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Regnier, however, trusting to the operations of his cavalry, quitted his defensible station, crossed the Amato, and disposed his troops for action. Upon the first charge of the bayonet the French gave way, sought safety in flight, and the British, with very little loss of life, remained masters of the field of Maida.
In this engagement Dr. Franklin was professionally and actively engaged ; and it was an action of considerable importance, as it demonstrated the fallacy of the frequent declarations of the French, who, while they acknowledged the naval superiority of Great Britain, yet scornfully undervalued the merit of her soldiers.
The opinion of French invincibility was thus shaken ; and the way was prepared for those more glorious victories which shortly followed in the Peninsula. For his distinguished services on this occasion, being noticed by Sir John Stuart as actively engaged in the very heat of the battle, Dr. Franklin obtained a medal.
In the year 1810, by the retirement of Dr. Theodore Gordon (one of Dr. Franklin's oldest and most intimate friends) from the Medical Board in London, a place of dig, nity and emolument at the head of the profession was thrown open. Upon the occurrence of this vacancy great interest was used, as might naturally be expected, by all those individuals who were immediately upon the spot, to obtain so desirable a promotion. Dr. Franklin was at a distance, at the head of the medical staff in Sicily. He never, in any way, made application for the appointment; yet, so high did his name stand at head-quarters, that Sir David Dundas, who had succeeded the Duke of York as commander-inchief, overlooking all the numerous personal applications that had been made, at once recommended to his Majesty the name of Dr. Franklin. When this apppointment was communicated to him in a complimentary letter from the Adjutant-General he was ordered to repair to London. Here, however, a fresh instance of zeal and activity in the service of his
country must not be passed over : instead of proceeding direct to head-quarters, Dr. Franklin took Cadiz in his way. At that moment the British army, under Lord Lynedoch, had joined the Spaniards before Cadiz, had given battle to the French, routed them, and thereby effectually cleared that part of the Peninsula. Sir James Fellows, a very able medical officer, was under the command of Lord Lynedoch, as inspector of hospitals. Dr. Franklin's object was to visit this army in the field, as well as minutely to inspect all the hospitals, and to investigate the causes of certain diseases which prevailed, and, in fact, to enlarge that mass of information which he had already collected in the West India Islands, Holland, and the Mediterranean ; and thus to come more fully prepared for the general superintendence of the health and medical treatment of the British army, to which he had been called by the command of his sovereign. At the period in which Dr. Franklin first joined his colleagues in London, the duties of the Medical Board were more enlarged and more arduous than at any former period. An active and severe war upon the Continent demanded a corresponding activity in the arrangements of all those departments whose province it was to furnish the matériel of warfare. It is needless to say that, of all that matériel, the health and vigour of the soldier is by far the most important. This had been felt severely in many of our latter campaigns, but more especially in those expeditions to Holland in which Dr. Franklin himself had been engaged. The musket and the sword destroy not so many men as the diseases arising from unhealthy situations, from ill-regulated hospitals, and from want of ready and able medical assistance. It was resolved, therefore, to pay more strict and vigilant attention to the domestic comforts and health of the soldier than had hitherto been the custom. With this view, immediately that Dr. Franklin took his seat at the Board, he communicated the mass of information which he had gleaned in the various services in which he had been engaged to his colleagues, Sir
Charles Ker and Mr. Weir. They subsequently acted upon his experience; and, from the information which-Dr. Franklin was enabled to furnish, many changes and improvements were adopted in the service.
From the year 1810, up to the year of his death, Dr. Franklin remained in the same appointment, sedulously and honourably discharging the very arduous duties of his situation. In all the splendid events which took place on the Continent, after his appointment to the Board, he may justly be said to have had a share. By the judícious arrangements which were now introduced in the medical part of the army, by the good regulations which he, in conjunction with his colleagues, established for the supply of medicine, and for the maintenance of a skilful body of medical officers, he may, without exaggeration, be said to have silently contributed to them all. From these considerations, added to the constant zeal and strict integrity which he displayed in the discharge of all his duties, he received the honour of knighthood, at the especial request of his Royal Highness the Duke of York, from his late Majesty George the Fourth. This took place in the year 1823; and about the same period he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society.
The next event of any consequence which we have to detail is the presentation of a very handsome service of plate, by the medical staff of the army. In the year 1826 it was intimated to Sir William that by the universal consent of the medical officers, both of ordnance and line, a sum of money had been subscribed, amounting to about 350l., and that a silver vase, and other pieces of plate, awaited his acceptance.
It was decided by a committee formed for the purpose that Sir John Webb, Director-General of the Ordnance Medical Department; Sir James M‘Grigor, Director-General of the Army; and Mr. Calvert Clarke, Apothecary-General, should wait upon Sir William as a deputation. The inscription on the vase was as follows:
SIR WILLIAM FRANKLIN, KNIGHT, M.D. F.R.S.
PRINCIPAL INSPECTOR OF THE ARMY MEDICAL DEPARTMENT, IN TESTIMONY OF THE REGARD AND ESTEEM ENTERTAINED
FOR PRIVATE WORTH,
AND THE RESPECT DUE TO A LONG CAREER OF
UPRIGHT AND HONOURABLE CONDUCT
IN THE SERVICE OF
IS PRESENTED BY THE OFFICERS OF THE MEDICAL
DEPARTMENT OF THE LINE AND ORDNANCE,
JANUARY 31. 1826.
So honourable a testimony of the worth of Sir William, and the esteem with which he was regarded by his companions in the service of his country, hardly needs a comment.
From this period, the active duties of war being at an end, and the uniform routine of duty which now occupied his attention not calling forth that peculiar energy which was demanded in the earlier portions of his life, we do not find much of interest to record. He was not inactive, however, during this period, in promoting many charitable and benevolent designs. From him, in conjunction with his eminent and deservedly-respected colleague and friend, Sir James M'Grigor, the Widows’ Fund, for medical officers in the army, may be said to have taken its origin. Another charitable society of the same description, for the orphans of medical officers, was originated by the same individuals; and of this latter society Sir William was president to the day of his death. A military publication, of some notoriety, refers in terms of considerable praise to these two institutions; and in regard generally to the many practical improvements which had been wrought in the medical department since the time of Sir William, the same publication thus speaks :
Fifty years ago there was no department at all. A surgeon was something like our present military parson: he used to
go about in plain clothes, with a black coat and a military cocked-hat. The Duke (the Duke of York) first raised the pay of the surgeons, and thus made the situation more worthy to be filled by men of education. Sir James M'Grigor and Sir William Franklin have completed what the Duke began; and now, thanks to those gentlemen, our department is not only happily organised, and its ranks sustained, but we can furnish in the field men of genuine professional education; not tyroes of the pestle, but scientifically bred surgeons."
In the year 1832 his present Majesty was pleased to confer on Sir William the rank of Knight Commander of the Guelphic Order. The title of his office was also raised to that of Principal Inspector General. These honours, however, Sir William did not long live to enjoy. No man was ever more apparently free from the infirmities of age. Still, however, of late years he had been subject to an attack of a very dangerous character, which considerably impaired his general constitution. In the commencement of 1833 hé suffered from the prevailing epidemic influenza, which, beyond doubt, though he recovered for the time, laid the foundation of the disease of which he ultimately died. It was curious, that while Sir William was thus confined to his bed, under serious danger, his opposite neighbour and friend, Dr. Babington, a man of great celebrity in his profession, and who was also associated with him in the earliest period of his medical education, should also have been attacked by the same malady, which ended in his case with more immediate fatality. In the commencement of the same year, in conformity with the system of economy pursued by the government, a reduction of one of the heads of the medical department was determined on. It was consequently arranged that Sir William should retire from his situation at the Board.
Removing to Brighton in the autumn of 1833, he still continued in a bad though not an alarming state of health ; but upon his return to his house in London, at the latter end of October, he was suddenly seized by an attack of an apo- .