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political struggles I have been engaged in, for the good of my compatriot inhabitants of this bush, or my philosophical studies for the benefit of our race in general ? For, in politics, what can laws do without morals? Our present race of ephemeral will in a course of minutes become corrupt,” like those of other and older bushes, and consequently as wretched. And in philosophy how small our progress! Alas! art is long, and life is short.
“My friends would comfort me with the idea of a name they say I shall leave behind me; and they tell me I have lived long enough to nature and to glory. But what will fame be to an ephemera who no longer exists ? and what will become of all history in the eighteenth hour, when the world itself, even the whole Moulin Joly, shall come to its end, and be buried in universal ruin?”
To me, after all my eager pursuits, no solid pleasures now remain, but the reflection of a long life spent in meaning well, the sensible conversation of a few good lady ephemeræ, and now and then a kind smile and a tune from the ever-amiable Brillante.3
5.- SOWING THE WIND.
[This noteworthy prophecy is recorded in a letter of Franklin (May 15, 1771), to the Massachusetts "Committee of Correspondence,” consisting of Thomas Cushing, James Otis, and Samuel Adams. Ori
1 ephemeræ: a plural of ephemera, devised by Franklin.
2 corrupt. See Glossary.
8 Brillante: a play on the name of the lady (Brillon) to whom the letter was written.
ginally sent to London to represent the interests of the Pennsylvania colonists, Franklin was subsequently invested with the agency for several other American colonies, Massachusetts among the number; and this letter to his home-friends is only one of the many evidences of his extraordinary vigilance and foresight. Each successive step of this prophecy was verified by the event.]
I THINK one may clearly see, in the system of customs to be exacted in America by Act of Parliament, the seeds sown 2 of a total disunion of the two countries, though as yet that event may be at a considerable distance. The course and natural progress seems to be: first, the appointment of needy men as officers, for others do not care to leave England; then their necessities make them rapacious, their office makes them proud and insolent, their insolence and rapacity make them odious, and, being conscious that they are hated, they become malicious; their malice urges them to a continual abuse of the inhabitants in their letters to administration,4 representing them as disaffected 5 and rebellious, and (to encourage the use of severity) as weak, divided, timid, and cowardly.
Government believes all; thinks it necessary to support and countenance its officers: their quarreling with the people is deemed a mark and consequence of their fidelity; they are therefore more highly rewarded, and
1 Parliament. In 1767 the Brit 2 seeds sown. What is the figish Parliament passed an act put ure of speech ? ting a duty on various specified 3 distance: i.e., in time. articles imported into the colonies, 4 to administration: that is, to and appointed commissioners of the British government. customs to see that these duties 5 disaffected, alienated and diswere levied and collected.
this makes their conduct still more insolent and provoking.
The resentment of the people will, at times and on particular incidents, burst into outrages and violence upon such officers; and this naturally draws down severity and acts of further oppression from hence.l The more the people are dissatisfied, the more rigor will be thought necessary; severe punishments will be inflicted to terrify; rights and privileges will be abolished; greater force will then be required to secure execution and submission; the expense will become enormous: it will then be thought proper, by fresh exactions, to make the people defray it; thence the British nation and government will become odious ;3 the subjection to it will be deemed no longer tolerable; war ensues, and the bloody struggle will end in absolute slavery to America, or ruin to Britain by the loss of her colonies, — the latter most probable, from America's growing strength and magnitude.
I do not pretend to the gift of prophecy. History shows, that, by these steps, great empires have crumbled heretofore; and the late transactions we have so much cause to complain of show that we are in the same train, and that, without a greater share of prudence and wisdom than we have seen both sides to be possessed of, we shall probably come to the same conclusion.
1 from hence: i.e., from London, where this letter was written.
2 execution: i.e., execution of Acts of Parliament.
8 odious: from Latin odi, to hate, to detest.
4 transactions, public acts.
6.–LETTER TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.
MARCH 5, 1780.
[The following interesting letter was drawn out, as its opening sentence says, by Franklin's receipt of a letter from General Washington introducing Lafayette. This young French officer early and ardently espoused the cause of American independence, and had in several campaigns been attached to Washington's military household.]
I HAVE received but lately the letter your Excellency did me the honor of writing to me in recommendation of the Marquis de Lafayette. His modesty detained it long in his own hands. We became acquainted, however, from the time of his arrival at Paris; and his zeal for the honor of our country, his activity in our affairs here, and his firm attachment to our cause and to you, impressed me with the same regard and esteem for him that your Excellency's letter would have done, had it been immediately delivered to me.
Should peace arrive after another campaign or two, and afford us a little leisure, I should be happy to see your Excellency in Europe, and to accompany you, if my age and strength would permit, in visiting some of its ancient and most famous kingdoms. You would, on this side of the sea, enjoy the great reputation you have acquired, pure and free from those little shades that the jealousy and envy of a man's countrymen and contemporaries are ever endeavoring to cast over living merit.
Here you would know, and enjoy, what posterity will say of Washington. For a thousand leagues have nearly the same effect with a thousand years. The
feeble voice of those groveling passions can not extend so far either in time or distance. At present I enjoy that pleasure for you; as I frequently hear the old generals of this martial country, who study the maps of America, and mark upon them all your operations, speak with sincere approbation and great applause of your conduct, and join in giving you the character of one of the greatest captains of the age.
I must soon quit this scene, but you may live to see our country flourish, as it will amazingly and rapidly after the war is over; like a field of young Indian corn,
, which long fair weather and sunshine had enfeebled and discolored, and which in that weak state, by a thunder-gust of violent wind, hail, and rain, seemed to be threatened with absolute destruction; yet, the storm being past, it recovers fresh verdure, shoots up with double vigor, and delights the eye, not of its owner only, but of every observing traveler.
The best wishes that can be formed for your health, honor, and happiness, ever attend you !
[The following eloquent and merited tribute was addressed by Washington to Franklin in the last year of the Doctor's long and useful life. It gladdens the heart to know how close were the relations of esteem and affection subsisting between these two illustrious men.)
New YORK, 23 September, 1789. DEAR SIR:
The affectionate congratulations on the recovery of my health, and the warm expressions of personal friendship, which were contained in your letter of the 16th instant, claim my gratitude. And the consideration, that it was