Page images

was no place vacant, and I remained idle. After some days, Keimer having the expectation of being employed to print some New Jersey money bills, that would require types and engravings which I only could furnish, and fearful that Bradford, by engaging me, might deprive him of this undertaking, sent me a very civil message, telling me that old friends ought not to be disunited on account of a few words, wbich were the effect only of a momentary passion, and inviting me to return to him. Meredith persuaded me to comply with the invitation, particularly as it would afford him more opportunities of improving himself in the business by means of my iņstructions, I did so; and we lived upon better terms thạn before our separation.

He obtained the New Jersey business; and, in order to execute it, I constructed a copper-plate printing-press, the first that had been seen in the country. I engraved various ornaments and vig, nettes for the bills; and we repaired to Burlington together, where I executed the whole to general satisfaction; and he received a sum of money for this work, which enabled him to keep his head above water for a considerable time longer.

At Burlington I formed an acquaintance with the principal personages of the province, many of whom were commissioned by the Assembly to superintend the press, and to see that no more bills were printed than the law had prescribed. Accordingly they were constantly with us, each in his turn; and he that came commonly brought with him a friend or two to bear him company. My mind was more cultivated by reading than Keimer's; and it was for this reason, probably, that they set more value on my conversation. They took me to their houses, iatroduced me to

their friends, and treated me with the greatest civility; while Keimer, though master, saw himself a little neglected. He was, in fact, a strange animal, ignorant of the common modes of life, apt to oppose with rudeness generally received opinions, an enthusiast in certain points of religion, disgustingly unclean in his person, and a little knavish withal.

We remained there nearly three months; and at the expiration of this period I could include in the list of my friends, Judge Allen, Samuel Bustil, Secretary of the province, Isaac Pearson, Joseph Cooper, several of the Smiths, all members of the Assembly, and Isaac Docon, Inspector-general. The last was a shrewd and subtle old man. He told me, that when a boy, his first employment had been that of carrying clay to brick-makers; that he did not learn to write till he was somewhat advanced in life; that he was afterwards employed as an underling to a survey. or, who taught him this trade, and that by industry he had at last acquired a competent fortune. “ Í foresee,” said he one day to me, “that you will soon supplant this man (speaking of Keimer,) and get a fortune in the business at Philadel

He was totally ignorant at the time, of my intention of establishing myself there, or any where else. These friends were very serviceable to me in the end, as was I also, upon occasion, to some of them; and they have continued ever since their esteem for me.

Before I relate the particulars of my entrance into business, it may be proper to inform you what was at that time the state of my mind as to moral principles, that you may see the degree of influence they had upon the subsequent events of my life.

My parents had given me betimes religious im.


pressions, and I received from my infancy a pious education in the principles of Calvinism. But scarcely was I arrived at fifteen years of age, when, after having doubted in turn of different tenets, accordingly as I found them combatted in the different books that I read, I began to doubt of revelation itself. Some volumes against deism fell into my hands. They were said to be the substance of sermons preached at Boyle's Lecture. It happened that they produced on me an effect precisely the reverse of what was intended by the writers; for the arguments of the deists, which were cited in order to be refuted, appeared to me much more forcible than the refutatiou itself. In a word, I soon became a perfect deist My arguments perverted some other young per sons, particularly Collins and Ralph. But in the sequel, when I recollected that they had both used me extremely ill, without the smallest remorse; when I considered the behaviour of Keith, another free-thinker, and my own conduct towards Vernon and Miss Read, which at times gave me great uneasiness, I was led to suspect that this doctrine, though it might be true, was not very useful. I began to entertain a less favorable opinion of my London pamphlet, to which I had prefixed, as a motto, the follow.. ing lines of Dryden:

Whatever is is right; though purblind man
Sees but part of the chain, the wearest link,
His eyes not carrying to the equal beam

That poises all above. And of which the object was to prove, from the attributes of God, his goodness, wisdom, and power, that there could be no such thing as evil in the world ; that vice and virtue did not in reality exist, and were nothing more than vain dis

tinctions. I no longer regarded it as so blameless a work as I had formerly imagined; and I suspected that some error must have imperceptibly glided into my argument, by which all the inferences I had drawn from it had been affected, as frequently happens in metaphysical reasonings. In a word, I was at last convinced that truth, probity, and sincerity, in transactions between man and man, were of the utmost importance to the happiness of life; and I resolved from that moment, and wrote the resolution in my Journal, to practise them as long as I lived.

Revelation, indeed, as such, had no influence on my mind; but I was of opinion that, though certain actions could not be bad merely because revelation had prohibited them, or good because it enjoined them, yet it was probable that those actions were probibited because they were bad for us, or enjoined because advantageous in their nature, all things considered. This persuasion, Divine Providence, or some guardian angel, and perhaps a concurrence of favorable circumstances co-operating, preserved me from all immorality, or gross and voluntary injustice, to which my want of religion was calculated to expose me, in the dangerous period of youth, and in the hazardous situations in which I sometimes found myself, among strangers, and at a distance from the eye and admonitions of my father. I may say voluntary, because the errors into which I had fallen, bad been in a manner the forced result either of my own inexperience, or the dishonesty of others. Thus, before I entered on my own new career, I had imbibed solid principles, and a character of probity. I knew their value; and I made a solemn engagement with myself never to depart from them. I had not long returned from Burlington before

our printing materials arrived from London. I settled my accounts with Keimer, and quitted him with his own consent, before he had any knowledge of our plan. We found a house to let near the market. We took it, and, to render the rent less burdensome (it was then twenty. four pounds a year, but I have since known it let for seventy,) we admitted Thomas Godfrey, a glazier, with his family, who eased us of a considerable part of it; and with him we agreed to board.

We had no sooner unpacked our letter, and put our press in order, than a person of my acquaintance, George House, bronght us a countryman, whom he had met in the streets inquiring for a printer. Our money was almost exhausted by the number of things we had been obliged to procure. The five shillings we received from this countryman, the first fruit of our earnings, coming so seasonably, gave me more pleasure than any sum I have since gained; and the recollection of the gratitude I felt on this occasion to George House has rendered me often more disposed, than perhaps I should otherwise have been, to encourage young beginners in trade.

There are in every country morose beinge who are always prognosticating ruin. The). was one of this stamp at Philadelphia. He w: a man of fortune, declined in years, had an ail of wisdom, and a very grave manner of speaking His name was Samuel Mickle. I knew him noi but he stopped one day at my door, and aske me if I was the young man who had lately opened a new printing-house. Upon my answering in the affirmative, he said that he was very sorry for me, as it was an expensive undertaking, and the money that had been laid out upon it would be lost, Philadelphia being a place falling into

« EelmineJätka »