Benjamin Franklin, the First Civilized American

By Phillips Russell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XXVII Assistant at the Birth of a Republic

I

IT was a heavy-hearted Franklin who turned his face away from England, where he had spent ten and a half years of continuous labor, towards a Deborahless home in disturbed America. Dr. Priestley, the discoverer of oxygen and the historian of electricity, with whom he spent his final hours in London, says that the Doctor's last act was to read over some American papers from which he desired extracts to be sent to the English press, "and in reading them, he was frequently not able to proceed for the tears literally running down his cheeks."

But on the six weeks' voyage home, accompanied by William Temple Franklin, Franklin is soon happily engaged in probing the ocean. His chief comforter is the Gulf Stream. He keeps it under constant observation, sounds it and repeatedly takes its temperature, finds that it is warmer than the surrounding ocean, and concludes that it has its source in the tropics and receives its impulse from the trade winds. He also discovers that its waters are not phosphorescent. He likewise watches the navigation of the ship and concludes that it would do better if its hull were shaped so as to offer the least resistance to the water and if its rigging were so changed as to make the least resistance to the wind. He writes a piece about it, illustrated with drawings.

When he lands in Philadelphia, he learns with concern but no surprise that the embattled patriots of Concord and

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