill for preventing bribery and corruption in elections, wherein was a clause to oblige every member to swear, on admission into the house, that he had not directly or indirectly given any bribe to any elector, &c. but this was so universally exclaimed against as answering no end but perjuring the members, that he has been obliged to withdraw that clause. It was indeed a cruel contrivance of his, worse than the gunpowder-plot. Mr. Thurlow opposed his bill by a long speech. Beckford in reply gave a dry hit to the house, that is repeated every where: 'The honourable gentleman, in his learned discourse, gave us first one definition of corruption, and then another definition of corruption, and I think he was about to give us a third. Pray does that gentleman imagine there is any member of this house that does not know what corruption is ? which occasioned only a roar of laughter, for they are so hardened in their practice that they are very little ashamed of it.
“The parliament is up and the nation in a ferment with the new elections. Great complaints are made that the natural interests of country gentlemen in their neighbouring boroughs, is overborne by the monied interests of the new people who have got sudden fortunes in the Indies, or as contractors, &c. £4000 is now the market price for a borough. In short this whole venal nation is now at market, will be sold for about Two Millions, and might be bought out of the hands of the present bidders (if he would offer half a million more) by the very devil himself.”
It would, however, have been but fair to have acknowledged how inconsiderable a portion of the nation they are whose venality it is that, on these occasions, has the effect of selling the whole people; and that, the case being so, the fact of the nation's being sold does not prove its general venality. How perverse is its fortune! that in such a state of its representation it might be sold, though a vast majority of its people were of the sternest integrity; whereas, in an enlarged and more equalized state of its representation, with a more frequent return of elections, it could not be sold, though every living thing in the land were venal, for the plain reason that the buyers could not come into such a market. They could not afford to purchase such a number of articles miscalled consciences, even at the low rate apiece which is the utmost worth of most of them, upon any calculation of three years' chances of indemnification, by obtaining some moderately remunerated office, with the additional chances as to the duration of their occupancy. And, by
the way, is not this obvious view of the matter, more than an answer to all that sophistry and corruption can say for things as they are ? Can there be any more decided test of a bad or a good construction of political institutions, than that they appear framed expressly to promote corruption and venality, and to avail themselves of them, like our present system of representation; or that they disappoint and discourage corruption, by being of a constitution the least capable that human wisdom can contrive, of finding their advantage in that corruption ?
The political portion (the larger portion) of this correspondence, will be a valuable addition to the mass of lessons and documents which might have been supposed long since sufficient to disenchant all thinking men of their awful reverence for state-mystery, and cabinetwisdom and ministerial integrity, and senatorial independence. We would hope, in spite of all appearances, that the times may not be very far off, when the infatuation of accepting the will of the persons that happen to be in power, as the evidence of wisdom and right, will no longer bereave nations of their sense, and their peace, and the fruits of their industry and improvements,
-no longer render worse than useless, for the public interests, the very consciences of men whose conduct relative to their individual concerns bears a fair appearance of sound principle and understanding. We will hope for a time when no secret history of important events will display the odious spectacle of a great nation's energies and resources, and the quiet of the world, surrendered without reserve, to the mercy, and that mercy “cruel,” of such men as Franklin had to warn in vain of the consequences of their policy respecting America.
The correspondence gives an exhibition of almost every thing that ought to enforce on a nation the duty of exercising a constitutional jealousy of the executive. English readers may here see how worthily were confided the public interest of their forefathers, involving to an incalculable extent of their own. They may see