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PREFACE. EVERY civilized nation on the globe, has, at one period or other, produced distinguisheu individuals, whose actions have excited the admiration of their contemporaries, and rendered them worthy of being handed down as examples to posterity. The Memoirs of Dr. Franklin are interesting in a high degree, and worthy the perusal of every friend to science or humanity.
Mr. Jefferson, the President of the United States of Ames rica, in his . Notes on Virginia, thus speaks in answer to the assertion of the Abbé Raynal, that • America has not yet produced one good poet, one able mathematician, one man of genius, in a single art, or a single science.'- When we shall have existed as a nation,' says Mr. J. as long as the Greeks did before they produced a Homer, the Romans a Virgil, the French a Racine and Voltaire, the English a Shakspeare and Milton, should this reproach be still true, we will inquire from what unfriendly causes it has proceeded, that the other countries of Europe and quarters of the earth shall not have inscribed any name in the roll of poets. In war we have produced a Washington, whose memory will be adored while liberty shall have votaries; whose name will triumph over time, and will in future ages assume its just station among the most celebrated worthies of the world, when that wretched philosophy shall be forgotten which would arrange him among ihe degeneracies of nature. In physics we have a FRANK LIN, than whom no one of the present age has made more important discoveries, nor has enriched philosophy with more, or more ingenious solutions of the phenomena of nature. We have supposed Mr. Rittenhouse second to no astronomer living; that in genius he must be the first, because he is selflaught,' &c.
In Philosophy England can boast of a Bacon, whose E.. says is one of the best proofs we can adduce of his transcend. ant abilities; and America claims the enlightened FRANA LIN, whose Life and Writings are the subject of the following sheets.
It will only be necessary to add, that due attention has been paid in the selection of such of his productions as may be adapted to general perusal. The following letter from the celebrated Ďr. Price to a gentleman in Philadelphia, respecting Dr. Franklin will not, it is presumed, be deemed inapplicable : DEAR SIR,
Hackney, June, 19, 1790. 'I am hardly able to tell you how kindly I take the letters with which you favor me. Your last, containing an account of the death of our excellent friend, Dr. Franklin, and the circumstances attending it, deserves my peculiar gra. titude. The account which he has left of his life will show, in a striking example, how a man, by talents, industry, and integrity, may rise from obscurity to the first eminence and consequence in the world; but it brings his history no lower than the year 1757, and I understand that since he sent over the copy, which I have read, he has been able to make no additions to it. It is with a melancholy regret that I think of his death; but to death we are all bound by the irrevocable order of nature, and in looking forward to it, there is comfort in being able to reflect--that we have not lived in vain, and that all the useful and virtuous shall meet in a better country beyond the grave.
• Dr. Franklin, in the last letter I received from him, after mentioning his age and infirmities, observes, that it has been kindly ordered by the Author of Nature, that, as we draw nearer the conclusion of life we are furnished with more helps to wean us from it, amongst which one of the strongest is the loss of dear friends. I was delighted with the account you gave in your letter of the honor shown to his memory at Philadelphia, and by Congress : and yesterday I received a high additional pleasure by being informed that the National Assembly of France had determined to go into mourning for him.-What a glorious scene is opened there? The annals of the world furnish no parallel to it. One of the honors of our departed friend is, that he has contributed much to it.
"I am, with great respect,
i RICHARD PRICE.'
THE LIFE AND ESSAYS
DR. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
MY DEAR Son, I HAVE amused myself with collecting some little anec. dotes of my family. You may remember the inquiries I made, when you were with me in England, among such of my relations as were then living; and the journey I undertook for that
purpose. To be acquainted with the particulars of my parentage and life, many of which are unknown to you,
Í flatter myself will afford the same pleasure to you as to me. I shall relate them upon paper : it will be an agreeable employment of a week's uninterrupted leisure, which I promise myself during my present retirement in the country. There are also other motives which induce me to the undertaking. From the bosom of poverty and obscurity, in which I drew my first breath, and spent my earliest
I have raised myself to a state of opulence and to some degree of celebrity in the world. A constant good fortune has attended me through every period of life to my present advanced
descendants may be desirous of learning what were the means of which I made use, and which, thanks to the assisting hand of Providence, have proved so eminently successful. They may, also, should they ever be placed in a similar situatiori, derive some advantage from my narrative.
When I reflect, as I frequently do, upon the felicity I have enjoyed, I sometimes say to myself, that, were the offer made true, I would engage to run again, from beginning to end, the same career of life. All I would ask, should be the privilege of an author, to correct, in a second edition, certain
errors of the first. I could wish, likewise, if it were in my power, to change some trivial incidents and events for others more favorable. Were this, however, denied me, still would I not decline the offer. But since a repetition of life cannot take place, there is nothing which, in my opinion, so nearly resembles it, as to call to mind all its circumstances, and, to render their remembrance more durable, commit them to writing. By thus employing myself, I shall yield to the inclination, so natural in old men, to talk of themselves and their exploits, and may freely follow my bent, without being tiresome to those who, from respect to my age, might think themselves obliged to listen to me; as they will be at liberty to read me or not as they please. In fine—and I may as well avow it, since nobody would believe me were I to deny it-I shall, perhaps, by this employment, gratify my vanity. Scarcely, indeed, have I ever heard or read the in troductory phrase, ' I may say without vanity,' but some striking and characteristic instance of vanity has immediately followed. The generality of men hate vanity in others, however strongly they may be tinctured with it themselves; for myself, I pay obeisance to it wherever I meet with it, persuaded that it is advantageous, as well to the individual whom t governs, as to those who are within the sphere of its influ
Of consequence, it would, in many cases, not be wholly absurd, that a man should count his vanity among the other sweets of life, and give thanks to Providence for the blessing
And here let me with all humility acknowledge, that to Divine Providence I am indebted for the felicity I have hi therto enjoyed. It is that power alone which has furnished me with the means I have employed, and that has crowned them with success. My faith in this respect, leads me to hope, though I cannot count upon it, that the Divine goodness will still be exercised towards me, either by prolonging the duration of my happiness to the close of life, or by giv. ing me fortitude to support any melancholy reverse, which may happen to me, as to so many others. My future for. tune is unknown but to Him in whose hand is our destiny, and who can make our very afflictions subservient to our benefit.
One of my uncles, desirous, like myself, of collecting aneo dotes of our family, gave me some notes, from which I have derived many particulars respecting our ancestors. From these I learn, that they had lived in the same village (Eaton in Northamptonshire), upon a freebold of about thirty'acres,