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Full text of "The writings of Benjamin Franklin;"

THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

VOLUME I 




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E 
305. 



THE WRITINGS 

V. 1 



OF 




COLLECTED AND EDITED 
WITH A LIFE AND INTRODUCTION 

BY 

ALBERT HENRY SMYTH 



VOLUME I 




Wefo ff otfc 
THE MACMILLAN COMPANY 

LONDON : MACMILLAN & CO., LTD. 
1905 

All rights reservtd 



COPYRIGHT, 1905, 
BY THE MACMILLAN COMPANY. 



Set up and clectrotypcd. Published October, 1905. 



V- 



NortuooD T&tn* 

J. 8. Cuihlnjf A Co. Berwick A Smith Co. 
Norwood, MS8., U.S.A. 



TO 

JOHN BIGELOW 

WHO AS CONSUL AT PARIS AND AS MINISTER TO FRANCE 
FOLLOWED THE ILLUSTRIOUS FOOTSTEPS OF 

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

AND IN A LONG AND BENEFICENT CAREER HAS 

CONSPICUOUSLY EXHIBITED 
IMMUTABLE CONFIDENCE IN POPULAR GOVERNMENT AND 

EXALTED DEVOTION TO POPULAR WELFARE 

THIS WORK IN GRATEFUL REMEMBRANCE OF MUCH KINDNESS 

IS MOST RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED 

BY 

THE EDITOR 



PREFACE 

THE writings of Benjamin Franklin have been several 
times published. It is nearly ninety years since William 
Temple Franklin completed the long delayed edition of his 
grandfather's works; it is seventy years since Jared Sparks 
began the publication of his ten laborious volumes; and it 
is almost twenty years since Mr. John Bigelow prepared 
what then seemed to be the final edition of Franklin's works 
and correspondence. 

W. T. Franklin's edition is no longer of the slightest value 
to the student of history. He was devoid of literary facility, 
and was overwhelmed by the magnitude of his task. In 
his work there is neither sense of proportion nor judgement 
in selection. Jared Sparks, by unwearied industry, rendered 
a great service to American history, and preserved from 
oblivion many historical papers of the highest importance; 
but he was disloyal to his author, and took liberties with his 
documents. He corrected and altered at pleasure. In an 
attempt to give a classic pose to his heroes, he revised spell- 
ing and grammar, and omitted passages which he deemed 
beneath the dignity of history, and gave no sign withal that 
he had tampered with either style or substance. 

Mr. Bigelow based his edition upon Mr. Stevens's collec- 
tion of Franklin papers, then recently purchased by the 
United States Government, and published much that was 
new and invaluable. Unquestionably his edition is the best 
that has yet appeared, albeit that, here and there, he has over- 
looked, or at least not corrected, the defective transcripts 
made by Sparks. 



viii PREFACE 

At the present time, when preparations are making for 
an international celebration of the two hundredth anniver- 
sary of Franklin's birth, it has been thought that a revised 
and authoritative edition of his Works might be possibly the 
best and most enduring monument that can be reared to 
his memory. 

The present edition is the result of a personal examination 
of all the extant documents thereunto appertaining in Europe 
and America, accessible to the editor. No time or expense 
has been spared to discover the whereabouts of Franklin's 
manuscripts and to secure accurate and literal transcripts 
thereof. Many manuscripts have been discovered since Mr. 
Bigelow's edition went to press in 1887. In the University 
of Pennsylvania alone there is a collection of more than eight 
hundred of Franklin's private papers, which was brought to 
light in 1903, and has never been seen until now by any editor. 

The American Philosophical Society is the depositary of 
the most valuable portion of Franklin's manuscripts. It is 
an immense collection. The stoutest heart might well be 
appalled by the volume and range of those thirteen thousand 
documents, comprising a correspondence carried on in nine 
languages with all the world, and dealing with every theory 
of philosophy and every scheme of politics familiar and 
unfamiliar in the eighteenth century. For the first time 
they have now been studied minutely, and every sentence 
subjected to careful examination. 

I have pursued the quest after Franklin holographs in 
England, France, Germany, Austria, and Italy, and I be- 
lieve I have examined nearly every document that is known 
to exist in Europe and America. 

I have striven to make the present edition as complete 



PREFACE ix 

and as accurate as human industry can make it. Every 
document here reprinted has been copied faithfully from the 
original; every point, capital letter, and eccentricity of 
spelling being loyally preserved. This accords with the 
requirements of modern historical research, and corresponds 
to Franklin's own feeling and desire. He wrote to the 
printer Woodfall, enclosing a contribution to his paper, 
asking him to take care that the compositor observed "strictly 
the Italicking, Capitalling and Pointing." And he told his 
son that his "edict of the King of Prussia" had been re- 
printed in the London Chronicle, "but stripped of all the 
capitalling and italicking that intimate the allusions and mark 
the emphasis of written discourses, to bring them as near as 
possible to those spoken. Printing such a piece all in one 
even small character, seems to me like repeating one of 
Whitefield's sermons in the monotony of a school boy." 

In making these fresh copies from the original manu- 
scripts, I have corrected more than two thousand errors 
in the previous editions. Some of these errors are wilful, 
others the result of carelessness; most of them represent 
important alterations of language, perversions of meaning, 
and omissions of necessary details. Many letters hitherto 
marked as "incomplete," "mutilated," etc., have now been 
completed by the discovery of the missing leaves. Letters 
have been carelessly assigned to persons to whom they were 
never addressed, and their authorship has been ascribed to 
persons by whom they were never written. A thorough 
examination of the originals has resulted in the correction 
of many of these errors, and the determination of the history 
of letters that have hitherto been regarded as doubtful. 

Sparks published 1016 of Franklin's manuscripts, whereof 



x PREFACE 

407 had not appeared in any previous collection. He rounded 
out his ten volumes by the insertion of 372 letters addressed 
to Franklin, whereof 213 had not previously been printed. 
Mr. Bigelow published 1357 of Franklin's manuscripts, 
whereof 380 were not printed by Sparks. His allotted space 
permitted him to include only 210 letters to Franklin, whereof 
all but 21 are to be found in Sparks. 

In the present edition are 385 letters and 40 articles not 
previously printed by any editor, all of which are from the 
pen of Franklin. Some of the best of his writings are to be 
found in the eighteenth-century newspapers, where appar- 
ently no thorough search has hitherto been made for them. 
I have examined all the issues of the New England Courant, 
Pennsylvania Gazette, American Weekly Mercury, Goddard's 
Pennsylvania Chronicle, London Daily Advertiser, London 
Chronicle, and London Packet. For the first time in any 
edition the "Dogood Papers" are here reprinted from the 
Courant. They are the earliest of young Franklin's com- 
positions and highly interesting; they show how early his 
mind was bent in the direction it followed through life, 
and how early he acquired the fluency and precision of his 
literary style. 

I have printed several characteristic essays from the Penn- 
sylvania Gazette which have escaped the notice of other 
editors, and certain political papers from the Pennsylvania 
Chronicle which Franklin himself recorded as worthy of 
preservation. 

Nearly all the prefaces to "Poor Richard's Almanac" 
have been reprinted because they best show the qualities 
of Franklin's style. An early "memorial" in Franklin's 
handwriting (1731), an autograph report made by him of 



PREFACE xi 

Pitt's speech upon the Stamp Act, and many letters of great 
scientific interest and political importance are for the first 
time here printed. 

The letters which I have published from other writers 
to Franklin have been mainly chosen for their relation to 
letters from Franklin that appear elsewhere in the text. 
Certain others are, in nearly every case, of unusual historical 
value, not elsewhere published. I would call particular 
attention to the letters from Benjamin Vaughan and David 
Hartley, two of Franklin's English friends who kept him 
informed as to the policy of parties and the trending of public 
opinion in England during the Revolutionary period. 

The extraordinary letter of John Paul Jones (March 6, 
1779) I have printed in full, although it is of great length, 
because of its remarkable interest, and because it exhibits 
the confidence that Jones reposed in Franklin and illustrates 
the reverential regard in which he held him. Letters written 
in French are reprinted in that language; those in Latin, 
Italian, German, and Spanish are translated. 

It has been possible to include much new matter by the 
exclusion of a few slight unmeritable essays, and the rejec- 
tion of certain works which Franklin declared he did not 
write. In their zeal for the fame of Franklin, his editors 
have too hastily ascribed to him works which are now known 
to be by other hands. They have reprinted "The Prin- 
ciples of Trade," which was written by George Whatley; 
essays "On Government," written by John Webbe; "An 
humble Petition presented to Madame Helve'tius by her 
Cats," written by Abbe* Morellet; and "A True State of 
the Proceedings in the Parliament of Great Britain," written 
by Arthur Lee; the nature of these several omissions and 



xii PREFACE 

the reasons for passing judgement upon them will be found 
set forth in the Introduction. I have ignored the coarse 
Rabelaisian humour of the letter to The Academy of Brussels, 
though it excited the laughter of a Spanish grandee and won 
the approval of an English scientist. In common with cer- 
tain other bagatelles, which have occasionally crept into the 
twilight of furtive and surreptitious publication, this letter 
was never intended for any other career than circulation 
among the author's private friends. I have omitted the 
voluminous "Historical Review of Pennsylvania" because 
Franklin assured Hume that it was not of his writing; but 
I have included the Canada pamphlet because I have found 
the problem of its authorship so difficult, and the question 
of the relative shares of Franklin and Jackson so intricate, 
that I am quite unable to unloose its Gordian knot. 

A serious scholastic defect in previous editions is the lack 
of any indication as to the places where the originals of the 
printed documents are to be found. 

In the present edition I have invariably named in each case 
the collection, public or private, which is the home of every 
manuscript that I have examined, and of every one that I 
have been able to trace. 

I have tried to be brief and sparing in annotation, bearing 
in mind the sarcasm of John Quincy Adams concerning one 
of my predecessors, that he had impoverished his edition 
with his notes. 

The completion of this long and laborious task would 
have been impossible but for the cordial and unstinted 
assistance of many Franklinians, to whom the editor is under 
heavy obligations. More is their due than more than all 
can pay. I am deeply indebted to the custodians of the 



PREFACE xiii 

public collections of Franklin's papers. Chief of all stands 
Dr. I. Minis Hays, the Librarian of The American Philo- 
sophical Society, from whom came the first suggestion of 
this undertaking, and who has never failed to further its 
progress by encouragement and fruitful suggestion. It is 
due to his pride in The Philosophical Society's possession 
of the Franklin papers, and to his urgent enthusiasm and 
unsleeping care, that they have been admirably classified 
and calendared and made easily available to scholars. 

Mr. Worthington C. Ford, Chief of the Division of Manu- 
scripts of the Library of Congress, has cheerfully responded 
to numberless calls upon his limited time and illimitable 
knowledge. He holds it a vice in his goodness not to do 
more than he is requested, and I am beholden to him for 
many kindnesses, without which this work would be shorn of 
some of its fairest additions. 

The collection of Franklin papers recently acquired by 
the Library of the University of Pennsylvania was promptly 
and generously placed at my service. Never before had 
editorial eyes rested upon these valuable and voluminous 
historical records. For this opportunity I gladly thank 
Dr. S. Weir Mitchell, who procured the collection, and whose 
kindness is unending, and Dr. Morris Jastrow, the learned 
Librarian of the University. 

In Europe I am under especial obligations to Mr. Hubert 
Hall, the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records in London, 
and to M. Louis Farges, Chef du Bureau Historique, De- 
partement des Affaires Etrangeres, Paris. 

Mr. H. Buxton-Forman, C.B., Assistant Secretary of the 
General Post-office, London, kindly permitted me to consult 
the "American Letter Book," "The Commission Book," 



xiv PREFACE 

and the general account books, containing official correspond- 
ence with Franklin as Deputy Postmaster-General for the 
North American colonies, with balances of his accounts. 

Although whole libraries of Franklin's papers are con- 
tained in the great public collections of two continents, 
they are far from comprising all the products of that fertile 
and most busy pen. They lie like "scattered sedge afloat," 
dispersed far and wide over the world, and found at times 
in most unlikely places. Many owners of such papers have 
admitted me to their private collections and permitted copies 
to be made for publication. The family of the late Alex- 
ander Biddle, Esq., of Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, very 
generously allowed me to examine the papers of Jonathan 
Williams, the grandnephew of Franklin, where, among a 
variety of documents both French and English, I found 
twenty of Franklin's letters. For permission to publish 
some of these, I am greatly indebted to Mr. Louis A. Biddle 
and Miss Marion Biddle. 

The important correspondence of Franklin with Peter 
Collinson has but recently been discovered, and is in the 
possession of Mr. J. Pierpont Morgan. Twelve letters 
throwing much light on the beginnings of electrical study, 
and illustrating the attitude of Franklin toward the pro- 
prietary government, are here printed. 

Mrs. L. Z. Leiter, who owns the valuable correspondence 
of Franklin and David Hartley, M.P., comprising sixty- 
five manuscripts relating to the exchange of prisoners and 
to the treaty of peace, graciously gave me every facility 
for examining and copying them. 

Hon. S. W. Pennypacker, Governor of Pennsylvania, 
courteously brought to me the correspondence of Franklin 



PREFACE xv 

with William Strahan, and a holograph copy made by Frank- 
lin of Pitt's speech on the Stamp Act. His collections of 
materials for the illustration of the history of Pennsylvania 
are unrivalled, and he withheld from me nothing that would 
add more "feathers to my wings." 

Forty-eight letters written by Franklin to Mary Hewson 
were kindly laid before me by the latter' s great-grandson, 
Dr. T. Hewson Bradford. These letters had all appeared 
in print, but I found that Sparks had dealt with them with 
his unfortunate inaccuracy, and I have been able, by careful 
collation, to replace omitted paragraphs, and to restore to 
the letters characteristic personal touches which Sparks 
had unjustifiably suppressed as "beneath the dignity of 
history." 

Mr. Charles Francis Adams, in addition to many helpful 
courtesies in Boston, opened to me the great manuscript 
collections of "the House of Adams," and enabled me to 
verify the correspondence between Franklin and John Adams. 

I gladly thank Dr. F. B. Dexter, Librarian of Yale Uni- 
versity, for exact copies of Franklin's letters to Jared Eliot, 
which came to the library of Yale from Rev. Thomas F. 
Davies, in 1874. 

In numerous private autograph collections I found inter- 
esting letters which sometimes cleared up doubtful passages 
in Franklin's career. I may particularly mention the col- 
lections of Mr. Eliot Reed, of Earlsmead, Hampstead Heath ; 
Mr. Simon Gratz, of Philadelphia; Mr. William F. Have- 
meyer and Mr. Adrian H. Joline, of New York; and Mr. 
John Boyd Thacher, of Albany. 

The great kindness of strangers is a notable encourage- 
ment to him who is engaged in any arduous enterprise. From 



xvi PREFACE 

many persons quite unknown to me came valuable frag- 
ments of information, and M. Mossant, Conseiller Ge'ne'ral, 
Bourg-de-Pe'age, France, entrusted to the Atlantic and to me 
the original of a highly characteristic letter from Franklin 
to Mr. Viny. 

Although such abundant stores of Franklin's papers 
exist, much, I fear, has been for ever lost. I have sought 
in vain to trace the letters that Franklin wrote to three of 
his most intimate and faithful correspondents: Jonathan 
Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph's; Sir Edward Newenham, 
member of the Irish Parliament; and Jan Ingenhousz, 
physician to Maria Theresa. 

Archdeacon Thomas, of Llandrinio Rectory, kindly as- 
sisted me in my quest for the Shipley correspondence. The 
present representative of the bishop, Mrs. Rowley Conway, 
of Bodrhyddon, knows nothing of the fate of the papers, 
and I have been unable to obtain any information concerning 
them. 

Sir Edward Newenham and Franklin were close friends. 
They exchanged gifts and letters. Franklin sent Newen- 
ham a bust of himself, and Newenham sent Franklin a 
Galway car and harness. Franklin tried to have Newen- 
ham's son appointed to the diplomatic service of the United 
States. Newenham was passionately devoted to the Ameri- 
can cause. Upon hearing of the death of Montgomery at 
Quebec, he appeared in Parliament dressed in deep mourn- 
ing. He wrote numerous political tracts under the names 
'Brutus,' ' Junius,' and 'Leonidas.' Many letters from him 
to Franklin are extant, but only three addressed to him 
by Franklin have been discovered. Dr. Edward Dowden 
made researches for me in County Cork, but could learn 



PREFACE xvii 

nothing of the lost letters, and Captain H. Newenham, of 
the Royal Fusiliers, tells me that he fears Sir Edward's 
papers have been destroyed for family reasons. 

The loss of Franklin's letters to Ingenhousz is particu- 
larly to be deplored. Ingenhousz was an eminent scientist, 
a physician of great distinction, and enjoyed the confidence 
of the Empress Maria Theresa and of Joseph II. He cor- 
responded with Franklin upon questions of medicine, natural 
history, and electricity, and through him Franklin influenced 
to some extent the political opinion of Austria. Nearly a 
hundred letters from him to Franklin exist, covering a wide 
range of subjects, and exciting eager curiosity to see Franklin's 
replies. Of such replies only fifteen have been published, 
and all of them from rough drafts in The American Philo- 
sophical Society or Library of Congress. I inquired of Dr. 
Reinhold Koser, General Director of the Prussian Archives, 
and the chief living authority upon the times of Frederick 
the Great; and I inquired of Hofrat Dr. Winter, Direktor 
des Haus-Hof- und Staats-archiv, Vienna, and upon hear- 
ing nothing of the letters in Germany or Austria, I despaired 
of discovering them, when I unexpectedly learned that Dr. 
Julius Wiesner, of Vienna, the celebrated botanist, was 
writing a book upon Ingenhousz and his relation to Franklin. 
I immediately entered into correspondence with Dr. Wiesner, 
and learned that Ingenhousz's papers had been sold at auction 
sixty years ago. A portion of them became the property 
of Dr. Oskar, Freiherr von Mitis, in Vienna, but there were 
no Franklin letters among them. In 1901 another inter- 
esting little bundle of Ingenhousz's letters was sold by Gil- 
hofer and Ranschburg, in Vienna. Here were letters from 
Franklin to Ingenhousz dated September 19, 1769, and April 



xviii PREFACE 

26, 1777; also a copy of Franklin's paper, "Comparison of 
Great Britain and the United States in regard to the Basis 
of Credit in the two Countries" (1777), in Franklin's hand, 
with a translation by Ingenhousz, evidently intended for 
the consideration of the empress. For all that is new in 
this work concerning the correspondence and the relation 
between Franklin and Ingenhousz, I am indebted to Dr. 
Julius Wiesner and to Baron von Mitis. 

I tried to discover the letters that must have passed be- 
tween Franklin and Bentley, the partner of Wedgwood. 
Not one of them is known to exist. F. H. Wedgwood, Esq., 
of Etruria, writes me, "What has happened to the Bentley 
letters in the Wedgwood-Bentley correspondence (the Wedg- 
wood ones are being published privately by the Dowager 
Lady Farrer) is a mystery." 

Many of the letters written by Franklin to his sister Jane 
Mecom were destroyed by mice; children rummaged the 
correspondence of Franklin and Francis Hopkinson; the 
letters to Dr. John Jeffries were destroyed in the fire that 
burnt his mansion in Boston in 1820; and the same fate 
befell the Franklin letters among the papers which Noble 
Wymberley Jones had saved from the Revolution, when the 
flames destroyed his house in 1796. 

I am much indebted to the Hopkinson family for a sight 
of their family papers, which are now carefully and wisely 
guarded ; to Dr. B. Joy Jeffries, for information concerning 
his grandfather's diary and life in Europe; and to Mr. W. 
J. DeRenne, descendant of N. W. Jones, for a letter from 
Jones to Franklin on the political situation in Georgia. 

I sought to verify the correspondence with Lord Kames, 
but was told by H. S. Home-Drummond, Esq., that the 



PREFACE xix 

letters were not at Blair-Drummond, nor could he imagine 
what had become of them. 

Little of Franklin's correspondence with scientific men 
can now be recovered. He must have written many letters 
to Erasmus Darwin, but they are not to be found in the 
collection of the latter' s papers kept at Newnham Grange, 
Cambridge; and Professor George H. Darwin thinks "they 
must have been removed by some one long ago, as they 
would otherwise surely be there." 

Sir Robert Ball tried in vain to trace for me the letters 
which were written to Maskelyne and Sir William Herschel. 
The records of the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, are very 
scanty before the time of Sir George Airey. Mr. Alexander 
S. Herschel could find at Slough only a copy of the letter 
written by his grandfather, Sir William Herschel, to Franklin, 
February 18, 1787. Mr. Herschel says in his letter to me: 
"I should add that among the Herschel Papers here in 
preservation hardly a single autograph or copied letter 
from other savants to grandfather are to be found; as if 
they had all been taken with her to Hanover, perhaps, by 
Miss C. Herschel, or were otherwise distributed, perhaps, 
during the lifetimes of Sir W. and Miss C. Herschel. It 
is difficult to explain how so little, or hardly any vestige 
should remain of what must, in a long lapse of years, have 
at last become quite a bulky correspondence!" 

I was more fortunate with regard to the letters that passed 
between Franklin and le Due de Nemours, and received 
from the latter's great-grandson, Colonel Henry A. Du Pont, 
copies of all their correspondence. 

I have attempted in this volume to review and to describe 
all the writings of Franklin. I have approached the task 



JDI PREFACE 

with, I hope, due timidity and humbleness. To perform 
it to full satisfaction requires the robust scholarship of those 
sons of Anak, who before these lesser days of the specialist 
took all knowledge to be their portion. I believe that no 
attempt has ever been made to take a comprehensive survey 
and estimate of Franklin's work, but the recent scientific 
essays of Arthur Schuster, J. J. Thomson, Sir Oliver Lodge, 
and William Garnett have shown how far Franklin "dipt 
into the future," and "saw the vision of the world and all 
the wonder that would be." 

I have also tried to complete the narrative of his life from 
the point when, to our unending regret, he ceased to tell the 
story; and I have hope that in the critical Introduction, 
the reprint of the Autobiography, and in the review of the 
later life, which will appear as a terminal essay in the tenth 
volume, nearly everything of consequence with regard to 
that brave and busy career will be found. 

There remains to me the pleasure of expressing my deep 
obligation to Mr. John Bigelow, Mr. Richard Garnett, C.B., 
Sir Richard Tangye, Lord Edmond Fitzmaurice, Mr. Henry 
Vignaud, M. Georges Bertin, Signer Arturo Graf, Signer 
Fr. Novati, Count Stanislaus Tarnowski, M. Emile Legouis, 
the Officers and Librarian of the Royal Society, Mr. J. G. 
Rosengarten, Dr. Samuel A. Green, Mr. Lindsay Swift, 
Mr. John W. Jordan, Mr. Wilberforce Eames, Mr. James 
G. Barawell, Mr. Bunford Samuel, Mr. Howard C. Myers, 
Dr. H. F. Keller, Dr. Warner, Mr. J. S. Morgan, J. Pearson 
and Company, M. Noel Charavay, Mr. Joseph F. Sabin, and 

Mr. Frank T. Sabin. 

ALBERT HENRY SMYTH. 
SEPTEMBER, 1905. 



TABLE OF ABBREVIATIONS 

A. P. S American Philosophical Society. 

B. M British Museum. 

B. N Bibliotheque Nationale. 

D. S. W Department of State, Washington. 

H Harvard University. 

L. C Library of Congress. 

L. L Lenox Library. 

Lans Lansdowne House. 

M.H.S Massachusetts Historical Society. 

P. C Private Collection. 

P. H. S Pennsylvania Historical Society. 

P. R. O Public Record Office. 

P. R. O. A. W. I Public Record Office : America and 

West Indies. 
P. A. E. E. U Paris Departement des Affaires 

Etrangeres, Etats-Unis. 

U. of P University of Pennsylvania. 

Y Yale University. 

B Bigelow. 

F Benjamin Franklin. 

S Sparks. 

V Benjamin Vaughan. 

W. T. F W. T. Franklin. 

Franklin's Mss. exist in several forms. He made a rough draft of 
every letter that he wrote ; he then made a clean copy to send away, and 
often retained a letter-press copy. To indicate the state of the docu- 
ment, the following abbreviations are used : d. = draft, trans. = transcript, 
1. p. = letter-press copy. 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

INTRODUCTION i 

The Franklin Manuscripts I 

The Printed Editions 12 

The Works of Franklin 33 

Philosophical Works 53 

Political and Economical Works 135 

Satires and Bagatelles 166 

Correspondence 195 

THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 219 

1. Franklin's Draft Scheme of the Autobiography . . 221 

2. The Autobiography 226 



INTRODUCTION 

THE FRANKLIN MANUSCRIPTS 

FRANKLIN preserved all his papers. He had the mag- 
pie trait of hoarding things. Every letter written to him, 
every rough draft and copy of a letter written by him, 
every visiting card, and every invitation to dinner or to 
a Masonic lodge meeting was saved and cherished, and 
went to swell the tremendous aggregate of his collec- 
tion of papers. He jealously guarded these souvenirs, 
for he was thoroughly aware of their importance to the 
future historian of America. No public man has ever more 
completely revealed himself or more copiously recorded 
the march of events in his time. His care in this respect 
is at once the delight and the despair of his biographer. 

It was one of the chief regrets of his life that a chest of 
private papers which he left with Mr. Joseph Galloway 
when he went to France in 1776 was broken open and 
plundered. Benjamin Vaughan told him "with infinite 
concern" that Galloway had written to him that "the 
rebels have got at your papers and destroyed them." 
Whether it was the "rebels" or the British troops who 
did this destruction is unknown. Certain it is that Mr. 
Bache hurried out to Trevose, Joseph Galloway's country 
seat near Philadelphia, and gathered up the loose and 
scattered leaves and put such of them as could be found 
into the chest, and brought the poor remnant back to 

VOL. I B I 



2 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Philadelphia. By this act of vandalism the papers relating 
to the earliest period of Franklin's life were irretrievably 
lost. Eight letter-books were in the chest containing the 
drafts of Franklin's correspondence while in England, 
from 1757 to 1762, and from 1764 to 1775; six of these 
were lost and have never been recovered. 

Although he set a high value upon his papers, and was 
anxious for their preservation, he was disorderly in the care 
of them. They lay loosely about him. He declares in 
his Autobiography that he found order with regard to places 
for things, papers, etc., extremely difficult to acquire: " In 
truth I found myself incorrigible with respect to order, and 
now I am grown old and my memory bad, I feel very 
sensibly the want of it." 

William Alexander was so much impressed by Franklin's 
carelessness with regard to documents that he wrote to 
him (March i, 1777): "Will you forgive me my Dear Sir 
for noticing, that your Papers seem to me to lye a little 
loosely about your hands you are to consider yourself 
as surrounded by spies and amongst people who can make 
a cable from a thread; would not a spare half hour per 
day enable your son to arrange all your papers, useless 
or not, so that you could come at them sooner, and not 
one be visible to a prying eye." 

His negligence never, however, exposed him to danger. 
He was reticent where silence was a virtue, and wary and 
cautious where prudence was required. No man could 
better keep his own counsel. The most indefatigable 
inquiry has failed to ascertain the source from which he 
obtained the Hutchinson Letters, or to discover who was 
the mother of his son or of his grandson. He was sur- 



THE FRANKLIN MANUSCRIPTS 3 

rounded by spies while he lived at Passy. Enemies were 
in his household. Emissaries of Lord North and Stormont 
dogged his footsteps, peered over his shoulder, and pried 
into his papers; but nothing was found or quoted that 
derogated from his dignity or honour. 

Major Thornton and the mysterious "Edwards" furtively 
copied his letters, which lay temptingly open and astray 
upon his table. M. de Moiande and Charles Parker Forth 
and "Doctor" Moore hastened to send to Lord North the 
gossip they had bought from servants of the households of 
Beaumarchais and Franklin. But with all their strategy 
and cunning watchfulness they failed to discover one impor- 
tant political secret or to confound one of Franklin's subtle 
plans. 

By his will he bequeathed all his manuscripts and papers 
to William Temple Franklin, his grandson, who had acted as 
his secretary in Paris, and who was very dear to him. He 
seems to have entertained an exaggerated notion of Temple's 
abilities, and to have believed him capable of properly sort- 
ing, arranging, and editing these multitudinous papers and 
giving them permanent literary form. But Temple Franklin 
had neither literary faculty or historic sense; he was indo- 
lent and timid, and aghast at the magnitude of the task 
before him. He culled out what he imagined to be the most 
important of the manuscripts, and carried them to London 
with the apparent intention of devoting himself to his 
editorial task. 

The papers left by him in Philadelphia, by far the greater 
part of the whole collection, he bequeathed to his friend 
George Fox, from whose son, Charles P. Fox, they came to 
The American Philosophical Society, where they are now 



4 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

carefully guarded. The announcement of the intention to 
make the society the custodian of these historical documents 
was made in a letter from Charles P. Fox to John Vaughan, 
Librarian, September 17, 1840: "Upon conversing with 
my sisters respecting the papers of Dr. Franklin, bequeathed 
by William T. Franklin, Esq., to my father, we have con- 
cluded they cannot be better disposed of than by presenting 
to the society of which he was the founder." 

This collection is now contained in 76 folio volumes, and 
consists of 13,000 documents in nine languages. These 
volumes contain papers from 1735 to 1790, scanty for the 
earlier and voluminous for the later years. They are classi- 
fied as follows: 

FRANKLIN PAPERS m THE AMERICAN PHILOSOPHICAL SOCIETY 

Vols. 1-39. Letters to Dr. Franklin, 1735-1790. 

Vols. 40-43. Letters to Dr. Franklin, without date. 

Vol. 44. Letters to Dr. Franklin, anonymous and without date. 

Vol. 45. Drafts and copies of letters from Dr. Franklin, 1738-1789. 

Vol. 46. Letters from Dr. Franklin to his wife, 1755-1774. 

Vols. 47-48. Letters to various persons, 1710-1791. 

Vol. 49. Papers on subjects of science and politics. 

Vol. 50. Papers by Dr. Franklin on various subjects. 

Vol. 51. Poetry and verses. 

Vol. 52. Miscellaneous papers, 1670-1769. 

Georgia papers, 1768-1775. 
Vols. 53-55. Miscellaneous papers, 1770-1788. 
Vol. 56. Miscellaneous papers without date. 
Vol. 57. Memorials, petitions, etc. 
Unnumbered Vol. Fragments and torn letters. 
Unnumbered Vol. Scraps, memorials, etc. 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers : in France Letters from Franklin. 
Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers: in France Letters to Franklin. 
Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers : in France Invitations, cards. 
Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers : in France Court, marriage, 
funeral and meeting notices, invitations. 



THE FRANKLIN MANUSCRIPTS 5 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers: in France Oaths of allegiance, 
paroles, bonds of privateers, passports. 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers: in France Letters from Frank- 
lin Letters to Franklin Miscellaneous. 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers : in France Promissory notes, 
public loans and accounts. 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers: in France Applications for 
appointments in army and navy. 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers: in France Diplomatic, naval 
matters, military stores, indemnity. 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers : in France Prisoners' assistance, 
to raise troops, for civil appointments, to settle in America, miscel- 
laneous. 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers : in France Household and per- 
sonal accounts. 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers : in France Miscellaneous letters 
in German. 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers: in England Notices, invita- 
tions, visiting cards, notes, business cards. 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers : Wills, powers of attorney, in- 
dentures, bonds, agreements, notes, memoranda, bills, 1728-1768. 

Unnumbered Vol. Franklin papers: Bills 1769-1788, drafts, accounts, 
checks, memoranda, bills of lading, public accounts. 

Certified acts of Congress, 1776-1780. 

Several volumes of miscellaneous account-books. 

Eight volumes of letters to William Temple Franklin: Vols. 1-7, 1775- 
1790; Vol. 8, without date. 

The manuscripts taken abroad by Temple Franklin have 
had an interesting history. After the publication of "The 
Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin" (1817), the 
original papers were deposited for safe keeping with Herries, 
Farquhar & Co., bankers, 16, St. James's Street, London. 
William Temple Franklin married Hannah Collier, an 
English woman from Berkshire, removed to France, and 
died in Paris, May 25, 1823. His widow administered 
upon the estate, and on the 23d of September removed 
from the vaults of the bank the old chest containing the 



6 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Franklin manuscripts. For the next seventeen years nothing 
is known of their history. The "inconsolable widow," 
whose grief, as she testified upon her husband's monument in 
Pere-lachaise, would end only with her life, married again 
in 1834, and continued to live with her second husband, Jean 

X 

Ernest Etienne Montluc de la Riviere, at Etampes, until her 
death in 1846. It is not known what she did with the papers ; 
but in 1840 they were found "loosely bundled up" on the 
top shelf of a tailor's shop in St. James's Street, where Temple 
Franklin had lodged. Many of the papers had doubtless 
been destroyed, and others were being cut into patterns at 
the time of the discovery. The finder ineffectually offered 
them for sale for ten or eleven years. They were refused 
by the British Museum and declined by Lord Palmerston. 
They were offered in vain to Edward Everett and George 
Bancroft, successively ministers to England. In 1851 a 
purchaser was found in Henry Stevens of Vermont, the 
well-known bibliophile, to whom the owner was recom- 
mended by Abbott Lawrence. Mr. Stevens sorted, repaired, 
and arranged the papers, gave again an air of respectability 
to their ragged disorder, and sold them to the United States 
for seven thousand pounds. They were placed in the 
Library of the State Department, and are now, with the 
exception of the Craven Street Letter Book, the Petition 
to the King, and some portions of the diplomatic corre- 
spondence, in the Manuscript Department of the Library 
of Congress. This collection, which bears the name of 
Henry Stevens, is in 14 folio volumes, containing 2938 
papers. It comprises: i. The Original Records or Letter 
Books of the American Legation in Paris during the Revolu- 
tionary War, and subsequently, 1776-1785, including corre- 



THE FRANKLIN MANUSCRIPTS ^ 

spondence with the French Government; the negotiations 
for supplies to carry on the war; papers relative to Paul 
Jones ; Captain Cook and his voyage of discovery ; privateer- 
ing ; negotiations for peace ; the Treaty ; and correspondence 
with various countries of the continent. 

2. Franklin's original manuscripts; his essays, miscel- 
lanies, correspondence, bagatelles, etc. 

3. His journals and memoranda for the Autobiography. 

4. The original correspondence with the American 
government. 

5. The Original Petition of the Congress to the King, 
October, 1774, signed in duplicate by all the fifty members 
of the Continental Congress. This Petition was signed 
by the Members in two copies. Both were sent, by different 
ships, to Franklin. One he kept, the other he presented 
to the Minister for the King. The King's copy is now in 
the Public Record Office. 

6. Correspondence with David Hartley, chiefly con- 
cerning the exchange of prisoners; the Hutchinson Papers 
Correspondence, etc. 

7. Records and Correspondence of the Commissioners 
on the part of England to negotiate the Treaty of Peace, 
together with a complete transcript of Oswald's Journal, 
the original of which is in the Lansdowne Collection. 

8. The Craven Street Letter Book, containing the drafts 
of important letters written by Franklin during his residence 
in London (1765-1775). 

The originals of many of the letters and articles published 
by W. T. Franklin are missing from this collection. It is 
impossible to determine their fate. They may have been 
lost in the obscure years between 1823 and 1840, when we 



8 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

have no records of the straits of fortune into which they were 
driven, or they may have been used by Temple Franklin 
as "printer's copy." 

Not all of Franklin's papers came to The American Philo- 
sophical Society. After the bulk of them had been delivered 
a portion still remained for many years in a garret over the 
stable at Champlost, the home of the Fox family. Miss 
Fox, who took small interest in the papers, determined to 
sell them to the paper mills in order to secure a new carpet 
for the kitchen. About 1862 Mrs. Holbrook, who lived in 
Bradford County, Pennsylvania, was visiting Miss Fox and 
saw these papers carried out. She remonstrated, and they 
were brought back into the house all but one unlucky 
barrel which had already gone to the mill. Miss Fox selected 
a number of her own family letters and gave the rest a 
generous trunk full to Mrs. Holbrook. From her they 
descended to her son George O. Holbrook, from whom they 
were purchased in 1903, through the efforts of Dr. S. Weir 
Mitchell, and deposited in the Library of the University 
of Pennsylvania. 

This collection, which no editor of Franklin or student 
of American history has hitherto examined, consists of 
more than 800 documents, ranging from Franklin's draft 
of an essay on the British plantations in America, in 1731, 
down to his latest correspondence. There is much whiff 
and wind of the controversy with the Proprietary Gov- 
ernment ; maps of the Gulf Stream and of Bunker Hill ; 
Franklin's personal accounts of his household in Paris 
and with Congress; numerous documents in the affair of 
Paul Jones and Captain Landais; and holograph letters 
from Washington, Lafayette, Jefferson, Wayne, Whitefield, 



THE FRANKLIN MANUSCRIPTS 9 

Francis Hopkinson, Robert Morris, and the Presidents of 
Congress. 

The bulk of the correspondence between Franklin and Sir 
Joseph Banks concerning aerial navigation is here; and 
further interchange of scientific opinion is found between 
Franklin and Priestley in England, and La Blancherie and 
Le Roy in France. Letters are here from Turin, Padua, 
and Orleans, soliciting Franklin ("plus grand philosophe du 
Siecle ") to honour them by accepting membership in their 
learned societies. Not least interesting in the collection are 
two letters from Robespierre and Burke: the former, an 
appeal "to the most illustrious savant of the world," to 
coach the writer, then a humble advocate, that he might in- 
telligently argue the question of the legality of lightning 
rods; the latter, the original of an already published letter 
relating to the parole of General Burgoyne. 

These three collections contain nearly all the Franklin 
papers that are now known to exist. The remainder are 
widely scattered over the face of the earth. Of the minor 
American collections the most important is that in the pos- 
session of the Pennsylvania Historical Society. Distributed 
through the various autograph collections of the society, 
those that bear the names of Dreer, Conarroe, Peters, 
Coryell, and Sprague, are upward of 50 autograph letters 
of Benjamin Franklin. The other Franklin papers are 
found in four folio volumes containing 400 documents, and 
in two bundles of manuscripts containing 260 documents. 
This collection contains a large number of letters from 
Thomas Digges, conveying secret intelligence from Lon- 
don; they are variously signed: T. Digges, T. D., Arthur 
Hamilton, Robert Sinclair, P. Drouillard (12 letters), Will- 



10 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

iam Forbes, William Ross, William Ferguson, W. S. Church 
(19 letters), Alexander McKinloch, Alexander Brett, John 
Thompson, William Fitzpatrick, and Moses Young. 

In Europe, Franklin letters are preserved in Paris at the 
Foreign Office, le Bibliotheque du Ministere de la Marine, 
in the Bibliotheque Nationale, and the Archives Nationales ; 
in Spain at Simancos ; in Holland at the Hague ; and in Eng- 
land at the Public Record Office, the British Museum, King's 
College, Cambridge, Lansdowne House, and the Royal 
Society. All the papers in the public collections of Europe 
are now chronicled in the colossal Index to the American 
Documents in the Archives of Europe. This vast under- 
taking of the late B. F. Stevens is at last completed, and 
bound in 1 80 sumptuous folios. It indexes 161,000 public 
documents. It was carried forward and completed at 
immense expense, and supplies a sure and easy clew to the 
bewildering mazes of the enormous official collections of 
the Old World. At present it is contained in an upper room 
of No. 4, Trafalgar Square, where it awaits a purchaser, and 
is comparatively inaccessible to students. The admirably 
classified collection of state papers belonging to the Foreign 
Office, located upon the Quai d'Orsay, in Paris, contains 
137 letters in the handwriting of Franklin and 123 letters 
addressed to him. Of these, 85 were written by Franklin 
to Comte de Vergennes, and 79 were addressed by that 
minister to Franklin. 

The Bibliotheque de la Marine has n letters in Franklin's 
hand. 

The Public Record Office, in Chancery Lane, London, 
has 57 letters in the handwriting of Franklin, and 22 letters 
addressed to him. Very interesting is a volume labelled 



THE FRANKLIN MANUSCRIPTS II 

"Letters of Dr. Franklin and Others, 1768-1775" (P. R. O. 
A. W. L, 684), on the first page of which the following "Ob- 
servation" is written: "Thirteen (genuine) Letters of Dr. 
Franklin. These letters are perhaps now only precious or 
Important so far as they prove and discover the Duplicity, 
Ingratitude, and Guilt of this Arch Traitor whom they 
unveil and really unmask Displaying him as an accomplish'd 
Proficient in the blacker Arts of Dissimulation and Guile." 

The British Museum had, in the summer of 1904, 35 
original letters by Franklin, and 14 letters addressed to 
him. The most interesting part of this collection is a 
volume belonging to the King's Library (K. 203), con- 
taining the correspondence of Franklin with Dr. Samuel 
Cooper and Thomas Pownall. After the battle of Lexington, 
and when Boston was surrounded, Dr. Cooper applied for 
permission to leave the city. He obtained a passport. Un- 
willing to destroy the originals of these letters, he left them 
with a friend, Mr. Jeffries, who was ill and who soon after 
went to the country. His son, Dr. John Jeffries, refused 
to accompany his father, and the trunk containing the corre- 
spondence was left with him. He took it to Halifax and 
to London in 1778, and presented the papers to Benjamin 
Thompson (Count Rumford), who gave them to Lord 
George Germaine for his Majesty. Dr. Jeflfries's Diary 
was saved from the fire that destroyed his mansion house 
in Franklin Street, Boston, in 1820. Dr. B. Joy Jeffries 
writes: "In my grandfather's Diary, June 24, 1779, he 
records a long interview with Germaine concerning his own 
affairs, and Germaine saying he had read these letters with 
great interest." 

The Lansdowne Collection has 22 letters written by 



12 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Franklin. The present whereabouts of many other docu- 
ments is revealed by the various reports of the Historical 
Manuscripts Commission. 

It is an impossible task to discover and catalogue the 
widely scattered Franklin papers. They appear in the 
remotest and most unexpected places. There is scarcely 
a family in France that was prominent in the eighteenth 
century that does not preserve and cherish certain Franklin 
letters. A library in Cremona, Italy, is proud of a letter 
from Franklin to Lorenzo Manini, one of the founders of 
the Cisalpine Republic. The traveller in Russia and 
Lithuania who carries Franklin in his mind comes upon 
letters written in that familiar hand. Across the entire 
eighteenth century his shadow falls, and all its paths are 
haunted by his presence. 

THE PRINTED EDITIONS 

Franklin wrote much, but always with a present and 
practical purpose. He was the best American writer, a 
master of plain and vigorous English, but he had no aspira- 
tions after literary distinction. Industrious and frugal in all 
the affairs of life, exercising a scanty and penurious house- 
hold economy that savoured of parsimony, seeking along 
busy avenues of trade to acquire a competent fortune, that 
he might be independent and enjoy profitable leisure, it is 
significantly characteristic of him that he never applied either 
for patent-right or copyright. Such were his ingenuity, 
quickness of observation, and fertility of invention, that he 
might daily have conceived projects and contrived devices 
that would have added to his fortune and renown, yet he 



THE PRINTED EDITIONS 13 

declined Governor Thomas's offer to give him a patent 
for the "sole vending" of the Pennsylvania fireplaces, saying 
"That as we enjoy great advantages from the inventions 
of others, we should be glad of an opportunity to serve 
others by an invention of ours ; and this we should do freely 
and generously." Le Roy said to him, "Like Charles XII 
and other conquerors you only seize empires to give them 
to others. " In the same spirit he wrote out his ideas upon 
philosophy and political economy, and sent them in letters 
to his friends, who might, if they chose, put them to public 
use by publishing them as pamphlets or contributing 
them to the proceedings of learned societies. He sent 
nothing to the press over his own name. But for the scien- 
tific enthusiasm of Peter Collinson, and the personal devo- 
tion of Dubourg and Vaughan, his name would not have 
been known to the academies and philosophers of Europe. 
He lived with the pen in his hand ; he sent forth from Craven 
Street and from Passy masterpieces of irony and keen polit- 
ical satire; he discomfited the ablest controversialists of 
England, and won the attentive ear of Europe. It has been 
well said that he is easily first among the giant race of pam- 
phleteers and essayists, most of whom went before, but a 
few of whom came immediately after, the war for indepen- 
dence. All of this flood of powerful polemic, however, 
was anonymously written, and for the most part in haste 
and without revision. 

His indifference to literary fame is not alone sufficient 
to explain the singular circumstance that he rarely saw 
a proof-sheet of any of his writings. His abhorrence of 
controversy must be remembered. "I have never," he 
wrote, "entered into any controversy in defense of my philo- 



14 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

sophical opinions; I leave them to take their chance in the 
world. If they are right, truth and experience will support 
them; if wrong, they ought to be refuted and rejected. 
Disputes are apt to sour one's temper and disturb one's 
quiet. I have no private interest in the reception of my 
inventions by the world, having never made, nor proposed 
to make, the least profit by any of them." He saw that 
by public altercations over scientific questions, the ignorant 
are diverted at the expense of the learned. He wrote to 
Ingenhousz, when that irate philosopher was engaged in 
a dispute with Priestley: "I hope you will omit the polemic 
piece in your French edition and take no public notice of 
the improper behaviour of your friend ; but go on with your 
excellent experiments, produce facts, improve science, and 
do good to mankind. Reputation will follow, and the little 
injustices of contemporary labourers will be forgotten; my 
example may encourage you, or else I should not mention 
it. You know, that when my papers were first published, 
the Abbe* Nollet, then high in reputation, attacked them in 
a book of letters. An answer was expected from me, but 
I made none to that book, nor to any other. They are now 
all neglected, and the truth seems to be established. You 
can always employ your time better than in polemics." 
To the same correspondent he wrote: "Whatever some 
may think and say, it is worth while to do men good, for 
the self-satisfaction one has in the reflection." 

Franklin lacked constructive ability. His mind teemed 
with invention, and his observation was astonishingly quick 
and accurate, but he had not, apparently, the power of 
patiently coordinating and symmetrizing his thought. His 
Autobiography is his only book, and upon that he wrought 



THE PRINTED EDITIONS 15 

from time to time for many years, and left the work un- 
finished when he died. His literary and scientific bro- 
chures, therefore, are chiefly letters written to friends who 
were prominent in science or affairs, and who, impressed 
by the general and permanent value of the writings, sought 
to have the world share in their pleasure and instruction. 
There is probably no parallel in the history of literature to 
the publication of works of such variety, value, and enduring 
fame in such modest and unpretentious manner. 

The first collection was made in 1751: "Experiments 
and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in 
America, By Mr. Benjamin Franklin, London: E. Cave, 
1751. 4." It was a pamphlet of 86 pages, given to the 
press by Peter Collinson, and sold for half a crown. Col- 
linson was a scientist "very curious in botany and other 
branches of natural history" (F.). He was the close friend 
of John Bartram, and the intermediary between him and 
the King. The firm of mercers with which he was con- 
nected had business relations with America, and so Collin- 
son became acquainted with men of intellect in the colonies, 
and urged the Americans to the cultivation of flax, hemp, 
silk, and wine. He was a fellow of the Royal Society, and 
one of the founders of the Society of Antiquaries. After 
four years' correspondence with Franklin upon electricity, 
he published some of the letters without consultation with 
Franklin, assigning as his reason the great interest of the 
letters and their importance to the public. 1 The pamphlet 

1 " It may be necessary to acquaint the reader, that the following observa- 
tions and experiments were not drawn up with a view to their being made 
publick, but were communicated at different times, and most of them in letters 
wrote on various topicks, as matters only of private amusement. 

" But some persons to whom they were read, and who had themselves 



16 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

was again printed with additional matter in 1753: "Sup- 
plemental Experiments and Observations on Electricity, 
Part II. made at Philadelphia in America, By Benjamin 
Franklin, Esq., and communicated in several Letters to 
P. Collinson, Esq. of London, F. R. S. London : E. Cave, 
1753, 4" (second edition 1754). Part I was reprinted in 
a third edition in 1760; and Part II, third edition, 1762. 

The letters and essays were now well known in Europe. 
Buffon had read them in a stumbling translation, and had 
prevailed upon Dalibard to render them more faithfully 
into French. Louis XV witnessed the performance of 
the electrical experiments at St. Germain, and bestowed 
royal applause upon Franklin. The name of the American 
philosopher was now spoken with curiosity in nearly every 
part of the continent, though Abbe* Nollet, "Who had 
form'd and publish'd a theory of electricity," declared that 
no such person existed. As yet the writings had not been 
gathered into a book. But in 1769 a single quarto volume 
appeared in London with the title: "Experiments and Ob- 
servations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in America, 
by Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. and F.R.S. To which are 
added Letters and Papers on Philosophical Subjects. The 
whole corrected, methodized, improved, and now first col- 
lected into one Volume, and illustrated with copperplates. 
London: David Henry, 1769," plates iv, 496 pp. and 
Index, old calf, 4. 

Collinson had died nine months before, on the nth of 

been conversant in electrical disquisitions, were of opinion, they contained so 
many curious and interesting particulars relative to this affair, that it would be 
doing a kind of injustice to the publick, to confine them solely to the limits 
of a private acquaintance." Preface to " Experiments and Observations," 
London, 1751. 



THE PRINTED EDITIONS 17 

August, 1768; Franklin was much occupied with colonial 
affairs which distracted his attention from scientific inquiry. 
Even his son, William Franklin, was amazed at his father's 
many interests and activities, and wrote to him (March 2, 
1769): "A new edition of your Experiments is advertised, 
with corrections and additions which I long much to see. 
It is surprising how you could find time to attend to things 
of that nature [amid] your hurry of public business, and 
variety of other Engagements." 

Various translations were made of this volume, but none 
of real importance until Franklin's devoted friend, Barbeu 
Dubourg, took it up in 1772. Dubourg was a member of 
the Royal Society of Medicine, the Royal Society of Mont- 
pellier, the Medical Society of London, and the Academy 
of Sciences of Stockholm. He was born at Mayenne, Feb- 
ruary 12, 1709. He had, like his brothers, studied theology, 
and abandoned it for the practice of medicine. He was a 
notable linguist, and had already translated Bolingbroke 
into French. His colleague, Le Roy, had promised to 
translate Franklin's volume, but he had made no progress 
in it. Dubourg declared to Franklin that he feared to 
undertake it himself, lest he should spoil the essays with 
his unskilful hand. Lesqui, a PrZmontre, had made a 
translation but had mislaid it. Dubourg importuned him 
unceasingly for it. Meanwhile he proceeded with the 
work, frequently consulting Franklin as to the meaning 
of English words and phrases. "What are 'orreries'?" 
he asks; and he would know the French equivalent for 
"surf" and "spray" and "jostled" (October 28, 1772). 

The work appeared in 1773: "(Euvres de M. Franklin, 
Docteur es Loix, Traduites de 1'Anglois sur la quatrieme 

VOL. I C 



1 8 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Edition. Par M. Barbeu Dubourg, avec des additions 
nouvelles et des Figures en Taille douce. Paris, 1773." In 
it were included some letters written later than the London 
edition of 1769, and the "Way to Wealth" translated un- 
der the title "Le Moyen de s'Enrichir, Enseigne" clairemont 
dans la Preface d'un Vieil Almanach de Pensylvanie, in- 
titule* Le Pauvre Henri a son aise. " 

The translation was well received ; Dubourg and Marquis 
de Mirabeau and M. Dalibard sent Franklin a thousand 
compliments, and Dubourg, in a letter to his friend and 
master (December 29, 1773), declared that nothing he had 
ever written had been so well received as his preface to 
these works, "So great is the advantage of soaring in the 
shadow of Franklin's wings!" 

Among Franklin's friends and correspondents in Eng- 
land, Benjamin Vaughan was preeminently dear. He 
was the son of a West Indian planter and well connected 
upon both sides of the sea. He had been introduced by 
Home Tooke to Lord Shelburne, and had become private 
secretary to that statesman. He married Sarah Manning, 
aunt of the late Cardinal Manning, and his family were 
connected with the house of Bedford. His letters to Frank- 
lin are highly valuable for their reflection of political senti- 
ment in England and their apt criticism of public men and 
measures. In 1779 Vaughan prepared with much care a 
new edition of Franklin's writings. He took great trouble 
to find all of his friend's flying leaves and obscurer pam- 
phlets, and published them with judicious notes, and an 
attentive eye to the proofs. The following letter explains 
the way in which Vaughan proceeded with his self-imposed 
task. 



THE PRINTED EDITIONS 19 

"LONDON April 9 th 1779 

"My DEAREST SIR 

"By this conveyance you will receive 
a printed pacquet of your papers; and inclosed you will 
receive what is finished in addition. The last proof sheet 
comes down to p. 230. I believe in the whole, there 
will be from 450 to 500 pages; exclusive of index, table 
of contents, and two or three pages of explanatory pref- 
ace. 

"I have taken sundry liberties with you; but 7 only shall 
be the sufferer, for I shall in the fullest possible manner get 
your judgment out of the scrape. Italics are put in many 
places, to serve instead of marking the subject (as in some 
authors is done) on the side of the page; and to prevent an 
English reader running away with a blunder for want of 
attending to a particular word which would have saved his 
blunder. The pointing is altered very frequently, your 
original pointing not being always to be got at, to make the 
whole uniform. The whole secret of these alterations lies in 
throwing the sentences into masses and members to assist 
the eye more suddenly in catching and reviewing the sense; 
and in making abrupt pauses in particular places for the 
sake of forcing the reader's attention to some particular 
point, either on account of its importance or as being other- 
wise equivocal. 

"Paragraphs and spaces are used with the same sort of 
license; especially in the Canada pamphlet and the House 
of Commons Examination. With what is done to these two 
pieces I think you will hardly be displeased : on the former 
I bestowed much trouble. The writings of very few authors 
besides yourself, will bear distinguishing into heads. But I 



20 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

think by making the piece more luminous as to the parts, I 
have only done you infinitely more credit. 

" However you may be sure of this ; that no sort of mercy 
will be shewn by the editor to himself. The two or three 
first sheets have been blundered about; not having enough 
attended to the subject, or the printer. Mr. Jackson in 
particular is very ill-used, and will have a public and private 
apology made to him. However with your permission, I 
wish that the alterations I have minuted down may be 
attended to with you if not improper; and that it may 
be expressed in the French translation that what is altered, 
is at the desire of the English editor" 

The work was published in July, 1779, with the title: 
"Political, Miscellaneous and Philosophical Pieces; Written 
by Benj. Franklin LL.D. and F.R.S., now first collected, 
with Explanatory Plates, Notes, and an Index to the whole, 
London: J. Johnson, 1779." When all was ready, Vaughan 
wrote to Franklin: 

"JUNE 17. 1779 

"MY VERY DEAREST SlR 

"In about 3 weeks time I hope to 

send you everything complete, relative to a certain collection. 
There will be an engraving of the head of the party, taken 
from the larger medallion, of which you sent a miniature 
size to Miss G. S. 1 The motto, given by her father at my 
request, is, 'His country's friend, but more of human kind.' 
I wanted something that should answer to 'complecti- 
tur orbem'; which this does only in one sense of 'com- 
plectitur': however it is infinitely the more important sense, 
and that which will most please you; and I like it too the 

1 Miss Georgiana Shipley. 



THE PRINTED EDITIONS 21 

better, as it will look with some like making friends with 
England; which kind of incidents I always take in. The 
above stands round the engraving; in the title page you 
know comes, 'hominum rerumque repertor, ' from Virgil. 1 
We have got the preface to G.'s 2 speech, all but the epitaph; 
which is promised me, as I suppose from Mr. Wharton, and 
is much wanted. My negligence in not asking for this in 
good time, as I thought it might be had at any time, is incon- 
venient to us a little, as to G. himself. I have not yet been 
able to see him; but I shall probably see him to day, as his 
examination I believe continues to day at the house. He 
answered almost every single question of Lord G. G.'s, 3 in 
the affirmative. He said that at the taking up arms, only ^ 
were for independence ; but that the party had begun in the 
chief towns, ever since 1754, for in order to abuse the Howe's 
for not quelling the revolt, they seem to consent to acknowl- 
edge that. But it is impossible to go into the particulars of 
what he said, they were so very multiplied but it turned out, 
that in fact your people had 'recruited' at least on as good 
terms as ours, whether in America or even almost in Eng- 
land; and that your bounty money for 'substitutes' as it 
was called was less than the Liverpool and Manchester 
people gave for their regiments in many instances. " 

In his preface Mr. Vaughan said: 

"The times appear not ripe enough for the editor to give 
expression to the affection, gratitude and veneration he bears 
to a writer he has so intimately studied: Nor is it wanting 
to the author; as history lies in wait for him, and the judg- 



, xii. B. 

2 Speech of Joseph Galloway, to which Franklin wrote a preface. 
8 Lord George Germaine. 



22 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

ment of mankind balances already in his favour. The editor 
wishes only that other readers may reap that improvement 
from his productions which he conceives they have rendered 
to himself. Yet perhaps he may be excused for stating 
one opinion: He conceives that no man ever made larger 
or bolder guesses than Dr. Franklin from like materials 
in politics and philosophy, which, after the scrutiny of events 
and facts, have been more completely verified. Can Eng- 
lishmen read these things and not sigh at recollecting that 
the country which could produce their author, was once 
without controversy their own! Yet he who praises Dr. 
Franklin for mere ability, praises him for that quality of 
his mind, which stands lowest in his own esteem. Reader, 
whoever you are and how much soever you think you hate 
him, know that this great man loves you enough to wish to 
do you good : His country's friend, but more of human kind. " 

It was in this spirit of reverence and affection that Vaughan 
approached and completed his task of discovering and pre- 
serving the stray papers of his venerable friend, "qui porte" 
toujours des lunettes sur ses yeux et des royames sur ses 
epaules. " * 

No further collections appeared during Franklin's life- 
time, but numerous translations of individual essays ex- 
tended his fame upon the continent. Ingenhousz and 
Beccaria translated some of his works into Latin; Baron 
Vernazza (1766) and Charles Joseph Campi (1774) into Ital- 
ian ; and Wenzel, a student of physics, translated the works, 
from the French of Dubourg, into German and they were 
published by Walther, Librarian of the Court of Dresden. 2 

1 B. Vaughan to M. de Chaumont, July, 1778. 

* " Des Herrn D. Benjamin Franklin's Sammtliche Werke aus dem Eng- 



THE PRINTED EDITIONS 23 

Eleven months after Franklin's death a biography ap- 
peared in Paris: "Me*moires de la vie prive'e de Benjamin 
Franklin, ecrits par luimeme, et adresse*s a son fils; Suivis 
d'un Precis historique de sa Vie politique, et de plusieurs 
Piece, relatives a ce Pere de la Liberte", Paris, Buisson, 1791." 
It was the first appearance of that extraordinary autobiog- 
raphy, a work of vast and enduring fame, and destined to a 
strange literary history. Franklin had begun the story of 
his life while visiting Jonathan Shipley, the good Bishop of 
St. Asaph, at Chilbolton, by Twyford, in 1771. The manu- 
script travelled back to Philadelphia with Franklin in 1775. 
It was left with other papers in the keeping of Mr. Galloway 
when, eighteen months later, Franklin returned to Eng- 
land; and it shared the fate of those papers when violent 
hands were laid upon the chest, and its contents were 
trodden under hostile feet. Twenty-three pages of closely 
written manuscript fell into the hands of Abel James, an 
old friend, who found, to his great joy, that they contained 
an account of Franklin's life ending with the year 1730. 
He sent a copy of it to Franklin with an earnest petition 
that he would finish the work. This was in 1782. Frank- 
lin sent the copy to Benjamin Vaughan, who gave him many 
and potential reasons for completing it, saying "it will 
be worth all Plutarch's Lives put together. " The Shipleys 
and Le Veillard added their voices in earnest solicitation 
that the work might not cease. When he left Europe in 
1785 he assured his friends that he would solace the tedium 
of the homeward voyage with the resumption of this per- 

lischen und Franzosischen ubersetzt nebst des franzosischen iibersetzers, des 
Herrn Barbey Dubourg, Zusatzen und mit einigen Anmerkungcn versehen, 
von G. T. WenzeL Dresden 1780." 



24 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

sonal narrative. Catherine Shipley wrote to him after she 
had taken leave of him upon the deck of his ship: "We 
never walk in the garden without seeing Dr. Franklin's 
room and thinking of the work that was begun in it. I 
have sincerely wished you a good voyage but since the com- 
pletion of that work depends on its length I cannot wish 
it may be short." 

He was oppressed with age and physical infirmity. Gout 
and gravel racked him. Political service still was required 
of him. "The Public," he said, "had had the eating of his 
flesh, and now seemed resolved to pick his bones." The 
work went forward slowly, and stopped at last at the year 
J 757' Copies were sent to M. le Veillard and Rochefou- 
cauld-Liancourt at Paris, and to Dr. Price and Benjamin 
Vaughan in England. 

Immediately upon his grandfather's death William Tem- 
ple Franklin wrote to M. le Veillard, claiming the manu- 
script of the Autobiography and asking that it be shown to 
no one save perhaps some member of the Academic, who 
should be appointed to prepare an tloge. How Buisson 
the publisher came by the manuscript from which his trans- 
lation was made is an impenetrable mystery which he de- 
clined to explain. The translator, who is identified by the 
"Nouvelle Biographic Ge'ne'rale" as Dr. Jacques Gibelin, 
"me"decin, naturaliste, et traducteur francais," said he had 
a copy of the original manuscript, but he would not enter 
into the details of how it came into his hands. Lest, how- 
ever, it might be thought that the original did not exist, he 
would agree to print it in the original language if those who 
were curious to see it would inscribe their names at M. 
Buisson's shop, No. 20, rue Haute-feuille. As soon as four 



THE PRINTED EDITIONS 25 

hundred subscribers were obtained at 48 sols each the work 
would be published. Evidently there were not four hun- 
dred of the curious, and the work in its original form did 
not appear. 

M. le Veillard wrote to the Journal de Paris (March 
21, 1791) denying any knowledge of Buisson's transaction. 
He had no connection with the translation, and was quite 
ignorant of its source. It brought the story of the life down 
to 1731 ; the copy in Le Veillard's possession was complete 
to 1757. 

Clumsily and carelessly translated, imperfect and un- 
finished, it was nevertheless eagerly read and hurriedly 
rendered into other languages. In 1792 it was done into 
German by Gottfried August Burger, and published in 
Berlin. 1 In 1793 two English editions appeared: the first 
by Robinson, 2 "the king of booksellers," who, in the same 
year was fined for selling "The Rights of Man." Dr. 
Price was the editor, and the text, although translated from 
the French, was cleared of the French translator's blunders, 
and the language, as the editor said, made to conform more 
to the idiom of Franklin. Here, too, the Autobiography 
was pieced out beyond the terminal year, 1731, by a reprint 
of the Life of Franklin contributed by Dr. Stuber to the 
Columbian Magazine (1790-1791). 

The other English edition, "The Private Life of the 
late Benjamin Franklin, LL.D. London, J. Parsons, 1793." 

1 " Benjamin Franklin's Jugendjahre, von ihm selbst sur seinen Sohn be- 
schrieben und iibersetzt von G. A. Burger. Berlin : H. A. Rottmann, 1 792." 

2 " Works of the late Doctor Benjamin Franklin : consisting of his Life 
written by himself, together with Essays, humorous, moral and literary. 
Chiefly in the manner of the Spectator. London: G. C. J. & J. Robin- 
son 1793." 



26 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

was also a retranslation from the French, but different 
from Robinson's version, and far inferior to it. Igno- 
rance and pompous pretension burden its pages. The 
Frenchman had translated Franklin's juvenile ballad, "The 
Lighthouse Tragedy, " being an account of the drowning of 
Captain Worthilake, as "La Trage'die du Phare. " Parsons's 
translator converted it into "The Tragedy of Pharaoh" ! 

In 1794 the Autobiography appeared in German, at 
Weimar, translated from Robinson's edition: "Benjamin 
Franklin's Kleine Schriften, nebst seinem Leben, aus dem 
Englischen, von G. Schatz: Weimar 1794." The trans- 
lator dates his preface "Gotha, April 20, 1794." His work 
is on the whole well done, very well done when we reflect 
how far it is from the original, being removed from it by 
three successive stages of translation. 

A new version appeared in Paris in 1798, "Vie de Ben- 
jamin Franklin, e*crite par lui-me'me, suivie de ses CEuvres 
morales, politiques et litte'raires, dont la plus grand partie 
n'avoit pas encore 6t6 publie'e. Traduit de PAnglais, avec 
des Notes, par J. Caste'ra. Paris, chez F. Buisson, An VI. 
de la Re'publique [1798]. 

The Autobiography is here freshly translated from Robin- 
son's rendering of the anonymous (Gibelin ?) French trans- 
lation of the English original. Caste'ra added, however, some 
things from French sources, and gave most of the second 
part of the Autobiography which was not to appear in Eng- 
lish until 1818. In his preface Caste'ra regretted "not having 
had all the Memoirs which go, it is said, to 1757." He 
added, "It is not known why M. Benjamin Franklin Bache 
[ W. T. Franklin] who has them in his possession and is now 
residing in London, keeps them so long from the public. 



THE PRINTED EDITIONS 27 

The works of a great man belong less to his heirs than to 
the human race." 

The next publication of the "Works" was in London in 
1806: "The Complete Works in Philosophy, Politics and 
Morals, of the late Dr. Benjamin Franklin now first col- 
lected and arranged : with Memoirs of his early Life written 
by himself, in 3 vols, London, J. Johnson and Longman 
1806." A certain Mr. Marshall was the editor, and Ben- 
jamin Vaughan is believed to have lent assistance to him. 
By this time curiosity was rife as to what had become 
of Franklin's papers, and why the edition of the works 
that had been promised by William Temple Franklin had 
not appeared. The National Intelligencer of Washington 
asserted that some grave dishonesty was the cause of the 
delay. It was hinted that Temple Franklin had parted 
with his copyrights to a London publisher who had been 
bought by the British Government to suppress the publi- 
cation. 

In the preface to the 1806 edition (dated April 7, 1806), 
the editor repeats the charge: "The proprietor [W. T. 
Franklin], it seems, had found a bidder of a different de- 
scription in some emissary of government, whose object 
was to withhold the manuscripts from the world, not to 
benefit it by their publication, and they either passed into 
other hands, or the person to whom they were bequeathed 
received a remuneration for suppressing them." The 
Edinburgh Review, in July of that year, published an excel- 
lent article upon this edition and incidentally upon Frank- 
lin's mental characteristics and literary style. The reviewer, 
who was Francis Jeffrey, said: "Nothing, we think, can 
show more clearly the singular want of literary enterprise 



28 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

or activity in the States of America than that no one has 
yet been found in that flourishing republic to collect and 
publish the works of their only philosopher. It is not even 
very creditable to the literary curiosity of the English public 
that there should have been no complete edition of the writ- 
ings of Dr. Franklin till the year 1806 ; and we should have 
been altogether unable to account for the imperfect and 
unsatisfactory manner in which the work has now been 
performed, if it had not been for a statement in a prefatory 
advertisement, which removes all blame from the editor 
to attach it to a higher quarter. ... If this statement be 
correct, we have no hesitation in saying that no emissary 
of government was ever employed on a more miserable and 
unworthy service. It is ludicrous to talk of the danger 
of disclosing, in 1795, any secrets of State with regard to 
the War of American Independence; and as to any anec- 
dotes or observations that might give offense to individuals 
we think it should always be remembered that public func- 
tionaries are the property of the public, that their charac- 
ter belongs to history and to posterity, and that it is equally 
absurd and discreditable to think of suppressing any part 
of the evidence by which their merits must be ultimately 
determined. But the whole of the works that have been 
suppressed certainly did not relate to republican politics. 
The history of the author's life, down to 1757, could not 
well contain any matter of offense, and a variety of general 
remarks and speculations which he is understood to have 
left behind him might have been permitted to see the light, 
though his diplomatic operations had been interdicted. 
The emissary of government, however, probably took no 
care of these things: he was resolved to leave no rubs and 



THE PRINTED EDITION'S 29 

botches in his work, and, to stifle the dreaded revelation, 
he thought the best way was to strangle all the innocents 
in the vicinage." 

Two months more (September, 1806) and an American 
newspaper, The American Citizen, published by James 
Cheetham at New York, joined the comminatory chorus. 
W. T. Franklin, it said, "without shame and without re- 
morse, mean and mercenary, has sold the sacred deposit 
committed to his care by Dr. Franklin to the British govern- 
ment. Franklin's works are lost to the world forever." 

Temple Franklin made no reply to these attacks until, 
on the 28th of March, 1807, he observed in the Argus or 
London Review, published at Paris, a reprint of The Ameri- 
can Citizen's article. He then wrote to the editor a letter 
which was published in full in the Argus (March 31, 1807), 
and was characterized as "a full and satisfactory answer 
to the calumnies circulated on his conduct." He branded 
as "atrociously false" the assertion "boldly and shame- 
fully" made that he had sold his grandfather's manuscripts 
"or any part of them, to the British Government, or their 
agents, to suppress the publication of the whole or any part 
thereof." He explained that the papers had been left to 
him to be published in his discretion, and that the original 
manuscripts with the copy prepared for the press were still 
"under lock and key in the secure vaults of my bankers, 
Herries, Farquhar, & Co. London." 

Years slipped away while Temple Franklin was still 
scissoring, sorting, shifting, and pasting the heaps of his 
grandfather's papers. He sighed and despaired over the 
task, and met with frequent rebuffs from publishers, who 
told him that it was no time, with Europe in political tumult. 



30 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN" FRANKLIN 

to undertake great and costly publications. A contract was 
finally made with Henry Colburn. A clerk, accustomed 
to the performance of a day's work, brought a semblance 
of order out of Franklin's sad confusion. And the works 
were published twenty-seven years after Temple Franklin 
had first advertised for his grandfather's lost papers. The 
edition was limited to 750 copies. It was in six volumes 
(1817-1819), with another edition in three volumes quarto 
(1818). Colburn assumed all the expenses and risks and 
took one-third of the profits. Franklin made 1473 ou t f 
the transaction. 

These volumes were immediately translated, by Charles 
Malo, and printed in Paris. 

In 1828 a fourth translation of the Autobiography ap- 
peared in Paris. 1 It was published by Jules Renouard; 
it was based upon the original Franklin manuscript and 
contained the final pages which were never to appear in 
English until Mr. John Bigelow issued his reprint of the 
Veillard manuscript. To complete what seems an almost 
endless list a fifth translation of the Autobiography by 
Laboulaye (1866) must be mentioned. 

Temple Franklin's edition of the works remained the 
standard authority until Jared Sparks began his vast labour 
of examining all the documents that were accessible to him 
and assembling them in ten volumes, constituting what Dr. 
Sparks believed to be a complete collection of the writings 
of Franklin (1836-1842). Sparks was a man of untiring 
industry, of genuine enthusiasm and zeal, and he deserves 

1 " Memoires sur la Vie de Benjamin Franklin. Merits par lui-meme, tra- 
duction nouvelle. Paris: Jules Renouard, 1828." The editor obtained the 
Veillard manuscript from M. de Senarmont. ED. 



THE PRINTED EDITIONS 31 

the gratitude of all students of the records of American his- 
tory. Yet he possessed all the faults of the eighteenth-cen- 
tury and early nineteenth-century editor. He committed 
acts of vandalism upon the papers he was permitted to 
examine. He wilfully altered the language of letters when 
he was displeased by the phraseology or offended by the 
sentiment expressed. For reverence to some alive he soft- 
ened the asperities of criticism and smoothed the speeches of 
those who transgressed the limits of decency and decorum. 
When it is said of Benedict Arnold that "He seems to mix 
as naturally with that polluted court [England] as pitch with 
tar," Sparks omits the sentence, but as usual gives not the 
slightest intimation that he has not exactly copied the letter. 
"George Ill's character for falsehood and dissimulation" 
is with nice surgical skill cut out of the context and thrown 
so dexterously away that only a careful collation with the 
original document will detect the loss. When Franklin 
speaks of "the cruel injuries wantonly done us by burn- 
ing our towns," Sparks substitutes the word constantly, and 
emasculates the sentence. 

He is nice in his use of moral epithets ; he will not offend 
one stomach with his choice of words. Franklin speaks 
of the Scots "who entered England and trampled on its belly 
as far as Derby," "marched on," says Sparks. Franklin 
is sending some household articles from London to Phila- 
delphia. In the large packing case is "a jug for beer." 
It has, he says, "the coffee cups in its belly." Sparks per- 
forms the same abdominal operation here. In the corre- 
spondence with Jared Eliot upon agriculture Sparks always 
changes "dung" to "manure." "Mr. Laurens," it is said, 
"is ill of a lax, much emaciated and very much invective." 



32 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

In Sparks's English he "is sick with a cholera . . . and 
very much incensed." 

Livingston wrote to Lafayette "you will be charmed to 
see our countrymen well dressed, since you used to admire 
them even in their naked beauties." In Sparks the line con- 
cludes "even in their rags." Incredible as it seems, Sparks 
sometimes makes more than thirty alterations in a single 
letter. 

The purchase by the United States of the Stevens collec- 
tion of Franklin papers prompted Mr. John Bigelow to 
attempt another complete edition of Franklin's works and 
correspondence (1887). No one was more competent than 
Mr. Bigelow to perform such a task. He had lived long and 
variously in the world. He was thoroughly familiar with 
the character and public career of Franklin, and he was 
widely read in the literature of the eighteenth century. He 
possessed also the original manuscript of the Autobiography, 
by means of which he had been able to correct more than 
twelve hundred errors in William Temple Franklin's version. 

In concluding this bibliographical history I am tempted 
to return a moment to the romantic adventures of Franklin's 
Autobiography, and to repeat the singular history of that 
famous book. Five times it appeared in France in five 
distinct and different translations. Four times it appeared 
in English in four different texts, each differing from the 
other in almost every line. A manuscript copy of the work 
was made by Benjamin Franklin Bache, then aged twenty, 
in 1789, and sent by his grandfather's direction to M. le 
Veillard. That gentleman was condemned to the guillotine, 
June 15, 1794 (aetat. 61). The copy of the Autobiography 
remained in the family, a valued possession. 



THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN 33 

William Temple Franklin offered the original manuscript 
in Franklin's hand in exchange for this copy, thinking per- 
haps that Bache's copy would make clearer "copy" for the 
printer. In this way a daughter of Le Veillard came into 
possession of the original manuscript. She died in 1834 
and the manuscript went to her cousin M. de Senarmont, 
whose grandson sold it, January 26, 1867, to Mr. John 
Bigelow. It is now owned by Mr. E. D. Church, of New 
York. 

THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN 

Sydney Smith said to his daughter, "I will disinherit you, 
if you do not admire everything written by Franklin." 
There was much sound wisdom in this merry menace. The 
literature of the world might be searched in vain for the works 
of another author who should exhibit such variety of theme, 
fertility of thought, and excellence of style. 

A master of political strategy, bearing upon his shoulders 
the burdens of a struggling country, he yet entered with 
easy familiarity into the discussion of every subject of philo- 
sophical inquiry known to the eighteenth century. Natural 
philosophy, politics and political economy, general litera- 
ture and morals, are treated by him with unparalleled sim- 
plicity and facility. Talleyrand told Greville that Franklin 
was remarkable in conversation because of his simplicity 
and the evident strength of his mind. Simplicity is also 
the chief characteristic of his literary style. Francis Jeffrey 
said of his philosophical writings that "the most ingenious 
and profound explanations are suggested as if they were the 
most natural and obvious way of accounting for the phe- 
nomena. " His astonishing prescience, power of generaliza- 

VOL. I D 



34 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

tion, and force and clarity of expression insured a wide 
circulation and prompt acceptance for his opinions and 
conclusions. Peter Collinson sent a Leyden jar to the 
Library Company of Philadelphia. Franklin experimented 
with it, and in five years was acknowledged the first authority 
in the world upon electrical theory. He visited the labora- 
tory of Lavoisier and corresponded with Priestley and 
Cavendish, caught the full significance of their ideas of 
the nature of heat and matter, and expressed it in a manner 
so simple and convincing that his language has reappeared 
in text-books from generation to generation. He wrote 
upon contagious colds and the "colica pictonum" with such 
easy mastery that he was invited to accept membership in 
the medical societies of Paris and London. Again to quote 
Jeffrey, whose essay in the Edinburgh Review (July, 1806) 
is one of the best ever written about Franklin: "He engaged 
in every interesting inquiry that suggested itself to him, 
rather as the necessary exercise of a powerful and active 
mind than as a task which he had bound himself to perform. 
He cast a quick and penetrating glance over the facts and 
the data that were presented to him, and drew his conclu- 
sions with a rapidity and precision that have not often been 
equalled. " 

In his Autobiography, Franklin declared that his ability 
in prose writing had been a principal means of his advance- 
ment in life, and he related the means by which he became, 
as he says, "a tolerable English writer." When a boy of 
thirteen or fourteen, passionately fond of books, he chanced 
upon an odd volume of the Spectator. It was the third. 
He bought it, read it over and over, and was delighted with it. 
At that moment began his apprenticeship to Addison. The 



THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN 35 

manner in which he played "the sedulous ape" to that great 
master, he has described in his own inimitably simple way. 
"I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if possible, 
to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, 
and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, 
laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the 
book, tried to complete the papers again, by expressing each 
hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been ex- 
pressed before, in any suitable words that should come to 
hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, 
discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I 
found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollect- 
ing 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 neces- 
sity 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 
endeavoured to reduce them into the best order, before I 
began to form the full sentences and complete the paper. 
This was to teach me method in the arrangement of thoughts. 
By comparing my work afterwards with the original, I dis- 
covered many faults and amended them; but I sometimes 
had the pleasure of fancying that, in certain particulars of 
small import, I had been lucky enough to improve the method 
or the language." 



36 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Addison, Bunyan, and Defoe were his masters and his 
models in the difficult art of expression. His early con- 
tributions to the New England Courant and the American 
Weekly Mercury were imitations of Addison ; and his Silence 
Dogood, Alice Addertongue, Anthony Afterwit, Celia Single, 
Patience Teacroft, and other alliterative and indicative 
names have the personality of the characters that come and 
go in the Spectator, with much of their sprightly wit and 
gentle satire. 

His first collection of books was of John Bunyan's works, 
in separate little volumes, and the influence of Bunyan is 
perceptible in the numerous parables, moral allegories, 
apologues, etc., which, at all periods of his life, he delighted 
to write. 

Defoe's "Essay on Projects" he declared gave him a turn 
of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal 
future events of his life. He never attained the grace and 
delicacy of Addison, or the imaginative fervour of Bunyan, 
and his style is most nearly allied to the pedestrian prose 
of Defoe, who was the first great English journalist and 
master of reportorial narrative. 

Thirty years' experience in journalism taught Franklin all 
that was to be known of the technic of that busy craft. A 
swift and sententious style was developed by the practical 
necessities of his newspaper, his magazine, and his Almanac. 
He equipped his arsenal of homely, vigorous expression 
with all the engines of satire, burlesque, and repartee. His 
own standard of simplicity may be understood from the 
following "Query " : 

"How shall we judge of the goodness of a writing? Or 
what qualities should a writing have to be good and perfect 
in its kind ? 



THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN" 37 

"Answer. To be good, it ought to have a tendency to 
benefit the reader, by improving his virtue or his knowledge. 
But, not regarding the intention of the author, the method 
should be just; that is, it should proceed regularly from 
things known to things unknown, distinctly and clearly 
without confusion. The words used should be the most 
expressive that the language affords, provided that they are 
the most generally understood. Nothing should be ex- 
pressed in two words that can be as well expressed in one; 
that is, no synonymes should be used, or very rarely, but 
the whole should be as short as possible, consistent with 
clearness; the words should be so placed as to be agreeable 
to the ear in reading ; summarily it should be smooth, clear, 
and short, for the contrary qualities are displeasing. 

"But, taking the query otherwise, an ill man may write 
an ill thing well; that is, having an ill design, he may use 
the properest style and arguments (considering who are to 
be readers) to attain his ends. In this sense, that is best 
wrote, which is best adapted for obtaining the end of the 
writer. " 

Smooth, clear, and short ! Thirty years of versatile prac- 
tice, and rigorous relentless self-criticism, had forged a 
supple- tempered style "that bent like perfect steel to spring 
again and thrust. " 

The severity of his criticism upon himself lends interest 
to his opinion of the criticisms of others. In reply to a 
correspondent, who had disabled his judgment, he said: 
"I have of late fancy 'd myself to write better than ever I 
did, and, farther, that when anything of mine is abridged 
in the papers or magazines, I conceit that the abridger has 
left out the very best and brightest parts. These, my friend, 



38 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

are much stronger proofs, and put me in mind of Gil Bias's 
patron, the homily-maker." Of an editor who had freely 
curtailed one of his contributions he said, "He has drawn 
the teeth and pared the nails of my paper, so that it can 
neither scratch nor bite. It seems only to paw and mumble. " 

Jefferson has told the classical story of Franklin's un- 
willingness to become the prey of critics by drafting public 
papers. 

"When the Declaration of Independence was under the 
consideration of Congress there were two or three unlucky 
expressions in it which gave offense to some members. The 
words 'Scotch and other foreign auxiliaries' excited the ire 
of a gentleman or two of that country. Severe strictures on 
the conduct of the British King in negativing our repeated 
repeals of the law which permitted the importation of slaves 
were disapproved by some Southern gentlemen whose re- 
flections were not yet matured to the full abhorrence of 
that traffic. Although the offensive expressions were imme- 
diately yielded, these gentlemen continued their depreda- 
tions on other parts of the instrument. I was sitting by 
Dr. Franklin, who perceived that I was not insensible to 
these mutilations. ' I have made it a rule, ' said he, ' when- 
ever in my power, to avoid becoming the draughtsman 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 
signboard, with a proper inscription. He composed it in 
these words, "John Thompson, Hatter, makes and sells hats 
for ready money," with the figure of a hat subjoined ; but 



THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN 39 

he thought he would submit it to his friends for their amend- 
ments. 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 cus- 
tom 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 it, the rather as there was one 
painted on the board. So the inscription was reduced ulti- 
mately to "John Thompson," with the figure of a hat 
subjoined.' " 

Franklin's care for the purity of the language, and his 
nice precision in the use of words, constantly appear in his 
correspondence. Noah Webster sent him his "Disserta- 
tions on the English Language. " Franklin replied (Decem- 
ber 26, 1789): "I cannot but applaud your zeal for preserv- 
ing the purity of our language, both in its expressions and 
pronunciation, and in correcting the popular errors several 
of our states are continually falling into with respect to both. 
Give me leave to mention some of them, though possibly 
they may have already occurred to you. I wish, however, 
in some future publication of yours, you would set a dis- 
countenancing mark upon them. The first I remember is 
the word improved. When I left New England in the year 



40 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

'23, this word had never been used among us, as far as I 
know, but in the sense of ameliorated or made better, except 
once in a very old book of Dr. Mather's, entitled 'Remark- 
able Providences.' As that eminent man wrote a very 
obscure hand, I remember that when I read that word in 
his book used instead of the word imployed, I conjectured 
that it was an error of the printer, who had mistaken a too 
short / in the writing for an r, and a y with too short a tail 
for a v, whereby imployed was converted into improved. 
But when I returned to Boston, in 1733, I found this change 
had obtained favour, and was then become common; for I 
met with it often in perusing the newspapers where it fre- 
quently made an appearance rather ridiculous. Such, for 
instance, as the advertisement of a country-house to be sold, 
which had been many years improved as a tavern ; and, in 
the character of a deceased country gentleman, that he had 
been for more than thirty years improved as a justice-of- 
peace. This use of the word improved is peculiar to New 
England, and not to be met with among any other speakers 
of English, either on this or the other side of the water. 
During my late absence in France I find that several other 
new words have been introduced into our parliamentary 
language; for example, I find a verb formed from the sub- 
stantive notice; 'I should not have noticed were it not that 
the gentleman, ' etc. Also another verb from the substantive 
advocate; ' The gentleman who advocates or has advocated 
that motion,' etc. Another from the substantive progress, 
the most awkward and abominable of the three; 'The 
Committee having progressed, resolved to adjourn.' The 
word opposed, tho' not a new word, I find used in a new 
manner, as, ' The gentlemen who are opposed to this meas- 



THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN 41 

ure ; to which I have also myself always been opposed. ' If 
you should happen to be of my opinion with respect to these 
innovations you will use your authority in reprobating 
them." 

The whole of this letter, written less than four months 
before his death, is full of interest. 

When David Hume received from Franklin a copy of his 
so-called "Canada pamphlet," he gave the author a few 
words of "friendly admonition relating to some unusual 
words in the pamphlet. " Pejorate, colonize, and unshakeable 
were three of the words that came under censure. Frank- 
lin gave up the first two as bad, since they were provincial 
and not in common use in Great Britain, "for certainly," 
he wrote, "in writings intended for persuasion and for gen- 
eral information, one cannot be too clear; and every ex- 
pression in the least obscure is a fault. The unshakeable 
too, though clear, I give up as rather low. The introducing 
new words where we are already possessed of old ones suffi- 
ciently expressive, I confess must be generally wrong, as it 
tends to change the language ; yet, at the same time I cannot 
but wish the usage of our tongue permitted making new 
words, when we want them, by composition of old ones 
whose meanings are already well understood. The German 
allows of it, and it is a common practice with their writers. 
Many of our present English words were originally so made ; 
and many of the Latin words. In point of clearness 
such compound words would have the advantage of any we 
can borrow from the ancient or from foreign languages. 
For instance the word inaccessible, though long in use among 
us, is not yet, I dare say, so universally understood by our 
people, as the word uncomeatable would immediately be, 



42 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

which we are not allowed to write. But I hope, with you, 
that we shall always in America make the best English of 
this island our standard, and I believe it will be so. I assure 
you it often gives me pleasure to reflect how greatly the 
audience (if I may so term it) of a good English writer will, 
in another century or two, be increased by the increase of 
English people in our colonies." 

From which rational conception of literature, and from 
his experiences in winning the mastery of a powerful and 
persuasive style, it may be inferred that Franklin's Eng- 
lish is no intertissued robe of gold and pearl, no taffeta 
phrases and silken terms precise, but honest, homely, hearty 
speech, without obscurity or ambiguity, an English that 
speaks in russet yeas and honest kersey noes. 

It may not seem high commendation to say that Frank- 
lin was the chief American writer at a time when men of 
letters were rare as Phoenix. But his significance in litera- 
ture appears when we remember that he was the first Ameri- 
can to transcend provincial boundaries and limitations, 
and the first author and scientist to achieve wide and per- 
manent reputation in Europe. Before his Autobiography 
but one literary work of real importance had been done in 
the colonies, and that was the stupendous "Magnalia" of 
Cotton Mather, a vast glacial boulder and monument of 
what C. F. Adams has happily called the "ice age" of New 
England Puritanism. The Autobiography was quite another 
thing. It was vivid, truthful, thrilling with life, for it was 
the simple, fascinating narrative of a career that began in 
lowly surroundings and ended in splendour. It contained 
therefore the substance of the stories that have chiefly inter- 
ested the world. Nothing but the "Autobiography" of 



THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN 43 

Benvenuto Cellini, or the "Confessions" of Rousseau, can 
enter into competition with it. It is an abiding monument 
of American life and letters. In the United States it has 
been reprinted many scores of times, and it has been 
translated into all the languages of Europe; however the 
fashions of literature change the vogue of this work is un- 
alterable. At the circulating libraries the demand for it is 
constant. One of the leading merchants of the world, who 
rose from low estate to power and wealth and influence, and 
whose name is well known in literature, has said that when 
a boy a copy of A. Millar's edition of the Autobiography 
(1799) was one of his very few books. He read it again 
and again, and he ascribes a very large portion of his suc- 
cess in life to the lessons of perseverance, self-reliance, and 
economy illustrated in it. Many other instances of such 
encouragement and inspiration doubtless exist. 

Franklin's writings have two objects: to instruct in 
principles of science and to influence conduct. The latter 
works alone have real literary worth. In all that relates to 
personal prosperity and the happiness of private life, his 
reasoning is convincing and his style dignified and admi- 
rable. In the Prefaces and Prognostications of "Poor 
Richard," Franklin as man of letters shows to the best ad- 
vantage, and here the theme is always practical wisdom in 
the conduct of life. "Father Abraham's Speech to the 
American People at an Auction," which appeared in "Poor 
Richard's Almanac" for 1758, is the best example of this 
style, and the best sermon ever preached upon industry 
and frugality. It is a cento of homely saws and practical 
quotations. Reprinted as "The Way to Wealth," it became 
at once familiar to the world. It was copied into all the 



44 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

newspapers of the continent, and circulated in Great Britain 
as a broadside. "Seventy editions of it have been printed 
in English, fifty-six in French, eleven in German, and nine 
in Italian. It has been translated into Spanish, Danish, 
Swedish, Welsh, Polish, Gaelic, Russian, Bohemian, Dutch, 
Catalan, Chinese, Modern Greek, and phonetic writing. 
It has been printed at least four hundred times, and is to-day 
as popular as ever" (P. L. Ford). 

Balzac knew intimately well the writings of two Ameri- 
cans, Franklin and Cooper. Both made deep impression 
upon him. When under the influence of "Poor Richard" 
he created the character of M. Gausse in "Le Vicaire des 
Ardennes," a youthful piece of folly which he afterward 
disowned. M. Gausse is the lean Yankee moralist Abraham 
metamorphosed into a corpulent French vicar, who utters 
sage prudential maxims gathered from a careful reading of 
the Philadelphia almanacs. At a maturer period Balzac 
summed up Franklin's achievement in a terse epigram: 
"Le canard est une trouvaille de Franklin, qui a invent^ 
le paratonnerre, le canard, et la re"publique. " * The inventor 
of the lightning rod, the hoax, and the republic! These 
three achievements may serve to introduce a classification 
of Franklin's works, which may accordingly be arranged in 
three groups : philosophy, politics, and bagatelles. 

The philosophical writings are the most numerous and 
important. They cover a singularly wide range, and touch 
upon an astonishing variety of subjects. In every depart- 
ment of thought the leaders of scientific inquiry in Europe 
were curious to know Franklin's opinions, and gave respect- 
ful attention to every suggestion and conjecture that pro- 

1 Balzac, " Illusions perdues, II Partie, un Grand Homme de Province a Paris." 



THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN 45 

ceeded from that fertile brain. His works comprehended 
almost every phase of intellectual activity known to the 
eighteenth century. Hume expressed the sentiment with 
which Europe regarded Franklin, the man of science, when 
he wrote to him (May 10, 1762) : "America has sent us many 
good things, gold, silver, sugar, tobacco, indigo, etc., but 
you are the first philosopher and indeed the first great 
man of letters for whom we are beholden to her. It is our 
own fault that we have not kept him; whence it appears 
that we do not agree with Solomon that wisdom is above 
gold; for we take care never to send back an ounce of the 
latter, which we once lay our fingers upon. " 

Franklin was a true searcher into nature, humble in the 
pursuit of truth. His philosophical writings were the prod- 
ucts of rare intervals of repose. The business of his life was 
politics. And during a great part of his life it was a very 
exacting business, which left him little time or strength for 
any other occupation. Occasionally he turned from the 
irksome toil and incredible worry of his public duties 
selling of prize ships, adjusting of differences between rival 
captains, begging for money for ragged and hungry soldiers, 
receiving diplomatic visitors and ambitious aspirants for 
military positions, corresponding with Congress, or writing 
political articles for the Gazette de Leyde, or the London 
Chronicle, to influence popular opinion in England and 
upon the continent to divert and solace and refresh him- 
self with scientific experiments or brief excursions into the 
conjectural and debatable subjects of new philosophical 
research. He knew the immensity of the world of knowl- 
edge. He realized and deplored the infinite labours and 
distractions that interfered with his exploration of those 



46 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

untravelled fields, of which occasional glimpses were vouch- 
safed to him. He was therefore dissatisfied with his own 
investigations. Unwelcome visitors and uncongenial busi- 
ness interrupted these "more pleasing pursuits," until he 
said, "The chain of thought necessary to be closely con- 
tinued in such disquisitions [is] so broken and disjointed, 
that it is with difficulty I satisfy myself in any of them." 
The complaint of the scholar whose precious time is con- 
sumed in unprofitable occupations is heard in many of 
Franklin's letters. Writing to Dr. Ingenhousz (April 29, 
1785) he says: "Besides being harassed by too much busi- 
ness, I am exposed to numberless visits, some of kindness 
and civility, many of mere idle curiosity, from strangers of 
America and of different parts of Europe as well as the 
inhabitants of the provinces who come to Paris. These 
devour my hours, and break my attention, and at night I 
often find myself fatigued without having done anything. 
Celebrity may for a while flatter one's vanity, but its effects 
are troublesome. I have begun to write two or three things 
which I wish to finish before I die, but I sometimes doubt 
the possibility." 

It was for this reason that he set no high value upon his 
scientific papers, which he regarded as random and imper- 
fect. He called them "Loose Thoughts," "Conjectures 
and Suppositions"; and as though apologizing for them he 
said he had a penchant for building hypotheses, "they 
indulge my natural indolence." 

To Peter Collinson he wrote, when sending to him a large 
philosophical packet: "These thoughts, my dear friend, 
are many of them crude and hasty; and if I were merely 
ambitious of acquiring some reputation in philosophy, I 



THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN 47 

ought to keep them by me, till corrected and improved by 
time and farther experience. But since even short hints 
and imperfect experiments in any new branch of science 
being communicated, have oftentimes a good effect, in excit- 
ing the attention of the ingenious to the subject, and so 
become the occasion of more exact disquisition, and more 
complete discoveries, you are at liberty to communicate 
this paper to whom you please ; it being of more importance 
that knowledge should increase than that your friend should 
be thought an accurate philosopher. " * His modesty was 
genuine, and not a cloak for secret pride. Louis XV com- 
manded Abbe Maze" as to write a letter in the politest terms 
to the Royal Society, to return the king's thanks and 
compliments in an express manner to Mr. Franklin of Penn- 
sylvania, for his useful discoveries in electricity, and appre- 
ciation of the pointed rods to prevent the terrible effects 
of thunder-storms. When Collinson conveyed this flattering 
news to Franklin, the latter would have been more or less 
than human not to have experienced a sense of elation, but 
he wrote to Jared Eliot: "The Taller tells us of a girl who 
was observed to grow suddenly proud, and none could 
guess the reason till it came to be known that she had got on 
a pair of new silk garters. ... I fear I have not so much 
reason to be proud as the girl had ; for a feather in the cap 
is not so useful a thing, or so serviceable to the wearer, as a 
pair of good silk garters." Many instances might be men- 
tioned of Franklin's native modesty. Nogaret sent to him 
his translation of Turgot's famous line " Eripuit caelo fulmen, 
sceptnimque tyrannis." Franklin replied, "J'ai recu la 
lettre dans laquelle apres m'avoir accable* d'un torrent de 

1 To Peter Collinson, September, 1753. 



48 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Compliments qui me causent un Sentiment pe'nible, car je 
ne puis espeVer les meriter jamais. ... Je vous ferai seule- 
ment remarquer deux inexactitudes dans le vers original. 
Malgr6 mes experiences sur Fe'lectricite', la foudre tombe 
toujours a notre nez et a notre barbe, et quant au tyrans 
nous avons 6t6 plus d'un million d'hommes occupe* a lui 
arracher son sceptre." 

He experienced profound mortification when Dr. Rush 
concluded a scientific paper with a eulogy of him, which he 
read in his presence. He wrote to Rush: "During our long 
acquaintance you have shown many instances of your regard 
for me; yet I must now desire you to add one more to the 
number, which is, that if you publish your ingenious dis- 
course on the Moral Sense you will totally omit and suppress 
that most extravagant encomium on your friend Franklin 
which hurt me exceedingly in the unexpected hearing and 
will mortify me beyond conception if it should appear from 
the press" (March, 1786). 

His modesty, simplicity, and sincerity are charming traits, 
and his contributions to science are delightful reading. Every 
paper is characterized by downright perspicacity of thought 
and forthright directness of style. He never labours at a 
problem or seems to put forth his whole strength. There 
is neither tug nor strain nor occasional descent of fog. His 
thought stands in clear, hard, noonday light with graphical 
precision of logical exposition. His imagination does not 
tyrannize over his reason or distort his vision. He sees 
things as they really are. Pedantry and obscurity are far 
from him. Sometimes he refers cheerfully to the manner 
in which philosophers darken counsel with cabalistic signs 
and formulae, or by "pronouncing of some doubtful phrase." 



THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN 49 

At the close of a paper on "Water-spouts and Whirlwinds," 
he says: "If my hypothesis is not the truth itself it is at 
least as naked for I have not with some of our learned 
moderns disguised my nonsense in Greek, clothed it in 
algebra or adorned it with fluxions. You have it in puris 
naturalibus." 

Sir Humphry Davy "summus Arcanorum Naturae 
Indagator" was an excellent judge of literary merit as well 
as of scientific research. He was so delighted with the pre- 
cision and perspicacity of Franklin's style that he said: 
"A singular felicity guided all Franklin's researches, and by 
very small means he established very grand truths. The 
style and manner of his publication on electricity are almost 
as worthy of admiration as the doctrine it contains. He 
has endeavoured to remove all mystery and obscurity from 
the subject. He has written equally for the uninitiated and 
for the philosopher; and he has rendered his details amus- 
ing as well as perspicuous, elegant as well as simple. Science 
appears in his language in a dress wonderfully decorous, 
the best adapted to display her native loveliness. He has in 
no instance exhibited that false dignity, by which philosophy 
is kept aloof from common applications ; and he has sought 
rather to make her a useful inmate and servant in the com- 
mon habitations of man, than to preserve her merely as an 
object of admiration in temples and palaces." 

He was as simple, clear, and direct in his experiments as 
in his style. This was the peculiarity for which, in Lord 
Brougham's estimation, Franklin's genius was so remark- 
able. "He could make an experiment," said Brougham, 
" with less apparatus and conduct his experimental inquiry 
to a discovery with more ordinary materials than any other 

VOL. I E 



So THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

philosopher we ever saw. With an old key, a silk thread, 
some sealing wax and a sheet of paper he discovered the 
identity of lightning and electricity." l 

Innumerable are the stories that are told of his ingenuity 
in that way; and an instructive little volume of simple and 
economical experiments might be compiled from his philo- 
sophical writings. A thermometer was sent to him from 
England and was broken in the passage. Mr. Bird, the 
instrument maker in London, was of opinion that it was 
impracticable to mend it. The tube was whole, but the 
ball was broken. Franklin told Collinson how he tried to 
repair it. "I got a thin Copper Ball nicely made, and 
fix'd to the Tube with a Screw Plug entering the Ball at the 
Bottom, by means of which Screw going into the cavity of 
the Ball, more or less, among the Mercury, I hoped to lessen 
or enlarge the Cavity at Pleasure, and by that Means find 
the true Quantity of Mercury it ought to contain to rise 
and fall exactly with the others in the same Temperature of 
Air etc. ... I was much pleas'd with my Project but I 
find difficulties in the Execution which I did not foresee 
tho' they must occur to him [Bird] immediately." * 

During a voyage from Madeira to Philadelphia, Franklin 
became interested in the singular behaviour of the oil in a 
cabin lamp of Italian construction. He wrote to Sir John 
Pringle a description of it, which I venture to repeat here: 
"At supper, looking on the lamp, I remarked, that though 
the surface of the oil was perfectly tranquil, and duly pre- 
served its position and distance with regard to the brim of 
the glass, the water under the oil was in great commotion, 

1 Brougham, Works (Edinburgh, 1872). VI, 253. 
a To Collinson, June 26, 1755. 



THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN" 51 

rising and falling in irregular waves which continued during 
the whole evening. The lamp was kept burning as a watch- 
lamp all night, till the oil was spent and the water only 
remained. In the morning I observed that though the 
motion of the ship continued the same, the water was now 
quiet, and its surface as tranquil as that of the oil had been 
the evening before. At night again when oil was put upon 
it, the water resumed its irregular motions, rising in high 
waves almost to the surface of the oil, but without disturb- 
ing the smooth level of that surface. And this was repeated 
every day during the voyage." l After his arrival in America 
he repeated the experiment thus. He put a pack thread 
round a tumbler, with strings of the same from each side, 
meeting above it in a knot at about a foot distance from the 
top of the tumbler. "Then putting in as much water as 
would fill about one third part of the tumbler I lifted it up 
by the knot, and swung it to and fro in the air; when the 
water seemed to keep its place in the tumbler as steadily as 
if it had been ice. But pouring gently in upon the water 
about as much oil, and then again swinging it in the air as 
before, the tranquillity before possessed by the water was 
transferred to the surface of the oil, and the water under it 
was agitated with the same commotions as at sea." Frank- 
lin showed this experiment to many ingenious persons. 
Those who knew little of the principles of hydrostatics were 
apt to fancy that they understood it, but their explanations 
were not very intelligible. "Others, more deeply skilled 
in those principles, seem to wonder at it, and promise to 
consider it. And I think it is worth considering ; for a new 
appearance if it cannot be explained by our old principles 

x To Sir John Pringle, December I, 1762. 



52 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

may afford us new ones of use perhaps in explaining some 
other obscure parts of natural knowledge." The present 
writer has had the same experience in his search for an 
explanation; from the physicists to whom he has submitted 
the problem, he has received promises "to consider it." 

Franklin introduced into England the pulse-glass, by 
which water is made to boil in vactw by the heat of the 
hand. Nairne, the mathematical instrument maker, made 
a number of them from the one that Franklin brought from 
Germany. Franklin bored a very small hole through the 
wainscot in the seat of his window, through which a little 
cold air constantly entered, while the air in the room was 
kept warmer by fires daily made in it. "I placed one of 
his glasses, with the elevated end against the hole; and the 
bubbles from the other end, which was in a warmer situation 
were continually passing day and night, to the no small 
surprise of even philosophical spectators." His library 
was filled with odd mechanical contrivances of his own 
invention. Upon the chimneypiece a globe floated between 
two liquids. The seat of his arm-chair when turned up 
became a step-ladder, while to the arm of the chair was 
attached a fan which was operated by a slight motion of 
the foot. Upon the bookcase rested "the long arm," an 
invention intended for the easy bringing down of books 
from top shelves. 

Even his clock was of his own invention, and is one of the 
curiosities of horology. It is described by him in a letter 
to Dr. Ingenhousz (April 29, 1785) as a clock with three 
wheels. It is usually called Ferguson's clock, and was con- 
trived by that rare mathematical genius, James Ferguson, in 
1758, as an improvement upon Franklin's idea. In his 



THE WORKS OF FRANKLIN 53 

"Select Mechanical Exercises" Ferguson says it is "A 
clock that shows the hours, minutes, and seconds by means 
of only three wheels and two pinions in the whole move- 
ment. As Dr. Franklin whom I rejoice to call my friend 
is perhaps the last person in the world who would take 
anything amiss that looks like an amendment or improve- 
ment of any scheme he proposes, I have ventured to offer my 
thoughts concerning his clock, and how one might be made 
as simple as his with some advantages. But I must confess 
that my alteration is attended with some inconveniences, of 
which his are entirely free." There is a curious old clock 
now in the Museum at Banff that has engraved on it "John 
T. Desaguliers, LL.D., 1729, Lect. on Nat. et Exp. Phil., 
London. Benjamin Franklin, LL.D., 1757. James Fer- 
guson, 1766. Kenneth McCulloch, 1774," and the initials 
"G. W." 1 

Franklin's mind teemed with ideas. In a single letter 
he speaks of linseed oil, northeast storms, the origin of 
springs in mountains, petrified shells in the Appalachians, 
and tariff laws subjects apparently far apart and with 
little connection, and yet they are linked together with 
relevancy enough, for, as he said with homely comparison, 
"ideas will string themselves like ropes of onions." 

His philosophical writings relate to subjects of electric- 
ity, seismology, geology, meteorology, physics, chemistry, 
astronomy, mathematics, hydrography, horology, aeronau- 
tics, navigation, agriculture, ethnology, paleontology, medi- 
cine, hygiene, and pedagogy. 

As the papers upon electricity are the most important, 

1 " Life of James Ferguson, F. R.S., by E. Henderson, LL.D. A. Fullarton 
& Co. Ed. Lond. & Glasgow, 1867," p. 232. 



54 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

they shall be reserved to the last. One of the first of his 
essays upon scientific theory appeared in the Pennsylvania 
Gazette in 1737. It related to the "causes of earthquakes." 
He adopted the thin crust theory of the earth, and recited 
the history of several famous instances of seismic disturb- 
ance. His notions are so crude, and now so worthless, 
and the whole essay so immature, that I have seen no good 
reason to make room for it in this edition. 

The best of his geologic papers is his letter to Abbe* Sou- 
lavie, "On the Theory of the Earth" (September 22, 1782). 
The Abb sent to Franklin some notes he had taken of his 
conversation upon this subject, and Franklin replied with 
this letter, intended, as he said, "to set him right in some 
points wherein he had mistaken my meaning." Six years 
later the letter was read at a meeting of The American 
Philosophical Society (November 21, 1788). Franklin had 
noticed that at the lowest part of the calcareous rock in 
Derbyshire, there were oyster shells mixed in the stone, 
"and part of the high county of Derby being probably as 
much above the level of the sea, as the coal mines of White- 
haven were below it, seemed a proof that there had been a 
great bouleversement in the surface of that island, some part 
of it having been depressed under the sea, and other parts 
which had been under it, being raised above it. Such changes 
in the superficial parts of the globe seemed to me unlikely 
to happen, if the earth were solid to the centre. I therefore 
imagined, that the internal parts might be a fluid more dense 
and of greater specific gravity than any of the solids we are 
acquainted with, which therefore might swim in or upon 
that fluid. Thus the surface of the globe would be a shell, 
capable of being broken and disordered by the violent move- 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 55 

ments of the fluid on which it rested." He theorizes with 
regard to the changes that the earth has undergone in geo- 
logic time, and concludes with the particular instance of 
his own neighbourhood : " Such an operation as this possibly 
occasioned much of Europe, and among the rest this moun- 
tain of Passy on which I live, and which is composed of 
limestone, rock, and sea shells to be abandoned by the sea, 
and to change its ancient climate, which seems to have been 
a hot one." This letter has peculiar interest, as it is a rare 
occasion when Franklin permits himself "to wander a 
little in the wilds of fancy." 

Franklin's utilitarian philosophy discovered a providential 
and beneficent purpose in the catastrophes which the earth 
has suffered. Writing to Sir John Pringle (January 6, 
1758) he said: "Had the different strata of clay, gravel, 
marble, coals, limestone, sand, minerals, etc., continued to 
lie level, one under the other, as they may be supposed to 
have done before these convulsions, we should have had the 
use only of a few of the uppermost of the strata, the others 
lying too deep and too difficult to be come at ; but, the shell 
of the earth being broke, and the fragments thrown into 
this oblique position, the disjointed ends of a great number 
of strata of different kinds are brought up to-day, and a great 
variety of useful materials put into our power, which would 
otherwise have remained eternally concealed from us. So 
that what has been usually looked upon as a ruin suffered 
by this part of the universe, was, in reality, only a preparation 
or means of rendering the earth more fit for use, more capable 
of being to mankind a convenient and comfortable habita- 
tion." 

John Whitehurst, a maker of watches and philosophical 



56 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

instruments, who wrote an "Inquiry into the Original State 
and Formation of the Earth" (1778), was one of Franklin's 
friends, and much correspondence must have passed between 
them. He lived at Derby, and was intimately acquainted 
with Anthony Tissington, who entertained Franklin at 
Stanwick in Derbyshire. Franklin's letters to Whitehurst 
have not been found, but several from the latter to Franklin 
are well known. Upon one occasion he sends him a present 
of a Derbyshire ham, and informs him that it has gone by 
the "Derby dilly." At another time he introduces a young 
artist named Powell "a sober worthy youth" who desires 
to study under Benjamin West. In 1779 he sends him a 
copy of his "Inquiry," by the hand of Baron Waites, a 
mineralogist, who has been visiting the mineral localities 
of Derbyshire. 

In the British Museum is a copy of a book entitled "A 
Letter to a Friend on the mineral customs of Derbyshire. 
In which the Question relative to the claim of the Duty of 
Lot on Smitham is occasionally considered. By a Derby- 
shire working miner. London. Printed for the Author 
and sold by T. Payne. 1766." Knowing the friendliness 
that existed between Tissington, Whitehurst, and Franklin, 
it is not a little curious to discover in this volume the follow- 
ing manuscript note: "Mr. Ince of Wirksworth, Atty, told 
me on the 26 Nov. 1794 that this pamphlet was wrote by 
Dr. Benjamin Franklin, the celebrated patriot and champion 
of American liberty and independence, during one of his 
visits to Mr. Anth y . Tissington of Stanwick in the Co. of 
Derby; at whose desire it was wrote and by whom the 
subject matter was suggested. The information is of a 
very superficial kind and the language does the Doctor no 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 57 

great credit. It was intended by Mr. Tissington to rouse 
the interested passions of the common working miners to 
oppose a very just demand made on them by Mr. Rowls 
(lessee of the Duchy) of lot on Smytham and perhaps might 
be sufficiently calculated for that purpose notwithstanding 
its defects." The note is signed "A. W." The awkward 
blundering manner of the writing bears no resemblance to 
the smooth and even style of Franklin. But the very ascrip- 
tion of the pamphlet to him indicates the extension of his 
fame, and the respect in which his technical and scientific 
knowledge was held. 

Among Franklin's papers upon meteorology will be 
found his interesting discovery that our northeast storms 
originate in the southwest. In two letters (to Jared Eliot, 
February 13, 1750, and to Alexander Small, May 12, 1760) 
he has developed this theory. I have omitted the first-named 
letter since they are practically identical, and it would be 
superfluous to reprint both. His explanation is interesting 
for the simplicity and directness of his illustrations: "Sup- 
pose a great tract of country, land and sea, to wit, Florida 
and the Bay of Mexico, to have clear weather for several 
days, and to be heated by the sun, and its air thereby ex- 
ceedingly rarefied. Suppose the country northeastward, as 
Pennsylvania, New England, Nova Scotia, and Newfound- 
land, to be at the same time covered with clouds, and its air 
chilled and condensed. The rarefied air being lighter must 
rise, and the denser air next to it will press into its place ; 
that will be followed by the next denser air, that by the next 
and so on. Thus, when I have a fire in my chimney, there 
is a current of air constantly flowing from the door to the 
chimney ; but the beginning of the motion was at the chim- 



58 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

ney, where the air being rarefied by the fire rising, its place 
was supplied by the cooler air that was next to it, and the 
place of that by the next, and so on to the door. So the 
water in a long sluice or mill-race, being stopped by a gate, 
is at rest like the air in a calm; but as soon as you open 
the gate at one end to let it out, the water next the gate 
begins first to move, that which is next to it follows ; and so, 
though the water proceeds forward to the gate, the motion 
which began there runs backwards, if one may so speak, to 
the upper end of the race, where the water is last in motion. 
We have on this continent a long ridge of mountains running 
from northeast to southwest; and the coast runs the same 
course." * 

Alexander Dallas Bache, Superintendent of the Coast 
Survey, and a great-grandson of Franklin, deemed the dis- 
covery of sufficient importance to enter into an elaborate 
astronomical inquiry to determine the precise date when it 
was made. It is another instance of the nice inquisitiveness 
of Franklin's mind. He had attempted to observe an 
eclipse of the moon at nine o'clock in the evening, but before 
night a storm blew up at northeast and continued violent 
for a night and a day. The storm extended all along the 
coast and did much damage, but Franklin was surprised 
to find in the Boston newspapers an account of an obser- 
vation of that eclipse made there. As the storm came from 
the northeast it should have begun sooner at Boston than 
at Philadelphia. He wrote to his brother about it and 
learned that the eclipse was over an hour before the storm 
began at Boston. Further inquiries convinced him that 
northeast storms begin to leeward, and have their beginning 

1 To Jared Eliot, February 13, 1749-1750. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 59 

always later the further northeastward; the proportion of 
time to distance being about an hour to every hundred 
miles. 

Speaking from memory, Franklin said in his letter to 
Small (1760) that the eclipse in question was "about twenty 
years ago." Professor Bache consulted the ephemerides, 
and found that the eclipse occurred in the evening of Octo- 
ber 21, I743. 1 

The most interesting of the meteorological papers relate 
to waterspouts and whirlwinds, which Franklin believed to 
be similar and to proceed from the same cause, "the only 
difference between them being, that the one passes over land, 
the other over water." 2 

In 1755 he had an opportunity of seeing and examining 
a whirlwind, a graphic description of which he sent to Peter 
Collinson (August 25, 1755). He was riding with Colonel 
Tasker to his country-seat in Maryland when, in the vale 
below them, a small whirlwind began in the road. Franklin 
describes it with his customary clearness and precision. "It 
appeared in the form of a sugar loaf, spinning on its point, 
moving up the hill towards us and enlarging as it came for- 
ward. When it passed by us, its smaller part near the ground 
appeared no bigger than a common barrel; but widening 
upwards it seemed at forty or fifty feet high, to be twenty or 
thirty feet in diameter. The rest of the company stood look- 

1 " An Attempt to fix the Date of the Observation of Dr. Franklin in Rela- 
tion to the Northeast Storms of the Atlantic Coast of the United States. By 
A. D. Bache, Journal of the Franklin Institute, 1833." 

2 See the letter to John Perkins, February 4, 1753; read at the Royal 
Society, June 24, 1756. And a further paper, "Physical and Meteorologi- 
cal Observations, Conjectures and Suppositions," read at the Royal Society, 
June 3, 1756. 



60 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

ing after it; but my curiosity being stronger I followed it, 
riding close by its side, and observed its licking up in its 
progress all the dust that was under its smaller part. As 
it is a common opinion that a shot, fired through a water- 
spout will break it, I tried to break this little whirlwind, by 
striking my whip frequently through it, but without any 
effect. Soon after it quitted the road and took into the 
woods, growing every moment larger and stronger, raising, 
instead of dust, the old dry leaves with which the ground 
was thick covered, and making a great noise with them and 
the branches of the trees, bending some tall trees round in 
a circle swiftly and very surprisingly, though the progressive 
motion of the whirl was not so swift but that a man on foot 
might have kept pace with it, but the circular motion was 
amazingly rapid. By the leaves it was now filled with, I 
could plainly perceive, that the current of air they were driven 
by, moved upwards in a spiral line; and when I saw the 
passing whirl continue entire, after leaving the trunks and 
bodies of large trees which it had enveloped, I no longer 
wondered that my whip had no effect on it in its smaller 
state. . . . When we rejoined the company, they were ad- 
miring the vast height of the leaves now brought by the com- 
mon wind over our heads. These leaves accompanied us 
as we travelled, some falling now and then round about 
us, and some not reaching the ground till we had gone 
near three miles from the place where we first saw the 
whirlwind begin. Upon my asking Colonel Tasker if 
such whirlwinds were common in Maryland he answered 
pleasantly, 'No, not at all common; but we got this on 
purpose to treat Mr. Franklin.' And a very high treat it 
was." 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 61 

Much of his correspondence concerning meteorology was 
carried on with Dr. Thomas Percival, of Manchester, a friend 
of Bishop Watson, of Llandaff. To him Franklin consigned 
his inquiry into the cause of the severe cold in the winter of 
1783-1784, which Percival communicated to the Literary 
and Philosophical Society of Manchester. 1 The severity of 
that winter Franklin believed to be due to a constant fog 
that existed over all Europe and great part of North Amer- 
ica during several of the summer months of 1783. "This fog 
was of a permanent nature ; it was dry, and the rays of the 
sun seemed to have little effect towards dissipating it, as 
they easily do a moist fog, arising from water. They were 
indeed rendered so faint in passing through it, that when 
collected in the focus of a burning-glass, they would scarcely 
kindle brown paper. Of course their summer effect in heat- 
ing the earth was exceedingly diminished." He conjectured 
that this strange and persistent fog originated in the con- 
sumption by fire of some great aerolite kindled and destroyed 
in passing our atmosphere, "and whose smoke might be 
attracted and retained by our earth," or in the vast quantity 
of volcanic smoke emitted during the eruption of Mount 
Hecla. 

Franklin also sent to Percival his paper on the " Con- 
sumption of Smoke." Percival had observed with concern 
a large annual increase of pulmonary complaints in 
Manchester, then (1786) a town of forty-six thousand in- 
habitants. After reading Franklin's essay, he became 
convinced that the smoke from the velvet dress works, par- 
ticularly acrimonious and offensive to the lungs, was the 

1 It was read before that society, December 22, 1 784, and printed in the 
" Memoirs," Vol. II, p. 357. 



62 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

cause of the alarming increase of cases of consumption. 
He therefore offered a representation to the magistrates at 
the ensuing Quarter Sessions "of the expediency and neces- 
sity of adopting some measures to purify the air of Man- 
chester." 

In physics and chemistry Franklin was in correspondence 
and personal contact with Priestley, Cavendish, and Lavoisier. 
He was therefore familiar with the new ideas concerning the 
properties of matter, and was able by experimental research 
and by suggestion to assist in the development of the theories 
of light and heat, which were already shaping toward the 
modern doctrine of the forces of nature. Lavoisier invited 
him to his laboratory, when a new and important experiment 
was to be tried. Priestley consulted him at every step, as he 
groped his way toward a more perfect understanding of the 
nature of gases. In his " Experiments on Air," Priestley pub- 
lished the letters he had received from Franklin, which opened 
new horizons to him and set him upon novel ways of thought 
and experiment. In one such letter, dated April 10, 1774, 
Franklin gave what is perhaps the earliest clear account of 
marsh-gas. As early as 1764 he had experimentally ignited 
the surface of certain rivers in New Jersey, after stirring 
up the mud at the bottom in shallow places. He mentioned 
the fact to some philosophical friends in England, but was 
thought to have been beguiled by his overcredulity. A 
paper prompted by his investigations was offered to the 
Royal Society (1765), and denied a place in the Transac- 
tions because it was thought too strange to be true. With 
genuine scientific enthusiasm and perseverance, Franklin 
tried the experiment in England until, from bending over 
the stagnant water of a deep ditch and breathing too 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 63 

much of the foul air, he was seized with an intermittent 
fever. 

Experiments that he had not time or means of making 
he was constantly recommending to his philosophical ac- 
quaintance. He asked M. de Saussure, the Genevese pro- 
fessor who ascended Mont Blanc, to try to ascertain the 
lateral attraction of the Jura mountains with the view of 
determining the mean density of the earth upon the New- 
tonian theory of gravitation. 1 

To Dr. Ingenhousz he suggested "hanging a weight on a 
spiral spring, to discover if bodies gravitated differently to 
the earth during the conjunctions of the sun and moon, com- 
pared with other times." He expected that an iron ball of 
a pound weight suspended by a fine spiral spring "should, 
when the sun and moon are together both above it, be a little 
attracted upwards or rendered lighter, so as to be drawn up 
a little by the spring on which it depends, and the contrary 
when they are both below it." 

Another experiment which, performed by Franklin, ex- 
cited universal interest was the pouring of oil upon waters 
in a state of tumult. Upon his visit with Sir John Pringle 
to the north of England, he accepted the hospitality of Dr. 
Brownrigg, a chemist of Cumberland. In his company he 
put forth into the midst of Derwentwater, when its waves 
were beaten to fury and to foam by a tempestuous mountain 
wind, and successfully performed the experiment of smooth- 
ing the lake by pouring oil upon its surface. Aristotle and 
Plutarch and Pliny had said that it could be done. Frank- 

1 Experiments which were subsequently made with entire success by Nevil 
Maskelyne on Mt. Schehallion in Perthshire (1774). Franklin's letters to 
Saussure were dated October 8 and December I, 1772. 



64 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

lin was the first among experimental philosophers to dem- 
onstrate that a few drops of oil would tranquillize turbulent 
waters. 1 

So interested was he in his experiment that he was wont 
to take with him, when he went into the country, a little oil 
in the upper hollow joint of his bamboo cane to watch the 
effect upon wind-beaten pools. The novelty of the experi- 
ment pleased John Smeaton, the engineer, when Franklin 
tried it upon a little pond near his house at Austhorpe 
Lodge, near Leeds. He showed it also to Count Bentinck 
of Holland and the celebrated Professor Allemand upon a 
large piece of water at the head of the Green Park. Alle- 
mand repeated the experiment in the ditch about Leyden. 
Dr. Percival wrote to Franklin from Manchester (January 
10, 1775), "The experiment of stilling waves by pouring oil 
upon water was tried here last week with success." William 
Small wrote from Birmingham that Matthew Boulton had 
"astonished the rural philosophers exceedingly by calming 
the waves <i la Franklin" 

Abbe* Morellet was at Wycombe in April, 1772, the guest 
of Lord Shelburne, and met there Colonel Barre*, Dr. Hawkes- 
worth, David Garrick, and Franklin. In his "Memoirs" 
he records the interest that the entire party took in Franklin's 
experiment with oil. Morellet had regarded it as a fable of 
antique writers. "It is true," he writes, "it was not upon 
the waves of the sea but upon those of a little stream which 
flowed through the park at Wycombe. A fresh breeze was 
ruffling the water. Franklin ascended a couple of hundred 

1 See Franklin's letter to William Brownrigg, London, November 7, 1773. 
This letter was published in Journal des Sfavans, November 6, 1774, from 
which it was translated by William Van Lehsveld, of Leyden, into Dutch. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 65 

paces from the place where we stood, and simulating the 
grimaces of a sorcerer, he shook three times upon the stream 
a cane which he carried in his hand. Directly the waves 
diminished, and soon the surface was smooth as a mirror." * 
Concerning the properties of matter, it is astonishing what 
clear conception Franklin had of ideas that we are apt to 
regard as of much more recent origin. Long before Young 
was born, and while nearly all philosophers held to the 
corpuscular theory of light, Franklin had expressed his dissat- 
isfaction with the Newtonian hypothesis. He wrote to Col- 
linson, "There is nothing that I am so much in the dark about 
as light" But when he offered some "loose thoughts on a 
universal fluid" to the consideration of David Rittenhouse 
(June 25, 1784), he clearly indicated the new theory of light 
and foreshadowed the modern doctrine of conservation of 
matter. Without giving it a name, he imagined "universal 
space as far as we know it ... to be filled with a subtil fluid 
whose motions or vibration is called light." He concludes 
with this remarkable inference: "The power of man relative 
to matter seems limited to the dividing it, or mixing the vari- 
ous kinds of it, or changing its form and appearance by 
different compositions of it ; but does not extend to the mak- 
ing or creating of new matter or annihilating the old. Thus 
if fire be an original element, or kind of matter, its quantity 
is fixed and permanent in the universe. We cannot destroy 
any part of it or make addition to it ; we can only separate it 
from that which confines it, and so set it at liberty." 

1 " Memoires inedits de L'Abbe Morellet, deuxieme edition, Paris, 
MDCCCXXII," Tome Premier, 204. 

For other curious observations upon the surface tension of liquids, see 
Franklin to Sir John Pringle, December I, 1762. 
VOL. I F 



66 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Professor Schuster conjectures that Franklin did not 
probably realize the difficulties in the way of the wave theory 
which led Newton to pronounce against it. It may very well 
be, but has any philosopher, past or present, denned the 
wave theory more clearly or forcibly? Writing to Cadwal- 
lader Golden, Franklin said: "May not all the phenomena 
of light be more conveniently solved by supposing universal 
space filled with a subtle elastic fluid, which, when at rest, 
is not visible, but whose vibrations affect that fine sense in 
the eye, as those of air do the grosser organs of the ear ? We 
do not, in the case of sound, imagine that any sonorous par- 
ticles are thrown off from a bell, for instance, and fly in straight 
lines to the ear ; why must we believe that luminous particles 
leave the sun and proceed to the eye? Some diamonds if 
rubbed shine in the dark, without losing any of their matter. 
I can make an electric spark as big as the flame of a candle, 
much brighter, and therefore visible further ; yet this is with- 
out fuel; and, I am persuaded, no part of the electric fluid 
flies off in such case, to distant places, but all goes directly, 
and is to be found in the place to which I destine it. May 
not different degrees of the vibration of the above-mentioned 
universal medium, occasion the appearance of different col- 
ours? I think the electric fluid is always the same; yet I 
find that weaker and stronger sparks differ in apparent 
colour, some white, blue, purple, red; the strongest white; 
weak ones red. Thus different degrees of vibration given 
to the air, produce the seven different sounds in music, 
analogous to the seven colours, yet the medium, air, is the 
same. 

"If the sun is not wasted by expence of light, I can easily 
conceive that he shall otherwise alwavs retain the same 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 67 

quantity of matter; though we should suppose him made of 
sulphur constantly flaming. 

"The action of fire only separates the particles of matter, 
it does not annihilate them. Water, by heat raised in 
vapour, returns to the earth in rain; and if we could collect 
all the particles of burning matter that go off in smoke, per- 
haps they might, with the ashes, weigh as much as the body 
before it was fired : And if we could put them into the same 
position with regard to each other, the mass would be the 
same as before, and might be burnt over again. The chym- 
ists have analised sulphur, and find it composed, in certain 
proportions, of oil, salt, and earth ; and having by the analy- 
sis discovered those proportions, they can, of those ingredients, 
make sulphur. So we have only to suppose, that the parts 
of the sun's sulphur, separated by fire, rise into his atmos- 
phere, and there being freed from the immediate action of 
the fire, they collect into cloudy masses, and growing by 
degrees, too heavy to be longer supported, they descend to 
the sun and are burnt over again. Hence the spots appear- 
ing on his face which are observed to diminish daily in size, 
their consuming edges being of particular brightness. 

"It is well we are not, as poor Galileo was, subject to the 
Inquisition for Philosophical Heresy. My whispers against 
the orthodox doctrine, in private letters, would be dangerous; 
but your writing and printing would be highly criminal." * 

The late Dr. Youmans in the Introduction to the American 
edition of "Correlation and Conservation of Force" said: 
"It was this country, widely reproached for being over- 
practical, which produced just that kind of working ability 
that was suited to transfer this profound question from the 

1 To Cadwallader Golden, April 23, 1752. 



68 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

barren to the fruitful field of inquiry. It is a matter of just 
national pride that the two men that first demonstrated the 
capital propositions of pure science, that lightning is but a 
case of common electricity and that heat is but a mode of 
motion, who first converted these propositions from con- 
jectures of fancy to facts of science, were not only Americans 
by birth and education, but eminently representative of the 
peculiarities of American character, Benjamin Franklin and 
Benjamin Thompson, afterwards known as Count Rumford." 

I shall soon have occasion to refer to a letter written by 
Robespierre to Franklin requesting information concerning 
lightning rods. There is another interesting link between 
Franklin and the French Revolution. In 1779 Marat was 
conducting his investigations in the nature of heat. Every 
paper when completed, and all the drawings and other illus- 
trations of experiments, were immediately sent by him to 
Franklin with a request for his critical opinion. Several 
letters of this character, signed always "The Representative," 
are to be found among Franklin's papers. 

Involved in controversy with the philosophers of France, 
Marat sought the powerful support of Franklin. Under 
date of April 12, 1779, he wrote: "Was it not so material a 
point to the Author, that a candid judgment should be passed 
upon his work, he would trust to time alone. But he is cer- 
tain that many a Accademical gentleman do not look with 
pleasure upon his discoveries and will do their utmost to 
prejudice the whole Body. Let the cabal be ever so warm, 
it certainly will be silenced by the sanction of such a man as 
Doctor Franklin: and how far a judgment passed by him- 
self and the Royal Academy can influence public opinion 
is well known." 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 69 

Franklin was one of the first in England to experiment 
with the production of cold by evaporation. Such experi- 
ments were first made in St. Petersburg, and were repeated 
in Great Britain by Dr. Cullen and Professor Hadley after 
Franklin had directed attention to the subject. In 1758 he 
visited the University of Cambridge and was entertained 
with great distinction by the vice-chancellor and the heads 
of colleges. He told Dr. Hadley, the Professor of Chemistry, 
that by wetting his thermometer with common spirits, he 
had brought the mercury down five or six degrees. Hadley 
proposed repeating the experiments with ether. " We accord- 
ingly," wrote Franklin to a correspondent in South Carolina, 
"went to his chamber, where he had both ether and a ther- 
mometer. By dipping first the ball of the thermometer into 
the ether, it appeared that the ether was precisely of the same 
temperament with the thermometer, which stood then at 
65 ; for it made no alteration in the height of the little column 
of mercury. But, when the thermometer was taken out of 
the ether, and the ether, with which the ball was wet, began 
to evaporate, the mercury sunk several degrees. The wet- 
ting was then repeated by a feather that had been dipped 
into the ether, when the mercury sunk still lower. We con- 
tinued this operation, one of us wetting the ball, and another 
of the company blowing on it with the bellows, to quicken 
the evaporation, the mercury sinking all the time, till it came 
down to 7, which is 25 degrees below the freezing point, when 
we left off. Soon after it passed the freezing point, a thin 
coat of ice began to cover the ball. Whether this was water 
collected and condensed by the coldness of the ball, from the 
moisture in the air, or from our breath ; or whether the feather, 
when dipped into the ether, might not sometimes go through 



TO THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

it, and bring up some of the water that was under it, I am 
not certain ; perhaps all might contribute. 

"The ice continued increasing till we ended the experi- 
ment, when it appeared near a quarter of an inch thick all 
over the ball with a number of small spicula, pointing out- 
wards. From this experiment one may see the possibility 
of freezing a man to death on a warm summer's day, if he 
were to stand in a passage through which the wind blew 
briskly and to be wet frequently with ether, a spirit that 
is more inflammable than brandy or common spirits of 
wine," 1 

Franklin's correspondence concerning astronomy was lim- 
ited to an exchange of letters with Herschel and Maskelyne, 
the placing of orders for instruments with Edward Nairne 
and William Short, and the announcement of new discov- 
eries and theories to David Rittenhouse, Humphry Mar- 
shall, and James Bowdoin. 

William Herschel sent to Franklin, for The American Phil- 
osophical Society, a catalogue of one thousand new nebulae 
and clusters of stars; and at the same time communicated 
the discovery, on the nth of January, 1787, of "two satellites 
revolving round the Georgian planet, the first in about eight 
days and three quarters and the second in about twelve and 
a half." Franklin in reply congratulated Herschel on his 
discovery and said: "You have wonderfully extended the 
Power of human Vision and are daily making us acquainted 
with Regions of the Universe totally unknown to mankind in 
former Ages. Had fortune plac'd you in this part of Amer- 
ica [Philadelphia] your Progress in these Discoveries might 
have been still more rapid, as from the more frequent clear- 

1 To John Lining, June 17, 1758. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 71 

ness of our Air, we have near one third more in the year of 
good observing Days than there are in England." * 

To Nevil Maskelyne, as astronomer at the Greenwich 
Observatory, he transmitted the accounts sent by John 
Ewing of the Transit of Venus, and by Professor Winthrop 
of the Transit of Mercury (1769). A new comet swam into 
the ken of Nathan Pigot in his observatory in Yorkshire, 
November 19, 1783. Franklin received a report of it from 
Sir Joseph Banks, which he promptly transmitted (December 
15, 1783) to David Rittenhouse. It was at this time that he 
offered a number of queries to James Bowdoin, and among 
them the following: "May not a magnetic power exist 
throughout our system, perhaps through all systems, so that 
if men could make a voyage in the starry regions, a compass 
might be of use? And may not such universal magnetism, 
with its uniform direction, be serviceable in keeping the diur- 
nal revolution of a planet more steady to the same axis? 
Lastly, as the poles of magnets may be changed by the pres- 
ence of stronger magnets, might not, in ancient times, the 
near passing of some large comet, of greater magnetic power 
than this globe of ours, have been a means of changing its 
poles, and thereby wrecking and deranging its surface, plac- 
ing in different regions the effect of centrifugal force, so as 
to raise the waters of the sea in some, while they were de- 
pressed in others?" A letter to Humphry Marshall (Feb- 
ruary 14, 1773) contained a full description of the new 
hypothesis concerning sun-spots promulgated by Dr. Wilson, 
the professor of astronomy at Glasgow. 

Nairne and Bird, in London, and Short, in Edinburgh, were 
"mployed by Franklin to make optical instruments for Bow- 

1 Franklin to Dr. Herschel, Philadelphia, May 1 8, 1787. 



72 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

doin and Winthrop. The telescope made by Short for the 
latter cost one hundred pounds, and a transit instrument 
for the same person was made at a cost of forty guineas. 
Ellicot furnished the glasses for " the long Galilean telescope, " 
which he presented to Harvard College. For Franklin's per- 
sonal use, Nairne made a pocket achromatic telescope and 
"a set of artificial magnets, six in number, each five inches 
and a half long, hah an inch broad, and one eighth of an inch 
thick." These were enclosed in a box of mahogany wood 
closed by a shutter of the same wood, the grain of which ran 
across the box, and "the ends of this shutting piece were 
bevelled so as to fit and slide in a kind of dovetail groove 
when the box was to be shut or opened." This was made in 
1758. When Franklin returned to America in 1762, upon 
first attempting to open the box, he found that a notable 
shrinking had taken place in the wood of which it was made, 
although during four years in England it had not been visibly 
affected by moisture. In December, 1764, he went again 
to England and directly the box resumed its original size, 
and suffered no further alteration in ten years. It occurred 
to Franklin that there was here the material for making a 
slowly sensible hygrometer. He wrote to Nairne request- 
ing him to take "a number of pieces of the closest and finest 
grained mahogany that you can meet with, plane them to 
the thinness of about a line, and the width of about two 
inches across the grain, and fix each of the pieces in some 
instrument that you can contrive, which will permit them 
to contract and dilate, and will show, in sensible degrees, by 
a moveable hand upon a marked scale, the otherwise less 
sensible quantities of such contraction and dilatation. If 
these instruments are all kept in the same place while making, 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 73 

and are graduated together while subject to the same degrees 
of moisture or dryness, I apprehend you will have so many 
comparable hygrometers which, being sent into different 
countries, and continued there for some time, will find and 
show there the mean of the different dryness and moisture 
of the air of those countries, and that with much less trouble 
than by any hygrometer hitherto in use." Nairne, in accord- 
ance with the suggestion, constructed such an instrument, 
the drawings of which he sent to Franklin on the 26. of 
December, 1783. 

It was not possible for Franklin to go far in astronomy, as 
he was not sufficiently furnished with a knowledge of mathe- 
matics. And yet even here his mind sought occasional 
diversion in the severe charms of numbers. He was visiting 
one day, at Stenton, the country home of James Logan, when 
that venerable scholar, who in the previous century would 
have been called "a gulf of learning," took from his crowded 
shelves a folio French book filled with magic squares, and 
remarked upon the great ingenuity and dexterity of M. 
Frenicle, the author. Franklin characteristically said that 
"it was perhaps a mark of the good sense of our English 
mathematicians that they would not spend their time in 
things that were merely difficiles nuga, incapable of any 
useful application." Logan thought that such practice was 
likely to produce an habitual readiness and exactness in 
mathematical disquisitions and so might be of real use. 
Franklin then admitted that he had amused his idleness 
in making this kind of squares. The next time he visited 
Logan, he showed him a square of eight which he had found 
among his old papers. Logan then showed him an old 
arithmetical book in quarto, written by Stifelius, which con- 



74 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

tained a square of sixteen that he said he should imagine 
must have been a work of great labour. Not willing to be 
outdone by Stifelius, even in the size of his square, Franklin 
went home and made that evening a magical square of six- 
teen, having such remarkable properties that Logan in 
amazement called it "thy astonishing or most stupendous 
piece of the magical square." Indeed, said Franklin, it 
must doubtless be admitted "to be the most magically 
magical of any magic square ever made by any magi- 
cian." l 

The curiosity of mathematicians in various parts of the 
world was awakened by these revelations of the surprising 
properties of numbers placed in squares and circles. When 
a deputation from Rouen met him to welcome him to their 
city, they presented him with a magic square that spelled 
his name. 

The remarkable mathematician James Ferguson paid a 
high tribute to Franklin's ingenuity. He said: "I have seen 
several different kinds of (what is generally called) magic 
squares; but have lately got a magic square of squares and 
a magic circle of circles of a very extraordinary kind, from 
Dr. Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia with his leave to 
publish them. The magic square goes far beyond anything 
of the kind I ever saw before; and the magic circle (which 
is the first of the kind I ever heard of, or perhaps any one 
besides) is still more surprising. What the Doctor's rules 
are, for disposing of the different numbers so as that they 
shall have the following properties I know nothing of: and 
perhaps the reason may be, that I have not ventured to ask 

1 The magical square and the magical circle will be found entered in the 
year 1750, and addressed to Peter Collinson. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 75 

him; although I never saw a more communicative man in 
my life." l 

And yet he felt rather ashamed to have it known that he 
had spent any part of his time in an employment that could 
not possibly be of any use to himself or others. He is for- 
ever counting the cost and weighing the practical benefit. 
What good will it do? Of what use is it? These are the 
touchstones by which he tries all problems. After his inter- 
esting series of experiments upon the effects of the sun's rays 
upon cloths of different colours (see letter to Miss Steven- 
son, September 20, 1761), he concludes: "What signifies 
philosophy that does not apply to some use? May we not 
learn from hence, that black clothes are not so fit to wear in 
a hot, sunny climate or season as white ones; because in 
such clothes the body is more heated by the sun when we 
walk abroad, and are at the same time heated by the exer- 
cise, which double heat is apt to bring on putrid dangerous 
fevers? That soldiers and seamen who must march and 
labour in the sun should in the East or West Indies have an 
uniform of white? That summer hats, for men or women 
should be white, as repelling that heat which gives head- 
aches to many and to some the fatal stroke that the French 
call the coup de soleil ? That the ladies' summer hats, how- 
ever, should be lined with black, as not reverberating on their 
faces those rays which are reflected upwards from the earth 
or water? That the putting a white cap of paper or linen 
within the crown of a black hat, as some do, will not keep 
out the heat, though it would if placed Without ? That fruit 

1 " Tables and Tracts relative to several Arts and Sciences. By James 
Ferguson, F.R.S., London, 1767," p. 309. See also Sir Frederick Pollock, 
"Philosophical Transactions," Vol. CXLIV, No. XIV, and Vol. CXLIX, 
No. III. 



76 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

walls being blacked may receive so much heat from the sun 
in the daytime as to continue warm in some degree through 
the night, and thereby preserve the fruit from frosts or for- 
ward its growth ? With sundry other particulars of less 
or greater importance that will occur from time to time to 
attentive minds?" 

When he narrowly escaped shipwreck and death upon the 
Cornish rocks near Falmouth Harbor, he wrote to his wife: 
"Were I a Roman Catholic perhaps I should on this occa- 
sion vow to build a chapel to some saint; but as I am not, 
if I were to vow at all it should be to build a lighthouse." 

The happiness of life, he was wont to say, depends upon 
its seemingly insignificant utilities ; thus, " if you teach a poor 
young man to shave himself and keep his razor in order you 
may contribute more to the happiness of his life than in 
giving him one thousand guineas." 

It is better worth while, he said, to bring back from Italian 
travel a receipt for Parmesan cheese, than copies of ancient 
historical inscriptions. 

Thorough utilitarian as he was, he knew too well the pos- 
sibilities that lie perdue in the most unpromising and unlikely 
subjects to decry the sober investigation of seemingly useless 
and fantastic problems. When he began his inquiry into 
mesmerism, his old friend George Whatley wrote to him 
(September 20, 1784): "If the Courrier de V Europe say true 
you have been desired by S. M. tres Chre*tienne to look into 
the business of magnetism. Who more fitting? I shall 
never forget your rebuke for my calling my poor gone and 
good friend Ellis one of the Conundri for labouring about the 
Keratophita, Coralides, and the Lord knows what, when, 
hereafter, such Pretenders might be of service to Mankind, 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 77 

as the Loadstone is understood to have been, several hundreds 
of years after its property of attracting iron was discovered." 
When aeronautics were in their infancy, and Montgolfier 
was beginning his balloon ascensions, some one said, 
"What is the use of a balloon?" Franklin replied, "What 
is the use of a new-born baby?" He took at once an 
active interest in the new experiments, and carried on an 
elaborate correspondence with Sir Joseph Banks, President 
of the Royal Society, minutely describing various ascensions. 
He attended the experiment made November 20, 1783, in 
the garden of the Queen's Palace, la muette, then the resi- 
dence of the Dauphin, and sent a copy of the Procbs verbal 
to Banks with his own explanatory and critical notes. "The 
balloon was larger than that which went up from Versailles, 
and carried the sheep, etc. Its bottom was open, and in the 
middle of the opening was fixed a kind of basket grate in 
which faggots and sheaves of straw were burnt. The air, 
rarefied in passing through this flame, rose in the balloon, 
swelled out its sides, and filled it. The persons who were 
placed in the gallery made of wicker and attached to the 
outside near the bottom, had each of them a post through 
which they could pass sheaves of straw into the grate to keep 
up the flame, and thereby keep the balloon full. When it 
went over our heads we could see the fire which was very 
considerable. As the flame slackens the rarefied air cools 
and condenses, the bulk of the balloon diminishes, and it 
begins to descend. If these in the gallery see it likely to 
descend in an improper place they can, by throwing on more 
straw and renewing the flame, make it rise again and the 
wind carries it farther." * The courageous philosophers 

1 Franklin to Sir Joseph Banks, Passy, November 21, 1783. 



78 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

who safely accomplished this feat, Marquis d'Arlandes and 
M. Montgolfier, called upon Franklin the evening after the 
experiment to report to him their experiences and to receive 
his criticisms and suggestions. Sir Joseph Banks replying 
to Franklin said: "I laughed when balloons of scarce more 
importance than soap bubbles occupied the attention of 
France, but when men can with safety pass and do pass 
more than five miles in the first experiment I begin to fancy 
that I espy the hand of the master in the education of the 
infant of knowledge who so speedily attains such a degree 
of maturity, and do not scruple to guess that my old friend 
who used to assist me when I was younger has had some share 
in the success of this enterprise" (November 25, 1783). 

In France the ascensions attracted much attention. Great 
crowds assembled to watch the aerial explorers take flight. 
It is said that three hundred thousand witnessed the first 
ascent in Paris from the Champs de Mars, on August 27, 
1783. When Professor Charles's second balloon made its 
successful ascent, December i, 1783, Franklin wrote: "No- 
tice having been given of the intended experiment several 
days before in the Papers, so that all Paris was out, either 
about the Tuilleries, on the Quays and Bridges, in the Fields, 
the Streets, at the Windows, or on the Tops of Houses, be- 
sides the Inhabitants of all the Towns and Villages of the 
Environs. Never was a Philosophical Experiment so magnifi- 
cently conducted." It was upon this occasion that the Duke 
of Cumberland was nearly pressed to death in the throng, 
and that Joseph Cradock saw the queen of France observing 
the ascension from a balcony of the Tuileries, and remarked 
that she looked like a very handsome English woman. 1 

1 J. Cradock, " Memoirs," VoL II, p. 84. London, 1828. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 79 

Many inventors attempted to devise dirigible airships, and 
several papers descriptive of such inventions are to be seen 
among Franklin's papers "sur divers moyens de diriger 
les Aerostats." Among the rest, Henry Smeathman made a 
discovery which, to use his own words, depended upon a kind 
of paradox, "which is that animals could not fly if they were 
lighter than air, they would float with the wind, it is by 
means of their gravity that they project themselves through 
the air, and it is always on inclined planes. This is most 
evident in birds of prey; they make long sallies upon one 
inclined plane, and when they oppose their wings to the air, 
in one of their rapid descents, they are suddenly thrown up- 
wards again by the elasticity of it." This account Smeath- 
man gave to Franklin, who, upon hearing it, "launched 
half a sheet of paper obliquely in the air, observing that 
that was an evident proof of the propriety of my doc- 
trines." * 

Franklin was greatly interested in the improvement of the 
balloon in France, and in transmitting to Sir Joseph Banks 
"the journal of the first aerial voyage performed by man," he 
remarked that but a few months before witches riding on a 
broomstick and philosophers upon a bag of smoke would 
have appeared equally incredible. But he was disappointed 
in the little interest taken in aeronautics in England, and 
wrote to Banks (November 21, 1783) : "We should not suffer 
pride to prevent our progress in Science. Beings of a rank 
and nature far superior to ours have not disdained to amuse 
themselves with making and launching balloons, otherwise 
we should never have enjoyed the light of those glorious 
objects that rule our day and night, nor have had the Pleas- 
1 Pettigrew's " Life of Lettsom." 



8o THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

ure of riding round the Sun ourselves upon the Balloon we 
now inhabit." 

The practical benefits of aeronatics which Franklin saw in 
the distance are best expressed in a letter to Ingenhousz, 
January 16, 1786. "It appears as you observe to be a dis- 
covery of great importance, and what may possibly give a 
new turn to human affairs. Convincing sovereigns of the 
folly of wars may perhaps be one effect of it ; since it will be 
impracticable for the most potent of them to guard his do- 
minions. Five thousand balloons, capable of raising two 
men each, could not cost more than five ships of the line; 
and where is the prince who can afford so to cover his country 
with troops for its defense, as that ten thousand men descend- 
ing from the clouds might not in many places do an infinite 
deal of mischief before a force could be brought together to 
repel them?" So it seems that Franklin, like Tennyson, 

"... Dipt into the future, far as human eye could see 
Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonder that would be ; 

Saw the heavens fill with commerce, argosies of magic sails, 
Pilots of the purple twilight, dropping down with costly bales ; 

Heard the heavens fill with shouting, and there rained a ghastly dew 
From the nations' airy navies grappling in the central blue." 

For a child of the eighteenth century, Franklin was an 
unusual traveller. He found that his health was improved 
by frequent change of scene and air, and the exigencies of 
his public career, as postmaster and diplomatic agent, occa- 
sioned frequent and distant journeys. He crossed the Atlan- 
tic Ocean eight times, and improved the restful monotony 
of his voyages by making studies in navigation. He inves- 
tigated the Gulf Stream, 1 sought the reason for the difference 

1 Franklin to David Le Roy, August, 1785. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 81 

of navigation in shoal and deep water, 1 wrote upon the 
saltness of sea-water, 2 and how it could be rendered 
fresh by distillation, 3 on the Bristol waters and the tide 
in rivers, 4 made observations on the sails and cables of 
vessels, and the means of preserving ships from accidents 
at sea. 5 

The Gulf Stream Franklin conjectured to be generated 
by the great accumulation of water on the eastern coast of 
America between the tropics by the trade winds which con- 
stantly blow there. "It is known that a large piece of water 
ten miles broad and generally only three feet deep has by 
a strong wind had its waters driven to one side and sus- 
tained so as to become six feet deep, while the windward side 
was laid dry. This may give some idea of the quantity 
heaped on the American coast, and the reason of its running 
down in a strong current through the islands into the bay 
of Mexico, and from thence issuing through the Gulf of 
Florida, and proceeding along the coast to the banks of 
Newfoundland, where it turns off towards and runs down 
through the Western Islands." 

Franklin took constant thermometrical observations upon 
crossing the stream, and in his letter to David Le Roy, 
August, 1785, thoroughly defined the theory of the stream 
and the advantages of a knowledge of it to the mariner. 

Among his practical suggestions with regard to the secu- 
rity of ships at sea, it should be remembered that he first 

1 To Sir John Pringle, May 10, 1768. 

2 To Peter Franklin, May 7, 1760. 

8 To Miss Mary Stevenson, August IO, 1761. 
* To Miss Mary Stevenson, September 13, 1760. 

6 To David Le Roy, August, 1785. The American Philosophical Society, 
December 2, 1785. 

VOL. I G 



82 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

suggested the use of water-tight compartments, now univer- 
sally in use in the larger vessels of the navy and of passenger 
traffic, and that he invented the double and triple ship 
wrought with wheels, although Sir John Dalrymple in his 
"Memoirs" (Appendix, page 7) gives the credit to the 
inventor of the carronade. 1 

The last invention in which Franklin was interested was 
Fitch's steamboat, and Fitch, when ready for a trial of his 
new invention, wrote to Franklin (October 12, 1785), "Noth- 
ing would give me more secret pleasure than to make an 
essay under your patronage." 

It was at one time Franklin's belief that the longer voy- 
ages of vessels sailing westward across the Atlantic could be 
accounted for by the diurnal motion of the earth, and he 
exploited this theory in a letter to Cadwallader Golden. It 
is also referred to in the more elaborate paper upon "Mari- 
time Observations" sent to David Le Roy. After a few 
years Franklin realized that he was entirely at fault in this 
regard. Jonathan Williams wrote to him asking permission 
to print the latter paper in the transactions of the American 
Academy of Arts and Sciences. He replied: "It will not be 
proper to present that nautical piece to your Academy, it 
being already in the possession of the Philosophical Society 
here who have ordered it to be printed in their Memoirs and 
it is now in the Press. It may however be read there if you 
think it will be agreeable ; only I would have the part struck 
out relating to the expediting and retarding the voyages be- 
tween North America and England by the diurnal motion 
being on consideration convinced that its effect is equal both 

1 Professor Anderson, of Glasgow University, in a letter to Franklin (Feb- 
ruary 20, 1788), protests against this statement in Dalrymple's " Memoirs." 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 83 

ways." * I have therefore omitted the letter of unknown date 
addressed to Cadwallader Golden (printed in Sparks, Vol. VI, 
p. 74, and Bigelow, Vol. II, p. 14) and the paragraph relat- 
ing to this mistaken theory in the "Maritime Observations." 

In 1746 Franklin purchased three hundred acres of land 
near Burlington, New Jersey, and set about improving it in 
the best and speediest manner. His experiments in the 
culture of grass in meadows, and his inquiries respecting 
the mode of planting hedges, were communicated in letters 
to Jared Eliot, grandson of "Apostle" Eliot, and author of 
"An Essay on Field Husbandry in New England." 

His sagacity and clearness of vision are as evident here as in 
the greater things of his life. Eighty acres of his land were 
deep meadow. It had been ditched and planted with Indian 
corn, of which it produced above sixty bushels per acre. 
How did Franklin proceed? "I first scoured up my ditches 
and drains, and took off all the weeds ; then I ploughed it, and 
sowed it with oats in the last of May. In July I mowed them 
down, together with the weeds, which grew plentifully among 
them, and they made good fodder. Immediately ploughed 
it again, and kept harrowing till there was an appearance of 
rain; and on the 23d of August, I sowed near thirty acres 
with red clover and herd grass, allowing six quarts of herd 
grass and four pounds of red clover to an acre in most parts 
of it ; in other parts four quarts herd grass and three pounds 
red clover. The red clover came up in four days, and the 
herd grass in six days ; and I now find, that, where I allowed 
the most seed, it protects itself the better against the frost. 
I also sowed an acre with twelve pound of red clover and it 

1 To Jonathan Williams, Philadelphia, January 19, 1786. Letter in pos- 
session of Louis A. Biddle, Esq. 



84 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

does well; I sowed an acre more with two bushels of rye- 
grass seed and five pound of red clover; the rye-grass seed 
failed, and the red clover heaves out much for want of being 
thicker. However in March next I intend to throw in six 
pounds more of red clover as the ground is open and loose. 
As these grasses are represented not durable, I have sown 
two bushels of the sweeping of hay lofts (where the best hay 
was used), well riddled, per acre, supposing that the spear- 
grass and white clover seed would be more equally scattered 
when the other shall fail. What surprised me was to find, 
that the herd-grass, whose roots are small and spread near 
the surface, should be less affected by the frost than the red 
clover whose roots I measured in the last of October, and 
found that many of their tap roots penetrated five inches, and 
from its sides threw out near thirty horizontal roots, some 
of which were six inches long and branched. From the 
figure of this root, I flattered myself that it would endure the 
heaving of the frost ; but I now see, that wherever it is thin 
sown it is generally hove so far out as that but a few of the 
horizontal and a small part of the tap roots remain covered 
and I fear will not recover. Take the whole together it is 
well matted and looks like a green corn field." * 

Franklin carried on correspondence with many distin- 
guished botanists. He secured for John Bartram his ap- 
pointment as American botanist to George III. He sent 
him rare seeds from Europe, and when in America rendered 
the same service to Buffon for the Jardin des Plantes. He 
was the first to introduce rhubarb into America. 3 It is also 
said that the introduction of the yellow willow was due to 

1 To Jared Eliot, of unknown date, circa 1749. 

2 To John Bartram, August 22, 1772. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 85 

him. The story is that a basket in which some foreign com- 
modity had been imported, having been thrown into a creek, 
was observed by Franklin to be putting forth sprouts, sev- 
eral of which he caused to be planted on the ground now 
occupied by the Philadelphia Custom House. They took 
root, and proved to be the yellow willow. 1 

He urged the adoption of plaster of Paris as a fertilizer, 
and as an object lesson to the Pennsylvanian farmers wrote 
with plaster in a field on the high road, in large letters, "Tins 
HAS BEEN PLASTERED." The white letters quickly vanished 
but soon reappeared in emerald, showing in brilliant con- 
trast to the grass of the general surface. 2 

Franklin was able to assist European scholars in their 
studies of the native languages of America and the ethnology 
and archaeology of the country. His letter to Court de 
Gobelin (May 7, 1781) shows his understanding of the dif- 
ferentiation of the native linguistic stocks; and by M. de 
Gebelin, one of the first of the illustrious line of Ameri- 
canistes in France, he was treated as a "fellow- worker," 
and consulted frequently while the nine volumes of "Le 
Monde primitif" were going through the press. 

George Croghan sent to him a box of what he supposed 
to be elephants' tusks and grinders found near the Ohio 
River. Franklin's letter of acknowledgment and thanks 
is worthy of consideration, for the modern character of his 
views is surprising. He found the tusks extremely curious 
on many accounts. He could not believe them to belong to 
elephants, for the grinders were "full of knobs, like the 
grinders of a carnivorous animal; while those of the ele- 
phant, who eats only vegetables, are almost smooth. But 

1 Watson's "Annals of Philadelphia," Vol. II, p. 487. 

2 Chaptal's " Agricultural Chemistry," p. 73. 



86 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

then," he added, "we know of no other animal with tusks 
like an elephant, to whom such grinders might belong." 
It was remarkable to him that elephants now inhabit nat- 
urally only hot countries where there is no winter, and yet 
these remains were found in a winter country. He remem- 
bered, also, that similar tusks were found in Siberia in great 
quantities when their rivers overflow and wash away the 
earth, though Siberia is still more a wintry country than that 
on the Ohio. From which he inferred that "the earth had 
anciently been in another position, and the climates differ- 
ently placed from what they are at present." The historical 
interest of this letter becomes apparent when it is remembered 
that it was written thirty years before Thomas Jefferson read 
before The American Philosophical Society his paper upon 
the fossilized bones of some large quadruped of the sloth 
family, an event which is commonly taken to mark the be- 
ginning of the study of vertebrate palaeontology in America. 
Moreover, this discussion of the "elephant question" was 
fifty-eight years before Cuvier had given the name of mas- 
todon to the animal whose tusks and grinders were so puz- 
zling to Franklin. The foremost living palaeontologist of 
America, Professor William B. Scott, of Princeton, says of 
this letter: "Franklin's opinions are nearer to our present 
beliefs than were Jefferson's, written nearly forty years later. 
Of course, we now know that Franklin was mistaken in sup- 
posing that such bones were found only in what is now 
Kentucky and in Peru, and his comparison of the teeth of 
the mastodon with the 'grinders of a carnivorous animal' 
is not very happy, but the inferences are remarkably sound, 
when we consider the state of geological knowledge in 1767." ! 

1 See Franklin to Croghan, August 5, 1767. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 87 

We now come to the really great achievements of Franklin 
in science. In the study of electricity he was a pioneer. He 
was a man of the frontier and greatly widened the bounda- 
ries of knowledge. It was in 1746 that Peter Collinson sent 
a Leyden vial to Philadelphia as a present to the Library 
Company. The first electrical experiments Franklin had 
ever witnessed had been performed by Dr. Spence, a Scotch- 
man, in Boston, a few months before. His curiosity had 
been keenly aroused, and he now proceeded with eagerness to 
repeat in Philadelphia the experiments which had so sur- 
prised and interested him. Speaking of them in the Auto- 
biography, he says: "My house was continually full for 
some time with persons who came to see these new wonders. 
To divide a little this incumbrance among my friends, I 
caused a number of similar tubes to be blown at our glass 
house, with which they furnished themselves, so that we had 
at length several performers. Among these the principal was 
Mr. Kinnersley an ingenious neighbor, who, being out of 
business, I encouraged to undertake showing the experiments 
for money, and drew up for him two lectures in which the 
experiments were rang'd in such order and accompanied 
with explanations in such method as that the foregoing should 
assist in comprehending the following. He procured an ele- 
gant apparatus for this purpose, in which all the little ma- 
chines that I had roughly made for myself were neatly formed 
by instrument makers." 

Concerning these experiments Franklin wrote letters to 
Collinson, thinking it right that he should be informed of 
their success in using the tube he had presented to them. 
These are the letters that Collinson saw fit to publish, and 
which at once carried Franklin's name across the continent 



88 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

of Europe. In the first letter (July u, 1747), he wrote: 
"We rub our tubes with buckskin and observe always to 
keep the same side to the tube and never to sully the tube 
by handling; thus they work readily and easily, without the 
least fatigue, especially if kept in tight pasteboard cases, 
lined with flannel and fitting close to the tube." The tubes, 
he says, were made of green glass, twenty-seven or thirty 
inches long, "as big as can be grasped." Parts of several 
machines are known which are reputed to have belonged to 
Franklin, but the precise form of the complete apparatus 
used by him appears to be in doubt. Professor George 
Barker says: "Three or four quite similar frames are in ex- 
istence, all provided with multiplying wheels for giving rota- 
tion to the electric used, which was mounted upon an axis 
placed above the wheel. One of these frames is in posses- 
sion of the Franklin Institute, another is owned by the Uni- 
versity of Pennsylvania, and a third is in the physical cabinet 
of the College of New Jersey, at Princeton. In only the 
first of these, however, is the electrical portion preserved. 
The electric is a glass globe, having a leather cushion for its 
rubber, and provided with a curved rod for the collector. 
Moreover, these frames or stands all resemble very closely 
that which is described and figured as 'the cylindrical ma- 
chine as constructed by Franklin' in Snow Harris's 'Fric- 
tional Electricity.'" 1 

Among the Franklin relics long preserved at Champlost, 
the home of George Fox, were several pieces of electrical 

1 Professor George F. Barker, " Electrical Progress since 1 743," in the Pro- 
ceedings of The American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, 1894, p. 107. 
The work to which Professor Barker refers is " A Treatise on Frictional Elec- 
tricity in Theory and Practice, by Sir William Snow Harris, F.R.S., London, 
1867," p. 104. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 89 

apparatus which, in 1879, were presented by Miss Fox to the 
University of Pennsylvania. One of them was the "prime 
conductor," or collector, of an electrical machine, and could 
have been used only with a machine provided with a plate 
electric. The earliest electrical machine was made in 1672 
by Von Guericke, who performed the Magdeburg experi- 
ments. The electric consisted of a globe of sulphur, mounted 
on a horizontal axis and rubbed with the hand. Hawksbee 
(1709) replaced the sulphur globe by one of glass. Franklin 
thus speaks of his electrical machine: "Our spheres are 
fixed on iron axes which pass through them. At one end of 
the axis there is a small handle with which you turn the 
sphere like a common grindstone. This we find very com- 
modious, as the machine takes up but little room, is portable 
and may be enclosed in a tight box when not in use. 'Tis 
true the sphere does not turn so swift as when the great wheel 
is used; but swiftness we think of little importance, since a 
few turns will charge the vial sufficiently." The credit of 
the contrivance of this machine Franklin gives to Philip 
Syng, a member of the Junto. 

One year's experimentation with the newly contrived ap- 
paratus and Franklin had mastered the theory and practice 
of electrical science. In his first letter to Collinson (July n, 
1747) he describes an experiment showing "the wonderful 
effect of pointed bodies both in drawing off and throwing off 
the electrical fire." This letter is of the first importance in 
the history of science, for it propounds his new theory of 
electricity. He electrified a cannon ball so that it repelled a 
cork. When the point of a long, slender bodkin was brought 
within six or eight inches distance, the repulsion disappeared. 
A blunt body, however, had to be brought near enough for a 



90 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

spark to pass before the same effect was produced. "To 
prove that the electrical fire is drawn off by the point, if you 
take the blade of the bodkin out of the wooden handle, and 
fix it in a stick of sealing-wax and then present it at the dis- 
tance aforesaid, or if you bring it very near, no such effect 
follows; but sliding one finger along the wax till you touch 
the blade, and the ball flies to the shot immediately. If you 
present the point in the dark, you will see, sometimes at a 
foot distance and more, a light gather upon it, like that of a 
fire- fly, or glow-worm; the less sharp the point, the nearer 
you must bring it to observe the light; and, at whatever 
distance you see the light, you may draw off the electrical 
fire, and destroy the repellency." 

By laying a long sharp needle upon the shot, Thomas Hop- 
kinson and Franklin showed "that points will throw off as 
well as draw off the electrical fire." Continuing his experi- 
ments, he found that the repellency between the cork ball 
and the shot is likewise destroyed: "i, by sifting fine sand 
on it; this does it gradually; 2, by breathing on it; 3, by 
making a smoke about it from burning wood ; 4, by candle 
light, even though the candle is at a foot distance : these do 
it suddenly. The light of a bright coal from a wood fire; 
and the light of red hot iron do it likewise; but not at so 
great a distance. Smoke, from dry rosin dropped on hot 
iron, does not destroy the repellency ; but is attracted by both 
shot and cork ball, forming proportionable atmospheres round 
them, making them look beautifully, somewhat like some of 
the figures in Burnet's or Whiston's 'Theory of the Earth.' 
N. B. This experiment should be made in a closet, where the 
air is very still or it will be apt to fail. 

"The light of the sun thrown strongly on both cork and 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 91 

shot by a looking-glass for a long time together, does not 
impair the repellency in the least. This difference between 
firelight and sunlight is another thing that seems new and 
extraordinary to us." He was greatly puzzled and thought 
long and deeply over this "new and extraordinary differ- 
ence." In a footnote he offered an explanation which shows 
that Franklin was the discoverer of the action of flames as 
well as of the discharging properties of red-hot iron: "This 
different effect probably did not arise from any difference in 
the light, but rather from the particles separated from the 
candle, being first attracted and then repelled, carrying off 
the electric matter with them; and from the rarefying the 
air, between the glowing coal or red hot iron and the elec- 
trized shot, through which rarefied air the electric fluid could 
more readily pass." No other mind as acute as Franklin's 
existed in the world at that time, and the discovery seems to 
have been forgotten for one hundred and twenty-six years, 
when it was rediscovered by Guthrie in 1873. l 

Professor Schuster calls attention to the experiment in- 
tended to try the action of sunlight, and says, "Had Franklin 
used a clean piece of zinc instead of iron shot he might have 
anticipated Hertz's discovery of the action of strong light 
on the discharge of gases." 

He had now learned that the electricity from a highly 
charged conductor could be dissipated by a sharp point or 
neutralized if the point was connected with earth or brought 
near the conductor so as to be electrified by induction. His 
next discovery was that if the person rubbing the electric 

1 Arthur Schuster, " On some Remarkable Passages in the Writings of 
Benjamin Franklin." Manchester, 1895. See also, Guthrie, Philosophical 
Magazine, XLVI, p. 257. 



92 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

tube stood upon wax, and the person drawing the fire also 
stood upon wax, a stronger spark would pass between them 
than between either of them and the earth; and that after 
such strong spark neither of them would discover any elec- 
tricity, though each had appeared electrified before. He 
had thus conceived the idea of positive and negative electri- 
fication: "Hence have arisen some new terms among us; 
we say B (and bodies like circumstanced) is electrized posi- 
tively; A negatively. 1 Or rather B is electrized plus; A 
minus. And we daily in our experiments electrize bodies plus 
or minus, as we think proper. To electrize plus or minus, no 
more needs to be known than this, that the parts of the tube 
or sphere that are rubbed, do, in the instant of the friction, 
attract the electrical fire, and therefore take it from the thing 
rubbing; the same parts immediately, as the friction upon 
them ceases, are disposed to give the fire they have received 
to any body that has less. Thus you may circulate it, as 
Mr. Watson has shown; you may also accumulate or sub- 
tract it, upon or from any body, as you connect that body 
with the rubber, or with the receiver, the communication 
with the common stock being cut off." Electricity, there- 
fore, was regarded by Franklin as a fluid, a certain amount 
of which was possessed by everything in its normal state. 
By appropriate means some of the fluid could be drawn away 
from one body and given to another. The former is then 
electrified negatively, the latter positively. The electric fluid, 
he conceived, repelled itself and attracted matter. The 
single-fluid theory was completed when the supposition was 
added that matter when devoid of electricity is self-repulsive. 

1 A represents the one who stands on the cake of resin and rubs the elec- 
tric tube; B, the one who takes the charge from the tube. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 93 

In experimenting with Muschenbroek's "wonderful 
bottle," the Leyden jar (which Franklin improved by 
substituting granulated lead for the water which had been 
used for the interior armatures), he saw that "at the same 
time that the wire and the top [the inner armature] is elec- 
trized positively or plus, the bottom of the bottle [outer 
armature] is electrized negatively or minus in exact propor- 
tion; that is, whatever quantity of electrical fire is thrown 
in at the top, an equal quantity goes out of the bottom. . . . 
Again, when the bottle is electrized, but little of the electrical 
fire can be drawn out from the top, by touching the wire, 
unless an equal quantity can at the same time get in at the 
bottom. ... So wonderfully are these two states of elec- 
tricity, the plus and the minus combined and balanced in 
this miraculous bottle! situated and related to each other 
in a manner that I can by no means comprehend! If it 
were possible that a bottle should in one part contain a 
quantity of air strongly compressed, and in another part a 
perfect vacuum, we know the equilibrium would be instantly 
restored within. But here we have a bottle containing at 
the same time a plenum of electrical fire, and a vacuum of the 
same fire; and yet the equilibrium cannot be restored be- 
tween them, but by a communication without! though the 
plenum presses violently to expand, and the hungry vacuum 
seems to attract as violently in order to be filled." * 

He tried numerous experiments with these jars or "phials" 
as they were called. He charged them by cascade, "that is, 
by insulating all the jars except the last, connecting the outer 
armature of the first with the inner armature of the second, 
and so on throughout the series . . . and he knew too that 

1 To Peter Collinson, September I, 1747. 



94 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

by this method the extent to which each jar could be charged 
from a given source varied inversely as the number of jars" 
(Garnett). He discharged the phial by alternate contacts; 
he placed it upon an insulating stand, and found that it 
might be held by the hook without discharging it. "When 
we use the terms of charging and discharging the phial, 
it is in compliance with custom, and for want of others 
more suitable. Since we are of opinion that there is really 
no more electrical fire in the phial after what is called its 
charging than before, nor less after its discharging; except- 
ing only the small spark that might be given to and taken 
from the non-electric matter, if separated from the bottle, 
which spark may not be equal to a five-hundredth part of 
what is called the explosion." l 

"The phial will not suffer what is called a charging unless 
as much fire can go out of it one way as is thrown in by 
another." l 

"When a bottle is charged in the common way its inside 
and outside surfaces stand ready, the one to give fire by 
the hook, the other to receive it by the coating; the one is 
full and ready to throw out, the other empty and extremely 
hungry; yet, as the first will not give out unless the other 
can at the same instant receive in, so neither will the latter 
receive in, unless the first can at the same instant give out. 
When both can be done at once, it is done with inconceiv- 
able quickness and violence." * 

He was the first to prove that the phenomena of con- 
densation have their seat in the dielectric, and not in the 
metallic coatings. "The whole force of the bottle and 
power of giving a shock," he says, "is in the glass itself; 

1 To Peter Collinson, Philadelphia, 1748. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 95 

the non-electrics in contact with the two surfaces, serving 
only to give and receive to and from the several parts of the 
glass; that is, to give on one side and take away from the 
other." After performing many interesting and convincing 
experiments, graphically described in his letter to Collinson 
(Philadelphia, 1748), he continues: "It is amazing to ob- 
serve in how small a portion of glass a great electrical force 
may lie. A thin glass bubble, about an inch diameter, 
weighing only six grains, being half filled with water, partly 
gilt on the outside, and furnished with a wire hook, gives, 
when electrified, as great a shock as a man can well bear. 
As the glass is thickest near the orifice, I suppose the lower 
half, which, being gilt, was electrified and gave the shock, 
did not exceed two grains; for it appeared, when broken, 
much thinner than the upper half. . . . And allowing that 
there is no more electrical fire in a bottle after charging than 
before, how great must be the quantity in this small por- 
tion of glass ! It seems as if it were of its very substance 
and essence. Perhaps if that due quantity of electrical 
fire so obstinately retained by glass, could be separated 
from it, it would no longer be glass; it might lose its trans- 
parency, or its brittleness, or its elasticity. Experiments 
may possibly be invented hereafter to discover this." 

Thus in a twelvemonth of ingenious experiments and 
close observation Franklin had demonstrated the electrical 
condition of the Leyden jar, dismissed the Dufay hypothesis 
of vitreous and resinous electricity, and established his single- 
fluid theory. He conceived that there is but one electric 
fluid, the positive, while the part of the other is taken by 
ordinary matter, the particles of which are supposed to 
repel each other and attract the positive fluid. "Matter 



96 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

when unelectrified is supposed to be associated with just so 
much of the electric fluid that the attraction of the matter 
on a portion of the electric fluid outside is just sufficient 
to counteract the repulsion exerted on the same fluid by the 
electric fluid associated with the matter " (J. J. Thomson). 
Nowhere is the antique proverb vestigia nulla retrorsum so 
true as in the history of science : 

" Science moves, but slowly, slowly, creeping on from point to point." 

But the history of electrical theory is an extraordinary 
exception. After a hundred and fifty years the world is 
returning at the present moment to the amazing generaliza- 
tion made by Franklin. "We shall I am sure be struck," 
says Professor J. J. Thomson in one of the most recent 
contributions to the literature of electricity, "by the simi- 
larity between some of the views which we are led to take 
by the results of the most recent researches, with those 
enunciated by Franklin in the very infancy of the subject." * 
And Dr. William Garnett says of the statements in Franklin's 
first letters to Collinson, "They are perfectly consistent 
with the views held by Cavendish and by Clerk Maxwell, 
and though the phraseology is not that of modern text- 
books, the statements themselves can hardly be improved 
upon to-day." 2 

The second striking conclusion at which Franklin arrived 
was the identity of electricity and lightning. To illustrate 
the action of a lightning conductor on a thunder-cloud 
he took a pair of large brass scales, of two or more feet 
beam, the cords of the scales being silk, and suspended the 

1 " Electricity and Matter, by J. J. Thomson. Constable & Co., 1904." p. 6. 
8 " Heroes of Science, by William Garnett. London [1885]." p. 79. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 97 

beam by a twisted packthread from the ceiling. Upon 
the floor he set a silversmith's iron punch in such a place 
as that the scales might pass over it in making their circle. 
He electrified one scale. "As they move round you see 
that one scale draw nigher to the floor, and dip more when 
it comes over the punch; and if that be placed at a proper 
distance, the scale will snap and discharge its fire into it. 
But if a needle be stuck on the end of the punch, its point 
upward, the scale instead of drawing nigh to the punch, and 
snapping, discharges its fire silently through the point, and 
rises higher from the punch. . . . Now if the fire of elec- 
tricity, and that of lightning be the same as I have en- 
deavoured to show at large in a former paper, these scales 
may represent electrified clouds. . . . The horizontal mo- 
tion of the scales over the floor may represent the motion 
of the clouds over the earth; and the erect iron punch, a 
hill or high building ; and then we see how electrified clouds 
passing over hills or high buildings at too great a height 
to strike, may be attracted lower till within their striking 
distance. And lastly if a needle fixed on the punch with 
its point upright, or even on the floor below the punch, will 
draw the fire from the scale silently at a much greater than 
the striking distance, and so prevent its descending toward 
the punch; or if in its course it would have come nigh 
enough to strike, yet being first deprived of its fire it cannot, 
and the punch is thereby secured from the stroke." * 

"To determine the question," he says, "whether the 
clouds that contain lightning are electrified or not, I would 
propose an experiment to be tried where it may be done 
conveniently. On the top of some high tower or steeple, 

1 To Peter Collinson, July 29, 1750. 
VOL. i H 



93 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

place a kind of sentry box, big enough to contain a man 
and an electrical stand. From the middle of the stand 
let an iron rod rise and pass, bending, out of the door and 
then upright twenty or thirty feet, pointed very sharp at 
the end. If the electrical stand be kept clean and dry, a 
man standing on it, when such clouds are passing low, 
might be electrified and afford sparks, the rod drawing fire 
to him from a cloud. If any danger to the man might be 
apprehended (though I think there would be none) let 
him stand on the floor of this box and now and then bring 
near to the rod the loop of a wire that has one end fastened 
to the leads, he holding it by a wax handle; so the sparks, 
if the rod is electrified, will strike from the rod to the wire, 
and not affect him." 

M. Dalibard, who at the request of Buffon had made 
a translation into French of Franklin's letters to Collinson, 
placed in a garden at Marly-la- Ville, six leagues from Paris, 
a pointed rod of iron forty feet high supported upon an 
electrical stand. In the afternoon of the loth of May, 1752, 
between two and three o'clock, a thunder-cloud passed 
over it and sparks were drawn from it by the observers 
with whom Dalibard had left directions how to proceed. 
The same kind of commotions were perceived as in the 
common electrical experiments. 1 

A week later (May 18) M. de Lor, sensible of the good 
success of this experiment, resolved to repeat it at his house 
in the Estrapade, at Paris. He raised a bar of iron ninety- 
nine feet high placed upon a cake of resin two feet square 

1 Letter of Abbe Maz6as to Stephen Hales, May 20, 1752; read at the 
Royal Society, May 28, 1752; "New Experiments and Observations on Elec- 
tricity," p. 107. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 99 

and three inches thick. Between four and five in the after- 
noon a storm cloud having passed over the bar, where it 
remained half an hour, he drew sparks from the bar like 
those from the gun-barrel, when in the electrical experiments 
the globe is only rubbed by the cushion, and they produced 
the same noise, the same fire, and the same crackling. They 
drew the strongest sparks at the distance of nine lines. 
M. de Lor, master of experimental philosophy, had pre- 
viously performed "the Philadelphian experiments" by 
command of Louis XV, in the presence of the king at the 
seat of the Due d'Ayen at St. Germain. His Majesty saw 
them with great satisfaction and greatly applauded Franklin 
and Collinson. 

On the 2oth of July, 1752, John Canton, a Fellow of the 
Royal Society, erected upon his house in Spital Square, 
London, a tin tube between three and four feet in length 
fixed to the top of a glass one of about eighteen inches. 
To the upper end of the tin tube, which was not so high as 
a stack of chimneys on the same house, he fastened three 
needles with some wire, and to the lower end was soldered 
a tin cover to keep the rain from the glass tube, which was 
set upright in a block of wood. No electrification appeared 
upon this apparatus during the storm, which arose about 
five in the afternoon, until after the third thunder-clap, when 
Canton, applying his knuckle to the edge of the cover, felt 
and heard an electrical spark ; and approaching it a second 
time received the spark at the distance of about half an 
inch and saw it distinctly. 

Further observations were made on the i2th of August 
by another member of the Royal Society, Mr. Wilson, in a 
garden at Chelmsford in Essex. He used an iron curtain 



TOO THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

rod, one end of which he put into the neck of a glass vial, 
and held this vial in his hand. To the other end of the 
iron he fastened three needles with some silk. This vial 
supporting the rod, he held in one hand, and drew snaps 
from the rod with a finger of his other. 

These experiments were communicated to the Royal 
Society by William Watson, accompanied by the following 
explanation: 1 "After the communications which we have 
received from several of our correspondents in different 
parts of the continent acquainting us with the success of 
their experiments last summer in endeavoring to extract 
the electricity from the atmosphere during a thunder-storm, 
in consequence of Mr. Franklin's hypothesis, it may be 
thought extraordinary that no accounts have been yet laid 
before you of our success here from the same experiments. 
That no want of attention, therefore, may be attributed to 
those here, who have been hitherto conversant in these 
inquiries, I thought proper to apprize you, that, though sev- 
eral members of the Royal Society, as well as myself, did, 
upon the first advices from France, prepare and set up the 
necessary apparatus for this purpose, we were defeated in 
our expectations, from the uncommon coolness and damp- 
ness of the air here, during the whole summer. We had 
only at London one thunder-storm, namely, on July 20 ; and 
then the thunder was accompanied with rain, so that, by 
wetting the apparatus, the electricity was dissipated too 
soon to be perceived upon touching those parts of the ap- 
paratus which served to conduct it. This, I say, in general 
prevented our verifying Mr. Franklin's hypothesis." 

The famous kite experiment was made during the summer 

1 Philosophical Transactions, XLVII, 1752. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 101 

of 1752, in Philadelphia. Franklin described it in a letter 
to Peter Collinson, dated October 19, 1752, which was read 
at the Royal Society, December 21, 1752, and printed in that 
month in the Gentleman 's Magazine. It is unnecessary to 
repeat the description, as it is one of the commonplaces 
of science and will be found in its proper chronological 
place in the "Works." 

In September of that year he erected an iron rod to draw 
the lightning down into his house, in order to make some 
experiments on it. Another rod connected to the earth 
he brought within six inches of it, and, attaching a small 
bell to each rod, he suspended a little ball by a silk thread, 
so that it could strike either bell when attracted to it. "I 
found," he wrote to Collinson (September, 1753), "the bells 
rang sometimes when there was no lightning or thunder, 
but only a dark cloud over the rod; that sometimes, after a 
flash of lightning, they would suddenly stop; and at other 
times, when they had not rung before, they would, after a 
flash, suddenly begin to ring; that the electricity was some- 
times very faint, so that, when a small spark was obtained, 
another could not be got for some time after ; at other times 
the sparks would follow extremely quick, and once I had 
a continual stream from bell to bell, the size of a crow-quill ; 
even during the same gust there were considerable variations." 

In the winter following he conceived an experiment to 
try whether the clouds were electrified positively, or nega- 
tively. He charged two vials, one with lightning from the 
iron rod, the other an equal charge by the electric glass globe, 
and suspended a cork ball by a fine silk thread from the 
ceiling, so that it might play between the wires. He observed 
the brisk play of the ball between them, and was convinced 



102 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

that one bottle was electrized negatively. Subsequent 
experiments modified somewhat his first conclusions, and 
he learned that while in general the charge from the clouds 
is negative it is sometimes positive. 

The first thought of the lightning rod seems to have visited 
Franklin in 1749. The purely speculative never held his 
attention long, unless there appeared in it the possibility of 
practical use. "It is of real use," he was wont to say, "to 
know that China left in the air unsupported will fall and 
break ; but how it comes to fall, and why it breaks, are mat- 
ters of speculation. It is a pleasure indeed to know them, 
but we can preserve our China without it." 

To know the power of points he thought might possibly 
be of some use to mankind, though we should never be 
able to explain it. "May not the knowledge of this power of 
points be of use to mankind, in preserving houses, churches, 
ships, etc., from the stroke of lightning, by directing us to 
fix, on the highest parts of those edifices, upright rods of 
iron made sharp as a needle, and gilt to prevent rusting, 
and from the foot of those rods a wire down the outside of 
the building into the ground, or down round one of the 
shrouds of a ship, and down her side till it reaches the water ? 
Would not these pointed rods probably draw the electrical 
fire silently out of a cloud before it came nigh enough to 
strike, and thereby secure us from that most sudden and 
terrible mischief?" 1 

The lightning rod was not immediately adopted. Frank- 
lin's formal recommendation that pointed rods be placed 

1 " Opinions and Conjectures concerning the Properties and Effects of the 
Electrical Matter," etc., 1749, addressed to Peter Collinson, Philadelphia, 
July 29, 1750. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 103 

on buildings to prevent their being struck by lightning was 
made in 1753.* 

In concluding a long letter to Mr. Kinnersley (February 
20, 1762) he observed: "You seem to think highly of this 
discovery, as do many others on our side of the water. 
Here [London] it is very little regarded; so little, that, 
though it is now seven or eight years since it was made 
public, I have not heard of a single house as yet attempted 
to be secured by it. It is true the mischiefs done by light- 
ning are not so frequent here as with us; and those who 
calculate chances may perhaps find that not one death (or 
the destruction of one house) in a hundred thousand hap- 
pens from that cause, and that therefore it is scarce worth 
while to be at any expense to guard against it." 

While in America many houses were guarded by light- 
ning rods, and at least one correspondent, Mather Byles, 
old and palsy-stricken, wrote that his life and that of his 
daughters had been saved by Franklin's "points," yet in 
England it was not until 1762 that Dr. Watson raised the 
first one, and it was 1771 before conductors were placed 
on the Royal Exchange. Upon the continent they were 
adopted slowly. In 1769 St. Jacob's Church in Hamburg 
was protected. It is true that in 1754 (June 15) Pastor 
Prokop Diwisch had erected a lightning rod in Prenditz, in 
the neighbourhood of Znaim in Moravia, but he was obliged 
to remove it in 1756, because the peasants ascribed the 
exceptional dryness of the season to his strange instrument. 2 

1 Letter to Peter Collinson, Philadelphia, September, 1753. 

2 It has been claimed that Diwisch invented the lightning rod without any 
knowledge of Franklin's experiments. " Nach der Wiener Zeitung ' Neue 
Freie Presse ' befinden sich in der Bibliothek der Wiener elektrischen Ausstel- 
lung (1883) die handschriftlichen Belege, dass der Pramonstratenser Ordens- 



104 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

In like manner the Rev. Thomas Prince at the time of 
the Lisbon earthquake asserted that "the more points of 
iron erected round the earth to draw the electrical sub- 
stance out of the air; the more the earth must needs be 
charged with it. And therefore it seems worthy of con- 
sideration whether any part of the earth being fuller of 
this terrible substance may not be more exposed to more 
shocking earthquakes. In Boston are more erected than 
anywhere else in New England; and Boston seems to be 
more dreadfully shaken. Oh ! there is no getting out of 
the mighty Hand of God ! If we think to avoid it in the 
Air we cannot in the Earth. Yea, it may grow more 
fatal." 

M. de Saussure wrote to Franklin that he had published 
a short apologetic memoir in October, 1771, for the infor- 
mation of some people who were terrified at a conductor 
which he had erected at Geneva before the house he lived 
in. It reassured everybody, "and I had the pleasure of 
watching the electricity from the clouds during the whole 
course of the last summer. Several persons even followed 
this example, and raised conductors either upon their houses 
or before them. M. de Voltaire was one of the first. He 
does the same justice to your theory that he did to that of 
the immortal Newton." 1 



priester Prokop Diwisch in Prenditz bei Znaim am 15, Juni, 1754, cine 22 
Klafter hohe Wetterstange errichtet und diesen Blitzableiter unabhangig von 
Franklin erfunden hat. Da Franklin seine Vorschlage fiber die Herableitung 
des Blitzes schon 1750 machte und 1753 schon eine Theorie des Blitzableiters 
gab scheint uns doch der Beweis fur die vollstandige Unabhangigkeit des 
Diwisch von Franklin recht schwer zu fuhren zu sein." " Die Geschichte der 
Physik," von Dr. Ferd. Rosenberger, Braunschweig, 1882, Vol. II, p. 316. 
1 M. de Saussure to Franklin, Naples, February 23, 1773. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 105 

The alarm of provincial France was less easily quieted. 
The youthful Robespierre had for his first case the defence 
of a client who had sought to protect his property by the 
lightning rod. It was to the young advocate, destined to 
strange and sinister history, his "great first cause, least 
understood," and he wrote to Franklin to offer him hum- 
bly but proudly his printed argument. 

The letter has but recently been discovered. It will be 
found in its chronological place in the correspondence, but I 
may add a translation of it at this point. 

"ARRAS, October i. 1783 

"SiR: A judgment rendered by the e*cheVins of St. Omer, 
prohibiting the use of lightning rods, has afforded me the 
opportunity of pleading before the Council of Artois the 
cause of a sublime discovery for which mankind is indebted 
to you. The desire to aid in uprooting the prejudices 
opposed to its progress in our province led me to have 
printed the argument which I made in this matter. I ven- 
ture to hope, Sir, that you will deign to receive kindly a copy 
of this work, the object of which was to induce my fellow- 
citizens to accept one of your benefactions; happy to have 
been able to be of service to my region in determining its 
highest magistrates to receive this important discovery, 
happier still if I can add to this advantage the honour of 
securing the patronage of a man whose least merit is to be 
the most illustrious savant of the world. I have the honour 
to be with respect, Sir, 

"Your very humble and very obedient servant, 

"DE ROBESPIERRE, 
"Advocate to the Council oj Artois" 



io6 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

The Due de Villequier wrote to Franklin (September 23, 
1779) for information, as he wished to place paratonnerres 
upon his house in Paris and his chateau in Picardy. Not 
that he himself feared the lightning flash, or the all-dreaded 
thunder-stone, but he was anxious to take every precaution 
to insure the safety of his mother-in-law ! 

A powder magazine having been exploded by lightning 
at Brescia in Italy, the British Board of Ordnance, through 
Major Dawson, their engineer, consulted Franklin to learn 
how the arsenals at Purfleet might be protected from that 
danger. Franklin visited the magazines on the 28th of 
May, 1772, and submitted the following day a careful report 
and recommendation. That they might be still better au- 
thorized to proceed, the board requested the Royal Society 
to give their opinion. 

The society appointed a committee of five to make an 
examination and prepare a report. They were Messrs. 
Cavendish, Watson, Robertson, Wilson, and Franklin. 
Watson and Cavendish left to Franklin the nomination of 
the day of inquiry and the drawing of the report. It was 
prepared (August 21, 1772) and presented to the president 
and council of the Royal Society. Benjamin Wilson dis- 
sented from that part of the report which related to pointed 
conductors. He believed that they were less safe than blunt 
conductors, that they solicited the lightning, and, "if there- 
fore we invite the lightning, while we are ignorant what 
the quantity or the effects of it may be, we may be promoting 
the very mischiefs we mean to prevent." In defence of his 
contention he addressed a letter to Lord Rockingham, which 
appeared in the Philosophical Transactions, Vol. LIV, 
p. 247. When the commission paid no attention to his dis- 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 107 

sent he published two pamphlets, as Franklin says, "re- 
flecting on the Royal Society, the committee and myself, 
with some asperity." With the outbreak of the war the 
scientific feud became a political one. George III ordered 
blunt conductors to be substituted for the pointed ends on 
Kew Palace. He even sought to compel Sir John Pringle 
to give an opinion in favour of the change. That estimable 
scholar replied that "the laws of nature were not changeable 
at royal pleasure." It was then "intimated to him by the 
King's authority that a President of the Royal Society en- 
tertaining such an opinion ought to resign." Not only was 
he obliged to resign the presidency, but he was deprived of 
his position as physician to the queen, and banished from 
the fickle favour of the court. Franklin writing to an un- 
known correspondent said : "The King's changing his pointed 
conductors for blunt is a matter of small importance to me. 
If I had a wish about it, it would be that he had rejected 
them altogether as ineffectual. For it is only since he thought 
himself and family safe from the thunder of Heaven, that 
he dared to use his own thunder in destroying his innocent 
subjects." l 

Dr. Ingenhousz, who was at that time in England, made 
angry rejoinder to Wilson, but Franklin declined to be 
drawn into an acrimonious discussion, and said laughingly 
to a friend, "He seems as much heated about this one 
point, as the Jansenists and Molinists were about the 
five." 

The town repeated with amusement many merry epigrams 
at the expense of the king and his policy. The best of these 
has become classical: 

1 To a friend, Passy, October 4, 1777. 



io8 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

" While you, great George, for knowledge hunt 
And sharp conductors change for blunt 

The Empire's out of joint. 
Franklin another course pursues 
And all your thunder heedless views 

By keeping to the point." 1 

One of Franklin's experiments puzzled him greatly. As 
he pondered over it he guessed at the correct explanation, 
and later scientists deduced from it one of electricity's great- 
est laws. He described it in a letter to Dr. John Lining, 
March 1 8, 1755: "I electrified a silver pint can, on an elec- 
tric stand, and then lowered into it a cork ball, of about an 
inch diameter, hanging by a silk string, till the cork touched 
the bottom of the can. The cork was not attracted to the 
inside of the can, as it would have been to the outside ; and, 
though it touched the bottom, yet, when drawn out, it was 
not found to be electrified by that touch, as it would have 
been by touching the outside. The fact is singular. You 
require the reason: I do not know it. Perhaps you may 
discover it, and then you will be so good as to communicate 
it to me. I find a frank acknowledgement of one's igno- 
rance is not only the easiest way to get rid of a difficulty 
but the likeliest way to obtain information, and therefore 
I practise it ; I think it an honest policy." The experiment 
was important. After some thought Franklin conjectured, 
with entire correctness, that the mutual repulsion of the 
inner opposite sides of the electrical can may prevent the 
accumulating an electric atmosphere upon them, and 
occasion it to stand chiefly on the outside. He was not 

1 Another popular couplet of the same kind reads : 

" He with a kite drew lightning from the sky, 
And like a kite he pecked King George's eye." 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 109 

entirely satisfied, and recommended it to the further exami- 
nation of the curious. The experiment was repeated by 
Henry Cavendish, that strange, lonely character whose 
heart was colder than the freezing mixtures of his laboratory, 
and who was the greatest experimental philosopher that 
England has produced. He established the law that elec- 
trical repulsion varies inversely as the square of the distance 
between the charges. 

Franklin performed some interesting experiments on the 
physiological action of the electric discharge. An account 
of them he sent to the Royal Society. The letter describ- 
ing his experiments on fowls is no longer extant, but an 
abstract of it is to be found in "An Account of Mr. Benjamin 
Franklin's Treatise, lately published, entitled 'Experiments 
and Observations on Electricity, made at Philadelphia in 
America,' by William Watson, F.R.S." Dr. Watson (after- 
ward Sir William Watson) read this paper before the Royal 
Society, June 6, 1751. He said "he made first several ex- 
periments on fowls, and found, that two large thin glass 
jars, gilt, holding each about six gallons, . . . were suffi- 
cient, when fully charged, to kill common hens outright; 
but the turkeys, though thrown into violent convulsions, 
and then, lying as dead for some minutes, would recover 
in less than a quarter of an hour. However, having added 
three other such to the former two, though not fully 
charged, he killed a turkey of about ten pounds' weight, 
and believes that they would have killed a much larger. 
He conceited, as himself says, that the birds killed in this 
manner eat uncommonly tender. In making these ex- 
periments, he found, that a man could, without great detri- 
ment, bear a much greater shock than he imagined; for he 



I io THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

inadvertently received the stroke of two of these jars through 
his arms and body, when they were very near fully charged. 
It seemed to him a universal blow throughout the body 
from head to foot, and was followed by a violent, quick 
trembling in the trunk, which went gradually off in a few 
seconds. It was some minutes before he could recollect 
his thoughts, so as to know what was the matter; for he 
did not see the flash, though his eye was on the spot of the 
prime conductor, from whence it struck the back of his 
hand; nor did he hear the crack, though the bystanders 
said it was a loud one ; nor did he particularly feel the stroke 
on his hand, though he afterwards found it had raised a 
swelling there of the bigness of half a swan-shot or pistol- 
bullet. His arms and the back of his neck felt somewhat 
numbed the remainder of the evening, and his breast 
was sore for a week after, as if it had been bruised. From 
this experiment may be seen the danger, even under the 
greatest caution, to the operator, when making these ex- 
periments with large jars; for it is not to be doubted, but 
that several of these fully charged would as certainly, by 
increasing them in proportion to the size, kill a man, as they 
before did the turkey." * 

Franklin believed that electricity might be used to render 
meat tender: "It has been observed that lightning, by 
rarefying and reducing into vapor the moisture contained 
in solid wood, in an oak, for instance, has forcibly separ- 

1 Franklin was much distressed upon learning of the death of Professor 
Richmann at St. Petersburg, July 26, 1753, while repeating the kite experi- 
ment for bringing lightning from the clouds. See Philosophical Transactions, 
Vol. XLVIII, p. 765; and Vol. XLIX, p. 61. 

For an account of a second great stroke received by Franklin, see letter to 
Ingenhousz, April 29, 1785. ED. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS in 

ated its fibres, and broken it into small splinters; that, by 
penetrating intimately the hardest metals, as iron, it has 
separated the parts in an instant, so as to convert a perfect 
solid into a state of fluidity; it is not then improbable, that 
the same subtile matter, passing through the bodies of 
animals with rapidity, should possess sufficient force to 
produce an effect nearly similar. The flesh of animals, 
freshly killed in the usual manner is firm, hard, and not 
in a very eatable state, because the particles adhere too 
forcibly to each other. At a certain period, the cohesion 
is weakened, and in its progress towards putrefaction, which 
tends to produce a total separation, the flesh becomes what 
we call tender, or is in that state most proper to be used 
as our food. It has frequently been remarked, that animals 
killed by lightning putrefy immediately. This cannot be 
invariably the case, since a quantity of lightning, sufficient 
to kill, may not be sufficient to tear and divide the fibres 
and particles of flesh, and reduce them to that tender state, 
which is the prelude to putrefaction." 

He continued to instruct his correspondents how to con- 
duct the process of killing by electricity: "Having prepared 
a battery of six large glass jars (each from twenty to twenty- 
four pints) as for the Leyden experiment, and having estab- 
lished a communication as usual, from the interior surface 
of each with the prime conductor, and having given them a 
full charge, a chain which communicates with the exterior of 
the jars must be wrapped round the thighs of the fowl; 
after which the operator, holding it by the wings, turned 
back and made to touch behind, must raise it so high that 
the head may receive the first shock from the prime con- 
ductor. The animal dies instantly. Let the head be imme- 



112 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

diately cut off to make it bleed, when it may be plucked 
and dressed immediately. This quantity of electricity is 
supposed sufficient for a turkey of ten pounds weight, and 
perhaps for a lamb. Experience alone will inform us of 
the requisite proportions for animals of different forms 
and ages. ... As six jars, however, discharged at once, 
are capable of giving a very violent shock, the operator 
must be very circumspect lest he should happen to make the 
experiment on his own flesh, instead of that of the fowl." * 

The reader who will thoughtfully consider all of Franklin's 
papers upon electricity in these volumes will be surprised at 
the range of Franklin's observation of electrical phenomena. 
I shall refer but to one more in this place. His masterly 
paper upon the aurora borealis was read before the Academy 
of Sciences at Paris, early in 1779. Extracts from it appeared 
in Le Mercure de France, and the Abbe" Rozier asked per- 
mission (August 21, 1779) to print it in Le Journal de Phy- 
sique. He made the request, he said, in the name of every 
physicist in France. Franklin believed the aurora to be 
caused by the accumulation of electricity on the surface 
of polar snows and its discharge to the equator through 
the upper atmosphere. 

The account of the electrical experiments made at Phila- 
delphia which Franklin consigned to Collinson concluded 
with the following merry description of the preparations 
for a philosophical celebration of the conclusion of them 
for the season. "Chagrined a little that we have been 
hitherto able to produce nothing in this way of use to man- 
kind, and the hot weather coming on, when electrical experi- 

1 To Messrs. Dubourg and Dalibard, without date, but in answer to a letter 
dated May i, 1773. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 113 

ments are not so agreeable, it is proposed to put an end to 
them for this season, somewhat humorously, in a party of 
pleasure, on the banks of Skuylkil. Spirits, at the same 
time, are to be fired by a spark sent from side to side through 
the river, without any other conductor than the water an 
experiment which we sometime since performed, to the 
amazement of many. A turkey is to be killed for our dinner 
by the electrical shock, and roasted by the electrical jack 
before a fire kindled by the electrified bottle, when the healths 
of all the famous electricians in England, Holland, France, 
and Germany, are to be drunk in electrified bumpers under 
the discharge of guns from the electrical battery." 1 

The study of medicine was one of Franklin's chief interests, 
and it is one of the least known. Many medical men were 
among his most intimate companions and most valued 
correspondents. It is only necessary to mention Sir John 
Pringle, J. C. Lettsom, John Fothergill, Benjamin Rush, 
Thomas Bond, Ingenhousz, Dubourg, Gastellier, and Guil- 
lotin to realize how wide was his acquaintance with the pro- 
fession. 

In 1751 he promoted the founding of the Pennsylvania 
Hospital. He was elected January 17, 1777, a member 
of the Royal Medical Society of Paris. He was appointed 
a commissioner to investigate the theories of Mesmer in 
1784. In 1787 (July 16) he was appointed an honorary 
member of the Medical Society of London. The leaders 
of medical thought came to him in the attitude of pupils. 

He drove in a post-chaise through Scotland, Switzerland, 

1 " An electrified bumper is a small thin glass tumbler, near filled with wine, 
and electrified as the bottle. This, when brought to the lips gives a shock, 
if the party be close shaved, and does not breathe on the liquor." 
VOL. I I 



114 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Holland, and Germany, with Sir John Pringle, President of 
the Royal Society, a pupil of the illustrious Boerhaave, and 
the first physician who applied scientific principles practi- 
cally in the prevention of dysentery and hospital fevers, and 
so worked a reform in military medicine and sanitation. 
He was in constant correspondence with Dr. Jan Ingen- 
housz, of Vienna, the court physician to Maria Theresa and 
to Joseph II, who sought his advice before inoculating the 
young princes of the imperial family; and together they 
travelled through England and part of France. His life 
was written by John Coakley Lettsom, the most successful 
English physician of his generation and founder of the 
General Dispensary the first in London. He exchanged 
opinions upon pathology and therapeutics as well as poli- 
tics and peace with Dr. Fothergill, of whom he said: "I can 
hardly conceive that a better man has ever existed." In 
France Vicq d'Azyr, physician to the queen, planned the 
Royal Society of Medicine, and, at its inauguration in 1776, 
became its perpetual secretary. Franklin was the first 
foreign associate elected, and in 1780 Vicq d'Azyr wrote 
to him: "The Royal Society recognizing the talents and bril- 
liancy of the physicians of America, we wish to confer the 
honour of correspondent upon some of them, and we judge 
that that honour would be doubled by passing through 
Franklin's hands, and therefore hope that he will present the 
diplomas." 

Dr. Barbeu Dubourg, one of the most skilful physicians 
in Paris, a member of learned societies in four countries, 
translated Franklin's works into French, and during a long 
and affectionate friendship always addressed him with 
reverence as "mon cher maitre." He wrote to Comte de 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 115 

Vergennes, Minister of Foreign Affairs, "I flatter myself 
that they [Franklin and his fellow-commissioners] honour 
me with a singular confidence and I would rather die than 
abuse it in any way." 

Gastellier, the author of a celebrated article upon the 
persistence of sensation after decollation by the guillotine, 
eagerly desired the honour of dedicating to Franklin his 
treatise upon "Specifics in Medicine," a work which was 
crowned by the Royal Academy of Medicine. The Marquis 
of Mirabeau interceded for him and begged Franklin to 
accept the dedication. 

Joseph Ignace Guillotin was closely associated with 
Franklin, and consulted him about a project of emigration 
to Ohio. Letters were frequent between them, and they 
served together upon the commission that inquired into the 
truth of mesmerism. His name was destined to be forever 
linked, to the horror of himself, and of his family, to that 
reaper of the revolution, 

" Whose sheaves sleep sound 
In dreamless garner underground." 

At home Thomas Bond, John Bard, Thomas Cadwallader, 
and Benjamin Rush begged him to accept the grateful 
dedications of their medical works. I have already quoted 
Franklin's letter to Rush requesting him to omit from his 
essay, "Upon the Influence of Physical Causes on the Moral 
Faculty," "that most extravagant encomium upon your 
friend Franklin." Rush suppressed the "encomium," but 
sent his publication into the world under the patronage of 
that great name: 

"To his Excellency, Benjamin Franklin, Esq., President 
of the Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, the 



Il6 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

friend and benefactor of mankind, the following oration is 
inscribed by his grateful friend and humble servant, the 
Author." 

A part of Dr. Rush's diary which for a long time has 
been in the Ridgway Library, Philadelphia, has recently 
been published in the Pennsylvania, Magazine of History 
and Biography (January, 1905), and it contains some inter- 
esting notes of Dr. Franklin's conversation. The distin- 
guished physician naturally reported with most care the 
comments of Franklin upon medicine. "1786 August. I 
waited on the Doctor with a Dr. Minto. He said he be- 
lieved that Tobacco would in a few years go out of use. 
That, about 30 years ago, when he went to England, 
Smoaking was universal in taverns, coffee-houses, and pri- 
vate families, but that it was now generally laid aside, that 
the use of Snuff, from being universal in France was become 
unfashionable among genteel people no person of fashion 
under 30 years of age now snuffed in France. He added 
that Sir John Pringle and he had observed that tremors of 
the hands were more frequent in France than elsewhere, 
and probably from the excessive use of snuff. They once 
saw in a company of 16 but two persons who had not these 
tremors at a table in France. He said Sir John was cured 
of a tremor by leaving off snuff. He concluded that there 
was no great advantage in using tobacco in any way, for 
that he had kept company with persons who used it all his 
life, and no one had ever advised him to use it. The 
Doctor in the 8ist year of his age declared he had never 
snuffed, chewed, or smoked." 

"Septem'r 23rd, He said he believed the Accounts of the 
plague in Turkey were exaggerated. He once conversed 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 117 

with a Dr. MacKensie who had resided 38 years at Con- 
stantinople, who told him there were five plagues in that 
town. The plague of the drugger-men or interpreters, who 
spread false stories of the prevalence of the plague in order 
to drive foreign ministers into the country, in order that 
they might enjoy a little leisure. 2. The plague of debtors, 
who when dunned, looked out of their windows, and told 
their creditors not to come in for the plague is in their houses. 
3. The plague of the Doctors, for as they are never paid for 
their attendance on such patients as die, unless it be with 
the plague they make most of fatal diseases the plague. 
The doctor forgot the other two. He added that Dr. Mac- 
Kensie upon hearing that 660 dead with the plague, were 
carried out of one of the gates daily, had the curiosity to 
stand by that gate for one whole day, and counted only 66." 

"Sept. 22. Waited upon Dr. Franklin with Doctor 
Thibou of Antigua. The Dr. said few but quacks ever 
made money by physic, and that no bill drawn upon the 
credulity of the people of London by quacks, was ever 
protested. He ascribed the success of quacks partly to 
patients extolling the efficacy of the remedies they took 
from them, rather than confess their ignorance and credulity, 
hence it was justly said, 'quacks were the greatest liars 
in the world, except their patients.' 

"November. Spend half an hour with Dr. in company 
with the Rev'd. Mr. Bisset and Mr. Goldsborough. He 
said Sir John Pringle once told him 92 fevers out of 100 
cured themselves, 4 were cured by Art, and 4 proved fatal. 
About the end of this month I saw him alone. He talked 
of Climates; I borrowed some hints from the Conversation 
for the essay on Climates." 



Il8 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Early in his correspondence Benjamin Gale, of Killing- 
worth, an agriculturist, who was awarded by the Society of 
Arts a medal for an improvement of the drill plough, asked 
Franklin his opinion of the value of meadow saffron as a 
cure for dropsy. Years later the English journals gave 
wide currency to a tale that Franklin had discovered in 
tobacco ashes a sovereign remedy for dropsy. His corre- 
spondence abounds with references to this canard. John 
Stewart, of London, in 1777, asked him for further infor- 
mation concerning it, saying: "In one of our newspapers 
of this week it is asserted that you had recommended the 
use of tobacco ashes to the physicians at Paris in the cases 
of ascites, an anasarca, an oedema, and every species of 
hydropical complaint. That they in consequence had 
made many experiments and that all of them had been 
followed by a surprising and speedy cure. . . . What 
proportion of these ashes goes to a dose and how often to 
be taken in the twenty four hours?" 

Dr. Galevan has a patient who is afflicted with dropsy. 
His skill brings no relief, and he is anxious to know about 
the use of tobacco ashes. 

Dr. Santoux, of Bordeaux (1778), wants to know about 
the efficacy of ashes in the treatment of dropsy ; Cathallet 
Cotiere, of St. Sulpice, and Roger Wilbraham, of Rue de 
Richelieu, desire information on this point; and Serrier, 
curd of Damvilliers (1778), says he has a parishioner who 
has had dropsy for twenty-eight years. Will tobacco ashes 
cure him? Many such letters came to Franklin from all 
parts of Europe, and I find one brief reply sent by him to 
Dr. Daniel Nunez de Tavarez, an eminent physician of 
Zwolle, Overyssel: 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 119 

" PARIS, January 4, 1778 
" SIR. 

" The account given in the newspapers of my having 
furnished the Physicians with a receipt against the dropsy 
is a mistake. I know nothing of it, nor did I ever hear 
before that tobacco ashes had any such virtue. I thank 
you for your kind congratulations on our late successes 
and good wishes for the establishment of our liberty. 
" I have the honour to be, respectfully, Sir 

" Your most obedient humble servant 

"B. FRANKLIN." 

Some of Franklin's contributions to medical literature 
have become classical. Witness his letters to Cadwallader 
Evans, and Benjamin Vaughan, upon the causes of the 
colica Pictonum, or "dry belly ache," and his numerous 
papers upon catarrhs and contagious colds. 

Dr. John Hunter took the hints that he found in the first- 
named letter, and built them, with due acknowledgement, 
into his essay on the "dry belly ache of the tropics." Writ- 
ing to Dr. Cadwallader Evans, under date of February 20, 
1768, Franklin said: "I have long been of opinion that that 
distemper proceeds always from a metallic cause only; 
observing that it affects among tradesmen, those that use 
lead, however different their trades, as glaziers, letter- 
founders, plumbers, potters, white lead makers and painters, 
and although the worms of stills ought to be of pure tin, they 
are often made of pewter, which has a great mixture in it 
of lead." When Franklin and Benjamin Vaughan talked 
together at Southampton in 1785, while waiting for Franklin's 
ship to sail, the last subject upon which they conversed was 



120 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

the bad effects of lead taken inwardly. Twelve months 
after Franklin wrote to his friend a particular account of 
several facts he had at that time mentioned to him. He 
recalled a personal experience when working in London 
as a compositor: "I there found a practice I had never seen 
before, of drying a case of types (which are wet in distribu- 
tion) by placing it sloping before the fire. I found this had 
the additional advantage, when the types were not only 
dried but heated, of being comfortable to the hands working 
over them in cold weather. I therefore sometimes heated 
my case when the types did not want drying. But an old 
workman, observing it, advised me not to do so, telling me 
I might lose the use of my hands by it, as two of our com- 
panions had nearly done, one of whom that used to earn 
his guinea a week, could not then make more than ten shil- 
lings, and the other, who had the dangles, but seven and 
sixpence. This, with a kind of obscure pain, that I had 
sometimes felt, as it were in the bones of my hand when 
working over the types made very hot, induced me to omit 
the practice. ... I have been told of a case in Europe, 
I forget the place, where a whole family was afflicted with 
what we call the dry belly ache, or colica Pictonum, by 
drinking rain water. It was at a country-seat, which, being 
situated too high to have the advantage of a well, was sup- 
plied with water from a tank, which received the water 
from the leaded roofs. This had been drunk several years 
without mischief; but some young trees planted near the 
house growing up above the roof, and shedding their leaves 
upon it, it was supposed that an acid in those leaves had 
corroded the lead they covered, and furnished the water 
of that year with its baneful particles and qualities." 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 121 

When Franklin was in Paris with Sir John Pringle in 
1767, the latter visited La Charite, a hospital particularly 
famous for the cure of that malady, and brought away a 
pamphlet containing a list of the names of persons, with 
their professions or trades, who had been cured there. 
Franklin had the curiosity to examine the list, and found 
that all the patients were of trades that, some way or other, 
use or work in lead. 

When that impudent and amazing impostor Mesmer 
was at the height of favour in Paris, coining the French 
credulity into gold, claiming that magnetic and healing 
effluvia streamed from his finger tips, Franklin was ap- 
pointed by the king a member of a commission to inquire 
into the therapeutic value of "Mesmerism." The four 
distinguished physicians to serve upon the commission were 
Majault, Sallin, D'Arcet, and Guillotin. The five members 
of the Academy appointed to confer with them were Franklin, 
Le Roy, Bailly, De Bory, and Lavoisier. 

The commission conducted its examination of Mesmer's 
doctrine and experiments, from the i2th of March, 1784, 
to the nth of August of that year. 

The report was drawn up by Franklin, to whose sagacity 
and ingenuity the complete exposure and discomfiture of 
Mesmer was chiefly due. The distinguished professor of 
the Faculty of Medicine at Paris, Dr. Gilles de la Tourette, 
has called the report "a scientific work of the first order, 
which is worthy of being consulted to-day by all those who 
are interested in hypnotism and the diseases of the nervous 
system." 1 

1 See Tourtourat, "Benj. Franklin et la Medecine a la Fin du XVIII 8 
Siecle." Paris, 1900, p. 37. 



122 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Mesmer fled, rich and disgraced to England, where he 
disappeared from sight. Paris resumed her tranquillity 
and awaited a new sensation, while the wits composed such 
epigrams as the following which was sent to Franklin : 

Le Magne'tisme(dem)asque' 

Epigramme 

faite sur le champ apres avoir lu le rapport des Commissaires. 
Le Magne*tisme est aux abois 
La Facultd 1'Acade'mie 
L'ont condamn tous d'une voix, 
Et Pont couvert d'ignominie 
Apres ce jugement bien sage et bien le"gal 
Si quelque esprit original 
Persiste encore dans son de'lire 
II sera permis de lui dire 
Crois au magne'tisme animal ! J 

One of Franklin's favourite beliefs was that physicians 
were "on a wrong scent in supposing moist or cold air the 
causes of that disorder we call a cold." He was persuaded 
that colds were generally the effect of too full living, and 
that they were frequently contagious. This "heresy," as he 
called it, he expounded in letters to Dr. Dubourg (March 10 
and June 29, 1773), Benjamin Rush (July 14, 1773), and 
Dr. Thomas Percival (September 25, 1773). He engaged 
Dr. Stark to make experiments with Sanctorius's balance, to 
estimate the different proportions of his perspiration, when 
remaining one hour quite naked and another warmly clothed. 
The experiment was pursued in this alternate manner for 

1 Franklin's copy of the Report of the Royal Commission is in the 
Pennsylvania Historical Society. It is entitled " Rapport des commissaires 
charges par le Roi de 1'examen du Magnetisme Animal. Imprime par ordre 
du Roi. A Paris. De I'Imprimerie Royale. MDCCLXXXIV." 

See also letter from F. to Condamine, March 19, 1784, and letter from 
Mesmer to F., December I, 1779. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 123 

eight hours successively, and the physician found that his 
perspiration almost doubled during those hours in which 
he was naked. To Le Roy, who had consulted him about 
hospitals, Franklin wrote: "I can only say, that, if a free and 
copious perspiration is of use in diseases, that seems to be 
best obtained by light covering and fresh air continually 
changing : the moisture on the skin, when the body is warmly 
covered, being a deception, and the effect, not of greater 
transpiration, but of the saturation of the air included 
under and in the bed clothes, which therefore can absorb 
no more, and so leaves it on the surface of the body. . . . 
Our physicians have begun to discover that fresh air is good 
for people in the small-pox, and other fevers. I hope in 
time they will find out, that it does no harm to people in 
health." 

With regard to contagious colds he wrote to Dr. Rush: 
"I have long been satisfied from observation, that besides 
the general colds now termed influenzas (which may pos- 
sibly spread by contagion, as well as by a particular quality 
of the air), people often catch cold from one another when 
shut up together in close rooms, coaches, etc., and when 
sitting near and conversing, so as to breathe in each other's 
transpiration; the disorder being in a certain state. I 
think too that it is the frouzy, corrupt air from animal 
substances, and the perspired matter from our bodies, which 
being long confined in beds not lately used, and clothes not 
lately worn, and books long shut up in close rooms, obtains 
that kind of putridity, which occasions the colds observed 
upon sleeping in, wearing, and turning over such bed clothes, 
or books, and not their coldness or dampness. From these 
causes, but more from too full living, with too little exercise, 



124 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

proceed in my opinion most of the disorders which for about 
one hundred and fifty years past the English have called 
colds." 

Felix Vicq d'Azyr communicated to the Royal Society 
of Medicine a letter from Franklin upon the long retention 
of infection in dead bodies after sepulture. He cited an 
instance of the spread of smallpox in an English village 
through the opening of the grave of a man who had died of 
that disease thirty years before. "About the year 1763 
or 1764 several physicians of London, who had been present 
from curiosity at the dissection of an Egyptian mummy, 
were soon after taken ill of a malignant fever of which they 
died. Opinions were divided on this occasion. It was 
thought by some that the fever was caused by infection 
from the mummy ; in which case the disease it died of might 
have been embalmed as well as the body. Others who 
considered the length of time, at least two thousand years, 
since that body died, and also that the embalming must be 
rather supposed to destroy the power of infection, imagined 
the illness of these gentlemen must have had another original." 
Still another instance which Franklin doubtfully adduces 
is the singularly violent cold with which two members of 
the Royal Society were affected immediately after making 
a close examination of the dried body, at least three hundred 
years old, of one of the ancient inhabitants of the island of 
Teneriffe. 

The Earl of Buchan always declared that Franklin's 
advice had saved his life, for when he lay ill of a fever at 
St. Andrews, Franklin dissented from the opinion of the 
learned Dr. Simpson that the patient should be blistered. 
The earl, then Lord Cadross, hearkened to Franklin, and 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 125 

his advice proved so salutary that the disorder speedily took 
a favourable turn. 

The world is indebted to Franklin for the invention of 
the bifocal glasses. His friend George Whatley told 
Dollond, the famous optician, of the invention, but the 
latter fancied that it would only benefit particular eyes and 
could be of no general use. In reply Franklin said: "By 
Mr. Dollond's saying that my double spectacles can only 
serve particular eyes, I doubt he has not been rightly in- 
formed of their construction. I imagine it will be found 
pretty generally true, that the same convexity of glass through 
which a man sees clearest and best at the distance proper 
for reading is not the best for greater distances. I therefore 
had formerly two pair of spectacles which I shifted occa- 
sionally, as in travelling I sometimes read, and often wanted 
to regard the prospects. Finding this change troublesome, 
and not always sufficiently ready, I had the glasses cut and 
half of each kind associated in the same circle. By this 
means as I wear my spectacles constantly, I have only to 
move my eyes up or down, as I want to see distinctly far or 
near, the proper glasses being always ready. This I find 
more particularly convenient since my being in France, the 
glasses that serve me best at table to see what I eat, not being 
the best to see the faces of those on the other side of the 
table who speak to me; and when one's ears are not well 
accustomed to the sounds of a language, a sight of the move- 
ments in the features of him that speaks help to explain; 
so that I understand French better by the help of my spec- 
tacles." 

Ventilation was a subject to which Franklin devoted 
careful attention. He was said to be the first who observed 



126 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

that respiration communicated to the air a quality resem- 
bling the mephitic ; such as the Grotto del Cane, near Naples. 
"The air impressed with this quality rises only to a certain 
height, beyond which it gradually loses it. The amend- 
ment begins in the upper part, and descends gradually 
until the whole becomes capable of sustaining life." Dr. 
Small, an English surgeon, in a paper read before the French 
Academy of Sciences, said: "The Doctor confirmed this 
by the following experiment. He breathed gently through 
a tube into a deep glass mug, so as to impregnate all the air 
in the mug with this quality. He then put a lighted bougie 
into the mug; and upon touching the air therein the flame 
was instantly extinguished; by frequently repeating the 
operation, the bougie gradually preserved its light longer 
in the mug, so as in a short time to retain it to the bottom 
of it; the air having totally lost the bad quality it had con- 
tracted from the breath blown into it." ' Upon a visit 
to Priestley he was much interested in observing the flourish- 
ing state of some mint that was growing in noxious air. It 
immediately suggested to him "that the air is mended by 
taking something from it and not by adding to it." After 
a little reflection he wrote to Priestley: "We knew before 
that putrid animal substances were converted into sweet 
vegetables, when mixed with the earth and applied as 
manure; and now it seems that the same putrid substances, 
mixed with the air have a similar effect. ... I hope this 
will give some check to the rage of destroying trees that 
grow near houses, which has accompanied our late im- 

1 Alexander Small, on Ventilation ; communicated to the Royal Academy 
of Sciences. Printed in M. Dubourg's edition of Franklin's works, Vol. II, 
p. 314. Transcript in Library of Congress. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 127 

provements in gardening from an opinion of their being 
unwholesome." l 

The Government of England consulted Franklin upon 
the ventilation of the House of Commons. He "represented 
that the personal atmosphere surrounding the members 
might be carried off by making outlets in perpendicular 
parts of the seats, through which the air might be drawn 
off by ventilators, so placed, as to accomplish this without 
admitting any by the same channels." He also proposed 
that openings should be made close to the ceilings of rooms 
communicating with a flue which should ascend in the wall 
close to the flues of the chimneys, and, where it could be 
done conveniently, close to the flue of the kitchen chimney ; 
because the fire, burning pretty constantly there, would keep 
the sides of that flue warmer than those of the other chim- 
neys; whereby a quicker current of air would be kept up 
in the ventilating flue. Alexander Small showed what he 
called "Franklin's directions in regard to ventilation" to one 
of the Messrs. Adam, of the Adelphi, who not only applied 
the principles in the construction of the great room built 
by them for the meeting of the Society for the Encourage- 
ment of Arts, but insisted upon the dissertation being given 
to the Royal Society at Edinburgh. "If it is published 
by them," added Small, "I shall, as Sir Richard Steele says 
somewhere to Mr. Addison, live joined to a work of thine." 2 

His attention to questions of ventilation led him to the 
careful observation of chimneys and to the invention of 
the new stove, or " Pennsylvanian Fire Place." Here again 

1 Franklin to Priestley; published in Priestley's "Experiments on Air," 
Vol. I, p. 94. 

2 Alexander Small to Benjamin Franklin, November 29, 1788. A. P. S. 



128 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

his reputation spread over the continent. He published 
his "Account of the new-invented Pennsylvanian Fire- 
Places" in 1744. He wrote upon the causes and cure of 
smoky chimneys to Dr. Ingenhousz (August 28, 1785), to 
Sir Alexander Dick (January 21, 1762), to the Marquis 
Turgot (May i, 1781), and to Lord Kames (February 28, 
1768). 

Before the time of Franklin's invention smoky chim- 
neys were among the commonest annoyances of domestic 
life. A smoky house is mentioned by Shakespeare in the 
category of tedious things, with a tired horse and a railing 
wife. "How may smoky chimneys be best cured?" was 
one of Franklin's queries for the Junto. "It is strange 
methinks," he remarked, "that though chimneys have been 
for so long in use, the construction should be so little under- 
stood, till lately, that no workman pretended to make one 
which should always carry off all smoke." Lord Kames 
wrote that he had bought a house which would be the most 
complete in Edinburgh but that the chimney smoked. He 
applied to Franklin as "a universal smoke doctor" to remedy 
it. 1 

Another disadvantage of the old fireplace was its merely 
local warmth: "The cold air so nips the backs and heels 
of those that sit before the fire, that they have no com- 
fort till either screens or settles are provided to keep it 
off, which both cumber the room and darken the fire-side. 
A moderate quantity of wood on the fire, in so strong and 
cold a draft, warms but little ; so that people are continually 
laying on more. In short it is next to impossible to warm 

1 Henry Home (Lord Kames) to Franklin. Edinburgh, February 18, 
1768. A. P.S. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 129 

a room with such a fire place." The Pennsylvanian Fire 
Place which he invented in 1742 had the advantage "that 
your whole room is equally warmed, so that people need 
not crowd so close round the fire, but may sit near the win- 
dow, and have the benefit of the light for reading, writing, 
needlework, etc. They may sit with comfort in any part 
of the room, which is a very considerable advantage in a 
large family, where there must often be two fires kept, be- 
cause all cannot conveniently come at one." As very little 
of the heat is lost when this fireplace is used, "much less 
wood will serve you, which is a considerable advantage 
when wood is dear. . . . We leave it to the political 
arithmetician to compute how much money will be saved 
to a country, by its spending two thirds less of fuel; how 
much labour saved in cutting and carriage of it ; how much 
more land may be cleared by cultivation; how great the 
profit by the additional quantity of work done, in those 
trades particularly that do not exercise the body so much, 
but that the work folks are obliged to run frequently to the 
fire to warm themselves; and to physicians to say, how 
much healthier thick-built towns and cities will be, now 
half suffocated with sulphury smoke, when so much less 
of that smoke shall be made, and the air breathed by the 
inhabitants be consequently so much purer." 1 The simple 
principle upon which the new fireplace was designed was 
that the heat from an open fire after ascending should be 
made to descend before escaping through the chimney, and 
thus be made to heat currents of fresh air as they entered 
the room. 

1 " An Account of the new-invented Pennsylvanian Fire Places." Phila- 
delphia, 1744. 

VOL. I K 



130 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Cadwallader Golden sent Franklin's pamphlet to Grono- 
vius, a distinguished scion of an erudite family, saying : " It 
may be particularly useful to you and Dr. Linnaeus by pre- 
serving your health while it keeps you warm at your studies. 
It is the invention of Mr. Benjamin Franklin of Philadel- 
phia, the printer of it, a very ingenious man." Gronovius 
replied, "I am very much obliged to you for Mr. Franklin's 
book which I don't doubt the next letter shall bring to you 
translated into Dutch" (Leyden, July 9, 1745)- 

Turgot wrote to Franklin (April 25, 1781) to ascertain 
the method by which his stove consumed its own smoke 
and diminished the quantity of fuel which it consumed. 
The stove to which he referred was not the invention of 
1742, but a second contrivance which Franklin completed 
in 1771, and which was constructed on the principle of a 
siphon reversed, "operating on air somewhat similar to 
the operation of the common siphon on water, . . . this 
causes the smoke to descend also, and in passing through 
burning coals it is kindled into flame, thereby heating more 
the passages in the iron box whereon the vase which contains 
the coals is placed; and retarding at the same time the 
consumption of the coals." 1 

It was this invention that suggested the clever epigram 
which has been ascribed to many authors: 

"INSCRIPTION ON A CURIOUS STOVE IN THE FORM OF AN URN, 
CONTRIVED IN SUCH A MANNER AS TO MAKE THE FLAME 
DESCEND INSTEAD OF RISING FROM THE FlRE, INVENTED BY 
DR. FRANKLIN. 

"Like a Newton sublimely he soared 
To a summit before unattained, 

1 Franklin to the Marquis Turgot, Passy, May I, 1781. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 131 

New regions of science explored 
And the palm of philosophy gained. 

u With a spark which he caught from the skies 

He displayed an unparalleled wonder, 
And we saw with delight and surprise 

That his rod could secure us from thunder. 

" Oh ! had he been wise to pursue 

The track for his talents designed, 
What a tribute of praise had been due 
To the teacher and friend of mankind. 

" But to covet political fame 

Was in him a degrading ambition, 
The spark that from Lucifer came 
And kindled the blaze of sedition. 

" Let candor then write on his urn, 
Here lies the renowned inventor 
Whose fame to the skies ought to burn 
But inverted descends to the centre." 1 

Franklin's essay "On the Causes and Cure of Smoky 
Chimneys" was written at sea in August, 1785, and first 
appeared in the Transactions of The American Philosophical 
Society, where it was read October 21, 1785. It is an ex- 
haustive and thoroughly scientific discussion of nine direct 
causes of the effect in question with the remedies in each 
case, together with the principles on which both the disease 
and the remedy depend. It is written in a sprightly vein and 
contains some illustrative stories and anecdotes well told. 

After more than twenty years' experience of his own in- 

1 These verses have been variously ascribed to Jonathan Odell, Miss Norris, 
and others. The most likely ascription seems to be to Hannah Griffiths, 
among whose papers, in the Ridgway Library, Philadelphia, a manuscript 
copy is found. ED. 



132 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

vention (the Pennsylvanian Fire Place) and those of others 
for the warming of rooms, Franklin was of the opinion that 
the best contrivance for common use was a thin iron plate 
sliding in a grooved frame of iron inserted in the opening 
of the chimney. "The principles of this construction are 
these: Chimney funnels are made much larger than is 
necessary for conveying the smoke. In a large funnel a 
great quantity of air is continually ascending out of the 
room, which must be supplied through the crevices of doors, 
windows, floors, wainscots, etc. This occasions a continual 
current of cold air from the extreme parts of the room to 
the chimney, which presses the air warmed by the direct 
rays of the fire into the chimney and carries it off, thereby 
preventing its diffusing itself to warm the room. By con- 
tracting the funnel with this plate, the draft of air up the 
chimney is greatly lessened, and the introduction of cold 
air through the crevices to supply its place is proportionally 
lessened. Hence the room is more uniformly warmed, and 
with less fire, and the currents of cold air towards the chim- 
ney being lessened it becomes much more comfortable 
sitting before the fire." l 

It has been already said that Franklin never sought to 
profit by any of his inventions. And there have not been 
wanting detractors who have attempted to deprive him of 
the fame of his discoveries. It has been repeatedly asserted 
that he assumed to himself the credit of achievements that 
really belonged to a humble and obscure scholar named 
Ebenezer Kinnersley. How this hapless and undone scientist 
regarded his wanton plunderer may best be inferred from 

1 Franklin to Sir Alexander Dick, London, January 21, 1762. See also 
Franklin to James Bowdoin, London, December 2, 1758. 



PHILOSOPHICAL WORKS 133 

a letter addressed by him to Franklin, in which, after narrat- 
ing the way in which a house in Philadelphia was saved 
from destruction by a lightning rod, he concludes: "And 
now Sir, I most heartily congratulate you on the pleasure 
you must have in finding your great and well founded expec- 
tations so far fulfilled. 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" l 

Franklin's numerous experiences in this kind suggested 
the painful reflections found in his excellent letter to Dr. 
Lining, of Charleston. He says: "Through envy, jealousy 
and the vanity of competitors for fame, the origin of many of 
the most extraordinary inventions, though produced within 
but a few centuries past, is involved in doubt and uncertainty. 
We scarce know to whom we are indebted for the compass 
and spectacles, nor have even paper and printing, that 
record everything else, been able to preserve with certainty 
the name and reputation of their inventors. One would 
not, therefore, of all faculties or qualities of the mind, wish, 
for a friend or a child, that he should have that of invention. 
For his attempts to benefit mankind in that way, however 
well imagined, if they do not succeed, expose him, though 
very unjustly, to general ridicule and contempt; and, if 
they do succeed, to envy, robbery and abuse." 2 

1 E. Kinnersley to Franklin, Philadelphia, March 12, 1761. 

2 Franklin to John Lining, Philadelphia, March 18, 1755. 



134 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

It is time to close this halting and imperfect summary 
of Franklin's scientific activities. The task is difficult 
because of the volume and variety of his contributions. He 
was restlessly curious about all natural phenomena, and 
he penetrated with astonishing swiftness and certainty to 
the heart of each new mystery he encountered. It was 
his delight to watch the growth of knowledge and of power, 
and in speculative moments he dipped into the future, pleas- 
ing his fancy with the imaginary contemplation of the 
wonders that would be. 

To Ingenhousz he wrote: "To inquisitive minds like yours 
and mine the reflection that the quantity of human knowl- 
edge bears no proportion to the quantity of human igno- 
rance must be in one view rather pleasing, viz. that though 
we are to live forever we may be continually amused and 
delighted with learning something new." Upon one occa- 
sion he submitted to M. Dubourg some observations on the 
prevailing doctrines of life and death. He told him that 
he had been present at the house of a friend in London 
when a bottle of Madeira that had been sent from Virginia 
was opened, and three drowned flies fell into the first glass 
that was filled. "Having heard it remarked that drowned 
flies were capable of being revived by the rays of the sun, I 
proposed making an experiment upon these; they were 
therefore exposed to the sun upon a sieve which had been 
employed to strain them out of the wine. In less than 
three hours two of them began by degrees to recover life. 
They commenced by some convulsive motions of the thighs, 
and at length they raised themselves upon their legs, wiped 
their eyes with their forefeet, beat and brushed their wings 
with their hind feet, and soon after began to fly, finding 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 135 

themselves in Old England, without knowing how they 
came thither. The third continued lifeless till sunset, 
when, losing all hopes of him, he was thrown away. 

" I wish it were possible, from this instance, to invent a 
method of embalming drowned persons, in such a manner 
that they may be recalled to life at any period, however dis- 
tant ; for having a very ardent desire to see and observe the 
state of America a hundred years hence, I should prefer to 
any ordinary death, the being immersed in a cask of Madeira 
wine, with a few friends, till that time, to be then recalled 
to life by the solar warmth of my dear country." l 

Had his eyes opened after a century's slumber, upon what 
a world would their calm gaze have rested ! The vast 
images that he saw in glimmering dawn become now the 
commonplaces of schoolboys. His daring prophecies of 
the possibilities of electricity more than fulfilled. A great 
and proud people, justifying his unfaltering faith in popular 
instincts and institutions, holding in grateful and perpetual 
memory his lifelong labours and sacrifices! 

POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 

Franklin was the first American economist. The study 
of political economy employed his thoughts before the minds 
of speculative men in Europe were attracted to its problems. 
He became the intimate friend of the physiocrats of France, 
and exchanged ideas and books with Dupont de Nemours, 
Dubourg, Mirabeau, Turgot, Morellet, Condorcet, and "the 
venerable apostle Quesnay. He anticipated Turgot in the 
explanation of natural interest, and Malthus in the theory 

1 Dubourg's edition of Franklin, Vol. I, p. 327. 



136 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

of population. Adam Smith communicated with him on 
some particulars of "The Wealth of Nations" several years 
before that epoch-making work was published. Edmund 
Burke, Dr. Price, and Lord Kames gleaned from him. 
David Hume followed his writings with keen interest, 
though he disapproved his "factious spirit"; faction and 
fanaticism were alike detestable to that easy, sceptical, Tory 
soul. He fertilized the mind of Cobden, and was clear and 
acute upon problems of trade which vex the political thought 
of the present time. 
His economic works are : 

" A Modest Enquiry into the Nature and Necessity of a Paper Cur- 
rency 11 (1729). 

" Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind and the Peopling 
of Countries " (1751). 

"The Interest of Great Britain Considered, with regard to her colo- 
nies, and the Acquisitions of Canada and Guadaloupe" (1760). 

" Remarks and Facts relative to the American Paper Money " (1765). 

"Positions to be examined concerning National Wealth n (1769). 

" Comparison of Great Britain and the United States in regard to the 
basis of Credit in the two Countries" (1777). 

"On the Paper Money of the United States" (1781). 

" Reflections on the Augmentation of Wages, which will be occa- 
sioned in Europe by the American Revolution" (1783). 

" Internal State of America, being a true description of the Interest 
and Policy of that vast Continent" (1784). 

"Information to those who would remove to America" (1784). 

Besides these more formal works there exist a number of 
briefer papers, mere glances at social and political circum- 
stances, which are to be found in the prefaces and prog- 
nostics of Poor Richard and in the anonymous columns 
of the periodicals of Europe. Such are the "Advice to a 



f 



o C 



i" z 




POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 137 

Young Tradesman," "The Way to Wealth," "On the Price 
of Corn, and the Management of the Poor," "Wail of a 
Protected Manufacturer." 

"Principles of Trade," originally published in 1774, has 
been frequently included among the works of Franklin. As 
it is well known to have been written by George Whatley, 
and was so acknowledged by Franklin, it has been omitted 
from this edition. Franklin wrote to Mr. Whatley (August 
21, 1784): "Your excellent little work, 'The Principles of 
Trade,' is too little known. I wish you would send me a 
copy of it by the return of my grandson and secretary whom 
I beg leave to recommend to your civilities. I would get 
it translated and printed here. And if your bookseller has 
any quantity of them left, I should be glad he would send 
them to America. The ideas of our people there, though 
rather better than those that prevail in Europe, are not so 
good as they should be; and that piece might be of service 
among them." 

"An Historical Review of the Constitution and Govern- 
ment of Pennsylvania," th'e most voluminous work ascribed 
to Franklin and printed in nearly every previous edition of 
his works, is omitted from this collection. It is clear from 
internal evidence and from Franklin's statement to David 
Hume that it was not of his writing. He told Hume (Septem- 
ber 27, 1760): "The volume relating to our Pennsylvania 
affairs was not written by me, nor any part of it, except the 
remarks on the Proprietor's estimate of his estate, and some 
of the inserted messages and reports of the Assembly, which I 
wrote when at home, as a member of committees appointed by 
the House of that service. The rest was by another hand." 
There can be no doubt that Franklin prompted the writing 



138 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

of the book. The ideas are his, and he approved of its 
purpose, which was the promoting the claims of the Penn- 
sylvania Assembly in their controversy with the Proprietaries. 
He did all in his power to circulate the work in England and 
America. He sent five hundred copies to Mr. Hall, fifty to 
be delivered to the assembly. He sent twenty- five copies to 
Mr. Parker in New York, and a like number to Mecom in 
Boston. To paraphrase Queen Elizabeth in the play, 
"Whose hand soever held the pen, his head all indirectly 
gave direction." But this is not authorship; and it is mani- 
festly superfluous and improper to include among the works 
of Franklin a publication which, however inspired by him, 
was not of his composition. 

Another work was only partly written by Franklin. "The 
Interest of Great Britain Considered, with regard to her colo- 
nies, and the Acquisitions of Canada and Guadaloupe, " 
commonly known as "The Canada Pamphlet," was the 
joint production of Benjamin Franklin and Richard Jack- 
son. 

Their relative shares in the work it is now impossible to 
determine. When Vaughan was preparing the 1779 edition 
of Franklin's works, he consulted with Baron Maseres, of 
the Inner Temple, with regard to the participation of the two 
writers. Maseres marked with a black perpendicular line 
those parts of the pamphlet which, according to his belief, 
were written by Franklin. After much deliberation Vaughan 
replied that the affair had become too delicate for him to 
intermeddle with it. The claim of the "omniscient Jack- 
son" extended to two-thirds of the whole pamphlet. A 
problem that was "too delicate" for the judgment of one of 
Franklin's dearest and wisest friends is much too difficult 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 139 

for us to decide upon. The entire work is therefore printed 
here as the joint production of Franklin and Jackson. 

All Franklin's economical works had their origin in the 
social circumstances and public exigencies of the times when 
they were written. They were intended to subserve a defi- 
nite political purpose, and might be called campaign docu- 
ments. They contain, therefore, no system of economic 
thought, no carefully reasoned scheme of philosophy, no 
congeries of laws underlying and interpreting the compli- 
cated fabric of society. Their author is often inconsistent, 
he frequently contradicts himself, and is obviously pursuing 
what he regards as political expediency. 

"A Modest Inquiry into the Nature and Necessity of a 
Paper Currency" was intended primarily to increase "the 
trade, employment, and number of inhabitants in the prov- 
ince," but the hope of securing the printing of the money 
was not absent from the author's thrifty mind. The colonies 
were suffering from lack of currency. Massachusetts, New 
York, Rhode Island, and South Carolina had attempted to 
meet the requirements of their growth by the issue of paper 
money. When Franklin walked the quiet streets of Phila- 
delphia on the memorable Sunday in October, 1723, when 
he first arrived from Burlington, he saw many houses in 
Walnut Street between Second and Front streets with bills 
on their doors, "To be let." In other streets he saw similar 
signs; which, he said, "made me think the inhabitants of 
the city were one after another deserting it." Trade was 
languishing for lack of currency. The balance of trade 
being greatly in favour of Britain, Pennsylvania was totally 
stripped of its gold and silver. Cautiously and fearfully a 
small sum of paper money (1 5,000) was struck in that year. 



140 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Immediately trade revived. The notes were to be called in 
at the end of eight years. About this time (1729) there 
went up a cry among the people for more paper money. The 
clamour was strengthened by Franklin's anonymous pam- 
phlet, and the point was carried by a majority in the House. 
As he had hoped, he was employed to print the money: "A 
very profitable job, and a great help to me. This was an- 
other advantage gained by my being able to write." His 
opinions with regard to paper money experienced consider- 
able fluctuation. In 1729 he appeared to believe that an 
overissue was impossible. In 1781, in his history of the 
"Paper Money of the United States," he ascribed the de- 
preciation of the continental currency to overissue. In 
1765, in his vindication of the colonial paper money, he 
maintained that such currency should be a legal tender: 
"It is therefore hoped that, securing the full discharge of 
British debts, which are payable here, and in all justice and 
reason ought to be fully discharged here, in sterling money, 
the restraint on the legal tender within the colonies will be 
taken off; at least for those colonies that desire it, and 
when the merchants trading to them make no objection 
to it." 1 

In a letter to M. le Veillard (February 17, 1788) he said: 
"Where there is a free government and the people make 
their own laws by their representatives I see no injustice in 
their obliging one another to take their own paper money. 
It is no more so than compelling a man by law to take his 
own note. But it is unjust to pay strangers with such money 
against their will. The making of paper money with such 

1 " Remarks and Facts relative to the American Paper Money " (conclud- 
ing paragraph). 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 141 

a sanction is however a folly, since, although you may by 
law oblige a citizen to take it for his goods, you cannot fix 
his prices; and his liberty of rating them as he pleases, 
which is the same thing as setting what value he pleases on 
your money, defeats your sanction." 

When he wrote his "Remarks and Facts" he opposed 
interest-bearing paper money, saying that wherever the ex- 
periment had been tried "the bills were in a short time 
gathered up and hoarded; it being a very tempting advan- 
tage to have money bearing interest, and the principal all 
the while in a man's power, ready for bargains that may 
offer; which money out on mortgage is not." He shifted 
his ground again when confronted with the serious depre- 
ciation of American currency, and wrote to Samuel Cooper 
(April 22, 1779): "I took all the pains I could in Congress 
to prevent the depreciation, by proposing first, that the bills 
should bear interest ; this was rejected, and they were struck 
as you see them. Secondly, after the first emission, I pro- 
posed that we should stop, strike no more, but borrow on 
interest those we had issued. This was not then approved 
of, and more bills were issued. When, from the too great 
quantity, they began to depreciate, we agreed to borrow on 
interest ; and I proposed that in order to fix the value of the 
principal, the interest should be promised in hard dollars. 
This was objected to as impracticable; but I still continue 
of opinion, that, by sending out cargoes to purchase it, we 
might have brought in money sufficient for that purpose, as 
we brought in powder, etc. " He concludes his letter with : 

"This effect of paper currency is not understood on this 
side the water [France]. And indeed the whole is a mystery 
even to the politicians, how we have been able to continue 



142 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

a war four years without money, and how we could pay 
with paper that had no previously fixed fund appropriated 
specifically to redeem it. This currency, as we manage it, 
is a wonderful machine. It performs its office when we issue 
it; it pays and clothes troops, and provides victuals and 
ammunition; and when we are obliged to issue a quantity 
excessive it pays itself off by depreciation." * 

"Observations concerning the Increase of Mankind and 
the Peopling of Countries" appeared in 1751, when restraints 
were being imposed upon manufactures in the colonies. 
One after another the productive industries were restricted 
or prohibited. Soon after the appointment of Charles 
Townshend's committee of the House of Commons to in- 
quire into the subject of iron manufactures, Franklin's pam- 
phlet was published. It was written as a protest against 
the government's policy of commercial interference and 
restriction, but it is memorable as an important essay in the 
history of the theory of population, to which Malthus and 
Adam Smith and all later students are indebted. Franklin 
argued that on account of the dearness of labour in the colo- 

1 The gravest apprehensions arose from the depreciation of the paper 
money. In 1777 a bushel of salt sold at Baltimore for g. A cow which in 
1776 sold for 6 would sell a year later for 18 or 20. Charles Carroll of 
Carrollton wrote to Franklin (1777) : "I have a coat on, the cloth of which 
is not worth more than ten shillings a yard, and would not have cost more 
eighteen months ago, which lately cost me four pounds ten a yard. Rye 
sells as high as ten shillings a bushel, the distillers give that price to distil it 
into whiskey." 

James Read informed George Read (March 23, 1779) that Vattel's "Laws 
of Nations " would bring $400 and that one volume of Gibbon would cost 
$40. He acknowledged the receipt (July 13, 1779) of $1000 for a mare, and 
on the 2ist of October he bid as high as $55 tor a ream of indifferent writing 
paper, but did not get it because it sold for 75. In 1780 cassimere was $300 
per yard, and jean and habit cloth $60 per yard. ED. 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 143 

nies the danger of their interfering with their mother country 
in trades that depended on manufactures was too remote to 
require the attention of Great Britain. "But in propor- 
tion to the increase of the colonies a vast demand is growing 
for British manufactures, a glorious market wholly in the 
power of Britain, in which foreigners cannot interfere, which 
will increase in a short time even beyond her power of sup- 
plying, though her whole trade should be to her colonies; 
therefore Britain should not too much restrain manufactures 
in her colonies. A wise and good mother will not do it. 
To distress is to weaken, and weakening the children weakens 
the whole family. " 

It would appear that Malthus had not read Franklin 
when he published the first edition of his "Essay on Popula- 
tion" (1798). In the preface to the second edition he con- 
fessed that "in the course of this inquiry I found that much 
more had been done than I had been aware of when I first 
published the essay. " Among his predecessors he mentions 
Franklin, and he adopts from him his rate of increase of 
population in America. In the "Increase of Mankind" 
Franklin says: "There are supposed to be now upwards of 
one million English souls in North America (though it is 
thought scarce eighty thousand has been brought over sea), 
and yet perhaps there is not one the fewer in Britain, but 
rather many more, on account of the employment the colo- 
nies afford to manufactures at home. This million doubling, 
suppose but once in twenty-five years, will, in another cen- 
tury, be more than the people of England, and the greatest 
number of Englishmen will be on this side the water." 
And again he says, "Marriages in America are more 
general, and more generally early, than in Europe. And 



144 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN' FRANKLIN 

if it is reckoned there, that there is but one marriage per 
annum among one hundred persons, perhaps we may here 
reckon two ; and if in Europe they have but four births to a 
marriage (many of their marriages being late), we may here 
reckon eight, of which, if one half grow up, and our marriages 
are made, reckoning one with another, at twenty years of 
age, our people must at least be doubled every twenty years. " 

Malthus also learned from Franklin that luxury acts as 
a preventive check to population. Grasping the full sig- 
nificance of this fact, Malthus rewrote his "Essay," saying 
"throughout the whole of the present work I have so far 
differed in principle from the former as to suppose the action 
of another check to population which does not come under 
the head of either vice or misery. " 

Emigration and all the other problems of population were 
favourite topics of reflection with Franklin, and remarks 
concerning them abound in his writings. One of the most 
powerful of these papers is a letter to the Public Advertiser 
"On a Proposed Act of Parliament for preventing Emigra- 
tion." As to the necessity of the proposed law, he writes: 
"The waters of the ocean may move in currents from one 
quarter of the globe to another, as they happen in some 
places to be accumulated, and in others diminished; but 
no law, beyond the law of gravity, is necessary to prevent 
their abandoning any coast entirely. Thus the different 
degrees of happiness of different countries and situations 
find, or rather make, their level by the flowing of people 
from one to another; and when that level is once found, 
the removals cease. Add to this, that even a real deficiency 
of people in any country, occasioned by a wasting war or 
pestilence, is speedily supplied by earlier and more prolific 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 145 

marriages, encouraged by the greater facility of obtaining 
the means of subsistence. So that a country half depopu- 
lated would soon be repeopled, till the means of subsistence 
were equalled by the population. All increase beyond that 
point must perish, or flow off into more favourable situations. 
Such overflowings there have been of mankind in all ages, 
or we should not now have had so many nations. But to 
apprehend absolute depopulation from that cause, and call 
for a law to prevent it, is calling for a law to stop the 
Thames, lest its waters, by what leave it daily at Gravesend, 
should be quite exhausted." 

" The Interest of Great Britain Considered, with regard to 
her colonies, and the Acquisitions of Canada and Guada- 
loupe" is commonly known as Franklin's "Canada Pam- 
phlet." It was published anonymously in London in 1760 
directly after Wolfe's decisive victory at Quebec. Much 
speculation was then indulged in concerning the terms of 
peace. John Douglas, Bishop of Salisbury, wrote a "Letter 
to two great Men" (Pitt and Newcastle), arguing for the 
retention of Canada as being of greater value to England 
than any West Indian possessions. "Remarks on the 
Letter to two great Men" was anonymously published di- 
rectly afterward. Franklin's pamphlet is a judicial sum- 
mary of both publications and a reinforcement of the position 
taken by John Douglas. Franklin was an imperialist. 
He looked forward to a time when the whole American 
continent should be English. He was therefore impressed 
with the necessity of overcoming the French influence in 
Canada and Louisiana. The ingenuity and dexterity of the 
argument in this able and admirable pamphlet had much 
to do with the retention of Canada by Great Britain. 

VOL. I L 



146 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

"Comparison of Great Britain and the United States in 
regard to the basis of Credit in the two Countries" was 
written in France early in 1777, in order to increase the 
jealousy the Dutch and other moneyed people in Europe 
began to entertain of the English funds, and thereby facilitate 
the loan of ^2,000,000 sterling in compliance with the reso- 
lution of Congress, December 23, 1776. 

"The Internal State of America" and "Information to 
those who would remove to America" were written after 
the treaty of peace and with the object of drawing Euro- 
pean emigrants to America. 

It was part of Franklin's mission in France to influence 
public opinion upon the continent, to stir up strife, and to 
promote a spirit of antagonism to England. This he did 
through the help of many influential correspondents and by 
means of "inspired" articles in the European press. His 
political correspondence with Dr. Ingenhousz in Vienna 
was meant to be submitted to the Empress and Emperor 
of Austria. Ideas hurriedly sketched by Franklin in Paris 
were fully discussed by Dumas in the Courrier de bas Rhin. 
C. S. Pench, editor of Gazette de Utrecht, and Aremberg 
and Sowden in Gazette de Leyde, were prompt to print any 
bit of news or fragment of satire they received from 
Passy. 

It has been said that Franklin was the father of the labour 
theory of value. In his first economic work, "The Nature 
and Necessity of a Paper Currency," published when he 
was twenty-three years of age, he has stated the theory fully 
and carefully. Mr. W. H. Wetzel in an excellent study of 
"Benjamin Franklin as an Economist" has shown, however, 
that he was drawing freely upon Sir William Petty 's "Essay 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 147 

on Taxes and Contributions," which he must have read 
while living in London in 1724. 

Under the influence of Petty he wrote (1729): "Suppose 
one man employed to raise corn while another is digging 
and refining silver. At the year's end, or at any other period 
of time, the complete produce of corn and that of silver are 
the natural price of each other ; and if one be twenty bushels 
and the other twenty ounces, then an ounce of that silver is 
worth the labor of raising a bushel of that corn. Now if 
by the discovery of some nearer more easy or plentiful mines, 
a man may get forty ounces of silver as easily as formerly 
he did twenty, and the same labor is still required to raise 
twenty bushels of corn, then two ounces of silver will be 
worth no more than the same labor of raising one bushel of 
corn and that bushel of corn will be as cheap at two ounces 
as it was before at one, ctzteris paribus. " Forty years later, 
confirmed in his early opinions by his intercourse with the 
French physiocrats, he wrote, in the same strain, to Lord 
Kames (February 21, 1769): "Food is always necessary to 
all, and much the greatest part of the labor of mankind is 
employed in raising provisions for the mouth. Is not this 
kind of labor, then, the fittest to be the standard by which 
to measure the values of all other labor, and consequently 
of all other things whose value depends on the labor of 
making or procuring them? May not even gold and silver 
be thus valued? If the labor of the farmer, in producing a 
bushel of wheat, be equal to the labor of the miner in pro- 
ducing an ounce of silver, will not the bushel of wheat just 
measure the value of the ounce of silver?" 

Turgot has been described as "the first who tried to give 
a scientific explanation of Natural Interest on capital." 



148 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Franklin, a half century before Turgot published his "Re- 
flections," thought out the same "fructification theory." He 
says that the "natural standard of usury" appears to be 
"when the security is undoubted, at least the rent of so 
much land as the money lent will buy. For it cannot be 
expected, that any man will lend his money for less than it 
would fetch -him in as rent if he laid it out in land, which 
is the most secure property in the world. But if the security 
is casual, then a kind of ensurance must be interwoven with 
the simple natural interest, which may advance the usury 
very conscionably to any height below the principal itself. 
Now, among us, if the value of land is twenty years purchase, 
five per cent is the just rate of interest for money lent on 
undoubted security." 

Under the influence of the physiocrats Franklin came to 
believe that agriculture was the only legitimate source of 
wealth ; and the most honourable occupation that of the tiller 
of the soil. It is, he declares, "the most useful, the most 
independent, and therefore the noblest of employments." 
"The great business of the continent is agriculture." "The 
agriculture and fisheries of the United States are the great 
sources of our increasing wealth. He that puts a seed into 
the earth is recompensed, perhaps, by receiving twenty out 
of it, and he who draws a fish out of our water, draws up a 
piece of silver." "I am one of that class of people that 
feeds you all and at present is abused by you all. In short 
I am a farmer." "Finally there seem to be but three ways 
for a nation to acquire wealth. The first is by war, as the 
Romans did, in plundering their conquered neighbours. 
This is robbery. The second by commerce, which is generally 
cheating. The third by agriculture, the only honest way, 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 149 

wherein man receives a real increase of the seed thrown into 
the ground, in a kind of continual miracle, wrought by the 
hand of God in his favour, as a reward for his innocent life 
and his virtuous industry." 

Agricultural labour, according to his way of thinking, fixes 
the natural price of commodities. "His rate of interest is a 
natural rate, determined by the rent of so much land as the 
money lent will buy. Freedom of trade is based on a natural 
right. Manufactures will naturally spring up in a country 
as the country becomes ripe for them. His law of the in- 
crease of population is based on the more fundamental law 
in nature that numbers are constantly crowding subsistence. 
The law of the adjustment of population among the differ- 
ent countries of the world is a natural law based on the 
comparative well being of mankind" (Wetzel). He says of 
England, "This country is fond of manufactures beyond 
their real value, for the true source of riches is husbandry. 
Only agriculture is truly productive of new wealth." 

Franklin was an unfaltering believer in free trade : "There 
cannot be a stronger natural right than that of a man's making 
the best profit he can of the natural produce of his lands. " 
The latter day schools of free traders seem to have borrowed 
much from him. In the midst of the recent fiscal contro- 
versy in England, Franklin's "Wail of a Protected Manu- 
facturer" was several times reprinted and widely circulated : 

" Suppose a country, X, which has three industries cloth, silk, iron 
and supplies three other countries A, B, and C therewith, wishes 
to increase the sale and raise the price of cloth in favour of its cloth- 
makers. 

" To that end X prohibits the importation of cloth from A. 

" In retaliation A prohibits silks coming from X. 



ISO THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

" The workers in silk complain of the decline in their trade. 
" To satisfy them X excludes silk from B. 
B, to retaliate, shuts out iron and hardware against X. 
" Then the makers of iron and hardware cry out that their trades are 
being ruined. 

" So X closes its doors against iron and hardware from C. 
"In return C refuses to take cloth from X. 
" Who is the gainer by all these prohibitions ? 

" ANSWER 

" All the four countries have diminished their common fund of the 
enjoyments and conveniences of life." 

For a particularly clear and cogent presentation of his 
views upon free trade, the reader should refer to his exceed- 
ingly interesting letter to Peter Collinson (April 30, 1764), 
which is here for the first time printed: "In time perhaps 
mankind may be wise enough to let trade take its own course, 
find its own channels, and regulate its own Proportions, etc. 
At present most of the Edicts of Princes, Placaerts, Laws and 
Ordinances of Kingdoms and States for that purpose, prove 
political blunders. The Advantages they produce not being 
general for the Commonwealth; but particular, to private 
persons or bodies in the State who procured them, and at 
the expense of the rest of the people." 

Franklin's ideal was a life of thrift, caution, comfort, and 
husbandry. He regarded with grave apprehension the 
growth of luxuries in America. "The eyes of other people, " 
he exclaimed, "are the eyes that ruin us." In all seasons 
he preached the virtues of eager industry and of "settled 
low content. " He wrote to his favourite sister when he was 
twenty years of age: "I have been thinking what would be 
a suitable present for me to make, and for you to receive, 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 151 

as I hear you are grown a celebrated beauty. I had almost 
determined on a tea-table; but when I consider that the 
character of a good housewife was far preferable to that of 
being only a pretty gentlewoman, I concluded to send you a 
spinning-wheel, which I hope you will accept as a small token 
of my sincere love and affection. " * In his last will and testa- 
ment, signed by him two years before his death, the same 
sentiment found expression in the following bequest: "The 
King of France's picture set with four hundred and eight 
diamonds, I give to my daughter, Sarah Bache, requesting 
however, that she would not form any of those diamonds 
into ornaments either for herself or daughters, and thereby 
introduce or countenance the expensive, vain, and useless 
fashion of wearing jewels in this country." His favourite 
motto which he never wearied of repeating was "industry 
and frugality. " I have noted seventy-three repetitions of it, 
and there are many more. To Joseph Galloway (December 
i, 1767) he wrote: "You appear to me to point out the true 
cause of the general distress, viz. the late luxurious mode of 
living introduced by a too great plenty of cash. It is indeed 
amazing to consider, that we had a quantity sufficient before 
the war began, and that the war added immensely to that 
quantity, by the sums spent among us by the crown, and the 
paper struck and issued in the province ; and now in so few 
years all the money spent by the crown is gone away, and has 
carried with it all the gold and silver we had before, leaving 
us bare and empty, and at the same time more in debt to 
England than ever we were. But I am inclined to think, 
that the mere making more money will not mend our 
circumstances, if we do not return to that industry and 

1 To Jane Franklin, Philadelphia, January 6, 1726-27. 



152 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

frugality which were the fundamental causes of our former 
prosperity. " 

Franklin's school of politics was the General Assembly, 
the representative body of the province of Pennsylvania. 
His political discipline was obtained, and his dexterity in 
managing men and promoting public measures was devel- 
oped, in the long and bitter feud between the Assembly and 
the Proprietary. The vast estate of William Penn, compris- 
ing about twenty-six million acres, paid to the king one-fifth 
of the gold and silver which the province might yield. Over 
it all Penn presided, as captain-general, invested with the 
power of making war and administering justice. Upon his 
death the property descended to his sons, John, Thomas, 
and Richard; one-half going to the eldest son, John, who 
died in 1746, leaving his share to Thomas. The Proprie- 
taries, as they were called, during the fifteen years of acri- 
monious controversy, in which Franklin played a principal 
part, were therefore Thomas and Richard Penn, the former 
being owner of three-fourths of the vast property. The 
Proprietaries ruled by a deputy governor, an official who 
lived a troubled life. He held his office by appointment 
from his masters in England ; he derived his salary from the 
Assembly. He received explicit "instructions" from the 
Proprietaries, defining precisely the terms upon which he 
could treat with the people. However he acted he was sure 
to offend. If he obeyed his "instructions" he forfeited his 
salary; if he ignored his "instructions" he sacrificed his 
office. Money was imperatively needed for public works 
and for the defence of the province. The Assembly would 
not vote money unless the property of the Proprietaries 
should be taxed on like terms with other estates. The gov- 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 153 

ernor, obedient to the inalterable "instructions," vetoed every 
measure which did not exempt that property from taxation. 
Even in times of great public peril the Penns refused to 
permit the slightest infringement of their prerogative. 

The Quakers, who represented two-fifths of the English 
population, could not be induced to vote money for military 
purposes. In their quarrel with the Proprietaries they desired 
"that they [the Penns] would either exercise the Government 
over us themselves, or according to the original Contract leave 
themselves jutty represented by a person of integrity, candour 
and a peaceable disposition for while their Deputy is of a 
different disposition, and continues limited by Instructions 
inconsistent with our Rights and Liberties we cannot expect 
the Government will be conducted with Prudence or sup- 
ported with satisfaction." 

Every part of the civil government imposed some duty 
upon Franklin. The governor put him into the commission 
of the peace; the corporation of the city chose him of the 
common council, and soon after an alderman; and the 
citizens at large chose him a burgess to represent them in 
the Assembly. Of most of these municipal activities no 
record remains, and he has stinted his narrative of the trans- 
actions of the Assembly. The Proprietaries were greatly 
incensed at his constant efforts to secure equitable taxation 
of all lands in the province, but he seems, after 1754, to 
have made no attempt by direct or indirect means to win 
their favour. 

At the time of the Albany Conference, Franklin could 
say of Thomas Penn, with modesty enough and likelihood 
to lead it: "The Truth is, I have sought his Interest more 
than his Favour; others perhaps have sought both, and ob- 



154 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

tain'd at least the latter. But in my Opinion Great Men are 
not always best serv'd by such as show on all Occasions a 
blind Attachment to them." A year after Braddock's dis- 
aster he said of the proprietor and his party: "If I have 
offended them by acting right, I can, whenever I please, re- 
verse their Displeasure by acting wrong. ... I have some 
natural Dislike to Persons who so far love Money as to be 
unjust for its sake: I despise their -meanness (as it appears 
to me) in several late Instances, most cordially, and am 
thankful that I never had any Connection with them, or 
Occasion to ask or receive a Favour at their Hands. For 
now I am persuaded that I do not oppose their Views from 
Pique, Disappointment or personal Resentment, but, as I 
think, from a Regard to the Publick Good. I may be mis- 
taken in what is that Publick good, but at least I mean 
well. And whenever they appear to me to have the Publick 
Good in View, I think I would as readily serve them as if 
they were my best Friends. I am sometimes asham'd for 
them, when I see them differing with their People for Trifles, 
and instead of being ador'd as they might be, like Demi Gods, 
become the Objects of universal Hatred and Contempt. " * 

Of Franklin's political writings "Plain Truth," "The 
Plan of Union," "Letters to Shirley," " Militia Act, " "Dia- 
logue of X. Y. Z.," "A Narrative of the late Massacre in 
Lancaster County," "Cool Thoughts," and the "Preface 
to Joseph Galloway's Speech, " belong to this period of war- 
fare between the Assembly and the Proprietary. 

"Plain Truth" was written in November, 1747, at a time 
when Pennsylvania was threatened by French and Spanish 
privateers. Ships were captured and plantations plundered, 

1 To Peter Collinson, November 5, 1756. 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 155 

while the Quakers, true to their principles, refused to raise 
troops or to contribute to the fortification of the river. The 
wealthy merchants and leaders, opposed to the Quakers, re- 
fused to put the county and city in a state of defence because 
they would not lay out their money to protect the Quakers. 
This was the situation that called forth the indignation of 
Franklin: "And is our prospect better," he asked, after 
discussing the invincible obstinacy of the Quakers, "if we 
turn our Eyes to the Strength of the opposite Party, those 
Great and rich Men, Merchants, and others, who are ever 
railing at Quakers for doing what their Principles seem to 
require, and what in Charity we ought to believe they think 
their Duty, but take no Step themselves for the publick 
Safety? They have so much Wealth and Influence, if they 
would use it, that they might easily, by their Endeavours 
and Example raise a military Spirit among us, make us fond, 
studious of, and expert in, martial Discipline, and affect 
every Thing that is necessary, under God, for our Protection. 
But Envy seems to have taken Possession of their Hearts, 
and to have eaten out and destroyed every generous, noble, 
publick-spirited Sentiment. Rage at the Disappointment of 
their little Schemes for Power, gnaws their Souls, and fills 
them with such cordial Hatred to their Opponents, that 
every Proposal, by the Execution of which those may re- 
ceive benefit as well as themselves, is rejected with Indigna- 
tion. 'What,' say they, 'shall we lay out our Money to 
protect the Trade of Quakers? Shall we fight to defend 
Quakers? No; let the Trade perish and the City burn; 
let what will happen, we shall never lift a Finger to prevent 
it.' Yet the Quakers have Conscience to plead for their 
Resolution not to fight, which these Gentlemen have not. . . . 



156 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

'Till of late, I could scarce believe the Story of him who re- 
fused to pump in a sinking Ship, because one on board, whom 
he hated, would be saved by it as well as himself. But such, 
it seems, is the unhappiness of human Nature, that our 
Passions, when violent, often are too hard for the united 
force of Reason, Duty, and Religion." 

The martial spirit rose in the colony with the reading of 
this spirited pamphlet. Thousands of men voluntarily sub- 
scribed themselves members of the association of defence, 
formed themselves into companies and regiments, chose their 
own officers, and met every week to be instructed in military 
discipline. 

In 1754 war with France being again apprehended a 
Congress of Commissioners from the different colonies was, 
by order of the Lords of Trade, to be assembled at Albany, 
there to confer with the chiefs of the Six Nations, "con- 
cerning the means of defending both their country and 
ours." Governor Hamilton acquainted the House with the 
order, and appointed Norris and Franklin to join Thomas 
Perm and Secretary Peters, as commissioners to act for Penn- 
sylvania. A rather full representation of the state of the 
colonies was drawn up by them and sent home to the minis- 
try with the proceedings. Franklin projected the Plan of 
Union and drew it, but he was obliged, contrary to his judg- 
ment, to alter many things in it, and he foresaw that the 
colonies were unlikely to act upon it so as to agree to it. 
He wrote to Collinson (December 29, 1754): "Everybody 
cries, a Union is absolutely necessary; but when they come 
to the manner and form of the union, their weak Noddles 
are perfectly distracted. So if ever there be an Union it 
must be formed at home by the Ministry and Parliament." 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 157 

The several colonies, intent upon their particular disputes, 
neglected and obstructed the general interest. Again and 
again Franklin reiterated his warning that no American war 
could ever be well carried on without some plan of UNION. 
The Assembly voted supplies of money for the conduct of 
the war, and the governor refused to allow the property of 
the Proprietary to be taxed, "except for a trifling part of his 
estate; the quit-rents, located unimproved lands, Money at 
interest, etc., being exempted by instructions to the governor. " 
After the rejection of the Albany Plan of Union, Franklin 
wrote to Collinson: "I am heartily sick of our present situ- 
ation; I like neither the governor's conduct, nor the As- 
sembly's ; and having some share in the Confidence of both, 
I have endeavoured to reconcile 'em but in vain, and between 
'em they make me very uneasy. I was chosen last Year in 
my absence and was not at the Winter sitting when the 
House sent home that Address to the King which I am 
afraid was both ill-judged and ill-timed. If my being able 
now and then to influence a good Measure did not keep up 
my spirits I should be ready to swear never to serve again as 
an Assembly Man, since both sides expect more from me 
than they ought, and blame me sometimes for not doing 
what I am not able to do, as well as for not preventing what 
was not in my power to prevent. The Assembly ride res- 
tive; and the Governor tho' he spurs with both heels, at 
the same time reins-in with both hands, so that the Publick 
Business can never move forward, and he remains like St. 
George on the sign, always a Horseback and never going on. 
Did you never hear this old catch? 

" There was a mad man he had a mad wife, 
And three mad sons beside ; 



1 58 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

And they all got upon a mad horse, 
And madly they did ride." 

'Tis a compendium of our Proceedings and may save you 
the Trouble of reading them." l 

A few weeks after these words were written Braddock 
met his terrible defeat near Fort Duquesne. Franklin had 
been urgent in obtaining supplies for the king's troops. He 
had been sent to Virginia to explain why the Assembly had 
refused to vote money for the king's service, and as Post- 
master-general to arrange a plan of communication between 
General Braddock and the colonial governors. 

Braddock's progress was impeded by want of wagons. 
His officers had scoured Virginia and Maryland in vain in 
search of wagons. Franklin undertook to provide the 
requisite means of transportation. With his son he rode 
to Lancaster and published an advertisement to the farmers 
stating the terms upon which wagons and horses were to be 
hired. 

The Pennsylvanian farmers liked not the security that was 
offered. Franklin has told the story in the Autobiography, 
and has told how he partly overcame the suspicions and 
prejudices of the farmers, and how he became personally 
responsible for the wagons that were at last sent to Braddock, 
but he has not told the sequel to that story. 

General Braddock, delighted at the postmaster's success 
by which his march northward was made possible, wrote to 
the Secretary of State (June 5, 1755) : 

"Before I left Williamsburg, the Quartermaster-General 
told me that I might depend upon twenty-five hundred horses 
and two hundred wagons from Virginia and Maryland; but 

iJo Peter Collinson, June 26, 1755. 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 159 

I had great reason to doubt it, having experienced the false 
dealings of all in this country with whom I had been con- 
cerned. Hence, before my departure from Frederic, I 
agreed with Mr. Benjamin Franklin, postmaster in Penn- 
sylvania, who has great credit in that province, to have one 
hundred and fifty wagons, and the necessary number of 
horses. This he accomplished with promptitude and fidel- 
ity, and it is almost the only instance of address and fidelity 
which I have seen in all these provinces." 

Franklin became personally responsible for the payment 
for horses, wagons, and provisions. He advanced for the 
service, of his own, about thirteen hundred pounds. As 
soon as the disaster to Braddock was known he was called 
upon for the valuation which he had given bonds to pay. 
William Shirley wrote from Oswego (September 17, 1755), 
to thank him for his patriotic and effective zeal. He said: 
"As to the affair of the wagons and horses, which you en- 
gaged for the use of the late General Braddock' s army, I 
think it of the utmost consequence that all such engagements 
or contracts for the public service should be most punctually 
complied with ; and, had I known the circumstances of this, 
I should before now have enabled you to make good those 
you entered into, by the late General's order, for the expedi- 
tion to the Ohio ; not only because common justice demands 
it, but that such public spirited services deserve the highest 
encouragement. I now write to Governor Morris to appoint 
three good men to liquidate and adjust those accounts, and 
shall direct Mr. Johnson, the paymaster, immediately to 
pay what they report to be due for that service, according to 
the enclosed warrant. 

" Though I am at present engaged in a great hurry of 



160 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

business, being to move from hence in a very few days for 
Niagara, I cannot conclude without assuring you, that I 
have the highest sense of your public services in general, 
and particularly that of engaging those wagons without 
which General Braddock could not have proceeded." 

Fortunately for Franklin, Braddock had returned to him 
the major part of the money he had advanced, but the re- 
mainder was never paid. The accounts were examined 
and certified to be correct, but Lord Loudoun, who suc- 
ceeded General Shirley, declined to give an order upon the 
paymaster for the amount, declaring that he did not wish to 
mix his accounts with those of his predecessors. He recom- 
mended Franklin to apply to the Treasury in London, where, 
doubtless, payment would promptly be made. Not a penny 
was ever received by Franklin from the Treasury. 

The events of that year were chronicled in a pamphlet 
entitled a "Brief View of the Conduct of Pennsylvania for 
the Year 1755." It was believed in England to be written 
by William Smith, but Franklin wrote to Collinson : " 'Tis 
generally supposed to be the Governor's (with some Help 
from one or two others) as his Messages are fill'd with the 
same Sentiments and almost the same Expressions. He is, 
I think, the rashest and most indiscreet Governor that I have 
known, and will do more Mischief to the Proprietaries Interest 
than Good, and make them more Enemies than Friends." * 

The Assembly showed no inclination to reply to the 
" Brief View." 2 The design evidently was to get the Quakers 

1 To Peter Collinson, August 27, 1755. 

2 " A Brief State of the Province of Pennsylvania. In a Letter from a Gen- 
tleman who has resided many years in Pennsylvania to his Friend in London." 
London, 1756 (written December, 1754). "A Brief View of the Conduct 
of Pennsylvania, for the year 1755. In a Second Letter to a Friend in Lon- 
don." London, 1756. 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 161 

out of the Assembly on the pretence that they could not or 
would not do the duty of Assemblymen in defending the 
country. "If the end," said Franklin, "was simply to get 
the Country defended by Grants of Money the Quakers 
have now shown that they can give and dispose of Money 
for that purpose as freely as any People. If this does not 
give Satisfaction, the Pique against them must seem to be 
personal and private and not formed on Views for the Publick 
good. I know the Quakers now think it their Duty, when 
chosen, to consider themselves as Representatives of the 
Whole People, and not of their own Sect only ; they consider 
the public Money as raised from and belonging to the 
Whole Publick, and not to their Sect only, and therefore 
tho' they can neither bear Arms themselves nor compel 
others to do it, yet very lately when our Frontier Inhabitants 
who are chiefly Presbyterians or Churchmen, thought them- 
selves in Danger, and the Poor among them were unable to 
provide Arms, and petitioned the House, a Sum was voted 
for these purposes, and put into the Hands of a Committee 
to procure and supply them. ... To me it seems that if 
Quakerism (as to the matter of Defence) be excluded the 
House, there is no Necessity to exclude Quakers, who in 
other Respects make good and useful Members. I am 
supposed to have had a principal Share in prevailing with 
the House to make their late generous Grants to Braddock 
and Shirley, and the Bill for giving 50,000, and the Gov- 
ernor and his few Friends are angry with me for disappoint- 
ing them by that Means of a fresh Accusation against the 
Quakers." 1 
Intense feeling was engendered among the partisans of 

1 To Collinson, August 27, 1755. 
VOL. I M 



1 62 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

the Proprietary and the adherents of the Assembly. Mali- 
cious falsehoods were circulated concerning Franklin. Those 
who caressed him, to use his own words, a few months before, 
were now endeavouring to defame him everywhere by every 
base act. Such was his abhorrence of this kind of alterca- 
tion that he was sorely tempted to remove to Connecticut. 
The far-away echo of these slanders came to him from his 
friends abroad. Many of them were but trifling and ludi- 
crous vapou rings of envy and impotent malice. He was 
accused of riding abroad surrounded by soldiers with drawn 
swords, a romance which grew out of the circumstance that 
upon his departure for Virginia, twenty officers of his regi- 
ment with about thirty grenadiers accompanied him from 
his house to the ferry, about three miles from town, and 
took it in their heads to ride about two hundred yards with 
their swords drawn. "This was the only Instance of the 
Kind, for tho' a greater Number met me at my Return, 
they did not ride with drawn Swords, having been told that 
Ceremony was improper unless to compliment some Person 
of great Distinction. I who am totally ignorant of Military 
Ceremonies, and above all things averse to making Show 
and Parade, or doing any useless Thing that can serve only 
to excite Envy or provoke Malice, suffer'd at the Time much 
more Pain than I enjoy'd Pleasure and have never since 
given an Opportunity for any thing of the Sort." 1 

Terrible as was the disaster that had overtaken Brad- 
dock, and in the midst of the general apprehension of an 
invasion of the province, the Assembly and the governor 
maintained their hostile and unyielding attitude. "The 
shocking news of the strange, unprecedented and ignomini- 

1 To Collinson, November 5, 1756. 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 163 

ous defeat of Braddock," said the younger Franklin, "had 
no more effect upon Governor Morris than the miracles of 
Moses had on the heart of Pharaoh." In the autumn the 
war was resumed. The Indians scalped white families 
within seventy-five miles of Philadelphia. The Penns, 
alarmed by an indignant public sentiment in England, or- 
dered 5000 to be added in their name to any sum that 
might be voted by the Assembly for defence. The din of 
controversy ceased for a time. The Assembly voted 60,000, 
exempting, under protest, the estates of the Proprietaries, 
and appointed Franklin one of the seven commissioners to 
expend it. 

A militia bill prepared by Franklin was hurriedly adopted. 
Many, however, refused to enlist because Quakers were 
exempted from bearing arms. To enlighten the public 
mind with regard to the Militia Act, and to shame the recal- 
citrant into compliance with its terms, he wrote for the 
Pennsylvania Gazette, "A Dialogue between X. Y. & Z. 
concerning the present State of Affairs in Pennsylvania." 
The article had great effect, and its concluding appeal was 
taken to heart by many readers: "O my friends, let us on 
this occasion cast from us all these little party views, and 
consider ourselves as Englishmen and Pennsylvanians. Let 
us think only of the service of our King, the honour and 
safety of our country, and vengeance on its murdering 
enemies. If good be done, what imports it by whom 'tis 
done? The glory of serving and saving others is superior 
to the advantage of being served or secured. Let us reso- 
lutely and generously unite in our country's cause (in which 
to die is the sweetest of all deaths), and may the God of 
Armies bless our honest endeavours." 



1 64 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

The remainder of Franklin's political pamphlets and ad- 
dresses occasioned by the proprietary quarrel and the events 
of Pennsylvanian history lie beyond the period at which 
Franklin ceased to tell the story of his life, and they may 
therefore more appropriately be described in the terminal 
essay upon the later life of Franklin in the tenth volume of 
this edition. 

I must in this place, however, refer to the inclu- 
sion in Mr. Bigelow's fifth edition of the "Life of Benja- 
min Franklin," of "A Speech intended to have been spoken 
on the Bill for Altering the Charters of the Colony of the 
Massachusetts Bay." This speech has always been attrib- 
uted to Jonathan Shipley, the Bishop of St. Asaph. Mr. 
Bigelow is convinced that Franklin was really the author of 
it. He attributes it to him on the strength of the form and 
matter of the document, which are such that he believes "no 
man in England, or elsewhere in 1774, could have written 
this discourse but Benjamin Franklin." He finds nothing 
in the early editions of the speech to give any intimation of 
its parentage. "It does not state, but seems to deliberately 
avoid stating who it was that 'intended' that it should be 
spoken on that occasion." 

With extreme reluctance I find it impossible to accept 
Mr. Bigelow's conclusions. He has lived for many years 
in close companionship with the works of Franklin. He 
knows more about their illustrious author than any living 
scholar. In this instance, however, there are countervailing 
circumstances that seem to me to be fatal to his contention. 
Bishop Shipley and Benjamin Franklin were intimate friends, 
who lived together upon terms of extremest confidence and 

^ 

affection. The bishop looked upon the political situation 



POLITICAL AND ECONOMICAL WORKS 165 

through the spectacles of Franklin, and he had the cause of 
his friend and of his friend's country so much at heart that 
to aid it he was willing to sacrifice his personal advantage 
and profit. It is not surprising therefore that out of the 
correspondence and conversation of these two friends, so 
sympathetic and patriotic, should come from the lesser man 
works which expressed the convictions and echoed the 
manner of the greater one. Until the present time no doubt 
as to the authorship of the speech has arisen. It has tradi- 
tionally been accepted as the work of the Bishop of St. Asaph. 
In the collection of Franklin papers in The American Philo- 
sophical Society is a list of pamphlets relating to America 
written between 1769 and 1775. And on this list, in Frank- 
lin's handwriting, appears "Speech intended to be delivered 
by the Bishop of St. Asaph in the House of Lords." 

When news reached Franklin that his dearest friend in 
Great Britain was dead, he wrote a tender and affectionate 
letter of condolence to the daughter, Miss Catherine Louisa 
Shipley (April 27, 1789): "That excellent man has then 
left us ! His departure is a loss, not to his family and friends 
only, but to his nation, and to the world ; for he was intent 
on doing good, had wisdom to devise the means, and talents 
to promote them. His ' Sermon before the Society for Propa- 
gating the Gospel,' and his 'Speech intended to have been 
spoken' are proofs of his ability as well as his humanity. 
Had his counsels in those pieces been attended to by the min- 
isters, how much bloodshed might have been prevented, and 
how much expense and disgrace to the nation avoided." 

I cannot believe that, if the facts were as Mr. Bigelow 
imagines, Franklin, in writing to assuage a daughter's grief, 
would have thus referred in terms of high eulogy to a work 



1 66 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

of his own put forth to the world under the other's name. 
His praise would have been an idle mockery and his pro- 
fessions of sympathy a shallow pretence. 

SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 

That species of drollery which is called American humour, 
first assumed in "Poor Richard's Almanac," and in the col- 
umns of the Pennsylvania Gazette, the literary form by which 
it has since been known. Humour was native and sponta- 
neous with Franklin. The moment after he had seen the 
serious side of anything he saw the comic side of it. His 
juvenile contributions to the New England Courant abound 
with rollicking fun. Upon his first visit to England he says 
that he was esteemed by his fellow-journeymen printers "a 
pretty good Riggite, that is a jocular verbal satirist." It is 
said that Jefferson explained that Franklin was not asked to 
write the Declaration of Independence because he could not 
have refrained from putting a joke into it. Like Talley- 
rand, he found nonsense singularly refreshing, and said that 
mirth and pleasantry "have a secret charm in them to allay 
the heats and tumours of our spirits and to make a man 
forget his restless resentments." 

It is surprising that Franklin's editors have never re- 
printed the Dogood papers. There can be no doubt about 
their authorship. They bear the unmistakable Franklin 
stamp. And Franklin himself mentions them in the mem- 
oranda which he jotted down for his guidance when about 
to begin the Autobiography. They have considerable 
literary merit; they are full of interest; and they abound 
in humour and satire. Franklin was but sixteen years old . 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 167 

when he commenced his literary career with the first of 
these anonymous papers, stealthily written, and surrepti- 
tiously and timidly thrust under the door of his brother's 
printing house. The fourteen Dogood papers, here printed 
for the first time since they were consigned to the dusty 
sepulchre of the New England Courant, are never dull, and 
they reveal with remarkable completeness the mind of the 
precocious, restless, inquisitive boy. Mrs. Dogood writes 
"of the lamentable Condition of Widows," and of those 
"penitent Mortals of the Fair Sex that are like to be punished 
with their Virginity until old Age for the Pride and Insolence 
of their Youth." In one letter is "a Receipt to make a 
New England Funeral Elegy," in another a diatribe upon 
"Pride and Hoop Petticoats," and in another a sharp satire 
upon Harvard College. 

The Pennsylvania Gazette was published by Franklin 
from 1729 to 1757, and in its earlier years at least was prac- 
tically written by him from beginning to end. Its paragraphs 
are full of extravagance, recklessness, and occasional irrev- 
erence. A correspondent is made to write: "I am about 
courting a girl I have had but little acquaintance with; 
how shall I come to a knowledge of her faults, and whether 
she has the virtues I imagine she has?" "Commend her 
among her female acquaintance" is the unexpected answer. 

Another paragraph runs: "We hear from Birmingham, 
in Warwickshire, that a certain Tradesman's Wife of that 
Place dying on a Tuesday, her Husband buried on the Wed- 
nesday, married again on the Thursday, his new Wife was 
brought to bed on the Friday, and he hanged himself on the 
Saturday. A fine -week's work truly!" 

Here is a bit of local news as reported by Franklin: "An 



1 63 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

unhappy man, one Sturgis, upon some difference with his 
wife, determined to drown himself in the river, and she 
(kind wife) went with him, it seems, to see it faithfully per- 
formed, and accordingly stood by silent and unconcerned 
during the whole transaction: He jumped in near Carpen- 
ter's Wharf, but was timely taken out again, before what he 
came about was thoroughly effected, so that they were both 
obliged to return home as they came, and put up for that 
time with the disappointment." 

He would sometimes write a fictitious letter to the news- 
paper, and follow it with several imaginary replies in the 
next issue. Upon one occasion he prints : 

"MR. FRANKLIN: 

Pray let the prettiest Creature in this Place know (by 
publishing this), that if it was not for her Affectation she 
would be absolutely irresistible." 

Next week (November 27, 1735) appeared the following 
replies : 

"MR. FRANKLIN: 

I cannot conceive who your Correspondent means by 'the 
prettiest creature' in this Place; but I can assure either him 
or her, that she who is truly so, has no Affectation at all." 

"Sm, Since your last Week's Paper I have look'd in my 
Glass a thousand Times, I believe, in one way; and if it 
was not for the Charge of Affectation I might, without Par- 
tiality believe myself the Person meant." 

"MR. FRANKLIN: I must own that several have told 
me, I am the prettiest Creature in this Place; but I believe 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 169 

I shou'd not have been tax'd with Affectation if I cou'd have 
thought as well of them as they do of themselves." 

"SiR: Your sex calls me pretty; my own affected. Is 
it from Judgment in the one or Envy in the other?" 

"MR. FRANKLIN: They that call me affected are greatly 
Mistaken; for I don't know that I ever refus'd a kiss to any 
Body but a Fool." 

"FRIEND FRANKLIN: I am not at all displeased at being 
charged with Affectation. Thou know'st the vain People 
call Decency of Behaviour by that Name." 

A peruke maker in Second Street, Philadelphia, adver- 
tised that he would "leave off the shaving business after 
the 22d of August next." Franklin's comment was that 
barbers were peculiarly fitted for politics, for they were adept 
shavers and trimmers, "which will naturally lead us to con- 
sider the near relation which subsists between shaving, trim- 
ming and politics." He concludes with congratulating the 
people upon the barber's retirement from business, saying, 
"I am of opinion that all possible encouragement ought to 
be given to Examples of this kind." The indignant adver- 
tiser wrote to the publisher for an explanation of his eccentric 
comment, whereupon Franklin replied that he had no ani- 
mosity against the person whose advertisement he had made 
the topic of his paper, and that his article should be con- 
demned he could only impute to a "Want of taste and relish 
for pieces of that force and beauty which none but a Univer- 
sity bred gentleman can produce." 

He does not spare himself when he is in the mood for 
raillery. "On Thursday last," he says in the Gazette, "a 



170 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

certain P r ('tis not customary to give names at length 

on these occasions) walking carefully in clean clothes over 
some barrels of tar on Carpenter's Wharf, the head of one 
of them unluckily gave way, and let a leg of him in above 
the knee. Whether he was upon the Catch at that time, we 
cannot say, but 'tis certain he caught a Tar-tar. 'Twas 
observed he sprang out again right briskly, verifying the 
common saying, As nimble as a Bee in a Tar barrel. You 
must know there are several sorts of bees: 'tis true he was 
no honey bee, nor yet a humble bee : but a Boo-Bee he may 
be allowed to be, namely B. F." 

He inserted in the Gazette of June 30, 1737, the following 
advertisement' of] his wife's lost property: "Taken out of 
a Pew in the Church some months since, a Common- Prayer 
Book, bound in Red, gilt, and letter'd D. F. on each corner. 
The Person who took it is desir'd to open it, and read the 
Eighth Commandment, and afterwards return it into the 
same Pew again; upon which no further Notice will be 
taken." 

Here is a gibe at a rival newspaper : 

"MR. FRANKLIN: 

I am the Author of a Copy of Verses in the last Mercury. 
It was my real Intention to appear open, and not basely 
with my Vizard on, attack a Man who had fairly unmasked. 
Accordingly I subscribed my Name at full Length, in my 

Manuscript sent to my Brother B d; but he, for some 

incomprehensible Reason, inserted the two initial Letters 
only, viz. B. L. 'Tis true, every Syllable of the Perform- 
ance discovers me to be the Author; but as I meet with 
much Censure on the Occasion, I request you to inform 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 171 

the Publick, that I did not desire my name should be con- 
ceal'd ; and that the remaining Letters are, O, C, K, H, E, 
A, D." 

Unfortunately, it is impossible without offence to quote 
many of his briefer paragraphs. We may track him 
through the thirty years of the Gazette by the smudgy trail 
he leaves behind him. His humour is coarse and his mood 
of mind Rabelaisian. His "salt imagination" delights in 
greasy jests and tales of bawdry. He came of a grimy race 
of hard-handed blacksmiths, and they had set their mark 
on him. With all his astonishing quickness and acute- 
ness of intellect and his marvellous faculty of adaptation, he 
remained to the end of life the proletarian, taking an unclean 
pleasure in rude speech and coarse innuendo. He out- 
Smolletts Smollett in his letters to young women at home 
and experienced matrons abroad. Among the manuscripts 
in the Library of Congress, and in the columns of his news- 
paper and the introductions to "Poor Richard," are pro- 
ductions of his pen, the printing of which would not be tol- 
erated by the public sentiment of the present age. It is no 
use blinking the fact that Franklin's animal instincts and 
passions were strong and rank, that they led him to the com- 
mission of many deplorable errata, in his life, and that the 
taint of an irredeemable vulgarity is upon much of his con- 
duct. As is said of Angelo in the play, "I am sorry, one so 
learned and so wise, should slip so grossly." 

The best of the essays in the Gazette I have reprinted, 
including six that have not previously been included in the 
collected works. "The Essays on Government" which were 
published by Sparks and Bigelow, are acknowledged in a 



172 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

later issue of the Gazette to have been written by John 
Webbe. 

His fondness for practical joking led him to compose 
certain canards which to his great amusement deceived 
many careful readers. Such were the famous "Speech of 
Polly Baker," "Edict of the King of Prussia," "Supplement 
to the Boston Chronicle," "Parable against Persecution," "A 
Paraphrase of a Chapter of Job," "On the Means of dis- 
posing the Enemy to Peace." Jefferson tells the story of 
the Abbe" Raynal's credulity in accepting the trial of Polly 
Baker as sober history. "The Doctor and Silas Deane," he 
says, " were in conversation one day at Passy on the numerous 
errors in the Abbess 'Histoire des deux Indes,' when he 
happened to step in. After the usual salutations, Silas 
Deane said to him, 'The Doctor and myself, Abbe", were just 
speaking of the errors of fact into which you have been led 
in your history.' 'Oh, no, Sir,' said the Abbe", 'that is im- 
possible. I took the greatest care not to insert a single fact 
for which I had not the most unquestionable authority.' 
'Why,' says Deane, 'there is the story of Polly Baker and 
the eloquent apology you have put into her mouth, when 
brought before a court of Massachusetts to suffer punish- 
ment under a law, which you cite, for having had a bastard. 
I know there never was such a law in Massachusetts.' 'Be 
assured,' said the Abbe", 'you are mistaken, and that that is 
a true story. I do not immediately recollect indeed the 
particular information on which I quote it, but I am certain 
that I had for it unquestionable authority.' Doctor Frank- 
lin, who had been for some time shaking with restrained 
laughter at the Abba's confidence in his authority for that 
tale, said, 'I will tell you, Abbe", the origin of that story. 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 173 

When I was a printer and editor of a newspaper, we were 
sometimes slack of news, and to amuse our customers, I 
used to fill up our vacant columns with anecdotes, and 
fables and fancies of my own, and this of Polly Baker is a 
story of my own making, on one of those occasions.' The 
Abbe", without the least disconcert, exclaimed with a laugh, 
' Oh, very well, Doctor, I had rather relate your stories than 
other men's truths.'" 1 

A similar experience Franklin enjoyed when "An Edict 
of the King of Prussia" was published. He wrote to his 
son (October 6, 1773) : "What made it the more noticed here 
was, that people in reading it were, as the phrase is, taken in, 
till they had got half through it, and imagined it a real edict, 
to which mistake I suppose the King of Prussia's character 
must have contributed. I was down at Lord Le Despen- 
cer's when the post brought that day's papers. Mr. White- 
head was there, too (Paul Whitehead the author of 
'Manners'), who runs early through all the papers, and tells 
the company what he finds remarkable. He had them in 
another room, and we were chatting in the breakfast parlour, 
when he came running into us, out of breath, with the paper 
in his hand. 'Here !' says he, 'here's news for ye ! Here's 
the King of Prussia, claiming a right to this kingdom !' All 
stared, and I as much as anybody, and he went on to read it. 
When he had read two or three paragraphs, a gentleman 
present said, ' Damn his impudence, I dare say we shall hear 
by next post, that he is upon his march with one hundred 

1 "The Writings of Thomas Jefferson," Vol. X, p. 118 (note). 

Balzac says that Franklin confessed the authorship of this canard in 
M. Neckar's salon. 

I have reprinted " The Trial of Polly Baker," as it is, in contempt of 
question, his hand. But I have searched in vain for it in the Gazette. ED. 



174 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

thousand men to back this.' Whitehead, who is very 
shrewd, soon after began to smoke it, and, looking in my face, 
said, ' I'll be hanged if this is not some of your American 
jokes upon us ! ' The reading went on, and ended with 
abundance of laughing, and a general verdict that it was 
a fair hit; and the piece was cut out of the paper and 
preserved in my Lord's collection." 

This keen and severe satire was first published in the 
Public Advertiser and the edition was quickly exhausted. 
It was reprinted in the Chronicle and created a genuine sen- 
sation. Lord Mansfield said of it, that "it was very able 
and very artful indeed." Richard Bache wrote to Franklin 
(January i, 1774) : "I am gratified to have it under your own 
hand that the Edict was of your writing ... it was con- 
sidered to be yours before and had been published as a thing 
much admired in most of our papers. . . . You are 
charged likewise with being the author of 'The Method to 
make a little State of a great one.' I hope the Public are 
not mistaken in this, for I think it a piece of great merit. 
Your friend General Lee, who has been here sometime and 
who thinks himself well acquainted with your style, is the 
only man in this place that thinks it is not yours." 

Upon his private press at Passy, Franklin printed a pre- 
tended "Supplement to the Boston Independent Chronicle." 
In typography, style, advertisements, and all things it simu- 
lated exactly the appearance of a Boston newspaper. The 
barbarities committed by the Indian allies of Great Britain 
suggested this savage piece of satire, which rises to the height 
of Swift. After a ghastly invoice of eight packages contain- 
ing a thousand scalps, alleged to have been taken by the 
Seneca Indians in English pay, and "cured, dried, hooped, 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 175 

and painted with all the Indian triumphal marks," in order 
to be transmitted to England, the article quotes an imagi- 
nary letter from an Indian chief to Governor Haldimand. 
"Father, we wish you to send these scalps over the water to 
the great King, that he may regard them and be refreshed; 
and that he may see our faithfulness in destroying his ene- 
mies, and be convinced that his presents have not been made 
to ungrateful people." Franklin sent copies of the "Supple- 
ment" to Dumas in Holland, saying: "Enclosed I send you 
a few copies of a paper that places in a striking light the 
English barbarities in America, particularly those com- 
mitted by the savages at their instigation. The form may 
perhaps not be genuine but the substance is truth. 1 . . . 
Make any use of them you may think proper to shame your 
Anglomanes, but do not let it be known through whose 
hand they came." In the second edition, from which cer- 
tain fictitious advertisements which had appeared in the 
first edition were omitted, he inserted a pretended letter 
from John Paul Jones to Sir Joseph Yorke, Ambassador to 
the States- General of the United Provinces. The states- 
man had called the captain "a pirate." Jones is made to 
reply: "A Pirate is defined to be hostis humani generis (an 
enemy to all mankind). It happens, sir, that I am an enemy 
to no part of mankind, except your nation, the English; 
which nation, at the same time comes much more within the 
definition; being actually an enemy to, and at war with, 
one whole quarter of the world, America, considerable 



1 Gates called Burgoyne " the polite Macaroni," because he paid for scalps. 
A Philadelphia newspaper in 1887 treated this fine satire seriously, and said 
that the letter was found in the baggage of General Burgoyne after his 
surrender. ED. 



176 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

part of Asia and Africa, a great part of Europe, and in a 
fair way of being at war with the rest." After a brief, vivid, 
and terrible description of the war of rapine waging against 
America, and of the malice, mischief, and murder committed 
by king and Parliaments, he concludes: "One is provoked 
by enormous wickedness: but one is ashamed and humili- 
ated at the view of human baseness. It afflicts me there- 
fore to see a gentleman of Sir Joseph Yorke's education and 
talents, for the sake of a red riband and a paltry stipend, 
mean enough to style such a monster his master, wear his 
livery, and hold himself ready at his command even to cut 
the throats of fellow subjects. This makes it impossible 
for me to end my letter with the civility of a compliment, 
and obliges me to subscribe myself, simply, 

"JOHN PAUL JONES, 
"whom you are pleased to style a pirate." 

Europe accepted the "Supplement" as genuine, and 
shuddered at the horrors of the American fratricidal war. 
Horace Walpole, at least, was not deceived. He wrote to 
the Countess of Ossory: "Have you seen in the papers an 
excellent letter of Paul Jones to Sir Joseph Yorke? Elle 
nous dit bien des verittst I doubt poor Sir Joseph cannot 
answer them ! Dr. Franklin himself, I should think, was the 
author. It is certainly written by a first-rate pen, and not 
by a common man-of-war." 

A very similar piece was a letter purporting to emanate 
from a petty German prince and to be addressed to his 
officer in command in America. It contains congratula- 
tions upon the large number of Hessians slain at Trenton, 
and is written in a spirit of ferocious merriment at the 



177 

prospect of substantial financial returns for the lives of the 
wretched mercenaries. "My trip to Italy, which has cost 
me enormously, makes it desirable that there should be a 
great mortality among them. You will therefore promise 
promotion to all who expose themselves; you will exhort to 
seek glory in the midst of dangers; you will say to Major 
Maundorfl that I am not at all content with his saving the 
345 men who escaped the massacre at Trenton. Through 
the whole campaign he has not had ten men killed in con- 
sequence of his orders. Finally let it be your principal ob- 
ject to prolong the war and avoid a decisive engagement on 
either side, for I have made arrangements for a grand Italian 
opera, and I do not wish to be obliged to give it up." 

One of the subtlest and severest of Franklin's satires was 
veiled under the title "Proposed New Version of the Bible." 
He fancied that the reading of "that excellent book" had 
been neglected because of its obsolete style, and therefore 
thought it would be well to procure a new version in which, 
while preserving the sense, the turn of phrase and manner 
of expression should be modern. As a sample of the kind 
of version he would recommend he modernized six verses of 
the first chapter of the Book of Job, and with marvellous 
dexterity converted the famous passage into a shrewd satire 
upon regal government. 

Verses 6-n : "And it being levee day in heaven, all God's 
nobility came to court, to present themselves before him; 
and Satan also appeared in the circle, as one of the ministry. 

"And God said to Satan, You have been some time 
absent ; where were you ? And Satan answered, I have been 
at my country seat, and in different places visiting my friends. 

"And God said, Well, what think you of Lord Job? 

VOL. I N 



178 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

You see he is my best friend, a perfectly honest man, full of 
respect for me, and avoiding everything that might offend 
me. 

"And Satan answered, Does your Majesty imagine that 
his good conduct is the effect of mere personal attachment 
and affection? 

"Have you not protected him, and heaped your benefits 
upon him till he is grown enormously rich? 

"Try him; only withdraw your favour, turn him out of 
his places, and withhold his pensions and you will soon find 
him in the opposition." 

It seems almost incredible that the point of this prodi- 
gious satire should have been missed by any thoughtful 
reader ; yet true it is that one of the most sagacious of recent 
critics and one of the most learned of living historians have 
been completely deceived by it. 

Matthew Arnold commented upon it: "I remember the 
relief with which, after long feeling the sway of Franklin's 
imperturbable common sense, I came upon a project of his 
for a new version of the Book of Job, to replace the old ver- 
sion, the style of which, says Franklin, has become obsolete 
and thence less agreeable. 'I give,' he continues, 'a few 
verses, which may serve as a sample of the kind of version I 
would recommend.' We all recollect the famous verse in 
our translation : ' Then Satan answered the Lord, and said, 
Doth Job fear God for nought?' Franklin makes this, 
'Does your Majesty imagine that Job's good conduct is the 
effect of mere personal attachment and affection?' I well 
remember how when first I read that I drew a deep breath 
of relief, and said to myself, 'After all, there is a stretch of 
humanity beyond Franklin's victorious good sense.' The 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 179 

lover of literary curiosities may be almost sorry that Frank- 
lin's proposal never got any further." We may fancy the 
Olympian laughter with which Franklin would have greeted 
the extraordinary judgment of this "high-gravel blind" 
critic. 

He delighted in this kind of mystification. He set Miss 
Shipley searching the Bible in vain to find where Franklin 
read that Methusalah slept in the open air. 1 

He wrote, in imitation of Scriptural language, "A Parable 
against Persecution," which he committed to memory, and 
called it " Genesis LI," and read it by heart out of his Bible, 
"obtaining the remarks of the Scripturians upon it, which 
were sometimes very diverting." 

Among the papers of William Parsons, surveyor-general 
of Pennsylvania, the following account of the parable is 
found : 

"D r Franklin in England about 1755 Supporting D r 
Locks Treatise book on Toleration was much dificuelted 
in Argument with Lady Jane, a maiden Sister to the Earl 
of Thanet who opposed the doctrine, after several fruitless 
Attemps the Doct told Lady Jane that if she would con- 
sult her Bible she would find 'Locks' Doctrine fully supported 
upon which Lady Jane with an air of triumph Arrose from 
he chair took from beneath the cussion a large Bible & The 
D! received it at her hand Saying you will find it in the 5ist 
chapter of genesis And Abraham was standing at the Door 
of his Tent looking by the way of the Wilderness and be- 
hold a Man came leaning on his Staff, and Abr. said unto 
the Man Stranger turn in, and tarry with me this Night, 

1 " The Art of procuring pleasant Dreams," and see Miss Shipley's letter to 
Franklin, November 13, 1784. 



i8o THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

and the Man answered and said unto Abr. Nay! but I 
will tarry under this Oak. And Abr. press'd him & he turned 
in. And Abr. sat Meet before him, but the man called not 
on the Lord to Bless it ; wherefore Abraham was wroth ; & 
turned him out by the Way whence he came, Now at Mid- 
night the Lord called unto Abr. & Abraham said here am I 
Lord and the Lord said unto him where is the Stranger? 
Ab. answered and said unto the Lord : he would not call on 
thy Name to bless his Meet; wherefore I turned him out 
with blows. And the Lord said unto Abr. Have I not born 
with him this 100 and 60 and 8 years, and couldest not 
thou, who art thyself a Sinner bear with him one Night." 

The charge of plagiarism was occasionally brought against 
Franklin, and when it was found that a similar parable 
existed in Jeremy Taylor's "Liberty of Prophesying" the 
cry of "thief" was immediately raised and has not yet en- 
tirely died away. Nothing can be clearer, however, than that 
Franklin laid no claim to originality in this playful piece and 
that he never intended or sanctioned its publication. He 
had printed several copies upon loose leaves for circulation 
among his friends. Lord Kames published it, from one of 
these slight copies, in his "Sketches of the History of Man," 
introducing it with the words: "It was communicated to 
me by Dr. Franklin of Philadelphia, a man who makes a 
great figure in the learned world ; and who would make a 
still greater figure for benevolence and candor, were virtue 
as much regarded in this declining age as knowledge." The 
British Repository (May, 1788) first brought the charge of 
plagiarism, and in the next number of that periodical Mr. 
Vaughan defended Franklin, saying: "This great man who 
at the same time that he was desirous of disseminating an 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 181 

amiable sentiment, was an extreme lover of pleasantry, often 
endeavoured to put off the parable in question upon his 
acquaintance, as a portion of Scripture, and probably 
thought this one of the most successful modes of circulating 
its moral. This object would certainly have been de- 
feated had he prefixed to the printed copies of the Parable, 
which he was fond of dispersing, an intimation of its author. 
He therefore gave no name whatever to it, much less his own. 
And often as I have heard of his amusing himself on this 
occasion, I never could learn that he ascribed to himself the 
merit of the invention. His good humour constantly led 
him into a train of amusing stories concerning the persons, 
who had mistaken it for Scripture (for he had bound it up 
as a leaf in his Bible, the better to impose upon them) which 
perhaps, made the point of authorship forgotten." Franklin 
wrote to Vaughan (November 2, 1789): "The truth is, as I 
think you observe, that I never published that Chapter, 
and never claimed more credit from it, than what related to 
the style, and the addition of the concluding threatening and 
promise. The publishing of it by Lord Kames without my 
consent, deprived me of a good deal of amusement." * 

Another of his parables in Scriptural language related to 
brotherly love. Reuben bought an ax of the Ishmaelite 
merchants, which he prized highly, for there was none in 
his father's house. Simeon, Levi, and Judah came to him 
in turn to borrow it, but he refused them, and they sent a 
messenger after the Ishmaelites with money and bought for 
themselves each an ax. Now it came to pass that Reuben 

1 There has been a learned discussion of the origin of this parable (which 
Jeremy Taylor said he found in " the Jews' books "), which the curious may 
read in Sparks's "Franklin," Vol. II, p. 118. 



1 82 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

hewed timber on the bank of the river, and his ax fell therein, 
and he could by no means find it. He came to Simeon and 
sought to borrow his ax, but Simeon refused. He went to 
Levi, who consented but reproached him so that Reuben 
turned away with grief and shame, whereupon Judah said, 
"Lo, have I not an ax that will serve both thee and me? 
Take it, I pray thee, and use it as thine own." 

"And Reuben fell on his neck and kissed him, with tears, 
saying, Thy kindness is great, but thy goodness in for- 
giving me is greater. Thou art indeed my brother, and 
whilst I live, will I surely love thee. 

"And Judah said, Let us also love our other brethren; 
behold, are we not all of one blood?" 

Two other Scriptural writings will be found in this edition : 
Franklin's version of the Lord's Prayer, with his reasons for 
the changes made in the language, and his "Preface to an 
Abridgment of the Book of Common Prayer." 

Franklin's pen was not entirely occupied throughout the 
Revolutionary epoch with addresses and memorials impor- 
tuning the French Government for loans and alliance, and 
informing the Continental Congress of the progress of affairs 
in Europe. He found time to compose for the amusement 
of his friends, in whose cheerful society he sought occasional 
diversion, certain little essays upon subjects far removed 
from the tumult and ill-temper of politics. Every Sunday 
his house at Passy was thrown open to his friends, and his 
dinner parties were large and merry; every Wednesday he 
drove to Moulin Joli to call upon Mme. Brillon, and Satur- 
days were devoted to the drawing-room of Mme. Helve"tius 
at Auteuil. 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 183 

In the society of quick-witted, polished French ladies, the 
Abbes Morellet and La Roche, the philosophers Condorcet 
and Cabanis, Franklin relaxed from the severe attention and 
untold annoyances of public affairs. He sang songs, played 
Les Petits Oiseaux on the armonica, jested with the abbe's, 
and read aloud the little essays which he had written in robust 
English or invalid French. Written in a spirit of happy 
abandonment, when for a moment the busy world stood 
still and his shoulders were lightened of their load of care, 
they sparkle with mirth and shine with grace. 

They were intended for no larger public than the little 
circle of dear friends; they were born of affection and sym- 
pathy. Sometimes they were printed upon his private press 
at Passy in limited editions of perhaps a dozen or fifteen 
copies. Nearly all are lost. The fictitious " Supplement" 
exists in the Library of Congress and the Library of The 
American Philosophical Society, and the latter collection has 
also the printed original of "La Belle et la Mauvaise Jambe " 
(Passy, 1 779). But the other fugitive leaves have disappeared. 
Soon after Franklin returned to America the terrible storm 
of the Revolution burst upon France. In that awful de- 
lirium many of Franklin's dearest friends suffered tragical 
deaths. Condorcet died of poison on a prison floor; Le 
Veillard perished by the guillotine. Houses were plundered, 
private papers confiscated and destroyed. Apparently a 
few letters were all that remained when the Revolution had 
spent its force. 

These light essays Franklin called his "bagatelles." 
They were printed upon a press in his own house at Passy 
and with type cast by his servants. He certified to Francis 
Child, printer, that the printing types contained in fifteen 



1 84 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

boxes brought by him from France "were made in my 
house at Passy, by my servants, for my use, and were never 
the property of any European letter founder, manufacturer, 
or merchant whatsoever." 

The first publication of the "Bagatelles" was by William 
Temple Franklin in the fifth volume of his edition of his 
grandfather's works (1818). They are found in the first 
volume of the "Posthumous Writings" (Sec. Ill, pp. 216- 
298), and are introduced with the following headnote : 

"The Letters, Essays, etc., contained in this section were 
chiefly written by Dr. Franklin for the amusement of his 
intimate society in London and Paris, and were by himself 
actually collected in a small portfolio, endorsed as above. 
Several of the pieces were either originally written in French, 
or afterward translated by him into that language by way of 
exercises." Then follow: 

1. "The Levee." 

2. "Proposed New Version of the Bible." 

3. "Apologue" (written, says a footnote, at the period of, 
and in allusion to, the claims of the American Royalists on 
the British Government). 

4. To Miss Georgiana Shipley, dated London, Septem- 
ber 26, 1772, with an epitaph on her American squirrel. 

5. "The Art of Procuring Pleasant Dreams." 

6. "The Ephemera, an Emblem of Human Life" (written 
in 1778, to Mme. Brillon, of Passy). 

7. "The Whistle" (to Mme. Brillon, Passy, November 
10, 1779). 

8. "The Petition of the Left Hand." 

9. "The Handsome and Deformed Leg." 

10. "Morals of Chess." 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 185 

11. "Conte (with a translation), a Tale." 

12. "Dialogue between Franklin and the Gout" (dated 
midnight, October 22, 1780). 

13. To Mme. Helve'tius, at Auteuil. 

14. A Madame Helve'tius (in French, with a translation 
into English). 

15. "Tres humble Requete Pre'sente'e a Madame Helve'- 
tius par ses Chats " (with translation). 

1 6. A Monsieur L'Abbe* de la Roche, a Auteuil (with 
translation). 

17. A Monsieur L'Abbe* Morellet, Passy (with transla- 
tion). 

With the exception of number fifteen, "Tres humble 
Requete Presentee a Madame Helve'tius par ses Chats," 
which was really written by Abbe" Morellet, all these baga- 
telles will be found in the present edition. Some of them 
have been printed from drafts in Franklin's handwriting in 
the Library of The American Philosophical Society. Some- 
times, in order to improve his French, he translated one of 
these little essays into the best French he could muster and 
sent his Gallic version for criticism to M. Brillon, "un savant," 
or to Mme. Brillon, who calls herself "une femme qui 
n'est point savante." Franklin never acquired fluency in 
French. He was never quite sure that he thoroughly under- 
stood what was said in conversation, and he found the writ- 
ing of a letter in French a laborious undertaking. In 1786 
he apologized for writing to M. de Chaumont in English, 
saying, " It costs me too much time to write in that language 
[French] and after all is very bad French." "The Story of 
the Whistle" is found among his papers in two drafts, on 
the right in English, on the left in French, and the latter 



1 86 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

corrected in red ink in another hand than that of the 
first draft of the translation. He sent to the Brillons his 
French translation of his " Dialogue entre la Goute et M. 
Franklin." It was returned to him "corrige" et augment^ 
de plusieurs fauttes par un sjavant et voue" de nottes cri- 
tiques par une femme qui n'est point scavante." At the 
same time Madame Brillon wrote to him: "Your dialogue 
has greatly amused me but your corrector of French has 
spoiled your work. Believe me, leave your works as they 
are, use words which express your meaning and laugh at 
the grammarians who through their purisms enfeeble your 
phrases. If I had the brains I should utter a dire diatribe 
against those who would dare to refurbish your work, even 
if it were the Abbe" de la Roche, or my neighbour Veillard." 
After reading "The Whistle " she wrote to him : "M. Brillon 
a bien ri des sifflets : nous trouvons que ce que vous appele"s 
votre mauvais franjois, donne souvent du picquant a votre 
narration, par la construction de certaines phrases, et par 
les mots que vous invente's." 

At the request of one of Bishop Shipley's daughters Frank- 
lin wrote his bagatelle on "The Art of Procuring Pleasant 
Dreams," in which occurs the following passage: "It is re- 
corded of Methusalem, who, being the longest liver, may be 
supposed to have best preserved his health, that he slept 
always in the open air; for, when he had lived five hundred 
years, an angel said to him: 'Arise Methusalem, and build 
thee an house, for thou shalt live yet five hundred years 
longer.' But Methusalem answered, and said, 'if I am to 
live but five hundred years longer, it is not worth while 
to build me an house; I will sleep in the air, as I have been 
used to do.' " Upon acknowledging the receipt of the little 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 187 

essay Caroline Shipley wrote (November 13, 1786) : "I have 
particularly to thank you for 'The Art of Procuring Pleasant 
Dreams,' indeed it flattered me exceedingly that you should 
employ so much of your precious time in complying with 
my request, but where do you read that Methusalah slept in 
the open air? I have searched the Bible in vain to find it." 
In the succeeding volumes of this work the various baga- 
telles will be found printed from Franklin's manuscript, or 
from the Passy press, or from W. T. Franklin's text. In 
this place it may be of interest to print two of them from the 
first drafts. "The Deform'd and Handsome Leg" thus 
printed shows how Franklin worked over his essays, even 
when they were but bagatelles. The other, "The Whistle," 
becomes a lesson in French as well as an example of literary 
construction and correction. 

" The Dejorm'd and Handsome Leg. 1 

"There are two Sorts of People in the World, who with 
equal Degrees of Health, & Wealth, and the other Comforts 
of Life [are] become, the one happy, and the other [Unhappy] 
miserable. This arises very much [merely] from [In almost 
ever] the different views in which they consider Things, Per- 
sons & Events ; and the Effect of those different Views upon 
their own Minds. 

"In whatever Situation [a] Men can be plac'd, they [will] 
may find Conveniencies & Inconveniencies : In whatever 
Company; they [will] may find Persons & Conversations 
more or less pleasing. At whatever Table, they [will find] 

1 Erasures in the manuscripts are shown by being placed between [ ]. 
Insertions are printed in italics. 



1 88 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

may meet with Meats & drinks of better and worse Taste, 
[things] Dishes better & worse dress'd : In whatever Climate 
they will find good and bad Weather ; Under whatever Gov- 
ernment, they [will] may find good and bad Laws, and good 
and bad Administration of those Laws. In every Poem or 
Work of Genius they may see Faults & Beauties: In al- 
most every Face and every Person they may discover 
[Beauties] fine Features & Defects, good & bad Qualities. 
Under these Circumstances, the two Sorts of People [I have] 
above mention 'd fix their Attention, those who are to be 
happy, on the [convenient] Conveniencies of Things, the 
pleasant Parts of Conversation, the well-dress 'd Dishes, the 
Goodness of the Wines, the [agreable] fine Weather; [the] 
&c. &c. and enjoy all with Chearfulness. Those who are to 
be unhappy, think fir 8 speak only of the contraries. Hence 
they are continually discontented themselves, and by their 
Remarks sour the Pleasures of Society, offend [disgust] per- 
sonally many people, and make themselves [where] every 
where disagreable. 

" If this [different] Turn of Mind was founded in Nature, 
such unhappy [People] Persons would be the more to be pitied : 
But as th[at] Disposition to criticise & be disgusted, is per- 
haps taken up originally by Imitation, and is unawares grown 
into a Habit ; [and] which tho' at present strong may never- 
theless be cured when those who have it are convinc'd of its 
bad Effects on their [Happiness] Felicity; I hope [a] this little 
Admonition may be of Service to them, and put them on 
changing a Habit, which tho' in the Exercise is [merely] 
chiefly an Act of Imagination yet it has serious Consequences 
in Life : [To] as it brings on real Griefs r Misfortunes : For 
as many [have been] are offended by, &c. no body well loves 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 189 

this Sort of People, no one shows them more than the most 
common." The Franklin Papers, Vol. 50, A. P. S. 

"PASSY, Nov. 16, 1779. 

" J[e recus] 'ai Recu les deux Lettres de ma chere Amie, 1'une 
[pour] pour le Mercredi, 1'autre [pour] pour le Sam[m]edi; 
c'est aujourd'hui encore Mercredi. [Mais] Je ne merite pas 
[d'avoir une pour ce jour], [d'en] d'en avoir encore, parceque 
je n'ai pas fait reponse aux [autres] precedentes. Mais tout 
indolent, [comme] que je suis, [& averse] et quelque aversion que 
faye [a] d'ecrire, la Crainte de n'avoir [pas] plus de vos char- 
mantes Epitres, si je ne contribue [pas] aussi ma part pour 
soutenir la Correspondance [m'oblige] me force de prendre 
[ma] la plume. Et comme M. Brillon [a] m'a mandi si 
obligeamment qu'il part demain Matin pour vous voir moi, 
au lieu de passer [le] ce Mercredi[s] au soir, comme j'ai fait 
si long terns de ses predecesseurs du meme nom, en vdtre 
[delicieuse Compagnie] douce Socie'te, Je me [mis a] [retira 
dans ma] suis mis a mon ecritoire pour le passer [en] a pens- 
[ant]er [de] a vous, [en erivant a vous], et a vous ecrire & [en 
lisant] a lire & reli[sant]re ce que vous m'avez [ecrit a moi] 
[si elegamment] si delicieusement e"crit. 

"Je suis charme* de votre Description du Paradis, & de 
[votre] vos Plans pour y vivre. J 'approve aussi tres fortement 
la Conclusion que vous faites, qu'en attendant il faut tirer de 
ce bas monde tout le bien qu'on en peut tirer. A mon Avis, 
[nous c'est bien] il est tres possible pour nous d'en tirer beau- 
coup plus de bien que nous n'en [tirons] tirons & d'en souffrir 
moins de mal, si nous [voulussions] voulions seulement pren- 
dre garde de ne donner pas trop pour nos s[ou\ifflets. Car il 
me semble, que la plus-part des Malheureux qu'on trouve 



190 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

dans le monde sont devenus tels par leur Negli[ss)gewce de 
cette Caution. 

"Vous demandez ce que je veux dire? Vous aimez les 
[Contes] Histoires & vous m'excusefraijras si je vous en donne 
une qui me [re qui] regarde [de] moi m6me. Quand J'etois 
un Enfant de 5 ou 6 ans, mes Amis, [sur] un Jour de F6te, 
remplirent ma petite Poche de [oooo] sous. [J'Iroit] J'allai[t] 
tout de suite a une Boutique ou on vendoit des Babioles, [ &] 
mais &ant charme" du [la] Son d'un Sifflet que je rencontrois 
en chemin dans le mains d'un autre petit gar con je lui volontiers 
offr[oit] ais & donnai volontiers pour cela tout mon Argent. 
[Quand je ret] Revenu chez moi, sifflant par toute la Maison 
fort [satisfait] content de mon Achat mais jatiguant les Oreilles 
de toute la Famille, mes Freres, mes Sceurs, mes Cousines, 
entendant [combien j'ai donne] que j'avois tant [lant] donne* 
tons pour ce mauvais Bruit, [tous ils] me dirent que c'e"toit 
dix fois plus que la Valeur ; [ & ils] alors ils me [faisoit] firent 
penser [du] au Nombre de[s] bonnes choses, que je pouvois 
acheter avec le reste [du] de ma Monnoye si j'avois ete plus 
[sage] prudent & ils me ridiculi[ssent]erew/ tant de ma Folie, 
que je pleuroi[t].y de cette vexation ; & la Reflexion me don- 
noit plus de Chagrin, que le sifflet [peut me dormer] d[u]e 

plaisir. 

"PASSY, Nov. 16, 1779. 

"I received my dear Friend's two Letters, one for Wednes- 
day & one for Saturday. This is again Wednesday. I do 
not deserve one for to day, because I have not answered the 
former. [But you will] But indolent as I am, and averse to 
Writing, the Fear of [receiving] having no more of your 
[ever] pleasing Epistles, if I do not contribute to the Corre- 
spondence, obliges me to take up my pen. And as M. Brillon 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 191 

has kindly sent me Word, that he sets out to morrow to see 
you, instead of spending this Wednesday evening as I [us'd 
to do Since these] have long done its Namesake's, in your 
delightful Company, I set down to spend it in thinking of 
you [and] in writing to you, and in reading over and over 
again your Letters. 

" I am charm'd with your Description of Paradise, & with 
your Plan of living there. And I approve much of your Con- 
clusion, that in the mean time we should draw all the Good 
we can from this World below. In my Opinion we might 
all [do] draw more good from it than we do and suffer less 
Evil, if we [were but careful enough] would but take care 
not to give too much for our whistles. For to me it seems 
that most of the unhappy people we meet with, are become 
so by the Neglect of that [Circumstance] Caution. 

"You ask, what I mean? You [ask what I] love Stories, 
and will excuse my telling you [a little] one of myself. When 
I was a Child of 7 Years old, my Friends [on a] on a holiday 
[fill'd my] fill'd my little Pocket with halfpence. I went 
directly to a Shop where they sold Toys for Children; and 
being charm'd with the Sound of a Whistle, that I met by 
the way in the hands of another Boy, I voluntarily offer'd and 
gave all my Money for it. When I came home, whistling all 
over the House, much pleased with my Whistle, but disturbing 
all the Family, my Brothers, Sisters & Cousins understand- 
ing the Bargain I had made, told me I had given four times 
as much for it as it was worth ; put me in mind what Good 
things I might have bought with the rest of the Money, and 
laught at me so much for my folly that I cry'd with Vexa- 
tion; and the [Ch Chagrin I suffered by it was greater] Re- 



192 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

flection [on] gave me more Chagrin than the Whistle gave me 
Pleasure. 



" [Co] Get accident jut cependant, [etoit] dans la suite [ut] de 
quelque utilit pour moi, PImpression restant sur mon Ame ; 
[tant que quand] de sorte que lorsque j'e"tois tente* d'acheter 
quelque chose qui ne m'etoit pas necessaire, je disois [a] en 
moi mme : Ne donnois pas trop pour le Sifflet; Et j'[ai sauve] 
tpargnois mon Argent. 

" Devenant grand Garcon, [ &] entrant [dans] le Monde, & 
observant les Actions des Hommes, je [pensois] vis que je 
rencontrois [un] Nombre [des gens] de gens qui donnoient trop 
pour le Sifflet. 

" Quand j'ai vu quelqu'un, qui, ambitieux [du] de la Faveur 
de la Cour, [sacrifiant] consumant son terns en [Attendance 
des] Assiduite's aux [Levees] Levers, son Repos, sa Liberte", 
sa Vertu & peut-etre ses vrais Amis, pour obtenir quelque 
petite Distinction; J'ai dit [a] en moi me"me, Cet homme donne 
trop pour son Sifflet. Quand [j'ai] j'en ai vu un[e] autre [en- 
t6t6] [personne] avide [d 1 obtenir} [de Popularite] [se rendre 
populaire] de se rendre populaire & pour cela s'occupant tou- 
jours de Contestations publiques, negligeant ses [propres] 
Affaires particulieres & les ruinant par cette Negligence, [II] 
[elle] il paye, trop ai-je dit, [trop] pour son Sifflet. Si j'ai 
connu un [Miser] Avare, qui renoncoit a toute [espece] man- 
iere de vivre commodement, a toute le plaisir de faire le bien 
aux autres, a toute PEstime de ses Compatriotes ; & a tous 
les [joyes] charmes de PAmitie", pour avoir un morceau de 
metal jaune. Pauvre homme, [je] disois-je, vous donnez 
trop pour vdtre Sifflet ! Quand j'ai rencontre [a] un homme 
de Plaisir, sacrifiant toute louable perfectionnement [lauda- 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 193 

ble] de son Ame [ou du] & toute amelioration de son Etat aux 
[gratifications] voluptes de sens[e] purement corporelfles] [ & 
en les pursuivant] & detruisant sa Sante" dans leur poursuite. 
Homme trompe, ai-je dit, vous vous procurez des Peines au 
lieu des Plaisirs; vous payez trap pour votre Sifflet! Si [je 
vois] fen ai vu un autre, ente'te' de beaux Habillements, belles 
Maisons, belle Fournitures, beaux Equipages, toutes au-des- 
sus de sa Fortune & [pour lesquelles il fait des] [voir] qu'il 
ne se procurait qu'en faisant des Dettes & [finit] en allant finir 
sa Carriere dans une Prison. Helas, [dira] [dis-je], ai-je dit, 
II a paye trap pour son Sifflet! Quand j'ai vu une tre*s 
belle fille, d'un[e] [disposition] naturelfl] bon[ne] & [douce 
epouse] doux mariee a un homme feroce & brutal, qui la 
maltraite continuellement [Quelle pitie] C'est grande Pitie, ai- 
je dit, qu'elle [a] ait tant paye [tant] pour un Sifflet! Enfin, 
j'ai conclu que la plus grande partie des Malheurs de[s] 
[Hommes] 1'Espece humaine [ont sa derive] [vio] viennent des 
Estimations fausses qu'on fait de la Valeur des choses [moyen 
de qu'on] [ooooooo] on donne[s] [000000} trop pour les Sifflets. 

" Neantmoins je sens que je dois avoir de la Charite pour ces 
Gens malheureux quand je conside're qu'avec toute cette Sa- 
gesse dont je me vante, il y a certaines choses dans [le] ce bas 
monde si tentantes ; par exemple, les Pommes du Roy Jean, 
lesquelles heureusement ne sont pas a acheter car [si si ils 
sont pour] si elles etoient mises a 1'enchere, je [peux] pourrois 
tre tre*s facilement [mend a] porte a me miner par leur 
[l]'Achat, & trouver que jj'avois] faurais encore une fois 
donne trop pour le Sifflet. 

"Adieu ma ire's chere Amie, [ & me] croiez moi toujours le 
votre, bien sincerement, & avec une Affection [indiminua- 
ble] inalterable. 

VOL. I O 



194 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

" [J'ai perdu vos voisines & les miennes & quand je pense 
[de] a vous, je chante pitoyablement. 

"J'ai perdu mon Euridice: rien]" The Franklin Papers, 
Vol. 45, No. 149$, A. P. S. 

"This however was afterwards of Use to me, [and] the Im- 
pression continuing on my Mind ; so that often when I was 
tempted to buy some unnecessary thing, I said to myself, 
Don't give too much for the Whistle, and I sav'd my Money. 

"As I grew up, [and] came into the World, and observed 
the Actions of Men, I thought I [saw] met with many who 
gave too much for the Whistle. When I saw [a man] one 
ambitious of Court Favour, sacrificing his Time, in attend- 
ance at Levees, his Repose, his Liberty, his Virtue, and 
perhaps his Friend, to obtain it. [My] I have said to myself, 
This Man gives too much for his Whistle. When I saw an- 
other fond of Popularity, constantly imploying himself in 
political Bustles, neglecting his own Affairs, and ruining 
[himself] them by that Neglect, [Here] He pays, says I, too 
much for his Whistle. If I knew a Miser, who gave up every 
kind of comfortable Living, [in order] all the Pleasure of do- 
ing good to others, all the Esteem of his Fellow Citizens, & 
the [J] Joys of benevolent Friendship, for the sake of accumu- 
lating Wealth ; Poor Man, says I, you pay too much for your 
Whistle. [If I saw a Prodigal] When I met with a Man of 
Pleasure, [giving up] sacrificing every laudable Improvement 
of his Mind or of his Fortune, to mere corporal Satisfactions, 
& ruining his Health in their Pursuit. Mistaken Man, says 
I, you are providing Pain for yourself instead of Pleasure; 
you pay too much for your Whistle. If I [see] [saw] see one 
fond of Appearance of fine Cloaths, fine Houses, fine Furni- 



SATIRES AND BAGATELLES 195 

ture, fine Equipages, all above his Fortune, [till] for which 
he contracts Debts, and ends his Career [in] in a Prison. 
Alas, Says I, he has paid too much for his Whistle. When 
I saw a beautiful [Girl] sweet temper'd Girl marr[ying]d to an 
ugly ill-natur'd Brute of a Husband : [M] What a Pity, says 
I, that she should pay so much for a Whistle! In short, I 
conceiv'd that great Part of the Miseries of Mankind, were 
brought upon them by the false Estimates they had made of 
the Value of things, and by their giving too much for the 
Whistle. 

" Yet I ought to have Charity for these unhappy People 
when I consider, that with all this Wisdom of which I am 
boasting, there are certain things in the World [ooo] so tempt- 
ing, for Example, the Apples of King John, which happily 
are not to be bought, for if they were to be put to sale by Auc- 
tion, I might very easily be [brought] [induced] led to ruin 
myself in the Purchase, and find that I had once more given 
too much for the Whistle. 

"Adieu, my dearest Friend, and believe me ever yours, very 
sincerely and with unalterable Affections. 

" [I have lost your Neighbours also. And when I think of 
you, I sing, I have lost my Euridice, Oh "] The Franklin 
Papers, A. P. S., Vol. 45, No. 149 . 



CORRESPONDENCE 

I have already referred to the immense range and volume 
of Franklin's correspondence. From every country in Europe 
men of science addressed him in the attitude of pupils, and 
statesmen sought his opinions upon the political manoeuvres 



196 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

of the time. Never was there a man more eulogized. 
In the House of Lords he was mentioned by Chatham as 
one "whom all Europe held in high estimation for his knowl- 
edge and wisdom, and ranked with our Boyles and Newtons ; 
who was an honour, not to the English nation only, but to 
human nature." And in the midst of the Revolution Lord 
Chatham and Lord Camden requested Thomas Walpole to 
express in his letters their high admiration and affectionate 
regard for Franklin. Crowned heads sought through their 
ministers for interviews with him. Burke called him "the 
friend of the human race." Condorcet addressed him as 
"the modern Prometheus" and "my dear and illustrious 
colleague." Erasmus Darwin declared him to be the great- 
est statesman of the present or perhaps of any century, and 
compared him to the Saviour of the world (Derby, May 29, 
1787). The comparison might appear blasphemous pro- 
ceeding from the sceptical philosopher, but it occurred to 
others who used it with all reverence. His sister, Mrs. 
Mecom, wrote to him (November 3, 1774) : "I think it is not 
Profanity to compare you to our Blessed Saviour who em- 
ployed much of his time while here on earth in doing good 
to the body as well as Souls of Men, and I am shure I think 
the Comparison just often when I hear the Calumny invented 
and thrown out against you while you are Improving all your 
Powers for the Salvation of their very Persons." In like vein 
his niece (E. Hubbart) begged him to be temperate in well- 
doing or he would occupy Heaven alone: "Consider, Sir, if 
you go on at this rate you will have no company there " 
(December i, 1755). 

The enthusiasm of the French was boundless. Joseph 
Etienne Bertier wrote (February 27, 1769): "France is as 



CORRESPONDENCE 197 

much your country as England, a Father is in his country 
when it is inhabited by his children. We are all Franklin- 
istes" M. de la Blancherie, one of the four commissioners 
of the French Academy, begged him to honour the Academy 
with his presence and awaited him "as Israelites awaited 
manna from heaven" (April 12, 1777). Baron Zreny wrote 
from Hungary (January 9, 1781): "Jamais Themistocles 
etoit si trouble de nuit et de jour par des trophees de Mil- 
tiades, comme moi par vos entreprises." After the surrender 
of Cornwallis, D'herime exclaimed, "Vous etes la pierre 
fondamentale de Pheureuse revolution contre laquelle, la 
tyrannic devoit un jour se briser." 

Turgot's famous epigram, the most successful in modern 
history, Eripuit caelo fulmen, sceptrumque tyrannis, 
commanded the admiration of the world, and set the men of 
letters of France vainly endeavouring to render it into simi- 
larly sententious French verse. Landor said to Sir Samuel 
Romilly : " It is far more glorious to have written this one verse 
than all the verbiage of Virgil at the beginning of the Georgics. 
Wretched stuff which children and men too, traditionally 
admire!" Franklin seems to have been the only one who 
questioned the propriety of the sentiment, for when Felix 
Nogaret sent him his French translation of the line, "II ote 
au ciel la foudre, et le sceptre aux tyrans," he replied : " J'ai 
recu la lettre dans laquelle, apres m'avoir accable d'un tor- 
rent de Compliments qui me causent un Sentiment penible, 
car je ne puis espdrer les me'riter jamais, vous me demandez 
mon Opinion sur la traduction d'un vers latin. Je suis trop 
peu connaisseur, quant aux elegances et aux finesses de votre 
excellent langage, pour oser me porter juge de la poesie qui 
doit se trouver dans ce vers. 



198 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

"Je vous ferai seulement remarquer deux inexactitudes dans 
le vers original. Malgre* mes experiences sur I'e'lectricite', 
la foudre tombe toujours k notre nez et a notre barbe, et quant 
aux tyrans, nous avons etc" plus d'un million d'hommes occupe" 
a lui arracher son sceptre." * 

D'Alembert tried his hand at the translation and sent to 
Franklin these verses : 

"Tu vois le sage courageux 

Dont 1'heureux et male ge'nie 
Arracha le tonnerre aux dieux 
Et le sceptre a la tyrannic." 

Franklin's wide acquaintance included men of three cen- 
turies. In his boyhood he heard Increase Mather preach, 
and remembered his reference to "that wicked old perse- 
cutor of God's people Lewis XIV." Ere his youth attained 
a beard, he had attracted the attention of Bernard Mandeville, 
and added a purse made of American asbestos to Sir Hans 
Sloane's collection of curiosities. In his old age he extended 
aid and encouragement to the young and ambitious. Almost 
the last of his benefactions was furnishing the father of Oliver 
Wendell Holmes, in his far Southern home, with a library of 
useful books. Between the birth of Increase Mather and 
the death of Abiel Holmes, both of whom thus come within 
the orbit of Franklin's life, lies a stretch of two hundred years. 

Franklin's correspondence is in nine languages, and relates 
to every subject that found a place in eighteenth-century 

1 " II cst vrai que Turgot avait trouve son premier he'mistiche dans 1'As- 
tronomicon de Manilius (liv. I, v, 102); et bien plus, comme 1'a fort bien 
remarque Grimm (Correspon. Avril 1778), tout le dessin de son vers dans 
celui-ci, de 1'Anti-Lucrece du Cardinal de Polignac (liv. l er , v, 96) : Eripuit- 
que Jovi fulmen, Phoeboque Sagittas." Edouard Fournier, " L'Esprit des 
Autres." Paris, 1879, cinquieme edition, p. 40. 



CORRESPONDENCE 199 

politics and philosophy. We have already sufficiently noted 
his letters to and from Herschel and Maskelyne, Priestley 
and Lavoisier, Ingenhousz and Beccaria, and all the pioneers 
of scientific research in Europe and America. Nothing was 
foreign to his interest, nothing escaped his attention. He 
corresponded with Court de Gebelin about the aboriginal 
American languages and customs, with George Croghan 
about the discovery of the remains of mastodons in the New 
World, with David Barclay about the steam engine, with 
John Fitch about the steamboat, with Saussure about the 
determination of the density of the earth and the ascent of 
Mount Blanc. All this is but a small part of his prodigious 
correspondence. Among his infinite hoard of papers are his 
communications with The Society of the Friends of Dr. Bray, 
and with Anthony Benezet and Granville Sharp upon sla- 
very, with Mrs. Montagu "Blue-stocking Montagu" 
concerning her poor neighbours in Berkshire. Here are 
great budgets of letters from the aristocracy of Europe; 
Princess Golofkin and Princess Dashkof, and Prince Czar- 
toryski are honoured by letters from him, while he feels him- 
self much more interested and honoured in a thoughtful 
letter from a galley slave, Pierre Andre* Gorgaz, "forcat 
numero 1336," of Toulon, who sends him a scheme for per- 
petual peace between England and America, and Franklin 
endorses it "project of universal peace, by a galley slave!" 
Here are anonymous letters written by the left hand to avoid 
detection, and numerous reports upon English politics from 
Benjamin Vaughan, the close companion of Lord Shelburne, 
David Hartley, M.P., and Edward Bridgsen. Sir Edward 
Newenham, with an Irishman's violent prejudice, put 
venom into his censure of English politics and politicians. 



200 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Vaughan's letters are particularly valuable. He freely criti- 
cises the English leaders and reports what he has heard of 
the resolves of cabinets and ministers. He tells Franklin 
that Shelburne has no such thing as friendship in his nature. 
He says that "the Rockinghams are warm and weak men 
who all hang together, and of course they make very proper 
materials for knaves to work upon, and knaves have not 
been wanting that were both noisy and needy." He reports 
Lord North as saying that he believed Franklin the only man 
in Paris whose hands were not stained with stock jobbery. 

It is possible to separate Franklin's papers into three great 
divisions. Some are official, some are scientific, and some 
are social. 

The official correspondence includes the communications 
from European soldiers who wanted to go to America under 
his patronage, to enlist in the army; from emigrants of all 
nationalities who would go to America to settle, to trade, 
to teach, or to introduce inventions ; from office seekers, 
straggling institutions seeking financial help in France, 
sturdy beggars, ill-used prisoners, and quarrelsome and jeal- 
ous sea captains. It was a veritable deluge of letters that 
poured ceaselessly in upon him, some soliciting money, some 
begging him to settle angry disputes and reapportion prize 
money, others relating to the purchase of supplies for "the 
insurgents" and to the exchange of prisoners. In all this 
multifarious business, he exhibited his slow, cool, sagacious 
judgment, subduing anger in one case, foiling craft in an- 
other, until in sheer rage at his constant discomfiture, Lord 
Stormont wrote to Lord Weymouth (October 3, 1776) of 
Franklin's "insidious subtlety." 

Much of the official correspondence addressed to him never 



CORRESPONDENCE 201 

reached him. Packages from the Congress and its commit- 
tees were cast into the sea by captains hard pressed by Eng- 
lish men-of-war. Large packets of letters were intercepted 
in London and opened by Anthony Todd, Secretary to the 
Post Office, who had discovered, as he told the Earl of Suf- 
folk, that "Mr. Francois" meant "alias Dr. Franklin." 1 

Upon the backs of letters Franklin frequently endorsed 
brief, vigorous, and sometimes humorous comments upon 
their contents. These comments are occasionally expanded 
into a rough draft of the reply to be sent to the writer. A 
certain Backhaus writes (February 7, 1783) that he wishes 
to enter the military service of America. Franklin notes 
upon the letter "That it is probable that the United States 
will not keep up a standing army, having everywhere a well- 
disciplined militia. That many of the Germans have already 
deserted the English colours and settled in the country and 
it is probable most of them will do the same rather than 
return to Europe. That I am not authorised to set on foot 
any such negotiations, am however obliged to him for his 
good will to our service and request he would accept my 
thanks." 

A throng of adventurers pressed upon Franklin, beseeching 
him by letter, and in personal interviews, to recommend them 
to America, that they might have a part in the conflict. They 
made every kind of pathetic, impudent, and whimsical ap- 
peal. One aspirant who signed himself "Louis Givanetti 

1 George Lupton wrote to William Eden (May 28, 1777): "I yesterday 
discovered under what name Mr. Deane receives his letters from England, 
tho' 'twas attended with some risque ; he had occasion to go below for some- 
thing, in the meanwhile I slipped into his closet and discovered numbers of 
letters directed to him under the name of Monsieur Benson; they come to 
him generally by the way of Holland." Stevens' Facsimiles, II, No. 162. 



202 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Pellion, ci-devant Garde du Corps de S. M. le Roi de Sar- 
daigne, aujourd'hui Controlleur de la Cour de S. M e susdite," 
recommended himself in the following terms: "I know how 
to accommodate myself to all climates, manners, circum- 
stances; and times. I am passionately fond of travel, I love 
to see the great world, its armies and navies. Neither cards, 
nor wine nor women have any influence over me : but a ship, 
an army, long voyages, all these are Paradise to me!" 

Franklin yielded to the solicitations of a few, and, of those 
whom he recommended, some Steuben, Zollicoffer, Fleury 
achieved high distinction. Congress was soon, however, 
embarrassed by the number of foreign soldiers crowding into 
the army and requested the commissioners in France to dis- 
courage all such applicants. 

Occasionally, however, the application came reinforced 
with letters from persons whom it was impolitic to refuse or 
to offend. In these instances an amusing caution curbs 
Franklin's recommendations, while he artfully disobeys 
orders. The following letter was written to the President of 
Congress, July 10, 1780: 

"Sra: I am requested by Madame la Marquise de la 
Fayette, whom no body can refuse, to give the Bearer, M. le 
Baron d'Arros, a Letter to your Excellency. I have ac- 
quainted him that our Armies are fully officered, that there 
was no Probability of his being employed, that it was contrary 
to my orders to recommend any foreign Officer for Employ- 
ment, that such a Recommendation, if I were to give it, would 
therefore do him no service, and that I could not give him 
the least Expectation or Encouragement to go over to Amer- 
ica, but would rather advise him to remain in France. All 
this has had no Effect to change his Resolution. He thinks 



CORRESPONDENCE 203 

his long Experience and Skill in his Military Profession, will 
recommend him : and I have only to request of your Excel- 
lency that you would shew him that Countenance and those 
Civilities that his Zeal for our Cause and his Connections 
with a Family we all so much esteem and love may entitle 
him to." 

Upon being asked by an entire stranger for a letter of 
recommendation, Franklin couched it in these terms: "As 
to this gentleman I must refer you to himself for his charac- 
ter and merits, with which he is certainly better acquainted 
than I can possibly be. I recommend him, however, to 
those civilities, which every stranger, of whom one knows 
no harm, has a right to; and I request you will do him all 
the good Offices, and show him all the favour, that, on 
further Acquaintance, you shall find him to deserve." 

"You can have no conception," he wrote to a friend, "how 
I am harass'd. All my friends are sought out to teaze me. 
Great Officers of all Ranks, in all Departments; Ladies, 
great and small, besides professed Sollicitors, worry me from 
morning to night. The noise of every Coach now that enters 
my Court terrifies me. I am afraid to accept an invitation 
to dine abroad, being almost sure of meeting with some Offi- 
cer or Officer's Friend, who as soon as I am put in good 
Humour by a Glass or two of Champagne, begins his Attack 
upon me. Luckily I do not often in my sleep dream myself 
in these vexatious Situations, or I should be afraid of what 
are now my only Hours of Comfort. If therefore you have 
the least remaining Kindness for me, if you would not help 
drive me out of France, for God's sake, my dear friend, let 
this your 23d Application be your last." 

Volumes of letters came from the relatives of those who 



204 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

had enlisted, anxiously inquiring about their fate. The 
Countess Esthe (sister-in-law of Kosziuszko), the brother of 
Casimir Poulawski, the aged father of Steuben, write repeat- 
edly and pathetically for news from America. Others are 
languishing in English prisons, and their kinsmen beseech 
Franklin to secure their exchange. In reply to one such 
memorial he writes (to M. Goudeman, December 10, 1777): 
"We consider M. Waibert as one of our Countrymen. Hun- 
dreds of them are in the same situation. We have proposed 
to the British Court, through their Ambassador here, an Ex- 
change of Prisoners in Europe. The Proposition was rejected 
with Insolence. We have no interest with that Court to pro- 
cure Favours. That Gentlemen may depend on our taking 
the same care and Pains to procure his Liberty as for any 
other the most favoured of our People." 

The weary pressure of life in Europe drove many persons, 
of all classes of society, to emigrate to the New World. 
Franklin was called upon constantly for information con- 
cerning the country, the climate, its products, its trade, its 
people, and its laws. Reuben Harvey wrote from Cork 
(May 17, 1782) that about one hundred poor tradesmen and 
husbandmen desired to settle in America. The ship Ann 
is about to sail. "They have not money to pay their passage 
and therefore propose to indent as servants for a certain 
term, as has been the custom heretofore ; but my friend Stub- 
beman (who is loading the ship) is unwilling to accept them 
in this manner until he has thy opinion respecting the pro- 
priety of it, least Congress may disapprove of such men 
being carried out to America." Franklin replies on the 
back of the sheet: "They will go to a Country where 
People do not Export their Beef and Lumen to import 



CORRESPONDENCE 205 

Claret, while the Poor at home live on Potatoes and wear 
Rags. Indeed America has not Beef and Linnen sufficient 
for Exportation because every man there, even the poorest, 
eats Beef and wears a Shirt." 

Pierre von de Corcellen, of Moudon, in the canton of 
Berne (March 5, 1779), wrote for information about the price 
of land in Pennsylvania, as he and several farmers desired to 
settle there. Franklin jots down upon the letter: "That I 
am obliged to him for his Good will to America that the 
lands in Pensilvania not yet granted all belong to the Pro- 
prietary, Mr. Penn. That he sells them for 5 j sterling the 
100 Acres. A Price so low that probably the Gentlemen 
would chuse rather to purchase than accept them as a Gift. 
That no Lands are given to Encourage Strangers to settle in 
that Province. A good Climate, good Air, good Soil, good 
Government, good Laws, and Liberty have been found suffi- 
cient Encouragements without hiring Inhabitants by other 
Gifts : and all those he will meet with, besides are honest virtu- 
ous People, who receive Strangers with a sincere welcome and 
will respect his Talents." Some years later Franklin was 
wont to reply to inquirers of this kind by a reference to Creve- 
coeur's excellent "Letters from an American Farmer." To a 
proposed emigrant he wrote: "There is a book lately pub- 
lished in London, written by Mr. Hector St. John, its title 
'Letters from an American Farmer,' which contains a good 
deal of information on those subjects [value of land, etc.] and 
as I know the Author to be an observing, intelligent man I 
suppose the information to be good as far as it goes, and I 
recommend the Book to your perusal." 

He was guarded in his commendation of Abbe* Raynal's 
book when a German (Stockar) wrote to him about it from 



206 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

"Schafhouse [sic] en Suisse," December 6, 1781. Frank- 
lin's memorandum is: "Different men who have been present 
and witnesses of a Transaction often give different and incon- 
sistent Accounts of it, thro' defaults in their Observation or 
Memory. It is still more difficult for a Historian who writes 
of Affairs distant either in Time or Place to come at the exact 
Truth. It is therefore a Wonder if some Errors have escaped 
the Abbe* Raynal's care in his History of the American Revo- 
lution which this Pamphlet points out. It is nevertheless 
upon the whole an excellent Work. Tho' there are some 
other Errors, such as that European Animals degenerate in 
America. That men are shorter liv'd. That they have a 
bad habit of Inticing Inhabitants. That the people of Mas- 
sachusetts Bay preserve their Fanaticism. That the Society 
is bad and has grown worse. With others of less importance." 
Franklin's patronage was often solicited. He was asked 
by authors to honour them by accepting the dedication of 
their works. The Abbe* de Pellizer (October 21, 1778) asked 
his interest and favour in introducing to the world a Spanish- 
French-Latin Dictionary, upon which he had been long 
engaged. Anquetil-Duperron sent him his "La Legislation 
Orientale," requesting his criticism. The Marquis de Chas- 
tellux (June 21, 1780) having translated Humphreys's poems 
asks for Franklin's judgment upon his work. Isaiah Thomas 
(November 14, 1787), when about to reprint Perry's Pro- 
nouncing Dictionary (the first in the English language to be 
reprinted in America), requested permission to dedicate it 
to Franklin. Not hearing immediately in reply he dedicated 
it to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, but upon 
receiving Franklin's belated assent, he dedicated to him the 
second edition. 



CORRESPONDENCE 207 

Allamand, the warden of forests and waters of the island 
of Corsica, told Franklin that he was writing a work upon 
canals and asked for information about canals in America 
(June 22, 1779). Franklin replied: "No canals have hitherto 
been constructed in the Countries of the United States, unless 
that called the Thoroughfare of Duck Creek in Delaware 
state should be deemed one. It is said to have been made in 
one night by a number of People concern'd in the Naviga- 
tion of the Creek which formerly had such a Turn in it, that 
after sailing 40 miles one came round to within a Mile of the 
same part of the Creek that had been passed. As the Ground 
of the Isthmus was flat and soft, and some high Tides nearly 
cover'd it, Proposals had often been made to the Owner of 
the Land to permit for a Sum of Money a Cut to be made 
there, which he had always refused." 

Every description of manuscript was sent to him for criti- 
cism, or as tribute of respect and admiration. Perkins sent 
him his articles on waterspouts, and Cadwallader Golden his 
papers on meteorology. An English observer sends "A De- 
scription of a Meteor" and one Frenchman submits a me- 
moir e "sur un Chariot arme" en Guerre," while another offers 
a memoir e "sur un Radeau portant une Forteresse." Among 
his miscellaneous papers are still preserved a "Projet pour 
Etablir a Philadelphie une Accademie Nationnale pour 1'Edu- 
cation de la Jeunesse Americaine," "Observations politique 
sur la Necessity de PEtablissement d'une seconde Ville de 
Commerce maritime dans la Mediterrane"e, " "Asyles aux 
Indigenes, " "Weather in Marietta on the Muskingum River 
in 1788, " " Observations on the Caladaron on Mozambique." 

Naturally, Franklin's post-bag contained many begging 
letters. Indeed, in such numbers did they come that all 



208 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

France seemed to be begging. Miserable wretches in debt, 
distraction, and on the verge of suicide appealed to him for 
aid. Poets wrote him sonnets and palinodes, which Frank- 
lin labelled " begging verses." Upon the back of a long poem 
he wrote, "From M. de Raudiere, a poor Poet, who craves 
assistance to enable him to finish an epic poem which he is 
writing against the English. He thinks General Howe will 
be off as soon as the poem appears." 

A paralytic eighty-five years old wrote to him in pitiful 
vein, but Franklin noted upon the letter, " Je ne croit pas qu 
il y a un Mot de Vrai dans cette Histoire." A Benedictine 
monk, for five years prior of the Abbey of St. Pierre de Chalon, 
had lost money at cards, and begged aid from Franklin, who 
endorsed the letter "Dom Bernard, Benedictine, wants me 
to pay his Gaming Debts and he will pray for success to 
our Cause!" (7 bre 14, 1778). La Baronne de Randerath 
writes that the doctors have advised her to take her husband 
to Aix. Will Franklin lend her the money ? Her husband 
and he belong to the Masonic Order, though to different 
lodges ! 

Samuel Jackson Pratt, the author of the tiresome and 
forgotten "Shenstone Green" and "Travels of the Heart," 
carried his hireling pen to Paris, and under the name of Court- 
ney Melmoth, offered his services to Franklin. His glib 
tongue and fluent rhetoric won for him some slight attention, 
and by repeated tales of distress he obtained some small 
loans. When about to return to London, he applied for a 
further accommodation of fifteen louis. Franklin then 
wrote to him: "It was with greater Inconvenience to myself 
than you perhaps imagined that I furnished you with the 
38 Guineas before, and now with 12 more, which make the 



CORRESPONDENCE 209 

whole 50 Guineas. I have too many occasions for Money 
here, and too little to answer them. But I have relied and 
do rely on your Honour and Punctuality for the speedy Re- 
payment. I wish you and Mrs. Melmoth a good journey. 
It shall be a secret with me, as you desire, but I am sorry to 
understand that it is necessary." Money was not the only 
object of the beggar's prayer. A sea captain wrote from 
Bordeaux requesting Franklin to obtain from M. de Sartine, 
Minister of Marine, a special dispensation in his behalf that 
he might be exempted from service on the king's ships. 
He said that he desired this favour in order to accept the 
command of a merchant ship bound for Charlestown. Frank- 
lin replied : " SIR : it being extreamly improper for me who am 
a Stranger here to trouble the Ministers with Solicitations for 
Persons unknown to me and in Affairs the nature of which 
I am ignorant of, I must beg you to excuse my not doing 
what you desire of me. I return your Papers as they may be 
of Use to you " (December 17, 1778). 

Struggling educational institutions in America entreated 
him to obtain aid for them from the French government. 
John Trumbull wrote to him (November 9, 1782) regarding 
Dartmouth College, and introduced to him President Wheel- 
ock, who was going abroad to solicit benefactions. Stephen 
Hopkins, on behalf of Brown University (January 9, 1784), 
asked him to persuade Louis XVI to give books and to endow 
a chair of French in the college, and David Ho well repeated 
the appeal (February 20, 1786). Witherspoon visited him 
upon a like errand to ask him to look with a favourable eye 
upon Princeton (March 27, 1784). John Montgomery ap- 
pealed to him for funds for Dickinson College. He tried 
with varying degrees of success to assist all these institutions, 
VOL. i p 



210 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

and in many instances gave liberally from his own private 
purse. He presented a library of three hundred books to 
the town of Franklin in New Hampshire. He made pres- 
ents of books to the Library Company of Philadelphia, the 
University of Pennsylvania, Yale College, the universities of 
Glasgow and St. Andrews, and persuaded Dr. Lettsom to 
send a box of books to Dickinson College. Moreover, he 
devised a plan for increasing and improving the library of 
Harvard College (September n, 1755), and himself contrib- 
uted a substantial sum toward the fund. To the college 
which bore his name in Pennsylvania, he gave a thousand 
pounds. 

Franklin's love of music appears in an interesting manner 
in his correspondence. He played the harp, the guitar, and 
the violin, and he invented the armonica, a now obsolete 
instrument, which he fancied was destined to supersede the 
piano and harpsichord. The first suggestion of it came to 
him upon hearing a member of the Royal Society (Mr. Dela- 
val) play melodies by rubbing his fingers upon the edges of 
glass bowls, which had been tuned "by putting into them 
water more or less as each note required." A full description 
of the instrument will be found in a letter addressed to John 
Baptist Beccaria, July 13, 1762; and directions for drawing 
out the tone from the glasses of the armonica will be found 
in a letter to Dr. Dubourg, December 8, 1772. 

At the social gatherings at Mme. Brillon's house, Franklin 
delighted to play the armonica, and frequently in her letters 
to him she refers to the compositions which were thus per- 
formed. Upon one occasion, she writes: "Happiness is so 
uncertain so many obstacles are encountered in its pursuit, 
that the intimate persuasion of being happier in another life 



CORRESPONDENCE 2 1 1 

can alone help us to bear with the trials of this one. In Para- 
dise we will be reunited never to leave each other again ! We 
shall there live on roasted apples only; the music will be 
composed of Scotch airs; all games will be given over to 
chess, so that no one may be disappointed; everyone will 
speak the same language ; the English will be neither unjust 
nor wicked there; the women will not be coquettes, men 
will be neither jealous nor too gallant. King John will be 
left to eat his apples in peace; perhaps he will be decent 
enough to offer some to his neighbours, who knows, since we 
shall want for nothing in Paradise! We shall never suffer 
from gout there, nor from our nerves ; M. Mesmer will con- 
tent himself with playing on the harmonica, without both- 
ering us about electric fluids; ambition, envy, pretensions, 
jealousy, prejudices, all that will vanish at the sound of the 
trumpet." 

To this paradisaical prospect, Franklin replied in a similar 
tone of cheerful banter: "More than forty years will probably 
elapse from the time of my arrival in Heaven before you fol- 
low me. ... I shall have enough time during these forty 
years to practise on the harmonica and perhaps may be able 
to play well enough to accompany you on the pianoforte. 
From time to time we shall have little concerts : good Father 
Pagin will be of the party; your neighbour and his dear 
family, M. de Chaumont, Mr. B . Mr. Jourdan, M. Gram- 
mont, Mme. du Tartre, the little mother, and other chosen 
friends will form our audience and the dear good girls accom- 
panied by some other young angels whose portraits you have 
already given me will sing the Alleluias with us; we shall 
eat together apples of paradise, roasted with butter and nut- 
meg, and we shall pity those who are not dead." Homesick 



212 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

in the Riviera, she writes to him of her longing for the little 
parties at home, "when the Abbe's la Roche and Morellet 
will eat all the butter, Pe"re Pagin will play the 'God of Love' 
on the violin, I the 'March' on the piano, you 'Little Birds' 
on the Armonica." 

A friend searched in vain in Paris for a harp which Frank- 
lin had commissioned him to purchase, and offered to pro- 
cure him " a pianoforte if it will supply the place of the harp." 
This was probably the pianoforte which Franklin left behind 
him when he returned to America, and which eight months 
after his departure was sold by Le Veillard for twelve louis. 

Mary Ann Davies was the first person to play in public 
upon the armonica. The first occasion was the celebration 
of the nuptials of the Duke of Parma and the Archduchess of 
Austria, and the performance was in the presence of the Im- 
perial Court of Vienna. Miss Davies played, and her sister 
sang, an ode composed for the occasion by Metastasio. The 
instrument had a temporary popularity and several of them 
were made and sold in London at forty guineas each. Frank- 
lin complained of the delays and caprices of the workmen, 
and wrote to Miss Stevenson (March 25, 1763) : "I am vex'd 
with Mr. James that he has been so dilatory in Mr. Maddi- 
son's Armonica. I was unlucky in both the Workmen, that 
I permitted to undertake making those Instruments. The 
first was fanciful, and never could work to the purpose, 
because he was ever conceiving some new Improvement, 
that answer'd no End. The other, I doubt, is absolutely 
idle." 

Some slight improvements in the instrument were made in 
1783 by Deudon, who was shown it by Franklin and Diderot; 
and Professor Steinsky, of Prague, wrote to Franklin (August 



CORRESPONDENCE 213 

3, 1783) that a Mr. Renner, of the University of Prague, had 
also made some minor improvements. 

Charles Stamitz, "compositeur de Musique de la Cour de 
Vienne et celle de la Have," proposed to come to America as 
a "maitre de musique," and wrote to Franklin (October 2, 
1783) that M. Clerval was about to take across the ocean 
"une troupe frangaise." Franklin jotted upon the letter the 
following brief memorandum for a reply: "That the Beaux 
Arts are much better encouraged in Europe than in America, 
where the people are not so rich. That I cannot therefore 
advise him to go there. That I doubt the success of M. Cler- 
val's project : our Country not being yet ripe for such Amuse- 
ments." 

That erratic wanderer, Abbe Vogler, who delighted Europe 
with his brilliant performances, and who indulged in novel 
and visionary "systems," visited Franklin at Passy to ex- 
plain his new musical theory, and to invite Franklin's atten- 
tion to his new invention, the tonomUre. Following his 
interview he wrote to Franklin (March 5, 1783) and begged 
that he would honour with his presence "un Opera que j'ai 
mis en musique et qu'on donnera bientot aux Italiens intitule" 
le Patriotisms." 

Franklin's love of music was well and widely known, and 
while a celebrated German composer travelled to Passy to 
solicit his judgment upon a musical theory and a musical 
invention, a less known musician (John Antes) sent him from 
Cairo six quartets which he had composed for his friend 
the Marquis de Hauteford to produce at the Harmonical 
Society of Bengal. 

His taste in music was simple. He took no pleasure in 
"modern affected ornament," and was chiefly moved by 



214 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Scotch airs. His exposition of the " Ideal Harmony of the 
Scottish Melodies" will be found acutely and simply set forth 
in a letter to Lord Kames (June 2, 1765); and his criticism 
of the defects of modern music, in a letter to Peter Franklin, 
without date. "The fine singer," he says, "in the present 
mode, stifles all the hard consonants, and polishes away all 
the rougher parts of words that serve to distinguish them one 
from another; so that you hear nothing but an admirable 
pipe, and understand no more of the song, than you would 
from its tune played on any other instrument. If ever it 
was the ambition of musicians to make instruments that 
should imitate the human voice, that ambition seems now 
reversed, the voice aiming to be like an instrument. Thus 
wigs were first made to imitate a good natural head of hair ; 
but when they became fashionable though in unnatural forms, 
we have seen natural hair dressed to look like wigs." 

The first words in Franklin's will are "I Benjamin Frank- 
lin, Printer" Throughout his life he was chiefly interested 
in printing, and his most intimate friends were members of 
that craft. He was learned in paper, types, and ink. In 
England his dearest confidential companion was William 
Strahan, "dear Straney," the King's Printer, through 
whom he had become acquainted with Adam Smith. There 
was business and love between them. The famous letter 
"You are a member of Parliament and one of that majority 
which has doomed my country to destruction. You have 
begun to burn our towns, and murder our People. Look 
upon your hands, they are stained with the blood of your 
relations. You and I were long friends; you are now my 
enemy, and I am, yours, B. Franklin " - was merely a jeu 
d'esprit, never meant to be taken seriously. No political 



CORRESPONDENCE 215 

circumstance or private difference created the slightest es- 
trangement of these friends. They lived to the end without 
a moment's jar, or coldness or peevishness. 

With other printers Franklin maintained interesting corre- 
spondence. He felt warm sympathy with Baskerville, and 
admired the superb specimens of his art, examples of which 
he sent to the libraries of America. John Walter submitted 
his plan of logographic printing to Franklin in December, 

1783- 

In France he corresponded with Didot, who got from him 
his first notion of stereotyping, and with Pierres (Imp r Ord re 
du Roi), to whom he gave the special paper upon which to 
print his "Manuel d'Epictete en Grec," and with Fournier, 
the celebrated type founder and publisher of a "Manuel 
Typographique." He was proud of his ink, which preserves 
to-day its glossy blackness, and compared it with each new 
ink that he saw advertised. Jacques Besse wrote to him 
about the preparation of durable inks and told him of the 
process employed in England by which coloured maps were 
produced on handkerchiefs, London in red on one side, and 
Paris in blue on the other ! 

His business relations with James Parker, of Woodbury, 
New Jersey, led to much correspondence with that weeping 
philosopher, whose letters are a constant wail of distress. 
He appears beset with difficulties, always ill and poor. He 
complains of the great cost of living : to go naked and to pay 
no debts seems to be the only way to solve the problem of 
life. "Our friend Chew of New London," he says, "is the 
compleatest parrier of a Dun that I have any occasion to 
treat of." Parker complains that he is the victim of the 
most contrary troubles " Gout and poverty at once ! Are 



216 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

they not inconsistent?" "A little more struggling through 
life will probably carry me out of it," and so he goes on 
with his jeremiads until Franklin is obliged to tell him that 
he is hurt by his "voluminous complaints." 

An Englishman, William Parsons, wrote to Franklin from 
Dieppe, asking him to answer in English as he was a "poor 
proficient in the French language." The same might be said 
of Franklin. He acquired the conversational use of French 
after he had passed his seventieth year, and was never at ease 
in speech or correct in writing the language. He wrote 
to Felix Nogaret that his grandson was the better master 
of French, but for his own poor part he must write in Eng- 
lish, of which he had no doubt that Nogaret would grasp the 
meaning. The other commissioners were less familiar with 
the language. Jefferson said, "I understand the French so 
imperfectly as to be uncertain whether those to whom I speak 
and myself mean the same thing" (August 16, 1784). And 
Beaumarchais wrote to Vergennes (August 13, 1776) that 
he had been assured by Mr. Deane that he never opened his 
mouth before the English people he met in Paris, sarcastically 
adding, "We must conclude from this that he is the most 
silent man in France, for I defy him to say six consecutive 
words before Frenchmen." 

Franklin rarely attempted to write a business or official 
letter in French, but he frequently ventured in carrying on 
his social correspondence. After such an attempt, when he 
had lamented his blunders, Mme. Brillon wrote to him: 
" My good papa, why do you say that you write French badly, 
that your pleasantries in that language are only nonsense? 
To make an academic discourse one must be a good gram- 
marian, but to write to our friends all we need is a heart, 



CORRESPONDENCE 217 

and you combine with the best heart, when you wish, the 
soundest moral teaching, a lively imagination, and that droll 
roguishness which shows that the wisest of men allows at 
each instant his wisdom to be broken against the rocks of 
femininity." Still less familiar was he with other languages, 
though he read with some facility Latin, Italian, Spanish, and 
German. It was difficult for him to read German script, 
and letters in that language he was accustomed to send to 
a fair friend, saying "M. Franklin prie sa fidele Interprete 
de jetter ses beaux Yeux sur ces ecrits Allemands, et de lui 
dire a la premiere rencontre, leur contenu en peu de mots." 
Among the serious correspondence of an official and scien- 
tific nature are bundles of dainty little notes in feminine 
caligraphy, smelling faintly of perfume and full of roguery. 
Hundreds of letters turn up addressed to "tres cher papa," 
"Dear American father," "amiable papa," and full of art- 
fulness and mingled French and English, "Je vous envoye 
a sweet kiss, dear Papa, envoyer moi en revanche, un Mot de 
Reponse." Harassed as he was by business cares, and 
weighted with official burdens, old and gouty and physically 
indolent, Franklin escaped from the anxieties of his station 
and unbent from the cares of state, in the cheerful compan- 
ionship of fair and witty women. This correspondence has 
been hitherto neglected. But it represents an essential phase 
of Franklin's life and liberal portions of it are printed in these 
volumes. To know the real and many-sided Franklin, we 
must seek him in the laboratory of Lavoisier, in the cabinet 
of Comte de Vergennes, and in the merry salon of Mme. 
Helve*tius, "our lady of Auteuil." 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



i. FRANKLIN'S DRAFT SCHEME OF THE 
AUTOBIOGRAPHY 

[Copie d'un Projet ires Curieux de Benjamin Franklin 
i ere Esquisse de ses Memoires. Les additions a Vencre 
rouge sont de la main de Franklin.} 1 

My writing. Mrs. Dogood's letters. Differences arise be- 
tween my Brother and me (his temper and mine) ; their cause 
in general. His Newspaper. The Prosecution he suffered. 
My Examination. Vote of Assembly. His manner of evad- 
ing it. Whereby I became free. My attempt to get employ 
with other Printers. He prevents me. Our frequent plead- 
ings before our Father. The final Breach. My Induce- 
ments to quit Boston. Manner of coming to a Resolution. 
My leaving him and going to New York (return to eating 
flesh) ; thence to Pennsylvania. The journey, and its events 
on the Bay, at Amboy. The road. Meet with Dr. Brown. 
His character. His great work. At Burlington. The Good 
Woman. On the River. My Arrival at Philadelphia. First 
Meal and first Sleep. Money left. Employment. Lodg- 
ing. First acquaintance with my afterward Wife. With 
J. Ralph. With Keimer. Their characters. Osborne. 
Watson. The Governor takes notice of me. The Occasion 

1 This memorandum, probably in the handwriting of M. le Veillard, im- 
mediately precedes the Outline in the MS. B. 



222 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

and Manner. His character. Offers to set me up. My 
return to Boston. Voyage and accidents. Reception. My 
Father dislikes the proposal. I return to New York and 
Philadelphia. Governor Burnet. J. Collins. The Money for 
Vernon. The Governor's Deceit. Collins not finding em- 
ployment goes to Barbados much in my Debt. Ralph and I go 
to England. Disappointment of Governor's Letters. Colonel 
French his Friend. Cornwallis's Letters. Cabbin. Den- 
ham. Hamilton. Arrival in England. Get employment. Ralph 
not. He is an expense to me. Adventures in England. Write 
a Pamphlet and print 100. Schemes. Lyons. Dr. Pember- 
ton. My diligence, and yet poor through Ralph. My Land- 
lady. Her character. Wygate. Wilkes. Gibber. Plays. 
Books I borrowed. Preachers I heard. Redmayne. At 
Watts's. Temperance. Ghost. Conduct and Influence 
among the Men. Persuaded by Mr. Denham to return with 
him to Philadelphia and be his clerk. Our voyage and arri- 
val. My resolutions in Writing. My Sickness. His Death. 
Found D. R. married. Go to work again with Keimer. 
Terms. His ill-usage of me. My Resentment. Saying of 
Decow. My Friends at Burlington. Agreement with H. 
Meredith to set up in Partnership. Do so. Success with 
the Assembly. Hamilton's Friendship. Sewell's History. 
Gazette. Paper money. Webb. Writing Busy Body. 
Breintnal. Godfrey. His character. Suit against us. Offer 
of my Friends, Coleman and Grace. Continue the Business, 
and M. goes to Carolina. Pamphlet on Paper Money. Ga- 
zette from Keimer. Junto credit; its plan. Marry. Li- 
brary erected. Manner of conducting the project. Its plan 
and utility. Children. Almanac. The use I made of it. 
Great industry. Constant study. Father's Remark and 



DRAFT SCHEME OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 223 

Advice upon Diligence. Carolina Partnership. Learn 
French and German. Journey to Boston after ten years. 
Affection of my Brother. His Death, and leaving me his Son. 
Art of Virtue. Occasion. City Watch amended. Post- 
office. Spotswood. Bradford's Behaviour. Clerk of As- 
sembly. Lose one of my Sons. Project of subordinate 
Juntos. Write occasionally in the papers. Success in Busi- 
ness. Fire companies. Engines. Go again to Boston in 
1743. See Dr. Spence. Whitefield. My connection with 
him. His generosity to me. My return. Church Differ- 
ences. My part in them. Propose a College. Not then 
prosecuted. Propose and establish a Philosophical Society. 
War. Electricity. My first knowledge of it. Partnership 
with D. Hall, etc. Dispute in Assembly upon Defence. 
Project for it. Plain Truth. Its success. Ten thousand 
Men raised and disciplined. Lotteries. Battery built. New 
Castle. My influence in the Council. Colours, Devices, and 
Mottos. Ladies' Military Watch. Quakers chosen of the 
Common Council. Put in the commission of the peace. 
Logan fond of me. His Library. Appointed Postmaster- 
General. Chosen Assemblyman. Commissioner to treat 
with Indians at Carlisle and at Easton. Project and 
establish Academy. Pamphlet on it. Journey to Boston. 
At Albany. Plan of union of the colonies. Copy of it. 
Remarks upon it. It fails, and how. Journey to Boston in 
1754. Disputes about it in our Assembly. My part in them. 
New Governor. Disputes with him. His character and say- 
ings to me. Chosen Alderman. Project of Hospital. My 
share hi it. Its success. Boxes. Made a Commissioner 
of the Treasury. My commission to defend the frontier 
counties. Raise Men and build Forts. Militia Law of my 



224 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

drawing. Made Colonel. Parade of my Officers. Offence 
to Proprietor. Assistance to Boston Ambassadors. Journey 
with Shirley, etc. Meet with Braddock. Assistance to him. 
To the Officers of his Army. Furnish him with Forage. His 
concessions to me and character of me. Success of my Elec- 
trical Experiments. Medal sent me. Present Royal Society, 
and Speech of President. Denny's Arrival and Courtship to 
me. His character. My service to the Army in the affair of 
Quarters. Disputes about the Proprietor's Taxes continued. 
Project for paving the City. I am sent to England. Nego- 
tiation there. Canada delenda est. My Pamphlet. Its recep- 
tion and effect. Projects drawn from me concerning the Con- 
quest. Acquaintance made and their services to me Mrs. 
S. M. Small, Sir John P., Mr. Wood, Sargent, Strahan, and 
others. Their characters. Doctorate from Edinburgh, St. 
Andrew's. Doctorate from Oxford. Journey to Scotland. 
Lord Leicester. Mr. Prat. De Grey. Jackson. State of 
Affairs in England. Delays. Eventful Journey into Hol- 
land and Flanders. Agency from Maryland. Son's ap- 
pointment. My Return. Allowance and thanks. Journey 
to Boston. John Penn, Governor. My conduct toward 
him. The Paxton Murders. My Pamphlet. Rioters march 
to Philadelphia. Governor retires to my House. My con- 
duct. Sent out to the Insurgents. Turn them back. Little 
thanks. Disputes revived. Resolutions against continuing 
under Proprietary Government. Another Pamphlet. Cool 
thoughts. Sent again to England with Petition. Negotia- 
tion there. Lord H. His character. Agencies from New 
Jersey, Georgia, Massachusetts. Journey into Germany, 
1766. Civilities received there. Gottingen Observations. 
Ditto into France in 1767. Ditto in 1769. Entertainment 



DRAFT SCHEME OF THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 225 

there at the Academy. Introduced to the King and the 
Mesdames, Mad. Victoria and Mrs. Lamagnon. Due de 
Chaulnes, M. Beaumont, Le Roy, D'Alibard, Nollet. See 
Journals. Holland. Reprint my papers and add many. 
Books presented to me from many authors. My Book trans- 
lated into French. Lightning Kite. Various Discoveries. 
My manner of prosecuting that Study. King of Denmark 
invites me to dinner. Recollect my Father's Proverb. Stamp 
Act. My opposition to it. Recommendation of J. Hughes. 
Amendment of it. Examination in Parliament. Reputation 
it gave me. Caressed by Ministry. Charles Townshend's 
Act. Opposition to it. Stoves and chimney-plates. Ar- 
monica. Acquaintance with Ambassadors. Russian Inti- 
mation. Writing in newspapers. Glasses from Germany. 
Grant of Land in Nova Scotia. Sickness. Letters to 
America returned hither. The consequences. Insurance 
Office. My character. Costs me nothing to be civil to in- 
feriors; a good deal to be submissive to superiors, etc., etc. 
Farce of Perpetual Motion. Writing for Jersey Assembly. 1 
Hutchinson's Letters. Temple. Suit in Chancery. Abuse 
before the Privy Council. Lord Hillsborough's character 
and conduct. Lord Dartmouth. Negotiation to prevent 
the War. Return to America. Bishop of St. Asaph. Con- 
gress. Assembly. Committee of Safety. Chevaux-de-frise. 
Sent to Boston, to the Camp. To Canada, to Lord Howe. 
To France. Treaty, etc. 

1 To this point the projet is in a strange and clerkly hand. The remainder 
is in the handwriting of Franklin. B. 



VOL. I Q 



2. THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 1 



TWYFORD, at the Bishop of St. Asapfrs, 1771.* 
DEAR SON: I have ever had pleasure in obtaining any 
little anecdotes of my ancestors. You may remember the 
inquiries I made among the remains of my relations when 
you were with me in England, and the journey I undertook 
for that purpose. Imagining it may be equally agreeable 
to 8 you to know the circumstances of my life, many of which 
you are yet unacquainted with, and expecting the enjoyment 
of a week's uninterrupted leisure in my present country re- 
tirement, I sit down to write them for you. To which I have 
besides some other inducements. Having emerged from the 
poverty and obscurity in which I was born and bred, to a 
state of affluence and some degree of reputation in the world, 
and having gone so far through life with a considerable share 
of felicity, the conducing means I made use of, which with 
the blessing of God so well succeeded, my posterity may like 
to know, as they may find some of them suitable to their 
own situations, and therefore fit to be imitated. 

1 The text adopted in this edition is that of Mr. John Bigelow, and is a 
faithful copy of the original manuscript, differing from it only in the fact that 
no attention has been paid to Franklin's practice of writing nearly every noun 
with a capital letter. ED. 

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

After the words "agreeable to" the words "some of" were interlined and 
afterward effaced. B. 

226 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 227 

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

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

And now I speak of thanking God, I desire with all hu- 
mility to acknowledge that I owe the mentioned happiness 



228 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

of my past life to His kind providence, which lead me to the 
means I used and gave them success. My belief of this in- 
duces me to hope, though I must not presume, that the same 
goodness will still be exercised toward me, in continuing that 
happiness, or enabling me to bear a fatal reverse, which I 
may experience as others have done; the complexion of my 
future fortune being known to Him only in whose power it is 
to bless to us even our afflictions. 

The notes one of my uncles (who had the same kind of 
curiosity in collecting family anecdotes) once put into my 
hands, furnished me with several particulars relating to our 
ancestors. From these notes I learned that the family had 
lived in the same village, Ecton, in Northamptonshire, for 
three hundred years, and how much longer he knew not 
(perhaps from the time when the name of Franklin, that 
before was the name of an order of people, was assumed by 
them as a surname when others took surnames all over the 
kingdom), on a freehold of about thirty acres, aided by the 
smith's business, which had continued in the family till his 
time, the eldest son being always bred to that business; a 
custom which he and my father followed as to their eldest 
sons. When I searched the registers at Ecton, I found an 
account of their births, marriages and burials from the year 
1555 only, there being no registers kept in that parish at any 
time preceding. By that register I perceived that I was the 
youngest son of the youngest son for five generations back. 
My grandfather Thomas, who was born in 1598, lived at 
Ecton till he grew too old to follow business longer, when he 
went to live with his son John, a dyer at Banbury, in Ox- 
fordshire, with whom my father served an apprenticeship. 
There my grandfather died and lies buried. We saw his 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 229 

gravestone in 1758. His eldest son Thomas b'ved in the 
house at Ecton, and left it with the land to his only child, a 
daughter, who, with her husband, one Fisher, of Welling- 
borough, sold it to Mr. Isted, now lord of the manor there. 
My grandfather had four sons that grew up, viz. : Thomas, 
John, Benjamin and Josiah. I will give you what account 
I can of them at this distance from my papers, and if these 
are not lost in my absence, you will among them find many 
more particulars. 

Thomas was bred a smith under his father; but, being 
ingenious, and encouraged in learning (as all my brothers 
were) by an Esquire Palmer, then the principal gentleman 
in that parish, he qualified himself for the business of scriv- 
ener ; became a considerable man in the county ; was a chief 
mover of all public- spirited undertakings for the county or 
town of Northampton, and his own village, of which many 
instances were related of him; and much taken notice of 
and patronized by the then Lord Halifax. He died in 1702, 
January 6, old style, just four years to a day before I was 
born. The account we received of his life and character 
from some old people at Ecton, I remember, struck you as 
something extraordinary, from its similarity to what you 
knew of mine. "Had he died on the same day," you said, 
"one might have supposed a transmigration." 

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., of his own poetry, 



230 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

consisting of little occasional pieces addressed to his friends 
and relations, of which the following, sent to me, is a speci- 
men. 1 He had formed a short-hand of his own, which he 
taught me, but, never practising it, I have now forgot it. I 
was named after this uncle, there being a particular affection 
between him and my father. He was very pious, a great 
attender of sermons of the best preachers, which he took 
down in his short-hand, and had with him many volumes of 
them. He was also much of a politician; too much, per- 
haps, for his station. There fell lately into my hands, in 
London, a collection he had made of all the principal pam- 
phlets relating to public affairs, from 1641 to 1717; many of 
the volumes are wanting as appears by the numbering, but 
there still remain eight volumes in folio, and twenty-four in 
quarto and in octavo. A dealer in old books met with them, 
and knowing me by my sometimes buying of him, he brought 
them to me. It seems my uncle must have left them here 
when he went to America, which was above 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 no- 
tice if he saw the apparitor coming, who was an officer of the 

1 "Here follows in the margin the words, in brackets, 'here insert it,' but 
the poetry is not given." B. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 231 

spiritual court. In that case the stool was turned down 
again upon its feet, when the Bible remained concealed under 
it as before. This anecdote I had from my uncle Benjamin. 
The family continued all of the Church of England till about 
the end of Charles the Second's reign, when some of the min- 
isters that had been outed for non-conformity holding con- 
venticles in Northamptonshire, Benjamin and Josiah adhered 
to them, and so continued all their lives : the rest of the fam- 
ily remained with the Episcopal Church. 

Josiah, my father, married young, and carried his wife 
with three children into New England, about 1682. The 
conventicles having been forbidden by law, and frequently 
disturbed, induced some considerable men of his acquaint- 
ance 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 young- 
est child but two, and was born in Boston, New England. 
My mother, the second wife, was Abiah Folger, daughter of 
Peter Folger, one of the first settlers of New England, of 
whom honorable mention is made by Cotton Mather, in his 
church history of that country, entitled Magnalia Christi 
Americana, as "a godly, learned Englishman" if I remember 
the words rightly. I have heard that he wrote sundry small 
occasional pieces, but only one of them was printed, which I 
saw now many years since. It was written in 1675, i n tne 
home-spun verse of that time and people, and addressed to 
those then concerned in the government there. It was in 



232 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

favour of liberty of conscience, and in behalf of the Baptists, 
Quakers, and other sectaries that had been under persecu- 
tion, ascribing the Indian wars, and other distresses that had 
befallen the country, to that persecution, as so many judg- 
ments of God to punish so heinous an offense, and exhorting 
a repeal of those uncharitable laws. The whole appeared 
to me as written with a good deal of decent plainness and 
manly freedom. The six concluding lines I remember, though 
I have forgotten the two first of the stanza ; but the purport 
of them was, that his censures proceeded from good-will, and, 
therefore, he would be known to be the author. 

" Because to be a libeller (says he) 

I hate it with my heart ; 
From Sherburne l town, where now I dwell 

My name I do put here ; 
Without offense your real friend, 

It is Peter Folgier." 2 

My elder brothers were all put apprentices to different 
trades. I was put to the grammar-school at eight years of age, 
my father intending to devote me, as the tithe of his sons, to 
the service of the Church. My early readiness in learning 
to read (which must have been very early, as I do not remem- 
ber 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 

1 Sherburne is now known by the name of Nantucket. 

2 From "A Looking-Glass for the Times; or The Former Spirit of New 
England Revived in this Generation," by Peter Folger (1617-1690). The 
verses are printed in a pamphlet of fourteen pages, dated April 23, 1676. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 233 

his character. I continued, however, at the grammar-school 
not quite one year, though in that time I had risen gradually 
from the middle of the class of that year to be the head of it, 
and farther was removed into the next class above it, in order 
to go with that into the third at the end of the year. But my 
father, in the meantime, from a view of the expense of a col- 
lege education, which having so large a family he could not 
well afford, and the mean living many so educated were after- 
wards 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 prog- 
ress in it. At ten years old I was taken home to assist my 
father in his business, which was that of a tallow-chandler 
and sope-boiler; a business he was not bred to, but had 
assumed on his arrival in New England, and on finding his 
dying trade would not maintain his family, being in little re- 
quest. Accordingly, I was employed in cutting wick for the 
candles, filling the dipping mold and the molds for cast can- 
dles, attending the shop, going of errands, etc. 

I disliked the trade, and had a strong inclination for the 
sea, but my father declared against it ; however, living near 
the water, I was much in and about it, learnt early to swim 
well, and to manage boats; and when in a boat or canoe 
with other boys, I was commonly allowed to govern, espe- 
cially in any case of difficulty; and upon other occasions I 
was generally a leader among the boys, and sometimes led 
them into scrapes, of which I will mention one instance, as 



234 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

it shows an early projecting public spirit, tho' not then justly 
conducted. 

There was a salt-marsh that bounded part of the mill-pond, 
on the edge of which, at high water, we used to stand to fish 
for minnows. By much trampling, we had made it a mere 
quagmire. My proposal was to build a wharff there fit for 
us to stand upon, and I showed my comrades a large heap 
of stones, which were intended for a new house near the 
marsh, and which would very well suit our purpose. Ac- 
cordingly, in the evening, when the workmen were gone, I 
assembled a number of my play-fellows, and working with 
them diligently like so many emmets, sometimes two or three 
to a stone, we brought them all away and built our little 
wharff. The next morning the workmen were surprised at 
missing the stones, which were found in our wharff. In- 
quiry 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 ingen- 
ious, could draw prettily, was skilled a little in music, and 
had a clear pleasing voice, so that when he played psalm 
tunes on his violin and sung withal, as he sometimes did in 
an evening after the business of the day was over, it was 
extremely agreeable to hear. He had a mechanical genius 
too, and, on occasion, was very handy in the use of other 
tradesmen's tools; but his great excellence lay in a sound 
understanding and solid judgment in prudential matters, 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 235 

both in private and publick affairs. In the latter, indeed, 
he was never employed, the numerous family he had to edu- 
cate and the straitness of his circumstances keeping him close 
to his trade ; but I remember well his being frequently visited 
by leading people, who consulted him for his opinion in affairs 
of the town or of the church he belonged to, and showed a 
good deal of respect for his judgment and advice: he was 
also much consulted by private persons about their affairs 
when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbi- 
trator between contending parties. At his table he liked to 
have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbour 
to converse with, and always took care to start some ingen- 
ious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to im- 
prove the minds of his children. By this means he turned 
our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the con- 
duct of life ; and little or no notice was ever taken of what 
related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or 
ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavour, prefer- 
able or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that 
I was bro't up in such a perfect inattention to those matters 
as to be quite indifferent what kind of food was set before 
me, and so unobservant of it, that to this day if I am asked 
I can scarce tell a few hours after dinner what I dined upon. 
This has been a convenience to me in travelling, where my 
companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of 
a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better 
instructed, tastes and appetites. 

My mother had likewise an excellent constitution: she 
suckled all her ten children. I never knew either my father 
or mother to have any sickness but that of which they dy'd, 
he at 89, and she at 85 years of age. They lie buried 



236 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

together at Boston, where I some years since placed a marble 
over their grave, with this inscription : 

JOSIAH FRANKLIN 

And 

ABIAH his wife, 

Lie here interred. 

They lived lovingly together in wedlock 

Fifty-five years. 

Without an estate, or any gainful employment, 
By constant labor and industry, 

With God's blessing, 
They maintained a large family 

Comfortably, 

And brought up thirteen children 
And seven grandchildren 

Reputably. 

From this instance, reader, 
Be encouraged to diligence in thy calling, 

And distrust not Providence. 

He was a pious and prudent man ; 

She, a discreet and virtuous woman. 

Their youngest son, 
In filial regard to their memory, 

Places this stone. 

J. F. born 1655, died 1744, -ditat 89. 
A. F. born 1667, died 1752, 85. 1 

1 A more durable monument was erected over the grave in 1827 by the 
voluntary subscriptions of a large number of the citizens of Boston. The 
corner-stone was laid on the I5th of June, 1827, and an address appropriate 
to the occasion was pronounced by General Henry A. S. Dearborn. 

The monument is an obelisk of granite, twenty-one feet high, which rests 
on a square base measuring seven feet on each side and two feet in height. 
The obelisk is composed of five massive blocks of granite placed one above 
another. On one side is the name of FRANKLIN in large bronze letters, and 
a little below is a tablet of bronze, thirty-two inches long and sixteen wide, 
sunk into the stone. On this tablet is engraved Dr. Franklin's original in- 
scription, as quoted in the text, and beneath it are the following lines : 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 237 

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

To return : I continued thus employed in my father's busi- 
ness for two years, that is, till I was twelve years old ; and my 
brother John, who was bred to that business, having left my 
father, married, and set up for himself at Rhode Island, there 
was all appearance that I was destined to supply his place, 
and become a tallow-chandler. But my dislike to the trade 
continuing, my father was under apprehensions that if he did 
not find one for me more agreeable, I should break away and 
get to sea, as his son Josiah had done, to his great vexation. 
He therefore sometimes took me to walk with him, and see 
joiners, bricklayers, turners, braziers, etc., at their work, that 
he might observe my inclination, and endeavour to fix it on 

"The marble tablet, 

Bearing the above inscription, 

Having been dilapidated by the ravages of time, 

A number of citizens, 

Entertaining the most profound veneration 

For the memory of the illustrious 

Benjamin Franklin, 

And desirous of reminding succeeding generations, 

That he was born in Boston, A. D. MDCCVI, 

Erected this 

Obelisk 

Over the graves of his parents. 
MDCCCXXVII." 

A silver plate was deposited under the corner-stone, with an inscription 
commemorative of the occasion, a part of which is as follows : " This Monu- 
ment was erected over the Remains of the Parents of Benjamin Franklin by 
the Citizens of Boston, from Respect to the Private Character and Public 
Services of this Illustrious Patriot and Philosopher, and for the many Tokens 
of his affectionate Attachment to his native Town." S. 



238 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

some trade or other on land. It has ever since been a pleas- 
ure 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 experi- 
ment was fresh and warm in my mind. My father at last 
fixed upon the cutler's trade, and my uncle Benjamin's son 
Samuel, who was bred to that business in London, being 
about that time established in Boston, I was sent to be 
with him some time on liking. But his expectations of a 
fee with me displeasing my father, I was taken home again. 
From a child I was fond of reading, and all the little money 
that came into my hands was ever laid out in books. Pleased 
with the Pilgrim's Progress, my first collection was of John 
Bunyan's works in separate little volumes. I afterward sold 
them to enable me to buy R. Burton's Historical Collections ; 
they were small chapmen's books, and cheap, 40 or 50 in all. 
My father's little library consisted chiefly of books in polemic 
divinity, most of which I read, and have since often regretted 
that, at a time when I had such a thirst for knowledge, more 
proper books had not fallen in my way, since it was now 
resolved I should not be a clergyman. Plutarch's Lives there 
was in which I read abundantly, and I still think that time 
spent to great advantage. There was also a book of De 
Foe's, called an Essay on Projects, and another of Dr. Ma- 
ther's, called Essays to do Good, 1 which perhaps gave me a 
turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the princi- 
pal future events of my life. 

1 " Bonifacius. An Essay upon the Good that is to be Devised and De- 
signed by those who desire to answer the Great End of Life, and to do good 
while they live." Boston: 1710. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 239 

This bookish inclination at length determined my father 
to make me a printer, though he had already one son (James) 
of that profession. In 1717 my brother James returned from 
England with a press and letters to set up his business in 
Boston. I liked it much better than that of my father, but 
still had a hankering for the sea. To prevent the appre- 
hended effect of such an inclination, my father was impa- 
tient to have me bound to my brother. I stood out some 
time, but at last was persuaded, and signed the indentures 
when I was yet but twelve years old. I was to serve as an 
apprentice till I was twenty-one years of age, only I was to 
be allowed journeyman's wages during the last year. In a 
little time I made great proficiency in the business, and 
became a useful hand to my brother. I now had access to 
better books. An acquaintance with the apprentices of book- 
sellers 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 fre- 
quented 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, en- 
couraged me and put me on composing occasional ballads. 
One was called The Lighthouse Tragedy, and contained an 
account of the drowning of Captain Worthilake, with his 
two daughters : the other was a sailor's song, on the taking 
of Teach (or Blackbeard) the pirate. They were wretched 



240 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

stuff, in the Grub-street-ballad style; and when they were 
printed he sent me about the town to sell them. The first 
sold wonderfully, the event being recent, having made a great 
noise. This flattered my vanity ; but my father discouraged 
me by ridiculing my performances, and telling me verse- 
makers were generally beggars. So I escaped being a poet, 
most probably a very bad one ; but as prose writing has been 
of great use to me in the course of my life, and was a princi- 
pal 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 disputa- 
tious turn, by the way, is apt to become a very bad habit, 
making people often extremely disagreeable in company by 
the contradiction that is necessary to bring it into practice; 
and thence, besides souring and spoiling the conversation, 
is productive of disgusts and, perhaps enmities where you 
may have occasion for friendship. I had caught it by read- 
ing my father's books of dispute about religion. Persons of 
good sense, I have since observed, seldom fall into it, except 
lawyers, university men, and men of all sorts that have been 
bred at Edinborough. 

A question was once, somehow or other, started between 
Collins and me, of the propriety of educating the female sex 
in learning, and their abilities for study. He was of opinion 
that it was improper, and that they were naturally unequal 
to it. I took the contrary side, perhaps a little for dispute's 
sake. He was naturally more eloquent, had a ready plenty 
of words ; and sometimes, as I thought, bore me down more 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 241 

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 argu- 
ments in writing, which I copied fair and sent to him. He 
answered, and I replied. Three or four letters of a side had 
passed, when my father happened to find my papers and 
read them. Without entering into the discussion, he took 
occasion to talk to me about the manner of my writing; ob- 
served that, though I had the advantage of my antagonist 
in correct spelling and pointing (which I ow'd to the print- 
ing-house), I fell far short in elegance of expression, in method 
and in perspicuity, of which he convinced me by several in- 
stances. I saw the justice of his remarks, and thence grew 
more attentive to the manner in writing, and determined to 
endeavour at improvement. 

About this time I met with an odd volume of the Spectator. 
It was the third. I had never before seen any of them. I 
bought it, read it over and over, and was much delighted 
with it. I thought the writing excellent, and wished, if pos- 
sible, to imitate it. With this view I took some of the papers, 
and, making short hints of the sentiment in each sentence, 
laid them by a few days, and then, without looking at the 
book, try'd to compleat the papers again, by expressing each 
hinted sentiment at length, and as fully as it had been ex- 
pressed before, in any suitable words that should come to 
hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, 
discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I 
found I wanted a stock of words, or a readiness in recollect- 
ing 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 dif- 

VOL. I R 



242 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

ferent 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 endeavoured to 
reduce them into the best order, before I began to form the 
full sentences and compleat the paper. This was to teach 
me method in the arrangement of thoughts. By comparing 
my work afterwards with the original, I discovered many 
faults and amended them ; but I sometimes had the pleasure 
of fancying that, in certain particulars of small import, I had 
been lucky enough to improve the method or the language, 
and this encouraged me to think I might possibly in time 
come to be a tolerable English writer, of which I was ex- 
treamly 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 com- 
mon 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, though 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 Try on, recommending a vegetable diet. 1 
I determined to go into it. My brother, being yet unmarried, 

1 Thomas Tryon (1634-1703), "Pythagorean," author of "The Way to 
Health, long Life and Happiness or a Discourse of Temperance," second 
edition, London : 1691. ED. 



I THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 243 

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

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

While I was intent on improving my language, I met with 
an English grammar (I think it was Greenwood's), at the 
end of which there were two little sketches of the arts of 



244 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

rhetoric and logic, the latter finishing with a specimen of a 
dispute in the Socratic method; and soon after I procur'd 
Xenophon's Memorable Things of Socrates, wherein there 
are many instances of the same method. I was charm'd 
with it, adopted it, dropt my abrupt contradiction and posi- 
tive argumentation, and put on the humble inquirer and 
doubter. And being then, from reading Shaftesbury and 
Collins, become a real doubter in many points of our religious 
doctrine, I found this method safest for myself and very 
embarassing to those against whom I used it; therefore I 
took a delight in it, practis'd it continually, and grew very 
artful and expert in drawing people, even of superior knowl- 
edge, into concessions, the consequences of which they did 
not foresee, entangling them in difficulties out of which they 
could not extricate themselves, and so obtaining victories 
that neither myself nor my cause always deserved. I con- 
tinu'd this method some few years, but gradually left it, 
retaining only the habit of expressing myself in terms of 
modest diffidence; never using, when I advanced anything 
that may possibly be disputed, the words certainly, un- 
doubtedly, or any others that give the air of positiveness to 
an opinion ; but rather say, I conceive or apprehend a thing 
to be so and so ; it appears to me, or 7 should think it so or 
so, for such and such reasons; or / imagine it to be so; or 
it is so, if I am not mistaken. This habit, I believe, has been 
of great advantage to me when I have had occasion to in- 
culcate my opinions, and persuade men into measures that 
I have been from time to time engag'd in promoting; and, 
as the chief ends of conversation are to inform or to be in- 
formed, to please or to persuade, I wish well-meaning, sen- 
sible men would not lessen their power of doing good by a 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 245 

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 in- 
form, a positive and dogmatical manner in advancing your 
sentiments may provoke contradiction and prevent a candid 
attention. If you wish information and improvement from 
the knowledge of others, and yet at the same time express 
yourself as firmly fix'd in your present opinions, modest, 
sensible men, who do not love disputation, will probably 
leave you undisturbed in the possession of your error. And 
by such a manner, you can seldom hope to recommend your- 
self in pleasing your hearers, or to persuade those whose 
concurrence you desire. Pope says, judiciously: 

" Men should be taught as if you taught them not, 
And things unknown proposed as things forgot ; " 

farther recommending to us 

" To speak, tho 1 sure, with seeming diffidence." 

And he might have coupled with this line that which he has 
coupled with another, I think, less properly, 

" For want of modesty is want of sense." 
If you ask, Why less properly ? I must repeat the lines, 

" Immodest words admit of no defense, 
For want of modesty is want of sense." 

Now, is not want of sense (where a man is so unfortunate as 
to want it) some apology for his want of modesty? and 
would not the lines stand more justly thus? 

" Immodest words admit but this defense, 
That want of modesty is want of sense." 

This, however, I should submit to better judgments. 



246 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

My brother had, in 1720 or 1721, begun to print a news- 
paper. It was the second that appeared in America, and 
was called the New England Courant. 1 The only one before 
it was the Boston News-Letter. I remember his being 
dissuaded by some of his friends from the undertaking, as 
not likely to succeed, one newspaper being, in their judgment, 
enough for America. At this time (1771) there are not less 
than five-and-twenty. He went on, however, with the under- 
taking, and after having worked in composing the types and 
printing off the sheets, I was employed to carry the papers 
thro' the streets to the customers. 

He had some ingenious men among his friends, who 
amus'd themselves by writing little pieces for this paper, 
which gain'd it credit and made it more in demand, and 
these gentlemen often visited us. Hearing their conversa- 
tions, and their accounts of the approbation their papers 
were received with, I was excited to try my hand among them ; 
but, being still a boy, and suspecting that my brother would 
object to printing anything of mine in his paper if he knew it 
to be mine, I contrived to disguise my hand, and, writing 
an anonymous paper, I put it in at night under the door of 
the printing-house. It was found in the morning, and com- 
municated to his writing friends when they call'd in as usual. 

1 This was written from recollection, and it is not surprising, that, after the 
lapse of fifty years, the author's memory should have failed him in regard to a 
fact of small importance. The New England Courant was the fourth news- 
paper that appeared in America. The first number of the Boston News- 
Letter was published April 24, 1 704. This was the first newspaper in America. 
The Boston Gazette commenced December 21, 1719; the American Weekly 
Mercury, at Philadelphia, December 22, 1719; the New England Courant, 
August 21, 1721. Dr. Franklin's error of memory probably originated in the 
circumstance of his brother having been the printer of the Boston Gazette, 
when it was first established. This was the second newspaper published in 
America. S. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 247 

They read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I had the 
exquisite pleasure of finding it met with their approbation, 
and that, in their different guesses at the author, none were 
named but men of some character among us for learning and 
ingenuity. I suppose now that I was rather lucky in my 
judges, and that perhaps they were not really so very good 
ones as I then esteem'd them. 

Encourag'd, however, by this, I wrote and convey'd in 
the same way to the press several more papers which were 
equally approv'd; and I kept my secret till my small fund 
of sense for such performances was pretty well exhausted, 
and then I discovered it, when I began to be considered a 
little more by my brother's acquaintance, and in a manner 
that did not quite please him, as he thought, probably with 
reason, that it tended to make me too vain. And, perhaps, 
this might be one occasion of the differences that we began 
to have about this time. Though a brother, he considered 
himself as my master, and me as his apprentice, and, accord- 
ingly, expected the same services from me as he would from 
another, while I thought he demean 'd me too much in some 
he requir'd of me, who from a brother expected more indul- 
gence. 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 favour. 
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. 1 

1 1 fancy his harsh and tyrannical treatment of me might be a means of 
impressing me with that aversion to arbitrary power that has stuck to me 
through my whole life. 



248 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

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

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 249 

was immediately executed, and the paper went or accord- 
ingly, 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. 
It was not fair in me to take this advantage, and this I 
therefore reckon one of the first errata of my life; but the 
unfairness of it weighed little with me, when under the im- 
pressions of resentment for the blows his passion too often 
urged him to bestow upon me, though he was otherwise not 
an ill-natur'd man: perhaps I was too saucy and provoking. 

When he found I would leave him, he took care to prevent 
my getting employment in any other printing-house of the 
town, by going round and speaking to every master, who 
accordingly refus'd to give me work. I then thought of going 
to New York, as the nearest place where there was a printer ; 
and I was rather inclin'd to leave Boston when I reflected 
that I had already made myself a little obnoxious to the 
governing party, and, from the arbitrary proceedings of the 
Assembly in my brother's case, it was likely I might, if I 
stay'd, soon bring myself into scrapes ; and farther, that my 
indiscrete disputations about religion began to make me 
pointed at with horror by good people as an infidel or atheist. 
I determin'd on the point, but my father now siding with my 
brother, I was sensible that, if I attempted to go openly, 
means would be used to prevent me. My friend Collins, 
therefore, undertook to manage a little for me. He agreed 
with the captain of a New York sloop for my passage, under 
the notion of my being a young acquaintance of his, that 
had got a naughty girl with child, whose friends would com- 
pel me to marry her, and therefore I could not appear or 



250 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

come away publicly. So I sold some of my books to raise 
a little money, was taken on board privately, and as we had 
a fair wind, in three days I found myself in New York, near 
300 miles from home, a boy of but 17, without the least 
recommendation to, or knowledge of any person in the 
place, and with very little money in my pocket. 

My inclinations for the sea were by this time worne out, 
or I might now have gratify'd them. But, having a trade, 
and supposing myself a pretty good workman, I offer'd my 
service to the printer in the place, old Mr. William Bradford, 1 
who had been the first printer in Pennsylvania, but removed 
from thence upon the quarrel of George Keith. He could 
give me no employment, having little to do, and help enough 
already; but says he, "My son at Philadelphia has lately 
lost his principal hand, Aquila Rose, by death; if you go 
thither, I believe he may employ you." Philadelphia was 
i oo miles further; I set out, however, in a boat for Amboy, 
leaving my chest and things to follow me round by sea. 

In crossing the bay, we met with a squall that tore our 
rotten sails to pieces, prevented our getting into the Kill, and 
drove us upon Long Island. In our way, a drunken Dutch- 
man, who was a passenger too, fell overboard; when he 
was sinking, I reached through the water to his shock pate, 
and drew him up, so that we got him in again. His ducking 
sobered him a little, and he went to sleep, taking first out of 
his pocket a book, which he desir'd I would dry for him. It 

1 William Bradford, born in Leicester, England, in 1658; died in New York, 
May 23, 1752. In 1685 he set up his printing-press in Philadelphia, the third 
one in the Colonies, and the first one south of New England. He sided with 
Keith in his quarrel with the authorities and printed his "Appeal to the 
People." He was arrested for seditious libel and his press and publications 
were confiscated. He removed to New York in 1693. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 251 

proved to be my old favorite author, Bunyan's Pilgrim's 
Progress, in Dutch, finely printed on good paper, with copper 
cuts, a dress better than I had ever seen it wear in its own 
language. I have since found that it has been translated 
into most of the languages of Europe, and suppose it has been 
more generally read than any other book, except perhaps the 
Bible. Honest John was the first that I know of who mix'd 
narration and dialogue; a method of writing very engaging 
to the reader, who in the most interesting parts finds himself, 
as it were, brought into the company and present at the dis- 
course. De Foe in his Cruso, his Moll Flanders, Religious 
Courtship, Family Instructor, and other pieces, has imitated 
it with success; and Richardson has done the same in his 
Pamela, etc. 

When we drew near the island, we found it was at a place 
where there could be no landing, there being a great surff on 
the stony beach. So we dropt anchor, and swung round 
towards the shore. Some people came down to the water 
edge and hallow'd to us, as we did to them; but the wind 
was so high, and the surff so loud, that we could not hear so 
as to understand each other. There were canoes on the shore, 
and we made signs, and hallow'd that they should fetch us; 
but they either did not understand us, or thought it imprac- 
ticable, so they went away, and night coming on, we had no 
remedy but to wait till the wind should abate; and, in the 
mean time, the boatman and I concluded to sleep, if we could ; 
and so crowded into the scuttle, with the Dutchman, who 
was still wet, and the spray beating over the head of our boat, 
leak'd thro' to us, so that we were soon almost as wet as he. 
In this manner we lay all night, with very little rest; but, 
the wind abating the next day, we made a shift to reach 



252 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Amboy before night, having been thirty hours on the water, 
without victuals, or any drink but a bottle of filthy rum, and 
the water we sail'd on being salt. 

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

It rained very hard all the day; I was thoroughly soak'd, 
and by noon a good deal tired; so I stopt at a poor inn, 
where I staid all night, beginning now to wish that I had 
never left home. I cut so miserable a figure, too, that I 
found, by the questions ask'd me, I was suspected to be 
some runaway servant, and in danger of being taken up on 
that suspicion. However, I proceeded the next day, and got 
in the evening to an inn, within eight or ten miles of Burling- 
ton, kept by one Dr. Brown. He entered into conversation 
with me while I took some refreshment, and, finding I had 
read a little, became very sociable and friendly. Our ac- 
quaintance continu'd as long as he liv'd. He had been, I 
imagine, an itinerant doctor, for there was no town in Eng- 
land, 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 under- 
took, some years after, to travestie the Bible in doggrel 
verse, as Cotton had done Virgil. 1 By this means he set 

1 Charles Cotton (1630-1687), " Scarronides, or the First Book of Virgil 
Travestie," 1664; reprinted with a travesty of the fourth book, in 1670. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 253 

many of the facts in a very ridiculous light, and might have 
hurt weak minds if his work had been published; but it 
never was. 

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



254 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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 work- 
ing dress, my best clothes being to come round by sea. I 
was dirty from my journey; my pockets were stuff d out 
with shirts and stockings, and I knew no soul nor where 
to look for lodging. I was fatigued with travelling, rowing, 
and want of rest, I was very hungry; and my whole stock 
of cash consisted of a Dutch dollar, and about a shilling in 
copper. The latter I gave the people of the boat for my 
passage, who at first refus'd it, on account of my rowing; 
but I insisted on their taking it. A man being sometimes 
more generous when he has but a little money than when 
he has plenty, perhaps thro' fear of being thought to have 
but little. 

Then I walked up the street, gazing about till near the 
market-house I met a boy with bread. I had made many a 
meal on bread, and, inquiring where he got it, I went immedi- 
ately to the baker's he directed me to, in Second-street, and 
ask'd for bisket, intending such as we had in Boston ; but they, 
it seems, were not made in Philadelphia. Then I asked for 
a three-penny loaf, and was told they had none such. So 
not considering or knowing the difference of money, and 
the greater cheapness nor the names of his bread, I bad him 
give me three-penny worth of any sort. He gave me, ac- 
cordingly, three great puffy rolls. I was surpriz'd at the 
quantity, but took it, and, having no room in my pockets, 
walk'd off with a roll under each arm, and eating the other. 
Thus I went up Market-street as far as Fourth-street, pass- 
ing by the door of Mr. Read, my future wife's father ; when 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 255 

she, standing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as I 
certainly did, a most awkward, ridiculous appearance. Then 
I turned and went down Chestnut-street and part of Walnut- 
street, eating my roll all the way, and, coming round, found 
myself again at Market-street wharf, near the boat I came in, 
to which I went for a draught of the river water ; and, being 
filled with one of my rolls, gave the other two to a woman 
and her child that came down the river in the boat with us, 
and were waiting to go farther. 

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

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

After dinner, my sleepiness return'd, and being shown to 



256 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 257 

and the other a mere novice. Bradford left me with Keimer, 
who was greatly surpris'd when I told him who the old man 
was. 

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

These two printers I found poorly qualified for their 
business. Bradford had not been bred to it, and was very 
illiterate; and Keimer, tho' something of a scholar, was a 
mere compositor, knowing nothing of presswork. He had 
been one of the French prophets, and could act their enthu- 
siastic agitations. 1 At this time he did not profess any 
particular religion, but something of all on occasion; was 

1 " M. Laboulaye presumes Keimer was one of the Camisards or Protes- 
tants of the Cevennes so persecuted by Louis XIV." B. 
VOL. I S 



258 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

very ignorant of the world, and had, as I afterward found, a 
good deal of the knave in his composition. He did not like 
my lodging at Bradford's while I work'd with him. He 
had a house, indeed, but without furniture, so he could 
not lodge me ; but he got me a lodging at Mr. Read's before 
mentioned, who was the owner of his house ; and, my chest 
and clothes being come by this time, I made rather a more 
respectable appearance in the eyes of Miss Read than I had 
done when she first happen'd to see me eating my roll in the 
street. 

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

Sir William Keith, governor of the province, was then at 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 259 

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

Keimer ran down immediately, thinking it a visit to him; 
but the governor inquir'd for me, came up, and with a con- 
descension and politeness I had been quite unus'd to, made 
me many compliments, desired to be acquainted with me, 
blam'd me kindly for not having made myself known to him 
when I first came to the place, and would have me away 
with him to the tavern, where he was going with Colonel 
French to taste, as he said, some excellent Madeira. I was 
not a little surprised, and Keimer star'd like a pig poison'd. 
I went, however, with the governor and Colonel French to 
a tavern, at the corner of Third-street, and over the Madeira 
he propos'd my setting up my business, laid before me the 
probabilities of success, and both he and Colonel French 
assur'd me I should have their interest and influence in pro- 
curing the public business of both governments. On my 
doubting whether my father would assist me in it, Sir William 



260 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

said he would give me a letter to him, in which he would 
state the advantages, and he did not doubt of prevailing 
with him. So it was concluded I should return to Boston 
in the first vessel, with the governor's letter recommending 
me to my father. In the mean time the intention was to be 
kept a secret, and I went on working with Keimer as usual, 
the governor sending for me now and then to dine with 
him, a very great honour I thought it, and conversing with me 
in the most affable, familiar, and friendly manner imaginable. 

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

The journeymen were inquisitive where I had been, what 
sort of a country it was, and how I lik'd it. I prais'd it 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 261 

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

My father received the governor's letter with some apparent 
surprise, but said little of it to me for some days, when Capt. 
Holmes returning he showed it to him, ask'd him if he knew 
Keith, and what kind of man he was; adding his opinion 
that he must be of small discretion to think of setting a boy 
up in business who wanted yet three years of being at man's 
estate. Holmes said what he could in 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. 

My friend and companion Collins, who was a clerk in the 
post-office, pleas'd with the account I gave him of my new 
country, determined to go thither also ; and, while I waited 



262 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

for my father's determination, he set out before me by land 
to Rhode Island, leaving his books, which were a pretty 
collection of mathematicks and natural philosophy, to come 
with mine and me to New York, where he propos'd to wait 
for me. 

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

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 263 

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

At New York I found my friend Collins, who had arriv'd 
there some time before me. We had been intimate from 



264 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

The then governor of New York, Burnet 1 (son of Bishop 
Burnet), hearing from the captain that a young man, one 
of his passengers, had a great many books, desir'd he would 
bring me to see him. I waited upon him accordingly, and 
should have taken Collins with me but that he was not sober. 
The gov'r. treated me with great civility, show'd me his 
library, which was a very large one, and we had a good deal 
of conversation about books and authors. This was the 
second governor who had done me the honour to take notice 
of me ; which, to a poor boy like me, was very pleasing. 

We proceeded to Philadelphia. I received on the way 
Vernon's money, without which we could hardly have finish'd 



1 William Burnet, born at The Hague, March, 1688 ; died in Boston, Sep- 
tember 19, 1729. He was appointed governor of New York and New Jersey, 
April 19, 1720. He was transferred to Massachusetts in July, 1728. See 
Whiteh cad's " Contributions to East Jersey History," pp. 156-168. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 265 

our journey. Collins wished to be employ'd in some counting- 
house; but, whether they discover'd his dramming by his 
breath, or by his behaviour, tho' he had some recommenda- 
tions, he met with no success in any application, and con- 
tinu'd lodging and boarding at the same house with me, and 
at my expense. Knowing I had that money of Vernon's, he 
was continually borrowing of me, still promising repay- 
ment as soon as he should be in business. At length he had 
got so much of it that I was distressed to think what I should 
do in case of being call'd on to remit it. 

His drinking continu'd, about which we sometimes quar- 
rell'd; for, when a little intoxicated, he was very fractious. 
Once, in a boat on the Delaware with some other young 
men, he refused to row in his turn. "I will be row'd home," 
says he. "We will not row you," says I. "You must, or 
stay all night on the water," says he, "just as you please." 
The others said, "Let us row; what signifies it?" But, 
my mind being soured with his other conduct, I continu'd 
to refuse. So he swore he would make me. row, or throw 
me overboard; and coming along, stepping on the thwarts, 
toward me, when he came up and struck at me, I clapped 
my hand under his crutch, and, rising, pitched him head- 
foremost into the river. I knew he was a good swimmer, 
and so was under little concern about him; but before he 
could get round to lay hold of the boat, we had with a few 
strokes pull'd her out of his reach; and ever when he drew 
near the boat, we ask'd if he would row striking a few strokes 
to slide her away from him. He was ready to die with vexa- 
tion, and obstinately would not promise to row. However, 
seeing him at last beginning to tire, we lifted him in and 
brought him home dripping wet in the evening. We hardly 



266 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

exchang'd a civil word afterwards, and a West India captain, 
who had a commission to procure a tutor for the sons of a 
gentleman at Barbadoes, happening to meet with him, agreed 
to carry him thither. He left me then, promising to remit me 
the first money he should receive in order to discharge the 
debt ; but I never heard of him after. 

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

I presented him an inventory of a little print'g-house, 
amounting by my computation to about one hundred pounds 
sterling. He lik'd it, but ask'd me if my being on the spot 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 267 

in England to chuse the types, and see that every thing was 
good of the kind, might not be of some advantage. " Then," 
says he, "when there, you may make acquaintances, and 
establish correspondences in the bookselling and stationery 
way." I agreed that this might be advantageous. "Then," 
says he, "get yourself ready to go with Annis; " which was 
the annual ship, and the only one at that time usually passing 
between London and Philadelphia. But it would be some 
months before Annis sail'd, so I continu'd working with 
Keimer, fretting about the money Collins had got from me, 
and in daily apprehensions of being call'd upon by Vernon, 
which, however, did not happen for some years after. 

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



268 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

Keimer wore his beard at full length, because somewhere 
in the Mosaic law it is said, " Thou shall not mar the corners 
of thy beard." He likewise kept the Seventh day, Sabbath; 
and these two points were essentials with him. I dislik'd 
both ; but agreed to admit them upon condition of his adopt- 
ing the doctrine of using no animal food. "I doubt," said 
he, "my constitution will not bear that." I assur'd him it 
would, and that he would be the better for it. He was usually 
a great glutton, and I promised myself some diversion in 
half starving him. He agreed to try the practice, if I would 
keep him company. I did so, and we held it for three months. 
We had our victuals dress'd, and brought to us regularly by 
a woman in the neighborhood, who had from me a list of 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 269 

forty dishes, to be prepar'd for us at different times, in all 
which there was neither fish, flesh, nor fowl, and the whim 
suited me the better at this time from the cheapness of it, 
not costing us above eighteenpence sterling each per week. 
I have since kept several Lents most strictly, leaving the 
common diet for that, and that for the common, abruptly, 
without the least inconvenience, so that I think there is little 
in the advice of making those changes by easy gradations. 
I went on pleasantly, but poor Keimer suffered grievously, 
tired of the project, long'd for the flesh-pots of Egypt, and 
order'd a roast pig. He invited me and two women friends 
to dine with him ; but, it being brought too soon upon table, 
he could not resist the temptation, and ate the whole before 
we came. 

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

My chief acquaintances at this time were Charles Osborne, 
Joseph Watson, and James Ralph, all lovers of reading. 
The two first were clerks to an eminent scrivener or convey- 
ancer in the town, Charles Brogden ; the other was clerk to 
a merchant. Watson was a pious, sensible young man, of 
great integrity ; the others rather more lax in their principles 
of religion, particularly Ralph, who, as well as Collins, had 



270 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

been unsettled by me, for which they both made me suffer. 
Osborne was sensible, candid, frank ; sincere and affectionate 
to his friends ; but, in literary matters, too fond of criticising. 
Ralph was ingenious, genteel in his manners, and extremely 
eloquent; I think I never knew a prettier talker. Both 
of them great admirers of poetry, and began to try their 
hands in little pieces. Many pleasant walks we four had 
together on Sundays into the woods, near Schuylkill, where 
we read to one another, and conferr'd on what we read. 

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

On this it was propos'd that we should each of us, at our 
next meeting, produce a piece of our own composing, in order 
to improve by our mutual observations, criticisms, and cor- 
rections. As language and expression were what we had 
in view, we excluded all considerations of invention by agree- 
ing that the task should be a version of the eighteenth Psalm, 
which describes the descent of a Deity. When the time 
of our meeting drew nigh, Ralph called on me first, and let 
me know his piece was ready. I told him I had been busy, 
and, having little inclination, had done nothing. He then 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 271 

show'd me his piece for my opinion, and I much approv'd 
it, as it appear'd to me to have great merit. "Now," says 
he, "Osborne never will allow the least merit in any thing 
of mine, but makes 1000 criticisms out of mere envy. He 
is not so jealous of you ; I wish, therefore, you would take 
this piece, and produce it as yours; I will pretend not to 
have had time, and so produce nothing. We shall then 
see what he will say to it." It was agreed, and I im- 
mediately transcrib'd it, that it might appear in my own 
hand. 

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



272 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

discovered the trick we had plaid him, and Osborne was 
a little laught at. 

This transaction fixed Ralph in his resolution of becoming 
a poet. I did all I could to dissuade him from it, but he con- 
tinued scribbling verses till Pope cured him. 1 He became, 
however, a pretty good prose writer. More of him hereafter. 
But, as I may not have occasion again to mention the other 
two, I shall just remark here, that Watson died in my arms 
a few years after, much lamented, being the best of our set. 
Osborne went to the West Indies, where he became an emi- 
nent lawyer and made money, but died young. He and I 
had made a serious agreement, that the one who happen'd 
first to die should, if possible, make a friendly visit to the 
other, and acquaint him how he found things in that sepa- 
rate state. But he never fulfilPd his promise. 

1 James Ralph (1705 7-1762), a luckless poetaster and diligent pamphlet- 
eer put by Pope into the Dunciad : 

" Silence, ye wolves ! while Ralph to Cynthia howls, 
And makes night hideous answer him, ye owls." 

Book III., line 165. 

"James Ralph, a name inserted after the first editions, not known till he 
writ a swearing-piece called Sawney, very abusive of Dr. Swift, Mr. Gay, and 
myself. These lines allude to a thing of his entitled Night, a poem. This 
low writer attended his own works with panegyrics in the journals, and once 
in particular praised himself highly above Mr. Addison, in wretched remarks 
upon that author's account of English poets, printed in a London journal, 
September, 1728. He was wholly illiterate and knew no language, not even 
French. Being advised to read the rules of dramatic poetry before he began 
a play, he smiled and replied ' Shakspeare writ without rules. 1 He ended at 
last in the common sink of all such writers, a political newspaper, to which he 
was recommended by his friend Arnal, and received a small pittance for pay; 
and being detected in writing on both sides on one and the same day, he pub- 
licly justified the morality of his conduct." 

In the first book of the Dunciad, line 215, there is another allusion to 
Ralph : 

" And see ! the very Gazetteers give o'er, 
Ev'n Ralph repents, and Henley writes no more." ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 273 

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

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

Mr. Andrew Hamilton, a famous lawyer of Philadelphia, 
had taken passage in the same ship for himself and son, and 

VOL. I T 



274 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

with Mr. Denham, a Quaker merchant, and Messrs. Onion 
and Russel, masters of an iron work in Maryland, 1 had en- 
gag'd the great cabin; so that Ralph and I were forced to 
take up with a berth in the steerage, and none on board 
knowing us, were considered as ordinary persons. But Mr. 
Hamilton and his son (it was James, since governor) return'd 
from Newcastle to Philadelphia, the father being recall'd 
by a great fee to plead for a seized ship ; and, just before we 
sail'd, Colonel French coming on board, and showing me 
great respect, I was more taken notice of, and, with my 
friend Ralph, invited by the other gentlemen to come into 
the cabin, there being now room. Accordingly, we remov'd 
thither. 

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

When we came into the Channel, the captain kept his 
word with me, and gave me an opportunity of examining the 
bag for the governor's letters. I found none upon which my 
name was put as under my care. I picked out six or seven, 

1 Principio Iron Works. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 275 

that, by the handwriting, I thought might be the promised 
letters, especially as one of them was directed to Basket, 
the king's printer, and another to some stationer. We 
arriv'd in London the 24th of December, 1724. I waited 
upon the stationer, who came first in my way, delivering 
the letter as from Governor Keith. "I don't know such 
a person," says he; but, opening the letter, "O! this is 
from Riddlesden. I have lately found him to be a 
compleat rascal, and I will have nothing to do with 
him, nor receive any letters from him." So, putting 
the letter into my hand, he turn'd on his heel and left me to 
serve some customer. I was surprized to find these were 
not the governor's letters; and, after recollecting and com- 
paring circumstances, I began to doubt his sincerity. I 
found my friend Denham, and opened the whole affair to 
him. He let me into Keith's character; told me there was 
not the least probability that he had written any letters for 
me; that no one, who knew him, had the smallest depend- 
ence on him; and he laught at the notion of the governor's 
giving me a letter of credit, having, as he said, no credit 
to give. On my expressing some concern about what I 
should do, he advised me to endeavour getting some employ- 
ment in the way of my business. "Among the printers 
here," said he, "you will improve yourself, and when you 
return to America, you will set up to greater advantage." 

We both of us happen 'd to know, as well as the stationer, 
that Riddlesden, the attorney, was a very knave. He had 
half ruin'd Miss Read's father by persuading him to be 
bound for him. By this letter it appear'd there was a secret 
scheme on foot to the prejudice of Hamilton (suppos'd to 
be then coming over with us) ; and that Keith was concerned 



276 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

in it with Riddlesden. Denham, who was a friend of Ham- 
ilton's thought he ought to be acquainted with it ; so, when he 
arriv'd in England, which was soon after, partly from resent- 
ment and ill-will to Keith and Riddlesden, and partly from 
good-will to him, I waited on him, and gave him the letter. 
He thank'd me cordially, the information being of importance 
to him; and from that time he became my friend, greatly to 
my advantage afterwards on many occasions. 

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

Ralph and I were inseparable companions. We took 
lodgings together in Little Britain at three shillings and six- 
pence a week as much as we could then afford. He 
found some relations, but they were poor, and unable to 
assist him. He now let me know his intentions of remain- 
ing in London, and that he never meant to return to Phila- 
delphia. He had brought no money with him, the whole 
he could muster having been expended in paying his passage. 
I had fifteen pistoles; so he borrowed occasionally of me to 
subsist, while he was looking out for business. He first 
endeavoured to get into the playhouse, believing himself 
qualify 'd for an actor; but Wilkes, to whom he apply 'd, 
advis'd him candidly not to think of that employment, as it 
was impossible he should succeed in it. Then he propos'd 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 277 

to Roberts, a publisher in Paternoster Row, to write for him 
a weekly paper like the Spectator, on certain conditions, 
which Roberts did not approve. Then he endeavoured to 
get employment as a hackney writer, to copy for the sta- 
tioners and lawyers about the Temple, but could find no 
vacancy. 

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

At Palmer's I was employed in composing for the second 
edition of Wollaston's "Religion of Nature." * Some of his 
reasonings not appearing to me well founded, I wrote a little 
metaphysical piece in which I made remarks on them. It 
was entitled "A Dissertation on Liberty and Necessity, 
Pleasure and Pain." I inscribed it to my friend Ralph; I 
printed a small number. It occasion'd my being more 
consider'd by Mr. Palmer as a young man of some ingenuity, 
tho' he seriously expostulated with me upon the principles 
of my pamphlet, which to him appear'd abominable. My 

1 William Wollaston (1660-1724), "The Religion of Nature Delineated." 
London : Printed by S. Palmer, 1 725. 



278 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

printing this pamphlet was another erratum. While I 
lodg'd in Little Britain, I made an acquaintance with one 
Wilcox, a bookseller, whose shop was at the next door. He 
had an immense collection of second-hand books. Circu- 
lating libraries were not then in use ; but we agreed that, on 
certain reasonable terms, which I have now forgotten, I 
might take, read, and return any of his books. This I 
esteem 'd a great advantage, and I made as much use of it as 
I could. 

My pamphlet by some means falling into the hands of one 
Lyons, a surgeon, author of a book entitled "The Infalli- 
bility of Human Judgment," * it occasioned an acquaintance 
between us. He took great notice of me, called on me often 
to converse on those subjects, carried me to the Horns, a 

pale alehouse in Lane, Cheapside, and introduced me 

to Dr. Mandeville, author of the "Fable of the Bees," * who 
had a club there, of which he was the soul, being a most 
facetious, entertaining companion. Lyons, too, introduced 
me to Dr. Pemberton, 3 at Batson's Coffee-house, who prom- 
is'd to give me an opportunity, some time or other, of seeing 
Sir Isaac Newton, of which I was extreamly desirous ; but 
this never happened. 

I had brought over a few curiosities, among which the 
principal was a purse made of the asbestos, which purifies 
by fire. Sir Hans Sloane heard of it, came to see me, and 

1 Lyons, "The Infallibility of Human Judgment," fifth edition. London: 
1725. 

2 Bernard Mandeville (16707-1733), "The Fable of the Bees, or Private 
Vices Public Benefits," 1714. 

8 Henry Pemberton (1694-1771) was employed by Newton to superintend 
the third edition of the " Principia." He published " A View of Sir I. New- 
ton's Philosophy," 1728. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 279 

invited me to his house in Bloomsbury Square, where he 
show'd me all his curiosities, and persuaded me to let him 
add that to the number, for which he paid me handsomely. 1 

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

per week), recommending Mrs. T to my care, and 

desiring me to write to him, directing for Mr. Franklin, 
schoolmaster, at such a place. 

He continued to write frequently, sending me large speci- 
mens of an epic poem which he was then composing, and 
desiring my remarks and corrections. These I gave him 
from time to time, but endeavour'd rather to discourage his 
proceeding. One of Young's Satires was then just published. 2 

1 See letter from Franklin to Sloane (1660-1753), dated June 2, 1725. ED. 

2 Young, Vol. III., Epist. II., p. 70. ED. 



280 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

I copy'd and sent him a great part of it, which set in a strong 
light the folly of pursuing the Muses with any hope of ad- 
vancement by them. All was in vain; sheets of the poem 
continued to come by every post. In the mean time, Mrs. 

T , having on his account lost her friends and business, 

was often in distresses, and us'd to send for me, and borrow 
what I could spare to help her out of them. I grew fond of 
her company, and, being at that time under no religious 
restraint, and presuming upon my importance to her, I 
attempted familiarities (another erratum) which she repuls'd 
with a proper resentment, and acquainted him with my 
behaviour. This made a breach between us; and, when he 
returned again to London, he let me know he thought I had 
cancell'd all the obligations he had been under to me. So I 
found I was never to expect his repaying me what I lent to 
him, or advanc'd for him. This, however, was not then of 
much consequence, as he was totally unable ; and in the loss 
of his friendship I found myself relieved from a burthen. I 
now began to think of getting a little money beforehand, and, 
expecting better work, I left Palmer's to work at Watts's, 
near Lincoln's Inn Fields, a still greater printing-house. 1 
Here I continued all the rest of my stay in London. 

At my first admission into this printing-house I took to 
working at press, imagining I felt a want of the bodily exer- 
cise I had been us'd to in America, where presswork is mix'd 
with composing. I drank only water; the other workmen, 
near fifty in number, were great guzzlers of beer. On occa- 
sion, I carried up and down stairs a large form of types in 
each hand, when others carried but one in both hands. They 

1 Watts's printing-office was situated on the south side of Wild-Court, neat 
the eastern end, and three doors from King's Head Yard. B. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 281 

wondered to see, from this and several instances, that the 
Water- American, as they called me, was stronger than them- 
selves, who drank strong beer! We had an alehouse boy 
who attended always in the house to supply the workmen. 
My companion at the press drank every day a pint before 
breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and cheese, a 
pint between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a pint 
in the afternoon about six o'clock, and another when he had 
done his day's work. I thought it a detestable custom; but 
it was necessary, he suppos'd, to drink strong beer, that he 
might be strong to labour. I endeavoured to convince him 
that the bodily strength afforded by beer could only be in 
proportion to the grain or flour of the barley dissolved in the 
water of which it was made ; that there was more flour in a 
pennyworth of bread; and therefore, if he would eat that 
with a pint of water, it would give him more strength than a 
quart of beer. He drank on, however, and had four or five 
shillings to pay out of his wages every Saturday night for that 
muddling liquor; an expense I was free from. And thus 
these poor devils keep themselves always under. 

Watts, after some weeks, desiring to have me in the com- 
posing-room, I left the pressmen; a new bien venu or sum 
for drink, being five shillings, was demanded of me by the 
compositors. I thought it an imposition, as I had paid 
below; the master thought so too, and forbad my paying it. 
I stood out two or three weeks, was accordingly considered 
as an excommunicate, and had so many little pieces of private 
mischief done me, by mixing my sorts, transposing my pages, 
breaking my matter, etc., etc., if I were ever so little out of 
the room, and all ascribed to the chappel ghost, which they 
said ever haunted those not regularly admitted, that, not- 



282 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

withstanding the master's protection, I found myself oblig'd 
to comply and pay the money, convinc'd of the folly of being 
on ill terms with those one is to live with continually. 

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

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

See letter from Franklin to William Strahan, August 19, 1784. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 283 

occasioned my being put upon all work of dispatch, which 
was generally better paid. So I went on now very agree- 
ably. 

My lodging in Little Britain being too remote, I found 
another in Duke-street, opposite to the Romish Chapel. It 
was two pair of stairs backwards, at an Italian warehouse. 
A widow lady kept the house; she had a daughter, and a 
maid servant, and a journeyman who attended the ware- 
house, but lodg'd abroad. After sending to inquire my 
character at the house where I last lodg'd she agreed to 
take me in at the same rate, 35. 6d. per week; cheaper, as 
she said, from the protection she expected in having a man 
lodge in the house. She was a widow, an elderly woman; 
had been bred a Protestant, being a clergyman's daughter, 
but was converted to the Catholic religion by her husband, 
whose memory she much revered; had lived much among 
people of distinction, and knew a thousand anecdotes of 
them as far back as the times of Charles the Second. She 
was lame in her knees with the gout, and, therefore, seldom 
stirred out of her room, so sometimes wanted company ; and 
hers was so highly amusing to me, that I was sure to spend 
an evening with her whenever she desired it. Our supper 
was only half an anchovy each, on a very little strip of bread 
and butter, and half a pint of ale between us; but the en- 
tertainment was in her conversation. My always keeping 
good hours, and giving little trouble in the family, made her 
unwilling to part with me ; so that, when I talk'd of a lodg- 
ing I had heard of, nearer my business, for two shillings a 
week, which, intent as I now was on saving money, made 
some difference, she bid me not think of it, for she would 
abate me two shillings a week for the future; so I remained 



284 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

with her at one shilling and sixpence as long as I staid in 
London. 

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

At Watts's printing-house I contracted an acquaintance 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 285 

with an ingenious young man, one Wygate, who, having 
wealthy relations, had been better educated than most print- 
ers ; was a tolerable Latinist, spoke French, and lov'd read- 
ing. I taught him and a friend of his to swim at twice going 
into the river, and they soon became good swimmers. They 
introduc'd me to some gentlemen from the country, who 
went to Chelsea by water to see the College and Don Sal- 
tero's curiosities. 1 In our return, at the request of the com- 
pany, whose curiosity Wygate had excited, I stripped and 
leaped into the river, and swam from near Chelsea to 
Blackfryar's, performing on the way many feats of activity, 
both upon and under water, that surpris'd and pleas'd those 
to whom they were novelties. 

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

1 James Salter lived in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. His house, a barber-shop, 
was known as " Don Saltero's coffee-house " and was a favorite lounge for 
Sloane and Oldham. The curiosities were in glass cases and constituted an 
amazing and motley collection a petrified crab from China, a " lignified 
hog," Job's tears, Madagascar lances, William the Conqueror's flaming sword, 
and Henry the Eighth's coat of mail. See " A Catalogue of the Rarities to 
be seen at Don Saltero's Coffee House in Chelsea," printed by Salter and sold 
for two pence. ED. 



286 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

leisure, he dissuaded me from it, advising me to think only 
of returning to Pennsilvania, which he was now about to do. 

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

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

I now took leave of printing, as I thought, for ever, and 
was daily employed in my new business, going about with 
Mr. Denham among the tradesmen to purchase various arti- 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 287 

cles, and seeing them pack'd up, doing errands, calling upon 
workmen to dispatch, etc. ; and, when all was on board, I 
had a few days' leisure. On one of these days, I was, to my 
surprise, sent for by a great man I knew only by name, a Sir 
William Wyndham, 1 and I waited upon him. He had heard 
by some means or other of my swimming from Chelsea to 
Blackfriar's, and of my teaching Wygate and another young 
man to swim in a few hours. He had two sons, about to set 
out on their travels; he wish'd to have them first taught 
swimming, and proposed to gratify me handsomely if I would 
teach them. They were not yet come to town, and my stay 
was uncertain, so I could not undertake it; but, from this 
incident, I thought it likely that, if I were to remain in Eng- 
land and open a swimming-school, I might get a good deal 
of money; and it struck me so strongly, that, had the over- 
ture been sooner made me, probably I should not so soon 
have returned to America. After many years, you and I 
had something of more importance to do with one of these 
sons of Sir William Wyndham, become Earl of Egremont, 
which I shall mention in its place. 

Thus I spent about eighteen months in London; most 
part of the time I work'd hard at my business, and spent but 
little upon myself except in seeing plays and in books. My 
friend Ralph had kept me poor; he owed me about twenty- 
seven pounds, which I was now never likely to receive; a 
great sum out of my small earnings ! I lov'd him, notwith- 
standing, for he had many amiable qualities. I had by no 

1 Sir William Wyndham (1687-1740), a political and ethical disciple of 
Bolingbroke. The two sons referred to by Franklin were Sir Charles Wynd- 
ham, second Earl of Egremont (1710-1763), and Percy O'Brien, Earl of 
Thomond. ED. 



288 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

means improv'd my fortune ; but I had picked up some very 
ingenious acquaintance, whose conversation was of great ad- 
vantage to me ; and I had read considerably. 

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

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

1 The " Journal " was printed by W. T. Franklin from a copy made at 
Reading in 1787. But it does not contain the Plan. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 289 

Mr. Denham took a store in Water-street, where we open'd 
our goods; I attended the business diligently, studied ac- 
counts, and grew, in a little time, expert at selling. We 
lodg'd and boarded together; he counsell'd me as a father, 
having a sincere regard for me. I respected and loved him, 
and we might have gone on together very happy, but, in the 
beginning of February, 172^, when I had just pass'd my 
twenty-first year, we both were taken ill. My distemper was 
a pleurisy, which very nearly carried me off. I suffered a 
good deal, gave up the point in my own mind, and was rather 
disappointed when I found myself recovering, regretting, in 
some degree, that I must now, some time or other, have all 
that disagreeable work to do over again. I forget what his 
distemper was ; it held him a long time, and at length carried 
him off. He left me a small legacy in a nuncupative will, as 
a token of his kindness for me, and he left me once more to 
the wide world ; for the store was taken into the care of his 
executors, and my employment under him ended. 

My brother-in-law, Holmes, being now at Philadelphia, 
advised my return to my business ; and Keimer tempted me, 
with an offer of large wages by the year, to come and take 
the management of his printing-house, that he might better 
attend his stationer's shop. I had heard a bad character of 
him in London from his wife and her friends, and was not 
fond of having any more to do with him. I tri'd for farther 
employment as a merchant's clerk; but, not readily meeting 
with any, I clos'd again with Keimer. I found in his house 
these hands: Hugh Meredith, a Welsh Pensilvanian, thirty 
years of age, bred to country work; honest, sensible, had a 
great deal of solid observation, was something of a reader, 
but given to drink. Stephen Potts, a young countryman of 

VOL. I U 



290 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

full age, bred to the same, of uncommon natural parts, and 
great wit and humour, but a little idle. These he had agreed 
with at extream low wages per week, to be rais'd a shilling 
every three months, as they would deserve by improving in 
their business; and the expectation of these high wages, to 
come on hereafter, was what he had drawn them in with. 
Meredith was to work at press, Potts at book- binding, which 
he, by agreement, was to teach them, though he knew nei- 
ther one nor t'other. John , a wild Irishman, brought 

up to no business, whose service, for four years, Keimer had 
purchased from the captain of a ship ; he, too, was to be made 
a pressman. George Webb, an Oxford scholar, whose time 
for four years he had likewise bought, intending him for a 
compositor, of whom more presently; and David Harry, a 
country boy, whom he had taken apprentice. 

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

It was an odd thing to find an Oxford scholar in the situa- 
tion of a bought servant. He was not more than eighteen 
years of age, and gave me this account of himself; that he 
was born in Gloucester, educated at a grammar-school there, 
had been distinguish'd among the scholars for some appar- 
ent superiority in performing his part, when they exhibited 
plays; belong'd to the Witty Club there, and had written 
some pieces in prose and verse, which were printed in the 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 291 

Gloucester newspapers ; thence he was sent to Oxford ; where 
he continued about a year, but not well satisfi'd, wishing of 
all things to see London, and become a player. At length, 
receiving his quarterly allowance of fifteen guineas, instead 
of discharging his debts he walk'd out of town, hid his gown 
in a furze bush, and footed it to London, where, having no 
friends to advise him, he fell into bad company, soon spent 
his guineas, found no means of being introduc'd among the 
players, grew necessitous, pawn'd his cloaths, and wanted 
bread. Walking the street very hungry, and not knowing 
what to do with himself, a crimp's bill was put into his hand, 
offering immediate entertainment and encouragement to such 
as would bind themselves to serve in America. He went 
directly, sign'd the indentures, was put into the ship, and 
came over, never writing a line to acquaint his friends what 
was become of him. He was lively, witty, good-natur'd, and 
a pleasant companion, but idle, thoughtless, and imprudent 
to the last degree. 

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

Our printing-house often wanted sorts, and there was no 
letter-founder in America; I had seen types cast at James's 



292 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

in London, but without much attention to the manner ; how- 
ever, I now contrived a mould, made use of the letters we had 
as puncheons, struck the matrices in lead, and thus supply'd 
in a pretty tolerable way all deficiencies. I also engrav'd 
several things on occasion; I made the ink; I was ware- 
houseman, and everything, and, in short, quite a fac-totum. 

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

Meredith came accordingly in the evening, when we talked 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



293 



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

The proposal was agreeable, and I consented; his father 
was in town and appro v'd of it ; the more as he saw I had 
great influence with his son, had prevail'd on him to abstain 
long from dram-drinking, and he hop'd might break him off 
that wretched habit entirely, when we came to be so closely 
connected. I gave an inventory to the father, who carry'd 
it to a merchant ; the things were sent for, the secret was to be 
kept till they should arrive, and in the mean time I was to get 
work, if I could, at the other printing-house. But I found 
no vacancy there, and so remain'd idle a few days, when 
Keimer, on a prospect of being employ'd to print some paper 
money in New Jersey, which would require cuts and various 
types that I only could supply, and apprehending Bradford 



294 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

might engage me and get the jobb from him, sent me a very 
civil message, that old friends should not part for a few words, 
the effect of sudden passion, and wishing me to return. Mer- 
edith persuaded me to comply, as it would give more oppor- 
tunity for his improvement under my daily instructions; so 
I return'd, and we went on more smoothly than for some 
time before. The New Jersey jobb was obtain'd, I con- 
triv'd a copperplate press for it, the first that had been seen 
in the country; I cut several ornaments and checks for the 
bills. We went together to Burlington, where I executed the 
whole to satisfaction; and he received so large a sum for 
the work as to be enabled thereby to keep his head much 
longer above water. 

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

We continu'd there near three months; and by that time 
I could reckon among my acquired friends, Judge Allen, 
Samuel Bustill, the secretary of the Province, Isaac Pearson, 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 295 

Joseph Cooper, and several of the Smiths, members of Assem- 
bly, and Isaac Decow, the surveyor-general. The latter was 
a shrewd, sagacious old man, who told me that he began for 
himself, when young, by wheeling clay for the brickmakers, 
learned to write after he was of age, carri'd the chain for sur- 
veyors, who taught him surveying, and he had now by his 
industry, acquired a good estate; and says he, "I foresee that 
you will soon work this man out of his business, and make a 
fortune in it at Philadelphia." He had not then the least 
intimation of my intention to set up there or anywhere. 
These friends were afterwards of great use to me, as I occa- 
sionally was to some of them. They all continued their re- 
gard for me as long as they lived. 

Before I enter upon my public appearance in business, it 
may be well to let you know the then state of my mind with 
regard to my principles and morals, that you may see how 
far those influenc'd the future events of my life. My parents 
had early given me religious impressions, and brought me 
through my childhood piously in the Dissenting way. But I 
was scarce fifteen, when, after doubting by turns of several 
points, as I found them disputed in the different books I read, 
I began to doubt of Revelation itself. Some books against 
Deism fell into my hands ; they were said to be the substance 
of sermons preached at Boyle's Lectures. It happened that 
they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was 
intended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which 
were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger 
than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough 
Deist. My arguments perverted some others, particularly 
Collins and Ralph; but, each of them having afterwards 
wrong'd me greatly without the least compunction, and 



296 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

recollecting Keith's conduct towards me (who was another 
freethinker), and my own towards Vernon and Miss Read, 
which at times gave me great trouble, I began to suspect 
that this doctrine, tho' it might be true, was not very useful. 
My London pamphlet, which had for its motto these lines of 

Dryden : 

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

and from the attributes of God, his infinite wisdom, goodness 
and power, concluded that nothing could possibly be wrong 
in the world, and that vice and virtue were empty distinctions, 
no such things existing, appear'd now not so clever a perform- 
ance as I once thought it ; and I doubted whether some error 
had not insinuated itself unperceiv'd into my argument, so 
as to infect all that follow'd, as is common in metaphysical 
reasonings. 1 

I grew convinc'd that truth, sincerity and integrity in deal- 
ings between man and man were of the utmost importance 
to the felicity of life; and I form'd written resolutions, which 
still remain in my journal book, to practice them ever while 
I lived. Revelation had indeed no weight with me, as such ; 
but I entertain'd an opinion that, though certain actions 
might not be bad because they were forbidden by it, or good 
because it commanded them, yet probably these actions might 
be forbidden because they were bad for us, or commanded 
because they were beneficial to us, in their own natures, all 
the circumstances of things considered. And this persua- 

I 1 have not reprinted this pamphlet. It has no merit. Franklin re- 
garded his printing it as an erratum, and he would have been distressed at 
its republication. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 297 

sion, with the kind hand of Providence, or some guardian 
angel, or accidental favourable circumstances and situations, 
or all together, preserved me, thro' this dangerous time of 
youth, and the hazardous situations I was sometimes in 
among strangers, remote from the eye and advice of my 
father, without any willful gross immorality or injustice, that 
might have been expected from my want of religion. 1 I say 
willful, because the instances I have mentioned had some- 
thing of necessity in them, from my youth, inexperience, and 
the knavery of others. I had therefore a tolerable character 
to begin the world with ; I valued it properly, and determin'd 
to preserve it. 

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

1 The words, " Some foolish intrigues with low women excepted, which 
from the expense were rather more prejudicial to me than to them," effaced 
on the revision, and the sentence which follows in the text written in the 
margin. B. 



298 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

since earned; and the gratitude I felt toward House has 
made me often more ready than perhaps I should otherwise 
have been to assist young beginners. 

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

I should have mentioned before, that, in the autumn of 
the preceding year, I had form'd most of my ingenious 
acquaintance into a club of mutual improvement, which we 
called the JUNTO; we met on Friday evenings. The rules 
that I drew up required that every member, in his turn, 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 299 

should produce one or more queries on any point of Morals, 
Politics, or Natural Philosophy, to be discuss 'd by the com- 
pany; and once in three months produce and read an essay 
of his own writing, on any subject he pleased. Our debates 
were to be under the direction of a president, and to be con- 
ducted in the sincere spirit of inquiry after truth, without 
fondness for dispute, or desire of victory; and, to prevent 
warmth, all expressions of positiveness in opinions, or direct 
contradiction, were after some time made contraband, and 
prohibited under small pecuniary penalties. 

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

Thomas Godfrey, 1 a self-taught mathematician, great in 
his way, and afterward inventor of what is now called Had- 
ley's Quadrant. But he knew little out of his way, and was 
not a pleasing companion; as, like most great mathemati- 
cians I have met with, he expected universal precision in 
everything said, or was for ever denying or distinguishing 
upon trifles, to the disturbance of all conversation. He soon 
left us. 

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

William Parsons, bred a shoemaker, but, loving reading, 
had acquir'd a considerable share of mathematics, which he 

1 Thomas Godfrey, a glazier, born in Bristol, Pennsylvania, 1704; died in 
Philadelphia, 1749. For his discovery of the principle upon which he con- 
structed his improvement upon Davis's quadrant see Smyth, "Philadelphia 
Magazines and their Contributors," 1892, pp. 41-42. ED. 



300 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

first studied with a view to astrology, that he afterwards 
laught at it. He also became surveyor-general. 

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

Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, and George Webb I have 
characteriz'd before. 

Robert Grace, a young gentleman of some fortune, gen- 
erous, lively, and witty ; a lover of punning and of his 
friends. 

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

But my giving this account of it here is to show something 
of the interest I had, every one of these exerting themselves 
in recommending business to us. Breintnal particularly pro- 
cur'd us from the Quakers the printing forty sheets of their 
history, the rest being to be done by Keimer; and upon this 
we work'd exceedingly hard, for the price was low. It was 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 301 

a folio, pro patria size, in pica, with long primer notes. I 
compos'd of it a sheet a day, and Meredith worked it off at 
press; it was often eleven at night, and sometimes later, 
before I had finished my distribution for the next day's work, 
for the little jobbs sent in by our other friends now and then 
put us back. But so determin'd I was to continue doing a 
sheet a day of the folio, that one night, when, having impos'd 
my forms, I thought my day's work over, one of them by 
accident was broken, and two pages reduced to pi, I imme- 
diately distributed and compos'd it over again before I went 
to bed ; and this industry, visible to our neighbors, began to 
give us character and credit; particularly, I was told, that 
mention being made of the new printing-office at the mer- 
chants' Every-night club, the general opinion was that it 
must fail, there being already two printers in the place, 
Keimer and Bradford ; but Dr. Baird (whom you and I saw 
many years after at his native place, St. Andrew's in Scot- 
land) gave a contrary opinion: "For the industry of that 
Franklin," says he, "is superior to any thing I ever saw of 
the kind ; I see him still at work when I go home from club, 
and he is at work again before his neighbors are out of bed." 
This struck the rest, and we soon after had offers from one 
of them to supply us with stationery ; but as yet we did not 
chuse to engage in shop business. 

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

George Webb, who had found a female friend that lent 
him wherewith to purchase his time of Keimer, now came to 



302 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

offer himself as a journeyman to us. We could not then 
imploy him; but I foolishly let him know as a secret that I 
soon intended to begin a newspaper, and might then have 
work for him. My hopes of success, as I told him, were 
founded on this, that the then only newspaper, printed by 
Bradford, was a paltry thing, wretchedly manag'd, no way 
entertaining, and yet was profitable to him; I therefore 
thought a good paper would scarcely fail of good encourage- 
ment. I requested Webb not to mention it; but he told it 
to Keimer, who immediately, to be beforehand with me, pub- 
lished proposals for printing one himself, on which Webb was 
to be employ'd. I resented this; and, to counteract them, 
as I could not yet begin our paper, I wrote several pieces of 
entertainment for Bradford's paper, under the title of the 
BUSY BODY, which Breintnal continu'd some months. By 
this means the attention of the publick was fixed on that 
paper, and Keimer 's proposals, which we burlesqu'd and 
ridicuPd, were disregarded. He began his paper, however, 
and, after carrying it on three quarters of a year, with at most 
only ninety subscribers, he offered it to me for a trifle; and 
I, having been ready some time to go on with it, took it in 
hand directly ; and it prov'd in a few years extremely profita- 
ble to me. 1 

I perceive that I am apt to speak in the singular number, 
though our partnership still continu'd; the reason may be 
that, in fact, the whole management of the business lay upon 
me. Meredith was no compositor, a poor pressman, and 



1 Under Keimer's management this paper was called The Universal In- 
structor in all Arts and Sciences and Pennsylvania Gazette. Franklin's pro- 
prietorship dates from October 2, 1729; from which time it was called The 
Pennsylvania Gazette. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 303 

seldom sober. My friends lamented my connection with 
him, but I was to make the best of it. 

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

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

Among my friends in the House I must not forget Mr. 
Hamilton, before mentioned, who was then returned from 
England, and had a seat in it. He interested himself for me 
strongly in that instance, as he did in many others afterward, 
continuing his patronage till his death. 1 

Mr. Vernon, about this time, put me in mind of the debt I 
ow'd him, but did not press me. I wrote him an ingenuous 
letter of acknowledgment, crav'd his forbearance a little 
longer, which he allow'd me, and as soon as I was able, I 

1 1 got his son once .500. Marg. note. 



304 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

paid the principal with interest, and many thanks; so that 
erratum was in some degree corrected. 

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

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 305 

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

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



VOL. i x 



306 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

partnership was dissolved. I think this was in or about the 
year 1729.* 

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

Our debates possess'd me so fully of the subject, that I 
wrote and printed an anonymous pamphlet on it, entitled 
" The Nature and Necessity of a Paper Currency." It was 
well receiv'd by the common people in general ; but the rich 
men dislik'd it, for it increas'd and strengthen'd the clamor 
for more money, and they happening to have no writers 
among them that were able to answer it, their opposition 
slacken'd, and the point was carried by a majority in the 
House. My friends there, who conceiv'd I had been of some 
service, thought fit to reward me by employing me in print- 

1 The exact date was July 14, 1730. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 307 

ing the money; a very profitable jobb and a great help to 
me. This was another advantage gain'd by my being able 
to write. 

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

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

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

I began now gradually to pay off the debt I was under for 
the printing-house. In order to secure my credit and char- 
acter as a tradesman, I took care not only to be in reality 
industrious and frugal, but to avoid all appearances to the 
contrary. I drest plainly; I was seen at no places of idle 



308 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

diversion. I never went out a fishing or shooting ; a book, 
indeed, sometimes debauch'd me from my work, but that 
was seldom, snug, and gave no scandal; and, to show that 
I was not above my business, I sometimes brought home the 
paper I purchas'd at the stores thro' the streets on a wheel- 
barrow. Thus being esteem'd an industrious, thriving young 
man, and paying duly for what I bought, the merchants who 
imported stationery solicited my custom; others proposed 
supplying me with books, and I went on swimmingly. In 
the mean time, Keimer's credit and business declining daily, 
he was at last forc'd to sell his printing-house to satisfy his 
creditors. He went to Barbadoes, and there lived some years 
in very poor circumstances. 

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

There remained now no competitor with me at Philadel- 
phia but the old one, Bradford ; who was rich and easy, did 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



309 



a little printing now and then by straggling hands, but was 
not very anxious about the business. However, as he kept 
the post-office, it was imagined he had better opportunities 
of obtaining news ; his paper was thought a better distributer 
of advertisements than mine, and therefore had many more, 
which was a profitable thing to him, and a disadvantage to 
me ; for, tho' I did indeed receive and send papers by the post, 
yet the publick opinion was otherwise, for what I did send 
was by bribing the riders, who took them privately, Bradford 
being unkind enough to forbid it, which occasion'd some re- 
sentment on my part ; and I thought so meanly of him for it, 
that, when I afterward came into his situation, I took care 
never to imitate it. 

I had hitherto continu'd to board with Godfrey, who lived 
in part of my house with his wife and children, and had one 
side of the shop for his glazier's business, tho' he worked little, 
being always absorbed in his mathematics. Mrs. Godfrey 
projected a match for me with a relation's daughter, took 
opportunities of bringing us often together, till a serious court- 
ship on my part ensu'd, the girl being in herself very deserv- 
ing. The old folks encourag'd me by continual invitations 
to supper, and by leaving us together, till at length it was 
time to explain. Mrs. Godfrey manag'd our little treaty. I 
let her know that I expected as much money with their 
daughter as would pay off my remaining debt for the print- 
ing-house, which I believe was not then above a hundred 
pounds. She brought me word they had no such sum to 
spare; I said they might mortgage their house in the loan- 
office. The answer to this, after some days, was, that they 
did not approve the match; that, on inquiry of Bradford, 
they had been informed the printing business was not a 



3io THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

profitable one ; the types would soon be worn out, and more 
wanted; that S. Keimer and D. Harry had failed one after 
the other, and I should probably soon follow them; and, 
therefore, I was forbidden the house, and the daughter 
shut up. 

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

But this affair having turned my thoughts to marriage, I 
look'd round me and made overtures of acquaintance in other 
places; but soon found that, the business of a printer being 
generally thought a poor one, I was not to expect money with 
a wife, unless with such a one as I should not otherwise think 
agreeable. In the mean time, that hard-to-be-governed pas- 
sion of youth hurried me frequently into intrigues with low 
women that fell in my way, which were attended with some 
expense and great inconvenience, besides a continual risque 
to my health by a distemper which of all things I dreaded, 
though by great good luck I escaped it. A friendly corre- 
spondence as neighbours and old acquaintances had con- 
tinued between me and Mrs. Read's family, who all had a 
regard for me from the time of my first lodging in their house. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 311 

I was often invited there and consulted in their affairs, 
wherein I sometimes was of service. I piti'd poor Miss 
Read's unfortunate situation, who was generally dejected, sel- 
dom chearful, and avoided company. I considered my giddi- 
ness and inconstancy when in London as in a great degree the 
cause of her unhappiness, tho' the mother was good enough to 
think the fault more her own than mine, as she had prevented 
our marrying before I went thither, and persuaded the other 
match in my absence. Our mutual affection was revived, 
but there were now great objections to our union. The 
match was indeed looked upon as invalid, a preceding wife 
being said to be living in England ; but this could not easily 
be prov'd, because of the distance; and, tho' there was a 
report of his death, it was not certain. Then, tho' it should 
be true, he had left many debts, which his successor might 
be call'd upon to pay. We ventured, however, over all 
these difficulties, and I took her to wife, September ist, 1730. 
None of the inconveniences happened that we had appre- 
hended; she proved a good and faithful helpmate, assisted 
me much by attending the shop; we throve together, and 
have ever mutually endeavour'd to make each other happy. 
Thus I corrected that great erratum as well as I could. 

About this time, our club meeting, not at a tavern, but in 
a little room of Mr. Grace's, set apart for that purpose, a 
proposition was made by me, that, since our books were often 
referr'd to in our disquisitions upon the queries, it might 
be convenient to us to have them altogether where we met, 
that upon occasion they might be consulted; and by thus 
clubbing our books to a common library, we should, while 
we lik'd to keep them together, have each of us the advantage 
of using the books of all the other members, which would be 



312 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

nearly as beneficial as if each owned the whole. It was 
lik'd and agreed to, and we fill'd one end of the room with 
such books as we could best spare. The number was not 
so great as we expected ; and tho' they had been of great use, 
yet some inconveniences occurring for want of due care of 
them, the collection, after about a year, was separated, and 
each took his books home again. 

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

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 313 

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

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

"Some time since there fell into my hands, to my great 
joy, about twenty-three sheets in thy own handwriting, 
containing an account of the parentage and life of thyself, 
directed to thy son, ending in the year 1 730, with which there 
were notes, likewise in thy writing ; a copy of which I inclose, 
in hopes it may be a means, if thou continued it up to a later 
period, that the first and latter part may be put together; 
and if it is not yet continued, I hope thee will not delay it. 
Life is uncertain, as the preacher tells us; and what will 
the world say if kind, humane, and benevolent Ben. Franklin 
should leave his friends and the world deprived of so pleas- 
ing and profitable a work; a work which would be useful 
and entertaining not only to a few, but to millions? The 
influence writings under that class have on the minds of 
youth is very great, and has nowhere appeared to me so plain, 
as in our public friend's journals. It almost insensibly 
leads the youth into the resolution of endeavoring to become 
as good and eminent as the journalist. Should thine, for 
instance, when published (and I think it could not fail of it), 
lead the youth to equal the industry and temperance of thy 
early youth, what a blessing with that class would such a 
work be ! I know of no character living, nor many of them 



314 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

put together, who has so much in his power as thyself to 
promote a greater spirit of industry and early attention to 
business, frugality, and temperance with the American 
youth. Not that I think the work would have no other merit 
and use in the world, far from it; but the first is of such 
vast importance that I know nothing that can equal it." 

The foregoing letter and the minutes accompanying it 
being shown to a friend, I received from him the following : 

Letter from Mr. Benjamin Vaughan. 

"PARIS, January 31, 1783. 

"Mv DEAREST SIR: When I had read over your sheets 
of minutes of the principal incidents of your life, recovered 
for you by your Quaker acquaintance, I told you I would 
send you a letter expressing my reasons why I thought it 
would be useful to complete and publish it as he desired. 
Various concerns have for some time past prevented this 
letter being written, and I do not know whether it was worth 
any expectation; happening to be at leisure, however, at 
present, I shall by writing, at least interest and instruct 
myself; but as the terms I am inclined to use may tend to 
offend a person of your manners, I shall only tell you how 
I would address any other person, who was as good and as 
great as yourself, but less diffident. I would say to him, Sir, 
I solicit the history of your life from the following motives: 
Your history is so remarkable, that if you do not give it, 
somebody else will certainly give it; and perhaps so as 
nearly to do as much harm, as your own management of 
the thing might do good. It will moreover present a table 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 315 

of the internal circumstances of your country, which will 
very much tend to invite to it settlers of virtuous and manly 
minds. And considering the eagerness with which such 
information is sought by them, and the extent of your 
reputation, I do not know of a more efficacious advertise- 
ment than your biography would give. All that has hap- 
pened to you is also connected with the detail of the manners 
and situation of a rising people; and in this respect I do 
not think that the writings of Caesar and Tacitus can be more 
interesting to a true judge of human nature and society. 
But these, sir, are small reasons, in my opinion, compared 
with the chance which your life will give for the forming of 
future great men; and in conjunction with your Art of 
Virtue (which you design to publish) of improving the fea- 
tures of private character, and consequently of aiding all 
happiness, both public and domestic. The two works I 
allude to, sir, will in particular give a noble rule and example 
of self-education. School and other education constantly 
proceed upon false principles, and show a clumsy apparatus 
pointed at a false mark; but your apparatus is simple, and 
the mark a true one; and while parents and young persons 
are left destitute of other just means of estimating and becom- 
ing prepared for a reasonable course in life, your discovery 
that the thing is in many a man's private power, will be 
invaluable ! Influence upon the private character, late in 
life, is not only an influence late in life, but a weak influence. 
It is in youth that we plant our chief habits and prejudices ; 
it is in youth that we take our party as to profession, pursuits 
and matrimony. In youth, therefore, the turn is given ; in 
youth the education even of the next generation is given; 
in youth the private and public character is determined; 



316 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

and the term of life extending but from youth to age, life 
ought to begin well from youth, and more especially before 
we take our party as to our principal objects. But your 
biography will not merely teach self-education, but the 
education of a wise man; and the wisest man will receive 
lights and improve his progress, by seeing detailed the con- 
duct of another wise man. And why are weaker men to 
be deprived of such helps, when we see our race has been 
blundering on hi the dark, almost without a guide in this 
particular, from the farthest trace of time? Show then, 
sir, how much is to be done, both to sons and fathers; and 
invite all wise men to become like yourself, and other men 
to become wise. When we see how cruel statesmen and 
warriors can be to the human race, and how absurd dis- 
tinguished men can be to their acquaintance, it will be 
instructive to observe the instances multiply of pacific, 
acquiescing manners; and to find how compatible it is to 
be great and domestic, enviable and yet good-humoured. 

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 317 

discussions in politics or philosophy ; and what more worthy 
of experiments and system (its importance and its errors 
considered) than human life? 

"Some men have been virtuous blindly, others have 
speculated fantastically, and others have been shrewd to 
bad purposes; but you, sir, I am sure, will give under your 
hand, nothing but what is at the same moment, wise, practical 
and good. Your account of yourself (for I suppose the 
parallel I am drawing for Dr. Franklin, will hold not only 
in point of character, but of private history) will show that 
you are ashamed of no origin ; a thing the more important, 
as you prove how little necessary all origin is to happiness, 
virtue, or greatness. As no end likewise happens without 
a means, so we shall find, sir, that even you yourself framed 
a plan by which you became considerable; but at the same 
time we may see that though the event is flattering, the means 
are as simple as wisdom could make them ; that is, depend- 
ing upon nature, virtue, thought and habit. Another thing 
demonstrated will be the propriety of every man's waiting 
for his time for appearing upon the stage of the world. Our 
sensations being very much fixed to the moment, we are apt 
to forget that more moments are to follow the first, and con- 
sequently that man should arrange his conduct so as to suit 
the whole of a life. Your attribution appears to have been 
applied to your life, and the passing moments of it have 
been enlivened with content and enjoyment, instead of 
being tormented with foolish impatience or regrets. Such 
a conduct is easy for those who make virtue and themselves 
in countenance by examples of other truly great men, of 
whom patience is so often the characteristic. Your Quaker 
correspondent, sir (for here again I will suppose the subject 



3i8 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

of my letter resembling Dr. Franklin), praised your frugality, 
diligence and temperance, which he considered as a pattern 
for all youth ; but it is singular that he should have forgotten 
your modesty and your disinterestedness, without which 
you never could have waited for your advancement, or found 
your situation in the mean time comfortable; which is a 
strong lesson to show the poverty of glory and the impor- 
tance of regulating our minds. If this correspondent had 
known the nature of your reputation as well as I do, he would 
have said, Your former writings and measures would secure 
attention to your Biography, and Art of Virtue; and your 
Biography and Art of Virtue, in return, would secure attention 
to them. This is an advantage attendant upon a various 
character, and which brings all that belongs to it into greater 
play ; and it is the more useful, as perhaps more persons are 
at a loss for the means of improving their minds and char- 
acters, than they are for the time or the inclination to do it. 
But there is one concluding reflection, sir, that will shew the 
use of your life as a mere piece of biography. This style of 
writing seems a little gone out of vogue, and yet it is a very 
useful one; and your specimen of it may be particularly 
serviceable, as it will make a subject of comparison with 
the lives of various public cut-throats and intriguers, and 
with absurd monastic self-tormentors or vain literary triflers. 
If it encourages more writings of the same kind with your 
own, and induces more men to spend lives fit to be written, 
it will be worth all Plutarch's Lives put together. But being 
tired of figuring to myself a character of which every feature 
suits only one man in the world, without giving him the 
praise of it, I shall end my letter, my dear Dr. Franklin, 
with a personal application to your proper self. I am 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



319 



earnestly desirous, then, my dear sir, that you should let 
the world into the traits of your genuine character, as civil 
broils may otherwise tend to disguise or traduce it. Con- 
sidering your great age, the caution of your character, and 
your peculiar style of thinking, it is not likely that any one 
besides yourself can be sufficiently master of the facts of 
your life, or the intentions of your mind. Besides all this, 
the immense revolution of the present period, will necessarily 
turn our attention towards the author of it, and when virtu- 
ous principles have been pretended in it, it will be highly 
important to shew that such have really influenced; and, 
as your own character will be the principal one to receive a 
scrutiny, it is proper (even for its effects upon your vast and 
rising country, as well as upon England and upon Europe) 
that it should stand respectable and eternal. For the further- 
ance of human happiness, I have always maintained that it 
is necessary to prove that man is not even at present a vicious 
and detestable animal; and still more to prove that good 
management may greatly amend him ; and it is for much the 
same reason, that I am anxious to see the opinion established, 
that there are fair characters existing among the individuals 
of the race ; for the moment that all men, without exception, 
shall be conceived abandoned, good people will cease efforts 
deemed to be hopeless, and perhaps think of taking their 
share in the scramble of life, or at least of making it com- 
fortable principally for themselves. Take then, my dear 
sir, this work most speedily into hand: shew yourself good 
as you are good; temperate as you are temperate; and 
above all things, prove yourself as one, who from your in- 
fancy have loved justice, liberty and concord, in a way that 
has made it natural and consistent for you to have acted, as 



320 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

we have seen you act in the last seventeen years of your life. 
Let Englishmen be made not only to respect, but even to love 
you. When they think well of individuals in your native 
country, they will go nearer to thinking well of your country ; 
and when your countrymen see themselves well thought 
of by Englishmen, they will go nearer to thinking well of 
England. Extend your views even further; do not stop at 
those who speak the English tongue, but after having settled 
so many points in nature and politics, think of bettering the 
whole race of men. As I have not read any part of the life 
in question, but know only the character that lived it, I write 
somewhat at hazard. I am sure, however, that the life and 
the treatise I allude to (on the Art of Virtue) will necessarily 
fulfil the chief of my expectations; and still more so if you 
take up the measure of suiting these performances to the 
several views above stated. Should they even prove un- 
successful in all that a sanguine admirer of yours hopes 
from them, you will at least have framed pieces to interest 
the human mind; and whoever gives a feeling of pleasure 
that is innocent to man, has added so much to the fair side 
of a life otherwise too much darkened by anxiety and too 
much injured by pain. In the hope, therefore, that you 
will listen to the prayer addressed to you in this letter, I 
beg to subscribe myself, my dearest sir, etc., etc., 

Signed, "BENJ. VAUGHAN." 

Continuation of the Account 0} my Life, begun at 
Passy, near Paris, 1784. 

It is some time since I receiv'd the above letters, but I 
have been too busy till now to think of complying with the 
request they contain. It might, too, be much better done 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 321 

if I were at home among my papers, which would aid my 
memory, and help to ascertain dates; but my return being 
uncertain, and having just now a little leisure, I will endeavour 
to recollect and write what I can; if I live to get home, it 
may there be corrected and improv'd. 

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

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

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I propos'd 
to render the benefit from books more common, by com- 
mencing a public subscription library. I drew a sketch 
of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a 
skilful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole 
VOL. i y 



322 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

in form of articles of agreement to be subscribed, by which 
each subscriber engag'd to pay a certain sum down for the 
first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for 
increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in 
Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not 
able, with great industry, to find more than fifty persons, 
mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this pur- 
pose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On 
this little fund we began. The books were imported; the 
library was opened one day in the week for lending to the 
subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value 
if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its 
utility, was imitated by other towns, and in other prov- 
inces. The libraries were augmented by donations ; reading 
became fashionable; and our people, having no publick 
amusements to divert their attention from study, became 
better acquainted with books, and in a few years were ob- 
serv'd by strangers to be better instructed and more intelligent 
than people of the same rank generally are in other countries. 

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

The objections and reluctances I met with in soliciting 
the subscriptions, made me soon feel the impropriety of 
presenting one's self as the proposer of any useful project, 
that might be suppos'd to raise one's reputation in the smallest 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 323 

degree above that of one's neighbours, when one has need of 
their assistance to accomplish that project. I therefore put 
myself as much as I could out of sight, and stated it as a 
scheme of a number 0} friends, who had requested me to go 
about and propose it to such as they thought lovers of reading. 
In this way my affair went on more smoothly, and I ever after 
practis'd it on such occasions ; and, from my frequent suc- 
cesses, can heartily recommend it. The present little sacrifice 
of your vanity will afterwards be amply repaid. If it remains 
a while uncertain to whom the merit belongs, some one more 
vain than yourself will be encouraged to claim it, and then 
even envy will be disposed to do you justice by plucking those 
assumed feathers, and restoring them to their right owner. 

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



324 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

kings, which, however, has since happened ; for I have stood 
before five, and even had the honour of sitting down with 
one, the King of Denmark, to dinner. 

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

I had been religiously educated as a Presbyterian; and 
tho' some of the dogmas of that persuasion, such as the eter- 
nal decrees of God, election, reprobation, etc., appeared to me 
unintelligible, others doubtful, and I early absented myself 
from the public assemblies of the sect, Sunday being my 
studying day, I never was without some religious principles. 
I never doubted, for instance, the existence of the Deity; 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



325 



that he made the world, and govern'd it by his Providence; 
that the most acceptable service of God was the doing good 
to man ; that our souls are immortal ; and that all crime will 
be punished, and virtue rewarded, either here or hereafter. 
These I esteem'd the essentials of every religion ; and, being 
to be found in all the religions we had in our country, I re- 
spected them all, tho' with different degrees of respect, as I 
found them more or less mix'd with other articles, which, 
without any tendency to inspire, promote, or confirm morality, 
serv'd principally to divide us, and make us unfriendly to one 
another. This respect to all, with an opinion that the worst 
had some good effects, induc'd me to avoid all discourse that 
might tend to lessen the good opinion another might have of 
his own religion; and as our province increas'd in people, 
and new places of worship were continually wanted, and gen- 
erally erected by voluntary contribution, my mite for such 
purpose, whatever might be the sect, was never refused. 

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



326 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

seeming to be rather to make us Presbyterians than good 
citizens. 

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

It was about this time I conceiv'd the bold and arduous 
project of arriving at moral perfection. I wish'd to live with- 
out committing any fault at any time; I would conquer all 
that either natural inclination, custom, or company might 
lead me into. As I knew, or thought I knew, what was right 
and wrong, I did not see why I might not always do the one 
and avoid the other. But I soon found I had undertaken a 
task of more difficulty than I had imagined. While my care 
was employ 'd in guarding against one fault, I was often sur- 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 327 

prised by another; habit took the advantage of inattention; 
inclination was sometimes too strong for reason. I concluded, 
at length, that the mere speculative conviction that it was our 
interest to be completely virtuous, was not sufficient to pre- 
vent our slipping; and that the contrary habits must be 
broken, and good ones acquired and established, before we 
can have any dependence on a steady, uniform rectitude of 
conduct. For this purpose I therefore contrived the follow- 
ing method. 

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

These names of virtues, with their precepts, were : 

i. TEMPERANCE. 
Eat not to dullness ; drink not to elevation. 

2. SILENCE. 

Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid 
trifling conversation. 



328 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

3. ORDER. 
Let all your things have their places ; let each part of your 

business have its time. 

4. RESOLUTION. 

Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail 

what you resolve. 

5. FRUGALITY. 

Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; 

i.e., waste nothing. 

6. INDUSTRY. 

Lose no time; be always employ'd in something useful; 
cut off all unnecessary actions. 

7. SINCERITY. 

Use no hurtful deceit ; think innocently and justly, and, if 
you speak, speak accordingly. 

8. JUSTICE. 
Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits 

that are your duty. 

9. MODERATION. 

Avoid extreams ; forbear resenting injuries so much as you 

think they deserve. 

10. CLEANLINESS. 

Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, cloaths, or habitation. 

ii. TRANQUILLITY. 
Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or 

unavoidable. 

12. CHASTITY. 

Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dul- 
ness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace 

or reputation. 

13. HUMILITY. 

Imitate Jesus and Socrates. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 329 

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

I made a little book, in which I allotted a page for each of 



330 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 



the virtues. 1 I rul'd each page with red ink, so as to have 
seven columns, one for each day of the week, marking each 
column with a letter for the day. I cross'd these columns 
with thirteen red lines, marking the beginning of each line 
with the first letter of one of the virtues, on which line, and 
in its proper column, I might mark, by a little black spot, 
every fault I found upon examination to have been committed 
respecting that virtue upon that day. 

Form of the pages. 



TEMPERANCE. 


EAT NOT TO DULNESS. 
DRINK NOT TO ELEVATION. 




S. 


M. 


T. 


W. 


T. 


F. 


S. 


T. 
















S. 


* 


* 




* 




* 




O. 


* * 


* 


* 




* 


* 


* 


R. 






* 






* 




F. 




* 






* 






I. 






* 










S. 
















J- 
















M. 
















C. 
















T. 
















C. 
















H. 

















1 This little book " is dated July i, 1733. W. T. F. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 331 

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

This my little book had for its motto these lines from Addi- 
son's Cato: 

" Here will I hold. If there's a power above us 
(And that there is, all nature cries aloud 
Thro 1 all her works), He must delight in virtue; 
And that which he delights in must be happy." 

Another from Cicero, 

"O vitas Philosophia dux! O virtutum indagatrix expultrixque 
vitiorum ! Unus dies, bene et ex praeceptis tuis actus, peccanti immor- 
talitati est anteponendus." 



332 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

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

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

" O powerful Goodness 1 , bountiful Father! merciful Guide! In- 
crease in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest. Strengthen 
my resolutions to perform what that wisdom dictates. Accept my kind 
offices to thy other children as the only return in my power for thy con- 
tinual favours to me."" 

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

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

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



THE MORNING. 
Question. What good shall 
I do this day? 



8 



Rise, wash, and address Pow- 
erful Goodness! Contrive day's 
business, and take the resolu- 
tion of the day; prosecute the 
present study, and breakfast. 



Work. 
10 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



333 



NOON. 



s] Read, or overlook my ac- 
: J counts, and dine. 

Work. 



EVENING. 

Question. What good have I 
done to-day? 



NIGHT. 



6 

7 
8 

9J 
10 
ii 

12 
I 

2 

3 

4 



Put things in their places. 
Supper. Music or diversion, 
or conversation. Examination 
of the day. 



Sleep. 



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



334 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 335 

that pretended to be reason, was every now and then suggest- 
ing to me that such extream nicety as I exacted of myself 
might be a kind of foppery in morals, which, if it were known, 
would make me ridiculous; that a perfect character might 
be attended with the inconvenience of being envied and hated ; 
and that a benevolent man should allow a few faults in him- 
self, to keep his friends in countenance. 

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

It may be well my posterity should be informed that to 
this little artifice, with the blessing of God, their ancestor 
ow'd the constant felicity of his life, down to his ygth year 
in which this is written. What reverses may attend the 
remainder is in the hand of Providence; but, if they arrive, 
the reflection on past happiness enjoy'd ought to help his 
bearing them with more resignation. To Temperance he 
ascribes his long-continued health, and what is still left to 
him of a good constitution; to Industry and Frugality, the 
early easiness of his circumstances and acquisition of his 
fortune, with all that knowledge that enabled him to be a 
useful citizen, and obtained for him some degree of reputa- 
tion among the learned; to Sincerity and Justice, the con- 



336 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

fidence of his country, and the honorable employs it conferred 
upon him ; and to the joint influence of the whole mass of the 
virtues, even in the imperfect state he was able to acquire 
them, all that evenness of temper, and that cheerfulness in 
conversation, which makes his company still sought for, and 
agreeable even to his younger acquaintance. I hope, there- 
fore, that some of my descendants may follow the example 
and reap the benefit. 

It will be remark'd that, tho' my scheme was not wholly 
without religion, there was hi it no mark of any of the dis- 
tinguishing tenets of any particular sect. I had purposely 
avoided them; for, being fully persuaded of the utility and 
excellency of my method, and that it might be serviceable 
to people in all religions, and intending some time or other to 
publish it, I would not have any thing in it that should 
prejudice any one, of any sect, against it. I purposed writing 
a little comment on each virtue, in which I would have shown 
the advantages of possessing it, and the mischiefs attending 
its opposite vice; and I should have called my book THE 
ART OF VIRTUE, 1 because it would have shown the means 
and manner of obtaining virtue, which would have distin- 
guished it from the mere exhortation to be good, that does 
not instruct and indicate the means, but is like the apostle's 
man of verbal charity, who only without showing to the naked 
and hungry how or where they might get clothes or victuals, 
exhorted them to be fed and clothed. James ii. 15, 16. 

But it so happened that my intention of writing and pub- 
lishing this comment was never fulfilled. I did, indeed, from 
time to time, put down short hints of the sentiments, reason- 
ings, etc., to be made use of in it, some of which I have still 

1 Nothing so likely to make a man's fortune as virtue. Marg. note. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 337 

by me ; but the necessary close attention to private business 
in the earlier part of my life, and public business since, have 
occasioned my postponing it; for, it being connected in my 
mind with a great and extensive project, that required the 
whole man to execute, and which an unforeseen succession 
of employs prevented my attending to, it has hitherto re- 
main'd unfmish'd. 

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

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

I cannot boast of much success in acquiring the reality of 
this virtue, but I had a good deal with regard to the appear- 
ance of it. I made it a rule to forbear all direct contradiction 

VOL. I Z 



338 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

to the sentiments of others, and all positive assertion of my 
own. I even forbid myself, agreeably to the old laws of our 
Junto, the use of every word or expression in the language 
that imported a fix'd opinion, such as certainly, undoubtedly, 
etc., and I adopted, instead of them, / conceive, I apprehend, 
or / imagine a thing to be so or so ; or it so appears to me at 
present. When another asserted something that I thought an 
error, I deny'd myself the pleasure of contradicting him 
abruptly, and of showing immediately some absurdity in his 
proposition; and in answering I began by observing that 
in certain cases or circumstances his opinion would be right, 
but in the present case there appeared or seem'd to me some 
difference, etc. I soon found the advantage of this change 
in my manner ; the conversations I engag'd in went on more 
pleasantly. The modest way in which I propos'd my opin- 
ions procur'd them a readier reception and less contradic- 
tion ; I had less mortification when I was found to be in the 
wrong, and I more easily prevail'd with others to give up their 
mistakes and join with me when I happened to be in the right. 
And this mode, which I at first put on with some violence 
to natural inclination, became at length so easy, and so 
habitual to me, that perhaps for these fifty years past no one 
has ever heard a dogmatical expression escape me. And to 
this habit (after my character of integrity) I think it princi- 
pally owing that I had early so much weight with my fellow- 
citizens when I proposed new institutions, or alterations in 
the old, and so much influence in public councils when I 
became a member; for I was but a bad speaker, never elo- 
quent, subject to much hesitation in my choice of words, 
hardly correct in language, and yet I generally carried my 
points. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 339 

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

[Thus far written at Passy, 1784.] 

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

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

Observations on my reading history, in Library, May ipth, 



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

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

"That the different views of these different parties occa- 
sion all confusion. 

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

"That as soon as a party has gain'd its general point, 
each member becomes intent upon his particular interest; 

1 This is a marginal memorandum. B. 



340 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

which, thwarting others, breaks that party into divisions, 
and occasions more confusion. 

"That few in public affairs act from a meer view of the 
good of their country, whatever they may pretend ; and, tho' 
their actings bring real good to their country, yet men pri- 
marily considered that their own and their country's interest 
was united, and did not act from a principle of benevolence. 

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

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

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

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

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

"That he governs the world by his providence. 

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 341 

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

"That the soul is immortal. 

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

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

This is as much as I can now recollect of the project, 
except that I communicated it in part to two young men, 
who adopted it with some enthusiasm ; but my then nar- 

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



342 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

row circumstances, and the necessity I was under of sticking 
close to my business, occasion'd my postponing the further 
prosecution of it at that time ; and my multifarious occupa- 
tions, public and private, induc'd me to continue postpon- 
ing, so that it has been omitted till I have no longer strength 
or activity left sufficient for such an enterprise; tho' I am 
still of opinion that it was a practicable scheme, and might 
have been very useful, by forming a great number of good 
citizens; and I was not discourag'd by the seeming magni- 
tude of the undertaking, as I have always thought that one 
man of tolerable abilities may work great changes, and 
accomplish great affairs among mankind, if he first forms 
a good plan, and, cutting off all amusements or other 
employments that would divert his attention, makes the 
execution of that same plan his sole study and busi- 
ness. 

In 1732 I first publish'd my Almanack, under the name 
of Richard Saunders; it was continu'd by me about twenty- 
five years, commonly call'd Poor Richard's Almanack. I 
endeavour'd to make it both entertaining and useful, and it 
accordingly came to be hi such demand, that I reap'd con- 
siderable profit from it, vending annually near ten thousand. 
And observing that it was generally read, scarce any neigh- 
borhood in the province being without it, I consider'd it as 
a proper vehicle for conveying instruction among the common 
people, who bought scarcely any other books; I therefore 
filled all the little spaces that occurr'd between the remark- 
able days in the calendar with proverbial sentences, chiefly 
such as inculcated industry and frugality, as the means of 
procuring wealth, and thereby securing virtue; it being 
more difficult for a man in want, to act always honestly, as, 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 343 

to use here one of those proverbs, it is hard for an empty 
sack to stand upright. 

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

I considered my newspaper, also, as another means of 
communicating instruction, and in that view frequently re- 
printed in it extracts from the Spectator, and other moral 
writers; and sometimes publish'd little pieces of my own, 
which had been first compos'd for reading in our Junto. 
Of these are a Socratic dialogue, tending to prove that, what- 
ever might be his parts and abilities, a vicious man could 
not properly be called a man of sense; and a discourse on 
self-denial, showing that virtue was not secure till its practice 
became a habitude, and was free from the opposition of con- 
trary inclinations. These may be found in the papers about 
the beginning of I735- 1 

In the conduct of my newspaper, I carefully excluded all 

1 June 23 and July 7, 1730. ED. 



344 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

In 1733 I sent one of my journeymen to Charleston, 
South Carolina, where a printer was wanting. I furnish'd 
him with a press and letters, on an agreement of partnership, 
by which I was to receive one-third of the profits of the busi- 
ness, paying one-third of the expense. He was a man of 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



345 



learning, and honest but ignorant in matters of account; 
and, tho' he sometimes made me remittances, I could get 
no account from him, nor any satisfactory state of our part- 
nership while he lived. On his decease, the business was 
continued by his widow, who, being born and bred in Hol- 
land, where, as I have been inform'd, the knowledge of 
accounts makes a part of female education, she not only 
sent me as clear a state as she could find of the transactions 
past, but continued to account with the greatest regularity 
and exactness every quarter afterwards, and managed the 
business with such success, that she not only brought up 
reputably a family of children, but, at the expiration of the 
term, was able to purchase of me the printing-house, and 
establish her son in it. 

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

About the year 1734 there arrived among us from Ireland 
a young Presbyterian preacher, named Hemphill, who de- 
livered with a good voice, and apparently extempore, most 
excellent discourses, which drew together considerable num- 
bers of different persuasions, who join'd in admiring them. 
Among the rest, I became one of his constant hearers, his 
sermons pleasing me, as they had little of the dogmatical 
kind, but inculcated strongly the practice of virtue, or what 



346 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

in the religious stile are called good works. Those, how- 
ever, of our congregation, who considered themselves as 
orthodox Presbyterians, disapprov'd his doctrine, and were 
join'd by most of the old clergy, who arraign'd him of heter- 
odoxy before the synod, in order to have him silenc'd. I 
became his zealous partisan, and contributed all I could to 
raise a party in his favour, and we combated for him a while 
with some hopes of success. There was much scribbling 
pro and con upon the occasion; and finding that, tho' an 
elegant preacher, he was but a poor writer, I lent him my 
pen and wrote for him two or three pamphlets, and one piece 
in the Gazette of April, 1735. Those pamphlets, as is gener- 
ally the case with controversial writings, tho' eagerly read at 
the time, were soon out of vogue, and I question whether a 
single copy of them now exists. 1 

During the contest an unlucky occurrence hurt his cause 
exceedingly. One of our adversaries having heard him 
preach a sermon that was much admired, thought he had 
somewhere read the sermon before, or at least a part of it. 
On search, he found that part quoted at length, in one of the 
British Reviews, from a discourse of Dr Foster's. 2 This 
detection gave many of our party disgust, who accordingly 
abandoned his cause, and occasion'd our more speedy dis- 
comfiture in the synod. I stuck by him, however, as I rather 

1 See " A List of Books written by, or relating to Benjamin Franklin," by 
Paul Leicester Ford. 1889. p. 15. 

2 Dr. James Foster (1697-1753) : 

" Let modest Foster, if he will excel 
Ten metropolitans in preaching well." 

POPE (Epilogue to the Satires, 1, 132). 

" Those who had not heard Farinelli sing and Foster preach were not quali- 
fied to appear in genteel company," Hawkins. " History of Music." ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 347 

approv'd his giving us good sermons compos'd by others, 
than bad ones of his own manufacture, tho' the latter was 
the practice of our common teachers. He afterward ac- 
knowledg'd to me that none of those he preach'd were his 
own; adding, that his memory was such as enabled him to 
retain and repeat any sermon after one reading only. On 
our defeat, he left us in search elsewhere of better fortune, 
and I quitted the congregation, never joining it after, tho' 
I continu'd many years my subscription for the support of 
its ministers. 

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

I have already mention'd that I had only one year's in- 
struction in a Latin school, and that when very young, after 
which I neglected that language entirely. But, when I had 
attained an acquaintance with the French, Italian, and 
Spanish, I was surpriz'd to find, on looking over a Latin 
Testament, that I understood so much more of that language 
than I had imagined, which encouraged me to apply myself 



348 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

again to the study of it, and I met with more success, as 
those preceding languages had greatly smooth'd my way. 

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

After ten years' absence from Boston, and having become 
easy in my circumstances, I made a journey thither to visit 
my relations, which I could not sooner well afford. In re- 
turning, I call'd at Newport to see my brother, then settled 
there with his printing-house. Our former differences were 
forgotten, and our meeting was very cordial and affectionate. 
He was fast declining in his health, and requested of me that, 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 349 

in case of his death, which he apprehended not far distant, 
I would take home his son, then but ten years of age, and 
bring him up to the printing business. This I accordingly 
perform'd, sending him a few years to school before I took 
him into the office. His mother carried on the business till 
he was grown up, when I assisted him with an assortment 
of new types, those of his father being in a manner worn out. / 
Thus it was that I made my brother ample amends for the 
service I had depriv'd him of by leaving him so early. 

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

Our club, the Junto, was found so useful, and afforded 
such satisfaction to the members, that several were desirous 
of introducing their friends, which could not well be done 
without exceeding what we had settled as a convenient 
number, viz., twelve. We had from the beginning made it 
a rule to keep our institution a secret, which was pretty well 
observ'd ; the intention was to avoid applications of improper 
persons for admittance, some of whom, perhaps, we might 
find it difficult to refuse. I was one of those who were 
against any addition to our number, but, instead of it, made 
in writing a proposal, that every member separately should 
endeavour to form a subordinate club, with the same rules 
respecting queries, etc., and without informing them of the 
connection with the Junto. The advantages proposed were, 



350 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

the improvement of so many more young citizens by the 
use of our institutions; our better acquaintance with the 
general sentiments of the inhabitants on any occasion, as 
the Junto member might propose what queries we should 
desire, and was to report to the Junto what pass'd in his 
separate club; the promotion of our particular interests in 
business by more extensive recommendation, and the in- 
crease of our influence in public affairs, and our power of 
doing good by spreading thro' the several clubs the senti- 
ments of the Junto. 

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

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 351 

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

In 1737, Colonel Spotswood, late governor of Virginia, 
and then postmaster-general, being dissatisfied with the 
conduct of his deputy at Philadelphia, respecting some 
negligence in rendering, and inexactitude of his accounts, 
took from him the commission and offered it to me. I 
accepted it readily, and found it of great advantage ; for, tho' 
the salary was small, it facilitated the correspondence that 
improv'd my newspaper, increas'd the number demanded, 
as well as the advertisements to be inserted, so that it came 



352 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

to afford me a considerable income. My old competitor's 
newspaper declin'd proportionably, and I was satisfy'd 
without retaliating his refusal, while postmaster, to permit 
my papers being carried by the riders. Thus he suffer'd 
greatly from his neglect in due accounting; and I mention 
it as a lesson to those young men who may be employ 'd in 
managing affairs for others, that they should always render 
accounts, and make remittances, with great clearness and 
punctuality. The character of observing such a conduct is 
the most powerful of all recommendations to new employ- 
ments and increase of business. 

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 353 

wealthiest merchant, who had thousands of pounds' worth 
of goods in his stores. 

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

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

The utility of this institution soon appeared, and many 
more desiring to be admitted than we thought convenient 

VOL.1 2 A 



354 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

for one company, they were advised to form another, which 
was accordingly done; and this went on, one new company 
being formed after another, till they became so numerous as 
to include most of the inhabitants who were men of property ; 
and now, at the time of my writing this, tho' upward of fifty 
years since its establishment, that which I first formed, 
called the Union Fire Company, still subsists and flourishes, 1 
tho' the first members are all deceas'd but myself and one, 
who is older by a year than I am. The small fines that have 
been paid by members for absence at the monthly meetings 
have been apply'd to the purchase of fire-engines, ladders, 
fire-hooks, and other useful implements for each company, 
so that I question whether there is a city in the world better 
provided with the means of putting a stop to beginning 
conflagrations; and, in fact, since these institutions, the 
city has never lost by fire more than one or two houses at a 
time, and the flames have often been extinguished before 
the house in which they began has been half consumed. 

In 1739 arrived among us from Ireland the Reverend Mr. 
Whitefield, who had made himself remarkable there as an 
itinerant preacher. He was at first permitted to preach in 
some of our churches; but the clergy, taking a dislike to 
him, soon refus'd him their pulpits, and he was oblig'd to 
preach in the fields. The multitudes of all sects and denomi- 
nations that attended his sermons were enormous, and it 
was matter of speculation to me, who was one of the number, 
to observe the extraordinary influence of his oratory on his 
hearers, and how much they admir'd and respected him, 
notwithstanding his common abuse of them, by assuring 
them they were naturally half beasts and half devils. It 

1 It was formed December 7, 1 736. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 355 

was wonderful to see the change soon made in the manners 
of our inhabitants. From being thoughtless or indifferent 
about religion, it seem'd as if all the world were growing 
religious, so that one could not walk thro' the town in an 
evening without hearing psalms sung in different families 
of every street. 

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

Mr. Whitefield, in leaving us, went preaching all the way 
thro' the colonies to Georgia. The settlement of that prov- 
ince had lately been begun, but, instead of being made with 
hardy, industrious husbandmen, accustomed to labour, the 
only people fit for such an enterprise, it was with families 
of broken shop-keepers and other insolvent debtors, many 
of indolent and idle habits, taken out of the jails, who, being 
set down in the woods, unqualified for clearing land, and 
unable to endure the hardships of a new settlement, perished 



356 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

in numbers, leaving many helpless children unprovided 
for. The sight of their miserable situation inspir'd the 
benevolent heart of Mr. Whitefield with the idea of building 
an Orphan House there, in which they might be supported 
and educated. Returning northward, he preach'd up this 
charity, and made large collections, for his eloquence had a 
wonderful power over the hearts and purses of his hearers, 
of which I myself was an instance. 

I did not disapprove of the design, but, as Georgia was 
then destitute of materials and workmen, and it was pro- 
posed to send them from Philadelphia at a great expense, I 
thought it would have been better to have built the house 
here, and brought the children to it. This I ad vis 'd; but 
he was resolute in his first project, rejected my counsel, and 
I therefore refus'd to contribute. I happened soon after to 
attend one of his sermons, in the course of which I perceived 
he intended to finish with a collection, and I silently resolved 
he should get nothing from me. I had in my pocket a hand- 
ful of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five 
pistoles in gold. As he proceeded I began to soften, and 
concluded to give the coppers. Another stroke of his oratory 
made me asham'd of that, and determin'd me to give the 
silver; and he finish'd so admirably, that I empty'd my 
pocket wholly into the collector's dish, gold and all. At 
this sermon there was also one of our club, who, being of 
my sentiments respecting the building in Georgia, and sus- 
pecting a collection might be intended, had, by precaution, 
emptied his pockets before he came from home. Towards 
the conclusion of the discourse, however, he felt a strong 
desire to give, and apply'd to a neighbour, who stood near 
him, to borrow some money for the purpose. The applica- 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 357 

tion was unfortunately [made] to perhaps the only man in 
the company who had the firmness not to be affected by the 
preacher. His answer was, "At any other time, Friend 
Hopkinson, I would lend to thee freely; but not now, for thee 
seems to be out of thy right senses." 

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

The following instance will show something of the terms 
on which we stood. Upon one of his arrivals from England 
at Boston, he wrote to me that he should come soon to Phila- 
delphia, but knew not where he could lodge when there, as 
he understood his old friend and host, Mr. Benezet 1 was 
removed to Germantown. My answer was, "You know 
my house; if you can make shift with its scanty accommo- 
dations, you will be most heartily welcome." He reply'd, 
that if I made that kind offer for Christ's sake, I should not 
miss of a reward. And I returned, "Don't let me be mis- 
taken; it was not for Christ's sake, but for your sake." One 

1 Anthony Benezet (1713-1784), devoted himself in Philadelphia to the 
abolition of the slave trade and the emancipation and education of the 
coloured population. ED. 



358 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

of our common acquaintance jocosely remark'd, that, know- 
ing it to be the custom of the saints, when they received 
any favour, to shift the burden of the obligation from off 
their own shoulders, and place it in heaven, I had contriv'd 
to fix it on earth. 

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

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

By hearing him often, I came to distinguish easily between 
sermons newly compos'd, and those which he had often 
preach'd in the course of his travels. His delivery of the 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 359 

latter was so improv'd by frequent repetitions that every 
accent, every emphasis, every modulation of voice, was so 
perfectly well turn'd and well plac'd, that, without being 
interested in the subject, one could not help being pleas'd 
with the discourse ; a pleasure of much the same kind with 
that receiv'd from an excellent piece of musick. This is 
an advantage itinerant preachers have over those who are 
stationary, as the latter can not well improve their delivery 
of a sermon by so many rehearsals. 

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

My business was now continually augmenting, and my 
circumstances growing daily easier, my newspaper having 
become very profitable, as being for a time almost the only 
one in this and the neighbouring provinces. I experienced, 
too, the truth of the observation, "that after getting the first 



360 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

hundred pound, it is more easy to get the second," money 
itself being of a prolific nature. 

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

I had, on the whole, abundant reason to be satisfied with 
my being established in Pennsylvania. There were, how- 
evei, two things that I regretted, there being no provision 
for defense, nor for a compleat education of youth; no 
militia, nor any college. I therefore, in 1743, drew up a 
proposal for establishing an academy; and at that time, 
thinking the Reverend Mr. Peters, who was out of employ, 
a fit person to superintend such an institution, I communi- 
cated the project to him; but he, having more profitable 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 361 

views in the service of the proprietaries, which succeeded, 
declin'd the undertaking; and, not knowing another at that 
time suitable for such a trust, I let the scheme lie a while 
dormant. I succeeded better the next year, 1744, in propos- 
ing and establishing a Philosophical Society. The paper 
I wrote for that purpose will be found among my writings, 
when collected. 1 

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

1 See " A Proposal for Promoting Useful Knowledge among the British 
Plantations in America," May 14, 1743. ED. 



362 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

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

Meanwhile, Colonel Lawrence, William Allen, Abram 
Taylor, Esqr., and myself were sent to New York by the 
associators, commission'd to borrow some cannon of Gov- 
ernor Clinton. 1 He at first refus'd us peremptorily; but 
at dinner with his council, where there was great drinking 

1 George Clinton was the youngest son of Francis, sixth Earl of Lincoln. 
He was colonial governor, 1741-1753. He died July 10, 1761. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 363 

of Madeira wine, as the custom of that place then was, he 
softened by degrees, and said he would lend. us six. After 
a few more bumpers he advanc'd to ten; and at length he 
very good-naturedly conceded eighteen. They were fine 
cannon, eighteen-pounders, with their carriages, which we 
soon transported and mounted on our battery, where the 
associators kept a nightly guard while the war lasted, and 
among the rest I regularly took my turn of duty there as a 
common soldier. 

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

It was thought by some of my friends that, by my activity 
in these affairs, I should offend that sect, and thereby lose 
my interest in the Assembly of the province, where they 
formed a great majority. A young gentleman who had 
likewise some friends in the House, and wished to succeed 



364 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

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

A transaction in our fire company gave me some insight 
into their prevailing sentiments. It had been propos'd that 
we should encourage the scheme for building a battery by 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 365 

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

While we were disputing this, a waiter came to tell me 
two gentlemen below desir'd to speak with me. I went down, 
and found they were two of our Quaker members. They told 
me there were eight of them assembled at a tavern just by ; 
that they were determin'd to come and vote with us if there 
should be occasion, which they hop'd would not be the case, 
and desir'd we would not call for their assistance if we could 
do without it, as their voting for such a measure might em- 
broil them with their elders and friends. Being thus secure 
of a majority, I went up, and after a little seeming hesitation, 
agreed to a delay of another hour. This Mr. Morris allow'd 



366 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

to be extreamly fair. Not one of his opposing friends ap- 
pear'd, at which he express'd great surprize; and, at the 
expiration of the hour, we carry'd the resolution eight to one ; 
and as, of the twenty-two Quakers, eight were ready to vote 
with us, and thirteen, by their absence, manifested that they 
were not inclin'd to oppose the measure, I afterward esti- 
mated the proportion of Quakers sincerely against defense 
as one to twenty-one only; for these were all regular mem- 
bers of that society, and in good reputation among them, 
and had due notice of what was propos'd at that meeting. 

The honorable and learned Mr. Logan, who had always 
been of that sect, was one who wrote an address to them, 
declaring his approbation of defensive war, and supporting 
his opinion by many strong arguments. He put into my 
hands sixty pounds to be laid out in lottery tickets for the 
battery, with directions to apply what prizes might be drawn 
wholly to that service. He told me the following anecdote 
of his old master, William Penn, respecting defense. He 
came over from England, when a young man, with that 
proprietary, and as his secretary. It was war-time, and 
their ship was chas'd by an armed vessel, suppos'd to be an 
enemy. Their captain prepar'd for defense; but told 
William Penn, and his company of Quakers, that he did not 
expect their assistance, and they might retire into the cabin, 
which they did, except James Logan, 1 who chose to stay 
upon deck, and was quart er'd to a gun. The suppos'd 
enemy prov'd a friend, so there was no fighting; but when 



1 James Logan (1674-1751) came to America with William Penn in 1699, 
and was the business agent for the Penn family. He bequeathed his valuable 
library, preserved at his country seat, " Stenton," to the city of Philadelphia. 
ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 367 

the secretary went down to communicate the intelligence, 
William Penn rebuk'd him severely for staying upon deck, 
and undertaking to assist in defending the vessel, contrary 
to the principles of Friends, especially as it had not been 
required by the captain. This reproof, being before all the 
company, piqu'd the secretary, who answer'd, "/ being 
thy servant, why did thee not order me to come down? But 
thee was witting enough that I should stay and help to fight 
the ship when thee thought there was danger" 

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

But, if the demand was not directly from the crown, that 
phrase was found not so proper, and some other was to be 
invented. As, when powder was wanting (I think it was for 
the garrison at Louisburg), and the government of New 
England solicited a grant of some from Pennsilvania, which 
was much urg'd on the House by Governor Thomas, they 
could not grant money to buy powder, because that was an 
ingredient of war; but they voted an aid to New England 
of three thousand pounds, to be put into the hands of the 



368 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

governor, and appropriated it for the purchasing of bread, 
flour, wheat, or other grain. Some of the council, desirous 
of giving the House still further embarrassment, advis'd the 
governor not to accept provision, as not being the thing he 
had demanded; but he reply 'd, "I shall take the money, 
for I understand very well their meaning; other grain is 
gunpowder," which he accordingly bought, and they never 
objected to it. 1 

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

These embarrassments that the Quakers suffer'd from 
having establish'd and published it as one of their principles 
that no kind of war was lawful, and which, being once 
published, they could not afterwards, however they might 
change their minds, easily get rid of, reminds me of what I 
think a more prudent conduct in another sect among us, 
that of the Dunkers. I was acquainted with one of its 
founders, Michael Welfare, soon after it appear'd. He 
complain'd to me that they were grievously calumniated by 
the zealots of other persuasions, and charg'd with abomi- 
nable principles and practices, to which they were utter 
strangers. I told him this had always been the case with 

1 See the votes. Marg. note. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 369 

new sects, and that, to put a stop to such abuse, I imagin'd 
it might be well to publish the articles of their belief, and the 
rules of their discipline. He said that it had been propos'd 
among them, but not agreed to, for this reason: "When 
we were first drawn together as a society," says he, "it had 
pleased God to enlighten our minds so far as to see that some 
doctrines, which we once esteemed truths, were errors; and 
that others, which we had esteemed errors, were real truths. 
From time to time He has been pleased to afford us farther 
light, and our principles have been improving, and our 
errors diminishing. Now we are not sure that we are ar- 
rived at the end of this progression, and at the perfection of 
spiritual or theological knowledge; and we fear that, if we 
should once print our confession of faith, we should feel 
ourselves as if bound and confin'd by it, and perhaps be 
unwilling to receive further improvement, and our succes- 
sors still more so, as conceiving what we their elders and 
founders had done, to be something sacred, never to be 
departed from." 

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

VOL. I 2 B 



370 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

In order of time, I should have mentioned before, that 
having, in 1742, invented an open stove for the better warm- 
ing of rooms, and at the same time saving fuel, as the fresh 
air admitted was warmed in entering, I made a present of 
the model to Mr. Robert Grace, one of my early friends, 
who, having an iron-furnace, 1 found the casting of the plates 
for these stoves a profitable thing, as they were growing in 
demand. To promote that demand, I wrote and published 
a pamphlet, entitled "An Account of the new-invented 
Pennsylvania Fireplaces; wherein their Construction and 
Manner of Operation is particularly explained; their Ad- 
vantages above every other Method of warming Rooms de- 
monstrated; and all Objections that have been raised against 
the Use of them answered and obviated," etc. This pam- 
phlet had a good effect. Gov'r. Thomas was so pleas'd with 
the construction of this stove, as described in it, that he 
offered to give me a patent for the sole vending of them for 
a term of years; but I declin'd it from a principle which 
has ever weighed with me on such occasions, viz., That, as 
we enjoy great advantages from the inventions of others, we 
should be glad of an opportunity to serve others by any inven- 
tion of ours; and this we should do freely and generously. 

An ironmonger in London however, assuming a good 
deal of my pamphlet, and working it up into his own, and 
making some small changes in the machine, which rather 
hurt its operation, got a patent for it there, and made, as I 
was told, a little fortune by it. And this is not the only in- 
stance of patents taken out for my inventions by others, tho* 
not always with the same success, which I never contested, 
as having no desire of profiting by patents myself, and 

1 Warwick Furnace, Chester County, Pennsylvania. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



371 



hating disputes. The use of these fireplaces in very many 
houses, both of this and the neighbouring colonies, has been, 
and is, a great saving of wood to the inhabitants. 

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

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

The subscribers, to carry the project into immediate exe- 
cution, chose out of their number twenty-four trustees, and 
appointed Mr. Francis, 1 then attorney-general, and myself to 
draw up constitutions for the government of the academy; 
which being done and signed, a house was hired, masters 



1 Tench Francis, uncle of Sir Philip Francis, emigrated from England to 
Maryland, and became attorney for Lord Baltimore. He removed to Phila- 
delphia, and was attorney-general of Pennsylvania from 1741 to 1755. He 
died in Philadelphia August 16, 1758. ED. 



372 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

engag'd, and the schools opened, I think, in the same year, 
1749. 

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

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

Several persons were named, and for that reason not agreed 
to. At length one mention'd me, with the observation that 
I was merely an honest man, and of no sect at all, which 
prevail'd with them to chuse me. The enthusiasm which 
existed when the house was built had long since abated, and 
its trustees had not been able to procure fresh contributions 
for paying the ground-rent, and discharging some other 
debts the building had occasion'd, which embarrass'd them 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



373 



greatly. Being now a member of both setts of trustees, 
that for the building and that for the Academy, I had a good 
opportunity of negotiating with both, and brought them 
finally to an agreement, by which the trustees for the building 
were to cede it to those of the academy, the latter undertak- 
ing to discharge the debt, to keep for ever open in the build- 
ing a large hall for occasional preachers, according to the 
original intention, and maintain a free-school for the instruc- 
tion of poor children. Writings were accordingly drawn, 
and on paying the debts the trustees of the academy were 
put in possession of the premises ; and by dividing the great 
and lofty hall into stories, and different rooms above and 
below for the several schools, and purchasing some additional 
ground, the whole was soon made fit for our purpose, and 
the scholars remov'd into the building. The care and 
trouble of agreeing with the workmen, purchasing materials, 
and superintending the work, fell upon me; and I went 
thro' it the more cheerfully, as it did not then interfere with 
my private business, having the year before taken a very 
able, industrious, and honest partner, Mr. David Hall, with 
whose character I was well acquainted, as he had work'd 
for me four years. He took off my hands all care of the 
printing-office, paying me punctually my share of the profits. 
The partnership continued eighteen years, successfully for 
us both. 

The trustees of the academy, after a while, were incor- 
porated by a charter from the governor; their funds were 
increas'd by contributions in Britain and grants of land 
from the proprietaries, to which the Assembly has since 
made considerable addition; and thus was established the 
present University of Philadelphia. I have been continued 



374 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

one of its trustees from the beginning, now near forty years, 
and have had the very great pleasure of seeing a number of 
the youth who have receiv'd their education in it, distin- 
guish'd by their improv'd abilities, serviceable in public 
stations, and ornaments to their country. 

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 375 

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

The year following, a treaty being to be held with the 
Indians at Carlisle, the governor sent a message to the 
House, proposing that they should nominate some of their 
members, to be join'd with some members of council, as 
commissioners for that purpose. 1 The House named the 
speaker (Mr.Norris) and myself; and, being commission'd, 
we went to Carlisle, and met the Indians accordingly. 

As those people are extreamly apt to get drunk, and, when 
so, are very quarrelsome and disorderly, we strictly forbad 
the selling any liquor to them; and when they complain 'd 
of this restriction, we told them that if they would continue 
sober during the treaty, we would give them plenty of rum 
when business was over. They promis'd this, and they 
kept their promise, because they could get no liquor, and 
the treaty was conducted very orderly, and concluded to 
mutual satisfaction. They then claim'd and receiv'd the 
rum; this was in the afternoon: they were near one hun- 
dred men, women, and children, and were lodg'd in tem- 
porary cabins, built in the form of a square, just without the 

1 See the votes to have this more correctly. Marg. note. 



376 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

town. In the evening, hearing a great noise among them, 
the commissioners walk'd out to see what was the matter. 
We found they had made a great bonfire in the middle of 
the square; they were all drunk, men and women, quarrel- 
ing and fighting. Their dark-colour'd bodies, half naked, 
seen only by the gloomy light of the bonfire, running after 
and beating one another with firebrands, accompanied by 
their horrid yellings, form'd a scene the most resembling 
our ideas of hell that could well be imagin'd; there was no 
appeasing the tumult, and we retired to our lodging. At 
midnight a number of them came thundering at our door, 
demanding more rum, of which we took no notice. 

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

In 1751, Dr. Thomas Bond, a particular friend of mine, 
conceived the idea of establishing a hospital hi Philadelphia 
(a very beneficent design, which has been ascrib'd to me, 
but was originally his), for the reception and cure of poor 
sick persons, whether inhabitants of the province or strangers. 
He was zealous and active in endeavouring to procure sub- 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 377 

scriptions for it, but the proposal being a novelty in America, 
and at first not well understood, he met with but small suc- 
cess. 

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

The subscriptions afterwards were more free and generous ; 
but, beginning to flag, I saw they would be insufficient with- 
out some assistance from the Assembly, and therefore pro- 
pos'd to petition for it, which was done. The country 
members did not at first relish the project; they objected 
that it could only be serviceable to the city, and therefore the 
citizens alone should be at the expense of it ; and they doubted 
whether the citizens themselves generally approv'd of it. 
My allegation on the contrary, that it met with such appro- 
bation as to leave no doubt of our being able to raise two 
thousand pounds by voluntary donations, they considered as 
a most extravagant supposition, and utterly impossible. 

On this I form'd my plan ; and, asking leave to bring in 



378 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

a bill for incorporating the contributors according to the 
prayer of their petition, and granting them a blank sum of 
money, which leave was obtained chiefly on the considera- 
tion that the House could throw the bill out if they did not 
like it, I drew it so as to make the important clause a condi- 
tional one, viz., "And be it enacted, by the authority aforesaid, 
that when the said contributors shall have met and chosen 
their managers and treasurer, and shall have raised by their 
contributions a capital stock of value (the yearly inter- 
est of which is to be applied to the accommodating of the 
sick poor in the said hospital, free of charge for diet, attend- 
ance, advice, and medicines), and shall make the same appear 
to the satisfaction of the speaker of the Assembly for the time 
being, that then it shall and may be lawful for the said speaker, 
and he is hereby required, to sign an order on the provincial 
treasurer for the payment of two thousand pounds, in two 
yearly payments, to the treasurer of the said hospital, to be 
applied to the founding, building, and finishing of the same." 
This condition carried the bill through; for the members, 
who had oppos'd the grant, and now conceiv'd they might 
have the credit of being charitable without the expense, agreed 
to its passage; and then, in soliciting subscriptions among 
the people, we urg'd the conditional promise of the law as 
an additional motive to give, since every man's donation 
would be doubled ; thus the clause work'd both ways. The 
subscriptions accordingly soon exceeded the requisite sum, 
and we claim'd and receiv'd the public gift, which enabled 
us to carry the design into execution. A convenient and 
handsome building was soon erected; the institution has by 
constant experience been found useful, and flourishes to this 
day ; and I do not remember any of my political manoeuvres, 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 379 

the success of which gave me at the time more pleasure, or 
wherein, after thinking of it, I more easily excus'd myself 
for having made some use of cunning. 

It was about this time that another projector, the Rev. 
Gilbert Tennent, 1 came to me with a request that I would 
assist him in procuring a subscription for erecting a new 
meeting-house. It was to be for the use of a congregation 
he had gathered among the Presbyterians, who were origi- 
nally disciples of Mr. Whitefield. Unwilling to make myself 
disagreeable to my fellow-citizens by too frequently solicit- 
ing their contributions, I absolutely refus'd. He then desired 
I would furnish him with a list of the names of persons I 
knew by experience to be generous and public-spirited. I 
thought it would be unbecoming in me, after their kind com- 
pliance with my solicitations, to mark them out to be worried 
by other beggars, and therefore refus'd also to give such a 
list. He then desir'd I would at least give him my advice. 
"That I will readily do," said I; "and, in the first place, I 
advise you to apply to all those whom you know will give 
something; next, to those whom you are uncertain whether 
they will give anything or not, and show them the list of those 
who have given; and, lastly, do not neglect those who you 
are sure will give nothing, for in some of them you may be 
mistaken." He laugh'd and thank'd me, and said he would 
take my advice. He did so, for he ask'd of everybody, and 
he obtain'd a much larger sum than he expected, with which 
he erected the capacious and very elegant meeting-house that 
stands in Arch-street. 

1 Gilbert Tennent (1703-1764) came to America with his father Rev. 
William Tennent and taught for a time in the " Log College," from which 
sprang the College of New Jersey. ED. 



380 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

After some inquiry, I found a poor, industrious man, who 
was willing to undertake keeping the pavement clean, by 
sweeping it twice a week, carrying off the dirt from before 
all the neighbours' doors, for the sum of sixpence per month, 
to be paid by each house. I then wrote and printed a paper 
setting forth the advantages to the neighbourhood that might 
be obtain'd by this small expense ; the greater ease in keep- 
ing our houses clean, so much dirt not being brought in by 
people's feet; the benefit to the shops by more custom, etc., 
etc., as buyers could more easily get at them; and by not 
having, in windy weather, the dust blown in upon their goods, 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 381 

etc., etc. I sent one of these papers to each house, and in a 
day or two went round to see who would subscribe an agree- 
ment to pay these sixpences ; it was unanimously sign'd, and 
for a time well executed. All the inhabitants of the city were 
delighted with the cleanliness of the pavement that sur- 
rounded the market, it being a convenience to all, and this 
rais'd a general desire to have all the streets paved, and made 
the people more willing to submit to a tax for that purpose. 

After some time I drew a bill for paving the city, and 
brought it into the Assembly. It was just before I went to 
England, in 1757, and did not pass till I was gone, 1 and then 
with an alteration in the mode of assessment, which I thought 
not for the better, but with an additional provision for light- 
ing as well as paving the streets, which was a great improve- 
ment. It was by a private person, the late Mr. John Clifton, 
his giving a sample of the utility of lamps, by placing one at 
his door, that the people were first impress'd with the idea 
of enlighting all the city. The honour of this public benefit 
has also been ascrib'd to me, but it belongs truly to that gen- 
tleman. I did but follow his example, and have only some 
merit to claim respecting the form of our lamps, as differing 
from the globe lamps we were at first supply'd with from 
London. Those we found inconvenient in these respects: 
they admitted no air below; the smoke, therefore, did not 
readily go out above, but circulated in the globe, lodg'd on 
its inside, and soon obstructed the light they were intended 
to afford; giving, besides, the daily trouble of wiping them 
clean; and an accidental stroke on one of them would de- 
molish it, and render it totally useless. I therefore suggested 
the composing them of four flat panes, with a long funnel 

1 See votes. 



382 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

above to draw up the smoke, and crevices admitting air 
below, to facilitate the ascent of the smoke; by this means 
they were kept clean, and did not grow dark in a few hours, 
as the London lamps do, but continu'd bright till morning, 
and an accidental stroke would generally break but a single 
pane, easily repair'd. 

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

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

An accidental occurrence had instructed me how much 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 383 

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

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



384 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

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

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

I have since had doubts of the practicability of the latter 
part of this proposal, on account of the narrowness of some 
streets, and the difficulty of placing the draining-sleds so as 
not to encumber too much the passage; but I am still of 
opinion that the former, requiring the dust to be swept up 
and carry 'd away before the shops are open, is very practi- 
cable in the summer, when the days are long ; for, in walking 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 385 

thro' the Strand and Fleet-street one morning at seven o'clock, 
I observ'd there was not one shop open, tho' it had been day- 
light and the sun up above three hours; the inhabitants of 
London chusing voluntarily to live much by candle-light, 
and sleep by sunshine, and yet often complain, a little ab- 
surdly, of the duty on candles, and the high price of tallow. 

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

Having been for some time employed by the postmaster- 
general of America as his comptroller in regulating several 

VOL. I 2 C 



386 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

The business of the postoffice occasion 'd my taking a jour- 
ney this year to New England, where the College of Cam- 
bridge, of their own motion, presented me with the degree 
of Master of Arts. Yale College, in Connecticut, had be- 
fore made me a similar compliment. 1 Thus, without study- 
ing in any college, I came to partake of their honours. They 
were conferr'd in consideration of my improvements and 
discoveries in the electric branch of natural philosophy. 

In 1754, war with France being again apprehended, a 
congress of commissioners from the different colonies was, 

1 " In July [1753] he received the honorary degree of A. M. from Harvard 
College, Cambridge, and September commencement of the same year he 
received the diploma of the same degree from us at Yale College, which he 
calls his first academic Honours, because we from 1749 and onward adopted 
with avidity and before all the rest of the learned world his electrical and 
philosophical discoveries." "The Literary Diary of Ezra Stiles," 1901, Vol. 
Ill, 391. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 387 

by order of the Lords of Trade, to be assembled at Albany, 
there to confer with the chiefs of the Six Nations concerning 
the means of defending both their country and ours. Gov- 
ernor Hamilton, having receiv'd this order, acquainted the 
House with it, requesting they would furnish proper pres- 
ents for the Indians, to be given on this occasion ; and nam- 
ing the speaker (Mr. Norris) and myself to join Mr. Thomas 
Penn and Mr. Secretary Peters as commissioners to act for 
Pennsylvania. The House approv'd the nomination, and 
provided the goods for the present, and tho' they did not 
much like treating out of the provinces; and we met the 
other commissioners at Albany about the middle of June. 

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

By this plan the general government was to be adminis- 
tered by a president-general, appointed and supported by 
the crown, and a grand council was to be chosen by the rep- 
resentatives of the people of the several colonies, met in their 



388 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

respective assemblies. The debates upon it in Congress 
went on daily, hand in hand with the Indian business. Many 
objections and difficulties were started, but at length they 
were all overcome, and the plan was unanimously agreed to, 
and copies ordered to be transmitted to the Board of Trade 
and to the assemblies of the several provinces. Its fate was 
singular : the assemblies did not adopt it, as they all thought 
there was too much prerogative in it, and in England it was 
judg'd to have too much of the democratic. The Board of 
Trade therefore did not approve of it, nor recommend it for 
the approbation of his majesty; but another scheme was 
form'd, supposed to answer the same purpose better, whereby 
the governors of the provinces, with some members of their 
respective councils, were to meet and order the raising of 
troops, building of forts, etc., and to draw on the treasury of 
Great Britain for the expense, which was afterwards to be 
refunded by an act of Parliament laying a tax on America. 
My plan, with my reasons in support of it, is to be found 
among my political papers that are printed. 1 

Being the winter following in Boston, I had much con- 
versation with Governor Shirley upon both the plans. Part 
of what passed between us on the occasion may also be seen 
among those papers. The different and contrary reasons 
of dislike to my plan makes me suspect that it was really 
the true medium; and I am still of opinion it would have 
been happy for both sides the water if it had been adopted. 
The colonies, so united, would have been sufficiently strong 
to have defended themselves; there would then have been 
no need of troops from England; of course, the subsequent 

1 See " Papers Relating to a Plan of Union of the Colonies," July, 1754. 
ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 389 

pretence for taxing America, and the bloody contest it occa- 
sioned, would have been avoided. But such mistakes are 
not new ; history is full of the errors of states and princes. 

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

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

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

In my journey to Boston this year, I met at New York 
with our new governor, Mr. Morris, just arriv'd there from 
England, with whom I had been before intimately acquainted. 
He brought a commission to supersede Mr. Hamilton, who, 
tir'd with the disputes his proprietary instructions subjected 
him to, had resign'd. Mr. Morris ask'd me if I thought 
he must expect as uncomfortable an administration. I 
said, "No; you may, on the contrary, have a very com- 
fortable one, if you will only take care not to enter into any 
dispute with the Assembly." "My dear friend," says he, 
pleasantly, "how can you advise my avoiding disputes? 



390 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

You know I love disputing ; it is one of my greatest pleasures ; 
however, to show the regard I have for your counsel, I promise 
you I will, if possible, avoid them." He had some reason 
for loving to dispute, being eloquent, an acute sophister, 
and, therefore, generally successful in argumentative con- 
versation. He had been brought up to it from a boy, his 
father, as I have heard, accustoming his children to dispute 
with one another for his diversion, while sitting at table after 
dinner; but I think the practice was not wise; for, in the 
course of my observation, these disputing, contradicting, and 
confuting people are generally unfortunate in their affairs. 
They get victory sometimes, but they never get good will, 
which would be of more use to them. We parted, he going 
to Philadelphia, and I to Boston. 

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

One afternoon, in the height of this public quarrel, we 
met in the street. "Franklin," says he, "you must go home 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



391 



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

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

But I am got forward too fast with my story: there are 

1 My acts in Morris's time, military, etc. Marg. note. 



392 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

still some transactions to be mention'd that happened during 
the administration of Governor Morris. 

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

I then suggested a method of doing the business without 
the governor, by orders on the trustees of the Loan Office, 
which, by law, the Assembly had the right of drawing. There 
was, indeed, little or no money at that time in the office, and 
therefore I propos'd that the orders should be payable in a 
year, and to bear an interest of five per cent. With these 
orders I suppos'd the provisions might easily be purchas'd. 
The Assembly, with very little hesitation, adopted the pro- 
posal. The orders were immediately printed, and I was 
one of the committee directed to sign and dispose of them. 
The fund for paying them was the interest of all the paper 
currency then extant in the province upon loan, together 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 393 

with the revenue arising from the excise, which being known 
to be more than sufficient, they obtain'd instant credit, and 
were not only receiv'd in payment for the provisions, but 
many money'd people, who had cash lying by them, vested 
it in those orders, which they found advantageous, as they 
bore interest while upon hand, and might on any occasion 
be used as money; so that they were eagerly all bought up, 
and in a few weeks none of them were to be seen. Thus 
this important affair was by my means compleated. Mr. 
Quincy return'd thanks to the Assembly in a handsome 
memorial, went home highly pleas'd with the success of his 
embassy, and ever after bore for me the most cordial and 
affectionate friendship. 

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



394 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 395 

" ADVERTISEMENT. 

"LANCASTER, April 26, 1755. 

"Whereas, one hundred and fifty waggons, with four horses 
to each waggon, and fifteen hundred saddle or pack horses, 
are wanted for the service of his majesty's forces now about 
to rendezvous at Will's Creek, and his excellency General 
Braddock having been pleased to empower me to contract 
for the hire of the same, I hereby give notice that I shall 
attend for that purpose at Lancaster from this day to next 
Wednesday evening, and at York from next Thursday morn- 
ing till Friday evening, where I shall be ready to agree for 
waggons and teams, or single horses, on the following terms, 
viz. : i. That there shall be paid for each waggon, with four 
good horses and a driver, fifteen shillings per diem; and 
for each able horse with a pack-saddle, or other saddle and 
furniture, two shillings per diem; and for each able horse 
without a saddle, eighteen pence per diem. 2. That the 
pay commence from the time of their joining the forces at 
Will's Creek, which must be on or before the 2oth of May 
ensuing, and that a reasonable allowance be paid over and 
above for the time necessary for their travelling to Will's 
Creek and home again after their discharge. 3. Each 
waggon and team, and every saddle or pack horse, is to be 
valued by indifferent persons chosen between me and the 
owner ; and in case of the loss of any waggon, team, or other 
horse in the service, the price according to such valuation is 
to be allowed and paid. 4. Seven days' pay is to be ad- 
vanced and paid in hand by me to the owner of each waggon 
and team, or horse, at the time of contracting, if required, 
and the remainder to be paid by General Braddock, or by 



396 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

the paymaster of the army, at the time of their discharge, or 
from time to time, as it shall be demanded. 5. No drivers 
of waggons, or persons taking care of the hired horses, are on 
any account to be called upon to do the duty of soldiers, 
or be otherwise employed than in conducting or taking care 
of their carriages or horses. 6. All oats, Indian corn, or 
other forage that waggons or horses bring to the camp, more 
than is necessary for the subsistence of the horses, is to be 
taken for the use of the army, and a reasonable price paid for 
the same. 

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

" To the inhabitants oj the Counties of Lancaster, 
York, and Cumberland. 

"Friends and Countrymen, 

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

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

"I apprehended that the progress of British soldiers 
through these counties on such an occasion, especially con- 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



397 



sidering the temper they are in, and their resentment against 
us, would be attended with many and great inconveniences 
to the inhabitants, and therefore more willingly took the 
trouble of trying first what might be done by fair and equi- 
table means. The people of these back counties have lately 
complained to the Assembly that a sufficient currency was 
wanting; you have an opportunity of receiving and divid- 
ing among you a very considerable sum; for, if the service 
of this expedition should continue, as it is more than prob- 
able it will, for one hundred and twenty days, the hire of 
these waggons and horses will amount to upward of thirty 
thousand pounds, which will be paid you in silver and gold 
of the king's money. 

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

"If you are really, as I believe you are, good and loyal 
subjects to his majesty, you may now do a most acceptable 
service, and make it easy to yourselves; for three or four 
of such as can not separately spare from the business of their 
plantations a waggon and four horses and a driver, may 
do it together, one furnishing the waggon, another one or 
two horses, and another the driver, and divide the pay pro- 
portionably between you; but if you do not this service 
to your king and country voluntarily, when such good pay 
and reasonable terms are offered to you, your loyalty will be 
strongly suspected. The king's business must be done; so 



398 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

many brave troops, come so far for your defense, must not 
stand idle through your backwardness to do what may be 
reasonably expected from you; waggons and horses must 
be had; violent measures will probably be used, and you 
will be left to seek for a recompense where you can find it, 
and your case, perhaps, be little pitied or regarded. 

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

"B. FRANKLIN." 

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

While I was at the camp, supping one evening with the 
officers of Colonel Dunbar's regiment, he represented to 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 399 

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

6 Ibs. loaf sugar. I kegg containing 20 Ibs. good 

6 Ibs. good Muscovado do. butter. 

i Ib. good green tea. 2 doz. old Madeira wine. 

i Ib. good bohea do. 2 gallons Jamaica spirits. 

6 Ibs. good ground coffee. i bottle flour of mustard. 

6 Ibs. chocolate. 2 well-cur'd hams. 

1-2 cwt. best white biscuit. 1-2 dozen dry'd tongues. 

1-2 Ib. pepper. 6 Ibs. rice. 

i quart best white wine vinegar. 6 Ibs. raisins. 

i Gloucester cheese. 

These twenty parcels, well pack'd, were placed on as 
many horses, each parcel, with the horse, being intended 
as a present for one officer. They were very thankfully 
receiv'd, and the kindness acknowledg'd by letters to me 
from the colonels of both regiments, in the most grateful 
terms. The general, too, was highly satisfied with my 



400 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

conduct in procuring him the waggons, etc., and readily 
paid my account of disbursements, thanking me repeatedly, 
and requesting my farther assistance in sending provisions 
after him. I undertook this also, and was busily employ'd 
in it till we heard of his defeat, advancing for the sendee of 
my own money, upwards of one thousand pounds sterling, 
of which I sent him an account. It came to his hands, 
luckily for me, a few days before the battle, and he return'd 
me immediately an order on the paymaster for the round 
sum of one thousand pounds, leaving the remainder to the 
next account. I consider this payment as good luck, having 
never been able to obtain that remainder, of which more 
hereafter. 

This general was, I think, a brave man, and might prob- 
ably have made a figure as a good officer in some European 
war. But he had too much self-confidence, too high an 
opinion of the validity of regular troops, and too mean a 
one of both Americans and Indians. George Croghan, 1 
our Indian interpreter, join'd him on his march with one 
hundred of those people, who might have been of great use 
to his army as guides, scouts, etc., if he had treated them 
kindly; but he slighted and neglected them, and they grad- 
ually left him. 

In conversation with him one day, he was giving me some 
account of his intended progress. "After taking Fort 
Duquesne," says he, "I am to proceed to Niagara; and, 
having taken that, to Frontenac, if the season will allow 
tune ; and I suppose it will, for Duquesne can hardly detain 

1 George Croghan was an Indian trader in Pennsylvania as early as 1 746. 
He was captain of Provincials in Braddock's expedition, 1755. He died in 
Passayunk, Pennsylvania, in 1 782. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 401 

me above three or four days; and then I see nothing that 
can obstruct my march to Niagara." Having before re- 
volv'd in my mind the long line his army must make in their 
march by a very narrow road, to be cut for them thro' the 
woods and bushes, and also what I had read of a former 
defeat of fifteen hundred French, who invaded the Iroquois 
country, I had conceiv'd some doubts and some fears for 
the event of the campaign. But I ventur'd only to say, "To 
be sure, sir, if you arrive well before Duquesne, with these 
fine troops, so well provided with artillery, that place not 
yet completely fortified, and as we hear with no very strong 
garrison, can probably make but a short resistance. The 
only danger I apprehend of obstruction to your march is 
from ambuscades of Indians, who, by constant practice, 
are dexterous in laying and executing them ; and the slender 
line, near four miles long, which your army must make, may 
expose it to be attack'd by surprise in its flanks, and to be 
cut like a thread into several pieces, which, from their dis- 
tance, can not come up in time to support each other." 

He smil'd at my ignorance, and reply'd, "These savages 
may, indeed, be a formidable enemy to your raw American 
militia, but upon the king's regular and disciplin'd troops, 
sir, it is impossible they should make any impression." I 
was conscious of an impropriety in my disputing with a 
military man in matters of his profession, and said no more. 
The enemy, however, did not take the advantage of his army 
which I apprehended its long line of march expos'd it to, 
but let it advance without interruption till within nine miles 
of the place ; and then, when more in a body (for it had just 
passed a river, where the front had halted till all were come 
over), and in a more open part of the woods than any it had 

VOL. I 2 D 



402 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

pass'd, attack'd its advanced guard by a heavy fire from 
behind trees and bushes, which was the first intelligence 
the general had of an enemy's being near him. This guard 
being disordered, the general hurried the troops up to their 
assistance, which was done in great confusion, thro* waggons, 
baggage, and cattle; and presently the fire came upon their 
flank: the officers, being on horseback, were more easily 
distinguish'd, pick'd out as marks, and fell very fast; and 
the soldiers were crowded together in a huddle, having or 
hearing no orders, and standing to be shot at till two-thirds 
of them were killed; and then, being seiz'd with a panick, 
the whole fled with precipitation. 

The waggoners took each a horse out of his team and 
scamper'd; their example was immediately followed by 
others; so that all the waggons, provisions, artillery, and 
stores were left to the enemy. The general, being wounded, 
was brought off with difficulty; his secretary, Mr. Shirley, 
was killed by his side; and out of eighty-six officers, sixty- 
three were killed or wounded, and seven hundred and four- 
teen men killed out of eleven hundred. These eleven 
hundred had been picked men from the whole army; the 
rest had been left behind with Colonel Dunbar, who was to 
follow with the heavier part of the stores, provisions, and 
baggage. The flyers, not being pursu'd, arriv'd at Dunbar's 
camp, and the panick they brought with them instantly 
seiz'd him and all his people; and, tho' he had now above 
one thousand men, and the enemy who had beaten Braddock 
did not at most exceed four hundred Indians and French 
together, instead of proceeding, and endeavouring to recover 
some of the lost honour, he ordered all the stores, ammuni- 
tion, etc., to be destroy'd, that he might have more horses 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 403 

to assist his flight towards the settlements, and less lumber 
to remove. He was there met with requests from the gov- 
ernors of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, that he 
would post his troops on the frontier, so as to afford some 
protection to the inhabitants; but he continu'd his hasty 
march thro' all the country, not thinking himself safe till he 
arriv'd at Philadelphia, where the inhabitants could protect 
him. This whole transaction gave us Americans the first 
suspicion that our exalted ideas of the prowess of British 
regulars had not been well founded. 

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

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

The secretary's papers, with all the general's orders, 
instructions, and correspondence, falling into the enemy's 



404 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 405 

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

Before we had the news of this defeat, the two Doctors 
Bond came to me with a subscription paper for raising 
money to defray the expense of a grand firework, which it 
was intended to exhibit at a rejoicing on receipt of the news 
of our taking Fort Duquesne. I looked grave, and said it 
would, I thought, be time enough to prepare for the rejoic- 
ing when we knew we should have occasion to rejoice. They 
seem'd surpris'd that I did not immediately comply with 
their proposal. "Why the d 1!" says one of them, "you 
surely don't suppose that the fort will not be taken?" "I 
don't know that it will not be taken, but I know that the 
events of war are subject to great uncertainty." I gave 
them the reasons of my doubting; the subscription was 
dropt, and the projectors thereby missed the mortification 
they would have undergone if the firework had been pre- 
pared. Dr. Bond, on some other occasion afterward, said 
that he did not like Franklin's forebodings. 



406 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

This, being notified to the House, was accepted in lieu 
of their share of a general tax, and a new bill was form'd, 
with an exempting clause, which passed accordingly. By 
this act I was appointed one of the commissioners for dispos- 
ing of the money, sixty thousand pounds. I had been active 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 407 

in modelling the bill and procuring its passage, and had, at 
the same time, drawn a bill for establishing and disciplining 
a voluntary militia, which I carried thro' the House without 
much difficulty, as care was taken in it to leave the Quakers 
at their liberty. To promote the association necessary to 
form the militia, I wrote a dialogue, 1 stating and answering 
all the objections I could think of to such a militia, which 
was printed, and had, as I thought, great effect. 

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

In order to march thither, I assembled the companies at 
Bethlehem, the chief establishment of those people. I was 
surprised to find it in so good a posture of defense ; the de- 
struction of Gnadenhut had made them apprehend danger. 
The principal buildings were defended by a stockade; they 

1 This dialogue and the militia act are in the Gentleman's Magazine for 
February and March, 1756. Marg. note. 



408 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

had purchased a quantity of arms and ammunition from 
New York, and had even plac'd quantities of small paving 
stones between the windows of their high stone houses, for 
their women to throw down upon the heads of any Indians 
that should attempt to force into them. The armed brethren, 
too, kept watch, and reliev'd as methodically as in any garri- 
son town. In conversation with the bishop, Spangenberg, 1 
I mention'd this my surprise ; for, knowing they had obtained 
an act of Parliament exempting them from military duties 
in the colonies, I had suppos'd they were conscientiously 
scrupulous of bearing arms. He answer'd me that it was 
not one of their established principles, but that, at the time 
of their obtaining that act, it was thought to be a principle 
with many of their people. On this occasion, however, 
they, to their surprise, found it adopted by but a few. It 
seems they were either deceiv'd in themselves, or deceiv'd 
the Parliament ; but common sense, aided by present danger, 
will sometimes be too strong for whimsical opinions. 

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

Just before we left Bethlehem, eleven farmers, who had 
been driven from their plantations by the Indians, came to 

1 Augustus Gottlieb Spangenberg (1704-1792), a bishop of the Moravian 
church, laboured among the German sects in Pennsylvania. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 409 

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

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

The next morning our fort was plann'd and mark'd out, 
the circumference measuring four hundred and fifty-five feet, 
which would require as many palisades to be made of trees, 
one with another, of a foot diameter each. Our axes, of 
which we had seventy, were immediately set to work to cut 
down trees, and, our men being dextrous in the use of them, 
great despatch was made. Seeing the trees fall so fast, I 
had the curiosity to look at my watch when two men began 
to cut at a pine ; in six minutes they had it upon the ground, 



410 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

and I found it of fourteen inches diameter. Each pine 
made three palisades of eighteen feet long, pointed at one 
end. While these were preparing, our other men dug a 
trench all round, of three feet deep, in which the palisades 
were to be planted; and, our waggons, the bodys being 
taken off, and the fore and hind wheels separated by taking 
out the pin which united the two parts of the perch, we had 
ten carriages, with two horses each, to bring the palisades 
from the woods to the spot. When they were set up, our 
carpenters built a stage of boards all round within, about 
six feet high, for the men to stand on when to fire thro' the 
loopholes. We had one swivel gun, which we mounted on 
one of the angles, and fir'd it as soon as fix'd, to let the Indi- 
ans know, if any were within hearing, that we had such pieces ; 
and thus our fort, if such a magnificent name may be given 
to so miserable a stockade, was finish'd in a week, though it 
rain'd so hard every other day that the men could not work. 

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

This kind of fort, however contemptible, is a sufficient 
defense against Indians, who have no cannon. Finding 
ourselves now posted securely, and having a place to retreat 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 411 

to on occasion, we ventur'd out in parties to scour the ad- 
jacent country. We met with no Indians, but we found the 
places on the neighbouring hills where they had lain to watch 
our proceedings. There was an art in their contrivance of 
those places that seems worth mention. It being winter, 
a fire was necessary for them ; but a common fire on the sur- 
face of the ground would by its light have discover'd their 
position at a distance. They had therefore dug holes in the 
ground about three feet diameter, and somewhat deeper; 
we saw where they had with their hatchets cut off the char- 
coal from the sides of burnt logs lying in the woods. With 
these coals they had made small fires in the bottom of the holes, 
and we observ'd among the weeds and grass the prints of 
their bodies, made by their laying all round, with their legs 
hanging down in the holes to keep their feet warm, which, 
with them, is an essential point. This kind of fire, so man- 
ag'd, could not discover them, either by its light, flame, 
sparks, or even smoke: it appear'd that their number was 
not great, and it seems they saw we were too many to be 
attacked by them with prospect of advantage. 

We had for our chaplain a zealous Presbyterian minister, 
Mr. Beatty, who complained to me that the men did not 
generally attend his prayers and exhortations. When they 
enlisted, they were promised, besides pay and provisions, 
a gill of rum a day, which was punctually serv'd out to them, 
half in the morning, and the other half in the evening ; and 
I observ'd they were as punctual in attending to receive it; 
upon which I said to Mr. Beatty, "It is, perhaps, below the 
dignity of your profession to act as steward of the rum, but 
if you were to deal it out and only just after prayers, you 
would have them all about you." He liked the tho't, under- 



412 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

took the office, and, with the help of a few hands to measure 
out the liquor, executed it to satisfaction, and never were 
prayers more generally and more punctually attended; so 
that I thought this method preferable to the punishment 
inflicted by some military laws for non-attendance on divine 
service. 

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

While at Bethlehem, I inquir'd a little into the practice of 
the Moravians : some of them had accompanied me, and all 
were very kind to me. I found they work'd for a common 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 4I3 

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

I inquir'd concerning the Moravian marriages, whether 
the report was true that they were by lot. I was told that 
lots were us'd only in particular cases ; that generally, when 
a young man found himself dispos'd to marry, he inform'd 
the elders of his class, who consulted the elder ladies that 
govern'd the young women. As these elders of the different 
sexes were well acquainted with the tempers and dispositions 
of their respective pupils, they could best judge what matches 
were suitable, and their judgments were generally acquiesc'd 
in; but if, for example, it should happen that two or three 
young women were found to be equally proper for the young 



414 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

man, the lot was then recurred to. I objected, if the matches 
are not made by the mutual choice of the parties, some of 
them may chance to be very unhappy. "And so they may," 
answer'd my informer, "if you let the parties chuse for them- 
selves;" which, indeed, I could not deny. 

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

During this short time of my colonelship, being about 
to set out on a journey to Virginia, the officers of my regi- 
ment took it into their heads that it would be proper for 
them to escort me out of town, as far as the Lower Ferry. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 415 

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

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

Notwithstanding the continual wrangle between the 
governor and the House, in which I, as a member, had so 



41 6 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 417 

was dropt, and he soon after left the government, being 
superseded by Captain Denny. 

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

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

To divide a little this incumbrance among my friends, I 
caused a number of similar tubes to be blown at our glass- 
house, with which they furnish'd themselves, so that we had 
at length several performers. Among these, the principal 
was Mr. Kinnersley, an ingenious neighbor, who, being out 
of business, I encouraged to undertake showing the experi- 
ments for money, and drew up for him two lectures, in which 
the experiments were rang'd in such order, and accompanied 
with such explanations in such method, as that the fore- 
going should assist in comprehending the following. He 

VOL. I 2 E 



418 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLfN 

procur'd an elegant apparatus for the purpose, in which 
all the little machines that I had roughly made for myself 
were nicely form'd by instrument- makers. His lectures were 
well attended, and gave great satisfaction; and after some 
time he went thro' the colonies, exhibiting them in every 
capital town, and pick'd up some money. In the West 
India islands, indeed, it was with difficulty the experiments 
could be made, from the general moisture of the air. 

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

It was, however, some time before those papers were much 
taken notice of in England. A copy of them happening to 
fall into the hands of the Count de Buffon, a philosopher 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 419 

deservedly of great reputation in France, and, indeed, all 
over Europe, he prevailed with M. Dalibard to translate 
them into French, and they were printed at Paris. The 
publication offended the Abbe* Nollet, preceptor in Natural 
Philosophy to the royal family, and an able experimenter, 
who had form'd and publish'd a theory of electricity, which 
then had the general vogue. He could not at first believe 
that such a work came from America, and said it must have 
been fabricated by his enemies at Paris, to decry his system. 
Afterwards, having been assur'd that there really existed such 
a person as Franklin at Philadelphia, which he had doubted, 
he wrote and published a volume of Letters, chiefly address'd 
to me, defending his theory, and denying the verity of my 
experiments, and of the positions deduc'd from them. 1 

I once purpos'd answering the abbe", and actually began 
the answer; but, on consideration that my writings contain'd 
a description of experiments which any one might repeat and 
verify, and if not to be verifi'd, could not be defended; or of 
observations offer'd as conjectures, and not delivered dog- 
matically, therefore not laying me under any obligation to 
defend them; and reflecting that a dispute between two 
persons, writing in different languages, might be lengthened 
greatly by mistranslations, and thence misconceptions of one 
another's meaning, much of one of the abbess letters being 
founded on an error in the translation, I concluded to let 
my papers shift for themselves, believing it was better to 
spend what time I could spare from public business in making 
new experiments, than in disputing about those already made. 
I therefore never answered M. Nollet, and the event gave 

K'Lettres sur TElectricite, par M. 1'Ahbe Nollet." Paris: MDCCLIU. 
Nine letters, six of which are addressed to Franklin. ED. 



420 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

me no cause to repent my silence; for my friend M. le Roy, 
of the Royal Academy of Sciences, took up my cause and 
refuted him; my book was translated into the Italian, Ger- 
man, and Latin languages; and the doctrine it contain 'd 
was by degrees universally adopted by the philosophers of 
Europe, in preference to that of the abbe"; so that he lived 

to see himself the last of his sect, except Monsieur B , 

of Paris, his tteve and immediate disciple. 

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

Dr. Wright, an English physician, when at Paris, wrote to 
a friend, who was of the Royal Society, an account of the 
high esteem my experiments were in among the learned 
abroad, and of their wonder that my writings had been so 
little noticed in England. The society, on this, resum'd 
the consideration of the letters that had been read to them; 
and the celebrated Dr. Watson drew up a summary account 
of them, and of all I had afterwards sent to England on the 
subject, which he accompanied with some praise of the writer. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 421 

This summary was then printed in their Transactions; 
and some members of the society in London, particularly 
the very ingenious Mr. Canton, having verified the experi- 
ment of procuring lightning from the clouds by a pointed 
rod, and acquainting them with the success, they soon made 
me more than amends for the slight with which they had 
before treated me. Without my having made any applica- 
tion for that honour, they chose me a member, and voted that 
I should be excus'd the customary payments, which would 
have amounted to twenty-five guineas; and ever since have 
given me their Transactions gratis. 1 They also presented 
me with the gold medal of Sir Godfrey Copley for the year 
1753, the delivery of which was accompanied by a very hand- 
some speech of the president, Lord Macclesfield, wherein I 
was highly honoured. 

Our new governor, Captain Denny, brought over for me 
the before-mentioned medal from the Royal Society, which 
he presented to me at an entertainment given him by the 
city. He accompanied it with very polite expressions of his 
esteem for me, having, as he said, been long acquainted with 
my character. After dinner, when the company, as was 
customary at that time, were engag'd in drinking, he took 
me aside into another room, and acquainted me that he had 
been advis'd by his friends in England to cultivate a friend- 
ship with me, as one who was capable of giving him the best 
advice, and of contributing most effectually to the making 
his administration easy; that he therefore desired of all 
things to have a good understanding with me, and he begg'd 
me to be assur'd of his readiness on all occasions to render 

1 For a fuller account of his election see his letter to William Franklin, 
December 19, 1767. ED. 



422 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

me every service that might be in his power. He said much 
to me, also, of the proprietor's good disposition towards the 
province, and of the advantage it might be to us all, and to 
me in particular, if the opposition that had been so long 
continu'd to his measures was dropt, and harmony restor'd 
between him and the people; in effecting which, it was 
thought no one could be more serviceable than myself; and 
I might depend on adequate acknowledgments and recom- 
penses, etc., etc. The drinkers, finding we did not return 
immediately to the table, sent us a decanter of Madeira, 
which the governor made liberal use of, and in proportion 
became more profuse of his solicitations and promises. 

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

On this he did not then explain himself; but when he 
afterwards came to do business with the Assembly, they 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 423 

appear'd again, the disputes were renewed, and I was as 
active as ever in the opposition, being the penman, first, of 
the request to have a communication of the instructions, and 
then of the remarks upon them, which may be found hi the 
votes of the time, and in the Historical Review I afterward 
publish'd. But between us personally no enmity arose; 
we were often together; he was a man of letters, had seen 
much of the world, and was very entertaining and pleasing 
in conversation. He gave me the first information that my 
old friend Jas. Ralph was still alive; that he was esteem'd 
one of the best political writers in England; had been em- 
ploy'd in the dispute between Prince Frederic and the king, 
and had obtain'd a pension of three hundred a year ; that his 
reputation was indeed small as a poet, Pope having damned 
his poetry in the Dunciad; but his prose was thought as 
good as any man's. 

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

I had agreed with Captain Morris, of the paquet at New 
York, for my passage, and my stores were put on board, 

1 The many unanimous resolves of the Assembly what date? Marg. 
note. 



424 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

I acquainted the House with what had pass'd, and, pre- 
senting them with a set of resolutions I had drawn up, declar- 
ing our rights, and that we did not relinquish our claim to 
those rights, but only suspended the exercise of them on 
this occasion thro* force, against which we protested, they 
at length agreed to drop that bill, and frame another con- 
formable to the proprietary instructions. This of course 
the governor pass'd, and I was then at liberty to proceed 
on my voyage. But, in the meantime, the paquet had sailed 
with my sea-stores, which was some loss to me, and my only 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



425 



recompense was his lordship's thanks for my service, all 
the credit of obtaining the accommodation falling to his 
share. 

He set out for New York before me; and, as the time 
for dispatching the paquet-boats was at his disposition, and 
there were two then remaining there, one of which, he said, 
was to sail very soon, I requested to know the precise time, 
that I might not miss her by any delay of mine. His answer 
was, "I have given out that she is to sail on Saturday next; 
but I may let you know, entre nous, that if you are there by 
Monday morning, you will be in time, but do not delay 
longer." By some accidental hinderance at a ferry, it was 
Monday noon before I arrived, and I was much afraid she 
might have sailed, as the wind was fair; but I was soon 
made easy by the information that she was still in the harbor, 
and would not move till the next day. One would imagine 
that I was now on the very point of departing for Europe. I 
thought so; but I was not then so well acquainted with his 
lordship's character, of which indecision was one of the 
strongest features. I shall give some instances. It was 
about the beginning of April that I came to New York, and 
I think it was near the end of June before we sail'd. There 
were then two of the paquet-boats, which had been long in- 
port, but were detained for the general's letters, which were 
always to be ready to-morrow. Another paquet arriv'd; 
she too was detain'd ; and, before we sail'd, a fourth was ex- 
pected. Ours was the first to be dispatch'd, as having been 
there longest. Passengers were engag'd in all, and some 
extremely impatient to be gone, and the merchants uneasy 
about their letters, and the orders they had given for insur- 
ance (it being war time) for fall goods; but their anxiety 



426 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN" FRANKLIN 

avail'd nothing; his lordship's letters were not ready; and 
yet whoever waited on him found him always at his desk, 
pen in hand, and concluded he must needs write abun- 
dantly. 

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

This daily expectation of sailing, and all the three paquets 
going down to Sandy Hook, to join the fleet there, the pas- 
sengers thought it best to be on board, lest by a sudden order 
the ships should sail, and they be left behind. There, if 
I remember right, we were about six weeks, consuming our 

V. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 427 

sea-stores, and oblig'd to procure more. At length the 
fleet sail'd, the General and all his army on board, bound 
to Louisburg, with intent to besiege and take that fortress; 
all the paquet-boats in company ordered to attend the Gen- 
eral's ship, ready to receive his dispatches when they should 
be ready. We were out five days before we got a letter 
with leave to part, and then our ship quitted the fleet and 
steered for England. The other two paquets he still de- 
tained, carried them with him to Halifax, where he stayed 
some time to exercise the men in sham attacks upon sham 
forts, then alter'd his mind as to besieging Louisburg, and 
return'd to New York, with all his troops, together with the 
two paquets above mentioned, and all their passengers! 
During his absence the French and savages had taken Fort 
George, on the frontier of that province, and the savages had 
massacred many of the garrison after capitulation. 

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

I saw also in London one of BonnelPs passengers, who 
was so enrag'd against his lordship for deceiving and detain- 
ing him so long at New York, and then carrying him to 



428 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

Halifax and back again, that he swore he would sue him for 
damages. Whether he did or not, I never heard; but, as 
he represented the injury to his affairs, it was very con- 
siderable. 

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



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 429 

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

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

I mention'd, but without effect, the great and unexpected 
expense I had been put to by being detain'd so long at New 



430 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMfN FRANKLIN 

York, as a reason for my desiring to be presently paid ; and 
on my observing that it was not right I should be put to 
any further trouble or delay in obtaining the money I had 
advanc'd, as I charged no commission for my service, "O, 
Sir," says he, "you must not think of persuading us that 
you are no gainer; we understand better those affairs, and 
know that every one concerned in supplying the army finds 
means, in the doing it, to fill his own pockets." I assur'd 
him that was not my case, and that I had not pocketed a 
farthing; but he appear'd clearly not to believe me; and, 
indeed, I have since learnt that immense fortunes are often 
made in such employments. As to my ballance, I am not 
paid it to this day, of which more hereafter. 

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

The captain said she had once gone at the rate of thirteen 
knots, which is accounted thirteen miles per hour. We had 
on board, as a passenger, Captain Kennedy, of the Navy, 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 431 

who contended that it was impossible, and that no ship 
ever sailed so fast, and that there must have been some 
error in the division of the log- line, or some mistake in heav- 
ing the log. A wager ensu'd between the two captains, to be 
decided when there should be sufficient wind. Kennedy 
thereupon examin'd rigorously the log- line, and, being satis- 
fi'd with that, he determin'd to throw the log himself. Ac- 
cordingly some days after, when the wind blew very fair and 
fresh, and the captain of the paquet, Lutwidge, said he 
believ'd she then went at the rate of thirteen knots, Kennedy 
made the experiment, and own'd his wager lost. 

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

Even in the simple operation of sailing when at sea, I 
have often observ'd different judgments in the officers who 



432 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

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

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

We had a watchman plac'd in the bow, to whom they 
often called, "Look well out be j ore there," and he as often 
answered, "Ay, ay"-, but perhaps had his eyes shut, and 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 433 

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

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

I set out immediately, with my son, for London, and we 
only stopt a little by the way to view Stonehenge on Salisbury 
Plain, and Lord Pembroke's house and gardens, with his 
very curious antiquities at Wilton. We arrived in London 
the 27th of July, 1757.* 

1 Here terminates the Autobiography, as published by Wm. Temple Frank- 
VOL. I 2E 



434 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

As soon as I was settled in a lodging Mr. Charles had pro- 
vided for me, I went to visit Dr. Fothergill, to whom I was 
strongly recommended, and whose counsel respecting my 
proceedings I was advis'd to obtain. He was against an 
immediate complaint to government, and thought the pro- 
prietaries should first be personally appli'd to, who might 
possibly be induc'd by the interposition and persuasion of 
some private friends, to accommodate matters amicably. I 
then waited on my old friend and correspondent, Mr. Peter 
Collinson, who told me that John Hanbury, the great Vir- 
ginia merchant, had requested to be informed when I should 
arrive, that he might carry me to Lord Granville's, who was 
then President of the Council and wished to see me as soon 
as possible. I agreed to go with him the next morning. Ac- 
cordingly Mr. Hanbury called for me and took me in his 
carriage to that nobleman's, who receiv'd me with great 
civility; and after some questions respecting the present 
state of affairs in America and discourse thereupon, he said 
to me: "You Americans have wrong ideas of the nature of 
your constitution; you contend that the king's instructions 
to his governors are not laws, and think yourselves at liberty 
to regard or disregard them at your own discretion. But 
those instructions are not like the pocket instructions given 
to a minister going abroad, for regulating his conduct in 
some trifling point of ceremony. They are first drawn up 
by judges learned in the laws; they are then considered, 
debated, and perhaps amended in Council, after which they 
are signed by the king. They are then, so far as they relate 

lin and his successors. What follows was written in the last year of Dr. 
Franklin's life, and was first printed (in English) in Mr. Bigelow's edition of 
1868. ED. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 435 

to you, the law o] the land, for the king is the LEGISLATOR 
OF THE COLONIES." I told his lordship this was new doc- 
trine to me. I had always understood from our charters 
that our laws were to be made by our Assemblies, to be pre- 
sented indeed to the king for his royal assent, but that being 
once given the king could not repeal or alter them. And 
as the Assemblies could not make permanent laws without 
his assent, so neither could he make a law for them with- 
out theirs. He assur'd me I was totally mistaken. I did 
not think so, however, and his lordship's conversation having 
a little alarm'd me as to what might be the sentiments of 
the court concerning us, I wrote it down as soon as I re- 
turn'd to my lodgings. 1 I recollected that about 20 years 
before, a clause in a bill brought into Parliament by the 
ministry had propos'd to make the king's instructions laws 
in the colonies, but the clause was thrown out by the Com- 
mons, for which we adored them as our friends and friends 
of liberty, till by their conduct towards us in 1765 it seem'd 
that they had refus'd that point of sovereignty to the king 
only that they might reserve it for themselves. 

After some days, Dr. Fothergill having spoken to the pro- 
prietaries, they agreed to a meeting with me at Mr. T. Penn's 
house in Spring Garden. The conversation at first con- 
sisted of mutual declarations of disposition to reasonable 
accommodations, but I suppose each party had its own 
ideas of what should be meant by reasonable. We then went 
into consideration of our several points of complaint, which 
I enumerated. The proprietaries justify'd their conduct as 
well as they could, and I the Assembly's. We now appeared 
very wide, and so far from each other in our opinions as 

1 See also Franklin to James Bowdoin, January 13, 1772. ED. 



436 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN- FRANKLIN 

to discourage all hope of agreement. However, it was con- 
cluded that I should give them the heads of our complaints 
in writing, and they promis'd then to consider them. I did 
so soon after, but they put the paper into the hands of their 
solicitor, Ferdinand John Paris, who managed for them all 
their law business in their great suit with the neighbouring 
proprietary of Maryland, Lord Baltimore, which had sub- 
sisted 70 years, and wrote for them all their papers and 
messages in their dispute with the Assembly. He was a 
proud, angry man, and as I had occasionally in the answers 
of the Assembly treated his papers with some severity, they 
being really weak in point of argument and haughty in ex- 
pression, he had conceived a mortal enmity to me, which 
discovering itself whenever we met, I declin'd the proprie- 
tary's proposal that he and I should discuss the heads of 
complaint between our two selves, and refus'd treating with 
any one but them. They then by his advice put the paper 
into the hands of the Attorney and Solicitor- General for their 
opinion and counsel upon it, where it lay unanswered a year 
wanting eight days, during which time I made frequent de- 
mands of an answer from the proprietaries, but without 
obtaining any other than that they had not yet received the 
opinion of the Attorney and Solicitor-General. What it 
was when they did receive it I never learnt, for they did not 
communicate it to me, but sent a long message to the Assem- 
bly drawn and signed by Paris, reciting my paper, com- 
plaining of its want of formality, as a rudeness on my part, 
and giving a flimsy justification of their conduct, adding that 
they should be willing to accommodate matters if the Assem- 
bly would send out some person of candour to treat with them 
for that purpose, intimating thereby that I was not such. 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 437 

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

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

When this act however came over, the proprietaries, 
counselled by Paris, determined to oppose its receiving the 
royal assent. Accordingly they petition'd the king in Coun- 
cil, and a hearing was appointed in which two lawyers were 
employ'd by them against the act, and two by me in sup- 
port of it. They alledg'd that the act was intended to load 
the proprietary estate in order to spare those of the people, 
and that if it were suffer'd to continue in force, and the 
proprietaries who were in odium with the people, left to 
their mercy in proportioning the taxes, they would inevi- 
tably be ruined. We reply'd that the act had no such inten- 
tion, and would have no such effect. That the assessors were 
honest and discreet men under an oath to assess fairly and 
equitably, and that any advantage each of them might ex- 
pect in lessening his own tax by augmenting that of the 
proprietaries was too trifling to induce them to perjure them- 
selves. This is the purport of what I remember as urged 
by both sides, except that we insisted strongly on the mis- 
chievous consequences that must attend a repeal, for that 



438 THE WRITINGS OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN 

the money, 100,000, being printed and given to the king's 
use, expended in his service, and now spread among the 
people, the repeal would strike it dead in their hands to the 
ruin of many, and the total discouragement of future grants, 
and the selfishness of the proprietors in soliciting such a 
general catastrophe, merely from a groundless fear of their 
estate being taxed too highly, was insisted on in the strongest 
terms. On this, Lord Mansfield, one of the counsel rose, 
and beckoning me took me into the clerk's chamber, while 
the lawyers were pleading, and asked me if I was really of 
opinion that no injury would be done the proprietary estate 
in the execution of the act. I said certainly. "Then," says 
he, "you can have little objection to enter into an engage- 
ment to assure that point." I answer'd, "None at all." 
He then call'd in Paris, and after some discourse, his lord- 
ship's proposition was accepted on both sides; a paper to 
the purpose was drawn up by the Clerk of the Council, which 
I sign'd with Mr. Charles, who was also an Agent of the 
Province for their ordinary affairs, when Lord Mansfield 
returned to the Council Chamber, where finally the law was 
allowed to pass. Some changes were however recommended 
and we also engaged they should be made by a subsequent 
law, but the Assembly did not think them necessary; for 
one year's tax having been levied by the act before the order 
of Council arrived, they appointed a committee to examine 
the proceedings of the assessors, and on this committee they 
put several particular friends of the proprietaries. After a 
full enquiry, they unanimously sign'd a report that they 
found the tax had been assess'd with perfect equity. 

The Assembly looked into my entering into the first part 
of the engagement, as an essential service to the Province, 



THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY 439 

since it secured the credit of the paper money then spread 
over all the country. They gave me their thanks in form 
when I return'd. But the proprietaries were enraged at 
Governor Denny for having pass'd the act, and turn'd him 
out with threats of suing him for breach of instructions which 
he had given bond to observe. He, however, having done it 
at the instance of the General, and for His Majesty's service, 
and having some powerful interest at court, despis'd the 
threats and they were never put in execution. . . . [Un- 
finished.] 



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