Front Matter The Beginning of the U.S Franklin's Return Troubles After the War The Constitution The First President Washington's Troubles A Wonderful Invention Death of Washington The U.S. Buys Land War With African Pirates Death of Somers The First Steamboat The Gerrymander The War of 1812 "Don't Give Up the Ship" The Star-Spangled Banner Clinton's "Big Ditch" More Land Bought Jackson Stories Jackson's Presidency New Inventions Whitman's Ride The Mormons The First Telegraph The Mexican War The Slavery Quarrel Daniel Webster's Youth Webster's Speeches Early Times in California Discovery of El Dorado Rush to California The Underground Railroad The First World's Fair John Brown's Raid Lincoln's Youth The First Shot The Call to Arms The President's Decision Admiral Farragut The Monitor and Merrimac The Penninsular Campaign Barbara Frietchie Lincoln's Vow The Battle of Gettysburg The Taking of Vicksburg Riots, Raids, and Battles The Burning of Atlanta The March to the Sea Sheridan's Ride The Doings of the Fleet Lee's Surrender Decoration Day Lincoln Stories Lincoln's Rebukes A President's Son A Noble Southerner Hard Times in the South The Atlantic Cable Best Way to Settle Quarrels Our One Hundredth Birthday Gold for Greenbacks A Clever Engineer Death of Garfield The Celebration at Yorktown The Great Statue A Terrible Flood Lynch Law The Great White City The Explosion of the Maine The Battle of Manila Hobson's Brave Deed Surrender of Santiago The Hawaiian Islands The Annexation of Hawaii The Philippine War Assassination of McKinley The Panama Canal Roosevelt's Administration Two Presidents German Views The World War Since the World War

Story of the Great Republic - Helene Guerber

Franklin's Return

As soon as Franklin received permission from Congress to leave his post in Paris, he eagerly set out for America. There were no steamships in those days, and during the long journey passengers used to beguile the time by telling stories and playing games, much as they do now during far less tedious trips.

Although already quite old, Franklin was so merry, learned, and witty that his stories were always greatly appreciated by all who heard them. He had studied and traveled so much that his mind was like a rich store-house, and as he was kind-hearted, he probably spent his leisure hours in telling his fellow-travelers about the country toward which they were sailing as fast as they could.

While walking up and down the deck, sitting in the shade of the big sails, or in the uncomfortable cabin during the long evenings, he may have wondered aloud—as many persons do—at the boldness of Columbus in steering on and on across the Atlantic, thus showing the way to the many vessels which have crossed the ocean since then.

He may also have described the different steps whereby America—the land of the redskins, of dense forests, and broad plains—in less than three centuries had become the home of a new and thriving nation. He may have begun his account by telling how the Spaniards who followed Columbus to the New World had confined their attention mostly to the West Indies, Florida, Mexico, and South America; and how, later, the French entered the St. Lawrence and made settlements along its banks; the English planted colonies at Jamestown, in Virginia, and about Massachusetts Bay; and the Dutch took possession of the Hudson valley.

Next, Franklin may have dwelt upon the many hardships endured by the early settlers, before land could be cleared, farms and cities laid out, and the Indians driven from their hunting and fishing grounds on the coast. After explaining how the English had won from the Dutch the country around the Hudson and Delaware rivers, he probably told how they had made the other settlements, until there were thirteen English colonies occupying all the coast between Nova Scotia and Florida:—namely, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.

[Illustration] from Story of the Great Republic by Helene Guerber


Then he probably talked of the quarrels between these English colonies and the French settlers in the St. Lawrence valley, or Canada, as it was called. Both parties claimed nearly all the interior of North America; they therefore soon came to blows, and as the Indians helped the French, these conflicts are known in history as the French and Indian wars.. The first one broke out in 1689, seven years after Franklin's father arrived in America, and good Dr. Franklin himself took an active part in the fourth and last. When it had ended in the victory of the British, he wrote a very clever pamphlet advising Great Britain to keep Canada; and when the first treaty of Paris was signed, in 1763,—twenty years before the second,—all the land north of the thirteen colonies, and west as far as the Mississippi River, was given to the British. The French at the same time gave all their lands west of that river to Spain, and withdrew entirely from our continent.

When Franklin's listeners inquired what had caused the Revolutionary War, which was just ended, he perhaps told them how, already in the thirteenth century, liberty-loving Englishmen forced their king to grant them the Great Charter. This was a new set of laws, giving them the right to be represented in the Parliament, or congress, which fixed the taxes and made the laws. This right, which Englishmen had enjoyed for five hundred years, was also claimed by their descendants in America; and each colony elected an assembly to help make its laws and lay its taxes, though the governors of most of the colonies were Flags used in the Revolutionary War appointed by the king. When King

[Illustration] from Story of the Great Republic by Helene Guerber


George III. and the British Parliament insisted on imposing taxes on the colonists without the consent of their assemblies, they openly rebelled, because it was an attempt to deprive them of rights inherited from their ancestors,

As Franklin had taken part in this rebellion, had seen the king, had sat in Congress, and had spoken with most of the great men of his time on both sides of the ocean, his account of the war must have been of thrilling interest. The name of his friend George Washington, commander in chief of the Continental Army, and the savior of his country, must often have been upon his lips. Some of his heaters, coming to build new homes in America, may never have heard it before, but, as you will soon see, they were to learn much more about him.

Franklin, however, often told them funny stories, too, and perhaps he even mentioned one of his childhood which has given rise to an expression we often hear. As you may like to know just how the good man talked, here is the story as he once wrote it:

"When I was a little boy, I remember, one cold winter's morning, I was accosted by a smiling man with an ax on his shoulder. 'My pretty boy,' said he, 'has your father a grindstone?' 'Yes, sir,' said I. 'You are a fine little fellow,' said he; 'will you let me grind my ax on it?' Pleased with the compliment of 'fine little fellow,' 'Oh, yes, sir,' I answered; 'it is down in the shop.' 'And will you, my man,' said he, patting me on the head, 'get me a little hot water?' How could I refuse? I ran, and soon brought a kettleful. 'How old are you, and what's your name?' continued he, without waiting for a reply. 'I am sure you are one of the finest lads that I have ever seen. Will you just turn a few minutes for me?'

"Tickled with the flattery, like a little fool, I went to work; and bitterly did I rue the day. It was a new ax, and I toiled and tugged till I was almost tired to death. The school bell rang, and I could not get away; my hands were blistered, and the ax was not half ground. At length, however, it was sharpened; and the man turned to me with, 'Now, you little rascal, you've played truant; scud to school, or you'll rue it!' 'Alas!' thought I, 'it is hard enough to turn a grindstone this cold day; but now to be called a little rascal is too much.'

"It sank deep in my mind; and often have I thought of it since. When I see a merchant over polite to his customers,—begging them to take a little brandy, and throwing his goods on the counter,—thinks I, 'That man has an ax to grind.' When I see a man flattering the people, making great professions of attachment to liberty, who is in private life a tyrant, methinks, 'Look out, good people! that fellow would set you turning grindstones.'"