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The resolution he took up in his twenty-first year, was one which might more frequently be adopted than we see it to be. He was then on his voyage from England, and employed himself in marking down its incidents in a journal. It struck him while thus amusing himself, that it was unbecoming the character of a man to whom heaven has imparted intelligence and reason, to fluctuate without a design through life; and he then resolved to form some plan for his future conduct, by which he might promote his fortune, and procure respect and reputation in society. This plan is prefaced by the following reflections. “Those who write of the art of poetry, teach us, that if we would write what would be worth the reading, we ought always before we begin, to form a regular design of our piece; otherwise we shall be in danger of incongruity. I am apt to think it is the same as to life. I have never fixed a regular design in life: by which means it has been a confused variety of different scenes. I am now entering upon a new one; let me, therefore, make some resolutions, and form some schemes of action, that henceforth, I may live in all respects like a rational creature.”
To these remarks, he attached a set of rules and moral principles, which, while they show his noble ardor for virtue, may afford those animated with the same spirit, no unprofitable example. They are partly as follow :
“I resolve to be extremely frugal, for some time, until I pay what
“ To speak the truth in every instance, and give no one expectations that are not likely to be answered; but aim at sincerity in every word and action, the most amiable excellence in a rational being.
“To apply myself industriously in whatever business I take in hand, and not divert my mind by any foolish project of growing suddenly rich; for industry and patience are the surest means of plenty.
“I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of every body," &c.
To these resolutions, though formed in the ardor of youthful imagination, he adhered with a scrupulous fidelity.
Soon after his return to Philadelphia, he instituted another club, in connection with several young men of respectable character and abilities, denominated “The Junto," of which he has spoken in his memoirs with great affection. Subjects of a scientific, moral, or political cast, were discussed at their meetings. The association endured with undiminished vigor, for thirty years, and was at last succeeded by the present Philosophical Society.
It is a just remark, that the exigencies in which FRANKLIN had passed his early youth, and the expedients he was forced to adopt that he might improve his fortune, drew him from all barren speculations towards those only which might tend to ameliorate the condition and happiness of his species. All his leading enterprises appear to have been undertaken with an eye to the public good, and even to minor affairs he gave the same tendency. To practice virtue, and disseminate it among mankind, he considered his duty wherever he went, and he allowed no common distraction of life to turn him from his laudable purpose. Like Lycurgus, he wished that the praise of virtue and contempt for vice should be interwoven with all the actions of men, and that excellent objects and actions should be perpetually before the gaze of the multitude. He carried this so far, as even to assist in making the common devices on coins, which are so constantly under our inspection, of a character to convey a prudential maxim; thus the old penny he caused to be impressed with the word “Fugio”—I fly; and on the reverse, “mind your own business.”
His Poor Richard's Almanac he made the vehicle of conveying moral apothegms, precepts of economy, rules for the preservation of health, and such general principles of instruction as were most adapted to the purposes of common life. Of this Almanac ten thousand copies were circulated in America every year; this, considering the then limited population, sufficiently exhibits the estimation in which it was held. The last, 1757, in which he collected the principal matter of the preceding numbers, was republished in various forms in Great Britain, and thence translated into foreign languages, was dispersed and read with great avidity throughout the whole continent. An edition in a large folio volume has just been published in Paris in the highest style of typographical art, under the title of "Le Bon Homme Richard."
His efforts to diffuse literature, form libraries, &c., were the means of disseminating a taste for polite letters; reading became everywhere the fashionable amusement, spreading its influence even to the humble walks of life. This, in a republican state, is an object of importance, where some equality in the diffusion of intellectual, as well as physical benefits, is essential to the purity and permanence of political institutions.
His discoveries in electricity have been already noticed. It cannot be expected that we should here enumerate all the experiments he made, or the treatises he composed on the various branches of science;
for there is scarcely one that has not occupied some portion of his time and attention. He made use of oil to show its effects in stilling the waters of the ocean ; he endeavored to ascertain whether boats are not drawn with more difficulty in small canals, than in large bodies of water; to improve the art of swimming, and to prove that thirst may be allayed by bathing in salt water. He made observations, also, in his several voyages, on the gradual progress of the north-east storms along the American coast, contrary to the direction of the winds; and likewise, for the benefit of navigation, made experiments on the course, velocity, and temperature of the gulf stream. He made also curious observations on the air ; upon the relative powers of metals in the conducting of heat, and of the different degrees acquired by congenial bodies of various colors, from the rays of the sun. He composed likewise an ingenious treatise upon the formation of the earth, and the existence of an universal fluid ; music, too, came in for a share of his grasping mind, and he cultivated that science with
He revived and improved the harmonica, performing upon that instrument with taste.
It was a peculiarity which gave FRANKLIN a great advantage from his early youth, to have mingled business with study and speculation. He thus acquired theoretical and practical knowledge together, and was skilful in applying his information. Lord Kaimes was highly gratified to become his correspondent, from the delight he took in him as a philosopher; their friendship, formed in Europe, subsisted until the termination of their lives.
It is probable that in the first outbreak of difficulties with the mother country, FRANKLIN entertained no farther design than that of vindicating the constitutional liberties of his country, and that no ambition for her independence had at this time entered his imagination; he continued to still the angry passions which had been kindled by the operation of bad or over-bearing laws, till they were insupportable. He still kept up discussions with the parliament, and maintained some appearance of impartiality; but by the introduction of British troops into Boston, and the tumults and massacres occasioned by that measure; by all the proceedings, indeed, of the government subsequent to the repeal of the stamp act, he knew well that passions were inflamed too fierce and vengeful to be appeased by the application of gentle remedies. He observed, also, not only in the minds of those who were entrusted with the supreme management of affairs in England, but throughout the whole nation, that there prevailed a spirit of arrogance and contempt for Americans, or in the phraseology of the times, “ the rebels of the colonies,” which must have confirmed his opinions on that subject. Though he still recommended, in all his letters to the colonies, a moderation and decorum, that the ministry might have no pretext that might justify a more open violation of their liberties; there is, nevertheless, a strain of vehemence in all his writings of this period, which indicate that he was himself not less exasperated than his ardent countrymen at home.
During his long residence in England, he had been treated with all the rancor and malice, the resentful and unmanly arrogance, which power usually produces in ignoble minds. The worthy portion of the community, however, approved his various merits, and he has expressed in his letters, his gratification at the marks of attachment, friendship, generosity, and affectionate attention which he received.
On his voyage homewards, he had employed himself in philosophical speculations, and in writing a circumstantial detail of the whole of his public operations during his absence; this constitutes a very interesting portion of his biography published by his grandson, furnishing many conspicuous examples of his devotion to liberty, of his spirit and patriotism; and affords a specimen of those diplomatic talents which proved so beneficial to his country.
When appointed in 1776, with John Adams and Edward Rutledge, to hear certain propositions of English commissioners who had arrived on our coast to propose terms of accommodation, or rather “offer pardon upon submission," to congress, Lord Howe, the chief of the embassy, endeavored to wheedle him by kind words into using his influence in promoting the great object of “the king's paternal solicitude." His reply was highly honorable to his patriotism and abilities; he insisted that directing pardons to be offered to the colonies, who were the parties injured, expressed “that opinion of our baseness, ignorance, and insensibility, which your uninformed and proud nation has long been pleased to entertain of us; but it can have no other effect than that of increasing our resentments.” He continues in a noble strain of independent sentiment, and concludes, “when you find reconciliation impossible on any terms given you to propose, I believe you will then relinquish so odious a command, and return to a more honorable private station.”
When Dr. FRANKLIN left America for France, he placed the whole of his possessions in money, between three and four thousand pounds, in the hands of congress, thus testifying his confidence in the success of their cause, and inducing others of greater means to imitate so laudable an example.
His colleagues, Mr. Adams, Mr. Jay, and Mr. Laurens, assisted materially to lighten his labors; advantages were gained by their joint exertions very far beyond what either in France or America had been anticipated; and if we may judge from the tenor of FRANKLIN's letters, far beyond his own expectation. “Had it not been,” says he, "for the justice of our cause, and the consequent interposition of Providence, in which we had faith, we must have been ruined. If I had ever before been an atheist, I should now have been convinced of the being and government of a Deity. It is he that abases the proud and elevates the humble ; may we never forget his goodness, and may our future conduct manifest our gratitude."
In his treaties with Sweden and Prussia, Dr. FRANKLIN introduced an article highly honorable to his memory, and one which he had attempted in vain to add to his negotiations with Great Britain; it was the prohibiting from injuries of war, the property and persons of unarmed individuals. This principle has been acknowledged to a greater or less degree since by civilized nations, and may be dated in a measure to the influence of the subject of our biography.
A defensive war Dr. Franklin thought justifiable, but he preferred peace whenever it could be obtained, provided it was honorable; nor was he without a hope that the interests of nations might prevail over the perversity of human nature, so far as to produce some alleviation of the calamities insuperably attendant upon warfare. “I hope,” he says in one of his letters, “ that mankind will at length, as they call themselves reasonable creatures, have reason and sense enough to settle their differences without cutting throats; for in my opinion, there never was a good war, nor a bad peace. What vast additions to the convenience and comforts of living might we acquire, if the money spent in wars had been employed in works of public utility; what an extension of agriculture, even to tops of the mountains!” “When,” says he to Dr. Priestley, “shall we make that discovery in moral philosophy, which will instruct men to compose their quarrels without bloodshed ? When will men cease to be wolves to one another, and learn, that even successful wars at length become misfortunes to those who urgently commence them ?"
On Dr. FRANKLIN's return from France, he was attended at his landing by the members of congress, of the university, and by the principal citizens, who, formed into processions, went out to escort him; amidst their acclamations he was conducted to his dwelling. He received from public assemblies of every description, the most affectionate addresses; all testifying their gratitude for his services,