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of this memoir, became non-conformists. Marrying early in life, Josias came with his first wife and a few children to America; BenJAMIN was born in Boston, January 17th, 1706; he was the fifteenth of seventeen children ; his father attained the age of eighty-seven, and his mother that of eighty-five. Over their grave at Boston, some years after their death, our philosopher placed a stone, bearing the following inscription :
Josias FRANKLIN, and Abiah his wife; they lived together with reciprocal affection fifty-nine years, and, without private fortune, without lucrative employment, by assiduous labor and honest industry, decently supported a numerous family, and educated with success thirteen children and seven grandchildren. Let this example, reader, encourage thee diligently to discharge the duties of thy calling, and to rely on the support of Divine Providence.
He was pious and prudent,
She discreet and virtuous.
The father had emigrated to enjoy religious freedom; he was a tallow-chandler and soap-boiler. Young FRANKLIN, having been intended for the ministry, was sent to a grammar school when eight years of age ; but as the father's circumstances frustrated that design, he was taken home, and employed in cutting wicks, filling moulds, and waiting on his parents, performing in fact the duties of an errand boy and youngest apprentice. Not liking that occupation, in which he continued two years, he wished to become a sailor; but it was at length determined that he should be a printer; he was accordingly bound to one of his brothers, who, having learned the trade in London, had returned and settled in Boston. Previously to this, the youth had evinced a strong partiality for reading; it was now in some measure gratified, and conceiving a passion for poetry, he wrote two ballads on local subjects, which his brother printed, and then despatched him about the town to sell the copies. Finding, however, that prose was more likely to become his forte than verse, he paid great attention to a volume of the Spectator, which accidentally fell into his hands; his nights were now devoted to perusing such books as his limited resources enabled him to obtain. It is curious and interesting to trace the progress of his mind, and we therefore enumerate some of the books which thus early engaged his attention. Defoe's Essays on Projects, and Dr. Mathers on Doing Good, were among his earliest studies: the style of the Spectator delighted him; in his memoirs will be found an account of his exertions to imitate it. Aware of the difficulties he must encounter without a knowledge of arithmetic, in which he had failed at school, he now borrowed a little treatise, which he mastered without assistance; he then studied navigation. At the age of sixteen, he read Locke on the Human Understanding, the Port Royal Logic, and Xenophon's Memorabilia.
At this age, he adopted a system of vegetable diet, by which he saved one half the money allowed for his board ; and he states that by abstaining from flesh, he found his apprehension quicker, and the faculties of his mind in general improved. We now find the philosophic young typographer purchasing books with the little sums he was enabled to save by the frugality of his diet.
His brother commenced, during this apprenticeship, the publication of a newspaper, the second that had appeared in America. After having assisted in setting the types, and printing the paper, young FRANKLIN was sent to distribute the copies. At this time, though yet a boy, he enjoyed the singular pleasure of being the admired author of many essays in the periodical; a circumstance which he had the address to keep a secret, for some time, even from his brother; but on its becoming known, he was severely lectured for his presumption, and treated with great severity. From the passionate disposition of his relative, who even went so far as to beat him, he regarded his apprenticeship as the most horrid species of servitude. “Perhaps," says he, “ this harsh and tyrannical treatment of me might be a means of impressing me with the aversion to arbitrary power that has stuck to me through my whole life.”
It so turned out, that one of the political articles gave offence to the general court of the colony; the publisher was imprisoned, and forbidden to print any more copies; to elude this prohibition, BENJAMIN was now made the nominal editor, and his indentures were ostensibly cancelled. His brother having obtained his release, our youth took advantage of this act, to assert his freedom, and thus escape from the ill usage he had been subjected to. He had in the course of his reading imbibed, from Shaftesbury and Collins, those sceptical notions which he is known to have held during a part of his life. The odium to which these subjected him, his father's displeasure, and his brother's abuse, seemed to leave him no alternative but to seek another home; and at the age of seventeen, he embarked on board a small vessel bound to New York.
Not meeting with employment in that city, he proceeded to Philadelphia, where, on his arrival, he did not think it prudent, in consequence of his small stock of money, to treat himself with a dinner. He therefore bought three pennyworth of bread, and receiving three large rolls, a far greater quantity than he expected, he made a satisfactory meal of one, and gave the remaining two to a poor woman and her children; his whole stock was now a single dollar. “Who would have dreamed,” says Brissot de Warville, “that this poor wanderer would become one of the legislators of America, the ornament of the new world, the pride of modern philosophy."
Having worked for a short time with a printer at Philadelphia, he attracted Sir William Keith's notice; Sir William was then governor of the province of Pennsylvania, and wished to see a paper established; he therefore induced FRANKLIN to return to Boston and solicit pecuniary aid from his father, on the promise of great encouragement from the governor. The father, however, refused the required aid, on the ground that he was too young-only eighteen—to be entrusted with such a concern.
In consequence of this refusal, Sir William said he would advance the sum that might be necessary, and our tyro should go to England and purchase the requisite naterials, for which he would give him letters of credit.
To England, therefore, FRANKLIN went, though he had never obtained the promised letters, having been deluded by promises of their being sent on board the ship after him, and hoping, during the progress of the voyage, that they were in the governor's packet, and to receive them on its being opened. What were his feelings on finding himself in this just expectation cruelly deceived? The letters delivered to his keeping had no reference to him or his affairs; he was in London without money, friends, or credit, almost three years before the period of manhood. His freethinking ideas received a check when he remembered that Sir William had agreed with him on topics of religion : from the disgraceful abandonment of moral obligation which FRANKLIN experienced in him, and subsequently in other freethinkers, he began to doubt the soundness of the principles of those who lived without God in the world. The moral duties are very feebly performed, if not grossly violated, by those who acknowledge not the force of religious ties.
In London, where he arrived in 1725, he soon found employment at Palmer's printing-office. Whilst there, happening to be engaged on a new edition of Wollaston's "Religion of Nature," he wrote and printed a little metaphysical tract by way of answer, under the title of "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain.” On reading this treatise, his master complimented him on his talents, but condemned its principles as abominable. The pamphlet, however, procured him an introduction to Dr. Mandeville, who promised to present him to Sir Isaac Newton, but did not keep his word. Sir Hans Sloane, hearing that he had a purse made of asbestos, invited him to his house, exhibited his curiosities, and purchased the purse for a handsome sum.
Although guilty of some excesses whilé in London, he afterwards became a model of temperance and industry, and even reformed his brother printers by his example and exhortation.
While in London, he continued to devote his leisure hours to books and study, and in 1726, after a stay of eighteen months, he returned to America, with Mr. Denham, a merchant of Philadelphia, as his clerk, on a salary of £50 a year. On his arrival, he found that his old sweetheart, Miss Read, had been induced by her parents, in consequence of his neglect, which FRANKLIN justly regarded as one of the great errors of his life, to marry another man. Extraordinary circumstances, however, prevented that couple from ever living together; and, at a subsequent period, FRANKLIN married the lady, who proved an excellent and invaluable wife.
His truly worthy master, Mr. Denham, died in the course of the ensuing year, when FRANKLIN returned to his original business, first under Keimer his former master, then with a young man of the name of Meredith ; they printed a newspaper, which was conducted with much ability, and acquired FRANKLIN some reputation; the project was very profitable, and afforded him an opportunity of distinguishing himself as a political writer. He also opened a shop for the sale of books and stationery.
In 1732, having had leisure for both reading and writing, he began to publish “Poor Richard's Almanac,” which he continued with great success for many years. “The Way to Wealth," extracted from that publication, and consisting of numerous and valuable concise maxims, has been translated into various languages, and inserted in almost every newspaper and magazine in England and America.
About this period, FRANKLIN was one of a number of individuals who originated the Library Company of Philadelphia. The combination was at first small. FRANKLIN printed the first notices of the meetings of the directors, and circulated them himself; the payments were made very slowly, and some time elapsed before the organization of the company. The subject of our brief biography performed the duties of librarian for a short period, for which he received a salary. At a subsequent period, when the project was agitated of erecting the present ornamental and substantial structure, for the books of the institution, Dr. FRANKLIN intimated that he should bequeath his own collection to the company as soon as a suitable building might be prepared. This intention was never fulfilled; he left only eighteen quarto volumes to them. The statue which graces the front of the library, was executed in Italy, by order and at the expense of William Bingham, Esq.; it is one of the few statues of marble in the country, and is justly admired, if not for its striking resemblance, at least as a work of art. It is probably owing to this figure, and the knowledge of the fact of his being one of the founders, that the institution has obtained the sobriquet of the Franklin Library.
When a new issue of paper money was made at Philadelphia, FRANKLIN displayed great ingenuity in sketching and engraving the border for the notes, and in conducting the letter-press; and when in want of new letter, as no letter-foundry then existed on the American continent, he used types as punches, and struck the matrices in lead. He also made his own printing-ink, and was frequently his own joiner. “Reading,” says he, "was the only amusement I allowed myself. I spent no time in taverns, gaming, or frolics of any kind; and my industry in my business continued as indefatigable as it was necessary. My original habits of frugality continued, 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 thence considered industry as a mean of obtaining distinction, which encouraged me; though I did not think 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,
It was lucky for me that I had one as much disposed 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, &c. We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and simple, our furniture of the cheapest. For instance, my breakfast was for a long time bread and milk, (no tea) and I ate it out of a two-penny porringer, with a pewter spoon; but mark how luxury will enter families, and make a progress in spite of principle: being called one morning to breakfast, I found it in a china bowl,