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Cease, then, nor order imperfection name :
286. Secure, confident
CHARACTERIZATION BY LORD JEFFREY.' 1. In one point of view, the name of Franklin must be considered as standing higher than any of the others which illustrated the eighteenth century. Distinguished as a statesman, he was
· Edinburgh Review, vol. xxviii.
equally great as a philosopher, thus uniting in himself a rare degree of excellence in both those pursuits, to excel in either of which is deemed the highest praise. Nor was his pre-eminence in the one pursuit of that doubtful kind which derives its value from such an uncommon conjunction. His efforts in each were sufficient to have made him greatly famous had he done nothing in the other. We regard De Witt's mathematical tracts as a curiosity, and even admire them when we reflect that their author was a distinguished patriot and a sufferer in the cause of his country. But Franklin would have been entitled to the glory of a first-rate discoverer in science-one who had largely extended the bounds of human knowledge — although he had not stood second to Washington alone in gaining for human liberty the most splendid and guiltless of its triumphs. It is hardly a less rare, certainly not a less glorious, felicity that, much as has been given to the world of this great man's works, each successive publication increases our esteem for his virtues, and our admiration of his understanding.
2. The distinguishing feature of his understanding was great soundness and sagacity, combined with extraordinary quickness of penetration. He possessed also a strong and lively imagination, which gave his speculations, as well as his conduct, a singularly original turn. The peculiar charm of his writings, and his great merit, also, in action, consisted in the clearness with which he saw his object, and the bold and steady pursuit of it by the surest and the shortest road. He never suffered himself in conduct to be turned aside by the seductions of interest or vanity, or to be scared by hesitation and fear, or to be misled by the arts of his adversaries. Neither did he, in discussion, ever go out of his way in search of ornament, or stop short from dread of the consequences. He never could be caught, in short, acting absurdly or writing nonsensically. At all times, and in every thing he undertook, the vigor of an understanding at once original and practical was distinctly perceivable.
3. But it must not be supposed that his writings are devoid of ornament or amusement. The latter especially abounds in almost all he ever composed ; only nothing is sacrificed to them. On the contrary, they come most naturally into their places; and they uniformly help on the purpose in hand, of which neither writer nor reader ever loses sight for an instant. Thus, his style has all the vigor, and even conciseness, of Swift, without any of his harshness. It is in no degree more flowery, yet both elegant and lively. The wit, or rather humor, which prevails in his works varies with the subject. Sometimes he is bitter and sarcastic; oftener gay, and even droll, reminding us in this respect far more frequently of Addison than of Swift, as might be naturally ex pected from his admirable temper or the happy turn of his imagination. When he rises into vehemence or severity, it is only when his country or the rights of men are attacked, or when the sacred ties of humanity are violated by unfeeling or insane rulers.
4. There is nothing more delightful than the constancy with which those amiable feelings, those sound principles, those truly profound views of human affairs make their appearance at every opportunity, whether the immediate subject be speculative or practical, of a political or of a more general description. It is refreshing to find such a mind as Franklin's worthy of a place near to Newton and to Washington-filled with those pure and exalted sentiments of concern for the happiness of mankind which the petty wits of our times amuse themselves with laughing at, and their more cunning and calculating employers seek by every means to discourage, sometimes by ridicule, sometimes by invective, as truly incompatible with all plans of misgovernment.
FROM FRANKLIN'S AUTOBIOGRAPHY. [INTRODUCTION.—The following extract is from Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography, which, as he himself informs us in it, was written in his “seventyninth year;" that is, in 1785, the year he returned from Paris, where he had lived for several years as American plenipotentiary, and where, in 1782, he signed the Treaty of Peace. This work, as first brought out in London, was garbled by his grandson, William Temple Franklin ; and it was not until a few years ago that an edition which follows the original with literal exactness was published, under the supervision of Mr. John Bigelow. In the extract here given this text is followed, with the single exception that the spelling is modernized.]
1. I was put to the grammar-school at eight years of age, my father intending to devote me, as the tithe of his sons, to the service of the church. My early readiness in learning to read (which must have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not read), and the opinion of all his friends that I should certainly make a good scholar, encouraged him in this purpose of his. My uncle Benjamin, too, approved of it, and proposed to give me all his short-hand volumes of sermons, I suppose as a
NOTES.-Line 1. grammar-school. This vol. ii., page 263.--eight years of was, of course, the grammar
age. This must have been in school of Boston, where Frank
1714, as Franklin was born in lin was born. The institution
1706. of common schools in Massa- 2. the tithe. The "tithe" is the tenth chusetts dates from 1647 ; that part, and specifically the tenth is, from the seventeenth year of part of the increase arising from the first founding of the colony. the profits of land and stock, al. In the law establishing public lotted to the clergy for their schools is the following clause : support. The Franklin family “It is further ordered that when included seventeen children, of any town shall increase to the
whom ten were sons. number of one hundred families 8. short-hand, etc. His “uncle Benja. or householders, they shall set min” had been in the habit of up a grammar-school, the mas listening to the best preachers, ter thereof being able to instruct both in the Old Country and in youth so far as they may be Boston, and taking down their fitted for the university.”—PAL discourses in a short-hand of FREY : History of New England, his own invention.
LITERARY ANALYSIS.-1-31. What is the distinguishing quality of Frank. lin's style? (See Def. 49.)—Is there a single uncommon word in the first paragraph ? Is there a single periodic sentence in this paragraph ?