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Benjamin Franklin, The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Vol. I Autobiography, Letters and Misc. Writings 1725-1734 [1904]

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Benjamin Franklin, 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).

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About this Title:

Volume 1 of a 12 volume collection of the works of Franklin edited by the New York lawyer and politician John Bigelow. The bulk of vol. 1 contains the Autobiography and a number of essays and letters written between 1724 and 1734.

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The text is in the public domain.

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Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [a]
Edition: current; Page: [b]

Benjamin Franklin

From the painting by Duplessis. Reproduced by permission of Foster Brothers, Boston.

Edition: current; Page: [c]

The Works of Benjamin Franklin in Twelve Volumes

Federal Edition

Edition: current; Page: [i]
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

“Strange that Ulysses does a thousand things so well.”

Iliad, B. 11, 335
Volume I
G. P. Putnam’s Sons
New York and London
The Knickerbocker Press
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

The Knickerbocker Press, New York

Edition: current; Page: [iii]


THE addition of another to the already numerous collections of Franklin’s works requires some explanation.

Though a voluminous writer and one of the great masters of English expression, Franklin wrote habitually with a single eye to immediate practical results. He never posed for posterity. Of all the writings to which he mainly owes his present fame, it would be difficult to name one which he gave to the press himself or of which he saw the proofs. Yet he never wrote a dull line nor many which a century of time has robbed of their interest or value. Whatever he wrote seems to have been conceived upon a scale which embraced the whole human race as well as the individual or class to whom it was specifically addressed, the one evidence of true greatness which never deceives nor misleads. If he wrote to his wife, it was more or less a letter from every husband to his wife; if to his daughter, it was a letter that any daughter would be pleased to receive from her father; if to a philosopher or a statesman, there was always that in the manner and the matter of it which time cannot stale, and which will be read by every statesman and philosopher with the sort Edition: current; Page: [iv] of interest they would have felt had it been addressed personally to them.

In proportion to Franklin’s apparent indifference to posthumous fame, has been the zeal with which the products of his pen have been hunted down and gathered in from all the corners of the earth and new precautions taken to guard them from the depredations of time.

The first collection made of any of Franklin’s writings we owe to his faithful and accomplished friend, Peter Collinson.1 It consisted of letters he had received from Franklin from time to time on electricity, and made only a moderate-sized pamphlet, and was sold for half a crown.2 It was enlarged in 1752 by the addition of another communication on the same subject, and again in 1754, and, by subsequent additions of letters and papers on various philosophical subjects it amounted in 1766 to a quarto volume of five hundred pages. The first edition of these papers was given to the public without the author’s knowledge, the editor Edition: current; Page: [v] assigning as his excuse for the liberty he had taken, their extreme importance. They went through at least a half dozen editions before they began to be reprinted in more comprehensive collections, and were promptly translated into the Latin, Italian, French, and German languages.

In 1779 a collection of Franklin’s writings, which, with a very few exceptions, were not included in Collinson’s collection, was published under the editorial supervision of Mr. Benjamin Vaughan,1 who for a period of more than thirty years, and until separated by death, was one of Franklin’s most devoted friends and valued correspondents.

In the preface to this edition Mr. Vaughan says:

The times appear not ripe enough for the editor to give expression to the affection, gratitude, and veneration he bears to a writer he has so intimately studied: nor is it wanting to the author; as history lies in wait for him, and the judgment of mankind balances already in his favor. The editor only wishes that other readers may reap that improvement from his productions which he conceives they have rendered to himself. Yet perhaps he may be excused for stating one opinion. He conceives that no man ever made larger or bolder guesses than Dr. Franklin from like materials in politics and philosophy, which, after the scrutiny of events and fact, have been more completely verified. Can Englishmen read these things and not sigh at recollecting that the country which could produce their author was once without controversy their Edition: current; Page: [vi] own! Yet he who praises Dr. Franklin for mere ability, praises him for that quality of his mind which stands lowest in his own esteem. Reader, whoever you are and how much soever you think you hate him, know that this great man loves you enough to wish to do you good. His “country’s friend, but more of human kind.”

Dr. Franklin died on the 17th of April, 1790. In his will, after disposing of portions of his library, he adds:

The rest, residue, and remainder of all my books and manuscripts I do give to my grandson, William Temple Franklin.

A few months after his grandfather’s decease, William Temple Franklin left the United States for London with all of his precious heritage that he had been able to reduce to possession, intending, as he assured his correspondents, at once to prepare and publish a complete and final edition of his grandfather’s writings. Some twenty-six years, however, were permitted to elapse before this intention was executed. Meantime, and in the year 1793, the Messrs. Robinson, of London, published “The Works of Franklin” in two small volumes.1 In this collection, what purported to be Franklin’s autobiography, translated from a French version which appeared in Paris in 1791, made its first appearance in an English dress. It only gave Franklin’s autobiography Edition: current; Page: [vii] down to 1731, with Dr. Stuber’s continuation, which had already appeared in the Columbian Magazine of Philadelphia. The second volume of this edition consisted mainly of essays written after the publication of Mr. Vaughan. “In the present volumes,” says the preface, “will be found all the different collections we have enumerated, together with the various papers of the same author that have been published in separate pamphlets, inserted in foreign collections of his works or in the transactions of our own or of foreign philosophical societies, or in our own or foreign newspapers or magazines, as discoverable by the editor, who has been assisted in the research by a gentleman in America.”

A German edition of his works, substantially a translation of the preceding, was published at Weimar the year following.1

In 1799 a French collection of some of Franklin’s writings was published in Paris, translated from the English, by one J. Castéra.2 It is a curious circumstance that the copy of the memoirs given in this collection of Castéra was translated from an English edition, which was itself only a translation from the first French translation, thus removed by three translations from the original. This edition contained some new pieces which had not appeared in Edition: current; Page: [viii] the English collections, and a second fragment of the memoirs. “I have yet to regret,” says M. Castéra in his preface, “not having had all these memoirs, which go, it is said, to 1757.” Confounding Dr. Franklin’s grandson, Benj. Franklin Bache, with William Temple Franklin, M. Castéra goes on: “It is not known why M. Benjamin Franklin Bache, who has them in his possession, and is now residing in London, keeps them so long from the public. The works of a great man belong less to his heirs than to the human race.”

In 1806 another and a somewhat more voluminous collection of Franklin’s writings than any of its predecessors appeared in London. Johnson and Longman were its publishers, and a Mr. Marshall was its editor. Mr. Benjamin Vaughan is understood to have rendered important aid in preparing it.

Sixteen years had already elapsed since Franklin’s death, and still nothing was seen or heard of the long-promised edition by his literary executor. This extraordinary and unexplained delay provoked speculation and reports, anything but favorable to the loyalty of William Temple Franklin. It was rumored that he received pecuniary inducements from the British government to withhold his grandfather’s papers from the public. This rumor took the form of a deliberate charge in the preface to Marshall’s collection, and was accepted by the Edinburgh Review, in July of that year, as the expression of a pretty unanimous public opinion. It derived additional authority from Mr. Vaughan’s editorial relations with this edition.

Edition: current; Page: [ix]

Nothing [says this reviewer] can show more clearly the singular want of literary enterprise or activity in the States of America than that no one has yet been found in that flourishing republic to collect and publish the works of their only philosopher. It is not even very creditable to the literary curiosity of the English public that there should have been no complete edition of the writings of Dr. Franklin till the year 1806; and we should have been altogether unable to account for the imperfect and unsatisfactory manner in which the work has now been performed, if it had not been for a statement in a prefatory advertisement, which removes all blame from the editor to attach it to a higher quarter. It is there stated that recently, after the death of the author, his grandson, to whom all his papers had been bequeathed, made a voyage to London for the purpose of preparing and disposing of a complete collection of all his published and unpublished writings, with Memoirs of his life brought down by himself to the year 1757, and continued to his death by his descendant. It was settled that the work should be published in three quarto volumes in England, Germany, and France, and a negotiation was commenced with the booksellers as to the terms of purchase and publication. At this stage of the business, however, the proposals were suddenly withdrawn, and nothing more has been heard of the work in this its fair and natural market.

The proprietor, it seems, had found a bidder of a different description in some emissary of government, whose object was to withhold the manuscripts from the world, not to benefit it by their publication; and they thus either passed into other hands, or the person to whom they were bequeathed received a remuneration for suppressing them.

If this statement be correct, we have no hesitation in Edition: current; Page: [x] saying that no emissary of government was ever employed on a more miserable and unworthy service. It is ludicrous to talk of the danger of disclosing, in 1795, any secrets of State with regard to the war of American Independence; and as to any anecdotes or observations that might give offence to individuals, we think it should always be remembered that public functionaries are the property of the public, that their character belongs to history and to posterity, and that it is equally absurd and discreditable to think of suppressing any part of the evidence by which their merits must be ultimately determined. But the whole of the works that have been suppressed certainly did not relate to republican politics. The history of the author’s life, down to 1757, could not well contain any matter of offence, and a variety of general remarks and speculations which he is understood to have left behind him might have been permitted to see the light, though his diplomatic operations had been interdicted. The emissary of government, however, probably took no care of these things: he was resolved to leave no rubs and botches in his work, and, to stifle the dreaded revelation, he thought the best way was to strangle all the innocents in the vicinage.

Just eight months after this assault in the Edinburgh Review, and on the 28th of March, 1807, there appeared in the Argus or London Review in Paris, under the heading of “New York, 8th Sept.,” in editorial type and on the editorial page, a review of Marshall’s edition of Franklin’s writings. This Argus was an obscure tri-weekly, three columns to a page—a sort of embryonic Galignani. The review of Marshall’s work was copied from The American Citizen, a journal then printed in New York, Edition: current; Page: [xi] and was followed by an extract from Marshall’s preface. The spirit of the article may be inferred from the following passage: “William Temple Franklin, without shame, without remorse, mean and mercenary, sold the sacred deposit committed to his care by Dr. Franklin to the British Government. Franklin’s works are therefore lost to the world.”

In the next succeeding number of the Argus, March 31st, appeared the following, and the first public notice taken of these charges by William Temple Franklin:

William Temple Franklin
Franklin, William Temple
31 March, 1807
Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin


Mr. William Temple Franklin, now in Paris, has just written to us the following letter, in order to vindicate his character from the foul expressions thrown out against him in an article inserted in the last number of the Argus, extracted from the American Citizen. We publish the letter with the greatest pleasure, as it contains a full and satisfactory answer to the calumnies circulated on his conduct and announces sentiments worthy of the celebrated name he bears, at the same time that it gives the public hope of seeing a genuine edition of the works of Dr. Franklin more conformable to the intentions and liberal principles of the author:

William Temple Franklin
Franklin, William Temple
28 March, 1807
Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
To the Editor of the Argus:

In the Argus of this day I have read with equal indignation and surprise the unfounded and illiberal attack made on my character, as well as the numerous falsehoods contained in extracts from an American paper Edition: current; Page: [xii] and in the preface of a book which appears to be lately published in London under the specious title of “The Works of Dr. Franklin,” my worthy grandfather.

To those acquainted with me I flatter myself no justification is necessary to prove the falsehood of such unsupported assertions and insinuations, as base as they respect me, as they are ridiculous in regard to the British Government. But out of respect to public opinion, to the name I bear, and to those who honor me with their friendship, I feel it incumbent on me thus publicly and solemnly to declare in answer to the libel in question:

1st. That it is false, as asserted, that I had my grandfather’s “directions to publish the entire of his works.” He left them to my discretion in this respect, as well as to the period of publication. No one has any right to interfere therewith.

2d. It is most atrociously false, as boldly and shamefully asserted, without even the attempt to prove it, that I sold my grandfather’s manuscripts, or any part of them, to the British Government, or their agents, to suppress the publication of the whole or any part thereof.

3d. That the said original manuscripts, with the copy prepared for the press, are now and have been long since deposited by me under lock and key in the secure vaults of my bankers, Herries, Farquhar, & Co., London. They will therefore not be lost to the world, as maliciously asserted from interested motives, as will appear at a future and I hope early period.

4th. That previous to my leaving London I repeatedly offered to dispose of the copyright of my grandfather’s manuscripts to some of the most eminent printers there, and that on very reasonable terms—not for “several thousand pounds,” as ridiculously set forth. They not only refused to publish, but even to undertake the printing, Edition: current; Page: [xiii] publishing, etc., at their sole risk, giving for reason that the period was not propitious for a publication of that nature, owing to the state of affairs in Europe, which occupied solely the public attention, so that a work of any magnitude not immediately connected with public affairs would not sell, and that they had lost by all their late purchases of copyright of great works, even of the most celebrated writers of modern times.

5th. That the affairs of Europe remaining in the same unsettled state, and the public mind continuing to be wholly interested therein, have alone influenced my not bringing forward a work which, to do it with propriety and becoming splendor in honor to my much revered ancestor’s memory, would be attended with very considerable expense and a very uncertain success in such momentous times.

I have now, sir, replied to the various heads of malevolent and interested accusation brought forward against me, and I hope I have justified my character in as satisfactory a manner as it is possible against accusations and insinuations without even a shadow of proof, nay even of probability, to support them. It is easy to accuse, not always to defend. But I hope, sir, you will show your justice and impartiality by inserting this letter in your next Argus as an antidote to the poison contained in the former one, as far as respects the character of your humble servant,

William Temple Franklin.

It is certainly a little remarkable,

1st, that so large a portion of the available space of a very obscure Paris newspaper, devoted mainly to European affairs “of those momentous times,” should be given to a New York criticism of an Edition: current; Page: [xiv] English book; a criticism written in September, 1806, and which by March, 1807, had certainly lost much of whatever novelty it may have once possessed.

2d. That William Temple Franklin, instead of presenting this defence in one of the two countries where the charges had been circulated and were most damaging to his character, should have preferred an organ not one note of which was likely to reach England or America, or any considerable number of readers in France.

3d. That in this letter, while stoutly denying any collusion with the British government for the suppression of his grandfather’s papers, he assigns as a reason for his delay in giving them to the world, that he could not afford to publish them at his own expense, and no publisher in London would take them on other conditions. It is difficult to reconcile this plea with the philanthropic motive for inaction set up in his preface to the edition of his grandfather’s works, which he finally published ten years later, and in which he says that to have committed them sooner to the press “would have been much more to his pecuniary advantage”; or with that other statement in the same preface, that he had delayed the publication of his grandfather’s writings “that they might not be the means of awakening painful recollections or of rekindling the dying embers of animosity.”

There is another bit of evidence on this subject only lately submitted to the public, which deserves to be carefully weighed in determining the motives for this mysterious delay. In a letter to M. le Edition: current; Page: [xv] Veillard, written by William Temple Franklin from London, bearing date April 22, 1791, in reply to an urgent appeal to come to Paris to arrange about bringing out simultaneously a French as well as an English edition, of his grandfather’s works, he wrote:

I received last night, my dear friend, your letter of the 12th inst. I am as sensible as you can be of the advantage that would result from my being at present in Paris, and I can assure you I am equally desirous of it. But business of the last importance, and that interested me personally, has hitherto detained me here; that, however, is now happily completed, and I am at present constantly occupied in the arrangement of my late grandfather’s papers, which were left in the greatest disorder. Whether I am able to complete this or not, I shall certainly leave London for Paris in the course of a fortnight. But my wish is, if possible, to finish this, and my bargain with the booksellers, before I set off, that I may not be obliged to return hither merely on that account. Were it only the Life, it would already have been done; but I wish a complete edition of his works to appear at the same time, and as I have no assistance, the necessary preparations are very laborious. I am very sorry that any part of the Life should have already appeared in France, however imperfect, which I understand it is. I have endeavored, and I hope effectually, to put a stop to a translation appearing here. Adieu, etc.

William Temple’s expectations of getting to Paris in a few weeks were not realized. Two months later he is still in London, from whence he addresses the following letter to M. le Veillard:

Edition: current; Page: [xvi]
William Temple Franklin
Franklin, William Temple
14 June, 1791
M. le Veillard
le Veillard, M.

I am much distressed, my dear friend, at what you say you suffer from my not arriving in Paris. I have been wishing to be there as much as you could wish to see me, but I could not possibly think of leaving this while a business I had undertaken was pending for which I received a salary, and which, being now completed, affords me a profit of seven thousand pounds sterling! This, my dear friend, has hitherto kept me here, having only been finally terminated on the 11th inst. I am in hopes you will think my excuse for staying till it was done a good one. I have now only some few arrangements to make in consequence of my success, and shall undoubtedly be with you before the conclusion of this month. My respects to your family and all inquiring friends, and believe me unalterably, etc.

About the date of this letter Dr. Franklin had been dead but about a year; the writer had been in London barely six months. He never pretended in his correspondence, before, to have any other business there than to edit his grandfather’s works. He suddenly engages himself upon a salary; in less than six months finishes his business and pockets a profit of £7000, or say $35,000. While earning this handsome sum he was apparently a free man, constantly writing to M. le Veillard that he was expecting to go in a few days or weeks to Paris, being only detained in London to finish his book. It is not easy to imagine any salaried employment, especially such a profitable one as this seemed to be, which imposed so slight a restraint upon the movements of its beneficiary.

Edition: current; Page: [xvii]

Fully appreciating the difficulty of making any defence of William Temple’s conduct which will exempt it entirely from suspicion, a careful consideration of all the evidence and the somewhat irresponsible character of the man rather leads to the conclusion that all the reasons that he assigned for his delay had their weight with him, though perhaps in different proportions. His aversion “to awakening painful recollections, and of rekindling the dying embers of animosity,” was most natural.

His father, William Franklin, was an officer of the Crown when the rebellion broke out. Instead of joining with his father in the war for independence, he adhered to the Crown, was deprived of his liberty, and then driven into exile. The British government rewarded his loyalty with a pension. Upon that the father and perhaps, to some extent, the son were dependent. Then, too, in the state of feeling which still prevailed in England toward the revolted colonies, the publication of an elaborate edition of the writings of the one man whom, more than any or all other persons, she held responsible for the success of that revolt, could not possibly have proved acceptable to her governing classes. It might and probably would have put Governor Franklin’s pension in peril, and, so far from gratifying the family pride either of father or son, must have proved, for the rest of their lives, a perennial source of mortification and shame.

William Temple Franklin was then living in London with his father. That he should consider the interests of his father, who was living and whose Edition: current; Page: [xviii] declining years might be made miserable by this publication, rather than the fame of his grandfather, who was dead and beyond the reach of human praise or criticism, is not strange or certainly is less strange, though less loyal to his grandfather’s memory, than the lack of such forbearance would have been.

William Temple was doubtless justified in denying the imputation that he had sold his grandfather’s papers to the British government, or that he had entertained any negotiations with them for the suppression of them.

The £7000, if he ever received any such sum, may have been the proceeds of some job or contract which his father, towards whom the government no doubt felt kindly, may have procured, and in which he may have given his son an interest to indemnify him for deferring his publication. This, of course, is only conjecture, but it is far more probable than that the British government, several years after the peace, should have paid that or any other sum to stifle the utterances of any rebel American.

William Temple Franklin’s edition finally appeared in London in 1817-1819 in three quarto volumes, and, by an arrangement with Mr. William Duane, appeared in Philadelphia in six octavo volumes. The Philadelphia edition includes some papers which are not to be found in the London edition. The late Henry Stevens reports Mr. Colburn, who was the publisher of the London edition, to have said that there remained material for as many more volumes, but that he was unwilling to take the risk Edition: current; Page: [xix] of more than three quarto volumes until they had been marketed, and that William Temple Franklin considered these as only the first instalment of his publication. The work “went off tolerably well,” said Mr. Colburn, but not sufficiently well, it appeared, to warrant him in risking the contemplated second instalment.

A new and yet more complete edition of Franklin’s works appeared in Boston in 1836-1842, edited by Dr. Jared Sparks in ten volumes, 8vo. It professed to include every thing of Franklin’s that had already been in print and some 460 pieces which had never been printed. This edition was swollen considerably by letters of more or less interest addressed to Franklin, and by other papers attributed to Franklin which have proved not to be from his pen, but, notwithstanding, it was the most meritorious and thorough specimen of book-editing which, up to that time, had been executed in this country. Mr. Sparks’s notions of the editorial prerogative were somewhat latitudinarian, but he never incurred the reproach of a lack of diligence or of loyalty to his heroes. Of the supplementary papers not used by William Temple Franklin in the edition of 1817-1819, Mr. Sparks did not find any trace until his edition had gone to press, or had already attained the limits prescribed to it by the conditions of the book market of that day. The fate of those supplementary papers has since been disclosed. When William Temple had finished his editorial task, he put the original MSS. back into their chest and stored them with the bankers Herries, Farquhar, & Edition: current; Page: [xx] Co., No. 16 St. James Street,1 the street in which he had been lodging; went to France, married, and, in 1823, died in Paris intestate. His widow administered upon the estate, and on the 27th of September, 1823, removed from the bankers’ the old chest containing the Franklin MSS.

We learn nothing further of these papers until 1840, when they were found “loosely bundled up” on the top shelf of a tailor’s shop in London where William Temple had lodged, and where the chest had probably been left by Mrs. Franklin or her agent after discovering that it contained nothing but old papers. It is supposed the papers were taken out of the chest and shelved by some one who had more need of the chest than of its contents. The finder of these MSS. had been a fellow-lodger of Franklin and held some place under government. By whatever title he acquired them he held them for ten or eleven years, offering them from time to time for sale without success. They were declined by the British Museum and by Lord Palmerston also, doubtless under the impression which the proprietor of them did not know enough to correct—that every thing of any value in the collection was already in print. In 1851, this gentleman brought them to the notice of Abbott Lawrence, then our minister at the English court, and was by him referred to Mr. Henry Stevens, a noted American bibliophile then residing in London, who became their purchaser. In December, 1881, these papers were offered for sale by the executors Edition: current; Page: [xxi] of the late Mr. Charles Whittingham, to whom they had been pledged many years previous for advances, and were bought by Congress for the library of the State Department at Washington for £7000.

By the courtesy and generous co-operation of the Secretary of State I have been allowed free access to that collection. I have so far profited by this privilege as to secure copies of every thing in the collection which seemed entitled to a place in any edition of Franklin’s writings, and without which no edition could any longer pretend to be complete With the material which I found there I have been enabled to fill several considerable gaps in the history of Franklin’s career while minister to France, and to supply not a little information about other epochs of his life, which, if not calculated to change or materially modify the impression of him which his already printed writings have left on mankind, will be found full of interest, and, like every thing he wrote, possessing a unique literary value.

I have also thought it prudent to have such portions of Mr. Sparks’ edition of Franklin’s works as were not printed in Franklin’s lifetime collated with such of their originals as were found in the new collection at the State Department, to see whether that distinguished historian’s somewhat peculiar theories of editorial duty might not have occasionally led him to take some liberties with the text of his author where he thought he could improve it. The result of this collation was in the main satisfactory. The changes were by no means inconsiderable in number, but many were merely suppressions or Edition: current; Page: [xxii] modifications of the formal parts of letters, many were corrections of obvious mistakes or omissions made in transcribing for the printer, while others were mere changes and generally improvements in punctuation. But, on the other hand, the new collation disclosed numerous omissions of parts of documents and many alterations of the text which can only be attributed to gross carelessness on the part of the proof-reader or to the use of defective copy. A few illustrations will suffice to show the character of the errors we have endeavored to correct.

Sparks, viii., p. 68: “But if it be true as Krautz, I think and some other historians tell us.”

The MS.: “But if it be true as Krautz and I think, other historians tell us.”

In Sparks, Franklin is represented as doubtful about Krautz but not about other historians, whereas Franklin was doubtful only about other historians.

Sparks, viii., p. 162: “I see clearly we are on the high road to mutual family hatred and detestation.”

Sparks, same vol. and page: “We know that you may do us a great deal of mischief and are determined to bear it patiently as long as we can.”

MS.: “I see clearly we are on the high road to mutual enmity hatred and detestation.”

MS.: “We know you may do us a great deal of mischief but we are determined to bear it patiently as long as we can.”

Writing to Dr. Richard Price, viii., p. 417, the italicized part of the following sentence is omitted.

Edition: current; Page: [xxiii]

It gave me great pleasure to understand you continue well. Take care of yourself. Your life is a valuable one.

Sparks, ix., p. 67: “But as Mr. Ferdinand Grand, banker at Paris and his broker Sir George Grand, banker in Holland.”

Sir George was the brother, not the broker, of Ferdinand.

Sparks, ix., p. 253: “That the cruel injuries constantly done us by burning our towns,” etc. Franklin wrote wantonly instead of constantly.

In a letter to Samuel Mather one sentence of Franklin’s text runs thus:

I perused your tracts with pleasure. I see you inherit all the various learning of your famous ancestors Cotton and Increase Mather, both of whom I remember. The father Increase, I once when a boy heard preach at the Old South for Mr. Pemberton.

The words in italics are omitted in Sparks, and “Meeting” is inserted after “Old South.”

Though the errors, of which he has here given a specimen, are of a character which no editor would justify, the editor of the edition now submitted to the public will feel that he is to be congratulated if he shall have no more nor graver to apologize for than he has detected in the monumental work of Dr. Sparks.

The Autobiography is here printed, for the first time in any collected edition of his works, from the original manuscript and without mutilation. Most of the versions of this delightful work are reprints of Edition: current; Page: [xxiv] a translation from the French, in which language it happened first to be given to the world. It was not discovered until a few years ago, when the editor was fortunate enough to become possessed of the original manuscript, that the first edition, which purported to be made from the original manuscript, and was published in 1816, under the nominal editorship of Dr. Franklin’s grandson, had in fact been made from a copy, and from a copy too that was incomplete, and which had been further mutilated to suit the political taste of the time in England, and, it is presumed, the personal exigencies of the editor. Upon a careful collation of the edition of 1816 with the autograph manuscript, it was discovered that over 1200 alterations of the text had been made, and what was more remarkable, that some of the later pages of this masterpiece of biography had been omitted altogether. It was the text of this incomplete London reprint which Dr. Sparks followed in his edition, and which has been the English text in popular use throughout the world.

To the Pennsylvania Historical Society the editor is indebted for several important papers, including Franklin’s accounts, both domestic and official, during his residence in Paris, which time has invested with a curious interest.

To the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia he is happy to acknowledge his obligations also for several interesting letters, but especially for one from the pen of Madame Helvetius, written to Franklin after his return to the United States. He doubts if there is any letter of that distinguished Edition: current; Page: [xxv] lady in print, as her early education would appear, from this specimen of her correspondence, to have been more sadly neglected even than Mrs. Franklin’s.

Irrespective of the Autobiography, restorations and corrections of the text taken from the Sparks edition, the reader will find in this collection between three hundred and fifty and four hundred letters and documents which have never appeared in any previous collection of Franklin’s writings, and I think I may add everything hitherto unpublished from Franklin’s pen of any importance that still survives him.

In previous collections, Franklin’s writings have been arranged more or less according to subjects. In this edition they will be arranged chronologically. Such a departure from the example of his predecessors requires from the editor a word of explanation. Much the larger part of Franklin’s writings were in the form of communications addressed to the public, or to some individual, and were essentially the offspring of the day or hour in which they were begotten. To be fully understood and appreciated they should be read in chronological order and by the light of current events, for every one of them was as much the product of its time and circumstances as the fruits and flowers of our gardens are of their respective seasons. Nor is this less true of his philosophic than of his literary and miscellaneous papers. Franklin was not a philosopher by profession. He never wrote a treatise on any science, nor ever attempted to define the ascertained limits of any department of human knowledge. He made Edition: current; Page: [xxvi] experiments as opportunity offered, and if he discovered any thing which he thought of value, it was his practice to communicate it in the form of a letter to some scientific friend like Collinson and Priestley in England and Le Roy and Dalibard in France. His scientific correspondence of this kind covers a period of more than fifty years. His friend Collinson, without consulting him, and before he had become at all famous published the letters which he received on electricity by themselves, and it has suited the convenience of subsequent editors to follow his example. The editor has thought it best to give these, with all his other letters and papers, in the order of time in which they came from his pen.

In adopting this arrangement, these volumes become not merely the repository of Franklin’s best thought and work, but they constitute his autobiography. We know but little of Franklin except from himself, but he did little of importance which he had not occasion at some time or other to describe. These volumes, therefore, will give the most complete record of his life and of the growth of his influence and usefulness from year to year that it is now possible to produce.

The notes and editorial matter in the following pages will be limited strictly to illustrations of the text. Very few will occur which are not from the pen of the editor, and for all such as are not assigned to some other person, he is responsible.

Edition: current; Page: [xxvii]


  • 1706-1734
  • Preface . . . . . . . . . page iii
  • Introduction to the Autobiography of Franklin . 3
  • I.—Franklin’s Skeleton Sketch of his Autobiography . . . . . . . 28
  • II.—1706-1757. Autobiography . . . . 31
  • III.—1725. To Sir Hans Sloane . . . . 317
  • IV.—1727. To Miss Jane Franklin . . . 318
  • V.—1728. Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion . . . . . . . . 319
  • VI.—1728. Miscellaneous Observations . . 328
  • VII.—1728. Rules for a Club Established for Mutual Improvement . . . . 331
  • VIII.—1728-1729. The Busy-Body. Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 . . . . . . . . 341
  • IX.—1729. A Modest Inquiry into the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency . 371
  • X.—1730. Dialogues concerning Virtue and Pleasure . . . . . . . 395
  • XI.—1730. Public Men . . . . . . 408
  • XII.—1731. To Mrs. Jane Mecom . . . . 415
  • XIII.—1732. Letter from Celia Single . . . 418
  • XIV.—1732. Letter from Anthony Afterwit . 421
  • XV.—1734. Self-Denial not the Essence of Virtue . . . . . . . 426
Edition: current; Page: [1]

The Works of Benjamin Franklin, Volume I


Edition: current; Page: [2] Edition: current; Page: [3]

FRANKLIN began his Autobiography, the longest of his writings, during his residence in England as agent of the colonies, in the year 1771. He was at the time on a visit to the family of Dr. Jonathan Shipley, the bishop of St. Asaph, with whom he was on terms of peculiar and cordial intimacy. The part then written covers the period from his birth, in 1706, to his marriage, in 1730. It was executed to this point, he informs us, for the gratification of his own family. It afterwards was continued, at the solicitation of some of his friends, with the expectation that it would ultimately be given to the public. The second part, which is comparatively brief, was written at his residence in Passy, while Minister to France. The third part was begun in August, 1788, after his return to his home in Philadelphia, and brings the narrative down to 1757. This part ends the autobiography so far as it was printed up to 1867, when the first edition ever printed from the original manuscript was given to the public, and which contained a fourth part, consisting of a few pages written in 1789. Franklin died in the spring of the following year, and by his will left most of his papers and manuscripts, this Edition: current; Page: [4] autobiography among them, to his grandson, William Temple Franklin, who sailed for England a few months after, with the intention, as he then proclaimed, of publishing it in a collection of his grandfather’s works. This purpose was not destined to be realized, however, until after an interval of twenty-seven or eight years.1 Meantime, and in the year following Franklin’s death, a French version of the first portion of the autobiography was published in Paris. From this point the history of this manuscript is a succession of surprises, which has scarce any parallel in ancient or modern bibliography, with the possible exception of the writings of Aristotle and the Table Talk of Martin Luther. Where the text was obtained, from which this translation was made, and by whom it was made, are secrets which the grave of time has not yet given up.2 The Nouvelle Biographie Générale, Paris, 1858, attributes the translation to Dr. Jacques Gibelin, who, to the professions of physician and naturalist, added that of a translator from the English. Whether he or some one else made the translation is of very little consequence now. It would, however, be a satisfaction to know how he obtained the text from which he translated. The first sentence in his Preface practically concedes that it was obtained by some Edition: current; Page: [5] method which he does not think it worth his while to reveal to the public.

“I shall not enter,” he says, “into a detail of little importance to my readers—on the manner in which the original manuscript of these memoirs, which is in English, fell into my hands. From the moment I had run over it, it appeared to me to be so interesting that I do not hesitate to allow myself the pleasure of putting it into French.”

It appears by Franklin’s correspondence that copies of this first part of his autobiography were sent to two or three of his friends in Europe prior to his beginning work on the second part. It is probable—in fact, it hardly admits of a doubt, that the first French version of 1791 was made from one of these.

In a note to the Preface of this first French edition the publisher says: “Persons curious to see the Memoirs of the Private Life of Franklin in their original tongue may inscribe their names at Buisson’s, bookseller, rue Hautefeuille No. 20, for a copy of this work. It will be put to press as soon as four hundred subscribers are secured. The price for each subscriber will be 48 sols.” The requisite number of subscribers was probably not secured, for no English version of the autobiography appeared until two years later, in 1793, and then two separate translations were published in London, one edited by Dr. Price, and commonly known as the Robinson edition. In this the editor for the first time supplements the fragment of autobiography, which only comes down to 1731, with a continuation of Dr. Edition: current; Page: [6] Franklin’s life, most of which had appeared in the Columbian Magazine,1 of Philadelphia. The greater part of this supplementary sketch was written by Dr. Henry Stuber, whose death at the early age of twenty-four, however, brought his work to a somewhat abrupt conclusion. Parsons’s edition is another translation from the French edition of Buisson.2

There were three issues of Robinson’s edition in a short time, and it was soon reprinted in Dublin, Dundee, Edinburgh, New York, Salem, and in many other places, while of Parsons’s edition, though it contains some matter not to be found in Buisson’s edition, we have never seen a reprint.

The Robinson edition practically kept possession of the English market until 1817, when William Temple Franklin published a new edition of the autobiography in his collection of the works of his grandfather. It was taken from the copy that had been sent by Franklin to his friend Le Veillard, the mayor of Passy, one of his most devoted friends.

From this time forth the original manuscript of the autobiography went into eclipse. It was known not to be among the manuscripts in the possession of William Temple Franklin; but what had become of it—its destruction was hardly conceivable—was a mystery. Where and how it was discovered, Edition: current; Page: [7] after an interval of half a century, is one of the remarkable incidents in its remarkable history. We shall give the story here as it has been set down by the editor for another occasion.

Among my guests one day at dinner in Paris, in the summer of 1866, was the late Professor Laboulaye. He had recently translated and published a selection from the writings of Franklin, and as he had amiably sent me a copy, it naturally became one of the topics of our conversation. In the course of the entertainment, I asked my guests, who, as far as I remember, were all French gentlemen of letters, if they had ever heard, or if they had any reason to suspect, that the original manuscript of Franklin’s autobiography was in France. All answered in the negative. I then assigned some reasons for thinking that unless it had been destroyed, which, was in the highest degree improbable, it was somewhere within the limits of the empire.

1st. I said I had received the impression some years previous from Mr. Henry Stevens, a professional book-collector in London, that he had seen the manuscript in the hands of a gentleman residing in France—I had an indistinct impression that he said at Amiens,—and had only been discouraged from buying it by the price.

2d. Romilly (Sir Samuel) in his diary speaks of having looked through the autobiography of Franklin at the house of a friend whom he was visiting in Paris in 1802.1

Edition: current; Page: [8]

3d. If, as this record authorized the belief, the original manuscript was ever in France, there was every reason to presume it was there still.

4th. It was in the highest degree improbable that a manuscript of that character could be in the United States without its lodging-place being a matter of common notoriety, whereas none of Franklin’s numerous biographers profess to have had any trace of it after the death of William Temple Franklin in 1823.

5th. As William Temple Franklin embarked for Europe within a few weeks after the death of his grandfather, whose papers he inherited, and never returned to the United States, the presumption was that this manuscript was in Europe and that it was not in the United States.

M. Laboulaye seemed struck by the force of these considerations; said he had a friend at Amiens who would be sure to know if any literary treasure of that nature was concealed in the neighborhood; and if in France, whether at Amiens or not, he felt Edition: current; Page: [9] confident of being able to ascertain through some of his friends in the Academy, and he very kindly volunteered to look into the matter at once.

Weeks and months rolled on, but I heard nothing further of the manuscript.

When about leaving for England on my way to the United States in the winter of 1866-7, and after sending my family and personal baggage to the railway station, I set out in a cab to make two or three farewell calls upon some friends whose residences were not much off of my route to the station. Among them was M. Laboulaye. During our half-hour’s interview I asked him if he had ever thought to make any inquiries about the autobiography. He replied that he had, but that his friend, upon whom he specially relied, had not been able to throw any light upon the subject. He added, however, that he meant to institute some further inquiries among his associates of the Academy, and if, as certainly seemed probable, it was in France, he said he did not despair of finding it. I thanked him, gave him my address in London and in New York, and went on my way.

I had spent nearly a month in London, had arranged to sail in a few days for the United States, and had nearly abandoned all expectation of hearing any thing of the autobiography, when on the 19th of January a letter from M. Laboulaye was handed me by the postman, which informed me not only that the habitat of the manuscript had been discovered, but that it, with several other precious relics of our illustrious countryman, could be bought Edition: current; Page: [10] for a price; a large price, it is true, but a price which did not seem to me beyond their value to an American. M. Laboulaye’s letter ran as follows:

M. Laboulaye
Laboulaye, M.
12 Janvier, 1867
John Bigelow
Bigelow, John
34 Rue Taitbout.
Cher Monsieur Bigelow:

Eureka! J’ai trouvé, grâce à un ami, le manuscrit de Franklin et son possesseur.

M. de Senarmont, héritier de la famille Le Veillard, et qui demeure à Paris, rue de Varennes, No. 98, nous écrit qu’il possède:

1. La MS. original autograph complet (?) des mémoires de Franklin.

2. Une collection considérable de lettres de Franklin, formant un ensemble de correspondance.

3. Un portrait en pastel de Franklin, donné par lui à M. Le Veillard.

Et il demande de tout la somme de vingt-cinq mille francs. Vous voici sur la voie. C’est à vous maintenant à faire ce qui vous conviendra. Adieu! Recevez encore tous mes vœux pour votre bonheur en ce monde et dans l’autre (je parle du Nouveau Monde). Votre bien dévoué,

Ed. Laboulaye.

The next mail took from me a letter to my cherished friend, the late William H. Huntington, in Paris, enclosing Laboulaye’s note, asking him to go to No. 98 Rue de Varennes, and examine the articles referred to, and, if satisfied of their genuineness, I authorized him to offer fifteen thousand francs for them. In two or three days I received from him the following most characteristic letter:

Edition: current; Page: [11]
William H. Huntington
Huntington, William H.
22 Janvier, ’67
John Bigelow
Bigelow, John

(High private and fiducial)

Dear Mr. Bigelow:

Yours of no date whatever reached me Saturday, and that of Mr. Laboulaye,1 the same afternoon. M. L. knows nothing more of the MSS. and portrait than what he wrote you; gave me letter of presentation to M. Senarmont, whom he does not know, in the which he mentioned your name with full titles, and addressed it 78 Rue de Verneuil.

It was late to go there that day. A “glance at the map” will show you that it is the ¼ St. Germain, and so I did not go Sunday.

Fytte Second

After breakfast and “girding myself up”—how much easier one feels after it,—I took the letter in my hand on this blessed day, and got myself up in the highest number in the Rue de Verneuil, which I found, like Franklin’s Memoirs, broken off some time before 78. Whereupon “I fetched a compass,” as St. Paul would say, and ran for Rue de Varennes, where I presently made No. 98, and hailing the concierge, found I had reached port this time. O such a concierge—both he and his female! reputable, civil, in a comfortable room. While getting up a broad clean staircase, did hear bell ringing in the court. By the time I reached the door au 2me, a gentle domestic was already there—The dining-room was thoroughly warmed:—through the open door, into the salon; a carpet continuous with the parquet, and comfortable chairs, and other quietly, not newly rich furnishing, and still another fire, offered so many peaceful indications that here was not a shop to buy things cheap in. M. de S. presently Edition: current; Page: [12] appeared from up-stairs (occupy two floors, then!). Handsome (not pretty), 33 à 37 years of age, courteous, shrewd I guess, but really a gentleman. He said that the MSS. were:

I. The original Autobiography, with interlinings, erasures, etc., from which the copy was made that was sent to W. T. Franklin, and the first French translation: It is in folio, bound, complete.

II. Letters, mostly, he thinks, to M. Veillard, not relating to politics, at least not specially political—friendly letters,—and not, he thinks, ever communicated to Mr. Sparks or other book-making person. The portrait is by Duplessis, and, according to “a tradition in the family,” the original, not the replica: it was given by B. F. to M. Veillard.

He had neither MSS. nor portrait in the house; they are at his cousin’s (who is, as I understand, part owner of them). On Wednesday I am to go to No. 98 Rue de V. again, when he will have them there or will accompany me to his cousin to see them. He did reside formerly in Amiens, where he or his father had these things. An American, he thinks, did come some years ago to see the portrait there; name of that stranger unknown; also his quality, whether merely an inquisitive or an acquisitive traveller; is ready but not eager to sell (if he knows himself) at 25,000 francs the lot; does not want to sell any one of the three articles separately. Does not know that they are mercantilely worth 25,000 francs, but intimates that he shall run the risk of waiting for or provoking the chance of that price being given. Has been applied to by a photographer (this some time ago) to photograph the portrait: declined proposition at the time, but now conceives that it might gratify curiosity of Americans coming to Exposition next May to see copies of it, or the original hung up there!

Edition: current; Page: [13]

I fancy that this Universal French-Exposition idea stands more in the way of reducing the price than any thing else.

I write you all these things so that, if you see fit, you can let me know before Wednesday noon whether 15,000 francs is your last price. Please write me by mail any suggestions or directions you will: also how, in case he does yield to the charm of 15,000 down, and I can get the MSS. and portrait in time, I am to send them to you. Suppose M. de S. yields on Wednesday the 23d, I get your money Saturday the 26th, and the articles that night. I express them Sunday morning the 27th. And seeing we are in France, that is the quickest time we could hope to make. I must hurry now to catch the mail. Yours truly,

W. H. Huntington.

On the 24th of January I received a second letter from Huntington, giving the results of his first view of what he terms the ‘Franklinienacs.’

William H. Huntington
Huntington, William H.
23 January, 1867
John Bigelow
Bigelow, John
(8 Rue de Boursault),
Dear Mr. Bigelow:

I have seen the Frankliniseries (say Franklinienacs). The autobiography is writ on large foolscap, bound very simply, but without the slightest lesion of the pages. This is undoubtedly the original manuscript, with interlining, erasures, marginal notes, and blots (of which one smasher, that was smatched thin nearly over one whole page) of B. F. of the period. It is complete in both parts. The French publication of 1791 stops with the first part, you recollect—and more complete than the “clean copy,” from which W. T. Franklin printed the two parts: i. e. it has several more pages after the arrival in London in 1757, where W. T. F.’s print stops. I should think there are other passages in this MS. omitted by W. T. F. or by Edition: current; Page: [14] the writer of the clean copy. The MS. closes with these words: “They were never put in execution.”

Of the letters only two or three are from B. F.—one dated Philadelphia, 1787, another, ditto, 1788, 16 or 14 are from W. Temple Franklin, 2 from Sarah Bache, 2 from B. F. Bache: all addressed to M. Veillard. I judge, from what M. Paul de Senarmont said, that they do not relate to political subjects. I had not time to read any of them, having to go to M. George de Senarmont, the cousin, to see the portrait.

It is nearly a half-length, life-size pastel, perfectly well preserved, under glass, not a franc of additional value from the frame. It is not signed. A labelled black and gilt statement, which is undoubtedly true, is attached to the bottom of the frame, and reads nearly as follows: “Portrait de Benjamin Franklin, âge 77, donné par lui même à M. Veillard. Peint par J. S. Duplessis, 1783.” I have no doubt of the genuineness of the portrait. M. S. says that the family tradition is that this was the original, and the other one, which was in possession of W. T. Franklin (?), the replica. Duplessis had a good reputation as a portrait painter. The Biographie Nouvelle cites, among twelve of his most esteemed portraits, one of Franklin in the “Galerie Pamard à Avignon.” The one that Mr. Edward Brooks bought of J. de Mancy, or his heirs, a few years ago, was claimed to be by Duplessis. That was in oils—it was offered to me by old de Mancy, in 1852, for 2,000 francs. There was a break in his history of it, that led me to suspect that it might be a copy.

M. de Senarmont holds firmly to the fixed price of 25,000 francs: agrees that it may be an extravagant one, but will not set any other till after the Exposition. He means to advertise Americans here of the manuscripts and portrait, and where they may be seen—depositing Edition: current; Page: [15] them for that end with some bookseller or other party. Meantime he is quite willing to keep my address, and in case he does not sell at Exposition season, to talk further about the matter. The manuscripts and portrait are, as I understand him, an undivided family property. . . .

Immediately upon the receipt of the foregoing I sent Mr. Huntington a check on John Munroe & Co., in Paris, for 25,000 francs, and told him to buy the collection on as favorable terms as possible, but not to leave without it, and when bought, to forward by the first conveyance to London, that it might be sure to reach me before I sailed.

To this I received, on the 28th, the following letter:

William H. Huntington
Huntington, William H.
January 27, 1867
John Bigelow
Bigelow, John
(8 Rue de Boursault),
Ever Honored:

My passage out from apartment in search of breakfast this morning was obstructed by the concierge handing your letter of 24th. Yours of 22d, leaving all to my discretion, I thought it discreetest not to spend so large a sum as 25 m. frs. without positive orders. These last instructions being decisive, I gat myself;

Onely, to Munroe & Co.’s, where I showed Mr. Richards (who had his hat on) your enabling act to them for my drawing of Pactolian draughts to the amount of 25 m. frs.

2ly, to Legoupy, a printseller of my acquaintance, on Blvd. de la Madeleine, to ask how best the portrait of B. F. could be safely packed, with or without the glass. “With,” quoth he decidedly. Then I asked if he would charge himself with the packing, he being much in the way of sending large framed and glazed engravings out of the city; and he said he would.

Threely, to the S. E. R. way and package and express Edition: current; Page: [16] office, to ask at what latest minute they would receive and forward packages to London, which proved to be 5 o’clock p.m.

Four mostly to breakfast. Presently after that refection I girded up my loins and took voiture for 98 Rue de Varennes, where, coming into the presence of M. Paul de Senarmont, I spake, saying: “I will take the Franklineaments and MSS. on these three conditions: I. That I take them immediately; II. That you deduct 200 francs from the 25,000 frs. to pay my expenses for going with them to London; III. That you furnish—sending it to me hereafter for Mr. Bigelow—the history of the transitions of the three Franklinienacs from M. Veillard’s to your hands.

All of which being agreed to, I wrote then and there an order, draught, draft, or whatever the name of the paper may be, on J. M. & Co. for 24,800 francs in his favor at 3 days’ vision. Then P. de S. and the literary remains of B. F., and self with cane, being bestowed in the voiture (No. of the same not preserved), we careered away to cousin George de Senarmont’s, No. 23 Rue de Sèvres. While Paul went in unto George, to the bedroom of him—for George was poorly, it seems, this morning, and late abed; leastway, late to breakfast—I ventured to relieve B. F. from the state of suspense he was in on the wall of the salon, screwed out of his frame the iron ring, and, in the distraction of the moment, gave it to Cousin George’s housekeeper. That was what B. F. calls an erratum, for I have often use for that sort of screw—which the housekeeper, let us hope, could not care for. Repacking, now, Paul de S., the MSS., umbrella, cane, and B. F. his eidolon, which I sustained ever with one hand, into the carriage, I bade cocher drive to 7 Rue Scribe, where I presented M. P. de S. to Mr. J. Munroe, to whom I committed your enabling note and identified Paul. Then P. Edition: current; Page: [17] de S. wished good voyage to London, and the cocher asked, as I was delicately handling B. F.’s portrait, if that was the Franklin who perished in the Northern Seas. Queer but disappointing. Cocher evidently took a lively interest in the frozen party, and but a cold, indifferent one in the to him unheard-of philosopher. Now straight to Legoupy’s whose packer declared he could have all ready by 4 o’clock. I did not believe him, but by way of encouragement pretended to, and held out to him as reward, in case of success, that I would gladly contribute something to the Washington Monument, which, let us hope, will never be completed.

There was time enough between this and five o’clock to go to the Legation, but small chance of finding Mr. Dix there. So I went to the consulate and offered David1 to pay his passage and expenses if he would go with B. F. to London to-night. David would gladly but could not; had infrangible pre-engagements for this evening; I almost found, but missed another man, who would, it was thought, take charge of the box and surely deliver it Sunday, for 50 francs. During these entrefaites, four o’clock sounded. At ¼ past, the caisse was on the back of Legoupy’s boy following your servant up the Boulevard. The very best I could do at the R. and express office was to obtain the most positive assurance, that a special messenger should take the box from Cannon Street to Cleveland Square2 before noon on Monday. There is no delivery at any price on Sunday. I was on the point of deciding—what I had been debating ever since morning—to take a go and return ticket and carry box and baggage to London myself. But you know how I hate Edition: current; Page: [18] travelling at all times. On leaving the express office, I passed a brief telegrammatic sentence to your address, through the window of Grand Hotel T. bureau. The gentleman who counted its letters estimated them at 6 francs, which is more, proportionately, than what you paid for B. F.’s MSS. and flattering to me. If I am ever able, I shall set up a telegraph wire, and dance on to fortune.

Although my way along the quais and other marts where books do congregate, are not as they were when you were my fellow pilgrim, yet are they still not all without pleasantness. Thus, coming away from my annual visit to the neuvaine fête of St. Genevieve three weeks ago, I fell upon the rummest bronze medallion of B. Franklin (hitherto quite unheard of by this subscriber) that ever you could conceive of. And yet another day, one of those days lapsed last week from the polar circles into the more temperate society of our Paris time, I clutched with numb fingers a diminutive little 4to of pp. 48 with this title: “La Science du Bonhomme Richard, par M. Franklin: suivie des commandements de l’Honnête Homme, par M. Fintry—prix quatre sols. Se vend à Paris, chez Renault, Libraire, Rue de la Harpe.—1778.” So, another day, was all my homeward walk a path of exceeding peace by reason of the primary, pre-adamite, genuine, juvenile, original Éloge de Franklin hugged under my arm, like healing in the wing. But the half of the enjoyment of these good gifts of fortune fails me, in that I have now no one to congratulate me or hate me for their acquisition.

M. de Senarmont promises me a letter giving the historique of the triad of Franklin treasures, from the time of M. de Veillard to his possession of them. It will not amount to much—not from lack of willingness on his part, but because the special sense in the case is wanting in him. Edition: current; Page: [19] A dry, authenticating certificate, however, I will insist on having, and will forward it to your American address, which do not forget to advertise me of from Liverpool or London. M. de S. asks me to ask you, if you have the Duplessis photographed, to send him two or three cards; please add one other or two for me, since you will be apt to send them to my address. I shall be glad to have word from you, though in your flitting hurry it must be brief, from London, and much gladder to have news from America that you and yours are all safely and soundly arrived there.

With best regards and good wishes to all your house, I rest

Yours truly,
W. H. Huntington.

Here followeth an account of ye expenditures, outlays, and disbursements of ye Franklin Expedition.

To a chariot and ye horseman thereof. Hire of the vehicle and pourboire, as it were oats to the driver for the greater speed 5
To packing B. Franklin under glass and in MSS. with extra haste and yet care 9
To the binding of B. F. on a boy his back and porterage of the same 1
To studiously brief telegrammatic phrase sent to London 6
To arduous sperrits (with water) taken for sustentation of the body thys day 0.50
Condamnèd tottle 21.50

On the day following the receipt of the foregoing note I received the following certificate of authentication from M. de Senarmont:

Edition: current; Page: [20]
P. de Senarmont
de Senarmont, P.
27 Janvier, 1867
John Bigelow
Bigelow, John

J’ai l’honneur de vous remettre ci-contre une note de tous les renseignements que j’ai pu recueillir sur le manuscrit de Franklin dont M. Huntington s’est rendu hier acquérir en votre nom.

Je suis heureux de vous voir possesseur de ces précieux souvenirs, et du beau portrait du fondateur de la liberté de votre patrie.

La rapidité avec laquelle j’ai été obligé de remettre le portrait à M. Huntington m’a empêché de le faire reproduire par la photographie comme j’en avais l’intention. Dans le cas où vous ferez faire cette reproduction je vous serais bien reconnaissant de vouloir bien m’en envoyer trois exemplaires.—J’ai l’honneur de vous témoigner, Monsieur, l’expression de ma plus haute considération.

P. de Senarmont.
98 Rue de Varennes.
P. de Senarmont
de Senarmont, P.
26 Janvier, 1867
John Bigelow
Bigelow, John
Monsieur John Bigelow,
Ancien Ministre des États-Unis.

Les manuscrits de mémoires de Franklin est un in-folio de 220 pages écrit à uni-marge, sur papier dont tous les cahiers ne sont pas uniformes.

M. le Veillard, gentilhomme ordinaire du Roi, Maire de Passy, était intime ami du Docteur Franklin. Il avait vécu avec lui à Passy (près Paris) dans une société de tous les jours, pendant le temps de Franklin en France à l’époque de la guerre de l’indépendance américaine, et c’est de sa patrie que le docteur lui envoya, comme gage d’amitié, la copie de ses mémoires échangé depuis contre l’original.

Le manuscrit original est unique.

M. William Temple Franklin, petit-fils de Benjamin Edition: current; Page: [21] Franklin, l’a recueilli au décès de son aïeul qui lui avait légué tous ses écrits. Lorsque M. Temple vient en France pour y faire l’édition qu’il a publié, il demanda à M. le Veillard sa copie pour la faire imprimer, parcequ’elle lui parut plus commode pour le travail typographique, à cause de sa netteté. Il donna à M. Veillard en échange de sa copie le manuscrit original entièrement écrit de la main de Franklin.

L’original était cependant plus complet que la copie, ce que M. Temple n’avait pas vérifié. On en trouve la preuve au 2e volume de la petite édition des Mémoires en 2 volumes, en 18mo, donnée par Jules Renouard, à Paris, en 1828. On y lit, en tête d’une suite qu’il fait paraître pour la première fois, une note (page 21), où il déclare devoir cette suite à la communication que la famille Le Veillard lui a donné du manuscrit.

L’inspection seule en démontre l’authenticité à l’appui de laquelle viennent d’ailleurs des preuves positives tirées de différentes pièces; telles que: 3 lettres du Dr. Franklin à, M. le Veillard, 11 lettres de M. William Temple Franklin et diverses lettres de Benjamin Franklin Bache, de Sarah Bache, sa femme, d’un libraire qui voulait acquérir le manuscrit de M. le Veillard en 1791, etc.

M. le Veillard, qui est l’auteur de la traduction française des Mémoires de Franklin, a conservé le manuscrit autographe avec le même sentiment qui déterminé son ami à lui envoyer ses mémoires encore inédits.

Après la mort de M. le Veillard, qui périt sur l’échafaud révolutionnaire en 1794, le manuscrit a passé à sa fille: an décès de celle-ci, en 1834, il est devenu la propriété de son cousin M. de Senarmont, dont le petit-fils a cédé le 26 Janvier, 1867, à Mr. John Bigelow, ancien Ministre des États-Unis à Paris.

Le manuscrit est accompagné d’un beau portrait au Edition: current; Page: [22] pastel par Duplessis. Franklin avait posé pour ce portrait pendant son séjour à Passy et en avait fait cadeau à M. le Veillard.

P. de Senarmont.

Early on Monday the 28th of January, I drove to Charing Cross Station, where I expected to find the precious and costly parcel of which Huntington had advised me the consignment. There I was told that the Continental parcels were usually delivered at the Cannon Street Station. To the Cannon Street Station I then made my way as fast as I could be transported, but was greatly vexed to be told on arriving there that nothing had been heard of my parcel. While leaving the station, uncertain what to do next, but feeling certain that something needed to be done and at once, it occurred to me that the person to whom the parcel had been entrusted in Paris had assured Mr. Huntington that it should be sent from Cannon Street directly upon its arrival, to Cleveland Square. I immediately returned to the station, repeated the paragraph to this effect in Huntington’s letter to the person in charge, and insisted that the parcel must be there. He asked what it consisted of. I told him generally. ‘Ah!’ said he, ‘there is a portrait here, but it is consigned to one of our clerks who is away at this moment and not expected back until four o’clock.’ He then showed me a bill of lading for a portrait. I felt greatly relieved and now at liberty to be indignant that I should have been compelled to wait for a parcel booked at Paris at 5 p.m. on Saturday, until Edition: current; Page: [23] 4 p.m. of the following Monday. I disregarded the assurances that were now showered upon me that the parcel should be promptly sent to me on the clerk’s return. I said I would wait till the hour appointed, to insure the minimum of risk of further delays and anxiety.

While loitering about the station a man in railway uniform approached and requested me to call again at the office. There I was informed that the parcel had just come in. Where precisely the lying began and where it ended I never knew nor cared to inquire, so absorbed was I in getting the treasure into my possession. I immediately took it, heavy as it was; put it into the cab myself—I would allow no one else to touch it,—and drove off triumphantly to Cleveland Square.

Several months elapsed after my return to the United States before a propitious occasion presented itself for me to verify the correctness of the statement in M. de Senarmont’s note, that my manuscript was more complete than the copy which had been used in preparing the edition published by William Temple Franklin and copied by Dr. Sparks. It had not occurred to me that the text had been tampered with in England after it had left the writer’s hand. A very cursory examination of it, however, awakened my suspicions, and I availed myself of my earliest leisure to subject the Memoirs to a careful collation with the edition which appeared in London in 1817, and which was the first and only edition that ever purported to have been printed from the manuscript. The results of this Edition: current; Page: [24] collation revealed the curious fact that more than twelve hundred separate and distinct changes had been made in the text, and, what is more remarkable, that the last eight pages of the manuscript were omitted entirely.

Many of these changes are mere modernizations of style; such as would measure some of the modifications which English prose had undergone between the days of Goldsmith and Southey. Some, Franklin might have approved of; others he might have tolerated; but it is safe to presume that very many he would have rejected without ceremony.

I immediately prepared a correct edition of the autobiography for the press, and it was published by Messrs. J. B. Lippincott & Co., of Philadelphia, in 1867, when this autobiography, after an interval of more than seventy years since its author’s death, was for the first time given to the public as it was written. It is with the assent and by the courtesy of the Messrs. Lippincott & Co. that we are now permitted to reproduce in this collection the only correct version of, with a single exception, the most widely popular production of Franklin’s genius.1

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The following translation of a letter from William Temple Franklin to M. le Veillard, written a few days after his grandfather’s death, will conclude all that need be recited here of the history of this famous manuscript:1

William Temple Franklin
Franklin, William Temple
22 May, 1790
M. le Veillard
le Veillard, M.

You have already learned, my dear friend, the loss which you and I, and the world, have experienced, in the death of this good and amiable papa. Although we have long expected it, we were none the less shocked by it when it arrived. He loved you very tenderly, as he did all your family, and I do not doubt you will share my just sorrow. I intended writing you the details of his death by M. de Chaumont, but the duty of arranging his affairs, and especially his papers, prevents my answering your last, as well as the one which your daughter was pleased to write me, accompanying her work. I have been touched with this mark of her condescension and friendship, and I beg you to testify to her my gratitude until I have an opportunity of writing to her, which will certainly be by the first occasion for France. Now, as I am about writing, her goodness will awaken me. This letter will reach you by way of England.

I feel it my duty to profit by this occasion to inform you that my grandfather, among other legacies, has left all Edition: current; Page: [26] his papers and manuscripts to me, with permission to turn them to what profit I can. Consequently, I beg you, my dear friend, to show to no one that part of his Life which he sent you some time since, lest some one copy and publish it, which would infinitely prejudice the publication, which I propose to make as soon as possible, of his entire Life and of his other works. As I have the original here of the part which you have, it will not be necessary for you to send it to me, but I beg you at all events to put it in an envelope, well sealed, addressed to me, in order that by no accident it may get into other hands.

If, however, it should be necessary to assist the person who will pronounce his eulogy at the Academy, you may lend it for that purpose, with the stipulation that no copy of it shall be made, and with such other precautions as you deem necessary.

The editor’s only excuse for laying this history before the public with such fulness, is his conviction that the time is at hand, if not already come, when no detail relating to the life or the writings of Franklin, however minute, will be deemed trivial or unimportant. If to any of the readers of these pages this excuse shall seem inadequate, the editor throws himself upon his indulgence.

In addition to the continuation of the Memoirs which was overlooked by William Temple Franklin, the editor was so fortunate as to find in the Le Veillard collection a skeleton sketch of the topics which Dr. Franklin originally proposed to treat in the autobiography. It was, doubtless, the first outline of the work. It is written upon a letter sheet, the Edition: current; Page: [27] first three pages in black ink and in the hand of a copyist, while the concluding seven lines on the fourth page, beginning with “Hutchinson’s Letters,” are in red ink, and in the hand of Franklin himself.

A line is drawn with a pen through the middle of the first page of the manuscript down to the words “Library erected—manner of conducting the project—its plan and utility.” As these are the topics which conclude the first part of the Memoirs, terminating at page 87 of the manuscript, the line was probably drawn by Franklin when he had reached that stage of his work, that he might the more easily know with what topic to resume it when he should have occasion to do so.

We give this outline as an introduction to the Memoirs.

It will be found extremely interesting, first, as showing how systematically Franklin set about the execution of the task of which these Memoirs are the result; and, secondly, for the notions it gives us of the unexecuted portion of his plan.

The printed manuscript ends with his departure to England as agent of the Colony of Pennsylvania, to settle the disputes about the proprietary taxes, in 1757; while the Outline comes down to the conclusion of his diplomatic career, of course embracing the most interesting portion of his life. No one can glance over the subjects that were to have been treated in the succeeding pages of the Memoir without experiencing a new pang of regret at their incompleteness.

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[Copie d’un Projêt tres Curieux de Benajmin Franklin—Iere Esquisse de ses Mémoires. Les additions à l’encre rouge sont de la main de Franklin.]1

My writing. Mrs. Dogood’s letters. Differences arise between my Brother and me (his temper and mine); their cause in general. His Newspaper. The Prosecution he suffered. My Examination. Vote of Assembly. His manner of evading it. Whereby I became free. My attempt to get employ with other Printers. He prevents me. Our frequent pleadings before our Father. The final Breach. My inducements to quit Boston. Manner of coming to a Resolution. My leaving him and going to New York (return to eating flesh); thence to Pennsylvania. The journey, and its events on the Bay, at Amboy. The road. Meet with Dr. Brown. His character. His great work. At Burlington. The Good Woman. On the River. My arrival at Philadelphia. First Meal and first Sleep. Money left. Employment. Lodging. First acquaintance with my afterward Wife. With J. Ralph. With Keimer. Their characters. Osborne. Watson. The Governor takes notice of me. The Occasion and Manner. His character. Offers to set me up. My return to Boston. Voyage and accidents. Reception. My Father dislikes the proposal. I return to New York and Philadelphia. Governor Burnet. J. Collins. The Money for Vernon. The Governor’s Deceit. Collins not finding employment goes to Barbados much in my Debt. Ralph and I go to England. Disappointment of Governor’s Letters. Colonel French his Friend. Cornwallis’s Letters. Cabbin. Denham. Hamilton. Arrival in England. Get employment. Ralph not. He is an expense to me. Adventures in England. Write a Pamphlet and print 100. Schemes. Lyons. Dr. Pemberton. My diligence, and yet poor through Ralph. My Landlady. Her character Wygate. Wilkes. Cibber. Plays. Books I borrowed. Preachers I heard. Redmayne. At Watts’s Temperance. Ghost. Conduct and Influence among the Men. Persuaded by Mr. Denham to return with him to Philadelphia and be his clerk. Our voyage and arrival. My resolutions in Writing. Edition: current; Page: [29] My Sickness. His Death. Found D. R. married. Go to work again with Keimer. Terms. His ill usage of me. My Resentment. Saying of Decow. My Friends at Burlington. Agreement with H. Meredith to set up in Partnership. Do so. Success with the Assembly. Hamilton’s Friendship. Sewell’s History. Gazette. Paper money. Webb. Writing Busy Body. Breintnal. Godfrey. His Character. Suit against us. Offer of my Friends, Coleman and Grace. Continue the Business, and M. goes to Carolina. Pamphlet on Paper Money. Gazette from Keimer. Junto credit; its plan. Marry. Library erected. Manner of conducting the project. Its plan and utility. Children. Almanac. The use I made of it. Great industry. Constant study. Father’s Remark and Advice upon Diligence. Carolina Partnership. Learn French and German. Journey to Boston after ten years. Affection of my Brother. His Death, and leaving me his Son. Art of Virtue. Occasion. City Watch amended. Postoffice. Spotswood. Bradford’s Behavior. Clerk of Assembly. Lose one of my Sons. Project of subordinate Juntos. Write occasionally in the papers. Success in Business. Fire companies. Engines. Go again to Boston in 1743. See Dr. Spence. Whitefield. My connection with him. His generosity to me. My return. Church Differences. My part in them. Propose a College. Not then prosecuted. Propose and establish a Philosophical Society. War. Electricity. My first knowledge of it. Partnership with D. Hall, etc. Dispute in Assembly upon Defence. Project for it. Plain Truth. Its success. Ten thousand Men raised and disciplined. Lotteries. Battery built. New Castle. My influence in the Council. Colors, Devices, and Mottos. Ladies’ Military Watch. Quakers chosen of the Common Council. Put in the commission of the peace. Logan fond of me. His Library. Appointed. Postmaster-General. Chosen. Assemblyman, Commissioner to treat with Indians at Carlisle and at Easton. Project and establish Academy. Pamphlet on it. Journey to Boston. At Albany. Plan of union of the colonies. Copy of it. Remarks upon it. It fails, and how. Journey to Boston in 1754. Disputes about it in our Assembly. My part in them. New Governor. Disputes with him. His character and sayings to me. Chosen Alderman. Project of Hospital. My share in it. Its success Boxes. Made a Commissioner of the Treasury. My commission to defend the frontier counties. Raise Men and build Forts. Militia Law of my drawing. Made Colonel. Parade of my Officers. Offence to Proprietor. Assisance to Boston Ambassadors. Journey with Shirley, etc. Meet with Braddock. Assistance to him. To the Officers of his Army. Furnish him with Forage. His concessions to me and character of me. Success of my Electrical Experiments. Medal sent me. Present Royal Society, and Speech of President. Denny’s Arrival and Courtship to me. His character. My service to the army in the affair of Quarters. Edition: current; Page: [30] Disputes about the Proprietor’s Taxes continued. Project for paving the City. I am sent to England]1 Negotiation there. Canada delenda est. My pamphlet. Its reception and effect. Projects drawn from me concerning the Conquest. Acquaintance made and their services to me—Mrs. S. M. Small, Sir John P., Mr. Wood, Sargent Strahan, and others. Their characters. Doctorate from Edinburgh, St. Andrews. Doctorate from Oxford. Journey to Scotland. Lord Leicester. Mr. Prat. De Grey. Jackson. State of Affairs in England. Delays. Eventful Journey into Holland and Flanders. Agency from Maryland. Son’s appointment. My Return. Allowance and thanks. Journey to Boston. John Penn, Governor. My conduct toward him. The Paxton Murders. My Pamphlet. Rioters march to Philadelphia. Governor retires to my House. My conduct. Sent out to the Insurgents. Turn them back. Little thanks. Disputes revived. Resolutions against continuing under Proprietary Government. Another Pamphlet. Cool thoughts. Sent again to England with Petition. Negotiation there. Lord H. His character. Agencies from New Jersey, Georgia, Massachusetts. Journey into Germany, 1766. Civilities received there. Göttingen Observations. Ditto into France in 1767. Ditto in 1769. Entertainment there at the Academy. Introduced to the King and the Mesdames, Mad. Victoria and Mrs. Lamagnon. Duc de Chaulnes, M. Beaumont, Le Roy, D’Alibard, Nollet. See Journals. Holland. Reprint my papers and add many. Books presented to me from many authors. My Book translated into French. Lightning Kite. Various Discoveries. My manner of prosecuting that Study. King of Denmark invites me to dinner. Recollect my Father’s Proverb. Stamp Act. My opposition to it. Recommendation of J. Hughes. Amendment of it. Examination in Parliament. Reputation it gave me. Caressed by Ministry. Charles Townsend’s Act. Opposition to it. Stoves and chimney-plates. Armonica. Acquaintance with Ambassadors. Russian Intimation. Writing in newspapers. Glasses from Germany. Grant of Land in Nova Scotia. Sickness. Letters to America returned hither. The consequences. Insurance Office. My character. Costs me nothing to be civil to inferiors; a good deal to be submissive to superiors, etc., etc. Farce of Perpetual Motion. Writing for Jersey Assembly.2 Hutchinson’s Letters. Temple. Suit in Chancery. Abuse before the Privy Council. Lord Hillsborough’s character and conduct. Lord Dartmouth. Negotiation to prevent the War. Return to America. Edition: current; Page: [31] Bishop of St. Asaph. Congress. Assembly. Committee of Safety. Chevaux-de-frise. Sent to Boston, to the Camp. To Canada, to Lord Howe. To France. Treaty, etc.


Dear Son:

I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any little anecdotes of my ancestors. You may remember the inquiries I made among the remains of my relations when you were with me in England, and the journey I undertook for that purpose. Imagining it may be equally agreeable to you to know the circumstances of my life, many of which you are yet unacquainted with, and expecting the enjoyment of a week’s uninterrupted leisure in my present country retirement, I sit down to write them for you. To which I have besides some other inducements. Having emerged from the poverty and obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world, and having gone so far through life with a considerable share of felicity, the conducing means I made use of, which with the blessing of God so well succeeded, my posterity may like to know, as they may find some of them suitable to their own situations, and therefore fit to be imitated.

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That felicity, when I reflected on it, has induced me sometimes to say, that were it offered to my choice, I should have no objection to a repetition of the same life from its beginning, only asking the advantages authors have in a second edition to correct some faults of the first. So I might, besides correcting the faults, change some sinister accidents and events of it for others more favorable. But though this were denied, I should still accept the offer. Since such a repetition is not to be expected, the next thing most like living one’s life over again seems to be a recollection of that life, and to make that recollection as durable as possible by putting it down in writing.

Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination so natural in old men, to be talking of themselves and their own past actions; and I shall indulge it without being tiresome to others, who, through respect to age, might conceive themselves obliged to give me a hearing, since this may be read or not as any one pleases. And, lastly (I may as well confess it, since my denial of it will be believed by nobody), perhaps I shall a good deal gratify my own vanity. Indeed, I scarce ever heard or saw the introductory words, “Without vanity I may say,” etc., but some vain thing immediately followed. Most people dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give it fair quarter wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often productive of good to the possessor, and to others that are within his sphere of action; and therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a man were to Edition: current; Page: [33] thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of life.

And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to His kind providence, which lead me to the means I used and gave them success. My belief of this induces me to hope, though I must not presume, that the same goodness will still be exercised toward me, in continuing that happiness, or enabling me to bear a fatal reverse, which I may experience as others have done; the complexion of my future fortune being known to Him only in whose power it is to bless to us even our afflictions.

The notes of one of my uncles (who had the same kind of curiosity in collecting family anecdotes) once put into my hands, furnished me with several particulars relating to our ancestors. From these notes I learned that the family had lived in the same village, Ecton, in Northamptonshire, for three hundred years, and how much longer he knew not (perhaps from the time when the name of Franklin, that before was the name of an order of people, was assumed by them as a surname when others took surnames all over the kingdom1), on a freehold of about thirty acres, aided by the smith’s business, which Edition: current; Page: [34] had continued in the family till his time, the eldest son being always bred to that business, a custom which he and my father followed as to their eldest sons. When I searched the registers at Ecton, I found an account of their births, marriages, and burials, from the year 1555 only, there being no registers kept in that parish at any time preceding. By that register, I perceived that I was the youngest son of the youngest son for five generations back. My grandfather Thomas, who was born in 1598, lived at Ecton till he grew too old to follow business longer, when he went to live with his son John, a dyer at Banbury, in Oxfordshire, with whom my father served an apprenticeship. There my grandfather died and lies buried. We saw his gravestone in 1758. His eldest son Thomas lived in the house at Ecton, and left it with the land to his only child, a daughter, who, with her husband, one Richard Fisher, of Wellingborough, sold it to Mr. Isted, now lord of the manor there. My grandfather had four sons that grew up, viz.: Thomas, John, Benjamin, and Josiah. I will give you what account I can of them at this distance from my papers, and if these are not lost in Edition: current; Page: [35] my absence, you will among them find many more particulars.1

Thomas was bred a smith under his father, but being ingenious, and encouraged in learning (as all my brothers were) by an Esquire Palmer, then the principal gentleman in that parish, he qualified himself for the business of scrivener, became a considerable man in the county, was a chief mover of all public-spirited undertakings for the county or town of Northampton, and his own village, of which many instances were related of him, and much taken notice of and patronized by the then Lord Halifax. He died in 1702, January 6, old style, just four years to a day before I was born. The account we received Edition: current; Page: [36] of his life and character from some old people at Ecton, I remember, struck you as something extraordinary, from its similarity to what you knew of mine. “Had he died on the same day,” you said, “one might have supposed a transmigration.”

John was bred a dyer, I believe, of woollens. Benjamin was bred a silk-dyer, serving an apprenticeship at London. He was an ingenious man. I remember him well, for, when I was a boy, he came over to my father in Boston, and lived in the house with us some years. He lived to a great age. His grandson, Samuel Franklin, now lives in Boston. He left behind him two quarto volumes, MS., of his own poetry, consisting of little occasional pieces addressed to his friends and relations, of which the Edition: current; Page: [37] following, sent to me, is a specimen.1 He had formed a short-hand of his own, which he taught me, but, never practising it, I have now forgot it. I was named after this uncle, there being a particular affection between him and my father. He was very pious, a great attender of sermons of the best preachers, which he took down in his short-hand, and had with him many volumes of them. He was also much of a politician; too much, perhaps, for his station. There fell lately into my hands in London a collection he had made of all the principal pamphlets relating to public affairs, from 1641 to 1717; many of the volumes are wanting, as appears by the numbering, but there still remain eight volumes in folio, and twenty-four in quarto and in octavo. A dealer in old books met with them, and knowing me by my sometimes buying of him, he brought them to me. It seems my uncle must have left them here when he went to America, which was above fifty Edition: current; Page: [38] years since. There are many of his notes in the margins.1

This obscure family of ours was early in the Reformation, and continued Protestants through the reign of Queen Mary, when they were sometimes in danger of trouble on account of their zeal against popery. They had got an English Bible, and to conceal and secure it, it was fastened open with tapes under and within the cover of a joint-stool. When my great-great-grandfather read it to his Edition: current; Page: [39] family, he turned up the joint-stool upon his knees, turning over the leaves then under the tapes. One of the children stood at the door to give notice if he saw the apparitor coming, who was an officer of the spiritual court. In that case the stool was turned down again upon its feet, when the Bible remained concealed under it as before. This anecdote I had from my uncle Benjamin. The family continued all of the Church of England till about the end of Charles the Second’s reign, when some of the ministers that had been outed for non-conformity, holding conventicles in Northamptonshire, Benjamin and Josiah adhered to them, and so continued all their lives: the rest of the family remained with the Episcopal Church.

Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife with three children into New England, about 1682. The conventicles having been forbidden by law, and frequently disturbed, induced some considerable men of his acquaintance to remove to that country, and he was prevailed with to accompany them thither, where they expected to enjoy their mode of religion with freedom. By the same wife he had four children more; born there, and by a second wife ten more, in all seventeen; of which I remember thirteen sitting at one time at his table, who all grew up to be men and women, and married; I was the youngest son, and the youngest child but two, and was born in Boston, New England.1 My Edition: current; Page: [40] mother, the second wife, was Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter Folger, one of the first settlers of New England, of whom honorable mention is made by Cotton Mather, in his church history of that country entitled Magnalia Christi Americana, as “a godly, learned Englishman,” if I remember the words rightly. I have heard that he wrote sundry small occasional pieces, but only one of them was printed, which I saw now many years since. It was written in 1675, in the home-spun verse of that time and people, and addressed to those then concerned in the government there. It was in favor of liberty of conscience, and in behalf of the Baptists, Quakers, and other sectaries that had been under persecution, ascribing the Indian wars, and other distresses that had befallen the country, to that persecution, as so many judgments of God to punish so heinous an offense, and exhorting a repeal of those uncharitable laws. The whole appeared to me as written with a good deal of decent plainness and manly freedom. The six concluding lines I remember, though I have forgotten the two first of the stanza; but the purport of them was, that his censures proceeded from good will, and therefore he would be known to be the author.

  • “Because to be a libeller (says he)
  • I hate it with my heart;
  • From Sherburne1 town, where now I dwell
  • My name I do put here;
  • Without offense your real friend,
  • It is Peter Folgier.”2
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My elder brothers were all put apprentices to different trades. I was put to the grammar-school at eight years of age, my father intending to devote me, as the tithe of his sons, to the service of the Church. My early readiness in learning to read (which must have been very early, as I do not remember when I could not read), and the opinion of all his friends, that I should certainly make a good scholar, encouraged him in this purpose of his. My uncle Benjamin, too, approved of it, and proposed to give me all his short-hand volumes of sermons, I suppose as a stock to set up with, if I would learn his character. I continued, however, at the grammar-school not quite one year, though in that time I had Edition: current; Page: [42] risen gradually from the middle of the class of that year to be the head of it, and farther was removed into the next class above it, in order to go with that into the third at the end of the year. But my father, in the meantime, from a view of the expense of a college education, which having so large a family he could not well afford, and the mean living many so educated were afterwards able to obtain,—reasons that he gave to his friends in my hearing,—altered his first intention, took me from the grammar-school, and sent me to a school for writing and arithmetic, kept by a then famous man, Mr. George Brownell, very successful in his profession generally, and that by mild, encouraging methods. Under him I acquired fair writing pretty soon, but I failed in the arithmetic, and made no progress in it. At ten years old I was taken home to assist my father in his business, which was that of a tallow-chandler and sope-boiler; a business he was not bred to, but had assumed on his arrival in New England, and on finding his dying trade would not maintain his family, being in little request. Accordingly, I was employed in cutting wick for the candles, filling the dipping mold and the molds for cast candles, attending the shop, going of errands, etc.

I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination for the sea, but my father declared against it; however, living near the water, I was much in and about it, learnt early to swim well, and to manage boats; and when in a boat or canoe with other boys, I was commonly allowed to govern, especially in any case of difficulty; and upon other occasions I was generally Edition: current; Page: [43] a leader among the boys, and sometimes led them into scrapes, of which I will mention one instance, as it shows an early projecting public spirit, tho’ not then justly conducted.

There was a salt-marsh that bounded part of the mill-pond, on the edge of which, at high water, we used to stand to fish for minnows. By much trampling, we had made it a mere quagmire. My proposal was to build a wharf there fit for us to stand upon, and I showed my comrades a large heap of stones, which were intended for a new house near the marsh, and which would very well suit our purpose. Accordingly, in the evening, when the workmen were gone, I assembled a number of my play-fellows, and working with them diligently like so many emmets, sometimes two or three to a stone, we brought them all away and built our little wharf. The next morning the workmen were surprised at missing the stones, which were found in our wharf. Inquiry was made after the removers; we were discovered and complained of; several of us were corrected by our fathers; and, though I pleaded the usefulness of the work, mine convinced me that nothing was useful which was not honest.

I think you may like to know something of his person and character. He had an excellent constitution of body, was of middle stature, but well set, and very strong; he was ingenious, could draw prettily, was skilled a little in music, and had a clear, pleasing voice, so that when he played psalm tunes on his violin and sung withal, as he sometimes did in an evening after the business of the day was over, it was Edition: current; Page: [44] extremely agreeable to hear. He had a mechanical genius too, and, on occasion, was very handy in the use of other tradesmen’s tools; but his great excellence lay in a sound understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and publick affairs. In the latter, indeed, he was never employed, the numerous family he had to educate and the straitness of his circumstances keeping him close to his trade; but I remember well his being frequently visited by leading people, who consulted him for his opinion in affairs of the town or of the church he belonged to, and showed a good deal of respect for his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by private persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties. At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavor, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that I was bro’t up in such a perfect inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent what kind of food was set before me, and so unobservant of it that to this day if I am asked I can scarcely tell a few hours after dinner what I dined upon. This has been a convenience to Edition: current; Page: [45] me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites.

My mother had likewise an excellent constitution: she suckled all her ten children. I never knew either my father or mother to have any sickness but that of which they dy’d, he at eighty-nine, and she at eighty-five years of age. They lie buried together at Boston, where I some years since placed a marble over their grave, with this inscription:

Josiah Franklin,


Abiah his wife,

Lie here interred.

They lived lovingly together in wedlock

Fifty-five years.

Without an estate, or any gainful employment,

By constant labor and industry

With God’s blessing,

They maintained a large family


And brought up thirteen children

And seven grandchildren


From this instance, reader,

Be encouraged to diligence in thy calling,

And distrust not Providence.

He was a pious and prudent man;

She, a discreet and virtuous woman.

Their youngest son,

In filial regard to their memory,

Places this stone.

J. F. born 1655, died 1744, Ætat 89.

A. F. born 1667, died 1752, —— 85.1

Edition: current; Page: [46]

By my rambling digressions I perceive myself to be grown old. I us’d to write more methodically. But one does not dress for private company as for a publick ball. ’T is perhaps only negligence.

To return: I continued thus employed in my father’s business for two years, that is, till I was twelve years old; and my brother John, who was bred to that business, having left my father, married, and set up for himself at Rhode Island, there was all appearance that I was destined to supply his place, and become a tallow-chandler. But my dislike to the trade continuing, my father was under apprehensions that if he did not find one for me more agreeable, I should break away and get to sea, as his son Josiah had done, to his great vexation. He therefore sometimes took me to walk with him, and see joiners, bricklayers, turners, braziers, etc., Edition: current; Page: [47] at their work, that he might observe my inclination, and endeavor to fix it on some trade or other on land. It has ever since been a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their tools; and it has been useful to me, having learnt so much by it as to be able to do little jobs myself in my house when a workman could not readily be got, and to construct little machines for my experiments, while the intention of making the experiment was fresh and warm in my mind. My father at last fixed upon the cutler’s trade, and my uncle Benjamin’s son Samuel, who was bred to that business in London, being about that time established in Boston, I was sent to be with him some time on liking. But his expectations of a fee with me displeasing my father, I was taken home again.

From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books. Pleased with the Pilgrim’s Progress, my first collection was of John Bunyan’s works in separate little volumes. I afterward sold them to enable me to buy R. Burton’s Historical Collections; they were small chapmen’s books, and cheap, forty or fifty in all. My father’s little library consisted chiefly of books in polemic divinity, most of which I read, and have since often regretted that, at a time when I had such a thirst for knowledge, more proper books had not fallen in my way, since it was now resolved I should not be a clergyman. Plutarch’s Lives there was in which I read abundantly, and I still think that time spent to great advantage. There was also a book of De Foe’s, called an Essay on Projects, and another of Dr. Mather’s, called Essays to do Edition: current; Page: [48] Good, which perhaps gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my life.

This bookish inclination at length determined my father to make me a printer, though he had already one son (James) of that profession. In 1717 my brother James returned from England with a press and letters to set up his business in Boston. I liked it much better than that of my father, but still had a hankering for the sea. To prevent the apprehended effect of such an inclination, my father was impatient to have me bound to my brother. I stood out some time, but at last was persuaded, and signed the indentures when I was yet but twelve years old. I was to serve as an apprentice till I was twenty-one years of age, only I was to be allowed journeyman’s wages during the last year. In a little time I made great proficiency in the business, and became a useful hand to my brother. I now had access to better books. An acquaintance with the apprentices of booksellers enabled me sometimes to borrow a small one, which I was careful to return soon and clean. Often I sat up in my room reading the greatest part of the night, when the book was borrowed in the evening and to be returned early in the morning, lest it should be missed or wanted.

And after some time an ingenious tradesman, Mr. Matthew Adams, who had a pretty collection of books, and who frequented our printing-house, took notice of me, invited me to his library, and very kindly lent me such books as I chose to read. I now took a fancy to poetry, and made some little pieces; Edition: current; Page: [49] my brother, thinking it might turn to account, encouraged me, and put me on composing occasional ballads. One was called The Lighthouse Tragedy, and contained an account of the drowning of Captain Worthilake, with his two daughters; the other was a sailor’s song, on the taking of Teach (or Blackbeard) the pirate. They were wretched stuff, in the Grub-street-ballad style; and when they were printed he sent me about the town to sell them. The first sold wonderfully; the event, being recent, having made a great noise. This flattered my vanity; but my father discouraged me by ridiculing my performances, and telling me verse-makers were generally beggars. So I escaped being a poet, most probably a very bad one; but as prose writing has been of great use to me in the course of my life, and was a principal means of my advancement, I shall tell you how, in such a situation, I acquired what little ability I have in that way.

There was another bookish lad in the town, John Collins by name, with whom I was intimately acquainted. We sometimes disputed, and very fond we were of argument, and very desirous of confuting one another, which disputatious turn, by the way, is apt to become a very bad habit, making people often extremely disagreeable in company by the contradiction that is necessary to bring it into practice; and thence, besides souring and spoiling the conversation, is productive of disgusts and, perhaps, enmities where you may have occasion for friendship. I had caught it by reading my father’s books of dispute about religion. Persons of good sense, I Edition: current; Page: [50] have since observed, seldom fall into it, except lawyers, university men, and men of all sorts that have been bred at Edinborough.

A question was once, somehow or other, started between Collins and me, of the propriety of educating the female sex in learning, and their abilities for study. He was of opinion that it was improper, and that they were naturally unequal to it. I took the contrary side, perhaps a little for dispute’s sake. He was naturally more eloquent, had a ready plenty of words, and sometimes, as I thought, bore me down more by his fluency than by the strength of his reasons. As we parted without settling the point, and were not to see one another again for some time, I sat down to put my arguments in writing, which I copied fair and sent to him. He answered, and I replied. Three or four letters of a side had passed, when my father happened to find my papers and read them. Without entering into the discussion, he took occasion to talk to me about the manner of my writing; observed that, though I had the advantage of my antagonist in correct spelling and pointing (which I ow’d to the printing-house), I fell far short in elegance of expression, in method and in perspicuity, of which he convinced me by several instances. I saw the justice of his remarks, and thence grew more attentive to the manner in writing, and determined to endeavor at improvement.

About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. It was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing Edition: current; Page: [51] excellent, and wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the book, try’d to compleat the papers again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before that time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual occasion for words of the same import, but of different length, to suit the measure, or of different sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of searching for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety in my mind, and make me master of it. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them into verse; and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back again. I also sometimes jumbled my collections of hints into confusion, and after some weeks endeavored to reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the full sentences and compleat the paper. This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts. By comparing my work afterwards with the original, I discovered my faults and amended them; but I sometimes had the pleasure of fancying that, in certain particulars of small import, I had been lucky enough to improve the method or the language, and Edition: current; Page: [52] this encouraged me to think I might possibly in time come to be a tolerable English writer, of which I was extremely ambitious. My time for these exercises and for reading was at night, after work or before it began in the morning, or on Sundays, when I contrived to be in the printing-house alone, evading as much as I could the common attendance on public worship which my father used to exact of me when I was under his care, and which indeed I still thought a duty, though I could not, as it seemed to me, afford time to practise it.

When about 16 years of age I happened to meet with a book, written by one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet. I determined to go into it. My brother, being yet unmarried, did not keep house, but boarded himself and his apprentices in another family. My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an inconveniency, and I was frequently chid for my singularity. I made myself acquainted with Tryon’s manner of preparing some of his dishes, such as boiling potatoes or rice, making hasty pudding, and a few others, and then proposed to my brother, that if he would give me, weekly, half the money he paid for my board, I would board myself. He instantly agreed to it, and I presently found that I could save half what he paid me. This was an additional fund for buying books. But I had another advantage in it. My brother and the rest going from the printing-house to their meals, I remained there alone, and, despatching presently my light repast, which often was no more than a bisket or a slice of bread, a handful of raisins, or a tart from the pastry-cook’s, and a Edition: current; Page: [53] glass of water, had the rest of the time, till their return, for study, in which I made the greater progress, from that greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension which usually attend temperance in eating and drinking.

And now it was that, being on some occasion made asham’d of my ignorance in figures, which I had twice failed in learning when at school, I took Cocker’s book of Arithmetick, and went through the whole by myself with great ease. I also read Seller’s and Shermy’s books of Navigation, and became acquainted with the little geometry they contain; but never proceeded far in that science. And I read about this time Locke On Human Understanding, and the Art of Thinking, by Messrs. du Port Royal.

While I was intent on improving my language, I met with an English grammar (I think it was Greenwood’s), at the end of which there were two little sketches of the arts of rhetoric and logic, the latter finishing with a specimen of a dispute in the Socratic method, and soon after I procur’d Xenophon’s Memorable Things of Socrates, wherein there are many instances of the same method. I was charm’d with it, adopted it, dropt my abrupt contradiction and positive argumentation, and put on the humble inquirer and doubter. And being then, from reading Shaftesbury and Collins, become a real doubter in many points of our religious doctrine, I found this method safest for myself, and very embarrassing to those against whom I used it; therefore I took a delight in it, practis’d it continually, and grew very artful and expert in drawing people, even of superior Edition: current; Page: [54] knowledge, into concessions, the consequences of which they did not foresee, entangling them in difficulties out of which they could not extricate themselves, and so obtaining victories that neither myself nor my cause always deserved. I continu’d this method some few years, but gradually left it, retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms of modest diffidence, never using, when I advanced any thing that may possibly be disputed, the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give the air of positiveness to an opinion, but rather say, I conceive or apprehend a thing to be so and so; it appears to me, or I should think it so or so, for such and such reasons; or I imagine it to be so; or it is so, if I am not mistaken. This habit, I believe, has been of great advantage to me when I have had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures that I have been from time to time engag’d in promoting; and, as the chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be informed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning, sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create opposition, and to defeat every one of those purposes for which speech was given to us,—to wit, giving or receiving information or pleasure. For, if you would inform, a positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments may provoke contradiction and prevent a candid attention. If you wish information and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at the same time express yourself as firmly fix’d in your Edition: current; Page: [55] present opinions, modest, sensible men, who do not love disputation, will probably leave you undisturbed in the possession of your error. And by such a manner, you can seldom hope to recommend yourself in pleasing your hearers, or to persuade those whose concurrence you desire. Pope says, judiciously:

  • Men should be taught as if you taught them not;
  • And things unknown propos’d as things forgot;

farther recommending to us

  • To speak, tho’ sure, with seeming diffidence.

And he might have coupled with this line that which he has coupled with another, I think, less properly:

  • For want of modesty is want of sense.

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

  • Immodest words admit of no defense,
  • For want of modesty is want of sense.

Now, is not want of sense (where a man is so unfortunate as to want it) some apology for his want of modesty? and would not the lines stand more justly thus?

  • Immodest words admit but this defense,
  • That want of modesty is want of sense.

This, however, I should submit to better judgments.

My brother had, in 1720 or 1721, begun to print a newspaper. It was the second that appeared in America, and was called the New England Courant. Edition: current; Page: [56] The only one before it was the Boston News-Letter.1 I remember his being dissuaded by some of his friends from the undertaking, as not likely to succeed, one newspaper being, in their judgment, enough for America. At this time [1771] there are not less than five-and-twenty. He went on, however, with the undertaking, and after having worked in composing the types and printing off the sheets, I was employed to carry the papers thro’ the streets to the customers.

He had some ingenious men among his friends, who amus’d themselves by writing little pieces for this paper, which gain’d it credit and made it more in demand, and these gentlemen often visited us. Hearing their conversations, and their accounts of the approbation their papers were received with, I was excited to try my hand among them; but, being still a boy, and suspecting that my brother would object to printing any thing of mine in his paper if he knew it to be mine, I contrived to disguise my hand, and, writing an anonymous paper, I put it in at night, under the door of the printing-house. It was found in the morning, and communicated Edition: current; Page: [57] to his writing friends when they call’d in as usual. They read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I had the exquisite pleasure of finding it met with their approbation, and that, in their different guesses at the author, none were named but men of some character among us for learning and ingenuity. I suppose now that I was rather lucky in my judges, and that perhaps they were not really so very good ones as I then esteem’d them.

Encourag’d, however, by this, I wrote and convey’d in the same way to the press several more papers, which were equally approv’d; and I kept my secret till my small fund of sense for such performances was pretty well exhausted, and then I discovered it, when I began to be considered a little more by my brother’s acquaintance, and in a manner that did not quite please him, as he thought, probably with reason, that it tended to make me too vain. And, perhaps, this might be one occasion of the differences that we began to have about this time. Though a brother, he considered himself as my master, and me as his apprentice, and, accordingly, expected the same services from me as he would from another, while I thought he demean’d me too much in some he requir’d of me, who from a brother expected more indulgence. Our disputes were often brought before our father, and I fancy I was either generally in the right, or else a better pleader, because the judgment was generally in my favor. But my brother was passionate, and had often beaten me, which I took extreamly amiss; and, thinking my apprenticeship very tedious, I was continually wishing Edition: current; Page: [58] for some opportunity of shortening it, which at length offered in a manner unexpected.1

One of the pieces in our newspaper on some political point, which I have now forgotten, gave offense to the Assembly. He was taken up, censur’d, and imprison’d for a month, by the Speaker’s warrant, I suppose, because he would not discover his author. I too was taken up and examin’d before the council; but, tho’ I did not give them any satisfaction, they content’d themselves with admonishing me, and dismissed me, considering me, perhaps, as an apprentice, who was bound to keep his master’s secrets.

During my brother’s confinement, which I resented a good deal, notwithstanding our private differences, I had the management of the paper; and I made bold to give our rulers some rubs in it, which my brother took very kindly, while others began to consider me in an unfavorable light, as a young genius that had a turn for libelling and satyr. My brother’s discharge was accompany’d with an order of the House (a very odd one), that “James Franklin should no longer print the paper called the New England Courant.

There was a consultation held in our printing-house among his friends, what he should do in this case. Some proposed to evade the order by changing the name of the paper; but my brother, seeing inconveniences in that, it was finally concluded on as a better way, to let it be printed for the future Edition: current; Page: [59] under the name of Benjamin Franklin; and to avoid the censure of the Assembly, that might fall on him as still printing it by his apprentice, the contrivance was that my old indenture should be return’d to me, with a full discharge on the back of it, to be shown on occasion, but to secure to him the benefit of my service, I was to sign new indentures for the remainder of the term, which were to be kept private. A very flimsy scheme it was; however, it was immediately executed, and the paper went on accordingly, under my name for several months.

At length, a fresh difference arising between my brother and me, I took upon me to assert my freedom, presuming that he would not venture to produce the new indentures. It was not fair in me to take this advantage, and this I therefore reckon one of the first errata of my life; but the unfairness of it weighed little with me, when under the impressions of resentment for the blows his passion too often urged him to bestow upon me, though he was otherwise not an ill-natur’d man: perhaps I was too saucy and provoking.

When he found I would leave him, he took care to prevent my getting employment in any other printing-house of the town, by going round and speaking to every master, who accordingly refus’d to give me work. I then thought of going to New York, as the nearest place where there was a printer; and I was rather inclin’d to leave Boston when I reflected that I had already made myself a little obnoxious to the governing party, and, from the arbitrary proceedings of the Assembly in my brother’s Edition: current; Page: [60] case, it was likely it might, if I stay’d, soon bring myself into scrapes; and farther, that my indiscrete disputations about religion began to make me pointed at with horror by good people as an infidel or atheist. I determin’d on the point, but my father now siding with my brother, I was sensible that, if I attempted to go openly, means would be used to prevent me. My friend Collins, therefore, undertook to manage a little for me. He agreed with the captain of a New York sloop for my passage, under the notion of my being a young acquaintance of his that had got a naughty girl with child, whose friends would compel me to marry her, and therefore I could not appear or come away publicly. So I sold some of my books to raise a little money, was taken on board privately, and as we had a fair wind, in three days I found myself in New York, near 300 miles from home, a boy of but 17,1 without the least recommendation to or knowledge of, any person in the place, and with very little money in my pocket.

My inclinations for the sea were by this time worne out, or I might now have gratify’d them. But, having a trade, and supposing myself a pretty good workman, I offer’d my service to the printer in the place, old Mr. William Bradford, who had been the first printer in Pennsylvania, but removed from thence upon the quarrel of George Keith. He could give me no employment, having little to do, and help enough already; but says he: “My son at Philadelphia has lately lost his principal hand, Aquila Rose, by death; if you go thither, I believe he may Edition: current; Page: [61] employ you.” Philadelphia was 100 miles farther; I set out, however, in a boat for Amboy, leaving my chest and things to follow me round by sea.

In crossing the bay, we met with a squall that tore our rotten sails to pieces, prevented our getting into the Kill and drove us upon Long Island. In our way, a drunken Dutchman, who was a passenger too, fell overboard; when he was sinking, I reached through the water to his shock pate, and drew him up, so that we got him in again. His ducking sobered him a little, and he went to sleep, taking first out of his pocket a book, which he desir’d I would dry for him. It proved to be my old favorite author, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress in Dutch, finely printed, on good paper, with copper cuts, a dress better than I had ever seen it wear in its own language. I have since found that it has been translated into most of the languages of Europe, and suppose it has been more generally read than any other book, except perhaps the Bible. Honest John was the first that I know of who mix’d narration and dialogue, a method of writing very engaging to the reader, who, in the most interesting parts, finds himself, as it were, brought into the company, and present at the discourse. De Foe, in his Cruso, his Moll Flanders, Religious Courtship, Family Instructor, and other pieces, has imitated it with success, and Richardson has done the same in his Pamela, etc.

When we drew near the island, we found it was at a place where there could be no landing, there being a great surff on the stony beach. So we dropt Edition: current; Page: [62] anchor and swung round towards the shore. Some people came down to the water edge and hallow’d to us, as we did to them, but the wind was so high, and the surff so loud, that we could not hear so as to understand each other. There were canoes on the shore, and we made signs and hallow’d that they should fetch us, but they either did not understand us, or thought it impracticable, so they went away, and night coming on, we had no remedy but to wait till the wind should abate; and, in the mean time, the boatman and I concluded to sleep, if we could; and so crowded into the scuttle, with the Dutchman, who was still wet, and the spray beating over the head of our boat, leak’d thro’ to us, so that we were soon almost as wet as he. In this manner we lay all night with very little rest; but, the wind abating the next day, we made a shift to reach Amboy before night, having been thirty hours on the water, without victuals, or any drink but a bottle of filthy rum, the water we sailed on being salt.

In the evening I found myself very feverish, and went in to bed; but, having read somewhere that cold water drank plentifully was good for a fever, I follow’d the prescription, sweat plentifully most of the night, my fever left me, and in the morning, crossing the ferry, I proceeded on my journey on foot, having fifty miles to Burlington, where I was told I should find boats that would carry me the rest of the way to Philadelphia.

It rained very hard all the day; I was thoroughly soak’d, and by noon a good deal tired; so I stopt at a poor inn, where I staid all night, beginning now to Edition: current; Page: [63] wish that I had never left home. I cut so miserable a figure, too, that I found, by the questions ask’d me, I was suspected to be some runaway servant, and in danger of being taken up on that suspicion. However, I proceeded the next day, and got in the evening to an inn, within eight or ten miles of Burlington, kept by one Dr. Brown. He entered into conversation with me while I took some refreshment, and, finding I had read a little, became very sociable and friendly. Our acquaintance continu’d as long as he liv’d. He had been, I imagine, an itinerant doctor, for there was no town in England, or country in Europe, of which he could not give a very particular account. He had some letters, and was ingenious, but much of an unbeliever, and wickedly undertook, some years after, to travestie the Bible in doggrel verse, as Cotton had done Virgil. By this means he set many of the facts in a very ridiculous light, and might have hurt weak minds if his work had been published; but it never was.

At his house I lay that night, and the next morning reach’d Burlington, but had the mortification to find that the regular boats were gone a little before my coming, and no other expected to go before Tuesday, this being Saturday; wherefore I returned to an old woman in the town, of whom I had bought gingerbread to eat on the water, and I ask’d her advice. She invited me to lodge at her house till a passage by water should offer; and being tired with my foot travelling, I accepted the invitation. She understanding I was a printer, would have had me stay at that town and follow my business, being Edition: current; Page: [64] ignorant of the stock necessary to begin with. She was very hospitable, gave me a dinner of ox-cheek with great good will, accepting only of a pot of ale in return; and I thought myself fixed till Tuesday should come. However, walking in the evening by the side of the river, a boat came by, which I found was going towards Philadelphia, with several people in her. They took me in, and, as there was no wind, we row’d all the way; and about midnight, not having yet seen the city, some of the company were confident we must have passed it, and would row no farther; the others knew not where we were; so we put toward the shore, got into a creek, landed near an old fence, with the rails of which we made a fire, the night being cold, in October, and there we remained till daylight. Then one of the company knew the place to be Cooper’s Creek, a little above Philadelphia, which we saw as soon as we got out of the creek, and arriv’d there about eight or nine o’clock on the Sunday morning, and landed at the Market-street wharf.

I have been the more particular in this description of my journey, and shall be so of my first entry into that city, that you may in your mind compare such unlikely beginnings with the figure I have since made there. I was in my working dress, my best clothes being to come round by sea. I was dirty from my journey; my pockets were stuff’d out with shirts and stockings, and I knew no soul nor where to look for lodging. I was fatigued with travelling, rowing, and want of rest; I was very hungry; and my whole stock of cash consisted of a Dutch dollar, and about Edition: current; Page: [65] a shilling in copper. The latter I gave the people of the boat for my passage, who at first refus’d it, on account of my rowing; but I insisted on their taking it. A man being sometimes more generous when he has but a little money than when he has plenty, perhaps thro’ fear of being thought to have but little.

Then I walked up the street, gazing about till near the market-house I met a boy with bread. I had made many a meal on bread, and, inquiring where he got it, I went immediately to the baker’s he directed me to, in Second-street, and ask’d for bisket, intending such as we had in Boston; but they, it seems, were not made in Philadelphia. Then I asked for a three-penny loaf, and was told they had none such. So not considering or knowing the difference of money, and the greater cheapness nor the names of his bread, I bade him give me three-penny worth of any sort. He gave me, accordingly, three great puffy rolls. I was surpriz’d at the quantity, but took it, and, having no room in my pockets, walk’d off with a roll under each arm, and eating the other. Thus I went up Market-street as far as Fourth-street, passing by the door of Mr. Read, my future wife’s father; when she, standing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as I certainly did, a most awkward, ridiculous appearance. Then I turned and went down Chestnut-street and part of Walnut-street, eating my roll all the way, and, coming round, found myself again at Market-street wharf, near the boat I came in, to which I went for a draught of the river water; and, being filled with one of my rolls, gave the other two to a woman and her child that Edition: current; Page: [66] came down the river in the boat with us, and were waiting to go farther.

Thus refreshed, I walked again up the street, which by this time had many clean-dressed people in it, who were all walking the same way. I joined them, and thereby was led into the great meeting-house of the Quakers near the market. I sat down among them, and, after looking round awhile and hearing nothing said, being very drowsy thro’ labor and want of rest the preceding night, I fell fast asleep, and continu’d so till the meeting broke up, when one was kind enough to rouse me. This was, therefore, the first house I was in, or slept in, in Philadelphia.

Walking down again toward the river, and looking in the faces of people, I met a young Quaker man whose countenance I lik’d, and accosting him, requested he would tell me where a stranger could get lodging. We were then near the sign of the Three Mariners. “Here,” says he, “is one place that entertains strangers, but it is not a reputable house; if thee wilt walk with me, I ’ll show thee a better.” He brought me to the Crooked Billet in Water-street. Here I got a dinner, and, while I was eating it, several sly questions were asked me, as it seemed to be suspected, from my youth and appearance, that I might be some runaway.

After dinner, my sleepiness return’d, and, being shown to a bed, I lay down without undressing, and slept till six in the evening; was call’d to supper, went to bed again very early, and slept soundly till next morning. Then I made myself as tidy as I Edition: current; Page: [67] could, and went to Andrew Bradford the printer’s. I found in the shop the old man, his father, whom I had seen in New York, and who, travelling on horseback, had got to Philadelphia before me. He introduc’d me to his son, who receiv’d me civilly, gave me a breakfast, but told me he did not at present want a hand, being lately suppli’d with one; but there was another printer in town, lately set up, one Keimer, who, perhaps, might employ me; if not, I should be welcome to lodge at his house, and he would give me a little work to do now and then till fuller business should offer.

The old gentleman said he would go with me to the new printer; and when we found him, “Neighbor,” says Bradford, “I have brought to see you a young man of your business; perhaps you may want such a one.” He ask’d me a few questions, put a composing stick in my hand to see how I work’d, and then said he would employ me soon, though he had just then nothing for me to do; and taking old Bradford, whom he had never seen before, to be one of the town’s people that had a good will for him, enter’d into a conversation on his present undertaking and prospects; while Bradford, not discovering that he was the other printer’s father, on Keimer’s saying he expected soon to get the greatest part of the business into his own hands, drew him on by artful questions and starting little doubts, to explain all his views, what interest he reli’d on, and in what manner he intended to proceed. I, who stood by and heard all, saw immediately that one of them was a crafty old sophister, and the other a mere novice. Edition: current; Page: [68] Bradford left me with Keimer, who was greatly surpris’d when I told him who the old man was.

Keimer’s printing-house, I found, consisted of an old shatter’d press, and one small, worn-out font of English, which he was then using himself, composing an Elegy on Aquila Rose, before mentioned, an ingenious young man, of excellent character, much respected in the town, clerk of the Assembly, and a pretty poet. Keimer made verses too, but very indifferently. He could not be said to write them, for his manner was to compose them in the types directly out of his head. So there being no copy, but one pair of cases, and the Elegy likely to require all the “letter,” no one could help him. I endeavor’d to put his press (which he had not yet us’d, and of which he understood nothing) into order fit to be work’d with; and, promising to come and print off his Elegy as soon as he should have got it ready, I return’d to Bradford’s, who gave me a little job to do for the present, and there I lodged and dieted. A few days after, Keimer sent for me to print off the Elegy. And now he had got another pair of cases, and a pamphlet to reprint, on which he set me to work.

These two printers I found poorly qualified for their business. Bradford had not been bred to it, and was very illiterate; and Keimer, tho’ something of a scholar, was a mere compositor, knowing nothing of presswork. He had been one of the French prophets, and could act their enthusiastic agitations.1 At this time he did not profess any Edition: current; Page: [69] particular religion, but something of all on occasion; was very ignorant of the world, and had, as I afterward found, a good deal of the knave in his composition. He did not like my lodging at Bradford’s while I work’d with him. He had a house indeed, but without furniture, so he could not lodge me; but he got me a lodging at Mr. Read’s, before mentioned, who was the owner of his house; and, my chest and clothes being come by this time, I made rather a more respectable appearance in the eyes of Miss Read than I had done when she first happen’d to see me eating my roll in the street.

I began now to have some acquaintance among the young people of the town, that were lovers of reading, with whom I spent my evenings very pleasantly; and gaining money by my industry and frugality, I lived very agreeably, forgetting Boston as much as I could, and not desiring that any there should know where I resided except my friend Collins, who was in my secret, and kept it when I wrote to him. At length, an incident happened that sent me back again much sooner than I had intended. I had a brother-in-law, Robert Holmes, master of a sloop that traded between Boston and Delaware. He being at Newcastle, forty miles below Philadelphia, heard there of me, and wrote me a letter mentioning the concern of my friends in Boston at my abrupt departure, assuring me of their good will to me, and that every thing would be accommodated to my mind if I would return, to which he exhorted me very earnestly. I wrote an answer to his letter, thank’d him for his advice, but stated Edition: current; Page: [70] my reasons for quitting Boston fully and in such a light as to convince him I was not so wrong as he had apprehended.

Sir William Keith, governor of the province, was then at Newcastle, and Captain Holmes, happening to be in company with him when my letter came to hand, spoke to him of me, and show’d him the letter. The governor read it, and seem’d surpris’d when he was told my age. He said I appear’d a young man of promising parts, and therefore should be encouraged; the printers at Philadelphia were wretched ones; and, if I would set up there, he made no doubt I should succeed; for his part, he would procure me the public business, and do me every other service in his power. This my brother-in-law afterwards told me in Boston, but I knew as yet nothing of it; when, one day, Keimer and I being at work together near the window, we saw the governor and another gentleman (which proved to be Colonel French, of Newcastle), finely dress’d, come directly across the street to our house, and heard them at the door.

Keimer ran down immediately, thinking it a visit to him; but the governor inquir’d for me, came up, and with a condescension and politeness I had been quite unus’d to, made me many compliments, desired to be acquainted with me, blam’d me kindly for not having made myself known to him when I first came to the place, and would have me away with him to the tavern, where he was going with Colonel French to taste, as he said, some excellent Madeira. I was not a little surprised, and Keimer star’d like a pig poison’d. I went, however, with Edition: current; Page: [71] the governor and Colonel French to a tavern, at the corner of Third-street, and over the Madeira he propos’d my setting up my business, laid before me the probabilities of success, and both he and Colonel French assur’d me I should have their interest and influence in procuring the public business of both governments. On my doubting whether my father would assist me in it, Sir William said he would give me a letter to him, in which he would state the advantages, and he did not doubt of prevailing with him. So it was concluded I should return to Boston in the first vessel, with the governor’s letter recommending me to my father. In the mean time the intention was to be kept a secret, and I went on working with Keimer as usual, the governor sending for me now and then to dine with him, a very great honor I thought it, and conversing with me in the most affable, familiar, and friendly manner imaginable.

About the end of April, 1724, a little vessel offer’d for Boston. I took leave of Keimer as going to see my friends. The governor gave me an ample letter, saying many flattering things of me to my father, and strongly recommending the project of my setting up at Philadelphia as a thing that must make my fortune. We struck on a shoal in going down the bay, and sprung a leak; we had a blustering time at sea, and were oblig’d to pump almost continually, at which I took my turn. We arriv’d safe, however, at Boston in about a fortnight. I had been absent seven months, and my friends had heard nothing of me; for my Br. Holmes was not yet return’d, and Edition: current; Page: [72] had not written about me. My unexpected appearance surpriz’d the family; all were, however, very glad to see me, and made me welcome, except my brother. I went to see him at his printing-house. I was better dress’d than ever while in his service, having a genteel new suit from head to foot, a watch, and my pockets lin’d with near five pounds sterling in silver. He receiv’d me not very frankly, look’d me all over, and turn’d to his work again.

The journeymen were inquisitive where I had been, what sort of a country it was, and how I lik’d it. I prais’d it much, and the happy life I led in it, expressing strongly my intention of returning to it; and, one of them asking what kind of money we had there, I produc’d a handful of silver, and spread it before them, which was a kind of raree-show they had not been us’d to, paper being the money of Boston. Then I took an opportunity of letting them see my watch; and, lastly (my brother still grum and sullen), I gave him a piece of eight to drink, and took my leave. This visit of mine offended him extreamly; for, when my mother some time after spoke to him of a reconciliation, and of her wishes to see us on good terms together, and that we might live for the future as brothers, he said I had insulted him in such a manner before his people that he could never forget or forgive it. In this, however, he was mistaken.

My father received the governor’s letter with some apparent surprise, but said little of it to me for some days, when Capt. Holmes returning he show’d it to him, ask’d him if he knew Keith, and what kind of Edition: current; Page: [73] man he was; adding his opinion that he must be of small discretion to think of setting a boy up in business who wanted yet three years of being at man’s estate. Holmes said what he could in favor of the project, but my father was clear in the impropriety of it, and at last gave a flat denial to it. Then he wrote a civil letter to Sir William, thanking him for the patronage he had so kindly offered me, but declining to assist me as yet in setting up, I being, in his opinion, too young to be trusted with the management of a business so important, and for which the preparation must be so expensive.

My friend and companion Collins, who was a clerk in the post-office, pleas’d with the account I gave him of my new country, determined to go thither also; and, while I waited for my father’s determination, he set out before me by land to Rhode Island, leaving his books, which were a pretty collection of mathematicks and natural philosophy, to come with mine and me to New York, where he propos’d to wait for me.

My father, tho’ he did not approve Sir William’s proposition, was yet pleas’d that I had been able to obtain so advantageous a character from a person of such note where I had resided, and that I had been so industrious and careful as to equip myself so handsomely in so short a time; therefore, seeing no prospect of an accommodation between my brother and me, he gave his consent to my returning again to Philadelphia, advis’d me to behave respectfully to the people there, endeavor to obtain the general esteem, and avoid lampooning and libelling, to which Edition: current; Page: [74] he thought I had too much inclination; telling me, that by steady industry and a prudent parsimony I might save enough by the time I was one-and-twenty to set me up; and that, if I came near the matter, he would help me out with the rest. This was all I could obtain, except some small gifts as tokens of his and my mother’s love, when I embark’d again for New York, now with their approbation and their blessing.

The sloop putting in at Newport, Rhode Island, I visited my brother John, who had been married and settled there some years. He received me very affectionately, for he always lov’d me. A friend of his, one Vernon, having some money due to him in Pensilvania, about thirty-five pounds currency, desired I would receive it for him, and keep it till I had his directions what to remit it in. Accordingly he gave me an order. This afterwards occasion’d me a good deal of uneasiness.

At Newport we took in a number of passengers for New York, among which were two young women, companions, and a grave, sensible, matron-like Quaker woman, with her attendants. I had shown an obliging readiness to do her some little services, which impress’d her I suppose with a degree of good will toward me; therefore, when she saw a daily growing familiarity between me and the two young women, which they appear’d to encourage, she took me aside, and said: “Young man, I am concern’d for thee, as thou has no friend with thee, and seems not to know much of the world, or of the snares youth is expos’d to; depend upon it, those are very Edition: current; Page: [75] bad women; I can see it in all their actions; and if thee art not upon thy guard, they will draw thee into some danger; they are strangers to thee, and I advise thee, in a friendly concern for thy welfare, to have no acquaintance with them.” As I seem’d at first not to think so ill of them as she did, she mentioned some things she had observ’d and heard that had escap’d my notice, but now convinc’d me she was right. I thank’d her for her kind advice, and promis’d to follow it. When we arriv’d at New York, they told me where they liv’d, and invited me to come and see them; but I avoided it, and it was well I did; for the next day the captain miss’d a silver spoon and some other things, that had been taken out of his cabbin, and knowing that these were a couple of strumpets, he got a warrant to search their lodgings, found the stolen goods, and had the thieves punish’d. So, tho’ we had escap’d a sunken rock, which we scrap’d upon in the passage, I thought this escape of rather more importance to me.

At New York I found my friend Collins, who had arriv’d there some time before me. We had been intimate from children, and had read the same books together; but he had the advantage of more time for reading and studying, and a wonderful genius for mathematical learning, in which he far outstript me. While I liv’d in Boston, most of my hours of leisure for conversation were spent with him, and he continu’d a sober as well as an industrious lad; was much respected for his learning by several of the clergy and other gentlemen, and seemed to promise Edition: current; Page: [76] making a good figure in life. But, during my absence, he had acquir’d a habit of sotting with brandy; and I found by his own account, and what I heard from others, that he had been drunk every day since his arrival at New York, and behav’d very oddly. He had gam’d, too, and lost his money, so that I was oblig’d to discharge his lodgings, and defray his expenses to and at Philadelphia, which prov’d extreamly inconvenient to me.

The then governor of New York, Burnet (son of Bishop Burnet),1 hearing from the captain that a Edition: current; Page: [77] young man, one of his passengers, had a great many books, desir’d he would bring me to see him. I waited upon him accordingly, and should have taken Collins with me, but that he was not sober. The gov’r. treated me with great civility, show’d me his library, which was a very large one, and we had a good deal of conversation about books and authors. This was the second governor who had done me the honor to take notice of me, which, to a poor boy like me, was very pleasing.

We proceeded to Philadelphia. I received on the way Vernon’s money, without which we could hardly have finish’d our journey. Collins wished to be employ’d in some counting-house, but, whether they discover’d his dramming by his breath, or by his behaviour, tho’ he had some recommendations, he met with no success in any application, and continued lodging and boarding at the same house with me, and at my expense. Knowing I had that money of Vernon’s, he was continually borrowing of me, still promising repayment as soon as he should be in business. At length he had got so much of it, that I was distress’d to think what I should do in case of being call’d on to remit it.

His drinking continu’d, about which we sometimes quarrel’d, for, when a little intoxicated, he was very fractious. Once, in a boat on the Delaware with some other young men, he refused to row in his turn. “I will be row’d home,” says he. “We will not row you,” says I. “You must, or stay all night on the water,” says he, “just as you please.” The others said: “Let us row: what signifies it?” But my Edition: current; Page: [78] mind being soured with his other conduct, I continu’d to refuse. So he swore he would make me row, or throw me overboard; and coming along, stepping on the thwarts, toward me, when he came up and struck at me, I clapped my hand under his crutch, and rising, pitched him head-foremost into the river. I knew he was a good swimmer, and so was under little concern about him; but before he could get round to lay hold of the boat, we had, with a few strokes, pull’d her out of his reach, and ever when he drew near the boat, we ask’d if he would row, striking a few strokes to slide her away from him. He was ready to die with vexation, and obstinately would not promise to row. However, seeing him at last beginning to tire, we lifted him in, and brought him home dripping wet in the evening. We hardly exchang’d a civil word afterwards, and a West India captain, who had a commission to procure a tutor for the sons of a gentleman at Barbadoes, happening to meet with him, agreed to carry him thither. He left me then, promising to remit me the first money he should receive, in order to discharge the debt, but I never heard of him after.

The breaking into this money of Vernon’s was one of the first great errata of my life, and this affair show’d that my father was not much out in his judgment when he suppos’d me too young to manage business of importance. But Sir William, on reading his letter, said he was too prudent. There was great difference in persons, and discretion did not always accompany years, nor was youth always without it. “And since he will not set you up,” says Edition: current; Page: [79] he, “I will do it myself. Give me an inventory of the things necessary to be had from England, and I will send for them. You shall repay me when you are able; I am resolv’d to have a good printer here, and I am sure you must succeed.” This was spoken with such an appearance of cordiality, that I had not the least doubt of his meaning what he said. I had hitherto kept the proposition of my setting up, a secret in Philadelphia, and I still kept it. Had it been known that I depended on the governor, probably some friend that knew him better would have advis’d me not to rely on him, as I afterwards heard it as his known character to be liberal of promises which he never meant to keep. Yet, unsolicited as he was by me, how could I think his generous offers insincere? I believ’d him one of the best men in the world.

I presented him an inventory of a little print’g-house, amounting by my computation to about one hundred pounds sterling. He lik’d it, but ask’d me if my being on the spot in England to chuse the types, and see that every thing was good of the kind, might not be of some advantage. “Then,” says he, “when there, you may make acquaintances, and establish correspondences in the bookselling and stationery way.” I agreed that this might be advantageous. “Then,” says he, “get yourself ready to go with Annis”; which was the annual ship, and the only one at that time usually passing between London and Philadelphia. But it would be some months before Annis sail’d, so I continu’d working with Keimer, fretting about the money Collins had Edition: current; Page: [80] got from me, and in daily apprehensions of being call’d upon by Vernon, which, however, did not happen for some years after.

I believe I have omitted mentioning that, in my first voyage from Boston, being becalm’d off Block Island, our people set about catching cod, and hauled up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating animal food, and on this occasion I consider’d, with my master Tryon, the taking every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had, or ever could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish, and, when this came hot out of the frying-pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc’d some time between principle and inclination, till I recollected that, when the fish were opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs; then thought I, “If you eat one another, I don’t see why we may n’t eat you.” So I din’d upon cod very heartily, and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and then occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for every thing one has a mind to do.

Keimer and I liv’d on a pretty good familiar footing, and agreed tolerably well, for he suspected nothing of my setting up. He retained a great deal of his old enthusiasms and lov’d argumentation. We therefore had many disputations. I used to work him so with my Socratic method, and had trepann’d him so often by questions apparently so distant Edition: current; Page: [81] from any point we had in hand, and yet by degrees lead to the point, and brought him into difficulties and contradictions, that at last he grew ridiculously cautious, and would hardly answer me the most common question, without asking first: “What do you intend to infer from that?” However, it gave him so high an opinion of my abilities in the confuting way, that he seriously proposed my being his colleague in a project he had of setting up a new sect. He was to preach the doctrines, and I was to confound all opponents. When he came to explain with me upon the doctrines, I found several conundrums which I objected to, unless I might have my way a little too, and introduce some of mine.

Keimer wore his beard at full length, because somewhere in the Mosaic law it is said: “Thou shalt not mar the corners of thy beard.” He likewise kept the Seventh day, Sabbath; and these two points were essentials with him. I dislik’d both; but agreed to admit them upon condition of his adopting the doctrine of using no animal food. “I doubt,” said he, “my constitution will not bear that.” I assur’d him it would, and that he would be the better for it. He was usually a great glutton, and I promised myself some diversion in half starving him. He agreed to try the practice, if I would keep him company. I did so, and we held it for three months. We had our victuals dress’d, and brought to us regularly by a woman in the neighborhood, who had from me a list of forty dishes, to be prepar’d for us at different times, in all which there was neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, and the whim suited me the better Edition: current; Page: [82] at this time from the cheapness of it, not costing us above eighteen pence sterling each per week. I have since kept several Lents most strictly, leaving the common diet for that, and that for the common, abruptly, without the least inconvenience, so that I think there is little in the advice of making those changes by easy gradations. I went on pleasantly, but poor Keimer suffered grievously, tired of the project, long’d for the flesh-pots of Egypt, and order’d a roast pig. He invited me and two women friends to dine with him; but, it being brought too soon upon table, he could not resist the temptation, and ate the whole before we came.

I had made some courtship during this time to Miss Read. I had a great respect and affection for her, and had some reason to believe she had the same for me; but, as I was about to take a long voyage, and we were both very young, only a little above eighteen, it was thought most prudent by her mother to prevent our going too far at present, as a marriage, if it was to take place, would be more convenient after my return, when I should be, as I expected, set up in my business. Perhaps, too, she thought my expectations not so well founded as I imagined them to be.

My chief acquaintances at this time were Charles Osborne, Joseph Watson, and James Ralph, all lovers of reading. The two first were clerks to an eminent scrivener or conveyancer in the town, Charles Brogden; the other was clerk to a merchant. Watson was a pious, sensible young man, of great integrity; the others rather more lax in their principles Edition: current; Page: [83] of religion, particularly Ralph, who, as well as Collins, had been unsettled by me, for which they both made me suffer. Osborne was sensible, candid, frank; sincere and affectionate to his friends; but, in literary matters, too fond of criticising. Ralph was ingenious, genteel in his manners, and extremely eloquent; I think I never knew a prettier talker. Both of them great admirers of poetry, and began to try their hands in little pieces. Many pleasant walks we four had together on Sundays into the woods, near Schuylkill, where we read to one another, and conferr’d on what we read.

Ralph was inclin’d to pursue the study of poetry, not doubting but he might become eminent in it, and make his fortune by it, alleging that the best poets must, when they first begin to write, make as many faults as he did. Osborne dissuaded him, assur’d him he had no genius for poetry, and advis’d him to think of nothing beyond the business he was bred to; that, in the mercantile way, tho’ he had no stock, he might, by his diligence and punctuality, recommend himself to employment as a factor, and in time acquire wherewith to trade on his own account. I approv’d the amusing one’s self with poetry now and then, so far as to improve one’s language, but no farther.

On this it was propos’d that we should each of us, at our next meeting, produce a piece of our own composing, in order to improve by our mutual observations, criticisms, and corrections. As language and expression were what we had in view, we excluded Edition: current; Page: [84] all considerations of invention by agreeing that the task should be a version of the eighteenth Psalm, which describes the descent of a Deity. When the time of our meeting drew nigh, Ralph called on me first, and let me know his piece was ready. I told him I had been busy, and, having little inclination, had done nothing. He then show’d me his piece for my opinion, and I much approv’d it, as it appear’d to me to have great merit. “Now,” says he, “Osborne never will allow the least merit in any thing of mine, but makes 1,000 criticisms out of mere envy. He is not so jealous of you; I wish, therefore, you would take this piece, and produce it as yours; I will pretend not to have had time, and so produce nothing. We shall then see what he will say to it.” It was agreed, and I immediately transcrib’d it, that it might appear in my own hand.

We met; Watson’s performance was read; there were some beauties in it, but many defects. Osborne’s was read; it was much better; Ralph did it justice; remarked some faults, but applauded the beauties. He himself had nothing to produce. I was backward; seemed desirous of being excused; had not had sufficient time to correct, etc.; but no excuse could be admitted; produce I must. It was read and repeated; Watson and Osborne gave up the contest, and join’d in applauding it. Ralph only made some criticisms, and propos’d some amendments; but I defended my text. Osborne was against Ralph, and told him he was no better a critic than poet, so he dropt the argument. As they two went home together, Osborne expressed himself Edition: current; Page: [85] still more strongly in favor of what he thought my production; having restrain’d himself before, as he said, lest I should think it flattery. “But who would have imagin’d,” said he, “that Franklin had been capable of such a performance; such painting, such force, such fire! He has even improv’d the original. In his common conversation he seems to have no choice of words; he hesitates and blunders; and yet, good God! how he writes!” When we next met, Ralph discovered the trick we had plaid him, and Osborne was a little laught at.

This transaction fixed Ralph in his resolution of becoming a poet. I did all I could to dissuade him from it, but he continued scribbling verses till Pope cured him.1 He became, however, a pretty good prose writer. More of him hereafter. But, as I may not have occasion again to mention the other two, I shall just remark here, that Watson died in my arms a few years after, much lamented, being the best of our set. Osborne went to the West Indies, where he became an eminent lawyer and made money, but died young. He and I had made a Edition: current; Page: [86] serious agreement, that the one who happen’d first to die should, if possible, make a friendly visit to the other, and acquaint him how he found things in that separate state. But he never fulfill’d his promise.

The governor, seeming to like my company, had me frequently to his house, and his setting me up was always mention’d as a fixed thing. I was to take with me letters recommendatory to a number of his friends, besides the letter of credit to furnish me with the necessary money for purchasing the press and types, paper, etc. For these letters I was appointed to call at different times, when they were to be ready; but a future time was still named. Thus he went on till the ship, whose departure too had been several times postponed, was on the point of sailing. Then, when I call’d to take my leave and receive the letters, his secretary, Dr. Bard, came out to me and said the governor was extremely busy in writing, but would be down at Newcastle before the ship, and there the letters would be delivered to me.

Ralph, though married, and having one child, had determined to accompany me in this voyage. It was thought he intended to establish a correspondence, and obtain goods to sell on commission; but Edition: current; Page: [87] I found afterwards, that, thro’ some discontent with his wife’s relations, he purposed to leave her on their hands, and never return again. Having taken leave of my friends, and interchang’d some promises with Miss Read, I left Philadelphia in the ship, which anchor’d at Newcastle. The governor was there; but when I went to his lodging, the secretary came to me from him with the civillest message in the world, that he could not then see me, being engaged in business of the utmost importance, but should send the letters to me on board, wish’d me heartily a good voyage and a speedy return, etc. I returned on board a little puzzled, but still not doubting.

Mr. Andrew Hamilton, a famous lawyer of Philadelphia, had taken passage in the same ship for himself and son, and with Mr. Denham, a Quaker merchant, and Messrs. Onion and Russel, masters of an iron work in Maryland, had engag’d the great cabin; so that Ralph and I were forced to take up with a berth in the steerage, and none on board knowing us, were considered as ordinary persons. But Mr. Hamilton and his son (it was James, since governor) return’d from Newcastle to Philadelphia, the father being recall’d by a great fee to plead for a seized ship; and, just before we sail’d, Colonel French coming on board, and showing me great respect, I was more taken notice of, and, with my friend Ralph, invited by the other gentlemen to come into the cabin, there being now room. Accordingly, we remov’d thither.

Understanding that Colonel French had brought on board the governor’s despatches, I ask’d the captain Edition: current; Page: [88] for those letters that were to be under my care. He said all were put into the bag together and he could not then come at them; but before we landed in England, I should have an opportunity of picking them out; so I was satisfied for the present, and we proceeded on our voyage. We had a sociable company in the cabin, and lived uncommonly well, having the addition of all Mr. Hamilton’s stores, who had laid in plentifully. In this passage Mr. Denham contracted a friendship for me that continued during his life. The voyage was otherwise not a pleasant one, as we had a great deal of bad weather.

When we came into the Channel, the captain kept his word with me, and gave me an opportunity of examining the bag for the governor’s letters. I found none upon which my name was put as under my care. I picked out six or seven, that, by the handwriting, I thought might be the promised letters, especially as one of them was directed to Basket, the king’s printer and another to some stationer. We arriv’d in London on the 24th of December, 1724. I waited upon the stationer, who came first in my way, delivering the letter as from Governor Keith. “I don’t know such a person,” says he; but, opening the letter, “Oh! this is from Riddlesden. I have lately found him to be a compleat rascal, and I will have nothing to do with him, nor receive any letters from him.” So, putting the letter into my hand, he turn’d on his heel and left me to serve some customer. I was surprised to find these were not the governor’s letters; and after recollecting and comparing circumstances, I began to doubt his sincerity. Edition: current; Page: [89] I found my friend Denham, and opened the whole affair to him. He let me into Keith’s character; told me there was not the least probability that he had written any letters for me; that no one, who knew him, had the smallest dependence on him; and he laught at the notion of the governor’s giving me a letter of credit, having, as he said, no credit to give. On my expressing some concern about what I should do, he advised me to endeavor getting some employment in the way of my business. “Among the printers here,” said he, “you will improve yourself, and when you return to America, you will set up to greater advantage.”

We both of us happen’d to know, as well as the stationer, that Riddlesden, the attorney, was a very knave. He had half ruin’d Miss Read’s father by persuading him to be bound for him. By this letter it appear’d there was a secret scheme on foot to the prejudice of Hamilton (suppos’d to be then coming over with us); and that Keith was concerned in it with Riddlesden. Denham, who was a friend of Hamilton’s, thought he ought to be acquainted with it; so, when he arriv’d in England, which was soon after, partly from resentment and ill-will to Keith and Riddlesden, and partly from good-will to him, I waited on him, and gave him the letter. He thank’d me cordially, the information being of importance to him; and from that time he became my friend, greatly to my advantage afterwards on many occasions.

But what shall we think of a governor’s playing such pitiful tricks, and imposing so grossly on a poor Edition: current; Page: [90] ignorant boy! It was a habit he had acquired. He wish’d to please everybody; and, having little to give, he gave expectations. He was otherwise an ingenious, sensible man, a pretty good writer, and a good governor for the people, tho’ not for his constituents, the proprietaries, whose instructions he sometimes disregarded. Several of our best laws were of his planning and passed during his administration.

Ralph and I were inseparable companions. We took lodgings together in Little Britain at three shillings and sixpence a week—as much as we could then afford. He found some relations, but they were poor, and unable to assist him. He now let me know his intentions of remaining in London, and that he never meant to return to Philadelphia. He had brought no money with him, the whole he could muster having been expended in paying his passage. I had fifteen pistoles; so he borrowed occasionally of me to subsist, while he was looking out for business. He first endeavored to get into the playhouse, believing himself qualify’d for an actor; but Wilkes,1 to whom he apply’d, advis’d him candidly not to think of that employment, as it was impossible he should succeed in it. Then he propos’d to Roberts, a publisher in Paternoster Row, to write for him a weekly paper like the Spectator, on certain conditions, which Roberts did not approve. Then he endeavored to get employment as a hackney writer, to copy for the stationers and lawyers about the Temple, but could find no vacancy.

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I immediately got into work at Palmer’s, then a famous printing-house in Bartholomew Close, and here I continu’d near a year. I was pretty diligent, but spent with Ralph a good deal of my earnings in going to plays and other places of amusement. We had together consumed all my pistoles, and now just rubbed on from hand to mouth. He seem’d quite to forget his wife and child, and I, by degrees, my engagements with Miss Read, to whom I never wrote more than one letter, and that was to let her know I was not likely soon to return. This was another of the great errata of my life, which I should wish to correct if I were to live it over again. In fact, by our expenses, I was constantly kept unable to pay my passage.

At Palmer’s I was employed in composing for the second edition of Wollaston’s Religion of Nature. Some of his reasonings not appearing to me well founded, I wrote a little metaphysical piece in which I made remarks on them. It was entitled A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain. I inscribed it to my friend Ralph; I printed a small number. It occasion’d my being more consider’d by Mr. Palmer as a young man of some ingenuity, tho’ he seriously expostulated with me upon the principles of my pamphlet, which to him appear’d abominable. My printing this pamphlet was another erratum. While I lodg’d in Little Britain, I made an acquaintance with one Wilcox, a bookseller, whose shop was at the next door. He had an immense collection of second-hand books. Circulating libraries were not then in use; but we agreed that, Edition: current; Page: [92] on certain reasonable terms, which I have now forgotten, I might take, read, and return any of his books. This I esteem’d a great advantage, and I made as much use of it as I could.

My pamphlet by some means falling into the hands of one Lyons, a surgeon, author of a book entitled The Infallibility of Human Judgment, it occasioned an acquaintance between us. He took great notice of me, called on me often to converse on those subjects, carried me to the Horns, a pale-alehouse in —— Lane, Cheapside, and introduced me to Dr. Mandeville, author of the Fable of the Bees, who had a club there, of which he was the soul, being a most facetious, entertaining companion. Lyons, too, introduced me to Dr. Pemberton, at Batson’s Coffeehouse, who promis’d to give me an opportunity, some time or other, of seeing Sir Isaac Newton, of which I was extreamly desirous; but this never happened.

I had brought over a few curiosities, among which the principal was a purse made of the asbestos, which purifies by fire. Sir Hans Sloane heard of it, came to see me, and invited me to his house in Bloomsbury Square, where he show’d me all his curiosities, and persuaded me to let him add that to the number, for which he paid me handsomely.

In our house there lodg’d a young woman, a milliner, who, I think, had a shop in the Cloisters. She had been genteelly bred, was sensible and lively, and of most pleasing conversation. Ralph read plays to her in the evenings, they grew intimate, she took another lodging, and he followed her. They liv’d together Edition: current; Page: [93] some time; but, he being still out of business, and her income not sufficient to maintain them with her child, he took a resolution of going from London, to try for a country school, which he thought himself well qualified to undertake, as he wrote an excellent hand, and was a master of arithmetic and accounts. This, however, he deemed a business below him, and confident of future better fortune, when he should be unwilling to have it known that he once was so meanly employed, he changed his name, and did me the honor to assume mine; for I soon after had a letter from him, acquainting me that he was settled in a small village (in Berkshire, I think it was, where he taught reading and writing to ten or a dozen boys, at sixpence each per week), recommending Mrs. T—— to my care, and desiring me to write to him, directing for Mr. Franklin, school-master, at such a place.

He continued to write frequently, sending me large specimens of an epic poem which he was then composing, and desiring my remarks and corrections. These I gave him from time to time, but endeavor’d rather to discourage his proceeding. One of Young’s Satires was then just published. I copy’d and sent him a great part of it, which set in a strong light the folly of pursuing the Muses with any hope of advancement by them. All was in vain; sheets of the poem continued to come by every post. In the mean time, Mrs. T——, having on his account lost her friends and business, was often in distresses, and us’d to send for me, and borrow what I could spare to help her out of them. I grew fond of her company, and, being at that time under no religious restraint, Edition: current; Page: [94] and presuming upon my importance to her, I attempted familiarities (another erratum) which she repuls’d with a proper resentment, and acquainted him with my behaviour. This made a breach between us; and when he returned again to London, he let me know he thought I had cancell’d all the obligations he had been under to me. So I found I was never to expect his repaying me what I lent to him, or advanc’d for him. This, however, was not then of much consequence, as he was totally unable; and in the loss of his friendship I found myself relieved from a burthen. I now began to think of getting a little money beforehand, and, expecting better work, I left Palmer’s to work at Watts’s, near Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a still greater printing-house. Here I continued all the rest of my stay in London.1

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At my first admission into this printing-house I took to working at press, imagining I felt a want of the bodily exercise I had been us’d to in America, where presswork is mix’d with composing. I drank only water; the other workmen, near fifty in number, were great guzzlers of beer. On occasion, I Edition: current; Page: [96] carried up and down stairs a large form of types in each hand, when others carried but one in both hands. They wondered to see, from this and several instances, that the Water-American, as they called me, was stronger than themselves, who drank strong beer! We had an alehouse boy who attended always in the house to supply the workmen. My companion at the press drank every day a pint before breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and cheese, a pint between breakfast and dinner, a pint in the afternoon about six o’clock, and another when he had done his day’s work. I thought it a detestable custom; but it was necessary, he suppos’d, to drink strong beer, that he might be strong to labor. I endeavored to convince him that the bodily strength afforded by beer could only be in proportion to the grain or flour of the barley dissolved in the water of which it was made; that there was more flour in a pennyworth of bread; and therefore, if he would eat that with a pint of water, it would give him more strength than a quart of beer. He drank on, however, and had four or five shillings to pay out of his wages every Saturday night for that muddling liquor; an expense I was free from. And thus these poor devils keep themselves always under.

Watts, after some weeks, desiring to have me in the composing-room, I left the pressmen; a new bienvenu or sum for drink, being five shillings, was demanded of me by the compositors. I thought it an imposition, as I had paid below; the master thought so too, and forbad my paying it. I stood Edition: current; Page: [97] out two or three weeks, was accordingly considered as an excommunicate, and had so many little pieces of private mischief done me, by mixing my sorts, transposing my pages, breaking my matter, etc., etc., if I were ever so little out of the room, and all ascribed to the chappel ghost, which they said ever haunted those not regularly admitted, that, notwithstanding the master’s protection, I found myself oblig’d to comply and pay the money, convinc’d of the folly of being on ill terms with those one is to live with continually.

I was now on a fair footing with them, and soon acquir’d considerable influence. I propos’d some reasonable alterations in their chappel1 laws, and carried them against all opposition. From my example, a great part of them left their muddling breakfast of beer, and bread, and cheese, finding they could with me be supply’d from a neighboring house with a large porringer of hot water-gruel, sprinkled with pepper, crumb’d with bread, and a bit of butter in it, for the price of a pint of beer, viz., three half-pence. This was a more comfortable as well as cheaper breakfast, and kept their heads clearer. Those who continued sotting with beer all day, were often, by not paying, out of credit at the alehouse, and us’d to make interest with me to get beer; their light, as they phrased it, being out. I watch’d the pay-table on Saturday night, and collected what I stood engag’d for them, having to pay Edition: current; Page: [98] sometimes near thirty shillings a week on their account. This, and my being esteem’d a pretty good riggite, that is, a jocular verbal satirist, supported my consequence in the society. My constant attendance (I never making a St. Monday) recommended me to the master; and my uncommon quickness at composing occasioned my being put upon all work of dispatch, which was generally better paid. So I went on now very agreeably.

My lodging in Little Britain being too remote, I found another in Duke-street, opposite to the Romish Chapel. It was two pair of stairs backwards, at an Italian warehouse. A widow lady kept the house; she had a daughter, and a maid servant, and a journeyman who attended the warehouse, but lodg’d abroad. After sending to inquire my character at the house where I last lodg’d, she agreed to take me in at the same rate, 3s. 6d. per week; cheaper, as she said, from the protection she expected in having a man lodge in the house. She was a widow, an elderly woman; had been bred a Protestant, being a clergyman’s daughter, but was converted to the Catholic religion by her husband, whose memory she much revered; had lived much among people of distinction, and knew a thousand anecdotes of them as far back as the times of Charles the Second. She was lame in her knees with the gout, and, therefore, seldom stirred out of her room, so sometimes wanted company; and hers was so highly amusing to me, that I was sure to spend an evening with her whenever she desired it. Our supper was only half an anchovy each, on a very little strip of bread and Edition: current; Page: [99] butter, and half a pint of ale between us; but the entertainment was in her conversation. My always keeping good hours, and giving little trouble in the family, made her unwilling to part with me; so that, when I talk’d of a lodging I had heard of, nearer my business, for two shillings a week, which, intent as I now was on saving money, made some difference, she bid me not think of it, for she would abate me two shillings a week for the future; so I remained with her at one shilling and sixpence as long as I staid in London.

In a garret of her house there lived a maiden lady of seventy, in the most retired manner, of whom my landlady gave me this account: that she was a Roman Catholic, had been sent abroad when young, and lodg’d in a nunnery with an intent of becoming a nun; but, the country not agreeing with her, she returned to England, where, there being no nunnery, she had vow’d to lead the life of a nun, as near as might be done in those circumstances. Accordingly, she had given all her estate to charitable uses, reserving only twelve pounds a year to live on, and out of this sum she still gave a great deal in charity, living herself on water-gruel only, and using no fire but to boil it. She had lived many years in that garret, being permitted to remain there gratis by successive Catholic tenants of the house below, as they deemed it a blessing to have her there. A priest visited her to confess her every day. “I have ask’d her,” says my landlady, “how she, as she liv’d, could possibly find so much employment for a confessor?” “Oh,” said she, “it is impossible to Edition: current; Page: [100] avoid vain thoughts.” I was permitted once to visit her. She was cheerful and polite, and convers’d pleasantly. The room was clean, but had no other furniture than a matras, a table with a crucifix and book, a stool which she gave me to sit on, and a picture over the chimney of Saint Veronica displaying her handkerchief, with the miraculous figure of Christ’s bleeding face on it, which she explained to me with great seriousness. She look’d pale, but was never sick; and I give it as another instance on how small an income life and health may be supported.

At Watts’s printing-house I contracted an acquaintance with an ingenious young man, one Wygate, who, having wealthy relations, had been better educated than most printers; was a tolerable Latinist, spoke French, and lov’d reading. I taught him and a friend of his to swim at twice going into the river, and they soon became good swimmers. They introduc’d me to some gentlemen from the country, who went to Chelsea by water to see the College and Don Saltero’s curiosities. In our return, at the request of the company, whose curiosity Wygate had excited, I stripped and leaped into the river, and swam from near Chelsea to Blackfryars, performing on the way many feats of activity, both upon and under water, that surpris’d and pleas’d those to whom they were novelties.

I had from a child been ever delighted with this exercise, had studied and practis’d all Thevenot’s motions and positions, added some of my own, aiming at the graceful and easy as well as the useful. Edition: current; Page: [101] All these I took this occasion of exhibiting to the company, and was much flatter’d by their admiration; and Wygate, who was desirous of becoming a master, grew more and more attach’d to me on that account, as well as from the similarity of our studies. He at length proposed to me travelling all over Europe together, supporting ourselves everywhere by working at our business. I was once inclined to it; but, mentioning it to my good friend Mr. Denham, with whom I often spent an hour when I had leisure, he dissuaded me from it, advising me to think only of returning to Pennsylvania, which he was now about to do.

I must record one trait of this good man’s character. He had formerly been in business at Bristol, but failed in debt to a number of people, compounded, and went to America. There, by a close application to business as a merchant, he acquir’d a plentiful fortune in a few years. Returning to England in the ship with me, he invited his old creditors to an entertainment, at which he thank’d them for the easy composition they had favored him with, and, when they expected nothing but the treat, every man at the first remove found under his plate an order on a banker for the full amount of the unpaid remainder, with interest.

He now told me he was about to return to Philadelphia, and should carry over a great quantity of goods in order to open a store there. He propos’d to take me over as his clerk, to keep his books, in which he would instruct me, copy his letters, and attend the store. He added, that, as soon as I Edition: current; Page: [102] should be acquainted with mercantile business, he would promote me by sending me with a cargo of flour and bread, etc., to the West Indies, and procure me commissions from others which would be profitable; and, if I manag’d well, would establish me handsomely. The thing pleas’d me; for I was grown tired of London, remembered with pleasure the happy months I had spent in Pennsylvania, and wish’d again to see it; therefore I immediately agreed on the terms of fifty pounds a year, Pennsylvania money; less, indeed, than my present gettings as a compositor, but affording a better prospect.

I now took leave of printing, as I thought, forever, and was daily employ’d in my new business, going about with Mr. Denham among the tradesmen to purchase various articles, and seeing them pack’d up, doing errands, calling upon workmen to dispatch, etc.; and, when all was on board, I had a few days’ leisure. On one of these days, I was, to my surprise, sent for by a great man I knew only by name, a Sir William Wyndham, and I waited upon him. He had heard by some means or other of my swimming from Chelsea to Blackfryars, and of my teaching Wygate and another young man to swim in a few hours. He had two sons, about to set out on their travels; he wish’d to have them first taught swimming, and proposed to gratify me handsomely if I would teach them. They were not yet come to town, and my stay was uncertain, so I could not undertake it; but, from this incident, I thought it likely that, if I were to remain in England and open Edition: current; Page: [103] a swimming-school, I might get a good deal of money; and it struck me so strongly, that, had the overture been sooner made me, probably I should not so soon have returned to America. After many years, you and I had something of more importance to do with one of these sons of Sir William Wyndham, become Earl of Egremont, which I shall mention in its place.

Thus I spent about eighteen months in London; most part of the time I work’d hard at my business, and spent but little upon myself except in seeing plays and in books. My friend Ralph had kept me poor; he owed me about twenty-seven pounds, which I was now never likely to receive; a great sum out of my small earnings! I lov’d him, notwithstanding, for he had many amiable qualities. I had by no means improv’d my fortune; but I had picked up some very ingenious acquaintance, whose conversation was of great advantage to me; and I had read considerably.

We sail’d from Gravesend on the 23d of July, 1726. For the incidents of the voyage, I refer you to my Journal, where you will find them all minutely related. Perhaps the most important part of that journal is the plan1 to be found in it, which I formed at sea, for regulating my future conduct in life. It is the more remarkable, as being formed when I was so young, and yet being pretty faithfully adhered to quite thro’ to old age.

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Journal1 of Occurrences in my Voyage to Philadelphia on board the Berkshire, Henry Clark, Master, from London.

Friday, July 22d, 1726.—Yesterday in the afternoon we left London, and came to an anchor off Gravesend about eleven at night. I lay ashore all night, and this morning took a walk up to the Windmill Hill, whence I had an agreeable prospect of the country for about twenty miles round, and two or three reaches of the river, with ships and boats sailing both up and down, and Tilbury Fort on the other side, which commands the river and passage to London. This Gravesend is a cursed biting place; the chief dependence of the people being the advantage they make of imposing upon strangers. If you buy any thing of them, and give half what they ask, you pay twice as much as the thing is worth. Thank God, we shall leave it to-morrow.

Saturday, July 23d.—This day we weighed anchor and fell down with the tide, there being little or no wind. In the afternoon we had a fresh gale, that brought us down to Margate, where we shall lie at anchor this night. Most of the passengers are very sick. Saw several porpoises, &c.

Sunday, July 24th.—This morning we weighed anchor, and coming to the Downs, we set our pilot ashore at Deal, and passed through. And now, whilst I write this, sitting upon the quarter-deck, I Edition: current; Page: [105] have, methinks, one of the pleasantest scenes in the world before me. ’T is a fine, clear day, and we are going away before the wind with an easy, pleasant gale. We have near fifteen sail of ships in sight, and I may say in company. On the left hand appears the coast of France at a distance, and on the right is the town and castle of Dover, with the green hills and chalky cliffs of England, to which we must now bid farewell. Albion, farewell!

Monday, July 25th.—All the morning calm. After noon sprung up a gale at east; blew very hard all night. Saw the Isle of Wight at a distance.

Tuesday, July 26th.—Contrary winds all day, blowing pretty hard. Saw the Isle of Wight again in the evening.

Wednesday, July 27th.—This morning, the wind blowing very hard at west, we stood in for the land, in order to make some harbour. About noon we took on board a pilot out of a fishing shallop, who brought the ship into Spithead, off Portsmouth. The captain, Mr. Denham, and myself went on shore, and, during the little time we stayed, I made some observations on the place.

Portsmouth has a fine harbour. The entrance is so narrow, that you may throw a stone from fort to fort; yet it is near ten fathoms deep, and bold close to; but within there is room enough for five hundred, or, for aught I know, a thousand sail of ships. The town is strongly fortified, being encompassed with a high wall and a deep and broad ditch, and two gates, that are entered over drawbridges; besides several forts, batteries of large cannon, and Edition: current; Page: [106] other outworks, the names of which I know not, nor had I time to take so strict a view as to be able to describe them. In war time, the town has a garrison of ten thousand men; but at present it is only manned by about one hundred invalids. Notwithstanding the English have so many fleets of men-of-war at sea at this time,1 I counted in this harbour above thirty sail of second, third, and fourth rates, that lay by unrigged, but easily fitted out upon occasion, all their masts and rigging lying marked and numbered in storehouses at hand. The King’s yards and docks employ abundance of men, who, even in peace time, are constantly building and refitting men-of-war for the King’s service.

Gosport lies opposite to Portsmouth, and is near as big, if not bigger; but, except the fort at the mouth of the harbour, and a small outwork before the main street of the town, it is only defended by a mud wall, which surrounds it, and a trench of dry ditch of about ten feet depth and breadth. Portsmouth is a place of very little trade in peace time; it depending chiefly on fitting out men-of-war. Spithead is the place where the fleets commonly anchor, and is a very good riding-place. The people of Portsmouth tell strange stories of the severity of one Gibson, who was governor of this place in the Queen’s time, to his soldiers, and show you a miserable dungeon by the town gate, which they call Johnny Gibson’s Hole, where, for trifling misdemeanors, he used to confine his soldiers till they were Edition: current; Page: [107] almost starved to death. It is a common maxim, that, without severe discipline, it is impossible to govern the licentious rabble of soldiery. I own, indeed, that, if a commander finds he has not those qualities in him that will make him beloved by his people, he ought, by all means, to make use of such methods as will make them fear him, since one or the other (or both) is absolutely necessary; but Alexander and Cæsar, those renowned generals, received more faithful service, and performed greater actions, by means of the love their soldiers bore them, than they could possibly have done, if, instead of being beloved and respected, they had been hated and feared by those they commanded.

Thursday, July 28th.—This morning we came on board, having lain on shore all night. We weighed anchor, and, with a moderate gale, stood in for Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, and came to an anchor before the town about eleven o’clock. Six of the passengers went on shore, and diverted themselves till about twelve at night; and then got a boat, and came on board again, expecting to sail early in the morning.

Friday, July 29th.—But, the wind continuing adverse still, we went ashore again this morning, and took a walk to Newport, which is about four miles distant from Cowes, and is the metropolis of the island. Thence we walked to Carisbrooke, about a mile further, out of curiosity to see that castle, which King Charles the First was confined in; and so returned to Cowes in the afternoon, and went on board in expectation of sailing.

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Cowes is but a small town, and lies close to the seaside, pretty near opposite to Southampton on the main shore of England. It is divided into two parts by a small river that runs up within a quarter of a mile of Newport, and is distinguished by East and West Cowes. There is a fort built in an oval form, on which there are eight or ten guns mounted for the defence of the road. They have a post-office, a custom-house, and a chapel of ease; and a good harbour for ships to ride in, in easterly and westerly winds.

All this afternoon I spent agreeably enough at the draft board. It is a game I much delight in; but it requires a clear head, and undisturbed; and the persons playing, if they would play well, ought not much to regard the consequence of the game, for that diverts and withdraws the attention of the mind from the game itself, and makes the player liable to make many false open moves; and I will venture to lay it down for an infallible rule, that, if two persons equal in judgment play for a considerable sum, he that loves money most shall lose; his anxiety for the success of the game confounds him. Courage is almost as requisite for the good conduct of this game as in a real battle; for, if the player imagines himself opposed by one that is much his superior in skill, his mind is so intent on the defensive part, that an advantage passes unobserved.

Newport makes a pretty prospect enough from the hills that surround it; for it lies down in a bottom. The houses are beautifully intermixed with trees, and a tall, old-fashioned steeple rises in the midst Edition: current; Page: [109] of the town, which is very ornamental to it. The name of the church I could not learn; but there is a very neat market-house, paved with square stone, and consisting of eleven arches. There are several pretty handsome streets, and many well-built houses and shops, well stored with goods. But I think Newport is chiefly remarkable for oysters, which they send to London and other places, where they are very much esteemed, being thought the best in England. The oyster-merchants fetch them, as I am informed, from other places, and lay them upon certain beds in the river (the water of which is it seems excellently adapted for that purpose) a-fattening; and when they have lain a suitable time they are taken up again, and made fit for sale.

When we came to Carisbrooke, which, as I said before, is a little village about a mile beyond Newport, we took a view of an ancient church that had formerly been a priory in Romish times, and is the first church, or the mother-church, of the island. It is an elegant building, after the old Gothic manner, with a very high tower, and looks very venerable in its ruins. There are several ancient monuments about it; but the stone of which they are composed is of such a soft, crumbling nature, that the inscriptions are none of them legible. Of the same stone are almost all the tombstones, etc., that I observed in the island.

From this church, having crossed over the brook that gives the name to the village, and got a little boy for a guide, we went up a very steep hill, through several narrow lanes and avenues, till we came to the Edition: current; Page: [110] castle gate. We entered over the ditch (which is now almost filled up, partly by the ruins of the mouldering walls that have tumbled into it, and partly by the washing down of the earth from the hill by the rains), upon a couple of brick arches, where I suppose formerly there was a drawbridge. An old woman who lives in the castle, seeing us strangers walk about, sent and offered to show us the rooms if we pleased, which we accepted. This castle, as she informed us, has for many years been the seat of the governors of the island; and the rooms and hall, which are very large and handsome with high, arched roofs, have all along been kept handsomely furnished, every succeeding governor buying the furniture of his predecessor; but, Cadogan, the last governor, who succeeded General Webb, refusing to purchase it, Webb stripped it clear of all, even the hangings, and left nothing but bare walls. The floors are several of them of plaster of Paris, the art of making which, the woman told us, was now lost.

The castle stands upon a very high and steep hill, and there are the remains of a deep ditch round it; the walls are thick, and seemingly well contrived; and certainly it has been a very strong hold in its time, at least before the invention of great guns. There are several breaches in the ruinous walls, which are never repaired, (I suppose they are purposely neglected,) and the ruins are almost everywhere overspread with ivy. It is divided into the lower and the upper castle, the lower enclosing the upper, which is of a round form, and stands upon a Edition: current; Page: [111] promontory, to which you must ascend by near a hundred stone steps; this upper castle was designed for a retreat in case the lower castle should be won, and is the least ruinous of any part except the stairs before mentioned, which are so broken and decayed, that I was almost afraid to come down again when I was up, they being but narrow, and no rails to hold by.

From the battlements of this upper castle, which they call the coop, you have a fine prospect of the greatest part of the island, of the sea on one side, of Cowes road at a distance, and of Newport as it were just below you. There is a well in the middle of the coop, which they called the bottomless well, because of its great depth; but it is now half filled up with stones and rubbish, and is covered with two or three loose planks; yet a stone, as we tried, is near a quarter of a minute in falling before you hear it strike. But the well that supplies the inhabitants at present with water is in the lower castle, and is thirty fathoms deep. They draw their water with a great wheel, and with a bucket that holds near a barrel. It makes a great sound if you speak in it, and echoed the flute which we played over it very sweetly. There are but seven pieces of ordnance mounted upon the walls, and those in no very good order; and the old man, who is the gunner and keeper of the castle, and who sells ale in a little house at the gate, has in his possession but six muskets, which hang up at his wall, and one of them wants a lock. He told us that the castle, which had now been built 1,203 years, was first founded Edition: current; Page: [112] by one Whitgert, a Saxon, who conquered the island, and that it was called Whitgertsburg for many ages.

That particular piece of building, which King Charles lodged in during his confinement here, is suffered to go entirely to ruin, there being nothing standing but the walls. The island is about sixty miles in circumference, and produces plenty of corn and other provisions, and wool as fine as Cotswold; its militia having the credit of equalling the soldiery, and being the best disciplined in England, was once, in King William’s time, intrusted with the government of this island. At his death it appeared he was a great villain, and a great politician; there was no crime so damnable which he would not stick at in the execution of his designs, and yet he had the art of covering all so thick, that with almost all men in general, while he lived, he passed for a saint. What surprised me was, that the silly old fellow, the keeper of the castle, who remembered him governor, should have so true a notion of his character as I perceived he had. In short, I believe it is impossible for a man, though he has all the cunning of a devil, to live and die a villain, and yet conceal it so well as to carry the name of an honest fellow to the grave with him, but some one, by some accident or other, shall discover him. Truth and sincerity have a certain distinguishing native lustre about them, which cannot be perfectly counterfeited; they are like fire and flame, that cannot be painted.

The whole castle was repaired and beautified by Queen Elizabeth, and strengthened by a breastwork Edition: current; Page: [113] all round without the walls, as appears by this inscription in one or two places upon it.

1598 E. R. 40

Saturday, July 30th.—This morning about eight o’clock we weighed anchor, and turned to windward till we came to Yarmouth, another little town upon this island, and there cast anchor again, the wind blowing hard, and still westerly. Yarmouth is a smaller town than Cowes; yet the buildings being better, it makes a handsomer prospect at a distance, and the streets are clean and neat. There is one monument in the church, which the inhabitants are very proud of, and which we went to see. It was erected to the memory of Sir Robert Holmes, who had formerly been governor of the island. It is his statue in armour, somewhat bigger than the life, standing on his tomb, with a truncheon in his hand, between two pillars of porphyry. Indeed, all the marble about it is very fine and good; and they say it was designed by the French King for his palace at Versailles, but was cast away upon this island, and by Sir Robert himself in his lifetime applied to this use, and that the whole monument was finished long before he died, though not fixed up in that place, the inscription, likewise which is very much to his honor, being written by himself. One would think either that he had no defect at all, or had a very ill opinion of the world, seeing he was so careful to make Edition: current; Page: [114] sure of a monument to record his good actions and transmit them to posterity.

Having taken a view of the church, town, and fort, on which there are seven large guns mounted, three of us took a walk further into the island; and, having gone about two miles, we headed a creek that runs up one end of the town, and then went to Freshwater Church, about a mile nearer the town, but on the other side of the creek. Having stayed here some time it grew dark, and my companions were desirous to be gone, lest those whom we had left drinking where we dined in the town should go on board and leave us. We were told, that it was our best way to go straight down to the mouth of the creek, and that there was a ferry boy that would carry us over to the town. But when we came to the house the lazy whelp was in bed, and refused to rise and put us over; upon which we went down to the waterside, with a design to take his boat, and go over by ourselves. We found it very difficult to get the boat, it being fastened to a stake, and the tide risen near fifty yards beyond it; I stripped all to my shirt to wade up to it; but missing the causeway, which was under water, I got up to my middle in mud. At last I came to the stake; but, to my great disappointment, found she was locked and chained. I endeavored to draw the staple with one of the thole-pins, but in vain; I tried to pull up the stake, but to no purpose; so that, after an hour’s fatigue and trouble in the wet and mud, I was forced to return without the boat.

We had no money in our pockets, and therefore Edition: current; Page: [115] began to conclude to pass the night in some haystack, though the wind blew very cold and very hard. In the midst of these troubles one of us recollected that he had a horse-shoe in his pocket, which he found in his walk, and asked me if I could not wrench the staple out with that. I took it, went, tried, and succeeded, and brought the boat ashore to them. Now we rejoiced and all got in, and, when I had dressed myself, we put off. But the worst of all our troubles was to come yet; for, it being high water and the tide over all the banks, though it was moonlight we could not discern the channel of the creek; but, rowing heedlessly straight forward, when we were got about half way over, we found ourselves aground on a mud bank: and, striving to row her off by putting our oars in the mud, we broke one and there stuck fast, not having four inches water. We were now in the utmost perplexity, not knowing what in the world to do; we could not tell whether the tide was rising or falling; but at length we plainly perceived it was ebb, and we could feel no deeper water within the reach of our oar.

It was hard to lie in an open boat all night exposed to the wind and weather; but it was worse to think how foolish we should look in the morning, when the owner of the boat should catch us in that condition, where we must be exposed to the view of all the town. After we had strove and struggled for half an hour and more, we gave all over, and sat down with our hands before us, despairing to get off; for, if the tide had left us, we had been never the nearer; we must have sat in the boat, as the mud was too Edition: current; Page: [116] deep for us to walk ashore through it, being up to our necks. At last we bethought ourselves of some means of escaping, and two of us stripped and got out, and thereby lightening the boat we drew her upon our knees near fifty yards into deeper water; and then with much ado, having but one oar, we got safe ashore under the fort; and, having dressed ourselves and tied the man’s boat, we went with great joy to the Queen’s Head, where we left our companions, whom we found waiting for us, though it was very late. Our boat being gone on board, we were obliged to lie ashore all night; and thus ended our walk.

Sunday, July 31st.—This morning the wind being moderate, our pilot designed to weigh, and, taking advantage of the tide, get a little further to windward. Upon which the boat came ashore, to hasten us on board. We had no sooner returned and hoisted in our boat, but the wind began again to blow very hard to west, insomuch that, instead of going any further, we were obliged to weigh and run down again to Cowes for the sake of more secure riding, where we came to an anchor again in a very little time; and the pudding which our mess made and put into the pot at Yarmouth, we dined upon at Cowes.

Monday, August 1st.—This morning all the vessels in the harbour put out their colors in honor of the day, and it made a very pretty appearance. The wind continuing to blow hard westerly, our mess resolved to go on shore, though all our loose corks were gone already. We took with us some goods to dispose of, and walked to Newport to make our market, Edition: current; Page: [117] where we sold for three shillings in the pound less than the prime cost in London; and, having dined at Newport, we returned in the evening to Cowes, and concluded to lodge on shore.

Tuesday, August 2d.—This day we passed on shore diverting ourselves as well as we could; and the wind continuing still westerly, we stayed on shore this night also.

Wednesday, August 3d.—This morning we were hurried on board, having scarce time to dine, weighed anchor, and stood away for Yarmouth again, though the wind is still westerly; but, meeting with a hoy when we were near half-way there, that had some goods on board for us to take in, we tacked about for Cowes, and came to anchor there a third time, about four in the afternoon.

Thursday, August 4th.—Stayed on board till about five in the afternoon, and then went on shore and stopped all night.

Friday, August 5th.—Called up this morning and hurried aboard, the wind being northwest. About noon we weighed and left Cowes a third time, and, sailing by Yarmouth, we came into the channel through the Needles; which passage is guarded by Hurst Castle, standing on a spit of land which runs out from the main land of England within a mile of the Isle of Wight. Towards night the wind veered to the westward, which put us under apprehensions of being forced into port again; but presently after it fell a flat calm, and then we had a small breeze that was fair for half an hour, when it was succeeded by a calm again.

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Saturday, August 6th.—This morning we had a fair breeze for some hours, and then a calm that lasted all day. In the afternoon I leaped overboard and swam around the ship to wash myself. Saw several porpoises this day. About eight o’clock we came to an anchor in forty fathom water against the tide of flood, somewhere below Portland, and weighed again about eleven, having a small breeze.

Sunday, August 7th.—Gentle breezes all this day. Spoke with a ship, the Ruby, bound for London from Nevis, off the Start of Plymouth. This afternoon spoke with Captain Homans in a ship bound for Boston, who came out of the river when we did, and had been beating about in the channel all the time we lay at Cowes in the Wight.

Monday, August 8th.—Fine weather, but no wind worth mentioning, all this day; in the afternoon saw the Lizard.

Tuesday, August 9th.—Took our leave of the land this morning. Calms the fore part of the day. In the afternoon a small gale; fair. Saw a grampus.

Wednesday, August 10th.—Wind N. W. Course S. W. about four knots. By observation in latitude 48° 50′. Nothing remarkable happened.

Thursday, August 11th.—Nothing remarkable. Fresh gale all day.

Friday, August 12th; Saturday, 13th; Sunday, 14th.—Calms and fair breezes alternately.

Monday, 15th; Tuesday, 16th; Wednesday, 17th.—No contrary winds, but calm and fair breezes alternately.

Thursday, August 18th.—Four dolphins followed Edition: current; Page: [119] the ship for some hours; we struck at them with the fizgig; but took none.

Friday, August 19th.—This day we have had a pleasant breeze at east. In the morning we spied a sail upon our larboard bow, about two leagues’ distance. About noon she put out English colors, and we answered with our ensign, and in the afternoon we spoke with her. She was a ship, of New York, Walter Kippen, master, bound from Rochelle, in France, to Boston, with salt. Our captain and Mr. D—— went on board, and stayed till evening, it being fine weather. Yesterday, complaints being made that a Mr. G——n, one of the passengers, had, with a fraudulent design, marked the cards, a court of justice was called immediately, and he was brought to his trial in form. A Dutchman, who could speak no English, deposed, by his interpreter, that, when our mess was on shore at Cowes, the prisoner at the bar marked all the court cards on the back with a pen.

I have sometimes observed, that we are apt to fancy the person that cannot speak intelligibly to us, proportionably stupid in understanding, and, when we speak two or three words of English to a foreigner, it is louder than ordinary, as if we thought him deaf, and that he had lost the use of his ears as well as his tongue. Something like this I imagine might be the case of Mr. G——n; he fancied the Dutchman could not see what he was about, because he could not understand English, and therefore boldly did it before his face.

The evidence was plain and positive; the prisoner Edition: current; Page: [120] could not deny the fact, but replied in his defence, that the cards he marked were not those he commonly played with, but an imperfect pack, which he afterwards gave to the cabin-boy. The attorney-general observed to the court, that it was not likely he should take the pains to mark the cards without some ill design, or some further intention than just to give them to the boy when he had done, who understood nothing at all of cards. But another evidence, being called, deposed, that he saw the prisoner in the main-top one day, when he thought himself unobserved, marking a pack of cards on the backs, some with the print of a dirty thumb, others with the top of his finger, etc. Now, there being but two packs on board, and the prisoner having just confessed the marking of one, the court perceived the case was plain. In fine, the jury brought him in guilty, and he was condemned to be carried up to the round-top, and made fast there, in view of all the ship’s company, during the space of three hours, that being the place where the act was committed, and to pay a fine of two bottles of brandy. But, the prisoner resisting authority and refusing to submit to punishment, one of the sailors stepped up aloft and let down a rope to us, which we, with much struggling, made fast about his middle, and hoisted him up into the air, sprawling, by main force. We let him hang, cursing and swearing, for near a quarter of an hour; but at length, he crying out Murder! and looking black in the face, the rope being overtaught about his middle, we thought proper to let him down again; and our mess have excommunicated him till Edition: current; Page: [121] he pays his fine, refusing either to play, eat, drink, or converse with him.

Saturday, August 20th.—We shortened sail all last night and all this day, to keep company with the other ship. About noon Captain Kippen and one of his passengers came on board and dined with us; they stayed till evening. When they were gone, we made sail and left them.

Sunday, August 21st.—This morning we lost sight of the Yorker, having a brisk gale of wind at east. Towards night a poor little bird came on board us, being almost tired to death, and suffered himself to be taken by the hand. We reckon ourselves near two hundred leagues from land, so that no doubt a little rest was very acceptable to the unfortunate wanderer, who, ’t is like, was blown off the coast in thick weather, and could not find its way back again. We receive it hospitably, and tender it victuals and drink; but he refuses both, and I suppose will not live long. There was one came on board some days ago, in the same circumstances with this, which I think the cat destroyed.

Monday, August 22d.—This morning I saw several flying-fish, but they were small. A favorable wind all day.

Tuesday, August 23d; Wednesday, 24th.—Fair winds, nothing remarkable.

Thursday, August 25th.—Our excommunicated shipmate thinking proper to comply with the sentence the court passed upon him, and expressing himself willing to pay the fine, we have this morning received him into unity again. Man is a sociable Edition: current; Page: [122] being, and it is, for aught I know, one of the worst of punishments to be excluded from society. I have read abundance of fine things on the subject of solitude, and I know ’t is a common boast in the mouths of those that affect to be thought wise, that they are never less alone than when alone. I acknowledge solitude an agreeable refreshment to a busy mind; but, were these thinking people obliged to be always alone, I am apt to think they would quickly find their very being insupportable to them. I have heard of a gentleman, who underwent seven years’ close confinement, in the Bastille, at Paris. He was a man of sense, he was a thinking man; but, being deprived of all conversation, to what purpose should he think? for he was denied even the instruments of expressing his thoughts in writing. There is no burden so grievous to man as time that he knows not how to dispose of. He was forced at last to have recourse to this invention; he daily scattered pieces of paper about the floor of his little room, and then employed himself in picking them up and sticking them in rows and figures on the arm of his elbow-chair; and he used to tell his friends, after his release, that he verily believed, if he had not taken this method he should have lost his senses. One of the philosophers, I think it was Plato, used to say, that he had rather be the veriest stupid block in nature, than the possessor of all knowledge without some intelligent being to communicate it to.

What I have said may in a measure account for some particulars in my present way of living here on board. Our company is, in general, very unsuitably Edition: current; Page: [123] mixed, to keep up the pleasure and spirit of conversation; and, if there are one or two pair of us that can sometimes entertain one another for half an hour agreeably, yet perhaps we are seldom in the humor for it together. I rise in the morning and read for an hour or two, perhaps, and then reading grows tiresome. Want of exercise occasions want of appetite, so that eating and drinking afford but little pleasure. I tire myself with playing at drafts, then I go to cards; nay, there is no play so trifling or childish, but we fly to it for entertainment. A contrary wind, I know not how, puts us all out of good humor; we grow sullen, silent, and reserved, and fret at each other upon every little occasion. ’T is a common opinion among the ladies, that, if a man is ill-natured, he infallibly discovers it when he is in liquor. But I, who have known many instances to the contrary, will teach them a more effectual method to discover the natural temper and disposition of their humble servants. Let the ladies make one long sea-voyage with them, and, if they have the least spark of ill-nature in them, and conceal it to the end of the voyage, I will forfeit all my pretensions to their favor. The wind continues fair.

Friday, August 26th.—The wind and weather fair, till night came on; and then the wind came about, and we had hard squalls, with rain and lightning, till morning.

Saturday, August 27th.—Cleared up this morning, and the wind settled westerly. Two dolphins followed us this afternoon; we hooked one, and struck Edition: current; Page: [124] the other with a fizgig; but they both escaped us, and we saw them no more.

Sunday, August 28th.—The wind still continues westerly, and blows hard. We are under a reefed mainsail and foresail.

Monday, August 29th.—Wind still hard west. Two dolphins followed us this day; we struck at them, but they both escaped.

Tuesday, August 30th.—Contrary wind still. This evening, the moon being near full, as she rose after eight o’clock, there appeared a rainbow in a western cloud, to windward of us. The first time I ever saw a rainbow in the night, caused by the moon.

Wednesday, August 31st.—Wind still west; nothing remarkable.

Thursday, September 1st.—Bad weather, and contrary winds.

Friday, September 2d.—This morning the wind changed; a little fair. We caught a couple of dolphins, and fried them for dinner. They tasted tolerably well. These fish make a glorious appearance in the water; their bodies are of a bright green, mixed with a silver color, and their tails of a shining golden yellow; but all this vanishes presently after they are taken out of their element, and they change all over to a light grey. I observed that cutting off pieces of a just-caught, living dolphin for baits, those pieces did not lose their lustre and fine colors when the dolphin died, but retained them perfectly. Every one takes notice of that vulgar error of the painters, who always represent this fish monstrously crooked and deformed, when it is, in reality, as Edition: current; Page: [125] beautiful and well-shaped a fish as any that swims. I cannot think what could be the original of this chimera of theirs, since there is not a creature in nature that in the least resembles the dolphin, unless it proceeded at first from a false imitation of a fish in the posture of leaping, which they have since improved into a crooked monster, with a head and eyes like a bull, a hog’s snout, and a tail like a blown tulip. But the sailors give me another reason, though a whimsical one, viz. that, as this most beautiful fish is only to be caught at sea, and that very far to the southward, they say the painters wilfully deform it in their representations, lest pregnant women should long for what it is impossible to procure for them.

Saturday, September 3d; Sunday, 4th; Monday, 5th.—Wind still westerly; nothing remarkable.

Tuesday, September 6th.—This afternoon, the wind, still continuing in the same quarter, increased till it blew a storm, and raised the sea to a greater height than I had ever seen it before.

Wednesday, September 7th.—The wind is somewhat abated, but the sea is very high still. A dolphin kept us company all this afternoon; we struck at him several times, but could not take him.

Thursday, September 8th.—This day nothing remarkable has happened. Contrary wind.

Friday, September 9th.—This afternoon we took four large dolphins, three with a hook and line, and the fourth we struck with a fizgig. The bait was a candle with two feathers stuck in it, one on each side, in imitation of a flying-fish, which are the Edition: current; Page: [126] common prey of the dolphins. They appeared extremely eager and hungry, and snapped up the hook as soon as ever it touched the water. When we came to open them, we found in the belly of one a small dolphin, half-digested. Certainly they were half-famished, or are naturally very savage, to devour those of their own species.

Saturday, September 10th.—This day we dined upon the dolphins we caught yesterday, three of them sufficing the whole ship, being twenty-one persons.

Sunday, September 11th.—We have had a hard gale of wind all this day, accompanied with showers of rain. ’T is uncomfortable being upon deck; and, though we have been all together all day below, yet the long continuance of these contrary winds has made us so dull, that scarce three words have passed between us.

Monday, September 12th; Tuesday, 13th.—Nothing remarkable; wind contrary.

Wednesday, September 14th.—This afternoon, about two o’clock, it being fair weather and almost calm, as we sat playing drafts upon deck, we were surprised with a sudden and unusual darkness of the sun, which, as we could perceive, was only covered with a small, thin cloud; when that was passed by, we discovered that that glorious luminary labored under a very great eclipse. At least ten parts out of twelve of him were hid from our eyes, and we were apprehensive he would have been totally darkened.

Thursday, September 15th.—For a week past we have fed ourselves with the hopes, that the change of Edition: current; Page: [127] the moon (which was yesterday) would bring us a fair wind; but, to our great mortification and disappointment, the wind seems now settled in the westward, and shows as little signs of an alteration as it did a fortnight ago.

Friday, September 16th.—Calm all this day. This morning we saw a tropic bird, which flew round our vessel several times. It is a white fowl, with short wings; but one feather appears in his tail, and he does not fly very fast. We reckon ourselves about half our voyage; latitude 38 and odd minutes. These birds are said never to be seen further north than the latitude of 40.

Saturday, September 17th.—All the forenoon the calm continued; the rest of the day some light breezes easterly; and we are in great hopes the wind will settle in that quarter.

Sunday, September 18th.—We have had the finest weather imaginable all this day, accompanied with what is still more agreeable, a fair wind. Every one puts on a clean shirt and a cheerful countenance, and we begin to be very good company. Heaven grant that this favorable gale may continue! for we have had so much of turning to windward, that the word helm-a-lee is become almost as disagreeable to our ears as the sentence of a judge to a convicted malefactor.

Monday, September 19th.—The weather looks a little uncertain, and we begin to feel the loss of our fair wind. We see tropic birds every day, sometimes five or six together; they are about as big as pigeons.

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Tuesday, September 20th.—The wind is now westerly again, to our great mortification; and we are come to an allowance of bread, two biscuits and a half a day.

Wednesday, September 21st.—This morning our steward was brought to the geers and whipped, for making an extravagant use of flour in the puddings, and for several other misdemeanors. It has been perfectly calm all this day, and very hot. I was determined to wash myself in the sea to-day, and should have done so, had not the appearance of a shark, that mortal enemy to swimmers, deterred me; he seemed to be about five feet long, moves round the ship at some distance, in a slow majestic manner, attended by near a dozen of those they call pilot-fish, of different sizes; the largest of them is not so big as a small mackerel, and the smallest not bigger than my little finger. Two of these diminutive pilots keep just before his nose, and he seems to govern himself in his motions by their direction; while the rest surround him on every side indifferently. A shark is never seen without a retinue of these, who are his purveyors, discovering and distinguishing his prey for him; while he in return gratefully protects them from the ravenous, hungry dolphin. They are commonly counted a very greedy fish; yet this refuses to meddle with the bait thrown out for him. ’T is likely he has lately made a full meal.

Thursday, September 22d.—A fresh gale at west all this day. The shark has left us.

Friday, September 23d.—This morning we spied a sail to windward of us about two leagues. We Edition: current; Page: [129] showed our jack upon the ensign-staff, and shortened sail for them till about noon, when she came up with us. She was the Snow, from Dublin, bound to New York, having upwards of fifty servants on board, of both sexes; they all appeared upon deck, and seemed very much pleased at the sight of us. There is really something strangely cheering to the spirits in the meeting of a ship at sea, containing a society of creatures of the same species and in the same circumstances with ourselves, after we had been long separated and excommunicated as it were from the rest of mankind. My heart fluttered in my breast with joy, when I saw so many human countenances, and I could scarce refrain from that kind of laughter, which proceeds from some degree of inward pleasure. When we have been for a considerable time tossing on the vast waters, far from the sight of any land or ships, or any mortal creature but ourselves (except a few fish and sea-birds), the whole world, for aught we know, may be under a second deluge, and we, like Noah and his company in the ark, the only surviving remnant of the human race. The two captains have mutually promised to keep each other company; but this I look upon to be only matter of course, for, if ships are unequal in their sailing, they seldom stay for one another, especially strangers. This afternoon, the wind, that had been so long contrary to us, came about to the eastward (and looks as if it would hold), to our no small satisfaction. I find our messmates in a better humor, and more pleased with their present condition, than they have been since they came out; which I take to proceed Edition: current; Page: [130] from the contemplation of the miserable circumstances of the passengers on board our neighbour, and making the comparison. We reckon ourselves in a kind of paradise, when we consider how they live, confined and stifled up with such a lousy, stinking rabble, in this sultry latitude.

Saturday, September 24th.—Last night we had a very high wind, and very thick weather; in which we lost our consort. This morning early we spied a sail ahead of us, which we took to be her; but presently after we espied another, and then we plainly perceived, that neither of them could be the Snow; for one of them stemmed with us, and the other bore down directly upon us, having the weather-gage of us. As the latter drew near, we were a little surprised, not knowing what to make of her; for, by the course she steered, she did not seem designed for any port, but looked as if she intended to clap us aboard immediately. I could perceive concern in every face on board; but she presently eased us of our apprehensions by bearing away astern of us. When we hoisted our jack, she answered with French colors, and presently drew them down again; and we soon lost sight of her. The other ran by us in less than half an hour, and answered our jack with an English ensign; she stood to the eastward, but the wind was too high to speak with either of them. About nine o’clock we spied our consort, who had got a great way ahead of us. She, it seems, had made sail during the night, while we lay by, with our mainyard down, during the hard gale. She very civilly shortened sail for us, and this afternoon we Edition: current; Page: [131] came up with her; and now we are running along very amicably together, side by side, having a most glorious fair wind.

  • “On either side the parted billows flow,
  • While the black ocean foams and roars below.”

Sunday, September 25th.—Last night we shot ahead of our consort pretty far. About midnight, having lost sight of each other, we shortened sail for them; but this morning they were got as far ahead of us as we could see, having run by us in the dark unperceived. We made sail and came up with them about noon; and, if we chance to be ahead of them again in the night, we are to show them a light, that we may not lose company by any such accident for the future. The wind still continues fair, and we have made a greater run these last four-and-twenty hours than we have done since we came out. All our discourse, now, is of Philadelphia, and we begin to fancy ourselves on shore already. Yet a small change of weather, attended by a westerly wind, is sufficient to blast all our blooming hopes, and quite spoil our present good humor.

Monday, September 26th.—The wind continued fair all night. In the twelve o’clock watch our consort, who was about a league ahead of us, showed us a light, and we answered with another. About six o’clock this morning we had a sudden hurry of wind at all points of the compass, accompanied with the most violent shower of rain I ever saw, insomuch that the sea looked like a cream dish. It surprised us with all our sails up, and was so various, uncertain, Edition: current; Page: [132] and contrary, that the mizzen topsail was full, while the head sails were all aback; and, before the men could run from one end of the ship to the other, ’t was about again. But this did not last long ere the wind settled to the northeast again, to our great satisfaction. Our consort fell astern of us in the storm, but made sail and came up with us again after it was over. We hailed one another on the morrow, congratulating upon the continuance of the fair wind, and both ran on very lovingly together.

Tuesday, September 27th.—The fair wind continues still. I have laid a bowl of punch, that we are in Philadelphia next Saturday se’nnight; for we reckon ourselves not above one hundred and fifty leagues from land. The Snow keeps us company still.

Wednesday, September 28th.—We had very variable winds and weather last night, accompanied with abundance of rain; and now the wind is come about westerly again, but we must bear it with patience. This afternoon we took up several branches of gulf-weed (with which the sea is spread all over, from the Western Isles to the coast of America); but one of these branches had something peculiar in it. In common with the rest, it had a leaf about three quarters of an inch long, indented like a saw, and a small yellow berry, filled with nothing but wind; besides which it bore a fruit of the animal kind, very surprising to see. It was a small shell-fish like a heart, the stalk by which it proceeded from the branch being partly of a grisly kind. Upon this one branch of the weed, there were near forty of these vegetable animals; the smallest of them, near the Edition: current; Page: [133] end, contained a substance somewhat like an oyster, but the larger were visibly animated, opening their shells every moment, and thrusting out a set of unformed claws, not unlike those of a crab; but the inner part was still a kind of soft jelly. Observing the weed more narrowly, I spied a very small crab crawling among it, about as big as the head of a ten-penny nail, and of a yellowish color, like the weed itself. This gave me some reason to think, that he was a native of the branch; that he had not long since been in the same condition with the rest of those little embryos that appeared in the shells, this being the method of their generation; and that, consequently, all the rest of this odd kind of fruit might be crabs in due time. To strengthen my conjecture, I have resolved to keep the weed in salt water, renewing it every day till we come on shore, by this experiment to see whether any more crabs will be produced or not in this manner.

I remember that the last calm we had, we took notice of a large crab upon the surface of the sea, swimming from one branch of weed to another, which he seemed to prey upon; and I likewise recollect that at Boston, in New England, I have often seen small crabs with a shell like a snail’s upon their backs, crawling about in the salt water; and likewise at Portsmouth in England. It is likely, Nature has provided this hard shell to secure them till their own proper shell has acquired a sufficient hardness, which, once perfected, they quit their old habitation and venture abroad safe in their own strength. The various changes that silkworms, butterflies, and Edition: current; Page: [134] several other insects go through, make such alterations and metamorphoses not improbable. This day the captain of the Snow and one of his passengers came on board us; but the wind beginning to blow, they did not stay to dinner, but returned to their own vessel.

Thursday, September 29th.—Upon shifting the water in which I had put the weed yesterday, I found another crab, much smaller than the former, who seemed to have newly left his habitation. But the weed begins to wither, and the rest of the embryos are dead. This new-comer fully convinces me, that at least this sort of crabs are generated in this manner. The Snow’s captain dined on board us this day. Little or no wind.

Friday, September 30th.—I sat up last night to observe an eclipse of the moon, which the calendar, calculated for London, informed us would happen at five o’clock in the morning, September 30th. It began with us about eleven last night, and continued till near two this morning, darkening her body about six digits, or one half; the middle of it being about half an hour after twelve, by which we may discover that we are in a meridian of about four hours and a half from London, or 67½ degrees of longitude, and consequently have not much above one hundred leagues to run. This is the second eclipse we have had within these fifteen days. We lost our consort in the night, but saw him again this morning near two leagues to the windward. This afternoon we spoke with him again. We have had abundance of dolphins about us these three or four days; but we Edition: current; Page: [135] have not taken any more than one, they being shy of the bait. I took in some more gulf-weed to-day with the boat-hook, with shells upon it like that before mentioned, and three living perfect crabs, each less than the nail of my little finger. One of them had something particularly observable, to wit, a thin piece of the white shell which I before noticed as their covering while they remained in the condition of embryos, sticking close to his natural shell upon his back. This sufficiently confirms me in my opinion of the manner of their generation. I have put this remarkable crab with a piece of the gulf-weed, shells, &c. into a glass phial, filled with salt water, (for want of spirits of wine,) in hopes to preserve the curiosity till I come on shore. The wind is southwest.

Saturday, October 1st.—Last night our consort, who goes incomparably better upon a wind than our vessel, got so far to windward and ahead of us, that this morning we could see nothing of him, and it is like shall see him no more. These southwests are hot, damp winds, and bring abundance of rain and dirty weather with them.

Sunday, October 2d.—Last night we prepared our line with a design to sound this morning at four o’clock; but the wind coming about again to the northwest, we let it alone. I cannot help fancying the water is changed a little, as is usual when a ship comes within soundings, but it is probable I am mistaken; for there is but one besides myself of my opinion, and we are very apt to believe what we wish to be true.

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Monday, October 3d.—The water is now very visibly changed to the eyes of all except the captain and the mate, and they will by no means allow it; I suppose because they did not see it first. Abundance of dolphins are about us, but they are very shy and keep at a distance. Wind northwest.

Tuesday, October 4th.—Last night we struck a dolphin, and this morning we found a flying-fish dead under the windlass. He is about the bigness of a small mackerel, a sharp head, a small mouth, and a tail forked somewhat like a dolphin, but the lowest branch much larger and longer than the other, and tinged with yellow. His back and sides of a darkish blue, his belly white, and his skin very thick. His wings are of a finny substance, about a span long, reaching, when close to his body, from an inch below his gills to an inch above his tail. When they fly it is straight forward, (for they cannot readily turn,) a yard or two above the water; and perhaps fifty yards is the furthest before they dip into the water again, for they cannot support themselves in the air any longer than while their wings continue wet. These flying-fish are the common prey of the dolphin, who is their mortal enemy. When he pursues them, they rise and fly; and he keeps close under them till they drop, and then snaps them up immediately. They generally fly in flocks, four or five, or perhaps a dozen together, and a dolphin is seldom caught without one or more in his belly. We put this flying-fish upon the hook, in hopes of catching one, but in a few minutes they got it off without Edition: current; Page: [137] hooking themselves; and they will not meddle with any other bait.

Tuesday Night.—Since eleven o’clock we have struck three fine dolphins, which are a great refreshment to us. This afternoon we have seen abundance of grampuses, which are seldom far from land; but towards evening we had a more evident token, to wit, a little tired bird, something like a lark, came on board us, who certainly is an American, and ’t is likely was ashore this day. It is now calm. We hope for a fair wind next.

Wednesday, October 5th.—This morning we saw a heron, who had lodged aboard last night. It is a long-legged, long-necked bird, having, as they say, but one gut. They live upon fish, and will swallow a living eel thrice, sometimes, before it will remain in their body. The wind is west again. The ship’s crew was brought to a short allowance of water.

Thursday, October 6th.—This morning abundance of grass, rock-weed, &c., passed by us; evident tokens that land is not far off. We hooked a dolphin this morning, that made us a good breakfast. A sail passed by us about twelve o’clock, and nobody saw her till she was too far astern to be spoken with. ’T is very near calm; we saw another sail ahead this afternoon; but, night coming on, we could not speak with her, though we very much desired it; she stood to the northward, and it is possible might have informed us how far we are from land. Our artists on board are much at a loss. We hoisted our jack to her, but she took no notice of it.

Friday, October 7th.—Last night, about nine Edition: current; Page: [138] o’clock, sprung up a fine gale at northeast, which run us in our course at the rate of seven miles an hour all night. We were in hopes of seeing land this morning, but cannot. The water, which we thought was changed, is now as blue as the sky; so that, unless at that time we were running over some unknown shoal, our eyes strangely deceived us. All the reckonings have been out these several days; though the captain says ’t is his opinion we are yet a hundred leagues from land; for my part I know not what to think of it; we have run all this day at a great rate, and now night is come on we have no soundings. Sure the American continent is not all sunk under water since we left it.

Saturday, October 8th.—The fair wind continues still; we ran all night in our course, sounding every four hours, but can find no ground yet, nor is the water changed by all this day’s run. This afternoon we saw an Irish lord, and a bird which, flying, looked like a yellow duck. These, they say, are not seen far from the coast. Other signs of land have we none. Abundance of large porpoises ran by us this afternoon, and we were followed by a shoal of small ones, leaping out of the water as they approached. Towards evening we spied a sail ahead, and spoke with her just before dark. She was bound from New York for Jamaica, and left Sandy Hook yesterday about noon, from which they reckon themselves forty-five leagues distant. By this we compute that we are not above thirty leagues from our Capes, and hope to see land to-morrow.

Sunday, October 9th.—We have had the wind fair Edition: current; Page: [139] all the morning; at twelve o’clock we sounded, perceiving the water visibly changed, and struck ground at twenty-five fathoms, to our universal joy. After dinner one of our mess went up aloft to look out, and presently pronounced the long wished-for sound, LAND! LAND! In less than an hour we could descry it from the deck, appearing like tufts of trees. I could not discern it so soon as the rest; my eyes were dimmed with the suffusion of two small drops of joy. By three o’clock we were run in within two leagues of the land, and spied a small sail standing along shore. We would gladly have spoken with her, for our captain was unacquainted with the coast, and knew not what land it was that we saw. We made all the sail we could to speak with her. We made a signal of distress; but all would not do, the ill-natured dog would not come near us. Then we stood off again till morning, not caring to venture too near.

Monday, October 10th.—This morning we stood in again for land; and we, that had been here before, all agreed that it was Cape Henlopen; about noon we were come very near, and to our great joy saw the pilot-boat come off to us, which was exceeding welcome. He brought on board about a peck of apples with him; they seemed the most delicious I ever tasted in my life; the salt provisions we had been used to, gave them a relish. We had extraordinary fair wind all the afternoon, and ran above a hundred miles up the Delaware before ten at night. The country appears very pleasant to the eye, being covered with woods, except here and there Edition: current; Page: [140] a house and plantation. We cast anchor when the tide turned, about two miles below Newcastle, and there lay till the morning tide.

Tuesday, October 11th.—This morning we weighed anchor with a gentle breeze, and passed by Newcastle, whence they hailed us and bade us welcome. It is extreme fine weather. The sun enlivens our stiff limbs with his glorious rays of warmth and brightness. The sky looks gay, with here and there a silver cloud. The fresh breezes from the woods refresh us; the immediate prospect of liberty, after so long and irksome confinement, ravishes us. In short, all things conspire to make this the most joyful day I ever knew. As we passed by Chester, some of the company went on shore, impatient once more to tread on terra firma, and designing for Philadelphia by land. Four of us remained on board, not caring for the fatigue of travel when we knew the voyage had much weakened us. About eight at night, the wind failing us, we cast anchor at Redbank, six miles from Philadelphia, and thought we must be obliged to lie on board that night; but, some young Philadelphians happening to be out upon their pleasure in a boat, they came on board, and offered to take us up with them; we accepted of their kind proposal, and about ten o’clock landed at Philadelphia, heartily congratulating each other upon our having happily completed so tedious and dangerous a voyage. Thank God!

We landed in Philadelphia on the 11th of October, where I found sundry alterations. Keith was no Edition: current; Page: [141] longer governor, being superseded by Major Gordon. I met him walking the streets as a common citizen. He seem’d a little asham’d at seeing me, but pass’d without saying any thing. I should have been as much asham’d at seeing Miss Read, had not her friends, despairing with reason of my return after the receipt of my letter, persuaded her to marry another, one Rogers, a potter, which was done in my absence. With him, however, she was never happy, and soon parted from him, refusing to cohabit with him or bear his name, it being now said that he had another wife. He was a worthless fellow, tho’ an excellent workman, which was the temptation to her friends. He got into debt, ran away in 1727 or 1728, went to the West Indies, and died there. Keimer had got a better house, a shop well supply’d with stationery, plenty of new types, a number of hands, tho’ none good, and seem’d to have a great deal of business.

Mr. Denham took a store in Water-street, where we open’d our goods; I attended the business diligently, studied accounts, and grew, in a little time, expert at selling. We lodg’d and boarded together; he counsell’d me as a father, having a sincere regard for me. I respected and lov’d him, and we might have gone on together very happy; but, in the beginning of February, 1726/7, when I had just pass’d my twenty-first year, we both were taken ill. My distemper was a pleurisy, which very nearly carried me off. I suffered a good deal, gave up the point in my own mind, and was rather disappointed when I found myself recovering, regretting, in some degree, Edition: current; Page: [142] that I must now, some time or other, have all that disagreeable work to do over again. I forget what his distemper was; it held him a long time, and at length carried him off. He left me a small legacy in a nuncupative will, as a token of his kindness for me, and he left me once more to the wide world; for the store was taken into the care of his executors, and my employment under him ended.

My brother-in-law, Holmes, being now at Philadelphia, advised my return to my business; and Keimer tempted me, with an offer of large wages by the year, to come and take the management of his printing-house, that he might better attend his stationer’s shop. I had heard a bad character of him in London from his wife and her friends, and was not fond of having any more to do with him. I tri’d for farther employment as a merchant’s clerk; but, not readily meeting with any, I clos’d again with Keimer. I found in his house these hands: Hugh Meredith, a Welsh Pensilvanian, thirty years of age, bred to country work; honest, sensible, had a great deal of solid observation, was something of a reader, but given to drink. Stephen Potts, a young countryman of full age, bred to the same, of uncommon natural parts, and great wit and humor, but a little idle. These he had agreed with at extreme low wages per week, to be rais’d a shilling every three months, as they would deserve by improving in their business; and the expectation of these high wages, to come on hereafter, was what he had drawn them in with. Meredith was to work at press, Potts at book-binding, which he, by agreement, Edition: current; Page: [143] was to teach them, though he knew neither one nor t’other. John ——, a wild Irishman, brought up to no business, whose service, for four years, Keimer had purchased from the captain of a ship; he, too, was to be made a pressman. George Webb, an Oxford scholar, whose time for four years he had likewise bought, intending him for a compositor, of whom more presently; and David Harry, a country boy, whom he had taken apprentice.

I soon perceiv’d that the intention of engaging me at wages so much higher than he had been us’d to give, was, to have these raw, cheap hands form’d thro’ me; and, as soon as I had instructed them, then they being all articled to him, he should be able to do without me. I went on, however, very cheerfully, put his printing-house in order, which had been in great confusion, and brought his hands by degrees to mind their business and to do it better.

It was an odd thing to find an Oxford scholar in the situation of a bought servant. He was not more than eighteen years of age, and gave me this account of himself: that he was born in Gloucester, educated at a grammar-school there, had been distinguish’d among the scholars for some apparent superiority in performing his part, when they exhibited plays; belong’d to the Witty Club there, and had written some pieces in prose and verse, which were printed in the Gloucester newspapers; thence he was sent to Oxford; where he continued about a year, but not well satisfi’d, wishing of all things to see London, and become a player. At length, receiving his quarterly allowance of fifteen guineas, instead of discharging Edition: current; Page: [144] his debts he walk’d out of town, hid his gown in a furze bush, and footed it to London, where, having no friend to advise him, he fell into bad company, soon spent his guineas, found no means of being introduc’d among the players, grew necessitous, pawn’d his cloaths, and wanted bread. Walking the street very hungry, and not knowing what to do with himself, a crimp’s bill was put into his hand, offering immediate entertainment and encouragement to such as would bind themselves to serve in America. He went directly, sign’d indentures, was put into the ship, and came over, never writing a line to acquaint his friends what was become of him. He was lively, witty, good-natur’d, and a pleasant companion, but idle, thoughtless, and imprudent to the last degree.

John, the Irishman, soon ran away; with the rest I began to live very agreeably, for they all respected me the more, as they found Keimer incapable of instructing them, and that from me they learned something daily. We never worked on Saturday, that being Keimer’s Sabbath, so I had two days for reading. My acquaintance with ingenious people in the town increased. Keimer himself treated me with great civility and apparent regard, and nothing now made me uneasy but my debt to Vernon, which I was yet unable to pay, being hitherto but a poor œconomist. He, however, kindly made no demand of it.

Our printing-house often wanted sorts, and there was no letter-founder in America; I had seen types cast at James’s in London, but without much attention to the manner; however, I now contrived a Edition: current; Page: [145] mould, made use of the letters we had as puncheons, struck the matrices in lead, and thus supply’d in a pretty tolerable way all deficiencies. I also engrav’d several things on occasion; I made the ink; I was warehouseman, and everything, and, in short, quite a fac-totum.

But, however serviceable I might be, I found that my services became every day of less importance, as the other hands improv’d in the business; and, when Keimer paid my second quarter’s wages, he let me know that he felt them too heavy, and thought I should make an abatement. He grew by degrees less civil, put on more of the master, frequently found fault, was captious, and seem’d ready for an outbreaking. I went on, nevertheless, with a good deal of patience, thinking that his encumber’d circumstances were partly the cause. At length a trifle snapt our connections; for, a great noise happening near the court-house, I put my head out of the window to see what was the matter. Keimer, being in the street, look’d up and saw me, call’d out to me in a loud voice and angry tone to mind my business, adding some reproachful words, that nettled me the more for their publicity, all the neighbors who were looking out on the same occasion, being witnesses how I was treated. He came up immediately into the printing-house, continu’d the quarrel, high words pass’d on both sides, he gave me the quarter’s warning we had stipulated, expressing a wish that he had not been oblig’d to so long a warning. I told him his wish was unnecessary, for I would leave him that instant; and so, taking my hat, walk’d out of doors, Edition: current; Page: [146] desiring Meredith, whom I saw below, to take care of some things I left, and bring them to my lodgings.

Meredith came accordingly in the evening, when we talked my affair over. He had conceiv’d a great regard for me, and was very unwilling that I should leave the house while he remain’d in it. He dissuaded me from returning to my native country, which I began to think of; he reminded me that Keimer was in debt for all he possess’d; that his creditors began to be uneasy; that he kept his shop miserably, sold often without profit for ready money, and often trusted without keeping accounts; that he must therefore fail, which would make a vacancy I might profit of. I objected my want of money. He then let me know that his father had a high opinion of me, and, from some discourse that had pass’d between them, he was sure would advance money to set us up, if I would enter into partnership with him. “My time,” says he, “will be out with Keimer in the spring; by that time we may have our press and types in from London. I am sensible I am no workman; if you like it, your skill in the business shall be set against the stock I furnish, and we will share the profits equally.”

The proposal was agreeable, and I consented; his father was in town and approv’d of it; the more as he saw I had great influence with his son, had prevail’d on him to abstain long from dram-drinking, and he hop’d might break him of that wretched habit entirely, when we came to be so closely connected. I gave an inventory to the father, who carry’d it to a merchant; the things were sent for, Edition: current; Page: [147] the secret was to be kept till they should arrive, and in the mean time I was to get work, if I could, at the other printing-house. But I found no vacancy there, and so remain’d idle a few days, when Keimer, on a prospect of being employ’d to print some paper money in New Jersey, which would require cuts and various types that I only could supply, and apprehending Bradford might engage me and get the jobb from him, sent me a very civil message, that old friends should not part for a few words, the effect of sudden passion, and wishing me to return. Meredith persuaded me to comply, as it would give more opportunity for his improvement under my daily instructions; so I return’d, and we went on more smoothly than for some time before. The New Jersey jobb was obtain’d, I contriv’d a copper-plate press for it, the first that had been seen in the country; I cut several ornaments and checks for the bills. We went together to Burlington, where I executed the whole to satisfaction; and he received so large a sum for the work as to be enabled thereby to keep his head much longer above water.

At Burlington I made an acquaintance with many principal people of the province. Several of them had been appointed by the Assembly a committee to attend the press, and take care that no more bills were printed than the law directed. They were therefore, by turns, constantly with us, and generally he who attended brought with him a friend or two for company. My mind having been much more improv’d by reading than Keimer’s, I suppose it was for that reason my conversation seem’d to be more Edition: current; Page: [148] valu’d. They had me to their houses, introduced me to their friends, and show’d me much civility; while he, tho’ the master, was a little neglected. In truth, he was an odd fish, ignorant of common life, fond of rudely opposing receiv’d opinions, slovenly to extream dirtiness, enthusiastic in some points of religion, and a little knavish withal.

We continu’d there near three months; and by that time I could reckon among my acquired friends Judge Allen, Samuel Bustill, the secretary of the province, Isaac Pearson, Joseph Cooper, and several of the Smiths, members of Assembly, and Isaac Decow, the surveyor-general. The latter was a shrewd, sagacious old man, who told me that he began for himself, when young, by wheeling clay for the brickmakers; learned to write after he was of age, carri’d the chain for surveyors who taught him surveying and he had now by his industry acquir’d a good estate; and, says he, “I foresee that you will soon work this man out of his business, and make a fortune at it in Philadelphia.” He had not then the least intimation of my intention to set up there or anywhere. These friends were afterwards of great use to me, as I occasionally was to some of them. They all continued their regard for me as long as they lived.

Before I enter upon my public appearance in business, it may be well to let you know the then state of my mind with regard to my principles and morals, that you may see how far those influenc’d the future events of my life. My parents had early given me religious impressions, and brought me through my Edition: current; Page: [149] childhood piously in the Dissenting way. But I was scarce fifteen when, after doubting by turns of several points, as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle’s Lectures.1 It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist. My arguments perverted some others, particularly Collins and Ralph; but each of them having afterwards wrong’d me greatly without the least compunction, and recollecting Keith’s conduct towards me (who was another freethinker), and my own towards Vernon and Miss Read, which at times gave me great trouble, I began to suspect that this doctrine, tho’ it might Edition: current; Page: [150] be true, was not very useful. My London pamphlet,1 which had for its motto these lines of Dryden:

  • Whatever is, is right. Though purblind man
  • Sees but a part o’ the chain, the nearest link:
  • His eyes not carrying to the equal beam,
  • That poises all above;

and from the attributes of God, his infinite wisdom, goodness, and power, concluded that nothing could possibly be wrong in the world, and that vice and virtue were empty distinctions, no such things existing, appear’d now not so clever a performance as I once thought it; and I doubted whether some error had not insinuated itself unperceiv’d into my argument, so as to infect all that follow’d, as is common in metaphysical reasonings.

I grew convinc’d that truth, sincerity, and integrity in dealings between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life; and I form’d written resolutions, which still remain in my journal book, to practice them ever while I lived. Revelation had indeed no weight with me, as such; but I entertain’d an opinion that, though certain actions might not be bad because they were forbidden by it, or good because it commanded them, yet probably those actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded because they were beneficial to us, in their own natures, all the circumstances of things considered. And this persuasion, with the kind hand of Providence, or some guardian angel, or Edition: current; Page: [151] accidental favorable circumstances and situations, or all together, preserved me, thro’ this dangerous time of youth, and the hazardous situations I was sometimes in among strangers remote from the eye and advice of my father, without any willful gross immorality or injustice that might have been expected from my want of religion.1 I say willful, because the instances I have mentioned had something of necessity in them, from my youth, inexperience, and the knavery of others. I had therefore a tolerable character to begin with; I valued it properly, and determined to preserve it.

We had not been long return’d to Philadelphia before the new types arriv’d from London. We settled with Keimer, and left him by his consent before he heard of it. We found a house to hire near the market, and took it. To lessen the rent, which was then but twenty-four pounds a year, though I have since known it to let for seventy, we took in Thomas Godfrey, a glazier, and his family, who were to pay a considerable part of it to us, and we to board with them. We had scarce opened our letters and put our press in order, before George House, an acquaintance of mine, brought a countryman to see us, whom he had met in the street inquiring for a printer. All our cash was now expended in the variety of particulars we had been obliged to procure, and this countryman’s five shillings, Edition: current; Page: [152] being our first-fruits, and coming so seasonably, gave me more pleasure than any crown I have since earned; and the gratitude I felt toward House has made me often more ready than perhaps I should otherwise have been to assist young beginners.

There are croakers in every country, always boding its ruin. Such a one then lived in Philadelphia; a person of note, an elderly man with a wise look and a very grave manner of speaking; his name was Samuel Mickle. This gentleman, a stranger to me, stopt one day at my door, and asked me if I was the young man who had lately opened a new printing-house. Being answered in the affirmative, he said he was sorry for me, because it was an expensive undertaking and the expense would be lost; for Philadelphia was a sinking place, the people already half bankrupts or near being so; all appearances to the contrary, such as new buildings and the rise of rents, being to his certain knowledge fallacious; for they were, in fact, among the things that would soon ruin us. And he gave me such a detail of misfortunes now existing, or that were soon to exist, that he left me half melancholy. Had I known him before I engaged in this business, probably I never should have done it. This man continued to live in this decaying place, and to declaim in the same strain, refusing for many years to buy a house there, because all was going to destruction; and at last I had the pleasure of seeing him give five times as much for one as he might have bought it for when he first began his croaking.

I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn Edition: current; Page: [153] of the preceding year, I had form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement which we called the Junto; we met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member in his turn should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute or desire of victory; and, to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions or direct contradiction were after some time made contraband and prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.

The first members were Joseph Breintnal, a copyer of deeds for the scriveners, a good-natur’d, friendly, middle-ag’d man, a great lover of poetry, reading all he could meet with, and writing some that was tolerable; very ingenious in many little Nicknackeries, and of sensible conversation.

Thomas Godfrey, a self-taught mathematician, great in his way, and afterward inventor of what is now called Hadley’s Quadrant. But he knew little out of his way, and was not a pleasing companion; as, like most great mathematicians I have met with, he expected universal precision in every thing said, or was for ever denying or distinguishing upon trifles, to the disturbance of all conversation. He soon left us.

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Nicholas Scull, a surveyor, afterward surveyor-general, who lov’d books and sometimes made a few verses.

William Parsons, bred a shoemaker, but, loving reading, had acquir’d a considerable share of mathematics, which he first studied with a view to astrology, that he afterwards laught at. He also became surveyor-general.

William Maugridge, a joiner, a most exquisite mechanic, and a solid, sensible man.

Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, and George Webb I have characteriz’d before.

Robert Grace, a young gentleman of some fortune, generous, lively, and witty; a lover of punning and of his friends.

And William Coleman, then a merchant’s clerk, about my age, who had the coolest, clearest head, the best heart, and the exactest morals of almost any man I ever met with. He became afterwards a merchant of great note, and one of our provincial judges. Our friendship continued without interruption to his death, upward of forty years; and the club continued almost as long, and was the best school of philosophy, morality, and politics that then existed in the province; for our queries, which were read the week preceding their discussion, put us upon reading with attention upon the several subjects, that we might speak more to the purpose; and here, too, we acquired better habits of conversation, every thing being studied in our rules which might prevent our disgusting each other. From hence the long continuance of the club, which Edition: current; Page: [155] I shall have frequent occasion to speak further of hereafter.1

But my giving this account of it here is to show something of the interest I had, every one of these exerting themselves in recommending business to us. Breintnal particularly, procur’d us from the Quakers Edition: current; Page: [156] the printing forty sheets of their history, the rest being to be done by Keimer; and upon this we work’d exceedingly hard, for the price was low. It was a folio, pro patria size in pica, with long primer notes. I compos’d of it a sheet a day, and Meredith worked it off at press; it was often eleven at night, and sometimes later, before I had finished my distribution for the next day’s work, for the little jobbs sent in by our other friends now and then put us back. But so determin’d I was to continue doing a sheet a day of the folio, that one night, when, having impos’d my forms, I thought my day’s work over, one of them by accident was broken, and two pages reduced to pi, I immediately distributed and compos’d it over again before I went to bed; and this industry, visible to our neighbors, began to give us character and credit; particularly, I was told, that mention being made of the new printing-office at the merchants’ Every-night club, the general opinion was that it must fail, there being already two printers in the place, Keimer and Bradford; but Dr. Baird (whom you and I saw many years after at his native place, St. Andrew’s in Scotland) gave a contrary opinion: “For the industry of that Franklin,” says he, “is superior to any thing I ever saw of the kind; I see him still at work when I go home from club, and he is at work again before his neighbors are out of bed.” This struck the rest, and we soon after had offers from one of them to supply us with stationery; but as yet we did not choose to engage in shop business.

I mention this industry the more particularly and Edition: current; Page: [157] the more freely, tho’ it seems to be talking in my own praise, that those of my posterity, who shall read it, may know the use of that virtue, when they see its effects in my favour throughout this relation.

George Webb, who had found a female friend that lent him wherewith to purchase his time of Keimer, now came to offer himself as a journeyman to us. We could not then employ him; but I foolishly let him know as a secret that I soon intended to begin a newspaper, and might then have work for him. My hopes of success, as I told him, were founded on this, that the then only newspaper, printed by Bradford, was a paltry thing, wretchedly manag’d, no way entertaining, and yet was profitable to him; I therefore thought a good paper would scarcely fail of good encouragement. I requested Webb not to mention it; but he told it to Keimer, who immediately, to be beforehand with me, published proposals for printing one himself, on which Webb was to be employ’d. I resented this; and, to counteract them, as I could not yet begin our paper, I wrote several pieces of entertainment for Bradford’s paper, under the title of the Busy Body which Breintnal continu’d some months. By this means the attention of the publick was fixed on that paper, and Keimer’s proposals, which we burlesqu’d and ridicul’d, were disregarded. He began his paper, however, and, after carrying it on three quarters of a year, with at most, only ninety subscribers, he offer’d it to me for a trifle; and I, having been ready some time to go on with it, took Edition: current; Page: [158] it in hand directly; and it prov’d in a few years extremely profitable to me.1

I perceive that I am apt to speak in the singular Edition: current; Page: [159] number, though our partnership still continu’d; the reason may be that, in fact, the whole management of the business lay upon me. Meredith was no Edition: current; Page: [160] compositor, a poor pressman, and seldom sober. My friends lamented my connection with him, but I was to make the best of it.

Our first papers made a quite different appearance from any before in the province; a better type, and better printed; but some spirited remarks of my writing1 on the dispute then going on between Governor Burnet and the Massachusetts Assembly, struck the principal people, occasioned the paper Edition: current; Page: [161] and the manager of it to be much talk’d of, and in a few weeks brought them all to be our subscribers.

Their example was follow’d by many, and our number went on growing continually. This was one of the first good effects of my having learnt a little to scribble; another was, that the leading men, seeing a newspaper now in the hands of one who could also handle a pen, thought it convenient to oblige and encourage me. Bradford still printed the votes, and laws, and other publick business. He had printed an address of the House to the governor, in a coarse, blundering manner; we reprinted it elegantly and correctly, and sent one to every member. They were sensible of the difference; it strengthened the hands Edition: current; Page: [162] of our friends in the House, and they voted us their printers for the year ensuing.

Among my friends in the House I must not forget Mr. Hamilton, before mentioned, who was then returned from England, and had a seat in it. He interested himself for me strongly in that instance, as he did in many others afterward, continuing his patronage till his death.1

Mr. Vernon, about this time, put me in mind of the debt I ow’d him, but did not press me. I wrote him an ingenuous letter of acknowledgment, crav’d his forbearance a little longer, which he allow’d me, and as soon as I was able, I paid the principal with interest, and many thanks; so that erratum was in some degree corrected.

But now another difficulty came upon me which I had never the least reason to expect. Mr. Meredith’s father, who was to have paid for our printing-house, according to the expectations given me, was able to advance only one hundred pounds currency, which had been paid; and a hundred more was due to the merchant, who grew impatient, and su’d us all. We gave bail, but saw that, if the money could not be rais’d in time, the suit must soon come to a judgment and execution, and our hopeful prospects must, with us, be ruin’d, as the press and letters must be sold for payment, perhaps at half price.

In this distress two true friends, whose kindness I have never forgotten, nor ever shall forget while I can remember any thing, came to me separately, unknown to each other and without any application Edition: current; Page: [163] from me, offering each of them to advance me all the money that should be necessary to enable me to take the whole business upon myself, if that should be practicable; but they did not like my continuing the partnership with Meredith, who, as they said, was often seen drunk in the streets, and playing at low games in alehouses, much to our discredit. These two friends were William Coleman and Robert Grace. I told them I could not propose a separation while any prospect remain’d of the Merediths’ fulfilling their part of our agreement, because I thought myself under great obligations to them for what they had done, and would do if they could; but, if they finally fail’d in their performance, and our partnership must be dissolv’d, I should then think myself at liberty to accept the assistance of my friends.

Thus the matter rested for some time, when I said to my partner: “Perhaps your father is dissatisfied at the part you have undertaken in this affair of ours, and is unwilling to advance for you and me what he would for you alone. If that is the case, tell me, and I will resign the whole to you, and go about my business.” “No,” said he, “my father has really been disappointed, and is really unable; and I am unwilling to distress him farther. I see this is a business I am not fit for. I was bred a farmer, and it was a folly in me to come to town, and put myself, at thirty years of age, an apprentice to learn a new trade. Many of our Welsh people are going to settle in North Carolina where land is cheap. I am inclin’d to go with them, and follow my old employment. You may find friends to assist you. If you will take Edition: current; Page: [164] the debts of the company upon you; return to my father the hundred pound he has advanced; pay my little personal debts and give me thirty pounds and a new saddle, I will relinquish the partnership, and leave the whole in your hands.” I agreed to this proposal; it was drawn up in writing, sign’d and seal’d immediately. I gave him what he demanded, and he went soon after to Carolina, from whence he sent me next year two long letters containing the best account that had been given of that country, the climate, the soil, husbandry, etc., for in those matters he was very judicious. I printed them in the papers, and they gave great satisfaction to the publick.

As soon as he was gone I recurr’d to my two friends; and because I would not give an unkind preference to either I took half of what each had offered and I wanted of one, and half of the other; paid off the company’s debts and went on with the business in my own name, advertising that the partnership was dissolved. I think this was in or about the year 1729.1

About this time there was a cry among the people for more paper money, only fifteen thousand pounds being extant in the province, and that soon to be sunk. The wealthy inhabitants oppos’d any addition, being against all paper currency, from an apprehension that it would depreciate, as it had done in New England, to the prejudice of all creditors. We had discuss’d this point in our Junto where I was on Edition: current; Page: [165] the side of an addition, being persuaded that the first small sum struck in 1723 had done much good by increasing the trade, employment, and number of inhabitants in the province, since I now saw all the old houses inhabited, and many new ones building; whereas I remembered well, that when I first walk’d about the streets of Philadelphia, eating my roll, I saw most of the houses in Walnut-street, between Second and Front streets, with bills on their doors, “To be let”; and many likewise in Chestnut-street and other streets, which made me then think the inhabitants of the city were deserting it one after another.

Our debates possess’d me so fully of the subject, that I wrote and printed an anonymous pamphlet on it, entitled The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency. It was well receiv’d by the common people in general; but the rich men dislik’d it, for it increas’d and strengthen’d the clamor for more money, and they happening to have no writers among them that were able to answer it, their opposition slacken’d, and the point was carried by a majority in the House. My friends there who conceiv’d I had been of some service, thought fit to reward me by employing me in printing the money; a very profitable jobb and a great help to me. This was another advantage gain’d by my being able to write.

The utility of this currency became by time and experience so evident as never afterwards to be much disputed; so that it grew soon to fifty-five thousand pounds, and in 1739 to eighty thousand pounds, Edition: current; Page: [166] since which it arose during the war to upwards of three hundred and fifty thousand pounds, trade, building, and inhabitants all the while increasing, tho’ I now think there are limits beyond which the quantity may be hurtful.

I soon after obtain’d, thro’ my friend Hamilton, the printing of the Newcastle paper money, another profitable jobb as I then thought it; small things appearing great to those in small circumstances; and these, to me, were really great advantages as they were great encouragements. He procured for me, also the printing of the laws and votes of that government, which continu’d in my hands as long as I follow’d the business.

I now open’d a little stationer’s shop. I had in it blanks of all sorts, the correctest that ever appear’d among us, being assisted in that by my friend Breintnal. I had also paper, parchment, chapmen’s books, etc. One Whitemash, a compositor I had known in London, an excellent workman, now came to me, and work’d with me constantly and diligently; and I took an apprentice, the son of Aquila Rose.

I began now gradually to pay off the debt I was under for the printing-house. In order to secure my credit and character as a tradesman, I took care not only to be in reality industrious and frugal, but to avoid all appearances to the contrary. I drest plainly; I was seen at no places of idle diversion. I never went out a fishing or shooting; a book, indeed, sometimes debauch’d me from my work, but that was seldom, snug, and gave no scandal; and, to show that I was not above my business, I sometimes Edition: current; Page: [167] brought home the paper I purchas’d at the stores thro’ the streets on a wheelbarrow. Thus being esteem’d an industrious, thriving young man, and paying duly for what I bought, the merchants who imported stationery solicited my custom; others proposed supplying me with books, and I went on swimmingly. In the mean time, Keimer’s credit and business declining daily, he was at last forc’d to sell his printing-house to satisfy his creditors. He went to Barbadoes, and there lived some years in very poor circumstances.

His apprentice, David Harry, whom I had instructed while I work’d with him, set up in his place at Philadelphia, having bought his materials. I was at first apprehensive of a powerful rival in Harry, as his friends were very able, and had a good deal of interest. I therefore propos’d a partnership to him, which he, fortunately for me, rejected with scorn. He was very proud, dressed like a gentleman, liv’d expensively, took much diversion and pleasure abroad, ran in debt, and neglected his business; upon which, all business left him; and, finding nothing to do, he follow’d Keimer to Barbadoes, taking the printing-house with him. There this apprentice employ’d his former master as a journeyman; they quarrel’d often; Harry went continually behindhand, and at length was forc’d to sell his types and return to his country work in Pensilvania. The person that bought them employ’d Keimer to use them, but in a few years he died.

There remained now no competitor with me at Philadelphia but the old one, Bradford; who was Edition: current; Page: [168] rich and easy, did a little printing now and then by straggling hands, but was not very anxious about the business. However, as he kept the post-office, it was imagined he had better opportunities of obtaining news; his paper was thought a better distributer of advertisements than mine, and therefore had many more, which was a profitable thing to him, and a disadvantage to me; for, tho’ I did indeed receive and send papers by the post, yet the publick opinion was otherwise, for what I did send was by bribing the riders, who took them privately, Bradford being unkind enough to forbid it, which occasion’d some resentment on my part; and I thought so meanly of him for it, that, when I afterward came into his situation, I took care never to imitate it.

I had hitherto continu’d to board with Godfrey, who lived in part of my house with his wife and children, and had one side of the shop for his glazier’s business, tho’ he worked little, being always absorbed in his mathematics. Mrs. Godfrey projected a match for me with a relation’s daughter, took opportunities of bringing us often together, till a serious courtship on my part ensu’d, the girl being in herself very deserving. The old folks encourag’d me by continual invitations to supper, and by leaving us together, till at length it was time to explain. Mrs. Godfrey manag’d our little treaty. I let her know that I expected as much money with their daughter as would pay off my remaining debt for the printing-house, which I believe was not then above a hundred pounds. She brought me word they had no such Edition: current; Page: [169] sum to spare; I said they might mortgage their house in the loan-office. The answer to this, after some days, was, that they did not approve the match; that, on inquiry of Bradford, they had been inform’d the printing business was not a profitable one; the types would soon be worn out, and more wanted; that S. Keimer and D. Harry had failed one after the other, and I should probably soon follow them; and, therefore, I was forbidden the house, and the daughter shut up.

Whether this was a real change of sentiment or only artifice, on a supposition of our being too far engaged in affection to retract, and therefore that we should steal a marriage, which would leave them at liberty to give or withhold what they pleas’d, I know not; but I suspected the latter, resented it, and went no more. Mrs. Godfrey brought me afterward some more favorable accounts of their disposition, and would have drawn me on again; but I declared absolutely my resolution to have nothing more to do with that family. This was resented by the Godfreys; we differ’d, and they removed, leaving me the whole house, and I resolved to take no more inmates.

But this affair having turned my thoughts to marriage, I look’d round me and made overtures of acquaintance in other places; but soon found that, the business of a printer being generally thought a poor one, I was not to expect money with a wife, unless with such a one as I should not otherwise think agreeable. In the mean time, that hard-to-be-governed passion of youth hurried me frequently into Edition: current; Page: [170] intrigues with low women that fell in my way, which were attended with some expense and great inconvenience, besides a continual risque to my health by a distemper which of all things I dreaded, though by great good luck I escaped it. A friendly correspondence as neighbors and old acquaintances had continued between me and Mrs. Read’s family, who all had a regard for me from the time of my first lodging in their house. I was often invited there and consulted in their affairs, wherein I sometimes was of service. I piti’d poor Miss Read’s unfortunate situation, who was generally dejected, seldom cheerful, and avoided company. I considered my giddiness and inconsistency when in London as in a great degree the cause of her unhappiness, tho’ the mother was good enough to think the fault more her own than mine, as she had prevented our marrying before I went thither, and persuaded the other match in my absence. Our mutual affection was revived, but there were now great objections to our union. The match was indeed looked upon as invalid, a preceding wife being said to be living in England; but this could not easily be prov’d, because of the distance; and, tho’ there was a report of his death, it was not certain. Then, tho’ it should be true, he had left many debts, which his successor might be call’d upon to pay. We ventured, however, over all these difficulties, and I took her to wife, September 1st, 1730. None of the inconveniences happened that we had apprehended; she proved a good and faithful helpmate, assisted me much by attending the shop; we throve together, and have ever mutually endeavor’d to Edition: current; Page: [171] make each other happy. Thus I corrected that great erratum as well as I could.1

About this time, our club meeting, not at a tavern, but in a little room of Mr. Grace’s, set apart for that purpose, a proposition was made by me, that, since our books were often referr’d to in our disquisitions upon the queries, it might be convenient to us to have them altogether where we met, that upon occasion they might be consulted; and by thus clubbing our books to a common library, we should, while we lik’d to keep them together, have each of us the advantage of using the books of all the other members, which would be nearly as beneficial as if each owned the whole. It was lik’d and agreed to, and we fill’d one end of the room with such books as we could best spare. The number was not so great as we expected; and tho’ they had been of great use, yet some inconveniences occurring for want of due care of them, the collection, after about a year, was separated, and each took his books home again.

And now I set on foot my first project of a public nature, that for a subscription library. I drew up the proposals, got them put into form by our great scrivener, Brockden, and, by the help of my friends in the Junto, procured fifty subscribers of forty shillings each to begin with, and ten shillings a year for fifty years, the term our company was to continue. We afterwards obtain’d a charter, the company being increased to one hundred: this was the mother of all the North American subscription Edition: current; Page: [172] libraries, now so numerous. It is become a great thing itself, and continually increasing. These libraries have improved the general conversation of the Americans, made the common tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen from other countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the stand so generally made throughout the colonies in defence of their privileges.

Memo. Thus far was written with the intention express’d in the beginning and therefore contains several little family anecdotes of no importance to others. What follows was written many years after in compliance with the advice contain’d in these letters, and accordingly intended for the public. The affairs of the Revolution occasion’d the interruption.

Abel James
James, Abel
Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin


My Dear and Honored Friend:

I have often been desirous of writing to thee, but could not be reconciled to the thought, that the letter might fall into the hands of the British, lest some printer or busy-body should publish some part of the contents, and give our friend pain, and myself censure.

“Some time since there fell into my hands, to my great joy, about twenty-three sheets in thy own handwriting, containing an account of the parentage and life of thyself, directed to thy son, ending in the year 1730, with which there were notes, likewise in Edition: current; Page: [173] thy writing; a copy of which I inclose, in hopes it may be a means, if thou continued it up to a later period, that the first and latter part may be put together; and if it is not yet continued, I hope thee will not delay it. Life is uncertain, as the preacher tells us; and what will the world say if kind, humane, and benevolent Ben. Franklin should leave his friends and the world deprived of so pleasing and profitable a work; a work which would be useful and entertaining not only to a few, but to millions? The influence writings under that class have on the minds of youth is very great, and has nowhere appeared to me so plain, as in our public friend’s journals. It almost insensibly leads the youth into the resolution of endeavoring to become as good and eminent as the journalist. Should thine, for instance, when published (and I think it could not fail of it), lead the youth to equal the industry and temperance of thy early youth, what a blessing with that class would such a work be! I know of no character living, nor many of them put together, who has so much in his power as thyself to promote a greater spirit of industry and early attention to business, frugality, and temperance with the American youth. Not that I think the work would have no other merit and use in the world, far from it; but the first is of such vast importance that I know nothing that can equal it.”

The foregoing letter and the minutes accompanying it being shown to a friend, I received from him the following:

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Benjamin Vaughan
Vaughan, Benjamin
January 31, 1783
Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin


My Dearest Sir:

When I had read over your sheets of minutes of the principal incidents of your life, recovered for you by your Quaker acquaintance, I told you I would send you a letter expressing my reasons why I thought it would be useful to complete and publish it as he desired. Various concerns have for some time past prevented this letter being written, and I do not know whether it was worth any expectation; happening to be at leisure, however, at present, I shall by writing, at least, interest and instruct myself; but as the terms I am inclined to use may tend to offend a person of your manners, I shall only tell you how I would address any other person, who was as good and as great as yourself, but less diffident. I would say to him: Sir, I solicit the history of your life from the following motives: Your history is so remarkable, that if you do not give it, somebody else will certainly give it; and perhaps so as nearly to do as much harm, as your own management of the thing might do good. It will moreover present a table of the internal circumstances of your country, which will very much tend to invite to it settlers of virtuous and manly minds. And considering the eagerness with which such information is sought by them, and the extent of your reputation, I do not know of a more efficacious advertisement than your biography would give. All that has happened to you is also connected with the detail of the manners and situation of a rising people; and in this Edition: current; Page: [175] respect I do not think that the writings of Cæsar and Tacitus can be more interesting to a true judge of human nature and society. But these, sir, are small reasons, in my opinion, compared with the chance which your life will give for the forming of future great men; and in conjunction with your Art of Virtue (which you design to publish), of improving the features of private character, and consequently of aiding all happiness, both public and domestic. The two works I allude to, sir, will in particular give a noble rule and example of self-education. School and other education constantly proceed upon false principles, and show a clumsy apparatus pointed at a false mark; but your apparatus is simple, and the mark a true one; and while parents and young persons are left destitute of other just means of estimating and becoming prepared for a reasonable course in life, your discovery, that the thing is in many a man’s private power, will be invaluable! Influence upon the private character, late in life, is not only an influence late in life, but a weak influence. It is in youth that we plant our chief habits and prejudices; it is in youth that we take our party as to profession, pursuits, and matrimony. In youth, therefore, the turn is given; in youth the education even of the next generation is given; in youth the private and public character is determined; and the term of life extending but from youth to age, life ought to begin well from youth, and more especially before we take our party as to our principal objects. But your biography will not merely teach self-education, but the education of a wise man; and the wisest man will Edition: current; Page: [176] receive lights and improve his progress, by seeing detailed the conduct of another wise man. And why are weaker men to be deprived of such helps, when we see our race has been blundering on in the dark, almost without a guide in this particular, from the farthest trace of time? Show then, sir, how much is to be done, both to sons and fathers; and invite all wise men to become like yourself, and other men to become wise. When we see how cruel statesmen and warriors can be to the human race, and how absurd distinguished men can be to their acquaintance, it will be instructive to observe the instances multiply of pacific, acquiescing manners; and to find how compatible it is to be great and domestic, enviable and yet good-humored.

“The little private incidents which you will also have to relate, will have considerable use, as we want, above all things, rules of prudence in ordinary affairs; and it will be curious to see how you have acted in these. It will be so far a sort of key to life, and explain many things that all men ought to have once explained to them, to give them a chance of becoming wise by foresight. The nearest thing to having experience of one’s own, is to have other people’s affairs brought before us in a shape that is interesting; this is sure to happen from your pen; our affairs and management will have an air of simplicity or importance that will not fail to strike; and I am convinced you have conducted them with as much originality as if you had been conducting discussions in politics or philosophy; and what more worthy of Edition: current; Page: [177] experiments and system (its importance and its errors considered) than human life?

Some men have been virtuous blindly, others have speculated fantastically, and others have been shrewd to bad purposes; but you, sir, I am sure, will give under your hand nothing but what is at the same moment wise, practical, and good. Your account of yourself (for I suppose the parallel I am drawing for Dr. Franklin, will hold not only in point of character, but of private history) will show that you are ashamed of no origin; a thing the more important, as you prove how little necessary all origin is to happiness, virtue, or greatness. As no end likewise happens without a means, so we shall find, sir, that even you yourself framed a plan by which you became considerable; but at the same time we may see that though the event is flattering, the means are as simple as wisdom could make them; that is, depending upon nature, virtue, thought, and habit. Another thing demonstrated will be the propriety of every man’s waiting for his time for appearing upon the stage of the world. Our sensations being very much fixed to the moment, we are apt to forget that more moments are to follow the first, and consequently that man should arrange his conduct so as to suit the whole of a life. Your attribution appears to have been applied to your life, and the passing moments of it have been enlivened with content and enjoyment, instead of being tormented with foolish impatience or regrets. Such a conduct is easy for those who make virtue and themselves in countenance by examples of other truly great men, Edition: current; Page: [178] of whom patience is so often the characteristic. Your Quaker correspondent, sir (for here again I will suppose the subject of my letter resembling Dr. Franklin), praised your frugality, diligence, and temperance, which he considered as a pattern for all youth; but it is singular that he should have forgotten your modesty and your disinterestedness, without which you never could have waited for your advancement, or found your situation in the mean time comfortable; which is a strong lesson to show the poverty of glory and the importance of regulating our minds. If this correspondent had known the nature of your reputation as well as I do, he would have said: Your former writings and measures would secure attention to your Biography, and Art of Virtue; and your Biography and Art of Virtue, in return, would secure attention to them. This is an advantage attendant upon a various character, and which brings all that belongs to it into greater play; and it is the more useful, as perhaps more persons are at a loss for the means of improving their minds and characters, than they are for the time or the inclination to do it. But there is one concluding reflection, sir, that will shew the use of your life as a mere piece of biography. This style of writing seems a little gone out of vogue, and yet it is a very useful one; and your specimen of it may be particularly serviceable, as it will make a subject of comparison with the lives of various public cut-throats and intriguers, and with absurd monastic self-tormentors or vain literary triflers. If it encourages more writings of the same kind with your own, and Edition: current; Page: [179] induces more men to spent lives fit to be written, it will be worth all Plutarch’s Lives put together. But being tired of figuring to myself a character of which every feature suits only one man in the world, without giving him the praise of it, I shall end my letter, my dear Dr. Franklin, with a personal application to your proper self. I am earnestly desirous, then, my dear sir, that you should let the world into the traits of your genuine character, as civil broils may otherwise tend to disguise or traduce it. Considering your great age, the caution of your character, and your peculiar style of thinking, it is not likely that any one besides yourself can be sufficiently master of the facts of your life, or the intentions of your mind. Besides all this, the immense revolution of the present period will necessarily turn our attention towards the author of it, and when virtuous principles have been pretended in it, it will be highly important to shew that such have really influenced; and, as your own character will be the principal one to receive a scrutiny, it is proper (even for its effects upon your vast and rising country, as well as upon England and upon Europe) that it should stand respectable and eternal. For the furtherance of human happiness, I have always maintained that it is necessary to prove that man is not even at present a vicious and detestable animal; and still more to prove that good management may greatly amend him; and it is for much the same reason, that I am anxious to see the opinion established, that there are fair characters existing among the individuals of the race; for the moment that all men, without exception, Edition: current; Page: [180] shall be conceived abandoned, good people will cease efforts deemed to be hopeless, and perhaps think of taking their share in the scramble of life, or at least of making it comfortable principally for themselves. Take then, my dear sir, this work most speedily into hand: shew yourself good as you are good; temperate as you are temperate; and above all things, prove yourself as one, who from your infancy have loved justice, liberty, and concord, in a way that has made it natural and consistent for you to have acted, as we have seen you act in the last seventeen years of your life. Let Englishmen be made not only to respect, but even to love you. When they think well of individuals in your native country, they will go nearer to think well of your country; and when your countrymen see themselves well thought of by Englishmen, they will go nearer to thinking well of England. Extend your views even further; do not stop at those who speak the English tongue, but after having settled so many points in nature and politics, think of bettering the whole race of men. As I have not read any part of the life in question, but know only the character that lived it, I write somewhat at hazard. I am sure, however, that the life and the treatise I allude to (on the Art of Virtue) will necessarily fulfil the chief of my expectations; and still more so if you take up the measure of suiting these performances to the several views above stated. Should they even prove unsuccessful in all that a sanguine admirer of yours hopes from them, you will at least have framed pieces to interest the human mind; and whoever Edition: current; Page: [181] gives a feeling of pleasure that is innocent to man, has added so much to the fair side of a life otherwise too much darkened by anxiety and too much injured by pain. In the hope, therefore, that you will listen to the prayer addressed to you in this letter, I beg to subscribe myself, my dearest sir, etc., etc.,


Benj. Vaughan.


It is some time since I receiv’d the above letters, but I have been too busy till now to think of complying with the request they contain. It might, too, be much better done if I were at home among my papers, which would aid my memory, and help to ascertain dates; but my return being uncertain, and having just now a little leisure, I will endeavor to recollect and write what I can; if I live to get home, it may there be corrected and improv’d.

Not having any copy here of what is already written, I know not whether an account is given of the means I used to establish the Philadelphia public library, which, from a small beginning, is now become so considerable, though I remember to have come down to near the time of that transaction (1730). I will therefore begin here with an account of it, which may be struck out if found to have been already given.

At the time I establish’d myself in Pennsylvania, there was not a good bookseller’s shop in any of the Edition: current; Page: [182] colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York and Philad’a the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books. Those who lov’d reading were oblig’d to send for their books from England; the members of the Junto had each a few. We had left the alehouse, where we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in. I propos’d that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences, but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wish’d to read at home. This was accordingly done, and for some time contented us.

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I propos’d to render the benefit from books more common, by commencing a public subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a skilful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of agreement to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engag’d to pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry, to find more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund we began. The books were imported; the library was opened one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory Edition: current; Page: [183] notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns, and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, having no publick amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books, and in a few years were observ’d by strangers to be better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other countries.

When we were about to sign the above-mentioned articles, which were to be binding on us, our heirs, etc., for fifty years, Mr. Brockden, the scrivener, said to us: “You are young men, but it is scarcely probable that any of you will live to see the expiration of the term fix’d in the instrument.” A number of us, however, are yet living; but the instrument was after a few years rendered null by a charter that incorporated and gave perpetuity to the company.1

The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting the subscriptions, made me soon feel the impropriety of presenting one’s self as the proposer of any useful project, that might be suppos’d to raise one’s reputation in the smallest degree above that of one’s neighbors, when one has need of their assistance to accomplish that project. I therefore put myself as much as I could out of sight, and stated it as a scheme of a number of friends, who had requested me to go about and propose it to such as Edition: current; Page: [184] they thought lovers of reading. In this way my affair went on more smoothly, and I ever after practis’d it on such occasions; and, from my frequent successes, can heartily recommend it. The present little sacrifice of your vanity will afterwards be amply repaid. If it remains a while uncertain to whom the merit belongs, some one more vain than yourself will be encouraged to claim it, and then even envy will be disposed to do you justice by plucking those assumed feathers, and restoring them to their right owner.1

This library afforded me the means of improvement by constant study, for which I set apart an hour or two each day, and thus repair’d in some degree the loss of the learned education my father once intended for me. Reading was the only amusement I allow’d myself. I spent no time in taverns, games, or frolicks of any kind; and my industry in my business continu’d as indefatigable as it was necessary. I was indebted for my printing-house; I had a young family coming on to be educated, and I had to contend with for business, two printers who were established in the place before me. My circumstances, however, grew daily easier. My original habits of frugality continuing, and my father having, among his instructions to me when a boy, frequently repeated a proverb of Solomon: “Seest thou a man diligent in his calling, he shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men,” I from thence considered Edition: current; Page: [185] industry, as a means of obtaining wealth and distinction, which encourag’d me, tho’ I did not think that I should ever literally stand before kings, which, however, has since happened; for I have stood before five, and even had the honor of sitting down with one, the King of Denmark, to dinner.

We have an English proverb that says: “He that would thrive, must ask his wife.” It was lucky for me that I had one as much dispos’d to industry and frugality as myself. She assisted me cheerfully in my business, folding and stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old linen rags for the paper-makers, etc., etc. We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest. For instance, my breakfast was a long time bread and milk (no tea), and I ate it out of a twopenny earthen porringer, with a pewter spoon. But mark how luxury will enter families, and make a progress, in spite of principle: being call’d one morning to breakfast, I found it in a China bowl, with a spoon of silver! They had been bought for me without my knowledge by my wife, and had cost her the enormous sum of three-and-twenty shillings, for which she had no other excuse or apology to make, but that she thought her husband deserv’d a silver spoon and a China bowl as well as any of his neighbors. This was the first appearance of plate and China in our house, which afterward, in a course of years, as our wealth increas’d, augmented gradually to several hundred pounds in value.

I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; and tho’ some of the dogmas of that persuasion, such Edition: current; Page: [186] as the eternal decrees of God, election, reprobation, etc., appeared to me unintelligible, others doubtful, and I early absented myself from the public assemblies of the sect, Sunday being my studying day, I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; that he made the world, and govern’d it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. These I esteem’d the essentials of every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I respected them all, tho’ with different degrees of respect, as I found them more or less mix’d with other articles, which, without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, serv’d principally to divide us, and make us unfriendly to one another. This respect to all, with an opinion that the worst had some good effects, induc’d me to avoid all discourse that might tend to lessen the good opinion another might have of his own religion; and as our province increas’d in people, and new places of worship were continually wanted, and generally erected by voluntary contribution, my mite for such purpose, whatever might be the sect, was never refused.

Tho’ I seldom attended any public worship, I had still an opinion of its propriety, and of its utility when rightly conducted, and I regularly paid my annual subscription for the support of the only Presbyterian minister or meeting we had in Philadelphia. He us’d to visit me sometimes as a friend, and admonish Edition: current; Page: [187] me to attend his administrations, and I was now and then prevail’d on to do so, once for five Sundays successively. Had he been in my opinion a good preacher, perhaps I might have continued, notwithstanding the occasion I had for the Sunday’s leisure in my course of study; but his discourses were chiefly either polemic arguments, or explications of the peculiar doctrines of our sect, and were all to me very dry, uninteresting, and unedifying, since not a single moral principle was inculcated or enforc’d, their aim seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians than good citizens.

At length he took for his text that verse of the fourth chapter of Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, or of good report, if there be any virtue, or any praise, think on these things.” And I imagin’d, in a sermon on such a text, we could not miss of having some morality. But he confin’d himself to five points only, as meant by the apostle, viz.: 1. Keeping holy the Sabbath day. 2. Being diligent in reading the holy Scriptures. 3. Attending duly the publick worship. 4. Partaking of the Sacrament. 5. Paying a due respect to God’s ministers. These might be all good things; but, as they were not the kind of good things that I expected from that text, I despaired of ever meeting with them from any other, was disgusted, and attended his preaching no more. I had some years before compos’d a little Liturgy, or form of prayer, for my own private use (viz., in 1728), entitled Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion. I return’d to the use of this, and went no more to the Edition: current; Page: [188] public assemblies. My conduct might be blameable, but I leave it, without attempting further to excuse it; my present purpose being to relate facts, and not to make apologies for them.

It was about this time I conceiv’d the bold and arduous project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish’d to live without committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care was employ’d in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must be broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct. For this purpose I therefore contrived the following method.

In the various enumerations of the moral virtues I had met with in my reading, I found the catalogue more or less numerous, as different writers included more or fewer ideas under the same name. Temperance, for example, was by some confined to eating and drinking, while by others it was extended to mean the moderating every other pleasure, appetite, inclination, or passion, bodily or mental, even to Edition: current; Page: [189] our avarice and ambition. I propos’d to myself, for the sake of clearness, to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annex’d to each, than a few names with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of virtues all that at that time occurr’d to me as necessary or desirable, and annexed to each a short precept, which fully express’d the extent I gave to its meaning.

These names of virtues, with their precepts, were:

1.: Temperance

Eat not to dullness; drink not to elevation.

2.: Silence

Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

3.: Order

Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

4.: Resolution

Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5.: Frugality

Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i. e., waste nothing.

6.: Industry

Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

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7.: Sincerity

Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8.: Justice

Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9.: Moderation

Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10.: Cleanliness

Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.

11.: Tranquillity

Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12.: Chastity

Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

13.: Humility

Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these virtues, I judg’d it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should be master of that, then proceed to another, and so on till I had gone thro’ the thirteen; and, as Edition: current; Page: [191] 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, Edition: current; Page: [192] I contrived the following method for conducting that examination.

I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for Edition: current; Page: [193] 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.

Edition: current; Page: [194]
Form of the Pages
S. M. T. W. T. F. S.
S. * * * *
O. * * * * * * *
R. * *
F. * *
I. *

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, Edition: current; Page: [195] but works on one of the beds at a time, and, having accomplish’d the first, proceeds to a second, so I should have, I hoped, the encouraging pleasure of seeing on my pages the progress I made in virtue, by clearing successively my lines of their spots, till in the end, by a number of courses, I should be happy in viewing a clean book, after a thirteen weeks’ daily examination.

This my little book had for its motto these lines from Addison’s Cato:

  • Here will I hold. If there ’s a power above us
  • (And that there is, all nature cries aloud
  • Thro’ all her works), He must delight in virtue;
  • And that which He delights in must be happy.

Another from Cicero,

O 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. Edition: current; Page: [196] 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.:

  • Father of light and life, thou Good Supreme!
  • O teach me what is good; teach me Thyself!
  • Save me from folly, vanity, and vice,
  • From every low pursuit; and fill my soul
  • With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure;
  • Sacred, substantial, never-fading bliss!

The precept of Order requiring that every part of my business should have its allotted time, one page in my little book contain’d the following scheme of employment for the twenty-four hours of a natural day.

THE MORNING. { 5 } Rise, wash, and address Powerful Goodness! Contrive day’s business, and take the resolution of the day; prosecute the present study, and breakfast.
Question. What good shall I do this day? { 6 }
{ 7 }
8 } Work.
9 }
10 }
11 }
NOON. { 12 } Read, or overlook my accounts, and dine.
{ 1 }
2 } Work.
3 }
4 }
5 }
EVENING. { 6 } Put things in their places. Supper. Music or diversion, or conversation. Examination of the day.
Question. What good have I done to-day? { 7 }
{ 8 }
{ 9 }
NIGHT. { 10 } Sleep.
{ 11 }
{ 12 }
{ 1 }
{ 2 }
{ 3 }
{ 4 }
Edition: current; Page: [197]

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, Edition: current; Page: [198] 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.

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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 Edition: current; Page: [200] 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 Edition: current; Page: [201] 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.

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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 Edition: current; Page: [203] 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.

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That the different views of these different parties occasion all confusion.

That while a party is carrying on a general design, each man has his particular private interest in view.

That as soon as a party has gain’d its general point, each member becomes intent upon his particular interest; which, thwarting others, breaks that party into divisions, and occasions more confusion.

That few in public affairs act from a meer view of the good of their country, whatever they may pretend; and, tho’ their actings bring real good to their country, yet men primarily considered that their own and their country’s interest was united, and did not act from a principle of benevolence.

That fewer still, in public affairs, act with a view to the good of mankind.

There seems to me at present to be great occasion for raising a United Party for Virtue, by forming the virtuous and good men of all nations into a regular body, to be govern’d by suitable good and wise rules, which good and wise men may probably be more unanimous in their obedience to, than common people are to common laws.

I at present think that whoever attempts this aright, and is well qualified, can not fail of pleasing God, and of meeting with success.

B. F.”

Revolving this project in my mind, as to be undertaken hereafter, when my circumstances should afford me the necessary leisure, I put down from time to time on pieces of paper such thoughts as occurr’d to Edition: current; Page: [205] 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 Edition: current; Page: [206] 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’s Edition: current; Page: [207] Almanac. I endeavor’d to make it both entertaining and useful, and it accordingly came to be in such demand, that I reap’d considerable profit from it, vending annually near ten thousand.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 Edition: current; Page: [208] 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 Edition: current; Page: [209] 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 Edition: current; Page: [210] 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 Edition: current; Page: [211] 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 Edition: current; Page: [212] 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 Edition: current; Page: [213] 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 Edition: current; Page: [214] 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 Edition: current; Page: [215] 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, Edition: current; Page: [216] when I was again propos’d (the choice, like that of the members, being annual), a new member made a long speech against me in order to favour some other candidate. I was, however, chosen, which was the more agreeable to me as, besides the pay for the immediate service as clerk, the place gave me a better opportunity of keeping up an interest among the members, which secur’d to me the business of printing the votes, laws, paper money and other occasional jobbs for the public that, on the whole were very profitable.

I therefore did not like the opposition of this new member who was a gentleman of fortune and education, with talents that were likely to give him, in time, great influence in the House which, indeed, afterwards happened. I did not, however, aim at gaining his favour by paying any servile respect to him but, after some time, took this other method. Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book I wrote a note to him expressing my desire of perusing that book and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately and I return’d it in about a week with another note expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends and our friendship continued to his death. This is another instance of the truth of an old maxim I had learned, which says, “He that has once done you a kindness Edition: current; Page: [217] will be more ready to do you another than he whom you yourself have obliged.” And it shows how much more profitable it is prudently to remove, than to resent, return, and continue inimical proceedings.

In 1737, Colonel Spotswood, late governor of Virginia and then postmaster-general, being dissatisfied with the conduct of his deputy at Philadelphia respecting some negligence in rendering, and inexactitude of his accounts, took from him the commission and offered it to me. I accepted it readily and found it of great advantage; for, tho’ the salary was small, it facilitated the correspondence that improv’d my newspaper, increas’d the number demanded, as well as the advertisements to be inserted, so that it came to afford me a considerable income. My old competitor’s newspaper declin’d proportionably, and I was satisfy’d without retaliating his refusal while postmaster, to permit my papers being carried by the riders. Thus he suffer’d greatly from his neglect in due accounting: and I mention it as a lesson to those young men who may be employ’d in managing affairs for others, that they should always render accounts and make remittances with great clearness and punctuality. The character of observing such a conduct is the most powerful of all recommendations to new employments and increase of business.

I began now to turn my thoughts a little to public affairs, beginning, however, with small matters. The city watch was one of the first things that I conceiv’d to want regulation. It was managed by the constables of the respective wards in turn; the constable warned a number of housekeepers to attend him for Edition: current; Page: [218] 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 Edition: current; Page: [219] 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 Edition: current; Page: [220] 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, Edition: current; Page: [221] 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 Edition: current; Page: [222] 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, Edition: current; Page: [223] 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 Edition: current; Page: [224] 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 Edition: current; Page: [225] 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 Edition: current; Page: [226] 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 Edition: current; Page: [227] 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

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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 Edition: current; Page: [229] 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 Edition: current; Page: [230] 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 Edition: current; Page: [231] 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 Edition: current; Page: [232] 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 Edition: current; Page: [233] 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 Edition: current; Page: [234] 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 Edition: current; Page: [235] 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, Edition: current; Page: [236] 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 Edition: current; Page: [237] 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 Edition: current; Page: [238] 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 Edition: current; Page: [239] 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 Edition: current; Page: [240] 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 Edition: current; Page: [241] 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, Edition: current; Page: [242] 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 Edition: current; Page: [243] 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 Edition: current; Page: [244] 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 Edition: current; Page: [245] 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 Edition: current; Page: [246] 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 Edition: current; Page: [247] 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 Edition: current; Page: [248] 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 Edition: current; Page: [249] 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 Edition: current; Page: [250] 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 Edition: current; Page: [251] 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 Edition: current; Page: [252] 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 Edition: current; Page: [253] 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’ Edition: current; Page: [254] 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 Edition: current; Page: [255] 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 Edition: current; Page: [256] 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 Edition: current; Page: [257] 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 Edition: current; Page: [258] 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.

  • Look round the habitable world, how few
  • Know their own good, or, knowing it, pursue!

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. Edition: current; Page: [259] 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 Edition: current; Page: [260] 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 Edition: current; Page: [261] 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.

Edition: current; Page: [262]

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 Edition: current; Page: [263] 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 Edition: current; Page: [264] 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. Edition: current; Page: [265] 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:

Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
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 Edition: current; Page: [266] 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.

B. Franklin.
Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin

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 Edition: current; Page: [267] 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 Edition: current; Page: [268] 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,

B. Franklin.
Edition: current; Page: [269]

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 Edition: current; Page: [270] camp as soon as the waggons. They consisted of twenty parcels, each containing:

6 lbs. loaf sugar. 1 Gloucester cheese.
6 lbs. good Muscovado do. 1 kegg containing 20 lbs. good butter.
1 lb. good green tea.
1 lb. good bohea do. 2 doz. old Madeira wine.
6 lbs. good ground coffee. 2 gallons Jamaica spirits.
6 lbs. chocolate. 2 well-cur’d hams.
1-2 cwt. best white biscuit. 1 bottle flour of mustard.
1-2 lb. pepper. 1-2 dozen dry’d tongues.
1 quart best white wine vinegar. 6 lbs. rice.
6 lbs. raisins.

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 Edition: current; Page: [271] 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. Edition: current; Page: [272] 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 Edition: current; Page: [273] 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 Edition: current; Page: [274] 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 Edition: current; Page: [275] 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 Edition: current; Page: [276] 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 Edition: current; Page: [277] 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.

Edition: current; Page: [278]

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 Edition: current; Page: [279] 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 Edition: current; Page: [280] 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 Edition: current; Page: [281] 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.

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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 Edition: current; Page: [283] 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 Edition: current; Page: [284] 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 Edition: current; Page: [285] 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 Edition: current; Page: [286] 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 Edition: current; Page: [287] 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 Edition: current; Page: [288] 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 Edition: current; Page: [289] 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 Edition: current; Page: [290] 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 Edition: current; Page: [291] 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 Edition: current; Page: [292] 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 Philadelphia Edition: current; Page: [293] Experiments; 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 Edition: current; Page: [294] 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 Edition: current; Page: [295] 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 Edition: current; Page: [296] 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 Edition: current; Page: [297] 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.

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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 Edition: current; Page: [299] 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 Edition: current; Page: [300] 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: Edition: current; Page: [301] “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 Edition: current; Page: [302] 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 Edition: current; Page: [303] 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 Edition: current; Page: [304] 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 Edition: current; Page: [305] 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 Edition: current; Page: [306] 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 Edition: current; Page: [307] 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 Edition: current; Page: [308] 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; Edition: current; Page: [309] 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 Edition: current; Page: [310] 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 Edition: current; Page: [311] 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 Edition: current; Page: [312] 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 Edition: current; Page: [313] 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

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Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
2 June, 1725
Hans Sloane
Sloane, Hans



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,

B. Franklin.

P. S.—I expect to be out of town in two or three days, and therefore beg an immediate answer.

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Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
6 January, 1726-7
Jane Franklin
Franklin, Jane


Dear Sister:

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,

B. Franklin.
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  • Here will I hold—if there is a Pow’r above us
  • (And that there is, all Nature cries aloud
  • Thro’ all her Works) He must delight in Virtue——
  • And that which he delights in must be Happy.
  • Cato.

Part I


nov. 20, 1728

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I BELIEVE there is one Supreme most perfect Being, Author and Father of the Gods themselves.

For I believe that Man is not the most perfect Being but one, rather that as there are many degrees of Beings his Inferior, so there are many Degrees of Beings superior to him.

Also, when I stretch my Imagination thro’ and beyond our System of Planets, beyond the visible fix’d Stars themselves, into that Space that is every Way infinite, & conceive it fill’d with Suns like ours, each with a Chorus of Worlds for ever moving round him, then this little Ball on which we move, seems, even in my narrow Imagination, to be almost Nothing, and my self less than nothing, and of no sort of Consequence.

When I think thus, I imagine it great Vanity in me to suppose, that the Supremely Perfect does in the least regard such an inconsiderable Nothing as Man. More especially, since it is impossible for me to have any positive clear idea of that which is infinite and incomprehensible, I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no Worship or Praise from us, but that he is even infinitely above it.

But since there is in all Men something like a natural principle which enclines them to Devotion, or the Worship of some unseen Power;

And since Men are endued with Reason superior to all other Animals that we are in our World acquainted with;

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Therefore I think it seems required of me, and my Duty, as a Man, to pay Divine Regards to Something.

I conceive then, that the Infinite has created many beings or Gods, vastly superior to Man, who can better conceive his Perfections than we, and return him a more rational and glorious Praise.

As among Men, the Praise of the Ignorant or of Children is not regarded by the ingenious Painter or Architect, who is rather honour’d and pleased with the approbation of Wise Men & Artists.

It may be that these created Gods are immortal, or it may be that after many Ages they are changed, and Others supply their Places.

Howbeit, I conceive that each of these is exceeding wise, and good, and very powerful; and that Each has made for himself, one glorious Sun, attended with a beautiful and admirable System of Planets. It is that particular Wise and good God, who is the author and owner of our System, that I propose for the object of my praise and adoration.

For I conceive that he has in himself some of those Passions he has planted in us, and that, since he has given us Reason whereby we are capable of observing his Wisdom in the Creation, he is not above caring for us, being pleas’d with our Praise, and offended when we slight Him, or neglect his glory.

I conceive for many Reasons that he is a good Being, and as I should be happy to have so wise, good, and powerful a Being my friend let me consider in what manner I shall make myself most acceptable to him.

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Next to the Praise resulting from & due to his Wisdom, I believe he is pleas’d and delights in the Happiness of those he has created; and since without Virtue Man1 can have no Happiness in this World, I firmly believe he delights to see me Virtuous because he is pleas’d when he sees Me Happy.

And since he has created many Things which seem purely design’d for the Delight of Man, I believe he is not offended when he sees his Children solace themselves in any manner of pleasant exercises and Innocent Delights, and I think no Pleasure innocent that is to Man hurtful.

I love him therefore for his Goodness and I adore him for his Wisdom.

Let me then not fail to praise my God continually, for it is his Due, and it is all I can return for his many Favours and great Goodness to me; and let me resolve to be virtuous, that I may be happy, that I may please Him, who is delighted to see me happy. Amen.

1. adoration. 2. petition. 3. thanks.

Prel.—Being mindful that before I address the Deity my soul ought to be calm and serene, free from Passion and Perturbation, or otherwise elevated with Rational Joy and Pleasure, I ought to use a Countenance that expresses a filial Respect, mixed wth a kind of Smiling, that Signifies inward Joy and Satisfaction and Admiration.

O wise God,

My good Father,

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Thou beholdest the sincerity of my Heart, and of my Devotion;

Grant me a Continuance of thy Favour!


O Creator, O Father, I believe that thou art Good, and that thou art pleas’d with the Pleasure of thy children.

Praised be thy name for Ever.


By thy Power hast thou made the glorious Sun; with his attending Worlds; from the energy of thy mighty Will they first received [their prodigious] motion, and by thy Wisdom hast thou prescribed the wondrous Laws by which they move.

Praised be thy name for Ever.


By thy Wisdom hast thou formed all Things. Thou hast created Man, bestowing Life and Reason, and placed him in Dignity superior to thy other earthly Creatures.

Praised be thy name for Ever.


Thy Wisdom, thy Power, and thy Goodness are every where clearly seen; in the air and in the water, in the Heaven and on the Earth; Thou providest for the various winged Fowl, and the innumerable Inhabitants of the Water; Thou givest Cold and Heat, Rain and Sunshine in their Season, & to the Fruits of the Earth Increase.

Praised be thy name for Ever.

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Thou abhorrest in thy Creatures Treachery and Deceit, Malice, Revenge, | Intemperance, | and every other hurtful Vice; but Thou art a Lover of Justice and Sincerity, of Friendship, Benevolence, and every Virtue. Thou art my Friend, my Father, and my Benefactor.

Praised be thy name, O God, for Ever.


After this, it will not be improper to read part of some such Book as Ray’s Wisdom of God in the Creation, or Blackmore On the Creation, or the Archbishop of Cambray’s Demonstration of the Being of a God, &c., or else spend some Minutes in a serious Silence, contemplating on those subjects.

Then Sing


    • These are thy Glorious Works, Parent of Good!
    • Almighty; Thine this Universal Frame,
    • Thus wondrous fair! Thy self how wondrous then!
    • Speak ye who best can tell, Ye Sons of Light,
    • Angels, for ye behold him, and with Songs
    • And Choral Symphonies, Day without Night
    • Circle his Throne rejoicing. You in Heav’n.
    • On Earth, join all ye Creatures to extol
    • Him first, him last, him midst and without End.
    • Fairest of Stars, last in the Train of Night
    • If rather Thou belongst not to the Dawn,
    • Sure Pledge of Day! Thou crown’st the smiling Morn.
    • With thy bright Circlet; Praise him in thy Sphere
    • While Day arises, that sweet Hour of Prime.
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    • Thou Sun, of this Great World, both Eye and Son
    • Acknowledge him thy greater, Sound his Praise
    • In thy eternal Course; both when thou climb’st
    • And when high Noon hast gain’d, and when thou fall’st.
    • Moon! that now meet’st the orient Sun, now fly’st
    • With the fixed Stars, fixed in their orb that flies,
    • And ye five other wandering Fires, that move
    • In mystic Dance, not without Song; resound
    • His Praise, that out of Darkness called up Light.
    • Air! and ye Elements! the eldest Birth
    • Of Nature’s womb, that in Quaternion run
    • Perpetual Circle, multiform and mix
    • And nourish all things, let your ceaseless Change
    • Vary to our great Maker still new Praise
    • Ye mists and Exhalations that now rise
    • From Hill or steaming lake, dusky or grey,
    • Till the Sun paint your fleecy skirts with Gold
    • In honour to the World’s Great Author rise
    • Whether to deck with Clouds th : uncolour’d sky
    • Or wet the thirsty Earth wth falling Show’rs
    • Rising or falling still advance his Praise.
    • His Praise, ye Winds! that from 4 Quarters blow,
    • Breathe soft or Loud; and wave your Tops ye Pines!
    • With every Plant, in sign of worship wave.
    • Fountains! and ye that warble as ye flow
    • Melodious Murmurs, warbling tune his Praise
    • Join voices all ye living Souls, ye Birds!
    • That singing, up to Heaven’s high Gate ascend
    • Bear on your wings, & in your Note his Praise
    • Ye that in Waters glide! and ye that walk
    • The Earth! and stately tread or lowly creep;
    • Witness if I be silent Ev’n or Morn,
    • To Hill or Valley, Fountain or Fresh Shade
    • Made Vocal by my Song, and taught his Praise.
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Here follows the Reading of some Book or part of a Book Discoursing on and exciting to Moral Virtue.


Inasmuch as by Reason of our Ignorance We cannot be certain that many Things Which we often hear mentioned in the Petitions of Men to the Deity, would prove real Goods if they were in our Possession, and as I have reason to hope and believe that the Goodness of my Heavenly Father will not withold from me a suitable share of Temporal Blessings, if by a Virtuous and holy Life I conciliate his Favour and Kindness, Therefore I presume not to ask such things, but rather humbly and with a Sincere Heart express my earnest desires that he would graciously assist my Continual Endeavours and Resolutions of eschewing Vice and embracing Virtue; which Kind of Supplications will at least be thus far beneficial, as they remind me in a solemn manner of my Extensive


That I may be preserved from Atheism & Infidelity, Impiety and Profaneness, and in my Addresses to Thee carefully avoid Irreverence and ostentation, Formality and odious Hypocrisy,

Help me, O Father.

That I may be loyal to my Prince and faithful to my country, careful for its good, valiant in its defense, and obedient to its Laws, abhorring Treason as much as Tyranny,

Help me, O Father.

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That I may to those above me, be dutiful, humble, and submissive, avoiding Pride, Disrespect, and Contumacy,

Help me, O Father.

That I may to those below me, be gracious, Condescending, & Forgiving, using Clemency, protecting innocent Distress, avoiding Cruelty, Harshness, & oppression, Insolence and unreasonable Severity,

Help me, O Father.

That I may refrain from Censure, Calumny, & Detraction; that I may avoid and abhor Deceit and Envy, Fraud, Flattery, and Hatred, Malice, Lying and Ingratitude,

Help me, O Father.

That I may be sincere in Friendship, faithful in trust and Impartial in Judgment, watchful against Pride and against Anger (that momentary Madness),

Help me, O Father.

That I may be just in all my Dealings and temperate in my Pleasures, full of Candour and Ingenuity, Humanity and Benevolence,

Help me, O Father.

That I may be grateful to my Benefactors and generous to my Friends, exerting Charity and Liberality to the Poor and Pity to the Miserable,

Help me, O Father.

That I may avoid Avarice and Ambition, Jealousie and Intemperance, Falsehood, Luxury, and Lasciviousness,

Help me, O Father.

That I may possess Integrity and Evenness of Edition: current; Page: [328] Mind, Resolution in Difficulties, and Fortitude under affliction; that I may be punctual in performing my promises, Peaceable and prudent in my Behaviour,

Help me, O Father.

That I may have tenderness for the weak and a Reverent respect for the Ancient; that I may be Kind to my Neighbours, goodnatured to my companions and hospitable to strangers,

Help me, O Father.

That I may be averse to Tale bearing, Backbiting, Detraction, Slander, & Craft, and overreaching, abhor Extortion and Perjury and every Kind of wickedness,

Help me, O Father.

That I may be honest and open hearted, gentle, merciful, and good, cheerful in spirit, rejoicing in the Good of others,

Help me, O Father.

That I may have a constant Regard to Honour and Probity; That I may possess a perfect innocence and a good Conscience, and at length become Truly Virtuous and Magnanimous,

Help me, Good God.

Help me, O Father.


Whence does it proceed, that the proselytes to any sect or persuasion generally appear more zealous than those that are bred up in it?

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Answer. I suppose that people bred in different persuasions are nearly zealous alike. Then he that changes his party is either sincere or not sincere; that is, he either does it for the sake of the opinions merely, or with a view of interest. If he is sincere, and has no view of interest, and considers, before he declares himself, how much ill-will he shall have from those he leaves, and that those he is about to go among will be apt to suspect his sincerity; if he is not really zealous he will not declare, and therefore must be zealous if he does declare.

If he is not sincere, he is obliged at least to put on an appearance of great zeal, to convince the better his new friends that he is heartily in earnest; for his old ones, he knows, dislike him. And as few acts of zeal will be more taken notice of than such as are done against the party he has left, he is inclined to injure or malign them, because he knows they contemn and despise him. Hence, as the proverb says, One renegado is worse than ten Turks.

Sir:—It is strange that among men who are born for society and mutual solace there should be any who take pleasure in speaking disagreeable things to their acquaintance. But such there are, I assure you; and I should be glad if a little public chastisement might be any means of reforming them. These ill-natured people study a man’s temper, or the circumstances of his life, merely to know what disgusts him, and what he does not care to hear mentioned; and this they take care to omit no opportunity of disturbing him with. They communicate their Edition: current; Page: [330] wonderful discoveries to others, with an ill-natured satisfaction in their countenances; Say such a thing to such a man and you cannot mortify him worse. They delight (to use their own phrase) in seeing galled horses wince, and, like flies, a sore place is a feast to them. Know, ye wretches, that the meanest insect, the trifling musqueto, the filthy bug, have it in their power to give pain to men; but to be able to give pleasure to your fellow creatures requires good nature and a kind and humane disposition, joined with talents to which ye seem to have no pretension.

X. Y.

If a sound body and a sound mind, which is as much as to say, health and virtue, are to be preferred before all other considerations, ought not men, in choosing a business either for themselves or children, to refuse such as are unwholesome for the body, and such as make a man too dependent, too much obliged to please others, and too much subjected to their humors in order to be recommended and get a livelihood?

I am about courting a girl I have had but little acquaintance with. How shall I come to a knowledge of her faults, and whether she has the virtues I imagine she has?

Answer. Commend her among her female acquaintance.

The great secret of succeeding in conversation is to admire little, to hear much; always to distrust our Edition: current; Page: [331] own reason, and sometimes that of our friends; never to pretend to wit, but to make that of others appear as much as possibly we can; to hearken to what is said, and to answer to the purpose.

  • In vain are musty morals taught in schools
  • By rigid teachers and as rigid rules,
  • Where virtue with a frowning aspect stands,
  • And frights the pupil with her rough commands.
  • But woman . . .
  • Charming woman can true converts make,
  • We love the precepts for the teacher’s sake;
  • Virtue in her appears so bright and gay,
  • We hear with pleasure and with pride obey.



Have you read over these queries this morning, in order to consider what you might have to offer the Junto touching any one of them? viz.:

1. Have you met with any thing in the author you last read, remarkable or suitable to be communicated to the Junto, particularly in history, morality, Edition: current; Page: [332] poetry, physic, travels, mechanic arts, or other parts of knowledge?

2. What new story have you lately heard agreeable for telling in conversation?

3. Hath any citizen in your knowledge failed in his business lately, and what have you heard of the cause?

4. Have you lately heard of any citizen’s thriving well, and by what means?

5. Have you lately heard how any present rich man, here or elsewhere, got his estate?

6. Do you know of a fellow citizen who has lately done a worthy action deserving praise and imitation, or who has lately committed an error proper for us to be warned against and avoid?

7. What unhappy effects of intemperance have you lately observed or heard; of imprudence, of passion, or of any other vice or folly?

8. What happy effects of temperance, of prudence, of moderation, or of any other virtue?

9. Have you or any of your acquaintance been lately sick or wounded? If so, what remedies were used, and what were their effects?

10. Whom do you know that are shortly going voyages or journeys, if one should have occasion to send by them?

11. Do you think of any thing at present in which the Junto may be serviceable to mankind, to their country, to their friends, or to themselves?

12. Hath any deserving stranger arrived in town since last meeting, that you have heard of? And what have you heard or observed of his character or Edition: current; Page: [333] merits? And whether, think you, it lies in the power of the Junto to oblige him, or encourage him as he deserves?

13. Do you know of any deserving young beginner lately set up, whom it lies in the power of the Junto any way to encourage?

14. Have you lately observed any defect in the laws of your country, of which it would be proper to move the legislature for an amendment? Or do you know of any beneficial law that is wanting?

15. Have you lately observed any encroachment on the just liberties of the people?

16. Hath any body attacked your reputation lately? And what can the Junto do towards securing it?

17. Is there any man whose friendship you want, and which the Junto, or any of them, can procure for you?

18. Have you lately heard any member’s character attacked, and how have you defended it?

19. Hath any man injured you, from whom it is in the power of the Junto to procure redress?

20. In what manner can the Junto, or any of them, assist you in any of your honorable designs?

21. Have you any weighty affair on hand, in which you think the advice of the Junto may be of service?

22. What benefits have you lately received from any man not present?

23. Is there any difficulty in matters of opinion, of justice, and injustice, which you would gladly have discussed at this time?

Edition: current; Page: [334]

24. Do you see any thing amiss in the present customs or proceedings of the Junto which might be amended?

Any person to be qualified [as a member of the Junto], to stand up, and lay his hand upon his breast, and be asked these questions, viz.:

1. Have you any particular disrespect to any present members? Answer. I have not.

2. Do you sincerely declare that you love mankind in general, of what profession or religion soever? Answer. I do.

3. Do you think any person ought to be harmed in his body, name, or goods, for mere speculative opinions or his external way of worship? Answer. No.

4. Do you love truth for truth’s sake, and will you endeavour impartially to find and receive it yourself, and communicate it to others? Answer. Yes.



That P. S. and A. N. be immediately invited into the Junto.

That all new members be qualified by the four qualifications, and all the old ones take . . .

That these queries, copied at the beginning of a book, be read distinctly at each meeting; a pause Edition: current; Page: [335] between each, while one might fill and drink a glass of wine.

That if they cannot be gone through in one night, we begin the next where we left off; only such as particularly regard the Junto to be read every night.

That it be not hereafter the duty of any member to bring queries, but left to his discretion.

That an old declamation be read without fail every night, when there is no new one.

That Mr. Breintnal’s poem on the Junto be read once a month, and hummed in concert by as many as can hum it.

That in spring, summer, and fall the Junto meet once a month in the afternoon, in some proper place across the river, for bodily exercise.

That in the aforesaid book be kept minutes, thus:

Present, A. B., C. D., E. F., &c.

Figures denote queries answered. { 1. H. read this maxim, viz., or this experiment, viz., or, &c.
{ 5. Lately arrived one ——, of such a profession, or such a science, &c.
{ 7. X. Y. grew rich by this means, &c.

That these minutes be read once a year at the anniversary.

That all fines due be immediately paid in, and the penal laws for queries and declamations abolished; only he who is absent above ten times in a year to pay ten shillings toward the anniversary entertainment.

That the Secretary, for keeping the minutes, be Edition: current; Page: [336] allowed one shilling per night, to be paid out of the money already in his hands.

That after the queries are begun reading, all discourse foreign to them shall be deemed impertinent.

When any thing from reading an author is mentioned, if it exceed a line, and the Junto require it, the person shall bring the passage, or an abstract of it, the next night, if he has it not with him.

When the books of the library come, every member shall undertake some author, that he may not be without observations to communicate.


How shall we judge of the goodness of a writing? Or what qualities should a writing have to be good and perfect in its kind?

Answer. To be good, it ought to have a tendency to benefit the reader, by improving his virtue or his knowledge. But, not regarding the intention of the author, the method should be just; that is, it should proceed regularly from things known to things unknown, distinctly and clearly without confusion. The words used should be the most expressive that the language affords, provided that they are the most generally understood. Nothing should be expressed in two words that can be as well expressed in one; that is, no synonymes should be used, or very rarely, but the whole should be as short as possible, consistent with clearness; the words should be so placed as to be agreeable to the ear in reading; Edition: current; Page: [337] summarily, it should be smooth, clear, and short, for the contrary qualities are displeasing.

But, taking the query otherwise, an ill man may write an ill thing well; that is, having an ill design, he may use the properest style and arguments (considering who are to be readers) to attain his ends. In this sense, that is best wrote, which is best adapted for obtaining the end of the writer.

Can a man arrive at perfection in this life, as some believe; or is it impossible, as others believe?

Answer. Perhaps they differ in the meaning of the word perfection. I suppose the perfection of any thing to be only the greatest the nature of the thing is capable of. Different things have different degrees of perfection, and the same thing at different times. Thus, a horse is more perfect than an oyster, yet the oyster may be a perfect oyster, as well as the horse a perfect horse. And an egg is not so perfect as a chicken, nor a chicken as a hen; for the hen has more strength than the chicken, and the chicken more life than the egg; yet it may be a perfect egg, chicken, and hen.

If they mean a man cannot in this life be so perpect as an angel, it may be true; for an angel, by being incorporeal, is allowed some perfections we are at present incapable of, and less liable to some imperfections than we are liable to. If they mean a man is not capable of being so perfect here, as he is capable of being in heaven, that may be true likewise. But that a man is not capable of being as perfect here, as he is capable of being here, is not Edition: current; Page: [338] sense; it is as if I should say, a chicken, in the state of a chicken, is not capable of being so perfect as a chicken is capable of being in that state.

In the above sense, there may be a perfect oyster, a perfect horse, a perfect ship; why not a perfect man—that is, as perfect as his present nature and circumstances admit.


Wherein consists the happiness of a rational creature?


In having a sound mind and a healthy body, a sufficiency of the necessaries and conveniences of life, together with the favor of God and the love of mankind.


What do you mean by a sound mind?


A faculty of reasoning justly and truly in searching after such truths as relate to my happiness. This faculty is the gift of God, capable of being improved by experience and instruction into wisdom.


What is wisdom?


The knowledge of what will be best for us on all occasions, and the best ways of attaining it.


Is any man wise at all times and in all things?


No, but some are more frequently wise than others.


What do you mean by the necessaries of life?


Having wholesome food and drink wherewith to satisfy hunger and thirst, clothing, and a place of habitation fit to secure against the inclemencies of the weather.


What do you mean by the conveniences of life?


Such a plenty . . .

Edition: current; Page: [339]

Whether it is worth a rational man’s while to forego the pleasure arising from the present luxury of the age, in eating and drinking, and artful cookery, studying to gratify the appetite, for the sake of enjoying a healthy old age, a sound mind, and a sound body, which are the advantages reasonably to be expected from a more simple and temperate diet?

Whether those meats and drinks are not the best, that contain nothing in their natural taste, nor have any thing added by art, so pleasing as to induce us to eat or drink when we are not thirsty or hungry, or after thirst and hunger are satisfied; water, for instance, for drink, and bread or the like for meat?

Is there any difference between knowledge and prudence? If there is any, which of the two is most eligible?

Is it justifiable to put private men to death for the sake of public safety or tranquillity, who have committed no crime? As, in the case of the plague, to stop infection; or, as in the case of the Welshmen here executed?

If the sovereign power attempts to deprive a subject of his right (or, which is the same thing, of what he thinks his right), is it justifiable in him to resist, if he is able?

What general conduct of life is most suitable for men in such circumstances as most of the members of the Junto are? Or, of the many schemes of living which are in our power to pursue, which will be most probably conducive to our happiness?

Which is best, to make a friend of a wise and good Edition: current; Page: [340] man that is poor, or of a rich man that is neither wise nor good?

Which of the two is the greatest loss to a country if they both die?

Which of the two is happiest in life?

Does it not, in a general way, require great study and intense application for a poor man to become rich and powerful, if he would do it without the forfeiture of his honesty?

Does it not require as much pains, study, and application to become truly wise and strictly virtuous, as to become rich?

Can a man of common capacity pursue both views with success, at the same time?

If not, which of the two is it best for him to make his whole application to?

Whence comes the dew that stands on the outside of a tankard that has cold water in it in the summer time?

Does the importation of servants increase or advance the wealth of our country?

Would not an office of insurance for servants be of service, and what methods are proper for the erecting such an office?

Edition: current; Page: [341]
Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
February 4, 1728-9
Andrew Bradford
Bradford, Andrew


Mr. Andrew Bradford:

I design this to acquaint you that I, who have long been one of your courteous readers, have lately entertained some thought of setting up for an author myself; not out of the least vanity, I assure you, or desire of showing my parts, but purely for the good of my country.

I have often observed with concern that your Mercury is not always equally entertaining. The delay of ships expected in and want of fresh advices from Europe make it frequently very dull; and I find the freezing of our river has the same effect on news as trade. With more concern have I continually observed the growing vices and follies of my country-folk; and though reformation is properly the concern of every man, that is, every one ought to mend one; yet it is too true in this case, that what is everybody’s business is nobody’s business; and the Edition: current; Page: [342] business is done accordingly. I therefore, upon mature deliberation, think fit to take nobody’s business wholly into my own hands; and, out of zeal for the public good, design to erect myself into a kind of censor morum; purposing, with your allowance, to make use of the Weekly Mercury as a vehicle in which my remonstrances shall be conveyed to the world.

I am sensible I have in this particular undertaken a very unthankful office, and expect little besides my labor for my pains. Nay, it is probable I may displease a great number of your readers, who will not very well like to pay ten shillings a year for being told of their faults. But, as most people delight in censure when they themselves are not the objects of it, if any are offended at my publicly exposing their private vices, I promise they shall have the satisfaction, in a very little time, of seeing their good friends and neighbours in the same circumstances.

However, let the fair sex be assured that I shall always treat them and their affairs with the utmost decency and respect. I intend now and then to dedicate a chapter wholly to their service; and if my lectures any way contribute to the embellishment of their minds and brightening of their understandings, without offending their modesty, I doubt not of having their favor and encouragement.

It is certain that no country in the world produces naturally finer spirits than ours; men of genius for every kind of science, and capable of acquiring to perfection every qualification that is in esteem among mankind. But as few here have the advantage Edition: current; Page: [343] of good books, for want of which good conversation is still more scarce, it would doubtless have been very acceptable to your readers if, instead of an old out-of-date article from Muscovy or Hungary, you had entertained them with some well-chosen extract from a good author. This I shall sometimes do, when I happen to have nothing of my own to say that I think of more consequence. Sometimes I purpose to deliver lectures of morality or philosophy, and (because I am naturally inclined to be meddling with things that do not concern me) perhaps I may sometimes talk politics. And if I can by any means furnish out a weekly entertainment for the public that will give a rational diversion, and at the same time be instructive to the readers, I shall think my leisure hours well employed; and if you publish this, I hereby invite all ingenious gentlemen and others (that approve of such an undertaking) to my assistance and correspondence.

It is like by this time you have a curiosity to be acquainted with my name and character. As I do not aim at public praise, I design to remain concealed; and there are such numbers of our family and relations at this time in the country, that though I have signed my name at full length, I am not under the least apprehension of being distinguished and discovered by it. My character, indeed, I would favor you with, but that I am cautious of praising myself, lest I should be told my trumpeter ’s dead; and I cannot find in my heart at present to say any thing to my own disadvantage.

It is very common with authors, in their first Edition: current; Page: [344] performances, to talk to their readers thus: “If this meets with a suitable reception, or, if this should meet with due encouragement, I shall hereafter publish, &c.” This only manifests the value they put on their own writings, since they think to frighten the public into their applause, by threatening that, unless you approve what they have already wrote, they intend never to write again; when perhaps it may not be a pin matter whether they ever do or no. As I have not observed the critics to be more favorable on this account, I shall always avoid saying any thing of the kind; and conclude with telling you that, if you send me a bottle of ink and a quire of paper by the bearer, you may depend on hearing further from, Sir, your most humble servant,

The Busy-Body.
Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
February 11, 1728-9
Andrew Bradford
Bradford, Andrew


  • All fools have still an itching to deride,
  • And fain would be upon the laughing side.
  • Pope.

Monsieur de la Rochefoucault tells us somewhere in his Memoirs that the Prince of Condé delighted much in ridicule, and used frequently to shut himself up for half a day together in his chamber, with a gentleman that was his favorite, purposely to divert himself with examining what was the foible or ridiculous side of every noted person in the court. That gentleman said afterwards in some company, that he thought nothing was more ridiculous in anybody Edition: current; Page: [345] than this same humor in the Prince; and I am somewhat inclined to be of this opinion. The general tendency there is among us to this embellishment, which I fear has too often grossly imposed upon my loving countrymen instead of wit, and the applause it meets with from a rising generation, fill me with fearful apprehensions for the future reputation of my country. A young man of modesty (which is the most certain indication of large capacities) is hereby discouraged from attempting to make any figure in life; his apprehensions of being out-laughed will force him to continue in a restless obscurity, without having an opportunity of knowing his own merit himself or discovering it to the world, rather than venture to oppose himself in a place where a pun or a sneer shall pass for wit, noise for reason, and the strength of the argument be judged by that of the lungs.

Among these witty gentlemen let us take a view of Ridentius. What a contemptible figure does he make with his train of paltry admirers! This wight shall give himself an hour’s diversion with the cock of a man’s hat, the heels of his shoes, an unguarded expression in his discourse, or even some personal defect; and the height of his low ambition is to put some one of the company to the blush, who perhaps must pay an equal share of the reckoning with himself. If such a fellow makes laughing the sole end and purpose of his life; if it is necessary to his constitution, or if he has a great desire of growing suddenly fat, let him eat; let him give public notice where any dull stupid rogues may get a quart of Edition: current; Page: [346] four-penny for being laughed at; but it is barbarously unhandsome, when friends meet for the benefit of conversation and a proper relaxation from business, that one should be the butt of the company, and four men made merry at the cost of the fifth.

How different from this character is that of the good-natured, gay Eugenius, who never spoke yet but with a design to divert and please, and who was never yet baulked in his intention. Eugenius takes more delight in applying the wit of his friends than in being admired himself; and if any one of the company is so unfortunate as to be touched a little too nearly, he will make use of some ingenious artifice to turn the edge of ridicule another way, choosing rather to make himself a public jest than be at the pain of seeing his friend in confusion.

Among the tribe of laughers, I reckon the petty gentlemen that write satires and carry them about in their pockets, reading them themselves in all company they happen into; taking an advantage of the ill taste of the town to make themselves famous for a pack of paltry, low nonsense, for which they deserve to be kicked rather than admired, by all who have the least tincture of politeness. These I take to be the most incorrigible of all my readers; nay, I expect they will be squibbing at the Busy-Body himself. However, the only favor he begs of them is this, that if they cannot control their overbearing itch of scribbling, let him be attacked in downright biting lyrics; for there is no satire he dreads half so much as an attempt towards a panegyric.

Edition: current; Page: [347]
Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
February 18, 1728-9
Andrew Bradford
Bradford, Andrew


  • Non vultus instantis tyranni
  • Mente quatit solidâ, neque Auster,
  • Dux inquieti turbidus Adriæ,
  • Nec fulminantis magna Jovis manus.
  • Hor.

It is said that the Persians, in their ancient constitution, had public schools in which virtue was taught as a liberal art or science; and it is certainly of more consequence to a man, that he has learnt to govern his passions in spite of temptation, to be just in his dealings, to be temperate in his pleasures, to support himself with fortitude under his misfortunes, to behave with prudence in all his affairs and in every circumstance of life; I say, it is of much more real advantage to him to be thus qualified, than to be a master of all the arts and sciences in the world beside.

Virtue alone is sufficient to make a man great, glorious, and happy. He that is acquainted with Cato, as I am, cannot help thinking as I do now, and will acknowledge he deserves the name, without being honored by it. Cato is a man whom fortune has placed in the most obscure part of the country. His circumstances are such as only put him above necessity, without affording him any superfluities; yet who is greater than Cato? I happened but the other day to be at a house in town, where, among others, were met men of the most note in this place. Cato had business with some of them, and knocked at the door. The most trifling actions of a man, in Edition: current; Page: [348] my opinion, as well as the smallest features and lineaments of the face, give a nice observer some notion of his mind. Methought he rapped in such a peculiar manner, as seemed of itself to express there was one who deserved as well as desired admission. He appeared in the plainest country garb: his great coat was coarse, and looked old and threadbare; his linen was homespun; his beard, perhaps, of seven days’ growth; his shoes thick and heavy; and every part of his dress corresponding. Why was this man received with such concurring respect from every person in the room, even from those who had never known him or seen him before? It was not an exquisite form of person or grandeur of dress that struck us with admiration.

I believe long habits of virtue have a sensible effect on the countenance. There was something in the air of his face that manifested the true greatness of his mind, which likewise appeared in all he said, and in every part of his behaviour, obliging us to regard him with a kind of veneration. His aspect is sweetened with humanity and benevolence, and at the same time emboldened with resolution, equally free from diffident bashfulness and an unbecoming assurance. The consciousness of his own innate worth and unshaken integrity renders him calm and undaunted in the presence of the most great and powerful and upon the most extraordinary occasions. His strict justice and known impartiality make him the arbitrator and decider of all differences that arise for many miles around him, without putting his neighbours to the charge, perplexity, and uncertainty Edition: current; Page: [349] of law-suits. He always speaks the thing he means, which he is never afraid or ashamed to do, because he knows he always means well, and therefore is never obliged to blush, and feel the confusion of finding himself detected in the meanness of a falsehood. He never contrives ill against his neighbours, and therefore is never seen with a lowering, suspicious aspect. A mixture of innocence and wisdom makes him ever seriously cheerful. His generous hospitality to strangers according to his ability, his goodness, his charity, his courage in the cause of the oppressed, his fidelity in friendship, his humility, his honesty and sincerity, his moderation, and his loyalty to the government, his piety, his temperance, his love to mankind, his magnanimity, his public-spiritedness, and, in fine, his consummate virtue, make him justly deserve to be esteemed the glory of his country.

  • The brave do never shun the light;
  • Just are their thoughts, and open are their tempers;
  • Freely without disguise they love and hate;
  • Still are they found in the fair face of day,
  • And Heaven and men are judges of their actions.
  • Rowe.

Who would not rather choose, if it were in his choice, to merit the above character, than be the richest, the most learned, or the most powerful man in the province without it?

Almost every man has a strong natural desire of being valued and esteemed by the rest of his species, but I am concerned and grieved to see how few fall into the right and only infallible method of becoming Edition: current; Page: [350] so. That laudable ambition is too commonly misapplied and often ill employed. Some, to make themselves considerable, pursue learning; others grasp at wealth; some aim at being thought witty; and others are only careful to make the most of a handsome person; but what is wit, or wealth, or form, or learning, when compared with virtue? It is true we love the handsome, we applaud the learned, and we fear the rich and powerful; but we even worship and adore the virtuous. Nor is it strange; since men of virtue are so rare, so very rare to be found. If we were as industrious to become good as to make ourselves great, we should become really great by being good, and the number of valuable men would be much increased; but it is a grand mistake to think of being great without goodness; and I pronounce it as certain, that there was never yet a truly great man that was not at the same time truly virtuous.

O Cretico! thou sour philosopher! thou cunning statesman! thou art crafty, but far from being wise. When wilt thou be esteemed, regarded, and beloved like Cato? When wilt thou, among thy creatures, meet with that unfeigned respect and warm goodwill, that all good men have for him? Wilt thou never understand, that the cringing, mean, submissive deportment of thy dependents is (like the worship paid by Indians to the Devil) rather through fear of the harm thou mayest do them, than out of gratitude for the favors they have received of thee? Thou art not wholly void of virtue; there are many good things in thee and many good actions reported Edition: current; Page: [351] of thee. Be advised by thy friend. Neglect those musty authors; let them be covered with dust and moulder on their proper shelves, and do thou apply thyself to a study much more profitable—the study of mankind and thyself.

This is to give notice that the Busy-Body strictly forbids all persons, from this time forward, of what age, sex, rank, quality, degree, or denomination soever, on any pretence, to inquire who is the author of this paper, on pain of his displeasure (his own near and dear relations only excepted).

It is to be observed that if any bad characters happen to be drawn in these papers, they mean no particular person, if they are not particularly applied.

Likewise, that the author is no party-man, but a general meddler.

N. B. Cretico lives in a neighbouring province.

Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
February 25, 1728-9
Andrew Bradford
Bradford, Andrew


  • Ne quid nimis.1

In my first paper I invited the learned and the ingenious to join with me in this undertaking, and I now repeat that invitation. I would have such gentlemen take this opportunity (by trying their talent in writing) of diverting themselves and friends and improving the taste of the town. And because I would encourage all wit of our own growth and Edition: current; Page: [352] produce, I hereby promise that whoever shall send me a little essay on some moral or other subject, that is fit for public view in this manner, (and not basely borrowed from any other author,) I shall receive it with candor and take care to place it to the best advantage. It will be hard if we cannot muster up in the whole country a sufficient stock of sense to supply the Busy-Body at least for a twelvemonth.

For my own part, I have already professed, that I have the good of my country wholly at heart in this design, without the least sinister view; my chief purpose being to inculcate the noble principles of virtue and deprecate vice of every kind. But as I know the mob hate instruction, and the generality would never read beyond the first line of my lectures if they were actually filled with nothing but wholesome precepts and advice, I must therefore sometimes humor them in their own way. There are a set of great names in the province, who are the common objects of popular dislike. If I can now and then overcome my reluctance, and prevail with myself to satirize a little, one of these gentlemen, the expectation of meeting with such a gratification will induce many to read me through, who would otherwise proceed immediately to the foreign news. As I am very well assured, the greatest men among us have a sincere love for their country notwithstanding its ingratitude and the insinuations of the envious and malicious to the contrary, so I doubt not but they will cheerfully tolerate me in the liberty I design to take for the end above mentioned.

As yet I have but few correspondents, though they Edition: current; Page: [353] begin now to increase. The following letter, left for me at the printer’s, is one of the first I have received, which I regard the more for that it comes from one of the fair sex, and because I have myself oftentimes suffered under the grievance therein complained of.

Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin



You having set yourself up for a censuror morum (as I think you call it), which is said to mean a reformer of manners, I know no person more proper to be applied to for redress in all the grievances we suffer from want of manners in some people. You must know I am a single woman, and keep a shop in this town for a livelihood. There is a certain neighbour of mine, who is really agreeable company enough, and with whom I have had an intimacy of some time standing; but of late she makes her visits so exceedingly often, and stays so very long every visit, that I am tired out of all patience. I have no manner of time at all to myself; and you, who seem to be a wise man, must needs be sensible that every person has little secrets and privacies that are not proper to be exposed even to the nearest friend. Now I cannot do the least thing in the world but she must know about it; and it is a wonder I have found an opportunity to write you this letter. My misfortune is that I respect her very well, and know not how to disoblige her so much as to tell her I should be glad to have less of her company; for if I should once hint such a thing, I am Edition: current; Page: [354] afraid she would resent it so as never to darken my door again.

“But alas, Sir, I have not yet told you half my affliction. She has two children that are just big enough to run about and do petty mischief; these are continually along with mamma, either in my room or shop, if I have ever so many customers or people with me about business. Sometimes they pull the goods off my low shelves down to the ground, and perhaps where one of them has just been making water. My friend takes up the stuff and cries: ‘O thou little wicked mischievous rogue! But, however, it has done no great damage; it is only wet a little’; and so puts it upon the shelf again. Sometimes they get to my cask of nails behind the counter, and divert themselves, to my great vexation, with mixing my ten-penny, and eight-penny, and four-penny together. I endeavour to conceal my uneasiness as much as possible, and with a grave look go to sorting them out. She cries: ‘Don’t thee trouble thyself, neighbour; let them play a little; I ’ll put all to rights before I go.’ But things are never so put to rights, but that I find a great deal of work to do after they have gone. Thus, Sir, I have all the trouble and pesterment of children, without the pleasure of calling them my own; and they are now so used to being here that they will be content nowhere else. If she would have been so kind as to have moderated her visits to ten times a day, and stayed but half an hour at a time, I should have been contented, and I believe never have given you this trouble. But this very morning they have so tormented Edition: current; Page: [355] me that I could bear no longer; for while the mother was asking me twenty impertinent questions, the youngest got to my nails, and with great delight rattled them by handfuls all over the floor; and the other, at the same time, made such a terrible din upon the counter with a hammer that I grew half distracted. I was just then about to make myself a new suit of pinners; but in the fret and confusion I cut it quite out of all manner of shape and utterly spoiled a piece of the first muslin.

Pray, Sir, tell me what I shall do; and talk a little against such unreasonable visiting in your next paper; though I would not have her affronted with me for a great deal, for sincerely I love her and her children, as well, I think, as a neighbour can, and she buys a great many things in a year at my shop. But I would beg her to consider that she uses me unmercifully, though I believe it is only for want of thought. But I have twenty things more to tell you besides all this. There is a handsome gentleman that has a mind (I don’t question) to make love to me, but he can’t get the opportunity to—— O dear! here she comes again; I must conclude, yours, etc.,


Indeed it is well enough, as it happens, that she is come to shorten this complaint, which I think is full long enough already, and probably would otherwise have been as long again. However, I must confess, I cannot help pitying my correspondent’s case; and, in her behalf, exhort the visitor to remember and consider the words of the wise man: “Withdraw thy Edition: current; Page: [356] foot from the house of thy neighbour, lest he grow weary of thee and so hate thee.” It is, I believe, a nice thing, and very difficult, to regulate our visits in such a manner as never to give offence by coming too seldom, or too often, or departing too abruptly, or staying too long. However, in my opinion, it is safest for most people in a general way, who are unwilling to disoblige, to visit seldom, and tarry but a little while in a place, notwithstanding pressing invitations, which are many times insincere. And though more of your company should be really desired, yet in this case, too, much reservedness is a fault more easily excused than the contrary.

Men are subject to various inconveniences merely through lack of a small share of courage, which is a quality very necessary in the common occurrences of life, as well as in a battle. How many impertinences do we daily suffer with great uneasiness, because we have not courage enough to discover our dislike? And why may not a man use the boldness and freedom of telling his friends that their long visits sometimes incommode him? On this occasion, it may be entertaining to some of my readers, if I acquaint them with the Turkish manner of entertaining visitors, which I have from an author of unquestionable veracity, who assures us that even the Turks are not so ignorant of civility and the arts of endearment but that they can practise them with as much exactness as any other nation, whenever they have a mind to show themselves obliging.

“When you visit a person of quality,” says he, “and have talked over your business, or the compliments, Edition: current; Page: [357] or whatever concern brought you thither, he makes a sign to have things served in for the entertainment, which is generally a little sweetmeat, a dish of sherbet, and another of coffee; all which are immediately brought in by the servants, and tendered to all the guests in order, with the greatest care and awfulness imaginable. At last comes the finishing part of your entertainment, which is perfuming the beards of the company—a ceremony which is performed in this manner. They have for the purpose a small silver chafing-dish, covered with a lid full of holes, and fixed upon a handsome plate. In this they put some fresh coals, and upon them a piece of lignum aloes; shutting it up, the smoke immediately ascends with a grateful odor through the holes of the cover. This smoke is held under every one’s chin, and offered as it were a sacrifice to his beard. The bristly idol soon receives the reverence done to it, and so greedily takes in and incorporates the gummy steam that it retains the savour of it, and may serve for a nosegay a good while after.

“This ceremony may perhaps seem ridiculous at first hearing, but it passes among the Turks for a high gratification. And I will say this in its vindication, that its design is very wise and useful. For it is understood to give a civil dismission to the visitants, intimating to them that the master of the house has business to do, or some other avocations, that permits them to go away as soon as they please, and the sooner after this ceremony the better. By this means you may at any time, without offence, deliver yourself from being detained from your Edition: current; Page: [358] affairs by tedious and unseasonable visits; and from being constrained to use that piece of hypocrisy, so common in the world, of pressing those to stay longer with you, whom perhaps in your heart you wish a great way off for having troubled you so long already.”

Thus far my author. For my own part, I have taken such a fancy to this Turkish custom, that for the future I shall put something like it in practice. I have provided a bottle of right French brandy for the men and citron-water for the ladies. After I have treated with a dram and presented a pinch of my best snuff, I expect all company will retire and leave me to pursue my studies for the good of the public.


I give notice that I am now actually compiling, and design to publish in a short time, the true history of the rise, growth, and progress of the renowned Tiff Club. All persons who are acquainted with any facts, circumstances, characters, transactions, &c., which will be requisite to the perfecting and embellishment of the said work, are desired to communicate the same to the author, and direct their letters to be left with the printer hereof.

The letter, signed “Would-be-something,” is come to hand.

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Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
March 4, 1728-9
Andrew Bradford
Bradford, Andrew


  • Vos, o patricius sanguis, quos vivere fas est
  • Occipiti cæco, posticæ occurrite sannæ.
  • Persius.

This paper being designed for a terror to evil-doers, as well as praise to them that do well, I am lifted up with secret joy to find that my undertaking is approved and encouraged by the just and good, and that few are against me but those who have reason to fear me.

There are little follies in the behaviour of most men which their best friends are too tender to acquaint them with; there are little vices and small crimes which the law has no regard to or remedy for; there are likewise great pieces of villany sometimes so craftily accomplished, and so circumspectly guarded that the law can take no hold of the actors. All these things and all things of this nature come within my province as Censor; and I am determined not to be negligent of the trust I have reposed in myself, but resolve to execute my office diligently and faithfully.

And that all the world may judge with how much humanity as well as justice I shall behave in this office, and that even my enemies may be convinced I take no delight to rake into the dunghill lives of vicious men, and to the end that certain persons may be a little eased of their fears and relieved from the terrible palpitations they have lately felt and Edition: current; Page: [360] suffered and do still suffer, I hereby graciously pass an act of general oblivion, for all offences, crimes, and misdemeanors of what kind soever, committed from the beginning of the year 1681 until the day of the date of my first paper, and promise only to concern myself with such as have been since and shall hereafter be committed. I shall take no notice who has (heretofore) raised a fortune by fraud and oppression, nor who by deceit and hypocrisy; what woman has been false to her good husband’s bed, nor what man has, by barbarous usage or neglect, broken the heart of a faithful wife, and wasted his health and substance in debauchery; what base wretch has betrayed his friend and sold his honesty for gold, nor what baser wretch first corrupted him and then bought the bargain;—all this and much more of the same kind I shall forget and pass over in silence; but then it is to be observed that I expect and require a sudden and general amendment.

These threatenings of mine I hope will have a good effect, and if regarded may prevent abundance of folly and wickedness in others, and at the same time save me abundance of trouble; and that people may not flatter themselves with the hopes of concealing their loose misdemeanors from my knowledge, and in that view persist in evil-doing, I must acquaint them that I have lately entered into an intimacy with the extraordinary person who some time since wrote me the following letter; and who, having a wonderful faculty that enables him to discover the most secret iniquity, is capable of giving me great assistance in my designed work of reformation.

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Andrew Bradford
Bradford, Andrew
Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
Mr. Busy-Body:

I rejoice, Sir, at the opportunity you have given me to be serviceable to you, and, by your means, to this province. You must know that such have been the circumstances of my life, and such were the marvellous concurrences of my birth, that I have not only a faculty of discovering the actions of persons that are absent or asleep, but even of the devil himself, in many of his secret workings, in the various shapes, habits, and names of men and women; and having travelled and conversed much, and met but with a very few of the same perceptions and qualifications, I can recommend myself to you as the most useful man you can correspond with. My father’s father’s father (for we had no grandfathers in our family) was the same John Bunyan that writ that memorable book, The Pilgrim’s Progress, who had in some degree a natural faculty of second sight. This faculty (how derived to him our family memoirs are not very clear) was enjoyed by all his descendants, but not by equal talents. It was very dim in several of my first cousins, and probably had been nearly extinct in our particular branch, had not my father been a traveller. He lived in his youthful days in New England. There he married, and there was born my elder brother, who had so much of this faculty, as to discover witches in some of their occult performances.

My parents transporting themselves to Great Britain, my second brother’s birth was in that kingdom. He shared but a small portion of this virtue, being only able to discern transactions about the Edition: current; Page: [362] time of, and for the most part after, their happening. My good father, who delighted in The Pilgrim’s Progress, and mountainous places, took shipping, with his wife, for Scotland, and inhabited in the Highlands, where myself was born; and whether the soil, climate, or astral influences, of which are preserved divers prognostics, restored our ancestor’s natural faculty of second sight in a greater lustre to me than it had shined in through several generations, I will not here discuss. But so it is, that I am possessed largely of it, and design, if you encourage the proposal, to take this opportunity of doing good with it, which I question not will be accepted of in a grateful way by many of your honest readers, though the discovery of my extraction bodes me no deference from your great scholars and modern philosophers. This my father was long ago aware of; and, lest the name alone should hurt the fortunes of his children, he, in his shiftings from one country to another, wisely changed it.

Sir, I have only this further to say, how I may be useful to you, and as a reason for my not making myself more known in the world. By virtue of this great gift of nature, second-sightedness, I do continually see numbers of men, women, and children, of all ranks, and what they are doing, while I am sitting in my closet; which is too great a burden for the mind, and makes me also conceit, even against reason, that all this host of people can see and observe me, which strongly inclines me to solitude, and an obscure living; and, on the other hand, it will be an ease to me to disburthen my thoughts and observations Edition: current; Page: [363] in the way proposed to you by, Sir, your friend and humble servant.”

I conceal this correspondent’s name, in my care for his life and safety, and cannot but approve his prudence in choosing to live obscurely. I remember the fate of my poor monkey. He had an ill-natured trick of grinning and chattering at every thing he saw in petticoats. My ignorant country neighbours got a notion that pug snarled by instinct at every female who had lost her virginity. This was no sooner generally believed than he was condemned to death; by whom, I could never learn, but he was assassinated in the night, barbarously stabbed and mangled in a thousand pieces, and left hanging dead on one of my gate-posts, where I found him the next morning.

The Censor observing that the itch of scribbling begins to spread exceedingly, and being carefully tender of the reputation of his country in point of wit and good sense, has determined to take all manner of writing, in verse or prose, that pretend to either, under his immediate cognizance; and accordingly hereby prohibits the publishing any such for the future, till they have first passed his examination and received his imprimatur; for which he demands as a fee only sixpence per sheet.

N. B. He nevertheless permits to be published all satirical remarks on the Busy-Body, the above prohibition notwithstanding, and without examination or requiring the said fees; which indulgence the small wits in and about this city are advised gratefully to accept and acknowledge.

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The gentleman who calls himself Sirronio is directed, on the receipt of this, to burn his great book of Crudities.

P. S. In compassion to that young man, on account of the great pains he has taken, in consideration of the character I have just received of him, that he is really good-natured, and on condition he shows it to no foreigner or stranger of sense, I have thought fit to reprieve his said great book of Crudities from the flames, till further order.

Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
March 27, 1729
Andrew Bradford
Bradford, Andrew


  • Quid non mortalia pectora cogis,
  • Auri sacra fames?
  • Virgil.

One of the greatest pleasures an author can have is certainly the hearing his works applauded. The hiding from the world our names while we publish our thoughts, is so absolutely necessary to this self-gratification, that I hope my well-wishers will congratulate me on my escape from the many diligent but fruitless inquiries that have of late been made after me. Every man will own that an author, as such, ought to be tried by the merit of his productions only; but pride, party, and prejudice at this time run so very high, that experience shows we form our notions of a piece by the character of the author. Nay, there are some very humble politicians in and about this city who will ask on which side the writer is before they presume to give their opinion of the Edition: current; Page: [365] thing wrote. This ungenerous way of proceeding I was well aware of before I published my first speculation, and therefore concealed my name. And I appeal to the more generous part of the world if I have, since I appeared in the character of the Busy-Body, given an instance of my siding with any party more than another in the unhappy divisions of my country; and I have, above all, this satisfaction in myself, that neither affection, aversion, nor interest has biassed me to use any partiality towards any man or set of men, but whatsoever I find nonsensical, ridiculous, or immorally dishonest I have and shall continue openly to attack, with the freedom of an honest man and a lover of my country.

I profess I can hardly contain myself, or preserve the gravity and dignity that should attend the censorial office, when I hear the odd and unaccountable expositions that are put upon some of my works, through the malicious ignorance of some, and the vain pride of more than ordinary penetration in others; one instance of which many of my readers are acquainted with. A certain gentleman has taken a great deal of pains to write a key to the letter in my Number IV., wherein he has ingeniously converted a gentle satire upon tedious and impertinent visitants into a libel on some of the government. This I mention only as a specimen of the taste of the gentleman I am, forsooth, bound to please in my speculations; not that I suppose my impartiality will ever be called in question on that account. Injustices of this nature I could complain of in many instances; but I am at present diverted by the reception of a letter Edition: current; Page: [366] which, though it regards me only in my private capacity as an adept, yet I venture to publish it for the entertainment of my readers.

Titan Pleiades
Pleiades, Titan
Censor Morum
Morum, Censor

To Censor Morum, Esq., Busy-Body General of the Province of Pennsylvania and the Counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Sussex upon Delaware.

Honorable Sir:

I judge by your lucubrations that you are not only a lover of truth and equity but a man of parts and learning and a master of science; as such I honor you. Know then, most profound Sir, that I have from my youth up been a very indefatigable student in and admirer of that divine science, astrology. I have read over Scott, Albertus Magnus, and Cornelius Agrippa above three hundred times; and was in hopes, by my knowledge and industry, to gain enough to have recompensed me for my money expended and time lost in the pursuit of this learning. You cannot be ignorant, Sir, (for your intimate second-sighted correspondent knows all things,) that there are large sums of money hidden under ground in divers places about this town and in many parts of the country; but, alas, Sir, notwithstanding I have used all the means laid down in the immortal authors before mentioned, and when they failed, the ingenious Mr. P—d—l, with his mercurial wand and magnet, I have still failed in my purpose. This therefore I send, to propose and desire an acquaintance with you; and I do not doubt, notwithstanding my repeated ill fortune, but we may be exceedingly serviceable Edition: current; Page: [367] to each other in our discoveries; and that if we use our united endeavours the time will come when the Busy-Body, his second-sighted correspondent, and your very humble servant will be three of the richest men in the province. And then, Sir, what may we not do? A word to the wise is sufficient. I conclude, with all demonstrable respect, yours and Urania’s votary,

Titan Pleiades.

In the evening after I had received this letter I made a visit to my second-sighted friend and communicated to him the proposal. When he had read it he assured me that to his certain knowledge there is not at this time so much as one ounce of silver or gold hid under ground in any part of this province; for that the late and present scarcity of money had obliged those who were living, and knew where they had formerly hid any, to take it up and use it in their own necessary affairs; and as to all the rest which was buried by pirates and others in old times, who were never likely to come for it, he himself had dug it all up and applied it to charitable uses: and this he desired me to publish for the general good. For, as he acquainted me, there are among us great numbers of honest artificers and laboring people who, fed with a vain hope of growing suddenly rich, neglect their business, almost to the ruining of themselves and families, and voluntarily endure abundance of fatigue in a fruitless search after imaginary hidden treasure. They wander through the woods and bushes by day to discover the marks and signs; Edition: current; Page: [368] at midnight they repair to the hopeful spots with spades and pickaxes; full of expectation, they labor violently, trembling at the same time in every joint, through fear of certain malicious demons who are said to haunt and guard such places. At length a mighty hole is dug, and perhaps several cart-loads of earth thrown out; but, alas, no keg or iron pot is found! No seaman’s chest crammed with Spanish pistoles or weighty pieces of eight! Then they conclude that, through some mistake in the procedure, some rash word spoke, or some rule of art neglected, the guardian spirit had power to sink it deeper into the earth and convey it out of their reach. Yet when a man is once thus infatuated, he is so far from being discouraged by ill success that he is rather animated to double his industry, and will try again and again in a hundred different places, in hopes at last of meeting with some lucky hit that shall at once sufficiently reward him for all his expense of time and labor.

This odd humor of digging for money, through a belief that much has been hid by pirates formerly frequenting the river, has for several years been mighty prevalent among us; insomuch that you can hardly walk half a mile out of the town on any side without observing several pits dug with that design, and perhaps some lately opened. Men, otherwise of very good sense, have been drawn into this practice through an overweening desire of sudden wealth and an easy credulity of what they so earnestly wished might be true; while the rational and almost certain methods of acquiring riches by industry and frugality Edition: current; Page: [369] are neglected or forgotten. There seems to be some peculiar charm in the conceit of finding money: and if the sands of Schuylkill were so much mixed with small grains of gold that a man might in a day’s time, with care and application, get together to the value of half a crown, I make no question but we should find several people employed there that can with ease earn five shillings a day at their proper trades.

Many are the idle stories told of the private success of some people, by which others are encouraged to proceed; and the astrologers, with whom the country swarms at this time, are either in the belief of these things themselves, or find their advantage in persuading others to believe them; for they are often consulted about the critical times for digging, the methods of laying the spirit, and the like whimseys, which renders them very necessary to, and very much caressed by, the poor deluded money-hunters.

There is certainly something very bewitching in the pursuit after mines of gold and silver and other valuable metals, and many have been ruined by it. A sea-captain of my acquaintance used to blame the English for envying Spain their mines of silver and too much despising or overlooking the advantages of their own industry and manufactures. “For my part,” says he, “I esteem the Banks of Newfoundland to be a more valuable possession than the mountains of Potosi; and when I have been there on the fishing account, have looked upon every cod pulled up into the vessel as a certain quantity of silver ore, which required only carrying to the next Spanish Edition: current; Page: [370] port to be coined into pieces of eight; not to mention the national profit of fitting out and employing such a number of ships and seamen.”

Let honest Peter Buckram, who has long without success been a searcher after hidden money, reflect on this, and be reclaimed from that unaccountable folly. Let him consider that every stitch he takes, when he is on his shopboard, is picking up part of a grain of gold that will in a few days’ time amount to a pistole; and let Faber think the same of every nail he drives, of every stroke with his plane. Such thoughts may make them industrious, and, in consequence, in time they may be wealthy. But how absurd is it to neglect a certain profit for such a ridiculous whimsey; to spend whole days at the George, in company with an idle pretender to astrology, contriving schemes to discover what was never hidden, and forgetting how carelessly business is managed at home in their absence; to leave their wives and a warm bed at midnight (no matter if it rain, hail, snow, or blow a hurricane, provided that be the critical hour) and fatigue themselves with the violent exercise of digging for what they shall never find, and perhaps getting a cold that may cost their lives, or at least disordering themselves so as to be fit for no business beside for some days after. Surely this is nothing less than the most egregious folly and madness.

I shall conclude with the words of my discreet friend Agricola, of Chester County, when he gave his son a good plantation. “My son,” said he, “I give thee now a valuable parcel of land; I assure thee I Edition: current; Page: [371] have found a considerable quantity of gold by digging there; thee mayst do the same; but thee must carefully observe this, Never to dig more than plough-deep.


  • Quid asper
  • Utile nummus habet; patriæ carisque propinquis
  • Quantum elargiri deceat.
  • Persius.

There is no science the study of which is more useful and commendable than the knowledge of the true interest of one’s country; and perhaps there is no kind of learning more abstruse and intricate, more difficult to acquire in any degree of perfection than this, and therefore none more generally neglected. Hence it is that we every day find men in conversation Edition: current; Page: [372] contending warmly on some point in politics which, although it may nearly concern them both, neither of them understands any more than they do each other.

Thus much by way of apology for this present Inquiry into the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency. And if any thing I shall say may be a means of fixing a subject that is now the chief concern of my countrymen in a clearer light, I shall have the satisfaction of thinking my time and pains well employed.

To proceed, then:

There is a certain proportionate quantity of money requisite to carry on the trade of a country freely and currently; more than which would be of no advantage in trade, and less, if much less, exceedingly detrimental to it.

This leads us to the following general considerations:

First. A great want of money in any trading country occasions interest to be at a very high rate. And here it may be observed, that it is impossible by any laws to restrain men from giving and receiving exorbitant interest where money is suitably scarce. For he that wants money will find out ways to give ten per cent, when he cannot have it for less, although the law forbids to take more than six per cent. Now the interest of money being high is prejudicial to a country several ways. It makes land bear a low price, because few men will lay out their money in land when they can make a much greater profit by lending it out upon interest. And much less will Edition: current; Page: [373] men be inclined to venture their money at sea when they can without risk or hazard, have a great and certain profit by keeping it at home; thus trade is discouraged. And if in two neighbouring countries the traders of one, by reason of a greater plenty of money, can borrow it to trade with at a lower rate than the traders of the other, they will infallibly have the advantage and get the greatest part of that trade into their own hands; for he that trades with money he hath borrowed at eight or ten per cent, cannot hold market with him that borrows his money at six or four. On the contrary, a plentiful currency will occasion interest to be low; and this will be an inducement to many to lay out their money in lands rather than put it out to use, by which means land will begin to rise in value and bear a better price. And at the same time it will tend to enliven trade exceedingly, because people will find more profit in employing their money that way than in usury; and many that understand business very well, but have not a stock sufficient of their own, will be encouraged to borrow money to trade with when they can have it at a moderate interest.

Secondly. Want of money in a country reduces the price of that part of its produce which is used in trade; because, trade being discouraged by it as above, there is a much less demand for that produce. And this is another reason why land in such a case will be low, especially where the staple commodity of the country is the immediate produce of the land; because, that produce being low, fewer people find an advantage in husbandry or the improvement of land. Edition: current; Page: [374] On the contrary, a plentiful currency will occasion the trading produce to bear a good price; because, trade being encouraged and advanced by it, there will be a much greater demand for that produce, which will be a great encouragement of husbandry and tillage, and consequently make land more valuable, for that many people would apply themselves to husbandry who probably might otherwise have sought some more profitable employment.

As we have already experienced how much the increase of our currency, by what paper money has been made, has encouraged our trade, particularly to instance only in one article, ship-building, it may not be amiss to observe under this head what a great advantage it must be to us as a trading country, that has workmen and all the materials proper for that business within itself, to have ship-building as much as possible advanced; for every ship that is built here for the English merchants gains the province her clear value in gold and silver, which must otherwise have been sent home for returns in her stead; and likewise every ship built in and belonging to the province not only saves the province her first cost, but all the freight, wages, and provisions she ever makes or requires as long as she lasts; provided care is taken to make this her pay-port, and that she always takes provisions with her for the whole voyage, which may easily be done. And how considerable an article this is yearly in our favor, every one the least acquainted with mercantile affairs must needs be sensible; for, if we could not build ourselves, we must either purchase so many vessels as Edition: current; Page: [375] we want from other countries, or else hire them to carry our produce to market, which would be more expensive than purchasing, and on many other accounts exceedingly to our loss. Now as trade in general will decline where there is not a plentiful currency, so ship-building must certainly of consequence decline where trade is declining.

Thirdly. Want of money in a country discourages laboring and handicraftsmen (who are the chief strength and support of a people) from coming to settle in it, and induces many that were settled to leave the country and seek entertainment and employment in other places, where they can be better paid. For what can be more disheartening to an industrious laboring man than this, that after he hath earned his bread with the sweat of his brows, he must spend as much time and have near as much fatigue in getting it as he had to earn it? And nothing makes more bad paymasters than a general scarcity of money. And here again is a third reason for land’s bearing a low price in such a country, because land always increases in value in proportion with the increase of the people settling on it, there being so many more buyers; and its value will infallibly be diminished, if the number of its inhabitants diminish. On the contrary, a plentiful currency will encourage great numbers of laboring and handicraftsmen to come and settle in the country, by the same reason that a want of it will discourage and drive them out. Now the more inhabitants, the greater demand for land (as is said above), upon which it must necessarily rise in value and bear a better price. The same may be Edition: current; Page: [376] said of the value of house-rent, which will be advanced for the same reasons; and by the increase of trade and riches people will be enabled to pay greater rents. Now, the value of house-rent rising, and interest becoming low, many, that in a scarcity of money, practised usury, will probably be more inclined to building, which will likewise sensibly enliven business in any place; it being an advantage not only to brickmakers, bricklayers, masons, carpenters, joiners, glaziers, and several other trades immediately employed by building, but likewise to farmers, brewers, bakers, tailors, shoemakers, shopkeepers, and, in short, to every one that they lay their money out with.

Fourthly. Want of money in such a country as ours occasions a greater consumption of English and European goods, in proportion to the number of people, than there would otherwise be. Because merchants and traders, by whom abundance of artificers and laboring men are employed, finding their other affairs require what money they can get into their hands, oblige those who work for them to take one half or perhaps two-thirds goods in pay. By this means a greater quantity of goods are disposed of, and to a greater value; because working-men and their families are thereby induced to be more profuse and extravagant in fine apparel and the like, than they would be if they were obliged to pay ready money for such things after they had earned and received it, or if such goods were not imposed upon them, of which they can make no other use. For such people cannot send the goods they are paid Edition: current; Page: [377] with to a foreign market without losing considerably by having them sold for less than they stand them in here; neither can they easily dispose of them at home, because their neighbours are generally supplied in the same manner. But how unreasonable would it be if some of those very men who have been a means of thus forcing people into unnecessary expense should be the first and most earnest in accusing them of pride and prodigality. Now though this extraordinary consumption of foreign commodities may be a profit to particular men, yet the country in general grows poorer by it apace. On the contrary, as a plentiful currency will occasion a less consumption of European goods, in proportion to the number of the people, so it will be a means of making the balance of our trade more equal than it now is, if it does not give it in our favor; because our own produce will be encouraged at the same time. And it is to be observed that though less foreign commodities are consumed in proportion to the number of people, yet this will be no disadvantage to the merchant, because the number of people increasing will occasion an increasing demand of more foreign goods in the whole.

Thus we have seen some of the many heavy disadvantages a country (especially such a country as ours) must labor under when it has not a sufficient stock of running cash to manage its trade currently. And we have likewise seen some of the advantages which accrue from having money sufficient or a plentiful currency.

The foregoing paragraphs being well considered, Edition: current; Page: [378] we shall naturally be led to draw the following conclusions with regard to what persons will probably be for or against emitting a large additional sum of paper bills in this province.

1. Since men will always be powerfully influenced in their opinions and actions by what appears to be their particular interest, therefore all those who, wanting courage to venture in trade, now practise lending money on security for exorbitant interest, which in a scarcity of money will be done notwithstanding the law—I say all such will probably be against a large addition to our present stock of paper money, because a plentiful currency will lower interest and make it common to lend on less security.

2. All those who are possessors of large sums of money and are disposed to purchase land, which is attended with a great and sure advantage in a growing country as this is—I say the interest of all such men will incline them to oppose a large addition to our money. Because their wealth is now continually increasing by the large interest they receive, which will enable them (if they can keep land from rising) to purchase more some time hence than they can at present; and in the mean time all trade being discouraged, not only those who borrow of them but the common people in general will be impoverished, and consequently obliged to sell more land for less money than they will do at present. And yet after such men are possessed of as much land as they can purchase, it will then be their interest to have money made plentiful, because that will immediately make land rise in value in their hands. Now it ought not Edition: current; Page: [379] to be wondered at if people, from the knowledge of a man’s interests, do sometimes make a true guess at his designs; for interest, they say, will not lie.

3. Lawyers and others concerned in court business will probably many of them be against a plentiful currency, because people in that case will have less occasion to run in debt, and consequently less occasion to go to law and sue one another for their debts. Though I know some even among these gentlemen that regard the public good before their own apparent private interest.

4. All those who are any way dependents on such persons as are above mentioned, whether as holding offices, as tenants, or as debtors, must at least appear to be against a large addition, because if they do not they must sensibly feel their present interest hurt. And besides these there are doubtless many well-meaning gentlemen and others who, without any immediate private interest of their own in view, are against making such an addition, through an opinion they may have of the honesty and sound judgment of some of their friends that oppose it (perhaps for the ends aforesaid), without having given it any thorough consideration themselves. And thus it is no wonder if there is a powerful party on that side.

On the other hand, those who are lovers of trade and delight to see manufactures encouraged, will be for having a large addition to our currency. For they very well know that people will have little heart to advance money in trade when what they can get is scarce sufficient to purchase necessaries and supply their families with provisions. Much less will they Edition: current; Page: [380] lay it out in advancing new manufactures; nor is it possible new manufactures should turn to any account where there is not money to pay the workmen, who are discouraged by being paid in goods, because it is a great disadvantage to them.

Again. Those who are truly for the proprietor’s interest (and have no separate views of their own that are predominant) will be heartily for a large addition. Because, as I have shown above, plenty of money will for several reasons make land rise in value exceedingly. And I appeal to those immediately concerned for the proprietor in the sale of his lands, whether land has not risen very much since the first emission of what paper currency we now have, and even by its means. Now we all know the proprietary has great quantities to sell.

And since a plentiful currency will be so great a cause of advancing this province in trade and riches and increasing the number of its people, which, though it will not sensibly lessen the inhabitants of Great Britain, will occasion a much greater vent and demand for their commodities here; and allowing that the crown is the more powerful for its subjects increasing in wealth and number, I cannot think it the interest of England to oppose us in making as great a sum of paper money here as we, who are the best judges of our own necessities, find convenient. And if I were not sensible that the gentlemen of trade in England, to whom we have already parted with our silver and gold, are misinformed of our circumstances, and therefore endeavour to have our currency stinted to what it now is, I should think Edition: current; Page: [381] the government at home had some reasons for discouraging and impoverishing this province which we are not acquainted with.

It remains now that we inquire whether a large addition to our paper currency will not make it sink in value very much. And here it will be requisite that we first form just notions of the nature and value of money in general.

As Providence has so ordered it that not only different countries but even different parts of the same country have their peculiar most suitable productions, and likewise that different men have geniuses adapted to a variety of different arts and manufactures; therefore commerce, or the exchange of one commodity or manufacture for another, is highly convenient and beneficial to mankind. As for instance, A may be skilful in the art of making cloth, and B understand the raising of corn. A wants corn, and B cloth; upon which they make an exchange with each other for as much as each has occasion for, to the mutual advantage and satisfaction of both.

But as it would be very tedious if there were no other way of general dealing but by an immediate exchange of commodities, because a man that had corn to dispose of and wanted cloth for it might perhaps, in his search for a chapman to deal with, meet with twenty people that had cloth to dispose of but wanted no corn, and with twenty others that wanted his corn but had no cloth to suit him with; to remedy such inconveniences and facilitate exchange men have invented money, properly called a medium of Edition: current; Page: [382] exchange, because through or by its means labor is exchanged for labor or one commodity for another. And whatever particular thing men have agreed to make this medium of, whether gold, silver, copper, or tobacco, it is to those who possess it (if they want any thing) that very thing which they want, because it will immediately procure it for them. It is cloth to him that wants cloth, and corn to those that want corn; and so of all other necessaries it is whatsoever it will procure. Thus he who had corn to dispose of and wanted to purchase cloth with it might sell his corn for its value in this general medium to one who wanted corn but had no cloth, and with this medium he might purchase cloth of him that wanted no corn but perhaps some other thing, as iron it may be, which this medium will immediately procure, and so he may be said to have exchanged his cloth for iron; and thus the general change is soon performed to the satisfaction of all parties with abundance of facility.

For many ages those parts of the world which are engaged in commerce have fixed upon gold and silver as the chief and most proper materials for this medium; they being in themselves valuable metals for their fineness, beauty, and scarcity. By these, particularly by silver, it has been usual to value all things else. But as silver itself is of no certain permanent value, being worth more or less according to its scarcity or plenty, therefore it seems requisite to fix upon something else more proper to be made a measure of values, and this I take to be labor.1

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By labor may the value of silver be measured as well as other things. As, suppose one man employed to raise corn while another is digging and refining silver; at the year’s end, or at any other period of time, the complete produce of corn and that of silver are the natural price of each other; and if one be twenty bushels and the other twenty ounces, then an ounce of that silver is worth the labor of raising a bushel of that corn. Now if by the discovery of some nearer, more easy or plentiful mines, a man may get forty ounces of silver as easily as formerly he did twenty, and the same labor is still required to raise twenty bushels of corn, then two ounces of silver will be worth no more than the same labor of raising one bushel of corn, and that bushel of corn will be as cheap at two ounces as it was before at one, cæteris paribus.

Thus the riches of a country are to be valued by the quantity of labor its inhabitants are able to purchase, and not by the quantity of silver and gold they possess; which will purchase more or less labor, and therefore is more or less valuable, as is said before, according to its scarcity or plenty. As those metals have grown much more plentiful in Europe since the discovery of America,1 so they have sunk in value exceedingly; for, to instance in England, Edition: current; Page: [384] formerly one penny of silver was worth a day’s labor, but now it is hardly worth the sixth part of a day’s labor; because not less than sixpence will purchase the labor of a man for a day in any part of that kingdom; which is wholly to be attributed to the much greater plenty of money now in England than formerly. And yet perhaps England is in effect no richer now than at that time; because as much labor might be purchased or work got done of almost any kind for one hundred pounds then as will now require or is now worth six hundred pounds.

In the next place let us consider the nature of banks emitting bills of credit, as they are at this time used in Hamburgh, Amsterdam, London, and Venice.

Those places being seats of vast trade, and the payment of great sums being for that reason frequent, bills of credit are found very convenient in business; because a great sum is more easily counted in them, lighter in carriage, concealed in less room, and therefore safer in travelling or laying up, and on many other accounts they are very much valued. The banks are the general cashiers of all gentlemen, merchants, and great traders in and about those cities; there they deposit their money and may take out bills to the value, for which they can be certain to have money again at the bank at any time. This gives the bills a credit; so that in England they are never less valuable than money, and in Venice and Amsterdam they are generally worth more. And the bankers, always reserving money in hand to answer more than the common run of demands (and some people constantly putting in while others are Edition: current; Page: [385] taking out), are able besides to lend large sums, on good security, to the government or others for a reasonable interest, by which they are paid for their care and trouble; and the money, which otherwise would have lain dead in their hands, is made to circulate again thereby among the people. And thus the running cash of the nation is, as it were, doubled; for all great payments being made in bills, money in lower trade becomes much more plentiful. And this is an exceeding great advantage to a trading country that is not overstocked with gold and silver.1

As those who take bills out of the banks in Europe put in money for security, so here and in some of the neighbouring provinces we engage our land. Which of these methods will most effectually secure the bills from actually sinking in value comes next to be considered.

Trade in general being nothing else but the exchange of labor for labor, the value of all things is, as I have said before, most justly measured by labor. Now suppose I put my money into a bank and take out a bill for the value; if this bill at the time of my receiving it would purchase me the labor of one hundred Edition: current; Page: [386] men for twenty days, but some time after will only purchase the labor of the same number of men for fifteen days, it is plain the bill has sunk in value one fourth part. Now, silver and gold being of no permanent value, and as this bill is founded on money, and therefore to be esteemed as such, it may be that the occasion of this fall is the increasing plenty of gold and silver, by which money is one fourth part less valuable than before, and therefore one fourth more is given of it for the same quantity of labor; and if land is not become more plentiful by some proportionate decrease of the people, one fourth part more of money is given for the same quantity of land; whereby it appears that it would have been more profitable to me to have laid that money out in land which I put into the bank, than to place it there and take a bill for it. And it is certain that the value of money has been continually sinking in England for several ages past, because it has been continually increasing in quantity. But if bills could be taken out of a bank in Europe on a land security, it is probable the value of such bills would be more certain and steady, because the number of inhabitants continues to be near the same in those countries from age to age.

For as bills issued upon money security are money, so bills issued upon land are in effect coined land.

Therefore (to apply the above to our own circumstances) if land in this province was falling, or any way likely to fall, it would behove the legislature most carefully to contrive how to prevent the bills issued upon land from falling with it. But as our Edition: current; Page: [387] people increase exceedingly, and will be further increased, as I have before shown, by the help of a large addition to our currency, and as land in consequence is continually rising, so in case no bills are emitted but what are upon land security, the money-acts in every part punctually enforced and executed, the payments of principal and interest being duly and strictly required, and the principal bona fide sunk according to law, it is absolutely impossible such bills should ever sink below their first value, or below the value of the land on which they are founded. In short, there is so little danger of their sinking that they would certainly rise as the land rises if they were not emitted in a proper manner for preventing it. That is, by providing in the act that payment may be made either in those bills or in any other bills made current by any act of the legislature of this province, and that the interest, as it is received, may be again emitted in discharge of public debts; whereby circulating, it returns again into the hands of the borrowers and becomes part of their future payments, and thus, as it is likely there will not be any difficulty for want of bills to pay the office, they are hereby kept from rising above their first value. For else, supposing there should be emitted upon mortgaged land its full present value in bills, as in the banks in Europe the full value of the money deposited is given out in bills; and supposing the office would take nothing but the same sum in those bills in discharge of the land, as in the banks aforesaid the same sum in their bills must be brought in in order to receive out the money; in such case the bills Edition: current; Page: [388] would most surely rise in value as the land rises, as certainly as the bank bills founded on money would fall if that money was falling. Thus, if I were to mortgage to loan-office or bank a parcel of land now valued at one hundred pounds in silver, and receive for it the like sum in bills, to be paid in again at the expiration of a certain term of years, before which my land, rising in value, becomes worth one hundred and fifty pounds in silver, it is plain that if I have not these bills in possession, and the office will take nothing but these bills, or else what it is now become worth in silver, in discharge of my land—I say it appears plain that those bills will now be worth one hundred and fifty pounds in silver to the possessor, and if I can purchase them for less, in order to redeem my land, I shall by so much be a gainer.

I need not say any thing to convince the judicious that our bills have not yet sunk, though there is and has been some difference between them and silver; because it is evident that that difference is occasioned by the scarcity of the latter, which is now become a merchandise, rising and falling like other commodities as there is a greater or less demand for it or as it is more or less plenty.

Yet farther, in order to make a true estimate of the value of money we must distinguish between money as it is bullion, which is merchandise, and as by being coined it is made a currency. For its value as a merchandise and its value as a currency are two distinct things, and each may possibly rise and fall in some degree independent of the other. Thus, if the quantity of bullion increases in a country, Edition: current; Page: [389] it will proportionably decrease in value; but if at the same time the quantity of current coin should decrease (supposing payments may not be made in bullion), what coin there is will rise in value as a currency—that is people will give more labor in manufactures for a certain sum of ready money.

In the same manner must we consider a paper currency founded on land, as it is land, and as it is a currency.

Money as bullion or as land is valuable by so much labor as it costs to procure that bullion or land.

Money as a currency has an additional value by so much time and labor as it saves in the exchange of commodities.

If as a currency it saves one fourth part of the time and labor of a country, it has on that account one fourth added to its original value.

When there is no money in a country all commerce must be by exchange.1 Now if it takes one fourth part of the time and labor of a country to exchange or get their commodities exchanged; then in computing their value that labor of exchanging must be added to the labor of manufacturing those commodities. But if that time or labor is saved by introducing money sufficient, then the additional value on account of the labor of exchanging may be abated, and things sold for only the value of the labor in making them, because the people may now Edition: current; Page: [390] in the same time make one fourth more in quantity of manufactures than they could before.

From these considerations it may be gathered that in all the degrees between having no money in a country and money sufficient for the trade, it will rise and fall in value as a currency in proportion to the decrease or increase of its quantity. And if there may be at some time more than enough, the overplus will have no effect towards making the currency as a currency of less value than when there was but enough, because such overplus will not be used in trade but be some other way disposed of.

If we inquire how much per cent interest ought to be required upon the loan of these bills, we must consider what is the natural standard of usury. And this appears to be, where the security is undoubted, at least the rent of so much land as the money lent will buy. For it cannot be expected that any man will lend his money for less than it would fetch him in as rent if he laid it out in land, which is the most secure property in the world. But if the security is casual, then a kind of insurance must be interwoven with the simple natural interest, which may advance the usury very conscionably to any height below the principal itself. Now among us, if the value of land is twenty years’ purchase, five per cent is the just rate of interest for money lent on undoubted security. Yet if money grows scarce in a country it becomes more difficult for people to make punctual payments of what they borrow, money being hard to be raised; likewise, trade being discouraged and business impeded for want of a currency, abundance Edition: current; Page: [391] of people must be in declining circumstances, and by these means security is more precarious than where money is plenty. On such accounts it is no wonder if people ask a greater interest for their money than the natural interest; and what is above is to be looked upon as a kind of premium for the insurance of those uncertainties, as they are greater or less. Thus we always see that where money is scarce interest is high, and low where it is plenty. Now it is certainly the advantage of a country to make interest as low as possible, as I have already shown; and this can be done no other way than by making money plentiful. And since in emitting paper money among us the office has the best of security, the titles to the land being all skilfully and strictly examined and ascertained; and as it is only permitting the people by law to coin their own land, which costs the government nothing, the interest being more than enough to pay the charges of printing, officers’ fees, &c., I cannot see any good reason why four per cent to the loan-office should not be thought fully sufficient. As a low interest may incline more to take money out, it will become more plentiful in trade; and this may bring down the common usury, in which security is more dubious, to the pitch it is determined at by law.

If it should be objected that emitting it at so low an interest and on such easy terms will occasion more to be taken out than the trade of the country really requires, it may be answered that, as has already been shown, there can never be so much of it emitted as to make it fall below the land it is founded on; Edition: current; Page: [392] because no man in his senses will mortgage his estate for what is of no more value to him than that he has mortgaged, especially if the possession of what he receives is more precarious than of what he mortgages, as that of paper money is when compared to land. And if it should ever become so plenty by indiscreet persons continuing to take out a large overplus above what is necessary in trade so as to make people imagine it would become by that means of less value than their mortgaged lands, they would immediately of course begin to pay it in again to the office to redeem their land, and continue to do so till there was no more left in trade than was absolutely necessary. And thus the proportion would find itself (though there were a million too much in the office to be let out) without giving any one the trouble of calculation.

It may, perhaps, be objected to what I have written concerning the advantages of a large addition to our currency, that if the people of this province increase and husbandry is more followed we shall overstock the markets with our produce of flour, &c. To this it may be answered that we can never have too many people (nor too much money). For when one branch of trade or business is overstocked with hands, there are the more to spare to be employed in another. So if raising wheat proves dull, more may (if there is money to support and carry on new manufactures) proceed to the raising and manufacturing of hemp, silk, iron, and many other things the country is very capable of, for which we only want people to work and money to pay them with.

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Upon the whole it may be observed that it is the highest interest of a trading country in general to make money plentiful, and that it can be a disadvantage to none that have honest designs. It cannot hurt even the usurers, though it should sink what they receive as interest, because they will be proportionably more secure in what they lend, or they will have an opportunity of employing their money to greater advantage to themselves as well as to the country. Neither can it hurt those merchants who have great sums outstanding in debts in the country, and seem on that account to have the most plausible reason to fear it; to wit, because a large addition being made to our currency will increase the demand of our exporting produce, and by that means raise the price of it, so that they will not be able to purchase so much bread or flour with one hundred pounds when they shall receive it after such an addition as they now can and may if there is no addition. I say it cannot hurt even such, because they will get in their debts just in exact proportion so much the easier and sooner as the money becomes plentier; and therefore, considering the interest and trouble saved, they will not be losers, because it only sinks in value as a currency proportionally as it becomes more plenty. It cannot hurt the interest of Great Britain, as has been shown, and it will greatly advance the interest of the proprietor. It will be an advantage to every industrious tradesman, &c., because his business will be carried on more freely and trade be universally enlivened by it. And as more business in all manufactures will be Edition: current; Page: [394] done by so much as the labor and time spent in exchange is saved, the country in general will grow so much the richer.

It is nothing to the purpose to object the wretched fall of the bills in New England and South Carolina, unless it might be made evident that their currency was emitted with the same prudence and on such good security as ours is; and it certainly was not.

As this essay is wrote and published in haste and the subject in itself intricate, I hope I shall be censured with candor if, for want of time carefully to revise what I have written, in some places I should appear to have expressed myself too obscurely and in others am liable to objections I did not foresee. I sincerely desire to be acquainted with the truth, and on that account shall think myself obliged to any one who will take the pains to show me or the public where I am mistaken in my conclusions. And as we all know there are among us several gentlemen of acute parts and profound learning who are very much against any addition to our money, it were to be wished that they would favor the country with their sentiments on this head in print; which, supported with truth and good reasoning, may probably be very convincing. And this is to be desired the rather because many people, knowing the abilities of those gentlemen to manage a good cause, are apt to construe their silence in this as an argument of a bad one. Had any thing of that kind ever yet appeared, perhaps I should not have given the public this trouble. But as those ingenious gentlemen have not yet (and I doubt never will) think it worth Edition: current; Page: [395] their concern to enlighten the minds of their erring countrymen in this particular, I think it would be highly commendable in every one of us more fully to bend our minds to the study of what is the true interest of Pennsylvania; whereby we may be enabled not only to reason pertinently with one another; but, if occasion requires, to transmit home such clear representations as must inevitably convince our superiors of the reasonableness and integrity of our designs.1



My friend Horatio! I am very glad to see you. Prithee, how came such a man as you alone? And musing too? What misfortune in your pleasures has sent you to philosophy for relief?


You guess very right, my dear Philocles; we pleasure-hunters are never without them; and yet, so enchanting is the game, we cannot quit the chase. How calm and undisturbed is your life! How free from present embarrassments and future cares! I know you love me and look with compassion upon my conduct; show me then the path which leads up Edition: current; Page: [396] to that constant and invariable good which I have heard you so beautifully describe and which you seem so fully to possess.


There are few men in the world I value more than you, Horatio; for amidst all your foibles and painful pursuits of pleasure I have oft observed in you an honest heart and a mind strongly bent towards virtue. I wish, from my soul, I could assist you in acting steadily the part of a reasonable creature, for if you would not think it a paradox I should tell you I love you better than you do yourself.


A paradox indeed! Better than I do myself! When I love my dear self so well that I love every thing else for my own sake.


He only loves himself well who rightly and judiciously loves himself.


What do you mean by that, Philocles? You men of reason and virtue are always dealing in mysteries, though you laugh at them when the church makes them. I think he loves himself very well and very judiciously too, as you call it, who allows himself to do whatever he pleases.


What, though it be to the ruin and destruction of that very self which he loves so well? That man alone loves himself rightly who procures the greatest possible good to himself through the whole of his existence, and so pursues pleasure as not to give for it more than it is worth.


That depends all upon opinion. Who shall judge what the pleasure is worth? Suppose a pleasing form of the fair kind strikes me so much that I Edition: current; Page: [397] can enjoy nothing without the enjoyment of that one object; or that pleasure in general is so favorite a mistress that I will take her as men do their wives, for better, for worse, minding no consequences nor regarding what is to come. Why should I not do it?


Suppose, Horatio, that a friend of yours entered into the world about two-and-twenty, with a healthful, vigorous body, and a fair, plentiful estate of about five hundred pounds a year, and yet before he had reached thirty should, by following his own pleasures and not as you duly regarding consequences, have run out of his estate and disabled his body to that degree that he had neither the means nor capacity of enjoyment left, nor any thing else to do but wisely shoot himself through the head to be at rest, what would you say to this unfortunate man’s conduct? Is it wrong by opinion or fancy only? Or is there really a right and wrong in the case? Is not one opinion of life and action juster than another? Or one sort of conduct preferable to another? Or does that miserable son of pleasure appear as reasonable and lovely a being in your eyes as a man who by prudently and rightly gratifying his natural passions had preserved his body in full health and his estate entire, and enjoyed both to a good old age, and then died with a thankful heart for the good things he had received, and with an entire submission to the will of Him who first called him into being? Say, Horatio, are these men equally wise and happy? And is every thing to be measured by mere fancy and opinion, without considering whether that fancy or opinion be right?

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Hardly so neither, I think; yet sure the wise and good Author of nature could never make us to plague us. He could never give us passions on purpose to subdue and conquer them, nor produce this self of mine, or any other self, only that it may be denied, for that is denying the works of the great Creator himself. Self-denial, then, which is what I suppose you mean by prudence, seems to me not only absurd, but very dishonorable to that Supreme Wisdom and Goodness which is supposed to make so ridiculous and contradictory a creature that must be always fighting with himself in order to be at rest, and undergo voluntary hardships in order to be happy. Are we created sick only to be commanded to be sound? Are we born under one law, our passions, and yet bound to another, that of reason? Answer me, Philocles, for I am warmly concerned for the honor of Nature, the mother of us all.


I find, Horatio, my two characters have affrighted you, so that you decline the trial of what is good by reason, and had rather make a bold attack upon Providence, the usual way of you gentlemen of fashion, who, when by living in defiance of the eternal rules of reason you have plunged yourselves into a thousand difficulties, endeavour to make yourselves easy by throwing the burden upon Nature. You are, Horatio, in a very miserable condition indeed, for you say you cannot be happy if you control your passions, and you feel yourself miserable by an unrestrained gratification of them, so that here is evil, irremediable evil, either way.


That is very true; at least it appears so to Edition: current; Page: [399] me. Pray what have you to say, Philocles, in honor of Nature or Providence? Methinks I am in pain for her. How do you rescue her, poor lady?


This, my dear Horatio, I have to say: that what you find fault with and clamor against as the most terrible evil in the world, self-denial, is really the greatest good and the highest self-gratification. If indeed you use the word in the sense of some weak moralists and much weaker divines, you will have just reason to laugh at it; but if you take it as understood by philosophers and men of sense, you will presently see her charms and fly to her embraces, notwithstanding her demure looks, as absolutely necessary to produce even your own darling sole good, pleasure, for self-denial is never a duty or a reasonable action but as it is a natural means of procuring more pleasure than you can taste without it; so that this grave, saint-like guide to happiness, as rough and dreadful as she has been made to appear, is in truth the kindest and most beautiful mistress in the world.


Prithee, Philocles, do not wrap yourself in allegory and metaphor. Why do you tease me thus? I long to be satisfied what is this philosophical self-denial, the necessity and reason of it; I am impatient and all on fire. Explain therefore in your beautiful, natural, easy way of reasoning what I am to understand by this grave lady of yours with so forbidding, downcast looks and yet so absolutely necessary to my pleasures. I stand to embrace her, for, you know, pleasure I court under all shapes and forms.


Attend then and you will see the reason of Edition: current; Page: [400] this philosophical self-denial. There can be no absolute perfection in any creature; because every creature is derived from something of a superior existence, and dependent on that source for its own existence. No created being can be all-wise, all-good, and all-powerful, because his powers and capacities are finite and limited; consequently whatever is created must in its own nature be subject to error, irregularity, excess, and imperfectness. All intelligent, rational agents find in themselves a power of judging what kind of beings they are, what actions are proper to preserve them, and what consequences will generally attend them, what pleasures they are for, and to what degree their natures are capable of receiving them. All we have to do then, Horatio, is to consider, when we are surprised with a new object and passionately desire to enjoy it, whether the gratifying that passion be consistent with the gratifying other passions and appetites equally if not more necessary to us, and whether it consists with our happiness to-morrow, next week, or next year; for as we all wish to live, we are obliged by reason to take as much care for our future as our present happiness and not build one upon the ruins of the other. But if through the strength and power of a present passion and through want of attending to consequences we have erred and exceeded the bounds which nature and reason have set us, we are then for our own sakes to refrain or deny ourselves a present momentary pleasure for a future constant and durable one. So that this philosophical self-denial is only refusing to do an Edition: current; Page: [401] action which you strongly desire, because it is inconsistent with health, convenience, or circumstances in the world, or in other words because it would cost you more than it was worth. You would lose by it as a man of pleasure. Thus you see, Horatio, that self-denial is not only the most reasonable but the most pleasant thing in the world.


We are just coming into town, so that we cannot pursue this argument any farther at present; you have said a great deal for nature, Providence, and reason; happy are they who can follow such divine guides.


Horatio, good night; I wish you wise in your pleasures.


I wish, Philocles, I could be as wise in my pleasures as you are pleasantly wise; your wisdom is agreeable, your virtue is amiable, and your philosophy the highest luxury. Adieu, thou enchanting reasoner!



Dear Horatio, where hast thou been these three or four months? What new adventures have you fallen upon since I met you in these delightful, all-inspiring fields, and wondered how such a pleasure-hunter as you could bear being alone?


O Philocles, thou best of friends, because a friend to reason and virtue, I am very glad to see you. Do not you remember, I told you then Edition: current; Page: [402] that some misfortunes in my pleasures had sent me to philosophy for relief? But now I do assure you I can, without a sigh, leave other pleasures for those of philosophy; I can hear the word reason mentioned, and virtue praised, without laughing. Do not I bid fair for conversion, think you?


Very fair, Horatio; for I remember the time when reason, virtue, and pleasure were the same thing with you; when you counted nothing good but what pleased, nor any thing reasonable but what you gained by; when you made a jest of mind and the pleasures of reflection, and elegantly placed your sole happiness, like the rest of the animal creation, in the gratification of sense.


I did so; but in our last conversation, when walking upon the brow of this hill, and looking down on that broad, rapid river, and yon widely-extended beautifully-varied plain, you taught me another doctrine; you showed me that self-denial, which above all things I abhorred, was really the greatest good and the highest self-gratification and absolutely necessary to produce even my own darling sole good, pleasure.


True; I told you that self-denial was never a duty but when it was a natural means of procuring more pleasure than we could taste without it; that as we all strongly desire to live, and to live only to enjoy, we should take as much care about our future as our present happiness, and not build one upon the ruins of the other; that we should look to the end and regard consequences, and if through want of attention we had erred and exceeded the bounds Edition: current; Page: [403] which nature had set us, we were then obliged, for our own sakes, to refrain or deny ourselves a present momentary pleasure for a future constant and durable good.


You have shown, Philocles, that self-denial, which weak or interested men have rendered the most forbidding, is really the most delightful and amiable, the most reasonable and pleasant thing in the world. In a word, if I understand you aright, self-denial is in truth self-recognizing, self-acknowledging, or self-owning. But now, my friend, you are to perform another promise, and show me the path that leads up to that constant, durable, and invariable good, which I have heard you so beautifully describe and which you seem so fully to possess. Is not this good of yours a mere chimera? Can any thing be constant in a world which is eternally changing, and which appears to exist by an everlasting revolution of one thing into another, and where every thing without us and every thing within us is in perpetual motion? What is this constant, durable good, then, of yours? Prithee, satisfy my soul, for I am all on fire and impatient to enjoy her. Produce this eternal blooming goddess with never-fading charms, and see whether I will not embrace her with as much eagerness and rapture as you.


You seem enthusiastically warm, Horatio; I will wait till you are cool enough to attend to the sober, dispassionate voice of reason.


You mistake me, my dear Philocles; my warmth is not so great as to run away with my reason; it is only just raised enough to open my Edition: current; Page: [404] faculties, and fit them to receive those eternal truths and that durable good which you so triumphantly boasted of. Begin, then; I am prepared.


I will. I believe, Horatio, with all your skepticism about you, you will allow that good to be constant which is never absent from you, and that to be durable which never ends but with your being.


Yes, go on.


That can never be the good of a creature which when present the creature may be miserable, and when absent is certainly so.


I think not; but pray explain what you mean, for I am not much used to this abstract way of reasoning.


I mean all the pleasures of sense. The good of man cannot consist in the mere pleasures of sense, because when any one of those objects which you love is absent or cannot be come at you are certainly miserable; and if the faculty be impaired, though the object be present, you cannot enjoy it. So that this sensual good depends upon a thousand things without and within you and all out of your power. Can this then be the good of man? Say, Horatio, what think you, is not this a checkered, fleeting, fantastical good? Can that, in any propriety of speech, be called the good of man which even while he is tasting he may be miserable, and which when he cannot taste he is necessarily so? Can that be our good which costs us a great deal of pains to obtain, which cloys in possessing, for which we must wait the return of appetite before we can enjoy again? Or is that our good which we can Edition: current; Page: [405] come at without difficulty, which is heightened by possession, which never ends in weariness and disappointment, and which the more we enjoy the better qualified we are to enjoy on?


The latter, I think; but why do you torment me thus? Philocles, show me this good immediately.


I have showed you what it is not: it is not sensual, but it is rational and moral good. It is doing all the good we can to others, by acts of humanity, friendship, generosity, and benevolence; this is that constant and durable good which will afford contentment and satisfaction always alike, without variation or diminution. I speak to your experience now, Horatio. Did you ever find yourself weary of relieving the miserable, or of raising the distressed into life or happiness? Or rather, do not you find the pleasure grow upon you by repetition, and that it is greater in the reflection than in the act itself? Is there a pleasure upon earth to be compared with that which arises from the sense of making others happy? Can this pleasure ever be absent, or ever end but with your being? Does it not always accompany you? Doth not it lie down and rise with you, live as long as you live, give you consolation in the hour of death, and remain with you when all other things are going to forsake you, or you them?


How glowingly you paint, Philocles. Methinks Horatio is amongst the enthusiasts. I feel the passion; I am enchantingly convinced, but I do not know why; overborne by something stronger Edition: current; Page: [406] than reason. Sure some divinity speaks within me. But prithee, Philocles, give me the cause why this rational and moral good so infinitely excels the mere natural or sensual.


I think, Horatio, that I have clearly shown you the difference between merely natural or sensual good and rational or moral good. Natural or sensual pleasure continues no longer than the action itself; but this divine or moral pleasure continues when the action is over, and swells and grows upon your hand by reflection. The one is inconstant, unsatisfying, of short duration, and attended with numberless ills; the other is constant, yields full satisfaction, is durable, and no evils preceding, accompanying, or following it. But if you inquire farther into the cause of this difference, and would know why the moral pleasures are greater than the sensual, perhaps the reason is the same as in all other creatures, that their happiness or chief good consists in acting up to their chief faculty, or that faculty which distinguishes them from all creatures of a different species. The chief faculty in man is his reason, and consequently his chief good, or that which may be justly called his good, consists not merely in action, but in reasonable action. By reasonable actions we understand those actions which are preservative of the human kind and naturally tend to produce real and unmixed happiness; and these actions, by way of distinction, we call actions morally good.


You speak very clearly, Philocles; but, that no difficulty may remain on my mind, pray tell me what is the real difference between natural good Edition: current; Page: [407] and evil and moral good and evil, for I know several people who use the terms without ideas.


That may be. The difference lies only in this: that natural good and evil are pleasure and pain; moral good and evil are pleasure or pain produced with intention and design; for it is the intention only that makes the agent morally good or bad.


But may not a man with a very good intention do an evil action?


Yes; but then he errs in his judgment, though his design be good. If his error is inevitable, or such as, all things considered, he could not help, he is inculpable; but if it arose through want of diligence in forming his judgment about the nature of human actions, he is immoral and culpable.


I find, then, that in order to please ourselves rightly, or to do good to others morally, we should take great care of our opinions.


Nothing concerns you more; for as the happiness or real good of men consists in right action, and right action cannot be produced without right opinion, it behoves us, above all things in this world, to take care that our own opinions of things be according to the nature of things. The foundation of all virtue and happiness is thinking rightly. He who sees an action is right—that is, naturally tending to good, and does it because of that tendency, he only is a moral man; and he alone is capable of that constant, durable, and invariable good which has been the subject of this conversation.


How, my dear philosophical guide, shall I Edition: current; Page: [408] be able to know, and determine certainly, what is right and wrong in life?


As easily as you distinguish a circle from a square, or light from darkness. Look, Horatio, into the sacred book of nature; read your own nature, and view the relation which other men stand in to you, and you to them, and you will immediately see what constitutes human happiness, and consequently what is right.


We are just coming into town, and can say no more at present. You are my good genius, Philocles. You have showed me what is good. You have redeemed me from the slavery and misery of folly and vice, and made me a free and happy being.


Then I am the happiest man in the world. Be you steady, Horatio. Never depart from reason and virtue.


Sooner will I lose my existence. Good night, Philocles.


Adieu, dear Horatio!


The following is a dialogue between Socrates, the great Athenian philosopher, and one Glaucon, a private man, of mean abilities, but ambitious of being chosen a senator and of governing the republic; wherein Socrates in a pleasant manner convinces him of his incapacity for public affairs, by making Edition: current; Page: [409] him sensible of his ignorance of the interests of his country in their several branches, and entirely dissuades him from any attempt of that nature. There is also added, at the end, part of another dialogue the same Socrates had with one Charmidas, a worthy man, but too modest, wherein he endeavors to persuade him to put himself forward and undertake public business as being very capable of it. The whole is taken from Xenophon’s Memorable Things of Socrates, Book Third.

“A certain man, whose name was Glaucon, the son of Ariston, had so fixed it in his mind to govern the republic, that he frequently presented himself before the people to discourse of affairs of state, though all the world laughed at him for it; nor was it in the power of his relations or friends to dissuade him from that design. But Socrates had a kindness for him, on account of Plato, his brother, and he only it was who made him change his resolution. He met him, and accosted him in so winning a manner that he first obliged him to hearken to his discourse. He began with him thus:

‘You have a mind then to govern the republic?’

‘I have so,’ answered Glaucon.

‘You cannot,’ replied Socrates, ‘have a more noble design; for if you can accomplish it so as to become absolute, you will be able to serve your friends, you will raise your family, you will extend the bounds of your country, you will be known, not only in Athens, but through all Greece, and perhaps your renown will fly even to the barbarous nations, as did that of Themistocles. In short, wherever you Edition: current; Page: [410] come, you will have the respect and admiration of all the world.’

These words soothed Glaucon, and won him to give ear to Socrates, who went on in this manner. ‘But it is certain that if you desire to be honored you must be useful to the state.’

‘Certainly,’ said Glaucon.

‘And in the name of all the gods,’ replied Socrates, ‘tell me what is the first service that you intend to render the state.’

Glaucon was considering what to answer, when Socrates continued. ‘If you design to make the fortune of one of your friends you will endeavour to make him rich, and thus perhaps you will make it your business to enrich the republic?’

‘I would,’ answered Glaucon.

Socrates replied: ‘Would not the way to enrich the republic be to increase its revenue?’

‘It is very likely it would,’ answered Glaucon.

‘Tell me, then, in what consists the revenue of the state, and to how much it may amount. I presume you have particularly studied this matter, to the end that if any thing should be lost on one hand you might know where to make it good on another, and that if a fund should fail on a sudden you might immediately be able to settle another in its place?’

‘I protest,’ answered Glaucon, ‘I have never thought of this.’

‘Tell me at least the expenses of the republic, for no doubt you intend to retrench the superfluous?’

‘I never thought of this either,’ said Glaucon.

‘You were best then to put off to another time Edition: current; Page: [411] your design of enriching the republic, which you can never be able to do while you are ignorant both of its expenses and revenue.’

‘There is another way to enrich a state,’ said Glaucon, ‘of which you take no notice, and that is by the ruin [spoils] of its enemies.’

‘You are in the right,’ answered Socrates; ‘but to this end it is necessary to be stronger than they, otherwise we shall run the hazard of losing what we have. He therefore who talks of undertaking a war ought to know the strength on both sides, to the end that if his party be the stronger he may boldly advise for war, and that if it be the weaker he may dissuade the people from engaging themselves in so dangerous an enterprise.’

‘All this is true.’

‘Tell me, then,’ continued Socrates, ‘how strong our forces are by sea and land, and how strong are our enemies?’

‘Indeed,’ said Glaucon, ‘I cannot tell you on a sudden.’

‘If you have a list of them in writing, pray show it me; I should be glad to hear it read.’

‘I have it not yet.’

‘I see, then,’ said Socrates, ‘that we shall not engage in war so soon; for the greatness of the undertaking will hinder you from maturely weighing all the consequences of it in the beginning of your government. But,’ continued he, ‘you have thought of the defence of the country; you know what garrisons are necessary and what are not; you know what number of troops is sufficient in one and not Edition: current; Page: [412] sufficient in another; you will cause the necessary garrisons to be reinforced and will disband those that are useless?’

‘I should be of opinion,’ said Glaucon, ‘to leave none of them on foot, because they ruin a country on pretence of defending it.’

‘But,’ Socrates objected, ‘if all the garrisons were taken away there would be nothing to hinder the first comer from carrying off what he pleased; but how come you to know that the garrisons behave themselves so ill? Have you been upon the place? Have you seen them?’

‘Not at all; but I suspect it to be so.’

‘When therefore we are certain of it,’ said Socrates, ‘and can speak upon better grounds than simple conjectures, we will propose this advice to the senate.’

‘It may be well to do so,’ said Glaucon.

‘It comes into my mind too,’ continued Socrates, ‘that you have never been at the mines of silver, to examine why they bring not in so much now as they did formerly.’

‘You say true; I have never been there.’

‘Indeed they say the place is very unhealthy, and that may excuse you.’

‘You rally me now,’ said Glaucon.

Socrates added: ‘But I believe you have at least observed how much corn our lands produce, how long it will serve to supply our city, and how much more we shall want for the whole year, to the end you may not be surprised with a scarcity of bread but may give timely orders for the necessary provisions.’

Edition: current; Page: [413]

‘There is a deal to do,’ said Glaucon, ‘if we must take care of all these things.’

‘There is so,’ replied Socrates; ‘and it is even impossible to manage our own families well unless we know all that is wanting and take care to provide it. As you see, therefore, that our city is composed of above ten thousand families, and it being a difficult task to watch over them all at once, why did you not first try to retrieve your uncle’s affairs, which are running to decay, and after having given that proof of your industry you might have taken a greater trust upon you? But now, when you find yourself incapable of aiding a private man, how can you think of behaving yourself so as to be useful to a whole people? Ought a man who has not strength enough to carry a hundred pound weight to undertake to carry a heavier burden?’

‘I would have done good service to my uncle,’ said Glaucon, ‘if he would have taken my advice.’

‘How,’ replied Socrates, ‘have you not hitherto been able to govern the mind of your uncle, and do you now believe yourself able to govern the minds of all the Athenians, and his among the rest? Take heed, my dear Glaucon, take heed lest too great a desire of power should render you despised; consider how dangerous it is to speak and entertain ourselves concerning things we do not understand; what a figure do those forward and rash people make in the world who do so; and judge yourself, whether they acquire more esteem than blame, whether they are more admired than contemned. Think, on the contrary, with how much more honor a man is regarded Edition: current; Page: [414] who understands perfectly what he says and what he does, and then you will confess that renown and applause have always been the recompense of true merit, and shame the reward of ignorance and temerity. If therefore you would be honored, endeavour to be a man of true merit; and if you enter upon the government of the republic with a mind more sagacious than usual, I shall not wonder if you succeed in all your designs.’ ”

Thus Socrates put a stop to the disorderly ambition of this man; but, on an occasion quite contrary, he in the following manner exhorted Charmidas to take an employment.

He was a man of sense and more deserving than most others in the same post; but as he was of a modest disposition he constantly declined and made great difficulties of engaging himself in public business. Socrates therefore addressed himself to him in this manner:

“ ‘If you knew any man that could gain the prizes in the public games, and by that means render himself illustrious and acquire glory to his country, what would you say of him if he refused to offer himself to the combat?’

‘I would say,’ answered Charmidas, ‘that he was a mean-spirited, effeminate fellow.’

‘And if a man were capable of governing a republic, of increasing its power by his advice, and of raising himself by this means to a high degree of honor, would you not brand him likewise with meanness of soul if he would not present himself to be employed?’

Edition: current; Page: [415]

‘Perhaps I might,’ said Charmidas, ‘but why do you ask me the question?’ Socrates replied: ‘Because you are capable of managing the affairs of the republic, and nevertheless you avoid doing so, though in quality of a citizen you are obliged to take care of the commonwealth. Be no longer then thus negligent in this matter; consider your abilities and your duty with more attention, and let not slip the occasions of serving the republic and of rendering it, if possible, more flourishing than it is. This will be a blessing whose influence will descend not only on the other citizens, but on your best friends and yourself.’ ”

Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
19 June, 1731
Jane Mecom
Mecom, Jane


Dear Sister:

Yours of May 26th I received with the melancholy news of the death of sister Davenport, a loss without doubt regretted by all who knew her, for she was a good woman. Her friends ought, however, to be comforted that they have enjoyed her so long, and that she has passed through the world happily, having never had any extraordinary misfortune or notable affliction, and that she is now secure in rest in the Edition: current; Page: [416] place provided for the virtuous. I had before heard of the death of your first child, and am pleased that the loss is in some measure made up to you by the birth of a second.

We have had the smallpox here lately, which raged violently while it lasted. There have been about fifty persons inoculated, who all recovered except a child of the doctor’s, upon whom the smallpox appeared within a day or two after the operation, and who is therefore thought to have been certainly infected before. In one family in my neighbourhood there appeared a great mortality. Mr. George Claypoole (a descendant of Oliver Cromwell) had by industry acquired a great estate, and being in excellent business, a merchant, would probably have doubled it had he lived according to the common course of years. He died first, suddenly; within a short time died his best negro; then one of his children; then a negro woman; then two children more, buried at the same time; then two more; so that I saw two double buryings come out of the house in one week. None were left in the family but the mother and one child, and both their lives till lately despaired of, so that all the father’s wealth, which everybody thought a little while ago had heirs enough, and no one would have given sixpence for the reversion, was in a few weeks brought to the greatest probability of being divided among strangers; so uncertain are all human affairs. The dissolution of this family is generally ascribed to an imprudent use of quicksilver in the cure of the itch, Mr. Claypoole applying it as he thought proper without Edition: current; Page: [417] consulting a physician for fear of charges, and the smallpox coming upon them at the same time made their case desperate.

But what gives me the greatest concern is the account you give me of my sister Holmes’s misfortune. I know a cancer in the breast is often thought incurable; yet we have here in town a kind of shell made of some wood, cut at a proper time, by some man of great skill, (as they say,) which has done wonders in that disease among us, being worn for some time on the breast. I am not apt to be superstitiously fond of believing such things, but the instances are so well attested as sufficiently to convince the most incredulous.

This, if I have interest enough to procure, as I think I have, I will borrow for a time and send it to you, and hope the doctors you have will at least allow the experiment to be tried, and shall rejoice to hear it has the accustomed effect.

You have mentioned nothing in your letter of our dear parents; but I conclude they are well, because you say nothing to the contrary. I want to hear from sister Dowse, and to know of her welfare, as also of my sister Lydia, who I hear is lately married. I intended to have visited you this summer, but printing the paper money here has hindered me near two months, and our Assembly will sit the 2d of August next, at which time I must not be absent; but I hope to see you this fall. I am your affectionate brother,

B. Franklin.
Edition: current; Page: [418]
Celia Single
Single, Celia


Mr. Gazetteer:

I must needs tell you that some of the things you print do more harm than good; particularly I think so of the tradesman’s letter which was in one of your late papers, which disobliged many of our sex, and has broken the peace of several families by causing difference between men and their wives. I shall give you one instance, of which I was an eye and ear witness.

Happening last Wednesday morning to be at Mrs. W.’s when her husband returned from market, among other things he showed her some balls of thread which he had bought. “My dear,” says he, “I like mightily those stockings which I yesterday saw neighbour Afterwit knitting for her husband of thread of her own spinning. I should be glad to have some such stockings myself. I understand that your maid Mary is a very good knitter, and seeing this thread in market I have bought it that the girl may make a pair or two for me.” Mrs. W. was just then at the glass dressing her head, and turning about with the pins in her mouth, “Lord, child,” says she, “are you crazy? What time has Mary to knit? Who must do the work, I wonder, if you set her to knitting?” “Perhaps, my dear,” says he, “you have a mind to knit them yourself. I remember, when I courted you, I once heard you say that you had learned to knit of your mother.” “I knit stockings Edition: current; Page: [419] for you!” says she; “not I, truly! There are poor women enough in town who can knit; if you please, you may employ them.” “Well, but my dear,” says he, “you know a penny saved is a penny got, and there is neither sin nor shame in knitting a pair of stockings; why should you have such a mighty aversion to it? And what signifies talking of poor women? You know we are not people of quality. We have no income to maintain us but arises from my labor and industry. Methinks you should not be at all displeased when you have an opportunity of getting something as well as myself.”

“I wonder,” says she, “you can propose such a thing to me. Did not you always tell me you would maintain me like a gentlewoman? If I had married the Captain, I am sure he would have scorned to mention knitting of stockings.” “Prythee,” says he, a little nettled, “what do you tell me of your Captain? If you could have had him I suppose you would, or perhaps you did not like him very well. If I did promise to maintain you as a gentlewoman, methinks it is time enough for that when you know how to behave yourself like one. How long do you think I can maintain you at your present rate of living?” “Pray,” says she, somewhat fiercely, and dashing the puff into the powder-box, “don’t use me in this manner, for I ’ll assure you I won’t bear it. This is the fruit of your poison newspapers; there shall no more come here I promise you.” “Bless us,” says he, “what an unaccountable thing is this? Must a tradesman’s daughter and the wife of a tradesman necessarily be a lady? In short, I tell Edition: current; Page: [420] you, if I am forced to work for a living and you are too good to do the like, there ’s the door, go and live upon your estate. And as I never had or could expect any thing from you, I don’t desire to be troubled with you.”

What answer she made I cannot tell; for, knowing that man and wife are apt to quarrel more violently when before strangers than when by themselves, I got up and went out hastily. But I understand from Mary, who came to me of an errand in the evening, that they dined together very peaceably and lovingly, the balls of thread which had caused the disturbance being thrown into the kitchen fire, which I was very glad to hear.

I have several times in your paper seen reflections upon us women for idleness and extravagance, but I do not remember to have once seen such animadversions upon the men. If we were disposed to be censorious we could furnish you with instances enough. I might mention Mr. Billiard, who loses more than he earns at the green table, and would have been in jail long since had it not been for his industrious wife. Mr. Hustlecap, who, every market-day at least, and often all day long, leaves his business for the rattling of half-pence in a certain alley; or Mr. Finikin, who has seven different suits of fine clothes and wears a change every day, while his wife and children sit at home half naked; Mr. Crownhim, always dreaming over the chequer-board, and who cares not how the world goes with his family so he does but get the game; Mr. Totherpot, the tavern-haunter; Mr. Bookish, the everlasting reader; Mr. Edition: current; Page: [421] Tweedledum, and several others, who are mighty diligent at any thing besides their proper business. I say, if I were disposed to be censorious I might mention all these and more, but I hate to be thought a scandalizer of my neighbours, and therefore forbear; and for your part I would advise you for the future to entertain your readers with something else besides people’s reflections upon one another; for remember that there are holes enough to be picked in your coat, as well as others, and those that are affronted by the satire that you may publish will not consider so much who wrote as who printed, and treat you accordingly. Take not this freedom amiss from

Your friend and reader,
Celia Single.
Anthony Afterwit
Afterwit, Anthony


Mr. Gazetteer:

I am an honest tradesman who never meant harm to anybody. My affairs went on smoothly while a bachelor; but of late I have met with some difficulties, of which I take the freedom to give you an account.

About the time I first addressed my present spouse her father gave out in speeches that if she married a man he liked, he would give with her, two hundred pounds in cash on the day of marriage. He never said so much to me, it is true; but he always received Edition: current; Page: [422] me very kindly at his house and openly countenanced my courtship. I formed several fine schemes what to do with this same two hundred pounds, and in some measure neglected my business on that account; but unluckily it came to pass that when the old gentleman saw I was pretty well engaged and that the match was too far gone to be easily broke off, he, without any reason given, grew very angry, forbid me the house, and told his daughter that if she married me he would not give her a farthing. However (as he thought), we were not to be disappointed in that manner, but, having stole a wedding, I took her home to my house, where we were not in quite so poor a condition as the couple described in the Scotch song, who had

  • Neither pot nor pan,
  • But four bare legs together,

for I had a house tolerably furnished for a poor man before. No thanks to Dad, who I understand was very much pleased with his politic management, and I have since learned that there are other old curmudgeons (so called) besides him who have this trick to marry their daughters and yet keep what they might well spare till they can keep it no longer. But this by way of digression; a word to the wise is enough.

I soon saw that with care and industry we might live tolerably easy and in credit with our neighbours; but my wife had a strong inclination to be a gentlewoman. In consequence of this my old-fashioned looking-glass was one day broke, as she said, no one could tell which way. However, since we could not Edition: current; Page: [423] be without a glass in the room, “My dear,” saith she, “we may as well buy a large fashionable one that Mr. Such-a-one has to sell. It will cost but little more than a common glass, and will look much handsomer and more creditable.” Accordingly the glass was bought and hung against the wall; but in a week’s time I was made sensible by little and little that the table was by no means suitable to such a glass; and a more proper table being procured, some time after my spouse, who was an excellent contriver, informed me where we might have very handsome chairs in the way; and thus by degrees I found all my old furniture stowed up in the garret and every thing below altered for the better.

Had we stopped here it might have done well enough. But my wife being entertained with tea by the good women she visited, we could do no less than the like when they visited us, and so we got a tea-table with all its appurtenances of china and silver. Then my spouse unfortunately overworked herself in washing the house, so that we could do no longer without a maid. Besides this it happened frequently that when I came home at one the dinner was but just put in the pot, and my dear thought really it had been but eleven. At other times when I came at the same hour she wondered I would stay so long, for dinner was ready about one and had waited for me these two hours. These irregularities occasioned by mistaking the time convinced me that it was absolutely necessary to buy a clock, which my spouse observed was a great ornament to the room. And lastly, to my grief, she was troubled with some ailment or other, and Edition: current; Page: [424] nothing did her so much good as riding, and these hackney horses were such wretched ugly creatures that—I bought a very fine pacing mare which cost twenty pounds; and hereabouts affairs have stood for about a twelvemonth past.

I could see all along that this did not at all suit with my circumstances, but had not resolution enough to help it, till lately, receiving a very severe dun, which mentioned the next court, I began in earnest to project relief. Last Monday my dear went over the river to see a relation and stay a fortnight, because she could not bear the heat of the town air. In the interim I have taken my turn to make alterations, namely—I have turned away the maid, bag and baggage (for what should we do with a maid, who, beside our boy, have none but ourselves?). I have sold the pacing mare and bought a good milch cow with three pounds of the money. I have disposed of the table and put a good spinning-wheel in its place, which methinks looks very pretty; nine empty canisters I have stuffed with flax, and with some of the money of the tea-furniture I have bought a set of knitting-needles, for to tell you the truth I begin to want stockings. The fine clock I have transformed into an hour-glass, by which I have gained a good round sum, and one of the pieces of the old looking-glass, squared and framed, supplies the place of the great one, which I have conveyed into a closet, where it may possibly remain some years. In short, the face of things is quite changed, and methinks you would smile to see my hour-glass hanging in the place of the clock. What a great ornament it Edition: current; Page: [425] is to the room! I have paid my debts and find money in my pocket. I expect my dear home next Friday, and as your paper is taken at the house where she is, I hope the reading of this will prepare her mind for the above surprising revolutions. If she can conform herself to this new manner of living, we shall be the happiest couple perhaps in the province, and by the blessing of God may soon be in thriving circumstances. I have reserved the great glass, because I know her heart is set upon it; I will allow her when she comes in to be taken suddenly ill with the headache, the stomach-ache, fainting fits, or whatever other disorder she may think more proper, and she may retire to bed as soon as she pleases. But if I should not find her in perfect health, both of body and mind, the next morning, away goes the aforesaid great glass, with several other trinkets I have no occasion for, to the vendue that very day, which is the irrevocable resolution

Of, Sir, her loving husband, and
Your very humble servant,
Anthony Afterwit.

P. S. I would be glad to know how you approve my conduct.

Answer. I don’t love to concern myself in affairs between man and wife.

Edition: current; Page: [426]


It is commonly asserted that without self-denial there is no virtue, and that the greater the self-denial the greater the virtue.

If it were said that he who cannot deny himself any thing he inclines to, though he knows it will be to his hurt, has not the virtue of resolution or fortitude, it would be intelligent enough; but as it stands it seems obscure or erroneous.

Let us consider some of the virtues singly.

If a man has no inclination to wrong people in his dealings, if he feels no temptation to it, and therefore never does it, can it be said that he is not a just man? If he is a just man, has he not the virtue of justice?

If to a certain man idle diversions have nothing in them that is tempting, and therefore he never relaxes his application to business for their sake, is he not an industrious man? Or has he not the virtue of industry?

I might in like manner instance in all the rest of the virtues; but, to make the thing short, as it is certain that the more we strive against the temptation to any vice and practise the contrary virtue, the weaker will that temptation be and the stronger will be that habit, till at length the temptation has no force or entirely vanishes; does it follow from thence that in our endeavours to overcome vice we grow Edition: current; Page: [427] continually less and less virtuous, till at length we have no virtue at all?

If self-denial be the essence of virtue, then it follows that the man who is naturally temperate, just, &c., is not virtuous; but that in order to be virtuous he must, in spite of his natural inclination, wrong his neighbours, and eat, and drink, &c., to excess.

But perhaps it may be said that by the word virtue in the above assertion is meant merit; and so it should stand thus: Without self-denial there is no merit, and the greater the self-denial the greater the merit.

The self-denial here meant must be when our inclinations are towards vice, or else it would still be nonsense.

By merit is understood desert; and when we say a man merits, we mean that he deserves, praise or reward.

We do not pretend to merit any thing of God, for he is above our services; and the benefits he confers on us are the effects of his goodness and bounty.

All our merit, then, is with regard to one another, and from one to another.

Taking, then, the assertion as it last stands:

If a man does me a service from a natural benevolent inclination, does he deserve less of me than another who does me the like kindness against his inclination?

If I have two journeymen, one naturally industrious, the other idle, but both perform a day’s work equally good, ought I to give the latter the most wages?

Edition: current; Page: [428]

Indeed lazy workmen are commonly observed to be more extravagant in their demands than the industrious, for if they have not more for their work, they cannot live as well. But though it be true to a proverb, that lazy folks take the most pains, does it follow that they deserve the most money?

If you were to employ servants in affairs of trust, would you not bid more for one you knew was naturally honest, than for one naturally roguish but who has lately acted honestly? For currents, whose natural channel is dammed up, till the new course is by time worn sufficiently deep and become natural, are apt to break their banks. If one servant is more valuable than another, has he not more merit than the other? and yet this is not on account of superior self-denial.

Is a patriot not praiseworthy if public spirit is natural to him?

Is a pacing-horse less valuable for being a natural pacer?

Nor, in my opinion, has any man less merit for having in general natural virtuous inclinations.

The truth is, that temperance, justice, charity, &c., are virtues, whether practised with or against our inclinations, and the man who practises them merits our love and esteem; and self-denial is neither good nor bad, but as it is applied. He that denies a vicious inclination is virtuous in proportion to his resolution: but the most perfect virtue is above all temptation—such as the virtue of the saints in heaven; and he who does a foolish, indecent, or Edition: current; Page: [429] wicked thing, merely because it is contrary to his inclination (like some mad enthusiasts I have read of, who ran about naked, under the notion of taking up the cross), is not practising the reasonable science of virtue, but is a lunatic.

end of vol. i

In a letter to Jared Elliott in 1751, Franklin writes: “The Collinson you mention is the same gentleman I correspond with. He is a most benevolent, worthy man, very curious in botany and other branches of natural history and fond of improvements in agriculture, &c. He will be pleased with your acquaintance. In the late Philosophical Transactions, you may see frequently papers of his, or letters that were directed to him, on various subjects. He is a member of the Royal Society.”

Mr. Collinson was a liberal contributor to the Public Library of Philadelphia and sent to it the first electrical machine that was ever seen in America.


Experiments and Observations on Electricity made at Philadelphia, in America, by Mr. Benjamin Franklin, Esq. [sic.] London: E. Cave, 1751; plates, 4to.


Political, Miscellaneous, and Philosophical Pieces; now first collected, with explanatory plates, notes, and an index to the whole. London: J. Johnson, 1779; 8vo, 574 pp.

Also, see infra Franklin’s letter to Vaughan, Nov. 9, 1779.


Works of the late Doctor Benjamin Franklin; consisting of his life written by himself, together with essays—humorous, moral, and literary—chiefly in the manner of the Spectator. London: G. G. J. & J. Robinson, 1793, in 2 vols., 8vo. This collection was edited by Dr. Price. It passed through three editions.


Benjamin Franklin’s Kleine Schriften meist in der Manier des Suschauer, nebst seinem Leben aus dem Englischen von G. Schats, 1 vol. Weimar, 1794.


Vie de Franklin, écrite par lui-même, suivie de ses Œuvres morales politiques et litteraires, dont la plus grand partie n’avait pas encore été publiée. Traduit de l’Anglais, avec des notes, par J. Castéra. Eripuit cælo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis. Paris, chez F. Buisson. Imp-Lib., Rue Hautefeuille, No. 20. An VI. de la République (1799).


This firm still exists, the full firm style being Herries, Farquhar, Davidson, Chapman, & Co.


See supra, Preface, and “The Life of Benjamin Franklin, Written by Himself, now first Edited from Original Manuscript, and from his Printed Correspondence and Other Writings,by John Bigelow. J. P. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia, 3d edition, 1884.


Mémoires de la vie privée du Benjamin Franklyn, écrits par luimême et addressés à son fils; suivis d’un précis historique de sa vie politique, et de plusieurs précis, relatives à ce père de la liberté. A. Paris: chez Buisson, Libraire, rue Hautefeuille No. 20, 1791.


See Nos. for May, June, July, September, October, November of 1790, and February, March, May, and June of 1791.


The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklyn, LL.D., late Minister and Plenipotentiary from the United States of America to France, and originally written by himself. And now translated from the French. To which are added some account of his public life, and a variety of anecdotes concerning him, by M. M. Brissot, Condorcet Rochefoucault, Le Roy, etc., etc. And the Eulogium of M. Fauchet. London: J. Parsons, 1798.


“Sept. 7th, Mad. Gautier procured for me the reading of the original manuscript of Dr. Franklin’s Life. There are only two copies—this, and one which Dr. Franklin took with a machine for copying letters, and which is in possession of his grandson. Franklin gave the manuscript to M. le Veillard, of Passy, who was guillotined during the Revolution. Upon his death it came into the hands of his daughter or granddaughter, Mad’lle le Veillard, who is the present possessor of it. It appears evidently to be the first draught written by Franklin, for in a great many places the word originally written is erased with a pen, and a word nearly synonymous substituted in its place, not over the other, but further on, so as manifestly to show that the correction was made at the time of the original composition. The manuscript contains a great many additions made upon a very wide margin; but I did not find that a single passage was anywhere struck out. Part of the work, but not quite half of it, has been translated into French, and from French re-translated into English. The Life comes down no lower than to the year 1758.”—“Life of Romilly, vol. i., p. 408.


A letter of introduction to M. Laboulaye, which I had sent him by a subsequent post.


The trusty messenger at the Consulate and now the Dean of the representatives of the U. S. in foreign parts.


Where I was staying with some friends.


In an auction-sale catalogue of Stevens’s Historical Collections, printed in 1881, Stevens thus refers to his unsuccessful effort to acquire this manuscript:

“That his old friend might possess a substantial memorial of Franklin, the grandson left the original draft with the Veillard family. The writer saw it in 1852 at Amiens in the possession of M. de Senarmont, a relative by marriage of M. le Veillard, who had been beheaded in 1794. He spent two days with that amiable gentleman and his family, and was permitted to collate the autograph with Temple Franklin’s printed text of the autobiography. The manuscript was then the undivided property of three persons. They were all there, but on consultation were not willing to sell unless they could obtain a sum worth dividing. A small price, therefore, was no temptation. They did not then care to dispose of the other autograph papers or the portrait by Duplessis. The writer left a standing offer of £200 for it; they wanting £600. As it was not an unpublished paper, the purchase was not completed, though considerable friendly correspondence followed.”


For further details the reader is referred to The Life of Benjamin Franklin, written by himself, now first edited, from original manuscripts and from his printed correspondence and other writings, by John Bigelow, second edition, Philadelphia, J. B. Lippincott & Co., 1884; Dr. Samuel A. Green’s Story of a Famous Book, Boston, 1874; and The Lost Papers of Benjamin Franklin, Penn. Monthly for May, 1882.


This memorandum, probably in the handwriting of M. le Veillard, immediately precedes the Outline in the MS. The line through the pages was doubtless drawn to show how far the topics had been treated in the autobiography at the time the line was drawn.


Here is a bracket in the manuscript to show to what point the topics had been worked up into the autobiography, which terminates at this point.—Ed.


To this point the projêt is in a strange and clerkly hand. The remainder is in the handwriting of Franklin.—Ed.


The country-seat of the Bishop of St. Asaph, Dr. Jonathan Shipley, the “good Bishop,” as Dr. Franklin used to style him. Their relations were intimate and confidential. In his pulpit, and in the House of Lords, as well as in society, the bishop always opposed the harsh measures of the Crown toward the Colonies.


That Franklin was anciently the common name of an order or rank in England, see Fortescue’s De Laudibus Legum Angliæ, written about the year 1412, in which is the following passage, to show that good juries might easily be formed in any part of England: “Moreover, the same country is so filled and re-plenished with landed menne, that therein so small a thorpe cannot be found wherein dweleth not a knight, an esquire, or such an householder, as is there commonly called a Franklin, enriched with great possessions, and also other freeholders and many yeomen able for their livelihoodes to make a jury in form aforementioned.”

Chaucer, too, calls his country gentleman a Franklin, and, after describing his good housekeeping, thus characterizes him:

  • “This worthy Franklin has a purse of silk,
  • Fixed to his girdle, white as morning milk.
  • Knight of the Shire, first Justice at the Assize,
  • To help the poor, the doubtful to advise.
  • In all employments, generous, just, he proved,
  • Renowned for courtesy, by all beloved.”

The following letter to Franklin from his father, relating mainly to the origin of the Franklin family, was found among Dr. Franklin’s papers:

Josiah Franklin
Franklin, Josiah
May 26, 1739
Benjamin Franklin
Franklin, Benjamin
From Josiah to B. Franklin.
Loving Son:

As to the original of our name, there is various opinions; some say that it came from a sort of title, of which a book that you bought when here gives a lively account. Some think we are of a French extract, which was formerly called Franks; some of a free line, a line free from that vassalage which was common to subjects in days of old; some from a bird of long red legs. Your uncle Benjamin made inquiry of one skilled in heraldry, who told him there is two coats of armor, one belonging to the Franklins of the North, and one to the Franklins of the West. However, our circumstances have been such as that it hath hardly been worth while to concern ourselves much about these things any farther than to tickle the fancy a little. The first that I can give account of is my great-grandfather, as it was the custom in those days among young men too many times to goe to seek their fortunes, and in his travels he went upon liking to a taylor; but he kept such a stingy house, that he left him and travelled farther, and came to a smith’s house, and coming on a fasting day, being in popish times, he did not like there the first day; the next morning the servant was called up at five in the morning, but after a little time came a good toast and good beer, and he found good housekeeping there; he served and learned the trade of a smith. In Queen Mary’s days, either his wife, or my grandmother, by father’s side, informed my father that they kept their Bible fastened under the top of a joint-stool, that they might turn up the book and read in the Bible, that when anybody came to the dore they turned up the stool for fear of the aparitor, for if it were discovered, they would be in hazard of their lives. My grandfather was a smith also, and settled in Eton, in Northamptonshire, and he was imprisoned a year and a day on suspicion of his being the author of some poetry that touched the character of some great man. He had only one son and one daughter; my grandfather’s name was Thomas, my mother’s name was Jane. My father was born at Ecton or Eton, Northamptonshire, on the 18th of October, 1698; married to Miss Jane White, niece to Coll. White, of Banbury, and died in the 84th year of his age. There was nine children of us, who were happy in our parents, who took great care by their instructions and pious example to breed us up in a religious way. My eldest brother had but one child, which was married to one Mr. Fisher, at Wallingborough, in Northamptonshire. The town was lately burnt down, and whether she was a sufferer or not I cannot tell, or whether she be living or not. Her father dyed worth fifteen hundred pounds, but what her circumstances are now I know not. She hath no child. If you by the freedom of your office, makes it more likely to convey a letter to her, it would be acceptable to me. There is also children of brother John and sister Morris, but I hear nothing from them, and they write not to me, so that I know not where to find them. I have been again to about seeing . . ., but have mist of being informed.

“We received yours, and are glad to hear poor Jammy is recovered so well. Son John received the letter, but is so busy just now that he cannot write you an answer, but will do the best he can. Now with hearty love to, and prayer for you all, I rest your affectionate father,

Josiah Franklin.

Here follow in the margin the words, in brackets, “here insert it,” but the poetry is not given. Mr. Sparks informs us (Life of Franklin, p. 6) that these volumes had been preserved, and were in possession of Mrs. Emmons, of Boston, great-granddaughter of their author. The following are specimens quoted by Mr. Sparks:

“Sent to his namesake upon a Report of his Inclination to Martial Affairs July 7th, 1710:

  • “Believe me, Ben, it is a dangerous trade,
  • The sword has many marred as well as made;
  • By it do many fall, not many rise,
  • Makes many poor, few rich, and fewer wise;
  • Fills towns with ruin, fields with blood; beside
  • ’T is sloth’s maintainer, and the shield of pride.
  • Fair cities, rich to-day in plenty flow,
  • War fills with want to-morrow, and with woe.
  • Ruined estates, the nurse of vice, broke limbs and scars,
  • Are the effects of desolating wars.”

The following piece was sent when his namesake was seven years old. It would appear that he had received from him some evidence of his juvenile skill in composition:

“Sent to Benjamin Franklin, 1713:

  • “ ’T is time for me to throw aside my pen,
  • When hanging sleeves read, write, and rhyme like men.
  • This forward spring foretells a plentous crop;
  • For if the bud bear grain, what will the top?
  • If plenty in the verdant blade appear,
  • What may we not soon hope for in the ear?
  • When flowers are beautiful before they ’re blown,
  • What rarities will afterward be shown!
  • If trees good fruit un’noculated bear,
  • You may be sure ’t will afterward be rare.
  • If fruits are sweet before they ’ve time to yellow,
  • How luscious will they be when they are mellow?
  • If first year’s shoots such noble clusters send,
  • What laden boughs, Engedi-like, may we expect in the end!”

This uncle Benjamin died in Boston, in 1728, leaving one son, Samuel, the only survivor of ten children. This son had an only child, who died in 1775, leaving four daughters. There are now no male descendants of Dr. Franklin’s grandfather living who bear his name. The Doctor’s eldest son, William, left one son, William Temple Franklin, who died without issue bearing his name. His second son, Francis Folger, died when about four years of age. His very clever daughter Sarah married Richard Bache in 1767. Their descendants are: Benjamin Franklin Bache, who married Margaret Markoe; William Hartman Bache, who married Catharine Wistar; Eliza Franklin Bache, who married John Edward Harwood; Louis Bache, who married (first wife) Mary Ann Swift, (second wife) Esther Egee; Deborah Bache, who married William J. Duane; Richard Bache, who married Sophia B., a daughter of Alexander J. Dallas; Sarah Bache, who married Thomas Sargeant, together with their children.


See infra a letter to Samuel Franklin, dated July 12, 1771.


Franklin was born in Milk Street and opposite the Old South Church, of which his parents were members, Jan. 6, 1706, old style, or January 17th, new style. He was baptized in the Old South Church the same day.—Ed.


Sherburne is now known by the name of Nantucket.—Ed.


These lines are from A Looking-Glass for the Times; or, The Former Spirit of New England Revived in this Generation, by Peter Folger, printed in a pamphlet of fourteen duodecimo pages, and bearing date April 23, 1676, while Philip’s war was raging. The author was the only son of John Folger, who came from Norwich in England, and was among the first settlers of Watertown, Mass. The father afterward removed to Martha’s Vineyard, where Peter became thoroughly versed in the Indian tongue, as spoken in that section, so that he could speak and write it with facility. This accomplishment made him useful as an interpreter, and it was through his agency that the island of Nantucket was fairly purchased of the natives and honestly paid for. His wife’s maiden name was Mary Morrill, a servant of the celebrated Hugh Peters, with whom and in the same ship he came to America. During the voyage he became enamoured of her, and purchased her time of her master for £20. She afterward became his wife, the mother of Abiah Folger, and the grandmother, of course, of Dr. Franklin. These lines, immediately preceding those quoted by Dr. Franklin, which are necessary to complete the sentiment intended to be conveyed by the author, are the following:

  • “I am for peace and not for war,
  • And that ’s the reason why
  • I write more plain than some men do,
  • That use to daub and lie.
  • But I shall cease, and set my name
  • To what I here insert,
  • Because to be a libeller
  • I hate it with my heart.”

A more durable monument was erected over the graves of the father and mother of Franklin in 1827 by the voluntary subscriptions of a large number of the citizens of Boston. It is an obelisk of granite twenty-one feet high, which rests on a square base measuring seven feet on each side and two feet in height. The obelisk is composed of five massive blocks of granite, placed one above another. On one side is the name of Franklin in large bronze letters, and a little below is a tablet of bronze, thirty-two inches long and sixteen wide, sunk into the stone. On this tablet is engraven Dr. Franklin’s original inscription, as quoted in the text, and beneath it are the following lines:

The Marble Tablet,

Bearing the above inscription,

Having been dilapidated by the ravages of time,

A number of citizens,

Entertaining the most profound veneration

For the memory of the illustrious

Benjamin Franklin,

And desirous of reminding succeeding generations

That he was born in Boston,


Erected this


Over the grave of his parents,



“This was written from recollection, and it is not surprising that, after the lapse of fifty years, the author’s memory should have failed him in regard to a fact of small importance. The New England Courant was the fourth newspaper that appeared in America. The first number of the Boston News-Letter was published April 24, 1704. This was the first newspaper in America. The Boston Gazette commenced December 21, 1719; the American Weekly Mercury, at Philadelphia, December 22, 1719; the New England Courant, August 21, 1721. Dr. Franklin’s error of memory probably originated in the circumstance of his brother having been the printer of the Boston Gazette when it was first established. This was the second newspaper published in America.”—Sparks.


I fancy his harsh and tyrannical treatment of me might be a means of impressing me with that aversion to arbitrary power that has stuck to me through my whole life.


This was in October, 1723.—Ed.


M. Laboulaye presumes Keimer was one of the Camisards or Protestants of the Cevennes, so persecuted by Louis XIV.—Ed.


Governor Burnet was appointed governor of the Colony of New York and New Jersey on the 19th of April, 1720. He entered upon the duties of his office in September following. He was a man of scholarly tastes, fond of accumulating books, with a turn for theological speculation, which he indulged in making a commentary upon the three periods contained in the twelfth chapter of Daniel. The governor married a daughter of Cornelius Van Horne, of New York, who died soon. He was transferred to the governorship of Boston in July, 1728. His administration there, however, was not of long duration. He was taken ill from exposure on a fishing excursion, and died on the 7th of September, 1729.

The governor’s interest in theology did not commend him especially to the authorities at home.

The Bishop of London complained that clergymen already provided with his license to preach in the colonies were subject to a new examination, conducted in a somewhat unusual manner by the governor.

“Your method [wrote Richard West, the governor’s brother-in-law, Solicitor-General to the Board of Trade] is to prescribe him a text, to give him a Bible for his companion, and then lock him into a room by himself, and if he does not in some stated time produce a sermon to your satisfaction, you peremptorily refuse to grant him your instrument (permission to preach). The consequence is, the man must starve. . . . I have seen a great many complaints against governors, but then nobody was surprised, because I could always give some pecuniary reason for what they had done. You surely are the first who ever brought himself into difficulties by an inordinate care of souls; and I am sure that makes no part of your commission.”

For an account of this worthy man, see Whitehead’s Contributions to East Jersey History, pp. 156-168.—Ed.


In one of the later editions of the Dunciad occur the following lines:

  • “Silence, ye wolves! while Ralph to Cynthia howls,
  • And makes Night hideous—answer him, ye owls.”
  • Book iii., line 165.

To this the poet adds the following note:

“James Ralph, a name inserted after the first editions, not known till he writ a swearing-piece called Sawney, very abusive of Dr. Swift, Mr. Gay, and myself. These lines allude to a thing of his entitled Night, a poem. This low writer attended his own works with panegyrics in the journals, and once in particular praised himself highly above Mr. Addison, in wretched remarks upon that author’s account of English poets, printed in a London journal, September, 1728. He was wholly illiterate and knew no language, not even French. Being advised to read the rules of dramatic poetry before he began a play, he smiled and replied, ‘Shakespeare writ without rules.’ He ended at last in the common sink of all such writers, a political newspaper, to which he was recommended by his friend Arnal, and received a small pittance for pay; and being detected in writing on both sides on one and the same day, he publicly justified the morality of his conduct.”

In the first book of the Dunciad, line 215, there is another allusion to Ralph:

  • “And see! the very Gazetteers give o’er,
  • Ev’n Ralph repents, and Henley writes no more.”
  • Ed.

A comedian.—Ed.


Watts’s printing-office was situated on the south side of Wild-Court, near the eastern end, and three doors from King’s Head yard.

The press worked by Franklin was bought by Mr. Edward Cox, with other materials, about 1771, and set up in the office belonging successively to Messrs. Cox & Sons, Cox & Wyman, Wyman & Sons, Nos. 74 and 75 Great Queen Street. The press was worked for some time by Messrs. Cox, but, becoming obsolete, lay idle for years. Ultimately, its room being required, it was taken down and passed into the hands of Messrs. Harrild & Sons, printers’ brokers of the period, in whose lumber room it remained until June, 1841, when Mr. J. B. Murray, of New York, interested himself successfully in procuring it to be sent to America. For many years it was installed in the Patent Office at Washington. Changes taking place there, it was claimed by Mr. J. B. Murray, who then deposited it in the Smithsonian Institution at Washington. Subsequently it was removed to the model-room of the Patent Office, where it has since remained, with the exception of a short interval, during which it was shown at the Philadelphia International Exhibition, 1876.

Mr. Murray acquired the Franklin press from Messrs. Harrild & Sons, upon the understanding that they were to be assured, in return, a donation to the London Printers’ Pension Society. In a letter which has been printed Mr. Murray says: “Messrs. Harrild, meanwhile, allowed me the immediate possession of the press, forwarding it to me at Liverpool; and to prove my desire to make a proper return to the Printers’ Pension Fund, I determined to permit the press to be exhibited until a reply should be received from America. It was deposited in the Council Chamber of the Liverpool Medical Institution, and for about three weeks during which the press remained open to the public, it was visited by numerous parties, both English and American. Impressions of a poem by Dr. Franklin, entitled Paper, and also the Twelve Rules which he laid down for his own government in early life, were printed, and about 5,800 copies were freely given among the visitors. In return for these impressions (which were occasionally printed off at the press by the visitors themselves), small voluntary contributions to the Printers’ Pension Fund were received in a box placed near the press. Great interest appeared to be excited about the exhibition of the press and it was suggested to me that a lecture on the life of Dr. Franklin would aid the Society for whose benefit it was being exhibited. I made this suggestion known to the Rev. Hugh M’Neile, who eventually accepted the task, though at the sacrifice of many personal and professional duties.”

“Subsequently,” says Mr. Murray, “I received, through Mr (Petty) Vaughan, a communication from the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, regretting that they could not, consistently with their constitution, accept the press on the conditions named. I immediately made this known to Messrs. Harrild, as I could not now expect to realize for them the anticipated donations from that society, neither could I in honour claim any further title to the press. To this I received a reply, presenting the press to me, individually, unreservedly, and in a still more handsome manner than when they first consented to part with it. I had the pleasure to remit to the Printers’ Pension Society of London, through Messrs. Harrild, the sum of £150, 9s. 4d., the proceeds of the lecture and of the exhibition of the press.

The sum derived from the Liverpool exhibition was funded by Messrs. Harrild, and in 1854 it had accumulated to an amount sufficient to enable the Committee of the Printers’ Pension Society to initiate the “Franklin Pension” of £10, 10s., per year.—Ed.


A printing-house used to be called a chapel by the workmen, and a journeyman, on entering a printing-house, was accustomed to pay one or more gallons of beer “for the good of the chapel.”—Ed.


The “plan” referred to as the most “important part” of the Journal, is not found in the manuscript Journal which was left among Franklin’s papers.


For the greater convenience of the reader and also to preserve the chronological order which the editor has prescribed for himself in the arrangement of this work, this journal is inserted here, though it was not included in the autobiography.—Ed.


One gone to the Baltic, one to the Mediterranean, and one to the West Indies.


The impression left by the perusal of Boyle’s Lectures upon Franklin’s youthful mind gives new point to an incident related by Richard Baxter in his Notes on the Life and Death of Sir Matthew Hale.

“His many hard questions, doubts, and objections to me occasioned me to draw up a small tract of the nature and immortality of man’s soul, as proved by natural light alone, by way of question and answers, in which I had not baulked the hardest questions and difficulties that I could think of; conceiving that Atheists and Sadducees are so unhappily witty, and Satan such a tutor, that they are as like to think of them as I. But the good man, when I sent it to him, was wiser than I; and sent me word in his return that he would not have me publish it in English, nor without some alterations of the method, because, though he thought I had sufficiently answered all the objections, yet ordinary readers would take deeper into their minds such hard objections as they never heard before, than the answer, how full soever, would be able to overcome: whereupon, not having leisure to translate and alter it, I cast it by.”


Printed in 1725. For a further account of this pamphlet, see infra, letter to Mr. B. Vaughan, dated Nov. 9, 1779.—Ed.


The words, “Some foolish intrigues with low women excepted, which from the expense were rather more prejudicial to me than to them,” effaced on the revision, and the sentence which follows in the text written in the margin.—Ed.


In a careful and interesting paper read before the American Philosophical Society by Dr. Patterson, one of its Vice-Presidents, on the 25th of May, 1843, in commemoration of its Centennial Anniversary, will be found much new and important information about the Junto.

When the Philosophical Society was instituted, a book containing some of the questions discussed by the Junto was put into the hands of Dr. William Smith, who selected from it, and published in his Eulogium on Franklin, the following specimens:

“Is sound an entity or body?

How may the phenomena of vapors be explained?

Is self-interest the rudder that steers mankind—the universal monarch to whom all are tributaries?

Which is the best form of government, and what was that form which first prevailed among mankind?

Can any one particular form of government suit all mankind?

What is the reason that the tides rise higher in the Bay of Fundy than in the Bay of Delaware?

Is the emission of paper money safe?

What is the reason that men of the greatest knowledge are not the most happy?

How may the possessions of the Lakes be improved to our advantage?

Why are tumultuous, uneasy sensations united with the desires?

Whether it ought to be the aim of philosophy to eradicate the passions.

How may smoky chimneys be best cured?

Why does the flame of a candle tend upwards in a spire?

Which is least criminal—a bad action joined with a good intention, or a good action with a bad intention?

Is it consistent with the principles of liberty in a free government to punish a man as a libeller when he speaks the truth,”—Ed.


This paper was called The Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences and Pennsylvania Gazette. Keimer printed his last number, the 39th, on the 25th day of September, 1729.—Ed.

Its leading articles were an installment of Chambers’ Dictionary, Art. “Air,” a message from Gov. Burnet of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, the reply of the Assembly, and an obituary of the governor, who had just died. The following announcement filled the rest of the sheet:

“It not quadrating with the circumstances of the printer hereof, S. K., to publish this Gazette any longer, he gives notice that this paper concludes his third quarter; and is the last that will be printed by him. Yet, that his generous subscribers may not be baulked or disappointed, he has agreed with B. Franklin and H. Meredith, at the new printing office, to continue it to the end of the year, having transferred the property wholly to them [D. Harry declining it2], and probably if further encouragement appears it will be continued longer. The said S. K. designs to leave this province early in the spring or sooner, if possibly he can justly accommodate his affairs with every one he stands indebted to.”

The next number, 40, appeared on the 2d of October, in new type, with the following announcement, the title Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences having been dropped, and with it the feature of the paper which it designated:

“The Pennsylvania Gazette being now to be carryed on by other hands, the reader may expect some account of the method we design to proceed in.

Upon a view of Chambers’ great dictionaries, from whence were taken the materials of The Universal Instructor in all Arts and Sciences, which usually made the first part of this paper, we find that besides their containing many things abstruse or insignificant to us, it will probably be fifty years before the whole can be gone through in this manner of publication. There are likewise in those books continual references from things under one letter of the alphabet to those under another, which relate to the same subject and are necessary to explain and complete it; these taken in their turn may be ten years distant; and since it is likely that they who desire to acquaint themselves with any particular art or science would gladly have the whole before them in much less time, we believe our readers will not think such a method of communicating knowledge to be a proper one.

However, though we do not intend to continue the publication of those dictionaries in a regular alphabetical method, as has hitherto been done; yet, as several things exhibited from them in the course of these papers, have been entertaining to such of the curious who never had and cannot have the advantage of good libraries; and as there are many things still behind, which, being in this manner made generally known, may perhaps become of considerable use by giving such hints to the excellent natural genius’s of our country, as may contribute either to the improvement of our present manufactures or towards the invention of new ones; we propose from time to time to communicate such particular parts as appear to be of the most general consequence.

As to the ‘Religious Courtship,’ part of which has been retal’d to the publick in these papers, the reader may be informed, that the whole book will probably in a little time be printed and bound by itself; and those who approve of it will doubtless be better pleased to have it entire, than in this broken, interrupted manner.

There are many who have long desired to see a good newspaper in Pennsylvania; and we hope those gentlemen who are able, will contribute towards the making this such. We ask assistance because we are fully sensible, that to publish a good newspaper is not so easy an undertaking as many people imagine it to be. The author of a Gazette (in the opinion of the learned) ought to be qualified with an extensive acquaintance with languages, a great easiness and command of writing, and relating things clearly and intelligibly and in a few words; he should be able to speak of war both by land and sea; be well acquainted with geography, with the history of the time, with the secret interests of princes and states, the secrets of courts, and the manners and customs of all nations. Men thus accomplished are very rare in this remote part of the world; and it would be well if the writer of these papers could make up among his friends what is wanting in himself.

Upon the whole, we may assure the publick, that, as far as the encouragement we meet with will enable us, no care and pains shall be omitted that may make the Pennsylvania Gazette as agreeable and useful an entertainment as the nature of the thing will allow.”

After the publication of two numbers the Gazette was published twice a week, beginning with No. 43. Franklin was only twenty-three years of age when he embarked in this enterprise.—Ed.


In the previous number Keimer announced that he had made over his business to David Harry, with the design to leave this province as soon as he could get in his debts and justly balance with every one of his few creditors, etc., etc.


The following are the spirited remarks here referred to:

“His excellency, governor Burnet, died unexpectedly about two days after the date of this reply to his last message; and it was thought the dispute would have ended with him, or at least have lain dormant till the arrival of a new governor from England, who possibly might or might not be inclined to enter too vigorously into the measures of his predecessor. But our last advices by the post acquaint us that his honor the lieutenant-governor (on whom the government immediately devolves upon the death or absence of the commander-in-chief) has vigorously renewed the struggle on his own account, of which the particulars will be seen in our next. Perhaps some of our readers may not fully understand the original ground of this warm contest between the governor and assembly. It seems that people have for these hundred years past, enjoyed the privilege of rewarding the governor for the time being, according to their sense of his merit and services; and few or none of their governors have complained, or had cause to complain, of a scanty allowance. When the late governor Burnet brought with him instructions to demand a settled salary of 1000 pounds sterling per annum, on him and all his successors, and the Assembly were required to fix it immediately; he insisted on it strenuously to the last, and they as constantly refused it. It appears by their votes and proceedings that they thought it an imposition, contrary to their own charter, and to Magna Charta; and they judged that there should be a mutual dependence between the governor and governed; and that to make the governor independent would be dangerous and destructive to their liberties, and the ready way to establish tyranny. They thought likewise, that the province was not the less dependent on the crown of Great Britain, by the governor’s depending immediately on them, and his own good conduct, for an ample support; because all acts and laws which he might be induced to pass, must nevertheless be constantly sent home for approbation, in order to continue in force. Many other reasons were given, and arguments used in the course of the controversy, needless to particularize here, because all the material papers relating to it have been already given in our public news.

Much deserved praise has the deceased governor received for his steady integrity in adhering to his instructions, notwithstanding the great difficulty and opposition he met with, and the strong temptations offered from time to time to induce him to give up the point. And yet, perhaps, something is due to the Assembly (as the love and zeal of that country for the present establishment is too well known to suffer any suspicion of want of loyalty), who continue thus resolutely to abide by what they think their right, and that of the people they represent; manage all the arts and menaces of a governor, famed for his cunning and politics, backed with instructions from home, and powerfully aided by the great advantage such an officer always has of engaging the principal men of a place in his party, by conferring, when he pleases, so many posts of profit and honor. Their happy mother country will perhaps observe, with pleasure, that though her gallant cocks and matchless dogs abate their natural fire and intrepidity when transported to a foreign clime (as this nation is), yet her sons in the remotest part of the earth, and even to the third and fourth descent, still retain that ardent spirit of liberty, and that undaunted courage, which has in every age so gloriously distinguished Britons and Englishmen from the rest of mankind.”


I got his son once £500 [marg. note].


By the agreement of dissolution, still extant, it appears that it took place July 14, 1730.—Sparks.


Mrs. Franklin survived her marriage over forty years. She died December 19, 1774.—Ed.


This library was founded in 1731, and incorporated in 1742. By the addition made to it of the library left by Mr. James Logan, and by annual purchases, the Philadelphia Library now numbers between 70,000 and 80,000 volumes.—Ed.


This was a wise application of one of the most cynical precepts of Ovid in his banishment: “Crede mihi, bene qui latuit bene vixit.”—Tristia Elegia, iv., 25. This line was subsequently adopted as his motto by the illustrious author of the Cartesian philosophy.


The verses here referred to are thus given as Englished from the version of Hierocles:

“In this place you should collect together the sense of all the foregoing precepts, that so giving heed to them as to the laws of God in the inward judicature of the soul, you may make a just examination of what you have done well or ill. For how will our remembrance reprehend us for doing ill, or praise us for doing well, unless the preceding meditation receive some laws, according to which the whole tenor of our life should be ordered, and to which we should conform the very private recesses of conscience all our lives long? He requires also that this examination be daily repeated, that by continual returns of recollection we may not be deceived in our judgment. The time which he recommends for this work is about even or bed-time, that we may conclude the action of the day with the judgment of conscience, making the examination of our conversation an evening song to God. Wherein have I transgressed? What have I done? What duty have I omitted? So shall we measure our lives by the rules above mentioned, if to the law of the mind we join the judgment of reason.

“What then does the law of the mind say? That we should honor the more excellent natures according to their essential order, that we should have our parents and relations in high esteem, love and embrace good men, raise ourselves above corporal affections, everywhere stand in awe of ourselves, carefully observe justice, consider the frailty of riches and momentary life, embrace the lot which falls to us by divine judgment, delight in a divine frame of spirit, convert our mind to what is most excellent, love good discourses, not lie open to impostures, not be servilely affected in the possession of virtue, advise before action to prevent repentance, free ourselves from uncertain opinions, live with knowledge, and lastly, that we should adapt our bodies and the things without to the exercise of virtue. These are the things which the law-giving mind has implanted in the souls of men, which when reason admits, it becomes a most vigilant judge of itself, in this manner, Wherein have I transgressed? what have I done? and if afterwards she finds herself to have spent the whole day agreeably to the foregoing rules, she is rewarded with a divine complacency. And if she find any thing done amiss, she corrects herself by the restorative of an after admonition.

“Wherefore he would have us keep off sleep by the readiness and alacrity of reason. And this the body will easily endure, if temperately dieted it has not contracted a necessity of sleeping. By which means even our most natural appetites are subjected to the empire of reason.

“Do not admit sleep (says he) till you have examin’d every action of the day. And what is the form of examination? Wherein have I transgress’d? what have I done? what duty have I omitted? For we sin two ways. By doing what we should not, and by not doing what we should. For ’t is one thing not to do well, and another thing to commit evil. One is a sin of omission, and the other of commission.

“For instance, ’t is our duty to pray, but not to blaspheme; to nourish our parents, but not to revile them. He that does the former of these, does what he ought; he that does the latter, what he ought not. Though there is as much guilt in a sin of omission as in a sin of commission.

“He exhorts also that we proceed methodically in our examination from the beginning to the end, leaving nothing out in the middle, which is implied by the word, runover. For oftentimes change of order deceives the judgment, and makes us favorable to our ill actions through disorder of memory. Besides, a daily recollection of our actions begets care and studiousness of conversation, and a sense of our immortality. And this is worth our admiration, that when he bid us recollect everything, yet he added not, Wherein have I done well? or what duty have I perform’d? But he turn’d the memory to what was a less occasion of pride, requiring a scrutiny only of our sins. And as for the judge, he has constituted that which is most just and impartial, and most intimate and domestick, the conscience, right reason, or a man’s self, which he had before caution’d us to stand in awe of above all things. For who can so admonish another as every man can himself? For he that is at his own liberty will use the freedom of nature, and shake off the admonition of others, when he is not minded to follow them. But reason, which is within us, cannot chuse but hear itself. God has set this over us as a guardian, instructor, and schoolmaster. And this the verse makes the judge of the day’s action, acquiesces in its determination whether it condemns or approves itself. For when it reads over what is done in the register of memory, then, looking into the exemplar of the law, it pronounces itself worthy of honor or dishonor. This course, if daily follow’d, perfects the divine image in them that use it, leading them by additions and subtractions to the beauty of virtue, and all attainable perfection. For here end the instructions about civil virtue.”—Ed.


This “little book” is dated 1st of July, 1733.


Nothing so likely to make a man’s fortune as virtue.—Marg. Note.


This is a marginal memorandum.—Ed.


The advertisement to the first number of this the most celebrated of almanacs was printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette on the 19th of December, 1732. Though appearing thus late in the season, three editions of No. 1 were sold before the end of January. The advertisement ran as follows:

“Just published, for 1733, An Almanack, containing the Lunations, Eclipses, Planets’ Motions and Aspects, Weather, Sun and Moon’s Rising and Setting, High Water, etc.; besides many pleasant and witty Verses, Jests, and Sayings; Author’s Motive of Writing; Prediction of the Death of his Friend, Mr. Titan Leeds; Moon no Cukold; Bachelor’s Folly; Parson’s Wine and Baker’s Pudding; Short Visits; Kings and Bears; New Fashions; Game for Kisses; Katherine’s Love; Different Sentiments; Signs of a Tempest; Death of a Fisherman; Conjugal Debate; Men and Melons; The Prodigal; Breakfast in Bed; Oyster Lawsuit, etc. By Richard Saunders, Philomat. Printed and Sold by B. Franklin.”


This fire company was formed Dec. 7, 1736. It was designed primarily for the security of the property of its members, though they did not limit their usefulness to their own members when their property was not in danger. The Union Fire Company was in active service as late as 1791. In a roll of the companies of that day we find it heading the list, having thirty members, one engine, two hundred and fifty buckets, thirteen ladders, two hooks, no bags, and one eighty-foot rope.


See infra, 14th of May, 1743: “A Proposal for Promoting Useful knowledge among the British Plantations in America.”

Though the American Philosophical Society was not, strictly speaking, the organic continuation of the Junto, there can be no doubt that the plan of establishing it had been often brought before the Junto for consideration, for we know that it was the practice of Franklin, when he had new projects to propose, to have them first discussed in the Club. But a stronger evidence still of the part which they took in forming the new institution is presented by the fact that of the nine original members of the Philosophical Society, six, including the three officers, are known to have belonged to the Junto,—namely, Franklin, Hopkinson, Coleman, Godfrey, Rhoads, and Parsons.—Ed.


See the votes.—Marg. note.


The old “Academy,” as the building of which Franklin speaks was called, has given place to a new and tasteful edifice. For many years the new building had been occupied as an academy, preparatory to the University, commodious buildings for which, were erected in South Ninth Street, near Chestnut.—Ed.


See the votes to have this more correctly.—Marg. note.


See votes.—Marg. note.


From the MS. journal of Mr. Andrew Ellicott, I have been kindly favored by Mr. J. C. G. Kennedy, of Washington, one of his descendants, with the following extract which was written three years before the preceding paragraph in the autobiography:

“I found him (Franklin) in his little room among his papers. He received me very politely and immediately entered into conversation about the western country. His room makes a singular appearance, being filled with old philosophical instruments, papers, boxes, tables and stools. About ten o’clock he placed some water on the fire but not being expert through his great age, I desired him to give me the pleasure of assisting him. He thanked me and replied that he ever made it a point to wait upon himself and although he began to find himself infirm, he was determined not to increase his infirmities by giving way to them. After the water was hot I observed his object was to shave himself, which operation he performed without a glass and with great expedition. I asked him if he never employed a barber, he answered: ‘No, I think happiness does not consist so much in particular pieces of good fortune which perhaps accidentally fall to a man’s lot, as to be able in his old age to do those little things which, being unable to perform himself, would be done by others with a sparing hand.’ ”


See infra, July, 1754, “Papers Relating to a Plan of Union of the Colonies.”—Ed.


My acts in Morris’s time, military, etc.—Marg. note.


This dialogue and the militia act are in the Gentleman’s Magazine for February and March, 1756.—Marg. note.


For a fuller account of his election see, infra, letter to Governor William Franklin, 19th Dec., 1767.—Ed.


The many unanimous resolves of the Assembly—what date?—Marg. note.


For another account of this conversation with Granville see infra letter from Franklin to Mr. James Bowdoin, dated 13 January, 1772.


In reference to Gov’r Denny’s removal, see also a letter which Franklin wrote to his wife while the negotiations here described were progressing, and dated June 10, 1758.


First printed in the Gentleman’s Magazine for September, 1780. The author was nineteen years old at the time this letter was written, and was then residing in London, employed as a printer. Referring to this asbestos purse in his autobiography, Franklin says: “Sir Hans Sloane came to see me, and invited me to his house in Bloomsbury Square, showed me all his curiosities, and persuaded me to add that to the number; for which he paid me handsomely.”


His youngest sister, at this time nearly fifteen years old.


There is no reason to suppose that Franklin ever wrote a second part. He was in the twenty-second year of his age when this was written.


See Junto Paper of “Good and Evil,” &c.


These Rules were drawn up in the year 1728, and designed as general regulations for a Club, called The Junto, consisting of a select number of Franklin’s acquaintances in Philadelphia, whom he had induced to associate and hold weekly meetings for mutual improvement.


The “Queries” appear to have been the author’s first thoughts, written down without regard to method, and in parts are unfinished.


These papers had their origin in a desire to punish Keimer for forestalling a project Franklin had formed for the establishment of a newspaper in Philadelphia. See supra, p. 176. They were contributed to the Weekly Mercury, the first newspaper published in Philadelphia, and accomplished their purpose of breaking down Keimer’s enterprise by giving new interest and popularity to the older print. The Busy-Body papers are the earliest compositions known to have come from Franklin’s pen, and were written in the beginning of his twenty-third year. They exhibit the germs of all those qualities, to which he owed his subsequent fame as a writer. The first five numbers and the eighth of “The Busy-Body” were unquestionably written by Franklin.—Ed.

  • Nam id arbitror
  • Apprime in vitâ esse utile, ut ne quid nimis.
  • Terent.

This is the first tract of a political nature known to have come from Franklin’s pen. It was printed at Philadelphia in 1729, when he was in his twenty-third year. At that early age, and so long before political economy had been recognized as a science, a correct theory of currency was not to be expected even from Franklin, but both in matter and manner it will be found superior to the average political economy of the period, either in America or Europe. For the circumstances under which it was written, see supra, i., pp. 152, 153.


Franklin states this doctrine in 1729, precisely as Adam Smith does forty-six years afterwards in The Wealth of Nations.—W. Phillips.


This passage shows that the theory as to the effect of the South American mines upon the rate of money prices and the reduction of the value of the precious metals, so elaborately set forth and reasoned out by Adam Smith, was quite a familiar notion when he was but six years old; the correctness of which, however, to the extent laid down by Franklin in this place, and afterwards by Smith, has of late years been gravely questioned by very respectable writers.—W. Phillips.


This is a clear and just view of the effects and utility of banks of deposit. But the application which Franklin is about to make of it to land banks will not be acquiesced in at this day. Everybody knows that certainty as to time of payment of bills that pass as a circulating medium is no less important than the certainty that they will be eventually paid. The convertibility of the fund pledged for the redemption of the bill is as material a circumstance as its sufficiency and permanency of value. Land and immovable property generally is less convertible than movable property, for it cannot be removed from its place to seek a market; this renders this kind of property peculiarly unfit to constitute a fund or pledge for the redemption of bills that circulate as money.—W. Phillips.


All commerce is by exchange, or rather is exchange, whether a trade involves money or not. The kind of trade intended by the author is in technical as well as in common language known by the name of barter.—W. Phillips.


Soon after this pamphlet was written the measure proposed in it was adopted by the Assembly of Pennsylvania; and subsequently another bill for a similar object was passed, the principal features of which were published by Governor Pownall. They were understood to have been communicated to him by Franklin, with other remarks on paper money.


From the Pennsylvania Gazette, June 23, 1730.


From the Pennsylvania Gazette, July 9, 1730.


From the Pennsylvania Gazette, September 3, 1730.


The sister of Franklin, and the youngest of seventeen children. She was married and a widow at a very early age. She was left in very straitened circumstances, and through life was obliged to have constant recourse to the counsel and purse of her brother. She was also sorely afflicted by the death or misfortunes of her children. She was devoted to her brother Benjamin, whom in her qualities of mind and character she was said to have much resembled.


From the Pennsylvania Gazette, July 24, 1732.


From the Pennsylvania Gazette, July 10, 1732.


From the Pennsylvania Gazette, February 18, 1734.