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style myself so, neither do I desire to be known by that appellation."
Nothing ever gave Hume more real vexation than the strictures made upon his history in the House of Lords by the great Lord Chatham. Soon after that speech I met Hume, and ironically wished him joy of the high honour that had been done him. "Zounds, man," said he, with more peevishness than I had ever seen him express, " he's a Goth! he's a Vandal!" Indeed, his history is as dangerous in politics as his essays are in religion; and it is somewhat extraordinary, that the same man who labours to free the mind from what he supposes are religious prejudices, should as zealously endeavour to shackle it with the servile ideas of despotism. But he loved the Stuart family, and his history is of course their apology. All his prepossessions, however, could never induce him absolutely to falsify his history; and though he endeavoured to soften the failings of his favourites, even in their actions, yet it is on the characters which he gives to them that he principally depends for their vindication: and from hence frequently proceeds, in the course of his history, this singular incongruity, that it is morally impossible that a man possessed of the character which the historian delineates should, in certain circumstances, have acted the part which the same historian narrates and assigns to him. But now to return to his philosophical principles, which certainly constitute the discriminative feature of his character. The practice of combating received opinions had one unhappy, though not unusual,
effect on his mind. He grew fond of paradoxes, which his abilities enabled him successfully to support; and his understanding was far warped and bent by this unfortunate predilection, that he had well nigh lost that best faculty of the mind, the almost intuitive perception of truth. His sceptical turn made him doubt, and consequently dispute every thing; yet was he a fair and pleasant disputant. He heard with patience, and answered without acrimony. Neither was his conversation at any time offensive, even to his more scrupulous companions; his good sense and good nature prevented his saying any thing that was likely to shock; and it was not till he was provoked to argument that, in mixed companies, he entered into his favourite topics. Where indeed, as was the case with me, his regard for any individual rendered him desirous of making a proselyte, his efforts were great, and anxiously incessant. Hardy.
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 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 preeminence, 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
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bim 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 the 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. The distinguishing feature of his understanding was great soundness and sagacity, combined with extraordinary quickness and 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 of 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 non
sensically:—at all times, and in every thing he undertook, the vigour of an understanding, at once original and practical, was distinctly perceivable.
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 the purpose on hand, of which neither reader nor writer ever loses sight for an instant. Thus his style has all the vigour 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 humour, 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 naturally be expected 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. 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.
The benevolent cast of his disposition was far from confining itself to those sublimer views. From earnest wishes, and active vigorous exertions for the prosperity of the species, he descended perpetually to acts of particular kindness. He seems to have felt an unwearied satisfaction in affording assistance, instruction, or amusement to all who stood in need of it. His letters are full of passages which bear testimony to this amiable solicitude for the happiness of his fellow creatures individually; it seems the chief cause of his writing in most cases; and if he ever deviates from his habit of keeping out all superfluous matter, whatever be the subject, it is when he seems tempted to give some extra piece of knowledge or entertainment. So, if ever the serene and well natured cast of his temper appears ruffled by anger, or even soured for the moment, it is when some enormities have been committed which offend against the highest principles which he professes.
We have said little respecting his language, which is pure, and English. A few, and but a few foreign expressions may be traced, and these French, rather than American; as, for instance, influential. Indeed, we cannot reckon him more