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Would to God the same could be said of all
a messenger of truth.
He continued to pursue his studies, until he added to general science a knowledge of the French, Italian, Spanish, and Latin languages. By the "Junto" a small library was commenced, which formed the first stepping stone to the present city collection. He wrote and published a highly interesting pamphlet on the necessity of a paper currency, and added much to his literary fame by the production of various essays, written in his truly original style. He filled, successively and successfully, the situation of state printer, clerk of the General Assembly, and post-master of Philadelphia. He used unwearied exertions to increase municipal improvement in the city, by the organization of fire companies, lighting and improving the streets, regulating the watch, and reducing every thing to that system, order, and harmony, so congenial to his mind. He was the patron and father of the Philosophical Society, the Pennsylvania University and Hospital; and contributed, in every way he could, to advance the glory and prosperity of his adopted home, and the happiness and peace of his fellow citizens. All the important enterprises, both in the city and province, during these days of his towering fame, were either originated by him, or were more rapidly advanced by his wisdom and counsel; and scarcely any project was undertaken without his approving sanction.
In 1741, he commenced the publication of a "General Magazine," which contained much useful matter, but was less acceptable than his previous writings, being in part devoted to the litigated points of divinity.
The mechanic arts were also much improved by him. He brought to their aid philosophy and chemistry, and combined them with science, economy, and nature. He improved the chimneys, constructed a stove, and proposed many useful and economical corrections in domestic concerns, from the garret to the cellar, from the plough to the mill. Science acknowledged his master spirit, the arts hailed him as their patron, the lightning bowed in subjection to his magic rod, and nature claimed him as her favourite son.
In 1744, he was elected a member of the provincial assembly, where he was continued for ten successive years. Although not a popular speaker, his clear head and sound judgment, as a legislator and a statesman, gave him an influence over that body before unknown.
During the years he was serving his country in the assembly, he also served in the fields of experimental philosophy, and explained many of the mysterious phenomena of nature, that spread his fame to the remotest bounds of the civilized world. His discoveries in electricity alone, were sufficient to have immortalized his name. He was the first man on record who imparted magnetism to steel-melted metals, killed animals, and fired gunpowder by means of electricity; and the first who conceived and reduced to practice, the method of conducting lightning from the clouds to the points of steel rods, and, by them, harmless to the ground. All the elements and fluids, the
air, sea, and land, underwent the close investigation of his vast, his philosophic mind.
In 1758, he was sent to Carlisle to conclude a treaty with the Indians; and in the following year, to Albany, to meet a congress of commissioners, to arrange means of defence against the threatened hostilities of the French and savages. He there submitted a plan that met with the unanimous approbation of the commissioners, but was so republican in its features, as to be rejected by those who had at heart the interests of their king more than the happiness of the colonists.
On the decease of the deputy post-master general of America, Franklin succeeded him, and raised the department from a state of embarrassment and expense, to a fruitful source of revenue to the
About this time difficulties arose between the proprietors and government in the province of Pennsylvania, which were finally referred to the mother country for adjustment, and Franklin was sent to England in June, 1757, as advocate for the province. With his usual industry and address, he performed the duties of his mission, the difficulties were adjusted, and in 1762, he returned, received a vote of thanks from the assembly, and a compensation of five hundred pounds. He was now variously employed in regulating the post-office department, making treaties with the Indians, and devising means of defence on the frontiers: every department of government feeling his beneficial influence. New difficulties arose between the assembly and the proprietors, and, in 1764, Franklin again sailed for England, with instructions to obtain the entire abolishment of proprietary authority. On his arrival there, he was called upon to perform more important and perilous duties. The plan for taxing the colonies had been long agitated, and was now matured by the British ministry. This project Franklin had opposed from the beginning, and he was now arraigned to answer numerous accusations brought against him by the enemies of liberty. On the 3d of February, 1766, he appeared before the House of Commons to undergo a public examination. He was found equal to the task; his enemies were astounded at his logic, boldness, dignity, and skill; and his friends were filled with admiration at the able manner he confuted every accusation, and defended the rights and interests of his native country. Amidst the attacks of artifice and insolence of power, he stood unmoved, and firm as a marble statue. He remained in England eleven years as the agent of the colonies, opposing the encroachments of the crown upon the rights of Americans; and, during the whole time, all the combined efforts of malice, flattery, and intrigue, were unable to ensnare or intimidate him. He became acquainted with the etiquette, corruptions, and devices of diplomacy; but never bent his knee to Baal, or kissed the hand of a crowned head.
Matters had now arrived at a crisis that induced his departure for his long neglected home. His personal safety in England, and the need of his public services in his own country, admonished him to return. He accordingly embarked, and arrived at Philadelphia in the beginning of May, 1775. He was received with marked atten
tion and esteem, and immediately elected to the continental congress, adding new lustre and dignity to that august body, and enrolling his name among the signers of the Declaration of Independence. Notwithstanding he had used every exertion to reconcile difficulties with Great Britain, and believed his country was yet too weak to achieve its independence, his course was now onward, resolved, with his patriotic colleagues, on liberty or death.
The talents of Franklin were now had in constant requisition, both by his own state and in the general congress. He was always selected to meet the agents of the crown, who were at various times commissioned to offer terms of inglorious peace. They always found in him the firm uncompromising advocate of liberty; the shrewd and wary politician; the bold and zealous defender of the rights of his bleeding country. The disasters of the American army during the campaign of 1778, induced congress to apply to France for assistance. All eyes were turned on Franklin to perform this important mission. In October, 1776, he embarked upon this delicate embassy, and, after a most vigilant intercession, succeeded in concluding a treaty of alliance with that nation, on the 6th of February, 1778, to the great joy of himself and his suffering countrymen. When the news of this alliance reached England, the ministry were much alarmed, and despatched messengers to Paris to endeavour to induce Franklin to enter into a compromise. All was in vain. To Mr. Hutton and others, who came to him with the olive branch of peace, he replied: "I never think of your ministry and their abettors, but with the image strongly painted in my view of their hands red and dropping with the blood of my countrymen, friends and relations. No peace can be signed by those hands, unless you drop all pretensions to govern us, meet us on equal terms, and avoid all occasions of future discord."
He met all their intrigues at the threshold, and they became convinced that the hardy yeomanry of America were not to be dragooned, flattered, or driven from the bold position they had assumed. During the numerous interviews he had with these emissaries, (I can call them by no milder term,) Franklin was cautioned by Mr. Heartley to beware of his personal safety, which had been repeatedly threatened. He thanked his friend and assured him he felt no alarm, that he had nearly finished a long life, and that the short remainder was of no great value. He ironically remarked: "Perhaps the best use such an old fellow can be put to, is to make a martyr of him."
If it required much skill and perseverance to negociate an alliance with France, it required more to preserve it. A republican form of government is ever repugnant to kingly power. That the French in America would imbibe liberal principles, was a matter of course. That the thrones of Europe would be endangered on their return, was truly predicted. By this course of ingenious reasoning, the British ministers exerted a powerful influence against the continuation of the alliance. But the eagle eye of Franklin penetrated, anticipated, and frustrated all their dark schemes of intrigue; and, in the event, they were compelled to comply with his terms of peace, acknowledge the independence of the colonies, and retire, defeated, disgraced, and
humbled. In the arduous duties of settling definitive preliminaries of peace, Franklin was aided by Messrs. Adams, Jay, and Laurens. These duties were closed, and a definitive treaty concluded with Great Britain and the United States at Paris on the 3d of September, 1785.
Although anxious to be discharged from further public service, it was not until 1785, that Franklin was permitted to return to his beloved country, where he could breathe the pure air of republican freedom, no longer polluted by kingly power. During this time he had concluded treaties between the United States and the kings of Sweden and Prussia. On his departure from Europe every mark of respect was paid to him by kings, by courts, by the literati, and by all classes of society that the most towering ambition could desire. He was clothed with the mantle of love and unfading glory. His reputation was perched sublimely on the loftiest pinnacle fame could rear. had been a pillow of fire to the American cause, and a pillar of smoke to the enemies of human rights.
At the age of eighty years, borne down by fatigue and disease, he returned to Philadelphia. He was hailed with enthusiastic joy, esteem, and respect by all the friends of liberty, from the humblest citizen up to the illustrious Washington.
Notwithstanding his advanced age, and his great anxiety to retire from the public gaze, he was soon appointed Governor of Pennsylvania-and subsequently, in 1787, elected a delegate to the convention that framed the federal constitution. Many of the bright traits of that matchless instrument received their finishing stroke from his master hand. Early in 1790, his infirmities of body confined him to his room, but his immortal mind remained unimpaired. When approaching rapidly the confines of eternity, he still looked with anxious solicitude upon the interests of the young republic. He still continued to benefit mankind by his writings and counsels. Some of the strongest and most vivid productions from his pen were written during his confinement. His diseases continued to increase, and on the 17th of April, 1790, calm and resigned, cool and collected, peaceful and happy, he resigned his spirit into the hands of his Creator-quitted this vale of tears, and slumbered, quietly and sweetly, in the arms of death-in the full faith of rising to a glorious immortality in realms of bliss beyond the skies.
By his will he prohibited all pomp and parade at his funeral. He was anxious that the plain republican manner of his long and useful life, should be strictly observed in the mournful obsequies of his interment. He was buried on the 21st of April, in the north-west corner of Christ Church yard, where a plain marble slab, even with the surface of the earth, points to where he lies. With his, moulders the dust of his wife, with whom he had lived in harmony and peace. No other inscription is upon the tomb except his and her name.
His death was deeply lamented throughout the civilized world. Congress ordered mourning to be observed throughout the United States one month. The event was solemnized, and many eulogies pronounced in France. The National Assembly decreed that each
of its members should wear a badge of mourning on the occasion for three days. The sensations produced there by his death, were as imposing and interesting, and celebrated with as much devotion as those recently witnessed in our own country on the death of La Fayette.
In reviewing the life of this great benefactor of mankind, we find a richer variety to admire than in that of any individual upon the historic page. In whatever station he moved he was a luminary of the first magnitude. He entered upon the stage of action at a time when the world needed just such a man; and continued upon it just long enough to finish all he had begun. He was found just equal to every work he undertook, and always stopped at the golden point of the finishing stroke-a modest hint for me to close. You who profess to admire his virtues, talents, and usefulness, prove your sincerity by imitating his examples.
THE man who has been rocked in the cradle of letters from his childhood; who has become familiar with general science, the classics, and philosophy; who has had a father to aid, and friends to caress him; whose path has been smoothed by uninterrupted prosperity-and does not ascend the ladder of fame, is either untrue to himself, or destitute of native talent. With all the advantages of an education lavished upon him, he sinks into obscurity, and the fond anticipations and future hopes of a doting parent, set in gloom.
When, on the other hand, we see a man, whose opportunities for acquiring an education during childhood and youth carried him not far beyond the confines of the spelling book; a man, who had no father or guardian to warn him against the quicksands of error or point him to the temple of science; his intellect enveloped in the rude attire of nature's quarry at the age of twenty; when we see such a man bursting the chains that bind his mental powers-divesting himself of the dark mantle of ignorance-unveiling his native talents, and shining in all the beauty of intelligence and greatness-we are filled with admiration and delight.
Such a man was ROGER SHERMAN, the great-grandson of Captain John Sherman, who came from England to Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1635. Roger was born in Newton, Massachusetts, on the 19th of April, 1721. His father, William Sherman, was a respectable farmer, with means too limited to educate his son, and, at an early age, bound him to a shoemaker. Like Franklin, at the age of nineteen, he wandered from his master to seek his fortune, and like him, he had a genius that no shop could confine, no obstacle intimidate, or difficulty paralyze. The course of his mind was onward, upward; like a new and blazing star, illuminating the horizon as it rose. Nature designed him to be great and good; he obeyed her dictates.