WHEN FRANKLIN RETURNED to America in 1785, in his eightieth year, he was, perhaps, the most famous man in the world, known to millions in many lands, and to his own country a founding father and its authentic sage. He had accomplished miracles and dined with kings, yet he retained the common touch. He embodied an age and had stamped a nation with his character. He was, therefore, able to speak as from on high on any subject he chose. To emphasize the close connection between the life he had led and the precepts in which he believed, he wrote the final sections of his autobiography, trying, he said, to show others the secrets of his success. He accepted the presidency of Pennsylvania to help heal deep wounds left by revolutionary ardor, spoke out against Negro slavery and corruption in high office, renewed his argument for instruction in the English language at the University of Pennsylvania, and gave new life and dignity to the American Philosophical Society. It seemed as though he had been granted five years before his death to come home and show his countrymen how useful wisdom could be.
As becomes a sage, Franklin found occasion in his last years to reflect on religion and politics. Throughout his life he had shown an interest in religious questions, and his religion, or alleged lack of it, had been discussed often by friend and foe alike. An