Imágenes de páginas

of any such fact. We subjoin the following extracts from it:

The stone, with which he had been afflicted for several years, had, for the last twelve months of his life, 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 by 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 of a private nature, with various persons who waited upon him for that purpose ; and, in every instance, displayed not only the readiness and disposition to do good which were the distinguishing characteristics of his life, but the fullest and clearest possession of his uncommon abilities. He also not unfrequently indulged in those jeux d'esprit and entertaining anecdotes which were the delight of all who heard them.

“ About sixteen days before his death, he was seized with a feverish disposition, without any particular symptoms attending it, till the third or fourth day, when he complained of a pain in his left breast, which increased till it became extremely acute, attended by a cough and laborious breathing. During this state, when the severity of his pains drew forth a groan of complaint, he would observe that he was afraid he did not bear them as he ought; acknowledging his grateful sense of the many blessings he had received from the supreme Being, who had raised him from small and low beginnings to such high rank and consideration among men; and made no doubt but that 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 until five days before his death, when the pain and difficulty of breathing entirely left him, and his family were flattering themselves with the hopes of his recovery; but an imposthume, which had formed in his lungs, suddenly burst, and discharged a quantity of matter, which he continued to throw


while he had power; but, as that failed, the organs of respiration became gradually. oppressed; a calm, lethargic state suc ceeded; and on the 17th instant (April 1790), about

[merged small][ocr errors]

eleven o'clock at night, he quietly expired, closing a long and useful life of eighty-four years and three months.”

“The evening of his life," says Dr. Rush, “ was marked by the same activity of his moral and intellectual powers which distinguished its meridian. His conversation with his family upon the subject of his dissolution was free and cheerful. A few days before he died, he rose from his bed, and begged that it might be made up for him, so that he " might die in a decent manner.' His daughter told him . that she hoped he would recover, and live many years longer. He calmly replied, 'I hope not. Upon being advised to change his position in bed, that he might breathe easy, he said, ' A dying man can do nothing easy.'

His attached friend, Mrs. Hewson, once Mary Stevenson, daughter of his London landlady, was “the faithful witness of the closing scene," and has left an interesting account of it. “ No repining,” she says, “no peevish expression, ever escaped him during a confinement of two years,

in which, I believe, if every moment of ease could be added together, the sum would not amount to two whole months. When the pain was not too violent to be amused, he employed himself with his books, his pen, or in conversation with his friends; and upon every occasion displayed the clearness of his intellect and the cheerfulness of his temper. Even when the intervals from pain were so short that his words were frequently interrupted, I have known him to hold a discourse in a sublime strain of piety.” "I shall never forget one day that I passed with our friend last

I found him in bed in great agony, but when that agony abated a little I asked if I should read to him. He said Yes; and the first book I met with was Johnson's

Lives of the Poets.' I read the life of Watts, who was a favorite author with Dr. Franklin; and, instead of lulling him to sleep, it roused him to a display of the powers of his memory

and his reason. He repeated several of Watts's 'Lyric Poems,' and descanted upon their sublimity in a strain worthy of them and of their pious author. It is natural for us to wish that an attention to some ceremonies had accompanied that religion of the heart which I am convinced Dr. Franklin always possessed; but let us, who feel the benefit of them, continue to practise them, without thinking



lightly of that piety which could support pain without a murmur, and meet death without terror.'!

He had expressed a wish in his will that his body should be buried - with as little expense or ceremony as may be." The funeral took place the 21st of April, and was attended by the members of the city and state governments, the various societies of the city, and some twenty thousand citi

The bells were muffled and tolled; flags displayed at half-mast; and the consignment of the body to the earth was signalized by peals of artillery. His remains lie in the north-west corner of Christ Church Cemetery, in the city of Philadelphia, by the side of those of his wife.

"I wish to be buried,” he writes in his will, "by the side of my wife, if it may be; and that a marble stone, to be made by Chambers, six feet long, four feet wide, plain, with only a small moulding round the upper edge, and this inscription :



178to be placed over us both." His modest wishes have been fulfilled. So well hidden is this grave at the present day, that we have known many native Philadelphians who could not direct one to the place.

The following epitaph, the metaphor in which, though not original, has never before been so well expressed, was written by Franklin when he was about twenty-three years


of age :

“ The Body

Benjamin Franklin,

(Like the cover of an old book,

Its contents torn out,
And stript of its lettering and gilding),

Lies here, food for worms.
But the work itself shall not be lost,
For it will, as he believed, appear once more,
In a new and more elegant edition,
Revised and corrected


[ocr errors]

Congress, which was in session at New York, took suitable notice of Franklin's death ; and, on motion of Mr Madison, resolved that the members should wear the customary badge of mourning for one month, "as a mark of veneration due to the memory of a citizen whose native genius was not more an ornament to human nature than his various exertions of it have been precious to science, to freedom and to his country. In France high honors were paid. Condorcet eulogized him in the Academy, and Mirabeau from the tribune of the National Assembly.

- Antiquity,” said the latter, “would have erected altars to this great and powerful genius."

In his will, after distributing his property and various memorials among his kindred * and friends, and the societies of which he was a member, Franklin left one thousand pounds to the city of Philadelphia, and the same sum to the town of Boston, to be put at interest and loaned in small sums to young married mechanics. The advantages which he anticipated from these bequests. have not been fully realized. The Philadelphia legacy is now worth about twenty thousand dollars; the Boston legacy had accumulated in 1853 to the sum of fifty-four thousand two hundred and eighty dollars, and will reach, it is estimated, in 1891 (one hundred years from the time the bequest was made), the sum of four hundred thousand dollars, if the average rate of interest continues the same as for the last twenty years. Another donation, of about one hundred pounds, to the town of Boston, to be expended in the purchase of silver medals for the most meritorious pupils in the public schools, has been fruitful of good. The " Franklin medals” are still annually bestowed; and show that the testator could have devised no mode better suited to keep his memory green in the minds of the youth attending the free schools, to which he himself “owed his first instructions in literature."


* There is not now any male descendant of Franklin bearing his name. His grandson, William Temple Franklin, died without issue. His daughter Sarah married Richard Bache in 1767, and their descendants are numerous, six out of seven marrying, namely, Benjamin Franklin Bache, who married Margaret Marcoe ; William, who married Catharine Wistar; Deborah, Wm. J. Duane ; Richard, a daughter of Alexander J. Dallas ; barah, Thomas Sargeant.

The prudential maxims, quoted or originated by Franklin in his Almanac, have given an erroneous impression in regard to his character. If he commended frugality, it was because through that virtue the glorious privilege of being independent” might be attained. “A penny saved is a penny earned” was but introductory to the maxim, “Spare, that you may shere.” He exercised a wise generosity whenever he had an opportunity to enlarge the comforts or improve the condition of his countrymen. His devotion to scientific pursuits was entirely free from a mercenary anticipation. It does not appear that he ever received from them any other returns than of "empty praise;" and yet they must have involved a great sacrifice of time, that might have been converted into lucre. When he invented his stove, he refused a patent, from which he might have derived a handsome annual income, and gave it freely to the public. He sought no profit whatever from his published writings, and indicated a singular carelessness in regard to them. He was continually devising some plan for advancing the comfort and general interests of his fellowmen; at one time establishing a subscription library, and then a hospital; now forming the first fire-engine company in the country, and then a philosophical society; now introducing the yellow willow-tree for making baskets, and then the agricultural use of plaster; now establishing an academy, and then suggesting an improvement in common sewers ; now harnessing the lightning, and then contriving a copying machine; now studying the best mode of paving streets, and then planning the union of the Colonies; now suggesting to navigators a mode of testing the water of the Gulf Stream, and then devising a cure for smoky chimneys. It would be difficult to give a complete enumeration of all his contributions to the cause of science and civilization. Alluding to his present of some Rhenish grape-vines to Mr. Quincy, John Adams says: “Thus, he (Franklin) took the trouble to hunt over the city, and not finding vines there, he sends seventy miles into the country, and then sends one bundle by water, and, lest they should miscarry, another by land, to a gentleman whom he owed nothing to and was but little acquainted with, purely for the sake of doing good in the world by propagating the Rhenish vines

« AnteriorContinuar »