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FRANKLIN IN FRANCE.
From Original Documents,
MOST OF WHICH ARE NOW PUBLISHED FOR THE
EDWARD E. HALE
EDWARD E. HALE, JR.
US 4534.45.5 (1),
HEN BENJAMIN FRANKLIN died, in 1790, he left to his grandson, William Temple Franklin, the largest collection of his papers. He had always been careful in the preservation of those letters and other documents which he thought of importance. Among them was the correspondence, official and private, which he maintained in France. Indeed, had our Diplomatic Service been organized in his day as it is in ours, many of these papers would have remained in Paris, as belonging to the archives of the American Legation.
Temple Franklin, as he is generally called, took the idea that in his grandfather's papers he had a mine of wealth; and at various periods of his life he tried to sell them or parts of them. He so far succeeded as to make a bargain with the publisher Colburn, in London, who brought out two editions together in 1818,-one in quarto and one in octavo. A good deal of disgust was created in America that these editions were not placed favorably on the American market. Colburn subsequently issued what he called new editions, which are simply the old editions with new titlepages. In these editions Temple Franklin, and the editor lent him by Colburn, reprinted many of Franklin's more important publications. They also printed for the first time a large number of letters, taken from the collection which Dr. Franklin had bequeathed to his grandson. Colburn soon found that Temple Franklin could not be relied on as an editor, and furnished the clerk who has
been spoken of, to quicken his sluggish methods in dealing with his material.
It is believed that Temple Franklin then wanted to print a much more complete collection. Certainly, the collection which he does print is far from complete. It was evidently not made on the principle of selecting the most interesting or the most important documents. He seems to have reserved those of the later years of Franklin's stay in Europe, with reference to a second series, for which Colburn had perhaps given him some hopes, to be published when the success of the first was assured. No other explanation can be given for the omission of the last half of the correspondence. For some reason it is clear that the letters of dates after 1780 have been much less used than those before.
It has indeed been charged that Temple Franklin had political reasons or prejudices, which prevented him from using as he might have done the material in his hands. But Mr. Bigelow has shown that this charge is unfair.
What happened was that the English public did not care much for Temple Franklin's work. It did not meet with such a sale as justified Colburn in attempting the second series, which till the day of his death Temple Franklin thought possible.
After the publication of this collection Temple Franklin went to Paris. He married there, and died soon after, on the 25th of May, 1823.
The manuscripts meanwhile, which had been partially edited, were left in London. Dr. Sparks returned from London, where he was preparing his great edition of Franklin's works, with the impression that after its use for the edition of 1818, the collection had been irrevocably lost. But in fact the papers all lay, for more than seventeen years, in loose bundles "on the top shelf of an old tailor's shop in St. James." They were then rescued by a gentleman who had been a fellow-lodger with Temple