Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography (1793)

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin edited by Charles Eliot presented
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Title: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
Editor: Charles Eliot
Release Date: May 22, 2008 [EBook #148]
Last Updated: July 2016
Language: English

Produced by Project Gutenberg. HTML version by Robert Homa.


Title: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Author: Benjamin Franklin

First Released: August 4, 1995 [Ebook: #148]
[Last updated: August 2, 2016]

Language: English



The Harvard Classics






    Letter from Mr. Abel James.
    Publishes the first number of "Poor Richard's Almanac.
    Proposes a Plan of Union for the colonies
    Chief events in Franklin's life.


Benjamin Franklin was born in Milk Street, Boston, on January 6, 1706.
His father, Josiah Franklin, was a tallow chandler who married twice,
and of his seventeen children Benjamin was the youngest son. His
schooling ended at ten, and at twelve he was bound apprentice to his
brother James, a printer, who published the "New England Courant." To
this journal he became a contributor, and later was for a time its
nominal editor. But the brothers quarreled, and Benjamin ran away, going
first to New York, and thence to Philadelphia, where he arrived in
October, 1723. He soon obtained work as a printer, but after a few
months he was induced by Governor Keith to go to London, where, finding
Keith's promises empty, he again worked as a compositor till he was
brought back to Philadelphia by a merchant named Denman, who gave him a
position in his business. On Denman's death he returned to his former
trade, and shortly set up a printing house of his own from which he
published "The Pennsylvania Gazette," to which he contributed many
essays, and which he made a medium for agitating a variety of local
reforms. In 1732 he began to issue his famous "Poor Richard's Almanac"
for the enrichment of which he borrowed or composed those pithy
utterances of worldly wisdom which are the basis of a large part of his
popular reputation. In 1758, the year in which he ceased writing for the
Almanac, he printed in it "Father Abraham's Sermon," now regarded as the
most famous piece of literature produced in Colonial America.

Meantime Franklin was concerning himself more and more with public
affairs. He set forth a scheme for an Academy, which was taken up later
and finally developed into the University of Pennsylvania; and he
founded an "American Philosophical Society" for the purpose of enabling
scientific men to communicate their discoveries to one another. He
himself had already begun his electrical researches, which, with other
scientific inquiries, he carried on in the intervals of money-making and
politics to the end of his life. In 1748 he sold his business in order
to get leisure for study, having now acquired comparative wealth; and in
a few years he had made discoveries that gave him a reputation with the
learned throughout Europe. In politics he proved very able both as an
administrator and as a controversialist; but his record as an
office-holder is stained by the use he made of his position to advance
his relatives. His most notable service in home politics was his reform
of the postal system; but his fame as a statesman rests chiefly on his
services in connection with the relations of the Colonies with Great
Britain, and later with France. In 1757 he was sent to England to
protest against the influence of the Penns in the government of the
colony, and for five years he remained there, striving to enlighten the
people and the ministry of England as to Colonial conditions. On his
return to America he played an honorable part in the Paxton affair,
through which he lost his seat in the Assembly; but in 1764 he was again
despatched to England as agent for the colony, this time to petition the
King to resume the government from the hands of the proprietors. In
London he actively opposed the proposed Stamp Act, but lost the credit
for this and much of his popularity through his securing for a friend
the office of stamp agent in America. Even his effective work in helping
to obtain the repeal of the act left him still a suspect; but he
continued his efforts to present the case for the Colonies as the
troubles thickened toward the crisis of the Revolution. In 1767 he
crossed to France, where he was received with honor; but before his
return home in 1775 he lost his position as postmaster through his share
in divulging to Massachusetts the famous letter of Hutchinson and
Oliver. On his arrival in Philadelphia he was chosen a member of the
Continental Congress, and in 1777 he was despatched to France as
commissioner for the United States. Here he remained till 1785, the
favorite of French society; and with such success did he conduct the
affairs of his country that when he finally returned he received a place
only second to that of Washington as the champion of American
independence. He died on April 17, 1790.

The first five chapters of the Autobiography were composed in England in
1771, continued in 1784-5, and again in 1788, at which date he brought
it down to 1757. After a most extraordinary series of adventures, the
original form of the manuscript was finally printed by Mr. John Bigelow,
and is here reproduced in recognition of its value as a picture of one
of the most notable personalities of Colonial times, and of its
acknowledged rank as one of the great autobiographies of the world.




Twyford, at the Bishop of St. Asaph's, [1] 1771.

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 [2]
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.

[1] The country-seat of Bishop Shipley, the good bishop, as Dr. Franklin
used to style him.--B.

[2] After the words "agreeable to" the words "some of" were interlined
and afterward effaced.--B.

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 writing.

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.

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.

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.

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 1702, 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. "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. ¹ 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.

¹ Here follow in the margin the words, in brackets, "here insert it,"
but the poetry is not given. Mr. Sparks informs us (Life of Franklin,
p. 6) that these volumes had been preserved, and were in possession of
Mrs. Emmons, of Boston, great-grandmother of their author.

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

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.

   "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,
       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 he 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,

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 conducted.

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.

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 sometimes did 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.

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.

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:

Josiah Franklin,
Abiah his wife,
lie here interred.
They lived lovingly together in wedlock
fifty-five years.
Without an estate, or any gainful employment,
By constant labor and industry,
with God's blessing,
They maintained a large family
and brought up thirteen children
and seven grandchildren
From this instance, reader,
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,
In filial regard to their memory,
Places this stone.
J.F. born 1655, died 1744, Ætat 89.
A.F. born 1667, died 1752, ------85.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 had 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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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 mistaken.
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.

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 customers.

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.

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 unexpected. [3]

[3] I fancy his harsh and tyrannical treatment of me might be a means of
impressing me with that aversion to arbitrary power that has stuck to me
through my whole life.

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

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 salt.

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

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.

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

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.

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
Second-street, 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, coming 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.

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.

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

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.

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 prospects;
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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 it
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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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 he 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 had 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.

I was now on a fair footing with them, and soon acquir'd considerable
influence. I propos'd some reasonable alterations in their chappel [4]
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

[4] "A printing-house is always called a chapel by the workmen, the
origin of which appears to have been that printing was first carried on
in England in an ancient chapel converted into a printing-house, and the
title has been preserved by tradition. The bien venu among the printers
answers to the terms entrance and footing among mechanics; thus a
journeyman, on entering a printing-house, was accustomed to pay one or
more gallons of beer for the good of the chapel; this custom was falling
into disuse thirty years ago; it is very properly rejected entirely in
the United States."--W. T. F.

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 London.

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 thoughts." 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 supported.

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.

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.

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 interest.

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.

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.

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.

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 [5] 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.

[5] The "Journal" was printed by Sparks, from a copy made at Reading in
1787. But it does not contain the Plan.--Ed.

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 had 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 business.

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.

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.

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 better.

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 America. 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

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 œconomist. He,
however, kindly made no demand of it.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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 my conversation seem'd to be 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 withal.

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 he 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 lived.

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

   "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 reasonings.

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.

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.

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 croaking.

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.

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

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.

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

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.

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.

And William Coleman, then a merchant's clerk, about my age, who had the
coolest, clearest 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.

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.

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.

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 imploy 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.

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.

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.

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

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. [6]

[6] I got his son once £500.--[Marg. note.]

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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, tho' I now
think there are limits beyond which the quantity may be hurtful.

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

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.

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.

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
partnership 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 again.

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.

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.

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

"My Dear and Honored Friend: 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.

"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:

Letter from Mr. Benjamin Vaughan.

"Paris, January 31, 1783.

"My Dearest Sir: 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
Cæsar 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 good-humored.

"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?

"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 every man'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 may 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.,

"Signed,     Benj. Vaughan."

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

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.

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.

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 was 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 countries.

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 company.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 had 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.

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
 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
 5. Frugality.
    Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; i.e., waste
 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 accordingly.
 8. Justice.
    Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your
 9. Moderation.
    Avoid extreams; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they
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 Socrates.

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 examination.

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.

Form of the pages.

eat not to dulness;
drink not to elevation.

        S.      M.      T.      W.      T.      F.      S.
S.      •       •               •               •
O.      ••      •       •               •       •       •
R.                      •                       •
F.              •                       •
I.                      •

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
be happy in viewing a clean book, after a thirteen weeks' daily

This my little book had for its motto these lines from Addison's Cato:

   "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 vitæ Philosophia dux! O virtutum indagatrix expultrixque vitiorum!
Unus dies, bene et ex præceptis tuis actus, peccanti immortalitati est

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.

"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,

   "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;
    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

  THE MORNING.         { 5}   Rise, wash, and address Powerful
  Question.            { 6}   Goodness! Contrive day's
  What good shall      {  }   business, and take the resolution
  I do this day?       { 7}   of the day; prosecute the present
                       {  }   study, and breakfast.
                        10}   Work.
  NOON.                {12}   Read, or overlook my accounts,
                       { 1}   and dine.
                         3}   Work.
  EVENING.             { 6}   Put things in their places.
  Question.            { 7}   Supper. Music or diversion, or
    What good have     { 8}   conversation. Examination of
    I done to-day?     { 9}   the day.
  NIGHT.               { 1}   Sleep.
                       { 2}
                       { 3}
                       { 4}

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.

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.

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.

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.

It will be remark'd that, tho' my scheme was not wholly without
religion, there was in it no mark of any of the distinguishing 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, [7] 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.

[7] Nothing so likely to make a man's fortune as virtue.--[Marg. note.]

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 my life, and public business
since, have occasioned my postponing it; for, it being connected in my
mind with a great and extensive project, that required the whole man to
execute, and which an unforeseen succession of employs prevented my
attending to, it has hitherto remain'd unfinish'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.

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 word.

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 reception 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.

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.

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.

[Thus far written at Passy, 1784.]

["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."] [8]

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.:

[8] This is a marginal memorandum.--B.

Observations on my reading history, in Library, May 19th, 1731.

"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

"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

"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.:

"That there is one God, who made all things.

"That he governs the world by his providence.

"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.

"And that God will certainly reward virtue and punish vice, either here
or hereafter." [9]

[9] In the Middle Ages, Franklin, if such a phenomenon as Franklin were
possible in the Middle Ages, would probably have been the founder of a
monastic order.--B.

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 be 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 gradually 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 creditors.

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.

In 1732 I first publish'd my Almanack, under the name of Richard
Saunders; it was continu'd by me about twenty-five years, commonly
call'd Poor 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 upright.

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 publication.

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.

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 stage-coach, 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 chosen.

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.

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.

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 profitable.

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.

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

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

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

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 occasions.

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.

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 how 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.

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.

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.

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 senses."

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.

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 sake." 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.

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.

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 ancient histories of generals haranguing whole
armies, of which I had sometimes doubted.

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.

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 manet. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 supplied.

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.

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.

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

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 reason.

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 people.

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.

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 meeting.

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

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.

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 be 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. [10]

[10] See the votes.--[Marg. note.]

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."

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."

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.

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

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.

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 Pennsylvania. This I distributed among the principal
inhabitants gratis; and as soon as 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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 country.

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.

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.

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. [11] The House named the
speaker (Mr. Norris) and myself; and, being commission'd, we went to
Carlisle, and met the Indians accordingly.

[11] See the votes to have this more correctly.--[Marg. note.]

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.

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 but with small

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.

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.

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 he 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 same."

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
manœuvres, 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 cunning.

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 be 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.

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.

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.

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, [12] 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

[12] See votes.

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.

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.

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.

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

"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.

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.

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 farthing!

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.

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.

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.

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 democratic.

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.

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 princes.

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.

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.

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.

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.

[13] 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.

[13] My acts in Morris's time, military, etc.--[Marg. note.]

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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


"LANCASTER, 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.

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

"B. Franklin."

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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.

"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,

B. Franklin."

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.

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 containing

6 lbs. loaf sugar.            1 Gloucester cheese.
6 lbs. good Muscovado do.     1 kegg containing 20 lbs. good butter.
1 lb. good green tea.         2 doz. old Madeira wine.
1 lb. good bohea do.          2 gallons Jamaica spirits.
6 lbs. good ground coffee.    1 bottle flour of mustard.
6 lbs. chocolate.             2 well-cur'd hams.
1-2 cwt. best white biscuit.  1-2 dozen dry'd tongues.
1-2 lb. pepper.               6 lbs. rice.
1 quart best white wine       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

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.

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."

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 precipitation.

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
had 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.

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 apple.

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.

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.

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 head. 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.

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.

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 purpose.

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, [14] stating and answering all the objections I could
think of to such a militia, which was printed, and had, as I thought,
great effect.

[14] This dialogue and the militia act are in the "Gentleman's Magazine"
for February and March, 1756.--[Marg. note.]

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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

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 deny.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 after they swell'd to a quarto volume, which has
had five editions, and cost him nothing for copy-money.

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 Abbé 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 them.

I once purpos'd answering the abbé, 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
abbé'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
abbé; so that he lived to see himself the last of his sect, except
Monsieur B------, of Paris, his élève and immediate disciple.

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 electricity.

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 he 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.

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.

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.

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.

[15] 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 instructions.

[15] The many unanimous resolves of the Assembly--what date?--[Marg.

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.

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.

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.

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 he 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 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.

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.

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 home.

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."

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."

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. [16]

[16] Here terminates the Autobiography, as published by Wm. Temple
Franklin and his successors. What follows was written in the last year
of Dr. Franklin's life, and was first printed (in English) in Mr.
Bigelow's edition of 1868.--Ed.

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 land, 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.

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.

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.

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 message.

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, £100,000,
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.

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
interests at court, despis'd the threats and they were never put in
execution.... [Unfinished].


[Ending, as it does, with the year 1757, the autobiography leaves
important facts unrecorded. It has seemed advisable, therefore, to
detail the chief events in Franklin's life, from the beginning, in the
following list:

1706    He is born, in Boston, and baptized in the Old South Church.
1714    At the age of eight, enters the Grammar School.
1716    Becomes his father's assistant in the tallow-chandlery business.
1718    Apprenticed to his brother James, printer.
1721    Writes ballads and peddles them, in printed form, in the
streets; contributes, anonymously, to the "New England Courant," and
temporarily edits that paper; becomes a free-thinker, and a vegetarian.
1723    Breaks his indenture and removes to Philadelphia; obtains
employment in Keimer's printing-office; abandons vegetarianism.
1724    Is persuaded by Governor Keith to establish himself
independently, and goes to London to buy type; works at his trade there,
and publishes "Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and
1726    Returns to Philadelphia; after serving as clerk in a dry-goods
store, becomes manager of Keimer's printing-house.
1727    Founds the Junto, or "Leathern Apron" Club.
1728    With Hugh Meredith, opens a printing-office.
1729    Becomes proprietor and editor of the "Pennsylvania Gazette";
prints, anonymously, "Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency"; opens a
stationer's shop.
1730    Marries Rebecca Read.
1731    Founds the Philadelphia Library.
1732    Publishes the first number of "Poor Richard's Almanac" under the
pseudonym of "Richard Saunders." The Almanac, which continued for
twenty-five years to contain his witty, worldly-wise sayings, played a
very large part in bringing together and molding the American character
which was at that time made up of so many diverse and scattered types.
1733    Begins to study French, Italian, Spanish, and Latin.
1736    Chosen clerk of the General Assembly; forms the Union Fire
Company of Philadelphia.
1737    Elected to the Assembly; appointed Deputy Postmaster-General;
plans a city police.
1742    Invents the open, or "Franklin," stove.
1743    Proposes a plan for an Academy, which is adopted 1749 and
develops into the University of Pennsylvania.
1744    Establishes the American Philosophical Society.
1746    Publishes a pamphlet, "Plain Truth," on the necessity for
disciplined defense, and forms a military company; begins electrical
1748    Sells out his printing business; is appointed on the Commission
of the Peace, chosen to the Common Council, and to the Assembly.
1749    Appointed a Commissioner to trade with the Indians.
1751    Aids in founding a hospital.
1752    Experiments with a kite and discovers that lightning is an
electrical discharge.
1753    Awarded the Copley medal for this discovery, and elected a
member of the Royal Society; receives the degree of M.A. from Yale and
Harvard. Appointed joint Postmaster-General.
1754    Appointed one of the Commissioners from Pennsylvania to the
Colonial Congress at Albany; proposes a plan for the union of the
1756    Pledges his personal property in order that supplies may be
raised for Braddock's army; obtains a grant from the Assembly in aid of
the Crown Point expedition; carries through a bill establishing a
voluntary militia; is appointed Colonel, and takes the field.
1757    Introduces a bill in the Assembly for paving the streets of
Philadelphia; publishes his famous "Way to Wealth"; goes to England to
plead the cause of the Assembly against the Proprietaries; remains as
agent for Pennsylvania; enjoys the friendship of the scientific and
literary men of the kingdom.
1760    Secures from the Privy Council, by a compromise, a decision
obliging the Proprietary estates to contribute to the public revenue.
1762    Receives the degree of LL.D. from Oxford and Edinburgh; returns
to America.
1763    Makes a five months' tour of the northern colonies for the
purpose of inspecting the post-offices.
1764    Defeated by the Penn faction for reelection to the Assembly;
sent to England as agent for Pennsylvania.
1765    Endeavors to prevent the passage of the Stamp Act.
1766    Examined before the House of Commons relative to the passage of
the Stamp Act; appointed agent of Massachusetts, New Jersey, and
Georgia; visits Göttingen University.
1767    Travels in France and is presented at court.
1769    Procures a telescope for Harvard College.
1772    Elected Associé Etranger of the French Academy.
1774    Dismissed from the office of Postmaster-General; influences
Thomas Paine to emigrate to America.
1775    Returns to America; chosen a delegate to the Second Continental
Congress; placed on the committee of secret correspondence; appointed
one of the commissioners to secure the cooperation of Canada.
1776    Placed on the committee to draft a Declaration of Independence;
chosen president of the Constitutional Committee of Pennsylvania; sent
to France as agent of the colonies.
1778    Concludes treaties of defensive alliance, and of amity and
commerce; is received at court.
1779    Appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to France.
1780    Appoints Paul Jones commander of the "Alliance."
1782    Signs the preliminary articles of peace.
1783    Signs the definite treaty of peace.
1785    Returns to America; is chosen President of Pennsylvania;
reelected 1786.
1787    Reelected President; sent as delegate to the convention for
framing a Federal Constitution.
1788    Retires from public life.
1790    April 17, dies. His grave is in the churchyard at Fifth and Arch
streets, Philadelphia. Editor.]
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