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cessful pretender to fine writing, sion by the force and the clearness and is satisfied with the frivolous of his statements. praise of elegance or vivacity. His conclusions were often rash
- We are disposed to ascribe so and inaccurate, from the same much power to these obstructions circumstances which rendered his to intellectual originality, that we productions concise. Philosophy cannot help fancying, that, if and speculation did not form the Franklin had been bred in a col business of his life ; nor did he lege, he would have contented dedicate himself to any particular himself with expounding the me- study, with a view to exhaust and tres of Pindar, and mixing argu- complete the investigation of it in ment with his port in the com- all its parts, and under all its relamon room ; and that if Boston tions. He engaged in every intehad abounded with men of letters, resting inquiry that suggested ithe would never had ventured to self to him, rather as the necessacome forth from his printingry exercise of a powerful and achouse, or been driven back to it, at tive mind, than as a task which he any rate, by the sneers of the cri- had bound himself to perform. ticks, after the first publication of lie cast a quick and penetrating his essays in the Busy Body. glance over the facts and the data
This will probably be thought that were presented to him ; and exaggerated ; but it cannot be de- drew his conclusions with a rapid. nied, we think, that the contrary ity and precision that have not ofcircumstances in his history had a ten been equalled; but he did not powerful effect in determining stop to examine the completcness the character of his understand- of the data upon which he proing, and in producing those pecu- ceeded, nor to consider the ultimate liar habits of reasoning and inves- effect or application of the princitigation by which his writings are ples to which he had been conducdistinguished. He was encourag. ted. In all questions, therefore, ed to publish, because there was where the facts upon which he scarcely any one around him whom was to determine, and the materi. he could not easily excel. He als from which his judgment was wrote with great brevity, because to be formed, were either few in he had not leisure for more volu- Dumber, or of such a nature as minous compositions, and because not to be overlooked, his reasonhe knew that the readers to whom ings are for the most part perfecthe addressed himself were, for the ly just and conclusive, and his demost part, as busy as himself. cisions unexceptionably sound ; For the same reason, he studied but where the elenients of the calgreat perspicuity and simplicity of culation were more numerous and statement : his countrymen had widely scattered, it appears to us no relish for fine writing, and that he lias often been precipitate could not easily be made to under and that he has either been misled stand a deduction depending on a by a partial apprehension of the long or elaborate process of rea- conditions of the problem, or has soning. He was forced, therefore, discovered only a portion of the to concentrate what he had to say; truth which lay before him. In and since he had no chance of be- all physical inquiries ; in almost ing admired for the beauty of his all questions of particular and imcomposition, it was natural for mediate policy; and in much of him to aim at making an impres- what relates to the practical wise
dom and the happiness of private Dr. Franklin, we think, has life, his views will be found to be never made use of the mathemat. admirable, and the reasoning by icks, in his investigation of the which they are supported most phenomena of nature; and though masterly and convincing. But upon this may render it surprising that subjects of general politicks, of ab- he has fallen into so few errours of stract morality, and political eco importance, we conceive that it nomy, his notions appear to be helps in some measure to explain more unsatisfactory and incom- the unequalled perspicuity and vi. plete. He seems to have wanted vacity of his expositions. An alfeisure, and perhaps inclination al- gebraist, who can work wonders so, to spread out before him the with letters, seldom condescends whole vast premises of these ex- to be much indebted to words, and tensive sciences, and scarcely to thinks himself entitled to make his have had patience to hunt for his sentences obscure, provided his conclusions through so wide and calculations be distinct. A writer intricate a region as that upon who has nothing but words to which they invited him to enter. make use of, must make all the He has been satisfied, therefore, on use he can of them : he cannot every occasion, with reasoning from afford to neglect the only chance a very limited view of the facts, he has of being understood. and often from a particular in- We should now say something stance ; he has done all that saga of the political writings of Dr. city and sound sense could do with Franklin,the productions which such materials ; but it cannot ex- first raised him into publick office cite wonder, if he has sometimes and eminence, and which will be Överlooked an essential part of the least read or attended to by posargument, and often advanced a terity. They may be divided into particular truth into the place of a two parts; those which relate to. general principle. He seldom the internal affairs and provincial reasoned upon these subjects at all, differenees of the American colowe believe, without having some nies, before their quarrel with the practical application of them im- mother country ; and those which mediately in view; and as he be- relate to that quarrel and its congan the investigation rather to de- sequences. The former are no termine a particular case, than to longer in any degree interesting : establish a general maxim, so he and the editor has done wisely, we probably desisted as soon as he had think, in presenting his readers relieved himself of the present dif- with an abstract only of the longficulty.
ést of them ; this was published • There are not many among the in 1759, under the title of an Histhorough bred scholars and phi- torical Review of the Constitution losophers of Europe, who can lay of Pennsylvania, and consisted of Claim to distinction in more than upwards of 500 pages, composed one or two departments of science for the purpose of shewing, that the or literature. The uneducated political privileges reserved to the tradesman of America has left founder of the colony had been ilwritings, that call for our attention, legally and oppressively used. in natural philosophy,—in poli. The Canada pamphlet, written in ticks--in political economy, and 1760, for the purpose of pointing in general literature and morality. out the importance of retaining
Vol. III. No. 12. 4 M
that colony at the peace, is given we should imagine, must be highentire ; and appears to be compo- ly interesting. sed with great force of reason, and Of the merit of this author as a in a style of extraordinary perspic- political economist, we have al. uity. The same may be said of ready had occasion to say somewhat are called the Albany papers, thing, in the general remarks which or the plan for a general political we made on the character of his union of the colonies in 1754 ; and genius ; and we cannot now spare of a variety of other tracts on the time to go much into particulars. provincial politicks of that day. All He is perfectly sound upon many these are worth preserving, both important and practical points ; as monuments of Dr. Franklin's upon the corn-trade, and the theory talents and activity, and as afford- of money, for instance ; and also ing, in many places, very excellent upon the more general doctrines, models of strong reasoning and as to the freedom of commerce, popular eloquence ; but the inter- and the principle of population. est of the subjects is now com. In the more elementary and abpletely gone by : and the few spe- stract parts of the science, how. cimens of general reasoning which ever, his views seem to have been we meet with serve only to increase less just and luminous. He is not our regret, that the talents of the very consistent or profound, in author should have been wasted what he says of the effects of luxon such perishable materials. ury; and seems to have gone head.
There is not much written on long into the radical errour of the the subject of the dispute with the Economistes, when he maintains, colonies ; and most of Dr. Franke that all that is done by manufaclin's papers on that subject are al- ture, is to embody the value of the ready well known to the publick. manufacturer's subsistence in his His examination before the House work, and that agriculture is the of Commons in 1766, affords a only source from which a real instriking proof of the extent of his crease of wealth can be derived. information, the clearness and force Another favourite position is, that of his extempore composition, and all commerce is cheating, where a the steadiness and self-possession, commodity, produced by a certain which enabled him to display these quantity of labour, is exchanged qualities with so much effect upon for another, on which more labour such an occasion. His letters be- has been expended ; and that the fore the commencement of hostili. only fair price of any thing, is some ties, are fuil of grief and anxiety ; other thing requiring the same exbut, no sooner did matters come ertion to bring it to market. This to extremities, than he appears to is evidently a very narrow and erhave assumed a certain keen and roneous view of the nature of comconfident cheerfulness, not unmixmerce. The fair price to the pur. ed with a seasoning of asperity, chaser is, whatever he deliberately and more vindictiveness of spirit, chooses to give, rather than go than perhaps became a philosopher. without the commodity ; it is no
None of Dr. Franklin's political matter to him, whether the seller writings, during the nine years bestowed much or little labour up. when he resided as Ambassadour on it, or whether it came into his at the Court of France, have yet possession without any labour at all; been made publick. Some of them, whether it be a diamond, which he picked up, or a picture, at which accordingly, we meet with a good he had been working for years. deal of loose assumption and sweepThe commodity is not valued by ing calculation, in his writings. the purchaser, on account of the Yet he had a genius for exact oblabour which is supposed to be servation, and complicated detail ; embodied in it, but solely on ac- and probably wanted nothing but count of certain qualities, which leisure, to have made very great he finds convenient or agreeable ; advances in this branch of economy. he compares the convenience and As a writer on morality and gendelight which he expects to derive eral literature, the merits of Dr. from this object, with the conven- Franklin cannot be estimated pro. ience and delight which is afforded perly, without taking into consiby the things asked in exchange deration the peculiarities, that have for it ; and if he find the former been already alluded to, in his early preponderate, he consents to the history and situation. He never exchange, and makes a beneficial had the benefit of any academical bargain. We have stated the case instruction, nor of the society of in the name of a purchaser, be- men of letters; his style was formcause, in barter, both parties are ed entirely by his own judgment truly purchasers, and act upon the and reading ; and most of his mosame principles ; and it is easy to ral pieces were written while he shew, that all commerce resolves was a tradesman, addressing himitself ultimately into barter. There self to the tradesmen of his native can be no unfairness in trade, ex- city. We cannot expect, therecept where there is concealment fore, either that he should write on the part of the seller, either of with extraordinary elegance or the defects of the commodity, or grace ; or that he should treat of of the fact that the purchaser may the accomplishments, follies, and be supplied with it at a cheaper occupations of polite life. He had rate by another. It is a matter of no great occasion, as a moralist, to fact, but not of morality, that the expose the guilt and the folly of price of most commodities will be gaming or seduction ; or to point influenced by the labour employed a poignant and playful ridicule ain producing them. If they are gainst the lighter immoralities of capable of being produced in un- fashionable life. To the mechanlimited quantities, the competition icks and traders of Boston and Phi. of the producers will sink the price ladelphia, such warnings were alvery nearly to what is necessary together unnecessary ; and he ento maintain this labour ; and the deavoured, therefore, with more impossibility of continuing the pro- appropriate eloquence, to impress duction, without repaying that la, upon them the importance of inbour, will prevent it from sinking dustry, sobriety, and economy, and lower. The doctrine does not ap- to direct their wise and humble ply at all, to cases where the ma. ambition to the attainment of useterials, or the skill necessary to fuļ knowledge and honourable inwork them up, are scarce in pro, dependence. That morality, after portion to the demand. The aus all, is certainly the most valuable, thor's speculation on the effects of which is adapted to the circumpaper-money, seem also to be su- stances of the greater part of manperficial and inaccurate. Statis- kind; and that eloquence is the ticks had noi been carefully studied most meritorious, that is calculated in the days of his activity ; and, to convince and persuade the multitude to virtue. Nothing can be language, admirable good, sense more perfectly and beautifully a- and ingenuity, and an amiable and, dapted to its object, than most of inoffensive, cheerfulness, that is, Dr. Franklin's compositions of this never overclouded or eclipsed. sort. The tone of familiarity, of Among the most valuable of the good-will, and homely jocularity ; writings that are published for the the plain and pointed illustrations; first time, in the last edition, are the short sentences, made up of four letters from Dr. Franklin to short words; and the strong sense, Mr. Whatley, written within a clear information, and obvious con- few years of his death, and ex viction of the author himself, make pressive of all that unbroken gaiety, most of his moral exhortations per- philanthropy, and activity, which fect models of popular eloquence; distinguish the compositions of his and afford the finest specimens of earlier years. a style which has been but too lit. His account of his own life, down tle cultivated in a country, which to the year 1730, has been in the numbers perhaps more than one hands of the publick since 1790, hundred thousand readers among It is written with great simplicity its tradesmen and artificers
and liveliness, though it contains In writings which possess such too many trilling details and anece solid and unusual merit, it is of no dotes of obscure individuals. It great consequence that the fastidi- affords a striking example of the ous eye of a critick can discover irresistible force with which talente many blemishes. There is a good and industry bear upwards in so. deal of vulgarity in the practical' ciety, as well as an impressive ilwritings of Dr. Franklin ; and more lustration of the substantial wisdom vulgarity than was any way necesand good policy of invariable intesary for the object he had in view. grity and candour. We should think There is something childish, too, it a very useful reading for all in some of his attempts at plea. young persons of unsteady princi. santry : his story of the Whistle, ple, who have their fortunes to and his Parisian letter, announcing make or to mend in the world, the discovery that the sun gives Upon the whole, we look upon the light as soon as he rises, are in life and writings of Dr. Franklin, stances of this. The soliloquy of as affording a striking illustration an Ephemeris, however, is much of the incalculable value of a sound better ; and both it, and the Dia- and well directed understanding, logue with the Gout, are executed and of the comparative uselessness with the lightness and spirit of genu- of learning and laborious accom-. ine French compositions. The plishments. Without the slightest Speech in the Divan of Algiers, pretensions to the character of a composed as a parody on those of scholar or a man of science, he the defenders of the slave-trade, has extended the bounds of human and the scriptural parable against knowledge on a variety of subjects, persecution, are inimitable; they which scholars and men of science have all the point and facility of had previously investigated with. the fine pleasantries of Swift and out success ; and has only been Arbuthnoi, with something more of found deficient in those studies directness and apparent sincerity. which the learned have generally
The style of his letters, in gen. turned from in disdain. We would cral, is excellent. They are chiefly not be understood to say any thing remarkable, for great simplicity of in disparagement of scholarship