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left off at the age of ten to help his father in making soap and candles. He persisted in showing such "bookish inclination," however, that at twelve his father apprenticed him to learn the printer's trade. At seventeen he ran off to Philadelphia and there began his independent career.
In the main he led such a life as the maxims of “Poor Richard"] enjoin. The pages of the Autobiography show few deviations from such a course. He felt the need of school training and set to work to educate himself. He had an untiring industry, and love of the approval of his neighbor; and he knew that more things fail through want of care than want of knowledge. His practical imagination was continually forming projects; and, fortunately for the world, his great physical strength and activity were always setting his ideas in motion. He was human-hearted, and this strong sympathy of his, along with his strength and zeal and "projecting head” (as Defoe calls such a spirit), devised much that helped life to amenity and comfort. In politics he had the outlook of the self-reliant colonist whose devotion to the mother institutions of England was finally alienated by the excesses of a power which thought itself all-powerful.
In this Autobiography Franklin tells of his own life to the year 1757, when he went to England to support the petition of the legislature against Penn's sons. The grievance of the colonists was a very considerable one, for the proprietaries claimed that taxes should not be levied upon a tract greater than the whole State of Pennsylvania.
Franklin was received in England with applause. His experiments in electricity and his inventions had made him known, and the sayings of "Poor Richard” were already in the mouths of the people. But he waited nearly three years before he could obtain a hearing for the matter for which he had crossed the sea.
1 See pp. 198–206.
During the delay he visited the ancient home of his family, and made the acquaintance of men of mark, receiving also that degree of Doctor of Civil Law by which he came to be known as Dr. Franklin. In this time, too, he found how prejudiced was the common English estimate of the value of the colonies. He wrote Lord Kames in 1760, after the defeat of the French in Canada: “No one can more sincerely rejoice than I do on the reduction of Canada; and this is not merely as I am a colonist, but as I am a Briton. I have long been of opinion that the foundations of the future grandeur and stability of the British empire lie in America; and though, like other foundations, they are low and little now, they are, nevertheless, broad and strong enough to support the greatest political structure that human wisdom ever yet erected. I am, therefore, by no means for restoring Canada. If we keep it all the country from the St. Lawrence to the Mississippi will in another century be filled with British people. Britain itself will become vastly more populous by the immense increase of its commerce; the Atlantic sea will be covered with
trading ships; and your naval power, thence continually increasing, will extend your influence round the whole globe and awe the world! ... But I refrain, for I see you begin to think my notions extravagant, and look upon them as the ravings of a madman."
At last Franklin won the king's signature to a bill by the terms of which the surveyed lands of the proprietaries should be assessed, and, his business accomplished, he returned to Philadelphia. “You require my history,” he wrote to Lord Kames, “from the time I set sail for America. I left England about the
end of August, 1762, in company with ten sail of merchant ships under a convoy of a man-of-war. We had a pleasant passage to Madeira. Here we furnished ourselves with fresh provisions, and refreshments of all kinds; and, after a few days, proceeded on our voyage, running southward until we got into the trade winds, and then with them westward till we drew near the coast of America. The weather was so favorable that there were few days in which we could not visit from ship to ship, dining with each other and on board of the man-of-war; which made the time pass agreeably, much more so than when one goes in a single ship; for this was like traveling in a moving village, with all one's neighbors about one.
“On the ist of November I arrived safe and well at my own home, after an absence of near six years, found my wife and daughter well,- the latter grown quite a woman, with many amiable accomplishments acquired in my absence,-and my friends as hearty and affectionate as ever, with whom my house was filled for many days to congratulate me on my return. I had been chosen yearly during my absence to represent the city of Philadelphia in our Provincial Assembly; and on my appearance in the House, they voted me three thousand pounds sterling for
my services in England, and their thanks, delivered by the Speaker. In February following, my son arrived with my new daughter; for, with my consent and approbation, he married, soon after I left England, a very agreeable West India lady, with whom he is
very happy. I accompanied him to his government [New Jersey), where he met with the kindest reception from the people of all ranks, and has lived with them ever since in the greatest harmony. A river only parts that province and ours, and his residence is within seventeen miles of me, so that we frequently see each other. “In the spring of 1763 I set out on a tour through all the northern colonies to inspect and regulate the post offices in the several provinces. In this journey I spent the summer, traveled about sixteen hundred miles, and did not get home till the beginning of November. The Assembly sitting through the following winter, and warm disputes arising between them and the governor, I became wholly engaged in public affairs; for, besides my duty as an Assemblyman, I had another trust to execute, that of being one of the commissioners appointed by law to dispose of the public money appropriated to the raising and paying an army to act against the Indians and defend the frontiers. And then, in December, we had two insurrections of the back inhabitants of our province. . . Governor Penn made my house for some time his headquarters, and did everything by my advice; so that for about forty-eight hours I was a very great man, as I had been once some years before, in a time of public danger.1
“But the fighting face we put on and the reasoning we used with the insurgents .. having turned them back and restored quiet to the city, I became a less man than ever; for I had by this transaction made myself many enemies among the populace; and the governor, ... thinking it a favorable opportunity, joined the whole weight of the proprietary interest to get me out of the Assembly; which was accordingly effected at the last election by a majority of about twenty-five in four thousand voters. The House, however, when they met in October, approved of the resolutions taken, while I was Speaker, of petitioning the Crown for a change of government, and requested me to return to England to prosecute that petition; which service I accordingly undertook, and embarked at the beginning of November last, being accompanied to the ship, sixteen miles, by a cavalcade of three hundred of my friends, who filled our sails with their good wishes, and I arrived in thirty days at London.”
i The time of Braddock's defeat.
Instead of giving his efforts to the proposed change of government Franklin found greater duties. The debt which England had incurred during the war with the French in Canada she now looked to the colonists for aid in removing. At home taxes were levied by every device. The whole country was in distress and laborers starving. In the colonies there was the thrift that comes from narrowest means; but the people refused to answer parliamentary levies and claimed that they would lay their own taxes through their own legislatures. They resisted so successfully the enforcement of the Stamp Act that Parliament began to discuss its repeal. At this juncture Franklin was examined before the Commons in regard to the results of the act.
Q. Do you not think the people of America would submit to pay the stamp duty if it was moderated?
A. No, never, unless compelled by force of arms. ...
Q. What was the temper of America toward Great Britain before the year 1763?1
A. The best in the world. They submitted willingly to the government of the Crown, and paid, in their courts, obedience to the acts of Parliament. Numerous as the people are in the several old provinces, they cost you nothing in forts, citadels, garrisons, or armies, to keep them in subjection. They were governed by this country at the expense only of a little pen, ink, and paper; they were led by a thread. They had not only a respect but an affection for Great Britain, for its laws, its customs and manners, and even a fondness for its fashions that greatly increased the commerce. Natives of Britain were always treated with particular regard; to be an “Old England
1 When the old duties “upon all rum, spirits, molasses, syrups, sugar," etc., were renewed, and extended to other articles.