Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

small wages or a mere subsistence, not better than our slaves are allowed by us. Is their condition then made worse by their falling into our hands? No, they have only exchanged one slavery for another, and I may say a better: for here they are brought into a land where the sun of Islamism gives forth its light, and shines in full splendor, and they have an opportunity of making themselves acquainted with the true doctrine, and thereby saving their immortal souls. Those who remain at home have not that happiness. Sending the slaves home then would be sending them out of light into darkness.—I repeat the question, what is to be done with them? I have heard it suggested that they may be planted in the wilderness, where there is plenty of land for them to subsist on, and where they may flourish as a free state; but they are, I doubt, too little disposed to labor without compulsion, as well as too ignorant to establish a good government, and the wild Arabs would soon molest and destroy or again enslave them. While serving us, we take care to provide them with every thing, and they are treated with humanity. The laborers in their own country, are, as I am well informed, worse fed, lodged and clothed. The condition of most of them is therefore already mended, and requires no further improvement. Here their lives are in safety. They are not liable to be impressed for soldiers, and forced to cut one another's Christian throats as in the wars of their own countries. If some of the religious mad bigots who now teaze us with their silly petitions, have in a fit of blind zeal freed their slaves, it was not generosity, it was not humanity that moved them to the action; it was from the conscious burthen of a load of sins, and a hope, from the supposed merits of so good a work, to be excused from damnation.—How grossly are they mistaken to suppose slavery to be disallowed by the Alcoran! Are not the two precepts, to quote no more, "Masters, treat your slaves with kindness: slaves serve your masters with cheerfulness and fidelity," clear proofs to the contrary? Nor can the plundering of infidels be in that sacred book forbidden, since it is well known from it that God has given the world, and all that it contains, to his faithful Mussulmen, who are to enjoy it of right as fast as they conquer it. Let us then hear no more of this detestable proposition, the manumission of christian slaves, the adoption of which would by depreciating our lands and houses, and thereby depriving so many good citizens of their properties, create universal discontent, and provoke insurrections, to the endangering of government, and producing general confusion. I have therefore no doubt, but this wise council will prefer the comfort and happiness of a whole nation of true believers to the whim of a few Erika, and dismiss their petition."

The result was, as Martin tells us, that the Divan came to this resolution, "The doctrine that plundering and enslaving the Christians is unjust; is at best problematical; but that it is the interest of this state to continue the practice, is clear; therefore let the petition be rejected."

And it was rejected accordingly.

And since like motives are apt to produce in the minds of men like opinions and resolutions, may we not, Mr. Brown, venture to predict, from this account, that the petitions to the parliamerit of England for abolishing the slave trade, to say nothing of other legislatures, and the debates upon them, will have a similar conclusion. I am, Sir, your constant reader and humble servant,

Historicus.

Towards the close of the year (1789) Dr. Franklin received a new and unexpected honor; that of being elected a member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences of St. Petersburgh.—It was communicated to him, by the following handsome letter (in English) from the Princess Daschkaw, the Lady President, whom Dr. Franklin had occasionally met at Paris.

To His Excellency Dr. Benjamin Franklin, &C. &C. Philadelphia.

Dear Sir,

Having always supposed, and even cherished the idea, that you were a member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences, which is at St. Petersburgh under my direction, I was greatly surprised, when reviewing the list of its members some days ago, I did not find your name in the number. I hastened therefore to acquire this honor for the academy, and you were received among its members with an unanimous applause and joy. I beg you, Sir, to accept of this title, and to believe that I look upon it as an honor acquired by our academy.

I shall order the patent to be dispatched to you as soon as possible. In the mean time be assured, that it is with the greatest pleasure, that I profit of the present occasion to give you token of my regard and veneration for your eminent character, and that I shall always recollect with pride the advantage I had to be personally noticed by you.

With a sincere consideration, I am, dear Sir, your most obedient servant,

Princess Of Daschkaw. St. Petersburgh, the 4th of November 1789.

"During the greatest part of his life, Dr. Franklin had enjoyed an almost uninterrupted state of good health, and this he entirely attributed to his exemplary temperance.

In the year 1735, indeed, he had been seized with a pleurisy, which ended in a suppuration of the left lobe of the lungs, so that he was almost suffocated by the quantity of matter thrown up. But from this, as well as from another attack of the same kind, he recovered so completely, that his breath was not in the least affected.

As he advanced in years, however, he became subject to fits of the gout, to which, in 1782, a nephritic cholic was superadded. From this time, he was also affected with the stone, as well as the gout; and for the last twelve months of his life, these complaints almost entirely confined him to his bed.

"Notwithstanding his distressed situation, neither his mental faculties nor his natural cheerfulness ever forsook him. His memory was tenacious to the very last; and he seemed to be an exception to the general rule,—that at a certain period of life, the organs which are subservient to this faculty become callous; a remarkable instance of which is, that he learned to speak French after he had attained the age of seventy i"

In the beginning of April 1790, he was attacked with a fever and complaint of his breast, which terminated his existence. The following account of his last illness was written by his friend and physician, Dr. Jones.

"The stone, with which he had been afflicted for several years, had for the last twelve months confined him chiefly to his bed; and during the extremely painful paroxysms, he was obliged to take large doses of laudanum to mitigate his tortures —still, in the intervals of pain, he not only amused himself with reading and conversing cheerfully with his family, and a few friends who visited him, but was often employed in doing business of a public as well as private nature, with various persons who waited on him for that purpose; and in every instance displayed, not only that readiness and disposition of doing good, which was the distinguishing characteristic of his life, but the fullest and clearest possession of his uncommon mental abilities; and not unfrequently indulged himself in those jeux d'esprit and entertaining anecdotes, which were the delight of all who heard him.

"About sixteen days before his death, he was seized with a feverish indisposition, without any particular symptoms attending it, till the third or fourth day, when he complained of a pain in the left breast, which increased till it became extremely acute, attended with a cough and laborious breathing. During this state, when the severity of his pains sometimes drew forth a groan of complaint, he would observe —that he was afraid he did not bear them as he ought—acknowledged his grateful sense of the many blessings he had received from that Supreme Being, who had raised him from small and low beginnings to such high rank and consideration among men—and made no doubt but his present afflictions were kindly intended to wean him from a world, in which he was no longer fit to act the part assigned him. In this frame of body and mind he continued till five days before his death, when his pain and difficulty of breathing entirely left him, and his family were flattering themselves with the hopes of his recovery, when an imposthumation, which had Vol. I. * 3 F

formed itself in his lungs, suddenly burst, and discharged a great quantity of matter, which he continued to throw up while he had sufficient strength to do it, but, as that failed, the organs of respiration became gradually oppressed—a calm lethargic state succeeded—and, on the 17th of April 1790, about eleven o'clock at night, he quietly expired, closing a long and useful life of eighty-four years and three months."1

The following account of his funeral, and the honors paid to his memory, is derived from an anonymous source, but is correct.

"All that was mortal of this great man, was interred on the 21st of April, in the cemetery of Christ's Church, Philadelphia, in that part adjoining to Arch-street, in order that, if a monument should be erected over his grave, it might be seen to more advantage.

"Never was any funeral so numerously and so respectably attended in any part of the States of America. The concourse of people assembled upon this occasion was immense. All the bells in the city were muffled, and the very newspapers were published with black borders. The body was interred amidst peals of artillery; and nothing was omitted that could display the veneration of the citizens for such an illustrious character.

"The congress ordered a general mourning for one month, throughout America; the national Assembly of France * paid the same compliment for three days; and the commons of Paris, as an extraordinary tribute of honor to his memory, assisted in a body at the funeral oration, delivered by the Abbe Fauchet in the rotunda of the corn market, which was hung with black, illuminated with chandeliers, and decorated with devices analogous to the occasion.

1 Three days previous to his decease, he desired his daughter, Mrs. Bache, to have his bed made; ""in order that he might die in a decent manner," as was his expression: an idea probably suggested by an acquaintance with the custom of the ancients. —Mrs. Bache having replied, that she hoped he would recover, and live many years longer; he instantly rejoined, " I hope not."

2 National Assembly, \ lth June, 1790.

M. Mirabeau, the elder, having demanded and obtained leave to speak, addressed the Assembly as follows:

"Franklin Is Dead!"

[A profound silence reigns throughout the hall.)

"The genius, which gave freedom to America, and scattered torrents of light upon Europe, is returned to the bosom of the Divinity!

"The sage, whom two worlds claim; the man, disputed by the history of the sciences and the history of empires, holds, most undoubtedly, an elevated rank in the human species.

"Political cabinets have but too long notified the death of those who were never great but in their funeral orations; the etiquette of courts has but too long sanctioned hypocritical grief.—Nations ought only to mourn for their benefactors; the representatives of free men ought never to recommend any other than the heroes of humanity to their homage.

. "Dr. Smith, Provost of the College of Philadelphia, and Mr. Rittenhouse, one of

i

"The congress hath ordered a general mourning for one month throughout the fourteen confederated States, on account of the death of Franklin; and America hath thus acquitted her tribute of admiration in behalf of one of the fathers of her constitution.

"Would it not be worthy of you, fellow-legislators, to unUe yourselves in this religious act, to participate in this homage rendered in the face of the universe to the rights of man, and to the philosopher who has so eminently propagated the conquest of them throughout the world?

"Antiquity would have elevated altars to that mortal, who, for the advantage of the human race., embracing both heaven and earth in his vast and extensive mind, Isnew how to subdue thunder and tyranny!

"Enlightened and free, Europe at least owes its remembrance and its regret to one of the greatest men who has ever served the cause of philosophy and of liberty.

"I propose, that a decree do now pass, enacting, that the National Assembly shall wear mourning during three days for Benjamin Franklin."

M. M. de la Rochefoucault and La Fayette immediately rose, in order to second this motion.

The Assembly adopted it, at first, by acclamation; and afterwards decreed, by a large majority, amidst the plaudits of all the spectators, that on Monday the 14th of June it should go into mourning for three days; that the discourse of M. Mirabeau should be printed; and that the President should write -a letter of condolence, upon the occasion, to the Congress of America.

The Congress of the United States thus expressed their sentiments in return.

Resolved, by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of j4merica,in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States be requested to cause to be communicated to the National Assembly of France, the peculiar sensibility of Congress, to the tribute paid to the memory of Benjamin Franklin, by the enlightened and free representatives of a great nation, in their decree of the eleventh June, one thousand seven hundred and ninety.

Fred. Aug.. Mxchlemberg,
Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Signed • • • - .

John Adams,

Vice President of the United States, and President of

the Senate.

Approved March the Cd, 1791.

\ George Washington,

Stancd■ • • • I
° > President of the United States.

« ZurückWeiter »