Monograph From an Old Note-Book; With a Postscript: "Eripuit Cœlo Fulmen, Sceptrumque Tyrannis"

IN a famous speech, made in the House of Lords, March 16, 1838, against the Eastern slave-trade, Lord Brougham arrests the current of his eloquence by the following illustrative diversion : —

“ I have often heard it disputed among critics, which of all quotations was the most appropriate, the most closely applicable to the subject-matter illustrated; and the palm is generally awarded to that which applied to Dr. Franklin the line in Claudian,

‘Eripuit fulmen cœlo, mox sceptra tyrannis ’;

yet still there is a difference of opinion, and even that citation, admirably close as it is, has rivals.”

The British orator errs in attributing this remarkable verse to Claudian ; and he errs also in the language of the verse itself, which he fails to quote with entire accuracy. And this double mistake becomes more noticeable, when it appears not merely in the contemporary report, but in the carefully prepared collection of speeches, revised at leisure, and preserved in permanent volumes.1

The beauty of this verse, even in its least accurate form, will not be questioned, especially as applied to Franklin, who, before the American Revolution, in which it was his fortune to perform so illustrious a part, had already awakened the world’s admiration by drawing the lightning from the skies. But beyond its acknowledged beauty, this verse has an historic interest which has never been adequately appreciated. Appearing at the moment it did, it is closely associated with the acknowledgment of American Independence. Plainly interpreted, it calls George III, “ tyrant,” and announces that the sceptre has been snatched from his hands. It was a happy ally to Franklin in France, and has ever since been an inspiring voice. Latterly it has been adopted by the city of Boston, and engraved on granite in letters of gold,— in honor of its greatest child and citizen. It may not be entirely Superfluous to recount the history of a verse which has justly attracted so much attention, and which, in the history of civilization, has been of more value than the whole State of South Carolina.

From its first application to Franklin, this verse has excited something more than curiosity. Lord Brougham tells us that it is often discussed in private circles. There is other evidence of the interest it has created. For instance, in an early number of “ Notes and Queries ” 2 there is the following inquiry : — -

“ Can you tell me who wrote the line on Franklin, ' Eripuit,’ etc. ?

“ HEXNY II. BKEEN.

St. Lucia.'”

A subsequent writer in this same work, after calling the verse “ a parody ” of a certain line of antiquity, says, — “ I am unable to say who adapted these words to Franklin’s career. Was it Condoreet ? ” 3 Another writer in the same work says, — “ The inscription was written by Mirabeau.” 4

i remember well a social entertainment in Boston, where a most distinguished scholar of our country, in reply to an inquiry made at the table, said that the verse was founded on the following line from the “Astronomicon” 5 of Manilius,—

“ Eripuit Jovi fulmen, viresque tonandi.”

John Quincy Adams, who was present, seemed to concur. Mr. Sparks, in his notes to the correspondence of Franklin, attributes it to the Same origin.6 But there are other places where its origin is traced with more precision. One of the correspondents of “ Notes and Queries” says that he has read, but does not remember where, “ that this line was immediately taken from one in the ‘AntiLucretius’ of Cardinal Polignae.” 7 Another correspondent shows the intermediate authority. 8 My own notes were originally made without any knowledge of these studies, which, while fixing its literary origin, fail to exhibit the true character of the verse, both in its meaning and in the time when it was uttered.

The verse cannot be found in any ancient writer, — not Claudian or anybody else. It is clear that it does not come from antiquity, unless indirectly; nor does it appear that at the time of its first production it was in any way referred to any ancient writer. Manilius was not mentioned. The verse is of modern invention, and was composed after the arrival of Franklin in Paris on his eventful mission. At first it was anonymous ; but it was attributed sometimes to D’Alembert and sometimes to Turgot. Beyond question, it was not the production of D’Alembert, while it will be found in the Works of Turgot, 9 published after his death, in the following form : —

“ Eripuit cœlo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis.”

There is no explanation by the editor of the circumstances under which the verse was written ; but it is given among poetical miscellanies of the author, immediately after a translation into French of Pope’s “ Essay on Man,” and is entitled “ Inscription for a Portrait of Benjamin Franklin.” It appears that Turgot also tried his hand in these French verses, having the same idea : —

“ Le voilà ce mortal dont. l’heureuse Industrie
Sut enchaîner la Foudre et lui donner des loix,
Dont la sagesse active et I’éloquente voix
D’un pouvolr oppresseur affranchit sa Patrie,
Qui disarm a Ies Dieux, qui réprime les Rois.”

The single Latin verse is a marvellous substitute for these diffuse and feeble lines.

If there were any doubt upon its authorship, it would be removed by the positive statement of Condorcet, who, in his Life of Turgot, written shortly after the death of this great man, says, “ There is known from Turgot but one Latin verse, designed for a portrait of Franklin ” ; 10 and he gives the verse in this form : —

“ Eripuit cœlo fulmen, mox sceptra tyraunis.”

But Sparks and Mignet, in their biographies,11 and so also both the biographical dictionaries of France,—that of Michaud and that of Didot, — while ascribing the verse to Turgot, concur in the form already quoted from Turgot’s Works, which was likewise adopted by Ginguené, the scholar who has done so much to illustrate Italian literature, on the title-page of his “Science du Bon-Homme Richard,” with an abridged Life of Franklin, in 1794, and by Cabanis, who lived in such intimacy with Franklin. 12 It cannot be doubted that it was the final form which this verse assumed, — as it is unquestionably the best.

To appreciate the importance of this verse, as marking and helping a great epoch, there are certain dates which must not be forgotten. Franklin reached Paris on his mission towards the close of 1776. He had already signed the Declaration of Independence, and his present duty was to obtain the recognition of France for the new power. The very clever Madame Du Deffant, in her amusing correspondence with Horace Walpole, describes him in a visit to her “ with his fur cap on his head and his spectacles on his nose,” in the same small circle with Madame de Luxembourg, a great lady of the time, and the Duke do Choiseul, late. Prime-Minister. This was on the thirtyfirst of December, 1776.13 A pretty good beginning. More than a year of effort and anxiety ensued, brightened at last by the news that Burgoyne had surrendered at Saratoga. On the sixth of February, 1778, the work of the American Plenipotentiary was crowned by the signature of the two Treaties of Alliance and Commerce by which France acknowledged our Independence and pledged her belligerent support. On the fifteenth of March, one of these treaties, with a diplomatic note announcing that the Colonies were free and independent States, was communicated to the British Government, at London, which was promptly encountered by a declaration of war from Great Britain. On the twenty-second of March, Franklin was received by the King at Versailles, and this remarkable scene is described by the same feminine pen to which we are indebted for the early glimpse of him on his arrival in Paris.14 But throughout this intervening period he had not lived unknown. Indeed, he had become at once a celebrity. Laeretelle, the eminent French historian, says, “ By the effect which Franklin produced, he appears to have fulfilled his mission, not with a court, but with a free people. His virtues and renown negotiated for him.” 15

Condorcet, who was a part of that intellectual society which welcomed the new Plenipotentiary, has left a record of his reception. “ The celebrity of Franklin in the sciences,” he says, “gave him the friendship of all who love or cultivate them, that is, of all who exert a real and durable influence upon public opinion. At his arrival he became an object of veneration to all enlightened men, and of curiosity to others, He submitted to this curiosity with the natural facility of his character, and with the conviction that in this way he served the cause of his country. It was an honor to have seen him. People repeated what they had heard him say. Every fête which he consented to receive, every house where he consented to go, spread in society new admirers, who became so many partisans of the American It evolution. .... Men whom the works of philosophy had disposed secretly to the love of liberty were impassioned for that of a strauae people. A general cry was soon raised in favor of the American War, and the friends of peace dared not even complain that peace was sacrificed to the cause of liberty.” 16 This is an animated picture by an eye-witness. But all authorities concur in its truthfulness. Even Capefigue— whose business is to belittle all that is truly great, and especially to efface those names which are associated with human liberty, while, like another Old Mortality, he furbishes the tombstones of royal mistresses — is yet constrained to bear witness to the popularity and influence which Franklin achieved. The critic dwells on what he styles his “ Quaker garb,” “ his linen so white under clothes so brown,” and also the elaborate art of the philosopher, who understood France and knew well “ that a popular man became soon more powerful than power itself” ; but he cannot deny that the philosopher “ fulfilled his duties with great superiority,” or that he became at once famous17

The arrival of Franklin was followed very soon by the departure of the youthful Lafayette, who crossed the sea to offer his generous sword to the service of American liberty. Our cause was now widely known. In the thronged cafe's and the places of public resort it was discussed with sympathy and admiration.18 And so completely was Franklin recognized as the representative of new ideas, that the Emperor Joseph II. of Austria, — professed reformer as he was, — on one of his visits to France under the travelling-name of Count Falkenstein, is reported to have firmly avoided all temptation to see him, saying, “ My business is to be a Royalist,” — thus doing homage to the real character of Franklin, in whom the Republic was personified.

Franklin was at once, by natural attraction, the welcome guest of that brilhant company of philosophers who exercised such influence over the eighteenth century. The “ Encyclopédic ” was their work, and they were masters at the Academy. He was received into their guild. At the famous table of the Baron D’Holbach, where twice a week, Sunday and Thursday, at dinner, lasting from two till seven o’clock, the wits of that time were gathered, he found a hospitable chair. But he was most at home with Madame Helvétius, the widow of the rich and handsome philosopher, whose name, derived from Holland, is now almost unknown. At her house he met in social familiarity D’Alembert, Diderot, D’Holbach, Morellct, Cabanis, and Condorcet, with their compeers. There, also, was Turgot, the greatest of all. There was another person in some respects as famous as any of these, but leading a very different life, whom Franklin saw often, — I refer to Caron de Beaumarchais, the author already of the “ Barbier de Seville,” as he was afterwards of the “ Mariage de Figaro,” who, turning aside from an unsurpassed success at the theatre, exerted his peculiar genius to enlist the French Government on the side of the struggling Colonies, predicted their triumph, and at last. under the assumed name of a mercantile house, became the agent of the Comte de Vergennes in furnishing clandestine supplies of arms even before the recognition of Independence. It is supposed that through this popular dramatist Franklin maintained communications with the French Government until the mask was thrown aside.19

Beyond all doubt, Turgot is one of the most remarkable intelligences which France has produced. He was by nature a philosopher and a reformer, but he was also a statesman, who for a time held a seat in the cabinet of Louis XVI., first as Minister of the Marine, and then as Comptroller of the Finances. Perhaps no minister ever studied more completely the good of the people. His administration was one constant benefaction. But he was too good for the age in which he lived, — or rather, the age was not good enough for him. The King was induced to part with him, saving, when he yielded, — “ You and I are the only two persons who really love the people.” This was some time in May, 1776; so that Franklin, on his arrival, found this eminent Frenchman free from all the constraints of a ministerial position. The character of Turgot shows how naturally he sympathized with the Colonies struggling for independence, especially when represented by a person like Franklin. In a prize essay of his youth, written in 1750, when he was only twenty-three years of age, he had foretold the American Revolution. These are his remarkable words on that occasion : —

“ Colonies are like fruits, which do not hold to the tree after their maturity. Having become sufficient in themselves, they do that which Carthage did, that which America will one day do.” 20

One of his last acts before leaving the Ministry was to prepare a memoir on the American War, for the information of the Comte de Vergennes, in which he says “ that the idea ol‘the absolute separation of the Colonies and the mother-country seems infinitely probable ; that, when the independence of the Colonies shall be entire and acknowledged by the English, there will be a total revolution in the political and commercial relations of Europe and America ; and that all the mother-countries will be forced to abandon all empire over their colonies, to leave them entire liberty of commerce with all nations, and to be content in sharing with others this liberty, and in preserving with their colonies the bonds of amity and fraternity.”21 This memoir of the French statesman hears date the sixth of April, 1776, nearly three months before the Declaration of Independence.

Oii leaving the Ministry, Turgot devoted himself to literature, science, and charity, translating Giles of Horace and Eclogues of Virgil, studying geometry with Bossut, chemistry with Lavoisier, and astronomy with Rochon, and interesting himself in everything by which human welfare could be advanced. Such a character, with such an experience of government, and the prophet of American independence, was naturally prepared to welcome Franklin, not only as philosopher, but as statesman also.

But the classical welcome of Turgot was partially anticipated, — at least in an unsuccessful attempt. Baron Grimm, in that interesting and instructive “ Corrospondance,” prepared originally for the advantage of distant courts, but now constituting one of the literary and social monuments of the period, mentions, under date of October, 1777, that the following French verses were made for a portrait of Franklin by Cochin, engraved by St. Aubin : —

“ O'est l’honneur et l'appui du nouvel hémisphere; Les flots de l'Océan s'abaissent a sa voix; II réprime on dirige àa son gré le tonnerre; Qui dtsarme les dieux, peut-il craindre les rois? ”

These verses seem to contain the very idea in the verse of Turgot. But they were suppressed at the time by the censor on the ground that they were “ blasphemous,”—although it is added in a note that “they concerned only the King of England.” Was it that the negotiations with Franklin were not yet sufficiently advanced ? And here mark the dates.

It was only after the communication to Great Britain of the Treaty of Alliance and the reception of Franklin at Versailles, that the seal seems to have been broken. Baron Grimm, in his “ Correspondance,” * under date of April, 1778, makes the following entry : —

“ A very beautiful Latin verse has been made for the portrait of Dr. Franklin,—

'Eripuit cœlo fulmen, sceptrumqne tyrannis.

It is a happy imitation of a verse of the ‘ Anti-Lucretius,’ —

‘ Eripuitque Jovi fulmen, Phœboque sagittas.’ ”

Here is the earliest notice of this verse, authenticating its origin. Nothing further is said of the “Anti-Lucretius”; for in that day it was familiar to every lettered person. But I shall speak of it before I close.

Only a few days later the verse appears in the correspondence of Madame D'Epinay, whose intimate relations with Baron Grimm — the subject of curiosity and scandal — will explain her early knowledge of it. She records it in a letter to the very remarkable Italian Abbé Galiani, under date of May 3d, 1778. 22 And she proceeds to give a translation in French verse, which she says “ D’Alembert made the other day between sleeping and waking.” Galiani, who was himself a master of Latin versification, and followed closely the fortunes of America, must have enjoyed the tribute. In a letter written shortly afterwards, he enters into all the grandeur of the occasion. “ You have,” says he, “ at this hour decided the greatest question of the globe, —that is, if it is America which shall reign over Europe, or Europe which shall continue to reign over America. I would wager in favor of America.” * In these words the Neapolitan said as much as Turgot.

A little later the verse appears in a different scene. It had reached the salons of Madame Doublet, whence it was transferred to the “ Mémoires Secrets de Bachamnout,” under date of June 8th. 1778, as “ a very beautiful verse, proper to characterize M. Franklin and to serve as an inscription for his portrait.” These Memoirs, as is well known, are the record of conversations and news gathered in the circle of that venerable Egeria of gossip ; † and here is evidence of the publicity which this welcome had already obtained.

The verse was now fairly launched. War was flagrant between France and Great Britain. There was no longer any reason why the new alliance between France and the United States should not be placed under the auspices of genius, and why the same hand which had snatched the lightning from the skies should not have the fame of snatching the sceptre from King George III. The time for free speech had come. It was no longer “ blasphemous.”

But it will be observed that these records of this verse fail to mention the immediate author. Was he unknown at the time? Or did the fact that he was recently a cabinet-minister induce him to hide behind a mask ? Turgot was a master of epigram, — as witness the terrible lines on Frederick of Prussia ; but be was very prudent in conduct. “Nobody,” said Voltaire, “ so skilful to launch the shaft without showing the hand.” But there is a letter from no less a person than D'Alembert, which reveals something of the “filing” which this verse underwent, and something of the persons consulted. Unhappily, the letter is without, date ; nor does it appear to whom it was addressed, except that the cherconfrere” seems to imply that it was to a brother of the Academy. T his letter will be found in a work which is now known to have been the compilation of the Marquis Gaetan de La Rochefoucauld,23 entitled, “ Mcmoires de Condoreet sur la Revolution Franqaise, extraits de sa Correspondance et de celle de scs Amis.” 24 It is introduced by the following words from the Marquis : —

* Galiani,Correspondafice, Tom. II. p. 275, Lettre de 25 Juillet, 1778. Nobody saw America with a more prophetic eye than this inspired Pulcinello of Naples, As far back as the eighteenth of May, 1776, several weeks before the Declaration of Independence, he wrote,—“ The epoch is come for the total fall of Europe and its transmigration to America. Do not buy your house in the Chaussée d’Antin, but at Philadelphia. The misfortune for me is that there are no abbeys in America.” Tom. It. p. 203. See also Grimm, Correspondance, Tom. IX. p. 285 (1776).

“ It is known how Franklin had been feted when he came to Paris, because he was the representative of a republic. The philosophers, especially, received him with enthusiasm. It may be said, among other things, that D’Alembert lost his sleep and we are going to prove it by a letter which he wrote, where lie put himself to the torture in order to versify in honor of Franklin,”

The letter is then given as follows : —

Friday Morning.

“MY DF.AU COI.I.RAGUE,You are

acquainted with the Franklin verse,—

' Eripuit coelo fulmen,mox sceptra tyrannis.’

You should surely cause it to be put in the Paris paper, if it is not there already.

“ I should agree with La Ilarpe that sceptrumque is better : first, because mox sceptra is a little hard, and then because mox, according to tlie dictionary of Gesner, who collects examples, signifies equally statbn or delude, which causes a double meaning, mox eripuit or mox eripiet,

“ However, here is how I have attempted to translate this verse for the portrait of Franklin: —

' Tu vois le sage courageux
Dont I'll cure ux et male gtfnie
Armclia le tonnerre aux dieux
Et le sceptre a la tyrannic.’

If you find these verses sufficiently supportable, so that people will not laugh at me, you can put them into the Paris paper, even with my name. I shall honor myself in rendering this homage to Franklin, but on condition that you find the verses printable. As I make no pretension on account of them, I shall be perfectly content, if you reject them as bad.

“ The third verse can be put,—A ravi le tonnerre aux cieux, or aux dieux.”

From this letter it appears that the critical judgment of La Harpe, confirmed by D’Alembert, sided for sceptrumque as better than mox, sceptra.

But the verse of Turgot was not alone in its testimony. There was an incident precisely contemporaneous, which shows how completely France had fallen under the fascination of the American cause. Voltaire, the acknowledged chief of French literature in the brilliant eighteenth century, after many years of busy exile at Ferney, in the neighborhood of Geneva, where he had wielded his farreaching sceptre, was induced, in his old age, to visit Paris once again before he died. He left his Swiss retreat on the sixth of February, 17 78, the very day on which Franklin signed the Alliance with France, and after a journey which resembled the progress of a sovereign, he reached Paris on the twelfth of February. He was at once surrounded by the homage of all that was most illustrious in literature and science, while the theatre, grateful for his contributions to the drama, vied with the Academy. But there were two eharacters on whom the patriarch, as he was fondly called, lavished a homage of his own. He had already addressed to Turgot a most remarkable epistle in verse, the mood of which may be seen in its title, “ Epitre h un Homme ” ; but on seeing the discarded statesman, who had been so true to benevolent ideas, he came forward to meet him, saying, with his whole soul, “Let me kiss the hand which signed the salvation ot the people.” The scene with Franklin was more touching still. Voltaire began in English, which he had spoken early in life, but, having lost the habit, he soon changed to French, saying that he “ could not resist the desire of speaking tor one moment the language of Franklin.” I he latter had brought with him his grandson, for whom lie asked a benediction. “ God and Liberty,” said Voltaire, putting his hands upon the head of the child ; “ this is the only benediction proper for the grandson of Franklin.” A few' days afterward, at a public session of the Academy, they were placed side by side, when, amidst the applause of the enlightened company, the two old men rose and embraced. The political triumphs of Franklin and the dramatic triumphs ot Voltaire caused the exclamation, that “ Solon embraced Sophocles.” But it was more than this. It was France embracing America, beneath the benediction of “ God and Liberty.” Only a few days later, Voltaire died. But the alliance with France had received a new assurance, and the cause of American Independence an unalterable impulse.

Turgot did not live to enjoy the final triumph of the cause to which he bad given such remarkable expression, lie died March 30th, 1781, several months before that. “ crowning mercy,” the capture of Cornwallis, and nearly two years before the Provisional Articles of Peace, by which the Colonies were recognized as free and independent States. But his attachment to Franklin was one of the enjoyments of his latter years.25 Besides the Terse to which so much reference has been made, there is an interesting incident which attests the communion of ideas between them, if not the direct influence of Turgot. Captain Cook, the eminent navigator, who “ steered Britain’s oak into a world unknown,” was in distant seas on a voyage of dis-

covery. Such an enterprise naturally interested Franklin, and, in the spirit of a refined humanity, he sought to save it from the chances of war. Accordingly, he issued a passport, addressed “ To all captains and commanders of armed ships, acting by commission from the Congress of the United States of America, now in war with Great Britain,” where, after setting forth the nature of the voyage of the English navigator, he proceeded to say, — “ This is most earnestly to recommend to every one of you, that, in ease the said ship, which is now expected to be soon in the European seas on her return, should happen to fall into your hands, you would not consider her as an enemy, nor sutler any plunder to be made of the effects contained in her, nor obstruct her immediate return to England; but that you would treat the said Captain Cook and his people with all civility and kindness, affording them, as common friends to mankind, all the assistance in your power which they may happen to stand in need of.” 26 This document bears date March 10th, 1779. But Turgot bad anticipated Franklin. At the first outbreak of the war, he had submitted a memoir to the French Government, on which it was ordered that Captain Cook should not be treated as an enemy, but as a benefactor of all European nations.27 Here was a triumph of civilization, by which we have all been gainers; for such an example is immortal in its influence.

There is yet another circumstance which should be mentioned, in order to exhibit the identity of sympathies in these two eminent persons. Each sought to marry Madame Helvetius : 1 urgot early in life, while she was still Mademoiselle Ligniville, belonging to a family of twenty-one children, from a chateau in Lorraine, and the niece of Madame de Grafligny, the author of the “ Peruvian Letters ” ; Franklin in his old age, while a welcome guest in the intellectual circle which this widowed lady eon tinned to gather about her. Throughout his stay in France he was in unbroken relations with this circle, dining with it very often, and adding much to its gayety, while Madame Ilelvctius, with her friends, dined with him once a week. It was with tears in his eyes that lie parted from her, whom he never expected to see again in this life; and on reaching his American home, he addressed her in words of touching tenderness:—“ I stretch out my arms towards you, notwithstanding the immensity of the seas which separate us, while I wait the heavenly kiss which I firmly trust one day to give you.” 28

But the story of the verse is not yet finished. And here it mingles with the history ol Franklin in Paris, constituting in itselt an episode of the American Revolution. The verse was written for a portrait. And now that the ice was broken, the portrait of Franklin was to be seen everywhere, — in painting, in sculpture, and in engraving. I have counted, in the superb collection of the Bibliotheque Tmperiale at Paris, nearly a hundred engraved heads of him. At the royal exposition of pictures the republican portrait found a place, and the name of Franklin was printed at length in the catalogue,—a circumstance which did not pass unobserved at the time ; for the “ Fspiori Anglais,” in recording it, treats it as “announcing that he began to come out from Ins obscurity.”! The same curious authority, describing a festival at Marseilles, says, under date ofMarch 20th, 1770, — “I was struck, on entering the hall, to observe a crowd of portraits representing the insurgents ; but that of M. Franklin especially drew my attention, on account of the device, ‘Eripuit carlo,’ etc. This was inscribed recently, and every one admired the sublime truth.” 29 Thus completely was France, not merely in its social centre, where fashion gives the law, but in its distant borders, pledged to the cause of which Franklin was the representative.

As in the halls of science and in popular resorts, so was our Plenipotentiary even in the palace of princes. The biographer of i lie Prince de Conde dwells with admiration upon the illustrious character who, during the great debate and the negotiations which ensued, had fixed the regards of Paris, of Versailles, of the whole kingdom indeed, — although in his simple and farmer-like exterior so unlike thosu gilded plenipotentiaries to whom France was accustomed, — and lie recounts, most sympathetically, that the Prince, after an interview of two hours, declared that “ Franklin appeared to him above even his reputation.” 30 And here again wo encounter the unwilling testimony of Capefigue, who says that he was followed everywhere, taking possession of " hearts and minds,” and that “ his image, under the simple garb of a Quaker, was to be found at the hearth of the poor and in the boudoir of the beautiful ” ; 31 — all of which is in harmony with the more sympathetic record of Laeretelle, who says that “ portraits of Franklin were everywhere, with this inscription, Eripuit carlo, etc., which the Court itself found just and sublime.”32

But it was at court, even in the precincts of Versailles, that the portrait and the inscription had their most remarkable experience. Of this there is an authentic account in the Memoirs of Marie Antoinette by her attendant, Madame Campan. This feminine chronicler relates that Franklin appeared at court in the dress of an American farmer. II is flat hair without powder, his round hat, his coat of brown cloth contrasted with the bespangled and embroidered dresses, the powdered and perfumed hair of the courtiers of Versailles. The novelty charmed the lively imagination of French ladies. Elegant fetes were given to the man who was said to unite in himself the renown of a great natural philosopher with " those patriotic virtues which had made him embrace the noble part of Apostle of Liberty.” Madame Campan records that she assisted at one of these fetes, where the most beautiful among three hundred ladies was designated to place a crown of laurel upon the white head of the American philosopher, and two kisses upon the checks of the old man. Even in the palace, at the exposition of the Sevres porcelain, the medallion of Franklin, with the legend, ”Eripuit ccdo,” etc., was sold directly under the eyes of the King. Madame Campan adds, however, that the King avoided expressing himself on this enthusiasm, which, she says, " without doubt, his sound Sense made him blame.” But an incident, called " a pleasantry,” which has remained quite unknown, goes beyond speech in the way of explaining the secret sentiments of Louis XVI. The Comtesse Diane de Pblignac, devoted to Marie Antoinette, shared warmly the " infatuation ” with regard to Franklin. The Kiug observed it. But here the story shall be told in the language of the eminent lady who records it: — "Il fit fibre a la manufacture de Sevres un vase de nuit, au fond duquel etait place le medailIon avec la legende si fort en vogue, et l’envoya en present d’efcrennes a la Comtesse Diane.” 33 Such was the exceptional treatment of Franklin, and of the inscription in his honor which was so much in vogue. Giving to this incident its natural interpretation, it is impossible to resist the conclusion, that the French people, and not the King, sanctioned American Independence.

The conduct of the Queen on this special occasion is not recorded ; although we are told by the same communicative chronicler who had been Her Majesty’s Companion, that she did not hesitate to express herself more openly than the King on the part which France took in favor of the independence of the American Colonies, to which she was constantly opposed. A letter from Marie Antoinette, addressed to Madame de Polignac, under the date of April Oth, 1787, declares unavailing regret, saying, — " The time of illusions is past, and to-day we pay dear on account of our infatuation and enthusiasm for the American War.” 34 It is evident that Marie Antoinette, like her brother Joseph, thought that her “ business was to be a Royalist.”

But the name of Franklin triumphed in France. So long as lie continued to reside there he was received with honor, and when, after the achievement of Independence, and the final fulfilment of all that was declared in the verse of Turgot, he undertook to return homo, the Queen — who had looked with so little favor upon the cause which ho so grandly represented — sent a litter to receive his sick body and carry him gently to the sea. As the great Revolution began to show itself, Iris name was bailed with new honor; and this was natural, for the great Revolution was the outbreak of that spirit which had risen to welcome him. In snatching the sceptre from a tyrant he had given a lesson to France. His deatli, when at last it occurred, was the occasion of a magnificent eulogy from Mirabeau, who, borrowing the idea of Turgot, exclaimed from the tribune of the National Assembly,—“Antiquity would have raised altars to the powerful genius, who, for the good of man, embracing in his thought heaven and earth, could subdue lightning and tyrants.”35On his motion, Franee went into mourning for Franklin. IT is bust was a favorite ornament, and, during the festival of Liberty, it was carried, with those of Sidney, Rousseau, and Voltaire, before the people to receive their veneration.36 A little later, the eminent medical character, Cabanis, who had lived in intimate association with Franklin, added his testimony, saying that the enfranchisement of the United States was in many respects his work, and that the Revolution, the most important to the happiness of men which had then been accomplished on earth, united with one of the most brilliant discoveries of physical science to consecrate his memory ; and he concludes by quoting the verso of Turgot.37 Long afterwards, his last surviving companion in the cheerful circle of Madame Ilelvetius, still loyal to the idea of Turgot, hailed him as “ that great man who had placed his country in the number of independent states, and made one of the most important discoveries of the age.” 38

Hut it is time to look at this verse in its literary relations, from which I have been diverted by its commanding interest as a political event. Its importance on this account must naturally enhance the interest in its origin.

The poem which furnished the prototype of the famous verse was “ Anti-Lucretius, sivc de Deo et Natura,” by the Cardinal Melchior de Polignae. Its author was of that patrician house which is associated so closely with Marie Antoinette in the earlier Revolution, and with Charles X. in the later Revolution, having its cradle in the mountains of Auvergne, near the cradle of Lafayette, and its present tomb in the historic cemetery of Piepus, near the tomb of Lafayette, so that these two great names, representing opposite ideas, begin and end side bv side. He was not merely an author, but statesman and diplomatist also, under Louis XIV. and the Regent. Through his diplomacy a French prince was elected King of Poland. lie represented France at the Peace of Utrecht, where he bore himself very proudly towards the Dutch. By the nomination of the Prelender, at that time in France, be obtained the hat of a cardinal. At Rome he was a favorite, and he was also, with some interruptions, a favorite at Versailles. Ills personal appearance, his distinguished manners, his genius, and his accomplishments, all commended him. Literary honors were superadded to political and ecclesiastical, lie succeeded to the chair of Bossuet at the Academy. But he was not without the vicissitudes of political life. Falling into disgrace at court, he was banished to the abbacy of Bonport. There the scholarly ecclesiastic occupied himself with a refutation of Lucretius, in Latin verse.

The origin of the poem is not without interest. Meeting Bayle in Holland, the ecclesiastic found the indefatigable skeptic most persistently citing Lucretius, in whose elaborate verse the atheistic materialism of Epicurus is developed and exalted. Others had already answered the philosopher directly ; but the indignant Christian was moved to answer the poet through whom the dangerous system was proclaimed. His poem was, therefore, a vindication of God and religion, in direct response to a master-poem of antiquity, in which these are assailed. The attempt was lofty, especially when the champion adopted the language of Lucretius. Perhaps, since Sannazaro, no modern production in Latin verse has found equal success. Even before its publication, in 1747, it was read at court, and was admired in the princely circle of Seeaux, It appeared in elegant editions, was translated into French prose by Bougainville, and into French verse by Jeanty-Laurans, also most successfully into Italian verse by Ricci. At the latter part ot the last century, when Franklin reached Paris, it was hardly less known in literary circles than a volume of Grote’s History in our own day. Voltaire, the arbiter of literary fame at that time, regarding the author only on the side ot literature, said of him, in his “ Temple du Gout,”—

“ Le Cardinal, oracle de la France,
Reunissant Virgile avee Platon,
Vengeur du ciet el vainqueur de Lucrece.”

The last line of this remarkable eulogy has a movement and balance not unlike the Latin verse of Turgot, or that which suggested iL in the poem of Polignac ; but the praise which it so pointedly offers attests the fame of the author ; nor was this praise confined to the “ fine frenzy ” of verse. The “ Anti - Lucretius ” was gravely prcneurced the “rival of the poem which it answered,” — “ with verses as flowing as Ovid, sometimes approaching the elegant simplicity of Horace and sometimes the nobleness of Virgil,”—and then again, with a philosophy and a poetry combined “which would not be disavowed either by Descartes or by Virgil.” 39

Turning now to the poem itself, we shall see how completely the verse of Turgot finds its prototype there. Epicurus is indignantly described as denying to the gods all power, and declaring man independent, so as to act tor himself; and here the poet says, “Braving the thunderous recesses of heaven, he snatched the lightning from Jove and the arrows from Apollo, and, liberating the mortal race, ordered it to dare all things,” —

“ Cœli et tonitralia templa lacessens, dlripu.it fidmtv.que Jovi, Phœboqua snyittas ;

Kt mortale manumittens genus, onvnia jussit Audere.” 40

To deny the power of God and to declare independence of His commands, which the poet here holds up to judgment, is very unlike the life of Franklin, all whose service was in obedience to God’s laws, whether in snatching the lightning from the skies or the sceptre from tyrants; and yet it is evident that the verse which pictured Epicurus in his impiety suggested the picture of the American plenipotentiary in his double labors of science and statesmanship.

But the present story will not be complete without an allusion to that poem of antiquity which was supposed to have suggested the verse of Turgot, and which doubtless did suggest the verse of the "Anti-Lucretius.” Manilius is a poet little known. It is difficult to say when he lived or what ho was. He is sometimes supposed to have lived under Augustus, and sometimes under Theodosius, he is sometimes supposed to have been a Roman slave, and sometimes a Roman senator. His poem, under the name of “ Astronomicon,” is a treatise on astronomy in verse, which recounts the origin of the material universe, exhibits the relations of the heavenly bodies, and vindicates this ancient science. It is while describing the growth of knowledge, which gradually mastered Nature, that the poet says, —

“EripuLtque Jovi fulnien, viresque tourmdi.” 41

The meaning of this line will be seen in the context, which, for plainness as well as curiosity, I quote from a metrical version of the first book of the poem,42 entitled, “ The Sphere of Marcus Manilius made an English Poem, by Edward Sherburne,” which was dedicated to Charles II. : —

“ Nor ptit they to their curious search an end Till reason had scaled heaven, thenee viewed this round
And Nature latent in its causes found: Why thunder does the suffering clouds assail ;
Why winter's snow more soft than summer’s hail;
Whence earthquakes come and subterranean tires;
Why showers descend, what force the wind inspires:
From error thus the wondering minds uncharmed,

Umceptrid Jove, the Thunderer disarmed,” Lnough has been said au the question of origin ; but there is yet one other aspect of the story.

The Verse was hardly divulged when it became, the occasion of various efforts in tlac way of translation. Turgot had already done it into French; so had D’Alembert. M. Nognret wrote to Franklin, inclosing an attempted translation, and says in his letter, — “ The French have done their best to translate the Latin verse, where justice is done you in so few words. They have appeared as jealous of transporting this eulogy into their language as they are of possessing you. But nobody has succeeded, and I think nobody will succeed.” 43 He then quotes a translation which he thinks defective, although it appeared in the “ Almanach des Muses ” as the best: —

“Cet homme que tn vois, sublime en tous les tems,
Derobe aux dieux la foudreet le sceptre aux tyrants.”
To this letter Dr. Franklin made the following reply : 44

Passy, 8 March, 1781. “SIR,&EMDASH; I received the letter you have done me the honor of writing to me the 2d instant, wherein, after overwhelming me with a flood, of compliments, which I can never hope to merit, you request my opinion of your translation of a Latin verse that lias been applied to me. If I were, which I really am not, suffieiently skilled in your excellent language to be a proper judge of its poesy, the supposition of my being the subject must restrain me from giving any opinion on that line, except that it ascribes too much to me, especially in what relates to the tyrant, the Devolution, having been the work of many able and brave men, wherein it is sufficient honor forme, if I am allowed a small share. I am much obliged by the favorable sentiments you are pleased to entertain of me.

“ With regard, I have the honor to be, “ Sir, etc.,

B. FRANKLIN.”

Tn his acknowledgment of this letter M. Nogaret says, — “ Paris is pleased with the translation of your and

your portrait, as I had foreseen, makes the fortune of the engraver.” 45 But it does not appear to which translation lie refers.

Here is another attempt: —

“ II a par ses travaux, toujours plus étonnans, Ravi la foudre aux Dieux et le sceptre aux tyrans.”

There are other verses which adopt the idea of Turgot. Here, for instance, is a part of a song by the Abbé Morellet, written for one of the dinners of Madame Helvétius : 46

“ Comee un aigle audacieux,
II a volé jusqu’aux cieux,
Et derabe le tonnerre
Dont ils effrayaient la terre,
Heureux larcin
De l'habile Benjamin.
“ L’Amdricain bidomptd
Recouvre sa liberie;
Et ee généreux ouvrage,
Autre exploit de notre sage,
Est mis a fin
Par Louis et Benjamin.”

Mr. Sparks found among Franklin’s papers the following paraphrastic version : * —

“ Franklin sut arrêter la foudre dans les airs,
Et c'est le moindre bien qu’il fit a sa putrie;
Au milieu de elimats divers,
Ou dominait la tyrannie,
Il fit regner les arts, les mœurs, et le genie;
Et voila le héros que j’offre a l’univers.”

Nor should I omit a translation into English by Mr. Elphinstone: —

u He snatched the bolt from Heaven's avenging hand,
Disarmed and drove the tyrant from the land.”

In concluding this sketch, I wish to say that the literary associations of the subject did not tempt me; but I could not resist the inducement to present in its proper character an interesting incident which can he truly comprehended only when it is recognized in its political relations. To this end it was important to exhibit its history, even in details, so that the verse which has occupied so much attention should be seen not only in its scholarly fascination, but in its wide-spread influence in the circles of the learned and the circles even of the fashionable in Paris and throughout France, binding this groat nation by an unchangeable vow to the support of American liberty. Words are sometimes things ; but never were words so completely tilings as those with which Turgot welcomed Franklin. The memory of that welcome cannot be forgotten in America. Can it ever be forgotten in France ? AND now the country is amazed by the report that the original welcome of France to America and the inspired welcome of Turgot to Franklin are forgotten by the France of this day, or, rather let me say, forgotten by the Emperor, whose memory for the time is the memory of France. It is said that Louis Napoleon is concerting an alliance with the Rebel slavemongers of our country, founded on the recognition of their independence, so that they may take their place as a new power in tlie family of nations. Indeed, we have been told, through the columns of the official organ, the “ Moniteur,” that lie wishes to do this thing. Perhaps he imagines that he follows the great example of the last century.

POSTSCRIPT.

* Sparks’s Works of Franklin, Vol; VIII. p. 539, note.

What madness !

The two cases are in perfect contrast, — as opposite as the poles, as unlike as Liberty and Slavery.

The struggle for American Independence was a struggle for Liberty, and was elevated throughout by this holy cause. Put the struggle for Slavemonger Independence is necessarily and plainly a struggle for Slavery, and is degraded throughout by the unutterable vileness of all its barefaced pretensions.

The earlier struggle, adopted by the enlightened genius of France, was solemnly placed under the benediction of “ God and Liberty.” The present struggle, happily thus lar discarded by that same enlightened genius, can have no other benediction than “ Satan and Slavery.”

The earlier struggle was to snatch the sceptre from a kingly tyrant. The present struggle is to put whips into the hands of Rebel slavemongers with which to compel work without wages, and thus give wicked power to vulgar tyrants without number.

The earlier struggle was fitly pictured by the welcome of Turgot to Franklin. But another spirit must be found, and other words must be invented, to picture the struggle which it is now proposed to place under the protection of I ranee.

The earlier struggle was grandly represented by Benjamin Franklin, who was already known by a sublime discovery in science. The present struggle is characteristically represented by John Slidell, whose great fame is from the electioneering frauds by which he sought to control a Presidential election ; so that his whole life is fitly pictured, when it is said, that he thrust fraudulent votes into the ballotbox, and whips into the bauds of taskmasters.

The earlier struggle was predicted by Turgot, who said, that, in the course of Nature, colonies must drop from the parent stem, like ripe fruit. But where is the Turgot who has predicted, that, in the course of Nature, the great Republic must be broken, in order to found a new power on the corner-stone of Slavery ?

The earlier struggle gathered about it the sympathy of the learned, the good, and the wise, while the people of France rose up to call it blessed The present struggle can expect nothing but detestation from all who are not lost to duty and honor, while the people of France must cover it with curses.

The earlier struggle enjoyed the favor of France, whether in assemblies of learning or of fashion, in spite of its King. It remains to be seen if the present struggle must not ignobly fail in France, still mindful of its early vows, in spite of its Emperor.

Where duty and honor are so plain, it is painful to think that even for a moment there can be any hesitation.

Alas for France I

  1. Brougham’s Speeches, Vol. II. p. 233.
  2. Vol. IV. p. 443, First Series.
  3. Notes and Queries, Vol. V. p. 17.
  4. Ibid
  5. Lib. I. v. 104.
  6. Sparks's Works of Franklin, Vol. VIII. p. 538.
  7. Notes and Queries, Vol. V. p. 549, First Series.
  8. Ibid. Vol. V. p. 140. See, also, Ibid. Vol. V. p. 571; Vol. VI. p. 88; Dublin Review for March, 1847, I'212; Quarterly Review for June, 1850.
  9. Œurres de Turgot, Tom. IX. p. 140.
  10. (Euvres de Condorcet, par O'Connor, Tom. V. p. 162.
  11. Sparks’s Works of Franklin, Vol. VIII. p. 537; Mignet, Notices et Portraits, Tom. II. p. 480.
  12. Cabanis, Œuvres, Tom. V. p. 251.
  13. Lettres de Madame Du Deffant, Tom. III p. 367.
  14. Ibid. Tom. IV. p. 35.
  15. Lacretelle. Histoire de France, Tom. V. p. 90.
  16. Œuvres de Condorcet, par O’Connor, Tom. V. pp. 406, 407.
  17. Capefigue, Louis XVI., Tom. II. pp. 12, 13, 42, 49, 50. The rose-water biographer of Diane ilo Poitiers, Madame de Pompadour, and Madame du Barry would naturally disparage Franklin.
  18. Mignet, Notices ct Portraits, Tom. II. p. 427.
  19. La Gazette Secrete, 15 Jan. 1777; Capefigue, Lords XI., Tom. II. p. 15.
  20. Œuvres de Turgot, Torn. II. p. 66.
  21. Œuvres de Turgot, Tom. VIII. p. 496.
  22. 47 Vol. X. p. 107.
  23. 48Méimores de Madame D'Épinay, Tom. III. p. 431.
  24. 49 The dictionaries of Michaud and Didot concur in the date of her death; hut there is reason to suppose that they are both mistaken.
  25. See Quérard, La France Litter air e, article La Rochefoucauld.
  26. Tom. I. p. 168.
  27. Œuvres de Turgot, Tom. I. p. 416.
  28. Franklin, Works, by Sparks, Vol. V. p. 124.
  29. Œuvres de Turgot, Tom. I. p. 414; Tom. IX. p. 416; Œuvres de Condorcet, Tom. V. p. 162.
  30. 50 Cabanis, Œuvres, Tom. V. p. 261; Mignet, Notices et Portraits, Tom. II. p. 475. See, also, Morellet, Memoir es, Tom. f p. 290. Cabanis and Morellet both lived for many years under the hospitable roof of Madame Helvétius. It is the former who has preserved the interesting extract from the letter of Franklin. Nobody who has visited the Imperial Library at Paris can forget the very pleasant autograph note of Franklin in French to Madame Helvétius, which is exhibited in the same case with an autograph note of Henry IV. to Gabrielle d’Estrées.
  31. Tom. II. p. 83. See, also, p. 337.
  32. 51 Tom. II. p. 465. See, also, the letter of the Marquis de Chastellux to Professor Madison on the Fine Arts in America, where the generous Frenchman recommends for all our great towns a portrait of Franklin, “with the Latin verse inscribed in France below his portrait.” Chastellux, Travels in North America, Vol. II. p. 372.
  33. Chambelland, Vie da Prince de BourbonCondé, Tom. I. p. 374.
  34. Capefigue, Louis XVI., Tom. II. pp. 49, 50.
  35. Laeretelle, Histoire de France pendant le 18me Siècle, Tom. V. p. 91. The historian errs in putting this success in 1777, before the date of the Treaty; and he errs also with regard to the Court, if he meant to embrace the King and Queen.
  36. Mémoires sur Marie, Antoinette, par Madame, Campan, Tom. I. p. 251.
  37. Bulletin de l' Alliance des Arts, 10 Octobre, 1843. See also Goncourt, Histoire de Marie Antoinette, p. 221.
  38. Grimm, Correspondence, Tom. XVI. p. 407.
  39. Louis Blane, Histoire de la Revolution, Tom. VI. pp. 234, 310.
  40. Cabanis, Œuvres, Tom. V. p. 251.
  41. Morellet, Memoires, Tom. I. p. 290.
  42. L'Anti-Lucrèce, traduit de Bougainville, Epitre Dedicatoire, Discours Preliminaire, p. 60..
  43. Lib. I. v. 95.
  44. Lib. I. v. 104. Tonandi is sometimes changed to tonantis, and also tonanti. (See Notes and Queries, Vol. V. p. 140.)
  45. It is understood that there is a metrical version of this poem by the Rev. Dr. Frothingham of Boston, which he does not choose to publish, although, like everything from this refined scholar, it must be marked by taste and accuracy.
  46. Sparks’s Works of Franklin, Vol. VIII, p. 538, note.
  47. ibid. p. 537.
  48. Sparks’s Works of Franklin, Vol. VIII. p. 539, note.
  49. Morellet, Mémoires, Tom. I. p. 288. Nothing is more curious with regard to Franklin than these Mémoires, including especially the engraving from an original design by him. In some copies this engraving is wanting. It is, probably, the gayeties here recorded, and, perhaps, the “ infatuation ” of the court-ladies, that suggested the scandalous charges which Dr. Julius has strangely preserved in his Nordamerikas Sittliche Zuslände, Vol. I. p. 98.