Part 1 out of 8
FROM BOYHOOD TO MANHOOD
LIFE OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN
By William M. Thayer
Author of "From Farm House to White House," "From Log Cabin to White
House," "From Pioneer Home to White House," "From Tannery to White
House," etc., etc.
The life of Benjamin Franklin is stranger than fiction. Its realities
surpass the idealities of novelists. Imagination would scarcely venture
to portray such victories over poverty, obscurity, difficulties, and
hardships. The tact, application, perseverance, and industry, that he
brought to his life-work, make him an example for all time. He met with
defeats; but they inspired him to manlier efforts. His successes
increased his desire for something higher and nobler. He was satisfied
only with _going up still higher_. He believed that "one to-day is
worth two to-morrows"; and he acted accordingly, with the candle-shop
and printing office for his school-room, and Observation for his
teacher. His career furnishes one of the noblest examples of success
for the young of both sexes to study. We offer his life as one of the
brightest and best in American history to inspire young hearts with
The first and principal source of material for this book was Franklin's
"Autobiography." No other authority, or treasure of material, can take
the place of that. Biographies by Sparks, Sargent, Abbott, and Parton
have freely consulted together with "Franklin in France," and various
eulogies and essays upon his life and character.
That Franklin was the real father of the American Union, is the view
which the author of this biography presents. It is the view of
Bancroft, as follows:--
"Not half of Franklin's merits have been told. He was the true father
of the American Union. It was he who went forth to lay the foundation
of that great design at Albany; and in New York he lifted up his voice.
Here among us he appeared as the apostle of the Union. It was Franklin
who suggested the Congress of 1774; and but for his wisdom, and the
confidence that wisdom inspired, it is a matter of doubt whether that
Congress would have taken effect. It was Franklin who suggested the
bond of the Union which binds these States from Florida to Maine.
Franklin was the greatest diplomatist of the eighteenth century. He
never spoke a word too soon; he never spoke a word too much; he never
failed to speak the right word at the right season."
The closing years of Franklin's life were so identified with the Union
of the States, and the election and inauguration of Washington as the
first President, that his biography becomes a fitting companion to the
WHITE HOUSE SERIES.
FROM OLD ENGLAND TO NEW ENGLAND.
Persecution Driving Franklin and Others Away--Discussion about
Emigrating--Josiah Franklin--His Trade--Benjamin Franklin--Doctor
Franklin's Account of His Ancestors--Meetings of Dissenters Broken
Up--Why Josiah Decided to Go--Account of Their Family Bible--The Final
Decision--The Franklin Family Influential--Thomas Franklin--The
Franklin Poet--Doctor Franklin about His Father--What Boston was Then
and Now--Exploring the Wilderness--Influence of Franklins in Boston.
THE FIFTEENTH GIFT.
Birth of Benjamin Franklin on Sunday--The Fifteenth Child--God's
Gift--Proposition to Baptize Him the Same Day--Discussion over
It--Baptized on That Day by Doctor Willard--The Church Record--House
in Which He was Born--Josiah's Children--Death of Wife and Second
Marriage--The Folger Family--Name for Uncle Benjamin--Personal
Beauty--Words of Parton--Josiah Took Up Trade of Tallow-chandler--The
Business and Place Described--Sons Apprenticed--Josiah a Good
Musician--Condition of the World When Benjamin was Born in 1706.
PAYING TOO DEAR FOR THE WHISTLE.
Seven Years Old--First Money to Spend as He Pleased--Advice Gratis--Boy
with Whistle--Benjamin Buys a Whistle--Going into the Concert
Business--Scene in the Family--Tormented by John for Paying All His
Money--Ben Breaks Down--Father and Mother Takes His Part--The Lesson
He Learned--What He Wrote about It at Seventy-two Years of Age--When
Boys Pay Too Dear for the Whistle--Dickens--Keeping the Secret--How
the Secret Came Out.
Uncle Benjamin and His Poetry--His Family--His Letter about Ben--Plans
for School and Doctor Willard--Goes to School at Eight Years of
Age--Description of His Father--Of His Mother--Inscription on Their
Monument--Nathaniel Williams, Teacher--Description of School-house--His
Scholarship High--His Teacher Praises Him--Led the School--Prophecies
OUT OF SCHOOL.
Poverty Forces Him to Leave School--His Mother's View--Hard Time for
Ministers--Brownell's School of Penmanship--How Ben Could Help His
Father--Boys Put to Work Young Then--His Obedience--A Well-Disciplined
Boy--Incident of His Manhood to Rebuke a Landlord--Robert Peel and
Harry Garland--The Eight Hall Brothers--His Progress.
FROM SCHOOL TO CANDLE-SHOP.
Arrival of Uncle Benjamin--Opposed to Taking His Nephew Out of School--
Thinks Ben is Very Talented--Prospects of the Business--Benjamin's
Talk with His Mother--Blessings of Industry--Doctor Franklin's
Proverbs--Became Wiser Than His Father--Tallow-Chandler at Ten Years
of Age--His Father Saw His Dissatisfaction--Josiah, the Runaway Son,
Returns--Wanted to Go to Sea--The Proposition Vetoed--Uncle Benjamin
CHOOSING A TRADE AND STEALING SPORT.
Love of a Trade Necessary to Success--Following "Natural Bent"--Square
Boys in Round Holes--Smeaton--Benjamin Pleased with a New Plan--
Examining Different Trades--The Cutler, Brazier, etc.--Chooses Cutler's
Trade--Enters Shop on Trial--Disagreement on Terms--The Good It Did
Him--Sport on the Water--An Evil Proposition--Stealing Stones--The
Wharf Built--The Thieves Detected--How Benjamin's Father Found Him
Out--Benjamin's Confession and Promise--The End.
James Franklin Returns from England a Printer--His Father's Talk About
Learning That Trade--Benjamin Likes It--Arrangement with James--
Printing in Its Infancy Then--Censorship over Printing--Bound to
His Brother--Form of Indenture--William Tinsley--White Slavery--Poor
Children Sold at Auction--A Printer-boy and How He Liked--Time for
Reading--Budget!--The Printing-office, Where and What--Being on
Time--After a Book Before Breakfast--Washington's Punctuality--
Franklin's Like It.
What Franklin Said of Table-talk--What Heard at Table Now--Its
Moulding Influence--That of His Grandfather--The Franklins Good in
Conversation--Extract from Parton--Letter of Franklin to His Wife in
1758--Pythagoras--Cicero--Josiah Franklin--His Wise Counsels--Origin
of His Temperance Principles--No Temperance Cause Then--The Washburne
Family--The Way the Twig is Bent.
LEADER OF SPORTS AND THOUGHTS.
Love of Reading and Fun--The Best Swimmer, etc.--Invention to Promote
Swimming--His Secret of Success--The Trial of the Apparatus--Hard on
the Wrists--Another Experiment Proposed--Swimming Promoted by a
Kite--Delight of the Boys--What Franklin Said of It in Manhood--The
Seed Thought of Drawing Lightning from a Cloud with a Kite--His
Experiment and Joy--What He Wrote about It--Advocate of Liberal Female
Education--Correspondence with Collins--His Father's Opinion--How
Benjamin Tried to Improve--How He Gained Time--Wise Maxims in
Age--Maxims--C.G. Frost and One Hour a Day--What Spare Moments Did
STARTING A NEWSPAPER.
Only Three Newspapers in America--Created a Stir--What Newspaper
Business is in Boston Now--How to Estimate It--Benjamin Manages the
Printing of It--His Interest in It--Its Warm Reception--Proposition
to Board Himself--What He Gained by It--His Object Self-improvement--
James Selfish, Benjamin Generous--Their Talk about the Plan--What His
Bill-of-Fare Was--How Come to Adopt Vegetable Diet--More Maxims--
Cocker's Arithmetic--His Success.
THE RUSE, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.
What Parton Says of _Courant_--The Knot of Liberals--Ben's First
Anonymous Article, and His Ruse--Discussion over It by the _Courant_
Club--Decided to Publish It--Benjamin Puts It in Type--It Created a
Sensation--The Second Article, Better Than First--Excitement over It
Still Greater--Ben's Exultation--James' Astonishment--Surprise of the
"Knot"--Ben a Favorite Now--How the Autobiography Tells the Story--
Decided Ben's Career--Canning and Microcosm--Examples of Industry,
Tact, etc.--Boy without a Name.
BOOKS OF HIS BOYHOOD.
Four Classes of Readers--Ben after Diamonds--Hungry Mind--Words of
Thomas Hood--What Franklin Said--First Book Pilgrim's Progress--Talk
with His Father--What Franklin Said of Narrative--Plutarch's Lives--Easy
to Do Good--What They Were--Incident by Parton--Plan to Buy Burton's
Historical Collections--Describes Them--Boyle's Lectures--Kind Offer
of Matthew Adams--Borrowing Books of Booksellers' Clerks--Great
Favor--Books Very Scarce Then--Greenwood's English Grammar--Talk with
Collins--Other Books Read--Habit of Taking Notes--Letter of Franklin
about It--Professor Atkinson's Words--Garfield Had Same Habit.
LEARNING THE ART OF COMPOSITION.
Began to Write Poetry at Seven--Had Practised Putting Thoughts
Together--James Praised His Pieces--Proposition to Write, Print,
and Sell Verses--Wrote Two--Sold Well--His Father's Severe Rebuke--
After-talk with James--Best Writers Deficient at First--Reporting to
James--Benefit to Ben--One of His Verses Preserved--What Franklin
Said of It in Manhood--How He Used the _Spectator_--Determined to
Improve--His Own Description of His Literary Work--How He Acquired
Socratic Method--Rhetoric and Logic--How a Single Book Made Wesley,
Martin, Pope, Casey, Lincoln, and Others What They Were--A Striking
THE "COURANT" IN TROUBLE.
The Startling News from the Assembly--A Discussion--A Sarcastic Letter
the Cause--James and Benjamin Summoned before the Council--James
Defiant--Benjamin Dismissed--How Mather Assailed the _Courant_--How
James Answered Him--James in Prison--Benjamin Editing the Paper--
Quotation from Parton--Persecution of Printers in the Old Country--A
Horrible Case--James Released, and Still Defiant--Inoculation a Remedy
for Small Pox--The _Mercury_ Denouncing James' Imprisonment--James
Still for Freedom of the Press--Secured It for All Time.
THE BOY EDITOR.
Attacking the Government--The Council Exasperated--Action of the
_Courant_ Club--Plan to Evade Order of the Council--Benjamin, the
Boy-editor--His Address in _Courant_--Quotations from _Courant_ of
January 14, 1723--Not Libelous--Extract from Parton's Life--When
Newspapers Ceased to be Carried Free--How Long Ben Was in Printing
Office--Remarks by Mr. Sparks--What He Says of General Court--How the
Experience Developed Benjamin--Right Boy in Right Place--Extract from
_Courant_ about Bears.
THE YOUNG SKEPTIC.
Reading Shaftesbury's Work--Discussion with Collins--Ben's Orthodoxy in
Peril--Benjamin a Thinker--Saying Grace over the Pork Barrel--Reading
from Collins--Several Paragraphs Repugnant to Orthodoxy--Shaftesbury
Attacking Miracles--Ben's Influence over John--Charged with Being
Atheist--His Confession--Letter to His Father--Letter to Sister--Seeing
His Folly--His Prayer--Sad Experience with Infidel Books--Similar to
Lincoln's and Garfield's--Lincoln's Farewell.
HOW HE QUIT BOSTON.
Decision to Leave James--Cruelty of the Latter--The Indenture--
Discussion over It with Collins--Advised to Get Place in Another
Printing Office in Boston--James Had Warned Them against Hiring
Him--Discloses His Decision to James--Unfair Use of Indenture--What
Benjamin Said of It Afterwards--Resolved to Run Away--Planned The
Method With Collins--Why Go by Water--How He Obtained Money--Collins
Engages His Passage--Collins' Deliberate Lie--On the Road to
Ruin--Collins' Report to Benjamin--Final Arrangements--Boarding the
Sloop--Scene off Block Island--Ben Converted to Flesh--Benjamin
Franklin's Experience Like William Hutton's.
TRIALS OF A RUNAWAY.
Applies for Work in New York--Bradford's Advice and Kindness--Starts
for Philadelphia--The Drunken Dutch man--Driven on Shore by a Squall--
A Fearful Night--At Amboy--Benjamin Sick--A Young Man Travelling in
Maine--Advantage of Reading--Sir Walter Scott's Advice--Going in
Rain to Burlington--Landlord Suspected He Was a Runaway--At Doctor
Brown's--A Fine Time with the Doctor--Buying Gingerbread of Old
Woman--His Disappointment--Way out of It--Unexpected Deliverance--His
Skill at Rowing Again Useful--Finally Reaches Philadelphia.
THE WALKING COMEDY.
Meeting a Boy Eating--Buys Three Loaves--His Surprise--A Walking
Comedy--Sees His Future Wife--His Generosity to Mother and Child--A
Trait of His Life--Back to the Boat--On the Street Again and in Quaker
Church--Sleeping in Church--The Kind Quaker--The Crooked Billet--
Suspected of being a Runaway--Meeting the New York Bradford--Interview
with Young Bradford--Interview with Keimer--Showing His Skill at
Type-setting--Senior Bradford's Ruse--Giving Account of His Boston
Life--Doing Things Well--Case of Budgett--What Parton Said to Maydoll.
Repairing the Old Printing Press--Caution to Keep Secrets--Repairing
for Bradford--Conversation with Bradford about Work in Boston--
Unbelief--Changing Boarding-place--Talk with Boarding-master Read--
Study and Companions There--High Rank of Printing Then--Letter from
Collins--Found by His Brother-in-law, Captain Homes--Letter from
the Captain--Benjamin's Reply--His Letter Read by Governor Keith--His
History Told Keith--The Latter's Promise--Colonel French--Two Traits
of Ben's Character, Observation and Humility.
GOING UP HIGHER.
Governor Keith and Colonel French Call on Benjamin--Keimer's
Surprise--Benjamin's Interview with Them--Proposition to Establish
Printing House--Keith Proposed He Should See His Father--Keimer Very
Inquisitive about the Interview--Waiting for Vessel to Boston--Letter
to Collins--How Long Take to Start Printing House--Tells Keimer He is
Going to Boston--Sails for Boston--A Great Storm--Experience in
THE SURPRISE, AND ITS RESULTS.
Hastens to See His Parents--Joyful Meeting--Account of Correspondence
with Homes--Going to See James--Delight of Journeymen--Many Inquiries--
Proposition to Treat Them--Report of James' Treatment to Parents--His
Mother's Counsel--Meets Collins--The Latter Intemperate--Counsels Him
to Let Strong Drink Alone--His Father's Opinion of Keith's Letter--
Arrival of Captain Homes--Approves Plans of Benjamin--Calling on
Friends--Seeing Doctor Mather--An Incident and Its Lesson--Collins
Decides to Go to Philadelphia--Benjamin's Father Declines to Help
Him--About _Courant_--Bidding Parents Farewell and Returning.
HIS RETURN, AND WHAT CAME OF IT.
Leaves Boston for New York--Collins to Meet Him There--Calls at Newport
to See His Brother John--Takes a Debt to Collect--Finds Collins Drunk
in New York--Talk with Landlord--Governor Burnett Sends for Him--
Benjamin's Words about It--Rebukes John Drunk--Arrival in Philadelphia--
Called on Governor Keith--The Governor Proposes to Set Him up--Amusing
Talk with Keimer--Collins Can Not Get Work--Trouble with Collins on
the Delaware--End of Collins--Governor Keith Sends for Him--Going to
England to Buy Outfit.
WORKING, READING, AND COURTING.
Keimer's Religious Creed--Argument with Benjamin--Establishing a New
Sect and Foregoing a Good Dinner--Benjamin's Three Literary
Associates--Literary Club Formed--Discussion on Ralph as a
Poet--Benjamin's Views--Each One Writing Poetry--Paraphrase of 18th
Psalm--Benjamin Reading Ralph's--Plan to Outwit Osborne--Its
Success--Osborne's Mortification--The Club a Good One--Benjamin and
Deborah Read--The Result.
A BOGUS SCHEME.
Ralph Going to England with Benjamin--Time to Sail--Governor Keith
Promises Letters--No Suspicion of Keith--Letters Not Ready as
Promised--Second Application for Letters--Final Promise--Bag of Letters
Come on Board--Looked over Letters in English Channel--The Revelation
of Rascality--Benjamin's Situation Alone in London--Ralph Discloses
that He Has Abandoned His Wife--Rebuked by Benjamin--Advice of
Denham--Governor Keith a Fraud--Finds Work at Palmer's Printing
House--Had Ralph to Support--Ralph a Schoolmaster--Accepting Trouble
"OUR WATER DRINKER."
Letter from Ralph to Benjamin--Ralph's Epic Poem--Assisted Ralph's
Wife--How He and Ralph Separated--Kindness of Wilcox, the Bookseller--
Loaning Books--Benjamin Reviews "Religion of Nature"--Talk with Watts,
and His Opinion of It--Interview with Doctor Lyons--Doctor Pemberton--
Lived to See His Folly--Interview with Sir Hans Sloane--Benjamin's
Attack on Beer Drinking--His Sound Argument--Jake, the Ale Boy--Called
"A Water Drinker"--Discussion with Watts--Refused to Treat the Company--
Visits His Old Press Forty Years After.
AT HOME AGAIN.
What Became of Ralph--Benjamin Teaching Two Companions to Swim--Who Was
Wygate?--The Excursion to Chelsea--Benjamin Swims Four Miles--Antics in
the Water--Sir W. Wyndham Proposes He Should Open a Swimming School--
Wygate's Proposition to Travel--Denham's Advice--Cheaper Board--Incident
Showing Denham's Character--Denham Offers to Employ Him as Clerk in
Philadelphia--Leaves Printing House for Warehouse--Returns to
UPS AND DOWNS OF LIFE.
Visits Keimer's Printing Office--Calls on Deborah Read--Her Marriage to
Rogers, and Divorce--Visit to Deborah Leads to Re-engagement--Now a
Merchant's Clerk--Denham and Benjamin Both Sick--Denham Died and Left
Legacy to Benjamin--Arrival of Captain Homes--Working for Keimer
Again--The Latter Making Trouble--Benjamin Leaves Him--Interview with
Meredith--Proposition to Go into Company in Printing Business--Meredith's
Father Loans Capital.
THE LEATHERN APRON CLUB.
Reflecting on His Religious Belief--Rules He Wrote on the _Berkshire_
and Introduction to Them--The Leathern Apron Club--Patterned after
Cotton Mather's--The Questions Asked--Benjamin's Explanation--The
Compact Signed--Bringing in Books They Owned--Establishing the First
Library in the Land--Questions Discussed by the Club--No Improvement
on This Club--Benjamin's View of It in Age--Organizing Other Clubs--
Studying the Languages--Benjamin's Success.
Proposition from Keimer--Discussion of It with Meredith--Returns to
Keimer--Printing Money for New Jersey at Burlington--The Surveyor
General's Life--His Talk with Benjamin--Starting New Firm, Franklin
and Meredith--The First Job--Predictions of Its Failure by Nickle
and Merchants' Club--Doctor Baird Differed--A Proposition from a
Stationer--Interview with Webb--Plan for Starting a Paper Made Known--
Keimer's Paper--Benjamin's Articles in _Mercury_--Buys Keimer's
Paper--Dissolves Partnership--Rum the Cause--The _Gazette_ a Success.
NO LONGER A SKEPTIC.
Time is Money--The Lounger Rebuked--Maxims--Avoiding Slander and
Abuse--Revising His Religious Belief--Articles of Belief--Code of
Morals Adopted--Creed for "United Party of Virtue "--Letters to
Friends--Proposed Prayers in Congress and Speech--Epitaph for His
Tombstone Written at Twenty-three.
POOR RICHARD'S ALMANAC.
Publishing an Almanac--Discussion about It--When It Was Started--
Maxims Found in It--Very Popular, and Great Circulation--Franklin's
Fame Spreading--The Junto Pleased--Franklin's Account of Success--
How He Conducted His Paper--The Libeller Suppressed--Success of His
Stationer's Shop--Visit to Boston--Visits His Brother James--
Reconciliation--Takes His Son Home--He Buries a Child--His Defense
of Rev. George Whitefield--Building a House of Worship for Him.
MORE HONORS AND MORE WORK.
Clerk of the Assembly--Postmaster--Night-watch Discussed in the
Junto--Plan of a Fire Department--Many Fire Companies Formed--Plan
to Pave the Streets--Paper on Smoky Chimneys--Franklin Invents a
Stove--Gives Away the Patent--Franklin Founds the University of
Philadelphia--Its Great Success--Franklin Organized Militia--Influence
of Quakers against It--Eighty Companies Formed--Franklin Secured Fast
PHILOSOPHER AND STATESMAN.
Entering into Partnership with Hall--His Large Income--Time for Study
and Research--Rapid Progress in Science--His Fame in Both Hemispheres--
What Mignet Said of His Labors--Kimmersley on His Lightning Rod--
Called Again to Political Life--List of Offices He Filled--Drafting
Declaration of Independence--Hanging Separately--Anecdote--His First
Labors at Court of England--Minister to England--Source of Troubles--
Hatred of Tories--Firm before House of Commons--Death of Mrs. Franklin--
Famous Letter to Strahan--The Eight Years' War--Franklin Author of the
Union--First Name in History--Library and Letters of Franklin, Mass.--
His Death--Bequest to Washington.
BOYHOOD TO MANHOOD.
FROM OLD ENGLAND TO NEW ENGLAND.
"I am tired of so much persecution under the reign of our corrupt king,"
said a neighbor to Josiah Franklin, one day in the year 1685, in the
usually quiet village of Banbury, England, "and I believe that I shall
pull up stakes and emigrate to Boston. That is the most thriving port
"Well, I am not quite prepared for that yet," replied Franklin. "Our
king is bad enough and tyrannical enough to make us all sick of our
native land. But it is a great step to leave it forever, to live among
strangers; and I could not decide to do it without a good deal of
"Nor I; but I have reflected upon it for a whole year now, and the more
I reflect the more I am inclined to emigrate. When I can't worship God
here as my conscience dictates, I will go where I can. Besides, I think
the new country promises much more to the common people than the old in
the way of a livelihood."
"Perhaps so; I have not given the subject much attention. Dissenters
have a hard time here under Charles II, and we all have to work hard
enough for a livelihood. I do not think you can have a harder time in
Josiah Franklin was not disposed to emigrate when his neighbor first
opened the subject. He was an intelligent, enterprising, Christian
man, a dyer by trade, was born in Ecton, Leicestershire, in 1655, but
removed to Banbury in his boyhood, to learn the business of a dyer of
his brother John. He was married in Banbury at twenty-two years of age,
his wife being an excellent companion for him, whether in prosperity or
adversity, at home among kith and kin, or with strangers in New
"You better consider this matter seriously," continued the neighbor,
"for several families will go, I think, if one goes. A little colony of
us will make it comparatively easy to leave home for a new country."
"Very true; that would be quite an inducement to exchange countries,
several families going together," responded Franklin. "I should enjoy
escaping from the oppression of the Established Church as much as
you; but it is a too important step for me to take without much
consideration. It appears to me that my business could not be as good
in a new country as it is in this old country."
"I do not see why, exactly. People in a new country must have dyeing
done, perhaps not so much of it as the people of an old country; but
the population of a new place like Boston increases faster than the
older places of our country, and this fact would offset the objection
"In part, perhaps. If Benjamin could go, I should almost feel that I
must go; but I suppose it is entirely out of the question for him to
Benjamin was an older brother of Josiah, who went to learn the trade of
a dyer of his brother John before Josiah did. The Benjamin Franklin of
this volume, our young hero, was named for him. He was a very pious
man, who rendered unto God the things that are God's with full as much
care as he rendered unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's. He was a
very intelligent, bright man, also quite a poet for that day, and he
invented a style of short-hand writing that he used in taking down
sermons to which he listened. In this way he accumulated several
volumes of sermons, which he held as treasures.
"I have not spoken with your brother about the matter," replied the
neighbor. "I think it would be more difficult for him to arrange to go
than for most of us, at least for the present. I intend to speak with
him about it."
"He will not want me to go if he can not," added Josiah, "and I shall
think about it a good while before I should conclude to go without him.
We have been together most of our lives, and to separate now, probably
never to meet again, would be too great a trial."
"You will experience greater trials than that if you live long, no
doubt," said the neighbor, "but I want you should think the matter
over, and see if it will not be for your interest to make this change.
I will see you again about it."
While plans are being matured, we will see what Doctor Franklin said,
in his "Autobiography," about his ancestors at Ecton:
"Some notes, which one of my uncles, who had the same curiosity in
collecting family anecdotes, once put into my hands, furnished me with
several particulars relative to our ancestors. From these notes I learned
that they lived in the same village, Ecton, in Northamptonshire, on a
freehold of about thirty acres, for at least three hundred years, and
how much longer could not be ascertained. This small estate would not
have sufficed for their maintenance without the business of a smith
[blacksmith] which had continued in the family down to my uncle's
time, the eldest son being always brought up to that employment, a
custom which he and my father followed with regard to their eldest
sons. When I searched the records in Ecton, I found an account of
their marriages and burials from the year 1555 only, as the registers
kept did not commence previous thereto. I, however, learned from it
that I was the youngest son of the youngest son for five generations
back. My grandfather, Thomas, who was born in 1598, lived in Ecton
till he was too old to continue his business, when he retired to
Banbury, Oxfordshire, to the house of his son John, with whom my
father served an apprenticeship. There my uncle died and lies buried.
We saw his grave-stone in 1758. His eldest son, Thomas, lived in the
house at Ecton, and left it with the land to his only daughter, who,
with her husband, one Fisher, of Wellingborough, sold it to Mr. Ioted,
now lord of the manor there. My grandfather had four sons, who grew
up, viz.: Thomas, John, Benjamin, and Josiah."
"I do not know how you like it, but it arouses my indignation to have
our meeting broken up, as it was last week," remarked Josiah Franklin
to the aforesaid neighbor, a short time after their previous interview.
"If anything will make me exchange Banbury for Boston it is such
"I have felt like that for a long time, and I should not have thought
of leaving my native land but for such oppression," replied the
neighbor, "and what is worse, I see no prospect of any improvement;
on the other hand, it appears to me that our rights will be infringed
more and more. I am going to New England if I emigrate alone."
"Perhaps I shall conclude to accompany you when the time comes. There
do not appear to be room in this country for Dissenters and the
Established Church. I understand there is in New England. I may
conclude to try it."
"I am glad to hear that. We shall be greatly encouraged if you decide
to go. I discussed the matter with Benjamin since I did with you, and
he would be glad to go if his business and family did not fasten him
here. I think he would rather justify your going."
"Did he say so?"
"No, not in so many words. But he did say that he would go if his
circumstances favored it as much as your circumstances favor your
"Well, that is more than I supposed he would say. I expected that he
would oppose any proposition that contemplated my removal to Boston.
The more I think of it the more I am inclined to go."
The Franklins, clear back to the earliest ancestors, had experienced
much persecution. Some of them could keep and read their Bible only by
concealing it and reading it in secret. The following, from Franklin's
"Autobiography," is an interesting and thrilling incident:
"They had an English Bible, and, to conceal it and place it in safety,
it was fastened open with tapes under and within the cover of a
joint-stool. When my great-grandfather wished to read it to his family,
he placed the joint-stool on his knees, and then turned over the leaves
under the tapes. One of the children stood at the door to give notice
if he saw the apparitor coming, who was an officer of the spiritual
court. In that case the stool was turned down again upon its feet, when
the Bible remained concealed under it as before. This anecdote I had
from Uncle Benjamin."
The Dissenters from the Established Church loved their mode of worship
more, if any thing, than members of their mother church. But under
the tyrannical king, Charles II, they could not hold public meetings
at the time to which we refer. Even their secret meetings were often
disturbed, and sometimes broken up.
"It is fully settled now that we are going to New England," said the
aforesaid neighbor to Josiah Franklin subsequently, when he called upon
him with two other neighbours, who were going to remove with him; "and
we have called to persuade you to go with us; we do not see how we can
take no for an answer."
"Well, perhaps I shall not say no; I have been thinking the matter
over, and I have talked with Benjamin; and my wife is not at all averse
to going. But I can't say _yes_ to-day; I may say it to-morrow, or
"That is good," answered one of the neighbors; "we must have one of
the Franklins with us to be well equipped. Banbury would not be well
represented in Boston without one Franklin, at least."
"You are very complimentary," replied Franklin; "even misery loves
company, though; and it would be almost carrying home with us for
several families to emigrate together. The more the merrier."
"So we think. To escape from the intolerant spirit that pursues
Dissenters here will make us merry, if nothing else does. Home is no
longer home when we can worship God as we please only in secret."
"There is much truth in that," continued Franklin. "I am much more
inclined to remove to New England than I was a month ago. The more I
reflect upon the injustice and oppression we experience, the less I
think of this country for a home. Indeed, I have mentally concluded to
go if I can arrange my affairs as I hope to."
"Then we shall be content; we shall expect to have you one of the
company. It will be necessary for us to meet often to discuss plans and
methods of emigration. We shall not find it to be a small matter to
break up here and settle there."
It was settled that Josiah Franklin would remove to New England with
his neighbors, and preparations were made for his departure with them.
These facts indicate the standing and influence of the Franklins. They
were of the common people, but leading families. Their intelligence,
industry, and Christian principle entitled them to public confidence
and respect. Not many miles away from them were the Washingtons,
ancestors of George Washington, known as "the father of his country."
The Washingtons were more aristocratic than the Franklins, and
possessed more of the world's wealth and honors. Had they been near
neighbors they would not have associated with the Franklins, as they
belonged to a different guild. Such were the customs of those times.
Thomas Franklin was a lawyer, and "became a considerable man in the
county,--was chief mover of all public-spirited enterprises for the
county or town of Northampton, as well as of his own village, of which
many instances were related of him; and he was much taken notice of
and patronized by Lord Halifax." Benjamin was very ingenious, not only
in his own trade as dyer, but in all other matters his ingenuity
frequently cropped out. He was a prolific writer of poetry, and, when
he died, "he left behind him two quarto volumes of manuscript of his
own poetry, consisting of fugitive pieces addressed to his friends." An
early ancestor, bearing the same Christian name, was imprisoned for a
whole year for writing a piece of poetry reflecting upon the character
of some great man. Note, that he was not incarcerated for writing bad
poetry, but for libelling some one by his verse, though he might have
been very properly punished for writing such stuff as he called poetry.
It is nothing to boast of, that his descendant, Uncle Benjamin, was not
sent to prison for producing "two quarto volumes of his own poetry," as
the reader would believe if compelled to read it.
Dr. Franklin said, in his "Autobiography": "My father married young,
and carried his wife with three children to New England about 1685. The
conventicles [meetings of Dissenters] being at that time forbidden by
law, and frequently disturbed in the meetings, some considerable men of
his acquaintance determined to go to that country, and he was prevailed
with to accompany them thither, where they expected to enjoy their
religion with freedom."
Boston was not then what it is now, and no one living expected that it
would ever become a city of great size and importance. It contained
less than six thousand inhabitants. The bay, with its beautiful
islands, spread out in front, where bears were often seen swimming
across it, or from one island to another. Bear-hunting on Long Wharf
was a pastime to many, and twenty were killed in a week when they were
In the rear of the town stood the primeval forests, where Red Men and
wild beasts roamed at their pleasure. It is claimed that an Indian or
pioneer might have traveled, at that time, through unbroken forests
from Boston to the Pacific coast, a distance of more than three
thousand miles, except here and there where western prairies stretched
out like an "ocean of land," as lonely and desolate as the forest
itself. That, in two hundred years, and less, sixty millions of people
would dwell upon this vast domain, in cities and towns of surprising
wealth and beauty, was not even thought of in dreams. That Boston would
ever grow into a city of three hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants,
with commerce, trade, wealth, learning, and influence to match, the
wildest enthusiast did not predict. A single fact illustrates the
prevailing opinion of that day, and even later. The town of Boston
appointed a commission to explore the country along Charles River, to
learn what prospects there were for settlers. The commissioners
attended to their duty faithfully, and reported to the town that they
had explored ten miles west, as far as settlers would ever penetrate
the forest, and found the prospects as encouraging as could be
It was to this Boston that Josiah Franklin emigrated in 1685, thinking
to enjoy liberty of conscience, while he supported his growing family
by his trade of dyer. There is no record to show that he was ever sorry
he came. On the other hand, there is much to prove that he always had
occasion to rejoice in the change. Certainly his family, and their
posterity, exerted great influence in building up the nation. Next to
Washington Josiah's son Benjamin ranked in his efforts to secure
American Independence, and all the blessings that followed.
THE FIFTEENTH GIFT.
"The fifteenth!" remarked Josiah Franklin to a relative, as he took the
fifteenth child into his arms. "And a son, too; he must bear the name
of his Uncle Benjamin."
"Then, we are to understand that his name is Benjamin?" answered the
"Yes, that is his name; his mother and I settled that some time ago,
that the next son should bear the name of my most beloved brother,
who, I hope, will remove to this country before long."
"Well, a baby is no curiosity in your family," remarked the relative,
laughing. "Some men would think that fifteen was too much of a good
"A child is God's gift to man, as I view it, for which parents should
be thankful, whether it is the first or fifteenth. Each child imposes
an additional obligation upon parents to be true to the Giver as well
as to the gift. I am poor enough, but no man is poorer for a large
family of children. He may have to labor harder when they are young
and helpless, but in age they are props on which he can lean."
Mr. Franklin spoke out of the depths of his soul. He was a true
Christian man, and took the Christian view of a child, as he did
of any thing else. While some men are annoyed by the multiplicity
of children, he found a source of comfort and contentment in the
possession. The seventeenth child, which number he had, he hailed with
the same grateful recognition of God's providence that he did when the
first was born. Yet he was poor, and found himself face to face with
poverty most of the time. Each child born was born to an inheritance
of want. But to him children were God's gift as really as sunshine or
showers, day or night, the seventeenth just as much so as the first.
This fact alone marks Josiah Franklin as an uncommon man for his day
"If more men and women were of your opinion," continued the relative,
"there would be much more enjoyment and peace in all communities. The
most favorable view that a multitude of parents indulge is, that
children are troublesome comforts."
"What do you think of the idea of taking this baby into the house of
God to-day, and consecrating him to the Lord?" Mr. Franklin asked, as
if the thought just then flashed upon his mind. "It is only a few
steps to carry him."
It was Sunday morning, Jan. 6, 1706, old style; and the "Old South
Meeting House," in which Dr. Samuel Willard preached, was on the other
side of the street, scarcely fifty feet distant.
"I should think it would harmonize very well with your opinion about
children as the gift of God, and the Lord may understand the matter so
well as to look approvingly upon it, but I think your neighbors will
say that you are rushing things somewhat. It might be well to let the
little fellow get used to this world before he begins to attend
The relative spoke thus in a vein of humor, though she really did not
approve of the proposed episode in the new comer's life. Indeed it
seemed rather ridiculous to her, to carry a babe, a few hours old, to
the house of God.
"I shall not consult my neighbors," Mr. Franklin replied. "I shall
consult my wife in this matter, as I do in others, and defer to her
opinion. I have always found that her judgment is sound on reducing it
"That is so; your wife is a woman of sound judgment as well as of
strong character, and you are wise enough to recognize the fact, and
act accordingly. But that is not true of many men. If your wife
approves of taking her baby into the meeting-house for consecration
to-day, then do it, though the whole town shall denounce the act."
There is no doubt his relative thought that Mrs. Franklin would veto
the proposition at once, and that would end it. But in less than a
half hour he reported that she approved of the proposition.
"Benjamin will be consecrated to the Lord in the afternoon; my wife
approves of it as proper and expressive of our earnest desire that he
should be the Lord's. I shall see Mr. Willard at once, and nothing but
his disapproval will hinder the act."
"And I would not hinder it if I could," replied his relative, "if your
wife and Pastor Willard approve. I shall really be in favor of it if
they are, because their judgment is better than mine."
"All the difference between you and me," continued Mr. Franklin, with
a smile playing over his face, "appears to be that you think a child
may be given to the Lord too soon, and I do not; the sooner the
better, is my belief. With the consecration come additional
obligations, which I am willing to assume, and not only willing, but
anxious to assume."
"You are right, no doubt; but you are one of a thousand in that view,
and you will have your reward."
"Yes; and so will that contemptible class of fathers, who can endure
_five_ children, but not _fifteen_,--too irresponsible to see that one
of the most inconsistent men on earth is the father who will not
accept the situation he has created for himself. The Franklins are not
made of that sort of stuff; neither are the Folgers [referring to his
wife's family], whose fervent piety sanctifies their good sense, so
that they would rather please the Lord than all mankind."
Mr. Willard was seen, and he endorsed the act as perfectly proper,
and in complete harmony with a felt sense of parental obligation.
Therefore, Benjamin was wrapped closely in flannel blankets, and
carried into the meeting-house in the afternoon, where he was
consecrated to the Lord by the pastor.
On the "Old Boston Town Records of Births," under the heading, "Boston
Births Entered 1708," is this: "Benjamin, son of Josiah Franklin, and
Abiah, his wife, born 6 Jan. 1706."
From some mistake or oversight the birth was not recorded until two
years after Benjamin was born; but it shows that he was born on Jan.
Then, the records of the "Old South Church," among the baptism of
infants, have this: "1706, Jan. 6, Benjamin, son of Josiah and Abiah
Putting these two records together, they establish beyond doubt the
fact that Benjamin Franklin was born and baptized on the same day. The
Old South Church had two pastors then, and it is supposed that Dr.
Samuel Willard officiated instead of Rev. Ebenezer Pemberton, because
the record is in the handwriting of Doctor Willard.
We are able to furnish a picture of the house in which he was born. It
measured twenty feet in width, and was about thirty feet long,
including the L. It was three stories high in appearance, the third
being the attic. On the lower floor of the main house there was only
one room, which was about twenty feet square, and served the family
the triple purpose of parlor, sitting-room, and dining-hall. It
contained an old-fashioned fire-place, so large that an ox might have
been roasted before it. The second and third stories originally
contained but one chamber each, of ample dimensions, and furnished in
the plainest manner. The attic was an unplastered room, which might
have been used for lodgings or storing trumpery. The house stood about
one hundred years after Josiah Franklin left it, and was finally
destroyed by fire, on Saturday, Dec. 29, 1810. The spot on which it
stood is now occupied by a granite warehouse bearing the inscription,
"BIRTHPLACE OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN."
Mr. Franklin had three children when he left Banbury, and four more
were given to him during the first four years of his residence in
Boston, one of whom died. Soon after the birth of the seventh child
Mrs. Franklin died.
So young and large a family needed a mother's watch and care, as
Josiah Franklin found to his sorrow. The additional burden laid upon
him by the death of his wife interfered much with his business, and he
saw fresh reasons each day for finding another help-mate as soon as
possible. To run his business successfully, and take the whole charge
of his family, was more than he could do. In these circumstances he
felt justified in marrying again as soon as possible, and, with the
aid of interested friends, he made a fortunate choice of Abiah Folger,
of Nantucket, a worthy successor of the first Mrs. Franklin. He married
her a few months after the death of his first wife. The second Mrs.
Franklin became the mother of ten children, which, added to those
of the first Mrs. Franklin, constituted a very respectable family of
seventeen children, among whom was Benjamin, the fifteenth child. His
"Autobiography" says: "Of the seventeen children I remember to have
seen thirteen sitting together at the table, who all grew up to years
of maturity and were married." Of the second wife it says: "My mother,
the second wife of my father, was Abiah Folger, daughter of Peter
Folger, one of the first settlers of New England, of whom honorable
mention is made by Cotton Mather in his ecclesiastical history of that
country, 'as a godly and learned Englishman.'"
Josiah Franklin was an admirer not only of his wife, Abiah, but of
the whole Folger family, because they were devoutly pious, and as
"reliable as the sun, or the earth on its axis." They were unpolished
and unceremonial, and he liked them all the more for that. He wrote to
his sister in a vein of pleasantry, "They are wonderfully shy. But I
admire their honest plainness of speech. About a year ago I invited
two of them to dine with me; their answer was that they would if they
could not do better. I suppose they did better, for I never saw them
afterwards, and so had no opportunity of showing my miff if I had
We have said that Benjamin was named for his uncle in England, and,
possibly some of the other children were named for other relatives in
the mother country. Certainly there were enough of them to go round
any usual circle of relatives, taking them all in. Uncle Benjamin was
very much pleased with the honor conferred upon him, and he always
manifested great interest in his namesake, though he did not dream
that he would one day represent the country at the court of St. James.
It is claimed that the uncle's interest in his namesake brought him to
this country, a few years later, where he lived and died. Be that as
it may, he ever manifested a lively interest in a protege, and
evidently regarded him as an uncommonly bright boy, who would some day
score a creditable mark for the family.
Benjamin was more than a comely child; he was handsome. From babyhood
to manhood he was so fine-looking as to attract the attention of
strangers. His eye beamed with so much intelligence as to almost
compel the thought, "There are great talents behind them." Mr. Parton
says: "It is probable that Benjamin Franklin derived from his mother
the fashion of his body and the cast of his countenance. There are
lineal descendants of Peter Folger who strikingly resemble Franklin in
these particulars; one of whom, a banker in New Orleans, looks like a
portrait of Franklin stepped out of its frame."
Josiah Franklin did not enter upon the trade of a dyer when he settled
in Boston, as he expected. The new country was very different from the
old in its fashions and wants. There was no special demand for a dyer.
If people could earn money enough to cover their nakedness, they cared
little about the color of their covering. One color was just as good
as another to keep them warm, or to preserve their decency. There was
no room for Josiah Franklin as a dyer. There was room for him, however,
as a "tallow-chandler," and he lost no time in taking up this new but
greasy business. He must work or starve; and, of the two, he preferred
work, though the occupation might not be neat and congenial.
The word "chandler" is supposed to have been derived from the French
_chandelier_, so that a tallow candle-maker was a sort of chandelier
in society at that early day. He furnished light, which was more
necessary than color to almost every one. The prevailing method of
lighting dwellings and stores was with tallow candles. Candles and
whale oil were the two known articles for light, and the latter was
expensive, so that the former was generally adopted. Hence, Josiah
Franklin's business was honorable because it was necessary; and by it,
with great industry and economy, he was able to keep the wolf of
hunger from his door.
The place where he manufactured candles was at the corner of Hanover
and Union streets. The original sign that he selected to mark his
place of business was a blue ball, half as large as a man's head,
hanging over the door, bearing the name "Josiah Franklin" and the date
"1698." The same ball hangs there still. Time has stolen its blue, but
not the name and date. Into this building, also, he removed his family
from Milk street, soon after the birth of Benjamin.
In his "Autobiography," Franklin says: "My elder brothers were all put
apprentices to different trades." Several of them were apprenticed
when Benjamin was born. John worked with his father, and learned the
"tallow-chandler's" trade well, setting up the business for himself
afterwards in Providence. This was the only method that could be
adopted successfully in so large a family, except where wealth was
We must not omit the fact that the father of Benjamin was a good
singer and a good player of the violin. After the labors of the day
were over, and the frugal supper eaten, and the table cleared, and the
room put in order for the evening, he was wont to sing and play for
the entertainment of his family. He was sure of a good audience every
night, if his performance opened before the younger children retired.
There is no doubt that this custom exerted a molding influence upon
the household, although the music might have been like Uncle
Benjamin's poetry, as compared with the music of our day.
For the reader, now familiar with the manners, customs, rush of business,
inventions, wealth, and fashion of our day, it is difficult to understand
the state of society at the time of Franklin's birth. Parton says of it:
"1706, the year of Benjamin Franklin's birth, was the fourth of the
reign of Queen Anne, and the year of Marlborough's victory at Ramillies.
Pope was then a sickly dwarf, four feet high and nineteen years of age,
writing, at his father's cottage in Windsor Forest the 'Pastorals'
which, in 1709, gave him his first celebrity. Voltaire was a boy of ten,
in his native village near Paris. Bolingbroke was a rising young member
of the House of Commons, noted, like Fox at a later day, for his
dissipation and his oratory. Addison, aged thirty-four, had written his
Italian travels, but not the 'Spectator' and was a thriving politician.
Newton, at sixty-four, his great work all done, was master of the mint,
had been knighted the year before, and elected president of the Royal
Society in 1703 Louis XIV was king of France, and the first king of
Prussia was reigning. The father of George Washington was a Virginia boy
of ten; the father of John Adams was just entering Harvard College; and
the father of Thomas Jefferson was not yet born."
PAYING TOO DEAR FOR THE WHISTLE.
When Benjamin was seven years old he had not been to school a day.
Yet he was a good reader and speller. In manhood he said: "I do not
remember when I could not read, so it must have been very early." He
was one of those irrepressible little fellows, whose intuition and
observation are better than school. He learned more out of school than
he could or would have done in it. His precocity put him in advance
of most boys at seven, even without schooling. It was not necessary
for him to have school-teachers to testify that he possessed ten
talents,--his parents knew that, and every one else who was familiar
The first money he ever had to spend as he wished was on a holiday
when he was seven years old. It was not the Fourth of July, when
torpedoes and firecrackers scare horses and annoy men and women, for
Benjamin's holiday was more than sixty years before the Declaration
of Independence was declared, and that is what we celebrate now on
the Fourth of July. Indeed, his holiday was a hundred years before
torpedoes and fire-crackers were invented. It was a gala-day, however,
in which the whole community was interested, including the youngest boy
in the Franklin family.
"See that you spend your money well," remarked his mother, who
presented him with several coppers; "and keep out of mischief."
"And here is some more," added his father, giving him several coppers
to add to his spending money; "make wise investments, Ben, for your
reputation depends upon it"; and the latter facetious remark was made
in a way that indicated his love for the boy.
"What are you going to buy, Ben?" inquired an older brother, who wanted
to draw out some bright answer from the child; "sugar-plums, of
course," he added.
Benjamin made no reply, though his head was crammed with thoughts about
his first holiday.
"I shall want to know how well you spend your money, Ben," said his
mother; "remember that 'all is not gold that glitters'; you've got all
the money you can have to-day."
All the older members of the family were interested in the boy's
pastime, and while they were indulging in various remarks, he bounded
out of the house, with his head filled with bewitching fancies,
evidently expecting such a day of joy as he never knew before. Perhaps
the toy-shop was first in his mind, into which he had looked wistfully
many times as he passed, and perhaps it was not. We say toy-shop,
though it was not such a toy-shop as Boston has to-day, where thousands
of toys of every description and price are offered for sale. But it was
a store in which, with other articles, toys were kept for sale, very
few in number and variety compared with the toys offered for sale at
the present day. Benjamin had seen these in the window often, and, no
doubt, had wished to possess some of them. But there were no toys in
the Franklin family; there were children instead of toys, so many of
them that money to pay for playthings was out of the question.
Benjamin had not proceeded far on the street when he met a boy blowing
a whistle that he had just purchased. The sound of the whistle, and the
boy's evident delight in blowing it, captivated Benjamin at once. He
stopped to listen and measure the possessor of that musical wonder. He
said nothing, but just listened, not only with his ears, but with his
whole self. He was delighted with the concert that one small boy could
make, and, then and there, he resolved to go into that concert business
himself. So he pushed on, without having said a word to the owner of
the whistle, fully persuaded to invest his money in the same sort of a
musical instrument. Supposing that the whistle was bought at the store
where he had seen toys in the window, he took a bee line for it.
"Any whistles?" he inquired, almost out of breath.
"Plenty of them, my little man," the proprietor answered with a smile,
at the same time proceeding to lay before the small customer quite a
"I will give you all the money I have for one," said Benjamin, without
inquiring the price. He was so zealous to possess a whistle that the
price was of no account, provided he had enough money to pay for it.
"Ah! all you have?" responded the merchant; "perhaps you have not as
much as I ask for them. They are very nice whistles."
"Yes, I know they are, and I will give you all the money I have for one
of them," was Benjamin's frank response. The fact was, he began to
think that he had not sufficient money to purchase one, so valuable did
a whistle appear to him at that juncture.
"How much money have you?" inquired the merchant.
Benjamin told him honestly how many coppers he had, which was more than
the actual price of the whistles. The merchant replied:
"Yes, you may have a whistle for that. Take your pick."
Never was a child more delighted than he when the bargain was closed.
He tried every whistle, that he might select the loudest one of all,
and when his choice was settled, he exchanged his entire wealth for the
prize. He was as well satisfied as the merchant when he left the store.
"Ignorance is bliss," it is said, and it was to Benjamin for a brief
He began his concert as soon as he left the store. He wanted nothing
more. He had seen all he wanted to see. He had bought all he wanted to
buy. The whole holiday was crowded into that whistle. To him, that was
all there was of it. Sweetmeats and knick-knacks had no attractions for
him. Military parade had no charm for him, for he could parade himself
now. A band of music had lost its charm, now that he had turned himself
into a band.
At once he started for home, instead of looking after other sights and
scenes. He had been absent scarcely half an hour when he reappeared,
blowing his whistle lustily as he entered the house, as if he expected
to astonish the whole race of Franklins by the shrillness, if not by
the sweetness, of his music.
"Back so quick!" exclaimed his mother.
"Yes! seen all I want to see." That was a truth well spoken, for the
whistle just commanded his whole being, and there was room for nothing
more. A whistle was all the holiday he wanted.
"What have you there, Ben?" continued his mother; "Something to make us
"A whistle, mother," stopping its noise just long enough for a decent
reply, and then continuing the concert as before.
"How much did you give for the whistle?" asked his older brother, John.
"All the money I had." Benjamin was too much elated with his bargain to
conceal any thing.
"What!" exclaimed John with surprise, "did you give all your money for
that little concern?"
"Yes, every cent of it."
"You are not half so bright as I thought you were. It is four times as
much as the whistle is worth."
"Did you ask the price of it?" inquired his mother.
"No, I told the man I would give him all the money I had for one, and
he took it."
"Of course he did," interjected John, "and if you had had four times as
much he would have taken it for the whistle. You are a poor trader,
"You should have asked the price of it in the first place," remarked
his mother to him, "and then, if there was not enough, you could have
offered all the money you had for the whistle. That would have been
"If you had paid a reasonable price for it," continued John, "you might
had enough money left to have bought a pocket full of good things."
"Yes, peppermints, candy, cakes, nuts, and perhaps more," added a
cousin who was present, desiring most of all to hear what the bright
boy would say for himself.
"I must say that you are a smart fellow, Ben, to be taken in like
that," continued John, who really wanted to make his seven-year-old
brother feel bad, and he spoke in a tone of derision. "All your money
for that worthless thing, that is enough to make us crazy! You ought to
have known better. If you had five dollars I suppose that you would
have given it just as quick for the whistle."
Of course he would. The whistle was worth that to him, and he bought it
for himself, not for any one else.
By this time Benjamin, who had said nothing in reply to their taunts
and reproofs, was running over with feeling, and he could hold in no
longer. Evidently he saw his mistake, and he burst into tears, and made
more noise by crying than he did with his whistle. Their ridicule, and
the thought of having paid more than he should for the whistle,
overcame him, and he found relief in tears. His father came to his
"Never mind, Ben, you will understand how to trade the next time. We
have to live and learn; I have paid too much for a whistle more than
once in my life. You did as well as other boys do the first time."
"I think so too, Ben," joined in his mother, to comfort him. "John is
only teasing you, and trying to get some sport out of his holiday.
Better wipe up, and go out in the street to see the sights."
Benjamin learned a good lesson from this episode of his early life. He
only did what many grown-up boys have done, over and over again; pay
too much for a whistle. Men of forty, fifty, and sixty years of age do
this same thing, and suffer the consequences. It is one of the common
mistakes of life, and becomes a benefit when the lesson it teaches is
improved as Franklin improved it.
In the year 1779, November 10th, Franklin wrote from Passy, France, to
a friend, as follows:
"I am charmed with your description of Paradise, and with your plan of
living there; and I approve much of your conclusion, that, in the mean
time, we should draw all the good we can from this world. In my
opinion, we might all draw more good from it than we do, and suffer
less evil, if we would take care not to give too much for _whistles_.
For to me it seems that most of the unhappy people we meet with are
become so by neglect of that caution. You ask what I mean? You love
stories, and will excuse my telling one of myself.
"When I was a child of seven years old my friends, on a holiday,
filled my pocket with coppers. I went directly to a shop where they
sold toys for children; and, being charmed with the sound of a
_whistle_, that I met by the way in the hands of another boy, I
voluntarily offered and gave all my money for one. I then came home,
and went whistling all over the house, much pleased with my _whistle_,
but disturbing all the family. My brothers, sisters, and cousins,
understanding the bargain I had made, told me I had given four times
as much for it as it was worth; put me in mind what good things I
might have bought with the rest of the money, and laughed at me so
much for my folly that I cried with vexation, and the reflection gave
me more chagrin than the _whistle_ gave me pleasure.
"This, however, was afterwards of use to me, the impression continuing
on my mind; so that often, when I was tempted to buy some unnecessary
thing, I said to myself, _Don't give too much for the whistle_; and I
saved my money.
"As I grew up, came into the world, and observed the actions of men, I
thought I met with many, very many, _who gave too much for the
"When I saw one too ambitious of court favor, sacrificing his time in
attendance on levees, his repose, his liberty, his virtue, and perhaps
his friends, to attain it, I have said to myself, _This man gives too
much for his whistle_.
"When I saw another fond of popularity, constantly employing himself
in political bustles, neglecting his own affairs, and ruining them by
that neglect, _He pays, indeed_, said I, _too much for his whistle_.
"If I knew a miser, who gave up every kind of comfortable living, all
the pleasure of doing good to others, all the esteem of his
fellow-citizens, and the joys of benevolent friendship, for the sake
of accumulating wealth, _Poor man_, said I, _you pay too much for your
"When I met with a man of pleasure, sacrificing every laudable
improvement of the mind, or his fortune, to mere corporeal sensations,
and ruining his health in their pursuit, _Mistaken man_, said I, _you
are providing pain for yourself, instead of pleasure; you give too
much for your whistle_.
"If I see one fond of appearance, or fine clothes, fine houses,
fine furniture, fine equipages, all above his fortune, for which he
contracts debts, and ends his career in a prison, _Alas!_ say I, _he
has paid dear, very dear, for his whistle_.
"When I see a beautiful, sweet-tempered girl, married to an
ill-natured brute of a husband, _What a pity_, say I, _that she should
pay so much for a whistle_.
"In short, I conceive that great part of the miseries of mankind are
brought upon them by the false estimates they have made of the value
of things, and by their _giving too much for their whistles_.
"Yet I ought to have charity for these unhappy people, when I consider
that, with all this wisdom of which I am boasting, there are certain
things in the world so tempting,--for example, the apples of King
John, which happily are not to be bought; for, if they were put to
sale by auction, I might very easily be led to ruin myself in the
purchase, and find that I had once more given too much for the
Thus Benjamin made good use of one of the foolish acts of his boyhood,
which tells well both for his head and heart. Many boys are far less
wise, and do the same foolish thing over and over again. They never
learn wisdom from the past.
When a boy equivocates, or deceives, to conceal some act of disobedience
from his parents or teachers, and thereby lays the foundation of habitual
untruthfulness, he pays too dear for the whistle, and he will learn the
truth of it when he becomes older, and can not command the confidence of
his friends and neighbors, but is branded by them as an unreliable,
In like manner the boy who thinks it is manly to smoke and drink beer,
will find that he has a very expensive whistle, when he becomes "a hale
fellow well met" among a miserable class of young men, and is discarded
by the virtuous and good.
So, in general, the young person who is fascinated by mere pleasure,
and supposes that wealth and honor are real apples of gold to the
possessor, thinking less of a good character than he does of show and
glitter, will find that he has been blowing a costly whistle when it is
too late to recall his mistake.
Uncle Benjamin was so deeply interested in his namesake that he wrote
many letters about him. Nearly every ship that sailed for Boston
brought a letter from him to the Franklin family, and almost every
letter contained a piece of poetry from his pen. One of his letters
about that time contained the following acrostic on Benjamin's name:
"Be to thy parents an obedient son;
Each day let duty constantly be done;
Never give way to sloth, or lust, or pride,
If free you'd be from thousand ills beside.
Above all ills be sure avoid the shelf,
Man's danger lies in Satan, sin and self.
In virtue, learning, wisdom, progress make;
Ne'er shrink at suffering for thy Savior's sake.
"Fraud and all falsehood in thy dealings flee;
Religious always in thy station be;
Adore the maker of thy inward part;
Now's the accepted time; give him thine heart;
Keep a good conscience, 'tis a constant friend,
Like judge and witness this thy acts attend,
In heart, with bended knee, alone, adore
None but the Three in One for evermore."
The sentiment is better than the poetry, and it shows that the hero of
our tale had a treasure in the uncle for whom he was named. Doubtless
"Uncle Benjamin's" interest was largely increased by the loss of his
own children. He had quite a number of sons and daughters, and one
after another of them sickened and died, until only one son remained,
and he removed to Boston. It was for these reasons, probably, that
"Uncle Benjamin" came to this country in 1715.
Among his letters was one to his brother Josiah, our Benjamin's father,
when the son was seven years old, from which we extract the following:
"A father with so large a family as yours ought to give one son, at
least, to the service of the Church. That is your tithe. From what you
write about Benjamin I should say that he is the son you ought to
consecrate specially to the work of the ministry. He must possess
talents of a high order, and his love of learning must develop them
rapidly. If he has made himself a good reader and speller, as you say,
without teachers, there is no telling what he will do with them. By
all means, if possible, I should devote him to the Church. It will be
a heavy tax upon you, of course, with so large a family on your hands,
but your reward will come when you are old and gray-headed. Would that
I were in circumstances to assist you in educating him."
"He does not know how much thought and planning we have given to this
subject," remarked Mr. Franklin to his wife, when he read this part of
the letter. "I would do any thing possible to educate Benjamin for the
Church, and I think he would make the most of any opportunities we can
"There is no doubt of that," responded Mrs. Franklin. "Few parents
ever had more encouragement to educate a son for the ministry than we
have to educate him."
"Doctor Willard said as much as that to me," added Mr. Franklin, "and
I think it is true. I do not despair of giving Benjamin an education
yet, though I scarcely see how it ever can be done."
"That is the way I feel about it," responded Mrs. Franklin. "Perhaps
God will provide a way; somehow I trust in Providence, and wait,
hoping for the best."
"It is well to trust in Providence, if it is not done blindly,"
remarked Mr. Franklin. "Providence sometimes does wonders for people
who trust. It is quite certain that He who parted the waters of the
Red Sea for the children of Israel to pass, and fed them with manna
from the skies, can provide a way for our Benjamin to be educated. But
it looks to me as if some of his bread would have to drop down from
"Well, if it drops that is enough," replied Mrs. Franklin. "I shall be
satisfied. If God does any thing for him he will do it in his own time
and way, and I shall be content with that. To see him in the service
of the Church is the most I want."
"Uncle Benjamin's" letter did not introduce a new subject of
conversation into the Franklin family; it was already an old theme
that had been much canvassed. Outside of the family there was an
interest in Benjamin's education. He was the kind of a boy to put
through Harvard College. This was the opinion of neighbors who knew
him. Nothing but poverty hindered the adoption and execution of that
"Uncle Benjamin's" letter did this, however: it hastened a favorable
decision, though Benjamin was eight years old when his parents decided
that he might enter upon a course of education.
They had said very little to their son about it, because they would
not awaken his expectations to disappoint them. And finally the
decision was reached with several ifs added.
"I do not know how I shall come out," added Mr. Franklin, "he may begin
to study. It won't hurt him to begin, if I should not be able to put
him through a course."
The decision to send him to school was arrived at in this doubtful
way, and it was not laid more strongly than this before Benjamin for
fear of awakening too high hopes in his heart.
"I have decided to send you to school," said his father to him, "but
whether I shall be able to send you as long as I would like is not
certain yet. I would like to educate you for the ministry if I could;
how would you like that?"
"I should like to go to school; I should like nothing better,"
answered Benjamin. "About the rest of it I do not know whether I
should like it or not."
"Well, it may not be best to discuss that," continued his father, "as
I may not be able to carry out my plan to the end. It will cost a good
deal to keep you in school and educate you, perhaps more than I can
possibly raise with so large a family to support. I have to be very
industrious now to pay all my bills. But if you are diligent to
improve your time, and lend a helping hand at home, out of school
hours, I may be able to do it."
"I will work all I can out of school, if I can only go," was
Benjamin's cheerful pledge in the outset. "When shall I begin?"
"Begin the next term. It is a long process to become educated for the
ministry, and the sooner you begin the better. But you must understand
that it is not certain I can continue you in school for a long time.
Make the most of the advantages you have, and we will trust in
Providence for the future."
Josiah Franklin's caution was proverbial. He was never rash or
thoughtless. He weighed all questions carefully. He was very
conscientious, and would not assume an obligation that he could not
see his way clear to meet. He used the same careful judgment and
circumspection about the education of his son that he employed in all
business matters. For this reason he was regarded as a man of sound
judgment and practical wisdom, and his influence was strong and wide.
When his son reached the height of his fame, he wrote as follows of
"I suppose you may like to know what kind of a man my father was. He
had an excellent constitution, was of a middle stature, well set, and
very strong. He could draw prettily and was skilled a little in music.
His voice was sonorous and agreeable, so that when he played on his
violin, and sung withal, as he was accustomed to do after the business
of the day was over, it was extremely agreeable to hear. He had some
knowledge of mechanics, and on occasion was handy with other tradesmen's
tools. But his great excellence was his sound understanding, and his
solid judgment in prudential matters, both in private and public affairs.
It is true he was never employed in the latter, the numerous family he
had to educate, and the straitness of his circumstances, keeping him
close to his trade; but I remember well his being frequently visited
by leading men, who consulted him for his opinion in public affairs,
and those of the church he belonged to; and who showed a great respect
for his judgment and advice. He was also consulted much by private
persons about their affairs, when any difficulty occurred, and
frequently chosen an arbitrator between contending parties."
Of his mother he wrote, at the same time:
"My mother had likewise an excellent constitution; she suckled all her
ten children. I never knew either my father or mother to have any
sickness, but that of which they died--he at eighty-nine, and she at
eighty-five years of age. They lie buried together at Boston, where I
some years since placed a marble over their grave, with this
ABIAH, HIS WIFE,
LIE HERE INTERRED.
THEY LIVED LOVINGLY TOGETHER, IN WEDLOCK, FIFTY-FIVE YEARS,
AND WITHOUT AN ESTATE, OR ANY GAINFUL EMPLOYMENT, BY CONSTANT
LABOR AND HONEST INDUSTRY (WITH GOD'S BLESSING), MAINTAINED A
LARGE FAMILY COMFORTABLY; AND BROUGHT UP THIRTEEN CHILDREN AND
SEVEN GRANDCHILDREN REPUTABLY.
FROM THIS INSTANCE, READER, BE ENCOURAGED TO DILIGENCE IN THY
CALLING, AND DISTRUST NOT PROVIDENCE. HE WAS A PIOUS AND PRUDENT
MAN, SHE A DISCREET AND VIRTUOUS WOMAN. THEIR YOUNGEST SON, IN
FILIAL REGARD TO THEIR MEMORY, PLACES THIS STONE.
J.F., BORN 1655, DIED 1744, AET. 89.
A.F., BORN 1667, DIED 1752, AET. 85."
We may say here that the stone which Doctor Franklin erected, as above,
became so dilapidated that in 1827, the citizens of Boston replaced it
by a granite obelisk. The bodies repose in the old Granary cemetery,
beside Park-street church.
* * * * *
It was arranged that Benjamin should begin his school-days, and enjoy
the best literary advantages which the poverty of his father could
provide. He acceded to the plan with hearty good-will, and commenced
his studies with such zeal and enthusiasm as few scholars exhibit.
The school was taught by Mr. Nathaniel Williams, successor of the
famous Boston teacher, Mr. Ezekiel Cheever, who was instructor
thirty-five years, and who discontinued teaching, as Cotton Mather
said, "only when mortality took him off." The homely old wooden
school-house, one story and a half high, stood near by the spot on
which the bronze statue of Franklin is now seen, and there was the
"school-house green" where "Ben" and his companions played together.
Probably it was the only free grammar school that Boston afforded at
that time; for the town could not have numbered a population of over
From his first day's attendance at school Benjamin gave promise of
high scholarship. He went to work with a will, improving every moment,
surmounting every difficulty, and enjoying every opportunity with a
keen relish. Mr. Williams was both gratified and surprised. That a lad
so young should take hold of school lessons with so much intelligence
and tact, and master them so easily, was a surprise to him, and he so
expressed himself to Mr. Franklin.
"Your son is a remarkable scholar for one so young. I am more than
gratified with his industry and progress. His love of knowledge is
"Yes, he was always so," responded Mr. Franklin. "He surprised us
by reading well before we ever dreamed of such a thing. He taught
himself, and a book has always been of more value to him than any
"You will give him an education, I suppose?" said Mr. Williams,
inquiringly. "Such a boy ought to have the chance."
"My desire to do it is strong, much stronger than my ability to pay
the bills. It is not certain that I shall be able to continue him long
at school, though I shall do it if possible."
"Such love of knowledge as he possesses ought to be gratified,"
continued Mr. Williams. "He excels by far any scholar of his age in
school. He will lead the whole school within a short time. His
enthusiasm is really remarkable."
Within a few months, as the teacher predicts, Benjamin led the school.
He was at the head of his class in every study except arithmetic. Nor
did he remain at the head of his class long, for he was rapidly
promoted to higher classes. He so far outstripped his companions that
the teacher was obliged to advance him thus, that his mental progress
might not be retarded. Of course, teachers and others were constantly
forecasting his future and prophesying that he would fill a high
position in manhood. It is generally the case that such early
attention to studies, in connection with the advancement that follows,
awakens high hopes of the young in the hearts of all observers. These
things foreshadow the future character, so that people think they can
tell what the man will be from what the boy is. So it was with
Franklin, and so it was with Daniel Webster. Webster's mother inferred
from his close attention to reading, and his remarkable progress in
learning, that he would become a distinguished man, and so expressed
herself to others. She lived to see him rise in his profession, until
he became a member of Congress, though she died before he reached the
zenith of his renown. The same was true of David Rittenhouse, the
famous mathematician. When he was but eight years old, he constructed
various articles, such as a miniature water-wheel, and at seventeen
years of age he made a complete clock. His younger brother declared
that he was accustomed to stop, when he was plowing in the field, and
solve problems on the fence, and sometimes cover the plow handles with
figures. The highest expectations of his friends were more than
realized in his manhood. The peculiar genius which he exhibited in his
boyhood gave him his world-wide fame at last.
Also George Stephenson, the great engineer, the son of a very poor
man, who fired the engine at Wylam colliery, began his life-labor when
a mere boy. Besides watching the cows, and barring the gates after the
coal-wagons had passed, at four cents a day, he amused himself during
his leisure moments, in making clay engines, in imitation of that
which his father tended. Although he lived in circumstances so humble
that ordinarily he would have been entirely unnoticed, his intense
interest in, and taste for, mechanical work, attracted the attention
of people and led them to predict his future success and fame.
In like manner, the first months of Benjamin Franklin's school days
foreshadowed the remarkable career of his manhood. Relatives and
friends believed that he would one day fill a high place in the land;
and in that, their anticipations were fully realized.
OUT OF SCHOOL.
Mr. Franklin's finances did not improve. It was clearer every day to
him that he would not be able to keep Benjamin in school. Besides, in
a few months, John, who had learned the tallow-chandler's business of
his father, was going to be married, and establish himself in that
trade in Providence. Some body must take his place. It was quite
impossible for his father to prosecute his business alone.
"I see no other way," remarked Mr. Franklin to his wife; "I shall be
obliged to take Benjamin out of school to help me. My expenses
increase from month to month, and must continue to increase for some
years, so far as I can see. They will increase heavily if I am obliged
to hire a man in John's place."
"I am not surprised at all that you have come to that conclusion,"
replied Mrs. Franklin. "I expected it, as I have intimated to you.
Parents must be better off than we are to be able to send a son to
"If they have as many children to support as we have, you might add. I
could easily accomplish it with no larger family than most of my
neighbors have. Yet I find no fault with the number. I accept all the
"I am sorry for Benjamin," continued Mrs. Franklin. "He will be
dreadfully disappointed. I am afraid that he will think little of work
because he thinks so much of his school. What a pity that boys who
want an education, as he does, could not have it, and boys who do not
want it should do the work."
"That is the way we should fix it, no doubt, if the ordering were left
to us," said Mr. Franklin; "but I never did have my own way, and I
never expect to have it, and it is fortunate, I suppose, that I never
did have it. If I could have it now, I should send Benjamin to
"It has been my prayer that he might give his life and his services to
the Church," added Mrs. Franklin; "but Providence appears to indicate
now that he should make candles for a livelihood, and it is not in me
to rebel against the ordering. If frustrated in this plan, I mean to
believe that Providence has some thing better in store for him and
"I was never so reluctant to adopt a conclusion as I have been to take
Benjamin out of school," continued Mr. Franklin. "Yet, there has been
one thought that reconciled me in part to the necessity, and that is,
that there is less encouragement to a young man in the Church now than
formerly. It is more difficult to suit the people, and, consequently,
there are more trials and hardships for ministers; and many of them
appear to be peculiar."
"If ministers have a harder time than you do I pity them," rejoined
Mrs. Franklin. "I suppose as that is concerned, we are all in the same
boat. If we meet them with Christian fortitude, as we should, so much
the better for us."
"True, very true, and my uppermost desire is to put Benjamin where
duty points. But it is clear to me now that Providence has blocked his
way to the ministry."
"You will not take him out of school until John leaves, will you?"
inquired Mrs. Franklin.
"I shall have him leave the public school at the close of this term,
and that will give him a full year's schooling. And then I shall put
him into Mr. Brownwell's school for a while to improve him in
penmanship and arithmetic. By that time I must have him in the
Mr. Brownwell had a private school, in which he taught penmanship and
arithmetic. It was quite a famous school, made so by his success as a
teacher in these departments.
Benjamin had received no intimation, at this time, that he would be
taken out of school. His father shrunk from disclosing his final plan
to him because he knew it would be so disappointing. But as the close
of the school year drew near, he was obliged to open the subject to
him. It was an unpleasant revelation to Benjamin, although it was not
altogether unexpected. For, in the outset, his father had said that
such might be the necessity.
"You are a poor penman and deficient in your knowledge of numbers,"
said his father; "and improvement in these branches will be of great
service to you in my business. You will attend Mr. Brownwell's school
for a while in order to perfect yourself in these studies."
"I shall like that," answered Benjamin; "but why can I not attend
school until I am old enough to help you?"
"You are old enough to help me. There are many things you can do as
well as a man."
"I should like to know what?" said Benjamin, rather surprised that he
could be of any service in the candle business at nine years of age.
"John had to learn the trade before he could help you much."
"You can cut the wicks, fill the moulds for cast-candles, keep the
shop in order, run hither and thither with errands, and do other
things that will save my time, and thus assist me just as much as a
man could in doing the same things."
"I am sure that is inducement enough for any boy, but a lazy one, to
work," remarked his mother, who had listened to the conversation.
"Your father would have to pay high wages to a man to do what you can
do as well, if I understand it."
"In doing errands you will aid as much, even perhaps more, than in
doing any thing else," added Mr. Franklin. "I have a good deal of such
running to do, and if you do it I can be employed in the more
important part of my business, which no one else can attend to.
Besides, your nimble feet can get over the ground much quicker than my
older and clumsier ones, so that you can perform that part of the
business better than I can myself."
This was a new view of the case to Benjamin, and he was more favorably
impressed with candle-making by these remarks. He desired to be of
good service to his father, and here was an opportunity--a
consideration that partially reconciled him to the inevitable change.
At that time--about one hundred and seventy-five years ago--boys were
put to hard work much earlier than they are now. They had very small
opportunities for acquiring knowledge, and the boys who did not go to
school after they were ten years old were more in number than those
who did. Besides, the schools were very poor in comparison with those
of our day. They offered very slim advantages to the young. It was not
unusual, therefore, for lads as young as Benjamin to be made to work.
Benjamin was somewhat deficient in arithmetic, as his father said, and
he had given little attention to penmanship. He did not take to the
science of numbers as he did to other studies. He allowed his dislike
to interpose and hinder his progress.
"I do not like arithmetic very well," he said to his father.
"Perhaps not; but boys must study some things they do not like," his
father replied. "It is the only way of preparing them for usefulness.
You will not accomplish much in any business without a good knowledge
of arithmetic. It is of use almost everywhere."
"I know that," said Benjamin, "and I shall master it if I can, whether
I like it or not. I am willing to do what you think is best."
"I hope you will always be as willing to yield to my judgment. It is a
good sign for any boy to accept cheerfully the plans of his father,
who has had more experience."
Benjamin was usually very prompt to obey his parents, even when he did
not exactly see the necessity of their commands. He understood full
well that obedience was a law of the household, which could not be
violated with impunity; therefore, he wisely obeyed. His father was
quite rigid in his requirements, a Puritan of the olden stamp, who
ruled his own house. Among other things, he required his children to
observe the Sabbath by abstaining from labor and amusements, reading
the Scriptures, and attending public worship. A walk in the streets, a
call upon a youthful friend, or the reading of books not strictly
religious, on Sunday, were acts not tolerated in his family. A child
might wish to stay away from the house of God on the Sabbath, but it
was not permitted. "Going to meeting" was a rule in the family as
irrevocable as the laws of the Medes and Persians.
It was fortunate for Benjamin that he belonged to such a family; for
he possessed an imperious will, that needed to be brought into
constant subjection. Though of a pleasant and happy disposition, the
sequel will show that, but for his strict obedience, his great talents
would have been lost to the world. Nor did he grow restless and
impatient under these rigid parental rules, nor cherish less affection
for his parents in consequence. He accepted them as a matter of
course. We have no reason to believe that he sought to evade them; and
there can be no doubt that the influence of such discipline was good
in forming his character. He certainly honored his father and mother
as long as he lived. In ripe manhood, when his parents were old and
infirm, and he lived in Philadelphia, he was wont to perform frequent
journeys from that city to Boston, to visit them. It was on one of
these journeys that the following incident is related of him:
Landlords, and other people, were very inquisitive at that time. They
often pressed their inquiries beyond the bounds of propriety. At a
certain hotel the landlord had done this to Franklin, and he resolved,
on his next visit, to administer a sharp rebuke to the innkeeper. So,
on his next visit, Franklin requested the landlord to call the members
of his family together, as he had something important to communicate.
The landlord hastened to fulfill his request, and very soon the family
were together in one room, when Franklin addressed them as follows:
"My name is Benjamin Franklin; I am a printer by trade; I live, when
at home, in Philadelphia; in Boston I have a father, a good old man,
who taught me, when I was a boy, to read my Bible and say my prayers;
I have ever since thought it my duty to visit and pay my respects to
such a father, and I am on that errand to Boston now. This is all I
can recollect at present of myself that I think worth telling you. But
if you can think of any thing else that you wish to know about me, I
beg you to out with it at once, that I may answer, and so give you an
opportunity to get me something to eat, for I long to be on my journey
that I may return as soon as possible to my family and business, where
I most of all delight to be."
A more cutting rebuke was never administered. The landlord took in the
full significance of the act, and learned a good lesson therefrom. It
is doubtful if his inquisitiveness ever ran away with him again. But
the narrative is given here to show that the strict rules of his
father's house did not diminish filial affection, but rather
solidified and perpetuated it.
It is good for boys, who are likely to want their own way, to be
brought under exact rules. Franklin would have gone to ruin if he had
had his way. The evil tendencies of boyhood need constant restraint.
Obedience at home leads to obedience in the school and State.
Sir Robert Peel ascribed his success in life to such a home; and he
related the following interesting incident to illustrate the sort of
obedience that was required and practised in it: A neighbor's son
called one day to solicit his company and that of his brothers upon an
excursion. He was a young man of fine address, intelligent, smart, and
promising, though fond of fun and frolic. He was a fashionable young
man, too; we should call him a _dude_ now. He wore "dark brown hair,
tied behind with blue ribbon; had clear, mirthful eyes; wore boots
that reached above his knees, and a broad-skirted scarlet coat, with
gold lace on the cuffs, the collar, and the skirts; with a long
waistcoat of blue silk. His breeches were buckskin; his hat was
three-cornered, set jauntily higher on the right than on the left
side." His name was Harry Garland. To his request that William, Henry,
and Robert might go with him, their father replied:
"No, they can not go out. I have work for them to do, and they must
never let pleasure usurp the place of labor."
The boys wanted to go badly, but there was no use in teasing for the
privilege; it would only make a bad matter worse. "Our father's yea
was yea, and his nay, nay; and that was the end of it."
The three brothers of the Peel family became renowned in their
country's brilliant progress. But Harry Garland, the idle, foppish
youth, who had his own way, and lived for pleasure, became a ruined
spendthrift. The fact verifies the divine promise, "Honor thy father
and mother (which is the first commandment with promise), that it may
be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth." True
filial love appears to conciliate the whole world by its consistent
and beautiful expression. Such an act as that of the great engineer,
George Stephenson, who took the first one hundred and sixty dollars he
earned, saved from a year's wages, and paid his blind old father's
debts, and then removed both father and mother to a comfortable
tenement at Killingworth, where he supported them by the labor of his
hands, awakens our admiration, and leads us to expect that the author
will achieve success.
When the statue of Franklin was unveiled in Boston, in 1856, a
barouche appeared in the procession which carried eight brothers, all
of whom received Franklin medals at the Mayhew school in their
boyhood, sons of Mr. John Hall. All of them were known to fame by
their worth of character and wide influence. As the barouche in which
they rode came into State street, from Merchants' row, these brothers
rose up in the carriage, and stood with uncovered heads while passing
a window at which their aged and revered mother was sitting--an act of
filial regard so impressive and beautiful as to fill the hearts of all
beholders with profound respect for the obedient and loving sons. They
never performed a more noble deed, in the public estimation, than this
one of reverence for a worthy parent.
We have made this digression to show that Franklin's home, with its
rigid discipline, was the representative home of his country, in which
the great and good of every generation laid the foundation of their
* * * * *
Benjamin was taken out of school, as his father decided, and was put
under Mr. Brownwell's tuition in arithmetic and penmanship. As he had
endeared himself to Mr. Williams, teacher of the public school, so he
endeared himself to Mr. Brownwell by his obedience, studious habits,
and rapid progress. He did not become an expert in arithmetic, though,
by dint of persistent effort, he made creditable progress in the
study. In penmanship he excelled, and acquired an easy, attractive
style that was of great service to him through life.
FROM SCHOOL TO CANDLE-SHOP.
While Benjamin was attending Mr. Brownwell's school, his "Uncle
Benjamin," for whom he was named, came over from England. His wife and
children were dead, except his son Samuel, who had immigrated to this
country. He had been unfortunate in business also, and lost what
little property he possessed. With all the rest, the infirmities of
age were creeping over him, so that nearly all the ties that bound him
to his native land were sundered; and so he decided to spend the
remnant of his days in Boston, where Samuel lived.
Samuel Franklin was an unmarried young man, intelligent and
enterprising, willing and anxious to support his father in this
country. But having no family and home to which to introduce his aged
parent, "Uncle Benjamin" became a member of his brother Josiah's
family, and continued a member of it about four years, or until Samuel
was married, when he went to live with him.
"Uncle Benjamin" was very much pained to find that his namesake had
relinquished the purpose of becoming a minister. His heart was set on
his giving his life-service to the Church.
"Any body can make candles," he said, "but talents are required for
the ministry, and, from all I learn, Benjamin has the talents."
"Partly right and partly wrong," rejoined Josiah, who seemed to think
that his brother's remark was not altogether complimentary. "Talents
are required for the ministry, as you say, but judgment, tact, and
industry are required to manufacture candles successfully. A fool
would not make much headway in the business."
"I meant no reflection upon Boston's tallow-chandler," and a smile
played over his face as "Uncle Benjamin" said it; "but I really think
that Benjamin is too talented for the business. Five talents can make
candles well enough; let ten talents serve the Church."
"Well, that is sound doctrine; I shall not object to that," replied
Josiah; "but if poverty makes it impossible for ten talents to serve
the Church, it is better that they make candles than to do nothing.
Candle-making is indispensable; it is a necessary business, and
therefore it is honorable and useful."
"The business is well enough; a man can be a man and make candles.
This way of lighting dwellings is really a great invention; and it
will be a long time, I think, when any thing better will supersede it.
This new country is fortunate in having such a light, so cheap and
convenient, so that the business is to be respected and valued. But
Benjamin is greater than the business."
The last remark set forth "Uncle Benjamin's" views exactly. He really
supposed that no improvement could be made in the method of lighting
houses and shops by candles. That was the opinion of all the
Franklins. To them a tallow-candle was the climax of advancement on
that line. If a prophet had arisen, and foretold the coming of gas and
electricity for the lighting of both houses and streets, in the next
century, he would have been regarded as insane--too crazy even to make
candles. Progress was not a prevailing idea of that day. It did not
enter into any questions of the times as a factor. If succeeding
generations should maintain the standard of theirs, enjoying as many
privileges, it would be all that could be reasonably expected. Candles
would be needed until the "new heaven and new earth" of Revelation
appeared. Possibly they would have believed that their method of
lighting would be popular in "that great city, the Holy Jerusalem,"
had it not been declared in the Bible that they will "need no candle,"
because "there shall be no night there."
"Uncle Benjamin" added, what really comforted Josiah: "Of course, if
you are not able to send Benjamin to college, he can't go, and that
ends it. If I were able to pay the bills, I should be only too glad to
do it. Benjamin is a remarkable boy, and his talents will manifest
themselves whatever his pursuit may be. He will not always make
candles for a living; you may depend on that."
"Perhaps not," responded Josiah; "if Providence introduces him into a
better calling, I shall not object; but I want he should be satisfied
with this until the better one comes."
As the time drew near for Benjamin to exchange school for the
candle-factory, his disappointment increased. To exchange school,
which he liked so well, for a dirty business that he did not like at
all, was almost too much for his flesh and blood. His feelings
revolted against the uncongenial trade.
"You do not know how I dread to go into the candle-factory to make it
my business for life," he said to his mother. "I feel worse and worse
"We are all sorry that you are obliged to do it," replied Mrs.