Page images
PDF
EPUB

uniformly tenacious, and his faculties were entirely, unimpared, even to the hour of his death. The following account of his last illness was written by his friend and physician Dr. Jones.

“The stone, with which he had been afflicted for several

years, had for the last twelve months confined him chietly to his bed; and during the extreme pain. ful paroxysms, he was obliged to take large doses of laudanum to mitigate his tortures; still, in the inter. vals of pain, he not only amused himself with reading and conversing cheerfully with his family, and a few friends who visited him, but was often employed in doing business of a public as well as a private nature, with various persons who waited on him for that purpose; and in every instance displayed, not only that readiness and disposition of doing good, which was the distinguishing characteristic of his life, but the fullest and clearest possession of his uncommon mental abilities; and not unfrequently indulged himself in those jeux d'esprit and entertaining anecdotes which were the delight of all who heard him.

“About sixteen days before his death, he was seized with a feverish indisposition, without any particular symptoms attending it, till the third or fourth day, when he complained of a pain in theleft breast, which increased till it became extremely acute, attended with a cough and laborious breathing. During this state, when the severity of his pains sometimes drew forth a groan of complaint, he would observe, that he was afraid he did not bear them as he ought, ac. knowledged his grateful sense of the many blessings he had received from that Supreme Being, who had raised him from small and low beginnings to such high rank and consideration among men, and made no doubt but his present afflictions were kindly intended to wean him from a world in which he was no longer fit to act the part assigned him. In this frame of body and mind he continued till five days before his death, when his pain and difficulty of breathing entirely left him, and his family were flattering themselves with the hopes of his recovery, when an imposthumation, which had formed itself in his lungs, suddenly burst and discharged a great quantity of matter, which he continued to throw up while he had sufficient strength to do it, but as that failed, the organs of respiration become gradually oppressed, a calm lethargic state succeeded, and, on the 17th of April 1790, about eleven o'clock at night he quietly expired, closing a long and useful life of eighty-four years and three months.”

He left one son, governor William Franklin, a zealous loyalist; and a daughter, married to Mr. William Bache, merchant in Philadelphia, who waited on him during his last illness. Three days before he died, he begged that his bed might be made, in order to die in a decent manner; to which Mrs. Bache answered, that she hoped he would recover and live many years.

He replied, “I hope not.”

To the two latter he bequeathed the principal part of his estate, during their respective lives, and afterwards, to be divided equally among their children. To his grandson, William Temple Franklin, esq. he left a grant of some lands in the state of Georgia, the greater part of his library, and all his papers. He left also several public legacies: to the Philadelphia library, 3000 vol. umes; to judge Hopkins, his philosophical apparatus; and to the president of the United States, a gold-headed cane in the following words. “My gold-headed cane, curiously wrought in the form of a cap of liber. ty, I leave to my friend and the friend of mankind,

General Washington; if it were a sceptre he has mer. ited and would become it." He made various be. quests and donations to cities, public bodies, and individuals, and requested that the following epitaph, which he composed for himself many years previous to his death, should be inscribed on his tomb-stone.

THE BODY

of
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, Printei,
(like thecover of an old book,

it's contents torn out,
and stripped of it's lettering and gilding)

lies here, food for worms;
yet the work itself shall not be lost,
for it will (as he believed) appear once more,

in a new
and more beautiful edition,
corrected and amended

by
the Author.

Philadelphia never displayed a scene of superior grandeur than at the funeral of this great man. His remains were interred on the 21st, and the concourse of people assembled was immense. The body was attended to the grave by thirty clergymen, and persons of all ranks and professions, arranged in the greatest order. All the bells in the city were muffled and tol. led, accompanied by a discharge of Artillery; the newspapers were put in mourning; and nothing was omitted which could shew the respect and veneration of his fellow-citizens. The congress, on this occasion, ordered a general mourning for one month throughout the united States; and the National Assembly of France decreed a general mourning of three days. “The August spectacle of the first free people on earth in mourning for the father of the liberty of two worlds,” says a gentleman, in a letter dated Paris, June 14, 6 added a peculiar interest and solemnity to the session of this day. So memorable a victory of philosophy over prejudice, is not recorded in the annals of the human race.” The common council of Paris paid an extraordinary tribute of homage to his memory by attending at the funeral oration delivered by the abbé Fauchett, at the Rotundo, in the New Market, which was hung with black, illuminated with lamps and chandeliers, and decorated for the occasion with the most expensive devices.

“Thou bright luminary of freedom,” apostrophiz. ed the abbé,“ why should I call thee great? Grandeur is too often the scourge of the human kind, whose felicity thy goodness was ever exerted to promote, Thou hast been the benefactor of the universe! Be thy name ever revered! May it be the comfort of the wretched, and the joy of those who are free! What man is more entitled to our gratitude! It was not sufficient to controul the lightning of heaven, and to avert the fury of the growling tempest: thou hast rendered to mankind a service still greater; thou extinguished the thunder of earthly despots, which was ready to be hurled upon their trembling subjects. What pleasure must it have been to thee on earth to perceive others profiting by thy precepts and thy example! With what greater rápture must thou now contemplate thy own diffusion of light! It will illu. mine the world; and man, perceiving his natural dignity, will raise his soul to heaven, and bow to no empire but that which is founded on virtue and reason. I have but one wish to utter; it is a wish dear to my heart; a wish always cherished in thy virtuous and benevolent bosom. Surely it will derive some favour from the throne of God, when uttered in the name of Franklin! It is, that in becoming free, men may become also wiser and better ; there is no other means of deserving liberty. An Eulogium on Dr. Franklin was delivered March 1, 1791, in Philadel. phia, before both Houses of Congress, and the Ameri. cin Philosophical Society, &c. by Wm. Smith, D. D., and published by Cadell, Lordon, 1792. "Panegyric,” say the Monthly Reviewers, in noticing this publication, which has so often been disgracefully employed in strewing flowers on the tombs of the worthless, redeems her credit when she comes forth with truth by her side, to immortalize the memory of the great and the good. To these epithets, if greatness and goodness be measured by the capacity and the inclination to serve mankind, no man had ever a fairer title than Benjamin Franklin." The following encomium, from Dr. Smith's eulogy, applies, without being chargeable with any exaggeration to the character of this great man.

66 At the name of Franklin, every thing interesting to virtue, free. dom, and humanity, rises to our recollection! By what Euloge shall we do justice to his pre-eminent abilities and worth? This would require a pre.emi. nence of abilities and worth like his own.

His vast and comprehensive mind was cast in a mould, which nature seems rarely to have used before, and there. fore, can be measured only by a mind cast in a similar mould. His original and universal genius was capable of the greatest things, but disdained not the smallest, provided they were useful. With equal ease and abilities, he could conduct the concerns of a printing-press, and of a great nation; and discharge

« EelmineJätka »