Page images
PDF
EPUB

freeman; I poffess the suffrages of my fellow-citizens ; This is enough ; my discourse shall be immortal !

PART 1.

THE academies, the philosophical societies, the learned affciations which have done themselves honour by inscribing the name of Franklin in their records, can best appreciate the debt due to his genius, for having extended the power of man over nature, and presented new and sublime ideas, in a tyle simple as truth, and pure as light.

It is not the naturalist and the philosopher that the orator of the commons of Paris ought to de. fcribe; it is the man, who hath accelerated the progress of social order; it is the legiflator, who hath prepared the liberty of nations !

Benjamin Franklin was born at the commencement of the present century, in Boston, the capi

ment of

England.nted in his own the English,

His father, persecuted in his own country on account of his religious opinions (for the English, to wavering in regard to religion, and who have lo often changed it by act of Parliament, at the nod of corrupt Kings, or fanatical chiefs, have always been, and are at this very day, perfecutors ;) his father, I say, took refuge in the new world, where the church of England, not having as yet intruded her intolerant solicitude, permitted the liberty of conscience,

His profession was obscure ; but it is from this very, obfcurity that it is glorious for him to havo

elevated himself to the head of his nation, and to become the chief, as it were, of mankind.

He who was destined to be the founder and the president of the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, the creator and the soul of the congress of America, was at first brought up to the trade of a tallow.chandler. The celebrated orator Flechier began life among ourselves precisely in the same manner : le may be considered as a prodigy that, under the feudal aritocracy, he Bould have ever become a rich Bishop! The hereditary Nobles, the titled families (it is but yesterday as it were they have ceased to exist in France,) regarding his elevation with a degree of surprise, mingled with scorn, were unable to conceive how a Minister dared to confer a Bishopric upon a plebeian. “Duke,” replied the Bishop of Nismes to one of his contemporaries, who reproached him with the occupation of his father, " this is in truth 66 what distinguishes us from each other: If you “ had been born in the same station' that I was, 66 you would have still remained a maker of can" dles!”

Gentlemen, I have mentioned this anecdote, because it is something in the manner of Franklin. He might have said the same thing to the English Nobility, and all those insulters of merit, who think themselves dispensed from possessing any, because, in virtue of their family, they occupy the first employments in the state, and obtain, even through the folly of their titles, all the honours of society.

A very limited business, and one which prefeated no opportunity for the developement of the human faculties, could not be deemed worthy oi

[ocr errors]

the genius of Franklin. The art of printing had been scarce established in America; he turned his · views towards this polite art, to which the destiny

of the human genius is attached. • He laboured affiduously in this profession, first at Boston, afterwards at Philadelphia, and at length at London, where, while he acquired a considerable degree of perfection in this art, his mind, al. ways of a thinking turn, made a variety of obfervations on the vices of the English government, and accumulated in silence the means of making ypography more useful to his country, and to hu. nan kind.

On his return to the capital of Pennsylvania, he was able to work at, direct, and even to supply batter for those presses, whence were to issue that nowledge destined to be the harbinger of the gloious day of liberty.

English America was designed, in the eternal iews of Providence, and in the combinations aleady ripe in the mind of Franklin, to see the sun sf justice first elevated above iis horizon, a sun yho was progressively to spread his rays over all parts of the world. Its colonies were formed of nen, who did not find themselves fulliciently free n England; who would not depend, in regard to eligion, but upon Heaven, and their own conscince; in their morals, but upon civil equality and good laws ; in their happiness, but upon domestic ociety and the simplicity of virtue.

Penr, the first man who arose out of thit social haos in which the nations had been plunged, wunded l'hiladelphia, the City of Brethren ; and vhich, in consequence of this title, which ic hatha Yer fiace so amply justified, merits the appella

tion of the capital of the buman kind. It is open. ed to human nature, without restriction ; for the Jaw which prohibits the entrance of the atheist. and the fluggard, as not being men, does not present, as Franklin hin self has very justly observed, any more than the threatening exception, which cannot poslibly be carried into execution.

“If,” says he, “an atheist existed in any other “ part of the universe, he would be inftantly con

verted on entering into a city where every e thing is so admir:bly conducted; and if there " was a sluggard, having the three amiable sisters « Riches, Science and Virtue, who are the daughe " ters of Labour, continually before his eyes, he

would foon conceive an affection for them, " and endeavour to obtain them from their fa. 6 ther."

Delightful idea! worthy of a fage philosopher, the object of our present homage! It, at one and, the same time, describes both Franklin and Phi ladelphia.

A Catholic priest, I shall doubtless be reproached for delivering an eulogium on the Quakers, as I have heretofore been reproached for prailing the Janseniits; as I am reproaclied at this very mo ment for pronouncing a funeral oration on a Pio. testant, who himself profeffed religious principles different from those that were spread over the face of his country.

There reproaches do me honour, for they issue from fanaticism, the greatest scourge of society. Yes, I have praised, and I now praise again in the name of the commons of Paris, both with eagernefs and affection, than philanthropic Jansenist, if they please, but, at the same time, very catholic

After atter

[ocr errors]

- and very holy preceptor of those who are born

deaf and dumb; the virtuous Philadelphians, fimple and sublime observers of universal fraternity ; the principal philosopher of Protestantism, the fage Franklin, who, without being perfect in his faith, yet poffefled the perfection of evangelical benevolence.

And here, Gentlemen, since the question of uni. yersal toleration presents itfelf, and enters of its own accord into the chain of ideas, which are fuctessively to complete the character of the grear horalist whom I now attempt to describe, permit ne to stop, After developing the principles of his fage, I shall pursue my subject, and fulfil the ask you have imposed upon me.

Men cannot be brethren, and consequently cantot be focial creatures, while one part reprove the

ther for the opinions which they have formed, "ind think themselves, on account of this imaginiry difference, to be separated and divided from ach other, as far as heaven is distant from hell.

No one can judge the conscience but God alone. - He who' affirms that man ought to believe, or

lot believe, this or that doctrine, often renders limself guilty of injustice, and always of temerity.

The first genius of the universe, although inflamd with the most ardent love for truth, might emgrace a religious error, and think himself bound by his conscience to defend it. Who is the audacious mortal, that pretends to have been able to calculate all the lights and shades which might have intervened between the most simple or the most sublime minds, and who dares to say...'s all ought to believe like me ?"

Vol. I.

« PreviousContinue »