January 6, 1706—April 17, 1790.
To the French National Assembly.
Delivered by Mirabeau to the French National Assembly Upon Receiving Notice of the Death of Benjamin Franklin, June 11, 1790.
FRANKLIN is dead! The genius, that freed America and poured a flood of light over Europe, has returned to the bosom of the Divinity. The sage whom two worlds claim as their own, the man for whom the history of science and the history of empires contend with each other, held, without doubt, a high rank in the human race.
Too long have political cabinets taken formal note of the death of those who were great only in their funeral panegyrics. Too long has the etiquette of courts prescribed hypocritical mourning. Nations should wear mourning only for their benefactors. The representatives of nations should recommend to their homage none but the heroes of humanity.
The Congress has ordained, throughout the United States, a mourning of one month for the death of Franklin; and, at this moment, America is paying this tribute of veneration and gratitude to one of the fathers of her Constitution.
Would it not become us, Gentlemen, to join in this religious act, to bear a part in this homage, rendered, in the face of the world, both to the rights of man, and to the philosopher who has most contributed to extend their sway over the whole earth? Antiquity would have raised altars to this mighty genius, who, to the advantage of mankind, compassing in his mind the heavens and the earth, was able to restrain alike thunderbolts and tyrants. Europe, enlightened and free, owes at least a token of remembrance and regret to one of the greatest men who have ever been engaged in the service of philosophy and of liberty.
I propose that it be decreed, that the National Assembly, during three days, shall wear mourning for Benjamin Franklin.