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Franklin's efforts to promote public education. - Military schemes for the
defence of the province of Pennsylvania.-Management of the Quakers.Establishment of the university of Philadelphia. Commences his experiments on electricity.--Employed in negociations with the Indians, and as a coinmissioner to settle the joint defence of the colonies.-Albany meeting, and plans of an union between the colonies.
No philosopher of ancient or modern times ever more fully perceived than our author the natural union between knowledge and virtue; we now therefore find him occupied with various projects for enlightening the public mind. His first effort of this kind was for the formation of an academy in 1743; but the only gentleman in Philadelphia whom he considered competent as a principal, declining to act, the undertaking was suspended for a short period. But in 1744 another project of his, the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, was more fortunate, and soon ranked amongst its members all the leading persons of the province.
In the same year he was the patriotic advocate of the rights and liberties of his country. A Spanish privateer having ascended the bay of Delaware as high as Newcastle, our author thought of the defenceless state of the capital, and published a pamphlet called “Plain Truth, or serious considerations on the present state of the city of Philadelphia, and provinces of Pennsylvania, by a tradesman of Philadelphia," exposing their dangers, and exhorting his fellow-citizens to prompt and united measures for the public defence. The characteristic soundness of the author's reasoning, and the remarkable effect produced by it, induce us to give an extract.
“The enemy," says he, “no doubt have been told, that the people of Pennsylvania are Quakers, and are against all defence, from a principle of conscience; this, though true of a part, and that a small part only,
of the inhabitants, is commonly said of the whole; and what may make it look probable to strangers is, that in fact nothing is done by any part of the people towards their defence. But to refuse defending one's self, or one's country, is so unusual a thing among mankind, that possibly they may not believe it, till by experience they find they can come higher and higher up our river, seize our vessels, land, and plunder our plantations and villages, and retire with their booty unmolested. Will not this confirm the report, and give them the greatest encouragement to strike one bold stroke for the city, and for the whole plunder of the river ?
“ It is said by some, that the expense of a vessel to guard our trade would be very heavy, greater than perhaps all the enemy can be supposed to take from us at sea would amount to; and that it would be cheaper for the government to open an insurance office, and pay all losses. But is this right reasoning ? I think not; for what the enemy takes is clear loss to us, and gain to him; increasing his riches and strength, as much as it diminishes ours, so making the difference of double; whereas, the money paid our own tradesmen for building and fitting out a vessel of defence remains in the country, and circulates among us; what is paid to the officer and seamen that navigate her is also spent ashore, and soon gets into other hands ; the farmer receives the money for her provisions, and, on the whole, nothing is clearly lost to the country but her wear and tear, or as much as she sells for, at the end of the war, less than her first cost. This loss, and a trifling one it is, is all the inconvenience; but how many and how great are the conveniences and advantages ! And should the enemy, through our supineness, and neglect to provide for the defence both of our trade and country, be encouraged to attempt this city, and after plundering us of our goods, either BURN IT, or put it to ransom, how great would that loss be! besides the confusion, terror, and
distress, so many hundreds of families would be involved in !
“ The thought of this latter circumstance so much affects me, that I cannot forbear expatiating somewhat more upon it. You have, my dear countrymen and fellow-citizens, riches to tempt a considerable force to unite and attack you, but are under no ties or engagements to unite for your defence. Hence, on the first alarm, terror will spread over all; and as no man can with certainty depend that another will stand by him, beyond doubt every man will seek safety by a speedy Alight. Those that are reputed rich will flee, through fear of torture to make them produce more than they are able. The man that has a wife and children will find them hanging on his neck, beseeching him with tears to quit the city, and save his life, to guide and protect them in that time of general desolation and ruin. All will run into confusion, amidst cries and lamentations, and the hurry and disorder of departers carrying away their effects. The few that remain will be unable to resist. Sacking the city will be the first, and burning it, in all probability, the last act of the enemy. This, I believe, will be the case, if you have timely notice. But what must be your condition, if suddenly surprised, without previous alarm, perhaps in the night! Confined to your houses, you will have nothing to trust to but the enemy's mercy. Your best fortune will be, to fall under the power of commanders of king's ships, able to control the mariners ; and not into the hands of licentious privateers. Who can, without the utmost horror, conceive the miseries of the latter ? when your persons, fortunes, wives, and daughters, shall be subject to the wanton and unbridled rage, rapine, and lust, of negroes, mulattoes, and others, the vilest and most abandoned of mankind. A dreadful scene ! which some may represent as exaggerated. I think it my duty to warn you: judge for yourselves.”
Afterwards he expostulates with the Quakers :
“On whom may we fix our eyes with the least expectation that they will do any thing for our security? Should we address that wealthy and powerful body of people, who have ever since the war governed our elections, and filled almost every seat in our assembly? Should we entreat them to consider, if not as friends, at least as legislators, that protection is as truly due from the government to the people, as obedience from the people to the government, and that if, on account of their religious scruples, they themselves could not act for our defence, yet they might retire, relinquish their power for a season, quit the helm to freer hands, chosen by their own interest too, whose prudence and moderation, with regard to them, they might safely confide in; secure, from their own native strength, of resuming again their present station, whenever it shall please them? Should we remind them, that the public money, raised from all, belongs to all; that since they have, for their own ease, and to secure themselves in the quiet enjoyment of their religious principles and may they long enjoy them !) expended such large sums to oppose petitions, and engage favourable representations of their conduct, if they themselves could by no means be free to appropriate any part of the public money for our defence, yet it would be no more than justice, to spare us a reasonable sum for that purpose, which they might easily give to the king's use as heretofore, leaving all the appropriation to others, who would faithfully apply it as we desired? Should we tell them, that though the treasury be at present empty, it may soon be filed by the outstanding debts collected, or at least credit might be had for such a sum, on a single vote of the assembly? that though they themselves may be resigned and easy under this naked, defenceless state of the country, it is far otherwise with a very great part of the people—with us, who can have no confidence that God will protect those who neglect the use of rational means for their security, nor have any reason to hope that our losses, if we
should suffer any, may be made up by collections in our favour at home. Should we conjure them by all the ties of neighbourhood, friendship, justice, and humanity, to consider these things; and what distraction, misery, and confusion, what desolation and distress, may possibly be the effect of their unseasonable predominancy and perseverance ? Yet all would be in vain; for they have already been, by great numbers of the people, petitioned in vain. Our late governor did for years solicit, and request, and even threaten, them in vain. The council have since twice remonstrated to them in vain. Their religious prepossessions are unchangeable, their obstinacy invincible. Is there then the least hope remaining, that from that quarter any thing should arise for our security ? And is our prospect better, if we turn our eyes to the strength of the opposite party, those great and rich men, merchants and others, who are ever railing at Quakers for doing what their principles seem to require, and what in charity we ought to believe they think their duty, but take no one step themselves for the public safety? They have so much wealth and influence, if they would use it, that they might easily, by their endeavours and example, raise á military spirit among us, make'us fond, studious of, and expert in, martial discipline, and effect every thing that is necessary, under God, for our protection. But envy seems to have taken possession of their Hearts, and to have eaten out and destroyed every generous, noble, public-spirited sentiment. Rage at the disappointment of their little schemes for power gnaws their souls, and fills them with such cordial hatred to their opponents, that every proposal, by the execution of which those may receive benefit as well as themselves, is rejected with indignation. What,' say they, shall we lay out our money to protect the trade of Quakers ? Shall we fight to defend Quakers ? No; let the trade perish, and the city burn; let what will happen, we shall never lift a finger to prevent it.' Yet the Quakers have conscience to plead for their