They canvassed the subject until it was decided to start a weekly paper as soon as their pecuniary condition would permit. Just then the Oxford student, whose time Keimer had bought, called upon Benjamin.
"Will you employ me as journeyman printer?" he asked.
"Employ you?" responded Benjamin with much surprise. "I thought your time was Keimer's for four years."
"It was; but it is not now; I have bought it back."
"I am glad to hear that; you will be more of a man for it; and, before long, I think we should like your work; just now we are not in want of more help."
"Your work is increasing, I suppose?" said Webb; "hope I shall not have to wait long."
"If you can keep a secret, Webb, I will let you into it," continued Benjamin. "I expect to start a weekly paper before many weeks have passed; and then I shall have plenty of work."
"How long shall I have to wait?"
"I can't say. It is possible I may want you before I start the newspaper; work is coming in very well. But you must not let Keimer know about the paper. When it starts I want it should be a surprise to him and the public."
"I will not divulge your secret," was Webb's ready promise.
Nevertheless, Webb did disclose the secret to Keimer himself, who proceeded to start a paper of his own, called the Pennsylvania Gazette, and he hired Webb, at good wages, to work on it. It proved to be a miserable affair, without ability or intelligent enterprise, so that a sharp, witty young man like Benjamin could readily make it a "laughing-stock."
"I will show up his ignorance and conceit in the Mercury" (name of the paper already published by Bradford), he said to Meredith. "See if I don't."
"A good idea, Ben; go ahead; it will create a sensation. Bradford will be glad to publish any thing you may write."
"I will see him at once." And Benjamin hastened to the office of the Mercury, made known his purpose to Bradford, who caught at it at once."
"Just the thing I want," responded Bradford. "Let me have something for the next issue."
"Certainly; you shall have the first article to-morrow morning."
Benjamin hurried away with his mind completely absorbed upon the subjects he should take up. The result was a series of amusing articles, in which he burlesqued Keimer's proposals, and ridiculed his editorials, which really deserved nothing better. He continued to write in this way several months, signing all his articles "Busy Body." The public were greatly interested in the communications, because of their real merit. They were bright, even sparkling, full of humor, logical to sharpness, and charged with ability. They drew public attention to Bradford's paper, and public ridicule to Keimer's; so that the subscription list of the former increased, while that of the latter never had over ninety subscribers. People on every hand inquired, "Who is Busy Body?" And, finally, the public learned that it was "that young Franklin, the printer." Keimer learned who his critic was; and, after the lapse of six or eight months from the time the first number was issued, who should appear before Benjamin at his office but him, saying:
"I understand that you think of starting a weekly newspaper; and I have come to sell you mine."
"How is that? Can't you make it go?" Benjamin replied in a familiar way.
"No, not as I want to. I don't think I am exactly qualified to run a newspaper."
"How many subscribers have you?"
"Only ninety?" exclaimed Benjamin. "That number will be of no aid in starting a paper; might as well start new; new paper, new title, new editor, new every thing."
The conclusion of the interview was, however, that Benjamin purchased the paper, took possession immediately, advertised his literary enterprise, and "it proved," as he said, "in a few years extremely profitable to me."
His economy was equal to his industry. He arrayed himself in the plainest manner, although he aimed to look neat and tidy. His board was simple and cheap, and every thing about his business was conducted on the most economical principles. He wheeled home the paper which he bought, boarded himself some of the time, sleeping in the office, and never stopped to consider whether it was compromising the dignity of a printer to do such things.
Keimer left no stone unturned to secure business and cripple Franklin and Meredith. He was never half so active and enterprising as he became after these two young men set up for themselves. One day Keimer was in Benjamin's printing office to transact some business, when the latter said to him:
"Look here, Keimer; come with me into the back room."
"What you got there?" Keimer answered, following.
"See that!" Benjamin said, pointing to a half-devoured loaf and pitcher of water, that he had just made a meal off.
"What of that?" said Keimer, not comprehending the drift of Benjamin's remark.
"Unless you can live cheaper than I can, it is no use for you to attempt to run me out of business."
Both laughed, and Keimer departed.
The Gazette flourished finely from the time it came under Benjamin's management. He was able to discuss public questions of importance with manifest ability, and his articles created interest and discussion among public men, who became subscribers in consequence. A dispute was going on between Governor Burnett and the Massachusetts Assembly, and Benjamin commented upon it with so much wisdom and originality that his intimate acquaintance was sought by the most distinguished men.
Benjamin's work as a printer excelled that of either Keimer or Bradford. The latter did the government printing, and often it was done in a very bungling manner. This was notably so when he printed an address of the House to the Governor. It was a very inferior job; whereupon Benjamin printed it elegantly and correctly and sent a copy to each member of the House. The House voted to give him the government printing thereafter. By his method of doing the best he could every time, he built up a business rapidly, and won a reputation for industry, integrity, and ability that was worth more than money.
To return to Meredith. He had become more intemperate than ever. His father, too, did not find relief from pecuniary embarrassment as he expected. He was to pay two hundred pounds currency for the printing house, and had paid one-half of it. But the other half was not paid when due, for which all three were sued.
"Perhaps your father is not pleased with your partner," said Benjamin to Meredith. "If that is the reason he does not advance the money, I will retire, and you shall run the whole thing."
"No; my father is well satisfied with my partner, and so am I; so that you need not think he is withholding money for the purpose of getting rid of you. He is really embarrassed."
"Then he could not take the concern into his own hands for you to run?"
"No, indeed; that would be quite impossible. Besides, I do not want it on my hands."
"Why?" inquired Benjamin.
"Because I am satisfied that I am not adapted to this business. I was bred a farmer, and ought not to have left that occupation."
"Drink water, as I do, and you may succeed as well at printing as farming. A farmer who drinks to excess never succeeds."
"Drink or no drink," retorted Meredith, "I am sick of this business and shall quit. Many of our Welsh people are going to settle in North Carolina, where land is cheap, and I am going with them, and shall follow my old employment."
"Then you will sell out your interest to me, if I understand you?" That was what Benjamin wanted.
"Certainly; you can get enough friends to help you. If you will take the debts of the company upon you, return to my father the hundred pounds 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 will accept your proposition, and we will draw up the papers at once," said Benjamin.
The bargain was consummated; and the proper papers were prepared, signed, and sealed. Benjamin accepted the generous aid of Coleman and Grace, and became sole proprietor of the printing house and Pennsylvania Gazette. This was near the close of the year 1729, a few months after the Gazette came into his hands.
A few months more elapsed, when he concluded to accept the offer of the gentleman, spoken of on a previous page, to provide a stock of stationery, and opened a stationer's shop in his building. This proved a good investment, and led to his marriage, September 1, 1730, to Miss Deborah Read.
While Benjamin was thus prospering, Keimer was going to the wall; and finally his printing office, with all its furniture, was sold under the hammer to pay his creditors; and he went to Barbadoes, where he lived in poverty.
Thus changes brought Benjamin to the front, and his printing house was the best, doing the most business, of any one in the whole country, except Boston. True, Bradford continued his business and paper; but in a very small way, in no sense a rival to our hero. He stood at the head.
NO LONGER A SKEPTIC.
"Time is money," Doctor Franklin wrote in age. It was what he practised when he conducted his printing business in Philadelphia. One day a lounger stepped into his shop, and, after looking over the articles, asked:
"What is the price of that book?" holding it up in his hand. Benjamin had commenced to keep a few books on sale.
"One dollar," answered the apprentice in attendance.
"One dollar," repeated the lounger; "can't you take less than that?"
"No less; one dollar is the price."
Waiting a few moments, and still looking over the book, he said, at length:
"Is Mr. Franklin at home?"
"He is in the printing office."
"I want to see him; will you call him?"
Franklin was called.
"Mr. Franklin, what is the lowest price you will take for this book?" at the same time holding up the book.
"One dollar and a quarter," answered Franklin, who had heard the lounger's parleying with his apprentice.
"One dollar and a quarter! Your young man asked but a dollar."
"True," answered Franklin, "and I could have better afforded to take a dollar then, than to have been called from my business."
The Customer seemed puzzled for a few moments, but, finally, concluded that the proprietor was joking. He had not been wont to place so great value upon time.
"Come, now, tell me just the lowest you will take for it," he said.
"One dollar and a half."
"A dollar and a half! Why you offered it yourself for a dollar and a quarter."
"True, and I had better taken the price then, than a dollar and a half now," retorted Benjamin with a good deal of spirit.
The buyer got the truth into his head at last, paid the price of the book, and sneaked away, with the rebuke lying heavily on his heart.
Benjamin wrote of his industry at that time, as follows:
"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 thence considered industry as a means of obtaining wealth and distinction, which encouraged me; though I did not think that I should ever literally stand before kings,—which, however, has since happened; for I have stood before five, and even had the honor of sitting down with one, the King of Denmark, to dinner."
It is not strange that such a young man should write such maxims as the following, in his riper years:
"Pride breakfasts with plenty, dines with poverty, and sups with infamy."
"It is as truly folly for the poor to ape the rich, as for the frog to swell in order to equal the ox."
"It is easier to suppress the first desire, than to satisfy all that follow it."
His integrity was no less marked. Strict honesty characterized all his dealings with men. An exalted idea of justice pervaded his soul. His word of honor was as good as his note of hand. Even his disposition to castigate and censure in his writings, so manifest in Boston, at sixteen years of age, and which his father rebuked, was overcome. After he had set up a paper in Philadelphia, a gentleman handed him an article for its columns.
"I am very busy now," said Benjamin, "and you will confer a favor by leaving it for perusal at my leisure."
"That I will do, and call again to-morrow."
The following day the author put in his appearance quite early.
"What is your opinion of my article?" he asked.
"Why, sir, I am sorry to say that I can not publish it."
"Why not? What is the matter with it?"
"It is highly scurrilous and defamatory," replied Benjamin; "but being at a loss, on account of my poverty, whether to reject it or not, I thought I would put it to this issue. At night when my work was done, I bought a twopenny loaf, on which I supped heartily, and then, wrapping myself in my great coat, slept very soundly on the floor until morning, when another loaf and mug of water afforded a pleasant breakfast. Now, sir, since I can live very comfortably in this manner, why should I prostitute my press to personal hatred or party passion for a more luxurious living?"
We have seen that Benjamin began to revise his religious opinions on his return voyage from England. He continued to reflect much upon his loose ways; and there is no doubt that his integrity, industry, economy, and desire to succeed in business had something to do with his moral improvement. He confessed that, along from 1725 to 1730 he was immoral, and was sometimes led astray; but his conscience made him much trouble, and, finally, it asserted its supremacy, and he came off conqueror over his evil propensities. A change from skepticism or deism to a decided belief in the Christian Religion, no doubt exerted the strongest influence in making him a better man.
In 1728 he prepared "Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion" for his own use every day. This was his ritual, beginning and closing with an humble prayer.
Three or four years later, he appears to have taken up this thought of a religious life anew; and he prepared a code of morals, perhaps a revision of his former Articles of Faith, wrote them out carefully in a blank book for use, as follows:
"1. TEMPERANCE.—Eat not to dulness; drink not to elevation.
"2. SILENCE.—Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
"3. ORDER.—Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
"4. RESOLUTION.—Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
"5. FRUGALITY.—Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, waste nothing.
"6. INDUSTRY.—Lose no time; be always employed 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 duty.
"9. MODERATION.—Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
"10. CLEANLINESS.—Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
"11. TRANQUILITY.—Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.
"13. HUMILITY.—Imitate Jesus and Socrates."
At one time he seriously thought of organizing a "United Party for Virtue," in connection with which he prepared this religious creed:
"That there is one God, who made all things.
"That he governs the world by his providence.
"That he ought to be worshipped by adoration, prayer and thanksgiving.
"But that the most acceptable service to 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."
His letters to relatives and friends, from this time, contained strong words for the Christian Religion, and for the imitation of the virtues practised by its Author. Through his long and useful life, he continued to observe the doctrines and precepts that he named in the foregoing extracts. He was a delegate to the convention for forming a Constitution of the United States, which met at Philadelphia, May, 1787, and he introduced the motion for daily prayers, with remarks thus:
"In the beginning of the contest with Britain, when we were sensible of danger, we had daily prayers in this room for the Divine protection. Our prayers, Sir, were heard; and they were graciously answered. All of us, who were engaged in the struggle, must have observed frequent instances of a superintending Providence in our favor. To that kind Providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful Friend? or do we imagine we no longer need his assistance? I have lived, Sir, a long time; and, the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth, that GOD governs in the affairs of men. And, if a sparrow can not fall to the ground without his notice, is it probably that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that 'except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it.' I firmly believe this; and I also believe that, without His concurring aid, we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel; we shall be divided by our little, partial, local interests, our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and a by-word down to future ages."
We will only add here an epitaph that he wrote for his own monument at twenty-three years of age, supposed to have been a paper for the Junto:
"THE BODY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, PRINTER (LIKE THE COVER OF AN OLD BOOK, ITS CONTENTS TORN OUT, AND STRIPT OF ITS LETTERING AND GILDING), LIES HERE, FOOD FOR WORMS. BUT THE WORK ITSELF SHALL NOT BE LOST, FOR IT WILL, AS HE BELIEVED, APPEAR ONCE MORE, IN A NEW AND MORE ELEGANT EDITION, REVISED AND CORRECTED BY THE AUTHOR."
POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC.
"I shall have to publish an almanac to be in fashion," remarked Franklin to his old friend Coleman. "Every printer in this country issues one, so far as I know."
From this point, we shall drop the Christian name, Benjamin, and use the surname, Franklin.
"A good theme to discuss in the Junto," replied Coleman. "You would publish a better one than the country ever had, if you should undertake it."
"I shall make one that differs from all issued hitherto, in some respects. I have devoted considerable thought to the subject, and have formed a plan, although it has not taken an exact shape yet in my own mind. I think I will bring it up in the Junto."
"By all means do it," added Coleman; "two or more heads may be better than one alone, even if the one contains more than all the rest."
"Much obliged," answered Franklin. "It will aid me essentially to mature my plans, to exchange views with the members of the Junto. I will introduce it at the very next meeting."
The subject was introduced into the Junto, as proposed, and every member hailed the project with delight. Franklin's paper had become the most popular one in the country, in consequence of the ability with which it discussed public questions, and the sharp, crisp wisdom and wit that made every issue entertaining; and the members believed that he could make an almanac that would take the lead. The discussion in the Junto settled the question of issuing the almanac. Its appearance in 1732 proved a remarkable event in Franklin's life, much more so than his most sanguine friends anticipated.
The Almanac appeared, with the title-page bearing the imprint: "By Richard Saunders, Philomat. Printed and sold by B. Franklin."
From the opening to the close of it proverbial sayings, charged with wisdom and wit, were inserted wherever there was space enough to insert one. The following is a sample:
"Sloth, like rust, consumes faster than labor wears, while the used key is always bright."
"Lost time is never found again; and what we call time enough always proves little enough."
"Drive thy business, let not that drive thee."
"Industry need not hope, and he that lives upon hope will die fasting."
"He that hath a trade hath an estate; and he that hath a calling hath an office of profit and honor."
"At the working-man's house hunger looks in, but dares not enter."
"Never leave that till to-morrow, which you can do to-day."
"A life of leisure and a life of laziness are two things."
"If you would have your business done, go—if not, send."
"What maintains one vice would bring up two children."
"When the well is dry they know the worth of water."
"Pride is as loud a beggar as want, and a great deal more saucy."
"Experience keeps a dear school, but fools will learn in no other."
"The good paymaster is lord of another man's purse."
These jets of wisdom made the Almanac sparkle. The mechanical execution of the work excelled that of any of its predecessors; but this literary feature marked the Almanac as marvellous. It became popular at once. Every body who saw it, admired and bought it. The Philadelphians were proud that such a document originated in their town. Copies were sent to friends in other parts of the country, until "Poor Richard's Almanac" was known throughout the land. Three editions were exhausted in about a month. For twenty-five years Franklin continued to publish a similar Almanac, the average annual circulation of which was ten thousand copies.
The large stock of wisdom and wit which the Almanac contained added wonderfully to Franklin's fame. From the first issue his mental powers were widely praised. He was only twenty-six years of age, but now his intellectual ability was considered superior to that of any other living man under fifty years of age. The members of the Junto were greatly elated over his success.
"You have beaten yourself," remarked Coleman to him, "exceeded by far what I expected, high as my expectations were. Nothing has been published yet, that has created so profound interest as the Almanac."
"That is all true," said Grace. "Franklin is the theme of remark now everywhere. People seem to be surprised that he could produce a document of so much value. Both his business and newspaper will be advanced by this stroke of wisdom."
"And the Junto, too," suggested Parsons; "the father of the Junto can not receive so much applause without benefiting his child. Every body will want to join now, to meet him here."
Each member present was too much elated to remain silent. No words were too extravagant to express their admiration of Franklin's ability. To their decided friendship and respect was now added an honorable pride in being able to point to such a friend and associate.
The success of his newspaper and Almanac provided Franklin with a supply of money, which he wisely invested. His own words about it were:
"My business was now constantly 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 neighboring provinces. I experienced, too, the truth of the observation, 'that after getting the first hundred pounds, it is more easy to get the second'; money itself being of a prolific nature."
Franklin was aided very much, in the conduct of his paper, by the Junto, where different features of journalism were often discussed.
"In Boston I made a mistake," he said. "I was but a boy then, without experience or discretion, and found great delight in personalities. I mean to steer clear of libelling and personal abuse."
"You have so far," replied Coleman; "and thereby you have added to the dignity and influence of your paper. There is a kind of sharpness and critical remark that ought to characterize a good paper; and the Gazette is not deficient in that."
"That is what makes it sparkle, in my judgment," remarked Scull. "It is not best to be too cautious; some things ought to be hit hard; and that is true of some men, not to say women."
"That is one thing a newspaper is for," interjected Parsons, "to expose and remove social and public evils, and, in doing that, some men will get hit."
"You do not quite understand me," answered Franklin; "I accept all that Scull and Parsons say, which is not what I mean by libelling and personal abuse. Here is a case. A few days ago a gentleman called with an article for the Gazette, I looked it over, and found it very objectionable.
"'I can not publish that,' I said to him.
"'Why not?' he asked.
"'Because it deals in personal abuse, if not in downright libelling.'
"'I will pay for its insertion,' he said.
"'So much the worse for me, to insert a libelous article for money,' I said. 'On the face of it it appears a personal pique against the party.'
"'But we have a free press in this country,' he insisted.
"'Free to do right, and be just and honorable toward all men, and not free to injure or abuse them,' I retorted.
"'I supposed that a newspaper was like a stage coach, in which any one, who pays for a place, has it,' he continued.
"'That is true of some newspapers, but not of mine,' I answered. 'But I will do this: I will print your article separately, and furnish you with as many copies as you want, and you can distribute them where you please, but I will not lumber my columns with detraction, and insult patrons to whom I am pledged to furnish a good paper for their families.' The party did not accept my proposition, but left in high temper."
Every member acquiesced in Franklin's views, and encouraged him to continue the conduct of his paper on that line. It was an age of vituperation and libelling. Probably there never has been a time since when so many editors, in proportion to the number of papers, believed that the newspaper was for that purpose. The gentleman of whom Franklin spoke wanted to abuse another; but would have complained bitterly, no doubt, to have been the object of abuse himself.
Franklin's stationer's shop proved a success; and very soon he added a small collection of books. From 1733 he imported books from London, and aimed to keep the market supplied with all that were popular there. His trade in books grew to considerable proportions.
With all his business, and the improvement of odd moments in reading and study, he found time to attend to music, and became quite an accomplished player on the harp, guitar, and violin. His family and company were often entertained by his musical performances.
In 1733 Franklin resolved to visit Boston. He had not visited there for ten years.
"I must go now," he said to his foreman, "because my brother at Newport is so feeble that he is not expected to live long. I shall stop at Newport on my way back."
"And when will you return?"
"As soon as possible. It is only a flying visit I propose to make. I have some business in Boston, and wish to spend a little time with my parents, who are getting old and infirm."
He put every thing into a good condition for his foreman to handle in his absence, and then left for Boston, where his parents embraced him with tears of joy. There was no trace of the boy left on him now,—he was a man in the noblest sense of the word.
Necessity compelled Franklin to cut short his visit and return, stopping at Newport to see his brother. This was his brother James, the printer to whom he was apprenticed in Boston. He had a prosperous printing business in that town.
"I am very glad to see you," said James, giving his brother a cordial and tender welcome. "You find me very feeble; and I was afraid that I should never see you again."
"I hear of your sickness, and felt that I must come to see you at once," Franklin replied. "I hope that your prospects are more favorable than you appear to think they are."
"It is only a question of time; and short time, too. My disease is incurable, and I am waiting for the end. We will let by-gones be by-gones; I have only love for you now, my dear brother."
"You can hardly conceive how glad I am to hear you say that; for I cherish only the sincerest affection for you. I am truly sorry for any wrong I did you in Boston."
"That is all blotted out now," continued James, "I have one request to make, and, if you can grant it, I shall be very happy."
"What is it?"
"My son is now ten years old, and the loss of his father will, indeed, be a great loss to him. I had intended to instruct him in my trade; and, after my death, I want you should take him to your home in Philadelphia, where he can learn the printer's trade, and, when he understands the business well, return him to his mother and sisters, who will continue the printing house here."
"With all my heart I will do it; and I am glad to grant this favor, not only for your sake, but for my own," responded Benjamin. "He shall be one of my family, and I will be to him as a father, and he shall be to me as a son."
Thus, at the grave's side, the two brothers were thoroughly reconciled to each other, and it was not long before Franklin had James' son in his own family.
In 1736 Franklin buried a son, four years old, a child so bright and beautiful that strangers would stop on the street to behold him. It was a terrible blow to the parents. He was laid in Christ Church burying ground, where the defaced and much-broken headstone still bears this inscription:
"FRANCIS F., SON OF BENJAMIN AND DEBORAH FRANKLIN, DECEASED NOV. 21, 1736, AGED 4 YEARS, 1 MONTH, AND 1 DAY. THE DELIGHT OF ALL THAT KNEW HIM."
Franklin proved a staunch friend of the celebrated George Whitefield when he visited Philadelphia in 1739. There was great opposition to his work. At first, one or two pastors admitted him to their pulpits; but the opposition grew so intense, that all the churches were closed against him, and he was obliged to preach in the fields. Franklin denounced this treatment in his paper and by his voice, in the Junto and on the street.
"You talk about being called to the work of the ministry," he said to one of the Philadelphia clergy; "if ability and great power in the pulpit are evidence of being called of God, then Whitefield must have had a louder call than any of you."
"But he is very peculiar in his methods, and harsh in his treatment of sinners," suggested the minister.
"But if we sinners do not object, why should you saints? We have heard him say nothing but the truth yet."
"All that may be true," continued the preacher, "but so much excitement is not healthy for the spiritual growth of the people."
"When did you, or any one else, ever see so great moral and spiritual improvement of the people," said Franklin, "as we have seen since Whitefield has been preaching here? The whole population appears to be thinking about religion."
"Excitement! excitement!" exclaimed the minister; "and when Whitefield is gone, there will be a reaction, and the last state of the people will be worse than the first."
So Franklin supported Whitefield, was a constant attendant upon his ministrations, and a lasting friendship grew up between them.
"Let us put up a building for him to preach in, now that he is excluded from the churches," proposed Franklin to a number of Whitefield's friends, who were discussing the situation. "A preacher of so much power and self-denial should be sustained."
"A capital suggestion!" answered one of the number, "and you are the man to carry the measure into effect."
"A rough building is all that is necessary for our purpose; the finish will be in the preaching," added Franklin. "A preacher of any denomination whatever, who comes here to instruct the people, without money and without price, should be provided with a place for worship."
"Yes, even if the Mufti of Constantinople were to send a missionary here, I would provide a place for him to hold forth and not turn him into the street," responded Coleman.
"I will announce in the Gazette at once what our purpose is, and call a meeting," continued Franklin. "The announcement will test the feelings of the people on the subject."
"Let it be done in a hurry, too," said Coleman. "Public sentiment is ripe for something now, and I think the citizens will endorse the scheme."
The project was announced, a meeting called, and subscriptions obtained with little effort, to erect a building one hundred feet long and seventy wide. In an almost incredibly short time the house of worship was completed, and Whitefield occupied it.
MORE HONORS AND MORE WORK.
Franklin, in 1736, was chosen Clerk of the General Assembly, and in 1737 appointed Postmaster of Philadelphia. The first position assured him all the Government printing, and introduced him to influential men, who would very naturally become the patrons of his printing house. The second position was of great value to his newspaper, as it "facilitated the correspondence that improved it, and increased its circulation" quite largely, thus making it a source of considerable income. Members of the Junto were as much pleased with his promotion as Franklin himself.
"We are not at all surprised," said Coleman to Colonel Spotswood; "we are familiar with Franklin; I mean, we members of the Junto, as no other persons are. He will fill ably any position you can give him."
"That was my estimate of the man," answered Spotswood, who was Postmaster-General; "and so I appointed him my deputy here. From all I could learn of him, I thought he would be exact in his way of doing business and reporting to the Government. His predecessor was careless, and even neglectful, so that it was difficult to get any sort of a report from him."
"You will find no trouble with Franklin on that score," rejoined Coleman. "He is one of the most exact men I ever knew, and his judgment is remarkable for one of his years. He appears to succeed in whatever he undertakes because of his sound judgment, and great capacity for work. His appointment as Postmaster of Philadelphia gives great satisfaction."
"I thought it would," continued Spotswood. "The position should be occupied by a wise man, who challenges public confidence and respect."
"And Franklin is the wisest man I ever knew," interjected Coleman. "We see him in this role, in the Junto, as men outside do not. For he lays before us his plans, and reads important articles that he writes, on various subjects, for criticism, before they are published. He has just read a paper on the 'Night-watch,' exposing the worthlessness of the present system, and proposing a remedy; also, another paper on establishing a fire-department for the town. When made public, both of these measures will commend themselves to the people."
The discussion over the night-watch and fire-department in the Junto was both animated and instructive. Both projects were entirely new, and were born of Franklin's fertile brain.
"The most cumbersome and awkward arrangement I ever heard of," said Franklin, in the Junto; "to have the constable of each ward, in turn, summon to his aid several housekeepers for the night, and such ragamuffins as most of them summon to their assistance!"
"A glass of grog will enlist some of them for a whole night," remarked Parsons. "I think the town is safer without any watchmen, unless more responsible men can be employed."
"Of course it is," responded Coleman; "the six shillings paid annually to the constable by each man who does not wish to serve is a corruption fund. The constable can pocket three-fourths of it, and, with the other fourth, he can employ the irresponsible characters he does. I wonder the people don't rebel."
"That is not all, nor the worst," remarked Breintnal. "A poor widow, with less than fifty pounds to her name, must pay the six shillings just as the wealthiest citizen, with thousands of pounds in his own right, does. It is very unjust."
"And my plan removes all of these difficulties and burdens," added Franklin. "I propose to hire suitable men, whose business shall be to watch at night, levying a tax to pay for the same in proportion to property. A man who makes it his business to watch is worth much more than one who occasionally serves under the present system."
Franklin ventilated the subject in the Gazette, eliciting remarks pro and con, gradually educating the people; and finally, after several years, he had the satisfaction of seeing his plan adopted. Franklin was the author of the "Night-watch" system of our land.
His paper on the frequency of fires, from carelessness and accidents, with suggestions as to preventing them and, also, extinguishing them, elicited equal interest in the Junto.
"Your suggestion to organize a company to extinguish fires is a capital one," remarked Potts, after listening to Franklin's paper. "It is not only practical, but it can be done very easily; every citizen must appreciate the measure."
"If I understand the plan," remarked Maugridge, "each member will be obliged to keep several leathern buckets, in order for instant use, and strong bags, for receiving goods to be conveyed to a place of safety, will be provided."
"Yes; and the members must be so well organized and drilled, that when a fire breaks out, each will know just what to do," added Franklin. "It will be necessary for the members of the company to meet monthly, or oftener, to exchange views and make suggestions as to the best way of conducting the organization. Experience will teach us very much."
"How many members should the organization embrace?" inquired Scull.
"That is immaterial," replied Coleman; "a large or small number can be used to advantage, I should say."
"The company must not be too large," responded Franklin. "I should think that thirty members would be as many as could work to advantage. If double that number desire to become members it would be better to organize two companies, to work in different wards."
"And how about money? Can't maintain such an organization without money," suggested Potts.
"We can raise money for the outfit of leathern buckets and bags by subscription," replied Franklin; "and we can impose a fine upon members for being absent from meetings."
"Then, why is not the whole subject fairly before us?" remarked Coleman. "I move that we proceed to organize a fire-company of thirty members at once."
Coleman's proposition was adopted unanimously. Franklin discussed the plan in the Gazette, and all the members of the Junto worked hard for it outside. Within a short time the first company was organized, then another, and another, the good work continuing until a large part of the property-owners in town belonged to fire-companies. And this method continued until the invention of fire-engines, fire-hooks, and ladders, with other modern implements to assist in extinguishing fires. Franklin was the originator of fire-companies.
"It is high time that our people were thinking of paving the streets," said Franklin, at a meeting of the Junto. "It will facilitate cleaning them wonderfully."
"You must give us a paper on the subject, and write it up in the Gazette," replied Parsons. "People must be enlightened before they will adopt the measure. The mass of them know nothing about it now."
"You are right," responded Franklin; "and it will take a good while to enlighten them. The expense of the measure will frighten them."
"How expensive will such a measure be? What does paving cost a square yard?"
"I am not able to say now; I have not examined that part of it yet; but I shall. I will prepare a paper for the Junto at the earliest possible date."
Franklin had canvassed the subject considerably before he introduced it to the members of the Junto. In wet weather the mud in the streets was trodden into a quagmire, and quantities of it carried on the feet into stores and houses. In dry weather the wind blew the abundance of dust into the faces and eyes of pedestrians, and into the doors and windows of dwellings and shops. In his paper, read at the Junto, Franklin set forth these discomforts, with others, and showed how the evil would be remedied by pavement. The members of the Junto were unanimous in supporting his views.
From week to week he discussed the subject in the Gazette, literally giving line upon line and precept upon precept. Nor did he seem to make much of an impression for many months. But, finally, a strip of brick pavement having been laid down the middle of Jersey Market, he succeeded in getting the street leading thereto paved.
"Now I have a project to enlist citizens in paving all the streets," he said at the Junto. "I have hired a poor man to sweep the pavement now laid, and keep it as clean and neat as a pin, that citizens may see for themselves the great benefit of paving the streets."
"That is practical," exclaimed Coleman. "You are always practical, Franklin; and you will make a success of that."
"I expect to succeed. After two or three weeks I shall address a circular to all housekeepers enjoying the advantages of the pavement, asking them to join with me in paying a sixpence each per month to keep the pavement clean."
"A sixpence a month only!" responded Potts, who had listened to Franklin's plan; "is that all it will cost?"
"Yes, that is all; and I think that all will be surprised that the work can be done for that price; and, for that reason, they will readily join in the measure."
Franklin went forward with his enterprise, and every citizen appealed to accepted his proposition; and out of it grew a general interest to pave the streets of the city. Franklin drafted a bill to be presented to the General Assembly, authorizing the work to be done; and, through the influence of another party, the bill was amended by a provision for lighting the streets at the same time, all of which was agreeable to Franklin. Here, again, we see that Franklin was the originator of another method of adding to the comfort and beauty of cities and large towns.
"I will read you a paper to-night upon smoky chimneys," remarked Franklin at the Junto, as he drew from his pocket a written document.
"Smoky chimneys!" ejaculated Grace. "I wonder what will command your attention next. A fruitful theme, though I never expected we should discuss it here."
"It is, indeed, a fruitful theme," responded Franklin; "for more chimneys carry some of the smoke into the room than carry the whole out of the top; and nobody can tell why."
"I had supposed it was because masons do not understand the philosophy of chimney-building," remarked Coleman.
"That is it exactly. The subject is not understood at all, because it has not been examined. Men build chimneys as they do, not because they know it is the best way, but because they do not know any thing about it. For instance, nearly every one thinks that smoke is lighter than air, when the reverse is true."
"I always had that idea," remarked Potts; "not because I knew that it was, but somehow I got that impression. But let us have your paper, and then we will discuss it."
Franklin read his paper, which was more elaborate and exhaustive than any thing of the kind ever published at that time. It named several definite causes of smoky chimneys, and furnished a remedy for each. What is still more remarkable, it suggested a plan of a fire-place or stove, that might remedy the smoking evil of some chimneys, and save much fuel in all. Subsequently, he invented what is known as the Franklin stove, or fire-place, though it was sometimes called the "Pennsylvania stove." It was regarded as a very useful invention, and, for many years, was in general use.
"Apply for a patent on your stove," suggested Coleman; "there is much money in it; and you ought to have it if any one."
"Not I," responded Franklin. "I am not a believer in patents. If the invention is a real public benefit, the people should have the advantage of it."
"Nonsense," retorted Coleman; "no one but you harbors such an idea. I do not see why a man should not receive pay for his invention as much as another does for a day's work."
"And there is no reason why the inventor should not give the public the benefit of it, if he chooses," answered Franklin. "Governor Thomas offered to give me a patent on it, but I told him this: As we enjoy great advantages from the invention of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any invention of ours; and this we should do freely and generously."
"And nobody will ever thank you for it," added Coleman.
"I don't ask them to thank me for it; I give it to them without asking one thank-you for it," replied Franklin, who was in a very happy mood.
"Well," added Coleman, "the more I see of you, the more I am satisfied that there is but one Ben Franklin in these parts."
In brief, we may add here, that Franklin presented the model to a member of the Junto, Robert Grace, who run a furnace, and, for many years, "he found the casting of the plates for these stoves a profitable thing."
Still another enterprise which Franklin brought to the attention of the Junto was the founding of an Academy or University for the higher education of youth. He wrote often and much for the Gazette upon doing more for the education of the young. At last, he prepared and printed a pamphlet, entitled "Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth in Pennsylvania." It was published at his own expense and gratuitously distributed, after it had been read in the Junto, where he disclosed his purpose.
"It is the greatest enterprise you have conceived yet," remarked Parsons, after listening to the paper, "and it will be the most difficult one to push forward to success, I think."
"Five thousand pounds is a great amount of money to raise," said Breintnal. "I should not want to be the one to raise it."
"I should, if I could," retorted Franklin. "To be the author of so great a blessing to the young is pay enough without any salary. At any rate, that is all the pay any man will get for such service."
"Do you propose to raise the money yourself?" inquired Coleman.
"Chiefly. I expect that interested parties may assist on that line. The fact that the enterprise is to bless their own children, gives me access to them at once. First of all, however, I propose to send this pamphlet, printed, to a long list of persons upon whom I shall call for aid, after ample time for them to read and digest it has elapsed."
It is sufficient to say that Franklin successfully prosecuted his purpose, raised all the money necessary, and the academy was founded. Scholars multiplied so rapidly that larger quarters were soon demanded; and now came into use the building which Franklin caused to be erected for the use of Rev. Mr. Whitefield. With some alterations, it was just the building necessary to meet the wants of the popular institution. Franklin was glad when he secured the building for Whitefield; but he was more glad now because it could be used for the "University of Philadelphia," as his school was named afterwards.
Perhaps the Junto did not give attention to a more important measure in its whole history than that of establishing militia for public security. Franklin read a paper, having the caption, "Plain Truth," in which he expatiated upon the defenseless condition of Pennsylvania; that, while New England was all aglow with enthusiasm for armed defense against foreign invasion, and some of the southern colonies as well, Pennsylvania was utterly defenseless.
"There is not a battery, fort, or gun, on the banks of the Delaware," he said; "not a volunteer company in the whole Province; and what is still more alarming, not guns enough to arm one."
"Our people don't believe in resistance, you know," responded Coleman. "Quaker influence is decidedly against shot-guns and batteries."
"And that is the trouble," retorted Franklin. "The Legislatures of other Provinces have established public defenses; but the Quaker influence in the Assembly of Pennsylvania has defeated every measure of the kind."
"And will continue to do so until a French privateer seizes and sacks this town, as one could very easily," added Parsons.
"Or a tribe of savages, so easily set on by French politicians, shall plunder and burn us," added Franklin.
"But John Penn and Thomas Penn are not Quakers, like their father, I have been told," remarked Potts; "and certainly the Province has not had Quaker governors."
"That is very true; but so many of the people are Quakers that the Assembly is under their control," answered Franklin. "But I think the appearance of a privateer in the river, or an attack by a band of blood-thirsty savages, would knock the non-resistance out of many of them."
"Nothing short of that will," responded Coleman; "but Franklin's plan of raising a volunteer militia, and all necessary funds by subscription, will not call out any opposition from them. I believe that many of them will be glad to have such defense if they are not expected to engage in it."
"It is not true, even now, that all the Quakers oppose defensive war: for some of them do not; they have told me so," continued Franklin. "They oppose aggressive warfare; but let a privateer come up the river, or savages attack our town, and they will fight for their homes as hard as any of us."
"But how do you propose to reach the public, and interest them in your plan?" inquired Maugridge.
"I shall publish the paper I have read, with some additions, suggested by our discussion, and distribute it freely throughout the town. At the same time, I shall discuss it in the Gazette, and appeal to Quakers themselves, on Bible grounds, to co-operate for the public defense. And when they have had time to read the pamphlet and weigh the proposition, I shall call a public meeting."
"Wise again, Franklin," answered Coleman, who was delighted with the plan. "Your scheme will work to a charm; I have no doubt of it. But just what will you do at your public meeting?"
"Organize an 'Association for Defense,' after I have harangued the audience upon the perils of the hour. I shall urge every man present, as he values his home and life, to join the league, of whatever sect or party."
"Each man to arm himself at his own expense, I suppose?" inquired Grace.
"As far as possible," answered Franklin; "and to raise money for a battery, I have thought of a lottery." Lotteries were generally resorted to, at that day, for raising money.
"That scheme for raising a battery will succeed, too," said Coleman with a smile. "I can not see why the whole thing will not carry the public by storm."
The plan of Franklin succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectations. His pamphlet and articles in the Gazette moved the public to great enthusiasm. When the public meeting was called, there was a general rush to it. It was held in the large building erected for Rev. Mr. Whitefield, and it was filled to overflowing. Twelve hundred men joined the "Association for Public Defense" on that night, and the number was increased to ten thousand within a few days. Within a few weeks, eighty companies were organized in the Province, armed, and drilled, ready to march to any point of danger at a moment's warning. The companies in Philadelphia united to form a regiment, and Franklin was elected Colonel—an honor which he declined because he "considered himself unfit," and recommended a Mr. Lawrence, who was a prominent and influential citizen.
The lottery scheme succeeded, also, and eighteen cannon were borrowed of the Governor of New York until the authorities could import the requisite number from England. Not a few Quakers approved of these measures for the public defense.
In the midst of the excitement Franklin intensified the feeling, by inducing the Governor to appoint a day of fasting and prayer. Such a day had never been observed in Pennsylvania, and so the Governor and his associates were too ignorant of the measure to undertake it alone. Hence, Franklin, who was familiar with Fast Days in Massachusetts, wrote the proclamation for the Governor, and secured the co-operation of ministers in the observance of the day.
It is claimed that Quakers often lent their influence to defensive warfare in an indirect manner. As, for example, when the Assembly made appropriations for the army, "for the purchase of bread, flour, wheat and other grain," the latter phrase covered gunpowder. Perhaps this suggested to Franklin, when trying to get an appropriation through the Assembly, the following remark: "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."
The fears of the colonists were allayed, and these warlike preparations discontinued, when the peace of Aix-la-Chapelle was declared, and signed by the British Commissioners, Oct. 7, 1748.
PHILOSOPHER AND STATESMAN.
"I have a proposition to make to you, an important one," remarked Franklin to David Hall, who had worked for him four years. "Come into the office, and I will tell you what it is."
Hall followed him into the office, wondering what the proposition could be. When they were seated, Franklin continued:
"I must have a partner in this business; and I think you are just the man I want, if we can agree upon the terms. I desire to be released from the care of the printing office, that I may pursue my scientific studies more thoroughly and satisfactorily."
"Your proposition is very unexpected to me, and I feel very much flattered by it," answered Hall; "but I hardly know what to say, for I have no capital to put into the business."
"And you need none," interrupted Franklin. "My plan is that you take the office just as it is, pay me one thousand pounds a year, for eighteen years, releasing me from all care of the business, and, at the close of eighteen years, the whole business shall be yours, without further consideration."
"Well, I ought to be satisfied with that offer, if you are; it is certainly a generous one, and I shall accept it."
"And you will get out of it three or four times the amount of your present salary every year," suggested Franklin. "I mean it shall be a profitable enterprise for you; for your long service here has satisfied me that you are the partner I want."
This plan was carried into effect, and Franklin was no longer obliged to visit the printing office daily, whither he had been for over twenty years. His printing and newspaper business had been very profitable, so that he was comparatively wealthy for that day. His investments had proved fortunate; and these, with the thousand pounds annually from Hall, and five hundred pounds from two public offices he held, gave him an annual income of about fifteen thousand dollars, which was large for those times—one hundred and forty years ago.
"Now I can pursue my studies to my heart's content," Franklin said to his wife. "I have only had fragments of time to devote to electricity and other studies hitherto; but now I can command time enough to make research an object."
"I am very glad that you are able to make so favorable arrangements," Mrs. Franklin replied. "You have had altogether too much on your hands for ten years and more. You ought to have less care."
"And I have an intense desire to investigate science, especially electricity," Franklin continued. "I see a wide field for research and usefulness before me. But I have time enough to prosecute my plans."
Franklin was forty-two years old at this time; and it is a singular fact that his career as a philosopher did not begin really until he had passed his fortieth birthday. But from the time he was released from the care of the printing office, his advancement in science was rapid. His fame spread abroad, both in this country and Europe, so that, in a few years, he became one of the most renowned philosophers in the world. In a former chapter we described his experiment with a kite, to prove that lightning and the electric fluid are identical; and this discovery established his fame as the greatest electrician of the world.
The Royal Society of London elected him a member by a unanimous vote, and the next year bestowed upon him the Copley medal. Yale College conferred upon him the degree of Master of Arts; and Harvard University did the same. Suddenly Franklin found himself the most conspicuous character in American history—a philosopher of the most honored type.
Mignet said of him, "Thus all at once distinguished, the Philadelphia sage became the object of universal regard, and was abundantly loaded with academic honors. The Academy of Sciences of Paris made him an associate member, as it had Newton and Leibnitz. All the learned bodies of Europe eagerly admitted him into their ranks. Kant, the celebrated German philosopher, called him 'the Prometheus of modern times.' To this scientific glory, which he might have extended if he had consecrated to his favorite pursuits his thoughts and his time, he added high political distinction. To this man, happy because he was intelligent, great because he had an active genius and a devoted heart, was accorded the rare felicity of serving his country, skilfully and usefully, for a period of fifty years; and after having taken rank among the immortal founders of the positive sciences, of enrolling himself among the generous liberators of the nations."
A few years later, the three Universities of St. Andrew's, Oxford, and Edinburgh, conferred upon him the degree of Doctor of Laws. Europe vied with America in tributes of honor and praise.
His electrical experiments made him the author of several useful inventions, among which the LIGHTNING ROD was the foremost. It came into general use, not only in our country, but also in Europe. The celebrated Kinnersley wrote to him, "May this method of security from the destructive violence of one of the most awful powers of Nature meet with such further success as to induce every good and grateful heart to bless God for the important discovery! May the benefit thereof be diffused over the whole globe! May it extend to the latest posterity of mankind, and make the name of Franklin, like that of Newton, IMMORTAL!"
Franklin did not intend to continue in political life, when he entered into partnership with Mr. Hall; and he so announced to his friends. At that time he had served as Councilman in the city, been a member of the General Assembly, acted as Commissioner on several important occasions, and served the public in various other ways; but now he designed to stop and devote himself entirely to scientific pursuits.
Within five years, however, he found himself more deeply involved in political plans and labors than ever before. He was as wise in statesmanship as he was in philosophy; and the services of such a man were in constant demand. The following list of public offices he filled shows that he stood second to no statesman in the land in public confidence and ability in public service:
A LEGISLATOR OF PENNSYLVANIA AT TWENTY-SIX YEARS OF AGE, CONTINUED FOR TWENTY YEARS.
FOUNDER AND LEADING TRUSTEE OF THE UNIVERSITY OF PENNSYLVANIA.
COLONEL OF MILITIA, WHICH HE ORIGINATED.
LEADER OF COMMITTEE OF PUBLIC SAFETY FOR YEARS, IN TIME OF WAR.
AGENT OF PENNSYLVANIA, MASSACHUSETTS, NEW JERSEY, AND GEORGIA TO THE KING OF ENGLAND.
MINISTER TO THE COURT OF ENGLAND IN 1764.
ONE OF THE AUTHORS OF THE CONTINENTAL CONGRESS IN 1775, AND A MEMBER OF IT.
MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY TO FRANCE IN 1776.
AUTHOR OF FIRST TREATY FOR AMERICA IN 1778.
MINISTER PLENIPOTENTIARY TO FRANCE IN 1778.
ONE OF FIVE TO DRAFT THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
A LEADER IN THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION.
ONE OF THE FRAMERS OF THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
LIKE WASHINGTON, "FIRST IN WAR, FIRST IN PEACE, AND FIRST IN THE HEARTS OF HIS COUNTRYMEN."
Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Roger Sherman, and Robert R. Livingston were associated with Franklin in drafting the Declaration of Independence, which Congress adopted, July 4, 1776. The original draft was by Jefferson, but it contained many interlineations in the hand-writing of Franklin. When they were signing the memorable document, after its passage by Congress, John Hancock remarked:
"We must be unanimous,—we must all hang together."
"Yes, if we would not hang separately," replied Franklin.
Jefferson was viewing, with evident disappointment, the mutilation of his draft of the Declaration in Franklin's hand-writing, when the latter remarked:
"I have made it a rule, whenever in my power, to avoid becoming the draftsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body. I took my lesson from an incident which I will relate to you. When I was a journeyman-printer, one of my companions, an apprentice-hatter, having served out his time, was about to open shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome sign-board, with a proper inscription. He composed it in these words: John Thompson, hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money, with a figure of a hat subjoined. But he thought he would submit to his friends for their amendments. The first he showed it to thought the word hatter tautologous, because followed by the words makes hats, which showed he was a hatter. It was struck out. The next observed that the word makes might as well be omitted, because his customers would not care who made the hats; if good and to their mind, they would buy, by whomsoever made. He struck it out. A third said he thought the words for ready money were useless, as it was not the custom of the place to sell on credit. Every one who purchased expected to pay. They were parted with, and the inscription now stood: John Thompson sells hats. 'Sells hats?' says his next friend; 'why, nobody will expect you to give them away. What, then, is the use of that word?' It was stricken out, and hats followed, the rather as there was one painted on the board. So his inscription was reduced, ultimately, to John Thompson, with the figure of a hat subjoined."
It is doubtful if American Independence would have been achieved when it was, but for the services of Franklin at the Court of England. His first appearance there was when his fame as a philosopher was at its zenith, and the greatest men of that country sought his acquaintance. William Strahan, a member of Parliament, wrote to Mrs. Franklin, "I never saw a man who was, in every respect, so perfectly agreeable to me. Some are able in one view, some in another, he in all."
The Tories, who meant to keep the Colonies in subjection and burden them with taxes, were the leaders in governmental affairs and the majority in numbers. Of course, the Colonies could not expect many favors from them without the mediation of their strongest statesmen; and Franklin was the one above all others on whom they depended. His first diplomatic career in England, when he was the Agent of Pennsylvania and other Colonies, lasted from 1757 to 1762. He remained at home only a year and a half, when he was appointed "Minister to England," whither he went in 1764, remaining there ten years, a long, stormy period of political troubles, culminating in the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution.
We have only to mention the Boston Port Bill, the Stamp Act, quartering British troops in the public buildings of Boston, and other measures which the Colonies considered oppressive, and even tyrannical, to show the line of Franklin's intercession in behalf of his countrymen, and how they came to throw off the yoke of bondage.
The Tory hatred towards Franklin was something fearful at times, exceeded only by their hatred towards the people whom he represented. "I am willing to love all mankind except an American," exclaimed Dr. Johnson. And when rebuked for his unchristian disposition, "his inflammable corruption bursting into horrid fire," says Boswell, "he breathed out threatenings and slaughter, calling them rascals, robbers, pirates, and exclaiming that he would burn and destroy them." When Mr. Barclay hinted to Franklin that he might have almost any place of honor if he would consent to a certain line of action, our loyal hero spurned the bribe, saying, "The ministry, I am sure, would rather give me a place in a cart to Tyburn [prison] than any other place whatever." He could neither be coaxed nor frightened into submission to the British crown.
In February, 1766, he was summoned before the House of Commons, where he met the enemies of his country face to face, and stood firm through the searching examination.
"Will the Americans consent to pay the stamp duty if it is lessened?" he was asked.
"No, never; unless compelled by force of arms," he answered.
"May not a military force carry the Stamp Act into execution?"
"Suppose a military force sent into America; they will find nobody in arms; what are they, then, to do? Then can not force a man to take stamps who chooses to do without them. They will not find a rebellion; they may, indeed, make one."
"If the Stamp Act is enforced, will ill-humor induce the Americans to give as much for the worse manufactures of their own, and use them in preference to our better ones?"
"Yes. People will pay as freely to gratify one passion as another,—their resentment as their pride."
"Would the people of Boston discontinue their trade?"
"The merchants of Boston are a very small number, and must discontinue their trade, if nobody will buy their goods."
"What are the body of the people in the Colonies?"
"They are farmers, husbandmen, or planters."
"Would they suffer the produce of their lands to rot?"
"No; but they would not raise so much. They would manufacture more and plow less. I do not know a single article imported into the Northern Colonies that they can not do without, or make themselves."
To Lord Kames he said, "America must become a great country, populous and mighty; and will, in a less time than is generally conceived, be able to shake off any shackles that may be imposed upon her, and perhaps place them on the imposers."
But his labors availed nothing, although Chatham, Pitt, Burke, Fox, and others, espoused the cause of the Colonies. Affairs hastened to the crisis of 1775, and Franklin returned to Philadelphia, reaching that city soon after the battles of Lexington and Concord were fought, in 1776.
A few months before he left England for America, his wife died. Her death occurred on Dec. 17, 1774, though the sad tidings did not reach Franklin until a short time before he took passage for home.
It was at this time that his famous letter to his old English friend, William Strahan, was written, of which we are able to furnish a fac-simile.
The scenes of the Revolution followed. Through the agency of Franklin, as Minister Plenipotentiary to France, the French Government formed an alliance with the Colonies, and the eight years' war was waged to the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown; and Freedom was achieved.
No American exerted greater influence in securing the independence of the Colonies than Franklin. He was one of the originators of the Continental Congress, and was the author of the plan for a Union of the States. On his way to the Albany Conference in 1754 he drew up a plan of Union, which he presented to said Conference, composed of delegates from seven Northern Colonies. Other members presented plans, but his was preferred and adopted, with some amendments, and commended to the favorable consideration of the King and Parliament of England. Franklin's plan of Union was substantially that which, subsequently, united the thirteen States into one nation.
No name is more conspicuous in history than that of Franklin. At one time in France, "prints, medallion portraits, and busts of him were multiplied throughout that country." In England, the most renowned statesmen and scholars acknowledged his abilities and praised his remarkable career. In America, his statue was set up in halls of learning and legislation, literary societies and institutions were founded in his name, and numerous towns were called after him. Perhaps the author's native town—Franklin, Mass.—was the first to appropriate his name. A few years thereafter, a nephew called his attention to this fact, suggesting that the present of a bell from him would be very acceptable, as the people were erecting a house of worship. Franklin was in Passy, France, at the time, and he immediately addressed the following letter to his old friend, Dr. Price, asking him to select and forward a library:
"PASSY, 18 March, 1785.
"DEAR FRIEND,—My nephew, Mr. Williams, will have the honor of delivering you this line. It is to request from you a list of a few books, to the value of about twenty-five pounds, such as are most proper to inculcate principles of sound religion and just government. A new town in the State of Massachusetts having done me the honor of naming itself after me, and proposing to build a steeple to their meeting-house if I would give them a bell, I have advised the sparing themselves the expense of a steeple for the present, and that they would accept of books instead of a bell, sense being preferable to sound. These are, therefore, intended as the commencement of a little parochial library for the use of a society of intelligent, respectable farmers, such as our country people generally consist of. Besides your own works, I would only mention, on the recommendation of my sister, Stennett's 'Discourses on Personal Religion,' which may be one book of the number, if you know and approve it.
"With the highest esteem and respect, I am ever, my dear friend, yours most affectionately,
The inhabitants of Franklin got sense instead of sound, and were never sorry.
Doctor Price, in the course of a letter dated at Newington Green, June 3, 1785, in which he speaks of Mr. Williams' visit, says: "I have, according to your desire, furnished him with a list of such books on religion and government as I think some of the best, and added a present to the parish that is to bear your name, of such of my own publications as I think may not be unsuitable. Should this be the commencement of parochial libraries in the States, it will do great good."
The books were duly forwarded to the town of Franklin. The Rev. Nathaniel Emmons, clergyman of the parish for which the library was designed, preached a sermon in commemoration of this bounty, entitled "The Dignity of Man: a Discourse Addressed to the Congregation in Franklin upon the Occasion of their Receiving from Doctor Franklin the Mark of his Respect in a Rich Donation of Books, Appropriated to the Use of a Parish Library." This sermon was printed in the year 1787, with the following dedication: "To his Excellency Benjamin Franklin, President of the State of Pennsylvania, the Ornament of Genius, the Patron of Science, and the Boast of Man, this Discourse is Inscribed, with the Greatest Deference, Humility, and Gratitude, by his Obliged and Most Humble Servant, the Author."
The library contained one hundred and sixteen volumes, chiefly relating to Government, Science, and Religion, of which about ninety volumes are still in a good state of preservation.
On the 17th of April, 1790, Franklin expired, mourned by a grateful nation and honored by the world. For two years he had lived in anticipation of this event. One day he rose from his bed, saying to his daughter, "Make up my bed, that I may die in a decent manner."
"I hope, father, that you will yet recover, and live many years," replied his daughter.
"I hope not," was his answer.
When told to change his position in bed, that he might breathe more easily, he replied:
"A dying man can do nothing easy."
His sufferings were so great as to extort a groan from him at one time, whereupon he said:
"I fear that I do not bear pain as I ought. It is designed, no doubt, to wean me from the world, in which I am no longer competent to act my part."
To a clerical friend, who witnessed one of his paroxysms as he was about to retire, he said:
"Oh, no; don't go away. These pains will soon be over. They are for my good; and, besides, what are the pains of a moment in comparison with the pleasures of eternity?"
He had a picture of Christ on the cross placed so that he could look at it as he lay on his bed. "That is the picture of one who came into the world to teach men to love one another," he remarked. His last look, as he passed away, was cast upon that painting of Christ.
In a codicil to his will was this bequest.
"My fine crab-tree walking-stick, with a gold head, curiously wrought in the form of a cap of liberty, I give to my friend, and the friend of mankind, George Washington. If it were a sceptre, he has merited it, and would become it."
Philanthropist, Scholar, Philosopher, Statesman, were the titles won by the Boston Printer Boy!