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Dr. Franklin's powers, of mind were not only strong but various, and his observations were not confined to one science. There were few subjects of common utility on which he could not comment, and he turned his thoughts to none which he did not im. prove and illustrate. As a philosopher, his merit is universally acknowledged, and science will record his name in the impartial registers of fame. When caprice, the malevolence of party, and the adulations of servility have subsided, posterity ever render justice to the memory of the dead, The principles and properties of electricity were little known in the last age. The electric fluid is but barely men., tioned at the end of Newton's Optics. It was reserv. ed to Franklin to investigate the nature of this subtile agent, the cause of so many wonderful phænomena. By uniting theory with practice he was enabled to make very important discoveries, independent of those in Europe, of which his three first publications, entitled New Experiments and Observations on Elec. tricity made at Philadelphia in America, communi. cated in letters to Peter Colinson, esq. F.R.s. the first of which is dated July the 28th 1747, and the lasty April 18, 1754, are a convincing proof. Besides the productions already mentioned, the following are from the pen of Dr. Franklin. An historical Review of the Constitution and Government of Pensylvania, 8ro. which appeared in 1759. In 1979, Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces, &c. in 8vo. and 4to. In 1787, Observations on the Causes and Cure of Smoky Chimnies, 8vo. . His papers in the Philosophical Transactions are a Letter to Peter Cole linson, esq. concerning the effects of lightning, June 20, 1751, vol. xlvii, p. 289. Letter to the same, con cerning an electrical kite, Oct. 1, 1752, ibid. p. 565.
Electrical Experiments, made in pursuance of those of
Mr. Canton, dated Dec. 3, 1753, with explanations, by Mr. Benjamin Franklin, communicated by P. Col. inson, dated Philadelphia, Mar. 14, 1755, vol. xlix, p. 300. Extract of a letter concerning Electricity, from Mr. B. Franklin, to M. Dalibard, inclosed in a letter to Mr. P. Collinson, dated Philadelphia, June 29, 1755, ibid. p. 305. An account of the effects of electricity in paralytic cases, in a letter to Sir John Pringle, received June 12, 1758, vol. 1, p. 481. Remarks on some experiments in electricity, made by Father Baccaria, read Feb. 14, 1760, ibid. p. 525. Letter to the Rev. Thos. Birch, Feb. 4, 1762, vol. lii, p. 456. Physical and Meteorological Observations, Conjectures, and Suppositions, read June 3d. 1756, vol. Iviii, p. 182.·. Letter to the Astronoiner Royal, containing an observation of the transit of Mercury over the Sun, Nov. 9, 1769, by John Win. thorne, esq Feb. 12, 1770, vol. Ixi, p. 81. Letter to Sir John Pringle, on pointed conductors, read Dec. 17, 1772, vol. lxiii, p. 66. Anda Letter on stilling the waves by oil, vol. Ixiv, p. 445. His Essays, hu. morous, moral, and literary, with his Life, written by himself, have appeared since his death in two small volumés. A complete collection of his works with biographical memoirs, has long been expected from the hands of his grandson.
Various and respectable testimonies have been given of Franklin's merit. A small selection may not be uninteresting. On his reception into the French Academy, D'Alembert welcomed him with that well known line, which displays a stroke possessing all the boldness and sublimity of Lucian.
“Eripuit cælo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis.” He snatched fire from Heaven, and the sceptre from
And Doubourg inscribed under a portrait of him, the following lines :
“Il a ravi le feu des cieux; Il fait fleurir les arts en des climats sauvages; k Ameriqne le place à la tête des sages; la Grèce l'auroit mis au nombre de ses dieux.”
He disarmed Heaven of it's thunder; he caused the arts to flourish in the most unfavourable climes; A. merica places him at the head of her sages; had he lived in Greece, he would have been ranked amongst the number of her gods. Signor Baccaria has prefixed to his curious treatise, “Elettricismo Artificiale," a complimentary letter to our philosopher, in which he considers him as the father of electricity," and speaks of his discoveries with enthusiasm. “To you, says he, it was given to enlighten the mind of man in this new science. It is you who have disarmed the thunder of all it's terrors, and your daring genius has even taught the fire of heaven, which was regarded as the weapon of Omnipotence, to obey your voice."
Lord Chatham, in the year 1777, adverted to Franklin's dissuasive arguments against the American war, in a speech conceived in the highest strain of panegyric; and Voltaire paid our A. merican Newton a very flattering compliment.
The following remarks and anecdotes are extract: ed from an interesting work called the “ Algerene Captive; or, the Life of Dr. Updike Underhill.” “I carried,” says Doctor Underhill, a request to Dr. Benjamin Franklin, then president of the state of Pensylvania for certain papers which I was to deliver on my journey. I anticipated much pleasure from an interview with this truly great man. To see one, who from small beginnings, by the sole exertion of native genius and indefatigable industry, bad raiso
ed himself to the pinnacle of politics and letters; a man who, from a humble printer's boy, had elevated himself to be the desirable companion of celebrated men; who, from trundling a wheel-barrow in bye. lanes, had been advanced to pass in splendour through the courts of kings; and from hawking ballads, to the contracting and signing treaties, which gave peace and independence to three millions of his fellow cit. izens, was a sight extremely interesting. I found the doctor surrounded by company, most of whom were young people. He received me with at. tention ; dispatched a person for the papers I wanted; asked me politely to be seated; enquired after my family, and told me a pleasing anecdote of my brave ancestor, Captain Underhill. I found in the doctor all that simplicity of language which is remarkable in his productions. I am convinced that men of gen. uine merit as they possess the essence, they need not the parade of great knowledge. A rich man is often plain in his attire; and the man who has abundant treasures of learning, simple in his manners and style.
The doctor, in early life, was economical from principle; in his latter days perhaps from habit. *6 Poor Richard” held the purse-strings of the president of Philadelphia. Permit me to illustrate this observation by an anecdote. Soon after I was introduced, an airy thoughtless relation of the doctor's, from a New England state, entered the room. It seems he was on a party of pleasure; and had been so much involved in it, for three weeks, as not to have paid his respects to his venerable relative. The purpose of his present visit was to solicit the loan of a small sum of money, to enable him to pay his bills, and transport himself home. He preluded his request with a detail of embarrassments which might have befallen the most circumspect. The doctor enquiring how much was the sum, he replied, with some hesitation, fifty dollars. Franklin went to his escritor, and counted out a hundred. He received them with many promises of punctual payment, and hastily took up a pen to draw a note of hand for the cash. The doctor, who perceived the nature of the borrower's embarassments better than he was aware,
prepos. sessed with the improbability of ever recovering his cash again, stepped across the room, and laying his hand gently upon his cousiu's arm, said, “Stop, cou. sin, we will save the paper; a quarter of a sheet is not of great value, but it is worth saving :" convey. ing at once, a liberal gift and gentle reprimand for the borrower's prevarication and extravagance.