Abbildungen der Seite


vived at a later day, and, in January, 1769, it was united with another society, which had been formed in Philadelphia for similar objects. The institution, which grew out of this union, took the name of the American Philosophical Society. Franklin was chosen president, and the same honor was annually conferred upon him to the end of his life, although he was much the larger part of the time absent from the country. He contributed several valuable papers to the second volume of the Society's Transactions.

All his philosophical inquiries, and, indeed, all the studies to which he applied his mind, whether in science, politics, morals, or the economy of life, were directed to some useful end, either for the improvement of mankind, or the increase of human comfort. With this aim he endeavoured to promote the culture of silk in America, believing the soil and climate extremely well adapted to it, and that it might be carried to a great extent without interfering with any other branch of industry. He spared no pains to collect in Europe such information, as would enable the cultivators to prosecute the undertaking with success, as


Dr. Franklin was a member of nearly all the principal scientific and literary societies in America and Europe. By the diplomas and other evidences among his papers, it appears, that he was one of the earliest members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences at Boston ; a member of the Royal Societies of London and Göttingen; of the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris, to which place he was nominated by the King. Eight foreign members only belonged to the Society at that time. He was chosen in 1772, and succeeded the celebrated Van Swieten of Vienna. He was likewise a member of the Philosophical Societies of Rotterdam, Edinburgh, and Manchester; the Academy of Sciences, Belles Lettres, and Arts at Lyons; the Academy of Sciences and Arts at Padua; the Royal Academy of History in Madrid; the Patriotic Society of Milan ; the Imperial Academy of Sciences at St. Petersburgh; the Medical Society of London; the Royal Medical Society of Paris; and others, of which an exact list has not been obtained.

well in regard to the planting of mulberry trees, as to the rearing of silkworms, and reeling the silk from the cocoons. The particulars were communicated, from time to time, to Dr. Cadwallader Evans, of Philadelphia, who, with some other gentlemen, was zealously engaged in the enterprise. A company was formed for the cultivation of silk, and public-spirited individuals contributed money to aid in prosecuting the work.

In one of his letters on this subject, Dr. Franklin says; “There is no doubt with me but that it might succeed in our country. It is the happiest of all inventions for clothing. Wool uses a good deal of land to produce it, which, if employed in raising corn, would afford much more subsistence for man, than the mutton amounts to. Flax and hemp require good land, impoverish it, and at the same time permit it to produce no food at all. But mulberry trees may be planted in hedgerows on walks or avenues, or for shade near a house, where nothing else is wanted to grow. The food for the worms, which produce the silk, is in the air, and the ground under the trees may still produce grass, or some other vegetable good for man or beast. Then the wear of silken garments continues so much longer, from the strength of the materials, as to give it greatly the preference. Hence it is, that the most populous of all countries, China, clothes its inhabitants with silk, while it feeds them plentifully, and has besides a vast quantity, both raw and manufactured, to spare for exportation.” And again; “I hope our people will not be disheartened by a few accidents, and such disappointments as are incident to all new undertakings, but persevere bravely in the silk business, till they have conquered all difficulties. By diligence and patience the mouse ate in twain the cable. It is

not two centuries since it was as much a novelty in France, as it is now with us in North America, and the people as much unacquainted with it.” The difficulties have not yet been conquered; but so much progress has been made as to render it certain, that these anticipations will finally be realized. *

The Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's having requested the opinion of the Royal Society in regard to the best method of protecting the cathedral from lightning, Dr. Franklin was one of the committee appointed to investigate the subject. The other members were Mr. Canton, Dr. Watson, Mr. Delaval, and Mr. Wilson. On the 8th of June they made a report, which was approved by the Society, and the method recommended by them for putting up electrical conductors was accordingly followed.

Dr. Franklin did not cease, in writing to his friends in America, to urge upon them a strict adherence to the resolutions, which had been universally adopted, not to import or use British goods. The more he reflected on what was passing before him, the more he was convinced, that the British government would not relax from the measures, so much and so justly complained of by the colonists, which, it was now said, even if they had originated in ignorance and a false policy, must be continued for the honor and dignity of Parliament. The supremacy of the national

* The operations of Dr. Evans and his associates were continued, till the Revolution put a stop to all enterprises of this sort. A quantity of raw silk, produced by them, was sent over to England in 1772, which Dr. Franklin sold at a good price, and obtained a bounty on it from the British government. Some of the Company's silk was likewise manufactured in Pennsylvania. In his paper concerning a new settlement proposed to be made on the Ohio River, Dr. Franklin says; “ Above ten thousand weight of cocoons was, in August, 1771, sold at the public filature in Philadelphia.” VOL. I.


legislature was not to be questioned by the King's subjects anywhere, and opposition was to be suppressed without reference to the cause or the consequences. Parliament might repeal its acts, when besought to do so by humble petitions; but it could never yield to a demand, or tolerate a refractory spirit.

This was the doctrine of the ruling party in Great Britain, and perhaps not a very extravagant one when viewed in the abstract. But unfortunately it was at variance with practice. The colonists had petitioned, till their patience was exhausted, without obtaining relief or even a hearing. When thus neglected and trifled with, they thought it time to take care of themselves, not by resisting the laws, but by rendering these laws ineflectual in their application. They resolved to provide for their own wants by their industry and frugality, and such other means as Providence had blessed them with, and not to depend on a foreign people for supplying them at exorbitant prices, loaded with such additional burdens of taxation, as, in the plenitude of their power, they might choose to impose.

A committee of merchants in Philadelphia sent to Dr. Franklin a copy of their non-importation agreements, with a request that he would communicate them to the British merchants, who were concerned in the American trade. In his reply, dated July 9th, 1769, he commended their zeal, and remarked; “By persisting steadily in the measures you have so laudably entered into, I hope you will, if backed by the general honest resolution of the people to buy British goods of no others, but to manufacture for themselves, or use colony manufactures only, be the means, under God, of recovering and establishing the freedom of our country entire, and of handing it down

complete to posterity.” This advice he often repeated; and, although he was too far distant to partake of the feeling kindled by sympathy throughout the colonies, yet his sentiments accorded perfectly with those of his countrymen.

A few days after writing the letter, quoted above, he went over to France, and passed several weeks at Paris. He has left no account of the journey, or of the business that called him abroad.

His son being governor of New Jersey, an opportunity had thus been afforded to Dr. Franklin for rendering occasional services to that colony; and, on the 8th of December, 1769, he was chosen, by a unanimous vote of the Assembly, to be the agent for transacting their affairs in England. A letter of instructions accompanied the notice of his appointment. He was requested to procure the royal signature to certain laws, which had been passed by the Assembly, and, among others, an act for emitting one hundred thousand pounds in bills of credit, to be lent at five per cent, but not a legal tender. There had been a controversy long pending between East and West Jersey respecting a boundary line, which it had now become more necessary than ever to have settled, and which was intrusted to his management.

Just before the meeting of Parliament, Mr. Strahan addressed to Dr. Franklin certain Queries, designed to draw out from him an opinion as to the effect, which a partial repeal of the revenue acts would have on the minds of the Americans; the repealing act being so framed as to preserve the dignity and supremacy of the British legislature. The queries were promptly and explicitly answered.

In regard to the supremacy of Parliament, so much talked of, Dr. Franklin said the best way of preserv

« ZurückWeiter »