« AnteriorContinuar »
An apology for presenting to the Republic of Letters the authentic memorials of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, illustrative of his Life and Times, written almost entirely with his own hand, would be at once superfluous and disrespectful. If any observation be at all requisite in the shape of explanation, it must be in answer to the inquiry, why such interesting documents have been so long withheld from public view ? To this the Editor has no hesitation in replying, that were he conscious of having neglected a solemn trust by disobeying a positive injunction; or could be be convinced that the world has sustained any real injury by the delay of the publication, he certainly should take shame to him. self for not having sooner committed to the press, what at an earlier period would have been much more to his pecuniary advantage. But aware, as he is, of the deference due to the general feeling of admiration for the illustrious dead, he is no less sensible that there are times and seasons when
prudence imposes the restriction of silence in the gratification even of the most laudable curiosity.
It was the lot of this distinguished character above' most men, to move, in the prominent parts of his active life, within a sphere agitated to no orclinary degree of heat by the inflammatory passions of political fury; and he had scarcely seated himself in the shade of repose, from the turmoil of public employment, when another revolution burst forth with far more tremendous violence; during the progress of which his name was adduced by anarchists as a sanction for their practices, and his authority quoted by dreaming theorists in support of their visionary projects. Whether, therefore, the publication of his Memoirs and other papers amidst such a scene of perturbation would have been conducive to the desirable ends of peace
may be a matter of question; but at all events the sober and inquisitive part of mankind can have no cause to regret the suspension of what might have suffered from the perverted talents of designing partizans and infuriated zealots. It may fairly be observed that the writings of Dr. FRANKLIN are calculated to serve a far more important purpose than that of ministering to the views of party, and keeping alive national divisions, which, however necessitated by circumstances, ought to cease with the occasion, and yield to the spirit of philanthropy. Even amidst the din of war and the contention of faction, it was the constant aim of this excellent man to promote a conciliatory disposition and to correct the acerbity of controversy. Though no one could feel more sensibly for the wrongs of his country, or have more enlarged ideas on the subject of general liberty, his powerful efforts to redress the one and extend the other, were always connected with the paramount object of social improvement in the recommendation of those habits which tend most effectually to unite men together in the bon is of amity. Happening, however, to live himself in a turbulent period, and called upon
take a leading part in those scenes which produced a new empire in the western world; much of his latter memoirs and correspondence will be found to exhibit his undisguised thoughts upon the public men and occurrences of his day. These sketches, anecdotes and reflections will now be read by men of opposite sentiments, without awakening painful recollections or rekindling the dying embers of animosity: while the historian and the moralist may learn from them the secret springs of public events, and the folly of being carried away by political prejudice.
While, therefore, some contracted minds in different countries may be querulously disposed to censure the delay that has taken place in the publication of these posthumous papers, it is presumed that the more considerate and liberal on either side of the Atlantic will approve of the motives which have operated for the procrastination, even though the period has so far exceeded the nonumque prematur in annum, assigned by Horace, the oldest and best of critics, for the appearance of a finished performance.