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PAPERS CONCERNING GREUZE’S FRANKLIN.
Boston, MARCH 7, 1872. To the Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston : GENTLEMEN,
It having been announced that you are desirous of forming a collection of books and other objects connected with the history of Benjamin Franklin, it has occurred to me that such a collection would be the most fitting repository for a valuable original portrait of him, by Greuze, which I possess.
This portrait I purchased some years since, in London. It was painted for Mr. Oswald, British Ambassador to France, who was associated with Franklin in the negotiation of the Provisional Articles of Nov. 30, 1872, acknowledging the Independence of the United States. The gentleman of whom I bought it, Mr. Joseph Parkes, an eminent lawyer, and well known in London for his literary ability, received it from the late Mr. Oswald, M. P. for Glasgow, and grand-nephew of the ambassador, in consideration of valuable legal services rendered.
I take pleasure in offering this portrait to the Public Library, with the single condition that it always shall be kept in the Library, and where it can be freely seen by visitors. If you decide to accept it on these terms, I shall be happy to place it in your charge.
I enclose an interesting paper written by the Hon. Charles Sumner, together with some other documents, relating to the portrait, all of which are at the service of the Library, if you wish to preserve them on file as evidence of its authenticity.
By the Hon. Charles Sumner.
I first saw Mr. Brewer's portrait of Franklin, in the summer of 1857, in London, at the house of a valued friend, the late Joseph Parkes, Esq., then living in Saville Row. In the summer of 1859 I saw it again at the house of Mr. Parkes, who had removed to Wimpole street.
I was interested in the portrait, and Mr. Parkes took pleasure in speaking of it. He called it " a Greuze," and said that it had always been so regarded in the family from which it came. He had received it, in consideration of certain services, from the grandnephew of Mr. Oswald, who negotiated with Franklin the Provisional Articles of Nov. 30th, 1782, acknowledging the Independence of the United States. Mr. Parkes thought it had been given by Franklin to his brother negotiator, in whose family it was known as An ambassador's portrait.”
The position and character of Mr. Oswald appear in the contemporary correspondence, especially of Franklin and John Adams. He was introduced to the former by the Earl of Shelburne, Prime Minister of England, in a letter dated April 6, 1782, where it is said :
" I have had a high opinion of the compass of your mind and of your foresight. I have often been beholden to both, and shall be glad to be so again, so far as is compatible with your situation. Your letter discovering the same disposition has made me send to you Mr. Oswald. I have had a longer acquaintance with him than ever I have had the pleasure to have with you. I believe him an honest man, and after consulting some of our common friends, I have thought him the fittest for the purpose. He is a pacifical man and conversant in those negotiations which are most interesting to mankind. This has made me prefer him to any of our speculative friends, or to any person of higher rank. He is fully apprized of my mind and you may give full credit to everything he assures you of.” (Franklin's Works by Sparks, Vol. IX., pp. 240, 241.)
Franklin, in a letter dated April 18, 1782, reported to the Earl of Shelburne his impression of Mr. Oswald, as follows:
“I have conversed a good deal with Mr. Oswald, and am much pleased with him. He appears to me a wise and honest man." (Ibid. p. 245.)
John Adams in writing to Secretary Livingston, of the Continental Congress, under date of Nov. 6, 1782, said :
“The English have sent Mr. Oswald, who is a wise and good man, and if untrammelled would soon settle all.” (John Adams's Works, Vol. VII., p. 600.)
At the negotiation of the definitive Treaty of Peace of Sept. 3, 1783, Mr. Hartley was substituted for Mr. Oswald, on which John Adams remarks, in a letter to Secretary Livingston, under date of April 14, 1783;
“ It would have been more agreeable to have finished with Mr. Oswald. But the present Ministry are so dissatisfied with what is past, as they say, though nobody believes them, that they choose to change hands.” (Ibid., Vol. VIII., p. 54.)
I remember to have heard Sir Charles R. Vaughan, British Minister at Washington many years ago, say, that on his return to London, and finding the dissatisfaction with his course, Mr. Oswald burst into tears. It is hardly possible that he did anything without the sanction of the Ministry; but it was probably convenient to allow the burden to fall on him.
From this statement it is easy to see how natural it would be for Mr. Oswald to have a portrait of Franklin.
Mr. Parkes, into whose hands it passed from the family of Mr. Oswald, and from whom it came to Mr. Brewer, was a remarkable person, extensively known in London, full of information, fond of pictures, much interested in our country, with an excellent American library, and with an American wife, born in Pennsylvania, and grand-daughter of Priestley. He is known as author of the unfinished memoirs of Sir Philip Francis, completed by Mr. Merivale, and also early in life of a volume on the History of the Court of Chancery, which Brougham .complimented highly in his famous speech on Law Reform, Feb. 7, 1828.
sure that Mr. Parkes had entire confidence in this portrait, as painted by Greuze, and belonging originally to Mr. Oswald.
WASHINGTON, 6th Aug., '71.
THE BEQUEST OF DANIEL TREADWELL.
Extract from the will dated Nov. 7, 1863. In the ninth place, all the residue of my estate, both real and personal, I give, devise and bequeath to my executors hereinafter named, to have and to hold the same to them and their heirs successors and assigns forever, but in trust nevertheless for the following uses and purposes, viz. : to pay over all the net income thereof to my wife during her life for her own use and benefit; and if at any time my said Trustees shall not deem the net income thereof sufficient for a suitable allowance for her, they may make such further allowance to her from the principal of the said residue of my estate, as shall seem to them proper and expedient. At the decease of my wife, or as soon thereafter as shall be found convenient and desirable, my said Trustees shall divide the residue of my estate then remaining in their hands, into five equal parts, and pay over and transfer one of the said fifth parts to the President and Fellows of Harvard College for the use of the College Library; and transfer and pay over one of the said fifth parts to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and transfer and pay over one of the said fifth parts to the Boston Athenæum; and transfer and pay over one of the said fifth parts to the Trustees of the Boston Library; and transfer and pay over the remaining one-fifth part thereof to the town of Ipswich aforesaid, for the Library above provided for.
Extract from a codicil, dated 25th March, 1864. I hereby declare that it was my intention by the said Will, to give one fifth part of the residue of my estate after the decease of my wife, and as more particularly set forth in the said Will, for the use and benefit of “ the Public Library of the City of Boston, now located in Boylston street in the said City, and it is according
ly my will that where the words “ Trustees of the Boston Library' occur on the fourth page of my said Will, the words “ Public Library of the City of Boston" shall be substituted therefor; and that where the same words occur on the fifth page of my said Will the words 66 Trustees of the Public Library of the City of Boston” shall be substituted therefor, and my will carried into effect accordingly by my Executors therein named.
Extract from the Records of the Trustees.
IN BOARD OF TRUSTEES, Apr. 11, 1872.
The President presented a copy of the will of the late Daniel Treadwell, under which the Library, on the death of his widow, it was thought, would come into the possession of almost $12,000. The President was requested to notify the City Council of the fact, and to address an acknowledgment to the Executors.
The Committee on the Library of the City Council reported to that body the following order, which was passed and approved by the Mayor, May 17, 1872.
Ordered, That the bequest to the Public Library of the City of Boston, named in the ninth article of the will of Daniel Treadwell of Cambridge, Engineer and late Rumford Professor in Harvard College, be, and the same is hereby accepted; and that the Trustees of the Library be authorized to receive said bequest when it becomes due ; and invest the amount received in bonds of said city, and expend the income in such manner as they may deem for the best interests of the Library.
Ordered, That the Trustees of the Public Library be requested to make a suitable acknowledgment of this generous contribution to the funds of the Library by the late Professor Treadwell, whose distinguished services in the application of science to the useful arts, have given him a high position among public benefactors.
PUBLIC LIBRARY, IN BOARD OF TRUSTEES,
June 12, 1872. Ordered, That the action of the City Council in relation to the Treadwell bequest be communicated to the Executors of the estate, as supplemental to the resolutions of gratitude already passed by the Board, and communicated in due course to said Executors.