Page images

prove injurious to those very interests, to which, when it is properly restricted and regulated, it can be rendered so advantageous.

It seems but just to add that so far as this policy was carried in Pennsylvania, it appears pretty clearly to have proved on the whole very beneficial in its direct influence on the internal interests of the province; that it was only when money was wanted for foreign remittances, that the bills of this local currency were perceived to be somewhat less valuable than gold and silver; though the discount upon them, even in such cases, was not large, and was by no means equal to the counterbalancing benefits which resulted from the increased activity their circulation imparted to trade, and the impulse they gave to the general prosperity of the people.

By such honorable means as have been indicated, Franklin was now thriving both in business and reputation. Not long after the printing of the new bills for Pennsylvania, he was employed to print the bills of a similar issue at Newcastle, for “The Three Lower Counties," as Delaware was then called. For this, which he regarded as another beneficial contract, “small things," as he expresses it, “appearing great to those in small circumstances," he was indebted to his distinguished friend, Hamilton, who also procured for him the printing of the journals and laws of the colonial government of Delaware, which he retained as long as he continued in the printing business.

Further to exemplify Franklin's assiduous industry in the management of his business, and especially his mechanical ingenuity and resource, it is but just to state that in the early part of his career, when he had yet but little cash to spare, any deficiency in the implements and apparatus of his trade was usually supplied by himself. Thus he contrived for himself the apparatus for





casting leaden types; executed cuts in wood, of various · ornaments to embellish what the printers call job-work; made printer's ink; engraved vignettes on copper, and made his own press for taking impressions from such plates.

Another incident is related of him, which is not only interesting in itself, but testifies to the vigilance of his observation and his habit of turning whatever he observed to some useful account. It was he, who, as related in Watson's Annals of Philadelphia, first propagated in this country the yellow willow, now so common among

A willow basket, in which he had received some package from abroad, having been thrown aside upon moist ground, had sprouted. Franklin seeing this, planted some cuttings of the sprouting rods, and from them, it is alleged, came our yellow willow, a useful plant not only for wicker-work, but for protecting the banks of streams.

Another incident of much greater importance, may properly enough introduced in this connection. It is related by Dr. Sparks, on the authority of the distinguished French chemist, Chaptal; and it shows that our country is indebted to Franklin, in the first instance, for the knowledge and use of gypsum, as a fertilizer in agriculture. This article having originally been brought from Paris, was long known only by the name of plaster of Paris ; and Chaptal, who rendered incalculable service to agriculture by applying chemical science to its improvement, in his work on Agricultural Chemistry, as quoted by Dr. Sparks, has the following passage :

As this celebrated philosopher,” says Chaptal referring to Franklin, “wished that the effects of this manure should strike the gaze of cultivators, he wrote, in great letters formed by the use of the ground plaster, in a field of clover lying upon the great road : . This has been


plastered. The prodigious vegetation which was developed in the plastered portion, led him to adopt this method. Volumes upon the excellency of plaster would not have produced so speedy a revolution.”

The mode thus chosen for recommending the new manure, by its unequivocal, practical directness and simplicity, was highly characteristic of Franklin; and the whole statement will enhance the popular respect and affection for his memory, by bringing home to general recognition what has been but little known.

About the time when Franklin had finished the printing of the Delaware bills, he added to his printing business that of a stationer; and he helped his custom by keeping, besides the usual articles of stationery, a constant supply of blank forms commonly used in conveyancing, and in legal proceedings in the courts of justice. In preparing these forms he was assisted by his friend Breintnall, who was himself a conveyancer; and being well arranged and carefully printed, their neatness and accuracy, much beyond anything previously furnished in that way, secured the custom of all who had occasion to use them. His assortment of the usual articles of stationery was also full, and thereto was added an ample supply of school-books, and other books for children. It is worth stating, too, as indicative of the impression he made on those with whom he associated, that one of the journeymen now in his employ, was a man with whom he had become acquainted in the London printingoffices, by the name of Whitmarsh, who, on arriving at Philadelphia, had gone at once to Franklin, and proved to be a diligent workman, and a worthy man. also, as an indented apprentice, a young son of that Aquila Rose, whose death left the opening for employment, which was the particular inducement that led Franklin first to Philadelphia, and whose elegy furnished

He had,



him with some of his first earnings there, in working it off at the press, when it had been composed in type by the eccentric Keimer.

Persevering industry and personal attention to his business, with civil deportment, and constant care that whatever work he was employed to do, should be done promptly and in a neat, thorough, and workmanlike manner, united to the public spirit he had evinced, and his talents as a writer, were now. producing for him their legitimate results ; and his thrift enabled him to commence paying off the debt he had incurred in setting up his printing-office. His habits and cqurse of life at this period, are well described in the following passage from his own pen :

“ In order to secure my credit and character as a tradesman,” says he,“ I took care not only to be in reality industrious and frugal, but to avoid even appearances to the contrary. I dressed plain, and was seen at no places of idle diversion. I never went out a fishing, or shooting. A book, indeed, sometimes enticed me from my work ; but that was seldom, was private, and gave no scandal ; and to show that I was not above my business, I sometimes brought home the paper I purchased at the stores, through the streets on a wheel-barrow. Thus, being esteemed 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 prosperously.”

[blocks in formation]

While Franklin was thus prospering in business, and growing in the esteem of the community, Keimer, his former employer, was daily losing both custom and credit; and being compelled before long to sell out his whole stock in trade, to meet the demands of his creditors, he went off to Barbadoes, in the West Indies, where, after several years of poverty, he died in great indigence.

David Harry, who has already been mentioned as an apprentice to Keimer, but who had in fact been taught his trade by Franklin while working in Keimer's office, was the person who bought out his former master, and undertook to carry on the same business himself. Har ry's friends were persons of considerable property and influence; and when he commenced business on his own account, Franklin felt no little solicitude lest his own prosperity should be seriously checked by one who seemed likely to be a powerful rival. To avoid any unfriendly competition, which could only prove injurious to both, he proposed to Harry to form a partnership. This proposal, however, says Franklin, “he, fortunately for me, rejected with scorn.” Harry's foolish pride, expensive habits, indulgence in amusements, and consequent neglect of business, soon involved him in debt; his customers quit him, and he pretty soon followed Keimer to

« PreviousContinue »