Philadelphia, October 24, 1788
I received and read with great Pleasure, my dear and much respected Friend’s Letter of the 12th July. It gave me the clearest and most satisfactory Account of the present State of Affairs in your Country that I have hitherto been able to obtain. You judge rightly that they must be interesting to me. I love France. I have 1000 Reasons for doing so: and whatever promotes or impedes her Happiness, affects me as if she were my Mother. I hope all will end to the general Advantage of the Nation.
Having now finish’d my Term as President, and promising myself to engage no more in public Business, I hope to enjoy during the small Remains of Life that are left me, the Leisure I have so long wish’d for. I have begun already to employ it in compleating the personal History you mention. It is now brought down to my Fiftieth Year. What is to follow will be of more important Transactions: But it seems to me that what is done will be of more general Use to young Readers; as exemplifying strongly the Effects of prudent and imprudent Conduct in the Commencement of a life of Business.
Our public Affairs begin to wear a more quiet Aspect. The Disputes about the Faults of the new Constitution are subsided. The first Congress will probably mend the principal Ones, and future Congresses the rest. That which you mention did not pass unnoticed in the Convention. Many, if I remember right, were for making the President incapable of being chosen after the first four Years: but a Majority were for leaving the Electors free to chuse whom they pleased, and it was alledged that such Incapability might tend to make the President less attentive to the Duties of his Office, and to the Interests of the People, than he would be if a second Choice depended on their good Opinion of them. We are making Experiments in Politicks; what Knowledge we shall gain by them will be more certain: tho’ perhaps we may hazard too much in that Mode of acquiring it.
I thank you much for the Dissertation sur la Nyctalopie. It was quite a Novelty to me, having never before heard of such a Malady. One of our most ancient Physicians assures me; that tho’ he had some Knowledge of the Distemper from his Reading, he never knew an Instance of it in any Part of North America. Indeed we have no Chalk in this Country, nor any Soil so white as to dazzle the Eyes when the Sun’s Light is reflected from it. The Dissertation mentions that there are terres crétacées, &c. Are those terres white?
Be pleased to make my Respects acceptable to Made la Duchesse d’Enville, whose many Civilities and Kindnesses to me when in France, I shall ever remember with Gratitude. My best Wishes attend you and all that are dear to you. May I here desire to be remembered kindly to the Marquis de Condorcet and l’Abbé Rochon? With the greatest and most sincere Esteem and Respect, I am, ever, Your obliged and most obedient Servant
Labels: Papers of Benjamin Franklin