Hughes, Thomas. Benjamin Franklin
Hungarian Episode, A: Zigeuuer Music.
Ion. Blackwood's Magazine"

[ocr errors]

Joseph de Maistre on Russia.

Lark, The. Mortimer Collins

Lest Jewish Revolt, The. Ernest Renan.

Lee, Vernon. The Artistic Dualism of the Renaissa ce..

MeCarthy, Jus in.

"University Magazine"

McCarthy, Justin. Prince Napoleon...

McClintock, Letitia. Beasts, Birds, and Insects in Irish Folk-Lore..

Mallock, W. H. A Dialogue on Human Happiness.

Mathematician's View of the Theory of Evolution, A. W. H. L. Russell.

Max Müller, F. On Freedom.

[blocks in formation]

"Quarterly Review".











[blocks in formation]

National Poetry of Servia, The. Kate Freiligrath-Kroeker..





On Freedom. F. Max Müller

Our New Wheat Fields in the Northwest. T. T. Vernon Smith.







Ralston, W. R. S.

Prize French Novel. "Blackwood's Magazine"

Problem of the Great Pyramid, The. Richard A. Proctor

Proctor, Richard A.
Proctor, Richard A.
Proctor, Richard A.

Meteor Dust.

The Problem of the Great Pyramid.

Renaissance, The Artistic Dualism of the. Vernon Lee...

Renan, Ernest. The Last Jewish Revolt.

Russell, W. H. L. A Mathemetician's View of the Theory of Evolution..










Sarcy, Francisque. The Comédie Française....


Seeley, J. R. History and Politics

197, 327, 481, 757

Sermon in Stone, A, On a " Bust (Unknown)" in the British Museum. Austin


Servia, The National Poetry of.

Kate Freiligrath-Kroeker.


Smith, T. T. Vernon. Our New Wheat Fields in the Northwest..

[blocks in formation]

Supreme God in the Indo-European Mythology, The. James Darmesteter...


[blocks in formation]

Unity of Nature. The: A Speculation. Lord Bishop of Carlisle..

[blocks in formation]



JULY, 1879.


The Life of Benjamin Franklin, written by Himself. Now first Edited from
Original Manuscripts and from his Printed Correspondence and other
Writings, by JOHN BIGELOW. 3 vols. Philadelphia and London: J. B.
Lippincott & Co.

The appearance of a new edition of Mr. Bigelow's "Life of Franklin " may be, we trust, the means of calling the attention of the reading public in England to a remarkable book, and of modifying in some respects the popular judgment of a more remarkable man. It has often struck us as strange that Franklin should never, in the last hundred years, have become popular in England-should rather, indeed, have been regarded with distrust, if not with dislike, even up to the present time. There is much in his career, as well as in his personal qualities and character, which appeals to popular instincts, and would have led one to expect a very different appreciation of the great New Englander. He was one of the class of self-made men, so indiscriminately honoured by the British public; and a self-made man in the best sense, who had fought his own way to the front, not only without any advantages of birth or education, but with perfectly clean hands: in the moderate fortune he left behind him there was not a dirty shilling. Of the remarkable group of Revolutionary leaders in the great struggle of the colonies, he was the only one in the first rank not gentle born: all the rest were of the gentry-Washington, Madison, and Jefferson, the sons of Virginian planters; Adams, Hamilton, and Jay, of leading New England and New York families-and all of them brought the highest culture the colonies could give to their great work. But Franklin's father (though of good yeoman stock in the old country, which he had left when quite young) worked still with his own hands at his trade of tallow-chandler in Boston, and took Benjamin, the youngest of his ten children, away from school at the age of nine to help him. One would have expected this fact to tell in his favour in England, where, though birth and privilege enjoy a superstitious reverence and immense advantages in the race of life, the deepest popular instincts are after all decidedly democratic. Then, again, he had all the qualities supposed to be most highly valued by Englishmen: he was an excellent son, L M 2-1


husband, and father; moral and temperate from his youth up, but without a tinge of asceticism; scrupulously punctual and exact in moneymatters, but open-handed; full of courtesy, sagacity, and humour. He was probably the most popular, certainly the most prolific author of his day. His paper was the most influential in America, and Poor Richard's sayings were in every one's, mouth both there and in England. He published works of mark in natural philosophy, politics, political and social economy, morals and general literature. His discoveries and inventions ranged from the lightning conductor to cures for smoky chimneys-his ingenious speculations, from magnetism and ballooning to cheap cookery; and he gave every invention and speculation freely to the world, having never taken out a patent or claimed protection of any kind. He was a staunch free-trader, and an advocate for the rights of neutrals in war, and of the claim that free ships should make free goods. He was decidedly the most successful man of his day-a quality at least as devoutly worshipped in the nineteenth as in the eighteenth century. His position at Paris in the ten years from 1775 to 1785 -first as one of three commissioners, afterwards as minister plenipotentiary for the United States-was quite unique; and the figure, full of interest, of the old shopkeeper and journalist, in his plain suit and spectacles-ingeniously adjusted so that the upper half of the glasses served him in society, and the lower half for reading-wearing his own white hair in the midst of all the befrizzed and bepowdered courtiers of the ancien régime; a plain, outspoken Republican, not only holding his own, but the most popular man of the day with the royal family, the aristocracy, the ministers (except Chancellor Necker, who had to find him money for subsidies and warlike supplies); an honoured member not only of the Academy and every Continental learned society of note, but of the Royal Society of England, with whose leading members he was in friendly correspondence in spite of the war; of whom there were more medals, medallions, busts, and pictures than his biographer can count up, so that his face was the best known of any on both sides of the Atlantic-surely it is strange that so singularly attractive a figure should never have fairly found its place of honour in the country of which he was all but born a citizen, where he spent thirteen of his best years, and with whose foremost statesmen and learned men he was on affectionate intimacy up to the day of his death.

So, however, it has been, and though complete editions of Franklin's works and numerous biographies have been published, not only in America, but in France, Italy, and Germany, within the present century, one slight biographical sketch in Chambers's Cheap Library, and one article in the Edinburgh Review of 1806, remain the only notices which have issued from the English press of the greatest of American philosophers and diplomatists. To the English reading public, therefore, the stalwart historical figure which, in all its many-sided attractiveness and strength, is so well brought out in these volumes of Mr. Bigelow's, will be almost a stranger, though it is scarcely possible, we should think, that it will continue to be so. The book is not only of deep interest,

[ocr errors]

but is a literary experiment of a novel kind. It consists first of the Autobiography written by Franklin for his son-comprising the first fifty years of his life, and here published for the first time from the original manuscript, of which Mr. Bigelow became possessed during his residence as minister of the United States in France; and secondly, of a history of the remaining thirty-five years, compiled, indeed, and edited by Mr. Bigelow, but really a continuation of the Autobiography, as it consists entirely of extracts from Franklin's diary, correspondence, despatches, and speeches, so that from beginning to end he is telling the story of his own life in his own words. In ordinary cases such an attempt must have ended in failure, but the extraordinary activity of Franklin as a correspondent with private friends, and the conscientious regularity and fulness of his public correspondence, have enabled Mr. Bigelow, with the help of a quite insignificant supplement in the shape of occasional notes, to sustain the interest of the narrative, and to give us a complete picture of Franklin painted by himself, in a book which we have no doubt is destined to remain a classic for all English-speaking people.

We propose here to consider, in such detail as our space will allow, the prejudices, political and religious, which have obscured Franklin's fame in England, and upon which Mr. Bigelow's volumes throw a flood of light. The first are founded on the belief that Franklin, while resident in England and a civil servant of the Crown, was undermining the allegiance of the colonies and fanning their discontent, and that, above all, he was the one American commissioner who desired to humiliate England and to impose unworthy terms on her at the close of the war; the second on the belief that, while professing Christianity, he was in fact a sceptic, who veiled real hostility under a cloak of toleration and friendliness to all Churches and denominations.

First, then, as to the onduct of Franklin during the final negotiations for peace in 1782-83. In order to judge this fairly it is necessary to bear in mind what had happened in England years before when he was agent for the colonies. He came to England in 1757 as agent for Pennsylvania, with a European reputation as a man of science, and an English reputation as an able administrator who had made the Postoffice in America a paying department, and soon obtained the confidence of the leading statesmen and politicians. One of his first acts was strong opposition to the contemplated abandonment of Canada to France at the end of the Seven Years' War. "No one can more sincerely rejoice than I do on the reduction of Canada, and this not merely as a colonist, but as a Briton. I have long been of opinion," he writes in January, 1760, "that the foundations of the future grandeur and stability of the British empire lie in America; and though, like other foundations, they are low and little now, they are nevertheless broad and strong enough to support the greatest political structure that human wisdom ever erected. I am therefore by no means for restoring Canada. If we keep it, all the country from the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi will in another century be filled with British people,

Britain itself will become vastly more populous by the immense increase of its commerce; the Atlantic will be covered with your trading ships; and your naval power, thence continually increasing, will extend your influence round the whole globe, and awe the world." He adds playfully that his correspondent (Lord Kames) will think these notions the ravings of a mad prophet. In the same earnest desire for the greatness and prosperity of the empire, he pleads, though with serious misgivings, after the commencement of the troubles seven years later: "Upon the whole, I have lived so great a part of my life in Britain, and have formed so many friendships in it, that I love it and sincerely wish it prosperity, and therefore wish to see that union on which I think it can alone be secured and established. As to America, the advantages of such an union to her are not so apparent;" and after speaking of the certainty of America's becoming populous and mighty "in a less time than is generally conceived," and able to shake off all shackles which might be imposed on her, and insisting that the seeds of liberty are universally found there, and nothing can eradicate them, he adds: "And yet there remains among that people so much respect, veneration and affection for Britain that, if cultivated prudently, with a kind usage and tenderness for their privileges, they might be easily governed still for ages, without force or any considerable expense. But I do not see here a sufficient quantity of the wisdom that is necessary to produce such a conduct, and I lament the want of it."

So in his evidence before the Committee of the whole House of Commons on the Stamp Acts, in 1766, while declaring in the plainest terms that the colonies would never submit to pay the stamp duty unless compelled by force of arms, he urged that if aids to the Crown were needed, and were asked for in their own Assemblies according to old-established usage, they would be freely granted, and that the colonies had never murmured at having paid more than their fair proportion of the costs of the French war, because they esteemed their Sovereign's approbation of their zeal and fidelity, and the approbation of this House, far beyond any other kind of compensation. If the Imperial Parliament desired the right to tax the colonies, it could only obtain it by admitting representatives from the people to be taxed.

His evidence on this occasion, besides causing the repeal of the Stamp Act within a month, made him at once the most trusted man on both sides of the Atlantic. In the same spirit he worked on for years while the clouds were gathering more and more darkly, now warning the Assemblies not to use such expressions in their "public pieces as 'the supreme authority of Parliament,' and the like, which in reality mean nothing if our Assemblies with the king have a true legislative authority, and are too strong for compliment, as tending to confirm a claim of subjects in one part of the king's dominions to be sovereigns over their fellow-subjects, when in truth they have no such right;" now urging in them, in favor of maintaining the union, that were the general sentiments of England consulted, the terms asked would be at least equitable, for that, "except where the spirit of Toryism prevails, they wish us well and that we may preserve our liberties."

« VorigeDoorgaan »