Imágenes de páginas

- the 16

not sense enough to embrace, so I conclude she has lost them forever.” In the same letter he says: “My time was never more fully employed. In the morning, at six, I am at the Committee of Safety, appointed by the Assembly to put the Province in a state of defence, which committee holds till near nine, when I am at the Congress, and that sits till after four in the afternoon."

On the 26th of May, 1775, the committee of the whole reported, and Congress resolved that hostilities had been commenced by Great Britain; and it was voted that the Colonies ought to be put in a posture of defence. The “humble petition

one more chance to which Franklin alludes was the petition to the king carried by John Dickinson, and others of the moderate party, against the views of John Adams and others, who thought that the time for “humble petitions" had gone by. The first sketch of a plan of confederation ever presented to Congress is due to Franklin, who brought it forward the 21st of July, 1775. It practically involved independence, but differed in many particulars from the plan ultimately adopted. The name which he proposed for the confederacy was “The United Colonies of North America.' About this time Congress established a post-office system of its own, and appointed Franklin Postmaster General.

On all the most important committees, public or secret, formed by Congress, Franklin was placed, and le entered into the duties of them with all the buoyancy and activity of youth. As chairman of the Committee of Safety, he projected the chevaux-de-frise in the Delaware, for the protection of Philadelphia, then the residence of Congress. When the Continental paper-money system was under discussion, he recommended that the bills should bear interest; and it was a matter of regret, when too late, that his advice had not been adopted. In October, 1775, Franklin was one of a committee appointed by Congress to consult with Washington at his head-quarters at Cambridge, near Boston, in relation to a new organization of the army. General Greene writes, October 16, 1775: “The committee of Congress arrived last evening, and I had the honor to be introduced to that very great man, Doctor Franklin, whom I viewed

[ocr errors][merged small]

with silent admiration during the whole evening. Attention watched his lips, and conviction closed his periods.”

Besides serving in Congress, Franklin, at this period, represented the city of Philadelphia in the Pennsylvania Assembly, and was at the same time a member of the Congress Committees of Safety and of Secret Correspondence. Early in 1776, he was appointed, with Samuel Chase and Charles Carroll, a commissioner to Canada to obtain the coöperation of the inhabitants. He was nearly a month in accomplishing the journey to Montreal, and suffered considerably in his health, from the hardships of the route. It was not till June that we got back to Philadelphia. Having resigned his places in the Assembly and the Committee of Safety, he now devoted himself to the important business before Congress, and was appointed one of a committee of five, including Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert R. Livingston, to prepare a Declaration of Independence. The original draft, by Jefferson, of this momentous document, contains interlineations in the handwriting of Franklin. The Declaration was finally adopted by Congress the fourth of July, 1776. It is related that when Franklin and others were signing their names to this immortal document, John Hancock remarked, "We must be unanimous, - we must all hang together; to which Franklin replied, “Yes, if we would not hang separately."

A characteristic anecdote is related by Jefferson. Alluding to the mutilations made in his draft of the Declaration in committee of the whole, he says: “I was sitting by Dr. Franklin, who perceived that I was not insensible to these mutilations. I have made it a rule,' said he, 'whenever in my power, to avoid becoming the draftsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body. I took my lesson from an incident which I will relate to you.

When I was a journeyman-printer, one of my companions, an apprenticehatter, having served out his time, was about to open shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome sign-board, with a proper inscription. He composed it in these words : John Thompson, hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money, with a figure of a hat subjoined. But he thought he would submit it to his friends for their

[ocr errors]

amendments. The first he showed it to thought the word hatter tautologous, because followed by the words makes hats, which showed he was a hatter. It was struck out. The next observed that the word makes might as well be omitted, because his customers would not care who made the hats; if good and to their mind, they would buy, by whomsoever made. He struck it out. A third said he thought the words for ready money were useless, as it was not the custom of the place to sell on credit. Every one who purchased expected to pay. They were parted with, and the inscription now stood: John Thompson sells hats. Sells hats?" says his next friend; "why, nobody will expect you to give them away. What, then, is the use of that word?" It was stricken out, and hats followed, the rather as there was one painted on the board. So his inscription was reduced, ultimately, to John Thompson, with the figure of a hat subjoined.'

Franklin was president of the Pennsylvania convention for forming a constitution; but he was unable to give that time to its deliberations which was desirable. By the instrument finally adopted, religious toleration was partially secured, and the right of suffrage extended. Ilis hand may be recognized in the feature of a single Legislative Assembly, by which he thought the process of legislation would be simplified and accelerated. He used to illustrate the inconveniences of a double chamber by comparing them to those of a double-headed snake, who would be in an unpleasant dilemma, if it should be travelling among bushes, and one head should choose to go on one side of the stem of a bush, and the other head should prefer the other side, and neither of the heads would consent to come back, or give way. This theory of a single chamber was abandoned by Pennsylvania, and is not now incorporated in any one of our state constitutions. But it found favor in France, where it was adopted in the National Assemblies which the revolutions of 1789 and 1848.

The plan of a confederation being before Congress, Franklin was a strenuous opponent of the proposition for giving states an equal vote, without regard to their population. He contended that the article allotting one vote to the smallest state, and no more to the largest, was unjust and injuri

sprang from


As president of the Pennsylvania convention, he drew up a Protest on this subject, but forebore to urge it, in consideration of the state of the country.

Early in 1776 the British Parliament passed a somewhat incongruous act, one provision of which was to “prohibit and restrain" the trade of the refractory Colonies," and the other to enable persons appointed by the king to grant pardons. With a view to the latter object, Lord Howe, who was at the head of the British fleet in North America, was in May appointed joint commissioner with his brother, General William Howe. Lord Howe wrote a private letter to Franklin, which the latter answered.

- Your lordship, he wrote, "may possibly remember the tears of joy that wet my cheek, when, at your good sister's in London, you once gave me expectations that a reconciliation might soon take place.” After the battle of Long Island, Lord Howe expressed to General Sullivan, who had been taken prisoner and liberated on parole, a desire to confer with a delegation from Congress. That body accordingly appointed Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Edward Rutledge, a committee of conference. They met Lord Howe at Staten Island, opposite Amboy, within the British lines. His lordship received and entertained them politely, but acquainted them that he could not treat with them as a committee of Congress, although his powers enabled him to consult with them as private gentlemen of influence in the Colonies. Finding, however, that no accommodation was likely to take place, he put an end to the conference, and the committee returned and reported the result to Congress. This conference with Lord Howe took place September 11, 1776. John Adams has left an amusing account of the journey of the committee from Philadelphia to Staten Island. "The taverns,

were so full, we could with difficulty obtain entertainment. At Brunswick but one bed could be procured for Dr. Franklin and me, in a chamber little larger than the bed, without a chimney, and with only one small window. The window was open, and I, who was an invalid and afraid of the air in the night, shut it close. "O!' says Franklin, don't shut the window, - we shall be suffocated. I answered I was afraid of the evening air. Dr. Franklin replied, "The air within this chamber will

” he says,

soon be, and indeed is now, worse than that without doors. Come, open the window and come to bed, and I will convince you. I believe you are not acquainted with my theory of colds.' Opening the window and leaping into bed, I said I had read his letters to Dr. Cooper, in which he had advanced that nobody ever got cold by going into a cold church or any other cold air, but the theory was so little consistent with my experience, that I thought it a paradox. However, I had so much curiosity to hear his reasons, that I would run the risk of a cold. The Doctor then began a harangue upon air and cold, and respiration and perspiration, with which I was so much amused that I soon fell asleep, and left him and his philosophy together; but I believe they were equally sound and insensible within a few minutes after me, for the last words I heard were pronounced as if he was more .than half asleep. I remember little of the lecture, except that the human body, by respiration and perspiration, destroys a gallon of air in a minute; that two such persons as were now in that chamber would consume all the air in it in an hour or two; that by breathing over again the matter thrown off by the lungs and the skin we should imbibe the real cause of colds, not from abroad, but from within."

In December, 1775, Franklin, as one of the Committee of Secret Correspondence, had written to his friends abroad, and particularly to M. Dumas, in Holland, requesting information as to whether any of the European courts were disposed to afford assistance to the American Colonies in their struggle for independence. It being decided to make an application to France for aid, three commissioners namely, Benjamin Franklin, Silas Deane and Arthur Lee -- were appointed by Congress to negotiate with that power. Two of the commissioners were already in Europe. Franklin, accompanied by his two grandsons, William Temple Franklin and Benjamin Franklin Bache, left Philadelphia October 26, 1776, procecded to Marcus Hook, and, the next day, embarked in the United States sloop-of-war Reprisal, mounting sixteen guns, and commanded by Captain Wickcs. The sloop was chased several times by British cruisers, but, though prepared for action, the captain obeyed orders, and shunned an engagement. When near the coast of France,

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »