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day, to “Solon embracing Sophocles.” Voltaire lived only a month after this second encounter with his American contemporary
Franklin was greatly annoyed at this time by applications for employment in the service of the United States. In a letter to a friend he says: “Frequently, if a man has no useful talents, is good for nothing, and burdensome to his relations, or is indiscreet, profligate and extravagant, they are glad to get rid of him by sending him to the other end of the world; and for that purpose scruple not to recommend him to those they wish should recommend him to others, as 'un bon sujet - plein de merite,' &c. &c. In consequence of my crediting such recommendations, my own . are out of credit, and I cannot advise anybody to have the least dependence on them.' And he humorously adds : “You can have no conception how I am harassed. friends are sought out and teased to tease me. Great ofiticers of all ranks, in all departments, ladies great and small, besides professed solicitors, worry me from morning to night. The noise of every coach now that enters my court terrifies me. I am afraid to accept an invitation to dine abroad, being almost sure of meeting with some officer or officer's friend, who, as soon as I am put in good humor by a glass or two of champagne, begins his attack upon me."
There was one illustrious exception to the annoyances he received from applications for letters to America. The following passage is from a letter to Congress, signed by him and Mr. Deane: “The Marquis de Lafayette, a young nobleman of great family connections here, and great wealth, is gone to America in a ship of his own, accompanied by some officers of distinction, in order to serve in our armies. He is exceedingly beloved, and everybody's good wishes attend him. We cannot but hope he may meet with such a reception as will make the country and his expedition agreeable to him."
Most of the business of the commission was, for the first eight or nine months, transacted by Franklin and Deane, Mr. Arthur Lee being absent the greater part of the time in Spain and Germany. The feelings of this gentleman towards his colleagues do not seem to have been of a character that promised harmony of action. Thinking that Mr
Deane had taken the negotiation with Beaumarchais out of his hands, he had quarrelled with him incontinently Towards Franklin his malevolence seems to have commenced in London, on account of the prolongation of Franklin's stay there as agent for Massachusetts, while he himself was expecting the reversion of the office. Petulant, irritable and distrustful, he seems to have been one of that class of persons who think that nothing can be well carried out in which they do not have a ruling hand. Returning to Paris, he found fault with all that his
colleagues had done or left undone during his absence; criticized their contracts; charged them with squandering, if not embezzling, the public money; and intimated that where they had not favored themselves in the disposition of it, they had used it for the benefit of their friends. In replying to one of his letters, Franklin writes : “ It is true that I have omitted answering some of your letters, particularly your angry ones, in which you, with very magisterial airs, schooled and documented me, as if I had been one of your domestics. I saw in the strongest light the importance of our living in decent civility towards each other while our great affairs were depending here. I saw your jealous, suspicious, malignant and quarrelsome temper, which was daily manifesting itself against Mr. Deane, and almost every other person you had any concern with. I, therefore, passed your affronts in silence; did not answer, but burnt, your angry letters; and received you, when I next saw you, with the same civility as if
had never wrote them."
On the subject of personal expenses, Franklin adds: “If you think we should account to one another for our expenses, I have no objection, though I never expected it. I believe they will be found very moderate. I answer mine will, having had only the necessaries of life, and purchased nothing besides, except the Encyclopedia, nor sent a sixpence worth of anything to my friends or family in America.”
Not content with scolding his colleagues on the spot, Arthur Lee wrote home injurious letters respecting them to members of Congress, charging them with peculation and indifference to the public interests. He did not have the craft, however, to conceal his ambitious motive. In the same letter in which he casts these aspersions upon his col.
leagues, he proposes that he should be retained at the court of France, Franklin sent to Vienna, and Deane to Holland. An ally, in the person of Mr. Ralph Izard, soon appeared on the scene, from whom Mr. Lee received comfort and countenance in his acrimonious course towards his colleagues. Mr. Izard had been appointed by Congress commissioner to the Court of Tuscany. He preferred to remain in Paris, and claimed a voice in the negotiations with the court of France. Franklin does not seem to have encouraged the claim, and this was Mr. Izard's first griev
His second was, that Franklin, through whom the public drafts were negotiated, after having paid to Mr. Izard some twelve thousand dollars as commissioner to Tuscany, declined paying him any more until there was a prospect of his getting to Tuscany, or, at least, until he was otherwise instructed by Congress. Mr. Izard, who was a passionate though not ungenerous man, took mortal offence at this refusal to open the public purse-strings, and was profuse thenceforward in his denunciations of Franklin. To the annoyances resulting from the personal hostility of Messrs. Lee and Izard, the brave old man submitted with his habitual equanimity and good temper. To Mr. Izard he writes: “I must submit to remain some days under the opinion you appear to have formed, not only of my poor understanding in the general interests of America, but of my defects in sincerity, politeness, and attention to your instructions. These offences, I flatter myself, admit of fair excuses, or will be found not to have existed.''
Mr. Deane did not exercise due caution in the matter of engaging foreign officers; and as Congress began to feel some inconveniences from his imprudence in this respect, they recalled him, and appointed John Adams his successor. Mr. Adams arrived in Paris April 8, 1778. It appears, from his recently published diary while in France, that his sentiments towards Franklin were far from friendly. He writes : “ The first moment Dr. Franklin and I happened to be alone, he began to complain to me of the coolness, as he very coolly called it, between the American ministers." “Franklin's cunning will be to divide us,” says
Mr. Adams on another occasion. And again : “Thinking this to be the best course I could take, to become familiar with the
language and its correct pronunciation I determined to frequent the theatres as often as possible. Accordingly, I went as often as I could, and found a great advantage in it, as well as an agreeable entertainment. But as Dr. Franklin had almost daily occasion for the carriage, and I was determined the public should not be put to the expense of another for me, I could not go so often as I wished.”
The truth was, that Franklin's reputation in France so towered above that of his colleagues, that the latter found themselves mere ciphers by his side, both in society and in diplomatic encounters. Mr. Adams candidly admits this. “On Dr. Franklin," he says, "the eyes of all Europe are fixed, as the most important character in American affairs in Europe; neither Lee nor myself is looked upon of much consequence." To men of spirit, in their country's service, this absorption of their diplomatic individualities in another must have been galling in the extreme. Adams felt it, as well as Lee; but, instead of intriguing to have Franklin displaced, he simply wrote home to a member of Congress, representing the inconveniences resulting from the multiplicity of ministers, and recommending the continuance of one only. This he did, after considering, as he tells us, that the consequence of his plan would be that Franklin “would, undoubtedly, as he ought, be left alone at the court of Versailles," and that for himself the alternative would be to return to America. These representations had their weight with Congress, and on the 14th of September, 1778, Franklin was appointed minister plenipotentiary to the court of France. His enemies had created some little opposition to him in Congress, and, at one time, on a proposition for his recall, among thirty-five members, eight votea in favor of it, and twenty-seven against it. He took no trouble to contradict malevolent reports, but relied upon the justice of Congress to take no step without giving him an opportunity of exculpation; and his reliance was justified by the result. Some years afterwards, he wrote to John Jay: “I have, as you observe, some enemies in England, but they are my enemies as an American; I have also two or three in America, who are my enemies as a minister ; but I thank God there are not in the whole world any who are my enemies as a man; for by His grace, through a long
life, I have been enabled to conduct myself that there does not exist a human being who can justly say, 'Ben Franklin has wronged me. This, my friend, is, in old age, a comfortable reflection.'
As the British government had now a prospective war with France and Spain on their hands, they began to be desirous of making terms with the United States. Several secret agents, selected generally on account of their persunal acquaintance with Franklin, were sent over to Paris to confer with him on the subject of a negotiation. James Hutton, secretary to the society of Moravians, and whom Franklin addresses as “his dear old friend,” came first; then followed Mr. Pulteney, a member of Parliament, who assumed in Paris the name of Williams; and finally came Mr. David Hartley, also a member of Parliament, affectionately regarded by Franklin. To all these informal negotiators he replied that every proposition implying a return on the part of the United States to a dependence on Great Britain was now become impossible; but that a peace, on equal terms, undoubtedly might be made. Finding that he could get little satisfaction for the ministry from Franklin, Mr. Hartley, in a letter of April 23, 1778, wrote to him: “If tempestuous times should come, take care of your own safety; events are uncertain, and men may be capricious." To which Franklin replies: “I thank you for your kind caution, but, having nearly finished a long life, I set but little value on what remains of it. Like a draper when one cheapens with him for a remnant, I am ready to say, 'As it is only the fag-end, I will not differ with you about it; take it for what you please. Perhaps the best use such an old fellow could be put to is to make a martyr of him."
In June, 1778, he received from a supposed secret agent of the British ministry, signing himself Charles De Weissenstein, a letter, declaring the impossibility of their recognizing the independence of the Colonies ; proposing that America should be governed by a Congress of American peers, and that Franklin, Washington, Adams and Hancock, should be of the number. 6 Ask our friend if he should like to be a peer ?” writes John Adams to Elbridge Gerry, in ridicule of the proposition. “Dr. Franklin, to