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mentioned by Dr. Wall and Mr. Gray, while the science was in its infancy. But the honour of forming a regular theory of thunder-gusts, of suggesting a mode of determining the truth of it by experiments, and of putting these experiments in practice, and thus establishing his theory upon a firm and solid basis, is incontestibly due to Franklin. D’Alibard, who made the experiments in France, says, that he only followed the track which Franklin had pointed out.
It has been of late asserted, that the honour of completing the experiment with the electrical kite does not belong to Franklin.
Some late English paragraphs have attributed it to some Frenchman, whose name they did not mention ; and the Abbe Bertholon gives it to M. De Romas, assessor to the presideal of Nerac; the English paragraphs probably refer to the same person. But a very slight attention will convince us of the injustice of this procedure: Dr. Franklin's experiment was made in June 1752 ; and his letter, giving an account of it, is dated October 19, 1752, M. De Romas made his first attempt on the 14th of May 1753, but was not successful until the 7th of June; a year after Franklin had completed the discovery, and when it was known to all the philosophers in Europe.
Besides these great principles, Franklin's letters on electricity contain a number of facts and hints, which have contributed greatly towards reducing this branch of knowledge to a science. His friend, Mr. Kinnersly, communicated to him a discovery of the different kinds of electricity excited by rubbing glass and sulphur. This, we have said, was first observed by M. Du Faye; but it was for many years neglected. The philosphers were disposed to account for the phenomena, rather from a difference in the quantity of elcc.. tricity collected; and even Du Faye himself seems at last to have adopted this doctrine. Franklin at first entertained the same idea; but upon repeating the experiments, he perceived that Mr. Kinnersley was right; and that the vitreous and resinous electricity of Du
Faye were nothing more than the positive and negative states which he had before observed ; that the glass globe charged positively, or increased the quantity of electricity on the prime conductor, whilst the globe of sulphur diminished its natural quantity, or charged negalively. These experiments and observations opened a new field for investigation, upon which electricians entered with avidity; and their labours have added much to the stock of our knowledge.
In September, 1752, Franklin entered upon a course of experiments, to determine the state of electricity in the clouds. From a number of experiments he formed this conclusion : 5 that the clouds of a thunder-gust are most commonly in a negative state of electricity, but sometimes in a positive state ;” and from this it follows, as a necessary consequence, “that, for the most part, in thunder-strokes, it is the earth that strikes into the clouds, and not the clouds that strike into the earth.” The letter containing these observations is dated in September, 1753 ; and yet the discovery of ascending thunder has been said to be of a modern date and has been attributed to the Abbe Bertholon, who published his memoir on the subject in 1776.
Franklin's letters have been translated into most of the European languages, and into Latin. tion as they have become known, his principles have been adopted. Some opposition was made to his theo. ries, particularly by the Abbe Nollet, who was, however, but feebly supported, whilst the first philosophers of Europe stepped forth in defence of Franklin's principles; amongst whom D'Alibard and Beccaria were the most distinguished. The opposition has gradually ceased, and the Franklinian system is now universally adopted, where science flourishes.
The important practical use which Franklin made of his discoveries, the securing of houses from injury by lightning, has been already mentioned. Pointed conducters are now very common in America; but prejudice has hitherto prevented their general introduction into Europe, notwithstanding the most un
doubted proofs of their utility have been given. But mankind can with difficulty be brought to lay aside established practices, or to adopt new ones. haps we have more reason to be surprised that a practice, however rational, which was proposed about forty years ago, should in that time have been adopted in so many places, than that it has not universally prevailed. It is only by degrees that the great body of mankind can be led into new practices, however salutary their tendency. It is now nearly eighty years since innoculation was introduced into Europe and America, and it is so far from being general at present, that it will, perhaps, require one or two centuries to render it so.
In the year 1745, Franklin published an account of his new invented Pennsylvania fire-places, in which he minutely and accurately states the advantages and disadvantages of different kinds of fire-places; and endeavours to shew that the one which he describes is to be preferred to any other. This contrivance has given rise to the open stoves now in general use, which however differ from it in construction, particularly in not having an air-box at the back, through which a constant supply of air, warmed in its passage, is thrown into the room. The advantages of this are, that as a stream of warm air is continually flowing into the room, less fuel is necessary to preserve a proper temperature, and the room may be so tightened as that no air may enter through cracks; the consequences of which are colds, toothaches, &c.
Although philosophy was a principal object of Franklin's pursuit for several years, he confined himself not to this. In the year 1747, he became a member of the general assembly of Pennsylvania, as a burgess for the city Pniladelphia. Warm disputes at this time subsisted between the assembly and the proprietaries; each contending for what they conceived to be their just rights Franklin, a friend to the rights of man from his infancy, soon distinguished himself as a steady opponent of the unjust schemes of the proprietaries.He was soon looked up to as the head of the opposition; and to him have been attributed many of the spirited replies of the assembly, to the messages of the governors. His influence in the body was very great. This arose not from any superior powers of eloquence; he spoke but seldom, and he never was known to make any thing like an elaborate barrangue. His speeches often consisted of a single sentence, or of a well-told story, the moral of which was always obviously to the point. He never attempted the flowery fields of oratory. His manner was plain and mild. His style in speaking was, like that of his writings, remarkably consise. With this plain manner, and his penetrating and solid judgment, he was able to confound the most eloquent and subtle of his adversaries, to confirm the opinions of his friends, and to mrake converts of the xunprejudiced who had opposed him. With a single observation, he has rendered of no avail an elegant and lengthy discourse, and determined the fate of a question of importance,
But he was not contented with thus supporting the rights of the people. He wished to render them permanently secure, which can only be done by making their value properly known; and this must depend upon increasing and extending information to every class of men. We have already seen that he was the founder of the public library, which contributed greatly towards improving the minds of the citizens. But this was not sufficient. The schools then subsisting were in general of little utility. The teachers were men ill qualified for the important duty which they had undertaken; and, after all, nothing more could be obtained than the rudiments of a common English education. Franklin drew up a plan of an academy, to be erected in the city of Philadelphia, suited to “the state of an infant country ;' but in this, as in all his plans, he confined not his views to the present time only. He looked forward to the period when an institution on an enlarged plan would become necessary. With this view he considered his academy as “a foundation for
posterity to erect a seminary of learning, more extensive, and suitable to future circumstances.” In pursuance of this plan, the constitutions were drawn up and signed on the 13th of November 1749. In these twenty-four of the most respectable citizens of Philadelphia were named as trustees. In the choice of these, and in the formation of his plan, Franklin is said to have consulted chiefly with Thomas Hopkinson, Esq. Rev. Richard Peters, then secretary of the province, Tench Francis, Esq. attorney-general, and Dr. Phineas Bond.
The following article shews a spirit of benevolence worthy of imitation; and, for the honour of our city, we hope that it continues to be in force.
to In case of the inability of the rector, or any master, (established on the foundation by receiving a certain salary) through sickness, or any other natural in firmity, whereby he may be reduced to poverty, the trustees shall have power to contribute to.
his support, in proportion to his distress and merit, and the stock in their hands."
The last clause of the fundamental rules is expressed in language soʻtender and benevolent, so truly parental, that it will do everlasting houour to the hearts and heads of the founders.
" It is hoped and expected that the trustees will make it their pleasure, and in some degree their business, to visit the academy often; to encourage and countenance the youth, countenance and assist the masters, and by all means in their power advance the usefulness and reputation of the design, that they will look on the students, as, in some measure, their own children, treat them with familiarity and affection ; and when they have behaved well, gone through their studies, and are to enter the world, they shall zealously unite, and make all the interest that can be made, to promote and establish them, whether in business, offices, marriages, or any other thing for their advantage, preferable to all other persons whatsoever, even of equal merit.”