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The Editor, in offering this justificatory plea to the public, and taking credit for having exercised so much discretion as to keep these relics in his private custody till the return of halcyon days and a brightened horizon, when their true value might be best appreciated, feels that he has discharged his duty in that manner which the venerable writer himself would have prescribed, could he have antieipated the disorders which have ravaged the most polished and enlightened states since his removal from this scene of pride and weakness, where nations as well as individuals have their periods of infancy and decrepitude, of moral vigor and wild derangement.
Shortly after the death of DR. FRANKLIN there were not wanting the usual train of Literary Speculators to exercise their industry in collecting his avowed productions, together with those which public rumor ascribed to his pen. These miscellanies were printed in various forms both in England and America, greatly to the advantage of the publishers; nor did the possessor of the originals avail himself of the general avidity and the celebrity of
his ancestor, to deprive those persons of the profits which they continued to reap from repeated editions of papers that had cost them nothing. When, however, they had reason to apprehend that the genuine memoirs and other works of FRANKlin, as written and corrected by himself, would be brought forward in a manner suitable to their importance and the dignified rank of the author in the political and literary world, invidious reports were sent abroad and circulated with uncommon diligence, asserting that all the literary remains of DR. FRANKLIN had been purchased at an enormous rate by the British Ministry, who (mirabile dictu) it seems were more afraid of this arsenal of paper than of the power of France with all her numerous resources and auxiliaries. This convenient tale, absurd as it was, found reporters both in Europe and in the United States, who bruited it about with so much art, as to make many who were unacquainted with the legatee of the manuscripts believe it to be true, and to lament feelingly that such inestimable productions should be suppressed and lost for ever through the cupidity of the person to whom they were bequeathed. Pro
voking as the story was, the party whom it most affected, and whose interests it was designed to injure, felt too much of the mens conscia recti to do other than treat the ridiculous invention with contempt, from a persuasion that the refutation of an improbable falsehood is beneath the dignity of truth. He therefore endured the opprobrium without complaint, and even suffered it to be repeated without being goaded into an explanation; contentedly waiting for the time when he might best fulfil his duty, and shame his calumniators. That period has at length arrived, and the world will now see whether an enlightened government could be weak enough to be frightened by the posthumous works of a philosopher; or whether a man of integrity, bred under FRANKLIN, bearing his name, and entrusted with his confidence, could be bribed into an act of treachery to his memory.
Of the present work it remains to be observed that the only portion which has hitherto appeared in any form, is the first fasciculus of the Memoirs of DR. FRANKLIN, extending from his birth to the year 1731, forming only Part I. of the
present volume. But even what has formerly been printed of this fragment can scarcely lay any claim to originality, since the English edition is no more than a translation from the French, which of itself is a professed version of a transcription; so that the metamorphoses of this interesting piece of biography may be said to resemble the fate of Milton's Epic Poem, which a French Abbé paraphrased into inflated prose, which an English writer, ignorant of its origin, turned back again under the same double disguise into its native language.
Admitting, however, that the small portion of the memoir as already given to the world, is substantially correct in the narrative, the present publication of it must be infinitely more estimable by being printed literally from the original autograph.
It is much to be regretted that DR. FRANKLIN was not enabled, by his numerous avocations and the infirmities of old age, to complete the narrative of his life in his own inimitable manner. That he intended to have done this is certain, from his cor
respondence, as well as from the parts in continuation of the memoir which are now for the first time communicated to the world. But the convulsed state of things during the American revolution, the lively concern which he had in that memorable event, and his multiplied public engage ments after contributing to the establishment of the independence of his country, prevented him from indulging his own inclinations and complying with the earnest desire of his numerous friends.
Upon the editor, therefore, has devolved the task of filling up the chasms in the best manner that he could from the letters and other papers of his revered relative; and where and where these documents failed in giving adequate information, by supplying the deficiencies from STUBER'S CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF DR. FRANKLIN, and other sources upon the fidelity of which any dependence could be placed for the accuracy of what they imparted. In executing this part of his trust, the editor is sensible how much reason he has to solicit the indulgence of the reader; but though fully conscious that no talent short of DR. FRANKLIN'S own could