Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

here given of that project and its object. Its first rise in my mind appears in the abovementioned little paper, accidentally preserved, viz.

OBSERVATIONS on my reading history, in library, May 9, 1731.

• That the great affairs of the world, the wars, revolutions, &c. are carried on and effected by parties.

« That the view of these parties is their present general interest; or what they take to be such.

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

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

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

“That fow in public affairs act from a mere view of the good of their country, whatever they may pretend; and though their actings bring real good to their country, yet men primarily considered that their own and their country's interest were united, and so 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 an United Party for Virtue, by forming the virtuous and good men of all nations into a regular body, to be governed 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, cannot 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 occurred to me respecting it. Most of these are lost, but I find one purporting to be the substance of an intended creed, containing as I thought the essentials of every known religion, and being free of every thing that might shock the professors of any religion. It is expressed 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 worshipped by adoration, prayer, and thanksgiving.

“ But that the most acceptable service to God, is doing good to man.

6 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 beforementioned 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 ingenious, well-disposed youths, to whom, with prudent caution, the scheme should be gradually communicated. That the members should engage to afford their advice, assistance, and support to each other in promoting one another's interest, business, and advancement in life: that for distinction, we should be called THE SOCIETY OF THE FREE AND EASY. Free, as being by the general practice and habits 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 constraint, 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 enthusiasm : but my then narrow circumstantes, and the necessity I was under of sticking close to my business, occasioned my postponing the further prosecution of it at that time, and my multifarious occupations, public and private, induced me to continue postponing, so that it has been onitted, till I have no longer strength or activity left sufficient for such an enterprise. Though I am still of opinion it was a practicable scheme, and might have been very useful, by forming a great number of good citizens: and I was not discouraged 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, bis sole study and business.

In 1732, I first published my Almanack under the name of Richard Saunders; it was continued by me about twenty-five years, and commonly called Poor Richard's Almanack. I endeavored to make it both entertaining and useful, and it accordingly came to be in such demand that I reaped considerable profit from it; vending annually near ten thousand. And observing that it was generally read, (scarce any neighborkiood in the province being without it,) I considered it as a proper vehicle for conveying instruction among the common people, who bought scarcely any other books. I therefore filled all the little spaces that occurred 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 formed into a connected discourse prefixed to the Almanack of 1757, as the harangue of a wise old man to the people attending an auction: the bringing all these scattered counsels thus into a so

cus, enabled them to make greater impression. The piece being universally approved, was copied in all the newspapers of the American Coutinent, reprinted in Britain on a large sheet of paper to be stuck up in houses; two translations were made of it in France, and great numbers bought by the clergy and gentry to distribute gratis among their poor parisbioners 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 com. municating instruction, and in that view frequently reprinted in it extracts from the Spectator, and other moral writers; and sometimes published little pieces of mine own which had been first composed 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, show. ing that virtue was not secure till its practice became a habitude, and was free from the opposition of contrary inclinations: these may be found in the papers about the beginning of 1735. In the conduct of my newspaper, I carefully excluded all libelling and personal abuse, which is of late years become so disgraceful to our country. Whenever I was solicited to insert any thing of that kind, and the writers pleaded (as they generally did) the liberty of the press; and that a newspaper was like a stage-coach, in which any one who would pay had a right to a place; my answer was, that I would print the piece separately if desired, and the author might have as many copies as he pleased to distribute bimself; 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

2

[blocks in formation]

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, wbich may be attended with the most pernicious consequences. These things I mention as a caution to young printers, and that they be encouraged not to pollute the 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 furnished him with a press and letters, on an agreement of partnership, by which I was to receive one-third of the profits of the business, paying one-third of the espense. He was a man of learning, but ignorant in matters of account; and though he sometimes made me remittances, I could get no account from him, nor any satisfactory state of our partnership while he lived. On bis decease the business was continued by his widow, who being born and bred in Holland, where, (as I have been informed,) the knowlege of accounts makes a part of female education; she not only sent me as clear a statement 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 reputably brought up 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 women, 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 established correspon

« AnteriorContinuar »