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 less than a month before his death, he wrote for The Federal gazette an ironical justification of the enslaving of Christians by African Mohammedans-quite in the vein of the celebrated Edict of the King of Prussia. As the shadows thickened about him, he settled his estate, paid his compliments to his friends, and departed, on the seventeenth day of April, 1790, in his eighty-fifth year. In the matter of religion Franklin was distinctly a product of the eighteenth-century enlightenment. He took his direction in boyhood and early manhood from deistical writers like Pope, Collins, and Shaftesbury. At various periods of his life he drew up articles of belief, which generally included recognition of one God, the providential government of the world, the immortality of the soul, and divine justice. To profess faith in as much religion as this he found emotionally gratifying, socially expedient, and conformable to the common sense of mankind. He would have subscribed without hesitation to both the positive and negative dogmas of the religion civil formulated by Rousseau in the Contrat social. In his later years he was in sympathetic relations with Paine, Price, and Priestley. He was, however, of a fortunately earlier generation than these English “heretics,” and certain other circumstances enabled him to keep the temper of his heterodoxy sweet while theirs grew acidulous, and to walk serenely in ways which for them were embittered by the odium theologicum. His earlier advent upon the eighteenth-century scene made possible the unfolding and comfortable settlement of his religious ideas before deism had clearly allied itself with political radicalism and edged its sword for assault upon inspired Bible and established church as powers federate with political orthodoxy in upholding the ancient regime. Among the diverse denominational bodies in Pennsylvania his perfectly genuine tolerance and his unfailing tact helped him to maintain a friendly neutrality between parties which were far from friendly. Like Lord Chesterfield, he sincerely believed in the decency and propriety of going to church; and he went himself when he could endure the preachers. He advised his daughter to go constantly, “whoever preaches.” He made pecuniary contributions to all the leading denominations in Philadelphia; respectfully acknowledged the good features of each; and
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