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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 many 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 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."
In his way Franklin studied the resources and qualities of English prose as thoroughly as did Robert Louis Stevenson. Awakened to the need of education, and with a dim prophetic sense of his future work, he did not content himself with books of literature and exercises in writing; he inastered arithmetic, studied navigation and geometry, read Locke's On the Human Understanding, devoured Xenophon's Memorabilia, and promptly adopted the Socratic method of discussion ; came under the influence of Anthony Collins and Lord Shaftesbury, and became “a real doubter in many points of our religious doctrine.” The printer's apprentice was fast emancipating himself, not only from the narrowness of his personal conditions, but from the provincialism of the little colonial world in which his lot was cast. Without formal education, means, friends, or travel, he had brought himself into touch with the finest English literary influence of an age of notable urbanity and elegance, and into sympathy with a view of religion radical even in the England of Queen Anne, and antipodal to the Puritan teaching in his native city.
At the age of fifteen Franklin was writing for the New Eng. land Courant, which his brother had launched upon the untried sea of journalism. It had had three predecessors in the new world : the Boston News-Letter, the Boston Gazette, and the American Weekly Mercury, published in Philadelphia. Several of James Franklin's friends endeavored to dissuade him from the enterprise, on the ground that one newspaper was enough for America ! The younger brother, doubtful of the value of his work, thrust an anonymous paper under the door of the counting-room, and had the pleasure of hearing it warmly commended, and its authorship credited to men of learning and ability in the community. Two years later, having run away from Boston on account of his brother's violent temper, Franklin reached Philadelphia with a dollar and a shilling in his pocket. It was on a Sunday morning in October, 1723. Franklin found employment as a printer; made a few friends ; went to London on a fool's errand; walked the streets of the great city in search of work, and finally found it in a large printinghouse ; fell into evil company, and became as licentious and wasteful as his companions; wrote a pamphlet to prove that there is no ground for believing in a future life, or in religion, which brought him to the notice of a group of sceptics. At twenty he was back in Philadelphia keeping books, setting type, and unending presses. “It was at this time," writes Professor Mac Master, “ that Benjamin founded the Junto, wrote his famous epitaph, grew religious, composed a liturgy for his own use, and became the father of an illegitimate son.
In 1729 he became the proprietor of the Pennsylvania Gazette, He had written on various subjects, and one pamphlet on paper money had attracted wide attention.
He had also, reviving his love of the Spectator, begun a series of essays in which he endeavored to teach without being didactic, to moralize without being dogmatic, and to satirize without malice or bitterness. The Busybody Papers had prepared the
way for the easy handling of such subjects as How to Please in Conversation, The Meditations on a Quart Mug, On Lying Tradesmen, On the Waste of Life, On True Happiness. Franklin never caught the Addisonian tone — its urbanity, old-world ease and refinement; but he was full of good sense, sagacious observations, effective if somewhat broad humor, and ready sense of journalistic interest. The practical side of his nature was tireless in the effort to introduce better methods in domestic and municipal life; indeed, in the application of practical ideas to life, Franklin is one of the foremost men in history; he was never content until he had substituted intelligence for habit or custom. The police and fire departments, then in the most rudimentary stages, were systematized or reformed at his suggestion ; he was instrumental in organizing the first militia, and in cleaning and lighting the streets.
He founded the Philadelphia Library, which has been called “the mother of all the North American subscription libraries”; he was largely instrumental in founding the Academy and Charitable School of the Province of Pennsylvania, which subsequently became the Philadelphia College, and has now become the University of Pennsylvania.
Poor Richard's Almanac, which brought him fame and fortune, was begun in 1732 and appeared annually for a quarter of a century. Almanacs were in every household and, in remote parts of the country, furnished the only reading matter. Professor Mac Master tells us that they were the journals and account books of the poor. “Strung upon a stick and hung beside the chimney place, they formed an unbroken record of domestic affairs, in many instances for thirty years. On the margins of one since picked up at a paper mill are recorded the interesting cases of a physician's practice, and the names of those who suffered with small pox and flux."' They were sold for a sixpence, and when the sixpence was not forthcoming they were exchanged for produce, rum, stockings, and old china. They furnished a calendar, a list of court and fair days, the traditional weather predictions which curiously anticipated in an unscientific fashion the modern prognostications of the bureau ; they were rarely without a generous allowance of doggerel verse ; and they aimed to guide the lives of their readers by proverbs and wise reflections on character and conduct. The fun was broad and often licentious ; for the almanac, like the broadside, was, in a certain sense, the forerunner of the sensational newspaper.
“Poor Richard” followed the well-defined lines of his predecessors, but with inventiveness and originality. Poor Richard was not a maker of stale aphorisms borrowed or stolen from all sources and cheapened by the process; he was a shrewd observer, of quick perceptions, a knowledge of life on the practical side which was almost unrivalled, and a genius for compact and telling statement. He had the literary gift; the faculty of saying things in a way which set the idea in a concrete and taking form. “Be careful of the main chance or it will never take care of you,” read the vague generalization of another almanac maker ; * Keep thy shop,” said Poor Richard, “and thy shop will keep thee.” The wisdom of Richard was distinctly prudential ; it was the wisdom which avoids mistakes rather than makes great successes; the wisdom of caution rather than of courage ; but it was full of robust
The sermon of Father Abraham, which appeared in the almanac for 1758, is a condensed philosophy of practical life. Its success was instantaneous ; it was published again and again and found its way to the whole civilized world. Poor Richard's wisdom did not wholly originate with him; for proverbs are universal experience put into portable forms and pass, like currency, from hand to hand without sign or mark of ownership; but Richard set his own stamp on material which came his way and made it his own by virtue of the shape he gave it. His philosophy was not deep, but it was broad and serviceable; it was eminently sound so far as it touched morals, for it insisted that frugality and industry were the only roads to wealth. It was important teaching in a new country full of those undeveloped possibilities which stimulate the speculative temper; and it was unquestionably influential in fixing the habits of a host of readers. Franklin's conception of life, as recorded in Poor Richard's sayings, was very inadequate; the ends it set forth were immediate, the success it sought was material ; everything, virtue included, tended to prosperity. Nothing is so likely," he writes, “to make a man's fortune as virtue.”
His public services and his contributions to science were continuous and important. As Postmaster General of the colonies he found a rudimentary organization, practically without system and wholly inadequate ; he created a comprehensive and thorough system of rapid mail communication and delivery, and met the public needs with characteristic shrewdness and inventive
He studied electricity to such purpose that his pamphlet published in 1751 received attention throughout the scientific world, was translated in several languages, and won him an election to the Royal Society of London, and, later, a medal. He had proved that lightning and electricity are identical. He devised a plan of union among the colonies which antedated the fact by more than twenty years. This plan was discussed at the conference held in Albany in 1754, but it was too far in advance of public opinion to secure serious consideration.
From 1757 until 1762 Franklin was in London as Commissioner from Pennsylvania ; in 1765 he returned to London as the agent of the same colony, but he was really the representative of all the colonies. His position was extremely difficult, for passion was steadily rising on both sides of the Atlantic. With unflinching courage, rare sagacity and the most effective humor he strove to explain the grievances and feelings of Eng. lishmen in the new world to Englishmen in the old home. Не