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THE American people, who pretend more than any other to think
for themselves, have nevertheless submitted to the influence of great
names; and four men, distinguished by pre-eminence of character or
of station, have more particularly led their politics. These have been
Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Franklin.

Washington having had the wonderful skill to unite the various
interests of the different parts, brought the whole of our country into
a consistent opposition to the power of Great Britain, and, accom-
plishing our independence, proved himself as great in peace as in war.
Asserting and confirming to us the rights of individual man, he also
vindicated the rights of government, and, in the lessons of his wisdom,
taught us to respect and to obey it. Our affections, in his time, were
with the federal government, and it was our pride to be thought fe-

Adams—what was the direction which he would have given to the
public mind? Neither his writings nor his actions indicate, with any
certainty, his own. The unsteady lights, however, of Mr. Adams
continued to be followed by many, until, distracted by their contra-
riety, they fell into neglect: the federal school of Washington was
broken up, or was divided with the anti-federal.

On the nature and tendency of Mr. Jefferson's speculative politics,
it is no less difficult to pronounce: his theoretic opinions in the sci-
ence and conduct of government, thrown at different seasons in the
opposite scales of aristocracy and democracy, so exactly balancing,
that nothing could help us to a knowledge of his real principles but
his practice, which has been altogether in one way. Descanting more
upon our rights, already almost too well known, than upon our duties,
alas! too much neglected, he has won and maintained his way by a
constant court to the multitude. Unlike what is said of a good judge,
wishing to amplify his jurisdiction, his inverted ambition is to narrow
his own circle. Mr. Jefferson would place his government more upon
popular sufferance than upon authority; and, seemingly pleased rather
to be the people's favourite than their ruler, he more regards the conti-
nuance in his office than its value or its dignity. And now this gen-
tleman, labouring to set our heads in the direction of his own, will

  * The editor was favoured with these remarks by a venerable friend and com-
peer of Franklin. He inserts them with pleasure, though, at the same time, he
requests the reader not to consider him as implicitly concurring in the justice of
these strictures. He leaves them to have their due and unassisted weight with
the candour of the reader.

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probably drive us along the anti-federal or democratic road, until he
startles at the precipice that crosses it.

These personages have, in succession, all stood at the head of the
great American community, and their sphere of influence has been
commensurate with it: but Dr. Franklin, though illustrating his
country by his genius, and serving it by his virtues, having had a
more circumscribed field of action, has given the tone of politics prin-
cipally to his own state, Pennsylvania; and his democratic principles,
though never so clearly ascertained by fact, have nevertheless been
generally admitted; and they come in aid of Mr. Jefferson's, when-
ever the beer-clubs are pleased to take up the question of the fitness
of man to be his own lawgiver, consequent on the perfectibility of his
nature, left to itself, without the restraints or counteraction of govern-

A question of this kind, producing lately, in Pennsylvania, a call
for a general convention, for the purpose of reforming the constitu-
tion, or of doing altogether without one, in which, no doubt, should it
ever take place, the supposed doctrines of this celebrated man will be
quoted as authorities in the science of government, it may not be
amiss to attempt to discover what they really were, and whether or
not there has not been a considerable mistake concerning them.

It will be said, that the single legislature, adopted, on his recom-
mendation, by the state convention of 1776, is conclusive as to his de-
mocracy. This was the hasty notion of the moment, and still passes,
though perhaps without due consideration; but it should be the ques-
tion of our leisure how to class the single branch; for it cannot be
that all simple forms in government are alike democratic in their
nature, for this would include the uncontrouled domination of a single

If we view it most as the faithful representative of the popular hu-
mours and passions; fickle, capricious, and inconsiderate with the multi-
tude, and servilely thinking with, and not for the people, it is certainly
democratic. If as a power freed from the check of any co-ordinate autho-
rity, where the whole legislative force is concentrated as in a point, undi-
vided in views, undistracted in counsel, and capable to act with prompt-
ness as with energy; at liberty to riot in the excess of any measure
or principle, and to make its session a reign of terror and proscription;
I say, thus formidable to its own creators, and qualified for usurpation,
it is certainly aristocratic: it has been so considered by Mr. Adams,
and accordingly rejected by him in his book of constitutions.

But the classification of governmental principles, though now such
wonderful adepts in it, was little understood or considered by us at
this epoch; nor can I suppose Dr. Franklin was much influenced in
his choice by any abstract notion of excellence: he was more proba-
bly led to it on account of the attributes last ascribed to the legisla-
tive unity, and from a conception of its particular adaptation to the
circumstances of the times, the war of the revolution then impending;
and as thinking that energy should be sought for at the chance of
wisdom. He had, moreover, the long-practised example of a like

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establishment within the same state, when a province of England, in
which the people, knowing no other, had habitually acquiesced.

True it is that the absolute absorption of all legislative authority in
the single branch disappointed any expectation conceived of its con-
sistency or efficiency. It proved weak and unsteady in its measures,
and, instead of being the constant index of the general will, it became,
from the casual circumstance of two nearly balanced parties within
the state, the alternate organ of them both, as either prevailed in the
popular elections; and, during the term of its continuance, as it ad-
mitted heats or violence from without, or sent forth its own, was the
child or parent of faction.

If it be contended, nevertheless, that Dr. Franklin had, at that early
day, generalized his ideas on the subject of government, turning them,
as in this supposed instance, into the democratic channel, it would
have been evidenced by his consistency in all the points which he had
been brought to consider, in the constitutional instrument before him:
but far from it; in the part, as well as is remembered, which he took
in that convention, he seems rather to have given his thoughts an
aristocratic direction, if an endeavour to bestow strength and respecta-
bility upon each department of power be admitted as the presump-
tions. I will proceed to some particulars.

In the conventional question, whether the appointment of justices
of the peace should be in government or people, Dr. Franklin took
the unpopular side, his good sense discovering how indecorous it
was to make a respectable and responsible office an object of petty in-
trigue, or the resort of necessity; but in this he was overruled: the
consequence was, that, in many small districts, the office, in itself so ho-
nourable, was sought after only as it was profitable, and not unfrequently
bestowed as an alms; that the station was found for the man, and not
the man for the station; little suits made oppressive, and the spirit of
litigation fomented amongst neighbours for the sake of perquisites.

Again; respecting the creation of certain ranks of militia officers
which he would have vested in the government and not in the people,
upon the plain principle, that he whose part it was to demand obedi-
ence should not in any wise be made dependent on those whose duty
it was to yield it: a solecism indeed in discipline! yet carried against
him by the self-taught statesmen of the convention. As a conse-
quence, among the ordinary corps the military proficiency scarcely
went to the further end of the manual exercise, and the military pas-
sion little beyond an ardour for the idleness of a parade holiday. In
the war that followed, as numbers were required to supply the defect
of ability, the public burthen of such militia, set against its public
services, rendered it of very doubtful usefulness; and in the subse-
quent peace, as the militia fell chiefly under the management of such
as were the most adverse to any government of good laws, it might
for a long time have been estimated rather as the weakness than the
strength of the state.

What do we perceive of the apostle of democracy in his disappro-
bation of the plan which so awkwardly forked the executive council
into as many heads or tails as there were then counties within the

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state, leaving a constantly operating principle, on their increase, to
magnify the absurdity? The convention, in truth, hearing something
of the wisdom of checks and balances in a commonwealth, and already
lightening the general assembly for speed, contrived to hang weights
upon this council, that to the precipitancy in making the laws might be
opposed their tardiness in the execution. From this constitutional
solecism, the chamber, which might have employed the active talents
of one man, became the loitering-place of a score, drawn together from
every division of the state, to yawn over the public business, and as
much without responsibility as without occupation. Dr. Franklin's
anticipations on this subject, when, after a lapse of some years, it was
his lot to preside in this castle of indolence, he found experimentally
verified, sarcastically observing, that, in a multitude of counsellors there
was safety
—to themselves.

If in this review of the conduct of Dr. Franklin, in the memorable
occasion of the convention of 1776, it shall appear that, instead of
composing the system he wrought on of weak and disorderly elements,
he laboured to supply it with strong and effective principles, we are
bound to drop the charge against him of democratic propensities.

No act of posthumous justice can be of use to the dead. But this
attempt, in the case of Dr. Franklin, may be so to the living, so far
as it withdraws his name from the support of the jacobinism so threat-
ening to our republic, and gives it to the cause of sober, legitimate

Dr. Franklin's instrumentality in the great work of our revolution
is well known; but he it was, on an occasion preceding it above twenty
years, who, in reasoning against a project of internal parliamentary
taxation, and exciting new ideas on their natural and acquired rights,
first taught his countrymen how they should be asserted and defended.
He was thus the father of American liberty: an additional motive for
the vindication of his political character.

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