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The company all concluded with his lordship, except Franklin, who was silent.
"Well, doctor, said lord Spencer, “what is your opinion on this subjecti”
"Why, my lord,” replied Franklin, “I cannot say that I have the honour to think with you in this affair. The birds and beasts have indeed said a great many wise things; but it is likely they will say a great many more yet before they are done. Nature, I am thinking, is not quite so easily exhausted as your lordship seems to imagine.”
Lord Spencer, evidently confused, but still with that countenance of pleasure which characterizes great souls, when they meet superior genius, exclaimed“Well, doctor, suppose you give us a fable? I know you are good at an impromptu.” The company all seconded the motion. Franklin thanked them for the compliment, but begged to be excused. They would hear no excuses. They knew, they said, he could go it, and insisted he should gratify them. Finding all resistance ineffectual, he drew his pencil, and after scribbling a few minutes, reached it to Spencer, saying"Well, my lord, since you will have it so, here's a something fresh from the brain, but I'm afraid you'll not find Æsop in it."
“Read it, doctor, read it!" was the cry of the noble lord and his friends. In a mood, spriteful and pleasant, Franklin thus began- Once upon a time-hem -as an Eagle in the full pride of his pinions, soared over an humble farm-yard, darting his fiery eyes around in search of a pig, a lamb, or some such pretty tit-bit, what should he behold but a plump young rabbit, as he thought, squatted among the weeds. Down at once upon him, he pounced like thunder, and bearing him aloft in his talons, thus chuckled to himself with joy-zounds, what a lucky dog I am! such a nice rabbit here, this morning, for my breakfast!
"His joy was but momentary; for the supposed rabbit happened to be a stout cat, who, spitting and squalling with rage, instantly stuck his teeth and nails, like ang fury, into the eagle's thighs, making the blood and fea. thers fly at a dreadful rate.
"HOLD! HOLD! for mercy's sake, hold! cried the eagle, his wings shivering in the air with very torment.
“Villain! retorted the cat, with a tiger-like growl, dare you talk of mercy after treating me thus, who ne. ver injured you?”
0, God bless you, Mr. Cat, is that your rejoined the eagle, mighty complaisant; 'pon honour, I did not intend, sir, I thought it was only a rabbit I had got hold of—and you know we are all fond of rabbits. Do you suppose, my dear sir, that if I had but dreamt it was you, I would ever have touched the hair of
head? No, indeed: I am not such a fool as all that comes to And now, my dear Mr. Cat, come let's be good friends, again, and I'll let you go with all my heart.
“Yes, you'll let me go, scoundrel, will you—here from the clouds—to break every bone in my skin! No, vil. lain, carry me back, and put me down exactly where you found me, or I'll tear the throat out of you in a moment.
“Without a word of reply, the eagle stooped at once from his giddy height, and sailing humbly down, with great complaisance restored the cat to his simple farm yard, there to sleep, or hunt his rats and mice at plea. sure."
A solemn silence ensued. At length, with a deep prophetic sigh, lord Spencer thus replied: "Ah! doctor Franklin I see the drift of your fable; and my fears have already made the application. God grant, that Britain may not prove the eagle, and America the cat." This fable paraphrased in the Whic papers of that day, concludes in this way:
“Thus Britain, thought in seventy-six,
DOCTOR FRANKLIN now began to find his situation in London extremely unpleasant. For twelve years, like heaven's own minister of peace, he had pressed the olive branch on the British ministry; and yet after all, their war-hawks could hardly tolerate the sight of him. They even went so far as to call him “the hoary headed villain, who first stirred up the Americans to rebellion.” As soon as he could obtain his passports he left England.
His old friend, Strahan, advised him to continue in that country, for that America would soon be filled with tumult and bloodshed. He replied, “No, sir, where Liberty is, there is my Country."
Unbounded was the joy of the Americans on the return of so great a patriot and statesman. The day following he was elected by the legislature of Pennsylvania, a member of Congress. The following letters, in extract, to his constant friend, and the friend of science and liberty, the celebrated doctor Priestley, will shew how full his hands were.
" Philadelphia, July 7, 1775. DEAR FRIEND,
"Britain has begun to burn our sea port towns; se sure, I suppose, that we shall never be able to return the outrage in kind. She may doubtless destroy them all. But is this the way to recover our friendship and trade? She must certainly be distracted; for no tradesman out of Bedlam ever thought of increasing the number of his customers by knocking them on the head; or of enablin them to pay their debts, by burning their houses.
“My time was never more fully employed. I breakfast before six. At six I hasten to the coMMITTEE of SAFETy, for putting the province in a state of defence. At nine I go to Congress, which sits till after four. It will scarcely be credited in Britain, that men can be as diligent with us, from zeal for the public good, as with you, for thousands per annum. Such is the difference between uncorrupted new states, and corrupted old ones.
"Great frugality and great industry are now become fashionable here: gentlemen, who used to entertain with with two or three courses, pride themselves now in treating with simple beef and pudding. By these means and the stoppage of our consumptive trade with Britain, we shall be better able to pay our voluntary taxes for the support of our troops. Our savings in the article of trade, amount to near five millions of sterling per
Yours, most affectionately,
In another letter to the same, dated October 3d, he says:
“Tell our dear good friend, doctor Price, who sometimes has his doubts and despondencies about our firmness, that America is determined and unanimous; a very few tories and placemen excepted, who will probably soon export themselves. Britain, at the expense of three . millions has killed in this campaign, one hundred and fifty yankees! which is 20,000 pounds sterling a head; and at Bunker's hill she gained half a mile of ground! During the same time she lost, at one place, near one thousand men, and we have had a good sixty thousand children born in America. From these data, with the help of his mathematical head, lord North will easily calculate the time and expense necessary to kill us all, and conquer our whole territory..
I am ever yours,
In another letter, to the same, and of the same date,
“Britain still goes on to goad and exasperate. She despises us too much; and seems to forget the Italian proverb, that there is no little enemy.' I am persuad-, ed the body of the British people are our friends, but your lying gazettes may soon make them our enemiesand I see clearly that we are on the high road to mutual enmity, hatred and detestation. A separation will of course be inevitable. It is a million of pities so fair a plan, as we have hitherto been engaged in for increasing strength and empire with PUBLIC FELICITY, should be
destroyed by the mangling hands of a few blundering
This letter of Doctor Franklin's is the first thing I have seen that utters a whisper about INDEPENDENCE. It was, however, a prophetical whisper, and soon found its accomplishment in the source that Franklin predicted-the BARBARITY OF. BRITAIN. To see war waged against them by a power whom they had always gloried in as their MOTHER Country—to see it waged because as the children of Englishmen, they bad only asked for the common rights of Englishmen-to see it waged with a savageness unknown among civilized nations, and all the powers of earth and hell, as it were, stirred up against them--the Indians with their bloody tomahawks and scalping knives--the negroes with their midnight hoes and axes-the merciless flames let loose on their midwinter towns-with prisons, chains, and starvation of their worthiest citizens. “Such miserable specimens,"
as Franklin termed them, “of the British government,” 1 produced every where in the colonies a disposition to
detest and avoid it as a complication of robbery, murder, fainine, fire and pestilence.
On the 7th of June, resolutions respecting independence, were moved and seconded in Congress. Doctor Franklin threw all the weight of his wisdom and character into the scale in favour of independence.
“INDEPENDENCE," said he, "will cat the gordian knot at once and give us freedom.
• I. Freedom from the oppressive kings, and endless wars, and mad politics, and forced religion of an unreasonable and cruel government.
“II. Freedom to chuse a fair, and cheap, and reasonable government of our own.