Receives congratulatory Letters and Addresses. Chosen President of Pennsylvania, and holds the Office three Years. His private Circumstances. Appointed a Delegate to the Convention for framing the Constitution of the United States. His Speeches in the Convention. His Religious Opinions. Extracts from Dr. Cutler's Journal, describing an Interview with him. President of the Society for Political Inquiries. Neglect of Congress to examine and settle his Accounts. Various Pieces written by him during the last Year of his Life. His Illness and Death. Funeral Ceremonies. Tribute of Respect paid to him by Congress and other Public Bodies. Conclusion.
AS soon as his arrival was known, letters of congratulation were sent to him from all parts of the country. General Washington and Mr. Jay were among the first to welcome him on this occasion. The Assembly of Pennsylvania was then in session, and, the day after he landed, an address was presented to him by that body, in which they congratulate him, in the most cordial manner, on his safe return. "We are confident," they observe, "that we speak the sentiments of this whole country, when we say, that your services, in the public councils and negotiations, have not only merited the thanks of the present generation, but will be recorded in the pages of history, to your immortal honor. And it is particularly pleasing to us, that, while we are sitting as members of the Assembly of Pennsylvania, we have the happiness of welcoming into the State a person, who was so greatly, instrumental in forming its free constitution." This was followed by similar addresses from the American Philosophical Society, and the Faculty of the University of Pennsylvania. To all of them he returned brief and appropriate answers.
From some of his letters it would appear, that, when he left France, he looked upon his public life as at an end, and anticipated the enjoyment of entire tranquillity and freedom from care, after he should be again restored to the bosom of his family. In this expectation, however, he was disappointed. He had been at home but a few days, when he was elected a member of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania. This was a preliminary step to a higher advancement; for, when the Assembly met, in October, he was chosen President of the State, the office being equivalent to that of governor in the other States. The choice was made by the joint ballot of the Assembly and Council. Under the first constitution of Pennsylvania, no individual could serve in the Council, or hold the office of President, more than three successive years, and be was then ineligible for the four years following. Dr. Franklin was annually chosen President till the end of the constitutional term, and each time by a unanimous vote, except the first, when there was one dissenting voice in seventy-seven. This unanimity is a proof, that, notwithstanding his great age and his bodily infirmities, he fulfilled the duties of the station to the complete satisfaction of the electors.
He was apparently at ease in his private circumstances, and happy in his domestic relations. He occupied himself for some time in finishing a house, which had been begun many years before, and in which he fitted up a spacious apartment for his library. In writing to a friend, he said; "I am surrounded by my offspring, a dutiful and affectionate daughter in my house, with six grandchildren, the eldest of whom you have seen, who is now at college in the next street, finishing, the learned part of his education; the others promising, both for parts and good dispositions. What their conduct may be, when they grow up and enter the important scenes of life, I shall not live to see, and I cannot foresee. I therefore enjoy among them the present hour, and leave the future to Providence." Again, to another correspondent he wrote; "I am got into my niche: after being kept out of, it twenty-four years by foreign employments. It is a very good house, that I built so long ago to retire into, without being able till now to enjoy it. I am again surrounded by my friends, with a fine family of grandchildren about my knees, and an affectionate, good daughter and son-in-law to take care of me. And, after fifty years public service, I have the pleasure to find the esteem of my country with regard to me undiminished." Much of his time was devoted to the society of those around him, and of the numerous visiters, whom curiosity and respect prompted to seek his acquaintance. His attachments to the many intimate friends he had left in Europe were likewise preserved by a regular and affectionate correspondence, in which are manifested the same steadiness of feeling and enlarged benevolence, the same playfulness and charm of style, that are conspicuous in the compositions of his earlier years.
He was elected one of the delegates from Pennsylvania to the Convention for forming the Constitution of the United States, which met at Philadelphia in May, 1787, and continued in session four months. Although he was now in the eighty-second year of his age, and at the same time discharged the duties of President of the State, yet he attended faithfully to the business of the convention, and entered actively and heartily into the proceedings. Several of his speeches were written out and afterwards published. They are short, but well adapted to the occasion, clear, logical, and persuasive. He never pretended to the accomplishments of an orator or debater. He seldom spoke in a deliberative assembly except for some special object and then briefly and with great simplicity of manner and language.
After the members of the convention had been together four or five weeks, and made, very little progress in the important work they had in band, on account of their unfortunate differences of opinion and disagreements on essential points, Dr. Franklin introduced a motion for daily prayers. In the beginning of the contest with Britain," said he, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard; and they were graciously answered. All of us, who were engaged in the struggle, must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? Or do we imagine we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time; and, the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that GOD governs in the affairs of men. And, if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the Sacred Writings, that, except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." I firmly believe this; and I also believe, that, without his concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little, partial, local interests, our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a by-word down to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter, from this, unfortunate. instance, despair of establishing government by human wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest. I therefore beg leave to move, that henceforth prayers, imploring the assistance of Heaven and its blessing on our deliberations, be held in this assembly every morning before, we proceed to business; and that one or more of the clergy of this city be requested to officiate in that service." The motion was not adopted, as "the convention, except three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary."
These remarks afford some insight into Dr. Franklin's religious sentiments. A good deal has been said on this, subject, and sometimes without a due degree either of knowledge or charity. When Dr. Stiles, President of Yale College, questioned him about his religious faith, he replied as follows, only five weeks before his death; "I believe in one God, the Creator of the universe; that he governs it by his Providence; that be ought to be worshipped; that the. most acceptable service we can render to him is doing good to his other children; that the soul of man is immortal, and will be treated with justice in another life respecting its conduct in this. These I take to be the fundamental points of all sound religion, and I regard them as you do, in whatever sect I meet with them. As to Jesus of Nazareth, my opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think his system of morals and his religion, as be left them to us, the best the world ever saw, or is like to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting changes, and I have, with most of the present Dissenters in England, some doubts as to his divinity; though it is a question I do not dogmatize upon, having never studied it." This is the most explicit declaration of his faith, which is to be found anywhere in his writings; and, although it is not very precise, yet it is far from that cold and heartless infidelity, which some writers have ascribed to him, and for which charge there is certainly no just foundation.
Whatever may have been the tenor of his opinions on points of faith and doctrine, there are many evidences of his reverence for religion and for the institutions of Christianity. In early life, be composed a little book of prayers, which he was in the habit of using in his devotions. At all times he was ready to contribute liberally towards the erection of churches; and, during Whitefield's several visits to Philadelphia, be not only attended his preaching, but was his intimate companion and friend, having him sometimes as a lodger at his own house. Such was not the society, that an irreligious man would be likely to seek. In a letter of advice to his daughter, it was his solemn injunction, that she should habitually attend public Worship. He wrote a Preface to an abridged edition of the Book of Common Prayer, in which be speaks impressively of the obligation and benefits of worship and other religious observances. When a skeptical writer, who is supposed to have been Thomas Paine, showed him in manuscript a work written against religion, he urged him earnestly not to publish it, but to burn it; objecting to his arguments as fallacious, and to his principles as poisoned with the seeds of vice, without tending to any imaginable good. It should, moreover, be observed, that no parts of Dr. Franklin's writings are hostile to religion; but, on the contrary, it is the direct object of some of them to inculcate virtue and piety, which he regarded not more as duties of great moment in the present life, than as an essential preparation for the Wellbeing of every individual in a future state of existence.
It is deeply to be regretted, that he did not bestow more attention than he seems to have done on the evidences of Christianity; because there can be little doubt, that a mind like his, quick to discover truth and always ready to receive it, would have been convinced by a full investigation of. the facts and arguments adduced in proof of the Christian revelation; and especially because the example of such a man is likely to have great influence with others. Yet, when one expresses this regret, or censures this indifference, it behoves him to exercise more justice and candor than have sometimes been used, in representing what he actually believed and taught.
It had long been an opinion of Dr. Franklin, that in a democratical government there ought to be no offices of profit. The first constitution of Pennsylvania contained an article expressive of this sentiment, which was drafted by him. One of his speeches in the national convention was on the same subject. "There are two passions," said he, "which have a powerful influence in the affairs of men. These are ambition and avarice; the love of power and the love of money. Separately, each of these has great force in prompting men to action; but, when united in view of the same object, they have in many minds the most violent effects. Place before the eyes of such men a post of honor, that shall at the same time be a place of profit, and they will move Heaven and earth to obtain it. The vast number of such places it is, that renders the British government so tempestuous. The struggles for them are the true source of all those factions, which are perpetually dividing the nation, distracting its councils, hurrying it sometimes into fruitless and mischievous wars, and often compelling a submission to dishonorable terms of peace. And of what kind are the men that will strive for this profitable preeminence, through all the bustle of cabal, the heat of contention, the infinite mutual abuse of parties, tearing to pieces the best of characters? It will not be the wise and moderate, the lovers of peace and good order, the men fittest for the trust. It will be the bold and the violent, the men of strong passions and indefatigable activity in their selfish pursuits. These will thrust themselves into your government, and be your rulers. And these, too, will be mistaken in the expected happiness of their situation; for their vanquished competitors, of the same spirit, and from the same motives, will perpetually be endeavoring to distress their administration, thwart their measures, and render them odious to the people." He thought the pleasure of doing good by serving their country, and the respect inspired by such conduct, were sufficient motives for true patriots to give up a portion of their time to the public, without a pecuniary compensation beyond the means of support while engaged in the service. In his own case, he had an opportunity of putting these principles in practice. All the money he received as President of Pennsylvania for three years he appropriated to some object of public utility; and, if the whole fifty years of his public life are taken together, it is believed that his receipts, in the form of compensation or salaries, were not enough to defray his necessary expenses.
The speech made by him at the close of the convention has been commended for its moderation, liberal spirits and practical good sense. In the concluding part of that speech he says, "I consent to this constitution, because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that it is not the best. The opinions I have had of its errors I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a syllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born, and here they shall die. If every one of us, in returning to our constituents, were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavour to gain partisans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the salutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our favor among foreign nations, as well as among ourselves, from our real or apparent unanimity. Much of the strength and efficiency of any government, in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends on opinion, on the general opinion of the goodness of that government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its governors. I hope, therefore, for our own sakes, as a part of the people, and for the sake of our posterity, that we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this constitution, wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavours to the means of having it well administered. On the whole, Sir, I cannot help expressing a wish, that every member of the convention who may still have objections to it, would with me on this occasion doubt a little of his infallibility, and, to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this instrument."
The following description presents an interesting picture of Dr. Franklin's appearance and manner at this period of his life. It is an extract from a journal written by the Reverend Dr. Manasseh Cutler, of Hamilton, Massachusetts, who was distinguished as a scholar, and particularly as. a botanist. While on a visit at Philadelphia, he called to pay his respects to Dr. Franklin. The extract is dated July 13th, 1787. "Dr. Franklin lives in Market Street. His house stands up a court, at some distance from the street. We found him in his garden, sitting up a grassplot, under a very large mulberry tree, with several other gentlemen and two or three ladies. When Mr. Gerry introduced me, he rose from his chair, took me by the hand, expressed his joy at seeing me, welcomed me to the city, and begged me to seat myself close to him. His voice was low, but his countenance open, frank, and pleasing. I delivered to him my letters. After he had read them, he took me again by the hand, and, with the usual compliments, introduced me to the other gentlemen, who are most of them members of the convention.
"Here we entered into a free conversation, and spent out time most agreeably, until it was quite dark. The tea table was spread under the tree, and Mrs. Bache, who is the only daughter of the Doctor, and lives with him, served it out to the company. She had three of her children about her. They seemed to be excessively fond of their grandpapa. The Doctor showed me a curiosity he had just received, and with which he was much pleased. It was a snake with two heads, preserved in a large phial. It was taken near the confluence of the Schuylkill with the Delaware, about four miles from this city. It was about ten inches long, well proportioned, the heads perfect, and united to the body about one fourth of an inch below the extremities of the jaws. The snake was of a dark brown, approaching to black, and the back beautifully speckled with white. The belly was rather checkered with a reddish color and white. The Doctor supposed it to be full grown, which I think is probable; and he thinks it must be a sui generis of that class of animals. He grounds his opinion of its not being an extraordinary production, but a distinct genus, on the perfect form of the snake, the probability of its being of some age, and there having been found a snake entirely similar (of which the Doctor has a drawing, which he showed us,) near Lake Champlain, in the time of the late war. He mentioned the situation of this snake, if it was 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 to the other. He was then going, to mention a humorous matter, that had that day occurred in the convention, in consequence of his comparing the snake to America; for be seemed to forget that every thing in the convention was to be kept a profound secret. But the secrecy of convention matters was suggested to him, which stopped him, and deprived me of the story he was going to tell.
"After it was dark we went into the house, and he invited me into his library, which is likewise his study. It is a very large chamber, and high-studded. The walls are covered with book-shelves, filled with books; besides there are four large alcoves, extending two thirds the length of the chamber, filled in the same manner. I presume this is the largest and by far the best private library in America. He showed us a glass machine for exhibiting the circulation of the blood in the arteries and veins of the human body. The circulation is exhibited by the passing of a red fluid. from a reservoir into numerous capillary tubes of glass, ramified in every direction, and then returning in similar tubes to the reservoir, which was done with great velocity, without any power to act visibly upon the fluid, and had the appearance of perpetual motion. Another great curiosity was a rolling press, for taking the copies of letters or any other writing. A sheet of paper is completely copied in less than two minutes; the copy as fair as the original, and without defacing it in the smallest degree. It is an invention of his own, extremely useful in many situations of life. He also showed us his long, artificial arm and hand, for taking down and putting up books on high shelves, which are out of reach; and his great arm-chair, with rockers, and a large fan placed over it, with which he fans himself, keeps off the flies, &c., while he sits reading, with only a small motion of the foot; and many other curiosities and inventions, all his own, but of lesser note. Over his mantel he has a prodigious number of medals, busts, and casts in wax, or plaster of Paris, which are the effigies of the most noted characters in Europe.
"But what the Doctor wished principally to show me was a huge volume on botany, which indeed afforded me the greatest pleasure of any one thing in his library. It was a single volume, but so large, that it was with great difficulty that he was able to raise it from a low shelf, and lift it on the table. But, with that senile ambition, which is common to old people, he insisted on doing it himself, and would permit no person to assist him, merely to show us how much strength he had remaining. It contained the whole of Liunaeus's Systema Vegetabilium, with large cuts of every plant, colored from nature. It was a feast to me, and the Doctor seemed to enjoy it as well as myself We spent a couple of hours in examining this volume, while the other gentlemen amused themselves with other matters. The Doctor is not a botanist but lamented he did not in early life attend to this science. He delights in Natural History, and expressed an earnest wish, that I should pursue the plan that I had begun, and hoped this science, so much neglected in America, would be pursued with as much ardor here as it is now in every part of Europe. I wanted, for three months at least, to have devoted myself entirely to this one volume; but, fearing lest I should be tedious to him, I shut up the volume, though he urged me to examine it longer.
"He seemed extremely fond, through the course of the visit, of dwelling on philosophical subjects, and particularly that of Natural History; while the other gentlemen were swallowed up with politics. This was a favorable circumstance for me; for almost the whole of his conversation was addressed to me, and I was highly delighted with the extensive knowledge he appeared to have of every subject, the brightness of his memory, and clearness and vivacity of all his mental faculties, notwithstanding his age. His manners are perfectly easy, and every thing about him seems to diffuse an unrestrained freedom and happiness. He has an incessant vein of humor, accompanied with an uncommon vivacity, which seems as natural and involuntary as his breathing,. He urged me to call on him again, but my short stay would not admit. We took our leave at ten, and I retired to, my lodgings.×
While the States were engaged in electing delegates to the convention, there was much speculation as to the results of this experiment, and political discussions abounded in all parts of the country. Partaking of the common impulse, a number of gentlemen in Philadelphia formed themselves into an association, called the Society for Political Inquiries, the design of which is well expressed by its name. Dr. Franklin was chosen president, and the meetings were usually held at his house. For some time they were well attended; various topics of general politics were discussed; essays were written, and prize questions proposed. But, after having been in operation about two years, the society languished, and it was finally dissolved by the tacit consent of the members. He was also president of a Society for alleviating the Miseries of Public Prisons.
Dr. Franklin's third and last years service, as President of Pennsylvania, expired in October, 1788. After that time he held no public office, although he was often consulted on public measures.
His sensibility seems to have been touched by the neglect of Congress to settle his accounts, or even to notice in any way his long and faithful services to the public. Before he left France, his pecuniary transactions were examined in detail by Mr. Barclay, the commissioner appointed by Congress to liquidate and settle the accounts of the agents of the United States, who had been intrusted with the expenditure of public money in Europe. The result of Mr. Barclay's examination differed from Dr. Franklin's statement only seven sols, or about six cents, which sum he had by mistake overcharged. Mr. Barclay was ready to settle the accounts as they then stood; but Dr. Franklin requested that they might be submitted to the inspection of Congress, because be believed there were some other charges, which ought properly to be paid by the public, but which Mr. Barclay did not feel authorized by his instructions to allow. The accounts were accordingly kept open, and transmitted to Congress. One of the first things, which Dr. Franklin did on his arrival in Philadelphia, was to send his grandson to New York, where Congress were then in session, to obtain a settlement. He returned unsuccessful, being told that necessary documents were expected from France, although the vouchers had all been examined by Mr. Barclay. After waiting a long time, without hearing any thing from Congress on the subject, Dr. Franklin wrote a letter to the President, containing an earnest request that the business might be taken up and considered.
"It is now more than three years," said he, "that those accounts have been before that honorable body, and, to this day, no notice of any such objection has been communicated to me. But reports have, for some time past, been circulated here, and propagated in the newspapers, that I am greatly indebted to the United States for large sums, that had been put into my hands, and that I avoid a settlement. This, together with the little time one of my age may expect to live, makes it necessary for me to request earnestly, which I hereby do, that the Congress would be pleased, without further delay, to examine those accounts, and if they find therein any article or articles, which they do not understand or approve, that they would cause me to be acquainted with the same, that I may have an opportunity of offering such explanations or reasons in support of them as may be in my power, and then that the accounts may be finally closed. I hope the Congress will soon be able to attend to this business for the satisfaction of the public, as well as in condescension to my request." This act of justice was not rendered. The accounts were never settled, nor was any allowance made for what he conceived to be equitable demands for extraordinary services. It is true, that, after this letter was written, the deranged state of the Old Congress, in consequence of the non-attendance of members, may have prevented its being brought regularly before that body; but there is no apology for the previous neglect of three years; nor does there appear any good reason why the business should not have been resumed, and honorably adjusted by the first Congress under the new constitution.
The zeal with which he had promoted the first establishment of an Academy in Philadelphia, forty years before, was revived during the last year of his life. He believed that the intentions of the original founders bad not been fulfilled, in regard to the English school connected with that institution, and that the study of Greek and Latin had gradually gained too great an ascendancy. He wrote a long and very interesting paper, in which he sketched a history of the Academy, with an account of the transactions of its founders and early supporters, claiming a larger attention, than bad hitherto been given, to English studies, as well on the ground of utility, as on that of the state of learning in modern times. Committees occasionally met at his house. One evening the conversation turned upon the study of the Greek and, Latin languages in schools. Franklin was of the opinion, that they engrossed too much time. He said, that, when the custom of wearing broad cuffs with buttons first began, there was a reason for it; the cuffs might be brought down over the hands, and thus guard them from wet and cold. But gloves came into use, and the broad cuffs were unnecessary; yet the custom was still retained. So likewise with cocked hats. The wide brim, when let down, afforded a protection from the rain and sun. Umbrellas were introduced, yet fashion prevailed to keep cocked hats in vogue, although they were rather cumbersome than useful. Thus with the Latin language. When nearly all the books in Europe were written in that language, the study of it was essential in every system of education; but it is now scarcely needed, except as an accomplishment, since it has everywhere given place, as a vehicle of thought and knowledge, to some one of the modem tongues.
At this time, Dr. Franklin was seldom free from acute bodily pain; but, during short intervals of relief, he wrote several other pieces, which exhibit proofs that his mind never acted with more vigor, or maintained a more cheerful and equable tone. One of these pieces is entitled The Court of the Press, in which he remarks with severity on the practice of certain editors of newspapers, who attack the characters of individuals, and shield themselves under a false interpretation of the liberty of the press. Another paper, called a Comparison of the Conduct of the Ancient Jews and the Antifederalists of the United States, is intended as a reproof to some of those who opposed the new constitution. Urged by the repeated solicitations of his friends, he likewise employed himself occasionally in writing his, memoirs; but he seems not to have made so much progress in this work, as he had anticipated when be returned from Europe.
He also drew up a Plan for improving the Condition of the Free Blacks. His last public act was to sign, as president,. a memorial from the Abolition Society of Pennsylvania to Congress; and the last paper which he wrote was on the same subject. Mr. Jackson, a member of Congress from Georgia, had made a speech in favor of negro slavery. An ingenious parody of this speech was composed by Dr. Franklin, in which Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim is represented as speaking, in the Divan of Algiers, against granting the petition of a sect called Erika, who prayed for the abolition of piracy, and slavery, as being unjust. In this pretended speech of Ibrahim the same principles were advanced, and the same arguments were used in defence of plundering and enslaving Europeans, that had been urged by Mr. Jackson in justification of negro slavery. It is dated only twenty-four days before the author's decease; and, as a specimen of happy conception and sound reasoning, it is not inferior to any of his writings.
The state of his health and of his feelings may be inferred from a letter to President Washington, written on the 16th of September, 1789, in which he speaks as follows;
"My malady renders my sitting up to write rather painful to me; but I cannot let my son-in-law, Mr. Bache, part for New York, without congratulating you by him on the recovery of your health, so precious, to us all, and on the growing strength of our new government under your administration. For my own personal ease, I should have died two years ago; but, though those years have been spent in excruciating pain, I am pleased that I have lived them, since they have brought me to see our present situation. I am now finishing my eighty-fourth year, and probably with it my career in this life; but, in whatever state of existence I am placed in hereafter, if I retain any memory of what has passed here, I shall with it retain the esteem, respect, and affection, with which I have long been, my dear friend, yours most sincerely." Washington's reply was cordial and affectionate. Between these two distinguished patriots, who served their country in different spheres, but with equal fidelity and devotedness, there was ever a sincere friendship and an entire confidence. When General Washington came to Philadelphia as a member of the national convention for forming the constitution, the first person he called upon was Dr. Franklin and, when he passed through that city on his way to New York, where he was to be invested with the office of President of the United States, he paid him the same tribute of respect.
Although his malady and his sufferings continued, yet no material change in his health was observed till the first part of April, 1790, when he was attacked with a fever and a pain in the breast. From that time he was constantly under the care of Dr. John Jones, an eminent physician of Philadelphia, who wrote the following account of his illness and death.
"The stone, with which he had been afflicted for several years, had, for the last twelve months of his life, confined him chiefly to his bed; and, during the extremely painful paroxysms, he was obliged to take large doses of laudanum to mitigate his tortures. Still, in the intervals of pain, he not only amused himself by reading and conversing cheerfully with his family and a few friends who visited him, but was often employed in doing business of a public, as well as of a private nature, with various persons who waited upon him for that purpose; and, in every instance, displayed not only the readiness and disposition to do good which were the distinguishing characteristics of his life, but the fullest and clearest possession of his uncommon abilities. He also not unfrequently indulged in those jeux d'esprit and entertaining anecdotes, which were the delight of all who heard them.
"About sixteen days before his death, he was seized with a feverish disposition, without an particular symptoms attending it till the third or fourth day, when he complained of a pain in his left breast, which increased till it became extremely acute, attended by, a cough and laborious breathing. During this state, when the severity of his pains drew forth a groan of complain he would observe, that he was afraid he did not bear them as he ought.; acknowledging his grateful sense of the many blessings he had received from the Supreme Being, who had raised him, from small and low beginnings, to such high rank and consideration among men; and made no doubt but that his present afflictions were kindly intended to wean him from a world in which he was no longer fit to act the part assigned him. In this frame of body and mind, he continued until five days before his death, when the pain and difficulty of breathing entirely left him, and his family were flattering themselves with the hopes of his recovery; but an imposthume which had formed in his lungs, suddenly burst, and discharged a quantity of matter, which he continued to throw up while he had power; but, as that failed, the organs of respiration became gradually oppressed; a calm, lethargic state succeeded; and on the 17th instant (April, 1790), about eleven o'clock at night, he quietly expired, closing a long and useful life of eighty-four years and three months."×
In a letter from Dr. Rush to Dr. Price, dated. at Philadelphia, a week after this event, the writer says; "The papers will inform you of the death of our late illustrious friend Dr. Franklin. The evening of his life was marked by the same activity of his moral and intellectual powers, which distinguished its meridian. His conversation with his family, upon the subject of his dissolution, was free and cheerful. A few days before he died, he rose from his bed, and begged that it might be made up for him, so that he might die in a decent manner. His daughter told him, that she hoped be would recover, and live many years longer. He calmly replied, 'I hope not.' Upon being advised to change his position in bed, that he might breathe easy, he said, 'a dying man can do nothing easy.' All orders and bodies of people among us have vied with each other in paying tributes of respect to his memory."×
The following extracts are from a letter written by Mrs. Mary Hewson to Mr. Viny one of Dr. Franklin's early friends in England.
"We have lost that valued, that venerable, kind friend, whose knowledge enlightened our minds, and whose philanthropy warmed our hearts. But we have the consolation to think, that, if a life well spent in acts of universal benevolence to mankind, a grateful acknowledgment of Divine favor, a patient submission under severe chastisement, and an humble trust in Almighty mercy, can insure the happiness of a future state, our present loss is his gain. I was the faithful witness of the closing scene, which he sustained with that calm fortitude which characterized him through life. No repining, no peevish expression, ever escaped him, during a confinement of two years, in which, I believe, if every moment of ease could be added together the sum would not amount to two whole months. When the pain was , not too violent to be amused, he employed himself with his books, his pen, or in conversation with his friends; and upon every occasion displayed the clearness of his intellect and the cheerfulness of his temper. Even when the intervals from pain were so short, that his words were frequently interrupted, I have known him to bold a discourse in a sublime strain of piety. I say this to you, because I know it will give you pleasure."
"I never shall forget one day that I passed with our friend last summer. I found him in bed in great agony; but, when. that agony abated a little, 1. asked if I should read to him. He said, Yes; and the first book I met with was Johnson's 'Lives of the Poets.' I read the Life of Watts, who was a favorite author with Dr. Franklin; and, instead of lulling him to sleep, it roused him to a display of the powers of his memory and his reason. He repeated several of Watts's , 'Lyric Poems,' and descanted upon their sublimity in a strain worthy of them and of their pious author. It is natural for us to wish that an attention to some ceremonies had accompanied that religion of the heart, which I am convinced Dr. Franklin always possessed; but let us, who feel the benefit of them continue to practice them, without thinking lightly of that piety, which could support pain without a murmur, and meet death without terror."×
The funeral solemnities took place on the 21st of April. It was computed that more than twenty thousand people were assembled. In the procession were the clergy, the mayor and Corporation of the City, the members of the Executive Council and of the Assembly of Pennsylvania, the Faculty and Students of the College of Philadelphia, the Philosophical Society, and several other societies, followed by a numerous train of citizens. All the bells of the city were muffled and tolled; the flags of the vessels in the harbour were, raised half-mast high; and discharges of artillery announced the time when the body was laid in the earth. Franklin was interred by the side of his wife in the cemetery of Christ's Church. A, plain marble slab covers the two graves, according to the direction in his will, with no other inscription than their names and the year of his decease. It yet remains for the city of his adoption, by erecting an appropriate monument, to render the same tribute of respect to his memory, which the city of his birth has rendered to that of his father and mother.
When the news of his death reached Congress, then sitting in New York, a resolution was moved by Mr. Madison, and unanimously adopted, that the members should wear the customary badge of mourning for one month, "as a mark of veneration due to the memory, of a citizen, whose native genius was not more an ornament to human nature, than his various exertions of it have been precious to science, to freedom, and to his country."× A similar resolution was passed by the Executive Council of Pennsylvania. The American Philosophical Society appointed one of their number, the Reverend Dr. William Smith, to pronounce a discourse commemorative of his character and his virtues. Nor were such honors confined to his own country. By a decree of the National Assembly of France, introduced by an eloquent speech from Mirabeau, and seconded by Lafayette and La Rochefoucauld, the members of that body wore a badge of mourning for three days, and the President wrote a letter of condolence to the Congress of the United States. A public celebration was ordered by the Commune of Paris, which was attended by a large concourse of public officers and citizens, and a eulogy was pronounced by the Abbe Fauchet. Many other testimonies of respect were shown by the different scientific and literary societies in Paris, and eulogies were written by some of their most distinguished members.
Dr. Franklin was well formed and strongly built, in his latter years inclining to corpulency; his stature was five feet nine or ten inches; his eyes were grey, and his complexion light. Affable in his deportment, unobtrusive, easy, and winning in his manners, he rendered himself agreeable to persons of every rank in life. With his intimate friends he conversed freely, but with strangers and in mixed company he was reserved, and sometimes taciturn. His great fund of knowledge, and experience in human affairs, contributed to give a peculiar charm to his conversation, enriched as it was by original reflections, and enlivened by a vein of pleasantry, and by anecdotes and ingenious apologues, in the happy recollection and use of which he was unsurpassed.
The strong and distinguishing features of his mind were sagacity, quickness of perception, and soundness of judgment. His imagination was lively, without being extravagant. In short, he possessed a perfect mastery over the faculties of his understanding and over his passions. Having this power always at command, and never being turned aside either by vanity or selfishness, he was enabled to pursue his objects with a directness and constancy, that rarely failed to insure success. It was as fortunate for the world, as it was for his own fame, that the benevolence of such a man was limited only by his means and opportunities of doing good, and that, in every sphere of action through a long course of years, his single aim was to promote the happiness of his fellow men by enlarging their knowledge, improving their condition, teaching them practical lessons of wisdom and prudence, and inculcating the principles of rectitude and the habits of a virtuous life.
In the preceding narrative it has been the author's design to touch briefly upon all the principal events in the life of Franklin, from the time his own narrative breaks off, according to the method adopted by him in his memoirs of himself, and not to write an essay on his genius and character, nor an historical account of his discoveries as a philosopher and his achievements as a statesman and moralist. Such an attempt would have required much more space than has been allotted to this performance; and in the present case it is the less to be desired, as this biographical sketch is connected with his writings, in which, particularly in his moral essays and correspondence, will be found a better representation of his character and of what he accomplished, than the reader could hope to derive from any other source.