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by John Adams

A Character Of Franklin

FRANKLIN had a great geniusoriginalsagaciousand inventivecapable ofdiscoveries in science no less than of improvements in the fine arts and themechanic arts. He had a vast imaginationequal to the comprehension of thegreatest objectsand capable of a steady and cool comprehension of them. He hadwit at will. He had humor thatwhen he pleasedwas delicate and delightful. Hehad a satire that was good-natured or causticHorace or JuvenalSwift orRabelaisat his pleasure. He had talents for ironyallegoryand fablethathe could adapt with great skill to the promotion of moral and political truth.He was master of that infantine simplicity which the French call naivetwhichnever fails to charmin Ph'drus and La Fontainefrom the cradle to the grave.Had he been blessed with the same advantages of scholastic education in hisearly youthand pursued a course of studies as unembarrassed with occupationsof public and private lifeas Sir Isaac Newtonhe might have emulated thefirst philosopher. Although I am not ignorant that most of his positions andhypotheses have been controvertedI cannot but think he has added much to themass of natural knowledgeand contributed largely to the progress of the humanmindboth by his own writings and by the controversies and experiments he hasexcited in all parts of Europe. He had abilities for investigating statisticalquestionsand in some parts of his life has written pamphlets and essays uponpublic topics with great ingenuity and success; but after my acquaintance withhimwhich commenced in Congress in 1775his excellence as a legislatorapoliticianor a negotiator most certainly never appeared. No sentiment moreweak and superficial was ever avowed by the most absurd philosopher than some ofhisparticularly one that he procured to be inserted in the first constitutionof Pennsylvaniaand for which he had such a fondness as to insert it in hiswill. I call it weakfor so it must have beenor hypocritical; unless he meantby one satiric touch to ridicule his own republicor throw it into everlastingcontempt.

I must acknowledgeafter allthat nothing in life has mortified or grievedme more than the necessity which compelled me to oppose him so often as I have.He was a man with whom I always wished to live in friendshipand for thatpurpose omitted no demonstration of respectesteemand veneration in my poweruntil I had unequivocal proofs of his hatredfor no other reason under the sunbut because I gave my judgment in opposition to hisin many points whichmaterially affected the interests of our countryand in many more whichessentially concerned our happinesssafetyand well-being. I could not andwould not sacrifice the clearest dictates of my understanding and the purestprinciples of morals and policy in compliance to Dr. Franklin.

The End