Page images

pers, which I gave to the boatmen for my passage. As I had assisted them in rowing, they refused it at first; but I insisted on their taking it. A man is sometimes more generous when he has little than when he has much money; probably because, in the first case, he is desirous of concealing his poverty.

I walked towards the top of the street, looking eagerly on both sides, till I came to Market Street, where I met with a child with a loaf of bread. Often had I made my dinner on dry bread. I inquired where he had bought it, and went straight to the baker's shop which he pointed out to me. I asked for some biscuits, expecting to find such as we had at Boston ; but they made, it seems, none of that sort at Philadelphia. I then asked for a threepenny loaf. They made no loaves of that price. Finding myself ignorant of the prices, as well as of the different kinds of bread, I desired him to let me have threepenny-worth of bread of some kind or other. He gave me three large rolls. I was surprised at receiving so much : I took them, however, and, having no room in my pockets, I walked on with a roll under each arm, eating a third. In this manner I went through Market Street to Fourth Street, and passed the house of Mr. Read, the father of


future wife. She was standing at the door, observed me, and thought, with reason, that I made a very singular and grotesque appear


I then turned the corner, and went through Chestnut Street, eating my roll all the way; and, having made this round, I found myself again on Market Street wharf, near the boat in which I arrived. I stepped into it to take a draught of the river water;

a and, finding myself satisfied with my first roll, I gave the other two to a woman and her child, who had come down with us in the boat,. and was waiting to continue her journey. Thus refreshed, I regained the street, which was now full of well-dressed people, all going the same way. I joined them, and was thus led to a large Quakers' meeting-house near the market-place. I sat down with the rest, and, after looking round me for some time, hearing nothing said, and being drowsy from my last night's labor and want of rest, I fell into a sound sleep. In this state I continued till the assembly dispersed, when one of the congregation had the goodness to wake me. This was consequently the first house I entered, or in which I slept, at Philadelphia.'

1“It is Franklin's history as a boy of the middle class, successfully but laboriously working his way upward, that has made it at once the most afiractive and most useful biography of modern times. All over Christendom it has met with the sympathy of tho working clas:es, and it has done more than any volume within my knowledge to vivo courage and heart to the sons of labor, as it has shown that the path of ambition are open to them as to others, provided they be followed with Franklin's virtues,-honesty, frugality, persoverance, and patriot

In a day or two be engaged to work with a printer by the name of Keimer, and 8000 by his industry and frugality accumulated a little money.A letter which Franklin had written to a friend having fallen under the notice of Sir William Keith, the Governor of the Province, he invited the young printer to his house, and finally persuaded him to go to London to better his fortunes, promising to give bim letters of recommendation. Franklin set sail from Philadelphia, the governor promising to send the letters to him when the ship should reach Neweastle ; but he was faithless to his promiso, and Franklin landed in London a perfeet stranger. But a gentleman, a fellow-passenger by the name of Denham, was interested in him, and very soon he obtained a situation in a printing-house in Bartholomew Close, where he worked a year. He soon gained a high character for temperance and industry among bis fellow-workmen, and began to be favorably noticed, when he was persuaded by his friend Denham, who was about to return home with a large quantity of goods which he had purchased, to accompany him and aid him in their sale. He landed at Philadelphia on the 11th of October; but soon after the shop had been opened, with every prospect of success, Denham died, and Franklin was left once more to the wide world. He therefore returned to his old business, and was soon so successful in it that, in conjunction with a Mr. Hugh Meredith, he bought out the Pennsylvania Gazette, which had but recently been established, and which in a few years proved very profitable to himn. In connection with the paper, he soon opened a stationer's shop, and so prospered that, in September, 1730, he married Miss Read, with whom he had become acquainted before he went to London.

Feeling the want of good books, he started the plan of a subscription library, obtained fifty subscribers, “mostly young tradesmen,” who paid forty shillings each,-imported the books, and thus laid the foundation of the present “ Library Company of Philadelphia,” now one of the largest in the United States.

At this time, when about twenty-six years of age, he drew up a series of resolutions by wbich he might regulate his conduct, govern his temper, and improvo his whole moral man; and it is but justice to say that in the main he conformed to them; that the result was a character which, for evenness of temper, solidity of judgment, honesty of purpose, and prudence in the regulation of all temporal affairs, has rarely been equalled. In 1732 he first published his celebrated Almanac, (commonly known as Poor Richard's Almanac,) under the assumed name of "Richard Saunders." Besides the usual tables and calendar, it contai: ad a fund of useful information, and “proverbial sentences, chiefly such as inculcatel industry and frugality.” It had great success, and was continued for about twenty-five years. In 1736 he was chosen clerk of the General Assembly, and the next year post-master at Philadelphia. He now interested himself in all public matters, founded the American Philosophical Society and the University of Penn


ism. What a contrast between the influence of such a biography as this, and that of a man whose life is only remarkable for success in bloodshed, or even in tho more vulgar paths of vice, knavery, or crime! What a debt of gratitude does tho world owe to Franklin !" Goodrich's Recollections.

1 Franklin and Meredith began the paper with No. 40, September 25, 1729; but in a year the partnership was dissolved, and Franklin had the sole management of it.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

sylvania, and was foremnost in all enterprises calculated to proinote good moral, sound learning, and the public weal.

At the age of forty-three he was elected a member of the Assembly, and the next year was appointed a commissioner for making a treaty with the Indians. About this time he began to be interested in those philosophical experiments which have made his name so celebrated throughout the scientific world. But be was soon diverted from them by the demands made upon his time by the public, who seemed to think that no project for the public good deserved to be supported unless Franklin was interested in it. Accordingly, he felt it his duty to aid, by his influence, the plan of founding an hospital, which had been started by his friend Dr. Thomas Bond, and he soon had the satisfaction of seeing the subscriptions completed, and a grant of £2000 made by the Assembly for the establishment of the same.

In 1757 he was appointed postmaster-general for America, and the same year received from Harvard and Yale Colleges the honorary degree of Master of Arts. Previous to this, in 1755, at the breaking out of the French War, he had been of great service in procuring supplies for Braddock's army, and had warned him against the enemy he had to contend with; and, after bis disastrous defeat, be had labored successfully in putting Pennsylvania in a good state of defence. About this time he published his letters on electricity, of which, says Priestley, “nothing was ever written on the subject more justly applauded : all the world was full of admiration." The Royal Society of London elected him a “Fellow," and when he was in that city the most distinguished men in the metropolis, and from the continent, hastened to pay their respects to bim.

After his return from England, he travelled, in 1763, throughout the northern colonies, to inspect and regulate the post-offices, performing a tour of about sixteen hundred miles. But the controversy between the “Proprietors" and the people of Pennsylvania was not yet ended, and, it being deemed necessary to take at once froin the foreign landholders the chief appointing power, Franklin, in 1764, was sent a second time England, with a petition for a change in the charter But now all local differences were to be forgotten in the general contest that was approaching. The famous “Stamp Act” had been passed by the British ministry, and loud remonstrances from the colonies were at once echoed back to the fatherland. In order to obtain fuller and more accurate information respecting America, the party in opposition to the ministry proposed that Franklin should be interrogated publicly before the House of Commons. Accordingly, on the 3d of February, 1766, he was summoned to the bar of the House for that purpose, and he cheerfully obeyed the call. Independent of the weight of his pre-established reputation, be possessed, in a very eminent degree, all those natural endowments and attainments which would make his examination most honorable to himself and serviceable to his country. The dignity of his personal appearance, and the calmness of his demeanor, equally unmoved by the illusions, and undismayed by the insolence of power, added not a little to make the whole sceno highly imposing, and indeed morally sublime ;-to see a solitary representative from the then infant colonies, standing alone amiil the concentred pomp and pageantry, the nobility and the learning, of the mightiest kingdom of the earth, with the eyes of all gazing upon nim, and acquitting himself so nubly as to call down the plaudits cren of his enemies. The result might have been anticipated; for such was the impression he made upon Parliament, that the Stamp Act was repealed.

Immediately after his return, he was elected a member of Congress, then sitting in Philadelphia, and was one of its most efficient members. After signing the Declaration of Independence, he was appointed minister plenipotentiary to France, and he sailed for Paris near the close of the year 1776, where he was received most cordially by all classes. As we bad not been successful in the campaign of 1776–77, the French were loath to enter into an alliance with us; but when they heard of the surrender of Burgoyne's army in October, 1777, and other successes on our part, seeing that we could “help ourselves," they concluded to help us, and entered into an alliance, offensive and defensive, with us. They rendered us some assistance; but, happily, the great work of independence was mainly our own.

lo 1785 Franklin returned to Philadelphia, and his arrival was signalized by every demonstration of public joy. He was soon made Governor of Pennsylvania, and then elected delegate to the Federal Convention of 1787, for framing the Constitution of the United States; and in the discussions upon it he bore a distinguished part. After the dissolution of the convention, he did but little, as the infirmities incident to his age, and the disorder with which he had long been afflicted, seldom allowed him freedom from acute bodily pain. He drew up, however, and published, A Plan for Improving the Condition of the Free Blacks ; and his last public act was to sign, as President of the society, a "Memorial from the Abolition Society of Pennsylvania to Congress ;” while the last paper that he wrote was on the same subject,-thus beautifully closing a long life of distinguished usefulness, as a citizen, a philosopher, and a statesman, in the cause of philanthropy. Although his malady and his sufferings continued, yet no material change in his health was observed till the first part of April, 1790, when he was attacked with a fever and a pain in the breast. The organs of respiration became gradually oppressed; a calm lethargic state succeeded; and on the 17th, (April, 1790,) at eleven at night, he quietly expired.

The strong and distinguishing features of Dr. Franklin's mind were, sagacity, quickness of perception, and soundness of judgment. His imagination was lively, without being extravagant. He possessed a perfect mastery over the faculties of his understanding and over his passions. Having this power always at command, and never being turned aside either by vanity or selfishness, he was enabled to pursue his objects with a directness and constancy that rarely failed to insure success. It seemed to be his single aim to promote the happiness of his fellow-men, by enlarging their knowledge, improving their condition, teaching them practical lessons of wisdom and prudence, and inculcating the principles of rectitude and the babits of a virtuous life.1


1 " Franklin was the greatest diplomatist of the eighteenth century. He never spoke a word too soon; he never spoke a word too late ; he never spoke a word too much; he never failed to speak the right word in the right place."--BAN

Read Life and Works, by Sparks, 10 vols. ; Life in Biography of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence; North Am. Rev., vii. 289; xvi. 346; xxxvii. 249; lix. 446; and lxxxiii. 402; Edinburgh Review, viii. 327; and xxviii. 275.


The following is Dr. Franklin's admirable letter to Sir Joseph Banks, dated July, 1783:

ON THE RETURN OF PEACE. DEAR SIR I join with you most cordially in rejoicing at the return of Peace. I hope it will be lasting, and that mankind will at length, as they call themselves reasonable creatures have reason and sense enough to settle their differences without cutting throats; for, in my opinion, there never was a good war, or a bail peace. What vast additions to the conveniences and comforts of living might mankind have acquired, if the money spent in wars had been employed in works of public utility! What an extension of agriculture, even to the tops of our mountains; what rivers rendered navigable, or joined by canals; what bridges, aqueducts, new roads, and other public works, edifices, and improvements, rendering England a complete paradise, might have been obtained by spending those millions in doing good, which in the last war have been spent in doing mischief; in bringing misery into thousands of families, and destroying the lives of so many thousands of working people, who might have performed the useful labor!


Courteous reader, I have heard that nothing gives an author so great pleasure as to find his works respectfully quoted by others. Judge, then, how much I must have been gratified by an incident I am going to relate to you. I stopped my horse lately, where a great number of people were collected at an auction of merchants' goods. The hour of the sale not being come, they were conversing on the badness of the times; and one of the company called to a plain, clean old man, with white locks;—“Pray, Father Abraham, what think you of the times? Will not these heavy taxes quite ruin the country? How shall we ever be able to pay them? What would you advise us to ?” Father Abraham stood up and replied, “If you would have my advice, I will give it you in short; for A word to the wise is enough, as Poor Richard says.” They joined in desiring him to speak his mind, and, gathering round him, he proceeded as follows:

Friends," said he, “the taxes are indeed very heavy, and, if those laid on by the government were the only ones we had to pay, we might more easily discharge them; but we have many others, and much more grievous to some of us. We are taxed twice as much by our idleness, three times as much by our pride, and four times as much by our folly; and from these taxes the commissioners cannot ease or deliver us, by allowing an abatement.

[ocr errors]
« EelmineJätka »