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“Now," said he to the chaplain," it is perhaps below the dignity of your profession to act as steward of the rum; but if you were to distribute it out after prayers, you would have them all about you.” The plan was adopted with general satisfaction; and “never,” says Franklin, were prayers better attended.”
His forts being completed, and colonel Clapham, an experienced officer, having taken the command of them, Franklin returned to his legislative duties in Philadelphia ; where he found the association in high prosperity, the subordinate officers chosen, and all ranks expecting him to take upon himself the colonelcy. To this he now consented, and found himself in the command of twelve hundred men, with a company of artillery having brass field-pieces, in the use of which they were very expert. The home government however quickly interfered, and again suppressed by law this rising military spirit. Franklin assures us, that his military honours never disturbed his philosophical mind, but that the case was otherwise with his electrical machines, which were half destroyed by a salute fired at his door after the first review of his regiment. Envy had her eye upon him also. Some busybody informed a proprietor, that his officers on one occasion had escorted Franklin out of Philadelphia with drawn swords ; an honour which he, the proprietor, gravely complained of as never having been paid to him, or to any of his governors, and which he represented to the minister as a proof of the popular intention to take the government from him by force! He also described Franklin as the great obstacle in Pennsylvania to the king's service, and as constantly interfering to prevent the proper form of money-bills being adopted in the colony. These facts the postmaster-general of England communicated to him, with hints to observe a more cautious conduct.
Very different was the opinion of him which the proprietors' representative, the governor, entertained at this time. On the discomfiture of Braddock, and the cowardly retreat of Dunbar, he offered Franklin
a general's commission, and pressed him to attempt the reduction of Fort Duquesne with the provincial troops. To this however the latter did not feel himself equal, and steadily declined it. Shortly afterwards, Mr Morris was superseded in the government. Franklin considers himself, upon the whole, to have been treated respectfully by this governor. They were each the chief of a party. Morris was educated for the law, and Franklin candidly attributes much of his love of disputation to professional habit; not forgetting the maxim of the profession, that lawyers
though so keen,
While our philosopher, if not fond of dispute, was at least fond of discussion, although he had the faculty of conducting it with great good will.
Captain Denny, who succeeded Mr Morris, entered upon his government with endeavours to flatter Franklin into the views of the proprietors. He brought over with him a gold medal which had been voted to Franklin in 1753 by the Royal Society of London, and delivered it to him, with many compliments, at a public entertainment given by the corporation of Philadelphia. Warmed with wine, he became profuse in his attentions and offers. Franklin endeavoured to draw from him what were his instructions; but Denny was cautiously silent upon this topic.* Their nature however quickly transpired in the renewal of the old disputes: until the Assembly, wearied with the perpetual efforts of the proprietary to interfere, as they conceived, with their privileges,
* Captain Denny at this time, having heard of Franklin's intimacy with Ralph, told him, that though Pope bad cut short his poetical pretensions by honouring him with a place in the Dunciad, he was now reckoned a very able political writer, and had a pension of 3001. per annum from the party of prince Frederick. The principal works of this early associate of Frank. lin's were, The Use and Abuse of Parliaments, 2 vols. octavo; A History of England, during the reigns of Charles II, James II, and William íll, 2 vols. folio; and the Case of Authors by Profession, octavo. He died at Chiswick in 1762.
determined to appoint an agent to proceed to England with a petition to the king in council; and fixed upon Mr Franklin as their most competent public man.
It is very evident that he was the man of the greatest influence amongst them, and that he deserved to be so. A bill of 60,000l. being now required to be passed by the Assembly for the king's use, that body first presented it to the governor, as a tax on all the property of the state ; but he refused to pass it, although 10,0001. were immediately wanted, and by the provisions of the bill were to be placed at the disposal of lord Loudon, the commander in chief of the troops.
After much altercation, Franklin suggested this expedient; to alter the bill at the dictation of the governor, and exempt the proprietors' estates as desired, accompanying it with a pretext, that such alterations were compulsory, and that the Assembly in no way conceived the right of the proprietary to the exemption.
Lord Loudon arrived at Philadelphia during this discussion, having it in charge, as he stated, from the home government, to effect a settlement of the dis. putes between the
governor and the Assembly. FrankIin had, accordingly, several interviews with him, as the representative of the latter; but little or nothing was effected. His lordship was a man of vacillating mind, acutely characterized, by one of the Philadelphians, as like St George on the signs, always on horseback, but never riding on; first he appeared to admit the unreasonableness of the Assembly's claims, and Franklin conceived that he would have accomplished the work of peace. But he suddenly changed his mind, began to press Franklin to concede the rights of the people, threatening, in case of refusal, to withdraw the army from the frontiers, so that a temporary compromise in the form of the bill abovementioned was all that resulted.
Franklin had as mean an opinion of his lordship's military conduct, as of his talents for negotiation. He withdrew the army from the frontiers of the
colonies, and detained it, with a fleet of merchant-ships, in the neighbourhood of Sandy-hook, all the summer of 1756 ; until Fort George, on the frontiers of New York, was taken by the French and Indians, and the whole of the back-settlements thrown into alarm. Nor was his conduct without suspicion, as to avaricious motives. He perplexed all the mercantile pursuits of the middle states, during the summer, by laying an embargo on the export of provisions from all the principal forts, ostensibly to prevent the enemy from obtaining supplies, but really, as it was thought, to lower the price of provisions for the benefit of the contractors, in whose profits he had a share. Franklin designates his whole operations in 1756 as “ frivolous, expensive, and disgraceful, beyond conception."
We are now arrived at a period of Franklin's life, in which it appears proper to enter more fully into his philosophical attainments and discoveries. He modestly dismisses them with a very brief notice in his personal narrative; but they had even at this period attained some notoriety in Europe, and no single name was so largely connected as our author's, at last, with the diffusion of the modern taste for electricity. Dr Priestley says, in his history of that science, that “nothing was ever written upon the subject of electricity, which was more generally read, and admired in all parts of Europe than Franklin's letters. There is hardly any European language into which they have not been translated ; and, as if this were not sufficient to make them properly known, a translation has lately been made into Latin. It is not easy to say whether we are most pleased with the simplicity and perspicuity with which these letters are written, the modesty with which the author proposes every hypothesis of his own, or the noble frankness with which he relates his mistakes, when they were corrected by subsequent experiments.
Though the English have not been backward in acknowledging the merit of the philosopher, he has
had the singular good fortune to be perhaps even more celebrated abroad than at home ; so that to form a just idea of the great and deserved reputation of Dr Franklin, we must read the foreign publications on the subject of electricity, in many of which the term Franklinism, Franklinist, and the Franklinian system, occur almost in every page. In consequence of this, Dr Franklin's bids fair to be handed down to posterity, being equally expressive of the true principles of electricity, as the Newtonian philosophy is of the true system of nature in general.
These letters were addressed to his friend Collinson, of whom we have already spoken, and were in fact, in the first instance, a simple report of the success of Franklin and his friends in the use of that gentleman's present of electrical instruments. Finding them acceptable to his friend, and that Dr Fothergill, and some other English philosophers, had permitted the printing of them in the mother-country, until what were called the Philadelphian experiments came to be known in Paris, Franklin was encouraged to continue the correspondence. According to the well known compliment paid him afterwards by M.Turgot, * he seems to have been the first person who discovered the affinity between lightning and electricity, which he suggested in an essay written for a neighbour in Philadelphia who established public lectures in that science. This paper he forwarded to England in 1753; but Dr Stuber, Franklin's townsman, and one of his best biographers, has so well vindicated his fame on this subject from some attacks, and digested so complete a narrative of the interest excited both in France and England on this subject, that, at the hazard of some slight repetitions, we shall transcribe that narrative entire :
“Of all the branches of experimental philosophy, electricity had been least explored. The attractive power of amber is mentioned by Theophrastus and Pliny, and from them by later naturalists. In the * ERIPUIT COLO FULMEN, SCEPTRUMQUE TYRANNIS.