BY VERNER W. CRANE, Ph. D., University of Michigan.
It is now one hundred and sixty years since Benjamin Vaughan published in London the first collection of Franklin's writings to include political as well as scientific essays. It would be hard to imagine less likely circumstances for such an undertaking. The volume was compiled in the midst of the War of Independence. Franklin at the time was in Paris as the minister of the rebel Congress to the court of Louis XVI; in the past year his first great diplomatic triumph, the treaty of alliance, had brought France also into the war with Britain. Meanwhile, his editor was in England: a nominal enemy, but actually an ardent admirer and a friend of the American cause. Since 1777 a number of letters concerning the project had crossed the channel between author and editor. From Paris Franklin forwarded to the enemy capital in 1779 the "Addenda and Corrigenda" which gave special authority to the Vaughan edition. Vaughan reprinted not only Franklin's imperialist essays of 1754 to 1760, and certain of his antiproprietary writings, but also--without apology to his English public--such caustic satires on the policies of Lord North's ministry as the "RULES by which a GREAT EMPIRE may be reduced to a SMALL ONE," and "An Edict by the King of Prussia." In his preface, indeed, Vaughan confidently asserted of the man whom some Englishmen called "Old Traitor Franklin," that "history lies in wait for him, and the judgment of mankind balances already in his favor." "No man," he declared, "ever made larger or bolder guesses than Dr. Franklin from like materials in politics and philosophy, which, after the scrutiny of events and of fact, have been more completely verified."
So far at least as concerns Franklin's reputation of a political writer on the causes of the American Revolution, the judgment of history to which Vaughan appealed rests even