Page images

friendship of his Quaker fellow-passenger, Mr. Denham- a friendship, which soon proved exceedingly useful to him, and ultimately led to a closer and more important connection, and which continued without interruption, or disturbance, till it was forever sundered by death.

While going up the British channel, Benjamin had the promised opportunity to overhaul the letter-bag. Finding several letters bearing his own name as the person who was to take charge of them, with some others, which, judging by the names of those to whom they were addressed and other tokens, seemed intended for his use, he took possession of them. But, alas for the good-faith of pretended friendship and for the hopes it had inspired, the sequel showed that all these letters were utterly worthless, and that this youth had been cruelly cheated by the smooth-tongued deceiver, who was then the governor of Pennsylvania.






THE passengers of the Annis reached London in safety, on the 24th of December, 1724; and Benjamin wasted no time before making use of the documents, from which he had been induced to expect so much benefit. One of the letters bearing the address of a Mr. Basket, designated as the King's printer, and another being directed to a stationer, whose name is not given, Benjamin, naturally inferring, from the occupations of the men whose names they bore, that these two letters would be found to relate, most directly and materially, to the main object of his voyage, selected them for immediate delivery.

The stationer happening to be nearest by, to him Benjamin first proceeded. Finding him in his shop, he handed the letter to him, saying, as he did so, what he of course took for granted was the fact, that it was from Sir William Keith, governor of the province of Pennsylvania. The stationer remarked that he did not know any such

person, but took the letter, and opening it cast his eye upon the signature, when he suddenly exclaimed

“O, this is from Riddlesden! I have lately found him to be a complete rascal; and I will have nothing to do with him, nor receive any letters from him.” So,

heel,” says

[ocr errors]

handing back the unread epistle, “he turned on his

Franklin, “and left me, to serve a customer.” In short, the upshot of this affair was, that not one of the letters, on which so many hopes had been built, was written by Keith; and now looking back upon his conduct, in the new light poured upon it, Benjamin began, for the first time, to entertain doubts of the honesty and good faith of Sir William Keith, the governor of Pennsylvania.

Startled by such a result, and filled with apprehensions, arising from the predicament, in which that result placed him, Benjamin straightway sought out his late fellow-passenger, Denham, and laid the whole matter, from first to last, fully before him. The intelligent and fairminded Quaker merchant at once let his young

friend into, what he was not before aware had been a secret to him the real character of his professing patron. Mr. Denham told Benjamin that there was not the slightest probability that Keith had either written, or had seriously intended to write, a single letter for his benefit, notwithstanding all his solemn pledges and hospitable attentions; that nobody, having any knowledge of Sir William and his ways, placed the smallest dependence on his most earnest assurances; and he laughed heartily at the very idea of a letter of credit from a man, who possessed not a particle of that valuable commodity for his own use, or for the service of others.

Faithless, heartless, and disgraceful as the conduct of Sir William Keith was in this affair, yet, after all, his character, in its general elements at least, was not, we suspect, a very uncommon one. He seems to have been one of those sociable, good-humored, and smiling, but selfish and thick-skinned men, who, though possessing some agreeable and useful qualities, and often exhibiting considerable talents for business, yet have no



very clear perception of many of the differences between right and wrong, and appear unable to recognise them, unless in a coarse way and in the broadest cases ; who, though perhaps seldom actuated by any cherished malice, yet have no well-settled moral principles for the uniform regulation of their own conduct; men of cold affections, and little real sympathy, but of sanguine temperament, lively animal spirits, much self-complacency, addicted to company, voluble talkers, fond of notoriety, with but little sense of honor and shame, ready with expedients, and eager for place and influence.

Such men are very apt to play the patron, not so much, however, for the sake of their clients, as for their own; and some calculation of advantage to himself, seems very likely to have suggested to Keith, the expediency of affecting to patronise Benjamin, and to have led him to obtrude himself and his proffers of assistance upon a youth of so much promise.

Franklin closes his account of Sir William and their connection, with a short comment which, considering the heartlessness and wanton cruelty of Keith's usage of him, bears the most unequivocal testimony to that spirit of candor and forbearance, which marked and adorned his own character, through life.

“What shall we think,” says Franklin, “of a governor playing such pitiful tricks and imposing so grossly

a poor ignorant boy? It was a habit he had acquired. He wished to please everybody; and having little else to give, he gave expectations. He was, otherwise, an ingenious and sensible man; a pretty good writer ; and a good governor for the people, though not for his constituents, the Proprietaries, whose instructions he sometimes disregarded. Several of our best laws were of his planning, and passed during his administration.”


But the fraud, which had been practised upon Benjamin, was not the only piece of treachery brought to light by this letter of Riddlesden. This man was an attorney in Philadelphia, and both Mr. Denham and Benjamin were as fully aware as the stationer, that Riddlesden was a thorough-going knave. His letter, written under the expectation that Andrew Hamilton, who had been suddenly recalled from Newcastle to Philadelphia, was going to England in the Annis, betrayed the fact that a plot was going on, to injure Mr. Hamilton, and that Keith and Riddlesden were the plotters.

Mr. Denham, who was a friend of Mr. Hamilton's, very justly thought that gentleman should be informed of the mischief that was hatching; and when he reached London, as he did, not very long after, in another vessel, Benjamin called on him and gave him the letter. “ He thanked me cordially," says Franklin many years later, "the information being of importance to him; and from that time he became my friend, greatly to my advantage afterward, on many occasions."

By the shameful and wanton perfidy of Keith, thus, without an acquaintance in London, except one or two of his own countrymen, who were shortly to return home — with very scanty means of support, and these soon to be exhausted, unless he should be able to procure employment, was Benjamin, a youth of eighteen, a stranger from another land, left exposed to the perils of a great city. Happy for him, was it, then, that he had a trade. For a poor unfriended youth, without money, or connections, there is, under Providence, no better reliance than the possession of one of those honest and useful mechanical arts, which belong, permanently, to the very structure of civilized society, and are essential to the ordinary and daily recurring wants and uses of the community. With such a resource, no hon

« PreviousContinue »