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It will be found extremely interesting, first, as showing How systernatically Franklin set about the execution of the task of which these Memoirs are the result; and, secondly, for the notions it gives us of the unexecuted portion of his plan.*
The printed manuscript ends with his departure to England as agent of the Colony of Pennsylvania, to settle the disputes about the proprietary taxes in 1757, while the Outline comes down to the conclusion of his diplomatic career, of course embracing the most interesting portion of his life.
This volume is embellished by a portrait of Franklin, engraved from the pastel by Duplessis in the Le Veillard Collection. Franklin sat for it to Duplessis in 1783, and presented it to his friend, Le Veillard. At the bottom of the old gilt frame, in front, is the following inscription upon the frame :
“ BENJAMIN FRANKLIN,
«À 77 ANS,
« Peint par y s4 Duplessis,
On the back is the following memorandum, placed there, doubtless, by M. le Veillard :
* The glimpse given in this Outline of Franklin's habits of composı. tion tempts me to refer the reader to an extract from a letter which Dr. Franklin wrote to Mr. Vaughan in 1789, in which, at Mr. Vaughan's request, he gives him some counsel on the subject of his style. What he says will help the reader to comprehend the uses for which the Outline referred to in the text was prepared. See vol. iii., p. 440.
Benjamin Franklin, à 77 ans; peint en 1783 par Duplessis; donné par Franklin lui-même à M. Louis le Veillard, gentilhomme ordinaire de la Reine, son ami et son voisin à Passy.
Joseph Siffred Duplessis, Académicien, né à Charpentray, s'est distingué par une belle intelligence, les effets de la lumière sur les chairs et accessoires, un pinceau large, bien senti, et un coloris vrai. Les personnages de distinction dans ses portraits sont posés avec noblesse et dans des attitudes bien choisies. Il a peint le portrait de Louis XVI., ceux de M. et Mme. Necker, et de plusieurs grands de la Cour.-Les trois siècles de la peinture la France, par Gault de St. Germain. 1808.-Swiback, l'élève le plus distingué de Duplessis, a surpassé son maître.
I do not know that I can more appropriately conclude this bibliographical summary than by quoting a few passages from the introduction to the Memoirs of Franklin by Professor Edward Laboulaye, which appeared in Paris in 1866.* The translation of the Memoirs and correspondence of Franklin was one of the many ways by which this distinguished jurist contributed, during our late struggle for the preservation of our Federal Union, to keep alive in France that friendship for the United States which Franklin, more than any other one person, had the merit of inspiring, and to which, for the second time, we have been largely beholden for our national exist
• What constitutes the charm of the Memoirs is not the recital of events, which are of the most ordinary character; it is the reflections which accompany their recital.
* Mémoires de Benjamin Franklin, écrits par lui-même, traduits de l'Anglais et annotés par Edouard Laboulaye, de l'Institut de France. Paris, Libraire de L. Hachette & Cie. 1866.
Franklin is a born moralist. The first letter he writes to his sister is a sermon on the virtues of a good housekeeper. The penitent is fifteen and the preacher twenty. From this moment to his death Franklin did not change. He is always the man who reasons out his conduct-the sage who, following the ingenious definition of Mr. Bancroft, never said a word too soon nor a word too late. He never said a word too much, nor failed to say the decisive word at the proper moment. In his letters how many moral lessons, given with as much gayety as power! It is not an author one reads; he is a friend to whom one listens. There is Franklin, with his venerable face, his hair floating back, and his eye always shrewd and quick, presenting altogether one of the most amiable figures of the last century. How many prejudices he playfully dissipated! how he rallied the selfishness of individuals and the artifices of governments, which are but another form of selfishness! Do not ask of him anything sublime, nor expect from him those bursts which raise you
above the passing world. Franklin never quits the earth ; it is not genius in him; it is good sense expressed in its highest power. Do not seek in him a poet, nor even an orator, but a master of practical life-a man to whom the world belongs. Neither imagine you have to do with a vulgar, worldly wisdom. This amiable mocker, who laughs at everything, is not the less kind-hearted, a devoted patriot, and one of the sincerest friends of humanity. His laugh is not that of Voltaire ; there is no bitterness in it; it is the benevolent smile of an old man whom life has taught to be indulgent. In noting without vanity what he terms his errata of conduct, Franklin teaches us that no one has a right to judge another severely, and that in the
most correct life there is always many a page to correct. It is thus that he humbles himself to us to encourage us. He is a companion who takes us by the hand, and, talking with us familiarly, little by little, makes us blush at our weaknesses, and communicates to us something of his warmth and goodness. Such are the elects wrought by perusing the Memoirs, and still more by the correspondence—most strengthening reading for all ages and conditions. No one ever started from a lower point than the poor apprentice of Boston. No one ever raised himself higher by his own unaided forces than the inventor of the lightning-rod. No one has rendered greater service to his country than the diplomatist who signed the treaty of 1783, and assured the independence of the United States. Better than the biographies of Plutarch, this life, so long and so well filled, is a source of perpetual instruction to all men. Every one can there find counsel and example.
Franklin has never played a part-neither with others nor with himself. He says what he thinks; he does what he says. He knows but one road which leads from destitution to fortune. He knows of but one mode to arrive at happiness, or, at least, to contentment; it is by labor, economy, and probity. Such is the receipt he gives to his readers; but this receipt he commenced by trying himself. We can believe in a secret with which he himself succeeded. In our democratic society, where every one seeks to better his condition-a very legitimate purpose-nothing is worth so much as the example and the lessons of a man who, without influence and without fortune, became master after having been a laborer-gave himself the education which he lacked, and, by force of toil, privations and
courage, raised himself to the first rank in his country, and conquered the admiration and respect of the human
To have the talent of Franklin, or to be favored as he was by events, is not given to all; but every one may have the honor of following such a model, even without the hope of reaching it.”
In submitting these memoirs to the world I am encouraged by the reflection that there never was a time in the history of our country when the lessons of humility, economy, industry, toleration, charity, and patriotism, which are made so captivating in its pages, could be studied with more profit by the rising generation of Americans than now.
They have burdens to bear unknown to their ancestors, and problems of government to solve unknown to history. All the qualities, moral and intellectual, that are requisite for a successful encounter with these portentous responsibilities were singularly united in the character of Franklin, and nothing in our literature is so well calculated to reproduce them as his own deliberate record of the manner in which he laid the foundation at once of his own and of his country's greatness.
All the notes to the autobiography proper, not credited to other sources, are from the manuscript, and, of course, in Franklin's handwriting.
All the notes signed “ Ed.” are by the Editor.
Those signed “W. T. F.” are by William Temple Franklin.
Those signed “S.” or “Sparks,” are from Dr. Sparks' precious Collection of the Writings of Franklin.
Those signed - B. V.” are by Benjamin Vaughan.