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conveyances, which did not “fly," took a day longer to make
often worked their passage as well as paid for it, for they were frequently called on to get out and pry the wagon out of the mud with fence-rails.
The expense of carrying the mails made postage so high that but few letters were written. These were rarely prepaid ; and as a charge of twenty-five cents on a single letter was not very uncommon, most persons preferred that their friends should think of them often but write to them seldom.
Yet if people rarely wrote to each other and travelled but little,
always meant plenty to
But if the times were
also somewhat rough and even brutal. A trifling offence would often send a man to the stocks for meditation, and something more serious to the pillory, where passers-by might stop to pelt him with a handful of mud, a
in the Stocks.
In the Pillory.
rotten apple, or something worse. Imprisonment for debt was an every-day occurrence, and criminals who committed highway robbery or murder were first paraded through the principal streets and then hanged in public.
152. Education; Books; Jonathan Edwards and Benjamin Franklin. - Most of the colonists, especially in New England, where free schools had long been established by law, could read and write fairly well ; and a small number, particularly clergymen, were highly educated. Very few books were published, but the rich imported a stock of the best English authors, and, what is more, they read them. The two ablest American writers of that day were the Rev. Jonathan Edwards of Massachusetts and Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia. Edwards wrote his great work “On the Freedom of the Will ” for that small number of readers who like a book that forces them to think as well as read. Not many can grasp Edwards' thought about the “Will,” but we can all understand how nobly he used his own will when he made these two resolutions : I. To do whatever I think to be my duty.”
“ To live with all my might while I do live."
Franklin's best-known work was his Almanac, commonly called “ Poor Richard's Almanac," ? which he published for many years. It was full of shrewd, practical wit and wisdom, and it suited a hard-working people. Men who had begun life with no help but such as they got from their own hands and their own brains liked to read such sayings as these : “ Diligence is the mother of good luck." “ He that can have patience can have what he will." “ Heaven helps those who help themselves.” Thousands of young men read these maxims, put them into practice, and found their reward in the prosperity and independence to which they led.
But Franklin did not confine himself to writing; he was also greatly interested in scientific experiments. Everybody has no
1 Edwards was born in Connecticut, but spent most of his life in Massachusetts.
2 Because Franklin represents a curious old fellow, whom he calls “Poor Richard," as uttering the sayings which made the almanac famous. Franklin wrote his famous “Autobiography" many years later (1790).
ticed that the fur of a cat's back, when stroked vigorously the wrong way on a winter's night, will send out a multitude of electric sparks. Franklin asked himself, Are these sparks the same as the flashes of lightning seen in a thunder-shower? He resolved to find out. To do this he sent up a kite during a shower, and fastened a door-key near the end of the string. Touching his knuckle to the key he got an electric spark from it. This, and other experiments, convinced him that his conjecture was right; electricity and lightning, said he, are one and the same thing. That discovery, simple as it now seems, made Franklin famous. When he went to England on business for the colonies he needed no introduction, — everybody had heard of the American who had found the key to the clouds and to electrical science as well. Even King George III., though he heartily hated Franklin for his independent spirit, actually put up a Franklin lightning-rod on his palace in London.
To-day we light our cities, propel our street-cars, ring our firealarms, and send our messages across continents and under oceans by this mysterious power. We owe the practical beginning of much of this to Franklin. He said, “There are no bounds to the force man may raise and use in the electrical way." In view of what is now being done in this “ electrical way,” the words of the Philadelphia printer, philosopher, and statesman — written more than a hundred years ago — read like a prophecy.
153. General Summary. - The thirteen colonies were settled, mainly by the English, between 1607 and 1733,- Virginia was the first colony founded (1607), Massachusetts the second (1620), Georgia (1733) the last. During the closing seventy years of this period (1689–1763) the colonists were engaged nearly half of the time in a series of wars with the French settlers in Canada, who had explored the West and claimed it for themselves. In these wars many Indian tribes (but not the Iroquois ) fought on the side of the French. The colonists, with the aid of England,
1 Iroquois : the Indians of New York. See Paragraph 42.