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Beacon Lights of History, Volume XI by John Lord

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Dr. Lord's volume on "American Statesmen" was written some years after
the issue of his volume on "Warriors and Statesmen," which was Volume IV
of his original series of five volumes. The wide popular acceptance of
the five volumes encouraged him to extend the series by including, and
rewriting for the purpose, others of his great range of lectures. The
volume called "Warriors and Statesmen" (now otherwise distributed)
included a number of lectures which in this new edition have been
arranged in more natural grouping. Among them were the lectures on
Hamilton and Webster. It has been deemed wise to bring these into closer
relation with their contemporaries, and thus Hamilton is now placed in
this volume, among the other "American Founders," and Webster in the
volume on "American Leaders."

Of the "Founders" there is one of whom Dr. Lord did not treat, yet whose
services--especially in the popular confirmation of the Constitution by
the various States, and notably in its fundamental interpretation by the
United States Supreme Court--rank as vitally important. John Marshall,
as Chief Justice of that Court, raised it to a lofty height in the
judicial world, and by his various decisions established the
Constitution in its unique position as applicable to all manner of
political and commercial questions--the world's marvel of combined
firmness and elasticity. To quote Winthrop, as cited by Dr. Lord, it is
"like one of those rocking-stones reared by the Druids, which the finger
of a child may vibrate to its centre, yet which the might of an army
cannot move from its place."

So important was Marshall's work, and so potent is the influence of the
United States Supreme Court, that no apology is needed for introducing
into this volume on our "Founders" a chapter dealing with that great
theme by Professor John Bassett Moore, recently Assistant Secretary of
State; later, Counsel for the Peace Commission at Paris; and now
occupying the chair of International Law and Diplomacy in the School of
Political Science, Columbia University, New York City.

NEW YORK, September, 1902.




Basis of American institutions
Their origin
The Declaration of Independence
Duties rather than rights enjoined in Hebrew Scriptures
Roman laws in reference to rights
Rousseau and the "Contrat Social"
Calvinism and liberty
Holland and the Puritans
The English Constitution
The Anglo-Saxon Laws
The Guild system
Teutonic passion for personal independence
English Puritans
Puritan settlers in New England
Puritans and Dutch settlers compared
Traits of the Pilgrim Fathers
New England town-meetings
Love of learning among the Puritan colonists
Confederation of towns
Colonial governors
Self-government; use of fire-arms
Parish ministers
Religious freedom
Growth of the colonies
The conquest of Canada
Colonial discontents
Desire for political independence
Oppressive English legislation
Denial of the right of taxation
James Otis and Samuel Adams
The Stamp Act
Boston Port Bill
British troops in Boston
The Battle of Lexington
Liberty under law



Birth of Franklin
His early days
Leaves the printer's trade
Goes to Philadelphia
Visit to England
Returns to Philadelphia
Prints a newspaper
Establishes the "Junto"
Marries Deborah Reid
Establishes a library
"Poor Richard"
Clerk of the General Assembly
Business prosperity
Retirement from business
Scientific investigations
Founds the University of Pennsylvania
Scientific inventions
Franklin's materialism
Appointed postmaster-general
The Penns
The Quakers
Franklin sent as colonial agent to London
Difficulties and annoyances
Acquaintances and friends
Returns to America
Elected member of the Assembly
English taxation of the colonies
English coercion
Franklin again sent to England
At the bar of the House of Commons
Repeal of the Stamp Act
Franklin appointed agent for Massachusetts
The Hutchinson letters
Franklin a member of the Continental Congress
Sent as envoy to France
His tact and wisdom
Unbounded popularity in France
Embarrassments in raising money
The recall of Silas Deane
Franklin's useful career as diplomatist
Associated with John Jay and John Adams
The treaty of peace
Franklin returns to America
His bodily infirmities
Happy domestic life
Chosen member of the Constitutional Convention
Sickness; death; services
Deeds and fame



Washington's origin and family
His early life
Personal traits
Friendship with Lord Fairfax
Washington as surveyor
Aide to General Braddock
Member of the House of Burgesses
Marriage, and life at Mount Vernon
Member of the Continental Congress
General-in-chief of the American armies
His peculiarities as general
At Cambridge
Organization of the army
Defence of Boston
British evacuation of Boston
Washington in New York
Retreat from New York
In New Jersey
Forlorn condition of the army
Arrival at the Delaware
Fabian Policy
The battle of Trenton
Intrenchment at Morristown
Expulsion of the British from New Jersey
The gloomy winter of 1777
Washington defends Philadelphia
Battle of Germantown
Surrender of Burgoyne
Intrigues of Gates
Baron Steuben
Winter at Valley Forge
British evacuation of Philadelphia
Battle of Monmouth
Washington at White Plains
Benedict Arnold
Military operations at the South
General Greene
Lord Cornwallis
His surrender at Yorktown
Close of the war
Washington at Mount Vernon
Elected president
Alexander Hamilton
John Jay
Washington as president
Establishment of United States Bank
Rivalries and dissensions between Hamilton and Jefferson
French intrigues
Jay treaty
Citizen Genet
Washington's administrations
Retirement of Washington
Death, character, and services



Hamilton's youth
Precocity of intellect
State of political parties on the breaking out of the Revolutionary War
Their principles
Their great men
Hamilton leaves college for the army
Selected by Washington as his aide-de-camp at the age of nineteen
His early services to Washington
Suggestions to members of Congress
Trials and difficulties of the patriots
Demoralization of the country
Hamilton in active military service
Leaves the army; marries; studies law
Opening of his legal career
His peculiarities as a lawyer
Contrasted with Aaron Burr
Hamilton enters political life
Sees the necessity of a constitution
Convention at Annapolis
Convention at Philadelphia
The remarkable statesmen assembled
Discussion of the Convention
Great questions at issue
Constitution framed
Influence of Hamilton in its formation
Its ratification by the States
"The Federalist"
Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury
His transcendent financial genius
Restores the national credit
His various political services as statesman
The father of American industry
Federalists and Republicans
Hamilton's political influence after his retirement
Resumes the law
His quarrel with Burr
His duel
His death
Burr's character and crime
Hamilton's services
His lasting influence



The Adams family
Youth and education of John Adams
New England in the eighteenth century
Adams as orator
As lawyer
The Stamp Act
The "Boston Massacre"
Effects of English taxation
Destruction of tea at Boston
Adams sent to Congress
His efforts to secure national independence
Criticisms of the Congress
Battles of Lexington and Concord
Adams moves Washington's appointment as general-in-chief
Sent to France
Adams as diplomatist
His jealousy of Franklin
Adams in England
As vice-president
Aristocratic sympathies
As president
Formation of political parties
The Federalists; the Republicans
Adams compared with Jefferson
Discontent of Adams
Strained relations between France and the United States
The Alien and Sedition laws
Decline of the Federal party
Adams's tenacity of office
His services to the State
Adams in retirement



Thomas Jefferson
Birth and early education
Law studies
Liberal principles
Practises law
Successful, but no orator
Enters the House of Burgesses
Marries a rich widow
Builds "Monticello"
Member of the Continental Congress
Drafts the Declaration of Independence
Enters the State Legislature
Governor of Virginia
Appointed minister to France
Hails the French Revolution
Services as a diplomatist
Secretary of state
Rivalry with Hamilton
Love of peace
Founds the Democratic party
Contrasted with Hamilton
Becomes vice-president
Inaugurated as president
Policy as president
The purchase of Louisiana
Aaron Burr
His brilliant career and treasonable schemes
Arrest and trial
Subsequent reverses
The Non-importation Act
Strained relations between France and the United States
English aggressions
The peace policy of Jefferson
The embargo
Triumph of the Democratic party
Results of universal suffrage
Private life of Jefferson
Retirement to Monticello
Vast correspondence; hospitality
Fame as a writer
Friend of religious liberty and popular education
Founds the University of Virginia
His great services




The States of the American Union after the Revolution, for a time a
loose confederation, retaining for the most part powers of independent

The Constitution (1787-89) sought to remedy this and other defects.

One Supreme Court created, in which was vested the judicial power of the
United States.

John Marshall, in order the fourth Chief Justice (1801-35), takes
pre-eminent part in the development of the judicial power.

Earns the title of "Expounder of the Constitution".

Birth (1755) and parentage.

His active service in the Revolutionary War.

Admitted to the bar (1780) and begins practice (1781).

A member of the Virginia Legislature.

Supporter of Washington's administrations, and leader of Federal party.

United States Envoy to France (1797-98).

Member of Congress from Virginia (1799-1800), and supporter of President
Adams's administration.

Secretary of State in Adams's Cabinet (1800-01).

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

His many important decisions on constitutional questions.

Maintains power of the Supreme Court to decide upon the
constitutionality of Acts of Congress.

Asserts power of Federal Government to incorporate banks, with freedom
from State control and taxation.

Maintains also its power to regulate commerce, free from State
hindrance or obstruction.

His constitutional opinion, authoritative and unshaken.

His decisions on questions of International Law.

Decides the status of a captured American vessel visiting her native
port as a foreign man-of-war.

Sound decision respecting prize cases.

His views and rulings respecting confiscation of persons and property in
time of war.

Personal characteristics and legal acumen.

Weight and influence of the Supreme Court of the United States.



Surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown.
_After the painting by Ch. Ed. Armand Dumaresq_

Puritans Going to Church
_After the painting by G. H. Boughton_.

Benjamin Franklin
_After the painting by Baron Jos. Sifrede Duplessis_.

Franklin's Experiments with Electricity
_After the painting by Karl Storch_.

The Fight of the Bonhomme Richard and Serapis
_After the painting by J. O. Davidson_.

George Washington
_After the painting by Gilbert Stuart_

Washington's Home at Mt. Vernon
_From a photograph_.

Alexander Hamilton
_After the painting by Gilbert Stuart_.

Duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr
_After the painting by J. Mund_.

John Adams
_After the painting by Gilbert Stuart_.

Patrick Henry's Speech in the House of Burgesses
_After the painting by Rothermel_.

Thomas Jefferson
_After the painting by Gilbert Stuart_.

John Marshall
_From an engraving after the painting by Inman_.




In a survey of American Institutions there seem to be three fundamental
principles on which they are based: first, that all men are naturally
equal in rights; second, that a people cannot be taxed without their own
consent; and third, that they may delegate their power of
self-government to representatives chosen by themselves.

The remote origin of these principles it is difficult to trace. Some
suppose that they are innate, appealing to consciousness,--concerning
which there can be no dispute or argument. Others suppose that they
exist only so far as men can assert and use them, whether granted by
rulers or seized by society. Some find that they arose among our
Teutonic ancestors in their German forests, while still others go back
to Jewish, Grecian, and Roman history for their origin. Wherever they
originated, their practical enforcement has been a slow and unequal
growth among various peoples, and it is always the evident result of an
evolution, or development of civilization.

In the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson
asserts that "all men are created equal," and that among their
indisputable rights are "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
Nobody disputes this; and yet, looking critically into the matter, it
seems strange that, despite Jefferson's own strong anti-slavery
sentiments, his associates should have excluded the colored race from
the common benefits of humanity, unless the negroes in their plantations
were not men at all, only things or chattels. The American people went
through a great war and spent thousands of millions of dollars to
maintain the indissoluble union of their States; but the events of that
war and the civil reconstruction forced the demonstration that African
slaves have the same inalienable rights for recognition before the law
as the free descendants of the English and the Dutch. The statement of
the Declaration has been formally made good; and yet, whence came it?

If we go back to the New Testament, the great Charter of Christendom, in
search of rights, we are much puzzled to find them definitely declared
anywhere; but we find, instead, duties enjoined with great clearness
and made universally binding. It is only by a series of deductions,
especially from Saint Paul's epistles, that we infer the right of
Christian liberty, with no other check than conscience,--the being made
free by the gospel of Christ, emancipated from superstition and
tyrannies of opinion; yet Paul says not a word about the manumission of
slaves, as a right to which they are justly entitled, any more than he
urges rebellion against a constituted civil government because it is a
despotism. The burden of his political injunctions is submission to
authority, exhortations to patience under the load of evils and
tribulations which so many have to bear without hope of relief.

In the earlier Jewish jurisprudence we find laws in relation to property
which recognize natural justice as clearly as does the jurisprudence of
Rome; but revolt and rebellion against bad rulers or kings, although apt
to take place, were nowhere enjoined, unless royal command should
militate against the sovereignty of God,--the only ultimate authority.
By the Hebrew writers, bad rulers are viewed as a misfortune to the
people ruled, which they must learn to bear, hoping for better times,
trusting in Providence for relief, rather than trying to remove by
violence. It is He who raises up deliverers in His good time, to reign
in justice and equity. If anything can be learned from the Hebrew
Scriptures in reference to rights, it is the injunction to obey God
rather than man, in matters where conscience is concerned; and this
again merges into duty, but is susceptible of vast applications to
conduct as controlled by individual opinion.

Under Roman rule native rights fare no better. Paul could appeal from
Jewish tyrants to Caesar in accordance with his rights as a Roman
citizen; but his Roman citizenship had nothing to do with any inborn
rights as a man. Paul could appeal to Caesar as a Roman citizen. For
what? For protection, for the enjoyment of certain legal privileges
which the Empire had conferred upon Roman citizenship, not for any
rights which he could claim as a human being. If the Roman laws
recognized any rights, it was those which the State had given, not those
which are innate and inalienable, and which the State could not justly
take away. I apprehend that even in the Greek and Roman republics no
civil rights could be claimed except those conferred upon men as
citizens rather than as human beings. Slaves certainly had no rights,
and they composed half the population of the old Roman world. Rights
were derived from decrees or laws, not from human consciousness.

Where then did Jefferson get his ideas as to the equal rights to which
men were born? Doubtless from the French philosophers of the eighteenth
century, especially from Rousseau, who, despite his shortcomings as a
man, was one of the most original thinkers that his century produced,
and one of the most influential in shaping the opinions of civilized
Europe. In his "Contrat Social" Rousseau appealed to consciousness,
rather than to authorities or the laws of nations. He took his stand on
the principles of eternal justice in all he wrote as to civil liberties,
and hence he kindled an immense enthusiasm for liberty as an
inalienable right.

But Rousseau came from Switzerland, where the passion for personal
independence was greater than in any other part of Europe,--a passion
perhaps inherited from the old Teutonic nations in their forests, on
which Tacitus dilates, next to their veneration for woman the most
interesting trait among the Germanic barbarians. No Eastern nation,
except the ancient Persians, had these traits. The law of liberty is an
Occidental rather than an Oriental peculiarity, and arose among the
Aryans in their European settlements. Moreover, Rousseau lived in a city
where John Calvin had taught the principles of religious liberty which
afterwards took root in Holland, England, Scotland, and France, and
created the Puritans and Huguenots. The central idea of Calvinism is the
right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience,
enlightened by the Bible. Rousseau was no Calvinist, but the principles
of religious and civil liberty are so closely connected that he may have
caught their spirit at Geneva, in spite of his hideous immorality and
his cynical unbelief. Yet even Calvin's magnificent career in defence of
the right of conscience to rebel against authority, which laid the solid
foundation of theology and church discipline on which Protestantism was
built up, arrived at such a pitch of arbitrary autocracy as to show
that, if liberty be "human" and "native," authority is no less so.

Whether, then, liberty is a privilege granted to a few, or a right to
which all people are justly entitled, it is bootless to discuss; but its
development among civilized nations is a worthy object of
historical inquiry.

A late writer, Douglas Campbell, with some plausibility and considerable
learning, traces to the Dutch republic most that is valuable in American
institutions, such as town-meetings, representative government,
restriction of taxation by the people, free schools, toleration of
religious worship, and equal laws. No doubt the influence of Holland in
the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in stimulating free inquiry,
religious toleration, and self-government, as well as learning,
commerce, manufactures, and the arts, was considerable, not only on the
Puritan settlers of New England, but perhaps on England itself. No
doubt the English Puritans who fled to Holland during the persecutions
of Archbishop Laud learned much from a people whose religious oracle was
Calvin, and whose great hero was William the Silent. Mr. Motley, in the
most brilliant and perhaps the most learned history ever written by an
American, has made a revelation of a nation heretofore supposed to be
dull, money-loving, and uninteresting. Too high praise cannot be given
to those brave and industrious people who redeemed their morasses from
the sea, who grew rich and powerful without the natural advantages of
soil and climate, who fought for eighty years against the whole power of
Spain, who nobly secured their independence against overwhelming forces,
who increased steadily in population and wealth when obliged to open
their dikes upon their cultivated fields, who established universities
and institutions of learning when almost driven to despair, and who
became the richest people in Europe, whitening the ocean with their
ships, establishing banks and colonies, creating a new style of
painting, and teaching immortal lessons in government when they occupied
a country but little larger than Wales. Civilization is as proud of such
a country as Holland as of Greece itself.

With all this, I still believe that it is to England we must go for the
origin of what we are most proud of in our institutions, much as the
Dutch have taught us for which we ought to be grateful, and much as we
may owe to French sceptics and Swiss religionists. This belief is
confirmed by a book I have just read by Hannis Taylor on the "Origin and
Growth of the English Constitution." It is not an artistic history, by
any means, but one in which the author has brought out the recent
investigations of Edward Freeman, John Richard Green, Bishop Stubbs,
Professor Gneist of Berlin, and others, who with consummate learning
have gone to the roots of things,--some of whom, indeed, are dry
writers, regardless of style, disdainful of any thing but facts, which
they have treated with true scholastic minuteness. It appears from these
historians, as quoted by Taylor, and from other authorities to which the
earlier writers on English history had no access, that the germs of our
free institutions existed among the Anglo-Saxons, and were developed to
a considerable extent among their Norman conquerors in the thirteenth
and fourteenth centuries, when barons extorted charters from kings in
their necessities, and when the common people of Saxon origin secured
valuable rights and liberties, which they afterwards lost under the
Tudor and Stuart princes. I need not go into a detail of these. It is
certain that in the reign of Edward I. (1274-1307), himself a most
accomplished and liberal civil ruler, the English House of Commons had
become very powerful, and had secured in Parliament the right of
originating money bills, and the control of every form of taxation,--on
the principle that the people could not be taxed without their own
consent. To this principle kings gave their assent, reluctantly indeed,
and made use of all their statecraft to avoid compliance with it, in
spite of their charters and their royal oaths. But it was a political
idea which held possession of the minds of the people from the reign of
Edward I. to that of Henry IV. During this period all citizens had the
right of suffrage in their boroughs and towns, in the election of
certain magistrates. They were indeed mostly controlled by the lord of
the manor and by the parish priest, but liberty was not utterly
extinguished in England, even by Norman kings and nobles; it existed to
a greater degree than in any continental State out of Italy. It cannot
be doubted that there was a constitutional government in England as
early as in the time of Edward I., and that the power of kings was even
then checked by parliamentary laws.

In Freeman's "Norman Conquest," it appears that the old English town, or
borough, is purely of Teutonic origin. In this, local self-government is
distinctly recognized, although it subsequently was controlled by the
parish priest and the lord of the manor under the influence of the
papacy and feudalism; in other words, the ancient jurisdiction of the
tun-mot--or town-meeting--survived in the parish vestry and the manorial
court. The guild system, according to Kendall, had its origin in England
at a very early date, and a great influence was exercised on popular
liberty by the meetings of the various guilds, composed, as they were,
of small freemen. The guild law became the law of the town, with the
right to elect its magistrates. "The old reeve or bailiff was supplanted
by mayor and aldermen, and the practice of sending the reeve and four
men as the representatives of the township to the shire-moot widened
into the practice of sending four discreet men as representatives of the
county to confer with the king in his great council touching the affairs
of the kingdom." "In 1376," says Taylor, "the Commons, intent upon
correcting the evil practices of the sheriff, petitioned that the
knights of the shire might be chosen by common election of the better
folk of the shires, and not nominated by the sheriff; and Edward III.
assented to the request."

I will not dwell further on the origin and maintenance of free
institutions in England while Continental States were oppressed by all
the miseries of royalty and feudalism. But beyond all the charters and
laws which modern criticism had raked out from buried or forgotten
records, there is something in the character of the English yeoman which
even better explains what is most noticeable in the settlement of the
American Colonies, especially in New England. The restless passion for
personal independence, the patience, the energy, the enterprise, even
the narrowness and bigotry which marked the English middle classes in
all the crises of their history, stand out in bold relief in the
character of the New England settlers. All their traits are not
interesting, but they are English, and represent the peculiarities of
the Anglo-Saxons, rather than of the Normans. In England, they produced
a Latimer rather than a Cranmer,--a Cromwell rather than a Stanley. The
Saxon yeomanry at the time of Chaucer were not aristocratic, but
democratic. They had an intense hatred of Norman arrogance and
aggression. Their home life was dull, but virtuous. They cared but
little for the sports of the chase, compared with the love which the
Norman aristocracy always had for such pleasures. It was among them that
two hundred years later the reformed doctrines of Calvin took the
deepest hold, since these were indissolubly blended with civil liberty.
There was something in the blood of the English Puritans which fitted
them to be the settlers of a new country, independent of cravings for
religious liberty. In their new homes in the cheerless climate of New
England we see traits which did not characterize the Dutch settlers of
New York; we find no patroons, no ambition to be great landed
proprietors, no desire to live like country squires, as in Virginia.
They were more restless and enterprising than their Dutch neighbors, and
with greater public spirit in dangers. They loved the discussion of
abstract questions which it was difficult to settle. They produced a
greater number of orators and speculative divines in proportion to their
wealth and number than the Dutch, who were phlegmatic and fond of ease
and comfort, and did not like to be disturbed by the discussion of
novelties. They had more of the spirit of progress than the colonists of
New York. There was a quiet growth among them of those ideas which
favored political independence, while also there was more intolerance,
both social and religious. They hanged witches and persecuted the
Quakers. They kept Sunday with more rigor than the Dutch, and were less
fond of social festivities. They were not so genial and frank in their
social gatherings, although fonder of excitement.

Among all the new settlers, however, both English and Dutch, we see one
element in common,--devotion to the cause of liberty and hatred of
oppression and wrong, learned from the weavers of Ghent as well as from
the burghers of Exeter and Bristol.

In another respect the Dutch and English resembled each other: they
were equally fond of the sea, and of commercial adventures, and hence
were noted fishermen as well as thrifty merchants. And they equally
respected learning, and gave to all their children the rudiments of
education. At the time the great Puritan movement began, the English
were chiefly agriculturists and the Dutch were merchants and
manufacturers. Wool was exported from England to purchase the cloth into
which it was woven. There were sixty thousand weavers in Ghent alone,
and the towns and cities of Flanders and Holland were richer and more
beautiful than those of England.

It will be remembered that New York (Nieuw Amsterdam) was settled by the
Dutch in 1613, and Jamestown, Virginia, by the Elizabethan colonies in
1607. So that both of these colonies antedated the coming of the
Pilgrims to Massachusetts in 1620. It is true that most of the histories
of the United States have been written by men of New England origin, and
that therefore by natural predilection they have made more of the New
England influence than of the other elements among the Colonies. Yet
this is not altogether the result of prejudice; for, despite the
splendid roll of soldiers and statesmen from the Middle and Southern
sections of the country who bore so large a share in the critical events
of the transition era of the Revolution, it remains that the brunt of
resistance to tyranny fell first and heaviest on New England, and that
the principal influences that prepared the general sentiment of revolt,
union, war, and independence proceeded from those colonies.

The Puritan exodus from England, chiefly from the eastern counties,
first to Holland, and then to New England, was at its height during the
persecutions of Archbishop Laud in the reign of Charles I. The
Pilgrims--as the small company of Separatists were called who followed
their Puritanism to the extent of breaking entirely away from the
Church, and who left Holland for America--came to barren shores, after
having learned many things from the Dutch. Their pilgrimage was taken,
not with the view of improving their fortunes, like the more
aristocratic settlers of Virginia, but to develop their peculiar ideas.
It must be borne in mind that the civilization they brought with them
was a growth from Teutonic ancestry,--an evolution from Saxon times,
although it is difficult to trace the successive developments during the
Norman rule. The Pilgrims brought with them to America an intense love
of liberty, and consequently an equally intense hatred of arbitrary
taxation. Their enjoyment of religious rights was surpassed only by
their aversion to Episcopacy. They were a plain and simple people, who
abhorred the vices of the patrician class at home; but they loved
learning, and sought to extend knowledge, as the bulwark of free
institutions. The Puritans who followed them within ten years and
settled Massachusetts Bay and Salem, were direct from England. They were
not Separatists, like the Pilgrims, but Presbyterians; they hated
Episcopacy, but would have had Church and State united under
Presbyterianism. They were intolerant, as against Roger Williams and the
"witches," and at first perpetrated cruelties like those from which they
themselves had fled. But something in the free air of the big continent
developed the spirit of liberty among them until they, too, like the
Pilgrims, became Independents and Separatists,--and so,
Congregationalists rather than Presbyterians.

The first thing we note among these New Englanders was their
town-meetings, derived from the ancient folk-mote, in which they elected
their magistrates, and imposed upon themselves the necessary taxes for
schools, highways, and officers of the law. They formed self-governed
communities, who selected for rulers their ablest and fittest men,
marked for their integrity and intelligence,--grave, austere, unselfish,
and incorruptible. Money was of little account in comparison with
character. The earliest settlers were the picked and chosen men of the
yeomanry of England, and generally thrifty and prosperous. Their leaders
had had high social positions in their English homes, and their
ministers were chiefly graduates of the universities, some of whom were
fine scholars in both Hebrew and Greek, had been settled in important
parishes, and would have attained high ecclesiastical rank had they not
been nonconformists,--opposed to the ritual, rather than the theological
tenets of the English Church as established by Elizabeth. Of course they
were Calvinists, more rigid even than their brethren in Geneva. The
Bible was to them the ultimate standard of authority--civil and
religious. The only restriction on suffrage was its being conditioned on
church-membership. They aspired, probably from Calvinistic influence,
but aspired in vain, to establish a theocracy, borrowed somewhat from
that of the Jews. I do not agree with Mr. John Fiske, in his able and
interesting history of the "Beginnings of New England," that "the
Puritan appealed to reason;" I think that the Bible was their ultimate
authority in all matters pertaining to religion. As to civil government,
the reason may have had a great place in their institutions; but these
grew up from their surroundings rather than from study or the experience
of the past. There was more originality in them than it is customary to
suppose. They were the development of Old England life in New England,
but grew in many respects away from the parent stock.

The next thing of mark among the Colonists was their love of learning;
all children were taught to read and write. They had been settled at
Plymouth, Salem, and Boston less than twenty years when they established
Harvard College, chiefly for the education of ministers, who took the
highest social rank in the Colonies, and were the most influential
people. Lawyers and physicians were not so well educated. As for
lawyers, there was but little need of them, since disputes were mostly
settled either by the ministers or the selectmen of the towns, who were
the most able and respectable men of the community. What the theocratic
Puritans desired the most was educated ministers and schoolmasters. In
1641 a school was established in Hartford, Connecticut, which was free
to the poor. By 1642 every township in Massachusetts had a schoolmaster,
and in 1665 every one embracing fifty families a common school. If the
town had over one hundred families it had a grammar school, in which
Latin was taught. It is probable, however, that the idea of popular
education originated with the Dutch. Elizabeth and her ministers did not
believe in the education of the masses, of which we read but little
until the 19th century. As early as 1582 the Estates of Friesland
decreed that the inhabitants of towns and villages should provide good
and able Reformed schoolmasters, so that when the English
nonconformists dwelt in Leyden in 1609 the school, according to Motley,
had become the common property of the people.

The next thing we note among the Colonists of New England is the
confederation of towns and their representation in the Legislature, or
the General Court. This was formed to settle questions of common
interest, to facilitate commerce, to establish a judicial system, to
devise means for protection against hostile Indians, to raise taxes to
support the common government. The Legislature, composed of delegates
chosen by the towns, exercised most of the rights of sovereignty,
especially in the direction of military affairs and the collection
of revenue.

The governors were chosen by the people in secret ballot, until the
liberal charter granted by Charles I. was revoked, and a royal governor
was placed over the four confederated Colonies of Massachusetts,
Plymouth, Connecticut, and New Haven. This confederation was not a
federal union, but simply a league for mutual defence against the
Indians. Each Colony managed its own internal affairs, without
interference from England, until 1684.

Down to this time the Colonies had been too insignificant to attract
much notice in England, and hence were left to develop their
institutions in their own way, according to the circumstances which
controlled them, and the dangers with which they were surrounded. One
thing is clear: the infant Colonies governed themselves, and elected
their own magistrates, from the governor to the selectmen; and this was
true as well of the Middle and Southern as of the Eastern Colonies. Even
in Virginia quite as large a proportion of the people took part in
elections as in Massachusetts. It is difficult to find any similar
instance of uncontrolled self-government, either in Holland or England
at any period of their history. Either the king, or the Parliament, or
the lord of the manor, or the parish priest controlled appointments or
interfered with them, and even when the people directly selected their
magistrates, suffrage was not universal, as it gradually came to be in
the Colonies, with slight restrictions,--one of the features of the
development of American institutions.

Another thing we notice among the Colonies, which had no inconsiderable
influence on their growth, was the use of fire-arms among all the
people, to defend themselves from hostile Indians. Every man had his
musket and powder-flask; and there were several periods when it was not
safe even to go to church unarmed. Thus were the new settlers inured to
danger and self-defence, and bloody contests with their savage foes.
They grew up practically soldiers, and formed a firm material for an
effective militia, able to face regular troops and even engage in
effective operations, as seen afterwards in the conquest of Louisburg by
Sir William Pepperell, a Kittery merchant. But for the universal use of
fire-arms, either for war or game, it is doubtful if the Colonies could
have won their independence. And it is interesting to notice that, while
the free carrying of weapons, in these later days at least, is apt to
result in rough lawlessness, as in our frontier regions, among the
serious and law-abiding Colonists of those early times it was not so.
This was probably due both to their strict religious obligations and to
the presence of their wives and children.

The unrestricted selection of parish ministers by the people was no
slight cause of New England growth, and was also a peculiar custom or
institution not seen in the mother country, where appointment to
parishes was chiefly in the hands of the aristocracy or the crown.
Either the king, or the lord chancellor, or the universities, or the
nobility, or the county squires had the gift of the "livings," often
bestowed on ignorant or worldly or inefficient men, the younger sons of
men of rank, who made no mark, and were incapable of instruction or
indifferent to their duties. In New England the minister of the parish
was elected by the church members or congregation, and if he could not
edify his hearers by his sermons, or if his character did not command
respect, his occupation was gone, or his salary was not paid. In
consequence the ministers were generally gifted men, well educated, and
in sympathy with the people. Who can estimate the influence of such
religious teachers on everything that pertained to New England life and
growth,--on morals, on education, on religious and civil institutions!

Although we have traced the early characteristics of the New England
Colonists, especially because it was in New England first and chiefly
that the spirit of resistance to English oppression grew to a sentiment
for independence, it is not to be overlooked that the essential elements
of self-controlling manhood were common throughout all the Colonies. And
everywhere it seems to have grown out of the germ of a devotion to
religious freedom, developed on a secluded continent, where men were
shut in by the sea on the one hand, and perils from the fierce
aborigines on the other. The Puritans of New England, the Hollanders of
New York, Penn's Quaker colony in Pennsylvania, the Huguenots of South
Carolina, the Scotch-Irish Presbyterians of North Carolina, Virginia,
Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, were all of Calvinistic training
and came from European persecutions. All were rigidly Puritanical in
their social and Sabbatarian observances. Even the Episcopalians of
Virginia, where a larger Norman-English stock was settled, with
infusions of French-Huguenot blood, and where slavery bred more men of
wealth and broader social distinctions, were sternly religious in their
laws, although far more lax and pleasure-loving in their customs.
Everywhere, this new life of Englishmen in a new land developed their
self-reliance, their power of work, their skill in arms, their habit of
common association for common purposes, and their keen, intelligent
knowledge of political conditions, with a tenacious grip on their rights
as Englishmen.

In the enjoyment, then, of unknown civil and religious liberties, of
equal laws, and a mild government, the Colonies rapidly grew, in spite
of Indian wars. In New England they had also to combat a hard soil and a
cold climate. Their equals in rugged strength, in domestic virtues, in
religious veneration were not to be seen on the face of the whole earth.
They may have been intolerant, narrow-minded, brusque and rough in
manners, and with little love or appreciation of art; they may have been
opinionated and self-sufficient: but they were loyal to duties and to
their "Invisible King." Above all things, they were tenacious of their
rights, and scrupled no sacrifices to secure them, and to perpetuate
them among their children.

It is not my object to describe the history of the Puritans, after they
had made a firm settlement in the primeval forests, down to the
Revolutionary War, but only to glance at the institutions they created
or adopted, which have extended more or less over all parts of North
America, and laid the foundation for a magnificent empire.

At the close of the Seven Years' War, in 1763, which ended in the
conquest of Canada from the French by the combined forces of England and
her American subjects, the population of the Colonies--in New England
and the Middle and Southern sections--was not far from two millions.
Success in war and some development in wealth naturally engendered
self-confidence. I apprehend that the secret and unavowed consciousness
of power, creating the desire to be a nation rather than a mere colony
dependent on Great Britain,--or, if colonies, yet free and untrammelled
by the home government,--had as much to do with the struggle for
independence as the discussion of rights, at least among the leaders of
the people, both clerical and lay. The feeling that they were not
represented in Parliament was not of much account, for more than three
quarters of the English at home had no representation at all. To be
represented in Parliament was utterly impracticable, and everybody knew
it. But when arbitrary measures were adopted by the English government,
in defiance of charters, the popular orators made a good point in
magnifying the injustice of "taxation without representation."

The Colonies had been marvellously prospered, and if not rich they were
powerful, and were spreading toward the indefinite and unexplored West.
The Seven Years' War had developed their military capacity. It was New
England troops which had taken Louisburg. The charm of British
invincibility had been broken by Braddock's defeat. The Americans had
learned self-reliance in their wars with the Indians, and had nearly
exterminated them along the coast without British aid. The Colonists
three thousand miles away from England had begun to feel their
importance, and to realize the difficulty of their conquest by any
forces that England could command. The self-exaggeration common to all
new countries was universal. Few as the people were, compared with the
population of the mother country, their imagination was boundless. They
felt, if they did not clearly foresee, their inevitable future. The
North American continent was theirs by actual settlement and long habits
of self-government, and they were determined to keep it. Why should they
be dependent on a country that crippled their commerce, that stifled
their manufactures, that regulated their fisheries, that appointed their
governors, and regarded them with selfish ends,--as a people to be
taxed in order that English merchants and manufacturers should be
enriched? They did not feel weak or dependent; what new settlers in the
Western wilds ever felt that they could not take care of their farms and
their flocks and everything which they owned?

Doubtless such sentiments animated far-reaching men, to whom liberty was
so sweet, and power so enchanting. They could not openly avow them
without danger of arrest, until resistance was organized. They contented
themselves with making the most of oppressive English legislation, to
stimulate the people to discontent and rebellion. Ambition was hidden
under the burden of taxation which was to make them slaves. Although
among the leaders there was great veneration for English tradition and
law, the love they professed for England was rather an ideal sentiment
than an actual feeling, except among aristocrats and men of rank.

Nor was it natural that the Colonists, especially the Puritans, should
cherish much real affection for a country that had persecuted them and
driven them away. They felt that not so much Old England as New England
was their home, in which new sentiments had been born, and new
aspirations had been cultivated. It was very seldom that a colonist
visited England at all, and except among the recent comers their
English relatives were for the most part unknown. Loyalty to the king
was gradually supplanted by devotion to the institutions which they had
adopted, or themselves created. In a certain sense they admitted that
they were still subject to Great Britain, but one hundred and fifty
years of self-government had nearly destroyed this feeling of
allegiance, especially when they were aroused to deny the right of the
English government to tax them without their own consent.

With the denial of the right of taxation by England naturally came

The first line of opposition arose under a new attempt of England to
enforce the Sugar Act, which was passed to prevent the American
importation of sugar and molasses from the West Indies, in exchange for
lumber and agricultural products. It had been suffered to fall into
abeyance; but suddenly in 1761 the government issued Writs of Assistance
or search-warrants, authorizing customs officers to enter private stores
and dwellings to find imported goods, not necessarily known but when
even suspected to be there. This was first brought to bear in
Massachusetts, where the Colonists spiritedly refused to submit, and
took the matter into the courts. James Otis, a young Boston lawyer, was
advocate for the Admiralty, but, resigning his commission, he appeared
on behalf of the people, and his fiery eloquence aroused the Colonists
to a high pitch of revolutionary resolve. John Adams, who heard the
speech, declared, "Then and there American independence was born."
Independency however, was not yet in most men's minds, but the spirit of
resistance to arbitrary acts of the sovereign was unmistakably aroused.
In 1763 a no less memorable contest arose in Virginia, when the king
refused to sanction a law of the colonial legislature imposing a tax
which the clergy were unwilling to submit to. This too was tested in the
courts, and a young lawyer named Patrick Henry defended so eloquently
the right of Virginia to make her own laws in spite of the king, that
his passionate oratory inflamed all that colony with the same
"treasonable" spirit.

But the centre of resistance was in Boston, where in 1765 the people
were incited to enthusiasm by the eloquence of James Otis and Samuel
Adams, in reference to still another restrictive tax, the Stamp Act,
which could not be enforced, except by overwhelming military forces, and
was wisely repealed by Parliament. This was followed by the imposition
of duties on wine, oil, fruits, glass, paper, lead, colors and
especially tea, an indirect taxation, but equally obnoxious; increasing
popular excitement, the sending of troops, collision between the
soldiers and the people in 1770, and in 1773 the rebellious act of the
famous "Tea Party," when citizens in the guise of Indians emptied the
chests of tea on board merchantmen into Boston harbor. Soon after, the
Boston Port Bill was passed, which shut up American commerce and created
immense irritation. Then were sent to the rebellious city regiments of
British troops to enforce the acts of Parliament; and finally the troops
were, at the people's expense, quartered in the town, which was treated
as a conquered city.

In view of these disturbances and hostile acts, the first Continental
Congress of the different colonies met in Philadelphia, September, 1774,
and issued a petition to the king, an address to the people of Great
Britain, and an address to the Colonies, thus making a last effort for
conciliation. The British Government, obstinately refusing to listen to
its own wisest counsellors, replied with restraining acts, forbidding
participation in the fisheries and other remunerative sea-work.
Moreover, it declared Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion; in
consequence of which the whole province prepared for war. At the same
time the colonial legislatures promptly approved and agreed to sustain
the acts of the Continental Congress. Nor did they neglect to appoint
committees of safety for calling out minute men and committees of
supplies for arming and provisioning them. General Gage, the British
military commander in Massachusetts, attempted to destroy the
collection of ammunition and stores at Concord, and in consequence, on
April 19, 1775, the battle of Lexington was fought, followed in June by
that of Bunker Hill.

Thus began the American Revolution, which ended in the independence of
the thirteen Colonies and their federal union as States under a common

As the empire of the Union expanded, as power grew, as opportunities
increased, so did obstructions arise and complications multiply. But
what I have called "the American idea"--which I conceive to be _Liberty
under Law_--has proved equal to all emergencies. The marvellous success
with which American institutions have provided for the development of
the Anglo-Saxon idea of individual independence, without endangering the
common weal and rule, has been largely due to the arising of great and
wise administrators of the public will.

It is to a consideration of some of the chief of these notable men who
have guided the fortunes of the American people from the Revolutionary
period to the close of the Civil War, that I invite the attention of the
reader in the next two volumes. Those who have not materially modified
the condition of public affairs I omit to discuss at large, eminent as
have been their talents and services. Consequently I pass by the
administrations of all the presidents since Jefferson, except those of
Jackson and Lincoln, the former having made a new departure in national
policy, and the latter having brought to a conclusion a great war. I
consider that Franklin, Hamilton, Clay, Webster, and Calhoun did more
than any of the presidents, except those I have mentioned, to affect the
destinies of the country, and therefore I could not omit them.

There will necessarily be some repetitions of fact in discussing the
relations of different men to the same group of events, but this has
been so far as possible avoided. And since my aim is the portrayal of
character and influence, rather than the narration of historical annals,
I have omitted vast numbers of interesting details, selecting only those
of salient and vital importance.




At the commencement of the Revolutionary War, the most prominent and
influential man in the colonies was perhaps Benjamin Franklin, then
sixty-nine years of age. Certainly it cannot be doubted that he was one
of the most illustrious founders of the American Republic. Among the
great statesmen of the period, his fame is second only to that of

I will not dwell on his early life, since that part of his history is
better known than that of any other of our great men, from the charming
autobiography which he began to write but never cared to finish. He was
born in Boston, January 17, 1706, the youngest but two of seventeen
children. His father was a narrow-minded English Puritan, but
respectable and conscientious,--a tallow-chandler by trade; and his
ancestors for several generations had been blacksmiths in the little
village of Ecton in Northamptonshire, England. He was a precocious boy,
not over-promising from a moral and religious point of view, but
inordinately fond of reading such books as were accessible, especially
those of a sceptical character. He had no sympathy with the theological
doctrines then in vogue in his native town. At eight years of age he was
sent to a grammar school, and at ten he was taken from it to assist his
father in soap-boiling; but, showing a repugnance to this sort of
business, he was apprenticed to his brother James at the age of twelve,
to learn the art, or trade, of a printer. At fifteen we find him writing
anonymously, for his brother's newspaper which had just been started, an
article which gave offence to the provincial government, and led to a
quarrel with his brother, who, it seems, was harsh and tyrannical.

Boston at this time was a flourishing town of probably about ten
thousand or twelve thousand people, governed practically by the
Calvinistic ministers, and composed chiefly of merchants, fishermen, and
ship-carpenters, yet all tolerably versed in the rudiments of education
and in theological speculations. The young Benjamin, having no liking
for the opinions, manners, and customs of this strait-laced town, or for
his cold and overbearing brother, concluded in his seventeenth year to
run away from his apprenticeship. He found himself in a few days in New
York, without money, or friends, or employment. The printers' trade was
not so flourishing in the Dutch capital as in the Yankee one he had
left, and he wandered on to Philadelphia, the largest town in the
colonies, whose inhabitants were chiefly Quakers,--thrifty, prosperous,
tolerant, and kind-hearted. Fortunately, there were several
printing-presses in this settlement; and after a while, through the
kindness of a stranger,--who took an interest in him and pitied his
forlorn condition, wandering up and down Market Street, poorly
dressed, and with a halfpenny roll in his hand, or who was attracted
by his bright and honest face, frank manners, and expressive
utterances,--Franklin got work, with small wages. His industry and
ability soon enabled him to make a better appearance, and attract
friends by his uncommon social qualities.

It does not appear that Franklin was particularly frugal as a young man.
He spent his money lavishly in convivial entertainments, of which he was
the life, among his humble companions, a favorite not only with them,
but with all the girls whose acquaintance he made. So remarkable was he
for wit, good nature, and intelligence that at the age of eighteen he
attracted the notice of the governor of the province, who promised to
set him up in business, and encouraged him to go England to purchase
types and a printing-press. But before he sailed, having earned money
enough to buy a fine suit of clothes and a watch, he visited his old
home, and paraded his success with indiscreet ostentation, much to the
disgust of his brother to whom he had been apprenticed.

On the young man's return to Philadelphia, the governor, Sir William
Keith, gave him letters to some influential people in England, with
promises of pecuniary aid, which, however, he never kept; so that when
Franklin arrived in London he found himself without money or friends.
But he was not discouraged. He soon found employment as a printer and
retrieved his fortunes, leading a gay life, and spending his money, as
fast as he earned it, at theatres and in social enjoyments with boon
companions of doubtful respectability. Disgusted with London, or
disappointed in his expectations, he returned to Philadelphia in 1726 as
a mercantile clerk for a Mr. Durham, who shortly after died; and
Franklin resumed his old employment with his former employer, Keimer,
the printer.

On his long voyage home he had had time for reflection, and resolved to
turn over a new leaf, and become more frugal and respectable. He would
not give up his social pleasures, but would stick to his business, and
employ his leisure time in profitable reading. This, Mr. Parton calls
his "regeneration." Others might view it as the completion of "sowing
his wild oats." He certainly made himself very useful to the old
visionary Keimer, who printed banknotes for New Jersey, by making
improvements on the copper plate; but he soon left this employment and
set up for himself, in partnership with another young man.

The young printers started fairly, and hired the lower part of a house
in Market Street, most of which they sublet. Their first job brought
them but five shillings. Soon after, they were employed to print a
voluminous history of the Quakers, at a very small profit; but the work
was so well done that it led to a great increase of business.

The idea then occurred to Franklin to print a newspaper, there being but
one in the colony, and that miserably dull. His old employer Keimer,
hearing of his purpose accidentally, stole the march on him, and started
a newspaper on his own account, but was soon obliged to sell out to
Franklin and Meredith, not being able to manage the undertaking. "The
Pennsylvania Gazette" proved a great success, and was remarkable for its
brilliant and original articles, which brought the editor, then but
twenty-three years old, into immediate notice. He had become frugal and
industrious, but had not as yet renounced his hilarious habits, and
could scarcely be called moral, for about this time a son was born to
him of a woman whose name was never publicly known. This son was
educated by Franklin, and became in later years the royal governor of
New Jersey.

Franklin was unfortunate in his business partner, who fell into drinking
habits, so that he was obliged to dissolve the partnership. In
connection with his printing-office, he opened a small stationer's-shop,
and sold blanks, paper, ink, and pedler's wares. His business increased
so much that he took an apprentice, and hired a journeyman from London.
He now gave up fishing and shooting, and convivial habits, and devoted
himself to money-making; but not exclusively, since at this time he
organized a club of twelve members, called the "Junto,"--a sort of
debating and reading society. This club contrived to purchase about
fifty books, which were lent round, and formed the nucleus of a
circulating library, which grew into the famous Franklin Library, one of
the prominent institutions of Philadelphia. In 1730, at the age of
twenty-four, he married Deborah Reid, a pretty, kind-hearted, and frugal
woman, with whom he lived happily for forty-four years. She was a true
helpmeet, who stitched his pamphlets, folded his newspapers, waited on
customers at the shop, and nursed and tended his illegitimate child.

After his marriage Franklin gave up what bad habits he had acquired,
though he never lost his enjoyment of society. He was what used to be
called "a good liver," and took but little exercise, thus laying the
foundation for gout, a disease which tormented him in the decline of
life. He also somewhat amended his religious creed, and avowed his
belief in a superintending Providence and his own moral accountability
to God, discharging conscientiously the duties to be logically deduced
from these beliefs,--submission to the Divine will, and kindly acts to
his neighbors. He was benevolent, sincere, and just in his dealings,
abhorring deceit, flattery, falsehood, injustice, and all dishonesty.

From this time Franklin rapidly gained in public esteem for his
integrity, his sagacity, and his unrivalled good sense. His humor, wit,
and conversational ability caused his society to be universally sought.
He was a good judge of books for his infant library, and he took a great
interest in everything connected with education. He was the life of his
literary club, and made reading fashionable among the Quakers, who
composed the leading citizens of the town,--a people tolerant but
narrow, frugal but appreciative of things good to eat, kind-hearted but
not remarkable for generosity, except to the poor of their own
denomination, law-abiding but not progressive, modest and unassuming but
conscious and conceited, as most self-educated people are. It is a
wonder that a self-educated man like Franklin was so broad and liberal
in all his views,--an impersonation of good nature and catholicity, ever
open to new convictions, and respectful of opinions he did not share,
provoking mirth and jollity, yet never disturbing the placidity of a
social gathering by irritating sarcasm.

Franklin's newspaper gave him prodigious influence, both social and
political, in the infancy of journalism. It was universally admitted to
be the best in the country. Its circulation rapidly increased, and it
was well managed financially. James Parton tells us that Franklin
"originated the modern system of business advertising." His essays,
or articles, as we now call them, had great point, vivacity, and
wit, and soon became famous; they thus prepared the way for his
almanac,--originally entitled "Richard Saunders," and selling for
five-pence. The sayings of "Poor Richard" in this little publication
combined more wisdom and good sense in a brief compass than any other
book published in America during the eighteenth century. It reached the
firesides of almost every hamlet in the colonies. The New England
divines thought them deficient in spirituality, rather worldly in their
form, and useful only in helping people to get on in their daily
pursuits. But the eighteenth century was not a spiritual age, in
comparison with the age which preceded it, either in Europe or America.
The acute and exhaustive treatises of the seventeenth century on God, on
"fixed fate, free will, foreknowledge absolute," on the foundation of
morals, on consciousness as a guide in metaphysical speculation, had
lost much of their prestige, if Jonathan Edwards' immortal deductions
may be considered an exception. Prosperity and wars and adventures had
made men material, and political themes had more charm than theological
discussion. Pascal had given place to Hobbes and Voltaire, and Hooker to
Paley. In such a state of society, "Poor Richard," inculcating thrift
and economy, in English as plain and lucid as that of Cobbett
half-a-century later, had an immense popularity. For twenty-five years,
it annually made its way into nearly every household in the land. Such a
proverbial philosophy as "Honesty is the best policy," "Necessity never
made a good bargain," "Fish and visitors smell in three days," "God
heals, and the doctors take the fees," "Keep your eyes open before
marriage, and half-shut afterwards," "To bear other people's
afflictions, every one has courage enough and to spare,"--savored of a
blended irony and cynicism exceedingly attractive to men of the world
and wise old women, even in New England parishes, whatever Calvinistic
ministers might say of the "higher life." The sale of the almanac was
greater than that of the "Pilgrim's Progress," and the wealth of
Franklin stood out in marked contrast with the poverty of Bunyan a
century before.

The business enterprise of the gifted publisher at this time was a most
noticeable thing. He began to import books from England and to print
anything that had money in it,--from political tracts to popular poems,
from the sermons of Wesley to the essays of Cicero. He made no mistakes
as to the popular taste. He became rich because he was sagacious, and an
oracle because he was rich as well as because he was wise. Everybody
asked his advice, and his replies were alike courteous and witty,
although sometimes ironical. "Friend Franklin," said a noted Quaker
lawyer, "thou knowest everything,--canst thou tell me how I am to
preserve my small beer in the back yard? for I find that my neighbors
are tapping it for me." "Put a barrel of Madeira beside it," replied
the sage.

In 1736 Franklin was elected clerk of the General Assembly,--a position
which brought more business than honor or emolument. It secured his
acquaintance with prominent men, many of whom became his friends; for it
was one of his gifts to win hearts. It also made him acquainted with
public affairs. Its chief advantage, however, was that it gave him the
public printing. His appointment in 1737 as postmaster in Philadelphia
served much the same purposes. With increase of business, the result of
industry and good work, and of influence based on character, he was,
when but thirty years old, one of the most prominent citizens of
Philadelphia. His success as a business man was settled. He had the best
printing jobs in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, and Delaware. No
one could compete with him successfully. He inspired confidence while he
enlarged his friendships, to which he was never indifferent. Whatever he
touched turned to gold. His almanac was a mine of wealth; the sermons he
printed, and the school-books he manufactured, sold equally well. With
constantly increasing prosperity, he kept a level head, and lived with
simplicity over his shop,--most business men lived over their shops, in
both England and America at that period. He got up early in the morning,
worked nine or ten hours a day, spent his evenings in reading and study,
and went to bed at ten, finding time to keep up his Latin, and to
acquire French, Spanish, and Italian, to make social visits, and play
chess, of which game he was extravagantly fond till he was eighty years
old. His income, from business and investments, was not far from ten
thousand dollars a year,--a large sum in those days, when there was not
a millionaire in the whole country, except perhaps among the Virginia
planters. Franklin was not ambitious to acquire a large fortune; he
only desired a competency on which he might withdraw to the pursuit of
higher ends than printing books. He had the profound conviction that
great attainments in science or literature required easy and independent
circumstances. It is indeed possible for genius to surmount any
obstacles, but how few men have reached fame as philosophers or
historians or even poets without leisure and freedom from pecuniary
cares! I cannot recall a great history that has been written by a poor
man in any age or country, unless he had a pension, or office of some
kind, involving duties more or less nominal, which gave him both leisure
and his daily bread,--like Hume as a librarian in Edinburgh, or Neander
as a professor in Berlin.

Franklin, after twenty years of assiduous business and fortunate
investments, was able to retire on an income of about four thousand
dollars a year, which in those times was a comfortable independence
anywhere. He retired with the universal respect of the community both as
a business man and a man of culture. Thus far his career was not
extraordinary, not differing much from that of thousands of others in
the mercantile history of this country, or any other country. By
industry, sagacity, and thrift he had simply surmounted the necessity of
work, and had so improved his leisure hours by reading and study as to
be on an intellectual equality with anybody in the most populous and
wealthy city in the country. Had he died before 1747 his name probably
would not have descended to our times. He would have had only a local
reputation as a philanthropical, intelligent, and successful business
man, a printer by trade, who could both write and talk well, but was not
able to make a better speech on a public occasion than many others who
had no pretension to fame.

But a new career was opened to Franklin with the attainment of leisure
and independence,--the career of a scientific investigator. The subject
which most interested him was electricity, just then exciting great
interest in Europe. In 1746 he attended in Boston a lecture on
electricity by Dr. Spence, of Scotland, which induced him to make
experiments himself, the result of which was to demonstrate to his mind
the identity of the electrical current with lightning. What the new,
mysterious power was, of course he could not tell, nor could any one
else. All he knew was that sparks, under certain conditions, were
emitted from clothing, furs, amber, jet, glass, sealing-wax, and other
substances when excited by friction, and that the power thus producing
the electric sparks would repel and attract. That amber, when rubbed,
possesses the property of attracting and repelling light bodies was
known to Thales and Pliny, and subsequent philosophers discovered that
other substances also were capable of electrical excitation. In process
of time Otto Guericke added to these simple discoveries that of electric
light, still further established by Isaac Newton, with his glass globe.
A Dutch philosopher at Leyden, having observed that excited electrics
soon lost their electricity in the open air, especially when the air was
full of moisture, conceived the idea that the electricity of bodies
might be retained by surrounding them with bodies which did not conduct
it; and in 1745 the Leyden jar was invented, which led to the knowledge
that the force of electricity could be extended through an indefinite
circuit. The French savants conveyed the electric current through a
circuit of twelve thousand feet.

It belonged to Franklin, however, to raise the knowledge of electricity
to the dignity of a science. By a series of experiments, extending from
1747 to 1760, he established the fact that electricity is not created by
friction, but merely collected from its state of diffusion through other
matter to which it has been attracted. He showed further that all the
phenomena produced by electricity had their counterparts in lightning.
As it was obvious that thunder clouds contained an immense quantity of
the electrical element, he devised a means to draw it from the clouds by
rods erected on elevated buildings. As this was not sufficiently
demonstrative he succeeded at length in drawing the lightning from the
clouds by means of a kite and silken string, so as to ignite spirits and
other combustible substances by an electric spark similar to those from
a Leyden jar. To utilize his discovery of the identity of lightning with
electricity he erected lightning-rods to protect buildings, that is, to
convey the lightning from the overhanging clouds through conductors to
the ground. The importance of these lightning-rods was doubtless
exaggerated. It is now thought by high scientific authorities that tall
trees around a house are safer conductors in a thunder storm than
metallic rods; but his invention was universally prized most highly for
more than one hundred years, and his various further experiments and
researches raised his fame as a philosopher throughout Europe. His house
was a museum of electrical apparatus, and he became the foremost
electrician in the world. His essays on the subject were collected and
printed abroad, and translated into several languages, and among the
scientists and philosophers of Europe he was the best known American of
his time; while at home both Harvard and Yale Colleges conferred on this
self-educated printers-apprentice the degree of Master of Arts.

The inquiring mind of Franklin did not rest with experiments in the
heavens. As a wealthy and independent citizen of Philadelphia he
interested himself in all matters of public improvement. He founded a
philosophical society to spread useful knowledge of all kinds. He laid
the foundation of what is now the University of Pennsylvania, and
secured a charter from George II.; but he had little sympathy with the
teaching of dead languages, attaching much more importance to the
knowledge of French and Spanish than of Latin and Greek. We see in all
his public improvements the utilitarian spirit which has marked the
genius of this country, but a spirit directed into philanthropic
channels. Hence he secured funds to build a hospital, which has grown
into one of the largest in the United States. He established the first
fire company in Philadelphia, as well as the first fire insurance
company; he induced the citizens of Philadelphia to pave and sweep their
streets, which were almost impassable in rainy weather; he reorganized
the night-watch of the town; he improved the street-lighting; he was the
trustee of a society to aid German immigrants; he started a volunteer
military organization for defence of the State against the Indians; he
made a new fertilizer for the use of farmers; he invented the open
"Franklin stove" to save heat and remedy the intolerable smoky chimneys
which the large flues of the time made very common; he introduced into
Pennsylvania the culture of the vine; in short, he was always on the
alert to improve the material condition of the people. Nor did he
neglect their intellectual improvement, inciting them to the formation
of debating societies, and founding libraries. His intent, however, was
avowedly utilitarian, to "supply the vulgar wants of mankind," which he
placed above any form of spiritual philosophy,--inculcating always the
worldly expediency of good character and the poor economy of vice.
Herein he agreed with Macaulay's idea of progress as brought out in his
essay on Lord Bacon. He never soared beyond this theory in his views of
life and duty. The Puritanic idea of spiritual loftiness he never
reached and never appreciated.

But it was not as a public-spirited citizen, nor as a successful man of
business, nor even as a scientific investigator, that Franklin earned
his permanent fame. In each of these respects he has been surpassed by
men of whom little is known. These activities might have elevated him
into notice and distinction, but would not have made him an immortal
benefactor to his country. It was his services as a diplomatist and a
political oracle, united with his patriotism and wisdom, that gave to
him his extraordinary prominence in American history.

It should be remarked, however, that before his diplomatic career began,
Franklin had become exceptionally familiar with the affairs of the
Colonies. We have already noted his appointment as postmaster of
Philadelphia in 1737. This experience led to his employment by the
Postmaster-General of the Colonies in regulating the accounts of that
widely extended department, and to Franklin's appointment in 1753 to the
head of it, which greatly increased his specific knowledge of men and
affairs throughout the whole land. Besides this, he had gained some
political experience as a member of the provincial General Assembly, of
which he had been clerk for twenty years, and thus was well acquainted
with public men and measures. The Assembly consisted of only forty
members, who were in constant antagonism with the governor, James
Hamilton, whom the Penns, the Proprietaries of the province, had
appointed to look after their interests. This official was a
narrow-minded, intriguing Englishman, while the sons of William Penn
themselves were selfish and grasping men, living in England, far distant
from their possessions, and regarding themselves simply as English
landlords of a vast estate. Under the royal charter granted by Charles
II. to William Penn, his heirs exacted L30,000 yearly from the farmers
as rent for their lands,--more than they could afford to pay. But when,
in 1756, at the beginning of the Seven Years' War, French and Indian
hostilities put the whole province in jeopardy, and it became necessary
for the Provincial Legislature to tax the whole population for the
common defence, the governor thought that the estates of the
Proprietaries should be exempted from this just tax. Hence a collision
between the legislature and the governor.

The Quakers themselves, in accordance with their peace principles, were
opposed to any war tax, but Franklin induced the Assembly to raise sixty
thousand pounds to support the war, then conducted by General Braddock,
while he himself secured a large number of wagons for the use of the
army across the wilderness.

Meanwhile the Assembly was involved in fresh disputes with the governor.
Although the Assembly taxed the Proprietaries but a small proportion for
the defence of their own possessions, the governor was unwilling to pay
even this small amount; which so disgusted Franklin that he lost his
usual placidity and poured out such a volley of angry remonstrances that
the governor resigned. His successor fared no better with the angry
legislature, and it became necessary to send some one to England to lay
the grievances of the Colonists before the government, and to obtain
relief from Parliament.

The fittest man for this business was Franklin, and he was sent as agent
of the Province of Pennsylvania to London, the Assembly granting fifteen
hundred pounds to pay his expenses, which, with his own private income,
enabled him to live in good style in London and set up a carriage. He
held no high diplomatic rank as yet, but was simply an accredited
business agent of the Province, which position, however, secured to him
an entrance into society to a limited extent, and many valuable
acquaintances. The brothers Penn, with whom his business was chiefly
concerned, were cold and haughty, and evaded the matter in dispute with
miserable quibbles. Franklin then resolved to appeal to the Lords of
Trade, who had the management of the American colonial affairs, and also
to the King's Privy Council.

This was in 1757, when William Pitt was at the height of his power and
fame, cold, reserved, proud, but intensely patriotic, before whom even
George III. was ill at ease, while his associates in the Cabinet were
simply his clerks, and servilely bent before his imperious will. To this
great man Franklin had failed to gain access, not so much from the
minister's disdain of the colonial agent, as from his engrossing cares
and duties. He had no time, indeed, for anybody, not even the peers of
the realm,--no time for pleasure or relaxation,--being devoted entirely
to public interests of the greatest magnitude; for on his shoulders
rested the government of the kingdom. What was the paltry dispute of a
few hundred pounds in a distant colony to the Prime Minister of
England! All that Franklin could secure was an interview with the great
man's secretaries, and they did little to help him.

But the time of the active-minded American was not wasted. He wrote for
the newspapers; he prosecuted his scientific inquiries; he became
intimate with many eminent men, chiefly scientists,--members of the
Royal Society like Priestley and Price, professors of political economy
like Adam Smith, historians like Hume and Robertson, original thinkers
like Burke, liberal-minded lawyers like Pratt. It does not seem that he
knew Dr. Johnson, and probably he did not care to make the acquaintance
of that overbearing Tory and literary dogmatist, who had little sympathy
with American troubles. Indeed his political associates among the great
were few, unless they were patrons of science, who appreciated his
attainments in a field comparatively new. Among these men he seems to
have been much respected, and his merits secured an honorary degree from
St. Andrew's. His eminent social qualities favored his introduction into
a society more cultivated than fashionable, and he was known as a
scientific rather than a political celebrity.

His mission, then, was up-hill work. The Penns stood upon their
prerogatives, and the Lords of the Committee for Plantations were
unfriendly or dilatory. It was nearly three years before they gave
their decision, and this was adverse to the Pennsylvania Assembly. The
Privy Council, however, to whom the persistent agent appealed, composed
of the great dignitaries of the realm, decided that the proprietary
estates of the Penns should contribute their proportion of the public
revenue. On this decision, Franklin, feeling that he had accomplished
all that was possible, returned home in 1762, little more than a year
after the accession of George III. Through the kindness of Lord Bute,
the king's favorite, Franklin also secured the appointment of his son to
the government of New Jersey. This appointment created some scandal, and
the Penns rolled up their eyes, not at the nepotism of Franklin, but
because he had procured the advancement of his illegitimate son.

Franklin, during his absence of more than five years, had been regularly
re-elected a member of the Assembly, and he was received on his return
with every possible public and private attention. He had hoped now for
leisure to pursue his scientific investigations, and had accordingly
taken a new and larger house. But before long new political troubles
arose between the governor of Pennsylvania and the legislature, and what
was still more ominous, troubles in New England respecting the taxation
of the Colonies by the British government, at the head of which was
Grenville, an able man but not far-sighted, who in March, 1764,
announced his intention of introducing into Parliament the bill known as
the Stamp Act.

To this famous bill there was not great opposition, since a large
majority of the House of Commons believed in the right of taxing the
Colonies. Lord Camden, a great lawyer, took different views. Burke and
Pitt admitted the right of taxation, but thought its enforcement
inexpedient, as likely to alienate the Colonies and make them enemies
instead of loyal subjects.

At this crisis appeared in America a group of orators who at once
aroused and intensified the prevailing discontents by their inflammatory
speeches, in much the same manner that Wendell Phillips and Wm. Lloyd
Garrison, seventy years later, aroused public sentiment in reference to
slavery. James Otis, the lawyer from Barnstable on the shores of Cape
Cod, who had opposed the Writs of Assistance, "led the van of these
patriots,--an impassioned orator, incapable of cold calculation, now
foaming with rage, and then desponding, not steadfast in conduct, yet by
flashes of sagacity lighting the people along their perilous ways,
combining legal learning with speculative opinion." He eloquently
maintained that "there is no foundation for distinction between external
and internal taxes; that the imposition of taxes in the Colonies whether
on trade, on land, or houses, or floating property, is absolutely
irreconcilable with the rights of the Colonists as British subjects or
as men, and that Acts of Parliament against the fundamental principles
of the British Constitution are void."

More influential, and more consistent than Otis, was Samuel Adams, a
lawyer of Boston, a member of the Massachusetts Assembly, at that time
about forty years of age, a political agitator, a Puritan of the
strictest creed, poor and indifferent to money, an incarnation of zeal
for liberty, a believer in original, inherent rights which no Parliament
can nullify,--a man of the keenest political sagacity in management, and
of almost unlimited influence in Massachusetts from his long and notable
services in town-meeting, Colonial Assembly, as writer in the journals
of the day, and actor in every public crisis. Eleven years younger than
he, was his cousin John Adams, a lawyer in Quincy, the leading
politician of the colony, able and ambitious, patriotic and honest, but
irascible and jealous, of whom I shall have more to say hereafter. Of
about the same age as John Adams was Patrick Henry, of Virginia, a born
orator, but of limited education. He espoused the American cause with
extraordinary zeal, and as in the matter of the Virginia tax law, was
vehement in opposition to the Stamp Act, as an unconstitutional statute,
which the Colonies were not bound to obey. Christopher Gadsden, of So.
Carolina, too, was early among the prominent orators who incited
opposition to the Stamp Act and other oppressive measures.

These men were the great pioneers of American Independence, by their
ceaseless agitation of popular rights, and violent opposition to English
schemes of taxation. They were not, indeed, the equals of Franklin, then
the agent of Pennsylvania in London. They had not his catholicity, his
breadth of knowledge, his reputation, or his genius; but they were
nevertheless foremost among American political orators, and had great
local influence.

The first overt act of hostility on the part of the English government
in coercing the Colonies was to send to Boston, the seat of
disaffection, a large body of soldiers. In 1768 there were four
regiments of British troops in Boston, doubtless with the view of
intimidation, and to enforce the collection of duties.

The English did not overrate the bravery of their troops or the
abilities of their generals, but they did underrate the difficulties in
conquering a population scattered over a vast extent of territory. They
did not take into consideration the protecting power of nature, the
impenetrable forests to be traversed, the mighty rivers to be crossed,
the mountains to be climbed, and the coasts to be controlled. Nor did
they comprehend the universal spirit of resistance in a vast country,
and the power of sudden growth in a passion for national independence.
They might take cities and occupy strong fortifications, but the great
mass of the people were safe on their inland farms and in their
untrodden forests. The Americans may not have been unconquerable, but
English troops were not numerous enough to overwhelm them in their
scattered settlements. It would not pay to send army after army to be
lost in swamps or drowned in rivers or ambushed and destroyed
in forests.

It was in the earlier stages of the revolt against taxation, in the
autumn of 1764, that Benjamin Franklin was again sent to England to
represent the province of Pennsylvania in the difficulties which hung as
a dark cloud over the whole land. He had done well as a financial agent;
he might do still better as a diplomatist, since he was patient,
prudent, sagacious, intelligent, and accustomed to society, besides
having extraordinary knowledge of all phases of American affairs. And he
probably was sincere in his desire for reconciliation with the
mother-country, which he still deemed possible. He was no political
enthusiast like Samuel Adams, desirous of cutting loose entirely from
England, but a wise and sensible man, who was willing to wait for
inevitable developments; intensely patriotic, but armed with the weapons
of reason, and trusting in these alone until reconciliation should
become impossible.

As soon as Franklin arrived in England he set about his difficult task
to reason with infatuated ministers, and with all influential persons so
far as he had opportunity. But such were the prevailing prejudices
against the Colonists, and such was the bitterness of men in power that
he was not courteously treated. He was even grossly insulted before the
Privy Council by the Solicitor-General, Wedderburn,--one of those
browbeating lawyers so common in England one hundred years ago, who made
up in insolence what was lacking in legal ability. Grenville, the
premier, was civil but stubborn, and attempted to show that there was no
difference between the external, indirect taxation by duties on
importations, and the direct, internal taxation proposed by the Stamp
Act,--both being alike justifiable.

In March, 1765, the bill was passed by an immense majority. Then blazed
forth indignation from every part of America, and the resolute Colonists
set themselves to nullify the tax laws by refraining from all taxable

Franklin, undismayed, sedulously went about working for a repeal of the
odious stamp law, and at length got a hearing at the bar of the House of
Commons, where he was extensively and exhaustively examined upon
American affairs. In this famous examination he won respect for the
lucidity of his statements and his conciliatory address. It soon became
evident that the Stamp Act could not be enforced. No one could be
compelled to buy stamps or pay tariff taxes if he preferred to withdraw
from all business transactions, wear homespun, do without British
manufactures, and even refrain from eating lamb that flocks of sheep
might be increased and the wool used for homespun cloth.

It was in March, 1766, that Franklin, after many months of shrewd, wise,
and extraordinarily skilful work with tongue and pen and social
influence, had the satisfaction of seeing the Stamp Act repealed by
Parliament and the bill signed by the unwilling king. Although he was at
all possible disadvantage, as being merely the insignificant agent of
distant and despised Colonists, his influence in the matter cannot be
exaggerated. He made powerful friends and allies, and never failed to
supply them with ample ammunition with which to fight their own
political battles in which his cause was involved.

On the repeal of the Stamp Act, Grenville was compelled to resign, and
his place was taken by Lord North, an amiable but narrow-minded man,
utterly incapable of settling the pending difficulties. Lord Shelburne,
a friend of the Colonies, of which he had the charge, was superseded by
Lord Hillsborough, an Irish peer of great obstinacy, who treated
Franklin very roughly, and of whom the king himself soon tired. Lord
Dartmouth, who succeeded him, might have arranged the difficulties had
he not been hampered by the king, who was inflexibly bent on taxation in
some form, and on pursuing impolitic measures, against the exhortations
of Chatham, Barre, Conway, Camden, and other far-reading statesmen, who
foresaw what the end would be.

Meantime, in 1770, Franklin was appointed agent also for Massachusetts
Bay, and about the same time for New Jersey and Georgia. Schemes for
colonial taxation were rife, and, although the Stamp Act had been
withdrawn as impracticable, the principle involved was not given up by
the English government nor accepted by the American people. Franklin was
kept busy.

In 1773 Franklin was further impeded in his negotiations by mischievous
letters which Governor Hutchinson of Massachusetts had written to the
Colonial office. This governor was an able man, a New Englander by
birth, but an inveterate Tory, always at issue with the legislature,
whose acts he had the power to veto. Indiscreetly, rather than
maliciously, he represented the prevailing discontents in the worst
light, and considerably increased the irritation of the English
government. Franklin in some way got possession of these inflammatory
letters, and transmitted a copy to a leading member of the
Massachusetts General Court, as a matter of information, but with the
understanding that it should be kept secret. It leaked out however, of
course, and the letters were printed. A storm of indignation in
Massachusetts resulted in a petition for the removal of Governor
Hutchinson and Lieutenant-Governor Oliver, which was sent by the House
of Representatives to Franklin for presentation to the government;
while, on the other hand, a torrent of obloquy overwhelmed the
diplomatist in England, who was thought to have stolen the letters,
although there was no evidence to convict him.

Franklin's situation in London now became uncomfortable; he was deprived
of his office of deputy Postmaster-General of the Colonies, which he had
held since 1753, was virtually discredited, and generally snubbed. His
presentation of the petition afforded an opportunity for his being
publicly insulted at the hearing appointed before the Committee for
Plantation Affairs, while the press denounced him as a fomenter of
sedition. His work in England was done, and although he remained there
some time longer, on the chance of still being of possible use, he
gladly availed himself of an opportunity, early in 1775, to return to
America. Before his departure, however, Lord Chatham had come to his
rescue when he was one day attacked with bitterness in the House of
Lords, and pronounced upon him this splendid eulogium: "If," said the
great statesman, "I were prime minister and had the care of settling
this momentous business, I should not be ashamed to call to my
assistance a person so well acquainted with American affairs,--one whom
all Europe ranks with our Boyles and Newtons, as an honor, not to the
English nation only, but to human nature itself."

From this time, 1775, no one accused Franklin of partiality to England.
He was wounded and disgusted, and he now clearly saw that there could be
no reconciliation between the mother-country and the Colonies,--that
differences could be settled only by the last appeal of nations. The
English government took the same view, and resorted to coercion, little
dreaming of the difficulties of the task. This is not the place to
rehearse those coercive measures, or to describe the burst of patriotic
enthusiasm which swept over the Colonies to meet the issue by the sword.
We must occupy ourselves with Franklin.

On his return to Philadelphia, at the age of sixty-nine, he was most
cordially welcomed. His many labors were fully appreciated, and he was
immediately chosen a member of the second Continental Congress, which
met on the 10th of May, 1775. He was put on the most important
committees, and elected Postmaster-General. He was also selected as one
of the committee to draft the Declaration of Independence. It does not
appear that he was one of the foremost speakers. He was no orator, but
his influence was greater than that of any other one man in the
Congress. He entered heart and soul into the life-and-death struggle
which drew upon it the eyes of the whole civilized world. He was
tireless in committee work; he made long journeys on the business of the
Congress,--to Montreal, to Boston, to New York; he spent the summer of
1776 as chairman of the first Constitutional Convention of the State of
Pennsylvania: on every hand his resources were in demand and were
lavishly given.

It was universally felt at the beginning of the struggle that unless the
Colonies should receive material aid from France, the issue of the
conflict with the greatest naval and military power in Europe could not
succeed. Congress had no money, no credit, and but scanty military
stores. The Continental troops were poorly armed, clothed, and fed.
Franklin's cool head, his knowledge, his sagacity, his wisdom, and his
patriotism marked him out as the fittest man to present the cause in
Europe, and in September, 1776, he was sent to France as an envoy to
negotiate a treaty of amity and commerce between France and the United
States. With him were joined Arthur Lee and Silas Deane, the latter
having been sent some months previously in a less formal way, to secure
the loan of money, ammunition, and troops.

It is not to be supposed that the French monarchy had any deep sympathy
with the Americans in their struggle for independence. Only a few years
had elapsed since the Colonies had fought with England against France,
to her intense humiliation. Canada had been by their help wrenched from
her hands. But France hated England, and was jealous of her powers, and
would do anything to cripple that traditionary enemy. Secret and
mysterious overtures had been made to Congress which led it to hope for
assistance. And yet the government of France could do nothing openly,
for fear of giving umbrage to her rival, since the two powers were at
peace, and both were weary of hostilities. Both were equally exhausted
by the Seven Years' War. Moreover, the king, Louis XV., sought above all
things repose and pleasure. It was a most unpropitious time for the
Colonies to seek for aid, when the policy of the French government was
pacific, and when Turgot was obliged to exert his financial genius to
the utmost to keep the machine of government in running order.

Under these circumstances the greatest prudence, circumspection, and
tact were required of a financial and diplomatic agent sent to squeeze
money from the French treasury. If aid were granted at all it must be
done covertly, without exciting even the suspicions of the English
emissaries at Paris. But hatred of England prevailed over the desire of
peace, and money was promised. There were then in France many
distinguished men who sympathized with the American cause, while the
young king himself seems to have had no decided opinions about
the matter.

The philosophy of Rousseau had permeated even aristocratic circles.
There was a charm in the dogma that all men were "created equal." It
pleased sentimental philosophers and sympathetic women. I wonder why the
king, then absolute, did not see its logical consequences. Surely there
were rumblings in the political atmosphere to which he could not be
deaf, and yet with inconceivable apathy and levity the blinded monarch
pursued his pleasures, and remarked to his courtiers that the storm
would not burst in his time: _Apres moi, le deluge_.

Turgot, the ablest man in France, would have stood aloof; but Turgot had
been dismissed, and the Count de Vergennes was at the helm, a man whose
ruling passion was hatred of England. If he could help the Colonies he
would, provided he could do it secretly. So he made use of a fortunate
adventurer, originally a watchmaker, by the name of Beaumarchais who set
up for a merchant, through whom supplies were sent to America,--all
paid for, however, out of the royal exchequer. The name, even, of this
supposed mercantile house was fictitious. A million of livres were
transmitted through this firm to America, apparently for business
purposes, Silas Deane of Connecticut, the first agent of the Americans,
alone being acquainted with the secret. He could not keep it, however,
but imparted it to a friend, who was a British spy. In consequence, most
of the ships of Hortalez & Co., loaded with military stores, were locked
up by technical governmental formalities in French ports, while the
American vessels bearing tobacco and indigo in exchange also failed to
appear. The firm was in danger of bankruptcy, while Lord Stormont, the
British ambassador, complained to Vergennes of the shipment of
contraband goods,--an offence against the law of nations.

Amid the embarrassments which Deane had brought about by his
indiscretion, Franklin arrived at Paris; but he wisely left Deane to
disentangle the affairs of the supposed mercantile house, until this
unfortunate agent was recalled by Congress,--a broken-down man, who soon
after died in England, poor and dishonored. Deane had also embarrassed
Franklin, and still more the military authorities at home, by the
indiscriminate letters of commendation he gave to impecunious and
incapable German and French officers as being qualified to serve in the
American army.

Probably no American ever was hailed in Paris with more _eclat_ than
Benjamin Franklin. His scientific discoveries, his cause invested with
romantic interest, his courtly manners, his agreeable conversation, and
his reputation for wisdom and wit, made him an immediate favorite among
all classes with whom he came in contact. He was universally regarded as
the apostle of liberty and the impersonation of philosophy. Not wishing
to be too conspicuous, and dreading interruptions to his time, he took
up his residence at Passy, a suburb of Paris, where he lived most
comfortably, keeping a carriage and entertaining at dinner numerous
guests. He had a beautiful garden, in which he delighted to show his
experiments to distinguished people. His face always wore a placid and
benignant expression. He had no enemies, and many friends. His society
was particularly sought by fashionable ladies and eminent savants. While
affable and courteous, he was not given to flattery. He was plain and
straightforward in all he said and did, thus presenting a striking
contrast to diplomatists generally. Indeed, he was a universal favorite,
which John Adams, when he came to be associated with him, could not
understand. Adams was sent to France in 1778 to replace Silas Deane, and
while there was always jealous of Franklin's ascendency in society and
in the management of American affairs. He even complained that the elder
envoy was extravagant in his mode of living. In truth, Franklin alone
had the ear of the Count de Vergennes, through whom all American
business was transacted, which exceedingly nettled the intense,
confident, and industrious Adams, whose vanity was excessive.

I need not dwell on the embarrassments of Franklin in raising money for
the American cause. There was no general confidence in its success among
European bankers or statesman. The French government feared to
compromise itself. Many of the remittances already sent had been
intercepted by British cruisers. The English minister at Paris stormed
and threatened. The news from America was almost appalling, for the
British troops had driven Washington from New York and Long Island, and
he appeared to be scarcely more than a fugitive in New Jersey, with only
three or four thousand half-starved and half-frozen followers. A force
of ten thousand men had been recently ordered to America under General
Burgoyne. Almost discouraged, the envoys applied for loans to the Dutch
bankers and to Spain, but without success.

It was not until December, 1777, when the news arrived in France of the
surrender of General Burgoyne and his army to the Americans at
Saratoga, New York, in October, that Franklin had any encouragement.
Not until it was seen that the conquest of America was hopeless did the
French government really come to the aid of the struggling cause, and
then privately. Spain joined with France in offers of assistance; but as
she had immense treasures on the ocean liable to capture, the matter was
to be kept secret. When secrecy was no longer possible a commercial
treaty was made between the United States and the allies, February 6,
1778, but was not signed until Arthur Lee, of Virginia, one of the
commissioners, had made a good deal of mischief by his captious
opposition to Franklin, whom he envied and hated. The treaty becoming
known to the English government in a few days, Lord North, who saw
breakers ahead, was now anxious for conciliation with America. It was
too late. There could be no conciliation short of the acknowledgment of
American independence, and a renewal of war between France and England
became certain. If the conquest of the United States had been
improbable, it now had become impossible, with both France and Spain as
their allies. But the English government, with stubborn malignity,
persevered in the hopeless warfare.

After the recall of Silas Deane, the business of the embassy devolved
chiefly on Franklin, who, indeed, within a year was appointed sole
minister, Adams and Lee being relieved. Besides his continuous and
exhausting labors in procuring money for Congress at home, and for
nearly all of its representatives abroad, Franklin was always effecting
some good thing for his country. He especially commended to the American
authorities the Marquis de La Fayette, then a mere youth, who had
offered to give his personal services to the conflict for liberty. This
generous and enthusiastic nobleman was a great accession to the American
cause, from both a political and a military point of view, and always
retained the friendship and confidence of Washington. Franklin rendered
important services in securing the amelioration of the condition of
American prisoners in England, who theretofore had been treated with
great brutality; after years of patient and untiring effort, he so well
succeeded that they were now honorably exchanged according to the rules
of war. Among the episodes of this period largely due to Franklin's
sagacity and monetary aid, was the gallant career of John Paul Jones, a
Scotchman by birth, who had entered the American navy as lieutenant, and
in one short cruise had taken sixteen British prizes,--the first man to
hoist the "Stars and Stripes" on a national vessel. He was also the
first to humble the pride of England in its sorest point, since, with
unparalleled audacity, he had successfully penetrated to the harbor of
the town in which he was born. The "Bon Homme Richard," a large frigate
of forty guns, of which, by the aid of Franklin, Jones secured the
command, and which he named in honor of "Poor Richard" of the almanac,
made his name famous throughout both Europe and America.

The turning-point of the American War was the surrender of Burgoyne,
which brought money and men and open aid from France; the decisive event
was the surrender of Lord Cornwallis, October 19, 1781, to Washington,
commanding the allied French and American forces, with the aid of the
French fleet. Although the war was still continued in a half-hearted
way, the Cornwallis disaster convinced England of its hopelessness, and
led to negotiations for peace. In these the diplomatic talents of
Franklin eclipsed his financial abilities. And this was the more
remarkable, since he was not trained in the diplomatic school, where
dissimulation was the leading peculiarity. He gained his points by
frank, straightforward lucidity of statement, and marvellous astuteness,
combined with an imperturbable command of his temper. The trained
diplomatists of Europe, with their casuistry and lies, found in him
their match.

The subjects to be discussed and settled, however, were so vital and
important that Congress associated with Franklin, John Adams, minister
at the Hague, and John Jay, then accredited to Madrid. Nothing could be
more complicated than the negotiations between the representatives of
the different powers. First, there was a compact between the United
States and their allies that peace should not be concluded without their
common consent, and each power had some selfish aim in view. Then,
England and France each sought a separate treaty. In England itself were
divided counsels: Fox had France to look after, and Shelburne the United
States; and these rival English statesmen were not on good terms with
each other. In the solution of the many questions that arose, John Jay
displayed masterly ability. He would take nothing for granted, while
Franklin reposed the utmost confidence in the Count de Vergennes. Jay
soon discovered that the French minister had other interests at heart
than those of America alone,--that he had an eye on a large slice of the
territories of the United States,--that he wanted some substantial
advantage for the ships and men he had furnished. He wanted no spoils,
for there were no spoils to divide, but he wanted unexplored territories
extending to the Mississippi, which Jay had no idea of granting. There
were other points to which Franklin attached but little importance, but
which were really essential in the eye of Jay. Among other things the
agent of England, a Mr. Oswald,--a man of high character and courteous
bearing,--was empowered to treat with the "Thirteen Colonies," to which
Franklin, eager for peace, saw no objection; but Jay declined to sign
the preliminaries of peace unless the independence and sovereignty of
the "United States" were distinctly acknowledged. At this stage of
negotiations John Adams, honest but impetuous and irritable, hastened
from The Hague to take part in the negotiations. He sided with Jay, and
Franklin had to yield, which he did gracefully, probably attaching but
small importance to the matter in question. What mattered it whether the
triumphant belligerents were called "Colonies" or "States" so long as
they were free? To astute lawyers like Jay and Adams, however, the
recognition of the successfully rebellious Colonies as sovereign States
was a main point in issue.

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