Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Bertholon gives it to M. De Romas, assessor to the presideal of Nérac; the English paragraphs probably refer to the same person. But a very slight attention will convince us of the injustice of this procedure. Dr. Franklin's experiment was made in June, 1752; and his letter, giving an account of it, is dated October 19, 1752. M. De Romas made his first attempt on the 14th of May, 1753, but was not successful until the 7th of Jime; a year after Franklin had completed the discovery, and when it was known to all the philosophers in Europe.

“Besides these great principles, Franklin's letters, on electricity contain a number of facts and hints, which have contributed greatly towards reducing this branch of knowledge to a science. His friend, Mr. Kinnersley, communicated to him a discovery of the different kinds of electricity excited by rubbing glass and sulphur. This, we have said, was. first observed by M. Du Faye; but it was for many years neglected. The philosophers were disposed to account for the phenomena, rather from a difference in the quantity of electricity collected; and even Du Faye himself seems at last to have adopted this doctrine. Franklin at first entertained the same idea; but upon repeating the experiments, he perceived that Mr. Kinnersley was right; and that the vitreous and resinous electricity of Du Faye were nothing more than the positive and negative states which he had before observed ; that the glass

globe charged positively, or increased the quantity of electricity on the prime conductor, whilst the globe of sulphur diminished its natural quantity, or charged negatively. These experiments and observations opened a new field for investigation, upon which electricians entered with avidity; and their labors have added much to the stock of our knowledge.

“In September, 1752, Franklin entered upon a course of experiments, to determine the state of electricity in the clouds. From a number of

experiments he formed this conclusion: “ that the clouds of a thunder-gust are most commonly in a negative state of electricity, but sometimes in a positive state;" and from this it follows, as a necessary consequence, “that, for the most part, in thunderstrokes, it is the earth that strikes into the clouds, and not the clouds that strike into the earth.” The letter containing these observations is dated in September, 1753; and yet the discovery of ascending thunder has been said to be of a modern date, and has been attributed to the Abbé Bertholon, who published his memoir on the subject in 1776.

“ Franklin's Letters on Electricity have been translated into most of the European languages, and into Latin. In proportion as they have become known, his principles have been adopted. Some opposition was made to his theories, particularly by the Abbé Nollet, who was, however, but feebly supported, whilst the first philosophers of Europe stepped forth in defence of Franklin's principles; amongst whom D'Alibard and Beccaria were the most distinguished. The opposition has gradually ceased, and the Franklinian system is now universally adopted, where science florishes.'

" The important practical use which Franklin made of his discoveries, the securing of houses from injury by lightning, has been already mentioned. Pointed conductors are now very common in America; but prejudice has hitherto prevented their general introduction into Europe, notwithstanding the most undoubted proofs of their utility have been given. But mankind can with difficulty be brought to lay aside established practices, or to adopt new ones. And perhaps we have more reason to be surprised that a practice, however rational, which was proposed about forty years ago, should in that time have been adopted in so many places, than that it has not universally prevailed. It is only by degrees that the great body of mankind can be led into new practices, however salutary their tendency. It is now nearly eighty years

since inoculation was introduced into Europe and America; and it is so far from being general at present, that it will, perhaps, require one or two centuries to render it so.".

[ocr errors]

The same probably will also be the case with respect to the Vaccine Inoculation : though undoubtedly its progress baş hitherto been morc rapid.

To revert to Dr. Franklin's political transactions. His exertions and examination before the house of commons. having greatly contributed to the repeal of the Stamp Act ; he now turned his attention towards obtaining the repeal of the Act restraining the legal tender of Paper Money in the Colonies ; another grievance they complained of. The ministry had at one time agreed to the repeal; not so much to serve the colonies, as from the impression that they might raise a revenue from paper money lent on mortgage, by the parliament appropriating the interest arising therefrom. This notion was however removed by Dr. Franklin's assuring them, that no colony would issue money on those terms, and that the advantage arising to the commerce of Great Britain in America from a plentiful currency, would thereby be lost, and the repeal answer no end, if the assemblies were not allowed to appropriate the interest themselves. The measure was afterwards dropt, and the restraint unwisely continued.

As early as the period of these discussions between Great Britain and her colonies, the French government appear to have begun to take an interest in their affairs. The circumstance is thus alluded to in a letter of Dr. Franklin to his son, dated London, Aug. 28, 1767.

“De Guerchy, the French ambassador, is gone home, and Mons. Durand is left minister plenipotentiary. He is extremely curious to inform himself in the affairs of America; pretends to have a great esteem for me, on account of the abilities sliown in my examination: has desired to have all my political writings; invited me to dine with him; was very inquisitive; treated me with great civility; makes me visits, &c. I fancy that intriguing nation would like very well to meddle on occasion, and blow up the coals between Great Britain and her colonies; but I hope we shall give them no opportunity.”

Dr. Franklin was right in his conjectures, but his hopes were not realised; the opportunity was given, and they availed themselves of it-eminently contributing to the separation of the two countries.

Certain resolutions of the town of Boston respecting trade and manufactures arrived in London about the commencement of the year 1768, and occasioned a considerable clamor; they gave Dr. Franklin and the friends of America great concern: he endeavored by every means to palliate the affair by various writings in the newspapers; and the discontents of the British colonies being much the subject of general discussion at the time, and greatly misunderstood, he; with a view to elucidate the same, and soften the prevalent animosity against America, wrote and published in the Chronicle of January 7th.) a piece signed F+S. entitled, Causes of the AMERICAN Discontents before 1768,” with this incription : The waves never rise but when the winds blow." Prov.

See “WRITINGS," Part 1. Section 1. page 43, 4to, ed.

« AnteriorContinuar »