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fifth year, and I find, that the long and severe fit of the gout, which I had the last winter, has shaken me exceedingly, and I am yet far from having recovered the bodily strength I before enjoyed. I do not know that my mental faculties are impaired; perhaps I shall be the last to discover that ; but I am sensible of great diminution in my activity, a quality I think particularly necessary in your minister for this court. I am afraid, therefore, that your affairs may some time or other suffer by my deficiency. I find, also, that the business is too heavy for me, and too confining. The constant attendance at home, which is necessary for receiving and accepting your bills of exchange (a matter foreign to my ministerial functions), to answer letters, and perform other parts of my employment, prevents my taking the air and exercise, which my annual journeys formerly used to afford me, and which contributed much to the preservation of my health. There are many other little personal attentions, which the infirmities of age render necessary to an old man's comfort, even in some degree to the continuance of his existence, and with which business often interferes.
“I have been engaged in public affairs, and enjoyed public confidence, in some shape or other, during the long term of fifty years, and honor sufficient to satisfy any reasonable ambition; and I have no other left but that of repose, which I hope the Congress will grant me, by sending some person to supply my place. At the same time, I beg they may be assured, that it is not any the least doubt of their success in the glorious cause, nor any disgust received in their service, that induces me to decline it, but purely and simply the reasons above mentioned. And, as I cannot at present undergo the fatigues of a sea voyage (the last having been almost too much for me), and
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would not again expose myself to the hazard of capture and imprisonment in this time of war, I purpose to remain here at least till the peace; perhaps it may be for the remainder of my life; and, if any knowledge or experience I have acquired here may be thought of use to my successor, I shall freely communicate it, and assist him with any influence I may be supposed to have, or counsel that may be desired of me.” Congress declined accepting his resignation, and, nearly at the same time, enlarging their commission for negotiating a treaty of peace, by joining with Mr. Adams four other commissioners, they appointed Dr. Franklin to be one of the number. This new mark of confidence, especially after he had asked, as a favor, to be relieved from his public charge, was a sufficient rebuke to his enemies, and left them little cause to be satisfied with the success of their schemes. He acquiesced in the decision of Congress. “It was my desire,” said he, “to quit public business, fearing it might suffer in my hands through the infirmities incident to my time of life; but, as they are pleased to think I may still be useful, I submit to their judgment, and shall do my best.” His friend, Mr. Hartley, continued to write to him on the terms of peace, taking advantage of the correspondence, which, with the knowledge of the British ministry, was kept up between them concerning the American prisoners in England. It is evident, also, from the tenor of Mr. Hartley's letters, that his propositions were seen and approved by Lord North. His first aim, and the point which he labored with the greatest diligence, was to divide the United States from France, and to bring about a separate treaty with the former. This design was so inconsistent
with the nature and express stipulations of the alliance, which were well known, that Dr. Franklin could not forbear to retort upon his friend with warmth and some degree of asperity. Mr. Hartley spoke of the alliance as a stumblingblock, which must be removed before a treaty could be entered upon, and he suggested that it might be dissolved, at least by the consent of the parties. Dr. Franklin replied; “The long, steady, and kind regard you have shown for the welfare of America, by the whole tenor of your conduct in Parliament, satisfies me, that this proposition never took its rise with you, but has been suggested from some other quarter; and that your excess of humanity, your love of peace, and your fear for us, that the destruction we are threatened with will certainly be effected, have thrown a mist before your eyes, which hindered you from seeing the malignity and mischief of it.” “Nor does there appear any more necessity for dissolving an alliance with France, before you can treat with us, than there would of dissolving your alliance with Holland, or your union with Scotland, before we could treat with you. Ours is, therefore, no material obstacle to a treaty, as you suppose it to be. Had Lord North been the author of such a proposition, all the world would have said it was insidious, and meant only to deceive and divide us from our friends, and then to ruin us; supposing our fears might be so strong as to procure an acceptance of it.” Again, alluding to the article in the alliance, by which both parties agree to continue the war in conjunction, and not to make a separate peace, he said; “It is an obligation not in the power of America to dissolve, being an obligation of gratitude and justice towards a nation, which is engaged in a war on her account and for her protection; and would be for ever binding, whether such an article existed or not in the treaty ; and, though it did not exist, an honest American would cut off his right hand, rather than sign an agreement with England contrary to the spirit of it.” Mr. Hartley's next proposition, which had likewise been shown to Lord North, was for a truce of ten years, during which America was not to assist France, yet England, if she saw fit, was to carry on the war against her; “a truce,” said Franklin, “wherein nothing is to be mentioned, that may weaken your pretensions to dominion over us, which you may therefore resume at the end of the term, or at pleasure; when we should have so covered ourselves with infamy, by our treachery to our first friend, as that no other nation could ever after be disposed to assist us, however cruelly you might think fit to treat us. Believe me, my dear friend, America has too much understanding, and is too sensible of the value of the world's good opinion, to forfeit it all by such perfidy.” This project of dividing the United States from their ally was industriously pursued by the British cabinet. Without doubt, it was an object worth striving for. The advances were not confined to one side. Tempting offers were held out to France, as an inducement to draw her into a separate treaty. But the King and his ministers were as true to their engagements as Franklin; and they steadily affirmed, that no propositions would be listened to, either for a peace or truce, which should not have for their basis the independence and sovereignty of the United States. Besides his numerous acquaintances in the great world of Paris, Dr. Franklin found friends, whose society he valued, among his neighbours at Passy. They vied with each other in bestowing upon him their ciwilities and kindness. He was almost domesticated in the family of M. Brillon, where he was entertained rather as one of the family than as a visiter, and where the charm of an affectionate welcome was heightened by the frankness, refinement, and intelligence of those from whom it was received. The house of Madame Helvétius, at Auteuil, was another of his favorite resorts. This lady, then advanced in years, had associated, in the lifetime of her husband, with the first wits and most eminent men of the day. In these families he constantly met the Abbé Morellet, the Abbé La Roche, Cabanis, Le Roy, Le Veillard, and La Rochefoucauld. Some of his most popular essays were composed for the amusement of this little circle at Passy and Auteuil. The Ephemera, and the Whistle, were addressed to Madame Brillon, whom, in his playful mood, he used to call “the amiable Brillante.” The Dialogue with the Gout, and several other humorous pieces, were written at the same time and for the same object. He classed them all under the title of Bagatelles. They served as a relief from his weighty cares, and contributed to the enjoyment of those around him. The friendships, formed by this social intercourse, were not transient; they were kept fresh after his return to America, by a correspondence, which continued as long as he lived.