« AnteriorContinua »
As biography is a species of history, which records the lives and characters of remarkable persons, it consequently becomes an interesting subject, and is of general utility. It would be but fair to assert, that almost every civilized nation on the globe has, at one period or other, produced distinguished individuals in various stations of life.
Mr. Jefferson, the President of the United States of America, in his “ Notes on Virginia," thus speaks,-in answer to the assertion of the Abbe Raynal, that 'America has not yet produced one good poet, one able mathematician, one man of genius, in a single art, or a single science,'- " When we shall have existed as a nation, as long as the Greeks did before they produced a Homer, the Romans a Virgil, the French a Racine and Voltaire, the English a Shakspeare and Milton, should this reproach be still true, we will inquire from what unfriendly causes it has proceeded, that the other countries of Europe and quarters of the earth shall not have inscribed any name in the roll of poets. In war we have produced a Washington, whose memory will be adored while liberty shall have votaries; whose name will triumph over time, and will in future ages assume its just station among the most celebrated worthies of the world, when that wretched philosophy shall be forgotten which would arrange him among the degeneracies of nature. In physics we have produced a FRANKLIN, than whom no one of the present age has made more important discoveries, nor has enriched philosophy with more or more ingenious solutions of the phenomena of nature. We have supposed Mr. Rittenhouse second to no astronomer living; that in genius he must be the first, because he is self-taught,” &c.
In philosophy, England can boast of a Bacon, the most eminent professor in this science the world has ever produced. The Essays of this great writer is one of the best proofs we can adduce of his transcendent abilities; and America claims the enlightened FRANKLIN, a man who has not left his equal behind him, and whose life and writings are the subject of the following sheets.
To say more in this place of our author would be anticipating what is hereafter mentioned: it will therefore only be necessary to add, that due attention has been paid in the selection of such of his productions as may be adapted to general perusab The following letter from the celebra. ted Dr. Price, to a gentleman in Philadelphia, upon the subject of Dr. Franklin's Memoirs of his own Life, will not, it is presumed, be considered inapplicable.
“ HACKNEY, JUNE 19, 1790. 66 DEAR Sir,
“I am hardly able to tell you how kindly I take the letters with which you favor me. Your last, containing an account of the death of our excellent friend, Dr. Franklin, and the circumstances attending it, deserves my particular gratitude. The account which he has left of his life will show, in a striking example, how a man, by talents, industry, and integrity, may rise from obscurity to the first eminence and consequence in the world; but it brings his history no lower than tlfe year 1757, and I understand that since he sent over the copy, which I have read, he has been able to make no additions to it. It is with a melancholy regret that I think of his death; but to death we are all bound by the irrevocable order of nature, and in looking forward to it, there is a comfort in being able to reflect, that we have not lived in vain, and that all the useful and virtuous shall meet in a better country beyond the grave.
“ Dr. Franklin, in the last letter I received from him, aster mentioning his age and infirmi. ties, observes, that it has been kindly ordered by the Author of nature, that, as we draw nearer the conclusion of life we are furnished with more helps to wean us from it, amongst which one of the strongest is the loss of dear friends. I was delighted with the account you gave in your let. ter of the honor shown to his memory at Phila.
delphia, and by Congress; and yesterday I re ceived a high additional pleasure by being in. formed that the National Assembly of France had determined to go into mourning for him. What a glorious scene is opened there! The annals of the world furnish no parallel to it. One of the honors of our departed friend is, that he Las contributed much to it.
“ I am, with great respect,
“ your obliged and very humble servant,
DR. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN.
My Dear Son,
I have amused myself with collecting some little anecdotes of my family. You may remember the inquiries I made, when you were with me in England, among such of my relations as were then living; and the journey I undertook for that purpose.
To be acquainted with the particulars of my parentage and life, many of which are unknown to you, 1 flatter myself, will afford the same pleasure to you as to me. I shall relate them upon paper; it will be an agreeable employment of a weeks' uninterrupted leisure, which I promise myself during my present retirement in the country. There are also other motives which induce me to the undertaking. From the bosom of poverty and obscurity, in which I drew my first breath and spent my earliest years, I have raised myself to a state of opulence and to some degree of celebrity in the world. A constant good fortune has attended me through every period of life, to my present advanced age; and my descendants may be desirous of learning what