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turns their ease into torment. The more they know what is true concerning God and concerning themselves, the more they are sensible of the truth concerning those enjoyments which they possess; and the more they are sensible what things now are, and what things are like to be hereafter, the more will their calm be turned into a storm. The worldly man's peace cannot be maintained but by avoiding consideration and reflection. If he allows himself to think, and properly to exercise his reason, it destroys his quietness and comfort. If he would establish his carnal peace, it concerns him to put out the light of his mind, and turn beast as fast as he can. The faculty of reason, if at liberty, proves a mortal enemy to his peace. It concerns him, if he would keep alive his peace, to contrive all ways that may be, to stupify his mind and deceive himself, and to imagine things to be otherwise than they be. But with respect to the peace which Christ gives, reason is its great friend. The more this faculty is exercised, the more it is established. The more they consider and view things with truth and exactness, the firmer is their comfort, and the higher their joy. How vast a difference is there between the peace of a Christian and the worldling! How miserable are they who cannot enjoy peace any otherwise than by hiding their eyes from the light, and confining themselves to darkness; whose peace is properly stupidity; as the ease that a man has who has taken a dose of stupifying poison, and the ease and pleasure that a drunkard may have in a house on fire over his head, or the joy of a distracted man in thinking that he is a king, though a miserable wretch confined in bedlam : whereas, the peace which Christ gives his true disciples, is the light of life, something of the tranquillity of heaven, the peace of the celestial paradise, that has the glory of God to lighten it.
[From sermon twenty-six: The Peace which Christ Gives his True Followers. Works, vol. iv, pp. 434-435.]
[Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston, of humble parents, on Jan. 17, 1706. He was early apprenticed to his brother, a printer, but developing tastes both for study and for personal independence, ran away at the age of seventeen. He reached Philadelphia friendless and penniless, but soon began to rise, was sent on business to London, where he practised his trade and broadened his experience, returned to Philadelphia after about eighteen months, printed and published newspapers and almanacs there, and through his frugal and industrious habits soon acquired both means and position. His public spirit displayed in connection with the establishment of libraries and other municipal institutions, his scientific studies, which culminated in his electrical discoveries, his career as Postmaster-general and subsequently as agent for Pennsylvania and other colonies at London, made him easily the most prominent American of his age both at home and abroad. During the troubles preceding the Revolution he was a consistent patriot, and after war was declared he represented the new nation most admirably as ambassador to France, where he was universally admired and where his fame is still fresh. In 1785 he returned wearied out to the United States, but he still had strength to serve his adopted state as President and to take an important part in the Convention of 1787 that framed the Constitution. He died second in honor only to Washington, on April 17, 1790. The best edition of his works is that in ten volumes, edited by John Bigelow. The best biography of Franklin is that by John T. Morse, Jr.
FRANKLIN is by common consent the greatest of our colonial writers, but he is more than this, for he is one of the greatest of all American authors, and has produced at least one book (his Autobiography) which the world has agreed to regard as a classic. He shares with Cooper, Poe, Mrs. Stowe, and perhaps Emerson and one or two others, the honor of having been fully appreciated abroad, nor has one of these writers received more universal recognition at home, which is a matter of greater or at least equal importance. Yet he was not primarily a man of letters, and is thought of as statesman and philosopher oftener than as author. On the other hand, his political wisdom, his rare common sense, his engag
ing humor, his scientific speculations and discoveries, are not the real basis of his fame as a writer, however much they may indirectly contribute to it. It is not so much what Franklin deliberately did or thought that makes him a great author, as what he indirectly did the moment he took up a pen. He gave us himself, not merely his actions and thoughts, and mankind has always been peculiarly grateful for such self-revelations. The saying of Buffon, so often quoted, that style is the man, has never received a better exemplification of its truth than in the writings of Franklin, which are almost literally and truly Franklin himself. He has done more than give us a mere autobiography. Benvenuto Cellini did that, and is nevertheless thought of chiefly as an artist. Franklin has left us voluminous works, which, whether in their respective parts they deal with science or politics or every-day matters, and whether or not we read them thoroughly and systematically, are nevertheless as complete and perfect an exposition of an interesting character as can be paralleled in literature. Hence it is that while Franklin is still for most people a sage, just as Cellini is an artist, he is for some who have learned to know him through his self-delineating works even more the great writer than he is the great philosopher or the great statesman and public servant.
It is obvious that if all this be true, the secret of Franklin's power as a writer must in the main lie elsewhere than in the materials of which his volumes are composed. There is more political philosophy to be found in the writings of some of Franklin's compatriots than can be found in his; other men have written better letters, other men have composed greater scientific monographs, and yet in many of these cases the world has not for an instant thought it could discover a great writer. Nor can the secret of his power lie merely in his style — technically speaking. Good as Franklin's style is, it would be possible to parallel it in authors whom nobody has thought of calling really great. Perhaps we shall come as near explaining the secret by saying that Franklin's power comes from the fact that he revealed a fascinating and at the same time great character by means of a pellucid and even style, as we shall by any other explanation we can offer. Franklin would have been great and fascinating if a Boswell had portrayed him for us; in becoming his own Boswell he has enrolled himself
forever among the classical writers, not merely of America, but of the world.
Descending now from generals to particulars, we may notice that while it is true to say that Addison and other contemporary British authors did much to form Franklin's style, and that in many of the forms of composition he undertook, such as his dialogues, he was unquestionably imitative, it is equally true to affirm that he was rather the product, nay, the epitome, of his century, than a provincial Briton, and that in many most important respects he was as true an American as Abraham Lincoln himself. Franklin's shrewdness, common sense, and wit are much more American than they are British in flavor, and his evenly balanced independence, fearlessness, and dignity are racy of his native soil. His lack of the highest spirituality, on the other hand, together with his somewhat amusing optimism, his wide-reaching, practical philanthropy, and the general sanity of his character, belong more to his century than to his race or country. But in every thought and word and deed of his life he was never anything but a loyal citizen of the land from which he was so long exiled by necessity, and it is the merest hypercriticism that would contend that both he and Washington were anything else than Americans in their warp and woof.
The chief qualities of Franklin's work as a writer have all been given by implication in the preceding paragraph. Of his humor, it must suffice to say that it holds a middle range between the subtlety of Lamb's and the obviousness of Artemus Ward's. Of his lack not merely of spirituality, but even the conception of what is meant by the term, the attempt to amend the Lord's Prayer is a sufficiently familiar example. His scheme for reaching moral perfection throws a ludicrous light upon his this-worldly optimism, while his general sanity of character is witnessed to by hundreds of letters and by page after page of his only too short Autobiography. Perhaps his shrewdness, his common sense, and his wit stand out singly and in unison as well in his preface to Poor Richard's Almanac as anywhere else, but they are obviously such basal qualities in Franklin's character that they are never absent from his self-depicting writings of whatever form and type. The same may be said with regard to his evenly balanced independence, fearlessness, and dig
nity, but few students of his life and works will fail to associate these qualities more particularly with that “most consummate masterpiece of political and editorial craftsmanship," to quote Professor M. C. Tyler, The Examination of Dr. Benjamin Franklin, in the British House of Commons, Relative to the Repeal of the American Stamp Act, in 1766.
In conclusion, we may notice, with regard to verbal style, that a straightforward clearness is Franklin's most characteristic quality. He writes as we may imagine that he talked when at his best, and for the subjects he treated there could have been no more ideal style. Here and there a word or phrase may betray the fact that he wrote over a century ago, but in the main, it is distinctly true to say that his style "reads itself” as easily as that of any master of English. We may readily grant that Addison helped to form Franklin's style, if we will add immediately that, in all probability, he would have come near finding it for himself had he never chanced when a boy to fall under the fascinating influence of the Spectator. Short sentences, vigorous phrases, timely words, these Franklin could not have helped using, simply because he was Rare Ben Franklin.” He probably could not foresee that the time would so soon come when the very qualities of style that were natural to him would seem to posterity the best qualities to be cultivated; but if he had had all the Latin scholarship of Dr. Johnson and all the leisure and propensity to formal composition that an academic life affords, he would surely not have fallen into that labored pomposity and that dead flatness which vitiate so much eighteenth century prose. He wrote like the rounded, vigorous, sane man that he was, and as a result he lives for us as few do of our fellow-mortals who, in the words of Horace, are but as “ dust and a shade."
W. P. TRENT