The Complete Works in Philosophy Volume I, Benjamin Franklin
The Complete Works in Philosophy Volume I
Benjamin Franklin
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Benjamin Franklin was an American polymath active as a writer, scientist, inventor, statesman, diplomat, printer, publisher and political philosopher. Among the leading intellectuals of his time, Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States and the first United States Postmaster General. The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals is a Three Volume collection, published in 1806. The works of Dr. Franklin have been often partially collected, never before brought together in one uniform publication.

The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics, and Morals

Dr. Benjamin Franklin

Vol. 1


The works of Dr. Franklin have been often partially collected, neverbefore brought together in one uniform publication.

The first collection was made by Mr. Peter Collinson in the year1751. It consisted of letters, communicated by the author to theeditor, on one subject, electricity, and formed a pamphlet only,of which the price was half-a-crown. It was enlarged in 1752, by asecond communication on the same subject, and in 1754, by a third,till, in 1766, by the addition of letters and papers on otherphilosophical subjects, it amounted to a quarto volume of 500 pages.

Ten years after, in 1779, another collection was made, by adifferent editor, in one volume, printed both in quarto and octavo,of papers not contained in the preceding collection, under the titleof Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces.

In 1787, a third collection appeared in a thin octavo volume,entitled Philosophical and Miscellaneous Papers.

And lastly, in 1793, a fourth was published, in two volumes,crown octavo, consisting of Memoirs of Dr. Franklin’s Life, andEssays humourous, moral and literary, chiefly in the Manner of theSpectator.

In the present volumes will be found all the different collectionswe have enumerated, together with the various papers of the sameauthor, that have been published in separate pamphlets, or insertedin foreign collections of his works, or in the Transactions of ourown or of foreign philosophical societies, or in our own or foreignnewspapers and magazines, as far as discoverable by the editor, whohas been assisted in the research by a gentleman in America. Amongthese papers some, we conceive, will be new to the English reader onthis side of the Atlantic; particularly a series of essays entitledThe Busy-Body, written, as Dr. Franklin tells us in his Life, when hewas an assiduous imitator of Addison; and a pamphlet, entitled PlainTruth, with which he is said to have commenced his political careeras a writer. We hoped to have been enabled to add, what would havebeen equally new, and still more acceptable, a genuine copy of theLife of our author, as written by himself; but in this hope we aredisappointed, and we are in consequence obliged to content ourselveswith a translation, which has been already before the public, froma copy in the French language, coming no farther down than the year1731; and a continuation of his history from that period, by the lateDr. Stuber of Philadelphia.

The character of Dr. Franklin, as a philosopher, a politician,and a moralist, is too well known to require illustration, andhis writings, from their interesting nature, and the fascinatingsimplicity of their style, are too highly esteemed, for any apologyto be necessary for so large a collection of them, unless it shouldbe deemed necessary by the individual to whom Dr. Franklin in hiswill consigned his manuscripts: and to him our apology will consistin a reference to his own extraordinary conduct.

In bequeathing his papers, it was no doubt the intention of thetestator, that the world should have the chance of being benefitedby their publication. It was so understood by the person inquestion, his grandson, who, accordingly, shortly after thedeath of his great relative, hastened to London, the best martfor literary property, employed an amanuensis for many months incopying, ransacked our public libraries that nothing might escape,and at length had so far prepared the works of Dr. Franklin for thepress, that proposals were made by him to several of our principalbooksellers for the sale of them. They were to form three quartovolumes, and were to contain all the writings, published andunpublished, of Franklin, with Memoirs of his Life, brought down byhimself to the year 1757, and continued to his death by the legatee.They were to be published in three different languages, and thecountries corresponding to those languages, France, Germany, andEngland, on the same day. The terms asked for the copyright of theEnglish edition were high, amounting to several thousand pounds,which occasioned a little demur; but eventually they would no doubthave been obtained. Nothing more however was heard of the proposalsor the work, in this its fair market. The proprietor, it seems,had found a bidder of a different description in some emissary ofgovernment, whose object was to withhold the manuscripts from theworld, not to benefit it by their publication; and they thus eitherpassed into other hands, or the person to whom they were bequeathedreceived a remuneration for suppressing them. This at least has beenasserted, by a variety of persons, both in this country and America,of whom some were at the time intimate with the grandson, and notwholly unacquainted with the machinations of the ministry; and thesilence, which has been observed for so many years respecting thepublication, gives additional credibility to the report.

What the manuscripts contained, that should have excited thejealousy of government, we are unable, as we have never seen them,positively to affirm; but, from the conspicuous part acted by theauthor in the American revolution and the wars connected with it, itis by no means difficult to guess; and of this we are sure, from hischaracter, that no disposition of his writings could have been morecontrary to his intentions or wishes.

We have only to add, that in the present collection, which isprobably all that will ever be published of the works of thisextraordinary man, the papers are methodically arranged, the moraland philosophical ones according to their subjects, the politicalones, as nearly as may be, according to their dates; that we havegiven, in notes, the authorities for ascribing the different piecesto Franklin; that where no title existed, to indicate the nature of aletter or paper, we have prefixed a title; and lastly, that we havecompiled an index to the whole, which is placed at the beginning,instead of, as is usual, at the end of the work, to render thevolumes more equal.

April 7, 1806.

LifeofDr. Benjamin Franklin


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