Page images
PDF
EPUB

The terms of admission to this club were as peculiar as its standing queries. These, like those, turned exclusively on the social relations. Instead of demanding money in the form of initiation fees, they required of the applicant for admission a simple declaration that he harbored no inimical feeling toward any existing member; that he cherished a sentiment of goodwill toward his fellow-men generally, irrespective of sect or party; that no man ought to be harmed on account of his opinions merely; and that he held truth in esteem for its own sake and would endeavor to seek it, receive it, and impart it, in a spirit of candor and impartiality.

Such were the origin, scope, and spirit of an association, which acquired a high local reputation in its day, proved exceedingly useful to its members, exerted a valuable influence in the community, and even upon the public affairs of the province of Pennsylvania ; and after a prosperous existence of forty years, was selected as the healthy and vigorous stock, planted and tended by Franklin, on which, chiefly by the instrumentality of the same assiduous and enlightened cultivator, was engrafted the American Philosophical Society, of which also he was the first president, and which has borne still more abundant fruit, the volumes of its transactions having been among the most efficient aids to the progress of science in this country.

[blocks in formation]

The account of the Junto given in the preceding chapter, has been made somewhat full, not merely from a belief that it would be both gratifying and useful, but mainly because it was one of the early works of Franklin, and in truth, if duly considered in its various bearings, the most important work he had yet performed. Speaking of it himself, in his autobiography, he pronounces it, and with good reason, “the best school of philosophy, morals, and politics, then existing in the province;" and he wisely ranks among its benefits, not only the research and taste for solid studies, which it promoted, but also the “better habits of conversation,” which resulted from compliance with regulations requiring mutual deference, courtesy, and candor, and forbidding all direct contradiction and positiveness of assertion, in conversational discussion, as well as in more formal debate- habits to which, as the chief cause, he justly ascribes the remarkable success and duration of the club.

Nor was this all. The most striking peculiarities of that association, were but the embodiment of some of the most marked characteristics of the mind and modes of thinking from which they proceeded; and the pertinence of the sketch given, as well as its intrinsic interest, in this connection, is further seen in the conclusive evidence it furnishes,

of the manly studies which must even then have occupied most of Franklin's time not demanded by his business; thus showing how early and industriously he began to prepare himself for those philosophical inquiries, in which he attained such distinction, and to accumulate those ample stores of political knowledge, and enter upon that training of himself in the principles of civil liberty and just government, which enabled him to render, during almost half a century, such important service to his country.

Of such an association, which not only proved eminently successful in promoting its direct objects, but exerted an important influence in various ways, on the subsequent career of its chief founder, it will be gratifying to know something of his original associates, and especially to see from what occupations, himself a young tradesman working daily for his daily bread, he obtained his earliest coadjutors, in this honorable endeavor to enlarge their knowledge, and enhance their individual value and means of usefulness. For this

purpose we copy

Franklin's own rapid and graphic sketch of the first members of the club.

The first one named was Joseph Breintnall, “a copier of deeds for the scriveners; a good-natured, friendly, middle-aged man; a great lover of poetry, reading all he could meet with, and writing some that was tolerable; very ingenious in making little knick-knacks, and of sensible conversation.”

Next was Thomas Godfrey, “a self-taught mathematician, great in his way, and afterward inventor of what is now called Hadley's Quadrant. But he knew little out of his way, and was not a pleasing companion; as, like most great mathematicians I have met with, he expected universal precision in everything said, or was for ever denying or distinguishing upon trifles, to the disturbance of all conversation. He soon left us."

JUNTO-MENMORE CUSTOM.

147

Another was Nicholas Scull, “a surveyor, afterward surveyor-general; who loved books, and sometimes made a few verses.”

Another was William Parsons, “ bred a shoemaker, but loving reading, had acquired a considerable share of mathematics, which he first studied with a view to astrology, and afterward laughed at it. He also became surveyor-general.'

Another was William Maugridge, “a joiner, but a most exquisite mechanic, and a solid sensible man."

Hugh Meredith, Stephen Potts, and George Webb, were also members, but with them the reader is already acquainted.

Next was Robert Grace, “a young gentleman of some fortune, generous, lively, and witty; a lover of punning and of his friends."

The last one named was William Coleman, “then a merchant's clerk,” says Franklin, "about my own age, who had the coolest, clearest head, the best heart, and the exactest morals, of almost any man I ever met with. He became afterward a merchant of great note, and one of our provincial judges. Our friendship continued without interruption, to his death, upward of forty years."

To this brief catalogue of the first members of the Junto, time added, at intervals, not a few of the ornaments of Philadelphia, and among them, some names, besides that of Franklin, of a wide and lasting celebrity.

Among the extraneous and collateral benefits which soon began to accrue to the principal founder of this club, from his connection with it, was an increase of business for the young firm of Meredith and Franklin. Indeed, it was one of the specified objects of the club, though a subordinate one, and a recognised duty of the members, to promote thé rightful private interests of each other, whenever opportunity should enable them to do so, by just and honorable means. In conformity with this obligation, Joseph Brientnall, who was a Quaker, procured for the new partnership the printing of forty sheets of a History of the Quakers, the other sheets having been engaged to Keimer.

The rate of pay for this job, however, is stated to have been very scanty; and to make it yield any profit whatever, it was necessary to work exceeding hard.” The size of the book was folio; the paper of the sort then called pro patria; the type for the text pica, and for the notes long primer. Of these folio pages, “I composed," says Franklin, a sheet a day, and Meredith worked it off at the press. It was often 11 o'clock at night, and sometimes later, before I had finished my distribution [of the types thus set] for the next day's work; as the little jobs sent in by our other friends, now and then put us back. But so determined was I to continue doing a sheet a day of the folio, that one night, when, having imposed my forms, I thought my day's work was over, one of them by accident was broken, and two of the pages reduced to pi. I immediately distributed and composed it over again, before I went to bed.”

This was, indeed, “working hard.” But such persevering industry soon began to yield its appropriate reward; for it soon became obvious to the community, anda gave a character, which secured confidence and credit. The merchants of Philadelphia, it appears, had a club called the Every-Night Club. The new partnership in the printing business having been casually mentioned in this club, one evening, the opinion was pretty generally expressed that “it must fail, there being already two printers in the place.” One of the company, however, (Dr. Baird,) thought differently; for, said he, “the industry of that Franklin is superior to anything I ever saw of the kind. I see him still at work when I go

« PreviousContinue »