An Electronic Edition · Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Original Source: Benjamin Franklin, "Autobiography." In The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Journal of John Woolman, the Fruits of Solitude William Penn. Ed. Charles W. Eliot. (New York: P. F. Collier and Son, 1909).

Copyright 2003. This text is freely available provided the text is distributed with the header information provided.

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TWYFORD, at the Bishop of St. Asaph’s, 17711.

DEAR SON: I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any little anecdotes
of my ancestors. You may remember the inquiries I made among the remains of my
relations when you were with me in England, and the journey I undertook for
that purpose. Imagining it may be equally agreeable to you to know the
circumstances of my life, many of which you are yet unacquainted with, and
expecting the enjoyment of a week’s uninterrupted leisure in my present country
retirement, I sit down to write them for you. To which I have besides some
other inducements. Having emerged from the poverty and obscurity in which I was
born and bred, to a state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the
world, and having gone so far through life with a considerable share of
felicity, the conducing means I made use of, which with the blessing of God so
well succeeded, my posterity may like to know, as they may find some of them
suitable to their own situations, and therefore fit to be imitated.2.

That felicity, when I reflected on it, has induced me sometimes to
say, that were it offered to my choice, I should have no objection to a
repetition of the same life from its beginning, only asking the advantages
authors have in a second edition to correct some faults of the first. So I
might, besides correcting the faults, change some sinister accidents and events
of it for others more favorable. But though this were denied, I should still
accept the offer. Since such a repetition is not to be expected, the next thing
most like living one’s life over again seems to be a recollection of that life,
and to make that recollection as durable as possible by putting it down in

Hereby, too, I shall indulge the inclination so natural in old men,
to be talking of themselves and their own past actions; and I shall indulge it
without being tiresome to others, who, through respect to age, might conceive
themselves obliged to give me a hearing, since this may be read or not as any
one pleases. And, lastly (I may as well confess it, since my denial of it will
be believed by nobody), perhaps I shall a good deal gratify my own vanity.
Indeed, I scarce ever heard or saw the introductory words, ”
Without vanity I
may say
,” &c., but some vain thing immediately followed. Most people
dislike vanity in others, whatever share they have of it themselves; but I give
it fair quarter wherever I meet with it, being persuaded that it is often
productive of good to the possessor, and to others that are within his sphere
of action; and therefore, in many cases, it would not be altogether absurd if a
man were to thank God for his vanity among the other comforts of life.4.

And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all humility to
acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness of my past life to His kind
providence, which lead me to the means I used and gave them success. My belief
of this induces me to hope, though I must not presume, that the same goodness
will still be exercised toward me, in continuing that happiness, or enabling me
to bear a fatal reverse, which I may experience as others have done: the
complexion of my future fortune being known to Him only in whose power it is to
bless to us even our afflictions.5.

The notes one of my uncles (who had the same kind of curiosity in
collecting family anecdotes) once put into my hands, furnished me with several
particulars relating to our ancestors. From these notes I learned that the
family had lived in the same village, Ecton, in Northamptonshire, for three
hundred years, and how much longer he knew not (perhaps from the time when the
name of Franklin, that before was the name of an order of people, was assumed
by them as a surname when others took surnames all over the kingdom), on a
freehold of about thirty acres, aided by the smith’s business, which had
continued in the family till his time, the eldest son being always bred to that
business; a custom which he and my father followed as to their eldest sons.
When I searched the registers at Ecton, I found an account of their births,
marriages and burials from the year 1555 only, there being no registers kept in
that parish at any time preceding. By that register I perceived that I was the
youngest son of the youngest son for five generations back. My grandfather
Thomas, who was born in 1598, lived at Ecton till he grew too old to follow
business longer, when he went to live with his son John, a dyer at Banbury, in
Oxfordshire, with whom my father served an apprenticeship. There my grandfather
died and lies buried. We saw his gravestone in 1758. His eldest son Thomas
lived in the house at Ecton, and left it with the land to his only child, a
daughter, who, with her husband, one Fisher, of Wellingborough, sold it to Mr.
Isted, now lord of the manor there. My grandfather had four sons that grew up,
viz.: Thomas, John, Benjamin and Josiah. I will give you what account I can of
them, at this distance from my papers, and if these are not lost in my absence,
you will among them find many more particulars.6.

Thomas was bred a smith under his father; but, being ingenious, and
encouraged in learning (as all my brothers were) by an Esquire Palmer, then the
principal gentleman in that parish, he qualified himself for the business of
scrivener; became a considerable man in the county; was a chief mover of all
public-spirited undertakings for the county or town of Northampton, and his own
village, of which many instances were related of him; and much taken notice of
and patronized by the then Lord Halifax. He died in 17O2, January 6, old style,
just four years to a day before I was born. The account we received of his life
and character from some old people at Ecton, I remember, struck you as
something extraordinary, from its similarity to what you knew of mine.7.

“Had he died on the same day,” you said, “one might have supposed a

John was bred a dyer, I believe of woolens. Benjamin was bred a silk
dyer, serving an apprenticeship at London. He was an ingenious man. I remember
him well, for when I was a boy he came over to my father in Boston, and lived
in the house with us some years. He lived to a great age. His grandson, Samuel
Franklin, now lives in Boston. He left behind him two quarto volumes, MS., of
his own poetry, consisting of little occasional pieces addressed to his friends
and relations, of which the following, sent to me, is a specimen. He had formed
a short-hand of his own, which he taught me, but, never practising it, I have
now forgot it. I was named after this uncle, there being a particular affection
between him and my father. He was very pious, a great attender of sermons of
the best preachers, which he took down in his short-hand, and had with him many
volumes of them. He was also much of a politician; too much, perhaps, for his
station. There fell lately into my hands, in London, a collection he had made
of all the principal pamphlets, relating to public affairs, from 1641 to 1717;
many of the volumes are wanting as appears by the numbering, but there still
remain eight volumes in folio, and twenty-four in quarto and in octavo. A
dealer in old books met with them, and knowing me by my sometimes buying of
him, he brought them to me. It seems my uncle must have left them here, when he
went to America, which was about fifty years since. There are many of his notes
in the margins.9.

This obscure family of ours was early in the Reformation, and
continued Protestants through the reign of Queen Mary, when they were sometimes
in danger of trouble on account of their zeal against popery. They had got an
English Bible, and to conceal and secure it, it was fastened open with tapes
under and within the cover of a joint-stool. When my great-great-grandfather
read it to his family, he turned up the joint-stool upon his knees, turning
over the leaves then under the tapes. One of the children stood at the door to
give notice if he saw the apparitor coming, who was an officer of the spiritual
court. In that case the stool was turned down again upon its feet, when the
Bible remained concealed under it as before. This anecdote I had from my uncle
Benjamin. The family continued all of the Church of England till about the end
of Charles the Second’s reign, when some of the ministers that had been outed
for nonconformity holding conventicles in Northamptonshire, Benjamin and Josiah
adhered to them, and so continued all their lives: the rest of the family
remained with the Episcopal Church.10.

Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife with three
children into New England, about 1682. The conventicles having been forbidden
by law, and frequently disturbed, induced some considerable men of his
acquaintance to remove to that country, and he was prevailed with to accompany
them thither, where they expected to enjoy their mode of religion with freedom.
By the same wife he had four children more born there, and by a second wife ten
more, in all seventeen; of which I remember thirteen sitting at one time at his
table, who all grew up to be men and women, and married; I was the youngest
son, and the youngest child but two, and was born in Boston, New England. My
mother, the second wife, was Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter Folger, one of the
first settlers of New England, of whom honorable mention is made by Cotton
Mather in his church history of that country, entitled Magnalia Christi
Americana, as ‘
a godly, learned Englishman,” if I remember the words rightly. I
have heard that he wrote sundry small occasional pieces, but only one of them
was printed, which I saw now many years since. It was written in 1675, in the
home-spun verse of that time and people, and addressed to those then concerned
in the government there. It was in favor of liberty of conscience, and in
behalf of the Baptists, Quakers, and other sectaries that had been under
persecution, ascribing the Indian wars, and other distresses that had befallen
the country, to that persecution, as so many judgments of God to punish so
heinous an offense, and exhorting a repeal of those uncharitable laws. The
whole appeared to me as written with a good deal of decent plainness and manly
freedom. The six concluding lines I remember, though I have forgotten the two
first of the stanza; but the purport of them was, that his censures proceeded
from good-will, and, therefore, he would be known to be the author.11.

“Because to be a libeller (says he) 
I hate it with my heart; 
From Sherburne town, where now I dwell 
My name I do put here; 
Without offense your real friend,5.
It is Peter Folgier.” 

My elder brothers were all put apprentices to different trades. I
was put to the grammar-school at eight years of age, my father intending to
devote me, as the tithe of his sons, to the service of the Church. My early
readiness in learning to read (which must have been very early, as I do not
remember when I could not read), and the opinion of all his friends, that I
should certainly make a good scholar, encouraged him in this purpose of his. My
uncle Benjamin, too, approved of it, and proposed to give me all his short-hand
volumes of sermons, I suppose as a stock to set up with, if I would learn his
character. I continued, however, at the grammar-school not quite one year,
though in that time I had risen gradually from the middle of the class of that
year to be the head of it, and farther was removed into the next class above
it, in order to go with that into the third at the end of the year. But my
father, in the meantime, from a view of the expense of a college education,
which having so large a family he could not well afford, and the mean living
many so educated were afterwards able to obtain–reasons that be gave to his
friends in my hearing–altered his first intention, took me from the
grammar-school, and sent me to a school for writing and arithmetic, kept by a
then famous man, Mr. George Brownell, very successful in his profession
generally, and that by mild, encouraging methods. Under him I acquired fair
writing pretty soon, but I failed in the arithmetic, and made no progress in
it. At ten years old I was taken home to assist my father in his business,
which was that of a tallow-chandler and sope-boiler; a business he was not bred
to, but had assumed on his arrival in New England, and on finding his dying
trade would not maintain his family, being in little request. Accordingly, I
was employed in cutting wick for the candles, filling the dipping mold and the
molds for cast candles, attending the shop, going of errands, etc.12.

I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination for the sea, but
my father declared against it; however, living near the water, I was much in
and about it, learnt early to swim well, and to manage boats; and when in a
boat or canoe with other boys, I was commonly allowed to govern, especially in
any case of difficulty; and upon other occasions I was generally a leader among
the boys, and sometimes led them into scrapes, of which I will mention one
instance, as it shows an early projecting public spirit, tho’ not then justly

There was a salt-marsh that bounded part of the mill-pond, on the
edge of which, at high water, we used to stand to fish for minnows. By much
trampling, we had made it a mere quagmire. My proposal was to build a wharff
there fit for us to stand upon, and I showed my comrades a large heap of
stones, which were intended for a new house near the marsh, and which would
very well suit our purpose. Accordingly, in the evening, when the workmen were
gone, I assembled a number of my play-fellows, and working with them diligently
like so many emmets, sometimes two or three to a stone, we brought them all
away and built our little wharff. The next morning the workmen were surprised
at missing the stones, which were found in our wharff. Inquiry was made after
the removers; we were discovered and complained of; several of us were
corrected by our fathers; and though I pleaded the usefulness of the work, mine
convinced me that nothing was useful which was not honest.14.

I think you may like to know something of his person and character.
He had an excellent constitution of body, was of middle stature, but well set,
and very strong; he was ingenious, could draw prettily, was skilled a little in
music, and had a clear pleasing voice, so that when he played psalm tunes on
his violin and sung withal, as he sometimesdid in an evening after the business
of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had a mechanical
genius too, and, on occasion, was very handy in the use of other tradesmen’s
tools; but his great excellence lay in a sound understanding and solid judgment
in prudential matters, both in private and publick affairs. In the latter,
indeed, he was never employed, the numerous family he had to educate and the
straitness of his circumstances keeping him close to his trade; but I remember
well his being frequently visited by leading people, who consulted him for his
opinion in affairs of the town or of the church he belonged to, and showed a
good deal of respect for his judgment and advice: he was also much consulted by
private persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and
frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties.15.

At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible
friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some
ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds
of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just,
and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of
what related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed,
in or out of season, of good or bad flavor, preferable or inferior to this or
that other thing of the kind, so that I was bro’t up in such a perfect
inattention to those matters as to be quite indifferent what kind of food was
set before me, and so unobservant of it, that to this day if I am asked I can
scarce tell a few hours after dinner what I dined upon. This has been a
convenience to me in travelling, where my companions have been sometimes very
unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because
better instructed, tastes and appetites.16.

My mother had likewise an excellent constitution: she suckled all
her ten children. I never knew either my father or mother to have any sickness
but that of which they dy’d, he at 89, and she at 85 years of age. They lie
buried together at Boston, where I some years since placed a marble over their
grave, with this inscription:17.

ABIAH his Wife, 
lie here interred. 
They lived lovingly together in wedlock5.
fifty-five years. 
Without an estate, or any gainful employment, 
By constant labor and industry, 
with God’s blessing, 
They maintained a large family10.
and brought up thirteen children 
and seven grandchildren 
From this instance, reader,15.
Be encouraged to diligence in thy calling, 
And distrust not Providence. 
He was a pious and prudent man; 
She, a discreet and virtuous woman. 
Their youngest son,20.
In filial regard to their memory, 
Places this stone. 
J.F. born 1655, died 1744, AEtat 89. 
A.F. born 1667, died 1752, ––- 95. 

By my rambling digressions I perceive myself to be grown old. I us’d
to write more methodically. But one does not dress for private company as for a
publick ball. ‘Tis perhaps only negligence.18.

To return: I continued thus employed in my father’s business for two
years, that is, till I was twelve years old; and my brother John, who was bred
to that business, having left my father, married, and set up for himself at
Rhode Island, there was all appearance that I was destined to supply his place,
and become a tallow-chandler. But my dislike to the trade continuing, my father
was under apprehensions that if he did not find one for me more agreeable, I
should break away and get to sea, as his son Josiah had done, to his great
vexation. He therefore sometimes took me to walk with him, and see joiners,
bricklayers, turners, braziers, etc., at their work, that he might observe my
inclination, and endeavor to fix it on some trade or other on land. It has ever
since been a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their tools; and it has
been useful to me, having learnt so much by it as to be able to do little jobs
myself in my house when a workman could not readily be got, and to construct
little machines for my experiments, while the intention of making the
experiment was fresh and warm in my mind. My father at last fixed upon the
cutler’s trade, and my uncle Benjamin’s son Samuel, who was bred to that
business in London, being about that time established in Boston, I was sent to
be with him some time on liking. But his expectations of a fee with me
displeasing my father, I was taken home again.19.

From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that
came into my hands was ever laid out in books. Pleased with the Pilgrim’s
Progress, my first collection was of John Bunyan’s works in separate little
volumes. I afterward sold them to enable me to buy R. Burton’s Historical
Collections; they were small chapmen’s books, and cheap, 40 or 50 in all. My
father’s little library consisted chiefly of books in polemic divinity, most of
which I read, and have since often regretted that, at a time when I had such a
thirst for knowledge, more proper books had not fallen in my way since it was
now resolved I should not be a clergyman. Plutarch’s Lives there was in which I
read abundantly, and I still think that time spent to great advantage. There
was also a book of De Foe’s, called an Essay on Projects, and another of Dr.
Mather’s, called Essays to do Good, which perhaps gave me a turn of thinking
that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my life.20.

This bookish inclination at length determined my father to make me a
printer, though he had already one son (James) of that profession. In 1717 my
brother James returned from England with a press and letters to set up his
business in Boston. I liked it much better than that of my father, but still
had a hankering for the sea. To prevent the apprehended effect of such an
inclination, my father was impatient to have me bound to my brother. I stood
out some time, but at last was persuaded, and signed the indentures when I was
yet but twelve years old. I was to serve as an apprentice till I was twenty-one
years of age, only I was to be allowed journeyman’s wages during the last year.
In a little time I made great proficiency in the business, and became a useful
hand to my brother. I now had access to better books. An acquaintance with the
apprentices of booksellers enabled me sometimes to borrow a small one, which I
was careful to return soon and clean. Often I sat up in my room reading the
greatest part of the night, when the book was borrowed in the evening and to be
returned early in the morning, lest it should be missed or wanted.21.

And after some time an ingenious tradesman, Mr. Matthew Adams, who
had a pretty collection of books, and who frequented our printing-house, took
notice of me, invited me to his library, and very kindly lent me such books as
I chose to read. I now took a fancy to poetry, and made some little pieces; my
brother, thinking it might turn to account, encouraged me, and put me on
composing occasional ballads. One was called
The Lighthouse Tragedy, and
contained an account of the drowning of Captain Worthilake, with his two
daughters: the other was a sailor’s song, on the taking of
Teach (or
Blackbeard) the pirate. They were wretched stuff, in the Grub-street-ballad
style; and when they were printed he sent me about the town to sell them. The
first sold wonderfully, the event being recent, having made a great noise. This
flattered my vanity; but my father discouraged me by ridiculing my
performances, and telling me verse-makers were generally beggars. So I escaped
being a poet, most probably a very bad one; but as prose writing bad been of
great use to me in the course of my life, and was a principal means of my
advancement, I shall tell you how, in such a situation, I acquired what little
ability I have in that way.22.

There was another bookish lad in the town, John Collins by name,
with whom I was intimately acquainted. We sometimes disputed, and very fond we
were of argument, and very desirous of confuting one another, which
disputatious turn, by the way, is apt to become a very bad habit, making people
often extremely disagreeable in company by the contradiction that is necessary
to bring it into practice; and thence, besides souring and spoiling the
conversation, is productive of disgusts and, perhaps enmities where you may
have occasion for friendship. I had caught it by reading my father’s books of
dispute about religion. Persons of good sense, I have since observed, seldom
fall into it, except lawyers, university men, and men of all sorts that have
been bred at Edinborough.23.

A question was once, somehow or other, started between Collins and
me, of the propriety of educating the female sex in learning, and their
abilities for study. He was of opinion that it was improper, and that they were
naturally unequal to it. I took the contrary side, perhaps a little for
dispute’s sake. He was naturally more eloquent, had a ready plenty of words;
and sometimes, as I thought, bore me down more by his fluency than by the
strength of his reasons. As we parted without settling the point, and were not
to see one another again for some time, I sat down to put my arguments in
writing, which I copied fair and sent to him. He answered, and I replied. Three
or four letters of a side had passed, when my father happened to find my papers
and read them. Without entering into the discussion, he took occasion to talk
to me about the manner of my writing; observed that, though I had the advantage
of my antagonist in correct spelling and pointing (which I ow’d to the
printing-house), I fell far short in elegance of expression, in method and in
perspicuity, of which he convinced me by several instances. I saw the justice
of his remark, and thence grew more attentive to the manner in writing, and
determined to endeavor at improvement.24.

About this time I met with an odd volume of the
Spectator. It was
the third. I had never before seen any of them. I bought it, read it over and
over, and was much delighted with it. I thought the writing excellent, and
wished, if possible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers,
and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, laid them by a few
days, and then, without looking at the book, try’d to compleat the papers
again, by expressing each hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had
been expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I
compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and
corrected them. But I found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in
recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before that
time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual occasion for words of
the same import, but of different length, to suit the measure, or of different
sound for the rhyme, would have laid me under a constant necessity of searching
for variety, and also have tended to fix that variety in my mind, and make me
master of it. Therefore I took some of the tales and turned them into verse;
and, after a time, when I had pretty well forgotten the prose, turned them back
again. I also 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 on 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.25.

When about 16 years of age I happened to meet with a book, written
by one Tryon, recommending a vegetable diet. I determined to go into it. My
brother, being yet unmarried, did not keep house, but boarded himself and his
apprentices in another family. My refusing to eat flesh occasioned an
inconveniency, and I was frequently chid for my singularity. I made myself
acquainted with Tryon’s manner of preparing some of his dishes, such as boiling
potatoes or rice, making hasty pudding, and a few others, and then proposed to
my brother, that if he would give me, weekly, half the money he paid for my
board, I would board myself. He instantly agreed to it, and I presently found
that I could save half what he paid me. This was an additional fund for buying
books. But I had another advantage in it. My brother and the rest going from
the printing-house to their meals, I remained there alone, and, despatching
presently my light repast, which often was no more than a bisket or a slice of
bread, a handful of raisins or a tart from the pastry-cook’s, and a glass of
water, had the rest of the time till their return for study, in which I made
the greater progress, from that greater clearness of head and quicker
apprehension which usually attend temperance in eating and drinking.26.

And now it was that, being on some occasion made asham’d of my
ignorance in figures, which I had twice failed in learning when at school, I
took Cocker’s book of Arithmetick, and went through the whole by myself with
great ease. I also read Seller’s and Shermy’s books of Navigation, and became
acquainted with the little geometry they contain; but never proceeded far in
that science. And I read about this time Locke
On Human Understanding, and the
Art of Thinking, by Messrs. du Port Royal.27.

While I was intent on improving my language, I met with an English
grammar (I think it was Greenwood’s), at the end of which there were two little
sketches of the arts of rhetoric and logic, the latter finishing with a
specimen of a dispute in the Socratic method; and soon after I procur’d
Xenophon’s Memorable Things of Socrates, wherein there are many instances of
the same method. I was charm’d with it, adopted it, dropt my abrupt
contradiction and positive argumentation, and put on the humble inquirer and
doubter. And being then, from reading Shaftesbury and Collins, become a real
doubter in many points of our religious doctrine, I found this method safest
for myself and very embarrassing to those against whom I used it; therefore I
took a delight in it, practis’d it continually, and grew very artful and expert
in drawing people, even of superior knowledge, into concessions, the
consequences of which they did not foresee, entangling them in difficulties out
of which they could not extricate themselves, and so obtaining victories that
neither myself nor my cause always deserved. I continu’d this method some few
years, but gradually left it, retaining only the habit of expressing myself in
terms of modest diffidence; never using, when I advanced any thing that may
possibly be disputed, the words certainly, undoubtedly, or any others that give
the air of positiveness to an opinion; but rather say, I conceive or apprehend
a thing to be so and so; it appears to me, or I should think it so or so, for
such and such reasons; or I imagine it to be so; or it is so, if I am not
. This habit, I believe, has been of great advantage to me when I have
had occasion to inculcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures that I
have been from time to time engag’d in promoting; and, as the chief ends of
conversation are to inform or to be
informed, to please or to persuade, I wish
well-meaning, sensible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a
positive, assuming manner, that seldom fails to disgust, tends to create
opposition, and to defeat every one of those purposes for which speech was
given to us, to wit, giving or receiving information or pleasure. For, if you
would inform, a positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your sentiments may
provoke contradiction and prevent a candid attention. If you wish information
and improvement from the knowledge of others, and yet at the same time express
yourself as firmly fix’d in your present opinions, modest, sensible men, who do
not love disputation, will probably leave you undisturbed in the possession of
your error. And by such a manner, you can seldom hope to recommend yourself in
pleasing your hearers, or to persuade those whose concurrence you desire. Pope
says, judiciously:

“Men should be taught as if you taught them not, 
And things unknown propos’d as things forgot;” 

farther recommending to us
“To speak, tho’ sure, with seeming diffidence.” And he might
have coupled with this line that which he has coupled with another, I think,
less properly,
“For want of modesty is want of sense.” If you ask, Why less
properly? I must repeat the lines,
“Immodest words admit of no defense, For want of modesty is want
of sense. Now, is not want of sense (where a man is so unfortunate as to
want it) some apology for his want of modesty? and would not the lines stand
more justly thus?
“Immodest words admit but this defense, That want of modesty is
want of sense.” This, however, I should submit to better judgments.28.

My brother had, in 1720 or 1721, begun to print a newspaper. It was
the second that appeared in America, and was called the New England Courant.
The only one before it was the Boston News-Letter. I remember his being
dissuaded by some of his friends from the undertaking, as not likely to
succeed, one newspaper being, in their judgment, enough for America. At this
time (1771) there are not less than five-and-twenty. He went on, however, with
the undertaking, and after having worked in composing the types and printing
off the sheets, I was employed to carry the papers thro’ the streets to the

He had some ingenious men among his friends, who amus’d themselves
by writing little pieces for this paper, which gain’d it credit and made it
more in demand, and these gentlemen often visited us. Hearing their
conversations, and their accounts of the approbation their papers were received
with, I was excited to try my hand among them; but, being still a boy, and
suspecting that my brother would object to printing anything of mine in his
paper if he knew it to be mine, I contrived to disguise my hand, and, writing
an anonymous paper, I put it in at night under the door of the printing-house.
It was found in the morning, and communicated to his writing friends when they
call’d in as usual. They read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I had the
exquisite pleasure of finding it met with their approbation, and that, in their
different guesses at the author, none were named but men of some character
among us for learning and ingenuity. I suppose now that I was rather lucky in
my judges, and that perhaps they were not really so very good ones as I then
esteem’d them.30.

Encourag’d, however, by this, I wrote and convey’d in the same way
to the press several more papers which were equally approv’d; and I kept my
secret till my small fund of sense for such performances was pretty well
exhausted and then I discovered it, when I began to be considered a little more
by my brother’s acquaintance, and in a manner that did not quite please him, as
he thought, probably with reason, that it tended to make me too vain. And,
perhaps, this might be one occasion of the differences that we began to have
about this time. Though a brother, he considered himself as my master, and me
as his apprentice, and accordingly, expected the same services from me as he
would from another, while I thought he demean’d me too much in some he requir’d
of me, who from a brother expected more indulgence. Our disputes were often
brought before our father, and I fancy I was either generally in the right, or
else a better pleader, because the judgment was generally in my favor. But my
brother was passionate, and had often beaten me, which I took extreamly amiss;
and, thinking my apprenticeship very tedious, I was continually wishing for
some opportunity of shortening it, which at length offered in a manner

One of the pieces in our newspaper on some political point, which I
have now forgotten, gave offense to the Assembly. He was taken up, censur’d,
and imprison’d for a month, by the speaker’s warrant, I suppose, because he
would not discover his author. I too was taken up and examin’d before the
council; but, tho’ I did not give them any satisfaction, they content’d
themselves with admonishing me, and dismissed me, considering me, perhaps, as
an apprentice, who was bound to keep his master’s secrets.32.

During my brother’s confinement, which I resented a good deal,
notwithstanding our private differences, I had the management of the paper; and
I made bold to give our rulers some rubs in it, which my brother took very
kindly, while others began to consider me in an unfavorable light, as a young
genius that had a turn for libelling and satyr. My brother’s discharge was
accompany’d with an order of the House (a very odd one), that “James Franklin should no longer print the paper called the New
England Courant

There was a consultation held in our printing-house among his
friends, what he should do in this case. Some proposed to evade the order by
changing the name of the paper; but my brother, seeing inconveniences in that,
it was finally concluded on as a better way, to let it be printed for the
future under the name of BENJAMIN FRANKLIN; and to
avoid the censure of the Assembly, that might fall on him as still printing it
by his apprentice, the contrivance was that my old indenture should be return’d
to me, with a full discharge on the back of it, to be shown on occasion, but to
secure to him the benefit of my service, I was to sign new indentures for the
remainder of the term, which were to be kept private. A very flimsy scheme it
was; however, it was immediately executed, and the paper went on accordingly,
under my name for several months.34.

At length, a fresh difference arising between my brother and me, I
took upon me to assert my freedom, presuming that he would not venture to
produce the new indentures. It was not fair in me to take this advantage, and
this I therefore reckon one of the first errata of my life; but the unfairness
of it weighed little with me, when under the impressions of resentment for the
blows his passion too often urged him to bestow upon me, though he was
otherwise not an ill-natur’d man: perhaps I was too saucy and provoking.35.

When he found I would leave him, he took care to prevent my getting
employment in any other printing-house of the town, by going round and speaking
to every master, who accordingly refus’d to give me work. I then thought of
going to New York, as the nearest place where there was a printer; and I was
rather inclin’d to leave Boston when I reflected that I had already made myself
a little obnoxious to the governing party, and, from the arbitrary proceedings
of the Assembly in my brother’s case, it was likely I might, if I stay’d, soon
bring myself into scrapes; and farther, that my indiscrete disputations about
religion began to make me pointed at with horror by good people as an infidel
or atheist. I determin’d on the point, but my father now siding with my
brother, I was sensible that, if I attempted to go openly, means would be used
to prevent me. My friend Collins, therefore, undertook to manage a little for
me. He agreed with the captain of a New York sloop for my passage, under the
notion of my being a young acquaintance of his, that had got a naughty girl
with child, whose friends would compel me to marry her, and therefore I could
not appear or come away publicly. So I sold some of my books to raise a little
money, was taken on board privately, and as we had a fair wind, in three days I
found myself in New York, near 300 miles from home, a boy of but 17, without
the least recommendation to, or knowledge of any person in the place, and with
very little money in my pocket.36.

My inclinations for the sea were by this time worne out, or I might
now have gratify’d them. But, having a trade, and supposing myself a pretty
good workman, I offer’d my service to the printer in the place, old Mr. William
Bradford, who had been the first printer in Pennsylvania, but removed from
thence upon the quarrel of George Keith. He could give me no employment, having
little to do, and help enough already; but says he, “My son at Philadelphia has
lately lost his principal hand, Aquila Rose, by death; if you go thither, I
believe he may employ you.” Philadelphia was a hundred miles further; I set
out, however, in a boat for Amboy, leaving my chest and things to follow me
round by sea.37.

In crossing the bay, we met with a squall that tore our rotten sails
to pieces, prevented our getting into the Kill and drove us upon Long Island.
In our way, a drunken Dutchman, who was a passenger too, fell overboard; when
he was sinking, I reached through the water to his shock pate, and drew him up,
so that we got him in again. His ducking sobered him a little, and he went to
sleep, taking first out of his pocket a book, which he desir’d I would dry for
him. It proved to be my old favorite author, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, in
Dutch, finely printed on good paper, with copper cuts, a dress better than I
had ever seen it wear in its own language. I have since found that it has been
translated into most of the languages of Europe, and suppose it has been more
generally read than any other book, except perhaps the Bible. Honest John was
the first that I know of who mix’d narration and dialogue; a method of writing
very engaging to the reader, who in the most interesting parts finds himself,
as it were, brought into the company and present at the discourse. De Foe in
his Cruso, his Moll Flanders, Religious Courtship, Family Instructor, and other
pieces, has imitated it with success; and Richardson has done the same, in his
Pamela, etc.38.

When we drew near the island, we found it was at a place where there
could be no landing, there being a great surff on the stony beach. So we dropt
anchor, and swung round towards the shore. Some people came down to the water
edge and hallow’d to us, as we did to them; but the wind was so high, and the
surff so loud, that we could not hear so as to understand each other. There
were canoes on the shore, and we made signs, and hallow’d that they should
fetch us; but they either did not understand us, or thought it impracticable,
so they went away, and night coming on, we had no remedy but to wait till the
wind should abate; and, in the meantime, the boatman and I concluded to sleep,
if we could; and so crowded into the scuttle, with the Dutchman, who was still
wet, and the spray beating over the head of our boat, leak’d thro’ to us, so
that we were soon almost as wet as he. In this manner we lay all night, with
very little rest; but, the wind abating the next day, we made a shift to reach
Amboy before night, having been thirty hours on the water, without victuals, or
any drink but a bottle of filthy rum, and the water we sail’d on being

In the evening I found myself very feverish, and went in to bed;
but, having read somewhere that cold water drank plentifully was good for a
fever, I follow’d the prescription, sweat plentiful most of the night, my fever
left me, and in the morning, crossing the ferry, I proceeded on my journey on
foot, having fifty miles to Burlington, where I was told I should find boats
that would carry me the rest of the way to Philadelphia.40.

It rained very hard all the day; I was thoroughly soak’d, and by
noon a good deal tired; so I stopt at a poor inn, where I staid all night,
beginning now to wish that I had never left home. I cut so miserable a figure,
too, that I found, by the questions ask’d me, I was suspected to be some
runaway servant, and in danger of being taken up on that suspicion. However, I
proceeded the next day, and got in the evening to an inn, within eight or ten
miles of Burlington, kept by one Dr. Brown. He entered into conversation with
me while I took some refreshment, and, finding I had read a little, became very
sociable and friendly. Our acquaintance continu’d as long as he liv’d. He had
been, I imagine, an itinerant doctor, for there was no town in England, or
country in Europe, of which he could not give a very particular account. He had
some letters, and was ingenious, but much of an unbeliever, and wickedly
undertook, some years after, to travestie the Bible in doggrel verse, as Cotton
had done Virgil. By this means he set many of the facts in a very ridiculous
light, and might have hurt weak minds if his work had been published; but it
never was.41.

At his house I lay that night, and the next morning reach’d
Burlington, but had the mortification to find that the regular boats were gone
a little before my coming, and no other expected to go before Tuesday, this
being Saturday; wherefore I returned to an old woman in the town, of whom I had
bought gingerbread to eat on the water, and ask’d her advice. She invited me to
lodge at her house till a passage by water should offer; and being tired with
my foot travelling, I accepted the invitation. She understanding I was a
printer, would have had me stay at that town and follow my business, being
ignorant of the stock necessary to begin with. She was very hospitable, gave me
a dinner of ox-cheek with great good will, accepting only a pot of ale in
return; and I thought myself fixed till Tuesday should come. However, walking
in the evening by the side of the river, a boat came by, which I found was
going towards Philadelphia, with several people in her. They took me in, and,
as there was no wind, we row’d all the way; and about midnight, not having yet
seen the city, some of the company were confident we must have passed it, and
would row no farther; the others knew not where we were; so we put toward the
shore, got into a creek, landed near an old fence, with the rails of which we
made a fire, the night being cold, in October, and there we remained till
daylight. Then one of the company knew the place to be Cooper’s Creek, a little
above Philadelphia, which we saw as soon as we got out of the creek, and
arriv’d there about eight or nine o’clock on the Sunday morning, and landed at
the Market-street wharf.42.

I have been the more particular in this description of my journey,
and shall be so of my first entry into that city, that you may in your mind
compare such unlikely beginnings with the figure I have since made there. I was
in my working dress, my best cloaths being to come round by sea. I was dirty
from my journey; my pockets were stuff’d out with shirts and stockings, and I
knew no soul nor where to look for lodging. I was fatigued with travelling,
rowing, and want of rest, I was very hungry; and my whole stock of cash
consisted of a Dutch dollar, and about a shilling in copper. The latter I gave
the people of the boat for my passage, who at first refus’d it, on account of
my rowing; but I insisted on their taking it. A man being sometimes more
generous when he has but a little money than when he has plenty, perhaps thro’
fear of being thought to have but little.43.

Then I walked up the street, gazing about till near the market-house
I met a boy with bread. I had made many a meal on bread, and, inquiring where
he got it, I went immediately to the baker’s he directed me to, in
Secondstreet, and ask’d for bisket, intending such as we had in Boston; but
they, it seems, were not made in Philadelphia. Then I asked for a three-penny
loaf, and was told they had none such. So not considering or knowing the
difference of money, and the greater cheapness nor the names of his bread, I
made him give me three-penny worth of any sort. He gave me, accordingly, three
great puffy rolls. I was surpriz’d at the quantity, but took it, and, having no
room in my pockets, walk’d off with a roll under each arm, and eating the
other. Thus I went up Market-street as far as Fourth-street, passing by the
door of Mr. Read, my future wife’s father; when she, standing at the door, saw
me, and thought I made, as I certainly did, a most awkward, ridiculous
appearance. Then I turned and went down Chestnut-street and part of
Walnut-street, eating my roll all the way, and, corning round, found myself
again at Market-street wharf, near the boat I came in, to which I went for a
draught of the river water; and, being filled with one of my rolls, gave the
other two to a woman and her child that came down the river in the boat with
us, and were waiting to go farther.44.

Thus refreshed, I walked again up the street, which by this time had
many clean-dressed people in it, who were all walking the same way. I joined
them, and thereby was led into the great meeting-house of the Quakers near the
market. I sat down among them, and, after looking round awhile and hearing
nothing said, being very drowsy thro’ labor and want of rest the preceding
night, I fell fast asleep, and continued so till the meeting broke up, when one
was kind enough to rouse me. This was, therefore, the first house I was in, or
slept in, in Philadelphia.45.

Walking down again toward the river, and, looking in the faces of
people, I met a young Quaker man, whose countenance I lik’d, and, accosting
him, requested he would tell me where a stranger could get lodging. We were
then near the sign of the Three Mariners. “Here,” says he, “is one place that
entertains strangers, but it is not a reputable house; if thee wilt walk with
me, I’ll show thee a better.” He brought me to the Crooked Billet in
Water-street. Here I got a dinner; and, while I was eating it, several sly
questions were asked me, as it seemed to be suspected from my youth and
appearance, that I might be some runaway.46.

After dinner, my sleepiness return’d, and being shown to a bed, I
lay down without undressing, and slept till six in the evening, was call’d to
supper, went to bed again very early, and slept soundly till next morning. Then
I made myself as tidy as I could, and went to Andrew Bradford the printer’s. I
found in the shop the old man his father, whom I had seen at New York, and who,
travelling on horseback, had got to Philadelphia before me. He introduc’d me to
his son, who receiv’d me civilly, gave me a breakfast, but told me he did not
at present want a hand, being lately suppli’d with one; but there was another
printer in town, lately set up, one Keimer, who, perhaps, might employ me; if
not, I should be welcome to lodge at his house, and he would give me a little
work to do now and then till fuller business should offer.47.

The old gentleman said he would go with me to the new printer; and
when we found him, “Neighbor,” says Bradford, “I have brought to see you a
young man of your business; perhaps you may want such a one.” He ask’d me a few
questions, put a composing stick in my hand to see how I work’d, and then said
he would employ me soon, though he had just then nothing for me to do; and,
taking old Bradford, whom he had never seen before, to be one of the town’s
people that had a good will for him, enter’d into a conversation on his present
undertaking and projects; while Bradford, not discovering that he was the other
printer’s father, on Keimer’s saying he expected soon to get the greatest part
of the business into his own hands, drew him on by artful questions, and
starting little doubts, to explain all his views, what interests he reli’d on,
and in what manner he intended to proceed. I, who stood by and heard all, saw
immediately that one of them was a crafty old sophister, and the other a mere
novice. Bradford left me with Keimer, who was greatly surpris’d when I told him
who the old man was.48.

Keimer’s printing-house, I found, consisted of an old shatter’d
press, and one small, worn-out font of English which he was then using himself,
composing an Elegy on Aquila Rose, before mentioned, an ingenious young man, of
excellent character, much respected in the town, clerk of the Assembly, and a
pretty poet. Keimer made verses too, but very indifferently. He could not be
said to write them, for his manner was to compose them in the types directly
out of his head. So there being no copy, but one pair of cases, and the Elegy
likely to require all the letter, no one could help him. I endeavor’d to put
his press (which he had not yet us’d, and of which he understood nothing) into
order fit to be work’d with; and, promising to come and print off his Elegy as
soon as he should have got it ready, I return’d to Bradford’s, who gave me a
little job to do for the present, and there I lodged and dieted, A few days
after, Keimer sent for me to print off the Elegy. And now he had got another
pair of cases, and a pamphlet to reprint, on which he set me to work.49.

These two printers I found poorly qualified for their business.
Bradford had not been bred to it, and was very illiterate; and Keimer, tho’
something of a scholar, was a mere compositor, knowing nothing of presswork. He
had been one of the French prophets, and could act their enthusiastic
agitations. At this time he did not profess any particular religion, but
something of all on occasion; was very ignorant of the world, and had, as I
afterward found, a good deal of the knave in his composition. He did not like
my lodging at Bradford’s while I work’d with him. He had a house, indeed, but
without furniture, so he could not lodge me; but he got me a lodging at Mr.
Read’s, before mentioned, who was the owner of his house; and, my chest and
clothes being come by this time, I made rather a more respectable appearance in
the eyes of Miss Read than I had done when she first happen’d to see me eating
my roll in the street.50.

I began now to have some acquaintance among the young people of the
town, that were lovers of reading, with whom I spent my evenings very
pleasantly; and gaining money by my industry and frugality, I lived very
agreeably, forgetting Boston as much as I could, and not desiring that any
there should know where I resided, except my friend Collins, who was in my
secret, and kept it when I wrote to him. At length, an incident happened that
sent me back again much sooner than I had intended. I had a brother-in-law,
Robert Holmes, master of a sloop that traded between Boston and Delaware. He
being at Newcastle, forty miles below Philadelphia, heard there of me, and
wrote me a letter mentioning the concern of my friends in Boston at my abrupt
departure, assuring me of their good will to me, and that every thing would be
accommodated to my mind if I would return, to which he exhorted me very
earnestly. I wrote an answer to his letter, thank’d him for his advice, but
stated my reasons for quitting Boston fully and in such a light as to convince
him I was not so wrong as he had apprehended.51.

Sir William Keith, governor of the province, was then at Newcastle,
and Captain Holmes, happening to be in company with him when my letter came to
hand, spoke to him of me, and show’d him the letter. The governor read it, and
seem’d surpris’d when he was told my age. He said I appear’d a young man of
promising parts, and therefore should be encouraged; the printers at
Philadelphia were wretched ones; and, if I would set up there, he made no doubt
I should succeed; for his part, he would procure me the public business, and do
me every other service in his power. This my brother-in-law afterwards told me
in Boston, but I knew as yet nothing of it; when, one day, Keimer and I being
at work together near the window, we saw the governor and another gentleman
(which proved to be Colonel French, of Newcastle), finely dress’d, come
directly across the street to our house, and heard them at the door.52.

Keimer ran down immediately, thinking it a visit to him; but the
governor inquir’d for me, came up, and with a condescension of politeness I had
been quite unus’d to, made me many compliments, desired to be acquainted with
me, blam’d me kindly for not having made myself known to him when I first came
to the place, and would have me away with him to the tavern, where he was going
with Colonel French to taste, as he said, some excellent Madeira. I was not a
little surprised, and Keimer star’d like a pig poison’d. I went, however, with
the governor and Colonel French to a tavern, at the corner of Third-street, and
over the Madeira he propos’d my setting up my business, laid before me the
probabilities of success, and both he and Colonel French assur’d me I should
have their interest and influence in procuring the public business of both
governments. On my doubting whether my father would assist me in it, Sir
William said he would give me a letter to him, in which he would state the
advantages, and he did not doubt of prevailing with him. So it was concluded I
should return to Boston in the first vessel, with the governor’s letter
recommending me to my father. In the mean time the intention was to be kept a
secret, and I went on working with Keimer as usual, the governor sending for me
now and then to dine with him, a very great honor I thought it, and conversing
with me in the most affable, familiar, and friendly manner imaginable.53.

About the end of April, 1724, a little vessel offer’d for Boston. I
took leave of Keimer as going to see my friends. The governor gave me an ample
letter, saying many flattering things of me to my father, and strongly
recommending the project of my setting up at Philadelphia as a thing that must
make my fortune. We struck on a shoal in going down the bay, and sprung a leak;
we had a blustering time at sea, and were oblig’d to pump almost continually,
at which I took my turn. We arriv’d safe, however, at Boston in about a
fortnight. I had been absent seven months, and my friends had heard nothing of
me; for my br. Holmes was not yet return’d, and had not written about me. My
unexpected appearance surpriz’d the family; all were, however, very glad to see
me, and made me welcome, except my brother. I went to see him at his
printing-house. I was better dress’d than ever while in his service, having a
genteel new suit from head to foot, a watch, and my pockets lin’d with near
five pounds sterling in silver. He receiv’d me not very frankly, look’d me all
over, and turn’d to his work again.54.

The journeymen were inquisitive where I had been, what sort of a
country it was, and how I lik’d it. I prais’d it much, the happy life I led in
it, expressing strongly my intention of returning to it; and, one of them
asking what kind of money we had there, I produc’d a handful of silver, and
spread it before them, which was a kind of raree-show they had not been us’d
to, paper being the money of Boston. Then I took an opportunity of letting them
see my watch; and, lastly (my brother still grum and sullen), I gave them a
piece of eight to drink, and took my leave. This visit of mine offended him
extreamly; for, when my mother some time after spoke to him of a
reconciliation, and of her wishes to see us on good terms together, and that we
might live for the future as brothers, he said I had insulted him in such a
manner before his people that he could never forget or forgive it. In this,
however, he was mistaken.55.

My father received the governor’s letter with some apparent
surprise, but said little of it to me for some days, when Capt. Holmes
returning he showed it to him, ask’d him if he knew Keith, and what kind of man
he was; adding his opinion that he must be of small discretion to think of
setting a boy up in business who wanted yet three years of being at man’s
estate. Holmes said what he could in favor of the project, but my father was
clear in the impropriety of it, and at last gave a flat denial to it. Then he
wrote a civil letter to Sir William, thanking him for the patronage he had so
kindly offered me, but declining to assist me as yet in setting up, I being, in
his opinion, too young to be trusted with the management of a business so
important, and for which the preparation must be so expensive.56.

My friend and companion Collins, who was a clerk in the post-office,
pleas’d with the account I gave him of my new country, determined to go thither
also; and, while I waited for my father’s determination, he set out before me
by land to Rhode Island, leaving his books, which were a pretty collection of
mathematicks and natural philosophy, to come with mine and me to New York,
where he propos’d to wait for me.57.

My father, tho’ he did not approve Sir William’s proposition, was
yet pleas’d that I had been able to obtain so advantageous a character from a
person of such note where I had resided, and that I had been so industrious and
careful as to equip myself so handsomely in so short a time; therefore, seeing
no prospect of an accommodation between my brother and me, he gave his consent
to my returning again to Philadelphia, advis’d me to behave respectfully to the
people there, endeavor to obtain the general esteem, and avoid lampooning and
libeling, to which he thought I had too much inclination; telling me, that by
steady industry and a prudent parsimony I might save enough by the time I was
one-and-twenty to set me up; and that, if I came near the matter, he would help
me out with the rest. This was all I could obtain, except some small gifts as
tokens of his and my mother’s love, when I embark’d again for New York, now
with their approbation and their blessing.58.

The sloop putting in at Newport, Rhode Island, I visited my brother
John, who had been married and settled there some years. He received me very
affectionately, for he always lov’d me. A friend of his, one Vernon, having
some money due to him in Pensilvania, about thirty-five pounds currency,
desired I would receive it for him, and keep it till I had his directions what
to remit it in. Accordingly, he gave me an order. This afterwards occasion’d me
a good deal of uneasiness.59.

At Newport we took in a number of passengers for New York, among
which were two young women, companions, and a grave, sensible, matron-like
Quaker woman, with her attendants. I had shown an obliging readiness to do her
some little services, which impress’d her I suppose with a degree of good will
toward me; therefore, when she saw a daily growing familiarity between me and
the two young women, which they appear’d to encourage, she took me aside, and
said: “Young man, I am concern’d for thee, as thou has no friend with thee, and
seems not to know much of the world, or of the snares youth is expos’d to;
depend upon it, those are very bad women; I can see it in all their actions;
and if thee art not upon thy guard, they will draw thee into some danger; they
are strangers to thee, and I advise thee, in a friendly concern for thy
welfare, to have no acquaintance with them.” As I seem’d at first not to think
so ill of them as she did, she mentioned some things she had observ’d and heard
that had escap’d my notice, but now convinc’d me she was right. I thank’d her
for her kind advice, and promis’d to follow it. When we arriv’d at New York,
they told me where they liv’d, and invited me to come and see them; but I
avoided it, and it was well I did; for the next day the captain miss’d a silver
spoon and some other things, that had been taken out of his cabbin, and,
knowing that these were a couple of strumpets, he got a warrant to search their
lodgings, found the stolen goods, and had the thieves punish’d. So, tho’ we had
escap’d a sunken rock, which we scrap’d upon in the passage, I thought this
escape of rather more importance to me.60.

At New York I found my friend Collins, who had arriv’d there some
time before me. We had been intimate from children, and had read the same books
together; but he had the advantage of more time for reading and studying, and a
wonderful genius for mathematical learning, in which he far outstript me. While
I liv’d in Boston most of my hours of leisure for conversation were spent with
him, and he continu’d a sober as well as an industrious lad; was much respected
for his learning by several of the clergy and other gentlemen, and seemed to
promise making a good figure in life. But, during my absence, he had acquir’d a
habit of sotting with brandy; and I found by his own account, and what I heard
from others, that he had been drunk every day since his arrival at New York,
and behav’d very oddly. He had gam’d, too, and lost his money, so that I was
oblig’d to discharge his lodgings, and defray his expenses to and at
Philadelphia, which prov’d extremely inconvenient to me.61.

The then governor of New York, Burnet (son of Bishop Burnet),
hearing from the captain that a young man, one of his passengers, had a great
many books, desir’d he would bring me to see him. I waited upon him
accordingly, and should have taken Collins with me but that he was not sober.
The gov’r. treated me with great civility, show’d me his library, which was a
very large one, and we had a good deal of conversation about books and authors.
This was the second governor who had done me the honor to take notice of me;
which, to a poor boy like me, was very pleasing.62.

We proceeded to Philadelphia. I received on the way Vernon’s money,
without which we could hardly have finish’d our journey. Collins wished to be
employ’d in some counting-house, but, whether they discover’d his dramming by
his breath, or by his behaviour, tho’ he had some recommendations, he met with
no success in any application, and continu’d lodging and boarding at the same
house with me, and at my expense. Knowing I had that money of Vernon’s, he was
continually borrowing of me, still promising repayment as soon as he should be
in business. At length he had got so much of it that I was distress’d to think
what I should do in case of being call’d on to remit it.63.

His drinking continu’d, about which we sometimes quarrell’d;, for,
when a little intoxicated, he was very fractious. Once, in a boat on the
Delaware with some other young men, he refused to row in his turn. “I will be
row’d home,” says he. “We will not row you,” says I. “You must, or stay all
night on the water,” says he, “just as you please.” The others said, “Let us
row; what signifies it?” But, my mind being soured with his other conduct, I
continu’d to refuse. So he swore he would make me row, or throw me overboard;
and coming along, stepping on the thwarts, toward me, when he came up and
struck at me, I clapped my hand under his crutch, and, rising, pitched him
head-foremost into the river. I knew he was a good swimmer, and so was under
little concern about him; but before he could get round to lay hold of the
boat, we had with a few strokes pull’d her out of his reach; and ever when he
drew near the boat, we ask’d if he would row, striking a few strokes to slide
her away from him. He was ready to die with vexation, and obstinately would not
promise to row. However, seeing him at last beginning to tire, we lifted him in
and brought him home dripping wet in the evening. We hardly exchang’d a civil
word afterwards, and a West India captain, who had a commission to procure a
tutor for the sons of a gentleman at Barbadoes, happening to meet with him,
agreed to carry him thither. He left me then, promising to remit me the first
money he should receive in order to discharge the debt; but I never heard of
him after.64.

The breaking into this money of Vernon’s was one of the first great
errata of my life; and this affair show’d that my father was not much out in
his judgment when he suppos’d me too young to manage business of importance.
But Sir William, on reading his letter, said he was too prudent. There was
great difference in persons; and discretion did not always accompany years, nor
was youth always without it. “And since he will not set you up,” says he, “I
will do it myself. Give me an inventory of the things necessary to be had from
England, and I will send for them. You shall repay me when you are able; I am
resolv’d to have a good printer here, and I am sure you must succeed.” This was
spoken with such an appearance of cordiality, that I had not the least doubt of
his meaning what he said. I had hitherto kept the proposition of my setting up,
a secret in Philadelphia, and I still kept it. Had lt been known that I
depended on the governor, probably some friend, that knew him better, would
have advis’d me not to rely on him, as I afterwards heard it as his known
character to be liberal of promises which he never meant to keep. Yet,
unsolicited as he was by me, how could I think his generous offers insincere? I
believ’d him one of the best men in the world.65.

I presented him an inventory of a little print’g-house, amounting by
my computation to about one hundred pounds sterling. He lik’d it, but ask’d me
if my being on the spot in England to chuse the types, and see that every thing
was good of the kind, might not be of some advantage. “Then,” says he, “when
there, you may make acquaintances, and establish correspondences in the
bookselling and stationery way.” I agreed that this might be advantageous.
“Then,” says he, “get yourself ready to go with Annis;” which was the annual
ship, and the only one at that time usually passing between London and
Philadelphia. But it would be some months before Annis sail’d, so I continu’d
working with Keimer, fretting about the money Collins had got from me, and in
daily apprehensions of being call’d upon by Vernon, which, however, did not
happen for some years after.66.

I believe I have omitted mentioning that, in my first voyage from
Boston, being becalm’d off Block Island, our people set about catching cod, and
hauled up a great many. Hitherto I had stuck to my resolution of not eating
animal food, and on this occasion consider’d, with my master Tryon, the taking
every fish as a kind of unprovoked murder, since none of them had, or ever
could do us any injury that might justify the slaughter. All this seemed very
reasonable. But I had formerly been a great lover of fish, and, when this came
hot out of the frying-pan, it smelt admirably well. I balanc’d some time
between principle and inclination, till I recollected that, when the fish were
opened, I saw smaller fish taken out of their stomachs; then thought I, “If you
eat one another, I don’t see why we mayn’t eat you.” So I din’d upon cod very
heartily, and continued to eat with other people, returning only now and then
occasionally to a vegetable diet. So convenient a thing it is to be a
reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for
everything one has a mind to do.67.

Keimer and I liv’d on a pretty good familiar footing, and agreed
tolerably well, for he suspected nothing of my setting up. He retained a great
deal of his old enthusiasms and lov’d argumentation. We therefore had many
disputations. I used to work him so with my Socratic method, and had trepann’d
him so often by questions apparently so distant from any point we had in hand,
and yet by degrees lead to the point, and brought him into difficulties and
contradictions, that at last he grew ridiculously cautious, and would hardly
answer me the most common question, without asking first, “What do you intend
to infer from that?” However, it gave him so high an opinion of my abilities in
the confuting way, that he seriously proposed my being his colleague in a
project he had of setting up a new sect. He was to preach the doctrines, and I
was to confound all opponents. When he came to explain with me upon the
doctrines, I found several conundrums which I objected to, unless I might have
my way a little too, and introduce some of mine.68.

Keimer wore his beard at full length, because somewhere in the
Mosaic law it is said, ”
Thou shalt not mar the corners of thy beard.” He
likewise kept the Seventh day, Sabbath; and these two points were essentials
with him. I dislik’d both; but agreed to admit them upon condition of his
adopting the doctrine of using no animal food. “I doubt,” said he, “my
constitution will not bear that.” I assur’d him it would, and that he would be
the better for it. He was usually a great glutton, and I promised myself some
diversion in half starving him. He agreed to try the practice, if I would keep
him company. I did so, and we held it for three months. We had our victuals
dress’d, and brought to us regularly by a woman in the neighborhood, who had
from me a list of forty dishes to be prepar’d for us at different times, in all
which there was neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, and the whim suited me the
better at this time from the cheapness of it, not costing us above
eighteenpence sterling each per week. I have since kept several Lents most
strictly, leaving the common diet for that, and that for the common, abruptly,
without the least inconvenience, so that I think there is little in the advice
of making those changes by easy gradations. I went on pleasantly, but poor
Keimer suffered grievously, tired of the project, long’d for the flesh-pots of
Egypt, and order’d a roast pig. He invited me and two women friends to dine
with him; but, it being brought too soon upon table, he could not resist the
temptation, and ate the whole before we came.69.

I had made some courtship during this time to Miss Read. I had a
great respect and affection for her, and had some reason to believe she had the
same for me; but, as I was about to take a long voyage, and we were both very
young, only a little above eighteen, it was thought most prudent by her mother
to prevent our going too far at present, as a marriage, if it was to take
place, would be more convenient after my return, when I should be, as I
expected, set up in my business. Perhaps, too, she thought my expectations not
so well founded as I imagined them to be.70.

My chief acquaintances at this time were Charles Osborne, Joseph
Watson, and James Ralph, all lovers of reading. The two first were clerks to an
eminent scrivener or conveyancer in the town, Charles Brogden; the other was
clerk to a merchant. Watson was a pious, sensible young man, of great
integrity; the others rather more lax in their principles of religion,
particularly Ralph, who, as well as Collins, had been unsettled by me, for
which they both made me suffer. Osborne was sensible, candid, frank; sincere
and affectionate to his friends; but, in literary matters, too fond of
criticising. Ralph was ingenious, genteel in his manners, and extremely
eloquent; I think I never knew a prettier talker. Both of them great admirers
of poetry, and began to try their hands in little pieces. Many pleasant walks
we four had together on Sundays into the woods, near Schuylkill, where we read
to one another, and conferr’d on what we read.71.

Ralph was inclin’d to pursue the study of poetry, not doubting but
he might become eminent in it, and make his fortune by it, alleging that the
best poets must, when they first began to write, make as many faults as he did.
Osborne dissuaded him, assur’d him he had no genius for poetry, and advis’d him
to think of nothing beyond the business he was bred to; that, in the mercantile
way, tho’ he had no stock, he might, by his diligence and punctuality,
recommend himself to employment as a factor, and in time acquire wherewith to
trade on his own account. I approv’d the amusing one’s self with poetry now and
then, so far as to improve one’s language, but no farther.72.

On this it was propos’d that we should each of us, at our next
meeting, produce a piece of our own composing, in order to improve by our
mutual observations, criticisms, and corrections. As language and expression
were what we had in view, we excluded all considerations of invention by
agreeing that the task should be a version of the eighteenth Psalm, which
describes the descent of a Deity. When the time of our meeting drew nigh, Ralph
called on me first, and let me know his piece was ready. I told him I had been
busy, and, having little inclination, had done nothing. He then show’d me his
piece for my opinion, and I much approv’d it, as it appear’d to me to have
great merit. “Now,” says he, “Osborne never will allow the least merit in any
thing of mine, but makes 1000 criticisms out of mere envy. He is not so jealous
of you; I wish, therefore, you would take this piece, and produce it as yours;
I will pretend not to have had time, and so produce nothing. We shall then see
what he will say to it.” It was agreed, and I immediately transcrib’d it, that
it might appear in my own hand.73.

We met; Watson’s performance was read; there were some beauties in
it, but many defects. Osborne’s was read; it was much better; Ralph did it
justice; remarked some faults, but applauded the beauties. He himself had
nothing to produce. I was backward; seemed desirous of being excused; had not
had sufficient time to correct, etc.; but no excuse could be admitted; produce
I must. It was read and repeated; Watson and Osborne gave up the contest, and
join’d in applauding it. Ralph only made some criticisms, and propos’d some
amendments; but I defended my text. Osborne was against Ralph, and told him he
was no better a critic than poet, so he dropt the argument. As they two went
home together, Osborne expressed himself still more strongly in favor of what
he thought my production; having restrain’d himself before, as he said, lest I
should think it flattery. “But who would have imagin’d,” said he, “that
Franklin had been capable of such a performance; such painting, such force,
such fire! He has even improv’d the original. In his common conversation he
seems to have no choice of words; he hesitates and blunders; and yet, good God!
how he writes!” When we next met, Ralph discovered the trick we had plaid him,
and Osborne was a little laught at.74.

This transaction fixed Ralph in his resolution of becoming a poet. I
did all I could to dissuade him from it, but he continued scribbling verses
till Pope cured him. He became, however, a pretty good prose writer. More of
him hereafter. But, as I may not have occasion again to mention the other two,
I shall just remark here, that Watson died in my arms a few years after, much
lamented, being the best of our set. Osborne went to the West Indies, where he
became an eminent lawyer and made money, but died young. He and I had made a
serious agreement, that the one who happen’d first to die should, if possible,
make a friendly visit to the other, and acquaint him how he found things in
that separate state. But he never fulfill’d his promise.75.

The governor, seeming to like my company, had me frequently to his
house, and his setting me up was always mention’d as a fixed thing. I was to
take with me letters recommendatory to a number of his friends, besides the
letter of credit to furnish me with the necessary money for purchasing the
press and types, paper, etc. For these letters I was appointed to call at
different times, when they were to be ready, but a future time was still named.
Thus he went on till the ship, whose departure too had been several times
postponed, was on the point of sailing. Then, when I call’d to take my leave
and receive the letters, his secretary, Dr. Bard, came out to me and said the
governor was extremely busy in writing, but would be down at Newcastle before
the ship, and there the letters would be delivered to me.76.

Ralph, though married, and having one child, had determined to
accompany me in this voyage. It was thought he intended to establish a
correspondence, and obtain goods to sell on commission; but I found afterwards,
that, thro’ some discontent with his wife’s relations, he purposed to leave her
on their hands, and never return again. Having taken leave of my friends, and
interchang’d some promises with Miss Read, I left Philadelphia in the ship,
which anchor’d at Newcastle. The governor was there; but when I went to his
lodging, the secretary came to me from him with the civillest message in the
world, that he could not then see me, being engaged in business of the utmost
importance, but should send the letters to me on board, wish’d me heartily a
good voyage and a speedy return, etc. I returned on board a little puzzled, but
still not doubting.77.

Mr. Andrew Hamilton, a famous lawyer of Philadelphia, had taken
passage in the same ship for himself and son, and with Mr. Denham, a Quaker
merchant, and Messrs. Onion and Russel, masters of an iron work in Maryland,
had engag’d the great cabin; so that Ralph and I were forced to take up with a
berth in the steerage, and none on board knowing us, were considered as
ordinary persons. But Mr. Hamilton and his son (it was James, since governor)
return’d from Newcastle to Philadelphia, the father being recall’d by a great
fee to plead for a seized ship; and, just before we sail’d, Colonel French
coming on board, and showing me great respect, I was more taken notice of, and,
with my friend Ralph, invited by the other gentlemen to come into the cabin,
there being now room. Accordingly, we remov’d thither.78.

Understanding that Colonel French had brought on board the
governor’s despatches, I ask’d the captain for those letters that were to be
under my care. He said all were put into the bag together and he could not then
come at them; but, before we landed in England, I should have an opportunity of
picking them out; so I was satisfied for the present, and we proceeded on our
voyage. We had a sociable company in the cabin, and lived uncommonly well,
having the addition of all Mr. Hamilton’s stores, who had laid in plentifully.
In this passage Mr. Denham contracted a friendship for me that continued during
his life. The voyage was otherwise not a pleasant one, as we had a great deal
of bad weather.79.

When we came into the Channel, the captain kept his word with me,
and gave me an opportunity of examining the bag for the governor’s letters. I
found none upon which my name was put as under my care. I picked out six or
seven, that, by the handwriting, I thought might be the promised letters,
especially as one of them was directed to Basket, the king’s printer, and
another to some stationer. We arriv’d in London the 24th of December, 1724. I
waited upon the stationer, who came first in my way, delivering the letter as
from Governor Keith. “I don’t know such a person,” says he; but, opening the
letter, “O! this is from Riddlesden. I have lately found him to be a compleat
rascal, and I will have nothing to do with him, nor receive any letters from
him.” So, putting the letter into my hand, he turn’d on his heel and left me to
serve some customer. I was surprized to find these were not the governor’s
letters; and, after recollecting and comparing circumstances, I began to doubt
his sincerity. I found my friend Denham, and opened the whole affair to him. He
let me into Keith’s character; told me there was not the least probability that
he had written any letters for me; that no one, who knew him, had the smallest
dependence on him; and he laught at the notion of the governor’s giving me a
letter of credit, having, as he said, no credit to give. On my expressing some
concern about what I should do, he advised me to endeavor getting some
employment in the way of my business. “Among the printers here,” said he, “you
will improve yourself, and when you return to America, you will set up to
greater advantage.”80.

We both of us happen’d to know, as well as the stationer, that
Riddlesden, the attorney, was a very knave. He had half ruin’d Miss Read’s
father by persuading him to be bound for him. By this letter it appear’d there
was a secret scheme on foot to the prejudice of Hamilton (suppos’d to be then
coming over with us); and that Keith was concerned in it with Riddlesden.
Denham, who was a friend of Hamilton’s thought he ought to be acquainted with
it; so, when he arriv’d in England, which was soon after, partly from
resentment and ill-will to Keith and Riddlesden, and partly from good-will to
him, I waited on him, and gave him the letter. He thank’d me cordially, the
information being of importance to him; and from that time he became my friend,
greatly to my advantage afterwards on many occasions.81.

But what shall we think of a governor’s playing such pitiful tricks,
and imposing so grossly on a poor ignorant boy! It was a habit he had acquired.
He wish’d to please everybody; and, having little to give, he gave
expectations. He was otherwise an ingenious, sensible man, a pretty good
writer, and a good governor for the people, tho’ not for his constituents, the
proprietaries, whose instructions he sometimes disregarded. Several of our best
laws were of his planning and passed during his administration.82.

Ralph and I were inseparable companions. We took lodgings together
in Little Britain at three shillings and sixpence a week– as much as we could
then afford. He found some relations, but they were poor, and unable to assist
him. He now let me know his intentions of remaining in London, and that he
never meant to return to Philadelphia. He had brought no money with him, the
whole he could muster having been expended in paying his passage. I had fifteen
pistoles; so he borrowed occasionally of me to subsist, while he was looking
out for business. He first endeavored to get into the playhouse, believing
himself qualify’d for an actor; but Wilkes, to whom he apply’d, advis’d him
candidly not to think of that employment, as it was impossible be should
succeed in it. Then he propos’d to Roberts, a publisher in Paternoster Row, to
write for him a weekly paper like the Spectator, on certain conditions, which
Roberts did not approve. Then he endeavored to get employment as a hackney
writer, to copy for the stationers and lawyers about the Temple, but could find
no vacancy.83.

I immediately got into work at Palmer’s, then a famous
printing-house in Bartholomew Close, and here I continu’d near a year. I was
pretty diligent, but spent with Ralph a good deal of my earnings in going to
plays and other places of amusement. We had together consumed all my pistoles,
and now just rubbed on from hand to mouth. He seem’d quite to forget his wife
and child, and I, by degrees, my engagements with Miss Read, to whom I never
wrote more than one letter, and that was to let her know I was not likely soon
to return. This was another of the great errata of my life, which I should wish
to correct if I were to live it over again. In fact, by our expenses, I was
constantly kept unable to pay my passage.84.

At Palmer’s I was employed in composing for the second edition of
Wollaston’s “Religion of Nature.” Some of his reasonings not appearing to me
well founded, I wrote a little metaphysical piece in which I made remarks on
them. It was entitled “A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and
Pain.” I inscribed it to my friend Ralph; I printed a small number. It
occasion’d my being more consider’d by Mr. Palmer as a young man of some
ingenuity, tho’ he seriously expostulated with me upon the principles of my
pamphlet, which to him appear’d abominable. My printing this pamphlet was
another erratum. While I lodg’d in Little Britain, I made an acquaintance with
one Wilcox, a bookseller, whose shop was at the next door. He had an immense
collection of second-hand books. Circulating libraries were not then in use;
but we agreed that, on certain reasonable terms, which I have now forgotten, I
might take, read, and return any of his books. This I esteem’d a great
advantage, and I made as much use of it as I could.85.

My pamphlet by some means falling into the hands of one Lyons, a
surgeon, author of a book entitled “The Infallibility of Human Judgment,” it
occasioned an acquaintance between us. He took great notice of me, called on me
often to converse on those subjects, carried me to the Horns, a pale alehouse
in ––Lane, Cheapside, and introduced me to Dr. Mandeville, author of the
“Fable of the Bees,” who had a club there, of which he was the soul, being a
most facetious, entertaining companion. Lyons, too, introduced me to Dr.
Pemberton, at Batson’s Coffee-house, who promis’d to give me an opportunity,
some time or other, of seeing Sir Isaac Newton, of which I was extreamely
desirous; but this never happened.86.

I had brought over a few curiosities, among which the principal was
a purse made of the asbestos, which purifies by fire. Sir Hans Sloane heard of
it, came to see me, and invited me to his house in Bloomsbury Square, where he
show’d me all his curiosities, and persuaded me to let him add that to the
number, for which he paid me handsomely.87.

In our house there lodg’d a young woman, a milliner, who, I think,
had a shop in the Cloisters. She had been genteelly bred, was sensible and
lively, and of most pleasing conversation. Ralph read plays to her in the
evenings, they grew intimate, she took another lodging, and he followed her.
They liv’d together some time; but, he being still out of business, and her
income not sufficient to maintain them with her child, he took a resolution of
going from London, to try for a country school, which he thought himself well
qualified to undertake, as he wrote an excellent hand, and was a master of
arithmetic and accounts. This, however, he deemed a business below him, and
confident of future better fortune, when he should be unwilling to have it
known that he once was so meanly employed, he changed his name, and did me the
honor to assume mine; for I soon after had a letter from him, acquainting me
that he was settled in a small village (in Berkshire, I think it was, where he
taught reading and writing to ten or a dozen boys, at sixpence each per week),
recommending Mrs. T–– to my care, and desiring me to write to him, directing
for Mr. Franklin, schoolmaster, at such a place.88.

He continued to write frequently, sending me large specimens of an
epic poem which he was then composing, and desiring my remarks and corrections.
These I gave him from time to time, but endeavor’d rather to discourage his
proceeding. One of Young’s Satires was then just published. I copy’d and sent
him a great part of it, which set in a strong light the folly of pursuing the
Muses with any hope of advancement by them. All was in vain; sheets of the poem
continued to come by every post. In the mean time, Mrs. T––, having on his
account lost her friends and business, was often in distresses, and us’d to
send for me, and borrow what I could spare to help her out of them. I grew fond
of her company, and, being at that time under no religious restraint, and
presuming upon my importance to her, I attempted familiarities (another
erratum) which she repuls’d with a proper resentment, and acquainted him with
my behaviour. This made a breach between us; and, when he returned again to
London, he let me know he thought I had cancell’d all the obligations he had
been under to me. So I found I was never to expect his repaying me what I lent
to him, or advanc’d for him. This, however, was not then of much consequence,
as he was totally unable; and in the loss of his friendship I found myself
relieved from a burthen. I now began to think of getting a little money
beforehand, and, expecting better work, I left Palmer’s to work at Watts’s,
near Lincoln’s Inn Fields, a still greater printing-house. Here I continued all
the rest of my stay in London.89.

At my first admission into this printing-house I took to working at
press, imagining I felt a want of the bodily exercise I had been us’d to in
America, where presswork is mix’d with composing. I drank only water; the other
workmen, near fifty in number, were great guzzlers of beer. On occasion, I
carried up and down stairs a large form of types in each hand, when others
carried but one in both hands. They wondered to see, from this and several
instances, that the Water-American, as they called me, was stronger than
themselves, who drank strong beer! We had an alehouse boy who attended always
in the house to supply the workmen. My companion at the press drank every day a
pint before breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and cheese, a pint
between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a pint in the afternoon about
six o’clock, and another when he had done his day’s work. I thought it a
detestable custom; but it was necessary, he suppos’d, to drink strong beer,
that he might be strong to labor. I endeavored to convince him that the bodily
strength afforded by beer could only be in proportion to the grain or flour of
the barley dissolved in the water of which it was made; that there was more
flour in a pennyworth of bread; and therefore, if he would eat that with a pint
of water, it would give him more strength than a quart of beer. He drank on,
however, and had four or five shillings to pay out of his wages every Saturday
night for that muddling liquor; an expense I was free from. And thus these poor
devils keep themselves always under.90.

Watts, after some weeks, desiring to have me in the composing-room,
I left the pressmen; a new bien venu or sum for drink, being five shillings,
was demanded of me by the compositors. I thought it an imposition, as I had
paid below; the master thought so too, and forbad my paying it. I stood out two
or three weeks, was accordingly considered as an excommunicate, and bad so many
little pieces of private mischief done me, by mixing my sorts, transposing my
pages, breaking my matter, etc., etc., if I were ever so little out of the
room, and all ascribed to the chappel ghost, which they said ever haunted those
not regularly admitted, that, notwithstanding the master’s protection, I found
myself oblig’d to comply and pay the money, convinc’d of the folly of being on
ill terms with those one is to live with continually.91.

I was now on a fair footing with them, and soon acquir’d
considerable influence. I propos’d some reasonable alterations in their chappel
laws, and carried them against all opposition. From my example, a great part of
them left their muddling breakfast of beer, and bread, and cheese, finding they
could with me be suppli’d from a neighboring house with a large porringer of
hot water-gruel, sprinkled with pepper, crumbl’d with bread, and a bit of
butter in it, for the price of a pint of beer, viz., three half-pence. This was
a more comfortable as well as cheaper breakfast, and kept their heads clearer.
Those who continued sotting with beer all day, were often, by not paying, out
of credit at the alehouse, and us’d to make interest with me to get beer; their
light, as they phrased it, being out. I watch’d the pay-table on Saturday
night, and collected what I stood engag’d for them, having to pay sometimes
near thirty shillings a week on their account. This, and my being esteem’d a
pretty good riggite, that is, a jocular verbal satirist, supported my
consequence in the society. My constant attendance (I never making a St.
Monday) recommended me to the master; and my uncommon quickness at composing
occasioned my being put upon all work of dispatch, which was generally better
paid. So I went on now very agreeably.92.

My lodging in Little Britain being too remote, I found another in
Duke-street, opposite to the Romish Chapel. It was two pair of stairs
backwards, at an Italian warehouse. A widow lady kept the house; she had a
daughter, and a maid servant, and a journeyman who attended the warehouse, but
lodg’d abroad. After sending to inquire my character at the house where I last
lodg’d she agreed to take me in at the same rate, 3s. 6d. per week; cheaper, as
she said, from the protection she expected in having a man lodge in the house.
She was a widow, an elderly woman; had been bred a Protestant, being a
clergyman’s daughter, but was converted to the Catholic religion by her
husband, whose memory she much revered; had lived much among people of
distinction, and knew a thousand anecdotes of them as far back as the times of
Charles the Second. She was lame in her knees with the gout, and, therefore,
seldom stirred out of her room, so sometimes wanted company; and hers was so
highly amusing to me, that I was sure to spend an evening with her whenever she
desired it. Our supper was only half an anchovy each, on a very little strip of
bread and butter, and half a pint of ale between us; but the entertainment was
in her conversation. My always keeping good hours, and giving little trouble in
the family, made her unwilling to part with me; so that, when I talk’d of a
lodging I had heard of,nearer my business, for two shillings a week, which,
intent as I now was on saving money, made some difference, she bid me not think
of it, for she would abate me two shillings a week for the future; so I
remained with her at one shilling and sixpence as long as I staid in

In a garret of her house there lived a maiden lady of seventy, in
the most retired manner, of whom my landlady gave me this account: that she was
a Roman Catholic, had been sent abroad when young, and lodg’d in a nunnery with
an intent of becoming a nun; but, the country not agreeing with her, she
returned to England, where, there being no nunnery, she had vow’d to lead the
life of a nun, as near as might be done in those circumstances. Accordingly,
she had given all her estate to charitable uses, reserving only twelve pounds a
year to live on, and out of this sum she still gave a great deal in charity,
living herself on water-gruel only, and using no fire but to boil it. She had
lived many years in that garret, being permitted to remain there gratis by
successive Catholic tenants of the house below, as they deemed it a blessing to
have her there. A priest visited her to confess her every day. “I have ask’d
her,” says my landlady, “how she, as she liv’d, could possibly find so much
employment for a confessor?” “Oh,” said she, “it is impossible to avoid vain
.” I was permitted once to visit her, She was chearful and polite, and
convers’d pleasantly. The room was clean, but had no other furniture than a
matras, a table with a crucifix and book, a stool which she gave me to sit on,
and a picture over the chimney of Saint Veronica displaying her handkerchief,
with the miraculous figure of Christ’s bleeding face on it, which she explained
to me with great seriousness. She look’d pale, but was never sick; and I give
it as another instance on how small an income life and health may be

At Watts’s printing-house I contracted an acquaintance with an
ingenious young man, one Wygate, who, having wealthy relations, had been better
educated than most printers; was a tolerable Latinist, spoke French, and lov’d
reading. I taught him and a friend of his to swim at twice going into the
river, and they soon became good swimmers. They introduc’d me to some gentlemen
from the country, who went to Chelsea by water to see the College and Don
Saltero’s curiosities. In our return, at the request of the company, whose
curiosity Wygate had excited, I stripped and leaped into the river, and swam
from near Chelsea to Blackfryar’s, performing on the way many feats of
activity, both upon and under water, that surpris’d and pleas’d those to whom
they were novelties.95.

I had from a child been ever delighted with this exercise, had
studied and practis’d all Thevenot’s motions and positions, added some of my
own, aiming at the graceful and easy as well as the useful. All these I took
this occasion of exhibiting to the company, and was much flatter’d by their
admiration; and Wygate, who was desirous of becoming a master, grew more and
more attach’d to me on that account, as well as from the similarity of our
studies. He at length proposed to me travelling all over Europe together,
supporting ourselves everywhere by working at our business. I was once inclined
to it; but, mentioning it to my good friend Mr. Denham, with whom I often spent
an hour when I had leisure, he dissuaded me from it, advising me to think only
of returning to Pennsilvania, which he was now about to do.96.

I must record one trait of this good man’s character. He had
formerly been in business at Bristol, but failed in debt to a number of people,
compounded and went to America. There, by a close application to business as a
merchant, he acquir’d a plentiful fortune in a few years. Returning to England
in the ship with me, he invited his old creditors to an entertainment, at which
he thank’d them for the easy composition they had favored him with, and, when
they expected nothing but the treat, every man at the first remove found under
his plate an order on a banker for the full amount of the unpaid remainder with

He now told me he was about to return to Philadelphia, and should
carry over a great quantity of goods in order to open a store there. He
propos’d to take me over as his clerk, to keep his books, in which he would
instruct me, copy his letters, and attend the store. He added that, as soon as
I should be acquainted with mercantile business, he would promote me by sending
me with a cargo of flour and bread, etc., to the West Indies, and procure me
commissions from others which would be profitable; and, if I manag’d well,
would establish me handsomely. The thing pleas’d me; for I was grown tired of
London, remembered with pleasure the happy months I had spent in Pennsylvania,
and wish’d again to see it; therefore I immediately agreed on the terms of
fifty pounds a year, Pennsylvania money; less, indeed, than my present gettings
as a compositor, but affording a better prospect.98.

I now took leave of printing, as I thought, for ever, and was daily
employed in my new business, going about with Mr. Denham among the tradesmen to
purchase various articles, and seeing them pack’d up, doing errands, calling
upon workmen to dispatch, etc.; and, when all was on board, I had a few days’
leisure. On one of these days, I was, to my surprise, sent for by a great man I
knew only by name, a Sir William Wyndham, and I waited upon him. He had heard
by some means or other of my swimming from Chelsea to Blackfriar’s, and of my
teaching Wygate and another young man to swim in a few hours. He had two sons,
about to set out on their travels; he wish’d to have them first taught
swimming, and proposed to gratify me handsomely if I would teach them. They
were not yet come to town, and my stay was uncertain, so I could not undertake
it; but, from this incident, I thought it likely that, if I were to remain in
England and open a swimming-school, I might get a good deal of money; and it
struck me so strongly, that, had the overture been sooner made me, probably I
should not so soon have returned to America. After many years, you and I had
something of more importance to do with one of these sons of Sir William
Wyndham, become Earl of Egremont, which I shall mention in its place.99.

Thus I spent about eighteen months in London; most part of the time
I work’d hard at my business, and spent but little upon myself except in seeing
plays and in books. My friend Ralph had kept me poor; he owed me about
twenty-seven pounds, which I was now never likely to receive; a great sum out
of my small earnings! I lov’d him, notwithstanding, for he had many amiable
qualities. I had by no means improv’d my fortune; but I had picked up some very
ingenious acquaintance, whose conversation was of great advantage to me; and I
had read considerably.100.

We sail’d from Gravesend on the 23d of July, 1726. For the incidents
of the voyage, I refer you to my journal, where you will find them all minutely
related. Perhaps the most important part of that journal is the plan to be
found in it, which I formed at sea, for regulating my future conduct in life.
It is the more remarkable, as being formed when I was so young, and yet being
pretty faithfully adhered to quite thro’ to old age.101.

We landed in Philadelphia on the 11th of October, where I found
sundry alterations. Keith was no longer governor, being superseded by Major
Gordon. I met him walking the streets as a common citizen. He seem’d a little
asham’d at seeing me, but pass’d without saying anything. I should have been as
much asham’d at seeing Miss Read, had not her friends, despairing with reason
of my return after the receipt of my letter, persuaded her to marry another,
one Rogers, a potter, which was done in my absence. With him, however, she was
never happy, and soon parted from him, refusing to cohabit with him or bear his
name, it being now said that he bad another wife. He was a worthless fellow,
tho’ an excellent workman, which was the temptation to her friends. He got into
debt, ran away in 1727 or 1728, went to the West Indies, and died there. Keimer
had got a better house, a shop well supply’d with stationery, plenty of new
types, a number of hands, tho’ none good, and seem’d to have a great deal of

Mr. Denham took a store in Water-street, where we open’d our goods;
I attended the business diligently, studied accounts, and grew, in a little
time, expert at selling. We lodg’d and, boarded together; he counsell’d me as a
father, having a sincere regard for me. I respected and lov’d him, and we might
have gone on together very happy; but, in the beginning of February, 1726-7,
when I had just pass’d my twenty-first year, we both were taken ill. My
distemper was a pleurisy, which very nearly carried me off. I suffered a good
deal, gave up the point in my own mind, and was rather disappointed when I
found myself recovering, regretting, in some degree, that I must now, some time
or other, have all that disagreeable work to do over again. I forget what his
distemper was; it held him a long time, and at length carried him off. He left
me a small legacy in a nuncupative will, as a token of his kindness for me, and
he left me once more to the wide world; for the store was taken into the care
of his executors, and my employment under him ended.103.

My brother-in-law, Holmes, being now at Philadelphia, advised my
return to my business; and Keimer tempted me, with an offer of large wages by
the year, to come and take the management of his printing-house, that he might
better attend his stationer’s shop. I had heard a bad character of him in
London from his wife and her friends, and was not fond of having any more to do
with him. I tri’d for farther employment as a merchant’s clerk; but, not
readily meeting with any, I clos’d again with Keimer. I found in his house
these hands: Hugh Meredith, a Welsh Pensilvanian, thirty years of age, bred to
country work; honest, sensible, had a great deal of solid observation, was
something of a reader, but given to drink. Stephen Potts, a young countryman of
full age, bred to the same, of uncommon natural parts, and great wit and humor,
but a little idle. These he had agreed with at extream low wages per week, to
be rais’d a shilling every three months, as they would deserve by improving in
their business; and the expectation of these high wages, to come on hereafter,
was what he had drawn them in with. Meredith was to work at press, Potts at
book-binding, which he, by agreement, was to teach them, though he knew neither
one nor t’other. John ––, a wild Irishman, brought up to no business, whose
service, for four years, Keimer had purchased from the captain of a ship; he,
too, was to be made a pressman. George Webb, an Oxford scholar, whose time for
four years he had likewise bought, intending him for a compositor, of whom more
presently; and David Harry, a country boy, whom he had taken apprentice.104.

I soon perceiv’d that the intention of engaging me at wages so much
higher than he had been us’d to give, was, to have these raw, cheap hands
form’d thro’ me; and, as soon as I had instructed them, then they being all
articled to him, he should be able to do without me. I went on, however, very
cheerfully, put his printing-house in order, which had been in great confusion,
and brought his hands by degrees to mind their business and to do it

It was an odd thing to find an Oxford scholar in the situation of a
bought servant. He was not more than eighteen years of age, and gave me this
account of himself; that he was born in Gloucester, educated at a
grammar-school there, had been distinguish’d among the scholars for some
apparent superiority in performing his part, when they exhibited plays;
belong’d to the Witty Club there, and had written some pieces in prose and
verse, which were printed in the Gloucester newspapers; thence he was sent to
Oxford; where he continued about a year, but not well satisfi’d, wishing of all
things to see London, and become a player. At length, receiving his quarterly
allowance of fifteen guineas, instead of discharging his debts he walk’d out of
town, hid his gown in a furze bush, and footed it to London, where, having no
friend to advise him, he fell into bad company, soon spent his guineas, found
no means of being introduc’d among the players, grew necessitous, pawn’d his
cloaths, and wanted bread. Walking the street very hungry, and not knowing what
to do with himself, a crimp’s bill was put into his hand, offering immediate
entertainment and encouragement to such as would bind themselves to serve in

He went directly, sign’d the indentures, was put into the ship, and
came over, never writing a line to acquaint his friends what was become of him.
He was lively, witty, good-natur’d, and a pleasant companion, but idle,
thoughtless, and imprudent to the last degree.107.

John, the Irishman, soon ran away; with the rest I began to live
very agreeably, for they all respected me the more, as they found Keimer
incapable of instructing them, and that from me they learned something daily.
We never worked on Saturday, that being Keimer’s Sabbath, so I had two days for
reading. My acquaintance with ingenious people in the town increased. Keimer
himself treated me with great civility and apparent regard, and nothing now
made me uneasy but my debt to Vernon, which I was yet unable to pay, being
hitherto but a poor oeconomist. He, however, kindly made no demand of it.108.

Our printing-house often wanted sorts, and there was no
letter-founder in America; I had seen types cast at James’s in London, but
without much attention to the manner; however, I now contrived a mould, made
use of the letters we had as puncheons, struck the matrices in lead, And thus
supply’d in a pretty tolerable way all deficiencies. I also engrav’d several
things on occasion; I made the ink; I was warehouseman, and everything, and, in
short, quite a factotum.109.

But, however serviceable I might be, I found that my services became
every day of less importance, as the other hands improv’d in the business; and,
when Keimer paid my second quarter’s wages, he let me know that he felt them
too heavy, and thought I should make an abatement. He grew by degrees less
civil, put on more of the master, frequently found fault, was captious, and
seem’d ready for an outbreaking. I went on, nevertheless, with a good deal of
patience, thinking that his encumber’d circumstances were partly the cause. At
length a trifle snapt our connections; for, a great noise happening near the
court-house, I put my head out of the window to see what was the matter.
Keimer, being in the street, look’d up and saw me, call’d out to me in a loud
voice and angry tone to mind my business, adding some reproachful words, that
nettled me the more for their publicity, all the neighbors who were looking out
on the same occasion being witnesses how I was treated. He came up immediately
into the printing-house, continu’d the quarrel, high words pass’d on both
sides, he gave me the quarter’s warning we had stipulated, expressing a wish
that he had not been oblig’d to so long a warning. I told him his wish was
unnecessary, for I would leave him that instant; and so, taking my hat, walk’d
out of doors, desiring Meredith, whom I saw below, to take care of some things
I left, and bring them to my lodgings.110.

Meredith came accordingly in the evening, when we talked my affair
over. He had conceiv’d a great regard for me, and was very unwilling that I
should leave the house while he remain’d in it. He dissuaded me from returning
to my native country, which I began to think of; he reminded me that Keimer was
in debt for all he possess’d; that his creditors began to be uneasy; that he
kept his shop miserably, sold often without profit for ready money, and often
trusted without keeping accounts; that he must therefore fall, which would make
a vacancy I might profit of. I objected my want of money. He then let me know
that his father had a high opinion of me, and, from some discourse that had
pass’d between them, he was sure would advance money to set us up, if I would
enter into partnership with him. “My time,” says he, “will be out with Keimer
in the spring; by that time we may have our press and types in from London. I
am sensible I am no workman; if you like it, your skill in the business shall
be set against the stock I furnish, and we will share the profits equally.”111.

The proposal was agreeable, and I consented; his father was in town
and approv’d of it; the more as he saw I had great influence with his son, had
prevail’d on him to abstain long from dram-drinking, and he hop’d might break
him off that wretched habit entirely, when we came to be so closely connected.
I gave an inventory to the father, who carry’d it to a merchant; the things
were sent for, the secret was to be kept till they should arrive, and in the
mean time I was to get work, if I could, at the other printing-house. But I
found no vacancy there, and so remain’d idle a few days, when Keimer, on a
prospect of being employ’d to print some paper money in New Jersey, which would
require cuts and various types that I only could supply, and apprehending
Bradford might engage me and get the jobb from him, sent me a very civil
message, that old friends should not part for a few words, the effect of sudden
passion, and wishing me to return. Meredith persuaded me to comply, as it would
give more opportunity for his improvement under my daily instructions; so I
return’d, and we went on more smoothly than for some time before. The New
jersey jobb was obtain’d, I contriv’d a copperplate press for it, the first
that had been seen in the country; I cut several ornaments and checks for the
bills. We went together to Burlington, where I executed the whole to
satisfaction; and he received so large a sum for the work as to be enabled
thereby to keep his head much longer above water.112.

At Burlington I made an acquaintance with many principal people of
the province. Several of them had been appointed by the Assembly a committee to
attend the press, and take care that no more bills were printed than the law
directed. They were therefore, by turns, constantly with us, and generally he
who attended, brought with him a friend or two for company. My mind having been
much more improv’d by reading than Keimer’s, I suppose it was for that reason
myconversation seem’d to he more valu’d. They had me to their houses,
introduced me to their friends, and show’d me much civility; while he, tho’ the
master, was a little neglected. In truth, he was an odd fish; ignorant of
common life, fond of rudely opposing receiv’d opinions, slovenly to extream
dirtiness, enthusiastic in some points of religion, and a little knavish

We continu’d there near three months; and by that time I could
reckon among my acquired friends, Judge Allen, Samuel Bustill, the secretary of
the Province, Isaac Pearson, Joseph Cooper, and several of the Smiths, members
of Assembly, and Isaac Decow, the surveyor-general. The latter was a shrewd,
sagacious old man, who told me that he began for himself, when young, by
wheeling clay for the brick-makers, learned to write after be was of age,
carri’d the chain for surveyors, who taught him surveying, and he had now by
his industry, acquir’d a good estate; and says he, “I foresee that you will
soon work this man out of business, and make a fortune in it at Philadelphia.”
He had not then the least intimation of my intention to set up there or
anywhere. These friends were afterwards of great use to me, as I occasionally
was to some of them. They all continued their regard for me as long as they

Before I enter upon my public appearance in business, it may be well
to let you know the then state of my mind with regard to my principles and
morals, that you may see how far those influenc’d the future events of my life.
My parents had early given me religious impressions, and brought me through my
childhood piously in the Dissenting way. But I was scarce fifteen, when, after
doubting by turns of several points, as I found them disputed in the different
books I read, I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some books against Deism
fell into my hands; they were said to be the substance of sermons preached at
Boyle’s Lectures. It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary
to what was intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were
quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in
short, I soon became a thorough Deist. My arguments perverted some others,
particularly Collins and Ralph; but, each of them having afterwards wrong’d me
greatly without the least compunction, and recollecting Keith’s conduct towards
me (who was another freethinker), and my own towards Vernon and Miss Read,
which at times gave me great trouble, I began to suspect that this doctrine,
tho’ it might be true, was not very useful. My London pamphlet, which had for
its motto these lines of Dryden:

“Whatever is, is right. Though purblind man 
Sees but a part o’ the chain, the nearest link: 
His eyes not carrying to the equal beam, 
That poises all above;” 

and from the attributes of God, his infinite wisdom,
goodness and power, concluded that nothing could possibly be wrong in the
world, and that vice and virtue were empty distinctions, no such things
existing, appear’d now not so clever a performance as I once thought it; and I
doubted whether some error had not insinuated itself unperceiv’d into my
argument, so as to infect all that follow’d, as is common in metaphysical

I grew convinc’d that truth, sincerity and integrity in dealings
between man and man were of the utmost importance to the felicity of life; and
I form’d written resolutions, which still remain in my journal book, to
practice them ever while I lived. Revelation had indeed no weight with me, as
such; but I entertain’d an opinion that, though certain actions might not be
bad because they were forbidden by it, or good because it commanded them, yet
probably these actions might be forbidden because they were bad for us, or
commanded because they were beneficial to us, in their own natures, all the
circumstances of things considered. And this persuasion, with the kind hand of
Providence, or some guardian angel, or accidental favorable circumstances and
situations, or all together, preserved me, thro’ this dangerous time of youth,
and the hazardous situations I was sometimes in among strangers, remote from
the eye and advice of my father, without any willful gross immorality or
injustice, that might have been expected from my want of religion. I say
willful, because the instances I have mentioned had something of necessity in
them, from my youth, inexperience, and the knavery of others. I had therefore a
tolerable character to begin the world with; I valued it properly, and
determin’d to preserve it.116.

We had not been long return’d to Philadelphia before the new types
arriv’d from London. We settled with Keimer, and left him by his consent before
he heard of it. We found a house to hire near the market, and took it. To
lessen the rent, which was then but twenty-four pounds a year, tho’ I have
since known it to let for seventy, we took in Thomas Godfrey, a glazier, and
his family, who were to pay a considerable part of it to us, and we to board
with them. We had scarce opened our letters and put our press in order, before
George House, an acquaintance of mine, brought a countryman to us, whom he had
met in the street inquiring for a printer. All our cash was now expended in the
variety of particulars we had been obliged to procure, and this countryman’s
five shillings, being our first-fruits, and coming so seasonably, gave me more
pleasure than any crown I have since earned; and the gratitude I felt toward
House has made me often more ready than perhaps I should otherwise have been to
assist young beginners.117.

There are croakers in every country, always boding its ruin. Such a
one then lived in Philadelphia; a person of note, an elderly man, with a wise
look and a very grave manner of speaking; his name was Samuel Mickle. This
gentleman, a stranger to me, stopt one day at my door, and asked me if I was
the young man who had lately opened a new printing-house. Being answered in the
affirmative, he said he was sorry for me, because it was an expensive
undertaking, and the expense would be lost; for Philadelphia was a sinking
place, the people already half-bankrupts, or near being so; all appearances to
the contrary, such as new buildings and the rise of rents, being to his certain
knowledge fallacious; for they were, in fact, among the things that would soon
ruin us. And he gave me such a detail of misfortunes now existing, or that were
soon to exist, that he left me half melancholy. Had I known him before I
engaged in this business, probably I never should have done it. This man
continued to live in this decaying place, and to declaim in the same strain,
refusing for many years to buy a house there, because all was going to
destruction; and at last I had the pleasure of seeing him give five times as
much for one as he might have bought it for when he first began his

I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of the preceding
year, I had form’d most of my ingenious acquaintance into a club of mutual
improvement, which we called the JUNTO; we
met on Friday evenings. The rules that I drew up required that every member, in
his turn, should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, Politics,
or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss’d by the company; and once in three months
produce and read an essay of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our
debates were to be under the direction of a president, and to be conducted in
the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without fondness for dispute, or
desire of victory; and, to prevent warmth, all expressions of positiveness in
opinions, or direct contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and
prohibited under small pecuniary penalties.119.

The first members were Joseph Breintnal, a copyer of deeds for the
scriveners, a good-natur’d, friendly, middle-ag’d man, a great lover of poetry,
reading all he could meet with, and writing some that was tolerable; very
ingenious in many little Nicknackeries, and of sensible conversation.120.

Thomas Godfrey, a self-taught mathematician, great in his way, and
afterward inventor of what is now called Hadley’s Quadrant. But he knew little
out of his way, and was not a pleasing companion; as, like most great
mathematicians I have met with, he expected universal precision in everything
said, or was for ever denying or distinguishing upon trifles, to the
disturbance of all conversation. He soon left us.121.

Nicholas Scull, a surveyor, afterwards surveyor-general, who lov’d
books, and sometimes made a few verses.122.

William Parsons, bred a shoemaker, but loving reading, had acquir’d
a considerable share of mathematics, which he first studied with a view to
astrology, that he afterwards laught at it. He also became

William Maugridge, a joiner, a most exquisite mechanic, and a solid,
sensible man.124.

Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, and George Webb I have characteriz’d

Robert Grace, a young gentleman of some fortune, generous, lively,
and witty; a lover of punning and of his friends.126.

And William Coleman, then a merchant’s clerk, about my age, who had
the coolest, dearest head, the best heart, and the exactest morals of almost
any man I ever met with. He became afterwards a merchant of great note, and one
of our provincial judges. Our friendship continued without interruption to his
death, upward of forty years; and the club continued almost as long, and was
the best school of philosophy, morality, and politics that then existed in the
province; for our queries, which were read the week preceding their discussion,
put us upon reading with attention upon the several subjects, that we might
speak more to the purpose; and here, too, we acquired better habits of
conversation, every thing being studied in our rules which might prevent our
disgusting each other. From hence the long continuance of the club, which I
shall have frequent occasion to speak further of hereafter.127.

But my giving this account of it here is to show something of the
interest I had, every one of these exerting themselves in recommending business
to us. Breintnal particularly procur’d us from the Quakers the printing forty
sheets of their history, the rest being to be done by Keimer; and upon this we
work’d exceedingly hard, for the price was low. It was a folio, pro patria
size, in pica, with long primer notes. I compos’d of it a sheet a day, and
Meredith worked it off at press; it was often eleven at night, and sometimes
later, before I had finished my distribution for the next day’s work, for the
little jobbs sent in by our other friends now and then put us back. But so
determin’d I was to continue doing a sheet a day of the folio, that one night,
when, having impos’d my forms, I thought my day’s work over, one of them by
accident was broken, and two pages reduced to pi, I immediately distributed and
compos’d it over again before I went to bed; and this industry, visible to our
neighbors, began to give us character and credit; particularly, I was told,
that mention being made of the new printing-office at the merchants’
Every-night club, the general opinion was that it must fail, there being
already two printers in the place, Keimer and Bradford; but Dr. Baird (whom you
and I saw many years after at his native place, St. Andrew’s in Scotland) gave
a contrary opinion: “For the industry of that Franklin,” says he, “is superior
to any thing I ever saw of the kind; I see him still at work when I go home
from club, and he is at work again before his neighbors are out of bed.” This
struck the rest, and we soon after had offers from one of them to supply us
with stationery; but as yet we did not chuse to engage in shop business.128.

I mention this industry the more particularly and the more freely,
tho’ it seems to be talking in my own praise, that those of my posterity, who
shall read it, may know the use of that virtue, when they see its effects in my
favour throughout this relation.129.

George Webb, who had found a female friend that lent him wherewith
to purchase his time of Keimer, now came to offer himself as a journeyman to
us. We could not then employ him; but I foolishly let him know as a secret that
I soon intended to begin a newspaper, and might then have work for him. My
hopes of success, as I told him, were founded on this, that the then only
newspaper, printed by Bradford, was a paltry thing, wretchedly manag’d, no way
entertaining, and yet was profitable to him; I therefore thought a good paper
would scarcely fail of good encouragement. I requested Webb not to mention it;
but he told it to Keimer, who immediately, to be beforehand with me, published
proposals for printing one himself, on which Webb was to be employ’d. I
resented this; and, to counteract them, as I could not yet begin our paper, I
wrote several pieces of entertainment for Bradford’s paper, under the title of
the Busy Body, which Breintnal continu’d some months.
By this means the attention of the publick was fixed on that paper, and
Keimer’s proposals, which we burlesqu’d and ridicul’d, were disregarded. He
began his paper, however, and, after carrying it on three quarters of a year,
with at most only ninety subscribers, he offered it to me for a trifle; and I,
having been ready some time to go on with it, took it in hand directly; and it
prov’d in a few years extremely profitable to me.130.

I perceive that I am apt to speak in the singular number, though our
partnership still continu’d; the reason may be that, in fact, the whole
management of the business lay upon me. Meredith was no compositor, a poor
pressman, and seldom sober. My friends lamented my connection with him, but I
was to make the best of it.131.

Our first papers made a quite different appearance from any before
in the province; a better type, and better printed; but some spirited remarks
of my writing, on the dispute then going on between Governor Burnet and the
Massachusetts Assembly, struck the principal people, occasioned the paper and
the manager of it to be much talk’d of, and in a few weeks brought them all to
be our subscribers.132.

Their example was follow’d by many, and our number went on growing
continually. This was one of the first good effects of my having learnt a
little to scribble; another was, that the leading men, seeing a newspaper now
in the hands of one who could also handle a pen, thought it convenient to
oblige and encourage me. Bradford still printed the votes, and laws, and other
publick business. He had printed an address of the House to the governor, in a
coarse, blundering manner, we reprinted it elegantly and correctly, and sent
one to every member. They were sensible of the difference: it strengthened the
hands of our friends in the House, and they voted us their printers for the
year ensuing.133.

Among my friends in the House I must not forget Mr. Hamilton, before
mentioned, who was then returned from England, and had a seat in it. He
interested himself for me strongly in that instance, as he did in many others
afterward, continuing his patronage till his death.134.

Mr. Vernon, about this time, put me in mind of the debt I ow’d him,
but did not press me. I wrote him an ingenuous letter of acknowledgment, crav’d
his forbearance a little longer, which he allow’d me, and as soon as I was
able, I paid the principal with interest, and many thanks; so that erratum was
in some degree corrected.135.

But now another difficulty came upon me which I had never the least
reason to expect. Mr. Meredith’s father, who was to have paid for our
printing-house, according to the expectations given me, was able to advance
only one hundred pounds currency, which had been paid; and a hundred more was
due to the merchant, who grew impatient, and su’d us all. We gave bail, but saw
that, if the money could not be rais’d in time, the suit must soon come to a
judgment and execution, and our hopeful prospects must, with us, be ruined, as
the press and letters must be sold for payment, perhaps at half price.136.

In this distress two true friends, whose kindness I have never
forgotten, nor ever shall forget while I can remember any thing, came to me
separately, unknown to each other, and, without any application from me,
offering each of them to advance me all the money that should be necessary to
enable me to take the whole business upon myself, if that should be
practicable; but they did not like my continuing the partnership with Meredith,
who, as they said, was often seen drunk in the streets, and playing at low
games in alehouses, much to our discredit. These two friends were William
Coleman and Robert Grace. I told them I could not propose a separation while
any prospect remain’d of the Merediths’ fulfilling their part of our agreement,
because I thought myself under great obligations to them for what they had
done, and would do if they could; but, if they finally fail’d in their
performance, and our partnership must be dissolv’d, I should then think myself
at liberty to accept the assistance of my friends.137.

Thus the matter rested for some time, when I said to my partner,
“Perhaps your father is dissatisfied at the part you have undertaken in this
affair of ours, and is unwilling to advance for you and me what he would for
you alone. If that is the case, tell me, and I will resign the whole to you,
and go about my business.” “No,” said he, “my father has really been
disappointed, and is really unable; and I am unwilling to distress him farther.
I see this is a business I am not fit for. I was bred a farmer, and it was a
folly in me to come to town, and put myself, at thirty years of age, an
apprentice to learn a new trade. Many of our Welsh people are going to settle
in North Carolina, where land is cheap. I am inclin’d to go with them, and
follow my old employment. You may find friends to assist you. If you will take
the debts of the company upon you; return to my father the hundred pound he has
advanced; pay my little personal debts, and give me thirty pounds and a new
saddle, I will relinquish the partnership, and leave the whole in your hands.”
I agreed to this proposal: it was drawn up in writing, sign’d, and seal’d
immediately. I gave him what he demanded, and he went soon after to Carolina,
from whence he sent me next year two long letters, containing the best account
that had been given of that country, the climate, the soil, husbandry, etc.,
for in those matters he was very judicious. I printed them in the papers, and
they gave great satisfaction to the publick.138.

As soon as he was gone, I recurr’d to my two friends; and because I
would not give an unkind preference to either, I took half of what each had
offered and I wanted of one, and half of the other; paid off the company’s
debts, and went on with the business in my own name, advertising that the
partnership was dissolved. I think this was in or about the year 1729.139.

About this time there was a cry among the people for more paper
money, only fifteen thousand pounds being extant in the province, and that soon
to be sunk. The wealthy inhabitants oppos’d any addition, being against all
paper currency, from an apprehension that it would depreciate, as it had done
in New England, to the prejudice of all creditors. We had discuss’d this point
in our Junto, where I was on the side of an addition, being persuaded that the
first small sum struck in 1723 had done much good by increasing the trade,
employment, and number of inhabitants in the province, since I now saw all the
old houses inhabited, and many new ones building; whereas I remembered well,
that when I first walk’d about the streets of Philadelphia, eating my roll, I
saw most of the houses in Walnut-street, between Second and Front streets, with
bills on their doors, “To be let”; and many likewise in Chestnut-street and
other streets, which made me then think the inhabitants of the city were
deserting it one after another.140.

Our debates possess’d me so fully of the subject, that I wrote and
printed an anonymous pamphlet on it, entitled “The Nature
and Necessity of a Paper Currency
.” It was well receiv’d by the common
people in general; but the rich men dislik’d it, for it increas’d and
strengthen’d the clamor for more money, and they happening to have no writers
among them that were able to answer it, their opposition slacken’d, and the
point was carried by a majority in the House. My friends there, who conceiv’d I
had been of some service, thought fit to reward me by employing me in printing
the money; a very profitable jobb and a great help to me. This was another
advantage gain’d by my being able to write.141.

The utility of this currency became by time and experience so
evident as never afterwards to be much disputed; so that it grew soon to
fifty-five thousand pounds, and in 1739 to eighty thousand pounds, since which
it arose during war to upwards of three hundred and fifty thousand pounds,
trade, building, and inhabitants all the while increasing, till I now think
there are limits beyond which the quantity may be hurtful.142.

I soon after obtain’d, thro’ my friend Hamilton, the printing of the
Newcastle paper money, another profitable jobb as I then thought it; small
things appearing great to those in small circumstances; and these, to me, were
really great advantages, as they were great encouragements. He procured for me,
also, the printing of the laws and votes of that government, which continu’d in
my hands as long as I follow’d the business.143.

I now open’d a little stationer’s shop. I had in it blanks of all
sorts, the correctest that ever appear’d among us, being assisted in that by my
friend Breintnal. I had also paper, parchment, chapmen’s books, etc. One
Whitemash, a compositor I had known in London, an excellent workman, now came
to me, and work’d with me constantly and diligently; and I took an apprentice,
the son of Aquila Rose.144.

I began now gradually to pay off the debt I was under for the
printing-house. In order to secure my credit and character as a tradesman, I
took care not only to be in reality industrious and frugal, but to avoid all
appearances to the contrary. I drest plainly; I was seen at no places of idle
diversion. I never went out a fishing or shooting; a book, indeed, sometimes
debauch’d me from my work, but that was seldom, snug, and gave no scandal; and,
to show that I was not above my business, I sometimes brought home the paper I
purchas’d at the stores thro’ the streets on a wheelbarrow. Thus being esteem’d
an industrious, thriving young man, and paying duly for what I bought, the
merchants who imported stationery solicited my custom; others proposed
supplying me with books, and I went on swimmingly. In the mean time, Keimer’s
credit and business declining daily, he was at last forc’d to sell his printing
house to satisfy his creditors. He went to Barbadoes, and there lived some
years in very poor circumstances.145.

His apprentice, David Harry, whom I had instructed while I work’d
with him, set up in his place at Philadelphia, having bought his materials. I
was at first apprehensive of a powerful rival in Harry, as his friends were
very able, and had a good deal of interest. I therefore propos’d a partner-ship
to him which he, fortunately for me, rejected with scorn. He was very proud,
dress’d like a gentleman, liv’d expensively, took much diversion and pleasure
abroad, ran in debt, and neglected his business; upon which, all business left
him; and, finding nothing to do, he followed Keimer to Barbadoes, taking the
printing-house with him. There this apprentice employ’d his former master as a
journeyman; they quarrel’d often; Harry went continually behindhand, and at
length was forc’d to sell his types and return to his country work in
Pensilvania. The person that bought them employ’d Keimer to use them, but in a
few years he died.146.

There remained now no competitor with me at Philadelphia but the old
one, Bradford; who was rich and easy, did a little printing now and then by
straggling hands, but was not very anxious about the business. However, as he
kept the post-office, it was imagined he had better opportunities of obtaining
news; his paper was thought a better distributer of advertisements than mine,
and therefore had many, more, which was a profitable thing to him, and a
disadvantage to me; for, tho’ I did indeed receive and send papers by the post,
yet the publick opinion was otherwise, for what I did send was by bribing the
riders, who took them privately, Bradford being unkind enough to forbid it,
which occasion’d some resentment on my part; and I thought so meanly of him for
it, that, when I afterward came into his situation, I took care never to
imitate it.147.

I had hitherto continu’d to board with Godfrey, who lived in part of
my house with his wife and children, and had one side of the shop for his
glazier’s business, tho’ he worked little, being always absorbed in his
mathematics. Mrs. Godfrey projected a match for me with a relation’s daughter,
took opportunities of bringing us often together, till a serious courtship on
my part ensu’d, the girl being in herself very deserving. The old folks
encourag’d me by continual invitations to supper, and by leaving us together,
till at length it was time to explain. Mrs. Godfrey manag’d our little treaty.
I let her know that I expected as much money with their daughter as would pay
off my remaining debt for the printing-house, which I believe was not then
above a hundred pounds. She brought me word they had no such sum to spare; I
said they might mortgage their house in the loan-office. The answer to this,
after some days, was, that they did not approve the match; that, on inquiry of
Bradford, they had been inform’d the printing business was not a profitable
one; the types would soon be worn out, and more wanted; that S. Keimer and D.
Harry had failed one after the other, and I should probably soon follow them;
and, therefore, I was forbidden the house, and the daughter shut up.148.

Whether this was a real change of sentiment or only artifice, on a
supposition of our being too far engaged in affection to retract, and therefore
that we should steal a marriage, which would leave them at liberty to give or
withhold what they pleas’d, I know not; but I suspected the latter, resented
it, and went no more. Mrs. Godfrey brought me afterward some more favorable
accounts of their disposition, and would have drawn me on again; but I declared
absolutely my resolution to have nothing more to do with that family. This was
resented by the Godfreys; we differ’d, and they removed, leaving me the whole
house, and I resolved to take no more inmates.149.

But this affair having turned my thoughts to marriage, I look’d
round me and made overtures of acquaintance in other places; but soon found
that, the business of a printer being generally thought a poor one, I was not
to expect money with a wife, unless with such a one as I should not otherwise
think agreeable. In the mean time, that hard-to-be-governed passion of youth
hurried me frequently into intrigues with low women that fell in my way, which
were attended with some expense and great inconvenience, besides a continual
risque to my health by a distemper which of all things I dreaded, though by
great good luck I escaped it. A friendly correspondence as neighbors and old
acquaintances had continued between me and Mrs. Read’s family, who all had a
regard for me from the time of my first lodging in their house. I was often
invited there and consulted in their affairs, wherein I sometimes was of
service. I piti’d poor Miss Read’s unfortunate situation, who was generally
dejected, seldom cheerful, and avoided company. I considered my giddiness and
inconstancy when in London as in a great degree the cause of her unhappiness,
tho’ the mother was good enough to think the fault more her own than mine, as
she had prevented our marrying before I went thither, and persuaded the other
match in my absence. Our mutual affection was revived, but there were now great
objections to our union. The match was indeed looked upon as invalid, a
preceding wife being said to be living in England; but this could not easily be
prov’d, because of the distance; and, tho’ there was a report of his death, it
was not certain. Then, tho’ it should be true, he had left many debts, which
his successor might be call’d upon to pay. We ventured, however, over all these
difficulties, and I took her to wife, September 1st, 1730. None of the
inconveniences happened that we had apprehended, she proved a good and faithful
helpmate, assisted me much by attending the shop; we throve together, and have
ever mutually endeavored to make each other happy. Thus I corrected that great
erratum as well as I could.150.

About this time, our club meeting, not at a tavern, but in a little
room of Mr. Grace’s, set apart for that purpose, a proposition was made by me,
that, since our books were often referr’d to in our disquisitions upon the
queries, it might be convenient to us to have them altogether where we met,
that upon occasion they might be consulted; and by thus clubbing our books to a
common library, we should, while we lik’d to keep them together, have each of
us the advantage of using the books of all the other members, which would be
nearly as beneficial as if each owned the whole. It was lik’d and agreed to,
and we fill’d one end of the room with such books as we could best spare. The
number was not so great as we expected; and tho’ they had been of great use,
yet some inconveniences occurring for want of due care of them, the collection,
after about a year, was separated, and each took his books home again151.

And now I set on foot my first project of a public nature, that for
a subscription library. I drew up the proposals, got them put into form by our
great scrivener, Brockden, and, by the help of my friends in the Junto,
procured fifty subscribers of forty shillings each to begin with, and ten
shillings a year for fifty years, the term our company was to continue. We
afterwards obtain’d a charter, the company being increased to one hundred: this
was the mother of all the North American subscription libraries, now so
numerous. It is become a great thing itself, and continually increasing. These
libraries have improved the general conversation of the Americans, made the
common tradesmen and farmers as intelligent as most gentlemen from other
countries, and perhaps have contributed in some degree to the stand so
generally made throughout the colonies in defense of their privileges.152.

Memo. Thus far was written with the intention express’d in the
beginning and therefore contains several little family anecdotes of no
importance to others. What follows was written many years after in compliance
with the advice contain’d in these letters, and accordingly intended for the
public. The affairs of the Revolution occasion’d the interruption.153.

Letter from Mr. Abel James, with Notes of my Life (received in


I have
often been desirous of writing to thee, but could not be reconciled to the
thought that the letter might fall into the hands of the British, lest some
printer or busy-body should publish some part of the contents, and give our
friend pain, and myself censure.154.

“Some time since there fell into my hands, to my great joy, about
twenty-three sheets in thy own handwriting, containing an account of the
parentage and life of thyself, directed to thy son, ending in the year 1730,
with which there were notes, likewise in thy writing; a copy of which I
inclose, in hopes it may be a means, if thou continued it up to a later period,
that the first and latter part may be put together; and if it is not yet
continued, I hope thee will not delay it. Life is uncertain, as the preacher
tells us; and what will the world say if kind, humane, and benevolent Ben.
Franklin should leave his friends and the world deprived of so pleasing and
profitable a work; a work which would be useful and entertaining not only to a
few, but to millions? The influence writings under that class have on the minds
of youth is very great, and has nowhere appeared to me so plain, as in our
public friend’s journals. It almost insensibly leads the youth into the
resolution of endeavoring to become as good and eminent as the journalist.
Should thine, for instance, when published (and I think it could not fail of
it), lead the youth to equal the industry and temperance of thy early youth,
what a blessing with that class would such a work be! I know of no character
living, nor many of them put together, who has so much in his power as thyself
to promote a greater spirit of industry and early attention to business,
frugality, and temperance with the American youth. Not that I think the work
would have no other merit and use in the world, far from it; but the first is
of such vast importance that I know nothing that can equal it.” The foregoing
letter and the minutes accompanying it being shown to a friend, I received from
him the following: 155.

Letter from Mr. Benjamin Vaughan.

“PARIS, January 31, 1783.


When I had read over
your sheets of minutes of the principal incidents of your life, recovered for
you by your Quaker acquaintance, I told you I would send you a letter
expressing my reasons why I thought it would be useful to complete and publish
it as he desired. Various concerns have for some time past prevented this
letter being written, and I do not know whether it was worth any expectation;
happening to be at leisure, however, at present, I shall by writing, at least
interest and instruct myself; but as the terms I am inclined to use may tend to
offend a person of your manners, I shall only tell you how I would address any
other person, who was as good and as great as yourself, but less diffident. I
would say to him, Sir, I solicit the history of your life from the following
motives: Your history is so remarkable, that if you do not give it, somebody
else will certainly give it; and perhaps so as nearly to do as much harm, as
your own management of the thing might do good. It will moreover present a
table of the internal circumstances of your country, which will very much tend
to invite to it settlers of virtuous and manly minds. And considering the
eagerness with which such information is sought by them, and the extent of your
reputation, I do not know of a more efficacious advertisement than your
biography would give. All that has happened to you is also connected with the
detail of the manners and situation of a rising people; and in this respect I
do not think that the writings of Caesar and Tacitus can be more interesting to
a true judge of human nature and society. But these, sir, are small reasons, in
my opinion, compared with the chance which your life will give for the forming
of future great men; and in conjunction with your Art of Virtue (which you
design to publish) of improving the features of private character, and
consequently of aiding all happiness, both public and domestic. The two works I
allude to, sir, will in particular give a noble rule and example of
self-education. School and other education constantly proceed upon false
principles, and show a clumsy apparatus pointed at a false mark; but your
apparatus is simple, and the mark a true one; and while parents and young
persons are left destitute of other just means of estimating and becoming
prepared for a reasonable course in life, your discovery that the thing is in
many a man’s private power, will be invaluable! Influence upon the private
character, late in life, is not only an influence late in life, but a weak
influence. It is in youth that we plant our chief habits and prejudices; it is
in youth that we take our party as to profession, pursuits and matrimony. In
youth, therefore, the turn is given; in youth the education even of the next
generation is given; in youth the private and public character is determined;
and the term of life extending but from youth to age, life ought to begin well
from youth, and more especially before we take our party as to our principal
objects. But your biography will not merely teach self-education, but the
education of a wise man; and the wisest man will receive lights and improve his
progress, by seeing detailed the conduct of another wise man. And why are
weaker men to be deprived of such helps, when we see our race has been
blundering on in the dark, almost without a guide in this particular, from the
farthest trace of time? Show then, sir, how much is to be done, both to sons
and fathers; and invite all wise men to become like yourself, and other men to
become wise. When we see how cruel statesmen and warriors can be to the human
race, and how absurd distinguished men can be to their acquaintance, it will be
instructive to observe the instances multiply of pacific, acquiescing manners;
and to find how compatible it is to be great and domestic, enviable and yet

“The little private incidents which you will also have to relate,
will have considerable use, as we want, above all things, rules of prudence in
ordinary affairs; and it will be curious to see how you have acted in these. It
will be so far a sort of key to life, and explain many things that all men
ought to have once explained to them, to give, them a chance of becoming wise
by foresight. The nearest thing to having experience of one’s own, is to have
other people’s affairs brought before us in a shape that is interesting; this
is sure to happen from your pen; our affairs and management will have an air of
simplicity or importance that will not fail to strike; and I am convinced you
have conducted them with as much originality as if you had been conducting
discussions in politics or philosophy; and what more worthy of experiments and
system (its importance and its errors considered) than human life?157.

“Some men have been virtuous blindly, others have speculated
fantastically, and others have been shrewd to bad purposes; but you, sir, I am
sure, will give under your hand, nothing but what is at the same moment, wise,
practical and good, your account of yourself (for I suppose the parallel I am
drawing for Dr. Franklin, will hold not only in point of character, but of
private history) will show that you are ashamed of no origin; a thing the more
important, as you prove how little necessary all origin is to happiness,
virtue, or greatness. As no end likewise happens without a means, so we shall
find, sir, that even you yourself framed a plan by which you became
considerable; but at the same time we may see that though the event is
flattering,the means are as simple as wisdom could make them;that is, depending
upon nature, virtue, thought and habit.Another thing demonstrated will be the
propriety of everyman’s waiting for his time for appearing upon the stage of
the world. Our sensations being very much fixed to the moment, we are apt to
forget that more moments are to follow the first, and consequently that man
should arrange his conduct so as to suit the whole of a life. Your attribution
appears to have been applied to your life, and the passing moments of it have
been enlivened with content and enjoyment instead of being tormented with
foolish impatience or regrets. Such a conduct is easy for those who make virtue
and themselves in countenance by examples of other truly great men, of whom
patience is so often the characteristic. Your Quaker correspondent, sir (for
here again I will suppose the subject of my letter resembling Dr. Franklin),
praised your frugality, diligence and temperance, which he considered as a
pattern for all youth; but it is singular that he should have forgotten your
modesty and your disinterestedness, without which you never could have waited
for your advancement, or found your situation in the mean time comfortable;
which is a strong lesson to show the poverty of glory and the importance of
regulating our minds. If this correspondent had known the nature of your
reputation as well as I do, he would have said, Your former writings and
measures would secure attention to your Biography, and Art of Virtue; and your
Biography and Art of Virtue, in return, would secure attention to them. This is
an advantage attendant upon a various character, and which brings all that
belongs to it into greater play; and it is the more useful, as perhaps more
persons are at a loss for the means of improving their minds and characters,
than they are for the time or the inclination to do it. But there is one
concluding reflection, sir, that will shew the use of your life as a mere piece
of biography. This style of writing seems a little gone out of vogue, and yet
it is a very useful one; and your specimen of it may be particularly
serviceable, as it will make a subject of comparison with the lives of various
public cutthroats and intriguers, and with absurd monastic self-tormentors or
vain literary triflers. If it encourages more writings of the same kind with
your own, and induces more men to spend lives fit to be written, it will be
worth all Plutarch’s Lives put together. But being tired of figuring to myself
a character of which every feature suits only one man in the world, without
giving him the praise of it, I shall end my letter, my dear Dr. Franklin, with
a personal application to your proper self. I am earnestly desirous, then, my
dear sir, that you should let the world into the traits of your genuine
character, as civil broils nay otherwise tend to disguise or traduce it.
Considering your great age, the caution of your character, and your peculiar
style of thinking, it is not likely that any one besides yourself can be
sufficiently master of the facts of your life, or the intentions of your mind.
Besides all this, the immense revolution of the present period, will
necessarily turn our attention towards the author of it, and when virtuous
principles have been pretended in it, it will be highly important to shew that
such have really influenced; and, as your own character will be the principal
one to receive a scrutiny, it is proper (even for its effects upon your vast
and rising country, as well as upon England and upon Europe) that it should
stand respectable and eternal. For the furtherance of human happiness, I have
always maintained that it is necessary to prove that man is not even at present
a vicious and detestable animal; and still more to prove that good management
may greatly amend him; and it is for much the same reason, that I am anxious to
see the opinion established, that there are fair characters existing among the
individuals of the race; for the moment that all men, without exception, shall
be conceived abandoned, good people will cease efforts deemed to be hopeless,
and perhaps think of taking their share in the scramble of life, or at least of
making it comfortable principally for themselves. Take then, my dear sir, this
work most speedily into hand: shew yourself good as you are good; temperate as
you are temperate; and above all things, prove yourself as one, who from your
infancy have loved justice, liberty and concord, in a way that has made it
natural and consistent for you to have acted, as we have seen you act in the
last seventeen years of your life. Let Englishmen be made not only to respect,
but even to love you. When they think well of individuals in your native
country, they will go nearer to thinking well of your country; and when your
countrymen see themselves well thought of by Englishmen, they will go nearer to
thinking well of England. Extend your views even further; do not stop at those
who speak the English tongue, but after having settled so many points in nature
and politics, think of bettering the whole race of men. As I have not read any
part of the life in question, but know only the character that lived it, I
write somewhat at hazard. I am sure, however, that the life and the treatise I
allude to (on the Art of Virtue) will necessarily fulfil the chief of my
expectations; and still more so if you take up the measure of suiting these
performances to the several views above stated. Should they even prove
unsuccessful in all that a sanguine admirer of yours hopes from them, you will
at least have framed pieces to interest the human mind; and whoever gives a
feeling of pleasure that is innocent to man, has added so much to the fair side
of a life otherwise too much darkened by anxiety and too much injured by pain.
In the hope, therefore, that you will listen to the prayer addressed to you in
this letter, I beg to subscribe myself, my dearest sir, etc., etc.,158.

“Signed, BENJ. VAUGHAN.”

Continuation of the Account of my Life, begun at Passy, near
Paris, 1784.

It is some time since I receiv’d the above letters, but I have been
too busy till now to think of complying with the request they contain. It
might, too, be much better done if I were at home among my papers, which would
aid my memory, and help to ascertain dates; but my return being uncertain and
having just now a little leisure, I will endeavor to recollect and write what I
can; if I live to get home, it may there be corrected and improv’d.159.

Not having any copy here of what is already written, I know not
whether an account is given of the means I used to establish the Philadelphia
public library, which, from a small beginning, is now become so considerable,
though I remember to have come down to near the time of that transaction
(1730). I will therefore begin here with an account of it, which may be struck
out if found to have been already given.160.

At the time I establish’d myself in Pennsylvania, there was not a
good bookseller’s shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston. In
New York and Philad’a the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only
paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books. Those who lov’d
reading were oblig’d to send for their books from England; the members of the
Junto had each a few. We had left the alehouse, where we first met, and hired a
room to hold our club in. I propos’d that we should all of us bring our books
to that room, where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences,
but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he
wish’d to read at home. This was accordingly done, and for some time contented

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I propos’d to
render the benefit from books more common, by commencing a public subscription
library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got
a skilful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of
articles of agreement to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engag’d to pay
a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution
for increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and
the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry, to find
more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this
purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund
we began. The books were imported; the library wag opened one day in the week
for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the
value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was
imitated by other towns, and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented
by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, having no publick
amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with
books, and in a few years were observ’d by strangers to be better instructed
and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other

When we were about to sign the above-mentioned articles, which were
to be binding upon us, our heirs, etc., for fifty years, Mr. Brockden, the
scrivener, said to us, “You are young men, but it is scarcely probable that any
of you will live to see the expiration of the term fix’d in the instrument.” A
number of us, however, are yet living; but the instrument was after a few years
rendered null by a charter that incorporated and gave perpetuity to the

The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting the
subscriptions, made me soon feel the impropriety of presenting one’s self as
the proposer of any useful project, that might be suppos’d to raise one’s
reputation in the smallest degree above that of one’s neighbors, when one has
need of their assistance to accomplish that project. I therefore put myself as
much as I could out of sight, and stated it as a scheme of a number of friends,
who had requested me to go about and propose it to such as they thought lovers
of reading. In this way my affair went on more smoothly, and I ever after
practis’d it on such occasions; and, from my frequent successes, can heartily
recommend it. The present little sacrifice of your vanity will afterwards be
amply repaid. If it remains a while uncertain to whom the merit belongs, some
one more vain than yourself will be encouraged to claim it, and then even envy
will be disposed to do you justice by plucking those assumed feathers, and
restoring them to their right owner.164.

This library afforded me the means of improvement by constant study,
for which I set apart an hour or two each day, and thus repair’d in some degree
the loss of the learned education my father once intended for me. Reading was
the only amusement I allow’d myself. I spent no time in taverns, games, or
frolicks of any kind; and my industry in my business continu’d as indefatigable
as it was necessary. I was indebted for my printing-house; I had a young family
coming on to be educated, and I had to contend with for business two printers,
who were established in the place before me. My circumstances, however, grew
daily easier. My original habits of frugality continuing, and my father having,
among his instructions to me when a boy, frequently repeated a proverb of
Solomon, “Seest thou a man diligent in his calling, he shall stand before
kings, he shall not stand before mean men,” I from thence considered industry
as a means of obtaining wealth and distinction, which encourag’d me, tho’ I did
not think that I should ever literally stand before kings, which, however, has
since happened; for I have stood before five, and even had the honor of sitting
down with one, the King of Denmark, to dinner.165.

We have an English proverb that says, ”
He that would thrive, must
ask his wife.
” It was lucky for me that I had one as much dispos’d to industry
and frugality as myself. She assisted me cheerfully in my business, folding and
stitching pamphlets, tending shop, purchasing old linen rags for the
papermakers, etc., etc. We kept no idle servants, our table was plain and
simple, our furniture of the cheapest. For instance, my breakfast was a long
time bread and milk (no tea), and I ate it out of a twopenny earthen porringer,
with a pewter spoon. But mark how luxury will enter families, and make a
progress, in spite of principle: being call’d one morning to breakfast, I found
it in a China bowl, with a spoon of silver! They had been bought for me without
my knowledge by my wife, and had cost her the enormous sum of three-and-twenty
shillings, for which she had no other excuse or apology to make, but that she
thought her husband deserv’d a silver spoon and China bowl as well as any of
his neighbors. This was the first appearance of plate and China in our house,
which afterward, in a course of years, as our wealth increas’d, augmented
gradually to several hundred pounds in value.166.

I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; and tho’ some of
the dogmas of that persuasion, such as the eternal decrees of God, election,
reprobation, etc.
, appeared to me unintelligible, others doubtful, and I early
absented myself from the public assemblies of the sect, Sunday being my
studying day, I never was without some religious principles. I never doubted,
for instance, the existence of the Deity; that he made the world, and govern’d
it by his Providence; that the most acceptable service of God was the doing
good to man; that our souls are immortal; and that all crime will be punished,
and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. These I esteem’d the essentials
of every religion; and, being to be found in all the religions we had in our
country, I respected them all, tho’ with different degrees of respect, as I
found them more or less mix’d with other articles, which, without any tendency
to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, serv’d principally to divide us, and
make us unfriendly to one another. This respect to all, with an opinion that
the worst had some good effects, induc’d me to avoid all discourse that might
tend to lessen the good opinion another might have of his own religion; and as
our province increas’d in people, and new places of worship were continually
wanted, and generally erected by voluntary contributions, my mite for such
purpose, whatever might be the sect, was never refused.167.

Tho’ I seldom attended any public worship, I had still an opinion of
its propriety, and of its utility when rightly conducted, and I regularly paid
my annual subscription for the support of the only Presbyterian minister or
meeting we had in Philadelphia. He us’d to visit me sometimes as a friend, and
admonish me to attend his administrations, and I was now and then prevail’d on
to do so, once for five Sundays successively. Had he been in my opinion a good
preacher, perhaps I might have continued, notwithstanding the occasion I had
for the Sunday’s leisure in my course of study; but his discourses were chiefly
either polemic arguments, or explications of the peculiar doctrines of our
sect, and were all to me very dry, uninteresting, and unedifying, since not a
single moral principle was inculcated or enforc’d, their aim seeming to be
rather to make us Presbyterians than good citizens.168.

At length he took for his text that verse of the fourth chapter of
Philippians, ”
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, honest, just,
pure, lovely, or of good report, if there be any virtue, or any praise, think
on these things.
” And I imagin’d, in a sermon on such a text, we could not miss
of having some morality. But he confin’d himself to five points only, as meant
by the apostle, viz.: 1. Keeping holy the Sabbath day. 2. Being diligent in
reading the holy Scriptures. 3. Attending duly the publick worship. 4.
Partaking of the Sacrament. 5. Paying a due respect to God’s ministers. These
might be all good things; but, as they were not the kind of good things that I
expected from that text, I despaired of ever meeting with them from any other,
was disgusted, and attended his preaching no more. I had some years before
compos’d a little Liturgy, or form of prayer, for my own private use (viz., in
1728), entitled,
Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion. I return’d to the use
of this, and went no more to the public assemblies. My conduct might be
blameable, but I leave it, without attempting further to excuse it; my present
purpose being to relate facts, and not to make apologies for them.169.

It was about this time I conceiv’d the bold and arduous project of
arriving at moral perfection. I wish’d to live without committing any fault at
any time; I would conquer all that either natural inclination, custom, or
company might lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right and
wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one and avoid the other. But
I soon found I had undertaken a task of more difficulty than I bad imagined.
While my care was employ’d in guarding against one fault, I was often surprised
by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; inclination was sometimes
too strong for reason. I concluded, at length, that the mere speculative
conviction that it was our interest to be completely virtuous, was not
sufficient to prevent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must be
broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we can have any
dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of conduct. For this purpose I
therefore contrived the following method.170.

In the various enumerations of the moral virtues I had met with in
my reading, I found the catalogue more or less numerous, as different writers
included more or fewer ideas under the same name. Temperance, for example, was
by some confined to eating and drinking, while by others it was extended to
mean the moderating every other pleasure, appetite, inclination, or passion,
bodily or mental, even to our avarice and ambition. I propos’d to myself, for
the sake of clearness, to use rather more names, with fewer ideas annex’d to
each, than a few names with more ideas; and I included under thirteen names of
virtues all that at that time occurr’d to me as necessary or desirable, and
annexed to each a short precept, which fully express’d the extent I gave to its

These names of virtues, with their precepts, were:

  1. Temperance. Eat not to
    dullness; drink not to elevation.
  2. Silence. Speak not but what
    may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order. Let all your things
    have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution. Resolve to perform
    what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality. Make no expense but
    to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste nothing.
  6. Industry. Lose no time; be
    always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful
    deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak
  8. Justice. Wrong none by doing
    injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.
  9. Moderation. Avoid extreams;
    forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no
    uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation.
  11. Tranquillity. Be not
    disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity. Rarely use venery
    but for health or offspring, never to dulness, weakness, or the injury of your
    own or another’s peace or reputation.
  13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and

My intention being to acquire the habitude of all these
virtues, I judg’d it would be well not to distract my attention by attempting
the whole at once, but to fix it on one of them at a time; and, when I should
be master of that, then to proceed to another, and so on, till I should have
gone thro’ the thirteen; and, as the previous acquisition of some might
facilitate the acquisition of certain others, I arrang’d them with that view,
as they stand above. Temperance first, as it tends to procure that coolness and
clearness of head, which is so necessary where constant vigilance was to be
kept up, and guard maintained against the unremitting attraction of ancient
habits, and the force of perpetual temptations. This being acquir’d and
establish’d, Silence would be more easy; and my desire being to gain knowledge
at the same time that I improv’d in virtue, and considering that in
conversation it was obtain’d rather by the use of the ears than of the tongue,
and therefore wishing to break a habit I was getting into of prattling,
punning, and joking, which only made me acceptable to trifling company, I gave
Silence the second place. This and the next, Order,
I expected would allow me
more time for attending to my project and my studies. Resolution, once become
habitual, would keep me firm in my endeavors to obtain all the subsequent
virtues; Frugality and Industry freeing me from my remaining debt, and
producing affluence and independence, would make more easy the practice of
Sincerity and Justice, etc., etc. Conceiving then, that, agreeably to the
advice of Pythagoras in his Golden Verses, daily examination would be
necessary, I contrived the following method for conducting that

I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of the
virtues. I rul’d each page with red ink, so as to have seven columns, one for
each day of the week, marking each column with a letter for the day. I cross’d
these columns with thirteen red lines, marking the beginning of each line with
the first letter of one of the virtues, on which line, and in its proper
column, I might mark, by a little black spot, every fault I found upon
examination to have been committed respecting that virtue upon that day.173.

Form of the pages.

I determined to give a week’s strict attention to each of
the virtues successively. Thus, in the first week, my great guard was to avoid
every the least offence against Temperance, leaving the other virtues to their
ordinary chance, only marking every evening the faults of the day. Thus, if in
the first week I could keep my first line, marked T, clear of spots, I suppos’d
the habit of that virtue so much strengthen’d and its opposite weaken’d, that I
might venture extending my attention to include the next, and for the following
week keep both lines clear of spots. Proceeding thus to the last, I could go
thro’ a course compleat in thirteen weeks, and four courses in a year. And like
him who, having a garden to weed, does not attempt to eradicate all the bad
herbs at once, which would exceed his reach and his strength, but works on one
of the beds at a time, and, having accomplish’d the first, proceeds to a
second, so I should have, I hoped, the encouraging pleasure of seeing on my
pages the progress I made in virtue, by clearing successively my lines of their
spots, till in the end, by a number of courses, I should he happy in viewing a
clean book, after a thirteen weeks’ daily examination.176.

This my little book had for its motto these lines from Addison’s


“Here will I hold. If there’s a power above us 
(And that there is all nature cries aloud 
Thro’ all her works), He must delight in virtue; 
And that which he delights in must be happy.” 

Another from Cicero,

“O vitae Philosophia dux! O virtutum indagatrix 
expultrixque vitiorum! Unus dies, bene et ex praeceptis 
tuis actus, peccanti immortalitati est anteponendus.” 

Another from the Proverbs of Solomon, speaking of wisdom
or virtue:

“Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand 
riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, 
and all her paths are peace.” iii. 16, 17. 

And conceiving God to be the fountain of wisdom, I
thought it right and necessary to solicit his assistance for obtaining it; to
this end I formed the following little prayer, which was prefix’d to my tables
of examination, for daily use.177.

O powerful Goodness! bountiful Father! merciful
Guide! increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest.
strengthen my resolutions to perform what that wisdom dictates. Accept my kind
offices to thy other children as the only return in my power for thy continual
favors to me

I used also sometimes a little prayer which I took from Thomson’s
Poems, viz.: 179.

“Father of light and life, thou Good Supreme! 
O teach me what is good; teach me Thyself! 
Save me from folly, vanity, and vice, 
From every low pursuit; and fill my soul 
With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure;5.
Sacred, substantial, never-fading bliss!” 

The precept of Order requiring
that every part of my
business should have its allotted time
, one page in my little book contain’d
the following scheme of employment for the twenty-four hours of a natural day:


I enter’d upon the execution of this plan for
self-examination, and continu’d it with occasional intermissions for some time.
I was surpris’d to find myself so much fuller of faults than I had imagined;
but I had the satisfaction of seeing them diminish. To avoid the trouble of
renewing now and then my little book, which, by scraping out the marks on the
paper of old faults to make room for new ones in a new course, became full of
holes, I transferr’d my tables and precepts to the ivory leaves of a memorandum
book, on which the lines were drawn with red ink, that made a durable stain,
and on those lines I mark’d my faults with a black-lead pencil, which marks I
could easily wipe out with a wet sponge. After a while I went thro’ one course
only in a year, and afterward only one in several years, till at length I
omitted them entirely, being employ’d in voyages and business abroad, with a
multiplicity of affairs that interfered; but I always carried my little book
with me.182.

My scheme of ORDER gave me the most
trouble; and I found that, tho’ it might be practicable where a man’s business
was such as to leave him the disposition of his time, that of a journeyman
printer, for instance, it was not possible to be exactly observed by a master,
who must mix with the world, and often receive people of business at their own
hours. Order, too, with regard to places for things, papers, etc., I found
extreamly difficult to acquire. I had not been early accustomed to it, and,
having an exceeding good memory, I was not so sensible of the inconvenience
attending want of method. This article, therefore, cost me so much painful
attention, and my faults in it vexed me so much, and I made so little progress
in amendment, and had such frequent relapses, that I was almost ready to give
up the attempt, and content myself with a faulty character in that respect,
like the man who, in buying an ax of a smith, my neighbour, desired to have the
whole of its surface as bright as the edge. The smith consented to grind it
bright for him if he would turn the wheel; he turn’d, while the smith press’d
the broad face of the ax hard and heavily on the stone, which made the turning
of it very fatiguing. The man came every now and then from the wheel to see how
the work went on, and at length would take his ax as it was, without farther
grinding. “No,” said the smith, “turn on, turn on; we shall have it bright
by-and-by; as yet, it is only speckled.” “Yes,” said the man, ”
but I think I
like a speckled ax best
.” And I believe this may have been the case with many,
who, having, for want of some such means as I employ’d, found the difficulty of
obtaining good and breaking bad habits in other points of vice and virtue, have
given up the struggle, and concluded that ”
a speckled ax was best“; for
something, that pretended to be reason, was every now and then suggesting to me
that such extream nicety as I exacted of myself might be a kind of foppery in
morals, which, if it were known, would make me ridiculous; that a perfect
character might be attended with the inconvenience of being envied and hated;
and that a benevolent man should allow a few faults in himself, to keep his
friends in countenance.183.

In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order; and now
I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But, on
the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of
obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by the endeavour, a better and
a happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it; as
those who aim at perfect writing by imitating the engraved copies, tho’ they
never reach the wish’d-for excellence of those copies, their hand is mended by
the endeavor, and is tolerable while it continues fair and legible.184.

It may be well my posterity should be informed that to this little
artifice, with the blessing of God, their ancestor ow’d the constant felicity
of his life, down to his 79th year, in which this is written. What reverses may
attend the remainder is in the hand of Providence; but, if they arrive, the
reflection on past happiness enjoy’d ought to help his bearing them with more
resignation. To Temperance he ascribes his long-continued health, and what is
still left to him of a good constitution; to Industry and Frugality, the early
easiness of his circumstances and acquisition of his fortune, with all that
knowledge that enabled him to be a useful citizen, and obtained for him some
degree of reputation among the learned; to Sincerity and Justice, the
confidence of his country, and the honorable employs it conferred upon him; and
to the joint influence of the whole mass of the virtues, even in the imperfect
state he was able to acquire them, all that evenness of temper, and that
cheerfulness in conversation, which makes his company still sought for, and
agreeable even to his younger acquaintance. I hope, therefore, that some of my
descendants may follow the example and reap the benefit.185.

It will be remark’d that, tho’ my scheme was not wholly without
religion, there was in it no mark of any of the distingishing tenets of any
particular sect. I had purposely avoided them; for, being fully persuaded of
the utility and excellency of my method, and that it might be serviceable to
people in all religions, and intending some time or other to publish it, I
would not have any thing in it that should prejudice any one, of any sect,
against it. I purposed writing a little comment on each virtue, in which I
would have shown the advantages of possessing it, and the mischiefs attending
its opposite vice; and I should have called my book The Art
Of Virtue
, because it would have shown the means and manner of obtaining
virtue, which would have distinguished it from the mere exhortation to be good,
that does not instruct and indicate the means, but is like the apostle’s man of
verbal charity, who only without showing to the naked and hungry how or where
they might get clothes or victuals, exhorted them to be fed and clothed.–James
ii. 15, 16.186.

But it so happened that my intention of writing and publishing this
comment was never fulfilled. I did, indeed, from time to time, put down short
hints of the sentiments, reasonings, etc., to be made use of in it, some of
which I have still by me; but the necessary close attention to private business
in the earlier part of thy life, and public business since, have occasioned my
postponing it; for, it being connected in my mind with a great and extensive
, that required the whole man to execute, and which an unforeseen
succession of employs prevented my attending to, it has hitherto remain’d

In this piece it was my design to explain and enforce this doctrine,
that vicious actions are not hurtful because they are forbidden, but forbidden
because they are hurtful, the nature of man alone considered; that it was,
therefore, every one’s interest to be virtuous who wish’d to be happy even in
this world; and I should, from this circumstance (there being always in the
world a number of rich merchants, nobility, states, and princes, who have need
of honest instruments for the management of their affairs, and such being so
rare), have endeavored to convince young persons that no qualities were so
likely to make a poor man’s fortune as those of probity and integrity.188.

My list of virtues contain’d at first but twelve; but a Quaker
friend having kindly informed me that I was generally thought proud; that my
pride show’d itself frequently in conversation; that I was not content with
being in the right when discussing any point, but was overbearing, and rather
insolent, of which he convinc’d me by mentioning several instances; I
determined endeavouring to cure myself, if I could, of this vice or folly among
the rest, and I added Humility to my list) giving an extensive meaning to the

I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of this
virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appearance of it. I made it a
rule to forbear all direct contradiction to the sentiments of others, and all
positive assertion of my own. I even forbid myself, agreeably to the old laws
of our Junto, the use of every word or expression in the language that imported
a fix’d opinion, such as certainly, undoubtedly, etc., and I adopted, instead
of them, I conceive, I apprehend,
or I imagine a thing to be so or so; or it so
appears to me at present
. When another asserted something that I thought an
error, I deny’d myself the pleasure of contradicting him abruptly, and of
showing immediately some absurdity in his proposition; and in answering I began
by observing that in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right,
but in the present case there appear’d or seem’d to me some difference, etc. I
soon found the advantage of this change in my manner; the conversations I
engag’d in went on more pleasantly. The modest way in which I propos’d my
opinions procur’d them a readier recep tion and less contradiction; I had less
mortification when I was found to be in the wrong, and I more easily prevail’d
with others to give up their mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in
the right.190.

And this mode, which I at first put on with some violence to natural
inclination, became at length so easy, and so habitual to me, that perhaps for
these fifty years past no one has ever heard a dogmatical expression escape me.
And to this habit (after my character of integrity) I think it principally
owing that I had early so much weight with my fellow-citizens when I proposed
new institutions, or alterations in the old, and so much influence in public
councils when I became a member; for I was but a bad speaker, never eloquent,
subject to much hesitation in my choice of words, hardly correct in language,
and yet I generally carried my points.191.

In reality, there is, perhaps, no one of our natural passions so
hard to subdue as pride. Disguise it, struggle with it, beat it down, stifle
it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive, and will every now
and then peep out and show itself; you will see it, perhaps, often in this
history; for, even if I could conceive that I had compleatly overcome it, I
should probably be proud of my humility.192.

[Thus far written at Passy, 1741.]193.

[“I am now about to write at home, August, 1788,
but can not have the help expected from my papers, many of them being lost in
the war. I have, however, found the following.”

HAVING mentioned a great and extensive
project which I had conceiv’d, it seems proper that some account should be here
given of that project and its object. Its first rise in my mind appears in the
following little paper, accidentally preserv’d, viz.:194.

Observations on my reading history, in Library, May 19th, 1731.195.

“That the great affairs of the world, the wars,
revolutions, etc., are carried on and affected by parties.

“That the view of these parties is their present
general interest, or what they take to be such.

“That the different views of these different parties
occasion all confusion.

“That while a party is carrying on a general design,
each man has his particular private interest in view.

“That as soon as a party has gain’d its general point,
each member becomes intent upon his particular interest; which, thwarting
others, breaks that party into divisions, and occasions more confusion.

“That few in public affairs act from a meer view of
the good of their country, whatever they may pretend; and, tho’ their actings
bring real good to their country, yet men primarily considered that their own
and their country’s interest was united, and did not act from a principle of

“That fewer still, in public affairs, act with a view
to the good of mankind.

“There seems to me at present to be great occasion for
raising a United Party for Virtue, by forming the virtuous and good men of all
nations into a regular body, to be govern’d by suitable good and wise rules,
which good and wise men may probably be more unanimous in their obedience to,
than common people are to common laws.

“I at present think that whoever attempts this aright,
and is well qualified, can not fail of pleasing God, and of meeting with
success. B. F.”

Revolving this project in my mind, as to be undertaken hereafter,
when my circumstances should afford me the necessary leisure, I put down from
time to time, on pieces of paper, such thoughts as occurr’d to me respecting
it. Most of these are lost; but I find one purporting to be the substance of an
intended creed) containing, as I thought, the essentials of every known
religion, and being free of every thing that might shock the professors of any
religion. It is express’d in these words, viz.:205.

“That there is one God, who made all things.206.

“That he governs the world by his providence.207.

“That he ought to be worshiped by adoration, prayer,
and thanksgiving.

“But that the most acceptable service of God is doing
good to man.

“That the soul is immortal.210.

“And that God will certainly reward virtue and punish
vice either here or hereafter.”

My ideas at that time were, that the sect should be begun and spread
at first among young and single men only; that each person to be initiated
should not only declare his assent to such creed, but should have exercised
himself with the thirteen weeks’ examination and practice of the virtues) as in
the before-mention’d model; that the existence of such a society should he kept
a secret, till it was become considerable, to prevent solicitations for the
admission of improper persons, but that the members should each of them search
among his acquaintance for ingenuous, well-disposed youths, to whom, with
prudent caution, the scheme should be grad ually communicated; that the members
should engage to afford their advice, assistance, and support to each other in
promoting one another’s interests, business, and advancement in life; that, for
distinction, we should be call’d
The Society of the Free and Easy: free, as
being, by the general practice and habit of the virtues, free from the dominion
of vice; and particularly by the practice of industry and frugality, free from
debt, which exposes a man to confinement, and a species of slavery to his

This is as much as I can now recollect of the project, except that I
communicated it in part to two young men, who adopted it with some enthusiasm;
but my then narrow circumstances, and the necessity I was under of sticking
close to my business, occasion’d my postponing the further prosecution of it at
that time; and my multifarious occupations, public and private, induc’d me to
continue postponing, so that it has been omitted till I have no longer strength
or activity left sufficient for such an enterprise; tho’ I am still of opinion
that it was a practicable scheme, and might have been very useful, by forming a
great number of good citizens; and I was not discourag’d by the seeming
magnitude of the undertaking, as I have always thought that one man of
tolerable abilities may work great changes, and accomplish great affairs among
mankind, if he first forms a good plan, and, cutting off all amusements or
other employments that would divert his attention, makes the execution of that
same plan his sole study and business.213.

In 1732 I first publish’d my Almanack, under the name of
; it was continu’d by me about twenty-five years, commonly call’d
Richard’s Almanac
. I endeavor’d to make it both entertaining and useful, and it
accordingly came to be in such demand, that I reap’d considerable profit from
it, vending annually near ten thousand. And observing that it was generally
read, scarce any neighborhood in the province being without it, I consider’d it
as a proper vehicle for conveying instruction among the common people, who
bought scarcely any other books; I therefore filled all the little spaces that
occurr’d between the remarkable days in the calendar with proverbial sentences,
chiefly such as inculcated industry and frugality, as the means of procuring
wealth, and thereby securing virtue; it being more difficult for a man in want,
to act always honestly, as, to use here one of those proverbs, it is hard for
an empty sack to stand up-right

These proverbs, which contained the wisdom of many ages and nations,
I assembled and form’d into a connected discourse prefix’d to the Almanack of
1757, as the harangue of a wise old man to the people attending an auction. The
bringing all these scatter’d counsels thus into a focus enabled them to make
greater impression. The piece, being universally approved, was copied in all
the newspapers of the Continent; reprinted in Britain on a broad side, to be
stuck up in houses; two translations were made of it in French, and great
numbers bought by the clergy and gentry, to distribute gratis among their poor
parishioners and tenants. In Pennsylvania, as it discouraged useless expense in
foreign superfluities, some thought it had its share of influence in producing
that growing plenty of money which was observable for several years after its

I considered my newspaper, also, as another means of communicating
instruction, and in that view frequently reprinted in it extracts from the
Spectator, and other moral writers; and sometimes publish’d little pieces of my
own, which had been first compos’d for reading in our Junto. Of these are a
Socratic dialogue, tending to prove that, whatever might be his parts and
abilities, a vicious man could not properly be called a man of sense; and a
discourse on self-denial, showing that virtue was not secure till its practice
became a habitude, and was free from the opposition of contrary inclinations.
These may be found in the papers about the beginning of 1735.216.

In the conduct of my newspaper, I carefully excluded all libelling
and personal abuse, which is of late years become so disgraceful to our
country. Whenever I was solicited to insert anything of that kind, and the
writers pleaded, as they generally did, the liberty of the press, and that a
newspaper was like a stagecoach, in which any one who would pay had a right to
a place, my answer was, that I would print the piece separately if desired, and
the author might have as many copies as he pleased to distribute himself, but
that I would not take upon me to spread his detraction; and that, having
contracted with my subscribers to furnish them with what might be either useful
or entertaining, I could not fill their papers with private altercation, in
which they had no concern, without doing them manifest injustice. Now, many of
our printers make no scruple of gratifying the malice of individuals by false
accusations of the fairest characters among ourselves, augmenting animosity
even to the producing of duels; and are, moreover, so indiscreet as to print
scurrilous reflections on the government of neighboring states, and even on the
conduct of our best national allies, which may be attended with the most
pernicious consequences. These things I mention as a caution to young printers,
and that they may be encouraged not to pollute their presses and disgrace their
profession by such infamous practices, but refuse steadily, as they may see by
my example that such a course of conduct will not, on the whole, be injurious
to their interests.217.

In 1733 I sent one of my journeymen to Charleston, South Carolina,
where a printer was wanting. I furnish’d him with a press and letters, on an
agreement of partnership, by which I was to receive one-third of the profits of
the business, paying one-third of the expense. He was a man of learning, and
honest but ignorant in matters of account; and, tho’ he sometimes made me
remittances, I could get no account from him, nor any satisfactory state of our
partnership while he lived. On his decease, the business was continued by his
widow, who, being born and bred in Holland, where, as I have been inform’d, the
knowledge of accounts makes a part of female education, she not only sent me as
clear a state as she could find of the transactions past, but continued to
account with the greatest regularity and exactness every quarter afterwards,
and managed the business with such success, that she not only brought up
reputably a family of children, but, at the expiration of the term, was able to
purchase of me the printing-house, and establish her son in it.218.

I mention this affair chiefly for the sake of recommending that
branch of education for our young females, as likely to be of more use to them
and their children, in case of widowhood, than either music or dancing, by
preserving them from losses by imposition of crafty men, and enabling them to
continue, perhaps, a profitable mercantile house, with establish’d
correspondence, till a son is grown up fit to undertake and go on with it, to
the lasting advantage and enriching of the family.219.

About the year 1734 there arrived among us from Ireland a young
Presbyterian preacher, named Hemphill, who delivered with a good voice, and
apparently extempore, most excellent discourses, which drew together
considerable numbers of different persuasion, who join’d in admiring them.
Among the rest, I became one of his constant hearers, his sermons pleasing me,
as they had little of the dogmatical kind, but inculcated strongly the practice
of virtue, or what in the religious stile are called good works. Those,
however, of our congregation, who considered themselves as orthodox
Presbyterians, disapprov’d his doctrine, and were join’d by most of the old
clergy, who arraign’d him of heterodoxy before the synod, in order to have him
silenc’d. I became his zealous partisan, and contributed all I could to raise a
party in his favour, and we combated for him a while with some hopes of
success. There was much scribbling pro and con upon the occasion; and finding
that, tho’ an elegant preacher, he was but a poor writer, I lent him my pen and
wrote for him two or three pamphlets, and one piece in the Gazette of April,
1735. Those pamphlets, as is generally the case with controversial writings,
tho’ eagerly read at the time, were soon out of vogue, and I question whether a
single copy of them now exists.220.

During the contest an unlucky occurrence hurt his cause exceedingly.
One of our adversaries having heard him preach a sermon that was much admired,
thought he had somewhere read the sermon before, or at least a part of it. On
search he found that part quoted at length, in one of the British Reviews, from
a discourse of Dr. Foster’s. This detection gave many of our party disgust, who
accordingly abandoned his cause, and occasion’d our more speedy discomfiture in
the synod. I stuck by him, however, as I rather approv’d his giving us good
sermons compos’d by others, than bad ones of his own manufacture, tho’ the
latter was the practice of our common teachers. He afterward acknowledg’d to me
that none of those he preach’d were his own; adding, that his memory was such
as enabled him to retain and repeat any sermon after one reading only. On our
defeat, he left us in search elsewhere of better fortune, and I quitted the
congregation, never joining it after, tho’ I continu’d many years my
subscription for the support of its ministers.221.

I had begun in 1733 to study languages; I soon made myself so much a
master of the French as to be able to read the books with ease. I then
undertook the Italian. An acquaintance, who was also learning it, us’d often to
tempt me to play chess with him. Finding this took up too much of the time I
had to spare for study, I at length refus’d to play any more, unless on this
condition, that the victor in every game should have a right to impose a task,
either in parts of the grammar to be got by heart, or in translations, etc.,
which tasks the vanquish’d was to perform upon honour, before our next meeting.
As we play’d pretty equally, we thus beat one another into that language. I
afterwards with a little painstaking, acquir’d as much of the Spanish as to
read their books also.222.

I have already mention’d that I had only one year’s instruction in a
Latin school, and that when very young, after which I neglected that language
entirely. But, when I had attained an acquaintance with the French, Italian,
and Spanish, I was surpriz’d to find, on looking over a Latin Testament, that I
understood so much more of that language than I had imagined, which encouraged
me to apply myself again to the study of it, and I met with more success, as
those preceding languages had greatly smooth’d my way.223.

From these circumstances, I have thought that there is some
inconsistency in our common mode of teaching languages. We are told that it is
proper to begin first with the Latin, and, having acquir’d that, it will be
more easy to attain those modern languages which are deriv’d from it; and yet
we do not begin with the Greek, in order more easily to acquire the Latin. It
is true that, if you can clamber and get to the top of a staircase without
using the steps, you will more easily gain them in descending; but certainly,
if you begin with the lowest you will with more ease ascend to the top; and I
would therefore offer it to the consideration of those who superintend the
education of our youth, whether, since many of those who begin with the Latin
quit the same after spending some years without having made any great
proficiency, and what they have learnt becomes almost useless, so that their
time has been lost, it would not have been better to have begun with the
French, proceeding to the Italian, etc.; for, tho’, after spending the same
time, they should quit the study of languages and never arrive at the Latin,
they would, however, have acquired another tongue or two, that, being in modern
use, might be serviceable to them in common life.224.

After ten years’ absence from Boston, and having become easy in my
circumstances, I made a journey thither to visit my relations, which I could
not sooner well afford. In returning, I call’d at Newport to see my brother,
then settled there with his printing-house. Our former differences were
forgotten, and our meeting was very cordial and affectionate. He was fast
declining in his health, and requested of me that, in case of his death, which
he apprehended not far distant, I would take home his son, then but ten years
of age, and bring him up to the printing business. This I accordingly
perform’d, sending him a few years to school before I took him into the office.
His mother carried on the business till he was grown up, when I assisted him
with an assortment of new types, those of his father being in a manner worn
out. Thus it was that I made my brother ample amends for the service I had
depriv’d him of by leaving him so early.225.

In 1736 I lost one of my sons, a fine boy of four years old, by the
small-pox, taken in the common way. I long regretted bitterly, and still regret
that I had not given it to him by inoculation. This I mention for the sake of
parents who omit that operation, on the supposition that they should never
forgive themselves if a child died under it; my example showing that the regret
may be the same either way, and that, therefore, the safer should be

Our club, the Junto, was found so useful, and afforded such
satisfaction to the members, that several were desirous of introducing their
friends, which could not well be done without exceeding what we had settled as
a convenient number, viz., twelve. We had from the beginning made it a rule to
keep our institution a secret, which was pretty well observ’d; the intention
was to avoid applications of improper persons for admittance, some of whom,
perhaps, we might find it difficult to refuse. I was one of those who were
against any addition to our number, but, instead of it, made in writing a
proposal, that every member separately should endeavor to form a subordinate
club, with the same rules respecting queries, etc., and without informing them
of the connection with the Junto. The advantages proposed were, the improvement
of so many more young citizens by the use of our institutions; our better
acquaintance with the general sentiments of the inhabitants on any occasion, as
the Junto member might propose what queries we should desire, and was to report
to the Junto what pass’d in his separate club; the promotion of our particular
interests in business by more extensive recommendation, and the increase of our
influence in public affairs, and our power of doing good by spreading thro’ the
several clubs the sentiments of the Junto.227.

The project was approv’d, and every member undertook to form his
club, but they did not all succeed. Five or six only were compleated, which
were called by different names, as the Vine, the Union, the Band, etc. They
were useful to themselves, and afforded us a good deal of amusement,
information, and instruction, besides answering, in some considerable degree,
our views of influencing the public opinion on particular occasions, of which I
shall give some instances in course of time as they happened.228.

My first promotion was my being chosen, in 1736, clerk of the
General Assembly. The choice was made that year without opposition; but the
year following, when I was again propos’d (the choice, like that of the
members, being annual), a new member made a long speech against me, in order to
favour some other candidate. I was, however, chosen, which was the more
agreeable to me, as, besides the pay for the immediate service as clerk, the
place gave me a better opportunity of keeping up an interest among the members,
which secur’d to me the business of printing the votes, laws, paper money, and
other occasional jobbs for the public, that, on the whole, were very

I therefore did not like the opposition of this new member, who was
a gentleman of fortune and education, with talents that were likely to give
him, in time, great influence in the House, which, indeed, afterwards happened.
I did not, however, aim at gaining his favour by paying any servile respect to
him, but, after some time, took this other method. Having heard that he had in
his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him,
expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the
favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I
return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of
the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never
done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness
to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our
friendship continued to his death. This is another instance of the truth of an
old maxim I had learned, which says, ”
He that has once done you a kindness will
be more ready to do you another, than he whom you yourself have obliged.
” And
it shows how much more profitable it is prudently to remove, than to resent,
return, and continue inimical proceedings.230.

In 1737, Colonel Spotswood, late governor of Virginia, and then
postmaster-general, being dissatisfied with the conduct of his deputy at
Philadelphia, respecting some negligence in rendering, and inexactitude of his
accounts, took from him the commission and offered it to me. I accepted it
readily, and found it of great advantage; for, tho’ the salary was small, it
facilitated the correspondence that improv’d my newspaper, increas’d the number
demanded, as well as the advertisements to be inserted, so that it came to
afford me a considerable income. My old competitor’s newspaper declin’d
proportionably, and I was satisfy’d without retaliating his refusal, while
postmaster, to permit my papers being carried by the riders. Thus he suffer’d
greatly from his neglect in due accounting; and I mention it as a lesson to
those young men who may be employ’d in managing affairs for others, that they
should always render accounts, and make remittances, with great clearness and
punctuality. The character of observing such a conduct is the most powerful of
all recommendations to new employments and increase of business.231.

I began now to turn my thoughts a little to public affairs,
beginning, however, with small matters. The city watch was one of the first
things that I conceiv’d to want regulation. It was managed by the constables of
the respective wards in turn; the constable warned a number of housekeepers to
attend him for the night. Those who chose never to attend paid him six
shillings a year to be excus’d, which was suppos’d to be for hiring
substitutes, but was, in reality, much more than was necessary for that
purpose, and made the constableship a place of profit; and the constable, for a
little drink, often got such ragamuffins about him as a watch, that respectable
housekeepers did not choose to mix with. Walking the rounds, too, was often
neglected, and most of the nights spent in tippling. I thereupon wrote a paper,
to be read in Junto, representing these irregularities, but insisting more
particularly on the inequality of this six-shilling tax of the constables,
respecting the circumstances of those who paid it, since a poor widow
housekeeper, all whose property to be guarded by the watch did not perhaps
exceed the value of fifty pounds, paid as much as the wealthiest merchant, who
had thousands of pounds worth of goods in his stores.232.

On the whole, I proposed as a more effectual watch, the hiring of
proper men to serve constantly in that business; and as a more equitable way of
supporting the charge the levying a tax that should be proportion’d to the
property. This idea, being approv’d by the Junto, was communicated to the other
clubs, but as arising in each of them; and though the plan was not immediately
carried into execution, yet, by preparing the minds of people for the change,
it paved the way for the law obtained a few years after, when the members of
our clubs were grown into more influence.233.

About this time I wrote a paper (first to be read in Junto, but it
was afterward publish’d) on the different accidents and carelessnesses by which
houses were set on fire, with cautions against them, and means proposed of
avoiding them. This was much spoken of as a useful piece, and gave rise to a
project, which soon followed it, of forming a company for the more ready
extinguishing of fires, and mutual assistance in removing and securing the
goods when in danger. Associates in this scheme were presently found, amounting
to thirty. Our articles of agreement oblig’d every member to keep always in
good order, and fit for use, a certain number of leather buckets, with strong
bags and baskets (for packing and transporting of goods), which were to be
brought to every fire; and we agreed to meet once a month and spend a social
evening together, in discoursing and communicating such ideas as occurred to us
upon the subject of fires, as might be useful in our conduct on such

The utility of this institution soon appeared, and many more
desiring to be admitted than we thought convenient for one company, they were
advised to form another, which was accordingly done; and this went on, one new
company being formed after another, till they became so numerous as to include
most of the inhabitants who were men of property; and now, at the time of my
writing this, tho’ upward of fifty years since its establishment, that which I
first formed, called the Union Fire Company, still subsists and flourishes,
tho’ the first members are all deceas’d but myself and one, who is older by a
year than I am. The small fines that have been paid by members for absence at
the monthly meetings have been apply’d to the purchase of fire-engines,
ladders, fire-hooks, and other useful implements for each company, so that I
question whether there is a city in the world better provided with the means of
putting a stop to beginning conflagrations; and, in fact, since these
institutions, the city has never lost by fire more than one or two houses at a
time, and the flames have often been extinguished before the house in which
they began has been half consumed.235.

In 1739 arrived among us from Ireland the Reverend Mr. Whitefield,
who had made himself remarkable there as an itinerant preacher. He was at first
permitted to preach in some of our churches; but the clergy, taking a dislike
to him, soon refus’d him their pulpits, and he was oblig’d to preach in the
fields. The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons
were enormous, and it was matter of speculation to me, who was one of the
number, to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his hearers,
and bow much they admir’d and respected him, notwithstanding his common abuse
of them, by assuring them that they were naturally half beasts and half devils.
It was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners of our inhabitants.
From being thoughtless or indifferent about religion, it seem’d as if all the
world were growing religious, so that one could not walk thro’ the town in an
evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street.236.

And it being found inconvenient to assemble in the open air, subject
to its inclemencies, the building of a house to meet in was no sooner propos’d,
and persons appointed to receive contributions, but sufficient sums were soon
receiv’d to procure the ground and erect the building, which was one hundred
feet long and seventy broad, about the size of Westminster Hall; and the work
was carried on with such spirit as to be finished in a much shorter time than
could have been expected. Both house and ground were vested in trustees,
expressly for the use of any preacher of any religious persuasion who might
desire to say something to the people at Philadelphia; the design in building
not being to accommodate any particular sect, but the inhabitants in general;
so that even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary to preach
Mohammedanism to us, he would find a pulpit at his service.237.

Mr. Whitefield, in leaving us, went preaching all the way thro’ the
colonies to Georgia. The settlement of that province had lately been begun,
but, instead of being made with hardy, industrious husbandmen, accustomed to
labor, the only people fit for such an enterprise, it was with families of
broken shop-keepers and other insolvent debtors, many of indolent and idle
habits, taken out of the jails, who, being set down in the woods, unqualified
for clearing land, and unable to endure the hardships of a new settlement,
perished in numbers, leaving many helpless children unprovided for. The sight
of their miserable situation inspir’d the benevolent heart of Mr. Whitefield
with the idea of building an Orphan House there, in which they might be
supported and educated. Returning northward, he preach’d up this charity, and
made large collections, for his eloquence had a wonderful power over the hearts
and purses of his hearers, of which I myself was an instance.238.

I did not disapprove of the design, but, as Georgia was then
destitute of materials and workmen, and it was proposed to send them from
Philadelphia at a great expense, I thought it would have been better to have
built the house here, and brought the children to it. This I advis’d; but he
was resolute in his first project, rejected my counsel, and I therefore refus’d
to contribute. I happened soon after to attend one of his sermons, in the
course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a collection, and I
silently resolved he should get nothing from me, I had in my pocket a handful
of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he
proceeded I began to soften, and concluded to give the coppers. Another stroke
of his oratory made me asham’d of that, and determin’d me to give the silver;
and he finish’d so admirably, that I empty’d my pocket wholly into the
collector’s dish, gold and all. At this sermon there was also one of our club,
who, being of my sentiments respecting the building in Georgia, and suspecting
a collection might be intended, had, by precaution, emptied his pockets before
he came from home. Towards the conclusion of the discourse, however, he felt a
strong desire to give, and apply’d to a neighbour, who stood near him, to
borrow some money for the purpose. The application was unfortunately [made] to
perhaps the only man in the company who had the firmness not to be affected by
the preacher. His answer was, ”
At any other time, Friend Hopkinson, I would
lend to thee freely; but not now, for thee seems to be out of thy right

Some of Mr. Whitefield’s enemies affected to suppose that he would
apply these collections to his own private emolument; but I who was intimately
acquainted with him (being employed in printing his Sermons and Journals,
etc.), never had the least suspicion of his integrity, but am to this day
decidedly of opinion that he was in all his conduct a perfectly honest man, and
methinks my testimony in his favour ought to have the more weight, as we had no
religious connection. He us’d, indeed, sometimes to pray for my conversion, but
never had the satisfaction of believing that his prayers were heard. Ours was a
mere civil friendship, sincere on both sides, and lasted to his death.240.

The following instance will show something of the terms on which we
stood. Upon one of his arrivals from England at Boston, he wrote to me that he
should come soon to Philadelphia, but knew not where he could lodge when there,
as he understood his old friend and host, Mr. Benezet, was removed to
Germantown. My answer was, “You know my house; if you can make shift with its
scanty accommodations, you will be most heartily welcome.” He reply’d, that if
I made that kind offer for Christ’s sake, I should not miss of a reward. And I
returned, ”
Don’t let me be mistaken; it was not for Christ’s sake, but for your
.” One of our common acquaintance jocosely remark’d, that, knowing it to be
the custom of the saints, when they received any favour, to shift the burden of
the obligation from off their own shoulders, and place it in heaven, I had
contriv’d to fix it on earth.241.

The last time I saw Mr. Whitefield was in London, when he consulted
me about his Orphan House concern, and his purpose of appropriating it to the
establishment of a college.242.

He had a loud and clear voice, and articulated his words and
sentences so perfectly, that he might be heard and understood at a great
distance, especially as his auditories, however numerous, observ’d the most
exact silence. He preach’d one evening from the top of the Court-house steps,
which are in the middle of Market-street, and on the west side of
Second-street, which crosses it at right angles. Both streets were fill’d with
his hearers to a considerable distance. Being among the hindmost in
Market-street, I had the curiosity to learn how far he could be heard, by
retiring backwards down the street towards the river; and I found his voice
distinct till I came near Front-street, when some noise in that street obscur’d
it. Imagining then a semi-circle, of which my distance should be the radius,
and that it were fill’d with auditors, to each of whom I allow’d two square
feet, I computed that he might well be heard by more than thirty thousand. This
reconcil’d me to the newspaper accounts of his having preach’d to twenty-five
thousand people in the fields, and to the antient histories of generals
haranguing whole armies, of which I had sometimes doubted.243.

By hearing him often, I came to distinguish easily between sermons
newly compos’d, and those which he had often preach’d in the course of his
travels. His delivery of the latter was so improv’d by frequent repetitions
that every accent, every emphasis, every modulation of voice, was so perfectly
well turn’d and well plac’d, that, without being interested in the subject, one
could not help being pleas’d with the discourse; a pleasure of much the same
kind with that receiv’d from an excellent piece of musick. This is an advantage
itinerant preachers have over those who are stationary, as the latter can not
well improve their delivery of a sermon by so many rehearsals.244.

His writing and printing from time to time gave great advantage to
his enemies; unguarded expressions, and even erroneous opinions, delivered in
preaching, might have been afterwards explain’d or qualifi’d by supposing
others that might have accompani’d them, or they might have been deny’d; but
litera scripta monet. Critics attack’d his writings violently, and with so much
appearance of reason as to diminish the number of his votaries and prevent
their encrease; so that I am of opinion if he had never written any thing, he
would have left behind him a much more numerous and important sect, and his
reputation might in that case have been still growing, even after his death, as
there being nothing of his writing on which to found a censure and give him a
lower character, his proselytes would be left at liberty to feign for him as
great a variety of excellence as their enthusiastic admiration might wish him
to have possessed.245.

My business was now continually augmenting, and my circumstances
growing daily easier, my newspaper having become very profitable, as being for
a time almost the only one in this and the neighbouring provinces. I
experienced, too, the truth of the observation, ”
that after getting the first
hundred pound, it is more easy to get the second
,” money itself being of a
prolific nature.246.

The partnership at Carolina having succeeded, I was encourag’d to
engage in others, and to promote several of my workmen, who had behaved well,
by establishing them with printing-houses in different colonies, on the same
terms with that in Carolina. Most of them did well, being enabled at the end of
our term, six years, to purchase the types of me and go on working for
themselves, by which means several families were raised. Partnerships often
finish in quarrels; but I was happy in this, that mine were all carried on and
ended amicably, owing, I think, a good deal to the precaution of having very
explicitly settled, in our articles, every thing to be done by or expected from
each partner, so that there was nothing to dispute, which precaution I would
therefore recommend to all who enter into partnerships; for, whatever esteem
partners may have for, and confidence in each other at the time of the
contract, little jealousies and disgusts may arise, with ideas of inequality in
the care and burden of the business, etc., which are attended often with breach
of friendship and of the connection, perhaps with lawsuits and other
disagreeable consequences.247.

I had, on the whole, abundant reason to be satisfied with my being
established in Pennsylvania. There were, however, two things that I regretted,
there being no provision for defense, nor for a compleat education of youth; no
militia, nor any college. I therefore, in 1743, drew up a proposal for
establishing an academy; and at that time, thinking the Reverend Mr. Peters,
who was out of employ, a fit person to superintend such an institution, I
communicated the project to him; but he, having more profitable views in the
service of the proprietaries, which succeeded, declin’d the undertaking; and,
not knowing another at that time suitable for such a trust, I let the scheme
lie a while dormant. I succeeded better the next year, 1744, in proposing and
establishing a Philosophical Society. The paper I wrote for that purpose will
be found among my writings, when collected.248.

With respect to defense, Spain having been several years at war
against Great Britain, and being at length join’d by France, which brought us
into great danger; and the laboured and long-continued endeavour of our
governor, Thomas, to prevail with our Quaker Assembly to pass a militia law,
and make other provisions for the security of the province, having proved
abortive, I determined to try what might be done by a voluntary association of
the people. To promote this, I first wrote and published a pamphlet, entitled
Plain Truth, in which I stated our defenceless
situation in strong lights, with the necessity of union and discipline for our
defense, and promis’d to propose in a few days an association, to be generally
signed for that purpose. The pamphlet had a sudden and surprising effect. I was
call’d upon for the instrument of association, and having settled the draft of
it with a few friends, I appointed a meeting of the citizens in the large
building before mentioned. The house was pretty full; I had prepared a number
of printed copies, and provided pens and ink dispers’d all over the room. I
harangued them a little on the subject, read the paper, and explained it, and
then distributed the copies, which were eagerly signed, not the least objection
being made.249.

When the company separated, and the papers were collected, we found
above twelve hundred hands; and, other copies being dispersed in the country,
the subscribers amounted at length to upward of ten thousand. These all
furnished themselves as soon as they could with arms, formed themselves into
companies and regiments, chose their own officers, and met every week to be
instructed in the manual exercise, and other parts of military discipline. The
women, by subscriptions among themselves, provided silk colors, which they
presented to the companies, painted with different devices and mottos, which I

The officers of the companies composing the Philadelphia regiment,
being met, chose me for their colonel; but, conceiving myself unfit, I declin’d
that station, and recommended Mr. Lawrence, a fine person, and man of
influence, who was accordingly appointed. I then propos’d a lottery to defray
the expense of building a battery below the town, and furnishing it with
cannon. It filled expeditiously, and the battery was soon erected, the merlons
being fram’d of logs and fill’d with earth. We bought some old cannon from
Boston, but, these not being sufficient, we wrote to England for more,
soliciting, at the same time, our proprietaries for some assistance, tho’
without much expectation of obtaining it.251.

Meanwhile, Colonel Lawrence, William Allen, Abram Taylor, Esqr., and
myself were sent to New York by the associators, commission’d to borrow some
cannon of Governor Clinton. He at first refus’d us peremptorily; but at dinner
with his council, where there was great drinking of Madeira wine, as the custom
of that place then was, he softened by degrees, and said he would lend us six.
After a few more bumpers he advanc’d to ten; and at length he very
good-naturedly conceded eighteen. They were fine cannon, eighteen-pounders,
with their carriages, which we soon transported and mounted on our battery,
where the associators kept a nightly guard while the war lasted, and among the
rest I regularly took my turn of duty there as a common soldier.252.

My activity in these operations was agreeable to the governor and
council; they took me into confidence, and I was consulted by them in every
measure wherein their concurrence was thought useful to the association.
Calling in the aid of religion, I propos’d to them the proclaiming a fast, to
promote reformation, and implore the blessing of Heaven on our undertaking.
They embrac’d the motion; but, as it was the first fast ever thought of in the
province, the secretary had no precedent from which to draw the proclamation.
My education in New England, where a fast is proclaimed every year, was here of
some advantage: I drew it in the accustomed stile, it was translated into
German, printed in both languages, and divulg’d thro’ the province. This gave
the clergy of the different sects an opportunity of influencing their
congregations to join in the association, and it would probably have been
general among all but Quakers if the peace had not soon interven’d.253.

It was thought by some of my friends that, by my activity in these
affairs, I should offend that sect, and thereby lose my interest in the
Assembly of the province, where they formed a great majority. A young gentleman
who had likewise some friends in the House, and wished to succeed me as their
clerk, acquainted me that it was decided to displace me at the next election;
and he, therefore, in good will, advis’d me to resign, as more consistent with
my honour than being turn’d out. My answer to him was, that I had read or heard
of some public man who made it a rule never to ask for an office, and never to
refuse one when offer’d to him. “I approve,” says I, “of his rule, and will
practice it with a small addition; I shall never ask,
never refuse, nor ever
resign an office. If they will have my office of clerk to dispose of to
another, they shall take it from me. I will not, by giving it up, lose my right
of some time or other making reprisals on my adversaries.” I heard, however, no
more of this; I was chosen again unanimously as usual at the next election.
Possibly, as they dislik’d my late intimacy with the members of council, who
had join’d the governors in all the disputes about military preparations, with
which the House had long been harass’d, they might have been pleas’d if I would
voluntarily have left them; but they did not care to displace me on account
merely of my zeal for the association, and they could not well give another

Indeed I had some cause to believe that the defense of the country
was not disagreeable to any of them, provided they were not requir’d to assist
in it. And I found that a much greater number of them than I could have
imagined, tho’ against offensive war, were clearly for the defensive. Many
pamphlets pro and con were publish’d on the subject, and some by good Quakers,
in favour of defense, which I believe convinc’d most of their younger

A transaction in our fire company gave me some insight into their
prevailing sentiments. It had been propos’d that we should encourage the scheme
for building a battery by laying out the present stock, then about sixty
pounds, in tickets of the lottery. By our rules, no money could be dispos’d of
till the next meeting after the proposal. The company consisted of thirty
members, of which twenty-two were Quakers, and eight only of other persuasions.
We eight punctually attended the meeting; but, tho’ we thought that some of the
Quakers would join us, we were by no means sure of a majority. Only one Quaker,
Mr. James Morris, appear’d to oppose the measure. He expressed much sorrow that
it had ever been propos’d, as he said
Friends were all against it, and it would
create such discord as might break up the company. We told him that we saw no
reason for that; we were the minority, and if
Friends were against the measure,
and outvoted us, we must and should, agreeably to the usage of all societies,
submit. When the hour for business arriv’d it was mov’d to put the vote; he
allow’d we might then do it by the rules, but, as he could assure us that a
number of members intended to be present for the purpose of opposing it, it
would be but candid to allow a little time for their appearing.256.

While we were disputing this, a waiter came to tell me two gentlemen
below desir’d to speak with me. I went down, and found they were two of our
Quaker members. They told me there were eight of them assembled at a tavern
just by; that they were determin’d to come and vote with us if there should be
occasion, which they hop’d would not be the case, and desir’d we would not call
for their assistance if we could do without it, as their voting for such a
measure might embroil them with their elders and friends. Being thus secure of
a majority, I went up, and after a little seeming hesitation, agreed to a delay
of another hour. This Mr. Morris allow’d to be extreamly fair. Not one of his
opposing friends appear’d, at which he express’d great surprize; and, at the
expiration of the hour, we carry’d the resolution eight to one; and as, of the
twenty-two Quakers, eight were ready to vote with us, and thirteen, by their
absence, manifested that they were not inclin’d to oppose the measure, I
afterward estimated the proportion of Quakers sincerely against defense as one
to twenty-one only; for these were all regular members of that society, and in
good reputation among them, and had due notice of what was propos’d at that

The honorable and learned Mr. Logan, who had always been of that
sect, was one who wrote an address to them, declaring his approbation of
defensive war, and supporting his opinion by many strong arguments. He put into
my hands sixty pounds to be laid out in lottery tickets for the battery, with
directions to apply what prizes might be drawn wholly to that service. He told
me the following anecdote of his old master, William Penn, respecting defense.
He came over from England, when a young man, with that proprietary, and as his
secretary. It was war-time, and their ship was chas’d by an armed vessel,
suppos’d to be an enemy. Their captain prepar’d for defense; but told William
Penn and his company of Quakers, that he did not expect their assistance, and
they might retire into the cabin, which they did, except James Logan, who chose
to stay upon deck, and was quarter’d to a gun. The suppos’d enemy prov’d a
friend, so there was no fighting; but when the secretary went down to
communicate the intelligence, William Penn rebuk’d him severely for staying
upon deck, and undertaking to assist in defending the vessel, contrary to the
principles of Friends, especially as it had not been required by the captain.
This reproof, being before all the company, piqu’d the secretary, who answer’d,

I being thy servant, why did thee not order me to come down? But thee was
willing enough that I should stay and help to fight the ship when thee thought
there was danger.

My being many years in the Assembly, the majority of which were
constantly Quakers, gave me frequent opportunities of seeing the embarrassment
given them by their principle against war, whenever application was made to
them, by order of the crown, to grant aids for military purposes. They were
unwilling to offend government, on the one hand, by a direct refusal; and their
friends, the body of the Quakers, on the other, by a compliance contrary to
their principles; hence a variety of evasions to avoid complying, and modes of
disguising the compliance when it became unavoidable. The common mode at last
was, to grant money under the phrase of its being ”
for the king’s use,” and
never to inquire how it was applied.259.

But, if the demand was not directly from the crown, that phrase was
found not so proper, and some other was to be invented. As, when powder was
wanting (I think it was for the garrison at Louisburg), and the government of
New England solicited a grant of some from Pennsilvania, which was much urg’d
on the House by Governor Thomas, they could not grant money to buy powder,
because that was an ingredient of war; but they voted an aid to New England of
three thousand pounds, to he put into the hands of the governor, and
appropriated it for the purchasing of bread, flour, wheat, or other grain. Some
of the council, desirous of giving the House still further embarrassment,
advis’d the governor not to accept provision, as not being the thing he had
demanded; but be reply’d, “I shall take the money, for I understand very well
their meaning; other grain is gunpowder,” which he accordingly bought, and they
never objected to it.260.

It was in allusion to this fact that, when in our fire company we
feared the success of our proposal in favour of the lottery, and I had said to
my friend Mr. Syng, one of our members, “If we fail, let us move the purchase
of a fire-engine with the money; the Quakers can have no objection to that; and
then, if you nominate me and I you as a committee for that purpose, we will buy
a great gun, which is certainly a fire-engine.” “I see,” says he, “you have
improv’d by being so long in the Assembly; your equivocal project would be just
a match for their wheat or other grain.”261.

These embarrassments that the Quakers suffer’d from having
establish’d and published it as one of their principles that no kind of war was
lawful, and which, being once published, they could not afterwards, however
they might change their minds, easily get rid of, reminds me of what I think a
more prudent conduct in another sect among us, that of the Dunkers. I was
acquainted with one of its founders, Michael Welfare, soon after it appear’d.
He complain’d to me that they were grievously calumniated by the zealots of
other persuasions, and charg’d with abominable principles and practices, to
which they were utter strangers. I told him this had always been the case with
new sects, and that, to put a stop to such abuse, I imagin’d it might be well
to publish the articles of their belief, and the rules of their discipline. He
said that it had been propos’d among them, but not agreed to, for this reason:
“When we were first drawn together as a society,” says he, “it had pleased God
to enlighten our minds so far as to see that some doctrines, which we once
esteemed truths, were errors; and that others, which we had esteemed errors,
were real truths. From time to time He has been pleased to afford us farther
light, and our principles have been improving, and our errors diminishing. Now
we are not sure that we are arrived at the end of this progression, and at the
perfection of spiritual or theological knowledge; and we fear that, if we
should once print our confession of faith, we should feel ourselves as if bound
and confin’d by it, and perhaps be unwilling to receive farther improvement,
and our successors still more so, as conceiving what we their elders and
founders had done, to be something sacred, never to be departed from.”262.

This modesty in a sect is perhaps a singular instance in the history
of mankind, every other sect supposing itself in possession of all truth, and
that those who differ are so far in the wrong; like a man traveling in foggy
weather, those at some distance before him on the road he sees wrapped up in
the fog, as well as those behind him, and also the people in the fields on each
side, but near him all appears clear, tho’ in truth he is as much in the fog as
any of them. To avoid this kind of embarrassment, the Quakers have of late
years been gradually declining the public service in the Assembly and in the
magistracy, choosing rather to quit their power than their principle.263.

In order of time, I should have mentioned before, that having, in
1742, invented an open stove for the better warming of rooms, and at the same
time saving fuel, as the fresh air admitted was warmed in entering, I made a
present of the model to Mr. Robert Grace, one of my early friends, who, having
an iron-furnace, found the casting of the plates for these stoves a profitable
thing, as they were growing in demand. To promote that demand, I wrote and
published a pamphlet, entitled ”
An Account of the new-invented Pennsylvania
Fireplaces; wherein their Construction and Manner of Operation is particularly
explained; their Advantages above every other Method of warming Rooms
demonstrated; and all Objections that have been raised against the Use of them
answered and obviated,
” etc. This pamphlet had a good effect. Gov’r. Thomas was
so pleas’d with the construction of this stove, as described in it, that he
offered to give me a patent for the sole vending of them for a term of years;
but I declin’d it from a principle which has ever weighed with me on such
occasions, viz., That, as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of
others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of
ours; and this we should do freely and generously

An ironmonger in London however, assuming a good deal of my
pamphlet, and working it up into his own, and making some small changes in the
machine, which rather hurt its operation, got a patent for it there, and made,
as I was told, a little fortune by it. And this is not the only instance of
patents taken out for my inventions by others, tho’ not always with the same
success, which I never contested, as having no desire of profiting by patents
myself, and hating disputes. The use of these fireplaces in very many houses,
both of this and the neighbouring colonies, has been, and is, a great saving of
wood to the inhabitants.265.

Peace being concluded, and the association business therefore at an
end, I turn’d my thoughts again to the affair of establishing an academy. The
first step I took was to associate in the design a number of active friends, of
whom the Junto furnished a good part; the next was to write and publish a
pamphlet, entitled
Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in
. This I distributed among the principal inhabitants gratis; and as
soonas I could suppose their minds a little prepared by the perusal of it, I
set on foot a subscription for opening and supporting an academy; it was to be
paid in quotas yearly for five years; by so dividing it, I judg’d the
subscription might be larger, and I believe it was so, amounting to no less, if
I remember right, than five thousand pounds.266.

In the introduction to these proposals, I stated their publication,
not as an act of mine, but of some publick-spirited gentlemen, avoiding as much
as I could, according to my usual rule, the presenting myself to the publick as
the author of any scheme for their benefit.267.

The subscribers, to carry the project into immediate execution,
chose out of their number twenty-four trustees, and appointed Mr. Francis, then
attorney-general, and myself to draw up constitutions for the government of the
academy; which being done and signed, a house was hired, masters engag’d, and
the schools opened, I think, in the same year, 1749.268.

The scholars increasing fast, the house was soon found too small,
and we were looking out for a piece of ground, properly situated, with
intention to build, when Providence threw into our way a large house ready
built, which, with a few alterations, might well serve our purpose. This was
the building before mentioned, erected by the hearers of Mr. Whitefield, and
was obtained for us in the following manner.269.

It is to be noted that the contributions to this building being made
by people of different sects, care was taken in the nomination of trustees, in
whom the building and ground was to be vested, that a predominancy should not
be given to any sect, lest in time that predominancy might be a means of
appropriating the whole to the use of such sect, contrary to the original
intention. It was therefore that one of each sect was appointed, viz., one
Church-of-England man, one Presbyterian, one Baptist, one Moravian, etc.,
those, in case of vacancy by death, were to fill it by election from among the
contributors. The Moravian happen’d not to please his colleagues, and on his
death they resolved to have no other of that sect. The difficulty then was, how
to avoid having two of some other sect, by means of the new choice.270.

Several persons were named, and for that reason not agreed to. At
length one mention’d me, with the observation that I was merely an honest man,
and of no sect at all, which prevail’d with them to chuse me. The enthusiasm
which existed when the house was built had long since abated, and its trustees
had not been able to procure fresh contributions for paying the ground-rent,
and discharging some other debts the building had occasion’d, which embarrass’d
them greatly. Being now a member of both setts of trustees, that for the
building and that for the Academy, I had a good opportunity of negotiating with
both, and brought them finally to an agreement, by which the trustees for the
building were to cede it to those of the academy, the latter undertaking to
discharge the debt, to keep for ever open in the building a large hall for
occasional preachers, according to the original intention, and maintain a free-
school for the instruction of poor children. Writings were accordingly drawn,
and on paying the debts the trustees of the academy were put in possession of
the premises; and by dividing the great and lofty hall into stories, and
different rooms above and below for the several schools, and purchasing some
additional ground, the whole was soon made fit for our purpose, and the
scholars remov’d into the building. The care and trouble of agreeing with the
workmen, purchasing materials, and superintending the work, fell upon me; and I
went thro’ it the more cheerfully, as it did not then interfere with my private
business, having the year before taken a very able, industrious, and honest
partner, Mr. David Hall, with whose character I was well acquainted, as he had
work’d for me four years. He took off my hands all care of the printing-office,
paying me punctually my share of the profits. This partnership continued
eighteen years, successfully for us both.271.

The trustees of the academy, after a while, were incorporated by a
charter from the governor; their funds were increas’d by contributions in
Britain and grants of land from the proprietaries, to which the Assembly has
since made considerable addition; and thus was established the present
University of Philadelphia. I have been continued one of its trustees from the
beginning, now near forty years, and have had the very great pleasure of seeing
a number of the youth who have receiv’d their education in it, distinguish’d by
their improv’d abilities, serviceable in public stations and ornaments to their

When I disengaged myself, as above mentioned, from private business,
I flatter’d myself that, by the sufficient tho’ moderate fortune I had
acquir’d, I had secured leisure during the rest of my life for philosophical
studies and amusements. I purchased all Dr. Spence’s apparatus, who had come
from England to lecture here, and I proceeded in my electrical experiments with
great alacrity; but the publick, now considering me as a man of leisure, laid
hold of me for their purposes, every part of our civil government, and almost
at the same time, imposing some duty upon me. The governor put me into the
commission of the peace; the corporation of the city chose me of the common
council, and soon after an alderman; and the citizens at large chose me a
burgess to represent them in Assembly. This latter station was the more
agreeable to me, as I was at length tired with sitting there to hear debates,
in which, as clerk, I could take no part, and which were often so
unentertaining that I was induc’d to amuse myself with making magic squares or
circles, or any thing to avoid weariness; and I conceiv’d my becoming a member
would enlarge my power of doing good. I would not, however, insinuate that my
ambition was not flatter’d by all these promotions; it certainly was; for,
considering my low beginning, they were great things to me; and they were still
more pleasing, as being so many spontaneous testimonies of the public good
opinion, and by me entirely unsolicited.273.

The office of justice of the peace I try’d a little, by attending a
few courts, and sitting on the bench to hear causes; but finding that more
knowledge of the common law than I possess’d was necessary to act in that
station with credit, I gradually withdrew from it, excusing myself by my being
oblig’d to attend the higher duties of a legislator in the Assembly. My
election to this trust was repeated every year for ten years, without my ever
asking any elector for his vote, or signifying, either directly or indirectly,
any desire of being chosen. On taking my seat in the House, my son was
appointed their clerk.274.

The year following, a treaty being to be held with the Indians at
Carlisle, the governor sent a message to the House, proposing that they should
nominate some of their members, to be join’d with some members of council, as
commissioners for that purpose. The House named the speaker (Mr. Norris) and
myself; and, being commission’d, we went to Carlisle, and met the Indians

As those people are extreamly apt to get drunk, and, when so, are
very quarrelsome and disorderly, we strictly forbad the selling any liquor to
them; and when they complain’d of this restriction, we told them that if they
would continue sober during the treaty, we would give them plenty of rum when
business was over. They promis’d this, and they kept their promise, because
they could get no liquor, and the treaty was conducted very orderly, and
concluded to mutual satisfaction. They then claim’d and receiv’d the rum; this
was in the afternoon; they were near one hundred men, women, and children, and
were lodg’d in temporary cabins, built in the form of a square, just without
the town. In the evening, hearing a great noise among them, the commissioners
walk’d out to see what was the matter. We found they had made a great bonfire
in the middle of the square; they were all drunk, men and women, quarreling and
fighting. Their dark-colour’d bodies, half naked, seen only by the gloomy light
of the bonfire, running after and beating one another with firebrands,
accompanied by their horrid yellings, form’d a scene the most resembling our
ideas of hell that could well be imagin’d; there was no appeasing the tumult,
and we retired to our lodging. At midnight a number of them came thundering at
our door, demanding more rum, of which we took no notice.276.

The next day, sensible they had misbehav’d in giving us that
disturbance, they sent three of their old counselors to make their apology. The
orator acknowledg’d the fault, but laid it upon the rum; and then endeavored to
excuse the rum by saying, ”
The Great Spirit, who made all things, made every
thing for some use, and whatever use he design’d any thing for, that use it
should always be put to. Now, when he made rum, he said ‘Let this be for the
Indians to get drunk with,’ and it must be so
.” And, indeed, if it be the
design of Providence to extirpate these savages in order to make room for
cultivators of the earth, it seems not improbable that rum may be the appointed
means. It has already annihilated all the tribes who formerly inhabited the

In 1751, Dr. Thomas Bond, a particular friend of mine, conceived the
idea of establishing a hospital in Philadelphia (a very beneficent design,
which has been ascrib’d to me, but was originally his), for the reception and
cure of poor sick persons, whether inhabitants of the province or strangers. He
was zealous and active in endeavouring to procure subscriptions for it, but the
proposal being a novelty in America, and at first not well understood, he met
with but small success.278.

At length he came to me with the compliment that he found there was
no such thing as carrying a public-spirited project through without my being
concern’d in it. “For,” says he, “I am often ask’d by those to whom I propose
subscribing, Have you consulted Franklin upon this business? And what does he
think of it? And when I tell them that I have not (supposing it rather out of
your line), they do not subscribe, but say they will consider of it.” I
enquired into the nature and probable utility of his scheme, and receiving from
him a very satisfactory explanation, I not only subscrib’d to it myself, but
engag’d heartily in the design of procuring subscriptions from others.
Previously, however, to the solicitation, I endeavoured to prepare the minds of
the people by writing on the subject in the newspapers, which was my usual
custom in such cases, but which he had omitted.279.

The subscriptions afterwards were more free and generous; but,
beginning to flag, I saw they would be insufficient without some assistance
from the Assembly, and therefore propos’d to petition for it, which was done.
The country members did not at first relish the project; they objected that it
could only be serviceable to the city, and therefore the citizens alone should
be at the expense of it; and they doubted whether the citizens themselves
generally approv’d of it. My allegation on the contrary, that it met with such
approbation as to leave no doubt of our being able to raise two thousand pounds
by voluntary donations, they considered as a most extravagant supposition, and
utterly impossible.280.

On this I form’d my plan; and asking leave to bring in a bill for
incorporating the contributors according to the prayer of their petition, and
granting them a blank sum of money, which leave was obtained chiefly on the
consideration that the House could throw the bill out if they did not like it,
I drew it so as to make the important clause a conditional one, viz., “And be
it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, that when the said contributors shall
have met and chosen their managers and treasurer, and shall have raised by
their contributions a capital stock of ––- value
(the yearly interest of
which is to be applied to the accommodating of the sick poor in the said
hospital, free of charge for diet, attendance, advice, and medicines), and
shall make the same appear to the satisfaction of the speaker of the Assembly
for the time being
, that then it shall and may be lawful for the said speaker,
and be is hereby required, to sign an order on the provincial treasurer for the
payment of two thousand pounds, in two yearly payments, to the treasurer of the
said hospital, to be applied to the founding, building, and finishing of the

This condition carried the bill through; for the members, who had
oppos’d the grant, and now conceiv’d they might have the credit of being
charitable without the expence, agreed to its passage; and then, in soliciting
subscriptions among the people, we urg’d the conditional promise of the law as
an additional motive to give, since every man’s donation would be doubled; thus
the clause work’d both ways. The subscriptions accordingly soon exceeded the
requisite sum, and we claim’d and receiv’d the public gift, which enabled us to
carry the design into execution. A convenient and handsome building was soon
erected; the institution has by constant experience been found useful, and
flourishes to this day; and I do not remember any of my political manoeuvres,
the success of which gave me at the time more pleasure, or wherein, after
thinking of it, I more easily excus’d myself for having made some use of

It was about this time that another projector, the Rev. Gilbert
Tennent, came to me with a request that I would assist him in procuring a
subscription for erecting a new meeting-house. It was to he for the use of a
congregation he had gathered among the Presbyterians, who were originally
disciples of Mr. Whitefield. Unwilling to make myself disagreeable to my
fellow-citizens by too frequently soliciting their contributions, I absolutely
refus’d. He then desired I would furnish him with a list of the names of
persons I knew by experience to be generous and public-spirited. I thought it
would be unbecoming in me, after their kind compliance with my solicitations,
to mark them out to be worried by other beggars, and therefore refus’d also to
give such a list. He then desir’d I would at least give him my advice. “That I
will readily do,” said I; “and, in the first place, I advise you to apply to
all those whom you know will give something; next, to those whom you are
uncertain whether they will give any thing or not, and show them the list of
those who have given; and, lastly, do not neglect those who you are sure will
give nothing, for in some of them you may be mistaken.” He laugh’d and thank’d
me, and said he would take my advice. He did so, for he ask’d of everybody, and
he obtained a much larger sum than he expected, with which he erected the
capacious and very elegant meeting-house that stands in Arch-street.283.

Our city, tho’ laid out with a beautiful regularity, the streets
large, strait, and crossing each other at right angles, had the disgrace of
suffering those streets to remain long unpav’d, and in wet weather the wheels
of heavy carriages plough’d them into a quagmire, so that it was difficult to
cross them; and in dry weather the dust was offensive. I had liv’d near what
was call’d the Jersey Market, and saw with pain the inhabitants wading in mud
while purchasing their provisions. A strip of ground down the middle of that
market was at length pav’d with brick, so that, being once in the market, they
had firm footing, but were often over shoes in dirt to get there. By talking
and writing on the subject, I was at length instrumental in getting the street
pav’d with stone between the market and the brick’d foot-pavement, that was on
each side next the houses. This, for some time, gave an easy access to the
market dry-shod; but, the rest of the street not being pav’d, whenever a
carriage came out of the mud upon this pavement, it shook off and left its dirt
upon it, and it was soon cover’d with mire, which was not remov’d, the city as
yet having no scavengers.284.

After some inquiry I found a poor industrious man, who was willing
to undertake keeping the pavement clean, by sweeping it twice a week, carrying
off the dirt from before all the neighbours’ doors, for the sum of sixpence per
month, to be paid by each house. I then wrote and printed a paper setting forth
the advantages to the neighbourhood that might be obtain’d by this small
expense; the greater ease in keeping our houses clean, so much dirt not being
brought in by people’s feet; the benefit to the shops by more custom, etc.,
etc., as buyers could more easily get at them; and by not having, in windy
weather, the dust blown in upon their goods, etc., etc. I sent one of these
papers to each house, and in a day or two went round to see who would subscribe
an agreement to pay these sixpences; it was unanimously sign’d, and for a time
well executed. All the inhabitants of the city were delighted with the
cleanliness of the pavement that surrounded the market, it being a convenience
to all, and this rais’d a general desire to have all the streets paved, and
made the people more willing to submit to a tax for that purpose.285.

After some time I drew a bill for paving the city, and brought it
into the Assembly. It was just before I went to England, in 1757, and did not
pass till I was gone, and then with an alteration in the mode of assessment,
which I thought not for the better, but with an additional provision for
lighting as well as paving the streets, which was a great improvement. It was
by a private person, the late Mr. John Clifton, his giving a sample of the
utility of lamps, by placing one at his door, that the people were first
impress’d with the idea of enlighting all the city. The honour of this public
benefit has also been ascrib’d to me but it belongs truly to that gentleman. I
did but follow his example, and have only some merit to claim respecting the
form of our lamps, as differing from the globe lamps we were at first supply’d
with from London. Those we found inconvenient in these respects: they admitted
no air below; the smoke, therefore, did not readily go out above, but
circulated in the globe, lodg’d on its inside, and soon obstructed the light
they were intended to afford; giving, besides, the daily trouble of wiping them
clean; and an accidental stroke on one of them would demolish it, and render it
totally useless. I therefore suggested the composing them of four flat panes,
with a long funnel above to draw up the smoke, and crevices admitting air
below, to facilitate the ascent of the smoke; by this means they were kept
clean, and did not grow dark in a few hours, as the London lamps do, but
continu’d bright till morning, and an accidental stroke would generally break
but a single pane, easily repair’d.286.

I have sometimes wonder’d that the Londoners did not, from the
effect holes in the bottom of the globe lamps us’d at Vauxhall have in keeping
them clean, learn to have such holes in their street lamps. But, these holes
being made for another purpose, viz., to communicate flame more suddenly to the
wick by a little flax hanging down thro’ them, the other use, of letting in
air, seems not to have been thought of; and therefore, after the lamps have
been lit a few hours, the streets of London are very poorly illuminated.287.

The mention of these improvements puts me in mind of one I propos’d,
when in London, to Dr. Fothergill, who was among the best men I have known, and
a great promoter of useful projects. I had observ’d that the streets, when dry,
were never swept, and the light dust carried away; but it was suffer’d to
accumulate till wet weather reduc’d it to mud, and then, after lying some days
so deep on the pavement that there was no crossing but in paths kept clean by
poor people with brooms, it was with great labour rak’d together and thrown up
into carts open above, the sides of which suffer’d some of the slush at every
jolt on the pavement to shake out and fall, sometimes to the annoyance of
foot-passengers. The reason given for not sweeping the dusty streets was, that
the dust would fly into the windows of shops and houses.288.

An accidental occurrence had instructed me how much sweeping might
be done in a little time. I found at my door in Craven-street, one morning, a
poor woman sweeping my pavement with a birch broom; she appeared very pale and
feeble, as just come out of a fit of sickness. I ask’d who employ’d her to
sweep there; she said, “Nobody, but I am very poor and in distress, and I
sweeps before gentlefolkses doors, and hopes they will give me something.” I
bid her sweep the whole street clean, and I would give her a shilling; this was
at nine o’clock; at 12 she came for the shilling. From the slowness I saw at
first in her working, I could scarce believe that the work was done so soon,
and sent my servant to examine it, who reported that the whole street was swept
perfectly clean, and all the dust plac’d in the gutter, which was in the
middle; and the next rain wash’d it quite away, so that the pavement and even
the kennel were perfectly clean.289.

I then judg’d that, if that feeble woman could sweep such a street
in three hours, a strong, active man might have done it in half the time. And
here let me remark the convenience of having but one gutter in such a narrow
street, running down its middle, instead of two, one on each side, near the
footway; for where all the rain that falls on a street runs from the sides and
meets in the middle, it forms there a current strong enough to wash away all
the mud it meets with; but when divided into two channels, it is often too weak
to cleanse either, and only makes the mud it finds more fluid, so that the
wheels of carriages and feet of horses throw and dash it upon the
foot-pavement, which is thereby rendered foul and slippery, and sometimes
splash it upon those who are walking. My proposal, communicated to the good
doctor, was as follows:290.

“For the more effectual cleaning and keeping clean the
streets of London and Westminster, it is proposed that the several watchmen be
contracted with to have the dust swept up in dry seasons, and the mud rak’d up
at other times, each in the several streets and lanes of his round; that they
be furnish’d with brooms and other proper instruments for these purposes, to be
kept at their respective stands, ready to furnish the poor people they may
employ in the service.

“That in the dry summer months the dust be all swept
up into heaps at proper distances, before the shops and windows of houses are
usually opened, when the scavengers, with close-covered carts, shall also carry
it all away.

“That the mud, when rak’d up, be not left in heaps to
be spread abroad again by the wheels of carriages and trampling of horses, but
that the scavengers be provided with bodies of carts, not plac’d high upon
wheels, but low upon sliders, with lattice bottoms, which, being cover’d with
straw, will retain the mud thrown into them, and permit the water to drain from
it, whereby it will become much lighter, water making the greatest part of its
weight; these bodies of carts to be plac’d at convenient distances, and the mud
brought to them in wheel-barrows; they remaining where plac’d till the mud is
drain’d, and then horses brought to draw them away.”

I have since had doubts of the practicability of the latter part of
this proposal, on account of the narrowness of some streets, and the difficulty
of placing the draining-sleds so as not to encumber too much the passage; but I
am still of opinion that the former, requiring the dust to be swept up and
carry’d away before the shops are open, is very practicable in the summer, when
the days are long; for, in walking thro’ the Strand and Fleet-street one
morning at seven o’clock, I observ’d there was not one shop open, tho’ it had
been daylight and the sun up above three hours; the inhabitants of London
chusing voluntarily to live much by candle-light, and sleep by sunshine, and
yet often complain, a little absurdly, of the duty on candles and the high
price of tallow.294.

Some may think these trifling matters not worth minding or relating;
but when they consider that tho’ dust blown into the eyes of a single person,
or into a single shop on a windy day, is but of small importance, yet the great
number of the instances in a populous city, and its frequent repetitions give
it weight and consequence, perhaps they will not censure very severely those
who bestow some attention to affairs of this seemingly low nature. Human
felicity is produc’d not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom
happen, as by little advantages that occur every day. Thus, if you teach a poor
young man to shave himself, and keep his razor in order, you may contribute
more to the happiness of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas. The
money may be soon spent, the regret only remaining of having foolishly consumed
it; but in the other case, he escapes the frequent vexation of waiting for
barbers, and of their sometimes dirty fingers, offensive breaths, and dull
razors; he shaves when most convenient to him, and enjoys daily the pleasure of
its being done with a good instrument. With these sentiments I have hazarded
the few preceding pages, hoping they may afford hints which some time or other
may be useful to a city I love, having lived many years in it very happily, and
perhaps to some of our towns in America.295.

Having been for some time employed by the postmaster-general of
America as his comptroller in regulating several offices, and bringing the
officers to account, I was, upon his death in 1753, appointed, jointly with Mr.
William Hunter, to succeed him, by a commission from the postmaster-general in
England. The American office never had hitherto paid any thing to that of
Britain. We were to have six hundred pounds a year between us, if we could make
that sum out of the profits of the office. To do this, a variety of
improvements were necessary; some of these were inevitably at first expensive,
so that in the first four years the office became above nine hundred pounds in
debt to us. But it soon after began to repay us; and before I was displac’d by
a freak of the ministers, of which I shall speak hereafter, we had brought it
to yield three times as much clear revenue to the crown as the postoffice of
Ireland. Since that imprudent transaction, they have receiv’d from it– not one

The business of the postoffice occasion’d my taking a journey this
year to New England, where the College of Cambridge, of their own motion,
presented me with the degree of Master of Arts. Yale College, in Connecticut,
had before made me a similar compliment. Thus, without studying in any college,
I came to partake of their honours. They were conferr’d in consideration of my
improvements and discoveries in the electric branch of natural philosophy.297.

In 1754, war with France being again apprehended, a congress of
commissioners from the different colonies was, by an order of the Lords of
Trade, to be assembled at Albany, there to confer with the chiefs of the Six
Nations concerning the means of defending both their country and ours. Governor
Hamilton, having receiv’d this order, acquainted the House with it, requesting
they would furnish proper presents for the Indians, to be given on this
occasion; and naming the speaker (Mr. Norris) and myself to join Mr. Thomas
Penn and Mr. Secretary Peters as commissioners to act for Pennsylvania. The
House approv’d the nomination, and provided the goods for the present, and tho’
they did not much like treating out of the provinces; and we met the other
commissioners at Albany about the middle of June.298.

In our way thither, I projected and drew a plan for the union of all
the colonies under one government, so far as might be necessary for defense,
and other important general purposes. As we pass’d thro’ New York, I had there
shown my project to Mr. James Alexander and Mr. Kennedy, two gentlemen of great
knowledge in public affairs, and, being fortified by their approbation, I
ventur’d to lay it before the Congress. It then appeared that several of the
commissioners had form’d plans of the same kind. A previous question was first
taken, whether a union should be established, which pass’d in the affirmative
unanimously. A committee was then appointed, one member from each colony, to
consider the several plans and report. Mine happen’d to be preferr’d, and, with
a few amendments, was accordingly reported.299.

By this plan the general government was to be administered by a
president-general, appointed and supported by the crown, and a grand council
was to be chosen by the representatives of the people of the several colonies,
met in their respective assemblies. The debates upon it in Congress went on
daily, hand in hand with the Indian business. Many objections and difficulties
were started, but at length they were all overcome, and the plan was
unanimously agreed to, and copies ordered to be transmitted to the Board of
Trade and to the assemblies of the several provinces. Its fate was singular:
the assemblies did not adopt it, as they all thought there was too much
prerogative in it, and in England it was judg’d to have too much of the

The Board of Trade therefore did not approve of it, nor recommend it
for the approbation of his majesty; but another scheme was form’d, supposed to
answer the same purpose better, whereby the governors of the provinces, with
some members of their respective councils, were to meet and order the raising
of troops, building of forts, etc., and to draw on the treasury of Great
Britain for the expense, which was afterwards to be refunded by an act of
Parliament laying a tax on America. My plan, with my reasons in support of it,
is to be found among my political papers that are printed.301.

Being the winter following in Boston, I had much conversation with
Governor Shirley upon both the plans. Part of what passed between us on the
occasion may also be seen among those papers. The different and contrary
reasons of dislike to my plan makes me suspect that it was really the true
medium; and I am still of opinion it would have been happy for both sides the
water if it had been adopted. The colonies, so united, would have been
sufficiently strong to have defended themselves; there would then have been no
need of troops from England; of course, the subsequent pretence for taxing
America, and the bloody contest it occasioned, would have been avoided. But
such mistakes are not new; history is full of the errors of states and

Look round the habitable world, how few 
Know their own good, or, knowing it, pursue! 

Those who govern, having much business on their hands, do not
generally like to take the trouble of considering and carrying into execution
new projects. The best public measures are therefore seldom adopted from
previous wisdom, but forc’d by the occasion

The Governor of Pennsylvania, in sending it down to the Assembly,
express’d his approbation of the plan, “as appearing to him to be drawn up with
great clearness and strength of judgment, and therefore recommended it as well
worthy of their closest and most serious attention.” The House, however, by the
management of a certain member, took it up when I happen’d to be absent, which
I thought not very fair, and reprobated it without paying any attention to it
at all, to my no small mortification.304.

In my journey to Boston this year, I met at New York with our new
governor, Mr. Morris, just arriv’d there from England, with whom I had been
before intimately acquainted. He brought a commission to supersede Mr.
Hamilton, who, tir’d with the disputes his proprietary instructions subjected
him to, had resign’d. Mr. Morris ask’d me if I thought he must expect as
uncomfortable an administration. I said, “No; you may, on the contrary, have a
very comfortable one, if you will only take care not to enter into any dispute
with the Assembly.” “My dear friend,” says he, pleasantly, “how can you advise
my avoiding disputes? You know I love disputing; it is one of my greatest
pleasures; however, to show the regard I have for your counsel, I promise you I
will, if possible, avoid them.” He had some reason for loving to dispute, being
eloquent, an acute sophister, and, therefore, generally successful in
argumentative conversation. He had been brought up to it from a boy, his
father, as I have heard, accustoming his children to dispute with one another
for his diversion, while sitting at table after dinner; but I think the
practice was not wise; for, in the course of my observation, these disputing,
contradicting, and confuting people are generally unfortunate in their affairs.
They get victory sometimes, but they never get good will, which would be of
more use to them. We parted, he going to Philadelphia, and I to Boston.305.

In returning, I met at New York with the votes of the Assembly, by
which it appear’d that, notwithstanding his promise to me, he and the House
were already in high contention; and it was a continual battle between them as
long as he retain’d the government. I had my share of it; for, as soon as I got
back to my seat in the Assembly, I was put on every committee for answering his
speeches and messages, and by the committees always desired to make the drafts.
Our answers, as well as his messages, were often tart, and sometimes indecently
abusive; and, as he knew I wrote for the Assembly, one might have imagined
that, when we met, we could hardly avoid cutting throats; but he was so
good-natur’d a man that no personal difference between him and me was
occasion’d by the contest, and we often din’d together.306.

One afternoon, in the height of this public quarrel, we met in the
street. “Franklin,” says he, “you must go home with me and spend the evening; I
am to have some company that you will like;” and, taking me by the arm, he led
me to his house. In gay conversation over our wine, after supper, he told us,
jokingly, that he much admir’d the idea of Sancho Panza, who, when it was
proposed to give him a government, requested it might be a government of
blacks, as then, if he could not agree with his people, he might sell them. One
of his friends, who sat next to me, says, “Franklin, why do you continue to
side with these damn’d Quakers? Had not you better sell them? The proprietor
would give you a good price.” “The governor,” says I, “has not yet blacked them
enough.” He, indeed, had labored hard to blacken the Assembly in all his
messages, but they wip’d off his coloring as fast as he laid it on, and plac’d
it, in return, thick upon his own face; so that, finding he was likely to be
negrofied himself, he, as well as Mr. Hamilton, grew tir’d of the contest, and
quitted the government.307.

These public quarrels were all at bottom owing to the proprietaries,
our hereditary governors, who, when any expense was to be incurred for the
defense of their province, with incredible meanness instructed their deputies
to pass no act for levying the necessary taxes, unless their vast estates were
in the same act expressly excused; and they had even taken bonds of these
deputies to observe such instructions. The Assemblies for three years held out
against this injustice, tho’ constrained to bend at last. At length Captain
Denny, who was Governor Morris’s successor, ventured to disobey those
instructions; how that was brought about I shall show hereafter.308.

But I am got forward too fast with my story: there are still some
transactions to be mention’d that happened during the administration of
Governor Morris.309.

War being in a manner commenced with France, the government of
Massachusetts Bay projected an attack upon Crown Point, and sent Mr. Quincy to
Pennsylvania, and Mr. Pownall, afterward Governor Pownall, to New York, to
solicit assistance. As I was in the Assembly, knew its temper, and was Mr.
Quincy’s countryman, he appli’d to me for my influence and assistance. I
dictated his address to them, which was well receiv’d. They voted an aid of ten
thousand pounds, to be laid out in provisions. But the governor refusing his
assent to their bill (which included this with other sums granted for the use
of the crown), unless a clause were inserted exempting the proprietary estate
from bearing any part of the tax that would be necessary, the Assembly, tho’
very desirous of making their grant to New England effectual, were at a loss
how to accomplish it. Mr. Quincy labored hard with the governor to obtain his
assent, but he was obstinate.310.

I then suggested a method of doing the business without the
governor, by orders on the trustees of the Loan Office, which, by law, the
Assembly had the right of drawing. There was, indeed, little or no money at
that time in the office, and therefore I propos’d that the orders should be
payable in a year, and to bear an interest of five per cent. With these orders
I suppos’d the provisions might easily be purchas’d. The Assembly, with very
little hesitation, adopted the proposal. The orders were immediately printed,
and I was one of the committee directed to sign and dispose of them. The fund
for paying them was the interest of all the paper currency then extant in the
province upon loan, together with the revenue arising from the excise, which
being known to be more than sufficient, they obtain’d instant credit, and were
not only receiv’d in payment for the provisions, but many money’d people, who
had cash lying by them, vested it in those orders, which they found
advantageous, as they bore interest while upon hand, and might on any occasion
be used as money; so that they were eagerly all bought up, and in a few weeks
none of them were to be seen. Thus this important affair was by my means
compleated. My Quincy return’d thanks to the Assembly in a handsome memorial,
went home highly pleas’d with the success of his embassy, and ever after bore
for me the most cordial and affectionate friendship.311.

The British government, not chusing to permit the union of the
colonies as propos’d at Albany, and to trust that union with their defense,
lest they should thereby grow too military, and feel their own strength,
suspicions and jealousies at this time being entertain’d of them, sent over
General Braddock with two regiments of regular English troops for that purpose.
He landed at Alexandria, in Virginia, and thence march’d to Frederictown, in
Maryland, where he halted for carriages. Our Assembly apprehending, from some
information, that he had conceived violent prejudices against them, as averse
to the service, wish’d me to wait upon him, not as from them, but as
postmaster-general, under the guise of proposing to settle with him the mode of
conducting with most celerity and certainty the despatches between him and the
governors of the several provinces, with whom he must necessarily have
continual correspondence, and of which they propos’d to pay the expense. My son
accompanied me on this journey.312.

We found the general at Frederictown, waiting impatiently for the
return of those he had sent thro’ the back parts of Maryland and Virginia to
collect waggons. I stayed with him several days, din’d with him daily, and had
full opportunity of removing all his prejudices, by the information of what the
Assembly had before his arrival actually done, and were still willing to do, to
facilitate his operations. When I was about to depart, the returns of waggons
to be obtained were brought in, by which it appear’d that they amounted only to
twenty-five, and not all of those were in serviceable condition. The general
and all the officers were surpris’d, declar’d the expedition was then at an
end, being impossible, and exclaim’d against the ministers for ignorantly
landing them in a country destitute of the means of conveying their stores,
baggage, etc., not less than one hundred and fifty waggons being necessary.313.

I happened to say I thought it was a pity they had not been landed
rather in Pennsylvania, as in that country almost every farmer had his waggon.
The general eagerly laid hold of my words, and said, “Then you, sir, who are a
man of interest there, can probably procure them for us; and I beg you will
undertake it.” I ask’d what terms were to be offer’d the owners of the waggons;
and I was desir’d to put on paper the terms that appeared to me necessary. This
I did, and they were agreed to, and a commission and instructions accordingly
prepar’d immediately. What those terms were will appear in the advertisement I
publish’d as soon as I arriv’d at Lancaster, which being, from the great and
sudden effect it produc’d, a piece of some curiosity, I shall insert it at
length, as follows:314.

April 26, 1755.

“Whereas, one hundred and fifty waggons, with four horses to each
waggon, and fifteen hundred saddle or pack horses, are wanted for the service
of his majesty’s forces now about to rendezvous at Will’s Creek, and his
excellency General Braddock having been pleased to empower me to contract for
the hire of the same, I hereby give notice that I shall attend for that purpose
at Lancaster from this day to next Wednesday evening, and at York from next
Thursday morning till Friday evening, where I shall be ready to agree for
waggons and teams, or single horses, on the following terms, viz.: 1. That
there shall be paid for each waggon, with four good horses and a driver,
fifteen shillings per diem; and for each able horse with a pack-saddle, or
other saddle and furniture, two shillings per diem; and for each able horse
without a saddle, eighteen pence per diem. 2. That the pay commence from the
time of their joining the forces at Will’s Creek, which must be on or before
the 20th of May ensuing, and that a reasonable allowance be paid over and above
for the time necessary for their travelling to Will’s Creek and home again
after their discharge. 3. Each waggon and team, and every saddle or pack horse,
is to be valued by indifferent persons chosen between me and the owner; and in
case of the loss of any waggon, team, or other horse in the service, the price
according to such valuation is to be allowed and paid. 4. Seven days’ pay is to
be advanced and paid in hand by me to the owner of each waggon and team, or
horse, at the time of contracting, if required, and the remainder to be paid by
General Braddock, or by the paymaster of the army, at the time of their
discharge, or from time to time, as it shall be demanded. 5. No drivers of
waggons, or persons taking care of the hired horses, are on any account to be
called upon to do the duty of soldiers, or be otherwise employed than in
conducting or taking care of their carriages or horses. 6. All oats, Indian
corn, or other forage that waggons or horses bring to the camp, more than is
necessary for the subsistence of the horses, is to be taken for the use of the
army, and a reasonable price paid for the same.315.

“Note.–My son, William Franklin, is empowered to enter into like
contracts with any person in Cumberland county. 316.


“To the inhabitants of the Counties
of Lancaster, York and Cumberland.

“Friends and Countrymen,

“Being occasionally at the camp at Frederic a few days since, I
found the general and officers extremely exasperated on account of their not
being supplied with horses and carriages, which had been expected from this
province, as most able to furnish them; but, through the dissensions between
our governor and Assembly, money had not been provided, nor any steps taken for
that purpose.317.

“It was proposed to send an armed force immediately into these
counties, to seize as many of the best carriages and horses as should be
wanted, and compel as many persons into the service as would be necessary to
drive and take care of them.318.

“I apprehended that the progress of British soldiers through these
counties on such an occasion, especially considering the temper they are in,
and their resentment against us, would be attended with many and great
inconveniences to the inhabitants, and therefore more willingly took the
trouble of trying first what might be done by fair and equitable means. The
people of these back counties have lately complained to the Assembly that a
sufficient currency was wanting; you have an opportunity of receiving and
dividing among you a very considerable sum; for, if the service of this
expedition should continue, as it is more than probable it will, for one
hundred and twenty days, the hire of these waggons and horses will amount to
upward of thirty thousand pounds, which will be paid you in silver and gold of
the king’s money.319.

“The service will be light and easy, for the army will scarce
march above twelve miles per day, and the waggons and baggage-horses, as they
carry those things that are absolutely necessary to the welfare of the army,
must march with the army, and no faster; and are, for the army’s sake, always
placed where they can be most secure, whether in a march or in a camp.320.

“If you are really, as I believe you are, good and loyal subjects
to his majesty, you may now do a most acceptable service, and make it easy to
yourselves; for three or four of such as can not separately spare from the
business of their plantations a waggon and four horses and a driver, may do it
together, one furnishing the waggon, another one or two horses, and another the
driver, and divide the pay proportionately between you; but if you do not this
service to your king and country voluntarily, when such good pay and reasonable
terms are offered to you, your loyalty will be strongly suspected. The king’s
business must be done; so many brave troops, come so far for your defense, must
not stand idle through your backwardness to do what may be reasonably expected
from you; waggons and horses must be had; violent measures will probably be
used, and you will be left to seek for a recompense where you can find it, and
your case, perhaps, be little pitied or regarded.321.

“I have no particular interest in this affair, as, except the
satisfaction of endeavoring to do good, I shall have only my labour for my
pains. If this method of obtaining the waggons and horses is not likely to
succeed, I am obliged to send word to the general in fourteen days; and I
suppose Sir John St. Clair, the hussar, with a body of soldiers, will
immediately enter the province for the purpose, which I shall be sorry to hear,
because I am very sincerely and truly your friend and well-wisher,322.


I received of the general about eight hundred pounds, to be
disbursed in advance-money to the waggon owners, etc.; but, that sum being
insufficient, I advanc’d upward of two hundred pounds more, and in two weeks
the one hundred and fifty waggons, with two hundred and fifty-nine carrying
horses, were on their march for the camp. The advertisement promised payment
according to the valuation, in case any waggon or horse should be lost. The
owners, however, alleging they did not know General Braddock, or what
dependence might be had on his promise, insisted on my bond for the
performance, which I accordingly gave them.323.

While I was at the camp, supping one evening with the officers of
Colonel Dunbar’s regiment, he represented to me his concern for the subalterns,
who, he said, were generally not in affluence, and could ill afford, in this
dear country, to lay in the stores that might be necessary in so long a march,
thro’ a wilderness, where nothing was to be purchas’d. I commiserated their
case, and resolved to endeavor procuring them some relief. I said nothing,
however, to him of my intention, but wrote the next morning to the committee of
the Assembly, who had the disposition of some public money, warmly recommending
the case of these officers to their consideration, and proposing that a present
should be sent them of necessaries and refreshments. My son, who had some
experience of a camp life, and of its wants, drew up a list for me, which I
enclos’d in my letter. The committee approv’d, and used such diligence that,
conducted by my son, the stores arrived at the camp as soon as the waggons.
They consisted of twenty parcels, each containing324.

  1. 6 lbs. loaf sugar.
  2. 1 Gloucester cheese.
  3. 6 lbs. good Muscovado do.
  4. 1 kegg containing 20 lbs. good butter.
  5. 1 lb. good green tea.
  6. 1 lb. good bohea do.
  7. 2 doz. old Madeira wine.
  8. 6 lbs. good ground coffee.
  9. 2 gallons Jamaica spirits.
  10. 6 lbs. chocolate.
  11. 1 bottle flour of mustard.
  12. 1-2 cwt. best white biscuit.
  13. 2 well-cur’d hams.
  14. 1-2 lb. pepper.
  15. 1-2 dozen dry’d tongues.
  16. 1 quart best white wine vinegar
  17. 6 lbs. rice.
  18. 6 lbs. raisins.

These twenty parcels, well pack’d, were placed on as many horses,
each parcel, with the horse, being intended as a present for one officer. They
were very thankfully receiv’d, and the kindness acknowledg’d by letters to me
from the colonels of both regiments, in the most grateful terms. The general,
too, was highly satisfied with my conduct in procuring him the waggons, etc.,
and readily paid my account of disbursements, thanking me repeatedly, and
requesting my farther assistance in sending provisions after him. I undertook
this also, and was busily employ’d in it till we heard of his defeat, advancing
for the service of my own money, upwards of one thousand pounds sterling, of
which I sent him an account. It came to his hands, luckily for me, a few days
before the battle, and he return’d me immediately an order on the paymaster for
the round sum of one thousand pounds, leaving the remainder to the next
account. I consider this payment as good luck, having never been able to obtain
that remainder, of which more hereafter.325.

This general was, I think, a brave man, and might probably have made
a figure as a good officer in some European war. But he had too much
self-confidence, too high an opinion of the validity of regular troops, and too
mean a one of both Americans and Indians. George Croghan, our Indian
interpreter, join’d him on his march with one hundred of those people, who
might have been of great use to his army as guides, scouts, etc., if he had
treated them kindly; but he slighted and neglected them, and they gradually
left him.326.

In conversation with him one day, he was giving me some account of
his intended progress. “After taking Fort Duquesne,” says he, “I am to proceed
to Niagara; and, having taken that, to Frontenac, if the season will allow
time; and I suppose it will, for Duquesne can hardly detain me above three or
four days; and then I see nothing that can obstruct my march to Niagara.”
Having before revolv’d in my mind the long line his army must make in their
march by a very narrow road, to be cut for them thro’ the woods and bushes, and
also what I had read of a former defeat of fifteen hundred French, who invaded
the Iroquois country, I had conceiv’d some doubts and some fears for the event
of the campaign. But I ventur’d only to say, “To be sure, sir, if you arrive
well before Duquesne, with these fine troops, so well provided with artillery,
that place not yet compleatly fortified, and as we hear with no very strong
garrison, can probably make but a short resistance. The only danger I apprehend
of obstruction to your march is from ambuscades of Indians, who, by constant
practice, are dexterous in laying and executing them; and the slender line,
near four miles long, which your army must make, may expose it to be attack’d
by surprise in its flanks, and to be cut like a thread into several pieces,
which, from their distance, can not come up in time to support each other.”327.

He smil’d at my ignorance, and reply’d, “These savages may, indeed,
be a formidable enemy to your raw American militia, but upon the king’s regular
and disciplin’d troops, sir, it is impossible they should make any impression.”
I was conscious of an impropriety in my disputing with a military man in
matters of his profession, and said no more. The enemy, however, did not take
the advantage of his army which I apprehended its long line of march expos’d it
to, but let it advance without interruption till within nine miles of the
place; and then, when more in a body (for it had just passed a river, where the
front had halted till all were come over), and in a more open part of the woods
than any it had pass’d, attack’d its advanced guard by a heavy fire from behind
trees and bushes, which was the first intelligence the general had of an
enemy’s being near him. This guard being disordered, the general hurried the
troops up to their assistance, which was done in great confusion, thro’
waggons, baggage, and cattle; and presently the fire came upon their flank: the
officers, being on horseback, were more easily distinguish’d, pick’d out as
marks, and fell very fast; and the soldiers were crowded together in a huddle,
having or hearing no orders, and standing to be shot at till two-thirds of them
were killed; and then, being seiz’d with a panick, the whole fled with

The waggoners took each a horse out of his team and scamper’d; their
example was immediately followed by others; so that all the waggons,
provisions, artillery, and stores were left to the enemy. The general, being
wounded, was brought off with difficulty; his secretary, Mr. Shirley, was
killed by his side; and out of eighty-six officers, sixty-three were killed or
wounded, and seven hundred and fourteen men killed out of eleven hundred. These
eleven hundred had been picked men from the whole army; the rest had been left
behind with Colonel Dunbar, who was to follow with the heavier part of the
stores, provisions, and baggage. The flyers, not being pursu’d, arriv’d at
Dunbar’s camp, and the panick they brought with them instantly seiz’d him and
all his people; and, tho’ he had now above one thousand men, and the enemy who
bad beaten Braddock did not at most exceed four hundred Indians and French
together, instead of proceeding, and endeavoring to recover some of the lost
honour, he ordered all the stores, ammunition, etc., to be destroy’d, that he
might have more horses to assist his flight towards the settlements, and less
lumber to remove. He was there met with requests from the governors of
Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, that he would post his troops on the
frontiers, so as to afford some protection to the inhabitants; but he continu’d
his hasty march thro’ all the country, not thinking himself safe till he
arriv’d at Philadelphia, where the inhabitants could protect him. This whole
transaction gave us Americans the first suspicion that our exalted ideas of the
prowess of British regulars had not been well founded.329.

In their first march, too, from their landing till they got beyond
the settlements, they had plundered and stripped the inhabitants, totally
ruining some poor families, besides insulting, abusing, and confining the
people if they remonstrated. This was enough to put us out of conceit of such
defenders, if we had really wanted any. How different was the conduct of our
French friends in 1781, who, during a march thro’ the most inhabited part of
our country from Rhode Island to Virginia, near seven hundred miles, occasioned
not the smallest complaint for the loss of a pig, a chicken, or even an

Captain Orme, who was one of the general’s aids-de-camp, and, being
grievously wounded, was brought off with him, and continu’d with him to his
death, which happen’d in a few days, told me that he was totally silent all the
first day, and at night only said, ”
Who would have thought it?” That he was
silent again the following day, saying only at last, ”
We shall better know how
to deal with them another time
;” and dy’d in a few minutes after.331.

The secretary’s papers, with all the general’s orders, instructions,
and correspondence, falling into the enemy’s hands, they selected and
translated into French a number of the articles, which they printed, to prove
the hostile intentions of the British court before the declaration of war.
Among these I saw some letters of the general to the ministry, speaking highly
of the great service I had rendered the army, and recommending me to their
notice. David Hume, too, who was some years after secretary to Lord Hertford,
when minister in France, and afterward to General Conway, when secretary of
state, told me he had seen among the papers in that office, letters from
Braddock highly recommending me. But, the expedition having been unfortunate,
my service, it seems, was not thought of much value, for those recommendations
were never of any use to me.332.

As to rewards from himself, I ask’d only one, which was, that he
would give orders to his officers not to enlist any more of our bought
servants, and that he would discharge such as had been already enlisted. This
he readily granted, and several were accordingly return’d to their masters, on
my application. Dunbar, when the command devolv’d on him, was not so generous.
He being at Philadelphia, on his retreat, or rather flight, I apply’d to him
for the discharge of the servants of three poor farmers of Lancaster county
that he had enlisted, reminding him of the late general’s orders on that bead.
He promised me that, if the masters would come to him at Trenton, where he
should be in a few days on his march to New York, he would there deliver their
men to them. They accordingly were at the expense and trouble of going to
Trenton, and there he refus’d to perform his promise, to their great loss and

As soon as the loss of the waggons and horses was generally known,
all the owners came upon me for the valuation which I had given bond to pay.
Their demands gave me a great deal of trouble, my acquainting them that the
money was ready in the paymaster’s hands, but that orders for paying it must
first be obtained from General Shirley, and my assuring them that I had apply’d
to that general by letter; but, he being at a distance, an answer could not
soon be receiv’d, and they must have patience, all this was not sufficient to
satisfy, and some began to sue me. General Shirley at length relieved me from
this terrible situation by appointing commissioners to examine the claims, and
ordering payment. They amounted to near twenty thousand pound, which to pay
would have ruined me.334.

Before we had the news of this defeat, the two Doctors Bond came to
me with a subscription paper for raising money to defray the expense of a grand
firework, which it was intended to exhibit at a rejoicing on receipt of the
news of our taking Fort Duquesne. I looked grave, and said it would, I thought,
be time enough to prepare for the rejoicing when we knew we should have
occasion to rejoice. They seem’d surpris’d that I did not immediately comply
with their proposal. “Why the d–l!” says one of them, “you surely don’t
suppose that the fort will not be taken?” “I don’t know that it will not be
taken, but I know that the events of war are subject to great uncertainty.” I
gave them the reasons of my doubting; the subscription was dropt, and the
projectors thereby missed the mortification they would have undergone if the
firework had been prepared. Dr. Bond, on some other occasion afterward, said
that he did not like Franklin’s forebodings.335.

Governor Morris, who had continually worried the Assembly with
message after message before the defeat of Braddock, to beat them into the
making of acts to raise money for the defense of the province, without taxing,
among others, the proprietary estates, and had rejected all their bills for not
having such an exempting clause, now redoubled his attacks with more hope of
success, the danger and necessity being greater. The Assembly, however,
continu’d firm, believing they had justice on their side, and that it would be
giving up an essential right if they suffered the governor to amend their
money-bills. In one of the last, indeed, which was for granting fifty thousand
pounds, his propos’d amendment was only of a single word. The bill expressed
“that all estates, real and personal, were to be taxed, those of the
proprietaries not excepted.” His amendment was, for not read only: a small, but
very material alteration. However, when the news of this disaster reached
England, our friends there, whom we had taken care to furnish with all the
Assembly’s answers to the governor’s messages, rais’d a clamor against the
proprietaries for their meanness and injustice in giving their governor such
instructions; some going so far as to say that, by obstructing the defense of
their province, they forfeited their right to it. They were intimidated by
this, and sent orders to their receiver-general to add five thousand pounds of
their money to whatever sum might be given by the Assembly for such

This, being notified to the House, was accepted in lieu of their
share of a general tax, and a new bill was form’d, with an exempting clause,
which passed accordingly. By this act I was appointed one of the commissioners
for disposing of the money, sixty thousand pounds. I had been active in
modelling the bill and procuring its passage, and had, at the same time, drawn
a bill for establishing and disciplining of a voluntary militia, which I
carried thro’ the House without much difficulty, as care was taken in it to
leave the Quakers at their liberty. To promote the association necessary to
form the militia, I wrote a dialogue, stating and answering all the objections
I could think of to such a militia, which was printed, and had, as I thought,
great effect.337.

While the several companies in the city and country were forming and
learning their exercise, the governor prevail’d with me to take charge of our
North-western frontier, which was infested by the enemy, and provide for the
defense of the inhabitants by raising troops and building a line of forts. I
undertook this military business, tho’ I did not conceive myself well qualified
for it. He gave me a commission with full powers, and a parcel of blank
commissions for officers, to be given to whom I thought fit. I had but little
difficulty in raising men, having soon five hundred and sixty under my command.
My son, who had in the preceding war been an officer in the army rais’d against
Canada, was my aid-de-camp, and of great use to me. The Indians had burned
Gnadenhut, a village settled by the Moravians, and massacred the inhabitants;
but the place was thought a good situation for one of the forts.338.

In order to march thither, I assembled the companies at Bethlehem,
the chief establishment of those people. I was surprised to find it in so good
a posture of defense; the destruction of Gnadenhut had made them apprehend
danger. The principal buildings were defended by a stockade; they had purchased
a quantity of arms and ammunition from New York, and had even plac’d quantities
of small paving stones between the windows of their high stone houses, for
their women to throw down upon the heads of any Indians that should attempt to
force into them. The armed brethren, too, kept watch, and reliev’d as
methodically as in any garrison town. In conversation with the bishop,
Spangenberg, I mention’d this my surprise; for, knowing they had obtained an
act of Parliament exempting them from military duties in the colonies, I had
suppos’d they were conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms. He answer’d me
that it was not one of their established principles, but that, at the time of
their obtaining that act, it was thought to be a principle with many of their
people. On this occasion, however, they, to their surprise, found it adopted by
but a few. It seems they were either deceiv’d in themselves, or deceiv’d the
Parliament; but common sense, aided by present danger, will sometimes be too
strong for whimsical opinions.339.

It was the beginning of January when we set out upon this business
of building forts. I sent one detachment toward the Minisink, with instructions
to erect one for the security of that upper part of the country, and another to
the lower part, with similar instructions; and I concluded to go myself with
the rest of my force to Gnadenhut, where a fort was tho’t more immediately
necessary. The Moravians procur’d me five waggons for our tools, stores,
baggage, etc.340.

Just before we left Bethlehem, eleven farmers, who had been driven
from their plantations by the Indians, came to me requesting a supply of
firearms, that they might go back and fetch off their cattle. I gave them each
a gun with suitable ammunition. We had not march’d many miles before it began
to rain, and it continued raining all day; there were no habitations on the
road to shelter us, till we arriv’d near night at the house of a German, where,
and in his barn, we were all huddled together, as wet as water could make us.
It was well we were not attack’d in our march, for our arms were of the most
ordinary sort, and our men could not keep their gun locks dry. The Indians are
dextrous in contrivances for that purpose, which we had not. They met that day
the eleven poor farmers above mentioned, and killed ten of them. The one who
escap’d inform’d that his and his companions’ guns would not go off, the
priming being wet with the rain.341.

The next day being fair, we continu’d our march, and arriv’d at the
desolated Gnadenhut. There was a saw-mill near, round which were left several
piles of boards, with which we soon hutted ourselves; an operation the more
necessary at that inclement season, as we had no tents. Our first work was to
bury more effectually the dead we found there, who had been half interr’d by
the country people.342.

The next morning our fort was plann’d and mark’d out, the
circumference measuring four hundred and fifty-five feet, which would require
as many palisades to be made of trees, one with another, of a foot diameter
each. Our axes, of which we had seventy, were immediately set to work to cut
down trees, and, our men being dextrous in the use of them, great despatch was
made. Seeing the trees fall so fast, I had the curiosity to look at my watch
when two men began to cut at a pine; in six minutes they had it upon the
ground, and I found it of fourteen inches diameter. Each pine made three
palisades of eighteen feet long, pointed at one end. While these were
preparing, our other men dug a trench all round, of three feet deep, in which
the palisades were to be planted; and, our waggons, the bodys being taken off,
and the fore and hind wheels separated by taking out the pin which united the
two parts of the perch, we had ten carriages, with two horses each, to bring
the palisades from the woods to the spot. When they were set up, our carpenters
built a stage of boards all round within, about six feet high, for the men to
stand on when to fire thro’ the loopholes. We had one swivel gun, which we
mounted on one of the angles, and fir’d it as soon as fix’d, to let the Indians
know, if any were within hearing, that we had such pieces; and thus our fort,
if such a magnificent name may be given to so miserable a stockade, was
finish’d in a week, though it rain’d so hard every other day that the men could
not work.343.

This gave me occasion to observe, that, when men are employ’d, they
are best content’d; for on the days they worked they were good-natur’d and
cheerful, and, with the consciousness of having done a good day’s work, they
spent the evening jollily; but on our idle days they were mutinous and
quarrelsome, finding fault with their pork, the bread, etc., and in continual
ill-humor, which put me in mind of a sea-captain, whose rule it was to keep his
men constantly at work; and, when his mate once told him that they had done
every thing, and there was nothing further to employ them about, ”
Oh,” says he,

Make them scour the anchor.”344.

This kind of fort, however contemptible, is a sufficient defense
against Indians, who have no cannon. Finding ourselves now posted securely, and
having a place to retreat to on occasion, we ventur’d out in parties to scour
the adjacent country. We met with no Indians, but we found the places on the
neighboring hills where they had lain to watch our proceedings. There was an
art in their contrivance of those places, that seems worth mention. It being
winter, a fire was necessary for them; but a common fire on the surface of the
ground would by its light have discovered their position at a distance. They
had therefore dug holes in the ground about three feet diameter, and somewhat
deeper; we saw where they had with their hatchets cut off the charcoal from the
sides of burnt logs lying in the woods. With these coals they had made small
fires in the bottom of the holes, and we observ’d among the weeds and grass the
prints of their bodies, made by their laying all round, with their legs hanging
down in the holes to keep their feet warm, which, with them, is an essential
point. This kind of fire, so manag’d, could not discover them, either by its
light, flame, sparks, or even smoke: it appear’d that their number was not
great, and it seems they saw we were too many to be attacked by them with
prospect of advantage.345.

We had for our chaplain a zealous Presbyterian minister, Mr. Beatty,
who complained to me that the men did not generally attend his prayers and
exhortations. When they enlisted, they were promised, besides pay and
provisions, a gill of rum a day, which was punctually serv’d out to them, half
in the morning, and the other half in the evening; and I observ’d they were as
punctual in attending to receive it; upon which I said to Mr. Beatty, “It is,
perhaps, below the dignity of your profession to act as steward of the rum, but
if you were to deal it out and only just after prayers, you would have them all
about you.” He liked the tho’t, undertook the office, and, with the help of a
few hands to measure out the liquor, executed it to satisfaction, and never
were prayers more generally and more punctually attended; so that I thought
this method preferable to the punishment inflicted by some military laws for
non-attendance on divine service.346.

I had hardly finish’d this business, and got my fort well stor’d
with provisions, when I receiv’d a letter from the governor, acquainting me
that he had call’d the Assembly, and wished my attendance there, if the posture
of affairs on the frontiers was such that my remaining there was no longer
necessary. My friends, too, of the Assembly, pressing me by their letters to
be, if possible, at the meeting, and my three intended forts being now
compleated, and the inhabitants contented to remain on their farms under that
protection, I resolved to return; the more willingly, as a New England officer,
Colonel Clapham, experienced in Indian war, being on a visit to our
establishment, consented to accept the command. I gave him a commission, and,
parading the garrison, had it read before them, and introduc’d him to them as
an officer who, from his skill in military affairs, was much more fit to
command them than myself; and, giving them a little exhortation, took my leave.
I was escorted as far as Bethlehem, where I rested a few days to recover from
the fatigue I had undergone. The first night, being in a good bed, I could
hardly sleep, it was so different from my hard lodging on the floor of our hut
at Gnaden wrapt only in a blanket or two.347.

While at Bethlehem, I inquir’d a little into the practice of the
Moravians: some of them had accompanied me, and all were very kind to me. I
found they work’d for a common stock, eat at common tables, and slept in common
dormitories, great numbers together. In the dormitories I observed loopholes,
at certain distances all along just under the ceiling, which I thought
judiciously placed for change of air. I was at their church, where I was
entertain’d with good musick, the organ being accompanied with violins,
hautboys, flutes, clarinets, etc. I understood that their sermons were not
usually preached to mixed congregations of men, women, and children, as is our
common practice, but that they assembled sometimes the married men, at other
times their wives, then the young men, the young women, and the little
children, each division by itself. The sermon I heard was to the latter, who
came in and were plac’d in rows on benches; the boys under the conduct of a
young man, their tutor, and the girls conducted by a young woman. The discourse
seem’d well adapted to their capacities, and was deliver’d in a pleasing,
familiar manner, coaxing them, as it were, to be good. They behav’d very
orderly, but looked pale and unhealthy, which made me suspect they were kept
too much within doors, or not allow’d sufficient exercise.348.

I inquir’d concerning the Moravian marriages, whether the report was
true that they were by lot. I was told that lots were us’d only in particular
cases; that generally, when a young man found himself dispos’d to marry, he
inform’d the elders of his class, who consulted the elder ladies that govern’d
the young women. As these elders of the different sexes were well acquainted
with the tempers and dispositions of their respective pupils, they could best
judge what matches were suitable, and their judgments were generally acquiesc’d
in; but if, for example, it should happen that two or three young women were
found to be equally proper for the young man, the lot was then recurred to. I
objected, if the matches are not made by the mutual choice of the parties, some
of them may chance to be very unhappy. “And so they may,” answer’d my informer,
“if you let the parties chuse for themselves;” which, indeed, I could not

Being returned to Philadelphia, I found the association went on
swimmingly, the inhabitants that were not Quakers having pretty generally come
into it, formed themselves into companies, and chose their captains,
lieutenants, and ensigns, according to the new law. Dr. B. visited me, and gave
me an account of the pains he had taken to spread a general good liking to the
law, and ascribed much to those endeavors. I had had the vanity to ascribe all
to my
Dialogue; however, not knowing but that he might be in the right, I let
him enjoy his opinion, which I take to be generally the best way in such cases.
The officers, meeting, chose me to be colonel of the regiment, which I this
time accepted. I forget how many companies we had, but we paraded about twelve
hundred well-looking men, with a company of artillery, who had been furnished
with six brass field-pieces, which they had become so expert in the use of as
to fire twelve times in a minute. The first time I reviewed my regiment they
accompanied me to my house, and would salute me with some rounds fired before
my door, which shook down and broke several glasses of my electrical apparatus.
And my new honour proved not much less brittle; for all our commissions were
soon after broken by a repeal of the law in England.350.

During this short time of my colonelship, being about to set out on
a journey to Virginia, the officers of my regiment took it into their heads
that it would be proper for them to escort me out of town, as far as the Lower
Ferry. Just as I was getting on horseback they came to my door, between thirty
and forty, mounted, and all in their uniforms. I had not been previously
acquainted with the project, or I should have prevented it, being naturally
averse to the assuming of state on any occasion; and I was a good deal
chagrin’d at their appearance, as I could not avoid their accompanying me. What
made it worse was, that, as soon as we began to move, they drew their swords
and rode with them naked all the way. Somebody wrote an account of this to the
proprietor, and it gave him great offense. No such honor had been paid him when
in the province, nor to any of his governors; and he said it was only proper to
princes of the blood royal, which may be true for aught I know, who was, and
still am, ignorant of the etiquette in such cases.351.

This silly affair, however, greatly increased his rancour against
me, which was before not a little, on account of my conduct in the Assembly
respecting the exemption of his estate from taxation, which I had always
oppos’d very warmly, and not without severe reflections on his meanness and
injustice of contending for it. He accused me to the ministry as being the
great obstacle to the king’s service, preventing, by my influence in the House,
the proper form of the bills for raising money, and he instanced this parade
with my officers as a proof of my having an intention to take the government of
the province out of his hands by force. He also applied to Sir Everard
Fawkener, the postmaster-general, to deprive me of my office; but it had no
other effect than to procure from Sir Everard a gentle admonition.352.

Notwithstanding the continual wrangle between the governor and the
House, in which I, as a member, had so large a share, there still subsisted a
civil intercourse between that gentleman and myself, and we never had any
personal difference. I have sometimes since thought that his little or no
resentment against me, for the answers it was known I drew up to his messages,
might be the effect of professional habit, and that, being bred a lawyer, he
might consider us both as merely advocates for contending clients in a suit, he
for the proprietaries and I for the Assembly. He would, therefore, sometimes
call in a friendly way to advise with me on difficult points, and sometimes,
tho’ not often, take my advice.353.

We acted in concert to supply Braddock’s army with provisions; and,
when the shocking news arrived of his defeat, the governor sent in haste for
me, to consult with him on measures for preventing the desertion of the back
counties. I forget now the advice I gave; but I think it was, that Dunbar
should be written to, and prevail’d with, if possible, to post his troops on
the frontiers for their protection, till, by re-enforcements from the colonies,
he might be able to proceed on the expedition. And, after my return from the
frontier, he would have had me undertake the conduct of such an expedition with
provincial troops, for the reduction of Fort Duquesne, Dunbar and his men being
otherwise employed; and he proposed to commission me as general. I had not so
good an opinion of my military abilities as he profess’d to have, and I believe
his professions must have exceeded his real sentiments; but probably he might
think that my popularity would facilitate the raising of the men, and my
influence in Assembly, the grant of money to pay them, and that, perhaps,
without taxing the proprietary estate. Finding me not so forward to engage as
he expected, the project was dropt, and he soon after left the government,
being superseded by Captain Denny.354.

Before I proceed in relating the part I had in public affairs under
this new governor’s administration, it may not be amiss here to give some
account of the rise and progress of my philosophical reputation.355.

In 1746, being at Boston, I met there with a Dr. Spence, who was
lately arrived from Scotland, and show’d me some electric experiments. They
were imperfectly perform’d, as he was not very expert; but, being on a subject
quite new to me, they equally surpris’d and pleased me. Soon after my return to
Philadelphia, our library company receiv’d from Mr. P. Collinson, Fellow of the
Royal Society of London, a present of a glass tube, with some account of the
use of it in making such experiments. I eagerly seized the opportunity of
repeating what I had seen at Boston; and, by much practice, acquir’d great
readiness in performing those, also, which we had an account of from England,
adding a number of new ones. I say much practice, for my house was continually
full, for some time, with people who came to see these new wonders.356.

To divide a little this incumbrance among my friends, I caused a
number of similar tubes to be blown at our glass-house, with which they
furnish’d themselves, so that we had at length several performers. Among these,
the principal was Mr. Kinnersley, an ingenious neighbor, who, being out of
business, I encouraged to undertake showing the experiments for money, and drew
up for him two lectures, in which the experiments were rang’d in such order,
and accompanied with such explanations in such method, as that the foregoing
should assist in comprehending the following. He procur’d an elegant apparatus
for the purpose, in which all the little machines that I had roughly made for
myself were nicely form’d by instrument-makers. His lectures were well
attended, and gave great satisfaction; and after some time he went thro’ the
colonies, exhibiting them in every capital town, and pick’d up some money. In
the West India islands, indeed, it was with difficulty the experiments could be
made, from the general moisture of the air.357.

Oblig’d as we were to Mr. Collinson for his present of the tube,
etc., I thought it right he should be inform’d of our success in using it, and
wrote him several letters containing accounts of our experiments. He got them
read in the Royal Society, where they were not at first thought worth so much
notice as to be printed in their Transactions. One paper, which I wrote for Mr.
Kinnersley, on the sameness of lightning with electricity, I sent to Dr.
Mitchel, an acquaintance of mine, and one of the members also of that society,
who wrote me word that it had been read, but was laughed at by the
connoisseurs. The papers, however, being shown to Dr. Fothergill, he thought
them of too much value to be stifled, and advis’d the printing of them. Mr.
Collinson then gave them to Cave for publication in his Gentleman’s Magazine;
but he chose to print them separately in a pamphlet, and Dr. Fothergill wrote
the preface. Cave, it seems, judged rightly for his profit, for by the
additions that arrived afterward they swell’d to a quarto volume, which has had
five editions, and cost him nothing for copy-money.358.

It was, however, some time before those papers were much taken
notice of in England. A copy of them happening to fall into the hands of the
Count de Buffon, a philosopher deservedly of great reputation in France, and,
indeed, all over Europe, he prevailed with M. Dalibard to translate them into
French, and they were printed at Paris. The publication offended the Abbe
Nollet, preceptor in Natural Philosophy to the royal family, and an able
experimenter, who had form’d and publish’d a theory of electricity, which then
had the general vogue. He could not at first believe that such a work came from
America, and said it must have been fabricated by his enemies at Paris, to
decry his system. Afterwards, having been assur’d that there really existed
such a person as Franklin at Philadelphia, which he had doubted, he wrote and
published a volume of Letters, chiefly address’d to me, defending his theory,
and denying the verity of my experiments, and of the positions deduc’d from

I once purpos’d answering the abbe, and actually began the answer;
but, on consideration that my writings contain’d a description of experiments
which any one might repeat and verify, and if not to be verifi’d, could not be
defended; or of observations offer’d as conjectures, and not delivered
dogmatically, therefore not laying me under any obligation to defend them; and
reflecting that a dispute between two persons, writing in different languages,
might be lengthened greatly by mistranslations, and thence misconceptions of
one another’s meaning, much of one of the abbe’s letters being founded on an
error in the translation, I concluded to let my papers shift for themselves,
believing it was better to spend what time I could spare from public business
in making new experiments, than in disputing about those already made. I
therefore never answered M. Nollet, and the event gave me no cause to repent my
silence; for my friend M. le Roy, of the Royal Academy of Sciences, took up my
cause and refuted him; my book was translated into the Italian, German, and
Latin languages; and the doctrine it contain’d was by degrees universally
adopted by the philosophers of Europe, in preference to that of the abbe; so
that he lived to see himself the last of his sect, except Monsieur B––, of
Paris, his eleve and immediate disciple.360.

What gave my book the more sudden and general celebrity, was the
success of one of its proposed experiments, made by Messrs. Dalibard and De Lor
at Marly, for drawing lightning from the clouds. This engag’d the public
attention every where. M. de Lor, who had an apparatus for experimental
philosophy, and lectur’d in that branch of science, undertook to repeat what he
called the
Philadelphia Experiments; and, after they were performed before the
king and court, all the curious of Paris flocked to see them. I will not swell
this narrative with an account of that capital experiment, nor of the infinite
pleasure I receiv’d in the success of a similar one I made soon after with a
kite at Philadelphia, as both are to be found in the histories of

Dr. Wright, an English physician, when at Paris, wrote to a friend,
who was of the Royal Society, an account of the high esteem my experiments were
in among the learned abroad, and of their wonder that my writings had been so
little noticed in England. The society, on this, resum’d the consideration of
the letters that had been read to them; and the celebrated Dr. Watson drew up a
summary account of them, and of all I had afterwards sent to England on the
subject, which be accompanied with some praise of the writer. This summary was
then printed in their Transactions; and some members of the society in London,
particularly the very ingenious Mr. Canton, having verified the experiment of
procuring lightning from the clouds by a pointed rod, and acquainting them with
the success, they soon made me more than amends for the slight with which they
had before treated me. Without my having made any application for that honor,
they chose me a member, and voted that I should be excus’d the customary
payments, which would have amounted to twenty-five guineas; and ever since have
given me their Transactions gratis. They also presented me with the gold medal
of Sir Godfrey Copley for the year 1753, the delivery of which was accompanied
by a very handsome speech of the president, Lord Macclesfield, wherein I was
highly honoured.362.

Our new governor, Captain Denny, brought over for me the
before-mentioned medal from the Royal Society, which he presented to me at an
entertainment given him by the city. He accompanied it with very polite
expressions of his esteem for me, having, as he said, been long acquainted with
my character. After dinner, when the company, as was customary at that time,
were engag’d in drinking, he took me aside into another room, and acquainted me
that he had been advis’d by his friends in England to cultivate a friendship
with me, as one who was capable of giving him the best advice, and of
contributing most effectually to the making his administration easy; that he
therefore desired of all things to have a good understanding with me, and he
begg’d me to be assur’d of his readiness on all occasions to render me every
service that might be in his power. He said much to me, also, of the
proprietor’s good disposition towards the province, and of the advantage it
might be to us all, and to me in particular, if the opposition that had been so
long continu’d to his measures was dropt, and harmony restor’d between him and
the people; in effecting which, it was thought no one could be more serviceable
than myself; and I might depend on adequate acknowledgments and recompenses,
etc., etc. The drinkers, finding we did not return immediately to the table,
sent us a decanter of Madeira, which the governor made liberal use of, and in
proportion became more profuse of his solicitations and promises.363.

My answers were to this purpose: that my circumstances, thanks to
God, were such as to make proprietary favours unnecessary to me; and that,
being a member of the Assembly, I could not possibly accept of any; that,
however, I had no personal enmity to the proprietary, and that, whenever the
public measures he propos’d should appear to be for the good of the people, no
one should espouse and forward them more zealously than myself; my past
opposition having been founded on this, that the measures which had been urged
were evidently intended to serve the proprietary interest, with great prejudice
to that of the people; that I was much obliged to him (the governor) for his
professions of regard to me, and that he might rely on every thing in my power
to make his administration as easy as possible, hoping at the same time that he
had not brought with him the same unfortunate instruction his predecessor had
been hamper’d with.364.

On this he did not then explain himself; but when he afterwards came
to do business with the Assembly, they appear’d again, the disputes were
renewed, and I was as active as ever in the opposition, being the penman,
first, of the request to have a communication of the instructions, and then of
the remarks upon them, which may be found in the votes of the time, and in the
Historical Review I afterward publish’d. But between us personally no enmity
arose; we were often together; he was a man of letters, had seen much of the
world, and was very entertaining and pleasing in conversation. He gave me the
first information that my old friend Jas. Ralph was still alive; that he was
esteem’d one of the best political writers in England; had been employ’d in the
dispute between Prince Frederic and the king, and had obtain’d a pension of
three hundred a year; that his reputation was indeed small as a poet, Pope
having damned his poetry in the Dunciad; but his prose was thought as good as
any man’s.365.

)The Assembly finally finding the proprietary obstinately persisted
in manacling their deputies with instructions inconsistent not only with the
privileges of the people, but with the service of the crown, resolv’d to
petition the king against them, and appointed me their agent to go over to
England, to present and support the petition. The House had sent up a bill to
the governor, granting a sum of sixty thousand pounds for the king’s use (ten
thousand pounds of which was subjected to the orders of the then general, Lord
Loudoun), which the governor absolutely refus’d to pass, in compliance with his

I had agreed with Captain Morris, of the paquet at New York, for my
passage, and my stores were put on board, when Lord Loudoun arriv’d at
Philadelphia, expressly, as he told me, to endeavor an accommodation between
the governor and Assembly, that his majesty’s service might not be obstructed
by their dissensions. Accordingly, he desir’d the governor and myself to meet
him, that he might hear what was to be said on both sides. We met and discuss’d
the business. In behalf of the Assembly, I urg’d all the various arguments that
may be found in the public papers of that time, which were of my writing, and
are printed with the minutes of the Assembly; and the governor pleaded his
instructions; the bond he had given to observe them, and his ruin if he
disobey’d, yet seemed not unwilling to hazard himself if Lord Loudoun would
advise it. This his lordship did not chuse to do, though I once thought I had
nearly prevail’d with him to do it; but finally he rather chose to urge the
compliance of the Assembly; and he entreated me to use my endeavours with them
for that purpose, declaring that he would spare none of the king’s troops for
the defense of our frontiers, and that, if we did not continue to provide for
that defense ourselves, they must remain expos’d to the enemy.367.

I acquainted the House with what had pass’d, and, presenting them
with a set of resolutions I had drawn up, declaring our rights, and that we did
not relinquish our claim to those rights, but only suspended the exercise of
them on this occasion thro’ force, against which we protested, they at length
agreed to drop that bill, and frame another conformable to the proprietary
instructions. This of course the governor pass’d, and I was then at liberty to
proceed on my voyage. But, in the meantime, the paquet had sailed with my
sea-stores, which was some loss to me, and my only recompense was his
lordship’s thanks for my service, all the credit of obtaining the accommodation
falling to his share.368.

He set out for New York before me; and, as the time for dispatching
the paquet-boats was at his disposition, and there were two then remaining
there, one of which, he said, was to sail very soon, I requested to know the
precise time, that I might not miss her by any delay of mine. His answer was,
“I have given out that she is to sail on Saturday next; but I may let you know,
entre nous, that if you are there by Monday morning, you will be in time, but
do not delay longer.” By some accidental hinderance at a ferry, it was Monday
noon before I arrived, and I was much afraid she might have sailed, as the wind
was fair; but I was soon made easy by the information that she was still in the
harbor, and would not move till the next day. One would imagine that I was now
on the very point of departing for Europe. I thought so; but I was not then so
well acquainted with his lordship’s character, of which indecision was one of
the strongest features. I shall give some instances. It was about the beginning
of April that I came to New York, and I think it was near the end of June
before we sail’d. There were then two of the paquet-boats, which had been long
in port, but were detained for the general’s letters, which were always to be
ready to-morrow. Another paquet arriv’d; she too was detain’d; and, before we
sail’d, a fourth was expected. Ours was the first to be dispatch’d, as having
been there longest. Passengers were engag’d in all, and some extremely
impatient to be gone, and the merchants uneasy about their letters, and the
orders they had given for insurance (it being war time) for fall goods! but
their anxiety avail’d nothing; his lordship’s letters were not ready; and yet
whoever waited on him found him always at his desk, pen in hand, and concluded
he must needs write abundantly.369.

Going myself one morning to pay my respects, I found in his
antechamber one Innis, a messenger of Philadelphia, who had come from thence
express with a paquet from Governor Denny for the General. He delivered to me
some letters from my friends there, which occasion’d my inquiring when he was
to return, and where be lodg’d, that I might send some letters by him. He told
me he was order’d to call to-morrow at nine for the general’s answer to the
governor, and should set off immediately. I put my letters into his hands the
same day. A fortnight after I met him again in the same place. “So, you are
soon return’d, Innis?” “Returned! no, I am not gone yet.” “How so?” “I have
called here by order every morning these two weeks past for his lordship’s
letter, and it is not yet ready.” “Is it possible, when he is so great a
writer? for I see him constantly at his escritoire.” “Yes,” says Innis, “but he
is like St. George on the signs, always on horseback, and never rides on!” This
observation of the messenger was, it seems, well founded; for, when in England,
I understood that Mr. Pitt gave it as one reason for removing this general, and
sending Generals Amherst and Wolfe, that the minister never heard from him, and
could not know what he was doing

This daily expectation of sailing, and all the three paquets going
down to Sandy Hook, to join the fleet there, the passengers thought it best to
be on board, lest by a sudden order the ships should sail, and they be left
behind. There, if I remember right, we were about six weeks, consuming our
sea-stores, and oblig’d to procure more. At length the fleet sail’d, the
General and all his army on board, bound to Louisburg, with intent to besiege
and take that fortress; all the paquet-boats in company ordered to attend the
General’s ship, ready to receive his dispatches when they should be ready. We
were out five days before we got a letter with leave to part, and then our ship
quitted the fleet and steered for England. The other two paquets he still
detained, carried them with him to Halifax, where he stayed some time to
exercise the men in sham attacks upon sham forts, then alter’d his mind as to
besieging Louisburg, and return’d to New York, with all his troops, together
with the two paquets above mentioned, and all their passengers! During his
absence the French and savages had taken Fort George, on the frontier of that
province, and the savages had massacred many of the garrison after

I saw afterwards in London Captain Bonnell, who commanded one of
those paquets. He told me that, when he had been detain’d a month, he
acquainted his lordship that his ship was grown foul, to a degree that must
necessarily hinder her fast sailing, a point of consequence for a paquet-boat,
and requested an allowance of time to heave her down and clean her bottom. He
was asked how long time that would require. He answer’d, three days. The
general replied, “If you can do it in one day, I give leave; otherwise not; for
you must certainly sail the day after to-morrow.” So he never obtain’d leave,
though detained afterwards from day to day during full three months.372.

I saw also in London one of Bonnell’s passengers, who was so enrag’d
against his lordship for deceiving and detaining him so long at New York, and
then carrying him to Halifax and back again, that he swore he would sue for
damages. Whether he did or not, I never heard; but, as he represented the
injury to his affairs, it was very considerable.373.

On the whole, I wonder’d much how such a man came to be intrusted
with so important a business as the conduct of a great army; but, having since
seen more of the great world, and the means of obtaining, and motives for
giving places, my wonder is diminished. General Shirley, on whom the command of
the army devolved upon the death of Braddock, would, in my opinion, if
continued in place, have made a much better campaign than that of Loudoun in
1757, which was frivolous, expensive, and disgraceful to our nation beyond
conception; for, tho’ Shirley was not a bred soldier, he was sensible and
sagacious in himself, and attentive to good advice from others, capable of
forming judicious plans, and quick and active in carrying them into execution.
Loudoun, instead of defending the colonies with his great army, left them
totally expos’d while he paraded idly at Halifax, by which means Fort George
was lost, besides, he derang’d all our mercantile operations, and distress’d
our trade, by a long embargo on the exportation of provisions, on pretence of
keeping supplies from being obtain’d by the enemy, but in reality for beating
down their price in favor of the contractors, in whose profits, it was said,
perhaps from suspicion only, he had a share. And, when at length the embargo
was taken off, by neglecting to send notice of it to Charlestown, the Carolina
fleet was detain’d near three months longer, whereby their bottoms were so much
damaged by the worm that a great part of them foundered in their passage

Shirley was, I believe, sincerely glad of being relieved from so
burdensome a charge as the conduct of an army must be to a man unacquainted
with military business. I was at the entertainment given by the city of New
York to Lord Loudoun, on his taking upon him the command. Shirley, tho’ thereby
superseded, was present also. There was a great company of officers, citizens,
and strangers, and, some chairs having been borrowed in the neighborhood, there
was one among them very low, which fell to the lot of Mr. Shirley. Perceiving
it as I sat by him, I said, “They have given you, sir, too low a seat.” “No
matter,” says he, “Mr. Franklin, I find a low seat the easiest.”375.

While I was, as afore mention’d, detain’d at New York, I receiv’d
all the accounts of the provisions, etc., that I had furnish’d to Braddock,
some of which accounts could not sooner be obtain’d from the different persons
I had employ’d to assist in the business. I presented them to Lord Loudoun,
desiring to be paid the ballance. He caus’d them to be regularly examined by
the proper officer, who, after comparing every article with its voucher,
certified them to be right; and the balance due for which his lordship promis’d
to give me an order on the paymaster. This was, however, put off from time to
time; and, tho’ I call’d often for it by appointment, I did not get it. At
length, just before my departure, he told me he had, on better consideration,
concluded not to mix his accounts with those of his predecessors. “And you,”
says he, “when in England, have only to exhibit your accounts at the treasury,
and you will be paid immediately.”376.

I mention’d, but without effect, the great and unexpected expense I
had been put to by being detain’d so long at New York, as a reason for my
desiring to be presently paid; and on my observing that it was not right I
should be put to any further trouble or delay in obtaining the money I had
advanc’d, as I charged no commission for my service, “O, sir,” says he, “you
must not think of persuading us that you are no gainer; we understand better
those affairs, and know that every one concerned in supplying the army finds
means, in the doing it, to fill his own pockets.” I assur’d him that was not my
case, and that I had not pocketed a farthing; but he appear’d clearly not to
believe me; and, indeed, I have since learnt that immense fortunes are often
made in such employments. As to my ballance, I am not paid it to this day, of
which more hereafter.377.

Our captain of the paquet had boasted much, before we sailed, of the
swiftness of his ship; unfortunately, when we came to sea, she proved the
dullest of ninety-six sail, to his no small mortification. After many
conjectures respecting the cause, when we were near another ship almost as dull
as ours, which, however, gain’d upon us, the captain ordered all hands to come
aft, and stand as near the ensign staff as possible. We were, passengers
included, about forty persons. While we stood there, the ship mended her pace,
and soon left her neighbour far behind, which prov’d clearly what our captain
suspected, that she was loaded too much by the head. The casks of water, it
seems, had been all plac’d forward; these he therefore order’d to be mov’d
further aft, on which the ship recover’d her character, and proved the sailer
in the fleet.378.

The captain said she had once gone at the rate of thirteen knots,
which is accounted thirteen miles per hour. We had on board, as a passenger,
Captain Kennedy, of the Navy, who contended that it was impossible, and that no
ship ever sailed so fast, and that there must have been some error in the
division of the log-line, or some mistake in heaving the log. A wager ensu’d
between the two captains, to be decided when there should be sufficient wind.
Kennedy thereupon examin’d rigorously the log-line, and, being satisfi’d with
that, he determin’d to throw the log himself. Accordingly some days after, when
the wind blew very fair and fresh, and the captain of the paquet, Lutwidge,
said he believ’d she then went at the rate of thirteen knots, Kennedy made the
experiment, and own’d his wager lost.379.

The above fact I give for the sake of the following observation. It
has been remark’d, as an imperfection in the art of ship-building, that it can
never be known, till she is tried, whether a new ship will or will not be a
good sailer; for that the model of a good-sailing ship has been exactly
follow’d in a new one, which has prov’d, on the contrary, remarkably dull. I
apprehend that this may partly be occasion’d by the different opinions of
seamen respecting the modes of lading, rigging, and sailing of a ship; each has
his system; and the same vessel, laden by the judgment and orders of one
captain, shall sail better or worse than when by the orders of another.
Besides, it scarce ever happens that a ship is form’d, fitted for the sea, and
sail’d by the same person. One man builds the hull, another rigs her, a third
lades and sails her. No one of these has the advantage of knowing all the ideas
and experience of the others, and, therefore, can not draw just conclusions
from a combination of the whole.380.

Even in the simple operation of sailing when at sea, I have often
observ’d different judgments in the officers who commanded the successive
watches, the wind being the same. One would have the sails trimm’d sharper or
flatter than another, so that they seem’d to have no certain rule to govern by.
Yet I think a set of experiments might be instituted, first, to determine the
most proper form of the hull for swift sailing; next, the best dimensions and
properest place for the masts: then the form and quantity of sails, and their
position, as the wind may be; and, lastly, the disposition of the lading. This
is an age of experiments, and I think a set accurately made and combin’d would
be of great use. I am persuaded, therefore, that ere long some ingenious
philosopher will undertake it, to whom I wish success.381.

We were several times chas’d in our passage, but outsail’d every
thing, and in thirty days had soundings. We had a good observation, and the
captain judg’d himself so near our port, Falmouth, that, if we made a good run
in the night, we might be off the mouth of that harbor in the morning, and by
running in the night might escape the notice of the enemy’s privateers, who
often crus’d near the entrance of the channel. Accordingly, all the sail was
set that we could possibly make, and the wind being very fresh and fair, we
went right before it, and made great way. The captain, after his observation,
shap’d his course, as he thought, so as to pass wide of the Scilly Isles; but
it seems there is sometimes a strong indraught setting up St. George’s Channel,
which deceives seamen and caused the loss of Sir Cloudesley Shovel’s squadron.
This indraught was probably the cause of what happened to us.382.

We had a watchman plac’d in the bow, to whom they often called,
“Look well out before there,” and he as often answered, “Ay ay; ” but perhaps
had his eyes shut, and was half asleep at the time, they sometimes answering,
as is said, mechanically; for he did not see a light just before us, which had
been hid by the studdingsails from the man at the helm, and from the rest of
the watch, but by an accidental yaw of the ship was discover’d, and occasion’d
a great alarm, we being very near it, the light appearing to me as big as a
cart-wheel. It was midnight, and our captain fast asleep; but Captain Kennedy,
jumping upon deck, and seeing the danger, ordered the ship to wear round, all
sails standing; an operation dangerous to the masts, but it carried us clear,
and we escaped shipwreck, for we were running right upon the rocks on which the
light-house was erected. This deliverance impressed me strongly with the
utility of light-houses, and made me resolve to encourage the building more of
them in America, if I should live to return there.383.

In the morning it was found by the soundings, etc., that we were
near our port, but a thick fog hid the land from our sight. About nine o’clock
the fog began to rise, and seem’d to be lifted up from the water like the
curtain at a play-house, discovering underneath, the town of Falmouth, the
vessels in its harbor, and the fields that surrounded it. This was a most
pleasing spectacle to those who had been so long without any other prospects
than the uniform view of a vacant ocean, and it gave us the more pleasure as we
were now free from the anxieties which the state of war occasion’d.384.

I set out immediately, with my son, for London, and we only stopt a
little by the way to view Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain, and Lord Pembroke’s
house and gardens, with his very curious antiquities at Wilton. We arrived in
London the 27th of July, 1757.385.

AS SOON as I was settled in a lodging
Mr. Charles had provided for me, I went to visit Dr. Fothergill, to whom I was
strongly recommended, and whose counsel respecting my proceedings I was advis’d
to obtain. He was against an immediate complaint to government, and thought the
proprietaries should first be personally appli’d to, who might possibly be
induc’d by the interposition and persuasion of some private friends, to
accommodate matters amicably. I then waited on my old friend and correspondent,
Mr. Peter Collinson, who told me that John Hanbury, the great Virginia
merchant, had requested to be informed when I should arrive, that he might
carry me to Lord Granville’s, who was then President of the Council and wished
to see me as soon as possible. I agreed to go with him the next morning.
Accordingly Mr. Hanbury called for me and took me in his carriage to that
nobleman’s, who receiv’d me with great civility; and after some questions
respecting the present state of affairs in America and discourse thereupon, he
said to me: “You Americans have wrong ideas of the nature of your constitution;
you contend that the king’s instructions to his governors are not laws, and
think yourselves at liberty to regard or disregard them at your own discretion.
But those instructions are not like the pocket instructions given to a minister
going abroad, for regulating his conduct in some trifling point of ceremony.
They are first drawn up by judges learned in the laws; they are then
considered, debated, and perhaps amended in Council, after which they are
signed by the king. They are then, so far as they relate to you, the law of the
, for the king is the LEGISLATOR OF THE COLONIES.”
I told his lordship this was new doctrine to me. I had always understood from
our charters that our laws were to be made by our Assemblies, to be presented
indeed to the king for his royal assent, but that being once given the king
could not repeal or alter them. And as the Assemblies could not make permanent
laws without his assent, so neither could he make a law for them without
theirs. He assur’d me I was totally mistaken. I did not think so, however, and
his lordship’s conversation having a little alarm’d me as to what might be the
sentiments of the court concerning us, I wrote it down as soon as I return’d to
my lodgings. I recollected that about 20 years before, a clause in a bill
brought into Parliament by the ministry had propos’d to make the king’s
instructions laws in the colonies, but the clause was thrown out by the
Commons, for which we adored them as our friends and friends of liberty, till
by their conduct towards us in 1765 it seem’d that they had refus’d that point
of sovereignty to the king only that they might reserve it for themselves.386.

After some days, Dr. Fothergill having spoken to the proprietaries,
they agreed to a meeting with me at Mr. T. Penn’s house in Spring Garden. The
conversation at first consisted of mutual declarations of disposition to
reasonable accommodations, but I suppose each party had its own ideas of what
should be meant by reasonable. We then went into consideration of our several
points of complaint, which I enumerated. The proprietaries justify’d their
conduct as well as they could, and I the Assembly’s. We now appeared very wide,
and so far from each other in our opinions as to discourage all hope of
agreement. However, it was concluded that I should give them the heads of our
complaints in writing, and they promis’d then to consider them. I did so soon
after, but they put the paper into the hands of their solicitor, Ferdinand John
Paris, who managed for them all their law business in their great suit with the
neighbouring proprietary of Maryland, Lord Baltimore, which had subsisted 70
years, and wrote for them all their papers and messages in their dispute with
the Assembly. He was a proud, angry man, and as I had occasionally in the
answers of the Assembly treated his papers with some severity, they being
really weak in point of argument and haughty in expression, he had conceived a
mortal enmity to me, which discovering itself whenever we met, I declin’d the
proprietary’s proposal that he and I should discuss the heads of complaint
between our two selves, and refus’d treating with any one but them. They then
by his advice put the paper into the hands of the Attorney and
Solicitor-General for their opinion and counsel upon it, where it lay
unanswered a year wanting eight days, during which time I made frequent demands
of an answer from the proprietaries, but without obtaining any other than that
they had not yet received the opinion of the Attorney and Solicitor-General.
What it was when they did receive it I never learnt, for they did not
communicate it to me, but sent a long message to the Assembly drawn and signed
by Paris, reciting my paper, complaining of its want of formality, as a
rudeness on my part, and giving a flimsy justification of their conduct, adding
that they should be willing to accommodate matters if the Assembly would send
out some person of candour to treat with them for that purpose, intimating
thereby that I was not such.387.

The want of formality or rudeness was, probably, my not having
address’d the paper to them with their assum’d titles of True and Absolute
Proprietaries of the Province of Pennsylvania, which I omitted as not thinking
it necessary in a paper, the intention of which was only to reduce to a
certainty by writing, what in conversation I had delivered viva voce.388.

But during this delay, the Assembly having prevailed with Gov’r
Denny to pass an act taxing the proprietary estate in common with the estates
of the people, which was the grand point in dispute, they omitted answering the

When this act however came over, the proprietaries, counselled by
Paris, determined to oppose its receiving the royal assent. Accordingly they
petition’d the king in Council, and a hearing was appointed in which two
lawyers were employ’d by them against the act, and two by me in support of it.
They alledg’d that the act was intended to load the proprietary estate in order
to spare those of the people, and that if it were suffer’d to continue in
force, and the proprietaries who were in odium with the people, left to their
mercy in proportioning the taxes, they would inevitably be ruined. We reply’d
that the act had no such intention, and would have no such effect. That the
assessors were honest and discreet men under an oath to assess fairly and
equitably, and that any advantage each of them might expect in lessening his
own tax by augmenting that of the proprietaries was too trifling to induce them
to perjure themselves. This is the purport of what I remember as urged by both
sides, except that we insisted strongly on the mischievous consequences that
must attend a repeal, for that the money, L100,000, being printed and given to
the king’s use, expended in his service, and now spread among the people, the
repeal would strike it dead in their hands to the ruin of many, and the total
discouragement of future grants, and the selfishness of the proprietors in
soliciting such a general catastrophe, merely from a groundless fear of their
estate being taxed too highly, was insisted on in the strongest terms. On this,
Lord Mansfield, one of the counsel rose, and beckoning me took me into the
clerk’s chamber, while the lawyers were pleading, and asked me if I was really
of opinion that no injury would be done the proprietary estate in the execution
of the act. I said certainly. “Then,” says he, “you can have little objection
to enter into an engagement to assure that point.” I answer’d, “None at all.”
He then call’d in Paris, and after some discourse, his lordship’s proposition
was accepted on both sides; a paper to the purpose was drawn up by the Clerk of
the Council, which I sign’d with Mr. Charles, who was also an Agent of the
Province for their ordinary affairs, when Lord Mansfield returned to the
Council Chamber, where finally the law was allowed to pass. Some changes were
however recommended and we also engaged they should be made by a subsequent
law, but the Assembly did not think them necessary; for one year’s tax having
been levied by the act before the order of Council arrived, they appointed a
committee to examine the proceedings of the assessors, and on this committee
they put several particular friends of the proprietaries. After a full enquiry,
they unanimously sign’d a report that they found the tax had been assess’d with
perfect equity.390.

The Assembly looked into my entering into the first part of the
engagement, as an essential service to the Province, since it secured the
credit of the paper money then spread over all the country. They gave me their
thanks in form when I return’d. But the proprietaries were enraged at Governor
Denny for having pass’d the act, and turn’d him out with threats of suing him
for breach of instructions which he had given bond to observe. He, however,
having done it at the instance of the General, and for His Majesty’s service,
and having some powerful interest at court, despis’d the threats and they were
never put in execution. . . . [Unfinished].391.

Full Colophon Information

Genre: Prose
Subjects: Benjamin Franklin, 1706-1790
Period: 1750-1800
Location: British America
Format: Account/Relation, Letters

The composition of this text was finished in 1788. However, it was not published until 1900.

This text of the present edition was prepared from and proofed against Benjamin Franklin, "Autobiography," in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, The Journal of John Woolman, the Fruits of Solitude William Penn, ed. Charles W. Eliot (New York: P. F. Collier and Son, 1909). For the present edition, all preliminaries and notes have been omitted except those for which the author is responsible. All editorial notes have been omitted except those that indicate significant textual variations. Line and paragraph numbers contained in the source text have been retained. In cases where the source text displays no numbers, numbers are automatically generated. In the header, personal names have been regularized according to the Library of Congress authority files as "Last Name, First Name" for the REG attribute and "First Name Last Name" for the element value. Names have not been regularized in the body of the text.