« PreviousContinue »
times and more, within an ace of getting out of the only track that could have led him to the command of the American armies. But yet there seems to have been always some invisible hand to meet him at the threshold of his wanderings, and to push him back. Dr. Franklin also appears, on several occasions, to have been at the very point of breaking off from the printing business. But Heaven has decreed for him, that walk in life, and in it he must move. And though blind at times, as Ba. Jaam’ass, he sought to turn out of the way, yet, crouch as he would, he still found at every turn a good angel to bring him back. First he was to have been a sailor out of Boston—then a swimming-master in London-then a merchant in America. But it would not all do. And though in this last brilliant affair, he seemed to have effected his escape; losing the black fingered printer in the sprucely powdered merchant, yet, come back to the WORLD ENLIGHTENING TYPEs he inust-for Denham dies, and with him all the grand castles which Ben had built in the air. Still averse from the printing business, he tries hard for another place behind the counter, but no body will take him in. His money at length gone, and every avenue to honest bread hedged up against him, he is constrained to take refuge in his old trade.
Keimer, his former employer, who well knew his worth, waited on him, and made liberal offers if he would take charge of his printing-office, It must have been a sore trial to Ben to come under authority of a man whose ignorance and hypocrisy he so heartily despised; and who, he well knew, had nothing else in view, but just to get him to instruct his numerous apprentices, and then pick a quarrel and pack him off. But bad as he hated Keimer's vices, he still worse hated idleness and dependence, and therefore he accepted his invitation. 'He found Keimer's office in the old way, i. e. quite out of order, and miserably destitute of letters. There being at that time no such thing in America, as a type-foundery, this defect appeared at first utterly incurable. But Ben soon found a remedy. Having, once, while he lived in London, glanced his eye on the practice of this art, he thought he could imitate it. And, by casting in clay, he presently created a fine parcel of letters in lead, which served, at least, to keep the press from stopping. He also, on occasion, engraved a variety of ornaments for printing-made ink-gave an eye to the shop, and in short, was in all respects the factotum of the establishment. But useful as he made himself, he had the mortification to find that his services became every day of less importance to Keimer, in proportion as his apprentices improveds and when Keimer paid Ben his second quarter's wages, he did it very grumblingly, and gave him to understand, that they were too heavy. By degrees be became less civil; was constantly finding fault, and seemed always on the point of coming to an open rupture.
Ben bore it all very patiently, conceiving that his ill Irumour was owing to the embarrasment of his affairs.
At length, however, the old wretch insulted him so grossly, and that under circumstances of all others the most provoking to a man of honest pride, i. e. in the presence of neighbours, that Ben could bear it no longer; but, after upbraiding him for his ingratitude, took up
his hat, and left him, begging a young man of the office to take care of his trunk, and bring it to him at night.
The name of this young man was Meredith, one of Keimer's apprentices. He had taken a great liking to Ben, because that while Keimer, ignorant and crabbed taught him nothing, Ben was every day giving him some useful lesson in his trade, or some excellent hint in morals, conducive to the government and happiness of his life. In the evening he came and intreated Ben, not to think of quitting the printing office while he continued in it. “My dear sir," said he to Ben, "I beg you will take no notice of what this Keimer does. T'he poor man is always, as you see half shaved; and no wonder, for he is over head and ears in debt--often selling his goods at prime cost for the sake of cash-constantly giving credit without taking any account; and therefore cannot help shortly coming out of the little end of the horn, which will leave a glorious opening for you to make your fortune."
Ben replied that he had nothing to begin with. "O, as to that difficulty," answered Meredith, "we can casily get over it. My father has a very high opinion of you, and will, I am sure, readily advance money to set us up, provided you will but go into partnership with
I ain no workman, but you are. And So,
you like, I will find the capital and you the skill, and let's go halves in the profits. By spring we can have in from London our press, types and paper, and then, as my time with Keimer will be out, we can fall to work at once, and make our jacks."
As this was an offer not to be met with every day, Ben readily ayreed to it, as also did old Mr. Meredith.
But the old gentleman had a better motive in view than the pecuniary profits. He had marked with great pleasure, Ben's ascendancy over his son, whom he had already wonderfully checked in his passion for tobacco and brandy. And he fondly hoped, that by this connexion his son would be perfectly cured.
With this hope, he desired Ben to make him out the list of a complete printing office, which he immediately took to his merchant, with orders to import it without loss of time. Keimer was to know nothing of all this; and Ben, in the interim, was to get work with Bradford,
On application, Bradford had no rooin. Ben, therer fore had to rest on his óars. This, however, was but for a short season: for Keimer getting a hint that he should be employed to print some New Jersey paper money, that would require engravings and types which he knew nobody in Philadelphia but Ben
could make; and fearful that Bradford, by engaging Ben, might deprive him of the job; sent a very civil message to Ben, telling him, that "old friends ought not to part on account of a few hasty words dropt in a passion,” and concluding with pressing invitation to come back.
Ben went back; and Keimer met him with a most cordial welcome. Although there was nothing in this poor
old man to excite his esteem, yet Ben could not help feeling happy to see smiles of joy brightening over his withered face; and he then felt, though not for the first time, that though learning is a pleasant thing, yet one touch of “kindred sentiment warm at the heart,' outweighs, in pure delight, all the learning in the world,
KEIMER presently obtained what he so ardently wished, the printing of the New-Jersey paper-money; and flew into the office with the news to Ben, who, immediately set about constructing a copper-plate press, the first that had ever been seen in Philadelphia. He also engraved various ornaments and devices for the bills; and putting every thing in readiness for their paper money coinage, he set out with Keimer for Burlington, where the New-Jersey legislature held their session.
At the first sight of Ben's paper-money, every eye was struck with its beauty. "Why this Krimer must be a very clever old fellow!" was the cry. But others who were deeper in the secret, replied, "not so, young FrankJin is the man." Hereupon great attention was paid to Ben. And he was sensibly taught, that though he had been grievously tried and held back in the world, yet he had much cause of gratitude. Presently another affair arose, furuishing him fresh matter of congratulation that he had ever paid such attention to the improvement of his mind.
Fearing that our Philadelphia printers might strike off more money-bills than they had been desired, the NewJersey Assembly thought proper to send two or three commissioners to superintend the press. These gentlemen, all of the shrewd sort, and constantly with them while at work, soon found out the difference between the master and his young journeyman. Keimer, though a printer had never been a reader. Ben had devoted all his leisure hours to reading. The one had ever courted pleasure in the furniture of his mind: the other, popularity in the decorations of his body. The shape of his whiskers; the cock of his hat; the cut of his coat, Were great things with Keimer. Every trick at easy outside show was caught up by him. Among other dashes at popularity, he pretended to be a freemason; and was constantly grinning and making his signs. But it would not all do. The New-Jersey commissioners knew nothing of Jachin and Boaz. So that though, while Ben, stripped to the buff, was heaving at the press, day, “never to miss an opportunity to lend a helping hand to young beginners."
His favorite young Hercules, the PRINTING-OFFICE, which had been so long labouring in his brain, being now happily brought to birth, Ben determined immediately to give it the countenance and support of another. noble bantling of his own. I allude to his famous club, called the "Junto," a kind of Robinhood soeiety, composed of young men desirous of improving themselves in knowledye and elocution, and who met one night every week, to discuss some interesting question in morals, politics, or philosophy
The members at first were but few, but Ben, now a complete master of his pen, made such a dash with their speeches in his newspaper, that the Junto soon got to be the talk of the town; and members were added to it daily. Ben was unanimously appointed moderator of the club; and in reward for the great pleasure and profit derived from this noble, mind improving institution, the members all agreed to support his printing-office. This was of service; but its principal support was derived from a still higher source; I mean his own astonishing industry. No sooner was it known in town that Ben had set up a new paper and press, under the very nose of two others, Keimer's and Bradford's, that it be came matter of speculation whether it could possibly stand. The generality gave into the negative. But doctor Bard, a shrewd old Scotchman, who well knew the effect of persevering industry,on young men's fortunes, laughed heartily at the doubters. “Stand,” said he, "gentlemen! Yes, take my word it will stand. The industry of that young Franklin will make any thing stand. I see him still at work when I return from my patients at midnight; and he is at it again in the morning before his neighbours are out of bed.” Ben was fairly entitled to his praise. He generally composed and corrected ten to twelve thousand m's a day, though it constantly took him till near midnight. But so intent was he on finishing this incredible, task, that when accident had deranged a good half of his hard day's work, he has been known to fall to work and set it up again before he went to bed.
The reputation acquired by this industry, made such