This fortunate man lived to see the complete triumph of the cause to which he had devoted his public life. He lived also to see the beginning of the French Revolution, to which his writings had contributed. He lived to see the amazing prosperity of his country when compared with its condition under royal governors. One of his last labors was to write an elaborate address in favor of negro emancipation, and as president of an abolition society to send a petition to Congress to suppress the slave-trade. A few weeks before his death he replied to a letter of President Stiles of Yale College setting forth his theological belief. Had he been more orthodox, he would have been more extolled by those men who controlled the religious opinions of his age.
Franklin died placidly on the 17th of April, 1790, in the eighty-fifth year of his age, and his body was followed to the grave by most of the prominent citizens of Philadelphia in the presence of twenty thousand spectators. James Madison pronounced his eulogy in Congress, and Mirabeau in the French National Assembly, while the most eminent literary men in both Europe and America published elaborate essays on his deeds and fame, recognizing the extent of his knowledge, the breadth of his wisdom, his benevolence, his patriotism, and his moral worth. He modestly claimed to be only a printer, but who, among the great lights of his age, with the exception of Washington, has left a nobler record?
Mr. James Parton has, I think, written the most interesting and exhaustive life of Franklin, although it is not artistic and is full of unimportant digressions. Sparks has collected most of his writings, which are rather dull reading. The autobiography of Franklin was never finished,—a unique writing, as frank as the “Confessions” of Rousseau. A good biography is the one by Morse, in the series of “American Statesmen” which he is editing. Not a very complimentary view of Franklin is taken by McMaster, in the series of “American Men of Letters.” See also Bancroft’s “United States.”
One might shrink from writing on such a subject as General Washington were it not desirable to keep his memory and deeds perpetually fresh in the minds of the people of this great country, of which he is called the Father,—doubtless the most august name in our history, and one of the grandest in the history of the world.