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wish was unnecessary, for I would leave him that instant; and so, taking my hat, walked out of doors, desiring Meredith, whom I saw below, to take care of some things I left, and bring them to my lodgings.
Meredith came accordingly in the evening, when we talked my affair over. He had conceived a great regard for me, and was very unwilling that I should leave the house while he remained 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 possessed, that his creditors began to be uneasy ; that he kept his shop miserably, sold often without a 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 passed between them, he was sure would advance money to set me up, if I would enter into partnership with him. My time,” said 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 to me, and I consented; his father was in town, and approved of it; the more, as he said I had great influence with his son, had prevailed on him to abstain long from dram-drinking, and he hoped might break him of that wretched habit entirely, when we came to be so closely connected. I
gave an inventory to the father, who carried it to a merchant; the things were sent for, the secret was to be kept till they should arrive, and in the mean time I was to get work, if I could, at the other printing-house. But I found no vacancy there, and so remained idle a few days, when Keimer, on a prospect of being employed 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 job 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 returned, and we went on more smoothly than for some time before.
The New Jersey job was obtained ; I contrived 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 himself longer from ruin.
At Burlington I made 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 improved by reading than Keimer's, I suppose it was for that reason my conversation seemed to be more valued. They had me to their houses, introduced me to their friends, and showed me much civility; while he, though the master, was a little neglected. In truth, he was an odd creature ; ignorant of common life, fond of rudely opposing received opinions, slovenly to extreme dirtiness, enthusiastic in some points of religion, and a little knavish withal.
We continued 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, carried the chain for surveyors, who taught him surveying, and he had now, by his industry, acquired a good estate; and, said he, “I foresee that you will soon work this man out of his business, and make a fortune in it at Philadelphia.” He had then not the least intimation of my
intention to set up there or anywhere else. 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 these influenced the future events of my life. My parents had early given me religious impressions, and brought me through my childhood piously, in the Dissenting way.
But I was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns several points, as I found them disputed in the different books I read, I began to doubt of the Revelation itself. Some books against Deism fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of the sermons which had been preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was in
tended 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 these having wronged 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, though it might be true, was not very useful. My London pamphlet, printed in 1725,* which had for its motto these lines of Dryden:
“ Whatever is, is right. But purblind man
Sees but part o' the chain, the nearest links ;
and which, 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, appeared now not so clever a performance as I once thought it; and I doubted whether some error
* A copy of this, long supposed to be out of existence, has been recently found in England. It is an octavo of sixteen pages, entitled “ A Discourse on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain ; in a letter to a friend.” The motto from Dryden, misquoted by Franklin in his Autobiography, is given as follows :
“ Whatever is, is in its causes just,
The pamphlet, of which only a hundred copies were printed, is addressed “ to Mr. J. R.” (James Ralph), and commences : “Sir, I have here, according to your request, given you my present thoughts on the general state of the universe ; ” and concludes : " Truth will be truth, though it sometimes prove mortifying and distasteful."'' The attempt was rather presumptuous for a lad of nineteen ; and Franklin lived to be ashamed of it. He says, in a letter to Benjamin Vaughan, dated November 9, 1779: “In 1730 I wrote a piece on the other side of the question, which began with laying for its foundation this fact, “ That almost all men in all ages and countries have at times made use of PRAYER.' Thence I reasoned that, if all things are or dained, prayer must, among the rest, be ordained. But, as prayer can procure no change in things that are ordained, praying must then be useless, and an absurdity. God would, therefore, not ordain praying, if everything else was ordained. But praying exists; therefore all other things are not ordained, &c. This pamphlet was never printed, and the manuscript has been long lost. The great uncertainty I found in metaphysical reasonings disgusted me, and I quitted that kind of reading and study for others more satisfactory.
had not insinuated itself unperceived into my argument, so as to infect all that followed, as is common in metaphysical reasonings. I grew
convinced that truth, sincerity and integrity, in dealings between man and man, were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life; and I formed written resolutions, which still remain in my journal-book, to practise them ever while I lived. Revelation had, indeed, no weight with me, as such; but I entertained 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 accidental favorable circumstances and situations, or all together, preserved me through this dangerous time of youth, and the hazardous situations I was sometimes in among strangers, remote from the eye and advice of my father, free from any wilful gross immorality or injustice, that might have been expected from my want of religion. I say wilful, because the instances I have mentioned had something of necessity in them, from my youth, inexperience, and the knavery of others. I had therefore a tolerable character to begin the world with ; I valued it properly, and determined to preserve it.
We had not been long returned to Philadelphia, before the new types arrived from London. We settled with Keimer, and left him by his consent before he heard of it. We found a house to let 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 us, whom he had met in the street, inquiring for a printer. All our cash was now expended in the variety of particulars we had been obliged to procure, and this countryman's five shillings, being our firstfruits, and coming so seasonably, gave me more pleasure than any crown I have since earned ; and the gratitude I felt towards House has made me often more ready than perhaps I otherwise should have been to assist young beginners.
There are croakers in every country, always boding its ruin. Such a one there 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, stopped me 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 the appearances of 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 ruin us. Then 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. 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 croaking. I should have mentioned before that, in the autumn of the preceding year, I had formed most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club for 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 discussed by the company; and once in thrce 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 copier of decds for the scriveners, – a good-natured, friendly, middle-aged man, a great lover of poetry, reading all he could meet with, and writing some that was tolerable; very ingenious in making little knick-knackeries, and of sensible conversation.
Thomas Godfrey, a self-taught mathematician, great in his way, and afterwards 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
* The claim of Godfrey to an invention, the merit of which Hadley surreptitiously obtained by copying Godfrey's instrument, has been fully established.