Front Page Titles (by Subject) 13.: Humility - The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. I Autobiography, Letters and Misc. Writings 1725-1734
Return to Title Page for The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. I Autobiography, Letters and Misc. Writings 1725-1734
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
13.: Humility - Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. I Autobiography, Letters and Misc. Writings 1725-1734 
The Works of Benjamin Franklin, including the Private as well as the Official and Scientific Correspondence, together with the Unmutilated and Correct Version of the Autobiography, compiled and edited by John Bigelow (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904). The Federal Edition in 12 volumes. Vol. I (Autobiography, Letters and Misc. Writings 1725-1734).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
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 proceed to another, and so on till I had 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,1 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.1 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.
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:
Another from Cicero,
O vitæ Philosophia dux! O virtutum indagatrix expultrixque vitiorum! Unus dies, bene et ex præceptis 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 favours to me.
I used also sometimes a little prayer which I took from Thomson’s Poems, viz.:
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.
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,” says 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 endeavour, 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 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 acquaintances. 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 excellence 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,1 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.
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 my 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 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 endeavoring 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.”]1
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 effected 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.
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.”
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 the 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 Saunder; it was continu’d by me about twenty-five years, commonly call’d Poor Richard’sAlmanac. 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.1 And observing that it was generally read, scarce any neighborhood in the province being without it, I consider’d is 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 upright.
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 any thing of that kind, and the writers pleaded, as they generally did, the liberty of the press, and that a newspaper was like a stage-coach 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 persuasions, 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 composed 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 1732 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 surpris’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 the 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 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 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 kindnesswill 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 of 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.1
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 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 favor 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 semicircle, 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 some times 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 cannot 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 manet. 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 excellences 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 this 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.1
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, a 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 the 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 secretary went down to communicate the intelligence, William Penn rebuk’d him severely for staying upon deck and undertaking to assist in defending the vessel, contrary to the principles of Friends, especially as it had not been required by the captain. This reproof, being before all the company piqu’d the secretary, who answer’d: “I being thy servant, why did thee not order me to come down? But thee was willing enough that I should stay and help to fight the ship when thee thought there was danger.”
My being many years in the Assembly, the majority of which were constantly Quakers, gave me frequent opportunities of seeing the embarrassment given them by their principle against war, whenever application was made to them, by order of the crown, to grant aids for military purposes. They were unwilling to offend government on the one hand, by a direct refusal, and their friends, the body of the Quakers, on the other, by a compliance contrary to their principles; hence a variety of evasions to avoid complying, and modes of disguising the compliance when it became unavoidable. The common mode at last was to grant money under the phrase of its being “for the king’s use,” and never to inquire how it was applied.
But, if the demand was not directly from the crown that phrase was found not so proper and some other was to be invented. As, when powder was wanting (I think it was for the garrison at Louisburg), and the government of New England solicited a grant of some from Pennsylvania, which was much urg’d on the House by Governor Thomas, they could not grant money to buy powder, because that was an ingredient of war; but they voted an aid to New England of three thousand pounds, to be put into the hands of the governor, and appropriated it for the purchasing of bread, flour, wheat, or other grain. Some of the council, desirous of giving the House still further embarrassment advis’d the governor not to accept provision, as not being the thing he had demanded; but he reply’d: “I shall take the money, for I understand very well their meaning; other grain is gunpowder,” which he accordingly bought and they never objected to it.1
It was in allusion to this fact that, when in our fire company we feared the success of our proposal in favour of the lottery, and I had said to my friend Mr. Syng, one of our members: “If we fail, let us move the purchase of a fire-engine with the money; the Quakers can have no objection to that; and then, if you nominate me and I you as a committee for that purpose, we will buy a great gun, which is certainly a fire-engine.” “I see,” says he, “you have improv’d by being so long in the Assembly; your equivocal project would be just a match for their wheat or other grain.”
These embarrassments that the Quakers suffer’d from having establish’d and published it as one of their principles that no kind of war was lawful, and which, being once published they could not afterwards, however they might change their minds, easily get rid of, reminds me of what I think a more prudent conduct in another sect among us, that of the Dunkers. I was acquainted with one of its founders, Michael Welfare, soon after it appeared. He complain’d to me that they were grievously calumniated by the zealots of other persuasions, and charg’d with abominable principles and practices to which they were utter strangers. I told him this had always been the case with new sects, and that, to put a stop to such abuse I imagin’d it might be well to publish the articles of their belief, and the rules of their discipline. He said that it had been propos’d among them, but not agreed to, for this reason: “When we were first drawn together as a society,” says he, “it had pleased God to enlighten our minds so far as to see that some doctrines, which we once esteemed truths, were errors; and that others, which we had esteemed errors, were real truths. From time to time He has been pleased to afford us farther light, and our principles have been improving, and our errors diminishing. Now we are not sure that we are arrived at the end of this progression, and at the perfection of spiritual or theological knowledge; and we fear that, if we should once print our confession of faith we should feel ourselves as if bound and confin’d by it and perhaps be unwilling to receive farther improvement, and our successors still more so, as conceiving what we their elders and founders had done, to be something sacred, never to be departed from.”
This modesty in a sect is perhaps a singular instance in the history of mankind, every other sect supposing itself in possession of all truth, and that those who differ are so far in the wrong; like a man traveling in foggy weather, those at some distance before him on the road he sees wrapped up in the fog, as well as those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each side, but near him all appears clear, tho’ in truth he is as much in the fog as any of them. To avoid this kind of embarrassment, the Quakers have of late years been gradually declining the public service in the Assembly and in the magistracy, choosing rather to quit their power than their principle.
In order of time, I should have mentioned before, that having, in 1742, invented an open stove for the better warming of rooms, and at the same time saving fuel, as the fresh air admitted was warmed in entering, I made a present of the model to Mr. Robert Grace, one of my early friends, who, having an iron-furnace found the casting of the plates for these stoves a profitable thing, as they were growing in demand. To promote that demand, I wrote and published a pamphlet, entitled An Account of the new-invented Pennsylvania Fireplaces; wherein their Construction and Manner of Operation is particularly explained; their Advantages above every other Method of warming Rooms demonstrated: and all Objections that have been raised against the Use of them answered and obviated, etc. This pamphlet had a good effect. Gov’r. Thomas was so pleas’d with the construction of this stove, as described in it, that he offered to give me a patent for the sole vending of them for a term of years; but I declin’d it from a principle which has ever weighed with me on such occasions, viz.: That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously.
An ironmonger in London however, assuming a good deal of my pamphlet, and working it up into his own and making some small changes in the machine, which rather hurt its operation, got a patent for it there and made, as I was told, a little fortune by it. And this is not the only instance of patents taken out for my inventions by others, tho’ not always with the same success, which I never contested, as having no desire of profiting by patents myself, and hating disputes. The use of these fireplaces in very many houses, both of this and the neighboring colonies, has been, and is, a great saving of wood to the inhabitants.
Peace being concluded, and the association business therefore at an end, I turn’d my thoughts again to the affair of establishing an academy. The first step I took was to associate in the design a number of active friends, of whom the Junto furnished a good part; the next was to write and publish a pamphlet, entitled Proposals relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania. This I distributed among the principal inhabitants gratis; and as soon as I could suppose their minds a little prepared by the perusal of it, I set on foot a subscription for opening and supporting an academy: it was to be paid in quotas yearly for five years; by so dividing it, I judg’d the subscription might be larger and I believe it was so, amounting to no less, if I remember right, than five thousand pounds.
In the introduction to these proposals, I stated their publication, not as an act of mine, but of some publick-spirited gentlemen, avoiding as much as I could, according to my usual rule, the presenting myself to the public as the author of any scheme for their benefit.
The subscribers, to carry the project into immediate execution, chose out of their number twenty-four trustees and appointed Mr. Francis, then attorney-general and myself to draw up constitutions for the government of the academy; which being done and signed, a house was hired, masters engag’d, and the schools opened, I think, in the same year, 1749.
The scholars increasing fast, the house was soon found too small and we were looking out for a piece of ground properly situated, with intention to build, when Providence threw into our way a large house ready built which, with a few alterations, might well serve our purpose. This was the building before mentioned, erected by the hearers of Mr. Whitefield, and was obtained for us in the following manner.
It is to be noted that the contributions to this building being made by people of different sects, care was taken in the nomination of trustees, in whom the building and ground were to be vested, that a predominancy should not be given to any sect, lest in time that predominancy might be a means of appropriating the whole to the use of such sect, contrary to the original intention. It was therefore that one of each sect was appointed, viz., one Church-of-England man, one Presbyterian, one Baptist, one Moravian, etc., those, in case of vacancy by death, were to fill it by election from among the contributors. The Moravian happen’d not to please his colleagues and on his death they resolved to have no other of that sect. The difficulty then was, how to avoid having two of some other sect, by means of the new choice.
Several persons were named, and for that reason not agreed to. At length one mention’d me with the observation that I was merely an honest man, and of no sect at all, which prevail’d with them to chuse me. The enthusiasm which existed when the house was built had long since abated, and its trustees had not been able to procure fresh contributions for paying the ground-rent and discharging some other debts the building had occasion’d, which embarrass’d them greatly. Being now a member of both setts of trustees, that for the building and that for the academy, I had a good opportunity of negotiating with both, and brought them finally to an agreement, by which the trustees for the building were to cede it to those of the academy, the latter undertaking to discharge the debt, to keep forever open in the building a large hall for occasional preachers according to the original intention and maintain a free-school for the instruction of poor children. Writings were accordingly drawn and on paying the debts, the trustees of the academy were put into possession of the premises; and by dividing the great and lofty hall into stories, and different rooms above and below for the several schools and purchasing some additional ground the whole was soon made fit for our purpose, and the scholars remov’d into the building. The care and trouble of agreeing with the workmen, purchasing materials and superintending the work, fell upon me; and I went thro’ it the more cheerfully, as it did not then interfere with my private business, having the year before taken a very able, industrious, and honest partner, Mr. David Hall with whose character I was well acquainted as he had work’d for me four years. He took off my hands all care of the printing-office, paying me punctually my share of the profits. This partnership continued eighteen years, successfully for us both.
The trustees of the academy, after a while, were incorporated by a charter from the governor; their funds were increas’d by contributions in Britain and grants of land from the proprietaries, to which the Assembly has since made considerable addition; and thus was established the present University of Philadelphia. I have been continued one of its trustees from the beginning, now near forty years, and have had the very great pleasure of seeing a number of the youth who have receiv’d their education in it, distinguished by their improv’d abilities, serviceable in public stations, and ornaments to their country.1
When I disengaged myself, as above mentioned, from private business, I flatter’d myself that, by the sufficient tho’ moderate fortune I had acquir’d, I had secured leisure during the rest of my life for philosophical studies and amusements. I purchased all Dr. Spence’s apparatus, who had come from England to lecture here, and I proceeded in my electrical experiments with great alacrity; but the publick, now considering me as a man of leisure, laid hold of me for their purposes; every part of our civil government, and almost at the same time, imposing some duty upon me. The governor put me into the commission of the peace, the corporation of the city chose me of the common council, and soon after an alderman, and the citizens at large chose me a burgess to represent them in Assembly. This latter station was the more agreeable to me, as I was at length tired with sitting there to hear debates, in which, as clerk, I could take no part, and which were so often unentertaining that I was induc’d to amuse myself with making magic squares or circles, or any thing to avoid weariness; and I conceiv’d my becoming a member would enlarge my power of doing good. I would not, however, insinuate that my ambition was not flatter’d by all these promotions; it certainly was; for, considering my low beginning, they were great things to me and they were still more pleasing as being so many spontaneous testimonies of the public good opinion, and by me entirely unsolicited.
The office of justice of the peace I try’d a little, by attending a few courts, and sitting on the bench to hear causes, but finding that more knowledge of the common law than I possessed was necessary to act in that station with credit, I gradually withdrew from it, excusing myself by my being oblig’d to attend the higher duties of a legislator in the Assembly. My election to this trust was repeated every year for ten years without my ever asking any elector for his vote or signifying, either directly or indirectly, any desire of being chosen. On taking my seat in the House, my son was appointed their clerk.
The year following, a treaty being to be held with the Indians at Carlisle, the governor sent a message to the House, proposing that they should nominate some of their members, to be join’d with some members of council, as commissioners for that purpose.1 The House named the speaker (Mr. Norris) and myself; and, being commission’d, we went to Carlisle, and met the Indians accordingly.
As those people are extreamly apt to get drunk and, when so, are very quarrelsome and disorderly, we strictly forbade the selling any liquor to them; and when they complain’d of this restriction, we told them that if they would continue sober during the treaty we would give them plenty of rum when business was over. They promis’d this and they kept their promise because they could get no liquor, and the treaty was conducted very orderly and concluded to mutual satisfaction. They then claim’d and receiv’d the rum; this was in the afternoon; they were near one hundred men, women, and children, and were lodg’d in temporary cabins built in the form of a square, just without the town. In the evening, hearing a great noise among them, the commissioners walk’d out to see what was the matter. We found they had made a great bonfire in the middle of the square; they were all drunk, men and women, quarreling and fighting. Their dark-colour’d bodies half naked, seen only by the gloomy light of the bonfire, running after and beating one another with firebrands, accompanied by their horrid yellings, form’d a scene the most resembling our ideas of hell that could well be imagin’d; there was no appeasing the tumult, and we retired to our lodging. At midnight a number of them came thundering at our door, demanding more rum, of which we took no notice.
The next day, sensible they had misbehav’d in giving us that disturbance, they sent three of their old counsellors to make their apology. The orator acknowledg’d the fault, but laid it upon the rum; and then endeavored to excuse the rum by saying: “The Great Spirit, who made all things, made every thing for some use, and whatever use he design’d any thing for, that use it should always be put to. Now, when he made rum, he said, ‘Let this be for the Indians to get drunk with,’ and it must be so.” And, indeed, if it be the design of Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make room for cultivators of the earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be the appointed means. It has already annihilated all the tribes who formerly inhabited the sea-coast.
In 1751, Dr. Thomas Bond, a particular friend of mine, conceived the idea of establishing a hospital in Philadelphia (a very beneficent design, which has been ascrib’d to me, but was originally his), for the reception and cure of poor sick persons, whether inhabitants of the province or strangers. He was zealous and active in endeavoring to procure subscriptions for it, but the proposal being a novelty in America, and at first not well understood, he met with small success.
At length he came to me with the compliment that he found there was no such thing as carrying a public-spirited project through without my being concern’d in it. “For,” says he, “I am often ask’d by those to whom I propose subscribing, Have you consulted Franklin upon this business? And what does he think of it? And when I tell them that I have not (supposing it rather out of your line), they do not subscribe, but say they will consider of it.” I enquired into the nature and probable utility of his scheme, and receiving from him a very satisfactory explanation, I not only subscribed to it myself, but engag’d heartily in the design of procuring subscriptions from others. Previously, however, to the solicitation, I endeavoured to prepare the minds of the people by writing on the subject in newspapers, which was my usual custom in such cases but which he had omitted.
The subscriptions afterwards were more free and generous, but beginning to flag, I saw they would be insufficient without some assistance from the Assembly and therefore propos’d to petition for it, which was done. The country members did not at first relish the project; they objected that it could only be serviceable to the city and therefore the citizens alone should be at the expense of it; and they doubted whether the citizens themselves generally approv’d of it. My allegation on the contrary, that it met with such approbation as to leave no doubt of our being able to raise two thousand pounds by voluntary donations, they considered as a most extravagant supposition, and utterly impossible.
On this I form’d my plan and, asking leave to bring in a bill for incorporating the contributors according to the prayer of their petition, and granting them a blank sum of money, which leave was obtained chiefly on the consideration that the House could throw the bill out if they did not like it, I drew it so as to make the important clause a conditional one, viz.: “And be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that when the said contributors shall have met and chosen their managers and treasurer, and shall have raised by their contributions a capital stock of ——— value (the yearly interest of which is to be applied to the accommodating of the sick poor in the said hospital, free of charge for diet, attendance, advice, and medicines), and shall make the same appear to the satisfaction of the speaker of the Assembly for the time being, that then it shall and may be lawful for the said speaker, and he is hereby required, to sign an order on the provincial treasurer for the payment of two thousand pounds, in two yearly payments, to the treasurer of the said hospital, to be applied to the founding, building, and finishing of the same.”
This condition carried the bill through; for the members, who had oppos’d the grant and now conceived they might have the credit of being charitable without the expence, agreed to its passage; and then, in soliciting subscriptions among the people, we urg’d the conditional promise of the law as an additional motive to give, since every man’s donation would be doubled; thus the clause work’d both ways. The subscriptions accordingly soon exceeded the requisite sum, and we claim’d and receiv’d the public gift, which enabled us to carry the design into execution. A convenient and handsome building was soon erected; the institution has by constant experience been found useful, and flourishes to this day; and I do not remember any of my political manœuvres, the success of which gave me at the time more pleasure, or wherein, after thinking of it I more easily excus’d myself for having made some use of cunning.
It was about this time that another projector, the Rev. Gilbert Tennent, came to me with a request that I would assist him in procuring a subscription for erecting a new meeting-house. It was to be for the use of a congregation he had gathered among the Presbyterians, who were originally disciples of Mr. Whitefield. Unwilling to make myself disagreeable to my fellow-citizens by too frequently soliciting their contributions, I absolutely refus’d. He then desired I would furnish him with a list of the names of persons I knew by experience to be generous and public-spirited. I thought it would be unbecoming in me, after their kind compliance with my solicitations, to mark them out to be worried by other beggars, and therefore refus’d also to give such a list. He then desir’d I would at least give him my advice. “That I will readily do,” said I; “and, in the first place, I advise you to apply to all those whom you know will give something; next to those whom you are uncertain whether they will give any thing or not, and show them the list of those who have given; and, lastly, do not neglect those who you are sure will give nothing, for in some of them you may be mistaken.” He laugh’d and thank’d me, and said he would take my advice. He did so, for he ask’d of everybody, and he obtain’d a much larger sum than he expected, with which he erected the capacious and very elegant meeting-house that stands in Arch-street.
Our city, tho’ laid out with a beautiful regularity, the streets large, straight, and crossing each other at right angles, had the disgrace of suffering those streets to remain long unpav’d, and in wet weather the wheels of heavy carriages plough’d them into a quagmire so that it was difficult to cross them; and in dry weather the dust was offensive. I had liv’d near what was call’d the Jersey Market and saw with pain the inhabitants wading in mud while purchasing their provisions. A strip of ground down the middle of that market was at length pav’d with brick, so that, being once in the market, they had firm footing, but were often over shoes in dirt to get there. By talking and writing on the subject, I was at length instrumental in getting the street pav’d with stone between the market and the brick’d foot-pavement, that was on each side next the houses. This, for some time gave an easy access to the market dry-shod, but, the rest of the street not being pav’d, whenever a carriage came out of the mud upon this pavement it shook off and left its dirt upon it and it was soon cover’d with mire, which was not remov’d, the city as yet having no scavengers.
After some inquiry, I found a poor, industrious man who was willing to undertake keeping the pavement clean by sweeping it twice a week, carrying off the dirt from before all the neighbours’ doors, for the sum of sixpence per month to be paid by each house. I then wrote and printed a paper setting forth the advantages to the neighbourhood that might be obtain’d by this small expense; the greater ease in keeping our houses clean, so much dirt not being brought in by people’s feet; the benefit to the shops by more custom, etc., etc., as buyers could more easily get at them; and by not having, in windy weather, the dust blown in upon their goods, etc., etc. I sent one of these papers to each house and in a day or two went round to see who would subscribe an agreement to pay these sixpences. It was unanimously sign’d, and for a time well executed. All the inhabitants of the city were delighted with the cleanliness of the pavement that surrounded the market, it being a convenience to all, and this rais’d a general desire to have all the streets paved, and made the people more willing to submit to a tax for that purpose.
After some time I drew a bill for paving the city, and brought it into the Assembly. It was just before I went to England, in 1757, and did not pass till I was gone,1 and then with an alteration in the mode of assessment, which I thought not for the better, but with an additional provision for lighting as well as paving the streets, which was a great improvement. It was by a private person, the late Mr. John Clifton, his giving a sample of the utility of lamps, by placing one at his door, that the people were first impress’d with the idea of enlighting all the city. The honour of this public benefit has also been ascrib’d to me, but it belongs truly to that gentleman. I did but follow his example, and have only some merit to claim respecting the form of our lamps, as differing from the globe lamps we were at first supply’d with from London. Those we found inconvenient in these respects: they admitted no air below; the smoke, therefore, did not readily go out above, but circulated in the globe, lodg’d on its inside, and soon obstructed the light they were intended to afford; giving, besides, the daily trouble of wiping them clean; and an accidental stroke on one of them would demolish it, and render it totally useless. I therefore suggested the composing them of four flat panes, with a long funnel above to draw up the smoke, and crevices admitting air below, to facilitate the ascent of the smoke; by this means they were kept clean, and did not grow dark in a few hours, as the London lamps do, but continu’d bright till morning, and an accidental stroke would generally break but a single pane, easily repair’d.
I have sometimes wonder’d that the Londoners did not, from the effect holes in the bottom of the globe lamps us’d at Vauxhall have in keeping them clean, learn to have such holes in their street lamps. But, these holes being made for another purpose, viz., to communicate flame more suddenly to the wick by a little flax hanging down thro’ them, the other use, of letting in air, seems not to have been thought of; and therefore, after the lamps have been lit a few hours, the streets of London are very poorly illuminated.
The mention of these improvements puts me in mind of one I propos’d, when in London, to Dr. Fothergill, who was among the best men I have known, and a great promoter of useful projects. I had observ’d that the streets, when dry, were never swept, and the light dust carried away; but it was suffer’d to accumulate till wet weather reduc’d it to mud, and then, after lying some days so deep on the pavement that there was no crossing but in paths kept clean by poor people with brooms, it was with great labour rak’d together and thrown up into carts open above, the sides of which suffer’d some of the slush at every jolt on the pavement to shake out and fall, sometimes to the annoyance of foot-passengers. The reason given for not sweeping the dusty streets was, that the dust would fly into the windows of shops and houses.
An accidental occurrence had instructed me how much sweeping might be done in a little time. I found at my door in Craven-street, one morning, a poor woman sweeping my pavement with a birch broom; she appeared very pale and feeble, as just come out of a fit of sickness. I ask’d who employ’d her to sweep there; she said: “Nobody; but I am very poor and in distress, and I sweeps before gentlefolkses doors, and hopes they will give me something.” I bid her sweep the whole street clean, and I would give her a shilling. This was at nine o’clock. At 12 she came for the shilling. From the slowness I saw at first in her working, I could scarce believe that the work was done so soon, and sent my servant to examine it, who reported that the whole street was swept perfectly clean, and all the dust plac’d in the gutter, which was in the middle; and the next rain wash’d it quite away, so that the pavement and even the kennel were perfectly clean.
I then judg’d that if that feeble woman could sweep such a street in three hours, a strong, active man might have done it in half the time. And here let me remark the convenience of having but one gutter in such a narrow street, running down its middle, instead of two, one on each side, near the footway; for where all the rain that falls on a street runs from the sides and meets in the middle, it forms there a current strong enough to wash away all the mud it meets with; but when divided into two channels, it is often too weak to cleanse either and only makes the mud it finds more fluid so that the wheels of carriages and the feet of horses throw and dash it upon the foot-pavement which is thereby rendered foul and slippery, and sometimes splash it upon those who are walking. My proposal, communicated to the good doctor, was as follows:
“For the more effectual cleaning and keeping clean the streets of London and Westminster, it is proposed that the several watchmen be contracted with to have the dust swept up in dry seasons, and the mud rak’d up at other times, each in the several streets and lanes of his round; that they be furnish’d with brooms and other proper instruments for these purposes to be kept at their respective stands ready to furnish the poor people they may employ in the service.
That in the dry summer months the dust be all swept up into heaps at proper distances before the shops and windows of houses are usually opened, when the scavengers, with close-covered carts, shall also carry it all away.
That the mud, when rak’d up, be not left in heaps to be spread abroad again by the wheels of carriages and trampling of horses, but that the scavengers be provided with bodies of carts, not plac’d high upon wheels but low upon sliders, with lattice bottoms which, being cover’d with straw, will retain the mud thrown into them and permit the water to drain from it, whereby it will become much lighter, water making the greatest part of its weight; these bodies of carts to be plac’d at convenient distances, and the mud brought to them in wheelbarrows; they remaining where plac’d till the mud is drain’d and then horses brought to draw them away.”
I have since had doubts of the practicability of the latter part of this proposal, on account of the narrowness of some streets and the difficulty of placing the draining-sled so as not to encumber too much the passage, but I am still of the opinion that the former, requiring the dust to be swept up and carry’d away before the shops are open, is very practicable in the summer when the days are long; for, in walking thro’ the Strand and Fleet-street one morning at seven o’clock I observ’d there was not one shop open, tho’ it had been daylight and the sun up above three hours; the inhabitants of London chusing voluntarily to live much by candle-light and sleep by sunshine and yet often complain, a little absurdly, of the duty on candles and the high price of tallow.
Some may think these trifling matters not worth minding or relating but when they consider that tho’ dust blown into the eyes of a single person or into a single shop on a windy day, is but of small importance, yet the great number of the instances in a populous city and its frequent repetitions give it weight and consequence, perhaps they will not censure very severely those who bestow some attention to affairs of this seemingly low nature. Human felicity is produc’d not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen as by little advantages that occur every day. Thus, if you teach a poor young man to shave himself and keep his razor in order, you may contribute more to the happiness of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas. The money may be soon spent, the regret only remaining of having foolishly consumed it; but in the other case, he escapes the frequent vexation of waiting for barbers and of their sometimes dirty fingers, offensive breaths and dull razors; he shaves when most convenient to him and enjoys daily the pleasure of its being done with a good instrument.1 With these sentiments I have hazarded the few preceding pages, hoping they may afford hints which some time or other may be useful to a city I love, having lived many years in it very happily, and perhaps to some of our towns in America.
Having been for some time employed by the postmaster-general of America as his comptroller in regulating several offices, and bringing the officers to account, I was, upon his death in 1753, appointed, jointly with Mr. William Hunter, to succeed him, by a commission from the postmaster-general in England. The American office never had hitherto paid any thing to that of Britain. We were to have six hundred pounds a year between us, if we could make that sum out of the profits of the office. To do this, a variety of improvements were necessary; some of these were inevitably at first expensive, so that in the first four years the office became above nine hundred pounds in debt to us. But it soon after began to repay us; and before I was displac’d by a freak of the ministers, of which I shall speak hereafter, we had brought it to yield three times as much clear revenue to the crown as the postoffice of Ireland. Since that imprudent transaction, they have receiv’d from it—not one farthing!
The business of the postoffice occasion’d my taking a journey this year to New England, where the College of Cambridge, of their own motion, presented me with the degree of Master of Arts. Yale College, in Connecticut, had before made me a similar compliment. Thus, without studying in any college, I came to partake of their honours. They were conferr’d in consideration of my improvements and discoveries in the electric branch of natural philosophy.
In 1754, war with France being again apprehended, a congress of commissioners from the different colonies was, by an order of the Lords of Trade, to be assembled at Albany, there to confer with the chiefs of the Six Nations concerning the means of defending both their country and ours. Governor Hamilton, having receiv’d this order, acquainted the House with it, requesting they would furnish proper presents for the Indians, to be given on this occasion; and naming the Speaker (Mr. Norris) and myself to join Mr. Thomas Penn and Mr. Secretary Peters as commissioners to act for Pennsylvania. The House approv’d the nomination, and provided the goods for the present, tho’ they did not much like treating out of the provinces, and we met the other commissioners at Albany about the middle of June.
In our way thither, I projected and drew a plan for the union of all the colonies under one government, so far as might be necessary for defense, and other important general purposes. As we pass’d thro’ New York, I had there shown my project to Mr. James Alexander and Mr. Kennedy, two gentlemen of great knowledge in public affairs and, being fortified by their approbation I ventur’d to lay it before the Congress. It then appeared that several of the commissioners had form’d plans of the same kind. A previous question was first taken whether a union should be established, which pass’d in the affirmative unanimously. A committee was then appointed, one member from each colony, to consider the several plans and report. Mine happen’d to be preferr’d, and, with a few amendments, was accordingly reported.
By this plan the general government was to be administered by a president-general, appointed and supported by the crown, and a grand council was to be chosen by the representatives of the people of the several colonies, met in their respective assemblies. The debates upon it in Congress went on daily hand in hand with the Indian business. Many objections and difficulties were started but at length they were all overcome and the plan was unanimously agreed to and copies ordered to be transmitted to the Board of Trade and to the assemblies of the several provinces. Its fate was singular; the assemblies did not adopt it as they all thought there was too much prerogative in it, and in England it was judg’d to have too much of the democratic. The Board of Trade therefore did not approve of it nor recommend it for the approbation of his majesty; but another scheme was form’d, supposed to answer the same purpose better, whereby the governors of the provinces, with some members of their respective councils, were to meet and order the raising of troops, building of forts, etc., and to draw on the treasury of Great Britain for the expense which was afterwards to be refunded by an act of Parliament laying a tax on America. My plan with my reasons in support of it is to be found among my political papers that are printed.1
Being the winter following in Boston, I had much conversation with Governor Shirley upon both the plans. Part of what passed between us on the occasion may also be seen among those papers. The different and contrary reasons of dislike to my plan make me suspect that it was really the true medium; and I am still of opinion it would have been happy for both sides the water if it had been adopted. The colonies, so united, would have been sufficiently strong to have defended themselves; there would then have been no need of troops from England; of course, the subsequent pretence for taxing America, and the bloody contest it occasioned, would have been avoided. But such mistakes are not new; history is full of the errors of states and princes.
Those who govern, having much business on their hands do not generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into execution new projects. The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted from previous wisdom but forc’d by the occasion.
The governor of Pennsylvania, in sending it down to the Assembly express’d his approbation of the plan “as appearing to him to be drawn up with great clearness and strength of judgment and therefore recommended it as well worthy of their closest and most serious attention.” The House, however, by the management of a certain member, took it up when I happen’d to be absent, which I thought not very fair, and reprobated it without paying any attention to it at all, to my no small mortification.
In my journey to Boston this year, I met at New York with our new governor, Mr. Morris, just arriv’d there from England, with whom I had been before intimately acquainted. He brought a commission to supersede Mr. Hamilton, who, tir’d with the disputes his proprietary instructions subjected him to, had resign’d. Mr. Morris ask’d me if I thought he must expect as uncomfortable an administration. I said: “No; you may, on the contrary, have a very comfortable one if you will only take care not to enter into any dispute with the Assembly.” “My dear friend,” says he, pleasantly, “how can you advise my avoiding disputes? You know I love disputing; it is one of my greatest pleasures; however, to show the regard I have for your counsel I promise you I will, if possible, avoid them.” He had some reason for loving to dispute, being eloquent, an acute sophister and therefore generally successful in argumentative conversation. He had been brought up to it from a boy, his father, as I have heard, accustoming his children to dispute with one another for his diversion while sitting at table after dinner; but I think the practice was not wise for, in the course of my observation these disputing, contradicting, and confuting people are generally unfortunate in their affairs. They get victory sometimes, but they never get good will, which would be of more use to them. We parted, he going to Philadelphia, and I to Boston.
In returning I met at New York with the votes of the Assembly by which it appear’d that, notwithstanding his promise to me, he and the House were already in high contention; and it was a continual battle between them as long as he retain’d the government. I had my share of it, for, as soon as I got back to my seat in the Assembly I was put on every committee for answering his speeches and messages, and by the committees always desired to make the drafts. Our answers, as well as his messages, were often tart and sometimes indecently abusive; and, as he knew I wrote for the Assembly, one might have imagined that, when we met, we could hardly avoid cutting throats, but he was so good-natur’d a man that no personal difference between him and me was occasion’d by the contest and we often din’d together.
One afternoon, in the height of this public quarrel, we met in the street. “Franklin,” says he, “you must go home with me and spend the evening; I am to have some company that you will like”; and, taking me by the arm he led me to his house. In gay conversation over our wine, after supper, he told us jokingly that he much admir’d the idea of Sancho Panza who, when it was proposed to give him a government requested it might be a government of blacks as then, if he could not agree with his people, he might sell them. One of his friends, who sat next to me, says: “Franklin, why do you continue to side with these damn’d Quakers? Had not you better sell them? The proprietor would give you a good price.” “The governor,” says I, “has not yet blacked them enough.” He, indeed, had labored hard to blacken the Assembly in all his messages but they wip’d off his coloring as fast as he laid it on and plac’d it in return, thick upon his own face; so that, finding he was likely to be negrofied himself he, as well as Mr. Hamilton grew tir’d of the contest, and quitted the government.
These1 public quarrels were all at bottom owing to the proprietaries, our hereditary governors, who, when any expense was to be incurred for the defense of their province, with incredible meanness instructed their deputies to pass no act for levying the necessary taxes, unless their vast estates were in the same act expressly excused, and they had even taken bonds of these deputies to observe such instructions. The Assemblies for three years held out against this injustice, tho’ constrained to bend at last. At length Captain Denny, who was Governor Morris’s successor, ventured to disobey those instructions; how that was brought about I shall show hereafter.
But I am got forward too fast with my story: there are still some transactions to be mention’d that happened during the administration of Governor Morris.
War being in a manner commenced with France, the government of Massachusetts Bay projected an attack upon Crown Point and sent Mr. Quincy to Pennsylvania and Mr. Pownall, afterward Governor Pownall, to New York to solicit assistance. As I was in the Assembly, knew its temper, and was Mr. Quincy’s countryman, he appli’d to me for my influence and assistance. I dictated his address to them, which was well receiv’d. They voted an aid of ten thousand pounds, to be laid out in provisions. But the governor refusing his assent to their bill (which included this with other sums granted for the use of the crown), unless a clause were inserted exempting the proprietary estate from bearing any part of the tax that would be necessary, the Assembly, tho’ very desirous of making their grant to New England effectual, were at a loss how to accomplish it. Mr. Quincy labored hard with the governor to obtain his assent, but he was obstinate.
I then suggested a method of doing the business without the governor, by orders on the trustees of the Loan Office, which, by law, the Assembly had the right of drawing. There was, indeed, little or no money at that time in the office and therefore I propos’d that the orders should be payable in a year, and to bear an interest of five per cent. With these orders I suppos’d the provisions might easily be purchas’d. The Assembly, with very little hesitation, adopted the proposal. The orders were immediately printed and I was one of the committee directed to sign and dispose of them. The fund for paying them was the interest of all the paper currency then extant in the province upon loan, together with the revenue arising from the excise, which being known to be more than sufficient, they obtain’d instant credit and were not only receiv’d in payment for the provisions, but many money’d people, who had cash lying by them, vested it in those orders which they found advantageous as they bore interest while upon hand and might on any occasion be used as money; so that they were eagerly all bought up and in a few weeks none of them were to be seen. Thus this important affair was by my means compleated. Mr Quincy return’d thanks to the Assembly in a handsome memorial, went home highly pleas’d with the success of his embassy, and ever after bore for me the most cordial and affectionate friendship.
The British government, not chusing to permit the union of the colonies as propos’d at Albany, and to trust that union with their defense, lest they should thereby grow too military and feel their own strength, suspicions and jealousies at this time being entertain’d of them, sent over General Braddock with two regiments of regular English troops for that purpose. He landed at Alexandria, in Virginia, and thence march’d to Frederictown, in Maryland, where he halted for carriages. Our Assembly apprehending from some information that he had conceived violent prejudices against them, as averse to the service, wish’d me to wait upon him, not as from them but as postmaster-general, under the guise of proposing to settle with him the mode of conducting with most celerity and certainty the despatches between him and the governors of the several provinces with whom he must necessarily have continual correspondence and of which they propos’d to pay the expense. My son accompanied me on this journey.
We found the general at Frederictown, waiting impatiently for the return of those he had sent thro’ the back parts of Maryland and Virginia to collect waggons. I stayed with him several days, din’d with him daily, and had full opportunity of removing all his prejudices by the information of what the Assembly had before his arrival actually done and were still willing to do to facilitate his operations. When I was about to depart, the returns of waggons to be obtained were brought in, by which it appear’d that they amounted only to twenty-five and not all of those were in serviceable condition. The general and all the officers were surpris’d, declar’d the expedition was then at an end, being impossible; and exclaim’d against the ministers for ignorantly landing them in a country destitute of the means of conveying their stores, baggage, etc., not less than one hundred and fifty waggons being necessary.
I happen’d to say I thought it was pity they had not been landed rather in Pennsylvania, as in that country almost every farmer had his waggon. The general eagerly laid hold of my words, and said: “Then you, sir, who are a man of interest there, can probably procure them for us, and I beg you will undertake it.” I ask’d what terms were to be offer’d the owners of the waggons and I was desir’d to put on paper the terms that appeared to me necessary. This I did and they were agreed to and a commission and instructions accordingly prepar’d immediately. What those terms were will appear in the advertisement I publish’d as soon as I arriv’d at Lancaster, which being, from the great and sudden effect it produc’d, a piece of some curiosity, I shall insert it at length, as follows:
Lancaster, April 26, 1755.
Whereas, one hundred and fifty waggons, with four horses to each waggon, and fifteen hundred saddle or pack horses, are wanted for the service of his majesty’s forces now about to rendezvous at Will’s Creek and his excellency General Braddock having been pleased to empower me to contract for the hire of the same I hereby give notice that I shall attend for that purpose at Lancaster from this day to next Wednesday evening, and at York from next Thursday morning till Friday evening, where I shall be ready to agree for waggons and teams or single horses, on the following terms, viz.: 1. That there shall be paid for each waggon with four good horses and a driver, fifteen shillings per diem; and for each able horse with a pack-saddle, or other saddle and furniture, two shillings per diem; and for each able horse without a saddle, eighteen pence per diem. 2. That the pay commence from the time of their joining the forces at Will’s Creek, which must be on or before the 20th of May ensuing, and that a reasonable allowance be paid over and above for the time necessary for their travelling to Will’s Creek and home again after their discharge. 3. Each waggon and team, and every saddle or pack horse is to be valued by indifferent persons chosen between me and the owner; and in case of the loss of any waggon, team, or other horse in the service the price according to such valuation is to be allowed and paid. 4. Seven days’ pay is to be advanced and paid in hand by me to the owner of each waggon and team, or horse, at the time of contracting, if required, and the remainder to be paid by General Braddock, or by the paymaster of the army at the time of their discharge, or from time to time, as it shall be demanded. 5. No drivers of waggons or persons taking care of the hired horses are on any account to be called upon to do the duty of soldiers or be otherwise employed than in conducting or taking care of their carriages or horses. 6. All oats, Indian corn or other forage that waggons or horses bring to the camp more than is necessary for the subsistence of the horses, is to be taken for the use of the army and a reasonable price paid for the same.
Note.—My son, William Franklin, is empowered to enter into like contracts with any person in Cumberland county.
“To the Inhabitants of the Counties of Lancaster, York, and Cumberland.
Friends and Countrymen:
Being occasionally at the camp at Frederic a few days since, I found the general and officers extremely exasperated on account of their not being supplied with horses and carriages which had been expected from this province, as most able to furnish them; but, through the dissensions between our governor and Assembly, money had not been provided nor any steps taken for that purpose.
It was proposed to send an armed force immediately into these counties to seize as many of the best carriages and horses as should be wanted and compel as many persons into the service as would be necessary to drive and take care of them.
I apprehended that the progress of British soldiers through these counties on such an occasion, especially considering the temper they are in and their resentment against us, would be attended with many and great inconveniences to the inhabitants, and therefore more willingly took the trouble of trying first what might be done by fair and equitable means. The people of these back counties have lately complained to the Assembly that a sufficient currency was wanting; you have an opportunity of receiving and dividing among you a very considerable sum, for, if the service of this expedition should continue, as it is more than probable it will, for one hundred and twenty days, the hire of these waggons and horses will amount to upward of thirty thousand pounds which will be paid you in silver and gold of the king’s money.
The service will be light and easy, for the army will scarce march above twelve miles per day and the waggons and baggage-horses, as they carry those things that are absolutely necessary to the welfare of the army, must march with the army and no faster; and are, for the army’s sake, always placed where they can be most secure, whether in a march or in a camp.
If you are really, as I believe you are, good and loyal subjects to his majesty you may now do a most acceptable service and make it easy to yourselves; for three or four of such as cannot separately spare from the business of their plantations a waggon and four horses and a driver, may do it together, one furnishing the waggon, another one or two horses, and another the driver and divide the pay proportionably between you; but if you do not this service to your king and country voluntarily when such good pay and reasonable terms are offered to you, your loyalty will be strongly suspected. The king’s business must be done; so many brave troops, come so far for your defense, must not stand idle through your backwardness to do what may be reasonably expected from you; waggons and horses must be had; violent measures will probably be used, and you will be left to seek for a recompense where you can find it, and your case, perhaps, be little pitied or regarded.
I have no particular interest in this affair, as, except the satisfaction of endeavoring to do good, I shall have only my labor for my pains. If this method of obtaining the waggons and horses is not likely to succeed I am obliged to send word to the general in fourteen days and I suppose Sir John St. Clair, the hussar, with a body of soldiers, will immediately enter the province for the purpose, which I shall be sorry to hear because I am very sincerely and truly your friend and well-wisher,
I received of the general about eight hundred pounds, to be disbursed in advance-money to the waggon owners, etc.; but that sum being insufficient I advanc’d upward of two hundred pounds more, and in two weeks the one hundred and fifty waggons, with two hundred and fifty-nine carrying horses, were on their march for the camp. The advertisement promised payment according to the valuation in case any waggon or horse should be lost. The owners, however, alleging they did not know General Braddock, or what dependence might be had on his promise, insisted on my bond for the performance, which I accordingly gave them.
While I was at the camp, supping one evening with the officers of Colonel Dunbar’s regiment, he represented to me his concern for the subalterns who, he said, were generally not in affluence and could ill afford, in this dear country, to lay in the stores that might be necessary in so long a march, thro’ a wilderness where nothing was to be purchas’d. I commiserated their case and resolved to endeavor procuring them some relief. I said nothing, however, to him of my intention, but wrote the next morning to the committee of the Assembly who had the disposition of some public money, warmly recommending the case of these officers to their consideration and proposing that a present should be sent them of necessaries and refreshments. My son, who had some experience of a camp life and of its wants, drew up a list for me which I enclos’d in my letter. The committee approv’d and used such diligence that, conducted by my son, the stores arrived at the camp as soon as the waggons. They consisted of twenty parcels, each containing:
These twenty parcels, well pack’d, were placed on as many horses, each parcel, with the horse, being intended as a present for one officer. They were very thankfully receiv’d and the kindness acknowledg’d by letters to me from the colonels of both regiments, in the most grateful terms. The general, too, was highly satisfied with my conduct in procuring him the waggons, etc., and readily paid my account of disbursements, thanking me repeatedly and requesting my farther assistance in sending provisions after him. I undertook this also and was busily employ’d in it till we heard of his defeat, advancing for the service my own money, upwards of one thousand pounds sterling, of which I sent him an account. It came to his hands, luckily for me, a few days before the battle and he return’d me immediately an order on the paymaster for the round sum of one thousand pounds, leaving the remainder to the next account. I consider this payment as good luck, having never been able to obtain that remainder, of which more hereafter.
This general was, I think, a brave man and might probably have made a figure as a good officer in some European war. But he had too much self-confidence, too high an opinion of the validity of regular troops, and too mean a one of both Americans and Indians. George Croghan, our Indian interpreter, join’d him on his march with one hundred of those people who might have been of great use to his army as guides, scouts, etc., if he had treated them kindly, but he slighted and neglected them, and they gradually left him.
In conversation with him one day, he was giving me some account of his intended progress. “After taking Fort Duquesne,” says he, “I am to proceed to Niagara, and, having taken that, to Frontenac, if the season will allow time; and I suppose it will for Duquesne can hardly detain me above three or four days, and then I see nothing that can obstruct my march to Niagara.” Having before revolv’d in my mind the long line his army must make in their march by a very narrow road to be cut for them thro’ the woods and bushes, and also what I had read of a former defeat of fifteen hundred French who invaded the Iroquois country I had conceiv’d some doubts and some fears for the event of the campaign. But I ventur’d only to say: “To be sure, sir, if you arrive well before Duquesne with these fine troops, so well provided with artillery, that place, not yet compleatly fortified, and as we hear with no very strong garrison, can probably make but a short resistance. The only danger I apprehend of obstruction to your march is from ambuscades of Indians, who, by constant practice, are dexterous in laying and executing them; and the slender line, near four miles long, which your army must make, may expose it to be attack’d by surprise in its flanks and to be cut like a thread into several pieces which, from their distance, can not come up in time to support each other.”
He smil’d at my ignorance and reply’d: “These savages may, indeed, be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia but upon the king’s regular and disciplin’d troops, sir, it is impossible they should make any impression.” I was conscious of an impropriety in my disputing with a military man in matters of his profession and said no more. The enemy, however, did not take the advantage of his army which I apprehended its long line of march expos’d it to but let it advance without interruption till within nine miles of the place, and then, when more in a body (for it had just passed a river where the front had halted till all were come over), and in a more open part of the woods than any it had pass’d, attack’d its advanced guard by a heavy fire from behind trees and bushes, which was the first intelligence the general had of an enemy’s being near him. This guard being disordered, the general hurried the troops up to their assistance, which was done in great confusion thro’ waggons, baggage, and cattle; and presently the fire came upon their flank: the officers, being on horseback, were more easily distinguish’d, pick’d out as marks and fell very fast and the soldiers were crowded together in a huddle, having or hearing no orders and standing to be shot at till two thirds of them were killed, and then, being seiz’d with a panick, the whole fled with precipitation.
The waggoners took each a horse out of his team and scamper’d; their example was immediately followed by others, so that all the waggons, provisions, artillery and stores were left to the enemy. The general, being wounded, was brought off with difficulty; his secretary, Mr. Shirley, was killed by his side, and out of eighty-six officers, sixty-three were killed or wounded and seven hundred and fourteen men killed out of eleven hundred. These eleven hundred had been picked men from the whole army; the rest had been left behind with Colonel Dunbar, who was to follow with the heavier part of the stores, provisions and baggage. The flyers, not being pursu’d, arriv’d at Dunbar’s camp and the panick they brought with them instantly seiz’d him and all his people, and, tho’ he had now above one thousand men, and the enemy who had beaten Braddock did not at most exceed four hundred Indians and French together, instead of proceeding and endeavoring to recover some of the lost honour, he ordered all the stores, ammunition, etc., to be destroy’d that he might have more horses to assist his flight towards the settlements and less lumber to remove. He was there met with requests from the governors of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania that he would post his troops on the frontiers so as to afford some protection to the inhabitants, but he continu’d his hasty march thro’ all the country, not thinking himself safe till he arriv’d at Philadelphia where the inhabitants could protect him. This whole transaction gave us Americans the first suspicion that our exalted ideas of the prowess of British regulars had not been well founded.
In their first march, too, from their landing till they got beyond the settlements, they had plundered and stripped the inhabitants, totally ruining some poor families, besides insulting, abusing, and confining the people if they remonstrated. This was enough to put us out of conceit of such defenders if we had really wanted any. How different was the conduct of our French friends in 1781, who, during a march thro’ the most inhabited part of our country from Rhode Island to Virginia, near seven hundred miles, occasioned not the smallest complaint for the loss of a pig, a chicken, or even an apple.
Captain Orme, who was one of the general’s aids-de-camp, and, being grievously wounded, was brought off with him and continu’d with him to his death, which happen’d in a few days, told me that he was totally silent all the first day, and at night only said, “Who would have thought it?” That he was silent again the following day, saying only at last, “We shall better know how to deal with them another time”; and dy’d in a few minutes after.
The secretary’s papers with all the general’s orders, instructions, and correspondence, falling into the enemy’s hands, they selected and translated into French a number of the articles which they printed, to prove the hostile intentions of the British court before the declaration of war. Among these I saw some letters of the general to the ministry speaking highly of the great service I had rendered the army, and recommending me to their notice. David Hume, too, who was some years after secretary to Lord Hertford when minister in France and afterward to General Conway when secretary of state, told me he had seen among the papers in that office, letters from Braddock highly recommending me. But, the expedition having been unfortunate, my service, it seems, was not thought of much value, for those recommendations were never of any use to me.
As to rewards from himself, I ask’d only one, which was, that he would give orders to his officers not to enlist any more of our bought servants and that he would discharge such as had been already enlisted. This he readily granted and several were accordingly return’d to their masters, on my application. Dunbar, when the command devolv’d on him, was not so generous. He being at Philadelphia on his retreat, or rather flight, I apply’d to him for the discharge of the servants of three poor farmers of Lancaster county that he had enlisted, reminding him of the late general’s orders on that head. He promised me that, if the masters would come to him at Trenton, where he should be in a few days on his march to New York, he would there deliver their men to them. They accordingly were at the expense and trouble of going to Trenton and there he refus’d to perform his promise, to their great loss and disappointment.
As soon as the loss of the waggons and horses was generally known, all the owners came upon me for the valuation which I had given bond to pay. Their demands gave me a great deal of trouble, my acquainting them that the money was ready in the paymaster’s hands, but that orders for paying it must first be obtained from General Shirley, and my assuring them that I had apply’d to that general by letter; but, he being at a distance, an answer could not soon be receiv’d, and they must have patience, all this was not sufficient to satisfy, and some began to sue me. General Shirley at length relieved me from this terrible situation by appointing commissioners to examine the claims, and ordering payment. They amounted to near twenty thousand pound, which to pay would have ruined me.
Before we had the news of this defeat the two Doctors Bond came to me with a subscription paper for raising money to defray the expense of a grand firework which it was intended to exhibit at a rejoicing on receipt of the news of our taking Fort Duquesne. I looked grave, and said it would, I thought, be time enough to prepare for the rejoicing when we knew we should have occasion to rejoice. They seem’d surpris’d that I did not immediately comply with their proposal. “Why the d—l!” says one of them, “you surely don’t suppose that the fort will not be taken?” “I don’t know that it will not be taken but I know that the events of war are subject to great uncertainty.” I gave them the reasons of my doubting; the subscription was dropt, and the projectors thereby missed the mortification they would have undergone if the firework had been prepared. Dr. Bond, on some other occasion afterward, said that he did not like Franklin’s forebodings.
Governor Morris, who had continually worried the Assembly with message after message before the defeat of Braddock, to beat them into the making of acts to raise money for the defense of the province, without taxing, among others, the proprietary estates, and had rejected all their bills for not having such an exempting clause, now redoubled his attacks with more hope of success, the danger and necessity being greater. The Assembly, however, continu’d firm, believing they had justice on their side and that it would be giving up an essential right if they suffered the governor to amend their money-bills. In one of the last, indeed, which was for granting fifty thousand pounds, his propos’d amendment was only of a single word. The bill express’d “that all estates, real and personal, were to be taxed, those of the proprietaries not excepted.” His amendment was, for not read only: a small, but very material alteration. However, when the news of this disaster reached England, our friends there, whom we had taken care to furnish with all the Assembly’s answers to the governor’s messages, rais’d a clamor against the proprietaries for their meanness and injustice in giving their governor such instructions; some going so far as to say that, by obstructing the defense of their province, they forfeited their right to it. They were intimidated by this and sent orders to their receiver-general to add five thousand pounds of their money to whatever sum might be given by the Assembly for such purpose.
This being notified to the House, was accepted in lieu of their share of a general tax, and a new bill was form’d with an exempting clause which passed accordingly. By this act I was appointed one of the commissioners for disposing of the money, sixty thousand pounds. I had been active in modelling the bill and procuring its passage and had, at the same time drawn a bill for establishing and disciplining a voluntary militia which I carried thro’ the House without much difficulty, as care was taken in it to leave the Quakers at their liberty. To promote the association necessary to form the militia, I wrote a dialogue,1 stating and answering all the objections I could think of, to such a militia, which was printed, and had, as I thought, great effect.
While the several companies in the city and country were forming, and learning their exercise, the governor prevail’d with me to take charge of our North-western frontier which was infested by the enemy, and provide for the defense of the inhabitants by raising troops and building a line of forts. I undertook this military business tho’ I did not conceive myself well qualified for it. He gave me a commission with full powers and a parcel of blank commissions for officers to be given to whom I thought fit. I had but little difficulty in raising men, having soon five hundred and sixty under my command. My son, who had in the preceding war, been an officer in the army rais’d against Canada, was my aid-de-camp, and of great use to me. The Indians had burned Gnadenhut, a village settled by the Moravians, and massacred the inhabitants; but the place was thought a good situation for one of the forts.
In order to march thither, I assembled the companies at Bethlehem, the chief establishment of those people. I was surprised to find it in so good a posture of defense; the destruction of Gnadenhut had made them apprehend danger. The principal buildings were defended by a stockade; they had purchased a quantity of arms and ammunition from New York and had even plac’d quantities of small paving stones between the windows of their high stone houses for their women to throw down upon the heads of any Indians that should attempt to force into them. The armed brethren, too, kept watch and reliev’d as methodically as in any garrison town. In conversation with the bishop, Spangenberg, I mentioned this my surprise; for, knowing they had obtained an act of Parliament exempting them from military duties in the colonies, I had suppos’d they were conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms. He answer’d me that it was not one of their established principles, but that, at the time of their obtaining that act, it was thought to be a principle with many of their people. On this occasion, however, they, to their surprise, found it adopted by but a few. It seems they were either deceiv’d in themselves or deceiv’d in the Parliament, but common sense, aided by present danger, will sometimes be too strong for whimsical opinions.
It was the beginning of January when we set out upon this business of building forts. I sent one detachment toward the Minisink with instructions to erect one for the security of that upper part of the country, and another to the lower part, with similar instructions and I concluded to go myself with the rest of my force to Gnadenhut where a fort was tho’t more immediately necessary. The Moravians procur’d me five waggons for our tools, stores, baggage, etc.
Just before we left Bethlehem, eleven farmers who had been driven from their plantations by the Indians, came to me requesting a supply of firearms, that they might go back and fetch off their cattle. I gave them each a gun with suitable ammunition. We had not march’d many miles before it began to rain and it continued raining all day; there were no habitations on the road to shelter us till we arriv’d near night at the house of a German, where, and in his barn, we were all huddled together, as wet as water could make us. It was well we were not attack’d in our march for our arms were of the most ordinary sort and our men could not keep their gun locks dry. The Indians are dextrous in contrivances for that purpose, which we had not. They met that day the eleven poor farmers above mentioned and killed ten of them. The one who escap’d inform’d that his and his companions’ guns would not go off, the priming being wet with the rain.
The next day being fair, we continu’d our march and arriv’d at the desolated Gnadenhut. There was a saw-mill near, round which were left several piles of boards with which we soon hutted ourselves; an operation the more necessary at that inclement season as we had no tents. Our first work was to bury more effectually the dead we found there, who had been half interr’d by the country people.
The next morning our fort was plann’d and mark’d out, the circumference measuring four hundred and fifty-five feet, which would require as many palisades to be made of trees, one with another, of a foot diameter each. Our axes, of which we had seventy, were immediately set to work to cut down trees, and, our men being dexterous in the use of them, great despatch was made. Seeing the trees fall so fast, I had the curiosity to look at my watch when two men began to cut at a pine; in six minutes they had it upon the ground and I found it of fourteen inches diameter. Each pine made three palisades of eighteen feet long, pointed at one end. While these were preparing, our other men dug a trench all round, of three feet deep in which the palisades were to be planted, and our waggons, the body being taken off, and the fore and hind wheels separated by taking out the pin which united the two parts of the perch, we had ten carriages, with two horses each, to bring the palisades from the woods to the spot. When they were set up, our carpenters built a stage of boards all round within, about six feet high, for the men to stand on when to fire thro’ the loopholes. We had one swivel gun, which we mounted on one of the angles, and fir’d it as soon as fix’d, to let the Indians know, if any were within hearing, that we had such pieces; and thus our fort, if such a magnificent name may be given to so miserable a stockade, was finish’d in a week, though it rain’d so hard every other day that the men could not work.
This gave me occasion to observe that, when men are employ’d, they are best content’d; for on the days they work’d they were good-natur’d and cheerful and, with the consciousness of having done a good day’s work, they spent the evening jollily; but on our idle days they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with their pork, the bread, etc., and in continual ill-humor, which put me in mind of a sea-captain, whose rule it was to keep his men constantly at work, and, when his mate once told him that they had done every thing, and there was nothing further to employ them about, “Oh,” says he, “make them scour the anchor.”
This kind of fort, however contemptible, is a sufficient defence against Indians who have no cannon. Finding ourselves now posted securely and having a place to retreat to on occasion, we ventur’d out in parties to scour the adjacent country. We met with no Indians but we found the places on the neighboring hills where they had lain to watch our proceedings. There was an art in their contrivance of those places that seems worth mention. It being winter, a fire was necessary for them; but a common fire on the surface of the ground would by its light have discover’d their position at a distance. They had therefore dug holes in the ground about three feet diameter, and somewhat deeper; we saw where they had with their hatchets cut off the charcoal from the sides of burnt logs lying in the woods. With these coals they had made small fires in the bottom of the holes, and we observ’d among the weeds and grass the prints of their bodies, made by their lying all round, with their legs hanging down in the holes to keep their feet warm, which, with them, is an essential point. This kind of fire, so manag’d, could not discover them, either by its light, flame, sparks, or even smoke; it appear’d that their number was not great, and it seems they saw we were too many to be attacked by them with prospect of advantage.
We had for our chaplain a zealous Presbyterian minister, Mr. Beatty, who complained to me that the men did not generally attend his prayers and exhortations. When they enlisted, they were promised, besides pay and provisions, a gill of rum a day, which was punctually serv’d out to them, half in the morning, and the other half in the evening; and I observ’d they were as punctual in attending to receive it; upon which I said to Mr. Beatty: “It is, perhaps, below the dignity of your profession to act as steward of the rum but if you were to deal it out only just after prayers, you would have them all about you.” He liked the tho’t, undertook the office, and, with the help of a few hands to measure out the liquor, executed it to satisfaction and never were prayers more generally and more punctually attended; so that I thought this method preferable to the punishment inflicted by some military laws for non-attendance on divine service.
I had hardly finish’d this business, and got my fort well stor’d with provisions, when I receiv’d a letter from the governor acquainting me that he had call’d the Assembly and wished my attendance there, if the posture of affairs on the frontiers was such that my remaining there was no longer necessary. My friends, too, of the Assembly, pressing me by their letters to be, if possible, at the meeting, and my three intended forts being now compleated and the inhabitants contented to remain on their farms under that protection, I resolved to return; the more willingly as a New England officer, Colonel Clapham, experienced in Indian war, being on a visit to our establishment, consented to accept the command. I gave him a commission and, parading the garrison, had it read before them, and introduc’d him to them as an officer who, from his skill in military affairs was much more fit to command them than myself and, giving them a little exhortation, took my leave. I was escorted as far as Bethlehem, where I rested a few days to recover from the fatigue I had undergone. The first night, being in a good bed, I could hardly sleep, it was so different from my hard lodging on the floor of our hut at Gnaden wrapt only in a blanket or two.
While at Bethlehem, I inquir’d a little into the practice of the Moravians; some of them had accompanied me, and all were very kind to me. I found they work’d for a common stock, eat at common tables, and slept in common dormitories, great numbers together. In the dormitories I observed loopholes, at certain distances all along just under the ceiling, which I thought judiciously placed for change of air. I was at their church, where I was entertain’d with good musick, the organ being accompanied with violins, hautboys, flutes, clarinets, etc. I understood that their sermons were not usually preached to mixed congregations of men, women, and children, as is our common practice but that they assembled sometimes the married men, at other times their wives, then the young men, the young women, and the little children, each division by itself. The sermon I heard was to the latter, who came in and were plac’d in rows on benches; the boys under the conduct of a young man, their tutor, and the girls conducted by a young woman. The discourse seemed well adapted to their capacities and was delivered in a pleasing, familiar manner, coaxing them, as it were, to be good. They behav’d very orderly but looked pale and unhealthy, which made me suspect they were kept too much within doors, or not allowed sufficient exercise.
I inquir’d concerning the Moravian marriages, whether the report was true that they were by lot. I was told that lots were us’d only in particular cases; that generally when a young man found himself dispos’d to marry, he inform’d the elders of his class, who consulted the elder ladies that govern’d the young women. As these elders of the different sexes were well acquainted with the tempers and dispositions of their respective pupils they could best judge what matches were suitable and their judgments were generally acquiesc’d in: but if, for example, it should happen that two or three young women were found to be equally proper for the young man, the lot was then recurred to. I objected, if the matches are not made by the mutual choice of the parties, some of them may chance to be very unhappy. “And so they may,” answer’d my informer, “if you let the parties chuse for themselves”; which, indeed, I could not deny.
Being returned to Philadelphia, I found the association went on swimmingly, the inhabitants that were not Quakers having pretty generally come into it, formed themselves into companies, and chose their captains, lieutenants, and ensigns, according to the new law. Dr. B. visited me, and gave me an account of the pains he had taken to spread a general good liking to the law, and ascribed much to those endeavors. I had had the vanity to ascribe all to my “Dialogue”; however, not knowing but that he might be in the right, I let him enjoy his opinion, which I take to be generally the best way in such cases. The officers, meeting, chose me to be colonel of the regiment, which I this time accepted. I forget how many companies we had, but we paraded about twelve hundred well-looking men with a company of artillery who had been furnished with six brass field-pieces, which they had become so expert in the use of as to fire twelve times in a minute. The first time I reviewed my regiment they accompanied me to my house and would salute me with some rounds fired before my door, which shook down and broke several glasses of my electrical apparatus. And my new honour proved not much less brittle, for all our commissions were soon after broken by a repeal of the law in England.
During this short time of my colonelship, being about to set out on a journey to Virginia, the officers of my regiment took it into their heads that it would be proper for them to escort me out of town as far as the Lower Ferry. Just as I was getting on horseback they came to my door, between thirty and forty, mounted, and all in their uniforms. I had not been previously acquainted with the project, or I should have prevented it, being naturally averse to the assuming of state on any occasion; and I was a good deal chagrin’d at their appearance, as I could not avoid their accompanying me. What made it worse was that, as soon as we began to move they drew their swords and rode with them naked all the way. Somebody wrote an account of this to the proprietor and it gave him great offense. No such honor had been paid him when in the province, nor to any of his governors; and he said it was only proper to princes of the royal blood, which may be true for aught I know, who was and still am, ignorant of the etiquette in such cases.
This silly affair, however, greatly increased his rancour against me, which was before not a little on account of my conduct in the Assembly respecting the exemption of his estate from taxation, which I had always oppos’d very warmly and not without severe reflections on his meanness and injustice of contending for it. He accused me to the ministry as being the great obstacle to the king’s service, preventing, by my influence in the House, the proper form of the bills for raising money, and he instanced this parade with my officers as a proof of my having an intention to take the government of the province out of his hands by force. He also applied to Sir Everard Fawkener, the postmaster-general, to deprive me of my office; but it had no other effect than to procure from Sir Everard a gentle admonition.
Notwithstanding the continual wrangle between the governor and the House, in which I, as a member, had so large a share, there still subsisted a civil intercourse between that gentleman and myself and we never had any personal difference. I have sometimes since thought that his little or no resentment against me for the answers it was known I drew up to his messages, might be the effect of professional habit and that, being bred a lawyer he might consider us both as merely advocates for contending clients in a suit, he for the proprietaries and I for the Assembly. He would therefore sometimes call in a friendly way to advise me on difficult points and sometimes, though not often, take my advice.
We acted in concert to supply Braddock’s army with provisions, and, when the shocking news arrived of his defeat, the governor sent in haste for me, to consult with him on measures for preventing the desertion of the back counties. I forget now the advice I gave, but I think it was that Dunbar should be written to and prevail’d with, if possible, to post his troops on the frontiers for their protection till, by re-enforcements from the colonies, he might be able to proceed on the expedition. And, after my return from the frontier he would have had me undertake the conduct of such an expedition with provincial troops, for the reduction of Fort Duquesne, Dunbar and his men being otherwise employed; and he proposed to commission me as general. I had not so good an opinion of my military abilities as he profess’d to have and I believe his professions must have exceeded his real sentiments; but probably he might think that my popularity would facilitate the raising of the men and my influence in Assembly, the grant of money to pay them, and that, perhaps, without taxing the proprietary estate. Finding me not so forward to engage as he expected, the project was dropt, and he soon after left the government, being superseded by Captain Denny.
Before I proceed in relating the part I had in public affairs under this new governor’s administration, it may not be amiss here to give some account of the rise and progress of my philosophical reputation.
In 1746, being at Boston I met there with a Dr. Spence who was lately arrived from Scotland, and show’d me some electric experiments. They were imperfectly perform’d as he was not very expert but, being on a subject quite new to me, they equally surpris’d and pleased me. Soon after my return to Philadelphia, our library company receiv’d from Mr. P. Collinson, Fellow of the Royal Society of London, a present of a glass tube with some account of the use of it in making such experiments. I eagerly seized the opportunity of repeating what I had seen at Boston; and, by much practice, acquir’d great readiness in performing those, also, which we had an account of from England, adding a number of new ones. I say much practice, for my house was continually full, for some time, with people who came to see these new wonders.
To divide a little this incumbrance among my friends, I caused a number of similar tubes to be blown at our glass-house, with which they furnished themselves, so that we had at length several performers. Among these, the principal was Mr. Kinnersley, an ingenious neighbor, who, being out of business, I encouraged to undertake showing the experiments for money, and drew up for him two lectures, in which the experiments were rang’d in such order, and accompanied with such explanations in such method, as that the foregoing should assist in comprehending the following. He procur’d an elegant apparatus for the purpose, in which all the little machines that I had roughly made for myself were nicely form’d by instrument-makers. His lectures were well attended and gave great satisfaction, and after some time he went thro’ the colonies exhibiting them in every capital town and pick’d up some money. In the West India Islands, indeed, it was with difficulty the experiments could be made, from the general moisture of the air.
Oblig’d as we were to Mr. Collinson for his present of the tube, etc., I thought it right he should be inform’d of our success in using it, and wrote him several letters containing accounts of our experiments. He got them read in the Royal Society where they were not at first thought worth so much notice as to be printed in their Transactions. One paper, which I wrote for Mr. Kinnersley, on the sameness of lightning with electricity, I sent to Dr. Mitchel, an acquaintance of mine and one of the members also of that society, who wrote me word that it had been read, but was laughed at by the connoisseurs. The papers, however, being shown to Dr. Fothergill, he thought they were of too much value to be stifled, and advis’d the printing of them. Mr. Collinson then gave them to Cave for publication in his Gentleman’s Magazine; but he chose to print them separately in a pamphlet and Dr. Fothergill wrote the preface. Cave, it seems, judged rightly for his profit, for by the additions that arrived afterward, they swell’d to a quarto volume which has had five editions, and cost him nothing for copy-money.
It was, however, some time before those papers were much taken notice of in England. A copy of them happening to fall into the hands of the Count de Buffon, a philosopher deservedly of great reputation in France, and, indeed, all over Europe, he prevailed with M. Dalibard to translate them into French, and they were printed at Paris. The publication offended the Abbé Nollet, preceptor in Natural Philosophy to the royal family, and an able experimenter, who had form’d and publish’d a theory of electricity, which then had the general vogue. He could not at first believe that such a work came from America, and said it must have been fabricated by his enemies at Paris, to decry his system. Afterwards, having been assur’d that there really existed such a person as Franklin at Philadelphia, which he had doubted, he wrote and published a volume of “Letters,” chiefly address’d to me, defending his theory, and denying the verity of my experiments and of the positions deduc’d from them.
I once purpos’d answering the abbé, and actually began the answer, but, on consideration that my writings contain’d a description of experiments which any one might repeat and verify, and if not to be verifi’d, could not be defended; or of observations offer’d as conjectures and not delivered dogmatically, therefore not laying me under any obligation to defend them; and reflecting that a dispute between two persons, writing in different languages, might be lengthened greatly by mistranslations and thence misconceptions of one another’s meaning, much of one of the abbé’s letters being founded on an error in the translation, I concluded to let my papers shift for themselves, believing it was better to spend what time I could spare from public business in making new experiments, than in disputing about those already made. I therefore never answered M. Nollet, and the event gave me no cause to repent my silence; for my friend M. le Roy, of the Royal Academy of Sciences, took up my cause and refuted him; my book was translated into the Italian, German, and Latin languages, and the doctrine it contain’d was by degrees universally adopted by the philosophers of Europe in preference to that of the abbé; so that he lived to see himself the last of his sect, except Monsieur B——, of Paris, his élève and immediate disciple.
What gave my book the more sudden and general celebrity, was the success of one of its proposed experiments, made by Messrs. Dalibard and De Lor at Marly, for drawing lightning from the clouds. This engaged the public attention every where. M. de Lor, who had an apparatus for experimental philosophy, and lectur’d in that branch of science, undertook to repeat what he called the PhiladelphiaExperiments; and, after they were performed before the king and court, all the curious of Paris flocked to see them. I will not swell this narrative with an account of that capital experiment, nor of the infinite pleasure I receiv’d in the success of a similar one I made soon after with a kite at Philadelphia, as both are to be found in the histories of electricity.
Dr. Wright, an English physician, when at Paris, wrote to a friend, who was of the Royal Society, an account of the high esteem my experiments were in among the learned abroad, and of their wonder that my writings had been so little noticed in England. The Society, on this, resum’d the consideration of the letters that had been read to them, and the celebrated Dr. Watson drew up a summary account of them and of all I had afterwards sent to England on the subject, which he accompanied with some praise of the writer. This summary was then printed in their Transactions; and some members of the Society in London, particularly the very ingenious Mr. Canton, having verified the experiment of procuring lightning from the clouds by a pointed rod, and acquainting them with the success, they soon made me more than amends for the slight with which they had before treated me. Without my having made any application for that honor, they chose me a member, and voted that I should be excus’d the customary payments, which would have amounted to twenty-five guineas; and ever since have given me their Transactions gratis.1 They also presented me with the gold medal of Sir Godfrey Copley for the year 1753, the delivery of which was accompanied by a very handsome speech of the president, Lord Macclesfield, wherein I was highly honoured.
Our new governor, Captain Denny, brought over for me the before-mentioned medal from the Royal Society, which he presented to me at an entertainment given him by the city. He accompanied it with very polite expressions of his esteem for me, having, as he said, been long acquainted with my character. After dinner, when the company, as was customary at that time, were engag’d in drinking, he took me aside into another room, and acquainted me that he had been advis’d by his friends in England to cultivate a friendship with me, as one who was capable of giving him the best advice, and of contributing most effectually to the making his administration easy; that he therefore desired of all things to have a good understanding with me and he begg’d me to be assur’d of his readiness on all occasions to render me every service that might be in his power. He said much to me, also, of the proprietor’s good disposition towards the province and of the advantage it might be to us all, and to me in particular, if the opposition that had been so long continu’d to his measures was dropt, and harmony restor’d between him and the people; in effecting which, it was thought no one could be more serviceable than myself; and I might depend on adequate acknowledgments and recompenses, etc., etc. The drinkers, finding we did not return immediately to the table, sent us a decanter of Madeira which the governor made liberal use of, and in proportion became more profuse of his solicitations and promises.
My answers were to this purpose: that my circumstances, thanks to God, were such as to make proprietary favours unnecessary to me and that, being a member of the Assembly I could not possibly accept of any; that, however, I had no personal enmity to the proprietary, and that, whenever the public measures he propos’d should appear to be for the good of the people, no one should espouse and forward them more zealously than myself; my past opposition having been founded on this, that the measures which had been urged were evidently intended to serve the proprietary interest, with great prejudice to that of the people; that I was much obliged to him (the governor) for his professions of regard to me and that he might rely on every thing in my power to make his administration as easy as possible, hoping at the same time that he had not brought with him the same unfortunate instruction his predecessor had been hamper’d with.
On this he did not then explain himself, but when he afterwards came to do business with the Assembly, they appear’d again, the disputes were renewed, and I was as active as ever in the opposition, being the penman, first, of the request to have a communication of the instructions and then of the remarks upon them, which may be found in the votes of the time, and in the Historical Review I afterwards published. But between us personally no enmity arose; we were often together; he was a man of letters, had seen much of the world and was very entertaining and pleasing in conversation. He gave me the first intimation that my old friend Jas. Ralph was still alive; that he was esteem’d one of the best political writers in England, had been employ’d in the dispute between Prince Frederic and the king and had obtain’d a pension of three hundred a year; that his reputation was indeed small as a poet, Pope having damned his poetry in the Dunciad; but his prose was thought as good as any man’s.
The Assembly1 finally finding the proprietary obstinately persisted in manacling their deputies with instructions inconsistent not only with the privileges of the people but with the service of the crown, resolv’d to petition the king against them and appointed me their agent to go over to England to present and support the petition. The House had sent up a bill to the governor granting a sum of sixty thousand pounds for the king’s use (ten thousand pounds of which was subjected to the orders of the then General Lord Loudoun), which the governor absolutely refus’d to pass, in compliance with his instructions.
I had agreed with Captain Morris, of the paquet at New York, for my passage, and my stores were put on board when Lord Loudoun arriv’d at Philadelphia expressly, as he told me, to endeavor an accommodation between the governor and Assembly, that his majesty’s service might not be obstructed by their dissensions. Accordingly, he desir’d the governor and myself to meet him, that he might hear what was to be said on both sides. We met and discuss’d the business. In behalf of the Assembly, I urg’d all the various arguments that may be found in the public papers of that time, which were of my writing, and are printed with the minutes of the Assembly; and the governor pleaded his instructions, the bond he had given to observe them, and his ruin if he disobey’d, yet seemed not unwilling to hazard himself if Lord Loudoun would advise it. This his lordship did not chuse to do, though I once thought I had nearly prevail’d with him to do it; but finally he rather chose to urge the compliance of the Assembly; and he entreated me to use my endeavours with them for that purpose, declaring that he would spare none of the king’s troops for that defense of our frontiers, and that, if we did not continue to provide for that defense ourselves, they must remain expos’d to the enemy.
I acquainted the House with what had pass’d, and, presenting them with a set of resolutions I had drawn up, declaring our rights, and that we did not relinquish our claim to those rights, but only suspended the exercise of them on this occasion thro’ force, against which we protested, they at length agreed to drop that bill and frame another conformable to the proprietary instructions. This of course the governor pass’d and I was then at liberty to proceed on my voyage. But, in the mean time, the paquet had sailed with my sea-stores, which was some loss to me and my only recompense was his lordship’s thanks for my service, all the credit of obtaining the accommodation falling to his share.
He set out for New York before me and, as the time for dispatching the paquet-boats was at his disposition, and there were two then remaining there, one of which, he said, was to sail very soon, I requested to know the precise time, that I might not miss her by any delay of mine. His answer was: “I have given out that she is to sail on Saturday next, but I may let you know, entre nous, that if you are there by Monday morning you will be in time, but do not delay longer.” By some accidental hindrance at a ferry, it was Monday noon before I arrived and I was much afraid she might have sailed, as the wind was fair, but I was soon made easy by the information that she was still in the harbor and would not move till the next day. One would imagine that I was now on the very point of departing for Europe. I thought so, but I was not then so well acquainted with his lordship’s character of which indecision was one of the strongest features. I shall give some instances. It was about the beginning of April that I came to New York and I think it was near the end of June before we sail’d. There were then two of the paquet-boats, which had been long in port but were detained by the general’s letters which were always to be ready to-morrow. Another paquet arriv’d; she too was detain’d, and before we sail’d a fourth was expected. Ours was the first to be dispatch’d, as having been there longest. Passengers were engag’d in all and some extremely impatient to be gone and the merchants uneasy about their letters and the orders they had given for insurance (it being war time) for fall goods, but their anxiety avail’d nothing; his lordship’s letters were not ready, and yet, whoever waited on him found him always at his desk, pen in hand, and concluded he must needs write abundantly.
Going myself one morning to pay my respects I found in his antechamber one Innis, a messenger of Philadelphia who had come from thence express with a paquet from Governor Denny for the General. He delivered to me some letters from my friends there which occasion’d my inquiring when he was to return and where he lodg’d that I might send some letters by him. He told me he was order’d to call to-morrow at nine for the General’s answer to the governor, and should set off immediately. I put my letters into his hands the same day. A fortnight after I met him again in the same place. “So, you are soon return’d, Innis?” “Return’d! no, I am not gone yet.” “How so?” “I have called here by order every morning these two weeks past for his lordship’s letter and it is not yet ready.” “Is it possible, when he is so great a writer? for I see him constantly at his escritoire.” “Yes,” says Innis, “but he is like St. George on the signs, always on horseback and never rides on.” This observation of the messenger was, it seems, well founded, for, when in England I understood that Mr. Pitt gave it as one reason for removing this general, and sending Generals Amherst and Wolfe, that the minister never heard from him, and could not know what he was doing.
This daily expectation of sailing and all the three paquets going down to Sandy Hook to join the fleet there, the passengers thought it best to be on board, lest by a sudden order the ships should sail and they be left behind. There, if I remember right, we were about six weeks, consuming our sea-stores and oblig’d to procure more. At length the fleet sail’d, the General and all his army on board, bound to Louisburg, with intent to besiege and take that fortress; all the paquet-boats in company ordered to attend the General’s ship ready to receive his dispatches when they should be ready. We were out five days before we got a letter with leave to part and then our ship quitted the fleet and steered for England. The other two paquets he still detained, carried them with him to Halifax where he stayed some time to exercise the men in sham attacks upon sham forts, then alter’d his mind as to besieging Louisburg and return’d to New York, with all his troops together with the two paquets above mentioned and all their passengers! During his absence the French and savages had taken Fort George, on the frontier of that province and the savages had massacred many of the garrison after capitulation.
I saw afterwards in London Captain Bonnell, who commanded one of those paquets. He told me that when he had been detain’d a month, he acquainted his lordship that his ship was grown foul to a degree that must necessarily hinder her fast sailing, a point of consequence for a paquet-boat, and requested an allowance of time to heave her down and clean her bottom. He was asked how long time that would require. He answer’d three days. The general replied: “If you can do it in one day I give leave; otherwise not; for you must certainly sail the day after to-morrow.” So he never obtain’d leave though detained afterwards from day to day during full three months.
I saw also in London one of Bonnell’s passengers who was so enrag’d against his lordship for deceiving and detaining him so long at New York, and then carrying him to Halifax and back again, that he swore he would sue him for damages. Whether he did or not, I never heard, but, as he represented the injury to his affairs, it was very considerable.
On the whole, I wonder’d much how such a man came to be intrusted with so important a business as the conduct of a great army, but, having since seen more of the great world and the means of obtaining and motives for giving places, my wonder is diminished. General Shirley on whom the command of the army devolved upon the death of Braddock, would, in my opinion, if continued in place, have made a much better campaign than that of Loudoun in 1757, which was frivolous, expensive, and disgraceful to our nation beyond conception; for tho’ Shirley was not a bred soldier, he was sensible and sagacious in himself and attentive to good advice from others, capable of forming judicious plans and quick and active in carrying them into execution. Loudoun, instead of defending the colonies with his great army, left them totally expos’d while he paraded idly at Halifax, by which means Fort George was lost; besides he derang’d all our mercantile operations and distress’d our trade by a long embargo on the exportation of provisions, on pretence of keeping supplies from being obtain’d by the enemy, but, in reality, for beating down their price in favor of the contractors in whose profits, it was said, perhaps from suspicion only, he had a share. And when at length the embargo was taken off, by neglecting to send notice of it to Charlestown, the Carolina fleet was detain’d near three months longer, whereby their bottoms were so much damaged by the worm that a great part of them foundered in their passage home.
Shirley was, I believe, sincerely glad of being relieved from so burdensome a charge as the conduct of an army must be to a man unacquainted with military business. I was at the entertainment given by the city of New York to Lord Loudoun on his taking upon him the command. Shirley, tho’ thereby superseded, was present also. There was a great company of officers, citizens, and strangers, and some chairs having been borrowed in the neighborhood, there was one among them very low, which fell to the lot of Mr. Shirley. Perceiving it as I sat by him, I said: “They have given you, sir, too low a seat.” “No matter,” says he, “Mr. Franklin, I find a low seat the easiest.”
While I was, as afore mention’d, detain’d at New York, I receiv’d all the accounts of the provisions, etc., that I had furnish’d to Braddock, some of which accounts could not sooner be obtain’d from the different persons I had employ’d to assist in the business. I presented them to Lord Loudoun, desiring to be paid the ballance. He caus’d them to be regularly examined by the proper officer who, after comparing every article with its voucher, certified them to be right and the ballance, due, for which his lordship promis’d to give me an order on the paymaster. This was, however, put off from time to time; and tho’ I call’d often for it by appointment, I did not get it. At length, just before my departure, he told me he had, on better consideration, concluded not to mix his accounts with those of his predecessors. “And you,” says he, “when in England, have only to exhibit your accounts at the treasury, and you will be paid immediately.”
I mention’d, but without effect, the great and unexpected expense I had been put to by being detain’d so long at New York, as a reason for my desiring to be presently paid, and on my observing that it was not right I should be put to any further trouble or delay in obtaining the money I had advanc’d, as I charged no commission for my service, “O, sir,” says he, “you must not think of persuading us that you are no gainer; we understand better those affairs, and know that every one concerned in supplying the army finds means, in the doing it, to fill his own pockets.” I assur’d him that was not my case, and that I had not pocketed a farthing, but he appear’d clearly not to believe me, and, indeed, I have since learnt that immense fortunes are often made in such employments. As to my ballance, I am not paid it to this day, of which more hereafter.
Our captain of the paquet had boasted much before we sailed, of the swiftness of his ship; unfortunately, when we came to sea, she proved the dullest of ninety-six sail, to his no small mortification. After many conjectures respecting the cause, when we were near another ship almost as dull as ours, which, however, gain’d upon us, the captain ordered all hands to come aft, and stand as near the ensign staff as possible. We were, passengers included, about forty persons. While we stood there, the ship mended her pace and soon left her neighbour far behind, which prov’d clearly what our captain suspected, that she was loaded too much by the head. The casks of water, it seems, had been all plac’d forward; these he therefore order’d to be mov’d further aft, on which the ship recover’d her character and proved the best sailer in the fleet.
The captain said she had once gone at the rate of thirteen knots, which is accounted thirteen miles per hour. We had on board, as a passenger, Captain Kennedy of the Navy, who contended that it was impossible and that no ship ever sailed so fast and that there must have been some error in the division of the log-line or some mistake in heaving the log. A wager ensu’d between the two captains, to be decided when there should be sufficient wind. Kennedy thereupon examin’d rigorously the log-line and being satisfi’d with that, he determin’d to throw the log himself. Accordingly some days after when the wind blew very fair and fresh and the captain of the paquet, Lutwidge, said he believ’d she then went at the rate of thirteen knots, Kennedy made the experiment and own’d his wager lost.
The above fact I give for the sake of the following observation. It has been remark’d as an imperfection in the art of ship-building, that it can never be known till she is tried, whether a new ship will or will not be a good sailer, for that the model of a good-sailing ship has been exactly follow’d in a new one, which has prov’d, on the contrary, remarkably dull. I apprehend that this may partly be occasion’d by the different opinions of seamen respecting the modes of lading, rigging and sailing of a ship; each has his system, and the same vessel, laden by the judgment and orders of one captain, shall sail better or worse than when by the orders of another. Besides, it scarce ever happens that a ship is form’d, fitted for the sea and sail’d by the same person. One man builds the hull, another rigs her, a third lades and sails her. No one of these has the advantage of knowing all the ideas and experience of the others, and therefore, can not draw just conclusions from a combination of the whole.
Even in the simple operation of sailing when at sea, I have often observ’d different judgments in the officers who commanded the successive watches, the wind being the same. One would have the sails trimm’d sharper or flatter than another, so that they seem’d to have no certain rule to govern by. Yet I think a set of experiments might be instituted, first, to determine the most proper form of the hull for swift sailing; next, the best dimensions and properest place for the masts; then the form and quantity of sails, and their position, as the wind may be; and, lastly, the disposition of the lading. This is an age of experiments and I think a set accurately made and combin’d would be of great use. I am persuaded, therefore, that ere long some ingenious philosopher will undertake it, to whom I wish success.
We were several times chas’d in our passage, but outsail’d every thing, and in thirty days had soundings. We had a good observation and the captain judg’d himself so near our port, Falmouth, that, if we made a good run in the night, we might be off the mouth of that harbor in the morning and by running in the night might escape the notice of the enemy’s privateers who often cruis’d near the entrance of the channel. Accordingly, all the sail was set that we could possibly make and the wind being very fresh and fair we went right before it and made great way. The captain, after his observation, shap’d his course, as he thought, so as to pass wide of the Scilly Isles, but it seems there is sometimes a strong indraught setting up St. George’s Channel which deceives seamen and caused the loss of Sir Cloudesley Shovel’s squadron. This indraught was probably the cause of what happened to us.
We had a watchman plac’d in the bow, to whom they often called, “Look well out before there,” and he as often answered, “Ay, ay”; but perhaps had his eyes shut and was half asleep at the time, they sometimes answering, as is said, mechanically; for he did not see a light just before us, which had been hid by the studding-sails from the man at the helm, and from the rest of the watch, but by an accidental yaw of the ship was discover’d, and occasion’d a great alarm, we being very near it, the light appearing to me as big as a cart-wheel. It was midnight and our captain fast asleep but Captain Kennedy, jumping upon deck and seeing the danger, ordered the ship to wear round, all sails standing; an operation dangerous to the masts but it carried us clear and we escaped shipwreck, for we were running right upon the rocks on which the light-house was erected. This deliverance impressed me strongly with the utility of light-houses, and made me resolve to encourage the building more of them in America if I should live to return there.
In the morning it was found by the soundings, etc., that we were near our port but a thick fog hid the land from our sight. About nine o’clock the fog began to rise and seem’d to be lifted up from the water like the curtain at a play-house, discovering underneath, the town of Falmouth, the vessels in its harbor, and the fields that surrounded it. This was a most pleasing spectacle to those who had been so long without any other prospects than the uniform view of a vacant ocean and it gave us the more pleasure as we were now free from the anxieties which the state of war occasion’d.
I set out immediately, with my son, for London, and we only stopt a little by the way to view Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain and Lord Pembroke’s house and gardens with his very curious antiquities at Wilton. We arrived in London the 27th of July, 1757.
[Here terminates the Autobiography, as published by William Temple Franklin and his successors. What follows was written the last year of Dr. Franklin’s life, and was never before printed in English.—Bigelow’s Autobiography of Franklin, 1868, p. 350, note.]
As soon as I was settled in a lodging Mr. Charles had provided for me, I went to visit Dr. Fothergill, to whom I was strongly recommended, and whose counsel respecting my proceedings I was advis’d to obtain. He was against an immediate complaint to government, and thought the proprietaries should first be personally appli’d to, who might possibly be induc’d by the interposition and persuasion of some private friends to accommodate matters amicably. I then waited on my old friend and correspondent, Mr. Peter Collinson, who told me that John Hanbury, the great Virginia merchant, had requested to be informed when I should arrive, that he might carry me to Lord Granville’s, who was then President of the Council and wished to see me as soon as possible. I agreed to go with him the next morning. Accordingly Mr. Hanbury called for me and took me in his carriage to that nobleman’s, who receiv’d me with great civility; and after some questions respecting the present state of affairs in America and discourse thereupon, he said to me: “You Americans have wrong ideas of the nature of your constitution; you contend that the king’s instructions to his governors are not laws, and think yourselves at liberty to regard or disregard them at your own discretion. But those instructions are not like the pocket instructions given to a minister going abroad, for regulating his conduct on some trifling point of ceremony. They are first drawn up by judges learned in the laws; they are then considered, debated, and perhaps amended in Council, after which they are signed by the king. They are then, so far as they relate to you, the law of the land, for the king is the Legislator of the Colonies.” I told his lordship this was new doctrine to me. I had always understood from our charters that our laws were to be made by our Assemblies, to be presented indeed to the king for his royal assent, but that being once given, the king could not repeal or alter them. And as the Assemblies could not make permanent laws without his assent, so neither could he make a law for them without theirs. He assur’d me I was totally mistaken. I did not think so, however, and his lordship’s conversation having a little alarm’d me as to what might be the sentiments of the court concerning us, I wrote it down as soon as I return’d to my lodgings.1 I recollected that about 20 years before, a clause in a bill brought into Parliament by the ministry had propos’d to make the king’s instructions laws in the colonies, but the clause was thrown out by the Commons, for which we adored them as our friends and friends of liberty, till by their conduct towards us in 1765 it seem’d that they had refus’d that point of sovereignty to the king only that they might reserve it for themselves.
After some days, Dr. Fothergill having spoken to the proprietaries, they agreed to a meeting with me at Mr. T. Penn’s house in Spring Garden. The conversation at first consisted of mutual declarations of disposition to reasonable accommodations, but I suppose each party had its own ideas of what should be meant by reasonable. We then went into consideration of our several points of complaint, which I enumerated. The proprietaries justify’d their conduct as well as they could, and I the Assembly’s. We now appeared very wide, and so far from each other in our opinions as to discourage all hope of agreement. However, it was concluded that I should give them the heads of our complaints in writing, and they promis’d then to consider them. I did so soon after, but they put the paper into the hands of their solicitor, Ferdinand John Paris, who managed for them all their law business in their great suit with the neighbouring proprietary of Maryland, Lord Baltimore, which had subsisted 70 years, and wrote for them all their papers and messages in their dispute with the Assembly. He was a proud, angry man, and as I had occasionally in the answers of the Assembly treated his papers with some severity, they being really weak in point of argument and haughty in expression, he had conceived a mortal enmity to me, which discovering itself whenever we met, I declin’d the proprietary’s proposal that he and I should discuss the heads of complaint between our two selves, and refus’d treating with any one but them. They then by his advice put the paper into the hands of the Attorney and Solicitor-General for their opinion and counsel upon it, where it lay unanswered a year wanting eight days, during which time I made frequent demands for an answer from the proprietaries, but without obtaining any other than that they had not yet received the opinion of the Attorney and Solicitor-General. What it was when they did receive it, I never learnt for they did not communicate it to me, but sent a long message to the Assembly drawn and signed by Paris, reciting my paper, complaining of its want of formality, as a rudeness on my part, and giving a flimsy justification of their conduct, adding that they should be willing to accommodate matters if the Assembly would send out some person of candour to treat with them for that purpose, intimating thereby that I was not such.
The want of formality or rudeness was, probably, my not having address’d the paper to them with their assum’d titles of True and Absolute Proprietaries of the Province of Pennsylvania, which I omitted as not thinking it necessary in a paper the intention of which was only to reduce to a certainty by writing what in conversation I had delivered viva voce.
But during this delay, the Assembly having prevailed with Gov’r Denny to pass an act taxing the proprietary estate in common with the estates of the people, which was the grand point in dispute, they omitted answering the message.
When this act however came over, the proprietaries, counselled by Paris, determined to oppose its receiving the royal assent. Accordingly they petition’d the king in Council, and a hearing was appointed in which two lawyers were employ’d by them against the act, and two by me in support of it. They alledg’d that the act was intended to load the proprietary estate in order to spare those of the people, and that if it were suffer’d to continue in force, and the proprietaries who were in odium with the people left to their mercy in proportioning the taxes, they would inevitably be ruined. We reply’d that the act had no such intention and would have no such effect; that the assessors were honest and discreet men under an oath to assess fairly and equitably, and that any advantage each of them might expect in lessening his own tax by augmenting that of the proprietaries was too trifling to induce them to perjure themselves. This is the purport of what I remember as urged by both sides, except that we insisted strongly on the mischievous consequences that must attend a repeal, for that the money, £100,000, being printed and given to the king’s use, expended in his service, and now spread among the people, the repeal would strike it dead in their hands to the ruin of many, and the total discouragement of future grants, and the selfishness of the proprietors in soliciting such a general catastrophe, merely from a groundless fear of their estate being taxed too highly, was insisted on in the strongest terms. On this, Lord Mansfield, one of the counsel rose, and beckoning me took me into the clerk’s chamber, while the lawyers were pleading, and asked me if I was really of opinion that no injury would be done the proprietary estate in the execution of the act. I said certainly. “Then,” says he, “you can have little objection to enter into an engagement to assure that point.” I answer’d, “None at all.” He then call’d in Paris, and after some discourse his lordship’s proposition was accepted on both sides; a paper to the purpose was drawn up by the Clerk of the Council, which I sign’d with Mr. Charles, who was also an Agent of the Province for their ordinary affairs, when Lord Mansfield returned to the Council Chamber, where finally the law was allowed to pass. Some changes were however recommended and we also engaged they should be made by a subsequent law, but the Assembly did not think them necessary; for one year’s tax having been levied by the act before the order of Council arrived, they appointed a committee to examine the proceedings of the assessors, and on this committee they put several particular friends of the proprietaries. After a full enquiry, they unanimously sign’d a report that they found the tax had been assess’d with perfect equity.
The Assembly looked into my entering the first part of the engagement, as an essential service to the Province, since it secured the credit of the paper money then spread over all the country. They gave me their thanks in form when I return’d. But the proprietaries were enraged at Governor Denny for having pass’d the act, and turn’d him out with threats of suing him for breach of instructions which he had given bond to observe. He, however, having done it at the instance of the General, and for His Majesty’s service, and having some powerful interest at court, despis’d the threats and they were never put in execution.1
CORRESPONDENCE AND MISCELLANEOUS WRITINGS
TO SIR HANS SLOANE1
London, 2 June, 1725.
Having lately been in the northern parts of America, I have brought from thence a purse made of the asbestos, a piece of the stone, and a piece of the wood, the pithy part of which is of the same nature, and called by the inhabitants salamander cotton. As you are noted to be a lover of curiosities, I have informed you of these; and if you have any inclination to purchase or see them, let me know your pleasure by a line for me at the Golden Fan, Little Britain, and I will wait upon you with them. I am, Sir, your most humble servant,
P. S.—I expect to be out of town in two or three days, and therefore beg an immediate answer.
TO MISS JANE FRANKLIN1
Philadelphia, 6 January, 1726-7.
I am highly pleased with the account Captain Freeman gives me of you. I always judged by your behaviour when a child, that you would make a good, agreeable woman, and you know you were ever my peculiar favorite. I have been thinking what would be a suitable present for me to make, and for you to receive, as I hear you are grown a celebrated beauty. I had almost determined on a tea-table; but when I considered, that the character of a good housewife was far preferable to that of being only a pretty gentlewoman, I concluded to send you a spinning-wheel, which I hope you will accept as a small token of my sincere love and affection.
Sister, farewell, and remember that modesty, as it makes the most homely virgin amiable and charming, so the want of it infallibly renders the most perfect beauty disagreeable and odious. But when that brightest of female virtues shines among other perfections of body and mind in the same person, it makes the woman more lovely than an angel. Excuse this freedom, and use the same with me. I am, dear Jenny, your loving brother,
ARTICLES OF BELIEF AND ACTS OF RELIGION
nov. 20, 1728