Abbildungen der Seite


vania,” these being announced as the plan of “ some public-spirited gentleman ;' the author, according to his usual rule, avoiding as much as possible, presenting himself to the world as the originator of any scheme for its benefit. This institution proved deservedly popular, not only in Pensylvania and other parts of America, but also in England ; and many considerable donations were accordingly bestowed upon it. Franklin to the close of his life was peculiarly tenacious of the primary design of this academy, namely, to afford the young people of Philadelphia an accurate acquaintance with the English tongue, and to cultivate amongst them superior correctness and delicacy of taste in English composition. Even when stepping into the grave, he declaimed against the too great preponderance of Greek and Latin, and the “starvation" of the English part of the scheme of education ; imagining himself surrounded by the departed spirits of his dear friends, the original founders, urging him to use the only tongue of theirs now left, in demanding that justice for the next generation, which had been denied, he said, to the pre

But pursuits of quite a different nature from those of the active duties in civil life, now began to occupy a large share of Franklin's attention. During the year 1745, while the mother country was shaken to the ceutre by the last rebellion in favour of the Stuarts, he was meditating that retirement from business which his easy circumstances and philosophical taste suggested. The branch of physics to which he principally directed his inquiries was that of electricity, which was at this time in its infancy. “But the public now considering me,” says our philosopher, " as a man of leisure, laid hold of me for their purposes ; every part of our civil government, and almost at the same time, imposing some dety upon me. The governor put me into the commission of the peace; the corporation of the city chose me one of the common council, and soon after alderman ; and the citizens at large elected me a burgess to represent them in the Assembly. This latter station was the more agreeable to me, as I grew at length tired with sitting there to hear the debates, in which as clerk, I could take no part; and which were often so uninteresting that I was induced to amuse myself with making magic squares or circles, or anything to avoid weariness.

“The office of justice of the peace I tried a little, by attending a few courts, and sitting on the bench to hear causes ; but finding that more knowledge of the common law than I possessed was necessary to act in that station with credit, I gradually withdrew from it; excusing myself

46 In

by being obliged to attend the higher duties of a legislator in the Assembly. My election to this trust was repeated every year for ten vears, without my ever asking any elector for his vote, or signifying either directly or indirectly any desire of being chosen. On taking my seat in the House, my son was appointed their clerk.”

Most indefatigable and various were Franklin's efforts for the public good, his views uniformly evincing his characteristic sagacity and benevolence. He acts as a coinmissioner for making a treaty with the Indians at Carlisle, and strives to arrest among them their frightful excesses in drinking rum. One of their orators, however, excused the destructive habit, by saying, “The Great Spirit who made all things, made every thing for some use, and whatever use he designed any thing for, that use it should always be put to. Now, when he made rum, he said, ' Let this be for the Indians to get drunk with;' and it must be so." deed,” observes Franklin, “If it be the design of Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make room for the cultivators of the earth, it seems not impossible that rum may be the appointed means.” It had already annihilated all the tribes who formerly inhabited the sea-coast. And here it will be acceptable when we cite from our philosopher's Miscellaneous Writings, some parts of his “ Remarks concerning the Savages of North America."

The Indian men, when young,” says the author," are hunters and warriors, when oid, counsellors ; for all their goverment is by the counsel or advice of the sages : there is no force, there are no prisons, no officers to compel obedience, or inflict punishment, Hence, they generally study oratory—the best speaker having the most influence ***** Having frequent occasion to hold public councils, they have acquired great order and decency in conducting them. The old men sit in the foremost ranks, the warriors in the next, and the women and children hindmost. The business of the women is to take exact notice of what passes, imprint it on their memories--for they have no writings--and communicate it to the children.*****The politeness of these savages is indeed carried to excess, since it does not permit them to contradict or deny the truth of what is asserted in their presence. By this means they indeed avoid disputes; but then it becomes difficult to know their minds, or what impression you make upon them. The missionaries who have attempted to convert them to Christianity, all complain of this, as one of the great difficulties of their mission. The Indians hear with patience the truths of the Gospel explained to them, and give their

usual tokens of assent and approbation. You would think they were convinced: no such matter-it is mere civility.

“ A Swedislı minister having assembled the chiefs of the Susquehannah Indians, made a sermon to them, acquainting them with the principal historical facts on which our religion is founded—such as the fall of our first parents by eating an apple--the coming of Christ to repair the mischief, his miracles and sufferings, &c. When he had finished, an Indian orator stood up to thank him. What you have told us,' says ne is all very good. It is indeed bad to eat apples ; it is better to make them all into cider. We are much obliged by your kindness in coming so far to tell us these things which you have heard from your mother. In return, I will tell you some of those which we have heard from ours.

[graphic][ocr errors]

* * In the beginning, our fathers had only the flesh of animals to subsist on : and if their hunting was unsuccessful they were starving. Two

of our young hunters having killed a deer, made a fire in the woods to broil some parts of it. When they were about to satisfy their hunger they beheld a beautiful young woman descend from the clouds, and seat herself on that hill which you see yonder among the blue mountains. They said to each other--It is a spirit that perhaps has smelt our broiled venison, and wishes to eat of it; let us offer some to her. They presented her with the tongue : she was pleased with the taste of it, and said--Your kindness shall be rewarded. Come to this place after thirteen moons, and you shall find something that will be of great benefit in nourishing your children to the latest generations. They did so; and to their surprise found plants they had never seen before, but which, from that ancient time, have been constantly cultivated among us to our great advantage. Where her right hand had touched the ground, they found maize; where her left hand had touched it, they found kidney-beans; and on the spot where she had sat, they found tobacco.' The good missionary, disgusted with this idle tale, said, ' what I delivered to you were sacred truths, but what you tell me is mere fable, fiction, and falsehood.' The Indian, offended, replied - My brother, it seems your friends have not done you justice in your education ; they have not well instructed you in the rules of common civility. You saw that we, who understand and practise these rules, believed all your stories, why do you refuse to believe ours.""

An account of Indian hospitality, which is esteemed among these savages as a principal virtue, is then given. Conrad Weiser had been naturalized among the Six Nations, and spoke very well the Mohuck language. In going through the Indian country he called on one occasion at the dwelling of Canasselego an old acquaintance, who embraced him and otherwise showed great kindness to the traveller. At length the Indian said, “Conrad you have lived long among the white people, and know something of their customs ; I have been sometimes in Albany, and have observed there once in seven days they shut up their shops, and assemble all in the great house, tell me what it is for. What do they do there ?" “ They meet there,” said Conrad, “to hear and learn good things.” “ I do not doubt,” says the Indian, “ that they tell you so, they have told me the same ; but I doubt the truth of what they say, and I will tell you my reasons. I went lately to Albany to sell my skins and buy blankets, knives, powder, rum, &c. You know I used generally to deal with Hans Hanson ; but I was a little inclined this time to try some other merchants. However I called first upon Hans, and asked

him what he would give for beaver. He said he could not give more than four shillings a pound ; but, says he, I cannot talk on business now : this is the day when we meet together to learn good things, and I am going to the meeting. So I thought to myself since I cannot do any business to-day, I may as well go to the meeting too, and I went with him. There stood up a man in black, and began to talk to the people very angrily. I did not understand what he said: but perceiving that he looked much at me and at Hanson, I imagined he was angry at seeing me there ; so I went out, sat down near the house, struck fire, and lit my pipe, waiting till the meeting should break up.' I thought too that the man had mentioned something of beaver; and I suspected it might be the subject of their meeting. So when they came out I accosted my


merchant. 'Well, Hans,' says I, 'I hope you have agreed to give more than four shillings a-pound.' 'No,' says he, 'I cannot give so much ; I cannot give more than three shillings and sixpence.' I then spoke to several other dealers, but they all sung the same song--three and sixpence---three and sixpence. This made it clear to me that my suspicion was right; and that whatever they pretended of meeting to learn good things, the real purpose was to consult how to cheat Indians in the

« ZurückWeiter »