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and, as he looked about him, he could not but notice the many and great changes that had taken place. Old friends were gone. New faces met him on every street. The growth of the city, the spirit, the prosperity of the people, amazed him. But the greatest of all changes was in his own family and in his own home. The house to which he came and which he called his home, though built nine years, he had never seen. Politics were fast estranging his son. His daughter was married. His wife was dead. Her maiden name was Deborah Read. The story of her life is well known to every one who has read the Autobiography; how Franklin first saw her on the memorable Sunday morning when he walked the streets of Philadelphia in search of a place to lay his head; how he courted her; how he deserted her; how he came back from his first trip to London to find her married to another; how her husband in turn deserted her; how, with many misgivings, Franklin then took her to wife, and how she brought home and reared his illegitimate son. By her Franklin had two children: a son who died in infancy, and a daughter who married Richard Bache and became the mother of Benjamin Franklin Bache, the famous editor of the "Aurora," the bitter hater of Washington, and, under Jefferson, the founder of the Democratic-Republican
party. This daughter he found presiding over his house; but his stay with her was short. The Continental Congress was soon to meet, and he was on the day after his landing chosen a member with James Wilson and Thomas Willing.
And now the members began to come in fast. On the 9th of May the Charleston packet brought the delegates from South Carolina. May 10th, every citizen that could procure a horse rode out to welcome the delegates from Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, who came in a body. May 11th, the members from New England, New York, and New Jersey rode into town, and learned that the continental congress had begun its famous session the day before. Of that glorious congress Franklin was a member fourteen months. During that time he was made Postmaster-General of the United States, was on the committees to frame a second petition to the king; to find out the sources of saltpetre; to negotiate with the Indians; to engrave and print the continental money; to consider the resolution of Lord North; to devise a plan for regulating commerce; to obtain supplies of salt and lead; to establish the post-office; and, when Wash ington assumed command, to draw up a declaration to be issued by the commander of the army. For work of this kind he was wholly
unfit, and in place of a grave and dignified document, he produced a paper that began with idle charges and ended with a jest. Congress most happily never saw the draft and soon employed him in a better way, sent him first on a mission to Washington at Cambridge, and then on a mission to Arnold at Quebec; named him, after the disastrous battle on Long Island, one of three congressmen to confer with Lord Howe; and a little later dispatched him to join Arthur Lee and Silas Deane in France.
THE history of the mission of Franklin to the court of France begins on a November morning, 1776, when a stranger, short, lame, and speaking but little English, made his appearance at Philadelphia. He put up at one of the inns, and sent off a message to the congress, of which the substance was that he had something pressing and important to communicate. No heed was given, for he was thought to be of weak mind. But he persisted, and wrote again and again so earnestly, that Jefferson, Jay, and Franklin were appointed to hear what he had to say. They met him in one of the rooms in the Carpenters' Hall, and were told that whatever they wanted, arms, ammunition, money, ships, would gladly be supplied by France. When the committee asked for his name and credentials, the stranger smiled, drew his hand across his throat, said he knew how to take care of his head, bowed himself out, and was never seen again. The com
mittee, nevertheless, were deeply impressed by what they heard, and had no trouble in persuading congress to name a committee to correspond "with friends in Great Britain, Ireland, and other parts of the world." The committee were active, and letters were soon on their way to Professor Dumas at the Hague, to Arthur Lee at London, and to Franklin's old friend Dubourg. Thomas Story was sent to London, Silas Deane was dispatched to France, and M. Penet, a merchant of Nantes, went back home with a contract in his pocket for gunpowder, guns and supplies.
The months now dragged slowly on without a word from any agent. Winter lengthened into spring, the spring gave way to summer, and the summer was spent before a long letter from Dubourg reached Franklin. So full was it of the most comfortable assurances of help from France that congress lost no time in choosing Franklin, Jefferson, and Deane to make a treaty with that power. Jefferson would not serve, and in an evil hour Arthur Lee was chosen in his stead.
The choice was made on the 26th of September. One month later to a day Franklin boarded the Reprisal and sailed for France. The passage was stormy and the sea covered with English cruisers. More than once the