« PreviousContinue »
In the latter end of 1776, Dr. Franklin was appointed to affift in the negociations which had been fet on foot by Silas Deane at the court of France. A conviction of the advantages of a commercial intercourfe with America, and a defire of weakening the British empire by difmembering it, first induced the French court to listen to propofals of an alliance. But they fhewed rather a reluctance to the measure, which, by Dr. Franklin's addrefs, and particularly by the fuccefs of the American arms against general Burgoyne, was at length overcome; and in February 1778, a treaty of alliance, offenfive and defenfive, was concluded; in confequence of which France became involved in the war with GreatBritain.
Perhaps no perfon could have been found, more capable of rendering effential fervices to the United States at the court of France, than Dr. Franklin. He was well known as a philofopher, and his character was held in the highest eftimation. He was received with the greatest marks of refpect by all the literary characters; and this refpect was extended amongst all claffes of men. His perfonal influence was hence very confiderable. To the effects of this were added those of various performances which he published, tending to eftablifh the credit and character of the United States. To his exertions in this way, may, in no fmall degree, be afcribed the fuccefs of the loans negotiated in Holland and France, which greatly contributed to bringing the war to a hapPy conclufion.
The repeated ill fuccefs of their arms, and more particularly the capture of Cornwallis and his army, at length convinced the British nation of the impoffibility of reducing the Americans to fubjection. The trading intereft particularly became clamorous
clamorous for peace. The miniftry were unable longer to oppose their wishes. Provifional articles of peace were agreed to, and figned at Paris on the 30th of November, 1782, by Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams, Mr. Jay, and Mr. Laurens, on the part of the United States; and by Mr. Ofwald on the part of Great-Britain. Thefe formed the bafis of the definitive treaty, which was concluded the 3d of September 1783, and figned by Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Jay, on the one part, and by Mr. David Hartley on the other.
On the 3d of April 1783, a treaty of amity and commerce, between the United States and Sweden, was concluded at Paris, by Dr. Franklin and the Count Von Krutz.
A fimilar treaty with Pruffia was concluded in 1785, not long before Dr. Franklin's departure from Europe.
Dr. Franklin did not fuffer his political pursuits to engrofs his whole attention. Some of his performances made their appearance in Paris. The object of these was generally the promotion of induftry and œconomy.
In the year 1784, when animal magnetism made great noife in the world, particularly at Paris, it was thought a matter of fuch importance, that the king appointed commiffioners to examine into the foundation of this pretended fcience. Dr. Franklin was one of the number. After a fair and diligent examination, in the course of which Mefmer repeated a number of experiments, fome of which were tried upon themselves, they determined that it was a mere trick, intended to impofe upon the ignorant and credulous -Mefmer was thus interrupted in his career to wealth and fame, and a moft infolent attempt to impofe upon the human understanding baffled.
The important ends of Dr. Franklin's miffion being completed by the establishment of American independence, and the infirmities of age and disease coming upon him, he became defirous of returning to his native country. Upon application to congress to be recalled, Mr. Jefferson was appointed to fucceed him, in 1785. Sometime in September of the fame year, Dr. Franklin arrived in Philadelphia. He was fhortly after chofen member of the fupreme executive council for the city; and foon after was elected prefident of the fame.
When a convention was called to meet in Philadelphia, in 1787, for the purpose of giving more energy to the government of the union, by revifing and amending the articles of confederation, Dr. Franklin was appointed a delegate from the State of Pennfylvania. He figned the conftitution which they proposed for the union, and gave it the most unequivocal marks of his approbation.
A fociety for political enquiries, of which Dr. Franklin was prefident, was established about this period. The meetings were held at his houfe. Two or three eflays read in this fociety were publifhed. It did not long continue.
In the year 1787, two focieties were established in Philadelphia, founded in the principles of the most liberal and refined humanity-The Philadelphia Society for alleviating the miseries of public prifons; and the Pennsylvania Society for promoeing the abolition of flavery, the relief of free negroes unlawfully held in bondage, and the improvement of the condition of the African race. Of each of these Dr. Franklin was president. The labours of these bodies have been crowned with great fuccefs; and they continue to profecute, with unwearied diligence, the laudable defigns for which they were established.
Dr. Franklin's increafing infirmities prevented his regular attendance at the council-chamber; and, in 1788, he retired wholly from public life. His conftitution had been a remarkably good He had been little fubject to difeafe, except an attack of the gout occafionally, until about the year 1781, when he was firft attacked with fymptoms of the calculous complaint, which continued during his life. During the intervals of pain from this grievous disease, he spent many chearful hours, converfing in the most agreeable and inftructive manner. His faculties were entirely unimpaired, even to the hour of his death. His name, as prefident of the Abolition Society, was figned to the memorial presented to the House of Reprefentatives of the United States, on the 12th of February 1789, praying them to exert the full extent of power vefted in them by the constitution, in difcouraging the traffic of the human fpecies. This was his laft public act. In the debates to which this memorial gave rife, feveral attempts were made to juftify the trade. In the Federal Gazette of March 25th there appeared an effay, figned Hiftoricus, written by Dr. Franklin, in which he communicated a speech, faid to have been delivered in the Divan of Algiers in 1687, in oppofition to the prayer of the petition of a fect called Erika, or purifts, for the abolition of piracy and flavery. This pretended African fpeech was an excellent parody of one delivered by Mr. Jackfon of Georgia. All the arguments urged in favour of negro flavery, are applied with equal force to juftify the plundering and enflaving of Europeans. It affords, at the fame time, a demonftration of the futility of the arguments in defence of the flave trade, and of the strength of mind and ingenuity of the author, at his advanced period of life. It furnished too
a no lefs convincing proof of his power of imi tating the style of other times and nations, than his celebrated parable against perfecution. And as the latter led many perfons to fearch the fcriptures with a view to find it, fo the former caufed many perfons to fearch the book-ftores and libraries, for the work from which it was faid to be extracted *.
In the beginning of April following, he was attacked with a fever and complaint of his breast, which terminated his existence. The following account of his laft illness was written by his friend and Phyfician, Dr. Jones.
"The ftone, with which he had been afflicted. for feveral years, had for the laft twelve months confined him chiefly to his bed; and during the extreme painful paroxyfms, he was obliged to take large dofes of laudanum to mitigate his tortures-ftill, in the intervals of pain, he not only amufed himself with reading and converfing cheerfully with his family, and a few friends who vifited him, but was often employed in doing bufinefs of a public as well as private nature, with various perfons who waited on him for that purpofe; and in every inftance difplayed, not only that readiness and difpofition of doing good, which was the diftinguishing characteristic of his life, but the fulleft and cleareft poffeffion of his uncommon mental abilities; and not unfrequently indulged himself in thofe jeux d'efprit and entertaining anecdotes, which were the delight of all who heard him.
"About fixteen days before his death, he was feized with a feverish indifpofition, without any particular symptoms attending it, till the third or fourth day, when he complained of a pain in the left breaft, which increased till it became extreme
*This fpeech will be found among the Effays.