Page images

clouds of a thunder-guft are most commonly in a negative state of electricity, but sometimes in a positive state;" and from this it follows, as a neceffary consequence, so that, for the most part, in thunder-strokes, it is the earıh that strikes into the clouds, and not the clouds that strikes into the earth.” The letrer containing these observations is dated in September, 1753; and yet the discovery of ascending thunder has been said to be of a modern date, and has been attributed to the Ab. be Bertholon, who published his memoir on the subject in 1776.

Franklin's letters have been translated into most of the European languages, and into Latin, In proportion as they have become known, his principles have been adopted. Some opposition was made to his theories, particularly by the Abbe Nollet, who was, however, but feebly supported, whilst the first philosophers of Europe stepped forth in defence of Franklin's principles; amongst whom

D'Alibard and Beccaria were the most distinguishLtd. The opposition has gradually ceased, and the

Franklin system is now universally adopted, where science flourishes.

The importan: practical use which Franklin made of his discoveries, the securing of houses from injury by lightning, has been already mentioned. Pointed conductors are now very common in America ; but prejudice has hitherto prevented their general introduction into Europe, notwithstarding the most undoubred proofs of their utility have been given. But mankind can with difdiculiy be brought to lay afideeítablished practices, or to adopt new ones. And perhaps we have more tealon to be surprised that a practice, howessia 'IsVOL. I.

. L

tional, which was proposed about forty years ago, should in that time have been adopted in so many places, than that it has not universally prevailed. It is only by degrees that the great body of mankind can be led into new practices, however falutary their tendency. It is now nearly eighiy years since inoculation was iniroduced into Europe and America ; and it is so far from being general at present, that it will, perhaps, require one or two centuries to render it so.

In the year 1745, Franklin published an account of his new invented Pennsylvania fire-places, in which he minutely and accurately states the ad vantages and disadvantages of different kinds o fire-places; and endeavours to Mew that the one which he describes is to be preferred to any other This contrivance has given rise to the open fove. now in general use, which however differ from i in construction, particularly in not having an air. box at the back, through which a constant supply of air, warmed in its passage, is thrown into the room. The advantages of this are, that as a stream of warm air is continually flowing into the room, less fuel is necessary to preserve a proper temperature, and the room may be fo tightened as that no air may enter through cracks; the consequences of which are colds, toothaches, &c.

Although plilofophy was a principal object of Franklin's pursuit for several years, he confined himself not to this. In the year 1747, he became a member of the general affeinbly of Penniylvania, az a burgess for the city of Philadelphia. Waril disputes at this time sublisted between ine: Benbly and the proprietaries; each contending tar rimenbey conceived to be their juft rigtits, '100)

lin, a friend to the rights of man from his infancy, oon distinguished himself as a steady opponent of he unjust fchemes of the proprietaries. He was oon looked up to as the head of the opposition; ind to him have been attributed many of the fpiited replies of the assembly, to the messages of the governors. His influence in the body was very great. This arole not from any fuperior powers of loquence; he spoke but seldom, and he never was nown to make any thing like an elaborate haangue. His speeches often consisted of a single entence, or of a well-told story, the moral of which was always obviously to the point. He never attempted the flowery fields of oratory. His manber was plain and mild. His style in speaking was, like that of his writings,remarkably concite. With this plain manner, and his penetrating and folid judgment, he was able to confound the ipoít eloquent and subtle of his adversaries, to confirm the opinions of his friends, and to make converts of the unprejudiced who had opposed him. With a fingle observation, he has rendered of no avail an elegant and lengthy discourse, and determined the fate of a question of importance.

But he was not contented with thus supporting the rights of the people. He wished to render them permanently secure, which can only be done by making their value properly known; and this mult depend upon increasing and extending information to every class of men. We have already teen that he was the founder of the public library, which contributed greatly towards improve ing the minds of the citizens. But this was not fufficient. The schools then subfilting were in geveral of little utility. The tuachers were men ill

qualified for the important duty which they had undertaken; and, after all, nothing more could be obtained than the rudiments of a common En. glish education. Franklin drew up a plan of an academy, to be erected in the city of Philadelphia, suited to "the state of an infant country ;" but in this, asin all his plans, he confined not his views to to the present time only. He looked forward to the period when an institution on an enlarged plan would become necessary. With this view he considered his academy as " a foundation for posterity to erect a Seminary of learning, more extensive, and suitable to future circumstances.” In pursuance of this plan, the constitutions were drawn up and signed on the işth of November 1749. In these twenty four m e most respectable citizens of Philadelphia were named as trustees. In the choice of these, and in the formation of his plan, Franklin is faid to have consulted chiefly with Thomas Hopkinson, Efq. Rev. Richard Peters, then secretary of the province, Tench Francis, Esq. attorney-general, and Dr. Phineas Bond.

The following article shews a spirit of benevoIcnce worthy of imitation; and, for the honour of our city, we hope that it continues to be in force.

" In case of the inability of the rector, or any master, (established on the foundation by receiving a certain salary) through fickness, or any other natural infirmity, wheieby he may be reduced to poverty, the trustees shall have power to contribute to his support, in proportion to his distress and merit, and the stock in their hands."

The last clause of the fundamental rules is exreffed in language fo tender and benevclent, lo

truly parental, that it will do ever lasting honour to the hearts and heads of the founders.

" It is hoped and expected that the trustees will make it their pleasure, and in some degree their business, to visit the academy often; to encourage »ind countenance the youth, countenance and a list

the masters, and by all means in their power advance the usefulness and reputation of the design, that they will look on the students as, in some measure, their own children, treat them with familiarity and afection; and when they have behaved well, gone hrough their ftudies, and are to enter the world, hey thall zealously uniie, and make all the interest hat can be made, to promote and establish them, whether in business, offices, marriages, or any ()her thing for their advantage, preferable to all ther persons whatsoever, even of equal merit.” 7. The constitutions being figned and made public, with the names of the gentlemen proposing thenelves as trustees and founders, the design was so well approved of by the public-spirited citizens of Philadelphia, that the sum of eight hundred pounds per annum, for five years, was in the course of a few weeks lubfcribed for carrying the plan into execution ; and in the be; ioning of January fola. "lowing (viz. 1730) three of the schools were openel, namely, the Lain and Greek schools, the Blathematical and the English schools. In purluance of an article in the original plan, a school for educating fixty boys and thirty girls (in the charter fince called the Charitable School) was Copened, and amidit all the difficulties with which

thie trustees have struggled in respect to their funds has still been continued fill for the space of forty years; so thit allowing three years education for

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »