Page images

for his opinion in affairs of the town or of the church he belonged to, and showed a good deal of respect for his judgment and advice : he was also much consulted by private persons about their affairs when any difficulty occurred, and frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties. At his table he liked to have, as often as he could, some sensible friend or neighbor to converse with, and always took care to start some ingenious or useful topic for discourse, which might tend to improve the minds of his children. By this means he turned our attention to what was good, just, and prudent in the conduct of life; and little or no notice was ever taken of what related to the victuals on the table, whether it was well or ill dressed, in or out of season, of good or bad flavor, preferable or inferior to this or that other thing of the kind, so that I was brought 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 scarce can tell a few hours after dinner what I dined upon.

This has been a convenience to me in traveling, where my companions have been sometimes very unhappy for want of a suitable gratification of their more delicate, because better instructed, tastes and appetites.

My mother had likewise an excellent constitution : she sackled all her ten children. I never knew either my father or mother to have

any sickness but that of which they died, be at 89, and she at 85 years of age. They lie buried together at Boston, where I some years since placed a marble over their grave, with this inscription:


ABIAH his wife,

lie here interred.
They lived lovingly together in wedlock

fifty-five years.
Without an estate, or any gainful employment,

By constant labor and industry,

with God's blessing,
They maintained a large family

and brought up thirteen children
and seven grandchildren

From this instance, reader,
Be encouraged to diligence in thy calling,

And distrust not Providence.
He was a pious and prudent man;

She, a discreet and virtuous woman.

Their youngest son,
In filial regard to their memory,

Places this stone.
J. F. born 1655, died 1744, Ætat 89.

A. F. born 1667, died 1762, 85.* My father sometimes took me to walk with him, and see joiners, bricklayers, turners, braziers, etc., at their work, that he might observe my inclination, and endeavor to fix it on some trade or other on land. It has ever since been a pleasure to me to see good workmen handle their tools; and it has been useful to me, having learnt so much by it as to be able to do little jobs myself in my house when a workman could not readily be got, and to construct little machines for my experiments, while the intention of making the experiment was fresh and warm in my mind.

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

• The marble stone on which this incription was engraved having become decayed, and the inscription itself defaced by time, a more durable monument has been erected over the graves of the father and mother of Franklin. The suggestion was first made at a meeting of the Building Committee of the Bunker Hill Monument Association in the autumn of 1826, and it met with universal approbation. A committe of managers was organized, and an amount of money adequate to the object was soon contributed by the voluntary subscriptions of a large number of the citizens of Boston. The corner-stone was laid on the 15th 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 ench 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 engraven Dr. Franklin's original inscription, as quoted in the text, and beneath it are the following lines :


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

And desirous of reminding succeeding generations

That be was born in Boston,

Erected this

Over the grave 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 monument 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.

works in separate little volumes. I afterward sold them to enable me to buy R. Burton's Historical Collection ; 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 1 had such a thirst for knowledge, more proper books had not fallen in my way, since it was now resolved I should not be a clergyman. Plutarch's Lives there was in which I read abundantly, and I still think that time spent to great advantage. There was also a book of De Foe's, called an Essay on Projects, and another of Dr. Mather's, called Essays to do Good, which perhaps gave me a turn of thinking that had an influence on some of the principal future events of my

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

About this time I met with an old 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 thonght 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 expressed before, in any suitable words that should come to hand. Then I compared my Spectator with the original, discovered some of my faults, and corrected them. But I found I wanted a stock of


words, or a readiness in recollecting and using them, which I thought I should have acquired before that time if I had gone on making verses; since the continual occasion for words of the same import, but of different length, 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.

And now it was that, being on some occasion made ashamed of my ignorance in figures, which I had twice failed in learning when at school, I took Cocker's book of Arithmetic, 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 sci

And I read about this time, Locke on Human Understanding, and the Art of Thinking, by Messrs. du Port Royal.

While I was intent on improving my language, I met with an English grammar (I think it was Greenwood's), at the end of which there were two little sketches of the arts of rhetoric and logic, the latter finishing with a specimen of a dispute in the Socratic method; and soon after I procured Xenophon's Memorable Things of Socrates, wherein there are many instances of the same method. I was charmed with it, adopted it, dropt my abrupt contradiction and positive argumentation, and put on the humble inquirer and doubter.

My brother had, in 1720 or 1721, begun to print a newspaper. It was the second that appeared in America, and was called the New England Courant.*

He had some ingenious men among his friends, who amused themselves by writing little pieces for this paper, which gained it credit and made it more in demand, and these gentlemen often visited us. Hearing their conversations, and their accounts of the approbation their papers were received with, I was excited to try my hand among them; but, being still a boy, and suspecting that my brother would object to printing any thing of mine in his paper if he new 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

• The New England Courant' was the fourth newspaper that appeared in America. The first number of the Boston News-Letter was published April 24th, 1704. This was the first newspaper in America. The Boston Gazette commenced December 21st, 1719; the American Weekly Mercury, at Philadelphia, December 20, 1719; the New England Courant, August 21st, 1721.

printing house. It was found in the morning, and communicated to his writing friends when they called in as usual. They read it, commented on it in my hearing, and I bad the exquisite pleasure of finding it met with their approbation, and that, in their different guesses at the author, none were namned but men of some character among us for learning and ingenuity. I suppose now that I was rather lucky in my judges, and perhaps they were not really so very good ones as I then esteemed them.

[About this time a difference, and alienation of feeling sprung up between the brothers, the blame of which Benjamin takes to bimself as one of the first errata of his life, which he would be glad to correct in a second edition. This alienation led to his going to Philadelphia, and his first appearance there is thus described :)

I was in my working dress, my best clothes being to come round by sea. I was dirty from my journey; my pockets were stuffed out with shirts and stockings, and I knew no soul nor where to look for lodging. I was fatigued with traveling, rowing, and want of rest, I was very hungry; and my whole stock of cash consisted of a Dutch dollar, and about a shilling in copper. The latter I gave the people of the boat for my passage, who at first refused 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 through fear of being thought to have but little.

Then I walked up the street, gazing about till near the markethouse I met a boy with bread. I had made many a meal on bread, and, inquiring where he got it, I went immediately to the baker's he directed me to, in Second street, and asked for biscuit, 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 bade him give me three-penny worth of any sort. He gave me, accordingly, three great puffy rolls. I was surprised at the quantity, but took it, and, having no room in my pockets, walked off with a roll under each arm, and eating the other. Thus I went up Market street as far as Fourth street, passing by the door of Mr. Read, my future wife's father; when she, standing at the door, saw me, and thought I made, as I most certainly did, a most awkward, ridiculous appearance. Then I turned and went down Chestnut street, eating my roll all the way, and, coming round, found myself again at

« PreviousContinue »