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ordinary brown-coated man?” “Softly, madam,” was the reply; "that's the famous American, who bottles up thunder and lightning !” At a splendid entertainment given to the American deputies, the Countess de Polignac, one of the most distinguished of the court belles, advanced to Dr. Franklin, and placed a crown of laurel on his head. In compliment to his maxims, published under the title of “ Poor Richard," a vessel fitted out in France—that in which Paul Jones achieved his most wonderful exploitswas named Bon Homme Richard.
When the British ministry, at length, saw the necessity of recognising the independence of the states, the definitive treaty to that effect was signed at Paris, on the 3d September, 1783, by Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams, and Mr. Jay, for the states, on the one hand; and by Mr. David Hartley, for Great Britain, on the other. Franklin continued at Paris for the two following years; but, at last, by his own urgent request, he was recalled. Shortly after his return, he was elected president of the supreme executive council in Pennsylvania, and lent all his energies to the consolidation of the infant government. Age and infirmities, however, claimed their usual ascendancy, and, in 1788, he retired wholly from public life.
Franklin's last public act—and it was one in beautiful accordance with the whole tenor of his life—was putting his signature, as president of the Anti-Slavery Society, to a memorial presented to the House of Representatives, praying them to exert the full powers entrusted to them to discourage the revolting traffic in the human species. This was on the 12th of February, 1789. From this day forward, he was confined almost constantly to his bed with the stone, from which he suffered the most excruciating agony. Yet when his paroxysms of pain drew forth, as they did occasionally, an irrepressible groan, he would observe, that he was afraid he did not bear his sufferings as he ought-acknowledged 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 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. He afterwards sank into a calm lethargic state ; and, on the 17th of April, 1790, about eleven o'clock at night, he expired, in his eighty-fifth year. He left two children—a son and daughter.
In looking back on Franklin's career, of which we have given a very imperfect sketch, it is evident that the principal feature in his character was worldly prudence—not in a narrow and selfish acceptation of the term, but that prudence, founded on true wisdom, which dictates the practice of honesty, industry, frugality, temperance-in short, all those qualities which may be classed under the name of “moral virtues," as being the only certain means of obtaining distinction, respect, independence, and mental cheerfulness. There is no other writer who inculcates lessons of practical wisdom in a more agreeable and popular manner, and we much regret that our limits will not permit us to give extracts illustrative of this quality. His whole conduct and writings, indeed, present the
somewhat singular union of considerable genius with practical good sense, and of great shrewdness with the strictest integrity of principle. The greatest worldly honors—and few have attained higher-could not for a moment make him forget or deviate from the principles with which he started in life.
We must not deny that a careful examination of Franklin's history will display some unworthy acts, and certain defects of character; yet his life, on the whole, has proved to be one of the most useful and effective among the annals of our race. His scientific discoveries, his useful inventions, his political services-valuable as they were—we do not reckon as his highest benefactions to his country or mankind. He has contributed more than any other individual in modern times, to teach the working classes to feel their power, and to assert their rights. He has taught them, as well by precept as example, the certain steps by which they can ascend in the scale of society; and hundreds of thousands have been thus led from stations of poverty and ignorance, to the most elevated positions in society. He has done much to level down the distinctions in society; to remove the artificial barriers which pride and vanity set up to provoke envy and strife. He has made the humble to feel their strength, and taught the mighty to respect the rights which that strength can vindicate. His spirit has breathed over the civilized world, everywhere tending to inculcate the principle of equal rights. Nor is this all. He has put in circulation a thousand homespun truths-stamped and ready for change at the turnpike gates of life's every
distinguished for his military achievements; his uncle fell in the wars of Italy, in the middle of the last century; and his father lost his life in the seven years' war at the battle of Minden.
His mother died soon after, and he was thus left an orphan at an early age, the heir of an immense estate, and exposed to all the dangers incident to youth, rank, and fortune, in the gayest and most luxurious city in the world, at the period of its greatest corruption. Yet he escaped unhurt. Having completed the usual academical course at the college of Du Plessis, in Paris, he married, at the age of sixteen, the daughter of the Duke D'Argen, of the family of Noailles, somewhat younger than himself, and at all times the noble encourager of his virtues, the heroic partner of his sufferings, the worthy sharer of his great name and of his honorable grave.
The family to which he thus became allied was then, and for fifty years had been, in the highest favor at the French court. Himself the youthful heir of one of the oldest and richest houses in France, the path of advancement was open before him. He was offered a brilliant place in the royal household. At an age and in a situation most likely to be caught by the attraction, he declined the proffered distinction, impatient of the attendance at court which it required. He felt, from his earliest years, that he was not born to loiter in an ante-chamber. The sentiment of liberty was already awakened in his bosom. Having, while yet at college, been required, as an exercise in composition, to describe the well-trained charger, obedient even
the shadow of the whip—he repre
sented the noble animal, on the contrary, as rearing at the sight of it, and throwing his rider. With this feeling, the profession of arms was, of course, the most congenial to him; and was, in fact, with the exception of that of courtier, the only one open to a young French nobleman before the revolution.
In the summer of 1776, and just after the American declaration of independence, La Fayette, not then nineteen years old, was stationed at Metz, a garrisoned town on the road from Paris to the German frontier, with the regiment to which he was attached, as a captain of dragoons. The Duke of Gloucester, the brother of the king of England, happened to be on a visit to Metz, and a dinner was given to him by the commandant of the garrison. La Fayette was invited, with other officers, to the entertainment. Despatches had just been received by the duke, from England, relating to American affairs—the resistance of the colonists, and the strong measures adopted by the ministers to crush the rebellion. Among the details stated by the Duke of Gloucester, was the extraordinary fact, that these remote, scattered, and unprotected settlers of the wilderness had solemnly declared themselves an Independent People.
These words decided the fortunes of the enthusiastic listener; and not more distinctly was the great declaration a charter of political liberty to the rising states, than it was a commission to their youthful champion to devote his life to the sacred cause.
The details which he heard were new to him. The American contest was known to him before, but only as a rebellion in a remote transatlantic colony.