The experience shook Franklin, and his earlier confidence in the wisdom of British officials became punctuated by doubts and resentments. During the next four or five years Franklin sought to bridge the growing gulf between the colonies and the British government. Between and he wrote newspaper pieces, most of which tried to explain each side to the other.
But, as he said, the English thought him too American, while the Americans thought him too English.
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He had not, however, given up his ambition of acquiring a position in the imperial hierarchy. But in opposition by Lord Hillsborough, who had just been appointed head of the new American Department, left Franklin depressed and dispirited; in a mood of frustration, nostalgia , and defiance, he began writing his Autobiography , which eventually became one of the most widely read autobiographies ever published. In recounting the first part of his life, up to age 25—the best part of the Autobiography , most critics agree—Franklin sought to soothe his wounds and justify his apparent failure in British politics.
Most important, in this beginning part of his Autobiography , he in effect was telling the world and his son that, as a free man who had established himself against overwhelming odds as an independent and industrious artisan, he did not have to kowtow to some patronizing , privileged aristocrat. When the signals from the British government shifted and Hillsborough was dismissed from the cabinet, Franklin dropped the writing of the Autobiography , which he would not resume until in France following the successful negotiation of the treaty establishing American independence.
Franklin still thought he might be able to acquire an imperial office and work to hold the empire together. But he became involved in the affair of the Hutchinson letters—an affair that ultimately destroyed his position in England. In Franklin had sent back to Boston some letters written in the s by Thomas Hutchinson , then lieutenant governor of Massachusetts, in which Hutchinson had made some indiscreet remarks about the need to abridge American liberties.
Franklin naively thought that these letters would somehow throw blame for the imperial crisis on native officials such as Hutchinson and thus absolve the ministry in London of responsibility. The move backfired completely, and on January 29, , Franklin stood silent in an amphitheatre near Whitehall while being viciously attacked by the British solicitor-general before the Privy Council and the court, most of whom were hooting and laughing.
Two days later he was fired as deputy postmaster. After some futile efforts at reconciliation, he sailed for America in March Although upon his arrival in Philadelphia Franklin was immediately elected to the Second Continental Congress , some Americans remained suspicious of his real loyalties.
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He had been so long abroad that some thought he might be a British spy. He was delighted that the Congress in sent him back to Europe as the premier agent in a commission seeking military aid and diplomatic recognition from France. His image as the democratic folk genius from the wilderness of America preceded him, and he exploited it brilliantly for the American cause. Franklin played his role to perfection. In violation of all protocol , he dressed in a simple brown-and-white linen suit and wore a fur cap, no wig, and no sword to the court of Versailles , the most formal and elaborate court in all of Europe.
And the French aristocracy and court loved it, caught up as they were with the idea of America. Beset with the pain of gout and a kidney stone , and surrounded by spies and his sometimes clumsy fellow commissioners—especially Arthur Lee of Virginia and John Adams of Massachusetts, who disliked and mistrusted him—Franklin nonetheless succeeded marvelously. He first secured military and diplomatic alliances with France in and then played a crucial role in bringing about the final peace treaty with Britain in see Peace of Paris. In violation of their instructions and the French alliance, the American peace commissioners signed a separate peace with Britain.
He was doing what he most yearned to do—shaping events on a world stage. In Franklin reluctantly had to come to America to die, even though all his friends were in France. His reception was not entirely welcoming. The family and friends of the Lees in Virginia and the Adamses in Massachusetts spread stories of his overweening love of France and his dissolute ways. The Congress treated him shabbily, ignoring his requests for some land in the West and a diplomatic appointment for his grandson. Just before his death in , Franklin retaliated by signing a memorial requesting that the Congress abolish slavery in the United States.
This memorandum provoked some congressmen into angry defenses of slavery, which Franklin exquisitely mocked in a newspaper piece published a month before he died. Upon his death the Senate refused to go along with the House in declaring a month of mourning for Franklin. In contrast to the many expressions of French affection for Franklin, his fellow Americans gave him one public eulogy—and that was delivered by his inveterate enemy the Rev. In the succeeding decades, he became the hero of countless early 19th-century artisans and self-made businessmen who were seeking a justification of their rise and their moneymaking.
They were the creators of the modern folksy image of Franklin, the man who came to personify the American dream. Franklin was not only the most famous American in the 18th century but also one of the most famous figures in the Western world of the 18th century; indeed, he is one of the most celebrated and influential Americans who has ever lived.
Although one is apt to think of Franklin exclusively as an inventor, as an early version of Thomas Edison , which he was, his 18th-century fame came not simply from his many inventions but, more important, from his fundamental contributions to the science of electricity. If there had been a Nobel Prize for Physics in the 18th century, Franklin would have been a contender.
Enhancing his fame was the fact that he was an American, a simple man from an obscure background who emerged from the wilds of America to dazzle the entire intellectual world. Most Europeans in the 18th century thought of America as a primitive, undeveloped place full of forests and savages and scarcely capable of producing enlightened thinkers. Franklin became a living example of the natural untutored genius of the New World that was free from the encumbrances of a decadent and tired Old World—an image that he later parlayed into French support for the American Revolution.
Despite his great scientific achievements, however, Franklin always believed that public service was more important than science, and his political contributions to the formation of the United States were substantial. More important, as diplomatic representative of the new American republic in France during the Revolution, he secured both diplomatic recognition and financial and military aid from the government of Louis XVI and was a crucial member of the commission that negotiated the treaty by which Great Britain recognized its former 13 colonies as a sovereign nation.
No civic project was too large or too small for his interest. In addition to his lightning rod and his Franklin stove a wood-burning stove that warmed American homes for more than years , he invented bifocal glasses, the odometer, and the glass harmonica armonica. He had ideas about everything—from the nature of the Gulf Stream to the cause of the common cold.
He suggested the notions of matching grants and Daylight Saving Time. Almost single-handedly he helped to create a civic society for the inhabitants of Philadelphia. Moreover, he helped to establish new institutions that people now take for granted: He created so many personas in his newspaper writings and almanac and in his posthumously published Autobiography that it is difficult to know who he really was.
Following his death in , he became so identified during the 19th century with the persona of his Autobiography and the Poor Richard maxims of his almanac—e. Although Franklin did indeed become a wealthy tradesman by his early 40s, when he retired from his business, during his lifetime in the 18th century he was not identified as a self-made businessman or a budding capitalist. That image was a creation of the 19th century. But as long as America continues to be pictured as the land of enterprise and opportunity, where striving and hard work can lead to success, then that image of Franklin is the one that is likely to endure.
John was bred a dyer, I believe of woollens, 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. 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 to ; 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. 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. Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife with three children into New England, about 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. 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 , in the home-spun verse of that time and people, and addressed to those then concerned in the government there. It was in favour 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.
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 13 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.
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 dyeing trade would not maintain his family, being in little request. Accordingly, I was employed in cutting wick for the candles, filling the dipping mould and the moulds for cast candles, attending the shop, going of errands, etc.
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.
Early life (1706–23)
By much trampling, we had made it a mere quagmire. My proposal was to build a wharf 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 playfellows, 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 wharf. The next morning the workmen were surprised at missing the stones, which were found in our wharf.
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.
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: 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.
This has been a convenience to me in traveling, 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: They lie buried together at Boston, where I some years since placed a marble over their grave, 15 with this inscription:. By my rambling digressions I perceive myself to be grown old. But one does not dress for private company as for a publick ball. 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. 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.
But his expectations of a fee with me displeasing my father, I was taken home again. Here was the country seat of the Bishop of St. Franklin used to style him. Their relations were intimate and confidential. In his pulpit, and in the House of Lords, as well as in society, the bishop always opposed the harsh measures of the Crown toward the Colonies. Every year whose number in the common reckoning since Christ is not divisible by 4, as well as every year whose number is divisible by but not by , shall have days, and all other years shall have days.
In the eighteenth century there was a difference of eleven days between the old and the new style of reckoning, which the English Parliament canceled by making the 3rd of September, , the 14th. The house where he was born was burned in Pastor of the North Church, Boston. He took an active part in the persecution of witchcraft. FROM a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money that came into my hands was ever laid out in books.
I afterward sold them to enable me to buy R. This bookish inclination at length determined my father to make me a printer, though he had already one son James of that profession. In 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. 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: They were wretched stuff, in the Grub-street-ballad style; 17 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 has 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.
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. 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. I saw the justice of his remarks, 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.
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. 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 of 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 of me when I was under his care, and which indeed I still thought a duty, thought I could not, as it seemed to me, afford time to practise it. 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. 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. 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 engaged 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 everyone 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. 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 22 says, judiciously:.
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And he might have coupled with this line that which he has coupled with another, I think, less properly,. Now, is not want of sense where a man is so unfortunate as to want it some apology for his want of modesty? My brother had, in or , begun to print a newspaper. It was the second that appeared in America, 23 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 there are not less than five-and-twenty. From a copy in the Library of the Massachusetts Historical Society. 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.
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. And, perhaps, this might be one occasion of the differences that we began to have about this time. 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. One of the pieces in our newspaper on some political point, which I have now forgotten, gave offense to the Assembly. There was a consultation held in our printing-house among his friends, what he should do in this case.
Youthful adventures (1723–26)
A very flimsy scheme it was; however, it was immediately executed, and the paper went on accordingly, under my name for several months. 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.
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. 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 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.
The Spectator and its predecessor, the Tatler , marked the beginning of periodical literature. He drew up a constitution for the colonists of Carolina. The Courant was really the fifth newspaper established in America, although generally called the fourth, because the first, Public Occurrences , published in Boston in , was suppressed after the first issue.
Following is the order in which the other four papers were published: William Bradford, who had been the first printer in Pennsylvania, but removed from thence upon the quarrel of George Keith. In crossing the bay, we met with a squall that tore our rotten sails to pieces, prevented our getting into the Kill, 25 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. 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.
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. 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. He entered into conversation with me while I took some refreshment, and, finding I had read a little, became very sociable and friendly.
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 travesty 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.
She invited me to lodge at her house till a passage by water should offer; and being tired with my foot traveling, 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 of 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. 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 clothes being to come round by sea. I was fatigued with traveling, 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. Then I walked up the street, gazing about till near the market-house I met a boy with bread. 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 bade him give me three-penny worth of any sort. He gave me, accordingly, three great puffy rolls.
Thus I went up Market-street as far as Fourth-street, passing by the door of Mr. 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. This was, therefore, the first house I was in, or slept in, in Philadelphia. We were then near the sign of the Three Mariners. Here I got a dinner; and, while I was eating it, several sly questions were asked me, as it seemed to be suspected from my youth and appearance, that I might be some runaway.
I found in the shop the old man his father, whom I had seen at New York, and who, traveling on horseback, had got to Philadelphia before me. I, who stood by and heard all, saw immediately that one of them was a crafty old sophister, and the other a mere novice. 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, 27 but one pair of cases, and the Elegy likely to require all the letter, no one could help him. A few days after, Keimer sent for me to print off the Elegy. And now he had got another pair of cases, 28 and a pamphlet to reprint, on which he set me to work. These two printers I found poorly qualified for their business. He had been one of the French prophets, 29 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 had a house, indeed, but without furniture, so he could not lodge me; but he got me a lodging at Mr. 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 everything would be accommodated to my mind if I would return, to which he exhorted me very earnestly.
In the meantime 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 honour I thought it, and conversing with me in the most affable, familiar, and friendly manner imaginable. 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.
I had been absent seven months, and my friends had heard nothing of me; for my br. I went to see him at his printing-house. This visit of mine offended him extreamly; for, when my mother some time after spoke to him of a reconciliation, and of her wishes to see us on good terms together, and that we might live for the future as brothers, he said I had insulted him in such a manner before his people that he could never forget or forgive it.
In this, however, he was mistaken. Holmes said what he could in favour 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.
The sloop putting in at Newport, Rhode Island, I visited my brother John, who had been married and settled there some years. A friend of his, one Vernon, having some money due to him in Pennsylvania, 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. At Newport we took in a number of passengers for New York, among which were two young women, companions, and a grave, sensible, matronlike Quaker woman, with her attendants. 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. I waited upon him accordingly, and should have taken Collins with me but that he was not sober. This was the second governor who had done me the honour to take notice of me; which, to a poor boy like me, was very pleasing.
We proceeded to Philadelphia. Once, in a boat on the Delaware with some other young men, he refused to row in his turn.
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. 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. 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.
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. Give me an inventory of the things necessary to be had from England, and I will send for them.
I had hitherto kept the proposition of my setting up, a secret in Philadelphia, and I still kept it. Yet, unsolicited as he was by me, how could I think his generous offers insincere? 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. So convenient a thing is it to be a reasonable creature , since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.
We therefore had many disputations. 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. 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.
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. 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. The two first were clerks to an eminent scrivener or conveyancer in the town, Charles Brockden; 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 criticizing.
Ralph was ingenious, genteel in his manners, and extremely eloquent; I think I never knew a prettier talker. Both of them were great admirers of poetry, and began to try their hands in little pieces. 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 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. He himself had nothing to produce. I was backward; seemed desirous of being excused; had not had sufficient time to correct, etc.
Osborne was against Ralph, and told him he was no better a critic than poet, so he dropt the argument. In his common conversation he seems to have no choice of words; he hesitates and blunders; and yet, good God! 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. 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. 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.
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