Colonial Hall -- Biographies of America's Founding Fathers

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Page 7

Benjamin Franklin


In the year 1766, and 1767, he made an excursion to Holland, Germany, and France, where he met with a most flattering and distinguished reception. To the monarch of the latter country, Louis XV., he was introduced, and also to other members of the royal family, by whom as well as by the nobility and gentry at court, he was treated with great hospitality and courtesy. About this time, he was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences, and received diplomas from several other literary societies in England, and on the continent.

Allusion has already been made, in our introduction, to the discovery and publication, in 1772, of certain letters of Governor Hutchinson, addressed by that gentleman to his friends in England, and which reflected in the severest manner upon the people of America. These letters had fallen into the hands of Dr. Franklin, and by him had been transmitted to America, where they were at length inserted in the public journals. For a time, no one in England knew through what channel the letters had been conveyed to America. In 1773, Franklin publicly avowed himself to be the person who obtained the letters and transmitted them to America. This occasioned a violent clamor against him, and upon his attending before the privy council, in the following January, to present a petition from the colony of Massachusetts, for the dismission of Mr. Hutchinson, a most violent invective was pronounced against him, by Mr. Weddeburne, afterwards Lord Loughborough. Among other abusive epithets, the honorable member called Franklin a coward, a murderer, and a thief. During the whole of this torrent of abuse, Franklin sat with a composed and unaverted aspect, or, to use his own expression, in relation to himself on another occasion, "as if his countenance had been made of wood." During this personal and public insult, the whole assembly appeared greatly amused, at the expense of Dr. Franklin. The president even laughed aloud. There was a single person present, however, Lord North, who, to his honor be it recorded, expressed great disapprobation of the indecent conduct of the assembly. The intended insult, however, was entirely lost. The dignity and composure of Franklin caused a sad disappointment among his enemies, who were reluctantly compelled to acknowledge the superiority of his character. Their animosity, however, was not to be appeased, but by doing Franklin the greatest injury within their power. They removed him from the office of deputy post master general, interrupted the payment of his salary as agent for the colonies, and finally instituted against him a suit in chancery concerning the letters of Hutchinson.

At length, finding all his efforts to restore harmony between Great Britain and the colonies useless; and perceiving that the controversy had reached a crisis, when his presence in England was no longer necessary, and his continuance personally hazardous, he embarked for America, where he arrived in 1775, just after the commencement of hostilities. He was received with every mark of esteem and affection. He was immediately elected a delegate to the general congress, in which body he did as much, perhaps, as any other man, to accomplish the independence of his country.

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