« PreviousContinue »
In the days of Auld LANG SYNE, their neighbours from the continent made a descent on “the fast-anchored isle," and compelled the hardy, red ochred natives to buckle to their yoke. Among the victors were some regiments of Franks who distinguished themselves by their valor, and still more by their politeness to the vanquished, and especially to the females. By this amiable yallantry the Franks acquired such glory among the brave islanders, that whenever any of their own people achiev., ed any thing uncommonly handsome, he was called, by way of compliment, a FRANKlin, i.e. a little Frank. As the living flame does not more naturally tend upwards than does every virtue to exalt its possessors, these little Franks were soon promoted to be great men, such as justices of the peace, knights of the shire, and other such names of high renown. Hence those pretty lines of the old poet Chaucer
“This worthy Franklin wore a purse of silks
Renown'd for courtesy; by all belov’d." But though, according to Dr. Franklin's own account of his family, whose pedigree he looked into with great diligence while he was in England, it appears that they were all of the "well born," or gentlemen in the best sense of the word; yet they did not deem it beneath them to continue the same useful courses which had at first conferred their titles. On the contrary, the doctor owns, and indeed glories in it, that for three hundred years the eldest son or heir apparent in this family of old British gentlemen, was invariably brought up a blacksmith. Moreover, it appears from the same indubitable authority, that the blacksmith succession was most religiously continued in the family, down to the days of the doctor's father. How it has gone on since that time I have never heard; but considering the salutary effects of such a fashion on the prosperity of a young republic, it were most devoutly to be wished that it is kept up; and that the family of one of the greatest men who ever lived in this or any other country, still dis. play in their coat of arms, not the barren gules and garters of European folly, but those better ensigns of American wisdom—the SLEDGE-HAMMER and ANVIL
"Were I so tall to reach the pole,
And grasp the ocean in my spans
For 'tis the MIND that makes the man."
FROM the best accounts which I have been able to pick up, it would appear that a passion for learning had a long run in the family of the Franklins. Of the doctor's three uncles, the elder, whose name was Thomas, though conscientiously brought up a blacksmith, and subsisting his family by the din and sweat of his anvil, was still a great reader. Instead of wasting his leisure hours, as too many of the trade do in tippling and tobacco, he acquired enough of the law to render himself a very useful and leading man among the people of Northampton, where his forefathers had lived in great comfort for three hundred years, on thirty acres of land.
His uncle Benjamin, too, another old English gentleman of the right stamp, though a very hard working man at the silk-dying trade, was equally devoted to the pleasures of the mind. He made it a rule whenever he lightened on a copy of verses that pleased him, to transcribe them into a large blank book which he kept for the purpose. In this way he collected two quarto volumes of poems, written in short hand, of his own inventing. And, being a man of great piety, and fond of attending the best preachers, whose sermons he always took down, he collected in the course of bis life, eight volumes of sermons in folio, besides near thirty in quarto and octavo, and all in the aforesaid short hand! Astonishing proof, what a banquet of elegant pleasures even a poor mechanic may enjoy, who begins early to read and think! 'Tis true, he was a long time about it. His piety afforded him a constant cheerfulness. And deriving from the same source a regular temperance, he attained to a great age. In his seventy-third year, still fresh and strong, he left his native country, and came over to America, to see his younger brother Josias, between whom and himself there had always subsisted a more than ordinary friendship. On his arrival in Boston, he was received with unbounded joy by Josias, who pressed hini to spend the residue of his days in his family. Te this proposition the old gentleman readily consented; and the inore so as he was then a widower, and his children all married off, had left him. He had the honor to give his name, and to stand god father to our little hero, for whom, on account of his vivacity and fondvess for learning, he conceived an extraordinary affection. And Ben always took a great delight in talking of this uncle. Nor was it to be wondered al; for he was an old man who wore his religion very much to win young people a pleasant countenance-a sweet speech-and a fund of anecdotes always entertaining, and generally carrying some good moral in the tail of them. His grandfather before him muust have been a man of rare humour, as appears from a world of droll stories which uncle Benjamin used to tell after him, and which his New England descendants to this day are wont to repeat with great glee. I must let the reader hear one or two of them. They will amuse him by shewing what strange things were done in days of yore by kings and priests, in the land of our venerable forefathers.
It was his grandiather's fortune to live in the reign of Queen Mary, whom her friends called holy Mary, but her enemies bloody Mary. In the grand struggle for power between those humble followers of the cross, the oatholics and protestants, the former gained the victory, for which Te Deuns in abundance were sung throughout the land. And having been sadly rib-roasted by the protestants when in power, they determined, like good christians, now that the tables were turned, to try on them the virtues of fire and faggot. The Franklin family having ever been sturdy protestants, began now to be in great tribulation. “What shall we do to save our Bible?" was the question. After serious consultation in a family caucus, it was resolved to hide it in the close-stool; which wa-accordingly done, by fastening it, open, on the under side of the lid by twine threads drawn strongly
across the leaves. When the grandfather read to the family, be turned up the aforesaid lid on his knees, passing the leaves of his Bible as he read froin one side to the other. One of the children was carefully stationed at the door, to give notice if he saw the priest, or any of his frowning tribe, draw near. In that event, the lid with the Bible lashed beneath it, was instantly clapped down again on its old place.
These things may appear strange to us, who live under a wise republic, which will not suffer the black frowns of one church to persecute those of another. But they were common in those dark and dismal days, when the clergy thought inore of creeds than of Christ, and of learning Latin than of learning love. Queen Mary was one of this gnostic generation, (who place their religion in the head, though Christ places it in the HEART,) and finding it much easier to her unloving spirit, to burn human beings called heretics, than to mortify her own lust of popularity, she suffered her catholic to fly upon and worry her protestant subjects at a shameful rate. Good old uncle Benjamin used to divert his friends with another story, whrh happened in the family of his own aunt, who kept an inn at Eaton, Northamptonshire.
A most violent priest, of the name of Asquith, who thought, like Saul, that he should be doing “God service" by killing the heretics, had obtained letters patent from queen Mary against those people in the county of Warwick. On his way he called to dine at Eaton, where he was quickly waited on by the mayor, a strong catholic, to ask how the good work went on Asquith, leaping to his saddle-bags, drew forth a little bos, that contained his coinmission, which he tourished before the mayor, exclaiming with high glee, "jye! there's that that will scorch the rogues!" Old Mrs. Franklin, under the rose a sturdy protestant, overhearing this, was exceedingly troubled; and watching her opportunity when the priest hall stepped out with the mayor, slipped the commission out of the box, and put in its place a pack of cards, wrapped in the same paper. The priest returning in haste, and suspecting no trick, huddled up his box, and posted off for Coventry. A grand council of the saints Was speedily convoked to meet hun. He arose, and having with great vehemence delivered a set speech
against the heretics, threw his com mission on the table for 16 secretary to read aloud. With the eyes of the whole cuncil on him, the eager secretary opened the package, when in place of the flaming commission, behold a pack of cards with the knave of clubs turned uppermost! A sudden stupefaction seized the spectators. In silence they stared at the priest and stared at one another
Some jooking as though they suspected treachery: others as drearling a judgment in the case.
dumb founded priest could recover speech, he swore by the Holy Mary, that he once had a commission; that he had received it from the queen's own hand. And he also swore that he would get another commission. Accordingly he hurried back to London, and having procured another, set off again for Coventry, But alas! before he got down, poor queen Mary had turned the corner, and the protestants under Elizabeth got the rule again. Having nothing now to dread, our quizzing old hostess, Mrs. Franklin, came out with the knavish trick she had played the priest, which so please ed the protestants of Coventry that they presented her a piece of plate, cost fifty pounds sterling, equal, as momey now goes. to a thousand dollars.
From an affair which soon after this took place there, it appears
that Coventry, however famous for saints, had no great cause to brag of her poets.When queen Elizabeth, to gratify her subjects, made the tour of her island, she passed through Coventry. The mayor, aldermen and company hearing of her approach, went out in great state to meet her. The queen being notified that they wished to address her, made a full stop right oppo. site to a stage erected for the purpose and covered with embroidered cloth, from which a ready orator after much bowing and arms full extended, made this wondrous speech-"We men of Coventry are glad to see your royal highuess-Lord how fair you be!"
To this the maiden queen, equally famed for fat and fun, rising in her carriage and waving her lilly white hand, made this prompt reply—"Our royal highness is glad to see you men of Coventry-Lord what Fools