Page images
PDF
EPUB

: a rare instance of grave reflection and virtuous resolution at

so early an age. In his Memoirs, he refers to this plan with evident complacency, but it is not contained in any edition of his works.

21 “The preamble and the heads of it were copied from the Autograph, in the year 1785, by William Rawle, Esquire, of Philadelphia, and have been obligingly communicated to us by that distinguished friend of the philosopher. They are, in part, as follows:

22 "Those who write of the art of poetry teach us that if we would write what may be worth the reading, we ought always, before we begin, to form a regular plan and design of our piece: otherwise, we might be in danger of incongruity. I am apt to think it is the same as to life.

23 “I have never fived a regular design in life; by which means it has been a confused variety of different scenes. I am now entering upon a new one: let me, therefore, make some resolutions, and form some scheme of action, that henceforth, I may live in all respects like a rational creature.

24 “I. It is necessary for me to be extremely frugal for some time, till I have paid what I owe."

“II. To endeavor to speak truth in every instance; to give nobody expectations that are not likely to be answered, but aim at sincerity in every word and action—the most amiable excellence in a rational being..

25 III. To apply myself industriously to whatever business I take in hand, and not divert my mind from my business by any foolish project of growing suddenly rich; for industry and patience are the surest means of plenty.

“IV. I resolve to speak ill of no man whatever, not even in a matter of truth; but rather by some means excuse the faults I hear charged upon others, and upon proper occasions speak all the good I know of every body,'"&c.

SECTION III. Franklin establishes a printing-house in Philadelphia; resolves on the in flexible practice of truth, probity, and sincerity; gains the reputation of industry and punctuality; founds a society for mental improvement, fc.

1 Before I relate the particulars of my entrance into business, it may be proper to inform you what was at that time the state of my mind as to moral principles, that you may see

the degree of influence they had upon the subsequent events of my life.

2 In a word, I was at last convinced that truth, probity, and sincerity, in transactions between man and man, were of the utmost importance to the happiness of life; and I resolved from that moment, and wrote the resolution in my journal, to practise them as long as I lived. Thus, before I entered on my new career, I had imbibed solid principles, and a character of probity. I knew their value; and I made a solemn engagement with myself never to depart from them.

3 I ought to have related, that, during the autumn of the preceding year, I had united the majority of well-informed persons of my acquaintance into a club, which we called by the name of the Junto, and the object of which was to improve our understandings. We met every Friday evening.

4 The regulations I drew up, obliged every member to propose in his turn, one or more questions upon some point of morality, politics, or philosophy, which were to be discussed by the society; and to read, once in three months, an essay of his own composition, on whatever subject he pleased.

5 Our debates were under the direction of a president, and were to be dictated only by a sincere desire of truth; the pleasure of disputing, and the vanity of triumph having no share in the business; and in order to prevent undue warmth, every expression which implied obstinate adherence to an opinion, and all direct contradiction, were prohibited, under small pecuniary penalties.

6 This was the best school of politics and philosophy that then existed in the province; for our questions, which were read a week previous to their discussion, induced us to peruse attentively such books as were written upon the subjects proposed, that we might be able to speak upon them more pertinently.

7 We thus acquired the habit of conversing more agreeably; every subject being discussed conformably to our regulations, and in a manner to prevent mutual disgust. To this circumstance may be attributed the long duration of the club; which I shall have frequent occasion to mention as I proceed.

8 I began to pay by degrees the debt I had contractéd; and in order to insure my credit and character as a tradesman, I took care not only to be really industrious and frugal, but also to avoid every appearance of the contrary. I was plainly dressed, and never seen in any place of public amusement.

9 I never went a fishing or hunting: a book indeed enticed me sometimes from my work, but it was seldom, by stealth, and occasioned no scandal; and to show that I did not think myself above my profession, I conveyed home sometimes in a wheelbarrow the paper I purchased at the warehouses.

10 I thus obtained the reputation of being an industrious young man, and very punctual in his payments. The mer, chants who imported articles of stationary, solicited my custom; others offered to furnish me with books, and my little trade went on prosperously.

CHAPTER 2. SELECTIONS FROM THE CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, WRITTEN BY HIMSELF.

- SECTION 1. Letter from Mr. Abel James, with notes on my life.

(Received in Paris.) 1 My dear and honored friend, I have often been desirous of writing to thee,” &c. “Some time since there fell into my hands, to my great joy, about twenty-three sheets in thy own hand writing, containing an account of the parentage and life of thyself, directed to thy son, ending in the year 1730, with which there were notes, likewise in thy writing; a copy of which I enclose, in hopes it may be a means, if thou continued it up to a later period, that the first and latter part may be put together; and if it is not yet continued, I hope thee will not delay it.

2 “ Life is uncertain, as the preacher tells us; and what will the world say, if kind, humane, and benevolent Ben. Franklin should leave his friends and the world deprived of so pleasing and profitable a work: a work which would be useful and entertaining not only to a few, but to millions.

3 « The influence writings under that class have on the minds of youth, is very great, and has no where appeared to me so plain, as in our public friend's journals. It almost insensibly leads the youth into the resolution of endeavoring to become as good and eminent as the journalist. Should thine, for instance, when published, (and I think it could not fail of it,) lead the youth to equal the industry and temperance of thy early youth, what a blessing with that class would such a work be!

4 “I know of no character living, nor many of them put together, who has so much in his power as thyself, to promote a greater spirit of industry and early attention to business, frugality, and temperance, with the American youth. Not that I think the work would have no other merit and use in the world; far from it; but the first is of such vast importance that I know nothing that can equal it."

5 Extracts of a Letter from Mr. Benjamin Vaughan. “+ Your history is so remarkable, that if you do not give it, somebody else will certainly give it; and perhaps so as nearly to do as much harm, as your own management of the thing might do good.

6 « But these, Sir, are small reasons, in my opinion, compared with the chance which your life would give for the forming of future great men; and in conjunction with your Art of Virtue, (which you design to publish,) of improving the features of private character, and consequently of aiding all happiness, both public and domestic.

7 65 The two works I allude to, Sir, will give a noble rule and example of self-education. School and other education constantly proceed upon false principles, and show a clumsy apparatus pointed at a false mark; but your apparatus is sim. ple, and the mark a true one; and while parents and young persons are left destitute of other just means of estimating and becoming prepared for a reasonable course in life, your discovery, that the thing is in many a man's private power, will he invaluable!

8 “Influence upon the private character, late in life, is not only an influence late in life, but a weak influence. It is in youth that we plant our chief habits and prejudices; it is in youth we take our party as to profession, pursuits, and matrimony. In youth, therefore, the turn is given; in youth the education even of the next generation is given; in youth the private and public character is determined; and the term of life extending but from youth to age, life ought to begin well from youth; and more especially before we take our party as to our principal objects.

9 “But your biography will not merely teach self-education, but the education of a wise man; and the wisest man will receive lights, and improve his progress, by seeing detailed the conduct of another wise man. And why are weaker men to be deprived of such helps, when we see our race has been blundering on in the dark, almost without a guide in this particular, from the farthest trace of time.

10 « The little private incidents which you will also have

to relate, will have considerable use, as we want above all things, rules of prudence in ordinary affairs; and it will be curious to see how you have acted in these. It will be so far a sort of key to life, and explain many things that all men ought to have once explained to them, to give them a chance of becoming wise by foresight.

11 “ Your account of yourself will show that you are ashamed of no origin; a thing the more important, as you prove how little necessary all origin is to happiness, virtue or greatness.” “ Another thing demonstrated, will be the propriety of every man's waiting for his time for appearing upon the stage of the world.”

12 « For the furtherance of human happiness, I have always maintained that it is necessary to prove that man is not even at present a vicious and detestable animal; and still more to prove that good management may greatly amend him.”

13 “ As I have not read any part of the life in question, but know only the character that lived it, I write somewhat at hazard. I am sure, however, that the life, and the treatise alluded to, (on the Art of Virtue,) will necessarily fulfil the chief of my expectations.

SECTION II. Continuation. He establishes a public library in Philadel

phia. Luxury introduced in his family by his wife.

1. At the time I established myself in Pennsylvania, there was not a good bookseller's shop in any of the colonies to the 8@1thward of Boston. In New-York and Philadelphia, the printers were indeed stationers, but they sold only paper, &c. almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books.

2 Those who loved reading were obliged to send for their books from England: the members of the Junto had each a few. I proposed that we should all of us bring our books to the club room; where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences, but become a common benefit, reach of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wished to read at home. Finding the advantage of this little collection, I proposed to render the benefit from the books more common, by commencing a public subscription library.

3 I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a skilful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brogden, to put the whole in form of articles of agreement to be subscribed. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with

« PreviousContinue »