Page images
PDF
EPUB

gain, a decent livelihood. The artisans, who fear creating future rivals in business, refuse to take apprentices, but upon conditions of money, maintenance, or the like, which the parents are unable to comply with. Hence the youth are dragged up in ignorance of every gainful art, and obliged to become soldiers, or servants, or thieves, for a subsistence. In America, the rapid increafe of inhabitants takes away that fear of rivalfhip, and artisans willingly receive apprentices from the hope of profit by their labour, during the remainder of the time stipulated, after they shall be instructed. Hence it is easy for poor families to get their children instructed; for the artisans are so desirous of apprentices, that many of them will even give money to the parents, to have boys from ten to fifteen years of age bound apprentices to them, till the age of twenty-one; and many poor parents have, by that means, on their arrival in the country, raised money enough to buy land fùfficient to establish themselves, and to sublift the rest of their family by agriculture. These contracts for apprentices are made before a magiftrate, who regulates the agreement according to reason and justice; and having in view the formation of a future useful citizen, obliges the master to engage by a written indenture, not only that, during the time of service stipulated, the apprentice Shall be duly provided with meat, drink, apparel, washing, and lodging, and at its expiration with a complete new suit of clothes, but also that he shall be taught to read, write, and caft accounts; and that he shall be well in structed in the art or profession of his master, or some other, by which he may afterwards gain a livelihood, and be able in his turn to raise a fa. mily. A copy of this indenture is given to the apprentice or his friends, and the magiftrate keeps

a record

a record of it, to which recourse may be had, in case of failure by the master in any point of performance. This defire among the masters to have more hands employed in working for them, in. duces them to pay the passages of young persons, of both sexes, who, on their arrival, agree to serve them one, two, three, or four years; those who have already learned a trade, agreeing for a shorter term, in proportion to their skill, and the consequent immediate value of their service; and those who have none, agreeing for a longer term, in consideration of being taught an art their poverty would not permit them to acquire in their own country:

The almost general mediocrity of fortune that prévails in America, obliging its people to follow some business for fubsistence, those vices that arise usually from idleness, are in a great measure prevented. Industry and constant employment are great prefervatives of the morals and virtue of a nation. Hence bad examples to youth are more rare in America, which must be a comfortable confideration to parents. To this may be truly added, that serious religion, under its various denominations, is not only tolerated, but respected and practised. Atheism is 'unknown there; infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great age in that country without having their piety shocked by meeting with either an atheist or an infidel. And the Divine Being seems to have manifested his approbation of the mutu. al forbearance and kindness with which the different fects treat each other, by the remarkable profperity with which he has been pleased to favour the whole country.

FINAL

U

FINAL SPEECH OF DR. FRANKLIN IN THE

LATE FEDERAL CONVENTION *.

MR. PRESIDENT, I CONFESS that I do not entirely approve of this constitution at present: but, Sir, I am not sure I shall never approve it; for having lived so long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information, or fuller confideration, to change opinions even on important subjects, which I once thought right, but found to be otherwise. It is, therefore, that the older I grow, the more apt I am to doubt my own judgment, and to pay more respect to the judgment of others. Most men, indeed, as well as most sects in religion, think themselves in poffeffion of all truth, and that whenever others differ from them, it is so far error. Steele, a protestant, in a dedication, tells the pope, that “ the only “ difference between our two churches, in their “ opinions of the certainty of their doctrines, is, " the Romish church is infallible, and the church “ of England never in the wrong.” But, though many private persons think almost as highly of their own infallibility as of that of their fect, few express it so naturally as a certain French lady, who, in a little dispute with her sister, said, I don't know how it happens, fifter, but I meet with nobody but myself that is always in the right. Il n'y a que moi qui a toujours raison. In these fentiments, Sir, I agree to this constitution, with all

* Our reasons for ascribing this speech to Dr. Franklin, are its internal evidence, and its having appeared with his name, during his life-time, uncontradicted, in an American periodical publication.

f

its faults, if they are fuch; because I think a general government necessary for us, and there is no form of government but what may be a bleffing, if well administered; and I believe farther, that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other. I doubt, too, whether any other convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better constitution. For when you assemble a number of men, to have the advantage of their joint wisdom, you inevitably assemble with those men, all their prejudices, their passions, their errors of opinion, their local interests, and their selfish views. From such an assembly can a perfect production be expected ? It therefore aftonishes me, Sir, to find this system approaching so near to perfection as it does; and I think it will astonish our enemies, who are waiting with confidence, to hear that our councils are confounded, like those of the builders of Babylon, and that our states are on the point of separation, only to meet hereafter for the purpose of cutting each other's throats.

Thus I consent, Sir, to this conftitution, because I expect no better, and because I am not sure that this is not the beft. The opinions I have had of its errors, I sacrifice to the public good. I have never whispered a fyllable of them abroad. Within these walls they were born; and here they shall die. If every one of us, in returning to our constituents, were to report the objections he has had to it, and endeavour to gain partisans in support of them, we might prevent its being generally received, and thereby lose all the falutary effects and great advantages resulting naturally in our favour among foreign nations, as well as

among

U 2

292

among ourselves, from our real or apparent una. nimity. Much of the strength and efficiency of any government, in procuring and securing happiness to the people, depends on opinion; on the general opinion of the goodness of that government, as well as of the wisdom and integrity of its governors.

I hope, therefore, that for our own fakes as a part of the people, and for the fake of our pofterity, we shall act heartily and unanimously in recommending this constitution, wherever our influence may extend, and turn our future thoughts and endeavours to the means of having it well administered.

On the whole, Sir, I cannot help expressing a wish, that every member of the convention, who may still have objections, would with me, on this occasion, doubt a little of his own infallibility, and, to make manifest our unanimity, put his name to this inftrument.

[The motion was then made for adding the last forinula, viz.

Done in Convention, by the unanimous cone fent, &c.: which was agreed to, and added 2ccordingly.]

SKETCH

« PreviousContinue »