Page images

quired how he expected to accomplish his great designs? 'I will restore to war,' answered the young demi-god, 'its original enthusiasm, I will make each man a hero."" The superior wisdom, the gigantic success of his plan, is told to listening eternity by the thunder-voices of Lodi, Jena, Wagram and Borodino. Would that some spiritual Napoleon-a Paul or Luther, some intellectual conqueror-a Newton or Franklin, might say, with equal effect, of his God-armed followers, "I'll make each man a hero !"

In 1751, Franklin was appointed Deputy Post Master General of America; an office of great importance, the conferance of which shows the high reputation which he possessed on both sides of the Atlantic, for business talent and fidelity. The next year, with four others, he was nominated a commissioner to confer with the chiefs of the Six Nations, concerning the best means of defending their country in case of war with France, which was anticipated. When it had actually commenced and the British troops under General Braddock were unable to advance for want of baggage-wagons, ever active in his country's cause, he set out scouring the country for the necessary supply of these vehicles, and not being furnished with public money to pay for them, unhesitatingly purchased on his own account. How long General Scott might have remained at Vera Cruz, if he had been compelled to wait for some individual citizen of the United States to purchase baggage-wagons on his own credit, even if that citizen were a certain war-loving millionaire of this generation, is an interesting though rather unfair question—un. fair, because the nineteenth is not the eighteenth century, nor the citizen referred to Benjamin Franklin.

During the French war, our hero was again elected colonel, which office he this time accepted; but his commis.

sion, with many others, was soon after invalidated by a repeal of the preëxisting military laws for the colonies. Five years after the time of which we have just been speaking, he was sent to England, the fearless representee of his country's wrongs, the brave claimant of her rights, to present to the King a petition on the subject of taxation. Thus early, eighteen years before the outbreak of our rev. olutionary fires, was he looked to as a leading spirit in the onward march of a people who already began to remonstrate against the task-master's tyranny, and to cast forward an eager eye toward the promised land. While in England he was elected to a Fellowship of the Royal Society and received the degree of Doctor of Laws from the Oxford University; marks of respect unusually significant when paid to a colonial subject. In 1765, he was examined before parliament on the subject of the stamp act, and in his fearless answers nobly testified his patriotic attachment to his native land. His was not that moral cowardice which basely shrinks from a full and distinct expres sion of opinion and feeling, when surrounded with hos tile feeling and opposing opinion. He was strong enough to stand alone and look with an unquailing gaze into the lion's very eye. The same year he made a visit to Holland, where he was received with marks of the most distinguished attention from men of science and of literature, and reflected great honor on his country as the first American philosopher. We confess with shame that we have sent forth few worthy successors, while we remember with pride that we have seen here from other lands few if any equals surely no superior. The year succeeding he also travelled into France, where he met a no less favorable reception, making the acquaintance of King Louis XVI, and of many eminent literary characters.

Returning to England, he exerted all his power in an attempt to prevail on the ministry to change their course toward the American colonies, but without success. The

haughty obstinacy of British character was never more foolishly exhibited, than in the treatment of her colonial subjects by that imperious government. She seems to have forgotten that they boasted Hampden's blood, and might perhaps be found as ready as he to shed it in the cause of freedom. Foiled in all his efforts to ward off from his country the dreadful scourge of war, the patriot philosopher returned to her shores in time to share its fury. He was not, however, permitted long to remain among his countrymen in their hour of peril; for, soon after the declaration of independence, he was appointed by congress to assist in negotiations at the court of France, where his influence was considerable and exerted with great effect in behalf of his suffering country. While he was residing in Paris, the subject of Animal Magnetism began to excite the public mind of Europe, and was deemed of so great interest that King Louis appointed a commission of the most learned and able philosophers, among whom he nominated Franklin, to give the subject a full and fair investigation. After industrious and impartial examination, they reported that no sufficient reason appeared to sustain a belief that the pretended science was founded in truth or worthy further attention.

In 1788, the independence of his country being achieved, and a constitution for its future government adopted, one of its most laborious founders, at the advanced age of eighty-two years, retired from his protracted and useful public life; his last act being, as president of an abolition society, to sign a petition to congress praying a full exertion of its power towards the suppression of slavery. Thus

did he crown his life of philanthropic labor, by an act of humanity worthy of himself and his preceding illustrious career. Advancing years brought increasing infirmities, until, on the 17th day of April, 1790, God sent his angel for the old man's soul.

One month mourned his bereaved countrymen, wearing funeral crape. Three days did the French people likewise; for a great man and a lover of his race had gone. No! he had not gone! His mortal had but been disunited from his eternal part, and was laid to rest beneath this self-written epitaph:

The Body


(Like the cover of an old book,

Its contents torn out,

And stripped of its lettering and gilding,)
Lies here, food for worms:

But the work shall not be lost,
For it will, as he believed, appear once more,
In a new and more elegant edition,
Revised and corrected



Yes! glorious old patriot! the Author will not suffer such a work to perish. It has doubtless reappeared in an. other library, to be read by brighter than human eyes.

The character of Franklin shall receive a momentary analysis. As a philosopher he was patient, industrious and liberal; as a legislator, prudent, perspicuous and sagacious; as a diplomatist, acute, profound and skillful; as a citizen, it has been truly remarked of him, that "he was eminently great in ordinary things: he could enliven

[ocr errors]

every conversation with an anecdote and conclude it with a moral." As a man, he was temperate, punctual and laborious, polite and affable in manner, disposed rather to hear than to speak, ready in debate, not quick to affirm or deny, but ever prepared to argue calmly and decide dispassionately. As a writer, his manner was clear, pure and concise, comprehensive, dignified, and at times, even majestic. His reasonings are admirably conclusive; and this, united with his charms of style, make all his articles impress the reader's mind with unusual force. To young Americans we recommend them as models-their precepts as lessons. Such was Franklin, a truly great man, an honor to his country, an ornament to humanity.

Reader in considering such a character as the one before us, we feel an entirely irresistible influence exciting us to admiration and emulation. Who is so base that he has no desire to be great? I believe but few such can be found. But many are discouraged from action by the reflection. that circumstances make men. They suppose if they had lived in the same age, and been placed in the same positions as the eminent philosophers, historians, warriors, poets, orators or statesmen of the olden time, they might perhaps have become equally great. If they had lived in the days of our revolution, they might have been its Henrys or its Franklins, or aspired even to the glory of its Washington. It is true that circumstances do make men it is quite as true that men make circumstances. No lazy dolt was ever, by any combination of events, made great. No industrious thinker was ever, by any cause, made less so. He who acts nobly in his sphere, may be as great, perhaps truly greater, in an ignoble than an honored one, since his only motive must be duty. Let no one be discouraged because the forgetful world does not regard and commend

« PreviousContinue »