Abbildungen der Seite

terations in the arrangement of materials prepared for them by their great director in England, whose counsels they obeyed, and in whose wisdom and dexterity they had an implicit faith.”” The individual here alluded to, as the “great director,” was Dr. Franklin; but the charge is utterly unfounded. The guiding spirits in Massachusetts well understood their rights, and needed no aid from England to teach them in what manner to declare those rights to the world. Franklin's correspondence, containing the advice he actually gave, affords a complete vindication of his conduct in reference to this charge. In fact, his friends in America thought him too lukewarm, while those in England were concerned at his boldness. He had all along avowed his opinions without reserve, in his letters and published writings, and advised the colonists to hold fast their rights, to protest against every encroachment upon them, and to reiterate petitions for redress; but at the same time he recommended moderation in the measures of resistance, because he feared, that any rashness or precipitancy in this respect would be seized upon by the ministry as a pretext for more severe acts of Parliament, and for filling the country with troops to crush the spirit of liberty before the people were in a condition to maintain it; and because the growing strength and importance of the colonies would in due time cause them to be respected and their claims to be acknowledged. When the pamphlet, containing the votes and resolutions of the town of Boston, came to his hands, he had it republished in London, with a Preface written by himself. In this performance he again took occasion to describe the condition of the colonists, and to explain the nature and reasons of their complaints, representing their late transactions as the natural consequences of the unwise policy of the government, in driving them to extremities by refusing to listen to their petitions and remove their real grievances. The temper and matter of this Preface were such, as to gain from the public a fair hearing to the resolutions themselves, which spoke in so high a tone, that they would necessarily give great offence to the partisans of the ministry, and in some measure cool the zeal of those in England, who wished well to the American cause. The Massachusetts Assembly convened a short time after the Boston resolutions were passed. They took the same subject and the general state of the province into consideration. The result was another petition to the King, which was likewise transmitted to Dr. Franklin. He immediately waited on Lord Dartmouth, told him there could be no more delay, and requested him to deliver this petition to his Majesty, and also the one which had been held in suspense. The minister promised to comply with his wishes.” About this time Dr. Franklin published anonymously two pieces, remarkable for the style in which they are composed. They were entitled, Rules for reducing a Great Empire to a Small One, and An Edict by the King of Prussia. An admirable vein of irony runs through both these pieces. In the former, all the late measures of the British government, in relation to the colonies, are brought together under twenty distinct heads, and so represented, by an ingenious arrangement and turn of expression, as to constitute general rules, which, if put in practice, would enable any ministry to curtail the borders of a great empire and reduce it to a small one. The Edict purports to have been promulgated with much solemnity by the King of Prussia, imposing restraints on the trade and manufactures of the Island of Great Britain, for the purpose of replenishing the coffers of his Prussian Majesty; it being alleged as a reason in the preamble, that the early settlements were made by Germans, who were subject to his ancestors, having flourished under their protection, and whose descendants were bound to obey the laws of his kingdom and contribute to its revenues. A parallel is pursued throughout between the actual conduct of the British government, and the pretended claims of the King of Prussia upon the inhabitants of Great Britain on account of their Saxon origin. Lord Mansfield was heard to say of this Edict, “that it was very able and very artful indeed, and would do mischief by giving in England a bad impression of the measures of government, and, in the colonies, by encouraging them in their contumacy.” The good humor, which pervade both these compositions, and the pointed manner of expression, attracted to them many readers, who would scarcely have turned aside to a grave and argumentative discussion of the colonial controversy. During his absence from London, in the summer of 1773, he passed a few weeks at the country residence of Lord Le Despencer, and employed himself, while there, in abridging some parts of the Book of Common Prayer. A handsome edition of this abridgment was printed for Wilkie, in St. Paul's Church Yard; but it seems never to have been adopted in any Church, nor to have gained much notice. The Preface explains his motives in this undertaking, and the principles upon which the alterations were made, with remarks on the objects and importance of public worship. At the conclusion he says; “And thus, conscious of upright meaning, we submit this abridgment to the serious consideration of the prudent and dispassionate, and not to enthusiasts and bigots, being convinced in our own breasts, that this shortened method, or one of the same kind better executed, would further religion, remove animosity, and occasion a more frequent attendance on the worship of God.”” Many experiments were performed by Dr. Franklin, at different times and places, to show the effect of oil in smoothing the surface of water agitated by the wind. While on a tour in the north of England with Sir John Pringle, he tried this experiment successfully upon the Derwent Water at Keswick. Dr. Brownrigg was present, and, in answer to his inquiries afterwards, Dr. Franklin gave a history of what he had done in this way, and explained upon philosophical principles the singular fact, that had been established by his experiments. It was proved by numerous trials, that a small quantity of oil poured upon a lake or pond, when rough with waves, would speedily calm the waves, and produce a smooth and glassy surface. This had often been shown in the presence of many spectators. Indeed, he was accustomed in his travels to carry a little oil in the joint of a bamboo cane, by which he could repeat the experiment whenever an occasion offered. The Abbé Morellet mentions his having passed five or six days in company with Franklin, Garrick, Dr. Hawkesworth, and Colonel Barré, at Wycomb, the seat of Lord Shelburne, where he saw it performed with complete success.”

* Hutchinson's History of Massachusetts, Vol. III. p. 364. WOL. I. D D

* It has generally been said, that Dr. Franklin was the first to suggest a Continental Congress. In a private letter to Mr. Cushing, dated July 7th, 1773, after mentioning the proposal of the Virginia House of Burgesses to establish committees of correspondence, he says; “It is natural to suppose, as you do, -that, if the oppressions continue, a congress may grow out of that correspondence. Nothing could more alarm our ministers; but, if the colonies agree to hold a congress, I do not see how it can be prevented.” In an official letter, of the same date as the above, which was to be read to the Assembly, he dwells more at large upon the subject, and advances such solid reasons for a congress, as to amount to a recommendation. “As the strength of an empire,” he says, “depends not only on the union of its parts, but on their readiness for united exertion of their common force; and as the discussion of rights may seem unseasonable in the commencement of actual war, and the delay it might occasion be prejudicial to the common welfare; as likewise the refusal of one or a few colonies would not be so much regarded, if the others granted liberally, which perhaps by various artifices and motives they might be prevailed on to do; and as this want of concert would defeat the expectation of general redress, that otherwise might be justly formed; perhaps it would be best and fairest for the colonies, in a general congress now in peace to be assembled, or by means of the correspondence lately proposed, after a full and solemn assertion and declaration of their rights, to engage firmly with each other, that they will never grant aids to the crown in any general war, till those rights are recognised by the King and both Houses of Parliament; communicating at the same time to the crown this their resolution. Such a step I imagine will bring the dispute to a crisis.” From these extracts it appears, that there had been a hint about a congress in one of Mr. Cushing's previous letters; but it is believed, that no other direct recommendation of the measure can be found at so early a date as the above.

* See Vol. X. p. 207, where the Preface is printed entire.


He explained as follows the operation of the oil in producing this effect. Waves are caused by winds, which so far adhere to the water as to raise it into ridges by their force. The particles of oil, when dropped on water, repel each other, and are also repelled by the water, so that they do not mingle with it. Hence they expand and diffuse themselves on the surface, till they meet with some obstruction, covering the water with an extremely thin and continu

* Mémoires de l'Abbé Morellet, Tom. I. p. 197. WOL. I. 45 DD “

« ZurückWeiter »