Imagens das páginas

the powers of the court of the press, and his proposition was, leave the liberty of the press untouched, but let the liberty of the cudgel go with it pari passu. Then if a writer attacked you, and put his name to the charge, you could go to him just as openly and break his head. Should he take refuge behind the printer, and you knew who he was, you could waylay him some dark night, come up behind and soundly drub him. This might cause breaches of the peace. Then let the legislators take up both liberties, that of the cudgel and that of the press, and by law fix their exact limits.

The Doctor had now become a great sufferer. The gout had long tormented him sorely. For a year past the stone had kept him much in bed, racked with pain, which he took large doses of laudanum to allay. It was during a brief respite from these attacks that he wrote and sent off to the "Federal Gazette' " his last piece. Both the style and the matter make it worthy to close so long and so splendid a career.

The house of representatives had, off and on, for a month past, been considering some petitions on slavery. Two came from the yearly meetings of the Quakers, and prayed that the slave trade might be suppressed. One written and signed by Franklin came from the Pennsylvania Abolition Society, and prayed that


slavery might be suppressed. The house sent them all to a committee; the committee made a report, and on that report James Jackson, of Georgia, made a violent pro-slavery speech. Franklin read it with just contempt, and turned it into ridicule. He pretended to have read in an old book called "Martin's Account of his Consulship" a very similar speech on a very similar petition. The speaker was Sidi Mehemet Ibrahim, a member of the Divan of Algiers, and the occasion a petition of the sect of Erika or Purists, praying that the practice of enslaving Christians might be stopped. The speech of Ibrahim against granting the prayer is a fine parody of that of Jackson, and worthy of Franklin in his best days.

The stone beEarly in April,

But his best days were gone. came more painful than ever. pleurisy attacked him; an abscess of the lungs followed, and on the night of April 17, 1790, he passed quietly away. His body, followed by a great crowd of citizens, was laid by that of his wife in the yard of Christ Church. For a time the mourning was general. The newspapers appeared with inverted column rules. Congress wore a black badge for thirty days. But in France the demonstration was greater still. The National Assembly put on mourn

ing. The city of Passy gave his name to a street. He was lauded by Fauchet before the Commune of Paris; by Condorcet before the Académie des Sciences; by Rochefoucauld Liancourt before the Society of '89.




No sooner was the great man dead than his life and works fell a prey to biographers and editors. For this he was himself to blame. Long before he died, he saw many of his letters and pieces published and republished, in magazines and newspapers, both at home and abroad. He well knew that, do what he might, they would live. Yet he would not arrange and publish them himself, nor gather them with a view to being published by his executors. The great discoveries with which his name was joined, the events in which he had borne so striking a part, made his life of no common interest to his countrymen. Yet it was only by pestering that he was led to go on with an Autobiography begun with diffidence, and never brought to a close.

So much as now makes the five opening chapters was written during a visit to the Bishop of St. Asaph, at Twyford, in 1771. The visit over, the writing stopped, and the

manuscript was left to begin a career more strange than any in the history of literature.

When Franklin set out for Paris in 1776, he left his papers in the care of his friend Joseph Galloway. Galloway carried the trunk containing them to his home in Bucks County, and placed it in an outhouse that served as an office, turned loyalist, and hurried to the army of Clinton at New York. Abandoned thus to the care of his wife, his property fell a prey to the vicissitudes of war. Pennsylvania confiscated the estate. The British raided the house, smashed the trunk, and scattered the papers of Franklin over the floor, where they lay for months. A few were picked up by Benjamin Bache, and in time a bundle of them fell into the hands of Abel James, a Quaker, and an ardent admirer and warm friend of Franklin. James found the packet to consist of a quantity of notes, and twenty sheets of closely written manuscript. It was that part of the Autobiography which had been written at Twyford in 1771. Delighted that such a treasure should have come in his way, James made a careful copy and sent it in 1782 to Franklin at Passy. With it went an urgent letter begging him to go on with so profitable and pleasing a work. The warmth of the appeal, the sight of the fragment long thought lost, were not without

« AnteriorContinuar »