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[377] absolute freedom of thought and speech, and the
Chap XXIII.}
inalienable power of the people. Desirous of advancing education, he proposed improvements in the schools of Philadelphia; he invented the system of subscription libraries, and laid the foundation of one that was long the most considerable library in America; he suggested the establishment of an academy, which has ripened into a university; he saw the benefit of concert in the pursuit of science, and gathered a philosophical society for its advancement. The intelligent and highly cultivated Logan bore testimony to his merits before they had burst upon the world— ‘Our most ingenious printer has the clearest understanding, with extreme modesty. He is certainly an extraordinary man,’—‘of a singularly good judgment, but of equal modesty,’—‘excellent, yet humble.’ ‘Do not imagine,’ he adds, ‘that I overdo in my character of Benjamin Franklin, for I am rather short in it.’ When the scientific world began to investigate the wonders of electricity, Franklin excelled all observers in the marvellous simplicity and lucid exposition of his experiments, and in the admirable sagacity with which he elicited from them the laws which they illustrated. It was he who first suggested the explanation of thunder-gusts and the northern lights on electrical principles, and, in the summer of 1752, going
out into the fields, with no instrument but a kite, no companion but his son, established his theory by obtaining a line of connection with a thunder-cloud. Nor did he cease till he had made the lightning a household pastime, taught his family to catch the subtile fluid in its inconceivably rapid leaps between the earth and the sky, and compelled it to give warning of its passage by the harmless ringing of bells.

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