Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

There was an incident, however, connected with a public transaction, which may perhaps afford some explanation of the minister's conduct in this instance. Several years before, Sir William Johnson, and others in America, had projected a plan for settling a new colony west of the Allegany Mountains. A company was formed, consisting of individuals, some of whom resided in America and others in England, and an application was made to the crown for a grant of land. Gentlemen of rank and distinction were among the associates. Mr. Thomas Walpole, a wealthy banker of London, was at the head of the Company, and from this circumstance the territory in question was usually called Walpole's Grant. The Company’s agents for obtaining the grant, and making the requisite arrangements with the government, were Thomas Walpole, Dr. Franklin, John Sargent, and Samuel Wharton. They presented a petition, which lay for a long time before the Board of Trade, without attracting much favor. It was said to interfere with the Ohio Company's lands, and with other grants made by the Governor of Virginia. Lord Hillsborough presided at the Board of Trade, and was secretly opposed to it, although he contrived to lead Mr. Walpole and his associates into the belief, that he was not unfriendly to their objects. At last it was necessary for the Board to give an opinion, and he then wrote an elaborate Report against the petition, which Report was approved by the Board and sent up to the King's Council.

In the mean time Dr. Franklin answered this Report in a very able paper, taking up and confuting each of his Lordship's objections, and advancing many arguments to prove the great advantages that would flow, both to the colonies and to the British nation, by extending the settlements westward. This answer was likewise presented to the Council. It produced the desired effect. Notwithstanding the opposition of the Board of Trade, the petition was approved. Lord Hillsborough had set his heart upon defeating the measure; for he had a scheme of his own in regard to the western boundary of the colonies, by which emigrations were not to extend beyond the head waters of the streams running eastward into the Atlantic. He thought it necessary thus to restrict the limits of the colonies, that they might be within reach of the trade and commerce of Great Britain, and be kept under a due subjection to the mother country. He was, therefore, disappointed and offended at the course taken by the Council; and the more so, as it was a proof that his influence was on the wane. He thought his opinions and judgment were treated with less respect than he was entitled to, as a member of the cabinet and the head of the Board of Trade. The issue of this affair, chiefly brought about by Dr. Franklin's answer to his Report, was the immediate cause of his resignation. The answer was drawn up with great skill, containing a clear and methodical statement of historical facts, and weighty reasons for extending the western settlements. It was impossible to prevent the population, tempted by new and fertile lands, from spreading in that direction. Already many thousands had crossed the mountains and seated themselves on these lands, and others were daily following them. Was it good policy, or fair treatment to this portion of his Majesty's subjects, to leave them without a regular government, under which they might have the benefit of laws and a proper administration of justice? A colony, thus established, would, moreover, be a barrier against the incursions of the Indians into the populous districts along the Atlantic, which had hitherto been a constant source of bloody wars and vast expense to the inhabitants. It would afford additional facilities for promoting the Indian trade. So far from being out of the reach of British commerce, as Lord Hillsborough imagined, it would, in fact, enlarge that commerce by increasing the consumption of British manufactures, and filling the markets with new products of industry, derived from a soil now lying waste, but which, from its variety and richness, with an uncommon benignity of climate, would yield ample returns to the labor of the cultivator, and in such commodities as would meet a ready demand in all the principal marts with which the trade of Great Britain was connected. There would also be an easy communication with the seacoast by the navigable rivers, and by roads, which the settlers would soon find the means of constructing. Dr. Franklin's exact knowledge of the internal state of America enabled him to amplify these topics, and illustrate them with statistical and geographical details, in such a manner as to overthrow all his opponent's objections, and the arguments upon which they were founded. The Revolution came on before the plan was executed, and, by depriving the King of his authority over the lands, defeated the completion of the grant. The experience of a few years, however, proved the accuracy and wisdom of Dr. Franklin's views on the subject, by the unparalleled rapidity with which the western territory was settled.”

* Lord Hillsborough seemed resolved to let it be known, that his temper was not implacable, if it was capricious. More than a year after his resignation, he met Dr. Franklin at Oxford. Calling at his room, his first salutation was, “Dr. Franklin, I did not know till this minute that you were here, and I am come to make you my bow. I am glad

C C*

In August, 1772, a committee of the Royal Society, under the direction of the government, examined the powder magazines at Purfleet, for the purpose of suggesting some method of protecting them from lightning. Dr. Franklin had already visited Purfleet, at the request of the Board of Ordnance, and recommended the use of pointed iron rods, according to the method originally proposed by him, which had been practised with success in America for more than twenty years. The committee consisted of Messrs. Cavendish, Watson, Franklin, Wilson, and Robertson, all of whom were distinguished for their acquaintance with electricity. A Report was drawn up by Dr. Franklin, and signed by the committee, in which they advised the erecting of pointed rods, with a minute description of the manner of constructing them.

Mr. Wilson was the only dissenting member, who gave it as his opinion, that pointed conductors were dangerous, inasmuch as they attracted the lightning, and might thus overcharge the rod and promote the mischief they were intended to prevent. According to his theory, the conductors ought to be blunt at the top. To satisfy himself more fully in this particular, as well as to remove all doubts from the minds of others, Dr. Franklin performed a series of new electrical experiments, by which he demonstrated, that pointed rods are preferable to blunt ones. It is true, they invite the lightning, yet this is the very thing desired, for the charge is thereby silently and gradually drawn from the clouds, and conveyed without

to see you at Oxford, and that you look so well.” The conversation continued for a short time. Alluding to this incident, Dr. Franklin said, “Of all the men I ever met with, he is surely the most unequal in his treatment of people, the most insincere, and the most wrongheaded.” It is believed, that there was no intercourse afterwards between them.

f danger to the earth; whereas a conductor, blunt at the top, may receive a larger quantity of the fluid at once, than can be carried away, which will thus cause an explosion. This was the principle, upon which his theory of lightning-rods was originally formed, and it was established more firmly than ever by these new experiments. They were satisfactory to nearly all the men of science, and the conductors at Purfleet were erected in the manner recommended by the committee.*

* The controversy about pointed and blunt conductors continued for some time. Mr. Wilson grew warm in it, and gained adherents to his cause. A stroke of lightning fell upon the buildings at Purfleet in May, 1777, without doing any damage, but this accident brought the subject again into agitation. It was referred to another committee of the Royal Society, who reported as before in favor of pointed rods. Mr. Wilson seized this occasion to propagate his theory with renewed vigor, repeating his experiments in public, and in presence of the King and royal family, by whom they were countenanced. At one of these exhibitions Lord Mahon was present, and showed by experiments of his own, that Mr. Wilson misunderstood the theory of Dr. Franklin, or represented it unfairly. Mr. Henly and Mr. Nairne also demonstrated the fallacy of his principles. In the midst of the dispute, however, the pointed conductors were taken down from the Queen's palace, and blunt ones were substituted in their place. Dr. Ingenhousz, a member of the Royal Society, wrote an account of the affair, inveighing against Mr. Wilson's conduct, which was transmitted to a gentleman in Paris, with a request that he would show it to Dr. Franklin and have it published in France. Dr. Franklin replied as follows to this gentleman, in a letter dated at Passy, October 14th, 1777.

“I am much obliged by your communication of the letter from England. I am of your opinion, that it is not proper for publication here. Our friend's expressions concerning Mr. Wilson will be thought too angry to be made use of by one philosopher when speaking of another, and on a philosophical question. He seems as much heated about this one point, as the Jansenists and Molinists were about the five. As to my writing any thing on the subject, which you seem to desire, I think it not necessary, especially as I have nothing to add to what I have already said upon it in a paper read to the committee, who ordered the conductors at Purfleet; which paper is printed in the last French edition of my writings.

“I have never entered into any controversy in defence of my philo

« ZurückWeiter »