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shall with it retain the esteem, respect and affection, which have long been, my dear friend, yours, most sincerely.” To which Washington, with unwonted warmth and earnestness of expression, replies: “If to be venerated for benevolence, if to be admired for talents, if to be esteemed for patriotism, if to be beloved for philanthropy, can gratify the human mind, you must have the pleasing consolation to know that you have not lived in vain. And I flatter myself that it will not be ranked among the least grateful occurrences of your life to be assured that, so long as I retain my memory, you will be recollected with respect, veneration and affection, by your sincere friend, George Washington.”
Very beautiful is the spectacle of the closing years of Franklin's long and laborious life. Though not without his share of physical infirmities, he retained his lively interest in public affairs, his warm social and domestic sympathies, his amenity and serenity of temor his active and vigorous intellect, his abiding faith in anjuries and a better life. He seems to have realized the wish expressed in another's behalf by Wordsworth:
“ Thy thoughts and feelings shall not die,
A melancholy slave;
Shall lead thee to thy grave.
His correspondence at this time, in the vivacity, humor, justness of thought, and happy reliance on Providence, which it exhibits, is a model of style and mood. To a friend in London he writes, May 18, 1787: “When I consider how many terrible diseases the human body is liable to, I comfort myself that only three incurable ones have fallen to my share, namely, the gout, the stone and old
and that these have not yet deprived me of my natural cheerfulness, my delight in books, and enjoyment of social conversation. In the next paragraph, alluding to a friend who had been lately married, he says: “After all, wedlock is the natural state of man. A bachelor is not a complete human being. He is like the odd half of a pair of scissors, which has not yet found its fellow, and therefore is not even
half so useful as they might be together.” Writing to George Whatley May 18, 1787, he says: “You are now seventy-eight and I am eighty-two; you tread fast upon my heels; but, though you have more strength and spirit, you cannot come up with me till I stop, which must now be soon; for I am grown so old as to have buried most of the friends of my youth, and I now often hear persons
whom I knew when children called old Mr. Such-a-one, to distinguish them from their sons, now men grown and in business ; so that, by living twelve years beyond David's period, I seem to have intruded myself into the company of posterity, when I ought to have been abed and asleep. Yet had I gone at seventy it would have cut off twelve of the most active years of my life, employed too in matters of the greatest importance; but whether I have been doing good or mischief is for time to discover. I only know that I intended well, and I hope all will end well.'
To a friend in France he writes, November 13, 1789: “It is now more than a year since I have heard from my dear friend Le Roy. What can be the reason ? Are you still living? Or have the mob of Paris mistaken the head of a monopolizer of knowledge for a monopolizer of corn, and paraded it about the streets ?” And then, gliding from gay
grave, he adds: “Great part of the news we have had from Paris, for near a year past, has been very afflicting. I sincerely wish and pray it may all end well and happy, both for the king and the nation.”
To the Rev. John Lothrop, Boston, he writes, May 31, 1788, hopefully and prophetically of the progress of mankind, morally and physically. “I have been long impressed,” he says, "with the same sentiments you so well express of the growing felicity of mankind, from the improvements in philosophy, morals, politics and even the conveniences of common living, and the invention and acquisition of new and useful utensils and instruments ; so that I have sometimes almost wished it had been my destiny to be born two or three centuries hence. For invention and improvement are prolific, and beget more of their kind." Shall we believe that this divine thirst for knowledge, which age could not diminish, has ended at the tomb, and that the great discoveries of the last half-century are a blank to the
intellect which was their bold precursor, finding delight in kindred triumphs of mind over matter ?
"The style of his letters * in general," says Lord Jeffrey, " is excellent. They are chiefly remarkable for great simplicity of language, admirable good sense and ingenuity, and an amiable and inoffensive cheerfulness, that is never overclouded or eclipsed." “ There is something extremely amiable in old age, when thus exhibited without querulousness, discontent or impatience, and free, at the same time, from any affected or unbecoming levity.” Not only the style of his letters, but of all his published compositions, is a model of plain and unaffected diction, exhibiting an affluence of thought with great economy of words. There is sometimes a pithy sententiousness in his expressions, by which his meaning is conveyed with wonderful precision and expansion; as where, in allusion to the declaratory act of the British Parliament, asserting the right to tax Americans, he says: “I will freely spend nineteen shillings in the pound to defend my right of giving or refusing the other shilling; and, after all
, if I can not defend that right, I will retire cheerfully with my little family into the boundless woods of America, which are sure to afford freedom and subsistence to any man who can bait a hook or pull a trigger.” Of his philosophical writings, Sir Humphrey Davy says: “A singular felicity of induction guided all his researches, and by very small means he established very grand truths. The style and manner of his publication on Electricity are almost as worthy of admiration as the doctrine: it contains. He has endeavored to remove all mystery and obscurity from the subject. He has written equally for the uninitiated and for the philosopher; and he has rendered his details amusing as well as perspicuous, elegant as well as simple. Science appears in his language in a dress
Although the number of his letters in existence is sufficient to show that his epistolary industry was remarkable, some of the most valuable have been lost. When he went to France, he left a chest of papers with Mr. Joseph Galloway (of whom see a mention, page 39). Mr. G. joined che enemy, leaving the papers in Philadelphia ; and they were rifled and scattered during the occupation of that city by the British. Franklin's own house was occupied by the enemy at the time ; and his books and some other articles were carried off.
wonderfully decorous, the best adapted to display her native loveliness.''
To his sister, Mrs. Mecom, his letters exhibit invariable kindness and generosity. The following is but one specimen out of many of the substantial nature of his attentions. Under date of November 4, 1787, he writes: "Your bill is honored. It is impossible for me always to guess what you may want, and I hope, therefore, that you will never be shy in letting me know wherein I can help to make your life more comfortable.'' Even in his charities, he seems to have had an eye to utility in making them stretch as far as possible. While in France, Mr. Nixon, an English clergyman, prisoner on parole, applied to him for pecuniary aid. Franklin sent him a permission to draw on him for five louis d'ors, remarking, "Some time or other you may have an opportunity of assisting with an equal sum a stranger who has equal need of it. Do so. By that means you will discharge any obligation you may suppose yourself under to
Enjoin him to do the same on occasion. By pursuing such a practice, much good may be done with little money. Let kind offices go round. Mankind are all of a family."
Inheriting from healthy and temperate parents a constitution favorable to longevity, he attended carefully to the laws of health, and, until the period of his residence in France, took abundant exercise in the open air. Franklin," says John Adams, in his diary at Passy, "upon my saying, the other day, that I fancied he did not exercise so much as he was wont, answered, 'Yes, I walk a league every day in my chamber; I walk quick, and for an hour, so that I go a league; I make a point of religion of it.'" It is believed, however, that the confinement required by his official duties led to diseases which abbreviated his life, and prevented its reaching his father's term of eighty-nine years. He was afflicted with gout, to which supervened, in 1782, a severe calculous complaint; and, with occasional intermissions, they became so severe as to confine him, the last twelve months of his life, almust constantly to his bed. In the letter to President Washington already quoted from, he says: "For my own personal ease, I should have died two years ago; but, though those years have been passer
in excruciating pain, I am pleased that I have lived them,
his manners and his words of sage advice and pleasantry had an indescribable charm. Sir Samuel Romilly, when a young man, called on him at Passy (1782), with a friend. " Dr. Franklin,” he writes," was indulgent enough to converse a good deal with us, whom he observed to be young men very desirous of improving by his conversation. Of all the celebrated persons whom, in my life, I have chanced to see, Dr. F., both from his appearance and his conversation, seemed to me the most remarkable. His venerable, patriarchal
appearance, the simplicity of his manners and language, and the novelty of his observations,- at least, the novelty of them at that time to me, — impressed me with an opinion of him as one of the most extraordinary men that ever existed.”
In April, 1790, his illness had so increased that the constant attendance of his physician, Dr. John Jones, was required. John Adams mentions a report that, in the opinion of Franklin's "own able physician, Dr. Jones, he fell a sacrifice, at last, not to the stone, but to his own theory, having caught the violent cold which finally choked him, by sitting for some hours at a window, with the cool air blowing upon him.” Dr. Jones published an account of Franklin's last illness, in which he makes no mention