THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF

 

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

 

 

 

 

WITH INTRODUCTION AND NOTES

 

EDITED BY CHARLES W ELIOT LLD

 

 

 

 

P F COLLIER & SON COMPANY, NEW YORK (1909)

 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTORY NOTE

 

 

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN was born in Milk Street, Boston, on January 6, 1706.

His father, Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler who married twice,

and of his seventeen children Benjamin was the youngest son.  His

schooling ended at ten, and at twelve he was bound apprentice to his

brother James, a printer, who published the "New England Courant." To

this journal he became a contributor, and later was for a time its

nominal editor. But the brothers quarreled, and Benjamin ran away,

going first to New York, and thence to Philadelphia, where he arrived

in October, 1723.  He soon obtained work as a printer, but after a few

months he was induced by Governor Keith to go to London, where, finding

Keith's promises empty, he again worked as a compositor till he was

brought back to Philadelphia by a merchant named  Denman, who gave him

a position in his business. On Denman's death he returned to his former

trade, and shortly set up a printing house of his own from which he

published "The Pennsylvania Gazette," to which he contributed many

essays, and which he made a medium for agitating a variety of local

reforms. In 1732 he began to issue his famous "Poor Richard's Almanac"

for the enrichment of which he borrowed or composed those pithy

utterances of worldly wisdom which are the basis of a large part of his

popular reputation.  In 1758, the year in which he ceases writing for

the Almanac, he printed in it "Father Abraham's Sermon," now regarded

as the most famous piece of literature produced in Colonial America.

 

Meantime Franklin was concerning himself more and more with public

affairs.  He set forth a scheme for an Academy, which was taken up

later and finally developed into the University of Pennsylvania; and he

founded an "American Philosophical Society" for the purpose of enabling

scientific  men to communicate their discoveries to one another.  He

himself had already begun his electrical researches, which, with other

scientific inquiries, he called on in the intervals of money-making and

politics to the end of his life.  In 1748 he sold his business in order

to get leisure for study, having now acquired comparative wealth; and

in a few years he had made discoveries that gave him a reputation with

the learned throughout Europe.  In politics he proved very able both as

an administrator and as a controversialist; but his record as an

office-holder is stained by the use he made of his position to advance

his relatives.  His most notable service in home politics was his

reform of the postal system; but his fame as a statesman rests chiefly

on his services in connection with the relations of the Colonies with

Great Britain, and later with France.  In 1757 he was sent to England

to protest against the influence of the Penns in the government of the

colony, and for five years he remained there, striving to enlighten the

people and the ministry of England as to Colonial conditions.  On his

return to America he played an honorable part in the Paxton affair,

through which he lost his seat in the Assembly; but in 1764 he was

again despatched to England as agent for the colony, this time to

petition the King to resume the government from the hands of the

proprietors.  In London he actively opposed the proposed Stamp Act, but

lost the credit for this and much of his popularity through his

securing for a friend the office of stamp agent in America.  Even his

effective work in helping to obtain the repeal of the act left him

still a suspect; but he continued his efforts to present the case for

the Colonies as the troubles thickened toward the crisis of the

Revolution.  In 1767 he crossed to France, where he was received with

honor; but before his return home in 1775 he lost his position as

postmaster through his share in divulging to Massachusetts the famous

letter of Hutchinson and Oliver.  On his arrival in Philadelphia he was

chosen a member of the Continental Congress and in 1777 he was

despatched to France as commissioner for the United States.  Here he

remained till 1785, the favorite of French society; and with such

success did he conduct the affairs of his country that when he finally

returned he received a place only second to that of Washington as the

champion of American independence.  He died on April 17, 1790.

 

The first five chapters of the Autobiography were composed in England

in 1771, continued in 1784-5, and again in 1788, at which date he

brought it down to 1757.  After a most extraordinary series of

adventures, the original form of the manuscript was finally printed by

Mr. John Bigelow, and is here reproduced in recognition of its value as

a picture of one of the most notable personalities of Colonial times,

and of its acknowledged rank as one of the great autobiographies of the

world.

 

 

 

 

 

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

 

HIS AUTOBIOGRAPHY

 

 

1706-1757

 

 

 

TWYFORD, at the Bishop of St. Asaph's,[0]  1771.

 

     [0] The country-seat of Bishop Shipley, the good bishop,

         as Dr. Franklin used to style him.--B.

 

DEAR SON:  I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any little anecdotes

of my ancestors.  You may remember the inquiries I made among the

remains of my relations when you were with me in England, and the

journey I undertook for that purpose.  Imagining it may be equally

agreeable to[1] you to know the circumstances of my life, many of which

you are yet unacquainted with, and expecting the enjoyment of a week's

uninterrupted leisure in my present country retirement, I sit down to

write them for you.  To which I have besides some other inducements.

Having emerged from the poverty and obscurity in which I was born and

bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the

world, and having gone so far through life with a considerable share of

felicity, the conducing means I made use of, which with the blessing of

God so well succeeded, my posterity may like to know, as they may find

some of them suitable to their own situations, and therefore fit to be

imitated.

 

     [1] After the words "agreeable to" the words "some of" were

         interlined and afterward effaced.--B.

 

That felicity, when I reflected on it, has induced me sometimes to say,

that were it offered to my choice, I should have no objection to a

repetition of the same life from its beginning, only asking the

advantages authors have in a second edition to correct some faults of

the first.  So I might, besides correcting the faults, change some

sinister accidents and events of it for others more favorable.  But

though this were denied, I should still accept the offer.  Since such a

repetition is not to be expected, the next thing most like living one's

life over again seems to be a recollection of that life, and to make

that recollection as durable as possible by putting it down in writing.

 

Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination so natural in old men, to

be talking of themselves and their own past actions; and I shall

indulge it without being tiresome to others, who, through respect to

age, might conceive themselves obliged to give me a hearing, since this

may be read or not as any one pleases.  And, lastly (I may as well

confess it, since my denial of it will be believed by nobody), perhaps

I shall a good deal gratify my own vanity.  Indeed, I scarce ever heard

or saw the introductory words, "Without vanity I may say," &c., but

some vain thing immediately followed.  Most people dislike vanity in

others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair

quarter wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often

productive of good to the possessor, and to others that are within his

sphere of action; and therefore, in many cases, it would not be

altogether absurd if a man were to thank God for his vanity among the

other comforts of life.

 

And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility to

acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to His

kind providence, which lead me to the means I used and gave them

success.  My belief of this induces me to hope, though I must not

presume, that the same goodness will still be exercised toward me, in

continuing that happiness, or enabling me to bear a fatal reverse,

which I may experience as others have done:  the complexion of my

future fortune being known to Him only in whose power it is to bless to

us even our afflictions.

 

The notes one of my uncles (who had the same kind of curiosity in

collecting family anecdotes) once put into my hands, furnished me with

several particulars relating to our ancestors.  From these notes I

learned that the family had lived in the same village, Ecton, in

Northamptonshire, for three hundred years, and how much longer he knew

not (perhaps from the time when the name of Franklin, that before was

the name of an order of people, was assumed by them as a surname when

others took surnames all over the kingdom), on a freehold of about

thirty acres, aided by the smith's business, which had continued in the

family till his time, the eldest son being always bred to that

business; a custom which he and my father followed as to their eldest

sons.  When I searched the registers at Ecton, I found an account of

their births, marriages and burials from the year 1555 only, there

being no registers kept in that parish at any time preceding.  By that

register I perceived that I was the youngest son of the youngest son

for five generations back.  My grandfather Thomas, who was born in

1598, lived at Ecton till he grew too old to follow business longer,

when he went to live with his son John, a dyer at Banbury, in

Oxfordshire, with whom my father served an apprenticeship.  There my

grandfather died and lies buried.  We saw his gravestone in 1758.  His

eldest son Thomas lived in the house at Ecton, and left it with the

land to his only child, a daughter, who, with her husband, one Fisher,

of Wellingborough, sold it to Mr. Isted, now lord of the manor there.

My grandfather had four sons that grew up, viz.: Thomas, John, Benjamin

and Josiah.  I will give you what account I can of them, at this

distance from my papers, and if these are not lost in my absence, you

will among them find many more particulars.

 

Thomas was bred a smith under his father; but, being ingenious, and

encouraged in learning (as all my brothers were) by an Esquire Palmer,

then the principal gentleman in that parish, he qualified himself for

the business of scrivener; became a considerable man in the county; was

a chief mover of all public-spirited undertakings for the county or

town of Northampton, and his own village, of which many instances were

related of him; and much taken notice of and patronized by the then

Lord Halifax.  He died in 1702, January 6, old style, just four years

to a day before I was born.  The account we received of his life and

character from some old people at Ecton, I remember, struck you as

something extraordinary, from its similarity to what you knew of mine.

 

"Had he died on the same day," you said, "one might have supposed a

transmigration."

 

John was bred a dyer, I believe of woolens.  Benjamin was bred a silk

dyer, serving an apprenticeship at London.  He was an ingenious man.  I

remember him well, for when I was a boy he came over to my father in

Boston, and lived in the house with us some years.  He lived to a great

age.  His grandson, Samuel Franklin, now lives in Boston.  He left

behind him two quarto volumes, MS., of his own poetry, consisting of

little occasional pieces addressed to his friends and relations, of

which the following, sent to me, is a specimen.[2] He had formed a

short-hand of his own, which he taught me, but, never practising it, I

have now forgot it.  I was named after this uncle, there being a

particular affection between him and my father.  He was very pious, a

great attender of sermons of the best preachers, which he took down in

his short-hand, and had with him many volumes of them.  He was also

much of a politician; too much, perhaps, for his station.  There fell

lately into my hands, in London, a collection he had made of all the

principal pamphlets, relating to public affairs, from 1641 to 1717;

many of the volumes are wanting as appears by the numbering, but there

still remain eight volumes in folio, and twenty-four in quarto and in

octavo.  A dealer in old books met with them, and knowing me by my

sometimes buying of him, he brought them to me.  It seems my uncle must

have left them here, when he went to America, which was about fifty

years since.  There are many of his notes in the margins.

 

     [2] Here follow in the margin the words, in brackets, "here

         insert it," but the poetry is not given.  Mr. Sparks

         informs us (Life of Franklin, p. 6) that these volumes

         had been preserved, and were in possession of Mrs. Emmons,

         of Boston, great-granddaughter of their author.

 

This obscure family of ours was early in the Reformation, and continued

Protestants through the reign of Queen Mary, when they were sometimes

in danger of trouble on account of their zeal against popery.  They had

got an English Bible, and to conceal and secure it, it was fastened

open with tapes under and within the cover of a joint-stool. When my

great-great-grandfather read it to his family, he turned up the

joint-stool upon his knees, turning over the leaves then under the

tapes.  One of the children stood at the door to give notice if he saw

the apparitor coming, who was an officer of the spiritual court.  In

that case the stool was turned down again upon its feet, when the Bible

remained concealed under it as before.  This anecdote I had from my

uncle Benjamin.  The family continued all of the Church of England till

about the end of Charles the Second's reign, when some of the ministers

that had been outed for nonconformity holding conventicles in

Northamptonshire, Benjamin and Josiah adhered to them, and so continued

all their lives: the rest of the family remained with the Episcopal

Church.

 

Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife with three

children into New England, about 1682.  The conventicles having been

forbidden by law, and frequently disturbed, induced some considerable

men of his acquaintance to remove to that country, and he was prevailed

with to accompany them thither, where they expected to enjoy their mode

of religion with freedom.  By the same wife he had four children more

born there, and by a second wife ten more, in all seventeen; of which I

remember thirteen sitting at one time at his table, who all grew up to

be men and women, and married; I was the youngest son, and the youngest

child but two, and was born in Boston, New England.  My mother, the

second wife, was Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter Folger, one of the

first settlers of New England, of whom honorable mention is made by

Cotton Mather in his church history of that country, entitled Magnalia

Christi Americana, as "a godly, learned Englishman," if I remember the

words rightly.  I have heard that he wrote sundry small occasional

pieces, but only one of them was printed, which I saw now many years

since.  It was written in 1675, in the home-spun verse of that time and

people, and addressed to those then concerned in the government there.

It was in favor of liberty of conscience, and in behalf of the

Baptists, Quakers, and other sectaries that had been under persecution,

ascribing the Indian wars, and other distresses that had befallen the

country, to that persecution, as so many judgments of God to punish so

heinous an offense, and exhorting a repeal of those uncharitable laws.

The whole appeared to me as written with a good deal of decent

plainness and manly freedom.  The six concluding lines I remember,

though I have forgotten the two first of the stanza; but the purport of

them was, that his censures proceeded from good-will, and, therefore,

he would be known to be the author.

 

          "Because to be a libeller (says he)

          I hate it with my heart;

          From Sherburne town, where now I dwell

          My name I do put here;

          Without offense your real friend,

          It is Peter Folgier."

 

My elder brothers were all put apprentices to different trades.  I was

put to the grammar-school at eight years of age, my father intending to

devote me, as the tithe of his sons, to the service of the Church.  My

early readiness in learning to read (which must have been very early,

as I do not remember when I could not read), and the opinion of all his

friends, that I should certainly make a good scholar, encouraged him in

this purpose of his.  My uncle Benjamin, too, approved of it, and

proposed to give me all his short-hand volumes of sermons, I suppose as

a stock to set up with, if I would learn his character.  I continued,

however, at the grammar-school not quite one year, though in that time

I had risen gradually from the middle of the class of that year to be

the head of it, and farther was removed into the next class above it,

in order to go with that into the third at the end of the year.  But my

father, in the meantime, from a view of the expense of a college

education, which having so large a family he could not well afford, and

the mean living many so educated were afterwards able to

obtain--reasons that he gave to his friends in my hearing--altered his

first intention, took me from the grammar-school, and sent me to a

school for writing and arithmetic, kept by a then famous man, Mr.

George Brownell, very successful in his profession generally, and that

by mild, encouraging methods.  Under him I acquired fair writing pretty

soon, but I failed in the arithmetic, and made no progress in it.  At

ten years old I was taken home to assist my father in his business,

which was that of a tallow-chandler and sope-boiler; a business he was

not bred to, but had assumed on his arrival in New England, and on

finding his dying trade would not maintain his family, being in little

request.  Accordingly, I was employed in cutting wick for the candles,

filling the dipping mold and the molds for cast candles, attending the

shop, going of errands, etc.

 

I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination for the sea, but my

father declared against it; however, living near the water, I was much

in and about it, learnt early to swim well, and to manage boats; and

when in a boat or canoe with other boys, I was commonly allowed to

govern, especially in any case of difficulty; and upon other occasions

I was generally a leader among the boys, and sometimes led them into

scrapes, of which I will mention one instance, as it shows an early

projecting public spirit, tho' not then justly conducted.

 

There was a salt-marsh that bounded part of the mill-pond, on the edge

of which, at high water, we used to stand to fish for minnows.  By much

trampling, we had made it a mere quagmire.  My proposal was to build a

wharff there fit for us to stand upon, and I showed my comrades a large

heap of stones, which were intended for a new house near the marsh, and

which would very well suit our purpose.  Accordingly, in the evening,

when the workmen were gone, I assembled a number of my play-fellows,

and working with them diligently like so many emmets, sometimes two or

three to a stone, we brought them all away and built our little wharff.

The next morning the workmen were surprised at missing the stones,

which were found in our wharff.  Inquiry was made after the removers;

we were discovered and complained of; several of us were corrected by

our fathers; and though I pleaded the usefulness of the work, mine

convinced me that nothing was useful which was not honest.

 

I think you may like to know something of his person and character.  He

had an excellent constitution of body, was of middle stature, but well

set, and very strong; he was ingenious, could draw prettily, was

skilled a little in music, and had a clear pleasing voice, so that when

he played psalm tunes on his violin and sung withal, as he sometimes

did in an evening after the business of the day was over, it was

extremely agreeable to hear.  He had a mechanical genius too, and, on

occasion, was very handy in the use of other tradesmen's tools; but his

great excellence lay in a sound understanding and solid judgment in

prudential matters, both in private and publick affairs.  In the

latter, indeed, he was never employed, the numerous family he had to

educate and the straitness of his circumstances keeping him close to

his trade; but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading

people, who consulted him for his opinion in affairs of the town or of

the church he belonged to, and showed a good deal of respect for his

judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by private persons

about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen

an arbitrator between contending parties.

 

At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible

friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some

ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve

the minds of his children.  By this means he turned our attention to

what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or

no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table,

whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad

flavor, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind,

so that I was bro't up in such a perfect inattention to those matters

as to be quite indifferent what kind of food was set before me, and so

unobservant of it, that to this day if I am asked I can scarce tell a

few hours after dinner what I dined upon.  This has been a convenience

to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very

unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate,

because better instructed, tastes and appetites.

 

My mother had likewise an excellent constitution:  she suckled all her

ten children.  I never knew either my father or mother to have any

sickness but that of which they dy'd, he at 89, and she at 85 years of

age.  They lie buried together at Boston, where I some years since

placed a marble over their grave, with this inscription:

 

                        JOSIAH FRANKLIN,

                               and

                         ABIAH his Wife,

                       lie here interred.

             They lived lovingly together in wedlock

                        fifty-five years.

          Without an estate, or any gainful employment,

                 By constant labor and industry,

                      with God's blessing,

                 They maintained a large family

                          comfortably,

                and brought up thirteen children

                     and seven grandchildren

                           reputably.

                   From this instance, reader,

           Be encouraged to diligence in thy calling,

                  And distrust not Providence.

                 He was a pious and prudent man;

               She, a discreet and virtuous woman.

                       Their youngest son,

                In filial regard to their memory,

                       Places this stone.

              J.F. born 1655, died 1744, AEtat 89.

              A.F. born 1667, died 1752, ----- 95.

 

 

By my rambling digressions I perceive myself to be grown old.  I us'd

to write more methodically.  But one does not dress for private company

as for a publick ball.  'Tis perhaps only negligence.

 

To return:  I continued thus employed in my father's business for two

years, that is, till I was twelve years old; and my brother John, who

was bred to that business, having left my father, married, and set up

for himself at Rhode Island, there was all appearance that I was

destined to supply his place, and become a tallow-chandler.  But my

dislike to the trade continuing, my father was under apprehensions that

if he did not find one for me more agreeable, I should break away and

get to sea, as his son Josiah had done, to his great vexation.  He

therefore sometimes took me to walk with him, and see joiners,

bricklayers, turners, braziers, etc., at their work, that he might

observe my inclination, and endeavor to fix it on some trade or other

on land.  It has ever since been a pleasure to me to see good workmen

handle their tools; and it has been useful to me, having learnt so much

by it as to be able to do little jobs myself in my house when a workman

could not readily be got, and to construct little machines for my

experiments, while the intention of making the experiment was fresh and

warm in my mind.  My father at last fixed upon the cutler's trade, and

my uncle Benjamin's son Samuel, who was bred to that business in

London, being about that time established in Boston, I was sent to be

with him some time on liking.  But his expectations of a fee with me

displeasing my father, I was taken home again.

 

From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came

into my hands was ever laid out in books.  Pleased with the Pilgrim's

Progress, my first collection was of John Bunyan's works in separate

little volumes.  I afterward sold them to enable me to buy R. Burton's

Historical Collections; they were small chapmen's books, and cheap, 40

or 50 in all.  My father's little library consisted chiefly of books in

polemic divinity, most of which I read, and have since often regretted

that, at a time when I had such a thirst for knowledge, more proper

books had not fallen in my way since it was now resolved I should not

be a clergyman.  Plutarch's Lives there was in which I read abundantly,

and I still think that time spent to great advantage.  There was also a

book of De Foe's, called an Essay on Projects, and another of Dr.

Mather's, called Essays to do Good, which perhaps gave me a turn of

thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events

of my life.

 

This bookish inclination at length determined my father to make me a

printer, though he had already one son (James) of that profession.  In

1717 my brother James returned from England with a press and letters to

set up his business in Boston.  I liked it much better than that of my

father, but still had a hankering for the sea.  To prevent the

apprehended effect of such an inclination, my father was impatient to

have me bound to my brother.  I stood out some time, but at last was

persuaded, and signed the indentures when I was yet but twelve years

old.  I was to serve as an apprentice till I was twenty-one years of

age, only I was to be allowed journeyman's wages during the last year.

In a little time I made great proficiency in the business, and became a

useful hand to my brother.  I now had access to better books.  An

acquaintance with the apprentices of booksellers enabled me sometimes

to borrow a small one, which I was careful to return soon and clean.

Often I sat up in my room reading the greatest part of the night, when

the book was borrowed in the evening and to be returned early in the

morning, lest it should be missed or wanted.

 

And after some time an ingenious tradesman, Mr. Matthew Adams, who had

a pretty collection of books, and who frequented our printing-house,

took notice of me, invited me to his library, and very kindly lent me

such books as I chose to read.  I now took a fancy to poetry, and made

some little pieces; my brother, thinking it might turn to account,

encouraged me, and put me on composing occasional ballads.  One was

called The Lighthouse Tragedy, and contained an account of the drowning

of Captain Worthilake, with his two daughters: the other was a sailor's

song, on the taking of Teach (or Blackbeard) the pirate.  They were

wretched stuff, in the Grub-street-ballad style; and when they were

printed he sent me about the town to sell them.  The first sold

wonderfully, the event being recent, having made a great noise.  This

flattered my vanity; but my father discouraged me by ridiculing my

performances, and telling me verse-makers were generally beggars.  So I

escaped being a poet, most probably a very bad one; but as prose

writing bad been of great use to me in the course of my life, and was a

principal means of my advancement, I shall tell you how, in such a

situation, I acquired what little ability I have in that way.

 

There was another bookish lad in the town, John Collins by name, with

whom I was intimately acquainted.  We sometimes disputed, and very fond

we were of argument, and very desirous of confuting one another, which

disputatious turn, by the way, is apt to become a very bad habit,

making people often extremely disagreeable in company by the

contradiction that is necessary to bring it into practice; and thence,

besides souring and spoiling the conversation, is productive of

disgusts and, perhaps enmities where you may have occasion for

friendship.  I had caught it by reading my father's books of dispute

about religion.  Persons of good sense, I have since observed, seldom

fall into it, except lawyers, university men, and men of all sorts that

have been bred at Edinborough.

 

A question was once, somehow or other, started between Collins and me,

of the propriety of educating the female sex in learning, and their

abilities for study.  He was of opinion that it was improper, and that

they were naturally unequal to it.  I took the contrary side, perhaps a

little for dispute's sake.  He was naturally more eloquent, had a ready

plenty of words; and sometimes, as I thought, bore me down more by his

fluency than by the strength of his reasons.  As we parted without

settling the point, and were not to see one another again for some

time, I sat down to put my arguments in writing, which I copied fair

and sent to him.  He answered, and I replied.  Three or four letters of

a side had passed, when my father happened to find my papers and read

them.  Without entering into the discussion, he took occasion to talk

to me about the manner of my writing; observed that, though I had the

advantage of my antagonist in correct spelling and pointing (which I

ow'd to the printing-house), I fell far short in elegance of

expression, in method and in perspicuity, of which he convinced me by

several instances.  I saw the justice of his remark, and thence grew

more attentive to the manner in writing, and determined to endeavor at

improvement.

 

About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator.  It was the

third.  I had never before seen any of them.  I bought it, read it over

and over, and was much delighted with it.  I thought the writing

excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it.  With this view I

took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in

each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at

the book, try'd to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted

sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in

any suitable words that should come to hand.  Then I compared my

Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and

corrected them.  But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness

in recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired

before that time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual

occasion for words of the same import, but of different length, to suit

the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have laid me

under a constant necessity of searching for variety, and also have

tended to fix that variety in my mind, and make me master of it.

Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them into verse; and,

after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them

back again.  I also sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into

confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best

order, before I began to form the full sentences and compleat the

paper.  This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts.  By

comparing my work afterwards with the original, I discovered many

faults and amended them; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying

that, in certain particulars of small import, I had been lucky enough

to improve the method or the language, and this encouraged me to think

I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English writer, of

which I was extremely ambitious.  My time for these exercises and for

reading was at night, after work or before it began in the morning, or

on Sundays, when I contrived to be in the printing-house alone, evading

as much as I could the common attendance on public worship which my

father used to exact on me when I was under his care, and which indeed

I still thought a duty, though I could not, as it seemed to me, afford

time to practise it.

 

When about 16 years of age I happened to meet with a book, written by

one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet.  I determined to go into it.

My brother, being yet unmarried, did not keep house, but boarded

himself and his apprentices in another family.  My refusing to eat

flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I was frequently chid for my

singularity.  I made myself acquainted with Tryon's manner of preparing

some of his dishes, such as boiling potatoes or rice, making hasty

pudding, and a few others, and then proposed to my brother, that if he

would give me, weekly, half the money he paid for my board, I would

board myself.  He instantly agreed to it, and I presently found that I

could save half what he paid me.  This was an additional fund for

buying books.  But I had another advantage in it.  My brother and the

rest going from the printing-house to their meals, I remained there

alone, and, despatching presently my light repast, which often was no

more than a bisket or a slice of bread, a handful of raisins or a tart

from the pastry-cook's, and a glass of water, had the rest of the time

till their return for study, in which I made the greater progress, from

that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension which usually

attend temperance in eating and drinking.

 

And now it was that, being on some occasion made asham'd of my

ignorance in figures, which I had twice failed in learning when at

school, I took Cocker's book of Arithmetick, and went through the whole

by myself with great ease.  I also read Seller's and Shermy's books of

Navigation, and became acquainted with the little geometry they

contain; but never proceeded far in that science.  And I read about

this time Locke On Human Understanding, and the Art of Thinking, by

Messrs. du Port Royal.

 

While I was intent on improving my language, I met with an English

grammar (I think it was Greenwood's), at the end of which there were

two little sketches of the arts of rhetoric and logic, the latter

finishing with a specimen of a dispute in the Socratic method; and soon

after I procur'd Xenophon's Memorable Things of Socrates, wherein there

are many instances of the same method.  I was charm'd with it, adopted

it, dropt my abrupt contradiction and positive argumentation, and put

on the humble inquirer and doubter.  And being then, from reading

Shaftesbury and Collins, become a real doubter in many points of our

religious doctrine, I found this method safest for myself and very

embarrassing to those against whom I used it; therefore I took a

delight in it, practis'd it continually, and grew very artful and

expert in drawing people, even of superior knowledge, into concessions,

the consequences of which they did not foresee, entangling them in

difficulties out of which they could not extricate themselves, and so

obtaining victories that neither myself nor my cause always deserved.

I continu'd this method some few years, but gradually left it,

retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest

diffidence; never using, when I advanced any thing that may possibly be

disputed, the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the

air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say, I conceive or

apprehend a thing to be so and so; it appears to me, or I should think

it so or so, for such and such reasons; or I imagine it to be so; or it

is so, if I am not mistaken.  This habit, I believe, has been of great

advantage to me when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and

persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time engag'd

in promoting; and, as the chief ends of conversation are to inform or

to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning, sensible

men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive, assuming

manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and

to defeat every one of those purposes for which speech was given to us,

to wit, giving or receiving information or pleasure.  For, if you would

inform, a positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments

may provoke contradiction and prevent a candid attention.  If you wish

information and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at

the same time express yourself as firmly fix'd in your present

opinions, modest, sensible men, who do not love disputation, will

probably leave you undisturbed in the possession of your error.  And by

such a manner, you can seldom hope to recommend yourself in pleasing

your hearers, or to persuade those whose concurrence you desire.  Pope

says, judiciously:

 

          "Men should be taught as if you taught them not,

          And things unknown propos'd as things forgot;"

 

farther recommending to us

 

          "To speak, tho' sure, with seeming diffidence."

 

And he might have coupled with this line that which he has coupled with

another, I think, less properly,

 

          "For want of modesty is want of sense."

 

If you ask, Why less properly? I must repeat the lines,

 

          "Immodest words admit of no defense,

          For want of modesty is want of sense."

 

Now, is not want of sense (where a man is so unfortunate as to want it)

some apology for his want of modesty? and would not the lines stand

more justly thus?

 

          "Immodest words admit but this defense,

          That want of modesty is want of sense."

 

This, however, I should submit to better judgments.

 

My brother had, in 1720 or 1721, begun to print a newspaper.  It was

the second that appeared in America, and was called the New England

Courant.  The only one before it was the Boston News-Letter. I remember

his being dissuaded by some of his friends from the undertaking, as not

likely to succeed, one newspaper being, in their judgment, enough for

America.  At this time (1771) there are not less than five-and-twenty.

He went on, however, with the undertaking, and after having worked in

composing the types and printing off the sheets, I was employed to

carry the papers thro' the streets to the customers.

 

He had some ingenious men among his friends, who amus'd themselves by

writing little pieces for this paper, which gain'd it credit and made

it more in demand, and these gentlemen often visited us.  Hearing their

conversations, and their accounts of the approbation their papers were

received with, I was excited to try my hand among them; but, being

still a boy, and suspecting that my brother would object to printing

anything of mine in his paper if he knew it to be mine, I contrived to

disguise my hand, and, writing an anonymous paper, I put it in at night

under the door of the printing-house. It was found in the morning, and

communicated to his writing friends when they call'd in as usual.  They

read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I had the exquisite

pleasure of finding it met with their approbation, and that, in their

different guesses at the author, none were named but men of some

character among us for learning and ingenuity.  I suppose now that I

was rather lucky in my judges, and that perhaps they were not really so

very good ones as I then esteem'd them.

 

Encourag'd, however, by this, I wrote and convey'd in the same way to

the press several more papers which were equally approv'd; and I kept

my secret till my small fund of sense for such performances was pretty

well exhausted and then I discovered it, when I began to be considered

a little more by my brother's acquaintance, and in a manner that did

not quite please him, as he thought, probably with reason, that it

tended to make me too vain.  And, perhaps, this might be one occasion

of the differences that we began to have about this time.  Though a

brother, he considered himself as my master, and me as his apprentice,

and accordingly, expected the same services from me as he would from

another, while I thought he demean'd me too much in some he requir'd of

me, who from a brother expected more indulgence.  Our disputes were

often brought before our father, and I fancy I was either generally in

the right, or else a better pleader, because the judgment was generally

in my favor.  But my brother was passionate, and had often beaten me,

which I took extreamly amiss; and, thinking my apprenticeship very

tedious, I was continually wishing for some opportunity of shortening

it, which at length offered in a manner unexpected.[3]

 

      [3] I fancy his harsh and tyrannical treatment of me

          might be a means of impressing me with that aversion

          to arbitrary power that has stuck to me through my

          whole life.

 

One of the pieces in our newspaper on some political point, which I

have now forgotten, gave offense to the Assembly.  He was taken up,

censur'd, and imprison'd for a month, by the speaker's warrant, I

suppose, because he would not discover his author.  I too was taken up

and examin'd before the council; but, tho' I did not give them any

satisfaction, they content'd themselves with admonishing me, and

dismissed me, considering me, perhaps, as an apprentice, who was bound

to keep his master's secrets.

 

During my brother's confinement, which I resented a good deal,

notwithstanding our private differences, I had the management of the

paper; and I made bold to give our rulers some rubs in it, which my

brother took very kindly, while others began to consider me in an

unfavorable light, as a young genius that had a turn for libelling and

satyr.  My brother's discharge was accompany'd with an order of the

House (a very odd one), that "James Franklin should no longer print the

paper called the New England Courant."

 

There was a consultation held in our printing-house among his friends,

what he should do in this case.  Some proposed to evade the order by

changing the name of the paper; but my brother, seeing inconveniences

in that, it was finally concluded on as a better way, to let it be

printed for the future under the name of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN; and to

avoid the censure of the Assembly, that might fall on him as still

printing it by his apprentice, the contrivance was that my old

indenture should be return'd to me, with a full discharge on the back

of it, to be shown on occasion, but to secure to him the benefit of my

service, I was to sign new indentures for the remainder of the term,

which were to be kept private.  A very flimsy scheme it was; however,

it was immediately executed, and the paper went on accordingly, under

my name for several months.

 

At length, a fresh difference arising between my brother and me, I took

upon me to assert my freedom, presuming that he would not venture to

produce the new indentures.  It was not fair in me to take this

advantage, and this I therefore reckon one of the first errata of my

life; but the unfairness of it weighed little with me, when under the

impressions of resentment for the blows his passion too often urged him

to bestow upon me, though he was otherwise not an ill-natur'd man:

perhaps I was too saucy and provoking.

 

When he found I would leave him, he took care to prevent my getting

employment in any other printing-house of the town, by going round and

speaking to every master, who accordingly refus'd to give me work.  I

then thought of going to New York, as the nearest place where there was

a printer; and I was rather inclin'd to leave Boston when I reflected

that I had already made myself a little obnoxious to the governing

party, and, from the arbitrary proceedings of the Assembly in my

brother's case, it was likely I might, if I stay'd, soon bring myself

into scrapes; and farther, that my indiscrete disputations about

religion began to make me pointed at with horror by good people as an

infidel or atheist.  I determin'd on the point, but my father now

siding with my brother, I was sensible that, if I attempted to go

openly, means would be used to prevent me.  My friend Collins,

therefore, undertook to manage a little for me.  He agreed with the

captain of a New York sloop for my passage, under the notion of my

being a young acquaintance of his, that had got a naughty girl with

child, whose friends would compel me to marry her, and therefore I

could not appear or come away publicly.  So I sold some of my books to

raise a little money, was taken on board privately, and as we had a

fair wind, in three days I found myself in New York, near 300 miles

from home, a boy of but 17, without the least recommendation to, or

knowledge of any person in the place, and with very little money in my

pocket.

 

My inclinations for the sea were by this time worne out, or I might now

have gratify'd them.  But, having a trade, and supposing myself a

pretty good workman, I offer'd my service to the printer in the place,

old Mr. William Bradford, who had been the first printer in

Pennsylvania, but removed from thence upon the quarrel of George Keith.

He could give me no employment, having little to do, and help enough

already; but says he, "My son at Philadelphia has lately lost his

principal hand, Aquila Rose, by death; if you go thither, I believe he

may employ you."  Philadelphia was a hundred miles further; I set out,

however, in a boat for Amboy, leaving my chest and things to follow me

round by sea.

 

In crossing the bay, we met with a squall that tore our rotten sails to

pieces, prevented our getting into the Kill and drove us upon Long

Island.  In our way, a drunken Dutchman, who was a passenger too, fell

overboard; when he was sinking, I reached through the water to his

shock pate, and drew him up, so that we got him in again.  His ducking

sobered him a little, and he went to sleep, taking first out of his

pocket a book, which he desir'd I would dry for him.  It proved to be

my old favorite author, Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, in Dutch, finely

printed on good paper, with copper cuts, a dress better than I had ever

seen it wear in its own language.  I have since found that it has been

translated into most of the languages of Europe, and suppose it has

been more generally read than any other book, except perhaps the Bible.

Honest John was the first that I know of who mix'd narration and

dialogue; a method of writing very engaging to the reader, who in the

most interesting parts finds himself, as it were, brought into the

company and present at the discourse.  De Foe in his Cruso, his Moll

Flanders, Religious Courtship, Family Instructor, and other pieces, has

imitated it with success; and Richardson has done the same, in his

Pamela, etc.

 

When we drew near the island, we found it was at a place where there

could be no landing, there being a great surff on the stony beach.  So

we dropt anchor, and swung round towards the shore.  Some people came

down to the water edge and hallow'd to us, as we did to them; but the

wind was so high, and the surff so loud, that we could not hear so as

to understand each other.  There were canoes on the shore, and we made

signs, and hallow'd that they should fetch us; but they either did not

understand us, or thought it impracticable, so they went away, and

night coming on, we had no remedy but to wait till the wind should

abate; and, in the meantime, the boatman and I concluded to sleep, if

we could; and so crowded into the scuttle, with the Dutchman, who was

still wet, and the spray beating over the head of our boat, leak'd

thro' to us, so that we were soon almost as wet as he.  In this manner

we lay all night, with very little rest; but, the wind abating the next

day, we made a shift to reach Amboy before night, having been thirty

hours on the water, without victuals, or any drink but a bottle of

filthy rum, and the water we sail'd on being salt.

 

In the evening I found myself very feverish, and went in to bed; but,

having read somewhere that cold water drank plentifully was good for a

fever, I follow'd the prescription, sweat plentiful most of the night,

my fever left me, and in the morning, crossing the ferry, I proceeded

on my journey on foot, having fifty miles to Burlington, where I was

told I should find boats that would carry me the rest of the way to

Philadelphia.

 

It rained very hard all the day; I was thoroughly soak'd, and by noon a

good deal tired; so I stopt at a poor inn, where I staid all night,

beginning now to wish that I had never left home.  I cut so miserable a

figure, too, that I found, by the questions ask'd me, I was suspected

to be some runaway servant, and in danger of being taken up on that

suspicion.  However, I proceeded the next day, and got in the evening

to an inn, within eight or ten miles of Burlington, kept by one Dr.

Brown.  He entered into conversation with me while I took some

refreshment, and, finding I had read a little, became very sociable and

friendly.  Our acquaintance continu'd as long as he liv'd. He had been,

I imagine, an itinerant doctor, for there was no town in England, or

country in Europe, of which he could not give a very particular

account.  He had some letters, and was ingenious, but much of an

unbeliever, and wickedly undertook, some years after, to travestie the

Bible in doggrel verse, as Cotton had done Virgil.  By this means he

set many of the facts in a very ridiculous light, and might have hurt

weak minds if his work had been published; but it never was.

 

At his house I lay that night, and the next morning reach'd Burlington,

but had the mortification to find that the regular boats were gone a

little before my coming, and no other expected to go before Tuesday,

this being Saturday; wherefore I returned to an old woman in the town,

of whom I had bought gingerbread to eat on the water, and ask'd her

advice.  She invited me to lodge at her house till a passage by water

should offer; and being tired with my foot travelling, I accepted the

invitation.  She understanding I was a printer, would have had me stay

at that town and follow my business, being ignorant of the stock

necessary to begin with.  She was very hospitable, gave me a dinner of

ox-cheek with great good will, accepting only a pot of ale in return;

and I thought myself fixed till Tuesday should come.  However, walking

in the evening by the side of the river, a boat came by, which I found

was going towards Philadelphia, with several people in her.  They took

me in, and, as there was no wind, we row'd all the way; and about

midnight, not having yet seen the city, some of the company were

confident we must have passed it, and would row no farther; the others

knew not where we were; so we put toward the shore, got into a creek,

landed near an old fence, with the rails of which we made a fire, the

night being cold, in October, and there we remained till daylight.

Then one of the company knew the place to be Cooper's Creek, a little

above Philadelphia, which we saw as soon as we got out of the creek,

and arriv'd there about eight or nine o'clock on the Sunday morning,

and landed at the Market-street wharf.

 

I have been the more particular in this description of my journey, and

shall be so of my first entry into that city, that you may in your mind

compare such unlikely beginnings with the figure I have since made

there.  I was in my working dress, my best cloaths being to come round

by sea.  I was dirty from my journey; my pockets were stuff'd out with

shirts and stockings, and I knew no soul nor where to look for lodging.

I was fatigued with travelling, rowing, and want of rest, I was very

hungry; and my whole stock of cash consisted of a Dutch dollar, and

about a shilling in copper.  The latter I gave the people of the boat

for my passage, who at first refus'd it, on account of my rowing; but I

insisted on their taking it.  A man being sometimes more generous when

he has but a little money than when he has plenty, perhaps thro' fear

of being thought to have but little.

 

Then I walked up the street, gazing about till near the market-house I

met a boy with bread.  I had made many a meal on bread, and, inquiring

where he got it, I went immediately to the baker's he directed me to,

in Secondstreet, and ask'd for bisket, intending such as we had in

Boston; but they, it seems, were not made in Philadelphia.  Then I

asked for a three-penny loaf, and was told they had none such.  So not

considering or knowing the difference of money, and the greater

cheapness nor the names of his bread, I made him give me three-penny

worth of any sort.  He gave me, accordingly, three great puffy rolls.

I was surpriz'd at the quantity, but took it, and, having no room in my

pockets, walk'd off with a roll under each arm, and eating the other.

Thus I went up Market-street as far as Fourth-street, passing by the

door of Mr. Read, my future wife's father; when she, standing at the

door, saw me, and thought I made, as I certainly did, a most awkward,

ridiculous appearance.  Then I turned and went down Chestnut-street and

part of Walnut-street, eating my roll all the way, and, corning round,

found myself again at Market-street wharf, near the boat I came in, to

which I went for a draught of the river water; and, being filled with

one of my rolls, gave the other two to a woman and her child that came

down the river in the boat with us, and were waiting to go farther.

 

Thus refreshed, I walked again up the street, which by this time had

many clean-dressed people in it, who were all walking the same way.  I

joined them, and thereby was led into the great meeting-house of the

Quakers near the market.  I sat down among them, and, after looking

round awhile and hearing nothing said, being very drowsy thro' labor

and want of rest the preceding night, I fell fast asleep, and continued

so till the meeting broke up, when one was kind enough to rouse me.

This was, therefore, the first house I was in, or slept in, in

Philadelphia.

 

Walking down again toward the river, and, looking in the faces of

people, I met a young Quaker man, whose countenance I lik'd, and,

accosting him, requested he would tell me where a stranger could get

lodging.  We were then near the sign of the Three Mariners.  "Here,"

says he, "is one place that entertains strangers, but it is not a

reputable house; if thee wilt walk with me, I'll show thee a better."

He brought me to the Crooked Billet in Water-street. Here I got a

dinner; and, while I was eating it, several sly questions were asked

me, as it seemed to be suspected from my youth and appearance, that I

might be some runaway.

 

After dinner, my sleepiness return'd, and being shown to a bed, I lay

down without undressing, and slept till six in the evening, was call'd

to supper, went to bed again very early, and slept soundly till next

morning.  Then I made myself as tidy as I could, and went to Andrew

Bradford the printer's. I found in the shop the old man his father,

whom I had seen at New York, and who, travelling on horseback, had got

to Philadelphia before me.  He introduc'd me to his son, who receiv'd

me civilly, gave me a breakfast, but told me he did not at present want

a hand, being lately suppli'd with one; but there was another printer

in town, lately set up, one Keimer, who, perhaps, might employ me; if

not, I should be welcome to lodge at his house, and he would give me a

little work to do now and then till fuller business should offer.

 

The old gentleman said he would go with me to the new printer; and when

we found him, "Neighbor," says Bradford, "I have brought to see you a

young man of your business; perhaps you may want such a one."  He ask'd

me a few questions, put a composing stick in my hand to see how I

work'd, and then said he would employ me soon, though he had just then

nothing for me to do; and, taking old Bradford, whom he had never seen

before, to be one of the town's people that had a good will for him,

enter'd into a conversation on his present undertaking and projects;

while Bradford, not discovering that he was the other printer's father,

on Keimer's saying he expected soon to get the greatest part of the

business into his own hands, drew him on by artful questions, and

starting little doubts, to explain all his views, what interests he

reli'd on, and in what manner he intended to proceed.  I, who stood by

and heard all, saw immediately that one of them was a crafty old

sophister, and the other a mere novice.  Bradford left me with Keimer,

who was greatly surpris'd when I told him who the old man was.

 

Keimer's printing-house, I found, consisted of an old shatter'd press,

and one small, worn-out font of English which he was then using

himself, composing an Elegy on Aquila Rose, before mentioned, an

ingenious young man, of excellent character, much respected in the

town, clerk of the Assembly, and a pretty poet.  Keimer made verses

too, but very indifferently.  He could not be said to write them, for

his manner was to compose them in the types directly out of his head.

So there being no copy, but one pair of cases, and the Elegy likely to

require all the letter, no one could help him.  I endeavor'd to put his

press (which he had not yet us'd, and of which he understood nothing)

into order fit to be work'd with; and, promising to come and print off

his Elegy as soon as he should have got it ready, I return'd to

Bradford's, who gave me a little job to do for the present, and there I

lodged and dieted, A few days after, Keimer sent for me to print off

the Elegy.  And now he had got another pair of cases, and a pamphlet to

reprint, on which he set me to work.

 

These two printers I found poorly qualified for their business.

Bradford had not been bred to it, and was very illiterate; and Keimer,

tho' something of a scholar, was a mere compositor, knowing nothing of

presswork.  He had been one of the French prophets, and could act their

enthusiastic agitations.  At this time he did not profess any

particular religion, but something of all on occasion; was very

ignorant of the world, and had, as I afterward found, a good deal of

the knave in his composition.  He did not like my lodging at Bradford's

while I work'd with him.  He had a house, indeed, but without

furniture, so he could not lodge me; but he got me a lodging at Mr.

Read's, before mentioned, who was the owner of his house; and, my chest

and clothes being come by this time, I made rather a more respectable

appearance in the eyes of Miss Read than I had done when she first

happen'd to see me eating my roll in the street.

 

I began now to have some acquaintance among the young people of the

town, that were lovers of reading, with whom I spent my evenings very

pleasantly; and gaining money by my industry and frugality, I lived

very agreeably, forgetting Boston as much as I could, and not desiring

that any there should know where I resided, except my friend Collins,

who was in my secret, and kept it when I wrote to him.  At length, an

incident happened that sent me back again much sooner than I had

intended.  I had a brother-in-law, Robert Holmes, master of a sloop

that traded between Boston and Delaware.  He being at Newcastle, forty

miles below Philadelphia, heard there of me, and wrote me a letter

mentioning the concern of my friends in Boston at my abrupt departure,

assuring me of their good will to me, and that every thing would be

accommodated to my mind if I would return, to which he exhorted me very

earnestly.  I wrote an answer to his letter, thank'd him for his

advice, but stated my reasons for quitting Boston fully and in such a

light as to convince him I was not so wrong as he had apprehended.

 

Sir William Keith, governor of the province, was then at Newcastle, and

Captain Holmes, happening to be in company with him when my letter came

to hand, spoke to him of me, and show'd him the letter.  The governor

read it, and seem'd surpris'd when he was told my age.  He said I

appear'd a young man of promising parts, and therefore should be

encouraged; the printers at Philadelphia were wretched ones; and, if I

would set up there, he made no doubt I should succeed; for his part, he

would procure me the public business, and do me every other service in

his power.  This my brother-in-law afterwards told me in Boston, but I

knew as yet nothing of it; when, one day, Keimer and I being at work

together near the window, we saw the governor and another gentleman

(which proved to be Colonel French, of Newcastle), finely dress'd, come

directly across the street to our house, and heard them at the door.

 

Keimer ran down immediately, thinking it a visit to him; but the

governor inquir'd for me, came up, and with a condescension of

politeness I had been quite unus'd to, made me many compliments,

desired to be acquainted with me, blam'd me kindly for not having made

myself known to him when I first came to the place, and would have me

away with him to the tavern, where he was going with Colonel French to

taste, as he said, some excellent Madeira.  I was not a little

surprised, and Keimer star'd like a pig poison'd.  I went, however,

with the governor and Colonel French to a tavern, at the corner of

Third-street, and over the Madeira he propos'd my setting up my

business, laid before me the probabilities of success, and both he and

Colonel French assur'd me I should have their interest and influence in

procuring the public business of both governments.  On my doubting

whether my father would assist me in it, Sir William said he would give

me a letter to him, in which he would state the advantages, and he did

not doubt of prevailing with him.  So it was concluded I should return

to Boston in the first vessel, with the governor's letter recommending

me to my father.  In the mean time the intention was to be kept a

secret, and I went on working with Keimer as usual, the governor

sending for me now and then to dine with him, a very great honor I

thought it, and conversing with me in the most affable, familiar, and

friendly manner imaginable.

 

About the end of April, 1724, a little vessel offer'd for Boston.  I

took leave of Keimer as going to see my friends.  The governor gave me

an ample letter, saying many flattering things of me to my father, and

strongly recommending the project of my setting up at Philadelphia as a

thing that must make my fortune.  We struck on a shoal in going down

the bay, and sprung a leak; we had a blustering time at sea, and were

oblig'd to pump almost continually, at which I took my turn.  We

arriv'd safe, however, at Boston in about a fortnight.  I had been

absent seven months, and my friends had heard nothing of me; for my br.

Holmes was not yet return'd, and had not written about me.  My

unexpected appearance surpriz'd the family; all were, however, very

glad to see me, and made me welcome, except my brother.  I went to see

him at his printing-house. I was better dress'd than ever while in his

service, having a genteel new suit from head to foot, a watch, and my

pockets lin'd with near five pounds sterling in silver.  He receiv'd me

not very frankly, look'd me all over, and turn'd to his work again.

 

The journeymen were inquisitive where I had been, what sort of a

country it was, and how I lik'd it.  I prais'd it much, the happy life

I led in it, expressing strongly my intention of returning to it; and,

one of them asking what kind of money we had there, I produc'd a

handful of silver, and spread it before them, which was a kind of

raree-show they had not been us'd to, paper being the money of Boston.

Then I took an opportunity of letting them see my watch; and, lastly

(my brother still grum and sullen), I gave them a piece of eight to

drink, and took my leave.  This visit of mine offended him extreamly;

for, when my mother some time after spoke to him of a reconciliation,

and of her wishes to see us on good terms together, and that we might

live for the future as brothers, he said I had insulted him in such a

manner before his people that he could never forget or forgive it.  In

this, however, he was mistaken.

 

My father received the governor's letter with some apparent surprise,

but said little of it to me for some days, when Capt. Holmes returning

he showed it to him, ask'd him if he knew Keith, and what kind of man

he was; adding his opinion that he must be of small discretion to think

of setting a boy up in business who wanted yet three years of being at

man's estate.  Holmes said what he could in favor of the project, but

my father was clear in the impropriety of it, and at last gave a flat

denial to it.  Then he wrote a civil letter to Sir William, thanking

him for the patronage he had so kindly offered me, but declining to

assist me as yet in setting up, I being, in his opinion, too young to

be trusted with the management of a business so important, and for

which the preparation must be so expensive.

 

My friend and companion Collins, who was a clerk in the post-office,

pleas'd with the account I gave him of my new country, determined to go

thither also; and, while I waited for my father's determination, he set

out before me by land to Rhode Island, leaving his books, which were a

pretty collection of mathematicks and natural philosophy, to come with

mine and me to New York, where he propos'd to wait for me.

 

My father, tho' he did not approve Sir William's proposition, was yet

pleas'd that I had been able to obtain so advantageous a character from

a person of such note where I had resided, and that I had been so

industrious and careful as to equip myself so handsomely in so short a

time; therefore, seeing no prospect of an accommodation between my

brother and me, he gave his consent to my returning again to

Philadelphia, advis'd me to behave respectfully to the people there,

endeavor to obtain the general esteem, and avoid lampooning and

libeling, to which he thought I had too much inclination; telling me,

that by steady industry and a prudent parsimony I might save enough by

the time I was one-and-twenty to set me up; and that, if I came near

the matter, he would help me out with the rest.  This was all I could

obtain, except some small gifts as tokens of his and my mother's love,

when I embark'd again for New York, now with their approbation and

their blessing.

 

The sloop putting in at Newport, Rhode Island, I visited my brother

John, who had been married and settled there some years.  He received

me very affectionately, for he always lov'd me.  A friend of his, one

Vernon, having some money due to him in Pensilvania, about thirty-five

pounds currency, desired I would receive it for him, and keep it till I

had his directions what to remit it in.  Accordingly, he gave me an

order.  This afterwards occasion'd me a good deal of uneasiness.

 

At Newport we took in a number of passengers for New York, among which

were two young women, companions, and a grave, sensible, matron-like

Quaker woman, with her attendants.  I had shown an obliging readiness

to do her some little services, which impress'd her I suppose with a

degree of good will toward me; therefore, when she saw a daily growing

familiarity between me and the two young women, which they appear'd to

encourage, she took me aside, and said: "Young man, I am concern'd for

thee, as thou has no friend with thee, and seems not to know much of

the world, or of the snares youth is expos'd to; depend upon it, those

are very bad women; I can see it in all their actions; and if thee art

not upon thy guard, they will draw thee into some danger; they are

strangers to thee, and I advise thee, in a friendly concern for thy

welfare, to have no acquaintance with them."  As I seem'd at first not

to think so ill of them as she did, she mentioned some things she had

observ'd and heard that had escap'd my notice, but now convinc'd me she

was right.  I thank'd her for her kind advice, and promis'd to follow

it.  When we arriv'd at New York, they told me where they liv'd, and

invited me to come and see them; but I avoided it, and it was well I

did; for the next day the captain miss'd a silver spoon and some other

things, that had been taken out of his cabbin, and, knowing that these

were a couple of strumpets, he got a warrant to search their lodgings,

found the stolen goods, and had the thieves punish'd. So, tho' we had

escap'd a sunken rock, which we scrap'd upon in the passage, I thought

this escape of rather more importance to me.

 

At New York I found my friend Collins, who had arriv'd there some time

before me.  We had been intimate from children, and had read the same

books together; but he had the advantage of more time for reading and

studying, and a wonderful genius for mathematical learning, in which he

far outstript me.  While I liv'd in Boston most of my hours of leisure

for conversation were spent with him, and he continu'd a sober as well

as an industrious lad; was much respected for his learning by several

of the clergy and other gentlemen, and seemed to promise making a good

figure in life.  But, during my absence, he had acquir'd a habit of

sotting with brandy; and I found by his own account, and what I heard

from others, that he had been drunk every day since his arrival at New

York, and behav'd very oddly.  He had gam'd, too, and lost his money,

so that I was oblig'd to discharge his lodgings, and defray his

expenses to and at Philadelphia, which prov'd extremely inconvenient to

me.

 

The then governor of New York, Burnet (son of Bishop Burnet), hearing

from the captain that a young man, one of his passengers, had a great

many books, desir'd he would bring me to see him.  I waited upon him

accordingly, and should have taken Collins with me but that he was not

sober.  The gov'r. treated me with great civility, show'd me his

library, which was a very large one, and we had a good deal of

conversation about books and authors.  This was the second governor who

had done me the honor to take notice of me; which, to a poor boy like

me, was very pleasing.

 

We proceeded to Philadelphia.  I received on the way Vernon's money,

without which we could hardly have finish'd our journey.  Collins

wished to be employ'd in some counting-house, but, whether they

discover'd his dramming by his breath, or by his behaviour, tho' he had

some recommendations, he met with no success in any application, and

continu'd lodging and boarding at the same house with me, and at my

expense.  Knowing I had that money of Vernon's, he was continually

borrowing of me, still promising repayment as soon as he should be in

business.  At length he had got so much of it that I was distress'd to

think what I should do in case of being call'd on to remit it.

 

His drinking continu'd, about which we sometimes quarrell'd; for, when

a little intoxicated, he was very fractious.  Once, in a boat on the

Delaware with some other young men, he refused to row in his turn.  "I

will be row'd home," says he.  "We will not row you," says I. "You

must, or stay all night on the water," says he, "just as you please."

The others said, "Let us row; what signifies it?"  But, my mind being

soured with his other conduct, I continu'd to refuse.  So he swore he

would make me row, or throw me overboard; and coming along, stepping on

the thwarts, toward me, when he came up and struck at me, I clapped my

hand under his crutch, and, rising, pitched him head-foremost into the

river.  I knew he was a good swimmer, and so was under little concern

about him; but before he could get round to lay hold of the boat, we

had with a few strokes pull'd her out of his reach; and ever when he

drew near the boat, we ask'd if he would row, striking a few strokes to

slide her away from him.  He was ready to die with vexation, and

obstinately would not promise to row.  However, seeing him at last

beginning to tire, we lifted him in and brought him home dripping wet

in the evening.  We hardly exchang'd a civil word afterwards, and a

West India captain, who had a commission to procure a tutor for the

sons of a gentleman at Barbadoes, happening to meet with him, agreed to

carry him thither.  He left me then, promising to remit me the first

money he should receive in order to discharge the debt; but I never

heard of him after.

 

The breaking into this money of Vernon's was one of the first great

errata of my life; and this affair show'd that my father was not much

out in his judgment when he suppos'd me too young to manage business of

importance.  But Sir William, on reading his letter, said he was too

prudent.  There was great difference in persons; and discretion did not

always accompany years, nor was youth always without it.  "And since he

will not set you up," says he, "I will do it myself.  Give me an

inventory of the things necessary to be had from England, and I will

send for them.  You shall repay me when you are able; I am resolv'd to

have a good printer here, and I am sure you must succeed."  This was

spoken with such an appearance of cordiality, that I had not the least

doubt of his meaning what he said.  I had hitherto kept the proposition

of my setting up, a secret in Philadelphia, and I still kept it.  Had

it been known that I depended on the governor, probably some friend,

that knew him better, would have advis'd me not to rely on him, as I

afterwards heard it as his known character to be liberal of promises

which he never meant to keep.  Yet, unsolicited as he was by me, how

could I think his generous offers insincere?  I believ'd him one of the

best men in the world.

 

I presented him an inventory of a little print'g-house, amounting by my

computation to about one hundred pounds sterling.  He lik'd it, but

ask'd me if my being on the spot in England to chuse the types, and see

that every thing was good of the kind, might not be of some advantage.

"Then," says he, "when there, you may make acquaintances, and establish

correspondences in the bookselling and stationery way." I agreed that

this might be advantageous.  "Then," says he, "get yourself ready to go

with Annis;" which was the annual ship, and the only one at that time

usually passing between London and Philadelphia.  But it would be some

months before Annis sail'd, so I continu'd working with Keimer,

fretting about the money Collins had got from me, and in daily

apprehensions of being call'd upon by Vernon, which, however, did not

happen for some years after.

 

I believe I have omitted mentioning that, in my first voyage from

Boston, being becalm'd off Block Island, our people set about catching

cod, and hauled up a great many.  Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution

of not eating animal food, and on this occasion consider'd, with my

master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder,

since none of them had, or ever could do us any injury that might

justify the slaughter.  All this seemed very reasonable.  But I had

formerly been a great lover of fish, and, when this came hot out of the

frying-pan, it smelt admirably well.  I balanc'd some time between

principle and inclination, till I recollected that, when the fish were

opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs; then thought I,

"If you eat one another, I don't see why we mayn't eat you."  So I

din'd upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people,

returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet.  So

convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables

one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.

 

Keimer and I liv'd on a pretty good familiar footing, and agreed

tolerably well, for he suspected nothing of my setting up.  He retained

a great deal of his old enthusiasms and lov'd argumentation.  We

therefore had many disputations.  I used to work him so with my

Socratic method, and had trepann'd him so often by questions apparently

so distant from any point we had in hand, and yet by degrees lead to

the point, and brought him into difficulties and contradictions, that

at last he grew ridiculously cautious, and would hardly answer me the

most common question, without asking first, "What do you intend to

infer from that?"  However, it gave him so high an opinion of my

abilities in the confuting way, that he seriously proposed my being his

colleague in a project he had of setting up a new sect.  He was to

preach the doctrines, and I was to confound all opponents.  When he

came to explain with me upon the doctrines, I found several conundrums

which I objected to, unless I might have my way a little too, and

introduce some of mine.

 

Keimer wore his beard at full length, because somewhere in the Mosaic

law it is said, "Thou shalt not mar the corners of thy beard." He

likewise kept the Seventh day, Sabbath; and these two points were

essentials with him.  I dislik'd both; but agreed to admit them upon

condition of his adopting the doctrine of using no animal food.  "I

doubt," said he, "my constitution will not bear that."  I assur'd him

it would, and that he would be the better for it.  He was usually a

great glutton, and I promised myself some diversion in half starving

him.  He agreed to try the practice, if I would keep him company.  I

did so, and we held it for three months.  We had our victuals dress'd,

and brought to us regularly by a woman in the neighborhood, who had

from me a list of forty dishes to be prepar'd for us at different

times, in all which there was neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, and the

whim suited me the better at this time from the cheapness of it, not

costing us above eighteenpence sterling each per week.  I have since

kept several Lents most strictly, leaving the common diet for that, and

that for the common, abruptly, without the least inconvenience, so that

I think there is little in the advice of making those changes by easy

gradations.  I went on pleasantly, but poor Keimer suffered grievously,

tired of the project, long'd for the flesh-pots of Egypt, and order'd a

roast pig.  He invited me and two women friends to dine with him; but,

it being brought too soon upon table, he could not resist the

temptation, and ate the whole before we came.

 

I had made some courtship during this time to Miss Read.  I had a great

respect and affection for her, and had some reason to believe she had

the same for me; but, as I was about to take a long voyage, and we were

both very young, only a little above eighteen, it was thought most

prudent by her mother to prevent our going too far at present, as a

marriage, if it was to take place, would be more convenient after my

return, when I should be, as I expected, set up in my business.

Perhaps, too, she thought my expectations not so well founded as I

imagined them to be.

 

My chief acquaintances at this time were Charles Osborne, Joseph

Watson, and James Ralph, all lovers of reading.  The two first were

clerks to an eminent scrivener or conveyancer in the town, Charles

Brogden; the other was clerk to a merchant.  Watson was a pious,

sensible young man, of great integrity; the others rather more lax in

their principles of religion, particularly Ralph, who, as well as

Collins, had been unsettled by me, for which they both made me suffer.

Osborne was sensible, candid, frank; sincere and affectionate to his

friends; but, in literary matters, too fond of criticising.  Ralph was

ingenious, genteel in his manners, and extremely eloquent; I think I

never knew a prettier talker.  Both of them great admirers of poetry,

and began to try their hands in little pieces.  Many pleasant walks we

four had together on Sundays into the woods, near Schuylkill, where we

read to one another, and conferr'd on what we read.

 

Ralph was inclin'd to pursue the study of poetry, not doubting but he

might become eminent in it, and make his fortune by it, alleging that

the best poets must, when they first began to write, make as many

faults as he did.  Osborne dissuaded him, assur'd him he had no genius

for poetry, and advis'd him to think of nothing beyond the business he

was bred to; that, in the mercantile way, tho' he had no stock, he

might, by his diligence and punctuality, recommend himself to

employment as a factor, and in time acquire wherewith to trade on his

own account.  I approv'd the amusing one's self with poetry now and

then, so far as to improve one's language, but no farther.

 

On this it was propos'd that we should each of us, at our next meeting,

produce a piece of our own composing, in order to improve by our mutual

observations, criticisms, and corrections.  As language and expression

were what we had in view, we excluded all considerations of invention

by agreeing that the task should be a version of the eighteenth Psalm,

which describes the descent of a Deity.  When the time of our meeting

drew nigh, Ralph called on me first, and let me know his piece was

ready.  I told him I had been busy, and, having little inclination, had

done nothing.  He then show'd me his piece for my opinion, and I much

approv'd it, as it appear'd to me to have great merit.  "Now," says he,

"Osborne never will allow the least merit in any thing of mine, but

makes 1000 criticisms out of mere envy.  He is not so jealous of you; I

wish, therefore, you would take this piece, and produce it as yours; I

will pretend not to have had time, and so produce nothing.  We shall

then see what he will say to it." It was agreed, and I immediately

transcrib'd it, that it might appear in my own hand.

 

We met; Watson's performance was read; there were some beauties in it,

but many defects.  Osborne's was read; it was much better; Ralph did it

justice; remarked some faults, but applauded the beauties.  He himself

had nothing to produce.  I was backward; seemed desirous of being

excused; had not had sufficient time to correct, etc.; but no excuse

could be admitted; produce I must.  It was read and repeated; Watson

and Osborne gave up the contest, and join'd in applauding it.  Ralph

only made some criticisms, and propos'd some amendments; but I defended

my text.  Osborne was against Ralph, and told him he was no better a

critic than poet, so he dropt the argument.  As they two went home

together, Osborne expressed himself still more strongly in favor of

what he thought my production; having restrain'd himself before, as he

said, lest I should think it flattery.  "But who would have imagin'd,"

said he, "that Franklin had been capable of such a performance; such

painting, such force, such fire!  He has even improv'd the original.

In his common conversation he seems to have no choice of words; he

hesitates and blunders; and yet, good God! how he writes!" When we next

met, Ralph discovered the trick we had plaid him, and Osborne was a

little laught at.

 

This transaction fixed Ralph in his resolution of becoming a poet.  I

did all I could to dissuade him from it, but he continued scribbling

verses till Pope cured him.  He became, however, a pretty good prose

writer.  More of him hereafter.  But, as I may not have occasion again

to mention the other two, I shall just remark here, that Watson died in

my arms a few years after, much lamented, being the best of our set.

Osborne went to the West Indies, where he became an eminent lawyer and

made money, but died young.  He and I had made a serious agreement,

that the one who happen'd first to die should, if possible, make a

friendly visit to the other, and acquaint him how he found things in

that separate state.  But he never fulfill'd his promise.

 

The governor, seeming to like my company, had me frequently to his

house, and his setting me up was always mention'd as a fixed thing.  I

was to take with me letters recommendatory to a number of his friends,

besides the letter of credit to furnish me with the necessary money for

purchasing the press and types, paper, etc.  For these letters I was

appointed to call at different times, when they were to be ready, but a

future time was still named.  Thus he went on till the ship, whose

departure too had been several times postponed, was on the point of

sailing.  Then, when I call'd to take my leave and receive the letters,

his secretary, Dr. Bard, came out to me and said the governor was

extremely busy in writing, but would be down at Newcastle before the

ship, and there the letters would be delivered to me.

 

Ralph, though married, and having one child, had determined to

accompany me in this voyage.  It was thought he intended to establish a

correspondence, and obtain goods to sell on commission; but I found

afterwards, that, thro' some discontent with his wife's relations, he

purposed to leave her on their hands, and never return again.  Having

taken leave of my friends, and interchang'd some promises with Miss

Read, I left Philadelphia in the ship, which anchor'd at Newcastle.

The governor was there; but when I went to his lodging, the secretary

came to me from him with the civillest message in the world, that he

could not then see me, being engaged in business of the utmost

importance, but should send the letters to me on board, wish'd me

heartily a good voyage and a speedy return, etc.  I returned on board a

little puzzled, but still not doubting.

 

Mr. Andrew Hamilton, a famous lawyer of Philadelphia, had taken passage

in the same ship for himself and son, and with Mr. Denham, a Quaker

merchant, and Messrs. Onion and Russel, masters of an iron work in

Maryland, had engag'd the great cabin; so that Ralph and I were forced

to take up with a berth in the steerage, and none on board knowing us,

were considered as ordinary persons.  But Mr. Hamilton and his son (it

was James, since governor) return'd from Newcastle to Philadelphia, the

father being recall'd by a great fee to plead for a seized ship; and,

just before we sail'd, Colonel French coming on board, and showing me

great respect, I was more taken notice of, and, with my friend Ralph,

invited by the other gentlemen to come into the cabin, there being now

room.  Accordingly, we remov'd thither.

 

Understanding that Colonel French had brought on board the governor's

despatches, I ask'd the captain for those letters that were to be under

my care.  He said all were put into the bag together and he could not

then come at them; but, before we landed in England, I should have an

opportunity of picking them out; so I was satisfied for the present,

and we proceeded on our voyage.  We had a sociable company in the

cabin, and lived uncommonly well, having the addition of all Mr.

Hamilton's stores, who had laid in plentifully.  In this passage Mr.

Denham contracted a friendship for me that continued during his life.

The voyage was otherwise not a pleasant one, as we had a great deal of

bad weather.

 

When we came into the Channel, the captain kept his word with me, and

gave me an opportunity of examining the bag for the governor's letters.

I found none upon which my name was put as under my care.  I picked out

six or seven, that, by the handwriting, I thought might be the promised

letters, especially as one of them was directed to Basket, the king's

printer, and another to some stationer.  We arriv'd in London the 24th

of December, 1724.  I waited upon the stationer, who came first in my

way, delivering the letter as from Governor Keith.  "I don't know such

a person," says he; but, opening the letter, "O! this is from

Riddlesden.  I have lately found him to be a compleat rascal, and I

will have nothing to do with him, nor receive any letters from him."

So, putting the letter into my hand, he turn'd on his heel and left me

to serve some customer.  I was surprized to find these were not the

governor's letters; and, after recollecting and comparing

circumstances, I began to doubt his sincerity.  I found my friend

Denham, and opened the whole affair to him.  He let me into Keith's

character; told me there was not the least probability that he had

written any letters for me; that no one, who knew him, had the smallest

dependence on him; and he laught at the notion of the governor's giving

me a letter of credit, having, as he said, no credit to give.  On my

expressing some concern about what I should do, he advised me to

endeavor getting some employment in the way of my business.  "Among the

printers here," said he, "you will improve yourself, and when you

return to America, you will set up to greater advantage."

 

We both of us happen'd to know, as well as the stationer, that

Riddlesden, the attorney, was a very knave.  He had half ruin'd Miss

Read's father by persuading him to be bound for him.  By this letter it

appear'd there was a secret scheme on foot to the prejudice of Hamilton

(suppos'd to be then coming over with us); and that Keith was concerned

in it with Riddlesden.  Denham, who was a friend of Hamilton's thought

he ought to be acquainted with it; so, when he arriv'd in England,

which was soon after, partly from resentment and ill-will to Keith and

Riddlesden, and partly from good-will to him, I waited on him, and gave

him the letter.  He thank'd me cordially, the information being of

importance to him; and from that time he became my friend, greatly to

my advantage afterwards on many occasions.

 

But what shall we think of a governor's playing such pitiful tricks,

and imposing so grossly on a poor ignorant boy!  It was a habit he had

acquired.  He wish'd to please everybody; and, having little to give,

he gave expectations.  He was otherwise an ingenious, sensible man, a

pretty good writer, and a good governor for the people, tho' not for

his constituents, the proprietaries, whose instructions he sometimes

disregarded.  Several of our best laws were of his planning and passed

during his administration.

 

Ralph and I were inseparable companions.  We took lodgings together in

Little Britain at three shillings and sixpence a week--as much as we

could then afford.  He found some relations, but they were poor, and

unable to assist him.  He now let me know his intentions of remaining

in London, and that he never meant to return to Philadelphia.  He had

brought no money with him, the whole he could muster having been

expended in paying his passage.  I had fifteen pistoles; so he borrowed

occasionally of me to subsist, while he was looking out for business.

He first endeavored to get into the playhouse, believing himself

qualify'd for an actor; but Wilkes, to whom he apply'd, advis'd him

candidly not to think of that employment, as it was impossible he

should succeed in it.  Then he propos'd to Roberts, a publisher in

Paternoster Row, to write for him a weekly paper like the Spectator, on

certain conditions, which Roberts did not approve.  Then he endeavored

to get employment as a hackney writer, to copy for the stationers and

lawyers about the Temple, but could find no vacancy.

 

I immediately got into work at Palmer's, then a famous printing-house

in Bartholomew Close, and here I continu'd near a year.  I was pretty

diligent, but spent with Ralph a good deal of my earnings in going to

plays and other places of amusement.  We had together consumed all my

pistoles, and now just rubbed on from hand to mouth.  He seem'd quite

to forget his wife and child, and I, by degrees, my engagements with

Miss Read, to whom I never wrote more than one letter, and that was to

let her know I was not likely soon to return.  This was another of the

great errata of my life, which I should wish to correct if I were to

live it over again.  In fact, by our expenses, I was constantly kept

unable to pay my passage.

 

At Palmer's I was employed in composing for the second edition of

Wollaston's "Religion of Nature."  Some of his reasonings not appearing

to me well founded, I wrote a little metaphysical piece in which I made

remarks on them.  It was entitled "A Dissertation on Liberty and

Necessity, Pleasure and Pain." I inscribed it to my friend Ralph; I

printed a small number.  It occasion'd my being more consider'd by Mr.

Palmer as a young man of some ingenuity, tho' he seriously expostulated

with me upon the principles of my pamphlet, which to him appear'd

abominable.  My printing this pamphlet was another erratum.  While I

lodg'd in Little Britain, I made an acquaintance with one Wilcox, a

bookseller, whose shop was at the next door.  He had an immense

collection of second-hand books.  Circulating libraries were not then

in use; but we agreed that, on certain reasonable terms, which I have

now forgotten, I might take, read, and return any of his books.  This I

esteem'd a great advantage, and I made as much use of it as I could.

 

My pamphlet by some means falling into the hands of one Lyons, a

surgeon, author of a book entitled "The Infallibility of Human

Judgment," it occasioned an acquaintance between us.  He took great

notice of me, called on me often to converse on those subjects, carried

me to the Horns, a pale alehouse in ---- Lane, Cheapside, and

introduced me to Dr. Mandeville, author of the "Fable of the Bees," who

had a club there, of which he was the soul, being a most facetious,

entertaining companion.  Lyons, too, introduced me to Dr. Pemberton, at

Batson's Coffee-house, who promis'd to give me an opportunity, some

time or other, of seeing Sir Isaac Newton, of which I was extreamely

desirous; but this never happened.

 

I had brought over a few curiosities, among which the principal was a

purse made of the asbestos, which purifies by fire.  Sir Hans Sloane

heard of it, came to see me, and invited me to his house in Bloomsbury

Square, where he show'd me all his curiosities, and persuaded me to let

him add that to the number, for which he paid me handsomely.

 

In our house there lodg'd a young woman, a milliner, who, I think, had

a shop in the Cloisters.  She had been genteelly bred, was sensible and

lively, and of most pleasing conversation.  Ralph read plays to her in

the evenings, they grew intimate, she took another lodging, and he

followed her.  They liv'd together some time; but, he being still out

of business, and her income not sufficient to maintain them with her

child, he took a resolution of going from London, to try for a country

school, which he thought himself well qualified to undertake, as he

wrote an excellent hand, and was a master of arithmetic and accounts.

This, however, he deemed a business below him, and confident of future

better fortune, when he should be unwilling to have it known that he

once was so meanly employed, he changed his name, and did me the honor

to assume mine; for I soon after had a letter from him, acquainting me

that he was settled in a small village (in Berkshire, I think it was,

where he taught reading and writing to ten or a dozen boys, at sixpence

each per week), recommending Mrs. T---- to my care, and desiring me to

write to him, directing for Mr. Franklin, schoolmaster, at such a place.

 

He continued to write frequently, sending me large specimens of an epic

poem which he was then composing, and desiring my remarks and

corrections.  These I gave him from time to time, but endeavor'd rather

to discourage his proceeding.  One of Young's Satires was then just

published.  I copy'd and sent him a great part of it, which set in a

strong light the folly of pursuing the Muses with any hope of

advancement by them.  All was in vain; sheets of the poem continued to

come by every post.  In the mean time, Mrs. T----, having on his

account lost her friends and business, was often in distresses, and

us'd to send for me, and borrow what I could spare to help her out of

them.  I grew fond of her company, and, being at that time under no

religious restraint, and presuming upon my importance to her, I

attempted familiarities (another erratum) which she repuls'd with a

proper resentment, and acquainted him with my behaviour.  This made a

breach between us; and, when he returned again to London, he let me

know he thought I had cancell'd all the obligations he had been under

to me.  So I found I was never to expect his repaying me what I lent to

him, or advanc'd for him.  This, however, was not then of much

consequence, as he was totally unable; and in the loss of his

friendship I found myself relieved from a burthen.  I now began to

think of getting a little money beforehand, and, expecting better work,

I left Palmer's to work at Watts's, near Lincoln's Inn Fields, a still

greater printing-house. Here I continued all the rest of my stay in

London.

 

At my first admission into this printing-house I took to working at

press, imagining I felt a want of the bodily exercise I had been us'd

to in America, where presswork is mix'd with composing.  I drank only

water; the other workmen, near fifty in number, were great guzzlers of

beer.  On occasion, I carried up and down stairs a large form of types

in each hand, when others carried but one in both hands.  They wondered

to see, from this and several instances, that the Water-American, as

they called me, was stronger than themselves, who drank strong beer!

We had an alehouse boy who attended always in the house to supply the

workmen.  My companion at the press drank every day a pint before

breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and cheese, a pint

between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a pint in the afternoon

about six o'clock, and another when he had done his day's work.  I

thought it a detestable custom; but it was necessary, he suppos'd, to

drink strong beer, that he might be strong to labor.  I endeavored to

convince him that the bodily strength afforded by beer could only be in

proportion to the grain or flour of the barley dissolved in the water

of which it was made; that there was more flour in a pennyworth of

bread; and therefore, if he would eat that with a pint of water, it

would give him more strength than a quart of beer.  He drank on,

however, and had four or five shillings to pay out of his wages every

Saturday night for that muddling liquor; an expense I was free from.

And thus these poor devils keep themselves always under.

 

Watts, after some weeks, desiring to have me in the composing-room, I

left the pressmen; a new bien venu or sum for drink, being five

shillings, was demanded of me by the compositors.  I thought it an

imposition, as I had paid below; the master thought so too, and forbad

my paying it.  I stood out two or three weeks, was accordingly

considered as an excommunicate, and bad so many little pieces of

private mischief done me, by mixing my sorts, transposing my pages,

breaking my matter, etc., etc., if I were ever so little out of the

room, and all ascribed to the chappel ghost, which they said ever

haunted those not regularly admitted, that, notwithstanding the

master's protection, I found myself oblig'd to comply and pay the

money, convinc'd of the folly of being on ill terms with those one is

to live with continually.

 

I was now on a fair footing with them, and soon acquir'd considerable

influence.  I propos'd some reasonable alterations in their chappel[4]

laws, and carried them against all opposition.  From my example, a

great part of them left their muddling breakfast of beer, and bread,

and cheese, finding they could with me be suppli'd from a neighboring

house with a large porringer of hot water-gruel, sprinkled with pepper,

crumbl'd with bread, and a bit of butter in it, for the price of a pint

of beer, viz., three half-pence. This was a more comfortable as well as

cheaper breakfast, and kept their heads clearer.  Those who continued

sotting with beer all day, were often, by not paying, out of credit at

the alehouse, and us'd to make interest with me to get beer; their

light, as they phrased it, being out.  I watch'd the pay-table on

Saturday night, and collected what I stood engag'd for them, having to

pay sometimes near thirty shillings a week on their account.  This, and

my being esteem'd a pretty good riggite, that is, a jocular verbal

satirist, supported my consequence in the society.  My constant

attendance (I never making a St. Monday) recommended me to the master;

and my uncommon quickness at composing occasioned my being put upon all

work of dispatch, which was generally better paid.  So I went on now

very agreeably.

 

     [4] "A printing-house is always called a chapel by the

         workmen, the origin of which appears to have been that

         printing was first carried on in England in an ancient

         chapel converted into a printing-house, and the title

         has been preserved by tradition.  The bien venu among

         the printers answers to the terms entrance and footing

         among mechanics; thus a journeyman, on entering a

         printing-house, was accustomed to pay one or more gallons

         of beer for the good of the chapel;  this custom was

         falling into disuse thirty years ago; it is very properly

         rejected entirely in the United States."--W. T. F.

 

My lodging in Little Britain being too remote, I found another in

Duke-street, opposite to the Romish Chapel.  It was two pair of stairs

backwards, at an Italian warehouse.  A widow lady kept the house; she

had a daughter, and a maid servant, and a journeyman who attended the

warehouse, but lodg'd abroad.  After sending to inquire my character at

the house where I last lodg'd she agreed to take me in at the same

rate, 3s.  6d.  per week; cheaper, as she said, from the protection she

expected in having a man lodge in the house.  She was a widow, an

elderly woman; had been bred a Protestant, being a clergyman's

daughter, but was converted to the Catholic religion by her husband,

whose memory she much revered; had lived much among people of

distinction, and knew a thousand anecdotes of them as far back as the

times of Charles the Second.  She was lame in her knees with the gout,

and, therefore, seldom stirred out of her room, so sometimes wanted

company; and hers was so highly amusing to me, that I was sure to spend

an evening with her whenever she desired it.  Our supper was only half

an anchovy each, on a very little strip of bread and butter, and half a

pint of ale between us; but the entertainment was in her conversation.

My always keeping good hours, and giving little trouble in the family,

made her unwilling to part with me; so that, when I talk'd of a lodging

I had heard of, nearer my business, for two shillings a week, which,

intent as I now was on saving money, made some difference, she bid me

not think of it, for she would abate me two shillings a week for the

future; so I remained with her at one shilling and sixpence as long as

I staid in London.

 

In a garret of her house there lived a maiden lady of seventy, in the

most retired manner, of whom my landlady gave me this account: that she

was a Roman Catholic, had been sent abroad when young, and lodg'd in a

nunnery with an intent of becoming a nun; but, the country not agreeing

with her, she returned to England, where, there being no nunnery, she

had vow'd to lead the life of a nun, as near as might be done in those

circumstances.  Accordingly, she had given all her estate to charitable

uses, reserving only twelve pounds a year to live on, and out of this

sum she still gave a great deal in charity, living herself on

water-gruel only, and using no fire but to boil it.  She had lived many

years in that garret, being permitted to remain there gratis by

successive Catholic tenants of the house below, as they deemed it a

blessing to have her there.  A priest visited her to confess her every

day.  "I have ask'd her," says my landlady, "how she, as she liv'd,

could possibly find so much employment for a confessor?"  "Oh," said

she, "it is impossible to avoid vain thoughts."  I was permitted once

to visit her, She was chearful and polite, and convers'd pleasantly.

The room was clean, but had no other furniture than a matras, a table

with a crucifix and book, a stool which she gave me to sit on, and a

picture over the chimney of Saint Veronica displaying her handkerchief,

with the miraculous figure of Christ's bleeding face on it, which she

explained to me with great seriousness.  She look'd pale, but was never

sick; and I give it as another instance on how small an income life and

health may be supported.

 

At Watts's printing-house I contracted an acquaintance with an

ingenious young man, one Wygate, who, having wealthy relations, had

been better educated than most printers; was a tolerable Latinist,

spoke French, and lov'd reading.  I taught him and a friend of his to

swim at twice going into the river, and they soon became good swimmers.

They introduc'd me to some gentlemen from the country, who went to

Chelsea by water to see the College and Don Saltero's curiosities.  In

our return, at the request of the company, whose curiosity Wygate had

excited, I stripped and leaped into the river, and swam from near

Chelsea to Blackfryar's, performing on the way many feats of activity,

both upon and under water, that surpris'd and pleas'd those to whom

they were novelties.

 

I had from a child been ever delighted with this exercise, had studied

and practis'd all Thevenot's motions and positions, added some of my

own, aiming at the graceful and easy as well as the useful.  All these

I took this occasion of exhibiting to the company, and was much

flatter'd by their admiration; and Wygate, who was desirous of becoming

a master, grew more and more attach'd to me on that account, as well as

from the similarity of our studies.  He at length proposed to me

travelling all over Europe together, supporting ourselves everywhere by

working at our business.  I was once inclined to it; but, mentioning it

to my good friend Mr. Denham, with whom I often spent an hour when I

had leisure, he dissuaded me from it, advising me to think only of

returning to Pennsilvania, which he was now about to do.

 

I must record one trait of this good man's character.  He had formerly

been in business at Bristol, but failed in debt to a number of people,

compounded and went to America.  There, by a close application to

business as a merchant, he acquir'd a plentiful fortune in a few years.

Returning to England in the ship with me, he invited his old creditors

to an entertainment, at which he thank'd them for the easy composition

they had favored him with, and, when they expected nothing but the

treat, every man at the first remove found under his plate an order on

a banker for the full amount of the unpaid remainder with interest.

 

He now told me he was about to return to Philadelphia, and should carry

over a great quantity of goods in order to open a store there.  He

propos'd to take me over as his clerk, to keep his books, in which he

would instruct me, copy his letters, and attend the store.  He added

that, as soon as I should be acquainted with mercantile business, he

would promote me by sending me with a cargo of flour and bread, etc.,

to the West Indies, and procure me commissions from others which would

be profitable; and, if I manag'd well, would establish me handsomely.

The thing pleas'd me; for I was grown tired of London, remembered with

pleasure the happy months I had spent in Pennsylvania, and wish'd again

to see it; therefore I immediately agreed on the terms of fifty pounds

a year, Pennsylvania money; less, indeed, than my present gettings as a

compositor, but affording a better prospect.

 

I now took leave of printing, as I thought, for ever, and was daily

employed in my new business, going about with Mr. Denham among the

tradesmen to purchase various articles, and seeing them pack'd up,

doing errands, calling upon workmen to dispatch, etc.; and, when all

was on board, I had a few days' leisure.  On one of these days, I was,

to my surprise, sent for by a great man I knew only by name, a Sir

William Wyndham, and I waited upon him.  He had heard by some means or

other of my swimming from Chelsea to Blackfriar's, and of my teaching

Wygate and another young man to swim in a few hours.  He had two sons,

about to set out on their travels; he wish'd to have them first taught

swimming, and proposed to gratify me handsomely if I would teach them.

They were not yet come to town, and my stay was uncertain, so I could

not undertake it; but, from this incident, I thought it likely that, if

I were to remain in England and open a swimming-school, I might get a

good deal of money; and it struck me so strongly, that, had the

overture been sooner made me, probably I should not so soon have

returned to America.  After many years, you and I had something of more

importance to do with one of these sons of Sir William Wyndham, become

Earl of Egremont, which I shall mention in its place.

 

Thus I spent about eighteen months in London; most part of the time I

work'd hard at my business, and spent but little upon myself except in

seeing plays and in books.  My friend Ralph had kept me poor; he owed

me about twenty-seven pounds, which I was now never likely to receive;

a great sum out of my small earnings!  I lov'd him, notwithstanding,

for he had many amiable qualities.  I had by no means improv'd my

fortune; but I had picked up some very ingenious acquaintance, whose

conversation was of great advantage to me; and I had read considerably.

 

We sail'd from Gravesend on the 23d of July, 1726.  For the incidents

of the voyage, I refer you to my journal, where you will find them all

minutely related.  Perhaps the most important part of that journal is

the plan[5] to be found in it, which I formed at sea, for regulating my

future conduct in life.  It is the more remarkable, as being formed

when I was so young, and yet being pretty faithfully adhered to quite

thro' to old age.

 

     [5] The "Journal" was printed by Sparks, from a copy made

         at Reading in 1787.  But it does not contain the Plan.

         --Ed.

 

We landed in Philadelphia on the 11th of October, where I found sundry

alterations.  Keith was no longer governor, being superseded by Major

Gordon.  I met him walking the streets as a common citizen.  He seem'd

a little asham'd at seeing me, but pass'd without saying anything.  I

should have been as much asham'd at seeing Miss Read, had not her

friends, despairing with reason of my return after the receipt of my

letter, persuaded her to marry another, one Rogers, a potter, which was

done in my absence.  With him, however, she was never happy, and soon

parted from him, refusing to cohabit with him or bear his name, it

being now said that he had another wife.  He was a worthless fellow,

tho' an excellent workman, which was the temptation to her friends.  He

got into debt, ran away in 1727 or 1728, went to the West Indies, and

died there.  Keimer had got a better house, a shop well supply'd with

stationery, plenty of new types, a number of hands, tho' none good, and

seem'd to have a great deal of business.

 

Mr. Denham took a store in Water-street, where we open'd our goods; I

attended the business diligently, studied accounts, and grew, in a

little time, expert at selling.  We lodg'd and, boarded together; he

counsell'd me as a father, having a sincere regard for me.  I respected

and lov'd him, and we might have gone on together very happy; but, in

the beginning of February, 1726-7, when I had just pass'd my

twenty-first year, we both were taken ill.  My distemper was a

pleurisy, which very nearly carried me off.  I suffered a good deal,

gave up the point in my own mind, and was rather disappointed when I

found myself recovering, regretting, in some degree, that I must now,

some time or other, have all that disagreeable work to do over again.

I forget what his distemper was; it held him a long time, and at length

carried him off.  He left me a small legacy in a nuncupative will, as a

token of his kindness for me, and he left me once more to the wide

world; for the store was taken into the care of his executors, and my

employment under him ended.

 

My brother-in-law, Holmes, being now at Philadelphia, advised my return

to my business; and Keimer tempted me, with an offer of large wages by

the year, to come and take the management of his printing-house, that

he might better attend his stationer's shop.  I had heard a bad

character of him in London from his wife and her friends, and was not

fond of having any more to do with him.  I tri'd for farther employment

as a merchant's clerk; but, not readily meeting with any, I clos'd

again with Keimer.  I found in his house these hands: Hugh Meredith, a

Welsh Pensilvanian, thirty years of age, bred to country work; honest,

sensible, had a great deal of solid observation, was something of a

reader, but given to drink.  Stephen Potts, a young countryman of full

age, bred to the same, of uncommon natural parts, and great wit and

humor, but a little idle.  These he had agreed with at extream low

wages per week, to be rais'd a shilling every three months, as they

would deserve by improving in their business; and the expectation of

these high wages, to come on hereafter, was what he had drawn them in

with.  Meredith was to work at press, Potts at book-binding, which he,

by agreement, was to teach them, though he knew neither one nor

t'other. John ----, a wild Irishman, brought up to no business, whose

service, for four years, Keimer had purchased from the captain of a

ship; he, too, was to be made a pressman.  George Webb, an Oxford

scholar, whose time for four years he had likewise bought, intending

him for a compositor, of whom more presently; and David Harry, a

country boy, whom he had taken apprentice.

 

I soon perceiv'd that the intention of engaging me at wages so much

higher than he had been us'd to give, was, to have these raw, cheap

hands form'd thro' me; and, as soon as I had instructed them, then they

being all articled to him, he should be able to do without me.  I went

on, however, very cheerfully, put his printing-house in order, which

had been in great confusion, and brought his hands by degrees to mind

their business and to do it better.

 

It was an odd thing to find an Oxford scholar in the situation of a

bought servant.  He was not more than eighteen years of age, and gave

me this account of himself; that he was born in Gloucester, educated at

a grammar-school there, had been distinguish'd among the scholars for

some apparent superiority in performing his part, when they exhibited

plays; belong'd to the Witty Club there, and had written some pieces in

prose and verse, which were printed in the Gloucester newspapers;

thence he was sent to Oxford; where he continued about a year, but not

well satisfi'd, wishing of all things to see London, and become a

player.  At length, receiving his quarterly allowance of fifteen

guineas, instead of discharging his debts he walk'd out of town, hid

his gown in a furze bush, and footed it to London, where, having no

friend to advise him, he fell into bad company, soon spent his guineas,

found no means of being introduc'd among the players, grew necessitous,

pawn'd his cloaths, and wanted bread.  Walking the street very hungry,

and not knowing what to do with himself, a crimp's bill was put into

his hand, offering immediate entertainment and encouragement to such as

would bind themselves to serve in America.

 

He went directly, sign'd the indentures, was put into the ship, and

came over, never writing a line to acquaint his friends what was become

of him.  He was lively, witty, good-natur'd, and a pleasant companion,

but idle, thoughtless, and imprudent to the last degree.

 

John, the Irishman, soon ran away; with the rest I began to live very

agreeably, for they all respected me the more, as they found Keimer

incapable of instructing them, and that from me they learned something

daily.  We never worked on Saturday, that being Keimer's Sabbath, so I

had two days for reading.  My acquaintance with ingenious people in the

town increased.  Keimer himself treated me with great civility and

apparent regard, and nothing now made me uneasy but my debt to Vernon,

which I was yet unable to pay, being hitherto but a poor oeconomist.

He, however, kindly made no demand of it.

 

Our printing-house often wanted sorts, and there was no letter-founder

in America; I had seen types cast at James's in London, but without

much attention to the manner; however, I now contrived a mould, made

use of the letters we had as puncheons, struck the matrices in lead,

And thus supply'd in a pretty tolerable way all deficiencies.  I also

engrav'd several things on occasion; I made the ink; I was

warehouseman, and everything, and, in short, quite a factotum.

 

But, however serviceable I might be, I found that my services became

every day of less importance, as the other hands improv'd in the

business; and, when Keimer paid my second quarter's wages, he let me

know that he felt them too heavy, and thought I should make an

abatement.  He grew by degrees less civil, put on more of the master,

frequently found fault, was captious, and seem'd ready for an

outbreaking.  I went on, nevertheless, with a good deal of patience,

thinking that his encumber'd circumstances were partly the cause.  At

length a trifle snapt our connections; for, a great noise happening

near the court-house, I put my head out of the window to see what was

the matter.  Keimer, being in the street, look'd up and saw me, call'd

out to me in a loud voice and angry tone to mind my business, adding

some reproachful words, that nettled me the more for their publicity,

all the neighbors who were looking out on the same occasion being

witnesses how I was treated.  He came up immediately into the

printing-house, continu'd the quarrel, high words pass'd on both sides,

he gave me the quarter's warning we had stipulated, expressing a wish

that he had not been oblig'd to so long a warning.  I told him his wish

was unnecessary, for I would leave him that instant; and so, taking my

hat, walk'd out of doors, desiring Meredith, whom I saw below, to take

care of some things I left, and bring them to my lodgings.

 

Meredith came accordingly in the evening, when we talked my affair

over.  He had conceiv'd a great regard for me, and was very unwilling

that I should leave the house while he remain'd in it.  He dissuaded me

from returning to my native country, which I began to think of; he

reminded me that Keimer was in debt for all he possess'd; that his

creditors began to be uneasy; that he kept his shop miserably, sold

often without profit for ready money, and often trusted without keeping

accounts; that he must therefore fall, which would make a vacancy I

might profit of.  I objected my want of money.  He then let me know

that his father had a high opinion of me, and, from some discourse that

had pass'd between them, he was sure would advance money to set us up,

if I would enter into partnership with him.  "My time," says he, "will

be out with Keimer in the spring; by that time we may have our press

and types in from London.  I am sensible I am no workman; if you like

it, your skill in the business shall be set against the stock I

furnish, and we will share the profits equally."

 

The proposal was agreeable, and I consented; his father was in town and

approv'd of it; the more as he saw I had great influence with his son,

had prevail'd on him to abstain long from dram-drinking, and he hop'd

might break him off that wretched habit entirely, when we came to be so

closely connected.  I gave an inventory to the father, who carry'd it

to a merchant; the things were sent for, the secret was to be kept till

they should arrive, and in the mean time I was to get work, if I could,

at the other printing-house. But I found no vacancy there, and so

remain'd idle a few days, when Keimer, on a prospect of being employ'd

to print some paper money in New Jersey, which would require cuts and

various types that I only could supply, and apprehending Bradford might

engage me and get the jobb from him, sent me a very civil message, that

old friends should not part for a few words, the effect of sudden

passion, and wishing me to return.  Meredith persuaded me to comply, as

it would give more opportunity for his improvement under my daily

instructions; so I return'd, and we went on more smoothly than for some

time before.  The New jersey jobb was obtain'd, I contriv'd a

copperplate press for it, the first that had been seen in the country;

I cut several ornaments and checks for the bills.  We went together to

Burlington, where I executed the whole to satisfaction; and he received

so large a sum for the work as to be enabled thereby to keep his head

much longer above water.

 

At Burlington I made an acquaintance with many principal people of the

province.  Several of them had been appointed by the Assembly a

committee to attend the press, and take care that no more bills were

printed than the law directed.  They were therefore, by turns,

constantly with us, and generally he who attended, brought with him a

friend or two for company.  My mind having been much more improv'd by

reading than Keimer's, I suppose it was for that reason my conversation

seem'd to be more valu'd. They had me to their houses, introduced me to

their friends, and show'd me much civility; while he, tho' the master,

was a little neglected.  In truth, he was an odd fish; ignorant of

common life, fond of rudely opposing receiv'd opinions, slovenly to

extream dirtiness, enthusiastic in some points of religion, and a

little knavish withal.

 

We continu'd there near three months; and by that time I could reckon

among my acquired friends, Judge Allen, Samuel Bustill, the secretary

of the Province, Isaac Pearson, Joseph Cooper, and several of the

Smiths, members of Assembly, and Isaac Decow, the surveyor-general. The

latter was a shrewd, sagacious old man, who told me that he began for

himself, when young, by wheeling clay for the brick-makers, learned to

write after he was of age, carri'd the chain for surveyors, who taught

him surveying, and he had now by his industry, acquir'd a good estate;

and says he, "I foresee that you will soon work this man out of

business, and make a fortune in it at Philadelphia."  He had not then

the least intimation of my intention to set up there or anywhere.

These friends were afterwards of great use to me, as I occasionally was

to some of them.  They all continued their regard for me as long as

they lived.

 

Before I enter upon my public appearance in business, it may be well to

let you know the then state of my mind with regard to my principles and

morals, that you may see how far those influenc'd the future events of

my life.  My parents had early given me religious impressions, and

brought me through my childhood piously in the Dissenting way.  But I

was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns of several points, as

I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt

of Revelation itself.  Some books against Deism fell into my hands;

they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's

Lectures.  It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary

to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which

were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the

refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist.  My arguments

perverted some others, particularly Collins and Ralph; but, each of

them having afterwards wrong'd me greatly without the least

compunction, and recollecting Keith's conduct towards me (who was

another freethinker), and my own towards Vernon and Miss Read, which at

times gave me great trouble, I began to suspect that this doctrine,

tho' it might be true, was not very useful.  My London pamphlet, which

had for its motto these lines of Dryden:

 

          "Whatever is, is right.  Though purblind man

          Sees but a part o' the chain, the nearest link:

          His eyes not carrying to the equal beam,

          That poises all above;"

 

and from the attributes of God, his infinite wisdom, goodness and

power, concluded that nothing could possibly be wrong in the world, and

that vice and virtue were empty distinctions, no such things existing,

appear'd now not so clever a performance as I once thought it; and I

doubted whether some error had not insinuated itself unperceiv'd into

my argument, so as to infect all that follow'd, as is common in

metaphysical reasonings.

 

I grew convinc'd that truth, sincerity and integrity in dealings

between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity of

life; and I form'd written resolutions, which still remain in my

journal book, to practice them ever while I lived.  Revelation had

indeed no weight with me, as such; but I entertain'd an opinion that,

though certain actions might not be bad because they were forbidden by

it, or good because it commanded them, yet probably these actions might

be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded because they

were beneficial to us, in their own natures, all the circumstances of

things considered.  And this persuasion, with the kind hand of

Providence, or some guardian angel, or accidental favorable

circumstances and situations, or all together, preserved me, thro' this

dangerous time of youth, and the hazardous situations I was sometimes

in among strangers, remote from the eye and advice of my father,

without any willful gross immorality or injustice, that might have been

expected from my want of religion.  I say willful, because the

instances I have mentioned had something of necessity in them, from my

youth, inexperience, and the knavery of others.  I had therefore a

tolerable character to begin the world with; I valued it properly, and

determin'd to preserve it.

 

We had not been long return'd to Philadelphia before the new types

arriv'd from London.  We settled with Keimer, and left him by his

consent before he heard of it.  We found a house to hire near the

market, and took it.  To lessen the rent, which was then but

twenty-four pounds a year, tho' I have since known it to let for

seventy, we took in Thomas Godfrey, a glazier, and his family, who were

to pay a considerable part of it to us, and we to board with them.  We

had scarce opened our letters and put our press in order, before George

House, an acquaintance of mine, brought a countryman to us, whom he had

met in the street inquiring for a printer.  All our cash was now

expended in the variety of particulars we had been obliged to procure,

and this countryman's five shillings, being our first-fruits, and

coming so seasonably, gave me more pleasure than any crown I have since

earned; and the gratitude I felt toward House has made me often more

ready than perhaps I should otherwise have been to assist young

beginners.

 

There are croakers in every country, always boding its ruin.  Such a

one then lived in Philadelphia; a person of note, an elderly man, with

a wise look and a very grave manner of speaking; his name was Samuel

Mickle.  This gentleman, a stranger to me, stopt one day at my door,

and asked me if I was the young man who had lately opened a new

printing-house. Being answered in the affirmative, he said he was sorry

for me, because it was an expensive undertaking, and the expense would

be lost; for Philadelphia was a sinking place, the people already

half-bankrupts, or near being so; all appearances to the contrary, such

as new buildings and the rise of rents, being to his certain knowledge

fallacious; for they were, in fact, among the things that would soon

ruin us.  And he gave me such a detail of misfortunes now existing, or

that were soon to exist, that he left me half melancholy.  Had I known

him before I engaged in this business, probably I never should have

done it.  This man continued to live in this decaying place, and to

declaim in the same strain, refusing for many years to buy a house

there, because all was going to destruction; and at last I had the

pleasure of seeing him give five times as much for one as he might have

bought it for when he first began his croaking.

 

I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding

year, I had form'd most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of

mutual improvement, which we called the JUNTO; we met on Friday

evenings.  The rules that I drew up required that every member, in his

turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals,

Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss'd by the company; and

once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on

any subject he pleased.  Our debates were to be under the direction of

a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after

truth, without fondness for dispute, or desire of victory; and, to

prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct

contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and prohibited

under small pecuniary penalties.

 

The first members were Joseph Breintnal, a copyer of deeds for the

scriveners, a good-natur'd, friendly, middle-ag'd man, a great lover of

poetry, reading all he could meet with, and writing some that was

tolerable; very ingenious in many little Nicknackeries, and of sensible

conversation.

 

Thomas Godfrey, a self-taught mathematician, great in his way, and

afterward inventor of what is now called Hadley's Quadrant.  But he

knew little out of his way, and was not a pleasing companion; as, like

most great mathematicians I have met with, he expected universal

precision in everything said, or was for ever denying or distinguishing

upon trifles, to the disturbance of all conversation.  He soon left us.

 

Nicholas Scull, a surveyor, afterwards surveyor-general, who lov'd

books, and sometimes made a few verses.

 

William Parsons, bred a shoemaker, but loving reading, had acquir'd a

considerable share of mathematics, which he first studied with a view

to astrology, that he afterwards laught at it.  He also became

surveyor-general.

 

William Maugridge, a joiner, a most exquisite mechanic, and a solid,

sensible man.

 

Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, and George Webb I have characteriz'd

before.

 

Robert Grace, a young gentleman of some fortune, generous, lively, and

witty; a lover of punning and of his friends.

 

And William Coleman, then a merchant's clerk, about my age, who had the

coolest, dearest head, the best heart, and the exactest morals of

almost any man I ever met with.  He became afterwards a merchant of

great note, and one of our provincial judges.  Our friendship continued

without interruption to his death, upward of forty years; and the club

continued almost as long, and was the best school of philosophy,

morality, and politics that then existed in the province; for our

queries, which were read the week preceding their discussion, put us

upon reading with attention upon the several subjects, that we might

speak more to the purpose; and here, too, we acquired better habits of

conversation, every thing being studied in our rules which might

prevent our disgusting each other.  From hence the long continuance of

the club, which I shall have frequent occasion to speak further of

hereafter.

 

But my giving this account of it here is to show something of the

interest I had, every one of these exerting themselves in recommending

business to us.  Breintnal particularly procur'd us from the Quakers

the printing forty sheets of their history, the rest being to be done

by Keimer; and upon this we work'd exceedingly hard, for the price was

low.  It was a folio, pro patria size, in pica, with long primer notes.

I compos'd of it a sheet a day, and Meredith worked it off at press; it

was often eleven at night, and sometimes later, before I had finished

my distribution for the next day's work, for the little jobbs sent in

by our other friends now and then put us back.  But so determin'd I was

to continue doing a sheet a day of the folio, that one night, when,

having impos'd my forms, I thought my day's work over, one of them by

accident was broken, and two pages reduced to pi, I immediately

distributed and compos'd it over again before I went to bed; and this

industry, visible to our neighbors, began to give us character and

credit; particularly, I was told, that mention being made of the new

printing-office at the merchants' Every-night club, the general opinion

was that it must fail, there being already two printers in the place,

Keimer and Bradford; but Dr. Baird (whom you and I saw many years after

at his native place, St. Andrew's in Scotland) gave a contrary opinion:

"For the industry of that Franklin," says he, "is superior to any thing

I ever saw of the kind; I see him still at work when I go home from

club, and he is at work again before his neighbors are out of bed."

This struck the rest, and we soon after had offers from one of them to

supply us with stationery; but as yet we did not chuse to engage in

shop business.

 

I mention this industry the more particularly and the more freely, tho'

it seems to be talking in my own praise, that those of my posterity,

who shall read it, may know the use of that virtue, when they see its

effects in my favour throughout this relation.

 

George Webb, who had found a female friend that lent him wherewith to

purchase his time of Keimer, now came to offer himself as a journeyman

to us.  We could not then employ him; but I foolishly let him know as a

secret that I soon intended to begin a newspaper, and might then have

work for him.  My hopes of success, as I told him, were founded on

this, that the then only newspaper, printed by Bradford, was a paltry

thing, wretchedly manag'd, no way entertaining, and yet was profitable

to him; I therefore thought a good paper would scarcely fail of good

encouragement.  I requested Webb not to mention it; but he told it to

Keimer, who immediately, to be beforehand with me, published proposals

for printing one himself, on which Webb was to be employ'd. I resented

this; and, to counteract them, as I could not yet begin our paper, I

wrote several pieces of entertainment for Bradford's paper, under the

title of the BUSY BODY, which Breintnal continu'd some months.  By this

means the attention of the publick was fixed on that paper, and

Keimer's proposals, which we burlesqu'd and ridicul'd, were

disregarded.  He began his paper, however, and, after carrying it on

three quarters of a year, with at most only ninety subscribers, he

offered it to me for a trifle; and I, having been ready some time to go

on with it, took it in hand directly; and it prov'd in a few years

extremely profitable to me.

 

I perceive that I am apt to speak in the singular number, though our

partnership still continu'd; the reason may be that, in fact, the whole

management of the business lay upon me.  Meredith was no compositor, a

poor pressman, and seldom sober.  My friends lamented my connection

with him, but I was to make the best of it.

 

Our first papers made a quite different appearance from any before in

the province; a better type, and better printed; but some spirited

remarks of my writing, on the dispute then going on between Governor

Burnet and the Massachusetts Assembly, struck the principal people,

occasioned the paper and the manager of it to be much talk'd of, and in

a few weeks brought them all to be our subscribers.

 

Their example was follow'd by many, and our number went on growing

continually.  This was one of the first good effects of my having

learnt a little to scribble; another was, that the leading men, seeing

a newspaper now in the hands of one who could also handle a pen,

thought it convenient to oblige and encourage me.  Bradford still

printed the votes, and laws, and other publick business.  He had

printed an address of the House to the governor, in a coarse,

blundering manner, we reprinted it elegantly and correctly, and sent

one to every member.  They were sensible of the difference: it

strengthened the hands of our friends in the House, and they voted us

their printers for the year ensuing.

 

Among my friends in the House I must not forget Mr. Hamilton, before

mentioned, who was then returned from England, and had a seat in it.

He interested himself for me strongly in that instance, as he did in

many others afterward, continuing his patronage till his death.[6]

 

     [6] I got his son once L500.--[Marg. note.]

 

Mr. Vernon, about this time, put me in mind of the debt I ow'd him, but

did not press me.  I wrote him an ingenuous letter of acknowledgment,

crav'd his forbearance a little longer, which he allow'd me, and as

soon as I was able, I paid the principal with interest, and many

thanks; so that erratum was in some degree corrected.

 

But now another difficulty came upon me which I had never the least

reason to expect.  Mr. Meredith's father, who was to have paid for our

printing-house, according to the expectations given me, was able to

advance only one hundred pounds currency, which had been paid; and a

hundred more was due to the merchant, who grew impatient, and su'd us

all.  We gave bail, but saw that, if the money could not be rais'd in

time, the suit must soon come to a judgment and execution, and our

hopeful prospects must, with us, be ruined, as the press and letters

must be sold for payment, perhaps at half price.

 

In this distress two true friends, whose kindness I have never

forgotten, nor ever shall forget while I can remember any thing, came

to me separately, unknown to each other, and, without any application

from me, offering each of them to advance me all the money that should

be necessary to enable me to take the whole business upon myself, if

that should be practicable; but they did not like my continuing the

partnership with Meredith, who, as they said, was often seen drunk in

the streets, and playing at low games in alehouses, much to our

discredit.  These two friends were William Coleman and Robert Grace.  I

told them I could not propose a separation while any prospect remain'd

of the Merediths' fulfilling their part of our agreement, because I

thought myself under great obligations to them for what they had done,

and would do if they could; but, if they finally fail'd in their

performance, and our partnership must be dissolv'd, I should then think

myself at liberty to accept the assistance of my friends.

 

Thus the matter rested for some time, when I said to my partner,

"Perhaps your father is dissatisfied at the part you have undertaken in

this affair of ours, and is unwilling to advance for you and me what he

would for you alone.  If that is the case, tell me, and I will resign

the whole to you, and go about my business." "No," said he, "my father

has really been disappointed, and is really unable; and I am unwilling

to distress him farther.  I see this is a business I am not fit for.  I

was bred a farmer, and it was a folly in me to come to town, and put

myself, at thirty years of age, an apprentice to learn a new trade.

Many of our Welsh people are going to settle in North Carolina, where

land is cheap.  I am inclin'd to go with them, and follow my old

employment.  You may find friends to assist you.  If you will take the

debts of the company upon you; return to my father the hundred pound he

has advanced; pay my little personal debts, and give me thirty pounds

and a new saddle, I will relinquish the partnership, and leave the

whole in your hands."  I agreed to this proposal: it was drawn up in

writing, sign'd, and seal'd immediately.  I gave him what he demanded,

and he went soon after to Carolina, from whence he sent me next year

two long letters, containing the best account that had been given of

that country, the climate, the soil, husbandry, etc., for in those

matters he was very judicious.  I printed them in the papers, and they

gave great satisfaction to the publick.

 

As soon as he was gone, I recurr'd to my two friends; and because I

would not give an unkind preference to either, I took half of what each

had offered and I wanted of one, and half of the other; paid off the

company's debts, and went on with the business in my own name,

advertising that the partnership was dissolved.  I think this was in or

about the year 1729.

 

About this time there was a cry among the people for more paper money,

only fifteen thousand pounds being extant in the province, and that

soon to be sunk.  The wealthy inhabitants oppos'd any addition, being

against all paper currency, from an apprehension that it would

depreciate, as it had done in New England, to the prejudice of all

creditors.  We had discuss'd this point in our Junto, where I was on

the side of an addition, being persuaded that the first small sum

struck in 1723 had done much good by increasing the trade, employment,

and number of inhabitants in the province, since I now saw all the old

houses inhabited, and many new ones building; whereas I remembered

well, that when I first walk'd about the streets of Philadelphia,

eating my roll, I saw most of the houses in Walnut-street, between

Second and Front streets, with bills on their doors, "To be let"; and

many likewise in Chestnut-street and other streets, which made me then

think the inhabitants of the city were deserting it one after another.

 

Our debates possess'd me so fully of the subject, that I wrote and

printed an anonymous pamphlet on it, entitled "The Nature and Necessity

of a Paper Currency."  It was well receiv'd by the common people in

general; but the rich men dislik'd it, for it increas'd and

strengthen'd the clamor for more money, and they happening to have no

writers among them that were able to answer it, their opposition

slacken'd, and the point was carried by a majority in the House.  My

friends there, who conceiv'd I had been of some service, thought fit to

reward me by employing me in printing the money; a very profitable jobb

and a great help to me.  This was another advantage gain'd by my being

able to write.

 

The utility of this currency became by time and experience so evident

as never afterwards to be much disputed; so that it grew soon to

fifty-five thousand pounds, and in 1739 to eighty thousand pounds,

since which it arose during war to upwards of three hundred and fifty

thousand pounds, trade, building, and inhabitants all the while

increasing, till I now think there are limits beyond which the quantity

may be hurtful.

 

I soon after obtain'd, thro' my friend Hamilton, the printing of the

Newcastle paper money, another profitable jobb as I then thought it;

small things appearing great to those in small circumstances; and

these, to me, were really great advantages, as they were great

encouragements.  He procured for me, also, the printing of the laws and

votes of that government, which continu'd in my hands as long as I

follow'd the business.

 

I now open'd a little stationer's shop.  I had in it blanks of all

sorts, the correctest that ever appear'd among us, being assisted in

that by my friend Breintnal.  I had also paper, parchment, chapmen's

books, etc.  One Whitemash, a compositor I had known in London, an

excellent workman, now came to me, and work'd with me constantly and

diligently; and I took an apprentice, the son of Aquila Rose.

 

I began now gradually to pay off the debt I was under for the

printing-house. In order to secure my credit and character as a

tradesman, I took care not only to be in reality industrious and

frugal, but to avoid all appearances to the contrary.  I drest plainly;

I was seen at no places of idle diversion.  I never went out a fishing

or shooting; a book, indeed, sometimes debauch'd me from my work, but

that was seldom, snug, and gave no scandal; and, to show that I was not

above my business, I sometimes brought home the paper I purchas'd at

the stores thro' the streets on a wheelbarrow.  Thus being esteem'd an

industrious, thriving young man, and paying duly for what I bought, the

merchants who imported stationery solicited my custom; others proposed

supplying me with books, and I went on swimmingly.  In the mean time,

Keimer's credit and business declining daily, he was at last forc'd to

sell his printing house to satisfy his creditors.  He went to

Barbadoes, and there lived some years in very poor circumstances.

 

His apprentice, David Harry, whom I had instructed while I work'd with

him, set up in his place at Philadelphia, having bought his materials.

I was at first apprehensive of a powerful rival in Harry, as his

friends were very able, and had a good deal of interest.  I therefore

propos'd a partner-ship to him which he, fortunately for me, rejected

with scorn.  He was very proud, dress'd like a gentleman, liv'd

expensively, took much diversion and pleasure abroad, ran in debt, and

neglected his business; upon which, all business left him; and, finding

nothing to do, he followed Keimer to Barbadoes, taking the

printing-house with him.  There this apprentice employ'd his former

master as a journeyman; they quarrel'd often; Harry went continually

behindhand, and at length was forc'd to sell his types and return to

his country work in Pensilvania.  The person that bought them employ'd

Keimer to use them, but in a few years he died.

 

There remained now no competitor with me at Philadelphia but the old

one, Bradford; who was rich and easy, did a little printing now and

then by straggling hands, but was not very anxious about the business.

However, as he kept the post-office, it was imagined he had better

opportunities of obtaining news; his paper was thought a better

distributer of advertisements than mine, and therefore had many, more,

which was a profitable thing to him, and a disadvantage to me; for,

tho' I did indeed receive and send papers by the post, yet the publick

opinion was otherwise, for what I did send was by bribing the riders,

who took them privately, Bradford being unkind enough to forbid it,

which occasion'd some resentment on my part; and I thought so meanly of

him for it, that, when I afterward came into his situation, I took care

never to imitate it.

 

I had hitherto continu'd to board with Godfrey, who lived in part of my

house with his wife and children, and had one side of the shop for his

glazier's business, tho' he worked little, being always absorbed in his

mathematics.  Mrs. Godfrey projected a match for me with a relation's

daughter, took opportunities of bringing us often together, till a

serious courtship on my part ensu'd, the girl being in herself very

deserving.  The old folks encourag'd me by continual invitations to

supper, and by leaving us together, till at length it was time to

explain.  Mrs. Godfrey manag'd our little treaty.  I let her know that

I expected as much money with their daughter as would pay off my

remaining debt for the printing-house, which I believe was not then

above a hundred pounds.  She brought me word they had no such sum to

spare; I said they might mortgage their house in the loan-office. The

answer to this, after some days, was, that they did not approve the

match; that, on inquiry of Bradford, they had been inform'd the

printing business was not a profitable one; the types would soon be

worn out, and more wanted; that S. Keimer and D. Harry had failed one

after the other, and I should probably soon follow them; and,

therefore, I was forbidden the house, and the daughter shut up.

 

Whether this was a real change of sentiment or only artifice, on a

supposition of our being too far engaged in affection to retract, and

therefore that we should steal a marriage, which would leave them at

liberty to give or withhold what they pleas'd, I know not; but I

suspected the latter, resented it, and went no more.  Mrs. Godfrey

brought me afterward some more favorable accounts of their disposition,

and would have drawn me on again; but I declared absolutely my

resolution to have nothing more to do with that family.  This was

resented by the Godfreys; we differ'd, and they removed, leaving me the

whole house, and I resolved to take no more inmates.

 

But this affair having turned my thoughts to marriage, I look'd round

me and made overtures of acquaintance in other places; but soon found

that, the business of a printer being generally thought a poor one, I

was not to expect money with a wife, unless with such a one as I should

not otherwise think agreeable.  In the mean time, that

hard-to-be-governed passion of youth hurried me frequently into

intrigues with low women that fell in my way, which were attended with

some expense and great inconvenience, besides a continual risque to my

health by a distemper which of all things I dreaded, though by great

good luck I escaped it.  A friendly correspondence as neighbors and old

acquaintances had continued between me and Mrs. Read's family, who all

had a regard for me from the time of my first lodging in their house.

I was often invited there and consulted in their affairs, wherein I

sometimes was of service.  I piti'd poor Miss Read's unfortunate

situation, who was generally dejected, seldom cheerful, and avoided

company.  I considered my giddiness and inconstancy when in London as

in a great degree the cause of her unhappiness, tho' the mother was

good enough to think the fault more her own than mine, as she had

prevented our marrying before I went thither, and persuaded the other

match in my absence.  Our mutual affection was revived, but there were

now great objections to our union.  The match was indeed looked upon as

invalid, a preceding wife being said to be living in England; but this

could not easily be prov'd, because of the distance; and, tho' there

was a report of his death, it was not certain.  Then, tho' it should be

true, he had left many debts, which his successor might be call'd upon

to pay.  We ventured, however, over all these difficulties, and I took

her to wife, September 1st, 1730.  None of the inconveniences happened

that we had apprehended, she proved a good and faithful helpmate,

assisted me much by attending the shop; we throve together, and have

ever mutually endeavored to make each other happy.  Thus I corrected

that great erratum as well as I could.

 

About this time, our club meeting, not at a tavern, but in a little

room of Mr. Grace's, set apart for that purpose, a proposition was made

by me, that, since our books were often referr'd to in our

disquisitions upon the queries, it might be convenient to us to have

them altogether where we met, that upon occasion they might be

consulted; and by thus clubbing our books to a common library, we

should, while we lik'd to keep them together, have each of us the

advantage of using the books of all the other members, which would be

nearly as beneficial as if each owned the whole.  It was lik'd and

agreed to, and we fill'd one end of the room with such books as we

could best spare.  The number was not so great as we expected; and tho'

they had been of great use, yet some inconveniences occurring for want

of due care of them, the collection, after about a year, was separated,

and each took his books home again

 

And now I set on foot my first project of a public nature, that for a

subscription library.  I drew up the proposals, got them put into form

by our great scrivener, Brockden, and, by the help of my friends in the

Junto, procured fifty subscribers of forty shillings each to begin

with, and ten shillings a year for fifty years, the term our company

was to continue.  We afterwards obtain'd a charter, the company being

increased to one hundred:  this was the mother of all the North

American subscription libraries, now so numerous.  It is become a great

thing itself, and continually increasing.  These libraries have

improved the general conversation of the Americans, made the common

tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen from other

countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the stand so

generally made throughout the colonies in defense of their privileges.

 

Memo.  Thus far was written with the intention express'd in the

beginning and therefore contains several little family anecdotes of no

importance to others.  What follows was written many years after in

compliance with the advice contain'd in these letters, and accordingly

intended for the public.  The affairs of the Revolution occasion'd the

interruption.

 

     Letter from Mr. Abel James, with Notes of my Life

                    (received in Paris).

 

"MY DEAR AND HONORED FRIEND:  I have often been desirous of writing to

thee, but could not be reconciled to the thought that the letter might

fall into the hands of the British, lest some printer or busy-body

should publish some part of the contents, and give our friend pain, and

myself censure.

 

"Some time since there fell into my hands, to my great joy, about

twenty-three sheets in thy own handwriting, containing an account of

the parentage and life of thyself, directed to thy son, ending in the

year 1730, with which there were notes, likewise in thy writing; a copy

of which I inclose, in hopes it may be a means, if thou continued it up

to a later period, that the first and latter part may be put together;

and if it is not yet continued, I hope thee will not delay it.  Life is

uncertain, as the preacher tells us; and what will the world say if

kind, humane, and benevolent Ben.  Franklin should leave his friends

and the world deprived of so pleasing and profitable a work; a work

which would be useful and entertaining not only to a few, but to

millions?  The influence writings under that class have on the minds of

youth is very great, and has nowhere appeared to me so plain, as in our

public friend's journals.  It almost insensibly leads the youth into

the resolution of endeavoring to become as good and eminent as the

journalist.  Should thine, for instance, when published (and I think it

could not fail of it), lead the youth to equal the industry and

temperance of thy early youth, what a blessing with that class would

such a work be!  I know of no character living, nor many of them put

together, who has so much in his power as thyself to promote a greater

spirit of industry and early attention to business, frugality, and

temperance with the American youth.  Not that I think the work would

have no other merit and use in the world, far from it; but the first is

of such vast importance that I know nothing that can equal it."

 

 

The foregoing letter and the minutes accompanying it being shown to a

friend, I received from him the following:

 

     Letter from Mr. Benjamin Vaughan.

                                 "PARIS, January 31, 1783.

 

"My DEAREST SIR:  When I had read over your sheets of minutes of the

principal incidents of your life, recovered for you by your Quaker

acquaintance, I told you I would send you a letter expressing my

reasons why I thought it would be useful to complete and publish it as

he desired.  Various concerns have for some time past prevented this

letter being written, and I do not know whether it was worth any

expectation; happening to be at leisure, however, at present, I shall

by writing, at least interest and instruct myself; but as the terms I

am inclined to use may tend to offend a person of your manners, I shall

only tell you how I would address any other person, who was as good and

as great as yourself, but less diffident.  I would say to him, Sir, I

solicit the history of your life from the following motives:  Your

history is so remarkable, that if you do not give it, somebody else

will certainly give it; and perhaps so as nearly to do as much harm, as

your own management of the thing might do good.  It will moreover

present a table of the internal circumstances of your country, which

will very much tend to invite to it settlers of virtuous and manly

minds.  And considering the eagerness with which such information is

sought by them, and the extent of your reputation, I do not know of a

more efficacious advertisement than your biography would give.  All

that has happened to you is also connected with the detail of the

manners and situation of a rising people; and in this respect I do not

think that the writings of Caesar and Tacitus can be more interesting

to a true judge of human nature and society.  But these, sir, are small

reasons, in my opinion, compared with the chance which your life will

give for the forming of future great men; and in conjunction with your

Art of Virtue (which you design to publish) of improving the features

of private character, and consequently of aiding all happiness, both

public and domestic.  The two works I allude to, sir, will in

particular give a noble rule and example of self-education. School and

other education constantly proceed upon false principles, and show a

clumsy apparatus pointed at a false mark; but your apparatus is simple,

and the mark a true one; and while parents and young persons are left

destitute of other just means of estimating and becoming prepared for a

reasonable course in life, your discovery that the thing is in many a

man's private power, will be invaluable!  Influence upon the private

character, late in life, is not only an influence late in life, but a

weak influence.  It is in youth that we plant our chief habits and

prejudices; it is in youth that we take our party as to profession,

pursuits and matrimony.  In youth, therefore, the turn is given; in

youth the education even of the next generation is given; in youth the

private and public character is determined; and the term of life

extending but from youth to age, life ought to begin well from youth,

and more especially before we take our party as to our principal

objects.  But your biography will not merely teach self-education, but

the education of a wise man; and the wisest man will receive lights and

improve his progress, by seeing detailed the conduct of another wise

man.  And why are weaker men to be deprived of such helps, when we see

our race has been blundering on in the dark, almost without a guide in

this particular, from the farthest trace of time?  Show then, sir, how

much is to be done, both to sons and fathers; and invite all wise men

to become like yourself, and other men to become wise.  When we see how

cruel statesmen and warriors can be to the human race, and how absurd

distinguished men can be to their acquaintance, it will be instructive

to observe the instances multiply of pacific, acquiescing manners; and

to find how compatible it is to be great and domestic, enviable and yet

good-humored.

 

"The little private incidents which you will also have to relate, will

have considerable use, as we want, above all things, rules of prudence

in ordinary affairs; and it will be curious to see how you have acted

in these.  It will be so far a sort of key to life, and explain many

things that all men ought to have once explained to them, to give, them

a chance of becoming wise by foresight.  The nearest thing to having

experience of one's own, is to have other people's affairs brought

before us in a shape that is interesting; this is sure to happen from

your pen; our affairs and management will have an air of simplicity or

importance that will not fail to strike; and I am convinced you have

conducted them with as much originality as if you had been conducting

discussions in politics or philosophy; and what more worthy of

experiments and system (its importance and its errors considered) than

human life?

 

"Some men have been virtuous blindly, others have speculated

fantastically, and others have been shrewd to bad purposes; but you,

sir, I am sure, will give under your hand, nothing but what is at the

same moment, wise, practical and good, your account of yourself (for I

suppose the parallel I am drawing for Dr. Franklin, will hold not only

in point of character, but of private history) will show that you are

ashamed of no origin; a thing the more important, as you prove how

little necessary all origin is to happiness, virtue, or greatness.  As

no end likewise happens without a means, so we shall find, sir, that

even you yourself framed a plan by which you became considerable; but

at the same time we may see that though the event is flattering, the

means are as simple as wisdom could make them; that is, depending upon

nature, virtue, thought and habit. Another thing demonstrated will be

the propriety of everyman's waiting for his time for appearing upon the

stage of the world.  Our sensations being very much fixed to the

moment, we are apt to forget that more moments are to follow the first,

and consequently that man should arrange his conduct so as to suit the

whole of a life.  Your attribution appears to have been applied to your

life, and the passing moments of it have been enlivened with content

and enjoyment instead of being tormented with foolish impatience or

regrets.  Such a conduct is easy for those who make virtue and

themselves in countenance by examples of other truly great men, of whom

patience is so often the characteristic.  Your Quaker correspondent,

sir (for here again I will suppose the subject of my letter resembling

Dr. Franklin), praised your frugality, diligence and temperance, which

he considered as a pattern for all youth; but it is singular that he

should have forgotten your modesty and your disinterestedness, without

which you never could have waited for your advancement, or found your

situation in the mean time comfortable; which is a strong lesson to

show the poverty of glory and the importance of regulating our minds.

If this correspondent had known the nature of your reputation as well

as I do, he would have said, Your former writings and measures would

secure attention to your Biography, and Art of Virtue; and your

Biography and Art of Virtue, in return, would secure attention to them.

This is an advantage attendant upon a various character, and which

brings all that belongs to it into greater play; and it is the more

useful, as perhaps more persons are at a loss for the means of

improving their minds and characters, than they are for the time or the

inclination to do it.  But there is one concluding reflection, sir,

that will shew the use of your life as a mere piece of biography.  This

style of writing seems a little gone out of vogue, and yet it is a very

useful one; and your specimen of it may be particularly serviceable, as

it will make a subject of comparison with the lives of various public

cutthroats and intriguers, and with absurd monastic self-tormentors or

vain literary triflers.  If it encourages more writings of the same

kind with your own, and induces more men to spend lives fit to be

written, it will be worth all Plutarch's Lives put together.  But being

tired of figuring to myself a character of which every feature suits

only one man in the world, without giving him the praise of it, I shall

end my letter, my dear Dr. Franklin, with a personal application to

your proper self.  I am earnestly desirous, then, my dear sir, that you

should let the world into the traits of your genuine character, as

civil broils nay otherwise tend to disguise or traduce it.  Considering

your great age, the caution of your character, and your peculiar style

of thinking, it is not likely that any one besides yourself can be

sufficiently master of the facts of your life, or the intentions of

your mind.  Besides all this, the immense revolution of the present

period, will necessarily turn our attention towards the author of it,

and when virtuous principles have been pretended in it, it will be

highly important to shew that such have really influenced; and, as your

own character will be the principal one to receive a scrutiny, it is

proper (even for its effects upon your vast and rising country, as well

as upon England and upon Europe) that it should stand respectable and

eternal.  For the furtherance of human happiness, I have always

maintained that it is necessary to prove that man is not even at

present a vicious and detestable animal; and still more to prove that

good management may greatly amend him; and it is for much the same

reason, that I am anxious to see the opinion established, that there

are fair characters existing among the individuals of the race; for the

moment that all men, without exception, shall be conceived abandoned,

good people will cease efforts deemed to be hopeless, and perhaps think

of taking their share in the scramble of life, or at least of making it

comfortable principally for themselves.  Take then, my dear sir, this

work most speedily into hand:  shew yourself good as you are good;

temperate as you are temperate; and above all things, prove yourself as

one, who from your infancy have loved justice, liberty and concord, in

a way that has made it natural and consistent for you to have acted, as

we have seen you act in the last seventeen years of your life.  Let

Englishmen be made not only to respect, but even to love you.  When

they think well of individuals in your native country, they will go

nearer to thinking well of your country; and when your countrymen see

themselves well thought of by Englishmen, they will go nearer to

thinking well of England.  Extend your views even further; do not stop

at those who speak the English tongue, but after having settled so many

points in nature and politics, think of bettering the whole race of

men.  As I have not read any part of the life in question, but know

only the character that lived it, I write somewhat at hazard.  I am

sure, however, that the life and the treatise I allude to (on the Art

of Virtue) will necessarily fulfil the chief of my expectations; and

still more so if you take up the measure of suiting these performances

to the several views above stated.  Should they even prove unsuccessful

in all that a sanguine admirer of yours hopes from them, you will at

least have framed pieces to interest the human mind; and whoever gives

a feeling of pleasure that is innocent to man, has added so much to the

fair side of a life otherwise too much darkened by anxiety and too much

injured by pain.  In the hope, therefore, that you will listen to the

prayer addressed to you in this letter, I beg to subscribe myself, my

dearest sir, etc., etc.,

 

     "Signed, BENJ. VAUGHAN."

 

 

 

Continuation of the Account of my Life, begun at Passy, near Paris,

1784.

 

It is some time since I receiv'd the above letters, but I have been too

busy till now to think of complying with the request they contain.  It

might, too, be much better done if I were at home among my papers,

which would aid my memory, and help to ascertain dates; but my return

being uncertain and having just now a little leisure, I will endeavor

to recollect and write what I can; if I live to get home, it may there

be corrected and improv'd.

 

Not having any copy here of what is already written, I know not whether

an account is given of the means I used to establish the Philadelphia

public library, which, from a small beginning, is now become so

considerable, though I remember to have come down to near the time of

that transaction (1730). I will therefore begin here with an account of

it, which may be struck out if found to have been already given.

 

At the time I establish'd myself in Pennsylvania, there was not a good

bookseller's shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston.

In New York and Philad'a the printers were indeed stationers; they sold

only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books.

Those who lov'd reading were oblig'd to send for their books from

England; the members of the Junto had each a few.  We had left the

alehouse, where we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in.  I

propos'd that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where

they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences, but become

a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he

wish'd to read at home.  This was accordingly done, and for some time

contented us.

 

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I propos'd to render

the benefit from books more common, by commencing a public subscription

library.  I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be

necessary, and got a skilful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put

the whole in form of articles of agreement to be subscribed, by which

each subscriber engag'd to pay a certain sum down for the first

purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them.  So

few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of

us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry, to find more than

fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this

purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum.  On this

little fund we began.  The books were imported; the library wag opened

one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory

notes to pay double the value if not duly returned.  The institution

soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns, and in other

provinces.  The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became

fashionable; and our people, having no publick amusements to divert

their attention from study, became better acquainted with books, and in

a few years were observ'd by strangers to be better instructed and more

intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other

countries.

 

When we were about to sign the above-mentioned articles, which were to

be binding upon us, our heirs, etc., for fifty years, Mr. Brockden, the

scrivener, said to us, "You are young men, but it is scarcely probable

that any of you will live to see the expiration of the term fix'd in

the instrument."  A number of us, however, are yet living; but the

instrument was after a few years rendered null by a charter that

incorporated and gave perpetuity to the company.

 

The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting the

subscriptions, made me soon feel the impropriety of presenting one's

self as the proposer of any useful project, that might be suppos'd to

raise one's reputation in the smallest degree above that of one's

neighbors, when one has need of their assistance to accomplish that

project.  I therefore put myself as much as I could out of sight, and

stated it as a scheme of a number of friends, who had requested me to

go about and propose it to such as they thought lovers of reading.  In

this way my affair went on more smoothly, and I ever after practis'd it

on such occasions; and, from my frequent successes, can heartily

recommend it.  The present little sacrifice of your vanity will

afterwards be amply repaid.  If it remains a while uncertain to whom

the merit belongs, some one more vain than yourself will be encouraged

to claim it, and then even envy will be disposed to do you justice by

plucking those assumed feathers, and restoring them to their right

owner.

 

This library afforded me the means of improvement by constant study,

for which I set apart an hour or two each day, and thus repair'd in

some degree the loss of the learned education my father once intended

for me.  Reading was the only amusement I allow'd myself.  I spent no

time in taverns, games, or frolicks of any kind; and my industry in my

business continu'd as indefatigable as it was necessary.  I was

indebted for my printing-house; I had a young family coming on to be

educated, and I had to contend with for business two printers, who were

established in the place before me.  My circumstances, however, grew

daily easier.  My original habits of frugality continuing, and my

father having, among his instructions to me when a boy, frequently

repeated a proverb of Solomon, "Seest thou a man diligent in his

calling, he shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean

men," I from thence considered industry as a means of obtaining wealth

and distinction, which encourag'd me, tho' I did not think that I

should ever literally stand before kings, which, however, has since

happened; for I have stood before five, and even had the honor of

sitting down with one, the King of Denmark, to dinner.

 

We have an English proverb that says, "He that would thrive, must ask

his wife."  It was lucky for me that I had one as much dispos'd to

industry and frugality as myself.  She assisted me cheerfully in my

business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old

linen rags for the papermakers, etc., etc.  We kept no idle servants,

our table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest.  For

instance, my breakfast was a long time bread and milk (no tea), and I

ate it out of a twopenny earthen porringer, with a pewter spoon.  But

mark how luxury will enter families, and make a progress, in spite of

principle:  being call'd one morning to breakfast, I found it in a

China bowl, with a spoon of silver!  They had been bought for me

without my knowledge by my wife, and had cost her the enormous sum of

three-and-twenty shillings, for which she had no other excuse or

apology to make, but that she thought her husband deserv'd a silver

spoon and China bowl as well as any of his neighbors.  This was the

first appearance of plate and China in our house, which afterward, in a

course of years, as our wealth increas'd, augmented gradually to

several hundred pounds in value.

 

I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; and tho' some of the

dogmas of that persuasion, such as the eternal decrees of God,

election, reprobation, etc., appeared to me unintelligible, others

doubtful, and I early absented myself from the public assemblies of the

sect, Sunday being my studying day, I never was without some religious

principles.  I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity;

that he made the world, and govern'd it by his Providence; that the

most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our

souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue

rewarded, either here or hereafter.  These I esteem'd the essentials of

every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had in

our country, I respected them all, tho' with different degrees of

respect, as I found them more or less mix'd with other articles, which,

without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, serv'd

principally to divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another.  This

respect to all, with an opinion that the worst had some good effects,

induc'd me to avoid all discourse that might tend to lessen the good

opinion another might have of his own religion; and as our province

increas'd in people, and new places of worship were continually wanted,

and generally erected by voluntary contributions, my mite for such

purpose, whatever might be the sect, was never refused.

 

Tho' I seldom attended any public worship, I had still an opinion of

its propriety, and of its utility when rightly conducted, and I

regularly paid my annual subscription for the support of the only

Presbyterian minister or meeting we had in Philadelphia.  He us'd to

visit me sometimes as a friend, and admonish me to attend his

administrations, and I was now and then prevail'd on to do so, once for

five Sundays successively.  Had he been in my opinion a good preacher,

perhaps I might have continued, notwithstanding the occasion I had for

the Sunday's leisure in my course of study; but his discourses were

chiefly either polemic arguments, or explications of the peculiar

doctrines of our sect, and were all to me very dry, uninteresting, and

unedifying, since not a single moral principle was inculcated or

enforc'd, their aim seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians than

good citizens.

 

At length he took for his text that verse of the fourth chapter of

Philippians, "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, honest,

just, pure, lovely, or of good report, if there be any virtue, or any

praise, think on these things."  And I imagin'd, in a sermon on such a

text, we could not miss of having some morality.  But he confin'd

himself to five points only, as meant by the apostle, viz.: 1.  Keeping

holy the Sabbath day.  2.  Being diligent in reading the holy

Scriptures.  3.  Attending duly the publick worship.  4.  Partaking of

the Sacrament.  5.  Paying a due respect to God's ministers.  These

might be all good things; but, as they were not the kind of good things

that I expected from that text, I despaired of ever meeting with them

from any other, was disgusted, and attended his preaching no more.  I

had some years before compos'd a little Liturgy, or form of prayer, for

my own private use (viz., in 1728), entitled, Articles of Belief and

Acts of Religion.  I return'd to the use of this, and went no more to

the public assemblies.  My conduct might be blameable, but I leave it,

without attempting further to excuse it; my present purpose being to

relate facts, and not to make apologies for them.

 

It was about this time I conceiv'd the bold and arduous project of

arriving at moral perfection.  I wish'd to live without committing any

fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination,

custom, or company might lead me into.  As I knew, or thought I knew,

what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the

one and avoid the other.  But I soon found I had undertaken a task of

more difficulty than I bad imagined.  While my care was employ'd in

guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit

took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong

for reason.  I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative

conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not

sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must

be broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we can have

any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct.  For this

purpose I therefore contrived the following method.

 

In the various enumerations of the moral virtues I had met with in my

reading, I found the catalogue more or less numerous, as different

writers included more or fewer ideas under the same name.  Temperance,

for example, was by some confined to eating and drinking, while by

others it was extended to mean the moderating every other pleasure,

appetite, inclination, or passion, bodily or mental, even to our

avarice and ambition.  I propos'd to myself, for the sake of clearness,

to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annex'd to each, than a few

names with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of virtues

all that at that time occurr'd to me as necessary or desirable, and

annexed to each a short precept, which fully express'd the extent I

gave to its meaning.

 

These names of virtues, with their precepts, were:

 

1.  TEMPERANCE.  Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

 

2.  SILENCE.  Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid

trifling conversation.

 

3.  ORDER.  Let all your things have their places; let each part of

your business have its time.

 

4.  RESOLUTION.  Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without

fail what you resolve.

 

5.  FRUGALITY.  Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself;

i.e., waste nothing.

 

6.  INDUSTRY.  Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful;

cut off all unnecessary actions.

 

7.  SINCERITY.  Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly,

and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

 

8.  JUSTICE.  Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits

that are your duty.

 

9.  MODERATION.  Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as

you think they deserve.

 

10.  CLEANLINESS.  Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or

habitation.

 

11.  TRANQUILLITY.  Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common

or unavoidable.

 

12.  CHASTITY.  Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to

dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or

reputation.

 

13.  HUMILITY.  Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

 

My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I

judg'd it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the

whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I

should be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I

should have gone thro' the thirteen; and, as the previous acquisition

of some might facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arrang'd

them with that view, as they stand above.  Temperance first, as it

tends to procure that coolness and clearness of head, which is so

necessary where constant vigilance was to be kept up, and guard

maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient habits, and

the force of perpetual temptations.  This being acquir'd and

establish'd, Silence would be more easy; and my desire being to gain

knowledge at the same time that I improv'd in virtue, and considering

that in conversation it was obtain'd rather by the use of the ears than

of the tongue, and therefore wishing to break a habit I was getting

into of prattling, punning, and joking, which only made me acceptable

to trifling company, I gave Silence the second place.  This and the

next, Order, I expected would allow me more time for attending to my

project and my studies.  Resolution, once become habitual, would keep

me firm in my endeavors to obtain all the subsequent virtues; Frugality

and Industry freeing me from my remaining debt, and producing affluence

and independence, would make more easy the practice of Sincerity and

Justice, etc., etc.  Conceiving then, that, agreeably to the advice of

Pythagoras in his Golden Verses, daily examination would be necessary,

I contrived the following method for conducting that examination.

 

I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the

virtues.  I rul'd each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns,

one for each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for the

day.  I cross'd these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the

beginning of each line with the first letter of one of the virtues, on

which line, and in its proper column, I might mark, by a little black

spot, every fault I found upon examination to have been committed

respecting that virtue upon that day.

 

Form of the pages.

 

           +-------------------------------+

           |              TEMPERANCE.      |

           +-------------------------------+

           |       EAT NOT TO DULNESS;     |

           |     DRINK NOT TO ELEVATION.   |

           +-------------------------------+

           |   | S.| M.| T.| W.| T.| F.| S.|

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | T.|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | S.| * | * |   | * |   | * |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | O.| **| * | * |   | * | * | * |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | R.|   |   | * |   |   | * |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | F.|   | * |   |   | * |   |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | I.|   |   | * |   |   |   |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | S.|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | J.|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | M.|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | C.|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | T.|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | C.|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

           | H.|   |   |   |   |   |   |   |

           +---+---+---+---+---+---+---+---+

 

I determined to give a week's strict attention to each of the virtues

successively.  Thus, in the first week, my great guard was to avoid

every the least offence against Temperance, leaving the other virtues

to their ordinary chance, only marking every evening the faults of the

day.  Thus, if in the first week I could keep my first line, marked T,

clear of spots, I suppos'd the habit of that virtue so much

strengthen'd and its opposite weaken'd, that I might venture extending

my attention to include the next, and for the following week keep both

lines clear of spots.  Proceeding thus to the last, I could go thro' a

course compleat in thirteen weeks, and four courses in a year.  And

like him who, having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate

all the bad herbs at once, which would exceed his reach and his

strength, but works on one of the beds at a time, and, having

accomplish'd the first, proceeds to a second, so I should have, I

hoped, the encouraging pleasure of seeing on my pages the progress I

made in virtue, by clearing successively my lines of their spots, till

in the end, by a number of courses, I should be happy in viewing a

clean book, after a thirteen weeks' daily examination.

 

This my little book had for its motto these lines from Addison's Cato:

 

          "Here will I hold.  If there's a power above us

          (And that there is all nature cries aloud

          Thro' all her works), He must delight in virtue;

          And that which he delights in must be happy."

 

Another from Cicero,

 

          "O vitae Philosophia dux! O virtutum indagatrix

          expultrixque vitiorum! Unus dies, bene et ex praeceptis

          tuis actus, peccanti immortalitati est anteponendus."

 

Another from the Proverbs of Solomon, speaking of wisdom or virtue:

 

          "Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand

          riches and honour.  Her ways are ways of pleasantness,

          and all her paths are peace." iii. 16, 17.

 

And conceiving God to be the fountain of wisdom, I thought it right and

necessary to solicit his assistance for obtaining it; to this end I

formed the following little prayer, which was prefix'd to my tables of

examination, for daily use.

 

"O powerful Goodness! bountiful Father! merciful Guide! increase in me

that wisdom which discovers my truest interest! strengthen my

resolutions to perform what that wisdom dictates.  Accept my kind

offices to thy other children as the only return in my power for thy

continual favors to me."

 

I used also sometimes a little prayer which I took from Thomson's

Poems, viz.:

 

          "Father of light and life, thou Good Supreme!

          O teach me what is good; teach me Thyself!

          Save me from folly, vanity, and vice,

          From every low pursuit; and fill my soul

          With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure;

          Sacred, substantial, never-fading bliss!"

 

The precept of Order requiring that every part of my business should

have its allotted time, one page in my little book contain'd the

following scheme of employment for the twenty-four hours of a natural

day:

 

       THE MORNING.            {  5 } Rise, wash, and address

                               {    } Powerful Goodness!  Contrive

  Question.  What good  shall  {  6 } day's business, and take the

  I do this day?               {    } resolution of the day; prosecute

                               {  7 } the present study, and

                               {    } breakfast.

                                  8 }

                                  9 } Work.

                                 10 }

                                 11 }

 

       NOON.                   { 12 } Read, or overlook my

                               {  1 } accounts, and dine.

                                  2 }

                                  3 } Work.

                                  4 }

                                  5 }

 

       EVENING.                {  6 } Put things in their places.

                               {  7 } Supper.  Music or diversion,

  Question.  What good have    {  8 } or conversation.  Examination

  I done to-day?               {  9 } of the day.

                               { 10 }

                               { 11 }

                               { 12 }

 

       NIGHT.                  {  1 } Sleep.

                               {  2 }

                               {  3 }

                               {  4 }

 

I enter'd upon the execution of this plan for self-examination, and

continu'd it with occasional intermissions for some time.  I was

surpris'd to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined;

but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish.  To avoid the

trouble of renewing now and then my little book, which, by scraping out

the marks on the paper of old faults to make room for new ones in a new

course, became full of holes, I transferr'd my tables and precepts to

the ivory leaves of a memorandum book, on which the lines were drawn

with red ink, that made a durable stain, and on those lines I mark'd my

faults with a black-lead pencil, which marks I could easily wipe out

with a wet sponge.  After a while I went thro' one course only in a

year, and afterward only one in several years, till at length I omitted

them entirely, being employ'd in voyages and business abroad, with a

multiplicity of affairs that interfered; but I always carried my little

book with me.

 

My scheme of ORDER gave me the most trouble; and I found that, tho' it

might be practicable where a man's business was such as to leave him

the disposition of his time, that of a journeyman printer, for

instance, it was not possible to be exactly observed by a master, who

must mix with the world, and often receive people of business at their

own hours.  Order, too, with regard to places for things, papers, etc.,

I found extreamly difficult to acquire.  I had not been early

accustomed to it, and, having an exceeding good memory, I was not so

sensible of the inconvenience attending want of method.  This article,

therefore, cost me so much painful attention, and my faults in it vexed

me so much, and I made so little progress in amendment, and had such

frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to give up the attempt, and

content myself with a faulty character in that respect, like the man

who, in buying an ax of a smith, my neighbour, desired to have the

whole of its surface as bright as the edge.  The smith consented to

grind it bright for him if he would turn the wheel; he turn'd, while

the smith press'd the broad face of the ax hard and heavily on the

stone, which made the turning of it very fatiguing.  The man came every

now and then from the wheel to see how the work went on, and at length

would take his ax as it was, without farther grinding.  "No," said the

smith, "turn on, turn on; we shall have it bright by-and-by; as yet, it

is only speckled." "Yes," said the man, "but I think I like a speckled

ax best." And I believe this may have been the case with many, who,

having, for want of some such means as I employ'd, found the difficulty

of obtaining good and breaking bad habits in other points of vice and

virtue, have given up the struggle, and concluded that "a speckled ax

was best"; for something, that pretended to be reason, was every now

and then suggesting to me that such extream nicety as I exacted of

myself might be a kind of foppery in morals, which, if it were known,

would make me ridiculous; that a perfect character might be attended

with the inconvenience of being envied and hated; and that a benevolent

man should allow a few faults in himself, to keep his friends in

countenance.

 

In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order; and now I

am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it.

But, on the whole, tho' I never arrived at the perfection I had been so

ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the

endeavour, a better and a happier man than I otherwise should have been

if I had not attempted it; as those who aim at perfect writing by

imitating the engraved copies, tho' they never reach the wish'd-for

excellence of those copies, their hand is mended by the endeavor, and

is tolerable while it continues fair and legible.

 

It may be well my posterity should be informed that to this little

artifice, with the blessing of God, their ancestor ow'd the constant

felicity of his life, down to his 79th year, in which this is written.

What reverses may attend the remainder is in the hand of Providence;

but, if they arrive, the reflection on past happiness enjoy'd ought to

help his bearing them with more resignation.  To Temperance he ascribes

his long-continued health, and what is still left to him of a good

constitution; to Industry and Frugality, the early easiness of his

circumstances and acquisition of his fortune, with all that knowledge

that enabled him to be a useful citizen, and obtained for him some

degree of reputation among the learned; to Sincerity and Justice, the

confidence of his country, and the honorable employs it conferred upon

him; and to the joint influence of the whole mass of the virtues, even

in the imperfect state he was able to acquire them, all that evenness

of temper, and that cheerfulness in conversation, which makes his

company still sought for, and agreeable even to his younger

acquaintance.  I hope, therefore, that some of my descendants may

follow the example and reap the benefit.

 

It will be remark'd that, tho' my scheme was not wholly without

religion, there was in it no mark of any of the distinguishing tenets

of any particular sect.  I had purposely avoided them; for, being fully

persuaded of the utility and excellency of my method, and that it might

be serviceable to people in all religions, and intending some time or

other to publish it, I would not have any thing in it that should

prejudice any one, of any sect, against it.  I purposed writing a

little comment on each virtue, in which I would have shown the

advantages of possessing it, and the mischiefs attending its opposite

vice; and I should have called my book THE ART OF VIRTUE,[7] because it

would have shown the means and manner of obtaining virtue, which would

have distinguished it from the mere exhortation to be good, that does

not instruct and indicate the means, but is like the apostle's man of

verbal charity, who only without showing to the naked and hungry how or

where they might get clothes or victuals, exhorted them to be fed and

clothed.--James ii.  15, 16.

 

     [7] Nothing so likely to make a man's fortune as virtue.

         --[Marg. note.]

 

But it so happened that my intention of writing and publishing this

comment was never fulfilled.  I did, indeed, from time to time, put

down short hints of the sentiments, reasonings, etc., to be made use of

in it, some of which I have still by me; but the necessary close

attention to private business in the earlier part of thy life, and

public business since, have occasioned my postponing it; for, it being

connected in my mind with a great and extensive project, that required

the whole man to execute, and which an unforeseen succession of employs

prevented my attending to, it has hitherto remain'd unfinish'd.

 

In this piece it was my design to explain and enforce this doctrine,

that vicious actions are not hurtful because they are forbidden, but

forbidden because they are hurtful, the nature of man alone considered;

that it was, therefore, every one's interest to be virtuous who wish'd

to be happy even in this world; and I should, from this circumstance

(there being always in the world a number of rich merchants, nobility,

states, and princes, who have need of honest instruments for the

management of their affairs, and such being so rare), have endeavored

to convince young persons that no qualities were so likely to make a

poor man's fortune as those of probity and integrity.

 

My list of virtues contain'd at first but twelve; but a Quaker friend

having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my

pride show'd itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content

with being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing,

and rather insolent, of which he convinc'd me by mentioning several

instances; I determined endeavouring to cure myself, if I could, of

this vice or folly among the rest, and I added Humility to my list,

giving an extensive meaning to the word.

 

I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this virtue,

but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it.  I made it a

rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others,

and all positive assertion of my own.  I even forbid myself, agreeably

to the old laws of our Junto, the use of every word or expression in

the language that imported a fix'd opinion, such as certainly,

undoubtedly, etc., and I adopted, instead of them, I conceive, I

apprehend, or I imagine a thing to be so or so; or it so appears to me

at present.  When another asserted something that I thought an error, I

deny'd myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of

showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering

I began by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion

would be right, but in the present case there appear'd or seem'd to me

some difference, etc.  I soon found the advantage of this change in my

manner; the conversations I engag'd in went on more pleasantly.  The

modest way in which I propos'd my opinions procur'd them a readier

reception and less contradiction; I had less mortification when I was

found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevail'd with others to

give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the

right.

 

And this mode, which I at first put on with some violence to natural

inclination, became at length so easy, and so habitual to me, that

perhaps for these fifty years past no one has ever heard a dogmatical

expression escape me.  And to this habit (after my character of

integrity) I think it principally owing that I had early so much weight

with my fellow-citizens when I proposed new institutions, or

alterations in the old, and so much influence in public councils when I

became a member; for I was but a bad speaker, never eloquent, subject

to much hesitation in my choice of words, hardly correct in language,

and yet I generally carried my points.

 

In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so hard

to subdue as pride.  Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down,

stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and

will every now and then peep out and show itself; you will see it,

perhaps, often in this history; for, even if I could conceive that I

had compleatly overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.

 

[Thus far written at Passy, 1784.]

 

["I am now about to write at home, August, 1788, but can not have the

help expected from my papers, many of them being lost in the war.  I

have, however, found the following."][8]

 

     [8]This is a marginal memorandum.--B.

 

HAVING mentioned a great and extensive project which I had conceiv'd,

it seems proper that some account should be here given of that project

and its object.  Its first rise in my mind appears in the following

little paper, accidentally preserv'd, viz.:

 

Observations on my reading history, in Library, May 19th, 1731.

 

"That the great affairs of the world, the wars, revolutions, etc., are

carried on and affected by parties.

 

"That the view of these parties is their present general interest, or

what they take to be such.

 

"That the different views of these different parties occasion all

confusion.

 

"That while a party is carrying on a general design, each man has his

particular private interest in view.

 

"That as soon as a party has gain'd its general point, each member

becomes intent upon his particular interest; which, thwarting others,

breaks that party into divisions, and occasions more confusion.

 

"That few in public affairs act from a meer view of the good of their

country, whatever they may pretend; and, tho' their actings bring real

good to their country, yet men primarily considered that their own and

their country's interest was united, and did not act from a principle

of benevolence.

 

"That fewer still, in public affairs, act with a view to the good of

mankind.

 

"There seems to me at present to be great occasion for raising a United

Party for Virtue, by forming the virtuous and good men of all nations

into a regular body, to be govern'd by suitable good and wise rules,

which good and wise men may probably be more unanimous in their

obedience to, than common people are to common laws.

 

"I at present think that whoever attempts this aright, and is well

qualified, can not fail of pleasing God, and of meeting with success.

B. F."

 

Revolving this project in my mind, as to be undertaken hereafter, when

my circumstances should afford me the necessary leisure, I put down

from time to time, on pieces of paper, such thoughts as occurr'd to me

respecting it.  Most of these are lost; but I find one purporting to be

the substance of an intended creed, containing, as I thought, the

essentials of every known religion, and being free of every thing that

might shock the professors of any religion.  It is express'd in these

words, viz.:

 

"That there is one God, who made all things.

 

"That he governs the world by his providence.

 

"That he ought to be worshiped by adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving.

 

"But that the most acceptable service of God is doing good to man.

 

"That the soul is immortal.

 

"And that God will certainly reward virtue and punish vice either here

or hereafter."[9]

 

     [9] In the Middle Ages, Franklin, if such a phenomenon as

         Franklin were possible in the Middle Ages, would

         probably have been the founder of a monastic order.--B.

 

My ideas at that time were, that the sect should be begun and spread at

first among young and single men only; that each person to be initiated

should not only declare his assent to such creed, but should have

exercised himself with the thirteen weeks' examination and practice of

the virtues, as in the before-mention'd model; that the existence of

such a society should be kept a secret, till it was become

considerable, to prevent solicitations for the admission of improper

persons, but that the members should each of them search among his

acquaintance for ingenuous, well-disposed youths, to whom, with prudent

caution, the scheme should be gradually communicated; that the members

should engage to afford their advice, assistance, and support to each

other in promoting one another's interests, business, and advancement

in life; that, for distinction, we should be call'd The Society of the

Free and Easy:  free, as being, by the general practice and habit of

the virtues, free from the dominion of vice; and particularly by the

practice of industry and frugality, free from debt, which exposes a man

to confinement, and a species of slavery to his creditors.

 

This is as much as I can now recollect of the project, except that I

communicated it in part to two young men, who adopted it with some

enthusiasm; but my then narrow circumstances, and the necessity I was

under of sticking close to my business, occasion'd my postponing the

further prosecution of it at that time; and my multifarious

occupations, public and private, induc'd me to continue postponing, so

that it has been omitted till I have no longer strength or activity

left sufficient for such an enterprise; tho' I am still of opinion that

it was a practicable scheme, and might have been very useful, by

forming a great number of good citizens; and I was not discourag'd by

the seeming magnitude of the undertaking, as I have always thought that

one man of tolerable abilities may work great changes, and accomplish

great affairs among mankind, if he first forms a good plan, and,

cutting off all amusements or other employments that would divert his

attention, makes the execution of that same plan his sole study and

business.

 

In 1732 I first publish'd my Almanack, under the name of Richard

Saunders; it was continu'd by me about twenty-five years, commonly

call'd Poor Richard's Almanac.  I endeavor'd to make it both

entertaining and useful, and it accordingly came to be in such demand,

that I reap'd considerable profit from it, vending annually near ten

thousand.  And observing that it was generally read, scarce any

neighborhood in the province being without it, I consider'd it as a

proper vehicle for conveying instruction among the common people, who

bought scarcely any other books; I therefore filled all the little

spaces that occurr'd between the remarkable days in the calendar with

proverbial sentences, chiefly such as inculcated industry and

frugality, as the means of procuring wealth, and thereby securing

virtue; it being more difficult for a man in want, to act always

honestly, as, to use here one of those proverbs, it is hard for an

empty sack to stand up-right.

 

These proverbs, which contained the wisdom of many ages and nations, I

assembled and form'd into a connected discourse prefix'd to the

Almanack of 1757, as the harangue of a wise old man to the people

attending an auction.  The bringing all these scatter'd counsels thus

into a focus enabled them to make greater impression.  The piece, being

universally approved, was copied in all the newspapers of the

Continent; reprinted in Britain on a broad side, to be stuck up in

houses; two translations were made of it in French, and great numbers

bought by the clergy and gentry, to distribute gratis among their poor

parishioners and tenants.  In Pennsylvania, as it discouraged useless

expense in foreign superfluities, some thought it had its share of

influence in producing that growing plenty of money which was

observable for several years after its publication.

 

I considered my newspaper, also, as another means of communicating

instruction, and in that view frequently reprinted in it extracts from

the Spectator, and other moral writers; and sometimes publish'd little

pieces of my own, which had been first compos'd for reading in our

Junto.  Of these are a Socratic dialogue, tending to prove that,

whatever might be his parts and abilities, a vicious man could not

properly be called a man of sense; and a discourse on self-denial,

showing that virtue was not secure till its practice became a habitude,

and was free from the opposition of contrary inclinations.  These may

be found in the papers about the beginning Of 1735.

 

In the conduct of my newspaper, I carefully excluded all libelling and

personal abuse, which is of late years become so disgraceful to our

country.  Whenever I was solicited to insert anything of that kind, and

the writers pleaded, as they generally did, the liberty of the press,

and that a newspaper was like a stagecoach, in which any one who would

pay had a right to a place, my answer was, that I would print the piece

separately if desired, and the author might have as many copies as he

pleased to distribute himself, but that I would not take upon me to

spread his detraction; and that, having contracted with my subscribers

to furnish them with what might be either useful or entertaining, I

could not fill their papers with private altercation, in which they had

no concern, without doing them manifest injustice.  Now, many of our

printers make no scruple of gratifying the malice of individuals by

false accusations of the fairest characters among ourselves, augmenting

animosity even to the producing of duels; and are, moreover, so

indiscreet as to print scurrilous reflections on the government of

neighboring states, and even on the conduct of our best national

allies, which may be attended with the most pernicious consequences.

These things I mention as a caution to young printers, and that they

may be encouraged not to pollute their presses and disgrace their

profession by such infamous practices, but refuse steadily, as they may

see by my example that such a course of conduct will not, on the whole,

be injurious to their interests.

 

In 1733 I sent one of my journeymen to Charleston, South Carolina,

where a printer was wanting.  I furnish'd him with a press and letters,

on an agreement of partnership, by which I was to receive one-third of

the profits of the business, paying one-third of the expense.  He was a

man of learning, and honest but ignorant in matters of account; and,

tho' he sometimes made me remittances, I could get no account from him,

nor any satisfactory state of our partnership while he lived.  On his

decease, the business was continued by his widow, who, being born and

bred in Holland, where, as I have been inform'd, the knowledge of

accounts makes a part of female education, she not only sent me as

clear a state as she could find of the transactions past, but continued

to account with the greatest regularity and exactness every quarter

afterwards, and managed the business with such success, that she not

only brought up reputably a family of children, but, at the expiration

of the term, was able to purchase of me the printing-house, and

establish her son in it.

 

I mention this affair chiefly for the sake of recommending that branch

of education for our young females, as likely to be of more use to them

and their children, in case of widowhood, than either music or dancing,

by preserving them from losses by imposition of crafty men, and

enabling them to continue, perhaps, a profitable mercantile house, with

establish'd correspondence, till a son is grown up fit to undertake and

go on with it, to the lasting advantage and enriching of the family.

 

About the year 1734 there arrived among us from Ireland a young

Presbyterian preacher, named Hemphill, who delivered with a good voice,

and apparently extempore, most excellent discourses, which drew

together considerable numbers of different persuasion, who join'd in

admiring them.  Among the rest, I became one of his constant hearers,

his sermons pleasing me, as they had little of the dogmatical kind, but

inculcated strongly the practice of virtue, or what in the religious

stile are called good works.  Those, however, of our congregation, who

considered themselves as orthodox Presbyterians, disapprov'd his

doctrine, and were join'd by most of the old clergy, who arraign'd him

of heterodoxy before the synod, in order to have him silenc'd. I became

his zealous partisan, and contributed all I could to raise a party in

his favour, and we combated for him a while with some hopes of success.

There was much scribbling pro and con upon the occasion; and finding

that, tho' an elegant preacher, he was but a poor writer, I lent him my

pen and wrote for him two or three pamphlets, and one piece in the

Gazette of April, 1735.  Those pamphlets, as is generally the case with

controversial writings, tho' eagerly read at the time, were soon out of

vogue, and I question whether a single copy of them now exists.

 

During the contest an unlucky occurrence hurt his cause exceedingly.

One of our adversaries having heard him preach a sermon that was much

admired, thought he had somewhere read the sermon before, or at least a

part of it.  On search he found that part quoted at length, in one of

the British Reviews, from a discourse of Dr. Foster's. This detection

gave many of our party disgust, who accordingly abandoned his cause,

and occasion'd our more speedy discomfiture in the synod.  I stuck by

him, however, as I rather approv'd his giving us good sermons compos'd

by others, than bad ones of his own manufacture, tho' the latter was

the practice of our common teachers.  He afterward acknowledg'd to me

that none of those he preach'd were his own; adding, that his memory

was such as enabled him to retain and repeat any sermon after one

reading only.  On our defeat, he left us in search elsewhere of better

fortune, and I quitted the congregation, never joining it after, tho' I

continu'd many years my subscription for the support of its ministers.

 

I had begun in 1733 to study languages; I soon made myself so much a

master of the French as to be able to read the books with ease.  I then

undertook the Italian.  An acquaintance, who was also learning it, us'd

often to tempt me to play chess with him.  Finding this took up too

much of the time I had to spare for study, I at length refus'd to play

any more, unless on this condition, that the victor in every game

should have a right to impose a task, either in parts of the grammar to

be got by heart, or in translations, etc., which tasks the vanquish'd

was to perform upon honour, before our next meeting.  As we play'd

pretty equally, we thus beat one another into that language.  I

afterwards with a little painstaking, acquir'd as much of the Spanish

as to read their books also.

 

I have already mention'd that I had only one year's instruction in a

Latin school, and that when very young, after which I neglected that

language entirely.  But, when I had attained an acquaintance with the

French, Italian, and Spanish, I was surpriz'd to find, on looking over

a Latin Testament, that I understood so much more of that language than

I had imagined, which encouraged me to apply myself again to the study

of it, and I met with more success, as those preceding languages had

greatly smooth'd my way.

 

From these circumstances, I have thought that there is some

inconsistency in our common mode of teaching languages.  We are told

that it is proper to begin first with the Latin, and, having acquir'd

that, it will be more easy to attain those modern languages which are

deriv'd from it; and yet we do not begin with the Greek, in order more

easily to acquire the Latin.  It is true that, if you can clamber and

get to the top of a staircase without using the steps, you will more

easily gain them in descending; but certainly, if you begin with the

lowest you will with more ease ascend to the top; and I would therefore

offer it to the consideration of those who superintend the education of

our youth, whether, since many of those who begin with the Latin quit

the same after spending some years without having made any great

proficiency, and what they have learnt becomes almost useless, so that

their time has been lost, it would not have been better to have begun

with the French, proceeding to the Italian, etc.; for, tho', after

spending the same time, they should quit the study of languages and

never arrive at the Latin, they would, however, have acquired another

tongue or two, that, being in modern use, might be serviceable to them

in common life.

 

After ten years' absence from Boston, and having become easy in my

circumstances, I made a journey thither to visit my relations, which I

could not sooner well afford.  In returning, I call'd at Newport to see

my brother, then settled there with his printing-house. Our former

differences were forgotten, and our meeting was very cordial and

affectionate.  He was fast declining in his health, and requested of me

that, in case of his death, which he apprehended not far distant, I

would take home his son, then but ten years of age, and bring him up to

the printing business.  This I accordingly perform'd, sending him a few

years to school before I took him into the office.  His mother carried

on the business till he was grown up, when I assisted him with an

assortment of new types, those of his father being in a manner worn

out.  Thus it was that I made my brother ample amends for the service I

had depriv'd him of by leaving him so early.

 

In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the

small-pox, taken in the common way.  I long regretted bitterly, and

still regret that I had not given it to him by inoculation.  This I

mention for the sake of parents who omit that operation, on the

supposition that they should never forgive themselves if a child died

under it; my example showing that the regret may be the same either

way, and that, therefore, the safer should be chosen.

 

Our club, the Junto, was found so useful, and afforded such

satisfaction to the members, that several were desirous of introducing

their friends, which could not well be done without exceeding what we

had settled as a convenient number, viz., twelve.  We had from the

beginning made it a rule to keep our institution a secret, which was

pretty well observ'd; the intention was to avoid applications of

improper persons for admittance, some of whom, perhaps, we might find

it difficult to refuse.  I was one of those who were against any

addition to our number, but, instead of it, made in writing a proposal,

that every member separately should endeavor to form a subordinate

club, with the same rules respecting queries, etc., and without

informing them of the connection with the Junto.  The advantages

proposed were, the improvement of so many more young citizens by the

use of our institutions; our better acquaintance with the general

sentiments of the inhabitants on any occasion, as the Junto member

might propose what queries we should desire, and was to report to the

Junto what pass'd in his separate club; the promotion of our particular

interests in business by more extensive recommendation, and the

increase of our influence in public affairs, and our power of doing

good by spreading thro' the several clubs the sentiments of the Junto.

 

The project was approv'd, and every member undertook to form his club,

but they did not all succeed.  Five or six only were compleated, which

were called by different names, as the Vine, the Union, the Band, etc.

They were useful to themselves, and afforded us a good deal of

amusement, information, and instruction, besides answering, in some

considerable degree, our views of influencing the public opinion on

particular occasions, of which I shall give some instances in course of

time as they happened.

 

My first promotion was my being chosen, in 1736, clerk of the General

Assembly.  The choice was made that year without opposition; but the

year following, when I was again propos'd (the choice, like that of the

members, being annual), a new member made a long speech against me, in

order to favour some other candidate.  I was, however, chosen, which

was the more agreeable to me, as, besides the pay for the immediate

service as clerk, the place gave me a better opportunity of keeping up

an interest among the members, which secur'd to me the business of

printing the votes, laws, paper money, and other occasional jobbs for

the public, that, on the whole, were very profitable.

 

I therefore did not like the opposition of this new member, who was a

gentleman of fortune and education, with talents that were likely to

give him, in time, great influence in the House, which, indeed,

afterwards happened.  I did not, however, aim at gaining his favour by

paying any servile respect to him, but, after some time, took this

other method.  Having heard that he had in his library a certain very

scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of

perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending

it to me for a few days.  He sent it immediately, and I return'd it in

about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the

favour.  When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had

never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after

manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became

great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.  This is

another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which

says, "He that has once done you a kindness will be more ready to do

you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged." And it shows how

much more profitable it is prudently to remove, than to resent, return,

and continue inimical proceedings.

 

In 1737, Colonel Spotswood, late governor of Virginia, and then

postmaster-general, being dissatisfied with the conduct of his deputy

at Philadelphia, respecting some negligence in rendering, and

inexactitude of his accounts, took from him the commission and offered

it to me.  I accepted it readily, and found it of great advantage; for,

tho' the salary was small, it facilitated the correspondence that

improv'd my newspaper, increas'd the number demanded, as well as the

advertisements to be inserted, so that it came to afford me a

considerable income.  My old competitor's newspaper declin'd

proportionably, and I was satisfy'd without retaliating his refusal,

while postmaster, to permit my papers being carried by the riders.

Thus he suffer'd greatly from his neglect in due accounting; and I

mention it as a lesson to those young men who may be employ'd in

managing affairs for others, that they should always render accounts,

and make remittances, with great clearness and punctuality.  The

character of observing such a conduct is the most powerful of all

recommendations to new employments and increase of business.

 

I began now to turn my thoughts a little to public affairs, beginning,

however, with small matters.  The city watch was one of the first

things that I conceiv'd to want regulation.  It was managed by the

constables of the respective wards in turn; the constable warned a

number of housekeepers to attend him for the night.  Those who chose

never to attend paid him six shillings a year to be excus'd, which was

suppos'd to be for hiring substitutes, but was, in reality, much more

than was necessary for that purpose, and made the constableship a place

of profit; and the constable, for a little drink, often got such

ragamuffins about him as a watch, that respectable housekeepers did not

choose to mix with.  Walking the rounds, too, was often neglected, and

most of the nights spent in tippling.  I thereupon wrote a paper, to be

read in Junto, representing these irregularities, but insisting more

particularly on the inequality of this six-shilling tax of the

constables, respecting the circumstances of those who paid it, since a

poor widow housekeeper, all whose property to be guarded by the watch

did not perhaps exceed the value of fifty pounds, paid as much as the

wealthiest merchant, who had thousands of pounds worth of goods in his

stores.

 

On the whole, I proposed as a more effectual watch, the hiring of

proper men to serve constantly in that business; and as a more

equitable way of supporting the charge the levying a tax that should be

proportion'd to the property.  This idea, being approv'd by the Junto,

was communicated to the other clubs, but as arising in each of them;

and though the plan was not immediately carried into execution, yet, by

preparing the minds of people for the change, it paved the way for the

law obtained a few years after, when the members of our clubs were

grown into more influence.

 

About this time I wrote a paper (first to be read in Junto, but it was

afterward publish'd) on the different accidents and carelessnesses by

which houses were set on fire, with cautions against them, and means

proposed of avoiding them.  This was much spoken of as a useful piece,

and gave rise to a project, which soon followed it, of forming a

company for the more ready extinguishing of fires, and mutual

assistance in removing and securing the goods when in danger.

Associates in this scheme were presently found, amounting to thirty.

Our articles of agreement oblig'd every member to keep always in good

order, and fit for use, a certain number of leather buckets, with

strong bags and baskets (for packing and transporting of goods), which

were to be brought to every fire; and we agreed to meet once a month

and spend a social evening together, in discoursing and communicating

such ideas as occurred to us upon the subject of fires, as might be

useful in our conduct on such occasions.

 

The utility of this institution soon appeared, and many more desiring

to be admitted than we thought convenient for one company, they were

advised to form another, which was accordingly done; and this went on,

one new company being formed after another, till they became so

numerous as to include most of the inhabitants who were men of

property; and now, at the time of my writing this, tho' upward of fifty

years since its establishment, that which I first formed, called the

Union Fire Company, still subsists and flourishes, tho' the first

members are all deceas'd but myself and one, who is older by a year

than I am.  The small fines that have been paid by members for absence

at the monthly meetings have been apply'd to the purchase of

fire-engines, ladders, fire-hooks, and other useful implements for each

company, so that I question whether there is a city in the world better

provided with the means of putting a stop to beginning conflagrations;

and, in fact, since these institutions, the city has never lost by fire

more than one or two houses at a time, and the flames have often been

extinguished before the house in which they began has been half

consumed.

 

In 1739 arrived among us from Ireland the Reverend Mr. Whitefield, who

had made himself remarkable there as an itinerant preacher.  He was at

first permitted to preach in some of our churches; but the clergy,

taking a dislike to him, soon refus'd him their pulpits, and he was

oblig'd to preach in the fields.  The multitudes of all sects and

denominations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it was

matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, to observe the

extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers, and how much

they admir'd and respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse of

them, by assuring them that they were naturally half beasts and half

devils.  It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of

our inhabitants.  From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion,

it seem'd as if all the world were growing religious, so that one could

not walk thro' the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in

different families of every street.

 

And it being found inconvenient to assemble in the open air, subject to

its inclemencies, the building of a house to meet in was no sooner

propos'd, and persons appointed to receive contributions, but

sufficient sums were soon receiv'd to procure the ground and erect the

building, which was one hundred feet long and seventy broad, about the

size of Westminster Hall; and the work was carried on with such spirit

as to be finished in a much shorter time than could have been expected.

Both house and ground were vested in trustees, expressly for the use of

any preacher of any religious persuasion who might desire to say

something to the people at Philadelphia; the design in building not

being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in

general; so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a

missionary to preach Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his

service.

 

Mr. Whitefield, in leaving us, went preaching all the way thro' the

colonies to Georgia.  The settlement of that province had lately been

begun, but, instead of being made with hardy, industrious husbandmen,

accustomed to labor, the only people fit for such an enterprise, it was

with families of broken shop-keepers and other insolvent debtors, many

of indolent and idle habits, taken out of the jails, who, being set

down in the woods, unqualified for clearing land, and unable to endure

the hardships of a new settlement, perished in numbers, leaving many

helpless children unprovided for.  The sight of their miserable

situation inspir'd the benevolent heart of Mr. Whitefield with the idea

of building an Orphan House there, in which they might be supported and

educated.  Returning northward, he preach'd up this charity, and made

large collections, for his eloquence had a wonderful power over the

hearts and purses of his hearers, of which I myself was an instance.

 

I did not disapprove of the design, but, as Georgia was then destitute

of materials and workmen, and it was proposed to send them from

Philadelphia at a great expense, I thought it would have been better to

have built the house here, and brought the children to it.  This I

advis'd; but he was resolute in his first project, rejected my counsel,

and I therefore refus'd to contribute.  I happened soon after to attend

one of his sermons, in the course of which I perceived he intended to

finish with a collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing

from me, I had in my pocket a handful of copper money, three or four

silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold.  As he proceeded I began to

soften, and concluded to give the coppers.  Another stroke of his

oratory made me asham'd of that, and determin'd me to give the silver;

and he finish'd so admirably, that I empty'd my pocket wholly into the

collector's dish, gold and all.  At this sermon there was also one of

our club, who, being of my sentiments respecting the building in

Georgia, and suspecting a collection might be intended, had, by

precaution, emptied his pockets before he came from home.  Towards the

conclusion of the discourse, however, he felt a strong desire to give,

and apply'd to a neighbour, who stood near him, to borrow some money

for the purpose.  The application was unfortunately [made] to perhaps

the only man in the company who had the firmness not to be affected by

the preacher.  His answer was, "At any other time, Friend Hopkinson, I

would lend to thee freely; but not now, for thee seems to be out of thy

right senses."

 

Some of Mr. Whitefield's enemies affected to suppose that he would

apply these collections to his own private emolument; but I who was

intimately acquainted with him (being employed in printing his Sermons

and Journals, etc.), never had the least suspicion of his integrity,

but am to this day decidedly of opinion that he was in all his conduct

a perfectly honest man, and methinks my testimony in his favour ought

to have the more weight, as we had no religious connection.  He us'd,

indeed, sometimes to pray for my conversion, but never had the

satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard.  Ours was a mere

civil friendship, sincere on both sides, and lasted to his death.

 

The following instance will show something of the terms on which we

stood.  Upon one of his arrivals from England at Boston, he wrote to me

that he should come soon to Philadelphia, but knew not where he could

lodge when there, as he understood his old friend and host, Mr.

Benezet, was removed to Germantown.  My answer was, "You know my house;

if you can make shift with its scanty accommodations, you will be most

heartily welcome." He reply'd, that if I made that kind offer for

Christ's sake, I should not miss of a reward.  And I returned, "Don't

let me be mistaken; it was not for Christ's sake, but for your sake."

One of our common acquaintance jocosely remark'd, that, knowing it to

be the custom of the saints, when they received any favour, to shift

the burden of the obligation from off their own shoulders, and place it

in heaven, I had contriv'd to fix it on earth.

 

The last time I saw Mr. Whitefield was in London, when he consulted me

about his Orphan House concern, and his purpose of appropriating it to

the establishment of a college.

 

He had a loud and clear voice, and articulated his words and sentences

so perfectly, that he might be heard and understood at a great

distance, especially as his auditories, however numerous, observ'd the

most exact silence.  He preach'd one evening from the top of the

Court-house steps, which are in the middle of Market-street, and on the

west side of Second-street, which crosses it at right angles.  Both

streets were fill'd with his hearers to a considerable distance.  Being

among the hindmost in Market-street, I had the curiosity to learn how

far he could be heard, by retiring backwards down the street towards

the river; and I found his voice distinct till I came near

Front-street, when some noise in that street obscur'd it.  Imagining

then a semi-circle, of which my distance should be the radius, and that

it were fill'd with auditors, to each of whom I allow'd two square

feet, I computed that he might well be heard by more than thirty

thousand.  This reconcil'd me to the newspaper accounts of his having

preach'd to twenty-five thousand people in the fields, and to the

antient histories of generals haranguing whole armies, of which I had

sometimes doubted.

 

By hearing him often, I came to distinguish easily between sermons

newly compos'd, and those which he had often preach'd in the course of

his travels.  His delivery of the latter was so improv'd by frequent

repetitions that every accent, every emphasis, every modulation of

voice, was so perfectly well turn'd and well plac'd, that, without

being interested in the subject, one could not help being pleas'd with

the discourse; a pleasure of much the same kind with that receiv'd from

an excellent piece of musick.  This is an advantage itinerant preachers

have over those who are stationary, as the latter can not well improve

their delivery of a sermon by so many rehearsals.

 

His writing and printing from time to time gave great advantage to his

enemies; unguarded expressions, and even erroneous opinions, delivered

in preaching, might have been afterwards explain'd or qualifi'd by

supposing others that might have accompani'd them, or they might have

been deny'd; but litera scripta monet.  Critics attack'd his writings

violently, and with so much appearance of reason as to diminish the

number of his votaries and prevent their encrease; so that I am of

opinion if he had never written any thing, he would have left behind

him a much more numerous and important sect, and his reputation might

in that case have been still growing, even after his death, as there

being nothing of his writing on which to found a censure and give him a

lower character, his proselytes would be left at liberty to feign for

him as great a variety of excellence as their enthusiastic admiration

might wish him to have possessed.

 

My business was now continually augmenting, and my circumstances

growing daily easier, my newspaper having become very profitable, as

being for a time almost the only one in this and the neighbouring

provinces.  I experienced, too, the truth of the observation, "that

after getting the first hundred pound, it is more easy to get the

second," money itself being of a prolific nature.

 

The partnership at Carolina having succeeded, I was encourag'd to

engage in others, and to promote several of my workmen, who had behaved

well, by establishing them with printing-houses in different colonies,

on the same terms with that in Carolina.  Most of them did well, being

enabled at the end of our term, six years, to purchase the types of me

and go on working for themselves, by which means several families were

raised.  Partnerships often finish in quarrels; but I was happy in

this, that mine were all carried on and ended amicably, owing, I think,

a good deal to the precaution of having very explicitly settled, in our

articles, every thing to be done by or expected from each partner, so

that there was nothing to dispute, which precaution I would therefore

recommend to all who enter into partnerships; for, whatever esteem

partners may have for, and confidence in each other at the time of the

contract, little jealousies and disgusts may arise, with ideas of

inequality in the care and burden of the business, etc., which are

attended often with breach of friendship and of the connection, perhaps

with lawsuits and other disagreeable consequences.

 

I had, on the whole, abundant reason to be satisfied with my being

established in Pennsylvania.  There were, however, two things that I

regretted, there being no provision for defense, nor for a compleat

education of youth; no militia, nor any college.  I therefore, in 1743,

drew up a proposal for establishing an academy; and at that time,

thinking the Reverend Mr. Peters, who was out of employ, a fit person

to superintend such an institution, I communicated the project to him;

but he, having more profitable views in the service of the

proprietaries, which succeeded, declin'd the undertaking; and, not

knowing another at that time suitable for such a trust, I let the

scheme lie a while dormant.  I succeeded better the next year, 1744, in

proposing and establishing a Philosophical Society.  The paper I wrote

for that purpose will be found among my writings, when collected.

 

With respect to defense, Spain having been several years at war against

Great Britain, and being at length join'd by France, which brought us

into great danger; and the laboured and long-continued endeavour of our

governor, Thomas, to prevail with our Quaker Assembly to pass a militia

law, and make other provisions for the security of the province, having

proved abortive, I determined to try what might be done by a voluntary

association of the people.  To promote this, I first wrote and

published a pamphlet, entitled PLAIN TRUTH, in which I stated our

defenceless situation in strong lights, with the necessity of union and

discipline for our defense, and promis'd to propose in a few days an

association, to be generally signed for that purpose.  The pamphlet had

a sudden and surprising effect.  I was call'd upon for the instrument

of association, and having settled the draft of it with a few friends,

I appointed a meeting of the citizens in the large building before

mentioned.  The house was pretty full; I had prepared a number of

printed copies, and provided pens and ink dispers'd all over the room.

I harangued them a little on the subject, read the paper, and explained

it, and then distributed the copies, which were eagerly signed, not the

least objection being made.

 

When the company separated, and the papers were collected, we found

above twelve hundred hands; and, other copies being dispersed in the

country, the subscribers amounted at length to upward of ten thousand.

These all furnished themselves as soon as they could with arms, formed

themselves into companies and regiments, chose their own officers, and

met every week to be instructed in the manual exercise, and other parts

of military discipline.  The women, by subscriptions among themselves,

provided silk colors, which they presented to the companies, painted

with different devices and mottos, which I supplied.

 

The officers of the companies composing the Philadelphia regiment,

being met, chose me for their colonel; but, conceiving myself unfit, I

declin'd that station, and recommended Mr. Lawrence, a fine person, and

man of influence, who was accordingly appointed.  I then propos'd a

lottery to defray the expense of building a battery below the town, and

furnishing it with cannon.  It filled expeditiously, and the battery

was soon erected, the merlons being fram'd of logs and fill'd with

earth.  We bought some old cannon from Boston, but, these not being

sufficient, we wrote to England for more, soliciting, at the same time,

our proprietaries for some assistance, tho' without much expectation of

obtaining it.

 

Meanwhile, Colonel Lawrence, William Allen, Abram Taylor, Esqr., and

myself were sent to New York by the associators, commission'd to borrow

some cannon of Governor Clinton.  He at first refus'd us peremptorily;

but at dinner with his council, where there was great drinking of

Madeira wine, as the custom of that place then was, he softened by

degrees, and said he would lend us six.  After a few more bumpers he

advanc'd to ten; and at length he very good-naturedly conceded

eighteen.  They were fine cannon, eighteen-pounders, with their

carriages, which we soon transported and mounted on our battery, where

the associators kept a nightly guard while the war lasted, and among

the rest I regularly took my turn of duty there as a common soldier.

 

My activity in these operations was agreeable to the governor and

council; they took me into confidence, and I was consulted by them in

every measure wherein their concurrence was thought useful to the

association.  Calling in the aid of religion, I propos'd to them the

proclaiming a fast, to promote reformation, and implore the blessing of

Heaven on our undertaking.  They embrac'd the motion; but, as it was

the first fast ever thought of in the province, the secretary had no

precedent from which to draw the proclamation.  My education in New

England, where a fast is proclaimed every year, was here of some

advantage: I drew it in the accustomed stile, it was translated into

German, printed in both languages, and divulg'd thro' the province.

This gave the clergy of the different sects an opportunity of

influencing their congregations to join in the association, and it

would probably have been general among all but Quakers if the peace had

not soon interven'd.

 

It was thought by some of my friends that, by my activity in these

affairs, I should offend that sect, and thereby lose my interest in the

Assembly of the province, where they formed a great majority.  A young

gentleman who had likewise some friends in the House, and wished to

succeed me as their clerk, acquainted me that it was decided to

displace me at the next election; and he, therefore, in good will,

advis'd me to resign, as more consistent with my honour than being

turn'd out.  My answer to him was, that I had read or heard of some

public man who made it a rule never to ask for an office, and never to

refuse one when offer'd to him.  "I approve," says I, "of his rule, and

will practice it with a small addition; I shall never ask, never

refuse, nor ever resign an office.  If they will have my office of

clerk to dispose of to another, they shall take it from me.  I will

not, by giving it up, lose my right of some time or other making

reprisals on my adversaries." I heard, however, no more of this; I was

chosen again unanimously as usual at the next election.  Possibly, as

they dislik'd my late intimacy with the members of council, who had

join'd the governors in all the disputes about military preparations,

with which the House had long been harass'd, they might have been

pleas'd if I would voluntarily have left them; but they did not care to

displace me on account merely of my zeal for the association, and they

could not well give another reason.

 

Indeed I had some cause to believe that the defense of the country was

not disagreeable to any of them, provided they were not requir'd to

assist in it.  And I found that a much greater number of them than I

could have imagined, tho' against offensive war, were clearly for the

defensive.  Many pamphlets pro and con were publish'd on the subject,

and some by good Quakers, in favour of defense, which I believe

convinc'd most of their younger people.

 

A transaction in our fire company gave me some insight into their

prevailing sentiments.  It had been propos'd that we should encourage

the scheme for building a battery by laying out the present stock, then

about sixty pounds, in tickets of the lottery.  By our rules, no money

could be dispos'd of till the next meeting after the proposal.  The

company consisted of thirty members, of which twenty-two were Quakers,

and eight only of other persuasions.  We eight punctually attended the

meeting; but, tho' we thought that some of the Quakers would join us,

we were by no means sure of a majority.  Only one Quaker, Mr. James

Morris, appear'd to oppose the measure.  He expressed much sorrow that

it had ever been propos'd, as he said Friends were all against it, and

it would create such discord as might break up the company.  We told

him that we saw no reason for that; we were the minority, and if

Friends were against the measure, and outvoted us, we must and should,

agreeably to the usage of all societies, submit.  When the hour for

business arriv'd it was mov'd to put the vote; he allow'd we might then

do it by the rules, but, as he could assure us that a number of members

intended to be present for the purpose of opposing it, it would be but

candid to allow a little time for their appearing.

 

While we were disputing this, a waiter came to tell me two gentlemen

below desir'd to speak with me.  I went down, and found they were two

of our Quaker members.  They told me there were eight of them assembled

at a tavern just by; that they were determin'd to come and vote with us

if there should be occasion, which they hop'd would not be the case,

and desir'd we would not call for their assistance if we could do

without it, as their voting for such a measure might embroil them with

their elders and friends.  Being thus secure of a majority, I went up,

and after a little seeming hesitation, agreed to a delay of another

hour.  This Mr. Morris allow'd to be extreamly fair.  Not one of his

opposing friends appear'd, at which he express'd great surprize; and,

at the expiration of the hour, we carry'd the resolution eight to one;

and as, of the twenty-two Quakers, eight were ready to vote with us,

and thirteen, by their absence, manifested that they were not inclin'd

to oppose the measure, I afterward estimated the proportion of Quakers

sincerely against defense as one to twenty-one only; for these were all

regular members of that society, and in good reputation among them, and

had due notice of what was propos'd at that meeting.

 

The honorable and learned Mr. Logan, who had always been of that sect,

was one who wrote an address to them, declaring his approbation of

defensive war, and supporting his opinion by many strong arguments.  He

put into my hands sixty pounds to be laid out in lottery tickets for

the battery, with directions to apply what prizes might be drawn wholly

to that service.  He told me the following anecdote of his old master,

William Penn, respecting defense.  He came over from England, when a

young man, with that proprietary, and as his secretary.  It was

war-time, and their ship was chas'd by an armed vessel, suppos'd to be

an enemy.  Their captain prepar'd for defense; but told William Penn

and his company of Quakers, that he did not expect their assistance,

and they might retire into the cabin, which they did, except James

Logan, who chose to stay upon deck, and was quarter'd to a gun.  The

suppos'd enemy prov'd a friend, so there was no fighting; but when the