Abbildungen der Seite

gratify and disagreeable to refuse. It was in vain that he assured them, that he had no power to engage officers, that the army was already full, that his recommendation could not create vacancies, and that they would inevitably be disappointed when they arrived in America. Writing to a friend on this subject, he says:

“ Not a day passes in which I have not a number of soliciting visits, besides betters. All my friends are sought out and teased to tease me. Great officers of rank in all departments, ladies great and small, besides professed solicitors, worry me from morning to night.”

To a person, who importuned him in this way, he wrote as follows :

“You demand whether I will support you by my authority in giving you letters of recommendation. I doubt not your being a man of merit; and, knowing it yourself, you may forget it is not known to everybody; but reflect a moment, sir, and you will be convinced that if I were to praetice giving letters of recommendation to persons of whose character I know no more than I do of yours, my recommendations would soon be of no authority at all. I thank you, however, for your kind desire of being serviceable to my countrymen ; and I wish in return that I could be of service to you in the scheme you have formed of going to America. But numbers of experienced officers here have offered to go over and join our army, and I could give them no encouragement, because I have no orders for that purpose, and I know it is extremely difficult to place them when they arrive there. I cannot but think, therefore, that it is best for you not to make so long, so expensive, and so hazardous a voyage, but to take the advice of your friends, and stay in Franconia.'»

One officer, however, he recommended without reluctance or reserve, and he afterwards had the satisfaction of finding, in common with the whole American people, that his judgment was not deceived nor his hopes disappointed. In a letter to Congress signed by him and Mr. Deane, they say, “ The Marquis de la Lafayette, a young nobleman of great family connexions here, and great worth, is gone to America in a ship of his own accompanied by some officers of distinction, in order to serve in our armies. He is exceedingly beloved, and every body's good wishes attend him. We cannot but hope he may meet with such a rea ception as will make the country and his expedition agreeable to him. Those who censure it as imprudent in him do nevertheless applaud his spirit; and we are satisfied that the civilities and respect that will be shown him, will be serviceable to our affairs here, as pleasing not

only to his powerful relations and to the court, but to the whole French nation. He has left a beautiful young wife, and, for her sake particularly, we hope that his bravery and ardent desire to distinguish himself will be a little restrained by the General's prudence, so as not to permit his being hazarded much, except on some important occasion.

Dr. Franklin had been ten months in France before the court of Versailles manifested any disposition to engage openly in the American con . test. The opinion of the ministers was divided on the subject, and the king himself came into the policy of a war with England with reluctance. Moreover, the events of the campaign of 1776 afforded little encouragement to such a step ; so that this was not a time to expect alliances. The ability of the Americans to maintain the war for any length of time, as well as their union, spirit, and determination, was regarded as extremely problematical.

But the tide of affairs soon began to turn in another direction. The news arrived of the defeat and capture of Burgoyne's army, and the good conduct of the forces underWashington, which were received in France with as great a demonstration of joy as if it had been a victory gained by their own arms. But we must make room for a domestic notice.

When some one mentioned to Dr. Franklin, a short time previously to the arrival of the news of Burgoyne's defeat, that Howe had taken Philadelphia, he replied, “ You are mistaken, Philadelphia has taken General Howe.” And so it turned out, for the British were shut up in that city during eight months, and were at last obliged to retreat from it precipitately, without having derived any advantage from their conquest. Mr. Bache, Franklin's son-in-law, and family retired into the country when the enemy approached, and the Doctor's house came to be occupied by British officers. After the evacuation, Mr. Bache wrote in these words :-"I found your house and furniture, upon my return to town, in much better order than I had reason to expect. They carried off some of your musical instruments, a Welsh harp, a bell harp, the set of tuned bells which were in a box, a viola-a-gamba, all the spare Armonica glasses, and one or two of the spare cases. Your Armonica is safe. They took likewise the few books that were left behind. Some of your electrical apparatus is also missing. A Captain André took with him the picture of you, which hung in the dining-room. The rest of the pictures are safe.” To return to the more general history.

Dr. Franklin took advantage of the news from America which had inspired the French with such joy, and suggested to the ministry of

Louis, that there was not a moment to be lost if they wished to secure the friendship of the United States, and detach them entirely from the mother country. Urged by these circumstances, and fearful lest an accommodation might take place between Great Britain and her colonies, the court of France instantly determined to declare its intentions, and accordingly on the 6th of December, 1777, Mons. Gerard, secretary to the council of state, repaired to the hotel of the American Commissioners, and informed them by order of the king, -" that after a long and mature deliberation upon their propositions, his Majesty had resolved to recognise the independence of, and to enter into a treaty of commerce and alliance with, the United States of America; and that he would not only acknowledge their independence, but actually support it with all the means in his power ;-that perhaps he was about to engage himself in an expensive war upon their account, but that he did not expect to be reimbursed by them : in fine, the Americans were not to think that he had entered into this resolution solely with a view of serving them, since independently of his real attachment to them and their cause, it was evidently the interest of France to diminish the power of England by severing her colonies from her.”

In consequence of this amicable declaration, treaties were soon after entered upon with Mons. Gerard, who, on the 30th of January, 1778, had received two distinct commissions from the king for that purpose. On the 6th of February following, a treaty of amity and commerce, and another of alliance eventual and defensive, between his most Cbristian Majesty and the thirteen United States of North America were concluded, and signed at Paris by the respective plenipotentiaries.

This forms a memorable epoch in the political life of Dr. Franklin, as well as in the annals of the United States, because it was in a great measure owing to the aid derived from this powerful alliance that the American colonies were enabled to resist the mother country.

Hostilities ere long commenced between Great Britain and France ; and Mons. Gerard was sent by Louis as envoy to the States of America. Franklin and his colleagues were immediately presented at court in their public character with the accustomed forms, and were even received with distinguished tokens of favour.

It was on the 20th of March that the American commissioners were introduced to Louis XVI. at Versailles, and they now took their places at the French court as the representatives of an independent power. A French historian, describing this ceremony, says of Franklin,-"He was

accompanied and followed by a great number of Americans and indivi. duals from various countries, whose curiosity had drawn together. His age, his venerable aspect, the simplicity of his dress, every thing fortunate and remarkable in the life of this American, contributed to excite public attention. The clapping of hands and other expressions of joy indicated that warmth of enthusiasm, which the French are more susceptible of than any other people, and the charm of which is enhanced to the object of it by their politeness and agreeable manners. After this audience, he crossed the court on his way to the office of the minister of foreign affairs. The multitude waited for him in the passage, and greeted him with their acclamations. He met with a similar reception wherever he appeared in Paris.” In the evening, he was introduced to the Queen, Marie Antoinette, and other members of the royal family, by whom he was received with the greatest politeness and affability,

Dr. Franklin was undoubtedly the fittest person that could have been selected for rendering essential service to the United States at the court of France. He was well known as a philosopher throughout Europe, and his character was held in the highest estimation. In France he was received with the greatest marks of respect by all the literary characters; and this was extended amongst all classes of people, and particularly at court. His personal influence was hence very considerable. To the effects of this were added those of various things which he published, tending to establish the credit and character of the United States; and to his exertions in this way, may in no small degree be ascribed, not only the free gifts obtained from the French government, but also the loans negotiated in Holland, which greatly contributed to bring the war to a favourable conclusion, and to the establishment of American independence.

From this time forward Franklin and the other American commissioners attended the court at Versailles, on the same footing as the ambassadors of the European powers. Madame Compan says, that, on these occasions the Doctor appeared in the dress of an American farmer. “ His straight unpowdered hair, his round hat, his broad cloth coat, formed a singular contrast with the laced and embroidered coats and powdered and perfumed heads of the courtiers of Versailles.” The rules of diplomatic etiquette did not permit the ambassadors of those sovereigns who had not recognized the independence of the United States to extend any official civilities to the ministers of the new republic; but in

private they sought the acquaintance and society of Franklin, and among them were some of his most esteemed and intimate friends.

Almost immediately after the conclusion of the treaties between France and America, several secret advances were made to Franklin by indivi. duals employed by the British ministry, to bring about a reconciliation between England and the United States. But they all proved abortive, owing to the preposterous or unequal terms proposed to the Doctor, and his explicit firmness in maintaining his ground. One of these secret agents happened to be Mr. David Hartley, between whom and Franklin there had existed an intimate friendship for years. This warm feeling had commenced when the Doctor resided in England, and had been preserved by a correspondence on public and private affairs. When Mr. Hartley was on the point of quitting Paris, he wrote a note to his celebrated friend, in which he said, “If tempestuous times should come, take care of your own safety; events are uncertain, and men are capricious.” "I thank you for your caution,” Franklin replied ; “ but haying nearly finished a long life, I set but little value upon what remains of it. Like a draper, when one chaffers with him for a remnant, I am ready to say, 'As it is only a fag end, I will not differ with you about it; take it for what you please.' Perhaps the best use such an old fellow can be put to, is to make a martyr of him.”

Here we shall introduce a curious paper by our sagacious and serene philosopher, which was addressed to his friend M. Dubourg, having for its title, “Observations on the Generally prevailing Doctrines of Life and Death."

“ Your observations on the causes of death, and the experiments which you propose for recalling to life those who appear to be killed by lightning, demonstrate equally your sagacity and humanity. It appears that the doctrines of life and death, in general, are yet but little understood.

A toad buried in the sand will live, it is said, until the sand becomes petrified ; and then being enclosed in the stone, it may live for we know not how many ages. The facts which are cited in support of this opinion, are too numerous and too circumstantial not to deserve a certain degree of credit. As we are accustomed to see all the animals with which we are acquainted, eat and drink, it appears to us difficult to couceive how a toad can be supported in such a dungeon. But if we reflect that the necessity of nourishment which animals experience in

« ZurückWeiter »